War Diary: Durban to the Red Sea Feb 1941

Nea Hellas - once again a passenger liner - 1949

Nea Hellas – once again a passenger liner – 1949


16th Feb

At sea again. Picked up rest of convoy from Cape Town.  Two ships – Highland Chieftain and Highland Princess – stayed at Durban.  Two others joined us (Orbita & Nieu Holland).  Had haircut and got head shave.  Len Woodlock when shaving back where it was a bit thick observed ought to be extra – not in contract – when shaving top said this is where a man makes the money.

Monday 17th

6.30 parade – usual 9.00 parade close order drill – guard at 4.30 again – wrote Flora Hirst

Tuesday 18th

Guard all day – pictures at night – “I am a Criminal”, “O’Reilly to McNab” – good show

Wednesday 19th

Usual parades – Bren and Mortar lecture by Mr Mills – interesting change – Mr Mills observing bald head observed I must feel as weak as a kitten – who was the Delilah in the story – slept on deck.

Thursday 20th

Woke at 10 to 7 – beautiful morning.  Washing parade in afternoon – cards in evening – Ray Ross and self caned Gary and Claude Geeves (Pl ….Cpls)  Pte Weir.  Sleep on deck.

Friday 21st

Miss early parade – vague threats from Miss Trenow.  More Bren instruction in morning – Boxing in the afternoon.  Four ships – E of J, E of A, Ormonde & Windsor Castle – leave convoy – believe going to Mombassa – cards again in the evening. We win again – sleep on deck (concert on stairs)

Saturday 22nd

Back to Ac Ac duty – guns got out of armoury & cleaned and mounted – Day shift with GW – Hot as hell after nearly fortnight below decks – right on Equator.  Colic sweeps the ship.  Stomach in grip of electric shovel – agony for twenty four hours – PT up and down stairs between cabin and latrines.

Sunday 23rd

Early shift on guns – clean guns.  Boxing in the afternoon – couple of good fights – Treen (?) shows promise – nice left.  Write letters to Home.

Monday 24th

Second shift on gun – warned of danger area – subs, mines, aircraft – play cards in evening – with C Hill, Jim McDonnell & G Watts – have a pot – just beer.

Tuesday 25th

Early shift on gun – clean guns – sunbaked – tried to write letters – couldn’t concentrate.  In the evening sighted Arab Dhow – went to pictures – not a boar show – played rubber of crib.

Wed 26th

Woke 7.30 – Breakfast – shaved head again – bloody dry – all water on boat (for men) salt pinched(?)- two bottles of Castle Lager on its way to the Officers Mess – very nice – low cut fast looking destroyer sighted on port bow – couple of tramps also seen – lovely drop of sun.  Boxing – couple good fights.  Nurse asleep on deck chair, hat over one eye – 6 empty beer bottles beside her – played crib in evening

Thursday 27th

New roster – GW & Self second shift 8 – 10.  R R relived me at 9am – went down and joined in with working party – got a case of ale – followed the other chaps as far as main staircase – came back along other passage and down to cabin – boys emptied case – took empty case back to deck – lovely beer – pay parade about 1pm.  Blenheim Bomber flew over – 2pm sighted the islands known as 12 apostles.  Four large ships & cruiser loom on horizon – later join convoy – several patrol boats snooping around.  Officers and nurses have fancy dress ball etc.  Played 500 with Frank Dredge, Ac Hallam, Nuggett Geeves – cake walk.  Through Hells Gates during night – sleep on deck.

Friday 28th Feb

Early shift 6 – 8.  Clean guns shave head and massage with olive oil – good days sunshine – not nearly as severe as expected in Red Sea.  Boys got stuck into the hops in the evening.  Gary as full as a boot.  Drunken singsong on stairs.  Played 1d blind with JR, JF, FD and Len Earea – did the roll.  Stubbed toe on steel plate – broke toenail halfway down.

‘Got a case of ale’ (Feb 27)

Clearly more fun and games, commandeering (stealing!) what should have been purchased – or perhaps what was meant for the officers?

Islands known as the 12 Apostles

I assume these are the Zubair group, formed by the Hanish volcano which lies beneath the Red Sea between Yemen and Eritrea. Recent volcanic activity saw a new island formed in the chain in December 2011.  In June 1940, a Walrus aircraft from HMAS Hobart carried out a bombing attack on the Italian wireless station on Centre Peak Island in this group.

Officers and Nurses

Friday 21st – I assume Miss Trenow was an officer (As a nursing sister she would most likely have been have been a Lieutenant).

Photos from shipboard life are hard to come by – but there are some in the AWM collection – such as http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/050245A/  nurses playing deck tennis on Nieu Amsterdam…not in 1941 but could have been!

Nea Hellas

This vessel, like many others was commandeered for war service then returned to ‘civilian life’ after the war:


A Photohistory of the Passenger Ship That Had Three Incarnations

During her service to the Allies the Nea Hellas was designated HR-190 and became affectionately called the “Nellie Wallace” by the soldiers she transported. She carried over 60,000 troops during her wartime service! Despite the fact she was targeted by torpedo twice by an Italian submarine, and attacked three times by Nazi aircraft in the Mediterranean, she completed her wartime service without the loss of a single life!

This entry was posted in at sea, gambling and drinking, guard/ picket/ orderly room duty, training, Uncategorized, unit and personal diaries and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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