after and my mother apparently we had enough money to keep going and then my sister she was working as a mathematics high school teacher at the time and I think she used to put a bit of money into the household as well and I did in the Cubs and the Scouts and I went to school and played sports various ones tennis and I played
baseball at one stage when I was only about twelve and I played cricket so and the sister that got married she married a fella who was in the First World War he was a bit older than her and that was in 1927 or something like that, and he become a surrogate father to me because after during the middle of the Depression they came and lived in our house
with us with their two children so he helped me and helped a friend who was an English boy who came out here when he was four and his father was dead too, so this other chappie and I looked on my brother-in-law as our surrogate father and he used to take us fishing and take us drive us here there and everywhere. He always had a car and that was great,
because it helped us to grow into manhood and actually this other chappie, he joined the army a couple of weeks before I did and we finished up in the same division and went through all the same war situations as Tobruk, Alamein and islands and so on. It was I think that was probably the best part
that I did have a male to look up to and get some information from it over the years until we, you know, joined up.
or heard it when I got home or something like that, and you know the first thought in our mind in those days you know, Britain and the empire we were a part of it and our thoughts were always with the mother country as it was called.
But it was a sort of a cold war for a start, they use that term now but it wasn’t so much in one’s mind until Hitler starting taking over other countries and so on and so on and I, it’s a bit difficult in my mind to assess why I joined up because maybe it was the idea of everybody else was going and/or
the excitement of maybe going to into a war situation. Although I don’t think many of us had any idea was it was going to be like. It was how long, seven or eight, seven or eight months before I joined up but and we went from there.
I was I was reasonably happy in the jobs that I had, two jobs I had before I left the one to go into the army. One of those was we were an import export agents and they decided, I don’t know for what reason, that they would set up a buying an agency for scrap
iron and steel. This was my first touch of ….and they made me the clerk doing the weigh-bridge work and also the money, paying the money to these fellas that were coming in with a little bit of scrap or a lot of scrap. We had a wharf down in Pyrmont, and my little office, which was the weigh-bridge office down there, I used to pick up
a bag full of money from King Street where our main office was every morning and walked down Pyrmont Bridge and that was intriguing because I met a lot of crooks. They’d come in, some of these old fellas with their… they’d hire a spring cart from a livery stable over in Newtown or something and go round the roads buying scrap you know, from houses and so on and that, and we had to come down off Pyrmont Bridge down through a railway yard
and as they were coming down, any steel bits that were lying about they’d pick them up too and many times we’d have the police down or the railway police, anyway that was fun. And I used to have a, I must have been eighteen I ‘spose, and we used to have a beer after in the little pub there
and I’m going back there as soon as I can make a day for myself, because I haven’t had a drink there since 1937 so that’s about what, 76 years ago and I’ll go back and have another drink there.
and then when I got into the metal industry and then I finished up doing fanrey [?] technology and metallurgy I was virtually on the side of analytical chemistry coz our industries had to have the ability to analyse metals and alloys. We had a very big, lost the word,
laboratory, analytical laboratory, in our company and they were working, you know there were probably 15 or 16 doing it, coz we were tin smelters, we were smelting local ores and tin ore that was dug out of the ground by somebody, and it is alluvial type which means it‘s in the sand,
and we used to get those little bags sent down and a couple of big furnaces which we used to make tin plates which made the cans which all the food was in and so on. No, as you say, I really liked it and I always was looking for information. I read up a lot and things like that.
which is…..there’s an army depot behind Victoria Barracks and that was where people were enlisting and I went in and put up my name and did the normal thing of the medical examination, a urine test in the corner you know, and with bare feet and walking around on the bare floor they
lift your foot up to see if you have flat feet or not because the imprint of the black dust on your foot leaves a little bit there which is the ball of the foot and that means you don’t have flat feet, so they said, “Right, you’re accepted and we haven’t got any camps for you to go to.” so I became a day-boy and that meant we got all our equipment and so on and we used to live at home. We got extra money
in our pay to live at home. And then every morning we’d go to, I used to go to the Willoughby Army Depot and we did our basic squad drill training there for about three weeks I think it was, and then we moved up to Wallgrove camp.
I was the 2/19th Battalion, we were all set up to do our training but I was only there for 4 or 5 weeks or something like this, I’m not sure now how long it was, and they called for volunteers, “Anybody have a driver’s licence, we are short of drivers?” and luckily for me I volunteered coz I had had a licence since I was about 17 and
then transferred to what they called the army service depot in showgrounds. I got an army licence which said I could drive everything but a pram and from there I then become a first reinforcements to the 9th Division Army Service Corps.
and we went in April in but the original unit, the 9th Division ASC had left Australia on the first of the year and we went two or three months later and I finished up, there was only 20 of us in the draft and we got to Palestine and went into what they called the ASC
training depot an area you went to before you went somewhere else, and 9 of us out of the 20, within a week we were on our way by train, we went through to Egypt went to a place called Mersa Matruh and were put on a destroyer and finished up in Tobruk.
So that was real good. The ships used to come in at midnight and leave at 1 o’clock in the morning so that they could be out of range of Nazi bombers and we got there at 12 midnight, an air raid on, bombs dropping, and my good friend and I dived into a hole together and I’m not sure who landed on top, anyway that’s our lifestyle up to then
and we were there for about 3 days, they put us on guarding the seafront with other people of course, and a couple of nights later they came around and said, “Well look, here’s a bayonet and two hand grenades you’re now in the infantry.” so we went into the infantry, because they lost so much earlier that they were short of reinforcements.
incident when we went into the army into the infantry we went up at night time and we were given a little hole to stay in, live in and it was like a hole 5-foot by 3-feet which two fellows were surrounded by sandbags, filled with the
sand in the area of the desert and a couple of three star pickets which is metal stakes across the top, and half of the top of the hole was covered in sandbags because as I was saying, the first instance of war in that way in that area was when in the afternoon at 5 o’clock the Germans used to shell us
with what we called air-burst. And I think they were anti-aircraft shells which they could time and instead of landing and bursting, they would burst to about 50-feet above the ground and all the shrapnel would come down on top, so that is why you had to have some cover. And I was only a skinny kid, I reckon I could shrink my body under the circumference of my tin hat.
That was my first incident. It was unnerving because it was the first time I ever had anything like that shot at me. But I think, and I‘ve got an instance where I can say, I think you become blasé to a certain extent about it. An instance where I think, you can picture this we’d been there a few days
down in a hollow behind where we made this a what we’d called dannert wire, this concertina, barbed wire and we were going to straighten out the line a bit and about dusk we were sent outside the wire,
outside the perimeter wire which is no man’s land, and to delouse some mines, we were going to straighten up the line as I said and we had to carry this dannert wire. Now the incident I’m putting forward is this, that the sergeant of the infantry battalion who was in charge of us had been there since the start of it, which was probably two or three months mostly at the front line or against
enemy attacks and as we were going out to get out through the wire, they started to machine gun us and we immediately sort of took cover behind areas where you could get a little bit down, maybe only a couple of feet high but you could lie down behind but this sergeant just walked along as though he was walking up Pitt Street and all he did
was lean his head to the right, so that any bullets coming wouldn’t hit him in the head. And they were spraying all around us you know and I thought, “Well you’re either mad or….” but he had become so used to it I think, that he just accepted it. Maybe he even thought that if I get hit I might get out of this place because it was the only way to get out and get wounded and get taken back.
I don’t know, that was my thoughts at the time
section which covered cooking and so on. The thought in my mind was ham sandwiches, because we were on restricted rations of course and the thought of a ham sandwich was heaven. But see, we lived pretty toughly. When we were in the infantry you only got one meal a day
and that was at night time, usually between 9 and 10 at night and it was cooked by the cooks back behind and then it was brought up in dixies, by the time it got to us it would be lukewarm 99 times out of 100. It was stew of some sort and as there was millions of flies and fleas if you were eating your meal and you went like that
and thought it was a grain of rice, well that could have been a fly and as such I think we all lost weight, well I’m sure we did. But you know, rations weren’t that good. The bread we got in there which were little round cob loafs which were made in Tobruk by the bakery unit, it was
real good because the flour had weevils through it and they couldn’t get those out so they cooked the weevils in the bread with them in there and the bread looked like as though they had seeds in it but they were little brown bodies of weevils and also around each brown little brown body there was a little aureole of purpley fluid that came out of their bodies so you had to flick them out with a knife before you had the bread. And if there was a Stuka raid
on, the bread wouldn’t rise when they put in the yeast, it’d just go flat and there’d be a strata of yeast that hadn’t sort of gone into the bread and it was kind of watery and all, gosh. So if you had a chance which you couldn’t in the front line but somewhere in the back, if you were in an area where you could, you’d toast it and that would be the only way that was edible.
the Queen Mary which we came back on but on the Queen Elizabeth it was still in a state of being first sort of opened up for passengers she never carried any passengers, but everything was there all the furnishings and all the things were there. Unfortunately us, we were 20
on the draft, we were down underneath just near the water level in a big room and we had 20 hammocks which were great, I really liked the hammocks. But the other fellas they were in state rooms, but they’d put you know, sort of extra beds in and so on and so on but they had a great trip. But the trip was good in that it only had 5, 000 troops on board
and it’s such a big ship, you had plenty of room. But as I was saying, the comparison, when we were coming back from the Middle East on the Queen Mary which was just nearly as big we had 12,00 troops on it and there was no room to move you know. But we had a lovely trip in that way of course. We went from Sydney down
underneath Tasmania, didn’t go through Bass Strait because someone had heard there were German submarines down there. And then we went to Perth and picked up some people, then we went up to Ceylon up on the north eastern corner there is a big British naval area called a place called Trincomalee. And then we went from there
to Port Tewfik at the bottom end of the [Suez] Canal, transferred to another smaller ship and went up halfway up the Canal and then by train when to Palestine where we were camped as I have said before, in the army service training depot and from there we went to….. so we left here Good Friday I think it was, which was the 9th I think, the 9th or 10th ,
of April and 6 weeks later we were in Tobruk so we didn’t muck about, they didn’t hold us anywhere much.
had final leave a couple of weeks before and then at one stage I went AWL [Absent Without Leave] and I came up to Sydney to see the family and my wife for an hour or so and then went back on the train. Then we were put on the train at Goulburn came into Sydney and pulled into Pyrmont where the old railway line is there and put on a ferry,
and then that took us out to the Queen Elizabeth, Athol Bight apparently being the deepest part of the harbour, because she was a big ship she needed plenty of water and we got on board. I think we were on over night and sailed the next morning, And of course there were
a few boats around because there was a convoy went out, there was five or six ships went out but you couldn’t, nobody was on the wharf to wave to you or anything because we weren’t at a war as such, it was just, you know, there you go, ‘oo’ray’.
it was a Saturday morning we got on early at Goulburn without tickets, without leave passes and we both got off the train at Strathfield because if you go to Central, at that stage there was a lot of military police, so got off the train at Strathfield and then I got the electric train to Artarmon and then in the afternoon at four o’clock or late at night,
my brother-in-law drove me to Strathfield by car so I didn’t have to catch a train and we got on a night train going to Goulburn, without tickets again of course, and then got there at 5o’clock in the morning and then walked three mile home to the camp and were there for the 6 o’clock roll call so we got out... It was terribly expensive,
it cost me threepence because I bought a paper called the Smiths Weekly.
they gave us underwear, heavy underwear, extra boots and things like this, a full set of clothing plus a bit and, and that was packed in either backpack or a what do they call it, I forget the name now,
it’s a round bag so high, made of canvas and you could push everything into that and we took that on board as well. But when we got to the Middle East we either sold or threw away lot of the heavy stuff because it was outlandish, we didn’t need heavy materials of that type. Although in the desert it got very cold at night. During the day you could just have a pair of shorts on
and at night you needed your full uniform and sometimes an overcoat.
want of a better word and we got into Tobruk Harbour at midnight and we pulled into a number of jetties and areas where the smaller ships could pull in, some of the bigger ones could not, they had to stay out in the harbour. But we got off on to a wharf and at
that stage as I said, the bombs were falling on the town which was just over there you know, half a mile away maybe or so but they were getting closer. As we got off this friend of mine and I, a bomb came screaming and as I said, self-preservation comes to the fore, and we dived into this hole, it was a odd shape,
sort of a depression in the ground to take cover and I’m not sure if he landed on me or I landed on him, and from thereafter we were marshalled away, I think there was a whole nine of us in our unit, the others went somewhere else. I didn’t see them, but we were taken over the back towards the seafront
and we were, they called us the west coast patrol so we were patrolling the coast 24 hours a day. We were there about three days I think doing that.
this is paramount I ‘spose in most people’s minds. Other than that I ‘spose, we were, I ‘spose it was a learning curve, as to what it was like, what it sounded like. Because a Stuka bomber had screamers on its wings and they used to come down straight down you know,
sort of like that and then pull out on the bottom and drop their bomb. The screaming made, some people I ‘spose were upset, a few people and then the night that that happened, the night we first got there it was high level bombers and they just dropped the bombs, where the Stukas could direct their bombs more accurately than the high level ones. I think that it was you know, it was a case
you gotta think about these things, and you have to find out about, well get into your own mind what it is like, what it is going to be like, what to do and do the best for yourself and your mates as well.
in the holes we were in, duvets as they were called, you had to use a shovel and do what you had to do and throw it out and probably bury it later or something like that. It was very basic of course, there was nothing there other than the sand and a shovel.
And those were the conditions, sanitary conditions. I mean in a lot of the areas on the frontline there you couldn’t get up in the daylight, you were in your hole all day because they could see you and they could shoot at you. As I said, at night we went out through the wire, they machined gun us from a distance, at some stage
where I was and I was only there a short time, where I was we were quite a way away from the Germans but there are other areas of the perimeter line where the lines were only about 150 yards between each and as such you never got out in the light. It was always at night that you could get out and walk around.
but the other ones we only did one or two because we were only in there until they brought in their own reinforcements. So I was only in there three, three and a half weeks, where some of them were in there a couple of months and then we were pulled into our own units again. So what would happen would be that, well I go back a bit
in that when we were first, I wasn’t there at that stage it was before I first got there but it was when they first closed the area in by being shut in by the Germans of course, General Moreshead who was the general in charge, he was made of the whole area, even in charge of the British in there, he said we were in a siege situation and there was no way to get out,
“There will be no Dunkirk here.” which meant there was no getting out on the beaches and so on. He said, “By active patrolling you will own no man’s land and if we have to get out, we will fight out way out.” So every night there was patrols going out, either sometimes fighting patrols, sometimes
patrols just getting information and that’s what you did, you went out, maybe 8 or 6 with a sergeant or corporal or somebody in charge and do what you had to do, maybe go out 300 yards, turn left and go 300yards and come back. And of course you needed passwords to get in so on and so on.
You might go out through the wire in some place and come back in another a few yards away or something like that. I wasn’t able to do this because I could never pick out the North Star. The North Star in the heavens was the one in which you had to get yourself oriented to get back to where you came from.
And the people who were experienced they could do that, because that gave them a point which to move back into our area of the wire. But it was sometimes as they say, it was just a little jaunt around, but other times you could get into trouble.
and they went into a wadi area with all the vehicles around and they were also getting water out and the German Air Force came over and bombed them. Actually that was one of our first fatal casualties and
ironically it was a friend of my now wife’s, she knew him before the war. They sort of grew up together teenage times and she didn’t know we were both in the same unit he and I, and he was killed at that particular day when the bomb came down and shrapnel got him and sort of
blew his face off, unfortunately for him, and another couple got wounded and so on and that was our first casualties. As I said, I being a reinforcement wasn’t there at my stage, but after that, and I have been through the list of graves in the Tobruk cemetery and I think of our unit we lost about 35.
not knowing you were lonely, but maybe just in your mind. I don’t know what psychological effect that might have had, but it’s gone. I never thought about it afterwards maybe. You’d think, normally you’d think, sorry, you’d think about these things maybe for a little while and were able to put it in the back of your mind
and something might come up which took your mind off something like that. See you… everybody wasn’t always in the frontline all the time, you were changed over. Actually when we left the infantry and went back to our normal transport life, I went to a little smaller unit called the troop-carrying section and
when the battalions had to be changed over, see there was always frontline battalions and reserve battalions and the reserves were a you know, a mile behind or something like that and so then when the ones on the frontline had to be changed, we used to go in with our trucks and pick up the reserve battalion, take it into the frontline,
change over and take the other ones back. And that had to be done at night time in the dark of the moon, when the moon was not there, so everything had to be done in the dark and no lights were ever shone and that was our particular job to transfer troops around and sometimes
during the day we were able to drive around doing other carrying jobs and transport things of different types. But the night time jobs were a bit rough because we had to drive through areas where the mine fields were, which had little tiny tracks through and at times we had to have when it was so dark, we had to have a fellow sitting on the front
mudguard telling you where to go, which way to go. And the driver in there by himself and one fellow on the mudguard. I was in that for quite a number of weeks before we came out and it was interesting and a bit frightening of course, because you never knew when you were going to maybe run off the road in onto a mine or something,
perhaps get shot by day shelling or something.
we were there that night, next day next afternoon at 5 o’clock we were shelled by the German artillery and the artillery were able to burst the shells, instead of landing on the ground they could burst them about 50-feet above the ground so all the shrapnel came down on the troops underneath, so our holes had
to have a half cover. We could get under the sandbags to protect ourselves from the shrapnel coming down. Well that was the first time we’d been shot at, actually when we were on the west coast patrol they landed bombs amongst us but that wasn’t being shot at. The
shelling that used to happened usually at least twice a day in the morning and a 5 o’clock at night they used to shell us, and then of course we had other machine gunning and so on and so on. One time I was personally shot at by a Stuka bomber who’d dropped his bomb over the town
and then was coming out through to the perimeter and as such what they used to do was come down to 300- 4- 5 hundred feet and they would use their machine guns and strafe anybody that was on the ground as they were coming out. And I’d been across an open area, had my rifle with me
and saw this fellow in the Stuka about 2 or 300-feet up and he was strafing as he came. So luckily I found a hole which was a small slit trench that had been dug before and I dived in to that as he was coming and crouched down in there and thought,
“This fella is not very high, I’ll have shot at him.” and so I get me rifle and I am up like this, eyes above the edge of the slit trench and just pick him up coming towards me and there was little pops of sand coming out of the sand and I knew they were bullets so I said, “I change my mind.” and went down to the hole very quickly and let him go. So that was a
bit of a shock to the system.
I saw few woundings but only a few, because I was in a position after that first initial three or four weeks I was in a much more safe area, because the siege of Tobruk was a big area, it was 13 miles long and 7 miles deep in a hemispherical arc,
the town the middle point, the perimeter half around the area and that’s where the perimeter wire was and the infantry were around there all the way. Our particular unit, as ASC again, a company was formed
and they put, because they were short of men of course, they gave them part of the perimeter which was only a short area about a mile or a kilometre maybe and they controlled that area, but because there was a great deep wadi in front of it, went down hundreds of feet, it wasn’t an area which was thought of as being attacked so they
just kept that controlled, that area there and used to go out on down the wadi on patrols and so on and they were all transport drivers and made as infantry. As I said, our unit was the only one of the army service corps that were legally able to carry bayonets and
after we came back from the Middle East we did a march through the city and we had rifles and bayonets on, the bayonets were on the rifles, and we marched through the city because we’d done Tobruk and Alamein, it was the first time that the German armies had been stopped or pushed back.
single front wheels but a very heavy treaded and heavy treaded back wheels. They had a steel body with a canvas hood and which also could be front and back, they were single seated in that
it was a bench seat and they were normal you know, normal gearbox, crash gear boxes as they were called in those days, and there was no windscreens, we took the windscreens out because they either did that or they smeared them with mud because they could flash from the sun and identify where you were at times, especially
out in the desert and that’s all they were. We used to put sandbags filled with sand on the floor and underneath the seat so that if you ran over a mine you hopefully wouldn’t get hurt or it would reduce the amount of damage that was done, and there was only one driver to a truck in those
instances, and you went out and the only way to see was to see the outline of the vehicle in front of you against the light of the sky and as there was no moon it was very difficult to see. Sometimes you’d run into the back of the fellow in front of you.
Also if it would of rained which it never did, you would have been covered and also with the anti-aircraft shells that were fired up when high level bombers where on, they used to burst up there and if they didn’t hit anything, well you’d find all the little bits of shrapnel coming down and tinkling on the rocks outside and as the roof of the back of the truck was covered in canvas we didn’t get
hit by the shrapnel coming down, which would have been pretty hot anyway . We kept all our gear in there. We didn’t have a lot of gear in those times coz our big basic bag was left in store, so I used to sleep in the back of the truck and being steel-bodied and I was so thin, as a matter of fact I was only 8 stone 8 when I
joined up so I was pretty skinny and my bones stuck out a lot so I used to fold up my towel, the only one I had, and used to put it under my hip bone so that it made it easier to sleep. And we were in those areas all vehicles had to be parked a hundred yards apart, so we were spread out all over the desert in the area where we were.
You never had any sort of…. we weren’t talking to each other during the evening unless you went to another vehicle.
what spare time we had there was a lot of cards played, we tried to get a few books to read now and again when things were quiet and little sort of talking I ‘spose, between friends and mates and we sort of tried all sorts of things.
Some of the things that we did later when things like were very quiet or we were out of a war area, we played a lot of sport. But up there of course you couldn’t, you couldn’t do anything like, in Tobruk I’m talking about. And we had a lot of time where I don’t know, you probably just sat and thought what was happening and
you tried to write a few letters but there was very difficulty getting trying to get paper to write on. Or you’d just walk around and talk to people and do a little work on the truck maybe necessary, if it was necessary and sort of time went by.
You mentioned letters, what sort of information were you receiving from home?
Not very much about the war at all. Sometimes they didn’t know where we were other than that we were in the Middle East. One time in the letters, not the letters from home but from a letter I wrote back home, in the town which had been,
which had people in there from Italy, somebody picked up a few sheets of paper that had been blowing around the street, it had sort of a letter head and it had ‘Tobruch’ on it, T-O-B-R-U-C-H which is Italian way of spelling for Tobruk and I was able to send that home. Whether they knew where it was or what the hell it was all about I don’t know, but
it was hard to get paper, the Salvos [Salvation Army] and the Red Cross, they used to come around sometimes and give you a piece of paper and a envelope to write a letter home. And if we got any newspapers from home, of course we avidly read them and got some idea of what was going on, but see we were the only
the only way we learnt anything about the war outside of our area of Tobruk was by listening to the radio from BBC London [British Broadcasting Corporation] and also then we had Lord Haw Haw [German propaganda broadcaster]. Lord Haw Haw of course was an English so-called gentleman who’s name was William Joyce and he used to put his radio speeches on at
night-time and he was the one the first one to ever coin the name ‘the Rats’, the ‘Rats of Tobruk’. He said that we were living like rats in holes why didn’t we come out and fight? So the Rats was a name we took to our heart and it became a sobriquet of honour and we still are very proud to be called a rat.
What sort of impact did listening to Vera Lynn have?
Well I think most everybody got a liking of some music. And her music was our sort of music you know, and it was you know, it was, a lot of her songs were about our thoughts of home and the war as it was happening over there in England and so on. I ‘spose a bit of nostalgic thoughts of home
and things like that you know. Everybody loved her, she was a fantastic singer in our mind. Other times, further back towards the end of the war, I and another fella, we used to listen to a to a serial, not a serial, a series of world famous tenors which was a totally different way from her, but we liked that as well and those are the sort of things that we
had to do to pass the time I ‘spose. There was a lot of quiet times as well as a lot of tough times. As a matter of fact talking about radio, when we were at Alamein, I think I can go that far back, we had little holes where we slept you know, and we stole a lot of telephone wire from the signals and we, I don’t know from where
we got it but we got ear phones, radio earphones and we had one signal radio, came out of a Spitfire I think. And one bloke controlled that and we all had a line to our duvets and put the earphone under your pillow, whatever your pillow was and listened to the radio that way, mostly BBC of course.
we’d been on this troop carrying section and then they said, “Righto get your gear together, we are going out.” so that was great and we went down they took us down to the harbour in trucks and we waited there until the ships came in there at midnight. Because the Latona was bigger than the rest of them she was anchored out in the middle of the harbour so they took us out on barges
So we had all our gear, our pack, side pack, webbing which carried ammunition and stuff there, our rifle, tin hat, ordinary hat. We had to climb up the side of this ship on a rope. I don’t know what they called it, it’s in squares and
that was, oh God it looked high, it looked like a side of a mountain you know, and if you fall you’re dead, you’re going to drown. So we climb up in the dark, black as your hat and climb up, got up on top and this Pommy voice says, “Righto fellas, down here mate, down here.” and they directed us down stairs that’s all you could say, it was stairs, I don’t know what it was other than that.
And the officer says, “Righto settle down off to sleep we’re going soon.” Well you know, off to sleep, that’s stupid, but settle down. I found about that high off the deck was this long line like so, about this wide, so I used this as a pillow and settled down. When it got light in the morning, woke up and looked around and
we were in a big room in this ship. What I was leaning on was, this pillow was a railway line and on that railway line was the greatest, biggest sea mines that I had ever seen thet were about 8-foot in diameter and they had pieces sticking out all over and which if you break they’d go up, and the whole lot was covered, the whole ship was full of mines.
And I thought, “I hope we don’t get any air raids going back.” And luckily we never got a any indication of attack at all, so we got back to Alexandria and got off the ship and then went back up into Palestine but unfortunately for the Latona the next trip that she went up to Tobruk they got a bomb straight down the funnel,
blew the side out of her and down she went. I had often said I had arrived on the two biggest ships in the world at that time, the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary and one of the fastest British medium-size ships in the world, the Latona could do 48-knots which is about 56 mile and hour and they reckon that
if you really put the foot down she could do 52-knots. They used to run into harbours and so on lay mines and run out again but that was I never seen a mine in my life until I saw those. I was very worried.
and we went by rail back up to Palestine and we all congregated in the one camp called Julis, J-U-L-I-S, and we stayed there for a couple of months, had Christmas there, rained like billyo, frozen cold so and then we had to do
pickets at night you know we had to guard the camp site and so on like that. So I got sick of that cold and wet and I got a job in the orderly room as a clerk and they reckoned because I was a good writer, in those days I could type. And then I was there about a month and they sent me to a school, which was an English-run school down at a place called
Ishmalia on the lakes beside the Suez Canal, so I had four weeks down there which was great. We lived in barracks and so on, the only trouble is the food was light. See the English ration was only half of ours virtually, you’re always hungry. Nicely presented, plates and knives and forks and that you know, but two little bits of meat
‘bout this size and that thick and that was dinner you know. We used to have to go into town and get a steak. Some of it might have been camel I think, but doesn’t matter. But anyway after that I came back and we had Christmas there and soon after that they sent the whole division to Lebanon and Syria up near the Turkish border as
a group effort just to maybe stop any incursions that the Nazi Axis might form through Turkey because Turkey was sort of on their side. That was alright, we stayed there… for doing our normal duties and they were doing training, went out into the desert
went out to north eastern Syria and we were carting troops all over the place and also all sorts of little jobs. I had one, I was driving a break-down wagon and another mate of mine and I would attach them. We were staying in Beirut and every day, every second day we used to drive down to Damascus in Syria
and stay over night in a staging camp there and drag a truck or something that was unable to drive and we used to take them back. That was good. We enjoyed that coz we could have the best of Beirut at one night and the best of Damascus next night.
And there was in some other places in Egypt, Cairo, there was some rough ones, but most of them were reasonably clean looking and they were quite reasonable ladies. Some were youngish, you know, some were young, some were old. When I say old, maybe 30 or something like that.
I went on leave with some fellas, after Tobruk we came back to Palestine as I said Julis Camp, and we got four days leave and we went to Tel Aviv had a look around there and some of us said, “We’ll go to Haifa.” So we got on a normal bus service and went 40 – 50 mile up the road to Haifa. And
some of my mates said, “I think we’ll go, we’ll stay all night.” and I said, “Oh yeah, goodo.” All night meant from midnight on with the girls. I think it was five pounds. But I was sick, I got pains in the stomach so I went and got myself a bed at a place run by Englishwomen, “That’s the trouble with you Australians, too much beer, you’re always sick.”
And I thought, “Oh well, give us the bed I’ll go to bed.” Because the fellas were going into their assignations in the brothels they said, “Mind me wallet, mind me wallet, take this gun.” so I finished up under my pillow, I had five wallets and two pistols. And I’m lying in bed in this single room and about just after midnight,
‘knock knock’ at the door, in walked one of my mates, he hadn’t been to the brothel but he had a half full bottle of R-H-U-M which is in little letters underneath, “As good as R-U-M.” So we had a few snorts of that and he laid on the floor and went to sleep and I went back to bed.
Fantastic. Now I believe there was a time you were on leave in Cairo where you discovered how unwelcome Australians troops could be?
I ‘spose we were in the wrong place at the right time. But that was when I was at that school down in Ishmalia, we got a couple of days leave and we went to Cairo, two of us, two Australians, two other Australians and me and we’d have a few grogs [drinks] and we were looking around and we finished up in this sort of
back street and we were walking along, taking no notice of anybody much until we came on a group of people and there was probably 20 or so, male and female and they took umbrage about us, I don’t know why, we were just walking up and they started to shake their fists and so on and so on, so we started to back back.
And I had, inside my shirt pocket I had a pistol, so I dragged that out, I don’t know whether I would have shot them but I might have just shot in the air. But we backed back and took off, very smartly.
didn’t do much of the driving that the normal driver did, they were going all over the countryside you know, carrying supplies, and petrol and troops and all over. But I was the workshop driver and I was doing work for them and drive the breakdown wagon to pick up some joker and go so and so and around like that, and whilst I was not doing that
I didn’t know it but I was being taught, not consciously and I finished up what they called a driver-mechanic. I got an extra shilling a day as well. No that was good because I learnt a hell of a lot. The fellows in my small section, the sergeant had been a mechanic, the corporal, one corporal
had been an electrician and radio mechanic. I don’t know if they called them radio mechanics, but he had a radio shop before, before the war. And there was other automotive fitters, mechanics, and I leant a lot from all of those. We had a fella who was a in civilian life was a blacksmith
and I learnt. I think my mind was open to learning.
and that’s put me in good stead ever since and I like that as well because, you know, I think when you’re youngish, your mind is like a sponge, you’re trying to learn all the time. And I did, I liked it. As a matter of fact I at one stage when before Alamein
I think it was, I wrote back to Sydney and got onto, I was doing a diesel mechanics course by mail. It didn’t last long because then we went to Alamein and that finished that. But you know when you’ve got a certain amount of time to yourself where you could either play cards or do this or. When we came back to Australia, it was slightly different, when we were
up in North Queensland we had a lot of sport that we could play, but over there not so much so you had to have something to pass the time.
down the east side of Syria down through the Eastern side of Palestine down past the Dead Sea and down as far as Beersheba and went across the Sinai desert, over the over the Suez Canal and through up nearly to Alexandria and then 70 miles to
Alamein and we did that in one go, it was about 34 hours or something like that. I had two drives, no myself and another fella drove my truck and he was a terrible driver so I drove most of the way. And going across the Sinai I can remember my vehicle had a windscreen in it but you could move it out
and it was cold and we had greatcoats on in the middle of the night and I’m going you know sort of, open up the window, cold breeze come through it, trying to keep myself awake, having trouble keeping awake, get me water bottle and I’m splashing water over me face and this other peanut over the other side, dead to the world. And I nearly kicked him out but I didn’t.
But anyway we drove through and I got over the sleepiness and went through right through to Alamein or a few miles back from the frontline. There was a long line of English vehicles coming away from it and they were singing out, “Aussie you’re going the wrong way!” and we told them in large lumps what we thought of them but there was
I think, at the final situation, there was the Australia division, the New Zealand division, the South African division and the Indian division and the Pommies [English] were all back there you know so. But it all come together 6 months later, 5 months later they had the big battle of El Alamein which was the first time the Germans had been pushed back.
So do you have specific memories of this big battle?
Only seeing the start of it, I was a bit behind. We had taken up a lot of ammunition, 25 pound of artillery ammunition and they dug it into the desert, just in front of the guns and they, I don’t know how much it was, I didn’t know the number
or the statistics but we where there for 3 or 4, 5 months and getting ready, we were building up the ammunition, we were building up, I mean General Montgomery was building up the tanks, numbers, everything, getting ready for a final push and on the night of the 23rd of October
at 9.40pm there was a thousand 25-pounders, guns, wheel-to-wheel. And they all went off at once and the sky lit up like lightning. And that’s my memory of it. And then after that of course the battle lasted 9 days, and the Germans retreated and we went
forward and I went through the area where the frontline or where no man’s land had been and you couldn’t put your hand on the ground like that without touching a bit of shrapnel. And it was a battle and a half that one. I’ve spoken to a lot of the fellas that were there and it was pretty rough.
a workshop section at the time and we were a 3 mile back from the front and things were pretty quiet and everybody was a little thirsty so I got one of the trucks that was there, an ordinary 3 ton Chevy [Chevrolet] truck and a couple of the others,
one was a corporal and one another fella and so we went out, we didn’t have any paper if you went down the main road you had to carry papers so instead of going down the main road back to 20 or 30 mile back where we knew there was a NAAFI canteen, NAAFI was the British canteen service, you know they sold all the
lollies and chocolates and grog and all that cigarettes and that stuff . So we couldn’t go down the main road, we went down into the desert, across the railway line there was a rail line up past Alamein, across into the desert, down the desert about 30-mile and come in this way, over the railway line into the NAAFI, big, big tent going
we would like to order or purchase some liquor? Oh yes, what unit? – form. So the other fella said you’re the best writer so I said yes, I took the form, what unit - First Australian Paratroops company number
of troops - 105. Another few bits and pieces and signed it J. Shackleton, Captain. I’ve got a pair of shorts on and shirt nothing else. “Oh well Sir, how many officers?” I said two officers. “Oh well that’s a bottle of liquor each for the officers and you can
purchase a case of Canadian beer.” which had 48 bottles in it. Right. We paid for that, put her in the back of the truck and we got a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of gin. So then we wanted some coal and the train line and we’d seen there was an engine on it, tender and a couple of trucks I think.
So we go across and on the way between the NAAFI and the railway line, Bertie the corporal says, “We better try this out before we get back otherwise we might not get a drink.” so he opened up the bottle of gin. So we are sipping the gin as we go along, neat, out of the bottle and we get to the train and there was only one bloke
on the engine, he was the fireman. So we said, “Could we get a little bit of coal from you?” “Oh sure sure.” “And have a drink.” so I handed him the bottle and he says, “Oh good thanks.” chuggalugalugalug “Ah bloody hell, you didn’t put any water with it!” “No.” I said, “We didn’t have water with it.” and then he shot of and shovelled half a
ton of coal in the back of the truck. We only wanted a little bit so we got back and there was only 13 of us and we drank the lot of it that night. So we had a little bit of the affluence of the illcohol. That was great I liked that and I liked the bit about J. Shackleton. I can still write it.
and you’re always worried about you know we should be home we shouldn’t be here. But unfortunately Winston Churchill, he didn’t want to lose us. I heard something over the radio the last week or so. I think, yeah it was on the TV coverage of the Anzac march, they said after
Alamein, Churchill didn’t want us to go. He wanted us to stay there or he wanted us to go to Burma. And we were put on board our convoy and we were coming to Australia and he changed the route, sent orders to go to Burma and our Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin argued
with him and redirected it back to Australia; thank goodness because if we’d have gone to Burma we’d have gone in the bag straight away because at that stage the Japs had just taken Rangoon. That’s what; I’m only repeating what I heard there. And luckily we were on our way to Burma and then we turned around and came back down through to Perth and then round to Sydney.
canal called Tel El Kabir handed all over, went by train down the Suez, Port Tewfik and then taken out and put on the Queen Mary. Some of the other divisions went onto other ships, but our particular unit went on that board, on board that ship. Whilst they loaded the Queen Mary and a couple of others, whilst they were waiting for
others to form up the convoy, The Queen Mary went down to down to, geez I have forgotten the name of it, I think it is Eritrea, and we anchored there for a couple of three days. Then we headed down the Red Sea and out into the open and finished up in
the Maldive group of islands, Adu Atoll it was called the one we went into this big atoll and anchored and I think they took on water and oil there and that was my 25th birthday. I had, we had in that and we had a beer issue and I got a mug of beer – my 25th Birthday. But we didn’t know anything about going to Burma or anything like that
we thought, “Geez we are going home, we are heading in that way.” and another week or so, came over the PA [public address] system, “The land you see on the port quarter is Australia.” And great cheers went up and we headed into Fremantle and they said, “Right, we will
be in Sydney in a week, if you wish you can send a telegram to your nearest and dearest.” which I did, I sent one to my mother, didn’t send one to her. And a week later, Saturday afternoon we arrived in Sydney and my mother they held the telegrams until the day before, so she only knew I was coming the Friday afternoon
and we came into Sydney Harbour 20 past 2 on a Saturday afternoon, beautiful clear sunshine, 27th February, lovely weather and we arrived and because we’d said we’d be there at 2 o’clock we were 20 minutes late and as local people we were supposed to get off first
and they were taking them in ferries over to Pyrmont and because we were late we missed out and we had to wait ‘til midnight, which was very upsetting. And then we got on the ferry and went over to Pyrmont and got on a train, didn’t know where the hell we were going and finished off in Wallgrove camp up near Rooty Hill and the whole camp was open, everything was open,
beer canteen was open, the other canteen. So we had a couple of beers then I had three ice creams, that was better than beer because we hadn’t had ice-cream and you could get clothes and everything and I don’t think we went to bed that night and at 6 o’clock the cooks came on duty and we had breakfast and we had bacon and eggs. I’ll never
forget that and later on 9 o’clock time I think it was, they gave us our leave passes and double-decker buses took us into Parramatta station and I came home to Artarmon. So that was good, but my good friend, he was like a brother to us, he lived across the road from us, he’d been on the rear party on board ship, he was on another section
of the 9th Division and he rang up my brother-in-law, and said, “I can’t get out of Wallgrove, come up and get me.” So he went up and got the car out, it had a big gas producer on it and went up and got him and brought him home to our place and the first night he stayed at our place before he went home to his own, he lived with his sister. That was a great home-coming that time.
The only trouble is we were so used to rations when on the Mary, we were on British rations which were pretty low, we came home and had a big dinner on the Sunday night and both of us went down to the back yard and threw it up – our stomach couldn’t handle it. Yeah so there you are. That’s off the Mary.
Bringing us back to the homecoming in Sydney now we’ve covered your going back home, what was it like to suddenly be back home?
I think maybe the sleeping in your own home or your own family’s home and the family atmosphere was excellent, the food was that much better, although we had to sometimes accept the fact that we couldn’t have eat as much as we had been given and there
was the effect of story-telling or relating incidents when we were overseas and also showing of photographs and so on, that’d be the basics. At that stage my sister’s husband, my brother-in-law who was a First World War man, took us, my friend and I who lived across the road, took us to the RSL
and made us join the RSL at North Sydney because we were returned ex-service men not ex-servicemen, we were service men but we were returned. So I first joined the RSL in April no March 1943 but unfortunately we lost that because we went away again to North Queensland and then to New Guinea
and the RSL wasn’t kept up, nobody kept it up so we had to re-enlist or re-join years later.
quite a reunion together you know by ourselves, luckily in one way, I could borrow a car and we did some trips around and various places and went out quite a lot. We as were all of us, with all of us,
either wives or girlfriends at that stage of our leave we had a 21 day leave, they were working. Most of them had jobs and as such they went to work during the day and so, us fellows used to meet in the city, there was a certain number of hotels that were meeting places for various sub-units and so on and you could
always go in there and find a friend and a comrade. Get a few drinks into you and then meet the ladies after work and plough on half way through the night and the poor girls had to get up and go to work next morning. Personally I used to sleep in and my mother looked after me and get me breakfast then I’d get showered and dressed and go to town.
Now with your reunion with Dinky did you feel that you were getting closer to her at this stage, you mentioned…
Well that is something that I really can’t remember. It I think it was a case of I was very happy to be with her to be back again you know. But then also there was also the underlying fact thought that we are going away again. You know how long were we going to be here? In actual fact,
our division, we went to war three times. We went to war in the Middle East, we came back and went to North Queensland, we went to war at New Guinea, we came back to Australia, went to North Queensland again and then went away again to Borneo. So we actually went away three times, which was a bit of a, how will I put it, it was a not so much worrying, I ‘spose there was a worrying there to it in one’s mind
but it was something you knew it was going to happen so you made the best of the time that you had with your loved ones.
part of the division that was in the New South Wales Sydney area through the city of Sydney which went from the railway, Central Railway, down Elizabeth Street left into Martin Place, down past the Cenotaph, back up George street and then up on a train. I think we went back to Wallgrove. But then
I’m not sure; I can’t remember the dates of this but some stage in that time there was a wharf strike on the city wharf, wharf areas. And we as transport drivers, they thought we were pretty good with equipment, machinery and so on so they called for volunteers for the wharves. We were supposed to be working the winches and that sort of thing. But we finished up just as, the ones that
volunteered, and we were there for about 5 weeks. And we worked that wharf, was loading ships and unloading ships and so on and so on because at that stage the wharf labourers wouldn’t load any ships going to the war you know any ammunition or anything like that. And they weren’t very happy with us being put into that job.
Newcastle to Sydney, big heavy plates. We loaded unloaded lead ingots from Port Pirie back through to Sydney and we unloaded them. My particular group we were down at the bottom end of King Street in Darling Harbour and that’s where we worked at all the time and we had all sorts of
general cargo. At another stage we unloaded bags of oats onto a, most of the stuff we unloaded went onto the wharf and then there was stevedores working there and they organised it from there. But this particular ship came in and it had thousands and thousands of bags of oats on it, three and a half bushel bags you know and we unloaded them onto the flat-top
barge beside. Lunch time came and there was about a thousand bags on it and we went away. Usually we used to cross the road to a hotel or a little café to have something to eat and when we got back the barge had sprung a leak in one corner and as it filled up with water in one corner it just flipped over like that and our thousand bags went into the harbour. So we did a lot of work for no result but
that was alright we were quite happy and have a lot of fun. You can make fun out of anything especially when you are young and you can have a few beers on the way sort of thing it’s a something that you just accept, you’ve got to do it so make the best of it.
train from oh I can’t remember the name of the station, I’m not sure where it was. But anyway we got on this train and it took three and a half days to get to Cairns, on the way, we reckoned the train had square wheels anyway because it rattled along and we played cards all the way,
pontoon, we played pontoon all the way. And that was a sort of an on-going game. If you got a bit tired you stood up, went away and someone would take your seat, that was alright. But we were we were fed by the, not by the army but by the Country Women’s Association and at every big station where there was the facilities necessary they used to give us a meal. Mostly stew of course, which was the usual,
but it was the easiest one to manufacture in that situation and we used to stop every now and again and we ‘d look out and watch the fields going past, it was a very, quite a boring trip but, and it took so long and we never got out of our clothes. You could lie on the floor and have a sleep, or somebody would sleep up in the luggage racks and
things like that. It was a I ‘spose you know these sort of trips there, there is a certain amount of adventure in them anyway. We didn’t know where we were going and then when we finished up in Cairns we transferred to another train and went up onto the tablelands, Atherton Tablelands and were taken to a camp site which was a whole division, a place called Kairi. And we
virtually had to cut our own camp out of the scrub and put up tents and built funny sort of buildings for our eating areas and cook areas cook houses and things like that and also did our training in jungle warfare and raced around in trucks and so on
and in about times of about three weeks at a time a number of or a battalion or two would be taken down to a beach north of Cairns by the name of Trinity beach which had a beach suitable for landing craft which meant that it wasn’t a long flat beach it was a one that went down fairly
steeply into deeper water not very far from the beach itself and at that area we trained on landing barges, small barges for infantry and larger ones of LST [landing ship tanks], we used to take trucks on there and at that stage that was the first time we ever got to use jeeps and trailers and we
used to have training to a putting them on the ships or whatever, smaller barges, going out for a little run, coming back into the beach and unloading and so on and so on, training all the time you know.
they were cargo ships built during the war, cheaply. And we went on that across the Coral Sea and around into the harbour of Milne Bay, which was quite a large harbour and one little thing we were steaming slowing up this harbour to where the wharf area was, gave us a little fright in that quite
closely beside us about 100-feet away a very black submarine surfaced. Frightened the hell out of us we thought it might have been somebody else, but it was one of ours fortunately. Anyway we got off there and went into a camp amongst the coconut plantations and had our first experience of when the coconut gets old it will detach itself
from the tree and fall and when you know, they are 40 or 50 feet high they come down with a very heavy thud. Luckily nobody got hurt but it gives you a bit of a fright when they land beside you and we did our little bit of fiddling around in the camp there and then we were, the idea was that given to us, we now get ready for a landing and
we had a few jeeps but the Americans had made unserviceable a lot of their GMC [Chevrolet] trucks and they had just driven them into the scrub and left them and we took them over…
this LST was on. We were travelling at night and we were going to land early in the morning and our padre was there with us on the ship with us. No we were travelling just at dusk and he came along and he said, “If anybody would like I’ll have a little service before we land in the morning.”
And he went up to the prow of the ship and there was about 20 of us I ‘spose stood around and it was the most, I can’t think of the word I want, it was it made you think a lot. Not so much about the church or anything like that but what was going to happen tomorrow and what how you would go. Even though we did
have a few prayers and so on. It was a very, not painful, I can’t think of the word I want, but it really got to you know, you were thinking, well that was a lovely little service and it gave you a benefit of hopefully that everything that would go alright tomorrow and so on.
Could you walk us through a description of the landing at Red Beach?
Yeah. Red Beach was a strip of beach I ‘spose about a kilometre long only bout 20-feet wide, darkish to black sand, jungle straight at the edge of the sand, pretty high trees and so on.
The landing party, the beach party had put down some of this metal stripping that helps to stop bogging in the sand of trucks and so on. Actually there was something before we landed there, something that was of interest. The captain of the LST which was an American it was an American ship,
made a mistake in his calculations of navigation and in the middle of the night he landed on a beach and he was 3,000 yards out, we were 3,000 yards away from where we should have been at Red Beach and with LSTs what they normally do as they are coming in to land on the beach they drop an anchor out about 500 yards out with
a big hawser or steel hawser so they can drag it off well it was so heavily loaded in the front that he couldn’t get it off. Tried with the winches on the back so we were called, all the drivers and anybody that was standing around would have to unload all the stores off the front of the LST. So we unloaded
about 100 tons of stores in about 10 minutes because we thought we were in Jap territory and we thought, the thought in one’s mind was that they would machine gun us or hit us with something. And we quickly got rid of all this stuff and landed it on this beach and he was gradually able to pull the LST off and we went up to Red Beach where we should have been. When we got there
we landed alright, and dropped the front down, opened the front doors and dropped the front then started taking the vehicle off and my vehicle, which was a big GMC, 6-wheel drive, 10 wheels and I came I was on the top deck, there was two decks, one internally and
one on the top deck which was out in the open then they had a steel sort of runway which they lowered down on to the edge the one that went out to the beach and I drove that down and I drove down to the right and the beach master said, “Just take it along to the end of the sand there and leave it.” It was all loaded with stores and so on and then he said, “Go back to your unit.”
and it was daylight by this time. And I did that left it and I’m walking back, I had my gear, my rifle and I’m walking back along where there was a bit of an opening though the scrub and some Zeros – that was the Japanese fighter planes, came in and started to strafe the beach and
as I usually say, preservation, I drive into the bush off the beach into the scrub and I’m hiding down behind what I thought was good cover and when the Zeros had gone I sort of stood up and looked down and I am down behind a shrub which is about 8-foot high and the trunk of it
was about that thick and I’m thinking that was great, that would help a lot and got up with a silly grin on my face and walked up to my unit and that was it so I was back into the jeeps after that.
But and as we apparently, as we as I suggested, as we landed, the Japs would know, and they would bring troops in to counteract us and that’s when the infantry had their fights and so on and in the area between Red Beach and Lae itself there was five rivers to cross and we crossed four of them,
but the last one which was called the Busu, it was a fast-running river and the Japanese in on the other side, the Red Beach and they made it very difficult for us, our infantry blokes to get across. And quite a lot were either shot or drowned in the river trying to cross. They tried to cross with ropes and things, but the water was running at about 15-knots, which is
pretty fast for a fairly deep river.
corduroy roads out of saplings and the engineers cut them down and laid them side-by-side and made some way of holding them down. And we had to drive over those to the swamps to get to the infantry. You bounced up and down, took all the skin of your back. But yeah that was that was where we did.
Between in the scrub itself there was a lot of fairly high trees and a lot of short stuff and what they called kunai grass, and kunai grass is like something like sorghum, it’s fairly narrow in diameter but it looks a bit like corn which is, corn stalks, but that runs up to 6 to 8 to 9-feet high and we had to run over that with our jeeps to make
tracks to be able to go where we wanted to because there was no roads, nothing at all, only scrub.
your temperature starts to go up as far as about 104 – 105 degrees and then it goes down to about 94. As a matter of fact I went to the regimental aid post at one stage and he took my temperature and he said, “Bloody hell you’re dead!” I was so low in temperature and use start to shiver and your stomach muscles contract and you try to stop shivering
and your high temperature, low temperature, stomach, no you don’t want to eat nothing like that and your stomach muscles are so sore and they used to send us to hospital and at that stage everyday we used to have to take what they called Atebrin tablets the ones that put a yellow sheen all over your body and
that was supposed to retard the malaria getting to you and they’d send you to hospital and hospital was 6 days and they all they used to give you was a multitude of Atebrin tablets. I think we used to have 12 a day for the first two days, 8 a day for the second two days and 6 a day for the third
two days and then back to your unit. But then anyway, it’s something you got used to I ‘spose you just went back and you mightn’t have felt that good but worst that than was dengue… dengue fever was worse than malaria, similar fever, but lasts longer. I had it at one stage and I was ill for three weeks
and that you know I lived on black tea and they used to get me some bread and that’s about all I had for three weeks so…
we came back to Sydney, were given 21 days leave, we came back by, we came to ship to Brisbane and then by train to Sydney so we were given our leave passes and another fella and I, who lived over he lived over in Willoughby we got on the electric train at Hornsby, we had our leave passes and they said we could get off if we want
and we came down to Artarmon this was about 9 o’clock a night I think something like that, and when we got off the train we were so excited we couldn’t sit down all the way down we stood up you know all the way down and I got on the phone. I can’t remember if I had any money I can’t remember whether, but I used the phone and rang my brother-in-law up to come up and pick us up coz he always had a car and then he took Freddie, my mate
home to Willoughby and we went back to Artarmon. Well five days later I got malaria and I think, I don’t know how they got me or how they organised it but someone must have rung the army and they sent and army ambulance for me. And this ambulance arrived for me out the front, girl got out, she was the driver and came in and
said, “I got to take you to hospital over at Concord.” and I said, “Where’s the stretcher?” “Oh no stretcher, I’m by myself, you’ll have to walk out.” Oh dear that was great, so we get to Concord [Hospital], I was in a sort of coma all the way, but unfortunately as a driver I was quite upset because she crashed every gear between here and Concord well Artarmon and Concord. And they
put me in to bed and I think they thought even with the malaria that I was so thin they would try and build me up so they kept me for three weeks. I got over it alright and but I didn’t put on any weight and my family and my sister come and see me and after the three weeks they said, “Righto, you can go back to your unit.” And I said, “But what about my leave?” I only had four-five days out of twenty-one,
“Oh that’s nothing to do with us, go back to your unit.” So I got out of hospital and I went home to Artarmon and I stayed around for about five days, five days I think it was, AWL [Absent Without Leave], I didn’t have a leave pass or anything so after that time, I’d been together with my wife, girlfriend at that stage
and I decided to go back and went out to Sydney Showground and presented myself at the ASC [Australian Service Corps] office I forget what they call it now, and said, “Driver Donnelly, I have been on leave.” “Oh have you?” he said, “We’ve been waiting for you.” the sergeant behind the desk. I said, “Righto, good on you.” I’d put my gear down on the floor
and the sergeant talked to somebody behind him and I didn’t hear what they said, he was a corporal and he came out and said, “Pick up your gear.” I said righto and we were walking around down around the showgrounds, it’s a semi-circular around the what’s the name there…and we’re yakking [talking] away down and he said you know,0=Where’re you’re going?” And I said, “No, where’re we going?” He said, “You’re going into the boob, going into gaol.” I said, “Oh don’t be silly,
what they putting me in jail for?” “Oh you’re awaiting trial.” So I finished up in jail for 36 hours. And they put me up in front of an old World War I colonel and he said, after he read the charge, he said, “You know better than this solder you’re a Middle East veteran.” I said, “Oh well Sir.” I told him the story I said I was away five days and I did this and that and he said well,
“Fined two days pay.” So I got out of it particularly well and I get out and I’m walking around the showground and who do I come face to face with but with my girlfriend, she worked at the area out there with the financial district office which was an army situation, but as a civilian she worked there in the office. She said, “Where have you been, we’ve been looking for you?” I said, “I’ve been in that so and so jail over there.”
And I will honestly say that after 36 hours you get the impression of stir-craziness because being caught up in a little area then a little area at night time with barbed all over and there was a few wooden dormitory type things with two beds in each. They took your boots off you
and your belts off you so you could, so they put you to bed, two at a time and you know you become to an extent, you know it’s the inference of being curtailed. It got to you know very much so. Even to the extent I had a better deal than some others because when I got in there, the sergeant of the guard, they were military police
and had been one of our unit. And he had transferred to the MPs [Military Police] in Tobruk and I knew him and he said, “Hello Barn what are you, you know how are you and what are you doing?” he said, “I can’t do much for you.” I said, “I know, you know, you’ve got you job to do.” “The other thing I can do is I’ll let you use your own razor and things.” He said what we normally and there was about
30 blokes in the jail what they used to do in the morning, they’d put out 6-razors and 6-blades and everybody had to use those. So you can understand it’s not a very good situation to be in and Toey said you could use you own, oh good.
Just moving us back to New Guinea wasn’t there a story involving young local girls and Milne Bay?
Well yes there was. When we got to Milne Bay well we were only there a fortnight or a couple of weeks something like that and we were doing little jobs around and I cannot remember exactly but with the truck I had to go and pick up some workers from a must have been from a plantation or something like that and when
I got there I had an open 3-ton truck there was about 25 young girls there, teenagers I would have suggested and all they had on was grass skirts and you know my eyes came out on sticks and I sort of had a bit of a look around and they were all giggling away like little chooks [hens] you know, and I’m getting an eye-full of everything and
they all got into the back except two and they jumped up in the front seat with me you see and I got on the truck you see and any erotic thoughts I had were completely decimated because the smell was horrific, they had rubbed butter in their hair and it had gone rancid. Ohh…. so I just kept driving
with my head out the window. So as you can imagine they were quite, there’s a good word for it pulchritudinous. That’s enough, that’s the story that’s all that went on.
at Lae and it was only about 4 or 5 weeks later that we went from there up to Finschhafen and landed at Scarlet Beach which differentiated between Red Beach and Scarlet you know the and the infantry strike went up there a brigade, three battalions, and they were taken on in various landing craft, landed on the
beach and had a fire fight straight away and then they pushed in a little bit and more barges were brought it and the enemy was fighting back of course but the infantry moved in a fairly reasonably sized beachhead and they tried to consolidate.
Whilst that was on I actually, that happened early one morning and the next morning I was I came from Lae in a group of small barges, there was about 16 barges I think only they only took about 3-tonne weight and I had a loaded jeep. We had about
25 infantry and we had 3-tonne of ammunition on it as well. And we were in a group about I think about 16 barges and we were going up from Lae up the coast, ready to land at which wasn’t that Scarlet beach, it was a couple of miles down at this place called Kedan Point and as we were going along
a big thunderstorm came on, rained like billio [a lot]. The yank that was driving the barge was a little bit upset because the bilge pump cut out and he wasn’t able to get rid of any water and the barge was taking water. So it got to stage where he said, “Well look,
I don’t know what we are going to do, but I can’t…. she is virtually sinking and there is not much I can do.” And we looked over to towards land which was about a mile away and we were thinking, how are we going to swim all that way with all our gear? And so we said, “We’ll have to jettison some of our cargo.” so we threw the 3-ton of ammo [ammunition] over the back, couldn’t move the jeep of course.
This thunderstorm, rainstorm was on and it went on for 20-minutes, half-an-hour suddenly the rain stopped and the sun came out, bilge pumped started to work and on the way got rid of all the water she was taking the water. It was quite a worrying time there for a while.
And we landed at this Kedan Point and I took the jeep off and went to find my unit who were in a little bit of a hollow in the area with jungle around it and that was what they called Bomb Alley. The Japs
had been bombing it the day that morning before I got there. I must have had good luck because after that they didn’t get a bomb. And then we moved all over that area. The infantry went further back into the jungle areas, up in to the mountains where and the final battles were up around Sattleburg, which was a very high
mountainous area. I think it was a German-run mission originally before the war, there was a lot of German missionaries came out to that area and that’s Sattleburg was the… a point which covered every view of the rest of the area there and that’s where
one of our fellas by the name of Tom Derek got himself a VC [Victoria Cross] up there.
with jeeps, and the road had been made by a engineer with a bulldozer, that’s all the road was. And we used to take either a jeep and trailer up or a when it was too steep, just a jeep, take the stores, ammunition and everything like that up and this particular day I was gone up with some water in the back I think in a jeep only
up through this it was terribly muddy as you can understand, with the rain and pretty wet and damp and so on and I got up to this level and there was a little village there and there was a battalion around it probably from a mile around you know sort of thing protecting it and up there in the background was Sattleburg
and they were sort of in support of the other battalions. When I got up to this little village the officer up there, I don’t know who he was, he said, “Are you going back down again?” And I said oh yeah, and I unloaded and he said, “We got a fella that’s got appendicitis.” “Oh gosh, that’s bad.” and he says, “Yes, could you take him down to the CSS?” which is the Casualty Clearing Station, and I
said, “Of course yeah, where is he?” looking around you know, and they said, this fella said, “Well, if you go up that track.” and it was a track on a ridge two there had been traffic up there before and there was two wheel tracks. And he said, “He’s up there.” and I said, “How far?” you know a little scary. Because it was heading towards Sattleburg where the Japs were
and I said, “How far?” and he said, “Oh they’ll stop, somebody will stop you.” And I said goodo. And it was very late in the afternoon and the light was failing a little and so on. And so I drive up you know like this and I’m saying it can’t be much further, it can’t be much further, I reckon it was about 4 mile but I think it was only half a mile. And I’m thinking this track is the prime
target for Japanese to put a machine gun and fire down at it every now and again you know and I’ll get it any minute. But anyway they stopped me and I got this fellow and he sat in beside me, turned the jeep around with difficulty and I’m going down the hill and every bump he’d go ‘ohhh’ and I’d worry about him because I was hurting him you know and so on. Anyway we were going back down what they call the Sattleburg track
and I heard a bit of a noise and he said, “Go, go go!” that was a bullet and apparently, I hadn’t heard it, there was a Jap sniper up in a tree somewhere. A matter of fact he had killed one of our blokes couple of days before. Shot him through the neck actually and so I hit the accelerator hard
you know and went like so and took him down got him down to the CCS and said “Ooray! I’m going.” That was quite an experience.
chased him all through these towns which we can’t remember. And we finished up at the Christmas break or at Christmas time, we were in an area in a riverbed which was sort of a dried up river bed but it still had a river running through the middle and it was called Wandeki. And we had our Christmas dinner there which was quite a lovely meal after some
of the food we had been eating. And we were doing our normal work situation, the trucks, but we also had a small a small fleet of ducks that were what they called amphibious trucks and we were doing work with them like taking stores and stuff from one beach to another you could run down a beach on the wheels on the water
and put the propeller on and away you’d go. Not very fast, flat out they could do 4 knots, but as a matter of fact, one of my a friends was out in one of those ducks about a mile out of sea one time, coming, he’d emptied his, done his load and was coming back and an American fighter aircraft, started to shoot at him
and poor old Dick only had his shorts on and he had his army hat on and he was waving his army hat trying to indicate that he was an Australian. Unfortunately he got a cannon shell through his leg and they sunk the duck. So we weren’t very happy with the American Air Force at that stage.
And what was your attitude of you and your mates to the Japanese?
Well the ones I saw, or we saw, they were like little animals, they we never came across, it’s a false thought that all Japanese are small, because some of them that came from the top island, Hokkaido, I think the name of it is, they were all about 6-foot. And the Japanese they were mainly marines and
they were big fellas and they, not that I had any actual contact with them, but from what I was told, they were good fighters. But the other ones, the little ones, to me they looked like very close to animals, you know. Plus also the fact I ‘spose that at the time that I’m thinking of that about them of that way, was that they were short of food,
that was Tarakan I remember they were short of food and they couldn’t be sustained by their own people because I think, I’m sure the allies had complete control of the sea. On the little island of Tarakan they were trying to get into our places to steal food even.
Tex Morton now , he is always known as Tex, but he was he was with us all the way through 9th Division, he was padre to one of the infantry battalions and then he got a rise and went he was padre for the division especially as a Salvation Army man because
there were other padres of various Catholic, Protestant, numbers of them but Tex was…first time I ever met him was at Lae, when we landed at Lae and I talked about the kunai grass and I was driving along this day and come around a patch of high kunai that hadn’t been flattened
out. On the river back, they were shooting at each other across the river and so on and so on, I had a load of ammunition to go up, there was aircraft coming in with low, very low about our side of the river and strafing the Japanese on the other side
and things were you know pretty rough I ‘spose you’d say and I’m just driving around this corner and here’s this Salvation Army man. And I’m telling Tex this some… couple of years ago at the Rats and I’m saying, here’s this bloody silly Salvo bloke and he has an urn. I don’t know where the hell he got the hot water from, but the first thing he says to me, “Would you have a cup of tea, digger?”
And I said, “Something’s going to happen.” and I said, “Okay, I’ll have a quick cup.” and got it down as fast as I could and away I went. And I’m telling Tex this and he said, “Barn that was me.” And it was too because we found out exactly, we worked out exactly where it was, and here he is in the middle of the war, supplying cups of tea. And I said, “You’re bloody stupid.”
And I believe that Dinky sent you parcels of food and I believe her marshmallows in particular were popular?
That’s right, well yeah I just to like those and she used to send marshmallows and other things in them in the parcels as well. But I had one of my friends who was with us and I reckon he could smell marshmallows and when they left Sydney, because I’d get a parcel and I’d be opening it up and I’d look up and he’d be looking over my shoulder and say,
“Did Dink send you any marshmallows?” We always used to share. A fun thing happened after the war we had a reunion party at his place one day and my wife said, “I’ll make him some marshmallows and take them over.” so we did and he was very pleased about getting this parcel, little parcel of marshmallows and he had a couple and he said, “I’ll put them in the fridge and I’ll have them after.”
He rang me up the next day and said, “I went to get those marshmallows and my bloody kids had eaten the lot!” So overtime he talks to me and he lives up North Coast he said, “Has Dink made any marshmallows?” Poor old Bob, and yes he was a good mate.
So I guess by this time you were well and truly ready to back to Sydney, to go home for a while?
When are we going yeah, that was a thought. We were on Tarakan when the war finished and then they had a what they called a point system, because ships were hard to come by to transport soldiers, they gave points for the length of time you were in the army,
whether you were married and had children and so on and so on. And some of them had been in nearly six years, there was a group, the earlier divisions, 6th Division, they’d been in six years and they had first preference to come home. And then it got down to us with five years, but some of the others that had wives to go back to got in the earlier. We were sent
back in groups when there where were ships available.
No it was better prepared. Better, looked better and was a better ration. The only thing that brings to mind is that what you got your meal on what an indented stainless steel plate with holes, not holes but indentations about that deep, you got, meat and vegetables, pudding and maybe ice-cream, they
were mad with the ice-cream but before they put got those plates, they put them in the steam and to clean them and as they came out they were nearly red hot and they’d put a scoop of ice-cream in it, it would go into water. But that wasn’t that good, but anyway we ate it. Well anyway when we left Townsville we went out across the Coral Sea and up around the point of New Guinea and
up to an island called Morotai which was a staging island. I don’t know, there was an American camp there as well and we were there for a week or so and then they got all the ships together and went off the Tarakan which was a two day trip and landed on a muddy beach
at south-eastern area of the island of Tarakan.
belly tanks which were tanks of fuel that were swung under the aircraft, they were Japanese and we made a little boat. And we cut a hole in the top of one so you could sit in it and we had, I think we had a couple of fronds off coconut trees to paddle with and we acquired or better word stole,
a case of gelignite and some detonators and the necessary equipment which.. we actually found out later, an army off the shore we were near a beach, off the shore, there was a big underwater cliff, semi-coral, rock
and so on and down 50 or 40 feet down, lots of fish, so we’ll go fishing. So we tried hand grenades, but they weren’t strong enough so we said, that’s when we acquired the gelignite and we’re organised and got the gelignite with a detonator and fuse and we paddle out and looked down and there we could
see the fish down there and lit the fuse and threw the gelignite out like that and it didn’t sink because it was wrapped in oiled paper and so, the fuse is burning and any minute its going to up so we paddled away – whooff!! Up she went. So we had to go and find a couple of rocks and we tied the gelignite to the rocks so it would go down before it went off. But we got
enough fish for a meal of fried fish for the mob, it was good.
it could be thrown into a mud puddle and pulled out and still fire you know. It was very good, nice and light. It only fired a short bullet, it was good, the infantry loved them, they said they were fantastic. And it was better than a rifle, it wouldn’t shoot as far but it was good for close-contact shooting,
or close-contact fighting and so on, but anyway it was two-handed and it had a little short barrel and a magazine that stood up like this, about this high, square, and we were issued with a few of these. Not for everybody but one for every section or something like that. And one of our, we were all in this we decided that we’d have a bit of a
play around, have a shoot with it. There was a cliff face there that looked down into the water, so we threw a bit of board over and we were having a shot you know. And one of my friends you know, he’d I don’t know what he’d been doing but he had bare feet and then he put his boots on with the tongue was out and it was all open and he shot like this and all the empty shells came out the bottom
and fell into his boot and a shell when it is fired like that becomes red hot and he was dancing around like a ballet dancer trying to get his shoes off. And we all had a bit of a shot you know just to try it out.
water that the barges could come it on it. But the Japanese knowing that that was the only way in, the made up… like Meccano, in big steel beams and they put those hundred yards out in the water so the barges weren’t supposed to able to get in you know.
And our engineer fellows went in there, in front of the ships and laid charges against them and blew them up, blew them out of their positions so the barges could get in. And it was all covered in mud and behind that on the little hill, there was all the big tanks for the oil. As I said the oil wells there, there
was about 500 of them and it was very pure oil, it could be pumped into ships bunkers and could be used to fire the bunkers and could be used to fire the boilers. And when we when the infantry, always in first of course and then the artillery and all that, they had had a, the navy did a lot of a
shell fire into the oil area when the big tanks were, where the big tanks were burning and busted and oil running all over and so on. And then behind that in a bit further in to the centre of the island behind that was the township and there were civilians all in there and things were a bit hairy. And there was one road, bitumen, about one and a half cars wide
and the Japanese had dug holes and put aerial bombs in them with the nose up so if you ran over them and they’d blown up because if you hit the front nose it would go down and break the charge. So then the engineers had to come along and dig them all up before we were able to use the roads.
statistics of the numbers that were killed or wounded, they said that it was pretty tough fighters, the Japs on there and they were out in the and the scrub was bad, the jungle areas and so on it made it a bit difficult. And again they had their snipers up in trees and made it very dangerous to
walk around you know. After the township itself area was cleared and the Japs, moved back all the time, being pushed back by our fellas, there was only a small amount of roads there that could be used there to transport food or ammunition or whatever,
stores, so there was a lot of people from Java that the Japanese brought up from Java to work on the oilfields, they were still there – civilians. And when we couldn’t get our vehicles at the end to the road, we couldn’t go in to the jungle so easily; we used to use the Javanese boys as carriers
and they’d carry food and ammunition and everything. And our particular unit used to go along as what we called shotgun guards, we had to guard them because we were going through territory where there could have been Japanese incursions and so on. Actually, we’d drive to the end of the road and then, I’ve got an idea,
I think it was about we used to have to travel about 5,000 yards out into where the food and stores were necessary and then all the way back in again of course and the we called them little Javanese boys I ‘spose they were not they fairly old anyway, but they used to carry about 20 pounds each and then come back empty of course.
And we used to go along guarding them, not that I ever struck anybody out there, any of the enemy but I used to go out with them well a lot of us did various times carrying out that duty.
to go in the jungle than it was to fight in the open area around the township, it was only small only a little one, it was relatively clear where they had cleared the jungle back. And also they had fought or been pushed back, there was a small airstrip. And we had some air force
soldiers I ‘spose they were, Air force unit that went in and captured the airstrip which was only short and I ‘spose the Japs went back in and into the area where it was very rough and very much jungle and they were fighting from there. It got to the stage I think where the idea was well
we’ll just keep them away from us and don’t let them, because they were gradually, they were not being sustained by their own people and they might even give up. But anyway, the war ended before that was necessary.
them coming into the camps and trying to steal, our particular little camp, there was one instance that I can remember, I didn’t actually see it, it was in the dark and one of our fellows got up out of his little humpy bed and went out into the scrub a bit to urinate
and he said he saw a Japanese coming out of our kitchen area but he couldn’t do anything about it coz he was in the nude and by the time he got back and raised the alarm, the Jap had gone but I had heard, you’d hearsay was such that you’d hear that oh yeah we lost some, or somebody caught a Jap or something like that, they were in the kitchen trying to get something to eat. Coz there was, the island itself,
where they were, other than where we were was very much rough, there was nothing there I mean some of the jungle, there is always trees of edible fruits or something, but I don’t think there was anything like that there at all. Again I ‘spose luckily for us the war finished. Coz we were only there
3 months and that was the finish of the war and that was a reasonable way to finish up the deal.
Originally on of the main objects was the airstrip, but when they got it and these were only my ideas, it was very short, it wouldn’t have taken bombers, it took fighters but even they were had to land very short, so maybe it was to some extent
unnecessary to take it, well I suppose the Japanese could have used the oil, because the control of the sea was it the hands of the allies at that stage, you I could probably say yes I agree it wasn’t necessary. Yet again you hear a lot of comment about why and wherefore and how,
even the whole area, like Borneo, because our part of our division went up into north Borneo and another division, 7th Division went into a town called Balikpapan, the talk is that maybe it wasn’t necessary to do all that, and maybe you can say that
a lot of blokes got killed and shouldn’t have done, but that’s only what in my own mind what I’ve worked out and what we talk about and also it was an option that was put forward by all the papers and so on and so on and all the historians saying it wasn’t necessary. Maybe it was, I don’t know. We were
when the war finished luckily the next place that we would have landed was Japan and we were quite happy that the war finished before that happened. They reckoned that the 9th Division was pencilled in to land on the lower island of Japan.
with the fellas. He loved or start another way.. around our area there was a lot of paspalum-type grass and there was a lot of grasshoppers and this little bloke loved grasshoppers to eat and we used to catch them for him and he had one in each little hand and he’d chew the head off,
and then he’d chew a bit off this one and then underneath his chin he had two sacks and he used to stuff all his food in there to eat later, but he had a great liking for toothpaste and he used to eat all our toothpaste. And also he apparently and this was apparently what we knew, they liked salt
and he used to get them from the hairs on our arms and he’d pull the hair out and there’s a little sack at the base of the hair and they reckon that’s salty down there and you probably realise that as you perspire, it does taste salty and he used to eat that. But a funny little bloke, I think when we all left they just let him go, coz we left in dribs and drabs and there was
still somebody there when I left so they probably looked after him.
five years and when we went all back to work again, there was a lot of us that had trouble with the loss of those friendships and tried to drown them with grog [alcohol], and we was drinking heavily most of us. Also of course I had some illnesses and as
if I had an operation which I did have shortly after the war finished that I came out of the anaesthetic living the war over again and had a burst appendix and after that of course I taught the hospital all the swear words I knew coming out of the operation,
and then I had a virus pneumonia and again lived the war over and about 3 or 4 years after the war I had a very bad nervous breakdown and I was away from work for about 8 weeks or something like that. But my wife wouldn’t let me be taken to hospital she looked after me at home and my old GP, he was a
looking after me regularly, daily, and I gradually got out of that and gave up smoking and which we used to all smoke, very heavily, and I gradually came around to more of a normal lifestyle. Left the work I been in for 4 or 5 years and as I said,
bought a newsagency. In that time after the war, I’d gone back to technical college and done 4 years in the foundry department and the metallurgical department of the Sydney Technical College and enhanced my abilities to an extent which helped me in later years. We
went on from there as a married couple and we only had one son and we have now been married 55 and a half years.
Do you still dream about the war?
No so much now, but I can remember it. You don’t so much dream about it now. But even these interviews which I have done for you and the Department of Defence, the night before I had some dreamings and recollections. More so maybe
my mind’s going around thinking what I’m going to say and what I’m what I’ve got to remember, which didn’t happen last night so much but did the night before. And you know you were coming 8 o’clock time say, that was in my mind and had to get up early and get organised and get dressed and was thinking about what I was going to say and remembering things that had happened so an and so on.
I don’t say that was a bad part, I don’t think so much or remember so much about the bad parts of the war, you think more about the fun times, you know the fun we had doing this and that and this and so on, the places we went to, you think what happened.
So what actually happened when you had your nervous breakdown?
Well I was at work and I was a technical representative and I had a company vehicle and used to go out to all our customers, foundries and so on and drinking fairly heavily, the man I worked for was an alcoholic and he, because I had the company vehicle and because I lived relatively close, if I was back in the office I always had to drive him home
and he wouldn’t pass a pub and he’d say to me, “Oh look, Joe, there’s a hotel over there, we’ll stop and have a drink.” and I’d say righto, and we’d stop and he’d say, “I’ve never been in this one before.” and we’d walk into the saloon bar and the girl behind the counter would say, “Hello Mr. Wright, the usual?” And he’d have a double scotch and
I was getting nearly bad as he was because I was drinking boiler-makers which is a scotch and beer chaser. And anyway one day, I went with one work colleague one lunch time to a hotel in Sussex Street and I met my nephew and we were having two or three drinks and I went out like a light and my work colleague got me
and went and got my car, or company car and drove me home and I was in a coma but I was very active, I was yelling and screaming and talking about air raids and God knows what else you know the bombers are coming and all this. I was in that for 18-36 hours I ‘spose,
she got our local GP at that stage and he’d know me for most my of life and he came down which was a fair way from his surgery we were living at Lane Cove in those days and he was at Artarmon, but she wouldn’t let me go to hospital, she said, “I’ll keep him.” And he treated me and I gradually came good, but I was very much introverted and wouldn’t
answer the phone, wouldn’t answer the door, if anybody came I’d hide in the bedroom. The best thing I can do is get out of the work situation you’re in, the grog, the liquor can be slowed down a bit by getting away from him and so we decided to buy a newsagency and sold everything we could get lay our hands to,
our house, and everything else to get enough financial assets to buy the newsagency and stayed there for 5 years.
and because you know I was working 16 hours a day, you know in the shop 16 hours a day, you know 4 o’clock in the morning to 7 o’clock at night that’s 15 hours anyway, seven days a week, it definitely slowed me down. And we were there five years without a day off except Christmas Day
and we are, because me wife’s people are English, we decided to go on a trip back to England and meet her all her family. She had left there when she was about 4. So we took our 10 year old son with us and went around the world, that was great. And then we came back and within three weeks I had a job as a technical rep [representative] and finished up
after two or three years on the sub-management trail and then finished up back in head office as a assistant general manager of big metal company. That was the last 20 years I was there, which I really enjoyed, my work situation in that particular company, but we had a terribly bad take over and we were one of the
first companies, big companies that were bought and sold off the corporate raiders, we lost, they well the company went bust all of it, they sold everything they could and just closed it up.
it’s a… as I mentioned I think that even on leave we’d meet each other when we weren’t out with wives and girlfriend and so on we’d still meet in a pub somewhere or in town. That was normal, where else would you go, you had no other friends, or very few, and our friends were so close, our comrades we so close to us, having lived with each other for five years,
you just kept going and it was the same after the war. After the war Anzac Day was the first of course, we used to have evenings, dances, parties of that type you know, bring the wives into the situation and then the wives and children, they all came into it. And we used to have reunion parties at houses, various places
or used to go to a little place, near George Street near Wynyard, which is a little dance-floor upstairs called the not the Paramount, but anyway it doesn’t matter. We used to go to Winns up in Oxford Street, they had a big carpet department behind the main shop and one of our fellas worked there so we used to get that and have dances.
We kept in very close contact throughout plus also had a couple of reunions a year. And kept in close contact by mail and people put on the mailing list and for the last 20 years at least, we have been very close and I ‘spose I helped that by
sending out newsletters and so on.
even those ones that can’t march in the march because of some disability or illness well they we always are in close contact by telephone or… Like Anzac evening when we came home here with my friend who was staying here I think I had five phone calls after that in that evening and they wanted to know how we went, what we did and what you had to eat and how many drinks
did you have and who was there you know it’s a very, very close comradeship and there’s of course within that there’s love and affection, in a male sort of a way. I
shouldn’t say this, who I went away with when he gets under the influence of alcohol, he says he always comes up to me and says, “I love you, you bastard.” So that’s the sort of love and affection we have between us and that’s with everybody, not just one or two they’re all got the affection. We’ve lost a lot of course, a lot dead, passed on.
through other people asking about their fathers or grandfathers because they never talked about what they did in the war time or they died early and I wanted to know what my grandfather did if I can does anybody know him or the questions I get through various people, this exemplifies
the position that there are a lot of fellas that never would talk about it. I know one in particular he was a prisoner of the Japs in Malaya. When he came back he was badly affected of course as they all were and over the years he has never said much about the war. But I have met him a few times we were
in a similar unit he was in the 8th Division ASC and I was in the 9th and when he’s with me, you can’t shut him up and that’s what his wife and sister-in-law, sisters-in-law say, “When he talks to you, he will talk to you and he can’t shut you up and he won’t talk to us.” So I don’t know how or why that is the attitude he takes.
Maybe because they don’t understand him, I don’t know. But we, my comrades and probably everybody in our similar situations most difficult to somebody who wasn’t there because if we talk together, we mainly reminisce, mostly
about the good times, the fun times you know and that carries on but it is harder to like I know people I talk with now and I have to think in a different way when I am talking with them you know. Because I can say to my mates, so on and so on and they know exactly what I’m talking about, but if I might have to if I’m talking to someone else,
I might have to weave a story around to bring them up to scratch as to what I’m thinking. That’s a way to look at it.