we didn’t know where and I joined the regiment the day before we set out from Gaza to Suez to join a ship. The Western Land was the ship, which was the sister ship of the Pen Land in which we went to Greece. Not a very comfortable ship either. It was built for the Atlantic trade for passengers. Now it had
a couple of thousand troops aboard. So the troop decks were very, very hot and a lot of the troops slept up on deck. The food for the troops was appalling and for the officers was good. And we went to Ceylon in convoy to Colombo and we disembarked and we were
in defensive positions waiting for the Japs and on Easter Sunday we were having breakfast and saw a great flock of planes fly over and it was the Japanese on their way to bomb Colombo Harbour mainly, where they sank a couple of ships. And Fleet Air and our RAF [Royal Air Force] airplanes destroyed quite a few and we saw them
heading back for their carriers a few hundred miles south of Ceylon.
the Japs to appear but they didn’t. The 16th Brigade and the 25th Brigade had arrived and they started to push them back. We had been with the 16th Brigade from day one and they started to push them back and when landing grounds were available
eight guns were flown over from Port Moresby. Four to Dobodura, four to Popondetta. That’s one troop to each place. There we engaged the Japs and supported the infantry on the attacks on Buna, Gona and Sanananda and there
we were there from sometime in October, I can’t remember now, anyway late 1942. Until Buna and Sanananda and Gona were overrun and we flew back to Moresby. We were in 51 Battery at the time and the 2nd Battery
came across by sea and our 1st Battery was up at Wau, helping to defend Wau against the Japs when they tried to take Wau and that was it.
And at its conclusion you were called back to Sydney?
I went to a school at Holsworthy. We spent quite
a bit of time in Moresby after we came back over the mountains, back to Moresby after Buna, Gona and Sanananda. We received a lot of reinforcements and we started training again. We used to go out to a place called Boorawa for shooting where I’ve never seen so many mosquitos. You’d hear them buzzing and they’d bite through a shirt.
I had two spells in hospital with malaria. One ward was full of our regiment. They had a regimental sign outside. We were there until half way through the year and then we came back to Sydney. Then we had leave. Then I went to the school at Holsworthy and the regiment had headquarters at
Loftus but there weren’t many troops there. Most of the troops were working on the wharvess as wharf labourers. And they were living at Canterbury. Canterbury Racecourse. They annoyed the wharfies [wharf labourers] because one man was doing the work of four wharfies. And the wharfies didn’t like that. They said: “We’ve fought for years and years for these conditions and youse mob are
breaking it down.” Then we marched through Sydney and General Blamey found that we were on the wharvess and we immediately left that and went up to the Atherton Tablelands. It was about Christmas 1944 and we spent 1944 on the Atherton Tablelands
training and received more reinforcements. They had a football competition and then in December 1944 we boarded another liberty ship, the Lin Liam Garrison,[?] and went to New Guinea. Landed at Aitape.
We were there for a little while. We took over from Americans. Now I did one operational flight with one of 8 Squadron Beauforts and I liked to tell a friend of mine who lives in Toronto. He did half a flight. He was in a Wellington in England and was shot down over France, landed in the English Channel. Swam ashore and was met by the Germans.
So he did half an operational flight and I did one.
I’d just have memories of what I did. I had about forty printed and then I thought of a whole lot of other things so I produced a second edition. And now I could almost produce a third one because I keep thinking of things that have happened.
But just mainly for myself and my family. I just handed around copies to some of my army friends, my close friends and that’s about all. I’ve also written, also for my own memory, a trip I did
sailing from Sydney to Honolulu and from Lake Macquarie to the Seychelles. I sailed in a little Danish Freighter as an AB [able seaman]. Well I said “AB”, the captain said “Supernumerary for seven weeks.” and just wrote my experiences of those.
were when we had a gun position on the side of the road in Greece. And there were a lot of vehicles going past, retreating, and we saw about eighty aeroplanes over to our right and we said, “Someone’s going to cop it”. And we soon found it was us. And a great bomb landed. The crater
was just outside the gun pit. Half the crater was in the gun pit. I saw the bomb leave the plane. It was not far away. And we waited for a couple of seconds and then we were showered with rocks and dirt and one big rock broke the leg of one of the gunners on the next gun and one of our fellows received a great gash on his thigh and
they both went away in a truck and the one with the broken leg rejoined the regiment some time later but the other one, we think, was on a hospital ship that was hit. He went down with the ship. I still often speak to one of the gun crew who was with us. I still
remember that quite clearly. At the time quite a few trucks alongside. I don’t think it was aiming at our gun. I think we just happened to be near where the bomb fell. I think it was aiming for the vehicles on the road and one belonged to an English officer in a rifle brigade who gave us a demi-john of rum and about six bottles of beer,
meat and vegetable stew and a book of poetry. I think, from memory it was a Shakespeare play and his cap. So I remember that quite well. And the gun position officer said later that I told him, “That was the loudest noise I ever heard.” I still remember that quite clearly.
At the time it wasn’t easy to go to sea because it was the tail end of the Depression and not many ships needed crews. I very nearly went in the Swedish ship just before the war. The mate said, “Go to the customs house.”
who apparently, they handled passports at that time, to get a passport. So I marched into the customs house and said to the fellow, “I’d like a passport please.” And I said, “How long will that take?” And he said, “About three weeks.” I said: “The ship’s sailing tonight; I’d like it now if I can have it.” He said, “Well you won’t be sailing tonight.” So I joined the army instead.
That was in about August ‘39.
died and my aunt gave me my uncle’s twelve foot sailing boat. We also had king canoes and friends of mine lived across the street and their grandfather lived up the street with a rowing boat. Across the road there was an empty paddock and we played football and cricket there on every occasion. Arthur Morris, who later became one of Australia’s most famous
opening batsmen, lived up the road. So he was a mad keen cricketer at the time so we played every afternoon after school. We would get home at about a quarter past five from Newcastle. Immediately we were playing cricket until it was dark. We swam all summer. I sailed in sixteen footers and VJs and yachts.
It was just a wonderful life. Following the Toronto football team. I used to run up and down. I ran as far as the players, running up and down, screaming my head off. So it was a great life.
You mentioned your father was a Boer War veteran. Had he ever spoken to you about it?
Yes. Quite a bit. The only tale I really remember now was he went to South Africa. Not in the army. He joined the Imperial Light Infantry, it was a British unit, in South Africa and he said they pulled a sixty pound gun that fired a sixty pound shell.
Hauled it up the top of a hill and the royal artillery fired one shot and the wheels fell off. One of his stories. And I still have a couple of letters that he wrote from there.
suffered greatly. I had a choice. When I was on afternoon shift, I had the choice of catching the tram out to Tighes Hill and listening to a lecture which I wasn’t terribly interested in or going down to the beach with a couple of mates. And a couple of girls would be down there. And beers at the Grand Hotel on the way home,
have lunch and then go to work. And I thought that was much better than going to Newcastle Technical College. So I had to go to work to earn a few shillings so I could do that. So that wasn’t the main reason I joined the army.
I joined the army because at the time I was working on the same shift as a fellow named David Chaffey. His father was a member of New South Wales parliament and a friend of Billy Hughes, a member of federal parliament. And Billy Hughes was in charge of recruitment for the militia as it was called in those days and that was later the Citizen Military Forces and now the Army Reserve.
He suggested to Mr Chaffey that his son David joined the militia which did and when David joined quite a few of us in the laboratory joined too. So I was in the militia for several months before the war. And when the war started on one parade
we all lined up and somebody said, “Whoever wants to join the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] take one step forward.” And I took my step forward and I thought everybody else would and I was amazed that only a few did. So we then, we joined the army and I thought, “That’s what we joined the army for.”
people who are about to be soldiers to leave on the train. I mean they can spend all the morning in the pub with their friends and it was described in the official history as an uproarious troop train because everyone was half full [drunk]. We arrived at Ingleburn and we staggered, stumbled
up the hill. It was a mile and a half walk I suppose from Ingleburn station to Ingleburn camp. We arrived up there and we were lined up and the RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] and the CO and two battery commanders were there. We were all lined up and the battery commanders went along said, “I’ll have you and you.” I forget exactly how they picked us and we finished up as we did in
the first battery or second battery. But there were nearly a hundred from Newcastle. Some finished up in the second battery and some finished up in the first battery. Just how we were allotted I forget but that was our first day.
And what of the military lifestyle are you now a part of?
Well I enjoyed that. It was good. I made some friends. I was in a troop, not with the friends that I came down from Newcastle with, that I knew from Newcastle, so I quickly made new friends. One from Newcastle. Some from Sydney. In no time
we had a little group and then we were, I was the gun position officer’s assistant and there were a few others of those, battery command post assistants. We used to go to lectures and exercises in our little group and we were all friends. We had a great time. We enjoyed it. We used to go out
in a truck everyday and lay out imaginary gun positions and do general. That was the main thing and learn how to use the instruments that artillery men use. And we had a very good officer in charge and on the way home we’d always call into the pub at Campbelltown or Camden on the way home
and have a couple of beers and back to camp. That was great. I enjoyed it.
Each gun was towed by a four wheel drive Marmon Herrington vehicle. The gun position would have been marked out, the position of each gun would have been marked out by the gun position officer or the gun position officer’s assistant.
The guns would be led in by to troop sergeant major who would point in the direction which the guns had to point. They’d be unhooked from the tractor. Pushed into the position which was marked or shown and the gun position officer’s assistant with the aid of
the director, the theodolite, the guns were pointed roughly in the zero line which was roughly in the middle of the zone in which they would be firing . Do you understand? Are you with me so far?
on the zero line and the order would come from the, there were a couple of us, indirect firing and programmed shoots. Indirect firing would come from the observation post officer identifies the target and identifies it by giving the map reference to the gun position
and it’s plotted on the artillery board and measured with an arm and an arch. The range and direction off the zero line and that’s transferred to the gun. The ranging gun. Usually one gun is used to range on the target
It’s ranged by the OPO, observation post officer onto the target and when he is satisfied that all the other guns are following the orders, so they are always pointing in the same direction as the ranging gun. And when he is satisfied that the target and the gun,
that’s the proper range and line, he will order the other three guns to fire on the target. And they are all in parallel and firing on the target. And there are some refinements to that. You can order, “Concentrate.” So they can fire in parallel or maybe fire four of them on the
same point so they fall on the same target. That’s the aim.
much the same duties as everybody else but I don’t think we did any mess duties. We don’t think we peeled potatoes. I think we were free from that. There wasn’t a great deal of difference with one stripe. Two stripes we have a bit of authority, a little more authority,
put in charge of men sometimes. And sergeant we are in charge of the gun and the crew. And officer, quite a few duties. I was promoted to captain about six weeks before the war ended. And I
started off in A troop and ended up as the troop commander of A troop when the war finished. When I first joined A troop I didn’t ever think I’d be the troop commander.
And the infantry have small guns. Rifles and small guns. They were in much closer contact with the enemy than we were and thus suffered a lot more casualties than we did. Theirs was a much harder job than ours. They walked more than we did. They travelled in trucks. When one of our fellows joined the army in 1939
he was sixteen and he went to the drill hall and the sergeant who was enlisting them said, “What do you want to join, the artillery or the infantry?” And he said, “What’s the difference?” And the sergeant said, “Artillery ride in trucks and infantry walk. “And he said, “You’re looking at an artilleryman, mate.” So that was one difference.
They had a tougher life all together. They had more casualties, harder work, harder all together in every way.
laid the guns, the eighteen pounders. One set the range and the other set the direction. With the twenty-five pounders one man did both jobs. On twenty-five pounders they had a shell, and a cartridge which was a brass cartridge and in that it had three bags of cordite. A red, white and a blue bag of cordite.
Depending on the range and the angle you wanted to cock the gun at you would, for long range you would use three bags. For a bit less range you would use two. For short range or for high angle you would use one bag and it was the job of the ammunition man. It had a pressed
cardboard, very stiff, I’m trying to think of something like it, cup in the top with a linen handle glued into it. And you would pull that out of the top of the carton, the brass cartridge and you would take the bags out, as many as required. And that allowed the twenty-five pounder. It was a twenty-five pounder
gun. Howitzer it was called so you could cock it up high. And the eighteen pounder was like a rifle. It had a fixed shell in a cartridge. You’d put the whole lot in together. That was the main differences. The twenty-five pounder was probably a bit heavier, a bit bigger because it fired a heavier shell.
There might have been two occasions. One went off in the barrel and one went off prematurely too and split the barrel open at the end. I don’t know about the other end. I don’t know if any duds didn’t go off. And when we were training I
saw a lot of shells land when we were training and I don’t remember any duds. They were the only two prematures that I remember. What you would probably call duds. I was at the OTU [Operational Training Unit] at the time and the sergeant on the gun that it happened to wrote to another sergeant at the OTU who had been a sergeant
and he was telling me about how the gun fired and made a noise in the barrel, “and the barrel swelled up like a pregnant P-R-E-G-N-A-N-T pup.” So that was his description of it.
after. No we went to Tobruk and repeated the performance there. Then we went from Tobruk to Derna. In Derna in one afternoon the gun position officer and myself are laying out the gun position and two Italian fighter planes came along and shot at the pair of us. You could see the little
flashes on the wings from the guns but they didn’t hit us I’m pleased to say. Then a Hurricane, I think it might have been from 3 Squadron RAAF appeared and shot the pair of them down. And the 2/11th Battalion were attacking the aerodrome at Derna and they were bombed by the Italians and then we were shelled by
the Italians and one shell landed under the layers of one of the guns and killed three of the fellows. They were our first casualties. Killed three and wounded one and one wasn’t hurt. So that was
Some played cards. Some played two up. There was one night when a fellow named Yippy Bowen decided he didn’t like the cooks and he chased the cooks with a rifle. He was disarmed and put in the guard tent. There was a young fellow named Frank Donovan in guard outside and
Yippy Bowen said, “I’m coming out Donovan.” And Frank Donovan said, “You do Yippy, and I’ll shoot you.” “I’m coming out Donovan.” “I’ll shoot, Yippy.” And out went Yippy and Donovan shot him in the thigh. The bullet went through his thigh and into a two gallon tin of water at the head of a fellow who was lying down and the water spurted out onto his head and he bellowed, “I’m shot.”
That was a topic of conversation for a day or two and still is. Yippy was a strange fellow. He’d been on the track before the war. Unemployed. And he used to walk along railway lines. And if he
put his feet on every sleeper he had a quick step like that and if he put his foot on every second sleeper he walked like that. So Yippy was never a good marcher because of his different paces. But if you gave Yippy an axe or a shovel he’d work all day. He wasn’t terribly tall, about five foot ten but big and strong with a black head with
stubble on the top. He was like a gorilla. He was quite a character in the regiment. Everyone knew him. So that was what we did when we were in camp.
And A troop played B troop when we were at Ikingi Mariut and about five finished up with minor ailments and sprains in hospital. Just the camp hospital. Not very serious. No one was seriously hurt. And when we were first there we were playing in dust. Not a blade of grass.
and in the scrums the ball would emerge from a cloud of dust. It rained and the dust set like cement and that’s when the injuries occurred. We played on every occasion. In Port Moresby we played one game only on gravel. There were too many gravel rashes, cuts and sprains for us to play football any more out there. We played cricket instead. But when we were in Palestine
the regiment played the King’s Own, which was a British regular regiment and they had red and white hooped jerseys and red and white socks and white shorts. We had our issue navy blue V neck sweaters and khaki shorts and we played in sandshoes except our hooker who had a pair of boots. And they beat us.
As one might expect. So then there was a very good competition up on the Atherton Tablelands. Each troop had two teams. That was the sole topic of conversation on beer nights and almost every other night or day between the
troops. There was great rivalry. After our reunions, when there were more men at the reunions. Quite a lot have died since then. Someone would bellow, “Who won the football?” And there’d be a chorus of, “C Troop.” We were very keen footballers.
the attack we moved the guns quite a bit. Dug the gun pits. Collected all the ammunition. That was quite a job too. Trucks arrived with the ammunition and we had to carry it quite some distance. Four rounds in a box. Each shell was twenty-five pounds. Four of those and the whole
box weighed about a hundred weight. Which is fifty odd kilos, so that all had to be carried and stacked with the guns and taken out of the boxes and made ready. That was quite a job. And then on the morning of, early January, we fired our barrage. The
infantry went through the wire, which was blown by the engineers, and there was a day and a half of pretty fierce fighting. The Italian prisoners were taken prisoner and Bardia eventually fell with the aid of British tanks. That was that. One of our guns scored a forty-four gallon drum of
wine and that kept them warn at night until the CO found it and that was the end of that.
I know we’ve been talking about that off camera but could you describe that position to me?
Well the gun position officer was in charge of the guns on the position. My job was to set up the director, pass the line to the guns so they’d be pointing in the right direction, plot registered targets on an artillery board, which was a board about a metre square with gridlines on it.
They were thousand yard squares. It had a pivot, which was a little brass knob with three spikes on it, which stuck in the board. And over that fitted an arm. And the arm was about, graduated in
a thousandth of a yard I suppose it was. And an arc of about sixty degrees that the arm ran around and you plot the targets on the board and measure the range with the arm. And the line the
degrees from the zero line on the graduated arc, if that is clear? Helped to work out gun programs. Program shooting. Programs were made and given to the guns and they fired according to the program the
number of rounds per minute and the line and range of which they would fire. Be more or less the troop clerk and that was about all. And if I could find the book I was looking for yesterday I would be able to give you the exact detail.
there was a thing called harassing fire. That was usually at night. The adjutant of the regiment would assign harassing fire targets to the batteries and they’d be handed to the troops and they’d be fired at night just to worry the enemy.
Keep them awake and keep our gunners awake too, firing them. Just to, just as it says, harass the enemy. Probably aim at say, there might be forming up points or ammunition dumps or cross roads. Just targets selected more or less at random.
Yes. That was when we fired indiscriminately.
Nothing. Again we engaged targets and here every night some of the battery command post assistants and the gun position officer’s assistants and perhaps a couple of gun sergeants
would go to an observation post with our directors and we’d record the flashes of enemy guns, so we were locating the enemy batteries so that we could engage them. One of the sergeants spent the night taking the bearings of flashes of lightning. And one day, one
of the sergeants was coming back to the gun position about dawn and behind him was a little figure marching about ten yards behind him. And he said, “Look what I have.. It’s Luigi! I’ve captured him.” It was an Italian prisoner he’s picked up along the way. Luigi, I don’t think that was his real name. He was walked from Bardia to rejoin his mates in Tobruk and he’d fallen in with our sergeant so he
became a prisoner. And they gave him a tin of bully beef and Luigi probably hadn’t had anything to eat for a few days finished the tin of bully beef in a couple of seconds. So that was our first prisoner. The sergeant was John Brennan , who was later killed at Sanananda.
and it rained. Then we headed for Benghazi, which had been captured. Then we went through Benghazi heading south and the British 7th Armoured Division had cut off the Italians who were fleeing west and captured another lot of Italians
and equipment. We went to Benina Airport, which was the Benghazi airport and we stayed there for a little while. We lived in the Italian airmen’s quarters. It was the first time we had had a roof over our heads for quite a while.
But for about three mornings a German plane came over and bombed our area. A couple of sergeants were wounded so we moved from there to… That was on the flat near Benghazi. We moved to an escarpment above the aerodrome. We could see Benghazi in the distance and the airport. We had an observation post.
And we were there and I developed tonsillitis and I felt pretty sick too. I went to a casualty clearing station, which was in a stone school with no electricity and when we were at ….We were at Benina then.
No Regima, living in old Italian ammunition dumps. They were like big sheds built into the side of a hill. And that was quite comfortable too and that’s where I got tonsillitis and the doctor said I was going somewhere to get my tonsils out, but the regiment
moved south and I went with them and kept my tonsils. I didn’t get them out until 1949. We went some miles south of Benghazi. We were in a defensive position down there. I think we heard that the Germans had come into the war then. Into Africa. The 2nd Battery
was bombed by German planes and we came back from there. We took over from a British regiment. I forget the number. When we were down near Mersa el Brega. That was the name of the place. And we went all the way back through Benghazi, back through Tobruk,
to Mersa Matruh. It wasn’t a bad trip. Lieutenant Gromy [?], who was the command post officer was in our truck. I think Bob Kibble was sick. And by subterfuge he obtained a case of forty-eight bottles of Australian beer. And every midday after lunch our driver would say: “I’m not ready yet.
I have to fix a broken spring.” So we’d stay behind and we’d drink the beer and with Italian rifles we’d shoot at the bottles. Then we’d follow the rest of the convoy and arrive in time for tea. That was quite a pleasant trip. We were at Mersa Matruh for a little while. Then I joined a gun crew.
The sergeant was Albert Pearce, called Skeeter. He had been a regular soldier at North Head. It was his gun that was hit at Derna. He lost that gun. He lost…His truck ran over a landmine at Mersa Matruh and badly damaged the truck.
He lost the gun that I mentioned before that had the premature explosion in the barrel. He lost about five guns in all. He lost the one I mentioned before. The one that was destroyed in the in New Guinea. It was his gun. I think he lost about five guns. He was quite a character too. He left us and joined the parachute battalion.
And later he went to Korea. And that was Sergeant Albert Edward Skeeter Pearce. I was on his gun in Greece where he lost another gun. We were now in Ikingi Mariut, back near where we had been. We had a new CO. Colonel Barker was our CO in
Libya. He went back to Australia and became a brigadier. We had a new CO and we weren’t too pleased with him. We had our first parade with him and he told us that we were very ragged and we had to go to our tents and come back looking like soldiers. And we thought we were pretty smart anyway. So we went back and I don’t know what we did. What clothes we put on to improve our
appearance. Anyway he made a speech and he told us we were good fellows and we were on our way to Greece. So off we went to Greece. That was that.
boats because the harbour had been destroyed. A ship called the Clan Fraser, carrying ammunition, had been bombed a couple of days before and it blew up and destroyed the port facilities so we anchored out and went ashore in small boats. I was on the gun crew on the
big gun on the back of the ship, which was quite good. We slept up on the gun platform away from the crowded troop decks. I’m glad we didn’t fire the gun. None of us had fired a gun like that before. I had a belt round my middle containing cartridges.
It was my job, after the shell and the bag of cordite had been put in the breach, I put the cartridge, it was like a double barrelled shotgun cartridge, and I put it into a hole and that was the igniter of the cordite to send the shell on its way. But we didn’t fire
it. We didn’t have a practice shot and we didn’t fire. I’m pleased to say. Gunners from the regiment were on the gun crew.
disembarked there. We spent about two or three days at a place called Levadia, about ten fifteen miles outside Athens. We had one afternoon’s leave. I think half the regiment went one day and half went the next day into Athens in the afternoon.
I didn’t see much of Athens. Saw the Parthenon on the Acropolis in the distance. Spent the afternoon in a restaurant I think. Then it was a bit hard to find a bus back because all the destinations were in Greek characters. We eventually got back to the camp, anyway. One lone German plane flew over
fairly low and loosed off a few machine gun bullets. One went through a tent and that was all. We boarded a train. We were in cattle trucks that had on the side forty men or eight horses and off we went, heading north. It took us some time to find
the guns. And they were looking for us. The guns in trucks. We went as far north as Larissa. That had just been bombed.
engine had been there for some long time. And they decided they had had enough, so a couple of fellows from the regiment took over the driving and the firing. I don’t think they’d had much experience, if any, in driving engines before but they handled it. We eventually found the guns and we moved up to support the infantry,
We were in position when a bomb landed near our gun. Then it was a tale of moving every night and digging in and waiting for the Germans to come. We were bombed as we were moving
during the day too. We were being bombed and machine gunned day after day and we didn’t get much sleep. We lived on Bully Beef and biscuits and tinned meat and vegetable stew. Usually cold and eaten out of the tin with a spoon. All in all it was not a very good experience.
Now one day, are you ready, one day we were told we were leaving Greece and we damaged the guns as much as we could. They were pretty solid and we couldn’t damage them very much. We threw the breech block down into a gully and we took the sights back with us. We went to cross the Corinth Canal down to Kalamata.
We were there for a day and handed out anything we couldn’t carry with us to the local Greek citizens. One Greek took Bob Kibble’s greatcoat, which he wasn’t pleased about. He chased the citizen to get his coat back. Due to some error in communications the regiment weren’t told
to move. Well they were told about three hours after they should have been told. We eventually marched down to a stone quay where there was a destroyer waiting. We boarded the destroyer and unfortunately the drivers weren’t told that we were going. They were left behind. Not everybody fitted on the destroyer.
We left in H94. I think it was the Hero. And out we went to a British India troop ship, the Dilwara and in a convoy with several other troop ships we headed back to Alexandria. We were bombed several times on the way.
We had a couple of near misses. Everyone who had Bren guns or rifles were up on deck shooting at the planes that were attacking us. The convoy between the ships bought down five enemy planes. We had a couple of near misses that shook the ship and the Costa Rica, a Dutch Ship
was damaged so much that the crew and all the troops were taken aboard destroyers and the ship sank. I think there was only one man injured. He fell between, when he was leaving the Costa Rica for the destroyer and he broke his leg. Then we went to Alexandria.
We only had the clothes in which we stood. We went from Alexandria to a new camp in Palestine, Gaza. And we left behind seventy odd fellows, including the CO, our battery commander, our battery captain who was in command of the battery, another couple of officers,
and sixty odd other ranks. One was killed by a bomb on the beach. A few escaped, a couple escaped, through the islands of Greece and across to Turkey. One
load, I don’t know whether it was stolen or requisitioned or what happened, on a small Greek vessel. It had about seventy on it. It was organized by Sergeant Major Allpress who lived in Toronto until he died not long ago.
And they made sails out of blankets and sailed the vessel to Crete. And they didn’t have any arms and they were only more mouths to feed so they were shipped out of Crete to Greece, to their joy. Another three fellows went in a rowing boat through various islands and helped by Greek
people on the islands. One who owned a fish shop or a café in Taree. And they eventually reached Crete and back to the regiment. One was in the prison camp at Corinth and met his brother in the camp who was in the New Zealand Army and they escaped.
They met a Palestinian, I think, who had a pair of pliers and they cut the wire and escaped. And they went in a rowing boat across to Turkey. And he later, made a lot of trips back to Crete in British submarines and small boats,
collecting stragglers who were still in Crete after the general withdrawal and he brought back quite a lot. And he was sworn to secrecy. So much so that General Blamey asked for some details and he couldn’t tell General Blamey because he was sworn to secrecy. He now lives in Brisbane.
They were very good instructors. They were nearly all regular British Army men. There was a New Zealand warrant officer and an Australian officer but mainly they were regular British soldiers. And the RSM had been in the Coldstream Guards for nineteen and a half years, he told us, and his offsider
was from the Scots Guards and the others were from other British regiments. The CO had one arm. He was from the Rifle Brigade. Our troop commander was from the 4th Royal Horse Artillery. Another instructor was Captain Calvert, who we had met. He came to the regiment
before we went into the desert and spent a few days with us when we were out on exercises. Another instructor was Warrant Officer McNamara, who was with us, giving us some instruction and advice, when we were in our early days in Palestine. They were all very good instructors. The food was terrible.
And it was an old army barracks. It had been there. I think from the late nineteenth century and it was full of bed bugs and we couldn’t get rid of them. And Lieutenant General Templar, who was a British General, in his memoirs mentioned the barracks.
And he was there many, many years before. He mentioned the bugs in his memoirs. So they had been there. They were old time residents and they were most annoying. The only time I have ever seen them before or since.
Everyone did the same. Infantry and all arms. There were three wings. Artillery, infantry and all arms. All arms were Army Service Corps, engineers, signals, all the smaller units. And we did the same things for three months.
We did quite a bit of foot drill. Tactical exercises with our troops out in the desert. We learned some infantry cooperation with other arms. Some military law. Physical training and then we did two months at the School of Artillery.
El Mersa where we learned everything from being a gunner up. We learned everybody’s job. A lot of which we had done. A lot of artillery board work and directors. Making gun programs.
Just all the work of an artillery officer or all the work of an artilleryman really. So that when we were officers we would know what went on, what to do.
And he escaped through Poland and Hungary, Bulgaria and Rumania, through Turkey, came to Palestine and he finished up in Egypt where there was a free Polish force. I don’t know how they had got there.
They were in the Middle East too and they took over from Australian troops in Tobruk in 1941, from some Australian troops. And he joined the Polish forces that were in the Middle East. Had a fairly good command of English but we had a couple of Geordies and he had a bit of trouble understanding them.
And he had a bit of trouble understanding the slang of our Harry Coffman, our sergeant. Who had been a sergeant major in the 2/3rd Field Regiment. But he was a very pleasant happy fellow. He got on well with everybody.
Boarded the Western Land which was a sister ship to the Pen Land, in which we went to Greece. In convoy we set out from Suez and called in at Aden. No one was allowed ashore. We were only there to take on some coal. And off we went to Ceylon
where we arrived just before Easter 1942. Each battery was allotted a defensive position. They dug in the guns and waited for the Japs to come. And they came. A large number of them from aircraft carriers
came south of Ceylon and bombed Ceylon harbour and sank one ship and damaged another. I think two ships were damaged. And the Fleet Air Arm, RAF, engaged them and shot down quite a few. And we saw the planes going towards Colombo
and then going back again. And they went in an orderly fashion and went back higgledy piggledy. And we were there for three months or so and I was the canteen’s officer, which was a good job, and I went into Colombo every few days and collected stuff for the canteens, of which I had three. One for each battery.
It was mainly biscuits. I remember I bought a case of biscuits and they were too dear and it hadn’t been for Bombardier Thorpe, who brought most of the biscuits, I would have had to have a clearing sale to get rid of them. Bombardier Thorpe was later in a naval bombardment and got an MC [Military Cross] for his work in the landing at
Borneo. He was an architect of Peddle, Thorpe and Rudder which is one of Australia’s biggest architects. He died not long ago. The second in command of the regiment, Major Richardson was an accountant and he was a pretty finicky fellow and we were counting
the takings on the first day and the coins were little coins and the small denominations were like tram tickets. And they were a bit battered and I looked at the lot and said, “Oh, there’s about a rupee there.” And he said, “You count every bit, always count money and if it’s your wife giving it to you, count it twice.”
So I didn’t obey the last bit but when I was getting money from the canteen I always counted it right down to the last cent. On his instructions. That was a good job. I enjoyed that. I had a truck and I used to go into Ceylon, have lunch, and make my deliveries.
And then towards the end I was taken from that and Alf Daniels who was a month ahead of me at the OTU , and I were sent to the 16th Brigade Training Battalion. There were two other officers. Bill Caldwell, a major from the 2/2nd Battalion was the
CO and Bert Randle from the 2/3rd battalion was there and Alf Daniels and myself. Burt Randall had been captured in Syria by the French and he didn’t have many kind words to say about the French either. We were there for about a month or so and then Alf and I went back to the regiment and
we joined the Western Land again. Oh, the regiment went up into the hills to Dia talawa [?] where we fired the guns for a few days. Then we joined the Western Land again and came back to Fremantle, where I wanted to buy a pair of shoes and I
found I had to have coupons. Wed never heard of those before. And we had a fairly lively time in Perth. We did on the way over too. I didn’t mention on the way over. We went to Perth and that was a very riotous day. And I remember on the way back we were getting a taxi back to the ship and Arthur Brown and Dick Styles
and somebody else and me were in the taxi. And Dick Styles woke up and said: “Where are we going?” Arthur Brown said, “Kalgoorlie.” and he said, “I don’t want to go to Kalgoorlie. Let me out.” Anyway we kept him in and got him back on the ship. Our couple of days in Perth were pretty good too. The Western Land was tied up and HMAS Adelaide was tied up in front of us and
I got a message to go to the orderly room, the office. And when I was going there I saw a lieutenant commander from the Royal Australian Navy leaning on the rail and the fellow in the office said, “That navy bloke out there wants to see you”. And it was a fellow, I had known him for years. I met him first when he was a sub-lieutenant in HMAS Canberra.
And during the depression the navy was reduced and he was sacked and then he became third mate in the BHP ships and then second mate in the BHP ships and here he was in HMAS Adelaide. So he took me and two of me mates who were old BHP laboratory mates for lunch on the HMAS Adelaide. They ate a lot better than we did and we
left the Western Land still. Disembarked at Melbourne. It was in August. Freezing cold.
Melbourne. The Western Land again was good for the officers but not very good for the troops. The food was very poor. The troop decks were hot. They slept in hammocks or on the tables in the mess room. The ship was very crowded. On the way to Ceylon from
Suez we had the 2/7th Battalion with us and on the way from Ceylon to Melbourne we had the 2/3rd Battalion with us. So there were a lot of troops. We disembarked at Melbourne. Went to Seymour. People were sent on home leave from Seymour. It was freezing cold and raining.
I went to my sister at Toronto for a couple of weeks. Most of the time I think I spent in Toronto. The hotel was lively. It was open until midnight or later. Stretched the beer ration by putting some water in it. The RAAF base at Rathmines had a couple of thousand air force fellows.
The picture show ran six days a week instead of Saturday only as it used to. Toronto was a great place to spend leave. And before I forget we were at Toronto again, staying there, and my brother in law had a little boat and two of us took three young ladies that we had met at the pub sailing and we capsized the boat and as the boat
sunk beneath the waves the ladies said in chorus: “I can’t swim”. So they sat on the side of the boat and eventually a boat towed us into shore. We would have drifted into shore in an hour or so but it was pretty cold in October. And that was the end of that little adventure. Leave at Toronto and then we went to Wallgrove for a few days.
That’s where I first saw an American Lightning aircraft. The one with twin booms. We marched through Sydney. The 16th Brigade. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd infantry battalions and us and the 2/1st Company of Engineers. We marched straight onto a train and went to Greta. We were in Greta for about a week. Went by train to Brisbane
Went straight on to an American liberty ship. The Joseph Lane. We went in convoy, one battery was on the Joseph Lane and one battery on the Paine Wingate. Two liberty ships. There was also a couple of freighters in the convoy. We stopped at Townsville.
You described your job as a canteen officer at Ceylon as a new responsibility. What were the primary responsibilities of a lieutenant?
Well one was the gun position officer in the troop. One was troop leader. There were three officers, the troop commander who was captain, the gun position officer and the troop leader and he looked after the trucks and the wagon lines and led the troops forward into the gun position. And then
he stayed around the gun position helping the gun position officer.
Before we move on to New Guinea you mentioned that you found it strange that all of a sudden you needed a coupon to buy shoes in Perth, and perhaps there were other rationing going on in Australia. Did you find circumstances were really changed?
Well, there was a limit on how much we could spend in a restaurant. The wharfies were striking. The miners were striking which didn’t please us very much. As a matter of fact the 2/3rd Battalion had trouble with the wharfies discharging the cargo in Melbourne.
They did it themselves and I think they manhandled some of the wharfies. The train drivers didn’t want to take some of the 2/1st Battalion to Seymour so I think the 2/1st Battalion put a train driver in the loco with him. Yeh. The wharfies weren’t very well behaved.
Or the miners. Later Ben Chifley [Australian Prime Minster]described the miners as the pampered pests of industry. Later…we’ll come to that later, carry on.
We went to Murray Barracks I think, for a day or two and then a regimental headquarters went to an abandoned house. Evans House, which was a house on stilts. It had an avenue of palms and we had a fellow who treated the English language fairly casually called Hocky Campbell. Hocky used to call it the, “revenue
of barns.” And the three batteries were in defensive positions, dug in, waiting for a possible attack by the Japs. And I was made the regimental survey officer this time. And we were, our little survey party of about fifteen or so,
was surveying possible targets around the area and crossroads, or cross tracks and obvious landmarks and they were plotted on artillery boards so that if the Japs had come we would have had a lot of targets already.
We’d know the line and range to them already so the OPOs [observation post officer] could have engaged the Japs. But they didn’t come. They came within about thirty miles of Moresby and then the push back started.
fairly high grass and that was cut down and it was just the ground. Planes landed on one strip at Dobodura and one strip at Popendetta. And E troop, they went from Dobodura to a little village called Ango and they
put their guns down there. F troop went to Popendetta and moved up towards a place called Soputa and put their guns down there. As soon as they arrived the commander said, “Fire your guns to show you’re here.” So they put their guns down and fired them in the general direction and the infantry said, “You beauty. The artillery’s here”.
And I wasn’t there at that time in the first lot. So the artillery was then supporting the infantry with the aid of four squadron, army cooperation squadron of the RAAF. Our observation post officers were up trees. It was hard to see anything because the jungle was pretty thick and the Wirraways were flying
spotting targets and directing the guns onto targets on Buna and Sanananda Gona. And then Alf Daniels, who I mentioned before was killed and I’d arrived at RHQ [Regimental Headquarters] to live for a few days and news came that Alfie had been killed.
And the CO deliberated for a while and told me to get ready to go the following morning. So I packed my traps, which were not much and next morning I presented myself at the air strip for a Dakota C47, laden with ammunition for the guns
And I was the only passenger and we set out, us and a few other C47s and we landed at Popondetta. They were American aircraft. The co-pilot in this one was an Australia named Love. He came out into the cabin where the ammunition was. Me and the ammunition. He spent most of the time with me. We flew over
the Owen Stanleys. Landed at Popondetta. There was a Jeep waiting and I got into the Jeep and off we went to the gun position. When I got there our battery commander said, Ernie Wade, he was the OPO up at Gona, he said, “Ernie’s sick. Take his place”. So with four or six fellows
and a couple of drums of sig [signal] wire suspended on a pole being carried on the shoulders of two fellows we set out for Gona. And the walking! You might have seen some pictures of the tracks around there. We were about ankle deep in mud and if you left the track
where it was a bit more solid alongside the tracks you would trip over roots of trees and climb over fallen logs. It wasn’t a very pleasant trip at all. We arrived at the 25th Brigade headquarters at lunchtime or a little later. We decided to stay there for the night but the battery commander said we had to be
there at dawn, so off we set again in the middle of the night. Through the jungle, through swamps and we were holding onto the signal wire like it was the Bondi tram and we couldn’t see anything ahead or anywhere. The moon came out occasionally. It rained and just as dawn broke we came through the jungle and there was a
patch of kunai grass. I thought it was water. And there was a line of palm trees about a hundred yards away and that’s where the sig wire led us to the headquarters of the 2/16th Battalion. And Ernie Wade went back and I was left there with Marshall Curry. Nugget as he was called. He was the signaller.
We stayed with that battalion for a few days.
night through the jungle holding on to the sig wire. Then we were there and the 2/16th had an attack on the Japs at Gona which failed. A couple were killed. Then I was told to go to the 39th Battalion. That has become a very famous battalion. They were the first to meet the Japs
when the Jape landed at Gona and moved along the track to Kokoda where the 39th Battalion met them and held them up for a little while before the 21st Brigade of the 7th Division arrived and they were pushed back to within thirty miles of Moresby and the 16th Brigade and the
25th Brigade pushed the Japs back from their position near Moresby right back to the beach heads at Sanananda and Buna and Gona where they were when I arrived and I was told to go to the 39th Battalion. They were going to attack Gona. I met Colonel Honner in the 39th Battalion, who had been in the 2/11th Battalion
and he was an excellent fellow. He later finished up CO of the 2/14th Battalion. And the 39th Battalion had, they were all younger fellows, a lot were militia men, they hadn’t joined the AIF. They had 7th Division officers and the one I particularly remember was Joe Gilmore who
had been in the 2/9th Battalion. He had been a tobacco farmer at Maryborough in North Queensland. I heard later, some years later that he was the mayor of Cairns, and he was a funny fellow. I enjoyed my stay with Joe. Anyway I climbed a tree with one of the platoon commanders in the 39th Battalion, a fellow named Gardiner,
and we could see a couple of Japs not far away. And then the next day we climbed up the tree with a B company commander whose name I have forgotten. He was a big fellow from one of the 7th Division Battalions and he had a big pearl handled automatic pistol. That’s what I remember most. And he said where
he wanted the shells to fall and I pointed them in that direction and they fell where he wanted. And we registered each gun where he said and my signaller at the time was Sergeant Weeks, who was a transport sergeant and I’m digressing a little bit, going backwards. Some of our fellows, when they were at Moresby, thought they weren’t going to be in the war
so they went AWL [Absent without Leave] and joined the 2/1st Battalion. One was killed. Yippy Bowen who I mentioned before was one of them. He wasn’t killed. He was one of the ones who went AWL so he could join in the war and he was with the 2/1st Battalion. And one night a Jap came prodding around with his bayonet and he aimed at Yippy and Yippy grabbed
the bayonet, pulled the fellow into the slit trench he was in and strangled him. In the official history of the 2/1st Battalion it says that Yippy took the rifle and bayonet from the Jap and the Jap was running away and Yippy threw it like a spear and speared him but Yippy told me that he strangled him. Anyway Sandy Raywood, he might have been a sergeant, I think he was a bombardier at the time. He was another one who
went AWL. He stayed with the 2/1st Battalion and ended up a platoon sergeant. One was killed. Two were killed. A fellow named Sadler and Benny Webb who was in our troop, A troop, and Benny met his brother when we were going north in Greece. His brother had been wounded and going south. He’d been in the 2/3rd Battalion. The brother said,
“Did you hear about the old man?” Benny said, “No”. He said, “He’s copped it in the guts. He’s dead.” Benny said, “Well that’s the end of Mr Webb Senior.” He was in the 2/3rd Battalion too but Webb wasn’t his name in the Battalion. So Benny joined the 2/1st Battalion too. Went AWL and joined the 2/1st Battalion and he was killed.
A couple survived and came back and they were charged with…They weren’t charged with being AWL. They were charged with firing on the King’s enemy without permission but the charges were dismissed. And Jack Weeks, who was my signaller at Gona. He decided to join the war too and he was on his way to join the 2/2nd Battalion but they were going back to Moresby so
he joined the regiment and he came up to me as an assistant and signaller. He was great. I couldn’t have had a better friend. He was joined in Newcastle. He lived in Sydney for a long time. He worked on the Snowy. He’s now back in Newcastle and I see him occasionally. We were a very good combination. Anyway to get back to the war. We registered
where the company commander wanted the shells to fall and the Wirraway came over and dropped a few bombs. We fired 250 rounds. The battalion mortars fired. The infantry went in and captured Gona which had been holding out for a few weeks and Colonel Honner sent a message back to Brigade Headquarters: “Gona Gone”.
And I think there is a book called Gona Gone that I have here. And I think there were about 640 Japs that they buried and there would have been quite a a lot of others and they were living in absolute squalor. They were living in gun pits, their own slit trenches and weapons pits, trenches and there were dead
men on the bottom and they had stacks of rice and more dead men and they were living in that. While I was up the tree I could see a few Japs in the area and they had the respirators on, the gas masks. They had those on because of the smell. So that was the end of Gona. There have been quite a few books written about that.
So off we went to this village west of Gona and we spent the day marching and we were crossing a creek by walking across a log and one of our fellows fell in and the only thing visible was his hat and tobacco floating down the creek. He was Gunner Smith, a panel beater from Manly. We
spent the night camped somewhere in the open and as Colonel Honner said later in his memoirs, that was the last comfortable night for some time. And he was dead right too. Next day we were going along towards the village we were going to attack with the aim to surprise them. But three Japanese…
We crossed a little creek and there were three Japanese officers coming along towards the creek. They were on their way for a bath because they had towels around their necks. And Sergeant Escove [?] from the 2/14th Battalion was out in front and he shot the three of them with about five rounds from his Owen gun and he said, “I had that blokes watch off before he even hit the ground.”
All the surprise was gone. That night it poured all night and we spent the next few days with water above our ankles. Slept in the rain. Lived in the water. We kept attacking the Japs in the little village and not a great deal of success.
I climbed a tree and I thought, “We’ll put a couple of rounds in here.” And I didn’t have a map and the maps weren’t very good anyway. And remembering what the line and range to Gona was I thought, I remember well, I said 300 degrees and 13000 yards. I thought, “I’ll hear it hit land somewhere”.
I heard it coming like an express train and it landed and wounded two of the 39th Battalion. They didn’t leave the position. They weren’t wounded very badly, just got two scratches. It gave me a fright. So I could see a Jap who was only about fifty yards away I suppose. Every time a shell came over he would put his hands over his ears and I thought, “I’ll shoot this fellow.” So I went down and I couldn’t hit him
with an artillery shell so I went down and got a rifle. I was well up the tree, as far as I could climb and I couldn’t use the rifle because I wasn’t balanced. If I had fired I would have fallen over. There was a branch above me and if I was taller I could have rested the rifle on that. So I went down, told this to Lieutenant McLean of the 39th Battalion so he climbed the tree and shot that fellow.
And another one came and started to go through the dead man’s bag so he shot him too. So eventually the infantry overran this little village. I fired; there were some Japs on the other side. There was a little creek and I fired on some Japs on the other side of the creek. They ran towards some native huts
so I put the rounds near the native huts so they ran back the way they had come, so I put a few there and they were smart enough to run west away from the guns. The 39th Battalion was relieved then by a small force. About all that was left of the 2/16th and 2/27th Battalions and they
were a lot of good fellows too. The company commander was a fellow named Charlie. Now I’ve forgotten his name. A Wirraway used to fly from 4th Squadron. Charlie Sims. The plane from 4th Squadron used to fly up the coast every day or a couple of times a day
just having a look about treetop level. One day somebody said, “There’s a Zero coming.” And somebody else said, “It’s the Wirraway, you mug.” And there was a little burst of machine gun fire. I ran down to the beach, which was about fifty yards away, I suppose. And there was the Wirraway flying away and a little bit of flame coming off the water and the pilot officer
or flying officer Archer was flying along and shot down a Zero and that was the only time that happened. And I think that’s gone down in the RAAF history too. Lieutenant…I know his name as well as anything… Clampett. Shaggy Ridge. His name was Shaggy, they called him Shaggy Clampett
and he was Shaggy Ridge a year or two later. Shaggy Ridge up in from Sanananda and Lae was named after him. Managed to get the pilot out of the Zero. It was in shallow water. And the pilot, he was a little Jap as one would might expect. He had a white roll neck sweater and boots soled with motor tyre and they buried him
on the shore there near a little creek. The 2/16th and the 2/27th were there for a little while and they were led by the 36th Battalion. We went from there back to Gona, and there one of company commanders of the 36th Battalion sat on a log. I was sitting on a log and he sat down beside me and he said, “I’m a school teacher and I’m a pacifist.
I’ve always taught pacifism.” I thought, “It’s great to have a company commander and the Japs not far away and you’re a pacifist.” I thought, “That’s not as it should be.” Anyway we stayed there for a while and a company from the American 41st Division took over. Then our regiment was going back so Jack Weeks and I
went back to Soputa and then we went back to Dobodura I think and waited for the weather to clear and flew back to Moresby. And as far as we were concerned that was the…Buna and Sanananda had fallen since then. The 18th Brigade came up from Milne Bay.
The American 32nd Division were at Buna. They captured Buna and then Sanananda was captured so the war ended in that part of the world. We went back to Moresby.
Back to Australia, I think, in about July, August, had a fortnight’s leave. Then we went to Loftus. Part of the regiment was Loftus and the others were at Canterbury Racecourse
working on the wharvess. That’s where our fellows fell foul of the wharfies because they could do a lot more work and did. And that’s where Yippy Bowen comes into the story again. Yippy had a very highly polished mess tin. He had, with the aid of a hammer and nail, punched every
place we’d been and down the bottom he had, “The moon shone on the desert and some bastard shot me.” On his mess tin. And he used to present himself. The Canterbury Racecourse staff were mainly militia men and he used to present his shiny mess tin to the mess orderlies and say, “Feed me conscript”. With a steely eye and he was fed.
When we arrived at Mapey it was light scrub with big trees and Bob Kibble who was troop commander of C Troop, decided we’d have a football ground. So with the aid of the troops and picks and shovels and gun tractors and their winches in no time we had a football ground.
If we’d waited in peace time by the time. Well they wouldn’t have got permission to cut the trees down in the first place and by the time the council had decided we could have a football ground. By the time it was made it would have taken ages. It took us a couple of weeks. We had great bonfires and burned
the stumps and it was quite a good ground too. And one day the RSM took some guns onto the ground for gun drill and some of the footballers went to the CO and complained and the CO told the RSM to take the guns off the football ground because it would have been cut up by the trucks. So that’s how much football
meant to the regiment at the time.
On the whole, in those last campaigns, were there many Japanese taken?
I can remember two only but as I said there must have been some. The two I remember, one was when we were outside the little village west of Gona when a little well fed fellow with a round face just appeared in the company area and the other one was in from Wewak, when the CO and the adjutant and a couple of others were walking along a track and a Jap stepped out
with a little white flag that he waved. So they were the only two that I saw captured. Oh, another one was near Gona and I saw him. He was some distance from where I was. He was sitting on a coconut with a sig wire around his neck and I don’t think…he didn’t reach Cowra.
I was the forward observation officer with the 2/8th Battalion. There’d be an objective, which was usually high ground, a hill, with defended Japanese positions on it, and I would register the targets and register our regiment and on one occasion also the 2/3rd Regiment
and a mortar regiment. I’m not sure about the mortars. And we’d register the area so that all the guns were falling where the infantry wanted. And this happened on a couple of occasions but Mt Shiburangu was the one the battalion particularly mentioned. And the shells fell where they wanted. In went the infantry and with a minimum of casualties they’d take the position.
Minimum of casualties to themselves and some casualties to the Japs. So the CO of the 2/8th Battalion, Colonel Howden saw fit to write to our CO that I should be given a medal.
Or more than that. A clear idea what I was going to do. In consultation with the infantry commanders, mainly the company commanders. We always got on well with them. Especially Captain Carlson of the 2/8th Battalion. He was B Company. They were a very good lot of fellows.
We got on very well together. And I had a deal with one Jap, two Japs. I was out on a patrol with the 2/8th Battalion and we came to a track junction and I said to myself: “That’s where we were yesterday. We were down that track”. And I walked, I suppose, about fifty yards down the track
and I saw two Japs lying on the side of the track with a rifle. I had my rifle and I fired, emptied the magazine as quickly as I could. And the Japs fired a couple of shots. The only one I saw land kicked up some mud at my feet. And the Japs ran away so I claimed a points victory when they ran away and I was still there. But the infantry battalion were very scathing.
The privates, they said they thought I was firing Bren on single shot and they said: “Target practice for you! You might be alright with the twenty-five pounder but you’re no bloody good with the rifle”. I put up with quite a few jibes from the infantry. So that was quite a little adventure.
all along the coast and we were supporting the infantry. I was the command post officer for most of it until we reached Wewak. The command post officer is really in control of two troops. That’s the battery command post. So that’s what I was most of the time along the
coast. And then when the troop commander became sick I became the troop commander. That’s what I thought. I’m not quite accurate there. I thought the A troop commander became sick but it wasn’t, it was the B troop commander but I went to the A troop. I don’t know who was the troop commander before.. I’m not sure.
So I became the troop commander of A troop where I had started six years before. Nearly six years before.
at the end of the war of the regiment. About over three thousand, about three and a half thousand, passed through the regiment in the six years. So in that time there was a big turnover. Some fellows came, we still talk about it a bit, “Where did he go?” They just disappeared. I think they went to hospital and
were made B class and boarded out of the army all together or went to another regiment. Some went to the parachute battalion. A couple went to the infantry but a lot just seemed to disappear. I don’t know where they went. They weren’t AWL, except in a couple of cases they were all deserters. But I think through a lot
weren’t very healthy after the first New Guinea campaign. A lot had reoccurring malaria. And they were generally just unfit. Which brings me to another point but it would take me too long to tell. There is a move afoot by some RSLs not to give $25,000 to
men who were POWs of the Germans and Italians. The POWs of the Japanese received $25,000 each, or their widows, about a year or eighteen months ago. But I think the conditions were so much different between the two lots of POWs the Japanese POWs and the German and Italian. The men who, just take the 16th Brigade,
for instance, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions, the ones who were captured went to Germany and they went into the POW camps. Some worked on farms and there weren’t any men around. They were working on farms with the ladies. They had the time of their lives. Fellow lived down here said he didn’t mind it. He was glad to get home of course. He was glad
to cease being a POW but they were fed and the fellows that were on the Kokoda Track, those infantryman. The Kokoda Track was the worst fighting under the worst conditions of all. And their mates who were taken prisoner, most of them lived; the ones who were on the Kokoda Track did not live. The lot of them, they were killed.
The ones that weren’t killed suffered in health and they won’t get $25,000, they’ll get nothing. The few that are surviving. And if some branches of the RSL have their way the POWs will get $25,000. That to me is a gross injustice. There, I’ve said that and I even
drafted a letter to my member of parliament who sends little notices out to veterans in the electorate. She was in favour of it. She thinks they should get the $25,000 and I drafted a letter I was going to send to her. But I didn’t send it. That’s my thoughts on that bit.
fire of the two troops. Roughly. I can’t remember exactly what I was doing. Other than being…If there was a fire plan, the command post produced that for the troops. And there
were some fire plans. And every night we’d fire some harassing fire and we were responsible for…We would receive tracers from headquarters 6th Division. They would pass them through regimental headquarters to us. Then we’d give the tracers that the troops put over their artillery
boards to get their line range and we did that. Other than that I can’t remember. But I think I was reasonably busy. Reasonably gainfully employed.
there’ll ever be another volunteer army I doubt very much so I doubt that that will arise. None of them have joined the reserves. There’s a photo out there of my nephew’s son did. My youngest grandson is at Barker College and I think he joined the cadets for a little while but I think it interfered too much with his
sport. He’s the maddest keenest sportsmen aged sixteen you ever did meet. His brother went to, his brother’s nine years older. He went to Barker College too and he had a cap with BC on it for Barker College but he always maintained it was for Chicago Bulls Basketball team. And he knows the name of every footballer and cricketer that Australia has produced.
So being in the cadets interfered too much with his sporting life.
in the first three months I was married I wouldn’t say I was a champion husband. You would have to ask her that. I wouldn’t say I was a bad husband by any means but after that I improved and I think I’m told even now, I’ve been a good husband.
I realise my responsibilities but the first couple of weeks I drank a little bit too much when I met my mates. We all did. And after that I settled down became a,
I could get an unsolicited testimonial too from my daughters too if you asked them. So that was that.