David Hampton
Archive number: 1189
Preferred name: Sabu
Date interviewed: 27 November, 2003

Served with:

2/12th Australian Field Regiment
RAR

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David Hampton 1189

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Transcript

Tape 01

01:00:44:00

Can you tell us about your early years?
I was born in 1919 in Brighton, suburb of Melbourne.

01:01:00:00

Went to school at the Brighton Beach State School. Probably around about the early Depression years, 1932, my father lost his job and finally got another one as an engineer with what was then the Vacuum Oil Company which is now Mobil,

01:01:30:00

which meant a shift to Footscray. So we lived in Footscray while he had his job there for a couple of years. Then the Depression really came and he lost that job as an engineer. So we let the house in Footscray and moved back with my parents to Brighton.

01:02:00:00

We actually lived there for, we only went back to Footscray once. My father finally got a job, which meant he travelled around Australia as an engineer on various projects for the family he was working for. So we had one more stint back in Footscray and round about 1937 we moved permanently back to Brighton.

01:02:30:00

So your father had been an engineer the whole time? Who was he working for?
He was working for a gas retort company in the finish. He built gas retorts for various gas companies round Australia. The firm’s name was Woodall Duckham. I don’t think they exist anymore.

01:03:00:00

He worked with them right up until after the war when he retired. So by that time we were back in Brighton anyway.
What do you remember of those very early years in Brighton?
Well, I remember going by the beach. We were always going down to the beach every opportunity we had as young children.

01:03:30:00

I had some very good friends, young fellows in the street. They had a couple of canoes. They were twin boys, really. We were forever down at the beach with our canoes, paddling them around and swimming. It was a great time. This continued right up until virtually till

01:04:00:00

the wartime we were friends. They had a tennis court in the premises of their home so all us lads got into tennis. We played that at weekends and whenever we could. I went to the local high school and the other two boys went to Scotch College, my friends.

01:04:30:00

We’re still friends today. One died during the war and the other one was in my regiment during the war anyway. So we still correspond with each other. He lives in Queensland now. He’s on his own. His wife died recently. But we still keep in touch with each other. I left school in, I finished

01:05:00:00

up at Melbourne High School and I left school at age 17, I’d say, 1938 or thereabouts. Went into an insurance company. I stayed there until the war started. When I then enlisted in June 1940. Those days were good too in the insurance company. It was good. Very friendly atmosphere and they were

01:05:30:00

strict of course. Everything had to be done correctly. I was doing what’s called the insurance institute exams to advance myself. But I didn’t go back there after the war. I decided I’d had enough of officer life really.

01:06:00:00

Your father lost his job. How tough was that on your family? Can you give us background on your family?
There was 4 of us in the family. Myself and my sister and Mum and Dad. I suppose it was very trying time, because

01:06:30:00

we were then aged about 14 and my sister was 12. Money wasn’t plentiful. I can well remember that Mum would buy the best food that she could, but it would be perhaps some of the cheaper cuts of meat and

01:07:00:00

I can remember having bread and dripping and things like that. Fruit, we could perhaps have one piece of fruit a day at the most. Although I can still remember getting sixpence to go to the pictures on Saturday afternoon. It was pocket money. I kept pigeons. Not that they were any help to the household budget. It was just

01:07:30:00

and interest. My Dad would go rabbiting out to what was then the open fields out in Sunbury, which is all now built on. He would perhaps bring home a couple of rabbits that we would be able to have for dinner. Things like that.
Was he selling rabbits at all?
No, no. That was just a virtue of sport.

01:08:00:00

He and our next-door neighbour, the two fathers used to go together, my father and the next-door neighbour’s father. They’d go off and come home. Sometimes with no rabbits, sometimes with one, sometimes with two. So that augmented the food situation a little. We really didn’t

01:08:30:00

know, we didn’t go away on holidays at all. We would perhaps, we didn’t have a car, so we had a family friends who had a house up at Belgrave and they used to drive us up and leave us there and then come back and pick us up in 10 days time, something like that.

01:09:00:00

Describe for us what family life was life in terms of the values that were important to your parent.
Dad probably was away a lot, because by this time he’s working with the gas retort company and he was sent all over Victoria and, southern Australia really, right up to

01:09:30:00

Western Australia. Mum would do the best she could. The values were for Mum, the aim with Mum was to give us the best education she could give us. Of course, Dad was involved in that too, which they did. We weren’t a churchgoing family, but we had our Christian values,

01:10:00:00

which we’d always adhere to. My Mum used to coach me in English. She was a pretty good scholar in her day, which helped me a lot and my sister. We just had normal Christian values that, treat your neighbour or other people the same

01:10:30:00

as you would like to be treated.
In the worst of the Depression when your father was out of work, how long was that period?
About 6 months. 6-9 months. Just under a year I think, I think probably, on reflection. That's when we moved back to our grandparents’ home in Brighton, which then took a load off

01:11:00:00

my Mum and Dad. Ideas of what should happen. They stopped worrying a bit about the situation. At that stage my grandfather and grandmother were still alive and so we were a very happy family. Grandma and Grandpa used to play cooncan [card game] of a night time despite what happened elsewhere in the household.

01:11:30:00

They were always playing cards after dinner and I’d be studying probably. My sister too. Whenever Dad could get home, Mum and Dad would be there. I can remember going to one of Mum’s cousins’ place in a few stations up the line on the train to Ripponlea.

01:12:00:00

Being taken there of a night-time, pulled out of bed, taken home. They were there to play cards since round about 11 o'clock at night, up again out of bed in the cousin’s house and taken on the train back home again. No such things as babysitters in those days.
What were the card games of the day?
Probably,

01:12:30:00

for the adults, probably solo and whisk and bridge. They were the main games.
You said one for the kids, cooncan or something?
I can’t remember much about it. I think it’s almost a bit like, I’m trying to think what the name of one of the card games that children play now,

01:13:00:00

but. You gathered cards up until you had four in the corner and put them down and picked up another. I forget the name of it now. Grandma and Grandpa, one or the other always accused the other one of cheating. So they used to have an argument for 5 minutes and then settle down and start playing again.
Were they playing for money?
No.

01:13:30:00

Just relaxation. They’d play another game, they played mah-jong as well. But most the time I suppose I spent in the Depression years playing with, I suppose the Depression didn’t really mean a great deal to me at the time, because

01:14:00:00

round about 12-13 or 14 years of age we accepted things as they were. Me and my sister were more concerned with doing our schoolwork and playing with children from next-door. Mainly the only place to play was in the street. Really. In Footscray anyway.

01:14:30:00

We used to kick the football in the street. Fortunately we were in a quiet area, a dead end street, so there wasn’t any great deal of traffic in it. Riding our bike, we’d go for bike rides, that sort of thing. That kept us out of mischief.
Were you aware of other people suffering during that time?
Yes. I suppose

01:15:00:00

we were, really. In our street we had lots of people, not lots of people, but people that were perhaps not even as well off as we thought we were. In Footscray it was an industrial suburb and I suppose most of them were used to

01:15:30:00

things being rather hard anyway. We all got on well together. I suppose, it really didn’t sink in on us really. I know we’d often say to Mum or Dad, can we do this or do that? “No, we can’t afford that.”

01:16:00:00

I suppose we all had just the minimal clothing. There was no such thing as school uniforms, so that was a help in those days. I don’t think I can say anymore about it really.
Did you have any idea what income sources there were when your father was out of work?
There was no

01:16:30:00

unemployment benefit. I can’t really remember how we existed anyway. One reason that we did exist was because we finally shifted back with our grandparents in Brighton and let the house in Footscray. So that gave us some income. That was the way we overcame it. We were a bit more fortunate than some.

01:17:00:00

My grandparents had a rather large house, which could accommodate us.
Your family didn’t have a car. How did you get around most the time?
By train and tram. Bicycle, walking. Every other way possible. We kept on our own. I suppose that limited us,

01:17:30:00

not having a car did limit us. So we made our entertainment round our own district. I was very fortunate in that even when we were in Footscray we had good neighbours and there were young people in those families. Back in Brighton I had good friends as well.

01:18:00:00

We used to occupy our time playing tennis and swimming. It was a much better life down by the beach anyway. Because you could amuse yourself on the beach for starters. We’d go for bike rides up in the bush in Ferntree Gully and back home in a day.

01:18:30:00

We’d take our lunch with us and do that in a day.
Did you take the train out?
No, went from Brighton to Ferntree Gully and back. I remember whizzing down Wheelers Hill. You think you’re going to fall off your bike with the speed you’re doing by the time you get to the bottom. However, I’m still here.
What bike did you ride?
I’ve got no idea now. Used to get punctures pretty often I can say that.

01:19:00:00

So the tyres probably weren't the best because I probably couldn’t afford to buy more anyway. We were forever mending punctures. It was all part of the fun.
Were you much of a scholar?
No, I was in the bottom half of the top. The top of the bottom half, I suppose.

01:19:30:00

Put it that way. I was in the middle. We used to ride our bikes to school from Brighton. In the younger days when we were at Footscray we were only 10 minutes; walk from the school, the primary school. But in Brighton I went by train to South Yarra to go to school at Melbourne High School.

01:20:00:00

I left school when I was 17. You’d make friends on the train. You’d see the same students virtually on the train every day, going and coming home.
Do you recall and of the characters from the school days?
I was taught

01:20:30:00

maths by another test cricketer, Bill Woodfield. He was our maths teacher at Melbourne high school. He’s the one I remember most. And an English teacher by the name of Mrs Campbell who was also excellent. English was one of my favourite subjects. She coached me in that.

01:21:00:00

I always got good marks in English and maths. Some of the other subjects I wasn’t that crash hot about. I finally left school with my intermediate certificate. I didn’t go any further than that. That was probably the year before what’s now year 12. Got a job with this insurance company.
Was that something

01:21:30:00

you really wanted to do?
No, not really. Well, I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that time. I was just told one day, “Next Monday,” or “After your exams, you’re leaving school.” My mother said, “You have a job with an insurance company.” I said, “OK.” There we are. Fortunately I had passed my exam so

01:22:00:00

that was one good thing. The rest of the time at school would just be winding up the year, really, so there was no scholastic work done. I started as a raw recruit with the insurance company. It still exists today.
What’s it called?
It was the Royal Insurance Company then.

01:22:30:00

They’ve still got the name now.
What was that like?
I finished up, it was great. Again we made good friends and I studied for the insurance examinations while I was there and gradually worked up from office boy to a fully fledged clerk.

01:23:00:00

Had you done any part time work during school?
No. It really wasn’t the go for young people like us. I suppose some people must have had part time jobs, but I was never asked to try and get one by

01:23:30:00

my family. I certainly hadn't thought of it, because I was having too much fun playing.
Where were the offices located?
In Melbourne. For the insurance company? Yes, in Melbourne. In Collins Street, Melbourne. 414 Collins Street if I remember rightly. Right opposite Market Street.

01:24:00:00

They were happy days too. We considered our senior insurance officers lots of martinets. Always onto us for making mistakes, but we gradually learned. I really enjoyed it, but after the war I thought I wanted to

01:24:30:00

have a freer life, but that probably that did happened, but that's another story that we’ll come to I suppose.
Describe what your duties were.
There was quite a ceremony on receiving and opening the mail every morning. Myself and another junior would be

01:25:00:00

stationed at one end of the board room table and the various senior officers and the chief clerk would be around the table. Our job was to slit open the envelopes, open up the letter and pass it on to the next person. He then read it and decided which one of the other officers should receive it. If the chief clerk thought he should take any interest in

01:25:30:00

any particular letter, he would say “I’ll have that one, thankyou.” I can always remember being, on the same subject, addressing a letter to a client and I gave him two titles. Mr and Esquire. I thought I was doing the right thing. Mr John Smith Esquire. Unfortunately it went to the wrong address and it was returned. I

01:26:00:00

was summoned to front up to the chief clerk who really tore a strip off me and said, “A lad of your intelligence should know better. Don’t do it again,” this sort of thing. Those sorts of things happened probably quite frequently

01:26:30:00

to some or all of us. Then the rest of it during the day was routine work. Maybe taking messages round town, going down to the bank to cash cheques, things like that. But in the main you were doing clerical work for

01:27:00:00

the various departments. I was in the accident department. One of my other friends were in the fire department. One experience I can think of was this insurance company did all the insuring of motorbikes from some of the motorbike firms up in Elizabeth Street. Did the insurance for the

01:27:30:00

high purchase, when a lad bought their bikes on high purchase. Put me off bike riding for life when they’d come into the office and they’d had an accident and they’d have their arm in a plaster or leg in plaster and on crutches. I’d think, “I think riding a motorbike is not for me.” It was good, we had a good social club in the insurance industry. Again we used to play night

01:28:00:00

tennis. We had competitions between companies and between our own company. Different departments would compete against the other departments. It was really a good life. Providing you liked officer work. I can’t think of any others.

01:28:30:00

One other job I had was probably, in the company, was to go round to other insurance companies and see how much of a certain sort of risk they would accept. In other words, what’s called, I think, re-insurance. I’d be given details and perhaps our company was

01:29:00:00

the main insurer for something from some 100,000 pounds or something and they would go out and endeavour to persuade one of the other companies to take at least 25,000 pounds of the risk or something and do your best to sell as much of the risk to other insurance companies as possible.
It sounds like all this happened in a fairly short

01:29:30:00

time.
About 3 years. If I left school ‘36-‘37 and stayed there until I enlisted in the army, which really took place, well that was in June 1940, but I suppose once the war had started we were in camp

01:30:00:00

quite a lot, because I was in the militia by this time. The civilian army before the war.
When did you join the militia?
When I was 18. That would have been in 1937 as a cadet. I can remember once the war started we were in a three months camp. Prior to that you only had one, say a weeks camp, a year. You did

01:30:30:00

one night a week I think. I used to travel to Argyle Street, St Kilda to do our training. So I was away from the office for three months in November. Then again in January. We had another camp. From that, January February that was, in 1940. So I wasn’t back in the officer for very

01:31:00:00

long before I joined up to the AIF [Australian Imperial Force].
Why had you joined the militia?
I was asked by a couple of the fellows that worked in our insurance company would I like to join the militia. I suppose that probably persuaded me. I felt if there’s a war coming on, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to

01:31:30:00

know something about what’s going to happen, what you’ve got to do. We learned a lot. A bit, anyway. That made me get an interest in artillery, because it was an artillery regiment that I joined. They were quite happy days. Whilst we didn’t have much equipment

01:32:00:00

we were able to do all the theory work pretty well. We had some World War I to practice shoot with. They were all towed by tractors which moved about 5 miles an hour. A lot of people used to rent their trucks

01:32:30:00

to the army for transport. So we got by the best we could. It was quite interesting. In fact, it was very interesting. When the war started, that’s when it was decided

01:33:00:00

we should do a lot more training. So then, in June 1940, quite a few of us decided, “We’ll volunteer for the AIF and leave the militia regiment,” which we did do.
Was it because the militia was going to be homebound?

01:33:30:00

I don’t suppose we though of what might happen to that particular unit, but 10 of us decided to join up together with the AIF because we thought that’s what we should do. I don’t know, the fact that

01:34:00:00

10 of us got together and said, “What are we going to do?” Somebody said, “We’ll join.” And we said, “OK, we’d better do it.” We felt it our duty that we should because we’d been trained for that sort of activity.

01:34:30:00

I thought it might me interesting seeing other countries. And the fact that, if I had been on my own I might have thought twice, or postponed it as long as possible, but the fact that there were 10 of us decided that we’d join up. We really only joined

01:35:00:00

with the proviso that we had a little proviso amongst ourselves that we should join an artillery regiment because that’s what we’d been trained for. Fortunately we were able to do that.
When you say there was a sense of duty, who was that duty to?
It happened to be to England at the time because

01:35:30:00

that was still what was termed the Mother Country. They were in trouble so we were in fact repeating what some of our fathers had done and grandfathers before us. So it was the sort of thing that should be done. That was always in the back of your mind, but I suppose we liked to say, “We’re just going to have

01:36:00:00

a good time seeing something overseas.” Not realising just what might befall us. Or not worrying about it. I don’t think any of us, probably if we all had said “No, I won’t join up” none of us would. We would have stayed the way we were until such time as

01:36:30:00

we were either called up or something happened that made us want to join up. By that time the first of the Australian forces were overseas anyway. The 6th division had gone overseas and we thought, “Well we’d better join in too.”

01:37:00:00

Some of the fathers had been in World War I. Had anyone in your family?
No, strangely enough. No. My family hadn't had anybody in World War I. My father was an Englishman. He was

01:37:30:00

the only member of his family that left England. He was working in what was then a protected occupation in the Second World War. He was too young for the First World War of course. He was in a protected industry in the Second World War and he would have been too old anyway. None of my uncles

01:38:00:00

had any war experiences. I was probably lucky.
During the late 30s, what was your sense of what was going on, on the other side of the world?
It didn’t really. No, as far as I was concerned I wasn’t centred on that at all, really,

01:38:30:00

I suppose I was probably enjoying life too much here, just worrying about what was happening in Australia and in Melbourne virtually. I wasn’t sort of looking internationally at all. With the exception I had,

01:39:00:00

in ‘38-‘39 you had a sense of foreboding of what might be happening, but that was a long way off. When war was declared, that made us wake up to what, we had to do something about it.
Do you

01:39:30:00

remember actually hearing that news?
Yeah I do. That was a Sunday night. I was up with a friend at his home having tea on a Sunday night. We listened to when Robert Menzies made his broadcast. That brought a glum face to us. It made us then be totally aware of what was going to happen

01:40:00:00

and what was happening. I suppose then the powers that be dictated what, being in the militia, what we did, what were our actions over the next few months. We were then in a three months camp, called up for further training. So the die was cast a bit for us.

01:40:30:00

Fortunately 10 of us joined up and most of us met further militia. We each knew a friend who knew a friend who would join up with us. So we made up our party of 10.

01:41:00:00

We were more thinking of the lighter side of things. “Here we are. We’re going to make a great trip. We’re going to see different countries. Let’s worry about what might happen later.”
Interviewee: David Hampton Archive ID 1189 Tape 02

02:00:32:00

We were talking about the militia and the outbreak of war. Can you give us a picture of what the militia training was like even before the war?
It was

02:01:00:00

a bit treated as a hobby or pleasurable occupation by most of the fellows. It was a hobby in a way. I don’t know how many of them really joined the militia for the sole purpose of

02:01:30:00

defending anything. In the back of our minds was if anything’s going to happen, it would be better to be a bit trained, or even well trained, if a war started. So the more you know about the activities, the better. We had a hotchpotch of transport to get

02:02:00:00

us around. Our three month camp was down at Mount Martha. We only had a live shoot as it were, I think once or twice. I suppose because of the expense of firing off all this ammunition.

02:02:30:00

We would go out for a day in a column of troops and make believe we were in an active situation with a gun position and observation officers and those things.

02:03:00:00

A lot of time spent on gun drill to make it as perfect as possible. A lot of theory work. Gunnery has got a lot of theory to it. They would be, we would have classes during the day. The nights you were free.

02:03:30:00

There was no sense of urgency about it really. Things were done reasonably leisurely, but in a regimental fashion. Drill was another part of it, of course. Being able to march correctly and have all your

02:04:00:00

equipment clean and polished and all your uniform right.
How well did you adapt to all that?
Pretty well. I suppose we were all guided by our NCOs [non commissioned officer] and our officers anyway at that stage.

02:04:30:00

They would be the ones instructing us. I suppose we all took it as just a happy period. “This is quite good fun and we’re getting paid for it too.”
Do you remember how much you were getting paid?

02:05:00:00

No, I don’t. It wasn’t even, it was sort of attendance money, really. We weren’t even getting what we got as a private or a gunner in the AIF, which was 5 shillings a day. We weren’t getting anything like that at all. It was just pocket money.

02:05:30:00

But we were being paid, so that was the main thing. You’d get time off to go into Mornington or the local town. Sometimes we had family used to come down and visit you at the weekend or something like that.

02:06:00:00

It was quite, it wasn’t the sense of urgency about it, I don’t think, as far as I was concerned anyway. We were living in tents with a bombardier who’s equivalent to infantry corporal in charge. We were from all walks of life.

02:06:30:00

Doctors, plumbers, electricians, clerks like me. All sorts of people.
How did everyone get along?
Got on all right. I suppose the usual goings on where any group of men get together, some disagreements, but nothing very serious.

02:07:00:00

Do you remember any specific disagreement?
No, not really. I can always remember, I suppose the most misdemeanours occurred when somebody had a bit too much drink in the sergeants’ mess or something like that after we’d

02:07:30:00

been stood down of an evening. I can remember my first camp, which happened to be up in the Seymour area, seeing this fellow being carried back to his tent by 4 other fellows. I said, “What’s wrong with him?” My bombardier in charge of the tent said, “He’s not feeling well. That’s Joe, he’s not feeling well.”

02:08:00:00

I later learned the next day that he’s ironed himself out in the sergeants’ mess and couldn’t get himself back to his tent in any case. That’s one of the lighter sides of it.
It was an artillery unit wasn’t it?
Yes.
What was the name of your artillery militia unit?
2/2nd Medium Brigade,

02:08:30:00

which is the one we joined, no, sorry. In the militia it was the 2nd Medium Brigade. The artillery regiment we joined in the 2nd AIF was the 2/2nd Medium Brigade, which them became the 2/12th Field Regiment.
What aspect of that training in artillery did you take to?

02:09:00:00

I started off training as a gun crew. I tried to keep to that. I thought, “This will be good.” But somebody found out that I’d done trigonometry and geometry and maths at school

02:09:30:00

and decided that I shouldn’t be on a gun crew, I should be in what was called the battery staff. In other words the, that used those qualities logoff incidents and all tat sort of thing. To calculate the gunnery is a very scientific occupation. They navy say they have the best knowledge of gunnery,

02:10:00:00

but we doubt that. Maybe we even concede it. The effort of the business to point the gun in the right direction or at the right angle involves calculations. Distance and height and angle and all sorts of things. So I was

02:10:30:00

“Right, off the gun crew, you. You are now on the staff.” So that was the end of my gun crew days.
That was in that militia unit 3 months?
Yes. Well, I tried the same thing again when we joined the AIF, but that only lasted a week or two because the same thing happened. Somebody told the

02:11:00:00

people in charge that I’d been trained as a staff member.
Can you explain how that works from battery staff to gun crew?
Each battery consists of 2 troops and each of the 2 troops has 4 guns in it. 4 guns have a command post. That’s where the staff it.

02:11:30:00

The line of communication from the command post to the guns was ether by voice or by telephone depending on the surrounding noise, whatever might be going on, which was the best method of communication to the gun crew. They had a system called a tannoy system, which was virtually a loudspeaker at the gun

02:12:00:00

and a microphone in the command post. Bit similar to that. At the command post we would give the directions to the gun as to where it should be pointing and what elevation it should be at so they can perform the task that’s required.

02:12:30:00

Those numbers were coming from higher off or were you doing equations on the spot?
We’d be working on the, there are two different sort of gunneries. One was observe fire and one is calculated fire. Observed fire is you’re looking at what you’re shooting at so

02:13:00:00

that needs no calculations. The gun crew do it all themselves. But when you’re firing at an unseen target, you need calculations of what range to fire at, what elevation the gun should have and what line the fire, which way to point it.

02:13:30:00

That means using logarithms and slide rules, no calculators in those days. We first off had to make sure we knew where we were on a map. From that you could work out your line and elevation.
To what extent were you learning these tings in those initial months?

02:14:00:00

We were learning it constantly, making sure that we each understood how to manipulate the logarithmic tables and the principles of trigonometry and simple geometry.

02:14:30:00

Make sure you had a nice sharp pencil to be able to do your calculations and a rubber when you made a mistake.
Are you able to explain that process in some detail?
Under an ideal situation you assume that a gun is in

02:15:00:00

a certain position and your target is two mile away on the same level as you are on a flat plane. Your tables will tell you what elevation to put on the barrel of the gun and in which line or direction you should fire it in relation to a

02:15:30:00

360 degree circle. So your calculations are pretty simple for that because there’s no other vertical angles to take into account. But if your target is either lower or higher than you another calculation comes in for the difference between your level and the level of the

02:16:00:00

target, which is two mile away. So that produces another angle. That’s called the angle of sight. So that the gun needs to be raised another certain number of degrees to counteract the additional height if that makes sense.
This is all assuming that your guns work

02:16:30:00

consistently.
Yes. Guns are every so often, take it when we were in the 2nd AIF you need to calibrate your guns every so often, say once every 6 months or something, against known, you’re in a known position, the target’s in a known position and

02:17:00:00

all your angles and directions are known and it’s just a matter of firing your gun and seeing the result of where the shell fell. This will then tell you whether your instruments on the gun, the dial sides and the range

02:17:30:00

indicator, are really correct. In other words if you’re firing at 9,000 yards on the range indicator on the gun, yes, the target was 9,000 yards away, or just how far off it was. There’s another complication comes into it in that not every round of fire is guaranteed to fall in

02:18:00:00

exactly the same spot. A bit like mortar out of the hose. Some that drop short, some that go straight and a lot of it goes that way. But guns are so accurate that it knows with a 99% certainty that the overs and the unders will be within X number of years of the target point. Does that make sense?

02:18:30:00

So you’ve got what’s called a 100% zone. They even know what the 50% zone will be on the law of averages back in the 1800s when gunnery was really became a, well in the 1700s, gunnery became a science.
When you were in the militia with the 2nd Medium Brigade, what guns were you operating on?
We had some World War

02:19:00:00

1 60 pounder guns. Hence the name of the regiment, the medium regiment because we weren’t filed artillery which is a more mobile gun and works closer to the enemy. They were World War I 60 pounder guns with

02:19:30:00

an iron rim that was know, I don’t think we had any pneumatic tyres in those days. Not on artillery gins anyway. They did come in till just prior to the start of the war. They were big. 60 pounder gun was a big cumbersome gun, but it did the

02:20:00:00

job. My battery in the 2nd Medium Brigade was equipped with the equivalent to a Howitzer a 6 inch Howitzer called 4.5 I think. That’s the size of the barrel. They were World War I guns too.

02:20:30:00

You said you only had a couple of opportunities to do live firing in the militia.
Yes.
What were those first experience of firing like?
A bit thunderous. Great noise that come off when the gun is fired. It’s a bit shattering.

02:21:00:00

The first time it happened I wondered what had struck. You used to wear earplugs, which weren’t that efficient. They were just shaped rubber things you put in your ear. You got used to it. You all had your

02:21:30:00

positions to stand at when the gun was fired. It just made a hell of a noise. I suppose the more times you fired it you sort of became accustomed to it and expected it.

02:22:00:00

I didn’t expect it to be so loud the first time I can remember.
How successful were those first practise sessions?
I don’t really know, because being on the gun crew you don’t see where it lands. Whilst it was giving training to the gun crew it’s also training people for

02:22:30:00

observing the fire and making the necessary corrections to get it onto the target. The observations officers would be able to judge. They were all successful in that the observation post would be able to direct the next shot to

02:23:00:00

“Lower your range by 100 yards,” or something, or putting it in simple terms or, “Point the barrel 1 degree to the right,” or “The left.” The ultimate aim was to get it right onto the target.
You were at the command post. How was the situation relayed?
Either from an observation post

02:23:30:00

to a gun position would be either by radio or telephone line that the signallers had laid, and gun position to the observation post. In artillery terms, it depended on how fluid the situation was. Whether you were picking up sticks every now and again and moving and whether you were able to observe

02:24:00:00

fire or whether you were able to do calculated defensive fire or something. Observe fire was really just simply a matter of observing where the say the first shot

02:24:30:00

landed and make the necessary corrections either up or down or left or right to get it onto the target. That was the aim obviously. In most of our situations during the war we were generally in reasonably static positions so you knew exactly where you were and you really knew where quite a few of the targets were

02:25:00:00

that you were aiming at. We would do pre calculations on those or have what we called a register for known targets. In other words, we’d know immediately what range to tell the guns to put on their instruments and what line of elevation to have the gun to see it.

02:25:30:00

The communications then were straight from command post to gun and hopefully an observation post observing what was the fire and making final corrections.
At the command post you were looking after 4 crew?
4 guns, yes.

02:26:00:00

How many observation posts would there be?
Only one for us. In fact, the regiment was organised in such a fashion that anyone of our observation posts could be hooked up to two troops of guns and direct both troops if the target was sufficiently warranted

02:26:30:00

the extra fire. It was quite amazing you could have such things as a regimental target, which means that 24 guns all firing at the one spot and the communications hopefully worked all the time either, in those cases it was generally by radio rather than a line or in addition to line anyway.

02:27:00:00

The signallers used to do a marvellous job to keep the telephone lines open.
Can you tell us anything more about your time in the militia?
Not really except we would, I can remember our command post

02:27:30:00

officer had a magnificent car, which was hired by the army. I think it was a Lagonda Tourer. Nice, the hood would go down and here we are all swanning around the roads one morning around Mount Eliza in this wonderful old car. That was great fun.

02:28:00:00

Most of the transport was civilian trucks that had been hired by the army to pull the guns along. Other people, like staff people, were in cars and private motorbikes and all sorts of things.

02:28:30:00

Pretty ad-hoc, but it got done. When we used to go to a camp way up at, in wasn’t Puckapunyal then, it was Seymour or outside Seymour. It might take 2 days for the guns to get up there with these old tractors that used to pull them.

02:29:00:00

We’d go up by sitting on a truck with the crew. It was rather fun in those days. We did learn quite a bit, but I don’t think we

02:29:30:00

really took it that seriously. Some of the chaps might have, but I don’t think I did. It was just a training for a interesting hobby.
You said 10 of you enlisted together. Can you tell us how you managed to pull that off and the actual process of enlisting?
There

02:30:00:00

were probably about 5 of us in the militia regiment in various positions. Each knew a friend and we got ourselves up to the number of 10. Two of our fellows had

02:30:30:00

left the militia regiment early and enlisted very early in May 1940 into the 2/2nd Medium Brigade. So we were in constant touch with them. They put the word around that if we could get 8 more fellows to come in from the 2nd Medium Brigade, providing

02:31:00:00

the powers that be will let them join this unit, which made sense anyway because we’d been trained as artillery people, which is what happened. We enlisted 3 weeks later and were welcomed into the 2/2nd Medium Regiment at Puckapunyal.

02:31:30:00

So we were all together then. Those two that enlisted early, they were both sergeants at the time, so they managed to look after us.
What affect did this have on your work and family life? What was your parent’s reaction?
I don’t think they were surprised.

02:32:00:00

Knowing that I’d been doing training in militia I suppose Mum and Dad were conditioned to the fact that probably there was a means to an end to all this and he’ll probably join the 2nd AIF. So I can’t remember any surprise when I told Mum and Dad that I was joining up. I think Dad said, “Good luck and good on you.”

02:32:30:00

I think I told him that my friends were joining up with me. They were conditioned to it, really. I would imagine most of the other people that I joined up with,

02:33:00:00

their parents would have probably thought the same sort of thing for the same reasons. They didn’t want to see us go, I know that, but there was no reason to endeavour to stop us at any time. And there’s no thought of doing it. Then they used to come and visit us in camp anyway on weekends.

02:33:30:00

We had full family support. In fact we had very good family support from a regimental point of view. A lot of the parents formed a little group to raise funds to give us more comforts. More chocolate or something. All sorts of things that, actually the money was sent to the regiment

02:34:00:00

with instructions to the company commander to sped in the way he thought we would benefit most from it.
What hardships were there when you first joined? What struck you the most?
The regimentation I suppose. 6 o'clock up. We’d been semi used to it, but more in a

02:34:30:00

leisurely fashion. This was really fair dinkum there. We had quite a few of our bombardiers and our sergeants were quite efficient at their job and very efficient in making sure we did what we were supposed to do when we were supposed to do it.

02:35:00:00

The idea was to make sure we conducted ourselves as soldiers should be conducted. Soldiers should carry out their activities and their duties. We spent a hell of a lot of time marching around doing drill properly. “That was pretty good, but we’re going to do it again

02:35:30:00

because it’s not quite right.” Quite a lot of that. You’d get roared at, yelled at, cursed and sworn at until you get it right. It’s all done for a very good reason. It stood us in good stead because you realised that there was only one way to

02:36:00:00

run a regiment of this sort is to have it functioning like clockwork. I think we achieved it eventually. We probably had 3 groups in our unit. Those that had been in the militia and been in an artillery regiment, those that had been

02:36:30:00

in the permanent army in Fort Queenscliff. Our initial CO [commanding officer] had been the commander at that time the fort when the war started. So he extracted quite a few of the fort gunners to come into our regiment. Ourselves as militia people joined for the same reason as an

02:37:00:00

artillery regiment. The rest came from civilian life. So it was quite an effort I think to mould the whole three groups together. There was a bit of rivalry between the fort people and the militia people. The pure civilians wondered why the hell, what was going on for a while.

02:37:30:00

How did that rivalry manifest itself?
Well, not in any way detrimental to either our training or to anybody at all. I suppose there was, I’m a lonely gunner at this time and I suppose there was an odd little striking went on in the officers’ mess and the sergeants’ mess. And perhaps amongst us too.

02:38:00:00

Coincidentally perhaps most of the bombardiers in the huts that we slept in, all the non commissioned officers were mainly from the fort. That seemed to sort itself out. We got on famously really. After

02:38:30:00

about probably 2 or 3 months after we’d enlisted and the regiment was formed, I was working in the kitchen one Sunday morning, peeling spuds and cleaning up when the orderly officer of the day came down and said “Hampton, you can

02:39:00:00

put that knife down and leave the mess kitchen. If you look at routine orders, you’re now a lance bombardier, so you can leave that job alone.” So I got out of any further duties of that nature. So I was on my way out. Lightly.
How long had it taken to go from gunner to…?

02:39:30:00

I joined in May. I suppose it was about June or July, middle of winter if I remember rightly. One Sunday I didn’t have weekend leave, it was my turn. I suppose my training in the militia obviously helped somewhat. Because we

02:40:00:00

had the same gun, type of guns. In fact, we didn’t have any for a long while hence all the drill marching and route marching. But that was there for a purpose to get you fit anyway.
Interviewee: David Hampton Archive ID 1189 Tape 03

03:00:45:00

From May till mid November 1940.

03:01:00:00

We hardly had any equipment, in fact at one point in time a gun crew would be training on the old fashioned horse trough. You know a big 10 foot long trough that they put water in for the horses to drink out of? We would have to imagine that was a gun and

03:01:30:00

we’d all position around the gun in the correct positions. Commands would be given and people would move and we’d learn how to attach what’s called the dragropes to the horse trough, imagining it’s the gun. On the command, “Drag rope, prepare to advance,” or “Retreat,” or what, you’d have to practise

03:02:00:00

pulling the gun out of action or pushing it into action. We finally got some 60 pounder guns, which then obviously made a difference to our training regime. In the middle of all this

03:02:30:00

they reorganised us from a medium artillery regiment to a field artillery regiment. Then again we didn’t have any guns. We had to borrow some from one of the other sister regiments to train on. By this time we’re getting close to say October and

03:03:00:00

we were trained as well as we could be with the shortage of equipment. Then on, I know the date we left Puckapunyal to go overseas, it was the 16th of November. We were all entrained at a little siding called Dysart siding outside Seymour, on the Melbourne side of Seymour

03:03:30:00

early evening. The troop train travelled to Melbourne where we had to change trains there because we were going to Adelaide. We got to Adelaide overnight and on the 17th November 1940, which happened to be my 21st birthday,

03:04:00:00

we boarded His Majesty’s troopship [HMS] Stratheden to go overseas.
What’s the difference between a medium and a field artillery?
A medium artillery have a heavier gun, a bigger

03:04:30:00

gun, fired a larger projectile. That’s the difference really. And a medium gun is less mobile because they’re quite, I don’t know how much they weigh, but many tons. They’re not as easy to manoeuvre. Whereas a field gun

03:05:00:00

can be moved very quickly with a much smaller, not less powerful, but with more mobile towing vehicles. They could almost be towed by a Land Rover, what is a Land Rover now, or a Range Rover or something. They could be towed by those. So they were

03:05:30:00

field guns and they operate much more in cooperation with the infantry. So we are closer to the scene of all the action. It’s a lighter gun, smaller calibre gun and fires a lighter projectile. The main one in those day was

03:06:00:00

the British 25 pounder guns and obviously the projectile weighed 25 pounds. Whereas the 60 pounder weighs 60 pounds. Obvious isn’t it, when you think of it?
Did the horse trough help?
It only helped that each of the crew members knew where he would be positioned if it was a fair dinkum gun.

03:06:30:00

It helped from the discipline point of view I’d say. Things had to be exact on the gun crew. You had to know what you’re doing second by second virtually or the whole thing didn’t fall into place properly. Everybody had their task. One man would be the gun layer, in other words pointing the gun in the right direction. Another man was the

03:07:00:00

ammunition lumber, loading the shell and loading the cartridge after it, cordite in it. Another couple of fellows to move the gun round and a sergeant in charge. Another couple of fellows that brought the ammunition from your little dumps further away so that it could be loaded into the gun. It was

03:07:30:00

quite a precise operation.
There was 4 on the crew?
There’s 6 plus, probably 6 of them as a minimum number. There’d be other support fellows, if you could spare them, if we had them. Sometimes you didn’t have the full crew.

03:08:00:00

It depended on the situation. You could operate the gun with 5 people quite satisfactorily.
Who was responsible for maintenance of the gun?
The maintenance of the gun was carried out in the main by, any major maintenance was carried out by specialist gunners. Artificer was their title.

03:08:30:00

Gunnery artificers who were engineers virtually and would be able to either repair the gun on the spot, or perhaps it might have to be withdrawn so they could do more major operations on it.
At what point did you know you’d be going over to the Middle East or did you always know that’s where?
We knew we

03:09:00:00

were going to the Middle East when we joined the ship of course. We had about a week when we realised that something’s happening. We were ordered to do this or do that, or don’t do this and pack that. So you knew something was going on. No leave was granted. I think we probably

03:09:30:00

knew officially 3 or 4 days before we left. The commander got us together on a regimental parade and told us what was going to happen.
Were your family able to see you off?
Officially they weren’t supposed to. But coincidentally when the train pulled in to Spencer Street station there were a lot of relatives there. So word must have got out somehow.

03:10:00:00

They virtually saw us off as if you were seeing the Adelaide Express go.
But officially they weren’t supposed to?
No. Not officially. But I think a little bit of communication between people in the regiment and their families at home got the word going.

03:10:30:00

Then it travelled like wildfire.
Were you able to communicate?
Yes, I was talking to my Mum and my then girlfriend on the station, which again was, I think we actually managed to get over the road to have a beer at the pub opposite

03:11:00:00

Spencer Street station if I remember rightly. It was done with a lot of supervision. The commanding officer issued his instruction the sergeants and the officers were to supervise their troops, but, you know, “Go on, off you go, but be back in quarter of an hour.”

03:11:30:00

By this time it was getting dark.
What was your mum like at that parting?
A bit tearful. I suppose the fact that she had other mums with her, they sort of bolstered each other up I think. I’m pretty sure they did.

03:12:00:00

We thought it was probably not great fun, but we were more anxious with well, “Where are we going?” We didn’t know we were going to Adelaide at that stage. Not until they pulled into Spencer Street and then, I can’t remember whether we changed trains or whether we were just coupled the engine down the other end and chuffed off to Adelaide.
What about your girlfriend? Had you plans to marry? Were you very close?

03:12:30:00

We were pretty close. No, we hadn't made any plans. We were still just girlfriend and boyfriend. I finished up I didn’t marry her, obviously. We corresponded right throughout the war. We just didn’t see eye to eye at the end of the war probably.

03:13:00:00

We decided to go our own ways.
What was the atmosphere like in the train going off to Adelaide?
I think we slept most the time. Pretty silent. I think, if I remember rightly, we weren’t chatting much, we were just probably all pretty thoughtful about what was happening, where we would finish up. I think we knew, deep down we knew

03:13:30:00

that we must be leaving Australia.
Had you looked at maps and been informed of what
Not really. Not as low down as the troops. I think maybe a lot of our commanding officers were probably more in the picture than we were. I suppose there was no point in

03:14:00:00

disclosing too much at that point in time. After all, I think it would have been classed as a secret movement. It wasn’t that secret. We weren’t given any indication of what might happen.
Did you know where

03:14:30:00

North Africa was? The countries and…
I did, because we knew that other Australian troops were up there at the time or were about to go up there because the 6th Division had preceded us to go to the Middle East. So we really knew that we must be heading for the Middle East. In actual fact, I have a feeling we were

03:15:00:00

designed that we should have gone to England in the first place, but they’d lost a lot of artillery equipment at Dunkirk, so the British army didn’t have any spare guns to issue to us anyway. So that stopped us from that sort of endeavour.

03:15:30:00

That was the theory that was going round at the time.
Tell me about the journey on the ship.
We thought that was great. We were finally in company with three other troopships. We were on the Stratheden, the [HMS] Strathnaver was also in the

03:16:00:00

convoy. The [HMS] Orion and a Polish ship called the [M/S] Batory, B-A-T-O-R-Y. We had a cruiser escort and a couple of destroyers. When we got to Fremantle we pulled in,

03:16:30:00

not right to the jetties, but stood off out at sea a little bit. We were finally given a day’s leave into Fremantle and Perth because they’d sent our escorts away to hunt down a German radar that was in the Indian Ocean. I’m not sure now whether they

03:17:00:00

finally caught it. We thought it was great because at the particular time my father happened to be in Perth with his gas retort company and so he shouted about 6 of us dinner that night in Perth. We thought that was pretty good. We had to be back onboard by midnight. We were there

03:17:30:00

for a couple of days from memory. Finally back came our escorts and away we went. We were occupied onboard by plenty of physical training, PT [physical training] and lectures on what to do in the Middle East and what not to do.

03:18:00:00

Plenty of hygiene advice.
What sort of hygiene advice?
Well, certain girls were out of bounds. If you can make it that, but if you can’t be good be careful. That was the message.

03:18:30:00

So it was about venereal disease?
Yeah. Mainly.
What did you think about that at the time?
I thought it was good advice. Most of us were pretty young and innocent anyway. However, we took the advice the way it was given.

03:19:00:00

We had all sorts of lectures on various subjects. Diet, health in general, more PT, even some of our fellows that had emanated, joined the regiment from the fort, persuaded the ship’s gunner, they had a gun onboard, to let the gunners practise on that. They let us practise shoot on the way over.

03:19:30:00

Fortunately the Stratheden still had a full ship compliment of crew onboard. The orchestra was onboard, the stewards and stewardesses were still onboard. All they’d really done almost was wherever there was a cabin with a bed, two beds and they’d put a bunk above them. They’d cleared out the

03:20:00:00

lower deck. They had hammocks put in. Fortunately I managed with 3 other fellows to get into a cabin. That was quite fortunate. Sometimes, because the ship was blacked out and some of the fellows right down below in the hammocks decided it would be better to sleep

03:20:30:00

up on deck. What the ship’s crew had forgotten to advise them about was the fact that the next morning, the lass on crew would be washing the deck with a big, powerful hose. It didn’t matter whether you were lying there or not, they did their job. So you got soaking wet on occasion.
Did that include you?
No. Our cabin

03:21:00:00

wasn’t too bad. We stayed in our cabin of a night time. It was a masterly job to keep us occupied.
What were some of the health issues they talked to you about that you could expect in your leave?
The main one of course was venereal disease.

03:21:30:00

I can’t really remember what they were about. Just how to really look after yourself. Just be careful what you eat till you find out whether it’s suitable. Don’t just take anything for granted,

03:22:00:00

just investigate before you did anything. Just be aware and just be not so much on health, but just realise that Middle East people, we are strangers to them and they’re strangers. We are strangers to them and vice versa.

03:22:30:00

Got to respect each other. It worked out that way I think.
So you had an orchestra onboard?
Yeah, the ship’s orchestra played of a night time. Didn't see the steward or stewardesses fortunately. Couldn't have help us anyway. We had our own, I can’t remember where we

03:23:00:00

ate. It must have been in one of the dining rooms. We didn’t just sit on the deck and eat, I know that. I know we had sittings, so we must have been in the dining room. It was quite a job to feed us all. But the crew were very good.
How many were onboard the ship?

03:23:30:00

Gosh, that’s’ a question I really don’t know the answer to. We weren't’ the only unit. There would be say 700 of us. There must have been 2,000 probably. Might have been 3 other units onboard, or two other units as well as us.

03:24:00:00

Any service women travelling with you?
No I don’t think so. If they were they would have been nurses and they would have been up with the officers I’d say, on the upper deck. So we didn’t see them. I can’t remember really.
Where were you heading for?
We didn’t quite know until we got to Ceylon. Then we had a day’s leave at Ceylon. So

03:24:30:00

we knew that we were definitely heading for the Middle East. We stood of at Colombo and were given a day’s leave there. That was quite interesting. I think in my little group, about six of us, we hired a taxi and went round the island. For the day. Came back and had an odd drink in the

03:25:00:00

Gall Face Hotel. We just absorbed the different life we were seeing. It was quite interesting. Obviously used to troops by that time. We didn’t have any trouble. The only

03:25:30:00

trouble we had, I think a few fellows to a water taxi or a boat to deliver themselves to the wrong vessel. Being two ships very alike, the Stratheden and the Strathnaver, somehow they mistook the vessel and got the boat to take them to the wrong vessel . Wrong

03:26:00:00

ship. They soon realised when they went down to their cabin and found there was somebody else in the cabin. So they persuaded the boat to take them to the correct one.
What else about Colombo did you like?
It’s a nice tropical island. Very neat

03:26:30:00

and tidy and really looked good. I can’t remember really exactly what we did. I know we went almost right round the island, or as far as we could in the taxi and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was a totally different atmosphere. We were taking everything in I suppose. All the vivid images we would see.

03:27:00:00

Kids waving to you. It was quite interesting.
So from Colombo?
We headed straight west for the Red Sea. Straight up to the start of the Suez Canal at a place called El Kantara where we disembarked and

03:27:30:00

boarded trains. It must have been late afternoon when we disembarked off the ship. We entrained on a troop train for Palestine. Where no where the trains had square wheels. They were virtually, I don’t suppose they were cattle trucks, well they might have been, but they weren’t very

03:28:00:00

comfortable. We were in just an open, no open, but a non-seated carriage truck, goods truck, goods van sort of thing. They were rough as blazes, but you slept as best you could. That’s where the square wheels you know. You felt every bump. And arrived in

03:28:30:00

a village called Qistina [Qastina, now Qiryat Gat] Q-I-S-T-I-N-A I think it was spelled, where there was a camp standing ready for us. Tents and our beds were cane beds, open weave cane beds about 6 inch squares cane or bamboo

03:29:00:00

construction. About 2 foot high and 2 foot 6 wide and 6 foot long like an open box. Pretty uncomfortable. You lie down and woke up in the morning with squares on your back like a dart board from the cane construction of the bed.
There were no mattresses?

03:29:30:00

No just blankets I think, if I remember rightly. Our own blankets. We got an issue of blankets of course. No blankets. That’s be too comfortable. Can’t make them too comfortable. It was a whole new world to us.
What country are we in?
What’s now Israel, Palestine. Probably

03:30:00:00

not far away from the famous town now, Gaza. Probably only a couple of hours’ drive from Gaza. It had been occupied by I think Australian troops before us. We were quite comfortable there I suppose. Again we had no guns

03:30:30:00

so we spent our time doing route marches to get us fit again after all our lazy life aboard the ship. So we saw a bit of the country side and went to quite a lot of villages and waved to everybody. You’d be out the whole day on a route march.
How did the climate affect you?

03:31:00:00

Didn't affect me. I think most of us coped with it quite all right. We got there towards the end of December so it was virtually wintertime over there, but there were nice, sunny days al lot of the time. Sometimes when it rained

03:31:30:00

there was mud everywhere. 6 inches of mud you were walking through. It got a bit bitter in the middle of their winter. We had big tents which slept 10 men

03:32:00:00

I think it was. Eight men anyway. We would travel out to dig slit trenches outside for air raid protection, which when it rained filled with water and mud. That was not very helpful. Fortunately we never had to use them. They were there in case we did. We spent our first Christmas there,

03:32:30:00

which was probably in our situation a bit of a sad memory that we weren’t home for Christmas. This might be the first of a forerunner that we wouldn’t be home for.
Did you have Christmas dinner?
Yes.

03:33:00:00

I think with the help of our comfort funds and our own regimental funds we had turkey and ham and for us in the gunners’ mess, I think the officers served us. It was quite good. They did the best they could. Perhaps a bottle of beer each for Christmas.

03:33:30:00

What was the point of you being there?
The point of being
Why you were stationed there.
In that particular spot? Probably for two reasons. One was obviously training. Secondly I presume we would have acted as some sort of a garrison

03:34:00:00

troop or unit in case of any local disturbances. Not that we had a great, as an artillery regiment we didn’t have a great deal of equipment to be able to deal with anything, but I assume the infantry had their equipment. I would

03:34:30:00

say we were there primarily for training and to bring us up to scratch so that we could be used in more useful occupations when required. As far as we were concerned when we got some guns. As it turned out, we didn’t get any guns

03:35:00:00

until we got into Tobruk. I think we borrowed some from one of our sister regiments on the odd occasion to get some proper gunnery training. For those in command positions it must have been a nightmare to organise and predict

03:35:30:00

how they could really get about getting us trained properly.
How long were you there for in this camp?
We arrived in about the end of December and we left in late April early May most of us. By that time our

03:36:00:00

infantry were over in north Africa, but it was no sense us going there because we didn’t have any equipment at all because round about that time our comrades in the 6th division were withdrawn from the

03:36:30:00

North African campaign and sent over to Greece. So our infantry took over from their infantry. We stayed behind with our sister regiments because they didn't have any equipment either, our two sister regiment, or hardly any. Finally we were

03:37:00:00

selected to go and support our own infantry in Tobruk when they realise that there was some equipment of the British manufacture and Italian manufacture that could be used by us.
Were they just waiting to see what would happen? There was no plan or no sure thing of where you’d get the equipment from?

03:37:30:00

Obviously there wasn’t. But we weren’t aware of it. We were aware that something was not quite right because we had no equipment, but you had enough faith to know that something was going to happen. That’s all we could have, faith that somebody would solve the problem or it would get solved.

03:38:00:00

because we didn’t realise it would happen in the way it did. Our commanding officers were probably in the short term, was probably just as anxious as we were. I assume primarily was put in the picture and

03:38:30:00

knew what was going to happen to us. That sort of information was kept till the last minute anyway for secrecy purposes. That was another thing we were lectured on all the time coming over on the boat was the necessity for not talking about things that

03:39:00:00

might or could happen. Where we were coming from. I think that all they knew was we were Australian troops because we were the only ones that wore tanned boots. The British army wore black, so they must have known where we were coming from. Once we got there of corse they knew who we were.
Are you talking about the local people?
Locals, yeah.
What did you have to do with them? How did they blend

03:39:30:00

in?
They blended in very well. There was a mixture of course of Arabs and the Jewish refugees and population that lived in Palestine at the time. I think the only thing even then separating them was the fact that troops were there. I think they would have been at it hammer and tongs even in those days if they had

03:40:00:00

the chance. Both the Arabs and the Jews were very generous to us. Not that I did, but some of our fellows had made friendships with the local Jewish village and some with the local Arab villages. We mixed in,

03:40:30:00

I think the Australian troops are capable of mixing in with most people. We seem to be able to talk to them once you’ve learned a few words of Arabic or, so much so, particularly with the Jews,

03:41:00:00

the Jewish villages, we’d get invited to a meal or something at times. The Arabs were keen on selling us oranges and olives and things like that.
Interviewee: David Hampton Archive ID 1189 Tape 04

04:00:30:00

Picking up from the local people in the village, things like going there for dinner. You were free to be offered an invitation?
Yes, sometimes you would go, not that I went, but

04:01:00:00

maybe without permission from the camp commandant. A blind eye was turned to a lot of it. As long as you were back at a reasonable hour it didn’t really concern anybody a great deal because most night times, unless you were on guard or some special duty, you

04:01:30:00

could make your own arrangements as to what you did. You were liable to be challenged on the way home as to who you are and…
Who by? Why would challenge you?
The sentries that we would have at the post each night. That was more in the. By the time you got close enough to challenge, they knew who it was anyway. So you went through the motions.
Was there much patrolling?

04:02:00:00

No. No, we were virtually in a civilian situation. An army unit amongst civilians. From an outsider’s point of view we were just camped there and we marched all over the place. I think the

04:02:30:00

locals took pity on us, knowing that we were strangers in a strange land. Most of them were very cooperative. Young Arab children would try and illicit a few coins out of you and try and sell you something

04:03:00:00

that looked like yesterday’s newspaper or something like that. Make a bit of money or just amble along with us when we were route marching as you passed through each village. Most the villages were houses of mud construction. Some were good some were bad.

04:03:30:00

Depended on the state of the village I suppose, to what their economic situation was. The Jewish villages were the forerunners of the kibbutz. They lived entirely separate lives. Kept within their own little circle as much as they could.

04:04:00:00

In the towns like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem it was different of course. We might get a day’s leave to Tel Aviv or a couple of nights in Jerusalem, a week in Cairo, which broke the monotony.

04:04:30:00

The first thing you knew something was going to happen was when all leave was cancelled, so you knew something might be happening. Either a manoeuvre or a fair dinkum movement into action.
Was it exciting for you being there?
Yes it was. I think your adrenalin was reasonably high in that

04:05:00:00

you didn’t know quite what to expect next. I suppose your own group of friends supported each other. I don’t suppose we talked about it a great deal, but I suppose we all thought, I know I did, “What’s the next step after this?” Just what it’s going to

04:05:30:00

be like. By that time we knew where all the action was taking place in North Africa, so we knew what was the most likeliest spot we were going to head. But we did our best to absorb all the training we could.
Were you seeing

04:06:00:00

soldiers returning from that front?
No. Well, I didn’t anyway. I don’t probably think a lot of our fellows did because they were fully occupied. Those that were wounded would have gone to a hospital. Not that I went down, but a few of our blokes obviously went to hospital even

04:06:30:00

while we were training, so they may have had the opportunity to speak to some of the fellows who had some back from the western desert from the 6th Division action over there.
What training did you actually do given that you had no guns?
Again, we had lectures on gunnery

04:07:00:00

and all that sort of thing. Mainly on gunnery at that stage of course. You had to pretend situations. You have a make-believe shoot. You have, what do you call them? It’s

04:07:30:00

built of sand. A model of the area or some area. You endeavour to give your impression of what you think should happen under certain circumstances and you put the positions on the sand map.
So hypothetical situations where you would

04:08:00:00

work out strategy?
Yeah, and just how as an artillery regiment we could support what was going on. In Syria, what was going to happen? Mainly it would be a lecture situation.

04:08:30:00

Just making sure everybody realised the theory of gunnery and how it operates.
And how it works with the infantry?
Yeah. Our senior officers would be in constant conferences with the infantry and other arms, engineers and so on. It wouldn’t get

04:09:00:00

right down to the troops, but they would be indoctrinating themselves into a situation where they knew who had a fire fight with who and what was the best thing to do in certain circumstances. But it was all theory at that point in time. It worked finally because there were certain rules

04:09:30:00

that ensure that the action is the best possible.
You wouldn’t have been doing any battery staff training at that point?
Yes. Well you would be. We would have to do surveys work. You’d used what’s now the Aldus light, virtually to find exactly what our

04:10:00:00

position was on the ground and on the map. So that was a constant training exercise. Make sure that you calculate your theoretical positions. The target’s there and we're here on the map, you had to get the shell to land there. They’re 200 feet up in the air, we’re down here.

04:10:30:00

There’s a different level between, a small mountain range in between, how do we go about it? I’m being very theoretical at the moment, but you had to be very proficient in the calculations. All we had was a slide wheel and logarithmic

04:11:00:00

tables. There were no calculators. So you did everything longhand on a sheet of paper with a pencil and a rubber. You make sure you were very proficient with the logarithmic tables and trigonometry theories that were involved with it

04:11:30:00

and the use of a slide wheel. Whilst the gun crews were practising where they could on borrowed equipment how to go about getting the gun in the right position and the right configuration and how would they load the shell and there’s a fording

04:12:00:00

cordite container and all that sort of thing. The gunners would have discussions on their operations, how they went about it and what maintenance they had to do and what maintenance on their vehicles they might have to do and so on. Literally all

04:12:30:00

at that stage all in theory, but then again we borrowed some equipment from somebody and put the theory into practise.
So you would go out in the field with a gun and have an exercise. Can you walk me through that scenario?
Each troop would set sail.

04:13:00:00

We might have only borrowed say 4 guns, so only one sub unit at a time could do an operation. You would go out in convoy, 4 guns or how many of the guns we had, they might have only had 2 at a time, generally we got hold of 4.

04:13:30:00

You would go out in convoy to a pre-arranged spot that wasn’t going to do any of the locals any harm, not that we had any live ammunition, but we weren’t going to interfere with the locals. Come to a position where we’d set the guns up 50 yards apart or

04:14:00:00

something like that and get our battery staff equipment out and the observation officer would go forward and get to his observation point and he would then issue some commands back to the guns to

04:14:30:00

a target on such and such a map reference, “That’s the one I want to fire on.” Knowing our position, we would do all our calculations and issue the commands to the guns as to where they should point it and pretended we fired them.
Did you fire anything?
No, I can’t remember having a live shoot

04:15:00:00

in Palestine.
How would the observation officer work out his best spot to go?
He’d make a choice. He’d just go out in his vehicle and find a spot where he could be. I think probably,

04:15:30:00

something I really didn’t get into at the time, I didn’t probably realise, the army were probably given a certain area of country that they could do their practising and manoeuvres in. I suppose it was a pretty set piece for everybody.
What distance are you talking about from where you are to where the target is?
We were known as the ‘9 mile snipers’.

04:16:00:00

That’s what the infantry called the artillery. We’re looking at a 10,000, I’m talking in yards now, which is about 6 miles or something. But you can get much closer than that of course. Our particular guns, when we got our correct equipment, the 25 pounder gun,

04:16:30:00

had a much longer range of about 15,000 yards, which is 9 miles. About 9 miles. That’s the maximum range. You could be anywhere from there to 1 mile or less depending on the circumstances.
How big

04:17:00:00

is the gun?
About, wouldn’t take up the length of this room. About the tip of the muzzle to the back end of it would be about there, it’s about

04:17:30:00

20 feet. The two wheels as you can see up there would be like a dirty big truck I suppose. Pneumatic wheels about

04:18:00:00

4 feet high, 2 feet in diameter or thereabouts and a barrel that was 5-6 feet long. Am I making sense? I didn’t know you were going to ask me all these specifications.

04:18:30:00

Capped a ton in weight and pulled in from a Range Rover to something bigger. The standard equipment at that time was a vehicle called a quad for some unknown reason, which was a bit like a campervan, held a crew,

04:19:00:00

6 or 7 or up to 8 fellows and towed the gun at the same time. So it was in one complete unit. But we had a variety of equipment. In Tobruk we didn’t have any towing equipment at all. We had to borrow vehicles to move the gun from one spot to another.
What was the kick back?

04:19:30:00

The recoil?
The recoil.
Quite severe. But it’s got a system on the gun, a buffer zone to cushion it so that it comes back, not with a jolt, but smoothly. You have a,

04:20:00:00

on our particular equipment you have a seal on the gun that helps to stop the muzzle blast coming back onto the crew.
What’s the muzzle blast?
When the projectile leaves the barrel of the gun there’s a great big pop,

04:20:30:00

which dislodges a lot of air and you get a backflow of air back towards the crew, which can be quite severe so there’s shield on the gun to prevent that. Sometimes you fired with it down, sometimes you fired with it up. It depended on the situation.

04:21:00:00

What guns did the Australian Army have?
If we had our proper equipment it would have been the British 25 pounder field gun, which was an excellent gun.
Was that its official name?
Yes. 25 pounder gun Howitzer I think. 25 pounder gun

04:21:30:00

Howitzer.
So early April you got your marching orders?
Yes. We went by road convoy down to Cairo to a little village outside Cairo. Actually closer to Alexandria

04:22:00:00

where we camped in pretty desolate spot, which seemed to produce more sandstorms than anything else. It was a most miserable spot. From there we were then shipped as

04:22:30:00

ships became available, the ships were Australian navy destroyers to transport us up to Tobruk. We went up in groups really probably over a three week to a month’s period because by that time as you see on the map, the infanteers got themselves back

04:23:00:00

inside the parameter of Tobruk, and it was a fortress situation then. They had some British artillery that had been withdrawn in with them. But they still needed more so that’s when we were cosen to be transported to the gun support area infantry.

04:23:30:00

We were taken to Tobruk, when I say up it’s along I suppose, from Alexandria to Tobruk to an overnight situation on a destroyer. A couple of subunits to a destroyer. They’d take about 150 men I suppose.

04:24:00:00

Leave in daylight, one night out and the next night we were lobbed in Tobruk. Gradually the regiment over a month got up there complete and then we just went around there and found guns we could use.
Were you escorted on that trip?
No. It was just a single

04:24:30:00

ship at a time.
No air escort?
No. Well, the air force couldn’t cover the distance to Tobruk anyway from Alexandria but no doubt we had some escort that we didn’t see for the first few hours of our journey in

04:25:00:00

daylight. But as they got beyond their range, we were on our own. That’s why they selected periods of moonless nights in Tobruk would come in at night and unload us in the harbour of a night-time. We were given, if I remember rightly, about

04:25:30:00

half an hour all to get off one side of the boat while they’re throwing stores off the other side. Then they would load any people going back including wounded and within and hour the destroyer had left to go back to Alexandria again. There we were.
Tell me about the night you arrived.
It was a bit of an

04:26:00:00

experience. Again you wonder what we were striking. You’d be bundled off the vessel, pick up all your gear as quickly as you could, loaded into trucks and taken about a mile away from the fort area. “Who are you people?” “We’re 2/12th Field Regiment.” “OK, this is where you’re going to bed down at night. Does anybody want a cup of tea?”

04:26:30:00

“Yes.” we all decided we’d have a cup of tea and there’d be the odd rumble and flashes in the distance and wonder what was happening. What are we letting ourselves in for? The first cup of tea was horrible. As it says in our history book ‘we thought it must have been made of brackish water

04:27:00:00

mixed with sand and petrol.’ Because most of the water was stored in pre-owned aviation fuel 44 gallon drums that hadn't been cleaned out too well. The water was chlorinated anyway. Tasted terrible. Didn't take long to get used to.
Did you see any wounded that night?
No.

04:27:30:00

No, I didn’t because we were bundled off so quickly. The navy had in mind the shortest time they were in there was the best. You didn’t know what was going to happen. It might be an air raid on the port or shelling on the port by the Germans, so fortunately we got in quite clear of any

04:28:00:00

problems.
Where you were camping, were you camouflaged?
We were just lying on what I reckon was very stony ground. This was our first night daylight. You just wandered what you’d struck. Out there it was just sand and bits of rock and bombed out vehicles and wrecked vehicles, things all over the place. Until we were taken to our gun positions.

04:28:30:00

By the time I got to our gun position we had a couple of Italian guns already there for us to use. Some other members of the regiment or the salvage people had brought these guns in for us to use. There

04:29:00:00

we were. We only had 2 guns for us to use, if I remember rightly, for starters. So we then put into practise all what we’ve been trained for, to occupy a position as best we could. First thing was to dig the guns in, second was to dig yourself a hole as well on this sandy rocky situation.

04:29:30:00

Did you bring your vehicles with you on the ship?
No. Just our belongings, that’s all we had.
So you didn’t have any vehicles there?
No. Well, the advance party had made arrangements to borrow a vehicle. When they got there. “We’re here with no guns, no vehicles. Where can we borrow some vehicles and where are all the guns we’re supposed to be using?”

04:30:00:00

Where did they get the guns from?
They were lying all over the place. The divisional salvage people had brought a lot in to a central spot and I assumed selected the best ones out of the motley collection that

04:30:30:00

we could use and our officers would then go and make a selections s to which one they thought again would be best of it and arranged for towing vehicles to tow them in to our positions where we needed them. By that time our observation and survey people had been around and cased the situation and talked

04:31:00:00

to the infantry, the supporting troops, to find out just how we could best help them with what was available. The first problems from a technical point of view was that we suddenly realised that the Italian guns were all in metric and we’re in yards and inches. Feet.

04:31:30:00

So our CO, the commanding officer, arranged for all the Italian range tables, as they were called, to be converted from metric system to imperial system. We’d do an interpretation of it all, which was a mammoth task in its own. The first place we were in effect firing by trial and error.

04:32:00:00

You mean the tables of calculating?
Yeah, doing our calculations. All the dial sides, all the equipment on the guns itself was all in millimetres. That took some organising, but we overcame it.

04:32:30:00

The next problems was to find somewhere to sleep. Plus not only did you have to find somewhere to sleep, you had to dig your guns in as much as you could. Not that you could, it was pretty rocky ground so you couldn’t dig very deep for starters.

04:33:00:00

How deep do you need to dig a gun in?
As deep as, within reason, probably 4 feet would be a nice, about 3 meters, no, not 3 meters about a meter and a half about that. 2 meters at the maximum. The more shelter you can give the gun and the crew the better.

04:33:30:00

Does that include space for the crew underground?
Yeah, in a pit, yeah. You’d either build a little doover for yourself as it was called, a doover by gathering rocks and digging as far down as you could and putting rocks around it to protect it a bit.

04:34:00:00

The command post would be as far under ground as you could get it, which wasn’t very far with a canvas cover over the top and a bit of timber over it to keep the canvas there and a couple of sandbags on top or a bit of sand or something just to camouflage it. Everything would be under camouflage

04:34:30:00

including the guns. We had varying equipment. Sometimes we had in the first place, round about some British equipment because we were originally a medium regiment

04:35:00:00

there were some 60 pounder guns in Tobruk which I’m not sure whether they left Tobruk in the first place to go further west with the campaign going further west of whether they remained in Tobruk all the time. Anyway, they were there. There were about 4 or 5 of them. The rest of us were on Italian equipment. That meant that we had maybe 6, I know in my troop

04:35:30:00

we’d split the troop into 2 sections. We had two 25 pounders at one stage we’d borrowed from somebody, but the rest of the crew were on Italian guns. They range in calibres from 75 millimetre to the rather more medium gun, 145 millimetre

04:36:00:00

gun, which in the part of the troop I was in we were more concerned with that, which had a tendency to, because the ammunition was lying all over the place and nobody knew how long it had been. It could have been there years, because it was an Italian fortress before the Second World War started.

04:36:30:00

One of our 10 fellows was killed on one of those guns when we had a pre-meter, which means the shell explodes once it’s left the muzzle, once it got out the muzzle it exploded, it was a faulty shell. So it killed 2 of the gun crew died including one of my

04:37:00:00

best friends of the 10 of us that had joined up together, and another fellow. Another one of my friends just happened to not stand there, he stood there. If he had stood there he would have been killed too. So that sort of equipment was, but fortunately we didn’t have that many accidents. More the major problem was mechanical. They were so old and worn out

04:37:30:00

that artificers engineers or mechanics had a fulltime job trying to fix them up. If you couldn’t fix it, well, that one’s got to go out somewhere, where you we find another one? Someone would find another gun somewhere and bring it in.
Were these people from the army who were scavenging around?
Mainly Australian troops, yeah.

04:38:00:00

The garrison in Tobruk was mainly Australian. I don’t say that unkindly, but we were. There were British troops there as well. Mainly artillery. But obviously not enough, that’s why we went up. The army service

04:38:30:00

corps, the ration people and all that, medical staff, the Australian general hospital was there. There were some Indian troops, infanteers. Northumberland Fusiliers, a British regiment, was there.

04:39:00:00

The main force was Australian. Everybody had to cooperate or it wouldn’t have functioned the way it did.
This was still outside the fortification?
No, we were inside and stayed inside.

04:39:30:00

By the time we got there the fortification was completely manned and closed by the Australian infantry. They did the best to keep the Germans out because Tobruk was

04:40:00:00

needed because it was the only decent fort on the south side of the Mediterranean, in other words, on the African coast that the Germans really needed to keep their supply lines going. So the powers that be decided it was the best thing, I think Mr Churchill had a hand in it, was the

04:40:30:00

best thing was put a thorn in their side and make it very difficult for them to get their supplies over, which was a function that carried out pretty well during the siege. So the General Rommel had 2 fronts to face. Tobruk itself and further east

04:41:00:00

at the Egyptian border where our other 2 sister regiments were. Our infantry were excellent at annoying the opposition so that he had to keep X number of troops there.

04:41:30:00

He was dead keen to get the fort, but he just couldn’t break through. He did make one insertion, which stayed in what’s called a salient of the whole time. He did make a breach in the fortification line, but he didn’t get very far, which was a good thing for us anyway.

04:42:00:00

Was that when you were there?
Yeah. The Australians had just….
Interviewee: David Hampton Archive ID 1189 Tape 05

05:00:30:00

You had landed at Tobruk and were digging in.
That’s right, and we got ourselves established. Then we waited to see what we could do to support our infantry. Of course, they gave us plenty of tasks. We had all this obsolete

05:01:00:00

equipment to use and the main job was to, one of the main tasks was to keep them firing. I explained our artificers to a wonderful job keeping them in reasonable order. We don’t know how long, probably they’d been there for years and years as part of the Italian campaign round the area.

05:01:30:00

Was all the ammunition left behind from that as well?
Yeah. Just lying out in the open. I assume they picked the best-looking stuff to give to us. We only had one or two calamities with it. In the main it left our premises the way we wanted it too. Whether it all exploded the other end

05:02:00:00

we don’t really know. Some of them were probably duds because of the age. Plus the fact they didn’t have the safety equipment built into the shell itself that the British ammunition did. In other words the premature explosion that killed my friend wouldn’t have occurred with

05:02:30:00

British ammunition because the mechanism in it doesn’t arm it until it’s gone X number of million revolutions after it’s left the muzzle.
Once you dug in, can you describe where you were in relation to the infantry and light artillery?

05:03:00:00

The geography of the place was a couple of plateaus leading down to the sea where there were what were called wadis, what we would call small valleys I suppose if you like, leading down to the mainly rocky cliffs on the odd spot,

05:03:30:00

to a nice little beach. We were generally in artillery like to get behind at least some sort of hill in front of them so the enemy can’t see you for starters. We’d be in those sorts of situations, but if you walked up to the inward side of the wadi onto the plateau it was just a stretch of flat land till the next escarpment perhaps 2 miles across

05:04:00:00

further on where it went up to the next level. That’s the way it was. It was just like one big saucer with the port one part of the semicircle and the fortifications with the infantry in it semi circled

05:04:30:00

around it 9 miles out from the port. The radius would be about 9 miles. We would be anywhere from being a mile behind the infantry to a couple of miles behind. Our main task was to harass the enemy as much as we could of our own volition from our own observations of what we’d see

05:05:00:00

and were on instructions from the infantry when they wanted an attack our wanted to send a patrol out that needed protection. You’d be on call for deliberate calculated shoots on certain targets the infantry thought should be wiped out.

05:05:30:00

Because of the inconvenience they gave our infanteers. Then in Tobruk there was a sort of, at Alamein too, there was sort of a mutual understanding that if we could protect the infantry they would attempt to protect us from any

05:06:00:00

incursions into their territory because that was the aim with any enemy to destroy the artillery of the opposition. That’s what they attempted to do I suppose, but because there was no area within the fortress situation that wasn’t able to be either shelled by the enemy or bombed by him.

05:06:30:00

As far as the bombing was concerned he had no opposition at all, because our air force was not able to operate within range of anything that could help us. So he had this guy to himself and he made pretty good use of it at times. Constantly bombing the port area, because he

05:07:00:00

knew that was a vital area. Unfortunately the hospital was pretty close to the port area which didn’t help much. In the main I think they respected the fact that it was a hospital.

05:07:30:00

Did the geography of Tobruk lend itself to that sort of fortification?
It had been built by the Italians initially, but they’d run it down. That was the only way, they had no really major high spots that they could use as a commanding post, except that a lot of our infantry after the

05:08:00:00

Germans had made an incursion and formed assailant had the advantage of some high ground, which made it impossible for our infantry or anybody, our observation post as well, to move during daylight. During daylight the weather conditions were such that it was pretty impossible

05:08:30:00

to observe much in the haze of midday. So our siesta time was around midday and this was something really important. Most activity took place early in the morning or late afternoon to evening and perhaps overnight. So that nobody got much sleep really, unless you could sleep during the day.

05:09:00:00

I don’t know whether you could talk to anybody as an infanteer that was in Tobruk, but they would have had a pretty terrible sort of a time trying to rest during the day in all that heat. We were perhaps a little better in that we could have a covered over doover or command post or something or gun pit with a camouflage net over it

05:09:30:00

and gives you a little bit of shade. We were a little better off than the infanteers were. They used to complain if they were taken out of the line to have a rest, sometimes they’d be a company of infanteers that camped about 4 or 500 yards behind us and they used to complain that not only did we fire all day, or most days,

05:10:00:00

but we kept the damn thing up at night time. The harassing fire. One shell every quarter of an hour or something at odd times, not the same interval between each shot. Two in one minute and none for ten minutes. Then another one, the next one quarter of an hour later and the next one half and hour later, next one back to 5 minutes later. It kept both the gunners

05:10:30:00

stand up and they’d target the other end awake. The infanteers, they couldn’t’ get any sleep either. He said, “It’s almost better to be back up in the frontline than here. We can get a little bit of rest there.” The further out you got, the more undulating it was so that at the time you got to

05:11:00:00

where the fortifications were, the infantry, there was an odd rolling hill or two here and there, when I say hill, it only had to be 10 feet higher than the rest and it’d feel like a mountain. It’d give you an advantage.
Once you’d dug in, how long was it before you had your first action?

05:11:30:00

I can’t remember just when we got declared ready for action. It was during the morning or something. Could be an hour later, then you mightn’t do anything for a few hours and on again.

05:12:00:00

We would send an observation part up to be with the infanteers or up on a bit of high ground near the infanteers. Sometimes we’d have our own observation posts that were independent for ourselves if we could find something that had already been dug and used as an observation post before. Other times the observation

05:12:30:00

party would be with one of the infantry units. We’d just be there to observe and do what damage we could on our own behalf an on our own volition, or under an instruction from the infanteers depending what they wanted. On the odd occasion you mightn’t fire at all one day.

05:13:00:00

It wasn’t very regular. Night time we’d also be asked to provide harassing fire to keep them awake, and everybody else for that matter. They were on the receiving end. They’d do the same to us if they knew where we were. The secret was to endeavour to

05:13:30:00

establish where the enemy artillery was anyway. For the sake of everybody concerned we endeavoured to keep them at a stage where they couldn’t use their guns.
What’s the key? You’re stuck in the same place pretty much.
It was pretty static in Tobruk. Really static.

05:14:00:00

Unless major movements occurred by either side, everybody knew where everybody else was really. In a way it’s a bit like, there’s a lot of water between fish, and there was a lot of fresh air between our shells and enemy shells. But they’ve got to find their mark sometime or other.

05:14:30:00

Unfortunately. So it was a matter of just waiting for something to happen that would give us an opportunity to contribute to supporting our fellows and they were dead keen for us to destroy anything

05:15:00:00

we could, which gets to a situation where you've got to make a decision where you know a mile over there or two miles over there, those two fellows that are walking across there are going to get a fright shortly. Not that I was close enough to

05:15:30:00

talk to any of them, but we had a couple of truces. That’s the ridiculous part about war, isn’t it? So that each side could retrieve their dead and wounded. We were watching the infanteers swap cigarettes with the enemy, talking to them. I think we had, from my memory, two truces like that.

05:16:00:00

There was also an unofficial one of an evening because all the troops had to fend for themselves for two of the meals out of a day. Breakfast or lunch if they could get it or have it. But it was an endeavour to give all the troops, deliver a hot meal to

05:16:30:00

them of a night time, which would come up, cooked further back and brought up to an observation post or the infantry positions by truck of a night time. The enemy did the same thing. They had a pause for an hour or so and nothing would happen. We knew it was quite safe to

05:17:00:00

bring the trucks up unless some idiot did something stupid.
What was the signal for
Just the time. An hour after dusk or something when both sides realised, “They’re not going to do anything until we’ve had a feed.” Up would come the ration trucks and dish out a hot stew for all

05:17:30:00

the people. It made a big difference to their day.
Was that a nightly occurrence?
Nearly every night, yes. Although I can only ever remember a couple of deliveries of frozen meat. The rest would have been bully beef

05:18:00:00

treated one way or another. Either fried or boiled or stewed into a stew just to vary their diet a bit and vary the way they cooked it. I can only ever remember a couple of frozen meat dishes being ever served to us. One bottle of beer once. Australian beer, went down well.

05:18:30:00

Men had to fend for themselves for breakfast and lunch?
Yes, you had a ration available of bully beef or biscuits, and biscuits, and or locally baked bread full of weevils, which was great. You generally had some

05:19:00:00

tinned butter and a bit of tinned jam to spread on the biscuits. That would be breakfast. For lunch you’d share a tin of bully beef with three or four mates with more biscuits. Night time you’d endeavour to get a hot meal. We were a little more fortunate in that we could have our own cook house on our

05:19:30:00

positions being further back. Fortunately for us, our parents committee back home had sent over sufficient money to the commanding officer that he could arrange for each little sub unit, in other words each

05:20:00:00

gun crew, was issued with a primus stove so they could cook whatever they had. It was mainly bully beef or herrings in tomato sauce. They could do something with cooking them some way or other. We had some cooks that produced what they thought was some culinary delights. I don’t know that their friends

05:20:30:00

actually paid them for it, but it didn't pay to venture too far away from either frying or stewing the bully beef anyway, otherwise you’d get criticised, “What the devil’s this?” So you improvised a lot. Water was one of the main

05:21:00:00

drawbacks. Getting enough water. We were issued with one water bottle full for each individual person, his water bottle was filled once every second day, which means you have a quart, don’t know how much that is in litres. 2 pints

05:21:30:00

anyway. So you had a water bottle full to drink, wash yourself, wash your clothes, shave, all the rest of it. We were even given permission to only shave every second day if I remember rightly, in our particular regiment. We were forgiven if we didn’t shave on the odd day. The kitchens were issued with

05:22:00:00

another ration of water to do the major cooking with. The drill was to pour half a mug of water, clean your teeth in it, then shave in it if it was the day to shave, then use the rest on those parts of your body you thought needed it most. I can’t ever remember washing any clothes.

05:22:30:00

I can’t remember that. I don’t reckon we did. Strangely enough, you didn’t sort of smell. Perhaps we all did and we didn’t notice it. It was typically a true desert situation. The whole countryside was desolate. It wasn’t helped by all the dero material around. Trucks and guns and things.

05:23:00:00

However. Very often you’d get a sandstorm. When I say often, a couple of times a week you’d get one. Between 11:30 and 1:30 it was impossible, everything was a haze. The heat was so dense. You were lying around in just a pair of shorts and boots.

05:23:30:00

Nobody I don’t think was ever regimentally dressed.
How would you come with the sandstorm?
You just laid low and kept your mouth closed and tried to breathe through a handkerchief or something. Or get back into your little doover or whatever and keep it closed as much as you could. It’s last for an hour or

05:24:00:00

two and then away again. The skies were always beautifully clear and quite cool. I think,

05:24:30:00

troops of men, say 10 or 15, perhaps 20 fellows, would take it in turns to go down to what was called Happy Valley to one of the wadi that led down to a nice beach. That was a half hour in the truck away. A few miles. So you’d have a sandy stretch. Dust and whatnot everywhere. By the time you got there you were covered in

05:25:00:00

dust, but you’d have a beautiful swim and laze around. We’d go in the morning and come back late afternoon. By the time you got back you were covered in dust again, but at least you’d had a day virtually a full half day just relaxing and swimming. The only time you got a bath.

05:25:30:00

Can you explain step by step what would happen when messages relayed from your observation party that a target had been observed?
They’d observe a target, or one of the infantry would say, “We want that, that area’s got a machine-gun nest in it,

05:26:00:00

can you do something about it?” Our observation people would identify the position as best they could on the map. They knew the position of where these 4 guns or 2 guns or how many guns we had available for him. He knew their position. So, on his map he would work out a rough line. In other words

05:26:30:00

degrees from north to point the gun on a lateral movement. He knew the range. He’d measure the range so he’d be able to tell the gun what range they should set on their sights. What type of ammunition he wanted, whether it was to be highly explosive or armour-piercing if it was a tank or something, or smoke if we needed to hide the movement of

05:27:00:00

some of our troops while they got closer. Or even extending to a star shell of a night-time. In a normal daytime situation it was a target we had to tend to immediately. He’d select high explosive shells. He would then give the range and direction in which to fire the gun

05:27:30:00

and calculate what the angle of sight should be, in other words the difference in elevation between the target and us. He’d ask one gun to fire one round. From that he would then observe where it fell and make a correction, either left or right, I forget the exact terms now.

05:28:00:00

Up 100 or down 100 or up 50, fire another shell. When he was satisfied that it looked as though we likely had the target bracketed, in other words you’d fired one over and one under and they were close enough to be within that 100% frame, he’d then say, if he had enough ammunition he’d say, “Let’s have 5 rounds gunfire,” depending on whether he’s got one gun, 2 guns or 4 guns.

05:28:30:00

Five rounds gunfire might mean 20 rounds each time for the whole thing. They would continue that until such time hopefully he achieved the result that was required.
What was your role in all that?
In that case we didn’t have a role because it was all observed shooting.

05:29:00:00

He would also register things for future targets or tell us a map reference of a target and we’d do the calculations. The main calculation came in when we were firing a predicted shoot to assist our infantry in an advance.

05:29:30:00

They might me advancing onto an area and they would give us just the general outline of where they wanted the rounds to fall and we would do the calculations for those. That was called a predicted shoot.
Can you talk us through one of those?
If a company of infantry or even, well, any

05:30:00:00

number of infantry, a company of infantry would maybe want us to attack a certain enemy position, starting off at 9 o'clock at night, they would tell us and we would probably know the area that they were intending to go for. We would know the coordinates of that

05:30:30:00

area by looking at the map. They may want us to put up a barrage as they advance. We’d just have our shells falling 100, 200 yards in front of them all the way while they advance. So we’ve got to work out a program of where we want the guns to point

05:31:00:00

for the first lot of shells to land. Say 9 o'clock at night we know our infanteers are here, we want out rounds to land there. Then we’ve got to calculate and make sure that the next lot lifts 100 yards while we know the pace of the infantry is roughly walking in. We’ve got to have our shells falling

05:31:30:00

that same margin away from them all the time. Hence the name “9 mile sniper”. It was something, particularly with the Italian equipment, we were always unsure whether they were really going to fall where they should. Occasionally one shell does fall in the wrong spot. Everybody knew that even with our own proper equipment, that was

05:32:00:00

liable to happen. A thing you don’t want to happen, but it’s one of those things that does happen. But fortunately not very often. Hardly ever. So that's when all our calculations come into play. Once, if

05:32:30:00

the infantry get to their objective, they may or may not have one of our observers with them who can then start relaying his comments and orders back as to what we should actually do. Whether we should switch

05:33:00:00

further over or further out or to the right or to the left. He can observe the shoot then.
If you didn’t have an observer with the
Well, the infanteers would say, “Right, you’re on the spot, just keep it up the way it is.”
Well they’d be further out than further in
Yeah. We were somewhat

05:33:30:00

limited in ammunition. Not so much with the Italian equipment, but with our British equipment we had to ration because I could only fire perhaps half a dozen rounds each gun per day, which wasn’t a great deal. With the Italian equipment it was

05:34:00:00

unlimited provided we had ammunition that looked like it was reasonable safe to use. I don’t know whether our own people chose the ammunition or whether we relied on the salvage people to collect what they thought looked the best ammunition, or whether there were any experts that examined them before we got them.

05:34:30:00

Probably did. But I think very often we found that they were duds and didn’t explode the other end. That happened the odd time with our own equipment as well, our own ammunition on the odd occasion.
When the signal came from the observer or infantry, was that coming through headquarters or the command post?

05:35:00:00

Could come either directly from our observation officer with them, or it could come in the main, generally back to company headquarters and then we may have a liaison officer with company headquarters or battalion headquarters who would then advise the infantry and get in touch with us. So the orders could come back a variety of ways. Either directly from the infanteers by radio or telephone if the telephone lines were

05:35:30:00

still operating, or from out own observers. Somehow or other you got the information back. Very often from a position in contact with the enemy, it could even be a runner sent back to company headquarters or platoon

05:36:00:00

headquarters or whatever. From there we would probably receive it by landline providing out lines weren’t blown out. Our signallers were then responsible for keeping the lines open as best they could. They did a marvellous job doing that too.

05:36:30:00

Under all sorts of conditions.
Can you recall a time that you did lose communication?
From a command post point of view I suppose we must have had times. I can’t recall any particular occasion, but it must have happened to us. Very often your wireless set wouldn’t work for starters. They were pretty ancient sort of sets in those days, but

05:37:00:00

then you’d get a telephone line cut by enemy fire and you’d just be out of communication for a time until some alternative, either a line from the infantry is back to their headquarters, you often had an alternate way of getting a message back. The most convenient was directly from our own

05:37:30:00

observation post by our own line, back to our gun position. But if that was cut you might have to do it through a, if you were close to any infanteers, through their. They could either have a wireless or a landline and in that way make contact. Always seemed to be some way of getting around it. Even

05:38:00:00

if it meant the infantry sending a runner back to their company headquarters or battalion headquarters to get a message somehow. But the unfortunately part about it all was, if there’s no communication then there’s no way of establishing and we just couldn’t help them. That probably happened on the odd occasion, but there's nothing to be done about it.

05:38:30:00

When the positions came through, how were you then relaying information?
In the command post we were making sure their guns were available and ready when required all the time or when required.

05:39:00:00

The command post after a while, which only existed so the troop commander and a signaller and two assistants, that’s the staff, myself and another fellow perhaps. Myself and my assistant would have no role at all really unless something came up which required a calculation,

05:39:30:00

which when it’s being observed and conducted in cooperation with the infantry commanders we were there just as stand by really, if no calculations were required.
What would happen with your calculation?
Then it’s

05:40:00:00

relayed to the gun crews and to the observation posts and if it was supporting an infantry attack, the infanteers would be informed either through our headquarters to their headquarters to their company position, “We’re ready, we’re standing by, we’re ready to go.”

05:40:30:00

In most cases there was a zero hour as the Yanks call it, an ‘H’ hour was nominated. So that we knew when we had to start firing, but there were plenty of cases when there was a ad-lib situation when our observer would say, “The infantry company is about to move

05:41:00:00

forward. Start firing now on your predicted targets.” Or, “Stand by and fire under my instructions.” Depending on the situation and the way it was organised in the first place.
So that’d be direct to the gun crew?
Yeah. If it’s a particular shoot, say a calculated one, we know what we’ve got to do before we start. It just follows trough.

05:41:30:00

Each gun sergeant has his timetable, he knows he’s got to fire a round every minute or two minutes. You advance at 100 yards at a time so he’s got his program. Gun program of what we were aiming at. Gun program.
Interviewee: David Hampton Archive ID 1189 Tape 06

06:00:34:00

Let’s keep going.
Where were we?
Programs.
Yes. The program was worked out by the battle staff and given to each gun sergeant of the whole four guns. Or it might be a battery thing where the whole four guns in the sub unit were involved.

06:01:00:00

He’s given a written program. “Zero hours 1800 hours. We want 2 rounds every 3 minutes or 3 rounds every 2 minutes at this elevation. 2 minutes later up another 100, another 3 rounds. 2 minutes later up another 100,

06:01:30:00

another set of rounds.” So on, until he’s got it all spaced out for him and he knows when to start, when to lift, lift again, lift again and when to stop. When he stops, that’s the time that either we’ve calculated another lot of program for him to continue on or an observation is up with our troops saying, “Right, he’s had enough

06:02:00:00

for the moment. We now go into observed fire,” or what he wants us to so. Then make sure if it’s a continuation of another program that the program does go forward, or do the infantry want it to go forward. They might me stuck. So the second program doesn’t go ahead until they’re ready to go again. It could happen the whole thing’s

06:02:30:00

aborted.
How fast would you need to be able to work?
We were a bit fortunate in that we can generally do our calculations in peace and quietness. Gee, you’re asking me something that’s a long while ago. As fast as a useless library book. We virtually would,

06:03:00:00

we’d be given a certain amount of time. Depending on how urgent it was would depend on just how quickly you’ve got to work I suppose. What we liked to do was check each other’s work because we’ve got our own people’s lives in front of us, literally in front of us. We’ve got to keep in front of them. If you make a wrong calculation

06:03:30:00

the first lot of rounds might fall right amongst them. So we used to double check our work. I’d pass my working papers over and I’d do my offsider's working papers and check even, I’ll talk about that in a while, in Alamein we even got truck drivers in and signallers to add our additions and prove that we were right. To make sure.

06:04:00:00

So it depended how quickly you had to work. It was an ad hoc situation. You’d meet each occasion as it occurred. Obviously if it’s a program sheet we would be given, you wouldn’t get any shorter than an hours’ notice. Somebody would have

06:04:30:00

been discussed overnight or something with the infanteers and all those engineers and all the other crew that were involved. They were well and truly organised. As far as observed shoots, the command post was really only a means of relaying instructions to the guns

06:05:00:00

and making sure, a gun might report he’s running out of ammunition, so the command post officer’s got to make sure ammunition is brought up to the gun position by the ammunition people that were part of the regiment. Generally the vehicle drivers

06:05:30:00

doubled up as ammunition people as well, got to bring in ammunition. And making sure the signals are working correctly and the signallers know what they’re doing and we are in communication with the people we’ve got up front whether they are observation base or infantry and reporting back to headquarters what’s going on. So it was a busy little

06:06:00:00

area. Everybody knowing what they had to do and doing it.
How far from the gun position would you have actually been?
Here to your car away in most cases.
Did you get to know the gunners pretty well
Yes. You would. Yup. You knew them pretty well. Knew their

06:06:30:00

idiosyncrasies. Who got along with who, and who didn’t.
It’d be great to know more about that sort of thing, how things happened.
Each gun crew would compete with each other on cleanliness of the gun that

06:07:00:00

the orderly fashion that they’ve got their surroundings round the gun whether it’s in a pit or out in the open. They’d be chiacking each other and all ammunition looks a heap of rubble and, “What’s all your primus stove over there? It’s not very tidy.” “We’ve got our gun ready before yours.” Each had to

06:07:30:00

report to command post, “Number one gun ready.” “Number two gun ready,” so on. They’d have a competition among themselves as to who’s ready. They’d support each other as much as they could. Of course, when you’re actually firing each little crew is supporting itself, but when they were

06:08:00:00

stood down and relaxing somewhat they’d be intermixing of course, talking about what’s going on and what went on and so on. Each gun crew would have it’s…. When I say gun crew I mean each gun crew, each command post, each section of signallers, each drivers would have their little groups and they’d all

06:08:30:00

make their own arrangements to relax and maybe cook up something for a bite to eat on their primus stove, have a cup of coffee or a billy of tea whenever they could. They’d generally appoint someone, say on a gun crew, “It’s your turn today to make the cups of tea,” or coffee or whatever they wanted.

06:09:00:00

“Who wants coffee and who wants tea?” Providing we had sufficient rations to get it. They would have their own little dining room. Make up a little table like the one we’re looking at there, that low one, have that as a dining table sort of thing. Providing they could have that sort of thing. Providing it didn’t interfere with our operation.

06:09:30:00

When things started to happen that would get chucked aside, so we put it 10 yards away to get it out of the way so they knew they could move around the gun quite safely. Then the command post, we would have our maps and our calculation table, our artillery table, which was a gridded

06:10:00:00

sheet of paper with a compass on it, which we’d be able to plot the targets on it. Calculate things roughly from that and then with our slide rule, geometry and trigonometry work it our correctly. But everything was in its place. Once you start moving you needed to know where everything was.

06:10:30:00

In our command post we were right beside the signal, what did they call it? N, our command post, the little wireless set and the telephone set. That’s not the right word. Switchboard. You had a line went out to each of the guns and one back to regimental headquarters.

06:11:00:00

They had their little mix and they stayed in there with us. Command post had their little mix with their rubbers and pencils and slide wheels and logarithm tables, all had to be in the one spot, everybody knew where it was. You could almost go to it blindfolded. The command post officer would have his position.

06:11:30:00

He’d be generally looking out see how the guns were going. It worked 9 times out of 10 like clockwork. We were trained to do it that way. That was what all the training was all about in the first place, to achieve that result.
Tell me about the men you worked with in the command post.
The troop commander would be there.

06:12:00:00

He was generally a lieutenant. There would be an assistant troop commander, he was also a lieutenant. There’d be a signal sergeant, a command post officer, he was another lieutenant, and

06:12:30:00

a couple of battery staff, myself, at that stage a bombardier and one gunner as my assistant. That was the full compliment. They weren’t always there all the time, but they generally were.

06:13:00:00

Also, as well as the command post, there were observation staff as well who would go up with the observation officer assisting him. Depending on what accommodation they had as an observation post depended on whether you had an observation officer plus an assistant plus the signaller. In the command post

06:13:30:00

you then might have only one assistant. Might be me or my offsider. We’d sometimes take turns in going up in the observation post. In fact, the commanding officer very often asked that the gun sergeant take a trip up to see what it was like at the other end. They used to enjoy that. Enjoy is not the right word I suppose. They would see the other side of things then,

06:14:00:00

just why and how they were given the orders that they were given. Because they are not able to attend to, the enemy’s unseen to them. Very often we would find times to, in the command post, have a game of cards for ½ hour or an hour. Generally solo, waiting for something to happen. So you did have your relaxing time.

06:14:30:00

How much space are we talking about?
We’re talking about something the size of that kitchen. 10 by 10 perhaps. At the most, very most, sometimes a bit more than 6 feet by, 10 by 10 s’pose, that would be the obvious answer. Sometimes, particularly in Tobruk, you were able to take advantage of the terrain on the side of a

06:15:00:00

wadi. You might be able to in a little recess built out a bit, make it into a bit of a lean to shed sort of thing. The main enemy was dust into everything. Including wireless sets, binoculars,

06:15:30:00

slide wheels would get all gritty and into all the pages of your book. So in Tobruk they were reasonably cramped. There was just a situation we were in.
You were there 5

06:16:00:00

months?
I think the first regiment went in very late April, end of April. I went in about mid May or towards the end of May I think. We were all there at the end of May. Then we left in late September, about 4 months.

06:16:30:00

Can you describe the heat and the haze and the confined space and not getting much leave. How do you manage to get through?
I don’t know. You did. You did. I suppose it wasn’t really as hectic as it sounds. There were a lot of times where neither the infantry nor we were doing anything.

06:17:00:00

For instance midday, late morning and early afternoon, really nothing happened in Tobruk because of the temperature and the haze and whatnot. Very little happened. So you had a reasonable chance of relaxing. Not actually going to sleep, but you would try and get a bit of a

06:17:30:00

cat nap if you could. You had to be there on duty. If you had a little hole for yourself just outside of command post within earshot, you’d go and take a bit of shelter in that. But the gun crews were a bit more in the open. They’d have a bit of a snooze in their immediate gun position.

06:18:00:00

Perhaps in the command post we were a bit more fortunate in that we had a bit of overhead cover and a bit of shade to get under.
How many hours of sleep did you average?
I suppose in the first place it was hard to get a full night’s sleep because of all the noise, sounds a bit of a thunderous noise, but in our situation, being perhaps

06:18:30:00

a mile or two back behind the frontline, the noise wasn’t that severe. Perhaps our own guns firing of a night time. But you sort of got used to the firing. It’s like when you’re in the home and have a tram going along outside on the road. When you first experience it you think the tram’s coming in the front room. But finally you couldn’t tell when one

06:19:00:00

went passed. See what I mean? That sort of thing I suppose, it happened to me anyway. I might have been a deep sleeper on occasions, but I think you got used to, maybe you heard it, but it didn’t register. You were that tired. You knew you had to rest so you just made the best of it and lay down and shut your eyes and hoped that you could. The mere fact of

06:19:30:00

laying down and not thinking of anything in general you were relaxing. You could do without sleep really. You trained yourself to do with infrequent sleep.
Can you recall any of the incidents that stayed with you? You mentioned the bridge.
That was an unfortunate thing too, with the premature. Is that the

06:20:00:00

one you were thinking about?
Yeah.
My friend was killed. That day I’d had the opportunity to go down to the beach. So we got back late afternoon to hear that they’d had this premature and that two of the chaps had died. One of them my friend. They were

06:20:30:00

all my friends I suppose, but one of my particular friends I joined up with. He died instantly and the other fellow had died an hour or two later. I gather it happened round about lunch time. A bit after lunch. By the time we got back I suppose I was fortunate or unfortunate,

06:21:00:00

everything had been tidied up and you wouldn’t have known anything had happened. It didn’t help me for a day or two, nor any of the other members of the troop. So they were well liked blokes. We knew the awful thought was that it wasn’t

06:21:30:00

even our own equipment we were using. It was pretty ancient. Life had to go on and so it did. I wrote home to my friend’s parents and so did the commanding officer, I know that. I thought that was the

06:22:00:00

thing I could do to help them. That was the last time we used that particular style of gun. We knew they weren’t that crash hot, but this proved it. It didn’t prove it as far as the gun was concerned, it proved as far as the ammunition for that particular gun was concerned wasn’t very reliable.

06:22:30:00

So we abandoned those and we were then split as a 4 gun sub unit. We became 2 sections of 2 guns each. Fortunately I went to the section that had a couple of 25 pounder guns and the other section went to other

06:23:00:00

Italian guns. They were different calibre. I suppose all the theorists would say that we were a regiment that was fragmented because of circumstances. We were, but strangely enough the fragmentation didn’t stop us from doing our job. We had little

06:23:30:00

subsections everywhere, all with their own individual problems. We thought we were home and hosed when we got two 25 pounders, which we were I suppose, but by that time we were just about due to be called out anyway. So we didn’t have the advantage of them for very long.

06:24:00:00

There was artillery fire coming your way. There were dive bombers.
My position wasn’t dive bombed. It was shelled fairly often. I think one of the other trenches were dive bombed once. They were mainly out at the ports and the infanteer positions and the port. They used to do

06:24:30:00

night-time raids in the port with high level bombers and dive bombers during the day, late afternoon or early morning. But they had an observation plane. I don’t know whether it was universal, but our nickname for him was Herman the German. He used to fly in a high winged

06:25:00:00

Storch I think it was. A bit like an Auster. I don’t know whether you know the. He used to hover just above the range that was the light ack-ack [anti-aircraft gunfire] so they couldn’t reach him. He’d either pop over doing two things at once probably, photographing and directing their artillery.

06:25:30:00

So depending on how good our camouflage was, depended on whether he threw it back type of thing he gun position whether it was there or there or where. My particular unit was never shelled as far as I know, under observation, but we were shelled probably from information he was able to get back to their guns as to where our

06:26:00:00

positions were. Plus the fact that you had, so he wasn’t very popular, also I would assume the enemy would have had a similar system going as we did. We had a survey unit. I don’t know whether it was an Australian one or a British one, who would act as what we called a

06:26:30:00

counter-battery unit. They would endeavour by observing from 3 different spots within the perimeter, either the gun flash of the enemy guns, or the smoke from a projected round form the enemy gun, or both and by sound. They had these three positions, which they’d all give their

06:27:00:00

bearings of that particular spot and hopefully the whole three intersected where the enemy gun position was. That was another method we had of finding out where gun positions were. They did the same to us.
What Herman the German blew up, what would happen on the ground then?
We were

06:27:30:00

under cover, under camouflage anyway. I didn’t realise until I was told at the time a white face looking up sticks out like a beacon. Our own air force blokes told us that in the finish. So you didn’t sort of look up very much. You were under a camouflage net of some sort.

06:28:00:00

It was just a darn nuisance.
Describe what it’s like to be shelled.
I’m still here, so they were either rotten shots or as I’ve said before, there’s a lot of water between fish. There’s a lot of fresh air between shells. If you hear it

06:28:30:00

coming it’s missed you in my book. If you don’t hear it, I think it’s the same situation as the bombers. If you hear that it’s missed you. So you don’t know anything about it when it, unless it’s not far away. It’s not a pleasant situation

06:29:00:00

particularly if you’re caught out in the open. We were taught to stay still, lie face down and just hope for the best. That's all you could do. The ones I used to feel sorry for were the dear old infanteers who they couldn’t stop if they were on

06:29:30:00

a mission as the Yanks would call it, they just kept going. Fortunately they we spread out to minimise the effect of any shelling. I used to admire them watching them advancing.
You did mention you got up a way to observe. What did you see?

06:30:00:00

You’d see maybe a platoon, that’s 50 fellows, camp out of their post. Normally, very seldom in daylight, but on occasions you did observe it in daylight.

06:30:30:00

They would be advancing at the regulation number of paces per minute as they had practised to do so that everybody knew the timing. You just hoped that when they were getting close enough to the enemy to be

06:31:00:00

shelled and machine-gunned that they weren’t very good shots at the other end. That didn’t always happen of course. Then you would be very admiring of their efforts and

06:31:30:00

just hope that the casualties were minimised. You just have to look at it and watch it and hope that you could get our guns onto the target before they did too much damage, which very often we were able to do. In any case

06:32:00:00

with a set piece operation like that it would have been anticipated what might happen, so we were well-prepared to give them all the support we could. But it’s not a pretty sight to see your fellows being carted back. I remember one Scottish lad

06:32:30:00

with the RAPs [regimental aid posts] were being carried in on the stretcher. He said to him, “What have they been doing to you young fellow? Come in here with me and I’ll fix you up.” You just, as I said, I’m full of admiration for them.

06:33:00:00

Is there anything else from the time in Tobruk you’d like to tell us about?
Only that my first night up at an observation post, there was only the observation post officer and myself there. The first time

06:33:30:00

both of us had been to an observation post and we were all settled in. We had a little hole in the ground to ourselves which was to accommodate the two of us. We had sand bags over the top. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble making a decent sort of post with just a split

06:34:00:00

as an opening. We both were looking out, I think it was a moonlit night. In fact it was. These six figures are coming towards us. My officer said to me, “What do you think they are? Are they German or Australian?” I said, “I don’t know. Don’t you?”

06:34:30:00

He said, “No, I don’t know either.” So he pulled out his revolver and put it onto the little shelf and said, “I’ll leave that there.” Fortunately as they went passed us probably about 20 or 30 yards away from us, we could hear the voices. They’re Aussies. Going out, not Germans coming in.

06:35:00:00

That was my first episode at an observation post. In those areas, in Tobruk anyway, you couldn’t move in daylight so we had to go to a night observation post an open o-pit of an evening, and you always left before dawn the next morning or the morning after. Generally had two nights at the observation post.

06:35:30:00

That ‘s a memory that’s stuck in my mind. I was only up at an observation post twice. The second time we were there for our two night stint, or one full day stint virtually, and not a thing happened. We were just there, and that’s when I observed one of

06:36:00:00

the truces that was held, which was an amazing thing in itself. We had a very quiet night. Nothing was happening out, which was somewhat unusual. Our divisional commander, general as he was then, Morsehead,

06:36:30:00

was all for keeping the enemy occupied, which we did most of the time. So that’s really only the couple of highlights. I can’t really think of it. It was out of boredom, which was a highlight I suppose.

06:37:00:00

Apart from just waiting around just waiting for something to happen, sometimes you were relieved when something did happen. There was nowhere to go other than to the beach. It was sometimes a bit of a thrill to say “Right Hampton. You can go with so

06:37:30:00

and so. Got to go into town and fix up some more stores,” or something. There was a bit of a break to take a half hour drive into town as it was called, a little village at Tobruk. It was a bit more than a village. See what activities were going on there. Go into one of the

06:38:00:00

army service depots to pick up rations or something like that. I think they were getting everybody as far as they could a bit of a break away from the whole boredom of the thing. I can’t think of any other highlights, really.
What do you think was the great achievement at Tobruk?
By

06:38:30:00

keeping the Axis forces engaged there. They weren’t able to be used anywhere else. Rommel’s main aim I would say, or the whole Axis force, the main aim was to get through Cairo and start heading north up to Palestine and what was then Persia was it,

06:39:00:00

Jordan, up into the oil fields. Mr [Adolf] Hitler wanted the oil. So Tobruk was a thorn in his side and he had to get about 3 divisions occupied there, which he could have used at the Egyptian border

06:39:30:00

to try and force his way through into Cairo and further north.
Tell us about the last days.
We were relieved by and English field regiment. The infanteers were relieved by Polish and Czech battalions, I think

06:40:00:00

they were called the Carpathian brigade. Our English artillery regiment that relieved us was absolutely horrified when they saw the equipment we were dealing with. In fact, their commanding officer was heard to remark in words of,

06:40:30:00

“No British regiment has ever been issued with such antiquated, out of date and useless equipment with which to do battle.” He was a prim and proper British officer. He was absolutely amazed. We went out in the way we came in, in small sections.

06:41:00:00

The same Australian navy vessels, the destroyers, picked up in turn most of us. They did their milk run as it was called and picked us up on suitable nights that were moonless. I happened to go out on a fast British minelayer,

06:41:30:00

which was great. It was like being in a speed boat compared to going up there on the old First World War destroyers that the Australian navy had in operations. My little troop somehow got hold of some of the rum our quartermaster had never issued.
Interviewee: David Hampton Archive ID 1189 Tape 07

07:00:31:00

Well when we finally got back to Alexandria, because the navy delivered us there from Tobruk, we then emoted to deliria before Cairo where we picked up the equipment from the regiment that relived us at Tobruk. They had left behind for us. And

07:01:00:00

we were absolutely delighted being a British regiment they had to, 24 of the most shining brand new looking 25 pounders that you could ever wish to receive. With every bit of dot of equipment on them, if it was on army issue they had it. All the rest of their artillery equipment was

07:01:30:00

absolutely spot on. Their vehicles, not when I say they were spot on they were not necessarily all in good working order but they were all there. Whatever field artillery regiment that the war establishment said they should have by the way of equipment was on those vehicles and on those guns. So we were absolutely amazed. No wonder they were

07:02:00:00

amazed when they got up the other end. How they ever got on I don’t know. Anyway that’s what we were delighted to receive. For the first time we had equipment that we were entitled to use.
So that became your equipment that went with you?
From then on, yeah. From then on. Then we motored back in convoy, magnificent convoy, with all these vehicles and motorcycles and everything you could think of.

07:02:30:00

Back to Palestine to a camp we hadn’t been in before called Hill 95. Stayed there for awhile while the regiment was reorganised. Don’t suppose I should bore you with the details but up to that time we’d been a two battery regiment, we now became a three battery regiment.

07:03:00:00

With two troops in each battery, still the same number of troops in the regiment but we became 3 batteries instead of two. So and I went from being in a troop command post position to a battery command post position. So we had two troops, each battery had 2 troops. So we had 8 troops, 24 guns.
Why had that happened?
We everything,

07:03:30:00

oh prior to this, naturally before we went into Tobruk, everything was changed to 3s from 4s and 2s. Just some whim of the British army, thought it was better operating that way. It turned out to be quite satisfactory. They had,

07:04:00:00

you had 3 battalions in a brigade you had 3 brigades in a division. You had 3 artillery regiments one for each brigade. And you had a troop for each company or you know and it went right down the line sort of thing. And it worked very well.
You were in command of two batteries?
No, two troops. Yeah.

07:04:30:00

And we finished up back in the camp we started in at Qastina, when we first went to the Middle East. And we got, we rested, rest also consists of training or retraining and

07:05:00:00

training reinforcements. That sort of thing.
So you didn’t get leave?
No we didn’t a t that point of time, a few of the fellows went absent without leave, but that was another story. And we were there I think from probably, this was when, we are now about October, now we were December

07:05:30:00

because we had a our second Christmas at Qastina, that’s right. And then by that time we had received all the reinforcements we were going to get and we went by road transport up to

07:06:00:00

Lebanon. To a little village called Sāqiyat which was in the mountains east of the coastal port of Tripoli. And had our, made our permanent camp there for more training. And resting. And more training. And also acted as

07:06:30:00

sort of garrison troops, because by that time the Syrian campaign had been successfully concluded. And the 7th Division had gone home that had conducted that campaign. So we were there as a bit of garrison force just in case, in the wider picture if the Germans had decided to come through Greece into Turkey and

07:07:00:00

try and get down that way. Because we were also performed tasks of building gun positions and posts, up a bit further north, that when we got into Syria, in and out of Syria back to our camp after a weeks work building these observation posts up in the mountains looking, virtually looking into Turkey.

07:07:30:00

And you’d go up there as working party for 2 or 3 days at a time. And there was local labour, supervise them to building these observations posts. Burrowing out rock, mainly rock really. Then striking covers over them make a sort of a pit with a cover over

07:08:00:00

it so you observe further north. And in the mean time we also had live shoots with all our nice new equipment and found out that they were pretty worn out anyway. They had been on, we then find out they had been on the Abyssinian campaign. Prior to the war

07:08:30:00

so they were pretty ancient pieces, but to us they were marvellous. And we carried out a few practice shots in cooperation with the air force and people lie that. Not with the natives though. And by this time it’s getting around

07:09:00:00

May, June.
Can you tell me about the practice shots with air force?
Well they were sort of a cooperation program, they would be observing our fire and correcting it, where and if they could. And giving our

07:09:30:00

people knowledge of our the air force could cooperate with us. And help us in our task by observing where our shots fall and giving us correction details as to what we should do to get onto the target. And being able to tell us where enemy positions were. This was all, you know,

07:10:00:00

theory, pretend stuff. And give us imagine positions where enemy targets were, that we were to shoot at. So we, our staff got practice in calculating all over again, you know, feet and yards instead of mils and millimetres and things. So much so that the

07:10:30:00

we were in tents then and I think the day the air force decided well that’s it, we’ve had our, we’ve both communicated with each other pretty well we’ve got to nick off now and get back to our squadron base and see what other things we’ve got to do. And they gave a farewell salute to us, flying about at whatever speed they could do

07:11:00:00

maximum, about 3 feet above our tents and turning everyone inside out, the rotten so and sos. Wagging their wings and off they went. But so that, that gave us our Lebanon and Syria bit really. And w got back to our camp outside Tripoli.

07:11:30:00

Was there any other training you did?
Well only within our own little regiment, just internal training. all the time and well ensuring that our new members of our regiment knew what their position was and what to do and whether they were on a gun or whether they were a signaller or

07:12:00:00

a Bren gun , machine-gun fellow, with sort of semi light anti aircraft protection for us. And command post staff, we got new recruits and that. And we did contrary to what we though was going to happen we did very few route marches

07:12:30:00

because we had all this beautiful new equipment we could move about all over the place. And get used to it being in all these, with a full compliment of equipment, and how it all worked and how it fitted in.
Testing it in the field?
Well yes, we did, that’s right, you reminded me. We did a calibration shoot

07:13:00:00

as well, you know, where we tested it to make sure, if they were supposed to be firing at 10,000 yards that it did lob at 10,000 yards, not 9 1/2 thousand. So we got back to our main camp outside Tripoli. Then the next thing we here is we are going on a week’s manoeuvre. Leaving tomorrow night

07:13:30:00

pack up, get all the equipment that we need, load it, all the excess baggage ready for storage. And everybody is saying, “Hello, hello, what’s happening” “No, no we are just going on an exercise.” So again we are into Syria, the night comes and we head north. Not south, oh, what’s going on. We go

07:14:00:00

way up into Syria, further east into Syria, and down through, what’s some of the towns, Damascus and all these places in Syria. In the dead of night, came down inland, all the way in there, right down into Palestine, oh yeah. Back up, where did we finish up? Alamein.

07:14:30:00

Early July first week of July. and when we went to Cairo that’s when the kids were trying to sell us, well they did sell us yesterdays’ papers. And we had to take all our identity off, had to go under the shells, where nobody could see then. But they made a mistake, they forgot about the tan boots.

07:15:00:00

So all the little kids were saying, “Gidday Aussie, gidday Aussie,” and mind you our infantry were up there then. So, but I’m told, I didn’t see it myself, but 5 minutes before we arrived quite a few Nazi flags were taken off buildings and the British flags being put up. So Cairo was a nest of all sorts of people. Anyway we

07:15:30:00

got through safely. And made our way over the next couple of days, to our position at Alamein. When we had to battle though all the dear old English troops that were coming back, all worn out, all the tribulations and what that they had been through. Mainly air force fellows

07:16:00:00

bring their equipment, all their planes had come back, bringing all the aerodrome equipment back with them. In big trucks, all saying to us, “You are going the wrong way.” We knew perfectly well we were but we couldn’t do anything about it. I think it was about the day of, the 6th of July I think was the day we lobbed at Alamein. And we were told, well there is your gun position, there’s were you

07:16:30:00

stay, the infantry are up there. Go and get in touch with them and se what they want you to do. And that was the start of Alamein. And that was in July, November we left the place. But, you know, we just, we knew what happened and we were just hopeful that

07:17:00:00

between all the infantries, and there weren’t only Australians there were New Zealanders and Indians and South Africans involved and British. So it was quite a stalemate for, July, august, September, October I suppose. With varying degrees of penetration by both sides attempting to, well we were, our British forces wanted to make sure

07:17:30:00

that the enemy didn’t get any further east. In other words into Cairo. And we were being built up with an ultimate aim which ended up in the battle of El Alamein. Which Montgomery took chare of.

07:18:00:00

And I suppose its much the same as the Tobruk story except that conditions were somewhat better. For one thing we had a good line of communication, stores and troops and rations and comfort could come forward much easier. So that we had a slightly more comfortable life as far as

07:18:30:00

could be done. Its the same situation as far as warfare was concerned in that we were there to support our infantry. And quite a few enterprises were engaged in by the enemy and by ourselves to test

07:19:00:00

each other out as to just how well we were able to cope with the incursions.
How wide was that front?
Well it went from the Mediterranean Sea inland, oh probably I’m having a guess, probably 20 miles inland. But not

07:19:30:00

all of it was covered by standing troops at all times. The big advantage was that south of the line was the Qatar Depression which no vehicles could navigate through anyway. So that didn’t, that meant that we didn’t have, have a frontline that was miles and miles long. Both

07:20:00:00

sides knew that it was hopeless tyring to get around each other down that way. So we had to make stabs at each other, in the convenient areas that were operating, where our Australian 9th Division operated, we had the coastal section. So we had a beach not far away. And I suppose

07:20:30:00

that would have covered a couple of miles or something like that. And there were South Africans and Indians and New Zealanders further south. But it was bit more fluid, things were happening all the time, testing each other out. Just I mean, if one

07:21:00:00

either side could have broken through, right we are in, We can go, they then pour all their troops into it. and either the Germans would be heading east or heading west. And pushing them back.
So they were testing weaknesses in the line?
Yeah, yeah.
What did that mean for you and the troops?
Well we were busy. So were the infantry because they were busy we were busy.

07:21:30:00

And I think we only had, as a regiment, we only had one time, in my particular battery anyhow, we had to up our, pull out our guns and go back to protect, to endeavour to protect and stop something that the Germans were doing further south. And they were trying to come

07:22:00:00

around the back of us. But that fizzled out too after a day. So we went back our normal positions then. But that sort of thing went on all the time. We changed positions quite a lot. More to suit the infantry demands upon us which was natural. And perhaps in some time to confuse the enemy. To make sure

07:22:30:00

that they didn’t know that we had set piece positions all the time.
How long it take to make a move to another position?
Depends on how urgent, you could get out in 10 minutes if you had to. If it was an orderly, strategic withdrawal everything would be out in

07:23:00:00

an hour unless you were taking your time to get out. We had a couple of panics situations where we upped sticks and off within quarter of an hour.
Can you recall one of those situations?
Well there was this one where we had to get some artillery support further back

07:23:30:00

in case the enemy did manage to get around the bottom of our line, south. And then come up and get behind us. The line that we were in up north. But as it turned out the armoured divisions further south, the British armoured divisions had been able to stop them. But ours was more of a just in case situation.

07:24:00:00

The next morning we went back into our position we had left. But at the time it sounds like confusion which it is I suppose in a way. But that’s what the training is all about. Endeavouring to make sure that everything happens the way it should. Given the commands that you are supposed to obey.

07:24:30:00

When you have to move like that are you digging in, are you moving command posts?
Well no, well, yes you would if we would have stayed there we would. Attempted to dig the guns in for starters because that is the first priority to protect them. But on this particular occasion we were on standby, and they said, right, the panic is over back you go.

07:25:00:00

So we weren't required to, but under normal circumstances, most moves are prearranged and we know when to go and where to go and that means that we stay there until the next move. Which might not come for a month.
What about the big battle? You were involved in that?
Yes,

07:25:30:00

oh yes. From an artillery point of view, and particularly a command post point of view it was, it was quite amazing. We were required to dig forward positions practically in the infantry lines.

07:26:00:00

And where we could, the other side of the infantry lines. In other words there was nothing in front of us but the enemy. But they were some little distance away. And we had to, by night time we would go out with sperate, little individual units and nobody was spared, the signallers had to go, command post staff went, we helped to dig gun pits in command post.

07:26:30:00

Which were then beautifully camouflaged and left there. Dummy vehicles, well canvas and bits and rope were made to represent dummy trucks were brought up and directed to confuse the enemy.

07:27:00:00

Dummy anti-aircraft positions were created. And all this took place within a week before the battle, 10 days before the battle anyway. So and they had to be concealed each morning. So that the enemy couldn't suspect anything was going on, which it obviously didn’t. And

07:27:30:00

about must have been, yes three days before the battel was to commence we received our artillery battle plan. And that’s when we started to work on our gun programs because that was going to be a set First World War barrage situation. Which the 9th Division, our division, was the main

07:28:00:00

participant. So it was own infantry that we were looking after. And that’s when our calculations started in the command post. I’d say there were four of us working on the all the calculations. We did not sleep for about

07:28:30:00

probably about 70 hours, just kept going. And that’s when we got the signallers and the truck drivers to come and check our additions and multiplications as far as they could, because they didn’t know anything about, they could do all the simple multiplications and divisions for us. We just wanted them to cast their eye over it to say, 2 and 2 doesn’t make 6, it makes 4, you’ve got 6 there.

07:29:00:00

And just basic things like that. We had to rely on our logarithm tables which were dead accurate of course. We had to rely on our slide rules which were nowhere near as accurate as a calculator is these days. And in our battery command post I distinctly remember when we had finished all our calculations on the third day and

07:29:30:00

we announced to our battery commander that we had worked all our programs out, been checked and they are as good as we can get them. And as far as we are concerned they are dead accurate. With that, one of our assistants was leaning up, we had the engineer dig us a decent command post this time, it was about, you could stand up in it. And this young assistant of mine was

07:30:00:00

leaning up against it, and said, “Are we finished?” And my friend said to him, “Yes, Will, we’ve finished.” He just slid down the wall, I watched him go to sleep as he went down. But the time he was sitting on the ground he was asleep. Just amazing.

07:30:30:00

And so we’d done our part. So we were able to have rest then, and when night time came, the barrage was due to start and all the, the barrage was due to start on 20 to 10, pm we are talking.

07:31:00:00

With, trying to get my timing right, I think a quarter of an hour all the artillery were on the same program virtually. And the first quarter of an hour the barrage was directed at artillery, enemy artillery positions. That would have been about 5 to 10

07:31:30:00

that would be about right. At 21 to 10 we got out of our command post and stood up outside in deathly silence. Not sound to be heard anywhere, totally dark. At 20 to 10 it was like a million Luna Parks lit up. It was an amazing

07:32:00:00

situation. It had been calculated, because there was medium and heavy artillery involved as well. They were further back. So their shells once they are fired take longer to get to the target than ours because we were up closer. The plan was that all

07:32:30:00

every artillery projectile on our side would land on the enemy position at 20 to 10. So that meant the heavy and medium artillery further back had to fire a few seconds before us, maybe half a minute. At the most, so these flashes came form way back, and we said, oh somebody firing early, but we

07:33:00:00

suddenly realised what was happening. And then all the field artillery of which was the main part of it, there were, oh, equivalent to probably about 100 field guns for starters. Well more, involved in our little area.

07:33:30:00

And the flashes, just as I said, looked like Luna Park, it was absolutely amazing. All this whining and all this stuff going over in the air, and all lobbing on the targets at the one time. It was just one line of flashes, it was just unbelievable, I haven’t seen anything like ti since, I don’t want to really.

07:34:00:00

How many guns were involved in that?
Oh, God knows, there must have been a couple of hundred at least. And at 5 to 10 we stopped and the infantry were to move off at

07:34:30:00

10 o'clock, so at 10 o'clock we went onto what we call our creeping barrage in front of the infantry. Because we knew the infantry had set off at 10 o'clock we knew how many, they knew how many paces and what distance they cover in a minute, we knew, sort of, well, the barrage was, technical side of the barrage was worked out so that we knew what, how far ahead to go each minute.

07:35:00:00

It was just unbelievable. And that’s how the battle started, and it lasted from the 23rd of October as far as we were concerned, to the 5th of November when, I think it was on the night of the 4th, it was announced, the 4th of November it was announced that the Germans had packed their bags and gone. They retreated. Mainly from the help of the Australian 9th Division and

07:35:30:00

the British tanks and the South Africans and the New Zealanders. All had to paly their part in it. But our division was the one that, Montgomery’s plan was for us to endeavour to break out first, which would draw all the enemy tanks and what not up to our sector. So that our tanks could go and break out through the south.

07:36:00:00

That’s a layman’s interpretation of the strategic plan.
How big was the enemy? Did you know?
Well they knew, well the German Africa corps was a very efficient organisation. And they didn’t have as many troops as we did

07:36:30:00

at that time because we were able to build up faster than we could. Because by now his line is thousands of mile long and everything has got to come, by that time he had got into Tobruk. So he had a port there but the navy and the air force were dead keen to stop all

07:37:00:00

his transport coming across from Italy. Both troops ships and supply ships, sinking as many as they could. So he was in a, wasn’t in the best position. In fact I'm correct in saying that Rommel was, he was back in Berlin. When the battle broke. He’d gone back on allegedly sick leave.

07:37:30:00

So this first barrage was to weaken those lines?
Yes, yep. It was 75 or 80 percent successful. But our infantry a lot of them, maybe is was only some didn’t

07:38:00:00

achieve their other objective by the next morning, they hadn’t by daylight they hadn’t got onto position that they thought they would, or it was planned that they would. So confusion started to come into paly a bit in that ad hoc plans had to made to counteract that fact. And

07:38:30:00

quite some fluid movement went on both between the enemy and ourselves to correct the situation. In fact, well just as an aside, we, the 9th Australian division fostered the British 51st Division into the battle. Because they were going to continue on, I think it was obviously planned

07:39:00:00

that we would no win the enemy broke, we would not, the 9th Division would not go forward which is what happened anyway. Because we had been there for 4 months or something. But anyway. Plus I suppose the Australian government by that time were really pestering Churchill to get their last division back home again, back here in Australia. And I suppose Churchill said, look here can we use them at Alamein for a while,

07:39:30:00

then you can have them back. So that’s what happened. So we fostered in, we had one troop with each of our batteries if I remember rightly. Of the pure white skinned Scotsmen. They were not allowed to take one item of clothing off.

07:40:00:00

Not even a hat in case they got sunburnt. It was, ah, they really, they came straight out of the mists of Scotland I think. Into the desert, blazing sun. anyway they did a marvellous job. And we finally withdrew they took over. Went forward with their troops

07:40:30:00

they wondered what they struck when they lobbed, but they did things correctly in the height of the battle one of the quartermaster sergeant rang up and said give me my clothing return, we need X number of boot laces, and I think he got as far as that, and our battery commander said, “Get off, bah, bah, the flaming telephone lines, I don’t want all that stuff now.”

07:41:00:00

I think, I can just hear him say, “But sir, we’ve got to do it at 10 am in the morning.”
Interviewee: David Hampton Archive ID 1189 Tape 08

08:00:31:00

Did you know you would be relieved at the conclusion of the battle?
Yes. We knew, it was pretty obvious that if everything went well that we would not go forward with the rest of the troops because of the time we’d spent there. Not that that was a good criteria because the poor New Zealand

08:01:00:00

division went through the whole of the battle and then kept going. So things were different for different units. We did stay behind at the battle positions when everybody else went forward. The whole of the division did. We stayed there I think

08:01:30:00

for nearly a month I think, helping to clean up. Equipment was lying all over the place and generally tidying up. Then we went in our beautiful convoy again with all our vehicles back into Cairo and into Palestine. By this time

08:02:00:00

it’s getting near Christmas time where we spent back, I’m not sure where we spent Christmas. Wasn’t back at Qastina in Palestine. Hill 95 perhaps. Anyway, we were back in Palestine and

08:02:30:00

early January we came back down again to the Suez Canal area, embarked on the [SS] Ile de France, which was a French vessel, previous passenger liner, completely turned over to a troop ship. Boarded her

08:03:00:00

at Port Tewfik, which from memory is the port of Cairo and set sail down the Red Sea and were joined by three other ships. The [HMS] Queen Mary and two others plus the

08:03:30:00

[HMS] Queen of Bermuda, which was an armed cruiser, and a Royal Navy cruiser and a couple of destroyers took us directly back to Australia via South of Tasmania. Because they were concerned that a convoy of that size, we’d pulled into Fremantle to let the Western Australians off. A convoy of that size would not be able to manoeuvre in Bass Straits if

08:04:00:00

there were any Japanese submarines around, so we had to go south of Tassie [Tasmania] up to Sydney. We got a pretty good welcome into Sydney Harbour and we were taken off the ship and immediately put on trains for Melbourne those that went to Melbourne and those that went other directions were put on trains to their local area, Queensland

08:04:30:00

or Adelaide or Brisbane.
What was the reception like in Sydney?
It was great. There were people everywhere wishing us well and welcoming us home. Once we got on the train, “Do you know Bill Smith?” “What unit was he in?” “He was 9th Division.” “There are 15,000 of us so I don’t know that I know him.” They were all very

08:05:00:00

keen to welcome us home because we were the last of the Australian army troops to come home. Those of us that were Victorianites [Victorians] arrived in Melbourne and were given 21 days leave. So off we all toddled to our home territory, which for me was back in Brighton.

08:05:30:00

Had 21 marvellous days together with our girlfriends. There were 9 of us now, we still stuck together with our wives and or girlfriends. I think I went to a couple of weddings while we were home on leave.

08:06:00:00

We went back to camp Seymour about, it must have been towards the end of March by that time.
What was it like telling people about your experiences?
We didn’t spend a great deal of time. Strangely enough people didn’t ask many questions. Perhaps they thought they shouldn’t. I know my family didn’t.

08:06:30:00

I don’t suppose we stayed home that much. I can remember Mum and Dad were home. Every day we were trying to organise activities for ourselves, social activities. So the answer was, “Might be home tomorrow, Mum.

08:07:00:00

See you after dinner tomorrow night. Where’s the key to the front door?” We probably just made our own enjoyment with our girlfriends and or wives or both. I don’t mean, I mean either our girlfriends or our wives. Because I suppose we’d

08:07:30:00

always been very close in the army we kept close on our leave. We were just used to each other’s company I suppose. Fortunately our girlfriends and or wives seemed to also get on as well with each other and the rest of us as well. So we really had some good times.

08:08:00:00

Doing all the night club things and swanning around, whoever had a car, down to the beach. All sorts of things like that. Although it was getting a bit chilly on the beach in late March, early April. I think, if I remember rightly, we had a party at home in which

08:08:30:00

a 9 gallon of beer appeared and Mum’s best crystal dish underneath to catch the drips. When she found what dish it was, “Get that out of there.” We just made the most of our leave. Went to one wedding I think that leave.

08:09:00:00

One of my mates got himself married to his girlfriend. Then all back to, we had to report at, I think we could report direct to the Spencer Street railway station, the officer in charge there on a certain date and get put on a train back to Seymour.

08:09:30:00

We all got back to Seymour and one of our particular party decided he was going to go back and get himself some special leave and get himself married before we went any further. We said, “Why didn’t you do it when we were on leave?” He said, “I don’t know, but I didn’t.” So we had to cover for him for a while when he went AWL [absent without leave]. He was back in Melbourne and

08:10:00:00

married when his leave pass came through. So finally he finished up being legal. Then we all set sail by train in dribs and drabs up to the [Atherton] Tablelands in Queensland. Arriving up there probably about June I suppose. No it’d be before that. May.

08:10:30:00

Allegedly we were going into a camp, but there was hardly anything there. We had to make it ourselves. A few huts, that’s about all. We were in tents. That was the start of our jungle training. All our uniforms changed from khaki to green and we started to be

08:11:00:00

interested in all this jungle looking timber. So again more training, because we had to be reinforced again. Training was completely different. Not from a technical point of view, but just from the geography and topography. The Tablelands were a delightful

08:11:30:00

spot to be I must admit, but we did a lot more route marches through the area to get us accustomed to tropical conditions. We had to get used to not having the distance available to us to view things. It was all close up work.

08:12:00:00

Finally training with the American, what were they called? The 532nd Boat Regiment. They manned the land crafts or manipulated the landing craft and operating them that we were to use for any future operations. We used to go down

08:12:30:00

to Trinity Beach outside Cairns for training with the American boat company. But in the meantime we also did practise shoots up on the Tablelands. Live shoots just to keep everybody up to scratch. All the newcomers had to be trained,

08:13:00:00

or make sure that they were trained the way the commanding officer wanted. Finally, round about, where are we? We’re going to Lae. About September I think it was, we embarked

08:13:30:00

at Trinity Beach on various crafts and we went to Morotai, no Milne Bay, that’s right. Milne Bay, which was not very attractive spot. When it rained it had mud 6

08:14:00:00

feet, felt like 6 feet, 6 inches deep. We had to make camp in the rain. We were there for some little time when we were then embarked on our landing craft to take part in the assault at the beach at Lae, New Guinea.

08:14:30:00

I think I’ve got my dates wrong. I think it was round about July. Anyway. I’m not sure.
Yeah it was.
Was it? I think it was. We carried out the landing, which was something we’d

08:15:00:00

never have been used to before. We were landed satisfactorily and this was all new to us. The mere fact that you couldn’t see much more than 100 yards ahead of you unless you got on a jungle track or something that was in an open territory. It

08:15:30:00

was just totally different. It was more a battle of observation really. Hardly any calculations were needed. The terrain didn’t allow that sort of action to go on. We were there

08:16:00:00

for about 5 months I think. We were landed east of Lae and we, together with the infantry, gradually worked our way towards Lae. At the same time the

08:16:30:00

powers that be had sent some pack artillery into the hinterland north of Lae. Where they were parachuted down. Actually, the infantry with them, with the artillery that were parachuted in got to Lae before we did. So they sort of won

08:17:00:00

the honours on that little battle.
Can you tell me about the battle?
Piecemeal sort of thing. It just didn’t happen as set piece situations at all. As far as I'm concerned it was sort of small groups of a platoon or

08:17:30:00

a company size being in the position to attack a very tenacious enemy who would not give up lightly at all and were most, they were pretty hard to

08:18:00:00

loosen up at all and get them out of their dug-outs and holes. The infanteers had a pretty horrible time trying to get on top of them. Most of our support was mainly concerned with our observation people being up

08:18:30:00

with the infanteers and directing fire the best way they could. Because of the jungle situation you were liable to have shells hitting coconut trees and exploding before they were due to explode, which was a situation we just couldn’t avoid.

08:19:00:00

So our observation people were in the frontline with the infantry practically all the time. Back at the guns we just worked like blazers to carry out what requirements they wanted for the infanteers.
Were you able to do calculated hits?
No. Very

08:19:30:00

little. The odd one. Particularly we did more night time work, what’s called harassing fire. Just to make sure the enemy couldn’t’ get any sleep. By the way our infanteers couldn’t either. It was close proximity anyway, but they were happy to see it.
What about distances?

08:20:00:00

On one occasion one of our troops was firing over open sights at some Japanese that were. Our problem was to always endeavour to get on the edge of a line of forest or trees so we had a clear space in front of us because other wise we would have to chop a few trees down, which we did on the odd occasion, to get

08:20:30:00

our angle. We didn’t want our guns firing into the forest. In my particular battery we had a particular fellow from Apollo Bay. He was a forest timber worker prior to the war. He went to war equipped with his axe and he was used quite often.

08:21:00:00

He’d take about 5 minutes to drop a coconut tree while the rest of us take all day to do it. On the odd occasion, this was an example of how the infantry didn’t have a hope at protecting their artillery support, the Japanese could be coming passed an

08:21:30:00

infantry post 20 yards away at night time and wouldn’t know either was there. They did fire over open sights on the odd occasion. Fortunately it did the job required that deterred the Japs from coming any further.
Were you able to do long distance?

08:22:00:00

Yes, we did a bit of predicted work. Mainly of a night-time. But also when the infanteers said, “We want to attack that village tomorrow. How about sending over a few rounds about an hour before we get there.”

08:22:30:00

Then we would have to predict it. But fortunately we would probably have an observer with that infantry unit who could do any corrections necessary. It was pretty hard to identify spots in the jungle. We’d also have the Australian, the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] on occasion, observing for us in a little fighter aircraft called the Boomerang, I think it was.

08:23:00:00

They would come over. His code was Patten Wheeler Mick. We would tell him what target we wanted to land on. He would circle and he’d give us the nod when we should fire and he would then correct our shots for us. “Pat calling Mick.

08:23:30:00

You’re about 200 yards too far. Drop it 200. Yeah that’s it. Spot on. Well done. I’m off home now, thankyou.”
This was radio contact?
Yes. That happened quite often. Strangely enough, I’m not sure where they came from, probably New Britain or somewhere,

08:24:00:00

but they would have an escort of Lightning fighters that you could hardly see, way up above. They always ran out of petrol when Pat got over out target. They’d have to go home. I don’t know why they didn’t have long range tanks on them or something. So he’d fly home on his own, which probably could have been a bit hazardous.

08:24:30:00

So completely different approach to artillery?
Yes. If you remember we did have air cooperation when we were up in Lebanon and Syria. So it was an extension of that really. We were sort of used to it.
In North Africa you were able to make various accurate predictions

08:25:00:00

and carry them out. Here
It was hard enough to pinpoint a target on a map let alone estimate distances and whatnot. But it was done. That was the advantage of having an observation officer up near the target.

08:25:30:00

They were in the blind because they couldn’t see anything anyway, hardly, because of the forest, the jungle.
Did you use programming?
Not very often. No. In fact, after Lae, once that side of the action was over we went up to

08:26:00:00

Finschhafen. That was where we were more liable to do any predicted shooting. That was a bigger campaign than Lae was really. By this time it’s about September I’d say, in 1943.

08:26:30:00

Again, the American boat people delivered us to Scarlet Beach at Finschhafen. We were into more jungle.
Tell me about that landing.
It was somewhat disastrous for some of the

08:27:00:00

boats. We were landing in smaller vessels this time. Landing ship infantry and LCMs, landing craft mechanised I think, they take trucks for all the people. Some of them landed in the wrong spot. It was a night time operation

08:27:30:00

into early morning. Some boats got into the wrong spot so some of the infanteers were landed 200 yards or 500 yards along the coast further where they shouldn’t have been. They had some trouble getting themselves all together again. It was a

08:28:00:00

bit of a nightmare for the first day while everybody got themselves together and properly organised.
Was there any enemy fire?
Yes. No, it was at Lae they came over and bombed us on our landing. At Finschhafen, no, we didn’t have any.

08:28:30:00

The infanteers had subdued whatever posts were near the beach anyway, when we landed. I think I landed in about the third wave and our guns followed. By the time we got on the beach it was still hectic. There were Japanese prisoners around the place.

08:29:00:00

The way the military police kept them quiet was to take their trousers down. These Japs running around the beach with no trousers on. They were all gathered up and taken away. We went ashore and by that time we were a little bit better organised and

08:29:30:00

our regimental procedures went and we got into our right positions to be able to support the infantry. We didn’t move a great deal. Our positions were reasonable static for a month or two. Once the infanteers had

08:30:00:00

taken the major feature, which was a mountain called Sattelberg, the Australian forces were in command of the whole area and the Japs had retreated up the coast. We started to move up the coast following them. I think we got up as far as

08:30:30:00

a place called Sio, S-I-O I think, leapfrogging. The infantry in front of us and one battery or one troop would lead forward and carry on supporting the infantry that way. Some of us went up from point to point by barge.

08:31:00:00

My battery with two troops, Charlie troop and Don troop, we stopped up towards Sio if I remember rightly when we were then relieved. We’re getting now to, where are we? We’re getting to December I suppose.

08:31:30:00

Just more about your strategy at Finschhafen. You said you were static.
We were able to cover the area because we had enough range. We were able to cover most of the area the infantry was operating in, plus the fact that whilst,

08:32:00:00

say in a desert our batteries were reasonably close together, when I say reasonably say a mile from each other perhaps or less than that maybe, here we were separated by quite a distance because it was realised that it was useless us all being in one position

08:32:30:00

or one reasonable area when the infanteers were moving further out all the time. So we were separated quite considerably, probably a couple of miles between us. A couple of miles in the jungle meant in theory a lot more time travelling over them than the desert.

08:33:00:00

So it felt as if they were a long way away. In fact, one unit didn’t make contact the whole of the campaign we were in New Guinea with the other units. We were just three batteries with the headquarters there, another one there, another one there. You didn’t meet that way. So we were able to cover,

08:33:30:00

in the three positions the batteries were in, we covered the whole of the territory that the infantry were operating in.
How close were the troops?
Not that close. It’s a bit hard to judge really. Probably a couple of miles away.

08:34:00:00

The more the campaign went on the further out they got. We always had an observation officer with them, or a liaison officer.
You were still doing
Mainly observed shoots, but we would also do a bit of predicted shoots as well. Mainly observe because the terrain

08:34:30:00

demanded that more than the desert situation. You were dealing with perhaps smaller sub units. It might be a platoon of 30 fellows that you were operating with rather than a whole company, a couple of hundred men or whatever it is.
What was it like moving the gear around?
Terrible. Trying to get it all

08:35:00:00

through the mud. Manhandling the guns wasn’t a very nice sort of operation. It was very difficult made more difficult we thought by the fact that we were equipped with the standard 25 pounder gun, a couple of batteries were, but one battery was

08:35:30:00

equipped what Australian engineers had designed as a short 25 pounder. In other words the barrel was shortened and everything else was proportionately shortened as well. The recoil system had to be adapted as well, and there was no shield on the gun. The idea was to make it a bit more manoeuvrable. Our boys found it was exactly

08:36:00:00

the opposite. It was a frightful thing to use. However, we had them and we had to use them.
Why was it frightful?
It was just difficult to manoeuvre. This time I’m not in contact with guns a great deal then, but I think we had a prejudice against it for starters. Didn't like the look of it. To us, our gunners said it didn’t

08:36:30:00

behave as well either. They fell in love with their 25 pounder guns, the way of the original ones. This thing was an abortion of the thing. However, all the engineers in Australia said, “There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s perfect.” But they didn’t have to fire it.
Did it have the same distance?
Not quite, no. No.

08:37:00:00

That didn’t matter really. Given an ideal situation it probably would have been very good. If you had a firm ground on which to work with it. It just seemed, I can see them now trying to struggle to manoeuvre them.
What does manoeuvre mean?
Move them

08:37:30:00

from here over to there or if we had to move a couple of miles, which we did at Lae. Quite often we’d have to move to keep up with the infantry. Again we were short of vehicles to tow them with. They just wouldn’t respond. They had a smaller wheel,

08:38:00:00

which meant less circumference, which made it more difficult to handle as well.
You were manually pulling them?
Yeah. You can only do that until you could get it to where a vehicle was with which you could two it the rest of the way.
Were you involved in the Sattelberg?
Yes, we were. We supported the infantry in that

08:38:30:00

campaign. It was I suppose you’d call it a fierce campaign. Our infantry was working uphill. They had a decided disadvantage.
What did that mean for you guys and your position?
We were

08:39:00:00

just on stand-by all the time to do whatever support our observation officers could give the infantry. They were in touch with the infantry all the time and they would give us our instructions as to what the infantry wanted. Completely a supporting role that we were playing as distinct from

08:39:30:00

us doing our own thing on enemy positions. We were doing what the infantry wanted us to do all the time. You just were on call. There were times when we probably weren’t required for half

08:40:00:00

a day or something, but most days most of us were in action because the infantry were moving and endeavouring to work their way up to the summit at Sattelberg.
Were you working your way up behind them?
They were still within our range of operation.

08:40:30:00

You were at the bottom?
Yes.
Does that alter things a bit when you’re firing higher than the…?
No, you just correct the elevation the gun achieves and perhaps use a different charge behind the shell, another bag of cordite goes in to give it more power to get going, to get out of the gun

08:41:00:00

and cover the distance that’s required. It goes quite some height anyhow. Don’t ask me how high. It’s not just a matter of going like this, the shell goes up in the air and down.
Up until then you hadn’t had experience with hilly terrain?
None whatsoever,
Were you concerned about hitting the infantry, missing?
Of course we were. Yes, yes.
Was that ever a problem?

08:41:30:00

It was a problem all the time. In fact, because the enemy were so close to our infantry at times, a lot of the time, it was very difficult to get our projectiles to lob far enough away from our infantry, in other words into the enemy without

08:42:00:00

doing any damage to our infantry.
Interviewee: David Hampton Archive ID 1189 Tape 09

09:00:34:00

Continue your story.
We knew how close we could, how difficult it was to help our infantry bearing in mind the jungle situation, the forest situation. I was going to say, in fact, one of our observation officers that was with the forward infantry

09:01:00:00

directed the fire to come down in his position so he knew he could get the majority of the shells on the enemy. Fortunately he proves correct that no damage came to our troops but they were able to dispense of the enemy, or give them a hell of a fright. So that’s how close you had to be

09:01:30:00

and how accurate you had to be. He took the risk that he was going to be in the 100% zone, which he would have been in, so he might have got the bottom end of any shells that fell short.
What’s the 100% zone?
That’s the area in which it is known that every projectile from each individual gun will fall within.

09:02:00:00

Given the target in the position, they know that 50% of the rounds will probably fall on the target or over it by X number of yards. It’s in the gunnery tables how far it is depending on the distance, and perhaps 50% of them would fall short of the target by X number of yards.

09:02:30:00

50% is not quite right, but still there is a 25% fall off in the 100% area on the top and bottom, and 25% will be round the target virtually, within the 50% zone.
Can you give me measurements in yards what…?
Gee you’re testing me now. I suppose

09:03:00:00

within the 100% zone is 50% passed the target and 50% below it. The distance from the extremes I suppose is 100yards or something. I’m having a bit of a guess. I’ve lost that theory.

09:03:30:00

They’re not miles away or even 100s or yards away. They’re within yards and maybe the whole thing was about 100 yards, I think. So that half the shells fell within 50 yards of each other, which is close enough to be a nuisance to anybody.
So there was a greater chance for margin of error in that situation?

09:04:00:00

Well, there would be. Plus the jungle made another margin that had to be taken care of somehow, which was pretty hard to do because any one of the projectiles could hit a tree. If it hits directly it could cause

09:04:30:00

the projectile to explode early. In other words, not hit the ground.
What was the criteria the infantry were using to use you as support?
They realised what restrictions we had, but they

09:05:00:00

had to take the risk. Their hope was that the projectile would fall in the right area. But they knew we couldn’t guarantee it. So they had to take a chance on it as well. A lot of the times they would be able to

09:05:30:00

perhaps withdraw. 25 yards would make a big difference. 50 yards, whilst our bombardment went on. Then they would be able to come back and assess the results.
How did you work in a schedule?

09:06:00:00

They would know, our observation person or our liaison officer with the infantry would say “How much fire do you want on the position?” They’d say, “Heaps, give it what you can.” But in any situation there’s a, when you think of the effort in

09:06:30:00

getting one shell from Australia up to the bridge of that gun, it’s a big effort. It costs a lot of money. So that ammunition was not, it wasn’t there like fireworks. You just couldn’t keep going willy-nilly. So we would

09:07:00:00

say, our people would say to the infantry, “Well, just how many rounds? I can get 4 guns to fire.” “I can get 8 guns,” if the target was important enough, or “You can get 24 guns,” if it’s really an important target. You’d get a regimental target. The whole regiment on it. “Just how important is it for you?” He would assess with the infanteers just how important it was

09:07:30:00

and they would give it, how shall I put it, the number of rounds that our fellows thought would do the job. Does that explain it a bit? Without wasting ammunition. If the situation develops into an emergency situation, well, they’ve got all the, they’ve got everything

09:08:00:00

they requested. To hell with running out of ammunition, which we never did in any case.
How demanding on ammunition was Sattelberg?
I think it was pretty demanding. It was more demanding when we landed at Scarlet Beach, for the infanteers anyway. We had our ammunition with us. The infanteers somehow or other, a lot of the

09:08:30:00

Owen gun ammunition was not unloaded off the landing ships. They backed off before, whether the infanteers got it or the Yanks left too early, I don’t know. So much so that they had to fly over that night with the old Dakota biscuit bombers and drop the infanteers a lot of 9 millimetre ammunition, because they only had about

09:09:00:00

an estimated day’s ammunition with them at the time with each man as he left. So that was a bit of a panic for a while. Us artillery fellows, we heard these planes going over and wondered what the devil was going on. In the morning we found out. They dropped ammunition for the infanteers. Things don’t always work out the way you want it.
A funny thing

09:09:30:00

to forget while you’re fighting a war.
Just a bit. Fortunately it was all the backup ammunition.
You’ve moved up the Huon Peninsula and got control of it. Was it a similar procedure all the way through up to Sio?
We were moving all the time now because

09:10:00:00

the infanteers are going up. Some of us went up by barge, sort of leapfrogging. One troop leapfrogging over the others. One battery leaping over the other battery. Actually, it was a bit of a task trying to keep up with the infanteers. In fact, we were in areas at times where

09:10:30:00

we know the infanteers hadn't cleared everything out as far as the enemy was concerned. We were a bit concerned about our own safety. Nothing happened really.
Were there situations where the enemy was very close?
I suppose. Fortunately we didn’t know at the time because you don’t see too far

09:11:00:00

in the jungle anyway. So they may have been there. No, they weren’t, because whilst they were determined, the enemy attempted several times to break through our infantry lines particularly to get to the artillery. We were the ones that were annoying them more heavily than the infanteers could because we’d got much bigger ammunition.

09:11:30:00

That was one time we did, I think I mentioned it before, one of our troops did fire over open sights when the Japs were noticed coming down the edge of the forest area. We were able to alert the infantry as well and they aimed fire directly onto them.

09:12:00:00

Soon persuaded them not to come any further. The infanteers came and rounded them up. So going up the coast, well, you never really knew whether there was a pocket of them somewhere that our infantry had left. They were very thorough on their job. I must admit things like that could happen, but fortunately it didn’t happen to us.

09:12:30:00

After Sattelberg you weren’t in the supportive role anymore?
Yes, we were. Because we were endeavouring to keep in touch with our infanteers. They were going so fast up the cost too. They expected us to keep up. It was almost “Come on, keep up you fellows. We need you. You need to be there just in case.” It was

09:13:00:00

more a case of just keeping going and keeping up with them and keeping in contact with them. We didn’t fire any rounds at all. In fact, it was when we were up the coast that we were relieved round about Christmas time, that we were relieved by another artillery regiment. The infanteers were gradually relieved by another division.

09:13:30:00

A militia division I think from Australia. It was also an unfortunate situation for our then commanding officer. Our first commanding officer had been promoted after we left the Middle East and came home. In the course of just prior to the

09:14:00:00

Lae campaign he was promoted and made a brigadier, commander of the 9th Division Artillery. So he’d left us and our second in command took over. We only ever had two commanding officers, which was something to be a bit proud of. When we were leapfrogging up the coast, one night he was challenged by

09:14:30:00

a very efficient and over enthusiastic sentry, not one of ours, and accidentally shot. He was wounded, he wasn’t killed. He left us to go to hospital. He was a trigger happy sentry who didn’t

09:15:00:00

challenge, but, as our commanding officer said later on, “He challenged and I replied, but he obviously didn’t take any notice of or didn’t believe my reply.” That’s part of the things that happen.
So you were relieved in PNG [Papua New Guinea].
We were still there and we came back to the Finschhafen area. If I remember rightly we had Christmas there.

09:15:30:00

Then we were transported back to Australia. Again by various crafts. Never ever did we move, except going overseas and coming back, in one unit again. We were all split up because of the

09:16:00:00

transport, shipping that was available. They were all smaller tram steamers although some were on vessels like the [HMAS] Duntroon. Some passenger liners and American Liberty ships. I think I came back on a Liberty ship to Brisbane. We all were filtered back to Brisbane. Then

09:16:30:00

fed through down to Melbourne on leave again.
Then you set off to Borneo?
No, we went back to, we had our leave in, by this time we’re getting into February 1944. We

09:17:00:00

had leave. I think we had leave in about March again and reported back to, we all went back to, because by that time we had quite a few people ill and a lot were taken out with malaria and similar tropical things. Scrub

09:17:30:00

typhus and things like that. Wheels disease was another one. Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t know which, there were about 10 of us in the end who never ever got malaria. I don’t know why, because we never rolled our sleeves down when we should. We forgot to take our Atebrin the same as everybody else did. But I never got malaria. About 9 other fellows didn’t either.

09:18:00:00

9 or 10, I can’t remember now. That was a fact I learned after the war really, not during it. But I know I didn’t get it.
Were any of the army doctors interested in this phenomenon?
No, they weren’t really. So we filtered back to Australia in various crafts. Our guns were brought back. What happened to our guns? I think we left them there.

09:18:30:00

We must have left them there for the regiment that took over from us. We got down to Brisbane and from there we were filtered home on leave. When we had another 21 days leave. We still had plenty of leave that was in our pay books, but we only got 21 days.

09:19:00:00

Again, we had home leave and we went back to, where did we report back to? Yes, we reported back individually straight back to Queensland. Back to,

09:19:30:00

not Atherton, Ravenshoe I think. One of the two. For another period of rest and recreation and training. By this time we needed quite some reinforcements because of all the fellows that were left behind with malaria gone to hospital with malaria and whatnot. Those that were not fit, declared,

09:20:00:00

were not fit for further action. That happened in quite a lot of cases. The fellows were just worn out. So we had a lot of reinforcements to train again as well as endeavour to get a bit of rest ourselves. So training went on from about

09:20:30:00

April or so 1943, right through 44. We were up on the Tablelands for 12 months. Most of the division had not been used were in the same position. We weren’t used for regrouping. In other words all our infanteers were

09:21:00:00

regrouping as well.
We still have to cover your work with the POWs [prisoners of war].
Yeah. OK. After our 12 months on the Tablelands in 1945

09:21:30:00

we embarked for Morotai and there we waited for our guns to catch up with us, which we thought were never going to arrive. But they finally did. Then we were as trained as we were going to be and we embarked on various landing craft again

09:22:00:00

and took quite some time to get over to north Borneo by sea to do a landing on the island of Labuan off the main coast on the east cast of Borneo. North east coast. Again it was a combined effort between the American

09:22:30:00

landing people, boat people, and ourselves. The landing as far as we were concerned was reasonable quiet. By the time we got ashore as artillery people, the infanteers had everything in hand and under control.

09:23:00:00

It was a mixed campaign in that there were sort of fierce little pockets of enemy that the infanteers had to wipe out or control, get under control, so that again we were supporting our infanteers mainly with observed firing again because our

09:23:30:00

observation officers were able to be up with the infanteers. The jungle didn't seem, perhaps we got used to it, put it that way. So it wasn’t really a great problem to us, or didn’t appear to be. We accepted it. For my knowledge, that campaign went on on Labuan for about a month I think.

09:24:00:00

We left the island with and our infanteers left to go to Borneo. We left Labuan island in the care of some relief troops of which there was a pocket of Japanese were still there. We did what the Yanks did, “Just leave them and make sure they

09:24:30:00

can’t come out of it.”
What was the situation there for you when you arrived?
When we landed? As far as I’m concerned it was pretty well under control. Our observation officers were up with the infanteers and we knew our positions

09:25:00:00

we had to go to. We got our guns into those positions and then we just waited on the infantry to give us requests as to what they want us to do, which was again done by liaison with the infanteers.
Was it intense?
No, to me it wasn’t intense as such. It was just as intense

09:25:30:00

as it was in New Guinea, which I suppose was bad enough, but they were still voracious the Japanese. They wouldn’t give an inch if they could afford not to give it. They’ve got a different philosophy on life I think than we have. I think a lot of them

09:26:00:00

didn’t really know, when we were in New Guinea I’m pretty sure some of them thought they were in Australia. I think they were told they were in Australia. Compared to our soldiers and our army they were really in a bad state both physically and mentally.

09:26:30:00

But they had that voracious resistance that I think bred into them by their officers. They just wouldn’t give up easily.
What personal contact did you have?
Not at that stage, no. None at all really. Except I know that

09:27:00:00

a party of Japanese did endeavour to get down to the landing beach one night, because they must have dodged us because we really, next thing we knew all the base people at the beach were firing like mad at something. And we found out next day that a party of Japs had tried to get down there, but they were well and truly taken in hand and dealt with

09:27:30:00

appropriately.
Were you moving around much on Labuan?
No. Not until we got to the mainland. Then again the unit was split up. Our batteries had different objectives. One battery stayed on Labuan and was able to support a landing at

09:28:00:00

Weston I think it was called, the village on the mainland, while the rest of us went over by barge. The other two batteries went over and then the whole third battery came over. Then the infanteers, their units were split up to go various way depending on what campaign, what objectives they had.

09:28:30:00

My battery finished up going up the coast further north and others were centred round the town of Beaufort, which was inland on the river. We were all very active at that point, supporting the

09:29:00:00

infantry. Until the Japanese surrender and we were on mainland Borneo when the surrender took place. It was a

09:29:30:00

bit, much the same as New Guinea. The territory that my battery ended up in was reasonable open territory, whereas the other two batteries and the infanteers they were supporting were still in a jungle situation. We didn't really make contact, each unit

09:30:00:00

wasn’t able to make contact with each other again until we all sort of met when the war was over. You were talking about the prisoners of war. That was a job we were given after the war was over. The infanteers were rounding them up and we were given the job of, they’d built a rough prison camp for them just lots of barbed wire and fencing and

09:30:30:00

a couple of posts that had sentries in them. We were given the job of guarding it. The poor blighters that came in were very debilitated. We’d have to supply them with rations. Make sure they

09:31:00:00

didn’t, I don’t think they had any intention of trying to escape. We just fed them as best we could with their rations.
What were you actually doing?
We were just guards really, then. Our guns,

09:31:30:00

we’d left our guns there. Our guns had been taken away from us. We were just acting as guards.
When the Japanese surrendered, when did you find out about that?
We were told by telephone, our guys, that the surrender was taking place and the surrender documents had been signed.

09:32:00:00

We were to cooperate with the infanteers who were out trying to round up as many of the Japs as they could and make sure they knew the surrender had taken place.
Were you exposed to any more?
No, not really. We were near a little village called Paring and we were asked to

09:32:30:00

give the village a bit of a fireworks display, so we suddenly realised we had some star shells amongst our ammunition, so we fired a few star shells over the village for them. Give them a bit of a fireworks display.
Tell me what a star shell is.
It’s one that’s designed to explode in the air and out falls a candescent light, which lights

09:33:00:00

up the whole area. They were used as a means of illuminating an area if the infantry wanted it illuminated so they could see what they were doing of a night time. So that’s what we did.
What was the point of that?
Just to give the villagers a bit of a fireworks display to celebrate the occasion of the

09:33:30:00

end of the war. Then I decided I better report sick and get my hernia fixed up in the army before I was discharged or anything. I went down by a little miniature train down to the township of Beaufort where there was a field hospital. I was operated on there

09:34:00:00

by a Melbourne doctor, a surgeon whose name I forget now. I thought I’d always remember his name, but I don’t.
How had that come about?
I carried it around for about 12 months. I decided that I could manage to carry it around and decide which, once

09:34:30:00

we were back in Australia, conditions were a bit different in that if you went to hospital for any length of time it was very often the case that you didn’t get back to your own unit. You may be sent somewhere else. That was another reason why I didn’t want to go to hospital. I knew I could carry on with

09:35:00:00

the condition I had. That was virtually the same as when I think my wife was mentioning when we were back in Australia I was invited to apply for officer training. But again, two of us, myself and another mate, decided, “No, we may not ever get back to the regiment.

09:35:30:00

If we’re successful we might go to some other regiment,” which we didn’t want to do. May sound funny, but it was a regiment that was really a top class unit. It was worth staying with, so we decided we’d just stay as we were.
It must have meant a lot to you if you’d put up with

09:36:00:00

a hernia for a year.
It didn’t worry me at all really.
So it was very strong, that bond between you?
It was. I think I said to Colin [interviewer], it was brought about by our original commanding officer who was very strict, but

09:36:30:00

very fair. He didn’t want to lose any person that he’d trained. His principle was, if you went to hospital, you come back to my unit. In fact, he was known to knock back certain reinforcements on occasion because he didn’t like the look of them. Or after having had a talk to them

09:37:00:00

he decided they wouldn’t suit him. So he’d rather do without reinforcements than have the ones he got, which may sound funny or peculiar, but it seemed to work. He was a very fair man and we realised he was doing things for the good of the whole of the regiment. Consequently we only ever had

09:37:30:00

two commanding officers.
Have you maintained contact?
Yes. Out of the 10 of us that joined up 9 of us came home. We’ve all been married since and I still keep in contact with about 5 of them. So there’s 6 of us still.

09:38:00:00

The other 3, again the other 3 have died since. So there’s a bout 6 of us left now that’s still together.
What’s it like when you meet up?
Our wives think we get them like the old Australian parted. The men down this end and the women down that. Not quite as bad as that, but almost. We got over the days of just army talk.

09:38:30:00

We’re now real friends now. We talk about all sorts of things now.
Do you have other friendships that compare to that friendship?
No. Not really. No. I suppose they’d been the basis of my friendships all along.

09:39:00:00

Fortunately all our wives get on together. They often go and do their own thing on the odd occasion. We’ll be meeting up at Christmas time. We meet at one of our friends’ places every Christmas in Melbourne. Sorry, not Christmas, New Year we meet.

09:39:30:00

But we’ve given up the days of waiting till midnight. We get there about 6 o'clock and by 10 o'clock we’re all gone, we’re all gone home. But we have a good long chit chat and a few beers and a couple of wines or something and a ice dinner and then home we go. We’re home by midnight, back down here

09:40:00:00

in Geelong. The rest of them live in Melbourne.
What is it that makes that friendship so special?
I suppose the time we had together. I suppose it’s a matter, we knew that you had to rely on each other. You knew if somebody said they were

09:40:30:00

going to do something, they did it. “You do that and I’ll do this.” And you knew that was carried out.
You mean like each others’ lives were dependent?
Yeah. Could have been. It would apply more so to our infanteer friends, bit it still applied to us. Just,

09:41:00:00

I suppose it’s just a friendship we, for 5 years we were constantly, almost constantly together and relying on each other. So that’s a fair time that we tested ourselves and none of us were found wanting. So we’re still able to rely on each other.

09:41:30:00

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I can’t think of anything else. It was probably an experience that I would have rather done without, but having done it, well, there it is. I suppose I didn’t settle down after the war until I was married. Imelda and I were married

09:42:00:00

in 1948.
INTERVIEW ENDS

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