gone back. Our battalion was the rear guard for the division and our company was the rear guard for our battalion, and our Section was the rear guard for our company. Well, it finished up, there was, it was our platoon, but there was about 20, there was a few older fellows, and some had bad feet from what they’d been doing, so we told them to go with the others, and it was about 20 of us. So we were supposed to be pulled out a certain time in the morning.
And we’re standing there, we were getting a bit edgy, I don’t mind telling you, because they’d tried, they’d come up the mountain that day, up the goat track, tried to get in behind us and another company on the left of us and they’d spotted them and they’d fixed them up. But you could see them, they came down the night before, or two or three nights before, drove down the road with headlights blazing and everything, but we didn’t have any planes or anything, just out of range or our artillery. And they were building bridges,
you know, the army bridges, to get the tanks and that across. And our artillery would wait until they’d built a bridge and then blow it up, until they brought their mortars down, the big mortars that you, and we were in front of these two artillery guns behind us. And I’m not kidding you, about four of these, four shots from these mortars. One in front of us, one behind and the next minute, boom,
one’s gone, another one, the other gun’s gone. One man out of two gun crews, that’s all that was left. Wiped them all out. Never had a hope, they were just too good. And anyway, we were still waiting to go, waiting for the trucks to turn up, to take us, and we, Ronny Phillips, he’s dead now, poor Ronny, we used to call him Gugga because he stuttered badly. Got over it after the war,
but he did, he was a, come from the bush, he was a wheat lumper, and he started off in our section, he was a sergeant then. And you could hear him come, “Gug gug gug, are you there boys, gug gug gug, are you there boys?” He’s running down the track for us, when they, the rest of them, had got back further and they’d regrouped, and he went round to find out where we were because he was one of our old section mates. And of course, the officer, our officer, said, he said to him
“Where’s the rest of the boys “Oh,” he said “I forgot all about them.” So we got another mate from Warrnambool that used to be in our section too, with a truck to come and pick us up. Otherwise we would have been left down there. Some of our officers were not too good. Most of them were good, but he made it, he was a bit lax that fellow. Anyway, we got out of that, and we finished up further back, and then we finished up at
Kalamata, right down the south, and we were under, I’ll never forget walking into the town. We hadn’t had a feed for, all day. We hadn’t had a feed and hadn’t had a cup of tea, or anything like that. We were walking through the town, and these old Greek women are coming out of their doors with a bit of chicken for you, you know. And we’ve got to nick off and leave
them. And that day, we were under the olive trees and this Messerschmitt 110, came swooping over the olive trees, saw us there, come back for a swoop, he’s got a canopy open and I’m going, couldn’t be more than 20 feet above the olive trees and threw out a toilet roll.
That’s fair dinkum. Just, as if to say, well there you are, you’re packing them, you may as well use it. Anyway, we got off on destroyers that night. The destroyers come into the wharf there, and I’ll never forget Ronny Phillips there, because we’re on the boat, and
Ronny tries to get on, and this sailor’s saying “No, there’s no more.” And he’s saying “But I’ve got to get on, they’re my mates, I’ve got to get on.” “All right,” he said, “You can get on, but none of the others.” And we got put on, off the destroyers onto the Costa Rica. You know, passenger boat, Dutch passenger boat. Well, from daylight, that was it, Stukas and everything over us all the time. And of course, they had
every Bren gun on the boat was up on the top deck and anti- tank rifles, the Vickers guns everything, tied up on ropes or whatever they could have, and they used them as anti-aircraft. And you’ve never heard such a din in all your life, of the shells hitting the decks, God. What a din. Anyway, the navy credited us with getting five planes and, anyway, it was, in the afternoon, we had it all morning and we were past Crete.
And the navy had told us we were out of range now, and there was no, there’d be no more attacks, air attacks, we were going straight to Alexandria. The next thing, there’s a high level bomber, it wasn’t a Stuka, a stick of bombs landed right along side the boat. Never hit it. Landed right along side. We were, got water all over us, and it blew the plates in on the engine room.
And, of course, the first thing we know, is the crew, the Dutch crew, they’re in their boats, rowing for their lives. They expected the thing to blow up, because the water on the boilers, they expected the boilers to blow up. Anyway, they took us all up on destroyers, and took us back to Crete, dumped us on Crete. But they reckon they never lost a man on, out of that, they got everybody off that boat. And she was going down, I know the first boat, first destroyer came in,
came in of this side, and they took all, they immediately put guards over every deck, so they got the lower deck of first, all right. No panic, hardly any, no panic really. A few of them tried to get down on ropes, get down, tried to get a couple of decks lower, you know. But one bloke, he’s hanging on this rope, and of course, there’s a big swell. One minute, the destroyer’s there, the next it’s another ten feet further down
and up it comes again, and this bloke’s hanging on the rope, and he’s saying, yelling out to his mate “What do I do, what do I do?’ And one of his mates said “Pull your finger out and scuttle yourself, you nit wit.” Of course, he lands on the deck and breaks his leg. And others fell in between the destroyer and the boat, and then, this is, as true as I’m sitting here now, this Pommy sailor with a big boat hook, long boat hook
fishing a bloke out of the water, and he looks up at us and yells out to us “Good fishing today, boys.” And anyway, they get them all off, and as I said, we pull into Crete, and there’s eight of us out of our section together, and walk down the jetty at Suda Bay, and the first bloke I see as I walk down the jetty is my brother, he was in the 5th battalion.
And I knew he was in the army, I didn’t know he was there, but he wasn’t in the army when I left, because he was older than me, but, yeah, so, anyway we, before I got off the Costa Rica, I’ve picked up an overcoat, because we were last off, we just stepped onto, stepped off the destroyer on the top deck. And in this overcoat was a four ounce tin of tobacco, and a big tin of sausages.
English stuff, you know, it was navy, captain navy cut, English tobacco. But my brother, he had a blanket and I had the overcoat, and nine of us slept under them that night on the side of the road. Because they, nobody knew where we were to go, we didn’t have any weapons or anything. Anyway, we’ve, told us they were making a composite battalion, because there was only 150 of our
battalion on that boat, the rest were on another boat. And some of the 5th, and some of the 8th Battalion, the 7th Battalion was a complete battalion, the 11th Battalion was a complete battalion, and the 4th Battalion was, but the rest were all bits and pieces, so they made a composite battalion. And what we got was a scabbard and a bayonet. You tied it round your waist with a bit of twine, and a
old rifle. You touched everything, and it rattled like hell. I reckoned they were used for ceremonial, you know, because they sound good, you know. And got, bandolier of 50 rounds of ammo, and that was it. That was what we got. So we were pretty well armed. And so we were down near a creek, just out of Suda Bay,
round towards Loretamar [?], and then we sort of took up positions there, because they knew that they were going to land paratroops, their intelligence knew that, and they knew that they were going to invade by sea, try and invade by sea as well. So this composite battalion, was, we were going to guard the entrance to Suda Bay, and that, we were, that was our job.
But when the paratroops landed, there was a big, I don’t know, you wouldn’t have seen Suda Bay, or seen the pictures of it or anything?
ack, was like, protecting the harbour from the bombers. So they, then they decided they’d send us up there, a platoon of us, to guard the ack-ack people in case the paratroopers landed there. Which they could. That’s what they’d done at Maleme, they’d landed on top of the ack ackers, they had no protection, so it was grabbed straight away. And they used the Bofors against Bren carriers and things like that.
So anyway, that’s where we finished up, up there. And saw a few ships get sunk. One of the greatest things I ever saw there was, one of the patrol boats that used to patrol the submarine net at the entrance of Suda Bay. This Heinkel came after us, machine gunning the hell out of it, and attacking it, three or four runs over it, of course, this poor little boat suffered something shocking,
and he’s trying to beach it, he’s trying to run onto the beach, and this thing’s chasing it again, coming after it again, and he came round for another go at him. Come down, and he was that low, machine gunning the hell out of him, and he was that low, that his wing tip hit the mast, spun the plane round like that, straight in. I’ll guarantee one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. And another thing there, they had the English RAF [Royal Air Force],
they’re flying, Bristol, what are they, oh, 1932 bi-planes up against Messerschmitts, that was like, you know, might as well shoot myself before I go, because they never had a hope. Gladiators, Gladiators was the name of the plane, Gladiators. It was like,
bi-planes and the Messerschmitts, oh, didn’t have a hope. I saw one chasing a Dornier, right, he finished up getting shot down by the tail gunner from the Dornier, the Dornier was getting away from him, he was going faster than the Gladiator, poor bugger. And if they come over from Tobruk with the Hurricanes, they had 20 minutes flying time over Crete and they had to go back again, otherwise they’d run out of petrol. So they didn’t have a hope
there. So then, we were up there, and the, this morning, we wake up and these ack-ack [anti aircraft] gunners have gone. They’ve all taken off. “Where the hell have they gone?” So anyway, and we see a heap of people walking along the road,
that goes down bottom away, at the back of us, not, we were looking over the towards the front over the [(UNCLEAR)] there, but at the back of us there, and they’re all army and, you know, and so we said, “One of us, somebody had better go down there and find out what’s going on?” When we got down there, everybody’s taken off, they’ve all retreated. We didn’t know a damn thing. So off we went. We scrambled over the roads and everything back to Sfakia,
I’ve got a photo of Sfakia here. It was a, and there, they could take a hundred at a time. The cove there was, they could get two barges, 50 men into each barge. And an officer, you had to be in a group of 50 with an officer, otherwise you couldn’t get near the beach. We were there for, I think the third night, we got our 50, and we get up so that we’re going on the boat,
getting on the, we’d get down onto the beach, the barges come in and they had commandos on the goat track, it was only goat track down to the beach, it was only, not much wider, it wouldn’t be any wider than this block of land, where you could get the two barges in. And the commandos’ guarding that, keeping them back, went down to go on, where the barges come in, they drop the thing, start to go
on, next minute, woof, mob’s broken through the commandos, straight into the back of us, my mate got shoved onto the barge. I’m next to him, I’m up in the water, and everybody on the left of me is in the water. Of course, the barge is full, my mate’s saying, “Come on, I’ll drag you on.” “No, I’ll wait for the next barge.” None ever, no more barges, that was the last one. Now, I always reckoned that he was lucky.
I went to see his grave at [(UNCLEAR)], cemetery, he got killed in 43, so I was the lucky one. Not, I didn’t think so at the time, oh, no, but that’s what happened.
Well, as I’m going on this Italian’s going the other way, and he handed me a bag of sugar. A bag of sugar. Just handed it to me. I couldn’t get over it, you know, anyway. So, generally, we were our burial party and everything in there. Burying the dead. And
they tried to make us take the boots off our blokes, they wanted the boots. And, from Tassie Basil Blitz, it sounds like a German name, doesn’t it, Basil Blitz, and he said “No, we always bury our dead with the boots on.” So he used to take them off, so they didn’t bother us, they let us do it. But while we were there, an Austrian paratrooper,
was only 21, university student, spoke good English. He said to me “You’ll be going to Germany.” And he said “I’ll tell my mother that you are going there. I’ll write and tell her about you, and I’ll give you….” gave me her address, and he said “You go and see my mother. I’ll write and tell her, she’ll look after you.” My God, he didn’t know what the hell was going on in his own country.
That’s the truth. That’s the truth. And they were pretty good blokes, and most of the paratroopers spoke English. They were nearly all university students. They were either Austrians or Bavarians, from the south of Germany, and then there were the Alpine troops which were others that came in, they come in on the gliders. And then we went to Salonika. That
was the worst place ever. It was an old barracks that the Turks had had. Everywhere you went, where the Italians had been was lousy. You weren’t in there ten minutes, and you got lice and fleas and everything else. Couldn’t avoid it. We were there, we were at Skeens [?] full of lice and fleas. The only water you had was, there was an aqueduct out in front along the
road, and you were let out in batches to have a wash. Of course, you all went up the head otherwise you were getting dirty water. So, and you couldn’t get rid of lice. If there was a patch of grass, and there’d be somebody there with a shirt off, trying to burn all the eggs out of them, you know, or matches or cigarette lighter or anything, trying to burn the eggs. But it didn’t make any difference, they’d come again. Then in Salonika,
that was an old, the Turks had had that, and then the Greeks of course, it was originally Greek, though, and then the Turks. They only got rid of the Turks out of there, in 1913, and that, they’d had the Italians in there too, and that was the same. Lousy. And they had bed bugs as well, because they had wooden bunks, and we, I refused to sleep on them, I slept on cobblestones, blue stone pitches, where they used to run the horse drawn, the wagons in
the four or five of us slept there. But that didn’t do any good, you still got them, and at Salonika, all you got was lentil soup and a little bit of bread like that for the day. And then you got B class troops, they weren’t fit for front line duty, you know, and they were bloody shocking. They were.
And it was a bit of a shock after these paratroopers and that, you know, but one night they, we were in the barracks, where the dorm, where we slept in was here, you walked out there and just to the right was a toilet block. And there’s an open doorway at that end, and an open doorway at this end, and the wire was about 20 feet behind it.
And this night, a Kiwi went, a lot of them had dysentery and everything, so of course, he goes out, this Kiwi sergeant, he was he went out to the toilet, and bang, and there’s a bloke got his rifle resting on the wire lined up on the two doorways. Soon as he walked in the door, he’s right in his sights. Bang, down he went. Of course, he screamed and of course, his mate rushed out, bang, got nine in one night before they stopped him.
which is nearly opposite, this, the other side of Tuckem Road [?]. And his brother-in-law, I finished up, I was in partnership with his brother-in-law, before I knew who he was. That he was in our mob. And then they said they wanted a thousand to go to Germany. so I said “Well, I’m going to be in that, because I’ll die in this joint.” you know, in Salonika, I reckon I would have died there.
So we, they get us, when we got, when we went to Salonika, right, we went by Italian ships to the harbour, and then they marched us through the town to this barracks. Now the Greeks all lined the streets and they’re giving us cigarettes and food. And the guards are belting them with their rifle butts, but they’re still trying to give it to you, even after that.
So anybody out of the 6th Battalion, or the 6th Division who was in Greece and Crete has got a lot of time for the Greeks, always. So, then, they give us a loaf of bread like that, and a tin of meat. That’s food for three days, you’re going to be on the train for three days. So, and there’s 50 in a cattle truck,
and you’ve got a, you know the old square kerosene tins? Probably four gallons they were. One of them full of water, that was your water, and the other one was your toilet. For 50 of us. And some of the blokes ate everything as soon as they got it. Never worried about the three days. Well, in three days time, we got to Belgrade. We’ve been shunted in to sidings everywhere, because there were troop trains going everywhere,
and we’re shunted out of the way every time. Three days. So, we got more water there, no food. So those that made it last for three days were lucky. We were there for another seven days. So we got to Hammelburg in Germany, and they tried to get us out of the truck, well we stood up and promptly fell down again, because we couldn’t even stand up, so they brought down an army field
kitchen and cooked like, a big thick soup. We all had a feed and rested for about half an hour, and it gets about, or maybe an hour, and they start marching us to this camp, and we had to go up over the river and up this hill. So we’re going up this hill, and then it started. Everybody got diarrhoea; they’re all dropping their trunks on the side of the road. It would have been funny in a different circumstance, with a thousand blokes marching up here all of a sudden, oh God.
And that was what the conditions were, and we got down and they, de-loused us, and gave us a shower and pinched all our clothes, and gave us old French and Belgian uniforms. Meant for putties you know, but they finished up here. And did you see Schindler’s List? You know the footwear they wore? That’s what we had, and a bit of rag
round your toes to keep, for your feet. And a shirt, and old shirt, and the jacket, nothing else. And that winter was the coldest winter they’d had for 25 years. Some people said it was the coldest for 75, but the Bavarians where we were told us it was the coldest for 25 years, you can imagine what it was like. We bloody froze. And you got nothing. We were building a road, the first job we got, first
working party we were sent on, we’re building a road. So you dug the rock, the boulders out of the quarry with a crowbar pick and that, and you loaded it into a, into a thing to get it up to the crusher, and you lifted onto the deck, and another bloke had to lift it in the crusher, went in by hand. And you got three spuds and two slices of bread and a cup of
(UNCLEAR) tea. I don’t know what sort of herbs they used to brew it, it was hot and warm, that’s all you could say. That was it, that was your day’s food, and you were to do with that. See, and then they cut it down, they cut it down to one slice of bread, and this, I got up, and you had to go, and they gave me three spuds and one slice of bread. This guard’s standing there, and I said “You bloody have it.” You know.
So he, whack, with the rifle butt. Next day, we’re going out to work, and I’m down the back, shuffling along, and he come up tapped me, and gave me a cigarette. He tried to tell me, he tried to explain to me that he was shell shocked. And because I sort of threw it at him, and told him to have it, he just went bang, reaction, you know. He turned out all right, but I woke up in a big, a bit careful of him.
And we were going away there this day, and this Frenchman came along, French POW, they had just walked along, half of them worked in factories or anything, you know, but he was smoking, I wanted a cigarette off him, for Archie, he was laying down, he had bleeding ulcers, he was in agony. So I thought “I’ll get him a smoke.” so I got it off him, lit it up, and I had a draw and I gave it to him. And this guard
came up, and he said, told Archie to get up and get to work. And I said “He’s crook, he’s sick.” and he said “Go to work.” Anyway, he fixed his bayonet, and he went to stab him and I jumped in front of this bloke, and I went like that, and you know, he backed off. And I tell you what, Archie, he married a girl in Scotland after the war, and he had a butcher shop in Box Hill, Box Hill South, in Canterbury
Lane. And she developed cancer, and she was dying and they reckoned they couldn’t, nothing, so he was taking her home. This is well after the war, you know, years later, and he rang me up and he said “I want you to come over, I’m having a do in the hall in Watt Street, Box Hill for all the old mates and everything because I’m taking my wife back to Scotland, so I want you to come over.” So “All right.” Anyway, I got there a bit late, and it was about
70 people there, you know, 70 blokes, all from the RSL [Returned and Services League] at Box Hill and that. Of course, when I come up, he got me up on the stage, and he said “Everybody, I’d like you to meet Don Stephenson, this is the bloke that saved my life.” I reckoned it was all bull [exaggeration], I didn’t think that at all, you know, it’s just what you do, you look after your mates. But he thought it was a big
deal. Sort of embarrassed me a bit. Anyway, I’ve never seen him since, he tore home [went home quickly], I don’t think he even come back. And he didn’t come over to the farm, he stopped at Ellsbach, or Elmsbach, I think it was Ellsbach. Elmsbach was the hospital I’m pretty sure, and he worked as a butcher in the place. So he had a
probably comfortable job, he’d get himself a feed. He wouldn’t go hungry, would he, working with a butcher. Anyway, I don’t, from what I know, he never even moved from that place, which, if you wanted to, I suppose you could. Anyway, this day, they packed us up, 18 of us, our section, 18 sorted us out, “18, right.” They marched us over to this village, its name
was Oberwaldverungen [?]. Oberwald means over the forest. I don’t know what the verungen meant. Anyway, we go to the village square, 18, and they’ve got all these people there. What, to get a person working for them on the farm, they had to have a son or a husband in the army, or in the, in the military. So,
they’re all there, you see, and they’ve got the 18, and they’re all picking out the big blokes, feeling their muscles, it’s no bull, feeling their, it was like a slave market, “Come here.” You know. So there’s three of us about my size, we would have been the smallest. At any rate, I go with this woman, and go back to the farmhouse, like, their farms in the villages like that in Bavaria, they’re not like a farm here.
Like you’ve got, how could I tell you, like say Bentley, the shopping centre, that would be the village. Now all around that, they’d have a piece of land up here, have a piece down here along the creek, where they’d grow the feed, winter feed, and they’d have big plots of land scattered all around the village. They’d all have different blocks, and they’d only stones separating them, so fences or anything like that,
and I never saw them ever have any arguments over them. So they must have got on pretty well, and that was a Catholic village. Now from my experience, you got treated better in a Catholic village, than what you did in a Protestant village. Because the Protestant village was more into Hitler. Anyway, they took me back to the farmhouse, there’s a loaf of bread, a pound of butter and a big jug like that
of Moost like, it’s a, Moost, what, like cider. So, every ten minutes she’d be poking her head around to have a look, and I’m still attacking the bread and butter. And any rate, I think I ate about half a loaf of bread before I’d had enough. So then, that must have been about four o’clock in the afternoon by that time.
Nine o’clock at night, we’re still going, getting beets out of the, picking up, carting all the beets into the cellar and loading them into the cellar for the winter. They were, about nine o’clock at night. Then I’ve got to feed the cows, change the straw and everything, put in there for the cows and everything, and that’s at ten o’clock at night. So when the, when the
winter came, it wasn’t too bad. What they did with their potatoes, right, they’d scrape out a big pit, put all the potatoes in there, cover it with straw, and put all the dirt back on top of it. So, when the ground froze, it wouldn’t freeze the potatoes. They had nowhere to store them; they didn’t have enough room to store them. As soon as it thawed out, they’d pull out their spuds and, they had plenty of, it wasn’t
too bad on the farm, because you got, you ate the same as they did. And you should have seen them killing a pig, though. They had to notify the state that they were going to kill a pig, the inspector come along, and he weighed it. They had to have half, so he knew exactly how much meat he was going to get, they had to have it weighed. The state got half the pig; the farmers had the other half.
So he came along the morning that they’re killing the pig, and that’s when he does it all, and off he goes. Well, the pig’s tied to a post, hit between the eyes with the blunt end of an axe, knife into the jugular vein straight away, and that’s all into the pot, stirring it up, that’s for their bloodwurst, you know. And he’s in, boiling in a wooden trestle
sort of thing, trough, full of boiling water, and he’s in there, hairs are off, and they’re eating it within half an hour, it’s cut up in no time and they cut into bits for the bloodwurst, that’s got to be done straight away. All the time they’re doing that, that’s got to be stirred the blood, and there’s, that’s it. And they lived on that all of winter, that pig. And cabbage, pickled cabbage, sauerkraut, and it’s not bad. If it’s done properly, pork and sauerkraut is very nice.
I got to liking it anyway, and the funny part about it was though, he stamped the pig, the inspector, so they got that for him, right. As soon as he’s gone, and they’ve killed that one, there’s another pig trotted out and he’s knocked on the head too. They got two for the price of one. He doesn’t get half of that, though. So that’s making sure they got enough to eat.
where it turned down was they’ve got these, stages of the cross right there up this big hill, right. So the kids got toboggans, the kids and that, one Sunday morning, he borrowed a toboggan off these kids, and he charged it up the top of this hill where the crosses are, and there’s four of us on it with, Yantzy’s on the back, and we come hurtling down that hill, and of course, this road’s ice now, the road is ice, that’s snow, hurtling down here,
hit the ice, shoot up here. And by that time, Yantzy’s off the back, he’s hanging on, and he’s (UNCLEAR) and we shoot up there and get to the church as they’re all coming out the church, God. Knocking them all out of the way. So, quite funny it was, but the guard didn’t like that too much though, so he stopped us having that. And they, the young blokes were going in the army
being called up to the army and they challenged us to a game of soccer. We’d, there might have been one of our blokes played soccer, the rest played rugby or Aussie Rules. So we played a mixture of them. We belted hell out of these kids. All the locals, they said to us after “You can’t work too well, but you can play football all right.” So at any rate,
then, it thawed out, and by that time, you start work at five o’clock in the morning, and you are finishing about 11 o’clock at night. And a young bloke from west, out of the 11th Battalion, name’s Fraser, I’ve forgotten his Christian name now, his father was a politician in the west, he was a Liberal politician in the west, I think. And he said, “Do you want to have a go at escaping?” and I said “Yeah, too right.” So he said
“Well, I’ll be with you.” Well, and they got a thrashing machine there and they had all this wheat and everything that’s been stuck in there rotten for years, it’s full of black dust, you know from the tray grooves and everything. And they decide that they were going to thresh all this wheat, so they get a thresher in this village, and him and I are on there, loading the sheaves of wheat into the threshing machine, and they’re throwing them down from the loft to us,
except it, there were a couple of girls there, and they’d yell out, you know, and you’d look up and it’d hit you, bang, right in the face and you’d be covered, and we both finished up sick, we both got crook, I was in bed for a week, and they carted him off to hospital. And they, I got tablets like that, like horse tablets, I could hardly get them down. Anyway, I was there for a week and I come good. He never come back, he died. Never ever found out what he died of, or what
it was, but it was just black dust dropped down on us. I’ve had a crook chest ever since, so that’s probably what’s killed him. So that fell through, and then two blokes, one of them out of our, my battalion, and a bloke from Sydney, Len, Lenny Steele, they arrived from another working party where they had been causing a bit of trouble, they got rid of them. So they turned up there, well, Bob Puntry [?] he was in our mob,
so he said, I said, “I was going to escape with this bloke, but he died. Do you want to be in it?” and he said “Yes.” and he said “Lenny will be in it too.” so we saved up our, by that time, we’re getting Red Cross parcels, and we got British battle dress, boots and everything, and a slouch hat, and what beat me, we all got our correct size. So they must have got them from the army, you know, through the Red Cross, come through the international Red Cross, so they must have got our
size from the army, for sure. Because we got the right size boots and everything, and a slouch hat, well we left that behind, we didn’t take that. So at any rate, we save up our food and there’s three of us, and we’ve got British battle dress, and the overcoat, and a forage cap. So off we go, we were out for 10 days. And we come to this place, where we, what we did, we walked along the side of the road at
night and then as soon as it started to get light, we’d look for somewhere we could get a bit of cover and we camped there for the day, as soon as it got dusk, off we go again. And, how we knew where we were going, the local Bürgermeister [Mayor] used to come in and talk to us, you know, he wanted to know about Australia and everything, and we used to tell him. So I said to him one day “Have you got a map of the area, so that we can see where we are?” “Oh, yeah.” So he got a little map, he thought, it was only a little
thing, it wasn’t a proper map, but it gave us the direction we had to go and everything, you know. But, anyway, we come to Hammelburg, and we couldn’t get over the river, so we said “Well, what are we going to do, we can’t get over this river.” So he said, Lenny said, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” he said, “We’ll march through the town, three abreast, and if anybody
challenges us, we’ll give them the Heil Hitler salute.” I said “Right oh, we’ll give it a go.” Because they had like a pioneer battalion there as well, their uniforms were brown, not, they were lighter than ours, but in the dark, they wouldn’t know. But the only thing we were missing was the Swastika arm band, the red arm band with the Swastika and that on it. So that’s what we did, we marched over the bridge, through the town, some blokes came out of
the guest house, which was a boozer, they’d be going back to their camp in Hammelburg. “Heil Hitler.” “Heil Hitler.” Never took any notice, just went straight though. It pays to be cheeky. Anyway, we finally got caught, I don’t know what happened, but somebody must have spotted us, because we’re going down the road, or on the side of the road. All of a sudden, these blokes popped up from everywhere, all around us, the home guard in
this place, it was. And, so they marched us into the town, it was only a little town, and handed us over to the local copper. And he said to us, “Englander?” We said “No Australian.” He said “Australian. Cretea?” We said “Yes.” He said “Me Cretea.” He got wounded and he was invalided out of the army, so I thought “Oh, well, you know.” And
anyway, after they went, he turned out that he was all right. He said he’d fought on Crete.” And he was proud that he’d fought us.” You know. He must have thought that we were all right, because in the morning, he came in with a plate of scones that he got his wife to make for us. So he wasn’t too bad. So then they took us back to Hammelburg, and 30 days bread and water, and I went to another working party in a different town.
I was only there a few days; I don’t even know the name of the town. I was working in a sawmill, and there was three of us working in this saw mill. Jack Cummings from Narrandera, and a bloke from the west, a red-headed mug. And Jack and I had lifted up this big log up, huge log, and both of us on the butt, lifted it up, and he was supposed to put a sapling under that to prop it up, so he did, and I’m standing there, Jack’s that side.
And he put the sapling in and he said “Right oh, it’s right.” So we let it go and whack, down it comes. We’ve got it up here, mind you, and we’re sitting it on my knee here, and it landed on my foot. So Jack’s got hold of the thing, and thrown it off on his own, and he had to cut the lace of my boot to get my boot off. So the guard said “Oh, we’ll take him down to the doctor.” So Jack’s piggybacked me down to this quack [doctor], and he got hold of my foot
and went…., and that was that, I woke up on my back in the barracks after that. So off I went to the hospital the next morning. I’ve got to take everything I’ve got, hobble along, hop along on one foot with a crook knee because I’ve had a whack on that as well, and get on the train, and I’m going, the guard said, “There’s a seat up there.” so “Well, go up there and sit down.” and I’m going along there, and this bloke’s shoved his foot out and tripped me up. I tell you what, everybody knew what I meant, they didn’t
understand the language, but everybody knew what I meant, I could tell you. But anyway, a few of them went crook at him [were angry], some of the Germans went crook at him for doing it. But they, I’ve got a foot twice the size, you know. Anyway, then I’ve got to hobble two kilometres to this hospital. POW [Prisoner of War] hospital. And I get there and I’m having a shower, and this Scotch doctor comes in, and he said “I hope you’re not malingering.” and I poked my foot under his nose, and I said, “If you had a bloody
foot like that, would you be malingering?’ He didn’t like me; he wouldn’t touch me after that. We had a Russian bloke there, he used to look after me. Russian doctor, he wouldn’t go near me, the Scotsman, probably frightened I’d abuse him again.
details, but everybody gets the gist, with sign language and everything, and a bit of, everybody, most people have got a couple of words of English. And then we all had a couple of words of German, and the Serbs, we could understand them. There were a lot of Serbs there, a lot of Serbs in that place. Of course, they were loyal, they fought the Germans, and they didn’t last very long, but at least they fought
them. And anyway, this Russian was a pretty good doctor. The orderlies which, there was, one from Leeton in New South Wales, one from Melbourne, Pinky, Pinkerton, and a Russian, Serge, Sergy. He would have been a film star, the Russian, you ought to seen him, big fellow, massive, well built, curly hair, a really good looking bloke, you know, a real
man’s man. If he’d been a, if he was a Yank, he would have been on the films, without any worries. And him and the, Ripper Bynon [?] from Leeton, oh, the, what they used to get up to, those two. They had the opportunity, you know. There was a fellow from, it’s not the Laurie Oaks, but that was this fellow’s name from New South Wales, well, he had the doctors
in everybody, the Germans in particular. The German doctor used to come in, and while I was there, I got tinea. I had it from here, all around there. Oh, hell of a mess, they painted me blue, purple, red, every colour you could think off. Anyway, this German doctor would say “What’s wrong with him now? Show me.” Oh, he wouldn’t even look at me in the end, just walk past.
So I could have been bludging there for months. And then, this Laurie Oaks, he had them bamboozled, because he’d get out there, and he’d get out and he’d be on his own, he’d run down the other end. Playing tennis against himself. No bat, no tennis racquet or anything, they all reckoned he was mad. Mad enough all right, he was trying to get repatriated. Because they did have a
repatriation of a few. Some of our blokes got repatriated. One bloke in particular from Cairns, he did, he had shocking asthma, he couldn’t move. He’d only got it over there, and you know he could hardly walk, and so he got repatriated home in 1943, and a few others. At any rate, while we were there, this, they
found out if you were a corporal or above, you didn’t have to work. That was in the Geneva Convention. So I said “Well, that’s not a bad go.” and this Bluey Cork from the ASC, [Australian Service Corps], he’d lost an eye in Greece. How he lost it was, if they were driving a truck in Greece, they drove continually, because some of them would run them off the road.
They were only narrow roads, shocking mountain roads; you’ve never seen anything like it. And they were getting bombed and machine gunned all day, some of them had enough, and those who would drive would drive them continually, and Bluey, and the roads, half of them you’d be on the side of a hill like that, and that side would be like that. So he was on one, and he wanted to get round that side, so he’s jumped out, ran round, and you know the,
where you had the bracket sticking out that they dropped the pin into, to hold the tailgate up. Caught his eye on that as he went past, ripped his eye right out. So he said “I’ll promote you.” So he said, “You’ve got your papers.” I said “Yes.” He wrote in them that I had been promoted in the field to a corporal, and dated it and everything. It looked pretty good. At any rate, I went back to him, after I’d left there and went back to the, Hammelburg, the main camp,
I said “No, I’m not going to work anymore.” So they sent me down to this bloke, that was in Bavaria, too, and they were all NCO’s and everything apparently, 383, I think they called it, or 332. I was there for three or four months, I suppose, two or three months, oh, I’d had enough of it. When the Canadians came in, they started handcuffing us, because, the Canadians, landed on,
when they went to Dieppe, they didn’t have time to worry about prisoners, so they just tied their hands up, right, and their feet, and tied them together, left them laying there. Because they had nobody to look after them, they only, undermanned as they were, they shouldn’t have even gone there at any rate. So of course, when they, because they all got taken prisoner, and they come in, and by that time, we were getting Red Cross parcels and
everything, and cigarettes. We’d give the Canadians cigarettes until they got some, and they, you know, pretend they handcuffed us, so every morning, we’d be handcuffed at a certain time. Now if you were having a wash or something, and you were a bit slow, and you, they’d put your hands through the wire outside, handcuff you on the other side of the wire, and you’d stand there all damn day. Until
we woke up the, the keys on the Cross and Blackhawk Herrington’s tomato sauce tins, you know those old oval tins? We could open the handcuffs with them. So then, in the end, the guard used to come in and hang them on the back of the door, hang them on a nail on the back of the door. It was a waste of time. One bloke in particular, a little Pom, a sergeant, when the International Red Cross arrived at this camp, he’s got his handcuffs on to show them, “This
is what they’re doing to us.” You know. Making a big song and dance about it, but, that was at the time when they were hanging them on the door. Anyway, he couldn’t get the damn things undone. He had to go to the Germans and ask them to undo them. I reckon it served him right. At any rate, at that time, I heard that my brother was up at, in Poland. So I went along to see these Germans, I said “Can I go up and see my brother?”
he said “Do you want to join him?” I said “Yes.” “Oh well.” He said “We’ll see.” So at any rate, I think that in the end there was about five of us that went up to Lamsdorf, which is in Silesia, and get up there, and I find out he’s in a coal mine, so I said “Hell with that, I’m not going down there.” So, I went out to this place there,
Meinfeld was the name in German, but it was, I don’t know what the name was in Poland before, but it was Polish originally, in the Polish Corridor, and that was a sawmill. And there was only 10 working there, 10 on the working party, that’s, that was this, where, there was eight of us there, I think, or seven of us, a couple of them weren’t there. And
we had to, we what happened was, in the, in our, where we were, was an old pig sty, and it came in, the front of it was onto the platform at the railway station, that’s where the guesthouse and everything was, on the platform, and this was the pig sty belonging to that. And that had a little door there, was a pretty low door, and a window alongside it,
and it came in and then stepped down, and that’s where we slept at the back. Had five double decker bunks, right, and a table the table was made out of tongue and groove flooring, and it was a bit open. So anyway, we decided, we got a hacksaw blade from in where the chain, where the saws were, got a hacksaw blade. So we
got a lump of wood, measured it, a big window in this room at the back where we slept, it was about that wide and probably four foot high. And it had two bars, flat bars across there and five bars down, five? Three. There was five spaces, three bars. And we measured that, and we got a bit of wood, timber longer, we marked
the bars, the middle bars. Got this wood, forced it in, sprung that, and we cut in between that and at the top with this hacksaw. We did it night after night, it did to do it. And we put the saw blade on top, it fitted in where the tongue and groove was, and put it in the gap. They used to look under that table, they never looked at the top. Never looked
at that. And we cut it out, our, and every month, and the officer in, he was called the control officer, because he controlled the whole area where prisoners were working, and working parties, you know. They had a company of guards that looked after them all. They used to come down every month and test those windows, those bars. Never woke up. We couldn’t get over it. Anyway, I’ll go and see if it’s still there, if
the place is still, it would still be like it, if they haven’t altered it. Because after we escaped, we tried that, and it didn’t, they didn’t wake up. We never got out that way, anyway. Well, we did get out that way, but we told them “We got out another way.” I’ll tell you about it later. Anyway, and while we were there, there was four Poles working with us. They taught us how to make our own grog. We, this saw mill, was saw mill and a flour
mill. So we used to knock off the flour, and we got the Poles, worked further away. They worked at the beet sugar factory, so we swapped them the flour for the sugar, and the Poles they taught us how to make it. I could, reckon I could still do it. Two kilos of sugar to a litre of water, yeah, add a bit of, all you need is a piece of burned bread and a bit of yeast.
Put it in a vat; sit the bread on top of the water, with the yeast on top. Cover it over, leave it for three days then put it through a still, which we made from an old rubbish tin. And we wired the lid on it, and corked up the top with clay and everything, and we got a coil, copper coil, we had that in there, and come to a drum, come out 90% alcohol, and then we’d break it down with burnt sugar. Burnt sugar and water, and
break it down, it just looked like whiskey. Colour of whiskey and everything, tasted a bit fiery but. And this Welsh bloke and I, we’d be out there with the cross cut saw, cutting up logs and we’d be singing and everything, we were quite happy, I could tell you. And all the Germans reckoned we were off, we were mad. They used to call us the “Forique-ringlender.” the two of us, you know, we were there singing. And we got a gramophone and two records from the Red
Cross, we had it for a fortnight. And one of them was Peggy Lee, Why Don’t You Do Right they were from the 1943 swing series these records, and the records got worn out in that fortnight. We had them going all day long, we’d be working away, singing and that, carrying on. Any rate, a guard we got there for a while, he came from Baden-Baden.
First day he was there, at the back of that place where we were, there was a wire cage as well, right, big barbed wire cage, and they used to lock that cage, and our door was open until about eight o’clock at night then they’d lock it. He didn’t even bother to lock the cage, this bloke. He come in at half past nine, he said “Oh, you’re all still here.” we said “Yeah, why?” he said, “Well, I know you got,
there’s Poles working around here and all the rest of it, and I know you’re friendly with them.” he said “As long as you don’t cause any trouble. As long as you’re back here by half past nine, it’s all right with me, don’t cause any trouble.” So when you got a bloke like that, you wouldn’t do it in any case. But they used to change them every month or couple of months, because they didn’t want them to get friendly. And of course, he’d share, if he had cigarettes, he’s shared them with us or anything, so we’d do the same with him.
Anyway, he, they shifted him, and we got another bloke there, and he told us “Now be careful, this bloke’s killed three POWs already. He’s already shot three. And nobody likes him, his own company never liked him at all.” he said “He very bad man.” Any rate, as soon as he’s gone, this bloke lines us up, and he’s looking straight at me, and he says “Before I leave here, I’m going to shoot one of you.” And he’s looking straight at me, and I said “Well, you’re not going to get much of a chance
with me, I’m going.” Not to him, but. Anyway, a Yank was there at that time, he was an American pilot flying with the RAF, before the Yanks come into the war. Now he came there, so he could escape. So I said, we had a meeting that night, “Well, what are we going to do?” I said “I know what I’m going to do, I’m going.” And I turned around to him and said “Do you want to be in it?” “Oh, no, not really, not yet.” so
this Welsh bloke that we used to drink the grog with, he said “I’ll come with you.” So we got civilian clothes off the Poles we worked with, working clothes, and I had a parcel sent from my sister, this is what got me, right, and she wrote and told me there was a Christmas cake, and what was in it and everything. When I opened it, I’ve got a green, pale green shirt with red and white stripes,
I’ve got a pair of boots, not my size and a few other things, oh, and a light grey polo neck sweater, and different things, and a note, from the San Francisco Red Cross “When this parcel was shipped from your boats to us to go to Europe, it was empty.” That’s our bloody wharf labourers and our sailors, merchant navy,
they were knocking them off. It, I wasn’t the only one, heaps of them got them like that empty, and a note from the San Francisco Red Cross telling them it was empty, and they’d filled it up. They wouldn’t even know what size you were, or anything. So anyway, the shirt come in handy, and I got a hat and clothes off the Poles, and they gave us German money, they were good blokes, they were all only young fellows, they came from near Krakow, so at any rate, and we used to load timber onto these, onto the
train. This was only a local train, and it was this, there was two girls, conductresses, one was a blonde, and one was a brunette, German, and they were pretty friendly, and we’d be loading timber onto it, and they’d be talking to us and that. Anyway, we got out this night, well, what happened, we made a key, and we could get our hand out this window onto the platform, and we could get it down and open this old fashioned lock. We made a key
out of a bit of metal, you know, a bit of three eight rod, and flattened the end of it, and we could open this, so we had the story pat with the other blokes, we’d keep the window, we tell them, “You tell them we got out there, we’ll tell them the same if we’re caught.” So, right oh, so any rate, off we go, so we walk down to the next train, next station and get on the train, and the brunette one,
the brunette conductress is on it. She didn’t turn a hair, she said “Where are you going?” in German, “Where are you off to?” you know, we said “We’re going to Switzerland.” she said “Oh, well, you have to go to Namslau, first, then you have to go to Breslau, then you’ve got to go to Leipzig, then you go to Dresden, and you can get the express to Munich, and then you can get a local train from there, and you got to this place, a little village only about 30 miles from the Swiss border. If you get to there, you should be all right.”
So we get to the end of the line, and we’ve got to wait, she said “You’ll have to wait for a couple of hours for a train to get back to Namslau.” Oh, so anyway, when we get off the train, I reckon this bloke walking up to speak with the Poles, so we follow him, and it was, you go into the barracks, and there’s about a hundred Poles there, boy, you should have seen them when we walked in. Anyway, we explained what we were, and we weren’t going to dob [inform]
them in if anything happened. So then, we went back, caught the train to Namslau, bought the tickets to Breslau, got to Breslau all right, bought the ticket to Leipzig, got to Leipzig, bought the ticket to Dresden, got to Dresden, and what brought it back vividly was last year, when they had the floods in Europe, and they showed the Dresden railway station, I don’t know if you saw it, but all you could see to start with was this big glass window, with bars,
you know, sections of window at the end. It’s huge place it was. And that was it. Well, we got to Dresden, we had about three or four hours to wait for the train to Munich, never been challenged at all, so we were waiting there, and all this hall, it’s a huge waiting hall, and the door was up there, and we down this end and the entrance to the platforms was there. And all along there, right round there was people, waiting for
trains. And the coppers come in with their, you know, the big breast plates, you’ve seen them in pictures and things, I think, some shoots, they call them. And they came in, checking the papers. And Taffy Price said to me “We’ll be gone here.” I said “No, we won’t.” he said “Why?” I said “There’s two blokes up there, that, they’re either the same as us, or they’re deserters.” because I could see them, they were very edgy, and they were trying to keep
out of these two coppers. I said “As long as we keep ahead of them, we’re sweet, we’ll be all right.” Sure enough, they got them. So we got on the train, and it’s like our old country carriages, the corridor on the outside, and the compartment in there. We’re standing in the corridor and this
and I said “Oh no, we’re all right.” we spoke in German “We’re all right.” “Come on.” he said “There’s room in there, come in and sit down.” so all right, we go in and sit down. They’re all servicemen going home on leave from Russia. So after a while, one bloke pulled out a bottle of wine, opened it up, passed it around, this bloke’s passed it onto me, had a drink, passed it onto Taffy, he has a drink.
A bit later, another bloke gets out a bottle of wine, all Polish or Russian stuff, and round it comes again, and Taffy had his mouth organ, and he played the mouth organ, so he plays all the German songs, and every German song he knew he could remember, and they’re singing and the bottles are being passed around, you know. We were all half stung by, and anyway, that went on, and we got held up,
oh, two or three times, and the major railway terminals, you know, where they’re a lot of lines going, they’d been bombed to blazes. And everywhere we stopped, where they’re fixing it, all the blokes doing it are British POWs. They were, some of them were from the airborne division that was captured at Arnhem and that. And they’re all fixing up all these railway lines,
we’re sitting there, we can’t even say a word to them. And anyway, that was all right, they didn’t take any notice of these blokes, they just thought we were Poles and that was it. So we got to Munich, and we get off the train, and this little bloke in a leather overcoat, I knew what he was straight away, no question, Gestapo, and he’s got his eyes on us straight away. “Papers please.”
Because, naturally being young, they think you’re deserters, unless you’re hobbling along on one leg, or something, they reckoned you’re deserters. So at any rate, he said, anyway, take us into the station master’s office. And they ring up, down comes the Gestapo, two of them, black uniforms, Mercedes Benz tourer drive it onto the platform. “Come on.” put us in the car,
take us back to Gestapo headquarters at Munich. We get interrogated there, fingerprinted, photographed, strip searched, everything, they wanted to know where we’d been, how we got there, so we told them everything, no good trying to hide it. And they kept us there until they checked up that we were fair dinkum, you know, that we were prisoners of war. And then they checked up everywhere we’d been, to make sure nobody had been killed or anything like that,
that we hadn’t, and then the, this big bloke said to us, “Come in” and took us out into this, well, it was where their, their mess hall, and he got us a meal. And he said “You’ve got to stay here until we check everything that you are all right, and then we’ll have you home to the army.” luckily, because being in civilian clothes, they could have shot us. They were quite within their rights if you were in civilian clothes.
Anyway, they didn’t, then they handed us over to the army, they put us in a military jail. They split us up; I went in with a Russian. But, well, I, after a while I doubted it, I had a bit of a query about it, because he wanted to know how we’d escaped and all the rest of it. Any rate, he’d been, he had been badly burnt,
he was a dive bomber pilot and he had been badly burned, and he had a stack of photos that high, how they fixed him up, the Germans. Now what the Germans did to the Russians, I couldn’t understand it, I didn’t, he’d had to be caught by the air force, because a German soldier would have shot him straight away, they wouldn’t have bothered getting him fixed up, and that’s when I started to doubt a bit, you know, because he asked that many questions. Any rate, I still had cigarettes, my cousin in England had
sent me up, a box of cigarettes and they were Flog Wortons [?] never heard of them before, and they had ivory tips, purple tips, all the different coloured tips on them, you know. It’s a wonder the Germans didn’t see me smoking them, and wonder what they were. Anyway, the RAF come over and bombed the Munich railway station, which wasn’t far away from us, and we were in this cell
and all the Germans, the guards and everything have gone to the air raid shelter, and in the, in English, Russian and French on the back of the door is “In case of an air raid, stand in the doorway.” they were 27 inches thick, the walls, so stand there. Anyway, he was very panicky, so I gave him a cigarette and everything, so it calmed him down a bit. Next day, they took him out, and two days later, they took us out, and when
we go out, they’ve got, there’s still bodies laying in the street, with tags on them, “Do you know this person?” in German and four guards are with Taffy, and I, the Welsh bloke and I, one in front, one behind, and one either side of us. All these people are coming up to us and saying “Englanders? Englanders?’ “No.” he said, “They’re French.” They were telling them we were French. They would have torn us to bits, I’m not joking, they would have. So at any rate, we went out to this camp in Munich,
it used to be Stalag 7A, that was where my brother was originally, and went into the draft compound there, go in the door, I’ve got a palliasse, which is a bag of straw, go in there, put it down, this Russian picks his up, comes over, puts it alongside, it’s him, and he’s got a loaf of bread, don’t know where the hell he got it from, breaks it in half, that’s my half. He’s got some home grown tobacco, there, that’s your half,
so he probably was a Russian. Anyway, and that was full of Yanks [Americans], from North Africa, and they arrived there, this is no bull, they arrived there with all their gear except their weapons, packs, everything, and they had a 1% casualty list. Whole unit of them, 1% casualty list. And that’s where they turned it in. Now, that was in North Africa, where the Brigade of guards
had taken it, that’s a brigade of guards is three battalions, and they had a whole division of Yanks took it, took over from them to hold it, and they tossed it in, with a 1% casualty list. And you know, they wouldn’t even give us a smoke, they wouldn’t even talk to us, we were in a draft compound which is separated from them, go over, “Oh yeah, how are you?’ wouldn’t even answer us. So you’d imagine what
the language was that flew at them, I could tell you. So any rate, we were there, oh, two or three days after that, and they sent guards down from Lamsdorf to take us back to Lamsdorf. That’s probably a thousand kilometres away, yeah, I couldn’t get over it. We were in a prison camp, mind you, and they send guards from another one to take us back to there, to put us in jail for 30 days bread and water. And on the way back,
it’s a three or four day trip, on the way back, we had to cross over a railway line to get to another platform, we had to change trains. And we’re going over there, and we’re walking across there, and this bloke’s coming the opposite way, and he’s dressed in a suit, wearing a Homburg hat, carrying a brief case, and he got, come to us like that, he said “They’ve landed in Normandy” and just kept walking. Plain English.
That was the 6th of June 1944, and who was he, what the hell was he, who would know. You wouldn’t have a clue what he was, but it was perfect English “They’ve landed in Normandy.” that was all he said. Couldn’t get over it. Anyway, we went back there for the 30 days bread and water, and
went out to another working party. It was at Bitkil [?].
Actually, the sergeant major in, at Lamsdorf, his name was Sherriff, he was a POW in that camp in the First World War, he was a RSF [?]. And he got us to go out there, there was me and that other Australian in that photo, and a Scotsman, Bugsy Moran, he was real Bugs he was, he was nuts. He said,
“They’d been there since Dunkirk.” since they were captured, “We’ve never heard of peacetime.” so they said “They’ve asked for more men, will you go out there, and find out what’s going on, and if you think anything needs to be done, cause some trouble, or let me know?” This is, he used to do that, he had about 50 blokes at Lamsdorf, that he’d send out in working parties like that, to cause trouble and that.
Anyway, we went out there, and we arrive there in the afternoon, we walk around, there’s no, they’re in a barracks, but they’re not there, they’re all working. Some of them are in the clay pits, others are in, whatever, in the factories making the bricks, and we walked around and we came across an old quarry, and it’s had trees growing up in it. No wire or anything. So I said to Bugsy I said
“We’ll see if we can get out tonight and go around and have a look around the area.” you know, see what’s going on. So he said “All right.” so I asked, a little Scotch bloke there, I said, because you went in a door there, and on the left was one room, and on the right was three rooms, no doors, just three rooms. Now, they’re all heaped down in the bottom, and the next, and the next, now, they used to get your boots and trousers every night, right, they reckoned if you didn’t have them, you couldn’t escape.
So any rate, you always had something hidden somewhere, any rate, I said “What happens when they count them?” and the Scotsman said “Well, they go through there and count them, count them, count them, then they come into our room here.” so I said “Do they come back in here?’ “No” he said “They come back into our room and go out.” and I said “Well, do us a favour tonight, will you.” he said “What.” I said “When they come in here, will you sort of close your door a bit? Don’t shut it completely, or they’ll wake up something’s on, just,
you know, bump into it to close it up a bit.” he said “Oh yeah.” I said “And in the morning, if we’re not there, you collect our boots and trousers and bring them down the back where the, near the old quarry.” he said “All right.” So at any rate, we did, so we went round the next, out, shot out that night and went round and there were some Poles in the barracks at the back, and so we knocked on the door there, they were Poles, so we stayed there the night, we had a look around
to see what was what, and finished up there early in the morning, he bought them down, so we knew we could get out there. As long as he was there, we’d be right. So we eventually did, this, that other Alan Mandus, his name was, Curly Mandus, and a mate from Bristol, don’t know what, his name was Bill, and I used to call him “Bristol Bill.” don’t know what his surname was, I know he come from Bristol in England, so he came with us. And
Bugs Moran, before we went, Bugs Moran went down, and he used to, he put on a mad act. He’d fill up a bucket of water. He’d go out, grab a bucket and go fill it up at the tap. He’d walk back to the barracks, and he’d put it down and look at it, then he’d tip it out, then he’d pick it up and go fill it up and do the same thing again. And at night, when they came round, he made sure he’d be in bed, and when the guard came round to
count them, he’d be throwing his arms around, whacked a bloke a couple of times, so that was enough. So he took him down to the doctors, and Bugs took some bits of paper and that, and nearly every day the Flying Fortresses [bombers] used to come up from Italy. So he’s walking along, and they’re coming over, so he stands still, and he gets out these bits of paper and he puts pieces all round him, and the guard said
“What are you doing that for?” And he says “They’ll see them, and they won’t bomb here, they’ll know I’m here.” So the guard took him down to the doctors and he said “I want him sent away, he’s mad, he’s forique.” So he went, that was the end of him, off he went back to camp. So anyway, we took off and we got up in the mountains, and it started to rain, and we come across an old burnt out place, I don’t know what it,
it could have been an old Jewish camp or something in the old days. And it’s burnt out that’s, anyway, it was an iron roof, still the iron roof there, for a bit of cover and that, and I had a bar of chocolate, so, found a tin there, and we got plenty of water and boiled it up, got a fire going under that, and boiled it up, cleaned the thing out, boiled it up again, put the chocolate in.
Anyway, Alan Mandus, he got pleurisy, we didn’t know what it was at the time, but it turned out he suffered from pleurisy, and he’d had it before. And we thought he was dying, and anyway, we were out a few days before it started to rain, and we got soaking wet, and we, and anyway, we decided we’d better get him down the mountain, and get him to hospital because, get him handed him over, because we reckoned he was going to die
on us, you know. So we didn’t want that to happen. So anyway, we went, we get down, and we’re walking along, and this Brown Shirt come along, and he’s on a bike, and of course, he wheels around “What are you?’ so we told him, “We are POWs and he’s sick, we want to get him to a doctor.” So he’s marching us along the road, and he’s abusing us all the time in German, and everything, you know. The next thing we know, he’s just picked up his bike, and bang, he’s hit us,
we’re walking along three abreast , we’re helping Curly in the middle, and he’s just threw, thrown his bike and hit us in the back with his bike. Oh, and he’s abused the hell out of us. I tell you what, it was a bit windy then, I thought he was going to shoot us, because he had a pistol and that with him. But anyway, he didn’t, but he, they got him to a doctor, and anyway, we went, we got carted off to camp and Curly got, he was there, he stayed
there for a while, I don’t know where he went eventually. So that was that one. So I went back in, and I went to another working party, they give me another 30 days bread and water, went to another working party, and it was making, it was a fabric sort of place. I was there two days, and a guard arrived there, and grabbed me, carted me off to Lamsdorf, and I was stuck in the charge
compound, charged with sabotage. And we were in this compound, it’s right up in the corner of Lamsdorf, oh, it’s hard to sort of try, but if you were going in the main gate, you went through one gate and that was the Germans’ offices and that there, and when you went in there, from a working party or anything, you always got searched, your gear always got searched. Now if you wanted to bring
anything in, you’d leave a cake of soap or some chocolate or some cigarettes on the top, and if you got the right bloke, he’d just look at you and just lift up your things and politely put it in his pocket, whatever it was, and straight through. That’s how half the radios and everything got into camp. They were willing to take a bribe. Soap, perfumed soaps were worth a fortune to them, for their wives
or girlfriends or what, you know. That’s how they used to get in, so if you walked in there it was a main road, right up to the end of the camp, and it was barracks up either side, different barracks, and ablution blocks in between. And on the left, right up there was this one barrack on its own and it had a double wire fence, down the middle, ten foot high, with coiled barbed wire in it. And on the three sides, and then just the single wire on, where the road
is, because on the other side of the road is all barracks as well. And there was a machine gun in that tower, one in the corner over there, and a guard in there of a night with a dog. And the Scotchmen and I, Paddy Klim, his name was, got out of there in broad daylight. I’ll tell you, Paddy, I’d met Paddy in the jail at Jagendorf before. I’d been in there a couple, two or three times before, and I’d met Paddy in there, and
what we used to do there, that was a control centre for the area, and all the Red Cross parcels went through there, and there was a Kiwi [New Zealand] sergeant major looking after them there. He used to send them out with the different working parties. And when you come out, if you were doing 30 days in there, when you come out, there’d be a Red Cross parcel there, but it wasn’t yours, they used to split that up. Anybody that came out always got
a cigarette and something to eat, they’d be left there. It was sort of an unwritten law, they just did it automatically. One would be put in, if there was two or three there, and they’d help themselves, but there’d be always some left for you if there was anybody in the cell. At any rate, Paddy’s there, in this draft compound in Lamsdorf, and he just came to me this day, I’ve got to tell you, it was the funniest place out, there was two Scotsman. One in bed over there, and one in bed
over here, and they’re having a competition. See who can stay in bed the longest, without getting out. So all their mates are doing everything for them, they’re getting their food, they’re carting their waste out and everything else. It went on for days and days and days, it’s unbelievable. And it was getting a bit cold then, so they’re burning boots and everything in the stove. The Germans never came in there, except the bloke that came in there with a dog of a night. And it was a savage dog, too you couldn’t.
A lot of the dogs, they used to like chocolate, but he wouldn’t take anything that dog. Anyway, Paddy came to me this day, he said “Do you want to get out of here?’ I said, “Yeah, why.” he said “Come with me.” So, the, your food came in a big tub, round metal thing, and it had two brackets on it like that and there was two wooden handles with a cleat on that fitted on those brackets on each side and one bloke in front and one behind, so
they brought it up, and we’d had our, after lunch, you know. So Paddy says “Quick grab that.” so I grab that, he’s out the front, so he walked up to the guard on the gate, there’s a gate there, a single gate, and he said to the guard “Open the gate.” because Paddy spoke good English, good German. The German suited them great, the Scotch accent just fitted them perfect. And the guard says “What for?’ and he says “We’ve got to take this out there.”
into the next barracks, in the gate there into the next barracks. “Oh.” the guard said, “I don’t know anything about that.” he said “Didn’t the sergeant tell you?’ he said “No.” “Oh, well.” he said “Don’t worry. I’ll see the sergeant when he comes back, I’ll tell him you wouldn’t let us do it.” And the guard said “What have you got to do?’ he said “Take it down in there.” he said, “Where do you put it?’ he said “Just inside the gate there, and they come and collect it.” So he said “Oh, all right, I know.” Paddy said “I told you,
don’t worry. I’ll tell your sergeant when he comes back here, you wouldn’t let us do our job.” so he said “Oh, what do you have to do again?” And by this time, all the other blokes in the barracks are coming out of the barracks watching us, they woke up something was on. And he said “Where do you have to put it?’ and he said “Just inside the gate, and then we come back here.” so he said “All right.” he opened the gate. Well, the silly bugger, he’s got the rifle on his shoulder and he’s standing there with this gate open.
So we walked down the road, dropped the thing, get inside the gate, drop it, as we get in, Paddy says “Right.” we drop it and race into this barracks ripped off our jackets, grabbed a jacket off another bloke there, and a hat, he did the same, and out we went again across the road, into the other barracks. And we went into see this sheriff, the sergeant major, and there was another Kiwi Sergeant Major, Archie Horne, “Trader Horne” we used to call him, and
he got on well with sheriff, he got it organised. Got swapped over with a Canadian and out on a working party the very next morning, as a Canadian. And that poor, you could just see him standing there with the gate open and all these blokes, you’ve only got to move, and they’re all out the gate too. I said “How did you get away with that?’ he said “I noticed this morning all the guards were new, I’d never seen any one of them.” And that’s
all it was, new guards, and he’d been wide enough awake to see it. And we were the only two that ever managed to do it out of that camp. Anyway, and we went out to another working party, and I took off again, a bit later, and I got taken back to Jagersdorf again which was the worst thing that could have happened. And they asked me my name, I gave them the German, the Canadian name and number,
and this voice popped up, female voice said “That is not him, that is the Stephenson.” You know that woman arrived there, I got married in England, that woman arrived there before my wife arrived here. Supposed to have married one of our fellows, and she was supposed to be a Czech. Well, she might have been a Czech, but she was working for the Germans when she dobbed me in. If she was a
Czech, why would she dob me in? Because I’d been there a few times, and they knew you. That was it. So, I believe she married a bloke named Ray Kent, I don’t know whether you should put that in though. Yeah, so, anyway.
And he got captured in Greece at the Corinth Canal. They, that was the first time the Germans dropped paratroops on, they dropped them on our blokes at Corinth Canal. And so, he arrived in England a lot earlier than me. He’d been released a lot earlier. Had his 21st birthday in England after being a prisoner of war for four years.
He drank a lot, and he, in London, the Red Cross had two houses for us in Sloane Street, that we could stay in. And the Tube [underground] station was Sloane Square, and outside the, just out from the Tube station, there’s a great new (UNCLEAR) there of a night. And I got off the Tube this night, to go and sleep in the house, and Jimmy’s arguing with
an American. And the American’s saying to him, “What are you Australians doing, coming over when the war’s finished?” And of course, that was like a red rag to a bull, to Jimmy Hogg. And of course, he abused the hell out of the Yank, and the Yank’s saying “Get out, you would never have seen anything about the war.” And Jimmy had a souvenir revolver in his pocket so he pulled it out. He said “I’ll show you whether I’ve seen it.” and bang at his foot, of course
the Yank is off up the street. And Jimmy’s chasing him, and he was that drunk, that if he would have been sober, he would have had him. And nothing was done about that. But, another day, this fellow, we had three brothers from Geelong, the Howe brothers, one of them got killed, the other two, Clive was the youngest, and he was a POW with us,
and he was, he wanted to go and get a hair cut. And we’re in London, and there’s a barber upstairs, and he said “Well, I’ll go up here.” and I said “Well, there’s a bar there, I’ll go in there, and I’ll wait for you.” so he said “Right oh.” So I walk in there, and there’s this Jimmy Hogg, and it’s early in the morning, and he’s drunk as usual. And he’s arguing with this American. And the American’s sitting on a stool
at the bar, it’s not a hotel, it’s like a, just a bar. And Jimmy’s abused him, and told him, trying to pick a fight, and he wouldn’t fight, so he’s knocked his drink off, knocked his drink away like that, and no notice, and then he’s pulled his chair out from underneath. Still wouldn’t do anything. The next minute, two London Bobbies [police] come in, and by that time, he’s
gone out to the toilet, and he’s heaving his heart out. Sick as a dog. So, they walk in, and I had him under control, you know. And these two coppers said to me, “Is he all right?’ I said “Yeah, he’ll be right, no worries.” and he said “Well, that’s all right, we know what you blokes have been through, we don’t want to cause you any trouble.” so I said “Right oh, he’ll be right.” So with that, he looked up and said “Coppers, bloody coppers, what do you want?”
So at any rate, he, these two cops said to me “Can you control him?’ I said “Yeah, why?’ he said “We know a place where you can put him.” I said, “Why, what sort of place?” “Oh no, get him dried out and everything.” so I said “Right oh.” Of course, he’s starting, abuse them, and I said “Hey Jimmy.” so he looked at me, and I went whack, so we carried him out and put him in the car, and took him round to this place. And my wife was, I had to meet her, I had to meet Beryl, and she’s, I was about half an hour
late when I got there, and she wasn’t too happy. Any rate, they took him round to this place, and it was run by Canadian women. And they stripped him, and put him in a bath, and put him to bed. And kept him there for week. And he, never gave him, he had money with him, but they held that. Any rate, I never saw him again, until we had a re-union at Mildura in 1990. And he came in, and he had a beard and everything.
I said to another fellow there “Who’s that?’ he said “That’s Jimmy Hogg.” I said “It can’t be.” he said “Yes, it is.” So he came over, and it turned out, he was running the AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] up there at Merbein. I said to him “Do you ever remember being with the Canadian women?’ he said “Yeah, how did you know about that?’ I said “I’m the bloke that took you there.” He didn’t have a clue. Now his son
won the Jimmy Watson medal a few years ago for the Jameson’s Run, he invented the Jameson’s Run red [wine]. And he also captained the country wheat cricket team, when they played the English up there, years ago, so his son’s done very well. Poor old Jimmy, he’s dead now, poor chap, but he was a character.
there was a team of us that used to go to the, because, you’ve got to remember, on the, at the weekend, in those days, right after the war, the Beaconsfield pub would have the beer on for two hours in the afternoon, then you’d down the one at Little Park, that’d be on for two hours. So the Beaconsfield one, was one till three, so you’d have a few beers there, then we’d got to the one in Little Park, have a couple there, then we’d go to the pier at North,
Port Melbourne, which was open for another hour. By the time you finished there, you’d had enough. One day, we were down there and this Albie Bengerfield was be in the navy, and this Arthur Allen who used to live next door to me, and he’d had a broken elbow, and he always used to get anything up to his mouth like this. He did that as a kid. Fell out of a tree in the street, and they never set it properly, you know, in those days,
but, anyway, we said “Come on, there’s a bus there, we’ll get the bus into town” and he said “All right, wait till I finish my beer.” and he got this pot, drinks it up, puts it down, whoosh, all the beer comes out all over, so he flies out the door, and we’re on the back of the bus, right. He makes a flying leap for the bus, and misses and he lands on the road, and when we look round, he’s lying on his back with his feet
and arse up in the air like a dead dog, and Albie Bengerfield said to me “Have a look at him, he looks like a bloody dead dog.” and this woman on the bus said “You horrible beast.” and started belting him with the umbrella. She said, “He could have killed himself.” well, we were killing ourselves laughing. And he married, Bengerfield married a girl from Perth, and he lived with his mother, like until she came over there, so at any rate, he said
“I’m going to have a party at mum’s place.” and this is the week before his wife arrives. So all his mates are there with their wives and what have you, and of course, they’ve got home brew and everything and the, smashed it over, the bottles were exploding and everything. Beer everywhere. Any rate, this Arthur Allan, he was a motor mechanic then, in South Melbourne, and if somebody put a car in
to get fixed up, something mechanical wrong with, it on the weekend, if he needed a car he’d say “Oh, I won’t be able fix it for you until Monday. I’ll have it ready for you Monday.” so he’d have a car for the weekend. And he had this Dodge Cooper and Bengy said “Now there’s a party on round such and such a street.” down the road a bit. So, four of them in the front, and five of us standing up in the dicky seat. And we’ve got a bag full of beer and
wine and everything else, going to this party. And went down Station Street, Box Hill, and a car come out of a side street, so he dodged that all right, he shot round this other street, forgot about us in the back, and we all shot out of the dicky seat, and crashed on the road, five of us. One of them Andy Cain, he had a dairy in Mont Albert, and of course, my brother’s broken his arm.
I’ve got all my head scraped off all down here, skidded along the road, and the other fellow Joey Jennings, he was a roof tiler, he’s got all his teeth broken, and his nose broken, teeth gone. And we’re all sick and sorry, so “Come on we’ll go up.” and of course this Arthur Allan comes back, and he looks, and he’s standing there, and we’re all laying round, all the crowd are coming out of the pictures at this time, coming down Station Street, going home, and Arthur
Allan looks at us and says “Jesus Christ,” he said “It looks like Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow.” and burst out laughing. And of course, Andy Cain wanted to fight him, oh God.