Search The Archive

Search form

Collection Search
Date: January 1st 1943
Diary

DIARY

About Christmas of 1942 I decided to keep a diary of some kind. I spent Christmas and New Years at "KILO 40" so couldn't get a notebook till I got to Cairo. That was Jan. 7th. Today is my first entry (Jan. 14th) and am hoping I can keep a fair record of myself till next year. As a diary is in direct contravention to K.R.R. I'll attempt to call it a note book. My pal trims his mustache which is also against an Air Force antiquated order. Well, I'll wish myself good luck and start on.

Jan 7th.

#40 Squadron Personnel
W.O. NOLES 32 years service, always nattering, once built a 180 yard runway in Palestine for "Whimpy."

W/C RIDGEWAY - Very good appearance but essentially a parlour C.O.

W/C NORTON D.F.C. Good pilot and officer. Landed a Wimpy at Malta with one engine, no flaps, full bomb load without a bounce.

F/Lt. VAUGHN - About 700 flying hours, only rear gunner with a D.S.O.. Killed when going home from MALTA.

F/Lt. HATTON - Mentioned in despatch but God knows why!

GINGER - Yorkshire singing bar-man. "From behind the hanger doors"

BILL BURGESS - beer consumer

W.O. CARRUTHERS - O.B.E. tended to mess funds.

F/Lt. AUSTEN - Didn't like Ops., but beer took their place.

*The next two days he has been reading Macbeth and discusses and analized some of it for two pages carefully printed. His printing makes it much easier for the reader.

Tuesday 13th Jan. Posted with apologies from 40 Sqd. to #w M.F.T.S.. Two hours later posted to #70 Sqd.

Wednesday Jan. 14th. Left #2 M.E.T.S. and boarded Halifax W 7849 and landed at #70 Sqd. south of Tobrouk, 2 ½ hrs. afterward. At # 70 met Sgt. Armstrong (Army the gunner) mustache and all. Army the gunner - Toronto - once stole a street car in Cairo and took it to Helio to save paying a taxi.

Thursday Jan. 15th Just settling down and find flying won't be so hot a full week.

Sat. Jan. 16th To-day passed quite uneventfully. I was looking forward to a full night's sleep when F/Lt. Elliott sadly informed me that I had the honour to be A.C.P. to-night. I was told to expect six kites from Malta any time after nine o'clock. So, after lighting the flare path, testing the Chana lights, glide lights, telephone and other equipment I, more or less waited for the Malta kites, and any other who might want to land. At 7.30 an alert was sounded and I ordered the lights to be douced. I then watched Jerry lose four of his kites. Three to B----and one to ac ac, Path then lighted till 10.30 and then douced again as we had no idea of our visitor's E.T.A. I went to the watch for a mug of shi- which I didn't and returned to my job. Four of us could doze in the truck and the other had to stand on guard and it was damn cold for the guy on duty.

I decided to I'd let the others sleep and do the watching myself, I expected the kites were from #40 Sqd. and I wanted to make sure there would be no delay if they came. Well, I think I walked some 20 or 30 miles trying to keep warm. At four o'clock still no sign of a Whimpy so I went to the mess and got a mug of shi- and a nip of cherry brandy and I needed it too. It was at this time I met "Congrua" After sipping the brandy (a Palestine concoction) I chanced to look around and saw three inches from my toe, a two legged animal, about four inches high, light brown colored, rounded ears and an 8 inch tail ending in a bush. He moved like a kangero and just as quick. Needless to say I solenmy swore to leave all stimulants alone no matter how cold I might be.

The whimpys didn't come during the night, but the next morning. I don't know whether the air raid, my limpid friend or the African sunrise were enough to compromise my loss of sleep and chilled limbs. Any how I'm in better humour now and won't grouse so much. I just finished Hamlet.

Friday 22nd Jan

BENINA is about 15 miles east of BENGHAZI and was a popular Italian air port. Right now its a grave yard for [?] DUCE'S planes. At a guess I'd say there is about 100 ITI's and Jerry kites lying around the drome. Breda, Savoy, Ju 88's Atuka may be seen in any direction. None of them are in good shape.

There is an talian theatre on the drome and we enjoyed a concert - slap stick English comedy to night in Musso's building.
The scenery is much different here as we are in sort of a great velst. Grass takes the place of sand and a 700 ft. ridge; the plain on the east.

The climate is damp and cold at night. Kangeroo rats and pyords (wild dogs) are the only animal life. Moved into another tent.
My promotion has been through for some time but the R.A.F. in their usual style, haven't done anything about it. So I wait.

Saturday 23rd. Jan.

I arose this morning and wandered out to breakfast. The cook took one look at me and told me to get back to bed. Grub is at 8.15
I thought I'd like to see a fort about five miles east. From what I heard, it is a SENUSSI fort much the same as you read about in the French Foreign Legion stories, however I decided to go to BENGHAZI instead.

BENGHAZI is or was a quiet Italian town. The buildings are modern and in the eastern style. Aside from the cathedral it doesn't boast anything out of the ordinary. Its just a sea port town. I haven't seen so much damage in one place in my whole life. There isn't a building that war hasn't touched.

The cathedral was a surprise. I didn't think there could be an R.C. church of such size in the whole of North Africa.
The cathedral is not so stolid as an English church but suggests a combination of purity, lightness and optimistic emotion. One feels that the priest wouldn't be a hell fire and brimston artist but would be a cheerful man with confidence in the character of his fellow man.

Monday 25th Jan.

Nothing happened to-day, Just washed some clothes and got settled down in our tent. Received a parcel from Mary Scribner and 300 cigarettes from Enid Bull. Both were very much appreciated. These are the first Christmas parcels I have received.
Duke and I walked over to the drome and had an American show us a Mitchell B-25 I think it's far superior in construction to any British medium bomber. The instruments and controls are built according to a plan and not as an after thought as in most English kites.
p.s. Feb. The B-25 is not superior to the Wellinton in performance.

Tuesday 26th Jan.

I think I've enough equipment to get my dhobie done now. Equipment includes petrol tins, water and soap - and all are scarce. I forgot wood and thats important and damn hard to get too. Our stove seems O.K. as we had boiled eggs and coco to-night.

This p.m. I inspected a Henshall 126, two ME-109F's, three JU-52's a JU-88, a Dominof, a Valenohir and several kites I couldn't recognize as there wern't enough parts left to identify the type. These planes in various shades of repair or demolition are nearly all between the north and the south of the drome. I calculate I spent two hours snooping around in blissful ignorance of the fact that the area is a minefield. - (a case where ignorance is not bliss.)

I looked over MAGRUM but it's just a ghost town now. It contained a few native houses of ARAB style, a government house, an eastern mosque built, I think, by the Italians and a fort. This later may be just a burying ground, but I'll bet my next pay that's its the remains of a SENUSSI fort.

The mirage is at home here as I've seen a dozen towns and as many rivers to-day.

Thursday 28th Jan.

Pay day - red day. Received about a dozen letters from Dad, Mary, Sr. Corneliea and