harvest and then when the wheat farming harvest was finished, we would come back into Mum to home and to Renmark, she had a house in Renmark by then and we would work on the fruit blocks and that was my life until I was 16 and I put in the whole seeding for a farmer and when I had finished on the Saturday morning I rode my bike into
Renmark through the drift sand and went into enlist because (INAUDIBLE) came down on the Thursday before to tell me he had enlisted. So I went in and passed the medical examiner and the recruiting officers were in the next room to the doctor’s place and the doctor knew me quite well, as he had brought me into the world, Dr Harris. So anyway, when I went in there, the recruiting officer was Mr Mitchell.
Unfortunately, Mr Mitchell’s wife was in hospital with my mother, so he knew exactly right to the minute when I was born so he said, “Oh no, you can’t join the army.” So I went out very despondent and went down the street and met some of my friends and they said, “Are you going to join up?” and I said, “Yeah, but Mr Mitchell wouldn’t let me.” Then they said, “He’s gone to tea. Mr McIntryre, a veteran who had lost his leg at Gallipoli is the recruiting officer at present.” So I was back in no time, and Mr McIntryre said, “Good boy,” and put
me through very quickly. So I was in the army. That was on June 25th I believe, 1940 and then on 2 July, 80 of us from the river including, Tom Derrick, VC DCM [Victoria Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal] I knew very well, he came from Berri, and we went down to Adelaide in the train and were taken to Wayville Showgrounds on 5 July, I was sworn in as a member of the AIF [Australian Imperial Forces]
and we were then in the 2nd ITD – Second Infantry Training Depot and my brother was also down there and on August 9, the 2/48th Battalion was formed and that started that. We did all our training in the Parklands, South Parklands at the time, and group marches and that sort of thing up until I think
it was in October we were given pre-embarkation leave and then after we came back in 7 days, we were whisked off in a special train to Woodside where we trained for approximately 3 and half weeks, day and night, and then on November 17, it was a very, very hot day and we were loaded in,
that’s right we marched from Woodside camp down to Oakbank, didn’t go to Woodside Station because of security reasons and everybody knew, they were following us along the road. So it was 5 miles and we had our tunics, great coat, all our sea kit, everything we owned we carried. I have never forgotten that march, it was absolutely horrendous. Then we were put onto trains, taken down to outer harbour and then we were
embarked on the His Majesty’s ship the Stratheden and on the following morning on 18 November we set sail for the Australian Bight and joined the rest of the convoy had come from Melbourne and we arrived a week later in Fremantle. We stayed there for 6 days, because there was a German raider out in the Indian Ocean and our escort, the HMS Canberra and Perth
apparently went out and we had never heard the result but we did finally set sail, and a few days later we arrived in Colombo. We had a days leave there, but I had been in hospital with mumps, I had just managed to get onto the boat in time and was put in hospital but I had a days leave. Then we set sail again and we arrived on 17 December,
exactly a month after to the date that we got onto the boat, at Ismailia in the Suez Canal or Port Taufiq, then Ismailia and then finally down to El Qantara, which is on the border of Palestine and Egypt. There we were fed and put into cattle trucks, do I ever remember them, square wheels, we all said. Then we went right up into Palestine and at
about midnight we arrived at a camp called Dimra, where we were fed and bedded down. We were very hungry and very tired. We were there for I think somewhere around 3 months, we had Christmas after that and then about 3 months we did some very hard training, because Dimra was 156 miles north of El Qantara and 5 miles roughly from the sea, but there was rows and rows of drift sand, sand dunes I suppose
I could call them and you could always hear the Mediterranean and every time you went down one wadi as we called them there, you would say the next one’s got to be the sea but it seemed to take another hour before it came. We did that for months and months and trained hard and I think it was in March we started a march and ended up going by train right through to Mersa Matruh, which is on the Egypt and
Palestine, and we were there for a day and then put in trucks and then we were taken up in various stages up to the Benghazi area to guard the prisoners, the many, many thousands of Italian prisoners that the 6th division and New Zealanders had captured back in December of 1940 but that wasn’t for very long, as the German force had entered that part of the world in Africa
and we found ourselves in skirmishes and in positions that we did not have had enough troops or equipment to hold him off, so it was into trucks and back to Tobruk as fast as we could as that was the best perimeter to hold. We managed to get back there. Two of the British generals were captured and also 41 of the 2/8th Field Ambulance, who were
directed down into a valley by a German which was dressed as a British military police. The story goes that one of our officers shot him later on, but I don’t know that to confirm that but it seems pretty right. We finally made the perimeter of Tobruk in the early hours of the 9th or 10th of April, I know it was
Easter Saturday and there we dug in and that started the defence of Tobruk or the siege of Tobruk. We were then until 23 October before we were relieved. Do you want to know anything about in between that?
No. If you could continue from 23 October when you were relieved, and keep going that would be great.
We were relieved and we were back to Palestine and for a couple of months and then we were sent up to Tripoli in Lebanon and in camps there. The reason was to, in case, the 2nd Division had gone home, so this was in case the Germans landed in that area. We did hard training and just garrison work
until the end of June, I think it was the 29 June and we proceeded across the Hom Desert and down the Sinai and at that stage we didn’t know whether we were going home or whether we were going to the desert. If we turned right when we got to the border, we were going to the desert, if we turned left we were definitely going to
Australia. We turned right. And then I think this was on 2 July when we got there and we went by truck up as far as the German and Italian forces were. There were thousands and thousands of British, French and Free French and South Africans and New Zealanders coming back to us but we were going forwards
and then on the night or the morning of 10 July without any bombardment we did a very silent rifle and bayonet attack on the Italians and we caught them in bed and took a lot of prisoners, and that was the start of the battle of Tel-el-Eisa. This was on what was called Tree 26 and I believe was called the Hill of Jesus, and apparently it is a part of, in the Bible which I have never found
but apparently is there and that started that part of that. Later on, the Germans forces realised what was going on and of course then, it was a very hard battle that went on for right through until practically into August when there was a stalemate and later on they mined us in, and we were in what was called the El Alamein Box, there
was no retreat. This went on and at that time they asked for special training because I guess they expected a lot of casualties . At this stage I was asked to go and train as an anti-tank gunner or a tank attack gunner. Somehow or other, I don’t know what happened, but they had homemade hessian tanks up on the sand dunes. I never ever really did see how they worked and
they said they were doing approximately 4 miles per hour. We had 8 rounds and I was put in as the gun layer and somehow or other I managed to get 8 rounds in a cluster and they told me that was the area where the Germans had their ammunition petrol so straight away they said we are going to make you a gun layer. I didn’t know what to think about it, but when they told me it was worth 1 shilling and sixpence per day and seeing I was only getting 2 shillings,
because I had allotted 3 shillings to my mother, I though this was a big rise in pay. About 75% I believe. So I accepted. Well, when the big battles started on 23 October my job was, because I was the gun layer I had to go in with rifle companies which turned out to be the same company I had been with, and go in with them and then
find a position, dig a position for the gun and that sort of thing and then defend against tanks and that sort of thing. This went on right through until the night of, late night, I don’t know whether it was after midnight or not on 29 October, we were waiting for another battalion, the 23rd Battalion to take an objective and if they were successful before midnight, we were to go straight through and take the Germans’
second defence line before they could organise. The next thing we knew a shell that landed, someone said it had to hit us but I found it lobbed right along side of us and everyone along that side was killed or badly injured. I had been sitting up in the truck behind the driver and a friend of mine said, “Hey Bambi,” – that was my nickname ‘Baby’ and ‘Bambi’. They said, “Would you change posssies. I can’t get my machine gun between my legs here,” and I said,
“No worries.” So I got up and let him get in there and then I proceeded back towards the tailgate of the truck and I had one knee down and was trying to get down when the shell landed. The bomb blast just threw me straight over the tailboard and I landed, I had a shovel on my back and I landed on that and I thought at one stage I had broken my back. It was very bad in my shoulders.
The stretcher-bearers came running over, and they said, “Are you all right?” and I said, “Yeah, you had better have a look in the truck.” It was then I got to my feet and I found I had a jagged piece of shrapnel hanging out of my great coat out of my elbow. I pulled it out and didn’t worry much about it. The next morning, my officer said you had better go back to casualty and get it checked out. When I got back there, there was so many killed and badly wounded and amputations taking place
I thought what am I doing here with a scratch, so I didn’t worry about it anymore. I just put a shell dressing on it. Then 2 nights later on the final attack on El Alamein I was sent with another company which I didn’t know what they were doing and I was quite upset about it and the old saying with the Aussies, “Don’t worry, we’ll look after you,” so I went with them and we did an encircling movement on a bridge called Contour 25 , I found
out since and we came in behind the Germans and we thought we would surprise them, but that was where all their fire power was and when we finally did get close to them we were absolutely slaughtered. This was getting by that time very late at night or very early in the morning and when it was apparent that it was looking like daylight was about to approach I crawled over and I couldn’t find
what to ask what was going on or anything, I couldn’t find anybody alive, so I thought then I had better get out of here, so I went in a northwest direction and I fell in a great big bomb hole, so I thought this had better do me. Well next thing I knew at the approach of dawn there was about 6 Germans and they were looking around because I think they must have been looking at our wounded and that sort of thing, and
so I thought what will I do and they pointed towards my direction and I thought what’s going on here. So I only had, all I had was a rifle and bayonet and several rounds of ammunition but I had 2 grenades. So I took out 1 grenade and I held that in the my left hand and I pulled the other one out with my, I pulled the ring out with my teeth and I grabbed that and I let them have both of those and as far as I know I got the whole 6 Germans.
Well, then our artillery opened up and they were firing spasmodically all day on them and some of the shells were coming pretty close to me because I was only about 30 yards away from the Germans and later on there was a dog fight up between the Messerschmidts, the German Messerschmidts and the Spitfires and Hurricanes and the bullets were swimming all around me, but I managed to keep clear of that. Well, I stayed there all that during the day and then
I thought I had better get something to eat. So I took my haversack off and went to get a drink of water and I found that I had a bullet hole through my water bottle, I had no water, my haversack had been riddled and yet I never got another scratch, although I was pretty lucky. So anyway, I stayed there all day and I sort of worked out from the artillery where I was and how I’d get out. So the following night that was
all that day and all the next day I stayed there and as soon as it was dark the next day, I presume it was around 7 o’clock at night, my watch had been broken I crawled down through a marsh which was between this position and the sand dunes of the Mediterranean. I was covered in mines but I found out later they were tank mines and my weight wasn’t enough to set them off. So I crawled for 2 ½ hours through the minefield and went through 2 rows of danet which
is curled up barbed wire and somewhere in the early hours of the morning, I was challenged, “What was the password?” I didn’t have a clue. I knew what it was 3 nights before, so at that stage I mentioned I had an idea it was the 2/7th Field Regiment, so I mentioned a couple of chaps I knew at Renmark and also Tom Worse, a great Norwood footballer, I mentioned their names and I was allowed to go
back there. I asked them for a drink of water and I got a bit and I said, “I haven’t had any sleep for 3 days, or practically none, is there anywhere I can bed down?” and they said, “Yeah, there is an old gun porter place,” but they didn’t tell me I had a 25 pounder each side of me. So I laid down in that and I was practically dead to the world and next minute every gun opened up. So that was the end of that. Next morning I said to them, “Can you tell me where the 2/48th is?”
and the officer looked at me and said “I’m sorry. The 2/48th were wiped out.” and I thought this was a lovely feeling. Later on, I come down and they said, “I’ve got better news for you. There were 41 came out on one truck,” and all that was left, some were walking and that was all that was left of the 2/48th Battalion. Well later on in the day they found out where they were and they were down in the old Tel-el-Eisa station and I had to cross across the Hill of Jesus
which I knew that area quite well. On the way across there I saw a motorbike in the distance and I hoped he was one of ours. It turned out to be one of dispatch riders who gave me a ride back to where the rest of my platoon were and my officer had just come back from battalion headquarters where he had listed me missing believed killed. They thought there would be no hope for me getting back. Well, after getting something to eat I laid down in a trench at two o’clock in the afternoon and I didn’t wake
up until six o’clock the next morning. By this time my arm had swollen up the size of a football and I was sent back to casualty and then through to CCS [casualty clearing station] and finally back to the AGH [Australian General Hospital] at Alexandria. After some time, I was sent back to a staging camp and I arrived back at El Alamein a day before we left that was on 3 December we left El Alamein and went back
to right through Cairo in to Palestine. So that was the end of El Alamein. Following that, this was in December of course, so after Christmas we did some training for a while. We did get some leave. I think I went to Beirut, I had been to Jerusalem before so I went to Beirut. Then we were taken by trucks up to Tripoli in
stages, that’s in Lebanon – a lovely little gulf barracks, three storey little gulf barracks, or two storey, I’m not sure now and from there, our job was there to garrison Lebanon and those areas because the Germans had, possibly land parachutes or submarine and land troops there and destroy the Checker Tunnel which went right through the mountains there and that was
where all the supply lines came through. We had quite a good time there really. We went up to near the Turkish border through Aleppo and up to the Cedes which is a beautiful place where there was a snow chalet there, and there was still 14ft of snow there, although it was starting to melt and we had a bit of fun trying to ski and different things. Then we came back
and then we went into the mountains, to a place called Mt Torvel and did some of the hardest training that I think I have ever done in my life. It was so hard and so high that even the mules, the Indian muleteers couldn’t even get the mules up there. They were screaming in agony trying to get this load up there. We finally did manage to get up there and then we were taken back to the barracks. It was a very hard
time. After I think it was back about… I think I’ve got myself a little mixed up because we did that before we went to El Alamein, I should have mentioned. At this stage it was getting, this was in around February and
and we moved across to the Hom Desert and everything was, what we thought, took away any idea that we were Australian. Everything was painted on the trucks, the steel helmets were altered, but the natives, they said, “Hi Aussie!” We still had our tan boots. All the British troops had black boots. There was no camouflage. They knew where we were.
So we finally got down to El Qantara again and we boarded a Dutch liner and we were on our way to Australia and home. That was, I just forget the date. I know we arrived in Port Melbourne on 25th February 1943, and were given leave, 21 days
leave. That was that part of that.
off to New Guinea. That was in August and landed at Milne Bay, did some training there in front of [US] General MacArthur and [Australian] General Blamey and then later we went up and did the landing at Lae which I believe is the first amphibious landing, assault landing by Australian troops since Gallipoli. A
lot of people don’t realise that. That was on September 4th, the same day Allied troops landed in Italy. We didn’t have a lot of casualties, though it was a very hard campaign because the rivers we had had heavy rain and the rivers were coming down from the mountains and quite a few chaps, I know including one battalion, lost 28 washed out to sea. The water was
moving something like 40 kms per hour but the engineers managed to through across a, rope across and we did finally get over and for the first time we were really ever hungry. We had no food. We were eating coconuts, climbing trees to get coconuts. They couldn’t get the food up to us. We finally, after not too much skirmish, we took Lae and we were there for a little while and
at this stage 20th Brigade had landed at Finschhafen so we had to go and help them there and that started the track to the attack on Sattelberg. There were various other encounters on the way. We lost a lot of very men on that. Then on 25th November we finally captured Sattelberg. It was really a one man show and that was Sergeant Diver
Derrick who had already won the DCM in the Middle East and he practically took Sattelberg. After our officer told him not to worry about and he says, “I’ve lost too many good men and I’m not giving up now.” So he practically scaled it and took Sattelberg on his own and he was awarded the VC [Victoria Cross]. So that was the New Guinea campaign. And then after Christmas, we had some good
food sent up to us and they then decided that they would try and cut the Japs off because they were trying to get to Madang, so some of us walked through kunai grass and then some went by amphibious ducks and then we would change, and then we would go by ducks and we finally got up near Madang but we found out that we had not cut the Japs off so we came back to the Finschhafen area and then we
soon after in early February we were on our way home but I didn’t make it. I got as far as Buna, then I went down very badly with malaria and I had to come home later on and have leave all on my own. Then finally after I had seven days leave I was sent back to the tablelands and joined the battalion and we trained hard there and then it was the start of the
trip when we went to the Halmaheras, Morotai Island and the Halmaheras. From there we embarked on the HMS Manoora and we set sail for the Tarakan Island, which is a little island off of Borneo. On 1 May we landed there and without a great opposition, but we found out the Japs had retreated into the hills. They were razorback ridges
all of them. They were all named after Australian girls names like Linda, Fred and quite a lot like that and it wasn’t until they said that it where Diver Derrick VC lost his life there and I helped to carry him back and on, I have to get the date right, that was on 25th May that he was killed.
At the end of August the Jap had given, the war capitulated and later on they started a point system. For instance anybody, a married man say who had 10 children, he automatically got top points. It was called a 5-Year Plan, anybody with 5 years service. Just for a joke, I said to the audited corporal, I said,
“Hey, my Mum’s a dependant on me,” and that made me the same point system as a married man, so I didn’t think anymore of it and I was quite happy to keep going. By this stage I had made sergeant rank and I was getting pretty good money – 17 [shillings] and 9 pence a day if I remember and that was terrific money in those days. Anyway, next thing I found I was on the boat back to Australia and landed at Brisbane I think on
4 September. From there I made my way back through Victoria into South Australia and was finally demobbed on 20th September 1945. At this stage, my brother who I hadn’t mentioned this before, was taken a prisoner of war at Tel-el-Eisa on 22 July he was a Bren gun carrier driver and had broken through the
Germans lines and quite a few others and was about 1 mile behind Germans lines firing at everything they could and had got the track blown off of his carrier so they went around in circles and that night he tried to get back to our lines and was captured so he spent his days in Italy but escaped and fought in the partisan forces right through to the end of the war. So he had just arrived and had his leave
home so we met for the first time. I did not know until I got into Fremantle that he was a prisoner of war. I did not know what had happened to him. I was also greeted with the news that another brother of mine had lost his leg in New Guinea, and was seriously wounded and my younger brother was very seriously ill with a kidney problem so it wasn’t a very happy home coming for me but it was okay. So that was actually my
“All they offer you is a pick and shovel,” he says, “and you can get one of those in Siberia.” Those were his very words. He wasn’t very happy, so he said, “I’ll do what I can do, do what you can do.” Well my, my brother-in-law now, he now lives with me, he got out and he didn’t know what to do, so we decided we would buy a truck under the lease lend system and we bought an International truck and we started carrying produce. In Laura there was a flax mill, a chaff
mill, a flourmill and there was plenty of produce carrying the produce from the farmers. So we did this and we worked from early morning until you know daylight until dark at night and we did that but when the harvest was finished we found that there wasn’t anything to do much, you know a little bit of work here and there. There wasn’t much prospect. So after a year I decided I would take on the agency of COR [Commonwealth Oil Refinery] which is now
BP [British Petroleum] of course. One of the sergeants I knew quite well, his brother was the northern area representative, Max Jacker who ended up in charge of BP. He said to me, “Well if you like to go down to town,” – he gave me some people to see – “I can get you a country depot.” But unfortunately all the people I went to see had got promotions or had shifted to other cities and I ended up down at Birkenhead in a dead end job
filling petrol drums and marking drums. I was even marking drums that were sent to me really because I was still in the firm. It was quite amusing. Then later on, I thought there was no future here, so later on I went and started working at General Motors Holden as a metal finisher and I was one of the seven to work on the very first Holden, the old FX Holden.
We spent 7 days working on one car, it wasn’t very long, and they put me at 300 a day. I did that and then later on where my wife and I were living in Goodwich in my mother-in-law’s cousin’s house she got the place renovated so we could have a flat of our own and the chap that was working there, he said, “What do you do for a living?” and I told him and he said, “You seem very keen on this sort of work,” ‘doing work’,
I’m a painter also, so I ended up getting a job with him and then later on I worked for another painter and then I felt that I was capable and went to school and different things like that, I contracted myself to the South Australian Housing Trust and I did that right up until I retired until I became 60. I had had a heart attack and I found out the rigours of it, it was too much, I could do small jobs and get enough here and there
and I got a pension and was the end of my working career.
About once in 6 weeks, they used to go into Renmark every Saturday because they used to sell their, make butter you see and see that and sell the eggs to people in the town to get a little bit of money to buy food, that’s the way they existed and that sort of thing and then I would get a ride in with them every six weeks. I’d see my Mum a bit, that’s about the only time you know, for a few hours or something. And then
the year before, the harvest of 1939, I found out my brother was working at a place back at Taldra, near, this was out from Paringa where I was working, actually 1 hour from Paringa. He came over one day and he said to me, he said, “Do you want a job? I can get you some money, you don’t have to work for nothing.” He said, “I can get you 15 shillings a week.” He said, “I’m getting a point a
week driving a stripper [harvesting machine]. You got to do the same work you’re doing.” I ended up telling them the next day if they didn't pay me wages, I was going out there. So I got on my bike and I went. I went straight down to Taldra and I started working there and I did all that same sort of thing again. He was a nice man to work too, the other people weren’t nice people and sort of thing. And the following year, my brother he decided he wouldn’t go back there, this was in 1940
to do the seeding, so I did it all on my own and the hours were something like this: at 11 o’clock at night I would feed the horses for the last time then I would walk ½ mile to my little hut with my lantern, set the alarm for 3 o’clock. Then I would come over, I would let the horses down. We had a race going down to the dam for them there to drink and if they didn’t come back I used to send
the Queensland heeler [cattle dog] down, that’d would bring them back. And while they were down there I would put their feed in the mangers. When they came back I would put their collars and hames on and then I would go and make some breakfast. And then I, by that time they had had their breakfast and I was seeding 5 miles from home. Ground that had been fallowed for the first time for many years, it was the first crop in. Then I had to put the horses in the wagon, and
sometimes I had to take out seed wheat and superphosphate. On the Sundays, that was one thing I used to do on Sundays. I’d make the seed wheat and the super into bux [?] half bags because it was terribly heavy and I was only 16 and some of the bags were 200 pounds, so you couldn’t, you had to reach them up and then get onto the platform and put them into the combines, you know into the feeders for the seed to go out. So I used to do this on Sundays and any rate, do that and then sometimes
I would get out there and it would put it in and you had a job to see the furrow it was still, it wouldn’t be quite light, because it was in the middle of winter you see. Then I would go until midday and then the boss would bring out a relief team and some lunch and fuel can full of tea sometimes he would do one round and then I would go until I couldn't see the furrow anymore, pitch dark at night and then go back the 5 mile and go through the same thing. Feed the horses, let them down for a drink.
And my boss was a very, he was a colt breaker, you know, to break in horses. He didn’t own many horses. A lot of the horses he had were kidmans, you know they were sort of brumbies [wild], and broken in and you had to be very careful with them cause they would just paw you as quick as anything so he got me a nice big strong piece of wire with a hook on it and I used to pick up the chains with that and put that onto their, put the hooks onto their harness because they used to look at you the horses, you could see the whites of their eyes.
They meant danger, but they were good workers. So this was the sort of thing and at any rate this went on and I said on the Thursday night my brother came out, sometime at the end of June. I think it was the 23rd of June or something like that and he said, “I’ve just joined the army.” And I said, “Why didn’t you wait for me?” so anyway on the Saturday morning I said, “I’m going to finish seeding on the Saturday morning.” So I did. I finished about 11 o’clock and by the time I got home and fixed up all the horses and that sort of thing
and had some lunch, I said to the boss, “I’m going into Renmark tonight and I’m going to try and join the army.” First of all I said I was going to join the navy but I found out you had to have a birth certificate to join the navy..
in the meantime, 2 of my brothers were rejected. “Well,” she said, “all right then,” She says, “But I won’t sign your name.” She said, “I won’t stop you from going, but I won’t sign.” She said, “I won’t have that on my conscience.” So anyway as I said down I go and into Dr Harris and his nurse and she said, “What can I do for you? Which one are you of the Jones?” And I said, “Murray.” So she said, “You want to see a doctor,” and I said, “Yes, I want to join the army. I want to be examined.”
So any way after a while Dr Harris said, “You’re as fit as I don’t know what,” he says, “You’re right.” So he said, “The recruiting officer’s in there.” He said, “Knock on the door.” So I knocked on the door and Mr Mitchell was there. I said, “Hello, Mr Mitch,” and he said “Hello. How are you young Murray?” He said, “How are you going?” and then he said, “What can I do for ya?” I said, “I want to join the army, Mr Mitch,” and he said, “Oh, the Salvation Army’s down the 16th Street,” he said. I said, “No, I want to join the AIF [Australian Imperial Force].” “No,”
he said. As I said before, Mr Mitchell’s wife and my mother were in the same room at the hospital and his son and I were about a minute or so apart so he knew exactly my age, so he wouldn’t let me go. So I went back onto the town and ran into a few of my friends that I had gone to school with, and knew local chaps and had all joined up and were waiting to go down and so they said, “Are you going to join up?” and I said, “Yeah, I just got knocked back. Mitchell wouldn’t let me
join.” And they said, “He’s gone to tea. Mr McIntryre’s there,” and Mr McIntryre was an old Gallipoli veteran, lost a leg at Gallipoli I believe and so he said and I went in there and he said, “What can I do for you, Jonesey?” and I said, “I want to join,” and he said, “Ah, good boy,” so he put me through in about 2 ups and I was out of there as quick as in case Mr Mitchell came back.
I thought, the next day I’d better go and see this chap and let him know I’m coming to do his house the next day. So I waited out there and he wasn’t home and next thing, I must have nearly gone to sleep, and he knocked on the door of my utility and he said, “Yeah, do you want me?” and I said, “Yeah, I’m, can I do a bit of work in your place tomorrow. I don’t want too much.” I said, because it was Anzac Eve you see and I didn’t want to be too late because I always went to Anzac reunions those days the night before and then before Anzac Day.
At any rate, we went inside and he said, “Well, what do you want tomorrow?” and I was working on my own so I said, “Oh, just a couple of bedrooms, if you like.” It was only him and his wife so, it was a three bedroom house and I said, “Now, don’t worry too much about the furniture. As long as I can get my steps around and can get to the rosette in the ceiling so I can paint that,” and I said I’ll roll the rest with the roller. At any rate, I get there in the morning and everything is cleaned out. He said, “I wouldn’t work like that and I don’t expect you to.”
So at any rate, he said, “What do you like for morning tea? Coffee or tea?” and I said, “I’ll have a cup of coffee thanks.” And, “How do you like it? Milk?” and I said, “That will do me fine.” So he produced some nice cake and sitting down and he looked at me and he said, “I’d better tell you something. I was a German soldier during the war,” he said. “It wasn’t my doings, I was in the Hitler Youth. I was forced into it.” And I said, “Oh, I’ve got news for you, I was an Australian soldier. Where were you?”
‘Oh,,” he says, “I was at El Alamein.” I said, “So was I. I thought I’d seen you before. I had you in my sights once and I said, ‘Poor devil, let him go’.” You know’ just for a joke. So there was something that can come out after the war as well as during the war so. And we became very good friends after that. Sort of thing I’d got out there after and he had an import license and I would always find something there for the children or something for my wife or something for myself he’d leave on the seat
of the utility. It was quite good some of it. A camera for me daughter and that sort of thing.
He said he was always shitty and was always hungry and that sort of thing, and they kept the Italians on the go all the time you know, trying to break out and that sort of thing and they’d get threatened but he said he never had too much trouble with them so. He doesn’t talk much about the prison life. I remember I found out from another chap that happened to know about it and at one stage he was up in a loft in a farmhouse
and you know where they used to put all their hay and straw and stuff, they used to call them lofts. It was about three o’clock in the morning, this Italian woman came and prodded and told him “German, German,” or “Deutsch,” or something like that, a patrol was near in the village so he had to swim this frozen river at three o’clock in the morning to escape. He was a good swimmer, and lucky enough on the other side, he says he doesn’t know
exactly, it looked like a pine forest but it was a different type of pine that we know and he was lucky enough to get in there and sort of get a few branches of trees around him because it was freezing cold and the next morning the sun came out and he says and he dried himself and his clothes out and then he moved on a bit further. And he did that right until, you know, then they joined a band of them and managed to get through and get a bit of food. They’d steal a turnip here or there out of a field
and survived the war that way until the Americans came through and then they, at that stage I think they had captured a German vehicle, and they were coming round on this escarpment and next thing they noticed this tank in the distance with a white star on it. Because they didn’t know anything about the Americans being in the war. He didn’t know anything about it, and there was no propaganda out that way.
And so next thing something whizzed over the top, like a shell so they thought it was time to give themselves up and then they found out they were Americans, because the Americans couldn’t understand that there were Australians in Italy sort of thing until they told them they were prisoners of war and fighting with the partisan forces. They looked after them very well but when they sent them to the British lines they came under the British you know military police and he said, they gave them a pretty hard time because they had to prove that they were
prisoners of war. They had nothing to prove, they were wearing any clothes they could. You know, half German clothes and half Italian clothes, that sort of thing because all their clothes wore out we had and so at that stage they were taken back to the Eastbourne Camp in England and just by luck this Captain Forbes I told you about, Forbes’ Mound, he had been sent over to England, something to do with the repatriation.
He had become a very sick man, he won the DCM in Tobruk and that sort of thing and he saw him. So straight away he took off colour patches and gave him colour patches and that different things and that sort of thing so. And then, by that stage apparently they weren’t allowed to eat big meals, but they had a cookhouse there that you could go and eat whenever you wanted. So he was terribly thin, he was down to about eight stone. He’s now about 13-14 stone,
that’s the fattest I’ve ever seen him. So he, only because I suppose they fed him beer to drink or something like that I guess and so he put on weight. The funny thing is, he’s never lost it and he always kept as fit as anything. So he always used to worry me you know, I thought that he’d suffer, and he’s 82 and he’s probably healthier than what I am. He’s had no heart attacks or things like that. I’ve had a couple of them and sort of thing.
So he was in a different platoon at the time and so I, being a good old country boy my brother and I we always stacked plenty of tobacco, plenty of toothpaste, that sort of thing that we needed, pencil and papers and things like that so I marched over to him with 2 tins of tobacco, you know good tobacco. Champion Ruby, I remember that, Log Cabin flakes, you know it smelt beautiful and Tally Ho and Risler papers and I took over and I says
“Congratulations! You are 21 today, Matt. What would you like for a present?” and he said, “Oh, don’t be funny.” I said, “How would you like a nice Australian cigarette?” and he said, “Oh that would be something good.” So I pulled out, we pulled out this 2 ounces of tobacco and you know, that was something because we were only just getting old rubbish we were getting there, and Turkish cigarettes and Cheznian, and so he reckons that was the best birthday present he could have for a 21st. There was another chap there
he came from up the river way too and he would just smoke all day and all night if he was allowed to, he just was a big smoker and he offered me, he said, “I haven’t got any money on me,” he says. “But I’ll tell you what I’ll give you 25 Egyptian pounds,” – that’s 25 shillings Australian, 1 pound – “for a tin of tobacco.” And I says, “It just so happens I’ve got one on me, Harry,” so I gave it to him. And he said, “Now, you remember, what do I owe you?” And I said, “You don’t owe me anything.
For God’s sake Harry,” I said, “We’re all mates. I don’t need it. The least I smoke, the better off I am,” so I gave it to him and that was all right. Many years later when the war was all finished and I went up to Loxton to a stay there and went up to Renmark to a niece’s, I think it was either a niece or a nephew, my younger brother had 6 children. So to a wedding, so we went into a
club and he was a barmen, used to do that, he was a blocker but he used to do that on a Saturday afternoon to get a bit of money, a barman. So anyway he said, “I haven’t forgotten that,” he said and he wanted to pay me then and I said, “No.” So we got a round of drinks and I gave him a pound note, 20 shillings and then he gave me handful of change and when I looked at I found I still had 20 shillings. That was his way of repaying me, we had quite a free afternoon. You know,
that was mateship and he said he never forgot that what I did for him there and that’s the story of that one.
And later on they got what they called M & V, meat and vegetables, and that was greasy and you know, when it was cold that wasn’t much good but occasional when the cooks could cook a hot meal and sent up at night, you know anything hot is better than cold and you know, it tasted all right. I’ve read stories about that people had, you know a lot of fresh meat and bread. Well, the only bread I ever come up was
one loaf and it was uneatable, it was weevils and it was mouldy and we just didn’t eat it, we knew it was no good to us. And we did get a little bit of meat on one occasion because the Indian troops, I think they were Sikhs or, I think they were Sikhs, they had sheep brought up and they were kept back behind the line because as you might know they have to kill their own, they don’t, won’t have anything that’s been delivered killed. And anyway, apparently a couple of German
shells or Italian shells landed in the middle of the sheep and there were a few skittled, so our cooks apparently grabbed them and made some stew out of them so we got a bit of that. And then on another occasion, I’m not too sure whether it was in Tobruk or Tel-el-Eisa, where a camel, I think it was Tel-el-Eisa, straddled onto the land mine and got killed, so our cook went out and we had some
camel. A bit sinewy, but it was better than nothing and then another occasion I remember in Tobruk we had a chap, I think I mentioned this morning I think I mentioned there were 4 Hoare brothers from Broken Hill. Well George Hoare he was a transport driver. Well, apparently George was one of these chaps that could do anything, rustle cattle or anything, he was a pretty wild boy,
so he well as a result of getting into the food dump that was there, I think that was the reason, he got, I think it was 14 days front line service and he was sent to us. Well the night before we had been out on one of these listening patrols and we were listening to the music and different things and went out about a 1000 yards and gave them a little bit of curry and then came home. Well, the next day we had just had 1 person on you know guard duty watching
and the rest of us were trying to get some sleep and the next thing we hear ‘Bang!’ and a rifle went off. We all come too pretty quickly and got to our posts and there was George crawling out, he had seen a snake and he shot it’s head off and so he went out and got this snake and brought it back and he skun it and at that stage we had been getting, it was sort of concentrated methylated spirits in a tin and you could light it and you could heat, you know,
you’d be lucky if you could boil a brew with it but you know, you could get a bit of hot water and we had this issued to us. So he got some bully beef and stuff and he skun this snake and he said you know, once you cut its head off it can’t bite yourself and it was absolutely beautiful. Snake mixed in bully beef and that and meat and vegetables. I always remember that you know, that was another delicacy. That was a part of what we got you know, but I think a lot
of the base troops got back further, they got better food than what we did and that sort of thing. There was a quite a good food dump there apparently, with even strawberry jam and stuff so I’m told but we never, ever tasted that. The only jam we ever got was occasional marmalade jam made in Lebanon and Syria and half the time there was leaves and all sorts of things and you didn’t know what it was like, but it tasted better than nothing.
We, we rested, sort of rested for a few days and then we’ve got to get back into the training. I suppose they think there is only one way to you know, we were fed better that’s one good thing. Then we trained hard again and we got fitter. I think our bodies got better and our minds got better, you know there was no pressure on us very much. I mean there was always a chance of a German plane coming over
but not very much. Very remote. Well, then, I’m trying to think when we went up to Syria. After about, March, April, somewhere around March I think it was we moved up to Lebanon and sort of, cause the 7th Division had gone home to come back to Australia and we went up
there to garrison, more or less up there and to further our training and sort of thing. Our battalion went to Tripoli in Lebanon and we were housed in beautiful barracks, they were French army barracks, 2-storey I think they were. Beautiful condition and big parade ground and everything. I think we even had a canteen, it was very good up there sort of thing.
And from there we could go on leave nearly every night into Tripoli and we had excursions to go up to Aleppo, up near the Turkish border, to Cedes, which was a chalet up there with snow although it was the time the snow was starting to melt a bit and there was still about 14ft of snow there and some of the chaps had learnt to ski rather,
they had a good time but I’m afraid I spent most of my time on my tail. I wasn’t much good at that sort of thing. That was just a day’s leave. They did start an idea they were going to make a ski section and some special troops were picked out that had some idea of it, but it didn’t eventuate. They were up there for about a month I believe, or several weeks at any rate and but it didn’t eventuate so
that was that. And after that, this Colonel said to us, “Well, you’ve got to get fitter than that,” so we moved further away into an area called Mt Torvell Fairly high up, the ground was very, very rugged there and on one exercise we thought it would only last about a day and it lasted two or three days and we had to get to the top of this mountain, it wasn’t
actually a mountain, but it was called mount, and the last bit was so high that the Indians had mules there carrying a lot of the gear and I can still hear those mules screaming, trying, you know they really screamed, trying to get up into those hills and the Indians were trying to push them and pull them and we were just about in the same position trying to scale this. I think if there was only one time when I ever felt like giving up was there. You know, you’d go up 3ft, and you’d fall back
4 and this sort of thing and finally I managed to get up and then to top it off, everybody was so exhausted. I don’t think we’d really got over Tobruk properly, really and there was quite a altercation between the medical officer, the RMO [Regimental Medical Officer] who has final say about health of the troops and he wanted trucks to be brought up for us to go home,
but Hammer says, “No, they walk home.” It was quite a few miles, you know this was back to Tripoli and in the end, we walked and those that just fell by the side, you know had sore feet, blisters and things were picked up by trucks. I do remember that. Possibly the CO was right in the end it did, was one way of making us fit and letting us know that he was in charge so.
that during this break in September when, I think they realised they were going to lose a lot of specialists like transport drivers, signallers, Bren gun drivers, machine gunners, mortar men, you know any specialist. Then they started to train several people they picked out to train as specialists to fill these gaps. Well, I was picked out
to train as a newly formed platoon that was called a ‘tank attack platoon’ and at this stage I did that and on one day they rigged up these hessian, look like tanks back on the sand dunes, this was well behind the line and just told us that they were moving at about 4 miles an hour and we were given 8 live
rounds, I was on a 2 pound anti-tank gun and luck be it I put a cluster of 8 right around, I judged how much movement I had, how much I had to fire in front of the moving target and just collected the whole 8 shots in a target so they, I was then told the next day I was going to be made a group 3 gunlayer and I thought,
“Oh God,” you know, I didn’t really know what to think about that but when they told me it was a specialist pay, you got 1 and sixpence a day extra and I thought I’m only getting 2 shillings a day, having allotted 3 shillings a day to my mother, I thought this is a rise in pay of 75%, it’ll do me. When we did finally get our guns and they brought in four lease lend 37mm American guns and they were different altogether too, not so
different in calibre not so much but in, where the 2 pounder the wheels came off and you had to do a 360 traverse, with the 37mm the wheels didn’t come off, you could get them off but you didn’t in battle and you had to sort of swing it to get it around sort of thing, you didn’t have much travel. And so I was given one of those so then, when the attacks came, my corporal said to me, “Well, seeing you’re the gunlayer and you’re going to be responsible for
firing at the enemy,” and I was the only one in that squad that had infantry training like in Tobruk, right through Tobruk I had to go in with the leading platoon every night, not only go in and fight with them but then when we got our objective I had to go and select a place, you know to put a gun. It was a very hard job because in the little bit of moonlight you had to make
sure you had a position where the enemy couldn’t get in you know, without you seeing him because there were little knolls of ground and that sort of thing. Then I had to dig like anything had to dig the gun hole and then dig positions for the crew to come in like a corporal and a Bren gunner and my number 2, that was my loader and then I had to do that and then a truck would bring as close as they could get, would bring the gun up
and the rest of the crew and by this time its getting pretty close to daylight so this was the sort of thing that I did through Tobruk, right through El Alamein, I’m sorry.
of machine guns on that position and when we got within approximately 30, 20-30 yards from there we came under very heavy intense fire. We went to the ground and there was quite a lot of fighting went on and then after some time it seemed to be silent so I crawled over the nearest chap I could see, and asked him what’s going on and he was dead, and I couldn’t find anybody alive
so at this stage there was just this faint sign of dawn approaching, and I thought to myself, well I have to get out of here. I couldn’t find anyone alive so I ran, I don’t know why, in a north west direction which was still going straight down into the middle of the marsh. I might have mentioned before at the bottom of this there was a salt marsh which tanks couldn’t go over, and following that was sand dunes
and the Mediterranean Sea but. So I went in a northwest, which was half way along this ridge and half way into the marsh and I fell into a very big bomb hole. I guess it was a big aerial bomb hold and I thought, this will have to do me for a while because I couldn’t see where it was going to get by daylight, and I’m going into enemy territory. So I did that and then somewhere, you know, in the early morning I just
had to peep over the parapet of this bomb hole and I saw what I thought was six Germans come out of their trenches and they were looking around, I guess looking for our dead or to see if there was anybody wounded or what and then they pointed, what I thought, pointed in my direction and I thought, well what am I going to do? Surrender? No. So I thought, well I’ve still got two grenades and I’ve got a rifle and I’ve got a fair
few rounds of ammunition. So I got the grenades out of my pouch. I pulled one out and put that in my left hand and pulled the pin out, and held the pin in, like against and then I got the other one and pulled it out with my teeth and I hung on to that and so then I just them have that one and then I transferred the one from my left hand, because I couldn’t throw it, remember I’m wounded in that left arm, I threw with the right and as far as I could see I
got them both right around them. So I didn’t see any enemy after that, whether they were killed or wounded and got back into their trenches I don’t really know. Well then, a bit later in the day there was, you know getting on towards lunchtime our artillery opened up and I was copping a bit of, you know a bit of the blast from their shells, I was fairly close to the Germans as I said. Then later in the day
there was an aerial dog fight right over the top of me with Messerschmidts, Hurricane and two Spitfires and I had a lot of bullets zimming all around me and I was lucky enough I didn’t get hit with any of those. That went off all right so later in the day I thought, I realised that I was getting very thirsty and very hungry, I hadn’t eaten since late that afternoon the day before, so I put my haversack off my back
and had a look at my water bottle, and I had a bullet hole right through my water bottle and my haversack looked like it had been hit with a Schmeiser machine gun, it was just riddled. All my bully beef and everything that was in the back was all just running everywhere. I had no food and only bits of lead everywhere, so I thought, I couldn’t eat any of that. So I used the oil out of the bully beef to put on my rifle butt, the rifle bolt to keep that working.
So I stayed there all that night. I still didn’t have any sleep all that day and all that night I had to keep alert because I could hear, I couldn’t see the Germans but I could hear them. I guess they were you know, feeding, having their meal or probably relieving themselves or whatever I don’t know and then the next day it was the same sort of thing, although there wasn’t quite as much movement and our artillery kept, you know firing heavily at them.
And then I thought, further around to the west which was, I thought would have been an enemy ground, there was a lot of firing going on there. I didn’t know at the time that our troops had gone around at that angle and it was only this contour 25 that the Germans were still holding actually. So that night I thought, well I’ve got to get out. I’m hungry, I’m thirsty. So I knew exactly where our artillery was. I knew where our lines were.
So I went into the salt marsh and then I realised I could see these mounds, they were all big mines. So I thought, well I’ve got to get out. So I crawled for about somewhere at least an hour, probably more like an hour and half. My watch was broken so it wasn’t working. So and finally I came to some danet wire, that’s coils of barbed wire and I managed to get through there. I tore my uniform
pretty badly getting through that and then I crawled some more and then I came to some more danet wire and the same thing happened to me there and at last, I thought, well I reckon I’m fairly clear I’ll decide to walk. So I started walking and somewhere in the early hours of the morning I heard, “Halt,” and it sounded very much like German to me and so he said, “What’s the password?” and I said, “Blowed if I know.” I didn’t say that, I said something, “Buggered if I know.”
I said, “I know what it was three nights ago, it was 'whistling Winnie',” Because the Germans don’t sound their ‘W,” they say ‘V,” so that’s why all the password were always ‘W’. So he said, “Put your rifle down.” I said, “I’m from the 2/48 and if you’re the 7th Fuel Regiment,” which I fairly knew they were, “I know three fellows from the Renmark district and there who had joined up from there and I know Tom
Gordon, State Footballer.” Well, I didn’t know him personally but I knew of him. And so with that, “Put your rifle and bayonet down,” you know in the ground. So I went forward and with that he realised I was 2/48th and then I went back and got my rifle and bayonet and then so I said, “You wouldn’t happen to have a drink of water,” and I explained to him I hadn’t, you know how long I’d been out there and I was wounded and that sort of thing and then I said, “Have you got any food?” and he said, “I’m afraid I haven’t got any food. We’re not allowed to touch, you know,
our emergency rations,” and this I understood. And so I just said, “Now where can I get down and have some sleep?” and he said, “Oh there’s an old gun porthole there, where the truck used to be. You can get in there.” So I laid down there and I think I was just about asleep and then ‘Bang!’ A 25 pounder was on each side of me and they were doing 10 rounds per gun per hour harassing fire to keep the enemy from going to sleep too.
So this went until daybreak which wasn’t that you know, too long after that so I said to this chap, “Have you got an officer around here?” and he said, “Yeah, our sig officer is back here.” So I was taken back to see him and I asked him, “Did he know where the 2/48th Battalion?” and he said, “You’re 2/48th Battalion?” He said, “I’m sorry, son, but your battalion was wiped out.”
And I thought, “Oh my God.” What a feeling. That was one time when I didn’t know how to cope. I thought well I’m CO, I’m everybody in the 2/48th Battalion, you know. It went through my mind but not very jubilantly I can tell you. So later on he came over to me, he took a bit of interest in me then. He said, “Well, listen whatever I find out I’ll let you know.” So then he found out that there were 41 survivors, including walking wounded.
I said, “Do you know where they are?” and he said, “Not just at present. I know they came out in a truck.” So later on I guess it was sometime just before midday he came up and told me that they were around Tel-el-Eisa Station and he said, “Do you know where that is?” and I said, “Yeah, that’s the Hill of Jesus there, and you go straight across the top of that and I’ll be into it. I’ll find out from there,” and so I started to walk
and in the distance I saw a motorbike coming and I hoped it was one of ours, the dust coming and as it turned out he turned and came straight toward me. I waved to him, took a chance and he came over to me and it was a chap I’ve known right from the beginning of the war. He was one of our regimental police, not that they were, they did great work really, looked after all the communications and those sort of things and they worked as dispatch riders and he gave me a ride back and I said
‘Where’s my platoon?” and he says, “I think I know where they are, but they don’t know where you are.” He said, “Med Wright’, that was my officer, “he’s been to battalion headquarters and said you were missing and had to be killed by now. You know, two days and not back.” So he took me straight over to him and I can remember now, although the chap is dead now he just grabbed me and swung me around, as if I was his own son and we became very, very good friends after that.
So he went to no end of trouble and went back and got me some cold food, you know there had been a meal cooked but there was some cold bully beef or stew or something over and got me a cup of cold tea. I had that and then I said, “Where can I kip down?” and he said, “That trench’s not being used,” so I got in there and I could practically see the fleas jumping around, but I didn’t care. I got in that hole and somewhere at two and half past in the afternoon and I didn’t wake up until
six o’clock the next morning. I slept straight through although there was gunfire, so they tell me. I didn’t hear anything. I must have been absolutely exhausted. So with that I realised then that my arm was swollen somewhere around a football size and it was aching very badly, so he organised me to get back to the RAP. I went back there and looked at it and they swabbed it and
put on it, a patch on it and organised for an ambulance to take me back to the CCS – which was the Category Clearing Station which was some, I suppose a mile and half or something behind our lines and in there was wounded of all nationalities. Germans, South Africans, Indians, Australians, Italians, New Zealanders, South Africans, I said that,
everybody. And then this was something really funny happened there. There was no room for me in either of these tents but in the middle, they were a big marquee, but in the middle was the Orderly Room tent, where they you know, looked after their casualties. So straight away when they saw that they said, “Have you had any medication?” and I said, “No.” So they gave me, what did they used to call them, brown bombers, what they used to use.
There was no penicillin then, gosh any other time I would think of these tablets. I might later on. So at any rate they gave me two of these to swallow with some water. That was all right and then about an hour later another bloke came out of the other tent and said, “Here’s a couple of tablets, mate,” and he said, “Take these.” I nearly said the name too. So as I said he gave me two and some water and I took that
and about another two hours the other bloke came and said, “Here’s two more tablets,” and it wasn’t long the other bloke came and said, “Here’s two more tablets,” and I took that. What had happened they had put me on their treatment list and in the end, I started to go real silly. I didn’t know where I was or anything and I thought, or perhaps this is the wound and I put it down to. I realised that they were killing me with kindness. So when the next bloke came along I said, “Are you sure I’m supposed to have these,
four of these every hour?” and he said, “What do you mean four?” I said, “I’m getting two from that chap there and two from you,” but I didn’t tell him that I had about six in my tunic pocket that I’d put in there. I thought I’m not taking these, they’d kill me. So that was that and at any rate. I finally, I think it was the next day I got back to Alexandria by ambulance and I was put in the AGH there, I think it was the 2/7th AGH if I remember rightly, and I was in there for quite a few days. Well, first thing they did,
they said, “Well, you’d better go and have a shower.” Well, they had these things rigged up with buckets you know, with hessian around it, and had buckets and you just pulled a string and I don’t know, the water came out somehow. So I said to the bloke I said, “Oh God, its going to be hard having a shower,” and he looked at me and said, “God man, when did you last have a bath. You’ve got half the desert.” And I said, “You can’t have a bath in the desert.” And I kept telling him “In Tobruk when we first went there,” – this sounds pretty dirty –
‘We were 22 days without taking our boots off. I didn’t have a shower or wash all the time I was in Tobruk in seven months.” “God,” he said, “Filthy!,” and I said, “Well, we all smelt the same and nobody complained.” You know, a lot of people don’t realise this and I often think, you know sometimes I shower twice a day if I’m working in the garden or doing something. So anyway, that was that. So I got him to give me a good old scrub because I always kept my hair cut
short, I used to cut it with scissors because of the fleas and chats and different things and I didn’t have to worry about it. So he gave me a good old scrub up and took me back and put me to bed in the hospital. So I was, had some treatment for several days and then they sent me back to a staging camp which was out on a, in a sandy place somewhere. I don’t know how far it was away from the hospital.
how many, how much longer it was after that, but we knew there was no right hand turning that time. We practically knew we were going home and we were taken down by, I think, I don’t know whether it was by train or truck I just can’t remember now and we were taken down to. Oh, I do remember this, yes. This officer of mine had the pleasure of picking out 10 people out of the battalion to act as, what they called the baggage company, or the advance party
to go to Port Taufiq and the idea was, we had to sort out all the kit bags to see if everything was in order. For instance, one little thing, we had a British officer who was in charge of the port. A dapper little captain, Sam Brown [cross chest belt], all polished up and everything and if we found anything suspicious like, we had a chain gang and we would be. Say for instance, we found, we had a list and if we found somebody who enlisted in South Australia,
like a friend of mine did from Renmark and his parents had shifted to Perth in the meantime, now we had to find his bag and put it so it would be taken off at Fremantle. This went on and on and on, you know sort of thing. So at any rate, at one stage I came across this little sea kit and I went to pick it up and I just about fell over and I thought, “What’s going on here?” so I felt around it and there was something square in there and then there was something soft, so I said to the officer
about it, so he had to get this British officer, he was the only one that could open them, we weren’t allowed to open them. And in it, it belonged to a VAD – that’s a Voluntary Aid Detachment, and she had four bricks and butt of sand in there. Apparently, she had a stretcher up on these four bricks and she wanted to take home some Egyptian sand. We couldn’t believe it. Of course it got tipped out naturally. We found bayonets, we found revolvers, you know, captured revolvers and all those sorts of things
and they were confiscated. And this sort of went on, this went on and we were there for quite a few days and we got leave and everything and it was quite good. And then the main convoy, you know like the rest of the troops came down. In the meantime, also this one day this huge ship came, and I thought it was about a mile out and we woke up one morning and found it there and I said to somebody, “Look at that ship out there,” and someone produced binoculars and it was the Queen Mary.
And it wasn’t a mile out it was three miles out. This officer, this British officer, he said, “Would you chaps like to go on a pontoon and go for a trip out there.” “Oh, yes sir,” We thought he was great then. And so we went out there and I’ve never seen, we went right around that boat and it looked like a mile long and these little Pommy soldiers were up on top and they looked like little ants, it was so huge, you know, we’d never seen a ship like that.
So any way we came back and the troops came off and there was this little bloke, he was about 5ft nothing, not that I’m very tall and his uniform, he had about two rolls in the cuffs of his trousers and the cuffs of his shirt was rolled up twice and he said, “Hey Dig, where do you come from?” and I said, “I come from Australia.” “Of course, I know you come from Australia, what part?” I said, “South Australia.” “Yeah, whereabouts?” and I said, “Adelaide.” “What part of Adelaide?”
and I said, “Well actually, I don’t come from Adelaide, I come from the River Murray at Renmark you see.” and he said, “Do you know where Morphettville is?” and I said, “Yeah, I used to be a jockey there,” and his name was Frank Bullock. Well, looking through history of racing, I found that he used to be a jockey and he was sent over there, got called up and was conscripted. So that’s another little story about that, and at any rate, we finally got on the New Amsterdam and
away we come home and at one stage we didn’t know where we were because, I found out since that it was in the Maldives area, and we came across aircraft carriers and battleships and everything and they were refuelling there. It must have been a big Indian Ocean you know, refuelling spot or haven for aircraft carriers etc. So I don’t know whether we refuelled or not, but we were there for a few hours and then we set sail.
Because at this stage it was very, very hot and within a few days, well several days we found it was getting colder and colder and they issued us with a blanket and we thought what’s going on here. And instead of laying up on deck all night you know, we were trying to get down below somewhere and we found out when we finally did get into Port Melbourne where we had been was right down south of Tasmania between the South Pole and Tasmania because of Japanese submarines
had been sighted in Bass Strait and close as Kangaroo Island. So we finally arrived at Port Melbourne, the New Amsterdam, the Queen Mary that was in that convoy, she ended up in that convoy after she got rid of the British troops and a couple of others, I just forget the name, they went to Sydney and so we got off there.
before it was taken, apparently one of our companies that was very close to taking it ran out of ammunition, food and also had a fair few wounded and so I think there was about seven of us that were back a little further volunteered to take up stretchers and take up food and ammunition and then bring back wounded. There was something I do remember there, you couldn’t see,
there were razorbacks, you know it wasn’t very wide. We were an odd party, I was short and one bloke was about 6ft 4, so some of them were just about leaning down to keep the stretchers straight and others were holding them on their shoulders and at this stage somebody told us to get some fireflies. They were little beetles that glowed in the night, glowflies some of them call them, and we put them on our back and we could see
where each other, where we were, following each other by that way. Something I had never heard of before, the first time I had ever heard about it so we did that. We took up as I said the ammunition and the food and stuff like that and we brought back some wounded and on the way down I had rather an unfortunate thing happen to me. I slid on something, I think it might have been a bit of the bark by a tree that had been hit by shrapnel and
my leg went from under me and I badly damaged an ankle and I just couldn’t carry the stretcher anymore so the chap that was, that had an Owen gun, a sub-machine gun, there was protection because we couldn’t look after ourselves, we had rifles on our shoulders but couldn’t do anything about it so I took over that job and I hobbled all the way back and we finally got back with the wounded down to battalion headquarters
where the doctor was, and in the early hours of the morning I went to the doctor and he just said, “There’s nothing I can do here for it, you’ve got to go out.” And I said, “I’m not going out. There’s only three left in my section and I’m staying,” so with that I took my shirt off and I tore the tail of it off and I wrapped that around me ankle. Well, he bandaged me my ankle tightly and then I put my boot on
and I bandaged that very tightly and I went back and then, because the next day, the next morning Lieutenant or Sergeant Derrick as he was then, he managed to take Sattelberg and of course, we all ended up at Sattelberg and that was November the 25th if my memory is correct and we stayed there until after Christmas and then on the, I think it was the day after Christmas
that we decided we would have to go and chase the Jap stragglers and some walked, which I was a member of those who had to walk and some were taken down to the coast and put on amphibious ducks and they’d go so far and land and as soon as the other who had been walking came in they would get in the ducks and we were doing this sort of thing trying to cut the Japanese off. But in the meantime, one of these days I just found that I wasn’t able to walk very
well, so I had a stick and next thing I knew I had a jeep come behind me and it was our brigadier and he wanted to know where I was wounded and I said, “Not as such sir, I badly injured my ankle,” sort of thing and he said, “Well, you shouldn’t be here,” and I said, “Oh, I’ll be all right. I’ll catch up,” because I had a feeling that very soon we were coming back to Australia. So anyway I continued and I did catch up to our
troops and after that he took me up to where they were and that’s as far as we went. We found out that we couldn’t cut off any Japs, they’d gone so that was the end of that. And then we were brought back I think by barge if I remember now, back to Finschhafen where we stayed for quite a while and then, that right
we stayed there and we got reinforcements and we were re-equipped and different things ready to go back to Australia. It was at this stage that I realised I was going down with malaria myself and we got on the boat, an old Liberty boat by the way, a terrible old thing it was. You know it was doing about three knots an hour and the Coral Sea was very, very rough at that stage
and half the time the keel was thrashing in mid-air not in the water and we weren’t making very good time at all and we were all camped up on deck and raining like heck and when we were getting close to Buna, I realised I was getting ill so I got onto one of my Western Australia stretcher bearer friends and asked him to take my temperature and he said, “Good God man, you’re 107.” Your temperature’s always fairly high in the tropics,
you know well over 100, so he poured some water over the thermometer to see whether that was, you know why it got hot and it went up higher so he went and got the doctor and he said, “This man, he’s got to go off,” so whatever communications they did with the wharf at Buna when I got there, there was a winch waiting there for me and an ambulance and I was put into you know, like a garbage winch they do, to load wheat and stuff, taken
out on that and put in that, loaded on the wharf, put into the ambulance and I was taken into the AGH at Dobodura where the air force had a liberator squadron.
at this stage its March, April, March at any rate and we trained up until end of May and then we went down to Cairns and we did some more invasion training. I do remember there that one of the ships that was used had bullet scars all over it and was used in the landing at Normandy,
British Marines and we had British Marines on there and that was quite exciting I thought to be training with British Marines sort of thing. And we did training with them and did mock landings on Trinity Beach and Palm Beach or Palm Cove or whatever they call it these days and finally, sometime in I forget the date, sometime you know getting towards the end of August we were put on boats and we
were taken to Morotai, that’s in the Halmaheras Islands and had a little bit of training there because at this stage the Americans they’d land on an island and they would just take the beach head and just leave the Japs out in the jungle to starve them out. They didn’t take the full island. They did this all the time and so we still had Japs there on the islands and then we did some collapsible boat training there
which we thought would you know would be handy for the landing on Tarakan. Unfortunately, we lost a few of our, one of the boats collapsed and they went down, full pack down 80ft of water and were drowned. The whole lot of them, I remember there was quite a few of them so that was rather distressing. And then I think it was on the last day
of April we boarded the Manoora, that is the old Manoora, not the nice new Manoora, she was a coastal boat and we set sail. That was made for troop landing, it had light boats and all sorts of things and landing craft on it and everything so we made our way pretty close to the Philippines there and on the 1st of May
we landed at Tarakan Island. We didn’t get too much, very much opposition on the landing because the Japs had retreated into the hills where they had quite a lot of fortifications and all the jungle was very, it was very deep jungle and all the tracks were just about razor, you know razorback tracks and we only had one brigade, our brigade, 26th Brigade that landed
there and I think they thought it was just going to be a two day show instead of that the Japs had several thousand troops more than what they expected and it was in this way that you might take one ridge, it was quite a big loss and next thing you know the Japs would double back and reoccupy the ridge you had taken and this sort of thing. This was what we had to put up with there and it was a very
very, in my opinion unnecessary campaign because they could have quite easily, you know isolated Tarakan and I think the only reason they wanted it for was because of the richness of the oil. You’d drop a, you could dig a hole there and you could find oil, down a few feet down, a bomb hole would bring up oil and I think it had something to do with the Dutch Government, you know some agreement that might have
done it. They tried to get an airstrip down there but couldn’t so that was useless. So when we worked it out we had lost more troops, there was more killed in Tarakan including a lot of people that had gone from original members that had lost their lives there. They lost more troops there than we had a Tobruk. So I’ve always looked at it as an unnecessary war. In fact, there is a book out called A Waste War Called Tarakan.
was where we had trouble was use flame throwers and I also took out patrols to mend sig wires that had been cut by the enemy, or we presume by the enemy we had no communications. They often did that, cut the wires and that sort of thing. So I did quite a bit of this during Tarakan. Then as I said on the 15th August we were told that the
war had ceased. Unfortunately, the Japanese didn’t know, well not out in the field at any rate and on the 16th we were, most of us were withdrawn from the front line they just kept one company up there and we came back, further back into the near the sea. At this stage I remember Gracie Fields [singer] had arrived, and we had a
concert from her and those sort of things and different things and then later we went on the other side of the island, the south side of the island and tried to catch a lot of the Jap stragglers who were trying to get across to mainland Borneo on drums and all sorts of things, you know pontoons and things they had made and sort of thing so we got quite a few stragglers there doing that sort of thing. This is what happened
until you know, until roughly about, that was what, I’ve got to get this straight now, May, June, July, August, a few weeks after that it was pretty plain that the, well the war was over, the Japanese war was over, the Pacific war was over, and thinking about getting home and
this is when the Australian Government brought in what they called the ‘Five Year Plan’. Troops with five-year service were given a point system. For instance, say a married man with say 10 children he would have maximum points, and then it varied down to the stage where a married man had so many points, I just forgot how many points it was and then it turned out that anybody who had a dependant, like my mother was a dependant on me,
had the same points. And just for a joke I said to the ordinance corporal one day, he had a little tent put up and he had a notice board up there and what was going on and a few things and different, a newsletter and stuff and I was reading that and he said, “Oh, you won’t get home for another five years, Jonesy. Your still so young,” because I was what, only 21 then I think and so I said, “Oh, I don’t know,
my mother is a dependant on me,” and he said, “Is that a fact?” And so because he went and looked up his records and found out that I was right, so he said, “Oh, I’ll have to put your name up forward.” So next thing I knew I was on two more drafts and I was home, on my way home. So that’s how I got out of the army. I didn’t go onto any occupation forces, like a lot of them did. Some of them went to Ambon Island and did occupation there and some of them even went to Japan and those sort of things. Sometimes I
often think should I have made a career out of it, because at that stage I was a sergeant and I was getting good money in those days, compared to what it was before but I decided I had had enough and wanted to come home so I did.
demobbed he said he was going back to Renmark and of course, I became engaged to my wife now and I went up to Laura in mid north where they were and my brother said he would check out and see what was going on in Renmark and we had hoped, very hoped, very much that we could get a block you know, a fruit block, that was our aim. But we were told we weren’t trained enough for it and so he said, the only work back there was pick and shovel work,
you know on the roads and things like that. He said, “Well, blow that. I can get a job like that in Siberia.” That was the very words he said, in the salt mines or something. So he just said, “Well you do what you can do,” he said, “and I will carry on.” He said, “I’ll work on the block, look for a block for a while.” Then my brother Dean out here and he was in the same boat, he had just got from the paratroops. He was like a Rat of Tobruk also, then El Alamein, and then joined the paratroops when we came back from the Middle East. I did try
but was knocked back. Anyway so we sort of said, “What can we do?” So we found out we just had enough money between us with the gratuity money and the little bit of money my mother had saved for me and that sort of thing and we bought a brand new International truck and we started carrying produce. Like in Laura there was a flax mill at that stage, a flourmill, a chaff mill and a grain,
you know, a flour mill, that’s a grain mill so we thought there was plenty of work carrying that and we went to an RSL meeting and got ourselves joined up into the RSL straight away, and there were quite a few returned soldiers there and they helped us and we got work. But I found out after that it was all sort of harvest work and when the winter came we were out working for farmers, doing odd jobs and the truck was in the shed which was no good.
So I thought this, at this stage I was thinking about marriage and you know in sometime, and I realised then there was no future in it and so at that stage we also had the, what was then the COR Agency at Laura, which is you know BP, Commonwealth Oil Refineries, and we took over, an old RSL block up there let us have his depot. He was doing it and didn’t want to do it anymore so we had a depot in
the paddock next door to us and all the, the fuel was delivered there and all we had to do was deliver it in the truck. We were making a few shillings or pounds those days on it and that sort of thing and then out of the blue one day the Northern Areas Representative at the time was a bloke called Matt Jacker and he said to me, “What were you in?” And I said, “Oh, I was in the 2/48th Battalion.” He said
‘Did you know my brother Roger Jacker?” and he lost his leg, he was a Bren gun carrier, a sergeant and he lost his leg at El Alamein and got the Military Medal and I said, “Oh God, yes.” It just turns out that Roger’s number, regimental number is one after mine, so we probably touched the Bible you know, together when we were sworn in the army so and because he was very, very fond of his brother and with that he said to me after, he said, “Well, are you looking,
do you want to give it away do you?” and I said, “Yeah.” I said, “There’s no future here.” I said, “You’ve got to work 12 months a year and not 3 months of a year.” “Well,,” he said, “well I’ll write some letters.” He said, “I’ll give you the names of some people to go and see in Adelaide,” and so I came down to town and I went up to, they were in Flinders Street at the time and I went and asked for this person and they said, “He has been transferred to Melbourne.” And then I said, “Where can I contact Matt Jacker?” and they said, “Oh, he’s been
promoted, and he’s gone to Sydney and he’s 2IC of COR.” So with that I told them what it was all about and they said, “Well you can still go and work at Birkenhead.” So it just turns out that the pay sergeant, it was pay day for them down there, so I went in the car with him down to Birkenhead and saw what they were doing there and oh gee, this looks like a dead end job you know. You were filling drums and labelling drums and all sort of
things like that and washing out drums and that. In fact, at this stage I was still in the business and it was called ‘S & J L at Laura’ and I was still printing ‘S & JL at Laura’ on the drums that were supposed to be going to me and I was working there. So at any rate, I was supposed to do a probation for 3 months, so I did that and then one night we had to go out
through the headquarters before you could get outside the premises so I made sure I was last out and so to get my pay, so I spoke to the chap that was in charge there and I said, “What’s going on Mr Parker?” I said, “I’ve done my 3 months probation here.” And he said, “What do you mean 3 months probation?” I said, “I came down here,,” I said, “with 3 months probation and I was supposed to be given a country depot.” This was what I was promised and I told him all the people that I had contacted. So he said, “I’ll get on the phone right now,
they won’t be shut for another 10 minutes,” and nobody knows anything about me. So I said, “In this case I’m not staying here.” I was riding a bike from Woodville at that stage to Birkenhead and you know, it was head wind in the morning and head wind at night, it always changed around and so, then at that stage then, Cleo, my wife’s cousin, he was a superintendent at Holden, and I was boarding there before we were married and so he said, “I’ll get you a job,”
so I went down there and I learnt building motor cars and so I stayed there, I think if was for about 3 years, I think. That was that and I worked myself up to a working leading hand but then I realised that my nerves weren’t as good as I thought they were, because the constant banging and banging with metal and
as soon as the noise stopped my head used to spin and I thought it was the silence that was worrying me. So I went to see, it just so happened that my army doctor, Dr Yateman was also our doctor out at, where we were living out there so I asked him about it and he said, “No, I think you are getting a bit of reaction from the war.” He said, “Nerves are a funny thing.” He said, “There is about 38 different types of nerves,” – and he pointed
them all out to me – “not that you’re scared or anything like that, it’s reacting to your whole body you know, from what went on.” So he said, “I’d advise you to get out of that noisy job straight away,” he said. So it just turned out that we left Woodville then and we went to live at Goodwin, and my wife’s mother’s cousin had a big home there and we had divided it into 2 and we had a part of it for quite a while until I bought this block
and built and so and then the chap that was doing all the renovations one day, his father was ill and couldn’t help him so I said, “Oh, I’ll give you a hand,” one weekend he was doing some weekend work. And so he said, “What do you do for a living?” So I told him what I was doing and he said, “Oh, do you want a job?” and I thought this will do me, so I was helping him you know doing a bit of concrete work and a bit of brick work and painting and that sort of thing so I did that for quite a while
with him and then he had a nervous breakdown, I don’t know whether I gave it to him or not, so then I thought, oh well, I got a job with another chap and I stuck that out for 3 years and then I decided it was time I got out on my own, so I approached the Housing Trust and I contracted painting contract with them right until I retired in November 1983, so about 19 years, I did that.
friendship, the mateship and things. I mean, you can’t buy that in civilian life. I have on occasions, I’ve put myself through a lot of work since the war with youth sport. Did quite a lot. That’s why I’m a life member of 2 sporting clubs as well at the Rats of Tobruk and the 2/48th Battalion. And at one stage there, probably the greatest goal thrower Australia has ever seen,
a chap called Michael Ragger down at Brighton said to me one day, he said, “But you wouldn’t really know Murray, what team works means do you?” I said, “Michael,,” I said, “you are barking up the wrong tree. I know more about teamwork than what you will ever learn,” and then I quoted to him “Not only do you rely on the chap next to you for support, you rely on a section, a platoon, a battalion, a brigade, a division.” And I said
‘The army, the whole army and they rely on the navy, they rely on the air force. We are a team.” And I said, “That’s how it all works. This is nothing as big as that, Michael. Don’t lecture me on teamwork whatever you do.” Very nicely, I didn’t. And he looked at me and he said, “God, I always open my mouth at the wrong time.” sort of thing. So this is what I’ve gained. Now like, the Rats of Tobruk. Money, power. I mean,
Kerry Packer [media magnate] couldn’t join. John Howard [Prime Minister] couldn’t join the Rats of Tobruk. You had to be there to be a member and we are unique and very proud, there’s not many of us left, but we are a very proud association and I’m very proud to be their vice president and doing a lot of work for them and sort of thing. That’s the sort of thing I’ve gained out of the war, mateship really. I’ve never seen a cross word, an argument
no matter, Anzac Day and someone’s got a few under the weather I’ve never seen a nasty word said to one of our mates. This is something you probably can’t say to all civilians can you. So this is what I think I’ve gained out of the war and looking at that and seeing I survived and probably gave my mother a terrible hard time and what she went through,
I probably will never know, but apart from that I’m proud of what I did and what I may have achieved.