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,
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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?
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.”
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
equipment clean and polished and all your uniform right.
Do you remember how much you were getting paid?
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.
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.
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.
Doctors, plumbers, electricians, clerks like me. All sorts of people.
What aspect of that training in artillery did you take to?
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
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,
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
“Right, off the gun crew, you. You are now on the staff.” So that was the end of my gun crew days.
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
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
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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
The communications then were straight from command post to gun and hopefully an observation post observing what was the fire and making final corrections.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
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,
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.
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
with instructions to the company commander to sped in the way he thought we would benefit most from it.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
From May till mid November 1940.
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
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
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
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
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
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,
we boarded His Majesty’s troopship [HMS] Stratheden to go overseas.
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
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
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
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?
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,
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
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
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.
Plenty of hygiene advice.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
How did the climate affect you?
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
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
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,
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.
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?
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.
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
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
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.
Was there much patrolling?
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
at that stage all in theory, but then again we borrowed some equipment from somebody and put the theory into practise.
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.
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
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
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.
20 feet. The two wheels as you can see up there would be like a dirty big truck I suppose. Pneumatic wheels about
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
The main force was Australian. Everybody had to cooperate or it wouldn’t have functioned the way it did.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Once you dug in, can you describe where you were in relation to the infantry and light artillery?
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
bring the trucks up unless some idiot did something stupid.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Nobody I don’t think was ever regimentally dressed.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
further over or further out or to the right or to the left. He can observe the shoot then.
When the signal came from the observer or infantry, was that coming through headquarters or the command post?
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
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
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.
Under all sorts of conditions.
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
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
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.
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.”
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
area. Everybody knowing what they had to do and doing it.
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
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
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
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.
“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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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.
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
You did mention you got up a way to observe. What did you see?
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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?”
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.
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.
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
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,
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.
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
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
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.
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,
“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.
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,
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
each other out as to just how well we were able to cope with the incursions.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
That’s a layman’s interpretation of the strategic plan.
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
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
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,
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.
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
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.”
I think, I can just hear him say, “But sir, we’ve got to do it at 10 am in the morning.”
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
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
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
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
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
[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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
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.
I think I’ve got my dates wrong. I think it was round about July. Anyway. I’m not sure.
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
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
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
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
the honours on that little battle.
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
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.
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
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?
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.”
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.
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.
You’re about 200 yards too far. Drop it 200. Yeah that’s it. Spot on. Well done. I’m off home now, thankyou.”
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
in the three positions the batteries were in, we covered the whole of the territory that the infantry were operating in.
How did you work in a schedule?
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
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
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
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
they requested. To hell with running out of ammunition, which we never did in any case.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
infantry. Until the Japanese surrender and we were on mainland Borneo when the surrender took place. It was a
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.