Raymond Jones
Archive number: 1338
Date interviewed: 16 January, 2004

Served with:

2/49th Battalion
9th Division

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Raymond Jones 1338


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Tape 01


Okay Ray, can you give us a brief summary of your life so far?
Oh well I was born in the Renmark, South Australia on 27th May 1921. First I can remember of my life was my father was a sharefarmer and


I can’t remember very much during the first few years because when I was five years old we shifted from the farm to a place below Renmark called Paringa and my father was a woodcutter there and had his own team of horses to cart the wood down to the pumping stations. Unfortunately,


within a year or so he took sick and was not able to work any more and was sent away to hospital and I was with, I think I was just over eight when he died and from there we lived at Paringa and I went to school there for the duration of my schooling


days. My mother had to go out working because we had no support. Those days times were hard, people were on what they called rations. It’s not like it is today, you just got coupons for food, you didn’t get money and when I was 13, or during this time we had shifted to the town of Renmark from Paringa which is only a little way, about 2.5


mile and when I was 13 I was due to leave school. I’d had passed my QC [Qualifying Certificate] twice by then and that was what they called it in those days, and school leaving age was 14 but I was not 14 until May and this was December so I went out on the farm just working for my


living to save my mother keeping me. Because work was so very hard to get in those days. From there I done various jobs until the war broke out and I had just turned 19 and I enlisted then. That was in, actually sworn into the army on July


2nd was the date that I was actually in the army. I’d joined up two, three weeks before that but you don’t get sworn in until the day. And then from there with my army training we were at Wayville and on November 17th of that year 1940 we sailed from Outer Harbour in Adelaide on a boat called the Stratheden


and went overseas to Egypt, and from there we done training and went up to the Western Desert as they call it where the divisions before us had taken the positions that were occupied by the Italians. And we got up to a place called Benghazi in Italy


and that’s when the Germans under Rommel, or whatever he was the head of the Germans and they forced us back to Tobruk, where you’re heard of the Siege of Tobruk. Well we were there for eight months in Tobruk and finally


we got relieved. They took us out on boats because there was no other way out. There was not other way of getting out by land or air or anything like that. From there went to Syria for relief and more training and that would be in 1942 by then. It was 1941 when we were in Tobruk


and we were taken by transport from Syria down to El Alamein. This is when the Germans had forced their way right down to there and while at El Alamein I was driver of a Bren gun [Bren machine gun] carrier and we had, there was a driver and a sergeant


and one gunner. We, on one attack one morning we run over a land mine out in no man’s land and blew the track off the carrier and finally we couldn’t get away from where we got out of the carrier


and went to ground in a hole where the sergeant said we could just lay still and not move. We did see many German tanks and things getting around from a distance and finally later that afternoon, we had been there all day, we crawled up to where we thought our men had taken their position and to our amazement they were Germans. So this was how


we got taken POW [Prisoner Of War], because we had no guns or no nothing and the Germans handed us over to the Italians and we were taken from there back through the desert again through Tobruk and Benghazi and all those places and finally got transported by boat


to Italy. While in Italy we were in a big camp called some name like ‘Groupnown’ or something like that. And they sent out working parties after quite some time and I was in one working party of about 50 in the rice fields near a place called Vercelli


in Italy. During that time we were there in 1943 Italy was trying to sign an Armistice and get out of the war which the, fortunately for us the guards we had were Italian Army that did not want the war and they said, “Well, we’re not stopping here because the Germans are going to round us up and make us


fight for them. We are going to the hills and join up with the partisans.” So we decided we would do the same before the Germans had a chance to come around and collect us and take us to Germany. So that was in September 1943 and we were still in Italy with the partisans until the war finished in 1945.


The latter part of that time the last six weeks we managed to get down, there were five of us in our bunch. We didn’t stay in this 50-odd. We just split up into parties, where some of the other parties finished we really don’t know, and we finally met up with some American tank crews so the five of us were with them until the war


finished and then we got, they knew by this time who we were and what we were and our army numbers and made contact so we were sent back to Naples in Italy where there was hundreds and hundreds of people like we were that was got back there. And we were sent from there to England to, you know,


recuperated and all that type of thing. That was in 1945. Finally from there we were sent back to Australia by boat and from there I got my discharge on September 15th 1945. So that’s about my main army things without you wanting to know any specific things in


the army, I don’t know. Then it was back to civvy [civilian] life again after over five, about five years and four months I think it was and they were at Renmark in those days they had what they called the Soldier’s Settlement, fruit blocks going. So I put my name down for one of those and they were at Loxton by the way, I don’t know if you know these towns. It’s not far from Renmark and they were all


towns. It’s not far from Renmark and all these river towns are all fruit growing areas and it was that long waiting for a block. I worked on a fruit block for about 12 months and I got sort of sick of waiting and I was very truck minded and that being a driver in the carriers in the army so I decided I’d buy a truck and go carrying.


So I started off doing that and finally built up to a couple of trucks and then we went to a place on the west coast of South Australia at a place called Cleve between Wyong and Port Lincoln and started an earth moving business and that went fairly successful.


It wasn’t easy work of anything but finished up with all my own earthmoving equipment including bulldozers, front-end loaders, trucks and all that type of thing and finally I think it was around about ’78, ’79 I started selling out gradually


and in the later part ’79, ’80 we decided to retire altogether and go to Adelaide to ‘see how the other half lived’ as the saying is, in the city, because we’ve always been country people. And while we were in Adelaide I did try and get a couple of


jobs here and there but the old saying ‘you’re too old’. I was 59 and I was too old. So I thought, “Well I’ve got to live until I’m 60 anyhow,” because I didn’t want to use my own money up before I could get pension so I finally had that much of a garden [tantrum] that they finally give me my war service


pension before I was 60. There were several of us I heard afterwards done this because they couldn’t find work and we didn’t want to be on the dole so I got my war pension and that was it. I haven’t had to work since because between that and my own little bit of capital we’ve managed reasonably well and we were in Adelaide for


21 years. We’ve virtually given ourselves five years in the city and would be that sick of it we would want to go back to the country. But finally you make friends with everybody and we’re very keen on bowling, both of us, and we made that many new friends in the bowling situation that we were quite happy to stay there and of course, with the family, we only have two boys and


one was up here and the other one at this stage was in Broome. He was previously in Perth. We used to travel through the winter to get away from the cold to come up here and over there and finally we made the plunge in shift up to Gordonvale and here we are today. Anything else that you, that’s about all. That was a brief…
Ray that was excellent. Very well done. I’m impressed by


the chronological order that you put together there. That’s great. I’ll bring you right back now to your early beginnings. Now you had you said that you mentioned your brother so I take it you had brothers and sisters.
Yes, we were a big family because back in those days there was no television [nothing else to do but have children], as the old saying was. There was six of us boys and one girl. The girl was the last one on the line. I suppose


they kept going until they got a girl. I don’t know but I was in the middle. I was the fourth son and our ages were virtually round about two years apart. I can remember the eldest is in June, my next was two years younger he was in May,


the next one was two years younger in May, mine was in May and coincidentally the two of us were born on the 27th of May, my elder brother and I. Now that’s unusual. Now the next one was born in July, that’s the one that was in the army with me and the following was June which was two years later


and the girl was about two and a half years was in December. So that’s how it was. That’s the entire family. Of those unfortunately there’s only my brother that went away with me and myself left.
Even the girl isn’t alive?
No, she went, can you remember how many years?
She was only, what, about six…
LINDA: She was the first


She was in her 60s still wasn’t she?
LINDA: I know it was a long time ago.
I can’t remember just how old she was. Anyhow, there’s only the two of us left and we’re both in our 80s as you realise and going along quite well. He’s going along quite well really. He’s had odd troubles but nothing that’s serious.


He was only, well he was virtually only 16 when he enlisted, just turning 17. He was sworn in two days after me which I was 2nd July, 4th July, well he was 17 on 17th July so he was actually in the army still at 16 and I had only just turned 19 of course. As you know I’m coming 83


and he’s coming up 81.
The age difference doesn’t matter now does it?
It’s only a number as far as I’m concerned anyway. ‘You’re only as old as you feel’ as the old saying is.
So were you a close family do you think?
Yes, we were really because in those days we never had anything that you have these days. If you wanted to do anything in sport you just grab a tennis ball and bit of


board or something and play cricket with that. You didn’t have a cricket ball and cricket bats like they have today, or stumps. You just put a kerosene tin or a box as a wicket and all those sorts of things. Swimming was a great thing up on the River Murray. We all got along well together. There was no hassles in those days. You just all learnt to be one happy family or as happy as you could be.
Did, you would have been involved in the Depression


somewhat Ray.
Can you tell us how that affected your parents and the kind of…?
Well as I said before I can’t remember my Dad but I remember my Mum. She had, she went out washing clothes on the old scrubbing board. There was no washing machines in those days, 5 shillings a day she used to get. I remember that. I suppose in those days, 2 pounds, I’m talking shillings, you probably don’t know. I’m not talking in dollars.


What was the question again?
Just how your parents fared in the Depression.
Oh, it was pretty hard. As I say my Mum used to get this little bit of cash on the side and with the rations, they called it in those days, you used to get coupons for your food. Coupons for a little bit of clothing. Pretty down to earth type of


stuff unless you had a little bit more income probably it would have been very, very hard to keep going. My mother bought this house in Renmark where we were on time payments. She sort of got enough together that she could put down a deposit and she managed to keep the payments which I suppose weren’t very much in those


days and managed to keep the home going. It made it much easier for her when we joined the army because if you were a married person the wages were 5 shillings a day. You’ve heard, I suppose you know what I’m talking about with shillings. I can’t think now. You used to for married people you would only get 2 shillings of that and 3


used to go to your wives and they would get subsidised for another 3. Well I done the same for my mother and so did my brother so that helped her to manage very well while the war years were on and like, she finally out of this. Was able to gradually pay the home off so it was very good for her really.


So that actually helped her when we went in the army. Previous to that it would have been very, very hard for her.
What about your father, Ray?
What about?
What about your father?
Well he died when I was eight or a little bit better, a little over eight. He finished up with TB [Tuberculosis] because he used to work out in the, he never used to stop. I have heard since they call him a workaholic. He was just one of these men that wanted to get on and worked and worked and worked and wouldn’t


stop for anything. He used to work in wet clothes, rain, shine you know. So he finished up contracting TB which in those days was almost incurable. I believe now days that’s it nothing much at all but in those, back in those days it must have been pretty hard. I did not, I can’t really remember


my Dad because for those, for about two years or so he was in Adelaide Hospital. So I can’t really remember. I wouldn’t recognise a man that looked like him or anything because I was too young.
And what about your mum. What kind of person was she?
Well, she was, I always thought she was a lovely woman. She was a hard worker herself but I suppose she was brought up to that.


I think she did a marvellous job really to keep us altogether because a lot of other families you hear well they just went off, one here, one there, you know and people sort of looked after them. But no, she kept us altogether and of course, the eldest, the eldest boy went to work when he was 14. You see that was, he would have been just


at working age then and then the next one at two years. As they all went off to work they used to help Mum a little bit. A few shillings here, well a bit of money when they could because wages were very, very poor and they never had much to spare. So that really helped her that way. We were very fortunate I suppose that we were kept together, you know.


And what kind of chores would you do to help your mum around the place? You said that you are country boys, so, well, a lot of shooting rabbits and things like that?
Well, you used to set rabbit traps and that you know and catch rabbits. Fish. We used to go fishing a lot with lines on the river, because we were right on the river and catch fish. We used to do a lot to help her with the home you know. When she used to go out


washing as I said nearly every day we had to get, cut our own lunches for school and then she’d tell us what vegetables and what things to get ready for tea. All those sorts of things in the home. We virtually grew up to look after ourselves really. It was, I suppose


that was very helpful to her really. And that’s about all on that line I suppose.
So tell us what did you know about the problems in Europe occurring before the war started?
I don’t really know anything about that because well, we didn’t hear very, very much. I can’t remember what you know,


what the start up was about the war. I can’t really remember those days. All I can remember is, “Oh, war’s broken out.” You know people were joining the army and work was a little bit scarce at the time and I can remember I went to work one day and this mate of mine said, well of course we used to be just working, say, and


it might be lunchtime or midday or any time of the day and they used to say, “Well there’s nothing more for the day, home you go.” And of course you don’t get paid in those days unless you work and we got a bit sick of this so I remember my mate saying, “I’m going to join the army.” And I said, “Well if you join I’ll join.” And that’s how it started so we went and joined the army because we knew we’d at least have permanent, well, everything. You wouldn’t have to look for work.


That’s about the basic start of it. When we got to know what it was all about all your mates were the same and went along with it and said, “Let’s do something about it.” And we got sent overseas and that was it.
So I guess it wasn’t a matter of thinking, “Well, if I join the army I could be


Well you did, you didn’t really think that really but well you did and you didn’t really. You didn’t think along those lines. Well you did know it was possible, more probable than possible probably but you don’t sort of, you don’t think of that really because you’re always a heap of men and you sort of just accept I suppose.


Like anything else I suppose.
What did your mum say about your joining up?
Oh, I forgot about that one. She said, “No. No way, you’re too young.” And I said, “Well.” The eldest one hadn’t tried but the other two had. One had a bad, well they both had a bad eye really, and of course they weren’t accepted. In those days you had to be A-1 fit [in top physical condition].


They wouldn’t take anyone that had any ailments whatsoever and when I told her then I was going to join the army. Renmark there if you wanted to enlist they had an officer that used to be open of an evening, at night-time where you used to go and enlist and it was in the where the surgery is. He had a room there


and so told her that I was going to join and she said, “You can’t join. I would have to sign your papers and I’m not going to sign them.” So anyhow, I can remember this one night when we decided this mate and myself were going to enlist she was going out to a card evening so up we went and the chap


whose the officer there knew us, knew the family. It was only a country town, he probably knew most people and he said, “Here you are Ray, take this home and get your mother to sign it. Authorisation to do this because you’re under age.” Basically to you had to be 20 in those days.


You could not enlist under 20 in those days because that meant me putting my age up one year because I’d just turned 19. And I just took the papers and I estimated and just walked around the street. He knew where we lived and everything and I estimated what he thought I’d been home and back again and in the meantime, I signed my mother’s name


and brought it back. And he said, “You’ve got Mum to sign,” and I said, “Yeah,” and he said, “Okay.” So that was all right and when I went home and told her, well, she went, took herself to court and said, “I’m going to stop it.” And I said, “If you do I’ll go over the border to Mildura. I’ll do it in Victoria.” I really


bluffed her out of doing anything and then my younger brother, he was working out on a farm and I went out and told him and he said, “I want to go to if you’re going.” And I said, “No, you can’t, you’re not even 17.” I’ve had to put my name up to 20 so when he came into town on a Saturday he told her he wanted to join and there was a big blue on of course. And finally


she said, “Well, if that’s what you want to do then you do it but I can’t sign it. Ray signed his own name so he’ll have to sign yours too.” So I signed for my brother and that was it. So we both went away in the army together and in the same battalion. That’s just about the end of that story, isn’t it.
Gee, your mother


would have been absolutely furious.
You see she was very, very upset of course when I got taken POW because there was no news of me for quite a while and then the authorities found out for sure that I was a POW so they sent word to her. Well the biggest problem, that was in 1942, as I said in 1943


when I got out and went with the partisans I could not write anything to her at all. Previous to that in the POW camps you could write a few lines to your people and do that. and for, from September ‘43 which is another two years, well it would have been getting towards the end of May I suppose, the Armistice wasn’t until May something.


So it would have been at least the end of May, early June, nearly two years time before she knew any. She just thought, “Well, he’s been shot or something. He’s been killed or something trying to get away,” so she was very relieved I think when I finally turned up.
So can you tell us about going down


and enlisting with your brother?
Well, yes in those days we used to go to Renmark down in a train, a troop train what they used to, all the enlistees used to go down. It used to run about once a week or something down to Adelaide and we went down and I had to go down a bit earlier because


I had, I enlisted just before him so I had to be back around about a certain date and I enlisted, I got sworn as I say on the 2nd of July, he came down on the 4th of July, two days later, but we were fortunate that we were close enough together. Incidentally my number was 7626 and his 7995


so it was only a matter of a few numbers and that’s how we got into the same battalion together and we were both together in the same trench and everything in Tobruk. At that stage I was a Bren gunner, like I wasn’t in the carriers at that stage, and he was what was called a No. 2 to the Bren gunner. He had to have the magazines and like the ammunition if I wanted him to hand it to me


type of thing. We were in the same trench in Tobruk and he was alongside of me whenever we went into battle and that. I can remember one stage, we often laugh about it now, in Tobruk there was, if you see a bush that high that would be a, you wouldn’t get any other shelter above that and he would have been a few feet away from me.


You don’t be alongside of each other, you leave a bit of space so I mean, you’re not going to let the army shoot at stone brick wall sort of thing. And I can remember saying to him, “I’m getting low in mags [magazines], ammunition Murray.” So he crawled over and when he got back he said, “Me bush is gone.” And I said, “How lucky were you?’ We often laugh about this and little incidences like that.


We’ll talk more about Tobruk in detail. Seeing you were there for eight months, we’ve got the whole day, I was just going to ask you though was there a particular religion that you were brought up to believe in?
Methodist. Yeah. Yeah.
Does that involve, I’m not really au fait with the Methodist religion, is it very strict?
Oh, they


they, Methodist was mainly, well they used to think they were drinkers or anything. Which wasn’t like me either. I shouldn’t have been a Methodist I suppose. It was just an ordinary religion I suppose. It wasn’t that strict, do you think? No.
And what about your


grandparents? Did you have a lot to do with your grandparents growing up?
Yes, my grandmother finished up she lived with us when we were at Renmark for a few years until she passed on. My grandfather I never, ever knew at all. I don’t know when he died or…I wouldn’t have a clue. But my grandmother did live with us for quite a few years.


About, I can’t remember much about her, she didn’t use to. We were only kids going to school, still going to school when she passed away so I wouldn’t know very much about her really.
Do you have fond memories of her?
Yes, yes. There is no troubles or anything with her.
And did your family have a wireless?
Not in those days


no. Well, when I say not those days. I can remember us getting our first wireless. It wouldn’t have been that long, wouldn’t have been that long before I went away I think. Can you remember back to those things? Because I’ve known her since she was that…
This is your wife that you’re talking about?
Linda, yeah.


So you don’t remember getting a wireless before the war?
I think probably it was just before the war but I’m not definite on that.
And can you remember the day war was declared?
What were you doing?
I was working. On the 3rd of September 1939. I can remember you know,


“We’ve declared war.” At that stage I don’t know whether it meant much to us or not. We didn’t realise, well being overseas the war you didn’t sort of connect Australia really with it. We never, ever thought it would come to Australia because as it went on we shouldn’t have been over there, we should have


been home here. But you don’t know those things do you? So I can’t remember much about when it broke out really. I just sort of know, I can remember them saying, “We’ve declared war.”
Well I suppose a lot of people were happy about it because they realised they could be employed.
Well, it did bring employment definitely.


But I don’t know whether they realised back then whether you know. But I think this is how a lot went in the army through employment because it was all voluntary. You didn’t get forced into the army. I think they did later on during the war but it was you just, you know it was all voluntary when we went. So I suppose it was


it did help the situation quite a lot.
Okay stop there Ray.
Interviewee: Raymond Jones Archive ID 1338 Tape 02


Okay Ray, you mentioned to Heather that you had quite a number of brothers so I’m just wondering what the five of you might have got up to for fun as kids. What sort of things would you do?
I can’t


sort of think of anything special. Just I suppose mainly go swimming a lot. That was about our main thing to do. We just about live in the river, as the saying is. Apart from that there wasn’t much sport played then in those days. We might,


as I say, get a lump of board and a ball have a game of cricket as we called it in those days. I can’t recall any other special thing. Go to school I suppose and go home and do your chores, what you could for Mum and that’s about it. Sunday we always went to Sunday school, Sunday morning was the regular thing. That’s one thing my Mum always, you know,


she taught us Christianity and all that type of thing. We were brought up to believe in that.
Did you enjoy Sunday school?
I think it did because I mean there was nothing else on those days. I can remember, probably a sin this was. We used to have to take a collection. I remember my, do you know what


one penny is? Yeah. Well we were given one penny each to put in the collection plate and of course, there was always, three, there’d be about four of us at one stage three or four of us going from the family because the others had grown up you know. And there was always a store, a corner shop open and he had these little liquorice


black cats they called them and you used to get four a penny. So there was always one of us didn’t have collection, did we, because we’d bought four of these black cats and have one each. Little things, you remember these little things you know. I’ve never forget that. I often wondered whether they ever thought of asking my mother why one of us didn’t have a


penny for collection but there was never ever anything said so I don’t think anybody every found that one out. So apart from that we used to have out special things at Sunday school. I can remember I had some good prizes, like books were given at the end of the year. Different ones used to get prizes and they were always in a book form. I had them for years at home, I can remember.


So was reading something you did a bit of as well?
What was that?
Was reading something that you did a bit of?
Oh yes, not such a lot. I’ve never been a great reader. I haven’t really especially like in the latter years I never found time to do those things. I was always wanting to get out and try and


earn some money and get on in the world type of thing. Put a lot of my hours into working really until the last few years I’ve been very fortunate I’ve had a good retirement age. Lot of others haven’t so I’m very, very lucky really. Especially with my health and everything I think I’m very fortunate.
Were you given there was so many Jones boys running around were you well kind of known in the neighbourhood?


Oh yeah, we were well known. Pretty wild bunch you know but most families were like that in those days.
What was wild about you and your brothers?
What was wild about you and your brothers?
Oh, we, nothing


spectacular I suppose but anything that was on we would be in it type of thing. We wouldn’t back out of anything. If there was a fight on we’d be in it. If there was anything else on we’d be in it you know.
Was it actually handle having so many brothers for times like that?
I think so, yes. We used to stick together pretty well. If one got picked well they had to go through the lot of us.


Very handy. Pity on anyone that picked on the youngest one hey?
Oh yes. You’d always look after the youngest.
And you just, you mentioned to Heather before that you actually knew Linda as a kid as well.
Yes, they only lived -


Renmark is a town where the rows of houses are what you called a back lane. The houses don’t butt up to one another, there’s always a back lane. Incidentally I think what this was caused about back in the old days, your toilets were right there at the back of the and the night cart used to go along and pick up, you didn’t have what


you’ve got today and where it sort of, the streets were numbered. Linda’s was in 16 we were in 17 and say, the row of houses there and she was on a corner here and we were down about five houses on the opposite street so that’s how close it was. It was only


a few hundred yards and I knew her, I can remember her. I can remember her with a little fringe and she said she was in grade two then. She would have been about six years old.
And how old were you at the time?
I’m five years older so I was 11. Yeah, 11 about that stage but we’re more or less. They had a family of what three, six


also so we’d, all kids used to play together around them streets you see. There was seven or eight families by that we used to play cricket together or hide and seek or whatever you call. Just hide and all these sorts of games that you make up as kids. Go swimming together and all those sorts of things. So it happened that when I come home from the war


we got to know each other a bit more and that was it.
Absolutely. And what about when you left school at the age of 14 it was, wasn’t it?
I was 13 and a half actually yeah. I went working on a farm where there was only horses in those days no tractors or


you know motor cars. There were motor cars yeah but there was no, all your transport was mainly with horses. Odd people were getting motor cars up until then but they would only be the parents of the family. Not like today everybody once they’re old to get a licence they get a motor car.
So what were you actually doing on the farm?


What was your job?
It was a wheat farming area. I used to have implements that were pulled by horses and like plough, work the ground up and a seed machine to put the seed in and then a harvest machine to take it off and also there was mainly sheep farming there. There was a little bit of cattle


but mainly milking cows though so you would be working with horses, machinery, milking cows things like that. A bit of like fencing, you know fence your property. Repair fences, all that type of work.
Was it a good job?
Well, it’s very interesting really. I often think back to those days and think, “Well, yes it didn’t hurt.” It was


hard, pretty hard going in those times because hours, you see with horses you had to get up very early in the morning, it would be dark. You had to take them, you didn’t have water there, you had to take them down to a dam, like you know where you built an area to catch the water. Feed and water the horses. You used to have groom


them all down, you know, comb, you know, what you know, grooming. I don’t know if you’ve heard about these things and then you’d go in and have your breakfast while the horses were eating and afterwards you’d get your team ready and go out and then you had to do the same thing at lunchtime. When you come home of a night, you used to work to nearly dark, until you couldn’t see anything


more and then by the time you looked after the horses and got up and looked after yourself and had your tea and then you always had to feed your horses again before you went to bed. So I tell you, you didn’t get much sleep mate. You were, you know it was nearly a round the clock job. It was long hours and well, virtually seven days a week. You didn’t do,


perhaps weekends you wouldn’t work much out in the paddock unless it was busy time in the harvesting and things like that. You still had your cows to milk and your horses to feed and all those types of things and go out around the sheep and check on them. Just little jobs like that. You wouldn’t be perhaps working a full day normally on the weekend.
Enough to keep you busy.
Oh yeah. No, it’s,


I think back now what do they work about a 37 hour a week or something and we used to do that in nearly two days.
And much did you get paid a week? Was it 5 shillings?
You didn’t used to get much. I didn’t tell you this before when I first went out to, like when I was 13 and a half because I was supposed to go to


school until I was 14 and I was just keeping my keep and I used to go into Renmark. This was roughly 20 mile out of Renmark. They used to go in every Saturday to do their shopping and well, they used to perhaps give me 2 shillings or something just to buy a cool drink with and that’s all the money I would ever see


and then I was only out there a little while and when school started again, because I was not being 14 my mother got a word from education wanting to know why I wasn’t at school so she said, you know, said to these people, “Well, he supposed to go back to school.” And I said, “I don’t want to go back to school. Nothing for me to go back to the same grade again.


I’d already done two years of it, grade 7.” And we were too poor to go to high school for any further education and these people, their parents had another farm up in a place called Mintaro near Claire in South Australia which was many miles, you know a couple of days journey from where they were, so they said, “Well, why not send him up there? And tell them


you don’t know where he is until he turns 14.” So I was up there until I was 14, and it was okay then. I could come back and do as I liked. So that’s how I got away when I was only 13 and a half from school. Getting back to the money part of it, I was finally then, after a while the neighbour said to me,


he said, “You’re not really getting any money there are you?’ and I said, “No.” Well he said, “I can afford to give you 5 shillings a week if you come over here.” And I said, “Right, that’ll do me mate.” So I worked for him for 5 shillings a week for quite some time and then another one must have got to hear of it and he give me 7 and 6 [sixpence] and I was like, they were bartering me. I was going from one farm to another. I finished up getting 10 shillings


which was big money for me in those days and of course, from then I was I suppose I was 16 or more by then and I got more or less go and get jobs where I thought it was better. I used to go into Renmark during the fruit picking time and pick grapes and then go back on the farms for the rest of the year,


well virtually that’s what I used to do until I joined up.
And was it common for the farms you were working on to put you up as well and…?
Yeah, oh yeah. That was virtually your keep. They put you up, yeah. That’s one thing about it. Although it might sound hard that you weren’t getting any money at least you were getting looked after. You were getting your keep,


you were getting your washing, you were getting your bathroom and all that type of things and in those days it was a big thing. Then when you got your few shillings a week and you went into town at least you could go and buy a cool drink or a chocolate or something, some little special thing and also you get enough to buy your clothes with. That’s about how we lived in those days. As long you got enough to keep going that was it.
And take the pressure of mum a little


bit too?
Oh a lot. She didn’t have to worry about us. It made life a lot easier for her. As each one got off her hands it must have been become so easy for Mum. I often think that. What a hard life she started off with and it’s very, very hard.
So when you and your brother enlisted and got into the army, how did you find the discipline in those


first few weeks?
Well it wasn’t too bad for us because I mean, we were brought up really that we had to do, we were told to do things and we just had to do it. I mean if you’re told to get the tea ready or wash the dishes well you just done it. We always washed the dishes for Mum because she worked all day and then she used to come home and we’d


have the basically the tea ready to cook or that and once it was cooked she used to sit down and read the paper or whatever. We always done the cleaning up and stuff. I can always remember that, “Your turn to wash tonight, my turn to dry.” You know and this used to go on, “I washed last night, you do it tonight.”
So you would have fights about whose turn it was?
Have what?


You’d have fights about whose turn it was?
Oh, I think we…
Or a bit of a joke?
A bit of a joke more or less.
That’s great. So when you first got into the army then, your initial training was at Wayville wasn’t it?
What did they, how did they induct you? What did they do to you first at Wayville?


What were the first thinks you learnt about the army life?
Well, we were given our rifles straight away so we virtually learned how to look after them. Oh,


what can I say? Well, every morning for instance well you’d get your role, your call you’d have a role call. You used to have to do a little session of physical training, PT [physical training] we used to call it. Then you’d go to breakfast and then after there was a call out, you know, a certain time. I don’t know what it was now,


whether it was 9 o’clock or whatever. Some days you’d have to go on a route march or something. We used to do a lot of training out on the parklands in Adelaide, of course Wayville is near the city you see, and do a lot of training in the way of, well, with your rifle. Things like


what they used to, unarmed combat. Then you’d have bayonet training, used to have bags of straw and all that where you make out like they were dummies you know. There’d be other times when with machine guns. You’d have to learn how to strip them down and put them back together again to keep them


clean them and all those types of things. Of course you would have your times to do your washing and things like that. That all used to come into certain times. You also had your church parades there on a Sunday also so that was another thing. A lot of people perhaps think that once you join the army


that they always had their church services. They only ever had two different groups that I can remember that was RC for Roman Catholic and the others were Presbyterian or Methodist but they were all one. The RCs went to another, different priest like, minister.
Was that because there was a lot of RCs actually in the group?


I don’t know on that one. That’s just a normal thing in the army as far as I could see. There probably wasn’t as many as the others I shouldn’t imagine. But there always the two groups I can remember that.
Did you, was there anything that stood out as something that you particularly enjoyed about…
What, in the army?
…about your basic training. Was there anything that you kind of found


that you liked over anything else?
Oh yeah I was always keen on especially stripping guns and putting them together. Machine guns and things like that. We used to have time, time each other to try and see who could do it the quickest and all this type of thing you know. It was good really. I don’t know if there was anything


else really. None of us were very keen on this route marching. That didn’t go along too good at all. We used to do a lot of it around the city, you know there as I said in Adelaide. We were very fortunate really that we were at camp at Wayville. Most of the others were way out where they couldn’t


have access to anything like that. I can remember we’d march past the hotel and a few of us would break off and duck in and have a quick beer and race back and catch the group. All these types of things you know. And night-time you’d only get leave once you wouldn’t get it


every night. Half of you might one night and when we didn’t have leave, we used to sneak up and go up to the town. Go up to Adelaide. We often used to do that. I only got caught once AWL [Absent Without Leave] and another time about twice I think in my whole army career that I got caught. You lose a day’s pay and get no more leave for


a week. Nothing very serious.
Which just means you have to make sure you don’t get caught the next time.
Yeah, but that the only unfortunate, I say unfortunate, that week was put in your pay book and it was always get as a record so you could never say, “Oh no, I’ve never been caught,” because it was down as a record and that was it.


So what would you do on the occasions that you would sneak off into town? Where would you go?
Oh mainly down and have a few drinks, that’s about all. Nothing else really. We had, there was a good thing there in Adelaide, probably they had in all towns what they used to call a ‘Cheer Up Hut’. It was run voluntary,


by a crowd. You’d go there and have a meal, like anybody in the services, free, like it was run by some group and they had music there and sing songs and things like that. It was like a little concert thing. It was quite nice really for an evening, back in those days.
That’s fantastic. I’ve never heard about those


before. You said there was one of them in Adelaide?
Yes. What they called, well we called ours the ‘Cheer Up Hut’. Whether they had them anywhere else I don’t know. I’ve never ever asked, and as I say, I wouldn’t know. It was quite a good place, so many used to congregate down there. Pretty big place.
And was it just visited by army fellows or would other forces go there as well?


Other forces would go there to. Yeah.
So did you, were you spending time with your brother during this time?
Yes, yes we were together all the time, yes. We would often go to those places together yes. We’re very fortunate really, as I say it was right up to the time, when we actually, as I told you before,


we were together in Tobruk. And when we came out of Tobruk it happened that there was at least five sets of brothers like us that I can recall. A couple of them got killed in Tobruk so they would not let brothers be together any more because it wasn’t good if you, now the little incident with my brother, when the bush got blown away, he could have got killed and that would have been


pretty upsetting you know so that’s when I joined the Bren gun carriers as a driver and he went from the infantry where he was to an anti-tank gunner. That was still in the same battalion. They have the sections in the infantry battalion so that’s when we actually got split up a little bit and of course, when I got taken prisoner at El Alamein then that was the end of it then.


He had to battle on, on his own. Well, he finished up going right through the islands and all you know. He had a very long war for war service with the actual forces.
You would have had a lot to catch up on when you got back together.
Yeah, yeah. Very. Yes.
Now what would they teach you in training


camp, basic training? What did they actually tell you about the enemy? About the Germans?
I don’t know whether I can recall any specific thing really. Just we were fighting the Germans and that’s it. Well the Germans and Italians then. I can’t really recall


hearing any special things about them really just that they were our enemy and that was it. The reason why I don’t whether if they ever said, or you ever knew.
They may not have said.
I can’t just recall anything like that at all. I don’t think so.
So what were your drill instructors like and things like that?
What were you drill instructors like in,


at Wayville?
Our instructors?
Well, I found them pretty good on the whole. You get the odd one that they thought they were well the real bossy type, “You do that or else,” but normally they were give and take fairly well. I can’t recall any special


one that I really disliked. They were there to do their job and that was it. At that stage I was only a private and had to do what I was told. Or try to.
And how were you at that? Did you actually behave yourself most of the day?
Yeah, yeah, pretty well.
Except for your night-time excursions?
You couldn’t do too much otherwise


you’d get put on the map for it, you’d get punished for it, you know. You’d lose a days pay or something like that so you were a bit wary of what you did.
And what was the difference between the training you got at Wayville and the training you got at Woodside?
Not very much difference because we were only at Woodside for a short time.


We had what we call our embarkation leave. That’s leave before you going overseas and I think we, I don’t know, about three weeks or so that we were at Woodside. Mainly up there it was keeping fit, route marching and things like that. That’s about the basic things up there. Because we were more or less done like as much training I suppose


as they thought was necessary and more or less keep ourselves fit and ready for when we went overseas.
How long were you at Wayville?
Went there in July, early July, actually end of August, end of June I went down and got sworn in, in July. So there’s July, August, September, October we went on embarkation leave. We come back to Woodside then and we left


on the 17th of November so say four months or so at Wayville and say, we had three weeks embarkation leave and three to four weeks at Woodside. That would be about it.
I wanted to ask you this before when you said you used to time yourself pulling down the machine guns. Do you remember what your best time was?
I can’t really but this, I must


it must have been pretty good because they made me the machine gunner of our section, of our platoon so I must have been the top one in our little gang.
Absolutely. And what, just to clarify, what was the machine gun you were using?
Bren gun.
It was a Bren gun?
Bren gun, yes. That’s about all we had back in those days in the infantry. It would have been. That and what they call


an anti-tank gun have you heard of them? We used to call them a Boyce rifle [Boyce anti-tank rifle].
One man used to have this anti-tank gun and they were pretty heavy to carry and when you fire it if you, you know, were a bit slight, they’d shunt you back a bit, you know. They had that much power. They’d bruise your shoulder. We used to call them the Boyce rifle.


There was no Tommy guns [Tommy submachine guns], Owen guns [Owen submachine guns] at that stage until we got to Tobruk we got Tommy guns. Up until when we left Australia there was only the 50 ordinary .303 rifle [.303 ‘Lee Enfield’ rifles] and Bren Gun and anti-tank gun and I think that’s it. I can’t remember any others because this was early in the war you see. The war only started in September


‘39 and this was only 1940. They hadn’t really got the munitions workers, they hadn’t put out that much stuff. I mean the main thing was to get everybody a rifle at least.
And as a machine gunner I guess what, how would you rate the Bren Gun?
Well in those days I thought you know


very, very good. There was a few things, well you had to learn all about this. What we called ‘stoppages’. Number one stoppage was something and number two stoppage was something and you know, it wouldn’t fire then you knew, you had to learn what to do straight away. This is where this pulling them down and putting them together was all about so you could get the things mobile as quick as you could,


or try to.
What was some of the more common stoppages that would happen with the Bren Guns? Why would they …?
Oh ammunition jam or the firing like the reloading mechanism that was the about the basic things really. There was really nothing else to it. When I think back these days, well, they’re pretty simple,


like, against some other things you’ve got to do.
And were you a good shot on the target range?
Oh average I would say yes. I always got pretty good results. I wasn’t, they did pick out individuals to keep them as, known as snipers. But I was never


up in that bracket. Evidently I wasn’t quite good enough. There were very odd ones that got picked for that. That was just in our little group.
And were the snipers given the .303s? Or what type of gun would they be given?
At that stage it was. I don’t know whether they altered that at all afterwards


I can’t recall. Yes, that’s what they did have in those days because there wasn’t many, I don’t think there were any other rifles or guns about those days really. They were probably coming in as the war went on I suppose. They got all sorts of different, upgraded their machinery as the saying is.
And what did you do with your three weeks


embarkation leave?
Oh, just went up to Renmark and more or less went to the pub and had a few drinks and that’s about all. Just home of a night with Mum and the rest of the family.
Did she, did she have anything to say to you, knowing that you were getting ready to go?
I can’t recall anything. Just wished us all luck and you know, be


careful if you can. More or less. We were brought up that way we more or less, up to a stage we did fend for ourselves or learn to fend for ourselves. I think, so I think she knew that we would sort of still do that and that was it and just hope for the best.
And was it a sender, a big send-off?


Yes, they used to have a march like in the town. You see there was a fair few of us. What did they used to call that? We used to have a march through the street. Do you recall anything about that?
LINDA: What was that?
When the soldiers, like when the big groups went away like that overseas.


I can’t just recall.
LINDA: Embarkation. No.
No, no that was the leave. That’s biting in now and again.
Oh, is it? We’ll just pause there.
Interviewee: Raymond Jones Archive ID 1338 Tape 03


I was thinking when Chris [interviewer] was talking with you about questions I haven’t asked other veterans, and I hope it doesn’t seem too rude, but were the swear words of the day the same then as they are now?
Were the?
Swear words?
Yes, I suppose.
What were the common ones? Was ‘bugger’ a common one or ‘mongrel’?


Bugger yeah. Yeah, no I haven’t heard of mongrel that much. Yeah.
And what about if you liked someone would you call them ‘an old bastard’?
Well that’s a common one, that’s a more common one yeah. I used, I had a what they called


an ‘old bastard’s card’ but I lost it. There’s a club you can join, you know, have you heard about it? Yeah, yeah. Based in Sydney actually. Had a number and all to it and different ones that had joined and if you were asked for your card any time, especially you used to do in a hotel and if you couldn’t produce your card you had to buy drinks.


Yeah, mine just disappeared two years back. You used to show it to different ones and I suppose it handed around and somebody thought I’ll have this and all of a sudden I was without it.
So it was an ‘old bastard card’?
Yes, it was a proper printed card and had the, I don’t know, the chairman, I don’t know who it was, had his signature there and everything.


Had your name printed on it and a number when you joined, just a number.
Well, I’m glad to hear that you’re part of that club, Ray.
Now what about ‘shit’. That’s a common one.
Was that used all the time?
Yeah, yeah.
Now I won’t say it but the ‘f’ word?
Oh a lot, a lot. Yeah.
So nothing has really changed?


No, nothing’s changed. It’s very similar to my way of thinking, yeah.
And did you find that it was difficult making mates because you were with your brother for a long time?
What was that one?
Did you find it difficult making mates because you with your brother a lot of the time?
No, not really. No, it just seemed to be just normal.
He was just another mate, I guess.


Yeah, yeah, we were all mates. Simple as that. yeah.
Now tell us about going from, you just touched on it with Chris, hang on a second. Ray, before you were talking with Chris about when you left Adelaide on the Strath...
Stratheden, did your family come down to give you a send off?
Yes, yes my mother was down there,


Was she crying?
Oh, yeah. Normal.
And can you tell us about the trip over to, now you went over to Palestine.
Palestine, yes.
Can you tell us about what it was like the every day occurrences on the ship?
Well, we used to still have our training to keep fit,


mainly and lectures on well machines. You know different things like that. That’s about all we could do mainly and we used to play a little bit of sport on there like there was deck quoits and things like that. You know something to keep you occupied mainly I think. That’s about all.
What about two-up [coin game]?


Oh yes, we used to play that, always. That was a big game every night.
And poker?
Oh yes, a little bit. Not such a great lot though. Yeah. We used to have the two-up, a little bit of poker and we used to have a dice game called ‘heads and tails’, you know, with your


dice. That was the main entertainment you know.
What about cards? Did you play any card games?
Not such a lot there but we did in the actual, when we were in Tobruk we played a lot of cards. When we were in the trenches all day and doing nothing we used to play a lot of bridge game there. Yeah, played a lot of bridge.


You must have got pretty good at it then.
Yeah, pretty good at it. Used to about know what everybody had in their hand I can tell you. Have you ever played bridge?
No, but I’d actually like to learn because I like card games.
It’s a very good game once you get in it. You see a lot before I went into the army we played a lot, you know at home, ‘500’ they used to call it. Have you heard of that one?
I have.


Well, that’s a miniature bridge. It’s only a leading up to playing bridge. It’s a similar type of game but it’s very mild. Bridge is a, I find it a very good game. You’ve got to have a good memory, you’ve got to think, you’ve got to, you know, by the time the bidding finishes I could just about tell everybody what they had in their hand


sort of thing. You get that good at it, you know.
I know how to play 500, so…What about food on the ship? What was the food like on the ship going over there?
Reasonable army food. I can’t just recall any specific thing because even Linda will tell you I’m very easy to feed. I was brought up that I had to learn to eat


everything and anything. That was more or less back in the hard times and you sort of go along with that. There’s nothing that I, don’t think that I wouldn’t eat. If you’re hungry you eat anything and hell I’ve been hungry at times. Firstly when I was POW, sometimes you really would


eat every crumb, as they say. You wouldn’t leave nothing.
So how long was it until you got to Palestine then from Adelaide?
Well, now we were in Fremantle, like Western Australia for one week. We left outer harbour and went around to Fremantle and a couple of German


something, subs or something out there somewhere they must have detected so we were there for a week while they hunted them off or doing something about it, I don’t know. Then we called into Colombo for one day. I think I can’t remember the exact date that we got over there. I’d say


a month or so, something like that. I’m just trying to think. 17th November, a week in Fremantle. Yeah, we were over there for Christmas so I would say virtually a month roughly that would be around about it.
So you were there for Christmas in 1940?
Yeah, we were there for Christmas in 1940 in a camp in Palestine called, Julius


was the name of the camp.
Do you remember what you had for Christmas Day?
No, wouldn’t have a clue.
And what about the ship being clean and healthy was everybody?
They had deck people, like deck hands or something they call them. They were, I don’t know what nationality but


they could speak rough English I can remember them saying, “Washee deck, washee deck,” whatever, you know. If they wanted to wash the deck down then you’d have to get off somewhere else and all that, you know. They’re very particular on boats and ships. Everything is very clean and spotless.
From that stopover in Fremantle you didn’t have any other stopovers before you got to the Middle East? Is that right?


One day, one day, yeah.
So you wouldn’t have gone ashore. Did you go ashore?
I didn’t, I didn’t no because I got fined because I was AWL in Fremantle one day and they give me no more shore leave until I got over to Palestine so I didn’t get any. But they, most of the troops went off, they always keep so many back for guard duty and


what not. For one day they were there.
Why did you go AWL in Perth?
Just because I wanted to go out.
And you didn’t want to be back by 10 o’clock was it? Or 11 o’clock?
10 o’clock yeah. It was 11 or half past I whizzed in.
So you got what you deserved?
Yeah, yeah.
Now I have read from the biography, when you spoke with the office, that you got sick. Was it the mumps


or the measles?
The mumps yes. That was going overseas. Now that was, it must have been after Colombo because I was all right then. It must have been between Colombo and Palestine. There was quite a few of us got the mumps actually and when we got off the boat there we went to a convalescing place. I was just about over them then


but we just had to go there for a week or two or whatever it was before we went back to our camp. To our army, our army camp. Yeah.
What about your brother? Did he get the mumps as well?
No, no. No, he didn’t get them.
So how long was it that you met up again at the battalion? You were put in hospital to convalesce did you say? And then what did the battalion go ahead without you?
Yeah, yeah they went into their camp out at,


like in Palestine and then they sent me from the hospital or whatever it was to the camp like rejoined the unit there. That was still before Christmas though. It must have been just before Christmas I got back there I should say.
Hang on one second there Ray.


And what were your feelings on seeing the Middle East for the first time?
Well, just like, just like another place I suppose. I didn’t take much notice. You didn’t see much really you just got taken in trucks you know like to the camps. You didn’t see much of the country because the trucks were covered in. They’re not just open trucks.


I meant to ask you did you get your immunisation needles before you sailed?
Yes, before you go away you get all those. Yeah.
Now, when you met up with your battalion in Palestine was that in Camp Julius that you mentioned?
Camp Julius yes.
That was at, in Palestine? Can you explain for us please


the set-up of the camp?
It was just, just a big area of ground with a, they put a barbed-wire fence right around the outside of it so nobody could just walk in and out. With all tents, army tents and you used to have to, you had a trench dug outside your tent if there were any air


raids or anything you could get in. That’s about all and they had two or three proper huts, there was a recreation hut, like, mess hut for your meals. Apart from that not a hospital, a RAP [Regimental Aid Post] they call it, for medical,


medical things you do. If you had to go to hospital then you got sent out somewhere else. That’s about all.
And how many tents were there? Were there about 20 tents?
Let’s see, we were in a battalion, which is basically 1,000 men. There was about eight to a tent if I remember right ,


so there would be plenty of them wouldn’t there?
Absolutely and a big mess tent in the middle.
I can’t just recall exactly where it was. It probably would have been. I can’t recall exactly but that would be the logical place wouldn’t it? I should say.
How long were you there at Camp Julius before you set off?


It wouldn’t be that long I should say. I would say roughly six weeks or something like that.
And what did you do every day to keep you in shape? Were there special exercises?
Marches over the sand hills and different things like that and a bit of rifle training. That’s about all.


More or less keep fit that’s at that stage yeah.
And Ray had you become mates with the blokes before you took off from Australia or did you make your mates there in Palestine? Where did you become mates?
Mainly before we left yeah. It was the same ones as I was with here, you see in Australia. Yeah.
And they were also with you in Tobruk?


Yes, yeah.
Can you tell us about some of the characters that you became mates with? Did you have anyone that sticks out in your mind as a bit of a class clown or anything like that?
Not really. They all had their funny peculiarities I suppose.


I can’t recall anything special really, not at this stage.
We just heard about some blokes that you know, one might be called the ‘back of Bourke’ because he was the size of Bourke or something like that…
I can remember one chap that was in the transport. He was about 6ft 9. He had to take the seat out because his head used to hit the


roof. They would call him ‘Tiny’. That’s about talking about anyone like that. He was a very tall bloke. I can’t recall anyone else I don’t think.
Too bad they didn’t have a basketball team.
Yeah, should have had, yeah.
Now correct me if I’m wrong, but your battalion


was relieving the 6th Divvie [Division] in Tobruk? Is that right?
Yes, yes.
So then after the six weeks what actually happens strategically? Do you sort of take over and then 6th Divvie walk back so there’s a kind of fluid exchange or do you wait until you get to where they are and then they take off?
Then they take off. If you take Tobruk,


which was one of the main defences I was in, they have a front line, what they call the front line and then they have a what they call a blue line, which is back so far. That’s where you are having a rest then, you are in the blue line and then if you’ve got to take over then you come up to the front line and take over and the others go back. You can’t be doing this sort of business. You wouldn’t have the front


manned properly. No, they definitely come up before the others go back.
Just, for somebody who doesn’t know much about this does the enemy also know that well, if the Australians are behind the blue line we can’t fire. We have to wait until everybody is in a red line situation. Is that how it works?


was all done at night. There was nothing done in daylight there at all. It was all night so whether they, they have their, well spies or not actually spies, but they have forward scouts looking through binoculars or what I wouldn’t know but at night-time they wouldn’t know that you were virtually know that you were changing over. Well, they shouldn’t. You wouldn’t want them to know either.


So I think that’s how we probably worked it. You’d do it without, hoping that they wouldn’t know anyway.
What had the army told you about the fighting there in Tobruk before you arrived there?
Well, they wouldn’t have told us anything because nobody knew before we got


there that well, we didn’t even know. The idea was. You see we got up as far as Benghazi. That’s a fair way up from Tobruk, I can’t remember how far and that’s where we met the enemy first and we basically got back to Tobruk where we knew there was an area with defence


premises already there from when the 6th Division took over, you know captured it and that’s where they decided to make their stand. Well, we didn’t know until we got back there really whether we would make this stand and hold it or whether we would be overrun or what. So I mean there be nothing really to tell us until we, without, well


they probably told the officers and those who are in charge I suppose. I mean us basically, Privates we wouldn’t have known even that we were going to Tobruk until all of a sudden we were back there, you know stopped there. This is where you make your stand at Tobruk so we wouldn’t have known until we got back there.
So did you actually get to meet any


of the 6th Divvie blokes?
No, no.
Because you didn’t make it down there?
No, no. You see we didn’t, when the 6th Division took the positions in South Africa that was all sort of finished. They had only left a skeletal crew to more or less guard these


places and whether I suppose we were actually going up there to relieve these guards in the first place. This is what I think and all of a sudden the Germans were there. Whether they’d done this pretty secretly or not I don’t know but I mean they couldn’t have known, the English couldn’t have known anything about it otherwise they wouldn’t have been caught the way they were.


So that’s what I think. Just how many 6th Division, whether there was only a portion of 6th Division left there I just wouldn’t know. Personally think. Whether we were more or less I think to just relieve their duties in the first place. But it didn’t happen that way.


Now even though you didn’t know about the Tobruk siege and what was going to happen did you have any particular training from the Australian Army to prepare you for the desert?
Oh, yes, well not very much though. About the only training we had was the little time we were in Julius Camp, which wasn’t very long, so we didn’t


really have any specific training, rally I suppose the main thing was we had been trained and to keep fit. Physical fitness was the answer to most things. If you’re not fit then you’re not worth nothing are you.
Was there plenty of water there at camp Julius?
No, not really. We were restricted with water. One water bottle


a day. You know those little water bottles. You’ve seen them? And that was for everything. I can remember when they, eating utensils, you used to call them a dixie. A dixie like a little tin sort of thing with a handle on it and we used to, you know the sandbags they fill to,


you know, to put up on the trenches. We used to use one of them to wipe our dixies out afterwards. It wouldn’t get washed. You wouldn’t have the water. Things were pretty hard in Tobruk, I can tell you.
It’s no five-star holiday then?
By hell it wasn’t.
So tell us about first arriving you. You said the troops made it as far as


Benghazi. Tell us about arriving there are Benghazi.
Well, we had arrived there and all of a sudden that night we got word to say that the Germans weren’t very far away. They were making that much progress coming down and that,


we were ready to make a move to retreat and after, I don’t know whether it was that particular night now or the next day but there were a few shots fired. I heard fire from a distance and it gradually got a little bit closer and closer until it


got to the stage where we were told to get on the trucks and out. So we virtually were only there and then gone again within a day or so or something like that and then some of the Germans must have got around the outside and they were coming around through the desert. You see there was only one main road up there.


There was no several roads. There was only one main highway up there and then that was near the coast and then out through the desert well you had to have pretty good vehicles to get through there anyway and at one point on the Tobruk side of Benghazi where there was a joint in the road. Like a different road went one way and another went another and there was an


officer there directing the troops out a certain way. Well only just a few and some pretty, whether he was intel [intelligence] or some high up sort of chap realised that this was a German dressed up doing the directing of the traffic sending them out towards German,


like where the Germans were waiting so they shot him on the spot and some of those chaps got taken prisoner then who were sent the wrong way. That was very fortunate that whoever it was, I can’t remember now, knew that it was a German. How I wouldn’t know. This is only what I’ve been told so we could have


all just followed this first lot and got caught. We wouldn’t know.
Were the Germans respectful of taking prisoners of war or did they just shoot men?
From what I’ve heard they are pretty good. They would just take them. As far as I’ve heard. I haven’t heard anything different and that was the same with us. I mean we didn’t, never,


as long as you did the right thing I suppose they took you prisoner and that was it.
You were there for eight months.
In Tobruk yeah.
So when this Benghazi situation happened, was that pretty much the first lot of conflict you’d come across?
Yes, it was yes.
Did you then think then, “Gee, I wish I didn’t joined up”?


I didn’t think of that. No. Not really.
It’s not worth the 3 bob or what. What was it that you got a day do you remember?
5 bob but whether I only got 2 because 3 had gone to my mother. 2 bob a day, 14 bob a week.
That’s a $1.40. Not a lot of money to spend.
You wouldn’t have been a women magnet.
No, no,


that’s for bloody sure.
So now after this very close shave with the Germans at Benghazi, what happened then?
When we went back to Tobruk? Well once we got back to Tobruk we had to man the perimeter you see. It was what they used to call a perimeter


right out around, right from the sea there, like the sea’s there, Tobruk’s there and this barbed wire big entanglement went right out around into the desert and back around the other side to the coast you see. It was all shut off with this front line. Just entanglements of barbed wire and they had pillar boxes built there which the Italians had had them built like


previously for a defence. Big cement underground trenches. That was mainly the front line. One every now and again and then you’d dig an ordinary trench say in between and all that sort of thing so nobody could anywhere in between them to come in through the barbed wire. They, we did have


certain points in the barbed wire that we made ourselves where we could knock straight through, you’d sort of have barbed wire going past here and on this side but you could sort of go down a laneway and get out and in like that because we used do a lot of patrolling there of a night. Go out and see what the enemy were doing and hassle them and do anything we could to.


See if they’d laid mines and all that sort of thing. Everything was done at a night-time you see. Into the desert you can just see for miles because there’s no hills or trees or mountains or anything like that so everything is done at night. We used to go out on patrols mainly to find out what the enemy were doing and where they were dug in


and this sort of thing.
What would you do to hassle the Germans?
Just see them working, laying mines or something and just open fire and empty everything you had and high tail it back as quick as you could.
That would be a hassle.
Yeah. We used to like doing that. It was good fun


we reckoned. As long as they didn’t catch up with us.
Do you think a part of it also was boredom because if you were sitting in a trench all day.
It was, it was. As I say we used to play bridge and all sorts of things. You don’t just sit there. I suppose you got used to it. Nothing else to do.
And obviously somebody chose the people for night patrols?
Oh yes, yeah.


We had a chap from South Australia, Tex Watson was his name, in our battalion. He was a manager of a cattle station somewhere. I just forget the name where now. He was marvellous of a night-time. He knew by the stars and everything, like his directions. He was really marvellous. You go out with him


a lot. He used to ask for, he didn’t ask for volunteers he used to say, “What about tonight, Jonesy? Do you want to come out?” He’d want, say, six, ten or a dozen or whatever. Just depends what he had in mind. He used to do a lot of this. He was really good. We used to well, up to a point we used to enjoy going out with him because he was


one of one of them blokes that you had a lot of faith in and he never, ever let anybody down to my knowledge.
Was he much older than you?
Yeah, yeah.
And did he make it through the war?
Yes. As a matter of fact he, going back a few years now since he died.


He got wounded a couple of times and he wasn’t in the best of health but I seen a fair bit of him like after the war because he was over on, he used to manage hotels a lot and he happened to be at Cleve between Wyong and Port Lincoln at one stage and we used to get together a lot.
And would you go out with your brother on the night patrols?
On yes, lots of time. We used to both


go together a lot. Yeah.
Now what was the overall, I suppose, military goal there? I mean it was not to allow the Germans to take Tobruk obviously but you were there for a good eight months and so everyone really had their heels dug in there didn’t there. Was the goal to just


keep going? Keep leaving the men there and come what may?
I think it was to hold it as long as possible while we were building up our forces. You see their, Britain and that they didn’t have much really to fight the war with not with what Germany had. Air force and all that type of thing Germany had so much more than what we had.


We virtually hardly ever seen one of our planes over Tobruk. Bad as that whereas they used to come over and bomb us every other night nearly. Regular. Regular air raids there all the time. There was that many ships sunk in the harbour there they had a job getting in, weaving their way in with the food and stuff because that was their only way they could bring any


thing in was by sea. You couldn’t get in by road anywhere. You had to come in by sea. It’s marvellous. When you think back its marvellous how we held it for so long with the little bit we had and getting back to what we had. We didn’t have hardly any guns or things. We had a bit of artillery, we had a few of these Bren guns and a few rifles.


That’s all. It was very, very, very poor equipment. I think if Germany actually knew what we had he would have just busted us up. We knocked him back two to three times, even his tanks. We stopped them and blew them up with these grenades we had, these sticky grenades, we call them. Things like that. It just amazes me know that we


stopped there and held that so long. Whether we had him bluffed I don’t know. There was something about it. I can’t believe really. Because it wasn’t such a long time after when we got relieved that the South Africans I think and the English I think took after, well it wasn’t such a long time after where they took it so whether they found out we were gone.


I don’t know. So somewhere along the line they were scared of the Australians. Must have been. And the Indians were very good. They were there and also Polish. These Indians they were, they call them the Indian Ghurkhas. They were ruthless. They used to be scared of them. They used to sneak out of a night and just they


wouldn’t, they were that quiet, they used to just sneak up and grab a guard without him even seeing or knowing you know. They were more or less like a cat. They used to come back with, slice an ear, like to prove that they got somebody they used to cut an ear off and string it on their belts and show the officers. Fair dinkum. They were ruthless, these Ghurkhas, I can tell you. I was glad they were on our side.


You must have wanted to hold onto your ears.
They were ruthless those buggers. Hell.
We’d better switch tapes.
Interviewee: Raymond Jones Archive ID 1338 Tape 04


Ray you were just talking about the Ghurkhas. Would they ever got out on patrol with anybody else?
Never with us. I think they used to do a lot of things on their own from what I’d heard but I wouldn’t really know on that one. No, I couldn’t really answer.
What was your first introduction to them? When did you first met them?


Be in Tobruk somewhere but I just can’t think how or when. I can’t just recall exactly. No, no.
Do you remember your first experience of enemy fire?
Well the first was up a little bit up at Benghazi but that was just a few


shots. The first was really back at Tobruk. We’d done a patrol one morning just part of the Battalion, C Company actually I was in then so it was only one company of about 100 men or so something like that went out to take this position


and because fortunately then they were all Italians and we, captain, I don’t know, can’t remember how many prisoners. That was the same morning with my brother with the bush episode. Yeah. We lost only, there was only I don’t know


about two or three chaps that got killed if I remember right. The rest, there was an odd one that got wounded but prisoners, there was hundreds that we bagged up. We just got into them with a few shots and stirred them up and they soon came out with their hands in the air. White flags, white bits of rag flying around everywhere. They quickly surrendered. They didn’t like it at all


so that was the first main stunt that I was in. Yeah. The other ones were mainly more or less night patrols when the Germans did break through with some tanks once then we did some firing them but apart from that it was only individual firing at different times.


We used to have machine guns on six lines at night-time where we used to get the information about what was going on out there and we’d fix a machine gun on a certain line and every, periodically you’d just let a burst go hoping that’s when they would be crossing this line or something like that. You wouldn’t know if you hit anything because it’s night-time you see.
And how dark was it actually at night-time?


How dark?
Was it that black that you couldn’t see anything in front of you? Or would it depend on the moon?
Similar to here I suppose. I just recall really that it was any different really. I just can’t remember whether it was or whether it wasn’t. It was dark I suppose and that was it. I suppose if it was a real moonlight night you wouldn’t go out on these patrols I wouldn’t think so anyway.


Not that I can remember because it is better in the dark probably.
So how would you navigate your way around during the night patrol?
Oh well you sort of learn this really through stars and compass. The one in charge generally has a compass but you get to read stars and the position of stars at certain times at certain times of night and that type of thing. That’s mainly what we


would go on.
Can you describe for us Ray when you first got back to Tobruk from Benghazi and you knew you had to hold it what you and your company did to dig in?
Yeah, well you see the front line that was there, there wasn’t much digging to do because the trenches were already there from when the Italians were there. What these were called these ‘pill boxes’, they were all


cement. These boxes underneath. You could walk through and your head would still be down below otherwise, yes we had to dig in whatever position we had. Dig in. I can remember once place there, there was rock and we had to do it with these hand, you know now you’ve got jack hammer to do things.


We had to use what was called a star drill with a hammer. One bloke hold it and the other hit and you keep turning it, break the rock up like that. Used to have, had to do that do you know and get down a bit deeper. Pretty tough I tell you.
That would have taken a bit out of you.
By hell you done it though. The next morning if you weren’t down under cover you’d have copped it.
So how deep and long would your average


slip trench in that sense be then?
We generally it used to be normally if you could get a section of people in which was, a section was 10-11 people. You know, if you couldn’t have a position like that than two to three you might have a hard rock or something like I just said, you might have two to three in one


and 3ft away you might have another one. But you would keep your sections as close together as possible.
And how deep would they be?
Sometimes as deep as you could get them. You used to like to get them down enough that you could, what I’d say is that deep at least so you could get down, squat down and be down underneath. At least deep enough


to lay down so you’re heads not sticking up anyway. If you had more time you would sometimes dig them down to a depth where you could stand in them. Just depended on the type of ground its in.
Now can you describe to me just how you’re coming back from Benghazi and the front line is pretty much established but just how you, how it was


that you actually turned around and held your position there and prevented the Germans from chasing you all the way into Tobruk? How you actually held that position?
How did we hold it?
Yeah. Like just in terms of blow by blow, what actually happened in terms of holding the position in Tobruk that kept the Germans at bay to start with.
Well, if we see any German within range, we just opened up on them. The night patrols used to keep them at bay pretty well too, but they did make that,


well there is one special time when they did make an attack and break through with these three or four tanks or whatever it was to start with and if we hadn’t of knocked them tanks out then their infantry would have come along behind them but we knocked them out and we seen the infantry behind and we opened up on then and that was the end of that. They didn’t get any further. More or less you or me type of thing you know. That was the only


main time that he made a real effort to break it. I can remember this particular night, that same night they had to use these tracer bullets. It’s like streams of, you can see just like a spark gun. You’d bloody thing and this one


bloke, he was a real. He was a hell of a nice bloke too but he was a very churchy chap and he believed in the Good Lord and all this and he was alongside and he said, “Don’t worry, Ray won’t hit you. Just keep walking.” He had this much faith this bloke you know. I tell you know these bloody things coming towards you.


Did he make it through?
Yeah, yeah he made it. He’s gone now. He’s died since he was home. He wasn’t that much older than me. Three or four years perhaps.
You mentioned the type of grenade you used on tanks.
The sticky grenade. They are filled with something to do with glycerine or something.
And what type of damage would they do to a tank?


They used to blow the, must have such a blast with them because you used to have to, you would, they would stick to, as soon as you whacked them on the side of the tank they would stick. You used to whack them on, run around and get behind so you know, didn’t get the blast yourself and there was odd times with our ordinary grenades if you were good enough or smart enough just


jump up, throw it in the hatch and let it explode in there. That was another one but we had to be pretty good to do that without getting hit yourself. Blow up tanks. We would blow up the whole crew in there.
And if you were going to do that would you be more likely, it would be more likely that you would get hit by the infantry supporting the tanks?
Oh definitely. Yes.


Amazing. What kind of things did the Germans do on a regular basis to harass you guys?
I can’t remember. Their air force was our biggest hassle. I can’t don’t ever remember them


doing any, they weren’t getting through our lines for a start. I can’t recall them. It was mainly their air force and that was it.
And what, how were their air force coming in? Would they mainly attack you at night or during the day? What would happen?
What they used to do


a lot they would come over and bomb mainly around the harbour so we were well, pretty safe as far as. They never tried to bomb out anywhere because they wouldn’t know where to drop it. They certainly would have copped somebody but I think their main objective was to stop us, stop the boats from bringing in you know,


food and what have you. Once they could have stopped that then we would have been, it would have been just a matter of how long could we exist without anything. Fortunately we got by. I don’t, as I say I still don’t know how. It’s amazing really because if it was them I think they had everything


closed off. It was the sea, that was the only way to bring things in then you would think that they would have made a proper job of it wouldn’t you. That’s why I can’t work out why they didn’t. whether they didn’t have enough spare planes or troops or whatever I don’t know but I suppose that was the only front. There was the Russians and things. They were into it to. They were


the ones that kept him pretty busy thank goodness.
It seemed to be that the Australians surprised the Germans quite a lot.
It just seems to me that, you know one of those things. Why it was different to anybody else I don’t know.
Well the Australians seemed to get quite a reputation for, well they dubbed you ‘Rats’ didn’t they? Did you actually catch wind of that while you were there?


That they were calling you the ‘Rats of Tobruk’?
No, no it didn’t worry us. This Lord Haw Haw [William Joyce – radio propagandist for Germany in WWII], have you heard of him?
Yeah, he used to drop pamphlets from the planes you know. All sorts of things. I can’t just recall what was on them now, “Surrender, you’ve only…” “Surrender Aussies while


you can. You’ve only got so much longer and we’ll be…” doing this and doing that. And all this rubbish trying to bluff us out of everything.
And how did you guys take it?
You got used to it, I suppose. You used to just laugh it off. Lord Haw Haw. He finished up, is that the one that flew into England at the finish


and give himself up? Have you heard anything about that?
No I haven’t.
I’m just trying to thing. It was somebody during the war. Some German. I reckon the Lord Haw Haw. I’m not sure. He must have got a plane from there and flew himself to England. I’m not definite on that


but I think it was.
Ray can you give us a bit of a picture on just what your routine was like day to day during Tobruk.
Well, virtually just lay low all day and don’t stick your head up I suppose. I mean there was nothing. We had to, the only real meal we used to get was of a night.


They used to bring a you know, the cooks used to make a stew of something or bully beef [canned meat] or something we used to call it. Bully beef stew and bring that around after dark and during the day as I said, just lay in the trenches and play cards.
And when would you sleep?
Well if you wasn’t on guard you would sleep at night. There was always a guard on like


say, a section of people then you would have a two-hour guard each, not you wouldn’t get it every night, you’d get it every other night probably for two hours. Well, you virtually you’d get it every night because they had only a two. A lot of that was two hours on and four hours off so,


say three guards would do 12 hours wouldn’t they like that. So say you might only do every three nights or so. There must be somebody on deck all the time.
I mean I guess around the whole perimeter how many guards would you actually?
Oh hell. There would be hundreds of them. Hundreds,


because there are so many battalions up there so it was the whole 9th Division plus all these Poles, Ghurkhas. There would be. I don’t know how many they had there altogether I wouldn’t know. They probably wouldn’t have had as many of them as what there was Australians I wouldn’t say but I just don’t know how many. We’ll say there was half as many we


could say there was 1,500 at least. That’s just a rough guess.
That’s a lot of fellows to be in there.
There are a lot of those mind you back like behind the lines that would never be up there like transport, cooks, ordinance,


stretcher bearers, there were so many others. Out of the whole lot probably, out of the 1,500 say 1,000, 1,200 front line soldiers. That’s just a rough guess you know.
So was there any kind of barracks or tents or anything like that or were you all?
No, no. All underground. You couldn’t. No way. You were all in trenches there.
The whole 9th Division plus


the Poles and the Ghurkhas were all underground.
Yes, yeah. You couldn’t be on top of the ground anywhere.
So where did you sleep at night?
Sleep? Just in the trench where you was. Sit down and whatever.
And were there any kind of hassles with health or hygiene?


Well, it wasn’t the best really. You had to wait until night-time before you went anywhere. You couldn’t just do it in the trench mate. You had to wait your time. You wouldn’t go out in the bloody daytime and squat down.
How would it work? What did you do?
I really don’t know. I can’t remember anything, anything like that.


I don’t know. I suppose I can’t recall any specific thing. I don’t know.
Was there anything that caused you bother? Like fleas or scorpions or any of that kind of?
Fleas mainly in Tobruk particularly, mainly in them pill boxes where the Italians had been. They were terrible in there. I don’t know whether they couldn’t have


got anything to get rid of them or what but I used to just, used to feel safe in there, safer than anywhere else but I would rather sit out it out in a trench any time they used to drive me mad. Bloody fleas. Hell.
And once you would be in a pill box and you got out would the fleas stay with you or would they go?
Oh, you’d get rid of them.
How did you get rid of them? If you’re living in the ground most of the day.


I can’t just recall that one either. There was odd times there where we used to go at certain times, I suppose they knew that we were far enough back towards Tobruk or near the sea, I can remember odd times going back to the sea in the daytime and having a swim and a wash, but it was only very, very seldom. Whether they


picked their time, there wasn’t a lot of them at a time. I suppose they thought if there was any raid because you would far enough away that the enemy wouldn’t see you like out in the front but like in case of air raids or things like that. That would be the only problem there.
So did you go down to the harbour at all?
Down to the harbour? Only when I came out. You wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near


the harbour like normally, no. It would be all patrolled and everything. You wouldn’t get anywhere near that.
So the beach where you go for a wash was quite well removed?
That was an are where there was nothing there at all. Just a beach yea.
So do you remember roughly across the whole eight months you were there how many times you went down for a wash?
No, not really.


No, I’d only be guessing.
Once a month.
That would be about it, I would say. Make you wonder how we could bear each other.
I guess if you all smell equally as bad.
I suppose it’s just a natural smell.


No makes you wonder know when you think back. It must have been a terrible stench really, you know. Can’t believe it.
Were you shaving or keeping your hair short or anything?
Oh yeah. You could shave if you could spare a bit of your water to rub a bit of soap on or something.
So would most of the fellows do that?


I think we had to shave anyhow. Wait a minute, I think we had to shave.
So part of your water had to go to that.
You didn’t see beards on anybody in the army. See, moustaches that’s all, never seen anybody with a beard. I think you had to shave. I think that was one of the things. Why I don’t know.
Do you think maybe it sort of helped


to maintain a bit of morale or discipline or something?
I suppose it would help, I think, yes. At least you look cleaner, don’t you?
Now what was your, as a machine gunner, what was your I guess opinion of the Germans as fighters?
Well the little bit I


seen of them I thought they were quite good fighters. I’d say I’d have matched them with us. I’d always reckon that a German was fair dinkum bloke. Like, the Italians seemed to be a scaredy type or something. I don’t know why. Like, sort of, they give in so easy,


you know? Why, I don’t know. I can’t think why. They were all men, weren’t they, but the German was a more harder type of a man. I always thought in civvy life you would see the workman and the German was a very good worker, very hard worker. It’s just one of those things I suppose and they carried on with everything they do.


Now was there much I guess of a hatred towards the Germans as an enemy or a bit more respectful do you think?
I would say a bit more respectful. I can’t say that there was any, I think we respected them. They were the enemy and that was it I suppose. You respected them the same as I think they respected us. They knew well


the best and bad sort of went sort of business. I don’t think even of them would have given in. That’s just the little bit that I saw of them.
And I’ve heard that there was actually even a little bit of local newspaper or magazine that


was produced by the Australians at Tobruk, like a little bit of a…
Like since the war?
During the war. During Tobruk.
Oh yes, I’m with you now because I still get mine since the war, the Rats of Tobruk Association Paper. Yes, yes I do recall something about that now.


They had a name for it. Was it Furphy…something [furphy meant rumour or gossip]?
Do you remember what sort of things were written in it?
I can’t just recall anything special. I’d sort of forgotten about it but now you’ve mentioned it there was some sort of paper too. I can’t


remember what was, anything in particular that was in it. No, can’t just recall it but I do, if you hadn’t have mentioned I probably wouldn’t have thought about it but there was definitely something. Yeah.
Ray can you tell us about any incidents in Tobruk when you were there,


that you lost any mates and fellows that you knew, and how that kind of happened?
Well, that morning that I was talking about when we took all those prisoners, there was one out of our battalion, I wasn’t near him when he got shot, that’s the main one that I knew.


One, he was our anti-tank [gunner], he got wounded pretty bad. He was only just over from me. I remember him saying, “They’ve got me Ray. They’ve hit me,” and I said, “Well, we’re still moving forward mate. The stretcher bearers are coming behind just, are you okay for a while.” And he said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Just lay quiet. Don’t move and they won’t hit you, they won’t


see any movement and they won’t fire at you again.” Well he finished up, he got out all right. He, you know, he’s gone now since he came home. That was the nearest one I was alongside that really got hurt.
Is that a fearful moment in terms of…? What that a fearful moment for you in terms of..?
Oh well I think you just accepted it really.


You sort of come, not hardened but you come to accept those things I suppose. You know it was going to happen to somebody it just wasn’t too good having to leave him. That was the biggest point. Nothing I could do for him but like he said, “I’m okay,”


but I said, “Just don’t move. Lay there. Just don’t move. We’ve got to keep advancing.” Which we did but we knew that the stretcher bearers were following up behind and there was only the one company so they wouldn’t be far away. He would have been attended to within a short time and that’s the only one that I have ever really


seen that got hit alongside of me really.
I guess across the whole eight months that you were there, I guess what would have been the worst of it for you? What was the worst part about being in Tobruk or the worst sort of…?
I guess the living conditions I suppose was worse than anything.


Food wise and all that. You sort of got sick of the same old food all the time mainly. I got that way that bully beef I used to just make you sick to hear the name of it you know. I couldn’t stomach it at all. Apart from that I suppose well there wasn’t anything. I was just hoping that the day would come


that we would get out. It made you wonder in the finish whether you were ever going to get out of there. Been there that time how much longer can it go on? You know.
Were there any fellows that went a bit troppo [crazy]?
I’ve never actually seen it. I’ve heard you know of things. There’s only our


corporal actually after that stunt we done we told you when we got all the prisoners and we were back at our trench and because you had to always clean your rifle and get your stuff you know and next thing there’s a bang alongside us and this corporal had blown his trigger finger off.


Yeah, so he must have packed and didn’t want to go back for another lot, so he blew that off.
So he intentionally blew it off?
Yeah, yeah. That’s the only thing I ever heard. I can still like I said afterwards I still recall this bloke when we was training at Wayville. He had come from,


he had been in the Militia he had been in the army for quite a while and naturally he was made a corporal straight away, I mean after us, and I can remember this bloke. I mean he would be doing this training especially with bayonet training. One of these blokes. He was the first bloke to pack it. I’ve never forgotten that you know.
And what happened to him? How did he pack it?


Well, he didn’t want another bloody episode of going out fighting so he thought if I haven’t got a trigger finger they will put me back in some cushy job I suppose. Yeah. I’ve never forgotten that you know. I often say to my brother, “Remember,” Bluey Kemp was his name, “Remember Bluey, how he used to make us train and say, ‘This is how you


do it and don’t muck around with the enemy.’” A big loud mouth, and he didn’t last long, did he?
Ray was there a sense, were you trying to keep an eye out for your brother while you were there in Tobruk do you think?
Oh yeah. I was the elder one I suppose and it was always


you know big brother sort of business I suppose, look after little brother. He was very good for his age. Really good and this is worried me a lot when I got taken POW. I thought he was left on his own now and I hope he gets, so that was the first thing when I got home and found out he was all right that made things better. I’d have never lived


it down after signing my mother’s name, well only for me probably it wouldn’t have happened, but I was very pleased when I knew he was home. It did relieve a lot of things.
So you were carrying the weight.
You do all these silly things in your life don’t you. You thing of it later in life. I’ll never ever do it again but it was done and that was it.


Did he ever get into any close shaves while you were with him?
There was only that time that stunt like you know when the bush got shot away from where he was apart from that not when I was with him. But he had a, he told me at El Alamein he was about 48 hours out in the Jerry [German] lines at one stage before


he got back laying low all day and crawled his way back to the lines and happened to meet up with the right. It wasn’t enemy lines it was ours. That was very touch and go otherwise he had trouble with some other things in the islands but I can’t remember now because I think things were very bad up there. I reckon he was lucky, I reckon I was lucky that I


didn’t have to go up there. One of my other brothers lost a leg up there below the knee up in the islands.
A wound or a disease?
A wound like you know in the army. He was the one that, he used to be the second eldest that one.
Now were you operating


a Bren Gun for the whole time in Tobruk? Was that what you were?
Yes, Tobruk I was, yes.
How did you deal with the dust and the sand?
Terrible. That’s another thing with machine guns. You talk about dust. I have seen it, I wouldn’t see you from here. It, you know, all the time. I have seen it like that. At other times it’s


just as clear as it is out there. Terrible dusty. The dust was that bad if you were walking along you would have your eyes that close to closed it wouldn’t matter. You know just visually see where you walk or otherwise blind you. Feel it cutting against your leg, you know. She’s really bad.
So how would you protect


the gun? Would you just have to clean it more?
Just have to keep cleaning it, yeah. Nothing to really cover them up with.
Okay, we’ll pause there Ray for lunch.
Interviewee: Raymond Jones Archive ID 1338 Tape 05


You mentioned before about tricking the Germans perhaps, this is at Tobruk, into thinking there were more of you than there actually were. Was that because of the night patrols or something else?
I can’t answer it. Could be I suppose we were doing patrols and they thought we were planning something to you know, a push


make a push, but I wouldn’t really know.
You were just doing your job. Do you think the closeness of you and your brother in the trench for all that time has kept you alive in a way?
You don’t know. I suppose what is to be will be. You can’t hold to that really. I’m a great believer if something is going to happen it happens and that’s it. Doesn’t matter what you do


you can’t avoid it much very well.
I’m assuming though that out of all your brothers, he was probably the one you were closest to because of what happened?
Naturally. Yeah. That’s only natural I think, I mean we were all very close but especially my younger brother was very, very close to because he wasn’t very old when I went away. Perhaps 16, no, 14/15,


14, he’d have been, yeah, so we really didn’t know much of him till he come home, but he was always a good close brother after I come home.
You mentioned one of your older brothers losing half his leg in the islands. Now was he in the army?
Yes, yes.
Now what about your other older brothers, did they enlist as well?


No, the one older than me he was rejected but he was in the forces and was on home guard duties. The prisoner of war camps out here he guarded and different other places they guarded. That was like around Adelaide. He was more or less home all the time. They wouldn’t send him overseas. He was blind in one eye.
You mentioned that problem actually.


That was caused by a rabbit trap wasn’t it?
LINDA: I don’t know darling. Yes, yes I remember now.
You know setting rabbit traps and it went off and the dirt and stuff came up in his eye and he suffered. No, wait a minute, it was the fright of something scared about, or something caused by fright or something the doctor said. But it all had something to do with it.


So there was three of us, four of us virtually in the army because the younger one was too young and the older one, I don’t know whether he got rejected early because things were a bit harder then and you had to be really A-1 fit. So four out of six, I suppose, is not bad percentages.
Gee, your mother couldn’t win, could she? She was trying to hold you back from joining and ended up with four.


It finished up all of us got home, even the one that lost his leg he was fortunate to get home.
That was lucky. Now did you meet any Arabs whilst you were there in Tobruk? Did you buy any oranges or anything they were selling you in the desert. Apparently sometimes the Arabs would come through selling things. Did you come across any Arabs in


Not Tobruk, I didn’t. There was some in there but I really didn’t come across any of them, no, no. I’d seen odd ones don’t know what they virtually how they lived or what they done. I really wouldn’t know on that.
I think they had a reputation for thieving or being quick off the mark.
You see they probably would be. You see we had a big food dump there in Tobruk


where they used to store stuff. There was like a barbed-wire fence around it and everything maybe with guards on it but we did prove that you could still get in because when we were back out on the main line we’d sneak down there a few times and got in and got a few tins of food ourself without the guards, you watch them go up one end and in and out and you know, wait get your, got your mates out there and throw them out through the barbed wire.


So it was possible to do that.
But what could you possibly steal? You wouldn’t want to steal any more Bully beer.
Not Bully beef no. There was all sorts of tinned food that we didn’t see ourselves up in the lines that mainly the Officers and the topnotches got them. There was salmon and stuff like that but we didn’t get any stuff like that.


I can’t think of, sardines and special things like that. A bit of tinned fruit now and again but we didn’t see nothing of that, that was for the big nobs [senior staff].
How were you able to be withdrawn out of Tobruk? How did you manage to actually get out of Tobruk?
Well the, we knew that there was different ones going out at different times. The boats used to come in. That was the only way


we would go out is by boat and they used to come in at a night in between air raids and things and the first night that we, that our battalion was ready to go we didn’t go that night because the Germans were making big raids and the boats couldn’t get in. The following night


was okay and we were put onto, I think they used to call them mine-laying cruisers. They were very fast, something like a destroyer but not quite the same. A very fast boat, 45 knots, which is fairly fast, and we were lucky, we all got aboard that and as soon as we got out the sirens were going and the planes were coming over. We had already left


and once they got out of the harbour of course, they’ve got submarines to worry about too so they keep zigzagging. We were told just to stay down and not be anywhere near the decks or anything because you just get water just, waves coming washing overboard because they’re only a, they’re not like a big high ship or anything. They are more or less built for speed and things like that and finally, by next morning we were at Alexandria which


is in Egypt, that’s it, in Egypt. And then from there we got put on trucks and taken down to through Palestine and into Syria.
What were you told by the army that when you got to Alexandria, that you’d stay there or…?
No, no,


well, we knew we were going out for a relief for a spell but where we didn’t really know at that stage until later on when we shifted from there by truck that we were going right through to Syria. You see, Syria had already been taken previous to that by the other divisions, I think the 7th Division took that if I remember right. They were inundated. They didn’t take it on their own but


they were there, and we were sent up there more or less to recuperate and do more training and we were in a place, Legault Barracks they called it, it was a big French Army complex.
What was the name of the barracks sorry?
Legault. Legault Barracks.
And was it an American destroyer that you came over to Alexandria


on or an Australian one?
I would say it would be American or English. I don’t really know on that. I couldn’t really say that, no, no, I don’t think it was Australian. I’ve got an idea it was called the Abdulla or some name like that if I remember right.
That would have been around the time, tell me if I’m wrong, that the Japanese entered the war?


December ’41?
This was before that. It would have been October. Later part of October. No, it was before.
Did you have any knowings or stirring, beliefs that the Japanese would enter the war at that particular time?
No, no.
Was it total surprise then for all of you?
For us, yeah.


The Pearl Harbour business, when we heard about that it was hard to believe really. Then everything moved sort of, really moved then didn’t it. Once that started naturally I suppose it would. We didn’t really know anything before that no.
And tell us about the trip into Syria? That was in closed trucks, did you say?
Yes, all the army trucks were, canopies right up over them you know.


Army trucks with seats all along inside. Yeah.
You must have been excited to finally be out of Tobruk?
Weren’t we ever. It was a real relief I can tell you. As I say that was the later part of October then we, we done a lot of training in Syria. That’s when I went into the Bren gun carriers there.


First of all, well, we were told like my brothers had to split up and all of us were sick of being footsloggers as we were called in the infantry and the first chance anybody had of getting out of it we did. I can remember we were called out on parade this day and they said, “We want volunteers


to join the Don Rs [dispatch riders].” That’s the motorbikes. Have you heard of Don Rs? They sort of carry messages and everything to different areas and of course, I had a motorbike before I joined the army so that was right up my alley, “I’ll be in that.” I went and a couple of my mates did do and anyway we started doing training like motorbikes and I also


liked the machine guns, the pull them down and put them together and all this type of thing. It was very interesting really. And different one said, “I heard you joined the Don Rs,” and I said, “Yeah,” and they said, “You’re bloody mad.” I think it started from the First World War where the Germans used to put a single strand of wire across the road about neck high and of course the old Don Rs would be flying along


and there goes their bloody heads, you know. Hell, nice and scary. So anyhow we didn’t take much notice and then the next thing this day, “We want volunteers for Bren gun drivers,” “Yeah,” I said. Not this bloody motorbike business. So when I finally got into that and when I told the others what I’d done


they said, “You’re madder than ever. You’ve jumped from the frying pan into the fire. That’s the worst then being a Don R,” “Don’t tell me,” you know. Anything to get out of the footsloggers business. So that’s how I finished up in as a Bren gun driver. Of course we had to training then in Italy, Syria with the carriers how to, what to do and different things.


We were called driver/mechanic then and I got a raise of 1 and 1 penny per day. That was 5 shillings plus when we went overseas we got a shilling or two shillings overseas rate. It was more than Australian rate. It was 6 or 7 shillings, I’m not too sure of that now of course this 1 and a penny, it doesn’t sound much but it’s


7 and 7 every day in the week. So that happened in Syria and obviously we did all our training and that there and finally when we got our move from there we all thought that we were, because we’d known then about the Jap [Japanese] war and all that business and we were told and thought, it might have been just rumours that we were going home.


Naturally we thought that would be right you know, come home and fight here. We had no idea we were going to El Alamein. No idea. Well not the individual soldiers. I suppose the officers and all the top hierarchy might have known.
Before you went to El Alamein, did you have a chance to go into the city and look around?
Yeah, we got leave. I went to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, not Jerusalem,


I did go there once during my travels, Beirut, Beirut and Tel Aviv.
Would you go off with one or two mates?
Yes, they only let some many go at a time. I don’t know how many, I can’t remember that. Yeah, some of my mates. You go off. Sometimes you get one day leave, two days leave something like that. I mean, you don’t get any longer, about two days is the longest.


And what about any kind of sex lectures from the army, did the men receive those about being careful and you know?
Yeah, yeah.
Did they go ahead and do it anyway?
Of course they did. Do anything, those days. I said they…
Absolutely, absolutely.
Look at Linda laugh.
So how did they know about the houses


of ill repute [brothels]? How do people find out about that?
They were fairly open there. Girls were out on the street. You had no worry of finding where it was. You’d see a string of jokers [guys] walking down the road. You just follow them. No problem about finding out where they are.
I suppose if you wanted to find something out, you could.
Oh yes,


yeah. So that was about the only leave we had. Two days at the most, some days it was only one. It depended how far we was away I think that’s how they used to work it.
And did you hear of any men that got the pox or VD [Venereal Disease]?
Oh yeah, well not quite a lot but I know of two or three in our unit that did.


Probably a lot.
And did they have a blue-light section for the army blokes?
Yes, yes, they did actually. They even had that in Adelaide in our army camps, blue-light centre.
Okay, so now you were sent back to Syria then and then you thought perhaps


you were coming home to Australia?
Yes, well this is after we were up there and done well virtually while I was up there we done training and like apart from that a couple of days leave and away we went. Once again we were put on trucks and everything so the carriers and all that sort of stuff must have got transported. Naturally we’d have thought we were going home because that’s the way it looked and they went down


inland from Syria through Damascus and through that place, the Sea of Galilee and all through there. Quite an interesting trip really. We had a swim in the Sea of Galilee. Stopped for an hour or two there and finally of course we don’t know whether we were told or heard that we were going to El Alamein.
That would have been


quite a shock considering you thought you were coming home.
Yeah, yeah we sort of very disappointed about it. I think what actually changed was the old subject again about the Aussies, you know the Germans must have you know had just one of those things that they didn’t like fighting Australian, I don’t know. But we, after we got


taken POW. I’m sure I’m jumping the gun a bit here I suppose but they even said, “We, how many Australians out there. We were told that you all went home.” So we smartly trebled the number and you know, so many thousands of them and put the wind up them a bit more and they said, “Oh, that many,” “Yeah, you know.” So they were definitely, we definitely had the wind up there somewhere along the line. Why I don’t know.


So that’s how it happened and of course, when we first arrived down there we were, we were put in a backward, way back from the lines to get all set up with our units and everything. I remember the first day we got there, that night somebody came around


and said, “You can drive a truck can’t you Jonesy?” and I said, “Yeah,” and they said, “Right, we’ve got one that we know where to get and we also know where the beer is all stored at.” It was Canadian beer, whether there was Canadians there at that stage I still don’t know because I never seen them so they had it all organised and they knew the password evidently


to get into this where the beer was, this dump. I can remember this four dozen, in litre bottles, this Canadian beer. Four dozen in a crate. You can imagine how heavy they were. Wooden crate and here we are, “We are so-and-so. We’re here to pick up a stock of beer for so-and-so.”


We got away with it and loaded this truck with beer. Hell, didn’t we get stuck into it when we got back. We were giving it, because we got that much we couldn’t drink it all ourself. There was a hell of a lot of us who had a few days on the booze, I can tell you. So that was one little episode that was the best time of the war.
At El Alamein?
At El Alamein and then of course


we got organised and got our positions in the line and everything. What month would that be? That’s a good question. Must have been in June because I turned 21 while I was in Syria on 27 May, I had my 21st birthday in Syria so it was very soon after that that we went down to El Alamein.


So I’d have only been in El Alamein for two months at the most I should reckon and we used to go out on night, just to hassle the enemy just after dusk, at night. We used to go out with the carriers and tear around near there, and get as close to their front lines and zigzag around and let a few bursts of Bren guns go


and tear back to our lines. We done that quite often really and finally they had this big attack on the 22 July and the day before our officer told us to take our carriers to go back to the ammunition dump that they were to load us up with various ammunition. All sorts of ammunition, SD grenades,


hand grenades, machine guns just stuff like that. Anything at all that the infantry would need once they got up and took their positions and all we were supposed to do was to follow the infantry behind with this, we weren’t supposed to do the attacking ourselves at all. Anyhow it was very, very dark when we left so we could hit the line just on


break of dawn and soon after daylight there was a lot of firing going on. Although we were behind the infantry but you know, you could hear everything and next thing our sergeant, like, in my carrier, “We’ve got the orders, there’s no English tanks have arrived.” The English tanks were supposed to be there to brunt the attack and they didn’t even turn up.


I’ve never found out why so they said, “Our infantry are just getting slaughtered so they’re wondering if we can go out and give them a bit of support with the carriers even.” Although they’re not a big tank or anything. They are only a small thing as you know and that’s when I run over a land mine and blew the track off and the old carrier just spun around on one track. They are on tracks they’re not on wheels, you know


what I’m talking about. The sergeant said, “Out as quick as we can, they’ll blow us up and with all this ammo [ammunition] in there, there will be nothing left of the carrier.” So we jumped out and went to ground and laid still in a bit of a hollow, just have to wait and see what happens. The next thing the carrier went up, they put an anti-tank bullet or something through that and she went up and burnt out. We


laid there for in the afternoon sometime, I can’t remember what time now. Things had quietened down. There was hardly a sound of any rifle fire or anything and our sergeant said, “I’ve been surveying the situation.” They’re told all the plans before you go into attack and he said, “That position over there,” which we could see like a hill, I suppose it’s


300 yards or something you know, just up a slight incline, he said, “I can see a lot just running around there. I can’t distinguish anything but that’s where the 20th,” one of our sister battalions in the brigade, 23rd or 24th Battalion it was, we were the 48th our battalion, he said, “It looks like they’ve got no problems. They’ve taken


their positions okay, they’re not caring what goes on. They’re running around just doing what they like. So we’ll just crawl up there steadily and see if it is them and see if it’s, when we get a bit closer.” Nobody seen us even, we just crawling up there and next thing, we were only, within 100


yards or less than that this bloke, “Okay, Aussies, come on for you the war is over.” It was a bloody German officer. We crawled into the German lines. Our blokes didn’t take the position and that’s how we got taken POW. Simple as that.
What was going through your mind when that happened?
I just thought, “Why didn’t we lay where we were, we might have been able to crawl out that night


or do anything although you could have been lucky and got through the mine fields all right.” but you know, you never know. What is to be will be, perhaps it was the right thing. You’ll never, never know will you. We mightn’t have got out if we had gone crawling out to get to our own lines. We’ll never know.
Did the sergeant who told you to crawl up the hill and go in there did he say, “Oops, I made a mistake”?


I can’t recall that no, no. He was very, very disappointed, I know that. He really, you know, really disappointed about it.
You often wonder, I mean do you think those men after the men blame themselves for things happening?
I think he probably did blame himself but at the time he thought it was the thing to do you know. We’d been laying there then since soon after daylight.


Nothing to eat, drink or anything and I suppose he thought, “Well, time we got out perhaps.” Thinking that, like, he surveyed the thing and that was the position he worked out. He was right what he’d done but our boys didn’t take the position. They got slaughtered going in because there was no tanks support


or nothing.
How did you know that the British were supposed to send their tanks in to help the infantry?
Oh, I’ve been told that afterwards. Yeah, oh no, no the sergeant knew that. Oh, the sergeant knew there would be British tank support whether he’s only been told since, whether he was ever told why I don’t know but he did know that they were supposed to come


in and when he got his orders to go out in front to try and support he said, “The tanks haven’t arrived,” so what happened, I really don’t know.
Were the British actually there at El Alamein? Do you remember them being there?
Do I?
Do you remember the British being there at El Alamein?
Not really, I can’t really say that, no.


But I should say they would have been there because the only ones that would have been there when the Australians went there would have been the British, South Africans, New Zealanders. That’s about all that I. There might have been some of the Ghurkhas, I don’t know. Like some of the Indians, I don’t know. Poles perhaps. Similar to what it was in Tobruk, I suppose, with the same crowd


that was in Tobruk. Some of those that took over Tobruk were probably there because they would have been pushed back you see, they didn’t get captured. Well, they were mainly South Africans and English. They would definitely be English there I would say according to that but I don’t know for sure.
Did you get to know any of the Poles that were there?
Not by name, no.
What kind of reputation did they have there?


As far as I know they were all right. I never heard anything against any of them really. I don’t really know.
Did you lose any mates there at El Alamein, Ray?
While I was, not while I was there. No, I can’t recall. There was a couple that got injured, but no,


I didn’t lose any that I know of, no. I can’t recall anybody. No.
Tell us what happened after the Germans said, “Okay Aussies, the war is over for you.”
“The war is over.” Well that was late afternoon, as I said. Well, we were kept in their front-line trench there for the rest of the day and when it got dark that night they had relieving troops coming in to relieve them,


like we used to do in Tobruk, you know, and we were marched back with the ones that we were being relieved until we got, practically all night we were on and off, we were walking until daylight next morning and by that stage, they did give us something to eat along the line, some, a bit to eat. Tell you what, we had just about had it because we had been since


morning before, which is going a good 24 hours or more and finally they got us back to where the battalion, there was what they call a staging camp or something where they handed us over then to the Italians and we did have a feed, I can remember that. Then later on when they


loaded us up in trucks then and headed off back towards Tobruk, say, going up Benghazi way again. I don’t know how many days it took us, I can’t remember now, but it took us quite a long way.
How many men were there? How many of you were there?
There were three of us, I suppose


there would be 20 or so of us altogether I would think in our little group. Yeah, some, there was another whole section of the 48th Battalion, there were some of the 28th Battalion. They were the main ones that I knew. The 28th Battalion was a West Australian battalion. There was about 20, I should say, and the,


there was well, there was more than one truck in the convoy. Some of them might have other prisoners on, too, or they might have been going back to pick up rations or goods or something from somewhere. I wouldn’t know. You just heard it in the truck and then the guards at the back end of it, at the tailboard. So you don’t see nothing. You can only see where you’ve been sort of thing, looking out the back which is


virtually covered in to but there is little windows there you can see a little bit out. You can’t actually see what’s going on at all. Yes, you sort of, sit there and think, “Hell, I’m a prisoner.” Can’t believe it really half the time, you know. Because then finally we got back as far as, I say somewhere around Benghazi there, there was a camp


where they had all fenced off and barbed wire and that around where all the prisoners come in. There was quite a few around the fence. I don’t know.
Australians. All sorts. New Zealanders. English. There was different nationalities that were fighting with us.
Was it strange to


go back to Benghazi when you’d already been there?
Yeah, it was really, yeah.
This time as a prisoner.
Yes, yes, it’s funny that. It finished up, yeah, anyhow, that’s where they evidently made a camp there. It must have been close enough there I suppose where it was easy to ship people out. I don’t know if that was the reason for it or not, I don’t really know.


How long were you there at Benghazi before they stuck you on a ship?
Could have been a couple of weeks. I just can’t remember exactly.
Do you remember the kind of day to day activities that would take place at that base?
Not really, there was just a camp there. Virtually did nothing, just wandered around. The guards just wandered around watching all the time that’s about all.
It must have been a break for you not to be eating


bully beef though.
I got sick of their tucker too, after a while. This bloody rice, I couldn’t eat, I don’t even eat rice today, do I? That’s the first thing I said when we were going to get married, “If you want to get rid of me, give me a feed of rice.”
What did they have with


the rice? What did they have with the rice?
Sort of make it, sort of fry little bits of stuff with it, it was probably nice and tasty for a start but hell, there’s not much variety that they could put with it you know. Virtually there might be two pieces of meat in a pot and all that


type of thing just to give it a bit of flavour. There wouldn’t be much body in it. They reckon there’s plenty of body in rice, don’t they? Well, the way the Japs used to go, it must be.
The Italian guards or the Italian soldiers share their cigarettes with you or talk to you?
What was that?
The Italians there at Benghazi, did they share their cigarettes with you or give you cigarettes or…?
They weren’t too bad. They used to give us a smoke


now and again. Yeah. I always found the Italians very good to us really. A lot of respect for them. Only for them we would probably wouldn’t have survived in Italy at all after we got out. They were good. It depended where the Italians came from


or who they or what their belief was. You see those that were Germany’s way, we used to call them Black Shirts, I think, well that’s we nicknamed them as. They were the ones that were with Germany but the ordinary, mainly northern and that, they were just similar people to what we were ourselves.


They were quite normal people. They didn’t like any ill feelings or things like that. They were quite good people I felt. As I say well probably if they weren’t then we wouldn’t have got helped at all. You see they were the ones that helped us and let us know where the Germans were and all that type of thing otherwise we would have been captured easily. Of course, being the Alps I suppose


helped us. I mean, it’s not like you can just drive anywhere. Everything is walking up in the mountains. There were no roads up where we were. It was too steep. We were just right up out of the foothills and everything.
When the Germans took you as prisoner there at El Alamein, did they look pretty intimidating to you in their outfits, in their uniforms?
Oh yes, some of them were a bit scrubby


looking because they had been well, of course they had had a pretty hard run and everything coming right down from Tobruk and everything. You see they must have went, must have started the push and kept going because we didn’t hear very much of it from where we were up in Syria. They must have got the British or whoever it was on the run and they kept them on the run. Well, that in itself, they wouldn’t have had a chance to spruce themselves up or they probably


their uniforms probably had been sleeping in them day and night for so long and that. But some of them, well the Officer that took us he looked quite smart I thought. Looked, you know, spoke very, fairly good English and also looked just normal and very intelligent type of person.


Actually I’ve never forgotten his face. I can still see him looking at me you know.
We’ll switch tapes. Thanks.
Interviewee: Raymond Jones Archive ID 1338 Tape 06


Were you surprised at the scale of the operation at El Alamein given that you weren’t expecting to go there in the first place? Just in terms of how many troops were getting ready for the show?
Of course, being just an ordinary soldier, we didn’t get told very much so we didn’t know just how big an operation it was, but we did


know that well, we expected it be fairly big for Rommel’s [General Erwin Rommel’s] forces to be able to push down there the way he did. So we expected a reasonably big show.
And when you mentioned to Heather [interviewer] about what you were seeing


at the beginning of the battle, when the British tanks didn’t show up you saw that some of your other mates and companies were having a bit of a hard time. What actually could you see from your viewpoint and where you were?
Well, I couldn’t see anything because in the carriers you’ve got your head down and you drive through a little slot. You don’t look over the top, like your head’s not over the top, your driving through a little slit in the steel. That’s all you can see


and your actually not looking through there to know where you are driving. You are going by directions from your NCO [Non Commissioned Officer], he’s giving you directions, hand signals and all that. So you’re more or less not looking at anything, you’re doing what he tells you to do. So you virtually don’t know what’s outside. He’s the one with his head up and taking a chance.


So it was his fault you ran over the land mine?
Well, that would a point. I never thought of that. Of course, he couldn’t see it, could he? I was only following instructions you see, that’s all you do.
As a Bren gun carrier, did you have any other roles on the Bren gun crew itself or were you purely there to drive sort of thing?
Purely to drive,


that was my job. Nothing else at all.
I suppose you could scuttle out to a place, fire off a couple of rounds and then…?
Yeah, yeah. Whatever the NCO or whoever is running the show, sergeant, corporal, officer, whoever. You just do what he tells you and that’s it. If he tells you, “Turn around and go backwards,” you go backwards or whatever, you know.
And what kind of speed


could the carriers get up to?
About 45 mile an hour, V8 motors in them. They could scoot, I tell you.
That’s not bad.
On tracks, mate, I tell you what, and we used to drive them, well you had to drive them flat because in the desert you probably wouldn’t get that speed out of them in the desert in sand conditions, but this was open road, about


45 miles an hour.
Was there anything any kind of terrain that you had to avoid or that they couldn’t really cope with given that running on tracks and things like that?
Not really, you got go anywhere with them I suppose.
That’s pretty good.
Bar in the water of course, the sea. Anywhere on land, they were pretty versatile


little machine really.
Would you be able to get up pretty steep inclines and things like that?
Well, we never had to steep inclines there so that I wouldn’t know. I would say if there was no, if it wasn’t slippery or anything you would because the tracks on them are not heavy bars, say as


thick as your thumb bars across. They are not like bulldozer track vehicles, they have big grips on them. No, they are not like that, they are fairly smooth running so on any slippery part they would spin, I would say, they would sit there and just spin their tracks. Especially with any ice or something like that, in the mountains I don’t think they would be any good there. As I say I haven’t


done it but I should say no. Sandy tracks I think they should keep going up fairly well. They might have a tendency to dig themselves in if it was too steep but of course, we never had anything like that.
Now how were you generally treated by the Germans when they grabbed the bunch of you and took you prisoner?
All right, all right. The only thing,


I haven’t forgotten this one either. When we were going out first from their trenches before they handed us over to the Italians, they had picks and shovels and things that they had in the front line that they had to cart back and we were made to carry them you know. I don’t know I had a pick and a couple of shovels I suppose over my shoulder. When they called a halt I just dropped mine down and


he pulled out his revolver and he said, “Da nosche,” and he’s waving this thing like this and I thought, “Is he fair dinkum or isn’t he?” You know. But he warned me by hell not to do it again. Did I ever tell you that?
Yeah, I thought, “You’re up Jonesy, you’re gone.”
And you knew what he was talking about?
Oh yeah, he give me the message all right. As far as treating


us was concerned, quite good. Never used any brutality or nothing.
Did they try to question you or interrogate you at any stage?
Yeah, the sergeants there but they just, get asked a couple of question, you know when I said, “How many Australians?” And they said, “There’s thousands of them.” So many divisions, or something like that. You know, that sort of thing,


and they said, “We thought you were going home,” and I said, “Yeah, so did we.” That about it but I think they questioned the ones in charge more. They might ask you a few odd things to coincide with the officers that’s about all.
And how about the Italians when you got handed over to them. How did they treat you?


As I said before I can’t say anything against the Italians I really can’t. I might have struck lucky ones. I mean there is good and bad, whether you are Australian or who you are, there’s no two ways about that, as we found out. I can’t say anything against them. I’m quite satisfied with the way I got treated. I was a prisoner to them wasn’t I? I couldn’t demand what I wanted.


What did you observe of I guess the way the Italians got on with the Germans?
I can’t answer that one. I wouldn’t really know. The ordinary Italians that were our guards in the prison camp, well I never ever heard them say anything good about Germans. I don’t think they wanted the war so probably they were with,


you know, saying anything about them I wouldn’t know. Because I think most of them were forced into the war, the Italians. Take it from there I suppose, you know.
Just before lunch we were talking a little bit about luck. In one of our breaks you were telling us a little bit about luck and it was around here that you had one of you, or one of your first brushes with luck


in terms of your in the holding camp there and you ended up getting split onto the two Red Cross ships.
Oh yes, that’s when we left like for Benghazi going to Italy. We were on two separate boats and our sergeant was on one and of course, they did separate when you went into a camp they sort of separated the


Privates or whatever, or if you were an officer or a sergeant they got a bit better treatment or whether they had to be interrogated or what I wouldn’t know. We heard explosions from down, we were right down in the hole of the ship and some guards must have give the message that we had been torpedoed,


or the other boat had been torpedoed or something. We didn’t get hit thank goodness, and when we did get to Italy, Sicily or somewhere around that area, we came in the bottom of Italy somewhere there and we were told then that it had been torpedoed that we didn’t know any results or anything. Anyhow,


while I was in this holding camp once we got into Italy, I don’t know how many days after, a couple of weeks after I forget, anyhow our sergeant came in. We knew he was all right and he told us then all about it. He said, “Oh, it was terrible. They were just swimming, I was just swimming around and all the water just poured in.” Because they put a whatsaname [something] straight through the hull, must have blown a big hole and it filled up with water


in seconds. It didn’t sink. They finished up they towed it into Crete was the nearest port I think to where they were when they got hit and they must have been brought from there over to Italy. So he was very, very lucky. I’ve got this idea that he was only one of 14, there was 14 got out of it or something but I don’t know whether he meant the whole lot or whether it was just


the hull that they were in because most of those ships have sections, I think you know, were there. I really don’t know but he said he was one of 14 that got out of that.
And how many at a guess would you reckon would have been on the ship to start with?
I suppose I have heard I can not remember really. It would quite a few though wouldn’t it? A hundred or two I suppose. I wouldn’t know I’m just saying. Probably would be. It must have been terrible.


These were Red Cross ships weren’t they?
We don’t know.
That’s something that I’ve heard they were Red Cross ships but I don’t know. You can only go on what you hear and I sort of wondered whether they were. Why would our subs attack them? Well, America subs probably. I wouldn’t know what subs, but probably American. Whether they were


marked or not, they should have been marked Red Cross. Well somebody would know I suppose but I wouldn’t.
It seems a strange occurrence that they were marked that they would have actually been targeted.
They shouldn’t have opened fire on them if they were. So perhaps they weren’t. I don’t know anyway.
Going back to the camp at Benghazi for a moment or two,


what was the size of it? How big was that holding camp at Benghazi?
I just can’t remember really.
How many fellows would they have been holding?
I would only be making a guess there mate.
That’s all right.
Well, I’d say 300, but I really can’t remember. It mightn’t have been that, it might have been more.


And what kind of conditions did you have as a private as a POW in terms of quarters or sleeping?
Well once we got into our proper camp in Italy there quite good. Nice barracks and everything. Double tier bunks. Oh yeah, quite good really I thought for that. Housed


quite well. Food was a little bit lean, but actually they didn’t have the food themselves let alone give the prisoners much. They were restricted with food in Italy and everything like at that stage.
Did you know that at the time?
Did you know that at the time?
Well I don’t know whether we did or not.


I suppose we did hear from different ones, yeah. But as I say you got enough to live on and everything. You didn’t get very fat on it but enough to keep going. Enough energy to walk around all day and exercise and things like that and then.
And what sort


of tucker did they actually feed you?
Mainly based on rice or macaroni something like that. Very little in the way of any meat. You might have got a flavouring or stuff like that. I found that the Italians made up reasonable meals out of just about nothing you know. They, well the old saying was they get you living on the smell of an oily


rag. Ever heard that one? Yeah they used to make meals reasonably tasty I thought with a very, without anything you know. You see I’ve even, I’ve even said to Linda many times all the stuff we used now to flavour things in the old times the old pepper and salt and


that was it or near enough. That’s where you got the flavour in a meal, wasn’t it. No, I can’t really say that the, I say it wasn’t top food or anything. It was edible and it was better than bloody starving anyway.
Somebody is still feeding you.
That’s right yeah and didn’t have to pay for it neither.


I mean they made a pretty flavoursome meals. I mean, was it, were they just using pepper or salt or would they throw in tomatoes or…?
Well a lot of it was based on tomatoes and stuff like that. Flavour of that type of thing. A lot of the rice was sort of fried with a bit of tomato, make a bit of flavour. Used to get the flavour out of that


but when you’re eating it day in and day out you get sort of sick of it all the time. There wasn’t a big variety of food, put it that way. But we got through.
Did you ever get as sick of that as you did bully beef back in Tobruk?
Well, we never, I don’t think I seen bully beef again after I come out of Tobruk. I didn’t want to anyway.
That’s what I mean.


You mentioned you wouldn’t eat rice again but would you eat bully beef again?
At times I do now. Linda says, you know, “I might cook up a little bit of rice for myself,” and I’ll have a bit of it because she likes it. It just depends on how it’s, what it’s with you know.
And how many meals would you get a day in north Italy?


I just can’t recall. Did we used to have three meals a day? I think we probably did. I can’t remember for sure. I think we used to have something in the morning. I can’t remember.
And how did it, how did it work


in the camp just in terms of your own men. You said that they separated the privates and more senior officers but did you all mix still in any way, shape or form? Was there any chain of command still maintained say within the Australian soldiers?
I’m just trying to think now. We had somebody in our


command like one of our own, being an officer. As to whether they, yeah they would be in all the same area but their huts and that would more or less be in a secluded group type of thing. I don’t know meal wise whether they had somewhere to eat special. I can’t


really recall that. Probably they would have, I would say.
Did you mix with your senior officers very much in the camps?
No, no, no that was, I don’t know whether we could have or not. I just can’t recall. They might have been in a different compound to, I think now that I’m


thinking back, I think they had more than one compound anyway. They weren’t in, I’m talking about the main prison camp in Italy when we finished up getting right into Italy. That was up the north. There were different compounds. I wouldn’t know how many in each compound I wouldn’t have a clue. Probably three to four compounds.


You see if everybody was in the one I suppose, start a corroboree [meeting] of any sort, I suppose, couldn’t they? So they separated us a bit. That might have been a bit of the idea. Not too many in one. Well your guards, they were up on a, like at the end of the corner you know, pillar box built up and they look down you see. They weren’t just on the ground looking through


the wire, they were up above it so they could more or less see their area around the whole lot.
And what, the perimeter I guess.
Barbed wire.
Barbed wire?
An entanglement of barbed wire and if you got through, you had another one to get through. They might have been mines in between them for all I know.
Was there ever any talk


amongst you fellows about escaping or…?
Yes, just about on at one stage. These huts that we were in, they were up off the ground like on stilts, wooden stilts sort of things and this went on for quite a while. They weren’t quite, they’d dug a tunnel. This was in the


next compound to ours and they had it to the stage, they had to bring it out and they were spreading it all around under these huts all the dirt. It’s marvellous you know. I think back of this and they say, “What did they do with the dirt?” This is how some blokes work their nut [head], you know. And they had a hell of a time. They weren’t


very far from getting to the, where they were, nearly outside when they got found out. They didn’t quite make it and that’s the only one that I know of, of any attempted escape.
Was there a punishment for those ?
Oh yes. I don’t know what it was. Yeah, they, well, put in like a special place for a week


and limited rations and all that type of thing. I don’t know exactly what but that’s the type of thing they used to do.
And how, I mean you say the buildings, they tunnelled. Where did the tunnel actually start?
Well they dug a trap, like a, cut a section of the floor out. Wooden floors and had a trapdoor there. It’s marvellous


what they do. I heard or I’ve seen films of different things of different escapes and after knowing what they did over there, I can quite believe it you know. Wouldn’t have been great and you just got out and they say, “Got you.” Wouldn’t that be heartbreaking? Which I suppose did happen in many cases.


you mentioned the bunks that there were two bunks in each. How many fellows would be in one hut?
Once again I would be doing a bit of a guess. There was usually double bunks, like two on the bottom and two on top. I’d


say up to 100 in a hut, could be. Let me think. The huts were fairly long. Probably 80 something like that roughly.
That’s a lot. And what kind of


well I guess provisions were you allowed to have? Were you allowed things like razors or cigarettes or anything like that in the camp?
Yes, we were allowed cigarettes. I suppose we used to shave. I don’t ever remember ever having a beard. Makes you wonder whether they ever let you have anything like that, wouldn’t it? Must have had. I can’t remember.


I must have shaved. I can’t really remember to be honest with you.
You never had a beard?
Not that I can recall, no. I never used to grow that many whiskers I was only just 21, I suppose. I had a few. I remember when I first joined up they used to come around and do inspections one morning, you know the old tins hats


and they had a wide strip and I’d keep that around my chin and that’s the only place I had whiskers. They didn’t know whether I’d had a shave or not when I first joined up. I could get away with it. No, as far as I know we used to shave and everything. We used to get Red Cross parcels. Not that there was anything like that in them I suppose.


Used to get issued with them now and again. Actually when I look back that little bit of addition on our ordinary food wasn’t bad really.
Do you remember what sort of things you would get in a Red Cross parcel? What sort of things you would get in a Red Cross parcel?
Odd tins of stuff, chocolate say. Things like that you know. A few biscuits. Quite nice they were.


A little variety of everything really. A real Christmas treat.
And you mentioned to Heather before briefly that you were allowed to write home or at least something to home. How much were you allowed to write or what did you write on? What could you say?
I don’t know if they supplied us with any paper. I suppose they must have now. You couldn’t write a lot of course it was


all censored too you see so you couldn’t put what you like in it. We all knew that. Even some of the letters that my mother got there were little bits cut out of them. Just cut a piece out. What it was I wouldn’t remember and she wouldn’t know because it was cut out. Not very much was cut out. You know something you might have mentioned that you’d think was all right and evidently they didn’t think it was


well they would just cut it out. They’d still send the letter though, which was quite good really.
Did you remember some of things that you wrote home about? What did you tell your mum?
I just told her that going quite okay. Not to worry. Try and boost her up as much as I could. That I was doing well.
And what wast he daily routine in the prisoner of war camp in Italy?


In the main camp. Roll call in the mornings and I suppose, well.
When would they get you up?
I can’t remember the actual time. Fairly early though. Didn’t let you sleep in any. It was fairly early in the morning. I don’t know what time it was now, I can’t remember. But virtually all day. There was no working


parties there at all. You might have to peel potatoes or help a little bit with things like that, but that was only periodically. Pretty well walk around and exercise and do what you like more or less.
How did you pass the time?
Just keep talking and mixing around and see this one, see that one I suppose.


Talk about old times or times what you were going to do when you got out. I suppose that’s how we done it. I actually can’t remember now. That was, what was that? ‘42. You see, I wasn’t, I don’t know just how long I was in that camp.


I can’t remember how long I was in there. I wasn’t such a great time. Might have been three to four months or more, might have been a little big longer. Then they sent out working parties. You’ve heard about that haven’t you?
You’ve mentioned it briefly.
Well I don’t think there’s much more I can tell you about the main camp. We got sent out on working parties. They just picked out, they just called your name


out and out you went. I think there was round about 50 in our compound. There were several of these parties called out and we were sent down on these rice fields sort of virtually in Italy and they were just like say a farmhouse somewhere here. There were several buildings and shed where they house machinery and different things like that. Tractors and whatnot. One particular


area they’d built a compound like a, put barbed wire out around. Say chain and a half long and about a chain long I suppose and it was a two-storey type of thing where at the back of it they might have come in and with implements or something, and then the top party, we used to go upstairs and that’s where out bunks were.


They were up off the ground, I suppose it gave the guards a chance, we couldn’t just rush out the bottom of a night or anything, and we used to camp up there and like exercise, one would go for a walk. We had a little bit of area to walk around you know down the bottom. The guards, there was, they’d have a


couple of guards on at a time. It was only a small area you see. Usually two guards on at a time and they appeared to be quite decent chaps because at this stage we were starting to learn a little bit of German, we could understand a little bit and we used to have a chat to them. They seemed to be quite reasonable chaps and then the, there was a special time. I don’t know what time it was in the morning


they used to call the padroni, you know, the boss of the show used to come around and he’d be ready to take us out to the rice fields and the guard used to march us out there and get in and do your work you know. Hoeing out and making channels for the water for the rice fields. They’re all furrowed, I suppose you’d know.


Specifically just how you were doing the work that you?
How you were doing the work that they asked you to do? How were actually attending to the rice fields? You were making channels for the…?
They had a, well the Padroni would tell you, show you what they wanted do and everything. I was a bit lucky


I didn’t do much of that. They asked if any could drive a tractor and I couldn’t get my hand up quick enough because you see, I was a Bren gun carrier driver, you see, so I got the job of driving the tractor and ploughing up the fields. I was laughing [I had an easy time].
Cushy job.
I was lucky there. So that’s all I done there. There was, I can remember there was two or three days there. The paddocks weren’t very big.


Well from here say 200–300 yards would be small fields. I often used to be right over the other side you know and I’d look back and often used to think you know, “I wonder if I have time to get away.” I thought of it, you know. If I done it, they’d see the tractor stop. I’d think, I wonder if I


can jump off and let the tractor go and hope it would go straight. I used to think of all these different things, you know. Anyway, I must have whether I give the thought away or whether I wasn’t game enough, I don’t really know, and I thought hell I’d be on my own because all the other blokes are back there, so easiest thing to stay here. I, anyhow, in the finish I didn’t do it. I kept, I though, “Well, I’m


not doing too bad here driving a tractor, am I?” Anyway, as time went on so that’s, that would still be in 19, what would it be by then, still 1942.
Did your meals change when you went out to the work camps?
Did who?
Did your meals change when you were out on the working party? Were you still getting fed the same thing?
I think, probably


a little bit better. Yeah, it was pretty reasonable out there really. You got, nothing flash but it was enough to eat. Not much of a change of diet because I think the Italians were their basic things were rice, macaroni, spaghetti you know those things and a bit of tomato flavouring, tomato puree. All that type of gear. That’s what they basically,


their basic meals are. It wasn’t too bad really when I think back, we were bloody lucky to get what we got I suppose. As I say, they weren’t that well-off for food themselves, overall from what I’ve heard since anyway. I suppose we were pretty lucky. Anyway, we used to get Red Cross parcels also sent there


so that was very helpful.
This rice farm that was there, where were the actual owners of the farm and I guess…?
They lived not, only just, well it was all in one area, say 300 to 400 yards, you know. All the buildings you know. There were two brothers actually were on this place. I think one was the main


owner, I think his brother, he was more or less, he was the one that used to take us out in the fields. The other bloke, Dieter, he was more a real gentlemen type of a bloke. I think he was the bloke that had the money, you know. I think his brother was more or less working for him type of thing.


But they were quite good, they were never any hassles. Never any hassles with them at all.
And in some ways it almost sounds like a pleasant existence.
Yes, actually, I often think back now and when you hear some of the things with the other prisoners in different places, we were very, very lucky because we did not really, I suppose


there was hardships we endured, but you wasn’t ill treated for a start unless you done anything stupid I suppose, well, you expect to be ill treated, don’t you? No, I was lucky that we got into the right hands that we did. Of course, going from there, well that’s all we virtually done all the time there was that


and until when they signed an Armistice there, that was in 1943, September, I think it was if I remember right. Our guards, they didn’t want…
Actually Ray, I might pause you there because we are about to run out of tape and that’s really a wonderful place to stop, and I’ll get you to tell Heather about that one.
Interviewee: Raymond Jones Archive ID 1338 Tape 07


Ray, in your experiences what do you think was the worst thing about being a POW?
Well, just the thought of being a POW, I suppose. I didn’t sound very nice at the time, being taken a prisoner of war. Because a lot people didn’t know the circumstances of how we were taken at the time, they could have thought


that we just ran out and put our hands up or something like this. You always think of all these sort of things, but in our case it was unavoidable. The sergeant thought he’d done the right thing and that was it. I’ve always had that feeling about it. Otherwise I suppose lack of food


I suppose. Living conditions while I was a POW. I can’t think of anything really worse than those I suppose. Can you give me any idea what your looking for?
That’s what I meant was that you know the worst thing about being a POW is perhaps as you were saying, just being a POW and people not understanding how you became


a POW. I suppose also you didn’t know how long you were going to be a POW.
No, we did not. We didn’t have a clue because you didn’t much news really of how the war was going on. The blokes that were clever enough to make up a bit of wireless set of their own and that type of thing. It’s marvellous what some chaps made out of nothing in the prison camps you know. Cluey


blokes around as you know but some of the guards that we got to know. We could talk a little bit of Italian, well, I suppose we did get a little bit of information, but whether we could believe all that, well I don’t know. I can’t think of anything otherwise, I suppose. I was never, ever, no brutality or anything


not like you hear with the Japs with some of those prisoners. That must have been awful what some of them went through really. I suppose I’m very lucky.
Yes, it sounds like, of course it wasn’t a nice experience, but it could have been a lot worse.
A lot worse that’s what I say. After what you hear the stuff with some of the others we were very fortunate, very fortunate indeed.
Can you tell


us about what your mother received about you? What did your family receive about you becoming a POW? Did she get that news?
Yes, that’s in those little slips there. They got news from the army first of all, “Missing, believed prisoner of war,” but they only got that from some of the others must have known that we got out of the carrier. They didn’t know


really whether we had been killed afterwards but I suppose after a certain time when our bodies weren’t found or nothing like that then they assumed prisoner of war. That’s the wording she got first and then finally when word got through that I was a prisoner then she knew that I was a prisoner in Italy and that was up until


when this working party, when we got out of there well then she had no news from September 1943 until well probably the end of May or June 1945. So its all that time where she did not know what had happened, whether I had been killed or shot trying to escape or, she wouldn’t know. She wouldn’t know what had happened to me.


Tell us about the Armistice that was signed when?
Italy. As I said before, our guards were just down-to-earth people they were forced into the army. We used to get a bit of news from them. We weren’t allowed to get a wireless in our compound but we’d hear the news from them. It got to the stage where they


said that they were Italy wanted to sign an armistice and they’d be out of there soon and all this and when it did get right to the closing stages where the Armistice was going to be signed they said the Germans will be around rounding up all the POW camps and taking them to Italy and all of us soldiers will be forced into the army.


So they weren’t stopping there. They were going to head for the Alps and meet up with, join the partisan gangs and that type of thing so they said, “It’s up to you chaps what you want.” We said, “We’re not stopping here mate.” So we done the same thing. We broke up into small groups, there was five of us in our group and of course we still had our army


clothing. We’d get that through the Red Cross and first thing, most of the area around there were the rice fields and people similar to what we’d been and negotiating with so we would go into one and ask them could they give us some civilian clothes. That was our first move which


they were quite happy to have our clothes because they were real good material and everything and they said, I suppose they would be taking a risk too if they were caught with them. But there was no problems there, so we all got into the civilian clothes and we just kept heading north. At that stage we knew that the partisans, like we had been told we up and through the Alps and that beyond there was Switzerland


and Switzerland was a neutral country during the war and it was pretty well known that if you could get into Switzerland you’d be just interned or something until the end of the war, perhaps might even sent home. We didn’t know, of course, that at least you would be in a neutral country. So we just headed north thinking Switzerland or partisans or whatever. Just, “Get up in the mountains, get off the roads


where there’s roadways,” so the Germans couldn’t then just come along and pick you up so we just travelled of night-time through the fields and kept off the main roads. And finally we got to the foothills of the mountains and first of all we met up with a chap who had woodcutters up in the foothills cutting wood and they used to


send it down through the valley to pumping stations you know for electricity business and all that so we done that for a while until we met up with some partisans and finally we went with them and no and again we used go off down to a village. You got to know you’re way around and that and the movements of what was going on. The people got to know


us pretty well and we sort of trusted most them then because they seemed to be okay and we sort of done this until late in 1945, not late in 1945 when the war was getting to a stage because by then the partisans were pretty well organised. They were even dropping English officers and guns


and all that type of stuff by air to certain areas and they were pretty well organised and we finally got the news that the Americans were at such and such a place and we knew it wasn’t such a long way from where we were and there was no, the Germans at that stage


were on the run so they weren’t up anywhere near where were because they would want to be getting out you see. So us five confiscated a car and we headed off down to meet the Americans. We were silly, really. I’ve thought of it since, silly, we got too anxious I suppose. We should have waited around until it was all cleaned up. Anyway we were going down this road this


day and we were all armed at this stage. We all had rifles, you see, and we came around this bend in the road and we seen a lot of tanks on the side of the road, just off the side of the road. We couldn’t turn back at this stage. We could of but it would have looked a bit suspicious. We might get a bullet up the behind so we just kept going along.


Pulled all the rifles in because we had them out the doors, like those big gangsters, you know. We seen these soldiers on the road.
Just one sec, Ray. Sorry about that Ray, you were telling us about giving yourselves up to the Americans.
We’d never seen an American soldier and of course, you know our steel helmets,


they are different. The German ones they come right down over the ears and these helmets, bloody Germans that’s their helmets, so like the Americans. Anyhow they didn’t seem to be taking any notice and at this stage we were down to crawling pace because they were wandering all around and there’s tanks or on both sides of the road and we could hear them talking and I said, “That’s English talk.”


We could understand it, you see. Finally we convinced ourselves that they were Americans. I think we saw the stars on the tank or something like that so we stopped and got out and they just sort of looked at us and never said nothing. And finally we said, “Are you Americans?” “Yeah, yeah.” You know, like Yanks talk,


and they’re looking at us as if, “Gee, these blokes can speak English.” They thought we were Italians. So we told them then who we were and they finally got their officer or something and finally reckoned we were fair dinkum enough and they couldn’t do enough. The cigarettes were pouring out and, “Do you want something to eat?” And all this. So we just


left the car where it was and went with them.
Hand on a second now, Ray, there’s a lot that happened in that time before you met the Americans. Can you tell us when you first went up there into the foothills of the Alps, did you take anything with you from the camp where you were a POW? Did you take food or water?
No, we just scrounged along the way from the people or if we seen a field of vegetables. There


was a lot of cherry trees, I can remember getting up the cherry trees and eat a feed of cherries. We’d scrounge a lot of your food going along. But we took a chance sometimes and go into what-its-name [somewhere] and say who we were, because we knew by then that these were ordinary Italian people and they were pretty good because we’d have enough experience with them at this stage, and ask them for food,


bread, cheese and stuff like that. So that’s how we more or less lived until we got up the foothills and of course, once we got up there this bloke that we went on the woodcutting with well he used to supply all the food.
Now what happened with this chap? He basically saw you and now you were just Australians, then that’s before you, you did meet up with some partisans later didn’t you?
Later, later yes.
Was he suspicious of you?


No, not really because previous to that we had got in contact with someone further back who could speak English and he more or less told us of this chap and said if we wanted to stay in the mountains, he was looking for workmen to do this work and they, he assured us he was quite genuine


and that’s how we actually got onto him in the first place. So when we actually got to this little village, a place called Goduloi, we had never heard of it and that’s how we contacted him in the first place. Well he was genuine, quite okay. Nothing suspicious about him whatsoever.


I suppose we took chances, but I mean, you’ve got to do something when you’re like this. You’ve got to get by somehow and you take your chances and if it’s wrong and that’s it. We did work with him for a few, might have been weeks even. Quite a while and that’s when we met up with a couple of these partisan chaps


and they said, “Why don’t you come with us?” and said, “Yeah, that’ll do us.” So that’s what we done.
So you actually were chopping wood for this fellow up in the foothills. That’s funny. That’s almost a full circle sort of thing because you’re dad used to chop wood.
Funny thing, yeah, yeah.
Did he teach you how to chop wood?
No, well, I mean, we’re all country people, and as a matter of fact one of our chaps was a,


used to do log chopping before he joined the army. He could really use an axe this fellow.
You see those, I’m from Sydney, and you go to the Royal Easter Show and you see the blokes chopping the wood. You mean like that? That kind of wood?
Oh no, not the big logs of wood like that. It was stuff about that round and down to that and they used to put it in


bundles and take a good man to put it on your shoulder. It would be pretty heavy and then they had flying foxes, you know, from one valley to another on wire cables, and they’d wrap a bundle up and put a hook on it and down the bottom. Big buffers made down there with plenty of cushion. Leaves from the trees and all that


and there’d be somebody there to put it on the next one and that’s how they used to transport these wood down. It’s quite amazing really what some people do, you know.
Did you want to have a go on a flying fox just for fun?
I thought about it and I thought, “Hell, no, no way.” I did think about it, you’re right, and I reckon it would have been all right, but I’d want something to slow myself up when I was getting to the other end.
Not just a tree.
I did think about it.


So you were with this wood chopping man for a couple of weeks before you met up with the partisans?
Probably would have been a bit longer. Three to four, I can’t remember exactly. Then the idea was, we said to them, “Well, we did originally think about going to Switzerland,” and he said, “Well, you’ll have easy access where we roamed the mountains up here,” because they couldn’t


go down to the villages because the Germans would have come along and rounded them up. So we had several opportunities of going to Switzerland, but we ummed and aahed [were indecisive] and we didn’t know at that stage whether we would be interned or what would happen when we got there. But we knew at this stage that we were free and I think that freedom is everything really when you’ve been locked up. You just


feel that you don’t want to be caught again you know. The other thing was we also had in our mind that we knew if we got caught we would be shot, there would be no taking us POW again because the Germans had warned, put warnings in all these places there we’d been through and the Italians used to tell us any POWs that hadn’t reported in by a certain date would be shot.


So we also knew that so it was a do what you think best at the time. I suppose thinking back now our best move would have been to shoot through Switzerland as quick as we could and take the chance because at least we knew we would be in a neutral country but still pretty young and any adventure is exciting you know. Anyway we must have done the right thing because we got back.


That’s right. I think I would have hotfooted it up the hills into Switzerland.
Thinking back I think we should have really but there again we didn’t and so that’s it, but we were lucky we could get away.
Now tell us about meeting the group of partisans that you did up in the Alps. The other Italians that we on the run.
They also didn’t know who we were at the time.


They were a bit wary of who we were at the time until we told them what we were doing and of course, they made their contact and found out we were really Australians and not spies or Germans or anything else.
But how did you actually meet them? Run into them if you like?
They roam around from village


to village. They also do a lot of this for their own living and their own food and stuff and they used to go from valley to valley a lot. Because sometimes the Germans used to make raids on certain valleys where these partisans were but they would always have somebody, like scouts out and they would always get the word and they would just hop over,


go somewhere else. Dodge them more or less or wait. At one stage when we were with them they were coming up and we just belted hell out of them with firearms until they were starting to get closer and closer and then we just out, retreated and went over to another valley. Because they knew all the tracks and everything in the mountains whereas the others don’t.


Some of them mountaineers or whatever they call them. No they have another name for them. Mountaineers. I can’t think, I thought there was another name. They sort of know, they virtually know the mountains the same as we know the roads around here. They know every track and valley in them, I mean that was their life.


And did you get to know any of the locals?
Yes, especially in this one place Goduloi. The chap that had the hotel there, we got to know him very well. Him and his wife. They were only, I suppose in their 40s then. 10 years older than us or 15 or something like that. We were


only in middle 20s most of us then or early 20s and they were very good to us also. When things were quite they’d take us in for a few drinks and even give us a feed type of thing. They were very, very good to us. It was only a small village. I suppose a street 500 yards long and that’s about all. Half a dozen shops in it.


A few people lived there.
I wanted to talk more about these other partisans that you met up with. How long was it until you met up with them from your let’s say, escape from the camp?
Oh, vicinity of say, a few weeks I should say. Three to four weeks something like that. Oh, no might have been a bit longer, say six weeks.


It was a couple of weeks before we got up into the hills and about a month, yeah at least six weeks. At least, yeah.
Did you and your other four mates think that was safety in numbers being with them? Did you and your other four mates think it was better to be with these other partisans because there’s safety in numbers?
Well we sort of thought that way and they had enough armament and stuff


to keep anybody off for quite a while in the hills. It’s not like it was open country where you could just barge in the hills there. There was only single tracks to walk. There were no roads to put vehicles through them anywhere. So it was pretty safe in that respect. And of course, we heard also at this stage what the partisans were doing.


They were getting banded together in a pretty good group. They were in contact with the, what was the other crown, Marshal Tito was the head of them, some other country there.
Some kind of underground group?
No, Marshal Tito was the, they were partisans also. Was it Yugoslavs?


I know it as well as anything too but they were in contact with him. The chap that was in charge of these Italian partisans, his name was Muscatelli. He was the head of the Italian partisans, and Marshal Tito.


I don’t know it was Yugoslavs. It’ll come to me afterwards.
Did you get to meet Muscatelli?
No, no, no I didn’t get to meet him. He was in a headquarters of his own.
When you would go out, just to give us an idea of what you would do. You and the other four Aussies, was it four Aussies?
Yeah, actually one


was in the New Zealand army but he was an Australian by birth.
Oh, Aussie.
Aussie, of course he was.
For all the Kiwis listening. So you and the other four mates would go off with how many partisans? How would it work on a daily sort of schedule?
You wouldn’t go off anywhere virtually. Normally they were just in a


valley group. There might be a couple of little huts there. These huts were just made of bits of anything that mainly the Italian people used to use them a lot to take their stock. There’s a lot of goats in the Alps there. They used


to have herds of goats and take them up to the, up the mountain and they used to have these huts there were they used to sleep and cook a meal and that type of thing. There was quite a few of them throughout the Alps and that where they used to more or less stop. Half the time you’d be just sleeping out anywhere. You wouldn’t be in a hut or nothing. Nothing to sleep on. I’ve laid down on snow even. Been


that tired.
With a blanket?
No. No blankets. What we used to do a lot, these huts, all the leaves from the trees and everything that would dropped off, the Italian people would have these goats and things they had big barns like built out with a cover over it, like a roof. And all these leaves they’d rake up and they’d


put like store them in these big barns for mainly I think when real winter was on. Whether they, what they used to do with them I really wouldn’t know. The stock wouldn’t eat them I would think. They’d put them in there for some other reason I don’t know but we used to often sleep in there. You’d just jump in a heap of these leaves and it used to be warm in there.


Real warm you know. But we, we never ever had any blankets or anything up there. You used to just have to get somewhere. You’d get that cold and then you’d get up and walk around and get your legs and that moveable again and then have another camp. Did that for that long you know.
What about for instance strategies that the Italian partisans had,


I mean did they say to you, “Okay, now listen there some Germans coming into a village we want to kill them,” or something?
No, no never anything like that, no. If they knew it was too many, like to handle they would just scarper out [escape].
You know, get out and get over to another valley. They kept dodging any big groups.


What they were mainly doing, if they knew of any transport sort of thing coming through a road where they could be up top, they used to do that and throw down grenades and open fire on them and all that type of thing because they had plenty of time to get away by the time they stopped their vehicles, got out and got up there, they would be another few hundred yards over the next valley. That’s the type of things that they were doing, and


also they caught up with a lot of German spies. Well, when I say German spies, even probably like the Italians that were more or less with you know, Germany’s side. I’ve known them to go down capture these blokes and just walk them up through the hills of a night and just


bang behind the ear and over they’d go.
How would they find them out?
I suppose they had their scouts. They wouldn’t even get a question. Like evidently make sure what they were doing because it was definitely done. There was no taking them back and interrogating them or ask them questions. They had


enough evidence that they, what these people were doing and they used to just pop them off, just like that. Pretty ruthless I know but they used to do it.
Were you ever witness to that?
No, never seen. Did never see it, no.
And what about any conflict? Did you end up in any conflict while you were on the run?


really. We always got away. A couple of times when we did have to try and hold the Germans back when they were coming up the village but we were told to get out with the others and away we went so we never got that close that we looked like getting caught really. Just had to be that move ahead.
What about women? Did you see


any women in all this time?
No, no.
So you didn’t have any girlfriends or local girls?
No, no.
Why are you smiling?
I was too bloody young and innocent.
The Italians are supposed to be quite pretty. You didn’t meet any?
I might have once or twice you know.


Didn’t get down to the villages enough that was the trouble.
And what about the partisans, were they all men or were there some women?
No, all men. Never seen any women with any of them, no. They were only, they’d be, they wouldn’t be in one big group. There would be bands of them. There’d be perhaps 20-30 sometimes, a dozen sometimes. Different little areas. They used to keep


contact I suppose with each other and this is how they could dodge from one place to another when the Germans came up looking for them. The Germans knew they were up there but had to be pretty good to catch them. They knew their own country I suppose. Knew where they were going.
Did you become friends with any of them Ray?
Well, yes I suppose we could say yes. We were very friendly


with them.
I’m just trying to get a picture here so forgive my ignorance. You say they are small bands of men, so could it be that you would see the same band of men mostly all the time but that would change?
That would change. It wouldn’t be the same all the time. I suppose one


in particular we were with more than the others. Sometimes we’d say, “We’re going to be down the village for a few days, will you still be around this area?” “Oh, yeah if we’re not here we will be over at so-and-so.” We sort of got to know the valleys to you know and we used to do that sometimes. We’d go down the village when things were quite and go into this blokes pub and have a few drinks.
Did the locals know you


Yes, yes they all knew us.
What would they say? “Hello Aussies”?
No, they knew us by name. They all knew us by name.
How did you end up telling them


that you’d taken off from a POW camp? You couldn’t speak Italian and they couldn’t speak English so how I’m curious to know how you ended up telling them.
When you say we couldn’t speak Italian, we could speak enough to make ourselves understood by this stage. We knew, well basic things to say, “G’day,” to anybody or who you was. Most of the words are fairly easy really when you come to work them out. You just add a little bit


to them. Like Australians say, “Australianee.” A lot of words like that where you just add an ‘i’ or you just cut something off. Because there’s a lot of dialects over there. That was the biggest problem. You’d get a village here and another one a mile away and they’d speak a different language altogether. Different dialect and strange really.


Most of the dialects you can basically follow them from the Italian but a lot of the words are clipped short. Instead of saying the full word they cut a couple of the letters off. But you sort of get used to it after a while you can understand what they mean. Even there is some many Italians down here and down the bowling club


I often get talking and say, “Yeah, yep, yeah,” and they say, “You haven’t forgotten it all,” and I say, “No. When I hear you blokes talking I can understand what you basically, some of it that your talking about.” So you get the, you don’t lose it completely. For me to talk in Italian now, I’d probably have a hell of a job but I could if I listened, I can make out what he means.


Lots of times and I can answer him but I couldn’t just speak it in a fluent sentence.
Was there a time when you were up there in the Alps that you didn’t have any food?
I’d say yes to that. I might only be a day, but you’d go and do something about it anyway. It wasn’t hard really


because even in the foothills, when you got down into the foothills most of the Italians were self supporting. They had their own vineyards, vegetable plots, perhaps their own goat or a cow that they milked made their own cheese and things like that. They’re mostly self supporting so you wouldn’t have much worry about really being without food completely there. They


were pretty good that way really.
What about when the Italian partisans wanted to stop the Germans on the path someway or do something like that, would they call for you? Say, “Okay, Aussies you can help us out next Tuesday,” or something?
Oh they used to ask us if we wanted to. They didn’t tell us. They were pretty good that way.


They didn’t expect us to do virtually anything if we didn’t want to. We were quite happy that we sort of went along with them and did our own little thing, and if we wanted to go blow something up then that was our…they didn’t force you to do nothing. It was really a pretty easy going life when you come to think of it. Up to a point as long as you didn’t get caught. As long as you


didn’t get caught it was good.
But you worked alongside these Italian partisans quite a lot?
Yes, oh yes. As I say there wasn’t that many times when you done anything. If you knew there was any Germans around then you’d try and do what you could to hassle them or go against them. That was the main


object, I think, of the partisans right through. They weren’t up there to well to go and go and attack the Germans at all. They were to hassle them and stop them from doing things. Well, that’s the way that I seen it.
Okay we’ll stop there and switch tapes.
Interviewee: Raymond Jones Archive ID 1338 Tape 08


Okay Ray, with the time with the partisans that you had, what principally were you duties or things that you were actually doing on a day-to-day basis?
Day to day? Well, virtually nothing really. We’d talk or go for a walk up to the mountain or something like that. I mean if there was no enemy, no Germans around


well you wouldn’t have any basic things to do at all. Put the time into how you felt and they all used to do the same.
What are some of the places that you, if you, would you stay anywhere for any particular length of time?
At any particular village or something? I would say Goduloi would be the only place we got to know.


I think everybody in the village knew us and we felt that safe there and that’s why we never ventured to go looking for any new sources. We were quite happy. That’s mainly the main place. Goduloi was the name of it. I don’t know how you spell it. Goduloi


or something like that.
Even with Goduloi you were spending most of your time around there or you know in place. Where would you actual sleep and hold up?
Up in one of the these little villages and huts up in the mountains. I would always go back up there at night. Yep.
And when you weren’t harassing the Germans what were some of the things that you were actually doing?
We did go and get,


I was going to get like in the later part of the war mainly when we got different things, the partisans had this area where they used to drop these things like guns and ammunitions and things like that. They even dropped a couple of officers off there at one stage that took control of some of the partisans. Whether they were British or what I don’t know. I only heard it.
Sorry what happened?
They dropped,


they did all this by parachutes you know. They’d fly over. They had their contacts with the outside British or whatever and dropped their ammunition and I think they dropped a couple of officers by parachute to sort of control and take over. So I only heard this. I didn’t see it. I would quite believe it because they got pretty strong


in the finish. I think that would have helped, well that would have helped a lot because when we were doing this it was helping our troops. At this stage they had already got like entered Italy and were on the move. Particularly when the enemy were on the move that gave the Partisans more chance I suppose to harass them more with after their, you know getting retreating with transport and stuff


especially in any hilly country you only have to be up off the road somewhere and see a line of trucks or something coming through with troops well you just throw a few grenades or anything down or just open fire, a burst of the machine gun well they are going to get something out of it, aren’t they? A bit callous I suppose, but the easiest way out but still that’s what you do don’t you?
That’s war, isn’t it?
That’s war, that’s right, mate. Yeah, yeah.
So were you on a machine gun during…?
No, no.


I had a rifle only. Most of them guys they used to do all that.
So they gave you a rifle?
Yeah, yeah. As long as we had something we were happy. Not getting around with nothing.
So how close did you actually come to the Germans at any given time?
Well, say, if I was up above them say 50–100 ft. Yep.


Got, well it might be a bit more than 50ft I suppose. That’s not very far but these, you see, there was no roads off the main road and you just, the mountains are pretty steep. You know what the Alps are like. You just grab the slope up for half a mile you go straight up nearly. So if you are up above you’d be a while getting up


100ft even from the road. They had no hope of catching us. We knew that too.
Did the Germans ever try and retaliate in any way, shape or form?
No. I think they were quite happy to you know, get out the best way they could. Because they didn’t know how many of us were up there anyway. I mean we could have been hundreds and hundreds of us couldn’t there. I mean, no, no, they just


got out as quick as they could. As I say at that stage the war was closing in on them and they knew that. If they could save their hide at that stage they would have.
And were you aware of the state of affairs at that time?
Yeah, well we knew that it was only probably be a matter of months because once they entered Italy, well, we knew how


big Italy was and well, we’d seen it on a map enough anyway but we’d sort of travelled around enough to know the actual area of Italy. It’s not very big when you come to look at it and when an army gets in there especially the way American army was advancing at that stage, well, it was virtually they kept going. Once you got him on the run they had no hope of establishing anything.


So we reckoned it would only be a matter of a few months and she would be over sort of thing.
It was a good position to be in.
Oh, hell yes, I tell you at that stage because I, well looking back and even remembering I’d say back to El Alamein it was touch and go. I reckon Germany could more less say they had almost won the war at that stage you know.


I don’t think there was any ifs and buts about it. If only for the Yanks coming in mate we would have been gone. We’d have been gone I reckon. I don’t reckon we would have had any hope at all. Just like that. What do you reckon? Have you heard anything?
It depends on where you were I think.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I still think we were very, very fortunate. Even the Japs they were that close in taking this place it wasn’t funny.


That’s a whole other story that one.
Closest you can get, I reckon. There’s an old saying, ‘What’s meant to be will be’.
Were you ever worried as part of the partisans, were you ever worried that the Germans would take any action against the local folk of Goduloi…
for supporting?
the locals, they sort


of knew that themselves. I think, I mean, they didn’t seem to worry that much about it. I’ve often thought, “If they find out you’ve been helping us, then you’re gone.” They knew all this too.
Did you ever hear any stories of that kind of thing happening?
No not really. No. No, well when you come to think of it you see, we most of the time we were you might as well say,


we was in isolation. We wasn’t, there was only those odd times when we were down the village that we would be talking to anybody else. From day to day nothing new happened really, really and this just went on for a couple of years. Terrible to waste a couple of years like this I know, but great to be still alive.
You did your bit.
Great to be still alive you know.
You kept busy.


How did, I guess because you were with the partisans for a couple of years, how did I guess for want of better word their organisation or the way that they operated, how did that change over the course of the two years that you were with them?
Well only that they did get a bit more organisation with them. They got a bit


more gear together in the way of rifles, ammunition and things like that that made them feel more confident I suppose and they were doing a little bit more then when they first started. I think in the first instance they were pleased to get up there and hide or get out of the war that was their main thing but they got that way in the finish that they wanted to be a part of it. Which they did. They did their


little bit I think.
And how did you fair for tucker in the mountains living up there?
Reasonably good. They didn’t run short of very much. They it was go down to the places and give it to us or else and most of the people were with them anyway and they used to willingly give it to them but if there was any other way


well you wouldn’t have been game to knock them back anyway. That’s the way it was.
So you got to vary your diet a little bit?
Yeah a little bit, little bit but not a hell of a lot you know it was a bit different. You didn’t just have to eat rice and things if you didn’t want to and that kind of thing.
And what other sort of things do you eat? Would you get sort of?
Oh mainly there was always plenty of


bread, cheese, salami stuff you know bits and pieces like that where you didn’t see it before and of course, vegetable-wise, they had to grow so much up there, there was no shortage of that. So basically we lived reasonably well, put it that way.
What about the local wine?
I didn’t think


you would even think about that.
It’s a little bit hard.
That was good. Mostly all these little vineyards they all had their own cellars, you know, and great big casks, that high you know and go down there and help yourself you know. There was one old chap, he could speak English, we used to call him Toowoomba Joe,


and he was out in Australia, you know, in his early days and he could still speak English quite well. We used to go down his cellar there and we used to really get into it. Yeah, quite good wine. They know how to make it. No, no, no shortage of wine there. All their meals you know they have always


wine on the table. Not the real like, not a heavy port or anything, but, what did they used to call it, a claret or something after that style. It’s a red wine.
Like a Lambrusco.
Similar like, yeah, similar. Very nice, nice flavour. Do you like it?


It was quite good really. Overall as I say I can’t complain as far as meals and things once we were out. We lived as well as anybody else in Italy put it that way.
What about the little villages actually up in the mountains themselves that you’d visit. What, I mean…
Well we never went to many, as I say, we hung around this one.


We used to come and go from this place. If the Germans were anywhere we used to get the word there they were coming up, which valley you see. They only got, its not like out here where they can crisscross and go anywhere, once you get into those Alps, those foothills once you’re in one valley and if you want to go into the next valley you’ve got to come back and up again. You haven’t got access to go across anywhere and as soon as we got the word we


were out of that valley and go somewhere else and we would think it was time we would do a little reconnaissance work and, “Yeah, they’re gone,” and back we’d go again. We always hung around within the vicinity of that one place Goduloi. This place down below that where this chap where this Toowoomba Joe used to live, it was nearly joining on.


It was only 2–3km. I can never remember the name of that little village and I often wish I could you know. That was a good little area there. There was no shopping or anything but it was a little area of vineyards and people around there. A lovely group of people. They’ve all got the nails to finish you know. Go in and their bloody cellars and


good. I got some good memories of those times.
You became quite a connoisseur.
Yeah, my wife said, you know, “Why didn’t we go for a trip over there?” I said, “I was too bloody lousy or wanted to make too much money or something.” I had a ‘flat start’, as the saying is. I had nothing, you see, and I had to


make good. I worked and worked and worked seven day a week I used to work. Didn’t I? Yeah, sometimes half the bloody night driving trucks somewhere.
That’s a job and a half.
But fortunately it’s paid off. I’ve had my retirement out of it.
Now, when you hooked up with the Americans, you spent about six


weeks with them.
Yeah, roughly six weeks.
What did you get up to in those six weeks?
That was very interesting. We used to go into you know, you’d go into the next town and there was no fighting because the Germans were ahead of us. We used to go in and take over these places at a night. You know go into a pub or not pub what did they used to call them there, wine shops or whatever they were and do what they like.


Nobody would ever dare to try and stop it. Go and drink or help yourself to anything. We had a wow of a bloody time I tell you. She was great and then finally the Armistice was signed and we then had to, the officer of this group that we were with, “Well I’ve got to report


you chaps back to somewhere.” He said, “There’s several of you people around been reported.” He said, “They’re working out something, what to do.” And finally they got us and took us to a place where there was others brought in there


and we were transported back to Naples, which was a fair way from where we were, and they put us on a boat that took us to England from there. That was the end of the actual war. We got back to England and they had they had a camp there for all POWs and things that were


brought back there. And my, incidentally, my original captain of our company when we first joined the army was sent over the England as one to help sort all this out, and isn’t it marvellous, and he, as soon as, because we got all new uniforms issued to us, he was that proud of our battalion. Incidentally, I tell you afterwards


he, because he’s goes two or three uniforms, he took one of his colour patches off and said, “Here, sew this on.” You know, he was that proud of this 48th Battalion, they happened to finish up the best decorated battalion in the AIF [Australian Imperial Forces]. The 48th Battalion. If you remember the 48th and make some enquiries you will find out that that is true. They won more medals,


we won four VCs [Victoria Crosses] I think it was, at least four, and so many other things. It was most decorated battalion in the AIF, so he was that proud.
I bet he was. That would have been a bit of surprise for you to walk in and…?
Oh yeah, couldn’t believe it, and he was a chap that you couldn’t mistake. He was a school teacher in civvy life and red headed and he was


a Scots bloke, actually. Forbes was his name. He was hard though, but we all liked him. There was nothing that he want you do that he couldn’t do himself. I’ve seen him in Egypt there in the sand hills and that and we used to go route marching and he’d have the same size pack on his back and he’d be out in front. Gee he was fit, he, anything he wanted us to


do he made sure he’d done it and he was a very good officer. He got two or three medals himself. He never got the VC but he got two or three others that I know of. In fact, he was the officer when we done this stuff when we took all these prisoners. You think of these things after when you get talking. He really thought the world of his boys, he did.


And did you get to tell him what you’d been up to?
I suppose I told him like since the war I see him every Anzac Day and that down there. We often talk about different things, yeah.
Did you get to kick up your heels in England at the end of the war?
I would have to say yes, I suppose.
What did you do?
We just


drank and drank and drank and drank. Do you know England at all? Down South?
No, I don’t know that area.
It was very nice down there and it was in the best part of the year. Well, it’s more or less their summer isn’t it, well getting towards that. It was lovely weather. Beautiful. Beautiful it was. I can remember one place we used to go drinking a little


tavern or whatever they call them there. She’s an Australian who lived in England for some time and she used to bring her own big pewter pot, you know, fill it up with beer. Like a big…she used to always drink out of this big pewter pot. I can’t remember her name. You know think back afterwards, why didn’t I take some of these names and addresses of people and that. You don’t


think of it at the time. You wished you had them later on in life. No, well, from there of course, we went to leave in London about the only place I actually went on leave. When we got off the boat we got off at River Kwai in Scotland. We actually came right down by road from Scotland, right down to the south. Went to London on leave, but we didn’t see much else of England. Too anxious to get home


and volunteer to go on a ship to go home. I could have stayed there longer if I wanted to and looked around but I’d been away five years and you
It’s a long time.
wanted to get home.
And when did you, because you wouldn’t have been in contact with your family for a little while either so how did you…?
Oh yeah, once we were. I don’t know whether we, I don’t suppose would have


done much until we went to England. I don’t know if I did write before that. I think I might have, I can’t just recall now. But they knew that we were safe and we were back in England. That was about the first time in nearly two years that they heard that, so that would have been very relieving to them also.
What was it like setting feet back in Australia after all those years?


What a feeling! We landed at Fremantle, it was funny there. We got leave one night, we got there one morning or late the night before or something and went on leave the next day and pulled out the following day and took us right around to Sydney. Didn’t pull into Adelaide or anything. Pulled in at Sydney and they, we had to travel right around by train. Yeah,


went half way around Australia again once I was home more or less from Fremantle right around the Bite right up around Sydney. Ridiculous.
You don’t sound too happy about it.
Could have been home two days before. Yeah, that was late in July, I think. Late in July in


‘45 and of course, where did I got, leave back to Renmark and who should I run into but this little girl over here.
Tell us about that.
We only lived down the street and we went out some place one night and we must have met up somewhere together and it was in a café


wasn’t it, or somewhere, wasn’t it?
LINDA: No, I think you and your Mum called in home.
Called in home, that’s right.
LINDA: I came home and you and your Mum were there talking to my Mum.
Because of course she’d grown up. She was only 14 when I left. She was 19 then and…
That must have been a bit of surprise then.
So we kept in contact for a while and finally


must have thought, “Well, we might be suited,” and kept going and the following year we got married, anyhow, didn’t we?
LINDA: Following year, yeah, we did.
Anyhow, that was in July, and following April we were married. Not that we didn’t know each other previous, I don’t suppose, but I was probably getting too bloody old to get married, I wouldn’t get married at all. She said, “All right, yes.”


Well, do you remember seeing your mum again for the first time when you got back?
She was down, of course, to meet us. We pulled in on the train at the Adelaide Railway Station and she was there. It was overwhelming, really. It was so, and brothers were there and


so many, there’s also travelling. I wasn’t the only one. There was people everywhere. You see, all sorts of, and they just grabbed each other and after five and a half years, most of us, I suppose. Some of them mightn’t have been that long because me being away so early in the war, I probably would have been one of the longest, I suppose. There might have been somebody, you know,


a couple of months more, but yeah, it was a very exciting moment I can tell you. Yes. Anyhow, here I am, still going.
Were your other brothers back from service at that stage?
No, the other one that’s still alive, the one that was in the army with me, and of course, that’s the first thing I wanted to know, if Murray was all right, because I was frightened to ask


because I hadn’t heard sort of thing. “Yes, he’s coming down from the island as an old veteran at 22.” Just turned 22 and he’s coming down as an old veteran. He’d have turned 22 in July and this was would have been August, no, it would have been the end of July.
LINDA: It was July, not August.
Yes, yes,


he’d just turned 22 and he’d been in the army five and a half years. So…
Did you see him Ray? Did you go and see him?
He wasn’t, at that stage I went home on leave didn’t I? Because I think I had three weeks leave and


I was due to go back and I heard that the war in the islands was about to be signed, was getting close and I said, “There’s no AWL business with me now. I’m going to stay until they signed it.” So I stayed home for a couple more days and they signed it, didn’t they? That was in August sometime wasn’t it? Yeah.


I can’t remember the date, was it 15th or around that area?
Somewhere around that area anyway. Then I went back, I had to go back to Adelaide and report back, and I was only there a couple of days waiting to get my discharge and in walked my brother coming down for his discharge. Coincidence, wasn’t it? Went away together and nearly came out together. Unreal.


Couldn’t believe it.
What, do you remember what you said to him?
I can’t remember now. Can’t remember really. It was exciting, I know.
LINDA: There would have been tears from both of you, I know.
So you got to bring him back home to mum? You would have got to bring him back home to mum then?
Mum was down there too.


She went down there, too. She went down there. We both met him at the, they came in by train too, I think. Yeah, they did. They came in the railway station. It was a great reunion, I can tell you.
That’s a great story.
It was a hell of a relief to see him and know he was okay in the first place and to see him so


well and everything. He’d gone up the ranks a bit. He was a sergeant. I had to do as I was told.
Ray, did you have much trouble setting back on into civvy street?
Yeah, I did for a long time really.


Well, when I say I had trouble, I suppose it wasn’t such a long time, and I decided I would get back to work and start making something of it.
What do you think was the hardest thing in terms of settling back in?
I really don’t know.


I just made up my mind that I was going to work on the fruit block and get experience for soldier settlement block and I put my name down, and naturally I had to get further experience. I only had a little bit before the war, not that much. So I done that and I got that sick of waiting after about 12 months, I was very truck minded and I brought a


truck and went carrying. So I finally worked my way up enough that I didn’t want the fruit block at this stage so I told them I didn’t want it and just went on carrying and started earth moving business and done construction work and all that sort of thing over on the west coast and that’s when I shifted from Renmark over there and I was there for what, 20,


20 odd years or something like that wasn’t it? Twenty-six years.
LINDA: Something like that.
Twenty-six years I think it was. And got ourself fairly well on our feet but it was hard times but we both stuck together and done it while Linda had to live in poverty for a long time.
LINDA: I didn’t live in poverty.
Well, live in a wherever we could get, a roof over our head sort of business, and live without a lot of mods and cons [modern conveniences].


I was always out working and hardly every home.
Do you think that was part and parcel of I guess, army life and settling back into civvies?
Well, I suppose I really settled back into it well to what a lot of them did. I had a lot of troubles with


nightmares about when I was in Italy and dreaming and bloody Germans are there and after me and a lot of things like that. I was terrible there for a while. I still now, at odd times you know, it was terrible there at times wasn’t it?
LINDA: Yeah, it was.
I’d wake up yelling and going on and you could you know, reckon that they caught me and nearly caught me


and coming after me and all this bloody thing. It’s gradually, I think it’s worn off fairly well. As I say, there’s odd times now when I have, I have dreams of something in the war you know. Not very much. I don’t even say nothing to you half the time, I just let it go you know. I suppose I got over it rather well but it was a bit traumatic there for a while you know.


I suppose what might have helped me was not actually being in the army for those last few years too I suppose. I more or less got out of that routine of being, do as you’re told sort of business. You know what the army is like which is I think if half of these other young ones got in the army it would be a better world


and a lot better for them. This is what some of them really want you know. Get somebody to rip them into gear but half the things now you’re not allowed to touch them, you’re not allowed to do nothing. School teachers can’t. I don’t, it’s wrong. Wrong really.
LINDA: Parents can’t.
Yeah. It, to me, it’s just about left up to the individual to do the right thing himself or herself.


If you like to be a hooligan and do what you want to do there’s nobody to stop you really is there. As soon as somebody tries to stop you they’re in trouble. It’s like a lot of people that break into homes. You can’t touch them otherwise you’re up for it. This is all wrong in my book. I tell you if any bugger broke in here, they’d take the answer.


I wouldn’t care what happened to me.
What advice would you give to a young fellow that came up to you and said, “Ray, I’m looking to join the army. I want to go off to war. Give me a bit of advice.”
That would be a bit hard too. I’d give him the advice, I suppose.
What would you say to him?
I’d say well I suppose I’d more or less say, well,


you know what’s going to happen if you’ve got to go to war. You take your chances because there is always the chance that when you join up you might not have to go to war anyway. It’s different when we joined up we knew we had to go didn’t we? But I think I’d say well, yeah, I’d say it was a good thing. You can grow up to know something, you can learn something in the army especially these days. You get


paid to learn, whereas in our day you just had to do it yourself more or less. I think any of the forces myself, I think I wouldn’t have been frightened to any of my children if I had them, I’d say, yeah, quite good. Join up and learn something and get something out of it. You don’t have to stay there for the rest of your life and if you like to stay there for a few years


look what you get out of it. Some of these blokes that get out of the army around 40 or something and they are set for life.
How much money did you come out of the army with?
I was a little bit fortunate. You get what they call gratuity pay while you’re overseas. I still remember mine was 345 pound, which was a lot because I was away so long overseas


and also my pay went on all the time I was in Italy and plus and this is one, this remember when I said I joined the carriers, I think I told you this. And we were classed as a driver/mechanic. We were paid 1 and 1 penny extra per day to anybody else, and when I get my army, when I get paid out there is nothing for that. I’m a private and that’s it.


When I joined the carriers, it was only a couple of months or whatever, it might have been a bit longer, between that and when I got taken POW. Apparently it hadn’t gone through my pay book. Fortunately, my officer of the carriers was still alive and in Adelaide and he is in a big way down there, in shipping. Lamesera


was his name, big, big business down there and I got straight on to him and explained it to him and he said, “Leave it me Ray. I’ll see what I can do.” And he bloody well got it. Yep, he got that. Well, that in itself. I mean it doesn’t sound much today but 1 and 1 penny a day for three years plus, a good three years,


it’s all money, so they, you see with that and my pay I was, in the vicinity of 600–700 pound, which back in 1945 was a fair lump of money. It doesn’t sound much today, does it?
That’s a lot of money by today’s standards.
And it helped me get going, I can tell you.
Any regrets from your war experience?


Any regrets going into the army and Second World War?
No, I could say not really because at the stage when I joined the army there was nothing else going anyway. Work was that scarce and I was more or less just, you wouldn’t have made much headway. Probably if I hadn’t have gone into the army like volunteered then I would have been within a couple of years, I’d have been


probably conscripted into it, so in actual fact I am very pleased that I done what I done.
Okay Ray, thank you.
Is that all you want? Oh good.


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