Thursday 17th. October, 1940.
Paraded “Pucka” [Puckapunyal] 6-30 pm. And left about 8.10pm. Entrained , left 9.30pm. Changed at Albury.
Reached Sydney about 4 o’clock. Ferried across to “Queen Mary” laying off Toronga Park Zoo. Shown quarters down by engine room.
Troops coming aboard all day. Slept on deck all night. Beautiful night. Had day off.
Very discontented about quarters. Sailed about 10.10am. Wonderful farewell. Only hope our home-coming will be as cordial. Played two-up won one Pound. Slept in hammock.
Took several photos. Officers didn’t seem to know what to do with us. Machine gun company mounted four Vickers [machine] guns for anti-aircraft protection. Mauretania joined convey this afternoon. Now sailing in line ahead. Cruiser ahead. All lights out at night. No smoking on deck.
Cruiser ahead with Aquitania and Mauretania in straight order to Starboard. Other two troop ships tossing even more than us.
Charlie the boot-maker rushes into the mess, has a hurried cup of tea and tears outside again to bring it up.
Anchored ½ mile off Freemantle.
Can’t help thinking of everything I have left behind now we are in indefinite danger. I don’t think any of us are terribly worried about any emergency that may arise. We’ll get there alright.
H.M.A.S “Perth” left us today and H.M.A.S. “Canberra” took over. “Perth” steamed past us slowly to Starboard, with ship in file, and as it passed each vessel, there was an exchange of three hearty British cheers. As she died away in the distance, Morse lamped flashed, “Best wishes to you all. Good bye and good luck.”
Very hilly, reported to be Bombay.
Ready to leave Queen Mary at 11am. Eventually transhipped to Rona at 6 o’clock. Arrived Bombay wharf after waiting for turn of tide at about 9.30pm. Left Bombay in troop train. All very excited being on foreign soil for first time.
Arrived at Deolali about 130 miles inland at 4.30am and marched to camp.
Into Bazaar again. Had Two Shilling piece made into a Serpent ring at silversmiths.
Uneventful train journey. Arrived Bombay about breakfast time. Two or three hours later we boarded Nevasa and after dumping kit were given four hours leave in Bombay.
Left Bombay at Noon. Very calm. Thirteen ships in convoy.
Pick up a Cruiser this morning acting as escort.
Food is terrible, weevil infested and the meat is bad. Maggots in it today. Picked up three more Destroyer’s.
After all our practice had a “dinkum’ air raid this morning. Have never got under cover quicker. I think I was more excited than scared. We could hear five or six shots fired by one of the ships acting as escort. We met three other ships and a Destroyer who joined us.
Are well and truly in the Red Sea.
Nearing end of voyage. Very tired of this mode of travel.
Nearly there. Land each side. Very grim and forbidding.
Arrived Suez about 6.30am.
Still in Suez harbour.
One month to Christmas and we can’t realise yet how far we are from good old “Aussie”
“eventually reached El Kantara our definite disembarkation port.” Staggered ashore along a pontoon bridge. Entrained about 4 o’clock. Cattle trucks-27 men to each. Reached Gaza and a Sergeant from the “Liason office” clambered aboard our truck. He told us that all our officers had told us about Palestine was so much bolony. Told us you were not shot at as you went through the various villages nor did the mad dogs worry you.
Had first bottle of Melbourne beer since we left home. Have given up gambling. Country was very like Australia, except for mud villages and Arabs.
Several cases of Meningitis have broken out in the camp. Taken off bread run and now do route marches, squad drill and P.T. all day. Enough to drive anyone cranky.
Still under quarantine. Officers are immune apparently as they go where they like. Went on convoy to Port Said. Reached destination about 9 o’clock. Black-out. Camped in Tommies camp-transit camp-on edge of Mediterranean. Went AWOL for several hours had a look around city. Provosts drove us home to billets as we had forgotten where we were staying. Picked up 69 utilities, trucks and ambulances next day “yours” in 1 tonner.
Still in Palestine and very much fed up.
Reached Cairo about eleven o’clock. Hair raising drive through city and out past pyramids to camp on fringe of dessert. Handed over ambulances to Tommies. Everyone likes the Australians particularly the way we don’t salute.
Colonel held parade today-I missed it-preached a sermon comparing drunken Aussie soldiers with those filthy wogs. Lads very hostile.
Take 18 trucks to Cairo-pick up 25 pound guns and limbers and convoy them to the front. Collected guns. Stopped El Barkey for night. Through Sidi Barrani. Italian dumps everywhere. Picked up convoy at Fort Cafuzzo next morning. Uneventful trip through Bardia to Tobruk. Reached Tobruk about 5.30pm. Saw 6 bombers and 3 fighters above us-thought they were ours until they dived towards us and bombed. Bullets only 3 or 4 yards from where we lay flat on ground. Bombs about ¼ of a mile away on hospital. All of us excited more than scared. Heard later that wing of hospital hit and 20-30 casualties. Delivered the guns about 9pm. Three air raids on way to rejoin our unit. Camped for about 3-4 days then transferred to 18th. Brigade ASC Company in charge of petrol, sub section under Ray Simmonds. Much better job and as I have the best of B Section with me am quite satisfied. Have learnt by now that our convoy was last through before Huns closed road. Are now surrounded-not very happy though.
Heavy air raid daily occurrence. Sometimes up to about 60 enemy planes at a time dropping bombs, delayed action bombs, and machine gunning. Several good dog fights witnessed. Huns shelled us a few nights ago-no casualties. Thank heaven, although they lobbed right amongst us. Some high officers broke and ran. My sub Section retired in good order down nearer harbour.
Four wounded and one dead in our unit up to date. Ted Cooper gone west, Spike Harvey lost a foot, others only flesh wounds. Still taking petrol up to the line each morning. No air raids last few days fortunately. Shells still landing in harbour. Jerry dropping Themes bombs. Have mounted anti tank rifle in dug-out to have crack at bloody dive bombers. [Boys Rifle]
Ack ack [anti aircraft] post going up right along side us. Hope Huns unload bombs to the right of it instead of to the left on us.
Eighty Hun planes down so far this month in Middle East. Section of lads sent down to the wharf to unload a Greek ship pulled in there. No one else will take it on. Crew bombed out in
Greece, all the way here and then dive bombed and shelled when they arrived here. So will not go back on board. Jerry shelled it again this afternoon, killed “Brownie” *Vallence and George *Menzies, [* entered in the AWM Roll of Honour refer details below] wounded Bill Allen, “Judda” Goff, Jackson and one or two others. I go down that night in charge of a working party. Lifted some cigarettes and chocolate, plus a few other items on the way off. Five of my chaps reported for refusing to go down below again after working 50 hours solid. I saw Roy as soon as we got back and had a word with the Major. They all got off with a warning. Managed to pinch a bottle of whiskey so have had first drink for a long time. “Jerry shells harbour and town with 5.9’s.
Shells lobbing in harbour and boys go to the top of the escarpment to watch. Lobbed a couple of shells close to the boys and they hastily retreated. Fifteen “heavies” [5.9’s] landed to our front and then a few to our left. Bill wants to shift but I think below ground better for us. Whilst arguing one came over and landed right between us.
Seriously wounded Jack Hughes and slightly wounded Bill. Took them both to hospital in the utility.
Now doing work for docks, every night and shelled with 5.9’s nearly all the time. Unit dwindling and no reinforcements arriving. Old illness playing up. Have been in hospital a few times with it for a day or so at a time. More infections. After hospital was sent to convalescent camp for a while. Very unpleasant-bombs and 9.2 shells.
Surprised to find myself still alive and whole after nearly five months of it.
Bombs nearly got us night before last.
Couldn’t stick it any longer. Reported sick with high temperature etc. and rushed to hospital.
Nearly caught by dive bombers on way to CCS. [casualty clearing station] on wharf. Feel rotten and hope like hell “Jerry” doesn’t start shelling. About 2200 hours leave wharf by barge and run out to Destroyer. “Hasty”. Loaded and slept on floor. Bombed as soon as moon rose, but missed.
Reached Alexandria safely on 16th. taken to 11th. AGH [Australian General Hospital]. Luxury a hot bath and hot meals. Even greenery outside. It appears too good to be true.
Arrived 2nd. AGH. El Kantara. About a fortnight up then another relapse and what a head. Have had a slight headache since 13th. but this!!! In bed for ten days, up for a day and then back for eleven days. Boy am I thin! Lost 1 ½ stone this time. Up for a fortnight and then back for one week.
In Hospital for eight weeks and now being shifted down Red Sea to Asmara to see what climate will do for us. There is no cure and sometimes wonder if I will be subject all my life. Germ in the blood called “Spirocheets”
Left 7.30am. on first stage of a long journey. Train from Kantara to Suez our port of embarkation. Taken to 13th. British General Hospital for the night. Treated like dogs, cement floor, no beds and no ground sheet. Rose 5.30am. and transported straight to HMHS Nita, an English Naval Hospital Ship. Sailed about 9am. and what a relief to say good bye temporarily to the Middle East. Am still feeling rotten. Well down the Red Sea by sundown, with all a blaze of light. Red Crosses all alight and ports and doors wide open. I had seen the Nita bombed and beached at Tobruk. Six days later….. we reached Massawa port, Eritrea. Loaded aboard a fleet of ambulances and started for the hospital eighty miles inland 8000 feet above sea level.
Arrived 5th. AGH. At Gura, captured Italian airbase. A leave to Asmara. Missed bus back and was a bit under the weather. So when we arrived were all placed under arrest and later fronted the Colonel. Severely reprimanded. Hundreds of destroyed bombers lying all around Cafroni aircraft works about two miles down the road. What a mess our bombs and machine guns have made. There is evidence on all military objects of severe strafing. I bought a beautiful leather bound album and hundreds of snaps which I spend my time completing ready to send home. [held by Jan Wadge] Another leave to Asmara. More souvenirs. A new camera and a silver bracelet for Marj. Still have a lot aches and pains. Eyes being treated with Silver Nitrate and does it string.
To Massawa-stayed the night-Boarded the Indian Hospital Ship “Tambala” about 8pm. All Indian doctors, nurses and staff, five English Sisters and an English Colonel and Major. Best food and beds. Two bottles of beer per day. 3 ½ days to Suez. Caught train to Kantara next morning.
28 November 1941
Sick and tired of hospitals.
1 December 1941
Left 2nd. AGH at 12 o’clock for Har Vitken. At last am able to draw as much as I like from my pay book. Take first leave to Tel Aviv. Spending a lot of money buying meals. Spent 10 Pounds. Eye bad again. Have received five parcels in last few days and piles of letters.
Thursday 18 December 1941
Sent back to 7th. AGH. Treatment for eyes and back. Have had several rows with him [Doctor-Major]. Silver Nitrate treatment and a lot of absolute agony.
26 December 1941
In no.15 ward . Xmas eve party sang Xmas carols. Issue of hampers and beer next day and roast chicken, turkey and plum pudding for diner. Discharged. Leave to Tel Aviv. Went weeks leave to Jerusalem. Went to Tel Aviv stayed at Atlantic for night, back to Jerusalem stayed at the Eden. Only junior ranks there but a beaut pub. To pictures to see “Road to Zanzibar”. Worried about Japs advance. Told that there is no hope of re-joining unit, so take any job offering.
27 January 1942
Left at 6 o’clock with 70 men per 4 ton truck to pick up vehicles at Tel eb Keba. Twenty trucks went to 5 BAD., half way to Suez, to pick up ammunition. Loaded by four and left for Ismalia. Tommies find no favour in our eyes. Dark and still some way from Ismalia. Forty and forty five [MPH.] without lights. Cross canal and receive
message we are to drive right through the night to be at ….. by 8.30am. How did we keep awake? Some didn’t and spent hours pulling them back on the road. Arrived dead on 8.30am. Up to Ordnance at Barbara off load AA [anti aircraft] ammunition onto 10 tonners, one of which I drove. Up at 3.30am. and whole convoy set off along Sinai Desert Road. Just past Beersheba stopped for rest and heard artillery firing. What a vivid reminder of Tobruk. Arrived Ismalia at 5pm. And crossed canal on pontoon.
8 February 1942
Still waiting to go to the wharf to embark for sea trip. Think it may be to Java.
9 February 1942
Moved down to wharf area with the 6th. field artillery and B HQ. Hope there is no air raid. Leave in afternoon.
10 February 1942
Air raid about 5am. No bombs drop only recon. [reconnaissance]
12 February 1942
Embarked this morning at 8am. Sailed by 9am. down Suez Canal through the desert. What memories it evokes. Months in the Middle East and now it is farewell, but there is only an odd pang! Accommodation very limited and all deck space loaded with trucks. AA [anti aircraft] guns practice.
18 February 1942
Almost at Eden as I write this. We are calling for coal and water. I can see an immense convoy including the Queen Elizabeth only a few miles to Port. Since the news of the fall of Singapore and reputed landings in Java we all think we are bound for home. My God how I hope so. Just to see Marj, Mum, Lal and Bet again would be worth the trip. I wonder if we can make it safely. We are carrying so much ammo [ammunition] that I am afraid we will go sky high if hit. This ship has been torpedoed once and refloated, so don’t suppose it can happen again for a while. I wonder what people imagine this time because I could not write. Probably think I am back in the Eastern Desert.
19 February 1942
Watered and drew more hard rations as our next 12 days supply of bread has run out, mildewed. Carrying our own army stores. Sleep no.4 hold t’ween decks in hammocks. Hope Marj and Mum are not too worried about no letters. Sailed again at 9.30am this morning. The burning question, where! Rumour that Darwin is bombed.
20 February 1942
Very strong wind and choppy sea “Havildar” bucking and rolling. I am allocated a raft. Slim chances if anything sinks in these seas. Darwin bombed last night. Boys itching to get home but are still not sure if we are going there. Have plenty of army biscuits and flour. Zig-zagging all the time to outwit the subs.
22 February 1942
Thoughts kept wandering towards possibility of getting home and then a bit of leave in the old home town. What a curse if this bloody war has not yet ended, but we will be fighting for our own country and not for the ideals we had been [fighting for] in the Middle East. What I wouldn’t give for some mail now. Fairly nerve racking voyage as we will be unescorted the whole way, she is only a merchantman and so very slow, but we are fairly well armed. One four inch naval gun, one twelve pounder AA [anti-aircraft], about half a dozen one inch guns and innumerable Brens [light machine guns] mounted on top deck not forgetting the Bofers [anti aircraft gun] mounted over the old hatch.
24 February 1942
Gun drill for all crews every morning.
25 February 1942
Gunnery practice with aft naval gun this morning at an old barrel. Leave in Cochin. This port is a hotbed of disease of all kind.
27 February 1942
Cochin to Starboard-Eunakulam to Port.
6 March 1942
Sailed from Cochin harbour 9am. Convoy assembled about 10.30am HMAS Corvette Bathhurst, escorting Nahmatal, Havildar, City of Hankow and Camula.
13 March 1942
Sub [submarine] scare all morning. Everyone on look-out. Lots of sea snakes floating and swimming about. Destination probably Freemantle. Over a month on the ship up to date with prospects of another three weeks. Lasted this devils day out OK.
18 March 1942
Lots of yellow sea snakes, flying fish and porpoises. Last two, three days very high seas with heavy rain. Terrific rolling and pitching. Diners sliding off tables, and men sliding round deck.
24 March 1942
Spend most of time reading and thinking of those distant days when we were home and at peace. “Havalook” is our daily paper-very good to. Guess the family will be amazed when they see me-have no small talk now, I am afraid, and have probably altered a great deal in feature as I know I have in outlook.
28 March 1942
Terrific wind and high seas. Hardly making any headway and rations are getting lower and lower. Travelled seven miles in six hours yesterday afternoon and were practically hove-to all night. Actually only about five days sail from home but at this rate doubt if we will ever get there. Tempers are becoming frayed, mine as well. God what a mood I am in- I can never remember a worse and don’t wish to. Gail has persisted with unabated fury.
29 March 1942
At last it is becoming calmer. 1200 miles from Perth. Would like to get married if we get leave.
4 April 1942
Very excited today as we should reach Freemantle tonight or early tomorrow morning. “Shields” was sunk at 4 o’clock yesterday morning at our position of the 16th. Apparently the storm saved us. Mr. Curtain announced the other night that A.I.F were all home and we were still about 800 miles away. Reduced to full diet of bully beef and biscuits only. God, I bet Mum and Marj are worried as to where I have got to. Could see Freemantle at dawn. Entered harbour at 9 o’clock. Nine days overdue and given up for lost.
5 April 1942
Great excitement-paid this afternoon. Left for Perth at 5.30pm. Excellent nine course dinner. Arrived back at ship 1.30am. 2 ½ hours late.
6 April 1942
Leave for hour this morning. Rest of boys AWOL in hotels. Left for Adelaide 1.30pm No escort.
8 April 1942
Australian rations on board, plenty of bread and butter again. Nobody knows or wants to know of returned men. People seem to think we went abroad for a trip and had a holiday. What of all our cobbers we left over there.
10 April 1942
Wireless reports raider somewhere behind us-sunk one of our merchantmen. Colombo raided-we seem to have just missed it again. Hell we’ve been lucky.
12 April 1942
Spent day cleaning and pressing uniform etc. and sorting kit. Sent three telegrams from Perth-one at army’s expense. Adelaide lads hoping for leave straight away. Should berth tomorrow morning [Adelaide]
Australian War Memorial “Roll of Honour”
*Malcolm Cattanach Vallence VX37483 killed in action 1/7/1941 [Mentioned May-July 1941]
*George William Thomas Menzies VX26705 killed in action 1/7/1941 [Mentioned May-July 1941]
Transcribed and edited by: Bruce McCullough, Auckland, New Zealand,
with the kind permission of Jan Wadge.
Version: 6 June 2012.
Note: [Italic] entries have been added to clarify some terms. Photographs [except Harry’s portrait] were sourced from various sites on the internet including the Australian War Memorial Museum and the Australian National Archives.
Harry George Wadge Service Details:
Harry joined the Militia, 3rd. Division AASC, in September 1938. On the 31 May, 1940, he volunteered and joined the AIF, Supply Column. Promoted Corporal 19/6/1940. He served in the Middle East with the 7th. Division Supply Column from 17/10/1940 to 18/4/1942. Soon after his return to Australia Harry was promoted to Sergeant and was transferred back to his old Unit, 3rd. Division AASC, on the 25/6/1942, as part of General Savige’s plan to introduce experienced NCO’s into his new command, the 3rd. Australian Infantry Division, to prepare it for the expected invasion of Australia by Japan.
Harry served in New Guinea 10/3/1943 to 22/2/1944, with the 1st. Australian Supply Depot. He was appointed Lieutenant 5/8/1943. He then served in New Guinea and Bougainville 7/7/1944 to 2/10/1945, with 158th. AGT Company, 54th. Australian Transport Platoon and 17th. Field Ambulance. Lt. Harry Wadge was “Mentioned in Depatches” 31/7/1945. Appointment terminated 10/10/1945, transferred to the Reserve of Officers.
Source: Service Records, National Archives of Australia.
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