Grandad’s WWII Diary – Introduction

My paternal grandfather, Stuart Leslie Sillars was born at Dalcroy House in Lyttelton, New Zealand in 1915.  He served in North Africa and the Middle East during World War II.  Like many returned servicemen, he never spoke about the war.  All I knew was that he was shot in the leg, returned home to New Zealand, married my Grandmother and went on to have two children, my father and then my aunt.  He passed away in 1996.

The only time he spoke about the war was when my Mum and I went on holiday to Egypt around 20 years ago and he spoke a little of his R’n’R in Alexandria and Cairo.

I knew that he’d kept a diary of his time in the war, my father had stumbled upon it when clearing out my Grandparent’s house following my Gran’s passing.  I’d never seen them and recently I asked to read them.  Was pretty surprised when Dad turned up on Saturday with them for me to borrow.

What shocked me is that firstly, it wasn’t 1 diary, its 3 separate journals and secondly, was of the amount of time he served.

I plan on sharing his diary here, for a number of reasons –

  • So there is a record of his service and as an open historical record
  • To share with other family who don’t have access to these diaries
  • To help me read what he’s written, as you will see, its tiny, handwritten text

I am not sure what I will find in these entries, I really have no idea.  It could be as dull as dishwater, it could be horrific, or it may just be a factual account of what he experienced.

And so we start, with page one of diary one (I welcome corrections!  Things I am not sure about I will put in bold and italics or put in green for comments) –

1S Sillars


B Coy

Southern Infantry Batt.

5 Reinforcement

2nd N.Z.E.F  (Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force)



S Sillars

23 Rifle Battalion

M.E.F (Middle East Force)

Click here for Day 1 – Sunday April 6 1941



  1. The reasons you articulate for sharing your grandfather’s diary are those that I had for beginning Wayne’s Journal ( in February. I wasn’t able to articulate them, though, is so clear a way. I wanted to share with other family members what Wayne and his brothers had done. Except for one other cousin, all the rest were born after World War II, some long after the War. Their knowledge of people and events is based generally upon what they heard but did not understand. Their context is from the movies and not from the times. I, too, wanted to establish an historical record of Wayne’s service and that of his brothers’.

    I had read Wayne’s journal several times and had transcribed many pages from it. Much of it I found dull and without merit. I was reading individual pages without the realization that I was reading the story of an idealistic young man leaving his new bride behind to go off to fight in a war, a war of which he really knew very little. He knew little of war. No one in his family had fought in a war since 1865. That was when his great grandfather was discharged from the 12th Illinois Cavalry after three-years’ service in the American Civil War.

    And so it began . . . . Along the way, I have gained a new appreciation for my family members and their lives both during the war and after.

    • Through this process I am learning of not just what happened to my Grandfather but its encouraged me to learn more about those who served in WW2 – not just from New Zealand but others as well. Thanks for your comments. I’m looking forward to reading more of Wayne’s journal, he writes so beautifully and its a completely different experience to my grandfather’s.

  2. Reblogged this on flying goannas and commented:
    I found this diary on another blog and am now lost for the weekend as I embark on this WWII journey. And one day soon I’ll blog Auntie Thel’s diary and letters from her WWII experiences as a nurse in Greece, Crete and the Middle East. And hopefully Dad’s memoirs – when he lets me.

    • So pleased you found it! It’s pretty slow to start but there is some fascinating reading if you persevere. Recent posts have been about the battle at El Alamein.

      I look forward to reading your family diaries when you post!

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