Monday, September 08, 2008

Sunday 22nd December 1940

There has been much more action since we began firing! As we were having our tea (biscuit, margarine and jam) last night, there was a sudden flurry of gunfire – shells pitching about a mile away. Then suddenly – three whistles, three bangs and shells burst in the battery area! Everyone around me flung themselves flat but I just kept on eating – I was too amazed to do anything else. Fumes drifted over us. Then, peace and silence.

I slept from 6:0p.m. to 9:30p.m., was on the exchange until 12:30a.m.(crouching in the 3 foot deep trench), slept until 3:30a.m. and went on duty again until 8a.m.
We'd spread a tarpaulin over the trench, and there was a lantern and four blankets, so it wasn't too cold or dreary. When things were quiet, I smoked many cigarettes and read a thrilling gangster novel (“Murder will not wait”, or something). At 6a.m., when I was feeling very sleepy, hell suddenly broke loose. Whistles and bangs. The hostile shelling report which later went in stated laconically “0600 to 0620 hours. Continuous shelling on our front and in battery area”.

This forenoon was fairly quiet until there was a shout, “Take cover!” Grant crouched over the exchange, Hammich, Gayler, Burch and I scrambled into adjoining shallow holes. I looked up and my heart sank. Twenty five Iti planes coming over in formation. I lay face downwards, waiting until they were overhead, and died several times. At last! All around, the roar of bombs. My sensation was that it was impossible not to receive a direct hit. Most unpleasant. The roar went on – oh! the relief when I KNEW that they were gradually falling further away! I sat up. They were ploughing a path of explosions. Then a petrol tank went up. Everyone gradually got out of their holes. White faces. I'll bet mine was pasty, too. We almost laughed at the shelling which followed.

“You'll never guess how relieved I felt when I heard old Steve say “They've gone now,” said Ted Gayler afterwards. Even old Grant was shaken!

I have not had a wash or a shave since we left kilo.57. None of us have.

The Siege of Bardia! Well, well! This mornings raid brought our first EY casualties – all at RHQ. Five killed, six vehicles and a petrol dump were also destroyed.
So the Regiment has been “baptised”.

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