Tobruk Diaries: Evacuating Benghazi
Bryant’s Diary: Friday 28th March 1941
We took up our position and we caught a couple of donkeys to carry most of our heavy gear up. It is definitely impossible to dig in so we just cut out the middle of bushes to sleep in. We do our own cooking and there are plenty of rations. Away to the left are Bengasi and Benina and can only just be seen. Our only problem is the carriage of water. The Senoussi here seems friendly and offer us eggs and milk.
Cosgriff’s Diary: Saturday 29th March 1941
Two Masses. Washed altar linen Tom shot the pet pig. Had orders to do. Howell’s AOL this weekend. Howell – herpes. Confessions through hospital this arvo. Then to Barce for confessions. Benediction – Beautiful with magnificent singing. Tour of hospital at night. Had radio working for news. Have to rise at 6 without clock tomorrow. Plane... of wounded leaving tomorrow. Wish we were staying at Barce.
Lecky’s letters: Sunday 30th March 1941
Well here I am still in the same place as I was last letter but this time I can tell you its somewhere in Libya near the sea which is as much as I know myself...Libya consists of very little else other than desert, which is inhabited chiefly by fleas, flies, mosquitoes and dust storms. The site of the camp is very pretty indeed but the desert gives the impression of a hard cruel type of beauty emphathised by the numerous animal skeletons and I suspect a few human bones here and there. After leaving the school where... I got 90% and was issued with a pretty little blue certificate marked “Distinguished”, I travelled for Palestine – Egyptian State Railways to Alexandria...At Alexandria I was fortunate enough to have a nice spot of leave. Here began what I consider to be an epic journey, which would certainly have made headlines in peacetime but is all in the days work now. We travelled entirely at the expense if Benito Musso for about four days and nights to our present location, in huge diesel fiat and lancia trucks run on captured road, only we lived on extremely Australian “Bully” and biscuits. I rode in absolute comfort in the roomy lab of a fiat truck. Finally the darn thing broke down and had to be towed but unfortunately we hit an almighty bump...I suddenly discovered that the tow rope had broken and the foster truck (towing us) was disappearing over the horizon with half a broken tow rope dangling merrily behind, leaving us stranded in the middle of the Libyan desert. Were we downhearted? No not us...Finally we reached port and found the unit, but sheer accident and settled down again...My section was waiting for me with open arms...News is scarce here but I just heard of the 72 hr raid on Berlin by the RAF – Winston’s reply to Germany...also of Yugoslavia’s rejection of the tri-perte pact all at once. Don’t know yet if its all true but if so – three loud cheers...
Cosgriff’s Diary: Monday 31st March 1941
Two masses. C.C.S. all arrived today and take over tomorrow. Letters from Bert and Jas McGlynn. Daly said impossible to retain my car. Buried unknown soldier in evening. Lost at solo... Jas Peters a DMS to Harry Furnell. Sent tapestry to Patricia. Put all letters on file. Soldiers shot by Germans arrived in hospital – armoured car victims.
Bryant’s Diary: Tuesday 1st April 1941
The steak was a bit tough and i think we ate it too fresh. Snakes are plentiful here and every day somebody sees at least one. Lieut. Trebeck looked over our area this morning and it was decided that we should shift right to Wadi Anoinat itself. This is better place all round and it did not take much to shift as a truck was made available. It is closer to water and at last we should have a little time to ourselves.
Bryant’s Diary: Wednesday 2nd April 1941
We spent a quiet day, but late in the afternoon orders came out that German mechanised units were advancing on Bengasi and that we were to prepare our positions. Extra ammunition was to be made available.
Bryant’s Diary: Thursday 3rd April 1941
The evacuation of Bengasi began today and the explosions of ammunition and food dump demolition could be heard all day. Some big fires could be seen even from our position. Early in the night an artillery barrage could be heard. Just on dark Lt Trebeck came up with information that Bengasi was evacuated and Germans were expected to occupy the town tonight. It was also expected that the escarpment may be attacked at dawn. The section had to supply two patrols; one at midnight and one at 6am. Jack Wilson and Wimmo went with me on the first patrol, but we saw nothing. Monty took the second but he saw nothing. We all thought we were certainties for action.
Cosgriff’s Diary: Thursday 3rd April 1941
Two Masses. Owen has flu. Wrote to Mrs. Tooze. Went to Engineers to have car fired and found broken spring. Watched engineers blowing up country. Got car all OK for trip tomorrow. Packed after tea. Started solo. First score 10pm, second 11pm, third midnight – Be ready to flit with kitbags only. C.C.S. evacuating patients. Benghasi evacuated and Germans through flank. Packed Mass-kit in Len’s kit bag and mine. Left suit case full and mass case and crammed into utility. Departed 2 am. Crowd of refugees on Barce escarpment. Fear of air attack. Lack of comfort. Remorse at leaving Steele but gave him my car. Horrible night trip – with more losses. Barce deserted except for combatant units.