Yesterday my daughter gave me a coin commemorating Australia’s role in withstanding the siege of Tobruk. I have previously written about Richard Geoffrey Champion de Crespigny known as Geoff de Crespigny (1907 – 1966), my grandfather, who served in the Australian Army as a doctor and was at Tobruk, during the North African campaign, from January to October 1941.
His diaries from the time he was in Tobruk have been transcribed by my father. Entries from May 1941 are from a period when my grandfather was supervising evacuation of the wounded by sea.
|Australian troops about to embark in Vampire. Retrieved from http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-vampire-i|
16 MayWent to the hospital for supplies and to HQ to see Cookie.1Also had a hair-cut – long overdue. Later wrote to Kathleen, and went in again to arrange for embarkation tonight on a destroyer.At 7, Jerry dropped bombs from an unprecedented height close to the San Marco water point. It seems to be our water he is trying for these days.2We drove down just before dark, and quite by accident were made aware of a huge crater in the road made by one of the latest bombs and which would have been a death trap to our first ambulance. The Vampire was delayed3– but berthed at 1 in the morning and we started. Cramming them in we got 109 stretchers and 98 walkers away. I found to my joy that Pat Reilly was the [p.91] MO. I was delighted to meet him again, and we were able to have a short yarn. She left at 3 – and after the usual signal parley we got to bed. But not undisturbed – for there were a series of lone but noisy raiders who were taken up by a long and loud artillery bombardment.17 May (really continuing)I seemed to get mighty little sleep. Stayed put after B in B [breakfast in bed] and got up and had a bathe about 11. After lunch went to the hospital and fixed the evening’s arrangements, and I went to HQ later. While there about 30 planes came over and dive-bombed the other side of the harbour – without doing much, and so many people said afterwards that they had shot down a plane that it became [p.92] monotonous. Some were downed, however.News from Egypt is rather heartening now. We have retaken Salum, and there are all sorts of rumours about Capuzzo.4Went to the docks with the failing light. The ship turned up at 10, and we had her away by 11.30. Then fixed the signal, had a liqueur[?] with a charitable soul, and returned to bed. A pretty tricky drive in very complete darkness.18 MayAlmost a blank. Didn’t go out, and neither side did any fighting.19 MayA number of bombs dropped early this morning just “over the wall” from us.5Went over to the beach hospital and had a long yarn with Eric Cooper which ended in my staying to lunch. A jolly good lunch too! Rest of the day quiet.[p.93]20 MayOnce again bombs “over the wall.” We hope they realise the importance of that wall as a boundary and don’t encroach on our side!Went to embark invalids onto Vampire, which came in at 2330. Found poor Pat [Reilly] in a state, as the intelligentsia at Alex had taken off all extra RAMC [Royal Army Medical Corps: British] personnel and all equipment. We had 61 stretchers and 98 walking wounded, and it was a great squeeze and a great shame. Also we lost all the stretchers and 200 blankets and have damn few left in Tobruk now. Pat was very well, but a bit harassed. Home about 0330.
|Some of the 180 wounded that were evacuated from Tobruk by HMAS Vampire in May 1941. Retrieved from http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-vampire-i|