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The 1942-43 Photo Album and Diary of
Gerald James Mostert
SAAF 15 Squadron
In the winter of 1942 the South African Air Force 15th Squadron, equipped with Bristol Blenheim Mk.IV. aircraft, was deployed to Egypt to strengthen the Allied Desert Air Force. In April a detached flight of three Blenheims with their support staff were ordered to Kufra to provide air cover for the Oasis. One of the support personnel was mechanic Gerald James Mostert, whose Photo Album, Diary, Notebook and some other documents describing the events in Egypt and Kufra I have managed to acquire on eBay a few years ago. This page is the full transcript of the diary describing events in detail for the period 19 January to 19 November 1942, including the crossing of the Libyan Desert with one of the SDF Kufra Convoys, the tragic loss of the three Blenheims and the subsequent search. There is a much briefer narrative of the remainder of the War Years from a list of key dates in the Notebook. The photographs from the album are inserted to roughly correspond with the described events. From the diary it is clear that the photos were not taken by Mostert himself, but by "Bert" & "Roger the lodger", the quartermaster of the unit (a few of the same photos are known from other sources, apparently several sets were distributed among unit fellows). The transcript of the diary was made verbatim, except for the rendering of dates which was standardised, and spelling of place names which was corrected for clarity. All other errors were left unchanged, with my notes in italics where deemed necessary. Uncertain/illegible words are marked in square brackets with questionmark.
Gerald James Mostert enrolled the SAAF at the age of sixteen in April 1937, after a 133 day military training, as attested by his discharge certificates. There are no documents dating from the period prior to 1942, but a small separate photo album contains 12 photograps taken at Zwartkop Air Station, Pretoria, the Headquarters and main base of the SAAF Air Force until recently, including some extremely rare aircraft types. The aircraft models on the photos suggest that they were taken in the 1938 - 1940 period.
Mon. 19th Jan 1942 Entrained at Germiston (Town and major railway junction East of Johannesburg).
Tues. 20th. Arrived Maydon Wharf (Durban). Received gifts and comforts. Boarded “Llandaff Castle” (sunk by U-177 on 30 Nov 1942 S.E. of Maputo with loss of 3 lives). Sailed at 16:45 hrs. together with the “Leopoldville” (sunk by U-486 in the English Channel off Cherbourg on 24 December 1944, with the loss of 808 lives), “Elizabethville” & armed merchantmen “Chitral”.
Wed. 28th. Reached Mombasa at 07:30 hrs. Entered the harbor but didn’t dock. Loaded supplies & sailed at 17:00 hrs.
Fri. 30th. Crossed the equator at 06:00 hrs. Had the usual celebration a few hrs. afterwards, after which the cargo from officers downwards became extremely childish & splashed water all over the place & threw lifejackets about causing damage to a few men. The W.A.A.F.s were also ducked in the swimming pool.
Tues. 3rd Febr. Dropper anchor in Aden at 17:00 hrs. Spent four days at Steamer Point, which we visited. Did not go to Aden itself which is eleven miles away from the harbor. However we gorged our first opportunity of having white bread with a grill, at the Point. Also visited a certain Oasis in the vicinity one night & saw some memorable sights.
Sat. 7th. Left Aden at 15:00 hrs. & sailed up the Red Sea unescorted.
Thur. 12th. Woke to see a glorious sunrise over a sea as calm as a lake. We were in the Straights of Suez.
Fri. 13th. Sighted Port Tewfik at 09:00 hrs. Were ferried ashore at about 15:00 hrs. & herded into cattle trucks at 18:30 hrs.
Sat. 14th. Arrived ar Amriya station at 05:00 hrs. after spending a night in HELL. Then by convoy to Amriya transit station.
Wed. 18th. Paid a short visit to Alex. Had a good meal & visited some pretty low dives.
Wed. 25th. 5 fighter (Squadron) leaves for the bundu (lit. "the wilds", the frontline)
Thurs. 26th. First of our machines arrives, Blenheim Mk.IV. Engines Mercury Mk. XV.
Fri. 27th. More machines arrve, work starts. Lost soccer match to 12 Squadron – 4-0.
Sat. 28th. Cpt. Hutchinson force lands Blenheim – U/S (unserviceable).
Mon. 2nd March Have first flip in Northern Hemisphere. Machine 25864. Pilot Lt. Daughne giving Lt. Reid dual. Lt. Reid takes machine up. Retracted undercart too soon. Causing hole in oil tank resulting lack of oil causes prop & shaft to come adrift in mid air. Machine lands on guts & pilot is unhurt.
Boston – 12sqn. – shooting up drome – hit deck – crew of 5 escaped without a scratch – machine caught fire after crew were miraculously thrown clear.
Tues. 3rd. I get my machine Z9546. Have first air raid warning 03:00 hrs. Raid over Alex & Suez.
Wed. 4th. 12 Sqn. Leaves 99 O.T.V. (RAF Amiriya, also called Landing Ground 99) for the bundu.
Thur. 12th. My machine went up for the first time after 40hr. insp. Port airscrew slow to change pitch, otherwise OK.
Mon. 16th. Shillinger takes over my machine. Has to take pot off starboard & port engines. We prepare for the bundu.
Wed. 18th. Still waiting to move [offren ?] detacehd flight. Attended bum concert for the akkers, sponsored by the N.A.A.F.I. How we slip into the front of a hell of a long queue & pull a fast one on the bogs.
Thurs. 19th. Our smart technical officer Cpt. Robertson lets the R.A.B. know that we are incompetent, as a result they are going to do & show us our jobs.
Fri. 20th. Put me in headquarter flight on maintenance for the time being.
Wed. 25th. Have worst dust storm. Static electricity forms & the sparks jump from one man to another in contact.
Thurs. 26th. We move down to 99 O.T.V. I have a boil on my shoulder causing me discomfort. Trip to the [Blase ?] postponed for three weeks.
Wed. 1st April We catch our first scorpion in the tent. The boys have an all day beer session in the tent & get motherless on Gippo beer.
Good Friday 3rd. We are still drinking – much better this being the fourth night in succession. I get molo on beer & Gippo brandy & hurl a puke in the tent at about 01:00 hrs. in the morning.
Sat. 4th. I am absent from parade as usual & get choked off by the flight & the R.S.M. We attend a gas lecture and & hope to God they don’t use gas in this war. I have a flip of 35 mins. Duration in Kieth’s kite. Did a spot of shooting up etc. Had a killer shower up at Amriya.
Mon. 6th. Get 24hrs. leave & shoot into Alex. Love the joint wide open. Jock, Brown & myself visited the Springbok Club and had a killer mixed grill.
Tues. 7th. We have a raid in Alex at 03:45 hrs. & the fun begins. Gerries drop a lot of bombs but only hit a building near the docks & blow a hole in the promenade. We slept in between the two places where the bombs fell.
Wed. 8th. Third Blenheim cracks up – Gildard’s – thus each flight has a crash. Pilot Jock Reid again – undercart collapse due to heavy landing. Our detached flight advance party leaves this morning. Molo 8 days.
Thurs. 9th. We leave 99 O.T.V. at 11:30 hrs. & catch the train for Cairo at Amriya at 14:00 hrs. Arrive Cairo 18:30 & change trains. We are travelling down the Nile.
Frid. 10th. Have a good nights sleep on the luggage rack. Stopped at Luxor at 07:00 hrs. Reach Shellal transit station at 11:00 & wait for transport to arrive.
Sat. 11th. It is pretty hot but the N.A.A.F.I. is cool so we usually go there & play darts or ping-pong. Played a game of soccer against the station.
Sun. 12th. Get payed & all the boys go into Aswan & to the dances. I had to stay behind so played ping-pong & darts all day with Van Bloemenstein. Played soccer this afternoon. We go to N.A.A.F.I. in force and get slightly blotto (?). Played the station darts. Lost but made up in drinking beer. Frank [?] one with a glass of beer when I wasn’t looking. He introduced himself to me this afternoon. I remember meeting him in Jo’burg one afternoon. I was with Thel. (?) and his mom and Marge.
(The photo album begins with photographs of Aswan and Shellal station)
Mon. 13th. Our transport arrives so we say goodbye to Shellal. We are now on the river boat & doing plenty of guards & duties. The advance party are browsed off having had a nasty trip this far. River boat Thebes.
Tue. 14th. Piet’s special patent breakfast goes down alright. I have a hot bath. Am quite at home in my cabin & will be reluctant to leave it. I have just been put on the mess committee, me of all people. We are pretty near to Wadi Halfa.
Wed. 15th. Arrive at Wadi at 07:30 hrs. I park at transit depot, also quite a nice place but much better than Shellal. The advance party get paid. I arrange a small loan & we have a good session on Barclay’s tinned beer. I find out that Eddie Clack, met. Observer is related to Isabel Oldham, he incidentally got fall of dyke & couldn’t sing too many Scottish songs.
Fri. 17th. Say goodbye to Wadi. Leave in convoy at 16:00 hrs. Do 20 miles & make camp after losing the convoy & nearly getting lost. I have a very welcome cup of tea & turn in after a considerable amount of moaning about Lt. Moore & his satelite cox. Extreme temp – in shade today 110°
Sat. 18th. Rise at 05:00 hrs. & start off at 06:00. Nearly all our trucks have a turn in getting stuck in the sand. Have first rum ration.
Sun. 19th. Up at 04:15 hrs. & leave at 05:00. Are approaching Selima. We reach the latter which is a small water hole about 150 miles West of Wadi, and fill up with water, Bert takes a few snaps of the joint.
Mon. 20th. Up early and off again. It is slightly hot & we all suffer from thirst. We are getting into the sand sea & pogress is slow. The wind is warm & blowing like blazes. Covered 100 miles today, good going. Abandoned one truck.
Tue. 21st. We pass a convoy returning to Wadi. It is very cold today, temp this morning 68°F. The worst part of the trip lies immediately ahead, and it is bloody awful too. We make the grade however – using third fan belt. We camp & I procure one delightful tin of beer which never touched sides.
Wed. 22nd. The night is extremely cold, the temp. this morning 56°F. We pass Eight Bells Landing ground. However we are getting accustomed to the heat & traveling.
Thursday, 23rd. Passed through a Wadi which provided some rough going. Our lorry uses its fifth fan belt – Fan belt Fannie – she has also got a terrific knock so everything is taken out & we are taking her as far as she will go.
Fri. 24th. Fannie is still holding her own. We are not far from Kufra now. We reach the precincts of the joint and the going is pretty rough. We arrive there at 15:00 hrs.
Sat. 25th. We go for a swim & get drunk after supper. Catch a large spider about 3” long.
Sun. 26th. A local brew called Ligby or legbe tastes good & many sessions are in the offing, especially seeing that we are the first S.A. troops in Kufra. Incidentally Vossie passed out. I went to church this morning, the first time in ages.
Tue. 28th. Our three kites arrive & a days work of mail, etc.
Wed. 29th. We start performing on our kites & seek suitable hiding places for same. The A.O.C. R.A.F. M.E. arrives & looks the hole over. We have a good dose of brandy & a pot of ligbe which fills us with the joy of living.
Thurs. 30th. A.O.C. scrams & takes some mail back with him.
Sat. 2nd May Synchronise guns & prepare for operating. Weisels careers in amongst the trees with my machine and knocks a palm over.
Sun. 3rd. First air raid – 3 eggs dropped near fort – 150 yds – 12:00 hrs.
Mon. 4th. Kites light out at 06:00 & fail to return. Spot of Rain, same as Aden (first in 7 years). Great panick (sic), etc.
Tue. 5th. Search party sets out to look for machines.
Wed. 6th. Party still looking. No news. Two Bombays land nearby.
Thurs. 7th. Have dust storm. Still no news. Bombays return.
Fri. 8th. Get thrown out of bed at 03:00 hrs. to await kite whch doesn’t arrive. Wimpi (Vickers Wellington, so called after Wimpy Wellington, the hamburger-loving character in the Popeye comics series) eventually arrives at 14:30 hrs – direct from Cairo – just makes the take off at 16:00 to seek our kites. Returns 18:00 – no luck – Radio contact with convoy that’s all.
Sat. 9th. Wimpi takes off at 06:45 hrs. Bum air raid alarm 12:05-12:50. Wimpi comes in at 14:32 hrs. – found B kite no 7513 - & three corpses, unknown as yet. Take off again 16:45 – in 18:45. I go with but we can’t find the other machines.
Sun. 10th. Out 07:30 – Peter goes with – Bombay arrives 11:15 – Wimpi returns 11:30 – no luck. Another Bombay & Wimpi arrive soon after. Wimpi & Bombay off again 14:30. Kites come in again – no luck. Boys work like hell refueling etc.
Mon. 11th. Kites go out early and the original Wimpi finds the other two kites about 25 miles North of mine, in the form of a Vee. Juul was the only survivor – brought in and put in sick bay. So the sad fate of the ilfated lost patrol is established. The O.C. Col. Borckenhagen arrived this morning – 36 hrs. from Wadi by convoy. Jock Brown went out in Wimpi to identify the crews. We have in all 4 Wimpis, 2 Bombays & 2 Blenheims here now.
Tue. 12th. The Col., Major Jones, myself & crew of Wimpi set out to fetch machines. We find that mine is U/S due to lack of compression – both engines. Arrive at the other two kites – bury our dead - & return. Bombays & two Wimpis return to base. Wimpi [?] our tail wheel passes up on landing here – due to three landings with flat tyre. The two Blenheims to come down were originally one A flight Z7594 Keith’s machine & two Z6072 Hunt’s machine. Two bogus air raid alarms today.
Wed. 13th. I take over the two Blenheim & they go up for a sped. Major Jones put one in a hole but we got same out safely – Z6072 it was. Another bum alarm.
Thurs. 14th. I ground both kites till 2oclock & annoy Major Jones. Keith’s machine takes off O.K. at 14:00 but Hunt’s dug into the sand & had to be dug out. Machines go on a short rec. Air raid alarm just after breakfast. The boys are all blacked off with Peter. Frank takes over Hunt’s kite and I take Keith’s.
Fri. 15th. Two kites take off at 08:30 & go North 150 miles. Return 10:30. Air raid alarm to herald their return. Pienaar breaks filter housing – rendering Major Jones’ machine U/S. During this short time we have more operational hrs. than any other squadron to be stationed at Kufra.
Sun. 17th. Dust storm. I have my hair cut off again – likewise two R.A.F. chums. No news of convoy which left on Friday to service A & C kites.
Mon. 18th. Kites go out to two machines & return safely. Blommie & I find two Iti hand grenades & chase all the officers out of their mess with them.
Tue. 19th. We kill two snakes about 3’ long. Wimpi arrives at about 11:15. The O.C. Mjr. Jones & Lt. Steimberg go out to fetch A & C machines & bring them back safely. We have a small session on Stella beer, the first for weeks.
Wed. 20th. Wimpi takes O.C. back to Wadi Halfa where his machine is. In the mean time Keith, Hunt & Sixpence have been sweating at Wadi all the time. We find a lot of smoke bombs & one dim bomb & Major Jones, Blommie, Brown & myself go & shoot them off in a paraffin tin. I score the first hit & the lot goes up in smoke. Mjr. Jones couldn’t get away fast enough. We have more beer.
Frid. 22nd. Two Bombays arrive bringing mail & personnel. Wimpi takes off & returns to base. Claasens & Peter return to 98. I work a fast one & retain one pair of shoes borrowed from the former. Raid alarm but Gerry didn’t come near us.
Mon. 25th. Major Jones & crew set off for Wadi in the Virgin but the former trims his rudder instead of his elevators thus causing the kite to fly crabwise so he returns to Kufra. Blommie & I decide that a firmer hand with the mechanics is indicated & take action, starting with Hensham.
Tue. 26th. Virgin takes off at 05:45. Lt. Steenberg takes Doughne around to see the sights. Blommie, Tony & I take the latter machine No. 6072. By this time we are as popular as two rattlers.
Wed. 27th. No flying today. We are finding lots wrong with our machine & incidentally are still unpopular. Z7610 gets run up & has compass swung, she appears to be ready for action.
Thurs. 28th. 7610 goes up on rec & comes back safely. Expect trouble as all the Bimbachis drove out Southward this morning. The latter event turned out to be manouvouers (sic). Doughne went out in the Virgin to give them a practice target.
Fri. 29th. Lt. Steenberg takes the Virgin back to 98. & does the trip in record time. I start to remove the carb from port engine of Battling Bitch.
Sat. 30th. Reassemble carb. & run Bitch up – OK. Lt. Harrison crashes 2252 Kufra.
Sun. 31st. Mjr. Jones takes the Bitch up at 06:35 – down 8:30. The Bitch behaved 100% - feather in my cap. Bombay & Wimpi arrive – brass hats for court of enquiry – spot of mail. Go to market – buy sugar & dates. The boys are starting to come round again & we are getting treated with respect having showed our mettle on the Bitch & Virgin. Eight of our Blenheims have crashed now & no one has been killed or injured.
Mon. 1st June The bitch is taken to Wadi – Mjr. Jones, Lt. Black & Jack – crew. Lt Daughne takes 7610 up & then I go up with Lt. Harrison – 45 min duration. This is the only Blenheim left home at the moment. Attended a lecture this morning concerning Astral Navigation – covering certain constellations of stars & the use of the sextant.
Tues. 2nd. 7610 goes out 1-45 mins. Bombay goes to Siwa. Go for a swim after supper.
Wed. 3rd. Lt. Harrison takes 7610 on rec. & makes a splitass landing. The Wimpi drops [res ?] on St.Bd. engine & we try to take off several times. Sgt. Pilot eventually succeeds & goes for a short flip. I see first scorpion since arrival – about 5” long – gave it a swipe with my swatter rendering same unconsuice (sic) & keep it for closer inspection in the morning.
Thurs. 4th. Inspect the scorpion and find it only 4” long. Wimpi return to base – 7610 – Daughne – rec. 6:45. Frankie & I paint 9 ties & Ho. Same, scoring clean sheet by satisfying Lt. Rogers. Bombay comes in & returns to base. Air raid alarm, Gerry over No. 6 landing ground. Frankie & I have the usual shower without pumping.
Sat. 6th. 7610 goes on short reccie & returns O.K. Daughne lights up some Iti dynamite & puts the fear of God into us at about 20:00 hours.
Sun. 7th. Very windy today. We all go to a male concert at the fort & obtain a couple of beers. Kill another scorpion.
Mon. 8th. 7610 goes on another successful short reccie & a convoy comes in from Wadi. We busy ourselves with camaflauging (sic) etc. Kill another scorpion this being the fifth in about as many nights.
Tue. 9th. 7610 takes off early with crew of five including [Flanaham ?] with his toolbox & a number of the R.A.F. They land at Eight Bells Landing Ground & off load the Blue boy & pick up a R.A.F. officer & bring him back. One engine is a bit faulty & is using a lot of oil. The boys are starting to take us for granted again so once more we tighten the reins.
Wed. 10th. Get woken up by air raid alarm at about 08:15hrs. Gerry comes over at about 10,000 ft., circleas around a bit & makes tracks for home. 40hr. started on 7610.
Thurs. 11th. Consult the local quack concerning matters of the skin. Heard a rifle shot last night – a Cyrenese trooper shot himself in the guts – attempted suicide – somebody hurt his feelings. Frankie tells me what good time I made for a funk hole yesterday.
Fri. 12th. Wakened very rudely at about 01:00 hrs. to finish off 7610 & prepare her for flight. She is run up at about 02:00 hrs & we return to bed. Daugh takes Alice up for a trial flip at about 06:30 & takes off again at 10:30 with the object of patrolling supposed enemy occupied territory to the South of us – a place called J’Uweinat. – returns some 4 hrs later with out any results. Convoy comes in. Play some poker with Frank G.He wins some 20 akkers. Watch an interesting battle between three large ants & a horse fly – the latter eventually succumbed & was carried off.
Sat. 13th. The first officer I’ve seen have his hair off – Rodger the lodger - & he does look a tit. Alice gets her compass swung – We have real good session on brandy & rum & P.O. Black produces a bottle of whisky – sing song lasting till about 1 o’clock.
Sun. 14th. Feels like a typical Sunday – the boys feel the effects of last night. Fred bugs a V.8. & is thrilled to the core. We play soccer against the Welsh & lose 1 – nil. Go for a lake swim.
Mon. 15th. Large convoy arrives. No flying.
Tue. 16th. No flying. Air Raid Alarm, we make a big break for junk holes but Gerry only came within 15 miles & returned.
Wed. 17th. Get woken up by one of Alices guns which went off on cocking. 7610 goes out & returns – Daugh puts on brakes to avoid a wog & a donkey. Left break (sic) locks so he has to leave Alice in the middle of the drome. Sudanese convoy arrives. Get doped & nearly get shot by a Sudanese guard. Go to the wireless station & have a goodish midnight supper consisting of spuds, beetroot, bread & cheese & tea.
Thur. 18th. Get woken up by Lt. Harrison shooting up the drome in Alice. Consulted quack concerning skin disease but get no satisfaction. Sudanese convoy leaves. We play the Welsh soccer again & lose 1 – 0. I play right half.
Fri. 19th. Beer arrives & I get 3 [tsis ?]. Make an ice chest & cool same. We have a small party & sing song freind. Fred comes & make himself obnoxious & we come to the conclusion that we hate the sight of each other. He soon goes for Frankie & the wireless ops.
Sat. 20th. Alice goes out on a long stooge. Convoy arrives. Get nasty looks from said Fred. Have another little session, more peaceful than last night. Alice goes up this afternoon again.
Sun. 21st. Go out to 2252 for some spares.
Mon. 22nd. Take Alices left undercart off & renew. Bontuys undoes valve & gets a eyeful of oil. Fred gets his car going & all the boys have a smack at trying to overturn same. Fred is drunk all day & manages to run over Wirel. D. Indicator & burst rear tyre. Roger the lodger runs about taking natural pose snaps of the boys. Longest day today.
Tue. 23rd. Rendered Alice serviceable. Suffered from lack of smokes.
Wed. 24th. The Lodger suffers from a sad case of Gippo guts. A certain R.A.F. corporal – name of Miller – drives [Kreis ?] lorry out of hangar & runs into one of Alices wing tips in the process thus rendering the old girl U/S for a while. We take the tip piece of 2252 & do a few repairs to same. Fred organised a new tyre & tube thus rendering his woke serviceable again.
Thurs. 25th. Assemble wingtip & Alice goes on a successful reccie. Fred has blood poisoning in his foot & isn’t seen all day. The Lodger is just getting over a case of Gippo guts he slept out in the moonlight near W.C. last night.
Fri. 26th. Realise that we are probably the only free troops in Libya at the moment (Allied).
Sat. 27th. Scrounge a couple of fags off the lodger. Air raid lasting about half an hr Two Gerry kites over Wadi Zighen. Bennett goes to Wadi by convoy. Tony & I go for a trot around the drome. The boys think we have taken leave of our senses.
Sun. 28th. Two alarms. Go to market – buy smokes, sugar, tomatoes, grapes, peaches & have a cup of coffee. Eric & I trot around the drome.
Mon. 29th. Go out to 2252 & fetch rudder control cables. Rig up a trapeze. Run round drome with Tony & Eric. Alice has her name rubbed off & a new piston & rings is fitted to no.9 cylinder on Stbd. Engine. I drive Freds [garric ?] back from the wreck.
Tue. 30th. Sick as a dog all day. Frankie finishes off our net.
Wed. 1st July Spend the better part of the morning in bed. Go to market & buy a pair of sandals.
Thur. 2nd July 7610 still dropping [sws ?]. Renew one H.T. cable.
Fri. 3rd. Convoy arrives with mail for the boys.
Sun. 5th. Go for a flip in 7610 with Daugh as pilot & Harrison. Go to market – buy sugar, matches, fags, tomatoes & have a cup of coffee.
Mon. 6th. 7610 goes out & has a spot of engine trouble. Stbd. Engine needs replacing. Convoy arrives. Take no.3. pot of Stbd. side & find broken rings, excessive small end clearance & badly worn cylinder. Convoy lights out this afternoon. Enter a tinequoit contest & take a raffle on a French note.
Tue. 7th. Have a [wist ?] drive. Desert patrol mob roll up & the boys throw a big party. Party previous night – Bob tries to crown Butch with the guitar & one of the L.R.D.G. boys wakes up next morning under a palm tree.
Wed. 8th. Swollen left big toe – visit the local quack.
Thurs. 9th. Visit the quack again. Bombay arrives & returns almost immediately – brought Lt. Col. G.L. Prendergast ex of the Royal Tank Corps – now L.R.D.G. No mail for us. Visited Fred this morning – very cool reception.
Fri. 10th. Daugh takes 7610 for a test flip – O.K. Urgent signals picked up by D.F. station. Two kites stranded in the desert one without food or water. L.R.D.G boys have a small party here seeing that they are going out on a reccie tomorrow.
In Mostert's notebook there is a poem recorded on the 10th July at El Giof, attributed to one of the LRDG troopers:
A desert night and the moon
A stary sky above
I’ll dream of my love tonight
A desert night and the moon
It’s you I’m thinking of
How I wish I could hold you tight
And the stars, when they twinkle
They remind me of your eyes
If only you were near
It would seem like paradise
A desert night and the moon
And you by my side
Would make my wildest dreams come true
What more could I ask for
But a desert night and the moon – and you
By D. Johnson
According to Jack Valenti of the Long Range Preservation Society, we do not know of any "D. Johnson" serving in the LRDG, however there was a Bill Johnson, the "D" could be a typo. On the photo in Mostert's album showing the patrol car of Captain Ken Lazarus, the trooper on the left is unidentified, but not altogether dissimilar to a known photo of Bill Johnson.
Sat. 11th. Visit local Jewish doctor at Civilian Hospital re the big toe. L.R.D.G. leave. Convoy arrives. Two stranded kites found & crew safe. Get 48 hrs excused duty.
Sun. 12th. Gerry comes over without warning – Savoya 87. The boys have a good soak. Frank & Butch put each other to bed. Sheering passes out & has to be carried to bed. Butch calls himself Wog no1.
Mon. 13th. Convoy goes out & ten tonner convoy comes in.
Tue. 14th. Get signal from Wadi. Blenheim leaves there at 05:50 but flies past Kufra to the South. Daugh & Harrison takes 7610 & heads in the direction of their last signal 200° Makes contact with Major Pidsley & brings him in at 12:00 with only 40 gals. Of petrol left. Hall takes machine over.
Wed. 15th. Ten tonner has engine change in hangar. Visit market & have some mint tea. Buy a new brand of wog smokes. Fred comes out of hospital & gets molo straight away.
Thur. 16th. Ten Tonner Convoy leaves for Wadi. Fred & Frank have a small tiff after which they patch up a peace. Wireless mob move into their new quarters.
Fri. 17th. Pidsky takes off in T2349 on small jaunt with Gregan as observer. I induce Eric to get intox. & get a skinfull myself in the process. Convoy arrives with beer for the officers & sargeants.
Sat. 18th. Start making a paper knife.
Sun. 19th. New kite goes out on reccie. We dish out the beer amongst the boys. Go to market. Fred is now as sweet as pie to us.
Mon. 20th. T2349 fails to start running satisfactorily.
Tue. 21st. T2349 Halls machine goes on long stooge – Major Riddeley. New engines arrive – work starts on Z7610.
Wed. 22nd. Frank, Long & I tackle Stbd. engine. Terricic whirl wind – edge of which catches our side of the hangar & terars pieces out of it. Dust rises visibly up to about 10,000 ft. Bob Zeiller has Birthday & we have a small pary of which I was the star turn breaking Peter Urquhart glasses & dancing about like a chorus girl. I get so molo that I don’t remember half the going on & incidentally sick in bed as a result.
Thurs. 23rd. Mack convoy arrives. Windy & dusty today. Port engine changed.
Fri. 24th. We change Stbd. engine. Working all day. Catch up with Erny who is on port engine.
Sat. 25th. Lockheed Hudson arrives with equipment for L.R.D.G.
Sun. 26th. Lockheed returns. Drive Fred’s garry out to the wreck for spares. Convoy leader comes in with Sgt. Ross Cape Corpse (sic) who is returning to us. Today we worked from 06:00 hrs. to 20:15 hrs. on 7610.
Mon. 27th. We finish off 7610 at last. Convoy arrives with plenty of mail for the boys. Some bar also arrives so the games on for another few delays.
Tue. 28th. Run 7610 up – O.K. Savoya 84 cmes over & circles around for about 15 mins. & drops two sticks about 200 yds away from a gun emplacement. Lockheed Hudson arrives at 18:00, brings two Greek spieds for L.R.D.G. to convey to the enemy lines. We warm water on a patent petrol stove supplied by the Lodger & have some delicious Nescafé. Tow 7610 out for running up & Bontuys nearly damages port wing through driving too fast.
Wed. 29th. Major Piddsley breaks the news that we are to be relieved. Lockheed returns. The boys start getting molo from 2 o’clock. Daugh takes 7610 up for test flip – O.K. The officers give us some beer & Mrs. Cox presents two bottles of whisky.
Thurs. 30th. I buy Franks Waltham. The boys have all got sore heads. The Major takes T2349 on a stooge. Frank & I go up with Daugh in 7610 – Go up to 8,000’ – do some cunning stunts – up for 1 hr. Boys pack ready for leaving.
Fri. 31st. Lockheeds arrive 10:40 hrs. get orders to go back on one. Take off 12:15 hrs. arrive Wadi Halfa 15:00 hrs. Beers bad here – no future – stroll through only hotel grounds & Frank, Des & I admire the river at night & reminece.
Sat. 1st Aug. We run up prior to taking off but Stbd. gills fail to operate so trip off till tomorrow. The other machine takes off & heads for Alex. Find the Desert Virgin here at Wadi waiting to be flown down to Khartoum. See some American aircraft, such as Douglas, Boeing & Kitty Hawks being flown around.
Sun. 2nd. The other Lockheed returns at about 08:30 & we wait developments. K carries on to Kufra & doesn’t return today. Three Ex 15 sqn. Blenheims which had engine changes here – done by a detached flight from 15 Sqn. – take off this morning – piloted by R.A.F. Sgt. Pilots. One the Desert Virgin crashes – another force lands & the thirds case is unknown as yet.
They were being ferried down to Khartoum. We spend the afternoon drowsing under the trees in the hotel grounds.
Mon. 3rd. Our machine goes out to look for the lost Blenheim. More boys arrive for Kufra. Spend the last part of the day sleeping in the hotel grounds. Watch the flying boats land & take off.
Tue. 4th. Leave Wadi at 07:40 – reach Bilbase (Bilbeis) at 11:40 – waited for gills to be repaired & left for 15 sqn. at L. Maryut (Maryiut airfield, L.G. 227, the civlian airport of Alexandria till recently )17:30 arriving at 18: 15.
Wed. 5th. Short into Alex & see the show. Meet the boys & have a celebration. Also meet an Iti lass – Introduced by Wally [Hreel ?]
Thurs. 6th. Get 7 days leave & the games on.
Fri. 7th. Tony & I go to Cairo. Get five lifts in various types of transport. Stay at the Zin Hat Hotel – Ibrahim Pasha.
Wed. 12th. Return to Alex. Having seen all we wanted of Cairo – saw the pyramids, sphinx & brought presents for the fam.
Thu. 13th. Meet Oliphant & Jock Cameron – get soaked & go to bioscope.
Fri. 14th. Sail around the harbor & visit Stanley Bay.
Sat. 15th. Return to Squadron. – posted to H.Q. flight. Several of our machines go out to bomb some barges near Mersa. Major Jones & Steinberg lt. head the flight & scoring direct hits get shot up in the process. – Lt. Grey observer for Jones get hit by shrapnel. Two machines escorted home by Beaufighter.
Sun. 16th. Do a spot of work & Jolly, Kable & I go into Alex. & celebrate.
Mon. 24th. Very slack day. Have first swim in Med. at Stanley Bay. View the local talent.
Fri. 28th. Major Jones leads a flight on a land stooge. Lt. Boyd gets shot down in flames – first machine. Jones gets a bullet through his tyre & crash lands – unhurt. The Col. Gets a bit of shrapnel in his leg a few days previous.
Sun. 30th. The Yanks who arrived recently with P40F’s War Hawks are settling down. No work – swim Stanley Bay. Albacore shoots up the bay. Gerry blitzed us on the night of the 28th. 7 Fighter copped it at L.G.89. One Junker shot down West of Alex.
Mon. 31st. Gerry comes over at approx. 04:30 & drops a stick of bombs 40 yards from the drome – into a salt lake but does no damage.
Tue. 1st Sept. 9 Bostons arrive from L.G.98 – 12 Sqn. One sinks into the muck – up. Six Kittyhawks – 4 Sqn. Arrive. The lot, including a couple of Yanks go out on a raid. All come back. A Yank crashes into Major Smith – 4 fighter - & kills him instantaneously.
Thurs. 3rd. Attend lecture in Blackmans office. Go swimming at Stanley Bay – chaff the local talent.
Wed. 9th. Dop Donaldson writes off another Bisley on the beach. Another Bisley flops into the sea – crew get a few dinghy hrs. in. Cairo news refer to 24 hrs. spent in Med. By Lt. Wittle & crew.
Thurs. 10th. [?] and promotions come out. [Kraadie ?] becomes a Sgt. Much moaning amongst the mechanics.
Fri. 25th. Kufra has an air raid & gets blown to blazes. Damage done to one Mk. IV, one Mk V, two Bombays & one Hudson. No casualties however. Hangar gets wrecked. I get a job i.e. cleaning plugs after quite a lengthy time of idleness & [?] etc.
Sat. 10th October Three of our kites go out on a train stooge – pass over an enemy drome at low altitude – [?] fighter escort destroys two reaching one of our Blenheims gets a packet & is demolished. Pilot Bruter Simmonds – the man who once gave it Hitler. The Bally-Hoos visit us & give the boys a good evenings entertainment.
Sunday 15th November Go for a trip up the line as far as El Alamein & inspect battle field and escarpment. Very bumpy & never to be forgotten trip by lorry. The boys all gather souvenirs. I get two shots & a Gerry gas mask tin.
Thursday 19th. I am elected to act as barman for the Cfb’s mess and move in.
The detailed diary ends with this entry, however the photographs in the Album continue, probably into early 1943, with a number of phots of the mess and the bar, including the 1942 Christmas Dinner, group photos of fotball teams of various units, and of self and unit fellows.
At the end of the album a number of small scale photographs document the various aircraft types which have passed through Alexandria/Mariyut (L.G. 227), including a captured Heinkel He-111 bomber and a Junkers Ju-97 Stuka dive bomber with RAF markings.
The remainder of the War years and his subsequent continued service with the SAAF is documented by brief entries in Mostert's notebook. There are no accompanying photographs, with the exception of a small set of loose photos which were placed in the small album holding the pre-war Zwartkop photographs. These were all taken in Ceylon during the fairly long detour on the homeward voyage.
April 1943 Go for a month’s course - Baltimores – at 107 MV. [illegible]
May Move to 9 L.G.
July Move to L.G. 07 Mersa Matruh
May 1944 Move to Gambut 3.
June Relieved R.T.U.
15th June Leave Almaza by air
Sun. 18th Touch down at Z.A.S.
1st Aug. Posted to 4 A.D. Lyttleton
13th Oct. Posted to 68 A.S. Insp. Course.
1st Jan 1945 Posted to M.A.F.
Sun 4th Febr. Leave Z.A.S. by air.
Wed 7th Arrive Almaza – S.A.A.F. Base
Tues 27th March Leave Almaza
Wedn. 28th Arrive Bari – Adv. Base
Thurs 5th April Leave Bari – Fono – Rimini – Forli – Ravenna – Join 4 Sqn. – Porto Corino
Friday 18th May Leave Porto Corino – Ravenna – Verrara – Padova – Night stop.
Sat. 19th May Treviso – Coneghario – Udine – Pozzuolo. Billeted in Casas.
Thurs. 12th July Pozzuolo – Udine - Treviso – Venice – Ferrara – Bologna – Forli – Rimini – Ancona – Quadrapena – Pescara – Larrento – Bari – Brindisi.
Mon. 16th July Lecce – 54 P.T.C.
Wed. 8th Aug. Cattle truck. Lecce – Taranto – Board Borgasfjord.
Thurs. 9th Aug. Sail at 06:00 hrs.
Sat. 11th Aug. See Alex in distance.
Sun. 12th Aug. Put in at Port Said
Mon. 13rd Aug. Sail down Canal – pass El Ballah – Ismailia – Ras Farut – dock at Pt. Tewfik.
Tues. 14th Aug. Leave Tewfik enter Red Sea
Sat. 18th Aug. Enter Gulf of Aden
Fri. 24th Aug. Reach Colombo – Ceylon
Sat 25th Aug. Get shore leave and attend V Parade. Fly Past of Barracudas & Hell Cats. Visit Hindu Temple
Fri 31st Aug. Leave Colombo, set course S.W.
Sat. 8th Sept. Pass Madagascar S. tip
Mon. 10th Sept. Arrive Durban. Great reception. Shore leave.
Tues. 11th Sept. Leave by train 13:45 hrs.
Wed. 12th Sept. Arrive R. Heights 11:00 hrs.
Wed. 3rd Oct. Leave for Pretoria
Mon. 15th Oct. Report back to M.A.F.D.
Mon. 22nd Oct. Posted to 5 Wing [illegible]
Wed. 21st Nov. Leave Z.A.S. for [illegible]. Fly in Dak 6869. Change Dakota 6826 Juba.
Fri. 23rd Nov. Arrive Juba. Meet Steffen.
Tue. 4th Dec. Leave Juba (Dak 6808).
Thu 6th Dec. Arrive Z.A.S.
1st April 1946 Posted to IAD Engine shop – fish & chips.
13th Dec. Discharged from S.A.A.F.
Mostert received the customary service medals, awarded to all British and Commonwealth WWII servicemen. The award certificate made out in his name was among the miscellaneous service papers, however strangely the accompanying medals themselves, though the correct ones (save for the Italy Star), were all made out to D.M.L. de Koker.