Although my great uncle Oscar Geoffrey Buring died in the second World War I still wanted to remember and honour him today.
I got a copy of Uncle Geoff’s diary from his daughter Anne on the weekend and thought I’d share a couple of excerpts.
TUESDAY, 7TH JANUARY, 1941
Up bright and early this morning and sighted quite a lot of flying fish. They are cute little blokes about 8-12” long and shoot up out of the water by the dozen as the ship disturbs them. They scoot along about 2’ above the water for 30-40 yds and then flop in again. Don’t know our exact position now but its somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We were told that we’d passed some 100 miles west of the Cocos Is the night before last. Hear that Bardia had fallen today and that it was estimated that there had been about 400 Australian casualties. By the look of the German troop movements we might be in action sooner than we expect too.
MONDAY, 13TH JANUARY, 1941
Chaps all up bright and early this morning. Breakfast ½ hr early. We were due to embark on ferry at 0810 but with usual bungling we managed to get on at 0855. Landed on wharf and then marched up through Colombo to Galle Face Green for dismissal. Passed Town Clock at 0930. First impression of town was one of dirt and grime and greasy Singalese natives with very small bullocks in carts with very high thatch covering. When we got away from the wharves the town became quite respectable even the niggers looked cleaner. Just after we were dismissed Merv. Jeanes came up and asked Bob Tapp and I if we would like to go for a ride with Lt.Col. Collins of the Ceylon Garrison Arty. After slight hesitation we grabbed the offer. Dave Siekmann was included in the party and away we went. First to his office in the Colombo Barracks while he rang his wife to say he was bringing 3 extras home for lunch, then off along the South Road. We went south for 11 miles ducking in and out of thousands of natives, rickshaws, motor buses and that at about 35 MPH. Quite a number of native children up to about 10-11 years of age were quite nude and others weren’t at all particular where they picked up their shirts and piddled in the street. Where the road wasn’t lined with hundred of dingy looking native shops it was lined with hundreds of coconut palms or a rubber plantation. The coconut palms are everywhere you go. The nuts themselves are in all stages of ripeness. I’ve never seen them with their green husks on before. We travelled 11 miles before we got to Rat Malana military camp, occupied by 1 Battery of the AA Regt of which Col. Collins is CO. The troops were out in their training area and we chased them out near the Colombo aerodrome. After interviewing a very intelligent Singalese Sgt of a MMG section we found Capt Fellows with whom the Col. had his business. The Capt was a very English man but in spite of his high-fallutin talk he was a very good scout. We all then went back to the camp where they turned us on a posh orderly room and gave a private 10 days CB for being 1 day AWL while we sat on the verandah of the officers mess drinking the Colonel’s beer and getting a good eyeful. When the CO had arranged for a court of enquiry over 1 round of SAA which had been lost we all piled into the car again. We went back over the road we’d come for a mile or two and then branched off to Mt. Lavinia. That is a very pretty seaside resort which consists entirely of one pub. It was all very pretty (the pub I mean) but we didn’t stay long, just time for one long beer (Tennents) then off again to the Col’s place for lunch. He lives in Cinnamon Gardens in a lovely big airy bungalow with red cement floors and a fan everywhere you look. Didn’t see any bedrooms, presume they’re upstairs. Met Mrs. Collins and were promptly plied with liquor as fast as we could take it. Mrs. C. was very interesting to talk to and told us quite a bit about England in wartime. We dined on curry soup – not particularly hot – pressed ham and salad – very queer looking lettuce. Bob Tapp collected a beautiful spider orchid and we left about 1430. Col. drove us up to town and took us into Hirdramani’s and ticked a bloke off to give us a fair deal in some purchases. Even so I spent a lot more money than I should have. Bought set of undies for Marj and two or three sets of moonstones. Suppose I was robbed good and proper but it was good fun. Mucked about town for a while then went back to Galle Face Green to see the troops assemble and march off. Bob and I then got in a rickshaw and went for a ride through the town and the native quarter. I’ve never seen such rotten filth squalor and stench in my life as there is in that native quarter. The Beef Market, the fish market, etc were something awful. Went back to the Galle Face Hotel afterwards and had a swim in a corker pool right on the beach with everything laid on. Joined up with Maj Frith, Maj Ligertwood and Bill Hayward then for dinner. The dining hall is a vast place with 48 big fans hanging from the roof. An A1 orchestra and quite a few items as well as good food and wine. Frithie got Bob and I a couple of dances with the nurses and we were having a very good time when Frithie dragged us away at 2315 hours so we could get on board by midnight.
I love Uncle Geoff’s natural way of writing and his ocker Aussie slang. These were some of the lighter moments he wrote about. There are other quite horrific times he recorded in his diary which I probably won’t reproduce here.