Monday 16 May 2011 by carwal. 2 comments
1941, Tobruk, Tobruk diaries, Victoria Cross, Second World War, Tobruk, Rats of Tobruk, Edmondson

Cosgriff’s Diary:  Friday 16th May 1941

Up often for warnings – no bombs – alarm no Mass...No communion either.  Wrote to Aileen and I will post it this time.  Jerrys in Syria and Irak will probably affect our air mail.  Push on today by 2/12.  Plenty of casualties but none serious.  Two Jerry prisoners – first for long time.  Eyetie prisoner who threw grenade brought in...  Going to teach Fr. Borsorelli English and he can teach me Eyetie.  Frank Reynolds in today.  Says 12th have straightened their line.  Raid tonight scattered us just as I started to write this.  Reading supplies badly needed.  No word from Len...  

Bryant’s Diary: Saturday 17th May 1941

Heavy gunfire was heard early this morning and we had an extra stand-to, but nothing happened.  However, just on breakfast time some tanks advanced on our front and one came almost on the wire.  An anti-tank gun stopped it and the occupants got out and ran away.  Our small arms fire hit three while the fourth was rounded up by a patrol.  At the time I was outside the wire looking at the tank and witnessed the capture of the fourth German...  The tank was about 12 tons and the equipment and workmanship was of a very high standard.  This afternoon at about 4:30 we had the first air raid for some days.  About 35 planes were counted.

Cosgriff’s Diary:  Saturday 17th May 1941

Not much sleep last night with casualties and raids.  Mass of Dead for Kennedy.  Last night 23rd Batt had their cut at Jerry to take captured posts.  Tanks squibbed it when machine-guns opened on them and they left the infantry undefended.  Casualties heaviest yet but boys pretty chirpy.  Plenty of Catholics among them and more likely to die.  DG – few Jerrys.  Dick brought in some breads and saved my life.   Len finished whiskey – only sherry, rum and cognac left now.  Wanted to retire early but we waited for an accident (road) ambulance.  Sollum retaken...

Cosgriff’s Diary:  Sunday 18th May 1941

Excellent night – three Masses.  John had Church very clean.  103 at Communion – great show.  Aussie returned looted abetments but not a full set.  No Communions today as church exhausted hosts – hope to catch up tomorrow.  Steele and Furnell here for lunch.  Steele still confident about Tobruk.  Wrote home only – stamps short.  All my casualties doing well.  Len flat out on Mary’s diary – previously I was a fool to worry about a diary.  Cigarettes not obtainable not matches.  First Tomahawk teams happened here today.  Ackland and Horan to spend holiday at beach.  Horan, Tyrer and Renar back ...

Cosgriff’s Diary:  Monday 19th May 1941

Up between 4 and 5 because of bombs – stick shook our shelter – incendiaries which lit the place up but caused no fires – smoke barrage followed which was a blessing.  Mass as usual.   Big crowd got up for Communion but many had gone to C.C.S.  Stewart Heir killed.  Reynolds, Halson, Steele and Scarfe all in today.  Nothing to drink but Alex water – no matches, no cig.  Trigger makes cocoa each night now.  Blue Douglas has appendicitis.  No shaving soap either.  Sollum back in Jerry’s hands.  Quiet day in wards.  Sun getting hot...

Cosgriff’s Diary:  Tuesday 20th May 1941

...Communion today so I did the Jerrys.  Getting some great stuff out of the Hee Hallows Breviary.  Kean captured by Jerrys recaptured by 12th very well treated – leg in plaster.  Quiet today – Steele and I talking to Fritz Schwardt for hour and more.  Docon to issue cigarettes Len caught up on diary – used this all through.  Read a Philip Gebles book which I did not like much.  Toying with idea of having rosary with Church each evening.  Mail in today but none for me – sea mail mainly.  John Horan at beach all the time now.

Bryant’s Diary: Wednesday 21st May 1941

The weather was cooler today as a fairly strong wind sprang up.  We received instructions about moving back as reserve brigade, our battalion changing with the 32nd Bn.

Bryant’s Diary:  Thursday 22nd May 1941

Another quiet day.  My section goes on night patrol tonight 5000 yards out.  Word has come through that Jack Edmondson has been recommended for the V.C.  Not much consolation for his death, but from a military point of view a great honour not only for him but for his unit.

Corporal John Hurst 'Jack' Edmondson of 2/17 Battalion in Tobruk, Libya.  Image taken two days before his death on 14 April 1941.  Edmondson was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions at Tobruk. Corporal John Hurst 'Jack' Edmondson of 2/17 Battalion in Tobruk, Libya. Image taken two days before his death on 14 April 1941. Edmondson was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions at Tobruk.

Lecky’s letters: 22nd May 1941

Still in Libya among the dust and fleas and still being kept fairly busy...I manage to find time for a dip for the boys and myself now and again which makes life much more tolerable...Most of my section were originally 6 Division, but are a very fine lot...I notice that nearly 40% were farmers before the war – with the true philosophy of farmers they probably thanked heaven for the advent of a war and lost no time going in it.  Three or four got married while in England...After the war if I had enough cash saved up I would like to get my discharge over here and go home via England and America.  A couple of years in the Western Desert and I think we would all have tour the world in a luxury liner and retire for the rest of our lives.  Money just has no purpose here...Most needed comforts are...Australian tobacco and...cigarettes...cakes...chewing gum and/or fruit gums/sweets...salted peanuts, toothbrushes and paste and a few cakes of well packed chocolate...and most of all, of course, we need literature...

John Hurst Edmondson was the first Australian to receive a Victoria Cross in the Second World War.


John Scott Palmer

A very interesting series of entries! It is always very moving to read diary entries knowing that the writer has no idea what is about to happen. My grandfather was in the 2/1 Field Ambulance at both Bardia and Tobruk. He then went on to Greece and Syria where he lost a leg to French machine gun bullets rescuing wounded. I was only able to get him talking about his time once before he died. He said it was always dusty and what water there was tasted foul - he used a different phrase! I remember reading the unit's war diary on the entry to Tobruk and seeing the CO was killed the next day. It was eerie to see my late grandfather's signature on various documents in the diary as well. Always interesting to see what soldiers see as important in battle - till the day he died my grandfather always had water in the car and plenty of pipe tobacco!


I find the Siege at Tobruk a fascinating aspect of Australia's military history and am glad to see it's starting to get more deserved media exposure. The courage, determination and tenacity shown by the Australian soldiers is typical of the Aussie digger. It's always good to see Australian soldier diaries transcribed. It's one of our forthcoming projects and I hope the AWM gets involved and can assist us in providing diaries for transcription.