Rae, John Patrick Thomson (Warrant Officer, b.1917-d.1973)
Collection relating to the Second World War service of A5107 Warrant Officer John Patrick Thomson Rae, No. 3 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Egypt, Libya and Italy, 1941-1944.
Wallet 1 of 1 consists of two diaries written by Warrant Officer Rae, in which he regularly recorded his experiences of his wartime service. Warrant Officer Rae served as a store keeper with No. 3 Squadron RAAF during the Second World War.
Warrant Officer Rae’s first diary has entries dated between 9 September 1941 and 31 December 1941. It also contains two strips of photographs, one featuring a bomb cloud, and the other a smoking battlefield. In his diary, Warrant Officer Rae writes about his embarkation on the Queen Elizabeth, being in convoy with the Queen Mary and the HMAS Canberra, crossing the equator, witnessing a boxing completion on board the boat, landing at Suez, Egypt, seeing his first signs of war destruction, and assisting Allied airmen in breaking their friend out of jail and almost starting a riot. He then goes on to write about his journey to No. 3 Squadron, receiving his first orders, hearing bombs and anti-aircraft guns for the first time, his duties as a RAAF store keeper, severe dust storms, difficulties in feeling clean, doing a run to obtain stores in Alexandria and Cairo, procuring slouch hats and Australian beer, sightseeing, getting lost in Alexandria at night, sheltering in slit trenches during frequent air raids on the aerodrome, having limited water rations, going for runs to procure large amounts of petrol to fuel the Squadron’s operations, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, issuing clothing and equipment, seeing a captured German ME 110, heavy rain in the desert, preparing for the Allied advance (the “push”), getting the stores mobile by packing them into trucks, hearing stories from airmen that had recently returned from operations, and packing up equipment of airmen that were killed or missing. Rae continues, writing about excitement regarding the Squadron’s new Kittyhawk aircraft, hearing that America had joined the war, receiving letters and parcels from home, travelling in a large convoy to a new aerodrome closer to the warfront, missing home at Christmas time, seeing the Germans bombing Tobruk from close by, his own aerodrome being bombed and damaged moderately, seeing a dog-fight overhead, going on a stores run to Tobruk, and seeing hundreds of wrecked trucks and buildings.
Warrant Officer Rae’s second diary contains entries dated between 1 January 1942 and 27 February 1944. In this diary, Rae continues to record his experiences of service. He writes about feeling that he should be in Australia because of the threat of Japan, having a good belated Christmas dinner, working hard in the store, having a bad cold, losing money gambling at cards, needing medical attention for an ear ailment, receiving letters from home, taking and developing photographs, moving aerodromes as the Allies retreated, playing cricket, hearing of the fall of Singapore and the bombing of Darwin, hearing stories from the front line from airmen that had just returned, going to Alexandria for leave, sleeping in a slit trench to be safe from constant bombing, being busy keeping up the petrol and ordnance supply for the squadron, keeping track of the movements of pilots, retreating even further as the Axis forces advanced, and being under constant bombing and strafing during the retreat. Rae continues, writing about an incident in which an enemy fighter aircraft dived and almost hit their truck filled with explosives, being in Cairo and Palestine on leave, waiting in a transit camp for re-assignment for a month, being assigned to 136 MAD, and shortly after eing re-assigned to 3 Squadron again. He then writes of returning to his squadron by hitchhiking, hearing of the new Allied advance, moving further into Libya, creating a new aerodrome, nervously driving on roads laid with mines, moving to aerodromes closer to the front as the Allies advanced, receiving mail from home, being strafed by German aircraft, seeing that many of the men had obtained a large amount of Italian wine, seeing the damage that Allied bombing and strafing had caused in the area, hearing that his old girlfriend had married someone else, sourcing large quantities of petrol to fuel the aircraft, travelling to Cairo for one week to complete a special course, and hearing that the Axis armies on their front had surrendered. Rae then wrote about the squadron’s preparations for their next posting, Allied looting, going to Cairo for a new role in purchasing for the RAF Liaison Office, and becoming sick and spending two months in hospital and a convalescent camp. After his recovery, Rae records that he soon re-joined 3 Squadron in Sicily, Italy. He writes about his joy at seeing old friends, returning to his work in the stores, spending eight days of leave in Sorrento and staying with a local family, sightseeing, and being very busy servicing all of the squadrons in the area.
This diary also contains a report titled “Report by SGT/Pilot Caldwell N.R., 14/1/43”. This report is an account of the circumstances in which Flight Lieutenant Caldwell became a prisoner of war in January 1943. In addition, this diary contains poems relating to the service of Warrant Officer Rae. Some of these poems have titles such as “O Give me a Bar to my Africa Star”, “White Crosses”, “East of the Border, and “The Soldiers Prayer”. At the end of the diary, Rae records the names, fates, and addresses of many people in 3 Squadron.
Throughout his diaries, Rae describes the places he saw and the people he met in his journeys. He also records when members of his squadron were awarded medals or promotions, or became wounded, missing, captured or killed.