Arthur Newton
Archive number: 1130
Preferred name: Newton
Date interviewed: 25 November, 2003

Served with:

2/17th Battalion
Director of Infantry – Vietnam

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Arthur Newton 1130

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Transcript

Tape 01

01:00:30:00

Thank you for doing this today. To begin with I just want a summary of your service career. Can you tell me a little bit about where you were born and where you grew up, where you joined

01:01:00:00

up and where you served?
I belonged to a family, my father was a marine engineer, I was born in Geelong 1910 and there were five children in our family, another boy and three sisters and my mother and we lived in Geelong.

01:01:30:00

My father was a marine engineer working with the harbour trust on the bucket dredges When war started the government decided to build a naval base in Western Australia, and he evidently applied for a position there and he went to Western Australia about 1915, leaving my

01:02:00:00

mother with five children, the eldest was my sister and she was thirteen or so and the youngest only about four or five. We remained in Geelong another year while my father was in Western Australia. In Western Australia this naval base they were building there, and big bucket dredge from India

01:02:30:00

that came out. A year after my father went there and it was getting about 1916 my mother had to pack up and we moved over to Fremantle, we lived at Fremantle at two addresses in that time, from 1916 I think

01:03:00:00

when we arrived there until 1925 and we left again to go back to Melbourne. What happened at the naval base was it was constructed or under construction and they had several dredges and this huge bucket dredge called the Sir William Matthews and it use dredge the channel down from Fremantle. In those days to get into Fremantle any ship had

01:03:30:00

to go north and come around Rottnest Island and there was not enough water or it wasn’t deep enough for the ships to come into places like Kwinana,which didn’t exist in those days. This dredge, we lived in two addresses, for a month or two we were in east Fremantle and when I was at the ripe old age of about eleven

01:04:00:00

my mother said to my sister who was three years older than me “Kathleen here’s ten shillings I want you to take Arthur with you to Beaconsfield in Fremantle and see this lady who has a house to let there”, we only rented this house in east Fremantle. We took off and my sister, who was three years older

01:04:30:00

and I was about ten then we saw this lady and the thing that impressed us very much was and it didn’t existing in that house, we were chasing a sewerage system. We paid the ten shillings and we moved in and stayed there until 1925. What happened at the naval base,

01:05:00:00

when the war had finished, my father by the way was the chief engineer on this dredge and at one stage he took me out while they were dredging and I was horrid for a week and very much ashamed by the fact they use to start at 6.30 in the morning dredge this channel. The dredge would move up the coast about ten mile and dump the

01:05:30:00

load of soil, or what they had taken out of the sea. They’d finish at half past two and much to my amazement, my father and the whole crew use to sit around a long table on the deck and play poker, and I thought that that was scandalous that my father with the money, all pennies I might add. I didn’t know whether to tell my mother on him or not but I never.

01:06:00:00

In 1919 the Australian Government and the war had finished didn’t know whether to go on and finish the naval base. They brought out from England the chief of the navy there called Admiral Jellicoe and I suggested

01:06:30:00

that I’m the only person in Australia at this moment who saw Admiral Jellicoe on that trip because I had to start early secondary school and I was only eight. The day that I was to attend Christian Brothers College I was going to in Fremantle on a Monday. My father took me down to the naval base and

01:07:00:00

I stood on the deck of this big dredge the Sir William Matthews and a chap called Patty Troy, who’s son later was quite a notable fellow in the navy seaman union, young Patty who went to school with me. Old Patty Troy the captain was standing on the deck and my little nose was just poking over the side and Admiral Jellicoe was a great rep,

01:07:30:00

there were naval officers on the jetty and he came along the jetty and he stopped. When he saw captained up on the dredge and I can always remember what he said “It’s a lovely morning isn’t it Captain?”, knowing that Patty Troy only having one eye, he sort of snapped and said “Yes sir”. But I think I’m the only person in Australia at the present time that saw

01:08:00:00

Admiral Jellicoe on that occasion, and as I say I was only eight years old. The result of that was that they did not go on with the construction of the naval base in Western Australia, there was no naval construction there until the last ten or fifteen years that it was completed. We were all down there and again

01:08:30:00

it was a break in the family fortune. My father remained at the base, beside the dredge there were a number of smaller tugboats and what not all mixed up and his job for nearly twelve months was to maintain the engines and check them out. The big dredge

01:09:00:00

remained in Western Australia and I don’t know what has happened to it since then. All this tugboats, dumb hopper barges, they are barges without any engines were towed over to the eastern states in 1924. My father went as engineer on one of these little tugboats

01:09:30:00

you wouldn’t think of sailing them on the lake here at the present time. Towing two of these steel hopper barges straight across the Australian Bight around to Newcastle. When they were going around the coast of Victoria to go north they woke up one morning and realised that one of the barges that they were towing had broken away

01:10:00:00

and drifted off, where it finished up probably in South America, I don’t know. That was how it was, my father was in the eastern states because it was no good coming back to Western Australia they didn’t have any ships based, they did have ships but any job he had to get as a marine engineer was in the eastern states so we were without our father for another twelve months. Then he was employed by the

01:10:30:00

Port Phillip pilots that worked off Queenscliff as a chief marine engineer there, they had two engineers. They took over a ship, or he took it over, when I say he did he was employed up in Sydney getting this thing called the Lacuna which had been the German

01:11:00:00

Governor of New Guinea’s own personal boat in New Guinea and the navy captured it. They used it for a while, it was Humour I think they called it. It appears in the naval history. The last twelve months before my father took it over

01:11:30:00

it had been laid up in Sydney. He was employed as an engineer on this and had to get it ready for sea. When he was apart of the crew that went down to Port Phillips Head near Queenscliff. That was the signal then the rest of the family, my mother with the five children could come back to Victoria.

01:12:00:00

We came over in 1925 so the background was that for two years of their married life my mother was completely separated from my father because of his duty.
What other memories do you have of Fremantle?

01:12:30:00

Fremantle itself, I went to the Christian Brothers school there later, that’s virtually the heart of Fremantle and then there’s another state school, Fremantle Boys School not far away, of course there was great envy we would be boasting going home and then we played football together five minutes later.

01:13:00:00

The wharfs are a great attraction there, I doubt there were many ships that came into Fremantle harbour in my day there and in a lot of case I even went aboard them. We couldn’t walk down, in our school lunch hour across the Fremantle park and it’s probably still there, down to the wharf and the lumbers would be working

01:13:30:00

in those days, there were a lot of men working on the wharfs, and they’d often drop a case of fruit or something and we’d sometimes finish up with an apple on the way. It was very interesting place and I always had the impression that when we were first there that we were be there for a long long time. In those days when you were seventeen you had to do

01:14:00:00

military or navy training and I had the impression that I’d become a naval cadet. Which of course I didn’t because we moved before that happened, but it was an interest place.
How did you get on without your father for those two years?
We had a very wonderful mother and

01:14:30:00

we wrote, and got letters, I’d get letters from my father and he was good at writing letters. We were just without him, it was a great job for my mother to bring us up. My eldest sister was eight years older than me,

01:15:00:00

the other one was three years older and the other two children, my sister was about eighteen months younger than I. My younger brother unfortunately and it was a great strain on my mother with him because he was born deaf. In those days they didn’t have any opportunities and he could have come across to the eastern states, they had deaf schools

01:15:30:00

for him. In Western Australia or Fremantle there wasn’t anything like that. My mother didn’t want to be separated from him, there was an opportunity to sent him over to a deaf college in New South Wales. My mother him being the youngest child amongst other things didn’t want to part with him so he attended school with me, it was a strain on him.

01:16:00:00

Even at the breakfast table he could talk but his hearing was very bad, we never spoke loud enough for him, which was really sad. When we got over to Victoria we were in Melbourne at a placed called Moltan, we were there and there was a very good deaf school

01:16:30:00

in Melbourne and he attended there and he improved no end. But he was always deaf and he died in New Guinea about twenty or thirty years ago and he was working up there and he was involved in an accident. The vehicle he was with, he was killed anyway.
Fremantle,

01:17:00:00

there was great rivalry between the two local football teams, East Fremantle and South Fremantle and it was a big day when they clash together. There was a lot just after the war had finished all the soldiers returning from overseas came through there. I can remember

01:17:30:00

boat loads of soldier and they had a big army hospital in south Fremantle on the edge of the city itself. If you went to the football match there was always soldiers in wheel chairs to come along to see the game. It was an interesting place, a great rivalry

01:18:00:00

with the local football teams between South Fremantle and East Fremantle.
Who did you support?
South Fremantle. We lived at a place called Beaconsfield, which was really in South Fremantle area. East Fremantle was the other one and they use to call it the Fremantle Derby every time when the two teams clashed and they had about eight teams.

01:18:30:00

I saw the first Victorian team play there in about 1924, Essendon from Melbourne came over and it was big time and we went to see Subiaco to see this wonderful Essendon team. They had a number

01:19:00:00

of very short chaps, rovers and forwards and they called them the mosquito fleet. They were champion little footballers and Essendon I think were the leading team in Victoria and it was big time for us wee backward Western Australians to see the team. It was 1924 and in those days

01:19:30:00

the Australian Rules which only consisted of Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. They use to send state teams and have a competition and in 1924 it was in Hobart in Tasmania and this Essendon team played the sort of best second out of

01:20:00:00

eighteen in the Western Australian team. Victoria was a big deal in those days and I always remember the captain of the team was the fireman, he was a big fellow, and they had all these rovers and wingmen

01:20:30:00

and they were called the mosquito fleet.
What other interests did you have as a boy other than football?
Fishing was a great thing, we always finished up down at the wharfs at night and we’d clambering around the wharf, underneath go down and fish until midnight. I never seemed to catch many fish but they always

01:21:00:00

seemed to give me a couple to go home with, so to allude my family that I was catching them. The other great thing there was going to get crabs and prawns in the Swan River. Looking back on it it was a great place for young people. There was a place called Point Wharf

01:21:30:00

along the river that it was a place to have picnics and the trams would go around.
You talked about the soldiers coming back to Fremantle, what did you know about the First World War?
The main thing was you saw these fellows, I even remember seeing them going away at one stage

01:22:00:00

and you got use to seeing chaps without an arm or with one leg. It gave you a very unhappy impression of what war was all about, it wasn’t good.
What do you remember about Anzac Day as a boy?
Nothing, I can say.

01:22:30:00

I don’t know when they actually introduced Anzac Day to be honest. I can’t remember it at all. The worst feature that we had as a child when we lived at a place called East Fremantle in a street called Holland street

01:23:00:00

it was on the direct path to the cemetery and they had the great flu epidemic just after the war in 1919 or 1920. Every funeral went past our home and they were all horse drawn hearses. That gave a big impression that anybody who had the flu at that time they had to have a yellow flag outside their house,

01:23:30:00

to say ‘keep out we have the flu’. They called it the Spanish influenza, I don’t know the number of deaths but it was pretty considerate all over Australia, particularly there because there were so many people coming in, the migrants and so on at the time.

01:24:00:00

Another impression I had was ship loads of British migrants coming in after the war and some of them would always play a soccer match on the Fremantle path which was our football ground too, our school was very much near the center of the city.

01:24:30:00

People who got off the ships would play soccer where we played Australian Rules.
What other nationalities did you see in Fremantle at that time?
Italians, I use to go as a kid when we use to live at Beaconsfield we’d go down for a morning swim, I learnt to swim down there.

01:25:00:00

The boys in the area would probably be pinching fruit of trees as we passed and we’d finish up down there and sometimes we’d go around to what they called the Diego’s Jetty, which was the Fifty Jetty. Most of the fishing as done by the Italians

01:25:30:00

because there were a lot of Italians there at the time. A lot of Chinese too, when I was at the shops there would be shop fronts with Chinese food.
Can you describe your house at Beaconsfield?
In East Fremantle we lived at Holland street and we rented,

01:26:00:00

my mother or family didn’t buy a house there but in 1941 it wasn’t bad there. It wasn’t sewered to start with so you had a little place up the back of the yard and people came around and cleaned it once a week. In the house

01:26:30:00

we didn’t have a bathroom or as such, but there was a place at the back, which was sort of a washroom and bathroom. I don’t think there was a shower, I don’t quite know how we covered ourselves with water. The house we had in Beaconsfield was a bit more modern, it was sewered,

01:27:00:00

it was quite a comfortable house. It wasn’t that many bedrooms in it because my brother and I we always slept on the front verandah, winter and summer. There was only two bedrooms, one for my sisters and one for my parents. There was a bit of a dinning room in the kitchen but this was the house

01:27:30:00

that Kathleen my sister who was three years older had selected and it was quite a nice place to have a lawn in the front but not much of it.
The one they called Beaconsfield and there was the Hymns family,

01:28:00:00

I could recall there was a funny little house opposite us this. This Hymn family were estate agents themselves and they had kids about our age.

01:28:30:00

I can remember them doing well they didn’t have many fights but they both sang, they use to come out on their verandahs on the higher side of the street to us and we’d often hear them singing. In the street we were in there was a paddock on either side but the rest of it there were all types of house there. Mary street it was called

01:29:00:00

at the top end of the street they were all pilots, all the ships had to have a pilot to get them into Fremantle harbour and the pilots were generally sea captains with plenty of experience. At the top end of Mary street there were about a half a dozen two-storey houses of pilot quarters or barracks.

01:29:30:00

I don’t know whether they rented them or not during their service.
What sort of sings would they sing?
Sentimental songs, I can’t recall the names of them now. They come out on the verandah and there was a girl Hymn

01:30:00:00

roughly about my age and she was in the same class as me but in a girls school somewhere around there. Marjorie was the little girl who use to come over to our house and she’d look around and say “Where’s that boy” I think she was scared of us.

01:30:30:00

What sort of entertainment would you have as a family?
In those days all they had was the silent pictures, there was a theatre called the Kings Theatre. The school I went to we had a concert there every year. I suppose films was the only ones. Talking about films

01:31:00:00

I remember Prince of Wales came out and visited Australia in 1919 or 1920 and they had a essay competition for the school kids and I got a third prize. I got a months ticket worth, they had continuous silent films

01:31:30:00

and I’d take half a dozen fellows down with this ticket go in and stay inside for about twenty minutes and come out and give it to another bloke. That was I think the chief entertainment, there were dances. My sister who was eight years older

01:32:00:00

than I, she was a very smart women but sadly my mother was always delicate with health and Emily when she became a teenager she went to work for quite some time, she was in my opinion a very talented person and she could have gone on in more modern times.

01:32:30:00

She had to stay with my mother and do most of the housework which wasn’t what you’d say happiness. The milkmen in those days use to call with a can of milk and go out with a billycan or jug and he’d give you a pint.

01:33:00:00

We had a man called Mr Glenright who looked an old man to me but he must have been in his forties because he had a son my age that went to school with me. My sister Emily use to go to the door with the milk jug to get the family milk.

01:33:30:00

One day she went to the door and instead of Mr Glenright being there was a handsome young man called Arthur Robinson and she got the milk off him. Him and his family lived some distance from us a little outside of East Fremantle. They’d pass us when they went to church.

01:34:00:00

This chap with the milk jug he was also a marine engineer and he and my sister Emily got married but it was some years later.

01:34:30:00

He was an engineer too on a ship called Mandaroo running up to Singapore and places up the north coast. Every now and again the ship would be in Fremantle, if it was a Sunday they’d always have to have an engineer on duty and it was Arthur’s turn, Robby we use to call him, turn to be the engineer.

01:35:00:00

He escorted Emily to go down and visit him on the ship and they’d give me a bunch of bananas or he would and say “Nick off”. It turned into a great romance and they married some years later and he came over from Western Australia to marry her.

01:35:30:00

He was a marine engineer too on the ships running from Melbourne to Tasmania. Robby and my eldest sister in the depression years, my parents died within twelve months of each other at the age of sixty and I was

01:36:00:00

eighteen or nineteen at the time. My regret is I didn’t know them as an adult, I can always remember my father he would have a whisky at night, this would have been the last twelve months of his life and my mother died in 1929. I intended to be the

01:36:30:00

managing director of a firm called International Harvester Company of Australia, an American firm that I had worked since I was fourteen. A week or two after my mother had died on my nineteenth birthday, this was 1929 the Australian Government had stopped the import of anything that could be manufactured in Australia

01:37:00:00

and the only thing the International Harvester could keep going, and they lost a lot of work through it and they also lost me too so instead of becoming the manager they gave me the great old he ho on my nineteenth birthday. Less than twelve months later, my father was quite healthy man got pneumonia, which was a killer in those days and he

01:37:30:00

died so I never ever knew them as an adult and that is one of my regrets that I have in life. I know a lot about my father's sea going, I will always remember him having a whisky before going to bed at night, and he would have this dreadful old stuff and I believed him I think.
How did you

01:38:00:00

enjoy living in Melbourne?
We lived in two places, both in Malvern. We had a nice place there and the interesting side of it was that next door to us there was a young chap about my age with his mother

01:38:30:00

and an aunty, no father. His name was Tom Longstar, Wil Longstar had painted the famous picture ‘the ghost of being gate’ and Wil Longstar was his father, but he left his wife in England I think. I remember

01:39:00:00

Robert, his mother and her sister I think it was, I think they made a trip to England once, old Wil Longstar apparently according to Tom recently here, he didn’t have any children but he had an adopted lass and she made the statement here only a few years

01:39:30:00

ago “Wil Longstar was the famous painter and dumped his wife and taken off with a French girl”, or something, she was critical of him. He was a good artist but not a good man. Tom only died a few years ago in New Zealand and he was a good friend of mine,

01:40:00:00

he lived with his aunt and mother and suddenly have a family with five kids live next door to him was a bit of a shock to the system but he was a great friend of mine.
Interviewee: Arthur Newton Archive ID 1130 Tape 02

02:00:30:00

The Catholic young men’s society, you joined them?
Yes, they did everything, they had football, cricket and so on and I joined them. I can always remember joining them, I went up, they use to have a meeting at the church hall on a Monday and I must of met somebody who nominated me. I remember walking in

02:01:00:00

and there were chaps about my age and some a few older, there was one family with a chap called Mick Noland and he was quite well known. In fact this chaps brother married my younger sister. I was introduced as Mr Newton at the rip old age of seventeen.

02:01:30:00

That gave me the opportunity for me to meet chaps my own age and played football, cricket and tennis with them. They had a catholic society football competition in Melbourne, so you traveled everywhere, Port Melbourne and they were always a rough crowd down in Port Melbourne. I always remember as a footballer,

02:02:00:00

and they also had debating’s and things like that, so it was a good break for me which I did by mixing with chaps of my own age.
What did you do when your father died at nineteen?

02:02:30:00

The firm had given me the old heave ho and I had a most interesting, I was going to say experience but an interesting life. We didn’t own the house but we rented this house in Gordon Grove and my mother died in the house. My father who was a

02:03:00:00

Sea-going block, a lot of those times they had superstitions. He was an Englishman by the way he came from northern England, Newcastle. It was called a Geordie in those days and he came out to Australia as a ships engineer.

02:03:30:00

This is one of the sad things in life because I don’t know exactly how he met his mother, I think he only came out one voyage and left the ship. I don’t know what happened in those days because you didn’t have to migrate. Australia was really run by England and

02:04:00:00

it must have been at the end of 1890s. How he and my mother met I don’t know because she was a country girl, from outside of Ballarat somewhere. I don’t know where she was working whether it was in a hotel or a boarding house or what, we have never really got the idea. There is a young nephew of mine who is writing our family history and

02:04:30:00

he wrote that he believes his mother, my sister, apparently told him that my father came out from England on a ship and met my mother and went back to England on the ship and then came back to stay. I don’t think so I think he only made one voyage to Australia, but we will never quite know, but how they met I don’t know.

02:05:00:00

My mother was catholic and we were but my father wasn’t, he died a catholic in the end. They were

02:05:30:00

great lovers and they were both remarkable in many ways. I say the sad part is, you didn’t have a drink until you were twenty one in my youth, and I’m sorry I never even had a whisky or a beer with my father as adults, its hard to explain. I learnt a lot

02:06:00:00

about his voyage and what not. He married my mother and then my eldest sister was born after a couple of years of marriage he was on a ship called the Archibald Curry Liners Steamers and they ran from Sydney,

02:06:30:00

I think that was the home port, Melbourne and then they’d go overseas to India. This was the turn of the century the beginning of the 1900s. They didn’t have ships wireless, when the ship would leave Melbourne on the way, my mother lived in Melbourne, we did live in Geelong when I lived there but the first part when Emily my eldest sister was born

02:07:00:00

they lived in Melbourne. You can image that ship would arrived there from Sydney and it was a passenger ship and it would go from there to India. She wouldn’t hear a word from him for months, it could have been sunk, there was no way of knowing, it must have been a terrific experience for them.

02:07:30:00

He gave up the sea I think, and he joined the Harbour Trust in Geelong, and that’s why we moved from Melbourne to Geelong and that’s where I was born and my younger sister and brother. He was working on a dredge there for the Harbour Trust.

02:08:00:00

My mother had two sessions where they were completely separated for twelve months, it wasn’t because they didn’t like each other it was because of the conditions.
Your mother died shortly after your father?
No she died before.
What did you do when your parents died?

02:08:30:00

I’m coming to that. My sister Emily the eldest she married Robby the milkman and he was on the Hollyman Line the running between Melbourne and Tasmania. They’d sail on the Monday and be home by Friday, only a week away.

02:09:00:00

Emily instead of getting a house of their own she stayed with us, they were boarding and they lived with us. It was a fairly big house we had

02:09:30:00

in Melbourne. My mother had always been delicate really, she really

02:10:00:00

brought up the family without a great deal of support from her husband who was always away with the sea going business. Emily, my sister was with us in this house and when

02:10:30:00

my mother died my father was very superstitious as sailors are in many ways. He couldn’t live in the house without my mother so we got a house in Melbourne in Victoria, they call it Armadale now. My father took this house and Emily moved with us and I

02:11:00:00

got the old heave ho and my second sister had a job with a solicitor in Melbourne. I think Emily rented the house and my father and the rest of us were all there and Robby would only be home on the weekends.

02:11:30:00

When my father died and I got the bullet as I said, we all stayed under the one roof with him. It was quite a roomy house and there were enough bedrooms for us, it was one of these old fashion houses and it had a maid’s room at the back and that was my fathers and my room

02:12:00:00

when he was still alive and we shared it and then I had it later. My sister Emily kept us all, when I say kept us all Kathleen had the job with the solicitor’s office in Melbourne and Miriam my younger sister she was still at school at that stage,

02:12:30:00

but we all lived with her. The thing I had to do was get a job and I met an extraordinary man by the name of Denny Sheen. I was out of work and I remember one of the jobs that I applied for, I read it in the paper and it was selling crumpets and something else.

02:13:00:00

It was in Caulfield, from here to the Dickson shops to go to this place. It had a little shop in a side street, he sold I think buns and crumpets. He’d give us a big tray with these things on and I think we paid him four pence or tuppence or something.

02:13:30:00

We’d go down the street knocking on doors trying to selling them. I remember walking from Caulfield to St Kilda. I’d say from here to nearly Lyneham down the street and I took tuppence and I sold half a dozen crumpets. At this stage somebody introduced me to Denny Sheen

02:14:00:00

and I was out of paid work and he had started a tea round, selling tea, or delivering to the customers that was all on a bike. He had an accident, he hit a car riding his bike and smashed his hand

02:14:30:00

and somebody said “Can’t Arthur take over doing his work” and I met Denny for the first time. He was a man old enough to be my father, but he was quite an extraordinary man with a beautiful voice he was a wonderful singer. He had been in sales shoes but I don’t know why he was out, but the firm must of paid him off or something.

02:15:00:00

He had the idea that we’d start coffee, I was still running this tea business, I was getting two bob that I had to borrow of dear old Emily for many years. He was a bachelor

02:15:30:00

and he got a little shop in Melbourne, I think we paid six shillings a week, it was just off the Glenferrie road and it was a very busy road and the shops were very big, but we paid six shillings a week for this shop. Denny introduced me to roasting coffee, he had seen there was

02:16:00:00

a coffee shop in South Yarra and they had a big proper roaster in the front window and he got a book, I’ve never read it, called ‘Yonkers on coffee”. He constructed a ten pound tea tins, round tins in those days of tea and he found the tins.

02:16:30:00

He made this thing and it was about that big and punched holes all the way around in the side. He fitted a broom handle with metal around it, it went into the tin and with this introduction to the various coffee. I can remember half of the

02:17:00:00

places where they brewed coffee. He’d get the raw beans and we’d roast three pound of raw beans pushing this thing, it takes you about forty-five minutes. We just had a gas ring in the back of the shop, and it push this roaster, three quarters of an hour to get it roasted. Then

02:17:30:00

we had to grind the coffee and that was easy, but if you were roasting it you can’t let it stop you had to have it on. We had two pieces of wood with a nail at each end and it went bang, bang, bang, for three quarters of an hour and of course three pounds of raw beans when it roasted they wouldn’t weigh quite as much.

02:18:00:00

Then Denny he got square tea tins about that wide and about that high and he painted them all brown and put the most extraordinary names where coffee was grown on them, actually there wasn’t anything in them but one would have coffee. Strangely enough

02:18:30:00

we sold quite a lot of this, we roasted the coffee. My brother who was a carpenter at the time, without my knowledge on the top of the shop one morning there was this great sign that looked like a coffee pot, it had coffee down it, they had made it and put it up on the roof of the place. People from Toorak who were people supposedly from a high grade suburb,

02:19:00:00

some ladies would come over and buy our coffee rather than go into the Mutual [department] stores. We had this coffee business going and this was from 1930. They had a market

02:19:30:00

that went broke in Melbourne, with about a dozen stalls inside this area, there were only two left a fruiter at the entrance and this thing. Denny, this market had been built on a property that had been a doctor’s residence

02:20:00:00

and the doctor at that time, this is going back to the 1920s, they all went around in a sulking or something and at the back of the place was still left there, it was quite a modern place. There was a residence and a stable at the back, Denny got the job of being the caretaker for the market area

02:20:30:00

but he got free lodging at the back, it was a two roomed sort of a place so he had free accommodation. We also sold Geelong butter there, and I use to have to borrow five pound of my sister

02:21:00:00

Emily who I was living with and she kept us all going. When I sold the butter I’d pay off the butter that I had brought from her . I kept up with Denny and we mentioned all these names of coffees and we’d sell them to

02:21:30:00

the church halls that would run dances, they would want a couple of pounds a coffee to make coffee. I got mixed up in other things too and in the end I was working for a friend of mine who had a bakery. I use to have

02:22:00:00

to get there about five o’clock in the morning and in those days the bread chaff went around all the streets. I’d have to give the bread out and then be there in the afternoon when they came back to take the takings so I got a few bob that way. The break came, I had

02:22:30:00

always been in the militia. In my day when I was seventeen you had to train, it was compulsory military training. After twelve months with the cadets you joined the units of various types.

02:23:00:00

This is the thing about the army, as a senior cadet I was a member at the ripe old age of seventeen and parading at the Caulfield drill hall we had to stripe down to our underpants and get examined by a doctor, I had never seen so many naked bodies in all my life.

02:23:30:00

We use to have to train on a Saturday morning and I was working then, the firm they had let you go if you worked on a Saturday morning, it was once a fortnight. We had to go and do our military training and

02:24:00:00

you didn’t get paid for it of course. By the time I got the sack, after twelve months as a senior cadet you had to join the

02:24:30:00

compulsory units and I always went along to the drill hall, I forget which one it was, I think it is the Caulfield drill hall from memory. There was a splendid looking figure of an army officer there. I was working

02:25:00:00

at the International Harvester Company at this stage and I spent two years down at a place called Spotswood in Melbourne, writing out the consignment notices and tagging all the farm machinery going out by rail. So I jumped into more sixteen ton trucks than you could poke a stick at. I don’t know how many tractors

02:25:30:00

I consigned and put tags on and where they were going and then took the stuff over to the railway station to get the proper things on the trucks. I did this for quite some time, I did two years down Spotswood and I recon I knew a lot about tractors. When I finished my

02:26:00:00

senior cadet training they had a parade in the middle of the year at the drill hall where the outside units, the various infantry battalions the army, artillery units. There was this splendid army officer there and he said “I represent the medium artillery brigade”, he said “We have got six pound of gun

02:26:30:00

and six-inch howitzers and what’s more”, he said “they have gone by tractors”, and the word tractors any resemblance between a farm tractor and a tractor pulling a gun is just incidental. As soon as he said ‘tractors’, he said “does anyone want to volunteer

02:27:00:00

can join my unit”. There were about half of a dozen of us that stepped forward and I stepped forward and I knew all about tractors. I don’t think I was ten feet high and I was back in the squad and then the next fellow came around and he said “I belong to

02:27:30:00

such and such a field artillery brigade”, he said “We have got smaller guns, eighteen pounder and four point five inch howitzers”. He said “We have also got one battery to pull my tractors”,

02:28:00:00

tractors was the word for me so I dashed out and stood out with a few of the other blokes. He didn’t want ten feet high blokes so I became a field artillery man. You then had to do compulsory training and you had to train so many nights a

02:28:30:00

week, you did a camp and so on. I became a field gunner and compulsory and I went to the last compulsory military camps that they held in the beginning of 1929 because you went there and there were horses pulling the guns. A friend of ours had a farm somewhere

02:29:00:00

and I use to ride a pony up there now and then on holidays and I remember going to this camp as a gunner. No that’s right I was a signaler and I thought that signalers would be sending words at nineteen words a minute. I swatted up and learnt the Morse code and got into the first camp, I got in with these other signalers

02:29:30:00

who I hadn’t seen, they had been in the army for some years ahead of me. You had a special band on your arm and I had a friend of mine who was on the railways and people use to have to learn Morse code and I knew all the words, dot, dash, dot, dot or whatever. I got into the railway train with the

02:30:00:00

signal people and they had a special arm band on, the corporal he was in charge of the battery signalers. I thought ‘I know this and they wont know a thing’. I always remember him saying to one of his mates “Is a dot dash, or dash dot”, I didn’t realised that I knew more about the Morse code then they did.

02:30:30:00

The first camp I went to they had horses for drawing the guns and so on, about fourteen in the signal mounts for the signalers. I use to sit on a gun and when they wanted to put the breaks on I had to jump out

02:31:00:00

and I’d put a hand brake on at the back of the gun. After a few days in the camp, I think it was fourteen days in the camp it was compulsory. One of the bosses said “There are too many horses being left on the line, some of you fellows if you can ride can you get them out”.

02:31:30:00

I put my hand up and said that I could ride, you went out in half sections, two horses together. On this particular day we came to a paddock and they opened the gates and we went and the officer running the show said “From here up that hill there it’s under fire”, you had to image it was under fire and he said

02:32:00:00

“You can’t go up in groups”. That’s right, I went out and said that I could ride a horse so I was riding this great thing at the outfit. He said “You go up in twos and leave about two or three hundred yards between each group because technically you were under fire” The first two went off, the next two and so on and

02:32:30:00

when it came to what I thought was the last two I found I was the last one and I was on this great horse, I don’t know how I got up on it every time a couple went off this horse would want to rear and they had curb chains in those days so you could pull them up. After a while off they went and then it was my turn to go so

02:33:00:00

I let my horse have its head a bit and I think I got to the top of the hill before the others. I realised there was no mucking about riding an army horse. That was the last compulsory camp they held in the services, by the end of the year the Australian government removed the compulsory courses out so

02:33:30:00

it was all volunteers from then on. If you were in the show like I was as an artillery man you could volunteer to be a militia man. By that time I went when I finished this camp with the horse I went to a riding school at night down at South Melbourne,

02:34:00:00

every fortnight or so for a couple of hours and learnt to ride a bit more elegantly I suppose. I got keen on the gunnery business and this is how small things have a great effect on you. At the end of that year they

02:34:30:00

cut out compulsory training and you could volunteer for the militia so I enjoyed the camp.
I thought that I might be in the militia now, this was in 1929 and I was still sort of employed then and I had to make the decision. When I got the old heave ho from

02:35:00:00

the International HarvesterCompany I still had the military camps and at least you got paid something for that.
Did you stay in the militia while your coffee business was going?
Yes, there was no problem there. They use to have night parades once a fortnight, and occasionally a weekend bivouac somewhere

02:35:30:00

north of Melbourne. I kept on and eventually I became a sergeant in this thing. This went on in the 1930s trying to sell coffee

02:36:00:00

and I worked for this baker friend who use to send out his bread carts. In 1935 they ran a course

02:36:30:00

serving permanent soldiers who in those days they were mostly coast artillery man, there was no real regular army as such. They ran a course for people to join the Australian Instructional Course, it was only opened to permanent soldiers at a small arms school in Randwick.

02:37:00:00

The course ran for about six months and it only had I think about twenty or thirty chaps on the course. Most of them came from the coast artillery and I think someone in the army realised they were robbing Peter to pay Paul and if they took all the coast gunners they wouldn’t have anything left. The following

02:37:30:00

year they advertised the course that the militia man could apply to attend this course and at the end of that time they would be warrant officers, in what they called the Australian instructional course, it doesn’t exist anymore at the moment.

02:38:00:00

I saw my regular sergeant major at the artillery unit I was with and I said to him “Sir what do you think about it?” and he said “Look at me son, a quid a day and plenty of sunshine”, he was a warrant officer, he said “Have a go at it”. Much to my surprise

02:38:30:00

I went to a selection down at Victoria barracks and I don’t really know the number, but there were about one hundred at least all ranks, militia men and some were officers, some were gunners and I was a sergeant I think in the artillery at that stage.

02:39:00:00

They had a parade, when I say parade they had a chap who you had to go and be interviewed and have a medical. I remember going to my dentist, who had been a army dentist and I told him I just wanted

02:39:30:00

to make sure I had good teeth, so I could pass my dental and medical. This chap said “I was a dentist in the First [World] War”, Adams his name was and he said “I’ll fix you up I know what the requirement is”.
When I went and got examined by the regular army dentist, actually I think it was an air force dentist

02:40:00:00

but he was still the army one too. He congratulated me on my good teeth. We went up before this selection board and they said “The following people,

02:40:30:00

fall out”, because they had been selected for further examine and my name wasn’t amongst them. Then at the last minute he said “There were three more”, and I was one that could go along, more or less you didn’t have much change but you could go. I thought that I might as well as

02:41:00:00

see the whole thing out. We had to have our lunch and we went down to the drill hall back at Victoria barracks and there they examined us in giving words of command and a few technical questions. Much to my surprise three of us were selected

02:41:30:00

from Victoria, one was a major, another chap was a warrant officer in the militia and the third was me a sergeant.
Interviewee: Arthur Newton Archive ID 1130 Tape 03

03:00:30:00

Before we stopped for a break you were telling us about how you came to be selected?
I don’t know, I was selected and there were only three of us out of about one hundred in Victoria, a lot of them all sorts of ranks. Major, a bloke called Kingfisher,

03:01:00:00

another great mate of mine and he was a warrant officer and I was a sergeant. We went up to the small arms school on a six months course and that was run at that stage by a chief instructor by the name of Major John Chapman

03:01:30:00

he was a Duntroon [Royal Military College] graduate during the First War and served in the First War. He was the chief instructor and a very fine man. We were on this six month course at the end of that time we graduated, everybody, there were only

03:02:00:00

about twenty-five students on the course, one or two missed out, but the three of us from Victoria were among those who were successful. They then asked us in Victoria would we like to serve, and I might add although we were various ranks, a Major, Warrant Officer and I was the sergeant all in, because there wasn’t a regular

03:02:30:00

army like it exists now in those days. The only regular solders were in the coast artillery of Queenscliff, so we were enlisted in the coast artillery as temporary bombardiers, which is the same as a corporal’s rank. The major had to drop down. We were down at Queenscliff and some of the chaps down there went to the same course as us. When we qualified for the course we went back to Queenscliff

03:03:00:00

and we were there for quite some time. Sid the chap who had been a major he went up to Melbourne one weekend and saw a senior officer, a major in the staff corp in the regular army and said that we were still down there. Whether that had an influence on it I don’t know, but the next thing

03:03:30:00

we were on a train to Sydney. I think at that stage we were all made sergeants sort of overnight. I was in Sydney and I was at the 1st Battalion, which was a militia unit outside the back gate of Victoria Barracks in Sydney in

03:04:00:00

Moore Park and I was there for a few weeks as a sergeant. Then I was sent for by an officer that I had met when I was at the small arms school he was on the staff there but then he was the adjutant of this unit, the 56th Battalion. I went to him and he said

03:04:30:00

“You are a lucky man you are being posted to Leeton”, and I didn’t even know where Leeton was in those days in New South Wales. He said “You will be the only permanent soldier in the town, you will have the women falling over backwards”. He said “You will probably marry a rich squatter's daughter in no time”.

03:05:00:00

I got on the train to go to Leeton on a Sunday night and traveled all night and in the carriage with me was a lady with a little girl of about four or five years old. That I might add was probably the equivalent to a rich squatters daughter and that was the only one I met. He was a rice farmer

03:05:30:00

and we were probably the only people in the carriage sitting up all night and she started talking to me. She said “Where are you going?” and I said “To Leeton”. She said “I’m there, what are you going to do there?” and I said “I’m a permanent soldier and I’ve got to start a unit down there”.

03:06:00:00

She said “The militia unit, my husband who was in the First War and he was decorated with a DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal] ” she said “He’s joined the 56th”. For the life of me I can’t remember his name at the moment. When I got there as I said I had to form this company, this infantry company, it was the 56th Battalion

03:06:30:00

and there I was. The chap who was the officer in charge of it he was called Johnson he was an agent for cars, he was a car salesman and he was a good one too.

03:07:00:00

I think I was the only bloke that he never sold a car too. He was to be the company commander of the show, all he had been was he had been commissioned in the Australian Flying Corps in the First War, so what he knew about infantry soldiers was just infamous and I was there. This little girl was the closest to a rich

03:07:30:00

mans daughter I got to, he was a rice farmer and rice had only just started growing down there and they made a crop of rice they would get ten thousand pound a year for it. This little girl, I never married any rich squatters daughter.
Can you tell me what your duties were at Leeton?

03:08:00:00

I was the Sergeant Major at this stage I had been promoted to Sergeant Major in the Australian Instructional Corps. Just as a matter of interest I’m the only person that has written the history of the Australian Instructional Corps, I’ve got it in my army journal in there. There is a man who is writing one now and he’s been in touch with me and he asked me would he use

03:08:30:00

what I have written and I said “of course you can”. In a place like that they had the local people volunteer, like the father of this little girl on the train, he had been Sergeant he had DCM a Distinguished Combat Medal,

03:09:00:00

he was in the First War. He had about half a dozen other chaps who had First World War experience and they were very good to me. I was a young soldier, I didn’t have the background that they had but they said “look we were in the First War, we have forgotten all that, put us in the ranks and put us through it again”. They had kept the rank that they had obtained during the

03:09:30:00

war most of them had been sergeants. One bloke was a sergeant and I put him in to get his commission because he had served in the 56th Battalion in the First War, but unfortunately the powers at be didn’t accept it but he would have loved to have been commissioned just for six months at the most because he had reached the age of retirement.

03:10:00:00

But I couldn’t convince the people that gave the decision to make him an officer. I was there and I had to train them, from woo to go, they had nothing. The extraordinary thing was as I was about to leave Sydney to go there,

03:10:30:00

I forget who the chap was but he was a civilian working on the staff of the headquarters at 2nd Division, who was responsible for all the training of all the militia in New South Wales. This chap said to me “Don’t believe them if they tell you the stores are on their way” he said “You wont get them for a while”. So I finished up having parades down there with everybody in civilian clothes except myself.

03:11:00:00

I didn’t get any stores, or weapons or anything. So we had to improvise a hell of a lot. When the stores came it was a different matter, they were very keen people. We use to have a parade I think about once a fortnight at night-time and every now and again our men had weekend exercise

03:11:30:00

but I was responsible for everything. The commanding officer of the unit who was actually a permanent soldier, normally it wouldn’t be but they had a doctor, Dr Maxwell at a place called Cootamundra that was the headquarters of the 56th Battalion in that area. They had a company at Leeton, they had a company at Remora and something at

03:12:00:00

Wagga and something at June. The whole battalion normally considered of at least four fire companies and the support company. I had just one company, the best part of a couple of hundred. They were all jolly keen and I was keen too I suppose, being young and trying to make a name for myself.

03:12:30:00

I got on very well, the officer in charge Johnson, he didn’t know much and in fact I use to stand behind him and say ‘Stand at ease’ or ‘Attention’, and Johnny would repeat it in a loud voice. He meant well and quite a lot of the chaps,

03:13:00:00

I had to promote them or recommend their promotion to non-commissioned officers or whatever. Also train another lot of commission officers.
In the mist of it they were sending a coronation contingent over to England, for the coronation of the Queen.

03:13:30:00

They send a CO [Commanding Officer] of the unit, the militia men from Sydney, the headquarters of the battalion was in Sydney and the CO I forget his name, the colonel he’d have a look at my chaps one Saturday afternoon,

03:14:00:00

then he was keen to go to England. They picked big chaps and there was one fellow there called Neville Farrell, I suppose he was about six foot, tall and a very good looking young man but he didn’t have a uniform on. I didn’t have the uniforms to dress them at this stage.

03:14:30:00

The CO from Sydney recommended that he go up for the final selection. This chap Farrell came to me and I said “Look Neville you will go up there”, he was a very good looking you man, he was a fruit grower out at Leeton. I said “Someone will speak to you and ask why you aren’t in uniform”

03:15:00:00

I said “Be natural and tell them that they haven’t arrived”. He was one of the selected for the coronation contingent and he went over with the remainder of the people, which consisted of permanent soldiers and a lot of militia from all around Australia. They were

03:15:30:00

there for six months and they had the time of their lives there.
Apart from not having the uniforms, what type of difficulties do you think you might have had with the World War I men?
I had no difficulties with them but someone suggested that I would but they said to me

03:16:00:00

“Don’t call me sir”, they were old enough to be my father. I said “Put us in the ranks we haven’t soldiered for years now and when recon you have got the younger fellows trained tell us and we will just pack up and clear out”, they were marvelous fellows. When I left

03:16:30:00

they gave me a fountain pen engraved to me with “from ex- AIF [Australian Imperial Force] members of World War I” but unfortunately I have lost it, and they were very good. One chap called Walsh he had been an NCO [Non Commissioned Officer] in it and I recommended that he be promoted to an officer but they wouldn’t play it,

03:17:00:00

all he wanted to be was to go to the rank of the 56th Battalion, but those things happen. They were good some of them, they were good NCOs. Most of them were still there when I left there, I was there for two years.

03:17:30:00

What can you tell me about the impending war?
I was there in Leeton from 1936

03:18:00:00

until 1937, and in the meantime I did another course. At that stage I don’t think in 1936, 1937 and 1938 that there was much

03:18:30:00

thought given to it. I did another course at the small arms school. One of the things that happened to me down there I use to pick up the mail at the post office on the way home, I never had a proper drill hall we did all our drill down at the pavilion down on the ground, no floor. At the drill hall

03:19:00:00

we had a place where we kept the weapons, and office, a lecture room and it was an old local chap there who lived in a little cottage on the showground and he was the caretaker for the whole area. He was in the militia with me, everybody was given a rifle but I gave him

03:19:30:00

a handful of more blank ammunition, they make a noise but didn’t have a bullet in it. So that he could frighten people off around the place. The only thing he told me that happened was a couple of times he went out and heard noises around the area

03:20:00:00

he’d fire the rifle and all that would happen would be a couple of young lovers would scuttle out of the showground. I don’t think that anybody thought

03:20:30:00

about that at that time. I don’t recall it really. As I said I was there from 1936 to 1938 and in the meantime I did another course in the small arms school on machine guns, mortars and weapons.

03:21:00:00

One day when I was getting the mail there was a letter in it for me, they had a senior sergeant major at the Divisional 2 Div [Division] headquarters and this chap had written a personal note to me saying ‘Are you desirable in attending a physical training course in England, let me know will

03:21:30:00

you’. This was the letter that I picked up at the post office and went over to have my lunch at the boarding house. I just started the hot lunch and the bell of the house rang and Mrs Elliott went to the door and said “It’s a telegram, it’s for you”. I opened

03:22:00:00

the telegram and the telegram read: ‘Are you desiring attending at PT [Physical Training] course in England? Colonel McDonald’. He was the colonel in charge. ‘wire and let me know immediately’. I put my dinner back in the oven and raced back up to the post office and sent the signal to Colonel McDonald saying: ‘I desire attending a PT course in England.’. Umpteen years later

03:22:30:00

when I was leaving the army I still had this telegram and I went along to the people at army headquarters and I said “I retire next week, you fellows are not likely for me to do this PT course”. Actually a young man, when I say a chap a bit younger than I in 1938 I was posted to the Royal Military College at Duntroon as an

03:23:00:00

assisting instructor on machine guns and weapons and everything else. I was only there a few weeks and this young man arrived and his name was Bruce Cupitt, he was the chap who had gone to England and he had been there. He went away with the coronation contingent for six months, toured all

03:23:30:00

over England with them and at the end of that time he started a twelve month course at the army physical training place in England. He arrived at Duntroon a week or two after me as the physical training instructor. He had a pretty tough time because he introduced

03:24:00:00

a more mobile type of physical training. The chap that was there when I arrived was a chap called Jock Stevens, and I’ve never ever followed this up. He said “I knew you were coming here two years ago when I got the telegram”. I said “You couldn’t of Jock” I said “I only got the

03:24:30:00

letter of my appointment a fortnight ago or a month ago, and I had to be here on a date in August 1938”. I don’t know and I’ve never unfortunately discovered it but the only thing I think could of happened was the commandant of the college had asked the instructors at the small arms school in Randwick

03:25:00:00

which I attended several times to nominate someone among the people who kept going through there. He nominated me but I never found that out. But this is the sort of things that happens. I turned up at the machine gun course at the Royal Melbourne Military College as an instructor in weapons but I understudied

03:25:30:00

Bruce Cupitt and he was madly in love at the time and he use to go up to Sydney every weekend to see his fiancÈ. When he went on the Saturday morning the children, the daughters and sons of the staff at the college use to have a physical training course and I use to have to take, all the mob of kids.

03:26:00:00

It was terrible embarrassing because they wanted to do all sorts of things on the equipment, vaulting horses and that, the girls wanted to volt over the horse. I’d have to put my hands on their chest to stop people landing, and I had to talk about it, it was a bit embarrassing for the young lasses.

03:26:30:00

I understudied Cupitt and I’ve got the history in there written by a chap of his experience as a staff cadet and he mentions this business of Cupitt who introduced this training. If Cupitt was crook or anything I’d have to take over and teach the cadets.

03:27:00:00

It was quite an experience in a way because old Cupitt, if he was teaching the fellow to box he’d put the gloves on and say “Punch me”. I don’t know why you’d ask the cadet to punch you, and half the time he’d disappear out of the gymnasium with blood running down his nose and say “Carry on”.

03:27:30:00

I never put the gloves on they could box each other. I did quite a lot of physical training there was an officer there, a Captain at the time and he was later on a Colonel, he was a Duntroon graduate. They called the warrant officers, assistant instructors, the officer was the instructor and you

03:28:00:00

were his assistant but we did the work I might add. In the predominant case he was the instructor in physical training. I remember at the college one day when Cupitt was away I was putting the class of cadets vaulting over a horse and of course you’ve got a land with your body up

03:28:30:00

and land on your feet. This Major fellow he was the instructor watching me telling the fellows what they had to do. He said “Just a minute sergeant major”, I said “What’s the matter?”, he said “You’re meeting the chaps as they come over with your hands on their chest and they land lightly on their feet?” and I said “That’s right”. He said “That’s not the way”, he said “They come straight at you”,

03:29:00:00

I don’t know whether I said it to him but I said “If they come straight at me they will push me straight out the end of gymnasium like a bullet”.
The Major said “I’ll show you how to do it”. The cadets heard this and

03:29:30:00

unfortunately the whistle blew and the class had finished. Talking to one of the cadets later on when he was graduating and he was an officer he reminded me of this and he said “I was the next one there, I was quite ready to dive straight at old Bill” and I said “You would have pushed him through the end of the gymnasium”.
Can you tell me about some of the

03:30:00:00

characters that went through that course at Duntroon?
One of them was Sir Francis Haslett, he was a full general but he’s retired now. I knew a lot of the cadets. The cadets

03:30:30:00

did four years, the first year was very elementary stuff and probably the second and the third. In their fourth year they were there and when I went there the first class, that was the graduating class that graduated at the end of 938. It consisted of amongst others General Haslett

03:31:00:00

and several other generals. One of them came to the battalion that I went away to war in as the adjutant of it, he was in the senior class, the first class at Duntroon.

03:31:30:00

They fall in on the parade of a morning, the regimental sergeant major who was a chap called Dusty Waterman at the time, he was in charge of parade and then the cadets depending on what the class was. When he dismissed the parade the first class went to where they had to do

03:32:00:00

the next training. The junior classes were marched off by a sergeant major, ‘left, right, left, right’. I always remember I the first classes, I had the infantry members and Haslett was amongst them. They were all senior

03:32:30:00

members in the corps staff cadets, so they just went to where they had the instruction, they didn’t march off ‘left, right, left, right’, business. This particular morning it was a bit wet, so you had two places to have your training, one was if it was normal dry weather or a wet weather station. I had to take these infantry specialists,

03:33:00:00

the first class, they had to follow me up you didn’t march them up. The wet weather station was a gymnasium and when I got to the gymnasium there was a great padlock on the door and I didn’t have any idea where the key was. One of the cadets came up and I said “Sergeant major”, or whatever his rank was

03:33:30:00

“do you know where the key is for the gymnasium is?”, he said “I will get it for you sir” and off he went..
A couple of minutes later another chap came up and I said “I’m waiting for staff cadet” or corporal or somebody , I forget what his rank was “To get the key”, he said “He doesn’t know where it is, I will go and help him”. You can imagine what happened, I think there were ten in this class and they came up

03:34:00:00

in ones and twos, and one of them was Frank Haslett. They said “Those fellows wouldn’t know, we’d better go give them a hand”. It finished up I’m standing at the closed door of the gymnasium and all the cadets had gone looking for this elusive key. Major Cardale who was the adjutant of the college and he was the instructor

03:34:30:00

and I was the assistant instructor and he just looked on but you did the work. He said “Where’s your class sergeant major?”, and I said “They are looking for the key sir”. They eventually came with the key.

03:35:00:00

This sergeant major from the first war, in fact he was an Englishman who I met at the college when I first went there. He told me “Don’t try and kid the cadets, if you don’t know anything just say that it is the subject of another lesson and you will get that in time”. He said “If they think they have got you over

03:35:30:00

a stick”, he said “They will play up to it”. Remembering what had happened about the key I had to take this class, I didn’t have to teach them anything they were graduating in a couple of months time. I had to tell them, not teach them whatever it was but just correct them if it they went wrong, so I did this. Remembering

03:36:00:00

Jock Stevens the chap who said “If they get you they will play up”. They started to muck up a bit and I thought ‘I’ve had this’. I pulled them up with a jerk, this Major Cardale he was the officer instructors, he was just watching me work and he was at one end of the drill hall. I ticked these fellows off and I said “You are mucking up,

03:36:30:00

in another few months you will be officers out and you’ll be teaching”. I was just about to start again on them and Cardale came along and said “Just a minute sergeant major, the sergeant major is right” he said “You fellows have got to this”, and he tore strips off them and backed me up and I had no trouble with them after that.

03:37:00:00

I’m wondering where you were the day that war was declared?
I was in Sydney and it was a weekend, it came through from [Prime Minister Robert] Menzies. We were up on weekend leave and it was a Saturday and we went back on Sunday.

03:37:30:00

One of the fellows at the college had a car and every now and again a few of us would go up and have a good time in Sydney. When we got back to the college, we didn’t know if they were going to have guards on the gates or anything. It was just the old college and everybody was asleep in the place. The next morning the word was passed around, it didn’t seem to effect, we thought that all sorts of strange things

03:38:00:00

would happen, I don’t know what they were now but life just went on. Everybody had to volunteer to the AIF, they couldn’t just be a regular soldier. The staff I think volunteered for whatever was going to happen,

03:38:30:00

but life just went on much the same. The graduation came up at the end of the year for the first class. Things had happened the ordinary staff that were there, I’m not certain but I’ve got an idea at least one man he was an engineer

03:39:00:00

or a signaler. He was one of the first members of staff, we all had to volunteer to go to the AIF, but most of us did, although I learnt later that one or two didn’t and nothing happened. This was 1939 before the graduation,

03:39:30:00

things just went on pretty much the same. It wasn’t until early 1940 that my friend Dick Byrd, there were only two young warrant officers there, he was one and I was the other.

03:40:00:00

Most of the others, men of much longer experience as warrant officers or had been in the First World War. Nothing happened in double quick time until my friend Bird he was called up to join the 2/17th Battalion,

03:40:30:00

which he left me and I was one of the warrant officers still there. The first thing I got was a posting for me to go as a quartermaster sergeant to an artillery unit. When the commandant of the college got this thing from me he said “You are not

03:41:00:00

an artillery man?” and I said “No but I had been” and he said “You are not going”. He reckoned that no one was going unless he went. The 2/17th Battalion started

03:41:30:00

about the third or four month in 1940.
Interviewee: Arthur Newton Archive ID 1130 Tape 04

04:00:30:00

I was going to ask you Arthur how you came to be posted to the 2/17th?
My friend Dick Byrd was appointed the regimental sergeant major and that would be

04:01:00:00

in April 1940, the regimental sergeant major of the 2/17th Battalion. At the end of the month he rang me up and said “the officer in command, the colonel of the battalion,

04:01:30:00

was commissioning him to a lieutenant and he had suggested to Colonel Crawford that I might be interested in being the regimental sergeant major”. He rang me up and asked me and I said “Yes, of course I would”.

04:02:00:00

In May 1940 I left the college to go up and be the regimental sergeant major of the 2/17th Battalion which was just forming, with still recruits coming in all the time whilst I was there. Dick Byrd in the meantime had been made the lieutenant so I was

04:02:30:00

the RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] from May 1940. I left the college on a Saturday night and quite a number of us were single fellows and had been posted after Dick and I but we were the only two single young men living in the sergeant’s mess. All the others were married

04:03:00:00

that were around the place. I left there on a Saturday night and quite a lot of the staff came in to see me off, I don’t think I’ve been kissed by so many ladies in all of my life. Then somebody threw confetti all over me when I got onto the train. I got onto a first class carriage

04:03:30:00

and there was a rather nice middle aged lady there with a man and from the conversation I got they had been staying at Government House, I don’t know to this day who they were. I think the man was more of a servant than a friend to her. They got off

04:04:00:00

just south of Sydney. I had this confetti on me and nobody else to share it with and her curiosity got the best of her and she said “Where are you going?” and I said “I’m going up to join the Australian Imperial Force the AIF in the battalions”.

04:04:30:00

She spoke a bit, I don’t know what about but they got off and that was a Saturday night and I think I stayed at the Hotel Sydney. On the Monday I had to go to Victoria Barracks because it seemed like the permanent soldiers were the only ones that went into

04:05:00:00

the army with their rank. They wanted to sent me up to Ingleburn that afternoon and I said “No I will go up in the morning under my own steam”, which I did. I got there in May 1940 and of course the battalion was still forming and the soldiers were still coming in.

04:05:30:00

It was the first time that I met the CO, Colonel Crawford and he had been the commanding officer of the University Regiment and all the other people there. The adjutant had been a staff cadet at Duntroon and he was in the class that had to look for the key.

04:06:00:00

He was the adjutant so I knew him of course and there was a chap from Temora who had been an officer there and I enlisted him when I use to do Temora sometimes when I was stationed at Leeton and I use to go around and do a parade. They didn’t have a sergeant major there at the time and I use to go there on a Friday night and conduct the parade.

04:06:30:00

They didn’t have anywhere to parade except for the street, and they had a little cottage for the headquarters there. I would stay over on the Friday night and I’d go back on the Sunday. This chap was one of the fellows who enlisted and became an officer in the militia and he came into the battalion as a captain I think at this time, so I knew

04:07:00:00

some of the fellows there.
What was your task, what did you have to do?
As a regimental sergeant major you have got to do lots of things, you take the battalion on parade first and then hand it over to the commanding officer. You were mixed up with every ceremonial sort

04:07:30:00

of thing and or work. It was very difficult and when I say very difficult, when I joined the battalion, you had the right, or I believed you had the right to go around and correct

04:08:00:00

anything that was happening that you didn’t agree with, and it didn’t matter who was running it. The officers of the AIF were mainly from the militia accept for the adjutant, that was the chap called Hipkins who was only a very young man and he graduated from the college in

04:08:30:00

1938 and this was 1940. In 1939 he and people like Sir Francis Haslett and he was in the same class as he was, they were sent up to the first infantry unit that was raised in Australia, the permanent infantry unit called a Darwin Mobile Force in 1939.

04:09:00:00

Hipkins and Haslett and a lot of other fellows went up there as platoon commanders which was a great opportunity for the. In Haslett’s case he became the complete boss of the army. Hippy had unlucky business, he was the adjutant of the unit there and I wasn’t at his beck and

04:09:30:00

call exactly, he could ask me or tell me to do certain things. As the RSM you had to set an example I suppose and you were always present at the sergeants mess. So that if you could suggest, for instance we invite the officers to dinner there, but you also had to

04:10:00:00

keep an eye on the NCOs, the sergeants, and the company sergeant majors who were militia men. You had to sort of set an example.
I’m wondering what your particular personal ambitions were at this time?
I don’t know,

04:10:30:00

I suppose knowing that Dick Byrd had become an officer, I thought that I might be in there. As it happened it so worked out that way, if you go on a bit we were at Ingleburn and we marched from Ingleburn to Bathurst over a period of days with other units

04:11:00:00

from Ingleburn. A couple of odd things happened there. This chap Hipkins when we were at a place at the second last stop we had before we got to Bathurst, we were in a little country area and I forget the name of it now. There was no township there we were

04:11:30:00

camped under tent flies, where as other places we stayed in all sort of places, buildings or in people homes. At this place we were camped under flies they had a long table like you see them in the country showground, a table about

04:12:00:00

thirty or forty yards long, or a series of them. I was there with the second in command of the battalion at the time, at one end of it and this Lieutenant Hipkins, the adjutant he was half way down the tables. We saw him literally hurling scones at the soldiers who were out in front.

04:12:30:00

The second in command of the battalion said to me “Mr Hipkins seems to be exceeding himself a bit”, and I said “yes sir, I will go down and see what I can do”. I got to him and I was about as far apart as we are from Hippy and the CO with the adjutant was on the other side and before I got to Hippy to say “watch

04:13:00:00

your step”, or whatever. I heard the CO say “Mr Hipkins you are under arrest, Captain Brian take him to his tent” I was too late and I couldn’t do anything about it. The next morning people of the battalion headquarters, they had a chief clerk there a chap call Darby Green

04:13:30:00

who was a barrister in civilian life, in fact he was the legal attendant to the police commissioner in New South Wales. He was on the police headquarters staff but he was the legal advisor and he joined the battalion and he became the orderly room sergeant and Darby was a

04:14:00:00

great man and a lovely chap. They were sympathetic towards Hipkins, actually the CO was a bit over the fence I think myself. He was writing a report the CO to the brigade commander to sort of shot Hippy or whatever I don’t know what. But because the

04:14:30:00

battalion staff were sympathetic towards adjutant they put an extra copy of the letter and there was only one chap who had access apart from the officer guarding young Hippy. A chap called Bill Waters who was his batman and later on my batman. Old Bill had access,

04:15:00:00

he’d take him hot water for shaving or something up to Hippy. Green and the other couple of chaps who had been to battalion headquarters had typed out an extra copy of the letter and the CO said to the brigade commander “give this to Hippy”, so he could prepare his defence I suppose. When it happened they gave it to Bill Waters who took the hsaving water and gave

04:15:30:00

him this letter. I don’t know where he read it or what effect it had. However Hippy lost the job as adjutant at that time. Prior to that when Wally was adjutant we had a lot of

04:16:00:00

German measles through the camp. I remember one morning I was doing my rounds, I could go anywhere in the battalion. Some of the company commanders and one company commander in particular said to me “You can come into my company anytime, go anywhere, tick anybody off and shoot them on sight” he said “But some of the company commanders

04:16:30:00

won’t like that, they had all been trained in different skills and they were not regular soldiers” he said “Don’t get me wrong they are pretty good officers in many ways:. Some of them wouldn’t let me go into the company unless I went up to their company commander and said “Major can I go and have a look around your area?”.

04:17:00:00

This one in particular who I served with later on when I was commissioned, he was a great man, this was the sort of thing that happened in the outfit.

04:17:30:00

We have just been talking about the formation of the 2/17th Battalion, but I might move along now. It’s mid 1940 and the war has started, can you tell me how you came to get the news that you were being posted to go overseas?

04:18:00:00

We just assumed it would happen. They gave us final leave, they didn’t say when we were sailing or anything else. I went off in September on final leave, my family was all in Melbourne, and I wasn’t married at that time.

04:18:30:00

I can always remember going on final leave and we went down to Sydney, there were several trains going and I was on the first train. There was a

04:19:00:00

colonel commanding the engineers, Colonel Secombe who had been a major as an engineer officer, he was a Duntroon trained chap of course, and he was on the same train.

04:19:30:00

We got to Albury, there was a 1st Division train going straight to Melbourne. I can remember this Colonel Second and I, we were in different

04:20:00:00

compartments on different carriages. We got off the train and Colonel Secombe was pushing a trolley with his baggage on it and he said “Are you going to Melbourne?”, and I said “Yes sir”, and he said “Well stick your bag on this and we will go down and get a seat”. As we got down the platform a bit my friend Byrd who had been commissioned in the battalion later, they came in on a different train

04:20:30:00

and they saw me with the Colonel. They said “Where are you going?” and I said “Well the Colonel is pushing my luggage”. They came along, and there was another chap there

04:21:00:00

too who the Colonel knew too. The two other fellows were on final leave and this Colonel said “No I’m not on final leave I’m an engineer’s officer”. Colonel Second said “You will have to wait for the next train”. When we got down to the carriage that we had booked, we put our luggage on

04:21:30:00

and another train came in. There was this chap Bird and another officer from our battalion came along and said “We can’t get on the train to Melbourne”, I said “I’m on the train, the Colonel and I have booked seats”. They said “But we can’t get on”, I said “The train doesn’t stop before you get to Melbourne,

04:22:00:00

just throw your baggage on and just hop on the train and they can’t throw you off until Melbourne”. I said “You don’t get a seat, we have reserved seats the Colonel and I”, so that was our trip to Melbourne. When we got to Melbourne, there were the both officers, the adjutant that I was tell you about before who got into trouble with the CO,

04:22:30:00

and Bird they said “We are going down to the officers mess at Victoria Barracks”, I said “I can’t go I’m not an officer”. It was in September and they said “Look so and so is there”, the uniform was the same for a warrant officer except you had things on your arms instead of pips on your shoulders. They said “So and so is going to take us into the officers mess he will make you a lieutenant for the exercises here”.

04:23:00:00

They put these things on my shoulders and I went into the mess expecting that I’d be shot on sight, I’d never seen so many senior officers in a mess in my life before.
In fact I met the chap who had been adjutant of the unit I had served with for a short while in Sydney, he just accepted it that I had been commissioned.

04:23:30:00

I thought that somebody was going to come along and say ‘you are a ring in, out you go’. When I got back to the battalion by that date my commissioned date was before that date, but that was just a side-slip.
Who did you visit when you were on that final pre-embarkation leave?
My family, my sister,

04:24:00:00

my parents were dead but I had three sisters in Melbourne and god knows how many other relations but I stayed with Emily my sister and she had three little children at the time. When they were small their father use to be at sea all the week

04:24:30:00

and I was like a second dad to them I think. They were there, Carmel and she was thirteen at the time and the two brothers were younger than that. They are all still alive thank god.
I was wondering what the mood was like in your

04:25:00:00

battalion on embarkation?
I think everybody was raring to go, and we got a train down from Bathurst, technically it was very secretive but every station platform was filled with people knowing the embarkation. We got down there nearly at midnight and

04:25:30:00

at that stage in my life I was very friendly with my first wife, but her father had been killed in the First War, I could of proposed to her but I kept it very low key.

04:26:00:00

An uncle of hers was actually an officer in the army and he was on duty and he was a Provo [Military Police] in Melbourne, he didn’t even tell her that he would be embarking our unit on the Queen Mary. We went out on the wharf in Sydney harbour and ferried down to the Queen Mary, I forget the name of the bay but

04:26:30:00

right down, it didn’t tie up at the wharf it was out in the bay. We embarked somehow on a little passenger ferry boat. I think the thing was there this friend of mine who was a Provo Marshal Dusty Mortimer he didn’t tell Marjorie that he’d be seeing me

04:27:00:00

he thought it best that he didn’t. The embarkation went off quite well. There was a bit of a difference because I didn’t have anybody, when the ship sailed the next day there was small boats all around. There were more soldiers, about five thousand more than our unit on the boat and

04:27:30:00

lots of the soldiers had obviously their family and friends in the ferries running around, not all of them. From my point of view of not having a personal interest it was like watching a picture in some ways.

04:28:00:00

I was wondering if there were any highlights on that trip over to the Middle East?
I think there was a man overboard about the only thing, but generally speaking I don’t think there was at that time because as I say I was commissioned. On the Queen Mary we went as far as

04:28:30:00

India then we were on a smaller ship going to Egypt. I think there was a man overboard at one stage, I’m not quite certain about it but whatever happened I think he was rescued. I’m not certain if that was

04:29:00:00

the Queen Mary or the Rona [?] which was a British India boat. On the Rona there were a couple of incidences, we were the only battalion on the boat, there was an engineer company of only a hundred fellows or so. The captain of the Rona, it was a British India ship there was an Australian and he had a

04:29:30:00

pet goat and this goat went around. I think in one of these things that I have written the goat ate more hats than we could afford, we would only use it on this small engineer company. Our CO was a solicitor in Sydney,

04:30:00:00

he had been the commanding officer of the university regiment, a very well trained CMF [Citizen’s Military Force] bloke.
Somewhere along the line I think in India or somewhere he must of got a bottle of brandy, it was suppose to be highly specialised brandy off the Queen Mary and took it on the boat. He decided to give

04:30:30:00

the ships officers a dining in night. He had it despite his knowledge he didn’t realise when you stand for the queen’s toast and you stood and drank it down.

04:31:00:00

No that’s right he stated that everything would be sitting but I think from memory this was only a privilege when you drank the Queens [King's?] health that you drank it sitting. It was only given to one particular

04:31:30:00

British unit for some reason because it was a smaller ship or something, and we should have gone through the usual thing. I remember him passing this bottle of brandy around and some of the people, including a chap called John Verdi he finished up in the battalion but was then the captain. They passed it around and I think the CO made some reference to the age

04:32:00:00

and what good stuff this was. By the time the bottle got back to him it was empty. The sad part of it was half the young officers in there had a sip of it and said “It was awful”, and they’d hand their half full glass back. I remember the CO giving John Verdi who was senior Sutherland and senior Sutherland is a senior lieutenant and he is suppose to keep all the lieutenants under control. The CO told Verdi “Have to call a meeting and have

04:32:30:00

Senior Sutherland tick them off”. I forget the details of it but he was a complete different character to him and he himself had probably knocked the brandy back too.

04:33:00:00

That was the only incident that we had that I remember on the Rona and it was a good ship. When we got to Bombay, I by this time wasn’t the quartermaster, the quartermaster was a chap by

04:33:30:00

the name of MacNab and he had soldiered with me down in the Riverina, not at Leeton but somewhere else. He had done a course senior to me in the Australian Instruction Corps and as quartermaster he was the captain. He made me the baggage officer and when we

04:34:00:00

disembarked at Bombay the whole battalion got on a train at midnight except MacNab, another quartermaster so there was nothing else except this little engineer unit. MacNab said to me “You are in charge of the baggage”, this was on the wharf of Bombay, and it was a strange place

04:34:30:00

to be obviously. I said “What do I do with it?”, he said “You take it down to this camp”, and I said “Where are you going?”, he said “We are staying at the Taj Mahal hotel in Bombay”. I said “Where do I stay?”, he said “They will fix you up at the camp down there for accommodation”. They all had their baggage and the soldiers were going right up into the country and they went in. Their sea going

04:35:00:00

kitbags that I had they were all on the wharf and I had two or three soldiers there to help me. A British officer came along and said “Where are you going, what’s your accommodation?”, and I said “Going to the camp”, he said “You can’t go there old chap”, he said “Come with us we will fix you up in the Taj Mahal”. My two fellows fixed them up and off they went and this chap

04:35:30:00

put me into a vehicle to go to this Taj Mahal hotel and in those days it was the top hotel in Bombay.
I remember the chap said “Get yourself a room”, and I went up to the fellow and he said “You have a kit here?”, and I said “No but I will have one in the morning”, he said “You go up to room so and so”. The next thing I was going up in a lift and going up with me was an Australian

04:36:00:00

he was staying there but he was the Aspro [aspirin] representative for the whole of India. I think he took me to his room and he showed me this stuff and he said “I’m going out”, a few minutes later there was a knock on the door and there was a very pretty young lady and she came in. He said

04:36:30:00

“We are going out and this is so and so”, I’ve forgotten the name now and off they went. I go up and the room was nearly as big as this as my bedroom, there were all sorts of labels on the wall if you wanted that you pressed that button. The next morning I go through it all, for a hot bath you press the button and the bath is prepared for you. When I got down there I met my friend MacNab

04:37:00:00

I don’t think he ever forgave me for this, he said “What are you doing here?” I said “I’m staying at ninety four up on the third floor”. He and some of the other quartermasters off the ship had a room about half as big as mine with about four beds in it, I don’t think he ever forgave me for this, he thought that I had it all organised. I got a lot of humour out of my

04:37:30:00

time in Bombay. We were there for a week and the rest of the battalion were up in the country and they came down and I think they had two days to have a look at Bombay before we embarked.
I image that must of felt pretty special to be staying at the Taj Mahal?
Yes, it was a fancy place there’s no doubt about it. I’ve never stayed in a room like this before in my life, or after,

04:38:00:00

but it’s the luck of the game.
I’m wondering where you first went to in the Middle East?
I went into a camp called Kilo. Eight Nine in Egypt. There was an army hospital I think the

04:38:30:00

2/6th AGH, it was a general hospital and it was near Gaza. We were there for weeks before we moved. During that time we were training in desert warfare and all that type of stuff. Being a regular soldier in those days

04:39:00:00

I copped a lot of things, I use to run all the musket courses at various ranges. It was up there, I’d have to put the troops through there time, I had help to do it but I had to do the rifle shooting practice. We were up there in the middle of it and they came up or we got word up from the rest of the camp

04:39:30:00

that we had to train then for the western desert. I don’t know how long we were in Kilo Eight Nine, quite some time because I remember most of us had the opportunity to go into the capital of Palestine at the time, Tel Aviv.

04:40:00:00

I was the platoon command then of C Company.
Interviewee: Arthur Newton Archive ID 1130 Tape 05

05:00:30:00

When we last spoke we were talking that you were in a camp in Palestine. How long were you there for?
We were camped at Palestine but we had only been there a week or two when we took over from a British unit

05:01:00:00

who was policing the Seuz Canal. That meant that the battalion headquarters and most of the battalion was up at port side, the other side of the harbour. There were some half way down, the name I’ve forgotten. I for some reason or other

05:01:30:00

was stuck well down between the Seuz Canal, well south where most of the battalion was. Out at a little out post I think the CO was asked to supple a guard battalion and I’ve

05:02:00:00

got the idea he thought it was some ceremonial sort of business. My platoon and I went there and I was a platoon commander by this time, a lieutenant. We went to this little place, but it was a guardroom, we had fellows under detention there. In fact we had two under detention or being held to be court marshaled,

05:02:30:00

and amongst them were two Spanish soldiers. I don’t know how they came to be in the act the Spaniards. They were up on charges of murdering two Free Frenchmen. I was in charge of these people and looked after them and we got on very well. We use to have to take them for a march. There had been a British unit there

05:03:00:00

before us, the first day I said “Alright if our fellows take you for a march?”. To my men I said “Get your rifles and see that they have got ammunition in them”. When my lads came with the guns the prisoners said “Even the British didn’t ask us to carry rifles when they took us”

05:03:30:00

and we said “Ok we will give it a go”. Everyday they use to have marching orders in the morning, there were all sorts of fellows there some doing twenty eight days detention for being AWL [Absent Without Leave] from wherever they were. These two Spaniards one day I came back to the unit, I had been out

05:04:00:00

somewhere and came back and fronted the guard room and there were these two Spaniards laying on the ground with their rifles pointing at me and I thought ‘Dear god they have shot the fellows and they were revolting’. Suddenly my sergeant said “No they are showing us how the Spaniards do the firing position on the ground”. Some little British soldier had been put in because he had been

05:04:30:00

AWL and he had to do about a month or something in the detention. The first night he was there he apparently got out from under the gate from the side of his cell, he was picked up by the Provo people in Ismalia I think, which was the nearest Egyptian town that’s right on the canal and brought back to us. The other fellows wanted to have him lynched immediately,

05:05:00:00

because he had treated the Australians so unkindly and that was it. We were there for quite some time and I was there for Christmas 1940. Just near us was a New Zealand convalescent place.

05:05:30:00

I found that the adjutant, the administrative officer of the place was a New Zealand graduate from Duntroon who I had known when I was on the staff at Duntroon and it being Christmas he invited me up. I was there with an Australian chap from 3 RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] squadron and we were just talking just like you and I, standing around.

05:06:00:00

Suddenly two nurses in a British nursing uniform came rushing over and said “Australians?”, and we said “Yes”, they said “So are we”, they said that they had enlisted in the British army in England. They bashed our ears or we bashed their ears for the night, I’m not sure it was Christmas eve or Christmas night.

05:06:30:00

We were there for some time and we went back to the camp in Palestine and we were there no little time and we went up to the desert. The 6th Division had fought, had driven the Italians right up as far

05:07:00:00

as you could think of, the names of places get me.
Benghazi?
Beyond Benghazi. It was as far as the Italians had been defeated. We went up there and we were only up there for a short while when

05:07:30:00

word got through that the Germans were in the locality, this was the first arrival of the Germans. Some of our patrols, one under a Lieutenant Austin Mackell, went out a couple of times, once in a three ton truck and then on foot and confirmed that the Germans were there alright. They then decided after

05:08:00:00

this was confirmed that we couldn’t fight in this area, there was only one or two battalions there. One of our other battalions was near us and they withdrew us to Benghazi, well back. We were there for quite some time and at that stage of the game I was a platoon commander

05:08:30:00

I had number 13th Platoon in C Company under a Major Magno who was a marvelous man. The CO rang up one day and said to the company commander “Magno, I want you to come up and be the quartermaster”, because MacNab who was the quartermaster of the battalion, “he has just bashed his head in a car accident,

05:09:00:00

driving my car”, they had a contest with an Italian truck that somebody had captured. This chap MacNab who was known as Spiky I think, I forget, his nose instead of being the shape it was it was flat over his face and he never came back to the battalion. The CO I think

05:09:30:00

had the great view that any permanent soldier could do any job and I had never been a quartermaster in my life. I went up, it was a rapid promotion from lieutenant to captain in one easy lesson you might say, The regimental quartermaster sergeant, or warrant officer who

05:10:00:00

came from Cowra in New South Wales. He was in Cowra after the war and he’s still alive thank God.

05:10:30:00

Between us, I became the quartermaster and word came that we had to come back to Tobruk because Benghazi was very much the case that we had companies and one was seven miles away from the battalion headquarters which is a ridiculous situation. We were there only a few days and the word came that

05:11:00:00

we had to leave Benghazi and go up to Barzi which is the next town up in the hills. The quartermaster before me Lieutenant MacNab he gathered captured stuff that was around. We didn’t have the vehicles to carry it, we only had a certain number of three ton vehicles. When we

05:11:30:00

were told about this, they took our vehicles off us because one of the other battalions had to go back and take a position away from where we were and use our vehicles to carry the troops in them. I saw my second in command of the battalion a chap called Bluey Allen a Major and he said “You just have got to leave it, just take any special things like

05:12:00:00

postage, free stamp business you put on the letters for the troops, stuff that you could carry in a small vehicle or truck and leave the rest”. I had to go back about a mile and a half where all the battalions were going to concentrate, the company was seven miles away and marked you in.

05:12:30:00

In no time there was one of the senior staff officers from the 9th Division came down and said “There is no real hurry at all, just take things quietly”. At that stage the second in command said to me “Get those trucks”, they had been carrying troops from other battalions but they had been returned. I forget how many three ton trucks that we had in the battalion, at least

05:13:00:00

half a dozen or more back and a few small ones. He said “Go up and get as much stores as you can and load it up”. I took off and up we went, it was a couple of miles and I was up there in no time and suddenly this 2IC [Second In Command] turned up on a motorcycle and he said “You have got to move right away”. By the time I had finished loading whatever trucks we could and brought them back

05:13:30:00

to the other position that was a couple of miles away where the rest of the battalion had been. They had decided to move, the chap from the division said “There is no hurry” and that’s why we went up there. When I got there everybody had gone, it was like ‘here today and gone tomorrow’. Except my old company commander a chap called Keith Magno

05:14:00:00

and he was there with his batman having a cup of tea. My trucks I had sent them back one by one because they had to climb up the mountain from where we were, up the side. I went through a town because Barzi because they had a lot of Italian prisoners of war there and the local natives there was a bit of a killing battle going on, and get a few shots around the place, they didn’t stand by to see what was happening.

05:14:30:00

That night I went up the mountain, I didn’t know where our battalion was so we just camped under a haystack on top of the hill. The next day I sorted things out, so that was the start of the run back. We were there for a matter of days and we were told to move and one of our companies started

05:15:00:00

to move out, they were on top of this hill guarding if anyone was coming up it. The Major from the brigade that we were apart of came along and said “Everything is alright, you have got to stop”, I had to get in touch with the company that was moving and tell them to go back to their position. The next night

05:15:30:00

the retreat started back to Benghazi. Everybody has a different view of it so I got my trucks together. We went to

05:16:00:00

Benghazi and I think we must of stayed there for a few days from memory. There was a lot of looting going on in town, not especially by our troops but by some soldiers and we were there for some time. Then the run back really started from Benghazi to Tobruk

05:16:30:00

and everybody has a different version of it.
What was your job as quartermaster during that retreat?
Keeping all my trucks under control as far as possible, and doing anything else that was required of me. I got my vehicles, I forget how many but we didn’t have a great number, but not enough to lift the battalion

05:17:00:00

we had to get transport vehicles to do that. On this runback that started I had a fifteen hundred weight vehicle and my trucks behind me and there seemed to be some other trucks from our battalion behind us too. I forget the name of the town,

05:17:30:00

there were two, you came to a turn off, across the desert to go that way and go up and over to a place called Deville which is on the coast. I’m certain the word was that we turned right at the this desert junction that goes to the desert. In the truck I didn’t know who else was around us it seemed to be mainly our battalion or

05:18:00:00

French troops. I turned up to go along this road for a while and I came to a stop and there were vehicles all over the place, it was like George Street on a Friday night. They were stopped, so I left my vehicle and went up and asked what was wrong and they said “We don’t know whether we are going Derma or this place”.

05:18:30:00

There were British artillery units there and they started to sort themselves out so I thought that I better go back and see who is behind us, I expected some others from the battalion. When I got to the end of the trucks that I knew that were mine I went on a bit and there was a utility there with this Major Magno who

05:19:00:00

had been the previous company commander. When I got there I said “Sir”, I think he was a major by this time, I said “You know where you are going?” and he said “No, but I know the people in front do”. I said “I will tell you something I’m leading and I’m not certain either”.

05:19:30:00

One of our trucks was there with our troops in it, I say transport trucks but they were our troops. I told them I walked up passed and had met Magno to stay until they got word. When I told Magno he said “I’ll take over”. I had to stand on the footboard of the truck and went back it wasn’t that far it was probably

05:20:00:00

about half a mile. When we got there instead of all this confusion that I had left behind it was as peaceful as you could wish for. He was leading them and he said “We will go on and see what happens”. We went on that night and it must have been about midnight and he said “We will pull off the road here and go in and stay the night on this side”.

05:20:30:00

We all went into this spot and one of us stood at the place and made sure they were our trucks or our troops in them and we went in and formed a great circle with distance between them because allegedly the Germans were south of where we were. We stayed there until

05:21:00:00

six o’clock in the morning, I got up and went around to Keith’s truck and he was awake and I said “What are we going to do now sir, will we have breakfast or will we move off?” and he said “We will move on I think for another hour's drive”. We told all the vehicles that were in the great circle, I don’t know how many trucks there were but lets say about fifteen, twenty or even more.

05:21:30:00

We started off, as we went out there was another unit in a circle on the other side of us, so off we went towards where Tobruk was, which was still some miles away of course. These other vehicles when we pulled out they seemed to be doing what we decided not to do, they were having their breakfast I think

05:22:00:00

so off we went. We got to the next place and then we learnt that the 2/15th Battalion all their headquarters, and I think they were the vehicles behind next to us and they had remained there for breakfast.

05:22:30:00

I think a German patrol came across the road and they were out gunned and everything and the commanding officer of the 2/15th Battalion, he had sadly been a prisoner of war in the First World War. He decided he couldn’t stand up to the large number of Germans. So he had to surrender his battalion headquarters,

05:23:00:00

the headquarter company which consisted of signal platoons and things like that. He finished in the bag with his troops but we went on to the next stop. The following night we went to a place just outside of Tobruk and we laid up there. All that was peppered with bombs, not bombs but aerial torpedoes things they were,

05:23:30:00

that landed on the ground and didn’t explode but if anybody touched them they would go off. We were aware of these, my platoon and the rest of the battalion were scattered around in the area some hundreds of yards I suppose.

05:24:00:00

We were there and we stayed the night there and in the middle of it and the sister battalion the 2/13th Battalion came up and I told them about these bombs on the ground. They said “We are aware of them”, they had only gone about one hundred yards and one of the soldiers kicked one of them and up she went and he was killed I think one of the soldiers was

05:24:30:00

very badly wounded. We remained there that night and then the next day they said that we would move that night and that was the night that we went into Tobruk itself. Strange things happen, I just had all vehicles, the unit vehicles there, the transport ones belonged to the transport company that carried out soldiers but mine

05:25:00:00

was stores, the quartermasters, the sergeants and so on, with me. I took off and as I was going around the circle there was a chap in a vehicle came up to me and he was the lad who had been a cadet at Duntroon when I was there and I knew him. He was the transport officer of the 2/13th Battalion. He said “I don’t know where to go?” and I said “Follow me I do, get on the tail of our thing”.

05:25:30:00

I don’t know what happened but instead of getting on the tail he seemed to get on the tail of his own unit and the 2/13th Battalion history talks about the going around in circles for some time. We went in and got into Tobruk I suppose after midnight, there was nothing to do except park your vehicles and dismount and sleep in the sand.

05:26:00:00

The next morning we had to go and look around Tobruk. There was nothing there, there were no guards on the entrance that we came in. There was an officer I knew again an ex chap

05:26:30:00

called Offaltree [?] who later on was the director of infantry many years later after the war and when he was a cadet I knew him at Duntroon. Offaltree was on the side of the road and he just waved us on, he was trying to pick his unit up which I think was the 48th Battalion, another battalion altogether.

05:27:00:00

When we woke up in the morning I went over to a situation that our battalion was to occupy and that was at the time held by I think the 2/24th Battalion in the 9th Division. The commanding officer which seems a strange thing had been

05:27:30:00

a man called Major Crelan [?] from the Royal Military College when I was there, he was the CO. We took over from him, I forget what I did but I think we lifted some of his troops out and went to another position and we occupied the position that they had with the battalion, one company forward. That was where a day later where the attack

05:28:00:00

came by the Germans against us, and that’s where Edmondson, one of the soldiers.
This was where, I have mentioned his name before this Lieutenant Austin Mackel [?] was a young man of about twenty two, he had when we had been as far into the desert as any troops had been taken over from the 6th Division position. He got out and did patrols and one in a vehicle and so on,

05:28:30:00

and he confirmed that the Germans were out there, it was sort of a rumored thing. He had a thing for a young man, he said “the Germans are just people who think they are better fighting troops than us”. He said “They are just soldiers”. This was Easter time in the desert,

05:29:00:00

we occupied this position and we were only in there a couple of nights. I with my quartermaster stores was just a little bit behind the companies in the frontline, behind us again was a great British artillery regiment between me and our troops. They did a bit of firing, they were firing over

05:29:30:00

our heads and we hoped they weren’t going to shoot us. That’s where what they call the Easter battle where one of our privates soldiers Edmondson won his VC [Victoria Cross] but had lost his life. Mackel had only about seven or eight men went out and Lance Corporal Edmondson I think he was at the time.

05:30:00:00

Mackel a lieutenant of the platoon and about six other soldiers. They went in and Mackel gave them the orders he said “Take the pins out of your grenades and just hold it, don’t much about and just throw it when I tell you too”. That’s when they had the battle and Edmondson was badly wounded and Mackel was

05:30:30:00

literally wrestling with a German I think on the ground when he called out “John give me a hand”, or words to that effect. Edmondson came up and I think killed one of the Germans who was with Mackel and Mackel got free and I think got two or three killed. But the Germans had a big gun there a machine gun and they left that

05:31:00:00

and they took off about twenty or thirty of them and we got the position and Mackel came back. But poor old Edmondson died that night, we couldn’t get him back to a doctor. The one company that was there, Mackel’s company Don Company they really

05:31:30:00

fixed the Germans. Then the Germans retreated of course there was one platoon I think of ours that was nearly captured by the Germans, when the fighting broke out some of the Germans cleared and they got freed. That was the first thing and I think its well recorded in our history, but we held that position

05:32:00:00

for quite some days.
What could you see of this German attack from your position?
I couldn’t see anything at all, it was dark to start with. I was well back myself about a few hundred yards. When the

05:32:30:00

commanding officer called for artillery support so the field guns behind us the Englishmen they were giving a constant stream of shelling, that was the situation where the Germans for the first time were literally defeated. They worked on the things and got it through to France

05:33:00:00

that they’d shell you and then send troops and tanks in but of course it didn’t work the tanks didn’t get through to start with. Those that did eventually get through a lot of them were shot up. The Easter battle continued over two or three days but Austin Mackel

05:33:30:00

who was a very brave little man himself and when you think he was twenty two years of age, he convinced his section was going to do these things, he got a Military Cross for it and Edmondson got a Victoria Cross.
What was thought about the German army up to that stage, during the retreat?
I don’t think we

05:34:00:00

discussed it, we knew they were in and we were all prepared to have a crack at them, I don’t think we thought that they were unbeatable. Partly because it was the COs idea I don’t know, because I wasn’t in touch with him give you his orders and his impressions to the company commanders, and they all rose to the occasion I think.

05:34:30:00

What was morale like during that retreat?
Good I think. Its very difficult there are guys writing in the our magazine and you get stories of it from some of the fellows who you haven’t seen for a long time. From our battalions point of view

05:35:00:00

and I think the other the morale was high of course. When they got the kick in the tail at the Easter battle I think that fixed everything from then on really.
Can you describe the position you took up from then on at Tobruk, and the fortifications there?
From my point of view, talking about me personally as quartermaster I well out of the area, perhaps miles back

05:35:30:00

and we use to be responsible for getting the dinner up to the forward troops every night. In a battalion you have four rifle companies and a headquarter company,

05:36:00:00

the rifle companies are the ones in the line and the headquarter companies are the specialist troops, signalers. The people are there generally probably three companies in the line and a company in reserve. The morale was extraordinarily high I think. I think the first battle lifted our morale

05:36:30:00

‘these so and so aren’t unbeatable’ that was the thing and to the rest of the division the same thing went through. The other brigades I can’t tell you anything of their actual battles. The other brigades preformed just as well as our battalion did.
What problems did you encounter doing your job in Tobruk?

05:37:00:00

Its hard to say, with my job I had a pretty safe sort of job I wasn’t exposed to a great deal. I had to go to the ordinance depot at times and get stuff, there was only a small Australian ordinance

05:37:30:00

with supplies but most of it was British troops and they had all the gun material and mostly the little Australians held personal things like Australian clothing as opposed to the British uniforms. I had to keep in touch and there was an Australian officer in the ordinance depot who had been a permanent gunner officer and I got friendly

05:38:00:00

with him and he helped me a lot. I had a British technical stores sergeant and most of the weapons and pieces of weapons that you required were held by the British. This chap Scotty he was a Brit and he came from Midlands in England but he could go and talk and one

05:38:30:00

of the things that happened with us on the way back into Tobruk there was somewhere along the line a dump of stores from the ordinance people. It contained cigarettes and tobacco, we probably got the best part of a three ton truck full of cigarettes and tobacco. Of course the English soldiers didn’t get much ordinance,

05:39:00:00

or none of us got a official handout of things, we could keep the ordinance fellows happy by taking in a few packets of cigarettes. With a chap like Scotty who could speak their language you might say I remember because the British have different rules to us. There was a British machine gun unit close

05:39:30:00

to us when I first got into Tobruk and they lost a lock I think on a machine gun which is the fire mechanisium really. The Brits it didn’t matter where they were the people who lost it they had to pay for it and their books were marked accordingly. When Scotty found this out he shot into Tobruk into the ordinance depot

05:40:00:00

and saw his English friends in there and he got a lock and he gave it back to the people who had lost it. They had a system there that anything they lost they had to pay for and the fellows that lost it their pay books were marked. In the end they wouldn’t accept the lock, which was a stupid way looking back

05:40:30:00

on it, so we had to just give it back to the British. I got there but I got into difficulty personally I was in the ordinance, I use to go in there with a truck and get stuff and two things happened. Once I was in there with a truck and we got some stores on it and we were coming back along the coast road, you came along the coast road and Tobruk harbour was right

05:41:00:00

in front of us. There was a little river gunboat there called the Lady Smith.
Interviewee: Arthur Newton Archive ID 1130 Tape 06

06:00:30:00

You were tell us about the two times that you got into trouble, and something about the Lady Smith?
It was a gun boat in Tobruk, a pretty gun boat which is normally something on a river not at sea, but how it got there I don’t know maybe part of the British navy. That was right

06:01:00:00

in the center of the harbour, the harbour was placed like that and this is the land here and the harbour went out to sea. The wrecks of Italian battleship or warship of some description a big passenger hulk on one side of the harbour and lots of other wreckage. Close in

06:01:30:00

shore was this British naval gun boat that could fire shells and what not at anti aircraft guns mainly. The harbour was here and they were down here I suppose a few hundred yards out and I had a truckload of stores that I was bringing back. We were coming along

06:02:00:00

and the German planes were bombing this gun boat which was actually wrecked at the time. I had to come down this road at the back of them and the German planes were going over where I was, and if there was a vehicle on the road they would machine gun you. The driver said “pull up”, I had

06:02:30:00

a lot of stores on the truck because we had been into the ordinance depot where you got your stores. I said “We better get under the truck”, I forget the driver's name now. So we got under the truck and looked down, we were pretty covered, and we watched the bombs going onto this little gunboat and it was having a hell of a time and they were firing back a bit.

06:03:00:00

After a while I said to the driver “What have we got in the truck”, I wasn’t quite certain of the stores and he said “So and so and boxes of ammunition”. I thought this was a silly place to be if one of the planes come back and fire a shot at us because it would set the ammunition alight. I said “We better go somewhere else to hide”, and we scuttled around to the side a bit and went into a hole in the ground

06:03:30:00

or something. That was just an incident there and I did go in there a lot. Another time I went in and I was about to go in and I had a vehicle of some sort and a car pulled up and the chap who was the chief ordinance officer who is in charge of stores from the 9th Division Headquarters, that was the division that we were in.

06:04:00:00

He said “What are you doing here?”, I said “I’m the quartermaster of the 2/17th Battalion”, and he said “If every quartermaster came in here“ and he gave me a hell of a dressing down. He was a Lieutenant Colonel so I did my block with him and I was a bit rude to him, I forget what I said to him. I finally got back to the unit,

06:04:30:00

I’m not certain if it was the same day or the day after and the CO sent for me and he said “I’ve had a complaint from Colonel so and so and you were very rude to him at the ordinance depot the other day”, and I said “Well he was accusing me of virtually loosing the place”. The CO I remember him saying to me

06:05:00:00

“I’m not ordering you Arthur but it might be a go idea if you do something”. I agreed with him so two days later I drove into Tobruk, which was some distance from the battalions. There was a big circle of thirty odd miles and we were about six or seven miles from the perimeter was this headquarters. I went to the ordinance depot

06:05:30:00

and I waited just outside and I saw this car and I recognized it as his and I went up to the Colonel and said “I apologize if I was a bit rude“, and he accepted it. But years after the war I was at a mess party at Victoria Barracks in Sydney

06:06:00:00

and this Colonel came along, I don’t know whether he recognized me, we were in uniform. We got talking about Tobruk and I don’t know whether he recognized me but he said “We helped you fellows a lot“, and I said “Yes sir”. To this day I don’t know whether he recognized me as the fellow who had abused him,

06:06:30:00

but it just shows you the funny things in life.
I’m wondering what do you think were the main difficulties at Tobruk for you?
I had an easy life compared to some of the other people.

06:07:00:00

We were in positions that were shelled or sometimes bomb. Tobruk was a little town itself, there is a town Tobruk but the place we were in was from one half circle was thirty miles long, so we had troops all along that area. In the town there was a naval officer

06:07:30:00

and things like that, it got a lot of shelling and bombing. If you were on a road in the daytime and planes were coming over you and you’d watch what they were doing the Germans, they use to send planes over mainly to bomb the harbour and bomb

06:08:00:00

the precedence of the harbour itself. There was a wall around the little town of Tobruk hundreds of years old and when we got there

06:08:30:00

we adopted a position behind this wall, we had forty or fifty vehicles that we had to park, and you couldn’t park them together you had to scatter them over quite an area. In numbers we weren’t many, but we covered a big area with the vehicles. I had some machine guns,

06:09:00:00

anti aircraft and when some of the planes came over, some of my chaps with the machine guns and anti aircraft guns, they fired at the planes coming back. The Germans bomber planes would come in and bomb the harbour and when they finished bombing they’d scuttle back,

06:09:30:00

fairly close to the ground, but not from where they bombed but over our head and they’d machine gun you. My fellows the chaps in the quartermasters department, if they had weapons they’d have a crack at these things. We were doing

06:10:00:00

this one day and behind this wall was a British unit. An officer came over and said “You fellows don’t start firing your guns here they will attract the planes“. They had been use to nothing there and our chaps decided

06:10:30:00

if the German plane was close enough they might try and shoot it down. This fellow didn’t want us to take part in the war, they were having a quiet life and they wanted it to remain that way. These little joking things that happen to you. Like I said we got the first Victoria Cross in the war our battalion,

06:11:00:00

and this chap Mackel he was a terrific little soldier and the sad part about these fellows, Mackel died as a young man. He was in business in New South Wales. War had an effect on him to a degree. He was a big shot

06:11:30:00

in some firm in Sydney importing, a man who is still alive General Broadbent who was later on the CO of our battalion he knew Mackel from the time that the battalion was formed. He got on the board of this company and if he saw that Austin was not cracking up to his

06:12:00:00

state of his business affairs he’d ensured that he was given a rest. John was on the board, Austin like so many unfortunately died from my point of view relatively young.
When you yourself were under artillery fire in Tobruk I’m wondering if you ever had moments of feeling a bit scared

06:12:30:00

when you were under fire?
I think we were all a bit scared and keep your heads down. It’s hard to say you can’t relieve some of the things. Odd things happen, I think the good lord protected me. I think if I had of

06:13:00:00

been a platoon commander in Tobruk I’d have had to face, like for instance the chap who took my place as platoon commander, he was badly wounded in Tobruk and he never came back to the battalion. As quartermaster I wasn’t looking to shoot people, and I don’t know whether they were looking to shoot me.

06:13:30:00

You took certain risks, but I don’t know, I’ve had the fear of lord in me at times but I didn’t take any particular time.
How much do you think luck had to do with it?
That’s a good question, there are a lot of things in luck.

06:14:00:00

When I say illustrated there was a man here who was in Tobruk who got in touch with me about a year or two ago and asked did I know his uncle who was in Tobruk

06:14:30:00

in our battalion and I said “Yes I did know him”, and he went on. This chap who was a sergeant in the battalion he went all through Tobruk exposed to everything, took out patrols and had a very good record and I don’t think he was wounded in Tobruk.

06:15:00:00

After Tobruk and before the battle of El Alamein we came back to civilization again and this chap was sent off to do an officers' course,

06:15:30:00

and he automatically became a commissioned officer just before the battle of El Alamein and it started twelve months later virtually. He got commissioned and became a Lieutenant in A Company in a rifle company of the battalion.

06:16:00:00

He went up and at the battle of El Alamein in A Company I was the adjutant of the battalion at that time. We worked it out that we’d have three companies forward in the attack, one in reserve and most of the trouble would on the right of the attack. The company on the left would not have a clear run but wouldn’t have as much work to do as others who wouldn’t

06:16:30:00

meet the enemy was more clustered on the right side. This was ours, the CO and the company commander’s view of the situation. A Company on the left then B, C and then a company in reserve and off we went. This young man who had gone right through Tobruk as a sergeant

06:17:00:00

and got away with it he went in as Lieutenant to A Company as the platoon commander. Instead of the thoughts we had on it, as I say what the company commander had on planning the attack to opposite applied. The company that coped most of the trouble was the left hand company not the right had company,

06:17:30:00

and this was the chaps company. The company commander was badly wounded and the other three platoons and the company commander and the second in command most of the other officers were wounded or killed. This young officer his first job as an officer was suddenly commanding a company which

06:18:00:00

might take you months or years to get to that stage in normal affairs. Of course the inevitable happened, in action in less than ten days he was killed. They were the sort of things that I often think of.
That’s a very tragic story.

06:18:30:00

Perhaps you could take us after Tobruk, what was going on for you?
After Tobruk we came back and where this chap was killed was El Alamein

06:19:00:00

and it was all together different. After Tobruk we finished up going into Syria, not fighting in Syria but just going there, we were only back a little while and we said that one company had to go up. Then eventually the whole battalion went up in pieces. We went up from Palestine where we were right up to Turkish border and we had troops up right on the border.

06:19:30:00

The fighting had finished in Syria, there were the local inhabitants, and the Arabs all around the place and you didn’t know what they were likely to do. We had no trouble with them but we were right against the border with Turkey.

06:20:00:00

We were at the boarder and our troops were at a town right on the border and they use to have to go through the trains where they came in from Turkey. The odd thing of course was there would be a great locomotive made in Germany in

06:20:30:00

1940 and they’d have a mix crowd of people. They had British intelligence people working with us and they’d go through it and if they were suspicious of any passenger they would mark him and tell one of our troops. They’d probably pick him up and

06:21:00:00

take him off the train and submit him for investigation because there were a lot of people coming through that way. I remember being on the railway platform there on the border and a lady came to me and said “you’re an Australian?”, and I said “yes”, and she said “I’m an American”,

06:21:30:00

I don’t know where she was going maybe Turkey, but it was a strange place. It was interesting, Aleppo I think is suppose to be the second oldest town in the world or close to Aleppo near the border. I saw a lot of it we’d go around and our troops were scattered over a wide area. But while

06:22:00:00

I was there I became the adjutant at that time and they sent me on a course in Palestine and I left Palestine and that was when the Germans

06:22:30:00

came down to El Alamein virtually.
Can you describe the role of the adjutant?
He was the COs sort of a administrator, the CO would give certain orders and you’d have to write the order up and send it to the companies or wherever it had to go.

06:23:00:00

You also had the job all the administrative side of things, if you had a chief clerk and we had a pretty first rate guy in that position called Darby Green who was a solicitor in civilian life and he had been the

06:23:30:00

sergeants clerk of battalion headquarters for years. When I became the adjutant he was trying to get away to do a course to try and get into the fighting war. I remember saying to him “Look Darby I need you to instruct me a bit” with him being the adjutant's chief clerk from the time the battalion was formed, and a very smart bloke in every way.

06:24:00:00

He was a great help to me in that but that sad thing was like everything else he was so keen to get into a fighting job that he went and did a course on the three inch mortar, which is a very heavy weapon for an infantry battalion. When the final battle came at El Alamein

06:24:30:00

old Darby was madly getting his ammunition up for his gun and he got killed, and the last I saw of him he was six foot four and a half inches high. My last look was with a body wrapped in blankets strapped to the side of carrier and it was poor old Darby going back. He was a

06:25:00:00

very learned bloke, I’ve got a poem in there from a book and I could read it to you if you like. He was a lovely man and like so many in the war they died a bachelor. I met a brother of his many years after the war.

06:25:30:00

I was going around eastern New South Wales with a navy and air force fellow and we were just talking in a lot of the country towns as to why Australia is still in the armed forces and I met his brother.

06:26:00:00

I would like to take you back then to the war and to El Alamein, can you tell me what you were doing during that battle?
I was the adjutant and therefore I sort of wrote out the

06:26:30:00

orders for the battle with the COs advice and commission, what everyone had to virtually do. That was issued to the company so they sort of worked on that. That was the sort of paperwork that you had to do as the adjutant. You had to

06:27:00:00

take the CO and say we would do this that and the other thing and if you had to put it into a proper style so the rifle company knew exactly what they had to do. You were sort of a chief clerk to the CO, he didn’t write the orders.

06:27:30:00

I signed and wrote the battle orders for the battle of El Alamein of what everybody did. It was a pretty safe job although strangely enough at the battle of El Alamein my CO a Colonel Simpson and I

06:28:00:00

were the only CO and adjutant that were not wounded or killed in the battle that lasted roughly ten days or so. So I suppose it’s the luck of the Chinaman or whatever, I don’t know. The commanding officer that we had at El Alamein was a very

06:28:30:00

smart operator in very way, with a lot of army experience before the war in peace time as a militiaman and certainly as a commanding officer, senior officer and then finally our commanding officer. He was a very very good

06:29:00:00

at El Alamein. Half of the time there he was sick, and the chap who eventually became the commanding officer only recently mentioned in our history how the ‘red foxes’, we called the

06:29:30:00

CO, he had quite a lot of the time off sick during the battle. Second in command and myself he mentions us as keeping up the battle in the style that the CO would have, but that’s his view, John Vorte he’s still alive and I speak to him quite often.

06:30:00:00

All I can say is that there always a lot of luck in everything that you do. I was very lucky because one of the things that happened to me when I was in camp at Sydney before we went up to Bathurst.

06:30:30:00

The 56th Militia Battalion that was the one that I was attached to for a couple of years he said “You can camp up the road how about you and Claude” who had been in the 56th Battalion with me “Go and see him tonight”

06:31:00:00

I went up to the 56th Battalion headquarters and the adjutant whom I knew said “The second in command Major Anderson wants to speak to you”, and I said “Oh does he”, I said “I don’t know him”, he said “I know but he says that he wants to see you”. I went to Major Anderson and he said “I’m going to be second in command at the 2/19th Battalion”, and he said “the CO is going to be the

06:31:30:00

CO of that battalion”, the commanding officer he had there was a doctor and he said “He’s going to be the commanding officer of the 2/19th Battalion”. He said “Would you like the job of quartermaster?”, at this stage of my life I think I was a warrant officer and that would be like from

06:32:00:00

warrant officer to captain in one easy lesson. I said “That would be alright”. The next morning I’m back in our camp at Ingleburn and the adjutant who had been a cadet at Duntroon when I was there who I knew well. He said to me “what have you been up to?” and I said “I haven’t been up to anything”, he said “The CO got a telephone call

06:32:30:00

today from a Major Anderson from the 56th Battalion”. He said “You are going to be his quartermaster for his 2/19th Battalion”. I said “What did the CO say?”, he said “No bloody body snatching around here” to the Major. This is the luck of the game

06:33:00:00

the 2/19th Battalion went to Malaya and this Major Anderson who spoke to me was second in command of the battalion as he said he would be, won a Victoria Cross there but most of the battalion ended up as prisoners of war and most of them were killed. I just had the history of the 2/19th here recently, the quartermaster

06:33:30:00

who took the job that was offered to me he died or he died as a prisoner of war, I don’t know. So I know there is a lot of luck in life.
I agree, perhaps we could go back to El Alamein, you were writing battle orders? Can you tell me what the lead up to

06:34:00:00

that battalion was like. You were privileged to information, intelligence, you knew what was going on?
Yes. At El Alamein we attacked, the British troops had been pushed back right to El Alamein which was only sixty miles from Alexandria, Egypt.

06:34:30:00

I think the Germans at that stage thought that the rest of the game was a walk over. We took over really from the British, there were still the British there but we had to have a part of the line. I suppose we just carried on,

06:35:00:00

the 9th Division took over and Morshead was a very clever general, between them they worked out the plan of the battle and what units and how they would take part. It was a very combined effort, I don’t know how you really described it, it was we were just one of the other battalions there. As I said at the battle

06:35:30:00

the CO and I, must be fortune again we were the only CO and adjutant that escaped from being either killed or wounded in the place. Actually at El Alamein the closest I got to being killed was we first went up there

06:36:00:00

we were the reserve brigade and we went up to see the other Australian brigade or one of them who was in action. We had to go up and have a look and see where the Germans were. When we got there we went up an area

06:36:30:00

that was protected by higher ground in front of it and at the end of it there was a little hill top. The other battalions took us to this and said “If you go up to that hill top lookout you will probably see the Germans out in front of the place”. I went up there,

06:37:00:00

I had always sort of been an instructor in the army before the war and you can pop your head over things and you look around the corner. So Newton goes up there despite all this knowledge and instead of doing what I said that we should do, he puts his head up and the next minute a whistle goes pass my ear, and I think that was the nearest I had been to being killed.

06:37:30:00

It just shows you how careful you have got to be, or lucky.
How long were you at El Alamein for?
Not long, the whole battle only lasted about ten days. There were some tremendous blokes that were killed there, this Darby Green I was telling you about he was killed there.

06:38:00:00

This young Otto we called him, Bob was his Christian name but he was always called Otto, he was a chap who had been through Tobruk and just got commissioned and he was killed there. I was telling his nephew, he knew his uncle had been killed but

06:38:30:00

he didn’t know the details of it. I suppose it’s a case of luck is a fortune. We had a little fellow there called Bobby Bevan and he was I suppose nineteen years of age at the most, he was a clerk at the battalion headquarters. One of his duties was to ring up the company every morning, and say “What's your strength today?”, of course it would vary

06:39:00:00

fellows would be wounded, sick or killed, they’d give him the information. He would get on the phone and talk like an ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] TV [Television] or radio announcer saying ‘this is Bevan from so and so I want this information’. He always wanted to get into the battle and get around the place, he was a nice good looking young

06:39:30:00

man, as I say he was only a boy. One day he said to me “look at this?”, it was beautiful threads and I said “Where did you get those”, he said “Out of that jeep down there”, about a hundred yards down the road. I said “That’s an English jeep”, and he said “I know, but the chaps in it are not there anymore

06:40:00:00

they are just dead”. They had a couple of sweaters or something. The only company commander who was neither killed or wounded at El Alamein was a chap called John Dennings and rang me up one day and he said “Look Arthur, for goodness keep that young Bevan tied up at your place”,

06:40:30:00

he said “He came down in the middle of the day, the Germans don’t know our position but him walking there“. So I had to give poor old Bevan a kick in the tail and say “You can’t do these sorts of things Bobby”. All he wanted to do was get into the front line. He went off to

06:41:00:00

New Guinea, which was where I never went with the battalion because I had left the battalion by that time. I was only reading today, the adjutant of the battalion when they were in New Guinea they did the landing at Lae and they were fighting in that area. He tells the story how Bobby was still the clerk for the battalion headquarters and he wanted to do something active.

06:41:30:00

They said to Bobby “You can do a bit of spotting”, he got up in a tree and told the soldiers on the ground where the Japanese were, like a lookout. Of course the inevitable happened a Japanese shot him, the adjutant at the time described it he said “Little Bobby, puzzled look on his face”.
Interviewee: Arthur Newton Archive ID 1130 Tape 07

07:00:30:00

You were telling Kathy [interviewer] about this photograph.
The photograph this was taken in September 1942 and two of the people on the left Major Magno and the second last

07:01:00:00

one the right is John Duff and they were both at that stage were promoted to lieutenant colonel.
What happened to them?
In early September I think it was Keith Magno had been a company commander in our battalion and a terrific officer

07:01:30:00

in every way but he was killed. He went on the start line with his battalion and they got shelled pretty much the same and he was badly wounded and he refused the drivers who wanted to take him back to the RAP [Regimental Aid Post]. He wanted to

07:02:00:00

make certain that his battalion got on the way on their attack. Of course he died in hospital when they got him there. Tim McCullough the officer on his immediately lower right he was killed on what we called ‘Bloody Sunday’, it was the Sunday after the second attack. He was killed

07:02:30:00

leading his company forward. It was a Saturday night and I remember I had to go up and ask him what the situation was, where his company was. “No we didn’t have artillery support the second night”, this was based on information, not on our battalion but one of the battalions from the

07:03:00:00

ensuring brigade. I remember Tim McCullough saying “There are Germans up the front”, we had a patrol out and stuck them. He was killed within hours of telling me that. John Golf leaving the 32nd Battalion at roughly the same time but up near the coast. He is described in the

07:03:30:00

official military history as leading his battalion and himself up the front with them and he was always a chap that did what he wanted to do and sadly he was badly wounded, he lived of course and he kept going. Ian McMaster who

07:04:00:00

was the son of Sir Fredrick McMaster a great station owner in New South Wales and the only son sadly. Had Don Company and he had done well all the time and he was laying in the middle of the day

07:04:30:00

having a bit of a rest in his dug out and a bomb dropped and it apparently was a splinter or something from the bomb wounded him. What I remember was him being carried from battalion headquarters to the RAP but he died too. They were both, the three of them Keith Magno, the four of those

07:05:00:00

fellows had seen quite a lot of the war and it was a sad time for us that were near them.
How do you deal with the deaths of so many good men and friends so soon, so close together?
I don’t know, I don’t know about

07:05:30:00

other people but when Keith Magno died I think I more or less wept and so did John Broadbent, both of us had commanded the same platoon at different times, I had taken it over from John, we had a great impression of him. I always remember little incidences and I think I told you earlier about the run back into Tobruk and I

07:06:00:00

went back along the track and found Keith there. When we finally took off, he was back in Tobruk and I was back in his position that night. The next day I said “When the battalion headquarters comes through I’ll see you”, strangely enough I went through with

07:06:30:00

just one vehicle. This was my last personal impression of Keith, Keith was having a cup of tea with his batman and this truck pulled up and I had a chat and I said “I told you I’d come when the Germans were attacking and I opted out”, he said “Yes well we’ll finish our cup of tea”. Sadly that was my last

07:07:00:00

occasion to see him, or spoke to him. When they first went into action the company, he rang up and said that he was on the ground and we had a bit of a chat and I think that was the last time I saw him.
John Broadbent who had the same respect for him as I did,

07:07:30:00

he was killed in the attack but he was leading at El Alamein and when John went down to him and spoke to him at the start line and wished him well. We were both stricken the same way when we heard that he hadn’t survived the night. John Broadbent was the man I spoke to who said “Keith with one leg is as good

07:08:00:00

as men with four”. It's very difficult. One of the things that happened to us was our doctor, Dr Sam Sullivan he was badly wounded at El Alamein of course he was in a deep hole in the ground which was setup as an RAP.

07:08:30:00

When the neighboring unit came along he had something in his eye and the doctor had to get up out into the daylight to dispose what it was. Of course again the inevitable thing happened a shell came over and Sam was badly wounded on his right arm

07:09:00:00

I think, and he was evacuated himself, he lived for quite a number of years after the war. I think he practiced in Newcastle. The ambulance that came up to take him out had a doctor on it

07:09:30:00

and he rang me and said “I’m so and so I’m from the field ambulance but I’m asking them to post to as your medical officer”, and he did become out medical officer. He was a good follower in Sam’s footsteps.

07:10:00:00

The silly part and you will probably think I’m an idiot. The only company commander that really survived was this John Dennings and he’s in that one photo there. He came at the end of the battle of El Alamein. He brought his company out and he came up to me before hand at headquarters and he

07:10:30:00

was the only company that survived the attack and he was pretty grubby, it had been ten days without proper rest and all the rest of it. He had no pips on his shoulder pads, he only had pencil marks, three marks to say that he was a captain. I said “What’s that?”, he said “I’ve lost my hunting pips”,

07:11:00:00

I said “We’ve got a new doctor and his name is Hughes”, and I said “he’s in the RAP up there John go and see him”. Just as he left I had a silly idea, I rang Dr Hughes and said “Look Bill there is a very good soldier going up there,

07:11:30:00

Carmichael and he thinks he’s a captain, he’s even got pencil marks on his shoulder pads”. I said “Be kind to him, he a bloody good soldier at that”. I waited for about ten minutes, it was only about a hundred yards of. I came up and went down into the steps into the place and there were these

07:12:00:00

two fellows looking at each other. I said “You know captain Dennings do you, Bill?” and he said “You so and so”. To turn an act like that on was probably a stupid thing, but he never forgot it. John Dennings sadly died many years ago now he was big shot in Coles

07:12:30:00

in Melbourne. He always use to tell the story of his meeting with Bill Hughes.
How important was it to have a sense of humour during wartime?
God knows, most of us did it. It depends, I don’t know

07:13:00:00

but that was the only funny one if you could call it that. Some of the fellows, this chap Darby Green for instance, he was the one that died he was the chief clerk for the police commission in Sydney.

07:13:30:00

He was a good lawyer at his own standards at that. He had a great sense of humour in a way, I suppose a bit subtle. Our commanding officer Colonel Crawford for some reason or another was known as the ‘cake eater’, no one knew how that happened. Someone said he was at a party and gobbled all the cake or something like that, I don’t know.

07:14:00:00

Darby when he was in Tobruk had a cake sent to him, in a tin or some container from Australia. He gave his chap working immediately with him some of the slices and there was

07:14:30:00

some cake left over in the tin. The signal platoon, which are the fellows who work the radio were close to him. Darby said to one of the chaps with him “Take that up to the cake eaters up there”, meaning the signal platoon. About five minutes later the phone rang, “Is that you Green?

07:15:00:00

This is the commanding officer”, and Darby said “Yes sir”, he said “Thank you very much for that cake”. The soldier who he gave it to thought he was referring to the CO boys nickname more or less, ‘the cake eater’.
What was your nickname?
I don’t think I had one that I know of.

07:15:30:00

I had a nickname as a youth, I was called ‘nuts’.
Why?
Nothing I suppose.
I want to move forward now because we wont be able to cover everything. When you came back to Australia from the Middle East you were working in a

07:16:00:00

headquarters job, can you tell me about that?
It depends when you say came back from the Middle East we all went on leave initially.

07:16:30:00

I went on leave to Melbourne, I proposed marriage to my first wife Marjorie. I had done the staff college in the Middle East.

07:17:00:00

We went up to the Tablelands [? Atherton Tablelands],

07:17:30:00

I spent my leave part or most of my leave in Melbourne. I finished my leave in Melbourne and we went up independently to the Tablelands. I think the padre was with us, he was a catholic priest,

07:18:00:00

and there were only about twenty soldiers from Victoria because most of them were from New South Wales. I said to the old padre “We are going to travel for six days on the train padre, so you will want your own mess kit there”, you get your own meals, you wash up, that’s the rules for everybody that I had been given. The old padre said “I haven’t got it,

07:18:30:00

I haven’t got at plate, knife and fork”. I said “You will starve”, and I took my plate over the first place I think it was Albury where we got a meal the next thing I see the old padre with an old china plate and everything. I said “How did you get that?” and he said “I told the girls and they were very sympathetic”, they were the girls serving the meals and he said “And they gave me a plate”. I said “I will tell you something, from now on when you get your plate

07:19:00:00

you get two plates and knife and forks, I’m not going to be wash my mess tin and you living in luxury” and he took the dirty plate back. So we traveled up there. We got up to North Queensland up on the Tablelands and we got there before the rest of the battalion who were from New South Wales arrived.

07:19:30:00

I was the adjutant then and I remained there. That’s right I did a staff course in the Middle East before we came home I had just finished in fact, we had to leave there a day before to sail. When

07:20:00:00

things settled down I was still roughly the adjutant for a while and the next thing that happened I was sent down to Advance Land Headquarters in Brisbane as a staff captain. I was down there and by going there, that was in

07:20:30:00

June 1943 I didn’t go to New Guinea with the battalion, I remained down there as staff captain. To the man who had been my chief instructor at the small arms school many years before and he was then a major general so I was his captain. I sat at a door like this and his door was over

07:21:00:00

there an nobody and it didn’t matter what his rank was could go in an see my general without my approval. Except for one man and that was General Blamey he’d just walk past me and I’d virtually bow to him I suppose. I was there for over twelve months and then another general who had been a major

07:21:30:00

at Duntroon when I was out there, Bomber Wells. He was at corps headquarters and he came in to see the general captain one day and he said “Its about time you came back to 9th Div?”, I said “Yes sir I’d long to get back on”, I forget how I said it but I showed him a

07:22:00:00

bit of enthusiasm. Before you could say Jack Roberts I got the word that I was to be the staff captain for the 24th Brigade, I’ve got a photo over there and off I went. Sir Victor, he wasn’t Sir Victor then but Sir Victor Windy [?] who was the brigade commander

07:22:30:00

of the 20th Brigade which was the brigade that our battalion belonged to. He said “I tried to get you but general Porter got you”, and I finished up with Brigadier Porter who was later on the police of chief in Melbourne. He was one of the really

07:23:00:00

smartest and experienced, he was in everything. He was a 6th Div bloke so he was in Greece and had been in all those battles, then he was with the 9th Division with the 24th Brigade and I was staff captain. He was a great man and he had a great wit too, and I got on well with him. I will always remember him because the chap who had been my CO

07:23:30:00

Colonel Simpson was appointed to one of the battalions in the 24th Brigade. Simpson was a very efficient and a very tough man and a man of very few words. On the other hand Porter had a sense of humour and I remember we were doing an exercise up on the Tablelands

07:24:00:00

and there were three battalions in the brigade. The Brigadier rang the first one up and the CO there was talking and he said “Yes sir we are doing this and that”, and he gave about a ten minute talk on how good they were and what they were doing, this was an exercise period. Then he rang the next battalion

07:24:30:00

and very much the same and the last battalion he rang was my ex-CO, Noel. He said “How are things Noel?” and Noel said “On the base we have done everything right sir”. Porter had a sense of humour and he said “Marvelous Noel

07:25:00:00

I will send you a violet crumble”, he reckoned he’d reward you with a violet crumble if you did a good job for him.
Where was the 24th Brigade to operate while you were serving as staff captain?
We finished up in Borneo and that was the most satisfying job I had during the war. Like people talk about other places,

07:25:30:00

they were the places to fight a war, the desert. There would only be two there, you and me and me being the arch enemy or whatever, and you fought but no civilians. In Borneo it was satisfying or relief or to get the satisfaction you got from seeing the local inhabitants welcome us. When we first went into the

07:26:00:00

island of Labuan and captured that, from there there was a bay and we went onto the mainland of Borneo, it was owned by an English company before the war. We went there and we had to fight, it was all rivers,

07:26:30:00

there was no other means they didn’t have any roads, you had air or rivers. We finally captured the town of Bowford, we went up there. We had help on the river, we had American river boats, gun ships. This man was a great tactician and he knew

07:27:00:00

the right balance and everything. I remember him talking to the Americans, they had two type of craft with machine guns on the deck above the body of the craft and then they had the other craft where the mortars needed much open space and they fired from

07:27:30:00

the bottom so that the crew were protected by this fire. I will always remember that he suggested that they use the mortars but the Americans said they knew best and the machine guns were the thing and they fought up the river. That went on and I had been over to Labuan on a motorboat and I brought back the American overall commander of the small ships

07:28:00:00

that they had there. As we stopped at the river where our brigade headquarters were and everything was rivers there like I said. A boat came down and the wounded man that was aboard, he was the chap that insisted instead of firing a mortar under guards from the bottom of the barge they had machine guns

07:28:30:00

on the deck up above and of course he was wounded. The chap I brought he was his overall commanding officer and he was shocked to see the chap that he was coming to visit coming off wounded.
What did your job at brigade headquarters involve during the Borneo campaign?
It was the administrative

07:29:00:00

side of everything. At brigade headquarters you had the G staff, the trainees and the fighters, they are the blokes that get all the comments, the headquarters side, which I was responsible for.

07:29:30:00

When the brigade went to Borneo I remained in Queensland and made certain that the battalions were shipped and all the stores. I virtually had a lot to do with the setup of the

07:30:00:00

stuff going away. The same when we got to the little island before we went onto the mainland of Borneo for the attack. We were going to have to arrange for the troops to travel around

07:30:30:00

by ship around and put the small boats along side. I think I went on the HMAS Westralia with the brigade major who was in the fighting side of it, who arrange it. The brigade commander was

07:31:00:00

on another ship, another chap in that photo there he and I went together. The Brigadier was on a ship on his own, I think I had a learner in those days and he was there. The funny part was that on our ship there was the press

07:31:30:00

with us. One of the other brigades had made a landing on the other side of Borneo at the time, unlike what had gone on before

07:32:00:00

now they were allowed to put into the press who commanded, more or less a bit of a story about them. This press fellow on the Westralia went to the BM [Bosun’s Mate] and told them this and said “Can you tell me the background of Brigadier Porter, we don’t know anything about him but we want to publish it in the press”.

07:32:30:00

The brigade major said “That’s a job for Newton”, the chap came along to me and said “What’s its names initials are SHWC”, I won't say what Porter use to say about it but whatever pair of initials you use they mean the same thing.

07:33:00:00

I told this press fellow and I think he was from a Melbourne paper, I told him about Porter and what a great bloke he was. When we got to Labuan and went

07:33:30:00

ashore, and this was a few days after the thing. Porter said to me “What the hell did you say to those fellows about me?”, and I said “H was for Havelock”, who was a famous British General. I forget what it said for S but I said “H was for Havelock,

07:34:00:00

and W for Wellesley”, he said “You didn’t did you?” not that he had been at all. He said “My wife wrote to me and said what do you think you are a blooming film star or something”. I never knew what they published in the paper I forget what I told the fellow.

07:34:30:00

I may of said he might have been related to Havelock the British general I don’t know. They were sort of some of the jobs that you did. I did all the movement that the brigade major and the brigadier shot off to,

07:35:00:00

the island part of Borneo that was in our hands and I had to arrange, when I say arrange I had to issue orders and I had to arrange with the battalions to move them over by ship. That was sort of the stuff that you had to do the administrative side of the war. The brigade major he did the fighting side

07:35:30:00

and got the credit.
You mentioned it was gratifying to see the local populations?
We captured Labuan Island first and then across from that was the main island of what was called British North Borneo in those days. There was a town there called

07:36:00:00

Bowford and we captured Bowford, it had been in Japanese hands and the Japanese had cleared out and it was just a matter of time before they were finished or they gave themselves up. The Bowford people had a thing on, there was a

07:36:30:00

flat piece of ground where we could land small aircraft on and did, because as I said the only connection between the mainland and the island was by the what’s it name and the rest of the access was by sea or air. This flat piece of ground was the landing ground for the small planes that came over.

07:37:00:00

The brigade commander decided to hold a parade because they had captured Bowford. I always remember after the Brigade commander made the point that they were under military law now, we could straighten them out if they did anything wrong.

07:37:30:00

Then one of the citizens came up, I think he was a Filipino and he got up and spoke in perfect English and he stated what a great relief it was for the people of Bowford to be back under the British because the Japanese had given them a pretty rough time.

07:38:00:00

He spoke and even said that they would like to see the Australians remain here and sort of run the country.
The sad part of it was he died about four days later from malaria, but he spoke

07:38:30:00

and when they did that the local inhabitants cheered him. It was most satisfying to see the criticism ever since the war that wasn’t necessary for those people of Borneo. But if you were there the only satisfactory side of the war when you released the local population

07:39:00:00

from being harassed by the Japanese. I remember they had a prisoner of war camp there and they released it, there were all sorts of people there. There was a catholic nun there dressed in the garment of the time in the long flowing robes and everything. She was an extraordinary person she

07:39:30:00

use to go out, I don’t know how they treated the civilians, the Japanese kept an eye on them. But apparently they allowed some of them to go out shopping and this nun use to be under a long wide spreading skirt and she use to apparently purchase things that they weren’t suppose to purchase and hang them under there.

07:40:00:00

When the guards had attempted to search her she made such a ruckus about that she was given a free pass from then on, so she kept the prisoners and mostly the civilians well fed with the stuff she use to smuggled in.
Interviewee: Arthur Newton Archive ID 1130 Tape 08

08:00:30:00

I would like to finish off the day by asking you what your role in the war trial committee at Sandakan was?
(Unclear) They finished up at Ranour

08:01:00:00

but very few of them got there, there might have been at least one hundred. There were two Japanese officers in charge of the camp and a number of Japanese soldiers as guards. One of the soldier guards

08:01:30:00

told an Australian who was a POW [Prisoner of War] there that the officers had been told to have all the POWs at Ranour shot in the next week or so of the time. He mentioned to this chap

08:02:00:00

and he has been in the news quite a lot and he’s a warrant officer. He and a couple of more people he talked to there who were POWs with him, they had marched from Sandakan to some time before but they were in this camp at Ranour. He escaped with these two

08:02:30:00

people. It was an Australian officer, a lieutenant colonel who was a legal man in civilian life and he was made the chairman of the court, and there was a British major there who had been from Singapore apparently and I was a captain and I was the Australian. The three of us had to try

08:03:00:00

the two officers and the soldiers. We relied a lot on the evidence from the captain who had escaped and he was a warrant officer. We had this court for a while.

08:03:30:00

Among the soldiering he seemed to know them, I don’t know how long he was under guard but I don’t think it would have been for a long period, possibly a month or two. He seemed to be able to ear mark and identify the various POWs and some of them they had a good word for us that he was a good fellow. The result was with the other ranks of Japanese

08:04:00:00

soldiers, they weren’t by the way all Japanese either they were from some other island near Japan I forget now. We sentenced them to imprisonment, I forget the details now. When it came to the two officers we considered that they

08:04:30:00

perhaps could of acted differently and so on. Anyway they were condemned to death. I think in one case the junior officer concerned he was a senior one that made the decision, I think we sentenced the junior one to be

08:05:00:00

shot and the senior one to be hanged, I’ve forgotten the details. I don’t get any joy out of the memory of course.
What was your task?
I was actually a staff captain from the 24th Brigade at the headquarters of 9th Division. They had to put an officer on the court and when the Brits asked them

08:05:30:00

they picked me for the job. As staff captain of the brigade I was responsible for all the sort of personal administration work. At headquarters you have the brigadier who is the boss of the lot, the brigade major who is suppose to be a tactician and he does all the planning of what the battalions have got to do.

08:06:00:00

Then the staff captain who is lower down the list, if I was to say the brigade major says “They have got to land by a certain type of ship”, or something like that then give it to the brigade major as a staff captain to get hold of him and find out where he can get these things from, they do the sort of drudgery work you might say.

08:06:30:00

This took place after the war had ended. I’m wondering if you could back track a minute and tell me where you were the day the war ended?
I was in British North Borneo.
What type of celebrations?

08:07:00:00

The people came out and cheered and everything and I think I mentioned they had a parade when they captured Bowford. What the Australians did and it wasn’t the brigade it was some quartermaster from one of the battalions. He said that we aught to give

08:07:30:00

the children a feast and in Borneo that time they didn’t have roads, the roads ran for about five miles out of the town and after that everything depending on rail or water traffic. I think one of the Australian battalions said “What we should do is give the children a day”, and we had a

08:08:00:00

great feast day for the children. The battalions kicked in, I suppose we bought stuff but mainly through the

08:08:30:00

canteen, and we had a great day for the children and they still talk of it. One of the fellows from brigade headquarters was Brigade Major Burner he only died a few years ago but he was a journalist after the war. He

08:09:00:00

mentioned the fact when he was writing one of the journal articles how he went back to Borneo only about ten years ago now before he died. When he got off the plane at the capital of Borneo that has got a different name to the one that we knew it by, again they used native terms.

08:09:30:00

British North Borneo was run by a British company at that stage and that’s how it was called British North Borneo and now of course it’s altogether different. This chap Kennedy when he got off the plane up near the capital and he had to go through customs, the method they have of checking people and one of the questions they asked

08:10:00:00

was “Have you ever been to Borneo before?”, and he said “Yes”, he said “In the war years”. Apparently the local bloke said “What the 9th Australian division?” the 24th was one of the brigades in the 9th Division. And Kennedy said “Yes”. The fellow said “Go through everything no one is to worry you from now on”, and he said “If you were 9th Division”, not that I’ll ever go back there

08:10:30:00

they would probably give me a leather medal or something if I did. Apparently they appreciated it, they wanted us to keep on. When we were there is was British North Borneo but it was run by a British company that owned the place and now I don’t know what its like now. At Bowford they were very interesting people. There was a

08:11:00:00

Chinese schoolteacher that I got to know well and he took us to a school one day. There was another fellow a chap later on, I think he was a captain in the army but he had a job in the Adelaide Parliament House, I forget what his name it now. This Chinese teacher

08:11:30:00

took us around his school and all the kids sang a song but I don’t know what it was but it was in Chinese. This South Australian friend of mine who was with me, he was a captain too I think he said “We will have to sing too”, no one has heard me sing or wants to hear me sing. I forget what we sung but maybe Advance Australia Fair or something like that but I forget now.

08:12:00:00

I suppose they had quite an affection for us. They had been released and they had badly treated by the Japanese because when we captured Bowford the Japanese got back into the undergrowth but they came out eventually. The thing that gets me every now and again

08:12:30:00

is the criticism that there was no need for the Australians to go into Borneo in any shape or form, it was just a waste of men’s lives. But on the other hand it was the only part of the war where we felt we had helped somebody other than ourselves.

08:13:00:00

How keen were you to stay

08:13:30:00

in Borneo for a while after the war had finished?
I wasn’t that keen I don’t think, I don’t think I ever had a view on it. Several people came in, in fact we had some civilian people

08:14:00:00

on at brigade headquarters when we got into Borneo and they started to take over but I think some of the Borneo people said they would like us to stay.
How important do you think were the war trials?
I don’t know,

08:14:30:00

I don’t whether the sentences that we passed for instance whether they were carried out I wouldn’t know. I suppose depending on the way that you look at it, if you had been a prisoner and had been injured by them

08:15:00:00

I think you’d have to do something. I think other than those people who were sentences to death, but those sentenced to long term imprisonment whether they were ever carried out I doubt, I don’t know to be honest. With certain things people have different views.

08:15:30:00

I forget where I was on a court marshal, where we considered being a bit lenient in the sentences but those in Borneo,

08:16:00:00

god knows where now because you get pushed into so many things, staff officers particularly in the army. I just can’t recall.
Roughly how long did you stay in Borneo?
I stayed there longer than most of the brigade who had come home.

08:16:30:00

I had to, not that we had a great number of stores but armoured stores and weapons and things. They had ordinance people who looked after the stores or normal fighting stores. We stayed there for quite some time and I finalized

08:17:00:00

all that stuff and handed it over in Borneo to people from the ordinance corps who looked after stores so I was there a bit longer. I got caught up in several courts of enquiry. Brigadier Windy who took over the division who is well known to me and I was well known to him. He was a judge later on in

08:17:30:00

the courts, he had a brother in our battalion at one stage and I think he was killed actually. He called me up on a couple of things, but he had to remain there because it was his headquarters and he said to me “This is the last

08:18:00:00

job I’ll give you”, I forget what that was concerned with now but it was a court of enquiry into something. Not only that you had other things like claims by other people, I know I was on a sort of a board that investigated a native person who had stated that the troops had

08:18:30:00

burnt their house down and in the end they didn’t even know it was a house I think. I remember getting over that one by saying “What if we build you another one”, an engineered company could do these sorts of things. Instead of fighting over an amount of money we would build them a house instead and they jumped at it. Unfortunately

08:19:00:00

I was well known to Brigade Windy and I was just barely a staff captain, he was actually acting as divisional commander at the time too and I remember him saying “This is the last one that I will give you before you can go home”, I even forget the month and the year now because it was such a long time ago.

08:19:30:00

I was there for longer than most of the troops, because we got rid of the troops very quickly once their time had expired. I forget how we worked it out but we shot them away very quickly. Some people stayed there I remember meeting a chap after the war that I had never met before and he

08:20:00:00

more or less said to me that I should have stayed on and he was kept there for months apparently after the war, I should have been the one, I even forget the details now because it was such a long time ago. I’m really trying to think, I must have flown home.

08:20:30:00

It’s amazing how you don’t think of things. When did the war finish?
In 1945.
1945, I

08:21:00:00

got married on leave before I went to Borneo, I was

08:21:30:00

sort of keen to get home at the time.
I’m wondering because you had been in the army for quite a long time now. Did you ever consider, particularly at the end of the war of getting out of the army at that stage?
No.

08:22:00:00

I’m a bit unusual in this way, I was in the full time cadet training, I was in partly in the full time CMF training and I stayed in the militia. I then went from there into the AIF and by that time

08:22:30:00

the army was sort of a career and it was only the silliest or the tragic part was when I got back to Australia they had what they called, not a small arms school, it was just outside of Albury. It was run by an officer who had been

08:23:00:00

at the small arms school in Sydney when I was there a chap called Latchford who had a quite a career in the First World War and was an instructor at the small arms school when I went there, I did two course down there. When I got back to Australia

08:23:30:00

I was married and I went back and went into Victoria Barracks and said that I had got rid of all our stores and some people came back and they had to account for what they did with their stores and it stretched on for weeks. In my case I got rid of everything in Borneo and when I got back I went into Victoria

08:24:00:00

Barracks and there was a major there in charge of personnel or something and I said “I want to serve in Eastern Command in Sydney”, and you thought that he was buying a pair of boots or something. He rang a few blokes and said “Have you got any jobs for a captain?”, there was nothing so I went on leave. I didn’t have very much

08:24:30:00

leave at all and I was only married twelve months before hand and I had sort of been away all that time. Nothing happened, I was sort of on leave and I came home

08:25:00:00

and I only had a few days and my wife was virtually in tears and she said “The personnel depot has rung and you have got to report there tomorrow morning you are getting a posting somewhere”. I went to Victoria Barracks and I said

08:25:30:00

“The war has only just ended and I’m entitled to leave” and I said “Where am I suppose to go?” and they said “You are posted to the Weapons Training School at Bonegilla outside of Albury”.

08:26:00:00

I think I got an extra weeks leave but I virtually had no leave, only a few weeks. I took off to Bonegilla and when I got there it was run by a chap who I had known who had been at the small arms school, that’s where they had great names of small arms, that’s rifles and machine guns instructor.

08:26:30:00

There was this infantry school at Bonegilla and he had a couple of my mates, one of them had been a POW with the Japanese a bloke who had joined the regular army, Laurie Mail and he had been my mate for years and I hadn’t seen him and he was on the staff there.

08:27:00:00

I moved into a barrack and was working with him and I remember the next morning the valley sounded, all the army work that I had been mixed up with that was for the soldiers or in this case at the army school it was for the trainees. The door bounced opened and old Latchy put his head “Up up up” and we said “Fair suck of the straw” or words to that effect.

08:27:30:00

I said “What am I posted to?” he said “We have got some students in and they will do what they did after the First War and that is to qualify for the armory school to be permanent instructors in the army and you are on the staff”. I said “What about quarters I’m married?”.

08:28:00:00

[TAPE STOPPED]

08:28:30:00

Arthur you have such a long and distinguished career when you look back with all these years of hindsight what do you think stands out for you as perhaps the proudest moment, or perhaps your strongest memories?
It’s very

08:29:00:00

difficult I suppose to say, obviously the strongest memories is being a part of the warzone with the battalion, there’s no doubt about that. You virtually get a love for people and when some of the chaps get killed, like

08:29:30:00

Colonel Magno was killed and John Vorte had the same affection like me, we knew what a fine bloke he was. I think that effected us both to a great degree and we still talk about him, and other people this chap Darby Green

08:30:00:00

who was the clerk of the battalion and he decided that it wasn’t war enough for him and he became a trainee on the mortars and did a course and topped the course and he hadn’t even seen a mortar until he went on it. He was of course killed in the battle of El Alamein. They are the sort of things that worry and also the little chap

08:30:30:00

in the tree with the puzzled look on his face. I think they are the things that you remember. It’s very difficult to think of all the things and some of the chaps, I had a batman called Bill Waters and he was an extraordinary bloke,

08:31:00:00

he was just an ordinary sort of worker. He was my batman for a while and he had a background of outside life, he was a haircutter and the chaps out, particular when we were in the line in the desert, the company command would ring me up and say “Can we

08:31:30:00

use your batman for a while, I want to get my fellows a haircut”, and old Bill would go up and cut all the fellows hair and they wouldn’t pay him anything. When we get back to camp or after coming out of action he’d get money later, he was a great character old Bill. You get

08:32:00:00

chaps like that that you mix with. There was another one that was a clerk at the 24th Brigade with me and I corresponded with him for years and in fact he use to look after our newsletter after the war.

08:32:30:00

I started this history off by getting what they called the ‘war diaries’, the soldiers copying them out here, not of the soldier but the battalion every day you had to keep a war diary and sometimes there’d be nothing in it and it would depend where you were and other times there would be.

08:33:00:00

I use to get the war diaries from the War Memorial and take copies of them, not rewrite them but add little bits, like more personal stuff.

08:33:30:00

I’d like to ask you, because you continued to serve after World War II, I’m wondering what you learned from World War II that stood you on good stead for later on?
Well, I suppose, can you give me a minute?

08:34:00:00

I would like to ask you if there is anything that you would like to close today, anything that you would like to pass on as a message, or if there is anything that you feel that you would like to say to wrap up our session today?

08:34:30:00

I would probably say that in my opinion I had a very lucky career in the army in many ways. It was always my

08:35:00:00

desire as a boy, my father was a marine engineer and spent a lot of his life at sea. We have always connected at the sea and particularly when we lived in Fremantle. When I was fourteen we moved to the eastern states and instead of getting tangled up as a navy cadet or

08:35:30:00

something like that the situation changed by the location. I suppose the greatest thing in my life really is serving in the AIF in the battalion where I suppose a couple of thousand chaps went through it at the time and many

08:36:00:00

are still alive and great personal friends of mine. There is only one chap now who lives in Canberra. I think the personal side of the battalion is something it’s different from any other thing,

08:36:30:00

you get to really met such extraordinary people. I had a batman once called Issy Sharpe and by the name you might understand that he was Jewish and he was much older than I was but he was an extraordinary fellow. He had served a very short time and never went overseas in the First War

08:37:00:00

so he was around about forty. He for quite some time he was my batman and then got into some mischief in the officers mess with some of the other and then lost the job as batman. But he was always a friend of mine even after the war and when he left me he became a rifleman in the battalion. When he was in Tobruk

08:37:30:00

they use to go out on patrols but the troops in the end asked the company commander that Issy not go out on their patrols because he would be telling them funny stories when they should be silent, they would burst into laughter when they were perhaps in ear shot of the Germans, men like that. Another man that had been my batman a chap called

08:38:00:00

Bill Waters and he would cut your hair. The company commander would ask could I sent Bill Waters up to the troops for a couple of days to cut their hair, they would be in the front line. Apart from the chaps that were officers that I was serving with

08:38:30:00

people like Magno he was an extraordinary man, you would virtually say that you loved him but he and the others. General Broadbent I took over his platoon and he rang me the other night from Brisbane and we just chatted about the war and the various things, because we were thinking along the same lines

08:39:00:00

and we were posted together for so long. He’s been down here several times and every time he comes here we see each other and I think he has a great admiration for me. He’s a solicitor and I think he still practices but he must be well into his eighties now in Sydney.

08:39:30:00

It’s the men that you meet I think and you realise there are a lot of good people in this world.
That’s a very very good note to end our day on. Thank you very very much for speaking with us and it’s been a pleasure.
Thank you.
INTERVIEW ENDS

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