454 and 459 RAAF Squadrons
Sergeant Keith Alexander BOYLING
459 RAAF Squadron
Service No. 23341
Date of Birth: 1 Apr 1918
Place of Birth: BRISBANE, QLD
Date of Enlistment: 12 Aug 1940
Date of Discharge: 29 Aug 1945
Keith Boyling wrote this account in a small ruled book given to him by his Auntie Queenie to commemorate his 21st birthday. He was 23 when he left Australia for overseas service.
He wrote "Keith Boyling Goes to War":
"I left Ascot Vale, Melbourne by train for Sydney at 11.30pm on June 26th,1941. The train arrived at Albury at 6.00am on the 27th and I had breakfast. Our movements had been kept secret as no one was seen on any of the stations to welcome us. I arrived at Darling Harbour, Sydney at 6.30pm on the 27th and detrained and then embarked on a ferry. I was taken to HMT "Queen Elizabeth" and embarked. My quarters were situated in "J" Section "R" Deck. The quarters were for 300 men in two tier bunks. We left Sydney at 10.00am on 28th June,1941 but there were only a couple of motor launches to see us off. Heavy seas were running off Sydney heads as HMAS Adelaide escorted us to Jervis Bay where we anchored that evening. On June 29th we left Jervis Bay and met "Queen Mary" and HMAS Australia. Later that day the convoy met "Aquinta" and kept heading in a southerly direction. Emergency station was held every morning at 0930 hours with a parade later in the day. Blackout conditions applied at night. Conditions below deck were very stuffy but it was very windy on the open decks. Gambling games were going flat out on the Promenade Deck and in the canteen areas. "Two Up" and "Crown and Anchor" were the most popular. The canteens were very busy with queues of half an hour to an hour wait. Tooheys beer was available in the wet canteens. The convoy ran into heavy seas going west and later this turned into a gale. Many on board were sick as a result. Huge waves would come over the bows of the ships occasionally with spray onto the Boat and Sun Decks. The pitching and tossing of the ship made walking difficult. Meals in the mess were not the best but it was a case of eat or starve. We arrived and anchored off Fremantle for five days. More troops were taken aboard and they comprised Air Force (ground crews and aircrews), AIF, Navy, Nurses, Free French (from Tahiti mostly). We left Fremantle and then crossed the Indian Ocean.
On the way Eally Reid and myself explored every nook of the ship. I saw flying fish, dolphins and also a huge stingray from the bows of the ship. Given the warmer weather, sun baking became popular. Six and a half days out from Fremantle we arrived at Trincomalee, Ceylon at about 5.00am. It was a very pretty sight with intricate channels to navigate. The "Lizzie" passed through a narrow space between the headlands into the well protected harbour. The other ships in the convoy followed us in. People on the shore were easily discernible. It was now very hot below deck. Consequently Wal Reid and myself were sleeping at the bow (main deck) of the ship while in the Tropics. While in the harbour, tankers came along side and we took on fuel and water. Soon after leaving Sydney I was forced to have my hair cut short. Many had their heads shaved, now it is a blessing in the Tropics. It was very hot in Trincomalee. Small trees were seen growing around the harbour but there appeared no other vegetation. The buildings were modern looking (concrete). After a 36 hour stay we left Trincomalee.
Concerts and pictures were held on board and the swimming pools were open for use by the troops. The Indian Ocean was very calm. The gun crews on the 3-inch anti-aircraft gun and 6-inch stern gun were interesting to watch in practise. The speed of the ship was estimated to be 20 knots. Coming across The Indian Ocean the ships practised zig-zagging. The "Queen Mary" nearly ran into us once. The ships are usually about 1300 to 1500 yards apart. I was on the bow of the ship at the time and it was nearly a case of being able to shake hands with the mob on the "Mary". Luckily for everyone we changed course at the last minute. One night after leaving Ceylon, Wally and I got half drowned while sleeping on the bow when the ship reached heavy seas. The conditions are very hot in the Gulf of Aden. The convoy passed through the Straits of Sorrows into the Red Sea late one evening. (Red Sea was hotter still). Consequently, the troops called the "Lizzie" the "Hell Ship Attanach11". During the first day a hot wind was blowing but it cooled off later. I waited in the queue at the soft drink canteen for some fruit and drink for 25 minutes. When 3 from the counter, the canteen closed. Next day I waited at the dry canteen for oranges, which had mysteriously turned up. When 5 from the the counter the canteen sold out.
Actually I was very lucky as the oranges proved to be very sour. We arrived in the morning (Friday 27/7/41) and anchored in the north Red Sea about 100 miles from the Suez Canal. The water is a very pretty blue and the sandy coast is not far off with barren and forbidding mountains in the distance. The first day in the Red Sea was the only really hot day so far. It reminded me of Brisbane weather during the summer. I saw quite a number of ships in the Red Sea. A rumour went around that the troops would be disembarking and everyone was packed including the Officers. It turned out we would not be getting off for about 3 or 4 days more. We are in the danger zone at present with possibilities of attack by aircraft. By now I find that I can sleep anywhere including on a barbed wire fence! If is no trouble to go to sleep on the deck in the sun or shade or on a hard steel hatch. We are now at an anchorage somewhere in the northern end of the Red Sea and have taken on fuel etc. The troops helped unload the forward hatches and I saw plenty of tin fruit head west. Soon we will disembark and who knows what lies ahead of us. Only time will tell."
Also noted in a little notebook were the details of Keith Boyling's Sea Kit Bag. It is listed below and it would appear of it being a case of traveling light!
Sea Kit Bag
1 pair blue overalls
2 pair khaki overalls
1 pair boots
2 pair woolen singlets
2 pair woolen underpants
1 clothes brush
1 hair brush
1 water bottle
3 pair drab stockings.