Thanks for this from us and everyone at the office, thank you for taking part. Couldn’t do it without your generous support. The first thing we need to start the interview is a summary of your life, so maybe you could start at the beginning, where you grew up and your
I was born in Moss Vale, in the New South Wales Southern Highlands, lived for the first seven years of my life. My father was a Clerk of Petty Sessions at Moss Vale. Lived in the one house for most of the time, and Dad built a house while he was there
and we lived there for a couple of years, and I think the rest of our family consisted of two older sisters and there was an elder brother who died in infancy, and myself, a younger brother and two girls. The last was born in Moss Vale before we left. There we
moved to Yass in the wool area of New South Wales. We lived there fore round about two years. I started school when I was seven at Moss Vale, and went to school at Yass and
from Yass my mother was given a death sentence of breast cancer while we there, and we moved to Sydney where she went into hospital and died in the January 1928. When I was eleven at the time. I went to school at Chatswood
Intermediate High School for about a year, then from there we moved to Cowra and stayed there for a couple of years where I went to, I think round about second year at
high school. From there we moved to Narrandera and spent a couple of years at school there and did the intermediate certificate at Narrandera, and from, there were only about three schools where you could do the leaving certificate in the Riverina
one I think at Albury, Wagga and Hay. So I was sent to Hay and boarded at a church hostel there and eventually did my leaving certificate in 1932.
Magistrate and he had started at Cootamundra and happened to be moved to Hay, so when I left school, I got a job with the Bank of New South Wales and started at Hay in 1933. Stayed with the Bank, I went to Yenda from Hay, then to
Ganmain and where did I move from there? That’s right from Ganmain I went to Wau, New Guinea, and was there for about a year when I contracted scrub typhus.
I was in hospital for fourteen days, those days most of everybody who got scrub typhus died. But I was fortunate I got over it, lived on ginger ale for fourteen days. That’s all you could keep down. They used to reckon in those days you would convalesce properly up there
so I was then returned to the mainland.
Palestine as it was called then and into a camp at Julis and we trained there for around about nearly twelve months because I think we then moved to Egypt to a camp at a place called Burg el Arab , just out of Alexandria in the start of the Western Desert
and we trained there for not too sure how long, but in January 1941, we moved down the desert and started the Libyan Campaign. Our first action was just on the receiving end of some
artillery fire. We were supposed to be guarding our guns, for one of our artillery regiments, and the second day we were supposed to mop up what was left of the first day but there wasn’t really anything left, so we did a pretty quick tour along the
positions, actually they had given up, the Italians. So we then went to Tobruk, I think it was round about the 20th January. So that was our first real action and we attacked at dawn and the enemy
artillery plastering us and what not and we attacked behind a barrage and eventually took the Italian HQ [headquarters] which was a huge complex under that, quite luxurious HQ for their general staff. Captured the general
in charge of Tobruk, I am not too sure of his name, but I remember he was a tall fair headed bloke, nothing like an Italian you would expect. After Tobruk we went to Derna Wadi, where we saw a bit of action. Matter of fact it was some of my worst moments of the war were going
up and down Derna Wadi, which was round about a thousand feet deep. Took two hours to get from one side to the other, we were going backwards and forwards. But eventually anyhow we chased the Italians down to Benghazi and we stayed at Benghazi for a little while until they decided to send us to Greece, so we came back up the desert, the
9th Division came down and took over from us and we got on ships at Alexandria and went to Greece, and we camped in a camp named Dafni, just outside Athens, and I remember I was supposed to get leave on the
second day but I wasn’t lucky enough to get it, we moved on the second day and went straight up to the northern border of Greece where we were we could see Albania, Yugoslavia and some other country, I am not too sure.
But that was our first experience with the Germans, we were overrun by the Germans, virtually the day or so after we got there. Lost quite a few men, we lost a whole platoon that didn’t get the message to withdraw in time. And the next day we were
fought a bit of a rear guard action and then got in trucks and went back a few miles. We kept on preparing defensive positions and being out flanked and moved and retreating or withdrawing as they would say. And
until eventually we did a bit of a stand at Brallos Pass, which I think was the old Thermopylae, and then went down to place I think it was called Megara. Where we were lucky enough to get taken off
and we were taken back to Alexandria and we had eight hours of Stukas bombing us, we had two cruisers and about a half a dozen destroyers, I think one destroyer had a near miss and the steering was put out of action, it was sunk by the others, they took the men off and sunk them.
One destroyer had to return to Crete. I think I have erred there, when we were taken from Greece, we weren’t taken back to Alexandria we went to Crete. And we had about three weeks there.
from there we went into Syria, the Syrian campaign had finished and they were expecting the Germans to come down that way so we took up positions in the mountains not far into Lebanon really, and
then I think we eventually moved back from there, to camps in Palestine again, and I think we were still there when they sent us, supposed to come back to
Australia, that’s right we stopped at Ceylon for sometime and got taken back to Australia where we landed at Perth and then back to Adelaide where we went into,
actually our battalion was up in the Mt Lofty, and we stayed there for a while until we got home leave, and then eventually taken up to the tablelands where we did a bit more training, and did some jungle training, and
I think I am a bit out of order there, I think we were taken to, we went to Darwin first. That’s right, we had our leave, went back to Adelaide, and then went to Darwin where we stayed for twelve months doing various exercises and practicing for a Japanese invasion.
We came down on leave then. While we were at Mt Lofty I met me wife Wilma, and corresponded with her for the next twelve months and we got married the next time I came down on leave.
fought our way down the coast to, no what did I say, did I say we landed at Wewak, no we didn’t, we landed at Aitape. Then we fought our way down the coast to Wewak and eventually took Wewak. My father had died in June of
that year which was 1945, and I had applied for compassionate leave, but as I was married me brother was given it and he come down about July I think, but anyhow they started to discharge us in August, and
I was one of the first to come down and eventually I was discharged in August 1945.
and I was unable to get back to the bush because of the housing problem at the time, so I went to Cremorne Junction first and then into town into 228 Pitt Street and. Where did I go from there?
I went to various other branches, but I went back to Cremorne Junction at one stage and then made Assistant Manager at Crows Nest and from there I got me first branch at Panania and after about three years there
I was put on the relief staff and I was one of the relieving managers throughout New South Wales for about three years and then in 1974 I think it
was. I finished about forty one years in the bank, that’s right. 1974 I decided to retire and have a couple of years off and then with my brother, who also had retired from the bank, and son in law and eldest daughter and son in law we bought a newsagency at
St Leonards. And did about six or seven years there, then had another one at Northpoint at North Sydney, which was not so good because we were virtually working as agents for the Lottery Office, lotto and a huge of lottery trade, it wasn’t really like a newsagency. I was going to
retire eventually from there, but my youngest daughter was a school teacher and she had become rather disenchanted with the life she was leading because the discipline was so poor. She was working for us at the newsagency and so she
wanted to carry on with it, so I bought another one at Terrey Hills, which we had for five or six years, and Wilma and I just worked part time and I did the books for them, and then another daughter who had got a bit tired of nursing, she was a
nurse, she came in with us, so the two of them virtually ran this newsagency at Terrey Hills.
farm boy and so of course he was right at home with horses, he was a good horseman, and a very good handyman, which my main hobby has always been carpentry.
Me mother evidently must have had a pretty good temper, because I remember her throwing a silver teapot at me, and it went through the window at the early house in Moss Vale. And I remember building this house, he did a lot of it himself, he built a brick garage. And
I remember the long walk to school. I have been back there several times since, and it was only a few hundred yards, it seemed miles at that time.
What was that move for, why did you have to move around so much?
They were just normal for public servants in that job. Dad was in the Justice Department and he was apparently promoted every couple of years and he had been a school teacher in his youth, and my mother was a school teacher too. Just, I think what they called a pupil teacher
a primary school teacher. So both of them were teaching in the Wagga district and Tom Blamey was also a school teacher at the same time in the district. And then of course
Cowra, the main thing I remember about Cowra was the bridge. Lachlan is only a very small river, I don’t know whether you know it at all. They have this bridge about sixty above it, it used to up when it was in flood. But, the main thing I
remember about the country towns is I enjoyed me life in all of them.
with two men a side sort of thing, on the way home from school, and we used to fish down the dam not far from our place, and there was a family up the road at Yass, who had a pony, so we learnt to ride
there and also started, things were always pretty tight financially, and I don’t think we were allowed to take jobs like paper boys or that sort of thing because there were so many more needy people who needed them, so Dad wouldn’t
let us do that. I used to go round on a paper run with the bloke from across the road with his bike. I learnt to swim in Yass in the Yass River which was a creek, just a creek or so. And also I learnt to swim properly when we were living at Artarmon,
I don’t know whether they are still there, I learnt in the Lavender Bay Baths, are they actually still there do you know? ‘Round about near Milson’s Point station is?
1929 but I think about a thirty percent cut in their pay. Which would have been hard to take I should say, but I think I suppose really we were relatively well off, we never were short of
food or anything like that, and I don’t think there would have been the food shortages like it was for impoverished people today, because I think in those days it was completely different because the labour was so cheap
sort of thing, it seems to be a different set up now with wages are so high, and everything else seems to be high too, like food is a very expensive, everything you buy you know. I can remember potatoes something like fourteen pounds for six pence or something
like that, it’s hard to imagine.
Dad’s assistants there, a chap named Masters, and his youngest child was born there, I remember when he was born and I still keep up with him, but he was telling me that while at Narrandera they didn’t have enough blankets to keep warm, they used
to keep newspapers between the blankets to keep them warm. And he always said that Dad taught his mother to patch their pants, how to patch boys’ pants. They were evidently
a bit worse of than we were because my eldest two older sisters were both working then and I think the Masters had about eight children, so I think they were feeling the pinch quite a bit, and of course he wouldn’t have been getting as big a pay as Dad.
out at night sort of thing. I suppose they would be the same sort of people who these days are sleeping on park benches and that sort of thing. But of course there’s one thing you learn in life but it’s extremely difficult to get up when you are down. If you are down, you just gotta need a bit of
money to start with to get going. I actually got a good start really with the first newsagency I bought. Really lucky there too, I bought it when prices of them were very strictly controlled by the Newspaper Proprietors Association.
I was in that for eight years and when I sold it I sold it when it was more like the market price which is you are selling on whatever your nett profit it, so I sold it for far more than what I would have sold it for if it had still been controlled.
died quite young with multiple sclerosis in about 1954. I got on well with them in our adult years, got on well with all of them. Unfortunately the eldest one, now there’s Geraldine, the eldest one, the one I wrote the letters
to, she is in a nursing home at Armidale, she is six years older, she must be ninety four, but unfortunately she’s got dementia, so she doesn’t really know you, she doesn’t know me when I got to see her.
eldest sister, she’s six years older than I am. She was a pretty good legal secretary and she worked for Garfield Barwick actually, for some years, and then in her later years, she was Secretary to the
Bursar for Armidale University, New England University, but I still keep in touch with her, all her children and the eldest one is sixty, they are not children anymore.
there, and they used to do a lot of camping, and I always went with them. We used to camp on river and that sort of thing, and did a lot of fishing with them. And the other chap, his father was in charge of the
pumping station on the river, whether pumped the river or whether it was a power station or what it was, but I was very, very friendly with them. I needed some big friends actually, because I was very small right up until, I remember I had a picture of myself in 4th year at Hay, I must have been about
one inch shorter than the other kids, I didn’t grown until about a year later, and then I only got to about five feet eight and a half inches.
country schools I always did pretty well. I was generally up near the top of the class in most subjects. I enjoyed maths I think more than anything else. There used to be a subject in science called
Mechanics, to do with friction and that sort of thing, not to do with motor mechanics. I was very keen on that but never did very well at it, which was rather strange. Generally when you liked a subject you it’s fairly easy to learn. There’s something you are not really interested in, it’s
the devil’s own job to learn.
in those days you really had to get a scholarship to be able to go to university or reasonably wealthy parents to pay, most who did go who couldn’t really afford it, worked or
had to pay their way through, which was pretty difficult to be able to devote enough your studies as well as working to keep yourself. But they did it. I think they deserved their degrees. But it’s pretty hard to understand
these days you know when everyone manages to get to university, I think our youngest two have more or less done university and have more or less got university degrees. And
the youngest, she was always going to be a teacher, and it was a shame that she got sick of it so soon after she was in. I think she was in it for five years, she reckoned the discipline was so poor that all the joy had gone out of it.
I think we’ve always had in this country, better news of other parts of the world than they had of us, for instance, if you go to England for a visit, it’s very, very difficult to get any news of Australia at all. I should say, well it’s pretty obvious
in the United States for instance, that they know absolutely nothing of our country, whereas we virtually know a hell of a lot about theirs. Through the films I suppose of course. We probably don’t know as much as we should about their country people. People from smaller towns.
and I got very smitten by this daughter, and I used to go out to see her, probably three times a week, I used to ride a bike, the road was too rough to ride on virtually and I used to ride on one of the distributor canals
that used to take the irrigation water out to the farms. And I used to ride along the bank of this farm up and down like this, and I remember most nights there was a school teacher who lived on the farm opposite,
where my girlfriend was, and he had a girl about two miles out the other side of the town, and we used to meet about midnight along the canal and smoke a cigarette there. He subsequently married that girl. He was a very good footballer, played in the local team. And in those days they
had all the local teams had one of the Sydney footballers, as soon as they got just over the hill, that’s where they went, out to the bush. And we had one at Yenda. I used to follow the football there, and Cecil was one of these blokes. He played interstate
at the University Team, Sydney Uni Team about that time, but he was one of these blokes who was always on the spot and go over the line sort of thing, but never in the rough stuff.
She was a stenographer and actually her expertise in Pittman’s shorthand was all due to me, I used to bloody well give her hours and hours of practice. I remember the main material we used was the Hansard from the State Parliament, and I
remember the stuff I read at the time was an awful lot about transport and the transport minister was a bloke named Fred Stewart and he lived down here, and he must have been the Minister for Transport when number plates first came, when you first had to register cars. Prior to that I don’t think there was any registration, and he was number 1.
You often used to see it, long after he died with his wife. Lady Stewart she was. But I used to read these bloody Hansards for hours and hours on end for my girlfriend and she eventually got a job in Griffith and moved away from town and she met a bloke up there
who I thought he was an old man at the time, he was in his thirties and he worked for the Water Conservation & Irrigation Commission. She eventually married him. I was heartbroken. But then I didn’t have another girlfriend until I met Wilma.
there was no flat land there, so the airstrip was sort of on a slope, not much of a slope but a bit of a slope, and of course it didn’t matter which way the wind was blowing you had to land it the same way. And we used to do all our travelling
up there by plane, because we still worked Saturday mornings in the bank up there, we were the only ones that worked Saturday mornings. We all played in one team and I played in the cricket team and the tennis team, and there was
snooker, some of the others played in the snooker team. We used to play at Lae and Salamaua and I think we used to play at Bulolo too. And even though Bulolo was only a few miles away, they would still
fly there. They flew everywhere. The pilots were very highly paid compared to the rest of us. For instance even with an allowance of £125 a year I still only got about £250 a year when I was there, but we managed to save quite a bit of money. That was one of the attractions for going there.
the morals were a little bit loose up there with some of the married women up there. It wasn’t a good place to take a wife, because they did nothing, they had servants for everything. I had a boy to do my ironing, washing and ironing
for me there and in the houses, people had their own houses sort of thing, well they had the cooking was all done for them, they didn’t have to do any housework. Any ironing or anything. Too much at a loose end. So
a lot of marriage break ups.
But I suppose the average young bloke was pretty bored with his life too, and there was another incentive for them to have a change. Because you never
know what you are going into of course. Everyone originally wanted to get into the air force. So when they said they were only going to enlist twenty thousand in the army, we were all rushing to get in, before they
stopped the enlistment. And I think what eventually put it us off the air force they reckoned everyone was going for the air force so probably if you really
wanted to get into some service you were better to go down to the army. Which may have been just as well, casualties in the bomber command were horrific.
I would have enlisted sometime in October and I was moved to Griffith in the meantime and then I was called. Actually I suppose we would have left Griffith on the 2nd November and we marched into Ingleburn camp on 3rd November, which was the day our unit was formed.
So that we were original members, and actually that’s something, we were all originals and we were all very proud of that, we were all proud of numbers, a funny thing. We didn’t really realise that you know, because in the beginning they reserved the first
thousand numbers in the state for officers. Then the other ranks numbers started from their, from a thousand. And towards the end when most of the numbers had actually were I think were something like one hundred and forty six thousand, they started to use up all the numbers that hadn’t been used up down below. So it’s a ridiculous thing to do in our view,
and so we had men coming into our battalion and their numbers were seventy hundred and eight two or something like that, which were lower numbers than any of us had because the first thousand were originally reserved for officers. So, we didn’t like it.
and we had bare boards and we were able to raise our beds, you know that much off the floor or something like that. And I think the main training in those days was the drill I suppose, the main thing in any army I think is to get
people to the stage that it is automatic to obey any order that’s given. And, then we did a lot of root marching, you can never do enough of that, although it is one of the most boring parts of it because you gotta learn to carry those packs, and when you first put on a pack with a couple of blankets in it, you practically
fall over backwards, and it takes a while to get used to carrying the load. So, even your tin hat which, I think it weighed about three pounds, when you first put it on you wonder how you are going to be able to continue to wear
it. But after a while you get so used to it that. I remember one time I went off, got up and went without it. Funny thing. You also do a lot of crawling round, you see them these days crawling round this, on your
stomach. And learning to make use of any slight cover there might be available.
but we must have I think, because it would flatten out. Mind you I found if you were in action, I was so tired all the time, I could sleep anywhere,
I still can actually. I would sleep on rocks anything, it didn’t matter how rough the ground was. Actually when you are on root marches, the cunningest blokes, you
always stopped ten minutes to the hour, have a ten minute break marching and they would get up marching again. There were blokes there that would go to sleep straight away, just flop on the ground and go to sleep for ten minutes. It all counts. You find in the end you need it.
In these early days at Ingleburn how was it making friends?
Well I was in the Company HQ of course, I got very good friends with the OC [Officer Commanding] of the company and the 2IC [second in command], the company sergeant major who was
and a few others, we had as runners of course, we didn’t have any wireless communication, and you communicated with your various platoons by runner, that had to be done physically, and I was very friendly with all those, but I think the men in the platoons
would have just struck up friendships within each Section. They would have gone on leave together and that sort of thing, and I knew most of them reasonably well because I knew the numbers of
one hundred and ten odd, without having to look every time. Even sometimes when I hear some blokes name I think of his number straight away, peculiar. But I lost touch with a lot of them I was moved
from the company to the B echelon of the battalion really. I became the Quartermaster’s Clerk. I was there for the last three years of the war, so I wasn’t really mixed up in the real fighting then, as I was in the first three years.
as soon as they saw our occupations we sent in there. The other bloke, I am not too sure what we were made first was two inch mortarman. Which is attached to the Company HQ, but I don’t think we saw a two inch mortar, we certainly weren’t trained on them. And he eventually became a Battalion Orderly Room Sergeant.
And stayed there for the rest of his army career. He’s in a nursing home up in Mull Village, poor old bugger he’s blind or virtually blind, I think he can walk about, but he’s blind. Sad. I have kept up with a lot of them since the war, the ones I knew well.
I can’t remember doing it at all really. We used to have regular rifle practice on the range, the rifle range, just to learn to shoot. But otherwise
I remember sometime later, even in a permanent camp you do guard duty every night. I remember one, I think he was either the Company Quartermaster or
a Company Orderly Room Sergeant, shot some bloke, he was on guard one night, trigger happy. But that was in one of the other companies. I don’t remember anything like that happening in our company.
I can’t think of any particular accidents in ours either.
Do you remember the march out? Did you do a march through Sydney at all?
I didn’t, I had something wrong with me at the time, I don’t know what it was, whether I had a dose of flu or what. But I was in camp when they did their march through Sydney. It’s
quite a thrill that march through Sydney, apparently, even on Anzac Day, although I have got past it now because my walking strike is not long enough.
because I don’t remember marching. The Strathaven wasn’t fitted out as a troop ship, it hadn’t been, so I was more or less a bit of a luxury trip. The only thing I can remember that
was wrong with it, I think it was on the Strathaven, there was some bloke turned a heater on in our cabin, we were in the depths of the ship, and somebody had turned a heater on and we didn’t know, so we roasted. I think somebody must have eventually figured out how to turn off the heat.
But we did quite a bit of training on it, various drill exercises. They kept us going. I seem to remember it as a very pleasant trip really. It was quite good.
by the name of Snow Walker, a good name for a boxer, he was very short, I don’t know how he got into the damned army as a matter of fact, because he looked to me to be about five foot five inches. He was a very smart sort of little featherweight. We had another bloke who would have been probably a middle weight boxer who was very good. I have got an idea he
still comes to reunions. I went to the last reunion in Wagga, I thought I would go, I hadn’t been to one for a while, but I thought I would go there because I enlisted there, do the full circle. And it was very enjoyable. Although a good part of our
reunions these days is made up of widows. They seem to come.
and I was never able to go to meals in the dining salon. On my trip to New Guinea when I went before the war and my trip back, but those boats were only three thousand tonnes, the Midui [?] was the one on the way up and the Prelaylo[?] on the way back. But during the war I never even felt sick on any of the boats, but they were much bigger. On the liberty ship we travelled to New Guinea on
it was one thousand tonnes, it was three times bigger and probably by that time they had stabilisers on them. But the Strathaven, maybe we didn’t strike any rough seas but I always start to feel sick, for instance I started to feel sick coming home when I stepped on to the lighter to go out to the ship. So it was peculiar.
But I travelled on two or three destroyers during the war and they were weaving about dodging bombs and I never felt sick on those. I don’t remember anyone being sick on the Strathaven. It was a pretty big one, at least twenty thousand tonnes.
What did you like about Haifa so much?
There were two parts of it, the walls and what not were down, below but the main business section was halfway up the mountain it was called Hadda Hakarmel I suppose it is Jewish for half way up the mountain or something. Then you used to go to the top to a hotel
there which was very nice, we used to get treated very well there. Buy us drinks and what not. So and it was a very clean city, probably shouldn’t say it, but not many Arabs about there.
we never actually went on leave to Gaza, we went to Tel Aviv, was quite a way. It was quite a nice clean city, with an ocean front. Actually, the Jews had made
a pretty good job of Palestine you know as far as the irrigation it is a very arid place, and you couldn’t drink any water there, it had some microbe in it. But we
funny I wish I knew exactly what I did in that orderly room. I will tell you what I must have had quite a bit of time to spare once I met Wilma, because I used to write to her nearly every day.
Don’t think so, they were just told to be careful. No. And of course there was a lot of disease picked up because they had special hospitals and that’s what they were called the “So and So Special
Hospital”, which was purely for the treatment of sexual diseases. I don’t know that I ever saw the inside of a brothel in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. I think I
did have a look at one in Beirut. But well conducted places. I suppose it’s the oldest trade in the world. As I say, I reckon there would have been more blokes in the army that visited them than didn’t. The army
they used to issue them with prophylactic kits, I suppose they were French letters and that sort of thing in them to try and protect them.
machine gun going. Most machine guns are fairly prone to stoppages so much so they have got books on them and they call a certain stoppage, a number one stoppage, a number two stoppage, a number three stoppage and so on. What to do
with various stoppages because pretty important to get the thing going again once it stopped. But most of those blokes would be able to take the machine gun apart and put it together again, without much trouble. You have gotta be able to do that.
Then they are taught the field map reading and that sort of thing, although the map reading tends to be fairly specialised, probably the NCOs [non commissioned officers]. There is a certain amount of map reading taught to the troops, I think but they probably have special courses too, for anything like that.
although until we went into action there was a bit of wastage. There weren’t very many openings for new officers at the time. But a few of our other ranks graduated, mainly would have been promoted in the field. Probably supposed to do a course afterwards.
I was certainly encouraged to go but I didn’t really want to. I didn’t feel that I was really suitable for leading other men
because I was so bloody scared meself all the time, that I think I would have shown it in me face. I know that at one time in Derna when we had about four thousand Italians attacking us, and
we had pile of stones about that high we were lying behind with our rifles trying to firing madly trying to hold them off, and this young bloke one of the runners, who was lying beside me, he said he had never seen such a white face in his life. I can imagine he was right.
went to this place in Egypt called Burj al ‘Arab and continued our training there until we eventually took part in the Lybian Campaign, moved down the coast through Mersa Matruh and
onto the escarpment which is virtually the Western Desert. Actually, the Italians had done a few preparations to attack Egypt I think. But the British army had
the division there and also some tanks and I don’t know why the Italians withdrew to their fortresses at Bardia and Tobruk, of course they were overwhelmingly superior in numbers to the British Army, that was opposing them,
and you would have thought if Mussolini had been serious about trying to take over Egypt he would have tried. He didn’t he just, I always felt that the Italians didn’t have their hearts in it. In doing any fighting, they weren’t like we were, we were fighting for the existence of the British Empire and our own country,
whereas the Italians it was virtually trying to remake the old Roman Empire. That was Mussolini’s dream. But they certainly, very few of them put up a great deal of resistance.
Funny, even their shells and their field artillery didn’t seem to us to be really effective. You could almost have a shell land within a stride of you, but you could step into the shell hole next step and yet not get hurt. All you would probably suffer from was a bit of concussion from the
blast. The story was going round our ranks that the Italian man was expressly made for England. I don’t suppose that’s true but it was certainly an eye opener once we struck the German shelling.
But, I suppose it doesn’t matter how ineffective it is, when you are getting shelled going through machine gun fire,
it’s very, very scary business.
John McCarty, one of those blokes who never went by his true name, we always called him Bob, that’s how he went by, but he was a very good company commander and
and subsequently got his own battalion, 2/4 Pioneer Battalion. Pioneers operate mainly in infantry. But, we all had great
faith in him, he was a good officer. All our officers there had been in the militia, funny thing, when the time came for the enlistments, almost all the militia officers volunteered, but very few of the men, I think we only had one or two of them in our battalion, the
rest had never had any military training, until they came into the army.
direct the platoons, their objective. He would have a written operation order from the battalion commander and damned if I know how they did it, he would have had that at the beginning anyhow, I don’t know how brought it up to date as things changed.
But they were given their objectives and he just directed his three platoons, to wherever he wanted to achieve the objective. Probably take a certain position then if they did take it in a certain time sort of thing, to move on to something else.
But it wasn’t such a difficult job to do I don’t think up until that desert campaign when we were attacking and chasing the enemy before us sort of thing, but when the boot was on the other foot in Greece I think it would have been much more difficult.
You are trying to keep your company intact.
left we had to deal with them. But mostly there weren’t, we had in Tobruk, one machine gun that was firing down a road which we had to cross, and he kept on going for a long time, but they eventually silenced him. But when I crossed the road, I
I wasn’t too keen on that line of machine gun fire, which was sort of whistling all round me, and at one stage I looked at Bob McCarty, and he was bent over, and I thought he was going to ground and of course I hit the ground straight away, and looked up and he was still going, so I had to get up in the middle of it. Anyhow
in that campaign, the Italians surrendered faster than we could catch up with them mostly.
in our company, we only had two wounded, going into Tobruk, it was remarkable really. Another bloke killed at Derna Wadi, actually we had
one bloke killed, I don’t know whether it was at Tobruk or Bardia, no it must have been Tobruk. On night patrol, he went out on night patrol and didn’t get back, and it was remarkably few really. At Derna Wadi, there may have been a couple wounded too,
but there were remarkably few casualties in that campaign, it was extraordinary.
we might have after Tobruk might have had a bit of dealings with a few of them, because we had a few days when we were fortunate enough to be in the old Hotel Tobruk, and they had a whole lot of or at least
half a dozen Italian prisoners doing the cooking and waiting and what not. So I probably I don’t remember it very much. But as far as the prisoners in the field went, all we saw was this straight line from one horizon to the next sort of thing, on their way back. Mostly guarded every mile or so by
one bloke in a truck with a rifle. It was ridiculous.
and apparently there were some Italians holding it, stationed there, but they never thought anyone would go there, so they heard us and we didn’t even know they were there, we didn’t know until the next day. But we had to,
I think we put a platoon on the other side of the Wadi, and we had to communicate with them on and off and I must have crossed the Wadi two or three times and it took me two hours to cross it. I was absolutely bloody exhausted aft this. I think after the 2nd time, I got back to our H
and the CSM [Company Sergeant Major] wanted me to take another message over and no sooner had I got back and I just couldn’t I was absolutely buggered, poor old Jack, I have felt bad about that ever since. I said I just can’t do it, Jack.
So I think he took it over there himself. We finished up we had to go over there in another hour or twp, and if I had known I would have made myself do it I think. I have got pictures of it, but it doesn’t show it up as it was, it was a thousand feet deep
and very rough. The only good thing about it, it had a lovely spring. We were able to get plenty of fresh water. That’s when eventually the next morning we found this force of about four thousand Italians
actually making a stand. And firing on us and we were supposed to stop them with a couple of platoons. We had a platoon of British machine gunners with us which I think if we hadn’t had those they probably would have overrun us, but they were
very, very good. The old British soldiers were very, very bloody good I reckon.
I thought we were finished, because see at one stage these Northumberland Fusiliers, the British machine gunners only had one belt per gun, well they go through a belt in no time. And, but apparently eventually the Italians gave up, and I don’t know whether something had happened further in towards the town or not,
we were past the town, but they withdrew from the town, withdrew from where they had been attacking us and took to their heels.
Just talk about Tobruk a bit more, you mentioned it was frightening when you had to cross this road under machine gun fire, can you just set that scene up what was happening at Tobruk? And what was the objectives and what were you doing?
Well that was more or less the same as Bardia there, they had these pill boxes but they were giving them up pretty easily, as soon as our blokes got near them, they would surrender apparently. To our forward platoons and we eventually kept on going past them, and stumbled on this
Battalion HQ for Tobruk. Captured the HQ and captured the general commander of the whole operation.
Beretta pistols so that we finished up with one for each man in the company, and lots and lots of wine, Cognac, and lots and lots of chocolate, which I made myself sick on. I wasn’t even looking for the gun, blokes that got a gun sold them for about
thirty eight pounds each when we got back to Alexandria, because there were a hell of a lot of base wallahs as they were called there who wanted things like that so they could say they were there, anyhow. We passed on the captured general to Battalion HQ and the next day
we started off again towards Derna. And
re-outfit us, so that we were all back in Australian uniform. The Italians had some very nice equipment so their gun tractors were magnificent things, they had very high wheels about sic feet high and a
separate drive to each wheel, so it could turn on sixpence. It was a terrific thing. The blokes were all running round the desert in these things until the war office representatives got on to them I think, because I found they all had big chalk marks on them WOP [war office property] on them, which we all thought was the American slang
for Italian, but it wasn’t it was war office property. But nobody took any notice of it, but eventually that was where they went.
it was just the blokes, in the end. A very large proportion of the troops were pretty keen gamblers too. That was one of the things that they all entrusted me with. When they were paid once a fortnight, they used to put
aside enough to pay for the tobacco for the fortnight, and the rest they would go and play two up with, and at the time in the Adelaide River camp, there was a lot of roadwork going on up there and they had this Civil Construction Corps, who were getting an enormous amount of money wages at the time, and of course our blokes were still on five bob a day
and it didn’t take them long to lose all their money. And being gamblers, I don’t know whether you have ever run into any gamblers, they are a strange breed, they would do anything to get more money to gamble, and they would come back and get down on their knees begging me to give them their tobacco money. I wouldn’t give it to them. I had half the
company pay which I looked after for them until they came back from the two up game. I ladled it out for their tobacco.
for eight or nine hundred pounds, which was enough to buy a house in those days. You wouldn’t think of gambling that away, but they do. Because one of the blokes on one of the shows, a week or so back, he lost two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, he had no chance of seeing that sort of money in his lifetime you know, yet
he sacrificed, that millionaire show, he got thirty two thousand dollars. He guessed an answer which he wasn’t sure of and it wasn’t the right one.
When you took both Bardia and Tobruk, was there was there a decent amount of order amongst the troops?
Oh yes, there wasn’t any, that was a fair bit of looting, but that was only say what wouldn’t have taken more than an hour in there before we moved on. I never really
saw any wholesale looting anywhere we went, even Benghazi, because the shopkeepers were still there. And I think any sort of situation like that they abided by the rules.
us Australian troops were terribly popular with them. I didn’t encounter any hostility at all, but there were really only few of Mussolini’s soldiers that showed any inclination to fight at all. As I say, he was trying to build an empire,
they didn’t want to have any part of it I don’t think. When we got to Tobruk, to Derna after Tobruk. I think I have
said all that, about the two or three trips I did up and down the Derna Wadi, which knocked me out and we did a bit of fighting up the other side of the Waddie. And they were through once again and we continued after them for a while, I think we went on foot until the next
place. It had an aerodrome with a whole lot of Italian planes that had been destroyed by the RAF [Royal Air Force]. And, from then on we followed them in trucks because they had withdrawn, apparently they had withdrawn by motor vehicle and
we couldn’t catch up to them, so
generally got a reputation of being a bit uncontrollable on leave. It’s the same everywhere when there’s too much drink. They are inclined to let themselves go. You generally find on leave that one bloke in the party will stay sober to shepherd the other blokes home. The rest
of them have no inhibitions at all about getting drunk. I suppose you are really suffering the effects of scarred stiff for so long periods of time. A think which and I think they take the opportunity
of alcohol to sort of relieve the pain. Because looking back on it, I don’t think there’s any doubt we should have all received counselling after the war. I was quite a nerve case for about two years after the war, I couldn’t go into a shop to buy anything sort of thing.
actually see anyone killed, I saw them brought back on the stretcher, dead, which is very nasty. Otherwise I would have probably only seen them from a distance, like the ones that were killed on the way back to Alexandria from Crete. The
Stukas. It’s quite a terrifying experience really being bombed. I don’t know how the poor people of London put up with what they did. Or any of the others that got
bombed for so long, the Europeans, the Germans for instance, I think they might not have been as long a period as the Londoners, but they had some shocking bombings, with the fire storms they used to raze through the whole city.
am a bit hazy where I got it from actually. It wasn’t issued. It was a little Remington portable. I also lost in Greece another typewriter, I never seen one the same before or since, I am not too sure where I got it. Probably got it in Palestine. I may have bought it. But it was an Underwood with
a sort of triple shift. So instead of just the one letter and a capital per key, it had three letters per key, so you pressed an intermediate one for certain letters, very small. Shame I lost it. I don’t know whether I could have brought it home anyway,
there was a limit to what you could carry.
Cairo. Two of us were approved, another bloke from the company. Before we were due to go he picked up one of the fountain bombs that the Italians were very fond of dropping, little booby traps, and it exploded in his face and he finished up with one eye gone and the other eye practically gone too,
and was sent back home. And then they decided we had to go to Greece and had to cancel the leave, so I never actually saw Cairo. Didn’t see the pyramids, even though we were only a few miles from them. The only city I saw in Egypt was Alexandria.
careful, if you go into a place in Tobruk after the enemy has been there, you have got to be careful about straightening pictures up, you have heard of that haven’t you? That’s another favourite place for booby traps. See a picture on the wall and lots of people can’t resist straightening a picture and you have just got to move it and off goes the booby trap. I think
they struck a lot of those in Europe. Anyhow we left Tobruk, I think before the 9th Division had got there, they had gone down to Benghazi and they were sort of driven straight back. And, they stayed there for the siege of
Tobruk. But we went on to Alexandria and embarked straight away. And I think we waited in the harbour for a day, and then had an uneventful trip over there and landed I think at Porosis, I think called the Port of Athens,
and went to a camp just outside Athens, and half the company went on leave the day we got there, and I was in the other half to go the next day, but they moved us straight up to the top of Greece and I never even saw Athens. Isn’t it amazing? So we went in railway trucks,
right up to the border, I think we were near the Yugoslavian border and Albanian. You could see Mt Olympus from where we were and it was snowing,
so when we got there, so we had to take up a position on a ridge. I think we were there a couple of days maybe a day or two days or something like that, and we had our first experience there of the Germans infiltrating our lines dressed as Greeks.
We weren’t looking for it, and a couple of our blokes got shot. Probably challenged them twice instead of once, but we had to look out for that the next night. Snowed, I think we were there one or two nights,
and you used to wake up in the morning with the snow, put your ground sheet so it covered your head or your hat or something, and the snow would gather on that. That’s quite an experience sleeping in snow. It wasn’t long before the Germans had come down through
Yugoslavia with god knows how many divisions. Attacked us and our forward companies engaged, but it wasn’t long before the Greeks on our left, they broke through them and we were
outflanked and had to retire. That’s where I first got shelled by the German artillery. Which was a lot nastier than the Italians. A sort of a daisy cutter effect, so if you were anywhere in the vicinity, you would certainly get wounded from one of their shells, if not
killed. But there was a lot of confusion there, because we sent out the order to retire and one of our platoons didn’t get it. I am not too sure whether the runner got there or he couldn’t get there, I am not too sure. But we pulled out and
the next day, I think our CO [commanding officer] had to site our position in the dark and we were in a very nasty position on a forward slope, on one side of the river and the Germans came up the other side, and we didn’t know it, but they were driving our platoon in
front of them. And so we were shooting at our own blokes. Yeah, it was nasty. And it wasn’t long before, I don’t know whether we were outflanked or not but we had to retire from that. And we had to retire up this slope under
fire. We left, I think there was one section left to slow them up a bit and they had one man killed, and another wounded and another of the boys went back to see what happened, eventually they didn’t get there order to withdraw either
and one of the boys went back to find everybody had gone, so he came back to the section and got wounded on the way back, and another of them stayed with the Corporal who was wounded, they came from the same town and they got taken
prisoner, as well as the chap that was wounded, coming back, so we managed to get over the ridge and into trucks and back a few miles. Where we climbed up a damned mountain and no sooner we get to where we were supposed to take up our position and they found that the Greeks that were on our
he was probably doing it for his own purposes you know. But it was a trick of the Germans and we just continued to fire at them. But eventually of course I don’t know how long they kept it up because I don’t think
it would happen again because I don’t think we made a stand anywhere except we did make a stand, two or three of us, we used to take up a position and virtually have to pull out before they got to us, and we eventually got back to this Brallos Pass
and we were on a forward slope of that. Trouble is we only had twenty four pounder guns our artillery and they had long range guns with them, so that they were able to just wipe ours out whenever they could see them. Or ours weren’t able
even on our last days the cover was very sparse, we were under trees, I suppose as long as you didn’t move which we didn’t, you could avoid being machine gunned from the air. Before we got to Brallos
there was a long plane leading to it from a large town, I think it was called Larisa , and it had been bombed out of existence and we came past it and all our transport was line up along this straight road from Romia to Brallos Pass
sitting ducks for these Stukas, and the I know I sort of strained a tendon in my heel and when I was virtually could limp, but I used to jump out of these damned trucks and run like a bloody hare.
we got dive bombed the whole way along. They used to dive down drop their bombs and finish up machine gunning along the sides of the roads. So when we saw one coming down we always had a bloke standing on the tail board, and as soon as he said there was a Stuka coming towards us,
we would virtually leap out of the truck almost as one man and go a couple of hundred yards off the side of the road so we wouldn’t get caught in the machine gunning. So as I say I had this strained tendon at the time, and I used to completely forget it to get away from them, and then limp slowly back to the
truck and resume our journey, until the next one come. They used to come over in groups of six generally, and they would almost do a vertical dive, remarkable damned thing. The plane, they have got some sort of screaming device on the plane and also the bombs have a screaming device on them, so they
they really get the most out of them. They were a lot of people killed in that. Whenever they got a direct hit on a truck of course, if the blokes hadn’t got out of it. They would kill the lot.
going to hit you, so you weren’t too keen to stand and look up and see where it was. So I suppose once they are committed to hitting the truck they bombing be able to veer from their path. So you are relatively safe, although I did get one time, I
actually went to ground in an old fowl yard, which was rather nasty, and the bomb hit somewhere within cooee of that because I got covered in bloody fowl shit. But I didn’t get hit I was very, very, very fortunate in that.
confusion of course, so there were times that you didn’t reckon you were going to make it. For instance at one stage there when they had blown a bridge across a river before we got there, and two of
our officers found a boat and managed to ferry the whole hundred odd of us across the river, about ten at a time or so. By the time they got across the river, which was only narrow but very fast flowing, and by the time they got across maybe a hundred yards or so down stream, they would have to drag the boat
back to about a hundred yards or something and then have another go, take another load over and so on. We eventually all got across.
from us, these twenty five pounder battery that had set up in full view of the Germans they eventually killed the lot of those, I don’t think anyone survived. Blew the guns out of existence and by the time that happened they decided we would have
to be evacuated and things were on the move for that to happen, we were to get out, and make our way to these evacuation points and it we spent
a day, might have been more, not far from Athens, in this. We had the trees, we were under cover of the trees near this evacuation spot, and they didn’t really know whether they would be able to take us or not,
whether there was room or whatever, because one of the ships which was a troop ship, had been sunk on the way over, which reduced the numbers they expected to get out and I don’t even know if they originally intended us to go to Crete or not, but
that was a lot nearer than going to Alexandria, so that was where we went.
What was the worst moment during that campaign?
Well, I think it was sort of the night we had to pull out of our first position, believe me it was rather confusing, and we really hadn’t seen or at Company HQ we really hadn’t seen the bloody Germans really.
And we were starting out as twelve from a place, we really felt rather badly about having to withdraw from Greece because we got such a terrific welcome when we landed there, and it was the only place we had been at that stage where we were really welcomed. Most of the places you go to during the war, they would really
rather you weren’t there. Like I don’t think the Jews were keen to see us in Palestine. They were virtually all refugees anyway. They had taken up residence in Palestine. But the Greeks gave us a very warm greeting, and it was sad to have to leave them to the Germans.
tough bloke to go against and our politicians they eventually did, they insisted on us coming back to Australia, he didn’t want us to, he wanted to send us to somewhere in the, I think the Burma campaign, I think he would have liked us to go there. I don’t think there’s much doubt that
Churchill was a great leader, but not a military leader, he should never have dabbled in military affairs, but he did all his life of course. He was responsible for Gallipoli, that was all his idea, bloody shocking.
I think we thought Auchenlich was alright and Wavell too, good soldiers and I think Churchill interfered with their command too, where I don’t think he should have. He had to make someone a scapegoat and I think that was what he was planning to do, sack one of the generals.
But as far as Montgomery was concerned, I think that Wavell or Auchenlich could have done just as well if they had what he had. Montgomery never made a move until he had overwhelming bloody superiority in everything. Men, arms, tanks everything.
going to go one way and gradually it would right itself. We didn’t think we were going to make it to the war ships we were going to travel on. But we eventually did and the British Navy was really terrific, they, they always had plenty of hot cocoa and hot tea for us whenever we
travelled with them, because it was a great reviver because as I say we were all totally exhausted. Hadn’t recovered from that twelve days of running. When we landed at Suda Bay in Crete, they marched us I think, they told us we
had about a mile and a half to our camp. We must have marched about five or six miles and we just dropped and went to sleep, and before we had time to settle down, they marched us back again from where we came from and we
had to get on the destroyer again and go to Iraklion further on down the coast which is where we spent the rest of our time on Crete.
I think we were at one end of it. There were some British units there too. The battalion of the Black Watch, and we were also not far from the town of Iraklion and we had quite a pleasant time there, I am just trying to think how long it was before we were evacuated,
I think we were there two or three weeks, because they told us fairly early in the peace they were expecting an invasion by parachutists. Although I am not too sure whether we believed it or not, our morale was always fairly high because
the possibility that we might lose the war never entered our head. And the Crete affair at our end we had dug slit trenches, we had enough slit trenches for everyone.
Our Company HQ was in an olive grove and it was quite a pleasant stay, we spent all our spare minutes waiting for the parachutists and playing bridge. But one bloke was a very keen bridge player and he taught the rest, although I had played before the war,
I had started with Culbertson, who invented contract bridge and I started playing in the 1930s under his rules and this bloke had also started and he taught a couple of others and we always had a four to play bridge and we virtually that’s about what we
did until the parachutists arrived.
we started to get blitzed quite often in the week or so before the parachutists came and Max Rangey was being called to Battalion HQ quite often, and getting caught in the open, dodging
mainly fighter bombers that came over and the first thing you would know they were there, you would look up and you could see one coming straight at you with the guns blinking, and we used to dive into these slit trenches. Never lost a man from that bombing. The battalion lost one or
two who were buried under a bank by a bomb, suffocated and they were Battalion HQ and um, I remember the day that the parachutists did land we got about two hours of bombing and machine gunning us, but I don’t think they
actually knew exactly where we were, but of course wherever they saw anyone moving, they would come down and machine gun us and the Bofors gunners had instructions not to give away their whereabouts. Either we had a couple of troops of Bofors, ack-ack [anti aircraft fire] guns they were two pounder ack-ack guns, and
we used to let these planes fly round an round recognisance planes looking for our position sort of thing more or less inviting somebody to have a shot at them, and I remember there was one bloke on the Bofors one day apparently couldn’t stand it any longer and there was one lone
shot and this recognisance plane had brought him down. And you could hear this cheering right round the whole perimeter of the aerodrome. Lifted our morale terrifically. But the day the parachutists landed, I was sitting at a table making up pay
books for a company pay, because we used to pay, they had to be paid to get their tobacco and what not, and the other delicacy we had on Crete we bought from the locals were eggs. You either had raw eggs or eggs that were cooked. And hard boiled eggs and a few things they could buy in town.
So as I was half way through this job I heard somebody cry, “Parachutists”, and there they were, you could see the whole of the horizon was black with planes. And it was quite a big plane at that time,
it was a Jacker’s Transport plane, it was exactly the same plane they were using at Wau when I was there. And I think they carried fifteen or twenty parachutists. They seemed to come in low over the coast and then go up a little bit and drop their parachutists and then off.
So we settled down, they were probably two hundred or three hundred yards from where our Company HQ was. And so we did our best to shoot them down, but I don’t know whether we actually got any.
Not too many that dropped to the ground were in our area, it seemed to be a bit of a senseless thing to do to drop them on top of people in prepared positions well armed just waiting for them. And there were a few of them
in some tall grass near the aerodrome left and a few we did manage to get rid of the first day, and then they dropped supplies to them, eventually reinforced them and there was one
group that was bothering us, used to fire three inch mortars at us and they were a rather unnerving sort of thing too because you would hear it just go pop, pop like that and about ten or fifteen seconds later the mortar bomb would land. That was rather unnerving waiting for it.
attack them. But we never did. Apparently, from what came out later after the war, they really decided we weren’t going to try and hold the island anyway. And so they were just avoiding more casualties. It went on for, I am not too sure how long, we were
wondering all the time because they were getting men and materials dropped to them more and more, and getting stronger and stronger all the time we were. It was very hard to understand whey they didn’t go out and attack them. We would have had the men. I think at our end of the island was the only one that was under control and the Germans had
broken through the other two spots where they had landed, Maleme and Suda Bay I think, might have been, I think. They virtually had to get out there and so it was not much good staying at our end. So they arranged the evacuation and suddenly out of the blue we found
that we had to be down at the wharf at a certain hour and anyone who missed the boats back to Alex were to make for a spot they told us, on the south coast. And we were just about to pull out
to go the boats and we were told that the times had all been put forward an hour. I thought to myself that the British Navy was always on time, they would hardly wait for us we were already late to get there. But Max Rangey said, “We’ll have a go, we’ll try to make it”. So we made some very fast time and fortunately they were waiting for us.
And we got on the destroyer which fortunately we were lucky enough to stay on for the whole trip. We managed to dodge all the Stukas. The Stukas bombed us for eight hours. We lost one
boat, had to turn back to Crete almost as soon as we started, I am not too sure what was wrong with it. And another destroyer had its steering put out of action and they took the men off that and they sank the boat themselves. We had one bloke on there, we had some men
on their and one of them was a chap named Webb, Ken Webb, he was one of those blokes I told you about who could sleep anywhere. When he got on the destroyer he went into a corner and went into a nice sleep, and he woke up just as they were torpedoing the boat. I thought right up until
a couple of years after the war when I ran into him that he’d gone down with the boat, and he said that he and one British sailor both on it, and when they fired the first torpedo they jumped into the sea and swam back to Crete. Eventually he was taken POW. I got the shock of my life when I ran into him a couple of years after the war.
Then we had a lot of men were on one of the cruisers, there were two cruisers, the Ajax and the Dido. And they both had a thousand bombs dropped on their forward gun turrets and one of them had two
attacks, and both bombs hit the same place virtually, the forward gun turret. Started a fire which they were able to put out, they eventually got back to Alexandria. The captain of our destroyer managed to dodge the bombs and we got back safely.
whether we immediately got on trucks and went to one of the camps, or what, we went into Lebanon very soon after we arrived there, so we may not have even gone to another camp, we might have gone straight to this camp in Lebanon.
Our first camp there it was extremely hot, must have been well over a hundred in the old scale, and when we eventually got to where they, we were supposed to stop the Germans coming down that way, it was snowing, in the snow again. But it was
more like a permanent camp we were there in Nissen Huts.
I want to go back over one thing, you were writing letters to your sister. Your letters were subsequently put into a book. Can you just explain a bit more about how you managed to take notes, or what you did about recording what was going on?
I can’t really remember that myself. But I have still got copies of the notes, there weren’t terribly many pages of it really, I think I have only got about half a dozen pages of notes, a bit of abbreviated sort of reporting what happened each
day. And she had suggested that I should jot me feelings down as I thought of it, because you never remember them later which is pretty right, and she actually arranged to get them published at the
time. Angus and Robertson agreed to publish them, and Angus & Robertson must have roneoed [early copying process using wax sheets] quite a few copies, because since then other people, you would wonder where they got them. Another publisher, only about probably ten to twenty years ago, someone came and saw me and wanted to publish them. I would have been quite happy for them to do
it, but she wanted me to write up the next three years of the war, well I was the Quartermaster’s Clerk by then, had been since Darwin, so I didn’t particularly have any experiences that was worth reporting. Not being in touch with the Rifle Company.
Others that I worked closely with would have, the Quartermaster himself and the Regimental Quartermaster, both used to take supplies up to the forward troops every day, so they would have had plenty to write about.
know then that Rommel was going to be so close. Within a few weeks actually of when we went there. They had no need of coming down that way because I don’t know what held, I don’t suppose Rommel was able to get supplies and reinforcements as we would have liked to do a full scale attack on Egypt,
because he more or less petered out, I think it was just because his lines of communication were not too long. That’s probably why they tried so hard to take Tobruk, because that was a reasonable sort of port and they could have brought their stuff in their. The only
thing was, it was a bit more complicated because the British Navy had full control of the Mediterranean except for the air unfortunately. They didn’t seem to have aircraft carriers there during that time either. So I think that they both had problems and
Britain was still able to get supplies to Egypt I think. See they had control of Gibraltar still, and they could get through and having control of the Mediterranean they were able to get their supplies to Egypt. I think Rommel was
probably still bringing him by way of Benghazi.
have you heard of that? It’s an ancient place of Roman ruins, and it’s one place that I should have visited and didn’t, another one, and a thing that happened there that was rather horrifying, a couple of our blokes were in a truck, must halve been getting supplies from somewhere or
other, and it broke down, and they froze to death, went to sleep in the warm truck and never woke up, which I never knew to that point that that could happen. Very nasty.
it wasn’t until we had been there a few weeks I don’t think that we got back home. Transport was exceedingly difficult anywhere in Australia really, and unless it was on a troop, I remember when, even twelve months later when I came down from
Darwin on leave, and I got married. Wilma’s family was in the process of moving from Adelaide to Melbourne. She went with the family and I went on a troop train and managed to get back alright. But it was fairly difficult to get from there
to Sydney to see me family. I don’t know whether I did at that particular time, although I had already seen them the year before. But I think I must have been able to see them then too after we were married.
I don’t think there was any bombing while we were there. Actually, it was while we were in Darwin that I think our RSM [regimental sergeant major] of the battalion, apparently he was sent to an officer training school to
become a lieutenant and the QM’s Clerk was moved to the RSM, it was very strange, he was another bank clerk, and I thought he was really totally unsuited for it, but he managed to get through it all and also get a commission. And I took his place in the QM Store.
Well, filled the next three years of the war making out requisitions for clothing and what have you in everything we used in the battalion. I think I made those requisitions out in quadruplicate. You wouldn’t believe the bloody army.
And the RQMS [regimental quartermaster sergeant ?], he had been a shopkeeper in Scone, and I still keep in touch with him, he’s up on the Gold Coast, and some bloke in A Company, had christened him Sniper
Clark because they had what they called “controlled stores”, amongst which were sights for sniper’s rifles and they were control stores and they had lost, and Craig was terribly worried about
these damned things, and he was itching for us to get into action so he could report them lost in action. Why anybody would use a sniper’s sight in the jungle I don’t know. No sooner did we fire our first shot when we lost the sniper’s sights. But
I don’t remember, I didn’t do much, because I never went up to the companies to delivery any supplies or anything like that. And when we were at Aitape,
we were in a coconut plantation, without any tops on the trees, the Americans had shot them all, machine gunned them all off and hit, it wasn’t too bad up there except I bloody well got haemorrhoids badly and had to have a
a haemorrhoidectomy in the casualty clearing station. A very nasty time, you don’t want to have haemorrhoids if you can avoid it, after the operation it’s shockingly bloody painful, the surgeon that did it in the
hospital had me on paraffin oil. And I was quite happy, very regular every day, but the RMO [regimental medical officer] in the battalion, eventually said, “You can’t stay on paraffin oil all your life because it stops you from absorbing any vitamins”, so I had to stop it.
Geez I suffered, I got so bad that eventually I went back to the CCS [casualty clearing station] and saw me surgeon again, and he put me back on the paraffin, he said, “If you can’t bloody well shit you are not going to absorb any vitamins anyway”. Funny man. I remember that bloke
while I was convalescing the hospital, he used to give sex lectures, which were very interesting. He was a very popular bloke.
female sex organs which were very interesting to most of us. I had very nice convalescence in the hospital except for the pain. I was on morphine, even in those days they were very scared about
causing addiction to heroin you see, so they never ever gave me enough. I was on about an eight of a grain I think it was and by the time I would get the injection I would be in such bloody pain it wouldn’t have the slightest effect. I read a lot of quite good books, somebody must have had a good library
there. Read some nice books there. But, that was interesting there. Then of course we started on our way down, fighting a few stray Japs and I think that was a shocking waste of men, we
lost about one man killed every day. You can imagine, they never really came to the proper terms of the jungle, I mean I think doing night patrols in the jungle is really for the birds, you know, you are just going to run into somebody
just waiting for you, and you get killed. I mean he doesn’t shoot you until you are in point blank range. So I think it was a ridiculous and they are still doing that. I don’t think it should have happened. The same as I read about I think it was Sanananda when they were doing frontal attacks on Japanese bunkers,
and having horrific casualties. One of the sergeants out of one of the battalions that was engaged there, actually went and saw the brigadier who actually was our old CO, Dougherty, and fortunately he listened to him, but he was having
a lot of pressure put on him, initially from McArthur, to take the place and in a certain time and this sort of thing, supposed to be hurrying to get it done, and that’s why they were doing these frontal attacks, but I think he took notice of the sergeant, and used some other methods. They eventually took it anyway.
But there were a lot of nasty battles up there, and a lot of men killed. Never should have been killed because, I think at that stage they weren’t being supplied, the Japs, and any Japs that are left there were going to wither on the vine anyway, because I don’t think they were popular with the natives. And
I think eventually the natives would have killed those that were left.
Aitape. But we eventually got down to Wewak and they smoked the Japs, well they killed them in their caves I think, they were all dug in down there, and rather a nasty business
really. But they captured Wewak and our battalion had a part in that and that was 1945, and Dad had died in June 1945, and I tried to get down on leave but was knocked back and
my brother was allowed to come down, he must have come down in July I think. And then in August after the war was over, they started discharging them, first in first out sort of basis. And I was in the first lot that came down from New Guinea. Funny thing I went to say goodbye to the CO when I left,
bloke named Geoff Cox, I don’t know whether you have ever heard of him, he was subsequently a member for East Sydney area, Rose Bay and that sort of thing, member of parliament, and he eventually committed suicide. Shot himself. But when I went to say goodbye, he said, “You’ll be coming back of course won’t
you?” I said, “You’re joking aren’t you?”. But that’s what he was like, he was a born soldier, no fear, yet why did he shoot himself. Couldn’t face something. Anyhow, I got to Sydney I got
several bouts of malaria. I was discharged on the 30th August 1945. And, no sooner than I stopped the Atebrin that I started to get malaria and I started to get some very, very bad attacks of malaria with hallucinations and whatnot. But I eventually got a course of some new
tablet that they had on the market at the time, and as far as I know haven’t had it since.
more than we needed. You couldn’t handle it anyway, you didn’t have storage facilities to handle large stocks. We had two storemen there on the staff on the QM staff, but the QM we had at the end there, George Martin,
he used to work himself like a slave. It was a job and half getting stuff up to the forward companies. They used to have a native line that they used to carry the stores up with and George and Craig used to have to handle them. Fortunately they never asked me to do
it. I wouldn‘t have been too keen. But it’s a shocking thing that malaria, I think there have been wars lost because of it.
masters at handling the tanks and I don’t think you could compare them. The Japs are very good soldiers, there’s no doubt about them. This business of never surrendering, bloody hard to beat them. And they lived on the smell of an oil rag. They were terribly badly supplied in the Owen Stanleys. They
were virtually starving there. And as I say their powers that be had virtually given them away, they weren’t giving them anymore supplies. And so we were really fighting stragglers, I don’t know where they got their ammunition
from because they weren’t getting any fresh supplies. And yet when we were at Aitape, they were up in the mountains, inland from us, and they had artillery up there, and used to fire the occasional shell down on us.
night and the Japs would go back up the hill again. Had to be done all over again, that sort of thing. Although I don’t know if they were true really. And, McArthur, I don’t think I could really offer an opinion at the time, but I have read an awful lot about him since,
which would cloud my judgment. Have you read a book that came out, only about a year or so, might have been a couple of years back called “The Odd Couple”. It’s supposed to be about Blamey and McArthur, but it’s mainly about McArthur, and his shortcomings. He was a ghastly type
according to this bloke. He’s an Australian writer.
fair bit of persuading to do by mail, but some stage or other it got into the stories that I proposed to her one hundred and seventy six times, but I don’t think it was anything like that really, but we were very much in love by that stage, and
we were both very keen to get married by the time we did. But it was shockingly painful business parting each time I left to go away. And, I suppose with any long separation whether it’s a wartime one or not, you wonder if you are going to see each other again.
We had a couple of separations like that which were pretty dreadful. I suppose the joy of being reunited probably makes it all worth while,
because without that parting you don’t have that.
me. Despite the differences in sex, we’ve had a very happy marriage really. A lot of the time we think a lot alike, we have the same ideas. And fortunately we had the same ideas about bringing up children. Because that can be very difficult.
I’ll tell you for your information what’s a really good idea, Michael, is you don’t get into a situation where a child when one knocks them back she knows that the other’s going to agree sort of thing. You must speak with one voice. I think
that’s very important. I felt that we have been pretty successful with our children. They’re all very nice people.
getting sent over there, dropped on top of well armed troops and slaughtered. It’s wrong, isn’t it. They were the same as we were only younger, I think most of them looked to be about twenty, and when it’s all said and done you all
realise that the Russians you know, we were virtually brought up to realise that they were terrible people and all that sort of thing, they are exactly the same as we are. They just got a different language and culture. I would say that as far as this last was concerned, I still
think that our Prime Minister was wrong. I mean it’s nice I suppose we need the Yanks on our side, we need them for protection, we wouldn’t get far on our own, but I still think the whole principle of going into Iraq
was wrong, you are creating a precedent of hopping into another country and changing the government, they should be allowed to change their own, no matter how long it takes.