Edward Carter
Archive number: 1176
Preferred name: Ted
Date interviewed: 28 November, 2003

Served with:

2/1st Pioneer Battalion
2/3rd Pioneer Battalion

Other images:

Edward Carter 1176


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Tape 01


Thanks, Ted, for joining us and giving us a hard time. Can you share with us, Ted, a brief overview, a five minute overview of your life. Where you were born to where you are now?


Just a brief overview?
I didn’t know whether you wanted the camera or not.
Just talk to me, a brief overview of your life.
I was born in Roseville in 1919. There I was brought up till I was the year where I did my kindergarten and from there I also had twelve months at Shore [Sydney Church of England Grammar School] but then we moved, in 1929 we moved up to Wahroonga, which was then a big country town.


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?”
Excellent Ted. That’s very good.
But that is sort of what you might say, I mean apart from all the


physical side of things that’s very, very broadly, then of course I came up here but I won’t go into my civilian life, you’re not interested in that.
Always interested Ted, always. Can you tell me about your mum anddad? Your earliest memories of them?
Well I suppose my earliest memories, I mean Dad was, well he virtually enlisted, he was in the 1st


Battalion in the war. He went through Gallipoli where he went away as second in command of a company, which he was with at the landing in Gallipoli. My mother was, well a lot of this I’ve taken from their diaries rather than from talking to them and things like that but Mother was a nurse. She was a fully qualified nurse in hospital. So was one of her sisters and so were Dad’s sisters and that’s basically how Dad and Mum


caught up together at a later stage in life. But Dad found himself on Gallipoli on the first day as a company commander and Mother was on the Sicilia which was a hospital ship offshore at the same time, taking on, well that was actually not, she was offshore Cape Helles which was a British landing but I mean it’s all the same area anyway, but


that’s probably splitting hairs a bit. But she was more down Cape Helles and whereas Dad was more in the landing itself where he got fairly well inland. As he’s often said he was more inland the first day than he ever got the rest of the campaign. But when you read Gallipoli, that was not unusual. And then of course you’ve got, he became a major after that and then he became CO [Commanding Officer] of the, he became a lieutenant throughout


France but to me Dad was always the lieutenant colonel, always. But of course he ran a very successful engineering business, which he did, and he became members of various boards and things like that, which I didn’t sort of really aspire to mainly because my


experience was of such a nature at that stage it was probably retarded because of the war years and by the time he got away from it I was only just sort starting to come up into that stage of life. And then we decided for various reasons, we decided in 1957, we came up to Tamworth. And I came up here with an idea of things and then I started forming my own business and that’s


where we’ve been ever since.
So what stories did yourdad share with you about Gallipoli?
Not a great deal, not a great deal. He was probably like us all when you’ve had those sort of experiences you don’t talk that much. He used to, it was always picture books and things like that that we could go and look at but he never did say too much and he was very difficult with those sort of things or if you did ask him too much, he’d sort of gloss over it a bit


You know, you didn’t get, I got more out of his diary than I ever got out of him.
And did he ever talk to your mum given that they had a similar experience about the events?
I would probably think so. No, I mean there was quite a big understanding there and I mean they very often did communicate with their old army friends but as time went on even that diminished. He had a few of his old army friends, which he sort of,


always was very close to but I suppose we all are a bit. I mean, I’ve still got some which I probably only see every four or five years but when we see each other, I mean, you go back to, probably the same thing with you and some of your own school friends? You see each other once every pancake day but, don’t ask too many questions, Claire [interviewer]. Guilty look on her face.
So what sort of things are in your dad’s diary that he’s written about?


What sort of things? Well firstly it is a day-to-day diary. It is a day-to-day diary. You can go through that and I mean when I look and see things which he never told me about and things like that that going through his diary, some of his experiences were very similar to mine, very similar, I mean the reactions and things like that were very similar.
Given that you had served in World War II


did you both chat and relate after?
Not a great deal. His was quite different to ours. See World War I was more what I would classify as mass killing. They went in masses whereas we spread ourselves out a lot more, or much more cognisant of the casualties that we were having or were going to have. You always knew you were going to have them, you can’t


get away from that but you try to reduce them as much as possible and we did it a lot more. But then on the other hand too see I mean we had things such as heavy tanks, our artillery was very different, minefields were much more virile in our day than they were in his. I don’t recall him saying much about minefields at all, whereas we had to deal with a lot of personnel, anti-personnel, anti-


tank, and all that type of stuff. In fact that was one of our jobs at Alamein was lifting them, and then probably I mean the artillery, yes it was very heavy but then on the other hand their type of artillery because they dug themselves in a lot more whereas we didn’t spend so much time, probably well we spent a lot of time underground but we couldn’t get the depth that they got because the desert was so hard. You only,


I mean well I suppose the depth of our trenches wouldn’t be more than the height of the fireplace there, the brickwork because you couldn’t get down too far and then you sort of lived in that in the daytime and of course at night-time you got up and walked about whereas they lived in trenches that were seven and eight feet deep where they could walk around standing up. We couldn’t.


What are some of your childhood memories of Sydney?
More or less really a big bush town, billycarts, bike rides, bushwalks. When we first went up into Wahroonga, we were able to walk straight out our front gate and go straight through the woods to my grandfather’s place,


whereas he had about twelve acres, ran a couple of horses. We would go out beetle hunting with him. He was a great beetle hunter and all that sort of stuff. He did a lot of that sort of stuff. In fact he came out here as a maths master for the Sydney Grammar School, and he actually put Ascam on his map. You know Ascam School? You’d know Ascam? Well he was one of the founders of Ascam, he and Grandma.


As Dad often said it was one of the best investments that he ever made, because he was running a small school at that stage in that area but then the people sold out and he had to move. So he then put every bit of money he had and bought where Ascam now is. And then, I think it was three or four years later, he sold of a corner and paid off the mortgage,


but I mean that’s the way life can go. But then around about 1916 he sold out from Ascam, I’ve got the history of it there if you want it and moved up to Wahroonga where he was very involved in his beetles.
What about, talk me through one of the billycarts you rode?
Yeah, what about it?
Where did you ride them and what were they like?
Well do you know Wahroonga at all?


Talk me through it.
Well you know Redleaf Avenue in Wahroonga down from the highway, down around the monument? We used to bring our billycarts down through there. There was a garage at the bottom there where we would grease her up and take her back to the top of the hill and down around the corner and round there. I mean there is no way you’d do it today in a fit. Do you know Eastern Road Hill? We used to take billycarts down that. You try doing that today. But I mean in those days


they were fun days. I can still remember the time when we tried to take the corner around the monument a little bit too fast and I was on the back and my mate was on the front and he went arse over turkey and I landed on top of him and he was as cold as a whistle when I got up. He knocked himself out but I mean that was our life. The quarries out the back, we’d climb up the face of the quarries just for the heck of it.


But as a boy, we would leave home at 5 o’clock in the morning on our bicycles and I used to ride to Camden. We’d be out horse riding at 10 o’clock. One of my friend’s uncles had a property, and we’d go out riding horses for a weekend out at Camden riding horses, bringing in cattle and doing all that sort of stuff and then ride back on the Sunday. Try and do it today right down through the Hume Highway and things like that and see how you go on a pushbike?


I mean things have changed. In those days it was very bushy. It was open and free. If Mother wanted more milk she’d get us on our bikes and we’d go down to the dairy down the end of the road and bring it back. The fisherman used to come round with a basket with the fish and clean the fish at the back door, give the bones to the cat. The postman, every now and then, pretty well two or three times a week, would call around for his morning tea.


I mean that was life back in those days.
Can you share me more about your grandfather’s beetles?
It was just so different. Life in those days was much more freer and easier. I mean when I say free and easy we still had to work. I mean we had early morning jobs that we had to do first thing in the morning and we had to do things like that and the rule was that we didn’t go out until you


had them done. Of course on Sundays and Saturdays you’d get your mates to help you so you could get away earlier but sometimes your mates wouldn’t.
So what sorts of jobs?
Oh well cleaning the shoes, cleaning out the fowl house, getting the wood in. If you didn’t get enough wood in for the week you weren’t allowed to sit by the fire, simple as that.
So were your mum anddad strict?
Yes, fairly, yes. We had to mow the


lawns and a few things like that. Occasionally Dad would mow the lawn but mostly it was our job.
What was the process of mowing the lawn?
What was the process? The same process as any other lawn I guess. You’d get the mower out and well Dad, being an electrical engineer, had an old mower that he had put an electrical motor on and we used to do it that way but we had an acre of ground to mow.
And your grandfather’s beetles, can you tell


me more about that?
Well yeah, I mean he was very well renowned for all that. I’ve got books but you probably don’t have time for all that now but I mean he had his own special office where he had trays and trays and trays of all these beetles which he had travelled all round different parts of Australia collecting them. Entomology I think it the proper word


for it. And I mean he was well renowned throughout Australia and some parts of overseas for it. As far as I understand now his collection actually is in an Adelaide university somewhere but it was, it was a fabulous collection and he often used to get us to go out and collect beetles for him and things like that. We used to go beetle hunting with him, hunting under logs and all sorts of things like that for all different sorts of beetles and scarabs and all those sort of things.


Going out with an umbrella and shaking the trees to get the beetles off it so we’d use an umbrella and he’d pick the beetles out of the umbrella. Quite a lot of them towards the end there used to get discarded because he had them but if he ever found a strange one well that was it. He got put into the smelling bottle. We carried these smelling bottles. I don’t quite know what he did but he always had cotton wool in the bottom with some smelly stuff and he just dropped them


in and it wasn’t long before he was sound asleep but it used to preserve him. Whatever the smelly stuff was I haven’t really got down to the bottom of that but as kids you didn’t worry about that so much. We were interested in the other outside life, or we were. The minor technical details were, that was incidental.
So did you go with your grandfather


because you enjoyed his company or you enjoyed the beetles?
Well mostly I think we went because we enjoyed the outing. The beetle hunting was part and parcel of it but mostly because we liked the outing. I mean as a schoolboy we used to spend all our school holidays up in the Blue Mountains and particularly around Blackheath, and we probably knew every


walk around Blackheath like the back of our hands. I still do, the old ones. It’s probably changed a bit. It’s still there, all those old bushwalks and things like that. I don’t know how much you know about the Blue Mountains or the walks or things like that but my brother and I used to do a lot of bushwalking with friends and all that type of thing. We were very much, as boys we were, very much outdoor people.


Discipline in your family, how was it handled?
How was it handled? By making you do things you didn’t want to do or sometimes you got a wallop or something like that, I mean the same thing at school. I mean you’d get four or six of the best if you didn’t do what you were told, or if you played up in class you.


That was not unusual in those days. Now days, of course, you’re just not allowed to do it but I mean it didn’t do us any harm. Probably put a bit of fear into us if we wanted to do something we shouldn’t do.
So was your dad the disciplinarian of the family?
Yes, in many way, yes.
And what sort of things did you get in trouble for?


Now listen, oh cripes, I mean that’s a bit hard. Mainly because we didn’t do our jobs or didn’t make our beds or not doing our homework, the usual things that boys will get up to. Coming home, because we came home late from billycart rides or something like that and we were late for tea. You know those things?


Now don’t tell me you don’t? I think you’ve got just as much of the scallywag in you as anybody else if you ask me.
So if we assume – ?
Don’t give me anything like that, Keith [interviewer], I don’t think you’re any different to any of us.
What sort of stories can you share with me so I can empathise?
Well that’s hard to say. I mean we used to, we’d probably go yabbying a bit.


because there were creeks around there where you could go yabbying. Sometimes after school, if it was a hot day, we’d get on our bikes and go out to the lookout and then walk down to the creek and have a swim down in the creek but then you’d come back and you’d walk up from the creek and get on your bike and go home and you were probably a darn sight hotter when you got home than when you left. But I mean you thoroughly enjoyed it because the creek, but I mean that creek now has got half the sewer of Sydney in it now but in those days it was just a beautiful freshwater creek where you could go down there and swim and I mean we’d sort of


do those sort of things. I mean you say stories, but I mean climbing up the face of the quarries and those sorts of things. I mean I’ve told you bits and pieces, I mean the rest was. There are some funny stories like when there were half a dozen of us out riding the horses one day after a whole heap of rain


and my hat blew off, so I stayed back to pick up my hat. The others went ahead a couple of hundred yards down the track and opened the gate and of course after I picked up my hat, which was a lesson I learnt, I just didn’t turn the horse round and of course the moment I got onto the horse he just swung straight round to go round to get the others, to join up with the others and of course I did a great big Catherine wheel over the top of the horse and went down


into a heap of water and the others all sat on their horses and laughed their ruddy heads off and made me feel about that big. But your mates wouldn’t do that to you would they? That taught me always when you’ve got to pick up your, make certain the horse is facing back the other way, because that’s all he wanted to do, was to get in amongst the others and he just swung straight round and straight into me and I mean I just did a Catherine wheel over the top.


But they are lessons that you learn. Usually but the others had a good laugh over it. They often used to rib me about it afterwards.
So what other lessons were there?
Oh I don’t know. I mean I don’t remember them all. I mean there’s some funny lessons. I mean Kate probably wouldn’t


like this one, but I mean we had one boy I know at school who wasn’t very popular but you see we didn’t have zips in those days. It was all on fly buttons so while he was down playing football the boys cut, because he used to live down at Roseville or somewhere and the boys cut the buttons off his flies, didn’t they? So he was, when he got dressed he was horribly embarrassed, he didn’t know how the hell he was going to get home, did he. You wouldn’t do things like that would you, Kate? She wasn’t listening.


Just keep talking?
You wouldn’t do that, would you? Well I’ve got to be careful and find out what are her reactions. I wouldn’t want to embarrass the poor girl.
She’s fine, she fine and concentrating on her camera stuff.
They are funny things, they were funny. You look back on it now and you laugh because it was probably a harmless joke.


It didn’t do anybody any harm but it just taught him not to be a bloody great bully. Because that, he suddenly found he wasn’t entirely on his own, didn’t he?
So explain to me if you could Ted, the construction of the go cart. What is looked like and how you put it together?
Well it was basically a flat piece of board. You had one long length, two


coming across. You put a steel wheel on either, therefore wheels and then on top of that you put a bit of a platform on which you could sit or sometimes it was a box, some sort of a wooden box or something like that which you could sit in. A couple of strings from each front wheel and then you put your feet on the front thing to help you steer, plus your hands and you just sat in there and gave her a kick and away you went


and hoped like hell you got to the bottom. I mean that was the way she went. Sometimes you got to the bottom and sometimes you didn’t and I mean the art of that of course was in the steering. They were, we always had steel wheels. Some fellows had the old pram type wheels but we always had, our thing was just the heavy steel wheels, probably about four inches in


diameter I suppose, something like that.
So what was the difference between the wheels as far as performance goes?
Well as far as, we just had our wheels exactly the same. You didn’t have any, there was your four wheels were exactly the same. Other people sometimes may have four of the pram wheels if you know what I mean. They’d go a bit faster,


but we only ever had the heavy steel ones but we enjoyed it. It was fun with the boys and we had pushbikes that we used to, we only had one pushbike between the lot of us but we organised it. My brother had it one week and I had it the other, otherwise we walked to school. It keeps you very fit.


What was the relationship like between you and your brother and sisters?
Oh quite good. No problem at all there really. I mean you had your usual differences, the same as all brothers and sisters do. You had your squabbles “That’s mine!”, “No it’s not!”, “Well I’m going to have it and you’re not going to have it!” I mean all those sort of things but you soon learnt how to handle the situation.


My sister and I still keep in contact with each other a fair bit. I was only talking to her yesterday actually. Oh no, we still talk and know what’s happening, broadly speaking. We don’t live in each other’s pockets but we have a general overall feeling about what’s happening to each other. You know, I mean it’s probably a normal brother and sisterly relationship.


But I wouldn’t say, I would say basically we were a reasonably happy family as a whole.
Now you went to Shore School, can you tell me about your early memories of that?
They weren’t really happy because I was only about nine years of age. I used to have to catch the train from Roseville station and go down on my own. I was a little bit too young to be sent out on my own and I was always very sort of scary of it all,


particularly the masters. I can remember probably one of the biggest shocks I ever got was in my early days there when one of the boys got six of the best for doing something which he probably, he was only a young boy too, for doing something very minor and I still look back on it and I think it was completely unnecessary but that was that and of course I mean


he got caught up in the few fights and things like that. I found going to the prep school at Knox where I was much closer to home, it was only probably only three quarters of a mile from school to home and I could walk and play marbles all the way home. But Shore, no Shore was not what I would call a really happy memory because of the distance to travel and the fact that you were thrown on your own at rather an early age.


What did the boy get disciplined for?
I really couldn’t answer that nowadays. All you can just remember is the punishment being handed out. Exactly what he did I just remember it was something very minor but if I remember rightly I don’t think we ever saw him again after that. I think his father took him away.
And tell us about some of the fights that you got involved in?
Oh just usual schoolboy fights, I mean


nobody really got hurt. Probably both sides ended up with a bit of tears and that was about it with dust and fuss and that was about it because I mean at that age of life you can’t hurt each other anyway. But don’t ask me what it was all about, I wouldn’t have a clue, not now. You don’t remember, I mean I don’t stick all of those things in the back of my memory.


Actually you can probably just remember the major factor and that was it. Don’t ask me what it was all about.
And the marble game you played on the way home, what’s that?
Didn’t you play marbles at school? You’d pick it up and see how far it goes and pick it up again or you used to play three holer where you had to try and put your marble into a hole, or Big Rig was another name.


Had a marble in the middle and you had to try and get it out, all sorts of little competitions like that. And if you won the game you pinched everybody else’s marbles and if you didn’t, some fellows finished up with bagfuls of marbles and other fellows finished up with nothing, but that was just the usual schoolboys’ stuff.
How did you fare?
Oh FAQ [fairly average quality]. Oh sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.


We’re just going to stop there and change tapes Ted.
Interviewee: Edward Carter Archive ID 1176 Tape 02


Don’t do that, don’t do that my dear. You shouldn’t do that. I think a sporty-type like you, you’d have a few hanging.
Ted, tell me about the bushwalks that you used to go on?
Oh well I mean we used to quite often have bushwalks. There was probably quite a group of us that used to go out bushwalking, particularly during all our school holidays and I mean we had, there was always a golden rule.


We used to probably take our lunches with us or something like that but summertime and things like that we’d get down there, say down the bottom of the Rodrigo Pass. The general rule was the girls would go and have, no one had any cossies of course, and the girls would go and have their swim and the boys had to collect all the wood and get the fires going and things like that and then the boys would go and swim and the girls did the tucker.


But there was no bo-peeping or anything like that, that was in for Dick but no-one took any costumes and things like that, the girls just swam as they wanted to and so did the boys. I mean everything was always very strong. If anyone started any silly business he was very smartly put into line, and I mean that was the general rule. There was always the chiacking between girls and boys and that goes on,


but that’s probably gone on since men and women were on this world and it always will do. But I mean that was there and we used to go down what we called the blue gum forests and have great walks down there. We used to make our own way down there but now days there’s a track down where we used to go. Our biggest walk was probably with seven or eight of us when we got the bus or the train out to Jenolan Caves and we went down there


and down through and then up to the top of the hills to the back of Jenolan Caves and the Kanimbla Walls and then round through there onto the creeks down through, what’s the name of that big dam there now, the big Sydney Dam? But that wasn’t there when we went through, down what we called, I’m trying to think, cripes, the name is getting away from me,


Warragamba. We used to go down through the Warragamba Gorge and down through there to Penrith. It would take us five or six days. Sometimes we had to de-leech every half hour. I think the most was twenty five leeches on one person in half an hour and then you get to know how to get them off and just scrape them off and away you’d go again but you had to do it because


when you walked probably down the creeks I mean that’s where the leeches were. But of course that was an all-male situation. We had Moody's Farm, which was halfway down there and where we replenished all our rations, and so you went on but it was all good healthy outdoor living. At night time you just put your pack down and your


thing and you bunked down and that was that but it was probably good training for harder days later on when it was during the war years but we didn’t realise it at the time because it gave you some sort of system as to how to look after yourself.
And Knox, what was Knox like for you?
Very open,


very strong discipline. We had a headmaster who was very strong on the discipline. You were not allowed to have side pockets in your trousers. He didn’t like boys with hands in their hands in his pockets and if he found any boy with hands in his pockets like that he’d sent him straight home to get his mum to sew up the pocket. You stood up straight, chest out, shoulders back.


Well he was an ex-army type, MC [Military Cross], World War I, a very strong disciplinarian but very good, very fair, very fair but you knew exactly where you stood with him. And he was one of the few fellows who could make you do your homework because you were scared of what would happen next morning if you didn’t. He


got the results.
So what happened when you didn’t do your homework?
That depended on who was the master. Sometimes you got away with it, didn’t you? Sometimes if it was McNeil, you didn’t, so you always made sure his was done first.
And what happened at the time you didn’t do it?
There never was such a time. Not with him. You always did it.


What would he do? What was the threat?
Or probably come back on a Saturday and do a whole heap more work or something like that, or a detention after work or after school. Instead of playing football you had to go and sit in the classroom and do some more work and boys don’t like that. I mean that was perfectly looked upon


as that was discipline and if you didn’t do it too often you probably went down to his office and felt the pain, whatever he thought you deserved.
Any of your mates feel the pain?
Oh yeah, a few of them did.
Tell me what happened there?
You just made certain that you didn’t get it.


And studies? Tell me what you studied.
Subjects? Maths, physics, English, I don’t know if I’m very good at English, I never was. French, geography, Latin I hated, and that was it basically.
Why did you hate Latin?
Oh I always did. I wished I’d paid a lot more


attention to it now. I suppose it was because of the mental exercise that you had to do I suppose. You tell me what boys like using their brain if you can get out of it? And I don’t think it’s changed today from what it was in our day. Don’t you tell me that? Human beings are still the same as to what they are today to what they were back in 1710.
Remember Ted, you’ve got to give me a picture of back then.


I’ve given.
So, and sport school?
Sport at school was very much looked upon. We used to thoroughly enjoy our sport. We always did and there was always, well accept amongst the academic kids, there was a very strong sporting factor and of course you always wanted to get into school teams and you played against the other schools.


And in some of the schools there was some very strong competition, one school against the other. Barker and Knox always fought like Kilkenny cats and I suppose they still do. And I mean Cranbrook, Trinity which we always used to play against and we had a game against Shore. But I mean they were more lead up, because Shore was GPS [Greater Public Schools network] and we were associated


schools. The main competition wasn’t there but the schools used to use that as a sort of a lead up.
So given that these schools are all over Sydney how would you get there on a weekend?
Oh your own, but the best method you could, mostly by train and bus. Sometimes one or two of the boys may have their own little car


and you might go with them. We never did. I mean we never had a car or anything like that so it was mostly by train and bus to get to the various places. That was the rule of the day. There was nothing special about getting there. It was just the best means you could. Very few families had cars that they could take you in, so you


used public transport there and back.
And what sort of sports were you playing?
Cricket, football, swimming. Well swimming was mostly, there was just the one big associated schools swimming sports, which invariably was held at Manly Baths back in those days,


which is all different now. But that was, they were the main games we used, athletics, the athletics was like the swimming with just the one big meet every year, which I used to do the mile and the eight eighty and they were probably the main sports that you had. Anything else was probably a bit more


local. We used to play quite a bit of tennis but mainly social, social weekends and things like that which we thoroughly enjoyed but it was local. Occasionally we would work up a bit of an interschool competition or something like that but I mean it was really just something we worked up amongst ourselves, nothing official in that field,


that kept us busy
And the cadet unit? Talk me through that?
Well that was all within the school. That was all within school time within that and pretty much like what it is now. The cadet unit, we used to have a weeks camp every year, which was usually out at Liverpool. Take us out there and things like that and there was always a lot of interschool rivalry because all the schools would go there together.


And I mean there was always rivalry, which was never official, but I mean the inter-school shooting and things like that was always on, particularly amongst the country boys. I mean there was always a lot of heavy competition there because they used to love their shooting. And then there was what we used to call the Kirby Shield and that was a big drill competition back in those days but that was only for schools under four hundred boys. Well


you see that’s all gone by the board because most of the schools now are round about sixteen, seventeen hundred boys. They are all huge. I mean, as I said, Knox was round about three to four hundred boys in those days.
Tell me about the Kirby Shield?
Well it was just a big interschool drilling competition which was put on by the military. Mostly just drilling, making sure that your rifle was clean. You had to have your rifles inspected and things like that. You had to


go home and clean that by the hour making certain there wasn’t a spot of dirt on it because the others would be doing just exactly the same. You had to polish all your buttons and it was sort of more or less a spick and span type thing, drill competition just showing what you could do on the field. So you were just there and of course the army inspectors would be the judges. Sometimes you won and sometimes you didn’t.


If you won you got a trophy and if you didn’t you got nothing.
How did Knox fare?
Knox used to fair very well on the whole. We were always up amongst the top brass. Invariably quite often we won and it was basically more or less just straight out a drill competition. There were probably twenty boys or something like that as a platoon and you all had to work as a team.


Was this important for your head master to win?
Well I suppose it was important as anything. Well the headmaster used to always like his school to win at anything. It doesn’t matter what it was. He was always very keen to see that the school pushed itself and to make certain that the boys did their best. I mean that was always his, there was no second best as far as McNeil was concerned.


You had to try and that was it. If you didn’t, well you didn’t get his respect if he was there but if you know that no matter how bad you were as long as he knew that you were doing your best you got his respect.
The camps, can you talk me through a week’s camp? What you actually did?
Jesus you're testing my memory.


Oh I mean that would probably just be the basic camp, route marches, drills, shooting. We’d have a day out on the range shooting. Sometimes you might be behind the butts marking, marking the butts. Sometimes you’d be on the other end of the rifle shooting at the butts, doing sort of fieldwork, that type of thing.


When I say field work in other words you were sort of having little competitions, one platoon against another out in the field, stalking, walking. You had to defend a certain position and the other fellow had to attack that position and that type of thing, with the masters and other acting as umpires. It was sort of more field craft and that type of thing, that’s really what it was.


What was the, you talked about marking, what was the process of marking without getting shot?
Marking? Well you were working in the butts. Now I mean in the butts you had a huge big mound and then you had a big, huge trench where you had the targets which would be put up, the targets would be put up and then when they were shot at, which had all the big circles on them and then the fellows down in the butts would shoot


at them and you’d pull them down and see whether he got an inner or an outer or whether he got a bull. And so then you’d put it back up again and you had a black disc and you’d put it in this corner for a bull and you’d put it in that corner for an outer and so he then knew exactly what he’d got. You were signalling back to him exactly what he had got. I mean you were never in any great danger because you had a huge mound of dirt and concrete and stuff like that in front of you.


Oh no, I mean there was no risk to life. It was, I mean you probably find some of them that still work in that system today. You just have this system where things went up and down and he shot at them and then you told him what his results were.
Now boys will be boys though with guns, tell me about some of the accidents?
I can’t recall any


real accidents, not of that nature. Security was pretty strong. Control of ammunition was very strong, all the way through even amongst the boys. I mean what you are looking at is whether one boy would shoot another or things like that, no, I never recall anything of that nature ever happening.


Malfunctions with rifles?
Well I suppose sometimes a bolt will jam but nothing of any great nature in that field because as school cadets we only ever used rifles anyway. We didn’t use the automatics in those days. There was a Lewis gun which we did a bit of training on but we didn’t do a great deal of shooting with it.
And security,


what was the security to keep everything safe?
Oh, that was all controlled by the masters. We didn’t get involved in that side of it too much. I mean you just respected it and that was that. It never entered your mind to go into other things, not like you’ve got today. It would never have entered our minds to do things of that sort of a nature.


While you were at school did you get talks from ex-veterans from World War 1 come and speak to you?
Oh not a great deal. Most of the talks we’d ever had would be on tactics, how you handled this and handled that. Not a great deal, not on that. I suppose most of what you learned from there was what you read in books and things like that yourself


because in many ways when you look back I mean tactics in those days wasn’t a great thing. I mean it was more mass. That was the general idea, the more fellows you could put over the front the more chance you would have of victory because you had more fellows than the other bloke, which was quite different to World War II when it came to that point of view.


So why then did you go on to join the 18th Battalion in the militia?
Oh I suppose you just sort of got an inkling and a liking and a lot of the boys did the same thing, a lot of my friends did the exactly the same thing. Some went into artillery and some of them came in the same units as I was. In those days in the 18th I was probably more onto the Vickers machine gun. I got put into that and that was something a bit different. I just learned another area of


what went on, and how to handle it. And probably the more thing that worried you was that you was more interested in was how the gun worked, rather than anything else. It was probably more an engineering thing because you liked something a bit different because by that stage you had got used to the rifle anyway.
So explain to me how the Vickers actually works?
The same as it does today. I don’t think the Vickers has really changed a great deal.


I mean it worked on the reversal of the gasses from the bullet as it goes down there and then goes back again and the whole thing is sort of water cooled, well it used to be in those days. It had a thing round it to keep the barrel in water so that it was water cooled but sometimes that water would get to boiling point too because let’s face it, when you’ve got metal going down through metal as a bullet does, it creates


a lot of friction and that creates heat. And I mean the rest of it, it was a belt fed thing therefore you would probably put through a hundred and twenty rounds, whereas with the Lewis gun you probably put through twenty five. It was a volume, it was a greater volume weapon but it was also more a heavier weapon


too. It took a lot more to carry it, more manpower to push around.
So you were in teams then?
I mean there was always a team, yes. The Vickers team is always, I mean army work is basically it’s team work, whether you’re in infantry or whatever it is. I mean in infantry you’ve got a section and you work together as a section. In Vickers machine gun you have three or four fellows who work round the gun, one feeding it, one


looking after it, one shooting. I mean you needed the teams. The same thing, the bigger the gun, the more once you got into the artillery and the greater the team to keep the gun in action.
So what was your particular role in respect to the gun?
Oh there was no particular, you took your turns in various roles to make certain that you learned the lot.


so you had experience of the lot and that was the whole idea of it. Because I mean unless you’ve got an idea of what the other fellow us up to then how do you become a good team member? You’ve got to learn what the other fellows doing otherwise you have no understanding of what’s expected of him.
So tell me more


about what the militia actually did when you were in it, the 18th Battalion?
It was just a reserve. We didn’t do much at all really other than just training. On the weeknights when you would go down there you’d probably be in the drill hall and things like that, probably learning theories, being given lectures on various different aspects of army life, army training, maybe sometimes doing a bit of work on a gun. Maybe


you may go down there sometimes and all you did was just clean the weapons and make sure they are in working condition, just depending on what had to be done at the time, making certain they were all in good working order. Other times it was lectures and then when you went to camp you’d be doing a bit more fieldwork and things like that, sometimes you’d probably go and do a bit of range work and then of course in the early days there was horses and limbers.


You had to put your machineguns and things like that all in the back of a limber and the horses used to take them and you always had one bloke who would run behind the limber and put the brakes on when they went downhill and take them off when they were going uphill and all this sort of jazz. But that soon went out at the end of 1939, that all finished, but in ‘39 that’s sometimes when we were in camp up


at Ravenshoe in the weekends we’d go up to the horse lines and get a few horses and go out riding. Till we got to know, we always made certain we were good friends with the veterinary sergeant and he would look after us, a few beers or something like that. I mean that’s in the game isn’t it?


I’m still a little bit in the dark. Can you help me with what a limber is?
A limber? Well yeah, well it’s a bit like, it’s a bit like a big trolley on wheels. I mean it’s just a square box, used to be just a square box with big wheels on the side and you’d pack everything in there and you had the shafts going out with the horses. Put one or two


horses in the front, a bit like a carriage of some description, a horse carriage. But then of course with those things, because of the amount of weight you’d probably put in the limber, because of the weight of the guns and things, you always had to have the brake, because otherwise the horses couldn’t, going down some steep slopes and things like that the horses couldn’t cope. So you always had somebody there to assist in that field, he was always there.


When the going was good he’d probably jump on the back and get a ride but sometimes he didn’t. If it was something like that he’d have to run along behind and put the brake on or take the brake off, depending on what the score was.
And the rest of the fellows were just marching along behind?
They’d be marching along behind or they may have been taken in a truck, or whatever, depending on how far you were going and what was available.


It’s all a matter of what’s available at the time and what’s the priority.
Now I understand that you did some work around Sydney Harbour?
Well that was more guard duty in those days, that was well back in the early days of late 1930, early 1940 and round the oil companies, just doing guard duty. Just walking around and


supposedly protecting it but when I look back on it I begin to wonder how effective it was because there was never any real threat anyway when you look at it, not like today. But I mean it was purely just a guard thing and I think the way it was basically organised if someone was really determined to do damage they could have.


But I mean that was what we were there for and that was ostensibly there and I suppose from a PR point of view it looked very effective.
So tell me why you think it was poorly organised?
I didn’t say it was poorly organised. I mean it was organised in those sorts of days and when you look at security requirements for today it is a very, very different factor.


And the fellow who is trying to do some damage today is a much more professional person. He is well and truly organised with what he had to do. Back in those days I mean it would be just somebody who just wanted to be a ruddy bee in a bonnet and mainly what you would be doing would be inspecting cars and things like that coming in and just making sure people just didn’t go but I mean as I say if he was a real professional


all he would have had to do was wait his time and things like that, look for his situation and he probably could have got through, if he was more determined. But I mean today, I mean the determination and the fact of what people want to do today is a very, very different situation to whatever we knew, as far as in those days were concerned because let’s face it also in those days also the public was very much more on your side.


I mean you didn’t have the different variations in the public either because Australia only had seven million population. What’s it got now? Twenty million?
During that time tell me your memories of the Depression?
Not a great deal because it was basically when I


look back on it now it was basically kept away from us. We were still kept up to the main usual standard of things but Mum and Dad, they were the ones that suffered more than we did. I mean as Dad told us in later years his greatest fear in the business was opening the mail in the morning as to what bills were going to come in. That used to be his biggest worry of anything, what was going to come in, in the way


of bills and things like that but at that stage he never told us. We never really, it didn’t affect, as boys it really didn’t effect us greatly, it probably, not that we were aware of anyway We were probably told no, we couldn’t have this and we couldn’t have that but that wasn’t something that was unusual to any great degree but looking back now, no Mum and Dad they protected us


from it. And you had to be respectful of that but it wasn’t until afterwards when you started talking about it and summing things up that you suddenly realised that that’s what they had done and they’d kept a lot of the hardships away from us.
And how did you see it affect other families?
Well at that stage we probably, as schoolboys we probably weren’t


in recognition of it. See in those days we’d probably only be ten, twelve, and thirteen and you’re not worldly wise at that stage of your life to go looking around for all that sort of stuff and how it would effect. It’s just a case I mean it probably did affect other people but you just sort of took it as part of life, you just didn’t. If somebody didn’t turn up at school well he just didn’t turn up. You didn’t sort of always ask why,


it was just the fact that he wouldn’t come to school. When you look back on it it’s a bit different because now you look back on it with experience of your own life and what hardships and other things can bring. I mean at ten or twelve I mean you’re not really alive to what’s going on there. You’re just more interested in your own mates and your


friends and the yakka and things like that, and as long as you get a feed, who worries?
What are your memories of the Harbour Bridge being built?
Not heavily. There was a big hue and cry about it. I mean to us it was something that sort of changed the life of Sydney because up to


that point we used to go across from Circular Quay in a ferry and the train used to go to Circular Quay. I can still remember going down there and walking down and getting the ferry and going across the harbour, and the way of going into town. But we didn’t go into town that much, see we were right up there and I mean we didn’t, probably had more of an effect on Dad and Mum, or particularly Dad because he used to go into town all the time, over and back. But to us


it didn’t sort of, because we only ever went to, see school was only a mile away and that was our, what would you call it? The area in which you lived in and we weren’t unduly fussed too much about that. I can remember when it was opened and things like that. There was a lot of talk and things like that, putting all the engines on the top of the train to see how much the bridge could carry and all that type of thing.


Wondering whether it could go and of course the opening day was just more or less a big picnic. Then of course you had to go and try and walk across it and do all of those sort of silly things but I mean that still goes on today. You might walk over the top or something like that and that’s another thing you do today that I’ve never done yet. and not likely to do but, you know, we used to try and sort of go up the pylons and look from the top of the pylons and things like that,


but no, it was never, from a personal point of view it was not what you might classify as a really big deal but from a national point of view it was.
So talk me through one of the stories of trying to climb up the pylons?
Oh no, I mean there was nothing in that. That was just going up stairs or going up the lift, no there was nothing. I mean going up the pylon was just going –(TAPE PROBLEMS)


it was a thing that you just did but it’s not an achievement or anything like that. It was just go up and look at the view and come back again and have a cup of morning tea. It was nothing, to go up the pylons


to me it was just one of those sort of things that you did and when you’ve done it what’s the next thing to do.
Now coming on to the war, when was the first time you heard about the war, that the war was on?
Oh Keith, I suppose we knew about it from the day it started,


Menzies speech, “we are now at war,” sort of.
Where did you hear that? Were you at home, out?
I can’t entirely remember exactly where I was at that stage. I mean at that stage I was, I don’t know whether we were on one of our guard duties where we were, could have been in the office.


I can’t really recall exactly where I was. I know it was September 1939 but I’d have to go back. I don’t even know where I even got the story of it now.
Did you know that war was coming?
Oh no, well I mean it was, you knew things were a bit sticky. I knew from my father’s


attitude. I mean Dad used to read Hitler’s Mein Kampf and things like that and he used to go on about it and I think he had a pretty fair idea of what was coming but from our point of view I mean we were very naive, as boys are at that stage and things like that. You are just looking for maybe a bit of adventure and taking things as they come. I suppose at t that stage of your life you’re more interested in parties and


sport and I mean in those days we were more interested in our sport. And I mean as I say that girls were things you took to a party and then you took them home again and the rest of it was all taken up with your sport and work. Okay, I mean you were always friendly but it never got beyond that point, as far as girls were concerned.


Some fellows of course went a lot deeper but from our point of view I mean that’s how we were at that stage, nineteen years of age or something and you were just more in a healthy, outdoor, open life.
So where did you get your news from?
I suppose you picked it up as you were going along. It became just a general thing, probably came over the radio or


I mean that sort of news doesn’t take long to get around. Probably pick it up from one of your friends or something like that and then you heard it on the radio or heard it in the newspapers or the sideboards on the newspapers and things like that, I mean that didn’t take long. It is like any other good strong rumour, it doesn’t take long to get through the crowd but don’t ask me exactly how I picked it up. I could not remember that minor detail, please Keith,


no way could I remember that.
We’ll stop there now. You’re doing really well Ted.
I don’t know, you’re asking me a lot of questions I don’t know the answers too.
Well we’ll get there. It’s information. We might swap so Claire’s now going to sit here.
How many fellows could have answered those questions in detail?
Oh people are different in different areas.


I know they are.
Now Claire’s going to sit here and ask you a few questions so just chat to Claire and ignore me behind the camera. And how are you going? All right?
Do you want a tea break now?
Oh no, if you want to keep going.
Okay, how about we do one more and then we have the tea break?
Oh could do something like that. Tell Mum to put the kettle on.
Okay, we’ll give her a hoy.


We’ll do one more tape and then we’ll have a break. How are you feeling Ted?
I’m all right.
Yeah. You’re going well.
There’s no point in letting yourself get too uptight about things.
Interviewee: Edward Carter Archive ID 1176 Tape 03


So, Ted, can you just give me an idea of what Australia was like just prior to the war being declared? Was there an imminent feeling that war was about to happen? What was Australia like at that point?
I would say there was a


feeling that something was rather imminent because the army was starting to gear itself up a bit although we were still very, very much behind but these guard duties that we were asked to do, the training of the universal trainees, which meant there was a certain amount of compulsory training, and things like that which were being brought in for people, which was.


Some of it started before war was actually declared so it was quite obvious when you looked back on it that the powers that be realised that something was going to happen. Probably at the time we probably looked upon it as purely the fact that okay we had to protect ourselves, didn’t know exactly how it was going to affect anybody or what really was coming around but


we all did it. Because I mean well the universal training was basically in some respects nearly a compulsory training system which was a three months camp, whereas those people were in the militia beforehand we were looked upon as those that did the training and the other recruits came in and we had to train them because we’d always had some training but it was what I’d classify as a fairly crudish nature.
Do you remember how?
When you look back on it, it


didn’t really train you for the real thing.
That’s interesting and can you remember Ted what your impressions were when war was finally declared? What were you thinking and feeling then?
Well I suppose you just sort of took it that that was part of life. There was nothing much you could do about it. War was declared and we became part of it but I suppose we didn’t give it a great deal of thought in depth


at that stage. It was just the fact that you were there and you had to be part of it. Okay, everybody at that stage though it wasn’t going to last very long anyway so why worry too much about it.
So people were quite confident that it was going to be a short war?
People basically reckoned it was going to be a short war, that Germany wouldn’t last and that type of a thing. England would just come in and others and


stop it, but it just wasn’t that way. I mean everybody just so underestimated what Hitler had done.
Can you remember any discussions that you had with your family that you had about it?
No, not really. No. I know Dad used to go on, well he used to do quite a bit of reading but he was very quiet and calm about it but he never said too much,


but when I look back on it now and I mean look at what he did, he obviously did do quite a bit of homework.
Homework in the sense that?
Reading like Mein Kampf, Hitler’s books that he’d written, other things like that, talking to his mates because at that stage too, yes I think he was Mayor of Ku-ring-gai so he would have been getting quite a bit of feedback there but I mean it didn’t actually get passed on to us to a great deal.
With both your mum anddad,


Great War veterans, did they have reservations about the war?
Yes, I have no doubt that they did. I have no doubt that they knew exactly what was going on but they didn’t pass it on to us and nor did they show their fears to us. When I look back and I look at some of their reactions and things like that, yes they were, but at the time it didn’t sink home.
What were some of those reactions, can you remember?


Well like when we had our final leave and we left from Dubbo which we didn’t really know what was going on. We hadn’t been told but he obviously had a clue, or Dad did, because we got on the train in Dubbo and got taken all the way down from Dubbo right down to the wharf and onto the ship. We didn’t see anything further than that but Dad and Mum were both at Dubbo station to see us off. They were one of the few parents that were.


Now he obviously had a clue and obviously knew what was going on. How, I don’t know. They were both there and they obviously knew what was coming but we were very lasse faire as they say, probably that way, “Don’t worry, we’ll be right. You don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for, you don’t.”
Indeed. You mentioned yourdad had a diary, a day-


to-day diary?
Had you read the diary before you enlisted?
No, I’ve only got his diary over the last eighteen months. It was the first time I’d ever seen it about eighteen months ago.
Did you know he kept a diary during the war?
I knew he’d kept a diary and all I knew was he’d put it into the war museum in Canberra, and it wasn’t until my cousin whose been doing the family research


was doing a lot of work through there and she suddenly told me and she said, “Did you know you could get a copy of it?” I got in touch with them and they sent me a full copy, a photocopy of the whole thing, which I can bring out for you if you want but it’s all there, which I then sat down and read the whole lot but it wasn’t until then.
You didn’t sneak a peek at the dairy when you were a young man?
It wasn’t here.


We had a few peeks at Mum’s diary but not at Dad’s, no.
Can you remember any things from your mum’s diary?
Oh yes, her report of the first night on Gallipoli was horrendous but then when I look it’s probably, to some today that would probably fall back refer back to the life of the nurses during World War II also,


particularly during Al Alamein because Tobruk was a very different factor. But when you find that she was looking after, well they were bringing all the wounded back and she said some of them were in a very, very bad state. They were all dirty, filthy, things like that, still in their uniforms and things like that and having to cut some of the uniform away from their wounds but she said at night time you had all these moaning, groaning fellows.


And she had two hundred or more people to look after with one Indian orderly to help her. And I think they worked for thirty-six or forty-eight hours without any rest what so ever until they were made to go and do something and I have no doubt that during Al Alamein when all the wounded went back too that would be exactly what it would have been like there then.


Those nurses wouldn’t have got much rest nor would the doctors or anybody else. They just would have worked round the clock to try and save lives. And when you saw the situation that some of those fellows were in you could understand it. And exactly what I say to some of the school kids when I was talking to them the other day about my experiences, I said, “What you guys have got to realise just exactly how much a little bit of TLC [tender loving care] can go a long way in those conditions.”


You never underestimate just exactly what a little bit of soft touches and few things like that it can mean a lot. Sometimes you probably don’t realise it but it does.
What were your mum’s reactions when you decided to enlist?
Probably no resistance. There was no resistance. I don’t know exactly what it was but we just told her we were


doing it and she had no resistance to things like that but I mean she may have gone away and thought a lot.
Did she give you any tips or any kind of cautionary tales?
She might have tried, whether we listened or not is another matter. I can’t recall those sorts of things. She may have. We just sort of went in one morning and enlisted. We just said we were probably going out to


Long Bay to enlist and then the next thing we knew we didn’t go home because they just sent you straight out to camp.
Right then and there?
Yes, we were just put on a bus and taken from the depot, straight out to camp, issued with your bits and pieces and away you went.
Did you tell your father and mother before you went that you were going to do this?
Oh I probably told them the morning that I was going to enlist or something like that.
And what about your mates?


Did they come with you?
Some, not all of them, because you just sort of suddenly made up your mind. It was probably an inkling in the back of your mind for a little and then all of a sudden you suddenly said “well I’m going to do it.”
Was there anything that pushed you over the edge?
Oh probably the thought of a bit of adventure I suppose, because you really had no idea really what you were letting yourself in for.


I would probably think four times now I know what I was letting myself in for. I would probably think four times about it now because what I say now is, “Thanks for the experience, but don’t ask me to do it again.”
Was it a personal war for you?
Personal? No, no, there was nothing personal about it really, just probably pro-patria [fatherland].


You have a duty to do and, “Let’s just go and do it.” You’ve got to look after your country. There’s nothing personal or individual or anything like that about it, no.
Personal in the sense that was this something you felt you could make a difference with?
No, the whole thing was too big for an individual


to make a difference unless you were right up in the hierarchy. You had to be in the Menzies and Churchill there really for it to make any effect and then you were playing politics anyway. You weren’t really playing the game of war.
Did you have any discussions with your mates about how they were approaching enlisting and what their impressions were?
Oh probably, probably. I wouldn’t say no I wasn’t.


We did. We probably did discuss it on and off at various stages. Should we, shouldn’t we, this that and the other. Yes, I wouldn’t say no because I mean there were a few came with you and things like that and just suddenly probably some of your mates said, “Let’s go and do it.” And most of the fellows that I went in with, I hardly saw them again, because they all went in different areas. Some came back and some didn’t.


Was there a little bit of a question mark then? You said there were some questions about ‘shall we do it and shall we not’?
I suppose some probably had those feelings depending on their family background. I mean I wouldn’t know a lot of that because you didn’t go into personal sides of it to much. I mean fellows would probably discuss a little bit


this, that and the other but more in general discussion.
Can you remember what you thought the pros and cons were at that time of going?
No. You were probably just looking at an adventure. You probably knew a little about army life and sort of said, “It’s a life, I’ve enjoyed up to date,” and things like that. “Why not continue it on?” It is probably a


bit better than doing some hard slog study. I was in that category. The accounting game at that stage really didn’t attract me greatly because it was all routine stuff of that nature. Sometimes I look back on it now and wonder how the hell I ever stood it.
Was it a natural progression to go from your cadet and reserve experience into the infantry?


Was that a natural progression or did you consider going into other areas?
Well, I never wanted to be an infanteer. I never wanted to be just a straight out infanteer as such. Dad’s unit, I mean I was very much pro family at that stage and I wanted to more or less follow on in Dad’s footsteps and he was in what they call a pioneer battalion, which was basically engineering, doing a lot of engineering work in the forward areas


or behind the scenes and things like that. In World War II that was basically set down as our role was more infantry work providing out own protection, in other words we had to be able to protect so half our officers were fully qualified engineers and half were infanteers. So I was one of the those who had to provide protection while the engineers were doing the work but quite often we were to be pulled in but


invariably that didn’t happen when it came to reality because whenever things got a bit tight for the infantry we always got thrown in as infantry anyway. So in many ways we became infanteers which was not exactly, probably if I had had my own way I probably would have gone into the machinegun side of it because I liked the machinegun side of things but because of Dad’s influence and the fact that my old CO,


do you want to do anything about that?(TAPE STOPS)
So you were saying you joined the pioneers to follow after your father’s footsteps?
Yes I did and also I had a recommendation from my CO. I had a letter of recommendation from the CO of the unit and I suppose that probably gave me the push to go into that area rather than the other areas.


Because I can still remember when I went in to the enlisting place and the fellow there said to me, “We’ve got something interesting for you.” And I said, “I’ve got this letter.” And he said, “Oh well, you’d better follow that.” I never know to this day what he had in mind.
So yourdad would have told you about the pioneers?
Yes, we would have had some idea. That’s what they used to do. I mean they used to do forward engineering work, laying the, in World War I they used to lay a lot of the duck


boards, draining the trenches, doing a lot of engineering work of various natures and things like that. And of course those things always attracted me far more than anything else. I was never a person who was keen on what you might say ‘personal combat’. I used to love my football and things like that but I was never a keen person when it came to sort of things like boxing and straight out


one on one. I don’t know why but it is just something that was ingrained in you and that’s there but I always loved teamwork, always did.
Did you consider infantry to be one-on-one combatant?
More so because particularly when you go into forward areas it could become a one on one situation, which it did at times, whether you liked it or not.


And were you aware of that at that time?
I was aware of it because I mean who wouldn’t be.
So what were your expectations? What did you think you were up for by enlisting in the pioneer battalion?
Did I what?
What were your expectations? What did you think you were up for?
Oh exactly what I sort of explained to you, that we’d be doing sort of forward engineering works of that nature, rather


than just chasing round the country side looking for things that weren’t there whereas we were probably doing road works and various other natures and maybe sometimes playing with engines, whatever has and things of that nature, whatever came in that field. Maybe sort of just working, what you might say working behind the forward infantry rather than being very much in the front line but of course ultimately it didn’t work


out that way.
So did that seem like a safer option at that time?
Well I don’t know that it was what you would classify as a safer option. It was a type of work that I preferred to do, safer or not. It was a type of work that I preferred to do and thought I could do better. That’s why you take to it.


Were there other mates that you had at that time that were also put into areas where they had father’s in the great war or they had specific skills so they could be put into certain areas?
Oh I don’t know. I think most fellows sort of went were they felt, some of them went just where they were put. They went in with a sort of fairly open mind and if the fellow at the reception desk said, “Oh well you’re


going to the 2/13th Battalion,” they went into the 13th Battalion. Others made requests about where they wanted to go and if they didn’t get that in the first place they probably chased around till they did, got transfers or something into what ever they wanted too. Like some fellows wanted to be in the air force but they finished up in the army because of various medical reasons or vice versa,


various many combinations and permutations of that nature.
So, Ted, can you give me an outline of your initial training and what happened from when you enlisted through to your first training, initial training?
Well when we first enlisted we just went into Ingleburn camp and there we were just dumped. And I can always remember the first meal they gave us, which was


an old stew, which all they did then, they didn’t put anything in it other than just filled it up with water. Yeah. I know, I can see your mouth. That’s exactly what we thought too. But slowly we did that and then after a couple of days they put us on a train and took us up to Greta camp. And then there that’s when we really started into our training. And we sort of were doing all sorts of training but mostly


of a physical nature then to do route marches and things of that nature to get everybody into a good physical state, and that seemed to be the main object of everything we did plus a certain amount of range work. We were down at the rifle range doing a little bit of that, also disciplinary work of various natures and of course there’s always the work around the camp


and things like that that had to be done. Parade ground work, learning the routines of the army so when you had rivalry and all that type of thing, and making certain that you got up in the morning and things like that with the band coming down and the drummer running his stick right along the thing so that everybody woke up. You can just imagine what a drummers stick was like going down the side of a corrugated iron hut. Nobody went to sleep very quickly after that.


I mean that was really learning the routines of army, getting all your inoculations, injections and all that type of thing, which was exactly what happened to us all the way through, you were getting all these. And of course some of your inoculations and things after a couple of days, particularly with your smallpox one it sort of knocked you flat for a while and then you overcame all that and that was that.


And then you got routine route marches and all those sorts of things which was more designed to build up your physical side of things. Plus army discipline and army routine was more what we were doing then because you had a lot of fellows there who had no idea of any army routine at all so they all had to be and everybody was being put into it as a unit, so that you’ve got everybody


working as a unit knowing what they had to do.
Was this just the pioneer battalion?
On no, it was everybody, it was all those who enlisted I mean in those days. You might remember the 20th Brigade who walked from Sydney to Bathurst, didn’t they, over the Blue Mountains? That was all part of physical fitness training and things of that nature. Instead of putting them in buses and taking them up to Bathurst where they had to go


they made them walk. It is all part of it.
Were any of the fellows unfit?
Oh heaps of them, heaps of them, all sorts of things but by the time we went overseas they were very different boys, I can tell you that.
So how did they whip them into line and how did they respond? Sorry. Just a sec.(TAPE STOPS)
– quite so fit?


By making them do route marches and all that type of thing. Early morning exercises, making them get up early, putting them on army tucker which you didn’t get much of a chance to overdo it with that stuff.
Did anyone complain? Did anyone confide in you about – ?
Of course they did. They complained but they didn’t get much sympathy, yeah, of course they did.
Because you would have been pretty fit?


Oh in those days, yes. Back in those days yes one was fit. I was probably as fit as anybody but there were a lot of fellows who weren’t. They complained, let’s face it, but they didn’t get much change. It was a case of get fit or not.
So do you develop quite a lot of mateship quite


quickly or is it?
Oh yeah, it’s all through that getting fit situation and things like that, all sort of common feelings and things like that. But I mean your mateship didn’t really develop until you got overseas, that’s when it really developed. But quite a few of them did.
Is that because you knew that you were going to be separated after this initial training?
You didn’t know that, you had no idea where you were going to go.


I mean you were part of the battalion and you had no idea where you were going to go or when. I mean half the time, even when we left Greta and going to Dubbo we didn’t know we were going to Dubbo. They just put us on the train. The senior officers probably all knew but all of us down in the hoi polloi, we didn’t know. You just went along where you were told.
So that initial training was about three months?


Oh well I mean that was our training at Greta and then we went over to Dubbo where we probably did a bit more training, but then we went on from Dubbo, then we went on to final leave, which I look at now and came back from final leave and then went straight on the boat. Came back to Dubbo, back there for about a week or ten days and got put on the train and taken straight down to Walsh Bay


and onto the boat and we weren’t even told we were going to do that. The hierarchy probably knew as I just sort of said and I mean Mum and Dad probably knew too but I don’t know how they knew because we didn’t really know. But I suppose if I had been a little bit more world wise I probably would have put two and two together a bit more.
So how prepared did you feel after all that initial


Not really, not prepared. I mean it wasn’t until you got into reality that you suddenly realised whether you were prepared or not. You just sort of went along and did what you had to do and things like that and then it was probably the reality of things that really prepared you far quicker than anything else did. Because when it became reality it is amazing what you learnt in twenty-four hours.


When a bloke on the other side starts shooting at you, you learn some lessons really quickly. It doesn’t take long.
What are some of the lessons that you learned?
What did I find were the lessons that I learned?
What are some of the lessons that you learned very quickly?
Keep your head down. Don’t make a target of yourself.


in your training what machineguns were you learning and what were some of the things, tactics and things that you were learning?
In the early days, no, in the early days I was basically put in control of what you might call the ‘Akak’ platoon. Our idea was to learn how to keep low-flying aircraft, low flying aircraft and


things like that but we never got the weapons that we needed. Australia didn’t have them. It was all done by lectures and facsimiles and that sort of stuff. It wasn’t really until into Tobruk that we got the Bren guns and things that we needed.
Did they simulate?
Yeah, we tried to simulate but I mean simulation is nothing like the real thing.


What are you going to do with a wooden gun and that sort of thing?
So they were using wooden Bren guns?
Well oh I don’t know. I mean what do you do, I mean it doesn’t get you very far. It is a type of training that I classify as reasonably useless.
So you weren’t actually operating machine guns in your initial training.
No, no, we didn’t have them. We didn’t have the weapons we needed back in


those days, certainly not in the quantity.
What were the things that you were informed? How were you instructed and what was your duty meant to be?
Well our duties as an aircraft platoon were really how to protect it and bring down aeroplanes. Low flying aeroplanes would probably be strafing and things like that, how to handle that situation,


how to place your guns, how to get the protection in your guns, where to put your sandbags and things like that so that you gave yourselves the maximum protection against the plane that was firing at you. I mean they are the type of things that you tried to show them to do and how and where to place your gun so you got the maximum use for your gun with the personnel behind it.
So you weren’t operating anti personnel, aircraft bombs, they were actually machine guns?


In theory that was what you were meant to be doing?
Oh I mean well the aircraft could bomb you if they had half a chance, yes, they carried those too. I mean your job was to stop them if you could. I mean it’s the same thing that you get in your type of things. Your object is to stop the other fellow doing what he wants to do, isn’t it?
Just a second Ted, sorry.


Can you turn off for a sec?(TAPE STOPS)
It was more with a Bren gun as we knew it but at that stage it was all sort of in theory because the Bren guns were few and far between.
Did they have another gun that they used to substitute?
No, because you see it had to be on a tripod and things like that so you could do it but most of our training was the same as the infantry,


most exactly the same.
And at the time did you feel that this was unsatisfactory or did you just take it on the chin?
Oh just take it on the chin, do what you could and do the best you could but most of our training was all much the same as the infantry and things like that, at that stage of the game and that’s exactly what you know it was.
At that time what were you instructed about the Bren gun?


How to operate it?
We didn’t because we hardly ever saw one because we didn’t have them to see them but I mean with that sort of type of weapon, when we did get hold of one, it didn’t take much to learn how to handle it. Nothing complicated. It didn’t take you long, particularly when you were young and things like that, you soon learnt. An hour or two and you were home and hosed with it,


no problem. Your own discipline told you how to handle it. By that stage the whole lot were very well disciplined anyway so no troubles.
Did you find you didn’t worry about it, because you had already had experience with rifles, the Vickers rifle?
No, no, you just took it on as part of the training program, whatever it was but because you hadn’t


done that before it didn’t make much difference. You just took it as it came.
So Ted, what were the other kinds of training that they gave you before you left on the boat to Palestine?
Nothing much. Mostly it was just more or less physical fitness, getting you into that type of a thing. Sometimes they didn’t have any, they’d


put us on route marches and things like that to fill in time. The variation was not great at all that stage. As I say it was more army discipline, army procedures and all of that nature. Occasionally somebody may get sent away to a school to go and do a special school or something like that. And it was only there that they got the specialist training but half the time when they did that and then they came back to the infantry


the information was not used anyway because we didn’t have the weapons and things that we should have, we didn’t. I mean Australia’s preparation when you look back on it now in those days was very, very poor and I only hope that they have learned some lessons from it but I sometimes doubt because the people don’t want it and


politics goes much more with what people want so they can get votes, rather than doing what’s the right thing to do.
Were you given any initial training to equip you for the pioneer battalion?
No, the pioneer initial training basically was the same as the infantry, practically no difference. Of course some of our officers were engineers anyway and I mean when it came to engineering jobs they told you what to do and how to do it.


It was all really plain. Sorry.
What kind of engineering jobs were you given in initial training?
What sort of?
Engineering jobs?
Oh we weren’t given much at all. Maybe probably erecting timber frames of descriptions, probably just how to cross a creek or


something like that, which was something which we never used anyway. It was all with timber, how to tie timber together to give it strength, things like that, how to make a bridge. A lot of that we never used anyway when it came to the real thing because what creeks and rivers did you have to cross in the Middle East anyway?
And did you have much contact about


news from overseas about the war?
Only what you got through the newspapers. Apart from that, no.
So what did you know at that time?
What did I know? Well you’re asking me, I can only guess. I don’t really have any great feelings of what I knew or didn’t know. You sort of went along with things and didn’t treat it


as a great deal of seriousness at that stage because everyone was under the impression that the war wouldn’t last anyway. And the thoughts were probably the 6th Div had already gone, they were overseas and maybe there was a good trip available somewhere where we could have a good time at the government cost.


But I mean sometimes that is what would go through people’s minds and things like that. But no, I mean there was always the playboys and things like that but life was very light hearted in those days. It was all a case of going on leave and things like that. I mean you had all different types of fellows in your unit that you had


try and handle, some decent, some not so decent, some bordering on the criminal side of things. You had all these sorts of fellows who basically couldn’t get jobs in civilian life so joined the army to get a different way of living and the same thing will happen in the next war, you’ll get the same sort of thing will happen.
Was there any snobbery between people?
Was there any snobbery? Oh yeah.


The same as you get everywhere, people haven’t changed. You get some snobbers, you get some bullies, and you get some, all sorts of different types. Others who stand up for what’s right all the way through. No, it’s all, you name it, you had it. All different sorts and you just had to learn how to handle them and how to put up with them and sometimes you did and sometimes you didn’t.


So did you have a girlfriend at the time, before you enlisted?
Well it depends what you classify as a girlfriend. I had a few acquaintances. I had one girl who was basically a neighbour who I used to write to a bit but that was about as far as it went. But as I said to you earlier I mean girls in those days to us were just, they were friends, you took them out for dances


and things like that but you didn’t ever fraternise with them to any great extent because your life was mostly taken up on the sporting field or something of that nature, out in the open. As I say, girls, you take them to dances and things like that, okay, you were always friendly, you took them to a dance and you had the supper dance with them and you took them home again and made certain they were properly looked after. That’s the way we were brought up. You made certain they were properly protected and things like that but


what they did between the various other things was their own. They wanted to mix around the same as you did. You know, it was sort of what you might say a friendly society without any great depth in it from that point of view. No, we didn’t, that –
So there weren’t sexual relationships as such?
Oh gosh no, not even thought of. I mean probably some of the fellows did, yes.


Some of them did but from our younger point of view, our point of view, no, never even considered that type of thing. In fact you’d probably be at a dead loss if you did.
In what respect?
Well you wouldn’t know what to do.
That’s probably a good point to cut this tape, because we’re right at the end.
Interviewee: Edward Carter Archive ID 1176 Tape 04


Could you maybe just let me know, like you said that there were no sexual relationships between boys and girls, at least not that you know of?
Well not that I was aware of. There probably could have been but people don’t talk about those things,


not that I know of either.
Did the boys try?
Oh I suppose you had the odd one who would. He probably got his wrist smacked and fair enough.
So was it morality, or was it a fear of getting a girl knocked up [pregnant], or was it just not done at that time, it was just a different mentality?
Well from my point of view it just wasn’t done. That was what I was sort of brought up on.


No, I mean the girl was there and these sort of things didn’t take place outside of marriage, sort of thing, and you protected that to a large degree. But you didn’t, in those days no. That’s basically how it was. I mean there may have been other people who had different family backgrounds who had some other ideas but I know that was always the way that we were sort of –


you protected. I mean the girl was there, she was to be honoured and looked after. And why shouldn’t she be?
So some of the fellows that you met during your training, did they share the same kinds of approaches?
No, no, some of them, their attitude was that a woman was fair game.


How did they reveal this different approach to women?
Well in one case I know there was a court case because of what he had done. In other cases there was a case of pregnancy and in other cases to some degree how they talked.


These are fellows that you were training with?
And sometimes the way they talked you knew they didn’t have a great deal of respect, because if you had respect you wouldn’t have talked that way anyway. And I don’t think I have to tell you that.
And when you described the situation with the court case and the girl being pregnant, were they


fellows that you were training with, instances that happened?
Yes, some fellows in the battalion, yes.
During training or when you were overseas?
No, basically here.
Can you elaborate?
I can’t, because I know any detail. I’ve told you as much as I know but I can put two and two together, the same as anyone else can.
And where did you find out the information?


Fellows talking, it’s like anything else, it doesn’t around and if someone in the battalion has a court case against them it doesn’t take long to get through.
And what happened to the blokes?
I haven’t got the foggiest idea. I was not interested. That was his problem and as far as I was concerned he could stick to it.


So would this happen in R and R [Rest and Recreation] or in the breaks between training or on leave?
Basically it would happen on leave or something like tat, when they went away on weekend leave and things like that. I mean it certainly wouldn’t have been happening during training periods or things like that because there weren’t any women within cooee.


But it did happen but mostly when they went away on weekend leave or something like that.
Did you ever accompany fellows on leave?
Did I accompany fellows on leave? Most of my leave was actually taken going home but occasionally one or two of the blokes would come with me. We’d spend a bit of time at home, yes, or something like that, but mostly it was going home,


which I was rather pleased about, now, because I mean there wasn’t that much time anyway.
So what kinds of things would they say about girls?
What type of things would they say about? I mean I think your mind can wander to many, many things. I mean the spectrum there is extremely wide.


And I suppose most of those spectrums were covered in some ways, people joking amongst themselves and things of that nature. I mean there was a fairly wide spectrum amongst the fellows and things like that. And I suppose fellows like me learned from listening to those fellows, how they talked and what they did and things like that. But I wouldn’t like to get down to specifics because I don’t think it’s necessary. But I


think you know the spectrum and anyone would know the spectrum at that stage of life and that was basically the field that was covered. They would cover all areas of sexuality, homo - whatever. Some of it you respected and some you didn’t.
Was that where you learned most about the birds and the bees?


Oh well I suppose in some ways. I mean I suppose your birds and your bees is a process throughout life in some ways. And I mean you’ve been brought up in a biggish family and you’d probably find much the same thing. You sort of learn the birds and the bees as you go through. Probably some of it comes from the


way other members of the family talk or from the way your school friends talk.. As I said before that’s a fairly wide spectrum and it sort of comes in and in many ways it is the way many of us learn apart from what your parents tell you.
In that initial training was that a bit of an education for you though about women?


Well education, I mean it was never, later on in the army life, yes, we used to get lectures on what it was all about and I mean I think the girls, the nurses used to get separate lectures also but more say what you get nowadays with the screen and how the body is made up


and what’s the outcome and all the rest of it. I mean that’s all, probably now a days far more promulgated than it ever was in my day, for better or for worse I don’t know but I think a little knowledge can be dangerous but too much can also be dangerous, but that’s the way it was. In our days it was very, very,


as far as parents were concerned it was very hush-hush sort of thing.
So the openness of some of the other fellows in initial training about women, was it all talk?
Yeah, a lot of it was, a lot of it was. Very much talk. I think more talk than action, but that’s human beings, isn’t it?


A lot of human beings are that way inclined. They do a lot of talking but not a great deal of action.
And did you befriend people that were like that or did you choose different types of friends?
No, I chose different types of people who were very much that way inclined. No, I didn’t, that was not my spectrum of life, and I kept to those who were more into my


style of life and fellows who I greatly respected. And some came from fairly poor families but they all had strong feelings in that field and fellows who I greatly respected, because, let’s put it this way, Chris, there are very few people who will go through life without being tested in some way. It is a matter of how you handle that test.


And we all – and many fellows did that and I mean, you respect those who can handle it in the right manner. And that’s what it’s all about.
So were you guys treated differently or did they think you were, was there any kind of different attitudes


about the kind of people you’d chose to be friends with as apposed to the other kinds of guys?
I mean not that you were aware of, I mean you all intermingled. In many cases you all had to live in the same huts or the same tent. You had to live in the tent with the people that were allocated to you, not that you chose. You didn’t necessarily choose the people you had to sleep and eat with so you just learned how to handle those.


Some of them in the tent may not have necessarily been your close friends. Some people you probably didn’t get along with terribly well but you learnt how to handle them and you did that.
Did you ever feel the need to vocalise that you felt someone was offending you?
Not really because you had to be a little bit careful in that field,


because otherwise you could really start something that you couldn’t finish. And you had to be a little bit careful in that field. Sometimes you might tell him to shut up and that you had had enough, but you probably didn’t go into the greater depths with your thoughts because you knew he probably didn’t agree with you anyway but you’d know that when you started.


So you would just tell him to shut up and half the time that’s all that was necessary. But it just depends on who he was and what he was and I think you’d understand that.
What could you start, possibly, that you couldn’t finish, if you were to speak up?
If you spoke up and he got angry with you maybe he would be a bigger and better handler of the


body situation and you came off second best and then he’d just turn around and say, “Well you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Because many of those sort of fellows who talk that way their attitude is ‘strength is best’. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the strongest argument. It is only a physical situation and as I say I mean if you come off second best then it’s not something you can finish properly is it?


So describe for me the journey in the boat that you did and just the leaving and the journey? I know that you had a few adventures on the way as well.
Yeah, I mean we did there. Probably most of the way from Sydney to Fremantle one spent most of that time being seasick, so I spent a lot of that time trying to lie down to keep


your stomach were it should be and whenever you walked around a bit you just found you couldn’t. So you did what you could and that was that but a lot of fellows were in the same situation because it just wasn’t on. And, you know, what can you do when you just feel continually ill all the time? After Singapore it was different. We got off the boat at Singapore


for overnight and then the Indian Ocean was a lot calmer. It became a very different situation but from Sydney right down through the [Great Australian] Bight, through the Bight where we wallowed for quite a period of time that was a difficult period.. Some fellows didn’t get seasick but most of them did.


But I know it affected me because that was my first big trip outside and it really had it’s effect but then after that you weren’t too bad.
And why did you wallow in the Bight for a little while?
That’s what I say, that was engine trouble until they got the engines going again and then we got underway again.


But while the boat’s not moving and things like that, the boat’s just wallowing about in a sea swill, and that doesn’t help anybody.
So how long were you there for?
I think it was a matter of five or six hours but that was engine trouble.
So how many people were on the boat?
Oh I think we had something like six hundred people on a boat that was built for barely two hundred because they were all down in the cargo holds on, a lot of the fellows were


down in cargo holds on hammocks and that type of thing. The latrines were very primitive. There were some amusing effects on that.
Like what?
I mean, see some of the troops might have been what you called six or eight holers and they used to have it on a bit of a slope and the water would run down and go off the side of the ship.


But one particular day one fellow got rather smart and he was on the top hole and he got a whole heap of newspaper and lit it and put it down. You could just imagine what a bit of fire on newspaper would do to all the bare bottoms that it went through. You can just imagine. You could imagine the fun that had, couldn’t you? Do I have to say any more?


Can you tell me more about it?
No. I think your own imagination is enough on that.
How long was the trip? Did you know at the time how long the trip was going to take?
No. We had no idea. We didn’t even know we were going to Colombo, until maybe a day out of Colombo or something like that. They didn’t tell you too much. I mean the hierarchy probably all knew, but we didn’t.
What did they tell you?
Very little,


just what we had to do from day to day, what was the next day’s program. That’s about all you got. What was expected of you and the next day’s program, what would be on the plan sheet for the next day, whatever it was, if you could do it.
So you didn’t even know how long you were going to be on this boat for?
No. Well we had, I think three or four days in Colombo,


which was a good break, we had a good break there. And from there we went on to Kantara and we left the boat at Kantara, which is in the Suez Canal.
So before we go to Colombo can you tell me who the six hundred people were on the boat? What kind of people were they?
Pretty well all our own unit. I think there was a number of nurses but I


think that was a handful of about half a dozen or so, which I didn’t really get to know. And they were more or less kept within the confines of the senior officers as you might say but apart from that it was just all members of our own unit.
So how did everyone respond to those kinds of cramped conditions?


Well I don’t think, many of them I don’t suppose were terribly happy with it but it was a case you had to put up with it. That’s where you were and that’s what you got. I mean you’d enlisted for that sort of thing and that’s what you go. I think to some degree when you are in a mass situation like that you don’t expect too much comfort and privileges.


Did everyone get seasick?
Not everyone. Some of them fared better than others but a lot did. I wouldn’t like to say what proportion but I know what my situation was. I didn’t fare too well between Sydney and Fremantle but after that I was a bit better.
So what were your symptoms of the sea sickness?


What were the symptoms? Horrible. You are just sick. You can’t keep anything down and the big thing is to make certain that you try and drop it over the side rather than on the deck somewhere.
Did that happen?
Well it happened in some cases, yes. But I found that if I could lie flat I wasn’t too bad, but the moment I stood up


it was a different matter. So I used to try and spend as I could lying down. I suppose some people probably thought you were being lazy but they could think what they liked. I can’t control what other people think.
What were other people doing on the boat, like activities?
Well I mean most of it was what you might


say was boat drills where we had to know what if anything happened on the boat what lifeboats you had to get into and how to respond to a sudden call so that you knew exactly where to go and what boats you had to get into, all that. A certain amount of lectures but it wasn’t a full-on program all the time.


I mean there were certain mess duties and a few things like that that fellows had to do. But I mean, lectures of various natures but you were very limited to what you could do. I mean you tried to get exercise wherever you could and you tried to make sure that the men exercised if they could, but that’s basically what a lot of it was. It was just making certain


you know your boat sort of there like that so in case of emergency things could happen very quickly. So everybody knew exactly where they had to go and what they had to do, which was a bit different. There was always those fellows who were given the jobs of being lookouts and all those sorts of things and of course at night time you see, I mean there was no lights on the ship of at night-time, not allowed to go outside because


everything was blacked out. There were lights on inside but outside everything had to be blacked out so at night time you couldn’t be seen or you hoped you couldn’t.
So the boat was just totally black of a night?
Basically, yeah.
So how would it operate in the night time? What would you do?
Sit around, drink a few beers, or something like that, talk,


or go to bed and read.
You could use lights in the actual cabins?
You could use lights in the?
Yeah, but you had to keep all your windows covered. It was a fairly stuffy situation inside but that’s the way it had to be. You didn’t have much choice.
And what about the nurses that were on board, did they associate with any of the troops?
Oh well they used to fiddle around with the,


when I say fiddle around, I mean they just communicated with some of the senior officers and things like that and were kept to some degree very much to themselves. I mean there was no sort of fancy parties or anything like that while they were there. It was just a case of they had their, I mean, they used to do first aid work and things like that if it was necessary, in conjunction with the doctor.


But apart from that, no, it was just more or less they were there and they did keep to themselves a bit. They had their jobs to do. At meal times I think they sat at maybe variable tables but they weren’t allowed to fraternise too much.
What about poetry or


singing or – ?
Oh yeah, I mean there were always things like that put on, sing-songs or things like that to keep things going, yes. At night time, yeah, those sorts of things or someone might put on a bit of an impromptu concert just for the heck and fun of it. Those sort of things would get organised occasionally but


those things would be put on by the boys and one thing and another just for a bit of a laugh.
Were there war songs that you would sing on the boat?
Oh all sorts. Mostly songs of the day, whatever, not necessarily just war songs, no, they were just all sorts of songs. Probably some of them from World War I, and some of them from,


like the Donkey Serenade and some of those sort of things that were the songs of the time of the day. Anything to sort of keep the morale up so that you enjoyed yourselves and had a bit of a laugh and particularly if somebody was out of tune or something like that.
Can you remember the most popular song?
Not really. No. I would say a lot of the time I wasn’t really interested in that sort of thing because I wasn’t feeling well enough.


That was my own point of view but others did and I mean those sorts of things went on, yeah.
So you don’t remember any of the songs specifically that they were singing, the songs of the day?
No, not, I can’t just recall at the moment. I would like to but I mean they were, if you give me time I could probably dig some out but


it takes a bit of, I can’t just recall straight off the cuff. Sorry.
That’s okay. So when you first arrived in Colombo, what were your impressions?
Colombo? It was very friendly. A few of us got befriended by the wife of the chief of the P&O [Pacific & Orient] Line and she gave us her car with a chauffeur and showed us all round the place,


which was very friendly and very nice. And she and her husband then took us out to lunch and gave us a wonderful Colombo curried lunch. It was very much appreciated by about half a dozen of us but that just came about, we were walking down the street and she just stopped the car and said, “Would you fellows like to do this and do that?”


So we said, “Yes, we’d love to.” So she went home and then gave us the car and the chauffeur and the chauffeur took us around and showed us this and showed us that.
What did they show you?
Around the different places, places of interest around Colombo. I’m just trying to think of the different places, and then of course then showed us where we could go the following day, which we went to and then I think the following day a few of us went to a place called Candi, which was way up in the hills.


A bit like all soldiers, when we got into Colombo and landed there we were all given lectures as to where we shouldn’t go and things like that, so what do we do? Half a dozen of us immediately went down to the slave quarters. Of course the next thing we knew then was that the police were after us and they told us to get out quick.
You went into the slave quarters?
We went into the slave quarters. We were told not to but we did.
What inspired you to go in there?


Devilment, what else?
Curiosity and devilment.
Tell me about that?
Well after you’ve been in there for about five minutes you suddenly realise that it is a bit frightening because you had these fellows, Arabs or whatever they were standing in doorways and things like that and you could see their dirks down the side of their things and they were sort of looking at you and things like that as if to say. Obviously the word had got around because the police came along and told us to get out quick.


Because obviously there was some talk going on that we might have been in bigger trouble if they hadn’t. So we got out quick because we all realised what the score was, but I mean, it was an area that was somewhat frightening being a stranger, they just didn’t want him. And you could disappear so quickly in that area and that’s exactly what would happen to you.


You’d probably just disappear and no one would know whatever happened to you.
So can you describe what it looked like?
Dirty and filthy, not the sort of place that you would call home by any manner of means or from our point of view that you’d want to go and live in. But that was their way. The poor area was the slave area and of course some were what you might classify as


somewhat desperate people.
And can you describe the buildings and the people that you saw?
Oh not really now. I mean they were all low slung joined together buildings, narrow streets, not very tidy streets with a certain amount of filth in them. It was just an experience which we never went back into again.


We looked at the better side of it. Betel nut and all that sort of stuff all round the countryside, like you get all over there. No, it’s not an experience that one would want to go through twice, but it was in interesting interlude to know what that side of life was like.
And tell me about the police when they came into the slave quarters to get you, what happened then?
Nothing, they just told us to get out.


And we summed up the situation and they just told us how to get out and where to go, which we did. They weren’t worrying us too much. They just told us to go. They just wanted us to go because they realised that if we stayed there, there would be trouble, so they didn’t manhandle us, they just came over and spoke to us.
Okay, and what was the lecture that they gave to you before you got off the boat for Colombo?


It was just a case of telling you how to behave yourself in an area, just like you do with anything else. That’s all, I mean it was just an ordinary lecture telling you how to behave yourself, what to do, where you could go and where you shouldn’t go.
Can you remember it?
No, it was nothing more. It would be so much different now. They just tell you how to handle the locals, what the locals


might expect when you go into a shop or something like that.
They said you couldn’t go into the slave quarter, where else did they say you couldn’t go?
I don’t know. That was basically that was the area of Colombo where you just don’t go, or where we weren’t to go. Anywhere else we just wandered around the streets like anyone else would do.
What was in the slave quarters?
What was in there?
Was it brothels?


Could have been, I wouldn’t have a clue. You just had these fellows standing there. We were only in there probably twenty minutes at the most so wouldn’t have a clue what was in there but I wouldn’t be surprised. I mean it was probably the likely spot but it’s not the sort of place I would go looking for that type of thing anyway. It was probably an area that was full of diseases and Lord knows what else. No.
So you can’t remember what else they said to you and what else you couldn’t do?


Oh no. I mean it was fairly free and easy. They just told us about the shopping and things like that, special prices for HM [His Majesty’s] Forces, which there were, if they could get away with it. There is plenty of that if you go over to the Middle East and you’ll find the same thing if you ever go over there yourself, special prices for you, if you’re silly enough to pay them.


Did you buy anything when you were there?
Yeah, I bought a few things. You probably bought a few bits and pieces. I forget what it was now.
Can you remember?
No, can’t remember?
Listen, that’s sixty three years ago.
You’ve been remembering things longer than that.
Not in that sort of a field, what did I buy and what I didn’t buy. No I wouldn’t because it would be


purely incidental.
Couldn’t remember?
No, it would be quite incidental little bits and pieces because they would have been of any great import. Probably something I saw and put it in my bag or sent it home or something.
What about the other blokes? What did they get up to?
Oh they were much the same as ourselves. As I say I don’t think there was too many went down to the slave quarter. There was only about half a dozen of us that did that.


And then after that we went round our different ways. I’ve told you sort of most of the bits and pieces that we did. About being picked up by the P&O Line and the trip we did up to Kandy and that’s about all we did. And then it was a case of onboard and off to Kantara.
So tell me about Kantara?
Not much to tell you.


We just got off and got on a train and went up to Palestine.
No interesting incidents to report on the way?
It was just an ordinary army manoeuvre, just getting off the boat, getting hold of your gear and going ashore, getting onto the train and up through the desert on the train.


It must have been fascinating looking out of the windows of the train though at what was passing by?
I wouldn’t say so. I mean that sort of country there is not very fascinating anyway. I mean it’s probably less fascinating than it is when you get out past Cobar. I mean I wouldn’t classify, I don’t know whether you’ve been out to Cobar or Wilcannia? I mean you wouldn’t classify that as terribly interesting would you?
This was the first time you’d been overseas though?


Oh I know, but still that sort of country is not what I would call. It is just sandy, well not really sandy just rocky country. The trains were pretty rough. We were just put in there a bit like cattle and the toilet was nothing more than a hole in the bottom of the carriage with a tap over the top.
So it is rocky, sandy


country? Can you be more specific about things like textures and colours and things that you’d see out the window?
No. I wouldn’t like to sort of go into that too much. I mean it was more of a sandy, greyish-type country, that type of thing. Then later it becomes a country with a very low growth on it, and then of course you get up into Palestine with the orange trees and the olive trees and that type of thing, which then became a bit


more fertile, as you got up basically north of Gaza. But south of Gaza it is very much desert, sort of. Not overly impressive, no water.
Did you see any nomadic people or any animals, wildlife?
No, didn’t see any of that, there was nothing like that. We knew they were there but we didn’t see them much.


I mean the Arab himself is in some ways, well there are a different type of – there are two different types of Arab, really. There is the nomadic Arab and the town Arab. And they are of a different, both a different nature really. My guess is that it would be the town Arab now that is causing a lot of the trouble.
So tell me about when you arrived in Palestine?


When we arrived in Palestine, we went straight to Julis Camp and that would have been in around about early November in 1940.
And what was Julis Camp like?
Muddy. It was only purely under canvas, it was all canvas with floorboards on the


base of the tent and that was basically what it was. It was just a tented camp and when it rained there was mud up to your hocks. And that was, you did what training you could, route marches, basically getting gear, getting gear organised, everybody just sort of organising yourselves where you could and how you could.
Did it rain often?


Yeah, often enough. I can remember, well I’ve got some photos there somewhere of Christmas Day with mud and slush all over. No, it wasn’t what I would call the most pleasant of situations but it wasn’t too bad. I mean you are young in those days and you cope and then of course you have the odd days or nights or something like that where you get some leave and you’d probably take a truck and go into


Tel Aviv and have a few beers and come back home again but I mean that was more what the life was like. You didn’t get the opportunity to do too much. There was discipline and at that stage I had a certain amount of dental problems that were fixed up in the camp because like a lot of those things you don’t get the opportunity to


look after your teeth as you should do.
What was wrong with your teeth?
Oh just cavities and things like that and the dentist decided to take out some of my wisdom teeth. He said, “You won’t need these,” and he seemed to know more about it than I did. And he just said, “We’ll take those out,” he said, “You won’t need those.”
Painful operation?
Oh you put up with it, don’t you?


It is all over in 24 hours.
So the camps that you slept in, the Julis Camp, you say it was all under canvas. Was that including the sleeping quarters and everything like that?
Got any interesting stories about it raining when you were trying to sleep?
No. No. The only interesting thing that I can tell you is we had one fellow in the camp who was a very good artist, and when he was


lying in bed, he painted on there a naked lady on there so that when the wind blew, the sheet went like that and she moved in a very erotic fashion didn’t she?
What did he paint it with?
I shouldn’t tell you those things, should I? Hey. Why should I?
Yes. You should. It’s not for me, it’s for the Archive. So what did he paint with?
I shouldn’t be telling you these things.


No you should. What did he paint with?
Because they are putting wrong ideas in the back of your head.
Believe me I’ve got many wrong ideas in my head probably already. What did he paint the painting out of? Like where did he get the paints and how did he do it?
He didn’t, he did it with chalk.
Was it any good?
Was he any good? Yeah, he was. He was very clever actually. It became a showpiece for the camp for a while.


I can imagine.
Interviewee: Edward Carter Archive ID 1176 Tape 05


I can only answer questions as you try to delve it out of me, but for me to try to sort of recall a lot of it without you asking these questions I just wouldn’t, probably can’t now.
You are doing a really good job anyway.
Because I am on sort of memory killing stuff as well.


Like you said you probably haven’t talked about it for a long time so it may not be right there.
I don’t talk about it.
So just in terms of Julis Camp, how did you find out about this artist and his impression on the top of the canvas?
Every bloke in the unit was talking about it. How would you hide it?


When it was the only thing that was of any talking interest in the camp at the whole time, that was exactly it. I mean for those sorts of things the word goes around very quickly, very smartly. But I mean Julis Camp was probably, Christmas time there was very muddy. The officers


did the waiting on the men for the Christmas dinner, which was traditional. But it was very muddy underfoot and very slippery but you got through it and so that was possibly Christmas Day. You were probably looking for something that was going to be nice and joyous and things like that but it didn’t turn out that way because conditions didn’t allow it.
So did he charge people to come in and look at his image?


No, he had no chance, no chance.
Did he try?
I don’t think so, he wouldn’t have got far if he did.
So how did he organise everyone wanting to come in and look at it?
He didn’t. People just took it at their own advantage when they wanted to. They would come in and have a look at it and things like that. But of course once they had had a look at it and things like that, it just became passé, as you might say.
And can you describe it?


Well it was a naked lady which he had just drawn on the tent in charcoal, the outline and things like that in the form of her and of course when you’ve got the movement of the tent I’ll leave that to your own imaginations.
Was it in colour or black and white?
No, black and white. It was just purely done in charcoal, that’s all you had. He did it with the rough stuff that he had but he was a very clever artist and he just did it so well.


Did he do other, sorry what were you going to say?
No, that’s all, as far as I know that’s, I can just remember that, took him a while but then you see he’s got other jobs, he’s probably got other things and he’d probably be on guard duties and various things at night times. But you get the odd fellow who can do these sorts of things and some of them are very clever.
So he wasn’t an official war artist or


anything like that?
No, he was just one of the boys.
What did he do as a day job back at home? Can you remember?
No, wouldn’t have a clue.
Was he an artist?
Could have been, I wouldn’t have a clue. But some of these fellows I mean they don’t, I mean in our unit we had, as I said to you before we had a lot of fellows who came from very many different jobs. Some were jobless boys, unemployed, unemployable.


Some were sort of virtually semi-criminals, all coming into, because our unit was formed towards the end of the 6th Divi and a lot of those sort of fellows who couldn’t get in at first came in to us. We had a certain amount of what you might say dregs, the harder type. They were very supportive sorts of fellows, sort of fellows who in a tough spot they’d stand by you like nobody’s business but put them out in other places and they could be absolute


Can you give me an example?
Not really. I can remember when we were in Greta camp one of the younger fellows and he really started playing up and he started playing up in the Greta Hotel. And he started quite a fight there and the boys got behind him and stopped


the fight. But when he got back to camp, he was pulled aside and told that if he ever did it again he would be entirely on his own. They would not help him out of his problem and, “Don’t you ever try and do it again!” He got a very loud and clear message.
So who was he fighting with?
Oh a gentleman who was speaking too much out of turn in the pub. He obviously upset somebody,


however it started.
So it wasn’t somebody in the army, it was someone civilian he was fighting with?
Oh it could have been someone from another unit, because there were other units in the camp as well. I wouldn’t want to say what it was but it started quite a mêlée and when you get a melee you don’t know where the centre of it is sometimes. But that’s what they did, they just pulled him aside and when he got back to camp he was told in no uncertain terms.


So how did they sort him out? How did they tell him what was what?
Oh they just pulled him aside and gave him a bloody good talking to.
The other blokes did that were there with him?
That was the law of the game. I mean he was just told straight out, “Don’t ever start that sort of thing boy, don’t ever do that again, because if you do you’ll be entirely on your own. You’ll pull yourself out of your own problems.”


But they did help him then?
On that occasion they did, because they realised he was young and being rather foolish.
What was the outcome, what happened?
The outcome was that everything just sort of stopped and went back to normal. It was just that when he got back to camp he got a message. Just like sometimes if you did something wrong when you are out at a party and you get home and Dad tells you exactly what you should do,


what you should have done and not what not to do, doesn’t he? Just quietly at home in your own little corner without anyone else knowing and that’s the way it’s done but you know you don’t do it again.
So Ted, tell me more about the Julis camp? How long were you there?
Julis Camp, we were there for barely two months


and the unit then went up to Cyrenaica. It went up there and I went off to another camp. I can’t tell you which one it is now because I was sort of left behind with a nucleus of other fellows and we were sort of more or less say a B echelon at that stage but what we did really was, well I know I did with a number of others, we used to have to go down to Suez and


go onboard some of the Australian ships coming over and talk to the fellows about life in the Middle East, about handling the Arabs or the wogs, as we called them. But we were officially told to call them the ‘Worthy Oriental Gentleman’, but that’s what they were doing. We had to show them what they were to do and what they weren’t to do and


then we’d come back to camp again. We’d go down and just sort of greet them and they’d go off to wherever they had to go and we’d come back again. But to some degree we were in between jobs so we made life a little bit easier for ourselves and probably spent a bit of time in the Suez Club or got on a train and went up to Cairo or something like that. We just make life a bit easier for ourselves in some ways but


then that only lasted for about a month and then I was sent up the desert and I rejoined the unit.
Was this at Tobruk?
No. This was before Tobruk. I am looking now at February, probably towards the end of February.
So just coming back to that time, you were saying it was about a month that you were stationed at various places,


and was that on leave or was that just sort of?
No, that was just part of the job. I don’t know what actually happened, I’m going to have to go for a minute but because I can remember when I got to Derna and things like that and I reported in and the CO looked at me and said, “What are you doing here? I didn’t ask for you.” I thought, “What the bloody hell? I’ve travelled all this way and done exactly as I’m told and that’s the welcome I get.”


Do you want to nick off for a second?
Can I go off for a minute?
Yep. Not a problem.
You could be and so can we all.
Ted, so who was your CO?
At that stage, well when I started off it was Colonel McGillicuddy but he left us in the Middle East . He left us, when I was, or just after Julis and then he used to take me aside and try and teach me a whole heap of


maths and things like that, which was good of him but then he went home and Colonel Brown took over, Arnold Brown. And he and I, for some reason or other never seemed to get on. I’ll never know why. I’ve never known why to this day, but for some reason that was his attitude to me, “why did you come here? I didn’t ask for you. Why are you here?” I just said, “Because I’ve been sent here, Sir.”


What else do you do?
Was that your first run in with him?
Oh well I don’t know that you’d classify it as a run in. That was his first greeting. Apart from that I’d never really had much to do with him because he was 2IC [Second in Command] and things like that and we mostly dealt with, and 2ICs were more in charge of supplies and things like that, where as the CO took more overall control. McGillicuddy, I got on quite well with him.


He and I got on. As I say he used to try and teach me maths and things like that but he got himself into trouble too. But he wasn’t a terribly well man.
How did he get himself into trouble?
Because of his illness he was sent down to Cairo for recuperation and he was on the houseboat on the Nile, which was a recreation boat.


And that was run by a certain major who was apparently a friend of Blamey’s, so I’ve been told. This is the story as I know it. And old Mac one night went out and he got a bit on the tiles and they were supposed to be back at ten o’clock at night but he came back at half past eleven or something. And apparently the major stood him up and sort of said “you shouldn’t be doing that.” He was really abusive, or something like that so old Mac, who was a colonel, just picked him up


and dropped him head first over the side of the boat into the Nile. The story went to Blamey and McGillicuddy came home. That’s the story as I know it but knowing Mac that could be quite right because he was a very, very good boxer, very capable of looking after himself and he was very strong in those sorts of fields. But he was also a very typical what you might call Scottish-Irish


temperament and knew exactly what he wanted and if you stood up to him like that that’s exactly what you could expect from him and that’s exactly what he did. He just said, “I’m a colonel and you’re a major.” Wop. So he went home to other controls, so I don’t know what happened so Brownie took over.
So where did Brownie come from?


He was as far as I know a stock and station agent out west. He was a First World War man. He did have an MC from the First World War. I don’t know quite what his background was in that but that was what he was but his thinking was always World War I type thinking.


That was the way he always went.
What did the rest of the boys think of him?
Well he didn’t get the nickname of Butcher for nothing because that was his attitude towards a lot of things. He had probably


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.
Just explain to me why he broke it up?
If I could answer that question I would tell you. I cannot recall


it. I was never given a reason. One of the other company commanders just came and told me, “That’s what you’ve got to do.”
So the guy sounds like a complete fool?
Well in my book he got the name of ‘butcher’ for a very good reason but I don’t want to go into that too much because it’s not something that I would like to put down into record because


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.
Excellent description of Tobruk. Did Colonel Brown know that you knew about that incident with White and the others?


I wouldn’t even know, I wouldn’t even know. I never spoke to him about it. I never discussed it with him and I never said anything but he probably would have known where I was and I always had my thoughts on it. But knowing the situation between him and I, I kept my mouth shut and I found that was the best way to handle the situation, just kept your mouth shut and said nothing and didn’t give him a clue.


And I found that was the best way. I mean they used to try various things and that’s all I did the whole way through there I just kept my mouth shut because I thought the less you know the better so I used to just say nothing, not to him anyway nor to many of his senior officers because they were of much the same ilk. They were somewhat what I would call ‘yes men’,


elderly ‘yes men’. Now when I come back and I talk to others I find that there was quite a number of others that had the same feeling as I had, now that I come back, once I have come back.


And I do know that at a later stage the unit did get itself into a lot of trouble, but I don’t want to go into that. That’s unit history. You are not interested in that, you’re more interested in my own story and that’s that but I do know, having spoken to a quite a number of fellows at reunions and things like that since what there feelings, were not a great deal different to mine.


How were they similar?
They didn’t have respect. And then one fellow, he’s dead now but I think he was a nephew of old Tom Blamey, his name was Blamey anyway but he was, he did the sort of


reverse traverse that I did. I was with the 2/1st and then went over with the 2/3rd. He was with the 2/3rd and then at a later stage went over to the 2/1st, and we often talked because of our different variations of the different things like that and he came with exactly the same thoughts that I did.


But the poor old fellow is dead now but he was a bit of a rapscallion. He was always in trouble. Pinching someone’s bottle of whisky or something like that, he was very good at that.


So you and Brown were getting on before this incident?
Yes, but I never knew why. I mean I never knew why. I never had much to do with him, but somewhere, I will never know, and I can never know to this day. But I don’t want to go into all that side of things because that becomes army history and things like that and you’re not interested in that.


We are actually very interested in all that because that is part of us as Australians.
Of course he ultimately finished up from New Guinea, I think he went down and put a complaint in to, I think it was to Moreshead or somebody like that and Moreshead told him straight out, “Colonel Brown,” he said, “you will never get above the rank of colonel.”


He told him straight so I’ve been told and this is what I’ve been told, which I wasn’t surprised at, because obviously from a remark like that people from the higher echelons obviously knew quite a fair bit also. Because the battalion was never used in my book in a manner which is was supposed to be,


that battalion, the 2/1st. The 2/3rd was a very different point of view. The 2/3rd was a very different setup, particularly with some of the company commanders and things like that. And that was a very different, very different point of view.
Share with me again the incident with White and Brown and what


I can’t. I’ve told you all that I know. I can’t share you with anything more. I have told you as much as I know. I was not there. All I know is I was that away and I know the result. I don’t know what they were doing and how it came about but all I know is they were playing cards one night and that was the result of it.


I can’t tell you another thing and I don’t know. There is only one fellow who could probably tell you now and he’s not with us anyway. That would have been Colonel Brown himself, because one died and the other one was so badly wounded that he had to come back to Australia,


and Brownie came out of it unscathed. You can make up your own minds on that.
These officers weren’t yes men?
No, no, Egan he was the adjutant. He was the battalion adjutant and Whitey, he was never a yes man. He was a very respected man. No, he


was a fellow who would say what he thought and why not? And he usually, from my point of view, White would tell you he didn’t agree with you but he would always do it in a nice way, but you knew where you stood and there is no harm in that. No. Well that was, I mean that was Tobruk and I came out through


hospital and then I spent a period of time on the recreation boat where we used to go ahead and go into the Gezira Club and play a bit of tennis and a few things like that to get ourselves back into some sort of physical condition. And I spent quite a bit of time in the dentist.


We’ll talk about that on the next tape. We’re going to stop on this one.
Interviewee: Edward Carter Archive ID 1176 Tape 06


So Ted, tell me the joke or the story explaining the –
You mean about the lieutenant who was giving a talk to his troops about all the problems of venereal diseases, which he


went through and all things like that and which he did all that and then he finished up by saying, “now you can see all the troubles that you can have from five minutes of fun, are there any questions?” And a voice from the back came up “Yes, Sir.” “And what sort of question have you got John?” “Please Sir, can you tell me how you make it last five minutes?”


So what other jokes are there?
No, that’s enough.
Come on. We’re here waiting?
No, that’s enough, that’s enough, I can’t think of any more. I only thought of that one while I was having lunch. You’ll waste your tape.


What is she trying to do? Put it down in writing is she?
No, she’s just starting up. What do the fellows say joke-wise about the locals?
Are you talking Palestine or where are we now?
Yeah, Palestine.
I’m just trying to work out where you were.
What sort of jokes did the fellows have about the locals?
There weren’t many.


They’d say they were ‘worthy oriental gentlemen’. That was, they were commonly known as a wog. He was very clever. He could take the pillow out from under your head while you were asleep without you knowing it, and that has been done too when you were in a tent, because most of our living in Palestine was under canvas, which you must appreciate and he was very clever in anything


of that nature. But he didn’t get up to too much while all out troops were there. We had one very amusing situation with the Arabs once when a couple of them one night tried to get into our Q store and ate some quite some tins of bully beef and quite a bit of cheese and the boys caught him and so they made them finish up the cheese and the bully that hadn’t been eaten


and then took them down to the RAP – which is the regimental aid post, first aid – and put two number nine pills into each one of them. If you know what they, they are the ones that really keep you moving. They then put them in the truck and took them down to Gaza and made them walk home. There was a trail behind those two all the way back to the village, which you can imagine just what happened but we never had any more trouble from that village all the time we were there.


It was a very good practical way of quietening the problem down. We had no more thieving or anything like that, it stopped it. You know what number nines do, don’t you? They are big pills about the size of your thumbnail and they are worse than Epsom Salts. You know what that does? Don’t you? It makes you move [stops constipation].


It makes you move fast too. One is enough. Two is very potent. It really cleans you out, but we had no more trouble.
So you are saying the two fellows had diarrhoea?
Well we gave it to them.


What other things?
Oh no I thought that was, I mean they’re just some of the things. You probably know all the little tricks the blokes used to get up to, selling Arabs plenty of tea. They would put used tea leaves in the bottom of the bag and then sprinkle the top with some good stuff and then sell it to them.


No. I think that’s, what else would you like to know?
Other sort of pranks you did?
Other sorts of pranks you did on the Arabs?
No, I think that was more along the lines of, we only used pranks when it was necessary, but quite often those sort of things didn’t go, because a lot of the time we were on our own anyway. The Arabs didn’t worry us much.


Not a great deal. I mean probably others can tell you various bits and pieces here and there which they did on their own but many of us didn’t get up to that much problem. They are just some that I can remember that took part while I was in the areas that I was there but we were on the move quite a bit. You were never very static, maybe for a couple of months and then you always


moved on after that. But that was, I mean that’s the start of the Middle East. I think I was starting to tell you about the problems when we came out of Tobruk, was I?
Actually I would like to find out more about the night attacks or patrols in Tobruk?
Well you can’t say too much because in most cases there was not a great deal happening.


You went out on patrol and you had a look to see what was happening and if there was nothing there and things like that you just scouted the area because the German was a great patrolman. But we used to go out there to find out what was happening, see what was going and things like that but invariably nothing much happened. Occasionally some of the fellows might have been sent out on what they called a fighting patrol, which was determined to do over a certain post or something like that.


I was lucky enough not to have to be pushed into one of those. Most of my patrols were sort of seek and find but mostly was mostly seeking, making certain that the Germans weren’t using any areas or things like that when you did that. It may have been, particularly at Al Alamein, trying to work out where his wire was and what lines he’d put down over a period of time or something like that, what he was doing


so that we were preparing ourselves so that you could take that information back. They were more sort of information gathering patrols rather than a fighting patrols and most of our patrols would have been information patrols rather than fighting patrols. Occasionally there may have been if you had some special area that was giving you a lot of trouble they may decide to wipe it out, but invariably if they did wipe it out, it would come back again anyway,


because the German just didn’t take it sitting down. No more than we did.
Tell me about mateship and how important that was?
Mateship, like any area in life it was very important. We all like to have friends and mates, people whom we could rely on.


Over there I mean mateship was very important when you were in forward areas mainly because you had someone whom you could talk with and have a joke with because life became very dull if you were there entirely on your own. In fact it would be horribly boring and in fact some ways it could mentally upset you because you would in that are entirely on your own. Few fellows can take it, but not many


and so mateship was really important from that point of view. I mean it is there and also it’s a mateship you know you’ve got someone beside you if things get tight you have someone to rely on. That’s more, mateship is made a lot of but in many ways it is a necessity of life. You all need them and we all want them, male or female,


and it’s there. It’s someone you can talk to and you can probably discuss various things. Someone gets to know you reasonably well and you get to know him reasonably well, in some sort of depth and if he says he will do something you can relay on it or if you are in a tight spot then you know he’ll help you. That’s basically it and I mean you had a few. I mean they come and go like everybody else does depending on where you go and what you


are. You get, like I did, you get moved around from one spot to the other and sometimes it is hard to develop a constant mateship because you get broken up, so you’ve got to form now ones. But overall even now through out the units and things like that and you go down to unit gatherings and things now and I mean they are very friendly and that’s what they always are and that’s what it’s all about.


You don’t live in each others pockets. You know each but you know damn well if you’re tight they’ll help you and you’ll help them. With our gatherings now, I mean I think the women folk enjoy it now as much as we do. They’ve all got to know each other, the various wives and things of nature and they’ve all got to know each other and they chatter away like you know what, like women do.


Who were your close mates while you were at Tobruk?
I don’t whether I had any what you might call really close mates. I suppose Lofty Barlow was a bloke I could talk to pretty often. He handled the maintenance section, because I got moved around quite a bit. I wouldn’t say there was anybody. I mean I knew quite a lot of them and I got along with


a lot of them but I wouldn’t say there was any that I was able to get absolutely close to that I would stay in the same hole with or anything like that all the time. No, but I mean there was a lot of fellows I could get along with and talk to, have a yarn with, yes, but not someone that I would classify as someone that I would go and spent a lot of time with all the time, no, not in that category,


but I’ve always found a lot of people I can always talk to.
What did you fear most about Tobruk?
What did I fear most? I suppose my own situation with Colonel Brown was the thing that probably


worried me most, because it didn’t give me any feeling of security. I was never sure of myself. If it came from the enemy point of view the greatest fear I probably had was from the air because we had no air cover. And he could come in and do anything he wanted to whenever he wanted to, but the other hand too you developed very, very acute hearing. You could pickup his engines very, very quickly and


it was amazing how you could just automatically pick it up and you’d get some idea of where he was and you knew whether you had to go for cover or whether he was coming your way or not. You developed that very quickly and very acutely. It was amazing. It was probably the self-protection system within you. The German artillery was probably another one that you probably feared


but you didn’t have much say in that because you could just pretty well hit anywhere within Tobruk where he wanted to, with his long-range stuff. And it didn’t matter where you where you were, you had that but I mean if it was going to be your turn it was your turn and that was it. What else can you do? But it wasn’t my turn. It went close on one or two


occasions but not close enough.
Can you tell me about those occasions?
Well I’ve told you about the shell that was a dud and a few things like that and I think that’s about the only time. I mean I also remember the time when the Germans bombed what they called Port Palestrina


where the engineers had all their explosives and he put a bomb in the middle of it. And as I always say it was the first time I’ve ever seen a bomb bounce because the whole thing went up, bang, all our explosives plus his bomb. But that’s life. I mean that’s happened on probably a number of occasions but that’s one I did see. But that’s, I mean Tobruk was a very enclosed


situation. He could do what he wanted to but we sort of kept him at bay but mainly on the other hand too because he had interests further down which the British were keeping him pretty busy too. But if Rommel would have had half a chance he would have liked to take Tobruk because it would have shortened his area of communications very shortly and that’s what he wanted to do.


But I think from his point of view towards the end it took too much of his troops away because he was starting to become more developed down further west. Anyway.
And why were you so concerned about Brown?
Because I said to you I just didn’t know where I stood with him, I didn’t know, I’ve never known. As I said to Chris [interviewer], I just didn’t know.


I never knew what his reasons were but I just never felt secure and I never felt any trust in him. I never felt I could trust him, but that’s an inward feeling. You must get that feeling too about other people at times? You sort of feel I can’t trust him, and something inside you says, ‘Don’t!’ You really don’t know why, do you?


Sometimes you’d like to know why but you can’t delve too deeply or you start delving into other people’s characters and then you are in real trouble. There are limits to what one can do. You just have to work on your own intuition, if I may use that word.
He sent you on dangerous missions?
Well as I mentioned to you I mean before he sent me out of this one where I took some people behind enemy lines when we were coming back and this was before lunch


which I mentioned to you before, which we had a little bit of fun and games but that’s already recorded. But that was just about the end of that. As I said and then I came out of Tobruk and that was through hospital because of my feet and things like that. And then you look at it, I mean our rations in Tobruk for water was basically a gallon a day.


Well we got a water bottle full and the kitchen got the rest. The kitchen used to bring up tea at night time but that was the only time and other than that you lived on your water bottle and that was for cleaning your teeth, doing your ablutions, whatever you had to do. So I mean that was your daily ration for probably sometimes weeks on end that’s the way you lived. Then when you came out of the front line you’d probably go down to the beach and have a swim in the ocean and things like that and probably clean your clothes down there,


but that was all in salt water anyway and that was how you sort of kept yourself clean. Then I developed the tinea and then I went out through hospital and that became a different life. It was a bit more comfortable. That’s when I had a terrible time with my teeth.
So just staying at Tobruk for a little bit longer if you wouldn’t mind,


you are up the front line. I take it you had to stay in your holes all day, is that right?
Yes. You’d put a groundsheet over the top to keep the sun off and that was your protection. You either lay there or crawled around or moved around fully bent up. If you’d wanted to go and talk to somebody else or see somebody else you had to move around in a really bent down situation or something like that.


You couldn’t stand up for fears of snipers and things like that and of course the Germans would do the same thing. If you spotted one of him walking around too in the daytime you would, but he wasn’t foolish enough either and basically that’s how we got the name or we were christened ‘rats’ because we lived underground, but you had no alternative anyway. People in many cases don’t see that but I mean


that was a matter of self protection. And the depth was mainly because it was bloody hard to get down even that far because the ground was very hard and once you got that far you sort of said, “Well, that’s deep enough.” And so you lived like that and that’s the way it was. Of course on the other hand too they were not too hard to get out of.


because what you’ve got to be frightened of is, particularly in open warfare like that, is the deeper you go the more fear you create.
In what way?
In what way? Because if you get down deep you won’t get out, you’ll stay there. You won’t, you are looking at your own protection because you can move about without it.


That was probably one of the big problems with any of those big concrete things and things like that, because people would get under there and then when the enemy came they wouldn’t get out to fight because they wanted to have the protection of everything that was around them. But if you are out in the open then you’ve damn well got to get out and fight him, whether you like it or not. I say it creates more fear because being down there you feel safe and that does create a sort of a fear.


Because if you know you’ve got to get up, I mean I’ll put it to you this way, I don’t know whether you play much sport but if you go and line yourself up at a football game and you see the bloke opposite you and he’s about three times bigger and you think to yourself, “My God, what am I doing here?” But once you’ve been into the game five minutes you’ve forgotten all about that and everything and you’re getting along, and it’s the same thing. I mean the deeper


you go the more uncertainty you get whereas if you’ve got that it’s like being in the game rugby, you’re involved in it all the time. Does that explain anything to you? But depth can create fear.
What did you do with cowards?
I don’t really recall any. I mean sometimes


they just didn’t come forward. I don’t really recall being involved with anyone who I would classify as a coward. I have no doubt that there were some but I don’t know whether you’d classify them as cowards or whether they were just overcome with some form of a fear, or whether it was some form of a nervous breakdown because some fellows can stand more than others.


Some fellows nervous system can go on for quite a bit. Others will break down, their nervous system and lose control over it but hey are not necessarily cowards. They don’t necessarily run away in that sense but they can’t probably take themselves into the occupation that they are supposed to do,


or they are not so forthright, something like that. They are probably more standish back rather than being a coward.
And the minefields at Tobruk?
The minefields at Tobruk? Well we were probably the ones that laid the minefields more than the Germans did, because the Germans were more on the offensive and therefore they didn’t need that but whereas we being more in the defensive situation we did employ them quite a bit and they were quite heavy particularly behind the forward areas there were quite a lot.


And when he came in, in the April bunch it was probably to some degree the minefields that delayed him and they protected us because they blew out his tanks. His tanks went over the top and that put him out of action but later on of course their minefield became in greater depth but it was more us that needed them in Tobruk because


because he was the offender and he was on the attack all the time so therefore because he knew we were not as likely to push out there and he had some ways because of the heights he had some form of control if we attacked. But he knew damn well that it was going to be very difficult for him to shift us too and he was told so on one or two occasions.


Oh well, I mean air patrols and things like that, they soon find it out. In April, with the big April offensive that he went in to, he didn’t, he got knocked back on that one. He tried to get us out and we knocked him back. One of the biggest things that put him back was, as you might remember, over in France


what he relied on very much was a close relationship between the infantry and the tanks. The tanks used to get, the infantry used to get very close behind the tanks. Well our fellows certainly they woke up to that in a very early stage of the war and what we did was let the tanks run over the top of the trenches because when you were down in the trench the tanks couldn’t do much harm to you, they’d go over the top. Because once the tank would go, over up you’d come with your machine guns, and the infantry


used to get, they weren’t used to that and they got very heavy casualties because of that. And then the tanks suddenly found that they didn’t have the infantry support that they required, so that separated their infantry from the tanks and that upset the Germans a lot because the Germans, as you probably know, have a very mechanical type mind and thereby


any variation to the planning and things like that upsets them a bit and so that was probably one of the biggest factors of why we defeated them in the April offensive when they tried to come in. They got some ground but they didn’t get what they wanted to and they didn’t shift us, not too far anyway. They made a bit of a bulge.


Hand to hand conflict?
Was it hand-to-hand conflict?
There would have been some but I wasn’t involved in that. I was a bit more behind the lines at that stage. At that stage I was more involved in anti-aircraft side of things but in the front infantry there would have been, for sure.
So how long were you in the anti-aircraft section?


Oh that was probably six to eight weeks I suppose.
You mentioned the one plane that you got, what other planes did you hit?
That’s all, because I said to you after that he broke us up. We got broken up, but then,


that was that and then of course, as I said after Tobruk I went out through the hospital and then up through the staging camp and then I went up to Syria where I was allocated to the 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion when they were up there at Dimra.


Are you right? And that’s where we were up at Dimra, which was out of Damascus. That was a good little spot but we had to work hard there because we were doing a lot of defence work and putting a lot of defences up in the hills. We were in fear that the Germans might come down. That was their biggest fear at that stage which never happened but that’s what they were working on.


And we did some long route marches and a few things like that all throughout that area. But it also gave us an opportunity in our times off to go and have a look at a lot of the ancient, what should I call them? Relics and things like that, like have a look at the temples of Baalbek that are not falling down, or go through Damascus and look at the old biblical stuff or looking at old Mt Hebron.


I mean you got an opportunity to see quite a bit of that. I had some opportunities to look round Jerusalem and you learned quite a bit though that, which was quite a bit of fun. I suppose the biggest problem that we had in Damascus was probably the effect of arak on the troops. Well, arak is


a very strong potent spirit, very much like vodka, and some of the fellows would drink quite a bit of it and it would damn near send them mad. We had one fellow we had to go and put him virtually in a padded cell one day because he was just creating so much havoc. We just got hold of him and of course the silly part with that arak stuff to was you probably got up on the morning and you’d go and have a drink of


water and you were just as silly as you were the night before. I don’t know how much experience you’ve had in those sort of things but that’s the effect that it does have. As I said it’s very much like vodka and those sorts of things but some fellows went over there and were young and silly and just didn’t know when to stop. They’d go berserk and create problems


unfortunately, but that’s the way life went.
Damascus is also known for its brothels?
Yes, very much so. A ‘Street called Straight’, but basically that was out of bounds for troops because of the high incidences of venereal diseases and things like that in it but it didn’t stop the troops from going down there. And we


had to go down there and do patrols. There had to be a patrol go down there every night basically. We didn’t like doing it but we had to for the self-protection of the troop but they still went down there and we still caught them. But I can remember, Chris would probably enjoy this one, but I remember on particular time when we raided a


certain ‘den’, if I may use that terminology, which we had to do. We had to go and raid half a dozen or so when we were on duty, because if we caught them it was quite a punishable offence, but on this, even so for the girl. But on this occasion the girl was so quick that she was out from underneath the bloke and gone when she heard us coming up


the stairs. How the hell she did it I’ll never know but he was left there looking as silly as a rabbit. I never knew to this day how it happened but we just laughed. The experiences, I used to hate doing it because it wasn’t a job I used to like. I mean the girls used to show off their wares, they used to sit in the windows.


It was a bit like selling jewellery in a shop. It was all there on show. Oh no, that wasn’t my cup of tea things, but it was a job we had to do because we did it for protection. And the army did provide what they called the White House, which was a place set up, which was under proper medical supervision for exactly that purpose if the boys wanted it.


And the girls and everything like that was all under medical supervision, but I don’t know, how you stop that I don’t know. We never could and never did because there was still the silly fool that would want to go and do it all, but that was that. That was their problem. And then from Damascus we went then across to Tripoli or to Checker,


where we then, we were over there then and of course that was another place and we didn’t have to do those horrible patrols there but we were sent up to the Cedars to do defence work up there, what they call the Cedars. I don’t know if you know the Cedars of Lebanon but it is quite high up. You are up in snow country there and it is quite cold. And we used to have a lot of fun up there with, you’d probably call it skiing if you like.


Of course we all had the shovels and the weekends when we had a bit of time off the boys would go up into the snow and the boys would take their shovel up there and what they used to do was sit on the base of their shovel and put the handle up between your legs, lift your legs off the snow and away you’d go. A good way to get piles, that I’ve proved, but I


tell you what, gee you could go down fast. You’d get the base of the shovel and it would slide very well on the snow. Throw your feet up in the air and away you’d go. Well we had no skis. How else do you make your fun? Most of your fun had to be home made, you know. Most of your fun you made it yourself somehow with whatever you had.


The White House, I don’t understand what it is?
The White House? Well that’s exactly what it was. It was just a big white house known as the White House. It was just a house that was basically just kept specifically as a protected brothel for the troops within it. We just knew it as the White House, but as I said the girls and the whole thing was under proper medical supervision.


The girls were all under supervision and everybody had to do that, the boys, if they did that had to go and get special treatment afterwards and this sort of thing to stop the VD [venereal disease] situation, but that was always there if they wanted to.
So why didn’t all the boys use the White House as apposed to anything else?
A very good question. I’d like to know the answer to that myself.


If the answer to that was that, why did we have to go and do this ruddy horrible patrols down the street called Strait and look in those horrible places. We used to hate it but we had to go and do it. If you can answer that question I think we’d all like to know the answer to that one but you’ll always get the silly fool that will want to do it.


I never knew the answer to that.
We’ll just stop there and –
Interviewee: Edward Carter Archive ID 1176 Tape 07


Just coming back to the White House, Ted, what was it like in the interior?
Oh reasonably clean. I didn’t go in there very often. Nothing more than just probably to have a look and see what it was like just inside and that was as far as it ever got. I never got past the reception desk.


We would just go in there and sometimes we would have to go in there and if we were orderly officer we would have to make sure things were under control but that was as far as it ever went.
How many girls were there?
I couldn’t really answer that. I would say about four or five but I couldn’t really answer that. I never went into those sorts of details, who they were, what they were. I know they had a number of girls there


and I know it was all under doctors supervision, proper medical supervision, beyond that I didn’t take that much more interest in it.
And how did you feel about all these fellows going off to the brothels?
That’s their business not mine. I just thought if you’re silly enough to want to go and do all those sort of things


or if that’s the way nature insists you go, that’s their problem. I had enough problems of my own without worrying about people doing those sorts of things. I wanted to have my leave doing other sorts of things and looking round the country and seeing what history had to talk about. When I was on leave I used to go and probably try and study history a bit more and things like that see what there was there. Or maybe fraternise with one or two of the


Arabs or something like that who used to work with us up in the hills, particularly the boss boys and things like that. We wanted to keep friendly with them. They were always interested in keeping friendly with us and they were willing to sit down and have a chat about nothing, but that side of life didn’t greatly interest me greatly.


Probably maybe because I was too scared more than anything else. Well who the bloody hell wants those sort of diseases anyway? You’ve got enough problems of your own without having to worry about those, and bugger up the whole of your future life. That’s all you do. It’s like everything else. You pay the penalty don’t you?


Just coming back to Brown again, the commander, how and when did he get the name ‘Butcher’?
He was just known as ‘Butcher’ by the troops. I picked that name up through the troops more than anything else. Now whether he was with us all the way through from Syria and things like that


then I can always remember someone at one stage, I think it was around Julis or somewhere like that, people saying ‘Butcher’ and me saying, “Who’s that?” And they said, “Oh, Butcher Brown, didn’t you know?” That’s how things go, and the boys don’t miss much. You get seven or eight hundred brains working on those sorts of things and they don’t miss much amongst themselves.


But I could not really tell you how he got the name, but I have a pretty fair guess as to why. Well I mean because his whole tactics were World War I, in other words mass tactics which were of a butcher nature but he didn’t get many opportunities to use them but when he gave you instructions that’s


exactly how they would come out, not in accordance with our current time teachings, and you could see that when he was talking to you. He didn’t seem to understand, he could never, all his army life was in World War I and of course World War I was more mass attacks. Well that’s not exactly the way that we were brought up to do that because we had to,


you don’t just overcome somebody by how many people you can send in, if you’ve got more people than he had the chances are you’re going to kill him more than he is going to kill you, but that’s not the way we were taught.
Did you fear him more than you feared the German aircraft?
Well that’s different, that’s quite different.


I mean nine times out of ten when the German aircraft were about he wasn’t anywhere within in cooee of them. It is very different. I find that a hard question to understand because the two of them were never ever together. One was a deep-seated thing and the other was a much more momentary type thing.


I mean fear in that, as far as the German aircraft were concerned the only time you really had a great deal of fear was when he was overhead, if you call it fear but as I said to you it is a bit like a football game. When you’re in the middle of the game and the big fellow is coming at you and things like that, all you can really thing about is tackling him or getting the ball from him or something like that. You don’t look about what is going to happen to you and the same thing happened with the German aircraft.


When you are at school how often do you fear your headmaster? Whether you liked him or not, you probably didn’t see him that often but you always knew that he was there and you always knew he was a fellow that you had to fear or respect or do whatever you had to do. So that sort of a question I just find hard to assimilate because they are just so different.


Good. The ulcers on your feet, tell me about what pain they produced?
Well I suppose the pain was mostly when you were walking because they just became big holes under your feet which you could put your thumb in. But that was tinea and they


used to just bandage my foot up with a whole heap of bandages and then eventually you just sort of got there and then when I got to hospital I just lay in a bed, lay in a bed out in the sun. They used to put it out in the sun all the time with a flycatcher over it to keep the flies off, and that was probably the best thing that healed it.
The hospital was where?


Alexandria. It was the old Greek hospital in Alexandria.
And the nursing staff, what were they like?
Oh yeah, I think mostly Australian nursing staff and they were all good attentive girls, very kind, very attentive. Looked after you very well and they kept you in your place.


Don’t all women do that? Answer it?
So what things did you get up to, Ted?
Nothing much.
Tell me the much?
What do you mean? What part are you talking about?
The hospital at Alexandria?
You did not get up to any mischief at the hospital at all. You weren’t able to. There was no mischief you could get up to in the hospital, no way.


You were either lying on your bed or lying out in the sun and they just left you to it, probably with a good book or something like that but sometimes not. Probably at that stage you were so worn out and tired that you just slept most of the time. And you probably had a few hundred other Australian soldiers there too,


and they were all in the same boat so there was no mischief. Don’t get any ideas of that, and you probably weren’t that way inclined either. You were too damn tired and more interested in just mooching about. You didn’t want to do much more.
You said you gave a talk a few weeks ago to the kids at a school and said to


the girls how important TLC is, is that because of the nurses at Alexandria?
Not necessarily, not necessarily. I mean I was also in hospital in Baulkham Hills during the war and in other places and I mean from that point of view anyone who is in that category, I mean particularly with the soldier,


because at that stage most of those who got into hospital were tired and worn out and a little bit of TLC went a long way. Because most of them had been in forward areas where they’d been knocked about and hadn’t had enough tucker and all those sorts of things and those little soft touches are probably one of the greatest curing factors I know of anything. A little bit of that can go a long way,


when it comes to curing somebody who is really feeling the brunt of life. I don’t care where you are or what you are, I mean to me it is just something that is very essential. Not that really doesn’t matter so much whether you are male or female but under those conditions, in wartime conditions, it was entirely female to male.


It was the TLC and you get fellows who have been in forward areas for six or nine months and things like that and they have been knocked about and shelled about and things like that and they come back and they are badly wounded, lost a leg or arm or are wounded here or there or wherever it may be. And they have been in there and somebody who gets back with a nice soft touch and a good voice and somebody who can bring them a glass of water when they ask it just means so much,


because you haven’t had it. That’s all I’m referring to. I’m not looking at any sexual or anything of that nature, not for a moment. There is nothing that would be further from my mind. It’s just that nice friendly touch that somebody can give to you with a soft voice and a nice hand and – As I say someone who can just bring you nicely


a cup of water or something like that or can just sit on the end of the bed and talk for five minutes. Those things can go a long way when it comes to that side of life.
Good answer Ted, good answer. So you were in the 2/1st Pioneers and when did you make a move into the 2/3rd Pioneers?
As I said when I came out of Tobruk,


there was hospital and then I went up to the staging camp in Palestine. Then I was drafted up to the 2/3rd Pioneers.
So tell me what happened then?
Well that’s what I said, I went up to Dimra in Syria and that’s when we were doing defence work up in Damascus, which I’ve just gone though all the business about Damascus and the White House and all the problems we had there


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.
We’ll stop there.
Interviewee: Edward Carter Archive ID 1176 Tape 08


Ted, the Blockhouse, where was it and how did it get set up in the first place?
It was an old building, an old stone building set up there. Don’t ask me how it got there. It was at Tel el Eisa. It was just something that happened to be there in the middle of the battlefield, and that’s what it got used for.


It was probably some old Arab residence or whatever it was way back in history. I don’t know the history of it. It was just known as the Blockhouse and it was just an old stone building virtually of a rectangular nature and I think just rectangular inside.
Did the Allies get there first or did the Germans get there first?
What, the Blockhouse?
Yeah, which


Oh well basically that was in German hands in the early stages of Alamein. We didn’t come into it until the actual battle of Alamein when we came into that section. By that stage he Germans had it all though that period and what they were doing with it I don’t know and then as it turned out when we pushed through the coast our route was that we went down very close to the Blockhouse, through to the coastline.


And it was what you called a leg of mutton feature in those areas and the Blockhouse happened to be there and that’s what it got used for. Now because when we went through like that our own doctors would have being coming through with us. Well some of our unit doctors would have been, for the treatment of wounded and things like that but then of course when they had a situation like that they would have automatically gone in there to do that type of a thing. And then of course that became a sort of an ambulance


section and things like that and the ambulances started to come and go a bit but they had to be careful too because they were apt to be hit by stray shells. Probably no one intended to hit them but they did get hit because once the shell leaves the gun you haven’t got much control over it, but that was how it got there. Don’t ask me what it was. It was just an old Arab storehouse or a residence or whatever. It was just something


that it was there. Why, I don’t know.
Did you ever go there?
Only around the outside of it. I never got inside it, never, around the outside of it because the battle just raged around it. Somehow or other that’s where it was and when we came back over the coast when the Germans pushed us out of there that’s the area back to which we sort of came.


And also the other battalions had come into that area too and we had formed our defence lines very close to that as well.
The journey down, you were talking about the chaos that was going on, what was the leadership like?
Well I mean when you say what the leadership was like, I mean the leadership was us the companies, probably within our own


battalions. I mean when you say what was the leadership like I mean it was part of a pre-planned strategy which was getting ahead. Now when you say, I mean the leadership was really in all our hands in many ways because we all knew that was the way you were going and you didn’t drop out. And if that’s the way, the position I was in was about


two thirds of the way back of the column that was going though. D Company were in front of us and then we were B Company so we were behind them again. And you sort of, that was sort of the route and you followed the route. One of the other battalions who was forcing the way they paved the way in front of us again but then when we got to a certain point


we went through them and then through to the coast, which I think was the 2/43rd, I think it was, that actually pushed in and went there and they went in and consolidated on this side of the ridge. And we had to go over the ridge and onto the sand hills and through to the coast to completely cut off the Germans which we had already cut off because we’d come through and left them behind us. And that’s when we got through to the coast and


that’s when the Germans came in then with their tanks. B Company got out and about half of D Company got out but the other half of D Company didn’t because they were too far involved and the tanks cut them off, so quite a few of them became prisoners. We got back over the hill and then down and we found ourselves more in the area of the Blockhouse and things like that.


But then we had to use the old railway line more or less as a means of cover. You either did that or you found a little bit of a hole in the ground which you got into because it was basically, he pushed up back and it was in many way every man for himself but you tried to keep some sort of organisation if you could. But it did develop into that sort of a feeling because


what else can you do when you’ve got, you can’t completely keep control and come back in an orderly mob. People come back from over there and we were coming though artillery posts and things like that so you had to be careful of that as well. Of course what we did was try and get back into an area where we could get artillery and anti-tank support because once we got over the hill we didn’t have it and that was one of the big problems.


So we had to come, we got pushed back then but the Germans were still there with their tanks. They came in with the big heavy tanks and you and I couldn’t, we can’t stand up to them.
So was that when you were hiding in the holes, when the tanks came over?


taking cover. I don’t know that you’d call it hiding. You were more or less protecting yourself in the hole. I wasn’t the only one in it either. There were a few others there and I wouldn’t even know who they were to this day, because this was getting well on a bit. I mean once you got the opportunity you got our and tried to see if you could do a bit of organisation if you could but while the battle was going on round you with tanks and one thing and another well the best thing you could do was to keep yourself out of trouble.


No sense in going looking for trouble in those days. You’d get enough of it without looking for it. So you just kept yourself out of trouble and then just kept yourself, in case you could be of help somewhere. You just kept your eye out but you kept your head down because we even had a tank going over the top of us. But when you are down in a hole the tank can’t do much harm to you anyway and the ground is that bloody hard he’s not going to break it in on you.


You don’t have much to worry about.
You mentioned at Tobruk that the infantry in a couple of advances followed the tanks. Was that the case here in Alamein?
No. I think the Germans realised, he woke up to that one and altered his tactics again. In many cases the Germans didn’t have the infantry to do a lot of that anyway. Because at that stage, I’m talking about with the tanks, his infantry were well and truly


engaged in other areas. He didn’t have much choice. But then he came in on that area and then of course we came back, which was part of the overall plan which was to bring his armour up into the coastal area and all our armour was down towards the Qattara depression and of course the moment they knew his amour was up north they all swung out through and


came in behind him. And then also Moreshead that night changed over the 24th and 26th Brigades so that when the Germans hit the next morning, which we knew they would do, they hit fresh troops. They didn’t hit the tired and worn out troops that had gone through the night before. No, they had been taken out and fresh troops had been put in so that made all the difference in the world. And then of course the


Germans suddenly realised that our armour also was behind them and not in front of them. So there was various factors. I mean that was the overall tactics and then of course we had the Highland division on our next flank and of course they pushed out as well and then Rommel realised he had to make tracks back to Benghazi.


So the night that you were hiding, not hiding, sorry.
That was during the day.
It was a day?
Well that part of it was. The night time was when we were going through to the coast. We got through to the coast early in the morning.
So the daytime you were taking cover in the holes did any of your men trying to take out the tanks?
We had nothing to take them out with. There was an anti-tank regiment there


that kept them back a bit.
Where were they situated?
And of course we had a lot of our own tanks. There were a lot of our own eye tanks and that, that also took the Germans under control. I don’t know whether it took them under control but it took their mind off us, anyway. I put it to you that way, they weren’t worried about us. They were looking after themselves at that stage. It became a tank battle.
So this whole battle is going on and you guys are taking cover in the ground,


in a sense you can’t do anything about the events going on around you?
Not a great deal, not a great deal. That’s life. The bigger, heavier boys got involved in that and then of course the artillery came in too. They brought the artillery up and they were able to bring them up a bit too, see during the day these sorts of things so that everyone was able to position themselves.


It’s a bit like rugby league after the balls been battled, everyone goes out again and gets themselves into position.
So the German tanks were advancing forward and they advanced past you or did they stay?
No. They didn’t actually get past us. Well they did, down on the coastal road they probably did a bit but they didn’t on the ridge where we had come back over because it was too hot for them.


We made it, I mean the anti tank guns and our own tanks and things like that were sitting in there where they were under control but that stage we couldn’t do too much on the other side of the ridge because we came out of range. We’d actually gone through there. I think it was probably a punt pushing us through but that’s what higher command decided. They pushed the Don Company through.


We lost a number of prisoners and that was the way it went.
So share with me how you actually captured these prisoners?
Oh well I mean you don’t. The actual capturing of the, what had actually happened is they had come down and we were going though during the night time and we’d cut a lot of them off.


And they’d taken a bit of a hiding themselves and they basically came out of their own bunkers. It was not a, it was no big deal. They were cornered anyway, so it was just a case that they came out of their bunkers and we sent them back to where they couldn’t do any more damage because they were well and truly but off and they couldn’t get back to their own troops.


But some of them got away?
Oh they might have. I don’t know.
I thought that you said that some of them got away once?
What you are referring to now is right at the end. This is right towards the end of Alamein, which was virtually the last night of the thing when we were sent out on a fairly big patrol to find out what they were doing, what they were up to and that’s when we found out that these fellows were all


packing themselves up and things like that. Because we had to go about two thousand yards to find them and we just found they were all packing up and I think the instructions were no prisoners so we didn’t take any prisoners and we didn’t kill anyone either. That’s when we let them go. I mean that was right at the end and I mean things had become reasonably docile at that point.


You talked a little bit earlier –
The early part of Alamein was not like that. It was pretty furious in the early part but by that stage that was virtually the last night of Alamein, you’re talking about that. That’s what we were doing. We were trying to work out what he was really up to because always with anything like that you try and keep yourself up to the mark. But the Australians, we always did a lot of patrolling. The Germans didn’t do that much.
You talked about earlier on when you went and saw what they were doing and you


did want to get at them.
Well that was only me.
Yeah, is that because you had seen so many mates die?
I couldn’t answer. You had seen a few of them but by that stage it wasn’t because of that. I couldn’t give you what the reason was. I really couldn’t give you a reason. I suppose it is just like this. You get yourself worked up I suppose.


You know, it’s just like something else. You get yourself worked up and then when something hits you you say, “Oh well bugger you. I’ve had enough.” And by the time you’ve had a fortnight of all that sort of stuff you really felt as though you’d had enough anyway, because life had been pretty well topsy-turvy over that last fortnight and about that stage I mean it was about thirty eight hours since I’d had any sleep anyway.


I wasn’t what you might say in the best of moods. That’s all.
Did you get into hand-to-hand conflict there?
No, I never did. I avoided it. I never did. As I said to you in the very early stages that was one reason, I was never very good at that and that was one of the reasons why I would not go into infantry work. I didn’t want to get involved in that type of thing.


Some people didn’t mind it, others did. I had my niche as it was and I think I filed it up pretty well.
So you came back to Australian and you had an appendix problem, that’s where you were up to. Can you tell me what the army doctor said when he pulled the appendix out?


Well I can only tell you what the army doctor said after I was back in the ward and things like that. He just sort of said, he said, “I’ve never seen an appendix with so much sand in it.” That’s what he told me afterwards. That is sort of what you might call an aftermath.
What hospital was that in?
103AGH at Baulkham Hills, in those days.


And the 2/3rd Pioneers was training up in the?
They had gone up to Kirra Camp then, Kirra camp out of Atherton. It is all under the dam now. There is a big dam up there now but that’s where the whole 9th Division were camped, all around that area. We were all camped in that area doing our jungle training. They were trying to break us into jungle training.


So when you got there was that training better than the training that you did better before you went over to the Middle East? Was it more thorough?
I wouldn’t like to say whether it was more thorough or what it was. I wouldn’t like to compare the two because they were quite different. The desert training is quite open training. I mean you can see for miles. Like, have you been out back of Australia at all in the flat country?


You can probably see five or six miles without any trouble just standing up. Now the desert was more like that, particularly at El Alamein where the front lines were about three thousand yards apart but you still knew exactly what they were doing. In the jungle you did not know what was around the next corner with trees and things like that. The situation became much closer. You could not see to far at all.


You were lucky if you could see forty or fifty yards because of all the undergrowth and all that sort of stuff, unless, of course, you were sitting on a hill looking across a valley, but that’s not where the fighting took place. The fighting usually took place up the ridge and things like that, so you wouldn’t see that far. And if you were advancing and things like that, particularly in the forward area there was always that nervous tension of you didn’t know what was round the next tree or the corner, whereas in the desert you could see three or four thousand


yards and you knew exactly what was there. And so your only fear there was what he was throwing at you. But in the jungle it was a very, very different situation because it was much closer site and you didn’t know exactly what was there unless you were in a kunai patch or something like that but that would only be a hundred yards across anyway.


Some of it might have been a bit bigger but very few. And you would, it was a different, entirely a different sort of warfare.
And the training that they were taking you through?
Well the training for up there you had things like malaria to deal with and the malaria mosquito. You had to be careful with that. Everything that you wore you had to wear like


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.


So what was happening to you after you had come back from that initial patrol?
Well we just carried on as normal because once the initial pressure was off you were sort of able to get back but I suddenly realised I probably couldn’t put myself into a position of more pressure. I was still able to do that. And so things carried on and I went back into Buna Hospital for a little while for a rest and then came back and carried on.


And then of course we came back and had leave and went back to the Tablelands where we were then at Ravenshoe. And that was general training and things like that and then at that stage I was given charge of the transport platoon, which was quite a good one but then that happened and things changed. There was a certain amount of changing on and then I was sent down to


Canungra as an instructor, because at that stage the Canungra Training School was being staffed by fellows from 6, 7th and 9th Div, all returned servicemen who had done no less than one campaign. That was part of the kudos. And so that’s when I went down there and I worked under Captain McClaren who was 2/17th Battalion. He had been wounded a bit


but was still a very active man. He was there with some of us from various battalions were down there and we broadly speaking had a bit of fun in training these fellows I suppose within our own ways. We had one certain major who came though as a trainee. I was on the officers’ carder at that stage, doing the officers’ carder and he just swore


black and blue that he was never going to go any further north than the Brisbane Line which was about a hundred and fifty miles north of where we were. We thought, “That’s funny.” We didn’t finally agree with this system and so a few words in the right direction and things like that and when he finished his carder he suddenly was on his way to Bougainville. We just sort of felt, “Don’t make silly statements like that when you’re round here.


You’re amongst all fellows who have been through it all and we know what it’s about. You’re going there too.” So it was just a few words in the right direction and he suddenly found he was – That was a camaraderie we all had down there because we worked in together pretty well down there, we all did. It was actually quite a good because they’d all come from different battalions and everybody down there had done no less than one campaign and I had done three.


So you know, that was Canungra back in those days but we still worked bloody hard, don’t worry about that. We still had to keep ourselves physically up to the mark. I mean one day there I remember I did with a full pack and came back from Walsh Creek, thirty one miles and we did that on our feet. That is a long way with a full pack of eight pounds. But it was


there where I learnt how you could, with the fellows, how to steal and kill a pig and eat it the same night. When you had to have rations that’s what you did and the farmer didn’t know where the bloody hell he went. He just lost a pig didn’t he?
We’re going to stop there.
Interviewee: Edward Carter Archive ID 1176 Tape 09


Ted, coming back to the training, just after you had your appendix out, do you think the army was pushing the men too hard after they’d just come back from the Middle East to push them straight up to jungle warfare in New Guinea?
That could be, but when you look at that stage


with the necessity of the situation I don’t think higher command had a great deal of options. It was a case of using what you have got. And I mean let’s face it, when we came back you had a whole division of experienced men who already knew exactly what it was like to be in that situation.


And of course you don’t get rid of them lightly and they are far better to use rather than what you might say the inexperienced fellow who doesn’t really quite know what he is up against.
The battle at Lae? Sorry.
I mean see that’s when you find that towards the end, 6th, 7th and 9th Div were used quite a bit.


See 7 Div came down through Ramu and then they took the Japs on up through Shaggy Ridge and up through there. And then 6th Div were pushing up round through the coast but of course you’ve also got to appreciate the fact that – who was the American commander at that stage?


Who was the overall American commander? General MacArthur. He was not terribly keen on the Australian troops. He wanted the Americans to get the full benefits of everything and because of his attitude we nearly lost Finschhafen. Oh yes, you want to read Colonel Coates’


What’s your experience though?
I would go along with it because at one stage there he just reckoned one brigade would be enough to hold the Japanese. There wasn’t any need for any more. But we all knew that there was and I mean he finished up he had to have the whole bloody division, which was four brigades, to hold the Japs.


And that was only because Wootten and Moreshead virtually, I think pushed Blamey to do something about it.
So where were you in that battle?
We were in Finschhafen at that stage and when the actual able took place we were way up in woop-woop – in the back blocks of Finschhafen, and that’s when we were cut off. Why the hell we got sent up there I would never know but at this stage our battalion really.


got split. C company got sent down this way and A company got sent out like that, but I mean those were silly things that Gallasch did at that stage. And I think all that sort of stuff added up to him being put on a boat and sent home, because I remember sitting watching him and he just seem to know what he could do and what he had to do. He seemed to have no idea. He was completely lost and –


but that was another story. That’s what MacArthur, I mean – he didn’t want to sent more troops over. He didn’t want to provide American watercraft to get them up there or anything like that until the hierarchy virtually pushed him.
So share with me Ted, the amphibious landing at Lae. What happened there?
Well from our point of view


there was not much problems. The Japanese came over and did drop some bombs and they made a bit of trouble for some of the latter battalions coming in. I think one battalion commander got killed because his boat got hit. But for the early point of view the early ones that went in there was virtually not a lot of problems. There was a little bit of resistance but not much.


It was very easily overcome and then of course there was the landing of all the other battalions and then of course once we got into there, he came over with his air force and started bombing quite a bit and that’s when he created a little problem amongst the landing craft but at that stage our battalion was well and truly on land. It didn’t worry us greatly. It was some of the latter ones that got a bit of a problem. They were bombed on the sea.


But that was, then when we, Lae didn’t create a great deal of trouble to us. Lae was more swampy, trying to get across the Song River, the Busa, sorry, and trying to get into Lae and it was that sort of terrain that sort of held us up.


When 7 Divi came down they came down the Ramu Valley and had a clearer passage so they got into Lae before us, because there was always a bit of competition about whether they would get in first or we would. But we sort of got held up there and then the Japanese they sort of more or less disappeared up into the hinterland. Personally I didn’t see much of them at all but we did have a lot of trouble trying to get across some of the rivers and those sorts of problems.


Whereas from that I got a good dose of inner wheel out of it, water flowing in your ears and things like that and you pick up these tropical wogs that that get in there. But that was soon fixed up but it buggered up a good leave because I had to spend the time going to the bloody hospitals every day for which I didn’t get any sympathy, which you never do. You don’t go looking for it and you don’t get it.
I understand that some of the


American barge drivers caused problems?
Caused problems, he bloody near sunk us, the silly fool, when we were going from Lae to Finschhafen. There was a bit of a sea running and things like that but then he starts to put the bloody thing side on. He got a message, yeah, I know. We were only about a mile out. We were going up when


he was trying to swing in in and he didn’t seem to have any bloody idea what he was doing. Anyway –
What did you say to him?
That’s not repeatable. What I said and what some of the others said.
No. What was said?
Just typical Australian language when he was told what they thought of him. But there wasn’t much else you could do, because everybody was scared, “What the bloody hell he’s doing?


Were we going to swim, or were we going to get in there? It was only a mile out anyway but he was told he was a bloody fool, that’s all. You don’t need to tell a bloke much more. He probably knew it himself. But if we were going to swim so was he. That’s the situation you’re in when you are in those situations, when you’re doing that.


If you make a mistake, you’ve got to be in it too. Anyway, I mean that was – they did but they weren’t what I would call the best of craft handlers. But there were one or two others that complained of similar type things. Because I think the Yanks, I think they were only just quickly put together and that’s what they had to do and probably didn’t know too much about it themselves.


I don’t know. Who knows? They are just things that happen. You take it and you’re there and that’s what happens. It’s all over in a split second anyway, but those situations you don’t forget in a hurry. Somehow or other they get stuck in your mind, don’t they?
Coming back now to your nerves. What physical signs did you


display during that time and when did you know you were in trouble?
Well I knew when I was right up the Katika Track. When we were right up the top I knew then that I was having problems. But that was – it wasn’t until then that I did. It probably started when I got the bit of a fright when –


I was suddenly living in hope that okay here’s a change in jobs, a chance of a bit of a rise in rank, or something or other, which after you’ve been in the same situation for three or four years you like to get a bit of something and then all of a sudden you suddenly find the whole thing is, the basket is taken away from under you. And you’ve already been under stress and strain. It doesn’t help your situation. I mean


probably a situation where in civil life you’d have just told the boss to go to buggery and you’d find another job, but you can’t do that in the army. You’ve got to stay where you are and you’ve got to put up with the bloke you are with and just go with it. And so you put up with it and I knew that and I suppose it probably got read and


anyway he just sent me back to Buna for a rest. I was back there for about a week and then came forward again. By that stage it was all over and our fellows then were basically at that stage were unloading craft and doing all that sort of thing. We weren’t doing any forward work and the infantry were pushing up the coast and the Japanese furore at that stage had just about come to an end.


It was only pockets. We were just looking at pockets, getting rid of pockets here and there that’s all, but our battalion was not involved in that. The infantry boys were doing all of that.
Just going back a little bit, your journey to the Middle East, the first time, the ship got a little bit of trouble or had mechanical problems, did it happen in the Strait?
In the Bight.
What happened there?


The ship just stopped. We don’t know. We are not in control of it. That’s all there is to it. All we could do was sit and wait and say, “Hope to hell they repair it.” I suppose the ship probably had an engineer or a staff member onboard or something but it got repaired and so we got underway again and it took four or five hours. Whatever it was, I mean – it was purely engine trouble.


It just stopped the ship. And then we got on to Perth and they probably did something to it in Perth, I don’t know. Well into Fremantle I should say, not Perth, Fremantle. Because we were in Fremantle for about twenty four hours so they had time to do something or whatever, because it didn’t reoccur again.
After Tobruk


you say you went to Alexandria, you also said you had some teeth problems?
Well that was brought about because of the lack of hygiene and things like that. I did and I still suffer from it to a large degree because when I was on the recuperation ship or convalescent ship, which was a houseboat on the Nile, I realised I had to get something done there to my teeth.


There was no sort of army situation that I could really go to so I had to go and try and find a local doctor. And I found an Australian dentist practising in Cairo, which I then went to, which I had to pay for myself. But fair enough, I couldn’t wait till I got back to there. But he sat down and he did seven fillings in one sitting. I


was started sitting up like this and when I finished I was just about – and then I had to come back the next day and get them all plugged in. He drilled them all out one-day and I had to go back the next day – I never forgot that and I never do and I don’t think I ever will either. But what else could you do? I mean I had little option. The teeth


were such – because with the conditions that we were living in you couldn’t clean your teeth much. You went for weeks and weeks barely touching them much. You just did that and of course that’s what happened. And of course I’ve had a lot of trouble with my teeth ever since and there’s probably more other teeth in my head than my own. But that was brought about –


Alamein was a bit the same. Alamein we weren’t so short of water so we were able to do a bit more in ablutions. At least we were able to get a basin occasionally and was yourself and things like that but h, but in Tobruk, no. Most of our water in Tobruk was distilled sea water. The natural flow of the country didn’t have any water, other than that which came out of wells. And of course the wells were kept


for the sick and the needy. That’s where, you know, as I said to you before our allocation was one gallon per man per day. We got our water bottle and the rest was brought up to the kitchen and then they brought up tea and things like that at night times and the rest was used for cooking or whatever they had to do. And I mean, let’s face it, I mean three pints of water


a day for a kitchen is not a great deal of water for them to do everything, so we got virtually one pint and they got the other three. If I remember rightly it is four pints to a gallon isn’t it?
So how much weight did you lose?
About two and a half to three stone. My playing weight for football at school was twelve stone stripped.


When I came out from Tobruk I was under ten stone clothed, and my webbing would run off my hips. But we were alive. We could still do most of the things somehow. Probably didn’t have the stamina that I used to have but


you got there. But it was wonderful having a rest in hospital, I can tell you. That was probably about the best week I had and the ten days I had on the convalescent boat. There we used to probably spend out days trying to play – there was a group of us and we used to try and play tennis in the morning, just to get some exercise, a beer or two at lunchtime,


and go to the pictures in the afternoon. That was about the general routine other than other things that you had to do like going to the dentist and things like that. I mean the whole idea of playing tennis was to try and get some exercise and try and get ourselves back into some sort of fitness and things like that but it was a bit of a lollypop sort of thing because most of us couldn’t move around too quickly, but slowly we sort of. It is amazing what ten days of doing that how you picked up.


I want you, if you would, to share with me, Ted, some of the songs that you used to sing?
I’m not a great musician in that field. I mean there’s the usual army songs that we’d sing. I was never a great rememberer of songs. I love music. I could play them but I


don’t remember. I mean all the old things, Tipperary and all those sort of things, yes I mean they were all part of it but there was also songs of the day which people used to play like the old, one thing I can just remember was the old Donkey Serenade and all those old silly things, Bumsidaisy and something else. I mean anything to sort of amuse yourself. Sing whatever,


someone would start something and then you’d go along with it, but I can’t just remember. I’m sorry I just cannot bring back specific songs. They ware all there. I mean if they were written down in front of me I could say, “Yes, we sang that” or, “No, we didn’t,” or this that and the other but I cannot answer specifically what songs. Because many songs, same as anybody else, the same as The Seeker songs that you hear, you hear them all round the town even today. They are still there and we sang most of them, Tipperary


and all those sort of things. I think the songs of the day, not necessarily World War I, but those sorts of things. And every now and again you’d have a concert come through and we’d try and go to that. We didn’t get any of that in the desert but in the islands we got a bit of concert. It was probably more in the


islands and things like that, but that’s where we got all that sort of stuff. But I can’t think of much on that. But see what DVA’s [Department of Veterans’ Affairs] got to come up with now.


Ted, I was just wondering over all how you would describe El Alamein?
I suppose as a great experience but don’t ask me to do it again. But as an organisation it started off with a little bit of chaos but towards the end


the organisation was terrific. It was mostly spot on.
It has been described by some as hell on earth.
Well I mean that depends on what part you’re looking at. The battles of Tel el Eisa and all that side of it, the answer would be ‘yes’. I would certainly put it in that category.


It certainly was. The actual battle of Alamein itself was certainly a most unpleasant, unwanted situation. It was one of those sort of things when you started off at 10:30 on 21 October with your mates and things like that, and you started to walk forward but you never knew who you were going to have with you the next morning.


You never knew how many would be with you, who would be and who wouldn’t be or even if you would be. I mean the amount of stuff that got thrown through the air throughout the battle of Alamein had to be seen to be believed. Everything was thrown at both sides. You’ve got a thousand guns sitting up behind you all bursting forth with stuff – just killing machines,


hwhich was all they were. People maimed and killed and that is going on around you and you try to forget all that part of it but a lot of good fellows who you lost. Tel el Eisa was absolutely like that. The night that I was trying to describe to you going through I mean I said it was a bit like a mad woman’s dream. You didn’t know quite what it was.


But my first explanation was looking at it as a whole as beginning to end, from July through to October or November it was a worthwhile experience in some ways but don’t ever ask me to try and do it again because I wouldn’t. You would never ever get me into that, nor would I wish anyone else to go into it.


But what I do fear is it will happen. I do fear that. And unfortunately it won’t just be the soldiers that get involved because you can see that happening now around us all wherever I can go. The poor civilian is being pulled into that now as much as anybody else.
Were you aware at the time, Ted, how great the casualties were?
Oh yes,


oh yes, very much so, oh yes. We always had a pretty fair idea what was happening in that field, but you tried to throw it in the back of your mind. No risk in that.


But I don’t want to expand on it to much either.
It may be a difficult question but are there any things that still play on your mind from that time?
Oh yes. That’s why the doctors have got me on some mental things now to try and sort of cut it back a bit.


Some books I started to read but I couldn’t, the book on Alamein I couldn’t finished it. It would have brought back too much, [UNCLEAR] Johnson’s books. I’ve got it here somewhere but it just got filed away. When you go through and have a look at it all and things like that, just realise what some of the fellows did and some of the fellows,


no, you don’t want to go through those ghosts. There were days when you’d sit and look at it all going on and think, “What the bloody hell I am doing here? What for? What’s the use of it all?” But there is no use of it all. You look at the war yourself and look where we were when we started. And with all the casualties, all that happened, where


did we finish up?. Exactly where we started, didn’t we? There’s no change in country boundaries, no change in anything. So what was it all for? One man’s greed, that’s it. And that’s the problem. Look what’s happening in Africa now,


with these people trying to get control in different areas, particularly in Mugabe [President of Zimbabwe] and some of those. It is not good to look at but all I can say is, “Thank God I won’t be here to see what the results will be.” But you will be, and that’s what I don’t like about it.


The problem my dear will become yours. When I say that, I mean your generation. I can even see it – with some things starting to happen here because somewhere in amongst us there is always the rabbit trap. You were going to say something?


I was going to say this is as well maybe a difficult question but can you at all describe how those kinds of conditions affect men?
You are talking about the conditions of Alamein have on you and things like that? Well it’s not easy because I think it affects different people in different ways,


depending on their makeup. But it certainly does bring you right up to the realities of life and what’s involved in it. You certainly – your childhood is thrown away from you in its entirety because you suddenly become a much more serious, thoughtful individual.


I suppose you could put it that way. In some ways you probably lose – you can lose – one of the things that I find now is – I find it very hard to, I don’t become, I don’t want to use the word ‘cry-baby’ but you don’t seem to have a great deal


of the sympathy that you used to have beforehand. You know, you seem to get harder underneath because you’ve seen so much of it and you realise that when it’s all done you can’t do much about it anyway. And so is there any use sort of throwing tears about and things like that over something you can’t do a damn thing about, even though there is sorrow. That’s probably the word I’m looking for. It’s to become sorrowful –


you don’t become sorrowful, or I don’t, which sometimes worried me because I think I probably should. I see other people being in tears and you feel that you want to try and give them a bit of comfort and things like that but you haven’t got the same feeling inside because you’ve seen it all, you’ve been through it all. This happened so many times to you. I lost


some bloody good mates through there. Some of them I saw, some of them I didn’t. You’d just get a message through to say that so and so’s been – he’s gone, it’s too late. Not that you can do much about it though. That’s life. That’s what it does to you. But people are different. We are all different. You’d probably react differently to me but


women folk – it’s probably a good thing they can become a lot more tearful. That’s what it does and that’s probably good for them because it gets it out of their system Whereas we don’t. We’ve probably got a tendency and that could have been my nervous problem because it sort of builds up inside and you’ve got to get it out. But of course somewhere, some time it’s got to come out. .


Had you ever been able to talk about it properly?
Oh no, no, I don’t. I’ve probably said more here today than I’ve told many people. I don’t. There is no point in it. It probably won’t do me any good and somebody else’s experience is probably quite different to mine.


But you don’t want anyone to go through all that and who does. You find many men, ex-servicemen, although even though we get together and they have a bit of fun but they don’t talk about those things. You probably ask about how old Billy got on or Jo or something like that, whether he’s still about and things like that. You may laugh at some of the funny experiences that he had or something like that, you know, some of the silly antics he did here and there because –


you’ve got to get a laugh out of something in this life and that’s what you’ve got to try to do. Same as I try to hear some days sometimes and have a bit of a laugh. It’s good for you.
So you think it helps to talk about it? Are there any positive things about talking about it?
Oh I don’t know. The psychologists say it does.


But I don’t know. It doesn’t seem to sort of help me much. Because the big thing is these days is having somebody else who can understand it with you, and ninety percent of people don’t, because how on earth can I expect you to know exactly how I’m feeling


if you haven’t had similar type of experiences or been through that sort of thing? I mean you might know from a family point of view where you’ve been through hard times or something like that lack of income or something like that, but that’s different to the things that we’ve had. I mean one’s a challenge in life to the art of living


and the other one is a challenge to how can I live, how do I keep in this world? Not easy. I’d be interested as much as anyone to get your thoughts on a lot of these things.


But I don’t think I’m going to. Am I? All I get is a nice smile. Don’t I?
So what kind of man – are you okay? Is the light a bit bright? So


what kind of man were you when you came back to Australia after New Guinea?
I was probably a very disillusioned sort of person, somewhat nervous. You still had a lot of the reactions. I can still remember the day walking down George Street and a car backfired and I bloody near throw myself into the gutter,


because that was a natural reaction when you heard a gun go off, was to get yourself as close to the ground as possible. Fortunately I didn’t but it was very close but there’s little things like that. I mean with the civilian life there was a lot of degree of uncertainty because you didn’t know quite how to handle it, doing the clerical work which I hadn’t done for five years and you suddenly find that you’ve got to learn how to


put in an income tax return. I didn’t like that. Not then, anyway. I certainly found that you’ve got to make yourself learn how to do it. You’ve got to make yourself learn how to do this and that. But it’s only by – you’ve just got to get yourself round to it. I mean I think there was a degree of uncertainty, not knowing just exactly which way you were going and


also to some degree also not knowing exactly what you wanted. Because for five years you’ve had to go along with doing what you were told all the time by somebody who really didn’t know what he was doing either. Because you got the law of the army which means that if someone with a senior rank tells you that you have to jump well you’re supposed to jump. But maybe you don’t want to jump or you can’t jump but he still says you’ve


got to. But – and sometimes you don’t. But it’s. You say how did you feel when you came back. I mean there was a large degree of uncertainty and not knowing which way you were going to go. You had to get a job when you came back without any qualifications. What am I going to do? What am I going to make of myself? Which way do I jump from here?


Because you suddenly realise that all of your army friends have all dispersed themselves all over the state or all over Australia, so you can’t just sort of go down to the pub with then and do all those silly things you used to do in the army because they’re no longer there to do it with. They have their own ways, they have their own problems to look after.


So slowly you get around to it and probably have a look around and make up your mind and slowly get there. So eventually I had to do something so I just went back to what I was doing before the war.
Have you been able to talk to your family about the war?


Not a great deal. They know some of it. I have done a bit of a diary there which they have seen. It is about a four-page thing over there but I brought all of those things there just in case I wanted them today. I didn’t know what I was heading for or what I was doing so I just sort of kept myself open. I didn’t know quite what you wanted either.


What about the darker experiences – the things that are hard to talk about? Have you been able to talk about them?
You don’t. You try and forget those. You try and put those right in the back of your mind and forget them. You don’t want, they don’t help you. They are only going to be a hindrance if you let them get on top.


So you don’t. You try and put those right behind you.
Ted, why do you think it is that men aren’t allowed to cry about things that happen to them?
I didn’t say they’re not allowed to, I wouldn’t say that, I just find that some of us can’t or don’t. There’s nothing to say they are not allowed to. Of course they are allowed to, the same as anybody else it.


It is a free world when it comes to all those sort of things, for sure. It’s just the fact that I don’t and I don’t feel that way that I could. Some men can, some men do. Please don’t get the idea that they said no, they don’t or won’t. Of course they are allowed to.
Does it reflect on their manhood?


I wouldn’t think so. I can’t see why it would, depending on the circumstances in which he cries. But I wouldn’t think so. I would hope not, anyway. We are all human beings when it’s all boiled down. We have disappointments and one thing and another whether we are male or female. The difference is purely just in our making,


whatever it is. Why have you got long hair and I haven’t got any? You know.
That’s probably a good point to change tapes.
Interviewee: Edward Carter Archive ID 1176 Tape 10


Well put it this way. Many people who have been through these harsh experiences, especially with life and death and things like that, you’ll find that they don’t talk about it. I mean you take a lot of the old, you don’t see them talking to you and I but you do see the talking sometimes there. But


I don’t think you go and talk too much about your harsh experiences. In some ways it probably sounds a bit like gloating, I’ve done something that you haven’t done. You try not to. I certainly don’t look at in that way but some people might, but I know a large majority of World War I and


World War II fellows don’t talk about it, particularly those who have been through the harsher parts. And I think to some degree the Korean boys don’t also. The Vietnam boys seem to do a bit more of it but you see when you have been in an area under difficulty or under life-threatening circumstances, for two and three weeks at a stretch


it takes its toll. A lot of the Vietnam boys, I mean their periods under stress in many cases were not much more than twenty four hours. They were in and out, whereas we were in and we had to stay there. World War I was probably just as bad but they were probably worse because they were living in mud and slush


and things in their feet and Lord knows what else, plus being in the front line there for a fortnight under these conditions. Okay we probably had the fortnight but we were living in drier conditions and things like that. But we probably didn’t – but you still had that same sort of mental strain or mental thought at the back of your mind. As I say it’s a bit like the time in George Street where I nearly threw myself on


the ground, because there is something that’s in your system. It is trained in your system and you suddenly find your body does it whether you think about it or not. And that’s exactly what used to happen when you are up in the Western Desert and you hear something coming or you’d see a whiz bang coming and you just throw yourself into a slit trench. And I mean you didn’t think twice about it. Sometimes if there wasn’t something there your mates would laugh at you if it was a foolish thing or you’d laugh at


your mates about something if it didn’t work out, if you’d suddenly found he’d thrown himself down, but we all knew what the score was. It becomes self-preservation, and you don’t think about it. It gets built into you somehow. Don’t ask me how but it becomes self-preservation and you suddenly find you just do it.


So how did the war change you?
Well I suppose that’s probably more a question you should have asked my parents more than me. They probably knew me better than that but sometimes you don’t always feel the changes yourself. How did it change me? Well I suppose it is just the experiences of life, how


you handle things at times. I suppose in some ways you probably become a little more determined but then you wonder whether that is part of you or whether that is part of your experiences, that is just part of your makeup. I’ve always liked – I suppose it has probably made me a bit more fussy and things because you like a bit more cleanliness and tidiness after all the rubbish that you’ve gone through.


You suddenly come back to it and you suddenly realise how good it is and so you try and stick to it. Other people don’t always appreciate it to the same extent because they haven’t experienced the other side of it. Or sometimes like little boys’ rooms. They never know anything else but an untidy room – if you’ve ever seen a little boy’s room.
So how would you sum up the war


for you?
A useless experience, because where did it get us, as I said before. Where did it get anybody? We are right back to where we started when it is all boiled down. Everybody is sort of killing ourselves to do this that and the other. Hitler wanted the world and where did he finish up? Back where he started from. And so much is the story of


so many wars of late. I think Korea was much the same and Vietnam didn’t alter things greatly. So what? I mean fighting doesn’t necessarily solve anything,


but it seems to be man’s only way of expressing himself when he gets angry. But I don’t see any future in that type of thing.
What would your message be to future generations watching this archive?
What message would I give?


Try and live in a peaceful state and carry out and mind your own business, and do what you think is the best for you. Not being selfish but looking after others at the same time. And that of course is taken straight off the cuff without a great deal of thought as to how I would put it really.


It won’t get you anywhere. Fighting is useless. So try and solve your problems in a peaceful manner.
Thanks Ted, that’s excellent.
I mean, nobody wants a war, Chris, nobody, nobody likes a war and there is no way I’d


wish one on anyone. I don’t know what you younger people think but that’s only us.
Do you have any final words? Anything that you’d like to add?
I don’t think so. What else could I add to it? I mean I’ve sort of said most things all the way through.


Depending on who wants to look at it but I mean that’s all I can say is just try and keep life within its proper boundaries.
Anything you’d like to add to your interview at all?
Thanks a lot for what you’ve done. Thanks a lot for what you are doing. I would find it very difficult to go through it again, but I don’t know what else


I can say as far as the – can see what you’re trying to do is to put all this on tape. I only hope I have been successful in trying to do that for you. Just exactly to what degree it’s been successful I don’t know, probably will never know. But I only hope it is of some use to a future generation which will sort of solve things down a bit. But all I can say is the future generations,


please don’t get involved in wars or anything of that nature. It doesn’t get you anywhere. And with all the ones that we’ve had where are we? Apart from reducing our population what else does it do? If you go back through history what else has it done? Look at Napolean, how far did he get? He didn’t change the boundaries


very much, did he? Yet he went all over this way and the other. Look at all the battles that have gone on through Britain. It hasn’t effected anyone. All it does is reduce the population by killing off people by the thousand, for what, purely so one man can get what he wants or jealousy. No. But on the other


hand you must stand up for the principles in which you believe. But those principles must have a godly sense behind them, if you know what I mean. Don’t misinterpret the word ‘principles’.
Thank you, Ted.


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