Albert Ulrick
Archive number: 1380
Preferred name: Jack
Date interviewed: 15 January, 2004

Served with:

2/2nd Battalion

Other images:

Albert Ulrick 1380


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Tape 01


Can you share with us a brief overview of your life from where you were born until a few years after the war?
1918, born in


Maclean. Went to school in Ulmarra, starting when I was 5, so, quick multiplication, 24, 25 anyway. The only certificate we got there was a QC [Qualifying Certificate] I think they called it. A six class Qualifying Certificate.


Then I was working part time in the – for the PMG [Postmaster General], department from when I was 15 to when I was – from 19, when I was about 15 till I was about 19, as light operator on the manual telephone exchange at Ulmarra.


They used to do what they call wharf lumping on the north coast boats. two boats a week come from Sydney to the Clarence River and entered Yamba of course. Come up to Grafton unloading all the cargo, food and whatever. Then on the way downriver they reloaded up with potatoes, maize,


cured bacon and butter. Butter was one of the main ones. The Ulmarra factory, they loaded tons of butter. All first class butter, which all went to England. The only butter we could buy at the butter factory was second grade butter. The Poms got all the first grade, God bless them. That was two of the things I’d done and I’d worked with


Dad. He was a carrier. We’d go out round the farms bringing live pigs into the factory where they would be slaughtered. Most of it was turned into cured sides. They’d cure the sides as far as what you’d call corn. You know corned pork?


That would be taken away to Sydney on the boats and would be turned into bacon. The next process, which was a pretty complicated process. They’d done some of it at Ulmarra. The other thing they done was I worked with him. We built the concrete road from Grafton to


Ulmarra first up, then from Ulmarra to below Brushgrove. People hear me talking know. All the cement in those paper bags, bloody shits of things, bloody awful things to handle. We would be stacking it from the boats. The wharf labourers


would bring it over on the big trolleys and we would pick it up and stack it, I think 6, 12 high. That meant pretty hard work, which was good. Cement dust got up your nose and in your ears and in your hair. Very uncivilised stuff to handle. That was mostly what I done. Up till


the outbreak of war, not much happening. I was a good cricketer, fair tennis player, I player junior rugby league. When I became too old to play junior rugby league they had one or two games in the grade comp. But I found I wasn’t robust enough. I was pretty lightly built and I got knocked about too much, so I said “Well,


anyone with any common sense would give this away quick.” So I gave up. First grade as they called it, rugby league. I played cricket even after the war, when I came home. I was still quite a handy cricketer. Medium base bowler and a wild and woolly left hand batsman. Even played in the district side,


which amazed me a bit. Then I suppose I got too ancient to play cricket. I took up lawn bowls. This was just after the war, you wanted up to the war, didn’t you? Yeah. Well, of course after the war I became a hot shot lawn bowler.


My wife got all my medals, championship medals and put them all on a big, what was it? Spoon display. Put all these medals up. Still hanging up out the back. I think 23 club championships and several district


championships. Won a few masters and all that caper. Then I got a bit ancient, my left leg got a bit wonky so I gave all sport away in my 40s, I suppose. It wasn’t a terrible really outstanding boyhood, youth, young man, in


Ulmarra as you can imagine. Not very exciting. That was one of the main reasons about 16 of us joined the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] to get the hell out of Ulmarra. See, what else happened. There’s one photograph there, which has appeared in publications, of my childhood friend, we grew up together, neighbours,


Bill Sullivan. The first of the weekend leave we got I said, “Have you ever been to the zoo?” He said, “No. Let’s bloody go to the zoo.” So we went to the zoo. That photo was taken by a street photographer the one that done the rounds. It’s quite a good one. That was Ulmarra.
Entering into Ulmarra,


what would I see down the main street?
I think there’s a news agent now.
Back then when you were a boy.
There was two pubs. One on each corner of the main street as they called it, which is Cold Stream Street. Two pubs, two butchers, two bakers, general store,


two general stores. The butter factory was the centre of activity so anyone who wanted regular wages worked at the butter factory. We employed, it was the major employer of the Ulmarra people. They manufactured


butter and bacon. My Dad, they imported a big four wheel meat wagon for moving meat around. It had railings in it and the pig carcasses came off the rail in the slaughter house and


they had rigged this rail in this big four wheel wagon, covered in lag and met and stick a bolt through it. My father was about 16 stone, pretty brawny, he was a powerful man. He could get hold of this thing and go, and put the bolt in. When he went on holidays I had to do it when I was about 16. So I had a


heap of chocks. So instead of just going like that like he used to, one hand on the wagon and one on the rail and then puling them together, I had to get out and manoeuvre this big wagon till I got them fairly close and then put the bolt in. You could run the pig around and straight into the wagon on the gambles, as they called them. That’s a wheel with a bar with two hooks.


You hooked them into the tendons of the pigs’ ankles. They hung upside down. That’s how they took them from there up to the race where they were cleaned and cured and cut in two. All that happened in slaughter houses. That was that. Also, the boats used to bring all the flour for the bakers in


almost 100 pound bags, 110 pounds. So many to the ton was how they went. We used to cart them from the wharf to the baker shops. That was pretty hard work too. He done all the humping. I’d be up in the cart, the truck at the finish, I’d scull drag the bags to the back of the truck and he’d back up and I’d


dump them on his shoulders and he’d throttle over them and stack them in the bakehouse. That was part of the work I done there. He was a good bloke, my father. Well liked character everywhere. I had three brothers and one sister, that’s the one that's here now. The eldest brother was 18 months older than me. He went to the war


with me. We were both in the same unit. My number ended with 62 and his ended in 63. His name was Bill and I was Albert. I was in front of him. He lived, he only died just lately. He got wounded in the Western Desert. He got, like me he was still carrying his bit of shrapnel. It hit him there somewhere. It went in under his collarbone so they left it there.


I got hit in the back and mine is coming out of me because it hit me, what do you call that? Sternum. Yeah, the sternum stopped it coming out. That’s still about there I’d say. About as big as a ten cent piece. That should have killed me, but it didn’t. That’s part of the war. We’re jumping ahead of things. That was it.


Your Dad, can you tell me about him?
Yeah. He was born on the South Coast at a place called, near Berri. I suppose this Wood Hill would be a community, not a town or a village. Wood Hill would be three or four farms in there. He was born, he always said, in Wood Hill.


Sitting over there in the photo is my great grandparents who came from Germany. The name Ulrick, of course, is German. Yeah, in the dark thing there. He was, my uncle used to call him a bloody ho-hum. I don’t know why. He must have had a row with him. He went to the First World War.


These two were Germans. I don’t think he ever mastered the English language anyway, the old fellow. But I know nothing about him of course, never ever seen him. My father had, there was Jim and Sam and Jack. He had three brothers and


one sister. Him, himself, he wasn’t in the First World War. He told me once he went to join up and he had a hernia. They said, “Get the hernia fixed and come back and we’ll take you.” He exploded. He said, “You can go to buggery. Why don’t I join and then you fix my hernia?” They said, “No,


it doesn’t work.” “Well,” he said, “you’ve just lost a good bloody man.” And he stomped out. He told him to go to hell, he wasn’t joining the bloody army. I thought that was fair enough. They wouldn’t have him because he had a hernia, told him to go and get it repaired and come back and they’d take him. He said, “You do it.” “No.” So he said, “Right hooray.” My mother, she was


Scotch, I suppose. Her mother and father both come from Scotland. My grandfather and grandmother. What was her flaming name? He was Cameron, the old bloke. Angus Cameron. Couldn’t get much more Scotch than that. She’s name was


McKay I think. Her mother and father were called McKay. That may not be quite so. They were all very solid citizens. My grandfather worked in the Asbury dock. They were in Maclean and straight across the river they built a dock for putting riverboats in, up to the side,


riverboats. He worked there. He was a carpenter type shipwright. He was a nice old bloke. He used to go to work in a little old motorboat. Little flat bottom motorboat he built himself. His family was Albert and Jack and I’m Albert John.


They were Albert and Jack. Two eldest boys and two or three girls, aunties. None of them were famous for anything, but good, solid citizens of course. That’s about the family.
Did your Dad ever get the hernia fixed?
Yeah. Not for along time.


Sometimes he’d have to wear a tress like they did in the old days. I can remember they were steel spring things with a padded that went on the hernia. They fitted on the hernia and held it from popping out. I’ve had, that’s run in the family. I’ve had two hernias done myself. I can tell you why you get hernias, if you like.


You can cut it out if you don’t like it. When you’re a baby, or a small boy, your testicles are up here. When they come down and go into your scrotum they travel themselves. It’s the track they make becomes a hernia because it’s a weak place. Doctor explained all this to me when he was going to do mine.


It runs in males. It’s quite a common thing, hernias. I had to get mine done. That’s a hernia.
Your Dad had an operation?
Can you tell me the procedure?
There was some bloke, or doctor, very good. He invented a new system of doing hernias. Instead of just


cutting you open and sewing up the hernia, he inserted like a bit of netting made of some sort of plastic that wasn’t absorbed into the body. It stayed there and he sewed your tummy back over this bit of netting. He was quite successful. Dad and about six other blokes, they


all went to Sydney together and got it done. That was a talking point for a long time. All these old jokers, middle aged blokes, getting their hernias fixed. Really fixed. He never had another moment in his life, trouble from hernia.
The hernia would have affected his lifting and carrying.
Oh yeah. He had to be very careful. In his young days that’s what caused it I guess.


It’s like bad backs these days. Bad habits. I can remember how the department, the PMG department [UNCLEAR] sent a special crew around, two first aid blokes, to teach us how to lift properly. It was too late, we’d already done our bloody bad lifting and all had crook backs. It was a funny thing, just as a point of


interest, they said to us, the worst weighed article that you handled was a five gallon drum of oil with a little tiny handle on the top. You never pick it up by that. That’s a real no-no. They showed us how you put the drum on the ground, tip it away from you, put your hand on the back and grab the bottom. That’s how you lifted a five gallon drum of oil. I don’t know


what it weighed. It was pretty heavy. This little finger lifter thing. He said, “That’s only to lift it when it’s empty.” He said, “That’s one way of getting a wrenched back bad.” Dad, he managed it quite all right. He was middle aged when I remember him getting it done. Bad things in those days. Everybody had hernias.


Not joining the First World War for your Dad, was he given white feathers or trouble there?
No, he said there was a lot of blokes that went from the community, but just as many didn’t. So it was no big deal. I don’t recall, I don’t know, but never ever said that there was any animosity because he didn’t.


I was born in 1918 and my brother was born in 1917, 18 months before me. So instead of being at the war he was busy breeding new Australians. Nothing was ever said about that sort of thing.


He never ever said anything about it and I never recall hearing anything about it. Even in the Second World War I never heard of any of that.
Were your grandparents alive? The Germans?
No, not the old fellow, but my grandparents, their children. They’re my great grandparents, those two there. My grandmother,


my Dad’s Mum, she was as Irish as Paddy’s pigs. She still had Irish brogue when she died in the 90s. She was a wonderful person. Granny Ulrick was well known. She outlived Adam Ulrick, the grandfather. She was 94 I think, when she died, which was very old for those days.


People didn’t live like we do these days. There wasn’t any antibiotics or fancy medicine, so if they lived till old age they were just raw luck I think. She was a great old character. Well known far and wide.
Why was she a character?
Forthright. She told you if your feet stank, she’d


tell you. Very forthright, up front person. She’d tongue lash you real smart if she thought so. But she was very good. I can remember when she was in her 80s. People in Ulmarra all had house cows in the good old days. House cows would wander about the streets.


That was what they called the long paddock. They’d wander into yards. I can remember seeing her when she was in her middle 80s with a broom, chasing these flaming cows out of the yard. Swishing at them with a broom. She was a well known character. Granny Ulrick.
Was there a pride in her, the fact that boys were


born to your Dad?
I don’t know. I don’t really know. My mother died when I was 15. She got a blood poisoned finger and there was something a bit fishy about it. I think she was given bad treatment. Well, I’d better not say it, I’d get sued for


telling lies. That was the story my cousin told me. She thinks that she was given the wrong injection. She was only young. I was fifteen. She told me once, on her 21st birthday, she had three sons. That was me, my eldest brother and the bloke younger than me who died when he was three.


So she was quite a robust woman. Only tiny but, as I said, purebred Scots. Her mother and father both came from Scotland. If one of them wasn’t born in Scotland, their parents were. Everybody called Cameron and Maclean is related to me or


I’m related to them. Through my mother. All bar Sandy Cameron who was a black fellow who was known Cameron after the bloke he worked for. He worked for a Cameron. He was a very good sculler. Boat race, racing in boats. That’s the Camerons.
So your Mum got blood poisoning?


What was the process that happened there?
I really don’t know. Septicaemia I think was the proper name for it. She was 35 when she died, which is these days very young. I never knew her. When you’re fifteen, you don’t really


get to know your parents until you’re a bit older, you know? She was a gentle person. Good to the kids. That was jolt to us, to lose your mother and my Dad lost his wife when she was 35 years old. That was par for the course


I guess, in those days. You got crook, you didn’t get better, you died. No penicillin, no sulphur drugs.
How did your Dad cope?
My sister was only very young. She would have been ten then. Youngest brother, he would have been about


seven or eight. So they were sent to aunties and uncles, which we didn't agree with. They didn’t like it, we didn’t like it, so we brought them both home. Eldest boy and I and Dad were sort of coaching down there and we got them both home. They went to school and we reared


them. They were happy with that. More so than being stuck with grisly assed bloody uncles and aunties who done it only because they had to and weren’t terribly agreeable about it. I suppose they were good to take them. It wasn’t good for them. That was that part of life.
Did your Dad want to remarry?
I think he had a


couple of old girls in his town, but he never thought of getting remarried because then he discovered, I don’t think he ever had a holiday in his life, until very late in life. He drank a fair bit of beer in his time. I think everybody did then. So then he saved up and went for a trip down to his birthplace on the south coast.


He liked it that much he kept at it. That’s when I used to do his business for him. When I was a young bloke. He wasn’t a bad old scout. I don’t think he ever entertained the fact. I think a few of these old birds he used to go with wouldn’t have minded. We were living in the old homestead in Ulmarra, which was built by


his mother and father. My grandfather, he owned a commercial hotel outright, freehold. They sold it and built a couple of houses and then they moved to Coffs Harbour for a while, my grandparents.


I’d only just went. I think about in the 1920s they sold the hotel and he retired then, my old Granddad. He was a pretty rough old bugger too. Everybody stepped aside, stepped around him because he was a big man, too. He had hands like a bunch of bananas.


Very powerful old man. We all steered clear of him a bit because he was quick off the mark.
Was religion important in your family?
Mother was a Free Presbyterian. They were pretty strict church people.


In our particular family it wasn’t a big deal. We used to grizzle and growl we had to go to Sunday school and occasionally to church, but we weren’t a religious family, no.
How did it affect your family when your Mum died, from a religious point of view?
No, I don’t think it entered the


plea at all. She was buried by the Presbyterian minister and that was about it. I don’t think he ever became part of our lives. Religion wasn’t the deal at all in our family. Probably a lot of heathens, but that didn’t matter.
The house you grew up in, can you describe it?


It was, I’ll get a picture of it in my mind. Weatherboard, that was a bit of a unique feature of it. The weatherboards were vertical, up and down. Each join was covered by a strip of hard wood, about that wide and a quarter of and inch thick. That was the method


it was built, which was probably a hangover from earlier days, but most weatherboards were build horizontal. One overlapped the one underneath it so the water runs straight down. That’s a weatherboard house. I think in these days they use plastic to build weatherboard. That’s it.


The roof was iron and fairly high pitched. We had a big backyard. The fences weren’t parallel. The fence on that side of the house ran at an angle away a bit, this one ran parallel and that meant that the back was about three times as wide as the front. The


bottle end sort of thing. So we had a good backyard. We used to play cricket in it. All the kids from around. Also, there was a blacksmith in town who wanted a smithy built. They were built to a pattern too, a blacksmith shop. It had a dirt floor


and a big, wide front door so that the carts and things could go into it. The dirt floor was because they shoe horses and they could walk in without skidding on concrete or whatever. It was there and I think it was there for a long time after I left before it decayed and they had to pull it down. That was another place that


featured in our upbringing, the big shed as it was called. We put our pushbikes and all that in it. Quite handy.
What was the kitchen area like?
The kitchen was also the dining room. You had a


lounge room and one rather unusual feature of the old home, it had a fireplace in the lounge room. The fireplace was sort of pre-manufactured. It was all steel or iron and the fireplace itself had a hinged


place you pushed it back, and there was the grate. You lit the fire in the grate. It was something I’d never seen before or since. The kitchen had a woodstove. It’d get quite warm in the summer. The oven and all the old woodstoves in those days. I think it was called a


Beacon, Beacon Brand, but anyway. The kitchen was a big room. The biggest room in the house, I think. It was also the dining room.
Interviewee: Albert Ulrick Archive ID 1380 Tape 02


Back to the household again, what sort of meals did you eat?
Fairly plain as you can imagine. Vegetables were potato, pumpkin,


peas, beans. The peas and beans and tomatoes we grew ourselves in the vegetable patch. Lettuce of course. Meat you got from the butchers. We got a lot of pork because Dad worked for the butter factory in the pig department


carting the carcasses around. So one of the things that were quite unique in Ulmarra, you can still buy them, was what they called pork bones. I don’t know if you know much about slaughtering a pig. In the whole body, so then they’ve got to get rid of the backbone. So they get a sharp knife and cut down each side of it,


then saw the carcass in two and then saw off the backbone. That’s how they make bacon sides. That was sold as pork bones and they were a very sheep commodity. You could get a sugarbag full for a couple of bob. Get two full bones for the – as you can imagine, we weren’t a very affluent


society. The pork bones were a very nutritious and a very cheap meal. Being a little bit messy. You had to break them up and get the meat out of the bones. They had very good pork fodder, pork chops, leg of pork and all that. Very, very good. First class as a matter of fact. So that was the main.


All families were quite good at cooking bread puddings and bread and butter custards and stewed fruit. You grew a lot of peaches. Everybody had a peach tree in their backyard. That’d be the main sweets, stewed fruit and custard or cream if you could sneak it from somebody.


With pig, if you don’t treat it properly it can get unhealthy, did you have any problems?
No, because we never got a lot at any one time. You only got enough for a meal. Next time you wanted it you got enough for another meal so you didn’t have any stored. We only had ice chests. Nobody had a fridge till well after the war.


Households got fridges and freezers, we all had, they called them ice chests. You got ice from the factory, they had a big ice-making plant. That’s how you get your butter cooled and your milk and all that. In the old ice box.
How big was the ice box and how did it operate?
Well, a bit like a small modern day fridge.


They had two compartments, the cool at the bottom. At the top, the lid lifted up and it had a chamber about that big and that deep and you put the iceblock in that. It sat in a tray and the area around the tray went down into the icebox itself so


as you know, cool air falls, hot air rises. We used that system. The cool air from the ice went down into the icebox, or ice chest, and when you shut the door in the front of it, you pulled down a little clamp handle, which tightened it up so the cold air didn’t get out. That was an ice chest or ice box.
How long did the block of ice last?


It’d last for two or three days. What you do, you leave the last little bit of that block and put the other block, or take it out, put the other block in and break this what’s left around the other block. So you never ever threw any ice out. You kept doing that. I remember when I was a small boy we had what they called a billy cart. A billy cart was


sort of an old pram wheels built on a box that held two tins of petrol. In the good old days petrol and kerosene came in cases. A kerosene tin was the cow cocky’s bucket. They had to cut the top out and put a heavy wire handle so they had buckets. They were used,


very common on dairy farms, the old kerosene tin. This case held two of these, made it an ideal size for a billy cart. So you put two handles on it to get in between and drag it and pram axel and pram wheels, which weren’t terribly hard to get, because you’d get them at the local dump.


People would hurl their old prams away, which were no good, and we all had a billy cart. So we’d go down to the factory and get a block of ice in the billy cart, which we didn’t like doing of course. It wasn’t as good as going swimming in the river. We were all expert swimmers. I can’t ever remember learning to swim. I must have learned when I was three years old or something.


Just as well we could or we would all bloody drown because we lived in the river.
The billy carts, did you race one another?
No, they weren’t down hillers. They weren’t four wheelers. We come to them later in life. I built one for my grandkids. See there, used to be an open fireplace. Up above it was a


full length mantle piece I think they called it. It was about that wide and about 6 foot long or so. I took that and converted it into two down hillers. One of the old strollers, two little wheels, two big wheels on the stroller and we went over there with those two fellows there. Those two boys,


when they were kids. That’s Adam and Sean. They’re Robert’s two kids. Over to the riverbank was the closest hill we could find. Used to be an old punt approach there, they filled it in to make the flood wall. What we didn’t realise, it was a lot steeper than it looked. So the first ride, Adam was it


it went ‘whoosh’. When it got to the bottom he got a speed wobble and finished up him and the cart arse over head down and nearly into the river. We thought we’ll start half way up the hill the next try, which was Sean. They mastered it in the finish. I’ll always remember it going downhill and it nearly killed poor bloody Howard. He had skin off his forehead and elbows.


That was the down hiller. There was no hills in Grafton. That’s the only place we could get a slope.
With the kitchen, because your Mum died when you were 15, were you required to cook?
Dad did most the cooking. His favourite sweet was blancmange. You know how to make


blancmange? Actually it’s French for blank, B-L-A-N-C, or B-L-U-E, I’m not sure which, M-A-N-G-E, blancmange. It was a French name. You made it with corn flour, I think. Cornflour and milk. You cooked it over a slow fire till it went thick. Then you put vanilla essence


or whatever in it and that was blancmange. Pudding. You put that on stewed fruit, quite a meal. Any of the cookery experts will know what I’m talking about. About the old blancmange.
Was there variations in your meal?
Yeah. You’d get corned meat and vegetables, or roast meat and roast vegetable.


Always had green peas and beans and lettuce and tomatoes, which Dad grew himself. He was a very good grower. Dig it all up by hand with a spade or a shovel. Never ever believed in putting tomatoes on the stakes. He’d just heap the bushes up as they grew. Same with cucumbers. Beautiful apple cucumbers.


They were a lot softer than the long cucumber. They were a bit toughish.
Did you have problems with rodents or insects or cockroaches?
Well, you couldn’t grow cabbage or cauliflower because of the moths. It was what they called a white moth, laid eggs on cabbage leaves and cauliflower leaves.


If you didn’t watch it you’d finish up like the frame of an umbrella, just stalks sticking up, no leaf, they’d eat all the leaf away, just leave the centre stalks. They were a bad pest. Snails and slugs, but they weren’t too bad. The worst thing was the cabbage moth, that was a real destroyer of cabbage and cauliflower.


Was the toilet inside the house?
No. We had the old night cart. Cans. You’ve never lived. They were a can about that round and they had a lid that fitted on it that had a special clamp. That was only for taking them


away. They had the bloke called the night cart. He’d come round in the early hours of the morning, or night, take your full one away, all your toilets, the dunny, was built in the backyard just away from the house far enough. Not too far that you couldn’t walk to it on a rainy night, but far enough so you couldn’t smell it. You had to have that


delicate balance of distance. I remember one bloke, his name was an Irish name, Mulligan I think. Paddy Mulligan was the night carter for most of my life in Ulmarra. That’s what they’d do. Open the door at the back of the dunny, pull out the full one, put the lid on it and screw it down with this


lever thing and put the empty one in. I always remember a girl at school. When she was sitting on the toilet one day and the backdoor opened and a bloke grabbed the tin and pulled it out. I said, “Christ, what did you do?” She said, “I jumped up in the air and let out a frightful cooee and frightened the Christ out of him.” She was a hard case. You can imagine, you’re sitting on the toilet


and suddenly the tin disappears from under you out the back. I had to laugh when she told me that. Still remember it. I won’t say her name because she’s probably a granny somewhere now.
That would have been the worst job, the night cart operator?
I would say it was the worst job I could ever think of. What they had to do then, they, this was even better, they had the


council depot they used to take this out and with an ordinary horse and plough, you know the old mouldboard plough, have you seen a mouldboard? A single furrow mouldboard plough would go along, it had a single knife at the front and the mouldboard turned the soil over one. So if you run along in grass, it’d turn


the soil upside down. What he had to do was take this soil out, run a long furrow with the old mouldboard plough and then tip it in. That’d be a good job. You can imagine emptying these smelly night cart cans into a trench. Then run the mouldboard plough back along the opposite way and throw the soil back onto the night soil,


they called it. Boy, would that be a good job not to have. The night carter. That’s what would happen to night soil in the good old days. That was even good, because we had night cart. But out on the farms, what they used to do was dig a big pit and build the dunny over the pit, and


I think when it got full they’d shift the dunny and dig another pit. That was even worse because you can imagine a pit about eight foot deep. That’s about as far as a bloke with a shovel could dig a hole. Fill it up with nightsoil, that’s a nice name for it, and then God knows how long that would take. I’ve been in them. Boy,


do they honk. What most people done, in close to the town they went to the sawmill and got a load of what they called shavings of sawdust. They put a big heap or box of it in the toilet and when you used the toilet you were supposed to tip a little bit of disinfectant in, throw some sawdust on it,


tip a little bit more disinfectant or kerosene, that was to stop it from getting blown by the blowflies. That used to make it good [UNCLEAR]. So toilets in those days were pretty bloody crude. I think they were. So that’s why in the army the old toilet on active service of course, you go behind the


nearest rock, or bush, or tree, and we would kangaroo it. Kangarooing was what we called it, was cotton down on your hunkers, making sure. I remember the old joke about the bloke couldn’t stand up when he went to the toilet in the bush. “I can’t get up. I can’t get up.” What he was doing was, he had one heel on the end of his cock and he couldn’t stand up.


“Cut it out.” “No, sir, that’s a fact.” “I believe you.” Kangarooing was in the army all your life until you get into the sewer system. Toilet facilities are pretty crude. You become a bit crude with them.
Were the blowflies a problem around the dunny?
Yeah, God’s truth,


the toilet would get blown. Unless you used disinfectant or kerosene. Lysol was a favourite one. Have you heard of Lysol? It was a vicious liquid. I think it came from crude oil. I’m not sure. A by-product of crude oil, or coal. It was a very strong disinfectant. It was


only used outside because you couldn’t have it in the house, it was too strong. If you got it on you it’d blister you. It was that powerful. Lysol, that was the name of it. If you didn’t do that the blowflies would blow your toilet, for, it was a favourite hunting ground of theirs.
What happened if you were in town and you needed to use the loo? Were there public loos?


Only in the pubs. They were down the back. The pubs didn’t have sewerage of course, in those days. So their toilets, you always had to go out of the pub and down the backyard of the pub. There’d be ladies’ that side and men’s that side. They’d be a mixture of urinals in the troughs. You’d pee in the trough and it’d run down into the doover.


Or generally a three hole toilet, that sort of thing. All pretty crude, but we were crude I guess too. We were used to it. That’s how you were brought up. Reared with nice, smelly toilets. That’s the only public toilet in the town of Ulmarra I ever knew. It was behind the pubs.


They didn’t like you either, people using them because people are dirty cows, they foul the toilets on purpose. I’ll say this, you can cut it out later, he said, “The bastards shit at it, not in it.” That was a fact of life. Always


smelly toilets.
Toilet paper was available?
Newspaper. Toilet rolls, I didn’t see one, even in the army I don’t think I ever saw a toilet roll. Might have in England, when I got there. They might have been using toilet rolls. I forget. In the army,


the pioneer platoon looked after the toilets. Big Jack, I think Hawkins was his name, that was his job and his sole job, go around all the toilets in the battalion, no, in our company area I think, they used to have squares of paper about that square. He’d put them on a wire hook,


he’d sit and put them all on by hand. Then he’d cart that bundle around the toilets and take the half used one down and put the new one back. That was toilet paper in the army toilets. In Ingleburn, in Sydney, and again in the Middle East. We carried that with us. The toilet paper problem. Mostly it was newspaper.


Later on they said that the slight, I remember this, why I don’t know, there was a word come out that using newspaper was not good because of a slight trace of antemin that was in the lead that made the newsprint. You might get traces of antemin into your


system through using newspaper for toilet paper. I thought that’s bloody weird, but I suppose it was true. Antemin. That’s a pretty noxious substance.
What are some of your memories down by the river?
We were expert swimmers, the lot of us. There was


one woman in Ulmarra used to teach kids to swim. The way she done it was she put a rope around under their armpits and leading a stringer away come up between the shoulder blades and she’d walk up and down the wharf holding them up until eventually they were swimming and didn’t know it, she’d slacken the rope and they’d be


dog, you learned to dog paddle mainly. Then she taught all the kids to swim. She was a great scout. Done it for no reward, just for the good of it. She was a married woman with kids of her own. We used to watch her. I learned to swim, up behind my mate’s place there was an old wharf had been there.


Going back just one more step, when the old sailing ships used to come up into the river, the ballast would be stone, you know, what they call spools. Rocks about that big. Just big enough that they were comfortable to handle and throw. Any bigger that were too heavy, any smaller they were too many of them. They used to unload this ballast on the riverbank.


If you go down to Ulmarra now, the whole of the riverbank is lines with spools at water level. This was to stop the water undermining the bank. The bank would then fall in. This place, they had tamped a big heap off and it used to be an old wharf and they used to just unload the spools. That formed a sandbank in behind it. That’s where we learned to swim because of the high tide


you’d have about that much water over this. So you put your hands on the bottom and kick. It’d be like having your hands on a flotation more or less, like they do today. My grand daughter, that one, she not only is a swim instructor, she is an instructor-instructor, She teaches instructors. That’s when she was a kid, but she’s


24 now. She’s a swimming instructor. They didn’t exist in those days. You learned to swim or you’d bloody well drown. I can remember once, they had dredges would be in the river too, quite common. There was a dredge operating doing the ferry crossing between Ulmarra and the other side of the river. On the far side it used to silt up.


So this dredge used to come up and clean it out. One day they were all swimming, all the people, and it was summertime and I suppose about half past 5 in the afternoon, there was still one heap of clothes in the old shed we used to change in. It was a young bloke, I think he was in his 20s. Worked on the railway. He drowned.


We don’t know how. We’re all swimming in the river and he just didn’t come out. So they raked and, with kelts and fishing lines and hooks and all sorts. They found him about midnight that night, his body come up. He was in his swimmers and the grappling hook was hooked in the strap of his swimmers there. So they were lucky to get the poor bugger out. I can


remember being there, you know. We were all there trying to help, throwing out lines with fishing hooks on them and all sorts of things, right along. I can’t remember his name. It was a well known incident, poor bugger. We don’t know how or why he drowned. He just did.
Were there any other incidences like that?


I’ll tell you this. I don’t boast about it much. On the river boats that used to run each way each day. One would start at Grafton and go to Yamba and back, the other started at Yamba and would go to Grafton and back. That was a run. My wife’s grandfather owned those boats, so I’ve got a book


there with photos of every riverboat in it. This particular one was the newest boat they had. All steamboats except this one was a diesel. Had a big diesel engine in it. It was the fastest. It would leave Yamba every Friday on a special run to Shelton in Grafton. One shilling from Yamba to Grafton and back. Even if you went


to a big department store owned by the Abrahams family, they were Jews of course, but quite good people, if you come into their store and told them you came up on the boat, they’d give you your shilling back if you shopped there. Just a gimmick to get people in the shop. That was a funny fact.


What I was just going to tell you, this boat was coming, Dad being a carrier, I’d go and meet the boat sometimes for him just to see if there was anything to pick up when he would be doing something else. It was very rarely anything came from downriver. It always came from Grafton to Ulmarra, if there was any goods at all. This


day all these people were on the wharf at Ulmarra going for the shilling trip to Grafton to do their week’s shopping. This little girl, I suppose she’d be 14, 15, she was going, what was she going to do? She was trying to get off the boat, that’s right. This bloody mob of chooks charged on


and the captain of course, always in a bloody hurry, before she could get on, he started to back out. They’d back out and then go, back away from the wharf and then go. I suppose it was from here to you the boat had got out. She realised it was going, the silly little girl, tried to jump and she didn’t make it and went into the river.


The old deckhand on the boat, he jumped in and I jumped in. I was about 16, I suppose. I could swim like an otter. We both jumped in together. I got the girl and he got a port the old deckhand. He was a middle-aged grey haired man. Headlines in the paper were ‘Men Dived to Rescue’. I thought “Jesus,


how did they find that out? I never said anything.” Only thing I was going crook about, I had a new packet of tobacco in my pocket. I’d started to smoke. That was one incident on being a good swimmer. She would have drowned. She couldn’t swim. If somebody hadn’t got her out. I only had to go from here to the kitchen till I was on the bank.


Just went under the wharf. I took her under the wharf. That was just one thing that being a good swimmer was good. She was that embarrassed. Sopping wet. Clothes clinging to her. This 16 year old grabbing her around the waist. Probably grabbed around the chest without knowing it. She was


terribly, terribly embarrassed, poor bugger. The family lived up on the riverbank. We took her up there and they took us in and gave us dry clothes until her mother came and got us. Her mother was a widower. Her name was Watkins, but married name was


Stradley, some name like that. That was the famous rescue. ‘Men Dive to Rescue’. I can still see it in the paper. I thought I had the clipping, but I don’t suppose you collect them like you do now.
Is it Abrahams department store?
Yeah. It was called


Gerard’s, G-E-R-A-R-D-S, Gerard’s Department Store. The Abrahams brothers, they were the first supermarket in Grafton. They made the old grocery store where they wrapped up the goods and gave them to you and you went, they went and got them out of the


shop and brought them to the counter and you had your list and you’d give them. They invented, were the first ones to have the modern department where you walk in, select your own. That was a big innovation in town. The Abrahams introduced that. Nowadays with Woollies and Coles and Myer and what have you. They were good. As a matter of fact, my grandfather,


my wife’s grandfather worked, wife’s father, kids’ grandfather worked for them. He used to work in the produce department. He’d get a bag of spuds. They had this special gadget built on a slope and it was like a triangular shaped thing. They put a board across the bottom, tipped all the spuds into it and you lifted


the board out and he picked the bad ones out and threw them over his shoulder. Most bags of spuds there were a few that had gone off. That was his job. And clean up the place. He was rouseabout in other words, but he enjoyed it because everybody knew him. Charlie Fulham, young Charlie he was. He was about bloody 70. Old Charlie was his father ran the boats.


Old Charlie. That tickled me, young Charlie. He was my kids’ bloody grandfather. He was a nice old bloke. There’s a photo of him here somewhere. He was a First War digger. He got gassed in France. He wasn’t too bad. He said it used to affect him a bit. He got gas in his lungs.


He didn’t get a big dosage like a lot of them. The Germans first used the gas.
What did you know of the First World War growing up?
Pretty well. Not the actual war itself, but I knew all the old diggers because we all, well go back one more step, every Anzac Day they would take


proceedings in the memorial park in Ulmarra and it was built on the riverbank. Best bloody spot in town. My Dad would do it for nothing, get the stools and chairs from the Masonic Hall and take them to the memorial park for the people to sit on for Anzac service. He’d do that for nothing so every


Anzac Day we’d go to the Anzac service. As I said, I can remember in my boyhood, all war blokes being there. And then the Second War diggers of course. We got to know them all. As a matter of fact, when I became foreman of the line depot here I was


on what they call external plant. That’s aerial lines and cable. Internal plants, phone and exchange. But I had two or three of these old first war diggers working for me as linemen. One old bloke finished up cleaner in the store, he was too old to be a lineman. So we kept him on as the cleaner. I knew them all personally. Most


the Ulmarra diggers, the First War diggers. The bloke on the north coast wharf, he used to give us casual work, unloading and loading the boats. He was a first war digger. He only had one eye, he had a glass eye. He’d lost it in the war. Lost his one eye. He always used to look a bit weird because this glass eye was always


always more wide open than his real eye. I knew them all pretty well.
Was there a difference between the Boer War veterans and the First World War?
Yeah, the Boer War finished in I think, 1902, 1903, so there was that gap, 03 to, but some of them were young enough to go to the


First World War. They were dual. They had Boer War ribbons up and First World War.
Interviewee: Albert Ulrick Archive ID 1380 Tape 03


I’d like to ask you about your enlistment into the militia. I believe it was 1936?
Yeah. I’d forgotten about that. Yeah. It was a group


of us I think, from Ulmarra. Quite a few. We called ourselves Ulmarra Platoon as a matter of fact. Would have been 36 I suppose. Yeah that’d be right. I’m not sure what part of 36. 37, 38, yeah, it must have been early because I went to three militia camps. The first


one was in Lismore, the second one was in Grafton and the third one was in Greta down the Hunter. Yeah, that’d be right. As a matter of fact the photos on that in militia uniform. When we joined the AIF, they told us to wear our militia uniforms. We always said, “They’re lousy.


We want the uniforms back.” Which they, they kept them too. Not their AIF uniform, which was different of course. We had to hand the militia ones in.
What inspired the original decision to enlist in the militia?
There again, sheer boredom plus the fact you got a few bob out of it. I think we got paid. Even


got paid, what we used to do, one of the blokes in the militia was the brother-in-law of a bloke who had a cream run. The cream run was a truck that went out around the cockies picking up their cream cans. Most of, I think our nights was Wednesday nights, so we’d come to Grafton and get to


the drill hall at 7 o'clock and probably have a three hour parade, what they called it. We’d learn how to slope arms and all that. They’d pay us, not very much, a fair extra, then we got paid for attending parade, so a combination of that


was something different. The fact that we were issued with 303 rifles, which we took home, went down to the second hand shop and bought First World War blunt live ammo for munition. I think the reason this area got a bit of a caning when all the old over militia rifles and purchased ammunition.


Why was there a group of you that went off? Did someone convince you?
No, I think there was a returned soldier bloke in Ulmarra, yeah. His name was Harry Preston. He joined up and he became a company sergeant major although he was just a private in the 1st


World War. He might have encouraged us, I don’t know. I don’t know why, really. If you said to me, “Why the hell did you join the militia?” the only thing I could say was it was something different. As you can imagine, life was pretty drab in Ulmarra. I don’t know for any special reason. Wasn’t patriotic, that’s for sure.
Did you have any sense of the trouble that was brewing overseas at that time?


Well, not really. Not at that time. Late ’38, ‘39 we knew there was going to be trouble. I remember when, in the drill hall we were on parade and the CO [commanding officer] was the local policeman. I think he was a detective.


Had one sergeant detective on town, I think he was it. His name was McMahon and he finished up at the end of the war, he was the commanding officer of all military policemen in Sydney. He became a major I think. Yeah, Major McMahon. I can remember this night in the drill hall


when the war broke out. 39?
September 39?
September. This would have been between September and Christmas time because he asked us, all those who wished to join the AIF to step out, march out and line up out the front. I think


about half of the Ulmarra blokes did. I think there was 16 of us and a few others, but not all that many. I remember this bloke, this McMahon rooster, “Hey,” he said, “what are you joining the AIF for? You know you’ll be sent overseas if you do that.” One of the blokes behind me said, “For Christ’s sake, isn’t that where the war is?”


So he shut his trap and backed away then. He said, “Okay, as long as you know what you’re doing.” That’s when we volunteered to join. That was just after the outbreak of war. The 4th November we got called up. All these roosters who volunteered.


What was the standard and quality of your [militia] training, in your opinion?
What annoyed me a lot about militia training wasn’t as a fighting man, but as an instructor. They were a wake-up. They knew the bloody war was coming and they wanted a ready made group of instructors. To get a promotion in the militia, say to corporal or sergeant, you had


to be an expert instructor. I took the test. I had to give the instruction on the rifle, that was my test to be promoted to corporal. That’s all they were doing. They were training instructors. They didn’t give a bugger if you knew how to crawl through the grass without getting shot. Any military manoeuvres was just fun you had at the


annual camp. That annoyed me a little bit about the militia. They weren’t training us as soldiers, but as instructors. I’ll stick by that statement. I know it’s different to what’s pointed out, but that was the fact about the militia and that’s one thing I was a bit sour on.
How large was your commitment? Were you training once a week?
Yeah, every Wednesday night I think it was.


I remember sometimes, once we done an Easter bivouac. Went up to Byron Bay and what they done there, they had live ammo exercise down at the beach. What they done, they went out and put great big sheets of cardboard painted white, or white


cardboard on the mangrove trees along the coast. We got up on the escarpment, I suppose 4 or 500 yards away, and fired live ammo at them. They also gave us a demonstration of mortar firing and Vickers machinegun. The machineguns they gave us live fire with was the old Lewis gun.


Have you ever heard of the Lewis gun? He was a great old machine, air cooled. Well, air cooled if you didn’t fire it too much. They always got hot, of course. Old Lewis gun, that was the first machinegun I ever fired.
You were trained in the Lewis gun, .303?
Basic camp arrangements?
Yeah, camp hygiene mainly and living


in camp as a group, eating at a mess. It was all part of the training I thought of later. We didn’t realise it, but that’s also very serious part of training was living together, living as a group. Living in a hygiene so you don’t all die of food poisoning or whatever. That was part of it. The actual combat training was almost zero.


Because they didn’t tend to do much combat training. We were going to be instructors, which they did become too. Quite a nice, soft, cushy job arrived out of the old militia. So the blokes stayed there and became instructors. The blokes who weren’t as adventurous as us, I guess. Or as stupid, whatever word you like to use.
So you weren’t getting from the militia exactly


what you’d gone there for in terms of the combat training?
Why did you hang a round? Were you locked in? Had you signed on for a certain period of time?
It was good fun. Fairly good comradeship too, because that group from Ulmarra almost enlisted, except one man, we all enlisted. There were a few,


two blokes went straight to Newcastle on a job in the steelworks and spent the war there. Some of them went bush, we called them the hollow log brigade. They became sleeper cutters and timber getters, which was a reserved occupation. They give the militia and the army away altogether. A lot of them became instructors.


You remained in the militia until September ‘39?
Yeah. I wore my militia uniform into camp. They wanted it back.
Walk me through the outbreak of war.
That particular Sunday?


I was sitting in the kitchen at home in Ulmarra, listening to the broadcast on the radio. I think it was Dad, and myself, my brother, and two friends. Their names were Goodyear. Both of them, one of them finished in the AIF, no both of them. They both joined the AIF.


They never saw any action. They were in different things. We were sitting round the kitchen table. I think we’d been playing Euchre. Buggering around, talking. We knew this broadcast was coming on, we’d been forewarned about it. We listened to, who would have been in England? What was that old fellow’s name,


went to England [Germany] and came back with a bit of paper? He was Prime Minister. Poor old fellow, he made a crap of it all. He claimed that Hitler promised him no more land grab. What was his name? Doesn’t matter much. Then we had Menzies come on, “It is my forlorn duty to inform you


that we are now at war with Germany.” The bit about Poland, they invaded Poland and we give them until that day to withdraw. When that day came they said the fact that Germany had not complied with the demand to withdraw from Poland. “It is my melancholy duty,” that's what Robert Menzies said,


“to inform you we are now in a state of war with Germany.” So we all looked at one another and said, “Well, I wonder what that’s going to mean.” We didn’t realise.
You didn’t have a sense of what that involved?
No. Not the, no, but we knew it wasn’t good. It was going to be a not very nice


show, but being young and stupid we were the first volunteers in. My army number is 4362. They even formed an association called ‘The Four Figure Men’. [UNCLEAR] cut it out, I'm not joining that. ‘End of 39’, that was another group formed, but when we come


back we were met by the members of the RSL [Returned and Services League] who handed us a ticket saying that we were members for the first twelve months free of charge. I’ve been a member ever since.
Did you ever have any problems with your surname?
In Germany?
No, in Australia.
No, we didn’t. No,


we were accepted as Australians. But my grandfather did. During the First World War he was called up for investigation. Holy ghost, [UNCLEAR], I wouldn’t have liked to be near him then. My uncle, two on Mum’s side went to war and one of my Dad’s brothers went to the war. They never


ever mentioned the fact, only my old grandfather. He was called up because his mother and father were German by birth. He was Australian by birth and they reckoned he really hit the roof. There was blokes scuffling in all directions when he ended up where he was told to go. He went there yelling the place down because his son was already in the war.


Did you ever cop any ribbing or did people joke about your German origin?
No. Oh, because there were so many. Here in Grafton there was the Zitch, Zitch Brothers cordial factory, Wunderlich, that was another German family. I’m trying to think. There was quite a few, Zitch, Wunderlich, what


was? Quite a few German names because there was a whole swag of German stonemasons brought from Germany to built Yulgilbar Castle, which is 30 mile up river, by the Ogilvy family. Ogilvys own the big cattle run at the top end of the Clarence. They own not acres, but square miles


of the best cattle country in Australia. They were millionaires, the Ogilvys. They built the castle. I’ll tell you who bought it in the finish. The people who, Myers, the Myers family. Melbourne business world. They own probably Woolworth’s I think, Myers. They finished up buying it.


I think they owned it when it was sort of – what they done, they knocked the top off it and ruined it as a castle. Just like a big stone house now. They weren’t real popular with the local folk, ruin their historic castle. But, no, I can’t ever remember anyone. Even my father. Only my grandfather


got called up in the First World War because of the German name. Even when I was in Germany, if you want to go that far ahead. They used to say to me, “Ulrick, that’s Deutsch?” I’d say, “Ja, ja.” “Wo hein?” That meant “Where from?” “Oh,” I said, “Lord, Berlin.” I didn’t have a bloody clue where it come from. But I found out later


it was from, not Bavaria, but one of the well known German counties. I’ll think of it.
To enlist in the AIF, what did you have to do?
We were notified to be at


the Grafton Drill Hall. My actual date was the 4th of November 1939.
This was as a militia group?
Yeah. We were in the militia then. Then they had it all set up. We done our medical first. All the local doctors were down there and it was a matter of put the hand on your forehead and if you were warm you’re in. I don’t think


anyone got chucked out for being not fit, because we were all fit. Fit as roosters. Done the medical and what they call the attestation or whatever. That was the swearing in. Put your hand on the Bible and we swore to fight ‘the King’s enemy’ because King George VI was on the throne.


They said, “Do you swear to fight the King’s enemies, home and abroad, for the duration of hostilities and twelve months thereafter?” That was the oath you took with your hand on the Bible. That was it, we were in.
Did you have to sign out of the militia?
No, that was funny. We just stepped away. Stepped aside. We stepped from the militia into the AIF


without documents. Not even a goodbye I don’t think. Later on they were issuing out efficiency medals. I could have got that if I’d have went through. You had to have ten years’ service. I almost qualified by my AIF, because


service abroad counted one and a half or something like that. Then your militia years counted too. I don’t know whether it was ten or twelve years you had to do to get this green medal, a green ribbon efficiency medal. The first thing they said to me, “What’s your militia number?” I said, “I don’t


know.” And I never ever did know. Nobody ever told me. So I said, “To hell with it. Bugger the efficiency medal, stick it if I’ve got to go through all that trouble.”
Having signed for the period of the conflict and a year thereafter.
Duration of hostilities.
And a year thereafter.
One year thereafter.
Did you go immediately into AIF training or did you have a period before


you had to head to Ingleburn?
We were on the train that night. What they done, we went on the north coast mail I think, one of the local trains, as far as Kempsey, I think. We got off that train there and waited and a special train had left Murwillumbah, picking up


all the AIF soldiers as far as Kempsey. We got on that and went to Ingleburn.
There was no farewell to your family?
Oh yeah. We had a farewell at Ulmarra between the time we said “go” and the time we got called up. No, wait, I’m wrong there. Farewell was when we come home


for Christmas leave 1939. That’s when we had the farewell. I’ve still got the wallet they gave me. I’ve got it in my boxes of treasures.
Was your father proud?
I think so. He never ever said. I remember at the send off they called all the parents up to say a word or two and he started


off talking well and then he got overcome by the emotion and he had to pack it in. There was two of us, my brother and I were both going. He’d lived through the First World War and he was expecting the worst I guess. That’s right, I’d forgot about that. When we went up and were sworn in we were on the train


that bloody night, for Ingleburn. We never got home again. We knew that. Because they told us to bring two plates and a mug and a knife and a fork and a spoon. How about that, joining the army with your own kit. Later on we got the old dixie [mess tin] you know, the two bit thing. One fitted inside the other with handles.


Did you get the train out to Ingleburn, or did you stop at Moore Park or the showgrounds?
We went straight out to Ingleburn and went by bus, hang on, I’m bloody lying there. I think it was Liverpool we got off the train. Yeah, I’m sorry. Liverpool we got off the train and went by bus to Ingleburn. Ingleburn didn’t have a railway station. I’m sorry, that was a big booboo.


What state was Ingleburn in at that point?
Our first job was digging stumps out of the parade ground. It was all just a cattle property, Ingleburn camp, taken over by the army. They built all these huts, they called them, they looked like railway carriages sitting around the prairie everywhere.


That’s how we became units. Thirty-two a hut, which would become a platoon size. Thirty blokes become a platoon. So that thirty blokes in that hut became Number 1 Platoon in the 2/2nd Battalion, Headquarters Company, which we were. The next hut was


Number 2 platoon in Headquarters Company 2/2nd Battalion. That’s how we were allocated our posse. As simple as that.
Were you and your brother split up at that point or were you in the same platoon?
Not originally we were together. But somehow or other, I think


we were together till we got to the Middle East, in the same company, same platoon. In the Middle East we were in Palestine and the British Army went from 4s to 3s. What you did when we first joined up, you fell in in two ranks when you fell in. You had to number off


and then the odd numbers took one pace back and one pace sideways to form 4s. From the command of ‘Form 4s’, see? You had to remember what bloody number you were, whether you were odd or even. Even stood still and the odds went. That was good till everybody forgot what bloody number they were and here they were shoving and pushing.


“Form two ranks, we’ll go through it again.” I always remember, “Form 4s, on the march.” And the other one was “Form platoon.” “Form platoon,” meant you marched in a line, four deep, this was real tricky bit of manoeuvring. You’d be walking along in 4s,


one behind the other. They’d say, “Form platoon,” and you had to do a fancy jig and find all facing in line. That was good. We mastered that. The one that really cracked was “Right, wheel as a platoon.” Holy God. Both ends, instead of the left hand column, instead of going like that in a big like


a gate opening, both ends met in the bloody middle. That was the first time we tried it. We had to start all over. Company commander and the company sergeant major and all the sergeants bellowing at us, “Back in bloody numbers, fellows. Form 4s.”
At that stage, were there tensions between


the fresh recruits into the AIF and those drawn from the militia?
No, the only division of thought, perhaps put it that way, was the AIF and the militia. The AIF called them Chocos, which meant ‘Chocolate Soldiers’, meant you can’t come out in the wet or you melt. So the chocolate soldiers and the AIF didn’t see eye to eye.


There was no brawls or anything, just derision. The AIF treated the militia with derision.
There was none of that directed towards those who had been in the militia before joining the AIF?
No, no. As a matter of fact, there was another group that joined the AIF one fortnight before us, they were civilian, straight


from civvy, into the AIF. They went to camp a fortnight before us and when we were in Ingleburn, I think they were at one of them camps around Liverpool somewhere. I remember the great day they marched into camp to join us. That’s where the old, “You’ll be sorry,” was generated. We all lined up yelling at them


“You’ll be sorry – ” Just as sorry as we were later on. That was a derisional call, calling out to these blokes.
Was the initial training at Ingleburn three months in duration?
We were on the boat on the 3rd of January. So 4th November till 3rd January that was the AIF training


we got. We were pretty raw when we got on the boat.
What areas did you cover in that training you hadn't had experience in before?
The main training we had was toughening up process. From Ingleburn camp type of thing, the Georges River, I suppose about three or four miles. That was our training. You’d


walk, jog, run in that order. Walk for ten minutes, jog for ten minutes, then run for three minutes. That’s how you got from A to B and the same coming back. So their main object, looking back on it, was to make us a bit tougher. From civilians to trained soldiers was a long hard road. The trained soldier,


I reckon, is not whether he is good at sloping his arms or saluting, but to walk out, go like hell all day and lay down that night in the paddock and get up again the next morning and do it again. That’s the trained soldier.
Was there firing range practise?
Yeah. We had one day out at


the rifle range, where they have the King’s shoot. I’ve forgot the name of it. Anzac Rifle Range. We went out and done our shoot and we had the heaviest downpour of rain I think I ever seen. We all come back soaked to the skin. Sopping wet. This rain,


excuse me. The Anzac Rifle Range, we fired live ammo. I was in the pits one part of it, marking. Talk about a lot of crook shots. They were hitting the bank behind me and the bank up the top, ricochets and birds and clods flying in on us.


It’s just as well you could get back in underneath while the fire was crouching down. They had the markers’ flag. There was one who had a red pendant on it. You waved that like that if it missed. So we spent most the time waving this whether they hit or not. Giving the blokes up there the raspberry.


Anzac Rifle Range.
What were you like with a .303?
I was a marksman. I had crossed rifles on my sleeve. Being a bushman, we always had pea rifles. I could shoot a sparrow off the top of a house without hitting the house. I was a very good rifleman. A good shot. We kept it a bit quiet because


we didn’t want to become a sniper. That was like committing suicide was a sniper. The first thing the opposition done and you done was try to shoot all the other snipers on the opposite side. They had big telescopic sights. No, no, sniping that’s a no-no. Suicide business. Special rifles, but I took my crossed


rifles off soon as I found – I got crossed rifles in the militia. I put them on my AIF uniform. I smartly diced them when I found that out. I didn’t want to be no god-damned sniper.
Were you exposed to the Bren gun at that point?
No. We didn’t get the Bren guns until we were in Palestine. What is now Israel, but Palestine


then. We had to start all over again. You had to be able to dismantle it, put it back together and the return spring, you had to be able to set it. When you fired a Bren gun, the recoil, there was a little bit of muzzle blast, but most the time nothing, the recoil reloaded it by,


it pushed the gun back and this spring was wound up. When the spring was re-wound, it shot it forward again. When it went forward, it picked up another round and put it in the spout. That was the mechanism. We had to learn all that to be able to do it, take it to bits and put it back together. Even went further than that. You had to be able to take it to pieces in the dark by


feel and put it back together because that was going to happen later on. It was a good weapon.
Was it the same with the .303? Did you have to dismantle and?
Oh yeah. They were quite simple.
Can you run me through the procedure?
I think all we done, the first thing you learned was how to take the bolt out. You pulled it right back to the eject position and then there was a thing that flipped up


over you and that allowed you to take the bolt out. The only other bit that came off was the magazine. It had a little catch which you put your hand under, grab the magazine and sort of feel it, lift this catch and pull the magazine out. From then on it was armour. In the butt was a little,


your oil was in the little butt, in a little hole in the butt about that long, and that was where your oil came in. When you unscrewed the top of the oilcan and you used it to put oil in the workings of the rifle.
Interviewee: Albert Ulrick Archive ID 1380 Tape 04


Given the set-up in Ingleburn was


primitive at that stage, equipment was limited –
Cooking was a bit rugged too.
Was this making you question what you were getting into, going up against the German war machine?
God yes. I thought, hell, talk about a mug falling for this. The food was mainly mutton stew cooked in a big


copper. Some greasy mutton stew. The people who sold stuff to the army got rid of all their junk as you can imagine. The bread was always good. I can’t ever remember getting served sweets. Oh, no my favourite cold dish


was goldfish and onions, we called it. Herrings in tomato sauce, put in a big dish and cut up onions out on them and the whole lot mixed up. Goldfish and onions, that was probably the worst meal you’d ever had in your life. Not only that, you put it in your dixie and you’d nearly have to get a sandblaster to get it out to clean it. You’d be in


a sand, get sand somewhere and a big stick or a rock. This stuff would be glued on your eating gear. Goldfish.
What was the morale in the camp?
Pretty good. It was funny. We were all young blokes. All pretty fit. Larrikins, you know. Otherwise you wouldn’t be in the bloody AIF


if you wasn’t half ratty. The morale was pretty good. I’d say real good amazingly.
Before you embarked you had a large send off parade?
We had a Sydney march.
Walk me through that day.
We went by


train from Liverpool down to somewhere, I think Circular Quay. I think we marched up George Street or one of them, across up near the railway somewhere and perhaps back down Elizabeth Street, something like that. I know we walked three different streets and


then got back on the train down at the Quay. That took us back to camp. Nice and sweaty. I think that was in January. Yeah, January.
What was public turnout like?
Good. Surprisingly good. They came in and clapped, said goodbye, happy returns and all that jazz. They were very


good I thought. Quite a few lined up, quite a few people.
That was a boost to morale?
Yeah, at least somebody’s happy to see us. Personally I thought it was a bloody cow because they made us march with fixed bayonets at the slope. I don’t know if you’ve ever carried a rifle with a bayonet on the end of it


at a slope. It gradually gets heavier and heavier. The only thing they done for us was ‘change arms’ or whatever. Take it from this side and put it on that side. But it didn’t make it any lighter. That was real torture. They should have let us march with bayonets unfixed because it made it too heavy, too tough. They say that to march with


fixed bayonets through the streets is a mark of trust. Trust the army to march with fixed bayonets. Or drawn swords or spears or whatever. That was a mark of trust by the people for the army. I thought, we were talking about it afterwards, “What the hell was the trust? We’d just as soon have passed without any rifles.” The fixed bayonets were shocking.


Tell me about waking up and heading down to Pyrmont, I suppose, to set off.
Yeah. What was amazing I always thought was the night before. Everybody in Sydney knew we were going. Lots of the, even the country people, come down. They knew too.


The Ingleburn camp all night was full of people saying goodbye and blokes who were married they’d disappear up behind the scrub for a last little bit of saying goodbye. We’ll cut that out. It amazed me the amount of people. Ingleburn camp was just full of people come to see their sons before they be off.


What was the mood of the people in the camp?
All the people were sad, but we were in pretty high spirits. We were having a big adventure. We were going overseas. So we were all pretty real high spirits. I remember mums and dads and wives and girlfriends, they were all pretty sad.


Did you have anyone visit?
No. None of our people were there. Too far away. After all, they weren’t very affluent, anyone. Couldn’t afford it. Bit different when we got back. They paid their way down.
Did you have trouble sleeping the night before you set off?
No, not really.


A lot of the people who came had brought grog with them, beer. Not so much grog, but bottles of beer and I think the canteen was open. We somehow managed to have a few beers and no, well I’d say the word, we’d be normal. Normal yahoos that we were. Nothing sad about it.
Tell me


about arriving at Pyrmont.
Getting on the flaming boat. We got off at Woolloomooloo. We were round the other side of the bridge anyway, because we went under the bridge. Is it Woolloomooloo? Yes. Well, we got off the train right along the, somebody said it was Darling Harbour, but I don’t know. When we


got off the train we were sort of the train, we were on the wharf. We got off the train there and the wharf and the ship was there. So it must have been a good ship loading. They had the gangplank down up into the ship. We didn’t go up the top or anything. I think we got into the ship at wharf level.


There was all guides on the ship. As you came in, we were in our platoons, companies, as we got on. They said, “Headquarters company,” which I was in. I was in what was to become the Bren gun carrier platoon. I think we were Vickers


gunners then. No, Bren gun carrier platoon, we didn’t have any Bren gun carriers. We had the guns. We got on the ship, found out what deck we were on. We were the first deck above the waterline. E deck I think it was. E deck was above the waterline and F deck was below the waterline.


We were very lucky we were the first. But it didn’t make much difference. They were shut all the time, the portholes, because the waves break against the ship went up over our porthole. So we had to have them shut. We were getting on the boat. You can just imagine, it’s about 100 degrees and no shade, sweating and hot in


woolly uniforms. They had issued us with tin hats, which we were told to put in the top of our kitbag. So you had a kitbag, full webbing equipment with backpack with your overcoat in it and a spare pair of boots. That was regulation. Spare pair of boots and your overcoat in your backpack. Your haversack


that side. Your haversack with your eating gear, two plates. We hadn't been issued with the army kit yet. On this side the water bottle. And the Lord Mayor’s Fund, or somebody, gave us what they called a C kit. That was great. It was like a pillowslip with a drawstring in it, made out


of calico. In it was a suit of pyjamas, tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush and various goodies like lollies and towels, two towels. We liked that. The C kit was a beauty. I think it was probably paid for by the government but given on behalf of the Lord Mayor’s Fund I think they called it.


So we had a kit bag, a C kit bag, your rifle, all your webbing equipment and onto this ship sweating. Every time somebody bumped it your hat came down over your eyes. Swearing and cursing and going bloody crook. The old bloke, he still lives out here at Junction Hill, five miles out, he’d


got in, he went down the bay. Have you been in the bowels of a ship? Down the main alleyway, or whatever they call them, and they all branched off to the side of the ship and you went into the other side and they all branched to that side of the ship. I’m going along swearing, we had to find the cabin, somewhere to live. This joker said, “Hey, Jack, here. Come down


here.” Jack Young’s his name. He had a two berth cabin right on the outside of the ship with a porthole open. He said, I said, “What are you doing here?” We used to call him Old Jack because his name was Jack Young. “What the hell are you doing here, Old Jack?” He said, “Are you looking for a cabin mate.”


He said, “I’ve got this beaut two berth cabin and I didn’t want to have to share it with a bloody drunk all the way to wherever.” We didn’t know where we were going then, “All the way to wherever we’re heading. I’m picking out somebody that was a bit decent, a bit clean and not a booze artist.” I said, “Well, you’ve got him.” So he said, “I’m taking the bottom bunk.” I said, “You were here first.” What I found in the


top bunk was the best anyway, because that’s where the air condition valve was, a little thing like that you moved around. It was on a ball with a spout sticking out of it. The whole ship was air conditioned because it was an Orient liner we were on, the SS Otranto. They all started with O, the Orsova, the Otranto, the Orontes, they were all Orient


liners. It amazed me. I went “Oh, this is a big bloody ship.” 22,000 tons. I see that one the other day come in, it was about ten times that size. That big Queen Mary cruise ship. 22,000, what a whopper. We still used to get lost in it even when we were on it awhile. Away again.


That night we anchored in the harbour. We went out from the wharf and anchored in the harbour. There was people came round on boats. We were talking to them out the porthole and so we all ducked away and wrote a note home. Give them a shilling or whatever. I think it was twopence halfpenny for a postage stamp then. They said they’d post them. They did too.


People in their little motor launch.
You said everyone in Sydney knew you were heading off. Did they line the harbour foreshore as you left the next day?
What a lot of the wake ups done, Mum on the shore they had a big yellow tablecloth or something and the bloke on the ship, he had the same. So they’d wave this


and the one on the shore could know what boat he was on. That was about it. They didn’t get any closer. But that night these boats all came round. All the Sydney people on boats and ferries of course, they were circling around us. That was the only contact we had. These people agreed to post our last letters.
The journey to the


Middle East, what were the main challenges you faced of life at sea?
Bloody terrible it was. Crowded. Jammed in. We got to Perth, we got off at Fremantle for one day. The thoughts on this ship, well it would be pretty sour and a bit hard to get off if we hit a


torpedo. I couldn’t see us getting off if we got torpedoed. There would have been awful loss of life. We were down on F Deck, F, G, H, I, J, K, you know. A Deck was the boat deck. How we got from F Deck to A Deck to get in a lifeboat was pretty forlorn. So we reckoned that. We were all issued with


lifejackets. It wasn’t jackets, they were belts. Round under your arm and you had one sitting just below the back of your neck and the other on your chest. That was a nasty joke. You’d come and pull the back one down and the front one would hit the bloke on the shin. They were hard, packed with kapok. That was a real no-no in the finish. A lot of


fights broke out over that. We had boat drill. Very regular boat drill. You had to get from wherever you were to your boat station. When the boat drill came on, all the watertight doors down below were shut and you had to know where your way up


was. Ours was up through the main kitchen. We got strict instructions, “Anybody caught pilfering food through the main kitchen will be taken on deck and shot.” Or words to that effect. We remember going up through this kitchen. Here was great trays of roast chuck. We thought, “We can’t take a roast chuck, we’ll be robbing the officers, poor buggers, couldn’t do


that.” We never got any roast chuck I can tell you. Mainly stew. I remember too, the first night we were onboard they used the ship’s cutlery and the ship’s crockery. All the cutlery disappeared and half the crockery so that was it. We had one meal. “You can use your own mess kit from here on.” We thieved all the


cutlery. I don’t know what they done with the crockery. I certainly didn’t take it. Probably just dumped it out of the porthole.
There was fighting fairly regularly?
Very rarely. They rubbed together pretty well I thought. For what the conditions we were living under, which was pretty ruddy, very poor. What could you expect? Troop


ship. No. The food was good. It was wholesome. The only trouble with our, we lived in messes, we had a mess each. No bugger in our mess got seasick so we didn’t get extra tucker. We were all good sailors the whole lot of us. Some of them did. Some poor cows got seasick. I never missed a meal and my brother never missed a meal. We were natural good sailors.


Even in the Indian Ocean coming home. We ran into a gale. Holy smokes. I remember being up on what they call the lower bridge. There’s the bridge of the ship and it was tiered. We were on the highest one we were allowed to get on, looking out the front of the ship in this gale coming home on the Indian Ocean. The ship would go up like that and


at the same time go like that. Then come down like that. It was that severe I got giddy like you would on a merry-go-round, but I didn’t get seasick. I’ll never forget that.
From Fremantle you headed to Colombo?
Yup. That’s where it was a bit scary because we didn't know about what the torpedo bit was.


That was one of our shipboard duties. All along the ship at every level you draw torpedo watch. That’s all you done. No binoculars, just line of sight watching for torpedoes or periscopes.
Were you in convoy?
How many other ships?


I suppose it’d be over twenty, I reckon. The trouble was in the convoy, there was one old tub, I think it was a Polish ship. Only done about ten knots. So the whole convoy went to the speed of this bloody awful thing. I remember we left Colombo and going


towards the Canal that for some reason or other we had to wait behind. We were the flagship, the general was on our ship and we had to speed up to overtake it. The whole ship was going like that with the engine full clout. They could go the old thing. We were that surprised. We were really heading to catch up with the rest


of the convoy. I think it was for some official reason. They wanted something put on. But I never ever found out what.
From Colombo you headed up the Suez?
Yeah. We got off at El Kantara. That’s where the desert highway crosses the canal. I don’t know how it crosses. I think on ferries, punts backwards and forwards, because


there was no bridge. We got off at Kantara and headed across the Sinai Desert to Palestine.
What were your early impressions of the countryside there?
“Christ, look at this.” Sand. The Sinai Desert is a desert, period. Not even camel thorn bushes like there was up further. It was


a desert. We went across by gyppo trains. They’re great. What they do, they had a chain I suppose that long and the buffers are here and the chain hooks to there. So when you stop they go, all hit like that. When you started off again you’d, that’s the gyppo


train. They were well organised. The worst train you ever rode on because of this. They were loose coupled. They’d start off, the first one would go that far, pick up the next one. By the time it picked up the last, it’s going at ten mile an hour. Shocking.
Was there a sense you were retracing the steps of the World War 1


guys as you went across the desert?
No, I don’t think so. I don’t even think it entered our head. All we were grizzling about was this bloody shocking country we were crossing and this rough old train.
You arrived in Dulles camp?
Yeah, Dulles.
Can you describe the set-up there when you arrived?
Yeah, when we arrived it was


beautifully set up. It had been set up by the Black Watch. They were still there. They were there guarding it when we got there, the Black Watch regiment. Everything was dead in line. The tents, all the pegs were in line. They were all exactly in line. That was great until Italy came into the war. When did they come in? A few months.


June, yeah. We got there in February, and when Italy came into the war we had to do two things, scatter, and wasn’t that great. These Indian tents they were, EPI [EPIP: English Patent, Indian Pattern]. The PI stood for Patent India. There’s all these spellings in the army, like water bottle’s cork.


They had two bamboo poles for the main thing and between the bamboo poles was a cross piece and up on top of the poles was another cross piece. The sides of the tent, which were about that high, was laces in. You took the side right out of the tent from


about that high up. They were beautiful tents. They were made out of Indian cotton. The ropes were all white cotton ropes. When Italy came into the war we had to scatter. There was the usual run of useless bloody officers, “You go there, you go there, you go there.”


So we got this tent on these poles on our shoulders, about six or eight to a pole, they were pretty heavy things. “Number 7 platoon, right, you’re here.” So you put it down. We had to dig them in that far on account there could be air raids. So we dug this square hole


and your tent just fitted outside it. If you put it inside it, when it rained, the water come into the hole. The blokes next to us were stiffed because a mole, there was moles in Palestine, he’d come up like they do, you’ve seen mole hills. When it rained, the water ran down this mole and into their tent.


Then they said, “You, you, you and you come up here.” We had to dig the officers’ tents in then. We thought that was great. That was lovely. We loved doing that. Swearing and cursing. “Why don’t they dig their own bloody tents?” Couldn’t get out of it.
Did the training step up in intensity once you reached Palestine?
Yup. There again


it was mainly toughening exercises. Plus arms, use of arms and, but mainly making us tough. You had to march, run, jump, shoot, all day long and lay down where you finished that night, sleep all night. If you were lucky you slept all night. If you weren't you done guard duty. Again on the cooks and


bottle washers and guards. The infantry itself, they never got any rest. You always had to guard somebody else. I can remember in the Western Desert they said, “We want six blokes.” Of course you never volunteered for anything. We got selected because we were closest to battalion headquarters. In that there


was a hole going into the, not much bibber than a rabbit’s burrow. They said, “There’s an Italian in there.” We said, “Is there?” “You’ve got to watch he don’t escape.” We said, “What’s he there for?” He was witnessed, some bloke drunk Aussie bloke, you know, how Italian, threw a grenade into the prison compound at Bardia.


It didn’t kill anyone luckily, but it wounded a couple. This bloke was a witness. So there were six of us spent all night guarding one bloke in turns. Two hours on. Everybody said the same thing, “Oh God, come out, you dago [Italian].” They were going to, they wouldn’t have to guard him anymore. But he knew. He didn’t show. That, terrible night that was.


We were dead, ragged, tired. This was after the battle. The old dago in the hole. Oh God.
Did you also receive your Bren carriers at [Dulles camp]?
Let me think. I think we did. I get a bit vague on that.


Yeah, we did, because during the trip from Palestine to Egypt the blokes, I keep getting confused with going from Egypt to Greece. I’m not sure, I’m sorry. I’m not sure.
When you did get the Bren gun carriers, was that a


steep learning curve?
Most of us could drive. I learned to drive on my brother-in-law’s trucks. He had a trucking business. We had a lot of truck drivers with us. What you had to learn on a Bren gun carrier was to double the clutch. What you done, you had a little gear lever there about that long in a gate.


It went from there, right to the back of the carrier. So when you went like that, it turned the shaft and you brought it up, put it forward and pulled the shaft forward or back or turn. You had to what you called double the clutch. You put the clutch in, pulled it into neutral, let the clutch out, which spun the gear box,


put the clutch in again, then shift it into gear. What they call double clutching. You had to be able to do that to be a Bren gun carrier, because if you didn’t they were square grated gears and they’d just ground. You couldn’t get it into gear. Another smart bit you had to learn was, to turn the wheel, you drove by wheel, the Bren gun carrier. If you turned it a little, that put a


bow in the tracks. Both tracks went like that, that would turn it enough to drive on a road. But to sharp turn you had to use the brakes. So you put the wheel hard over, that put the break on that side and this side kept going free. That’s how you turned it in the field or in the mud or sand. So that took a bit of mastering. We all had to be able to drive.


You had to be able to fix a broken track. A track came off you’d be able to put it back on. So it was all pretty intensive training.
Describe how a Bren gun is mounted into the carrier.
Just on a fairly ordinary mounting. The Bren gun carrier, on the left hand driver there, had this slot. In it was the same mounting that was


on the frame that you used for ack-ack [anti aircraft] Bren work. Just clipped in and you pull the lever round. It was up and down as well. You could move it. So you could aim and fire it. Very rarely was it every fired out of the Bren gun carrier. See, the drill for a Bren gun carrier was the word ‘carrier’. That’s how went. You carried the gun and the crew. It


wasn’t a tank. You didn’t use it to fire out of. The correct way to use a Bren gun carrier, you come up to your fighting position, the gunner, who was in the back, and the carrier commander, who was a corporal or a sergeant, or in my case, the officer, jumped out and took the gun and all the


ammo strapped around them and took up the firing position. The driver took the Bren gun carrier to a safer position from the front back behind a hill or whatever. That was drill. That was one we practised quite a lot. We’d come up to this small rise or whatever, the carrier would stop, the gunner and the offsider would jump out, run forward,


mount the gun wherever, and the carrier would back off to a safe possie. That’s how I got wounded. I was a driver in Greece. It was at the Pinios Gorge. We’ll talk about that.
You were trained as both a Bren gunner and a driver?
We had to do the three positions. You had to be able to be the commander of the carrier, the driver and the gunner.


Even as a private you were learning the role of the commander?
Everybody had to be able to do the three and do it efficiently what’s more. They were pretty strict on that and I think it paid off too, later on, when we got into the nitty gritty.
Still on Dulles camp, did you have leave?


When I went to the war, everybody was made an allotment. I think it was seven bob a day we were given. You could make an allotment up to 6 bob a day and you existed on a shilling a day. My brother made an allotment to his then girlfriend who he was engaged to be married to. Everybody had these


papers we had to fill in. They said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m bloody arsed, I’m not making a bloody allotment. What if you get your head blown off? Who’s going to get the money then. I’m going to spend mine. Bloody hell, I’m going to play up bad and live till I get killed.” We expected somebody’s going to get killed. Could be me, but nobody ever thought they would. Otherwise you would


have went off your bloody head. Everybody thought, “The bloke next door will get killed, not me.” So I said, “No, I’m spending mine.” So my brother, he was getting a shilling a day and half the other fellows were getting a shilling a day and this bloke I’m talking about, Old Jack, Jack Young was his name, lovely mate, we decided, “No, we’re not going to make an allotment.”


Therefore we were purse men. We were the money lenders of the platoon. We both made the same rule. “If it’s not paid back next payday, you don't get any more.” And it worked. They were good. No interest charged. They hired the Hotel Fast, we’re talking about leave. It was just


outside the old city of Jerusalem opposite David’s Gate where David, whoever he was, he was a Biblical character, Christ’s uncle or some other bloody thing, anyway, it was his gate, David’s Gate. The Hotel Fast was a tourist hotel. Of course, no tourists. So the Australian Army took it over for leave for


us. Word come out, routine order, “Everybody who had ten pound in their pay book could apply to go on four days leave at the Hotel Fast.”
Interviewee: Albert Ulrick Archive ID 1380 Tape 05


You were telling us about the Fast Hotel.
This was a tourist hotel they took over by the AIF for leave for the AIF. I was the


first in it because I had more than ten dollars in my pay book. I didn’t find any, but the blokes reckoned it was full of bugs. I might have been lucky or immune to the bloody things, I don’t know. What happened there, they took us on the old


tourist bit of the Holy Land. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We had all round Jerusalem all the holy sites. We got jack of that. We weren’t all that enrapt in the Holy Land as the Holy Land. We’d been on day leave to


Tel Aviv by bus from Dulles. So we organised it, got on the bus and went to Tel Aviv on the 3rd morning. So that gave us two days in Tel Aviv and Jaffa. That was more fun than Jerusalem, because Jerusalem was pretty strict. There was no girls of the night as you called them.


They were barred. It was a very clean living joint.
In Tel Aviv, did the lads like to drink?
It was a modern city. Every café also sold alcohol. Here, the cafes don’t but over there, that tickled us, every café sold beer,


which was good. I got a ‘you beaut’ photo, the street photographer took it, big schooners of beer in front of us. So it was more night life there. It was more lively and the main street of Tel Aviv ran down onto the beach.
Were there brothels sanctioned by the Australian Army?
Not in Tel


Aviv. There was in Jaffa. Jaffa was Arabic and Tel Aviv was Jewish. That was the separation. The brothels were in Jaffa. I didn’t go to them.
Was VD [venereal disease] a problem at that stage?
No. I don’t ever recall any of our blokes getting VD.


They had what they called the Blue Light Centres. You’ve probably heard of them. If you had contact with any females you’re supposed to go to the Blue Light outfit. They gave you a ticket to say you attended. If you did get venereal disease, you were


not as severe if you had a Blue Light ticket to produce. No, none of us ever got VD.
Did they have you perform short arm parade?
Oh yeah, that was regular. I remember my boss, he was the same age as me. The platoon commander. A bloke called Baird, B-A-I-R-D. He finished up a major I think.


Well known character. They done a short arm of the Arabs. He was duty officer. He laughed. He said, “Talk about dongers on them.” They all put a pony stallion to shame the lot of them. He was laughing. He said he was trying to explain to them what to do, the old short arm where, he said,


“They didn’t get the message.” He laughed. It was quite a regular thing, short arm. One of them, the only bloke that ever got hauled out, God, wasn’t he embarrassed. I don’t think he was even a naughty boy. He had some other urasiplia [urethritis] or something. When he done the old usual short arm parade procedure,


he squeezed out a drop, a tear in his eye as they called it, and he got hauled off to the hospital for checking up. When he got back, didn’t he cop some. “Get away you poxy shit. Don’t come near us.” God, he was embarrassed. Killer was his nickname.


While you were [at Dulles] the Italians had entered the war. From Dulles you were moved to Helwan camp in Egypt?
Yeah, straight from Dulles to Helwan. That was a good camp. Beauty.
What was your purpose there?
Just staging camp I think. Just somewhere to dump us in Egypt till they got organised.


The Italians hadn't crossed the border yet. They did just after we got there.
You were aware you were getting ready for conflict in the desert?
Yeah, that’s when we started desert training, moving across the desert in lumps. The artillery and us, infantry, ASC [army service corps], everybody. We practised moving across desert country,


that was the main training. What we used to do, they used to go crook on us too. The Bren gun carriers being tracked, we weren’t allowed to drive them too much because they were still our battlewagons. We didn’t want to wear them out buggering around in the desert. Always pulling trucks out of the sand. Trucks would get bogged in the sand. We were the only thing there


to get them out. They barred it in the finish. They said, “You’re wearing out the battle wagons, don’t do it.” That was the main training in Egypt. Travelling in the desert.
What was the hardest thing about training or fighting in the desert? Was it the heat or the terrain?
Deserts are terrible places. No matter summer or winter they’re hot in the day,


and in the wintertime they’re freezing. You wouldn’t imagine. Here you are in hot sun sweating, that night you’d be shivering. I remember somebody saying what an obscene country it was. Hot in the day and freezing at night. The wind was the worst if you copped what they called the khamsin,


I think they called it. That was the hot wind. That was a shocker. You just went to ground. You wouldn’t see from here to the front door, dust.
The Italians crossed the border shortly after you arrived in Egypt?
I think so. They invaded from Cyrenaica from Syria. What are they called?


Libya. Yeah. We went up to, we finished keeping on going from Alex up to Bardia. Perhaps you want to stretch that a bit, I don’t know.
Can you guide us in regards if you have important details?
When we got to Helwan, the only good thing about Helwan camp was we


had open leave to Cairo until midnight or what they used to say was 2311. That was ten to midnight you had to be back in camp. That was good. One funny story, we all used to go to Cairo. That was civilisation. First place we’d go to was this place that we used to get a hot


shower. This day there was four of us. I’ll always remember it. I’ve got an idea Jack was with us. Four from my platoon, anyway, said, “Let’s go and have a flash feed.” We had plenty of money. We go into this place. The waiters had long white gowns down to their ankles and red fezzes.


They were Arabs. So we asked, could we go in and have a meal. So after much conferring and nodding and shaking, the boss cocky of the waiters and said, “Yeah.” So in we went to the, sat at the table the four of us. Give us a menu, all printed in French I think. The only thing I could understand was


steak and kidney. It was in English because there were no French words for steak and kidney pie, I don’t know. So I said, “I’ll have that.” Awara Fendi. We all decided to have steak and kidney pie. So they put a plate in front of us and cutlery and brought one steak and kidney pie about that big and put it in


the middle of the table. Someone said, “Jesus Christ, hey. Back here George.” George, they always called them. He got this pie and he put it in front of one bloke and said, “One man, one man.” So we wanted four of these, which he reckoned was only good enough for one. We could see him nudging one another. Us four blokes eating a whole steak and kidney pie each


instead of one between 4. I bet they’re still talking about it. They were amazed at that. They were good mates and we laughed.
Were relations good between the locals and the troops?
I’ll tell you, there was a bit of tension, the Gypo [Egyptian Arab] police. Does anyone ever mention them? There’s a Gypo police got round with single barrel shotguns


at the sling. They weren’t frightened to use them either. They were a bit wary of us. They probably had bloody good reason. So never interfered with us much at all. If there was ever a blue between the troops and the civil population they’d be there quick smart and mainly wave away their own people.


[…] Must have switched at that. Has somebody got the hose going in the yard?
We were talking about the Egyptian police.
We circled around one another. We reckoned that to carry a shotgun they might use it,


so we weren’t armed. They treated us with caution, that’s a good way of putting it.
At Helwan camp, what was your responsibility?
Helwan. It was a terrible place, of course. Sand. We were in the desert really. The only thing about Helwan, we went out and had a look at the Pyramids. I think


we went by tram. I’m nearly sure there was a tram ran from Cairo out to the Pyramids. Yeah. That’s true. I may be wrong, but that’s my memory. Riding to the Pyramids in a tram. When you got there you could ride camel rides or you could climb to the top. I remember a guy asking us did we want to climb


to the top. We said, “Not in my bloody life.” It was 100 degrees in the shade. So we said, “We wouldn’t mind a beer, but we’re not climbing up there.” So we were pretty blasé about the Pyramids. After you had a look at them, after all it’s just a heap of rock piled up. Didn't give us any thrills. We were more interested in the Sphinx. Walking


around it, having a look. It wasn’t all that, nothing’s that crash hot. We weren’t tourists and we didn’t have cameras to take pretty pictures. I always remember we reckoned, “So what? It’s a heap of rock.”
Tell me about preparing to move out of Helwan and heading north through


Alexandria and then across to
I think we went by train. I’m sure.
All the Bren carriers?
The Bren carriers were loaded on the flat cars, yeah, and we went with them, sitting in them or alongside them or hanging along.
Did you know then that you were heading for the frontline?
We wondered then where we were going to.


We realised it was Libya. That was the number one guess because the Italians were in Libya. They told us this. The first bloke would be, the Italians would be our first jump. We didn’t know. We didn’t know Bardia or Tobruk existed. I didn’t. I never heard of them until we got outside Bardia


just before Christmas.
Tell me about arriving there and what you found.
We got there. We were on an old aerodrome, because that night we spent alongside a crashed Italian plane. I cut my finger as a matter of fact. I’ve still got the scar there. I put my hand up to climb up into it and grabbed hold of where the Perspex was and it


cut my finger. I pulled out my old pea rifle and gave it a shot. I shot it. “Take that.” First shot fired in anger was at a damned wrecked aeroplane. Much din, I got into a row too, for firing without being told to. We relieved the KRRs.


The King’s Royal Rifles. They were frontline on the Bardia perimeter which we took over from them. Our boss came along, our platoon commander and he said, “Hey, you fellows had better dig in here, this is under shell fire here.” We said, “Nah, bullshit.


No shellfire here.”
You were telling us about replacing the King’s Royal Riflemen.


KRR. The King’s Royal Rifles it was called. They were quite good. Told us all the what not to dos and where to bes. We didn’t realise we were in range of the artillery. So there was a few picks and crowbars. It was a terrible place. That far under the sand was solid rock. So you couldn't dig shelter. So you dug out


these great slabs of rock and piled them up around us. If you got a near miss you would get showered with rock. That was it.
How long had the British been at that position?
I don’t know. I’ve got no idea. They were good. They told us all


what to do and what not to do. I wasn’t up right against where the infantry was. We were Bren gun carriers then. We were mobile. We were actually security guard for battalion headquarters. That was our job just outside Bardia. Then all the attacks was another thing. When we did


attack, we became our mobile security. We were protecting battalion headquarters.
What does it mean to be security guard?
Make sure no stray people come and try to kill them. The enemy, the Italians weren’t up to that caper, but later on the Germans were. That was a much more serious event


later on. They didn’t know just what was going to happen. So then our infantry blokes spent the next few days exploring. Going up, climbing down into the tank ditch, measuring the depth and the size and all that. Then the battalion headquarters


made a model of Tobruk.
Bardia, sorry. That was good. We knew what to expect. So I think it was A company, plus the army engineers went up and filled in the anti-tank ditch, or


smooth. It was like that so tanks couldn’t get in, they couldn’t get out. So they made a big U shape road through it. Just before the attack. They put what they called bangle or torpedoes under the wire and blew traps through it. Bangle torpedo is just a long length of galvanised iron pipe


full of explosives. They had this big jack thing and they jack it out through under the wire and they blew a track, which then they brought up bulldozers and filled the ditch in properly. We had to do that to get rid of the fire from adjacent just on the perimeter.
Were you under shellfire?
Tell me about being under


shellfire for the first time.
Pretty scary. A mate and I had wandered. There had been a lot of dumps in the desert. The Italians had dumped their, why they dumped it out in the open I don’t know. One was a big pile of shells. Artillery shells. We were wandering around, I think it was the day before Christmas


eve. They must have seen us. Just a few stray shells. That’s a funny experience more than anything. Bloody scary too. You hear the whistle. Bang. If you don’t hear the whistle it’s going to hit you. You can’t hear one that’s coming straight at you. I don’t know


why, but it’s acoustics I guess. So if you can hear it, won’t hit you, but it could be close. So shellfire is weird. Very scary. Not much you can do about it, only – “Christ get out from here and lob somewhere else.” That’s shellfire.
You were there for two to three days in preparation for the assault on


I suppose we got there perhaps a week before New Year. I don’t know, it’s all pretty, because somebody’s telling you what to do all the time and we occupied these posses around the perimeter. The KRRs went home or back to Egypt I think. They later on came back up. Then we


decided that we were told the attack was coming. Actually, I think it was on the 3rd January. Am I right there? Yeah. 3rd January 1941. Close anyway. That was pretty hairy day. The blokes marched


up, one behind the other, you might have seen it on TV newscast. You didn’t march in a bunch, you marched one behind the other. The theory was that if a bullet hit the first bloke it might kill him and the second bloke. If a shell landed and hit them. Which was pretty rare anyway, they reckoned it was a defensive measure. Here


we are in the Bren gun carriers, we couldn’t hear anything over the roar of the motor. We couldn’t hear shells coming, but if you see these blokes hit the deck you think Christ. So we knew there was something coming. When we got to the breach in the wire, everything speeded up. We went through, the tank rips pretty fast.


That fast, I think when we came out the other side we left the ground and then through the wire and we turned right went round the perimeter inside. They had all fortified posts all the way. We took them one post at a time. The A company would do


one post. We then had a nice job, C company was on the inside, these companies are taking the posts inside the perimeter. C company’s travelling level with them, watching out into the interior of the Bardia town. We were up on the escarpment. Then


we got a message that B company was not advancing to where they should be, but they were dragging the chain a bit. Our job was to send three carriers out to find out why, where they were, why they were stopped. So very fortunately, or unfortunately, I was in one of the three that


was picked to go out. When we went left we were out in front of them. We become the frontline on the advance. We didn’t know it at that time. We soon did. Next thing we’re shelled, artillery shells and small arms fire, mortar bombs, everything clanging around us. So we went back towards where


C company was and found them. They’d been held up, that was all. Some of the fortifications were a bit harder to claim than some others. They were just stopped. They came along and we got out of that one luckily. We come under some bloody intense fire both from the artillery and infantry, Italian infantry.


That was just an incident during the battle. When we got to our objective for that night, which was a road, they called it the Sollum Road. It comes from Egypt to Bardia and it went through the wire where we finished our day’s take.


That’s your day’s object to get to that road, which we did. I remember just after dark that day we were in a little I’ll call it a wadi, but it was a creek bed, dry creek bed or rainwater wash. Infantry was on the other side of the culvert. This culvert was in this creek bed


across it and all sandbags and crap on top. A shell came and lobbed in the sandbag. And hit a letterbox away from where we were. The next one was on the other side and there was a section of infantry blokes there. One fellow got killed. Blew his leg off. Hit. I don’t know what his name was. That was a bit sad. A bit


unnecessary for him. That’s where we stopped the first night in Bardia. Lots of incidents during the battle all day, coming and going. Shellfire and prisoners. I think we captured 60,000 Italians there in Bardia. They all came to


Australia. Done it easy on the fruit farms in the bloody fruit growing area down Mildura, Echuca and all along the Murray and irrigation there. That’s where they sent them. I think there were some big camps, but they made them work on the fruit farms.
What was the procedure for taking prisoners of war?


We searched them and robbed them of course. Took all their weapons and we said, “What about papers?” They said, “Well, if you think they’re important, take them.” We thought pay books and that sort of thing. “Take them anyway.” We took all their money and all their papers and


watches. I think they knocked all their watches off. I remember one bloke had a gold watch and two of my blokes with me went up and, he went, “Mama, mama, mama, mama! Mama gave me this!” They took it off his arm and took his hat off, put it in his hat and jammed it back on his head and said, “Leave it there, you won’t lose it.”


I don’t know if he ever did. I remember one big well built Italian officer coming along. Two of our blokes hopped out in front of him. He said, “I have already been robbed.” In perfect English. They said, “Well, piss off.” What we done then, we had to keep sending them back to the compound.


I can remember we were that night, late, we were on patrol. I said, “Go over there and have a look if there’s anything there, there.” We were mobile. These blokes were all dead beat, the infantry. We come across this line of prisoners. There must have been 5,000 of them. There was one Aussie and the front and one Aussie at the back. They said,


“Oh, thank Christ. Take these off us.” We said, “No, we don’t want them. They’re yours. You look after them.” These poor bloody Italians they were dying of thirst and hungry and frightened, didn’t know what was going to happen to them. These two Aussies with about 5,000 prisoners taking them back to the compound.
Each with a .303?
Yeah. One rifle each. These blokes were happy.


They were nearly running to stay with them. That was the case that they were quite happy to be finished with the war.
Did that surprise you?
No. Not really. Thought, “Ah, well. Typical bloody dagos.” That’s what everybody said. One incident I remember there, they taught two of us in


the headquarters company to be range takers. Have you ever got associated with a range taker? It’s a thing about that long and about that round and it’s on a little stand about that high and you lay down with it across. It’s got a lens there and a lens there. Do you know anything about trigonometry? Me either.


What this thing done. You knew the length of that, that was the base of the triangle. This side was a right angle, this measured that. By doing that, the little dial you moved to focus this thing, it measured the mileage as you went. So you took ten readings. Say that telephone pole you can see and measure it ten times, add them up,


divide it by ten. That would give you the mean distance, how far away it was from you. These Italians had what looked like a big power pole sticking up in the air with a seat on top of it and steps all the way up. Every day an Italian observer would it up in it and


look out. The whole place was as flat as a flipper, as flat as a pancake for miles. So they decided they’d take him out. When he wasn’t up there they used to put a dummy up to sit in it. So there was two of us were official range takers and George Smith was the other one, and


we tossed to see who would go on this killer expedition to kill this bloke in the lookout tower. So he said, “I don’t know whether I lost or won.” So when we tossed he said, “Winner goes, loser stays here.” George won, so he went. He was telling me about it after, later. He said they went out. What they had to do was sneak out and get within small arms range,


take the exact distance in yards so they could set the sights, I think they had three Bren guns, platoons rifles. So it was just coming daylight as they said, “All get in position, all take aim, all ready, fire.” three Bren guns and all the rifles. This bloke went out of the


lookout and into the deck. They said what happened then, all hell broke lose. Every gun and every rifle in bloody Bardia opened up. They said they all got home, all got back. That was a weird day that.
The gentleman on the pole was using a range finder?
No, I don’t think so, he just had binoculars.


You’d use your range finder –
We used range finder to, George said they were about 450 yards away from them, which was not bad for rifle fire. Three Bren guns and about ten rifles all opened up and ranged in on him and they wiped him out.
Was that an Australian invention?
No, it was Pommy. It was called a Barr and


Stroud. In the big range of it was on the battleships. I saw ones on a battleship about as large as this room and about that round. They used them for taking ranges at sea from one battleship to another. They are quite a common thing. If you ever hear of a Barr and Stroud range taker, you think of me - or the navy.
Interviewee: Albert Ulrick Archive ID 1380 Tape 06


We were in Bardia. On the way in you cut across B company and you were in front of them?
We had A and B company leapfrogging


along the perimeter inside and C company occupying the internal bit to stop people from coming across. I think D company was in the back in support, that was the set up.
What happened when you got in front of B company?
We ran into an artillery unit. I think they had a couple of pops at us too. How they didn’t hit us I don’t


know, they went over the top of us. We think they were in panic to see this enemy tank coming, we panicked. Bursts of Bren gun fire cleared the air a bit, then no more. We were very close. My hair stood up as a shell went that bloody close


close. It was an 18 pounder Italian gun. Just about killed the lot of us. Fortunately, for some reason, he fired two shots and they both went high. Thank God for bad Italian gunners.
Were they good troops you were up against?


They just surrendered in the thousands. Our division in that exercise. I think there was 15,000, I don’t know how many men were in the division. We captured 60,000 at Bardia and 40,000 in Tobruk and then we garrisoned in Tobruk. […]


We just got through the wire at Bardia I think.
We’ll go from the top. You were talking about how the Italians were firing at you when you were in front of B company.
Yeah. That’s right. All we done was headed back towards them when we caught up with them.


They recognised us and didn’t have a pop at us thinking we were Italians too. Pretty hairy few minutes we had. It was all for a good cause I guess. We settled down back into the perimeter zone. We got to our rendezvous for that night. Our objective is the word they used,


for that day, we reached it, and spent the night there.
Where were your battalion positioned in respect to the other battalions around you?
I think that one battalion, when we come through the wire, the 1st Battalion went straight ahead and took out some big artillery, 60 pounders,


same as we reversed roles with them at Tobruk. We done that. That was the 1st, we were the second. I don’t know where the hell the 3rd was. They were probably stooging around somewhere. I had a cousin in the 3rd Battalion. The 4th Battalion had become, in another brigade because they broke up into three,


three and three and three and three battalions to a brigade, three brigades to a division and all that. That was the reorganisation I think, about June it happened. June 40.
What was your objective the next day?
Just to keep on going till we got the port of Bardia.


What happened, there was a big escarpment in Libya. I suppose it’d be 5 or 600 feet high. Then you went down to the beach. This escarpment they called it, it ran parallel to the coast. We had a bit of a show there. When going over, and we got halfway down


you went down a road like that, down this pretty steep cliff. Half way down we come under shellfire in the three carriers. Our platoon commander, Lieutenant Baird, he was in my carrier. His batman should have been his gunner,


but being a batman he also wasn’t much of a gunner, so the boss said well. Our carrier broke down at Sidi Barrani. On those V8 engines, the generator was on top of the motor where the fanbelt and the fan was on the end of the generator. The coupling broke and the fan went through the radiator. So we left the carrier


behind and split up amongst the mob then. That’s why I was in the boss’ carrier. The batman wasn’t, well, not a warrior I guess, put it that way. So the boss took me with him. Half way down the hill we tipped over. In a truck vehicle you must never turn downhill. If you turn


with a truck downhill, the momentum will tip it over. That what, when the shells hit round us, the driver panicked and swung it. In stead of swinging it uphill he swung her downhill. All I remember, I was in the back of a high part that went over. It threw me onto my hands and knees. I lobbed in the gravel on my hands and


knees. Skinned both hands and all the skin off my knees. But I kept on going on my hands and knees because I could see it still up above me. It landed on its side, one track in the air and the other on the ground and shot us out like spuds out of a bucket. We sort of scuttled behind a little rise. It was good. We were in dead ground.


Dead ground is, if the shell was too low it hit the hill in front of us, if it was too high it went bush. That was good. That was the best possie you could be in. I was looking. I had a pair of small binoculars. I think the boss owned them. I could see the gun that was firing at us. The fort. It was way down over near the coast, I suppose about a mile


away. A mile and a half. They were firing directly at us. This Bren gun carrier standing on its end. Every time it fired, I’d yell, “Shot coming!” or whatever and everybody’d duck till that shell went off. We were trying to right the bloody thing, put it back on its tracks. Then


quietened down and the lieutenant had been away at headquarters and he came back. He said, “I’ve just been told that the I [infantry] tanks,” that’s the big old Matildas we had with us, they were English tanks, “have knocked out that fort.” We said, “They must have been bloody quick and invisible, because I’ve been watching, nobody’s touched it.” “Oh, yeah, you can. The I tanks, they’ve told me at battalion headquarters.” This thing


“boom.” “Yeah there it is. They’ve knocked it out all right.” He said, “Christ I’d better get on the blower.” So he went over type of thing, the RT, the radio truck, and rang back, told them at battalion headquarters that that fort was still operating. Then we had a great grandstand view of three, have you ever heard of the I tank? I stands for infantry. They’re the big, heavy


I don’t know what name of tanks they were, but they could take a direct hit from a shell, they were that thick the armour on them and they were armed with about a five or six pounder cannon and twin machineguns. So they were a good article. They were Pommy tanks. So we watched these three tanks. Two would go and the other would fire. That one would stop and he’d fire


and the other two would go. They went right up to this fort and stopped it from firing. Now we can talk. So we got out and another one of our carriers came. We righted our carrier and took off. It was funny, I was at a battalion reunion. The bloke driving this carrier that tipped it over was telling this story.


What happened, while we were there waiting, crouched down, the boss had gone. He said, “I’ll go and report to headquarters.” This bloke called Smith, his name was, hope you are not called Smith, he was telling this story about this carrier tipping over and that the lieutenant had left a half bottle of scotch whiskey in his cubby-hole


where he sat. There was me. We ran out of tucker so I said, “I’m going over to that bloody carrier to get some bully [beef] and bickies,” we had some. “Right,” he said. I said, “Well, we’ve got to bloody well eat. While I’m there I’ll get the bottle of White Horse,” which I did. They must have seen me move because while I was over there they plonked a few


more shells over us, which didn’t hit, luckily, wouldn’t be here talking. I got the bottle of White Horse and bickies and bully and come back. I’m in this reunion at Ballina I think it was, here’s old Smithy telling the great story how he went out. Then he saw me. “Oh Jesus Christ, Jack,” he said, “that was you, wasn’t it?”


I said, “Yeah it was.” So he didn’t dine out on that story much longer. All the mob knew it was me all the time. Well, Perce, he was a big note in himself and how he braved shellfire to go and get some food and a bottle of whiskey. Perce. I suppose that went on a lot. Blokes claiming they did things they didn’t.


My son’s always said to me, “Why didn’t you write a book about what happened to you?” I said, “Because I’ve read too many bullshit books,” of stories I knew weren’t true.
Do you think some of the Anzac stories we hear are – ?
Perhaps not Anzac, but some of our blokes that were with me, they’re exaggerators. All big, brave men.


One bloke talking about how he, we were sent to have a look. What do you call it? Reconnoitre I think is, the official word. Have a look what was over there because they weren’t too sure what was there. So three carriers, we went. Here we come up to a sign which we knew meant minefield. So we had to go round it.


Coming back we ran into another one, which we went round. But you hear them telling the stories of how they done this and how they done that. Anyway, they know bloody well they’re telling lies. I don’t have to tell them. We got out of that pretty well I reckon.


Then we captured the town of Bardia. It was a collection of wog huts and all the blokes had a lot of fun dressing up in naval uniform. As a matter of fact, my old khaki dress trousers, they split from there right up to near my bloody belt. So I was wearing a pair of legs. So we got into this naval store. So


I finished the battle of Bardia and Tobruk, wearing a pair of Italian naval dungarees. I was having trouble finding a pair that fit me, but I did. So I skived my dungarees.
The Australian uniforms, what were they like wearing them in the desert?
Bloody awful. God, they were hot. You wanted them at night. It was quite cold at night. Especially when the wind was blowing. What always


used to annoy me, you’d be laying in your little hole in the ground. You’d pull a blanket right over your head otherwise the dust blowing in. In the morning you’d wake up, first thing you had to do was very carefully shake the blanket because if you just threw it up in the air you got all this dust and sand blowing in during the night. Then you stood up into this


cold, you’re only up to there deep, so you had to stand right up into this cold wind. Oh God, that was one of the worst things you had to do. Get out of the warm blanket and stand up into the cold wind. It was terrible weather in the desert, but I suppose the old Bedouins didn’t mind it. We seen a lot of them


wandering about in the desert. You know Bedouins? We’d come across their camps. They had, I think the boss told me they were made out of felt. They get camel hair and make it into felt. I don’t know how you make felt. They’d have their tents made out of this. They have little bantam chooks tied by one leg on the spring so they wouldn’t wander off or


foxes or coyotes would get them. There was a lot of coyotes in the desert. Noisy wretches. You hear them yelping all night. They had them in packs. That was Bardia.
In respect to uniforms, who had the best type of uniform or material?
We had


a great summer uniform. That was very good. Shorts and shirt and long socks. When the feet in the long socks and we had gaiters, you know gaiters? The feet in the socks wore out we just cut them off at the ankle and wore home-knitted sock that our people sent us from home. You put your own sock on,


that top half of the, you know, the top, and put the gaiter on and away we went again. They were good. In the Western Desert in winter you had to have khaki drill. We never got any so we wore our khaki serge, whatever they called it. It wasn’t suitable dress.


When you hit Bardia, were there men that really quivered under the stress of fire?
They didn’t get that far. I think there was three in our battalion shot themselves through the foot. I thought that was a fairy story, but it did happen. One other strange, blokes


we didn’t know, but I knew one of them. He was pretty prominent in the boxing ring. He was a good boxer, a good fighter and you’d never think he'd do the dirty like that. He shot himself through the foot. I think there was three in our battalion they told me. I only knew of one. It did happen. I’ve never heard of anyone actually in battle. Everybody seemed to keep going.
At what point


had they shot themselves?
Before we got to the Western Desert. There’s three of them done it at the Libyan border at a place called Halfaya. That was where, our blokes called it Hellfire, the actual name was Halfaya Pass. That was where we went up the


escarpment at Sollum. S-O-L-L-U-M. I don’t know how you pronounce that. Some said ‘Sollum’ some said ‘Soloom’. At the top of it was the Libyan border. So we went up over that and into Libya. Bardia was in Libya.
They’d shot themselves at that point?
Before we got there actually. Probably still in


Egypt. Just the thought of it got to them. Christ, I reckon, why not take a punt, why cripple yourself for life? Wasn’t many. three out of the whole 1,500 of us.
Were there any warnings, or did the army come down hard upon those men or that type of thing?
I don’t know what happened. I really don’t. Probably they would be tried and


booked with it. They wouldn’t get an honourable discharge, they’d probably just boot them out. Honourable discharge is what I’ve got there. Mine’s a bit weird because it says ‘Service, 44 days in Australia and 2,027 overseas’, something. Because the fact I was in the prison camps.


You captured Bardia. What happened then?
Wasn’t very long before we were on our way to Tobruk. Only a matter of a few days. I don’t know who garrisoned in Bardia, I don’t know. We were off to Tobruk by road. This time in big fancy Italian diesel.


Every Bren gun carrier had a big ten ton diesel truck running up , we all got on the truck and away we went. That saved them. Without those trucks they wouldn’t have made it to Bardia because they were battle weary anyway. All engines were shot. So we had to start a program of replacing motors. A V8 motor’s got to rev like hell to drive a motor to carry,


burnt out. They didn’t last long.
Was it strange that the Italians hadn't destroyed their trucks and stores?
We were too quick. They were too busy getting out of our road. There was one thing about the damned thing. In Bardia we captured a ten ton Alfa Romeo truck still in civilian colours. It was painted a reddy looking colour. Hadn't


been painted army colour at all. It was funny with that truck. We got word that all trucks to the waterfront. There were some 60 pound shells had arrived and there was a ship on fire in the harbour, which had hit a mine. We had to go down, get these shells and bring them up and plant them in the desert in heaps.


I wasn’t there with them, but this Pommy officer wanted to commandeer it. They said, “You can go to buggery, mate. You’re not getting this truck.” They reckoned he was stamping his foot. His mo was bristling and they still drove. They said, “If you don’t get out of the road we’ll drive over the top of you,” which he promptly did and they came back up out of the port area.


“You’re not getting our truck, go and get your own.” The Italians didn’t cripple any. The ones that, they had one, a Loncia I think the name of it, L-O-N-C-I-A, Loncia. It wasn’t a real big truck. Starting this, what you done, you threw this lever back


and there was a big flywheel in front of the engine with a handle on it. So two got on this and you got this flywheel and you got it till you had it as fast as you could go, then you pulled the lever and threw it into gear with the motor. Never started one that way once. I seen one bloke do it one day, God we laughed. We were watching him, two of them. Boom-boom-boom,


Reg gets his big .45 out and goes straight through the radiator, put three shots. Imagine him, we couldn’t hear him, but we can imagine him saying, “Stay there, you bloody dago car.” He shot it in frustration. We used to tow them. We had the Bren gun carriers and we’d tow them around in a circle until they started, in gear.


They were good vehicles once you… It was that good we let them run all the time. Let them run all night. Plenty of fuel. It was laying round in drums everywhere. The only catch with a lot of the things they done, they took the bungs off the 44 gallon drums and lit it. All it was, was just this tongue of flames coming out until


it burnt about half of the contents of the barrel, then that became vapour. That top half was vaporised and that would go off. The whole drum would go. They were going off all hours in night and day because you didn't know how long it would take. Nobody was going to go and screw the bung back on again and kill the flame. It was too dangerous.


No, I don’t think I ever seen a destroyed truck, only the ones we did ourselves. When we went from Bardia to Tobruk it was like an Italian convoy, we all had trucks. Then we got to Tobruk and the same procedure. We took over from whoever was there. Most of it, there was nobody there. We were first


there. I mean our own infantry were the first there. We relieved a lot of them because they’d had it pretty tough. Then we hung around for I don’t know how long. We done exactly the same.
So Tobruk had already been taken?
No. The perimeter was still intact


when we got there, but they had it blocked off. I think it was the armoured brigade, Aussie armour went round to the western side to stop any escapes, people getting out through. Then we done exactly the same. We made a breach in the wire and tanked it. Our job at Tobruk was to


go straight ahead and capture some naval guns that were mounted. I only ever seen one shot come from them. It was an airburst. It was none of our blokes. I think they killed a few of their own who were prisoners, scuttling along on the ridge on the horizon.


They’d turned the naval guns round to face inland?
Yeah. They were mounted on concrete, just like they were on the ships, sitting on this mounting. 180 degree traverse and all the up and down traverse. The ones we caught were still red hot, you couldn’t touch them, they’d been fired.
Was the action


heavier at Bardia or Tobruk?
I think Bardia was more artillery fire both ways. Tobruk didn’t seem to be much of a problem. Seemed to be too easy, compared to what happened later. Remember the rat of Tobruk stood the Jerries [Germans] off for months and months.
You relieved the force on the outskirts of


Our own blokes. Yeah. They’d had a tough run.
How had they had a tough run?
Getting into position. They had to go through Italian outer defences. So they shushed all them away. Most of those outer defences was composed of native troops, Libyans. They captured them by the bloody truckload. They were the


first thing we saw were these Italian truckloads of Libyan native troops. I don’t think they were much opposition. Poor buggers. They probably didn’t want to be there anyway.
What did you think of the Italian troops at that time?
I don’t think they wanted to be there. I think they seized a great [UNCLEAR] as soon as we offered them,


they surrendered like that. They didn’t want a war. I don’t think they were happy chappies at all to be there. They wanted out. On every bivouac we captured they had chianti and brandy, wine, living pretty off the pigs back, pretty high with this grog. A lot of


our fellows got on and drank it and got pretty drunk I can tell you. Can you imagine chianti? I think that was a type of wine. They had brandy. They were in those bottles with wicker work. You know the bottles shaped like that and all wicker work around them to stop them from breaking or bumping them. Great hog heads of


olive oil. They were that round, glass. By the tons of olive oil there. Dried onions, dried potatoes. They all ate dried food. So our cooks got it all and they used to cook it up for us. It wasn’t bad either, dried onion. It was well done.


Change from bully beef?
Yes. Bully beef and bickies, that wasn’t real happy going, but it was sustaining. The biscuits themselves, plus the bully beef. We also got M&V, they called it. Meat and vegetables. That was like tinned stew. They couldn’t call it tinned stew, it was meat and vegetables.
What did you think of


the locals and the Arabs at the time?
I didn’t get far enough up. In Tobruk and Bardia, see, we garrisoned Bardia and Tobruk when we captured it. The blokes that kept on going up to Derna, they met Italian families, they’d settled further up the coast. And Libyan natives. Where we were


there was only army.
During the attack of Tobruk, were you, as the driver of the Bren carrier, called in to position at times?
Yeah. We done a lot of, at Tobruk especially, taking ammo, small arms ammo, mortar bombs, hand grenades, all


sorts of military gear, we take that in up to the frontline and bring wounded out. That was our main job at Tobruk. I always remember there was one ridge we had to go up and over. Every time we got to the top of this ridge there’d be these, we called them red onions. I think they were anti-aircraft guns. Small calibre like a Beaufighter gun. That


was about a two inch anti-aircraft gun, which was twinned or forward, they kept multiple fire. I think these may have been the same. They never failed to fire at us every time we went up over this ridge. So they decided to go and root them out, stop them. So I think the big tanks went in and scattered them. That wasn’t real good fun those


damned things. More scary, I think, than dangerous, but dangerous all the same.
Did you have any close shaves at Bardia or Tobruk?
Did at Bardia as I said, when we got out in front on the inside battalion, we ran into some close artillery fire there, but whatever happened they fired too high. They probably still had them set on the 1,000 yard


range. They were firing straight at us, so they didn’t think to lower the range. That’s the only thing we could think of why it went over us. It could have hit us with a pop gun.
And Tobruk?
No, our job at Tobruk was to go straight ahead to the big naval guns. As soon as they seen us coming they


surrendered the crews.
Who controlled the air at that time?
I think we did. Over Bardia, everybody was there will tell you the same, there was an aircraft called the Lysander, it was a fixed wheel aircraft. An awkward looking thing. It went round and round over Bardia the whole


time we were there. The buggers would be popping away at it every gun they had. They said that what it was doing, it was climbing in the circle or coming down in the circle. Bamboozled. They never ever hit it. I took my hat off to the bloke. I said, “Christ, they’re gaming buggers.” The only aircraft in the air. Just one. He was an observation plane, spotting for the artillery.


We never ever saw one shot down. I wouldn’t have been in it that for quids. They had the whole garrison shooting at them. Never knocked them out of the air.
Once you were at Tobruk, what was the response as far as setting up defences?
Well, it was exactly the same as Bardia. The assault


battalion went in and with the engineers with them and used the same thing. They blew the wire out with Bangalore, the pipe bombs, and bulldozed the slope in and out of the anti-tank trap. They were better traps there. They were concreted. It took a bit more getting rid of. They had


concrete tank traps and concrete emplacements for the troops to hide in. So it was a big tougher nut to crack, but they did it without much trouble. Not good fun, that, but it worked.
What do you mean by ‘not good fun’?
Dangerous. See, they


had more protection from shells, so what they done, they kept firing till you got right up. When you got up to them they put their hands up and ran out waving white flags. I’ve seen a couple of them still with a white flag in their hand laying face down, dead. A few blokes said, “You rotten cowards.” What they said while they waved, “Shoot at them till they get there and when they get there, come running out with a white flag.”


The blokes had lost their mates. So kaboom. A couple of them didn’t survive that.
Interviewee: Albert Ulrick Archive ID 1380 Tape 07


You captured Tobruk, what happened at that point?
We set up just garrison the perimeter and the port itself. This is the 6th


division of course. Not our battalion. We were just occupying one part of Tobruk. I remember we set up our positions down towards the port south of Tobruk. Behind us was an English ack-ack unit with fairly big calibre guns. I don’t know what they were. They come down and told us to move


cause we were right under their box barrage. What a box barrage is, they just fire up this great heap of artillery shells exploding and let the planes fly into it. That was a barrage, just stayed there. They said all this crap that went up would fall down where we were. So we said, “Well, we’d better get away.” So we shifted I think, back up the hill towards


them. That was about it. Wasn’t long after that, we were relieved by the rats of Tobruk and they sent us to Greece.
What was it like sleeping and living in the desert?
Very basic I can tell you. What would happen,


the support troops were back a bit, out of sight and out of range. All our cooks was support troops. They’d cook a hot meal and these old 1,500 weight platoon trucks would bring it up after dark. So we got our hot meal after dark. They were pretty risky business,


bringing up a hot meal. They could hear the trucks and they’d open up on them. That’s what the brother was doing when he got wounded. Shell landed in front of his little old 15 weight truck. He had a platoon truck, one of these little trucks to every platoon. They done that, every night they brought up the hot meal and brought out any of the


sick and wounded. Took up ammo of course. The conditions were bloody primitive, I can tell you. Actually we were moving, mobile force. No permanent buildings, no permanent campsites, everybody was living in the desert, even the boss.


I remember when we were on battalion headquarters security. The Colonel Chilton was his name. I remember sitting him over a Bren gun set up. He’s there in the hole having a shave. He was a nice bloke too, old Chilton. I think he was a lawyer by trade in Civvy Street. He lived for years. He was in his late


80s when he died. Chilton, he was a nice fellow. Conditions were very rugged. We were living in a hole in the ground, very little water and a lot of it was salty water out of the local wells. You had these tablets you put in your water bottle, they killed the germs, that’s about all. It never


tasted like water. It was something else. I suppose we had to drink something.
When you moved to a new spot, did you have to dig a new foxhole?
Yeah, you could dig down about that far, then you hit solid rock. It was flaky on layers. You could


fracture a hole in it, lift it up and you’d get a piece about that big out, about that thick. So we just piled that up around us. That’d stop small arms fire, but it wouldn’t be real good if an artillery shell hit it. It would become airborne then, but that’s all we did. These holes in the ground. It was hard to dig shelter until we found


where the Italians had put in a pipeline. They filled it in with sand so everybody’s alongside this pipeline digging their foxholes till the bloody company major came along and made us scatter. We were all in a line where the digging was good along this pipeline. They said, “That’s a no-no. You can’t all


sit in a straight line.” Very crude it was. Very rough.
The trucks dropped off the food and took some of the sick and wounded away.
If there was any, yeah. If not, just come up, bring the food up and go back.
What were men getting sick from?
Just the conditions.


Dirt in their food, dysentery. That was the main problem. I was lucky with that. I never ever got crook that way until later in the war. It was a grisly business getting dysentery.
What would it do to you?
You just keep going, very watery motion,


non-stop. Every couple of hours you’d have to go.
Would you be weak?
Yeah. It was very, what’s the word they used? Debil- made you weak. It was crook.
What were you eating that the trucks were bringing up?
Mainly the only stand-by. The stew, army stew.


What we done, our carrier platoon, we had a big truck that we pinched. On it we had a 500 gallon water tank, which was on it when we nicked it from the Italians. All this food that we captured, dried onions and cooking oil and dried potatoes,


with our own rations, using this stuff, we detailed one bloke became the platoon cook. So we lived pretty well. The Italian food plus our own, we done all right. It was still pretty primitive of course.
What animals in the desert?


The only thing I ever seen in the desert, once we seen two antelopes going like the wind. The only other animal we ween was, I think they were called jerboas, little hoppy things with long tails. If you ever get a natural history book, they were called jerboa. They were like a


kangaroo-rat. They hopped on their hind legs and were little fellows.
You didn’t have problems with rats or scorpions?
No. There was plenty of scorpions, but not enough to worry you. It wasn’t one under every stone, they were well spaced. The only other thing was there was the scarab beetles. They were characters. They’re the ones that rolled up a ball of dung


and they stood on their heads and used their back legs to push it. They’d get this ball about that big, any sort of dung, even ours, and push it along across the desert. Then they’d lie their eggs in it and bury it. That’s how they got their young. They laid the eggs in this ball of dung underground. That’s the real scarab beetle.


You know the ones the Gypos have on their regalia, the ancient Arabs in the pyramids and all those places. The Egyptian scarab. I remember a bloke of ours, there was a camel pad along, there was no camels, they’d all gone. This, Bullit


was his name. His nickname was Rowdy Bullit. He went and done his bizzo [business] a bit away from where we were bivouacked. He said, he came back to the bivouac and he was laying there half asleep and he said he saw this beetle coming and he was bloody sure it was a ball of his crap he had wheeling. They stand on their front feet and push it with their back feet. They were funny.


Everybody seen them who was in that part of the world. Scarabs. That was their modus operandi of hatching their young. They’re quite a common beetle there, scarabs.
With capturing the Italians, you saw a few Italians with white flags that had been shot. Were there


times Australians, rather than just capture them, shoot them?
Very, very rare I think it was. I don’t think anyone deliberately shot them after they’d surrender. It would have been not fighting it would have been just murder because somebody done it. In Tobruk


we, when we go in Tobruk we were cleaning up the battlefield. All the ammo and live shells and everything and taken back to a big dump in the centre of Tobruk. We were doing this and we discovered a dug out with seven dead Italians in it. They’d been killed in there. I don’t know how. We


couldn’t, they were a bit swollen up at the time. I reckon they did it since the battle, which was about seven or eight days after. I remember we got in touch with battalion headquarters via radio. They said, “Take them out and bury them, take their dead meat tickets.” We refused, we said, “No,


not doing that.” They had a special unit, the graves bizzo going round picking up dead bodies, burying them and taking their identification discs. So they sent them to do it because we saw the thing later on. Buried them in a common grave. Then kept all their identification discs, which were all


handed in eventually so the Italian authorities were notified these blokes were killed in Tobruk.
Your job was never to bury the Italians?
No, we refused. That’s not our, “We killed them, we’re not burying them.” So they agreed to it.
Was the refusal based on it was a yucky job or?
Yeah. That’s the only reason. We didn’t


mind. They were gone off. We weren't handling them. Too unpleasant for a start and probably danger of infection. We didn’t have rubber gloves or what these fellows used, to pick up dead bodies. We just said, “No, we’re not in that.” They went easy with us. Said, “Fair enough.”


These days it’s been said to not touch someone else’s blood in case of infection. Was that ever raised?
No. The only thing was somebody dead. Something might have been a bit on the nose, a bit decomposed, they wouldn’t touch them. Just for ordinary wounds and that sort of thing, we didn’t mind it because I think AIDS [Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome]


hadn't happened yet.
After Tobruk, did you travel back and get some rest and recreation?
One day’s leave in Alexandria. We would have got more only the MPs [military police] were zooming around Alexandria, “Back to your headquarters, back to – ” because they were ready to go to


Greece and here we are on leave. They chased us all back to camp. Over loudspeakers and MPs roaring around. We were dodging them trying to get another few beers into us, but they rounded us up. That night we were down at Alexandria Harbour waiting to get on the ship.
Were you missing fellows given –
I don’t


know. I bet there was. None of us were. Our whole platoon was there. We never lost any blokes.
What did you think of the MPs in general, from your time of training in Palestine?
We reckoned they were doing a good job because later on in Greece, they done a real good job. They manned road junctions and all sorts of things. When the


derby was on, what they called the stampede, the downhill run, getting away from the Germans, they were very good. I think they were last out. They gained a lot of respect there. I don’t know whether these were field MPs or any different from the red hats who went round the pubs and whatever. I think there might have been a difference.


Did a lot of the fellows come back and try and get into brothels?
Yeah. The well known one was the Rue des Soeur, which is Sister Street. If you mentioned Sister Street, everybody who was in Alexandria will say, “Ah.”


They knew what you were talking about. One night we were wandering down in that area. We never got there. A bloody air raid came on. Soon as the air raid sirens went every light in the place went out. All the traffic stopped. So we just back-pedalled and went back to where the buses were.


Waited at the bus stop until the bus took us back to Amiriya army camp.
Did you find out whether the brothels were expensive as far as the pay men were given?
I don’t know. I read a book a bout it once. This bloke claimed to have, he had a photo in it, it was only a small


novel. He befriended one of the girls to that extent that she was his girlfriend. This Aussie digger, I don’t know if he was telling the truth or not. That was the name of the book, Sister Street. Unfortunately we never made it. We got air raided off. We wouldn’t have touched


The Arab men, how did they treat Australian, British, New Zealanders there in respect to the women?
Well, nobody ever went near, to my knowledge, any civilian women. The only women we had contact with was in the bars or brothels. So they were there anyway, that was the way they were getting their living, so


I think the police said, “You do that, it’s up to you to protect yourself.” So I never knew of any molestation of civilian women and really no need to.
Was there conflicts between the civilian men and the troops there?
Not in Egypt, because Britain had been


running Egypt for too long. They had the game sown up. There was places where officers only in Egypt, in the big towns, Cairo, Alex, officers only. There was more places were sergeants and WOs [warrant officers] only. I never ever seen one corporals only, but I guess


they had to muck in with us old privates. That caused a bit of resentment I can tell you. Every decent place was officers only or sergeants and WOs only. This is not our fellows. It’s a spin off from the Poms. They had this organised. The class distinction was pretty rife. We were really annoyed about that. Nothing we could do because you couldn’t


get in.
What about conflicts or disagreements between the British and Australians?
Only between the British MPs and the Australians. They’d object to getting pushed around by the MPs or red hats. There was plenty of brawls with them. They’d just send for reinforcements and our blokes were


there unarmed and half drunk in the cafes and whatever and they were easy meat for the MPs, but I think that our own MPs went down and got them. They’d bring up our MPs. They’d pick them up and take them back to the units and tell them, “Don’t be silly, you’ll get into trouble.” They were good that way.


Training in Palestine, I’ve heard – used to steal from the camps.
Christ yeah. I could have shot two young fellows one day. I was one sentry duty in Palestine in Dulles. The officers lived up on a ridge


a bit. I was on patrol up and down this ridge, made sure nobody came from, see the wog village across the flat, come up into this. I had to go to the toilet. When I got back I come walking up the hill behind the tent and here’s two fellows sneaking up the hill. About from here to the front fence away from me. So I went


‘ka-boom!’ in the air. I didn't want to shoot them, they were only kids about fourteen. I don’t think I could have hit them anymore because they went like startled rabbits, headed for the wog village. That was the only time I personally saw it, but they were real sneak thieves the lot of them. They weren’t allowed in the camps at all. They were lousy anyway, body lice you know.


That was another good reason to keep them the hell out of there. No, I never had any personal problem with Arabs or Gypos. They were more comic characters to us than anything. The way they carried on. I remember


a man about, he’d be 18 or 19, it’s hard to tell with them, he was wandering about and wandered into the camp. I think he accidentally came over what was the boundary. When they told him, “Get,” up with the gun, and he took off like an Olympic bloody sprinter. What made us laugh,


he reached down and got his skirt, it was down to the ankles, and pulled it up round his waste and he took off. His long black skinny leg going. More funny than anything else. They had a great respect for us I think, mainly fear than anything else. They weren’t quite too sure what we’d do.


Probably well earned too. Blokes were pretty quick off the mark.
Are there things you’ve read about the battles [at Bardia and Tobruk] that you think “that didn’t happen”?


No, I don’t think so. I don’t think I’ve read much about it to tell you the truth. I guess there would be. The only thing that I read about later on in life that I recon was absolutely number 1, what’s a good Pommy word, border ass, was prisoner of war events. There’s a lot of crap written about that.


Blokes out to make a quid writing sensational stories, ex prisoners of war. Not so much about the Middle East.
You were called back into your companies to board at Alexandria. What happened from there?
The carriers themselves


all went on a separate transport with a driver and a gunner went with each one. The rest of us went with the infantry. We got on a ship called the Bankura, B-A-N-K-U-R-A, which was at the wharf in Alexandria, ready, we found out afterwards, to take a load of mules


to Greece. So I said I didn’t miss out, they still took us. So we just went onto this boat, down the hold to a bare steel floor. Boat curving up there, down there, and a steel, in the hold we were, just down in the hold, and one ladder. If that ship had ever been struck, we were goners.


What we done, we took our boots off, ties them round our neck by the laces and we didn’t have any lifejackets so I don’t know what would have happened. No boat drill, nothing. So we did have an air raid going across the Med, we went in convoys with warship escorts, we got a raid from Italian


aircraft, which weren’t quite as smart as the Jerries. They did hit a small oil tanker. The Pommy navy blokes went on board and beached it on one of the Greek islands somewhere. So they didn’t even lose it. Or its cargo, fuel or oil or whatever was on it. That was the only incident crossing the Med.


Pretty scary too, just here we are on this old tub, down in the hold with one ladder out. We were goners if we ever got hit. It was funny too. We had a whole battalion of Bren guns. They mounted them everywhere. Tied the to the rigging, even one bloke had an old anti-tank rifle and useless anti-tank rifles they give us, he was blazing away with that


at these aircraft. The captain, when they first put the guns up, they tied them to the rigging, tied them to the rails, they mounted the bicycle frame mountings we had, he was going crook. He said, “Where are they putting all them guns here? They’d finish up shooting hole in the funnel.” But when we beat off this air attack, nothing come for us at all, everything that pointed in our direction got such a blast,


a whole battalion of Bren guns. He said, “Have you got any more of them things?” He was a Pommy. He said, “Have you got any more of them? Bring em up, they’re good,” after we beat off the planes. When we first put them up he was going crook. Blokes even got their rifles out and into it at these aircraft.
What were you doing at the time?


Watching. I was looking. They said, “I think I’ll pop out.” And anyway I said, “I’ll have to clean my bloody rifle if I fired it.” I’ll always remember that. This tremendous hail of small arms fire went up. You could almost see it, there was that much of it. The old captain was saying, “God, I wish you were travelling further with me.”


He never heard such a racket. Funny too, that was getting on to late afternoon. That quietened down and we were trying to get some rest and next morning at daylight, machinegun fire on the boat. We thought “Oh Jesus, not again.” What it was, was the blokes warming the guns up. They work


better if they’re hot, Bren guns. So they fired a burst through each one to get it ready in case there was any, but we didn’t get any more. We went crook on them said, “You might have told us you were gonna do that,” because we were scrambling to get organised.
What about being fed when you were onboard and latrines and stuff like that?
I think the latrines was,


we had to get out of the hold to go to a toilet, I know that. Although there was a fair bit left in the hold, I can tell you. Pretty primitive too, over the side. If you had dysentery or you wanted to do a bog, they had things built. You poked your date over the side of the boat, it wasn’t


real smart. That happened. I’ve got a funny story I’ll tell you on the trip from Greece to Germany by train. That was a weird turnout. We haven’t come to that yet.
Food they were supplying?
Yeah, we had hard ration. What they called hard dry was


bully beef, biscuits, all tinned stiff, and hard tack biscuits, army biscuits. The ones made in Scotland were good. They had a little bit of oatmeal in them. The English Army biscuit, even the Australian Army biscuit, you wanted good teeth feeding on them. They were hard as rock, not much taste. But the Scottish ones were very good. Everybody looked for them.


they were in sealed tins. They were a square tin but a round lid, which was much like our ring pull cans today. Pulled it out, ripped it out and the biscuits were in packets inside. Army biscuits weren’t too bad.
When you were in the desert everyone had their own personal


space. What happened when you were all crowded in?
As a matter of fact, we did. The Australians, they got into trouble over it. Used to park three together, pool our blankets and get in the one hole the three of us. Gees, that caused one hell of a row once, this


Pommy officer came and accused them of being homos. Jesus, didn’t they come out fighting. They had to come and rescue this bugger. They were going to kill him, these three mad Aussies, this bloody Pommy accusing them of being homos because they were sleeping together. I slept with my mate all the time we were there. We’d roll over, you’d sleep with his bum in your tummy.


Then you’d roll over so you give the other hip a spell. We slept all through the Western Desert. We grew up together. We were schoolmates. He got killed in Greece same day as I got wounded, in the same battle.
Was there any [homosexuality]?
I never struck it the whole of my career in the army.


I never struck or seen any of it. A couple of blokes said they did. This bloke come round at night putting a hand under the blanket. He promptly received a haymaker and a lug to discourage him. I never heard of or seen any.
And with these three fellows and the officer, were they just yelling at him or punching him?
They threatened to


shoot him. Luckily one of our own officers came over and rescued him. I think they would have done because he kept on insisting, “It’s illegal, you can’t do that.” It was illegal in the Pommy army. You’re not allowed to bunk together like we used to. Mainly for warmth. Not because we were good friends. That was a crime in the Pommy army, sleeping together. So this poor bugger


probably thought he was doing the right thing. Nearly lost his life over it.
That was the worst thing you could call any man? A homosexual?
Especially with our mob, yeah. They were very macho man-o blokes. Every one of them. Yeah. Mostly from this area I think. Our battalion come from Tweed Heads to Newcastle, plus


Newcastle down the coast. In the 2/1st Battalion was city of Sydney, the 3rd Battalion was out Orange, through that area and the 4th Battalion I think it was a mixture, all the leftovers they put in there. Our blokes were very, very rough and ready


Once the ship was travelling towards Greece, what happened there?
We only got the one air raid on the way over. We landed at Piraeus and somebody told me after, I didn’t know, that the German ambassador to Greece was on the wharf watching us arrive.


Germany and Greece weren’t at war then. Only Greece and Italy. They were at war, but not Greece and Germany. I said, “You’ve gotta be joking.” “No,” they said. There was sort of a rumour went around the German ambassador said he was there counting. I said, “Cut it out.” He might have been assessing


the volume but he wouldn’t be counting. That was a fact I found out after the war, he was there in Piraeus Harbour, watching us come in. Then we went to a place called Daphne. Just spelled the same, D-A-P-H-N-E, Daphne.


It was a lovely little park we were in. Green grass and trees. After the desert it was beautiful.
Interviewee: Albert Ulrick Archive ID 1380 Tape 08


Pick us up with the disembarking having arrived in Piraeus Harbour.
Piraeus Harbour.


Do you know why you were there in Greece?
We were there to chase the Italians. Remembering the history of that show, the Italians attacked Greece through Albania through the mountains and the Greeks blocked them, chased them back. They sent word to the German


high command that they had bitten off more than they could chew, old Musso [Mussolini], so they sent the German Army, came to take over. That’s when they sent for us. The Greeks were handling the Italians. Bloody schoolkids could handle them. But the Germans were a different kettle of fish. They were cocky,


as you can imagine. They just conquered the whole of Europe and they hadn't been silly enough to go into Russia yet, but they’d beaten Europe and they were coming in and they were flogging the Greeks.
Had you heard of their Blitzkrieg tactics and the way they’d been using the tanks?
Yeah, we knew what to expect. It wasn't good enough. We were


landed in Greece, didn’t even have our own artillery. We had New Zealand artillery, we had no aircraft, no heavy tanks. We had Bren gun carriers and a few parts of the armoured brigade or whatever they called them. Nothing new. We didn’t have proper gear. Nothing.


Had the Bren gun carriers had their engines serviced or replaced since you said they were really struggling?
They were trying to. We got a few of them done. The LAD, light aid detachment, the LAD attached to brigades. They were a brigade unit. They were vehicle repair and recovery mob.


This bloke in charge of it, he was nifty. A real good motor mechanic. Great at manufacturing alternatives. Didn’t go by the book. What he done, the Bren gun carrier motor was encased in a sheet of bullet proof steel.


So he looked at it. You had to take every plate off, one at a time, to get at the engine. He said, “That’s no bloody good.” So he looked at it. Said, “If we cut it there and cut it there and cut it here.” And he lifted the whole thing out in one. Then put it back and put clamps on it to hold it there. He was good. He was a ripper. Then we got reconditioned V8 motors. He could take


the old one out and put a new one in in about one tenth of the time it took normal procedure. He was very good, this bloke. I never ever remembered his name. He was great.
Were you replacing the reconditioned engines both in North Africa and in Greece?
Well, we didn’t do any in Greece. But if they weren’t replaced in North Africa, they weren’t done. Because this


business never reached Greece. There wasn’t time. It was over too quick.
You had a very effective campaign in North Africa?
Morale must have been high. You must have been confident about this.
Yeah, world beaters.
You were heading up into Greece thinking you were going to fight the Italians?
Did you think you were going to face the Germans up there?
No. Didn't enter our heads.
Morale was high and you were confident at that point?
Yeah. Our particular unit was


on the foothills of Mount Olympus or halfway up Mount Olympus I think. It seemed awful high up. When the German Army attacked across the border. They were going inland from us, down. We were in danger of being cut off. We were up here and there’s a narrow strip from the coast type of thing, the mountains.


Just from memory, that was a big danger. That’s why the helter skelter went on. I drove a Bren gun carrier down this mountain all night. No lights. In the finish, they had black out over the lights, they painted all the glass with blue paint I think, dark blue, so we got out hammers and


broke all the glass out so we could see.
Can you explain how you got from your landing to the north? Did you go to Larissa first?
Yeah, we went through Larissa. Now you’ve got me thinking. I think we went by


New Zealand transport. The New Zealand people had one division I think, in Greece, which finished up in Crete. I think we used their transport. I think the carriers themselves went by train from Athens to Larissa. I’m nearly sure they did.
Did you go through Athens?


I had one day’s leave in Athens. Daylight, you know.
Did that hold significance for you?
No. We were pretty basic individuals I think. Only where do we sleep, where do we eat? That type of thing. The historical part of it, that went straight past us I’m afraid.
You headed through Larissa?


we went through Larissa. I remember we were on trucks because we went across this swampy land I remember. We were a bit worried that we’d get bogged. But we got through it. That’s when we were heading for the Pinios River.
Did the Greeks welcome you?
Yeah. They were beaut. That’s what the bloke said when we were going up they were throwing


flowers at us and when we were coming back they were throwing stones at us. I think he was having us on, but that was what we felt. We felt bad about it all.
For leaving them?
Yeah. I think we didn’t do any good.
How far north did you make it?
The Pinios River was as far as I got. Pinios


Gorge. What we were supposed to do was stop the Germans from crossing Pinios River. The river ran through what they called the Gorge. I’m a bit vague about the geography of the place because we were mostly moving at bloody night and you never knew where you were. Somebody else knew, you personally, you went from here to there but why or where,


half the time you didn't know.
How long had you been in Greece before Germany declared war on Greece? How did you hear of that announcement?
My memories of Greece are pretty vague, I’m sorry. But a matter of days. It wasn’t very long. We were heading up,


our advance troops got right up type of thing he pass, what they call Servia Pass. The Greek on the left of us, we’re heading this way up the coast, the Greeks would give way on our left. Don’t blame them, poor buggers, they had nothing. The German advance was coming down inside us. We would have been cut off between the German army and the sea. That’s why


we had to withdraw.
How did you respond to news of Germans invading?
I suppose not much different from normal. We’d been kicked around a hell of a lot, been fighting our way. I don’t think it caused any excitement at the time. We thought ah well, another brawl on our hands. We didn't have the gear they had.
Did you know that?


No. We knew we had no aircraft where they had complete command of the sky. They never bothered flying at night, they didn’t have to, they flew all day. That made it very dangerous I can tell you. You couldn't move.
How were you ordered to retreat south?
Well, I don’t know how it come from the top, but they just told


us we’re going this way, and we went.
There wasn’t a way of retreating?
No. “We’re going this way,” which was in all accounts retreating. We didn’t know which bloody way we were going half the time. We just went where we were told.
Did you follow the same path south as you’d come?
I don’t think so. I think we went a different track.


You weren’t aware of the danger of being cut off by the Germans?
Yeah, we knew that. The Greeks were going and the Germans were after them. We were sort of stable at the front. We hadn't started our, cause once we started to retreat they followed us then.
Were you moving a pace that was unusually quick?
Yeah. Flat to the boards. Until we got orders


to deviate from going back towards Athens. We had to go right to the Pinios River. They said, “The Germans are coming through, round the Mediterranean.” I think they come around Turkey. I forget he layout of this place. They didn’t come through Turkey, they come around it, down into Greece.


Probably one of the other countries there.
Was the Pinios River mountainous country?
Fairly hilly. The biggest problem there, we just came straight into battle. We didn't have time to make any defensive positions, no sandbags, didn’t have time to dig holes. Just dropped into a hollow behind


a hill. Using the natural features.
Straight out of trucks and into combat?
Yeah, almost. We had the carriers on the ground by then. We drive them from just after we left Larissa. We unloaded them onto the deck and took off.
The engagement against the Germans, how did it begin and how did it unfold?


Our first actual contact with them was at that river crossing. They said, “The object is to stop them crossing the river.” This is the German advance. I said, “God, that’s a bloody tall order.” But we said, “Right.” So away we went and I was driving then. We done the classic carrier


manoeuvre, drove the carriers up to the firing positions then dropped back. There was three of us. Three drivers, three carriers. That was a section. We were together and another section was a bit that way, and the other that way. When we withdrew, dropped the gunners off, the three guns and the six blokes with them, and all the ammo they could carry, we


had to go back, not far, we went over a ridge and into a hollow. That’s where we had the three carriers. But they seen us. The Jerries knew where we were. So they started throwing three inch mortars. And they’re pretty good those Jerries, with mortars. I reckon they could lob it in a bloody bucket, they were that good. It wasn’t long before,


we left the carriers in that hollow, we went over and into the next hollow, because they were drawing the crabs these carriers. They seen us do that too I reckon. Next thing one landed in the hollow with us. It lobbed on the back face. This was like a basin and it lobbed on the back face, I suppose from here to the middle of next door’s house.


Not far enough, and it all come back, this mortar shell. Three of us got wounded. The three drivers that were there. The other two blokes, I remember them rolling around squealing, yelling, “It’s burning!” Because shrapnel is red hot. The one that hit me, hit me in the big muscle that runs down. It hit me there, went through the top of my left


lung and hit my sternum. I can remember it was said to the blokes afterwards while we were talking, when you shoot a rabbit it will jump in the air and fall. I said, “That’s what I done.” When it hit me I jumped up, took about four steps. Your sort of natural reaction and the ground came up and hit me. Everything went black


and went around. I thought I was dead. I thought that’s it, I’ve had the sword. But I woke up again, still lying there on the deck. But the blokes come and got me, the other blokes in the carrier. Scull dragged me down, put me in the carrier with the other three of us that were wounded. They were good.


I remember reading this in America, you always go back to your old unit where you’re known and respected. So if you’re out and you get whacked in no man’s land, someone will come and get you. But if nobody knows you you’ll stay there. Nobody can be bothered. They’re not going to risk their back for somebody they don’t know. So we were very close knit by this time, that carrier platoon. We had been together in Palestine, we went


to the Western Desert, captured Bardia and Tobruk together, came back, went to Greece, still together, and when anyone got into trouble they come looking for them.
What were the injuries the other two had sustained?
They got shrapnel in the backs of their legs, in their back and in their backsides, but all flesh wounds. They lived to come home. It put them out of the war for a while. I think they went


back to Palestine when they got them out. They were evacuated. My brother went to Greece and he got evacuated from Greece, he was telling me later, on a warship, which dropped him off onto an old ship called the Costa Rica. All the 2nd Battalion blokes.


The Costa Rica got a near miss, just missed it, from air bomb, aerial. But it blew out the side of it and it started to sink. So he got off the warship, onto the Costa Rica, it got bombed and sunk, he got off it while it was sinking onto another warship and was landed on Crete.


He was pretty punchy by then. He then got onto another warship and went to Egypt before the Crete campaign started. He was very, very, well, a pretty game bugger too. In Piraeus Harbour, before he got out of Greece, they were on this old tub, the last ship in the harbour. He got held up looking for me. Nobody knew where


the hospital was. He knew I was in an army hospital, but he couldn’t meet anyone that knew where it was. So he was the only one in the world that was wondering where I was. Everybody else pissed off. Don’t blame them of course.
You’d copped one piece of shrapnel?
I had a little bit in my leg, but that was only a splinter. Small.


Was your lung punctured?
You were having trouble breathing?
Yeah. Well, then my left lung filled up with liquid, pus. It wasn’t operated at all. It wasn’t for a long time afterwards, in the hospital in Greece, Athens, this doctor McNamara, was


my doctor, they stayed, the 5th AGH [Australian General Hospital] doctors. They volunteered to go into Walberg to still look after us, which I thought was pretty noble. They survived too, but they wouldn’t let them out of Germany. I thought, “They’ll get repatriated,” but no. They kept them there till the end of the war.
You were put in one of the carriers and you headed back to


company HQ [headquarters]?
No, they took me to where there was a 2nd Battalion utility truck. It looked like a Holden utility of today. They were like just a utility they were. This bloke, I knew him, his name was Cason. Bill Cason, C-A-S-O-N. I don’t know what he was there for. He was waiting for somebody. They put me in the back of it


plus two or three other blokes. He went to the CCS. CCS stands for casualty clearing station. That’s where I spent the next night, that night.
Did you need to be operated on?
Well, they dressed the wound that was all. No operation because the doctor said, “Well, you’ll have


to stay there.”
What about your ruptured lung?
It healed itself eventually. I was pretty crook I can tell you. I was bedridden from, that was the 18th April. I think I got out of the hospital --I went to Germany in early October, so the 18th


April to early October in the hospital system. You ought to seen me. I looked down at my legs and they were like that and a big bony knee. I said, “Oh Christ, what a mess.”
You spent one night at the casualty clearing station?
No, two nights actually. Next day


they come and got me and took me down to the railway station, in some wog bloody place, Greek, small railway station, where there was a Red Cross train. They loaded all the wounded they had on this train to go to Athens. Well, that was about 10 o'clock in the morning, and


the Greek crew shot through. So here we are on this train and all the railway blokes up in the hills, they’d gone. I laid there from 10 o'clock in the morning till 4 o'clock that afternoon. Awful thing. I was on the bottom bunk. They had two tiered bunks in the old box cars. Eight


horses, forty men. They had them in France. What was it? Eight cheveaux, forty hommes. The place was getting bombed the whole day. The window just there had got blown onto me. I got a few little nicks in my face from the flying glass. So I rolled out of the bottom bunk


onto the floor. That was it, I thought I was going to die there. I would have done only for two little Pommy fellows. I’d love to know who they were. They were out of an ambulance unit. If you can imagine these little Pommy fellows with big feet. They were only both about 5 foot high and they sort of rocked along like penguins. That's how they walked. They were terrific blokes. They were


having a look through the train. Actually looking for people like me, any that was left there. I hear them say, “Here’s one,” to one another in real broad Pommy. Said, “G’day mate, what are you doing here? How are you going?” I said, “I’m rooted. I’ve had it.” “No you haven’t. We’ll fix you.” So they got me off that train and they got a stretcher from somewhere


and one got each end of it and walked out in, I suppose 100 yards away from the railway line into the middle of one of those oat fields. You might have seen the red poppies that grow. It was growing in amongst this oat. They said, “We’ll come back and get you later.” I said, “By Christ, you’d better. If you don’t you come back later and bury me, because


I’ll die here. I can’t move I’ve had it.” I was absolutely helpless. “We’ll come and get you.” And by Christ they did. 4 o'clock in that afternoon they’re back. They said, “We’ve got an ambulance. We’ll carry you over to it.” All that day I lay in this field and I was chewing my handkerchief to get a bit of moisture. I was dry, dying of


thirst, watching aircraft. I watched them come over and they were Dorniers, long thin front. Bomber planes. They dropped their bombs and I could tell. I said, “If they drop them right there, that’ll hit me.” But they dropped them this far, they got over me. If they dropped them that far it dropped back. They dropped them


that way they missed me, or that way. They had one spot to let them go. To my good fortune they never did. I’d watch them come down. “Jesus, this one’s going to be close.” Boom and I’d get showered in clods. It was the worst day I think I ever put in, in my life. Lying there helpless on a stretcher. I don’t know whether they were aiming at me or the railway. All day.
In a great deal of pain as well?


I was numb actually. The pain had gone. I didn’t think I was going to survive that day even. But 4 o'clock that afternoon these two little fellows came back, said, “Here we are, love.”
Were your nerves completely shot by the end of that day?
I was too far gone. I just reached the stage where Christ, what else can happen? I’d give up.


I thought this is it. I really did, that’s a fact.
What were you thinking about? What was important to you?
Get my bloody drink of water. That’s amazing. Only thing I could think of, I didn't care if I did die as long as I get a bloody drink of water. I was absolutely dehydrated.
Did you think of home?


I think the only thing I could think of was the immediate physical wellbeing, if I could only get a drink of water, something to eat, get away from these bloody bombs, own personal business all the time. I didn’t even think of the family.
When they arrived at 4 o’clock it must have been the sweetest sights you have ever seen.
Of course. I said, “You bloody blokes,


you did come back.” “Did you think we would leave you?” I said, “I did.” “You’ve got no trust in us, eh?” So they picked me up, still on the same stretcher, which I’d almost stuck to it by this, with bleeding and I had a leak, just let it go. I couldn’t get up to do it. Couldn’t even roll over. So I was in a bit of a mess. They picked me up and away we went. Took me down to the


road which was near the railway, loaded me in an ambulance, which already had four blokes in it. So I think they put me on a bunk and put the less wounded bloke on the floor. The bloke in the bunk above me leaned over and spewed all over me. That improved me outlook too. I was past caring really. Somebody took my boots off


and I lost them. Why would you take a man’s bloody boots off? So here I am, blood all over me, I’d weed myself, this bloke had vomited on me, I was half dead and I thought it can’t get any bloody worse, and away we went. All the way to Athens we’re getting strafed by Messerschmitts.


Every time an aircraft came along the convoy, machine gunning and shooting this cannon at us, everybody evacuated bar me. I’d be laying in the ambulance. “Oh well, this is good fun.” Any minute now ka-boom, but I never got a scratch. They missed. And everybody’d come scrambling back out of the scrub, back into the old ambulance and away we’d go again. Till we got the next air raid.


So we got to Athens in the early hours of the next morning. This convoy wasn’t just us. There was artillery, there was ambulances, there was army service trucks, infantry trucks, New Zealand troops, nose to tail, all the way from there to Athens.
Did you know that the Germans were


over-running you?
Yeah. I knew what they were doing then, because this bloody air raid and strafing the convoys and the burning trucks everywhere they had been hit.
Were the guys in the back of the ambulance talking?
Very little. They were like me. They’d all had this sort of almost, I was the worst. At least they could get out and dive over the edge


of the road. They were all bleeding and bandaged up, badly, all badly wounded. I was the worst. When we got to Athens I think it was in the wee hours of the next morning. 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. They went to the Pommy hospital. I said, “Christ, this’ll be great


in a bloody Pommy hospital.” A bloke come around. We had wound tickets. Have you ever heard of them? What they do, they tie a ticket on you in a waterproof envelope. In the envelope was a card where it had how much morph you had been given, what treatment, so that somebody didn’t come along and jammed another one into you, which would probably kill you. They had a read of this thing and said, “This bloke’s an Australian. Take him


up to the 5th AGH.” I thought, “Good.” The amazing thing happened there. It was still in tents. The nurses were still there when I got there. One of the nurses said, “Ulrick.” She come running up to me because she’s reading the list. She said, “Jack Ulrick?” I said, “That’s right.” She said, “I worked with your grandfather at the Ashby Dock.” Her father


and my grandfather worked together. Amazing. She only died in Maclean a couple of years ago. She came from Maclean and I was born in Maclean. All my mother’s people lived in Maclean. She knew them all. Her name was Sister Bathgate. I remember her saying to the nurses and sisters, “This is a special.


Don’t you let anything happen to him.” Then I realised that in this pocket in my tunic was my pay book and wallet. What they done, they cut up my tunic up to there and down there so they could take it off. I said to Sister Bathgate, “Where’s the tunic I was wearing?” She said, “I sent it out to


the incinerator.” This young sister took off and she come back with it. So help me God. From the incinerator heap. They hadn't burnt it. She knew the colour patch and all the rest of it. There was my wallet and pay book still there. I’ve still got the wallet. I’ve got it there in my wardrobe.
This was in the 5th AGH?
Sister Bathgate?
That must have been an extraordinary


What a coincidence. Here was this lass from Maclean, I didn't know her of course, she was the daughter of a bloke who worked with my grandfather at the Ashby Dock, which was straight across the river from Maclean.
Were the medical facilities impressive at the AGH?
Yeah. They had very good gear. X-ray


and dialysis, they had the lot. It was a really well equipped hospital.
It must have been mixed emotions, on the one hand you were in a good hospital being treated as a special patient and on the other the Germans were coming.
And they did. That's where I was captured, in that hospital. The nurses had been evacuated, and sisters, by Sunderland flying boat.


Just before they left, I think the day before they left, there was an ammo ship in Piraeus Harbour blew up. It was the greatest explosion I’ve ever heard in my life. They tell me the ship was evaporated, just disappeared out of existence. Blew it that far and in such small pieces there was no ship anymore. Blew all the buildings down around where it was tied up.


I don’t know why it exploded, but it did. It was the loudest noise I ever heard in my life.
What was the treatment they gave you for your lung?
Mainly what they call palliative. Making sure I felt all right. Nothing they could do.
Could they drain the fluid from the lung?
That was great. I’ll tell you about that. They had


a needle, was actually a slender tube cut on the slant so it was sharp on the point. They put that through my ribs at the back with local anaesthetic. By this time the nurses had gone, the sisters, and the doctors were teaching the male orderlies, they were the orderlies, not nursing staff, teaching them to be nurses.


I remember them talking behind me, I’d be sitting up. They’d say, “You’ve got to be very careful. First injection is to deaden the skin. The second one is to deaden in between the ribs. The most sensitive spot on a person is the nerves that run between your ribs.” You can imagine somebody


tickles you or sticks their thumb in between your ribs. I’d be sitting up listening to this and, “How are you going Jack?” I said, “Bloody great. Carry on.” He was a funny fellow that McNamara. “Right,” he said, “we’ll have you on your feet in no time.” So they put this needle in and hook it up to a hand pump and pump all this


crap out of my bottom of my rib into a jar. I’d finish up zonked. I’d go out of it, it was such a shock to the system. I used to have that done every day or week. Boy, was that something.
Interviewee: Albert Ulrick Archive ID 1380 Tape 09


Move the story along to the Germans taking over the hospital.
The orderly came in one day, he was a funny old


fellow. He said, “Do you know something?” I said, “What?” He said, “You’re now a prisoner of war.” I said, “Fancy that.” I burst out laughing. He said, “Hang on.” So he lifted up the flap of the tent and said, “Look.” And here was a Jerry in uniform with the rifle at the sling, walking up and down. I said, “Oh well, so be it. Not much we can do about it.” He said, “That’s a bloody fact.”


Were you in a ward with other Australians?
Yup, and New Zealanders. I think the bloke next door to me was a New Zealander. I remember his name. His nickname was Hod, H-O-D, Hod Fuller. He was not a bad bloke really. You couldn’t tell him from us. A lot of New Zealand of course, was


New Zealanders, I don’t want to speak against the New Zealanders, nice fellows. There was a mixture of us there, Aussies and New Zealanders were about equal. Not so much as on Crete. There was a hell of a lot of New Zealanders on Crete. I’m in the hospital, I don’t know what the time limit between Greece and Crete was, it was


only a matter of days. All of a sudden, in come these blokes on stretchers, covered in blood and bandages and I said to the bloke, “Where the hell are these fellows coming from?” They said, “Crete.” I said, “What’s bloody Crete?” I’d never heard of it. “It’s an island out in the middle of the Med. All these blokes went from here to there and were posted there. They couldn’t


get them off, they were losing too many valuable ships.” They had no ammo, no artillery, had bloody nothing. They organised them into some sort of a force. What ruined Crete, that’s where the famous parachute drop was. These Maoris, they come from Crete, I’ll show you in that photo in


a minute, when we’re finished. They come from Crete into the ward where I was. One fellow was in an aeroplane splint. He’d been hit in the shoulder, broke his bone in the shoulder and he had one of them on, this big Maori. I remember his name, Matthew Horoai, Matt Horoai, that’s a real Maori’s name. The other bloke’s name was Anzac


Allies Mulligan. His father was in the First World War and that’s what he called him. He was the same age as me. Anzac Allies Mulligan. Wasn’t he a great bloke. They were beauties. They befriended me because I used to [UNCLEAR] them a bit. They’d be yapping away in Maori in the prison camp where we were, we were


out working as a matter of fact, got out together into this pine forest work. They’d be yakking away. Only one word I picked up was tootoi or something sounded like ‘tootoi’. That was ‘excrete’, poo. I said to them, “Will you fellows stop talking about tootoi?” And they burst out laughing. They thought that was the funniest thing they ever heard. It was


the only word I heard. We become great friends, really good friends. I met one of them, old Matt Horoai, in London after we got out. Incredible. He was in, I’ll tell you where we were, up in, what was the hippies’ ville in London called? Where the Red Mill Theatre was anyway.


I’ll think of it. Here he is there in the pub half cut, old Matt. He’d been shot through the heel, Tommy gun bullet hit him in the heel and he was in terrible pain, could hardly walk. But he gradually got better.
The sisters were evacuated?


Just in time.
But the doctors remained to look after you?
The doctors and all the orderlies. When the Germans took over their doctors done the rounds. They had an interpreter with them, I think he was a Jewish bloke that was in the Palestine unit that got captured in Greece too.


The doctors were with our doctors and the Jerry doctors, he had to do the rounds to see if there was anyone hiding in there that wasn’t wounded. That’s understandable. I could hear them explaining, our doctor telling the interpreter what was wrong with me and he was telling the German doctor in German.


The German doctor didn’t believe it, that a wound like that and I was still alive. So they’re jabbering away and they finished up, you know an x-ray unit where you stand in front of it and they move it up and down? They had one of them. So he insisted, despite my doctor’s protesting that he wasn’t well enough to do it, they made me do a – he wanted to have a look. He didn’t


believe that I could be still alive with this wound. So they took me out and held me up in front of this thing and he signalled. He wanted them to get away from me to have a look. They were holding me up by the arms. He had a look with this thing up and down and it satisfied him. Then I went, the whole place went black and I went down.


He kept insisting on doing it about three or four times later. He’d bring in other doctors to have a look, they couldn’t believe I was still alive.
Was it creating a print? Did you see the actual metal in there?
No, no. I’ve got one here. I’ll find it. I was looking for it the other day. But the beaut hospital x-ray of my chest, same as you get for your tuberculosis inspection, somebody


nicked it from me. I had it in the cupboard in there. Probably one of the family. Great souvenir, Poppy’s wound.
Did the Germans mistreat the Australians in any way?
They never come into the place, hardly. We never seen them. The only time I seen many there, the hospital people put on a concert for everybody.


They were having a chop at the Jerries too. They were joking about them. They all came, all the Jerries were sitting up in the front row, watching this concert.
How important was humour?
Good. There was a bloke there, he came from up Bangalow


somewhere, up in that area. He was an amateur ventriloquist. He built this doll, it’s only like a head, and a few rags hanging down from it. He had it so he could move its jaw. He was telling German jokes. I thought Christ that’s a bit close to the wind. They only laughed. He was quite good. He


kept it up for years. Also, he was a little skinny old bloke, he was a very good swimmer. He used to swim in the local swimming comps after the war. For the life of me I can’t think of his name.
How long did the 5th AGH remain in Athens?
It was still there, I think I was about the second last batch from


Did they immediately begin shifting people?
Yeah. When they become fit enough to travel. They put them into what they call the, well I think it was the Jerries give it that name, the convalescent camp. All it was, was a holding tent. When you got out of the hospital till you got on the train to Germany. There was a lot of


escapes from there. They didn’t bother making an escape proof fence. It was only about so high, made out of wire and a lot of barbed wire and that. I remember two big Kiwi blokes, we didn’t know it was going to happen, I nearly got caught in the bloody cross fire. They took a run and jumped over it and kept on going into the


Greek, we were surrounded by Greek buildings, mainly housing. A pretty poor part of Athens, this place. They jumped over the wire and took off. Well, the Jerries, we were told after, they thought it was a general break. So they opened


fire. Machineguns and rifles. They were good. They fired into the rooves, all that tiled roof. We were in an old army barracks, this place, full of bugs. But they just shot into the roof and they fired a few into the ground. I think the only casualty we had, a bloke took a flying dive to get out of the bullet spray and hit his chin on the concrete.


bloods down. He was the only wounded bloke in that episode.
What happened to the Kiwi fellows?
They disappeared into the Greeks.
Never heard of them?
Never heard of them again, no. I’d say they would have got away. Because a lot of blokes escaped from there and got out. The Greeks helped them.
They obviously weren’t Maori.
No. I don’t think the Maoris would be capable of, these were


two college blokes I found out. Very good athletes and both about six foot a couple. Big powerful looking blokes. How the hell they got into this, they must have been slightly wounded I suppose. Because they were in the hospital section. That was one of the escapes. They reckoned that one night down in this place there was about ten


blokes got out together. One Scotsman even took his bagpipes with him on the escape. He wouldn’t have wanted to tread on it to make a squawk. Put away.
How long until you were well enough to travel?
I got wounded in April and I went to Germany in late September or early October. I’m not sure.
You had a good six months there?


Yes, I didn’t get out of bed for about two and a half to three months. I was really skin and bone.
Did you allow yourself to think far ahead?
I used to wonder what was in store. What’s going to happen. If we survive, what’s going to be?
Life was relatively comfortable in the hospital? But you had fear about what was


around the corner?
Yeah, we knew that things weren’t going to improve. When they put us in the box car, it was very over crowded. We were nine days and eight nights in that box car. This was from Salonika. To get from Athens to Salonika during the war, all the bridges were taken out. There was no road from Athens to Salonika. No


rail. So we went by boat. An old bloody tramp tub. We went from Piraeus harbour to Salonika. Spent one night in Salonika. It was the biggest hellhole of a bloody prison camp of the whole of Greece and Crete. It was a terrible place, but I was fortunate there. Greece was full of bugs. You pull a splinter off the


wall, there’d be six bugs under it. I don’t know if you’ve ever lived with bugs. They’re not pleasant animals. Stink. They pong. They were very ferocious. We sued to put our straw palliasse down, I’ll say that for the Jerries, they gave us slack lime and you put a circle of that around your bunk, this pale white lime,


that’d keep the bugs out. They wouldn’t go over it.
In the hospital you were withered away to bones. Did you have a problem eating or was the quality of the food bad?
Just that I’d wasted away because I was in bed so long. No activity and just laying there.


The food wasn’t crash hot. A lot of, they reckoned, lentils. They fed us a lot of lentils, which I found out afterwards was intended for mule feed. It went to the right place anyway. Mule feed. It was shocking. It was black like black peas. They called it lentils, but I’d say it was field peas. They were black.


They probably had a lot of vitamins in them, but weren’t much to eat.
From Salonika you were put in box cars. How many in each box car?
There was barely laying down room for everybody. I’m not quite sure how many.
At Salonika, did you meet more POWs [prisoner of war] or all


coming from the AGH?
They were all ex patients from the AGH. I don’t know when the AGH people themselves went, but they brought them in later on when all the wounded were got. They brought the 5th AGH in then.
Tell me about the conditions of what that journey was like.
Pretty grisly.


What they done when they put us in, there was a tin about as big as a big fruit tin we get here. No label on it, just a black tin. We reckoned that was tinned horse. Probably was too. It was black meat, no fat, shocking stuff. We got a tin of meat between two and a loaf of what we called black bread.


It was sort of an oval thing, flat on the bottom. If you had, bloody near wanted a good sharp tomahawk to cut it up. We broke it up. That was the initial food we got. We did get some food on the way. The main place was at one of the capitals, I’m not sure which. Budapest was the capital of what?


What’s that country? It’s Romania or some other country. Doesn’t matter. Maybe Romania. The local Red Cross gave us a hot meal of soup and a big army biscuit about that big and about that


thick. It was pretty hard. But good tucker. I thought that was quite good of them. The Jerries let them give it to us, which was even better. The toilet facilities were pretty grisly. We had one of these empty meat tins in the box car with us and we used to wee in that and pelt it out the window. A little square window about that big.


In that corner and that corner of this box car, with barbed wire over it so we couldn’t. I don’t know how they thought we were gonna get out of it. Then each end of, in between the box cars they must have been built, they would have been on the original, they were little man boxes for a man. That’s where the German guards were, one in each


one of these. That’s what they were complaining about, telling us to stop throwing the urine out the window because it was splashing on the – they had our sympathy, “Oh jeez, we’re sorry about that. We’ll see if we can do more next time.”
Was their treatment of you –
They left us alone pretty well. Then,


I’d better not tell this story. You can cut it out. It’ll give you a laugh. Can you doctor that?
No. From the record we’d like to hear it in all it’s glory.
It’s pretty rude. It’s about backsides. In one place we pulled up was a troop train stopped. It was a toilet made specially for troop trains. All European


troop trains. It was a trench about that wide and run a full length of the railway station. There was two board each side along this. What you done, you put one foot on that board and one on that and you kangarooed it and done you bizzie [business] in the trench. This bloke’s name was Kelly. He was telling me this story. What you done


in polite circles, you straddled this trench facing the next bloke front on and the bloke behind you, he fronted the other way and the next bloke would front on. Kelly was telling me, “Everybody done it properly bar this bloody stupid Pommy in front of me. He cocks his ass up in my face,” these were his words.


“I nearly bloody – ” He’s telling me with a straight face real serious. “I’m looking at this big red behind and it quivered and then it came out and out and out and out and I thought ‘look at that’. Then it gave a little tremble and about three little pills about as big as rabbit poo fell off the end of it and then it slowly


went back in again.” I nearly killed myself laughing. He said, “The stupid big Pommy. Everybody else was face to face, and what does he do? Cocks his great arse up in my face.” That was the toilet stuff. What we’d generally do, they’d pull up and say, “Toilet stop.” So you jump out and get under


the carriage and grunt and groan because it cured all our dysentery I can tell you that. This eight days and nine nights in this box car with no tucker much. It cured it. We got there nice and clean and dry. That trip.
What city did you arrive in?


What is known as Lamsdorf was the village, but Lamsdorf Stalag 8B was the main camp. Stalag meant stammel lager or ‘main camp’. Lager was the German word for ‘camp’ and stammel was ‘main’. It was a stammel lager. Lamsdorf was the name of the village. That’s


where we got off the train. In October it was starting to get a bit cool. We’re in rags. We had no gear.
Was it occupied by German civilians?
It was in Germany. That was in the county of Uber Silesia. Silesia was like Prussia and Saxony.


A county of Germany. Silesia just happened to be the name of this county we were in. Uber means “over” or “upper.” Upper Silesia we were in.
Did Stalag 8B include a village of German civilians?
It was the name of the little village half a mile away. It just took


the name of that village because it was in that location. Lamsdorf. I’ll tell you who was there. A very interesting character, Bader. Do you remember Bader, the legless bloke? Tin Legs Bader. Who he was, he was a British fighter pilot pre war. He was acting the nanny in this fighter, I don’t know what breed it was,


flying upside down at low level and he crashed and lost both his legs above the knee. He was such an ordinary critter I reckon, he must have been. He got artificial legs with crutches and he learned to walk with two walking sticks and he threw them away and he learned to walk just on


these tin legs. He must have been an incredible bloke.
He got back in a plane?
He got back in the airforce and convinced them he could fly and he did. He become an ace. He was shooting down the Germans right, left and centre. When I got to Lamsdorf he’d been shot down and captured. These blokes were telling us, “There’s a


bloke here with no legs.” I thought Jesus Christ, wouldn’t you think they’d send the poor bugger home? “Christ no,” he said, “he has got, he had no legs. He was shot down.” When he got shot down one leg got caught in the plane as he was ejected, whatever they done in them, I think they just jumped out. So he razzled and pulled and shook and left the leg in the plane and got out.


What he was thinking, I read his story, what he was thinking going down, “Bloody hell. If I land on these, it’ll go up into my stomach, the jolt.” So when he hit the ground he rolled and got away with it. Here he is in Germany with one leg. They knew who he was. They knew all about him. It was Galland who


was the ace fighter pilot for the German Luftwaffe. Galland, G-A-L-L-A-N-D. He was a colonel and he had the Knight’s Cross and the Iron Cross and all that jazz. He sort of befriended Bader and went and got him and helped him.
How do you spell Bader’s name?
Bloody, hang on.


I’ll think of it. I just forget. What name was I saying?
His mate in the Luftwaffe.
That was Galland, but this bloke was –
Might come back to that.
I’ve got a photo.
Describe what you saw when you


got out of the box cars in Lamsdorf.
First thing, they put us in an open paddock outside the wire. It was a big wired camp with all different sections in it and all different buildings. You weren’t allowed to go from one building to the other. We were out in the paddock first, for the search. They were great fellows for searching.


So we had to stand all our belongings in front of us, what we had, take it out of your shirt pocket, put it on the ground in front of you. They searched everything. Especially my wallet. They were always keen on that. It’s all covered in these ‘examined’ stamps, German for ‘examined’ is, I forget. They’d look at all the photos. I had the wallet that I left home with.


and, “Who’s that?” I said, “Schwester, fraulein,” they knew that, it was a girl.
You had your wallet and pay book?
Wallet and pay book yeah. The pay book, that annoyed me a bit about that. So I wouldn’t lose that pay book I put it in my


boot. I was walking on it. Not very comfortable. I got that into Lamsdorf and out again. I got it home to Australia. No I didn’t, I got it to England. They said, “Anyone got any pay books? We’d like to see them.” I said, “What do you mean ‘see them’?” I got suspicious. They said, “We just want to find out the date and the amount of the last payment.” So like a bloody fool


I handed it in and I never got it back. After all that trouble I went through, right through four years hiding that pay book. They said, “You’ll get it back.” I never ever did.
After you were searched, what did they do with you next?
Took us in and sheared all our hair off. Clippers.


We were all pretty, some of them were lousy and weren’t we a brilliant looking lot? All this, you know, bald heads, gaunt faces, all with a week’s growth on. We hadn't had a shave for ten days. Talk about a rag tag looking mob of blokes. Then we got the British Red Cross,


or probably the British Army had sent over new battledress and new great coats for issue to prisoners of war. We hit there with nothing. Rags we were. I think that great coat saved my life because I spent the next winter in it. The winter of


1941-42, that’s over Christmas of course, was very severe. They said it was one of the severest winters they had for ten or twelve years. They told us to divide ourselves up into groups of about 30. We did that and there was a bloke there, he was from South Australia,


he was a bombardier in the artillery. A bombardier is a corporal in the army. He was elected chief POW in our group, the bloke they went to talk to. He couldn’t speak German either, so we become a working party we were called. We were E350, E


stood for English, it was Australian, New Zealand, Poms, Scotsmen become English. We were all English. They sent us out to this place called Leipschutz was the name of the village. Small town it was. It wasn’t a bad sort of place. We were working in a pine forest. We cut down pine trees with saws


and axes in the winter, and in the summertime we planted pine trees. That wasn’t a bad place. We were well fed, warmly housed, which was a big thing in Europe. We survived that winter. I reckon it done me good. In that area they showed us a big building on a hill, six mile away


you could see it. They said that was a TB [tuberculosis] sanatorium. If you know your history at all, TB was very rife in Europe pre war, just before the war. It was a very common disease and killed a lot of people. They had come to these sanatoriums that were up in altitude a little and where the air was frozen. That was good for


crook lungs. I reckon that done me a lot of good, working in this frozen air. Frozen it was. I think the lowest temperature that winter was 28 degrees below 0. If you multiply 28 plus 32 is what, 50? 32 and 28, about


60. 60 degrees below freezing, because freezing is 32. Boy, that was cold I can tell you.
Were you given slack getting your strength back?
No, they do it the hard way. No slack given. I done what everybody else done. I think that done me good.
Did it give you good focus?
We were


very down in the dumps, I can tell you that. Morale was pretty low. We reckoned that we were thrown away. Nobody cared about us.
The name of the village again?
Where was the pine forest?
Leipschutz . L-E-I-P-S-C-H-U-T-Z, I think.


Leipschutz. That was a German name.
Was that considered an overall area that was referred to as Stalag 8B?
Yeah, Stalag 8B was in Silesia. To be more exact, Uber Silesia, which meant Upper Silesia. It was Silesia. It was bordered onto Poland.
It was a wide area rather than just the compound?
Oh yeah. It’s a county. Like say


Prussia or Saxony. They’re parts of Germany. This was Silesia and it bordered on Poland. Most of the inhabitants of Silesia were bilingual. They could speak German and Polish. That’s part of the world we were in. That’s where I was for that winter.


Next summer they called us out and took a whole batch of us to a place called - said he not being able to remember it - Ratibir, R-A-T-I-B-I-R. That’s still on, I found it on an old atlas. There we worked at a sugar factory.


In Europe they made sugar from sugar beet. Much the same process as at Howard Mill, making sugar from cane. What they done, they ground the beet up into shavings and boiled it, cooked it, and got the juice out and pressed the juice out of this residue. That became


schnitzel and this became syrup that was turned into the sugar by various processes. Then they put it in centrifugals, spun out all the syrup and molasses and what have you, and left the sugar crystals.
What was your job?
At that sugar factor was


in the process of making sugar they used un-slaked lime. I never understood just how they used it. We were working in the lime or loading the lime kiln. They’d get lime stone in [spalls UNCLEAR] and you’d load it into this kiln. We put it in skips, a


thing that went up and then tipped. The combination of coke and limestone. It was burning all the time from the bottom. The result was limestone, un-slaked lime, which was then used in the process of refining sugar. I don’t know how.
Interviewee: Albert Ulrick Archive ID 1380 Tape 10


Other prisoners of war had a concern about Allied bombing. Was that ever


a concern for you?
Bloody oath! They went over, the Americans, Beauforts, I don’t know how many, the sky would be just full, but they always went over. You’d see the vapour trails. Hundreds of planes. That was in the early days. Just bombers. Then I think they built a fighter, I think I remember it. What was the name of it?


They built a fighter plane to go with them. You’d see all the bombers going and the big vapour trails behind them and the fighter planes doing that to stay with them so they didn’t just take off and leave them. That was spectacular. One place where I was at later on, was a coalmine.


Alongside the coalmine was oil from coal plants. They plastered it one day. The blokes that were still there were telling me about it, I met them in London later. They said they really flattened the whole plant.
Were POWs working at the actual plant?
No. Luckily there was none of us there. They had a lot of slave labour people. Ukrainians and Slovaks and people like


that. Probably Russians perhaps. No Allied prisoners there.
At the stalag, were there any guys from your unit or people who lived up this way?
Yeah. We were quite a few. There was a bloke from Coffs Harbour.


A bloke called Lovett. He was there. He was a warrant officer. No officers were allowed in German prison camps with troops. They were sent to what they called oflag. That meant officers only. There’s Harry Lovett. He was a warrant officer. A bloke called Roberts was the regimental sergeant


major of the 1st Battalion, he was there. He was caught on Crete and a dozen other Aussies. When we went out to work in this pine forest there was a bloke from Western Australia with us, two from South Australia, Maoris. We were a real mixed bunch. It was funny, I done


an interview with Chris Masters on the Greece and Crete business. It came out on the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation]. One bloke rang me from Perth and one from Adelaide who had been with me in the prison camps. The first bloke said he was in the kitchen washing up and Mum was watching the TV in the lounge room and he said he recognised my voice.


I said, “You’re kidding.” “No,” he said, “Christ,” he said, “that’s Jack Ulrick,” and run in. He said there I was sitting in the middle of the TV. I said, “You’ve got to be kidding. You couldn’t pick my voice!” “Nah,” he said.
Were you able to create games to take your mind outside the camp?
We played a lot of playing


cards. That’s why I’m still allergic to playing cards. The kids laugh at me. “Can we have a game?” “No bloody fear.” We played Rickety Gate was a main game because you didn’t have to concentrate real hard. You know how to play Rickety Gate? I’ll teach you one day. It’s really a kid’s card game. You dealt the whole pack out and then


you got to play so you don’t get the Queen of Spades. That’s Rickety Gate. That’s ten against you. Every heart is one against you. There’s no winning, it’s all against you. You go out, play up to 100 and you’re out. It’s a funny game to play because you try and trap one another. If you get the Ace and King of Spades,


they’re bad because if they lead Rickety Gate you’ve got to put one of them on it so you take it. It’s a good card game. The other was, the blokes in the workshop at the sugar factory, they were in the machine factory. They made darts. What they done, they got a brass rod and put it on the lathe and run off a point. Then this


dart itself. Then they put a splint in it and we put cardboard or paper in the tail. They were quite good. We made a dartboard by cutting the end of a log in the pine forest. The blokes drew it with pencil and pen, the dart board. The Poms knew. They knew where all the numbers were. I didn’t have a clue. We used to play darts. Later on, I believe, they


got a few soccer balls from the Red Cross. In Lamsdorf there was a lot of Yanks come later on. After Europe started the Yank POWs came in. They were keen to play football? Grid Iron. What they done, they marked out a field and they got all


the picks and spades and shovels and dug it all up. It was tramped down like concrete and made a football field. They had a competition America, Australia, New Zealand and England I think, grid iron. The Australians won it easy. We beat the Yanks at their own game.
What did you use for a grid iron ball?
They had a footy. I don’t know where they got it. They had a rugby ball.


It was too big to throw. You couldn’t throw it like you could the Yankee ball, but they had a lot of fun. I wouldn’t play because I didn’t know about this thing. Where it was or what it was doing.
You had built up a bit more strength?
Yes. That pine forest done me the world of good. Then when we got to the sugar factory I reckon that was one of the greatest foods of all time.


Unlashing the sugar. When they’re making sugar, there’s a lot of hard lumps come out and they roll down the chute out of the road. The sugar itself keeps going. They told us we could have a handful of that whenever we wanted it. We practically emptied it, this thing. It was good. You put it in your


tea made out of elm tree leaves or whatever it was. I reckon it was a great food this sugar.
What was the accommodation like working in the sugar factory?
It was even better. They had workshop built drums they were. Big steel drums about that round and


I suppose 5 or 6 foot high. They’d go pour sawdust in them. They’d pack them in around this pipe, pull the pipe out and they’d have this big drum full of sawdust for the funnel down the middle. They’d put kindling wood in the hole and light it. All the sawdust would smoulder


till it was burnt and it was quite good heating. That was one method. The other method was they had big tiled heaters I suppose. Coal, they burned coal in them. They were very effective.
Was there mistreatment by German guards during your period to the Stalag 8B?
Not where I was, no.


It’s like all people. You could get an Australian, get 30 blokes, five of them would be real no-hopers, cruel wretches. You’d get good blokes, you’d get kind people just the same. The Jerries were the same. Out of a group of German soldiers there’d be the queers and all the


rest of them. They were the worst. Queers. Fairies, I’m talking about. Homos. They were cruel wretches.
How did you know?
You could smell them. You could tell them. These homos. I remember there was one was a Gefreite [lance corporal]. There was a soldier was a


Gefreite, he had one little stripe. An uber Gefreite had two stripes and then and under officer was the equivalent of our corporal. Under officers were a bit higher in the hierarchy than our corporals. They were sort of as un-commissioned officers. They were not


bad on the whole.
What about escape attempts from 8B?
Yup, there was plenty of that. A lot of blokes used to do it out of spite. I said to myself well, we had a bloke with us, he spoke that good German, his job in civvy life was listening to the German radio and he was a newspaper reporter, taking down


what the German radio was saying. That’s how good he was in German. He couldn’t escape. He had been to Germany numerous times on trips because that was his business, listening to the German radio to get newspaper stories. If he couldn’t escape, what chance did I have. The blokes would get what they called,


verschlafen meant ‘walking’. They’d go verschlafen for a, or go for a walk. What they’d do, they’d get on the road and just keep walking without trying to conceal or anything. They’d walk till the Germans picked them up. Then they’d be taken back to the main stalag and given 28 days in the Strafe compound. That was


punishment, which was on crook rations and locked up. But so what? They were bloody prisoners anyway. So getting in the Strafe compound and all the rest of the prisoners looked after them, you know. They slipped them extra tucker and made sure they had water.
Did you spend time in the Strafe compound?
No. I couldn’t see any sense in it. Taking a risk for getting your head


blown off for what? What they done then, if you were working in the sugar factory and you took a walk, you’d finish up in a cement factory. Not quite the same. Or a quarry. They were bad too. So all you done was lowered your status in the community and got harder work.
Did you get news from the outside world?


Most places had a radio, was listening to Radio England. Dear old Churchill. But they were very hard to come by.
They were secret radios?
Yeah. I remember one place they had, you know armature wire is very fine. They had it round this building, up on the eaves, right around. How they


get caught, this old German was walking along and there’s two swallows sitting on this, just looked as though they were sitting in midair. He said, “Christ, what’s going on there? What are they sitting on?” When they got up and had a look it was this aerial which went right around this building. Armature wire.
Would there be punishment for that?
Well, if they caught them, yeah. But of


course the radios were always well hidden. I remember the one where I was, was hidden in an old broom. They had them brooms made out of twigs more or less. Get a bundle of twigs and tie it up, make a broom round a stick. The radio was in the broom. Nobody was ever allowed to go and listen because you’d draw the crowds. They’d wonder what you were all doing. So the blokes would get the news


and write it out on slips of paper and they’d come round and read it to each barrack.
Were there any ingenious escape attempts?
Yeah. I guess there was, but it was almost hopeless. Most of them made for Switzerland.


The only bloke I ever heard of, was two blokes I knew. Both come from Lismore. They’d been caught in Italy and they were captured by, I don’t know what the hell they were doing in Italy. I think there was a war went up Italy, wasn’t there? When the Italians packed it in, these blokes were heading for Switzerland for the prisoners of the Italians.


The Germans rounded them up, took them back. Gus was in that. Gus Gill was one and Frank something or other, I can’t think of his name, they got recaptured. They come to where we were in Uber Silesia. Going crook a treat. One bloke got away. We got a letter from him. He was working in a hotel in,


what’s the capital of Switzerland? Berne is it? No. But in a big hotel. He was working in the laundry. We said, “You rotten cow!” They were thinking of all the nice things you could do working in a big hotel in Switzerland.
You were working in the sugar factory in the summer of ‘42?


Yeah, that’s when I went there.
How long did you work in the factory?
The summer of ‘42 went through to February ‘43. In February of ‘43 they called us all up and gave us a pretty rough physical examination. Mainly to have a look at us. See what, how much brawn


you had or whether you were a tough. Then all the blokes that went there, we went to the coal mines. I went to a coal mine in a place called Schierscher Vodner [?], which in Polish means beautiful, at the front. Vodner meant ‘beautiful’ and Schierscher meant ‘river’. They always had them back to front. River Beautiful. That was the name of the town. The name of,


the name was Artur Grube, A-R-T-U-R G-R-U-B-E. Artur Grube. A mine went down like that. A grube went straight down in a pit. You got into a cage and went down the shaft. I remember the first time, luckily we had some Geordies from Northumberland


who were coal miners. They were little fellows like the two I had. They were good. Gees they were good blokes. We always called them Scotsmen with their brains kicked out. Scotland, then Northumberland, they were all Geordies. They were good blokes. They were ex coal miners. They knew all the danger signals.


If you were sitting here and that wall, which was mine, started to spit, a little bit of coal would spit off it that means it was fracturing. Especially the ceilings. They’d break like that. Start here and break up like that till they got right up and then the whole triangle would come, whomp, down. They knew all this and they used to tell us what to look for.
Were there any accidents?


Yeah. There was two blokes killed in the mines I was in. One was an Aussie and one was an Englishman. I was pall bearer at the Englishman funeral. They got one from each country. I was the Australian rep. In the middle of winter too. He got killed in a fall somehow. Broke his back when he fell down the


shaft or whatever. He was a nice bloke too.
Did the Germans allow you to have funerals?
Yeah. They even had a wreath from the Wehrmacht, the German army. And a ribbon. They let us do that. They gave him a sort of a military funeral. They didn’t stage it, we did. There was a


English padre, he was a nice old bloke. He was finny. He was reading this thing. He’s having the Bible up and he’s saying, “A bit slippery here, watch were you’re going. Be careful of the ice.” It was in winter. “Be careful of the ice there. Don’t step on it and fall.” He’s supposed to be reading the thing walking along. We buried this bloke and the Germans,


we all dipped in and put in a wreath. I’ve got a photo of it. The German guard was told to take a photo of it and give to all us. We got a copy each. All there in the photo book. You’ll have to take a night off and come and have a look at them.
There were a few moments of humanity?


Yeah, on the whole. I remember one old Jerry sergeant saying to me, I think he was a First War digger. That’s how old he was. He said, I’ll say it in English cause I’ve forgotten the German, “You people are part of our army. Prisoners of war are part of the Wehrmacht.” The Wehrmacht was the


communal green soldiers, not the Black Shirts or the Gestapo, they were the ordinary squaddies, the Wehrmacht. He said, “You’re part of us so we look after you.” I think that’s what a lot of them believed. But they’d captured us they would look after us.
Was the job in the coals physically demanding?
No. The


prisoners of war never worked on the coal face. We were on the skips. The one ton tubs they used underground. The whole place has got railway lines everywhere. They sent the empty, we called them tub, they were four wheel wagons which you could hook together and they also had handles to push them.


I remember most of the job I had was, I was down this shaft and when they’re digging a shaft along, this big coal was on a slight slant the whole scene. So they worked that way and the coal they got up there came down by gravity on a big wire chain which went down two wheels. The weight


of the coal coming down, they hooked the empties on the bit going up. Very ingenious it was and good. So they could move this coal I suppose, a good 3 or 400 yards from there to there by gravity and at the same time pull all the empty tubs up. That’s what we’d be working on mainly. Putting tubs into the coal face and bringing full ones out to where they were hooked up to the train and taken to the shaft.


Were the coal mines prime targets for Allied bombs?
These were in Poland so I don’t know why, to my knowledge they were never ever bombed. They should have been of course. They might have been later on. I left, no, it was pretty late in the war before I got away. I was 20 months


in three different coal mines. I was a good coal miner, but not a very good worker.
What date did that 20 months take you up to?
From February ‘43, February ‘44, that’s 12.


Then another 10. So in 1945 before I got out of them. Got out, we pretended we were sick. An old Aussie bloke, he come from Byron Bay. He’s dead now, poor old fellow. We found out by various trial and error that if you got something rough and rubbed under your


tongue, put the thermometer in, that roughened up, created a temperature. So we done this for weeks. We were in the coal mine barracks in the sick bay that pair of us. I said, “Christ they’ll find out about this directly and we’ll get shot.” But we kept it up. Finally they said, the orderly was a South African, young


fellow who'd been caught in Tobruk when they captured South Africa. Occupied it. He said, “The German doctor is sick of you pair. He said you’ve got some sort of queer complaint that results in a rising temperature which doesn’t get very high. So in case it spreads to all the rest of the place, they’re going to send you back to Lamsdorf.”


I said, “Jesus Christ, we won.” So we went back to Lamsdorf and I think not long after that we were sent out to another working party which was north of Czechoslovakia. North east of Czechoslovakia. That’s where the Russian advance caught up with us.


You’d heard the Germans taking on the Russian front?
Yeah, we knew the day of invasion because the interpreter where we were got one of the German newspapers every day. He brought it. This bloke sued to give it to him.
Had the confidence of the Allies in the camp been rising?


The Germans went into Russia and they went nearly to Warsaw and then they couldn’t go any further, the Russians stopped them. Not only did they stop them, they started to come back. Russia is an enormous country as you know. The war fought there was terrible. The favourite trick was what they called the encirclement. Say


the Germans would go that way and this way and they’d meet here. They have this great thousands of Russians surrounded. So they’d squeeze them and squeeze them until they took them back to Germany as prisoners. Now, the Russians learned this from the Germans in the early part of the Russian War. So they done it to the Germans towards the finish. They were doing the same.
Did you get a strong


sense of the hatred between the Germans and the Russians?
Yeah. The greatest talk between the German soldiers was being sent to the Russian front. I don’t think that was because of the hatred, but the fear. They were terribly frightened of going to the Russian front for two reasons. Russians were getting better than them, had better weapons, better tanks,


also the winter. The Russian winter. One job we was put in late in the winter, was early 1945, was in this big army dump or compound, I don’t know what you call it. It belonged to the army. What they were doing, the Russian advance was coming and all the German towns that were evacuated,


left, all the food and clothing that was there was brought to this place. We were living like kings because we were the greatest thieves that ever walked. We had shoes and mitts, fur lined mittens. The war was over we said, “The war’s over. We done no more. Last winter. We won’t be here next winter.” So we threw them all away.


You were back in Lamsdorf when the end of the war came?
No. I was still. The day the war ended in Europe I was bang smack, you know Czechoslovakia is a country like that? I was right in the centre of it. Right this way and that way. We heard on the little old radio one of the Czechs had, Churchill’s declaration


that the war in Europe was over. So that’s when we were behind the Russian frontline by then. We took off and we got to Prague, Prague as we called it, went to a railway station in Prague. The Russians were like fleas


on a dog. This bloke said, “Tonight, just on dark, there’ll be a train leaving Prague for Pilsen.” We knew that the Yanks were in Pilsen. That was where they drew the demarcation like. They didn’t want the two armies to meet so they drew two lines with a gap in the middle.
Didn't want the American and Russian –
No, they didn’t want the two armies to meet head on.


The German and Russians or the American and Russians?
The Russians and the Americans. The Germans were on the run, they had them flogged.
The Russian frontline came through and overtook you but you weren’t liberated by that army?
Yeah. More or less. It’s a funny story. We were on the road getting away from the Russian Army, shepherded by the Germans.


As we went each working party we come to joined us. So we were about 500 strong. Marching along the road. This was about March. The war ended in April? May? May was it?
I think it was June.
June. Anyway. This morning this old Russian


major pulls us, he was in charge of this bizzo. He said, “Come in. Fall in around me, sit down, stand up, I’ve got an announcement to make.” So he said he pointed to the east and said, “The Russians are coming there,” pointed type of thing, the west, and said, “The Americans are coming there. I live up that way, I’m going home.


Goodbye and good luck.” And left. Here we are, we’re turned lose. So we said, “That’s a bugger. No poor old Jerries to tell us where to go now, they’re gone.” So we laughed. We said, “What are we gonna do?” So some bright spark got up on the tree stump or whatever they were talking from. He said, “The best thing to do, gather together in nationalities,


get into groups of about 25, that’s big enough to have a bit of muscle and not too big that you can’t scrounge food. And go. Head west. Head for the Channel.” We were out in the middle of Czechoslovakia, bloody miles away. So we thought that’s not very smart. So we went to the Prague Railway Station. I think I’ve told this


story 100 times. Went to the station master who was now a Czech. He’d taken over from the Jerries who had all the good jobs. He said, “Yup, tomorrow night there’s a train going from Prague to Pilsen.” So we got on it. All night we were going. You imagine by this time we’ve really had it. We were


tired bodily and very tired mentally from all this hassling and bassling trying to keep alive and keep on the move. I don’t think I was done in. We got on this train and it was full of Frenchmen, Germans heading home, Czechs heading home, struth, Austrians heading home and


two or three Aussies heading home. Away we went. We got to Pilsen and got out and there was the Yankees sorting us out. “Canadians there, Allied prisoners there, Frenchmen there, Italians there.” And Americans of course. The Allied prisoners went


there and they gave us a medical. They had doctors lined up. He said, “Take everything off. Keep your boots. We’ve got no boots. Keep your toothbrush and your shaving gear and your boots. Throw the rest in that heap.” A lot of them were lousy, I was too. So he said, “Have a shower.” They got DDT [insecticide] and chucked it under our arms and up between our legs


with puffers. They gave us, they lines us all these stables. We walked through. You got two singlets there, two shirts there, a pair of trousers there, you know, one of them long jackets with a zipper right down that the Yanks wore, we got one of them each. We had the haversack with our shaving gear in it, or little bags, all sorts of things. So away we went.


We got on, you know, them big ten ton trucks I reckon the Yanks had. Yankee boongs driving them. We formed up into groups of 25, number 1 on that truck, 2, 3, you know, right down to infinity the way to buggery. Got on the trucks and travelled from there,


from Pilsen, to Ragensburg in Austria. Ragensburg was this big Germans aerodrome. The Yanks had taken it over and got it working again. This Yankee officer, I don’t know what ranks he was, he got up and spoke to us. He said, “Today there will be DC


2s,” or DC3s or a mixture of both, “coming in. They will be loaded with munitions and food, whatever. You’ll line up along the side of the landing strip, whatever plane lands, stops near you, you unload the stuff out of it, put it on off the runway and get in the plane.”


We done that, they took off and we landed in Reims in France. Beaut. Very good.
Interviewee: Albert Ulrick Archive ID 1380 Tape 11


You were evacuated by American planes to Reims in France. Tell us what happened from there.


I think we spent one night in Reims and the next day. We spent it in the Yankee compound. All I can remember about that, this big tented place, immense. I remember two American MPs with about six or eight or ten SS [Schutzstaffel] Germans,


making them goosestep up the middle of the parade ground. They’re yelling at them, barking at them threatening with a bloody revolver. Gees, they were giving them some. Next day they took us down to the aerodrome at Reims and they said, “You’ll be picked up here and taken to England.” They never said what in. We thought more Dougs.


More Yankee planes. Instead of that, in came the Lancaster bombers. I said, “Don’t tell us we’re going in them.” They said, “Yeah.” Big treat. These Lancaster bomber crew looked like high school boys, which probably they weren’t very long ago. Nice fresh faced young fellows. They were great. Jesus, they were great. They


gave us lollies and the day’s newspaper from London. What they done then they give us a little slip with a number on it from 1 to 25. They said, “All over the plane there’s yellow discs about that big, painted, with a number on it.” They gave us two sandbags each, said, “You put them on that, put your ass on it and sit down.”


I’m sorry, “Your backside on it. That’s where you sit.” The number I drew, I forget the number, it doesn’t matter. It was just below the bloke that pop turret gunner. He was, all I could see him was about where the ceiling is. Big planes. He was looking down. When we got over the Channel he said to me, “Wanna come up here?”


I said, “Yeah, that’d be great.” So he got my hand and I climbed up and sat on the seat and there’s that much of him he’s sticking out the top of the plane. I thought, “God’s truth! It’s a bit hairy.” It was really something. I looked down, there was the English Channel. We landed at a place called, doesn’t matter, near Eastbourne anyway. In southern England. Eastbourne was


where the Australian reception group were. We landed, we were given another medical, dental check. They took all the foreign clothes we had and gave us AIF uniform, give us a handful of shoulder patches and what have you and they said, “If you go up to the so and so building there,


the British Red Cross ladies are there and they’ll sew them on for you.” Which they did. It was great. That’s where I saw Sussex play Australia. Lindsay Hassett was captain. Keith Miller was vice captain, Cec Pepper was in the team. I can’t remember any of the other names, but they were playing


Sussex at the Sussex Oval. I think it was in Brighton. Is that a town? I think it was Brighton. That was the first pace to civilisation was the Australian English county cricket match. That was great. Then, after we’d been processed, and determined how much pay we were entitled to, which was another


good thing, I found that I’d had a shilling a day extra for the whole four years that I didn’t know about because just before we went to Greece I’d done a driving test and was graded driver grade whatever. That meant an extra shilling a day. I thought that’s wonderful. So I think they handed me the pay book


with over £600 in it. English pound too, not Australian. I thought that’s wonderful. Next thing they said to us, “You’re entitled to three weeks leave, this is immediate leave.” They called it ‘get home leave’ or something. They said, “You’re not compelled to take it.” We said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”


We said, “Where can we go?” “As far as you like in England, Scotland and Ireland and Wales of course. Go anywhere in the United Kingdom.” I said to this bloke, “What’s the furthest town in Scotland?” He said, “Inverness.” “Give me a ticket for Inverness.” So we got on the train at Eastbourne. This was a through ticket we got.


Get to London. You know what Pommy railways are like, if you don’t you’ll soon find out if you go there. You can’t go from Eastbourne to the northern side of London direct. You’ve gotta change trains and get on a different line. So I got off the train on the southern side of London and we said, “Famous last words,


we’ll have a bit of a look at London.” Three weeks later we’re still in London. I never used my ticket to Inverness.
How much of the 600 quid was gone?
Probably a couple of hundred. We were living on top, I can tell you.
What did you do with those three weeks?
Nightclubbing in pubs and clubs and we went to the Windmill Theatre.


That’s where, their motto was ‘We’re Never Closed’. That was true. Right through the blitz they kept performing. What tickled us, there was nude women on the stage. They were behind mosquito nets. They weren’t allowed to move. If they moved that was declared to be rude. So we went to the Windmill Theatre


and we had a great time. Drunk most the bloody time of course.
Did you get a private screening of naked women?
No. We didn’t press our luck.
Did you find yourselves any English girls who wanted to look after POW Aussies?
I could have married about 10. They all wanted to get to Australia. We were number one bloody on the list. Easy 10.


They ask you, “I’d love to go to Australia. Won’t you take me?” I said, “Well, it’ll cost you.” “Cost me what?” “Your virginity.” “Christ, I’m not a virgin.” I said, “Ah well.” I think they told me later that one in four Australian ex-POWs married an English girl and brought her home.


They bloody near had a shipload of them. War brides they called them.
Why didn’t you?
Shit no, I didn’t wanna get married. Especially not to a Pommy girl. So I said, “There’s plenty of nice Aussie girls I know.”
What plans did you have for your future at that point? You had twelve more months to serve.
That was wiped.


They said, “You can take your discharge.” When we got to Ingleburn, they said, “The twelve months thereafter is finished for you blokes. Prisoners of war are exempt.” When we were in Ingleburn they said, “What we’re going to do today will be a major sitting at a table with a list of all our names and you walk in and sing out your name, Ulrick,


J. He’ll look it up on the list, say ‘yes’. If you say ‘yes’ you want to soldier on in the army, if you say ‘no’ you can get your discharge.” I think we were 100% said “No.” We’d had it. So that was the end of me in the army. Then we went straight home on pretty well indefinite


leave. I think they said five weeks limit. “When you’re ready, come back and we’ll give you your discharge.”
Were there any significant events that occurred between your three weeks leave in London and actually coming back to Australia?
It’s all a bit of a bloody blur you know. We only played up. We didn’t do anything clever.
Tell me about your homecoming to the


north coast.
When we got to Sydney, that was a rare turn too. The Duke of Gloucester was governor general. I don’t remember the Duke of Gloucester. He was the king’s brother. I think his name was Henry. He was a nice enough bloke. He held us up for one hour because he


wanted to welcome us home. We’re breaking our necks to get off the boat and because Prince Henry was coming to welcome us home. When he come down on the wharf he got a great shower of pennies. We threw ever penny we had at him.
What did that symbolise?
Just contempt. “Here, take a penny, mate.” He took it all in. He never turned a hair.


He just ignored it. I think good on you nowadays. I was sour on him then of course. Then they put us in buses and took us to the Sydney Showgrounds. We were all gawking out the windows “we’re back in Australia.” When we got to the showground, a bloke I was in the army with in the early days come running up and grabbed me and


give me a hug. He said, “I’m your man.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “They found – ” They were gonna take us in the David Jones Hall or wherever, this big building where all our relatives were waiting. My Dad was there and a friend of ours. Dad was on his own, he wanted somebody to go to Sydney with him and he had tickets for two. So he took this bloke down.


This family friend. Lindsay Messingham was his name. Missy, we called him. He was my, he carried my rifle, oh no, we didn’t have rifles, that’s right. He carried my kit. So when you met your parents of your friends or your family, you could give them a hug without all this junk hanging off you. He done that. It was a great thing to do. So you come to this


gap in the door about that wide. One person could go through it. You come to the door and this bloke said, “Name. What’s your name? What do your friends call you?” I said, “Jack Ulrick.” “How do you pronounce that?” “All-rick.” So he put his hand, picks up a microphone and says, “Jack Ulrick.” I hear “Yoo-hoo,” that’s my father. Him and his mate came running


over. First thing he do was knock my bloody hat off. Luckily this fellow had all my, he burst out laughing “Good on you Jack, you’re home.” That was it. We stayed in Sydney that night, got on the train for Grafton the next day.
Did your Dad have any idea what had happened to you?
Yeah. I could write to him. I’ve got them all there. The


Germans gave us, one fortnight you got a letter card. The second fortnight you got a postcard to write home. My Dad kept the lot. They’re still all there. Then they could write unlimited. They had an address. It was A.J. Ulrick, Kriegs Gefanger


Nummer 23941, Lamsdorf, Germany. Something like that. I always remember you had to learn your POW number. I’ve still got the dog tag. They gave us a dog tag made of aluminium that you snapped in two if you deceased of course. They buried one half with you and the other half was sent to the authorities. I’ve still got it. I kept it.


Did your Dad say anything to you that afternoon or evening that stuck with you?
Not really. Just “Bloody good to see you.” He was a pretty down to earth, happy go lucky sort of a bloke. The family friend, he was mainly to accompany Dad. Dad said he got a free ticket, why not bring somebody he likes? He was good


mates with this bloke. Mum was dead, she died when I was 15.
What about seeing your brother for the first time. When had he got back?
He was still in the army. He was still in New Guinea when I got back. They were just starting to bring them back on the points system. For every year you were in the AIF you got a point.


For every year you spent overseas you got perhaps two points, things like that. Time also give you points. So if you got the highest points you come home first.
He was amongst those?
Yeah. He was a very early bird. All my old army mates I enlisted with, they all come home. We’re all in the showground together getting discharged. The blokes I


started with in ‘39 and all the ex POWs, which there wasn’t many of course. I think there was two or three from our unit.
What did you think you would do with yourself?
The first thing I did was going to kick up a bit. Have a good time. But when we got given our discharge


one of the tables, you went through tables, this bloke was medical, dental, optical and then employment. You come to the employment table. I said, “I intend joining the PMG department. I have an uncle that works for them.


Can I get an interview at the GPO [General Post Office] with somebody?” When they found out who I was and where I’d been and what I’d done they said, “Well, surely you can get a better job than this.” I said, “No, I don’t want a better job. That’ll do me. I know what I’m doing.” I knew where I was going. So they said, “Up to the 5th floor. Mr Davidson,”


or whatever his name was, “He’s 2IC [second in command] in New South Wales of the engineering branch of the PMG department.” I said, “Him the fellow?” He was a great bloke. Shit, he was a good bloke. Always reckoned that any organisation, the higher you go up the better the bloke is. He was terrific.
PMG being Post Master General?


Yeah. That’s right.
You wanted a job with the General Post Office?
No, with the engineers’ branch of the telephone side. They called that the engineers’ branch. It was external plant and internal plant. External plant was the lines and the cables and whatever. Internal was exchanges and your phone in the house. That was internal plant.


You started out when you left school as a telephone –
I’d worked part time as a telephonist of a night. So I knew the jargon a bit. My uncle was the foreman, he was a First War digger. He was a foreman in the engineers’ branch.
What was it about that that interested you?
It was a good life.


Did you have a particular job in mind?
No. Actually my first job was digging bloody post poles up with a crowbar. Crowbar and a shovel. I knew what was going to happen. Then they had an examination to join the permanent staff and I came bloody first in New South Wales in this examination.


Of course I was a shoe in for a job. Then I always remember one of the written questions in the exam, which amazed me. It was, “How many cubic yards of dirt would you dig out of a trench that was 10 yards long, 3 foot deep and 18 inches wide?”


Just think of that for a minute. Actually it’s 10 by 1 by ½. I thought, I worked it out in my head. I said, “That’s 10 by – ” I wrote the answer down. I said, “I’d better work it out.” You ought to hear the answers some of the blokes got. You had to multiply 1, which was 1 yard deep, by


½, which is 18 inches wide, by 10. So the answer was 5. I wrote down, “5 cubic yards,” and I thought that was too bloody easy. Surely that’s not right, but it was. I said to the blokes after, “What did you get for the question about the cubic yards of dirt?” You ought to have heard them. Some got 140 and – I don’t know – I said, “You know what the answer is?”


They said, “No, what?” I said, “5.” “How do you make that out? How are you so bloody smart?” I said, “Let’s think here a minute. You can’t multiply oranges by apples. You’ve gotta have a common denominator.” “What’s that?” I said, “Let me explain it to you in small words, you can’t multiply feet by inches by yards. You’ve gotta have all inches, all feet or


all yards.” “Oh.”
What did you do with the money?
The 600? Well, bought furniture I think, with most of it. See, I wasn’t married then, but I got married on the 2nd of February 1946 by


a girl I’d known before I went to the war. To a girl.
How did that happen? You said you weren’t ready for marrying.
Well, did you ever hear the story about the bloke who got stroked nicely and patted and said how nice he was? You fall for that caper. She was good. She was a good mother. We got two boys and we tried for a daughter but couldn’t get one.


She was not all that, I suppose the best wife in the world, but we survived together. That 600 was spent on furniture I guess. Mostly furniture.
Where did you settle down?
In Grafton. We got married in south Grafton at the old church where


the old minister in the old church at south Grafton. South Grafton was part of the Mid Clarence Charge. Charge is what they call one minister’s territory. Ulmarra was in the south Grafton charge. My cousin was a piano teacher and organ player and she played the organ for the old boy over there. So I said to


her, “Gwen and I are gonna get married.” She said, “Well, I’ll talk to reverend Mortimer.” He was the old boy over there. So we got married over in his church on the 2nd of February. It was about 100 degrees in the shade. I was standing up at the front of the church. I could feel the sweat running down my back and down my legs,


it was that hot. I had my blue suit on like all good bridegrooms.
What were the major changes you noticed in the Australian society between when you left and when you came back?
More affluent. Everybody had a job. Some had two jobs. You could get two jobs if you wanted to. It was full


time employment, no unemployment. You could have two jobs. A lot did. Work one day time and one at night. I said, “One’ll do me.” Then when I joined the engineers’ branch of the PMG department they said, “Your appointment’s in Sydney. Go to the GPO when you’re ready.” I come home and amongst all my old


friends. The more I thought of Sydney, the less I liked the thought. So I got on the phone and rang up this bloke, you know the high floating bloke, 2IC of the joint. He said, “Look. Don’t come back here. Go and see this fellow at the Grafton post office.” It was a bloke called Cruikshank. He was in Palestine in the light


horse in the First World War. He was a bloke I could talk to. He was the inspector here. He said, “Start Monday morning.” I said, “Bugger that.” He said, “What’s up?” I said, “I’ve got three weeks leave.” “Christ” he said, “take that, then come and see me.” So in three weeks time I reported to the post office and he said, “Right, here’s what you do.” I started as a line-


man, just plain ordinary lineman and I kept getting promotion. Then I went to learn how to joint cable and I finished up getting a job as a line foreman. Then I became, later on they kept changing the names. Foreman inspectors became lines officers and senior lines officers. They were given fancy names.


Each time they did that they give us more money, so I said, “Well, you can change my name as often as you like. I don’t care.” So I finished up a senior line supervisor or something. Then when I was 59, I went to my old doctor, over south he was, I had a crook back an I used to get headaches and


wasn’t a happy traveller at all. He said, “I think it’s time you retired.” I was 59, I thought that sounds a bloody good idea to me. I said “OK. Whatever you reckon.” So he wrote it out, ‘This certifies that Mr A.J. Ulrick is no longer fit to work in his present employment and I recommend


that he be retired medically unfit.’ That was a big win. If you retired medically unfit you went onto superannuation at 70% of your present salary. To make it even better, 50 of that 70 was tied to the cost of living so I retired on $300. I think at the moment I’m getting $980.


Then when I got my discharge, they gave me glasses. They said, “You’ve got congenital myopia.” No they didn’t, they said, “You’ve gotta wear glasses for the rest of your life.” In two years time I wrote them a note and said ‘These glasses want changing,’ which they do over time.


“I feel I should get another eye test.” So they sent me a form to fill in claiming a war pension with the thing as faulty eye sight. I never thought of that so down I go with the thing. I had to go to an eye specialist and he examined me and said, “Your eyes are not war caused. You have


congenital myopia.” I said, “What in the name of God is that?” So he explained, he explained, “Let me put it this way. When you’re born you’re born with the potential to have size seven feet, size seven shoes. But you’re not born with them. It’s the same eye sight. You were born with the potential to have myopia, which is an eye defect.


It doesn’t come till you’re in your 20s.” So that’s it.
You felt you were well looked after as a veteran?
When they told me that, no pension, no glasses, I said, “Give us one of them papers again.” A new form. I said, “This bit of shrapnel in my chest is not congenital. That busted


finger is not congenital. They’re all war injuries.” I had septic tonsils. I said, “They’re not congenital.” So everything wasn’t congenital I put in for. I got 10% war pension. I thought that’s a bit bloody lousy. So I kept at them and at them and at them till I finished up by now an


EDA, which means Extremely Disabled Assessment, which gave me 150% pension. So between the superannuation and the war pension I’ve been comfortably off ever since. More money than I could spend really, now.
Did you feel appreciated by the community when you came back?


I don’t know really. I never thought of it. The repat people took a bit of throwing. Had to keep at them. I think I was granted a 10% rise every two years for eight years. From 10 to 100.
Do you think people understood


what the veterans had been through? Did the media portray the war to give people a good understanding of what you had been through?
Not really. I don’t think anybody gave us a hand. I just came back. I notice the thing I got here today is you people give me about the Veterans’ Affairs counselling business. That’s the first time I’ve ever asked


if I want counselling and that’s 60 years ago now. What they should have done, I reckon, is took us in then like they’re doing with the Vietnamese veterans and talk to them. What they call counselling, I don’t know.
Other POWs have been upset at the way popular culture is


representing POWs in Europe. Has it bothered you?
It’s just ridiculous. I never worried about it. It’s too ridiculous to be a problem. Where one bloke wrote a book where he stated that he was in this POW


camp in Germany, not far from a concentration camp. They heard that there was a British sailor in the concentration camp. He got out of this prisoner of war camp, got into the concentration camp and back out again. What bloody rot. Getting out of a camp for a start, but


even worse get into a concentration camp and getting back out. Rubbish. All of it. A terrible lot of lies told about it. All these books and the Great Escape, and all that rubbish. No.
Did you discuss your experiences with your family or your wife and kids?
They were just interested in what happened.


I never told them of the horror bits at all. We’d tell them, “We were working in the pine forest cutting trees down, working in the sugar beet factory. I worked in coal mines.” Pretty matter of fact things. No drama about anything. I was pretty blasé bloke anyway.
Has it


been important for you to be part of any associations or maintain contact with those who have been through similar experiences?
No. I did join the ex POW Association, but just to join. I didn’t take part in it. Same with the RSL movement. I’m a member of that, always have been, but I never took an active part in


activities at all.
How do you feel your wartime experience has changed you personally?
Made me a tougher person, I can tell you that.
For the better?
Yup. I reckon that I’m more get up and go and more resistant to harassment.


All my superiors in the department all trod softly around me because they wasn’t too sure just what type of bloke I was. I left it that way too. I’d sort of leak out that “I’ve killed blokes better than you.” That used to straighten them out a bit. “I killed men I didn’t even know and


probably better men than you.” That was my defence against these managers. They all trod softly around me because they wasn’t too sure just whether that was so or not.
Could you say whether your experience with the AIF was a positive or negative experience in your life?
No, not really. I think it was


an unfortunate happening that I got wounded and captured. That’s what I regard as bad bloody luck.
Were there any major lessons you learned from that period that have stuck with you?
Not really. I was pretty down to earth about it all. Sprinkle a bit of salt on it. Pushed it aside.
Is there anything


that you’d want to put on record for future generations in terms of your thoughts on war or reflections on your experience?
The only thing I’d even say to anyone, “Wait till you’re called up. Never volunteer.” See, in that book that Doctor Barter wrote, there’s a chapter in it called “It’s a bad time to be 21.” That was my quote to her. I said,


“Just that I turned 21 in 1939,” which was unfortunate. If I hadn't have volunteered I’d have been called up in the first call up. I’d probably do the same again, being stupid. I don’t know. Not what I know now, but what I thought then.
Interviewee: Albert Ulrick Archive ID 1380 Tape 12


In relation to your comments off camera about the Germans being very insistent that you not fraternise with the German women in the towns


you were. Tell us more about that.
We found out through experience that no wonder they were saying that. If you think of it, when I was 21, I was a pretty good looking rooster as you can see from, you know. Pretty outgoing, always acting the goat, laughing, had good white teeth.


I suppose I was a fairly, what’s the word?
Bit of sex appeal. In my day I found out that, this is talking out of school a bit I guess, but I had no trouble attracting females. I knew


the German women were there for the taking because the way they acted. My experience with the female side of the bloody homo sapiens that they were easy meat. Especially in Germany where the flower of their manhood was away at the war. The only presentable looking blokes around the place was us. So


it would have been easy. But we, well I, didn’t want to be in it. I know blokes who did and got away with it. Perhaps I was wrong.
What were you told about that issue?
Severe strife if they caught you. The girls got really punished. They would, I was told about it, I’ve never ever seen it, they


had their heads shaved and they were made walk around with a sign on their back that they were false to the German what you call ego or whatever. That they betrayed the Germanic bizzo. They were very sour on that.
Did you ever have encounters with ladies?
I never had the flaming chance.


I was in this pine forest. That was all males, timber workers. Then I was in the sugar factory. Perhaps there, but we were working shift work in the middle of bloody winter and besides they were all dare I say it, big assed women. Overweight, built like draft horses.


So it didn’t appeal to me. I wasn’t going to risk my neck chasing one of them. The other place was where I was down the mines. The only female contacts down the mines was in the cook house. I think I won a couple of hearts there because I used to eye cack them. They’d be giggling and laughing. But there was no contact.


No chance to get at them. We used to act the goat more for the hell of it. I asked the German bloke to tell me the German, no it’s Polish. They were Polish too. “Te ist moya cahana ” was “you are my sweetheart.” Te is ‘you’, ist is ‘is’, moya is ‘mine’, cahana is


‘darling’ or ‘sweetheart’. They used to think that was great. German is a terrible language. Ich liebe dich is “I love you.” Who’s gonna say ‘ich liebe dich’ to a bloody girl? Ich liebe dich, it sounds dirty. That was German for ‘I love you’, ich liebe dich.


Dich is ‘you’. That all tickled me.
In Germany, were you suspicious the Germans were putting spies amongst the lads?
Not that I know of. Maybe in the main stammel lager in the main camp. Out in the working parties you knew everybody. You knew what country they come from and what


unit they were in. So it would be no good putting them in there. They’d be found out immediately. There was some of everybody there. There was New Zealanders, Australians and Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotsmen, Welshmen, and they wouldn’t be able to hide in amongst them. No, I never heard of it. No. As I said, there could have been in the main camp where there’s thousands of blokes.


On your stopover in Colombo on your way to the Middle East, how did that experience impact you? What did you see and what you thought of the place?
First thing, the most I remember about Colombo was the smell. Strike me down. It being, what’s the caste of people that let


cattle wander about? Hindus I think. Whatever. There was cattle and people and dogs and whatever, all doing their bizzy in the street. That was a beautiful smell. It’s one main thing I remember about Colombo was the smell. Plus the fact that we only had one day there. From breakfast till teatime. We had to be back on the


ship. To make matters even worse, there was an outbreak of tummy bug there. They think it came from either the water we took on at Colombo, it was in that, or it was what they call little bum boats used to come round the ship and they’d throw up a lime and you’d pull up a basket


and put your money in it and buy fruit. They think that may have been where they got this tummy bug. I didn’t get it. All my mates did. It was shocking. They had to give them amorphia in the finish. They vomited, they had diarrhoea, they had bad they went out to it. Then they give out an


order that all personnel, I think it’s the word they used for blokes and chaps, who are not ill with the stomach virus, report for duty to clean up the ship. You know what old Jack done? “Oh, Jesus I’m crook.” Lay down in amongst them. “I’m not going cleaning up the bloody ship, that's for sure.” So I spent the rest of the time in amongst this heap


of blokes dying with stomach cramps.
It must have added to the feeling of being on a grand adventure.
It was the first strange country we were in. Believe me, it was strange. The most endearing thing about it was the bloody stink. It really did stink, everywhere you went smelt the same. A mixture of poo and


urine and dead dogs and, oh God, really pongs. We had one day’s leave there. I think we went to some army place and had a few beers there. We got in a taxi or hire car and went to a place called Candy, which was the English holiday resort


up in the hills a bit out of the heat and then got back to the ship. We didn’t really enjoy Colombo. I wouldn’t drink there. I said, “No, be foolish to get on the grog here.”


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