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Category: Digger's Diaries

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In Moresby with the RAAF crews

  • 34772  LAC  THORNLEY  Neville
    • 5 Kywong Av.  
      • PYMBLE     SYDNEY

KIA near Western New Guinea


  • Inside folder  -  
    • List of family birthday dates
    • Jazzland  Pass-out,  Saturday,  December 27th  on it is written in pencil "Remember the night out when I staged a performance?  Honey"
    • Two Melb. &  Metrop. Tramways Board  2d  tickets
    • A passage written in ? pigeon/Malay re Japanese/English war movements
    • Two Photography pamphlets
  • NOTES IN THE BACK  commence on 24/1/42 with 
    • a list of the details of 9 photos,  the list is overwritten, and 
    • the rest of the two pages filled with names/addresses mainly in Sydney.
    • Two pages further on there are two Brisbane addresses (both ladies)
    • Two pages further on there are more addresses, numbers.

Then the Diary commences  -  it is written in pencil and very cryptic with many words foreshortened.

August/42     [this date appears to refer to something else, the Diary starts in Oct. ‘42,  see more details of next couple of days in letter to Edna dated 21st. Oct]

Wed, 14th, 3:45am   Woken, breakfast and on parade 4:15  Onto trucks to wharf, wait till sun rises on wharf   Embark onto SS Ankui.  Pull out of Townsville 18:0pm

Sea calm  Rigged hammock in afternoon on deck  Slept well.  L. foot bruised

Thur. 15th  Woke 6.30 Breakfasted and helped tidy stores in hold.  Hot.  Ate tin peaches choc. ?  Passed Cairns 8:30pm.   Saw islands on starboard  Well within sight of coast.  Calm  Sunbaked sand hills in view on coast late afternoon,  Good meals, baked beans, pork, tinned peaches, biscuits, butter, jam and tea,  (10 knots)  boat drill this morning

Fri 16th  Slept in sun, spent hour in mess on fatigue.  Sea calm

Sat 17th  Islands in view all way.  Left Aust. coast (Point)  06 am.  Passed Thursday Isl. 08 am.  Anchored off inlet (Banks?) 15.00hrs & stay night.  Sea calm, night warm.

Sun 18th  Started off again 09.30hrs.  Picked up corvette ?eo 10.0hrs (J 204)  Anchored 12.00hr till 15.00hrs.  Saw hammerhead shark swimming alongside ship, this is probably last night on board.

Mon 19th  Up for early breakfast 06.00  Packed kit, sea medium, boat rolling slightly  Corvette dead ahead.  Sea deep blue-green last few days.  Sky overcast (Church parade yesterday)  Padre. Begbe.

Sighted N. Guinea  16:30 hrs thin line of white and indistinct outline of hills covered in clouds.  Pulled into harbour 18:00 hrs

Embarked on corvette Colak 19:30 for wharf.  Raining, heavy clouds. Into army truck to headquarters wing, shower!  had tea then slept in semi-built barrack

Tue 20th  So this is Moresby!  Clump of coco-trees ahead,  ships in harbour.  Breakfast of beans, crispies and coco.  Swim in baths till 12:00.  Parade 14:00 erected tents on flat (old golf club).  Loan Jap raider about 21:30,  AA fire,  dropped eggs some miles away.

Wed 21st  Lay around camp.  Wrote letters.  In afternoon ships dispersed as all prepared for raid.  However rained and heavy clouds prevented raid.

Thur 22nd  Leave all day.  Swim in afternoon.  Comforts fund given out.  Boat in wharf to be unloaded tomorrow.  Tried out rifle.  Accurate at 500yds.  Good enough.  Nose is peeling.  Weather good.  Might see Japs tonight.  Feel mighty like a swim again now , Hot.  Pictures on tonight in open.  Screen erected, Newsreel of bombing of Moresby started.  Air raid.  2 in perfect formation passed over.  Searchlight & AA opened up but missed.  Am sitting on top of trench writing and waiting.  Full moon, little cloud.  All clear at 21:30.  Back to picture saw Artists & Models

Fri 23rd  Heard eggs dropped on wards.  Strip.  May delay us.  News came in Jap. downed on Tues. night.  Dug trenches this afternoon.  Nearly roasted.  19:45  Alert.  All clear 20.00  False alarm  Bombs dropped 7 mile out on strip.

Sat 24th  Packed ready to move when ship comes for unloading.  Gen. Sir T. Blamey inspected AIF & AMF force, here today.  Bit off colour today.  One alert at 21:00 till 21:45 and again at about 23:45 to 00:10 hrs.  No planes visible

Sun 25th  Good rest all morning.  Roy.S. feels sick.  Water here full of salts etc.  Wrote to Edna & Bill.   Another alert tonight.  plane circled, made several runs but either off target or on recon.

Mon 26th   Hot!  missed breakfast time,  dinner at 10:30.  Detailed to No 1 sorting party, leaving when ship docks.  No raid.  Tojo must be saving it up for us at the strip.

Tue 27th  Boat not in yet.  Wrote to Edna,   Jim has touch of blood poisoning.  Another raid.

Wed 28th   Out to strip at 8:30  Unloaded trucks till 17:00.  Back to town & collected kit returned to strip

Thurs 29th  Raid at 03:15 this morning.  Bombs dropped in 2 runs.  Swung pick and shovel all day digging hole for tank.  Shower & drew out stretcher and mossy net, windy as usual.  Raid alert.

Fri 30th   Erected tents & unloaded stores all day.  Very hot.  Met Len Smith and Don Bartle.  Had alert about 8:0  no kite.

Sat 31st   On stores again in morning.  Erected Marquee in afternoon.  Alert at 03:00hrs.  Went to 30 Squ. fights at night,  light rain.  Raid late, Bombs in harbour

Sun 1st  NOV.  Dug tent site.  Had alert at 10:00 hrs.  Lightning up to intercept.  Raider over low at 20:30  didnít drop anything.

Mon 2nd  Half day off.  Did washing.  Unloaded stores in afternoon.  Dug trench after tea.  J. Rutherford came over at night.  had supper of crabs, 2 tins fruit & cream

Tues 3rd   Unloaded stores all day.  Collected  US boots and galoshes.  Dug out rear of tent after tea.

Wed. 4th    On stores again all day.  Keith Bloy ill & in hospital.  We now have a tin opener!  Wrote to Dad tonight.  Sent telegram to twins.

Thurs. 5th    Edna & Bills birthday.   Hear we are to commence operations on Sunday.  Jim Perry out here today,

Fri. 6th  Anniversary of 2nd year in RAAF.  Went up hill in afternoon.    Bludgin.

Sat 7th  Collected some mangos in morning at Bondi.  Helped in building store in afternoon

Sun 8th  Down at strip digging trenches.  Bit off colour today.

Mon 9th  Worked at strip all day.  dinner there.  3 more Bostons arrived,  6 in all now.  Opp flights to commence in morning.  No kero. no light.

Tue 10th   Went on Sick Pde this morning for sores.  Worked at strip.  A 28-13  blew up in midair this afternoon on bombing practice.   Wrote to Edna.  A 19.  gave scare. all lights up etc  but flares fired.

Wed. 11th  Bought pennants today.  2 more planes came up today.  Very cloudy.

Thur. 12th  Made applicat. for remuster to Aircrew.  80 Squn. packing up.  Lucky Cows!  P.S.(Bullsh !)

Fri 13th   Dug trench this afternoon at strip.   Received letter from Jan McClure  wrote to Beverley.  Yesterday water tanks fell and smashed.  No showers.  Rained tonight.

Sat 14th    Worked in Barracks area on concete drain.  Alert in afternoon, no raid.  Rained again tonight.

Sun 15th   Air raid red warning this afternoon,  many fighters up  A20s on operation straffed native huts.  Rain set in about 17:00 hrs.  Up during night with diarrhorea.  most of the camp has it,  or sores

Mon 16th   A 20’s  on operation at 08:00 and again at 11:00   All returned safely.  Destroyed machine gun post and barge.   Air raid warning in middle of night.  Still very wet.

Tue 17th   Sleeping down at strip tonight Retribution nearly finished engine mod. on supercharger.  Raid on tonight.

Wed 18th   Called up this afternoon for aircrew test.  2  A19’s  made forced landings on the strip,  both OK.

Thurs. 19th   Had Air Crew Medical this morning,  took afternoon off as it rained all day.  Wrote to home, Betty, John Friday and Mr. Leslie.

Fri  20th   A20-22 completed recog.  Jap over in afternoon.  Clear night, but no alert.

Sat. 21st  Day off.  Went to Rounna Falls and on to Base 1 near Kaitahi.  Very good day  took photos etc   tonight am very weary.

Sun 22nd   40 hrly on A 28-21,  all day at strip.  2  A19s crashed landed on strip,  one guard killed under A19, being lifted off strip.  Both kites shot up. one by 2 zeros.  Two more A19s crash landed.

Mon 23rd   Finished 40 hrly on A25-21.   Full moon tonight

Tues 24th  Hudson burst into flames on strip this morning.  80 planes off in raid on Buna.  3 engines to change.  Pictures on.  Air raid at 21:00 hrs and again at 01:00, dropped 4 eggs, one delayed.

Wed 25th  Removed engine of A28-1 and found gears OK  Wasted time.  Comforts fund issue this afternoon.

Thur 26   Bad day.   Lost F1t Lt. MacDonald and crew in A28-22.  A28-15 crash landed full of flack.  One WAG shot.  A28-14 crash-landed on 7 mile. 

Removed engine on A28-7.  Two raids tonight late.  Bombs dropped between Wards and 7 mile.  2  Doug. troop transports lost and one P40.

Fri 27th   Services for crew of A28-22 this morning.  Mail in from home.  Bill Roche and Ernie Perry.  Wrote to Bill, C.R.

Sat 28th   Received 4 parcels in afternoon.  Concert tonight.  Average show, alert on, but no raid.

Sun 29th  On operation,  A28-20 lost, with FO Bullmore and crew.  Exploded on raid.  Wrote explanation on ‘Cyclone’ 2 stage Blower.  Received papers from Marion.

2 raids early morning.  Bombs dropped on 7 mile.

Mon 30th  Replaced engine in A28-7.   Gona taken.  Heard Japs 200 yds from beach been slaughtered.

Tue 1st Dec.   Finished off A28-7 in morning.  Made canvass belt.  Cleaned up for inspection by AO etc.  To supper of pudding, nuts, fruit, cream and coffee.

Wed 2nd   A28-1 wiped off, leg collapsed on take off.  Fortress crashed into hill,  8 killed.  Bostons had operation last night.  Dropped 500 lb bomb on destroyer.  Went to Koitaki today.

Thur. 3rd   Two more engine changes,  A28-4.  Operation this morning and again tonight.  Dropped 500’s on Buna strip.  Dragon into ditch at end of strip.

Fri 4th  Operation today with 5 A20s.  One aircraft lost.  14.     Boston ran into ditch.  Slept down at strip.

Sat  5th  A20-14 found.  All OK.  Turner bushed and put down at Wairopi.  Slade to bring her back.  New CO arrived.  Beaufort overran strip into ditch.  Removed No1 cyl. on A20-4

Sun 6th   Replaced cyl. on A28-4.  Aircraft leaving in morning for Wairope.  Gave G. Kendall my camera.  Saw good pictures last night.

Mon 7th  Squad. Ldr. Bell returned with A28-3.  brought back tabs for 4. & 6.   Beaufighter & B25S  shot down 20 Zero.  One Beau. crash landed.  Have to work though till a/c [aircraft] are finished.

Tue 8th   Received 3 parcels from Edna.  A28-14 said to be bogged at Wairope.

Wed 9th  Operation this moning.  Aircraft safely returned.  Wish I could get a day off.  One in I0 not so good.  Wake at 6:0 and work till 4,  asleep at 10pm   Long day in this heat.  Mail in also parcel from Miss Walker.  Sqd. Ld. Bell hands over to new CO.   Rumours of move.

Thur 10th   Did drawing of gun modification for P.O. Goldfinch.  6 Bostons out on raid this afternoon,  all returned safely.

Fri 11th  Usual work at strip.  Very hot all day.

Sat 12th  6 machines on operation all returned safely.  Straffed & bombed.

Sun 13th  No work.  Had day off in bed all day.  Wrote letters.

Mon 14th  Air raid 12:30am till 02:00am,  Dropped bomb close to machines, no damage.  Went to village Papa, got skirt, beads  10 mile walk.  Further raid at 20:00

bombs fell near us. heard whistle.  unexploded bomb fell near hospital.

Tue 15th  Very little work.  Had commando drill in afternooon.  Raid at 21:00 to 22:30hs.  8 planes dropped bombs.  One bomb hit tree killed 2 Yanks in trench.

Wed. 16th  Removed pots on No6.  Received parcel from Miss Walker.  Pictures on tonight.

[On the opposite page, here, there is a rough sketch of (probably) the barracks]

Thurs 17th   Raid last night.  Shrapnel fell round us.  Two attempts & runs

Fri 18th   Small raid last night.  Bombs dropped near 30 Sqd.  Sleeping down at strip tonight.

Sat 19th   No raid but 2 alerts last night.  Mosies and lice bad.   Doing cyl. job on A28-6.  Snake in tent last night.

Sun 20th  Finished off A28-6.  Last night had alert, & lightening went up but no Jap appeared.  Saw about 15 tanks (14 tons) on way to Buna.

Mon 21st  Mosquitos very troublesome last night.  No15 came in today for rebuild.

Tues 22nd  Removed engine from A28-15, and prepare to strip down.  Raid last night.  Raid last night.  Bombs dropped on 1st run, fell near 30 sqdn.

Wed 23rd  Comforts issued today.  Day off, going for  swim to 12 mile.  Gave tent a clear out.  Refused comforts as were minus cake & puddings.  Alert but no raid last night.

Thur 24th  Stripped down engine of A28-15.  Got comforts complete.  Raining again as all this week.  This is Xmas eve!!   Last night concert at 6 squ. Cinderella.

Fri 25th  Slept in till 08:00.  Pde. & then Church Parade.  read all morning.  Dinner of lamb, parcel from Edna,  wrote to Dad.  All are sprawling around camp stark naked on beds, very hot.

Sat 26th  Aircraft out on operation to Lae.  Armed recce.  Salvage dump of stuff stripped from dead near here.  Hurt nose - Perry's rifle

Sun 27th   Operations again today to Lae.  Starting writing musical skit.  15,000 Yanks landed from mainland.  Got letter & card from Norma a couple of days ago.  Replied telling her not to write again.

Mon 28th   Rained today.  Worked under tent.

Tue 29th   Pulled port engine out of A28-15 started to strip

Wed 30th  Supercharger  modif. carried out.  Put in application for Commission.  Received word from Tech.  cnnnot do Diploma course.  Doing Drawing at Melbourne

Thurs 31st  Got parcel from Bill,  4 books from Jan.  Nice kid!  Boxing on tonight & had day off.   Slept all morning, & wrote letters

Frid. 1st ‘43   Good concert on last night.  Fights and Jim Gerald Orchestra.  Today had day off after parade.  Rested in camp.  Rained.  Operations to Lae.  Aircraft landed at Buna (Popendetta),

Sat 2nd   a/craft back from Popendetta OK.  Off on opperation.  Started drawing of supercharge mod.

Sun 3rd   slept down at strip all last night

Tue 4th[sic]  Did drawing of crane

Wed 5th[sic]  Aircrafty lined up for operation, then returned.  stood by all day.

 B25.5 copped rough time from Zeros & A/A

Thur 7th   a/craft in oper. early this morning.  A28-4  shot up by Zero & made forced landing.  Wipe off.  A25-7 wiped off pitot head.  Went to Moresby today got lakatoi & bow & arrow

Fri 8th   Letter from Bill & Edna.  finished off engine on A28-15 today.  Still raining each night.  going to strip on fire-tender tomorrow.  Pictures on at MRS.

Sat 9th  On fire-tender all day.  Beaufighter had ??ing carburetta.  Yarned with Yank doctor.

Sun 10th   Not relieved until 11:00.  Beaufighter nearly crashed into DC.2.  Off rest of day.  Scrubbed application for Commission.

Mon 11th   Alert last night, no planes near here.  Took half day off,  site shifted over to other side of strip.

Tue 12th   Took off 3 pots on engine from Richmond.  Raining again all day.  Alert at 21:00 hrs.

Wed 13th  Removed one more pot. valve seats warped.  Sending engine back to mainland.  Went on 2 operations today.  One a/craft A21-14  in at Dobu Dura engines out.  A28-13 arrived from Australia.

Thur 14th  Commando drill today.  Wrote letters to home, Jan, Miss Walker & Beryl.  Went to pictures saw Rage of Paris at 12 mile.

Fri  15th  Beaufighter dived in on landing, burnt, 2 killed.  Took motor out of A28-3.  Blower tab job.

Sat 16th  Had raid on Thursday night but last night had a beaut.  Jap dropped 4 bombs within 1/4 mile of here, one on top of hill, end of valley.  Pulled engine out of A28-3.

Sun 17th  Raid alert last night no bombs dropped.  Took more pots off spare engine. Prepared J. Juices

Mon 18th   Rained very heavily all day today.  On drawing of mod. for supercharger

Tue 19th   Milne Bay was raided heavily on Sunday and again yesterday.  All pots coming off spare engine

Wed  20th   Put pots back on spare engine.  Went to pictures tonight poor show.

Thur. 21st   Went  on picnic to Rouna.  Fights on tonight.

Fri 22nd   Excellent night last night.  All fights good.

Sat 23rd   All night session with Tojo.  4 raids, bombs dropped ack-ack hill & in harbour.

Sun 24th  One alert last night finished off spare engine today.

Mon 25th  3 alerts, bomb dropped on 12 mile.  1 Douglass destroyed,  Working at camp.

Tue26th   Alert early last night.  Heavy cold today.  80 hrly on A28-7

Wed 27th   J. Juice no kick!    Heavy raid.  2 Beaus. hit, 2 damaged.  Lightening got 2 Japs.

Thurs 28th  Rained last night.  no raid.  Usual day at strip.

Fri 29th   Rained last night.    Played two-up, won £3.15.0.    Finished inspection on A28-7

Sat 30th  Day off. spine barked all morning,  darned sox & wrote letters in afternoon.

Sun 31st  Carby trouble on A28-7.  worked back tonight.  Got letter from Edna.

Mon 1st  Feb.   Alert early this morning.  No raid,   Shifted camp site to opp. hill.  Still on A28-7

Tue 2nd  Finished off A28-7.  Tested OK.

Wed. 3rd   A28-6 in with blower trouble

Thur 4th  Received films of Wairopi  -  Good.

Fri 5th  Day off yesterday.  Slept all day.  This site better than last one

Sat 6th  Reparing cowls for A28-15.   Lost A28-21 today, Ack-ack

Sun 7th   Still on cowls.  Learning morse for a/crew.  Letter from Margaret today.

Mon 8th  Letters from Dad and Bill.  Doug DC 2  crashed.  Props blew off.

Tue 9th   Letter from Miss Walker.   Wrote to Dad

Wed  10th   Finished off cowls.   A28-14 lost, believed crashed after raid.

Thur 11th   A28-16 down at Dobu Dura.  Jim P. and Sharman to go.  Pulled engine out of A28-5.   Fights

Fri 12th    Day off -  slept all morning.  Last night cyclone panic after fights

Sat  13th   Loaded engine on Doug.  Perry & crew went to Dobu Dura.

Sun 14th  Tabs arrived.  Worked back on A28-6

Mon 15th  Started work early & on A28-6 all day

Tue 16th  Parcels from Edna yesterday & today still on A28-6

Wed 17th   Another parcel today,  finished off A28-6.  Getting 2 days off

Thur 18th  Commandos in morning.  Slept in afternoon.  Parcel of books

Fri 19th   Wrote to Edna & Marion.  Received buzzer,  started R.F

Sat 20th   Cyl. job on A28-11,  new pot needed.

Sun 21st   Raid last night,  A.A  scared him,  jettisoned eggs over Bluff

Mon 22nd  Finished off A28-11.  Alert, no raid last night

Tues 23rd   Jim Perry back yesterday.  Preparing new motor for A28-8

Wed 24th   Letter from Jan.  Started removing motor from A28-8

Thur 25th  concert last night.  splendid.  Best I've seen on Island.  Day off today

Fri 26th  Stripping access off new engine for A28-8

Sat 27th   Still working on A28-8.  Purchased Tommy Gun today

Sun 28th  Kites on opp.  Very heavy rain

Mon 1st March  All accs stripped and placed on new engine for A28-8

Tue 2nd  opps every day lately,  Jap fleet on way here.

Wed 3rd  Fortress's and Libs (170) out at convoy.  Hell of a do.

Thur 4th  All but 3 ships sunk.  Convoy smashed.  Day off

Fri 5th   A letters from Dad and Edna.  Fights last night not so good

Sat 6th  All ships sink

Sun 7th  Parcels in today from Miss Walker.  A28-8 finished off

Mon 8th  Worked back last night on A28-8.  Rev. up OK.  Raining today

Tue 9th  All a/craft to be ready by Sunday.  big Do on

Wed 10th  Rumours about that I'm posted to a/crew.  You beaut!

Thur 11th  Got clearence today  -  ready to leave at any moment

Fri 12th  Off island by flying-boat.  Good trip to Townsville

Here ends the Island.

Subsequent letters reveal that due to the heat, long hours, illness and interrupted sleep he had lost a considerable amount of weight during these months. Neville returned to Australia and trained as a pilot, he was posted to 80 Squadron and returned to New Guinea in August 1944.  

He was killed on a raid over Halmahera Island, Indonesia (off Western New Guinea),  in January 1945

From Cassie Thornley


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