I've written a few times already about the diary my dad (Norman Buckle) kept during World War II and explained in this blogpost how he came to be in Australia in April 1945.
He was waiting with his unit M.S.R.6 to be sent on to Ponam in the Admiralty Islands (present day Papua New Guinea) to join MONAB 4 (Mobile Operating Naval Air Base). This extract from his diary describes his first day in Sidney where he was to remain for almost six weeks.
Once more this journal has been put away so the best thing I can do is give a general account of events since the last entry.
On the morning of the 9th April we arrived at Sydney, largest city in Australia and second largest in British Empire. Before entering the great harbour the sea was very choppy but once inside became calm and we moved alongside without incident. The main impression I now recall is the first view of the magnificent bridge across the harbour.
About the middle of the afternoon we disembarked and travelled to a Naval Air Station a few miles outside the city which was to be our home for the next few weeks. We settled down and that same night caught the electric train back into the city. Our first call was an eating house (American style with little alcoves for couples) where we made up for the bad food on the ship with steak, eggs and chips. Sydney seems to be full of these houses and also milk bars. Its trams, trains, etc are very antiquated. It seems to be a city of ancient and modern all mixed up.
After the big eats we walked around for a while and finding that all the pubs close at 6p.m. had to go to the Fleet canteen for a drink. This place proved to be full of drunken matelots so we did not waste any time there but went instead to a film. The prices were quite reasonable and the building was very modern having comfortable seats and concealed lighting, but the film itself was very old. We were to find that all the shows out here were very much behind England – some of them I had seen at Royston before leaving home.
Afterwards we ate again and made our way to Central Station which is about the size of Leeds City [Station]. Here we caught a train, but, unfortunately, it proved to be the wrong one and after going to its terminus had to come all the way back and catch the right one. We got back to camp about 4a.m. and it was bitterly cold, found that we had no beds and shivered until 6.30.
During his stay in Sidney, Norman was attached to H.M.S. Golden Hind, a transit camp built on the racecourse in the outskirts of Sidney. Whether or not he did any work while in Sidney is a matter of conjecture. Reading his diary, it doesn't sound like it but at the time the other MONABs were working flat out to get the supplies, fuel and aircraft sorted and forwarded to the main British Pacific Fleet base at Manus.
On 19th May 1945 Norman embarked on H.M.S. Arbiter, an escort carrier, to start the 2000 mile journey to Ponam.
Tuesday saw us in Brisbane where we went ashore but did not like it much and as I write we are "somewhere at sea" sweating and looking forward to seeing "terra firma" once again."
Four days out Arbiter hit a typhoon and it was only because the tanks full of fuel acted as ballast that she didn't keel over. Arbiter sailed on to Ponam Island where Norman's unit M.S.R.6 finally caught up with MONAB 4.
To read more about the diary and my researches into its background click here. To sample and download the book check out my page at Amazon.