War Diary March 21 – April 14 (Easter Monday) 1941

Friday 21st

Wrote some letters during morning – afternoon ceremonial parade – marched to Brigade – welcome for Brigadier Baxter-Cox – a good show.  Long march back with fixed bayonets at attention – 1 1/2 miles.  When we got back were issued with Christmas hampers – mine came from Mrs Russell Grimwade, Orrong Rd Toorak .  Went to pictures – “It’s a wonderful world”.

Saturday 22nd

Early parade 8.30 – Rain stops march.  Had a shower at Hospital (1st AGH) – met Jim Castley- had been in Palestine 14 months – knew Max & Audrey Phillips.  Should have been relieved at 5pm but arrangements between brigade and 31st misunderstood – was on Ac Ac from 3 – 8 then put on main guard rest of night.  General confusion – when came off at 5.30 had cup of tea – toast & eggs at nurses cook house.

Sunday 23rd

Came off guard at ten o’clock – pay parade at eleven o’clock – had a bath and wrote some letters.

Monday 24th

Fire orders and stalking on Gaza Ridge – hell of a feed of oranges – Dick Lewis took snaps in orange grove – very pleasant morning.  Lecture in afternoon on grenades then a short march and back to camp.  Stunt at night – distribution of mail – tons of letters and newspapers

Tuesday 25th

Compass reading in morning – interesting couple of hours.  Route march in afternoon.  Guard at 5.30 – squires lines (?) when there not wanted – returned to camp – called out for Gaza Ridge then orders cancelled – went to YM to write letters – but lights fused – a general muck up.  11pm Hqrs Company called to Parade.  laid on bed – shamed (?) sleep and then went to sleep fully dressed.  passed off alright.

Wednesday 26th

30th birthday – compass reading in the morning.  2 o’clock parade detailed for guard (Brigade) – mounted guard 5.30 – received more old letters and two recent ones – first relief.  Wrote to Skinny J.

Thursday 27th

2-4am relief.  wrote to Rob Cameron.  D R Haigh appointed CSM Hqr company – Frank Dredge gets J Reinke’s stripes – good luck to him – another diplomatic appointment.  R Cole to be sergeant ……Doc Trenow interviewed by Trump – probably get a pip.

Friday 28th

Pay parade – Doc broke everyone in tent at two up.  In the afternoon embussed and taken to Jaffa Range.  Put on guard duty.  Went through with J Black, Pete McCowan & Pat Lowe – went to Rishon – small Jewish town – several good cafes – beer and supper – back to camp about midnight.


Battalion went to range for stunt – guard stayed in camp.  Talk with men from Jewish Battalion – one German one Hungarian – knew their Europe well.  Had a snack at canteen and went to Tel Aviv with Aggie Lloyd & Mick Patton – all business places closed (Sat Jews Sunday).  Tel Aviv quite modern in design but buildings very badly finished.  Went from Tel Aviv to Jaffa – Arab centre adjoining – dirty place.  Toured all the low dives – came back to camp in taxi.  Abyssinian driver – offsider a Turk – drive like mad – put their foot on the accelerator and their faith in Allah.


Went to the Range for stunt – Demonstration shot first then manoever – Platoons in attack.  Later had a throw of 2” grenade – Guard again at night.

Monday 31st

On guard till midday then out to range to see the mortars.  Back to camp at 4 o’clock – tea then back to Kilo 89 in buses – through some fine agric country – orange groves and grape fruit – pictures with CS & KJ

Tuesday 1st

Ceremonial parade – clean & oil guns.  Broken off at 2 o’clock – took washing to laundry (2 hours mucking about) – wrote letters – Mother.

Wednesday 2nd

Mortar & Tommy gun instruction in morning.  Maintenance on guns & carriers in the afternoon.  Wrote to Skinny J & Mrs Worby


Field stunt – went in carriers – Doc’s section to Gaza.  Battalion in attack – carriers to assist – left flank attack – crawling through sand – Lecture by CO & Capt Graham Sutton


Cleaned guns – Bren & Anti Tank – Bludged in afternoon.  Friday night went to 31st RAP had drink with K Jenkins & Dudley Raynor – Ken had been to Jerusalem on leave.  Bought some nice souvenirs – said he had a great trip.


Pay parade – Medical inspection dressed in Great Coats and boots only – car load of nurses passed and waved – didn’t know what was on.  Did the roll at two up and went to canteen to have drink with Leo Earea & Bing Henderson – met Roy Jelley – wanted to see Ac – went down and got Ac – He & Jelley like two long lost brothers


Cricket match with mortars.  Good morning’s outing – went to bed in afternoon.


Stunt across the sand – hell of a march through narrow lanes of Arab village.  Hot as hell – stink and dust – got back to camp about 4.30 everybody feeling ——.  Had a wonderful shower.  After tea had a couple of pots and went out on another stunt – home about half past ten.


Up early to go on leave to Jerusalem – just getting dressed when Barclay came into tent and said leave was cancelled – orders to pack ready to move out.  Bad luck but if its a show then leave doesn’t matter.  Guns cleaned oiled and packed blankets rolled – standing by all day – bamboo beds stripped – sleep on ground – one blanket – cold.

Wednesday 9th

Standing by all day – packing in Q store etc


In working party on truck carting gear back from Kilo 89 to Barbera (?) camp – ordnance. Received letter from Lil Murray Mainsbridge Hotel Liverpool NSW.  Camps breaking up and standing by all along the road.

Friday 11th

Good Friday – clean up camp – struck tent & rolled ready to move – kit bags collected – went to Hospital to post some letters and small parcels – tried to get a drink – missed out.  9.15am parade with pack and equipment and marched to Gaza station – entrained at 2am – reached Kantara 9am.  Breakfast, swim in Suez Canal – saw a couple of ships go through – gypoes trying to sell all manner of rubbish – one told me – Aussie blood relation Wooloomooloo.  Entrained again at 2.15.  Train journey in afternoon very pleasant – glorious sunshine – through Nile irrigation area – miles of rich plain land – crops mostly barley and lucerne – banana palms – ruins of ancient cities – women look better type than arabs in Palestine.  Mohammedans at prayer – passed through El Zaezic.  detrained at 2.30am on Sunday morning – marched to camp”Ikingi Mahru”about four miles – slept where we halted – reveille at 7.00am – wash – shave – breakfast (mess orderly) – camp a desolate wasteland – wind and sand all day.  Food light on – “Laugh and grow fat” – short interesting church service (Easter Sunday) in evening.  Cold night.

Easter Monday 14th April

Reveille 6.30.  talk by new OC – tightening up – digging trenches all day and pitching tents – Food still very light on – “old soldiers just fade away”.  Pete McCowan, Bob Cole (Tom Tits) Viv Abel and Jim Hocking sent to another Battalion for instruction.  Route march at night – enjoyable cup of tea when we got back.


Christmas hampers

I’ve been wondering how the Comforts Fund parcels were organised, and have come across an article via Trove and another from Museum Victoria:Firstly, from Trove, a description of the process of financing, packing and sending parcels in 1942 which appeared in the Cairns Post onSeptember 12 of that year  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article42359915 and second the extract below from the Museum Victoria site http://museumvictoria.com.au/collections/themes/10608/australian-comforts-fund-world-war-ii-1939-1946

The aim of the ACF was to provide free ‘comfort’ items that were not supplied by the services to all Australian servicemen. These items included singlets, socks, pyjamas, cigarettes and tobacco, razor blades, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and reading material (newspapers and magazines). Additionally, the ACF also provided recreational facilities, rest rooms, sporting equipment, gramophones and records to the troops, as well as regularly providing writing materials such as pencils, paper and postcards so the soldiers’ could write home. 

The ACF relied on fundraising and donations to supply these items to the Australian soldiers. The ACF raised thousands of pounds though various activities, such as door knock appeals, fetes and button days, to cover the cost of materials and shipping of items to the troops. The number of goods supplied, funded and distributed by the ACF volunteers is quite remarkable. 

The ACF also regularly dispatched Christmas hampers to troops abroad. The Christmas hampers generally comprised of a plum pudding, cake, small tin of fruit, tinned cream, razor blades and tobacco and were donated or sponsored by members of the public. These hampers were generally supplied to each army unit and then distributed by a number of ACF commissioners. By the close of operations in 1946, more than 1.5 million hampers had been dispatched to troops by the ACF. 

The ACF provided a source of comfort, support and encouragement for the troops abroad and offered a means for women at home to contribute to the war effort and identify with the men in the trenches. The ACF acted as a vital link between home and the battlefields. The Australian Comforts Fund officially closed on the 27th June 1946.

Bad luck but if it’s a show then leave doesn’t matter…

From The Footsoldiers (pp27-28)

With the threat of General Rommel’s Africa Corps in the Western Desert and the withdrawal of our forces from Tobruk, our 25th Brigade was ordered to prepare to move on 11 April.  During the waiting period, steel helmets were painted buff and soaked in sand while the paint was wet.  Vehicles were treated in much the same way, and the windscreens removed…..

On 12 April the transport of the battalion left by road and at dawn next day the battalion entrained at Gaza, crossed the canal in the same old train at Ismalia and arrived at Ikingi Maryut in Egypt at midnight.  From the rail siding the battalion had a four mile march to our camp out in the desert.

In full marching order, carrying LMG’s , magazine boxes and the section one-gallon hot boxes, this night march out into the bitterly cold desert was our first taste of real hard going.  As dawn was breaking on 13 April we looked around the ‘camp’ which consisted of a great heap of EPIP (English Patent Indian Pattern) tents that had to be erected.  With breakfast of bacon rashers and baked beans mixed with dust and sand, we looked around at this flat desolate land, not impressed with what we saw……[this] was to us the end of the earth, made exciting only by the prospect of action….

Kilo 89, Gaza 

Kilo 89 HHerbert

The camp known as Kilo89

Photo of a watercolour by Harold Herbert, published in The Footsoldiers





Camouflaged truck at Rishon-le-Zion: painting by Harold Herbert, published in the ‘Christmas book’, Active Service

Truck Camouflage

This entry was posted in Africa, guard/ picket/ orderly room duty, training, Uncategorized, unit and personal diaries, weapons, armaments, equipment and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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