Below is a summary of the entries of my Grandfather’s World War 2 diary. I’ve listed the more interesting diary entries and/or change of sequence events. For many entries not much happens or is just a daily routine of marching, parades, frustrations, watching movies and writing letters home.
He fought in Operation Crusader in Libya in November 1941 and in the Battle of El Alamein in Egypt in June through August 1942. These entries are in bold.
- Sunday April 6 1941 – leaves Lyttelton, New Zealand
- Wednesday April 9th & Thursday April 10th 1941 – arrives Sydney, Australia
- Postcard sent from Australia – April 1941
- Saturday April 12th (cont.) – Thursday April 17th 1941 – arrives into Fremantle, Australia
- Tuesday April 22nd (cont.) – Saturday April 26th 1941 – arrives into Colombo, Sri Lanka
- Saturday April 26th (cont.) – Monday April 28th 1941 – on leave in Colombo, Sri Lanka
- Sunday May 4th – Thursday May 8th 1941 – leaves Colombo, Sri Lanka
- Thursday May 8th (cont.) – Tuesday May 13th 1941 – arrived at Suez
- Tuesday May 13th (cont.) – Friday May 16th 1941 – arrived at camp in Maadi, near Cairo, Egypt
- Saturday May 17th – Friday May 23rd 1941 – in quarantine at Maadi
- Photo – Hut at Maadi – May/June 1941
- Saturday May 24th – Thursday May 29th 1941 – meets up with his brother Keith who had been there 8 weeks
- Friday May 30th – Wednesday June 4th 1941 – on leave to Cairo (first leave in over 1 month – since Colombo)
- Friday June 13th – Tuesday June 17th 1941 – on guard at Tura Caves, Egypt
- Tuesday June 17th (cont.) – Tuesday June 24th 1941 – goes on leave to Cairo
- Photos taken in Cairo – 21st June 1941
Wednesday June 25th – Tuesday July 1st 1941 – moves from Maadi to Helwan Camp and goes to Cairo on leave
- Letter home that he likely sent while on leave to Cairo in early July 1941
- Photos – Japanese Gardens – Helwan – 29th June 1941
- Photos of Cairo (undated – part 1)
- Photos of Cairo (undated – part 2)
Tuesday July 1st 1941 (cont) – Sunday July 6th 1941 – visits the Pyramids and Sphinx while on leave
- Photos of Pyramid and Sphinx – 1st July 1941
- Egyptian Postcards – Pyramids and Sphinx 1
- Egyptian Postcards – Pyramids and Sphinx 2
- Water Colour World War 2 Postcards by A Bishai
- World War 2 Propaganda Postcard – “Keep Quiet – You Never Know What Jerry’s About”
- Monday July 21st (cont.) 1941 – Friday 25th July 1941 – sports day at Mena
- Photos taken at Mena Sports Day – 21st July 1941
- Photos taken in Cairo – 23rd July 1941
- Saturday July 26th 1941 – Monday July 28th 1941 – leaves Helwan for Kibrit (near Suez)
- Tuesday July 29th 1941 – Saturday August 2nd 1941 – first experiences of bombs being dropped in Ismailia plus practice invasion and bombs dropping near camp
- Sunday August 3rd 1941 – Saturday August 9th 1941 – out on night manoeuvres and an air raid on Port Said and Ismailia
- Photo – Boys outside tent – Kibrit – August 4th 1941
- Friday August 15th 1941 – Tuesday August 19th 1941 – stacking wood at an Army Dump (including photo)
- Wednesday August 20th 1941 – Monday August 25th 1941 – leave to Ismailia
- Tuesday August 26th 1941 – Sunday August 31st 1941 – German bombs landing so close they used their slit trenches. Aerodrome got bombed ammunition dump was hit. Guards Libyan prisoners. First hint of seeing action.
- Monday September 1st 1941 – Monday September 8th 1941 – leaves Kibrit, now camping out in the desert with strict water rations digging tank traps and weapon pits
- Tuesday September 9th 1941 – Monday September 15th 1941 – mostly digging in the desert – finds many scorpions and a snake
- Sunday October 5th 1941 – Monday October 13th 1941 – relocated to Baggush Box (British Field Army fortification)
- Tuesday October 14th 1941 – Wednesday October 22nd 1941 – water rations cut and sand storm hits. Sees planes heading to Libya.
- Thursday October 23rd – Wednesday October 29th 1941 – air activity in the area picking up and goes on leave to Cairo
- Thursday October 30th – Tuesday November 4th 1941 – on leave in Cairo where he visits a number of sites. He mentions the postcards he purchased – these are likely the ones he bought.
- Wednesday November 5th – Thursday November 13th 1941 – heads back to Baggush Box after being on leave, then they move out from there on route towards Libya
- Friday November 14th – Friday November 21st 1941 – crosses border into Libya, getting much closer to active fighting now with a lot of air activity and bombings nearby
- Saturday November 22nd – Wednesday November 26th 1941 – starts actively taking part in Operation Crusader near Fort Capuzzo. Helps round-up German and Italian prisoners. Coming under heavy shelling. His brother, Keith, is killed during this time period but my grandfather doesn’t find out until 31st December.
- Wednesday November 26th (cont) – Monday December 1st 1941 – ordered to advance with bayonets under the cover of machine gun fire. For the first time, he fears that he will not survive. Surveys the battlefield and helps bury the dead
- Monday December 1st (cont) – Monday December 8th 1941 – still holding positions near Fort Capuzzo, but the mail gets through.
- Tuesday December 9th – Saturday December 13th 1941 – Retreat from the action. Visit an abandoned German camp where they obtain Cognac. Enemy plane crashes nearby and they advance again towards the enemy.
- Sunday December 14th – Thursday December 18th 1941 – dogfight overhead, heavy fighting towards Tobruk. News that they may retreat back to Egypt.
- Friday December 19th – Thursday December 25th 1941 – first wash in 7 weeks and an awful Christmas
- Thursday December 25th (cont.) – Friday January 2nd 1942 – returned back to Egypt, sends cables home and learns of his brother Keith’s death
- Saturday 3rd January – Sunday 11th January 1942 – he is admitted to hospital with tonsilitis
- Tuesday 20th January – Saturday 24th January 1942 – goes on leave to Cairo and Heliopolis – includes photos
- Sunday 25th January – Friday 30th January 1942 – heads off on a day trip to Delta Barrage
- Photos – Delta Barrage Photos (25th January 1942)
- Thursday 5th February – Tuesday 10th February 1942 – more practice attacks and learns they will not be returning home anytime soon
- Wednesday 11th February – Monday 16th February 1942 – crosses the border back into Libya. Hears Singapore has fallen to the Japanese.
- Tuesday 17th February – Saturday 21st February 1942 – lots and lots of digging in trenches and weapons pits
- Sunday 22nd February – Thursday 26th February 1942 – wiring up mine fields
- Friday 27th February – Sunday 1st March 1942 – salvage trip out in the desert
- Saturday March 14th – Wednesday March 18th 1942 – visits his brother Keith’s grave
- Lance Corporal Matthew Keith Sillars – Grave Photos
- Thursday March 19th – Tuesday March 24th 1942 – heads back to Cairo on leave
- Tuesday 7th April (cont.) – Saturday 11th April 1942 – heads through Palestine on the way to Syria
- Photo – Egyptian Dhow – Taken on way to Syria (April 1942)
- Photos taken on the way to Syria – April 1942
- Saturday 11th April (cont.) – Wednesday 15th April 1942 – continues through Palestine and Lebanon (includes photos)
- Wednesday 15th April (cont.) – Saturday 18th April 1942 – arrives in Aleppo, Syria. He visits the ruins and the wolves keep them awake at night.
- Photos of Ruins in Syria – April-June 1942
- Photos of Aleppo, Syria – April-June 1942
- Sunday 19th April – Sunday 26th April 1942 – he mentions the rural farming he sees.
- Photos of Farming – Syria – April-June 1942
- Monday 11th May – Sunday 17th May 1942 – is confined to barracks for not using mosquito nets
- Photos of Beehive Villages – Syria – April-June 1942
- Sunday 14th June – Thursday 18th June 1942 – learns they are leaving Syria heading back to Libya
- Thursday 18th June (cont) – Tuesday 23rd June 1942 – arrives back in Egypt just as the Germans reach the Libyan/Egyptian border
- Tuesday 23rd June (cont) – Saturday 27th June 1942 – the Germans advance towards their positions as the first battle of El Alamein starts
- Saturday 27th June (cont) – Thursday 2nd July 1942 – the battle of El Alamein is underway, he is in the front lines under attack – heavy casualties and being bombed regularly
- Friday 3rd July – Wednesday 8th July 1942 – Attacks German frontlines and is receiving full blast of the artillery 300 yards behind their positions. Ponders chances of survival.
- Thursday 9th July – Tuesday 14th July 1942 – pushes back the German lines and learns of impending night attack of the enemy
- Tuesday 14th July (cont.) – Saturday 18th July 1942 – Night time attack on the enemy but things not going well due to disorganisation. Germans have the upper hand due to quantity & superiority of their equipment
- Sunday 19th July – Friday 24th July 1942 – gets close enough to the Germans to hear them talking and has a close encounter with another NZ battalion. Lots of aircraft activity
- Saturday 25th July – Saturday 1st August 1942 – the flies are causing distress and he gets hit with shrapnel and taken to hospital
- Sunday 2nd August – Saturday 8th August 1942 – Is treated at the 12th General at Sarafand near Tel Aviv before being transfer to Kfar Vitkin, the New Zealand Convalescent Depot
- Tuesday 18th August – Sunday 23rd August 1942 – while being treated at the Convalescent Depot he does a day trip to Bethlehem & Jerusalem
- To see his photos of the British War Cemetery click here.
- To see a Souvenir of Gethsemane click here.
- To see his photos of Church of All Nations & Church of Virgin Mary click here.
- To see his photos of Church of the Nativity (Bethlehem, Palestine) click here.
- To see his photos of Bethlehem, Palestine click here.
- To see his photos of Jerusalem click here and here.
- Monday 24th August – Tuesday 1st September 1942 – back to the Convalescent Depot where the days are very monotonous.
- Wednesday 2nd September – Wednesday 9th September 1942 – unauthorised leave to Tel Aviv overnight (luckily this went unnoticed)
- Wednesday 7th October – Wednesday 14th October 1942 – cleared for duty and returns to training, he is eager to return to duty
- Thursday 15th October – Monday 19th October 1942 – arrives back to 23 Battalion area, about 40 miles from the front lines and receives news they are returning to active battle
- Tuesday 20th October – Sunday 25th October 1942 – gets shot in the foot just as the second battle of El Alamein commences
- Monday 26th October – Tuesday 3rd November 1942 – back in hospital, he prepares to return to a Convalescent Depot as he hears news of casualties on the front lines
- Wednesday 4th November – Monday 9th November 1942 – makes his way to Palestine to the Convalescent Depot
- Tuesday 17th November – Monday 23rd November 1942 – wins at Housie (Bingo) and sends an airgraph home
- Tuesday 24th November – Saturday 28th November 1942 – a visit to a commune breaks the monotony of the Convalescent Depot
- Sunday 6th December (cont.) – Monday 14th December 1942 – returns to hospital (2nd New Zealand General Hospital) as his wound isn’t healing properly
- Tuesday 15th December – Tuesday 22nd December 1942 – the preparations for Christmas in the hospital start
- Wednesday 23rd December – Tuesday 29th December 1942 – Christmas is celebrated in hospital with decorations, carolling and a traditional meal
- Wednesday 30th December 1942 – Tuesday 5th January 1943 – an outing to Port Said and he doesn’t see in the New Year
- Wednesday 6th January – Tuesday 12th January 1943 – finally returns to the Convalescent Depot in Palestine
- Wednesday 13th January – Tuesday 19th January 1943 – visits a diamond cutting factory in Netanya
- Wednesday 20th January – Wednesday 27th January 1943 – tour to Dead Sea & Jericho
- Wednesday 27th January (cont) – Tuesday 2nd February 1943 – tour to Dead Sea & Jericho continued
- To see his photos of the Dead Sea part of the trip, click here
- To see his photos of the Jordan and Jericho part of the trip, click here
- Wednesday 3rd February – Tuesday 9th February 1943 – visits Atlit Castle, a crusader castle in Palestine & prisoner escapes while he is on guard duty
- To see his photos of Atlit Castle, click here
- Wednesday 10th February – Friday 12th February 1943 – visits Nablus, Jacob’s Well and Joseph’s Tomb
- Saturday 13th February 1943 – visits Nazareth
- To see his photos of Plains of Jezreel, Churches of Annunciation & St Joseph, click here
- To see his photos of Mary’s Well & Franciscan Monastery, click here
- To see his photos of Nazareth, click here
- Thursday 18th February (cont.) – Monday 22nd February 1943 – visits Jewish Girls Training Farm just outside Hasdera
- Tuesday 23rd February – Saturday 27th February 1943 – finally well enough to return to Maadi and tries to meet up with Jim Wootton (his future brother-in-law)
- Saturday 6th March – Wednesday 10th March 1943 – takes day leave to Cairo with Jim Wootton
- Thursday 11th March – Sunday 14th March 1943 – receives orders regarding leaving Maadi for guard duty at Kantara
- Monday 15th March – Saturday 20th March 1943 – starts doing guard duty for the next few weeks
- Wednesday 7th April – Saturday 10th April 1943 – Convoy of wounded arrive from Tunisia and rumours spread of returning home and he hears a friend will be in port on a ship
- Sunday 11th April – Wednesday 14th April 1943 – gets a pass to visit No1 NZHS Maunganui and has lunch onboard
- Click here for Union Line Menu 11 April 1943 – NZHS Maunganui
- Thursday 15th April – Tuesday 20th April 1943 – puts in for leave as the guard duty is very monotonous
- Wednesday 21st April – Saturday 24th April 1943 – goes on leave to Cairo and meets up with Jim Wootton (his post war brother-in-law)
- Saturday 24th April (cont.) – Tuesday 27th April -1943 – heads from Cairo to Alexandria while on leave
- Tuesday 27th April (cont.) – Friday 30th April 1943 – goes sightseeing in Alexandria and visits Stanley Bay, Pompey’s Pillar and Ras el-Tin Palace.
- Tuesday 4th May – Saturday 8th May 1943 – returns from leave back to guard duty at 2NZGH
- Sunday 9th May – Friday 14th May 1943 – Axis surrenders in Tunisia
- Monday 24th May – Thursday 27th May 1943 – rumours confirmed of echelons 1,2 & 3 returning home to New Zealand, but no news of when he might return
- Monday 31st May – Friday 4th June 1943 – rumours continue about returning home by November and some married guards given their return notices. Hospital staff farewelled as they are returning home.
- Saturday 5th June – Tuesday 8th June 1943 – attends a gala at El Ballah
- Photos of Gala Day at El Ballah – Saturday 5 June 1943
- Friday 25th June – Tuesday 29th June 1943 – activity of ships increasing in the canal and orders for all soldiers to be able to swim are received
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This is amazing! Thank you, Paula! I look forward to reading your Grandad’s comments–boring, heart-stopping or not. It doesn’t matter. What a tribute to him and to that generation.
Thank you. I feel its my duty to share his experiences with the world. Many of my friends and workmates had family who had very similar experiences so its wonderful being able to share with a wider audience. Some of the entries towards the end of 1941 when he’s fighting in Libya and then again in mid-1942 fighting at El Alamein made me wonder how he ever survived.
[…] Grandad’s WWII Diary Index […]
[…] Grandad’s WWII Diary Index […]
What a great diary to have. And I can just imagine the work you have done to transcribe it all. Well done. Is there some way I could privately email you please?
Thanks for your kind words, I have emailed you.
Wow! How wonderful that you have this record. I can see what a challenge reading the handwriting is! My father was an MP in England during WWII and I had an Uncle who was at Normandy. Like your grandfather, neither spoke much about their time during the war. They have both passed away now and I wish that I had something like this diary so that I could get to know them better.
Its been an amazing experience and privilege to have these diaries. He likely didn’t expect anyone to ever read them, let alone having them shared with the world 70+ years later. I was lucky to know my grandfather as a child and even as a adult but its still hard to think of the man writing the diaries as the man I remember.
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Hi, I’m very interested in these diaries for a research about Aleppo. Is there an email I can write to you? Thank you, Avi
Hi, you can email me directly at disneynz at gmail
Hey, I cant wait to get in and have a read of your new entries since I was here last. well done you.
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