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Introduction to the diary

This is the private war record of my grandad, Arthur Cannell, who kept a diary during the Second World War.  Although not a complete record of the war, the diary gives an insight into his life from the wartime period of 1941 to 1944 when he was stationed out in Africa and India.

(Arthur Cannell)
He also collected two photo albums full of small black and white photos, images which were taken during his postings. These have been scanned and used in this blog.  

He gave the diary to my father, Barrie Cannell, along with the photograph albums. These were annotated with the place and year in order to give an accurate photographic record of the diary events.

I have written the diary exactly as it appears in his original diary, adding relevant photographs from the album to highlight key places and events.  I have included the original annotations at the bottom of each picture. 

Arthur Cannell

(Birth certificate)
Arthur was born on 25 April 1916 in Bethnall Green, London.  He was a East End boy, born into a relatively poor family. Arthur was one of nine children, and he would often recall how he had to share a bed with with his siblings. 

He served in the RAF during the second world war, packing parachutes and serving abroad. He spent much of his time in India, keeping a diary of his time out there from 1941-1944. 

(Olive and Arthur: Wedding day)
Arthur Cannell married my nan, Olive, just before the war.  They were separated during the early days of their marriage. On his return they had a family, my aunty Carol and my father Barrie.  

My grandad often talked about the war and times in India, and I remember looking at the photo albums with him as a child and wanting to visit those exotic places.  

I wanted to share the war time experience of my grandad through his word and pictures. 

Lorna Cannell


The Second World war: A brief History

World War 2 was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945.  It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million people serving in military units. Marked by the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, it resulted in over 60 million fatalities and remains the by far the deadliest conflict in all of human history.

It was fought in Europe, Russia, North Africa and Asia between the majority of the worlds nations.  On one side were the Axis Powers, including Germany, Italy and Japan. On the other side were the Allies, which included Britain, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, the Soviet Union, China and the United States of America.

Poona, India 20.03.44

Britain received help from Commonwealth nations, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada as well as countries in the British Empire such as India. Some countries stayed neutral and did not join the war, including Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Ireland.

World War 2 is generally said to have begun on 1 September 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and Britain. Whilst Hitler wanted Germany to control Europe, Japan wanted to control Asia and the Pacific and was already at war with the Republic of China from 1937.

North West frontier

By the summer of 1940 the Nazi forces had conquered Holland, Belgium, France, Denmark and Norway. Enemy planes dropped bombs on cities in Britain and Allied ships were sunk by submarines. Hilter wished to invade Britain as quickly as he had taken France but this proved difficult. Germany, unlike Britain, was not a sea power and the Channel was a formidable obstacle. In July 1940, German planes started bombing British coastal towns, defences and ships in the English Channel in order to gain control of the skies in the South of England. By mid-September 1940, after many battles, Germany postponed their planned land invasion of Britain as the RAF effectively fought off the German Luftwaffe during the The Battle of Britain.


In 1941 the Soviet Union (Russia) was attacked by Germany. In 1941 America also joined the war, after Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

By 1943 the Allies were winning. One reason was that Allied factories were building thousands of tanks, ships and planes. In 1944, a huge Allied army crossed from Britain to liberate France. Then Allied armies invaded Germany. The war in Europe ended with the capture of Berlin by Soviet and Polish troops and the subsequent German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945. The war in Europe was over.

Body on cart

The Pacific war went on until August 1945. There was fierce fighting on Pacific islands and big naval battles at sea. The Allies used their nuclear weapons and dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima on 6 August, and Nagasaki on 9 August. The Soviet Union declared war on Japan by invading Manchuria on the 9th August 1945. In the wake of the use of nuclear weapons on Japan, and with an invasion imminent, the Japanese surrendered on 15 August 1945. World War 2 had ended.



India was a key allied nation for Britain during the Second World War.  At this time India had been occupied by Britain since 1858 and formed part of the British Empire.  The undivided are included India, Pakistan and Bangledesh.

India was ruled during this time by the British Raj, which was made up of two types of territory: British India and the Princely States. The princely states did not form a part of British India (i.e. the presidencies and provinces) as they were not directly under British rule. However, the princely states were ruled by individual rulers under the paramountcy of the British Crown.
The budget of the Raj covered municipal affairs, the police, the Indian Civil Service that ran government operations, and the Indian Army. Within the princely states external affairs, defence and most communications were under British control. 

Two-fifths of the sub-continent continued to be independently governed by over 560 large and small principalities, with whom the British Raj entered into treaties of mutual cooperation.

The Provinces of British India, being colonies of the United Kingdom, were by default a part of the Allied Nations. Thus India officially declared war on Nazi Germany in September 1939.

Apart from the provinces directly ruled by the British there were a large number of Princely States within the British Raj that provided sizable donations to the Allies to combat the threat of Nazism and Fascism . The Indian Army during World War II was one of the largest Allied forces contingents which took part in the North and East African Campaign, Western Desert Campaign and the Italian Campaign. At the height of the World War, more than 2.5 million Indian troops were fighting Axis forces around the globe.

Despite the popular resentment against the British Raj, Indian participation in the Allied campaign remained strong. The financial, industrial and military assistance of India formed a crucial component of the British campaign against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. India's strategic location at the tip of the Indian Ocean, its massive production of armaments, and its huge armed forces played a decisive role in halting the progress of Imperial Japan in  South-East Asia.

After the end of the World War, India emerged as the world's fourth largest industrial power and its increased political, economic and military influence paved the way for its independence from the United Kingdom in 1947.

DIARY 1941

RAF Book Release authorisation

Diary 1941

India 1941-42-43-44
The Land of the 4 P's!

Lahore (1941)
Karachi (Sand Dessert)
Delhi. Old
Delhi. New
Murree Hills
Lower Topa
Upper Topa
Chakrata Hill station
Poona (1944)

The gang at Karaghi January 1942

JANUARY 20th 1941

(Arthur and Olive Wedding day)

At Cardington, Bedford. Went to Bridgnorth to be drilled, also posted to Bridgnorth.
Wife came down there to live, in which we enjoyed ourselves very much.
Then was put on a overseas draft in which wife went back to London.

JULY 8th 1941

(Arthur Cannell)
I was sent to West Kirby 8th July and there received tropic kit, and was kept there one week. 

Left West Kirby July 24th and arrived at King George Dock Scotland.

JULY 25th 1941

Windsor Castle

I was on the Windsor Castle. 20,000 tons.

Left for Greenock which was two hours journey, and waited there for Convoy July 30th.

AUGUST 2nd 1941


And still waiting for convoy.

Left Scotland August 2nd 8.30.

Very large Convoy. Approx 50,000 troops.

AUGUST 3rd 1941


1st Day out to Sea and the first Depth charge was dropped by a Destroyer.

The sea is very rough and not far from being sea sick.

Winsor Castle is head of Convoy.


Rough Seas

2nd Day at Sea

The weather is very misty and we cannot see destroyers.

We have travelled (APPROX) 800 miles.

We have 13 Destroyers and Cruisers surround our Convoy.

The Convoy is now going (ICELAND WAY).

The ship is tossing up and down, and nearly all of us are being sea sick.

The Captain is sea sick.