I grew up there. I attend the Yillama North [?] School, the first two years I had to walk two mile each way until the parents bought more land and built a new home. Made it a mile walk there. I passed the certificates, the Qualifying Certificates, 6th Grade and
the Merit Certificate, 8th Grade, without a problem. Had a few funny turns at school too but. From then on as I turned about 16, I used to work, grab work anywhere round the district from the different farmers, it was the only way you could get any pocket money. First job I took I think I was 16, at a pound a week and my
keep. I kept that going right through. I played tennis cricket and football for the Yockanorth Football Club [?]. In 1939 when the war broke out I was working as a rouseabout in the shearing shed, didn’t think much of it as far as the war was concerned. But the next year,
1940, a few of us were havin’ a bit of a yarn one night and we decided we’d join the army. And I was accepted into the army on the 8th of August 1940. We trained in Caulfield Racecourse for sometime. Then out to Mount Martha where we received all our inoculations and needles etc. And then
we went to Albury and we were reinforcements for the 2/23rd Infantry Battalion. We stayed at Albury for some four or five months and then we were shifted to Darley, just outside Bacchus Marsh, and from there we embarked to Sydney. Went to Sydney and embarked on the Queen Mary for the Middle East. Served in the Middle East in Tobruk
then later when we come out of there, we did guard duty up in Syria and then when Japan come into the war they were bringing home the 6th ,7th and 9th Divisions. The 6th and 7th ,or part of the 7th, were successful in getting home. But we missed out because [German commander Field Marshall] Rommel played up in the desert and
we had to go back up there. And we fought at [El] Alamein from July through till October until the last battle. Then we came home had leave and went to Queensland, the Atherton Tablelands to do jungle training. While there I was sent to a junior leader school just out of
Brisbane and while I was there the unit went over to New Guinea, to Milne Bay. I joined them at Milne Bay a bit later, from there we went and did the attack on Lae and then again on Finschhafen and the worst battle we had in the campaign in New Guinea on Sattelberg. We came home in February 1944
and when we came home my mother was a bit worried. The younger brother was in the army too and she asked would one of us try and get out of the army. Because at that time they were… if you had good service and you had a good reason to come out they would let you go. Ken my brother decided he wouldn’t. He was younger than me. So I said, “Oh yes. I’ll come.” Never thought any
more about it until October 1944 was called up before the colonel and thought I’d done something wrong but he said, “You’ve got a chance of getting out of the army if you want to. Either go or stay?” So I resigned from the army and was sent out and I was discharged from the army in October. From there I went to the Kiewa Valley where my brother was milking cows on a dairy farm there. I stayed in that area
for four years. Not milking cows. I only done that for 12 months and I didn’t like it I worked in the forest up there at the foot of Mount Bogong. Then I met my wife up there and we were married in 1948. Wanting a good, secure job I joined the Victorian Police Force, went to Melbourne served there for four years, didn’t like it and resigned. Then came back here to Nathalia
and worked in the Barma Forest until I was 60 and I was forced to retired and since then I’ve lived here in Nathalia and settled in quite good. I’m 85 and dunno how much long left to go.
slabs. There was no electricity. Heating you had to have the big open fireplace and the stove. A kerosene lamp on the table. That’s all you had to read by and that was a bit of a struggle. But I started school when I turned five and I fell foul of the teacher the first day apparently. I can’t remember it.
It was a lady teacher and I was in a, she put me in a desk and then she decided she’d shift me from that one to another one and I objected. And when she took hold of me arm to shift me out of the, they told me I bit her. But anyway I got on alright. But I had no problems with the schoolwork but when I was
about 13 at school, the younger brother Ken was with us and the rest of the kids all, I dunno why, but christened us Ned and Dan Kelly. Went a full week wouldn’t talk wouldn’t play wouldn’t do anything. We were outcasts. It went into the following week
and we were getting a bit jack of it so I think the teacher, a man teacher woke up something was cooking cause he went outside. We thought he was going to the toilet but he went out and was watching through the window and the boy a little older than me was one of the ring leaders of the gang against us we had a bit of a scuffle in the desk
and got caught. He came in and said, “Right, you two stay in after school and write out I will not fight in school a hundred times.” This we did. I wrote a bit quicker than him and I got out first and when I come out all the other kids had gone home so I thought, ‘This is my chance.’ So I went across the road and stood behind a big tree on the path he had to go home and I waited for him. He came across
the road singin’ away to himself and I stepped out from behind the tree and then he tried to run away but I caught him and got him down and give him a good beltin’ until he said there’d be no more Ned and Dan Kelly. Next mornin’ back to school and everything was back to normal. They were some of the funny days. But after school the one mistake I did make before I left school was
wanting to learn to milk a cow and it ended up that I had used to have to get up early in the morning to milk three or four cows before I went to school and then again at night. When I got out I was milking cows for a couple a years until I got big and strong enough to go out to work. And then I started odd-jobbing round all the different farmers. All round. That was the only work you could get. Money was scarce.
You couldn’t go to the back and say I’m gonna to get some out because there was never any there. I started off at 16 a pound a week and my keep loading bags of wheat onto a kicker to kick it up onto the wagon. Then during the winter months there wasn’t much work around
but there was plenty, well thousands of rabbits and foxes. So that was our job in the wintertime. Every the brother, elder brother had a mail run for Yillama Post Office, to Nathalia Monday, Wednesday, Friday. So on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday we would load 40 pair a rabbits
onto the gig and take it and sent it to Melbourne. And for them we used to get the big price of ninepence a pair. Foxes were pretty plentiful. We used to get them at three and four shillings a skin. This was our pocket money. As I got a bit older and stronger I
used to then go on to the hay in October. Because there was all horses then there were no tractors and then from the hay onto the sewing bags of wheat. Bags a wheat then I used to get 12 shillings and sixpence per hundred and I built meself that I should be able to do 200 a day. When I said a day it was from
sunrise till sunset. Through the summer which was good money in those days. Also worked in shearing sheds as a rouseabout on the shearing season. Played football with the Yockanorth Football Club. We were premiers in the Pacola League in 1939. Played
some cricket not as much cricket as I did tennis. I liked tennis. And from there, well we used to look forward to the end of the week coming because there was never much on in those days like there is now. You get one dance every month, six weeks and Saturday was the only day we’d get out playing sport or in the summertime you’d go swimming. You’d go swimming out
in the Murray [River]. Yeah, we was at a… in a shearing shed the night war broke out, September 1940, but didn’t think much of it. Didn’t think. Well, it’s on the other side of the world, it won’t affect us.
Used to drive in the horse and buggy those days to Nathalia here to get the supplies. I can remember her writing out the list and in those days the price didn’t go up and down, up and down, it was nearly always the same and she’d work out how much it cost and if it come to over a pound, that’s the equivalent to two dollars, she’d say “I’ll cross that off. I’ll get that next week.” It had to stay under the
pound. That’s the way it worked. As I said Dad was a real hard man to work. It had to be his way or not at all. Had brothers and one sister and they found it just as hard. I can remember as well as anything the sister, when she turned 21
the old man said to her, “Just because you’re 21 don’t think you’re the boss round here!’ So other than that, he was keen on football the old man. He used to always take us to football. He bought a car in about 1928, a Rugby, and he was the world’s worst driver. We had some narrow escapes in that I tell ya.
But other than that there wasn’t much I could tell ya, I don’t think.
in 1918. 1917 or 1918 it was before my time it was flooded from the railway line just down here up to the bridge was up to knees in water and that happened again in 1939, about a mile out there’s a bit of a dip in the road and the only
way you could get into town then was in a horse and gig or a dray because it was too deep. No car or anything’d go through it. 1956 we had more floods water everywhere. I was living in a house just over the back here at that time and we had sandbagged right round the creek and across over
here onto the railway line and I came home for lunch and the bank broke up there and came down and was coming down inside the railway line which would’ve flooded all this country round here. So I rang the Shire and got onto a bloke who’s a member of Parliament in Melbourne now and said
we wanted sandbags. “Oh no,” he says “You don’t want sandbags there,” he said “that’s dry.” So I done the bun a bit [became angry] and I went up and we had a few words and the girls that were in the office could see I was pretty savage so they cleared out and he still tried to tell me there was no water there. And I’d just come from and it was up to my knee. And
I told him to get off his fat so and so and come down and have a look. Which he did and they supplied bags then and we stopped the water from coming down flooding all this area behind us. 1974 or 1975 was floods again but they had but the big bank right round the town by then. And then again in 1993 was more floods. So we get our share of floods round this area.
Don’t think there’s much else I can...
in the Barma Forest and they used to stay there right through because they were plentiful in those times. So I remember one morning getting up and early in the morning and going and getting some ducks and come home cleaned them. They were ready for cooking and we looked across the road there were a clump of trees over there and we could see a motorbike in this clump of trees.
They were half a mile away and we found out that they were the police. They wanted to but they arrived too late. We’d already been and home. Another day I can remember they called in on the motorbike and sidecar, two policemen came in and asked Dad for a cool drink. So we had the old water bag in those days. Give em a drink and one of em’s walkin’ round and this black duck’s wing on the floor
and he’s... on the ground and he’d kickin’ it round with his toe like this. I can remember that as well as anything. Never said a word. They were some of the funny things that used to happen in those days.
playin’ football, but in later years they used to do shearing round here and I knew quite a few of them and they were all pretty good blokes. The majority of them. You get that odd, like the whites too, that odd snag here and there. I can remember, it’d be about before I started football. It’d be in the early 1930’s they played,
Nathalia couldn’t afford to go in the Murray League so they came out into the Pocola League and they were a bit above the standard out there. And they were beating all the other teams by 15 to 20 goals you know. So Cumera got their head together and they brought all these Aborigines from all over Australia
and boy, could they play football. They played out at Pocola in the preliminary final and Nathalia won by one goal. And as soon as they finished their skipper walked over to the Nathalia skipper shook hands with him and he said, “We’ll play you again next Saturday.” There was minor premiers in those days. “We’ll play you again next Saturdee,” and he said, “What’s more we’ll play you on your own ground.”
And they came in here to Nathalia and they belted Nathalia. They were playing with them the Saturday before. And there was one fella, a Sally Briggs, he was a big bloke, six foot two and 13 or 14 stone I spose, and there was a policeman here named Phelan and he was playing with Nathalia and he came running round the boundary bouncing the ball and he didn’t see Briggs comin’
and Briggs downed him and the umpire give a free kick against him for chargin’ the fella. And I can still see Sally Briggs standing on the thing with his hands on his hips laughing his head off cause he’d knocked the policeman over. And the other old fellow, what was his name? Just can’t think of it. He was playin’ fullback and one of them pushed him into a goalpost. So
next time the ball come, he grabbed it at full back he went the full length of the ground and kicked a goal at the other end of the ground and nobody touched him. I can tell ya, they were good.
the actual war was declared did you decide to go?
Well, war was declared in September 1940 and it was in July, was at a dance out at Yocka Hall one night. Few of us there talkin’ and somebody said, “Well, what about joinin’ the army?” So a mate a mine said, “Yeah, we’ll be in it”. Four said, “Yeah, I’ll be in it. I’ll be in it.”
a little short fellow and they give him two stripes [made him a corporal]. Well of a morning, they’d line you up out on the front and call the roll and then they’d come along and there was thousands of troops there and they’d come along so far, perhaps to about 20 fellas, and they’d say, “Right, down to the cookhouse to peel potatoes.” Well they called him this morning. He picked off his
20 and got out in front and about turn and got out in front and away he went. ‘Left, right, left, right, left, right’, till he got to the cookhouse. ‘Halt and about turn.’ When he about turned he had nobody, they’d all gone. They’d all shot through on him. We were all laughin’ but we soon got for our life because they’d just grab anybody and send you down to the cookhouse. The same fellow a while after had us up out on the… in front of the park
at the front of the racecourse, the main entrance. We were marching parallel with the road and he should’ve given a right wheel instead of that he give a left wheel. We left wheeled over a seat and out across the road. And by the time he halted it we had the road blocked off. Cars were stopped. The trams were stopped. The people were roarin’ laughin’. Anyway we eventually got off and he gave us a lecture then. He said, “You give
me a go and I’ll give you a go.” But he didn’t last long. About another week he was gone, I dunno what happened to him. We never seen him again. But it was rather funny.
bank clerks, teachers, everybody. And how they ever got them to work as a unit had me tossed. Because they, we had no idea of what was we were supposed to do with the marching and all these exercises and that you know. But eventually they did. We used to be abused a lot because as soon as you come out of action you were back to the old arms
drill marching and all this sort a caper and when you went backwards and we used to be very crooked on them. But realised later that if you could get the whole unit to act as one it’d save many lives. Cause as soon as something went wrong you knew what you had to do and you did it. That’s about... In Caulfield
I met up with a fella called Roy Sellick, he played football with Camberwell and if you played football you could get out of any duty that you liked. So we played football three days a week and they’d detail ya for a kitchen or cleanin’ up this that and something. Say ,“No, I’m a footballer.” “Oh, alright go.” And they’d leave ya. So that’s the way we put in.
They called for volunteers at times they were a bit smarter than what we were I think. Truck drivers. Want truck drivers. They’d rush out volunteer for truck drivers and for the next week you’d see em wheeling wheelbarrows round collectin’ all the rubbish around the barracks.
What was it like to train with .303 rifles?
Quite good, quite good, good. The majority of them they’d kick a little bit you know, but not much. Jumpin’ the gun a bit, when I was over the Middle East I’d been in hospital and I came out and they gave me another gun, another rifle, and we had to do a bit of target practice and lyin’ on the ground and
firing and I fired this thing and it lifted me about that far off the ground.
What was your impression of close combat in that sense, I mean, before you went, when you were training? Before you had battle experience?
Well, it was all a sort of a game I would say, when we were training, because we’d never experienced what would happen when you went into action, fair dinkum [real] action. This was just a sort a bit of fun really. To be quite clear. But it paid to learn exactly what to do and once you’d learnt it well, you didn’t forget it then.
entrained there one afternoon and crowded in like sardines in a tin. Had to change trains at Albury. We got to Sydney next morning early. Freezing cold and then we were taken down to the jettyies and put on barges and boats and up
the harbour then lookin’ for this boat. It was a bit of a fog that we were gonna get on the… suddenly, this, well it looked like a tower to me, loomed up out of the fog and someone said, “It might be the Queen Mary.” Said “Don’t be silly.” And sure enough, it was the Queen Mary. It was soon as we put into the doors where we could unload there’s a wild scramble to
get yourself a bed. Four of us got into a room in on D deck, about the middle of the ship. The worst thing we could a done. We thought it was alright. It was alright until we got into the Equator and the heat. We only had one vent air vent in the cabin. Whoever got into bed first’d grab the air
vent but he’d wake up in a lather of perspiration somebody else had come along and taken it. Wasn’t funny.
and the doors went bang you had to find a way up top or you’d drown. And it took quite a while to learn which stairs you had to go to get up to the top. Boat drill was shocking. Had 6,000-troops on the Queen Mary and they had so many boats along the life boats and your platoon would be given a certain lifeboat
and you had to find it. Well, talk about mix ups, for quite a few days before we got it down to we knew where to go and what to do. But when we left Sydney one morning out through the Heads and came down to Jervis Bay.
We were there for a couple of days and they up anchor again and we went out and we joined the convoy. There was the Queen Elizabeth, Mauritania, Aquitania and another one I can’t think of the name of it, all loaded with troops and the cruiser [HMAS] Sydney was escort
and we set off from there to go to Fremantle.
but just near the finish of Alamein I got a letter from home and Dad said, “You’ll see Ken soon.” And of course, we were under the impression that we were to come home instead of goin’ to Alamein. And I thought, oh well, got another thing comin’, we’ll be awhile. But then I got a letter from the brother. He was in the Middle East come over as reinforcements for the 2/43rd
and we had a big parade in Palestine, the whole division all lined up and he was there and I met him there.
say no, that’s not quite right. I only ever got drunk once, that was when I was in the army. I never touched it at all until we were on leave in Melbourne goin’ back to Queensland. We were delayed a day and, “C’mon, we’ll go down to the pub!’ Went down to the pub and they kidded me to have one drink and I had two and then three and then four and then five and by five o’clock
I was out like a light and I didn’t know anything until ten o’clock I woke up and I’m in this nice bed with nice white sheets and everything looked lovely all around and couldn’t work it out but I wanted to go to the toilet. I didn’t know where I was or anything. And just then a knock come at the door and a young lady come in. One a me mates had taken me home to his
place put me to bed. And that was the after that I might have one beer two beers but after I got malaria when I come home from New Guinea if I had two beers it’d hit me. And I’d be crook for a week or two. So I knocked it off altogether. Haven’t had a beer for ages and ages.
I’d be in trouble. When we got to Melbourne. Hope the wife’s not listenin’. We met a fella from Finley and he’d been in the Light Horse and he’d been about and knew what he was about and where he’d been and what he’d done. So when we got down there he said, this is when we went down for our first medical in Melbourne. He said, “When it’s over…” We were too late to catch the train home that day so we stayed at the, what they called the People’s
Palace, a very cheap place. He said, “I’ll take youse out tonight to show you a few things round the city.” So “Yeah, alright.” We decided we’d go with him. But where did he go? He went straight to a hotel in Exhibition [Street]. Little Lonsdale or one of those little streets anyway. Hotel and upstairs and it was where the prostitutes were.
So we walked into the room. Sat down and he ordered a beer all round and I had a soft one and he before we were there two minutes three women sorted ‘emselves out and come over and joined the throng. But Bill and I weren’t interested in ‘em and they soon learnt that and two of them walked off and the other one stayed with ‘Old Rupus’ we called him.
And anyway he arranged to spend the night with her. So he said to me, he said to her, “You go downstairs,” he said, “I’ll meet you at the foot a the stairs in a minute.” And away she went and he pulled out his wallet and he had it loaded with money. I don’t know where he got it from. Took a bit out of it and he said, “Here, look after this.” he said, “I might get hit over the head where I’m goin’.” And away he went. And I looked after his money till the next mornin’. He came back in time to catch the train
home. But all those little things catch in your mind pretty quick and you as I say, you gotta look out what you’re doin’ and what you’re not gonna do. Yeah.
that time and then we went to this Palace and then we come home. Hadn’t seen much of it at all. But when we went back a fortnight later there, we used to do route marches all round through different suburbs and the fruiterers were our favourite fellas. They’d come out with a case a oranges or a case a something and throw ‘em, few’d get ‘em and a few wouldn’t. Saturday,
Sunday, we soon learnt that don’t just hang round the quarters in the racecourse, get away. I had relatives in Melbourne and we used to go to the football, watch Essendon play and out to the relatives. Cause if you stayed in the racecourse somebody’d grab you for a job. You had to do this, do that, do something else. So it was quite
anything about them or anything. You mix with your own platoon mainly and we had no problems there. Much later on we were on leave in Tel Aviv and they used to get up to some pranks there. The drunks and fight and get locked up all sorts. And we were in a… went into a small shop
with souvenirs and all that that sort of thing and there was two girls, spose they’d be 20, perhaps a bit more, and for once we found that they weren’t out to take us down like most of them were. They were very friendly and they must’ve trusted us. There was three of us or four of us I think it was, and they gave us the equivalent of
10 pound Australian to go to our canteen and buy chocolate and tinned fruit. They couldn’t buy it over there. Well if we’d a been drunkards we’d a gone out and boozed their money and they’d a got nothing. But we did, we went and bought the chocolate and tinned fruit and took it back to em and they were really rapt with it. But there were some funny episodes
in the different things on leave. Some of em got up to awful pranks and…
And they had a big square with all streets, small streets coming into it and that’s where they used to play two-up [betting game]. Of course illegal, and this day we were there havin’ a look. We didn’t play two-up much and a provo [military police] police sergeant comes down and tried to... on each, where each street come in they’d have a gang of about 10 or 12 men to stop anybody, the heads comin’
in. And they turned him back and told him to get off out of it. He went. Then about not long after a Jeep come along with three or four of them in it and a lieutenant. Now the lieutenant’s standin’ up in the back a the ute [utility truck] givin’ a lot a orders and a real smart alec and he came in the street where the Maoris were. The worst place
he could’ve come in. He started tellin’ em what they could do and what they couldn’t do. And they got a bit rough because they’d fight anything and he pulled his gun. And before he knew what was happenin’ they had him down, took the gun off him, broke his arm threw him in the back of the truck and said, “Get out and don’t come back.!” They were wild boys, I was glad they were on our side.
They were preserved and every now and again one would be bad and the smell’d go right through the... So on about the third or fourth morning quite a few of us we were on mess orderly duty at the table servin’ it out and they mutinied, bangin’ their dixies on the table makin’ a hell of a row, 2,000 of em. And the officer rather foolishly
he ran in jumped up on the table. Then he started to say something. Before he got much out 2,000 eggs come flyin’ at him. I’ll never forget that. We laughed and run back into the kitchen out of the way. He called ‘em an ignorant lot of so and so’s over his shoulder as he was goin’ out the door. But we didn’t laugh when
we had to go out and clean up the mess. But eggs went off the menu. We never had em again, thank God. That happened before we got to Fremantle.
all wanderin’ round lookin’ where you go, what you could do. No she was a… it was a real good experience I spose. Even on that some of them got seasick. And a couple a times goin’ across the Bight it got pretty rough and the old Mary would roll more than go up and down this way and I found the only way, if I felt a bit crook I’d get up on the deck and walk round in the real fresh air
and I’d be alright. We got to Fremantle and anchored out in the harbour. No shore leave. Couldn’t get off. Only the Western Australians could get off if there was any on. We were there for about two or three days and then up anchor and away we went. That was the hardest part I think. When we went out past Rottnest Island and see Australia disappearin’ in the distance.
That made you stop and think for a while. But of course, the army didn’t let you think too long because you’re no sooner out there and we was onto PT [physical training] and exercisin’ and running round the decks and we used to have races round and round the Mary and then on the deck it’d soon fill in time. We had a good trip across the Indian Ocean. It was just like a big lake. Smooth as a thing. Beautiful. Then we got into
to Ceylon, into Trincomallee Harbour. When we left Fremantle the other ships were still with us. Then when we got up to the northwest tip of Western Australia something, they all vanished and we wondered what happened. They were all goin’ to Singapore. And we’re sayin,’ “Oh, lucky devils lucky devils. Fancy goin’ there and we’re goin’ to the Middle East!” But
we were the lucky ones. In Trincomallee for about only 24 hours and from there on one of the crew come to us and he said, “Well, we’re on our own. We’ve got no escort from here to the Red Sea.” And he said, “We’ll be flat tack all the way.” Well it used to do 38-knots the old Mary when she was full bore and you could tell she was vibratin’ like that right across the...
Changed course every nine minutes because they reckoned it took 10 minutes for a submarine to line ya up and fire its torpedo and they zig-zagged, zig-zagged all the way over the Red Sea. Got to the Red Sea and they said ‘Some land.’ Got out and had a look. What a desolate lookin’ place. Sand and rocks and nothin’ else. Got up to the mouth of the Suez [Canal], Port Tewfik and we were on the ship
for another 12 hours before we disembarked. Got onto the small boat, the City of London and went up the Suez Canal, up to El Kantara where there was a bridge over it and there they took us off there. Give us a meal and then loaded us into, well, they were just like our cattle trucks. And we went from there to Palestine.
Dust and sand. I’d never seen as much in all me life. One of the most amusing parts we seen on the way up was the Arabs. Dad’d be on a donkey or a camel ridin’ along. Poor old mum’d be walkin’ along behind with a great big basket thing on her head and two or three kids trailin’ along. They’d be walkin’ and he’d be ridin’ the camel or the donkey.
We wondered where we were. They seemed as though they were thousands of years behind us. Hopeless. We got to Maghazi [?] was the camp we went into and it was only a new camp. We only had a few tents up and it was loose sand. It was lousy. So we got busy puttin’ up more tents and gettin’ established and I was lookin’ in me diary the other day
and I said, ‘A bit hot today, temperatures ranging from 100 to 114.’ But it was a clear heat and we didn’t seem to notice it. So that’s where we were for quite a few weeks and months then before we headed for Tobruk.
with 6,000 troops it was pretty hard to get a good spot where you could watch it. So we used to get there pretty early and climb up on the lifeboat and then you’re lookin’ down on it you see it all. Well we did this day and wasn’t there long and along came a provo, police, military police, ordered us down off it
and we didn’t take any notice and he got a bit annoyed and started givin’ orders and I’ve never seen anything happen so quick. Next thing three or four blokes grabbed him, sat him up on the rail of the Queen Mary and said, “Can you swim?” He went white very quickly. They said, “Now you can either go over there or get down and get away and keep quiet.”
So he got down and kept quiet, never said anymore. So we could climb up on the boats after that to watch the boxin’. They were some funny episodes. I dunno, I think they would’ve thrown him over if he had’ve objected.
or we all thought. It was cleaner. But there wasn’t much in there to amuse you really. You just walked round the shops and down to the beach and that sort of thing. But in Jerusalem they had, well the... as I told you before, what we used to call all the Arabs ‘George’. Everybody was ‘George’. They used to have shops and
they’d have very pretty lookin’ girls on the door to encourage you to go in. And then when you got in there you had to learn to bargain with him. He put a price on something you wanted and no, you’d beat him down, beat him down. And we got that way in the finish we’d beat him down to what we reckoned was a reasonable price and say, “No George, we’re goin’.” and we’d go to walk out the door and then he’d come and he’d drop further. But we were still payin’ too much for em.
of dates, or that’s what he had in his hand anyway. And a fella in ours said, “You like those?” So he bought em. Got on the train and just as the train went to start off he opened these dates. They were full of dirt and weevils. So, Tommy was the blokes name, got a bit angry, so he got at the door and with ‘em in his hand and the
Arab that sold him… the platforms were only a few feet wide and he’s standin’ up against the rail and he’s laughin’ his head off and Tommy up and let fly with em and hit him right in the mouth. And they went everywhere all over the ground and when we look back here he is scratchin’ round picking them all up and puttin’ em back in another bag. That sort of put us off buying anything off em like that. There we went to Amyria. Not Amyria, Mersa Matruh
sort of the slum area and they had Red Caps, the English provos there, and they were told and that. One day about a half a dozen reckoned well, we’ll give em something to do, and low barriers about that high. We waited until he was away up that end and we jumped it and run away down through this out of bounds. But he found us. We got away down there and this woman opened the door and drug us all in.
But he apparently knew where to come because he come round to the door and… “Can’t you blokes! What are you blokes doin’ here? Don’t you read?” And one bloke said, “No, I never went to school.” So we had to get out again. Just was devilment.
If you wasn’t a sergeant you couldn’t go in. So one night we reckoned it was pretty quiet, so we thought well, we’d stir up a bit of strife. So we went round to a sergeants’, only about six of us, and marched in. Lined up at the counter “Give us a drink George.” “No no. Only sergeants. Only sergeants.” And we’re watching the telephone and by the time he served us a drink you see the other bloke run over and get on the phone and ring the provos.
So we downed the drink very quick. Out the door and up the street a hundred yards and stand watching. The provos would fly down and fly inside but we were gone. We used to just stir ‘em up. They had gharries there, no taxis, gharries, that was a horse drawn vehicle and he’d sit up in front and about four of you could sit in the back on the seat. So we thought we’d better
liven it up a bit and so when we get on it we’d grab George as we called ‘em all, plonk him in the back and we’d take over drivin’ round and round the town flat tack [fast] till the horse knocked up [was exhausted]. We had our bit of fun.
Egyptian mines. They were a mine with five pound of jelly [gelignite] and was all this. Mersa Matruh was one of the whitest beaches in the world. Snow white it was, and you could see these big black patches comin’ that were fish. So we clever boys of course go out and lift an Egyptian mine and get the jelly out of it. Go back,
and there was a mate from here from Nathalia was in the engineers and they had the fuses and dets [detonators]. So he give us the fuses and the detonators and said be careful. We didn’t know a thing about ‘em. We got down to the beach waitin’ for these shoals to come round. We put three sticks of jelly together, put a det in it and a fuse about this long, wait till they come. Lit her up. Threw her in. We thought we’d blown the world up. There was bits a fish
everywhere. Blokes come runnin’ from all directions. I heard one say, “These bastards are mad!” But anyway we worked on it worked on it and we ended up with about that much jelly was enough. Throw it in and stun the fish and get in after em and get em and had fish for a meal. Change quite a change from bully beef.
We were only there, in the Post 33 three days I think and it came up a horrible dust storm. When it came up big you could only see 50 or 60 yards and the sand’d sting ya face when you got down in it. It was blowing when we got up. You had to stand to at dawn, until it got light and then you could go back down and have a sleep. Everybody was getting’ round
with a handkerchief over their face or a bit a cloth. Midday the phone goes, Battalion Headquarters. We had to go out on a fighting patrol, thirteen, twelve of us and an officer. We had to go out three mile and attack an Italian main post and destroy everything we could and get two prisoners and bring ‘em back.
When we went out we were all raw, the whole lot of us, even the officer, and you’d get an extended line headin’ that way you know, well apart. We got out about two mile, a bit better than two mile I spose, suddenly walked out of the dust storm as though you’d just opened the door into bright sunshine. We thought, ‘Now we’re in trouble.’ Big enough trouble
before but that was gonna be worse and we’d only gone about another quarter of a mile I suppose and a machine gun and several rifles opened fire on us. Knowin’ it wasn’t the main line we all went to ground and then they passed word down the line yellin’ one from another ,“Fix bayonets and be ready to charge!” And that’s what we did,
we fixed bayonets and before you could think much about it he said, “Charge!” And we over run the position where he was in. And one Italian decided he wasn’t gonna be taken prisoner. He had his cap in his hand and he had run up a slope about 400 yards and over a little bit of a rise and three of us went to ground and we opened fire on him. And we had bullets are kickin’ up all around him you know and he went over the hill and got away and
one of our blokes said, “Oh dear,” he said “that’s a big loss that.” And, “Why, what do ya mean?” “Well,” he said, “we’re down to him, we could a won any Stawell Gift [professional foot race] from scratch!” Yeah. But we lost two men that day.
three of our blokes were there and the next thing three Italians walked up unarmed. Walked up to have a look, there used to be an old well there. Course they took ‘em prisoner and brought em back. Well then the next night they went out and foolishly manned the thing again. And there was an officer and two of our blokes in the sanger and there was five of us put about 300 or 400 yards away in separate
trenches and we were to cover them. If they got into trouble they were supposed to come out via us. But anyway about three o’clock in the afternoon out come 21 Italians. And I think they thought they were only up against three. They didn’t know that we were there. They split half come from the frontal attack and half walked round between us and them and to cut em off so they couldn’t retreat. But we had them
covered and the others had the others covered. We ended up with the lot, only one survived from the Italians. When the officer and the blokes about four o’clock or after they were. Orders were given to us that they were to come out via us and all go back together. But they just took off and went straight back. So we decided we’d wait till dark. Thought we’d make our
retreat. The sun was almost setting when the bloke with us that was in charge of us looked up and he said, “Oh we’re in trouble now!” and we look up and there’s bout 40 Italians comin’ from there and then another 40 comin’ from there. Cause they were 40 in em each of them and they’d be heavily armed. There was 80 of them and five of us and only one machine gun. So we reckoned they were a bit too many,
outnumber us. So we had a quick conference and reckoned they’d be lookin’ into the sun, give us a bit of cover, so we took off for home flat tack. Just before we did, we had an Englishman, McGrady. He’d be 36-37, perhaps a bit older than that. He looked over the top “Huh,” he says “so and so spaghetti for tea.” and he says, “I hate the bloody stuff.” Anyway we took off
for home and they machine gunned us for half a mile or more and McGrady was fallin’ behind a bit and me mate Bill said to him “C’mon Mack,” he says “You’re slowin’ up.” “Yes,” he said “I know that. Now Bill, the bullets are passin’ me noow.” He had real Pommy humour. But anyhow we were lucky. We got out of it without a scratch.
behind Forbes’ Mound we came out a few days back to the blue line. Wasn’t there I think 2 or 3 days and then we went up to R-9 that was we were in R-9 and the next post the Germans had it. That was where that curve round behind Forbes Mound come. And there we were given orders not to shoot unless we were attacked. But they didn’t stop the Jerries [Germans]. They knew we were there and
they’d blast us from put the machine gun along the top a the sandbags and you had to keep your head down all day. One night me mate was on duty at night and I had a bit of a job to stay awake from 10 o’clock till two o’clock unless something was cookin’ and I was lying on the bottom of the trench wrapped up in me greatcoat and that, and he thought he heard something out on the wire just in front of us.
And he tried to wake me, but comin’ out of a deep sleep. I made that much noise that after a few minutes he says “Oh well,” he says “go back to sleep,” he says “they’ll be up round Benghazi now.” He said “That’d frighten em.” But then we came out from there. While we were there we saw the big raid on the harbour. Over a hundred planes.
Dive bombin’ the harbour. We could look down on it the whole way. But luckily they never come out our way.
he had one shot that was enough for him. But I got an old lookin’ gun then that’s right and went to this was after Tobruk went to a 300 yard range. This old gun it looked as though it had come out of the scrap heap. It was black and chipped wood and all that and we had 10 shots in
a minute. That’s you’d fire five in one mag and then you had to unload that and load the other one, 10 shots in a minute. I got nine bullets in an inner at 300 yards. And the sergeant anyhow said, “Somebody else is firin’ at your target.” So I give him a go and he had. He got eight bulls and two inner. Gee she was accurate and you wouldn’t know you fired her. It was just like firin’ an ordinary .22 rifle
which was that was good. But anyway when we came out of Tobruk on the what date was it? Not sure of that, October 23rd or 24th I think it might a been. I’m not sure of that date. But on the Jaguar.
A ship called the Jaguar. When we got on board they said they told us to be careful that if they were dive bombed or they got after a submarine as soon as they opened full throttle and started weavin’ round that the water would go two foot back along the deck and it was only a peg here and there and a one wire to stop you from goin’ overboard. But we run into the
Mediterranean fleet about half way back to Alexandria. Battleships cruisers and God knows what. They reckoned they found a submarine and ours was the one that was gonna throw a depth charge. So they made about three runs over this object and they decided it was a sandbank and didn’t throw it. But about three or four nights later the 2/24th were coming out, they struck trouble with bombers and
they lost about eight or nine overboard and I think they only got two or three and the rest were drowned. So you had to be careful where you got on those boats cause the way the water, they heel right over like that the destroyer and half of it goes under water when they turn em.
But Tobruk sort of brought all that to an end. See up until then once the tanks had rolled through the troops they’d past give up they surrendered cause they thought, oh well, got no hope. But Morshead [General L J Morshead] said stay down cause they’ll shoot at anything that moves. Let the tanks go through and stop their back ups that’s coming up, machine gunners and air craft
anti-aircraft ones, mortars and all those sort a things that didn’t have the range, but they used to bring them up and that’s what happened in Tobruk. Although that was before I got there.
and sent up to into Syria for occupational you know, cause the 7th Div took Syria and we had to do guard duty. There was tunnels going up the ocean road. Great big tunnels, 300-400 yards through great big rocky mountains. We had to do guard duty on them and then we were sent up to Tripoli. That’s well up in the north of it.
And we were into barracks there overlookin’ the town of Tripoli. It was a fairly big place too. And about eight or 10 mile out of Tripoli the hills went out and they dropped off onto flat ground and they were building a big defence line there. Concrete pill boxes up in the all round through the hills everywhere and we used to have to go out with a… get out there and we’d be given a squad of
Arabs and see that they did certain works. Anyway after was there for quite a while they decided they’d test it out and do a mock attack on this line and we were to do the mock attack. So they took us out about 10 mile up towards Turkey and tipped us out on a road and we had to walk back and attack that line just on dusk. It was
pitch black. You could hardly hold your hand up there and you could hardly see it. And you had to go up these hills. Anyway, there was blokes got lost everywhere. I think I had a section go in there and I got up the top and I had about three left and the rest were stragglin’ round somewhere. Ten o’clock they’d called it off and we went down to the road to wait for trucks to take us back to our barracks and I was standin’ on the side of the road and a bloke alongside a me
said, “Well, what’d you think of it?” I said, “Not much.” “Why?” he said. I said, “It was a bloody balls up from start to finish.” Somebody dig me in the ribs “Quiet, quiet, shhhh shhhh.” I didn’t know what he was coming at and I looked round next thing a match flared and here’s old Bernie Evans standin’ right alongside a me, the colonel. Never said a word. Next morning we were on parade and he got up and he said, “Well,” he said, “Last night we done that attack on that…” And he said,
“I heard one bright spark; he said it was a balls up from start to finish.” He said, “I’m glad he said that because at least he was interested in it.” he says. And they’re all saying, “Go on, step out Haldon. Step out Haldon!” No bloody fear. It was funny. But from there we were they’d shifted us out into the barracks then out into the countryside north of
Tripoli over towards Turkey and I had two episodes there of bein’ bitten. I know what one was, a scorpion about that long. We were out on 10 mile out and I sat down leanin’ against a rock and it was against me back and I thought, I’ll take that away. So I turned round a got hold of it and when I shifted it around here’s the female scorpion about that long
on the front of it and the bloke in front says, “I want to see it.” And I leant forward like this and when I lent back it fell down the back and he got me. I never felt so crook. Oh gee.
and the officer said, “Well I’ll leave two with ya. We got a go, we can’t do anything.” They left me there and oh about an hour, hour and a half before I could walk properly. And we staggered back to camp and I was crook for two or three days after that. And then about a month later we were doin’ manoeuvres out in the hills with Indian troops. They had donkeys and they were showin’ us how to load all these donkeys and this sort a thing on a real rocky side of a hill.
I lay down and about two o’clock I woke up in the morning with these pains shootin’ up me neck into me head and then all over me body. I must a been moanin’ a bit cause me blokes mates woke up and come over wanted to know what was wrong. I didn’t know what bit me and they still don’t know. But I was crook again and next mornin’, they’d no medics there. No medics, so they bunged me on the truck that brought the provisions out and sent me back to the camp.
And I was four days lying on the bed just lyin’ there. All they could do was drink. Drink water or tea or whatever the blokes liked to bring to me. And it took me about 10 days to get over that but I reckon it must a been another scorpion. They were pretty poisonous and they were huge over there. But anyway, that’s where we were when they suddenly decided that they’d do a big manoeuvre up towards Turkey.
We packed everything up or that’s what they told us, but the rumours were flying that we were coming home. The 6th and 7th had come home but we were still there. Anyway we get on the trucks and away we go head north from Tripoli. We only went north for a couple of hours and all of a sudden they switch right around way headin’ back down towards the Suez. Yeah, and the news was comin’ through, Rommell had
attacked and retaken Tobruk and so that’s where we reckoned we were goin’. But a few of them reckoned, oh no, we were goin’ home, we’re goin’ home. Was havin’ bets on when we crossed the Suez Canal turn right we were goin’ home. Straight on we were goin’ to Alamein. And all us that backed Alamein won. That’s where we ended up.
Now as a garrison troops what were you doing exactly every day? What were daily routines?
The usual route marches and there was a… I mentioned it before, there was a defence line they built eight to 10 mile out north of Tripoli. Up on the side, the hills used to come like that and then drop down to the plain. They built concrete pill boxes and that all round through them and we used to have to go out and boss over 10 or a dozen of
the Syrians. They used to do a lot, all the digging and that. And then we had to do a mock attack on it but I explained all that a while ago.
my mate and I, he said, “I want you blokes, don’t go, but I want you to take me in and show me how this brothel works.” So smart fellas we were, when we went in we told the head lady about him and she went and told all the girls. And as soon as he come in they tackled him. Held him down and took his pants off. I’ll never forget that. He did,
he abused us. “I’ll never go out with you pair a B’s again!” he said. Just devilment you know.
As we approached Cairo, I dunno who thought of it, but orders went round that we were to pose as English. So we were to take off all Australian badges. We were tryin’ to talk Pommy. And we got into Cairo and every now and again it’d stop and
the Arabs, young fellas kids’d come up to ya “What you? What you?” “English, English.” “Ha, ha ha” they’d say “You not English. You Aussie.” Say “How do you know?” “English he has black boots. You got tan boots.” Yeah, they were pretty shrewd. And when we hit Cairo a course we were missin’ on a lot a news from up at
Alamein. Only get a bit at the wireless at night and when we hit the streets here’s all these kids sellin’ newspapers left right and centre they’re runnin’ along the convoy sellin’ em left right and centre. We bought a newspaper and thought, we’ll get all the latest now, but when we opened it up the paper was a week old. So we didn’t, weren’t much the wiser. But another thing as we was goin’ through Cairo
some of the people were cheerin’ and clappin’ hands but others you’d see them up on the balcony and thumbs down to us. We weren’t popular at all.
So what would the Aussie do when they see someone goin’ like this?
Laugh at em and take no notice of them. But out from between Cairo and Amyria again, we met a convoy going the opposite way, lot a trucks all loaded with stuff. And just as the one got level with us this big red-headed Australian, he’d been havin’ a sleep I think. He woke up and he’s blinkin’ and
lookin’ round and, “Where are you so and so’s been you lot a so and so’s!” he said. And we said to him, “Well you’re goin’ the wrong way, what about comin’ with us?” “No thanks.” he said. There they were air force comin’ back. Bein’ evacuated to somewhere round Cairo. But he didn’t want to come with us, that’s for sure.
from our side to stop him from congregating a big of his best troops in one area. We’d attack here today and somebody else’d attack away over there tomorrow and sort of kept him shiftin’ round and Rommell was supposed to have said when he heard we were there, “Those bloody Australians again.” But he tried to encircle
in, it was 30 mile across from the beach to a big depression which they couldn’t put vehicles through it. It was too soft and he went right over there and gonna come round and cut behind us but he walked into a trap. That’s where they reckoned he’d go and they went into this bit of a ridge and they dug the tanks in so they were just ground level and he didn’t know. He come waltzing up to em and they nearly wiped him out there. They forced
him back and that was the last attack he done.
recapture it. But they held him off and our job was in. There was a big sort of a range of hills run in the Germans were on that side and we were we could move about here behind em and not be seen. And we were given the job of, if he’d a broke through anywhere it was our job then to stop him. But luckily he didn’t break through. 16th of July was our first
attack. It was what they called the Cutting. A railway cutting through a hill and there were a lot of Italians there and Italians and Germans out further and there was a point out there, 24 I think it was, that they wanted to capture too cause it was a bit a high ground. On the 10th of July, the 13th I think, it was had a go. They took it alright but couldn’t hold it. They lost too many men.
On the 16th we ended up takin’ it but we couldn’t’ hold it cause we’d lost too many men. We had to pull out again. And then about the 17th I think it was. No it was the 17th Battalion. A few days a week or two after we went in, anyway the German reckoned they’d had enough and they pulled back and they occupied those points that we wanted with
no opposition. When I went back over there in 1992 went up to the Cutting and this officer was blah-blah-blahin’ away about how so and so attacked this point they wanted on the 10th and couldn’t hold it and then so and so that was us attacked on the 16th and couldn’t hold it. And we took it on the, he give the
date a bit after. I said, “Now wait a minute,” I said “You’re talkin’ through the top of your hat.” And he got very annoyed. “Why, what do you know about it?” He said. I said “Well, I know you didn’t take it. The Germans had pulled back and you just walked in and took it.” He got the huff and away he went. He didn’t stay with us any longer. He was tellin’ fibs.
there was one episode in the Cutting. They dug holes. The Cutting was sloped like that they dug holes in the side of it and they had these where they used to get in the Italians. And I didn’t see it but this is what I was told. There was one, the officer was goin’ along and liftin’ these blankets and tellin’ em to surrender, come out. He lifted this blanket and the bloke inside must a panicked and shot him. Shot him through the face. And
they said before you could say Jack Robinson there was two Australians one each side a the blanket, grenade in the hand, pulled the pin, lifted the thing and rolled the grenades in. That finished them off.
C Company that’s when they really opened up machine guns and we had blokes fallin’ everywhere and I got hit in the front a that leg, didn’t know it was there till I could feel something tricklin’ down me leg. It was blood. Our officer was a pretty good soldier and he kept urgin’ us on we kept goin’ and the next one I got was in the calf of the leg, got a blood vessel and she was bleedin’ like a
fountain. I had to hand the machine gun over to me off-sider and sat down and wrapped me leg up. But there would a been quite a few killed and wounded round us. Me mate Roy Sellick got bad wounds to the stomach and I tried to help him back to the Cutting but he said, “I’m too slow.” He says, “Go back and get the stretcher bearers and send em up.” And I contacted the stretcher bearers on the way out and they went up and got him.
But we lost quite a lot that day.
I had a funny episode while I was in there. I was up walkin’ round and some of the mates were goin’ over to the picture theatre. So they said, “C’mon, come to the pictures with us.” So I never thought a seein’ the sister and tellin’ her I was goin’. So I go off on me crutches and I hobble over to see the pictures and when I come back the old bloke met me at the door and he said, “You’re in trouble.” He says, “She’s down there at
your bed waitin’.” Sure enough she was. There she was standin’ with her hands on her hips and she gave me a dressin’ down I tell ya. Anyway gettin’ away ahead, 10 years later I was in the police force in Melbourne and there was an accident down at Port Melbourne and I had to attend it. Two women in a car, they’d gone up the wrong side a the road and hit another car. So
I was interviewing the driver and when I turned round and I seen this other woman thought, I’d seen you somewhere before, and it suddenly come to me. It was the sister that had ticked me off over in the hospital. And she’s lookin’ me up and down and I said, “You were in charge of Ward 23 in the 6th AGH.” “Yes,” she says “I know who you are too, now.” She said “You’re the one I ticked off.” That
was 10-years after. But anyway getting back to the other then we from hospital you had to go back via a training camp. And there were a lot of so and so’s at the head a that. We went back on the Monday, quite a batch of us and you had to do a 25 miler on the Saturday before you could go back.
So come Saturday we lined up and the old sergeant major said we were off our bloody head. We wouldn’t do it. But we did 25 miler and done it and got back to our unit then.
Well then from then it was patrol, patrol, patrol at Alamein until that officer come up. They’d lost, what was it? I just forget how many officers now, a lot, and they were grabbin’ em from anywhere as long as they had pips and they brought this bloke up, he was from Corps Headquarters, that’s how far back he was. He come up one night and
we didn’t know and we were in reserve and in reserve you had to have one man awake all night just in case a paratroops or something on ya. Anyway one a my blokes had gone to sleep and there was nobody on guard and he come over at mornin’ and said, “A noise woke me up and I got up and abused him and I don’t know what the so and so he was doin’ standin’ round there.” And he informed me who he was. He was a lieutenant.
So he was gonna charge us anyway for neglected duty. “I’ll have ya demoted.” he said. I said, “Alright, fire ahead.” And anyway we never heard anymore of it and from the few things he done somebody said, “He’s as weak as piss.” And that’s what we christened him, Pissy.
the officer. He said, “Go out and do it over.” So he had to lead. The lieut had to lead us out there but he knew nothing about it at all. That afternoon it come a violent thunderstorm across the desert. And rained it poured and the sand was soft and sloppy. We picked our way through the minefield and got out and at the time we
should’ve reached it within an hour from when we left our own line and when we came to a telephone line lyin’ on the ground and all these fresh boot marks in the wet sand and we said to him, “That’s where the post is.” “No, no, no.” We tried to convince him. Luckily we didn’t. But no, he wouldn’t have it. Such and such a bearing so many paces and away we went again and we went for another hour. The German line was like that and we were like that and
that’s where we were goin’ round in between and we come to the tarred road that run up to Mersa Matruh. We knew well we knew beforehand but that was proof that he was lost. Didn’t know where he was and we were that close to the German main line that we could hear them talking. It was a pretty dark night and we could hear them talking just up the road. And after a few minutes he said, “Alright, bearing such and such.” He said to me, “You
lead off.” I said, “Where is it?” And he pointed straight up the road to where we could hear these voices. I said, “Not on your life. We’re not goin’ up there. That’s the main line.” Did he fly up in the air. I thought he was gonna pull out a gun and shoot me on the spot. He “You know,” he says, “the penalty for mutiny in the field? Shot at dawn.” I said, “Well better dawn than now.” And that stirred him up a bit more. He went to the other corporal and
he wouldn’t go either. So he went off over and sat on his own on a rock, so we got bout four of our other blokes that we knew were pretty staunch and knew what they were talkin’ about I said, “You stay here with us so as we’ve got plenty of witnesses if he does go on with this in the morning.” Anyway he came back after a while and he’s still tryin’ to get us to go there, but no. Went away again and he came back. That was gettin’ on towards one o’clock and we had to
be back in our own line or we were gone and it’d take us nearly three hours to get back. Anyway he come back and he said, “Alright,” he said, “I’ll have to admit,” in front of all of us, six of us there was, “have to admit that I think I’ve made a mistake.” And I said, “Yeah, we know damn well you’ve made a mistake.” “Oh well,” he said “let’s go back to our own lines,” he said, “you lead off.” And by this time I’m
ropable. So I said, “No, you’re so bloody smart you lead off!” And he couldn’t. He didn’t have the faintest idea how to go back. Anyway he went and sat on the rock again for about a quarter of an hour or so. At last he come over and apologised and said, “We’ve got to go back, you lead us back.” So we got back to our own lines just as it was breaking daylight. The very next night we were sent out again to do
this post over as they called it, and we walked into an ambush and we only lost one man but we were damn lucky to get out of it that night. There was about 30, we found after that the post held at least 30 men and there was 30 come at us from behind. Well we were in between the two of em and it was a dark night so somebody give the order every man for himself and
they were goin’ in all directions. I think the poor bugger that got killed, I think he only come up two nights before but I don’t think he’d ever been trained for infantry. And if they put a flare up and if he kept running when he got a flare, well he was gone. Soon as the flare went up you had to hit the ground and stay there until it went out. Then get up and go again and I think he kept movin’ and they got him anyway.
And we didn’t get any action although we lost men from the shelling comin’ over till the 28th and they’d pushed a hole right up through the Germans and they were gonna cut across here to the coast and cut off all these Germans that were there and we got that job of cutting across to cut em off and we were riding in on tanks. Thirty odd tanks and a full section of men. Anything from eight nine or 10 men on the back
of a tank and they got caught in the minefield. And the tanks got stationery and he had an 88 artillery piece and they were dynamite they were. And he’s sittin’ up on a bit of a rise and he’s pickin’ the tank off, tank by tank. And a course most of the infantry on the back were goin’ too. He had three shots at ours and the shell
just went over the top. The wind of it nearly blew ya off the back of the tank. And then they brought in the heavy mortars and those things you can’t hear them comin’. Just a ‘swoosh’ as they hit the ground. I was sittin’ on the back of the tank with that leg hangin’ down and the boot nearly touchin’ the ground and it exploded there right under, within that far a me. If I’d a been that far forward there’d only be bits left. So one minute I was on the…I was thirteen and a half stone
one second I was on the back a the tank the next I was on the broad a me back on the ground. And out a the nine men we had on the tank only two survived that night without gettin’ wounded.
but in a Pommy hospital. Not an Australian one. Got there late at night. Put us to bed and next morning the head sister come in and bout nine o’clock she said, “Righto you fellas,” she said “those of you that can, walking wounded will stand up and stand to attention and the matron’s comin’. And those a you that are confined to your bed you’ll lie to attention in bed.”
And one of our fellas was a pretty foul-mouthed sort of a bloke and he up and say anything anytime. And he said to her, “If you think I’m gonna do all that for some old scraggy old so and so and so and so,” he says, “you’ve got another thing comin’.” and the poor old sister she didn’t know what to do. She went red and white all at once. I’ve never seen such a quick movement. Within a quarter of an hour we were in an ambulance and sent off to an
Australian hospital. Only part he reckoned we’d regret, seein’ the old bag as he called her. Cause the English were a bit like that. Even a lance corporal, when we were on leave one time before Alamein, went into the tent to hand our weapons in before we went into the town and he wanted us to stand to attention when we addressed him. A lance corporal!
We told him where he could go and what he could do with the rifles. And walked off out and he followed us out after a while and he said, “You better come in and do the right thing.” Yeah. There was some funny episodes I can tell ya.
nice. Very nice. We tied up at Station Pier and my favourite aunt lived only five minutes from Station Pier in Port Melbourne but they had about 20 or 30 provos [military police]. You had to open the big steel gates to get onto Station Pier. Some of them went down under the pier and climbed along and some stripped off and carried their clothes and swum out and went off. But we were handicapped
and I wanted to get up to the aunt’s place so we got in there about nine o’clock in the morning and about half past three when the train backed in to take the next lot a troops the provos used to get half and half each side at the gate. So there might a been 10 or 15 there and 10 or 15 over this side. And we were standin’ there watching and the train came in and there was only two provos on our side. And there was a lieutenant with us. I don’t know who he was but
he wasn’t one a ours. He might a been our battalion but he was in a different company and there was about 20 of us. So he said, “Have a look boys.” And we had a look and there was only two there and he said, “Right, let’s charge.” So we went straight at em. And they stepped aside and said, “Come back on time.” It was rather funny.
five six feet of ya and you wouldn’t see em until the last instant and you had to be aware the whole time. So therefore the forward scout would have to be changed regular. Like you’d only leave him there for five, perhaps 10 minutes and then another one’d go up and take over cause the strain was pretty hard. Cause they were, if they walked into an ambush well, you’re in big trouble.
But we had one fella Tom, what the hell was his name? He was a big, tall fella and when you said good morning to him it’d take him about five minutes to say good morning back. And one day I wasn’t there but they had him doin’ his share at forward scout and we were, had the Japs on the run and we were followin’ em up you know,
and the track was up there, the jungle was up there, and there was a track and that’s where the track was, it was a drop of about three feet and he’s getting along and the others are strung out behind him and suddenly two Japs must a been asleep, sposed to be on guard, they must a been asleep in a hole up on the side a the road. And he was only eight feet from him and they both up with their rifles and fired him and missed him.
And the sergeant, Danny Mulqueen, before they could do anything he cut ‘em both down with an Owen gun. But that’s how you know how close you could walk into an ambush. But the 2/24th walked into an ambush. That was towards the finish, it was Wairopi, and the track went from Wairopi up and it come right back round like that and there was
two sharp turns and the Jap was on the run and they got a bit careless and they went up there and along there, they had a machine gun there and a machine gun there, they killed 10 I think it was and wounded about 10 or 15. Walked right into the ambush. So you had to be on your toes the whole time.
Now when you were at Queensland were you introduced to the Owen gun?
No, not until we were just ready to go. Right at the last instant we were. Because it was like everything else they were short supplied you know. But they were good, they were only close range fightin’ though, but we did do a little bit a practice with ‘em, but the practice we did, we used to throw a tin out
there on the road fifteen twenty yards away and fire from the hip and bowl him along the ground from the hip. They were very accurate. But you could drop em in the mud, water, anything, pick em up, bang, and away they’d go. Still operate. They’re good for in close up fighting but once you got out a hundred yards well, they weren’t as accurate there.
just down at a jetty down from Milne Bay, took us down to Buna and we got off there at Buna and had a good meal. And I met me brother there again. Ken, he was in the 2/43rd and they were there. And we had a yarn and then they loaded us back up again and we went out and was picked up by about five American destroyers and they escorted us up to where we were to land at Lae on the beach.
They stood in and blasted hell out a the area was to go in with guns the destroyer. We were the third row in and we were supposed to be in the middle, our company, B Company, but somehow we ended up on the left hand end. I dunno how, but that’s the way it happened. We had aircraft flyin’ round over the top of us all the time. Our aircraft, and we seen these
three bombers comin’ in and we thought they’re ours, and didn’t take any notice. Watching like that and suddenly opened come the bay doors and down come the bomb. And from experience we knew that they were gonna go over the top of us but they were gonna hit somebody further on. They hit headquarters company. Killed the colonel and eight or nine and wounded about 40. But it didn’t make any difference, we went straight into the shore and out into the jungle and
from there we were quite a while getting to Lae cause the rain held us up. When it rained there it rained bucketfuls. And the Busu River was about I spose, two three chain wide [66 feet] and if you went in up to your knees it’d wash you off your feet after this heavy rain. And you could hear the great big boulders, three foot, goin’ rumblin’ down the river.
That held us up for 36 hours before we could get across it. We got across that and they went on towards Lae and the next river was only a little short one and it was dry when we got there. There was no water running and the battalion was along the coast and we were on an inland track in a mile half a mile or so in different places
and we got pretty easy goin’ we didn’t strike any Japs but the battalion had along the coast and we didn’t have wireless contact at all. We had no contact when we got to this dry river, this Cudlip, the good officer, he said to m,e “Take one man and go down and make contact with the battalion at the mouth of the river.” So we went down alright and I couldn’t see any movement before we got there, so I thought we’d better go pretty scarce and
careful. We got there and there was our battalion wasn’t there. All that was there was Jap tracks. You could tell them because they had a boot covered those and then for the big toe. And here was all their tracks headin’ up towards where our battalion was. So I said to the bloke with me I said, “We better get out of this quick smart.” So we headed back got back to the company and I went to the captain and just started
to tell him what we’d seen and heard and the stand to order come. There was six Japs, what was left of what went up and attacked our battalion they got a pretty good sort a hidin’ and they’d followed round the exact track we’d come. If we’d a been 20 minutes later we’d a been two of us against six of them. But instead a comin’ in on the track they headed straight for the mountain and went up into the mountain somewhere and we never seen em again. Didn’t get a chance to shoot em. So
they got away. From there we went on into Lae and the 7th Division had come down from the Markham Valley that way and we were goin’ up the coast this way. They beat us there by a few hours. Only in there a day or two when we were sent back out about 10 mile back out where we’d come and from there they sent the 2/43rd , 2/28th and 2/32nd
I think they were, they were the three battalions up to attack Finschaffen further up the coast and we were to follow up in LSTs [Landing Ship Tank]they were the great big one and they had the front of it just used to go up on the beach and flop down and you could drive a tank or anything out onto it and all the supplies. We were to unload that and we went in about sunrise I spose and
knowin’ that the ammunition everything was shortage we worked like hell to get it all off and we’d just about finished at about one o’clock, a warning goes, ‘Jap planes are in the area.’ So the captain ordered us all aboard and they’d rather be to sea manoeuvring instead of locked up on the beach and away we went and when we got out there, there wasn’t
much stuff left. We’d unloaded most of it so they decided there was three of those big LSTs decided to come back to Lae and about one o’clock the siren goes and we rush up on deck lookin’ all round. Knowin’ we wasn’t supposed to, but lookin’ round couldn’t see anything. It all went quiet went down below again and next thing it’s goin’ again. We rush up again and when we get up on
deck the five American destroyers that were escortin’ us had about turned and they were goin’ back the way we came. And we looked and there they were. There was 15 planes. There was nine bombers, torpedo bombers comin’ in on the water and six fighter planes up above em. And the Yanks they held their fire until they dropped their torpedoes and
the instant. They watched and the instant they dropped the torpedoes all the ships changed course like this zig zagged you know. They missed the tail of ours by about 60 yards I suppose. You could see it goin’ across the water and the destroyers opened fire. And I’ve never seen planes fall. It was like shootin’ ducks. The Yanks they were droppin’ em left right and centre and they fell in front of us and nobody took any notice and then one or two
got past us and somebody said look up here and we looked and the Yankee comin’ in with the Lightnings [aircraft] they’re the twin tail things and the old Jap sitting up there. You could see him as plain as anything when he went past our ship and he’s lookin’ over at us like this and the Lightning come down and cut him in half with a burst a fire cut him in half and just flopped into the sea. There was one Jap got away. One Jap. I’ve never seen a bloke fly a plane like him. He’d be a way up there and
you’d say he’s gone this time he’s like this and he’d get down near the sea and then he’d whoosh and away he’d go. It was unreal.
Another thing on that, we had that meal at Buna I was tellin’ ya about. We… all we had was from then till Tuesday night was what they called the emergency ration. It was in a tin about that long and there wasn’t much in it. Only hard biscuits and a little bit a honey and this sort a thing and nothin’ worth eating really. And we got nothing more till Tuesday night.
And ever since we was all looking at one another and they said to my mate, he was a little, short, fat fella and they said, “By Christ you’re goin’ on the pan tonight if you don’t look out!” Kiddin’, but that’s how hungry they were.
by this time the Japs tried to cut the units in half and come right to the beach. They had boats coming in from the beach too. But luckily a few days before they ambushed a Jap patrol and killed the lot and the officer had a map and everything on him showing where they were going to attack and when.
They were to light a big fire on Sattleberg. Sattleberg was the mountain that overlooked the lot and these troops were to come down this track and the boats were to come in from the sea. Well our blokes got the information. So they took two Vickers machine guns up this track and got a nice long spot, dug them well in, put infantry round em and waited. And sure enough they lit
a fire on Sattleberg. They come down this track I wasn’t there but they said they killed 500 Japs and the ones coming in from the sea run into the blokes on the beach, and one Yank, I think they said he was a Negro, he was on a 30mm or 28mm, something gun, and one come in right at him and he opened up on em and
knocked half of em but they eventually got him and killed him. But they knocked em about that much there was nothing of em left and that sort of ended the, as far as the Japs attack went, it was us attacking them then up on Sattleberg and that’s where we ran into trouble.
Derek won his VC [Victoria Cross]. Goin’ up straight up the top there and we were to go round the side track and go in circle in round behind them. But we’d hardly left that track only 200 yards and we run into trouble. The bombers had bombed there a good while before hand and their bombs were that big that when they hit the jungle they just threw em up in big heaps from not as wide as this house
but six foot high and they were all dry and there’d be one here and one over there and clear ground in between. Well as soon as we left the main track the 2/48th were attacking that way and we were to go this way. We ran into this mob a Japs dug in under these, they apparently cut tracks in from the end like that so they could stand up and they had the advantage. They could stand up and look and we were comin’
slitherin’ along the ground. After one day that we sent out a patrol and he found a way of goin’ down a creek and round get behind where these Japs were dug in. And the next day we were ordered to go and wipe em out. We went round and cut the track
and my section was left to guard the rear track. The others were to attack up to the Japs and they were up there doin’ a bit of scrappin’. They were havin’ shots were bein’ fired and our job was to stop anybody from comin’ up the track behind. And there happened to be a sink hole about three foot or three foot six inches deep, perfect, so I put the Bren gun in there
and his off-sider plus one a the best shots we had, good shot. And they had a fifty or sixty yards straight down the track. We wasn’t there long and along come a Jap. Singing away to himself carryin’ his rifle over his shoulder and he got up to about six or 8 eight feet and he suddenly seen the rifle pointing up at him and that was the finish of him.
Well I think it was three or four done that. We shot em and dragged em off the track. Then two cooks come with dixies, great big dixie thing. They were getting’ a bit suspicious by this shooting there. They come round the track, they were about 50 yards from us and I said to the Bren gunner, “Hold your fire. Don’t shoot. If they turn to go back let em have it.” They
stood there and they yap away for a good while then they decided they’d go back. So he cut em down then. But the others had gone up the track to attack this where they were dug in under the tree and they’d lost two or three men by the time then. And by that time we got word that they were bringin’ more troops off the top of the hill and they were coming round behind to cut us off.
So we had to go up to join those up on the where they were attacking and just as we got there they ordered this fair dinkum attack and we lost eight killed and about 20 wounded in about five minutes and the ones from behind were comin’ round to cut us off. So it was a matter of we had to withdraw and there was only one way out. That was out the
side. Now a good mate a mine, he was a real special friend, he was in a different platoon to me and he had a bullet hit him just there above the knee and broke his leg. His mates tried to drag him out but he pleaded with them to leave him cause it was too painful. So they left him and we didn’t know anything about it till we got nearly back to our own line.
All that night we were all pretty down in the dumps I can tell ya, losing so many and that, and next morning, about just not long after sunrise we could hear a voice callin’ out but we couldn’t understand what was bein’ said. And someone said yes, that it would be this mate a mine. But we wasn’t sure
and it went on for I spose an hour him callin’ out but we still couldn’t get the words he was sayin’. And then as though he was only 20 yards away it come through the jungle, “Haldon ya big bastard where are ya?” As clear as a... and several of us heard it so we knew then it was Lance. So I went straight to the
company commander and asked permission to take a patrol out to see if I could get to him. But he refused. “No,” he said, “we’ve had enough casualties yesterday. We’re not havin’ more today.” So he stirred the blood up my spine a bit so I turned round walked off and I went back to the others and I said, “I’m goin’ up to battalion headquarters.” It was only a hundred yards down the road.
I went down to the battalion headquarters got the colonel. And explained it all to him. And he said, “Well go back, pick 12 men and go out see what you can do.” So I went back and I think that officer that wouldn’t let us go I think he had me in the gun after that. Goin’ over the top of him. But anyway I got picked out 12 good blokes and
I said, “We’ll go out and see if we can get to him.” We went a bit different track and he kept calling out and that sort of guided us to where we had to go to the right spot and I reckoned that because I’d done the talkin’ to get the job in that I’d have to be the forward scout. So I got to the heap a logs and I reckoned his
voice was just on the other side and we hadn’t seen a Jap or heard a Jap or anything. And anyway I signalled to the other blokes that instead a goin’ round the end if there was anybody waitin’ that’s where they’d be pointin’. I was gonna go over the top. I went over the top and landed right beside him and I’ll never forget the look on his face. Called me all the b’s about the place. And anyway
his leg was... I asked him “Where’s the Japs?” He said “They’re gone.” They’d pulled out so we formed a perimeter round him put em all on guard round him and two of us went to him then to see if we could do anything with his leg. And it was puffed up and the bandage was cut into it and you’d touch it and he’d scream out. And they’d issued us with little tubes of
morphine about that long. Never give us any instruction on what to use em how to use em or anything. So I thought well. we’re not going to be able to bandage his leg or I was gonna put two sticks along the side of it so it couldn’t move. So I said oh well. Somebody said. “Give him a morphine.” So I had to be doctor. Got the tube out and stuck it in his arm.
He’s pleaded for water cause the Japs took his water bottle off him but they never killed him. Why I don’t know.
I gave him the one tube and we didn’t wait long enough apparently. It hadn’t worked. So somebody said, “Give him another one.” So I got another one and I injected another one into him and in about five minutes his eyes started to roll out he went like a light. So we strapped his leg up and I went back and got a stretcher then and we carried him back to the clearing station and his mate come along, mate he had in the other
platoon he come along shook hands with him and said, “Hang in there mate.” But he survived; he lost his leg up here. But I never seen him again until 40 years later. I was in the house over just over there, the other one I owned and this strange car pulled into the drive and this bloke got out and he said to Pearl, “Oh the big bugger won’t know me.”
And I knew his voice straightaway and we had a great old yarn. But he died in the 1970’s eventually. But when we finished takin’ him back. We had to come back then we had to bury all our. We had eight to bury, we buried them and then went on to the... And there was two more died the next day. So we lost 10 men killed that against the Japs.
on water. The only water was in a big bomb hole and you had to fill it with tablets so it was drinkable. And then we had to wait a day and a half for the 2/24th to come up and clear the track behind us. And then we went on to chase them on to Wairopi then. We thought that well, well, they’re on the run then properly and we thought oh well, we’ll get a rest here. The 2/24th
came through and they were to carry on from where we got to. And the track had gone out round and it come right back round on a ridge like that and the Japs ambushed them. A track straight there and straight there and they put a machine gun there and a machine gun there and they walked straight into the trap. They let the first section go here onto the... and they killed about eight or 10 that day and umpteen dozen wounded. And
we were just about to have our bully [beef] and biscuits for dinner and word come through and we were detailed to go out as quick as we could and help em out. And we got there about four o’clock in the afternoon, they were a long way out and when we got there they showed me the map and they detailed me with about the dozen, half a dozen men.
Instead of goin’ round the track to cut through the jungle up and there was a village up there and to get there and ambush the Japs when they come out. But darkness beat us got about half way you had to cut your way through the jungle. We got within 200 yards I suppose of the track and it was pitch dark you couldn’t see your hand in front a ya. We stayed there all night and got up to the village just on sunrise but the Japs had flown. They’d pulled
out again ahead of us. So we missed em. So that was a bit after that when old Tom I was telling you about, forward scout, and on a patrol and the two Japs jumped up out a the hole only about eight feet from him, aimed their rifles at him and missed him. Danny Mulqueen was the sergeant, he had the Owen gun and he cut em down with the Owen gun.
Cause we from then on, it was patrol, patrol, go for miles and miles and could never catch up to em they were clearin’ off ahead of ya all the time.
war was going to end soon?
Well we knew there was an end but the Germans or the Japs weren’t gonna win so. Anyway Ken, the other brother, you’re gonna see at Yaboca, he was later joinin’ than me and he said, “No, I’m stayin’ in it.” So I said to Mum, “Alright, get somebody to claim me, I’ll come out.” And I never thought I would, would have to see. In October I was called up before the colonel and
I stayed in it four years, didn’t like it so I resigned came back and went to work out in the Barma Forest, had two kids, Darryl was born in 1949, the daughter was born in 1954. Everything went pretty well with me. I used to supply sleepers to the railways under contract and I was me own boss. I could work when I felt like it and stay home when I felt like it.
I had a bit of luck. I built a house over in Fraser Street in 1953 lived in it for 30 years. Sold it, doubled me money. I built this other brick one, flat roofed one, just over here in 1882 or 1983 lived in it for 12 years. Sold it. Doubled me money again. And built this one. So...