you did what was called in those days a moonlight flit. The week you’re paid, you had to get, in the next fortnight you had to get enough for the deposit on the next house. You with me so far? Good, and which meant that a lot of young people, families, were going from suburb to suburb, sometimes street to street and school to school, but there always seemed to be enough just
to go around. Mum remarried again when I was about 10 and we moved to Kangaroo Valley. That’s where I saw a funny looking animal. My uncle always had horses, dealing, bottleohs, props, anything to sell they’d sell it, and I saw these funny looking creatures and they had horns on their head. “What the
bloody hell?” “Moo cows.” “What do you mean?” “Milk.” “How do you get the milk out of it?” “The udders.” The udders, oh Jesus, they’re playing me for a, but they were fair dinkum. You did, you milked them. It didn’t come in a billy can at all. It come in a compact. From there one of the things I do resent are these shit-arsed things today protesting about this and protesting about
that. I settled down to study and I had an old digger, we used to go up to milk his cows for our milk for the family, and he gave me some very good background and he said, “Use your brain, son, study.” So I did. We, two of us in that school, Kangaroo Valley, two of us in that school
netted 90 per cent of the marks, bursaries they called them in those days, but how do you get two fellows from Kangaroo Valley, and there’s no bus service, up over the mountains to school in Nowra or Moss Vale which was further to get a bursary. The bursary would’ve paid for our books and our fees, no clothes. “How do you do it?” “You don’t.” So that
put a chip on my shoulder. Through football, through cycling, and I once met Dunc Grey in Kangaroo Valley. He has relatives in Kangaroo Valley, the famous Dunc Grey, and he gave us quite a few tips. Anyway Norm was there and he said, “Hey Norm, what am I talking to them for?” They were riding mates. Norm my pal and Dunc Grey were riding mates, so I
thought Jesus, you know, all of a sudden Norm went up 10 feet in my estimation. So football and along comes a whisper in about ’38 something’s going on and Norm, all the old diggers they were putting two and two together very quickly. We just accepted the fact that it’s, and the way we were told made sense.
“Fight the bloody war over there, don’t bring it back to Australia.” “That makes sense, good.” Resentful, very resentful of the history of Gallipoli compared to the win at Beersheba which was first, then on to France, the wins they had there. All they talk about, they follow the Pommy idea. Now I can recite to you The Charge
of the Light Brigade, and into the valley of death rode the gallant 600. Do you know what? They got their arses kicked. 121 come out of there but they charged the guns up there. Now why am I talking about this? They should’ve charged the guns there. They were the ordinary captured. England seems to glorify their defeats. You think about all of them, the Battle of Dunkirk. Well they got,
338,000,000 troops got their arse kicked into the canal, a defeat, and numerically in France and Czechoslovakia, Poland was about one and a quarter allies to one German but they had better gear and knew how to use it. Now this’ll come out a bit later on in your interview. Tobruk, not only were we the first people
to hold the Germans and we can’t claim a victory because we did not sally forth and kick the shit out of them, but we stopped the blitzkrieg and that happened when Edmondson, the very name this club’s named after, our battalion. Now why? Why is it these gutless mongrel politicians, is it because there’s
not many left? Is it because, now you take Howard and the show pony, what’s his name? Major General, he looks a show pony as well as that, never been near the front line in his life. Now Howard’s over there waving and shaking hands on the back of the efforts done by the soldiers. Now I’m going to show you a photograph of that monstrosity in Macquarie Street
where our country went in backwards. I’ve got the article there. Now,
Horse, joined the Militia, and I thought oh well. He said, “Get a few bob behind you”, he said, “Go down and get on the war.” So I pulled my time and away I went, and I went down to the very, it’s not there now, the very place where our Colonel, our 2IC [Second In Command], Mackell MC [Military Cross] who was with that charge, he led it, and Edmondson all followed the RSL [Returned and Services League], Merrylands drill hall, and he said,
“Look mate”, he said, “They’re going to put us out somewhere.” “What do you mean?” He said, “Ooh, don’t join the Militia”, he said, “Wait and go in the AIF [Australian Imperial Force].” The first bastard I struck inside the door when I walked in was him. “He’s gone”, I said, “Well” he said, “That’s what we were told.” He joined up the battalion at the same, there was quite a few of them, but funny little things to laugh about, Ingleburn. Left right, left and we were learning how to form
“Oh, where have you been mate?” Up till then it was “When are you going away?”, because they were, as we were training, he’s overseas for two and a half, three years and he comes back. “Oh, you’ve been somewhere”, and he said, “Oh yeah”. “Oh well, the others had just left”, and it goes on and wherever he is he’s got one leg off, a few fingers off this hand, When Are You Going Away? B Company, be here when they went and be here when they
come back. But one thing I’d like to express, and remember there were about 10 or 15 in the battalion of my age and further on up to old World War I diggers, I’ve got a nice story to tell you about an old digger, two wonderful old diggers. But we heard about the Domain. Now all you had to do was have a box, stand on it and you could say what you liked. Democracy in action,
and one of the jokers that went down with us, on the consideration we kept our hands in our pockets and did what we were told, “What do you mean?” “Well just do it.” “Here they are”, we were five bob a day murderers. We had no right sailing overseas to come over and fight somewhere in that country. Why should we go over there and fight? “Silly
mothers, shut up.” “Yeah, yeah righto.” And we come back with very antagonistic and we finished up the canteen private across there was Seventh Day Adventists. Now they don’t believe in war, don’t believe in this, don’t believe in that. Anyway they put on an act about putting meat in a hamburger or something and the unit that followed us in struck them
on the wrong side in the first week. Second seek there were no more canteen, it accidentally had caught fire.
to talk more about the training that you went, but we’ll just move on now. So where did you move to after Ingleburn?
Oh we were heroes, we marched to Bathurst, but therein lies another story. They wanted the camp at Ingleburn for more incoming troops presumably because we sailed the 7th Divvy [Division]. There’s a trick question, “When did the 9th Divvy sail from Australia?” It didn’t, was formed in the Middle East, so watch out for that one. Anyway they decided they wanted Ingleburn right? There was a camp being built at Bathurst
but it’s a fortnight from being completed so some rotten bastard came up with the idea, in the middle of winter, we were gonna march to Bathurst but we were gonna take 10 days to do it, and I thought I knew cold country but the Vale of Clwydd at Lithgow, Jesus. Smart young fellow, you know, I raced out, grabbed the dish for first wash next morning,
out in front of the tent, and there’s about that much ice on it next morning. I didn’t have first wash. But we, oh when we got to Bathurst, dismissed, yackety yack, showers, ooh, hot showers, ooh and you know, and there’s only two sides complete as seen from the road, and from the road up there. The rest was
open. The big tank was on top, yes, but it wasn’t hooked up, was no heat in it. Now you imagine diggers slightly sweaty from the last march in Kelso, Limeburners Road up to the camp. Hot water, you bloody beauty. Turned her on, let her run for a while. The longer it run the colder it got, so good old army organises things.
oh no, we wouldn’t, no.” I tell you what, I don’t think, there was two or three yes, there’s always two or three bad apples in every barrel, but they did want them back sooner or later and we then came back to Bathurst, got on the train the next day and came back to Sydney, quite a, yeah I know, but they were paying for the warrant so it didn’t matter. I board the Mary [Queen Mary] and we
were watching over the side and you hear the motor start, the big, we’re not moving. One of my mates had come over this side full of shit, and the whole of the bottom of Sydney Harbour is being churned with the big four props on the Mary and this beautiful green harbour we’re used of, and when we went back over that side it was doing the same on that side but this was a bit shallower. That’s how many troops she had
Do you, I’m not kidding you, you get on to any old Englishman or people of our years, they’d sit them up in bed with a cup of tea, right, the nets are down, yeah. In comes the tea wallah, next would be the shaving wallah and he’d do about six every morning, they’d pay him. They’d sit up in bed and get shaved and then in would come another one,
little Indian with their boots just polished. They’d help them get dressed; check all their buttons and everything, on parade. Then after breakfast they ride their horses around the parade ground. What a way to fight a bloody war. Anyway we marched up past that, saw our first above ground burials because that’s the way they do it, and you could smell it. “Hey, who dropped their guts?” “What are you talking about?”
We were within 100 yards of the burial ground so from there we came back down, ‘cause Deolali, Poona is up in the hills, Bombay down there on the sea. The Rhona, R-H-O-N-A, “Rhona” was the little tub, after the Mary, up the Red Sea. The whole idea of this we
learned later, see it’s wonderful to be intelligent later but you don’t know it at the time, on the Horn, if you look at the Red Sea the bottom of the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa comes out like that and in that area there the dagoes [pejorative slang for Italians] had an air base and a naval base, and there’s a good story I want you to ask me about.
Lizzie [Queen Elizabeth] later on. Up the Canal, they off loaded us along the Canal and we took up the great job of which was a kick in the arse, we were guarding water stations and little stations and road junctions. Headquarter Company is up at Suez at the top end of the Suez having a ball, and they used to bring our rations down. “What’s it like up there?” “Bloody awful mate.” “Oh”. “But we can swim in the
canal.” The boats used to come through there slow and I tell you what, unless you’ve seen it you’d call me a bloody liar, but if you’re away from the canal particularly on the low side and here’s these ships almost stopped, fairly slow, and you say, what are they? You can’t see the water, it’s down there in this canal, and they’re sailing through the sand, amazing you know, woo.
Didn’t take us long to find out being Aussies, sticky beaks. The greatest sticky beaks in the world Aussie soldiers. “What’s in there?” “You can’t go in there. You can’t go in there”. “Why?” “Because.” “Oh, because.” You give them a reason because in the army you don’t thieve. Get that through your pretty little skull. Don’t thieve in the army unless you’re caught and proven, then you’re a thief but if you don’t get caught you’re scrounging. Just went looking for a bit of extra
stuff to eat. Oh, it was a very favourite past time in the army. I must tell you a funny story about; make a note of that, herrings in tomato sauce. Oh jeez, I’ve never eaten a bastard since. Anyway from there 6th Divvy goes into action and we learnt what other soldiers could do. They
captured Bardia, into it, most of it captured in two days, completely captured in four days and captured 42,000 dagoes, 3 battalions and one in reserve, half a dozen Pommy 25 pounders which was a magnificent gun but hasn’t got the length of 88’s, you know the big German stuff, and we had Itie [Italian] tanks, 6 mile an hour is their top speed. They were built
to protect infantry. Holy shit, now we followed them up the desert, a couple of weeks difference, we took over from them end of six weeks up past Benghazi, a place called, come back to that.
It was only a company of the three battalions and the brigade at, no. In that six weeks they captured 142,000 Italians and they weren’t the full division. They pulled them back to go to Greece. Originally the 7th, that’s why they cut the divvy in half and
built around it 7th and 9th, and Blamey said, “No fear”, he said, and we were up the desert for advanced training, lasted a couple of weeks. We took over in the March and we were back in Tobruk in April. That’s how long we stayed up there. We went up for advanced training while they went to Greece and did a bit more fighting. Rotten bastards, they’re getting all the good things but we didn’t realise what was coming in Greece.
Again those, that division wrote themselves into history because after they slaughtered the German paratroopers the Germans never again in World War II used paratroops. They copped such a caning. They got more out than was expected including a nurse which, well, she came of Greece, Crete to Greece, and from Greece,
they couldn’t, didn’t have enough vessels to go straight through to Alex so while there was a spell they’d unload them, Greece would pick them up along the line, whack them on to Crete. Now say, right, the other side we’ll pick you up.
One of the jokers says, “You won’t believe this mate.” “Why?” “You won’t believe this.” Oh, they’re pulling my leg again. Young fellow, you know. So I snuck in behind him and hear this clank clank clank going on. We now know it was a half track. You see the two wheels and then you see the, and they were about the size of two Bren gun carriers. There was two of them and behind
them, these massive great bloody monstrosities, tanks. Now we’d seen 25 pounders and anti-tank guns. We look up over a mile away and here’s this great big bloody, oh. You looked at the rifle, looked at a Bren gun and we two or three mags and one Bren gun, looked at that and I thought “Oh Jesus, are we in, we in trouble.” So they rings through the
battalion, “Get out of there.” but they were going parallel to us. For some unknown reason they come in behind us, had a shot at the 2/5th in our brigade and they copped it, then pulled out to go on further down and we were the lucky battalion. So helter skelter and by the way, if ever you hear someone talking about 9th Division retreats from, they call it the Benghazi
Handicap, it was only a brigade up there. All the rest were strung out like Brown’s cows, three battalions, 2/13th, 2/15th and the 2/17th. There’s a funny story there too. A Pommy officer, that was before we got to them, we didn’t see him shoot them, I mean I could lie and say I did, but what good is it. This Pommy officer pulled up and
asked for directions and he’s sending some down there and some down there where we were heading see. Somewhere on the line he must’ve twigged to a word out of place or something military that he should’ve known and didn’t. He was a German officer dressed as a, when I say Red Cap, Military Police. They call them Red Caps in the English Army, he’s directing traffic, sergeant, you know, big fellow.
And the, I’m told, we saw the trucks all gathered around it and they got three or four others as well, he just pulled his pistol out and bang, said, “That’s a German.” and he bloody well was, and the ones they put down there, the tiger tanks are waiting, sitting up there with their guns up, “Come on in fellers, come on in fellers, the war’s over for you.”
Tobruk day and night. Dig in of a night time, first stop, fill them in or leave them next morning and skelter on again, you know. Now we would’ve still been buried in the desert if the dagoes had’ve been men. They left their trucks and scampered. Now could you imagine running away and leaving a big diesel behind you? No, anything that would hold them up. If it wasn’t for the captured trucks in Bardia,
Tobruk, Derna, further up, we didn’t have any quality trucks or quantity of trucks. They were using them to tow guns, they were using them for this and troop carrying, big diesels. They didn’t have the petrol to bring their tanks out of Fort Machilli. They left them there. One of our drivers came back and he was irate. “Pommy bastard.” “What’s wrong Danny?”
He said, “I offered him our load of petrol and the Pommy bastard looked me up and down and he said, Aussies, I’m talking about tons not gallons.” He said, “Well they’d have got a couple of tanks out.” He said, “No, I want tons”, and they just hadn’t, they were that confused and ignorant because we were told through division that there would be no, they
told, we knew the Germans would ultimately come in because the Italians were embarrassing them. “Oh no, can’t possibly come in June, July, maybe August.” This is May, March. They were six months ahead of their time down the track. The panic was on and it was a panic. The assault started on, we went, there is confusion
about what day the actual action took place of closing the back door and you are isolated, but I can tell you that a name from a German diary, one of the first actions straight up the Bardia Road, shut the back door and they’re heading into Tobruk because once the tank, all over Europe once the tanks got in the infantry run away and Morshead, made a point of it, “There will be
no surrender here. If they come through let the bloody tanks come through.” He said, “We’ve got 25 pounders and anti-tank guns. We’ll deal with them, you deal with the infantry.” “Well that sounds alright, that makes sense.” We hadn’t seen tanks come in in number but it made sense and it worked, but the first real slap on the face that Fritz got
Rommel, El Agheila was that place I was talking where we went up and relieved the 6th Divvy, El Agheila, I knew I’d think of it sooner or later. He sent one of his light armour divs fast up the Bardia Road and it’s a name you won’t forget, Pritt, General Prittwitz. They’d apparently very methodically they’d gone
down the road before they put the tank traps and the hunks of cement in and they’d marked it out from the gun to where this was and that was, and a 25 pounder is one of the most versatile universal weapons around. It’s just a bit short of the 88 which originally was, believe it or not, anti-aircraft, and Rommel said, “That would go well on tanks”, and it did. Bong, another tank gone. Anyway
they’re steaming up the Bardia Road, like towards from Bardia to Tobruk, artillery opens up, one two scout cars, bang, one half track, boom, one Prittwitz, General Prittwitz, and a bit.
headed into Tobruk to take you know, headquarters, and they just closed in on them. They pinned him into one gully, they call them waddies over there, down the dry gully, boong, and once they stopped the first or the first two, they started piling up. Now 34 tanks came in and 17 went out and 17 stayed there. About 250 killed,
over 200 taken prisoner, tank crews shot, you know. Anyway, but it was the best thing ever happened because the other battalions, “Hey, if they can bloody do it so can we”, and the word went around the 30 odd mile perimeter. Now there was 10 battalions,
nine infantry ‘cause you’ve got three brigades, three battalions per brigade and the Pioneers traditionally when needed always followed as infantry, and you got the rest behind you, you know. Machine guns, yackety yackety yack, and it spread around, “Hey, if they can bloody do it so can we.” And the whole, ‘cause up till then we were a bit disillusioned, this going up the desert and then getting
chased back by the first lot of tanks you see wasn’t the idea of winning a war, and I kid you not, the spirit rose, and after that, oh they had three or four more shots and they did get into the hot spot called the Salient. 49 Yards is the distance between trenches. Here around further around where we were originally 4,000, 5,000, further around 2,500, so you had
a bit of a stroll before you got near them and it was a gentleman’s war up to then, after in the Salient.
To be successful in any business and any war, any ship, any endeavour you’ve got to be a bit arrogant, you’ve got to be a bit over confident, and Rommel was because up till then he kicked arses from Poland right through and he had his pick of the Afrika Korps. They were big men, they were well trained, but so were we, and the longer it went the cockier
we got, and I’ve seen jokers, I’ve seen jokers that almost got themselves killed by being too lackadaisical, too complacent. They see a machine gun spit and he’d say, “Nowhere near us you mug.” “You see the little blinkety blink just like a tail light only smaller at a distance. You hear putt, putt, putt. You’re getting close.” “Yeah but I know he fired like that last night and the night before, he’s
right.” “Jesus, you’re a bit over confident mate.” It happens but to be successful you need to be, and we used to love scaring the shit out of the dagoes.
then there’s Battleaxe and did it get blunted. This is over a six month period by the way. Then Crusader was the one that came up. Now by that time we were getting pretty crook and oh, Blamey and the Poms, it was fighting left right and centre. They even involved our own government, home here Australia. Why should our, because at one stage of the game the only casualties come out from around the Med, because the 7th Divvy had been in action against
the Vichy French, not the Free French, Crosses of Lorraine. Now Greece, Crete, there’s, if you want to attach the Australians that got damaged there was no other casualties coming out.
“Do it or else”, and by that time we trusted him, you know. Now in Syria they built some of the small gauge, the tunnels and the railway line and all that, and the 2/4th Field Company they were graphic artists and artisans and they were tradesmen. So they decided they would patch up the arse end of the old brewery. I don’t know where they got the supplies from but
they got them until Morshead stamped his feet or one of the officers stamped their feet. They called it Panther’s Piss, and Nipper being Nipper, he later on finished on Z Force believe it or not, so he was a hell of a feller, he designed a label for it and there was very few bottles got out before the shit hit the fan, and he had a big tub and this big panther,
big black panther, beautiful big thing about twice as big out of proportion, and here they got their bottles and they got their hands on his you know what and they’d squeeze him and fill the bottles up. “Next bottle, Panther’s Piss”. Anyway one of the Brigadiers must’ve been told about it and all of a sudden it went off the market and so did the brand, but I’d love to have got one of those back as a souvenir. I’ve got a good souvenir there,
it was dropped on us in Tobruk, a surrender pamphlet and they wouldn’t believe that, and that’s what I was telling that fellow outside about the searchlights. We had the Dagoes, now I kid you not and this, I’m proud to talk about this bit, when they go through and that, I’ll bring it up at the next interview, it’s by Chester Wilmot who died in a plane crash
in 1943 but he was equal to Bean, who was the top gun reporter in World War I, and Chester Wilmot was all the diggers’ way, you know. But at one stage of the game after things settled down to a siege mentality there was seven divisions of Dagoes and four divisions of Afrika Korps,
and the Germans would not allow, because they put them in there once and they run out, in the Salient, that was the hot spot. It was just like, you know, a little peninsula. He wanted it, we wanted and we met half way, but
Because they’d run away previously, had they?
Oh yes. They, now I know one occasion but in that book if ever you read it, Tobruk and El Alamein by Barton Moore. “Sit back you bastard!” “Yeah I will, righto.” Rommel made application to the general high command, German, went over all the in-betweeners everywhere, went right to the high command. Permission to shoot Italian officers and Italian servicemen, soldiers that turned back before firing an angry shot at the enemy.
Of course they said, “No”, but he wanted it on record, and he used his tanks to get even with them, and every time they run away, the one time I know about it we were sitting in the trenches, it was early morning, Stan too, and then something started and you could hear the, you could hear them. They’ve got a peculiar sound the big tiger and you don’t want to mix it up with your tanks or Bren gun carrier, that’s a tiger. You, you know, you
can’t lose your bet on that, that’s a tiger, and we ducked our heads but by this time we were old soldiers. There’s no, nothing going overhead, nothing out in the sand there. “What’s going on?” So me being me, had to have a look, and with their guns, nowadays they’ve got a ratchet
besides the main armament and you can shoot, the gun can be shooting that way and they can be shooting that way, but in those days they had to swing the main armament around, and the gun’s not facing towards us. It’s facing the other way. “What’s going on here, you know?” And we hear the rattle of gun fire of machine gun, it’s not coming our way. They brought the Dagoes in, a couple of thousand of them and they turn
around and scarpered, and he said, “Turn the guns on them.” Now whether he killed any or he just frightened the shit of them I don’t know. But Barton Moore said it happened three times. I can’t say that, I know it happened once, and if you stick to what you know you haven’t got to lie to cover up a lie. That’s my motto. Right.
7th Divvy had taken when they were going home, they’re on their way home and we were acting as Occupational Forces and didn’t we give the Turks a bit of swish ‘cause we were right on the Turkish border and there was a bridge over the Ruhr River, a ravine, and they’d come across to do their trade in Aleppo and other places that we, you know, other names I’ve forgotten, and jeez, ‘cause we were the border guards
plus the MP’s [Military Police] and the Pommies, “Eh by gum chum, don’t do that.” “Never heard you, you bastard.” “You little pin headed little so and so’s”, because we wanted to have a scrap with them to square up for Gallipoli.
the war was getting close so they interned the bloody lot of them except a man called William Joyce. He’d gone to Germany to bring orders back to Mosely and he didn’t get interned, and he worked in the Department of Misdirection Misuse Propaganda. Now you’ll hear them say Goebbels was Lord Haw Haw. Never. We called William Joyce “Lord
Haw Haw” because he was like a donkey’s bray, you know. He was always bellowing, but I’ll tell you what, a lot of it was true. He told us that the commanding officers, captains, the name of a destroyer that were coming in. He nominated the battalion, 32nd. He nominated the destroyer they were coming in on and time, and it arrived. That’s how, but there’s another, I’ve got another book in there,
The Best Kept Secret in World War II, was kept under the Official Secret Act for 30 odd years. An Aussie went to England to research it because some other battalion claimed where he’d been, El Alamein. But getting back to Tobruk
They were within 60 mile of Alexandria. Our brigade was pushed up the road, only the, now you’ve got to visualise this. You have a road 10 foot above there, right? Now down there and further into the Qattara Depression you’re below sea level. The road literally, with its various run offs, kept the water and the silt and the shit
from the Mediterranean from flowing in and when you say gunk and goo and mud, that was there, so they pushed us up into that to cover the road and Jerry’s on his way down. Well we did after a lot of confusion and one of our other brigades had two battalions forward and I think it was the
Light Sussex Regiment, green as grass. They even had cold weather kit with them, and they broke and run and they captured two companies, 2/4th, 2/23rd, 2/24th and a company, the 43rd I think. They were just giving up, you know, I mean they should never have lost them, but then they decided they’d fight in little pockets and that didn’t work, but they left us
on the coast and through us,
again”, but we held him. Then the build up came and this is one of the disgusting things about Churchill. Churchill was an impatient man that wanted a fix immediately. Not tomorrow, yesterday, and now the only two troops in the area, no matter how many the others apart from their artillery, the Royal
Horse Artillery 104, the two we remember are Chestnut and Rocket, Tobruk. Hadn’t have been for them we’d have been mincemeat because they kept the tanks off our back. Now Montgomery literally learnt from Morshead and VC winner World War I, New Zealander, jeez I must be getting old
and stupid. VC winner, he won it at Gallipoli in charge of New Zealand Division. They were the only two divisions on the battlefield apart from the artillery machine gunners, but you can’t count them as front line soldiers. They do their job, don’t get me wrong. Anyway Monty formulated the idea what he was gonna do, and he more or less stood Churchill up and said, “Well,
we know that they’ve got so many tanks from the intelligence papers, we know what they’ve got”, and a copy of them was sent straight home to England, and he just said, “No”. I think it was the first general that really stood up to Churchill. No.
23rd, infantry as usual, and I’ll tell you a funny story about that. Do you know how the signal was given for the first salvo? It’s unbelievable when you think of it how easy it was. Two Bofors guns protecting two searchlights, right, there and there. About a third of the way in from the sea, a third of the way in from the Qattara Depression. At a given
signal they burn their lights, flashed them up and just over in front of the allied guns or the, you know, they were just in behind the infantry, we had to look backwards to see it, two lights focused and slowly, very slowly came together. Now you’ve got 900 guns waiting on that command. If ever you approach
the photographic section, historical section in Canberra they’ve got three plates and there’s one flash of gun fire from there straight down the line, 900 guns, and that’s what it was as those two circles imposed upon each other one master gunner all fired, and I’ll tell you what, it was the most impressive
thing I saw in the whole of the war, but it also scared the shit out of me and a few of my mates. I was sitting there next to Lofty and a few of the others and he said, “Jesus, what do you reckon about that?” I said, “Oh, isn’t it lovely?” For once we got plenty of this. He said, “Yeah, but there’s one thing.” “What?” He says, “They ain’t started to fire yet. “No, he’s knocking them out.” He said, “How about if he don’t and they’ve got
just as much as we have?” “Oh shit, are we in for a pasting.” “Oh, are we gonna cop the curly end of the pineapple.” But they’d done their work, survey work and their pin pointing work good because, I know what we were gonna mention in the same breath, digging your graves. Every truck we moved out of there the night before
we advanced. Only things that came, and there’s a bare field. Now we’re underground, rattling cane, yackety yackety yack. We’re in our graves, we’re planted, and there was a, the idea was to fool him into thinking there was a battalion further over there and there was another one over there they knew of, but we’d pulled out to reinforce the new attack down there.
And they’d even moved tanks down there and left them, left bodgie ones you know, mock ups.
to make us invisible with no support vehicles in the area and we’d pulled out of there for somewhere else, but a couple of hours before we were moving forward on the 23rd, the night of the attack, “Righto fellows, here’s the, get your tucker, bully beef and biscuits”, no, I think we had a bully beef stew. You always had a change in the army. You either had bully beef and
biscuits or biscuits and bully beef. Now I mean that’s 50 50, and Jesus, didn’t you lose some weight too. But righto then, at the given word extra stuff was brought up and start line here we come. Then the barrage went off, then we went in and we did it fairly easy for a while, then we got a few casualties. I think they, the Jerries were punchy.
I really believe that because they just didn’t behave like we knew them to behave in the past, but after the first night the shit hit the fan and they really shovelled it in to us from then on in, and one of the boys that was a bit more observant than I, they never let us leave, they stood us down and I’ll give you one lot of casualties. Now A Echelon, B Echelon, English Command.
A Echelon is your front line, B Echelon is about 150 men of that battalion under a major, a couple of captains, a couple of lieutenants, a couple of sergeants and troops. Now if that battalion gets wiped out they can form the battalion around the nucleus, hey, it’s a good idea. Now, so that’s 850 out of a 1,000 right, 150. The 2/24th
and the 2/43rd were the two. One after 11 nights was down to 51 men on the battlefield and the other one was down to 57. There would’ve been all sincerity, there would’ve been a couple of hundred likely wounded that would’ve come back.
They were reading our messages and we didn’t know they were reading them. You wouldn’t believe it but it was true. They knew more about us than we did, and when it come back to a level playing field we played a hell of a price for it as you can see by the names in that list. But, there was a Pommy officer came
up with the AISC, ASC, Army Service Corps, Transport Section. “Hurry up, do this, do that”, and I heard this from another fellow that knew Big Red Robbie, 2/24th. “Come on, I’ve gotta go”, and all this stuff and we’re in all these new trucks, yack yack yack. “Hurry them up, go and tell your officers”. He said, “We haven’t got any officers bar
one” and he said, “He won’t talk to you”. “Well tell him this, tell him that”. He said, “Listen you dirty little stupid Pommy bastard”, he said, “That is the battalion, the whole 51 of them.” You know what, he never said any more that Pom, but it would be a bit of a shock, but because we knew what was going down, the casualties and we were coming closer and closer and closer to cover the front, you knew you were having trouble.
But it’s Australian way of life I think to accept the inevitable. You’ve got a grin on your face.
when I say the cross, I don’t know whether you’ve seen it and I might be telling you something you already know, but the Cross of Lorraine had two bars on it. They were the Free French. The Poles, well they were all piss and wind like a barber’s cat. We had them in Tobruk and you read their papers and listen to them talking on radio and television. The Aussies were there to support them but they never
came in till the end of August, and if you really want to know what causes you to have the shits in a big way, work this one through with me. If everything goes right that brigade is gonna change over with your brigade. They say, “You’re going out on patrol.” “Oh yeah, we’ll take them out.” “Good, get them out, get them used to it.” “They’re gonna relive us.” But, there’s always a but in all these
easy things. Only one of the group that came up could talk English, and they split them into two, and they’re bloody well armed with rifles and pistols and the inevitable happened. Three Poles, two Aussies wounded, and I’ve never seen, if they were trying to protect their own boys, Colonel Crawford and Major Bell, you’ve never seen
such a bloody, years later we saw the report and they weren’t having anything about, “No, no, no, stay, hey, hey, hey, hey, otherwise they won’t relive us”, and they blamed the overhanging cloud and the slight dust storm, and they blamed this and they blamed that. They tried, one of the corporals stood up and says, “Listen you
bastard, we were, I was, yeah, bang” and he got one through the calf of the leg, he was lucky. Big dry-cleaning job, oh well. But that would give anyone the shits.
So what was your opinion of the German soldier?
The ones we hit, now before I say anything we fought a clean war. The only civilians we struck were at Derna, Barce and Benghazi and they declared that open town, so we went around it. But there was no civilians, there was no cities, there was no factories, railways, electrical sub-stations. Basically it was man on man out in the desert, first up
best dressed. So I know you can’t say a clean war, but basically we were one army against another army. Forget the Dagoes, they were the greatest cowards in modern history, without doubt. Do you realise, now we’ll jump from, we’ll get back to that little one in a minute. We’ll jump now to before Bardia.
I was going to put it to you why we, they were good soldiers, they wouldn’t back off, you had to stop them. Quite often their tanks would be surrounded but they’d still keep fighting and they’d back their way out. If they couldn’t turn they’d back out and keep firing. Patrol work, you couldn’t fault them on that and we struck a German
Patrol, the only way we slipped them, the way you beat the Germans, they were a very methodical well trained, very methodical, and if you found one group of land mines they were laid in diamond pattern, and once you found one group, and their whole thinking was very methodical. So all, so when we’d hit them like that on a fighting patrol, no backing out that way.
We’d go left or right. Here they are still shooting. “You shoot all you want mate, we’re pissing off back home.”
the, towards the Qattara Depression where New Zealanders were sweating on them. Now remember 11 divisions on the battlefield, we suffered 22 per cent of total casualties, our division. New Zealand suffered 8 per cent, but they went through 30,000 Dagoes like a knife through hot butter. They were changing Germans and that and we’re copping the Germans and they’re copping the Dagoes, but they chased and did they
chase. But there’s something else, OK, I’ll go back to that in a minute, but the real battle of El Alamein not only was fought on that battlefield, now I know, “Get back in place you bastard, get back into line”, was three fold. Ever heard about the English, the American Torch?
Algeria? Well that’s happening up that end of the country and we’re happening down this end near the Suez, we were 60 miles from Alex [Alexandria]. They said the first barrage was heard in Alex, 62 I think it was exactly, loudly heard in Alex, that’s how, now if we’d have given way they’d have kicked our arse, they’d have been over the Suez Canal, up into the oilfields
and if you look at even the country they’re fighting on today, Iraq, Iran, now just around the corner from Iran is Russia. So a couple of days travel and they’d have been feeding their own tanks with their, the reason the Russians beat them, they weren’t better soldiers, their tanks ran out of bloody fuel. You look at all the retreat of the German Army. They’re all on foot.
Now if we’d have been beaten, zolt, and the Poms and the Yanks would’ve had a battle on their hands. So we were a decoy for the Torch landing. We also had the job of keeping the Suez Canal open to feed Malta and the other troops, and what really pisses me off is the fact that the teachers in our primary and secondary schools and
high schools don’t tell you a thing about it. They want to forget it. The more the dagoes in Liverpool can wipe out the parks, now they took a park off Edmondson, just under the bridge when you come into Liverpool over the bridge up, was a small park. We gonna call Bradshaw, we’re gonna combine it. 1988, Australia about Australians’
achievements, what they did, a Yank gets in on the act. He took off at Bankstown Airport. Airacobra, didn’t adjust the pitch of his [propeller], I knew this through an airman.
They brought you up ammo, tucker. There was once or twice we had a few hours between moving or you’d hold it overnight, but once you were there to hold they’re coming at you. There was movement somewhere along the line. Jerry wasn’t gonna let you rest and settle in. Sometimes you’d break up and you’d get a bit of
kip. I’ll take it, and amongst yourselves, you know, but basically with all the boong boongs going off and tanks roaring around and something else happening, unless you were deaf, real deaf you could hear it, and interrupted sleep but it’s amazing what determination will do. You’ve gone this far, you’ve lost all these other
fellows. We’re still going forwards, they’re starting to fall back and basically the whole idea of it was let the infantry break through their lines, home them up and we’ll whack the tanks through, and do you know what? I can afford to laugh now reading all the stories later on. We just sat like dummies for about two days, don’t move,
and years later I thought what the bloody hell good is that, because at one stage of the game they weren’t whipping the German tanks, they were just, the Germans were holding them out in the open where they could manoeuvrer and use the big 88, the gun that never misses, terboong, another tank gone, and they lost amazing numbers. They never revealed the number of tanks they lost but we are told they started off
with Shermans, Grants, they were the big front line, there was over 600 on the battlefield commencement. Now it is estimated that more than 300 of those were lost in those, after we did the fighting. We opened it up.
body of, it makes you punchy. That’s the only way I can explain it. Robot, you’re determined to go, and I’ll give you a for instance, and you hear about these chockos up in New Guinea throwing their rifles up in the air and covering 100 yards before it hit the ground. 2/13th our sister battalion went into battle with 32 officers, men, right.
They were reduced from 32 to 2, but every time an officer went a sergeant stepped up. He got killed, a corporal stepped up and afterwards at one stage of the game there was more sergeants in charge of companies than what there was officers, and they still reached their objective.
up? Well you’re not getting regular meals. The only one meal you’re getting is when they can get to you at a night time if they can get to you. You’ve got emergency rations, bully beef and biscuits for a change, and you seem to be trying to, words,
the body seems to be working twice as hard as it should and the brain’s going about four times because you want to stay alive, but you want to do your job, and I don’t know why in the early stages, El Agheila, the name I couldn’t remember, we were more frightened of letting the memory and the deeds of the Word War I diggers down. We weren’t frightened of Germans ‘cause
they told us, “You’re as good as we are, you can beat them.” That was the diggers at home, you know, “Don’t be worried about them. One on one you’ll beat the bastards” but when you heard and read of the achievements of World War I, we were following the footsteps. We trained on one of their battlefields at Gaza. We went through their old training ground on the Suez Canal.
They told us all about the gulli gulli boys and the Gyppos that appear out of nowhere. “Hey digger, egg?” “Where the bloody hell do they come from?” Wish I learnt there, you know, how they disappeared the way they did, and they were edible too what was more. Only ever had one egg at a time. I don’t know where they got the second one but they did.
you’ll hit the bloody deck before you even know you’re down there.” You’re that well, you’re not, you’re mentally trained. You see, I’ll explain it this way, there are two types of discipline. Any bloody sergeant, officer can make you form two deep and form single file and at the halt facing right from platoon, quick march, left right left, but they can’t instil in you self-discipline. You do that yourself, and every enemy that
the Australians have fought, including the Pommies that watched them, acknowledge the fact that the Australians had something they wish they had, battlefield discipline. You kept moving forward, and that’s what got us out of pride. It started with we couldn’t let the memory of the old diggers down.
God knows how many Germans were around him but there was a lot, a lot more than a company. There was some wonderful reactions in there because the Germans and English were operating side by side. “You’re German, I’m English or Australian, you’re a doctor, do your bloody job”, and they were in the Saucer. “Righto, he’s a German, move him out that
way.” “What’s he?” “Oh, he’s an Aussie, push him off over there.” You know, they were, it was well recorded, same as Tobruk. We had a, they told three but I know of two, we had a cease fire and a pick up your dead, sort them out, because they’re starting to stink. The padres, one of our padres could talk German
and he went out with a white flag and had a meeting and I think we had two hours non-combatant. Truce, that’s the word I was looking for, but that was in the Salient.
but the Germans were starting to get a little desperate shall we say, and they were throwing everything at us, and it was a case of either now we’ve got a hold now, and it’s like winding the spring on a clock, started off bad and got worse. It’s the only way I can describe it, but they threw everything at us. Once they slowed down with armour
Monty says, “Righto you bastards, they’ve done you over, now go”, and the tanks went out every, but even as I said,
between us and the sea. He split his tank force and once the split appeared and the 25’s and the big guns got onto it, and the bombers. “You passed the infantry? Yes, good, we’ve got, now we, tanks.” You’ve opened the gate, the tanks do their work.
They got off a bit lightly than we did, they had a bit more armour around them, but the only way to describe the battlefield apart from being punchy, a bit torn up, everywhere you put your hand, you couldn’t walk without stepping on shrapnel. It was everywhere like confetti, because towards the end they were using the big
88. Now remember me telling you it was originally designed as anti-aircraft? Now they had AP armour piercing for the tanks but they also had flown in, in the early days they didn’t use them as HE, high explosive. Now towards the end when the split looked like happening they threw all those guns in with HE and the air burst for about 100 to 150 above you and you’d just hear
that bit of a whistle, boom, hit the ground, but it’s coming down on you and you can’t hide from it. All you can do is hope you’re not in the wrong place at the right time. But there was a lot of our boys come back wounded lightly, a couple of weeks in hospital, a week in con camp, and then the biggest incentive of all, the word spread like wild fire, the troop ships are at, they’re down the end of
the Suez, they’re on the Red Sea, they’re taking you down by ferry fellers, and they decided to really make a rush for them and they sent two convoys of English drivers in English trucks, they went down along the Suez Canal, along part of the Red Sea in one massive big convoy and we had the little ships as well, so get them out of here, but it was touch and go whether we’d ever come home. Now to finish that
section, you can go back to it in a minute and I want you to go back to that one I’ve asked you notes. “Do you realise this is the welcome we got back after two years and four months?” A strike by the mongrel seamen’s union, Waterside Workers, on feeding troops that had had survived on the last fortnight on two meals a day. Now when that Patricks strike was on
and the Federal Minister, his name starts with an E, I got in touch with his office. I said, “I’ll give you the truth about that”. I said, “You’ve got the mouth from the south”, he was a joker from Victoria, he only fought in New Guinea. He’s yackety yack about everything, but I said, “We, they refused us tucker.” “Oh, I don’t believe that.” I said, “They took the boys
in, the mature men.” I said, “I got barred and about 10 others got barred, you’ll go looking for a fight, won’t you?” “Yeah”, and they said, “Oh no you don’t, you go ashore mature.” “Oh shit, I’m not mature yet”, I thought I was, and I kid you not, they loaded the ferries up and the wharfies are there threatening them. Something like the Dagoes and these Muslims, what they’re going to do to us. The Indonesians pull your heart out and oh, he’s the wildest pup.
nothing. Now along come these left wingers, and yackety yackety yack and they were good talkers. You though well jeez, I’m not getting much off them and I’m not getting much off them, let’s give this a go. Logic, if you’re thinking that way, but what satisfied me about that, I’ll conclude and you can go back to what you want to, once Russia came into the war there was a complete change.
All the left wing trendy school teachers and sheilas, “Yack, yack, yack, yack, yack.” “Oh shut up.” All of a sudden they changed 360 degrees and “Fight on, do this, do that.” I’m sick and tired of the way the AIF from then till now have been abused, misused,
misunderstood, mismanaged, forgotten. I mean why would you forget Australia’s first VC winner, and I had the privilege of Mark Latham, Federal MP, was before the boys fell off the perch, big Danny, I’ve seen him there contemplating
chocko bloody officer that are 90 day wonders and they’re telling us how to be old soldiers. We had a strike up there about tobacco and I kid you not, and he’s still alive today, my number is NX20760, his is 59, he’s one senior to me. Now he was behind the corporals when they marched off and he
stopped. They made no attempt to bring any stuff into us, so the next day they brought out bloody pipe tobacco. “Now there’s your two ounces square”, they cut it in half, “One for you, one for you”, and because I’d put my name, I’d stood up and got counted they knew I didn’t smoke. I had to buy my one once, I thought “I hope to Christ, hope to Christ selling, who wants, why don’t we smoke?” Oh it
was vile, real rough bloody pipe tobacco.
and they’re building an officers’ mess and thatching it. They had one night to organise it and they have their, all their officers all ready to go on and have the opening of the mess and somehow or other it caught fire, and that is in battalion history that. You can check that one out. There’s still a few boys and that about, and one of the boys, and he got the order of the boot after that, cold shoulder,
came out snivelling. He’s got the best job in the bloody army, I’m in the officers’ mess, I’m a steward and I’ve only had two nights at it, oh Jesus. They were sitting down to all the grog they could drink and our fellows couldn’t, ‘cause I used to, I didn’t drink. Beer issue would come in, I’d grab it and who
hasn’t, oh yeah, which mates, “No, that bastard sold me a raw prawn, he’s not getting it.”
know the answer to that for years.” He said, “What are we talking about?” ‘Officers’ mess.” He said, “Oh, we never did find that whisky.” I said, “I’m not talking about whisky.” He said, “What are you talking about? The mess, I thought you meant the night we raided it before they put the roof on.” They’d snuck in after training and between them they pinched a full case of Johnny Walker Black Label whisky. Knowing they’d be on,
there’s the, about eight or ten possibles, they went and walked out about a mile from the camp, dug holes, buried them, and do you think they could find the bloody things. They lined up the wrong tree, they lined up something wrong, and Jackie said, “We never did find them.” I said, “What are you talking about?” I said, “The Officers’ mess.” He said, “I got suspect, but”, he says, “I don’t talk unless I know.” I said, “You weren’t, you’re not.” He said, “No, we were out searching
for our whisky.” But they never really did find out, if it was, it was the best kept secret in the war.
Jesus, did we find them, and did they find us, but I didn’t rate them near as well. They were determined, they were stupid, but they tended to do the same thing over and over. I’ll give you a, for instance. You may have heard this from some of the other fellows. 6th Divvy, we were our instructors part-time,
advisers is a better word, they didn’t instruct us, they’d sit with us and talk with us, you know, and one of them said to a group of us, he said, “Look for something that should be there that isn’t, or look for something that is there that shouldn’t.” Well that’s sounds, philosopher. Anyway off the beach at Finsch we soon found out what he was talking about. They used to climb up the palm trees and they’d bring the leaves
so far up, sort of hanging down like a coco, coconut palm. They’d bring them up level or up higher and you couldn’t see the Japs planted up there, and they’d let half a dozen go past, boong, boong, but all of a sudden someone must’ve lamped it you know. “Hey, who’s got the Bren gun?” “Hit that up there with a burst,
and once you see it done, once you think Jesus, fancy suckering us like that”, but you weren’t looking for it. I mean would you normally go looking up a palm tree if you’re trying to look along the ground, are they standing up, are they, and you hear boom. “Where the bloody hell’s that coming from? Didn’t see anything.” They were experts and
this is one reason, OK, I’m Aussie, I’m biased, I’m a racist, call me what you bloody like, but I’ve got something to be proud of, Aussies, because not only did we learn to beat the Dago we then learnt to beat the bloody German which took a lot bloody more. We come home, now I’ll give you the name of the book that says it all, the first book, army, five bob it cost us and they was
printed after the war, Active Service, Soldiering On, (Two Years Right), Khaki and Green, (Khaki the Desert, Green the at night, Jungle Warfare, and the last one I never ever found out. I don’t know whether it was even printed, it was supposed to be Bayonets at Rest. Now that tells you the expansion and
the various places we were in. You think of it Germany, Greece, I’m not just talking about one division, I’m talking Aussies. Syria, uphill downhill with donkeys, and I reckon that the 8th Divvy was sacrificed. There’s something else, did you know pre-war we paid for a big part of the graving dock
and the Singapore Defences? England, Australia and New Zealand in that order, for our own defence. And do you know this, and you remember this if anybody ever has a shot about Aussies, Churchill, and that’s why I wanted to get that thing, Churchill while he give us a good rap and he wanted two divisions of Aussies to hit the Normandy Beach
was prepared to give Australia away at the time of Singapore, and get them back after the war. “Stuff you Joe, I’m alright.” Now often I wish that they had landed on Australia. When I see these scungy bloody pinkos, yack yack sheilas with bandannas on. They come to this country because they want to. It offers them something they haven’t got.
When these, all these bastards we’ve got out here today, and they’re gonna fight and they’re gonna do this and England, Churchill, one of his favourite sayings, “Fight to the death, fight to the death”. Morshead said “No, we won’t surrender, we’ll fight our way out of here as a group.” Now he also said privately and the brigadiers handed it around to the colonel privately, “Don’t take
any notice of Churchill. You fight to live to fight again tomorrow, and on that day you fight again to live to fight the next day.” This standing, all standing up like, some silly bastard, and when you think of it that’s the best philosophy you could think about.
do that in the Australian Army, and that’s one of the things that kept the diggers, 8th Divvy, our 2IC I told you about, he went to the 2/2nd Pioneers because he was an engineer and that was thing he was very hard on, discipline. Even if you’ve got to do it dry, scrub your dixies and everything out with sand, then blow the bloody thing off or wipe them off, but clean them. Now Japs didn’t do that.
I can give you the, I keep getting the wrong word, it was the track from above Sio in the back way to. I can never remember the bloody, I keep coming up with the wrong word. Anyway it doesn’t matter. They’d get shot, either aircraft or infantry fire and they’d leave them where they were laying. When we took a patrol out,
Masana, Mawa, Mawa, no, no, stop guessing, you could smell it a mile away. You knew you were in the area, but don’t pick a blue, just observe how many’s coming down so we’ll know what reinforcements they’re getting. Dedicated no, fanatical yes à la the Muslims. I mean who else but a stupid bloody idiot would
believe he’s going to the angels because he blows himself up. That doesn’t, that doesn’t compute with us.
stupid. We out thought them, we out, we learnt their, the same thing that kept us, got us through the Middle East. We sized the enemy up, what was his strong points, now how do we beat that? Flank them out, but patrol them, scare the shit out of them which we used to love doing. I almost got my shells to shot one night.
We were in the wagon lines and there were one big tough bastard, big Alan Lackey. Oh Solo Mio, and he’s singing his, “Oh you beauty, and the clouds opened. Oh you’re go, oh, don’t you pull that trigger you snowy headed bastard”, I like that song, wait till he finishes. “Oh Jesus Alan”. You do, and he’s standing with a rifle, you do. He didn’t set me, he just gesticulated ‘cause
he didn’t need a rifle, all he had to do was hit me with his fist and he would’ve broke my neck. O Solo, I can still remember it, O Solo Mio, and by the time he stopped singing the bloody clouds had gone over again and we couldn’t see him. About 600 yards away, I thought I’ll try myself, I got the sights nicely set you know, about 600. There’s a way if you know it, measurement and finger and so far and all that twaddle, you know, you can guess, guessomatic.
covering in distance. It’s a guessomatic, but it gets you pretty bloody close. We didn’t need, I knew what I was like with a rifle ‘cause I’d shot bloody rabbits on the run when I was hungry and we used to, that’s what, we’d go out Saturday afternoon and what we shot as kids we had for Sunday dinner, and I’ll tell you what, when I found out I could shoot bloody ducks, you only get one shot and you’ve got to get the other one in quick because they’re up and going.
And they’re swimming around, they’ll come down, there’s the rocks there and the break in the creek and they’ll circle there because any drifting down is nice and dead by the time it gets to their water log, dong, easy. You say, “I got you”, boong, and Teal ducks are the ones we used to get in the valley, they make good eating. So I knew I didn’t need a finger stuck up like that.
later on. They pulled him off, either off the boat or off the wharf, but he was just about on the boat, Jesse Owen, our battalion, and that Owen gun has a 22 mind you, before he put the 7 millimetre, yeah, millimetre, was carried to Bathurst in a sugar bag on his pack, ‘cause he didn’t want anyone to, and he, he, that man they stuffed him.
They bled him dry, they stuffed him about something shocking because it wasn’t, before we came home from the Middle East that gun was made and I tell you where, Howard’s, Howard’s Rotary Hoe, top side of Parramatta up past the old woollen mills. Woollen mills on that side, Howard’s Rotary Hoe was up there and they were doing war time production. Now some of the work was done there and some was done at
Port Kembla, and that gun was at that time, to that period of time was the only gun, you could even piss down the barrel and it would still fire. They put it in mud, they put it in sand, they shoved it in the sea. They didn’t want it and you know why? They had a big contract with the Thompson sub-machine gun. They were £100 and something each. He was producing the Owen gun at an estimated
cost of £17. Now I’ve heard lighter, I’ve heard bigger, but the gun worked and it had a good slow rate of fire. Whereas the Thompson sub, at one stage we refused to take them out in Tobruk. There was 45 stoppages on the bastard. You never knew when you had it. I mean if you pull it back and she goes, err, I tell you what, it gives you a very funny feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Give me a rifle for Christ’s sake. We wouldn’t take them out. I think they were all show, like the Yanks, all show.
us in New Guinea and they weren’t worth a squirt of piss, cold at that. Whereas you knew the German was coming at you. Certainly we had a fairly clean war in no civilians, no that, and was even Stevens. If he had more tanks than us and could use them, if we had more patrols out of a night time and used them, we squared it up, but they’d fight
and when you, there’s something you want for your tape. The Bulletin, after Bardia and they’ve got a dot up there, infinity on your camera, you know about infinity. They’re disappearing up here. Now remember I told you 40,000 odd come out of Bardia and they’ve got the typical digger, hat on the back of his head, shirt open, one sleeved rolled up and
one down and no laces in his boots and underneath there’s a caption and this went around the world twice and it was printed in the Bulletin, “Listen Tone, you dirty little Dago bastard, if you drag my rifle in the dirt once more”, and he’s rolling a smoke, “I won’t let you carry it.” He was walking along and Tony was, little Dago was carrying his rifle while he rolled a smoke
‘cause in those days you didn’t buy tailor-mades like them, you rolled your own, cheaper, and that was typical of what we thought of the Italians, but you bring Germans in, if you had three or four Germans you’d have at least three infantrymen around them, and once a Provo, you hand them over to the English or Australian Provos they’d always have one extra man so if they broke and run
they could still be one on one and they’d wait until he got clear and shoot him. Yeah, you might’ve captured me but you ain’t got me in the POW [Prisoner of War] cage, and they’d talk to us in English.
used his brains, “Well now if I poke my head up here and he’s got that thing on fixed lines I’m gonna get shot so I’ll poke my head up here.” They were very, they were reared and not only that it goes back to their history. You can go back, what’s the German name for it? The Queen and that, royal family was
way back then after Queen Victoria, after, yeah after Queen Victoria, she married Hapsburg, Hapsburg? [actually means Windsor]. They were all military people. Germany has been a dominant military player in Europe going back to well before the, around about the time of the Ark. That’s an exaggeration, but they were military people.
Yanks put us on the wrong, and I remember someone saying after we got ashore, “Bloody Gallipoli all over again.” I said, “What’s he doing, Gallipoli? He’s punchy, he’ll settle down.” But he was right, a big long beach, and that end was known as That Beach and that end was known as Another Beach, and when you get landing craft, the little ones, but the big ones have got the ramps on them
which means you’re slower getting off and they dropped them on to an area that was rocky and you talk about worrying? When we found out after we got back, Col had got a burst, one in that leg, two in the guts and one almost, and for the next five or six years they operated on him regularly, and the last time he got operated on was in Liverpool.
Farmer, the surgeon’s name was Farmer I think from memory and he said, “Mr Martin”, he said, “We’ll reinforce with a, oh, medical treated yackety yack, mesh”, and he said, “If that doesn’t work”. He said, “What are you talking about?” “Well”, he said, “You’ve got two, you can last with one.” He said, “Well what are you going to do with that one?” He said, “We’ll use that to patch you up.”
That’s how bad the, it had opened up to.
Jimmy Dick, ex navy, commissioned officer from, through the ranks, he kept three barges on line and you can tell the Yanks were hanging their arses over the side and shitting, they would. They were, they were shit scared. And he said, “Song River, that way.” Song River, Red River, Scarlet River? Anyway that’s where we landed. Now, between putting us in the wrong spot,
and now remember the landing craft and some of them were all oerlikon, American oerlikon, some were twin and some were single but they’re point 5. Now you, as your offsider there said when he saw the badge 303, well instead of 303, point 55, and that’s the difference in them, but you’ve got a lot more stopping power and a lot more driving power, and there’s the Yanks flying over
our head. I was lucky I was a bit further up, but those two companies that were landed down there, the Yanks are firing allegedly at the Japs, who pinned us on the beach and the Japs are saying, “Oh good, we’ll shoot their, oh.”
barges must’ve either thought he hit a sand bar or did scrape it and he got off that and there’s 30 foot of water under his keel. He dropped the front gate, you know, landing ramp, and I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen a mortar, the base plate is about yay wide, about roughly about 50 pounds, your tripod is about 30, your mortar
is a bit lighter, then you’ve got all the, and they call them bombs, I don’t know why, the ones you put down. I suppose you go poop, they were strapped on them.
2/2nd Pioneers were there, 2/13th is there, 2/17th is there, 2/5th. For some unknown reason I picked the little scale up down the bottom of it. Hang on, wait a minute, so I went in and got my fancy set of rulers and, shit we had, in times we had something like a mile, a mile and a half between companies.
Now in the Middle East you didn’t have that between battalions, you were closer than that, and how, to be honest with you, how we ever won and that. See the Yanks turned around and said there was 2,000 Japs at Finsch. Some bastard rubbed an O off the end, so we were going in with two battalions, 15th, 2/15th in reserve, and later that afternoon they whacked them in
and they were, all the brigadiers were screaming, “For Christ’s sake get us some more, you know, we haven’t got”, and later on they brought in the 24th Brigade, so that’s six battalions, so that’s a bit different from two, isn’t it, just a bit, and we still didn’t cover the ground. Well they should’ve been able to wander through us on to the beach, headquarters. We should’ve had our arses kicked right off the beach to be honest with
All the bush boys, we can scout that out. And I’ll tell you what, you want to see these yellow eyes pop out when instead of being in front of them you’re beside them going boong boong boong. We killed a bloody sight more of them than they ever killed of us. Later on when the maps come out and years later when the yack yack come out, we had part of two divisions against us. We killed off so many and they brought
in another lot. Overall, and one of them, one lot we struck, Kumawa, I’ve got to think of this, when I say Jivevaneng, Jivevaneng. I think that’s the way it’s, something like that anyway. Whistle it twice and you’ll get it right. We struck the
They bunged him in, Warrigo [Wareo], it’s not Warrigo, but it sounds something like Warrigo track. I don’t remember I couldn’t remember the name. That was the track that led from somewhere near Sio down the back way and it was a well worn track, you know. The Warrigo, it’s not Warrigo but it sounds something like Warrigo, and they were bringing in reinforcements. You know
same in the Med, same in World War I, same with the Yanks in the Pacific, “Oh we’re king of the sea”, and you’d say, “Well if they’re king of the sea how come Jerry’s getting all his tanks in if you’re shooting everything down, sink and that, and how come you’re getting Japs in with new uniforms, because you start to see someone coming at you and his uniform’s a different colour or brighter, you say hello
reinforcements. How come he’s getting the reinforcements in?”
hello, here they come again.” They opened up again and they were in close. I mean you can’t always fire a gun laying down particularly an Owen, you get a Bren in the hip you can make the bastard talk if you know your gun, and I stood up as a few others had because if you haven’t got a Bren, and I used to souvenir them off all them, the fellows that got hit or
got, went out sick. You’re only entitled to two hand-grenades but I had at any time up to six. They’re the best little thing ever made, you can use them in that many different places. And the others were standing up too. “Let them come a bit closer and we’ll share this among them.” You can’t throw that laying down. You’ll hear fellows talking about it, “Yes, and I threw it.” “Bullshit, if you can stand up and throw it you get a better direction and you get a more positive
target.” You hear them say, “I lobbed that within 10 feet of him.” He can share that amongst his mates. And we knocked them back. They come in again later on but that was when we first saw them, and we looked at them after we’d killed them, you know, Jesus, they’re big fellows, well dressed, well rigged.
Apprehension. I’d say if you’re on your own or got caught short, a couple of you out on patrol, you might’ve had fear, but with your own boys, a group of you, you know you’re going to stick together because those that were left from the Middle East, you knew their qualities and they’d watch your back if you watched theirs.
I don’t think I ever really felt fear, a bit scared at times, but not bone. You get someone that’s really scared, they’re non compos mentis [not of sound mind], they’re, you know, short of a quid, like 10 bob. I suppose I’d been close, I’d been blown up a few times. I got shot a few times. I
shared a bit of ammunition and shrapnel up. Matter of fact when a joker’s talking about shrap wounds, “Now you see that, that’s, see the grey colour?” Now when you first get it that’s almost black, but over the years ‘cause it’s very finite little bits of metal but they’re burning hot. Now that one there must’ve been a damn sight hotter
than that one. “Make sense?”
even, we were under fire and you couldn’t, see this is one of the reasons you don’t appear to be scared. “Oh gee, gee you’d make a bloody good sergeant major, get up. You’d make a platoon sergeant out of you.” It’s the only thing I can put it down to, the distance between it and they, now healed up or appeared to heal up then one of them came a bit like
a boil. I had boils when I was at home, it’ll get better. I left it. Anyway Vic Ray, he had been in our company when we went up the desert and they found out that he was a highly qualified theatre sister, male but highly qualified. So the doctor says, “Oh no, I’m in, I don’t care what you think you are, get up here into the RAP [Regimental Aid Post].” I don’t think it was on
or when we went near him you wanted advice, he was coming, he used to come around the trenches whenever he could like, what dressings and anyone do with it. I’m sitting there and I went across to get him a cuppa or something and he said, “Hey Snowy you’re limping.” I said, “A bit sore.” “How long have you had it?” “I dunno, but it’s been a bit sore.” “Drop the tweeds.” I said, “Here, come off it.” “Drop them.”
So I drops them. I says, “It’s my knee”, and he looked at it and he just went like that. I thought shit, what’s going on here, and there’s a red line from there down here, straight up there, straight through, and you know that sign outside of a pawnbroker’s shop? Ever seen an old time pawnbroker?
It, septicaemia was, when I got back, wasn’t, we never had the stuff we have today. You’re D–E-A-D and Vic knew it and he’s giving me a hammering, “If you don’t”, and he told me, “The first time I ever heard Vic say it”, he said, “If you don’t report sick I’ll report you sick”, he said, “And you’ll come in.” “Oh Jesus Vic, give us a break, we’re going out.” He said, “I want to see you back in Palestine alive, not dead.” “I don’t
want to go to your, oh Jesus.” Anyway would you believe up till then it hadn’t hurt much, but from a couple of hundred yards we were back to the RAP, oh Jesus it was aching. So he said to the doctor, “Have a look at this doc”, and he’s running his hands straight up under the you know whats and he had a feel. He said, “He’s got three of them”, and I thought, I still
thought they were joking because of my age, and they used to con me. “Jeez I wish you were a bit older Jim, you’d, no, you’re not got that rely [?]” “I’ll go out on that patrol, I’ll show you.” “No, no. Wait until you’re a bit older Jim.” “You stinking bastard.” I used to get conned left right and centre, and I thought they’re doing it again, but the doctor and Vic were fair dinkum.
I finished up at CCS, Casualty Clearing Station. The same day I’m back in Tobruk Hospital which was in the tunnels.
I must send down to Melbourne one time for my papers, my medical papers. He reckons I didn’t go out with the battalion, and I said, “Well I must’ve went out ahead of you.” “No”, he said, “When you”, he, if he’s right I was in Tobruk Hospital when they sailed out of the harbour, and I went out a couple of nights later on one of the other destroyers as carrying wounded. I couldn’t even walk, and you say on a stretcher. “Oh yeah, fair go doc.”
“Well you’re better going up the gang plank than hobbling”, and he said, “They take you off in an ambulance at the other end.” “Where?” He said, “In hospital.” I said, “When do I get out?” He said, “When you get better.” “Jesus Christ, what did I do this time?” I didn’t believe them, but once I got back to Gaza, our own Australian Hospital, one of the, I sat down one night
with one of the sisters and she, “Can I have a word, Sis?” “Yeah.” I said, “What is this I’ve got?” She said, “Don’t you know? You’re blood is poisoned.” Anyway she went a great length and told me all about it and I started to realise that I could’ve been in trouble. Up till then it was just they’re taking the mickey out of me, but
in India. So there’s political pressure there, you know, but gets back and would you believe we got the same leave in Australia, six months later when we were going to New Guinea. They couldn’t get triple time after 12.00 o’clock they’d go on strike and the navy wanted to get us out, herd us up like sheep which they did a wonderful job at before dawn to get us out and get us moving they had more chance.
No, not with the wharfies. We went out in stone cold motherless day light, and some of the boys that, cause they, they do cut, they do you, keep you away from a lot of the truth in the army. The least you know the least you can worry about. So they say.
of loading parties, conscripts that didn’t want to sail, conscientious objectors, there was the Seabees, the American Seabees, Construction Battalion. They were loading for a certain amount, then the wharfies were loading up to 9.00 o’clock or somewhere in that area but they wanted them to work longer past midnight, and they said, “No, if we work past midnight we want triple
time.” Anyway they couldn’t get the OK and this is fart arsing about and ended up we sailed at the dawn which meant, I think I told you about the number of ships sunk off our coastline didn’t I?
Beautiful sight, and I know some very tough boys, a few of them from Manly, a few from the country and they said, “Well that’s that.” I said, “What do you mean that’s that?” “We’re not leaving again”, and we had about a dozen, something we never had in the Middle East, was desertion. They said, “No, that’s it, let some other bastard fight the war, the Yanks are getting all the praise”, and I kid you
not, there was more Yanks around the towns than there was in the bloody army almost. We go up to New Guinea and they’re sitting back in Australia. They’re getting the good tucker, we’re getting bugger all.
that was the worst thing they could’ve said. It was on then. Not only are they grabbing our sheilas, they’re grabbing our beer and our tucker, and they were getting bacon, bacon, ham and we were getting nothing. Oh the Yanks had everything. Do you know what, they were going along, I kid you not, it was quite an article in the paper, later in camp at Warwick Farm somewhere, one unit Yanks, and they wanted telephones and they said “Well we haven’t got
any at present, as soon as we get some.” “Oh we’ll fix that.” So they just hopped into a jeep, went around to all the corners and ripped the bloody telephones, public telephones out of the boxes into the jeep, took them back and installed them in their camp. I mean let’s face facts, Aussies would be cranky and that because they didn’t think of it. But
They were confined to quarters until our leave was up, we returned to camp at Narellan, we were there two days and they said, “Now let’s get them out of here.” Cattle trucks up to Atherton Tablelands. Then they told the Yanks they could go about their business. The best one I know was in Western Australia because some of our boys were West Australian, and he come back from the Atherton Tablelands and he said, “I’ve got a good story for you mate.’ He said,
“Mama, she’s up the duff, eldest daughter, she’s up the duff, second daughter, she’s up the duff, third daughter, she’s up the duff”, and he said, “Well who was to blame? He said, “One Yank”. He was doing the whole family.
was bride ships later in the war. They were getting free passage back to America, and here they are industrialists and they’ve got great big properties and one lass had kicked up that much of a, a group of them, but one was outspoken, he finished up in a dirt farm in Tennessee, Hillbilly country, and she said, “Where’s the big farm?” “Oh, it goes down there and goes
across here.” “What do you do?” “Oh”, white lightening was Tennessee you know, Hillbillies, and she said, “Stuff him”. So she finished up back in the Australian Embassy wherever, and she wasn’t moving until they sent her back home and they did to shut her up.
the milk cart from, not cart, wagon, correction, from Kangaroo to Nowra or Bomaderry was the milk station. “Yet they didn’t teach you to drink Jim?” I said, “They would’ve if I’d have let them.” I said, “I’m silly enough sober, I don’t want to get drunk.” “Well we’ll drink it for you”, and they did. Anyway, May, his wife came down to see what, ‘cause he was taking me home to his place at the edge of town for tea. She hopped in the
old car, the Buick, come looking for her. She said, “Bill, you’ve found a new way of getting drunk.” She said, “Any excuse is good enough for you.” He said, “Yes love.” But oh well back home, you know, it was bit strange. I mean when you’ve been, particularly when we came back from New Guinea, you knew everyone in the company and half the battalion in the Middle East ‘cause you were
moving. You have sight, line of sight, but in New Guinea anyone out of your own section of seven or eight men, now you’d see the others when you changed over, you didn’t know anyone else but your own platoon, and any strangers come along and you’d look at them, and you’d look and everyone would shutup, you know, say no, I thought jeez, this is a bit strange, but that’s they way it worked.
rough pipe tobacco, one ounce each, no papers. You didn’t ask for papers. Another instance, we were winging about greens and tucker and they got beetroot. Now I don’t know about you, but most country women cook beetroot beautifully but if you can stuff something up give it to an army cook and he’ll show a better way of stuffing
it up, and as we come past, whatever the size of the beetroot was, that size, that size or that, on the plate, but when you got a big one you could gnaw your way around the outside and the centre was still uncooked. The little ones they were nicely cooked. That didn’t go over too good, and I told you the other day about burning the officers’ mess down. That was the pride and joy of everyone.
Them bastards were the same, they’re back to scratch with us. But
So I was back in the, before reveille and one of the sisters had come through on the night shift and noticed me, ‘cause I thought the boys would rough it up a bit, oh he’s, ‘cause we did for the others. Now someone missed out. “You weren’t in your bed last night.” I said, “Why wasn’t I?” Anyway she pointed out to the oncoming shift and I got two nursing sisters against me. I was lucky to get away with what I did, and he said, “Colonel
there, administration”, and I said, “Well”. “Talk, started talking”. I said, “It was 2.00 or 3.00 o’clock in the morning and Gran said, I’ll put the alarm on, have breakfast before you go, you’ll get the first bus up to the station.” I said, “Goodo”, I didn’t think I’d get missed. I mean they were going and shooting through like bloody trams, trains out of Central.
No one worried about it. I just got, she must’ve had, I don’t know what she had, but whatever she had, she had it, and when I told some of the other fellows in the ward they said, “You’re joking, jeez half the ward was out last night.” I got pinged that’s all. That’s the only mark I ever had in my pay book, out of hospital. Anyway
noticed I tapped the edge of the cord there, yeah, yeah. So from the Atherton Tableland, oh, after that?
Went to Milne Bay, a bit more training, embarked, beach landing a couple of mile out of Lae. Couldn’t find the Japs, found the 7th Divvy, then we were told “They’re gonna take that, you can go back.” All that up and downski for nothing. For a change we went uphill and for a
and it was two blanket country and you only had a ground sheet. Everything got shot away because when you’re going up and down like that and you’re doing a lot of mileage, they were even, I tell you, I kid you not, they were even cutting the handle, half of the handle on their toothbrush, knife and fork, no hang on, that’s right, knife and fork and you sharpen the edge of your dessert spoon so you could cut with
it and pick it up and you could still, the knife and fork got the order of the sword.
patrol, you’d clash, and it was probing, probing, probing all the time you know, but it was, whole companies got lost. There’s a good story about one of the smaller aircraft, and they’re flying over and written in the sand on the riverbank, they’d written SOS, 2/2nd Pioneers. So
he come back or when he finished whatever he was spotting for and dropped the information of where they were, where they shouldn’t have been and how to get back to the unit and they dropped them some tucker, and that’s where the Biscuit Bombers came in. The old Dougs [Douglas DC3] , and that’s why they were called Biscuit Bombers ‘cause they were dropping stuff to them.
in the full sense of the word but you go, I’ve been to unit gatherings where you get invited to another unit, you knew someone and they said, “Next month come down there”, and I’ve heard jokers stand up and tell you about Tobruk and Nipper, he was later on in Z Force, Sergeant, and I looked at him and I said, “Nipper”, and he said, “Don’t say a word, he said, he never got, never left Australia until we went up to the islands.
And he could tell a better story than I could, so you know.
surrounded himself with yes men that told him what he wanted to hear whether it was right or wrong and all he wanted to do was protect his landing craft because his one idea, I shall return. Didn’t matter that he was 2,000 miles down the track here, how about winning this battle first. All he wanted to do was get up there, and as a result
an officer seconded from the 2/15th I think, and I commend you read this book, Bravery Over Blunder, it was written by Major General Coates after his time in the army but while he was in the army he did massive research and at the end of the book someone referred to me because they’ve got little letters here and a little number there and
someone said, “Well check on that one”, and he compared Australian patrols to the American idea of patrols. When they are on aggressive patrols, and they dug their holes around, God knows why, but when they were aggressive they’d lean forward in their slip trench. That was the extent of their aggressive patrols.
said, “Hang on, I’m senior to him. I’ve seen more bloody action than he has yet you give him the command and make me 2IC [Second in charge].” He was answerable to MacArthur yet in theory he had more front line experience. He was a brilliant planner. He surrounded himself with very competent officers too and they weren’t yes men like around
MacArthur. I suppose the rank he had, the time he held it, to see an incompetent, arrogant bastard like MacArthur come in and say “You’ll do this.” MacArthur tried to belittle the Australians going over the Golden Staircase as incompetents, not advancing the way they should and what’s he doing? He’s sitting up in bloody
Melbourne criticising them. Anyway Blamey waged a war on him through the papers and he had, I wish I could put my hand on it, where he admits. Remember I showed you one and I said, “That’s Alpha, the equivalent of Enigma?” Well that was saying our army did the fighting, his didn’t. Our
air force was practically half of his aircrew. Our navy led by [HMAS] Arunta, one of the very modern vessels was running up and down the slot as though it was a trip around the park, and he admitted that the Australian people did more in that period of time than the Americans did.
otherwise through the wire, right? And Mackell was given the order to clean, clear them out. He picked his men and out they went, kaboom kaboom, hand-grenades and rifles and just how many was killed varies between about 25, 26 to over 30, but they denuded them of a couple of machine guns, couple of trench mortars and they brought
back in later on, but it was the prelude to the Easter battle. They were cleaning out the corridor for the tanks to come through and they got their arses kicked and he got, when Mummy Mackell, Mr Mackell bellowed out that he had one on the ground and I’m just trying to think of the citation, another one was bearing down
on him, had one hand on him and pulled the pistol out and he bellowed out to John, John Edmondson and he raced over and whacked one across the head with a rifle butt and run a bayonet through the other, but prior to that as they were coming in he copped a burst, and they wanted to try and get him out because as I said, a lot of people do not associate the Easter Battle and
the patrol. It was only about an hour and a half, two hours apart, and once it started they just, they’d have been slaughtering stretcher bearers trying to get him out. He was wounded on the 13th, died on the 14th as I showed you in that book, 14/4/41. You couldn’t forget that.
Don Symes, and shit, Don Symes was, and the mayor was his mate, he never left Australia. They took a park from Edmondson which was under the railway bridge, combined it with the dump which they filled in, levelled her off, made a beautiful park out of it. As you’re going over the bridge, or coming in more so, you can see it’s a very
nice park. Now Bradshaw, the mayor at the time said, “You have my word.” Now such was the strife in the Labor Party they said, “No.” They wanted to name it something else. Now a city mayor, not to get pre-selection in the branch to stand for the election, in other words they cut him off with the water supply, and we never got, it’s now Light Horse Park. Now when you take
something like that at the same time, 1988, they’re building a park for a Yank, Kansello, which ultimately cost $400,000. All he did was take a plane off, forgot to set the pitch for the prompt and doong. “Oh he was a war hero, he died fighting for Australia.” “Well how about our VC winner?”
he was in our battalion. Two, he was Australia’s first VC winner, army, and it also, at that time, it caused the Esprit de Corps of the Australians to rise, the “Hey, that battalion down there’s been into them, they can beat them, so can we”, and it lifted the moral of the troops. Then we got the pamphlets dropped over us,
“Surrender or else”. The reply to that was, “Well come and get us you bastards”, which they tried to but they didn’t succeed.
Just moving onto, back to the New Guinea, time of the New Guinea. What was your view of the Japanese as an enemy?
Filthy, no hygiene, no self discipline in hygiene, robots. A bit like the Muslims you could say, they’ve been brainwashed, they’ve been told they had to die for their Emperor. Now we’ve got the same in the Muslims. They’re going to be angels and Allah’s going to look after them fi they blow themselves up, and that was like identical
practically approach. Now you don’t throw your life away like that. I mean what do they achieve?
from battalion dressing station, RAP in other words, Regimental Aid Post à la English terminology. Then you’d go to a Casualty Clearing Station and depending on how far back it was you might go to a second Casualty Clearing Station distance and time. If they couldn’t take you right through, you know, and then they’d get you back to
the rail head in Alex or somewhere down that way and you’d be heading towards Gaza, around not actually Gaza itself, but in that area, Kilo 89, Hill 69, Crostina, Julis, all names of the group together there. Then we went to from there, some of us that weren’t too bad we went to a, I was looking for
a map the other day, no, I’ll give it a miss, I can’t think of it.
green troops the biggest fear we had, not the Germans, not the Dagoes, will we fill the footsteps of the first AIF because they were legends, and there’s something you may not have heard, Field Marshal Foch, officer commanding the whole of France, English and everything and he said after the war was over, divisional parades,
and he said, “Thanks to the Australian troops that won the battle of Amiens, Amiens, and are with other battles are the saviours of France. The French will never forget you”, but he gave them a hell of a rap. If I’d have known I had an opportunity of putting that in I’d have got the letter written by a member of the 1/17th World War I, our parent battalion.
later on he was wounded where, first battle of El Alamein, got a bullet in, now he’s a surgeon so the right arm. He had a stiff right arm. Finished up in South Australia in charge of a hospital there. Before El Alamein we were moving some stuff and I said, “Hey Doc, I lasted a bit longer than you thought I did, didn’t I?”
But I felt sorry for doctors because they had to keep you in the line. Oh by the way, remember me talking about a senior nursing sister. She learned her trade in Bathurst, married Danny and served in one of the hospitals here. I said, “What’s this septicaemia?” She said, “What are you talking about?” “Where, you haven’t got it now have you?” “No”, so I told her. She said, “Jim, at the time it was one of the most
dangerous things you could get.” She said that, “They didn’t have the drugs.” She said, “They used to cut pieces out and cut it all out.” I said, “But my leg.” She said, “Oh, they’d have shortened that.” I thought, oh boy, so I was a lucky boy.
there to thieve some, you reckon you can sit still and shut up?” “Yeah, of course I can.” Well if you weren’t sure… “We-e-l-l-l”, then me, “I’ll have a go!” Come in spinner, hook line and sinker, they’ve got you. Took me a while to wake up to that. I was volunteering for a lot of things I needn’t have volunteered for, but it was one way of growing up and there’s no doubt about it, as I said, there was
five of us that finished up. I’m the only one left now. No, I’m not. Dougie Foster was on the bayonet charge. He’s over at North Sydney. Somewhere over the North Shore.
but somewhere on the line their communications broke down because you, I mean we were going in and so were they. Now I don’t know who met who but they were 25, once you’ve heard a 25 go off you never mix it up with anything else, you know, and someone said, “Hey, they’re 25’s.” “Jeez, so they are”, I wonder, must’ve been captured at Singapore
because they took a lot of guns there. Was the 7th Divvy, so they immediately ordered us back out, up the track, uphill downhill for a change and we couldn’t find the Japs. They’d shot through but we found them at Finschhafen.
but I repeat what I just said to your mate earlier, it amazes me now looking backwards the adaptability of the human body. If you’ve got to you can adjust, adapt, succeed. “Do you want to?” “Yes.” “Well good, go and do the bloody job.” It was wonderful what the human body can put up with. I’ve seen men live that you wouldn’t
give them two bob. I’ve seen others die that you’d say, “Well he’s been operated on, he’s cleaned up”, or a report come back, “Yes, he’s on the way to base”, you know, he’ll, next day he’s dead. Now what did they miss? I don’t think they did. It’s just how much the body can take, you know.
yeah, you’re on the train, hooroo. It’s just luck. Some say luck, some say your luck run out. I don’t know, but looking back you think of some of the men that did buy it and die, how much more they had to offer, civilians or after the war and that, and some of the others fellows that staggered on from, you know, everything, came back with
hardly a scratch on them. It just, the more you think about it the more it doesn’t justify. Simple as that, I think, and if you’re gonna worry about it’s gonna upset you, so if you accept it when it happens, it happens, but if you sit down and start to worry you are not going to be very good.
We respect him but we’re not gonna go overboard in this worship bullshit. I’ll give you a sermon, give me some money. Because a lot of us went around Jerusalem, Stations of the Cross, Garden of Gethsemane, the Hill of the Skull, Golgotha, and we also saw where
Christ preached one of his sermons under the very old olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now all of his preaching, all of his lessons, all of his gatherings were outside. The modern churchmen of the day want on the biggest and the brightest and the best church. Why don’t they follow the very man they’re supposed to be following?
because you get awful, after seven months you get awful bored with the same group of faces, and someone new coming in, oh, he looks different, don’t he? They always looked clean and tidy and they always appeared to me, and I’m saying my own experience, they always appeared to me as being very sincere. To wear
as well as they did, month after month, to have the dedication they did, because remember they were with tough soldiers and if they were hypocritical they’d have pinned them back.
I wasn’t, as a slightly younger fellow, I couldn’t do that in all respects. I had to grow up, put it that way, and you don’t grow up by whinging. “Cop it sweet”, the old army saying, cop it sweet and grin is about the best philosophy I had, and it worked, and let’s face
facts, if I firmly believed the bible I wouldn’t be here today because the bible tells you three score years and 10, which equals 70. I’m a little bit past that so I’m on borrowed time, bonus. That’s the way I look at it. A lot of other fellows did too.
Oh was that in Tobruk? Sorry, could you retell that story, ‘cause that was quite interesting I thought?
Heading for the NAAFI, we’re gonna have a feed. They had sausages, egg, tomato, chips, that was about it, a nice plateful, and that slowed us down something shocking, we couldn’t eat that, and someone said, “Oh, the beer’s on”, so I grabbed
my Lady Blamey, a couple of them, and I brought, I didn’t drink but I knew they enjoyed it and they were mates and I plonked one down in front of a fellow called Jackie Wilson. “Get out of here.” “Oh, what’s wrong with him?” And basically after a bit of talking to him and talking to other fellows, about four of the hard heads sitting around that
table had lost the thirst. They’d been dry that long in Tobruk, some of them had drank cognac, ooh, that’s a rough brandy, very rough, and basically they dried out and no desire, no taste, no yearning I suppose, that’d be the best word, they’d lost the yearn for it and it took them months to get it back
but when they did, did they make up for lost time, but as his wife used to say, “Jack, you’ve found another bloody way of going out and getting drunk.” He could think up different ways than anyone else, but it never affected him. He lumped sugar, worked at CSR, worked on the electrical lines
up and down the coast, worked damn hard, as well as his little farmette, four or five acres, but someone said, always happy.
were a long necked ladies’, ladies’, not ladies’ waist, that’s a glass. Anyway long necks, Pilsener bottles, and either by dipping a piece of, a length of wool in metho and looping it around twice tight, lighting it and the moment the fire went out you dropped it, just whoop into the cold water and she’d
crack. Now sometimes it’d be successful, sometimes it wouldn’t and all you did was sit and twiddle it in the sand and take the burrs off it because let’s face facts that was all you had to drink out of. There was no beer mugs over there. The Gyppos didn’t know what beer mugs were. They only sold it in little things like that and that wasn’t good enough for Aussies but the beer tasted alright so they tell me, but that’s
what’s called the Lady Blamey.
Spanky MacFarlane dressed up as a sheila and he put on a good show, but in other parts of the camp when we were out of action there was Jim Davison, Jim Davison, Davison’s Dance Band and Gerald, Jim, something Gerald. They had another travelling party
down the theatre and they’d put on a show, but we did have one or two, now whether there was two, we were out of the line anyway, we were in reserve and my (UNCLEAR) was well done here, it looked it too, but it was a bit of relief. That’s
the best way of putting it, took the tension off for a while, but oh it was quite well accepted and we did have, I can, I can never, I, can never remember myself any time in New Guinea, I don’t think I would’ve liked to have seen them, particularly the women coming up there because they wouldn’t have the same
protection as the nursing sisters would.
didn’t like him and respect him. Went to a lot of trouble to get the true story as he could make sense out of it. He didn’t sit back in base like a lot of the, there was reporters in Cairo which is a long way from Tobruk, and here they are doing daily journals and reports for their papers. Army release, whatever the army released they rewrote it and
become a dispatch. Chester Wilmot didn’t. You see in the very early stages, because they didn’t think we’d hold Tobruk, they didn’t allow reporters in. There was one or two and that was it and Chester Wilmot was lucky he was of the ones, but basically that is why in the early stages of Tobruk not a great amount is written about it, because they didn’t think we’d hold it. All they did was ask us for three weeks.
Then they asked us for five and that drew on a little bit longer and the longer it went the cockier we got. “These bastards can’t beat us” and that almost, that almost got a couple of fellows killed too. Too much over confidence.
“I can’t give you any gear.” “I’m told there’s a roneo machine there.” “Roneo machine?” Or whatever, it sounded like that, and he had the back of Italian requisition forms to print it on, and believe it or not, in an old bombed out building in Tobruk they brought out a paper, one sheet, and by the time it got to the end of the line she was folded.
You know that old saying, “they were tattered, they were torn, you could see that they’d been worn”, the old red flannel draws that Maggie wore. Well that paper was like that, but it always was printed, it got blown up two or three times, they brought in extra ones as they realised we were gonna stay there, they brought in a little bit better. They brought in a second-hand, second-hand typewriter
and an English roneo machine, roneo? One you pull the handle and wax paper or something, anyway and you print it, but again it lifted morale.
It was the first time in World War II the blitzkrieg was stopped. He just didn’t roll over. In France, Czechoslovakia, Poland and other countries he ravaged, once the tanks got past the infantry, the infantry gave up, not Morshead’s fellows. “You let us deal with the tanks back here.
Artillery, anti-tank guns, you look after your lot. Now keep your bloody head down”, but the tanks go over the top and “You meet the enemy, the infantry, that’s your size”, and it worked. And it confused Rommel, they didn’t get up and run. When that article I showed you about the 37, 34 tanks, that was the first time.
Now, every time he hit us he used the same idea and it didn’t work, but so therefore we can rightly claim that we were the first troops in the world to stop the blitzkrieg because he just didn’t roll over us. Now when you think of that, why shouldn’t we be given some credit? The siege at Tobruk was a lot longer than
the early one at Ladysmith. Ladysmith has been relieved. That was many years before end. We came within a week or, depends on when your dates start and finish, within a fortnight of beating Gallipoli, which is one of the few things we didn’t want to beat because of our respect for the World War I and the lessons they taught us.
So when you think of that why shouldn’t we get some of the acclaim and the recognition because they didn’t win at Gallipoli, they evacuated. We won at Tobruk. When we were relieved we were in the box seat, and to give you an idea just how good the Australian soldiers were
compare them to the South Africans, Indians, Ghurkhas, brigades, or two brigades of green troops under General Klopper, a South African General, they held Tobruk for two days. We held it for 242 days, quite a bit of difference, isn’t it?
has been relieved, but it wasn’t. They relaxed, took their tanks somewhere else and Jerry come back and says, “Gotcha”, and the 2/13th, the last battalion that didn’t sale from Tobruk because the destroyers were damaged and they returned to Alex, they put on a bayonet charge and cleared that corridor all within the same day, so that gives us December
7. Now why shouldn’t we be proud to talk about December 7 instead of whinging like the Yanks do? This is when they got their arses kicked at Pearl Harbour. Don’t you think we have a greater right to celebrate December 7 than what they had? We won, they lost. I don’t know about you, but a big difference isn’t there?
Stukas, German and Italian dive-bombed her. She was going to sink, or the order was given she was getting light on so they whacked two destroyers, one was the Waterhen and I think the other and I stand corrected on this, I think the other was the Vendetta, got the wounded off and the engineer said, “Hang on”, ‘cause they had a hell of a lot of wounded on
on their way back to Alex, and where the plates were buckled and torn then suddenly were almost above water. So they patched her up from the inside and she was towed back to Alex where they re-done her. She paid the navy back at Trincomalee when the Japanese, same fleet that did Pearl Harbour, sunk the vessels and she was in the
area and they called around as history tells us they were spotting the sailors in the water and they stopped, and with the forward wave carrying them on some of them, they weren’t damaged, some of them finished up in the vicinity of the propellers, hauled them on board, took them in. Where, I don’t know where they took them to but as some of the old salts said, “Vicker” has paid her debt
to the navy, but why those rotten bastards would dive-bomb, she wasn’t in shore, let me make that point clear. She was outside the boom, a couple miles to sea moving when they took her on. Now if you can see a red cross and the photograph would’ve been taken at least two mile away, if you can see it in black and white they must’ve been able to see the big
one on deck. An act of bastardry is the only way to describe it, and it made us all the more determined to, no prisoners here, and where possible we didn’t because there was nurses on that ship. They were being evacuated from a hospital in Tobruk and they did a wonderful job of getting the boys on to the destroyers,
covering them with blankets. Then they were taken off too after they’d cleared the decks aboard the destroyers and male staff only stayed with her. So some great acts of heroism was done.
Christ, it’s a bloody woman, and he was assisting her on board, and there was one thing that men haven’t got women have, and he found one of them. I think that’s about the tasteful way I can put it. But the respect they had was equal to the task. Put it, they earned it,
because they didn’t want to go out to Greece. The, I wasn’t there so I don’t know, but all the fellows in the base area reckon the nurses going out of the hospitals in Tobruk, they put on a real blue and a barney. They weren’t. Yes you are. Same with, same with the nursing sisters, Sister Bullwinkel for instance. They didn’t want to leave the boys in Singapore but they knew what they’d
get at the hands of the Japs and they did get it later on. And there’s the stupidity of Australia’s so called educated people. Australia Post when they were putting out stamps for the 50th or 50th something or other, they didn’t think of Edmondson, Australia’s first VC. General,
Major General Vassey’s wife got a nod on one of the stamps. Now why wouldn’t, why would you give someone that as far as I know never left Australia, and cut out Sister Bullwinkel who was herded with 21 others, was herded into the sea, shot, bayoneted, checked and she was one of those 21, she was the only that come out, out of that
Banka Island. Vyner Brooke was the vessel they were on, and she later gave evidence at the war crimes trial in Japan.
the second battle that didn’t get to us in Tobruk. He came out of there and one of the men that knew him and met him later on was, he was, when he left up Major Williams, he then was given Lieutenant Colonel Williams, 2/2nd Pioneers, he was lost in Java, but between getting captured he runs into this fellow
Dunlop. He says, “I struck you in Tobruk.” “Oh”, he says, “Yes sir, there was no fighting there so I got moved somewhere else.” Now when you think of it, OK he’s a doctor, big deal, he’s only a captain. So he got moved from England to Tobruk, from Tobruk to Australia back to Java, then to listen to him talk he was the only one on the
Burma Railway. How come five doctors went to, four went to Sandakan, or Sandakan, whichever you like, and they didn’t live. They weren’t amongst the six that escaped. So it’s four doctors dead and there’s quite a few died in Changi, yet if you read Weary Dunlop’s
story he was next to Jesus Christ. He could walk on water. He’s got bullshit battle brains, simple as that.
Gee, that’s a curly one. I can think of some low ones, no. Highlights? Finishing up still alive after the second battle of El Alamein because we didn’t think we were gonna live through the first one because everything was at six, at least we had
more organisation the second one. The first one was a bit tipsy topsy turvey, and we managed to live through that. That was luck, but when you heard of the deployment of 11 divisions and you think well on percentages we copped more, greater, our percentage was 22 per cent of total casualties
in that 11 days, one battalion, one division. Now that’s a percentage of 11 divisions. There were 11 divisions on the battlefield, so that would have to be a highlight. You’ve done the best, you’ve copped, you’ve paid your price and you’re still alive, and with a bit of luck you’re going home. You might starve on the way home and you might have a fight with the wharfies
about feeding you but we’re going home.
malaria again and came back to Uralla and I think I just got back to Uralla when they said the war, they say VP [Victory in the Pacific] Day these days, it was never VP Day. It was announced in the papers at the time VJ Day, Victory [over the] Japanese, because there was no one else apart from the Koreans, but it was basically us against them, but now
it is impolite, politically incorrect to say Japanese, Victory Japanese, Victory Pacific. It sounds so much posher, la de da.
was a masterpiece of understatement. Then I wasn’t the only one. We were wondering from job to job, but all the good jobs were well kept down by the B Company, be here when they went and be here when they come home, and we got the jobs they didn’t want, wheeling bags of spuds around Paddy’s Markets at 4.00 o’clock in the morning. Well human being didn’t get up at 4.00 o’clock in the morning.
So stick it up your arse or go and get something else, and I’d already put in for my CAS [?] training. I was in the first group and I was going to be a carpenter, but I had to wait for the call up, you know, army, hurry up and wait. So I had five or six, seven jobs and I couldn’t get one to suit me or one that even was
any dignity in it. You only got the dirty jobs and I went in and did my CRES [?], and I realised that, because in those days you’ve got to understand, a tradesman got paid a lot more than a labourer did, and I can still remember my full pay as a carpenter, £12 eight and six a week. A good labourer was getting about £7 or £8. The average
labourer was getting about £6, he wasn’t a skilled labourer, and I finished that then the bloody powers that be decided we weren’t gonna have a depression, we were gonna have a recession. I don’t know the difference, but it must be something, and there was carpenters walking around with their tool kit, better carpenters than I was. These were men that had served their time before the war, had the wartime experience at building.
They couldn’t get jobs so what chance has me. So I couldn’t see me being a walloper, that was the only two jobs around, Police Force and Fire Brigade. A big difference in pay, police was paid better and I went in the Fire Brigade, working shift work wasn’t so good until you got used to it, then once you got seniority you went up like steps and stairs in pay,
and once you had your seniority you learnt more of your trade. It was interesting and I think it suited a lot of, I know that at that time in headquarters there was quite a lot of navy boys. The added risk, the added bit of adventure as it were into a fire, I think appealed to them. That’s the only way I could put it.
They were always gonna leave but they never did, and that’s where I finished my time.
of sour, I dunno where they’d been or if they had been, was it worth fighting? Now Vic turned around and looked them up and down and he said, “Well tell me this, would you have it any other way?” “Oh, what are you talking about?” “Well” he said, “I chose when I was going to get married because we’re a democracy. I chose where I was going to live, how I was going to rear my children. It was my choice and my wife’s.” He
said, “I chose what school I sent them. If they got the marks I’d get the money to get them further.” His son finished up in the army, he was posted to Washington as an aide, and I’ll let a little bit of levity into it, his little daughter third in line heard them talking and she said next day, “Oh, I didn’t know my father was a left-handed colonel.” She
heard them say “lieutenant colonel” but she couldn’t get her tongue around that so her father was a left-handed colonel, but as Vic said, “We had our choice”. “We determined what we were going to do”, so he said to them, “What would you?” and he turned around to them and he said, “Now what did you do?” When you think of that they’re very wise words. Would we do it
all over again? I think we were back in those days, I think we would have because a certain amount of pride in achievement, a certain amount of pride in the fact that we made it possible, and that’s the only thing I’m cranky about, all these towel heads out. They bellow and fart and grunt and snort about bloody democracy and what they’re entitled to, but did they win it? It was the men that didn’t
come back and the men that came back not so bright, they were the ones that got democracy. Now a few of the would be dago heroes have tried to take me on in Council and around the town, and my reply is always the same, “What did you do in the war years? Did you have a victory now?” The very people I was telling you the other day Brigarda Douglasario
Spaghettio, they were in the Middle East in the time of the 6th Divvy and the time of the 9th Divvy, but no one can tell me one battle they won against the Aussies. We beat them every time. So that, doesn’t that give you confidence, doesn’t that make you something to be proud of? Now why should we cop flack from them
about how much they deserve democracy? Or if they deserve democracy I should get two helpings, if it was ice cream.
when, he came around the hospital signing us up, when we were in hospital, for the Rats of Tobruk because it was formed in 1945 before the end of the war, so I was a member of that. On discharge, very good thinking old diggers, they,
“You’re going down a bit of this and a bit and sign this and take that and sign this and that’s your, that’s your man power and that’s that and there’s a digger, what do you want mate?” He said, “Give me five bob and I’ll shut up.” “What for?” He said, “Give me five bob and you’re a member of the RSL” and he said, “We have more chance of helping you than these gutless politicians.” “Well, that makes sense”, and the line that I went through there wasn’t one man that didn’t join the RSL. Now
the same spirit is not in the RSL. When I showed you that one about Bright, we’ve had enough of him, of Edmondson in Liverpool, we don’t want to hear any more. Hardly the spirit of a respect for someone else who fought, but they didn’t fight so therefore they didn’t, wouldn’t know what we’re talking about.
first to beat them. You say highlights, lowlights, the lowlight of my campaign was when the 7th Divvy belted the shit out of the bloody Vichy French Foreign Legion, the French Foreign Legion. They went through them like a packet of salts. I grew up on stories, little Boys’ Own and little magazines, the wonderful stories of the French Foreign Legion,
Algiers, and in the desert and they marched them this fort to that fort and shot, shoot, and when it came to a showdown they weren’t worth two bob, but took the Aussies to beat them. We were the first to beat the Dagoes, we were the first to beat the Germans and slow him down. We slowed him down at Tobruk, we beat him at El Alamein. The 7th Divvy
beat the Vichy French in Syria and the 18th Brigade, the famous 18th were the first to really beat the Japs at Milne Bay, they drove them back into the sea, and some of our chockos they were gone thataway. They left the 18th Brigade for dead.