Tobruk Diaries: The Siege begins
Bryant's Diary: Friday 4th April 1941
About 8 o’clock this morning orders came through to retire immediately. We packed up and carried our gear to the top of the hill to wait for the truck. Nobody seemed to know what was up. We went back and were carried by truck to a place some miles away. We took up a position and waited for trucks of the RASC to take us away. Before we left, any gear behind was destroyed. The trucks travelled to Barce on the inland road. “Snowy” Wilderberg and John Gilmour of 18 pl. were killed when two trucks collided. It is bad luck to go out that way. With regard to the retirement I think that the whole affair is disgraceful. Moreso, when the men haven’t seen action. It points wholly and solely to inefficiency of higher command. The smart-alecs slipped somewhere.
Cosgriff's Diary: Friday 4th April 1941
No Mass today and little sleep last night. Scare of air attack with canon. Breakfast at Dolann’s C.C.S. Lunch at McEwens ambulance. Journey through dust – cramped and tired. Arrived at Tobruk at 4:30 – Hospital patients everywhere. Looked at inglit cases and anointed Eyetie. Rumours scare all the time. O’Connor at front and quite combatant. To bed early tired and disgusted with loss. Rejoined nurses today. Hospital being set up on beach. End of day of acute tension.
Bryant's Diary: Saturday 5th April 1941
We learned today that we were to take up a defensive position. In the morning we learned that the 2/13th Bn went into action against the German AFV’s and 3000 infantry. The Bn had a bit of a tough time and it is reported they lost 4 officers and 150 men (i.e. D Coy and half A Coy). We took up our position for defence late in the afternoon, but during the night we were ordered to pack up and leave. When we got on the trucks we were told we would go back and have a lap at the enemy. During the night Jackie Wilson and Ted Taylor and I went on a patrol at mid-night, but we saw nothing. Last night we went to a castle on a hill and loaded ourselves up with tins of pineapple, cigarettes and tobacco. They were to be destroyed; so the boys got in before this happened and today we had a big feed.
Cosgriff's Diary: Saturday 5th April 1941
Mass without bookstand and chart. Shots today for first time on Libya. Attack first crew of bad Catholics today – one really sick Leiut refusing sacraments. Thos [Thomas] Gard turned up after lunch. Reckons position is desperate. Daly turned up and lost all except Mass kit... Mass in statue tomorrow. No ink so write up this draw and the pencil so useful. Rumour that Tripoli has been taken.
Bryant's Diary: Sunday 6th April 1941
Once more we moved and this time onto the left flank of the 2/15 Bn and this was on the extreme flank of our front line. We could see Barce clearly and the “Eyetie” flag flew over the town. We had just got into position when off we went again. This time we travelled all night flat out across the desert.
Cosgriff's Diary: Sunday 6th April 1941
Two Masses – here and beach – poorly attended. Gard did not turn up for breakfast. Buried 4 corpses in Tobruk cemetery and drank beer with the undertaker. Matheson has dysentery. Hospital ship due in tomorrow. Nurses went at 5:30 – never to return. Position serious and fighting expected in streets tomorrow. Patients panicky and Gunner too. We have to stay put and be P.O.W’s. 20 bed feeling pretty unsafe. News of German tank patrol few miles out.
Bryant's Diary: Monday 7th April 1941
We travelled until 11.30 am and took up another position. Word was received that our convoy was attacked by three AFV’s but were stopped by our artillery. We also heard that our Div HQ’s was captured at Barce. The Huns attacked and it is reported that 2 Coys of the 2/15th Bn were cut off and that the 2/13th engaged the enemy a second time. We are now at our posts waiting for the Hun. Just on dark we moved again.
Cosgriff's Diary: Monday 7 April 1941
Mass in room – Len penitent after paying nurses. C.C.S from Derna arrived during night with bad news. Steele arrived at 11 with dysentery and admitted to hospital. Matheson wanted to go on hospital ship but C.O. said “No”. Loading wounded to hospital all day. Position better today. Watched bombs and tanks being unloaded. Wards full of dysentery. Mass full fleeing English officers. John Horan came to our room to make space for Poms. John Devine rejoined our crowd.
Bryant's Diary: Tuesday, 8th April 1941
We had a cow of a day today. D Coy was reserve Coy to protect “B” Echelon and do odd jobs. Our first job was to build a road over the escarpment and during the course of construction we had two interruptions, both being alarms. The wind blew all day and dust was everywhere, but late in the afternoon we were all told have a good night’s rest, the first in four nights. I believe the 2/13th Bn was attacked again, but it beat off the attack. It was officially confirmed about Tripoli falling.
Cosgriff's Diary: Tuesday 8 April 1941
Mass in happier circs. Hospital ship sailed today but took too few patients. Few battle casualties arriving but wounds are horrible. Dust storm all day today. 20m Gard came in and took Fanny [car] to hear confessions. Generals O’Connor and Neems captured, also 2nd armoured Div. Fr. Lynch missing, 2IC and 40 men of Hanson’s Field Ambulance. Should be big casualty list. Anti-scare models but I would like to see attack started. Indians retook Malilla. Two German prisoners in ward.
Bryant's Diary: Wednesday 9th April 1941
The day opened up with an air-raid on Tobruk by the Germans. Eight planes took part, but they lost three. One of our Hurricane fighters seemed to be in trouble and I believe it made a forced landing. Instead of having a day of rest I was attached to a tank hunting party. We were on utility trucks, armed with a Boys A/Tank rifle, a Bren and some grenades. Lord help us if we’d have met any, although we went out three times. Once more we moved and this time a little closer to Tobruk. I don’t know where we will end but some seem to think that the whole retirement is part of a plan. It looks as if this is the only feasible explanation of the whole affair.
Cosgriff's Diary: Wednesday 9 April 1941
Mass as usual. Met Molly Grady’s cousin in hospital, O’Loughlin. Grady did not return car. Gunner has starts, also Matheson and Ley. Englishmen drinking all our beer. Steele and I went to wharf to see tanks being unloaded. No news of attack being launched. Defences creeping in closer all the time. Negotiating for closer cemetery – War cemetery now on defence perimeter. Bish. Riley arrived and to help with Easter communion. Full of Bullo.
Bryant's Diary: Thursday, 10th April 1941
Early this morning we took a position inside the perimeter defences of Tobruk. It was the dustiest day I ever have seen and believe me it is uncomfortable. In the afternoon we relieved the 2/43rd Battalion at the front. The trenches are the old Italian ones and are like miniature Maginot Lines. They are made of concrete and are protected with a strong barbed-wire fence and a very deep anti-tank ditch.
Cosgriff's Diary: Thursday 10th April 1941
Two Masses as Steele on the job. Thos [Thomas] Gard arrived back with car after Steele had gone after him. I had to return with Tom – dust – convoys moving – lost – machine gun opened on convoy – Gardy left me after Mutual confessions. Bath after return and handing of car to Steele. Beer and then the bomb on Ward 11. Steele lucky as direct hit on his room. J. Chambers and Zac killed. Row wounded. Forster and Hanneman killed. Terrible injuries and everyone feeling pretty sad. All scared of air-raids now. Busy in hospital till all hours.
Lecky’s letters: 10 April 1941
...I’m quite well and happy...My closest shave so far has been dodging our own AA shrapnel which showers down now and again, otherwise all is well...This letter has had a compulsory interruption for an hour during which time I have witnessed a magnificent display of fireworks from the depths of a slit trench... I have lived in a continual sandstorm for the last week but it is surprising how little you mind it after a while...