Edward Hewit
Archive number: 116
Preferred name: Ted
Date interviewed: 12 May, 2003

Served with:

2/1st Field Regiment

Other images:

Edward Hewit 0116

Warning

Any access that you make of this website is undertaken at your own risk

You are listening to the interview audio

Transcript

Tape 01

01:00:38:00

Good afternoon Ted.
Good afternoon.
I’d like to start today just by asking you where you were born and grew up.
Stockton, New South Wales. I grew up in Toronto where I’ve lived for eighty odd years. I went to school at Toronto Primary school, which is just up the street from here.

01:01:00:00

I left there and went to Newcastle Boys’ High School in Newcastle. I got my leaving certificate in 1935 and went to work at the BHP [Broken Hill Proprietary] Steel works where I worked for forty-seven and a half years except for six years when I was in the army.
What did your parents do when you were young?
My father had a

01:01:30:00

hardware shop in Sydney, no Newcastle and then during the Depression he closed that and became a commercial traveller.
And you had brothers or sisters?
Two sisters. One six years older and one two years younger.
Did any of them serve?
No.
Did your father serve at all?
In the Boer War. Yes. And I had a few uncles in the

01:02:00:00

First War.
And you were still in Newcastle at the time of enlistment?
Yes. I was boarding in Newcastle at the time because I was working shift work at the steel works.
And where did you enlist?
In Newcastle.
Was there a barracks there where you went to enlist?
There was a drill hall with the headquarters of the 1st Drill Brigade which was the artillery unit in Newcastle.

01:02:30:00

Do you recall the date?
13th October 1939 I think. I have a copy of the paper.
And where did you go for your training?
Ingleburn, near Sydney.
You were there for how long?
From the 3rd November 1939 until the 10th January 1940 when

01:03:00:00

we sailed for the Middle East on the SS Forford.
Where did you arrive?
We arrived at Kantara. Half way up the Suez Canal on the 13th February 1940. From there we went to Castina where the English battalion, the Hampshire regiment, had prepared our camp

01:03:30:00

and we started our training there.
Where did you first see action?
In Bardia. Although before that we were in an anti-aircraft regiment. We were combined with the 2/4th Battalion and became an anti-aircraft regiment for a brief period and we were in Haifa.

01:04:00:00

on the anti-aircraft guns when the Italians bombed the oil tanks in Haifa.
You were with the 2/1st Artillery. Is that correct?
2/1st Regiment, yes.
Did you serve in that regiment throughout the duration of the war?
Yes. Except when I was in the Middle East I was at the cadet training unit for five months. And the 16th Brigade

01:04:30:00

Training Battalion in Ceylon for about a month. Other than that is, was in the regiment all the time.
And after the fighting in North Africa where else were you involved?
We went straight from there to Greece. And we were there for not long. About four weeks and then the Germans hunted us out.
And you were evacuated

01:05:00:00

from Greece itself?
Yes. From Kalamata. We went from Kalamata in the destroyer. H94 which was the [HMS] Hero I think. Out to the ship, the Dilwara.We went from there in convoy to Alexandria and we were bombed several times

01:05:30:00

on the way we had a couple of near misses, which rocked the ship a fair bit. One ship in the convoy the Costa Rica, had a very near miss and the troops were all evacuated and she sank.
Ted, after your action in Greece you were evacuated on the Hero from Kalamata. Where

01:06:00:00

were you shipped to?
To Alexandria and from there we went back to Palestine to a camp at Gaza. And the regiment was there from April 1941 until February and I left the regiment at the end of July and I went to the Cairo office of the cadet training unit where I spent five months.

01:06:30:00

What rank were you before the training school?
Before I was sergeant for about six weeks before I went and I was a bombardier there for a year and something before that. That’s the equivalent of a corporal.
When did you actually acquire those ranks?
The lance bombardier. That’s one stripe. On the ship

01:07:00:00

And in June 1940 I had my second stripe and a sergeant in July 1941.
And upon leaving the cadet school?
Lieutenant and I went to the artillery training regiment at Nu Sarat for about six weeks or so and the regiment was leaving Palestine for…

01:07:30:00

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

01:08:00:00

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

01:08:30:00

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

01:09:00:00

heading back for their carriers a few hundred miles south of Ceylon.
How long were you based in Ceylon?
About three months.
And your duties there were what?
Mainly in defensive positions waiting for the Japs to land. I was in charge of the canteen, which was a good job. Our batteries

01:09:30:00

were spread around a few miles apart and I used to go into Colombo and buy stores and go out and deliver them to the three canteens. It was a very pleasant task.
How did you come to be assigned that task?
I think the CO [Commanding Officer] said, “You do it”. No trouble. I was the most junior officer in the regiment.

01:10:00:00

I had only just joined before we left Palestine so I just got that job. And the two junior officers went from there to the 16th Brigade Training Regiment for a brief period until we left Ceylon.
And you left Ceylon to return to Australia.
We weren’t quite sure where we were going but that’s where we did finish.

01:10:30:00

When did you arrive back home?
August 1942.
And where did you first dock?
Fremantle for two days. Then Melbourne and then two weeks leave. And we went to Walgrove and then we marched through Sydney

01:11:00:00

and when the march was over we boarded a train for Greta. We stayed at Greta for about a week and then we boarded a train again to go to Brisbane. We left Brisbane on a liberty ship. Two batteries were on a liberty ship called the Paine Wingate and we were on Joseph Lane and we went to Port Moresby where we arrived towards the end

01:11:30:00

of September 1942. The Japs were then about thirty miles from Moresby.
Where were you stationed? What sort of accommodation were you stationed in there?
In defensive positions because we thought the Japs might come in by sea or by land. In defensive positions waiting for

01:12:00:00

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

01:12:30:00

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

01:13:00:00

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

01:13:30:00

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.
That was your last action?
That was my last action the first time. Yes.
Did you have leave

01:14:00:00

back to Australia?
Yes. We all came back to Australia and I’d say we had a fortnight’s leave.
Where were you given leave?
To our home towns and when we came back, to go back further, when we came back from the Middle East we were given leave to our home towns plus travelling time and a lot of the fellows decided that they lived in Dirranbandi,

01:14:30:00

Bourke or all points west and the train only ran a couple of times a week and then they had to catch a bus and they all wanted about an extra week travelling time. Although we knew that they were, well most of them. Some of them lived in Sydney but claimed that their parents had moved and they needed that much travelling time leave.
So you came

01:15:00:00

home to…
I spent most of my leave, my mother died in early 1939, my sister was living in Toronto and I came to spend quite a bit of time in Toronto on leave and some time in Sydney. Toronto was a very lively place in those days. The RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] base was

01:15:30:00

at Rathmines and Toronto was full of airmen and the pub did a roaring trade and we stayed at the pub or at my sisters and a great time was had by all.
Where was your father at this time?
He was spending some time with my sister and some time

01:16:00:00

travelling up north as a commercial traveller.
Did you see him on your return?
Yes I did. Yes.
Did that fortnight pass quickly?
Too quickly.
And at its conclusion you were called back to Sydney?

01:16:30:00

I went to a school at Holsworthy. We spent quite

01:17:00:00

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.

01:17:30:00

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

01:18:00:00

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

01:18:30:00

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

01:19:00:00

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.

01:19:30:00

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.

01:20:00:00

So he did half an operational flight and I did one.
Can I ask what the purpose of that flight was for you?
Only a trip. Just a holiday. A friend of mine did about forty trips so he arranged it. I just went as a passenger.

01:20:30:00

Had your entire regiment been shipped from the Tablelands to Aitape?
Yes. We moved along the coast from Aitape supporting infantry battalions as we went. Cleaning out the Japs and eventually we arrived at Wewak, captured Wewak, and then we headed inland chasing the Japs. It was a lot different war to our previous

01:21:00:00

war in New Guinea around Gona and Sanananda. We had a lot more ammunition. More food, more everything. Again we were successful so it was good. Some people didn’t. Some people objected to being there but there we were.
And where was your very last action?
Our last action was,

01:21:30:00

my part was with the 2/2nd Battalion capturing a village inland from Wewak. Then I was relieved by a friend of mine from the 2/2nd Battalion, no I mean regiment, and we went down on the beach and we were on the beach at Wewak when the war finished.
Had you heard of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan?
Yes. We’d heard a bomb had been

01:22:00:00

dropped . We didn’t know that it was quite as damaging as it was. Then that was the end of the war.
What were you actually doing on the very last day?
On the last day, nothing. We were living on the beach. Swimming. I suppose a week before we’d come out of the mountains down on the beach.

01:22:30:00

How much longer did you stay at Wewak?
We left there, well the troops were sent home depending on how many points they had scored. That depended on so many points for being married and so many points for being in the army a long time. So when my turn came I think I was one of the first or the second

01:23:00:00

ships to come home. That was in September 1945. We came home in the Katoomba and we picked up the 22nd Militia Battalion in Wide Bay and took them to Rabaul to look after the Jap POWs [prisoners of war]. And we came

01:23:30:00

home via Finschhafen to Townsville. Disembarked at Townsville and came down to Sydney by train. And shortly after, early in October I was discharged. So I had six years minus a week in the army.
Was there an official reception for your return?

01:24:00:00

No. Just the ship came in to Townsville, boarded the train, just went to the, I forget where we went; anyway we went to the showgrounds and we were discharged.There were so many being discharged I think there were too many for an official reception.
And where did you make your way to after discharge?

01:24:30:00

After discharge? To my sister. She was living at Maitland so my sister at Maitland.
You stayed with her?
I stayed with her and then we were married in November and lived in Newcastle for a few years until I finished getting my metallurgy diploma at Newcastle Technical College and we moved to Toronto, to next door

01:25:00:00

to the old family house and lived there until forty-one years ago when we moved in here to this house.
Where did you meet your wife?
She was a sister in the 2/5th AGH [Australian General Hospital] when I had malaria so we met in ‘42.
Had you ever been wounded in any battle?

01:25:30:00

One attack in from Wewak a bullet hit me in the hip and just broke the skin. It knocked me over and I pulled up my shirt very quickly to see where I’d been hit and there was just a little graze. That was all. That was my only wound.
But as you say, you contracted malaria?
Yes.
At what stage of the New Guinea campaign did that happen?

01:26:00:00

I was sick not long before the battles ended around Gona. I didn’t know I had malaria until I came back. I suppose it would have been not long, only a week or two, I went to hospital

01:26:30:00

with a high temperature and not feeling very well.
Were you incapacitated for any length of time?
Not really. Sick for three or four days and then the course of quinine and that lasted three weeks at that time. It was shortened later. I wasn’t really incapacitated. No.
You didn’t suffer any

01:27:00:00

further bouts of it?
No. One only, after the war, in 1946. That was the only one.
And did you maintain correspondence with your wife after leaving hospital?
Yes. Most of our courting was done by correspondence. Although we did see each other when we were both on leave at the same time on a couple of occasions.

01:27:30:00

And when did you first meet her again after coming back from New Guinea at the end of the war ?
When she asked for leave and she was in Morotai at the time and she asked for leave to come back and be married. So she came back in the Wanganella with a lot of ex POWs I met her in Sydney when she was coming off the ship.
When did you

01:28:00:00

propose?
I don’t know.
Was it a quick engagement?
Very quick. Yes.
And you’ve had children?
Three daughters. Yes. One lives in Redland Bay, Queensland. One in Glebe, Sydney and one in Bowral.
Have any served?

01:28:30:00

They would have had to serve in the regular army and none did because they were only young as you might imagine. No one served.
Did you pass on any stories or legacy from your service to your children?
I wrote a book and I gave them each a copy. I used to tell them occasional war stories.

01:29:00:00

which one remembers quite a lot of.
Did you feel compelled to pass on any particular message about the war?
Nope.
Do you know how they viewed the war or your service?
Not really. No. I

01:29:30:00

think they were probably quite proud. Last year they came and cheered lustily when I was marching on Anzac Day. This year I was on the TV so one bought the tape from the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation]which she now has, but that’s about all.

01:30:00:00

Do you regularly march?
Yes. I’m president of our association so I think I should.
Where do you march?
In Sydney.
Does your association hold regular gatherings?
Only, we have our annual general meeting and

01:30:30:00

lunch on Anzac Day and lunch in Newcastle on the 1st November every year which is the anniversary of the founding of the regiment. The formation of the regiment. So only two.
Did you join the RSL [Returned and Services League] soon after the war?
No, I didn’t join the RSL. When I came to Toronto. I lived in Newcastle

01:31:00:00

for five years. I joined Toronto RSL when I came here. But I’ve never been an active member. I don’t go to meetings. I pay my subscription and that’s about all.
You mentioned that you completed a metallurgy qualification.
Yep.
What work did you go on to do after the war?
I went back to the BHP.

01:31:30:00

I was a trainee and I worked in nearly every department of the BHP during my training. And then I joined the rolling mill organization and I helped start the mill in Kwinana, Western Australia. Then I was assistant superintendent at the Bloom and Twenty-Eight Inch Mills and I was superintendent of the Bloom and

01:32:00:00

Twenty-Eight Inch Mills. Then production superintendent. Then I retired in 1978. The day after my sixtieth birthday. I couldn’t retire on my sixtieth birthday because it was a public holiday.

01:32:30:00

Did your wife continue nursing?
No, no. She had three children.
Have you kept in close contact with any old war buddies?
Yes. All the time. Unfortunately most of them have died but I still have a friend in Toronto and I ring him and we

01:33:00:00

speak on the phone to a couple of them frequently. When one rings I usually pull up a chair because I know we are going to have a long chat or a long listen. Yes. I still keep in touch with them.
Is that important to you?
Oh, they are good friends and I’ve known them now for sixty odd years. Yes, it’s quite important. Yes.
You mentioned that you had written a book on your experience.

01:33:30:00

Have you done other writing based on your war time?
No. That’s all. That and we publish a newsletter twice a year and I’ve written a little bit for that but that’s all.
What occurred to you to write down your story?
I thought…mainly just for myself so

01:34:00:00

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.

01:34:30:00

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

01:35:00:00

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.
You said the memories were just for yourself, mainly for your own keeping. Is there any thing in the stories that you

01:35:30:00

wanted to leave behind you?
Can you switch it off for a minute and I’ll tell you.
We’ve seen some very nice photos that you brought back from your war experiences. Were you a keen photographer?
Well, I bought a camera in Tel Aviv, a Leica,

01:36:00:00

for twenty pounds I think. A second hand one. I was such a poor photographer I sold it for ten pounds not long after. All the photos I took were…. It was a little bit too complicated for me. No, I wasn’t a photographer at all. The photos were taken by other people.
What made you buy the camera or want to take pictures of your visits?

01:36:30:00

I thought it would be good to take photos of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and all the other places and the people but I wasn’t a success at all. I don’t know whether it was me or the camera or both.
Did you have a particular fascination with foreign lands and people?
Not a great fascination. No. I had a great interest. Not a

01:37:00:00

fascination but a great interest. Yes.
Was it a fascinating journey in the end?
Oh most. Yes. Well, it wasn’t very fascinating in Greece. We spent most of our time being bombed and machine gunned during the day and travelling by night. We were rather glad to leave.

01:37:30:00

Do you retain those memories as clearly as all of the others?
I would say yes. As clearly as the others. Yes.
Are there particular memories that you hold dearer or that you want to hang on to more than others?
Perhaps particular memories that were not so dear

01:38:00:00

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

01:38:30:00

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

01:39:00:00

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

01:39:30:00

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,

01:40:00:00

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.
Ok. Thanks Ted. We might take a pause because our tape is about to run out.
Interviewee: Edward Hewit Archive ID 0116 Tape 02

02:00:32:00

Ok Ted. Can we come back to your life before the war, in particular your schooling because you finished your HSC [Higher School Certificate], or its equivalent at least, which I presume wasn’t an altogether typical thing.
No. Probably not. At the time Newcastle was the second biggest city in New South Wales.

02:01:00:00

It had one boys’ high school, one girls’ high school, Marist Brothers and they were the only high schools. The next one north was at Maitland and south was at Gosford. There weren’t many high schools and not many did the leaving certificate. In our troop,

02:01:30:00

in the early days at Ingleburn our troop commander said, “Who holds a leaving certificate?” There were four only and I’m not quite sure if one was telling the truth. I think only three in the troop.
Did you have a particular future after school mapped out?
I wanted to be a sailor.

02:02:00:00

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.”

02:02:30:00

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.

02:03:00:00

That was in about August ‘39.
You just mentioned the Depression time. Did that hit your family hard?
My father closed his hardware shop because people wouldn’t pay their bills. Like a lot of businesses that failed. But other than that, no. I had an idyllic life as a youth. I was growing up living in Toronto. My uncle

02:03:30:00

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

02:04:00:00

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.

02:04:30:00

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.
Did you maintain your

02:05:00:00

sporting and athletic upbringing?
I played football until I joined the army and there were very good footballers in the regiment. On the tablelands we had a very good football competition. We encouraged the football because it just kept up the morale of the regiment really. It kept everyone busy and gave everyone something to talk about. It was great.

02:05:30:00

What about after the war?
I played one and a half seasons after the war and then I had a couple of children and I thought I was getting old so I gave it up. And I sailed until not long ago.
Was there ever an expectation that you would follow your father into the hardware shop?

02:06:00:00

Not really. No. I didn’t want to be a retailer.
You mentioned your father was a Boer War veteran. Had he ever spoken to you about it?

02:06:30:00

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.

02:07:00:00

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.
You also mentioned that some other relatives had served in the First World War.
Yes. Two uncles by marriage. Married my mother’s

02:07:30:00

sisters, were in the army in the first war.
Did they share any stories with you?
I didn’t see them very often. One lived in Sydney and one in Bega so no, not really.
Were the earlier wars something you were aware of?
I learned about the Thirty Years War and the Hundred Years War and

02:08:00:00

the Seven Years War when I was at school in history. So I knew about the Battle of Waterloo and Wellington and Nelson. Yes. I knew quite a bit about those wars. Yes.
Do you think you had any appreciation of what the war was going to be like ahead of you?

02:08:30:00

Well I’d seen a few pictures, films and I had read a few books so I had a rough idea. Yes.
Were you aware of the political side of the war in Europe particularly at its outbreak?
Yes. I knew that Hitler needed pulling into line.

02:09:00:00

I thought he did. Yep.
What was your father’s opinion? Do you know?
The same. He was rather warlike. So he approved of me joining the army.
Did you or any of your family know of your intention to enlist

02:09:30:00

long before you did?
My sister did. My young sister. Probably the other one did too. Maybe they all did but I don’t know. I don’t know what they knew.
You said earlier that your mother had passed away in ’39, was there any change in your family circumstances following that

02:10:00:00

besides the obvious?
Yes. We were living in Newcastle at the time. And when my mother died my sister and I, we lived together for a while in a rented house. Then we both boarded in different places. I was boarding all the time because I was on shift work.

02:10:30:00

My mother and father moved into Newcastle not long before she died so there wasn’t any great change.
Were you happy in your job?
I wasn’t very happy in my job but I was happy with my life. I was playing football, which I loved, and living near Newcastle beach, which I loved. And my studies

02:11:00:00

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,

02:11:30:00

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.

02:12:00:00

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.

02:12:30:00

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

02:13:00:00

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.”
It does sound as though you were living

02:13:30:00

a fairly idyllic life.
I was.
I’m just curious why you would want to leave that and join the army.
If I hadn’t joined then the idyllic life would have changed completely. The football team folded for one thing . They didn’t play in the next year because they all joined the army or the air forces. Not all but a lot. Enough to put a stop to the team.

02:14:00:00

and if I hadn’t joined then I would have joined sometime.
Did the change in your family following your mother’s passing play any part in your decision to enlist?
No.
How did the rest of your family take your enlistment?
Well they were all happy. Yes.

02:14:30:00

On the day of your enlistment was there any time later to spend time with your family before leaving?
My sister saw me off in the train. My young sister, not my married sister. That was all. I didn’t have any great farewell party.

02:15:00:00

Was it a sad occasion or happy occasion?
Oh happy. I thought I was starting on a great adventure. It was something new and good. Yes.
Did any close friends leave on that train with you?
Yes. Three of my work mates were with me. Two of them, one of them I spent a lot of time with on the beach or sailing or

02:15:30:00

we were living in the same boarding house. The other one I played football with and worked with. They were close friends.
At the time of your enlistment the war was still very fresh in Europe did the peril that Britain in particular faced have any effect on you?
Well, Britain wasn’t in any peril then.

02:16:00:00

The war had only been going a month or six weeks. It had hardly started.
Did you feel a sense of rushing off to Britain’s aid?
I’d say yes.
Did the empire mean anything to you at the time?
No. Not as such. No. About as much as the British Commonwealth means now.

02:16:30:00

I wasn’t a flag waver. No. But I thought Britain was a great place and the British Empire was a great institution. Yep.
Had you ever travelled before enlistment?
I travelled to Brisbane. That was my furthest.

02:17:00:00

How did that compare to what was following from enlisting?
I travelled up there by ship and flew home. I was only in holiday in 1937. I had a good holiday.
Was that a family holiday?
No. I went by myself.
Did you feel that you would miss anything about home?

02:17:30:00

Not really. No.
Can you describe for me arriving at Ingleburn?
Yes. I can remember that clearly. We went down in the train and the train left Newcastle at noon and that’s not a good time for

02:18:00:00

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

02:18:30:00

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

02:19:00:00

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.
Before we talk more

02:19:30:00

about what ensued can I ask how full you were on that train ride?
Oh stone cold sober! Yes.
Were you much of a drinker at the time?
Not very much but probably more than I should have. But I still wasn’t much of a drinker. No. Probably couldn’t afford it.
What were the other fellows like who you were travelling with to camp?

02:20:00:00

Well, as I said, I knew three of them quite well. They were the only ones I knew. I didn’t know the others at all. That’s about all. Some had suitcases. Some had sugarbags. They were a very mixed bag.
Did you take any personal effects with you?

02:20:30:00

We were given a list of what to take. Knife, fork, spoon, a plate, and a mug, probably a set of underclothes because they gave us the uniform when we got there. Toiletries, shaving gear. Whole list with about twenty things on it I suppose.

02:21:00:00

That’s what we took.
Did your uniform fit you?
Roughly, yes. Not a bad fit I suppose.
How did you find being in uniform?
I didn’t mind it a bit. I didn’t mind it at all.
And what of the military lifestyle are you now a part of?

02:21:30:00

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

02:22:00:00

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

02:22:30:00

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

02:23:00:00

and have a couple of beers and back to camp. That was great. I enjoyed it.
How much choice did you have in the roles you found yourself in?
Not a great deal at the start. Anyone who could drive a truck became a driver. Anyone with

02:23:30:00

some education became one of the assistants. Battery commander post and gun position officers’ assistants. The bigger fellows became gunners because that was a pretty heavy job and the others became signallers. There was a change here and there later.

02:24:00:00

Some who claimed to be drivers weren’t very good drivers so they were diverted to the guns. So that’s how we were chosen. Some who had previous experience in the militia, both on the guns and as signallers, they went into their positions. That was about it.

02:24:30:00

You said that having had a leaving certificate you were assigned as assistant to a battery position. Did you feel any affinity with artillery?
It was quite an interesting job. Yes. It was quite good. I liked it.
What did you enjoy about it?

02:25:00:00

Laying out the gun positions. Working out gun programs and seeing the results of our labours. Seeing the shells landing where they should have, Where we hoped they would.
Did it take you long to become proficient at that?
Well we trained for quite a long time. We were a very efficient unit when we

02:25:30:00

went into action in Libya.
What of the physical drill side of your training?
We used to do route marches and some PT [physical training]. The most we did

02:26:00:00

was at the officer cadet training unit in Cairo when we did very stiff physical training every morning. So much so that for the first few days we were quite stiff in our muscles.
Did you feel in anyway attuned to this physical aspect because of your sporting background?
It didn’t worry me.

02:26:30:00

I quite enjoyed it. Yes. I wasn’t that keen on some of the route marches. Over grassy paddocks with slippery boots. I remember one night slipping on the grass. And we did quite a lot of route marches when we arrived in Palestine too.
At Ingleburn were you finding that

02:27:00:00

there was a distinction between people like yourself, who were comfortable with the physical aspect, and perhaps others who weren’t so?
No. Not really. Everyone, well I won’t say everyone, ninety-five percent of the people were fit when they got there.
And of the other five percent?
A couple were put out for medical reasons.

02:27:30:00

The others just put up with it whether they liked it or not.
And what of your specific training? Was there any rivalry between the artillery and infantry?
No. There might have been between infantry battalions and between us and the other artillery regiments. That was

02:28:00:00

all.
And what of ranking officers at the training camp and trainees like yourself? What were relations like between you?
That was at the Middle East officer training unit?
No I’m sorry at Ingleburn.
Ingleburn, I’m sorry.

02:28:30:00

They were good in most cases. I wasn’t mad keen on our battery commander. He was a Duntroon [Royal Military College] graduate and he wasn’t a very pleasant fellow at all. To me or to some of the officers who in recent years have told me how he gave them a bad time.

02:29:00:00

Unnecessary. Other than that some of the officers were really good. Most of them.
And do you think you felt prepared for war?
I did by the time we entered the war in Libya. We were quite ready for it. Even before that we were quite ready for it. Yes.

02:29:30:00

Ok Ted. I’d just like to ask you about the particular training you received in artillery weaponry while you were still at Ingleburn.
We had eighteen pound old guns. The gunners worked on the guns,

02:30:00:00

learning to lay them. And we had our instruments to point the guns in the right direction and make sure they were parallel. We had artillery boards that would plot the positions of guns and the positions of targets. And we’d measure the nine and range to them, which were given to the guns.

02:30:30:00

We used an instrument called a director to point the guns in the right direction. It was like a small theodolite, a surveyor’s instrument.
What guns were you training on?
They were eighteen pounders. First War guns. Later in Libya or in Egypt

02:31:00:00

yes in Egypt, we received twenty-five pounders which were new British guns. We had those for the rest of the war. So did all other artillery. Well no, all other field artillery units would use them.
How many men would be assigned to each eighteen pounder?
Six. And the twenty-five pounders also. There was a

02:31:30:00

sergeant, usually a sergeant, who was number one of the gun and then the man who opened and closed the breach. He was number two. Number three was the layer. Number four put the shell and the cartridge in the breach and number five and six prepared and handed him ammunition, the shells and cartridges. Six men, that

02:32:00:00

was the ideal. Often we were down to four through various reasons.
Which job did you perform?
I was the gun position officer’s assistant at the time. Then in Greece I was a member of the gun crew. I was the layer.

02:32:30:00

and that was done just for a brief period. When we came back, sometime later, I became a sergeant. We didn’t have any guns then. We’d given them to the 2/5th Field Regiment who took them to Syria to fight against the Frenchmen in Syria. So when I was a gun sergeant we didn’t have any guns.
So in your training were you given any instruction

02:33:00:00

in all roles of the gun crew?
In all the… Some of the gunners never bothered to learn how to be layers. But the number two and three were usually fairly specialized fellows and they stuck to their job. A couple of tail

02:33:30:00

enders in the gun crew were there to dig the gun pits and handle the ammunition. They weren’t very skilled. Not many, but some of them, were in that category.
You’ve given me the titles. The list of the six gun crew and what role they performed. Can you give me the routine and the timing of each of their jobs?

02:34:00:00

From the time they came into action?
Even at your Ingleburn training time on your eighteen pounder guns. What was the set routine that you would perform in practicing a firing?
Oh going back to the guns hooked up to the tractors. It was a fairly long operation.

02:34:30:00

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.

02:35:00:00

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

02:35:30:00

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?
I’m following.
That would be a bearing and the director would be set up on that bearing and the

02:36:00:00

gun positions officer’s assistant would measure with his director, measure the angle between the zero line and the dial sight. You give that angle to each gun in turn. It would be a different angle for each gun. The layer would put that angle on his dial sight

02:36:30:00

and….Look it’s so far back I can’t quite remember the details.
I follow what you meant by the zero line. What was meant by the dial sight?
The dial sight was the sight which the layer used to lay the gun,

02:37:00:00

point the gun in the required direction. It was again, a circular disk about that big which graduated from 0 to 360 degrees and there was a micrometer on the side in minutes

02:37:30:00

and he’d put the given angle on his scale and point using the director which would transfer the angle from the director to the dial sight and point it to the gun and point it in the right direction.

02:38:00:00

That is not a very good explanation.
Were these instruments attached to the gun itself?
The director was carried by the gun position officer’s assistant. It had a tripod and it was fixed on the top and the dial sight was carried in a leather case attached to the gun and when the gun went into action it would be taken out of the case and put in its

02:38:30:00

bracket and there it sat. I don’t have a picture of one.
I’m getting a picture of one in my head. Now I’m trying to see what procedure is used to fire the gun itself.
When the four guns are laid they are in parallel

02:39:00:00

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

02:39:30:00

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

02:40:00:00

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,

02:40:30:00

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

02:41:00:00

same point so they fall on the same target. That’s the aim.
Thank you Ted.
Interviewee: Edward Hewit Archive ID 0116 Tape 03

03:00:31:00

Ted, I’d just like to take up where we left off then. It sounds like training on the gun was very involved and that’s exactly why you needed your leaving certificate.
Some were able to do it without their leaving certificate, I might add. They learned what to do. But I think it was

03:01:00:00

just easier for us. There was some maths involved. We used to use logarithms quite a bit. Which some people had never used so it was just easier for us.
Do you recall, perhaps, what was your most useful piece of equipment?

03:01:30:00

I suppose the guns were the most useful piece of equipment by a long, long way. Without them we wouldn’t have been operating.
Did you strike any accidents at all when you were in training?
Yes. I think the only accidents were

03:02:00:00

vehicle accidents and motorbike accidents. They are the only ones I can remember. Yep.
So it sounds like you were fortunate enough not to have any artillery accidents.
I don’t think we had any.

03:02:30:00

I can’t remember any accidents. No. I can’t remember any. Somebody might have strained their back a bit because it was hard work on guns. But I can’t remember any.
You were training on the World War I guns, the eighteen pounders,

03:03:00:00

Did you have any other artillery?
Yes we did. Early we had six troops. Four had eighteen pounders and two had 4.5 inch Howitzers. When we went on to twenty-five pounders all the troops had twenty-five pounders. But 4.5 Howitzers

03:03:30:00

were also World War I guns.
Were you trained in any other smaller artillery?
Each troop had a Bren gun. It was mainly for their defence and

03:04:00:00

we had rifles, guns. I forget how many. Each gun had one or two, and later more, depending on the availability of rifles. In the last campaign we probably had some Owen guns too. I just can’t remember.

03:04:30:00

When you joined up with the army this was probably your first contact with artillery.
When I was in the militia for a few months we had eighteen pounders there too. But we trained Wednesday night so we didn’t see much of anything really.

03:05:00:00

I knew what a gun looked like and we were taught the principles, as I’ve just said, of laying the gun and pointing it in the right direction and that was about it.
Was it a challenge?
That’s something that’s crept into the language fairly recently. We didn’t think so.

03:05:30:00

It didn’t occur to us as a challenge. It was something that had to be done and we just did it. Whether it was a challenge or not we didn’t know.
And you mentioned that you formed some good friendships when you joined up with AIF. I’m a little bit curious

03:06:00:00

as to why you were surprised that other militia men didn’t put their hand up.
Well I thought, “That’s why we joined the army.” So I thought, “Everyone will join.” But the others had various reasons for not. So they didn’t step forward.

03:06:30:00

Some of them left the army all together.
But you took some best mates with you.
I wouldn’t say I took them. I went with them. If there’s a difference. Yes.
And you have

03:07:00:00

occupied positions of command throughout your service. You received some promotions. Can you just talk me through those different positions?
Well the first promotion was Lance Bombardier. That’s one stripe which is not a great leap forward. I think we still did

03:07:30:00

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,

03:08:00:00

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

03:08:30:00

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.
You sound surprised?
If, in the early days at Ingleburn,

03:09:00:00

they said, “You’re going to be the troop commander one day.” I would have been surprised.
And what qualities did you think now, in hindsight now, think you needed to be the troop commander?
That one’s too hard.

03:09:30:00

I’m not sure how to answer that one. To have the knowledge required, to have the confidence of the men and confidence in the men. That’s about it.

03:10:00:00

Were there any difficult decisions you had to make?
Not when I was troop commander. No. None I can think of anyway. Casting my memory back. Any difficult decisions were probably made by the next rank up. I don’t know. That’s

03:10:30:00

going back too far to remember.
So, if I understand you correctly, being a captain was much more difficult than troop commander?
That was the troop commander. Captain is the troop commander.
Sorry. My apologies.
What’s the question?
I haven’t got a question yet.

03:11:00:00

I’m just trying to understand your experience as a commander of troops.
Well you receive orders from above and just see they’re carried out by the

03:11:30:00

troops under you. That’s about the limit. That’s about what it is. And just make sure they do the job as they should. And with well trained troops that’s simple. They do it.
So perhaps we could go back to

03:12:00:00

your training days at Ingleburn and when you sailed out. You were…I’ll just check my notes here. You were a thirty-niner [a man who joined in 1939]?
Yes.
And you sailed out to the North Africa campaign.
We didn’t sail out for that. We didn’t know who we

03:12:30:00

were going to meet. We thought we were going to Europe. And we thought we were going to Europe right up until Italy came into the war. Then the position changed. We thought we would probably end up in France. Then Italy came into the war and the whole situation changed.

03:13:00:00

And what did you think of the Italians, or your enemy, at that time?
Well we didn’t know much about them until we met them at Bardia and then they surrendered in huge numbers so we thought, “Well, this is easy.” And they proved to be fairly easy although they killed three of

03:13:30:00

our troop.
Did you have much contact with the Italians?
No. None really. I saw three dead ones and I saw thousands of prisoners. The first time I saw the prisoners I didn’t know what it was. There was a slope, I suppose a mile or

03:14:00:00

two ahead of us, in front of us, and there was a dark green object it looked to be, coming down the slope. And I wondered what it was. As it got closer it was Italian prisoners in their bluey green uniforms. That was my first sight of

03:14:30:00

any Italians. I didn’t have any contact then. One group marched pretty close to our gun position and I saw them straggling along. There was about one infantryman looking after a couple of thousand fellows.
Before you went to Bardia did you go to a training camp first?
Only the regiment was in training all the time.

03:15:00:00

It wasn’t really a training camp. It’s just that we were in a camp, training. It wasn’t a training camp as such.
Was that in Palestine?
In Palestine yes. And Egypt. We went from Palestine to a place called Helwan, which was fifteen or so miles

03:15:30:00

south of Cairo and we went from there up to Ikingi Mariut, which was some miles west of Alexandria and we went from there to Libya.
You mentioned earlier that you weren’t that fond of route marches.
Well in some parts in

03:16:00:00

both Egypt and Palestine we were marching through sandy country and it’s not easy. And I don’t think anyone likes marching very much. The infantry did plenty. We did some.
Did you see a purpose to it?

03:16:30:00

I didn’t ask myself, “What’s the purpose of this?” But I knew we had to do it.
Was it good for discipline?
It probably was good for discipline. Yes. Just to keep everyone in line and in order.

03:17:00:00

We marched reasonably well. We didn’t straggle. It was really a march.
And you were with the 2/1st Battalion?
No, field regiment.
Can you describe the difference for me between field regiment and battalion?
Oh completely. One is infantry. We are artillery with big guns.

03:17:30:00

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

03:18:00:00

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.

03:18:30:00

They had a tougher life all together. They had more casualties, harder work, harder all together in every way.

03:19:00:00

Ok. I’m just thinking perhaps you…Was this your first time in a desert environment?
Yes. It was completely different to Toronto. Palestine was our first introduction to desert country. That was completely different to anything I’d ever seen. Except on photos

03:19:30:00

and films. So I knew there were camels and pyramids in desert and palm trees.
Was it different to how you thought it was going to be?
Not really. Having seen it on film and pictures I knew what the

03:20:00:00

desert looked like. Perhaps the desert in Libya was a bit different because it was not all sand. It was more like western New South Wales. Low shrubs about that high, here and there. Rocky sandy ground in part of it. Part of it was sand dunes as one would expect to see

03:20:30:00

in deserts.
Did you find any aspect of being in the desert difficult?
Trucks bogged in the sandy ground. There were flies by the million. It was cold at night, freezing.

03:21:00:00

That’s about all.
Did you have a blanket?
Five. Five blankets and some of us doubled up and slept with another fellow so then we had ten blankets. We didn’t take our clothes off. It was freezing. We didn’t have any shelter. No cover over us. We dug a hole in the ground

03:21:30:00

and that wasn’t very comfortable either because there were rocks under the ground so we slept on rocks. So with all our blankets we only took our boots off and hats.
This is obviously when you’ve gone to the front lines.
In Libya.

03:22:00:00

If we were staying out over night we had blankets. Yes. And a ground sheet which was a waterproof rubberized groundsheet. But always under the stars.
I imagine that it must have been

03:22:30:00

quite difficult. You’ve just mentioned that your trucks got bogged so carting your guns around would have been quite difficult in that terrain.
Yes. It was. In a lot of cases we….It was even up in the Atherton Tablelands. We had a lot of rain. They were bogged then in mud not in sand. I can remember one occasion up there we were out and the

03:23:00:00

truck was bogged and they had a winch and they hooked up to the railway line. The Mt Malloy railway line from memory. And didn’t have any ballast. It was just the lines on sleepers and when they tried to winch the truck out instead of pulling the truck out they put a gentle curve in the railway line. So I think another truck

03:23:30:00

winched them out. So I think when the next train went. I think it was only one train, one a week, if that often, and when it went along the driver would have noticed the curve he didn’t have before.
And was Bardia your first action?
Yes.
Were you frightened?

03:24:00:00

I was, I would say a little bit frightened when we fired on the first night, I think, that I was there.. The Italians retaliated and some of the shells landed fairly close and I wasn’t too happy about that. That was the only time we had shells land near us.

03:24:30:00

So I was a little bit apprehensive.
When did you take receipt of the twenty-five pounders?
When we were in Ikingi Mariut. About, at a guess a month or six weeks before we went into action. That was the first time we’d seen them.

03:25:00:00

We fired them quite a few times before we went into action. Exercises out in the desert.
So this is before you’ve gone into Bardia?
This is in our camp at Ikingi Mariut, about fifteen or so miles west of Alexandria. We’d go out towards El Alamein. Out in that

03:25:30:00

direction and we’d fire the guns out there.
It must have been quite different from the eighteen pounders?
The principle was the same but they were quite a bit different. Two men

03:26:00:00

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.

03:26:30:00

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

03:27:00:00

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

03:27:30:00

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.

03:28:00:00

Was it more accurate?
I don’t know. I can’t answer that. It was a very accurate gun. They probably both were. I don’t know. It was a better gun all together so I suppose it was more accurate.
So you had an opportunity then to spend a few weeks training before you took it out.
Yep. Before we went into action with it. Yes.

03:28:30:00

Did you feel confident at the time that it was?
Oh supremely. Yes. We were confident. Yes. We had been training for about a year so we were fairly well trained. This was, we went into Ingleburn in November ‘39 and went into action in December ’40 so it was thirteen months. So we were fairly well trained in that time.

03:29:00:00

We didn’t have guns for a little while, we ran into aircraft guns for a little while but most of it we spent training. So as you would expect we knew what we were doing.
Back in those days nobody wore earmuffs.
No. We had never heard of these. No.

03:29:30:00

How did you find the noise of being on the gun?
If you put your head down you didn’t notice it but sometimes if you just happened to be in a certain position you would get a crack in the ear. But I was in the artillery for years and I worked in the noisy atmosphere of the steel works

03:30:00:00

for years and I happened to be in Brisbane when they were doing, this wasn’t very long ago, they were doing free blood pressure tests and free hearing tests. My hearing was good so it didn’t affect me. I’m not either industrially deaf or deaf through shells.

03:30:30:00

I can still hear you clearly.
That’s really quite extraordinary.
A lot of artillery men now wear hearing aids.
Did you ever strike an occasion where you accidentally got too close and couldn’t hear for a while?
I’d say

03:31:00:00

when the bomb landed near us in Greece. No, I don’t think. No, I could hear. Yes. I could hear. As I told the gun position officer, “That’s the loudest noise I’ve ever heard.” I can remember getting the feeling of having a sore ear

03:31:30:00

for only a couple of seconds. When the gun would go off with a crack you would feel it in here. That’s all.
So being in the artillery, you probably, more than anyone, would be accustomed to the rhythm of the sounds. Were you attuned to the sound of your gun and the different sounds that

03:32:00:00

it made?
I’ve never given that any thought. No. It just went bang and that was it.
Were there any dud shells?
I don’t know of any dud shells but I know of one occasion when one went off in the barrel of a gun.

03:32:30:00

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

03:33:00:00

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

03:33:30:00

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.
Well I cant’ imagine it’s a very good thing to happen.
No. Not at all.

03:34:00:00

No.
Where did that happen?
That happened somewhere in Palestine. The regiment was still in Palestine. We were in…The recipient of the letter and me were in Cairo. .
And when a shell does that. Goes off in the barrel

03:34:30:00

that’s the end of the gun?
That’s the end of a barrel. Yep. The barrel is fairly easily replaceable. It happened when we were supporting the infantry at Gona and Sanananda and Buna. One night the group of Japs came through and put a charge down one of the barrels and it opened up like a banana.

03:35:00:00

And that barrel was taken off and a new barrel was flown over from Moresby and it was in action again in twenty-four hours. Barrels, if they are in the area, they are available and easily changed. The guns were dismantled into a few pieces when they were flown over from Port Moresby to Popendetta and Dobodura.

03:35:30:00

So you can dismantle them.
And when that happened to the one in Palestine you got another barrel for it?
We got another barrel, same as in New Guinea. Yep. We didn’t carry a spare. It would have been in ordnance or base workshop. So, somewhere stored.

03:36:00:00

So just going back to your action in Bardia. Can you describe again to me? I c imagine in your field regiment you’re mainly doing long range fighting as you described.
Yep.
And Bardia was your first action.
Yep.
Is that

03:36:30:00

the one that sticks in your mind?
Probably no more than any of the others. Suppose it should but it probably doesn’t. I treat them all equally I’d say. I remember when we fired the first shell everyone

03:37:00:00

cheered. Hooray !
What was the sense?
Sense of, “Well we’re in the war now. We’ve fired our first shell, lets fire some more.”
So it was important to you to feel a sense of success?

03:37:30:00

Oh yes. Success and perhaps exhilaration. That’s what we came for.
So the action in Bardia didn’t last very long?
About two days. And then it was all over.
Did you then go back to Palestine for some leave?
Not

03:38:00:00

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

03:38:30:00

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

03:39:00:00

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

03:39:30:00

Derna.
And what did you do with the men who went down?
I don’t remember. They were probably buried somewhere not far away but I just don’t remember what happened to them.. We moved shortly after. I don’t know.
So again Tobruk for you was a fairly short…

03:40:00:00

It took us about a week before we arrived at Bardia and Tobruk. And we spent quite a bit of time locating the Italian artillery batteries and the infantry were patrolling all the time finding out where the weaknesses were. And we were there for about a week before

03:40:30:00

the attack started in both places. And in one of them, I forget now whether it was Bardia or Tobruk, the attack was put back twenty-four hours because of a sandstorm.
Interviewee: Edward Hewit Archive ID 0116 Tape 04

04:00:32:00

Good morning Ted, how are you? I’d like to start this morning with a little bit of where we left off yesterday. Take you back to your camp in Palestine before you went to Bardia. Tell me, what was the food like in camp?
We went to Bardia from a camp in Egypt. Ikingi Mariut. The food,

04:01:00:00

it’s casting my memory back. We had a lot of bully beef, herrings, tinned bacon, which was very fat, baked beans, some tinned fruit, bread and butter. That’s all I can remember. That’s when we were in camp.

04:01:30:00

You spent quite a while in camp in anticipation of your action.
We were outside Alexandria for about two and a half months before we moved up to Bardia, which took us a couple of days to get there.
And during those two and

04:02:00:00

a half months you’re not training all the time. What would you do in your time off?
Play football. Go into Alexandria for leave for a day, which was very good. Other than that not much. Wrote letters, received letters.

04:02:30:00

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

04:03:00:00

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.”

04:03:30:00

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

04:04:00:00

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

04:04:30:00

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.
Can you tell me about your football?
Every troop had a team and they were played with a lot of enthusiasm.

04:05:00:00

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.

04:05:30:00

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

04:06:00:00

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.

04:06:30:00

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

04:07:00:00

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.
And when you were at camp in Palestine, what did you use for goal posts?

04:07:30:00

I think we might have got saplings from somewhere. I don’t know. But we had goal posts, I remember that.
And a ball?
Oh yes. Had a ball. I think the comforts fund, something, or the canteen fund perhaps handed out quite a bit of sporting equipment. There were

04:08:00:00

rugby balls and soccer balls and boxing gloves. There were cricket bats and balls and stumps. Yes. Quite a lot of equipment.
So you managed to while away the hours quite well?
Oh yes. Quite well, yes. Some people might have been bored but

04:08:30:00

there was always somebody to talk to. As you can imagine. That’s about it.
And what do you recall of your days off in Alexandria?
Drinking and eating. And perhaps a trip to the pictures to a picture show.

04:09:00:00

Trip to the Fleet Club. That was the club for the Royal Navy where they had cheap beer and food and played, they called it Tombola and we called it bingo. I think it was good when we were there but later some Australian troops picked fights with the navy and Australian troops were banned from the Fleet

04:09:30:00

Club. That was after our time.
Did you mix at all with the locals?
I’d say no. No. none. Only in restaurants. Only with the,

04:10:00:00

perhaps the owner of the restaurant would come and have a chat but not really.
Did you enjoy the local food?
The local food as far as we were concerned was steak, eggs and chips. So yes, we enjoyed that.

04:10:30:00

What about the beer? Was it different to what you were used to?
In camps we had Australian beer. There was some terrible beer in Palestine but after the first couple it all tastes OK.
And you mentioned yesterday

04:11:00:00

your action in Bardia was fairly short.
We were there for about a week while the infantry did their patrolling and finding out the weak points and deciding where the attack would be made. We registered targets and the night before

04:11:30:00

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

04:12:00:00

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

04:12:30:00

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

04:13:00:00

wine and that kept them warn at night until the CO found it and that was the end of that.
Can you tell me specifically which job you were doing at this time?
I was the gun position officer’s assistant at that time.
I know we’ve been talking about that off camera but could you describe that position to me?

04:13:30:00

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.

04:14:00:00

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

04:14:30:00

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

04:15:00:00

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

04:15:30:00

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.

04:16:00:00

I couldn’t find it.
So there is quite a bit of maths involved under very stressful circumstances.
Yes. That’s right. Especially working out the gun programs, making out the gun programs and working out the detail to put on those. Yep. Quite a bit of maths. It’s not

04:16:30:00

difficult maths by any means.
Do you get much time to do it? Did you ever feel like you were in a rush and didn’t have much time to do it?
There was one. Once at Bardia we were in a hurry to do it. We used to do it mainly at night with a hurricane lantern.

04:17:00:00

Well it had to be done fairly quickly but not in a great rush. It had to be ready in time. Have them ready in time. Which we did.
And who would you give those gun programs, once you’d done them, to?
To the number one of the gun. The sergeant in charge of the

04:17:30:00

gun. Theoretically he was a sergeant. Sometimes he was a bombardier and he’d work from that. He’d tell the gun layer what to do, who pointed the gun.
So it sounds like there is

04:18:00:00

a degree of hierarchy. Every man is dependent on each other.
That’s right. Yes. There is a degree of hierarchy like all businesses I suppose. Management, middle management and the mob.
And did you have any mathematical calculation aids or tools?
We had

04:18:30:00

logarithm tables. Some used a slide rule. And we worked from range tables, which did some of the sums for us. That was about all.
And how…

04:19:00:00

You were describing, or mentioning earlier on, how there was an arc or range in which you would aim the gun. I guess my question is you’re not aiming at necessarily specific targets. Just general direction?
No. I’d say

04:19:30:00

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.

04:20:00:00

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.

04:20:30:00

Yes. That was when we fired indiscriminately.
But other than that your directions were to aim at fairly specific objects.
That’s right. Fairly specific targets.
And what were your targets in the main at Bardia?

04:21:00:00

Enemy gun positions. There might be a concentration of trucks or troops. Anything that looked like a target. Something that should be shot at.

04:21:30:00

Were you aware of the significance of the victory of the allied forces at Bardia?
We thought it was great. Great yes. It was good. It was our first action. Our first victory. We also scored some Italian food that we lived on for a while. Our own, we were living on bully beef

04:22:00:00

and biscuits at that time. So that helped quite a bit.
So how was morale?
Good. Yes. Very high.
You then moved to Tobruk.
Yep. That was roughly the same.

04:22:30:00

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

04:23:00:00

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

04:23:30:00

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

04:24:00:00

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.

04:24:30:00

When Tobruk was over did you get any time off?
No. We went straight to Derna with no time off. And Derna was a bit different. That’s where the gun position officer, Robert Kibble, and myself were machine gunned by a couple of planes. I mentioned it before.

04:25:00:00

and we lost three men and seven of second battery became prisoners. And they spent the rest of the war in Italy. I think there is only one surviving now. I see him a couple of times a year. He became a librarian and he said, “The Italians were great people.” And I think he was a bit sorry the war ended.

04:25:30:00

He was enjoying himself thoroughly in Italy.
And were you still a gun operations…
A gun position officer’s assistant. Yes. And we went from Derna and spent a little time in a paddock near a village called Giovanni Berta.

04:26:00:00

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

04:26:30:00

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.

04:27:00:00

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.

04:27:30:00

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.

04:28:00:00

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

04:28:30:00

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

04:29:00:00

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,

04:29:30:00

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.

04:30:00:00

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.

04:30:30:00

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.

04:31:00:00

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.

04:31:30:00

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

04:32:00:00

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

04:32:30:00

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.
I’m curious. From your descriptions then, Did you ever develop a personal attachment to the guns that you were working on?

04:33:00:00

I wasn’t on the guns really long enough to develop a great personal attachment. The ones who were on the guns all the time they did. Yes. I suppose, yes, I did have some attachment to it. I was only on the gun for as long as we were in Greece. That was only three or four weeks.
So you,

04:33:30:00

I understand, left for Greece from Alexandria.
Yes.
By boat?
By ship, the Pen Land. A Dutch ship. It was later sunk. When we arrived in Greece we went ashore in yachts and small

04:34:00:00

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

04:34:30:00

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.

04:35:00:00

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

04:35:30:00

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.
What about the guns that you had. Did they go with you?
No. They went in a different ship. They went a few days before us and they went up to a place called Brallos and they

04:36:00:00

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.

04:36:30:00

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

04:37:00:00

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

04:37:30:00

the guns. And they were looking for us. The guns in trucks. We went as far north as Larissa. That had just been bombed.
So Ted, could you just take up that story again? Was it difficult finding the guns?
It took a day or two or a couple of days. The driver and fireman of the

04:38:00:00

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,

04:38:30:00

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

04:39:00:00

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.
What was your position at this time?
I was

04:39:30:00

a member of the gun crew.
So you weren’t specifically doing the maths.
No. No. Spent a lot of time on the end of a shovel digging gun pits.
Well that’s a very good place for us to pause. We’ve come to the end of a tape so we’ll change our tape.
Good.
Interviewee: Edward Hewit Archive ID 0116 Tape 05

05:00:31:00

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.

05:01:00:00

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

05:01:30:00

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.

05:02:00:00

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.

05:02:30:00

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

05:03:00:00

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.

05:03:30:00

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,

05:04:00:00

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

05:04:30:00

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.

05:05:00:00

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

05:05:30:00

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.

05:06:00:00

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,

05:06:30:00

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.

05:07:00:00

So you just mentioned being under enemy bomb attack when you were on the boats that left Greece. Was there a similar situation when you were taken to Greece?
No. We weren’t attacked at all on the way to Greece. No.
You came under some rather heavy fire, I know, while in Greece.
Yes, we did. There was bombs and machine guns. One of our troop

05:07:30:00

commanders was killed and a few were injured. And as I’d said Doug Hillcote, who was on our gun when the bomb landed near us, was hit in the thigh. He had a great gash in his thigh and he was taken back. He was on a ship that was hit by a bomb and presumed killed. Because we never saw him again.

05:08:00:00

Was there a different sense to being bombed on land or bombed while on a boat at sea?
They are both pretty awful. I don’t know. Not much difference I don’t think. Although I suppose you feel a little more hemmed in in a ship. Neither of them were pleasant.
What were procedures

05:08:30:00

for being on the ship while being bombed?
Everyone was told to go down below except the fellows who had rifles and Bren guns and they stayed up and fired at the planes.
Do you know what sort of planes these were that were attacking your boats?
No that might be the electrician. Probably

05:09:00:00

Heinkels. I forget their number.
Were these similar planes to those that were bombing you while in Greece?
Yes. Same kind except in Greece there were some JU87s. They were dive bombers. I don’t think there were dive bombers. I didn’t see the planes. I was down below in the ship in Greece coming home. I didn’t see the planes. But I think Heinkels

05:09:30:00

were the names. I don’t know what it was.
What then is the procedure when you’re with a gun crew, when you’re coming under bombing attack?
We weren’t. It was on the way over I was on the gun crew. Do you mean on the ship or on land?
On land, in Greece.
We usually had slit trenches dug but if we didn’t, if we

05:10:00:00

were moving along in our trucks, we abandoned the trucks and went some distance, fifty yards or so, away from the road and waited until the planes went and went back to the trucks and off we went again.
Did you ever lose any trucks of gear?
Yes. We were parked in an olive grove. We were bombed there and

05:10:30:00

our truck had a very near miss and caught fire and I lost all my gear. Including a watch I’d bought in Alexandria, which I intended to send to my sister. I hadn’t had an opportunity to send it before and I lost that . And I don’t think we lost the gun and we lost the truck.

05:11:00:00

I don’t think anybody was hurt from memory.
In that instance what did you do with the gun if the truck was on fire?
Well we had ammunition trucks probably hooked onto that.
So you would take the gun and attach it to another truck.
Another truck. Yes. It wasn’t long after that that we destroyed the

05:11:30:00

guns.
Were you ever forced in circumstances where you had to leave your gun or your truck and take cover? Subsequent to that were you ever involved in using hand weapons?
No.
You were never forced to defend yourself with a rifle?
No.

05:12:00:00

We were never close enough to the Germans for that.
Did you ever serve alongside or in conjunction with any New Zealand forces in Greece?
No. I didn’t. We didn’t. The infantry did.
Did you…

05:12:30:00

Having served in Bardia which was your first action and the first action of Australian troops in the war, did you feel part of any Anzac tradition?
No. We were told when we were in Greece that we’d been part of an Anzac formation but before we were by ourselves. The New Zealanders were still in Egypt.
Did that mean anything to you personally or to the

05:13:00:00

regiment?
Oh not a great deal. No. Not to me anyway. It was just that we were now an Anzac formation. I suppose a little bit of pleasure. If that’s not the word, that’s not quite the word.
What of British forces or British commanders?

05:13:30:00

Had you served alongside or under them?
Well General Maitland Wilson was in overall command of the troops in Greece. I forget who it was, oh, [General] Wavell was in charge of the British troops in Libya. Overall command.

05:14:00:00

Given the development of the Greek campaign how did you find the overall command?
Well we were there for political reasons. We shouldn’t have been there for any other reason than that. Churchill had promised to help the Greeks and we went. I think strategically

05:14:30:00

everyone knows that we shouldn’t have been there.
Do you think he knew that at the time?
I don’t know. But I’d say he probably had a rough idea. I think General Blamey did.
Did it make any difference to your job?
Oh no. We were just there. It didn’t make any difference to me. No. Not at all.

05:15:00:00

We went where we were told to go and there we were.
You’ve talked about some heavy fighting there and people coming under heavy fire and casualties, considering those facts and subsequently if you were considering that campaign a bit of a misadventure what was the feeling of it

05:15:30:00

say coming back out of Greece?
Happy to be out. Happy to be heading back to Egypt.
Was there any resentment of having to go there?
No. I don’t think so. From some there might have been but I don’t think most of us were very resentful. Not at all.

05:16:00:00

How would you have compared the fighting and the conditions you were subject to in Greece compared to other campaigns you were involved in?
In other campaigns we were successful and that one we weren’t so it was a disappointment or a failure compared with the other ones where we won so it was not a good campaign at all

05:16:30:00

as far as we were concerned.
In that light how did you view the losses and casualties you suffered?
We were disappointed to lose some fellows and we were rather glad that others stayed behind. One particularly. Some of us were very pleased to see our battery commander

05:17:00:00

be a guest of the Germans.
Where was he taken prisoner?
On the beach somewhere near Kalamata.
How did that come about?
Well he missed, he wasn’t on the destroyer and he didn’t go on any of the little ships so along with all the others he was just there when the Germans came along and nabbed him.

05:17:30:00

With a lot of other members of the regiment too. He wasn’t by himself.
Was your assembly at the beach or the docks and your evacuation a disorderly affair?
No it was very well organized. We marched down to the destroyer as an organized lot.

05:18:00:00

And off we went.
Were there any other members of your squad or your regiment that you hadn’t accounted for or weren’t aware of their presence?
I don’t know when we realized that we’d left some behind. I don’t know, no idea.

05:18:30:00

Did you hold any particular opinion of the navy before Greece?
Yes. The navy had always been a great lot. They had taken part in the evacuation from Dunkirk and then Narvik from Norway. They were wonderful fellows. They had some Italian ships

05:19:00:00

And they helped us out of Greece. They were good. They suffered more than anyone else in ships and men from the evacuation of Greece and Crete.
What was the evacuation itself like? What sort of emotions were you experiencing?

05:19:30:00

I suppose the main was, “Let’s get out of here”. But it was an orderly lot and away we went.
What did you have with you in terms of gear or weaponry at the time?
Me, nil. I had lost most of my stuff when the bomb hit the truck in the olive grove.

05:20:00:00

I think I still might have had the dial sight. I don’t remember what I had. Not much, anyway, if anything.
Did you sustain any injuries?
No.
But you saw woundings happening around you?
Yes.
Were there any other effects of

05:20:30:00

bombings while in Greece?
They bombed Greek villages. I don’t know.
Being a part of a gun crew and being in a situation where you might lose your gun

05:21:00:00

I presume that that must have some measure of effect upon your psyche.
Well we knew we couldn’t take it with us so we had to leave it there. At that stage we were just glad to get out.
Was that campaign generally a terrific mental strain on yourself?

05:21:30:00

I wouldn’t say that. Not a terrific mental strain. No.
Could you see any effects of that kind on the troops around you?
Some were upset. Some, I think, I don’t know any particular cases. I don’t think anyone…

05:22:00:00

I can’t remember any. One fellow decided he’d had enough and disappeared from the guns one day and we never. I think he came back later. I don’t know where he’d been. Most recovered. I just don’t remember anyone not returning, going to hospital

05:22:30:00

and not returning. Everyone was just back to normal.
The Greek campaign strikes me as a disappointment from a soldier’s point of view. It must have gone against the grain being in a fighting retreat. In some cases leaving guns or equipment behind.

05:23:00:00

It’s not good at all to be on a losing side.
But I also presume it affects different soldiers in different ways.
You’d be right. I’m not very well up in the psychology or the thoughts of other people.
But at the same time you think you might have been aware that it was creating

05:23:30:00

pressure. Perhaps on your crew or other crews.
It didn’t occur to me. Nup.
You sound like you were fairly single-minded in your determination to want to get out of that environment?
Yes. I was. You’re right.
Upon your evacuation and then subsequently experiencing bombing going across the Mediterranean, where did you

05:24:00:00

land in port?
Alexandria.
What was the sense when you landed in there?
Relief. Pleasure. Happiness
How were the troops met by the people in Alexandria?
Well. We just went off the ship. I think we were fed and we went into a train. We didn’t

05:24:30:00

see anybody. There were troops on the quay when we arrived there but there was no sense of welcome. I don’t know. Nothing. We just went in the train and off.
I’ve read that on previous occasions when you stayed in Alexandria or Egypt or in Palestine

05:25:00:00

and particularly after the successful North African campaigns that the Australian soldiers were regarded well by the other soldiers by the people of those countries you stayed in. But subsequently after the Greek campaign, which was a setback, there may have been a different perception. Did you feel that?
No. I have no idea. No.
What was your own perception?

05:25:30:00

I was just glad to be out. Glad to be home. Glad to be back in Palestine. That was just my idea.
Was the German foe a more difficult one than the Italian?
Oh by a long, long way. Yes.

05:26:00:00

We beat the Italians easily and the Germans beat us easily.
Was there any situation following these events where you were, or might have been, facing the Germans again?
Oh golly. I suppose if the Japanese hadn’t come into the war we would have

05:26:30:00

hunted the Germans again. Because we would have stayed in the Middle East as the 9th Division did.
If you can tell me, would that have been something you would have looked forward to or not?
I can’t answer. I don’t know. I don’t know.

05:27:00:00

So returning to Alexandria you stayed in Egypt and at this time was it that you went to the officer cadet school?
No we were back in Palestine at Kassa for May, June, July, three months

05:27:30:00

before I went to the Middle East officer cadet training unit.
What took place at Kassa?
We received guns and trucks. We received a lot of reinforcements which were needed. We handed our newly received guns and trucks to the 2/5th Field Regiment who took them to Syria.

05:28:00:00

And then I left.
Was that a voluntary decision of yours to attend that school?
No. The CO said, “You’ve been chosen to go to that school.” I had an interview with the brigadier. The Commander Royal Artillery 6th Division Brigadier

05:28:30:00

Herring at the time who later became Lieutenant General Herring and the general officer commanding the 6th Division, General Ivan Mackay. I was by myself with Brigadier Herring but I was with about twelve of us with the general and he gave us a little speech. He asked one fellow why he was wearing a leather belt.

05:29:00:00

And then I went back to camp and was told I would be going to Cairo on the 31st July 1941 with a fellow from the 2nd Regiment Harry Merlo and Harry Coffman from the 2/3rd Regiment and off we went in the train to Cairo.
You left the school as a lieutenant. Is that correct?

05:29:30:00

That’s right.
Was there a shortage of ranking officers that you needed to fill?
Not really because they were coming. Reinforcement officers were coming from Australia in quite large numbers. But everyone preferred to have officers promoted from the ranks in the regiment than receiving

05:30:00:00

different officers that they didn’t know.
Did it go beyond the fact that they weren’t known?
Well we rather prided ourselves on being original members of the AIF and these other fellows had joined later. So we preferred to have the original fellows.

05:30:30:00

Were these reinforcements given this impression from the originals?
Some were. Yes. I’d say. And some weren’t very efficient. One or two were sent home to Australia and later

05:31:00:00

some sent to other jobs. And some were very good officers.
Did you welcome the opportunity to go to the school?
Yes I did. I was the twelfth from the regiment to go to the school. Thirteen went all together and now

05:31:30:00

I’m the only remaining one. Two were killed in New Guinea and others have since died.
What did you see lay in attending the school and gaining the promotion, for you?
I think everybody wants promotion. Well nearly everybody. Some don’t.

05:32:00:00

Everyone wants to. It’s the same in civilian life. Everyone wants to be the boss if they can. Don’t you?
Was the cadet school rigorous?
Not as rigorous as Australian schools.

05:32:30:00

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

05:33:00:00

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

05:33:30:00

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.

05:34:00:00

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.

05:34:30:00

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.
What sort of things were you taught to become a lieutenant?
The first three months we were taught…

05:35:00:00

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.

05:35:30:00

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.

05:36:00:00

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.

05:36:30:00

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.
So you were learning about all branches so that you may…
We did that for three months and then two months of artillery work. Yes.

05:37:00:00

Because it might be a case where you would need to delegate or give orders to these different branches?
I wouldn’t give orders to them but I would perhaps advise them. Not army service or engineers but I would cooperate with the infantry. In our troop there were five Australians, six New Zealanders, one

05:37:30:00

Pole and eleven Englishmen from various British regiments.
How did that one Pole interact?
He was in the Polish Army and they were being overrun by the Germans and then the Russians came in. And he thought, “Oh, you beaut, the Russians have come to help us.” But that wasn’t the case. They were against them too.

05:38:00:00

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.

05:38:30:00

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.

05:39:00:00

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.
Did all of the men there graduate as officers?
No. One fairly older

05:39:30:00

fellow in the aircraft regiment had to do another month just to smarten himself up a bit. I think that was the electrician.
I think we’ve got one more minute of our tape so we’ll wind up just by…What happened after graduation?
We had a week’s leave that we spent in a houseboat on the Nile. A week’s leave from Cairo.

05:40:00:00

We went from there to the training regiment. The training regiment was the pool for reinforcements that were coming from Australia and they were in this pool and as regiments needed reinforcements they would draw from the training regiment. I was really one over the number of officers required

05:40:30:00

for the regiment but when we were leaving for Australia I joined the regiment and came home with them.
Ok. At that point I think we might pause there.
Interviewee: Edward Hewit Archive ID 0115 Tape 06

06:00:32:00

Ok Ted. We’ll take up the story again. So you spent about five months at the training school in Cairo and I believe got a new uniform.
Yes. We had a weeks leave in Cairo which we spent on a houseboat moored on the Nile and then we went to the training regiment.

06:01:00:00

We’ve been through that.
What position did you graduate as?
Lieutenant.
And where did you go when you left?
We went to the artillery training regiment, which was the pool for reinforcements arriving from Australia. And when regiments needed reinforcements they’d call on the training regiment to supply

06:01:30:00

a certain number. And there was a pool of officers there too. Also going to regiments as required.
So then how did you come to go to Ceylon?
I joined the regiment one day before they left for Ceylon. We went by train down to Suez.

06:02:00:00

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

06:02:30:00

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

06:03:00:00

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

06:03:30:00

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.

06:04:00:00

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

06:04:30:00

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

06:05:00:00

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.”

06:05:30:00

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.

06:06:00:00

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

06:06:30:00

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

06:07:00:00

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

06:07:30:00

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

06:08:00:00

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

06:08:30:00

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.

06:09:00:00

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

06:09:30:00

left the Western Land still. Disembarked at Melbourne. It was in August. Freezing cold.
Can I just go back to Ceylon for a minute? Are you still with the 2/1st Field Regiment?
Yes. I was with the 2/1st Field Regiment until I went to the training battalion. I was the canteen officer of the 2/1st Field Regiment.
In Ceylon.
In Ceylon. Then we went back to

06:10:00:00

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

06:10:30:00

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.

06:11:00:00

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.

06:11:30:00

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

06:12:00:00

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.

06:12:30:00

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

06:13:00:00

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.

06:13:30:00

Can I just interrupt your flow a little bit just to ask you about becoming a lieutenant? Did you form new mates when you went to cadet school?
After coming back?
Yeah.
Not really. My two mates that I’d worked in the laboratory with, one was five months ahead

06:14:00:00

of me at the OTU and the other had been promoted when we were still in Palestine. So I caught them. So they were there and I made friends with other fellows who had been at the OTU . Then with one of the reinforcement officers who joined at Kassa when I was away. Yes I

06:14:30:00

re-made friends with two of my old mates and ones who had been to the OTU ahead of me.
You described your job as a canteen officer at Ceylon as a new responsibility. What were the primary responsibilities of a lieutenant?

06:15:00:00

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

06:15:30:00

he stayed around the gun position helping the gun position officer.
Did you see any action in Ceylon?
Only the Jap planes on their way to bomb Ceylon Harbour, there and back. No. We didn’t fire the guns in anger. No. The Japs didn’t come. I think

06:16:00:00

everyone thought that if the attack by the aircraft had been more successful they probably would have tried to land in Ceylon. But they turned back.
And did you have an understanding or a sense of what your new enemy was like?
By this time they had captured Singapore so we had a

06:16:30:00

rough idea they were pretty good and they were doing well in Burma. And they had landed in New Guinea. They landed in New Guinea when we were on the ship, from memory, coming home. So we knew they had had great success in Malaya and Singapore so we knew they must have been pretty good fellows, pretty good soldiers. Which they were too.

06:17:00:00

And by the time you got to Australia it was mid 1942?
Yes.
Darwin had been bombed by this stage.
Yes.
Did that affect your sense of the Japanese as an enemy?
We knew they were a formidable lot.

06:17:30:00

That’s what we knew. We didn’t know immediately that we were going straight up. We had our leave. Spent a week at Greta, and went straight up to meet time. We were the first AIF unit up there. No we weren’t. We were the second I think.

06:18:00:00

The 2/5th and the 2/6th might have been there but we were the first to go into action against them.
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?

06:18:30:00

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.

06:19:00:00

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.

06:19:30:00

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.
Ok so you’re still with

06:20:00:00

your field regiment, the 2/1st ?
Yes.
You’re now a lieutenant on your way to New Guinea.
Yes.
Did you have a sense of what you were in for before you went?
Not really. We knew we were going to meet the Japanese. We didn’t know where or when but we knew we would. The trip on the

06:20:30:00

ship was….there were eleven hundred on a cargo ship. The cooking was done on stoves on the deck. We sat on the hutch covers to eat our meals. We slept on the decks. Some of the troops slept down in the holds on top of ammunition and

06:21:00:00

fuel oil but the weather was good. The trip up through the barrier reef was good. No one complained. So it was not an unpleasant trip.
Did you disembark at Port Moresby?
Yes. We went assure in the HMAS Lithgow. A corvette.

06:21:30:00

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

06:22:00:00

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,

06:22:30:00

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.

06:23:00:00

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.
Can I just ask you, some of the men from the infantry have described to us how they had to dye their uniforms from

06:23:30:00

khaki to more of a green jungle colour?
Yes.
Did you and the artillery do that as well?
Yes. I don’t remember dying our pants but I had a green shirt that someone gave me.

06:24:00:00

I don’t know if everybody dyed them. I don’t remember that.
So your strongest memory of that time is going on surveying…
Around Moresby. Yes. When airfields, well they weren’t really airfields. They were paddocks covered in grass, kunai grass, which was

06:24:30:00

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

06:25:00:00

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”.

06:25:30:00

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

06:26:00:00

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.

06:26:30:00

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

06:27:00:00

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

06:27:30:00

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

06:28:00:00

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

06:28:30:00

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

06:29:00:00

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

06:29:30:00

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.

06:30:00:00

We stayed with that battalion for a few days.
Sorry, if I can just ask you a question. You were on foot so you didn’t have your guns?
We had our rifles with us. Yep. On our feet through very poor walking and that was not a good trip at all, in the middle of the

06:30:30:00

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

06:31:00:00

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

06:31:30:00

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

06:32:00:00

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

06:32:30:00

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,

06:33:00:00

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

06:33:30:00

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

06:34:00:00

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

06:34:30:00

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

06:35:00:00

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,

06:35:30:00

“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.

06:36:00:00

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

06:36:30:00

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

06:37:00:00

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”.

06:37:30:00

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

06:38:00:00

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.

06:38:30:00

And are you still…Which regiment are you with now?
2/1st still. But forward observation officer with the 39th Battalion at the time. We set out next morning with two sergeants, a lieutenant and a sergeant, and the 2/14th Battalion

06:39:00:00

had been on the area where we were going. We were going to attack a village some miles west, which was occupied by the Japs. And we’d been collecting sig wire and we didn’t collect any rations when the battalion was setting out so off we went with the battalion and I had a few fellows

06:39:30:00

about maybe six fellows with me from the regiment.
Interviewee: Edward Hewit Archive ID 0116 Tape 07

07:00:31:00

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

07:01:00:00

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…

07:01:30:00

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.”

07:02:00:00

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.

07:02:30:00

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”.

07:03:00:00

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

07:03:30:00

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.

07:04:00:00

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

07:04:30:00

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

07:05:00:00

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

07:05:30:00

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

07:06:00:00

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

07:06:30:00

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

07:07:00:00

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.

07:07:30:00

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

07:08:00:00

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.

07:08:30:00

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.
Ted, If I can, there’s a couple of questions I’d like to ask about that particular part of the campaign. Although the Japs had really suffered some setbacks in New Guinea

07:09:00:00

When you say that Gona was gone, was this held with some measure of pride by you and your fellows?
Oh great pride when it was taken. Yes it was good. As one would expect when you’ve captured something that has defied capture for some weeks.

07:09:30:00

And certainly since your last action had been in Greece, which was not so successful.
Which was far from successful.
You also mentioned that during that action you fired off some rounds from your artillery placement and narrowly missed some Australian soldiers. How was it that they were there in that position?

07:10:00:00

Well they were outside this village intending to take the village so they were there. In position there.
Was their position known?
It was known by me. It was known by them. It was known by the Japs. Yes. Everyone knew. It was just that I just had really a random line

07:10:30:00

and range to give. I thought I’d hear the shell some distance away. I had no idea it was going to be that close. I didn’t have a map and if I did the maps weren’t accurate so it was just a fluke that it went so close to where I wanted it. I had no idea it would go there.
Was this something you found very much with New Guinea? That you were operating very much off your own calculations?
Yes All the time then.

07:11:00:00

We didn’t use maps really. We had air photos to show us some targets but we used the guns to find the range and the line and that was it.
From what you have told us about your previous experiences it sounds like this air support was something that you hadn’t

07:11:30:00

had so much of previously?
We had very little if any air support in Greece. We had some in Libya. There were Beauforts and Beaufighters operating also

07:12:00:00

at this time in New Guinea and the Wirraways.
How important to you was that air support?
It was important to everyone. The more the better.
What difference did it make to your operations then?
Not much I don’t suppose. It just added to our fire power.
You also mentioned that you had

07:12:30:00

fired at a native village where you had sighted Japanese. Were there any native villagers still in the vicinity?
Only huts . No people. No people.
Did you come into contact with locals living in areas where you were conducting fighting?
Not living. But I saw a lot of native carriers.

07:13:00:00

They were carrying wounded out and supplies in.
What were your impressions of them?
Well they did a wonderful job. Especially carrying wounded out.
Did you ever come across when moving forward after your different actions where you were firing perhaps shifting to a different position. Did you encounter any

07:13:30:00

bodies of Japanese soldiers that you might have killed with your own artillery fire?
In Gona I am quite sure that we did some. Yes. But I don’t think we did any in this second village. No. Later in Wewak I know we did.
What would happen when you come across their bodies?
Look round for some more. So we can make some more bodies. That was the aim.

07:14:00:00

Was there a process that you had to follow if you found them?
No. none.
Were the Australians suffering many casualties at this time as well?
Yes. They suffered quite a lot. Yes. Their bodies were collected and buried and I think they were later lifted and taken back to the cemeteries

07:14:30:00

near Moresby.
Did you and your party ever stumble across any Australian soldiers?
No. I didn’t every stumble across any. No.
And did your troop ever suffer any losses itself?
Our regiment lost two officers and a sergeant

07:15:00:00

and a couple of gunners.
None in your immediate party though?
No. They were at Sanananda or Buna. Either Sanananda or Buna.
If you would hear about the loss of a gunnery sergeant or some personnel would the regiment mark their passing in some way?
No.

07:15:30:00

What do you mean a funeral or something?
Would there be a pause for reflection or…
No.
You mentioned also that at the conclusion of actions around Gona, Buna, Sanananda

07:16:00:00

reinforcing or supporting units would move in and take over the action. You mentioned that American units would do this in these circumstances. What was the opinion of the Americans arriving at that particular time?
Very poor. The 32nd Division were not very good at all. General MacArthur came up and relieved the general

07:16:30:00

and quite a few of the officers. And put another general in charge. Eichelberger was the one who came and replaced the first fellow. But they weren’t very good.
Why was it they gained that reputation?
Why did they gain it? Because they wouldn’t move. They stayed in their weapon pits and wouldn’t move.
And yet in some cases they

07:17:00:00

well maybe not that unit in particular but some would come and seem to claim the spoils at the end of an action.
Well after that they did very well because they took all the islands right up to Okinawa. So between the marines and the divisions they met with success.
That’s

07:17:30:00

certainly true. In New Guinea itself though were they perceived as having gained a bit of the glory without the strain?
Most probably yes. In propaganda in America. Yep.
Was any of that filtering back to you?
No. I don’t remember. I don’t think so. I don’t remember. It probably did
Were you…

07:18:00:00

When being relieved from that operation you said you went back to Moresby. Were there Americans at Moresby as well?
The American air force was all around Moresby, yes, and engineers. I think the infantry had all moved on. There were still a lot of Americans around Moresby.
Did you have contact with some of them?
No.

07:18:30:00

Not much. No.
Was that of your own choosing?
Well I had other things to do. I didn’t go looking to make friends with them. I was happy as I was. When I was in the survey party too from the 32nd Division, the sergeant and a private used to come over. We were camped near Americans. They’d come over and have

07:19:00:00

a chat at night. That was all. That was the only time I would have anything much to do with them.
From this time when you had gone back to Moresby. Was it late ‘42? Had it moved into ‘43?
It had moved into ‘43. Early ‘43
Around this time, was that when you contracted malaria?
I went to hospital early ‘43. I went to hospital but I think I was sick before that.

07:19:30:00

I didn’t know what it was. When we were west of Gona and I had infected sand fly bites too. I wasn’t very happy. When I came back we went from Moresby up into the hills to Koitake and we came down from Koitake and

07:20:00:00

we had a rough trip. We had chains on the wheels of the truck and the truck was bouncing. I think that tickled up the malaria germs and I felt sick. I had a 104 temperature so the doctor said, “Hospital for you.” And off I went with a lot of other members of the regiment including our CO.
Which AGH were you sent to?
2/5th. And some,

07:20:30:00

very few, there were only a couple of the regiment who didn’t get malaria.
The 2/5th AGH was then on the tablelands. Is that right?
It was then on Bootless Bay outside Moresby.
You did return to Australia for some recuperation?
No I stayed there.
Was it at that hospital that you were treated by your future wife?
Yes.

07:21:00:00

That’s where I met her. As I said she nursed me back to health and strength. And some time she said she, “Caught me in a weak state.”
She caught you in a weak state?
Yes.
How long did your recuperation take?
We just went back to the unit. Only was sick for three or four days and then feel okay but you continue with the treatment until the treatment runs its course.

07:21:30:00

That’s it. You feel better. Some people have frequent attacks but I didn’t.
Did you have spare time during your recuperation?
We were training again in a rough kind of way.

07:22:00:00

Yes. I had spare time. Don’t ask me what I did because I don’t remember. Yes. We did a lot of training. We used to shoot the guns out at a place called Bora where the mosquitos were. Yes. We were training again.

07:22:30:00

Was the training any different to previously?
We didn’t do as much movement as we did when we were in the Middle East. Other than that it was pretty much the same.
And from there you returned, or you were sent to Aitape? Was that right?
No we came back to Australia.

07:23:00:00

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

07:23:30:00

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

07:24:00:00

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.

07:24:30:00

What was your impression of the militia men?
At the first, not very good. The 39th Battalion with 7th Division officers performed very well. Even before they had the 7th Division officers they performed well. The 36th Battalion weren’t as good.

07:25:00:00

The 36th fell quite a bit behind. The 55th or 53rd Battalion were failures too. But they. I’m not sure which battalion it was. The 53rd I think. But they combined with the 55th and became the 55th/53rd Battalion and did reasonably well.
You say failures. In what sense?

07:25:30:00

One company of the 36th Battalion didn’t want to go into action. The others didn’t have much will to attack. And had more will to retreat. Some of them thought, “I didn’t want to come here. I shouldn’t be here and I want to go home”.

07:26:00:00

Did you feel that they had proved themselves later?
Yes they had. In nearly all spheres they had. They were different to the AIF battalions. The AIF battalions were better trained, older,

07:26:30:00

more mature and they had joined voluntarily and a lot of the other fellows didn’t want to be there.
Did any serve close to you in any actions?
Yes. I was with the 39th Battalion and the 36th. I was close to them.
And you found them efficient at that time.
We weren’t in action with the 36th. The 39th, yes they were.

07:27:00:00

From Loftus where did you progress then?
We went from Loftus to the Atherton Tablelands. It was about Christmas '43. Went up to Ravenshoe by train. We were at Ravenshoe for a little while then we went to Mapey[?].

07:27:30:00

Then Wondecla. Yes. They were the three places up on the tablelands. We were there for nearly a year. It was a very good area for training. It was a very good area away from cities. Away from diversions. So it was an excellent place for training. Good weather.

07:28:00:00

In winter it was warm in the day and cool at night. So there were wide areas for training. So it was a good place to be.
I think you mentioned that you got very fit there.
Everyone was fit there. Yes. There were a couple of football teams in each troop and that kept everyone fit.

07:28:30:00

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.

07:29:00:00

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

07:29:30:00

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

07:30:00:00

meant to the regiment at the time.
It was almost taking precedence over your artillery training?
No not quite. No. It was well up. Though we did quite a lot of shooting with live ammunition up there. The 16th Brigade had dammed a creek with sandbags so we had a swimming pool. It wasn’t very clean water but it was fifty…

07:30:30:00

We had a couple of swimming carnivals. It was big enough for a fifty metre swimming carnival. So it was quite good up there.
It sounds like a pretty enjoyable time. Did you look forward to heading back into New Guinea, into combat?
Yes. I suppose we did really

07:31:00:00

because when you’re training for something all the time you want to put it into action eventually. Some didn’t want to go back because the Americans had met so much success in the islands and the Japs were there. Some people thought they should have been left there. But the government felt otherwise so off we went.

07:31:30:00

What did you think of these last campaigns?
Oh I enjoyed them. For me I enjoyed it.
In what way?
We were successful. I quite enjoyed….I was the forward observation officer, especially in the time of the 2/8th Battalion. I enjoyed every bit of that. We had plenty of ammunition. We had plenty of food.

07:32:00:00

As I said we were successful. I was happy.
Did you see it as a worthwhile campaign?
Looking back it probably wasn’t but at the time it was, it was worthwhile. We were destroying the Japs. That was the aim and that’s what we were doing so I was as happy as anything.

07:32:30:00

Which is probably not politically correct.
There has also been some mention of at the time freeing the territories from…
Freeing the natives from…. That was said to be the aim. That was right.
Did that mean something particularly to you?
I don’t know if I was aware of it at the time. I

07:33:00:00

don’t know. After sixty years I don’t know.
What are your strongest memories of that last campaign?
Time spent with the 2/8th Battalion firing on….

07:33:30:00

Joining the 2/8th in successful attacks on defended Japanese positions. Taking the positions with a minimum of casualties and being successful. After we had fired our guns, fired quite a lot of rounds on the positions and 7 , 8 and a 100 Squadron

07:34:00:00

RAAF with their Beauforts dropped bombs on the positions too so it was good.
You’ve used the term “happy” for this time in your campaign. Was there any unhappy or regretful moments in it?
None I can immediately recall. Yes. There was one. Yes. The American

07:34:30:00

6th, 6th American Lightning bombed and strafed our regiment and six men were killed and quite a few wounded by the Americans. Not only did they bomb and strafe us but there were two American barges about five hundred yards away with big stars and stripes flying and they copped it too. So that was a very unhappy time.
What circumstances did that happen in?
They thought we were Japs.

07:35:00:00

As every now and again you see on TV now they make a mistake. It was just carelessness or bad judgment.
What sort of positioning were you in at the time?
Our guns were in position pointing towards Wewak and over they came and hit us. They probably thought the little cape we were on was

07:35:30:00

Wewak so they thought we were Japs and had a go at us.
Any repercussions from that event?
We never heard what the result was. I think the Australian army complained bitterly as one would expect. Six were killed. One lost an arm and one lost a leg.

07:36:00:00

And there were other minor wounds.
I imagine it would have dented some confidence.
Well that was the only time we saw them. So it did at the time. But that was the only time we saw the Americans. The rest of the time we had our own support from

07:36:30:00

the three Australian squadrons.
At this time Japanese were still entrenched at Wewak?
At that time they were. Yes. But they weren’t a couple of days later.
What happened in the interim?
I think it was the 2/4th Battalion plus our support captured the Wewak Peninsula.

07:37:00:00

Were there many Japanese captured?
I don’t remember any captured. There were a few killed. I don’t remember how many. But I don’t remember any captured. There must have been some somewhere because there were enough in Cowra to have a breakout in 1944.
On the whole, in those last campaigns, were there many Japanese taken?

07:37:30:00

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

07:38:00:00

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.

07:38:30:00

Where might he have reached?
Heaven.
From your descriptions talking of sighting one or two Japanese and picking them off as it were, with rifles and not artillery guns, it sounds like a war of attrition, as it were, where you’re moving yard by yard and

07:39:00:00

taking them one by one.
That’s what it was at Buna and Sanananda and Gona. Yep. I met with success on one place in from Wewak. We saw some Japs going to a bunker as they were called. A defended position with logs on top and a machine gun inside.

07:39:30:00

And the Jap was coming into that and I said to the infantry fellow….He was only seventy yards away or so I suppose and I said, “Don’t shoot him I’ll get the lot with the shell.” And Gordon Craig was my assistant at the time. He was a good fellow too. And he said aside to the infantryman, “Who does he think he is?” Anyway I fluked it and the shell landed right on the top and we did get the lot.

07:40:00:00

Which was a fluke.
We are almost coming to the close of our session tape. I’d like to ask of you would like to add anything about your overall impression of your service?
I’d say it was quite a happy time all together with some very unhappy minutes in it. It was freezing cold in Libya. That wasn’t very pleasant.

07:40:30:00

No time at all in Greece. That was a very unhappy time. The first time for New Guinea wasn’t very happy. We didn’t have much food. The ammunition was in short supply. We were successful eventually but it was not a terribly happy time.
Interviewee: Edward Hewit Archive ID 0116 Tape 08

08:00:32:00

Ok Ted, we’ve talked a lot about your second campaign in New Guinea already but I’m curious to know specifically if you can to take me right through the action that you specifically were awarded the Military Cross for?
It was really more than one action but I think the citation says the attack on Mount Shiburangu.

08:01:00:00

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

08:01:30:00

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.

08:02:00:00

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.
So can you just…You’re a lieutenant now….
Yes.
And you

08:02:30:00

are then taking up the position as a forward observation officer. I know you’ve just mentioned briefly what that was about but were you operating by yourself?
At the time with an assistant and one signaller. So there were three of us.
And would you go out together.
Yes.

08:03:00:00

Can you specifically describe to me your job and the job of the other two men?
The signaller had a telephone and a wire and he was in contact with the troop and I’d give him the fire orders and he’d pass them back and the guns would answer my

08:03:30:00

fire orders. The assistant was, I’d say, more of a companion than a specific job.
So if I understand it you are relaying information for gun programs.
No. Mainly just for observed shooting. That’s me

08:04:00:00

shooting on targets. Directing the fire of guns onto targets. And then there would have been a, I’m not quite sure my memory fails me here. When I’d registered the targets then sometime later, not much later, the guns would fire or some,

08:04:30:00

probably hundreds of rounds, on the targets that I had registered. I forget now if the guns were given a program or not.
I imagine that this was fairly risky…going out in a small group of three?
Well the infantry

08:05:00:00

would have been close to us. They would have been with us. Not always but we weren’t far from them.
Did you have anybody covering you, so to speak?
Yes. The infantry were around. It was risky I suppose. That’s where I got shot in the hip. Just grazed on the hip.

08:05:30:00

Well it was risky I suppose. Yes.
You’ve experienced campaigns at Gona, Buna and then at the second round at Aitape and Wewak. Did you feel prepared for the jungle terrain?

08:06:00:00

I had no idea what it was going to be like. I had no idea. It was different to. I suppose we saw some of it in Ceylon but I had no idea it was going to be like it was. But I don’t suppose I gave it a great deal of thought. Just, “Let’s see what comes.”
And did you

08:06:30:00

have a sense of a clear strategy?
No. Not really. Mine was more tactically than strategically. I had a rough idea what I was going to do.

08:07:00:00

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.

08:07:30:00

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

08:08:00:00

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.

08:08:30:00

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.
Did you give back any jibes?

08:09:00:00

Yes. Told them, “I was doing their job for them.” All in good fun. But they were a very good happy lot.

08:09:30:00

When you were at Aitape and then Wewak was Wewak worse in terms of the action you experienced?
There was no action at Aitape. We were just camped there. We were supporting infantry all along the coast. There were Jap defended positions

08:10:00:00

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

08:10:30:00

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.

08:11:00:00

So I became the troop commander of A troop where I had started six years before. Nearly six years before.
And you were still with some originals?
I think, I’m not sure about the figure, but I think there were thirty-five or thirty-six originals left

08:11:30:00

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

08:12:00:00

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

08:12:30:00

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

08:13:00:00

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,

08:13:30:00

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

08:14:00:00

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.

08:14:30:00

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

08:15:00:00

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.

08:15:30:00

And for you personally was New Guinea the most difficult campaign?
Oh the first one by far. Yes. It was by far the most difficult for me but for the infantry it was ten times more difficult. More than that even. It was terrible, the conditions under which they were living.

08:16:00:00

Why was it specifically more difficult for you?
Well the food wasn’t as good. There were the climatic conditions. The opposite to Libya. In Libya it was freezing cold, in New Guinea it was hot and wet and raining. Yes. Taken all round it was

08:16:30:00

just a more difficult campaign. Not as difficult as Greece I suppose but still it was a difficult campaign for me. I flew over the Owen Stanleys. I didn’t walk like the infantry did.
Was the challenge because you didn’t have the big artillery with you? You were

08:17:00:00

on smaller…
Where was this?
When you flew to Gona and Buna.
We had our artillery supporting us. Not as much as....We only had four guns and two troops and limited ammunition. Then part of the 2/5th Regiment came over and then there were some mountain guns and a couple of American guns but our

08:17:30:00

51st Battery were the first there doing most of the firing. Most of the supporting the infantry. But the ammunition was in very short supply. It all had to be brought over by plane and then carried from the air strip to the guns by Jeep so it was all quite a big task.
If I can go back

08:18:00:00

to your second campaign in New Guinea, after you had spent a year on the tablelands, you mentioned that you were a command post supporting the infantry up the coast to Wewak. Exactly what was your job?
It’s a bit hard to say. Co-ordinating the

08:18:30:00

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

08:19:00:00

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

08:19:30:00

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.
You mentioned earlier in your story that you were happy to see the behind of a battery command officer in the

08:20:00:00

Middle East and now you’ve got a position of command in New Guinea.
I wasn’t the BC. I was only a troop commander. And I think and hope that I was different from the battery commander that we lost in Greece. Yes. I’m sure I was. He was not a very pleasant lad.
And you had the respect of your troops?

08:20:30:00

Yes I think so because they still ring up and chat affably so I think so. And they made me president of the association both in Newcastle and in Sydney.
And do you feel…You told us that you were on the beach at Wewak when the war finished and you got news of the end of the war.

08:21:00:00

Do you feel like on your return to Australia you were recognized for your achievements?
I suppose we were. I don’t remember great headlines say “Heroes Return”. There were so many returning. The air force fellows

08:21:30:00

coming back from England. I don’t remember. Before we went to Aitape we had another march through Sydney and the people waved their flags and shouted. So that was before we went. Of course we just came home by train from Townsville so we couldn’t have much of a welcome home on Central Station. People, they were coming from everywhere all the time.

08:22:00:00

When did you receive your Military Cross?
In 1949 at Government House in Sydney from the state governor at the time who was General Northcote. Me and a lot of other fellows. Our CO was given a CBE [Commander of the Order of the British Empire] and our

08:22:30:00

original second in command who left us to go to small ships. He was manager of shipping in Dalgety so he knew about shipping so he left us to run small ships. He got a CBE. My very good friend who I was best man at his wedding got an OBE [Order of the British Empire] and I got my MC and another one of our fellows got an MC.

08:23:00:00

And those were the representatives from our regiment and there were fellows from the battalions and other units at Government House.
Do you think the war or your experience of war changed you?
Yes, I do. It made me a much more responsible citizen. That was the main thing I’d say.

08:23:30:00

I went from an irresponsible lad to a responsible fellow. That was the main change. I can’t say whether it was a change for the better. I’m sure it was. For some it was a change for the worse but not for me.

08:24:00:00

Yes. I went back to technical college, which I don’t think I would have done if there hadn’t been a war. I’ve had a reasonably successful life with BHP so it was good.
And you certainly contributed to Australia and the allied forces winning the

08:24:30:00

war.
A little tiny bit.
What about the peace?
What about it? What did I do for the peace? Me? Not much. I don’t know.
Do you think it was altogether the campaigns

08:25:00:00

in New Guinea just?
Well the first one certainly was. The second one, some say, “No.” Some say, “Yes.” The government said, “You go.” so off I went. The government and General Blamey said, “Off you go.” so I packed my bags and off I went. And I wasn’t sorry that I went.

08:25:30:00

I was glad really. As I said probably not politically correct but.
Well you’re certainly not the first person to tell us stories of how the war, even though it was incredibly difficult and painful, were actually some of the best times in their lives. Do you think that in your long life

08:26:00:00

that is still one of the most strongest and most memorable times?
Yes. Certainly. It was. It was so different to everything else and I was fairly successful and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. And I’m glad I was one of the originals. One of the first

08:26:30:00

six thousand odd that sailed from Australia. I was glad I was one of those. A lot of people are, although some of them won’t admit it, are rather jealous of that.
So you had a rather special bond with the other thirty-niners?
I didn’t join the

08:27:00:00

thirty-niners. I did for a little while. There was a Thirty-niners’ Association that’s still going. I joined it but then I thought well the regiment means more to me than being a Thirty-niner because some of the Thirty-niners who delighted in being Thirty-niners,

08:27:30:00

weren’t very good soldiers. And some of our fellows marched with the Thirty-niners on Anzac Day and I think that they shouldn’t have marched with the Thirty-niners, the regiment should mean more to them. I left the Thirty-niners and although they are still going I’m not one of them.

08:28:00:00

And what advice, if any, would you give to your grandchildren?
Be good to your mother. How about that? That’s taken from a TV ad.
Would you give any advice to your grandchildren

08:28:30:00

about the war?
No. I wouldn’t. What if there was another war and volunteers were called? I would let them make their own arrangements. No, I wouldn’t advise one way or the other. If they said they were joining the army I’d say, “That’s good.” If they say, “They’re not joining the army.” I’d say, “So be it.” Whether

08:29:00:00

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

08:29:30:00

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.

08:30:00:00

So being in the cadets interfered too much with his sporting life.
Why is it important for you to march on Anzac Day?
Well I’m the president of the association, so for a long time I didn’t but now I do. Mainly for that reason. I think now in that capacity it’s

08:30:30:00

become a duty. Not an unpleasant duty so there I am with some of my mates. Less every year.
And apart from your practical duties do you remember specific things on Anzac Day when you march?
Not really. No.

08:31:00:00

Perhaps when I’m marching I’m thinking, “I hope all goes well for the lunch at our reunion.” And enough turn up. I’m not a great thinker. Challenges and philosophies

08:31:30:00

I’ve never been a great one for. I just take things as they happen.
You’re a doer?
I suppose yes. I suppose so. Sometimes I look at the garden and I doubt it.
Well I think from your descriptions of the actions that you have experienced in New Guinea

08:32:00:00

you’ve got a task and you are able to apply yourself, as you say, to the responsibility of that task and carry through.
Yes. That would be right. Yes. I suppose I did the same as a workman when I was at work. Yep.
Do you think that that focus enabled you to adjust to civilian life afterwards?
Yes. I adjusted I’d say,

08:32:30:00

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.

08:33:00:00

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,

08:33:30:00

I could get an unsolicited testimonial too from my daughters too if you asked them. So that was that.
I think that’s a really good place to end our session. Thank you very much for talking with us Ted.
It’s been great. I’ve enjoyed it too.
Thank you.
INTERVIEW ENDS

Comments

0 Comments You must to sign in to add a comment Add a comment