A poignant – sometimes heart-breaking – journal has been discovered. It was written by soldiers from New England on board ship as they returned home from the fiercest fighting in the Middle East in 1942.
It is about the joy of home-coming and the relief at surviving battle. But some of the writers were to arrive and then be sent to their deaths in New Guinea.
The magazine on typed and written A4 paper came to Marjorie Leggett of Glencoe because her uncle, Allan Caddy Edwards, was one of the soldiers. She said he returned and was then sent to New Guinea where he died.
At the back of the magazine, the contributors sign their names and they are invariably Australian.
Some names can just about be discerned in their signatures: W. P Finnerty from Tenterfield, F. Barnes Springwood from Tenterfield, W. Scott from Glen Innes and it seems the amgazine was put together by comrades who bonded on the ship as all coming from this area.
Allan Caddy Edwards (uncle of Marjorie Leggett from Glencoe) wrote a poem in the magazine about the miseries of a hang-over. It’s called “The Boozer’s Lament”:
“He muttered and stuttered in blasphemous vein,
And scratched in the sparse of his hair.
He dithered and blithered in effort to crane
His neck o’er the corpulence there”.
There is also a more serious poem about Tobruk, the 241 day siege where many Australian soldiers, with immense bravery that moistens the eyes even today, held out against German troops. It’s called “The Crosses of Tobruk”:
“There’s a town out in the desert, near the wadis that are steep,
That holds a secret plot of earth where soldiers lie asleep,
Oblivious to the bombing and stuka’s diving roar
For them the fiendish rattle of the guns is heard no more.”
Much of the magazine is bawdy jokes and cartoons, and stories which relieve longing for home and its comforts. There are boxing results and accounts of concerts.
One of the officers, Lt-Col J. R. Stevenson, says: “Homeward Bound! Each and every one of us looks forward eagerly to seeing our dear ones.
It is with mixed feelings that we review the position. Many feel that an anti-climax has been reached and would no doubt have preferred to be steaming to our home shores there to find our world at peace”.
And the Dutch captain of the troopship on which the Australians were travelling poured out his admiration: “In this year as in the last, the Australians have always gained the admiration of the world. We Dutchmen of the Westernland thank you for what you have done so far and join you in a silent salute to those you left behind.
“With good luck, we shall soon reach the Australian continent and it is not difficult to imagine the thoughts that must fill your minds, with the prospect in view of being back in your homeland.
“At present all of us are, as it were, the chessmen in the most frightful international game that has ever been played.”