January: Had a very pleasant weekend in Lahore. Departed for Karachi on 3rd January. The train journey took 24 hours and is the dustiest I've ever done. To get to Karachi from the Punjab the Sind desert has to be crossed and the fine sand and dust is stirred up by the train and comes into the carriage through every crack and joint and fills hair, mouth and nose, making the journey intensely unpleasant and uncomfortable. We tried to seal up the doors and windows with wet newspaper.
We were very pleased to arrive at Karachi at about 8 a.m. on the 4th. There was no officer or letter to meet us at the station which I considered rather inhospitable. However, a fatigue party had been sent to move our baggage. Went straight to North Western Hotel. Later crossed to Manora and met the Major. There was no accommodation available for us on the island, nor had any attempt been made to arrange any. Altogether, I thought that the Major had been very casual and impolite.
We put up at the N.W. hotel -- a foul place -- for four days and in the meantime I made arrangements to hire tents from the ordnance and have them erected. We had furniture put in the tents and moved in on Sunday, 9th December. The tents are really quite comfortable, especially after the M.E.S. put in electric lights for us. The Mess lent us crockery and cutlery etc. and we get our meals from the Mess kitchen -- not a very satisfactory arrangement as our tents are about 100 yards from the kitchen and also as the food is very poor and badly cooked.
Manora is a very pleasant island on the seaward side of Karachi Harbor. The battery are the only troops on the island. other inhabitants are Port Trust officials and employees. There is a beach right in front of our tents and a lovely view straight out to sea. The Mess owns its own sailing yacht and tennis court, so we get all the sailing, tennis and swimming we desire.* Am settling down to learn Coast Defence work, as it is a new branch of gunnery to me.
* Saw in London Gazette dated 6/1/39 that I have been promoted Captain w.e.f. (with effect) 21/12/38.
February: Heard that my application for transfer to Australia had been received in Melbourne and would be considered by the Military Board "at an early date". So we expect to leave here some time in March. At the beginning of this month we commenced making our own catering arrangements under Helen's management. A kitchen has been improvised and the bearer (Lal Mohamed, "L.M.") does the cooking, supervised by her. The food now much better and cheaper than the previous arrangement.
19th Heard today that the Military Board has approved my appointment to the Staff Corps. Have now only to wait until instructions come through the official channels. During the past week there has been rain about, one morning there was very heavy rain for a couple of hours. The water came into the tents in several places. It is not pleasant in tents when it rains. When we do go back to Australia and have a solid roof over our heads, it will seem very luxurious.
The battery commenced its annual practice seawards this week. First sub-calibre (6 pr) and next week we will first full calibre. It is fortunate for me that this is happening before I go. It affords an excellent opportunity of seeing in practice what I have been learning in theory. It is an experience which I hope will prove useful when I return to Australia.
March 10th: Full calibre practice completed last week after setbacks in the form of bad weather which prevented the target towing launch going out of the harbour. Noise, smoke, concussion and flash are features very pronounced in a coast battery and make observation and control more difficult than in field batteries. Learnt a lot from these practices.
The British section of the battery went to camp to do 18 pdr training for last two weeks of the month. Only one officer went, the remainder of us went out when the actual shooting took place.
Heard officially of the approval of my appointment to the Staff Corps - have decided to sail on the 4th May from Bombay on the Strathmore (P & O). Am trying to get a passage for Helen from the Indian government.
April: Vacated our tents at the end of last month and took over George Cangley's bungalow. He remains as a p.g. and is to pay us Rs15O/- per month - a very profitable arrangement for him, a very shrewd man is old George. The new D.O. Cole, and his family, occupied our tents the day we left. Two days later there was a terrific rainstorm, about 2" of water in a couple of hours, the tents were nearly washed out.
We were on tenterhooks most of the month waiting for approval for us to come through to depart on May 2nd. The approval came through on the 24th and now it is a question of the money for our passages coming through before we depart. If it doesn't, we'll be hard put to it to meet all our expenses.
May: We departed from Karachi on 2nd May and sailed to Bombay on the Vita. I was given a rotten deal by the Indian government - no leave pending resignation and consequently no pay until reporting for duty with the Australian government.
Sailed from Bombay on the 4th May for Australia. Had no real regrets at leaving India. The ship we traveled on, the Strathmore, was very crowded with refugees from Europe and conditions in the tourist class were not very pleasant. On arrival at Fremantle I received instructions that I was posted for duty with the Coast Defence Artillery at Sydney.
Arrived Sydney 26th May and reported for duty on the same day and immediately obtained a few days leave to find a home. We chose a flat in Manly as our headquarters until we could find something better.
June: Settling down and getting used to new conditions took quite a while. The outstanding impression I received of Australia's military preparedness was that it is tragically inadequate. Australian Defence is the plaything of Australian politics, and the general public is apathetic and sees in Defence matters nothing to concern them!
July: Moved to a new flat in Manly closer to the barracks; the new flat is modern with all conveniences and has an excellent harbour view. Commenced to form the 12th Heavy Battery R.A.I.F. during this month. Had to start from scratch with myself as the only officer and four N.C.O.s from 2nd Heavy Battery. The rest of the battery consisted of 30 recruits.
August: Started this month with the certainty that war would be upon us very soon. The organisation and training of the battery ran smoothly.
25th August: Orders received to proceed to Port Kembla and install a coast battery of 6" Mk XI guns. Made all arrangements that were possible and departed for Port Kembla at dawn on 26th. Collected parts of the equipment and camp stores en route. Arrived at Kembla; chose the camp site and erected the camp. There were no administrative arrangements made by the August staff for me whatsoever. However, we managed to make ourselves comfortable. Metal Manufactures Ltd were particularly helpful in allowing us the use of their kitchen and dining room and washing facilities.
September: Completed the installation one gun on the 31 August and proofed. Considering the difficulties we considered one week very good time.
The second gun was proofed a week later. Having installed the guns we commenced training and manning. However, the battery can't be considered completely installed until B.O.P.s and numerous other buildings are completed. The war has completely dislocated the ordnance and other supply services, so we can't get the essential remaining equipment for the battery at the moment; as regards the 101 other things we need, there is no hope at all of getting them until the war is over.
The whole trouble is that the government is trying to carry out its war policy with a peacetime organisation. In peacetime, owing to lack of sufficient permanent personnel in the army, the whole army was inefficient, so the present chaos is not surprising. During this month we managed to get leave for two days each fortnight. So we managed to see our wives and sweethearts once a fortnight.
October: Slight progress was made with the building, then owing to lack of funds, all work ceased! The new Command organisation came into effect this month. A number of moves, new promotions and appointments are expected.
November: Handed over command of Kembla Battery to Lieut. Carrilo and returned to North Head and took over command of 2nd Heavy Battery from Lt. Col. Goodwin who had been promoted and posted as CCD to Queenscliff. Owing to depredations by the A.I.F., 2nd Battery practically non-existent so I had to reform it.
With the job of B.C. North Head, I got the B.C.s quarters in barracks. So we moved up here on the llth November. So now we are very comfortable - I fight my little war during daylight and am able to sleep at home and see my wife each day - much better than the Kembla episode.
Col. Whitelaw took over CCD here from Col. Meredith and occupies the quarters next door. He is an enthusiastic gardener and has started to make a garden. I suppose I'll have to do the same. it seems a hopeless task in pure sand on this windswept headland.
December: A comparatively uneventful month. Our main problem is to get sufficient men to man the forts -- the government want them manned but won't give us any men to do it with, neither can we tell the militia how long we keep them and on what basis. It's the same old story -- we are at war but the government tries to work on a peacetime basis.
January: Still at North Head. Nothing of much import happened during the month. Planted quite a number of flowers in the garden, and am having great trouble keeping the rabbits away.
February: As above. We are expecting our child shortly and hope it will be a boy.
March: The baby was born on the 13th March, a son. He was born at 9 p.m. and weighed 7 lbs 12 oz. - a fine healthy baby. Helen got through the ordeal with no permanent damage. Helen went to the hospital (Wyuna private hospital, Woods Street, Manly) at 2 p.m. on the 13th and came home a fortnight later.
The garden has come on very well and is showing some results - marigold, petunia, zinnias, phlox and lupins are showing some blooms. We also have some sweet peas under way (Helen's favourite flowers). The baby is to be called John David.
The government announced plans to enlarge the A.I.F. to a complete Army Corps so we are all hoping again to be allowed go.
April: The baby gained 7 oz. the first week home from hospital and 9 oz. the second week. He is behaving very well and gives very little trouble. We are both very pleased and satisfied with him. We are training him to behave properly right from the beginning -- we don't believe in spoilt children. Colonel J.S. Whitelaw is going to be the god-father and Nance Harris to be godmother. Took out insurance policies on my life for £1000 and on J.D. for £1000.
May: The past month has been a very happy one for all three of us. Helen and J.D. are well. J.D. is regularly gaining 8 oz. a week. Helen believes in plenty of fresh air and sun and it agrees well with him.
At the end of April I attended a course at the School of Artillery for officers of the Staff Corps selected for duty with the A.I.F. On 7th May I was posted to 2/4 Field Regt A.I.F. as Battery Commander and promoted to Major from the same date. Immediately after the course I went to camp at Puckapunyal, Victoria, where the regiment was being formed. That meant breaking up our home at North Head. Our furniture etc. was stored in the quarters at North Head and Helen and J.D. went to Melbourne to be near me. She stayed at Victoria Hall, St Kilda Road -- an uncomfortable guest house kept by the "Witch" and the "Horse". Every fortnight I used to go there on weekend leave. Helen used to bring J.D. to the camp on alternate Sundays.
The process of forming the regiment was not easy.
We started with a small number of ex militia officers and N.C.O.s, but few of them had had any real experience. Lt. Col. L.E.S. Barker is C.O. of the regiment and Major Rau is the other B.C. (both of them are ex-Staff Corps officers)
June: The regiment is completely up to strength now and is now well into its recruit training stage. We are having all the usual teething troubles -- officers and N.C.O.s who don't pull their weight and lack of training equipment. However, all are very keen and progress is quite satisfactory.
Helen is still in Melbourne at Victoria Hall.
July: It has been bitterly cold this month. All the troops have been getting colds and "Puck" throat. The sickness has interfered with training quite a lot.
August: The regiment is really beginning to look like a regiment now and are ready to get on with Battery training. Our C.O. has been posted away from us and sent to Palestine to take over command of the 2/lst Field Regt -- apparently the lst C.O. of that unit failed to make good! We don't know yet who our new C.O. is to be. At present Major Fraser 2 i/c (cont.) of the regiment, is administering command. He is a most ineffective little man, he can't make decisions by himself, he calls in Rau and myself to make his mind up. Consequently, we are running the regiment. The 2 i/c should logically be the next C.O. and should be capable of taking command. I should hate to go into action with Fraser as C.O., all I hope is he is removed before he can do any damage.
I had a few days off this month with the prevailing cold and Pucka throat. Helen and J.D. also had colds, things are very difficult for her at Victoria. Hall. It's a wonder she has been able to stay at the place so long. It is a case of "better the devil one knows......."
September: I am very pleased with the shape my battery is taking. It is pretty well organised and most people know their jobs - as far as they have gone, but everyone has a long way to go yet. Unfortunately we still have a few passengers.
Helen has been rather sick with measles and complications with sinus trouble. She had a very unpleasant fortnight, with a nurse in attendance.
Sept. 21st: Received orders that pre-embarkation leave is to be completed by October 7th. That means we'll be off soon. of course that caused a big stir in the camp and acted as great tonic to troops who were getting a bit stale with camp life.
October: Brought Helen and J.D. to Sydney and installed them in a flat at Milsons Point. My six days leave expires on October 7th when I shall arrive back in the camp. This will be the last I shall see of Helen and J.D. until I return from abroad -- soon I hope (1942?)
September: Sailed for Middle East with my regiment and the rest of 7 Div. I was in the Mauretania. On arrival Bombay we transshipped into a convoy of smaller vessels.
November: Arrived Palestine. Training in earnest continues, somewhat hampered by lack of equipment.
January: Appointed Brigade Major to the Div. Arty.
February: Practice camp in Sinai Desert.
March: Moved by road from Palestine through Egypt to Mersa Matruh in the Western Desert. This was to be a reserve position in case the Germans pressed their advance toward Egypt having surrounded the 9 Div. at Tobruk. Our division had been intended for Greece but Rommel's activities in Cyrenaica were too great a threat and hence we were sent to Matruh.
April: Prepared defences at Matruh and continued training.
May: The German did not attempt to cross the frontier in force and made no attack on Matruh.
June: The division moved back to Palestine to prepare for advance into Syria to prevent Germans gaining control there.
July: After a strenuous month of campaigning the Vichy French capitulated and our division is now occupying the country. I am still BMRA and we have our HQ at delightful place named Aby near Beyrouth in the mountains.
August: Moved further north to Tripoli. Henry Rourke took over from Berryman as CRA. Did a motor tour throughout Syria during these months -- a country of varied terrain, full of interest and contrasts, a paradise for a student of ancient history.
September: Still in Syria on occupation duties.
November: Training, also preparing a defence line across north of Syria.
December: Posted to Corps HQ as GSO2 and promoted Lieut. Col. Located at Aby near Beyrouth.
Japanese enter war December 7.
January: Orders came for all AIF to leave the Middle East except 9 Div. Destination unknown but probably Burma or Java. I am to remain and attend course at Staff School Haifa.
February: At Staff School Haifa.
May - June: Spent two weeks at base at Gaza awaiting shipment back to Australia. Finally designated as O.C. Troops on "Clan Macaulay" -- a fast freighter. Approx. 200 troops on board of whom 50 are soldiers under sentence ex detention barracks at Jerusalem.
July: Arrived safely back in Australia. Uneventful voyage. The prisoners gave less trouble than expected. Six tried to escape when ship entered Sydney harbour but were quickly dealt with.
August: Posted as GSO.L. 3 Div. Stan Savige Div. Comdr. Division located Maryborough, S. Queensland, later moved to Gympie area (see separate diary entry).
September - January: Intensive training period to prepare division for operations in New Guinea.
February:Sent to New Guinea in advance of division for planning and preparations of operations in Wau Salamaua area.
March: 3 Div HQ took over control of Wau Salamaua area and additional troops moved in. I journeyed on foot to all fronts to make reconnaissance etc., was in a few tough spots. Nearly eaten by mosquitoes in Markham Valley.
April: A strenuous and successful campaign against Japs.
August: During this period ending with capture of Salamaua. Posted as GSO.1 to the Australian Military Mission in Washington U.S.A. Quite a change from the jungle! Returned to mainland via Buna, Moresby, Milne Bay including a most interesting flight along coast from Salamaua in a small Piper cub aeroplane.
September: After a short leave flew across Pacific to Washington via Noumea, Fiji, Canton Island, Hawaii.
November: Helen and J.D. joined in Washington. I was in hospital with malaria when they arrived -- no doubt was infected in Markham Valley in N.G. We found a comfortable and conveniently located flat in Decatur Place (between Massachusetts and Connecticut Aves. Whilst in U.S.A. I toured round the country quite a lot on official visits. Some of the places visited -- Fort Learmonth, Kansas, Key Field Mississippi, Fort Benning Georgia, manoeuvres in S. California, Newport Virginia, West Point, Canada several times on one occasion Helen and J.D. accompanied me. New York we visited several times.
During the summer we rented a furnished house in Virginia about 7 miles out of Washington. That was a very pleasant place and we enjoyed our time there. We had a Plymouth Coupe for our transport.
December: Made a quick visit to London, France, Holland and S. Germany and got good idea of the war in Europe. Saw both Ul and U2 bombs and their result. Just missed being caught in German offensive in Ardennes. Flew Atlantic both ways.
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