And from there in 1930 I went to the Knox Preparatory School and there I stayed for the rest of my schooling, where I was probably more involved in sporting than I was in scholastics. That is probably not unusual for boys of that nature because in my final year of school I was in the first fifteen, I became a lieutenant cadet, I was in the swimming team and the athletic team.
That’s enough for that. And then from there I had a stint as a jackeroo but my father called me back to go and do the matriculation, which actually I had missed out on the leaving. But I got the same results in the matriculation because I’d had about two or three months away from study and when I came back it just didn’t work. I don’t know what he expected but he got the same answer, which
before. Then I went into an accounting office but during this period of time I also got involved in the 18th Battalion which was at the Karangi unit, which with that I did the one month’s camp and the three months camp where we were training universal trainees, then out of that situation I got to the rank of sergeant.
But then I, that was quite an interesting episode but then when I – in 1940 I was still, well at that stage we were probably doing guard duties and things around Sydney but I was also doing a lot of accounting work as well. I got to the stage where one of the bosses came up to me one day and said, “Carter, what do you like? Do you prefer the army or the office?” “Well the office, sir, of course.”
But we were called on to do guard duties and things of that nature. And then in May 1940 I decided that I would enlist, which I did and there I was allocated to the 2/1st Pioneer Battalion under McGillicuddy where we went to Greta and spent all our period at Greta at which I enlisted as a private.
I didn’t use my rank at all from that point of view. I enlisted as a private and just sort of worked my way up at that stage but then when we got to Dubbo, the unit was transferred to Dubbo where we spent a couple of months at which stage then I was make a lieutenant and from there we sailed overseas on the old Johann de Witt, which was a ship made for about two hundred passengers.
We had about eight hundred troops onboard plus about twenty nurses. We sailed out into a beautiful sou’wester, though it would probably be more of a sou’easter gale. They put us into Watsons Bay Heads before we went out because it was so heavy but then they decided to go and of course by nine o’clock the next morning everyone was about as seasick as you could make them. And then of course we got round to,
from there we went through to Suez, where we had a break in Colombo where we had three or four days where we had a very good time there. A lot of us got ashore and did a bit of this that and the other. Well we did the usual things, where we were told not to go we went, and those sort of things, but that’s not abnormal. And then we went to the Middle East, Julis and then of course from there
I was put into a period where the unit went up the desert and I was sort of sent backwards with the LOB where I did a certain amount of work accepting troops into the Middle East. We used to go down and meet the ships and sort of brief them on what the score was. Then I was put on the back of a truck and sent right up to Benghazi where I got involved with the unit again but then Rommel changed out minds and he sent us back and we got caught up in Tobruk.
At two o’clock one morning we were just told to get in the backs of the bloody truck and go, which we did and then we got into Tobruk, and then of course I mean that’s another story within itself. And then of course I was evacuated out of Tobruk to hospital because of huge tinea ulcers under my feet because of lack of hygiene, washing facilities, all that type of thing but I can go into the details of that later.
And then we went up then and from there I went back into Palestine and from there I was transferred into the2/3rd Pioneer Battalion, which was up in Syria. The 2/1st came home and I stayed with the 2/3rds and then of course with the 2/3rds we did a certain amount of defence work up in Syria and then we were bought down into the desert again and did Alamein, had the December Christmas of 1942,
yes Christmas ’42 we had in Palestine and then we came home on the Queen Mary. Then we went up, well then I got appendicitis and I was put in hospital for two or three weeks, then up to the tablelands where we did our training and then we went up to Milne Bay where we were acclimatised and then from Milne Bay we went to Lae and Finschhafen.
Sorry, well Lae probably first up at Red Beach by boat and then around to Finschhafen, and we did lots of working around Finschhafen. But at that stage I’d had quite a period of frontline service under fire, I had already been wounded, I’d had bullet wounds, well bullet burns down my side and things like that and all of a sudden you just got to the stage where your nerves,
you sort of lost control of them so I then came back with the unit to the Atherton Tablelands again and I was transferred down to Canungra where I did about twelve to fifteen months training and that was when Canungra was then all the officers and NCOs [Non Commissioned Officers] at Canungra were then taken from 6, 7, 9 Div. Anybody else was sent north and we were, but you had to have done
one campaign before you were allowed to go back to Canungra and so from there that’s when I was discharged. And of course I had a hell of a job then trying to get back to civilian life. Of course Kate [interviewer] would probably appreciate this, because you have to remember that from about 1940 to 1945 our association with women was probably negligible. It was very, very sporadic as you might say. I mean, occasionally you may
have a night out but you were always with the boys anyway and I can still remember the time in Brisbane when I went out with a very nice lass and I decided to take her out for tea and I didn’t know what to talk about because I was only used to mess talk, men talk. And of course women folk don’t entirely like that and I often wonder what the hell she thought about me. So you know, that’s
and then of course I came back and I had to study. And then I realised I had no qualifications for civilian life so I had to settle down and study for the next four years which I used to work during the daytime and go to tech [technical school] at night. Sit on the back of the train, couldn’t go with my mates because I had to study in the train or the bus. On the Friday night you were that ruddy tired you could hardly walk home.
But as I said in the long run it was worth it but hey were what you had to do but it took a lot of mental push to make yourself do it because there was many a time when you got to yourself and you sort of said, “Well, what the bloody hell am I doing here?” But then you turned round and you said to yourself, “Am I going to waste all that effort or not?”
three or four officers who stood by him, senior officers who stood by him very well, mainly because they were looking at their own, it was politics rather than anything else because they weren’t fellows who in my opinion had a great deal of ability anyway but they were there and you had to go along with them. But after that anyway I went up to Benghazi, I was sent up to Benghazi where they were doing work on an airfield,
putting in an airfield there, which was quite interesting. But then everything was going on nicely and all of a sudden one night, at about two o’clock, we just got a message through, “Get on the truck, don’t worry about anything and go for your life.” And I said, “Bugger that,” and I got all my gear and put it on the truck with me, so I took that with me anyway. And then of course we came back through Derna and into Tobruk.
That is when the German pushed through and the 2/13th couldn’t hold them. We lost a few fellows there and we came back into Tobruk and then we were more or less put into the second line of defence there as a unit, and well that was –
that was there and then the whole thing got fairly well, we took over the old Italian perimeter but we didn’t have a great deal of weapons of our own. A lot of our weapons we got were the captured Italian stuff. Our own weapons didn’t come through until some time later. We were even using Italian artillery. But we did get
get one or two Bren guns and things like that and in the anti-aircraft platoon they were given to us to do that and anyway this was probably after we had been there about six weeks or something or things like that. But we got actually our particular area was attacked by a German, well I think it was a Messerschmitt.
It was a German fighter plane. He came in and had a go at us and most of the fellows went to ground and I thought, “Well, this is no good,” so I took to the guns and I know perfectly well on my own life because I could see it with my own eyes that every shot that I gave to him, because of the tracer, actually went straight in to him. And he became, I would say, he was probably one that went through there and I would say that he probably became mortally wounded.
Then he sort of flattened out and went right along at a very low level towards the Al Adam aerodrome, which was in German hands at that stage, and of course he crashed into there. He just got outside our lines and crashed and went into flames. But one of our other fellows down the line there, who had an anti-tank gun, fired one anti-tank shell which he wouldn’t have any idea but they claim that he shot the plane down.
And he got the full credit for it, yet in my situation the plane actually came straight at me and I know damn well that if he’d have pulled the trigger we’d have got the lot. But fortunately I got in first and I know he got the whole blast of what I gave him. I never got any credit for it, and the CO reckoned that, from then on he didn’t
like the anti-aircraft section so he broke it all up. I know, you can say what you like, I’ve got my own feelings too. I’m only telling you the story from my own point of view and as I know it and ask I see it.
I have my own feelings on it. I can remember on particular night when two officers were, one was killed and one was badly wounded and it happened in his dugout over a game of cards. I’ve got my own theories but nothing ever came of it. In my own theories it was a grenade, because I wasn’t camped that far
away from it. But who am I to say? But that was the sort of relationship there and I often felt afterwards he was never too much on my side. I think he would have liked to see me out of the road in some ways because I think he had the feeling that I knew too much.
I probably did because it was very well covered up, whatever happened that night. When Major White was killed and Captain what’s-his-name was very badly wounded and never came back,
but somehow he never got a scratch on him, but that’s going into that side of things. That was life. I don’t know what else you want to know about my life in Tobruk. That was the early part of it, then after that I was in patrol in platoon work and we spent probably
nearly a fortnight in the S sector, which was living in slit trenches for quite lengthy periods. We actually lived in the slit trenches because there was nothing there. We couldn’t stand up at any stage because if you did he would be watching you. But then in a later stage he also gave me a turn in A Company and I had to take it forward a certain, I think I was told to take it forward five hundred yards. Well I got
very close to five hundred yards, about four hundred and fifty and I could see that five hundred yards was sitting basically on German machine gun fixed lines. So I stopped at four hundred and fifty and dug in at that point because I could see that by digging in at five hundred yards I would get more casualties than I’d get bullets you might say. I stopped at four hundred and fifty because I thought my job was to defend the situation, not just to go there,
and then the next morning he asked me, well the next evening, he asked me, “how far did you get up?” Because at that stage we knew that things were pretty heavy at that stage, and the next night he was reassessing the situation and he said, “How far did you get?” I said, “Four fifty.” He nearly lost
his ruddy temper. He said, “Why didn’t you make the full five hundred?” I said, “I would have been digging in German fixed lines.” And he said “That didn’t matter,” this, that and the other and he said, “I want you to go forward about another thousand yards.” So I said, “Okay,” and the next night, so we went forward a lot further than that which brought us well and truly within close sight of the Germans and just behind of one of their
knocked out tanks and anyway we dug in there pretty well and got down to within reason where you could at least move along a bit of a slit trench when you really bent down. And the next morning we could see the Germans there and we could actually see them coming out, and of course I think they treated us like a little grain of dirt, didn’t take that much notice. Anyway one
poor German came out and decided he wanted to go to the latrine, so he came out and went to the latrine and one of my fellows then turned around and shot him and that put a very different flavour on everything as you can imagine. Anyway the fellow who was just, he wasn’t that much further, probably about where the table is, he kept looking up and I sort of half warned him not to but he kept on looking up to see what was going on and the next thing he got one
straight through the head and of course he just dropped like a stone. That’s exactly what happens, when that happens, he just dropped like a stone and never moved but of course he had to stay there all day because we couldn’t get him out until the ration truck came up. We had to put him in the back of the ration truck and sent him back but that was the end of him. But of course that made the other fellows a lot more respectful and they gave a lot more kudos and they weren’t silly enough to keep on
finding out what was going on all the time. And if we did it was done on a very casual, not always in the same place, situation because that became too obvious as he only had to have his snipers waiting for you and you’ve got it. But anyway we were there for about four or five days I think, just sort of holding it, in that sort of situation, with due respect to the Germans
to us and we to them because there was no point in, unless you’ve got to do a job, but this was down on the Al Adam Road area. And of course in that area there because the only tucker you got was when the ration truck came up of a night time, the rest was what you had in your pocket and any only water was what you had in your water bottle and that was what you used for your ablutions and to drink and everything else,
was what you had in your water bottle on your side which was a couple of litres I suppose, for cleaning your teeth and doing everything. And that was the life on that area and then later on we went into the S area, the S section where I probably did four or five patrols down to the old, taking them down there, checking out the old Italian defences to make certain he wasn’t in there, which invariably he wasn’t because he was sitting up on the bloody hill watching us anyway but all the patrol work was done at night time.
And we were in that S section there for nearly a fortnight where we, I was probably a bit silly enough and we had an anti-tank rifle and we knew where the German OP was, the artillery OP and we just decided, he was sitting in behind a stone sanger, so we thought, late one afternoon
we’d have a bit of fun and we’d just knock a couple of stones over on him. So we used the anti-tank rifle and of course we must have had some success in doing that but it wasn’t terribly successful because he came back with a 105 mm and gave us an absolute blast with a whole battery, with about ten or fifteen shells he sent over the top
and killed one fellow. He was very unlucky actually. He was lying in his slit trench and the piece of shrapnel just came straight down through his groundsheet, straight into him and just hit him here and just came out up his back here. It was there and I was extremely lucky because I had one shell that landed just down the trench and it wasn’t probably any further away from me than that suitcase but it turned out
to be a dud and didn’t go off. If it had of you wouldn’t be talking to me today, but that’s your luck, that’s your luck in that game. But that was mine there and then later on Brownie wanted someone to go out with one of the battalion patrols and he chose me to go out with them, which I did.
And we had to go and take some fellows out to go and sit in a deep hole out well behind the German lines so that they could observe, during the daytime they could observe the German transport, what were their movements. They wanted to know what their movements were. We took them out and put them in the hole there. They were pretty right and then coming back of course the buggers had spotted us so they gave us a round of the kitchen and you could feel the bullets going over your back, when you were
lying on the bloody ground you could feel the heat of them. Well he was lying on his lines and we had to get down below them and we let him stay there. We let him work himself out and slowly we just quietly got away. We didn’t have any casualties but that was just the life of the game and then we got back and when I got back and just reported in he said, “What are you doing back here?”
I said “I did what I was told, Sir,” and with that I left him. That was the greetings I used to get from him but I don’t know exactly what was in the back of his mind, but at a later stage I finished up with huge, because of all this, I finished up with huge ulcers, tinea ulcers under my feet,
which you could put your thumb in them. And they tried to fix it all up with, what are those crystals? Some sort of a crystal thing and the water and things like that, Condy’s Crystals [potassium permanganate], yeah, and they tried to do all that but that didn’t have much effect. And then they sent me down to the hospital and they couldn’t do much with it and I couldn’t walk so they said, “Right-o,” and put me on the destroyer, the Napier and
send me back to Alexandria. That was about the end of August ’41 and then I spent ten days in the hospital and another fortnight on a recreation boat.
so I don’t think that needs repeating again. And then as I said we did a lot of building of defence works and things around Damascus because of the German threat of coming down through Turkey and Syria. And we went from there we went over to Checker, which is out of Tripoli. We were there for a while and we were up in what we used to call the Cedars where we did a lot of defence work up there, what we called the Cold Day, and things of that nature.
That’s when I was telling you about the snow and the things and then of course from we were very smart, when Alamein came in, which would have been June or July ‘42 we were very smartly put on trucks and sent straight down to Alamein, the whole of the division. And that was
a very different experience but it was probably in some ways a more difficult experience. Well I don’t know, you might say up in the ridge there where we were probably doing mine fields or I can’t exactly recall exactly what we were doing.
But at that stage we started building up our air force and things like that but I can still remember this group of Kitty Hawks coming back and the Germans came out of the sky and got what we call Tail End Charlie. They came down and shot him and away they go again and it happened so fast. The poor fellow just went straight into the dirt and his body was just spread,
I can still see it with his heart just beating on the sand in front of me, still beating and it was sitting there. But the whole plane, everything just disintegrated, everything. He and everything just disintegrated and we went over to see if we could give a hand but of course not a bloody thing you could do. So what can you do?
That was just one bit there and then of course we got tied up in doing a lot of infantry work and defence work in Alamein during the period while Tel el Eisa was on and things like that but the infantry battalions took the brunt of all that and they did a magnificent job. Then of course we got down doing a lot of engineering works, particularly in putting in some minefields.
But we also did quite a bit of very deep patrol work in those days, back then because I did one or two but that was exploratory type there, trying to find out what the Germans were doing with their minefields and where they had their wire, trying to plan it all out and thing like that. But they were sort of a little bit on the nerve-racking side of patrols but you weren’t
in physical contact with them but you were so far out, because of the distance between the two lines, which was about three thousand yards, the depths of the patrol was of such a nature that if you did run into something you weren’t going to get much help from our own lines because you were too far away. But we didn’t. We weren’t fortunate enough. We got what we wanted
and did those sort of things so that was that. That was the essence of a lot of that. The rest of it then was then, a lot of it was preparatory work. And so it, then the whole thing became reasonably static for about three or four weeks I suppose while we built up, our side of the whole thing build up and
there was that stage then when they had the big tank battle down south when the Germans thought they would come through and push us out but they didn’t because we used different tactics and the Germans got the worst end of that stick and they retreated and went back into their own lines. Then, of course, the 51st Highland Division was brought over from England and we had the job of taking them out on patrol and blooding them, showing them what the game was like and
what they had to do and what they didn’t do. 9 Div was given that job and then probably a week before Alamein started we all went through the jobs that we had to do. They were all rehearsed which meant that on the opening night we all knew exactly what the other fellow was doing and which way he was going and what was happening. Our job on that night was lifting the minefields to try and create
a roadway if I may put it that way or a right of way though the minefields so we could get our trucks through. Because the infantry would go through and they would go over but then we had to get support because they had a fair way to go so we had to be able to get the trucks through to support them, take through their ammo and also their tucker and things like that. So our job on that night was to lift the minefields
which meant that we, of course, had to advance with the frontal infantry. My job was even in front of them at the time because I had the job of spotting and picking up where the minefields were. And I was allocated a fellow, Jimmy Hedderman, and his job was to carry the mine detector and my job was to, as soon as we found our where it was, was to
pin it out and then show the boys where to go but they all knew what their real basic job was. But of course we had to deal with not only the anti-tank mine but we had to deal with the anti-personnel mine, which is a German mine, a bit like a bowl about twice the thickness of that which contained three hundred and sixty-five ball bearings. On the top of it was a spike, three spikes, like that
and wires going off each one and underneath that spike it was sort of lifted up and underneath that there was a detonator which then went down into the, well there was a fuse went down to the detonator which then set off the whole thing and threw it up about chest high. And there it would explode and all these ball bearings would go out and kill whatever was there. That was, so we had the job
of lifting all those plus any other mines. We got half way down with the eye officer of the fifteenth battalion. Jimmy got hit with a pretty big piece of shrapnel through his back, back area, so that put the mine detector out. I didn’t have a mine detector after that. Then we went a few hundred yards and I got hit with a piece of shrapnel in the neck, so then I fixed that up and
went on and the eye officer was still coming on. And then I suddenly found myself, at that stage of course you’ve probably got your mind a little bit altered, which you shouldn’t have but it did and then I found myself in the middle of the minefield and somehow I had to extricate myself out so I could show the boys where to start. I had to do it all by eye and this is half past ten, eleven o’clock at night and so you’re working in the dark.
And then somehow by the help of the bloke above me I got out and found the beginning and by that stage the fellows had caught up with me so we got them organised. And that was one section of them, one and a half sections working on that one and there were another couple of sections working over a hundred and fifty metres the other way to create another track through. So I went over to see how they were getting on and could get them straightened out.
Of course all this time you’ve got plenty of artillery flashing around you and things like that but you somehow get out of it, or they don’t hit you. Don’t ask me how but it makes you realise that the stuff that was flying through the air at that stage was voluminous and it makes you realise what a small area of this earth you actually cover. And so then I got over there with them and started them off and the company commander,
the company commander came up and he was there and he saw me with this great thing on my neck and things like that and he said, “What happened to you?” I said, “I got hit there.” And he said, “I’ll stay here and fix this up and you go back and get that fixed up.” So I thought, “Now what will I do? I should go and have a look at the other mob.” But he said, “Now, you go and fix it up.” So okay, away I go and I waited for the transport to come and take me back. That took me
out all that night and part of the next day by the time you got back there and you go to the big RAP tent and they put a ruddy great needle into you, a tetanus needle into you. This tetanus needle was about as thick as your finger – well that’s how it felt. By the time it came round to you after about seventeen or eighteen it was as blunt as old Harry,
but you got it anyway. It didn’t make much difference, he just came in, bang, and that was that and about that much on it was a bit like the one you drench sheep with, or something like that. Because he just had to keep going, I mean there was no time to be mucking around, I mean the numbers he had to deal with and they were coming in and going he had no preference for anyone. So then you go back and I got back
there and the doctor fiddled around and ploughed around and said, “well you can walk, so you can go back home, you can go back to your unit.” Once you could walk that was it, you went back again. But that night out of thirty-two that was in my platoon we had fourteen casualties that night. Poor old Sidney Marsden was blown up with one of the mines that came up in front of him and virtually
cut him in half, but that’s the way it went. There were other platoons that had a bit worse than I did but that’s not a bad percentage, forty eight percent or something like that casualties. And that was the first night I had of Alamein. So I came back the next day and we had a bit of a break while the unit
doctor had a crack at me as well. So we then got back and then a few days later we did the push, we acted as infantry and had to do the push through to the coast which was a horrendous night. That was probably a frightful night because nobody knew which way you were going, where you were going, but you just
sort of followed the rabbits, as you might say, or the sheep or the goats and away you went but the German was throwing absolutely everything at us. Poor old Sammy Bush, he wasn’t that far away, probably from here to the kitchen away and he took a shell unto himself. It bounced him up and things like that but somehow or other he got out of it but not very well. It was the last he saw of the war.
Then there were some, there was a few odd casualties around us and then eventually we got to the coast just on first light in the morning after the 28th Battalion had taken a bit of a hiding going through with all the big bombs that the Germans had booby-trapped. And then the Germans decided he didn’t like us there so he came in with his whole Panzer division
and the artillery couldn’t help us. The anti-tank guns we didn’t have any so we had no alternative but to get back across the ridge. So we had to get back across the ridge and there a lot of them had to lie out in the open and I got into a bit of a slit trench and we had tanks running over the top of us and that sort of thing but they was all part of it. It was what they call, I don’t know whether you’ve read anything at all on that area but it was all what we used to
call the Blockhouse, which was a fantastic part of Alamein, which always gave me an impression of exactly how things were. But inside the Blockhouse, the German doctors and the Australian doctors all worked as one. If you were wounded and you were inside the Blockhouse you were virtually as safe as a dog if you were in the hands
of the doctors. Outside it was man for man. They were throwing absolutely everything at you, tanks, anti-tank guns, artillery and I think the Blockhouse got hit accidentally by one mortar shell during that whole battle, which was a miracle in my book, but it was just the way the armies worked. Inside there the doctors and everything, no matter who you were you were looked after,
wounded only of course. The difficulty is once you got in there it was getting you out but they did. The ambulances were allowed to, they sort of, the ambulances could go either way and the two sides worked pretty well together in there. And well as we always found out, I mean a lot of the other Germans were basically decent fellows, the same as we were.
They were only doing their job the same as we were. And a lot of the Germans even if you took them prisoner, you could take them down to the corner pub and go and have a beer with them and they were like us, “Why the bloody hell are we fighting here?” But they were doing their job for their country like we were doing ours. That’s what it came to. It’s a bit like the Bledisloe Cup.
You fight like Kilkenny cats on the field and then afterwards you go and have a couple of beers together, don’t you? That’s how you felt about it a bit but when you were in the battlefield it was man for man and that was it. And that was pretty hectic all through that period. It was strong and things and towards the end of it I mean the Germans, he was on the run but he was still having a go at us and I
was doing a bit of exploratory around, trying to work a few things out. And he had a go at us with his eighty-eight millimetre gun and we teased him a bit and he teased us and well he’d try and have a go you see and when we knew he was doing something over there we’d dive into a slit trench and he’d wonder where the hell we’d gone. We’d hear an overhead burst or something like that but that only lasted half an hour because then our own fellows would get on to him and pushed him out of the road.
But by that stage the Germans were very much on the retreat because we’d actually go the breakthrough by then and they had to go. But I mean that’s just giving it to you without going into the whole of the detail of the battle, that is just going though with my perspective that night battling through to the coast was an awful night from our point of view because it was all full of explosions, things going around you
and you didn’t know quite where you were going. It was a night of, well I don’t know what you’d call it. Somehow it was like you were in a bad dream and you suddenly woke up the next morning but you still went there. How we all got through it sometimes I wonder but we did.
Poor old Malfrey, he got an explosive bullet in here and then he went back and we just said to him, “Gee, you’re lucky. That’ll send you home,” and things like that and he was laughing and things like that. He was dead two days later. The, what’s that stuff that’s in the back of the tracer bullets? That got into his blood stream and just
went through it like, that tracer element that’s in it, some sort of a chemical that’s in it, it got into his blood stream and just went straight though. The actual wound wasn’t there but it was the rest of it that got into his blood stream and couldn’t stop it. You don’t want to know all the stories I’ve heard on all of those sort of things but I mean you saw a lot of dead bodies and things like that because you had to.
Once a fellow was dead you couldn’t help him anyway. You only helped those people who you could help. Once he was passed that, but then of course once the German did I was part of a big patrol that had to go out on the final night which is also written up in the Battle of Alamein book when we had to go and find out what the German was up to. That was a fairly depthly one,
and that was a fairly big patrol but we didn’t run into any trouble. But by that stage, because we did quite a bit of depth but what we had to do was ascertain really that the German was really moving out and what he was doing, which we were able to do because we got very close to him on one or two occasions and we could see him packing up. But I wasn’t allowed to touch him. I bloody would have at that stage because I was in that frame of mind
but I wasn’t allowed to. Well you get to that stage your mind, it is an infectious thing. You just sort of feel it doesn’t matter who they are in the opposition, you just want to knock them off. I suppose you get that way a bit but then it soon passes. It gets out of your system and things like that. But we didn’t.
We just watched them pack up and then when we were satisfied of what he was up to we had to come back home again and put in a report. They had completely gone the next morning so they got away scott free. But you do, you can get that way a bit of you’re not careful. But that was Alamein and then of course after that we came back to
Palestine, mainly because the Australian Government insisted that we had to come home and they were not sending any more reinforcements over to reinforce us. By this stage Malaya was in full force and they had got into strife back there so we had to come home. So we went into Palestine and had the big parade on Gaza Strip, which was a fantastic parade actually before Alexander.
The Australian troops really showed what they could do as far as British army drill was concerned. You couldn’t be anything else, you couldn’t be more proud of what they did, because they were very proud of what they’d done and they were very proud of their country and they put on a show that you had to be there to believe it.
And then of course there was the trip home on the ships, which was very good respite and of course half way through coming home we ran into the British Eastern Fleet with the Warsprite and things like that and that gave you a little bit more confidence and you thought, “Well we’re pretty safe here.” Then of course we had to
visit, and then we unloaded at Fremantle and I was on the Mary so we stopped at Rottenest Island and did that there and we had to re-vittle and get the meat onboard and things like that and of course the West Australian wharfies all went on strike and they decided they wouldn’t load the boat. And of course that very
smartly got under the skin of the soldiers who were coming home and some of them got on the side of the boat and some got halfway down the gangway and said, “You’re going to bloody load this boat or you’ll swim back to Perth. Take your pick.” And they meant it. They said, “We’ll load the boat, we’re going home. We haven’t seen out people for two years and we’re going home. We are not going to be buggered around by you people. So load it or
swim. Take your pick.” It didn’t take them long to load it. Well I mean with what those boys had been through and things like that they deserved every bit of it. They didn’t want to be buggered around with I won’t workers. And they got a message, I can tell you, and they worked bloody hard very quickly. That boat was very quickly loaded.
That was the message and they all knew bloody well what would happen too if they didn’t, please yourself, take your pick, so that was that and then of course we came back to Sydney where we were all landed and then we got some final leave and the 9 Divi did the big march though Sydney, which I missed because at that
state I was having a lot of trouble with my tummy which I actually had started off during Alamein and what I used to probably call them my monthlies because I used to get these monthly attacks. I never knew quite what they were and things like that but I knew they were coming and then they’d go but you’d never go to the bloody doctors over there. Anyway
I was on leave one day and I had been to Sydney and I was coming home on the train. And I got one of these attacks on the train and I was as sick as a dog at the corner. And I could just see all these people saying “oh another drunk bloody soldier.” But little did they realise and when I got home and Mum took one look at me and said, “What is the matter with you?” And I told her I had this pain and things like that, so she smartly got the doctor and the doctor said,
“You’re not going to stay and need more leave. You’re going straight back to camp to see your own doctor back there.” He said, “You’ve got appendicitis.” So I finished up in 103 Baulkham Hills Hospital.
you do with sleeves down, long trousers, even though you are in the tropics, fellas didn’t want too. And then you had to take this Atebrin and salt tablets every day. I mean it was a very different situation and up on the Tablelands I mean that was designed to get you used to it. And of course on the Atherton Tablelands you had the problem with scrub typhus, which could be a very
deadly thing if you got it. It killed a number of fellows actually. It was something that comes off the, it was a small typhus thing like a tick that came off rats and things like that. What they call sort of a scrub typhus and got into your blood system and that was, I mean they were the sorts of things. It was a different type of
battle entirely really, but then you learned how to handle that. But once we did that we did a landing training just down north of Cairns, where we had to learn how to get in and our of landing craft,
which was very basic at that stage. We did a little bit of that up in the lakes of North Queensland. What are you up to now? And then we went from there, they put us on the ships and we went from there to Milne Bay. And I think that was just to get us used to the mud and slush and the rubbish because Milne Bay was a pretty filthy place, where the camp was. Milne Bay itself wasn’t probably too bad. While we were there we did a bit of unloading of ships and things like that our job was,
and the main thing was to get us used to all the malaria training and things like that because Milne Bay was very much infested with the mosquito. Then we did a little bit of training round Milne Bay, but I think that was more of an acclimatisation and then we were put on to barges and we were moved all the way up to, well we went up past Buna and spent one night at Buna and
we only travelled at night and spend each day on the shore. And then we went to, trying to think of the other place and then we went across in the dark across to Lae and we landed at Red Beach which was just east of Lae, because at that stage 7th Div were put in onto the Ramu Valley and they came down the Ramu Valley into Lae. We went across to Red Beach
and then came in and put Lae into a sort of pincer. There was a big headquarters of the Japanese there at the time. but as we pinched them in and they shot off into the hinterland and basically, as we found out afterwards what they did they came across to Finschhafen because they wanted to hold Finschhafen because they wanted control of the straits between Finschhafen and
New Island is it? What’s that island? Through there and so when we got control of Lae the 20th Brigade were then put onto barges and sent round to Finschhafen and then we were put on barges and followed suit afterwards to help that. And then that’s where we were in, we spent
quite a bit of time sort of buggerising around there for a little while. And all of a sudden I was called in and our previous company commander was taken up as a senior commander for the battalion and I was asked to take the B Company up to a certain area up the track. And at this stage I’d had
three and a half years or something as a lieutenant taking the brunt of all that sort of stuff and I was getting a bit sick of it. So I thought, “Here’s a chance at least I’ve got some chance now of getting a bit of a change in my job a bit and getting away from all this sort of stuff.” So anyway we got up there, to where we were told to go and we put in a defensive position. I didn’t know quite what it was all about because they didn’t tell you too much. And I got all that organised and the next thing I knew
another fellow was sent up with a note from the CO for him to take over from me and for me to take up a small patrol to try and find an artillery pit. But what I didn’t know, which I’ve only found out over latter years, which was at that stage our CO had lost his command also and we had another fellow down there.
So he was the one that made the decisions because these two were very friendly so he was sent up to take over my job so I got what you might say side pushed because of certain politics and things like that. But that had quite a big effect on me because my hopes were built up and then suddenly dashed. But I was told to go out and find a pit for this artillery fellow and
it was probably the most useless situation I could have found myself in because in that place there was no clearing where I could have found a place for an OP [Observation Post]. So anyway we started to try and look up and then try and break our way into the top of a ridge and about two thirds of the way up there we suddenly found that the Japanese were up there, which we didn’t know, and they started shooting at us and things like that. Two scouts
I think, we knocked them on the head which enabled us so we then retreated back onto the track to try and create a bit of order and I got the fellows together and said to the OP fellow, “what do you want to do? Do you want me to go up and see what we can do about getting another OP or what would you like to do?” “No,” he said, “I can’t see any point in doing anything because I don’t think we can do anything because I don’t think we can do anything that we are going to get any view of.” He said, “I’ll just have to go back to the battery and do map shooting rather than.” But by this stage I had found
what had happened was in all the shemozzle and things like that I had got a bullet and it had gone very close into there and taken some of that away. I lost my tin hat and things like that but anyway. Then Ron decided we should go and advance a lot further up the track which I could not work out why but anyway that’s what we did. But by this stage I found that because of all the closeness and all this heavy stuff that was going on I was having trouble
controlling my nerves. They were becoming hard to control and I think the fellows they probably realised it at the time. You can’t hide it entirely but you were still able to do your job and things like that but not as well as I should do. You found yourself balking in certain areas, which you shouldn’t do. So anyway then
we put in a defensive position well up the track and during that night, that was the night that the Japs went down to try and push the boys all out of Finschhafen, which they didn’t do but we were, of course, were up the track so therefore we got cleared of that. They had a go at us the next morning but we were sitting on top of a ridge and they found us a different proposition because they couldn’t get up the ridge, or we wouldn’t let him. Then that had happened and also
I was fortunate because the artillery boys suddenly decided to do a bit of a shoot and they did a shoot right into the spot where the Japanese were which suited us down to the ground, but that was purely accidental. There was no means of communication with anyone at that stage. So then we got round about – 9 o’clock in the morning a little plane came over and started circling around and he dropped a message into the patch.
So one of the boys went and got that and that said, “Get back to headquarters the best way you can.” And of course that virtually took us all day. We didn’t get back to headquarters until well into that, no, we didn’t actually get back that day. We got two thirds of the way back and then we camped in a big kunai patch for the night and kept very quiet. But we had to wander about and things
like that to sort of – we didn’t see much of the Japs. They were sort of getting back there. I think we ran into one or two but we pushed them aside very quickly and left them where they were. And then we stayed the night in there and got back to the battalion during that day when we found things were – old battalion headquarters had been run over by the Japs
and pushed back here and there and a few fellows who we knew were no longer with us. Battalion headquarters was in complete chaos because of all this. It was a complete change of command because of all that. Gallasch had been given his marching orders and Anderson was taking over. My old CO was becoming 2IC.
He was the fellow who we all trusted, because of old Georgie Rosevear. I think he almost had a box on with Gallasch. He told Gallasch, “Don’t retreat. Get back where you should be. Bloody well go back up there. What’s wrong with you? If you don’t bloody well go back up there I’ll take you up there.”
Old Georgie didn’t muck around. We all knew him because he was an ex-middle weight champion boxer in his younger days so he knew how to handle himself but a very, very quiet fellow underneath. Like Chris over here. Every morning he would do is skipping, no matter what, all through Palestine and things he always did his skipping. You couldn’t do that, of course,
up in the islands but wherever he could he did that, kept himself in good trim. But he was always a very likeable fun loving bloke but in a situation like that he never took a backwards step and he never expected anyone else to either. And he wouldn’t let you take one. That was his attitude to Gallasch. “Don’t take a back ward step. Go back to – ”
But by that stage Gallasch had packed it in, so they put him in a barge and sent him home because he just completely hadn’t got it. So I don’t know, I wasn’t there so I’ve only read about it and heard about it and you can read it in books written since then. George Rosevear would never tell us. I did find out from others later on but you just suddenly
find out things are in a bit of chaos and where a message is coming from and what you are going to do and what you are not going to do. But like everything else they straightened themselves out, which they did. And of course that was, then of course the battalion moved up the coast with the rest of the division. By that stage the Japanese had been well and truly pushed back. He’d lost his push, he’d lost so many casualties when he tried to come down and push us out of Finschhafen that he was no longer a force to be reckoned with.
And so he sort of went off and what he wanted to do was to keep control of those straits so he could get his shipping down thorough there because he had reasonable control of the New Island there which was Rabual and things like that. But then of course we wanted it to so that was then when the Americans went in and put in a big landing there and from then on we controlled the straits.