started in 1939, but I was working for the Railway at the time, and so they called them a protected industry and you weren’t allowed enlist. But in 1941, no 1940 when the Dunkirk happened they gave us permission if we wished to.
And of course quite a lot of us enlisted from the railway. And I joined up at the Victoria Barracks and I was put out to Belmore Drill Hall, because there were so many enlisting at that time, there were thousands, were as they had been struggling a little over the last 3 or 4 months prior to that to get recruits. But once Dunkirk came, they were
overwhelmed with recruits and the camps couldn’t fit them in. So all the various drill halls became places of training, and I went to Belmore and we used to come home each night and go back each day, they called us cut lunch commandos. Because we us to take a cut lunch with us. And that continued from June til September
and they’d finished Wallgrove camp in Sydney and most of the drill halls around Sydney sent their [(UNCLEAR)] to Wallgrove to be formed into units. And I know we got to Wallgrove about 1 o’clock in the daytime from all the various areas and we formed up in a huge parade ground and the RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] held his stick up and like…
this side two paces to the right. Right o, about turn march off, there were collections from Campsie, Belmore, Manly, Randwick all over Sydney and they were marched off. And we came to new camps and things at Wallgrove and we said what are they and we said you are first reinforcements for the pioneers, and we said whatever’s a pioneer? And they said well there a specialist troops,
they are used as engineers when they want engineers, or infantry when they want infantry. I think they call them combat engineers now, they called us pioneers. They were formed in the First World War, there was a battalion to each division and they became part of that division. The Second World War they became corps troops and were spread around wherever
they were needed. At some of the stages there were a couple of pioneer battalions to your divisions other stages the division operated without them. Depending on what the need was. We found out the engineer part of business was digging roads and filling in potholes and all that sort of business but they also taught us how to use explosives and things like that. The infantry was of course straight out infantry.
So we thought it’s a funny sort of unit but any rate, we stayed with them this was in September, towards the end of September, and then they called a lot of names out and told us we’re going on final leave. So we had a weeks leave and then we joined the pioneers battalion at Dubbo. I’d only marched there a couple of weeks earlier before they went on leave and we
were there for a night or so, getting kitted up because out in the drill hall all we had was our uniform to go to work each day and nothing else. So we had to be all kitted up and then we left by train, went down to Sydney and boarded the boat known as the Joanne Derwitt. That was A, B, C and Headquarters Company and Don
Company went down to Melbourne and joined the Nieuw Amsterdam I think it was , Dutch boat much the same size as Joanne Derwitt, with lots of other troops and then we sailed for the Middle East. We didn’t know where we were going then, though we had a fair idea. And we went via Perth and then Colombo. Colombo we had three days leave there and they formed
a huge convoy of ships, all went across the Indian Ocean to Port Said and we continued on and went up the Suez Canal and landed at a place called Kantara in the middle of the night and came off the ship down to gangplank and they gave us a couple of eggs and little eggs and a roll,
I think it was and that was to be our breakfast on the train. And we travelled all night on that train up through what was then Palestine till we came to a place called Jewels about 30 miles south of Jerusalem and we stayed there, this would have been October and we stayed there until December. December
we boarded the train again and went down to Egypt to a place called Amiriya, just outside Alexandria and the 6th Divvy [Division] in the main time had just taken Bardia and were investing Tobruk, so we were told we were going to join the 6th Division. Well we had no weapons and that so
they were rapidly giving us Brens and so on and we’d never fired a Bren before and so we got kitted up. I think it was a Bren for each platoon and a Boyes anti-tank rifle. My company which was A Company at the time boarded a ship one morning at Alexandria known as the Sollum, an Egyptian coast
guard vessel and as strange as it might be the Sollum went to the Port of Sollum and Tobruk fell whilst we were on route to Sollum and we were taken off in barges at Sollum because only a small wharfage there and scattered around and the might of the battalion had arrived at the same time via
lorries, so we were all together as a Battalion at Sollum. What really interested us at Sollum was the fact that there were thousands of Italian troops all down the banks, lining the banks, and whenever you’d go past you’d hear Aqua, Aqua, they were so thirsty. Well we left them the next day and headed
off to join the 6th Division at Tobruk. Well we passed Bardia which had been taken a few days previously, and came to Tobruk and it had only been captured a day or so before. It was still all rather disorganised and they gave our Battalion the job of preparing roads and broken culverts and things so as the transport could go. And the 6th
Divvy had in the meantime had preceded on ad taken Derna. So we followed through with the 6th right through Derna, Benghazi and then to El-Agheila and by that time our battalion was spread out all the way from Tobruk to El-Agheila doing roadwork and another job was reclothing all the lorries that had been left abandoned, there were thousands of them. And
my company went to Derna first; we had a couple of weeks at Derna, which is a beautiful harbour township. You come out of the desert and go way down the escarpment, beautiful palm trees and Italian villas that was, I think it must have been administration pre-war because there was a big municipal offices
and under that, it was two storeys they’d run the lorries and things into a big yard at the back of it. So we camped there for a week or so, just getting odds and ends together at Derna , fixing things up and making ready for our Headquarters to come up. Moved our headquarters to Derna. We then went to a place called Wadi el Cuff, which is up in the mountains,
you come to what they call the Jebel Achdar Mountains. I think Jebel means Mountain, but they’re quite a lovely spot and at pre-war there had been lot of Italian settlements there, very nice place. Also I noticed there was a town that the Italians had been excavating called Cirene, its mentioned in the Bible. That was very interesting
but we only had half of day there, I would have liked to have stayed there, but we went on to this Wadi el cuff which was a big wadi or gully, they call their gullies ‘wadis’ over there and there had been a big bridge destroyed and we were given the job of repairing that bridge. And that was the first time I’d ever seen tubular
scaffolding used. Out here in Australia at the time we use-to-use 6 be 4 joists of timber, but this was this tubular scaffolding, very heavy stuff though not like the aluminium ones we have here. But found it good to be able to use the scaffolding to put things up. So we made the bridge, repaired the bridge completely with this tubular scaffolding and two weeks later we blew it up.
But from Wadi el cuff to a nice town called Barce, it was a lovely centre of Italian settlements, they had courts. But high across the plain we coming down out of the mountain then were these Italian farms and nice to see across the plain, and
we only just went through there we didn’t stop there long. And we camped just outside Benghazi and we saw three German planes coming over, I’d never seen German planes before and they said oh their German they’ve got a cross on them. And then they told us the Germans had landed in Tripoli
and next day we were told to go back to Derna, where our battalion headquarters were. Well we went to Derna and all of a sudden before we got the chance to continue, a stream of traffic going through Derna and we wondered when we’d be joining it because we had heard then that we were in retreat. And after a Don R [Despatch Rider] came up to our
headquarters and told us we had to head westward where they were all coming from and blow up the bridge, so that was the Wadi Cuff. So away we went up there and when we got there it had already been blown so we didn’t have to blow it up. So we went south then from Wadi el cuff to a place called Giovanni Berta. It was an Italian town, lovely. Well it had been a lovely town
it was all deserted at that time and we joined quite a few of our battalion there, they were forming up there, not all of them a lot of them were still in Derna and had made there way, and there was a group in Tobruk getting the defences all ready. They hadn’t left Tobruk they had been there all the time and so we went back across the desert for all night long
and about half the next day we came into Tobruk. And our captain said, “I’ll have to find out where we’re going just stay here,” so we stayed on a little patch and about an hour he came back and he said. And we said, “Where are we off to?” And he said, “We’re stopping” and that’s when we knew we had to stay there. And we were put of preparing the defences then not that those old Italian
trenches had been a bit knocked around our rubble and stuff had to clean them out. Then we were putting trenches between the Italian trenches, which were about 500 yards apart. And we’d only dig down about 2 feet because of the rock and put a sandbag on top. They were very awkward to stay in because you couldn’t if you’re in
when they were firing or anything you couldn’t put your head up in the daytime, you just had to lay there in the sun, which was very boring and to give ourselves shelter and that we used to dig a little slit trench off the slit trench about 6 ft long and cover that in and that’s where we used to sleep in there, a little annex off the trench. And now and again it your were
lucky the trench had been made from an old Italian artillery placement so they were good because they had been properly prepared. But in the main the slip trenches were terrible things to be staying in because you’d lay all day and of course you’d work all night, very boring, very hot and we couldn’t have a wash, so we were pestered with fleas and flies. If you were lucky
none of the lice bothered us like it did in the First World War with the soldier. We never had any lousy outbreaks, just fleas and flies in the main. And always thirsty, we didn’t get a very big water ration and that was chlorinated to make sure that it was pure so it didn’t taste the best. You learnt to
exist on that. At night time the rations would come up, you’d have a dixie of it might be bully beef and veggies or M and V - meat and vegetables and sometimes you’d have sweets and so on, so it wasn’t too bad and then a big dixie of tea, it was all one, it was all milked and sugared, and some of them didn’t like milk and a lot
didn’t like sugar, but you learnt to live with it because after all you’d go thirst otherwise. We moved around to various places, in addition to the trenches they built, they fortified them with barbwire so as make them better than fences, we reckon the Moreson was trying to become AWL [Absent Without Leave],
barbwire. And in front of them we would put vines, although they were pretty defence proof to a point and round the concrete ones in the main perimeter they also had wire barrier around. Some parts the wire barrier was a continuous fence other parts it was only around the
main trench. And they’d be mines in front of that. All the forward base, they were a zigzag, they’d be one forward, one back, one forward, one back around the perimeter – 137 of them. And the ones in the front they’d have an anti tank trench around, so you’d have the anti tank trench,
the barb wire, you’d have your mines so they were fairly well fortified. Because the Italians had the exact position of them all, because they had the original maps. We had some captured maps, I’ve got one down at the …. I should have brought that up, Tobruk’s clubhouse down there; I can go and get tomorrow morning for you. And
that shows the position of all the trenches and that there’s all the co-ordinates and so on, the latitude and the longitudes. So they had the exact plane drop to use and they used to have very good artillery. Of course the planes knew where to drop the bombs, but I think in the main the planes were more interested in bombing the harbour and Tobruk, then worrying about these
trenches all the way around, unless they put on an attack then the bombers would come over the Blitzkrieg type followed by the tanks, then followed by the infantry. They tried that on the 14th of April, I think it was. They broke through and Morshead [Leslie Morshead, Australian major general] said to tell the infantry to
stay put not to go back or try to attack the tanks and they ran into quite a lot of our artillery and they hadn’t struck that before, they’re swirling around to go out and they were tormenting the tanks trying to come in. So that was a failure. [(UNCLEAR) – probably referring to Corporal J H Edmondson, 2/17th Bn] got his VC [Victoria Cross] at that one. A couple of nights later, the Italians had a drive along on our western perimeter,
there’s a hill 209 they went through, they got repulsed our troops saw them forming up and attacked first and then in May, April the 30th they put on a really big attack, they broke through 14 of our trenches, the pace, the fortified pace
captured 14 of them from S7 to R7 and they drove a wedge into, we call it ‘The Salient’ up until they reached the Blue Line, the front line was called the Red Line, the secondary line was called the Blue Line. They put a very good mine field in front of all the secondary defences and the tanks couldn’t get through them so they swung around
went eastward and out through R7 but we never took those trenches that they’d taken from some Italian one’s back, we took two or three, R8, R10 but I don’t say we really took them, we reoccupied them because they didn’t have
sufficient troops to man them all. R8 stood out for a long while, for another day and night, they had a terrible time and they put flamethrowers up on the tanks and burnt them out with that. So they had R7 – S7. Our pioneer’s were in R8, 9 and 10 that’s how I know that they weren’t occupied because
we occupied them. But other troops tried to take other trenches but they’d already been occupied and they weren’t in the race. We were lucky we got into these trenches just before they came back. They came back I think it was May the fourth, no that was when it finished, it would be about May the first.
They broke through, 30th and the 1st and we were around a bit at a place called Pilastrino, we were on the Blue Line, so they sent us in to see what we could do and they told us that they didn’t think 8, 9 and 10 were occupied, but to see if we could take them, but if they were occupied see if we could get them back. They must have done that to other troops too.
And that was our first offensive fight of the war. I’d never fired a rifle up until this time. And so that was where I first officially fired the rifle. But we, I went to R8 and we settled in, it had been left by our troops leaving it when the tanks came and we must have only been in it for a
little while then we heard a lot of talk and there was a troop of Germans coming over, all our fellows fired on them and after a bit of crossfire, they retreated. So we were very lucky they hadn’t occupied that just before we did, but that was my first offensive fight during the war, luckily.
I thought if I don’t shot them, he’s going to shot me. But your just standing there you got to do it. It’s like swimming, you get stuck, and you just swim. I think we were all very frightened, I don’t think there were any heroic fellows. But you sort of get used to it though, you know even though its bang, bang all the time you get used to it. But the fighting
died down after the 4th of May and we stayed there for another 10 or 12 days I’m not sure which, and we were relieved by the 2/15th Infantry. We went back to the blue then. I went to various places from these places sometimes in the front and sometimes in the Blue Line and occasionally right back out
of fighting which was good. In the back areas you could walk around, wander around, that was around Tobruk. There was a lot of spare land there, if you, you didn’t wander around in groups though, because that would attract attention. Because an odd man could possibly 7 or 8 miles away didn’t attract that much attention. But if they saw a group marching you’d get artillery fire at you.
But I was never in Tobruk itself, until last year when I went there. But I was around the waterfront a fair bit but never in the township. We stayed there from April the 9th I think we got back into Tobruk and stayed there until just after September. October we went back to
Palestine and we were told one night that we were going to go back so we were moved back into an area not far from the harbour where we could easily be transported onto ships. We all went to different ships; I went onto an English Destroyer known as the Griffin not just me alone, but the group of us,
but it had lots of hulls, and its decking and on the side because it had been in Crete several months earlier and never been repaired. But we got aboard there about 12, they could only stay for about half an hour, they had to get in and out, it might have been a little longer than half hour, but not much because they had to get back
past Bardia and Sollum before daybreak. Because they’d be discovered by the enemy and so they had to get in. While we were getting in they’re unloading the other side, they were very good. And first thing we did, we were taken down to the petty officers’ mess, I think it was and we were given a table to sleep, but we
found there was a shower alongside so. I never remember coming out of Tobruk because we wouldn’t have been allowed up on deck anyhow, I remember we all showering there busily for a while. It was all salt water, but it was lovely. And we got back to Alexandria about half past 11, 12 o’clock the next day. And they took us to Amiriya again
we landed there about 6 and then we boarded the train at night and finished up at Palestine. The only thing I remember about that train trip, we got into big empty compartments like the luggage trains, or truck all covered and everything, but we could smell bitumen. In the morning we had a look we’d been laying in soft bitumen, they’d been carrying bitumen so we were a bit
of a mess. But we landed back not far from Julis, a place called Hill 69 and we moved in there and stayed there until March, 1942.
saw the Japanese had came into the war and we just didn’t know what was going on, but we did know that their ships were leaving from Palestine, Australian troops, the British troops we didn’t know much about because we were sort of a settlement of Australians. But we knew several were going, the 6th had left and the 7th was starting to go
and in March they told us we were going and the 2/3rd Pioneers had just arrived and were staying, it was a bit silly sending them all over there, then sending us back. So we packed up and sometime in March or early April it must have been early April,
we were trucked down to Port Said and we boarded a huge ocean liner an American one known as USS West Point, tied up to the wharf, it had only just been built as an answer to the Queen Mary it was a steamship America at 45,000
tonnes and it had such good speed that it came out unescorted from Suez to Australia. And we had seen the Japanese advancing down to Australia and we gee we will soon be free Australians like so many other troops, free Australians, it look as though Australia would be going. And in the meantime the 6th Division was milling around
in the Indian Ocean not sure it they were going to Burma or not and then some of the 7th Division was doing the same while Curtin [John Curtin Prime Minister of Australia] and Churchill [Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom] were arguing what to do. Eventually we got on this ship and away we went and thirteen days and we were back in Australia. Unescorted, just going, big ship it had a lot of troops on, we went down about 2 or 3
decks where we were camped, but of course it had been a passenger liner so we weren’t in hulls, we were in cabins and it had taken a lot of British Troops from South Africa across to Singapore, when Singapore fell and they had to leave in a hurry and so a lot of the anti aircraft
guns and so on was still aboard from the British, it had been left there. They just put the troops off and away they went because the troops were being dispersed, they couldn’t wait and fill them up with troops. And it came straight across to Suez where it picked us up from one of the ports there and we just boarded and came back to Australia. The only thing was when it left Singapore
it hadn’t had time to put on supplies. So we had two meals and day, it was beans. You had beans in the morning and beans the last thing at night. And we used to go round singing Yippee Yi o Ki ah, but they didn’t have any other it was just the beans and of course they had to give them to us I suppose. There were so many troops the Mess line would wind
down three or four floors to where you were and eventually you’d go and get your ration and away you’d go. It was a happy ship, we didn’t know where we were going until we were at sea and then they told us we were going back to Australia. And we thought, I hope we don’t see Japs there. But we pulled in to Fremantle and dropped our West… we had some West Aussie boys with us and they were given leave and we carried on
to Adelaide where we disembarked and we were taken up to…. I forget the name of the place, about 20 mile out of Adelaide and we were told we’d be there for a while unloading ships, because a lot of ships came down from Singapore. So we
Stanford or something like that you’d know it, was it Stanford or Salisbury or some name like that, its only about 20 mile out of Adelaide and the 18th Brigade had arrived before us they were the 7th Division and they fostered us in, they had our tents up for us, but we spent, it must have been March we left, because it took 13 days back, because we spent most of April
unloading ships down Adelaide. We’d be taken down there in trucks and unload these ships, a lot of the ships from not only Singapore but Java and all that were there and being unloaded. We were told we could send a telegram home to our people to let them know that we were in Australia and we’d see them sometime,
but a lot of us had anticipated that and we’d been on the telephone, they knew we were home. But I met some fellows there that had pulled into Java on the way and they had left before some of the other ones and a lot of not a lot the 2/2nd Pioneers and the 2/2nd [actually 2/3rd] Machine Gunners too and some ASC [Army Service Corps]
they were left in Java, they became prisoners of war. But we came back through there and then one day we were told we were going home on 7 days leave, so that was good we boarded the trains and I don’t know they were very lax with their spy operations because the telephone was so handy, it wasn’t as free as it is today because there’s only a
phone up at every corner now and again and only so many private phones but it was a good means of communication. And I’d phone my brother he was at the depot of the navy down in Flinders. Told him I was coming through on such and such a train and Melbourne, my
aunt was there to meet me she knew I was coming and several of her friends I knew there, they all met us, you couldn’t go through, so you just talked through the barrier and we had to wait and let the Sydney Limited go at half past five and we came through on the slow train, anyway we got as far as the station before Albury and we pulled in for a meal there
and I was walking along the platform and there were a heap of sailors and I hear Jack, Jack, it was my brother Jim and he had special leave to go home because I was coming and so he was a petty officer and he had a group he was taken over to Sydney and he’d arranged to come also so he said to one of the fellows your in charge
and he came home with me on the troop train which was very good. He’d been on the half past five which we’d had let go, because he didn’t know when we’d be coming, he knew I was heading home, but when he saw all these fellows with the triangular patch Pioneers, he said are these Pioneers, so he found me and I took him up to my CO and said can Jim could come home with? Oh Yes. Hop aboard. So
when we got to Central, we let people know that we were coming and there was my girlfriend, she was my girlfriend then, my sister all waving up there on the platform. And they knew where I was because of this sailor cap in amongst the…. And so it was very nice leave, we had seven days leave and I got married in that time.
I’d been engaged before I went away. And went home saw Mum and had a very nice three or four days then we headed off to Ingleburn where we had to assemble after our leave, then we went straight up to Brisbane, out to place called Torval Point, opposite Bribie Island where we were building
a commando camp, because we were building these sort of things around while we were waiting to see what would happen. Well we were there from May til August 4 months doing roadworks and building camps around
and went to Don Company, I had more or less shot through and got came back and was put into ……I was there 3 or 4 months and I, my brother was getting married, he rang up to see if I could go with him to come and see his wedding and our CO said Oh, no we’re likely to go any day, I cant let you have leave. I said I’d like to go to my brothers wedding,
and he said it can’t be done. I said O.K. At Torval Point there’s lots at Bribie Island, there’s a bridge there now, we’d see the ferry come up each day from Brisbane and go back and so I said to the fellows in the tent, my brother Jims being married in three or four days, I’m going to see if I can go down and see him and they said we’re coming too so the whole tent. We saw the oyster growers
there and they loaded us across to get the ferry and away we went. Well my tent mates they were only suppose to have a night out in Brisbane and a mate of mine who was an English boy that was in the AI [Army Intelligence], he joined up. I’d taken him home on leave when I went on leave. And he said I’m coming with you to Sydney, as he said how are we going to get there. I said, I don’t know watching the roads of course and when we were going up the
Brisbane River there was a big ship in being loaded or unloaded we didn’t know and I said to one of the crew, “What freight’s that?” And he told us, that brought down the last of the refugees from the islands, he said. “It’s going down to Sydney for a refit.” “Oh,” I said, “that sounds good.” So I rang Burns Phillip I think is was and asked if I could book a passage down to Sydney, because I couldn’t get of the trains, they were
booked out and he said, “Oh yes, he said what’s your name?” And I said Mr Bertram and Mr Simmons and he said O.K, I didn’t say private or anything like that. And he said, “Go down to the wharf,” he told me the number of wharf and he said, “Get the man on the gate to ring Mr So-and-So, he’s the purser, he’ll see if he can book you on, we can’t do
anything about it.” So I went down and rang the fellow and he said, “Oh yes, come aboard, I’ll see you in the morning, for your fares” he said. “You can go, but we can’t tell you when we’re going,” he said we might be here for a few days, and I thought ‘Oh gosh’, so I tried it out anyway to see if we could go. So we went aboard and it was all closed up because there were only a few refugees left
that were going down to Sydney and we were look after, they gave us a cabin, and they said, “We’re not going till 10 o’clock, so you can go ashore for a couple of hours if you like.” And I said, “Oh no, we’ll stay put,” so that’s when I knew when we were going. And I got down to Sydney about a day and a half later and I went to my brothers wedding and I rang the MP’s [Military Police] then somewhere two soldiers were AWL,
so they sent a truck out and picked us up, so I got back to the battalion just as they were on the show down ready to embark on the boat to go to New Guinea, so I just managed in time, otherwise it could possibly been desertion. Anyhow I was a sergeant then and he demoted me then to private
and he said, “Don’t do this ever again.” And I said, “I wont do, I’ve only got one brother.” Anyway we sailed up to, that’s when I went to Don Company, and that went on one boat know as the Anshun, the rest of the battalion went, I forget the name of the boat they went on, we said in convoy, a few ships up and down through the Barrier Reef up until we got
to New Guinea then our ship headed off east the others kept onto Moresby and we went into Milne Bay. Well the Japs were fighting when we went in and we kept to the Southern side of Milne Bay and we parked at the deck a place called Gili Gili and we all got off and we were
brought just on the beach, we were told to make ourselves comfortable, to lay flat on that until we were going and night came and the Japanese Cruiser and Destroyer came in and they shelled the Anshun and they sunk her. So it was lucky that we were off her. And we stayed at Milne Bay for; it was 6 months, till December 1942.
And I was tired of building roads and that so I transferred to 2/5th Field Regiment and artillery was in it, it was hard to get transferred by I told our CO [Commanding Officer], that I would, I was fed up with digging and I’d dig but only if he’d stand and watch me. Any rate he gave
permission to transfer so I got into the 2/5th Field Regiment and a few days later that sailed for Moresby. At Moresby, I’d bumped the rest of the Pioneers, they were working in a quarry, much harder than we’d been at Milne Bay and they were, said pity we hadn’t got a transfer, they wont let us transfer. Any rate
they had sent out a call for people to help form the Papuan Infantry Battalion, it had already been formed with 2 Company’s but they were going to make a Battalion of it and a lot of the pioneers had volunteered and went into a Papuan Infantry Battalion, and I thought gee that sounds good. So I saw our artillery man and told him, could I get a transfer and he said oh all right, so he was pretty good.
And I joined the Papuan Infantry Battalion then and that was quite good, very interesting. We formerly we went to a place called Bisiatabu which is up behind the Rouna Falls at Moresby and we were learning to talk to the natives and train them, because a lot of them were just bush kanakas they used to call them, a lot of them had been brought over from the Solomons and from
New Ireland and so on as carriers for the Japanese and they had deserted when they had got into the scrub here and they’d come across, there must have been about 40 or 50 of them. So we had these ‘Buka Boys’ [possibly a reference to Buka Island off the northern tip of the Solomons chain] we used to call them, they’re the blackest of the black, a lot of the Papuans are more of an olivey brown but the Bukas, the Solomon Islanders and some of the
New Ireland, they’re the real jet black, and we’d called the Bukas, Black. And so we more or less had all New Guinean natives and Solomon Islanders, and they formed, B Company had a tough time over at the Kokoda Track at this time and they reformed that with a lot of the troops that we were training and we went with them. And we
went over, just, we joined the 18th Brigade. They used fossette the out to different units for reconnaissance and we stayed there until Bundall fell and then we went along with I think it was the 3rd Division I’m not sure, Militia helping them and they went through to
Salamaua, after Salamaua we went across to Lae. Up behind Lae, Wau we were at and we were working around there for a while until September of the reconnaissance and then one day our CO left us, a captain, and he said, “I’ve got to go to conference down at Lae” I think it was, no not Lae, back to
Moresby he had to go and he came back and he said, “There’s going to be a big landing in a couple of days time,” he said, “I’ve got to fire a ferry pistol at such-and-such a time, if its all safe to land.” So that was we were at Dumpu, what is known as Dumpu Aerodrome later, we were camped there and everything was good, there was no opposition, the Japs [Japanese] were busy looking after Lae, they weren’t
worrying about this back area. And so he fired it and along came the airborne troops, the natives said, “Carvader, Carvader, Lookie, Lookie,” and I said, “Yeah I’m looking and I haven’t seen them either.” And there were all these paratroops coming down. And I stayed with the 7th Divvy and there was the 41st American Division landed with those. The 7th Divvy came over the land by
plane and they landed at various points around Lae and came down and joined the paratroopers. And 2/2nd Pioneers which had been reformed there were a lot of the reinforcements from the 2/1st formed that, so we knew a lot of them. We were with the 2/2nd for a little while and we went through the Markham Valley. The Markham
goes like that and the Ramu goes the other way, so we followed the Ramu up to Shaggy Ridge and I forget the name of the place, but about another 20 mile onwards the fighting ceased and the Japs retreated back over the Sepik over to the Wewak area. But all that area there is where the Ramu
and the Sepik run into the sea its just a huge swampy area, its goes for about 30 or 40 miles it’s a terrible place to be in. But that was where we were ‘recceing’ [conducting reconnaissance] around for quite a while and then, it must be ‘43, ‘44. It must be ‘44 by this time, we when back to Bisiatabu for a rest and so on and
they had leave down home, first leave I’d had since New Guinea and when I came back the battalion, the company had more of less formed working company had been brought back to Moresby and they went back up to the Ramu Valley to work around Wewak and that area. Well we were there for,
must have been September 44, we came out again then, back to Bisiatabu and they were reforming the battalions and they were taking all the New Guinea boys out of the Papuan Infantry and replacing them with Paps [Papuans] and they were forming a couple of battalions, they had formed one already, they were forming a couple more for the Papuans,
for the Pacific Island Regiment, that was late 44 early 45. I came back from leave and they said, “You’re going up to,” not Dumpu…I forget the name of the fort, but they’ve got a big training battalion up there and you can go up and train the boys as they come in
you know for the new regiment and, “Oh” I said, “That doesn’t sound real exciting,” and so I came back on the boat with some planters of New Guinea. They were going back to get their plantations back in order, and one of them was going back to a rubber plantation about 30 miles west of Moresby and so I ask, they were asking for
anybody who knew how to handle natives to go back and help them get the plantations still. They told me all this on the boat, so when I got back to Moresby I asked for a transfer to the Production Control Board as it was called and I said I emphasized 30 I turned and they we quite happy to get rid of some of the older fellows because there were a lot of young fellows
coming up from training and that in their early twenties so I suppose it was logical to transfer us to something where we wouldn’t be any bother. And I went out to a rubber plantation known as Canaseeya, a place called Gully Reach was the name of the place, a beautiful place, the planter was there that I had met on the boat, he made me welcome and he
showed me all the rigmarole of running the plantation and then he went to another one to get it going, they were getting them all in order. It consisted of first of all clearing the trees and rubbish that had grown up over the years and then the tappers would go through and tap their trees, collect the rubber, they took it back, the had a factory where it was put into big tanks;
about 12 foot long by about 4 foot wide by about a foot deep. I think it was ascetic acid we used to add into so much rubber latex and I think it was ascetic acid and that would cause it to coagulate and be long rubbery strips, well then that would possibly be there for a day or two and then it was lifted out they had slides
all along the tanks where you put it in and you’d get this long slab and then they put this into a roll and roll it out, out to about 12 feet long and then they’d take it and put into a smokehouse and smoke it. And they would when it had been smoked fold it up into bales of about 100 pounds and sent it back. I learnt all that and that was quite interesting. It’s interesting watching them tap rubber.
And that’s where I finished the war. So it was quite a nice way to finish the war. What I found so nice about it was, that you were given a little residence to live in and they had, some of them had silk sheets, but a lot of them had gone rotten and so on and we had a cook boy and a hunt boy and they looked after the place. All we had to do was watch the boys work. So it was quite a nice
had exercises because there were a lot of paddocks around Belmore around that time and once I remember we had a bombing raid. The lieutenant, the training lieutenant was a ex World War I fellow and he put us through the air force precautions the same as they were in the First World War, well we wouldn’t have lasted 3 minutes we found out later, but he’d blow
his whistle, “Aircraft left,” rifles up and, “Aircraft right,” so they said we wouldn’t last long. That’s how they used to do it in World War I. They bombed us with flour bombs, to keep us going, I think for a bit of amusement as well as a bit of relief from ordinary training. But they were good they put us through a lot of infantry drill, which we never got in the battalion.
But we never had any firing a rifle or anything like that because most of them had been sent over to England, they lost them all at Dunkirk. We used to drill with pick handles, and we used to reckon we shot down those planes with our pick handle. But no, most of them went across to England all the
rifles and so on. I never got at rifle until I was boarding the boat, they gave us one then. And then of course I mentioned earlier we got our Brens and Boyes anti-tank guns just prior to leaving Amiriya Training Camp. That was another good thing the Italians did for us, they left us heaps of equipment, signalling equipment, wirelesses and so on
and we reckon they were no good because you could only get Italian music on it. But they were good and their switchboards were quite good for the signalling and also their artillery was good because they had stacks of ammunition everywhere and rifles. I think their rifles, I always thought their breeder gun which is a side clip machine Bren was superior to the
Bren, because the fellow said, “No, no, it doesn’t fire like a Bren you can put two bullets in the one hole” and I said, “Who wants to shoot a man with two bullets?” The breeder [(UNCLEAR)], which is good, but the Bren was so accurate. So I think that was a mistake and also with the Bren, I don’t know what they do now, I know they’ve got a lot different, you used to have to load it by hand with a curved magazine and you had to put
…we had rim loaded so each rim had to be just in front of the previous one otherwise they would jam whereas their breeder they haven’t got a rim on, it’s a little groover, out and they came in cartridges of about 20 and you just push the cartridge in like that and pull it out and your rifle, breeder’s loaded. Which I think should have been adopted for the Bren, but of course they possibly couldn’t do it.
And I think that had a lot of advantages over the Bren, it wasn’t as accurate, but when there’s gooks coming at you, you don’t, you got to shatter your fire around a bit. We had breeders and when we went into Tobruk we had our Bren gun and then one day they brought up some guns with a
round barrel, Tommy guns [Thompson sub machine guns] and we wanted to know were the violin case were with them. But what we didn’t like about the Tommy gun, either it fired a 45 round ammunition, which made it about half as heavy again, the ammuntion as the .303. So when you get say 2, 50 rounds of .303 bandolier around your gear you’ve got
quite a weight, well if you had 45’s around you’d be terrible weight to carry. And I think that the smaller bore up to a limited of course was just as effective as the .303. The Japanese had a … smaller than ours and that was effective enough. The Italians were smaller.
There are different ways though, we struck the Italian ones first, they were about a yard wide and they bury them in the road and they’ve got like a lid on with two blades and when the something goes on heavy, pushes this lid down and the blades cut the wire and it springs out and sets the detonator off. They had lots of them, and that the first mines we struck, in action.
Also they had one they’d clamp onto a post like that and had little wires sticking out running along the barbwire and you’d go clipping the barbwire and next thing a big explosion, because they were spring loaded, they’d spring. They were the Italian ones, they were pretty good mines. But the length of them was a bit you know prohibiting
I suppose, the round ones were much easier to handle and that seems to be the general fact then. Another thing you’d clear a mine field and you’d put the mines down about 4 or 6 inches, they might put some down about a foot lower and you clear the top lot and there were still mines there. Well after the trucks and so on going through they’d dig the thing down and sometimes a week or two after
the mine field had been cleared a truck would go up or a wheel would fly off the truck because they’d hit a mine. They’re dangerous thing as you can see over the years the people that have been left with thousands of mines to clear. Now they have of course, a gadget you can, electrically you know where a mine is but, we used to feel with a bayonet around. Another thing the mine lays like that and they might
put a little wire up, out onto a peg and you go creeping around with your bayonets, you spring it and up goes the mine. I’m lucky that I never had any accidents like that, but I know fellows that did. Another thing they did in Tobruk, they used to drop cans of peaches or a thermos flask or fountain
pens, and you’d pick them up, they were like a fountain like that and you’d go like that and bang. Tommy Wallace one of my friends up here, he lost his hand that way, he’s picked up a fountain pen. And also with the tin of fruit, that’s filled with grease and that’s got big ball bearings in it and the
end of it’s loaded with explosives and they’d drop them and the heat melts the wax and you’d pick it up and the ball hits ‘cause the explosion. Quite a few of them dropped. Of course you mightn’t think, you see ‘Oh fruit’. So they had lots of ways with mines. They weren’t mines they were booby traps and the idea of a lot of mines,
especially the small anti personnel mines was not to kill you, but to wound you severely, because a wounded man takes 3 or 4 to take him back. Whereas a killed, dead man, he’s dead he can stay there. So it’s better to severely wound a man, it sounds awful but it is better to severely wound a man than to kill him. That used to be quite a…not an argument but a discussion… when you see someone coming do you shoot him in the
stomach or do you shoot him in the head. Because if you shoot him in the stomach he possibly gotta be carried back and if you’re on patrol you can’t afford to send men back with one of your mates and on the other hand you’re not going to leave your mate out there on his own. So its better to wound a man severely than kill him, because if he’s severely wounded he’ll die later anyhow
despite of his attention.
dislike this officers’ privilege; I thought we’re all in the army together, why should they have extra privileges that we don’t. For instance, they always had a car to drive into town for leave and all that whereas we couldn’t go in because we had no transport and I thought that was a bit over the odds. And then they all ate together and I always thought that we should all mess together not have special messes for officers
and special messes for men, we’re all in the army together. I still feel that. That was my biggest chip on the shoulder I suppose, about the two ranks and the army, not only army, navy it was British tradition of course, the upper and lower class and the upper class were always officers, the lower class very seldom got very far in the officer’s status in the
British Army. They did a little better in the Australian Army, but I felt it was too much of that class distinction, I’ve always felt that way, I suppose it’s just my nature, I feel we’re all equal, we’re all fighting for the same cause and we should be treated equally and on leave I feel that, I was very annoyed in Tel Aviv and so on, there were these shops for officers only
and just as well, they were more expensive than the others, but I felt that was wrong. I believe they tried to introduce it into Sydney, but it didn’t get very far, the public wouldn’t agree to it. So there was never any ‘officers only’ in Australia. Of course they were always, you knew which one to go away from because of the cost, because the private on 6 shillings a day
couldn’t go spending up like a man on, lieutenants, on I think about 23 shillings a day, quite a big gap. And that sort of did separate them that way, but I do feel it was an insult to Australians to want to put up ‘officers only’. Because we were all in the services together, fighting for the same ‘cause. Because that’s the general system I believe, in many armies, officers only.
American didn’t appear to be so much that way. Their officer and men seemed to mix together much more freely on leave than what we did. So that’s about the biggest gripe I have over the army. Otherwise I definitely agree that if you have a corporal tells you to do something, you should do it without question, if you didn’t like
doing it you could complain afterwards but do the thing first, because you have to have somebody in charge and at work you don’t object and the boss tells you to do something you do it, but if it wrong you might say to him I don’t think that’s the right way but you still do it, and then when its wrong, of course he’d have to take the blame for it. Same in the army, the officers, and the NCOs and so ons they’d have to give the orders and the other ranks would have to abide
by it. And the officers themselves too they have to abide by what the colonel tells them and he’d have to do what he was told by the brigadier otherwise you wouldn’t have an army at all, you must have somebody in charge, but I feel that there’s a human aspect that should be considered also, rather than just we’re the boss and you’re here to work for us. That’s just my opinion though; a lot of people
would disagree over that.
course, it would depend on what you were doing, if it was something important you wouldn’t even consider it but lots of cases we felt what are we here doing drains for day after day. Milne Bay we worked seven days a week and we’d have I think a day off a month ‘cause that was urgent there, and they didn’t mind that because they knew that had to build all these things. But its hard work in the rain,
and we’d keep going in the rain and all, just digging roads and that type of business. That’s one reason why I had to get out of the Pioneers this constant labouring work. What also sort of tormented us there was a corps known as a Civil Construction Corps, they were civilians and they used to come and do certain
works. Well they worked on peace time conditions where they knock off, they were just working, they were working 7 days a week but they were getting overtime and so on for the different things on roadwork’s. And we thought well why can’t they do like us too and they’d have the days off, or if they worked they’d get paid for it. And they sort of resented
then a little bit and the civilians. Not so much in the islands because we only saw them once in the Islands. But I believe in the Northern Territory and so on there was quite a distinction between the CCF and the army. Well they were only doing what they’d do normally of course. They felt that they should get some recompense too for doing the same work
for the days of week. But that was a big cause for people wishing to leave Pioneers because of the work, 7 days a week. And the Infantry they’d often be put on to help us too but they wouldn’t be on it constantly day after day. But we were, it made a lot of people put their back up against the Pioneers and
also my Company went to Milne Bay, that was Don Company. A, B and C Company and Headquarters went to Moresby. Well just at the finish of the Kokoda Trail they ‘d been up on the Ioribaiwa Ridge, they came back and they were put in a Quarry, quarrying stones, that was a seven-day a week
job. That was very hard work there and that made a lot of discontent for the Pioneers and that’s why they were always trying to get transfers, and it wasn’t until they wanted volunteers for the Papuan Infantry Battalion that they were allowed to transfer and there was quite a mass exodus to the Papuan Infantry Battalion. That’s why when I came to
Moresby, on talking to them I was so happy to switch over to them, but only because it was a new experience. But also I had quite a few mates had switched over so that very good. The quarry, they’d work 3 shifts a day, 7 days a week going all the time. And when there was an air raid on,
of course work ceased. And that was the only decent break they had, if there was an air raid on. It was hard work quarrying stone, but it was necessary work, but I feel that rather than just leave one battalion there month after month, they were there about 6 months on that job. That they should have been rotated with other units, say after say a month, another unit go in because it was hard work
and it was not what the troops signed up for. They were all volunteers and another little argument was that they were all volunteers and yet there’s all conscripts in the Militia, they did a great job tho, but that was just one little thing that used to hurt them. The conscripts would be coming up there then 11th Division, 3rd Division and the 5th Division I think it was
and doing a lot of training there, which was necessary but they’d only train 5 days a week and have the weekend off or Saturday afternoon and Sunday, whereas the Pioneers kept working, that was a source of complaint. Why do we have to keep working when these fellows that wouldn’t join up, were forced into are getting all these privileges. It was possible unfair in lots of way, but that’s
what a lot of them felt. Luckily I never went to Moresby to go in the quarry, we found the roads at Milne Bay were bad enough. They worked night and day on the quarry, it was a big job. They needed the stone because they were building the aerodromes around Moresby, but prior to the Pioneers going in the quarry,
there’re were gangs of natives working there and a lot of them were the nucleus of the Papuan Infantry Battalion. So there was sort of an affinity between the Pioneers and the Papuan Infantry. That didn’t obtain right through of course though because lots of troops from other Battalions and so on formed the core of the Papuan Infantry and also the
Pacific Islands Regiment at a later stage.
and trench work those sort of engineering jobs, so they decided they would form a Pioneer Battalion. They got the idea from the century before, where the troops in India formed pioneers to do road building and so on like that and to keep them as
Infantry when needed. So that was where the idea of Pioneer came from. But the word Pioneer, I not sure actually where it came from but in an Infantry Battalion and I suppose in a Artillery Regiment there was a platoon know as a pioneer platoon and their job was to look after the hygiene of the troops, they’d dig latrines and
fill the toilets and so on and they’d have to empty them and so on. Well the Pioneers always had a very bad name when you say, “Pioneers, oh they’re the ‘so-and-so kickers’.” That’s where the pioneer’s term came from. But in 1916 with the amount of digging and so on they formed a Pioneer
battalion for each division. They formed 5 Pioneer battalions. The Second World War they decided they’d keep them separate from the divisions and form corps troops so they could attach them wherever needed so the first one they were with this particular division, the Second [World] War they were corps troops
and we were attached to the 6th Division first then later on we were 7th Division then up in New Guinea there was some of us attached to 7th, some attached to 11th Militia Division. And the 2/2nd Pioneers they attached to the 7th when they went through Syria, the sailed to the home
in March 43, because they landed in Java, not to their choice because they joined the 8th Division then and the 2/3rd Pioneer they were the one’s that should have been attached to the 8th Division when they went to Malaya but for some reason they were sent to the Middle East, which was good for them. Now they were attached to the 9th Division when we came back home
they were attached to the 9th Division, they fought at El Alamein with the 9th Division, and they came back to Australia and they went up to New Guinea with the 9th then up to Borneo, so they were more or less attached to the 9th Division. But prior to that, the first couple of years of the war when they formed they were attached as Corps Troops up and around the Northern Territory and so they weren’t attached to any Divisions
for the first couple of years of their livelihood. The 2/4th Pioneers was formed later in the war and they were attached to the 9th Division also when they went up to Borneo, they had left Darwin earlier when Java was being threatened and they were on their way to Java when their
convoy was attacked and they had to put back to Darwin, so their first time they were really with a Division was with the 9th up in Borneo. So the 9th Division had 2 battalions, 3rd and 4th. The 6th Division went to Wewak, Wewak area in 45 they relieved the Americans there and they didn’t have any Pioneers with them
there so the 2/1st and the 2/2nd were attached to the 7th Division when they went up to Borneo and they finished the war with the 7th Division. So they were scattered around through all the Divisions. But that was the idea of making corps troop of them, same as with the Artillery Corps and Machine Gunners and so on, they get attached around to different Divisions.
But I’m not sure where the term Pioneer came from, I’ll have to try and find that out.
from S Post right round to R Post, from R Post it continued round to Z Post and from Z Post went through to the Sea. I don’t know why they had Z, S and R, but there were 137 of them. Well when they broke through, they broke through at S7 heading towards the township of Tobruk which
was northwest of where they broke through and then they went further along to R7 which would be 14 posts because 7of S and 7of R7 and they broke through again in a north-westerly direction a sort of a wedge. And they succeeded at first they went right through right up to the
Blue Line, but then they ran into a big mine field we planted and the tanks couldn’t get through so they turned around and went back out again. But the trenches they’d captured of course they were occupied, that went on for four days, that battle there, so it wasn’t just a continuous straight in. And we were on the Blue
Line at present, and that was when we first went into action at Infantry, that was the 2nd of May. And we were told to reoccupy 8, 9 and 10 well we went down, that was my platoon got as far as R10 and that was unoccupied that was made our headquarters and
we were heading for R8, which was an intermediate one, which was the one that our platoon had to occupy and we were halted, we had to lay down because they said there was a big tank battle going on down there, don’t go down that way for a while. So we just went to ground and laid there for the rest of the day and the tank, it was quite a tank battle going on and then
at night we went forward and we found that the trench was unoccupied, so we were lucky. And we only just got into it, it was about two in the morning, it was during the nighttime and there was another group coming to occupy it to, they were the enemy. They mustn’t have had enough troops initially to occupy all the trenches. So that’s where we had our first
fight, they didn’t come to close luckily and they retreated and that, so we had R8. That was an experience. We’d occupied it and a tank just about 50 yards from us, it was a British tank coming out of action, he was in a hurry firing backwards, he was being bombarded with artillery shell, he was in a
bad way. And they hit him and it started to catch on fire and a fellow staggered out of the drivers seat on the ground and then the hatch went up and a fellow climbed out of that, he was in a bad way, we could see it about 50 yards away and then another shell hit the tank right on the turret and nobody else got out. Well those 2 fellows
were on the ground and they waving around so we went out and brought them in but one fellow was badly shot around, he died a few minutes later, the other fellow lingered on and we evacuated him about 4 in the morning. I don’t know what happened to him but I don’t think he survived he was in a bad way too. Terrible thing to see this tank and the fellows scrambling out.
That was a bad experience to us because it had been going on all the time but the first time we been had initially engaged in it.
took place at night, in the trenches. Further back in Tobruk they carried on as usual as long as they didn’t bunch up in groups. Like a normal man could wander around or a spare lorry could go around unless somebody thought they’d like to have a shot at him but if you saw three or four lorries well they were bound to get fired at, so it was well under observation, but further up
on the trenches depending on the area you were at you couldn’t get up out of the trench at all. Further to the north of us in the first of the S trenches was a little better because there’s a huge wadi between them and the enemy and they could more or less wander around a bit there as long as they didn’t get in groups because the Infantry on
the other side, they could possibly do the same too. But artillery was the main worry for those people. That’s why they wouldn’t bunch up, but you could wander along to the next trench and have a talk, but you couldn’t in a lot of the other areas, we just laid there all day. Nighttime came round about; I think it got dark about 9 o’clock at night and the lorries
would come up and bring our rations up, some times the lorries could come right up to your trench other times they had to go to a pick up point and working parties would go and pick up your rations. Well they consisted of a hot meal and also dessert and they would give you a tin of bully beef amongst three and
a packet of biscuit each. That was your rations for the next day, you could eat them whenever you liked. And water; there was a pint a day, not quite a litre for each man. You didn’t always get a pint because sometimes the cooks would want more water and that was heavy chlorinated so disease and so on. And that was a trouble making that last sometimes if you’re under the
sun all day, you’d get very thirsty and you’d soon drink your litre. You got into the habit of just having a little sip and then not having anymore for a long while. That was the biggest trouble there. We slept; we put little dugouts into a side of the slip trenches where we used to cover over with boards or whatever we could find and sandbags
and that’s where we would sleep otherwise we were out in the sun all day. It was pretty warm, about 110 Fahrenheit I think was about the average up to 120, not 110 Fahrenheit, 110 Centigrade, pretty hot at any rate. And we’d sleep there all day, around about 9 as I said the rations would come up, there was a general quite right round the perimeter at that time, because the enemy were
being fed also. But you’d rarely hear a shot fired at that time. We’d get up and stretch our legs and get something to eat. The enemy had just as tough as time as we did, because they couldn’t get up and wander around in the daytime either, ‘cause they were under observations. So it wasn’t the best of places to be in and what they used to do normally. They’d have you
in the Red Line for possibly 2 weeks, then you’d go in the Blue Line for another two weeks, then if the situation was all right you might have a little break for a couple of days in the back line somewhere. That’s taking over into the plain and just relax over there. Generally you found that you were in the Blue Line, then the Red Line, then the Blue Line then the Red Line and so on.
You got variety that way. But the days were the worst, laying all day, it was very monotonous. Sometimes of course if your trenches were built that way you could get in a group of 3 or 4 and have a game of cards, but mostly you couldn’t in the Blue Line. In the front line, in the Italian places you could wander around freely all the time, because it was
down about 8 feet the trench and they had these big bunkers to sleep in. They weren’t popular though because they weren’t ventilated and it was very dark in there. A long the trenches it was all right. In the, where the machine gun posts at the end you could often sit around there, as long as you didn’t stand up and play cards or have a talk.
But in the slip trenches themselves you just laid all day, slept or watch the sun go past.
that was left to the Red Line. It was mainly you’d be either improving your own position or improving some other position or making a new position. I mentioned we gradually crept forward in that salient and gradually reclaimed quite a bit of it. Some was open fighting to reclaim it
other were just gradual creeping forward all the time to take it. The fighting patrol that I mentioned and the reconnaissance patrols, generally from the front line when you’d have a area in front of you, you’d study it all day and something might be suspicious, something might something
digging going on somewhere, so they would send a patrol over to investigate that at night, you’d go up and see what was going on, if you were reconnaissance you wouldn’t attack. But it might only be just 2 or 3 of you just to see what’s going on. And then you’d come back and report and keep an eye on them if they were preparing positions, you’d wait until they were well advanced then you’d,
they’d put a fighting patrol out to just discourage them, not actually to take the position unless it was in the salient, if it was in the front line you didn’t want to take anything out in your front at all, because you were well protected where you were. You might go along and destroy the position. One stage there, there were Italians digging
what looked like artillery pits and we kept an eye on them for a while and when it was nearly finished we attacked them and took them prisoners, but generally you didn’t go fighting patrols just for the sake of fighting patrols, you were more for reconnaissance or to discourage them from building artillery things and things like that. It depended on what was needed.
Every night you’d have a standing patrol. You’d have a sentry would walk from your end of the line up to the next line and then he’d walk back, just patrolling to see that it was all right. You’d also have a listening post out in front of your trenches where a man would lay up
in a little trench if possible, if not just on the ground. Just checking to see that everything’s all right, no patrols coming or anything like that. Now if you were lucky you had a telephone, if you were unlucky you just had to sort of arranged signals with your hand, but you were about 30,40 feet out from your own troops and you could sort of wave like that and people would watch and they’d wave back.
With these standing patrols, so as you knew that the other fellow was on his way or had been back, he used to leave a little mark on the end of there and he’d leave a little mark. Some of them, they used to call them love and kisses, you know a cross or a heart you know. One sort had a heart and the other had a kiss and you’d put your little heart that was more or less to let them know you’d been there.
When you went out on patrol you would count the paces you took, it might take 800 paces, it there was a star you could watch the star, beautiful the night sky, you’d watch your star and 200 to that and of course you’d move on to if you laid up, and then if you’d been out 200 yards, 200 yards that way and then 200 back and you’d count
them just to make sure you didn’t miss your posse. And generally a couple of fellows one in the front, one in the back used to count and then you’d just check to see. But that was important because you might overshoot your mark and keep walking to an enemy position. But there were little ways where we guided one an other and listening post wasn’t too bad but now and again all
troops in forward trenches have what they call fixed lines, machines guns fixed on a line, it might be heading straight for the enemy’s front line or something, prominent spot that you know they using and every now and again you just fired the machine gun. Just every so often, it wasn’t regular every 3 or 4 minutes; you might go an hour and not fire
and next thing you would fire again. There were quite a few fixed lines like that you had to watch and you got to know them because you’d see the bullets going down with the tracer and you’d hear them, they were known as fixed lines. The enemy and our troops had fixed lines to fire upon. Well if you were on patrol you dodged those fixed lines
if you had to cross them you’d wait until the machine gun had fired, stop and then you’d go across, coming back you’d do the same thing. Otherwise you’d get caught in your fixed lines. I spoke to you just a little minute ago with the trajectory of bullets, for someone only firing at 200 yards, not a very high trajectory
but if they’re firing at greater distances say 800 yards there’s quite a curve. So if you knew where the curvature was you could watch when you walked under, but that’s a bit risky. Not only is the fixed line firing often another machine gun might have a go to or a rifle but if you think you see something you’d had shot. It wasn’t the best of places.
Another little job we had was, an aeroplane had been brought down in what we call no man’s land it hadn’t dropped its bombs, so the powers of be wanted a look at what the bomb was like, so they said they were going to send a bomb expert up with us to
dismantle it and bring it back. And would we take him out and retrieve a bomb for them. So we had a stretcher to carry the bomb on and away we went, there was about 6 of us I think and the bomb man, he hadn’t been out in no man’s land before so he was a bit wary and we went along to the plane we got the bomb, he fiddled around and we got the bomb out, it was about,
it would be just on 3 foot long and about 9 to 10 inches wide. Because they had been using new ones and they wanted to check on their unexploded bombs. So we loaded it on the stretcher and away we went back and carried our bomb with us. So that was another little unusual job we had. They didn’t want us to try and take it
out, because they knew we didn’t know anything about taking bombs from planes or delousing them as they called it. So they gave us an expert that came out with us and took the bomb back, I never heard what happened whether it was a new type bomb or what. But those sort of little things used to crop up and you’d have these unusual jobs.
nights, when the moon was up of course they wouldn’t come near the place. So you would have about two thirds of a month with supplies coming in and of course that depended to on some nights you can get many ships in because not only did they have to get into Tobruk, they had to sail back to Mersa Matruh or Alexandria for stores.
And they had to make sure they were well clear of Bardia, Sollum and some of those places along there before daybreak. Because otherwise the submarines would be onto them or the Axis air force they’d be onto them. So it was a bit dicey they’d have to come in and go out again all in about half an hour, so when
they’re coming in they’d have troops put all the stuff on decks as much as possible, they might be unloading one side and loading the other. When we went aboard we were coming in one side and they were pushing all the gear off the other side. It was pretty hectic tho. And up the anchor and out they went again as soon as they were loaded. A lot of the loading and
unloading was done onto wrecked ships. That wasn’t when we went on, but if they were on the unloading and taking a few casualties and that back, they’d possibly pull up into a wrecked ship and unload them all on there and then of course we had, forgot what they call it whether it was a, a unit that used to operate … Oh it was the railway transport, railway, we had a railway
unit and they were sea transport in Tobruk and they used to unload the stores and load them on, they’d take lighters around picking up the stores through the day or night when they’d been unloaded through the night. And they had quite a risky job too. Not only did the naval ships come up with supplies for us, there were a lot of odds and ends. I don’t know how many
lighters or barges came up from Mersa Matruh, it used to take them, I think two days. They’d go so far and pull into the coast. And hug the coast all day and then carry on at night. I forget how many, I think they might have been about 30 they had at the start and they were all sunk eventually. But they did a great job. I saw the Ladybird sunk
one day, that was a British ship, that had been on the China Run in the rivers, and it had a big gun on it and when it would fire, it would shoot the Ladybird back and they used to pull on a mud bank and they used to fire and it would shoot them off. Well that went, I saw that the day we went for our swim,
May we were going back, air raid on, this was in the daytime Ladybird came in at night and sort of was going back the next night, she was sort of hugging with all the wrecks and they must have spotted it and they were attacking her, I saw it go down with all the bombs on it and it still fired. And it went down in a very shallow spot because that was one of its advantages, you could run it on the shallows and
all the front end went down and left the stern sticking up. So that was used as anti tank gun for the rest of the siege there so the Ladybird firing.
Can you describe for me, your leaving from Tobruk?
One night, we were told we were going out of Tobruk. The next day we were taken by lorry down near the Harbour and put on a flat and told to lay there all day and we’d be taken away at night. It wasn’t a bad little spot there, we just sort of laid there, and while we were there some troops
came up and introduced themselves and said we’re relieving you, we came in last night. And they were telling us all about coming in and that. So that was good, and we said, “Who are you?” And they said, “We’re the London Queens” and we said, “Oh no, we don’t want you,” and they said, “Oh well you have…” They’d been taken prisoner in Syria and released at the end of it. And they came up, they were not a bad mob, they were a rifle crowd and we talked to them all day, where we were
they were camped with us there. And when night time came they were taken away somewhere and as we got dark we were taken down to the wharf and we lined up on the wharf of Tobruk and sure enough around about Midnight in came the Griffin I was in, others of our Battalion were taken out by lighters to wrecks where they were taken off
by lighter onto ships that came in, there were about four ships came in and we went aboard the Griffin and as we went aboard they were unloading the other side and our section was sent down below. As we came in you filed down and down and we went to what was known as the petty officers’ Mess and we were put in the kitchen, there what seems as a kitchen and we made ourselves comfy
there and we were only there for about 5 or 10 minutes and we found a shower alongside, so we were all having showers and as you came out of Tobruk, you could feel the ship start up, we were showering. So I remember leaving Tobruk under a shower. We laid down for the night there and I noticed lots of bullet holes in the side of the plate of the
ship, they’d come right through, you could see through it. And the sailor said, “We got that in Crete,” they hadn’t had time to fix it up yet. So it was a good job that it didn’t get to rough. It would have been wet. Anyway we went along and went past the Bardia and we joined a big convoy, they’d been up shelling Sollum, we didn’t see them shelling but we joined that convoy, went back with the
convoy and landed into Alexandria about twelvish or one o’clock in the daytime and we were taken then by lorry out to Amiriya where we’d originally landed from Palestine. And we were put aboard big trucks at night, covered in cattle trucks and the smelt a bit
tarry any rate we didn’t notice until morning but all the flooring of the truck had been carrying bitumen and that was all spilt all over it and we laid in tar. So we looked pretty grubby when we got to Palestine. But that’s how we left Tobruk.
and so we got into Milne Bay about 9 o’clock in the morning and we kept on to the southern shore because the fighting was on the Northern shore. Milne Bay is quite a big bay it goes in for about 20 miles. Lovely big area, no wonder the Japs wanted it, for their ships. And we pulled into a wharf up at the end of Milne Bay
a place called Gili Gili that was the name of it and we disembarked. And during the time we had been on our trip from Australia, the Aussies had taken over and pushed the Japanese back. The night before we got there, there had been a big battle across the half completed airstrip,
where they’d, Australians had retreated and they were condemned for retreating, but Brigadier Clowes he knew what he was doing, he’d formed a big defensive line there and the Japs came ahead, thinking they were walking through and they suffered their first defeat of the war there. There were 98 of them I think killed; they tried to storm across this airstrip. We
didn’t know that until we landed at Milne Bay, Gili Gili, but we heard when we were landing that they had a good victory the night before. And then we were unloaded and taken to positions along the shore where we were told to just stay put, until we found out what we were to do. And we camped there that night. Well about 11 o’clock
big search lights came over the shore and there were ships out in the bay, and next thing they started firing at us. But they were really firing at the Anshun more than the wharf. The Anshun being the name of our boat. Just 100 yards a stern was the Australian Hospital Ship, The Manunda I think it was called, they shone it all over,
they didn’t attacked that, which we thought was good. But they bombed us or shelled us for quite a while, and then the lights went out and away they went. And a few minutes later there’s some fellows come wandering into our camp, they were a rear guard we’d left on the Manunda to look after our stores, because we were going to unload it the next day. And they said they sunk us, they’ve sunk the ship and they swam
ashore so they were lucky. It killed a few fellows, but it sunk the ship at the wharf. Luckily it fell out from the wharf and left a passage through which they used to use to unload ships afterwards. But the ship was sunk and it had all our stores on and also luckily for us all our equipment for digging road. Picks and shovels
and so on. But we, next day of course we heard all this and we were then broken up, we were only a company, we were broken up into sections and sent to the various Battalions fighting the Japs. Well Japs were in retreat then because of the terrific defeat they’d the night before. There were only 2000 of them we found out, because you don’t know that
when they’re there. And they, the object of the shelling was to cover the retreat of the Japs on barges, they were taking them off, we didn’t know that of course. I went up with the 61st Militia Battalion and we were doing some patrol through the jungle looking from Japs and we
never got right up to the front line, but we never found any Japs either it was just patrolling. Which was all new to us, all this thick jungle after the desert. But that went on for a couple of days and then the fighting ceased, there because the Japs had gone or had been taken prisoner. So I never really saw any Japs in that first action. But I can say I was there. So we wandered around and we
were all assembled again as our companies, we’d been out with patrols with different battalions and they told us we had to dig roads. So that was our function in Milne Bay until Christmas time. That was September til Christmas, digging road and bridges, and making bridges and things. And that’s where I got a bit tired of digging roads and bridges. That was interesting though because
it was a funny old road that was real bog, big swamps and we’d have to cut the trees down. About 3 layers of trees and then fill in up with crushed coral or crushed rock, whatever we could find and then form a road that way. And little bridges too, you’d make a nice little bridge on a creek and next thing
it would be a swollen river and away would go the bridge, so we had to learn all those things. They were commended for the work they did in Milne Bay, it was hard work. From Milne Bay I went to Moresby, where I joined the Papuan Infantry Battalion and went back to being
mainly infantry, no engineering. But then again it was a little bit different, Infantry was mainly patrolling and sections would be allocated to the different divisions or brigades, they needed they for reconnaissance, so it was very interesting because you’d be miles ahead of people and wireless
them back if there were any Japs or no Japs or any signs of Japs and all that type of business. And places you’d find lots of Japs you’d keep clear of them but you’d let them know they were there. But it was quite interesting and I never actually engaged in any battles except individuals, ones you might find a couple of Japanese and there might be a bit of firing going on. But no
attacks or anything like that. Or nor were we ever attacked. It was just more mainly reconnaissance and letting people know what was going on. One place, Nassau Bay, after Buna fell there was a drive on the northern coast of Papua towards Sandananda, which is just near Lae. Where they were using
us a provisioning point and we had to give them information on that. Well about 14 mile I think it is, east of Salamaua is Nassau Bay and Americans had decided they’d land troops there one night so we were told to make the reconnaissance for them, it wasn’t only our
platoon, it was other reconnaissance too but we were with them making the reconnaissance around the area and we were told the Americans were landing at such and such at time and could we shine the lights to guide them in. We had two lights one for each end of the beach, where they were landing, it was not a bad little landing beach it wasn’t very slushy, they could land their barges
and walk on fairly solid ground. That’s what they were looking for. Well the hour came and it was pretty rough weather, and we shone the torches and shortly thereafter in came the barges of the yanks. It was good but when they landed they were all a medical group and so they were going to set up a medical store and we said you cant set it up here, there are all Japs all around this area. But
they said the combat troops were too rough on them and they put back, so we had these medical people with us, we didn’t put up tents or anything because that would have been a dead give away. Any rate the yanks came in the next night with a bit of opposition from a cliff we knew there was a machine gun placement, we had told them. But not my
company, but A Company PIB they put on an attack and silenced that machine gun as soon as it started up, so they were all ready for it when it did. They landed more or less without incident at Nassau Bay which gave them quite a bit of country rather than going through the bushes, they had been doing pushing the Japs back and from there they headed on to Salamaua.
Which they attacked, gee when was Lae, 1943 the attack went on in Lae, but before that happened after Salamaua fell, our company which was B Company had been sent up to what was called the Markham Valley, the valley where the Markham
River flows. And we were stationed round a gold mining town of Wau and there was an airstrip there, it was on the side of a hill, it was a pretty risky airstrip for a plane to go up and down. You’d come down and off and if he was going to land he’d keep going he go off over the cliff. But that was our headquarters and from there we did a lot of reconnaissance
down into Lae, which was about 22 miles from Wau and up the Ramu Valley, ah the Markham Valley and we were more or less confined to a place which became to Dumpu Airstrip. It was quite a good place for an airstrip and we checked all the hostile troops and so there.
Excuse me…. One day the CO went to Moresby to find out his instructions and came back said he had to fire a pistol that night, ah that next morning and there’d be a big air landing, well sure enough he fires the pistol
a little latter a reconnaissance plane flew over and away it went. Shortly after along came a big fleet of planes and all parachutes coming out of them, it was the Americans dropping parachutes, it was very good. There was some Australians dropped with them with Artillery pieces, I’m not sure which unit they were.
and Major Watson himself was a coconut planter up in Rabaul. But any rate he was given command of this Papuan Infantry. And they did initial Infantry training and so on and they were composed of mainly Papuans. That’s are, you have Papuan New Guinea and British New Guinea
which they had taken from the Germans in the First World War. And he trained them, well then they were put into a quarry, working on the quarry, which the Pioneers relieved from later on. I didn’t know anything about this at the time, well then A Company they formed B Company. Then Japan was going to
then looked like coming and landing in New Guinea anytime. They’d landed in Rabaul and captured Rabaul and so Major Watson and A Company and B Company were doing reconnaissance all along the northern area of British New Guinea from Salamaua to past Buna down to Popondetta and in March
1943, there was a patrol of A company PIB on the beach, walking along and there was a boat pulled in, a airplane, a seaplane and one of the fellows got out and came ashore and they saw they were Japs and they fired on them and I heard they were the first Japs in New Guinea,
they reported back and of course it was taken seriously, and that’s when the Japs started to land in New Guinea. So A Company was with 39th Infantry Battalion they had one company of them, they were Militia and they met the Japs at their first landing. There were so many Japs they didn’t have much of a chance, Japs landed
around Buna, Gona and so on and they sort of spread and some awful atrocities they committed on people that had stayed. There were some Nuns, they weren’t nuns, they were Church of England I think, medical ladies they just raped and killed them. But that’s when the drive over the Kokoda Trail started, and the
A Company fought back with the 39th Battalion, they were hopelessly outnumbered and they fought back over the Kokoda Trail right back to the Ioribaiwa Ridge where they stopped them. But in the meantime B Company were out around the Northern west of Buna and Gona they stayed there reporting back
on reconnaissance and so on and they stayed there all through the campaign when the Japs went over the Ranges and they were there when the Aussies had chased them back into Buna. Because it’s a big country, there’s a couple of hundred miles and of course they knew the country they could scatter around. A lot of their initial officers of the PIB were ex-New Guinea planters and so on, so they knew
the country and knew the boys. When the Japanese landed at Buna they bought hundreds of natives from New Island, Solomon Island and so on for carriers for them. Well they carried so far and then they’d desert into the bush, it was a strange bush to them but they were quite used to living in the land. And when the Japanese were beaten
at Gona and Buna and embarked on their ships again, all the natives were given a job with ANGF - Australian and New Guinea Forces, a lot became carriers, a lot were given the option of joining the PIB which they did so we had a big contingent of other natives besides Papuans and that’s when I came
interested in it, when they were advertising for NCOs to go and look after them, so that’s how I became to be in the PIB.