A detailed handwritten diary for 1942 that belonged to Sergeant George James Craggs, RAFVR, (1280070) who trained as a pilot in 1941. He flew with 229 and moved to Malta via HMS Furious c.1941, then flew on to Egypt and was attached to 274 Squadron, which at the time was based at a satellite airfield nr. Msus, Libya. It has an abundance of information on daily life from the mundane daily chores of washing and breakfast (which he appears to have been slightly obsessed about) to the excitement of '40,000 cigarettes arrived from base in one of our Hurricanes', being on readiness, 'scrambles' and air combat. There are many entries relating to dust storms, the rain, wind, cold and heat. He also mentions other his squadron colleagues and other squadrons.
The diary begins 'I started the year badly by having to go on dawn standby, but did not get a scramble.... this time last year I was at Hatfield training to be a pilot, and now I am a pilot, but I am a long long way from home'. On the second of January he got lost on a flight and had to land on an old Luftwaffe base to preserve fuel, sheltering overnight under an upturned Fiesler Storch and Me109 wing, grateful for the warmth of his Irvin jacket and flying boots. The next day he found some fuel left by the 'Jerries' and flew to where another Hurricane had landed with a broken tail. A passing Army convoy helped him secure more fuel enabling him to return to base.
Other entries record incidents and accidents - on the 13th January a Tomahawk was smashed on take-off, fatally injuring a gunner and one of the occupants of the tent it hit. The aircraft hit an already pranged Kittyhawk sending it cartwheeling and smashing the wing and fuselage.
The airbases he flew from were regularly strafed, often by Me109s and Macchi 202s, and bombed by Ju88s. On 13th Jan 109s and 202s shot down Wing Commander Charles, 'his Hurricane dived into the deck from 300' and went up in flames. The body was thrown out but was terribly mangled. The head was missing'.
On 26th January - 'Ground straffing show on Jerry Transport - at least 5 covered vehicles and 1 armoured car. Good but low flying and goggles blown off and smashed'.
30th January - 'dogfighting practice with a new pilot' and revolver practice.
3rd February - the squadron moved to El Adem.
5th February - 'Jerry started our day with an air raid at 4am. There must have been at least 5-6 Jerries over bombing and straffing. I did not wake up until the raid was half an hour old, & I was asleep again before it finished. ... One Ju88 came over before we took off, dropped a couple of bombs, a Hurricane took off after him but crashed on take-off - engine cut and plane did a cartwheel. The pilot luckily was not strapped in and he was thrown out'.
13th February - ' There was a scramble this morning, 5 of our lads met 15 109's and 3 87's, some 88's & 111's near Tobruk. Dodd's1 shot down a 109, Hunter damaged one, Weeks was shot down by our own Ack Ack.... he was killed. That is the 3rd plane lost in two days due to Tobruk Ack Ack'.
14th February - 'In the morning myself & some of the fellows with squadron were looking at a crashed Ju87, No.3 and No.112 Sqdrns of Kittyhawks took off and met enemy kites ground straffing. They shot down 11 Macchi 200's, 4 Me109's, 1 Breda 15 and damaged or probables accounted for 9 more'. 'Our C.O. told us that we might get Hurricane IIC's (cannon jobs) some of these days'....'Scruffy Holman from 112 Sqdn has been killed'.
20th February - 'I collected a pair of Wilson goggles from the adjutant this morning'
27th February - 'Sgt. Worthington was shot down and had to bale out. His parachute had a large hole in it and he injured his back when he hit the deck'.
3rd March - 'collected a lilo, a pair of silk gloves and a pair of stockings from stores'.
7th March - 'returned to my hut to sew some buttons on my battle dress tunic. Also I sewed on some press studs for my wings.'
8th June - 'We saw 2 Mac 202's, Keefer shot one down. I chased the other and got about 3-4 good bursts in at him. I left him at 1000' with black smoke coming from him. I cannot claim this as damaged as I did not see any pieces fall off'.
17th June - 'Rather a panic day. 109's, 202's, & Hurricanes crashing down like ninepins...'
18th June - Moved to Sidi Aziez (LG75)
22nd June - 'Tobruk has now fallen... we are all ready to move any time.'
23rd June - Moved to LG76, 10 miles North of 'drome.'
30th June - 'No flying for me today. I was at readiness all morning for a show but no bombs arrived and we did not go off.'
July 3rd - 'This afternoon went on a stuka party. We were top cover to 1 S.A.A.F. We ran into the enemy just as they were going to bomb. 1 S.A.A.F. tackled the stukas & we kept the 109's off them. We were jumped by 109's but nobody was damaged. 1 S.A.A.F. got 13 stukas destroyed, 1 109 destroyed, 2 stukas damaged. Jolly good show.'
The last diary entry on 7th July 'Nothing doing this morning for us. Show at 7.10pm. I could not get my engine going at first so had to get a battery. I finally took off but was too late to catch up with squadron so landed again'.
Three days later on 10th July, Sergeant Craggs left his base at 0630 hrs in Hurricane II, BG707 'Z'. At the end of the sortie he was missing believed killed, his aircraft was seen to have spun into the ground without him baling out. It appears that he was shot down by a Luftwaffe Bf109 near El Alamain.
The diary comes with approximately 30 small photographs, some of which are captioned on the back, showing Craggs and other members of the squadron, downed aircraft, a Hurricane bomber etc. There are also some newspaper obituaries for other members of the North African campaign. The diary has a broken/tatty spine but is in reasonable overall condition. A fantastic insight into the battles over North Africa in 1941, worthy of further research. Stock code P22873-238.
1. Flight Lieutenant Jimmy Dodds DFM was the RAF's most successful Hurricane fighter pilot during the North African campaign shooting down 16 enemy aircraft with a further 6 probables. He is mentioned several times in the diary.