25-10-1941 Letter from Tobruk (3 pages)
Dear Mother and everyone that loves me,
old darling I am writing what I hope will be my last letter from this
land of sand and fleas. Tobruk is a lively scene these nights, troops
coming in to relieve us and taking our chaps out. Some famous English
regiment and one Scotts, pipes and all. Mine is the last Battalion of
Aussies to leave. By the time this reaches you we should be back where
it is nice and safe and I am looking forward to a spot leave in one of
the big towns in
Old dear I am writing in a devil of a hurry, we only came out of the line 16 hours ago and I was one of the few very last to leave, five of us were left behind to do a creepy patrol in No Man’s land and we only caught our mates up here at breakfast time next morning – very tired –sleepy but happy we are always to come away from up there.
Since then it has been one big bustle after another, handing over our gear to the chaps coming in, meeting them as they come from the Port in lorries and fixing them up in Douvers and eating places, we all have to help.
We have also had to go through a rehearsal on getting on a Destroyer while a bombing raid is on, and believe me he has given our lads a lively send-off as each lot went out. Jerry is glad to see the Australians leave here. He is boasting already that as soon as we go he will take Tobruk, well he couldn’t while seven thousand Aussies were here anyway.
Mummie what I want to tell you this time is about something that happened yesterday and to have you ready for it – you might happen to hear it. It’s about a recording that was made here yesterday – of the handing over of Tobruk – from the last of the Aussies to a Scottish regiment, and old sweetheart out of so many hundred men in the 15th. I was picked to do the part of the digger. The C/o hands over to the other C/o and so on right down and they make great speeches to one another, then handing over our underground homes, ‘Douvers’ is a simple matter, and this Scotty lad is supposed to walk into my douver to take it over. Our Colonel told me he picked me for my Australian voice – so that’s that. The chap that made the record a B.B.C. man took all our names and who we wanted to notified about it, he wrote your address down Mum and said he would let you be informed to the very hour of it going over the air, but in case he forgets you could be ready –you might fluke it. They all congratulated me and told me I went over real goodo. I do hope you hear it old sweetheart. Now old Darling I can’t post this ‘till we get out of here – so I will add another page some time before posting. It is a 3 hr journey back to Alexandra from here and don’t they scoot along. I got very sick coming up and I may do the same on the return. Getting on here tonight is the worst part. Jerry sends over up to 20 bombers and gives us a rough time. We will be carrying a fair load and climbing up a rope ladder is no joke. But every one of the boys are so pleased to be getting away. Remember some have been here since April, well I only had ten weeks of it and it was enough for me for a start.
My little platoon Sergt done me a great favour this morning Mum – there was a final service of old Soldiers out at the Cemetery early today and this Sergt Fred McGill knew I wanted to have a look there so he stood down for me and I took his place. It was such a lovely ceremony at the gate of the graveyard, they have a big Monument built and the Padre gave a beautiful Sermon. The bugler played The Last Post and Reveille and we done a bit of rifle work. I wanted to see the Cemetery to make a Poem up on the lads that are staying in this far off land. I will send it to the Women’s Weekly and I am calling it “Sleeping Heroes of Tobruk”. Must finish for this time old Darling, wish me luck for the voyage down and I will write you another page from there ere I send it.
At last after waiting so long, we heard a
loud voice roar “Prepare to move” Ah – thinks I, the Destroyer, I
will be one of the first on. But instead I was one of the last back to
our old Wharfe. So disappointing, everyone so sad, half our mates gone
It is the Poles first night on the transport driving, they cannot follow the dusty roads as the Aussies can, and officers are going crazy trying to make them understand. Finish walking the last mile home. I know the feeling now of a packhorse that has been carrying a heavy load all day. We tumble down in the sand anywhere, blow the Bombers, we are tired and sleepy and I slept till . I just heard we are having another go tonight lets hope they get here this time. If not we are lost till the moon goes on again. Wish me luck once more Mum old sweetheart of mine. I send you all my love and I am always thinking of you and all my Brothers and Sisters. Cheers and I will write when I get below.
mine, here I am still in this old place Tobruk, the jolly old Destroyer
never came for us and we have been here ever since – waiting for the
old moon to rise and shine and fade away – so the big bold British
navy can steam up to us and sneak us out in the darkness. Well our
waiting days are nearly ended – or – so we hope and where would one
be in a war zone like this – if he wasn’t game to hope. We hope to
be leaving tomorrow night or it might be the night after that, still the
navy will never let us down, it is the best cobber we have. In the mean
time we have been doing plenty of work but in much nicer surroundings.
We go out on working parties digging slit trenches for chaps to jump
into during air raids and rigging tents over the hill at the beach
hospital – we take dinner, Bully and biscuits and tea and sugar, and
have it where we work. Every one is happy and the Tommy Officers often
get a shock with the care-free Aussies. We are camped in a big valley
called Wadi here, and we are in caves in the sides of the big stoney
hills on either side. The big blue tideless
Each company have a cook of their own here
and we eat in Platoons, mine about 26 strong, all get in a big cave and
have our meals. At night there is a wireless over in an English Officers
Quarters and we go over and stand outside in the cold, dark and hear the
news at 8.O’clock. All the news here comes relayed from an African
Station. The dust storms are getting worse and worser and hardly a day
passes without one. But our present worries will soon be over. There is
a feeling that every one of us poor old left behinds will get a week
leave down in