Personal War Diary 1942 Adjt A.J.S Mackenzie 50th (Northumbrian) Divisional Signals Regiment, TA

Discussion in 'Royal Signals' started by Kev1, Dec 20, 2011.

  1. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    Background: This diary has come to light in a small village in Italy called Vallerano - My son, an English teacher in the local area, was shown the diary by a student whose grandmother had held it since WW2.

    There was no name in the diary and a web search brought me here - and thanks to poster A Well Camel and Mel we have identified the owner as one Captain A.J.S. Mackenzie. The diary ends in Libya, just before the battle of Gazala, and a subsequent entry in the diary, in Italian, suggests it may have been found during this time and brought back to Italy. As far we can tell Captain Mackenzie wouldn't have passed through this part of Italy so it's a bit of a mystery how it ended up here - we will make investigations at this end.

    Any comments would be greatly welcomed!

    Here goes!

    An Adjutant's Diary

    50th ( Northumbrian ) Infantry Division ( Signals)

    11th January 1942

    Day spent rushing round and packing up. Cold & misty. Basil tried to take a photo of the mess.(1) Wonder how it will turn out. Rear party detail. Bloomfield(2) + No. 9 set(3) + cipher.(4) Hope we can pick up sick in hospital. Don Asher in Shuiba(5-6) - Robin Turton going to arrange.(7)

    12 January 1942

    Left Kirkuk 07:15 in fast car convoy.(8) Fairly good start but oil roads skiddy.(9) River crossing bit ticklish but journey on whole good & arrived Baghdad 16:30. Party, Firth, Pirie, Russell, Halliday, Pooley, CO, Wilson(10) + self. Stayed at River Front Hotel.(11) Moderate joint and had to share room with a medical. Went out in evening with David Russell and Wilson to Sinbad.(12) Drinks expensive but evening a pleasant change after Kirkuk. Poor Halliday had to buy complete toilet gear because general threw his batman out of party and batman retained chalumpchi. The woes of a G2 graphically described over cocktails.(13) Baghdad practising black-out. No street lights. Shops very bright.

    13th January 1942

    A shocking day. 12 miles outside Baghdad ran a half shaft. Towed back to Baghdad by David Wilson to 31 Mobile Wk/shps I.R.A.O.C.(14) Spent 3 valuable hours cajoling RAOC into giving us a new car. Finally got a handsome Chev. staff car which got us 20 miles from Baghdad and then dropped its back wheel. No damage. Ronnie(15) overtook us and took CO to Habbaniya(16) where I joined him two hours later, all fixed. Decided to stay night and push on first thing. Spent damned cold night in an EPIP tent.(17) Couldn't get warm. Glad when morning came. Heard shots in night. Heard later wogs pinched 3 pistols from Provost guard tent. Won't Harry Iris be tickled?(18)

    14th January 1942

    On from Habbaniya at 06:30. Much warmer now. Making good time. Sun shining brightly. Saw 4 flying fortresses – a heartening sight.(19) Left Iraq road – bloody – at 10:30 and on into pure desert. Became very dull and cold by LG 5 and was glad of sheepskin. Called LG 5.(20) Only Indians. Miserable and cold. Poor show. Car now going well. Entering Rutbah Wilson had a puncture.(21) No wheelbrace. Went to road engineer who helped us out and gave us a good tea. Pushed on to H 3.(22) Received a good welcome from OC (FRIEDMAN) who gave us a damned good dinner.(23) Rather miserable room to sleep in but mustn't expect too much on desert road. Hope to make Mafraq tomorrow.(24)
     
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  2. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    15th January 1942

    Off in fine style by 06:30. First blob exhaust fell off. Threw it away. Hit good British road thirty five miles from H 3. 40 miles from H 4 Wilson had blow out.(25) Pushed on to H 4 to get LAD.(26) By lunch time Wilson got within one and a half miles of H 4 and had second blow out. Decided to leave him and pushed on Mafraq. Had puncture but spare wheel okay so only held up 10 minutes. Arrived M 18:30 and put up in Spinney's Rest House.(27) Fair. Heard that PEGLER(28) was CRE Mafraq.(29) but didn't get a chance to see him. CO getting rather tired & irritated although standing rigours of journey well. OC Mafraq (CAYLEY) helpful and efficient.(30) Car dynamo gave up this afternoon but battery well up. On to destination tomorrow.

    16th January 1942

    Fine crisp morning. Had a glorious run through Transjordania(31) and up Jordan valley to Tiberias(32) to find our party had left only half an hour earlier. Left instructions to ring Urton at Haifa.(33) Bill wouldn't tell us destination on phone but said go to Haifa not out of our way. CO. rather testy.(34) However got to Haifa at 15:30 and saw Bill at St. Lukes.(35) Found could not make destination that night so stayed Appinger's Hotel.(36) Dined at Pross's(37) and went with Bill to Eldorado(38) after. Good party that crowd of N7's (39) fresh from W.D.(40). Got to bed about 1:30. Pleasant to sleep in Christian bed. Liked Tiberias a lot. Hope to go back some time soon. Whole of Jordan Valley good. Jews working hard.

    17th January 1942

    Left Haifa in mist and pushed on through Acre with rain starting.(41) Passed into Syria in pouring rain. CPL Marshall blandly informing us the brakes had gone.(42) Pulled up at a S.A. Railway Corps HQ & got them repaired. Torrential rain. Repairs took 3 hrs during which time we slowly froze in a draughty wooden hut. Got going at last and headed for Beyrouth.(43) Turned off just short and had a hair raising climb over the mountains and down into the valley where BAALBECK our destination lay.(44) All this in pouring rain and fog. Quite shattering at times. Located Div. Staff in PALMYRA Hotel and had good dinner and to bed early.(45) Quite French. Think I shall like the place when warmer.

    18th January 1942

    Made today definitely one of rest. A week's motoring sets one's nerves jangling. Used this morning looking at maps and getting the lie of the land. 6 Aus. Div. Signals in afternoon and later went down to Rayak to wk/shps to collect CO's car.(46-47) New dynamo being fitted. Had a pleasant bath and read after dinner & thoroughly enjoyed a lazy day, the first for a long time. Surprised to learn while at Aus. wk/shp that they had had 250 cracked cylinder blocks. We thought we put up a poor show with 24 in the Division.

    19th January 1942

    Set off 8.30 with Halliday to go to Tiberias to meet main body. Lunched at Free French Officers Club in Damascus.(48) Arrived Rosh Pinnah 1530 saw Ronnie.(49) Arranged later meeting and pushed onto Tiberias where we met Bill Urton.. Had conference on following day's move. Working in Div. Office until ¼ to midnight – mostly sorting out blobs by Haifa Fortress. Realized at midnight that I'd had my 34th birthday and done nothing about it Gosh, what a war!
     
  3. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    20th Jan 1942

    Returned to Baalbeck with Basil + Joe North.(50) Good run back then to officer’s Club for coffee - Damascus. Typically French. Came on to Baalbeck in lowering skies & finally fog & rain.
    Did not go back to Palmyra but went straight to Aussy mess. Feeding fairly crude - huge plateful of stuff slung at one - but food good. Shared room with Hassett my opposite number, good chap from New South Wales.(51) Was not frightfully impressed with Aussy Signals - too fond of giving every Tom, Dick and Harry a phone. Their billets were dirty & they had far too much equipment – mostly pinched from all over the place including the British. Noticed they were getting rather worried about possible Jap invasion of Australia


    21st Jan 1942

    Spent day taking over from Aussies. They have the least possible concern for stores and equipment. However mustn’t grumble. Whitecroft the QM gave me (a) An Aussie tunic (b) a pair of Wellingtons and (c) a leather jerkin.(52) All damned useful. They are throwing stuff away regardless. Basil picked a perfectly good Indian pattern hydra burner from a scrap heap.(53) Using it in the mess. All to bed early as they are cracking off at dawn tomorrow. Shall be glad to get down to things. Ronnie and unit arrived safely at 17.00 but had had a rotten journey. CO still at Palmyra.

    22nd January 1942

    Aussies away quietly thank goodness. Hassett staying until tomorrow. Mooned round all morning and rather got in the way, but went off to write letter in afternoon. Got office organised & spent rest of day trying to sort out signal diagram – but had to give up ghost. Only thing to do is to have a fresh start & then we shall know where we are.

    23rd January 1942

    Really got down to things. But CO stung for OC Barracks so suppose I am Bn Staff Off. Never mind ought to get some fun out of it. Hassett pushed off at 0930 to Rosh Pinnah in my truck with Walbridge.(54) Told W to come back by Haifa and get my box from cooks. I shall be able to use the KD in it when it gets hot here as we are told it does.(55) Find from the map we are well south of Cyprus so we should get it, although we can get up into the hills for a breather. Hills round about are a fine sight with snow on them. Must climb them soon. Basil borrowed Allen for clerk as Cpl Rayner in hospital with flu.(56-57) Expect there will be more cases. This is also a malarial area so we must watch out.(58)

    24th Jan 1942

    Busy all morning on barracks business. Stopped a rocket from CO for telling Shaw of his posting.(59) Got out vehicle census - only just in time. Warned for G.O.C.’s Conference on Tpt at 18.00. Afternoon got little done. Stream of callers - all stupid things. Went to General’s conference at 18.00 & sat through two and a half hours sheer guff. Took Widgery.(60) Usual conference result - much talking and not much at the end of it. Rather shattered to find that we are to give up 8 30cwts for defence airfield. Hope we write some of them off. They are ready for it. No sign of my driver. Should have been back this evening. Weather rather warmer although still plenty of snow on hills.
     
  4. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    25th Jan 1942

    Unit church parade in YMCA block. Too busy to attend. Pat Shaw said a hurried farewell & pushed off to Jerusalem. Spent morning emptying an overflowing ‘IN’ tray. Afternoon bitterly cold and stove fractious. Managed to sort out New Directory & took it down to Col. Holmes.(61) Got his blessing & got the damned thing published. Sent Wally’s mail on.(62) Met new G3 (I) - not very impressed.(63) Beginning to be worried about Walbridge, but he turned up at 8 o’clock having been 30 miles beyond Tel Aviv. Played 3 hard games Ping pong after dinner & just managed to beat Joe North.(64) Had an EFM & an Airgraph from mother. Both rather late.(65-66)

    26th Jan 1942

    Black Monday! (1st ) Arrived at office to be informed of burglary of office’s kit. Irate Pioneer Col. & Aussie Major had to be placated. ( 2nd ) Basil handed over damaged rifle - Cpl Robinson lost WD watch(67) - Walbridge reported spare wheel stolen - total 3 Courts of Enquiry. Palmed them onto Ken.(68) (3rd ) Col Firth warned me to take summary of evidence in case of 3 CMP.(69) (4th ) 9 candidates for CO’s Orderly Room. (5th ) G.O.C. rang up to say he was coming round. Got things finally sorted out about 6.30. General didn’t come but had to send barracks plan to him. (6th ) Got a demand from S. Comd for 100 pounds damages at Blandford.(70) Wrote what I hope is the answer. At 1930 had visit from 7SS to say they had found ½ stolen property & arrested a Free French deserter.(71) And so to bed!

    27th Jan 1942

    Took a day off to go to IX Army.(72) Got away from office about 9.45 and had grand ride over the mountains to Beyrouth. Snow line about 4000ft. Saw some wonderful effects from sun on snow. Arrived Beyrouth about 12.45 & lunched at Normandie.(73) Completely French and excellent. After lunch motored up to Broumana(74) to CSO, out - but saw Hacock(75) with whom I had tea. Settled all my points quite satisfactorily & set off back to Baalbeck at 1730 arriving safely at 2030. Ride back in moonlight exhilarating. Scenery at Broumana simply grand. Wished again Pegs were present to see it all.(76) Liked Beyrouth but suspect spell in Iraq has damaged my taste in towns. Anything civilised looks attractive.

    28th Jan 1942

    Fine morning. Went to Provost Coy. to take 3 Summaries of Evidence for Courts Martial. Cpl Ryan, Lcps Terry & Daley.(77) Lost pistols in desert. Difficult to extract evidence from Military Police. Adjourned for lunch and spent afternoon in my own office. Cleared up a lot of back work. Cpl West lost stripe for stupid offence.(78) Resumed Summaries of Evidence at 5 o’clock - had short break for dinner 7.30 – 8 & finally finished at 10.15. Very glad it’s over & hope I don’t get stung for prosecuting officer. Airgraph from mother 2nd Jan. Said Douglas Dayler had died.(79)

    29th Jan 1942

    Pure office day. Shoals of bumf & more bumf. Got out new Row (?) Directory & frequency allotment.(80) Nothing else of interest.

    30th Jan 1942

    Another office day. Got out frequency allotment & Sequence table. Adv parties 151 Bde arrived for dispersal.(81) Firth made rather a mess of things but it got sorted out..
    DR Harley had an accident on Baalbeck - Rayak road. Died at 16.10 from fractured skull. Good chap. He was a Scottish gamekeeper in civil life.(82) Tried to get CO to open leave - some signs of success. Div. laid down a six-day week - 8 hour day. Some hope for an Adjutant!
     
  5. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    31st Jan 1942

    Fine warm day. Office all morning. Out with CO., Ronnie, Basil & bridge in afternoon to see range & battle HQ.(83) Appears as though it will be a good show. Got back 4.30 & went back to office until dinner. After dinner Ronnie, Basil, MacV,(84) Bill Bowman,(85) Joe North & I went to Empire to see “ Convoy “.(86) Saw only an old flick, with John Loder “Speedmoney”.(Note: Name of film is 'Money For Speed' - Kev1.)(87) Entire programme finished in one hour & we were outside again. Came home very disappointed. Had a drink & to bed.

    1st Feb 1942

    Spent morning in office. At 12.00 MacV rang up to say that Div. wanted Signal office as a Guard room. Went down to see Cecil Halliday & had to go to “A” mess where the General stood me a sherry. Lost the battle & the Signal office had to be moved by 1800 hrs. General got onto his pet theme of the Western Desert. Difficulties of transport etc. & cleverness of Rommel. Back in office in afternoon & tried to start letter to Pegs. Got four pages written but still had much to say. Rear party started to arrive from KK.(88) Went to Hotel de la Source for dinner with CO.(89) Dinner fair but hotel promising later on when season starts. Manager told us some interesting stuff about Vichy French. Bloomfield arrived from KK.


    2nd Feb 1942

    Morning spent most interestingly. Filling in applications for passes by natives. Got help from interpreter who is Papa George’s nephew. Some of the wogs most interesting. Got an insight into the general outlook of these people which is only just veering round to us from ardent pro-Germanism. Told how people of HAMA believe Hitler to have been born there and to be the curse of Christianity & the defender of Islam. Afternoon Basil went with CO to Homs. Had an early dinner & went round ruins by moonlight. Most impressive & wonder making. How Romans handled such massive masonry a complete mystery. Must go round again in daylight. Did so wish Pegs were with me. Got new subaltern MORECAMBE.(90)

    3rd Feb 1942

    Another office day. Very little of note until 4 o’clock when I got a letter from Pegs. Hightened an otherwise dull day considerably.
    Officially informed that leave for tpo Stark Saturday.
    Arranged hockey match against RASC for next Sunday.(91)
    Barry went IX Army for W/T conference.(92) Scarborough has bought a grand second-hand genuine Primus for 10 shillings.(93) An absolute bargain. It roars away like a furnace. Brig. Thompson going back to Tobruk.(94) “By Golly” Martin coming back.(95) He should have some good tales to tell.

    4th Feb 1942

    A fairly easy morning. CO & Basil went to IX Army. Not much paper flowing. Col Harvey & Major Baker called in afternoon. Harvey on Directorate of Syrian Communications - Baker 3L of C Signals.(96-97) Stayed to dinner and afterwards had a good evening with them. CO & Basil got back 1645. Basil sick with headache - not at best. Informed that 3 of the summaries in Provost case have to be retaken. Lot of rot. Wrote to Pegs and sent off Galellian beads. Visited Papa George with Ronnie & had coffee.(98) Grand old man. Hope to get a scarab for Pegs.

    5th Feb 1942

    Went to GOC’s conference in “C” mess with CO. General in good form. Later went back to office & gave out passes to sanitary wogs. One would have thought I had given them the world. At 5 o’clock went down to Provost to re-take summaries in cases of Lcps Terry & Daley. Had admitted some hearsay evidence at previous taking. Finished at ¼ past 8. Hope that’s the last of this party. Basil being stung for defending Birtles of the East Yorks who is charged with manslaughter - looks like being a forlorn hope - the mans a B.F. and apparently hasn’t a leg to stand on.(99) Heating now working. Had a grand hot shower before bed.

    6th Feb 1942

    Basil off colour. Stayed in bed all a.m. CO called to see GOC at 12.30. Went down to Provost with summaries & then took them into Robin Turton. Cpl Ryan already let off. Hope others get off also. After lunch CO & Ronnie went up to El Aine to see Jones.(100-101) Quite a warm day. Finished some returns for CRO (?) IX Army during afternoon & started to prepare agenda for CO’s conference. Joe Lyall, 74th promoted Colonel and given command Training Wing ALMAZA.(102) Heard too that Brig. Erskine is going to BGS 13 Corps.(103) Feel that this is only start of a lot of changes. Bill Bowman leaving and going to “C” Recovery Section. Poor Bill we shall miss him. Basil much better in evening. Wrote an air mail letter card to mother. Must send off her cushion cover.

    7th Feb 1942

    Rather foggy morning. CO had inspection. Tompkins appeared rather better turned out than usual.(104) Will make him smarter yet. At 11.00 went down to Wavell Barracks with CO & Ronnie to see demo. of Spigot Mortar.(105-106) Fairly convincing show. Came back to complete returns for IX Army. After lunch Norman Norcross & I went to see Bill Urton to talk about return of warlike stores.(107) Had a quick look at football match & then Ronnie & I climbed the hills to the snow line. Had great fun in the snow. Came back 1730 & ate a wopping tea. Heard Unit beat Div. HQ 4 - 1. In evening went for meal to Palmyra for dinner with CO, Ronnie & Basil. Came back to find Birch-Bowman’s new OC in the mess - thought he’d never go.(108)

    8th Feb 1942

    A pleasant warm morning turning later to real heat. Spent morning in office preparing agenda for tomorrow’s conference. Afternoon played RASC at hockey on barrack pitch. Good fast game which we lost 3 - 1. Went back to office afterwards & cleared up some odd points about amn. return.
    Foregathered with RASC team in officer’s club at 1830. Ronnie stayed for a meal. Basil & I came back.
    Had 3 good games table tennis with Morecambe. RASC team came in after dinner - rather noisy. Very tired - to bed 10 o’clock & soon shall be asleep.

    9th Feb 1942

    No peace for the wicked. Just finished conference details & vehicle return when Hazell ( Contact officer ) came with warning order to move.(109) Conference cancelled. CO & I went to Div. Conference 15.00 & got all dope - usual “ Unknown destination “. Direction South. Presume we are going to meet Master Rommel. Usual Tpt problems etc. Unit conference at 17.15 - not much information to give - waiting for arrival of take-over unit. Hear Smyth-Windham is commanding.(110) Back to office after dinner to settle composition of parties. To bed at 0004 hours. Ah me! Do I earn my Adj. pay ?

    10th Feb 1942

    Very busy packing & preparing for move all day. At 10.00 got message that Col. Morrison & Col Watkins were coming re hand-over.(111-112) Bill Urton called up & asked me to go down to talk Tpt with Pooley. Got that settled & then came back to talk hand-over. Gerald Hinde ( 9 Army ) rang up to say that Mideast wanted an immediate answer as to whether I was recommended for promotion.(113) Col. gave him an answer. Morrison, Watkins & McDonnel stayed to lunch.(114) After lunch prepared handover & waited two hours for one Paterson from 9 Army to come and receive documents.(115) Basil deeply hurt Aikin by removing one of his 2 telephones.(116) Held up badly by delay in issue of Div. Admin order which finally arrived 1630. CO had conference at 1730. All points cleared up. Widgery staying as rear party. Went back after tea and got out route cards. After dinner went to Papa Georges and bought two scarabs for Pegs. Also a quite nice one which I gave to Basil for Patricia Neary.(117) New officer J R English arrived from Cairo.(118)
     
  6. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    11th Feb 1942

    Off at 0700 with the CO, Rushcliffe & Marshall ( driving ).(119-120) Walbridge followed with my truck ( Byres & Scarborough ).(121) Really good ride over the mountains to Beyrouth. Very warm on coast. No hitches. Lovely run down coast through country almost like England. Almond blossom well out. Pegs would have loved. Arrived Sydney Smith barracks about 1600 and got bedded down.(122) No arrangements for staging whatever. CO in good form. Had a swim in pool with Barry & Mac Vickers - damned cold. Called in Cavalry mess & had a drink - they do themselves well, one of CMPs blew himself up with petrol stove - not badly. Went to garrison cinema and saw “Pygmalion” again. Thoroughly enjoyed it. To a cold and draughty bed at 2145.
    Received message en-route saying Ronnie to report 70 Div.

    12th Feb 1942

    Off at 0630 in darkness & good order. Roundabout route to miss Haifa. Cold misty morning later turning to heat. Wherever one looked one found oranges & grapefruit. Troops collecting them by sacksful. Struck back onto Tel Aviv road. This area highly cultivated by Jews. Although this year they lose badly. From Tel Aviv went to Ramleh & Lydda. At one halt talked to 3 Arab farmers. Jolly good chaps who talked fair English. Surprised to find that they learned it in little school in Arab village. They are all strongly pro-British. Road now running through Allenby’s battlefield. Bleak desert country. Got to Beersheba about 1530. Looked a thriving Arab town. Stayed night at Asluj. Simply nothing there - bare rock & sand but had comfortable night.

    13th Feb 1942

    Left Asluj at 0630 & had simply tiresome ride across desert. Dusty & hot & much transport both ways. Road simply bitumen laid on sand & cracking badly with heavy transport. CO getting tired. Car not going too well either. Got a sight of the Suez Canal about 1420. The greenery looked grand after the desert trip. The Eastern desert is the typical “ Film desert “ - long rolling hills of pure sand of many colours ranging from yellow to purple. In the bleakest & most deserted place one found an Arab selling eggs. Stayed on East side of canal. Went into Ismailia with Barry. Managed to buy some grub at NAAFI at Moascar. Laid on a line to camp.

    14th Feb 1942

    Early start by Advance party for Western Desert. I got up at 0730 & had leisurely breakfast then went into Cairo to see AG4 about Ronnie. Found him out so went to officers shop. Found him in at 1300 & went to lunch with him at Turf Club - Dixon-Johnson with us.(123-124) Gather Ronnie is to command 70 Div. Signals. Heard that Disney’s “Fantasia” was on at Studio Misr so stole the afternoon & went. Loved every moment of it. Was glad I had taken Pegs advice & gone along. Late coming out so had a hurried journey back. Fortunately knew road well from last July. Had to break to CO the news that he too was being posted & was not going up Western Desert. Found that Advanced party had gone a day too soon & had been turned back.

    15th January 1942

    Adv. Pty really off this time. CO decided to go to Cairo to see Whitbread AG4 but found out he would not be in till 4.30 so decided to go after lunch.(125) Mooned about all morning except for run to ADOS Moascar to try and get car exchanged.(126) No luck. Pleasant run to Cairo, although rather unhappy CO rather sad. Arrived GHQ about 4.30 & decided to stay night in Cairo. CO told by Col. Watson (G1) not to go up desert.(127) Agreed to take over GHQ Signals at Mena temporarily (Vice Smyth-Windham to 1 Armd Signals). CO stayed Shepheards.(128) I stayed Hotel de Paris.(129) Saw Cuthbert, Ridley & Pat Shaw also Jack Dodds there.(130) Dixon-Johnson & Tony Marks to CO & I to dinner at Turf Club.(131-132) Made a pleasant evening & grand change after camping in desert.

    16th February 1942

    A full day. CO in no hurry to go to Mena but I wanted to catch Basil. Arrived Mena about 11.30.
    Saw Roy Howie – same as ever.(133) Stayed for lunch & then waited for convoy. Caught Basil & told him news. Convoy halted 5 kilos past camp for petrol so CO did a tour saying goodbye to NCOs. Left my uniform case with Roy. After saying goodbye Basil & I set off to catch convoy. Did so about 16.30 at Wadi Natrun where we stayed for night. Had a deep sense of relief that an unpleasant job had been completed. No fun when one's CO is whisked away at such short notice. Bill Bowman as a new Capt shared my tent. Run from Mena to Wadi Natrun up western edge of delta very similar desert to eastern side of canal.

    17th February 1942

    Got up at crack of dawn. Basil & I then set off after a breakfast at Halfway house to catch up Adv. Pty.(134) Filled up with petrol at Ameriyeh & then onto L of C.(135) Expected to see much more of war than we did. Simply bare country. Little cultivation on sea-side but none inland. Bright sunshine & good breeze. The Med looked lovely – not a ship in sight. Got to Matruh just after lunch. Movement control didn't know anything as usual so we pushed, having found out that Adv Div. were staging at Sidi Ainsa. Found Sidi Ainsa, but no Div. White Abbott new G3 ( I ) joined us.(136)
    Searched but had no luck so stayed night at 30 Corps where they looked after us very well. Had an amusing time with G3 ( SD ) who led us in & couldn't find his own HQ.(137)

    18th February 1942

    30 Corps gave us a good breakfast & we set off to catch up. Interesting journey through battlefield.
    Went up through Halfayah Pass & on to Fort Capuzzo.(138) Much stuff lying around although great amount being evacuated as quickly as possible. Salvage system seems to be working at last. Noticed railway going ahead. Told they are pushing up at rate of 3 miles a day. Road surface fair but getting worse now. Arrived at El Adem & saw John Daybell who put us on to staging area for night near 70 FMC.(139) No sign of Div yet. Basil & I went up to 13 Corps to see Geo Walton but found we had gone to Adv HQ & he was at Battle HQ 5 miles away.(140) Decided to go next morning. Got back to camp to find Div just arriving having come across country hence our getting ahead. They had had a bloody trip. Opened a report centre at El Adem. Tied on to RAF.

    19th February 1942

    Saw Adv pty off then Basil & I went to 13 Corps Battle HQ to see Geo Walton. He was very pleased to see Basil again & remembered meeting me in Green Howards days. Had a chat about old times. Got a lot of dope from BECK his G2 & MACIVOR his G3 & then set off again to catch up.(141-142) Lost our way and found ourselves rapidly heading for front line. Finally got on right tack and arrived at Div HQ about 1600 hrs having taken something like 6 hrs to cover 30 miles. Reported to G & settled in. HQ pitched a mile away from 4 Indian Div who we are relieving at 1500 hrs on 22nd. Very tired. No supplementary rations but Duddridge doing very well.(143) Into bed about 2000 hrs & ready for it

    20th February 1942

    Spent first half of morning sorting out & getting vehicles dispersed. We are certainly not dispersing as well as the Indians but I suppose we shall learn. Went over to 4 Ind Div and spent morning with David Shepherd their Adjutant.(144) Met Heartbreak Hill who used to be 5 Div Signals at Scarborough.(145) He is now OC 1 Coy & very much fatter. Peter Grey is Comding who I knew at Catterick.(146) They are a jolly crowd & apparently very efficient. They have a complicated layout, but we can dispense with much of it.. Details of handover almost complete. Some enemy air during afternoon & much banging, but I suppose we shall soon get used to it all again.

    21st February 1942

    Had to go over to 4 Ind again this morning buttoning up all signs, row directories etc. Spent morning again with Shepherd who is apparently looking forward to going back to delta, but from information I gather they are not going very far back. They have had a long spell in the desert & went through to Benghazi, from which I gather they came out quicker than they went in. Spent afternoon getting out Operation Instruction – my first so it's got to be good. In evening went over to 4th for dinner. It was bizarre to eat dinner in the desert off Indian crockery – gilt worked with curious designs. Good dinner - but water up very salt.(?) Will take some getting used to.

    22nd February 1942

    Spent morning with G & cleared up lot of points outstanding. David Smith came over – hadn't seen him since November when he left us at Haifa.(147) Jim Butterworth came over also, he too, left in November. 150th don't appear to have done much since then.(148) Got details of new re-inforcement from them – they have been administered by GHQ & we have been kept out of the picture. Can see my diary is going to take some filling up here. Took over from 4 Ind Div officially at 1500hrs.
    They moved out in high glee although they now have some indication of how far they are going & they are not impressed..
     
  7. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    23rd February 1942

    ( Ronnie back )

    Slept much better in a dug-out than on top of the desert.(149) Much warmer. Our dug-out is in two halves joined by a passage with a separate entrance for the second dug-out. A tent is pitched over each & we are extraordinarily roomy & cosy. Later we shall enlarge slightly & be really comfortable. Great joy! Norman Norcross gave me a petrol lamp. I now have a really good light at night. I find I cannot work with hurricane butties. There is great joy in a really good light. Ronnie came back tonight having convinced AGH that his peace is here & not 70 Div. He assumed command straight away.

    24th February 1942

    Ronnie over to see General who made no end of a fuss & told him to put up another pip straight away. Feel Ronnie rather shy about whole thing but know he will make a good show. Busy all day putting him in picture. Basil moved out & we had to find a tent for Ronnie. Decided to take Morecambe's. Apparently caused Master Morecambe some distress – he has much to learn. Putting up tent took most of afternoon & in consequence not much work done. Shall have much catching up if this goes on. Broke a tooth off. Went to ADMS but told nearest dentist 62 Gen. Hospital in Tobruck.(150) Divisional day Thursday. A Damned nuisance.

    25th February 1942

    Usual bumf day. Thought I should get a rest up here, but it seems to be flowing more than ever. We need a battle to ease things off. Got out new Row Directory – am getting expert – this is the 6th in 3 months. Got two parcels from mother. One with an extraordinary good cake in it – also hordes of chocolates, cigarettes, socks & a sweater. They had been on the way since September & October but had kept perfectly. This made it a red-letter day.

    26th February 1942

    Went off at 0845 with the insufferable Morecambe to Tobruk to dentist's. Got lost in sandstorm & took 2 ½ hrs to get to Rear Div. Stayed there for a drink & on to Tobruk. Went first to Palestrina caves & laid on some cable but couldn't get any phones.(151) After lunch of pilchards, biscuits & sand went up to hospital. Found I couldn't get any tooth fixed in less than a week but arranged to have it done at 15 S.A. Fd Amb next Monday in about 4 hours. Had a filling done exctraordinarily well by one Campbell from Edinburgh.(152) He had been there since before the relief & was he browned off? Saw some of the Hatfield-Spears beauties – even up here I wasn't much impressed.(153) Plane flew in mist and barrage opened up. Pretty terrific. Got home roundabout way through a minefield about 8 o'clock. Stack of work waiting.

    27th February 1942

    A fine morning – really too fine. Hardly a cloud. Got out new frequency table – camp machine gunned fairly well – one truck set on fire. 3 bombs dropped on B Sec. no damage except Darks of LAD slight wound in head – not detained.(154) Blighters came back in afternoon & had another crack but no damage. Further slight party at tea but nothing more. Heard 69 Bde brought a plane down & also Poles bagged 3. Heard that KIRKUS of 7 Green Howards hit in knee with cannon shell.(155) Piles of bumf flowing. Returns all over the place. Filled in nominations of officers & NCOs for promotion. Ronnie kindly recommended me and told me he didn't think I should stay long. Basil also had to be reported on specially – expect he'll go soon.

    28th February 1942

    Ronnie warned for a conference at 151 but cancelled last minute owing to visit of Corps commander ( “Strafer” Gott ).(156) Spent most of day trying to get on top of bumf. Had very pleasant surprise – got two parcels from mother – really welcome ones. Chocolate almost unknown up here. Also some books & socks & a scarf. CSO came over during morning & stayed to lunch. In good form. Came on to rain hard about middle of day. CO of South African Signals came over in afternoon (PERKINS) grand chap.(157) Told us his unit was 1700 strong. Senior Chaplain came to tea (IZARD) – we had mother's cake & stayed in “A” Mess overnight. Ronnie kept me up late again.(158)

    1st March 1942

    Senior Chaplain held celebration in our Mess tent. Ronnie went off to his conference at 151 and I went down to rear Div to an Adjutant's conference almost a waste of time. Mostly Q & should have been attended by Norman. Stayed at Rear Div for lunch – had to give Horn a rocket for disgusting state of Signals office.(159) Bill gave us a new spare wheel & Widge a new tyre – very welcome. Got back to office at 1500 to find Ronnie waiting with a pile of work – some of it highly secret. Piles of paper pouring in – thought I should get some peace but apparently not until the battle starts. Sent out code message for adoption of new frequency allotment. “NARCISSUS” caused a sensation. Wish people would read instructions when they get 'em. Told by G1 that I am lying second on Staff College list.(160) Don't want to go now.

    2nd March 1942

    Rang 15 SA Fd Amb. to confirm appointment but they asked me to put party off till Wednesday as they were not yet properly dug in. Two more miserable days. Got a strafing during morning from 3 ME 109s.(161) Shot up the AA gunners. Hit one man slightly in leg & set fire to a truck. Truck quickly put out. Then came real blitz. Staff decided we were not sufficiently dispersed so everyone moving out & making huge perimeter. I don't propose to move.

    3rd March 1942

    Jim Butterworth went off to Tobruk Hospital with severe impetigo. Don't think he'll rejoin us. Apparently the sand in the air makes things go wrong so expect he'll get a base job. Busy buttoning up loose ends such as supplies of water, rations etc. RQM's up here & Norman Norcross at Rear. Justice doing quite well.(162) Had to move unit office again. This time they are dug in so expect they can stay. Got machine-gunned this afternoon again. No casualties. Amazing how no one gets hit. Ronnie dashing round like a terrier getting his teeth into things.

    4th March 1942

    Went off to SA Fd Amb. At 1000. Very efficient outfit. Said they'd fix my tooth by 1600. Came back & met Major Parker of U.S. Army Signal Corps.(163) A grand chap & very refreshing. Told me some interesting & heartening facts about American Army. Stayed to lunch to delight of subalterns. In the afternoon Norman Webber showed him the mechanical layer.(164) Apparently he didn't think much of it. Theirs was much better. Went to SA at 1530. Had a tooth filled & the missing one fixed. Altogether a good job of work & splendidly done. Felt much better after it.
     
  8. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    5th March 1942

    Corps Signal Exercise this morning. CO went off with General at 0730. Had a quiet morning in consequence and caught up with much bumf. The paper war up here is much worse than either Cyprus, Iraq or Syria. If Vlll Army ever get out of the desert it will be monumental. Rather unpleasant day with cold wind & sharp rainstorms. Anyhow it gives us a respite from the air. RAF seem to be having a rest at the moment. Hear that large number of planes in boxes at Sidi Barani. Time they came up to El Adem. Ronnie came back 1600. Had had a bloody day. Worked late on various returns. Hear CSO is going back to England.

    6th March 1942

    Spent day preparing new Row Directory for issue on 20 March. This makes my seventh in 3 months. Army Master Frequency tests being arranged. Why cannot these things be fixed verbally without churning out all the paper? Morecambe went out to “J” Section to commence handover. Hope he makes a go of things. New Brig not the sort of chap to suffer fools gladly. Weather still gusty & some rain. Think there's more to come. Patrol reports coming in now. Bns seem to be making good shot at them. Difficult job to walk into almost straight away. No casualties yet.

    7th March to 10th March – Divisional Signals Exercise

    11th March 1942

    Spent whole day on Fullsize (Exercise FULLSIZE) Col Perkins & Asher (SA W/T officer ) came in morning & we got things fairly well buttoned up.(165,166,167) Both stayed to lunch. Settled most points & got out W/T diagram. Can see much work ahead. Afternoon rather broken by people tripping in. Bill Urton came in talking tpt & G2 spent ½ hour on phone discussing remote control. Investigation proceeding on great “Operation Order” mystery. Apparently took 12 hrs to deliver & produced “rocket” from Corps Cmdr. Halliday appeared to have stopped it. Don Asher arrived at Rear 151 Bde.

    12th March 1942


    Thought going to be a busy day. Ronnie went with Perkins to conf. at Corps & also to say goodbye to Geo Walton. Just after he left got message postponing “ Fullsize” to 19. Sent him a cryptic message through Beck. Morning then became series of visitors & no work done. Morecambe came in talking tripe about air co-operation. Bob doing Master Frequency tests to Navy. Through at 0200. Not so good at 1200. Greatly heartened by continuous sweep of 10 Kittyhawk fighters during day but they couldn't stop a Heinkel flying happily through to Tobruk.(168) Sat yarning to Ronnie till 1230. Will have to stop him on that sort of thing. New Mess cook Goupillot who used to cook for me in “F” Sec days.(169)

    13th March 1942

    A full day. Fairly warm & sunny. Air fairly quiet. Spent morning clearing up files & getting on top of routine bumf which had rather filled up during past three days. Had a visit from OC 42 RTR who stayed for a drink. Good chap. CO had Orderly room at 2.15. L/Cpr Price back to ranks . Cpl Robinson – lost watch – charged 14/3. Sgmn Lenny - shot himself through foot – stopped 14 days pay. Dvr Harrison – refusing orders – elected Court Martial.(171) Stung me for two Summaries of Evidence – blast him! Got them finished before dinner & stopped rocket from GOC on security which Ronnie would have got. Always blame Signals. Had a cable from Pegs dated 23rd Feb. Brightened day no end. Told to apply to GOC personally to come off Staff list.

    14th March 1942

    Horn to “L”. English to “J”. Asher to “D”

    Fine day. Fairly normal morning – still plenty of paper flowing. Jones came in to discuss
    “ Fullsize “ problems. G1 rang up and wanted us to go & see him about desert moves. Went over at 1230 and had a bright half hour. Posting order for Joe North arrived. Going as C.C.O. 13 Corps
    During afternoon worked on “ Fullsize “ & shall get out operation order tomorrow. Got a curious
    “ Saturday afternoon “ feeling & felt as though I couldn't do any work. Norman Norcross came up & brought another tent. All very fine but nowhere to carry it. Dvr Harrison decided to take CO's award so my work on the Court Martial came to nought again. Ronnie gave him 21 days - & he got off lightly.

    15th March 1942

    Beautiful cloudless day. Ideal for the air & they made the most of it. Jerry over good & early & then a whole swarm of our bombers coming back from Benghazi or Tripoli. A heartening sight. New CSO ( Col Knowles ) came to see us – have met him before somewhere – a pleasant fellow.(172) General rang Ronnie. Special report called for Mideast on Basil & I. Cannot find out what is in the wind. Got Operation Order out this afternoon. Seems a good effort. I don't think anything left undone. Had a can of beer in the mess tonight. A pleasant change. Listened to Arthur Askey (173) Had a letter from Pegs & another tonight. 25th Jan. Joy & good going.

    16th to 18th March 1942 no entries

    19th March 1942

    More bumf today. Vehicle returns – W/T returns. Returns on men who had been in desert over 12 months & God knows what else. CSO seems fond of churning it out. Two new boys arrived from Tobruk, Stewart & Bircumshaw.(174-175) Straight into desert – arrived Suez on March 7. Left England on Jan 7. Sent away a draft of 17 to Base as surplus to establishment. This was forced upon us in a rush by GHQ. Got rid of a lot of passengers. Fair amount of work putting finishing touches to “ FULLSIZE “. Row nos. whatnot. Corps Commander coming down to his own Command Post. W/T picture complicated. Had a grand parcel of magazines from Bob Wight & a charming letter. He is settled at Mena & enjoying life. He should do very well – the job is similar to Harrogate.

    20th March 1942

    Great activity in preparation for FULLSIZE. Basil & Webber out early up to Bir Tempad laying line to Brig Nicholl's Report Centre.(176) Basil enjoying himself but Ronnie not taking too good a view of his being out. Joe North's successor – Waltho – arrived from Army.(177) Joe forbidden to leave by CO until 22nd. Bloomers went out to Report Centre at 1400 hrs. GOC's armoured car reported 1430 – South African. Sent out April sequences. Informed by G2 that one of Taylor's trucks had struck a mine & blown a wheel off.(178) Dvr Sims injured & evacuated by Africans Extent of injuries not known.(179) Robin Turton rang up at 2215 & said “ congratulations, you will know all about it in the morning “. What does he mean?
    Morecambe made himself a bloody nuisance through the night wanting extra Row number & more W/T.

    21st March 1942

    2nd day of Fullsize. Almost complete lack of work this morning. Various reports trickled in all morning including story of Brig Hayden being shot through his hat & that he had captured 5 P.W.
    but that they escaped during a counter attack.(180) Total P.W. somewhere round 270 – not bad for a first party. Letter from Whitbread arrived this afternoon stating I was promoted Major within own establishment. Good news tinged with slight regret that I had gone over Ken's head. He obviously didn't like it. Hope he gets over it quickly.(181) Ronnie very pleased – now looks as if Stephen is not coming back. Night news from columns scanty. Bob working hard to get through to Martuba Column – just heard stand by column going out – tough.(182)

    22nd March 1942

    Fullsize stories starting to come in – all sketchy but point in general to a successful party. Total
    PoW amount to about 100 – mostly Germans including some officers. News of losses coming in.
    We have lost a 9 set & two other W/T vehicles but the sets were salvaged. Everybody did very well. The 9 set was lost by machine-gunning & went up in flames. Cpl Milburn had a narrow escape & got away with a slight scratch on the leg.(183) Wrote to Pegs a hurried letter in reply to her letter written from London where she has been having a good time, thank goodness. Sat up most of night awaiting any exercise developments, but finally got to sleep about 2.30

    23rd March 1942

    Attended a Q conference at Adv Div this morning. Norman should have been there & not I. Talked for 3 ½ hrs mainly about the troubles of 150 Bde. “ Tiger “ Bradley as mournful as ever.(184) Bill Urton stayed to lunch. In the afternoon tried to catch up with the paper that had accumulated. Nothing of much more interest except 69 Bde wanted Jones to go to Jerusalem for them to bring back kit. Ronnie agreed although he will be away about 14 days. Apparently they think a change will do him good. This does fit in rather well with our plans for sorting things out. Found out that Verification tables had been compromised by General's armoured car so had a couple of hours frantic telephoning to put that in order.
     
  9. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    24th March 1942

    Spent a simply frightful day. Woke up to a real “Kamsin”. A strong warm wind full of dust blowing almost due north.(185) Visibility about 10 yds. Had to close my tent up completely – my petrol lamp refused to work & the dust came in from every angle – got into the telephones & no one could talk to anyone else. Must confess did little or no work. The heat produced a terrific headache & the general feeling was rather like starting a dose of sandfly fever. Went to bed early & hoped the damned wind would blow itself out by morning. Affected my office staff who produced some sheer twaddle all day.

    25th March 1942

    Awoke to a lovelly day. Slight breeze & clear sky. Yesterday had produced a whole file of untouched paper, but was in great form to tackle it. Bob Barry went to 69 to relieve Jones to Jerusalem. Bircumshaw went to “A” to help Bloomfield. Sanderson came after lunch & gave us TAB & Tetanus inoculations.(186) Widge came up from Rear & got his. Basil & MacV went down to Rear to see arrangements for more of Rear Div. Partridge ( A/Tk) came in with his problems.(187) Ronnie informed us G1 leaving to command 1 Fd Regt. Shall be sorry to lose him. Trying to get Mess organised – but thankless task. Would like to dump Barnet.(188) Donald McLeod
    having trouble all day with 1 Armd Div link on column.(189) Shifted a large amount of paper.

    26th March 1942

    Blustery sort of day. Trying hard to produce a dust storm but never quite succeeding. Got out new frequency allotment. Busy preparing for W/T census. CSO rang up about 5 times – all stupid things. Heard that G Walton was stopped going home to industry & is at present touring in Syria prior to a new job – bet he's angry. CO told me that MacIvor from Corps is definitely coming into unit & going to “L”. Gather he has not had a lot of experience so he is very lucky. Hear rumours of leave coming on shortly. Feel ready for a rest. Fighting a paper war dulls one's brain. Teddy Inge came in & talked codes – Signals taking them over as from 30th.(190) We are rapidly becoming the general mugs out here. Suppose COs think we have nothing to do..

    27th March 1942

    Another fine day. Nothing of great import happened. Usual sort of thing – plenty of people popping in & not much work done. South Africans going to get us some beer – sent them 14.55
    Egyptian Pounds over to do it with. The lads have been very patient but have now found out that other units have been sending into Matruh & they expect us to do the same. Starting to make arrangements to move out when Jones comes back. Am going in with Basil again so it will be like old times. We are going to enlarge his dug-out to take two tables & beds so shall be very comfortable. Wrote to Mother & Pegs but feel some news from them is overdue. Same amount of paper flying about.

    28th March 1942

    Ronnie went down to Rear Div. I have been trying to get him there ever since he came. They have been having an easy time & it has shewn itself in a number of ways. Their returns have had all kinds of errors. Padre Starkey came in to talk about services for Easter.(191) Since he got up here he is much improved & much brighter. Heard that Jimmy Jamieson has had to go to Haifa – has got mixed up in some law-suit about a hired car.(192) Got 3 airmail postcards from Mother 2nd 5th & 7th March – good going – hope she keeps to them. One feels the news in them is really fresh. Read that Pegs has been talking again – this time Hull Warship Week.(193)

    29th March 1942

    In spite of having a load of work had to spend morning arguing with the insufferable Morecambe. His wants far outweigh anyone elses. Has not yet got over his Fullsize blob & talked wildly about applying for a transfer – did my best to persuade him to do so, but he knows how far he would get this time. Fine afternoon so Ronnie decided to go motoring & I went with him. Called on 42 RTR & were royally entertained by Hacker who showed us all round his tanks – Matildas & Cruisers – most interesting party.(194) Gave us tea in their Mess – well arranged in a truck but frightfully dirty. Came back & made a vain effort to do some work but the Sunday feeling had got too big a hold so wrote to Pegs instead.

    30th March 1942

    Started P.T. this morning at 0700. Quite like old times again – found my desk life had stiffened me up in the wrong places & in consequence spent a sore day.We have got 400 eggs up from Alexandria so had a good breakfast of poached eggs. It is rather a shocking thought that we are living a damned sight better than the people at home. For example we get frequent issues of grapefruit – to which we have got quite used. Bill Bowman produced a latrinograph that we are moving to Syria middle of next month. Hope not. Time is flying much too quickly up here & it appeared to go frightfully slowly in Syria. Heard that Peter Swift & Brian Rhodes were both missing believed killed.(195-196) Ronnie went to Corps this am with RQMS Justice for interview for OCTU.
     
  10. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    31st March 1942

    Expected Col Perkins of South Africans calling this morning but as he didn't Ronnie & I went over to see him this afternoon. Windy & even raining at intervals as we went. Had a look round their layout. They had a splendid static office with a grand test panel but their W/T sets were filthy. The trouble is that their coloured drivers are not mech. minded. Had tea in their “A” Mess – met one Holly from Armd Cars.(197) After tea went into Joe Asher's dug-out & starting drinking “ Cape Dop” - then issue brandy.(198) Party just warming up when Ronnie remembered he had to see the General so we broke up & came back. A very pleasant break – Ronnie is thoughtful in that way.

    1st April 1942

    CO out all morning on a practise move of Adv & Div HQ – chose an area about 4 miles away & found they were on a minefield. ADMS's car blown up & driver injured. After lunch had to take a Summary of Evidence in case of Sgmn Doige who has lost a L/c. Should think he's for the high jump.(200) RSM a witness & damned unsatisfactory too. Much too concerned about himself than in stating facts. Message came round this evening stating that Sgt Crawley posted to Home establishment – also Cecil (CAT) Halliday.(201) Wonder what the General thinks about it. Shall be sorry to see Halliday go. He had the right ideas. Am now completely snowed under with bumf. Sgt White valiantly digging me out.(202)

    2nd April 1942

    P.T. Going down better – although slackers will make it harder still. Informed that all Easter services will be in our Mess. Starkey rather imposing on Ronnie's good nature. Finished up W/T census & got it finally straightened out. Finished off Summary of Evidence. Leave now on – one officer each fortnight to either Alex. or Cairo. Was interupted this afternoon by a dog-fight overhead against an “Iti” who appeared to get away. Cecil Halliday came over for a farewell drink. Spent part of afternoon with Basil arranging to extend Mess for service. Got 12 re-inforcements – 1 Sgt & 11 ORs. Widge & Asher up to tea. BSO rang up at 10.30 to say we had to attach an officer to Signal dump in Tobruk vice MAIN who is leaving. I think Morecambe is the man for the job. Had some mail in today but none for me – hope it won't be long.

    3rd April 1942

    Not a bit like a normal Good Friday. Officer's P.T. Cancelled – each officer taking his own Section. Ronnie & I jerked & skipped on our own, Tried to produce Easter atmosphere by having hot X buns for breakfast. Starkey took Celebration in the Mess. Couldn't go. Webb nominated as Stores officer Tobruk vice Main who appears indecently anxious to get away. G1 scrounged my truck for mess to go out with 69 Col on Sunday. Officer's shop came up. Bought some oddments – studs, laces etc & some more cravens. No mail in today. Hooker 42 RTR came in to tea – scrounging batteries. Asher going to “F” vice Webb – Stewart to Rear vice Asher.(203) Still playing clerical post. Parkes nominated Security officer 10 Army.(204)

    4th April 1942

    Perfect morning – nothing much doing. Got a letter from Paymaster & a cable from Pegs berating me for not going to the Staff College. Cable sent off on the 27th so presumably she had not received my cable of 23rd. Hope she changes her views. Went to Parade Service at 1015 in the Mess – taken by Starkey. Met new Senior Chaplain – Harlow.(205) Liked him. Just down from Syria. After Church CO interviewed 6 applicants for transfer to Corps – orderlies from 69 Bde. Nothing much happening in paper line for a change. Finished about 1600 & read for remainder of day. Started a letter to Pegs but it was becoming such a morbid affair I tore it up. No air activity. Spent time after tea also reading. Hear that G1 will be Wheeler ex BMRA.(206-207)

    5th April 1942

    A beautiful day – slight breeze – Senior Chaplain took Communion Service in Mess. About 1000 a Kittyhawk came down in HQ area – pilot safe. Parade service in Mess at 1015. Got a message to say Col Perkins was coming to tea – cancelled later owing to a conference. ADOS & Dryden (OFP) spent afternoon with CO discussing controlled stores.(208) Had a slight attack of nausea after tea – find this is common to others. CO & Basil had same sort of thing. Suppose we are slowly getting acclimatised. After dinner Ronnie & I went over to “A” Mess to say goodbye to Holmes & Halliday. Had a jolly party. General in good form. My doggerel caused much fun. Still no sign of mail. Hope something turns up tomorrow.

    6th April 1942

    A hectic day. Ronnie had a conference at 0930 on projected moves for training. CSO rang up to say he was coming over this afternoon. Norman Norcross came up & stayed for lunch. CSO, Col Perkins, Col Hardy, Burman & Fenton all came in during afternoon & stayed to tea.(209,210,211)
    Bit of a party out in front. Bosche tanks appeared in force & chased our columns round a bit but did no damage. Ralph Casebourne & his driver killed this afternoon. Damned good man gone.(212) Ronnie had conference with Basil & I tonight.
    Had an E.F.M. From Mother & a letter from uncle Frank.

    7th April 1942

    Certain amount of activity in front today. Some Bosche tanks & about 750 tpt seen moving across the front. Not sure whether this is just a sweep or an attack boiling up. G1 being delayed but swearing that he is pulling out at noon to go to his new job. Wheeler appears to have taken over just when things are most uncertain. Fair amount of air. Bostons went over this pm to do some bombing at our request.(213) RAF getting more cooperative? Jones rang up late afternoon & announced his arrival at Rear 69. Put him off till Thursday to give me a chance to dig a hole. He has come back about 10 days earlier than we thought. Up half the night because HEY lost the R/T code.(214) New one had to be produced for a column going out at dawn. Had a visit from Morecambe.

    8th April 1942

    Normal sort of day. Not much doing so started to produce new R/T codes. Much slower job than one imagines. Trouble in front seems to have quietened down. Still no signs of any mail. Went vaguely into subject of new organisation of Div. Leaves Signals rather in the air. Bloomfield did R/T dem. for MCO course. Got 5x550 & 4x300 charging engines from ORD.(215) Gave all 300s to 124 Fd Rgt. Everybody having touch of “Gippy tummy” - even I with my normally cast-iron inside! Heat coming along now & middle of day really scorching – expect soon we shall be unable to work in middle of day. Realizing now that my Adjutant's days are over. Extremely sorry.

    Diary ends

    However on the following page, in red pencil and in a different hand is Italian writing –
    ' Legione Alleati arrived Derna & moved on 645 20/6/42 Camp cleared'
     
  11. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Very interesting stuff Kev, thanks for transcribing and posting it. Great job.
     
  12. A step back in time! Brought back some memories for Dad and a few laughs too.

    Thankyou Kev.

    Major Mackenzie didn't go in the bag at Gazalla. In March 43 he assumed temperory command of the Unit on the death of Lt Col de Lisle. On 28 June 43 he was 2 i/c when hospitalised and struck off strength.
    It would seem likely he lost his diary and it was picked up by an Italian soldier. Why there are no entries after he ceased as Adjutant is not clear though.
     
  13. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Sadly it appears Mackenzie didn't survive the war.

    Casualty
    Lieutenant Colonel MACKENZIE, ALEXANDER JOHN SEVERS
    Service Number 66733
    Died 07/10/1945
    Aged 37
    Royal Corps of Signals
    Son of Duncan and Florence Mackenzie, of Scarborough, Yorkshire; husband of Ch. Offr. Dorothy Mary Mackenzie, Women's Royal Naval Service (died on active service 7th October, 1945).
    LOVELY WERE THEY IN THEIR LIVES, AND IN DEATH THEY WERE NOT DIVIDED
    Buried at RENNES EASTERN COMMUNAL CEMETERY
    Location: Ille-et-Vilaine, France
    Cemetery/memorial reference: Sec. 18. Plot 1. Row B. Grave 2.
     
  14. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Good posts Kevin. Pleased you were able to link up with Mel!

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    How odd that his wife should die on the same day whilst on active service too. Typo?
     
  16. Very sad that he and his Pegs should not survive to see Baalbeck together.

    The Cemetery info states that "In addition, 26 casualties, including 3 married couples, were added in October 1945, when Short Stirling transport aircraft LJ668 from 299 Sqdn. crashed near Rennes on route from Cairo to the UK."

    That is very sad.

    Casualty
    Chief Officer
    MACKENZIE, DOROTHY MARY
    Died 07/10/1945
    Aged 36
    H.M.S. Nile, Women's Royal Naval Service
    Daughter of Arthur and Dorothy Wilson, of Scarborough, Yorkshire; wife of Lt.-Col. Alexander John Severs Mackenzie, Royal Corps of Signals (died on active service 7th October, 1945).
    INSCRIPTION: LOVELY WERE THEY IN THEIR LIVES AND IN DEATH THEY WERE NOT DIVIDED
    Buried at RENNES EASTERN COMMUNAL CEMETERY
    Location: Ille-et-Vilaine, France
    Cemetery/memorial reference: Sec. 18. Plot 1. Row B. Grave 3.
     
  17. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    Mel.
    My sentiments exactly. Having held his diary, looked at every word - sometimes with a magnifying glass - and typed each word on the computer, I felt I had really got to know and like him. I had entered his world for four months. Another coincidence, on top of the ones I mentioned in my PMs - I have travelled, and worked on the Baghdad - Rutbah road for the new expressway. It's tragic that he & Pegs should go through the war and die together in an accident. But at least they are buried side by side. That really brought a lump to my throat.
    I put a few queries in the text Mel. Any chance you could educate me on their meanings?
    Cheers
    Kevin
     
  18. The beauty of the forum is that you always find someone who can help out with these things. There are experts who will give you the answers -but until then
    L.A.D.; Light Aid Detachment - workshops that repaired everything.
    Hydra Burner; local primus type stove.
    And over to the experts:
    N7's
    7SS
    Row Directory:
    Hatfield Spears

    Dad remembered the Kittyhawk coming down. The pilot (aussie or S African he thinks)said it was getting too 'hot' up in the air so he brought his aircraft down.
     
  19. The Hydra burner was "like a small flame-thrower fed from a big gas bottle. It was laid out in a shallow trench that was 18 inches wide and, depending how many you were cooking for, about three or four foot long. The pipe was lit and shot a flame along the trench. Dixies were put across the trench to heat up.
    We had a cook who was badly burned when one blew up.Never saw them while we went up the desert" Mel Snr.
     
  20. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    Thanks for those last two replies , Mel.
    The Hatfield-Spears beauties intrigues me. Sounds like a bit of an 'in joke'

    On Friday or Saturday I'm hoping to have a bit more information on the Italian input to this story. But from what my son tells me I think it will be a cold trail.

    Fingers crossed

    Kevin
     

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