Bernard Donnelly
Archive number: 1
Preferred name: Barney
Date interviewed: 28 April, 2003

Served with:

9th Division ASC
5/41st Battalion

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Bernard (Barney) Donnelly 00019

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Most of Barney's life was in the metal industry. He had approximately five and a half years in the army, in the AIF.
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Transcript

Tape 01

01:00:30:00

Could you give us a quick summary of your life and career?
Well as I have said before to many people most of my life most of my life was in the metal industry of all types and I was in metal company when I joined the army. I had approximately five, five and a half years in the army

01:01:01:00

in the Australian AIF [Australian Imperial Force] and when I came back I went back to the same job position and worked from there into the foundry areas mainly and then I had a breakdown a nervous breakdown about three or four years after the war at which stage I was very badly effected

01:01:30:00

with war time problems. I was worrying about bombing and so on and so I as virtually in a state of back with the war time situations the bad times, even to the extent that my wife said I tried to strangle her a couple times in bed. And then I went back to the metal industry and finished up

01:02:00:00

in the management of a quite a big company and that was my lifestyle from then on. Virtually that’s a very small encapsulation of my life during that time.

01:02:15:00

That’s good Barney. Could you tell us when and were you were born?
Yes I was born in Frenchs Road Willoughby which is about a mile away from here where we are now in a house that my father built

01:02:30:00

for his mother in 1890. I was born in 1918 and we lived in that house in Frenchs Road for a couple of years then my father built one in Artarmon and we moved over to there when I was three. Unfortunately my father died when I was five and I lived there with my mother and three sisters. The house is still in the hands of the family

01:03:00:00

down in Artarmon Road Artarmon and my middle sister lives there still. In a couple of months she will be ninety-eight so and she is being looked after by her daughter. We have been around a few areas living my wife and I and we came back to Willoughby again approximately thirty years, its thirty one and

01:03:30:00

a bit or something like that so we are back home again.
Looking at the event of the death of your father that must have had quite an impact on the family?
Yes it did. He was a builder and I suppose I got no idea what the financial situation was in those days but I know that we had some houses that we had rented and my mother looked after those and kept the family going from then on.

01:04:00:00

And well only one sister got married that is the one that is still alive now and the other two just kept going. My eldest sister was a mathematics teacher and headmistress at the big high school at the end. We got on particularly well together. But I was very how shall I put it,

01:04:30:00

I didn’t want to do anything but I’d rather play sport. I went to a high school, a selective high school, North Sydney Boys and from there went into commercial life as a clerk and from then on metals were a main thought.

01:05:00:00

Barney you have mentioned a couple of aspects of what aunts and brothers and sisters were doing, what specific memories do you have of the living through the 1930’s depression?
Well it was fairly restrictive living I would suggest in that there wasn’t a lot of money for things that were outside the normal living necessities and but I was quite well looked

01:05:30:00

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

01:06:00:00

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

01:06:30:00

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,

01:07:00:00

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

01:07:30:00

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.
Was there anyone or let me put I another way was there any discussion in the household at all of the impact that World War I had had on Australia and specifically your family?
Not so much that, there was a certain amount of discussion about his experiences. But..

01:08:00:00

This was the brother-in-law?
Yes my brother-in-law.
Was talking about his World War I experiences was he?
Yes yes
What sort of things did he talk about?
Well some of them were gruesome he had actually, he was wounded then repatriated half way through the war time period and then went and joined up again, so he had two goes and from what he told us he got into the Flying

01:08:30:00

Corps towards the end of the war and crashed his plane but he came out of it alright. He was in reasonably good health and so on, but what he you know, told us a lot about the trench warfare and some of the things like, he said you could always tell a dead body whether they were smokers or not because if their lungs were exposed

01:09:00:00

you know they were all brown with nicotine and so on. Those were the gruesome things he used to talk about but it was educational for us anyway for a start, because we probably had those thoughts in our minds when we were maybe in similar situations.
What was the brother-in-law’s name?
Oswald Erwin Smith. Oz as we used to call him. He was terribly proud of us, me

01:09:30:00

and my good mate when we joined up and that was great and actually when we came back from the Middle East in 1943 he immediately took both of us down to join the RSL [Returned and Services League] so I joined the RSL in North Sydney in April 1943 and then ‘coz we went away to war again nobody kept it up so and I didn’t join the RSL until 1962 or something

01:10:00:00

afterward so there you are.
Where were you when you heard the war had first broken out?
It was a Sunday evening, I was in Artarmon at home I think, I’m not sure. I think I was in town during the day, went into the city and not sure if I heard it on the way

01:10:30:00

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.

01:11:00:00

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

01:11:30:00

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.
Did the war change any plans that you had for your life that you had at that time?
No not really

01:12:00:00

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

01:12:30:00

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

01:13:00:00

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

01:13:30:00

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

01:14:00:00

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.
Which pub was this?
I don’t know the name of it, but it’s in Pyrmont at the end of the Pyrmont Bridge which is now not a bridge of course, right at the end there before you go down there to the railway yard.

01:14:30:00

It was sort of a blood-house in those days because there was more fights there than anything else.
Now you’ve mentioned one job but there was a second job as well?
That was the first job, the second job was when I went into the metal supplier and from where I joined into the army and as I said before, they were the agents for a big company in England and we also

01:15:00:00

sold a lot of local non-ferrous material. Non-ferrous of course meaning not iron. I used to like that, as a matter of fact I did really like all my jobs especially the last 20 years. I went in as a technical representative when we came back from England. Two years later I was on the management trail and finished up as assistant general manager

01:15:30:00

of a big company which was unfortunately the first big company that was taken over by the corporate raiders and sold off. Luckily after I got out I was contracted and 18months after I left, the whole lot was sold and it was a big company. At one stage we had 156 vehicles.
You seemed to especially like the metal industry…
I did I did apparently, I don’t know why.

01:16:00:00

What was it about metal that inspired you?
As I said I always liked to see molten metal for some reason and then the colours in it and that. A funny sidelight is that when I was young, you know 12 or 13 and people asked me what I wanted to do, I said I wanted to be an analytical chemist. I had no idea what analytical chemistry meant

01:16:30:00

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,

01:17:00:00

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,

01:17:30:00

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.

01:18:00:00

Just moving back to World War II what do you recall of your enlistment?
I can honestly say I said to the office manager who was a First World War man, and I said, “I am going up to enlist.” so I didn’t have a car, must have gone in the tram and I went up to Park Road, Moore Park,

01:18:30:00

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

01:19:00:00

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

01:19:30:00

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.

01:20:00:00

Okay that’s great. So we are up to the Wallgrove camp, can you take us through what actually happened there?
Yes I was, we were in a well no I’ll go a little bit further back. There was a brigade, three battalions, 18th, 19th and 20th battalions which actually later finished up were… well they were 8th division and finished up going to Malaya.

01:20:30:00

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

01:21:00:00

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.

01:21:30:00

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

01:22:00:00

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.

01:22:30:00

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

01:23:00:00

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.

01:23:30:00

Do you mean there was a high mortality rate?
And all the prisoner of war situations. So we were put in mostly for a sort of, you know, four-five-six week situation something like that. Andour unit, the light division AASC which is the Australian Army Service Corps, is the only army service corps unit legally entitled

01:24:00:00

to wear bayonets because we fought as infantry yes. We are very proud of that as you could understand. So there that was our first taste.
Can you remember what the impact on you was of being under fire for the first time?
Yeah. Scared. When I say scared, frightened,

01:24:30:00

maybe frightened of being wounded and/or being killed of course that would be your primary thought and trying to ensure that you were well sort of covered, self-preservation comes to the fore very quickly that’s what I felt anyway, and you tried to do what you had to do normally you’re trained to do certain things

01:25:00:00

in those instances and work from there.
Do you recall what other men who were under fire did to protect themselves?
Well it would depend on the actual situation dependent on if it was a bullet or whether it was a shell landing or a bomb landing and so on and so on. Our first

01:25:30:00

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

01:26:00:00

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

01:26:30:00

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.

01:27:00:00

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

01:27:30:00

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,

01:28:00:00

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

01:28:30:00

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

01:29:00:00

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.

01:29:30:00

I don’t know, that was my thoughts at the time
So you referred to being blasé, initially you were frightened, there must have been periods of time where that sense of fear returned quite strongly?
Oh of course yes. When I mentioned the fact of blasé I think that sometimes you could accept things better depending on your thoughts in your mind, or maybe some

01:30:00:00

extraneous thing that came. Maybe you got a letter from home, or maybe I don’t know, you heard something that put you in a state where you were blasé or vice versa, you were frightened again and/or you thought, “I gotta get out of this place, I’ll want to keep healthy and sane.”

01:30:30:00

How often when you were under fire or when you were in situations of war related stress how often were you thinking of home?
Oh quite a lot mainly because I think sometimes you’d get a paper and that would bring back memories. Matter of fact one fellow got an Australian’s Women’s Weekly journal and we used to avidly read the

01:31:00:00

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

01:31:30:00

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

01:32:00:00

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

01:32:30:00

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

01:33:00:00

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.

01:33:30:00

I am a bit puzzled by the reference to the Stuka raid, why would the Stuka raid influence the way in which the bread rose?
Well apparently when the yeast in the bread is rising, a sudden noise will flatten it, it won’t go up, so you know when the Stukas were there it might be 30 or 40 coming down flat out on ya, or that was what we were told. I never saw it because I never got to see the bakery they had.

01:34:00:00

Like 44 gallon drums they used as ovens as so on. But that was the idea.
Moving back to actually travelling to the Middle East, when did you first hear that you would be going abroad?
We had moved camp from the showground to a camp in Goulburn and we were doing ASC training, driving and so on down there and then the first instance

01:34:30:00

was when they said, right, you were on call for draft and they gave us seven days final leave I think it was, to go home and they… we waited a few weeks and they brought us by train from Goulburn to Pyrmont and then we got on a ferry, went out and we were the first troop-carrying voyage of the Queen Elizabeth. She was

01:35:00:00

the biggest ship in the world then and she was anchored in the harbour at Athol Bight near where the zoo is. That was the first time. You were always thinking about when we are we going away or something like that, but when you get your final leave well you know that you’re on the way.
What were the conditions like aboard the Queen Elizabeth?
Fantastic in comparison with

01:35:30:00

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

01:36:00:00

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

01:36:30:00

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

01:37:00:00

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

01:37:30:00

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 ,

01:38:00:00

of April and 6 weeks later we were in Tobruk so we didn’t muck about, they didn’t hold us anywhere much.
And on the way to Tobruk of course you did further training?
No we did a little training in Palestine coz we were only there a week or so and did some driving around and but from then on we were travelling to get to Tobruk. It took us a couple of days and then we were in our normal situation.
Interviewee: Bernard (Barney) Donnelly Archive ID 0001 Tape 02

02:00:30:00

Okay Barney we might just go back to before you left for Tobruk and just tell us how you know what you recall of your farewell in Australia, who were saying goodbye to?
Well our farewells normally in those days were nothing like the ones now. As I said earlier, we came from Goulburn camp, I’d

02:01:00:00

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,

02:01:30:00

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

02:02:00:00

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’.
Did you get into trouble when you went AWL to visit your family?
No I got back alright. Another fella and I,

02:02:30:00

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,

02:03:00:00

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,

02:03:30:00

it cost me threepence because I bought a paper called the Smiths Weekly.
And was it important to see your family before you did leave?
Oh yes. See we had our final leave which normally it was a short time before you went away, but I think it was three weeks before we actually left, and after a week or so or a couple of weeks this other fella and I

02:04:00:00

decided we’d come home and say hello.
And Dinky wasn’t your wife at this point was she?
No, no we didn’t get married until late 1946.
So how did you meet Dinky?
Well as I said, my sister was with the feminist club and she was one of the people who were raising money to buy ambulances for the army and

02:04:30:00

she put on a gambling night in their office building and invited everybody. She was in the newspaper industry and knew a lot of the newspaper people and I was invited with another fella and I went in, and my wife at that stage was working at an office next to my sister and she was asked to help and was the hat-check girl and I met her there and that was the first time, so

02:05:00:00

being the suave gentleman that I am, I invited her out for coffee afterwards and we worked from there.
Great. And just getting back to leaving Australia what did you pack to take on the ship?
Well we were given our normal army clothing which was uniforms, and at that stage

02:05:30:00

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,

02:06:00:00

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

02:06:30:00

and at night you needed your full uniform and sometimes an overcoat.
Did you take any personal belongings with you?
Very few, we had our own shaving gear and things like that, but I think I had a, you know, a companion for writing letters, things like that, normal you know

02:07:00:00

things that you would not have got from the army, such as maybe tooth, tooth-brushing material and things like that personally you’d take from home you know.
And did you suffer from sea-sickness?
Well not on the big ships. I was sick a couple times during the war but they were later. But not on the big ships, never, luckily.

02:07:30:00

Okay so you go to Tobruk now and you mentioned when you first arrived at Tobruk…. I wondering if you could walk us through when you first arrived at Tobruk and take us through step by step what happened?
Well, as I said, the destroyer that we were on. There were a number of ships went in this particular convoy for

02:08:00:00

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

02:08:30:00

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,

02:09:00:00

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

02:09:30:00

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.
What went through your mind that first experience of the bombing?
Well I ‘spose the main thing was that you were worried about yourself of course, your own safety and

02:10:00:00

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,

02:10:30:00

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

02:11:00:00

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.
Did you feel prepared for what happened that day?
No, not really I don’t think that thought was in the mind, I think mainly

02:11:30:00

just get down into the hole quick and that was the first, and at that stage perhaps the only thought that you had to protect yourself and be assured of coming out of it and that was I think, probably the thoughts all the way through.

02:12:00:00

You mentioned briefly a bit about the bunkers you were in, could you describe what the conditions were like in Tobruk in terms of hygiene and physical conditions?
Well the hygiene was non-existent. Early in the piece when things were tough in the front line, normal hygiene situations were such that during the day time

02:12:30:00

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.

02:13:00:00

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

02:13:30:00

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.

02:14:00:00

Did you go on night raids as well?
I didn’t. See as we were army service corps we weren’t trained infantries, they never took us on raids where any fighting might take place. There was a lot of raids, no a lot of patrols just to find out information, they were ready to fight if they had to but they sometimes didn’t.

02:14:30:00

Did you go out any of those?
I went out and also at the stage where in the lines of Tobruk the Germans had pushed in an area, quite a big area and they called it the salient, it was a salient in like so in the line, and when I was in the end there we straightened that line out up, so we went out 600yards

02:15:00:00

and we had to carry the wire out and they straightened the perimeter line out which is a defensive barbed-wire situation and that was, we were out there on what they called listening posts outside the wire, listening for any fighting things, fighting patrols that

02:15:30:00

might come in and try some kind of attack, you had to have someone out there with night glasses listening to what was going on.
Can you describe the night missions that you went on, just walk us through what you’d do?
Well only the ones where we carried this wire out and set it up,

02:16:00:00

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

02:16:30:00

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,

02:17:00:00

“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

02:17:30:00

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.

02:18:00:00

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.

02:18:30:00

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.
Did you ever get into trouble?
No I never did no, not out there.

02:19:00:00

I guess that must have been, those night missions, must have been quite terrifying in a sense in a lot of ways…
Yes they would have been, you were very afraid of course, but even though you were afraid you had to do what you had to do. And this is I ‘spose, this is where the soldier, I don’t’ know whether he has been trained to

02:19:30:00

do what he should do, do what he has to do, and/or know “Well this is this it.” and go with my mates and we’ll stick together. Something of that ilk I think.

02:20:00:00

There were obviously a lot of heavy battles going on at Tobruk, did you lose many mates?
Well we did lose quite a lot of our unit but I wasn’t with them at the time, you know. Our unit when they first went in, they went by truck up from Egypt up the road through to Tobruk

02:20:30:00

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

02:21:00:00

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

02:21:30:00

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.

02:22:00:00

Out of how many?
Well our unit was about a 1,000 I think. We were up there with the infantry, some of the infantry battalions, some lost a lot more, they lost a lot earlier than Tobruk, a lot of them went into what we call ‘into the bag’, they were caught as prisoners of war

02:22:30:00

and taken back to Germany and places like that. As a matter of fact another friend of my now wife, he came to Australia from England as an immigrant and joined the Australian Army and he was taken prisoner up in the other side, west up somewhere near Benghazi somewhere and he finished up in Germany at a prisoner of war camp for the full rest of the war.

02:23:00:00

What did those first fatalities and wounded do to the morale of your battalion?
The Italians?
No, no your battalion.
Well it must have been tough for them, because you know…I heard words that were spoken that were very good in some ways, that if you’re in an infantry battalion or in an army

02:23:30:00

you should never make friends because if you lose a friend it is one hell of a shock and you know, bad for morale and so on. And I think that was the basic thought, that if you lost a mate it was terrible but unfortunately you get to a stage where you have to accept that you know, either somebody that you know or someone close is going to get killed or wounded

02:24:00:00

and/or you. I mean, you might be the one that’s killed or wounded so; these thoughts went through all of our minds.
So how important was mateship while you were in Tobruk?
Well it was there you know, as I said, never make friends but you had to because it was a certain amount of what do you call it…. basic

02:24:30:00

loneliness maybe, maybe you had to have someone to talk with about options of certain things or certain ways of life or certain problems of warfare or whatever. When I mean, problems of warfare you know, frightened about getting shot or something, maybe you could have a bit of talk with a friend and

02:25:00:00

get over some of your problems.
And did that help when you talked to your mates?
I think so yes. There was mateship, it was very necessary and prominent in the all the forms of that warfare situation and it was a, you know as I said, I ‘spose you could be basically lonely

02:25:30:00

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

02:26:00:00

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

02:26:30:00

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,

02:27:00:00

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

02:27:30:00

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

02:28:00:00

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,

02:28:30:00

perhaps get shot by day shelling or something.
Were you ever shot at?
Yes, yes a few times and as I said, no not as I said, that’s the wrong word, the first thing that happened to as we went to the infantry, we got there at night time and were given a little hole to live in and

02:29:00:00

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

02:29:30:00

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

02:30:00:00

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

02:30:30:00

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

02:31:00:00

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,

02:31:30:00

“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

02:32:00:00

bit of a shock to the system.
We were talking a bit before about some of your mates, one mate in particular that you know got shot and wounded but you weren’t actually there… were there any times when you know you were close by when someone nearby was wounded or killed?

02:32:30:00

Only wounded not killed, I never saw anybody really who got killed. There was a lot of fellows earlier than I got there who were in the infantry that were killed. As I said we lost a lot in that regard but I can honestly say I didn’t really see close up anybody killed.
What about injuries, wounded, did you see anyone…
Yes

02:33:00:00

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,

02:33:30:00

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

02:34:00:00

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

02:34:30:00

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

02:35:00:00

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.

02:35:30:00

You mentioned before the truck patrols that you used to go on at night time. I’m really interested to find out what truck you drove, if you could describe the trucks you drove when you were there?
Well in Tobruk the ones that we drove, there’s a photograph of one actually, they were called Canadian Chevrolets. They were

02:36:00:00

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

02:36:30:00

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

02:37:00:00

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

02:37:30:00

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.

02:38:00:00

Did that happen often?
No not that often, but you had to be you know, you were on the key all the time and you had to be to make sure you had to watch it, you couldn’t take your eyes off the truck in front. But anyway, when you came back after you did your job, I lived in the truck. I used to sleep in the back on the

02:38:30:00

steel body. Luckily the canvas hood stopped you from, because when the bombers were over and of course the anti-aircraft guns was shooting up, the shells would burst up in the air if they didn’t hit an aircraft, and all the little bits of shrapnel came tinkling down on the outside

02:39:00:00

of course and there was a lot of rock of course in the sandy soil and you’d hear tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, tap, tap, tap on the bus so the cover would protect you from the falling shrapnel.
Interviewee: Bernard (Barney) Donnelly Archive ID 0001 Tape 03

03:00:30:00

Barney, tell us a little more about the conditions aboard the trucks particularly when you were trying to sleep aboard the trucks.
Yes. I personally had one truck to drive and I didn’t have any offsiders or anything, so and we used to always sleep in the trucks otherwise you’d have to dig a hole and so on in the desert, so sleeping in the truck was a better option.

03:01:00:00

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

03:01:30:00

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

03:02:00:00

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.

03:02:30:00

You never had any sort of…. we weren’t talking to each other during the evening unless you went to another vehicle.
I think at one point you had to drive through or past a minefield didn’t you?
When we were going to pick up a battalion and then take it up to the frontline and then bring them back. there was always minefields all around as they were determined to tank attack.

03:03:00:00

Barney tell us about driving past or through minefields.
As I said, as I have indicated we had to drive in the dark, there was no lights, no moon. That was only thing we could make our changes during the dark of the night and because there were minefields

03:03:30:00

around in various areas to help control any tank attacks, we used to have to drive though little avenues that were made through the minefields and I know of two or three trucks that ran off those little tracks and probably blew their front wheel off or something like that, and at times, depending on where we were at various areas, we had

03:04:00:00

to have somebody sitting on the mudguard, sitting on the front directing us left or right and so on so it was a bit scary, but also we had some sandbags on the floor under our legs and under the seat to protect us if we did run over a mine or something of that type.
So hopefully the person sitting on the mudguard could actually see the mine coming up?
Well not so much that as that there was usually

03:04:30:00

stakes where the edge of the field was and he could direct you if you were heading off the track, he could head you back, “left left” that sort of thing.
Do you think having a sense of humour helped you through a lot during the war?
It had to I ‘spose yes, yes. I ‘spose you might have been so scared for a while but then you started to laugh.
Didn’t you often entertain yourself by racing the jeeps around the camp?

03:05:00:00

Yeah, but that wasn’t until very much later in the war time period when we were in…. we didn’t get jeeps until we went to New Guinea.
Okay we can talk about that later. Can you give some examples of humour as it might have cropped up in the Middle East. The kind of things that might have been said to relieve tension or create a diversion?
A lot of our….

03:05:30:00

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.

03:06:00:00

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

03:06:30:00

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?

03:07:00:00

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,

03:07:30:00

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

03:08:00:00

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

03:08:30:00

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

03:09:00:00

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.

03:09:30:00

How did you and your mates react to the Lord Haw Haw broadcasts?
With a lot of humour, you know, thinking and chiacking [teasing] which he couldn’t hear anyway but we were having a few words about him and so on about his ancestry and so on and things like that. But no, we used to enjoy it to a certain extent, I mean what you could.

03:10:00:00

One of the best things we used was when the BBC put the lady singer on…
Would this have been Vera Lynn?
Vera Lynn, yeah. Couldn’t think of it for a moment, my memories about six minutes late but I remember afterwards. But yeah, well all those things helped to pass our times, you know.
What sort of impact did listening to Vera Lynn have?

03:10:30:00

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

03:11:00:00

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

03:11:30:00

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

03:12:00:00

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.
And although you found it difficult to get paper to write letters, were you receiving regular letters from home?

03:12:30:00

Irregularly because quite a number on their way up were sunk and I’m sure that a lot of our parcels went other places or were sunk. We used to get a letter now and again, but you couldn’t say that it was regularly. It was great to get a letter of course and find out about home.

03:13:00:00

Looking at the Germans, what was your view of the Germans as an enemy?
There?
Yes.
He was an excellent fight, an excellent soldier. After the war we and especially the Afrika Corps who were the ones against us plus the Italians but the Afrika Corps were all,

03:13:30:00

they weren’t Nazis, they were regular soldiers and as soldiers they fought like that and although we saw other things that they did were not to our liking, in that towards the end of Tobruk some Italian soldiers decided to give up and they marched towards our, or walked in a group towards our lines

03:14:00:00

and the Germans shot them or shot at them, I don’t know whether they killed them all. I didn’t see that, I was only told that and so that denigrated his appearance to a certain extent in our mind you know.
Did you have a particular opinion of about Field Marshall Rommel?
Yes, we all thought he was a fantastic soldier. Apparently he was pretty gentlemanly sort of a fella

03:14:30:00

from what we heard and unfortunately he came to a sticky end. But he must have been a good soldier to control the Libyan desert and the Afrika Corps and the Italians too, to get as far as he did especially when he got only 60 or 70 mile out of Alexandria in Egypt afterwards.

03:15:00:00

He was a good soldier definitely.
Now looking at your experience of air raids I believe you have particular memories of the way in which men tried to protect themselves during air raids?
Well a lot of it, mostly it was get into a hole if you could you know, and I think if you were out in the open, well the only thing you could do was lie down on the ground or lie in a hollow or something like that. But I have seen

03:15:30:00

fellows lying in their little duvets and you know try to protect themselves with underneath sandbags or something like that or their tin hats. A funny experience I saw once was a fella covering his genitals with a tin hat which is quite a good thought when you take notice, but whether that helps or not I don’t know, I mean

03:16:00:00

that’s an aside one can take and say, “Yeah well I can understand that” Cause we were all pretty young.
In September 1941 you embarked on HMS Latona [?] for El Alamein could you describe that journey?
Yeah I’m not sure if it was September or October. Anyway I think it was October, late in late October

03:16:30:00

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

03:17:00:00

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

03:17:30:00

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.

03:18:00:00

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

03:18:30:00

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.

03:19:00:00

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,

03:19:30:00

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

03:20:00:00

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.
Tell me at the end of the journey what happened then?
We got off the ship at on the wharf at Alexandria and they took us to a staging camp

03:20:30:00

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

03:21:00:00

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

03:21:30:00

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

03:22:00:00

‘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

03:22:30:00

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

03:23:00:00

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

03:23:30:00

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 what the best of both those cities?
Beirut was the better of the two I thought, because

03:24:00:00

we never had enough time in Damascus. You know, we might get there late in the afternoon and you’d have an hour or so getting a meal or something or you might go into town, but there wasn’t much there, not much for us for us because we did not have the time to get around.
You said you had the best of both cities though. What…I wasn’t so much emphasising the contrasts between the two cities as what was the best offerings of both cities?
Well in Beirut there was

03:24:30:00

most everything you could want, there was plenty of cafes and quite a few brothels and you know there was things to do. If it was warm enough you could have had a swim if you wanted to, it was right along the sea front. Damascus was inland of course on the Tigris River I think it is and…

03:25:00:00

plus also the time we didn’t have the time then enough time to get about as much as we would have liked.
You mentioned the brothels, I mean were a number of guys going along to those?
Oh yeah, yeah. Most of us of course you know were between 20 and 30 and as such were emerging as the male animal and you can understand that those things happened. No, I won’t tell you that one.

03:25:30:00

Were they clean establishments or were they…
Most of them were. Actually what happened in once instance in Syria, one of the battalions were camped near a town, a small town, and the colonel in charge decided that if these sort of things were going to happen he was going to ensure that his troops

03:26:00:00

were looked after, so he got his medical officer and they took over the brothels in the town, they had to be inspected by the doctor every week they had to…I think they controlled the price because you know, there was a thousand men there and you could understand. But they made sure, the colonel made sure that his men would be looked after properly, and there was no chance of

03:26:30:00

any problems and so on. That was the way to do it.
Were the men issued with condoms?
Yeah, if you were going on leave they usually had them on the table when you got your leave pass.
And what about any kind of talks by the doctor about…
That was always on, there was always a talk, even on the ship over to the Middle East they used to talk about it.
What sort of things would be emphasised?

03:27:00:00

Mostly the use of the preventative condom or whatever because I’ve got an idea that VD, venereal disease was classed as a problem, what did they call it, it was sort of self-inflicted that’s

03:27:30:00

a something that you can be charged for…
What almost to the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot?
Something like that, yes, it’s not quite as bad. That’s not a very good analogy.
But I mean the average soldier was expected to be responsible when it came to taking the kind of precautions that involved not getting a sexually transmitted disease?
That’s right you know, unfortunately though they

03:28:00:00

did get it some of them and they had a special hospital for it. Number 8 special. Some of them were sent back for it and others were probably and got over it or something. I wasn’t terribly up with that situation, I was only 22 when I went over there and a mummy’s boy you know, I didn’t know about a lot of that sort of thing.

03:28:30:00

I learnt fast though.
What were the women like?
Well they were, I can honestly say we went in you know and some of my old mates went with them, but they were quite nice women and most of them could speak English reasonably well and so on and so on.

03:29:00:00

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.

03:29:30:00

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

03:30:00:00

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.”

03:30:30:00

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,

03:31:00:00

‘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?

03:31:30:00

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

03:32:00:00

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.

03:32:30:00

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.
Did you actually fire your gun?
No, no I didn’t fire it.
What did you think would have happened if you had?
They’d probably kill me and the other two as well.

03:33:00:00

So I thought about it after wards and that was my thought. It would have been bloody stupid to shoot.
Now you’ve mentioned the school of Ishmalia what did you actually study there?
Clerks, I did a clerks course. It didn’t do me any good anyway. But I did well. I topped the Australian school. There was a mixture of services, not services, army people like there was English,

03:33:30:00

there was Indians, there was Australians, a Scottie I think. There was 30 of us in the class and I think there was about… I think there was about 6 or 8 Australians and I topped the school for the Australians anyway. I was only second in the school.
Well that’s pretty good I mean. Why are you saying that it did you no good?

03:34:00:00

Well afterwards I came back to my unit and I did over Christmas you know, and it was cold and then I got sick of that and so I went into the transferred into the workshop as a driver, driving the breakdown wagon, so that was a change wasn’t it?
Sorry what did you actually get sick of?
I don’t know, maybe it was I looked on it as

03:34:30:00

not an army job, you know, you understand what I mean, in that I’m only a bloody clerk I’m not a soldier. I probably made the decision pretty quickly to get out but also in a lot of instances it was boring, you know there is only a certain amount of office work to do and I just typed a few letters to my wife and so on.

03:35:00:00

I enjoyed more so going, being outside I ‘spose as well.
So you were quite keen to become a driver again?
Yes, yes.
And can you describe your activities once you became a driver again?
Well as I went into the workshop sections section there was only about 10 or 12 of us in that section and we

03:35:30:00

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

03:36:00:00

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

03:36:30:00

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

03:37:00:00

and I learnt. I think my mind was open to learning.
What were some of the main things you learned?
Well I learnt a lot about mechanicing. As a matter of fact later on I did go to a school when we came back from Australia, for a week I learnt a lot of the theory of motor mechanicing or motor engines

03:37:30:00

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

03:38:00:00

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

03:38:30:00

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.
You mentioned the fact that you and your mates would often talk amongst yourselves in the Middle East, what sort of things did you discuss?
All sorts, everything you know everything, but some used to talk about their wives and girlfriends

03:39:00:00

some used to talk about. So used to talk about…. it’s a funny thing, there’s a saying you know, that sort of emanated from that sort of stage when you get round in a circle you know, sit around, half a dozen jokers, or 10 or 15 or whatever sitting around together and somebody would say or the saying was, “Righto, will we talk about it now.” or

03:39:30:00

will we gradually work around to it - sex. So that was the saying and I think that was pretty true coz that come up a lot in the discussions… coz of the shortage of it no doubt.
Interviewee: Bernard (Barney) Donnelly Archive ID 0001 Tape 04

04:00:30:00

Barney you’ve said that inevitably the conversations between yourself and your mates would involve sex, what sort of discussions would happen along those lines?
Well I think that that should be covered by a very short answer in that it was either memories or the hope of something like that might happen in the future,

04:01:00:00

if that’s interesting enough for you. Actually I think that our talking was always pretty rough in the words used and the swearing that went on which became you know, adjectives and adverbs and

04:01:30:00

everything else was centred around swear words no doubt and I hope I’m not maligning some of my mates for that in that regard, but we all did it and we all talked things like that. As I said, memories or the expectations one could look forward to or hallucinations about what might happen.

04:02:00:00

You referred to the use of language. Did most people get on, I mean were there any people who actually on the outside or didn’t fit in or was their a camaraderie amongst most people?
The great percentage was camaraderie and a liveable friendship for want of a better word, but there were always some

04:02:30:00

that were don’t know, I ‘spose you could base it on they wanted to be alone or maybe they were type of people that could argue, that could make an argument out of you know argue with themselves sort of thing you now. Most of us got on well together and after the war as well.

04:03:00:00

But the loners that were probably argumentative were they ostracised or were they tolerated?
They were tolerated to a certain extent and probably told to go to buggery or something like that, shut up you so-and-so fool but it happens, it happens in all ways of life. Sometimes I ‘spose you know you could make a little bit of a jaunt out of arguing with somebody, knowing that you’re arguing against what you thought anyway and that gave

04:03:30:00

you a certain amount of satisfaction about to either put somebody down or just arguing.
Well that’s the challenge of a debate.
Exactly, yes exactly. I was never good at debating. Anyway go on, that’s another story.
So you were moving around a fair amount at this time could you describe some of the places you were going to?
Yes ,

04:04:00:00

Beirut being the main city was quite a lovely city in its own right and being on the waterfront it had... there was a central gardens which was nicely appointed and the buildings were clean and nice looking, oldish of course because its an old city. Some

04:04:30:00

of the towns were quite large and were good in that same regard, that’s in Lebanon I mean and up the…. like Haifa was quite a relatively modern area there, coz its got a little harbour as well and ships could come in there but some of the outlying villages were much more or less ostentatious.

04:05:00:00

Buildings were reasonable but they were old you know they might have been, I don’t know they could have been built 600- 700 years. Bu the people were very friendly you see they had been under the control of the French before the war and I think they were quite happy to become separate from them and able to do their own thing.

04:05:30:00

So it had been under the control of the Vichy French and they found them a bit too controlling?
Well they had complete control and they were, well I don’t know, I don’t know the politics of it about only from what you read and what you hear. But they weren’t very happy, as a matter of fact I did hear of and I did see in a place called Tripoli that we were in, there was a riot against the

04:06:00:00

French allocation of food and things like that. Not that we were in it. They were alright with us, most everybody that we met were quite happy to be friendly with us with us and/or make money out of us or ask us something for nothing you know. The ones that I came into contact with were reasonably well….. And I have been

04:06:30:00

to some little villages where people were nice and you know you could walk around and talk with them and so on and so on.
So the places that you went to I mean among them was you were at the Auger barracks for a while then you were at the Olive Groves camp, how long were you spending at these places on average?
Well the Auger barracks I was only a very short time until they made the tent

04:07:00:00

city camp at the Olive Groves and they were olive groves the trees were there and they were 50-60-70 years old and they cut a few down to make more room. And I understand from hearsay they had to pay 50 dollars 50 pounds if they cut a tree down, an olive tree. I don’t know to whom whether it was government owned or

04:07:30:00

whether it owned by some farmer. But it was quite a big area I ‘spose it would have been 5 acres something like that, quite a big place and we had all our vehicles in there as well. They made some gravel roads through where they cut down and you know, you drove right round and there was tents and we had a big shed down the where we did our machining work and so on.

04:08:00:00

Would you say that by this time for you that living conditions had improved in the Middle East?
They were a lot better than Tobruk put it that way because you could sometimes get a little extra food by buying in something that you didn’t get in your normal rations and the cooks were more able to produce the food better than they could in an area like the desert

04:08:30:00

coz it was you know all greenery and all up there and they were growing vegetable crops and things like that so you could buy those things. I remember when my old mate and I were at Beirut before we went backwards and forwards to Damascus, we were detached to an engineer unit and their offices made sure that they got extra,

04:09:00:00

they bought extra food in and we were having excellent meals there. We had salad which was out of this world you know. You know that’s the attitude and that’s the situation that arose because of the better and it was virtually you know we were in peace time because the war had all gone from up there.

04:09:30:00

Looking at the events of mid-1942, I believe the British forces decided to make a stand at the El Alamein and the 9th division was sent for. Now I think you made a journey then to El Alamein.
Yeah we were. No we were in Lebanon and all vehicles went and we picked up all the infantry, all the fighting men and other units that had their own transport. We headed

04:10:00:00

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

04:10:30:00

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

04:11:00:00

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.

04:11:30:00

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

04:12:00:00

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?

04:12:30:00

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

04:13:00:00

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

04:13:30:00

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

04:14:00:00

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.
What sort of impressions did they give you?

04:14:30:00

It’s again a case what you got to do you do. I know I ‘spose, I know there are some people who couldn’t carry it, you know they got, not bomb happy [unstable], that’s the wrong word, they got so afraid that you’d run. But I don’t think there was many.

04:15:00:00

I had no personal experience of that bit and I can’t really talk about it so I don’t know how they went.
But the guys that you spoke about did they tell you about any details that remained in your mind?
No, not really other than that they were wounded. They you know, saw a lot killed as well, they were as, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the infantry is the salt of the earth.

04:15:30:00

I mean at that stage anyway, say my experiences of this were the guns went off, they went off and they fired for 20 minutes, stopped, the infantry got up and walked forward into all the oncoming fire and they do that time and time again. Now to me that’s the greatest courage that is necessary

04:16:00:00

and this is what happened in that particular situation and they’ve done it before and they’ve done it since. As well as going back to Tobruk, I mean they used to go out night after night on patrol not knowing whether they were going to come back on not.
So you saw the start of the battle, what happened to you after that?
Well after seethe Australian division

04:16:30:00

were the spearhead, there were other divisions helping as well, but they were the spearhead and they were the ones who broke the Germans. It was like that whether they did or not. And soon as the enemy axis forces started to retire the Australians were pulled out because they done their job magnificently

04:17:00:00

and from here on there we were going backwards and backwards and backwards finished up back in Palestine up near Haifa where we had Christmas, 1942.
So during the start of the battle of El Alamein what was your specific job having made the journey there, having arrived there, what sort of things were you doing?
We were…. actually we’d done our transport work

04:17:30:00

and we’re only setting back waiting for anything that had to be done, whether we had to take troops in or whether we had to go and get them out or what. It was a more easily handled by us than it would have been for those fellas.
So were you actually driving in the troops and ammunition?
Ammunition mainly and our fellas,

04:18:00:00

our trucks got shot at by shelling and so on like that not. All through that two or three weeks that it was on, there was quite a lot of shelling of vehicles as they moved around and so on.
Did this happen to you?
Not to me personally because I was sort of in a break-down situation, if anything broke down I had to go and get it.

04:18:30:00

But I think you did have, you did have to take shelter under your truck once or twice didn’t you, during air raids?
Yeah that was I was doing a little job under the truck I was mechanicing then and that was a fair way back. It must have been just before the actual battle started, you know there was still fighting going even between the months that we were there and but not the real big one, the real big one was the final one and

04:19:00:00

but there was other times they were throwing things all over the place. But this particular time, I was I had to go, I forget now what it was, I was under the truck anyway doing something and the driver was there, there was a dogfight above of fighters and there was some bombs dropped I’m pretty sure. And I said

04:19:30:00

you know, I knew the fellas well and I said, “What the hell have you got on?” And he said, “I got ammo.” “Geez.” I said, “We better get out of here.” We didn’t. I didn’t…. we did the job and he went away. But you know you think of those things they stick in your mind.
Were you frightened at the realisation that you were sitting under a truck laden with ammunition?
A certain amount of fear there yes. Probably a lot. But you put it aside - had to.
You did put it aside at the time?

04:20:00:00

I think so yes. Well I’m sure so. I wouldn’t have been here would I? But you know you think geez this could go up but not really. Sometimes you think about things like that and when you analyse it, it’s something which would be very unsure of going up and it’s you know, primarily you think oh geez, you know, but then maybe you analyse it

04:20:30:00

and think well it probably couldn’t happen anyway so worry about just keep ourselves under here and we’ll be right. You know that’s the old Australian saying, she’ll be right.
Now there is an amusing story around this time about how you got grog from British canteen, what happened there?
Yeah. Well I was in

04:21:00:00

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,

04:21:30:00

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

04:22:00:00

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

04:22:30:00

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

04:23:00:00

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

04:23:30:00

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.

04:24:00:00

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

04:24:30:00

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

04:25:00:00

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.

04:25:30:00

That’s a great story, that’s a fantastic story. That’s really wonderful. Tell me were you, with letters, were letters going a bit more frequently backward and forwards between where you were and Australia at that time?
Not that much, not that much no. See they were coming by ship and you know you might get two or three letters at a time.
What thoughts did you have of Dinky at this time?
Of which?
Of Dinky. Of Miriam [his wife]?

04:26:00:00

Geez that’s hard. Sometimes I didn’t think much about her at all depending what you were or what you were doing you know, maybe if you were having fun or having a few beers somewhere you might not have thought about her at all but we I think we communicated pretty well by letter you know.
What did she represent to you back in Australia?
Well

04:26:30:00

I can honestly say I think that she was a girlfriend. I don’t know whether that included much thought about future marriage I don’t know. It’s a memory is not that good about that thing you know you had other things to think about.
Were there other girls that you were writing to?
No.

04:27:00:00

So she was basically…
Yeah she was the only one. Only my family. See I had a mother and three sisters. They used to write irregularly. Mum used to write now and again. But we weren’t terribly good a letter writers I don’t think in those times. I don’t think that they knew very much of what I was or where I was.
Did Dinky send you any parcels?

04:27:30:00

Yeah yeah.
What did she send you?
Well one parcel I got in Tobruk, I’m not sure, I only got a couple. She said she sent more but they could have been sunk on the way up. But I was detached with a truck, with an infantry unit in Tobruk and I got a parcel which I took with me this particular day. When I got there I was with their… what they call

04:28:00:00

their bastions which is where all the cooks and drivers were, they had drivers too and I got this parcel and I opened it up and it had a can of coffee and milk, like condensed milk with coffee in it and you’d put a spoonful in hot water and there was a packet of biscuits, so there was about

04:28:30:00

five or six fellas I was close to in that short time so we covered the truck up inside and somebody found a little burner of some sort I forget what it is now. Like a what do they call them, like a primus stove, something like that and we sat and ate all the biscuits and drank all the coffee and milk in one go

04:29:00:00

because as I often said, didn’t matter what you had you always shared it and that was the operative word was sharing it.
Now you had quite a sweet tooth I believe you were keen on sugar among other things. Did anyone send you sugar from home?
My wife now, girlfriend then, she used to send me loaf sugar and also we were all short of sugar and anybody

04:29:30:00

that was you know, a lot of times you never got enough the ration was too small. But I can remember at one stage and I don’t really know when it was, I can’t remember, we stole a bag of sugar and that was the best thing we ever did. We stole it out of a store somewhere, but it wasn’t stealing from our mates, it was way back. I mean we wouldn’t have stolen

04:30:00:00

it from our mates that’s for sure.
How many you shared that bag of sugar?
God probably I don’t know, 20 or 30 they all got some. Might have been more than that I can’t remember now, you know handed a bit out here and there.
In your thoughts about Australia, were you in any way concerned about the security of Australia and of loved ones that you left behind?
Only when the Japs came in which was in

04:30:30:00

December ’41.
And where were you at that time?
We were in Palestine and then from there we went to Syria or Lebanon and then back to Alamein and then home.
So once the Japanese had entered the war what were your thoughts?
We were worried about whether they were going to get to Australia. Hopefully and we were pleased in one way when the Americans came into it of course

04:31:00:00

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

04:31:30:00

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

04:32:00:00

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.

04:32:30:00

What do you recall of that particular journey? We are talking about travelling, the 9th Division, this is December 1942 isn’t it? Coming and going to Palestine and then coming back to Australia? What ship did you come back on?
The best news we ever had was actually going, we didn’t really know where we were going but we took all our equipment, our trucks and whatever down to a place on the

04:33:00:00

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

04:33:30:00

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

04:34:00:00

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

04:34:30:00

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

04:35:00:00

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

04:35:30:00

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

04:36:00:00

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,

04:36:30:00

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

04:37:00:00

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

04:37:30:00

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.

04:38:00:00

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.
Interviewee: Bernard (Barney) Donnelly Archive ID 0001 Tape 05

05:00:30:00

Barney to what extent was the censorship of letters in and out?
Well actually all of our letters should have been censored although I think the officers that were having to do this, it was a bit of a chore and I think they probably picked people, knowing whether they were experienced

05:01:00:00

viewing of letters of them, from some people that they just let them go. But I have had letters very badly censored, bits cut out of them and they finished up looking like piano roll and also we were able to get a special envelope, which was called a green envelope,

05:01:30:00

that was uncensored, you had to sign a declaration that it was in the bounds of the truth and also without giving any information that would be helpful to the enemy and you know if you had a special letter you wanted to write to your wife or girlfriend or maybe a legal letter of something you could get this green envelope and send it in that.

05:02:00:00

Would those letters still be read?
No they wouldn’t be censored, you’d sign a declaration and it was taken for granted that you had done the right thing, and I think most of them did. And as I’ve said the officers got to know if you did the right thing. Some of the censorship early on in the piece was sort of irrational, because they sort of chopped everything out you know

05:02:30:00

but after a while they got used to the fact that that some of the things you would have written about would not have helped the enemy anyway if it got into their hands you know that was a way to look at it in my estimation you know, plus also the fact that the officers got sick and tired of you know reading letters that had very private words in them.
Could you tell us about the very first time one of your letters was censored?

05:03:00:00

Well the first letter I wrote when we left Sydney on the Queen Elizabeth I think it might have been the first week; it was posted back from Perth. And I think it was about a two page letter and it came back to my then girlfriend and it was cut about so much that probably that at least 50 percent of the page was

05:03:30:00

blank or had a rectangular holes in it where the officer who had censored it had cut it out with a razor blade or whatever and on the bottom he had written, “Barney talks too much.” But I don’t think it was that bad anyway.
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?

05:04:00:00

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

05:04:30:00

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

05:05:00:00

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

05:05:30:00

and the RSL wasn’t kept up, nobody kept it up so we had to re-enlist or re-join years later.
What can you recall with your first reunion with Dinky at this time?
That’s a bit difficult; I can’t remember that far back. It’s a it was

05:06:00:00

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,

05:06:30:00

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

05:07:00:00

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.

05:07:30:00

When you say go on for half the night, what sort of things were you doing?
Well you might go to the pictures or you might go to some of the other shows or maybe just go on a car ride in my instance, somewhere. You couldn’t go far. I think the… I did have an experience early in the piece we went by car to the beaches on the northern side, northern peninsula there and we were

05:08:00:00

told to go away by the guards who were guarding the seafront you know, we had to do that.
There were actually guards posted along the seafront?
There was early on in the piece.
On every beach?
I’m not sure about how many. We at that stage at one instance we were talking of was at Dee Why along the Sydney Northern Peninsula beach and we never got within 3 or 400 yards of the beach, we were told to leave.

05:08:30:00

Did you notice a big difference in the mood of Sydney, the wartime mood of Sydney when you came back?
Only because there was so many at that stage of course, there was so many soldiers on the streets during the day and at night. And because, mainly because I think everybody was happy to see us back from the Middle East and we had a reputation because we had

05:09:00:00

fought the battle of El Alamein and we at that stage were had our colour patches which identified our divisions and everybody was happy to talk with you even we had a lot of free drinks bought for us and things like that.
Now with your reunion with Dinky did you feel that you were getting closer to her at this stage, you mentioned…

05:09:30:00

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,

05:10:00:00

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

05:10:30:00

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.
So in a sense it was probably a bit of inhibiting factor as well in terms of commitment?
I would think so yes. It was a good way to put it and as such my idea of it was like when we came back from the Middle East so many of the fellows got married

05:11:00:00

and some of them produced children and then after that, you know after three weeks leave or something like that, there was a lot of broken marriages and things like that after that particular time. In my case I was against that because you didn’t know if you were going to come back again and that was my basic thought. Why get married and maybe have children

05:11:30:00

when you didn’t know whether you were going to come back to help them through the years?
So the period of leave for you was what two - three weeks?
Yeah three weeks, 21 days.
And what happened at the end of that period?
We went back and to a I think to Wallgrove camp, can’t actually remember too much about it, but we did have a march of the

05:12:00:00

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

05:12:30:00

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

05:13:00:00

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.
Did you have to cross a picket line?
Yeah well they were throwing tomatoes and eggs at us

05:13:30:00

a few times and some of them were alright, some were not. And we just kept going. I think there were a few bouts of fisticuffs at times but…
Were you involved in any?
No I wasn’t. I was too little.
What sort of goods were you loading and unloading from the ships?
All sorts. I can remember we loaded or unloaded a lot of steel plates that came from

05:14:00:00

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

05:14:30:00

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

05:15:00:00

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

05:15:30:00

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.
What was you attitude to the wharfies [wharf labourers]?
Well we thought they were not very nice people they couldn’t help their own

05:16:00:00

army there was something wrong with their thinking. A lot of harsh words were spoken I ‘spose and but you just another thing you just say we’ll do it, if you won’t, we will and that was the attitude that most of us took. When you got to do something, this was my attitude in the whole war you know, if you gotta do it, you just do it.

05:16:30:00

Within the best of your abilities.
Let’s look at a little more of the 9th Division’s march through Sydney. Was it fairly heady, euphoric event?
Well it was for the people who were looking at looking over our marching situation. It was a pretty onerous march in that we marched with rifles and bayonets at the slope all the time,

05:17:00:00

which meant that it was up on your shoulder and the only relief was that they would give you the order to change arms which went from over like that. But you carried that and it was a long way and we never stopped and by the end of it we were very tired. But there is a certain euphoria I think about it, having all of those people yelling and clapping and so on and so on.

05:17:30:00

We had to be proud, that was the basis I think.
So you then went back to Wallgrove and I believe you were sent back to Queensland, could you take us through the sequence of events there?
Well we went by train to Brisbane first we were unloaded there into a staging camp for a day or so and then they put us on a Queensland

05:18:00:00

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,

05:18:30:00

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,

05:19:00:00

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

05:19:30:00

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

05:20:00:00

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

05:20:30:00

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

05:21:00:00

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

05:21:30:00

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.
Tell me what was involved in your jungle training.
Well the infantry, our training was mainly centred around, our unit I mean centred around the vehicles,

05:22:00:00

so we were getting on and off or even taking soldiers on and off. But the other fellas well in their, other than the training on barges getting on and off and so on, they went up in the jungle areas on the Atherton Tablelands and trained in amongst there with the patrols and things of that type

05:22:30:00

of thing. I think there was also some training with artillery, where the artillery were firing shells at a certain area and then they would move their gun sights forward and the infantry would come in behind. Training of that type which is normal in open areas as in jungle.

05:23:00:00

Now you were saying you got into jeeps for the first time, what advantage did the jeep have over vehicles you had previously driven?
Well in the jungle areas there were no wide roads. Virtually most of the time, you made your own roads and the jeeps had 4-wheel drive and they could, you could use them to go most anyway you know where a bigger truck was too big. Even though we did have some at various stages we had

05:23:30:00

some of our, one of our landings at least I took off a big 10-wheeler a GMC truck loaded but that was loaded with stores, but that was left on the beach and then I went back we did all our transporting in the jeeps. You made your own roads and so on and so on, the jeep and trainer were virtually

05:24:00:00

able to go anywhere. But it was even we even water-proofed them by grease and so on and out high exhausts on out of the water. So we could go through water, virtually covered the jeep up as long as the inlet and exhaust pipe was out of the water you could drive through water.

05:24:30:00

And late July 1943 you were sent to New Guinea, could you talk about that journey and your arrival in Milne Bay?
Yes we were once again went from, we were in Kairi camp on the Atherton Tablelands and that stage they took us I think by truck to Cairns Harbour and we got on a ship there. I think it was a so-called victory ship,

05:25:00:00

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

05:25:30:00

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

05:26:00:00

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

05:26:30:00

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…
Why?
Because they were unserviceable they were not any good to them, and they did not want to take them back or anything like that so they just drove them in and they were given to us to do the landing with.

05:27:00:00

They were not so much as they were unserviceable that you couldn’t drive them, but they had something wrong with them. Like some of them just didn’t have keys, so you’d just have to tie two wires together. Some of them did not have exhaust on it and they made a hell of a row. Some were 6-wheel drive so maybe their transfer box was in low ratio of something like that and they

05:27:30:00

were classed as the Yanks didn’t want them they were no good. We took over 90 of them and did a lot of running around the Milne Bay area in a couple of weeks we were there. And they were loaded up and they were used on the big LSTs to do the landing in Lae.
Do you, were you given the job to make these vehicles serviceable?
No only to make them able to be driven that’s all. We didn’t worry

05:28:00:00

about anything like that even the ones that were badly effected say like with the low ratio ones, the engine was going twice as fast as the normal ones and but you didn’t worry about that, we just used them you know.
Could you walk us through a description of Milne Bay as you found it?
A big long harbour, land of both sides of course, but mostly there was a lot of a

05:28:30:00

mostly coconut palms , there was bits of villages here and there you know. But we didn’t see that much of it because we were parked, well not parked but camped very close to the airstrip. There was an airstrip which was laid there with metal strips and so on and we used to drive along a lot round there the edge of that to get to where we were going.

05:29:00:00

The other, we were only there two or couple of two of three weeks something like that. Then we went from there on barges as far as Burma and that’s where we got really ready to land at Lae.
How much were you told in advance about the landing?
Not much.
What were you told?
Well actually I’m unsure of the, I think probably the people in charge

05:29:30:00

the officers were told a lot about it, well they must have got their particular orders and so on and we were probably told that this is what you gotta do and this is what we’re going to do and soon and so on and we worked from there. The ordinary soldier doesn’t get a lot of information.
Surely you must have been told something; I mean you all had your individual jobs and your collective jobs.
Well that’s what I say, we were told what we had to do and that was it.

05:30:00:00

And as such you know you take this truck and you get it on this barge and you do this with it, when we get there, I don’t think we were actually told where we were going.
I think you actually landed was this at Red Beach?
Red Beach at Lae yeah.
And you landed on an LST, but there was a service aboard the LST wasn’t there?
Well

05:30:30:00

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.”

05:31:00:00

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

05:31:30:00

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.

05:32:00:00

Were you normally a religious man?
I was brought up as a religious man, but as I grew older I backed out a lot and I think as one grows older and also gets more education you take education as being a lot of untruths, trainings that they give you are not able to be backed up by technology.

05:32:30:00

And I think you think a lot differently, or maybe you look into the teachings more truthfully that you did accepted when you were younger.
So what were your attitudes to religion in 1942, 43?
Well my attitude was that I ‘spose, well I did think that, well I suppose you do this because you‘ve been trained that way to do this in your younger life. You go to church.

05:33:00:00

We used to do a few church parades, not many and when we were in the Middle East we used to visit some of the old churches there. I think those visits were brought about by the thought that you had been taught that they were there in the Middle East areas and you’d better go and have a look.
Because they had been there since eternity basically?
Exactly yeah

05:33:30:00

but you know I don’t know how other people feel but I think with the technology I have learnt through my lifestyle, through my life and in the industry and so on, you cannot accept the training you were given when you were very young.
Religious training?
Religious training, yeah.
And yet if you attended this service you clearly wanted something out of …
That was

05:34:00:00

something that was it was out of the normal scope of going to church . The only times I go to church now is marriage, or births or they usually they have an Anzac Day celebration up here on the Sunday nearest to Anzac Day but I only go there to show off my medals.
Could you walk us through a description of the landing at Red Beach?

05:34:30:00

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.

05:35:00:00

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,

05:35:30:00

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

05:36:00:00

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

05:36:30:00

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

05:37:00:00

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

05:37:30:00

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.”

05:38:00:00

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

05:38:30:00

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

05:39:00:00

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.
Interviewee: Bernard (Barney) Donnelly Archive ID 0001 Tape 06

06:00:30:00

Barney you have described this action of landing on Red Beach, what… how fearful were you on this occasion?
Fear is always there I suppose and when you especially when you see aircraft strafing you and so on and your always fearful

06:01:00:00

of coming face to face with an enemy of some sort but that’s also interspersed with just getting on with the job and it’s as I am remembering you know, you sort of went about what you had to do and sometimes you thought you know, you were fearful of something or you see a

06:01:30:00

movement in the jungle or something like that and you become scared and then you resolve the problem by seeing that it wasn’t anything at all other than the wind or something and I think it’s a mixture of fear and the ability to maybe to counteract it in your mind and keep going. Whether that’s one way

06:02:00:00

of looking at it I don’t know but that’s my idea of at the moment anyway.
Apart from this strafing run by the Japanese pilots was there any other resistance put up by the Japanese to this landing?
Yes, yes it was mainly the infantry, they were edging forward, making what they call a bridgehead and then we came after that to consolidate and also carrying the necessary ammunition and so on

06:02:30:00

to the fellas who were firing it.
So you didn’t actually land under fire?
I didn’t at that stage no, only the aircraft that’s all. There was no…. the infantry were you know a couple of mile in you know. We were in an area where there wasn’t a lot of Japanese or enemy activity. We were 12 miles east of Lae.

06:03:00:00

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,

06:03:30:00

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

06:04:00:00

pretty fast for a fairly deep river.
Were you there on that occasion?
I was there I drove up and back to where some of the stores were I took water loads some water bombs up and stuff like that. The wet-land was fairly deep in swampy area and we had to make roads out of what we called

06:04:30:00

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.

06:05:00:00

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

06:05:30:00

tracks to be able to go where we wanted to because there was no roads, nothing at all, only scrub.
But a moment ago you described some fairly dramatic events including men getting drowned and so forth, were you either a witness to those events or their aftermath?
Well only because I was driving to that area where they were on the bank of the river. I didn’t actually see anyone drown.

06:06:00:00

Well can you take us through what you actually saw when you got there?
Well it was I ‘spose. It was in an area where our troops were on the bank of the river, they didn’t want to get out into the open because they were getting shot by the enemy on the other side of the river so they had to be very careful and it was a case of you know keep down,

06:06:30:00

or keep away or keep around and make sure you don’t get shot at or whatever and when things like that happen, there is a worry for everybody you know you worry about losing men, you worry about losing mates, you worry about if you gotta go next what will happen. But I’m not talking, I’m only talking in my

06:07:00:00

observations not to what the fellas that were there were doing. I was only there back and forwards which makes a difference.
Could you give us a description or walk us through a few of the things you saw at that location?
Only to the extent that the infantry fellows were as much as they could hiding from shots from the other side

06:07:30:00

and I did identify seeing some soldiers get across the river a bit further up where it was not as deep with ropes but you know. But I didn’t actually I didn’t actually see anybody drown, but they did. Later on they made it easier to cross down towards the mouth of the river where you’d run over

06:08:00:00

the sand of the beaches and where it was too terribly deep at all so then they could virtually walk across and that ‘s that was what was done by another unit down the river but a you know even though it was only a short way we were moving backwards and forwards. You only saw a very small amount of what was going on.
What did you actually prefer; did you prefer desert fighting or jungle fighting?

06:08:30:00

We always say that the desert was the easier one because you could see everything where you couldn’t in the jungle, you couldn’t see who was around the corner or behind a tree or something like that or at some stage they had they were up trees sniping you know and that sort of thing. So I would suggest that that would have been mine thought that the desert would have been much easier

06:09:00:00

and another thing that we often used to say that the desert was a good place to have a war because there were very, very few civilians, there was only the armies that were getting hurt or killed. Where there were more people in the New Guinea area especially and also later on where we went.

06:09:30:00

So you were more aware of civilians being caught up in the New Guinea campaign conflict?
Yeah, and yeah first.
Did you have any first hand memories of seeing the ways in which the New Guineans were caught up in the conflict?
We were told that by the indigenous people that they were used by the Japanese to do all sort of work, they were also,

06:10:00:00

the Japanese stole everything they could from them especially food. Because the New Guinean, his assets are usually based in pigs and they the Japanese used to take all those and in some instances the New Guineans let their pigs go in the scrub and they’d become semi-wild. But they used them as labourers and so on you know to do all sorts of things.

06:10:30:00

Could you describe jungle conditions?
What sort of conditions what how do you mean?
Could you talk about how you found the jungle you know was it constantly hot and oppressive, was it claustrophobic?
Well it was always pretty hot and high humidity. A lot of the times it used to rain every night virtually and even at one stage I remember the first night

06:11:00:00

that we spent on in the jungle behind the Red Beach at Lae, we weren’t very far in actually we picked out this area which was fairly heavily wooded and fairly tall trees and we didn’t realise that it was in a water course, a dry water course and it rained about three inches in and hour in the night time and we got flooded out.

06:11:30:00

And that’s exactly where most of us got malaria because we were wet through and the mosquitoes were so numerous in that area in this water course area and months later when we all got or somebody got malaria, the whole unit would be there virtually we all got malaria at the same time.
So you got malaria yourself?

06:12:00:00

Oh yes, yes four or five hospitalisations and even when I came back after the war I had couple of, but my local GP [General Practitioner] who had known me for years before treated me.
Could you describe the symptoms of the malaria as you had it?
Yes, yes, you start to shiver and you start to get hot,

06:12:30:00

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

06:13:00:00

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

06:13:30:00

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

06:14:00:00

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

06:14:30:00

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…
That must really knocked the energy out of you too as well?
Oh it did, I didn’t do much at all in those three weeks. I was stupid I didn’t go to hospital. I stayed in the camp where we were and that was at Finschhafen when

06:15:00:00

we went up there, but I came good and I was skinny as a rake when I come, I was 8 stone 3 when I came back from New Guinea.
That’s very light.
Oh it was.
Very emaciated. How did your relatives react when they saw you?
They thought I was a skeleton. Ask my wife, she’ll tell you.
How did she react?
She was upset with it all and also plus also

06:15:30:00

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

06:16:00:00

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

06:16:30:00

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

06:17:00:00

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

06:17:30:00

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,

06:18:00:00

“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

06:18:30:00

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

06:19:00:00

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,

06:19:30:00

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,

06:20:00:00

“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.”

06:20:30:00

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

06:21:00:00

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

06:21:30:00

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

06:22:00:00

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?

06:22:30:00

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

06:23:00:00

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

06:23:30:00

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

06:24:00:00

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.
Did you hear that any of the soldiers in New Guinea having sexual relations any of the local women?
Oh well you hear about it but I wouldn’t like to swear on a stack of Bibles.

06:24:30:00

Apparently it’s sort of taboo I think in a lot of instances but then you always hear of something that happens you can never be sure about but it must happen I ‘spose.
I believe that guard duty in jungle-settings was fairly nerve racking at times?
Yes, yes see you had to ensure your camp site area or where your trucks were you had to protect them so you had to do what we’d called pickets or same as guarding you might have two blokes walking around a little area or.

06:25:30:00

Later on in another area on Taro camp I remember I was by myself in the dark around the campsite we were in and the sounds of the jungle were such that they’d [UNCLEAR] you as well. Up there, there was a lot of monkeys and you’d hear them in the scrub or in the trees and well sounds that you heard you’re never sure

06:26:00:00

whether they were somebody or just monkey or just a bough breaking off or something like that and it’s very worrying, especially by yourself. If there is two together it’s great you know, you can back each other up, but to be by yourself it’s a bit, well I say bit, but it’s bloody frightening at times.

06:26:30:00

So compared once again to the Middle East you’re describing the jungle as a fairly nerve-racking place for a variety of reasons and its mainly concealment - what you can’t see but what you can hear.
Exactly, the darker…. the night in the jungle was darker than it is in the desert you know it. Dependent on the moonlight or whatever, even when there was no moon or whatever you could still get a little bit of a view of the surrounding area on the desert area, where you couldn’t see

06:27:00:00

in the jungle because there was too much foliage and trees and shrubs and scrub and you know you had to take that into consideration when you were there.
Weren’t you stung by a scorpion at one stage?
Oh yeah that was in the Middle East.
What happened there even if that means flashing back to the Middle East for the moment?
Actually what it was,

06:27:30:00

I can’t remember the full story but there was an air-raid on and the bombs were dropping close and I dove into a hole, it was you know sort of 18-inches deep but it was enough to cover me and as I dived in I landed on a scorpion and he bit me on the bottom. Which is a very painful situation I tell you, I told him off in large lumps.

06:28:00:00

But it’s a very, it’s that I landed on him, he wasn’t aggressive. I probably flattened him anyway.
Did you have any after effects?
No I don’t think so. It couldn’t have been a very bad bite it was bad enough to me at the time. But it didn’t even erupt in any sore or anything like that, he must have just, they kick up their backside and hit you like that

06:28:30:00

and that’s all it was. It was an experience which the only time I’ve ever had any one like that and its quite painful.
Where exactly in the Middle East was this?
That was Alamein, actually yeah. I’d forgotten about all of that. Yeah we had some funny animals over there.

06:29:00:00

Could we cover the landing at Scarlet Beach?
No I can’t actually. I wasn’t at Scarlet Beach; I was at a little beach further down at a point called Kedan Point.
Let me put it another way. Could you describe, take me through your landing near Finschhafen?
Alright, we had landed

06:29:30:00

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

06:30:00:00

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.

06:30:30:00

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

06:31:00:00

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

06:31:30:00

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,

06:32:00:00

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.

06:32:30:00

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.

06:33:00:00

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

06:33:30:00

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

06:34:00:00

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

06:34:30:00

one of our fellas by the name of Tom Derek got himself a VC [Victoria Cross] up there.
Do you recall Tom Derek himself?
I don’t think I ever saw him or met him. He was in a South Australian battalion.
What did you hear of the action that one him the VC?
Various stories came down which consolidated into the full story

06:35:00:00

I understand, but the main, one of the main thoughts that was promulgated by some of his infantry friends, mates, was that he was a bloody ‘mo’ and also that he’s mad, he’ll get you killed. Because he was going into action without any thought of himself and coz his sections had

06:35:30:00

to go with him, and they were a little worried because he could get you killed. And he did get killed later.
You used the term a moment ago a bloody ‘mo’, what are you referring to there?
No he was a marvel.
Oh marvel.
Bloody marvel, he was a marvel as a fighting man, maybe he didn’t keep to the rules all the time, I don’t know really because I was never with him.

06:36:00:00

But he was in the 2/48th Battalion, which had the most medals at the end of the war.
Now after your landing at Finschhafen, you had to drive a patient under fire from a Japanese sniper, what do you recall of that event?
Well that’s. As the infantry moved up into the hills we used to go up we had to supply them

06:36:30:00

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

06:37:00:00

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

06:37:30:00

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

06:38:00:00

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

06:38:30:00

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

06:39:00:00

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

06:39:30:00

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

06:40:00:00

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.
What were you feeling…
Cause I heard, I didn’t hear it but he heard, there is sort of a whip when a bullet goes past you and you only hear it when it goes past you anyway. Well I was a nearly rude there but I was quite worried,

06:40:30:00

you could finish up dead but we got out of alright thank goodness. And I think that the thought of the other young bloke getting killed was in my mind no doubt. He was only a young bloke too, he came from Western Australia, he’d only just joined us a few months before. A bullet through the neck. Anyway that’s the

06:41:00:00

perils of warfare isn’t it?
Interviewee: Bernard (Barney) Donnelly Archive ID 0001 Tape 07

07:00:30:00

Barney can you tell us about your Christmas that you had Landikye, is that how you pronounce it?
Wandeki. Yes yes after we or after they pushed the Japs back at Sattleburg, they went west along the northern coast of New Guinea and we went through, followed him,

07:01:00:00

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

07:01:30:00

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

07:02:00:00

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

07:02:30:00

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.
How could the Americans mistake a duck for…
Actually there wasn’t any insignia on these ducks,

07:03:00:00

they were just dark, very dark grey colour and he might have thought that it was a Japanese barge, that looked something like it you know. But he should have known.
So what was the general attitude to the American soldiers?
One of the thoughts was that they were in a certain way I ‘spose they were inept, that’s what we thought and the idea was that, let the Yanks make

07:03:30:00

all the ammunitions and all the equipment and hand it over to us and we’ll fight it. That’s what we used to say. Whether, I’m not denigrating to that extent because they did some good work as well, as well as we did, you know, some of their landings on to islands in the northern areas of the Pacific.
And what was your attitude of you and your mates to the Japanese?

07:04:00:00

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

07:04:30:00

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,

07:05:00:00

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.
And did you ever come across any Japanese POWs [prisoners of war]?

07:05:30:00

Our POWs?
Japanese.
Well yes I saw quite a number they either brought back or…and I don’t know exactly where they put them or whether they took them out straight away from Tarakan I’m not sure. As I said, it’s only a small island. Maybe they only wanted to get rid of them quickly so that they couldn’t be you know used again if somebody a group got

07:06:00:00

together and wanted to fight it out. The ones I saw, as I said, looked very much debilitated in that they were, see they’d been out in that jungle area with nothing for months and they, those were the ones I saw anyway.
And did you ever see any mistreatment of Japanese POWs?
No I didn’t. I didn’t. I have heard but it’s only hearsay, and I wouldn’t

07:06:30:00

bring it up because it might malign somebody who might, some of our fellas that might not have done anything. You always get stories about what happened, and you can’t be sure so it’s best not to say.

07:07:00:00

And I believe I think this is again in New Guinea that you had experienced, quite a humorous experience and you came across a Salvation Army padre. Could you tell us that story?
Yes I will as a matter of fact, he is our Rats of Tobruk padre for the state branch of New South Wales. His name was Stan Morton but there was a cowboy singer back in those days, called Tex, Tex Morton so we called our padre

07:07:30:00

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

07:08:00:00

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

07:08:30:00

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

07:09:00:00

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?”

07:09:30:00

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.”

07:10:00:00

He agreed.
Did he realise that he was in danger?
Of course yeah, you had to be. Oh gosh yeah. These aircraft that used to come over and do this strafing they were called whispering death because over the very close to the tops of the trees, and they’d come like with a whistley..

07:10:30:00

and then they’d hit the button and shoot out through their front guns. They are very good at that sort of working, strafing. So that was Tex, he’s still alive. He was at the Anzac march in his unit which he used to be in, so he’s a very good friend.

07:11:00:00

So with all this going on, were you still getting news from home?
Now and again, not very often. I wouldn’t be able to remember exactly how; you know whether it was every couple of weeks or what. We did get mail. Some people would get it you know, when the mail came,

07:11:30:00

they’d get half a dozen letters because their loved ones had probably written every week or but if then you might miss a few weeks and not get any at all, depending on the ability to of postal people to get it up to you.
And I believe that Dinky sent you parcels of food and I believe her marshmallows in particular were popular?

07:12:00:00

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,

07:12:30:00

“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.”

07:13:00:00

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?

07:13:30:00

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,

07:14:00:00

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

07:14:30:00

back in groups when there where were ships available.
We might come back to that a bit later on, because I just have a few other questions to ask you. So when you left New Guinea and you were in Australia for a period of time and then you left for Borneo didn’t you? Can you describe the trip to Borneo?
Well we, as I said, we went aboard at Townsville we

07:15:00:00

went aboard this American troop carrier I ‘spose you’d call it, especially made for carrying troops. And the captain of that ship was very scared because at 5 o’clock every afternoon all the troops were sent down into the holes where their beds were, we were locked in and the only lighting were round blue lights on the

07:15:30:00

bottom of the walls, you couldn’t see enough, you didn’t have not enough light to read by. And he wouldn’t let anyone up on deck because you might light a cigarette and the Japs would get us, you know. We were very uptight about that. It was the main thing about it was that the food was good although we only had two meals a day and the American rations were a lot better than ours.

07:16:00:00

Then we went up...
Could you tell me the difference between the American rations and the Australian rations?
Well on that ship I can say that it was probably because the better galley than our cooks had out in the scrub and they were able to make baked dinners and things like that that we never get much, now and again maybe.

07:16:30:00

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

07:17:00:00

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

07:17:30:00

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

07:18:00:00

at south-eastern area of the island of Tarakan.
I believe, I’m just going back to Morotai, I believe you did.. you had an interesting way of doing fishing there?
I’d forgotten about that.
Could you tell us what that was?
Yes well there was a, we must have been there a couple of weeks anyway we found what they called

07:18:30:00

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,

07:19:00:00

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

07:19:30:00

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

07:20:00:00

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

07:20:30:00

enough fish for a meal of fried fish for the mob, it was good.
How many people did you feed that night?
Oh about, it must have been about 40. The cooks were very good they fried it all up, it was lovely. I’ve never had anything like that…ever.
Who’s idea was it to do that?
Oh I think it was a composite idea. Because everybody,

07:21:00:00

you know, when there’s water, it’s the Australian way of life you know, you either send a stick of gelly [gelignite] down or a hand grenade you might get some fish. When they, when the explosion in the water it burst their membranes inside their body and they float. That’s the way to catch them.

07:21:30:00

So it sounds like your time in Morotai was more relaxed…
Well it was because there was nothing there other than it was just a staging area.
And did you get up to any other activities while you were there?
Not much, we swam a bit. We had a couple of weeks where we didn’t have to do anything it was great. It was at that stage, some of us were issued with

07:22:00:00

an Owen gun, some of them were. Owen guns were new at that stage and they were sub-machine guns of course.
Could you describe a Owen gun to me because I’ve never seen one.
Of course yes I’m sorry. An Owen gun was a sub-machine gun, light, that was designed by an Australian and it was so simply designed that

07:22:30:00

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,

07:23:00:00

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

07:23:30:00

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

07:24:00:00

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.
What was it like to shoot?
Oh easy, very good, yeah excellent.
So then you left Morotai…
When we left Morotai, we went to the strike in Tarakan.

07:24:30:00

Can you describe what happened there?
Yep. We landed on a little beach called Lingkas, Lingkas Beach. It was virtually the only beach that you could land on it relatively easily, it was very muddy, but it was deep enough

07:25:00:00

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.

07:25:30:00

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

07:26:00:00

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

07:26:30:00

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

07:27:00:00

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.
So what happened when you landed?

07:27:30:00

Well the infantry were fighting of course, against the Japanese and they gradually pushed back in and made an area where we could get into. We of course we, we had jeeps and trailers and we were carrying the supplies and so on. It was a little easier that because we didn’t have to fight as hard as the infantry.

07:28:00:00

That was their job and our job was transport.
What did you witness in terms of the fighting, what did you see that day?
It’s a bit difficult, you saw fighting, but when I say fighting it’s you know they are shooting at each other but they are trying to hide themselves from the enemy and as such you much and you don’t get an overall picture.

07:28:30:00

The fellas, the infantry themselves, you know there might only be a section of them 10 or 12 or something, and the next one might be a little way away and they only see each other at various times, you know what I mean. It’s a hard thing to say what did you see and how can you describe it into a picture which is easily transmitted through the mind. And with the fire

07:29:00:00

of the oil and that it was smoke and haze and God knows what else, it’s a hard thing to describe, to me anyway.
So was it hard to breathe because of the smoke?
It was alright I ‘spose. But there was some instance of breathlessness or actually the stench of the burning oil and things like that that would have affected people, but you sort of get used to this I ‘spose.

07:29:30:00

And were there many wounded?
Well I wouldn’t know how many at all, I got no idea now. But I know later on there was quite a few killed and the fella I spoke about at Sattleburg, Tom Derek, he got wounded there and died of his wounds and he was the one with the VC, poor old Tom. But I don’t really know the

07:30:00:00

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

07:30:30:00

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,

07:31:00:00

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

07:31:30:00

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,

07:32:00:00

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.

07:32:30:00

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.

07:33:00:00

So when you were pushing the Japanese back through the township what happened to the civilians?
Well I don’t know exactly they must have gone into hiding or something like that. And also there had been some shelling of town so they must have had some holes or something somewhere they could go to. Because some of the buildings had been flattened and maybe it was better for the enemy

07:33:30:00

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

07:34:00:00

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

07:34:30:00

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.
So did the Japanese, the ones that were starving, did they try and steal food?
Yeah there were instances of

07:35:00:00

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

07:35:30:00

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,

07:36:00:00

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

07:36:30:00

3 months and that was the finish of the war and that was a reasonable way to finish up the deal.
Do you think that Tarakan was an unnecessary conflict?
Lot of talk that it was. They got their oil which was probably necessary.

07:37:00:00

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

07:37:30:00

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,

07:38:00:00

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

07:38:30:00

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

07:39:00:00

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.
Interviewee: Bernard (Barney) Donnelly Archive ID 0001 Tape 08

08:00:30:00

Barney, can you tell us in your book you mentioned that were some sensitive trees in Morotai or Tarakan?
No, no on Tarakan. Actually it was most evident when we were having the boys carry the food and stores and so and we were going along these tracks and we were the shot gun guards

08:01:00:00

and there was a shrub up there and I don’t know what it was or what name it was or anything like that, we just called it sensitive trees but they were maybe 8 or 6-feet high and for no reason all the leaves began to shake and you’d come around like this you know thinking there might be someone there and then they would just settle down and there wasn’t anybody there. So I don’t know, I’d like to know what they were,

08:01:30:00

whether it was just a tree that grew in the scrub or whether it was available to other people by transplanting it in a garden or something like that. It just shook and you would swear to God there was somebody in there behind it or something, it was a frightening sort of a situation until you found out that there was nobody in there anyway.

08:02:00:00

But that’s I don’t know, we didn’t know the name; we just called them the sensitive trees.
It must have been quite spooky?
It is a little but it is a little, there was other trees around, a shrub a scrub and so on so you got used to these things with experience, you still had to take notice that there could be somebody there but it was a funny situation at times.

08:02:30:00

And I believe that you also made friends with a spider monkey?
Yes we did, little fella he was only about that high. I can’t remember who caught him first, but he must have given him food or something but he lived with us in our little hut that we made and he used to go out on the jeeps

08:03:00:00

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,

08:03:30:00

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

08:04:00:00

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

08:04:30:00

still somebody there when I left so they probably looked after him.
Did he have a name?
I don’t think so, can’t remember now. I don’t, yeah he was quite a nice, clean little fellow. Quite intelligent.
So where were you when you heard that the atomic bomb had been dropped on…
We were in this area

08:05:00:00

in Tarakan we had built ourselves a sort of a hut type thing to live in. Actually the base had been an army barracks and it had been raised to the ground by shelling and bombing and we just had a raised concrete base on which we set something up for each other, for our section and so on and then it was about two feet

08:05:30:00

above the ground because it used to rain about 3 or 4 inches every night and all the gutters were about 2 foot deep around this particular area, which had been flattened of course but it was a barracks and the rain was horrific actually, or when I say horrific that’s wrong, it used to rain very heavily for a couple of hours at night-time, 2 or 3 or 4 inches anytime.

08:06:00:00

And what did you reckon about the bomb being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Well not so much our reaction to that, it was the reaction when we had come through the war without being knocked about.
And what was that feeling like?
It was great. We were very happy about that and that was, I would think, that was the main thought in most people’s minds,

08:06:30:00

thank God we got through it all you know and we I don’t think that any of us thought much about the bombs being dropped in that we had not very much knowledge of what they would be like or what virtually what they were. I mean the splitting of the atom in those days wasn’t well known and we had no idea how it could be

08:07:00:00

adapted to a bomb anyway and we had no idea of what the outcome of an explosion of that type would be, we learnt about it afterward, by reading newspapers and so on of course.
So what was the reaction of you and your mates when you heard the war had ended?
As I said it was great. Our greatest thought was that we had come through without injury

08:07:30:00

and how soon will we get home.
And what did you do to celebrate?
Somewhere along the line I think a little few days after or something like that I think we got an issue of beer, but I’m not sure, I can’t really remember that but I that’s the only way we could celebrate, other than we did a bit of yelling and screaming. So it’s a situation there is not much you could do.

08:08:00:00

So how long was it before you were actually able to go home?
I came home about the fourth week in October, I think. War finished on the 15th August so it was late October before we left and I was discharged. We came home. I got home

08:08:30:00

on about the first week in November, they gave us leave and then we went back and I was discharged I think on the 21st November or something like that, 1945, which was about 4 months after the war finished.
So what did you do in between that time of the war being over and going back home to Australia?
Did what we had to do in the supply and transport and played around.

08:09:00:00

Played cricket and we had quite a big cricket match there because there was nearly as many air force people there were army and we had a cricket game between the air force and the army. We had a service march and a service to

08:09:30:00

commemorate the death of the fellas in the cemetery that had been fixed up, crosses were made and put up and so on and we dedicated that in a march and service. Things like that, well that was the only time that we did that but we were given free time, played cricket, played all

08:10:00:00

sorts of things, mucked about and felt very happy that things were over.
Were those services that you did for the graves, for your fallen mates, were they quite moving?
Oh yes I think more so than a lot of others because they were our people you know they were our division and you always had I ‘spose

08:10:30:00

pride in the division because we had been together for so long and also not a homely feeling, but it’s a comradeship that you appreciated what everybody had done and also unfortunately some had got killed and you had to dedicate and commemorate their life and

08:11:00:00

abilities and death, unfortunately.
So you mentioned the point system before about coming home, so you got your ticket to go home, what did you go home on the boat, what was the boat like?
Well we went home on the ship from Tarakan

08:11:30:00

to Morotai then we got on another and went to Finschhafen where we transferred to a another ship that took us through right though to Sydney and we landed in Circular Quay, which was great and they gave us leave and we came back up a couple of weeks later

08:12:00:00

and were discharged, handed in all our gear and so on and it was a good trip home, which was quite a nice ship and I can’t remember the name of it. Something like it was a ship something like the Duntroon or one of those, it was an old ship that used to do trips around Australia, with passengers, passenger ship, so that was good.

08:12:30:00

And what was it like when the ship arrived back in Sydney Harbour?
Sense again a sense again of being home without being knocked about. Get home as quick as you can, get back to civilian life, that was one thought of course as well. But as I said we had a bit of leave and then we were discharged

08:13:00:00

while I never went, I just played around until Christmas time we had. My mother was quite ill and she died on the 26th of January I think it was. That was a knock about. And then I went back to work again on the, no I went back to work on the 2nd of January

08:13:30:00

that’s right, and she died 3 weeks later, unfortunately. So I went back to the old place that I had worked for, worked before the war, that was the law in those days, they had to have a job for you to come back to, an x-service person.
And what was it like seeing Dinky again?
Well that’s a… it was a great thing,

08:14:00:00

well as well as her, your whole civilian love people love loving all people and it was something that you’d personally I’d thought about many months before, when are we going to get back and when are we going to meet again and when are we going to do this and it was a something that then

08:14:30:00

you started to think about what would happen in the future and from there on we, I think a lot of marriages went on and a lot of children were born. Although it was 11 months before we got married.
And how did you propose to her?
In a car down at Fullers Bridge,

08:15:00:00

in the middle of the night, “Are you gonna marry me?” And yes I think was the answer. So there you are and anyway that’s about as much as I can tell you of course. The time was right apparently.

08:15:30:00

And we’ve mentioned it a bit off camera but I believe when you came back from the war you had you know quite a few problems you know in terms of remembering and…
I can honestly say that it was quite a funny situation, when we came back we lost our the closeness of our camaraderie of being living together, see we virtually lived together closer than brothers for

08:16:00:00

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

08:16:30:00

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,

08:17:00:00

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

08:17:30:00

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,

08:18:00:00

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

08:18:30:00

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.
Doing well.
56 coming up. We get a letter from the Queen, if we make that.
Do you still dream about the war?

08:19:00:00

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

08:19:30:00

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.

08:20:00:00

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.

08:20:30:00

Dinky was saying before over afternoon tea that sometimes you’d wake up in the middle of the night strangling her…
Oh, that was when I had the nervous breakdown and that was I was in a sort of a coma but she did that at that stage.
So what actually happened when you had your nervous breakdown?

08:21:00:00

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

08:21:30:00

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

08:22:00:00

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

08:22:30:00

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,

08:23:00:00

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

08:23:30:00

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,

08:24:00:00

our house, and everything else to get enough financial assets to buy the newsagency and stayed there for 5 years.
So did running the newsagency help in your recuperation?
Oh yes I think so yes, yes, even though I was still drinking but not as heavily as before and now it is a just a normal way of life as it was then

08:24:30:00

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

08:25:00:00

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

08:25:30:00

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

08:26:00:00

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.
Barney in your post war life, how important has it been to keep in contact with your mates that you made during the war?
Paramount. I mean

08:26:30:00

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,

08:27:00:00

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

08:27:30:00

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.

08:28:00:00

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

08:28:30:00

sending out newsletters and so on.
Because you’re can you describe your role… that you are the secretary?
Yeah I am the secretary treasurer and we have a president and we have two other committee men and myself and the president we organise everything. I think I come up with the lot of the decisions but I make sure that the others

08:29:00:00

agree with it, I’m not somebody who does everything and loses with you know contact with everyone I make sure everybody knows about it, which is the right way to do it anyway.
And how important is Anzac Day, the ritual of Anzac Day to you and your mates?
Well in the same way, it’s the closeness and the camaraderie,

08:29:30:00

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

08:30:00:00

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

08:30:30:00

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.

08:31:00:00

Those friendships are obviously very intense and important to you and your mates, I was just wondering about like Dinky or any of the other wives felt a bit alienated from that or in terms of understanding what you went through and…?
No, I would suggest that most of them are very, very happy, they’ve

08:31:30:00

also been brought into the comradeship and especially Dink because she being my offsider she’s my secretary, she knows, maybe I have talked a lot more than some others, but she knows practically all the people we have been in contact with, as well as some of the others who were in different units and I go to like say the Rats of Tobruk association.

08:32:00:00

We have dos together and she comes with me or the 9th Australian Division Council, we have luncheons and so on and sometimes the women come to those, so they are brought into the comradeship as well.

08:32:30:00

I’m also, coz you and Dinky obviously have a very close and open relationship and you’ve been through a lot together, I’m wondering like if some of …..because people I’ve heard like my grandparents never really talked about it and I’m wondering if other of your comrades had difficulty in talking about their experiences?
Well yes I would suggest that was exactly right because very, very often now, especially now, people are coming to us or to me

08:33:00:00

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

08:33:30:00

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

08:34:00:00

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.

08:34:30:00

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

08:35:00:00

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,

08:35:30:00

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.
Barney we are going to have to finish up soon, but I was just wondering if there you had anything else you wanted to say or add?
Well I can honestly say that I am so honoured

08:36:00:00

to be able to do it for a start, to tell you some of the experiences of me and my friends and I hope that has or gives some help to somebody if he reads it or hears it or looks at it and pleased that I could do it and I’ll also thank you very much for you co-operation with me and helping me along.

08:36:30:00

We’d like to, Graham [interviewer] and I would like to return that we feel honoured to hear your story, thank you.
I hope it’s been interesting. I think they are because it’s something that’s in your memory that you can’t get out of, no way can you lose it other than by death so I don’t want to be there.
Oh well, it’s all down on tape now.

08:37:00:00

Oh good. That’s great. I’ve got no problems that it is going to bringing back something that’s going to affect me badly in my thought because I I’ve been able to communicate all my life I ‘spose and in work situations I was always able to talk and I think that helped me what I’ve done now.
Well you’ve done a fantastic job and thank you.
INTERVIEW ENDS

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