seemed to follow him. And like the first year the haystack was burnt down and a caterpillar plague and that type of thing, he got kicked by a horse. And then so anyway he went down to Koo-wee-rup then further down the river about a mile and a half from Koo-wee-rup itself and we were there until he had an accident and was killed. So we were there from about 1923 to 1928. Well I was one of five, I was the fifth of
six children born to them. And we none of us wanted to carry on with the farm. I was 12 when he died so we came, me Mum brought us down to Malvern and then from there, lived there for a little while then went to Noble Park and then only there for a few months and then we got to Springvale. And I was at Springvale then until I joined up in 1940. Nothing spectacular then. I had a girlfriend
for a couple of years in the middle of 1930s and then she broke it off. But I joined up as I said on 17th of June 1940. And the reason why I joined up I suppose was two or three reasons, first of all I didn’t take much notice because it was a war on the other side of the world, it would be over by Christmas sort of thing. But of course it wasn’t and when the retreat from Dunkirk was
pretty bad and they were getting suffered very badly and the government was pleading for people, for us volunteers to go and serve. So I thought I better go and do something about it. And I had three older brothers and they were all married. Well I thought my mother having four sons she would want one of them to go overseas or join up. So I was the logical one to go because I was single. So I joined. And I was in the army.
I went to Colac for a start and from Colac I was there for a few months and then I went to Ropbi, now Ropbi is not a town or a place it is a name of a farm, somewhere near Tallarook south of Seymour and from there. We were doing a bit of training there and went up to Bonegilla or Wangaratta first, went to Wangaratta first and that’s where we the battalion the 2/24 Battalion
was formed at Wangaratta. And then we marched from there up to Bonegilla, up near Albury until I went overseas. Well then I was sent up to the Middle East I was in a camp near Dimra, near Gaza about three miles from Gaza and I was there for oh several three or four months then. And about the middle of March 1941 we were sent up to the
the desert and I was taken a prisoner of war at Tobruk and from there into, four years I was a prisoner of war up to Tripoli and across to Italy. And in Italy when the Italians surrendered the Germans surrounded the camp and I was whipped off to Austria and I was working on a railway job there. And then two days partisans took most of those people and I was left
behind because I was doing I was asked to do some paper work. And so I got left behind. From then I was sent onto a farm in South East Austria not far from Graz and I was there until about a month or so before the war ended. The Russians were coming in from the east from Romania part so the Germans didn’t want us to get caught. We didn’t see eye to eye with them in that matter so they marched us across to Austria. I finished up in the Kasberg Mountains in about the middle of Austria.
And I was there when the war ended. And I came home from there, back via England. And I was allowed to go back to the company that I was working for before the war they took me back, I was there before the war and afterwards. I was learning accountancy. And I finished me accountancy course, became an accountant company secretary. And I was with that company Cameron and Sutherland until about 1954
and they were taken over by Freighters Limited so I joined HB Merchant Company, timber merchants, they were on the corner of Lonsdale Street and Spencer Street where the Age office is now. And after about ten years they were taken over by James Wright also timber merchants and they moved over to the other side of Melbourne from (UNCLEAR) they moved over to Spotswood and I didn’t want to go over to that area anyway and so I left there and I
went to Woodalduck Limited, they were construction engineers around the corner. They were a branch of an English company, Woodalduck in England and they were taken after about nine years by Babcock and Wilcocks engineers. I was made redundant. So I got a job then with BDH, BDH Chemicals, it is a British Drug Houses but I was only there for a couple of years because they really wanted a cost accountant and I was a
financial accountant not a cost accountant. So I left there and then I went to David Lavery & Sons in St Kilda Road they were then, they are in Punt Road now and they were mostly in the exporting of cheese and other dairy products like skim milk powders and that sort of thing. And when I started there they were also importing New Zealand cheese and they were selling lots of other foodstuffs, orange juices and all that sort of thing.
But they ceased that side of the business and kept only onto the outside for a few years. Anyway I retired in 1985 and well I haven’t done much since then except writing up a history, a diary of my life sort of thing and so on, I live on my own, my wife died about 20 odd years ago. And that is about it as far, that is a broad outline summary but I can
summarise or give you more details.
with the Guest’s Bakery in South Yarra. I think it is connected Guest Biscuits. And they were of course taken over by Arnott’s Biscuits many many years ago. He was in charge of the bakers’ cart drivers that go out. They all had their rounds of course in the old cart and that sort of thing. And but if one of the drivers was away ill or for some other reason well me father would take over that round and do it. But otherwise he’d sort them out for the day and then
as I said before he was persuaded to go on a farm and ever since he went on a farm he had bad luck. We left the, we left Mordialloc in 1919 when I was three years old. And I can still remember, it is about the only recollection I have of Mordialloc was some, it must have been cockroach, I didn’t know then at the time, it ran across the floor and I said, “Oh beastie beastie” sort of thing. And then we went to Bunyip in a buggy,
and I can remember after a long ride I said, “Are we nearly home now,” and it is funny how some things will stick in your mind all these years and others like last week you probably don’t forget, you forget it. But anyway we went to Bunyip and we had a only 20 acre farm at Bunyip. Well you can’t make much of a living on 20 acres. We were on the Bunyip River I suppose we would have been only about a mile or two from the Bunyip town. And we were there for three years. Well
part of the purchase price of the farm was a haystack, it was hay it had already been done and it was all lining the property and that caught fire before, before we could get it sold. And that was a bad, a bad loss, and then caterpillars, there was a caterpillar plague that first year and they came from the property across the road, and there was so many of them, Dad dug trenches about two feet wide and two feet deep or something
but they soon filled up the trenches and the other ones walked across their backs and into the maize and ate the maize. And that was a big loss of course. And then he had a horse, he was a, a broken down I think they call it, a racehorse. Not that there was anything wrong with it as far as that goes but putting it out to pastures and too old for racing. But of course when Dad was driving it along the road
he had to hold it back it wanted to pass everything else on the road. But their horse was bad at shying and see a bit of paper on the road it would shy and do that sort of thing. So Dad, I can remember him going up to it one day with a piece of newspaper under his arm rolled up and trying to get the horse used to paper, but the horse lashed out with its foot and hit him on his leg and oh pretty bad, a bad gash, he didn’t break anything. But he had to have many many stitches until he was
had to be in bed for about six weeks or so. So anyway from there we sold out after about three years and we went further down the river on the other side of the river but on the same side of Koo-wee-rup, about a mile and a half from Koo-wee-rup.
her. But one of those died at age 40 well age 39. That is about all, she was hard working of course, in those days it was hard working. There was no electric, there was not a lot of electricity at all at Koo-wee-rup. I remember it coming as far as the school, which was just at the edge of the town in 1927. But nowhere near us we had to use lamp kerosene lamps and I don’t think we even had the mantles
in those days just a wick lamp, kerosene, hurricane lamp for outside perhaps. When we were at Koo-wee-rup the house wasn’t big enough for my three brothers and sister and me elder sister was inside and we four boys were out in the shed well about 25 yards from the house I suppose. And we slept out there and on half of the shed and the other half was
farm equipment, farm tools and things. And as I said before me father worked for Guests and occasionally he would bring home a sugar bag or a potato bag of broken biscuits and we had we used to have some midnight feasts with those in the shed, which was quite enjoyable until they went. And that was a real problem of course as they often are in the farm, and they’d [wild rabbits] chew the fruit trees. We had a four acre orchard and I got sick of plums because we had
plum jam, plum sauce and plum stewed and that sort of thing for quite a while. But I got sick of them after a while. But the rabbits would chew the bark off and Dad mixed up some sort of a concoction, I think it, it was awful smelling stuff, I think it was manure or something like that in it, and I got threepence a week if I could spray this or put this onto the bark where they’d been chewed off, which I did. But I can remember I said about the plums was we had about four or five large
cherry plum trees they were large trees and they were loaded with fruit in the summertime and Sunday afternoon we would lie back on our backs, this was before we got sick of them, and you’d just reach out your hands and pick up a plum, they were ripe ones then, not like they are in the shops nowadays where they are picked before they are properly ripe. They were lovely.
working. I can tell you about that now. He was asked to go out on the bakery, he used to do that occasionally to get a bit of money, he perhaps he’d go back to the Guests in South Yarra and do a bit of work there and get extra money because the farm wasn’t really paying. And also sometimes he would work for the local baker. Well the local baker was short of a man this particular day and asked Dad to come and work for him and do his
rounds for him. So Dad did it. It was the middle of July about the 21st of July I think from memory. It was a cold blustery windy day. And he was in the baker’s cart of course, a horse and cart and he was delivering the bread. He went to one farm he would be in a place about three miles from Koo-wee-rup itself on out towards the Pakenham area and he delivered the bread there and but then he left there and he put his foot on the step of the cart, to hop on the cart and
as the horse knows that and feels that he starts to move off. And he started to move off, but as he started to move off the wind blew Dad’s overcoat open and it caught on the barbed wire fence and pulled him off the step and the wheel ran over his stomach and part of his leg and he the farm lady of the farm saw this happen and she brought him in and gave him a cup of tea and then Dad said, “Oh no
I must get and finish my round”. So he got back on the cart but after two hours he collapsed, he was in just too much pain he couldn’t carry on any longer and he was taken off down to Alfred hospital that night by the train at 6.30 that night and he was there and they were treating him for his stomach injuries and I think they were getting better to a certain extent and then they found out that he had, that his leg was bad, he had gangrene set in his leg and they took one of his legs off
but it was too late, he was poisoned and he died in October of that year. So we couldn’t carry on the farm then, none of, well I was too young then I was only 12 and no one else wanted to so we moved down to Malvern.
cost 12 and 6 a week, that is paying it off in interest as well. Because through the State Savings Bank, of course that wasn’t much in those days. I think like, I was just going to say, I got a job, I went to school at the Caulfield Tech which of course is Monash University now, and Caulfield campus, I was there for two years, I didn’t know what to do when I left, when I left Koo-wee-rup school. I had no idea what I wanted to be or
something like that. So me Mum had me enrolled as an electrical engineer, which was a popular thing in those days. Of course a technical school I got all sorts of lessons taught, I mean there is blacksmithing and fitting and turning and even modelling and drawing and arithmetic as well as English and history and so on. And I think I went into the field of, well my best subject I think seemed to be arithmetic but anyway
that is only by the way. But when the two years was up just before leaving and I was only 14 then. You could leave at 14 there was a notice coming around that they were sitting an exam for the Post Office. So I sat for that so early in January 1931 it would be I was sent for by the Post Office no I am sorry this is before Christmas, and they sent for me and this was the
well you wouldn’t remember but the old tin shed at the back of the GPO [General Post Office] in Little Burke Street and Elizabeth Street was there just near there there was sort of a telegraph office and Christmas Day was on the Thursday. And on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday before Christmas I was there and I was sent out to deliver telegrams around the city. Telephones weren’t as popular or weren’t as numerous as they are today of course and not everyone had a
phone and telegrams were used greatly and it taught me the city. I had no idea what the city was like at first but it soon taught me the names of the streets and so on and I spent those three days in that. And then
after three months was up with the post office I was put off, so I was, it was Depression years as you say and I was trying to get a job and I was answering ads and that sort of thing and I couldn’t get anywhere. And me Mum had the idea to go back to the principal of the Caulfield Tech [Technical College]. So I went to see him and he said, “Oh I think I know someone who is looking for a boy”. So he gave me an introduction and Keith took me there and I got the job.
It was out in the store just well delivering messages and so on. That’s why I remember the cable trams I might have to go out to North Melbourne, West Melbourne. I was working for Cameron, Sutherland and Seward as it was then, Seward left afterwards. They were machinery merchants and a lot of their work was with mining machinery. Buying up second hand buying machinery because mining was still going in those days, and perhaps they’d repair it and fix it up.
And they’d also make, they had a blacksmithing section where they had these rails to go down in the mines to go down a gauge thing and it was all there. Part of my job was to make the tea for the workmen when it was time one of them would say, have a bit of tea in his pocket, left hand pocket and someone would have it somewhere else, and I used to do that. I’d boil up the Billy or the big kerosene tin actually on the furnaces out on the blacksmith shop.
Anyway I must tell you about that too.
to His Majesty’s Theatre on the 1st of September 1939 and I went to the Switzerland Ice Show. They had somehow or other they’d iced over the stage and they had this ice-skating on stage and I enjoyed the show very much, I’ll come back to that now. When I was at Cameron & Sutherlands one of the directors was
a director also of the glacier and this was towards the late 30s and he’d give us a tickets to go to the glacier two or three other boys besides me, younger ones, besides me, to go to the glaciera for ice skating, free tickets to go in and I went in there on several occasions. And I was enjoying it very much and I got my own pair of skates, they’re out in the garage now but I couldn’t get my feet into them now, my feet have swelled too much since those days but it was very interesting job
so I liked the skating. So I enjoyed watching it on stage on this 1st of September. Well during the interval a Herald boy came down the aisle with a one sheet special edition of the Herald to say that Germany had marched into Poland so I knew then that the war was on. Because England had promised that they’d go to war if Germany marched into Poland, which they did. Then of course war was declared on Sunday the 3rd.
So I didn’t take much notice I said oh well it’ll be over by Christmas, it’s on the other side of the world doesn’t affect me much. But then time went on and then it got, news got worse and worse and then there was a retreat from Dunkirk in June 1940 the following year. And the government was asking people to volunteer to go overseas because Australians all the Australians that were overseas were
volunteers, there weren’t no conscription then.
and marching, perhaps going for a route march along the roads and so on like that. But I remember a couple of occasions when I was asked to go and help the pay sergeant whose name was P Elsum, E L S U M, because on my records it was I was an accountant you see, this happened two or three times, I’ll tell you about the others later. But he asked me to help him, they sent a message to me to help him. So I helped him with the pay book because it is a pretty big job,
Colac we’re all in the showgrounds there and there is a lot of work to be done making up the pay. Sailors were paid once a fortnight. I did that on a couple of occasions then of course the time came when I moved out. Colac was a cold place, it was June, middle of winter sort of thing and a lot of the people there had the flu but I didn’t catch the flu. Anyway from there I was moved to Ropeby
which is a farm a name of a farm it’s not a name of a town or that as I mentioned before that was near Tallarook which is south of Seymour about three miles south of Seymour and we were in tents there I think about seven men to a tent. And we were supposed to be part of the 2/40th which is a Tasmanian unit but that was changed afterwards and we had new offices, but we weren’t in a particular
battalion at that time. I got the what do you call it the vaccination then and that knocked me for a day, I was pretty awful, but that was alright. Anyway I remember one night I went, I was, I got me mug to get a drink of water down at the cookhouse sort of thing and someone else saw me with the mug going down there and called out coffee
and before I got there I had about a dozen people then coming for a cup of coffee, which wasn’t available. And that is about all we did at Colac and then we were sent out as I said to Ropeby and we were there for a little while and from there we were moved up to Wangaratta.
other than that, nothing, there was nothing serious. I’ll, I’ll tell you this, this is a story, I’m not sure exactly where it comes in, it could have been Wangaratta it might have been at Ropeby. But there was a chap in the army his name was Jock Ashley and he was a chap who was a, a he was a likeable fella, I rather liked him, he had a reasonably good voice
but he was a, he wasn’t what you call a precision soldier. And he used to sing every now and again, one of his popular songs ‘I don’t work for a living’ now it was just the sort of person he was I think, bit of a lazy sort of a chap, you don’t know the song, it is pre-war, ‘I don’t work for a living, I get along alright without, I don’t toil all day it’s perhaps it’s because
I’m not built that way, some people work for love, they say it’s all sunshine and gay, but if I can’t sunshine without any work I’d rather stay out in the rain’. And that was the chorus and one of the verses goes ‘give me a nail and a hammer and a picture to hang on the wall, give me a strong step ladder you know that I might fall, give me a couple of waiters and a barrel of good bass ale and I bet you I’ll hang up that picture if somebody drives
in the nail’. That type of person and he told me once that he was in the army and he went AWL [absent without leave] and back in one of the inner suburbs houses of Melbourne and the MPs the Military Police came around. And one of them said, “Jock Ashley” he said, “Just a moment I’ll go and get him for you” so he went back in the house, over the back fence and off. And he was very quick witted and that was the type of person he was.
When I say misbehaved well, being away without leave and that sort of thing. I don’t know what happened to him afterwards, he didn’t come overseas with us. He maybe away without leave again, taken out of the army, I don’t know.
and it poured with rain one night and we had to try and make do with what we could which shelter we could. One chap was a good bushman and he made a reasonably good shelter out of the bark of trees, there were five chaps they joined together and they put a couple of ground sheets on the ground and they got it near the fence and they put the other end of other ground sheet the other three tied it to the fence and they curled and they fixed it up the other end and they crawled in under there
but they forgot there is a little gutter underneath, the two groundsheets near the fence and when the rain got a little gutter and a bit of water started pouring through over the groundsheets they came out rather sheepishly wet and bedraggled. But anyway the second in command Everet Bayla his name was, he died just two or three years ago, he went around and he found out where there was a barn in the nearby farm and those who didn’t have
proper shelter went to this barn. And I was one of them, and we went to this barn and had straw to sleep on and warm for the night but that was it, and then we went off to we finished off to Bonegilla. When we got to Bonegilla almost immediately the battalion was sent home on final leave. But I was left behind because to form part of a skeleton staff to carry on the duties there. Now while
I was there I received a message from this P Elsum, he is the chap I used to work for at Colac as a pay, the pay books. And he sent a message to me he said, asked me to transfer to his battalion and I probably would have, I may have got a stripe or two if I’d gone there, but he wanted and he said well help over there in the office of an E Company,
but I didn’t go because I said, “My battalion is on final leave I don’t want to lose me mates I’ve had for quite some time now, two or three months or whatever, I’d rather stay where I am” and that was it and so I didn’t go. And I found out afterwards that he was I am not sure whether it was the 21st or the 22nd Battalion, they went to Singapore and he became a prisoner of war to the
Japanese. So if I’d joined I could either have been a prisoner of them, we had a really had a harder time of, the Germans that was bad enough but not the Japanese they were beasts or I could have got killed so I didn’t go, so I think it was a right, wise decision then.
the ship there was a, I think it was a trolley bus, I went in a trolley bus or something, goes from yeah from Fremantle to the ship, anyway that doesn’t matter, but one night I, I had been wandering around Fremantle and I thought I’d go back to the ship and I was walking past a hotel and a couple of chaps came out the door and they had another chap with him and he had a bit of blood on his face, a chap I knew
he name was Jock something or other and they said, “Are you going back to the ship?” and I said, “Yes” they said, “Well take Jock back with you,” and then they went back into the hotel and left Jock at me feet. And he’d been in a bit of a fight, he was a bad drunk, I knew him as a drunk and he was drunk oh half drunk anyway. He probably got into a bit of a fight or an argument and so I started to support him and lead him back to the ship. And as we were going along I
met a women and probably her daughter coming along. And they had to step out on the roadway to get past us and I always regretted that I didn’t say apologise then and say, “I’m sorry I’m not drunk I’m just taking this bloke back to the ship,” I might have got an invitation to lunch or something, but I didn’t of course, I didn’t say it, I wasn’t quick enough and I just took Jock back and tucked him where he belonged and that was it.
And about nine inches off the ground I suppose, we had the palliasses on the bench, so that was it. And there again was similar training, more or less the same sort of thing. Route marches along the roads and that. I remember one night our camp, our company commander, he wanted to have an exercise just with the
company, and as I said before there was 129 people in a company a full company and there was three platoons in a company and each platoon has about 39 men with a lieutenant and each charge and a platoon sergeant and that and then there was company headquarters. And I was in company headquarters because I always helped to do pay, payroll books and so on and office work then. And then of course with the company headquarters there is the company commander
and his 2 IC [2nd In Command] and he has a runner and a batman and one or two others, but there was 12 and the company sergeant major and a company quartermaster sergeant looking after supplies. Well the company commander Frank Buds his name was, and he divided the thing the area we went to in four different sections, one for each platoon and another section for the company headquarters.
And the idea was that we were supposed to be on the alert for enemy, we were supposed to with the platoons, they were put out, well we had company headquarters also put out guards sentries to watch over at night and change over at certain hours because a couple of hours perhaps and watch out for a possible enemy. And the next morning at 7 o’clock we were to assemble and be all on parade then.
And that’s the time about dawn when the enemy would normally be approaching everyone would be alert, well we did this sort of thing. But then at 7 o’clock I was in company headquarters at 7 o’clock we were standing out there and we stood up a little bit before and 7.15 came, it was very cold standing there, there was a cold wind blowing, we were well it is an exaggeration to say we were freezing but it was terribly cold.
so the company sergeant major said, “Well let’s have a game of leapfrog to get warm,” so we had a game of leapfrog to get nice and warm which was good. But then in the meantime the company commander had gone around from one platoon to another, he went to one platoon and he found that they were sitting around the fire getting themselves warm that way which they shouldn’t have been doing, they should have been on the alert. And he went to another one and they had their rifles piled. And when you pile a rifle there
is a little hook underneath the rifle and you hook those two together and they stand up like that and they had that well they’re not easy to get at in a hurry, if an enemy is coming you want your rifle handy so they shouldn’t have been doing that. Another one they didn’t even know he was approaching until he was right in the midst of them. So he was unhappy about this exercise and he said to his runner, he was disgusted really he said, “Let’s go and see company headquarters they’re sure to be alright”. And of course there we were playing leapfrog on
the skyline, he was so, he was so disgusted with it he couldn’t come and reprimand us he sent the second in command to come and go that Evert Bayla had to come along and reprimand us and he had a bit of a smile on his face as he did so. But the sergeant major took all the blame then the company commander he had a bit of a laugh about it afterwards. But that was that exercise which wasn’t a very
good one. So that is the sort of thing we were doing, one day we went out for rifle practice onto a range and we had single shot rifles from 100 yards and 200 yards and then a moving target sort of thing and I think it was a bit of a bren gun then because Bren guns were through. I didn’t do too bad for the single 100 yard one but I wasn’t too much good on the
others. But I would have liked to have more practice but we didn’t have enough ammunition to waste it on rifle practice like that.
And there was a lot of sand and sand dunes and that there and it was over sandy areas that we were doing this exercise that I was telling you about. And other parts some of it back, sometimes we’d do a route march a long march along the roadway or again we might do rifle practice or we might do drilling again and and with the rifle and so on and practise that way, marching, getting good exercise.
And we were there for about three months. I one, one time I went away with my two friends, the ones I mentioned before Rod and Laurie we went up to Tel Aviv and we were there for a day, but that was a very wet day, so we didn’t see a great deal. That’s a fairly comparatively new city as far as that goes I think, it wouldn’t be more than about 100 years old. But later on I went to Jerusalem I didn’t have me two friends
then. But when we got to Jerusalem met up with another chap well another chap I knew and there were four others I can’t remember their names now, there were six of us, we met up with a Christian Arab and he had a big car and he took us for a fee around the usual sites of Jerusalem. He even took us to Jerusalem oh to Jericho and Bethlehem and Wailing Wall
and all this sort of thing, I enjoyed those couple of days it was very good better than the Tel Aviv one. So that was that, that was leave there in Palestine.
And as they were experienced they went there and we were up there to take over from them. So we left and went up there. We went, we got to Mursa Matruh but it was a bit dusty there, wind blowing and sand blowing and it was we were there for a couple of days. But one thing happened at Mursa Matruh the company quartermaster sergeant bloke always on the lookout for scrounging things, he came across a a 12 gallon
water tank and he thought ah that would be good up in the desert. So he came and told our second officer the lieutenant about it Schelton his name was. And Schelton got me and two other chaps and we took it to this place and when we got there he found out there was a chap sitting on it and two or three fellas standing around. So he said to us so that they could hear, “You better take that tank away, someone will
sure to pinch it if you don’t”. So we went up to the fella and the chap said, “Oh we wouldn’t do it” and we said, “Oh he wants us to take it away he said someone might pinch it,” and he said, “Oh it wouldn’t be us we are not we wouldn’t do it”. So they got off the tank and let us walk away with it and it came up useful after. I don’t know who owned and I don’t know what happened about it after it but that’s what happened. It was useful up in the desert later. But that was Mursa Matruh.
Well then from there we went on and eventually we got to Al Bardi which is the western side of Tobruk and we were stationed there. And that was a much better country, there were trees and that around there was more of a chocolaty soil and there was growth around, a much nicer place. Whether they got irrigation from springs or what I got no idea, see there is no rivers there in Libya as far as I could see. Anyway we were
there and we went out on rifle practice one day and I think again my efforts weren’t too bad but not marvellous, could have been a lot better. But that was it and then we got notification that we had to retreat to Tobruk, well had to retreat anyway, well they say, it didn’t say that I think the army terminology is a strategic withdrawal. So anyway we went back through the nighttime and it was a bit hectic.
I know that someone else a bit further out in the desert, we were out on the coast road you see but someone else further out in the back they came along and they came to a chap in a British uniform and directed him down this path and they went down this path and they got surrounded by Germans and they were taken prisoner of war. And I met those, they belonged to the 2/8 Field Ambulance, which is a South Australian group. But I think, well someone else came along later and found out he was directed along the same and realised this was a
German in a British uniform disguised you see so he shot him, killed him. But those fellas were taken prisoner, but we missed that one, we were, we went back and eventually got to Tobruk. We were on our way back to Tobruk well I remember one place we stopped at we took up a certain position
but then we were taken over by the Gurkhas, and their little not very big chaps but their very efficient, they’re very silent, their very quick and very intelligent and very loyal to Britain and the thing they say that if a Gurkha comes an Australian or comes across someone who is lying there in bed they will feel around his collar just to see if you’ve got the Australian rising
sun badge there and if he has of course it’s ok. And they took over the position and we moved out. But there is a legend or some story going around that the Gurkha came across the German once and out with his knife and slashed and the German said, “Ha you missed” and the Gurkha said, “When you shake your head you’ll know I didn’t”. So they’re quick and very very silent. I didn’t know they were alongside of me until they
were there. But anyway our group we moved onto the well really the second line of defence, a little bit back from the front line and I was there for about a couple of weeks and then about on the 28th of April 1941 we moved up to the front line and relieved those that were up the front. And I was in company headquarters as usual and we
occupied a building, which had walls but no roof. The roof was camouflaged with ground sheets and that type of thing, just material. Well then at lunch time about three German bombers came over, or three planes anyway and came and they machine gunned this and six people there were hit, I wasn’t one of them but six others were, one was an English officer and he was
only there doing visitation and he got chest wounds and he died on his way back to the hospital back to Cairo, someone else got injured in the knee and the other had lesser injured, but there was six of the wounded. And so our company commander who was Frank Budge he was one of the ones that got injured in the knee so he was sent back so captain Lindsay Canty from A Company was transferred to us.
And of course when he came there he said, “It is not safe for you to be in this building” so he took us up or sent us up to the, that one of those posts or whatever you call it right up at the front line S6. I call them posts but I don’t exactly know what you call them. They are about 100 yards long and they’ve got sort of a passageway, a bit of a zig-zag and there are three weapon pits one at
each end and this is on a bit of a raised platform with a a protection at the front, you fire over that and and in the centre there is an emergency exit by a steel runged ladder, but there are three pits. And at the centre one captain Canty was there and another chap one of our fellas was there and he had he was operating a
machine-gun but it was an Italian Breda gun, we had no machine guns of our own we were so short of equipment. And during the night a chap named Peter Ferguson, this is the night of the 29th of, 30th of April, 30th of April, he came from one of the other posts, I’ll call them posts, he came from there with a message for our captain for Lindsay Canty, he was only a short chap, he was about 5 feet.
And he gave the message but as he wasn’t required to take a return message he stayed with us and he was at the opposite end from where I was. And he was firing from there and alongside of him was firing another chap named George I don’t know his surname but he didn’t belong to our company but he was there to supervise sanitary arrangements sort of thing, but it was too dangerous to go across the thing, the land, so he was there and
firing from there. And incidentally there was no normal communication not like the First World War they had communication trenches right along, here it was just wires across the top of the ground and the artillery could blow those up so the engineers had to go out to try to repair them, there was no other method except personal contact like Peter Ferguson coming from one to us. But anyway that happened but then sometime during the night a bullet came along and it hit Peter Ferguson in his steel helmet, or tin hat it’s
sometimes called. But it went in and it came out the side, it sort of spun the helmet around a bit and came out the back, and when it came out it came out in two pieces like ram horns, they were about half inch wide and three inches long, I saw the helmet afterwards, it didn’t hurt Peter but it killed George standing alongside of him. So that is just one of the things. Now I was down the other end oh one chap was wounded,
he got wounded in the neck and he came back and the company sergeant major Neil White he got wounded and he got wounded badly in the arm, shrapnel in his arm and he came back so I was on me own then down at that end. And I was there until captain, well during the night I got messages from Captain Canty in the centre asking to let him have some more ammunition, they were running short, now of course a machine gun
uses quite a lot so about two or three times in the night I was giving him what I had and I was practically had hardly anything left by the end, well I got the message from him to say fire when it is only absolutely necessary we are short of ammunition. Well then he had to give the white flag and say we’re out of ammunition had to surrender, well I had nothing much meself so we had to surrender so I had to go along all that passage way and come out the other end where the Germans were. I couldn’t keep
firing when surrender had been given by the commander.
is just in front of us, blown that to pieces so they were able to come through fairly freely and not hindered by barbed wire. So the attack was virtually in the area where I was and two or three of the other, I don’t know three or four it might have been posts, posts or pits or whatever you call them where I was in that area. And I saw some people being marched away, so this was about five minutes before I was taken prisoner of war and
I said, “Oh they are getting taken prisoner of war”. So I knew, that was the first that I knew that I was going to be a prisoner of war, about five minutes before I was. And a couple of me mates people that were there were telling me to hurry up and come out take off me equipment which I had on me and leave it behind and come out. We had to get out the Germans were rushing us out to do it so I come out. And one of these chaps was a chap named Jim Haw and he was killed when I came out, but I got through freely. But as soon as I got
free out a German officer said, “For you the war is over,” that was their slogan I think if you can call it that as people were taken prisoner of war. And I was then with five other chaps were ordered to carry a German wounded solder back, he’d been badly wounded in the legs and he’s in a bit of pain, so we had to carry him for about a couple of miles I think it was to their
headquarters their, what they call the RAP Regimental Aid Post, the first aid. So we left him there and then we were also then marched back another couple of miles to Acroma a place called Acroma and we were there for the night.
middle there was a bigger area, quite a big area, it widens out you could put it that way, and our gear could be left there and ammunition. And when we went there when company headquarters went there on that previous afternoon we were, there were only eight people there but we were joined with signalists as I said the wires were along the top and these signallers had to go and join up the
wires again when they got broken with the artillery. So we had 29 in that area of S6 when I was captured. Well at each end, I didn’t see the centre once I can’t say what was happening in the centre but I assume it was much the same at each end there was a step or two raised up and there you could stand and then there was a little ledge and just above that was a barra, well you might call it a barricade, a parapet that
you leaned over and fired over when you were firing at the enemy. And you couldn’t get too many up above that parapet, only a couple at a time because there just wasn’t the space you’d be bumping into each other. I was down at the other end and it would be the same. And when Neil White had this shrapnel there, he was taken prisoner of war and he was sent to the hospital German hospital but I saw him after the war and he was
reputedly alright for a little while and then he had to wear a glove and he became a Presbyterian Minister but he always had this glove on his hand and he died at the age of about 60 odd, 67.
well left him at their first aid area headquarters and was it was me and five others, there was six of us, but he must have been in a lot of pain because there was no stretcher, we just had to carry him as well as we could. And he was badly wounded I know he was in pain because he was grizzling and growling, howling sort of thing. We left him then we had to march another couple of miles probably, might have been three I’m not sure to a place called Acroma, A C R O M A, and when we got there
we were put into oh just this area and slept there the night on galvanised iron. And I was asked then because I’d been an office worker I was asked to take a roll of the people who were there, of the first 125 people anyway as they’d been moved out. And I painstakingly took 125 names and handed it to the officer and he said, “I don’t want that now we’re all going off in the morning”. That is what
happened the next morning we all went, they cleared the lot out. There wasn’t much to eat of course because they weren’t expecting all those prisoners I suppose all at the one time, they got a bit further back until we got onto to Derna and then we went onto Derna which wasn’t, oh a few miles further back we got onto Derna and I was at Derna. It was at Derna, it could have been the second or third, I was captured on the 1st of May, the morning of the 1st of May.
I think it was the next day the 2nd, yes that’s right we stayed at Acroma on May the 1st and on the second day we moved to Derna and it was there that an officer said that we could write a letter not more than 25 words to our home and he would drop it over the British lines, oh he or someone would, he would arrange for it to be dropped over. So I had a scrap of paper about 5 inches square, I wrote out a message,
a simple message just to say that I was well and not wounded and not to worry for me mother and I folded it over as well as I could, there was no envelopes and that did go through, it was censored and it was only about an inch and a half I suppose maybe a couple of inches by an inch of a half size at the end. But it was censored there and me mother got it alright and it was the first message that she had really and truly that I was a prisoner of
war. Previous to that she had only had missing, believed prisoner of war.
Germans themselves but for us as well, we could have it yes. So if that answers your question of before of how we were treated, we were treated as well ok. We weren’t bashed or anything like that or brutal, it wasn’t brutal. Well I can tell you one simple little incident, it shows you how stupid I was I suppose. The a German bloke in charge of this cook house he came out with this box and he pointed to a little bit of wood
on the ground a little stick and previous to that I’d seen someone chopping up wood and that this wood heap, so what I did I chopped up his box. And after a little while he came out to see what I had been doing and he seen me chopping, he was very much distressed, what he wanted was for me to pick up the sticks of wood around the heap there and put it in the box and take it back to him for his house, but I’d chopped it up, so he had to go and get another box for me, and of course I couldn’t understand what he was saying he wasn’t
talking in English. But he laughed afterwards it was alright, there was no bashing or anything like that. But I was only there for a couple of days at this cookhouse, the next day we didn’t get this lovely stew we got rice and something but then I was sent out onto the aerodrome and I was out on the aerodrome itself.
And can you describe what Derna was like, what did it look like?
Well Derna, well coming out of the desert from around Tobruk, Tobruk is nothing much there, the buildings were mainly or seemed to be sandstone or whatever it is or seemed to blend in with the sand to a great extent. But Derna was nice you come over up high and go down to Derna, down a sort of a pass you might say and there were palm trees, it is like a little bit of an oasis. And it was on the
coast and it was certainly much better. It was a relief coming in from the desert into that. It seemed to be cooler and better. There were wogs as we called them selling them, they were the oriental gentlemen. Allenby gave them that name in the First World War. But they were selling grapes and watermelons and that sort of thing, which of course were very attractive to us. We were exchanging them for cigarettes or something whatever we had
but we didn’t have much. I was taken with, all I had on me when I was taken was a pair of boots, socks, shirt a singlet and underpants.
and it was old camel stables probably from the First World War and that. And I wasn’t there for very long and then they moved us all out on diesel trucks into Tripoli. And it took us about three nights there was one night at El Aghella I think it was and the next one was at Sirte on the beach. That was a very very cold, we were on the beach that night, there were about 30 people to a truck by the way. And then I’m not sure how many trucks, about 150 must have moved out.
And the next one was Misurata and then went through Homs to Tripoli. And it was lovely to see coming into Tripoli to see the stately gum trees lining the streets there. I think they had been given by the Australian government many many years before. And they looked lovely, a touch of home to see the eucalypt, gum trees. But then they took us to the camp there which was an old school Gargaresk I think was the Italian name for it. And
we could see old desks and things like that. It was a bit rough at first but then they were cleared away and double decker bunks came in with four people, four up the top and four down the bottom. And they were put in and it was little better after that. But that was about the worst camp I was in as a prisoner of war I think. That was a working camp, we had to be up at 4 o’clock in the morning and ready to leave between 5 and
5.15 and didn’t get back until about 8 to 10 at night and it was seven days a week and no time off for Sundays, no time off for washing clothes or anything like that. There was a beach there, it would be about 75 yards long but it was just cold there. We had cold showers that’s all. And coming back of a night you were too tired to go down for a swim at the beach 8 to 10, 8 to 10 o’clock at night.
Then in the morning when we went out to work we’d have to line up and then they’d take us out to in trucks to various jobs. The first day I went to a place called Libyan [?]. We got a spoonful of jam and a couple of slices of very dark brown bread in the morning and I think it was a little small block of cheese for lunch. That was all.
which one took you down there we went to the docks. But I remember on one occasion there was a bomb dropped in the harbour down there somewhere and there was a bit of a scatter then there was a lot of Arabs and that working on the docks as well there was a bit of a scatter there. And one chap I know Tony Amber he had been working on coal, and he got his face all black with coal dust and so on. And as he was running away from this bomb he tripped and fell into a heap of lime and he had white face all over it and streaks of black and white down his face. But
that was that one. But I remember an occasion we went to the docks and the ship and they used to bring the ships would bring the goods in but not always come up to the docks. If it was a big enough ship it couldn’t berth there, there wasn’t enough water and they’d unload their cargo into a barge and the barge would come up to the dock. And this is what happened on this particular occasion I’m mentioning now and what they were unloading was these cases that
I was telling you about before, machine guns full of machine-gun bullets. And the way you handle them you get one person on one end and one on the other and they’d toss it that way. They’d have to, if they were working up on the barge, they’d lift it up there, two men onto a case and put it on the wharf and there’d be two men on the wharf, pick it up from there and put it into a truck and a couple of blokes in the truck and they’d put it down to the front of the truck and until they finished the whole truck. And that truck would go away and another motor truck would come along and carry on like
that. Well when the barge was full of course came, a lot of these cases were stacked up above the side of the barge and there was a German supervisor and there was an Italian guard, and the Italian guard had the rifle. Well every now and again when the German wasn’t looking one of our fellas would give a nudge with his elbow on this and knock the case into the water. And this is happening every
now and again and the German didn’t notice but the Italian did and he went up to the German to try and tell him about it. And just the way they do they wave their hands about and pointed to the water. And the German couldn’t understand him of course, but there were two chaps in our group one of them could speak Italian quite well and the other spoke German so the one who knew Italian, he understood what he was saying and he was telling us that what he was telling there, that we were committing sabotage there
and that sort of thing. But the one who could speak German, he went and spoke to the German overseer and he said, oh he’s trying to tell you that the water is wet. So the German overseer had a look of disgust on his face he grabbed the Italian by the scruff of his neck and by the seat of his pants and gave him a kick and sent him off. Because the Germans despised the Italians and the Italians hated them for it. So there is the opinion and so of course the sabotage went on.
I had a tinea at one stage if you know what that is it’s a little sore between the toes and I was speaking to one of the fellas in the camp, not a personal friend but just someone I mentioned it and he said, “Oh you want to bath yourself in the sea water and don’t dry yourself”. So I did for about four or five days I went out to the sea took me boots and socks off and bathed there and it was cleared up. It must have been the salt in the water, salt water, but that cured. But later I
was I am not sure how it happened but one of these jerry cans, we used to fill these jerry cans from the 44 gallon drums and I handled thousands of these jerry cans and one of them just fell against my leg and it caused a little blob of blood to come out, you don’t take any notice of that you get that here you don’t take any notice and I left it. And a scab formed which is normal but then puss formed under the scab, so we had first aid
people there, just simple medical treatment. They didn’t have much in the way of ointments and no penicillin in those days, hadn’t been thought of. And he just took the scab off and cleaned away the other stuff as he could and put some acriflavine on it, it is only a mild antiseptic and left it and it just went on, another scab formed and then more puss formed under that and it was a little bit bigger next time. And this went on
for a couple of weeks until it was about the size of a 20 cent piece. And I couldn’t stand up we were out on parade and I couldn’t stand up, it was just too sore. So I was put in the camp hospital then on the bed and not going out to work and was treated from there. But they had no, they had nothing better to treat me with until the German doctor, he was treating for the, well he treated the German, the German headquarters or compound or whatever
you call it, camp, was just outside ours and the German doctor would treat them and of course he would treat ours as well and he came in and then he went back to Germany on holidays. And when he came back he came back with some powder, and he mixed this powder with water and it might have been pills first. That’s right he had pills he ground it up into powder, mixed it with water and made this paste and put that on and from that time, he started on that it started to clear up. And within
about two or three weeks after that it was pretty well gone.
we were so tired we’d just hop into bed. Not much doing any washing because you had no spare washing clothes to take out the next day. We had bed bugs at night, we didn’t notice those very much because we were too tired we went to sleep there, but we had lice and they stayed with us in our clothing, make their homes in the seams of the clothing. Now there’re about three or four ways you can get rid of lice, there’s one by frequent washing of your clothing,
we couldn’t do that, we didn’t have time, we were out at about 4 o’clock in the morning didn’t get back till about 9 o’clock at night, 9 or 10 o’clock at night, and they wouldn’t have had time to get dry. Another way is to catch them and squash them, kill them. But you don’t get rid of all the little eggs in the seams. Another way is to get a lighted match and light it up and down the seams and kill them that way. Well that’s alright but you might burn your, have to be very
careful about that. And then of course if you get rid of them then you still get them from someone else. And the fourth way is to wash your clothing in petrol, but the Germans didn’t like that very much because it was wasting their petrol. But that got rid of them if you could but then they’d come back again because everyone, everyone had them. And if you got rid of yours you’d soon get them from someone else. And they were with us all the time.
yellow jaundice, they don’t call it that now they call it something else, but they had yellow jaundice and that affected them. Now the German doctor he was impartial, didn’t matter whether it was a British or an Australian or a German he would treat them all alike and he was a good doctor. And he prescribed for these sometimes rice, sometimes with sugar sometimes without. Now the rice was cooked in the German cookhouse alongside the camp. And it would be delivered in a
dixie and I’m not sure about eight to ten people I think were affected by this at a time and they come in there. But in the camp we had an English sergeant, sergeant major and his offsider I think was a sergeant, and they belonged to the RAMC [Royal Army Medical Corps] and I don’t know if you’ve heard of that, the nick name of that is Rob All My Comrades and I think it was fairly justified in the case here. There was that, there was a chap that used to clean out the
latrines. The latrines and showers weren’t very good and there were a couple of other people. And when this rice came in for these sick patients they took a big share themselves, which they weren’t entitled to. They watered down the rest and gave it to the other patients and quite often they’d keep all the sugar ration and the patient wouldn’t get any, which meant that they much slower recovery. I don’t know if that should be repeated outside but
that’s what I, what I found about when I was there.
not the first camp, I’d moved out of there into the groupin yano [Graziano], I’d moved out there in June. Incidentally at the Siciliano camp, that’s inland from Ancona the first letter I received from home was about the, was about May. I’d just, I’d just told you about how pleased and delighted we were to have our clothes fumigated and hot showers and so on, it was about a few days later that we got the
first inclination of Red Cross food parcels. There was one between three, then I think it was one between two but it was something, and we were thrilled to bits about these sorts of things. We hadn’t seen anything like that before and they were about, they contained about 7 pounds net weight of foods, and foods that we hadn’t seen since we left home. Meat and vegetables and creamed rice or stewed fruits or margarine
and butter or whatever, sugar a little block firm block of sugar and tea oh biscuits, chocolate, it was lovely. You should have seen the delight on the chaps’ faces when they got their first parcel it was like Christmas morning with a lot of kids. It was really wonderful.
I might mention this. While I was in that camp, no while I was back in Tripoli my watch went bung. And I was just talking to a chap about it and I said, “My watch had stopped I don’t know what’s wrong with it,” and he said, “Oh you ought to take it to Alec Barton,” I said, “Whose Alec Barton?” he said, “Oh he’s an Englishman he he does watches sometimes.” So I didn’t know who Alec Barton was, didn’t know where to find him because there was about 300 people in the Tripoli
camp. So I did nothing about it. Then a few days later I was out on a job somewhere and I met this chap and he said, “Are you still looking for Alec Barton?” and I said, “Yes,” he said, “Go about there back go back where those couple of trees there behind there you’ll find him sitting on a petrol drum”. So I went there and here was Alec Barton. I went up to him and I said, “You Alec Barton?” and he said, “Yes,” I said, “You fix up me watch?” he said, “Yes alright, I can only do it when the Germans have a watch to be repaired so
then I can fit it in” so I left it with him and he gave it back to me sometime later, fixed up, repaired. But I became very good friends with Alec he was a very fine chap and I liked him very much. And in the camp there he, we had a chap, he wasn’t too well one of our own chaps from the battalion and he had some sort of a disease sickness and this German doctor,
this is in the Tripoli camp I’m talking about now, he prescribed strychnine for him, one gram, one grain I suppose it is for the first day, two for the second, three for the third, up to 15 then reduce it by one until he got back to nothing. And apparently it cured him and he got out of that, so that was alright. But this chap Albert, Albert Bergman his name was, he was a commercial artist, and he taught Alec Barton commercial art writing, the old English style of writing,
that type of thing, and Alec Barton was good at that. And he when I moved from this camp later he wrote in a book a notebook he wrote in it a few words with a picture of an English cottage in a background and over that he put these words ‘because of you I somehow seem, because of you I somehow seem more glad and more worthwhile, the bright side’s more in
evidence, it’s easier to smile, the beauty’s brought by each new day are not so hard to do and everything is as twice as nice because of knowing you’. And I think, I think Alec meant it. He was a very fine chap and I was sorry to get moved away from that camp in Siviliano and leave and miss him. But before I went he introduced me to a friend of his they joined up together, an English friend, named Eddie, Edgar or Eddie
Balls and he, Alec asked me if I’d teach him bookkeeping. I said, “Oh I’ll do what I can”. I didn’t have any textbooks or anything but I had got a certain away through my course, bookkeeping course. So I thought I would teach him what I could, and I taught him a certain amount. I’d set little problems for him and get him to work them out and do them in proper bookkeeping form. But then I got moved away from this camp as I told you about June 1942.
the Ancona one. And while I was there the English were starting to get some mail and I didn’t get any letters the Australians were not getting any mail, it took too long to get there. So he wrote to a friend of his named Marjory Brown in England who came from a little town village called Fortingbridge and asked her to write to me so that I would be getting some letters, rather than nothing at all, and she did for the rest of me prison of war days
I got about three or four letters a year. It was just sort of a friendly letter. Well I was repatriated via England at the end of the war and I went to see Angus Small and he took me round to Marjory Brown’s place and I met there a man named Trevor James who was boarding there. And he was a Welsh man and he had been doing some work there for the government. And eventually
he married Marjory and I became friends with him. And when I went to Wales a couple of years ago I stayed on their farm, the farm of his niece. But that’s one thing. But also I mentioned a few minutes ago about Alec Barton and teaching bookkeeping to Eddie Balls. Now when I left that camp to go to Grapinyano I hadn’t finished, I wanted to tell him
some more from the bookkeeping. But you’re not allowed to communicate from one camp to another. So Eddie said, “You write to my sister Peggy and do it through her” so I wrote to Peggy, she passed it onto Eddie and then he’d do his exercises whatever it was, go back through his sister and it came back to me, so it worked that way.
more and more better organised as time went on. We still didn’t have to work at that time, there were normal chores. My friend Rod he did work around the camp in a little bit of roadwork or something, patching up footpaths or something like that. And he got an extra loaf of bread for that. But we’re getting, food parcels are becoming more regular, we are getting one or two. But a
lot of the stuff in food parcels you couldn’t, needed to be cooked and what could we cook them on, we didn’t have much fuel, we didn’t have any fuel, they didn’t provide fuel with us to cook, we had our meals from the cookhouse and they were cut down actually early in the year. The rations were reduced, but we had to survive nevertheless but we were getting the food parcels and that helped us supplement it. So some chaps say,
well one chap I suppose started it off the idea of making a blower to concentrate the heat in a certain place and you’d get concentrated heat that would cook something or burn use less fuel and get a stronger heat. And I’ve got an illustration of that in that war diary of mine of one of them. But some of these became very very elaborate pieces of equipment. And you could heat up boil a billy in
very little time with very little fuel, just cardboard from one of the Red Cross food parcels. And it was nice in the evening perhaps to see smoke from these fires going up into the lovely evening air.
well he wasn’t a guard so much as an interpreter and he used to come in from the outside camp the Italian compound. And come in and his name was Morogna, M O R O G N A, Morogna. But a lot of the fellas didn’t know that. But they called him twinkle toes because he was a shortish chap, he wouldn’t be more than 5 feet. And he used to walk with sort of short mincing steps, just as though they sort of twinkled they called him
twinkle toes. But they also had another name for him, he wasn’t a nice type of person. He’s the sort of person if you smiled on parade or laughed or something like that he’d just as likely to stick you in the solitary confinement for a few days. He was looking for faults and that type of thing. They had a not very polite name for a lavatory for him, you probably know what it is, it starts with an S. Well one
day he came into the camp and he came looking for a chap and he asked someone standing near him he asked, “Where’s so and so,” and the chap said, “Oh he’s over at the shithouse” and he said, “Well what’s that, what’s that?” And they told him and he said, “No that can’t be true, that’s what the fellas call me”. So that was him. He used to speak not bad English but we used to he used to pride himself on
his English. He said, “Me speaka the better English than Bruno yes or no” that was the way he spoke. But that was that. But I didn’t have much to do with the guards, you avoided them as much as possible. But they did have searches too often. Now in the camp 59 the earlier one you could have
books but you couldn’t have knives. Now in this other one you could have knives but you couldn’t have books. So it just shows the mentality. Once camp is different quite the opposite from another. And the reason why they couldn’t have books in the second was because one chap wrote a poem, which was derogatory about the camp commandant. And a lot of people in the camp they got copies of this you see. And there was a search
put on and one of the chaps, prisoner of war, he panicked and he had this copy of this poem on him. So he kicked a hole in the ground and he started to bury it in the ground but a guard saw him and picked it up and took it to the office outside and it eventually got to the commandant and he had it translated. And he was very annoyed at the comments that were made about him in this poem. I’ve got a copy of that there. And
but it goes the colonel he did say and some of things he said he would do or ordered to be done which were a bit silly or that type of thing, I can’t remember the poem because I never learnt it but I do have it there. So from then when he saw that he banned having books. So until later on we were able to get some textbooks from the Bodleian Library in Oxford University and they came out for
study books so he allowed those, he had to in a sense. But we had to sign, if we had a book a notebook it had to be signed and the number of pages counted and that sort of thing, before we could use them so they wouldn’t tear them out and make more silly poems about him. So that’s about that. Oh games were started there, there was soccer, well soccer was alright, cricket
was the main one I think but they made cricket balls out of a little stone and wound the string or twine which was round the food parcels around the thing and sewed it up and made a cricket ball that way. And one chap used the tins in the parcels, he got the empty tins and he used them in such a way that he could join them together and make boxes, he made
tin boxes and suitcases and that type of thing. Some of their abilities came out in the camp there when the necessity was to the fore and they used it. And I’ve got one there that little tin was made by him in the camp.
people some of the prisoner of war to go out onto their rice fields, and work on their rice fields and later on when the war in Italy ended, which was in September, 8th of September 1943 of course the guards and that just dropped their guns. Well before the Germans arrived this is up in northern Italy a lot of those fellows escaped. And some of those got in with the Italian partisans. Some made their own way through
the help of the Italian people got through to Switzerland but I was way down. No I was at fairly well up in Italy but still near a main town and I didn’t have a chance to get out from there because the barbed wire was around it. What I’m talking about with the other people they were in well working in the rice fields in the camps and that there, it was easier to get away there.
But not where I was the Germans came and surrounded the camp the next day. And they had their guns and machine guns and lined us all up. And we had to line up outside the camp gates. And then an officer came along and he chopped me off from my mate Rod who was standing next to me and chopped us off. And they went on a train, I had to go by the second train well they went through into Germany. But I went on the second train and I was taken to Austria.
And when I got into Austria we got through first of all to a place called we went through Marburg, I say Marburg because that’ s the German name for it, on the maps you’d find it as Maribor, M A R I B O R, its in Yugoslavia just across the border from Austria. But we went, we got there, we had to change trains there and go on another train to
Ferntail [?], and then from there we had a bit of a walk about a mile to a camp at Agidi [?] I won’t say much about that we were only there about two or three weeks. And they closed that camp and moved us all to a camp at Marburg itself. It saved us having to change trains and waiting for the second train at Marburg station to get to the camp and it was easier and we didn’t have to get up so early in the morning to go back to work, we could just start from Marburg.
And at Marburg we were in big long barracks and we had to line up each morning at a certain time and form up and then they’d march us down to the station we catch a train, it was a steam train, two carriages and they’d take us out to the work site and what we’d do was work on the railway lines. We had to pull up the railway lines as they were which were short, fairly light ones if you can understand
and put down heavier ones to take the heavy war traffic and heavier and more ballast underneath. And that was our job and of course we were getting further and further away from the Marburg station each day but that’s the way it was, but we still had the train to take us there to our job and come back. And when we finished off our work we’d have all sort of work you’d have shovels and picks and I suppose spades and things like that and other sorts of tools. We’d just put them inside
a big box, which was left at the side of the line. And we’d leave them there overnight, next morning we’d come and pick them up. And when we go a bit further up the line they’d move those boxes further up. So two were kept there, is that alright? Now Marburg, as I say I’m still calling it Marburg but we were on the, it was a lovely place the work site was very beautiful it was amongst the trees there was the river, Drowl, well they call it a Drowl I think
Drava is a proper name a Yugoslavian name, we were right alongside that and the scenery was good and the railway line went around amongst these trees. Now it’s quite easy to walk off a job there no trouble at all, because we had guards certainly, but the guards couldn’t watch all of the prisoners, there’d be about 80 I suppose on this job. Just a few guards they couldn’t watch them all
and if you wanted to go out to the toilet sort of thing amongst the trees they couldn’t go and follow them that type of thing. So it would be easy to walk off there, but the thing is to get away successfully you’d want to have knowledge of the language either German or the local language Slovinish or Slovanish I think it is or Yugoslavian or whatever and also that’s one thing, you want to know where you are going to go, you want a compass and know exactly where you are going to go
and you’d want to have local support, help from the locals. Now the normal local people wouldn’t help because they’d get shot for helping an escaped prisoner of war, but you’d have to have help from what you mentioned before the partisans the Yugoslavian partisans. Now these were run by mainly by martial to, to and they were they knew the country back to front, it was their
country and they knew it quite well. But the Germans were stationed at Marburg and other places and they were trying to catch hold of the partisans but they could never catch them. The partisans were blowing up their railway lines they were blowing up their marshalling yards for instance, and bridges and things like that and they were causing havoc amongst the German places of usefulness but the Germans couldn’t catch them.
They were so elusive and they knew the country so well. And they’d have a scout and they’d know exactly where the Germans were so the Germans were looking for them, they’d know where the German patrols were and they’d report back, so the partisans would avoid that and go somewhere else. So how would a prisoner of war get on if he didn’t have that knowledge of where the Germans were. Now while I was there
six people fairly good strong blokes about 6 feet high they saved for about six weeks their food parcels and whatever they planned to go away, they left but they were brought back in two days. They got caught between a bit of a battle, I can’t say a battle but that type of thing between Yugoslavia and the Germans. So they didn’t have a chance, so that was that.
I don’t know if I can carry on.
Now you know of the big attempt to escape the 70 chaps?
Yes I know that. Well I’ll come to that now if you like. We had a chap in charge of our camp his name was Ralph Churches now he’s an Australian. And the Germans always have someone in charge so they can give their orders to them. Now Ralph Churches could speak German quite fluently and he was in charge for that reason, well it was one main reason and he was an intelligent chap. And the Germans had to have someone they could
talk to and their orders be passed on from this what they call the fertruence[?] man which is literally man of confidence or someone they could trust. Well Ralph was that. Well he planned to go so he resigned from his position around about the beginning of August 1944 and someone else was appointed in his place. Now Ralph of course when he resigned he went out on a job. But he was planning to escape with 7
of his mates to make eight of them and they planned for a certain day. Now he was, he thought he’d escape now he knew German quite well now one of his mates, one of the other seven was named Les Laws now he had communication with the partisans and over a little period of time, a few weeks it was arranged that the partisans
would see them when they escaped and take them up to the hideout in the hills, introduce them to their leader and get them back to the British forces which were way up the top of Italy at that time. So that was what happened, they walked off the, it wasn’t, one of their mates, one of these seven couldn’t get away, he was in the working gang and there was a cutting in the railway line and he wasn’t able to get
around that and walk amongst the trees, he was just trapped sort of thing. He couldn’t make it obvious when he was there so he got left behind. But Ralph and his other six they kept their appointment with this partisan and the partisan guided them up to their hideout up in the hills there. Now the Germans knew the hideout was there but they could never find it, it was so well hidden, well anyway these seven got there. Now when they were there, that evening Ralph said to the
leader of the partisans he said, “Why don’t you get the rest of the fellows?” So they thought about it and they discussed it and Ralph said, “Well you’ve got a certain number of guards but they’re old people they’re not very what would you say war minded, aggressive sort of thing they are getting on and they won’t give you much resistance it should be easy go and just take them from the site
and get them away. But they discussed it and Ralph said, “I don’t want anything, I don’t want them to be killed or hurt that way”. So it was arranged then that if they could get them away they would let them go after a couple of, let the guards and the civilians, there were some civilians working on a job, let them go after a couple of days, which is what they did. So what happened was this night the seven escaped the guards back at our camp, I was telling you
before they counted us up and they found there was seven missing. But because the German soldier can’t act without orders from someone up higher they took no notice of it because their camp commandant was down in Marburg with his lady friend and they couldn’t go and interrupt whatever he was doing with this lady friend. So they had to leave it until next morning when he came back to the camp. And that gave Ralph and his six friends
time to get up to the partisans without ever resistance or whatever and talk to him about it and discuss their plans. And when the camp commandant came back the next morning to the camp and he was told that seven people had escaped he rang up his superior. And he said to his superior officer, “Oh look I’ve got to report seven men escaped yesterday” and the superior said, “That’s nothing you lost another
77 this morning” and that’s what happened. Because when the rest of the camp that morning, they went down to the as Marburg station as usual, got on a train and went out to their job and they got out of the train and around about 8 o’clock in the morning and the train went back around the trees and back out of sight they appeared, the partisans appeared from the trees and surrounded the whole lot and took them all up to their hideout into the hills. There was no
resistance from the guards they were too surprised and shocked they didn’t know what to do, they were too old and that. But they took the whole lot up to their hideout in the hills. I got left behind because I had been asked to do some work in the office some Red Cross food parcels had come in and they wanted me to record them. So I got left behind and another chap got left behind because he was having his boots repaired and there were two cooks and they were left behind. I didn’t mention this about the cooks.
In this camp we were getting parcels pretty well one parcel per person per week regularly. Well before we got our parcels we’d line up but before we received the parcels the, they would go to the cook house and the cooks we had three cooks they would take out every tin or article which was meat and vegetables or stewed fruit or something like that and they’d keep them in the cookhouse and they’d mix them with
the German food and they could make quite good meals out of them, which we couldn’t do, we had no reason, no means of cooking up meat and vegetables and making good food. But they, most of the German food was just potatoes or something like that, well mix it with our food it make quite meals, so that worked very well. But then two of these guards were back at Marburg and of course they got left behind, but the other, the two cooks I mean, but the other cook was down on the job and
he used to help with the lunchtime meal but he got taken away. So that was that. Now those men they were taken by the partisans because they couldn’t stay their too long, they left their position and started on their trek through to northern Italy. And as I said they had scouts, they had people, they knew the country like the back of their hand and they sent a chap out he might
be a kilometre in front and one each side or something like that and watching out for the German patrols. They just got into one at one stage but our chaps were ok. The partisans had a bit of a what do you call a bit of a skirmish with the Germans but they got them they departed and got them away alright from the Germans. But as I said about two years, two months, oh sorry, two days after they
left they released the guards, they released the civilians to make their own way back to their homes or back to Marburg whatever it was, so they didn’t shoot them or kill them or anything like that so they let them go which they kept their promise. Now one reason why the partisans were agreed to take the whole lot was they had a hatred for the Germans and the Germans taking over their country, which they had virtually done. So they were
pleased to have any opportunity to have a fight back at the Germans. And they reasoned that if they only taken the seven prisoners of war the Germans probably wouldn’t be bothered chasing them they knew the partisans were around there and they knew they’d get into trouble. But when there is about 77 or more escape well that is more incentive for them, the Germans to go and catch up with them because a loss of prestige for them. And that’s what happened, they did, they tried to chase the prisoners
of war and they got into trouble with the partisans and some of them were killed. But that was another story. But as far as our chaps were concerned it was a hard job for them because they were poorly clad. This was in August, at the end of summer, quite a few of them had only shorts on and they had cold nights so they practically shivered there. You couldn’t expect the partisans to provide them all with blankets and
things and food stuff was a bit of a problem they were light on food. And they had nothing to eat it with, they had no dixies or anything like that, everything was left behind. So what happened was when the partisans had their meal they had to wash the dishes and give them over to our chaps to eat their meal until eventually as they were going along they picked up tins or jugs or or whatever. But after three or four weeks or something like that and
up hill and down and round and round and round about and so on avoiding the Germans and that they did get through the into Italy and handed them over to the British troops which were up about Unani[?] at that time. And that was it.
behind. Well we couldn’t carry on the camp the camp was closed. So I don’t know what happened to the cooks but the other chap and I were sent to a farm out near Graz in southeast Austria. It is a big city it is almost as big as Vienna. But it is down the bottom corner there, a bit north, north I suppose or northern east of Graz is Hartberg and that’s a city too but nowhere as near as big as Graz
then not far from that is Grafendorf [?] and that was a little village you might call it it was a farm there. Actually there was a barracks and there were 20 of us in these barracks, we two added to 18 and we were in these barracks and each of us went out to farms around the barracks each day and we were working on the farms. And I was on the
this is the Saturday I think I arrived or the Sunday and on the Monday I had to go out to work and the the German in charge of the camp he took me up to the farm. And it was about a half hours walk and going through other farms and back the farms and little pathways and that sort of thing and I came to the farm of Josef Kopper, K O P P E R, Josef J O S E F, and I was working there
and I worked there for the rest of the war. Well not quite the rest of the war, this was the beginning of September and I worked there until the end of March, March 45, September 44. Now that I suppose in one sense that was probably the best camp I was at. In Italy even though we had food parcels the
rations were light on, we were hungry half the time we were always looking for more food which wasn’t available but here I could have as much food as I could eat on the farm. It wasn’t much variety about it it was all much the same, brown bread, they baked their, the farmers pretty well self contained as possible, they baked their own bread, they had eggs from their own fowls, they ground their own flour, they had a water mill for a little creek
down the bottom of the hill and they could make their own flour for making their own bread. They had a little forest, in fact the forest was as big as their farmland. And that gave them trees mainly trees which they brought down in winter time to give them enough wood for their wood stove for their cooking. They had pigs for meat and when they were allowed to they killed a meat, killed a pig and provide them with meat and they’d hang them up in the chimney and that
got smoked and that would keep it, well allow it to be kept for quite a while, well for quite a long while actually for keeping that. They made their own drink from apples and pears, crush them up and that and make what they call a mousse which is sort of a cider, I think it could be intoxicating if you had enough of it. But they never had too much they just had a little
bit. They told me not to drink the water, they had sort of a spring there they said, “Don’t drink that water it could give you goitre”. Which is a lump in the neck so I didn’t drink much then, so I had some of their stuff. Of course I had tea or what it was in the camp because I had the Red Cross parcels and getting the tea from that.
while, as I say for about four, seven months I suppose then the Russians were coming in from the east from Romania and because they were coming the Germans said to themselves I suppose we’ll get rid of these prisoners we can’t have them here we don’t want them to get recaptured so they started to march us. Well we were only 20 at that time but then we picked up other camps like ours as we went along and
it gradually got more and more and not only our prisoners of war there’d be Frenchmen and so on until we had quite a lot, there were hundreds I think on the road eventually going along and I suppose it must have been a bit of a problem for the Germans to get food for them all but they managed because it was a bit skimpy but we got it. Incidentally before we started off we, the
farm folk in Austria they were rather religious and they fast before Easter. Now Easter Sunday was the 3rd of April that year and they were fasting for four days and I was looking forward to a lovely big feed on the Sunday but of course it was a Sunday when we started off to march. And so I didn’t get the big feed, but that night they told us about, well they woke us up about 11 o’clock at night and said, “Go back to your farms and get rations for
three days because you’ve got to march”. So I had to go a half hour walk up the farm, I was about the furtherest to go another one a bit further on than me but that’s all. And I went to the farm and I knocked and knocked and eventually they opened and they couldn’t believe it was me, I had to go and show my face at the window so they’d know it was me they thought it might have been a partisan or something. So anyway of course they were a bit frightened when they I told them that I was leaving and the Russians were coming. And I do think that the Russians gave them a terrible time when they
eventually came through rapings and beatings and that sort of thing. But I don’t know personally about them but they did do it to a lot of the folk as they came over because the Germans did the same to the Russians as they went through. But anyway they gave me the rations for three days which was only bread and or some apple strudel which they would have had on the Sunday, and a couple of other things like that, cheese some cheese and so off I marched.
And bits and pieces and so much each day sort of thing and some of our fellas tried to escape, I could have escaped too then while I was working on the farm quite easily but the same thing applied, you have to have a knowledge of the language, either German or the farmers, well the farmers they spoke German although many words were slightly different for instance a potato
in German is is kartofel but on the farm they called it aird apple or earth apple. And a boy is kanarba in German or bouler is on the farm so there are certain words that are a little bit different.
See they’d sent all their best troops up to the front. And they left the older ones to look after us and they didn’t want any further trouble, they didn’t want any of that sort of thing. So they weren’t aggressive but they would have been. If someone had tried to run off they would have shot them. But it was so easy to escape there but then where would you get without the aid of the partisans or someone, even the local people, local people wouldn’t help you because they’d get shot for assisting a
prisoner of war if they got caught, either they would or their family would. And that’s, quite a lot of civilian families were killed that same way, they were shot or lined up against a wall, whatever it might be or sent to the chamber because their husbands helped in some way or other or for some other reason. So that’s that. You have to have help from the people,
but the Slovenian people wouldn’t do it. So it was the partisans well I suppose the Slovenian partisans but the fighting people that got them through. But they had as I said before they had the knowledge of the area and they knew where to go and what to do and they had the scouts and so on out. It was a military exercise for them and they were very resourceful and they were able to adapt to any situation that immediately arose in front of them. If they saw a German patrol or that and they wanted to avoid it well they could adapt themselves and that.
And not keep strictly to a certain route and so on like that. And they got them through within a reasonable time. It was marvellous how they did it.
on the farm as I said I got enough to make me self understood and you get used to a bit of sign language. Something I was going to mention to you on this Marburg job on the railway line job a German came up one day and he saw a New Zealander and a Maori, they were standing together. And he asked the Maori “Where do you come from?” Cause the Germans don’t like the blacks either they think they are low place, and he said, “New Zealand” so the chap standing next door to
him he said, “Where are you from?” and he said, “New Zealand”. And he looked past and he said, “How is it that you both say you’re from New Zealand and you’re white and he’s black?” And the white chap said, “Well the thing is he was born at night and I was born in the day time”. So they got away with it, I don’t know what the German thought he’s lucky to be born white himself I suppose. Anyway to get back to the farm.
I was on the farm and the first job was to help one of the children. They had ten children on the farm when I was there and I heard that there were two more born since. So that meant 12 children. In addition to those 12 children and his boss and his wife there was a women named Leani, she was just sort of a helper and there was another women about 21 she was Julie
she was the boss’s niece I think. And there was an old bloke who was practically deaf, his name was Tony. And there was a couple a man and his wife and they lived on a separate building on the farm and they were from Ukraine. They weren’t prisoners of war because they weren’t fighting but I think they were overrun by the Germans and they had to fight, work there on the farm. Julie was the only one really the eldest she was 13
and she was working on the farm, the others were still going to school. But then of course they’d still do some work perhaps carrying some wood whatever it might be when they came home from school. Well Julie was out on the job with me this day and when I was doing the weeding of these plants they are something like turnips or swedes she was doing her own weeding. But then no matter how fast I went, I didn’t like to go too fast anyway because they were virtually the enemy. But no matter how fast I went she went twice as fast and she’d come and
help me with my rows. Anyway that was it because she was used to it. So I ate on the farm but I used to have to sleep in the barracks, go back there at night and come onto the farm every morning. There again it would be quite easy to walk off on the way to work or on the way home. But again where would I get, I’d have to have a knowledge of the language, I’d have to know which way exactly where to
go. I know the border to Hungry is only about less than 30 miles away, it would be easy to get there. But you’d have to avoid the Germans, which are all around. Wherever they might be on the border or whatever. And you’d still need to have help to guide you around the Germans wherever they were and and a terrific lot of luck and a lot of initiative. And as I said before the second front had been started in
June of 44 and we knew that they were doing well and that the end was getting in sight. So what was the use of it. So
worked the same hours as they did. I had Sundays off there but I worked Saturdays as well. But we worked on the system in the farm farm job those of us in the camp the prisoner of war, as I said there were 20 of us there. I was the only Australian. But they worked on a system of two each week getting a Saturday afternoon off in the roster system and
when we’d come down if we were on that roster and heat up a bath and then there wasn’t much water available, there was a little creek running by and we’d have to get the water from the creek and fill up this big bath tub wooden bath tub and heat up the water and that was our bath night Saturday night. And if we were on duty well we’d get first bath, then the next time we go to the bottom of the list and it
go round that way. So if you were first you were ok, next time by the time you’re last you’re getting dirty soapy water but there was not much else you could do. But I was treated alright on that farm they were reasonably pleasant and I had a bit of fun with the, with three girls, that is Cherli the young one, 13 year old, and Yuli and Leani. And when I say fun I remember
one time we were gathering up the windfalls of the apples and pears and they’d throw some at me and I’d throw some back. And same time when the snow was around, a little bit of friendly snow fights. So just amusing there. I can remember one day when we’re picking up potatoes. The boss had a, he had two horses and there were six oxes on the farm and they had the cows for milk. So he had the ox and that, no he had the horses this
day and he had sort of equipment which would turn out the soil and throw out the potatoes and the rest of us, that is me and Cherli and Leani and the missus and the other two couple Ukrainians and Tony, we were spread across the field. And we had to pick up the potatoes and put them in a wicker basket and then when the basket was full go to a truck, which was on the field or a wagon
and empty them in there and go back to get another. And we had to do this before the boss came round with the next furrow and cover over the ones that had been thrown out. So one day I found a mouse and I killed it so I carried it by its tail to where Cherli was and she was halfway up this plank to empty this basket into the truck. And she saw me come and she let out a squeal and she dropped her basket and potatoes spread everywhere and she ran away up the field yelling,
screaming her head off nearly. So I had a bit of fun that way. There was another time when I think it was New Year’s Eve and the boss was going around every room, every building where the cows were that sort of thing and spreading a sort of incense on it. I think it was just to ask for blessing for the cows and the shot crops for the coming year.
And I was doing some sweeping up of the pathway just nearby and he shoved the thing under my face, the incense thing, just for fun and gave a grin and Cherli was coming behind with water that she used to splash on the doorways or whatever with the incense and she went and splashed me face with it. So it was just a bit of fun like that. And when I saw her on the farm later on, I visited the farm I reminded her of it.
couldn’t because I didn’t know enough German and they didn’t know German. But I went to a prisoner of war reunion at Horsham one day and when I got there Ralph was there, Ralph Churches, he’d come from Adelaide, he’d come from with a couple of other chaps I knew too. I was speaking to him and I then said, “If I write out a letter out a letter to you in English can you translate it into German for me to these
people?” So he did that and he added an extra paragraph saying that “If possible can you reply in English”. Well I sent the letter off and I got a letter back in English and it was written by the wife of the grandson of my former boss. I knew my former boss and his wife would be dead at that time because they were much older than I but it was from his grandson, it was his wife that could speak English. And she’d typed it out, and she well told me a little bit about it they were delighted to hear
from me. And they sent me some photos, they sent me an aerial photo of the farm, they sent me a photo of the boss and his wife, about taken, taken about 1970 or something but just as much as I remembered them and then they said, asked me to send some photos back to them, which I did. I sent some photos back and they said in the second letter they said, “If possible would you be able to visit us we would receive you
kindly”. So I thought I planned I would do that, so I planned and I went and visited them in 1999. And they put me up for a few days and while I was there Cherli and her daughter in law, she had married and had two sons and four daughters and so many grandchildren and the daughter of her eldest son named Anita and she could speak English quite well
anyway. But she and Cherli came round to this family that I worked on the Sunday the day I came back and they said, “Before you go back to Australia can you come and visit us on the farm on our farm and stay with us for a couple of days?” So I had some things I was going to do in England so I cancelled those and I caught a plane to come back to Austria before coming back home. So I stayed on their farm and they gave me a good time. Now the farm that I was on it changed quite a lot since I’d been
working there they now just milked cows and that’s all. They don’t have the water mill that’s gone all broken up and a lot of the things they don’t do at all, they had 36 cows and they milked those and they get all their income from their milk, they’ve got milking machines to do it. But the the young ones, the young calves and that they sell them straight away, they don’t keep them and
grow, they just keep the 36 all the time. And the other farm where Anita and Cherli are now they have pigs, they buy young pigs and they fatten them up and they sell them when they’re about six months old. So that’s their income and they have special foods that they measure out very very carefully to fatten up the pigs and make them grow, so that’s their thing.
farm the one I worked on was they organised a meeting of all those 12 children except one who had died a few years before in what they call a gasthäus, a gasthäus is really a restaurant but there was no meal provided. I didn’t get there until about 3 o’clock, I could have had soft drinks or something if I wanted to. But it was just a get together place and all of those 12 children, plus their husbands and wives
except the one that died and Anita was there to translate for me and just to get there and say hello and meet me. Now one women came to me and said, “I’m Maria, I was seven when you were working on the farm” and another one said, “I’m Teresa I was six when you were on the farm” and another chap came and he put his hands about nine inches apart and he said, “I’m Francin, I was about this big when you were working on the farm” and he was, he was the baby of the family he was only just two or three
months old. So I had a good time. And then when I was at Anita’s farm later at the end of the trip, they took me round to Teresa’s farm, that is the one that was six back in 45. And her daughter, Teresa’s daughter brought out a zither which she hadn’t played for a while and she played the zither for me. Now I liked the zither music and she played the Harry Lime theme
and the Strauss waltz and something else, it was very very nice and I enjoyed it. What else is there?
to Karchberg [?] in the centre, well not in the centre of Austria but that way, towards Salzburg we were going and it was in the mountains, they have snow there about nine months of the year. We were supposed to do some work on the roads there but we didn’t do any because there was snow and that there, we just couldn’t do it, and so we were in the camp. Now this is another thing, we had a chap in charge of that camp the Austrian in Boshabit, [?] his name
I don’t know what his name was but he had Orgtod, O R G T O D on his sleeve, that is a special organisation, but he was an Austrian. Now he was very good to us, he allowed us to listen to the BBC [British Broadcasting Commission]. And one thing he was very good at he allowed our chap we elected as a chief to look after us Jock, Jock Gordon his name was, he was a Scotsman. He allowed him to go into a one of their
head depots where the parcel, where the food parcels were to go and get some food parcels for us. We went in a truck and we went there. Now Russians are about there, and they thought they got these food parcels I think they thought these parcels were for them and of course they weren’t they were for us. Now this Orgtod chap he handed his pistol to Jock and he said, no oh he said, no he invited Jock to stay in his house, his house was at Philarc [?]
and he got back to Philarc and he said, “You stay in the house and I’ll guard the parcels” and Jock said, “No I’m responsible for them I’ll look after the parcels they are my responsibility, you stay in your house”. And of course Orgtod was at his own home and he said, “Alright then” and he handed Jock his his little pistol and he said, “If any of them come close to you, you shoot them and I’ll take full responsibility”. So he went in there and Jock stayed in the truck and guarded the parcels and they got them back the next day.
and this is when the war was over. But we knew that was practically over because a day or two before the Germans were marching past that way and they were throwing away their pistols and so on and they said, “Why should we carry on and fight because the war is pretty well over, we might get killed in the last day or so of it so we are giving it up”. So they were passing by. I’ve got a pistol and I got a, there was a magazine with it, and some bullets, some rounds. But me wife gave it away later on during an
amnesty when I got home. But that doesn’t matter, then it was a day or two after that, after the war had ended that this Orgtod chap boss he said, “Oh this is no good” he said, “the war’s over now I want to get home.” So he went down to the village at the bottom of the hill, about a mile away, he commandeered three truck drivers with their trucks and ordered them to come back to camp, which they did, and he loaded us all on and he
ordered these chaps to take us through to the British lines through the Italian Alps back to where the British forces were back at Udanai at the top of Italy. And they did that. As we were going along of course we got back to we had to go through Philarc so we got there and he said, “Alright chaps” he said goodbye to us he said, “I’m home now” and he wished us well, and of course we gave him a good cheer and because he is a very fine chap and let him go and so we went
on our way and got home. Got to there and I came out by army vehicle from Udanai down to Ancona and I was about a night or two in Ancona and then I went on a Liberator bomber plane with the bomb racks taken out and there were seats put in there for us and went down to Bari and south of Italy, back of the heel. And I was there for about two or three weeks waiting for transport to take me to England and eventually it came along it was another Liberator
bomber which took me to England. And I met up with Eddie’s sister again. I met up with a couple of other people, I saw Alec Barton again I saw Angus Small, Trevor, Trevor James and Peggy. In fact I stayed with Peggy’s family for most of my leave time, which was only about two weeks anyway. And we went round and she showed me a lot of London together and we went to a couple of shows a couple of Walt Disney shows, Three
Caballeros and saw the picture of Dorian Grey which is a film and and that and had a very pleasant time. Showed me Madam Tussaud’s and oh a couple of other things, it was quite good. St Paul’s Cathedral inside. And then I came back on the Mauritania, came back through the Panama Canal. That is about it.
not aggressive or pushful or that but it helped me to mix better with people. Because I in a prisoner of war camp you are forced to live in a hut with perhaps 100, 120 people and you may like dislike half of them and that but you can’t help it. And there’s no privacy, practically the whole four years there was no privacy, you are with someone else or other people all the time. I didn’t mentioned that some of them went on
strike while we were at Marburg, I mentioned the one at Tripoli but some of them went on strike at Marburg, but the Germans came around the next morning very quickly and shouting out “raus, raus,” means get up go on. And there was one chap there a chap named Bill Gemison he had a, or he had farm up in southern New South Wales, he had a moustache and he was living, sleeping in a sleeping bag.
And this German was getting him to rush and hurry up and get out but he got caught in his arms in the sleeping bag and to get out he had to get further into his sleeping bag to free his arms and the German is getting more and more furious come on and he was, Bill was getting all upset and flustered because he couldn’t get out. Eventually he freed his arms and he got out of his sleeping bag and he stood up shivering on the floor.
But those sort of things happened, some amusing things happened.
called Fatma which is an area which is an enclosure with food stores in it. They were big, big halls you might call them. And they were stacked with practically every type of food you can think of which the Germans had taken from the countries they’d over run. Condensed milk, Dutch hams and tins of stewed fruit and all sorts of stuff like that. And of course when we were
there and we were hungry naturally intention is to try and steal something. But you couldn’t just go up and open up a can a case or carton or pinch it they worked in accordance with a sort of a group of say perhaps three or four and two or three would keep an eye out. One might be up on top of a stack, they were all up on stacks of cartons several feet high. The halls would be 15 to 20 feet high and about 20 feet wide and about 40 or 50
feet long, so they were big halls. And I remember one day a chap named Jim Murray he was an Englishman and he got inside a onto a stack and there was condensed milk inside and he opened up a carton and he’d taken it out from the inside of the stack. And the condensed milk was not quite as stiff as ours it was just a little bit more runny. And he punctured the hole, one each side at the top of the
tin and so that he could drink this condensed milk. And he just started to drink it when he got a warning that it was the guard coming. So he had no time to put it back where it came from so he tucked it inside the top of his underpants and waiting for the guard to go past. But the guard didn’t go past it called him out and said, “Du du”. And du for means you of course, and called him up and he was
sent out to just outside the hall and as I was saying before what they would do was get two people to carry a carton and from inside the hall they’d dump it outside and two men from outside would pick it up and put it inside a truck and a couple more in the truck would stack it at the back. And he was one of the ones put on to pick the cartons up and put it into the truck. Now every time he bent down to pick a carton up some of this condensed milk would seep out. And he, into his underpants. He had a
nasty rotten time for quite a while. And that was, well it was funny to us but it wasn’t funny for him. Well sort of a lot of things like that went. In that hall there was a a couple of 15 pound tins of ham, shaped like a pear but they were big tins and they were fairly big and some of them, some one previously apparently might be prisoners of war that had been
stacking them had punctured them and they’d gone rotten. So one of our chaps went up to the German in charge of the store and he showed him the thing there was going bad and he said, “Throw it out”. But for every bad one that went out there was about four or five good ones went out with it. So they got dumped outside where we have our lunch, so we had some lovely ham there for a little while. The the rule for the Germans is, as far as the guards are concerned
they’ve got to catch us in the act of taking it. If we’re eating the ham afterwards it’s a it’s not, we can’t be blamed, it’s their fault for not, they can’t go and say “Look he’s eating stolen ham there”, it’s their fault for not stopping us from getting it out in the first place. If you want incidence there is another incidence, this was told to me
we had to go to a place at Hartburg one day for a check up to see if any of us had TB [tubercolosis]. There were some cases of TB somewhere or other, so we went along and one chap there told me that he wanted to get a day off from work so he got one of his mates to go and bash his leg, get wet towels and bash around his leg so his knee, around his knee, so his
knee swelled up. So it did and he went the next morning and it was pretty well swollen. So he went off to the doctor and the doctor said, “Well show me your leg” so he pulled up his trouser leg the doctor looked at it, “Oh there is nothing wrong with it” he said, “Oh it’s terribly painful I can hardly walk on it” “Oh no there is nothing wrong with that, that’s ok, you go back to work”. And he found out after he had rolled up the wrong leg of his trousers. And he had showed him the wrong leg, well he was a bit of an idiot that way.
It could have been very sore, it was still swollen a bit but it wasn’t sore. But that was one thing.
I was stationed down near Eastborne on the south coast in the St Andrews school there and I went back there a couple of years ago but I couldn’t recognise it. It’s been added to an extra bit put on and so on since. But I went there, but from there within easy walking distance there was a big house called Gari House and there were ladies there, volunteer ladies that would do any sewing or mending or sewing on
colour patches and that sort of thing for us if we wanted to. Or have a cup of tea or a bit of relaxation talk or chat or read books or whatever. But I had friends to see. I went to see Peggy and I made her home with her parents as my depot as it were, home base. Her brother Eddie who I knew he was still in the army, he was in the RAMC but he was still hadn’t been discharged,
so I stayed there. But I also went to see Alec Barton in a different suburb, and he was working in the Mill Bank hospital and also I went to see Angus Small I mentioned before at Fortingbridge and he took me round to Margery Brown the one he’d asked to write to me when we were in, when we were in Siviliano the PG59
I think it was that he asked Margery Brown a friend of his to write to me so that I’d be getting letters and because I wasn’t getting any from home. So he took me around there, I went to, and she was living with her mother and a bit of a sing song around a piano I think. But that’s were I met Trevor James and he was and I told you before he was a he’d been working in the district for the government and he eventually married Margery and they went and bought a little shop down in
Bristol. And they operated that until Trevor saw the writing on the wall with the little shop getting pushed out by supermarkets so they sold that and went to well Machem, M A C H E M, near Newport in South Wales.
wasn’t our war. I don’t think we should have had anything to do with those. This war World War II was the one I know about and I think we had a right to go there because we couldn’t allow Germany to overrun the world. And if I hadn’t gone and people like me and sort of thing the next thing is they would have come to Australia, irrespective of the Japanese forget about them. But I mentioned that play that was out ‘Tomorrow the
World’. That’s what Hitler said wasn’t it? Today Germany, tomorrow the world and that’s what his intention was, conquer the world. I don’t know how literal that would have be whether it would be a war of Asia and all of Africa or what. But his intention was to conquer all of Europe anyway and certainly England. And so you had to stop him and that war,
the efforts to stop him I think was quite justified, what was the alternative? So I suppose you can back on a smaller plane where someone from school, a bully from school is annoying someone else, taking their their well I was going to say marbles, but I don’t know if they play marbles now that sort of thing. Well if he is getting bullied isn’t it right to stop him and and
in a sense to have a small war to punish him for what he’s doing, that type of thing.
Came out a bit wrong there, I mean you feel like you could have done more but in fact you did as much as you could?
Well yes that’s right. Sorry, I don’t feel that I could have done more because as you say I did what I could but sorry that I wasn’t able to do more. That it seemed to be such a poor effort, only a couple of days in the front line, right in the front line, I was at the second line of defence but that wasn’t right in the front line, I wasn’t actually fighting the second line of defence as it happened. I could have been subject
to air strikes and I was subject to this machine gunning but it wasn’t the actual front line, which is where the most fighting was. And then of course they came just at that time and that’s when I was there. I mean if I had’ve been in the front line a week or two before it would have been just as quiet as a, I was going to say quiet as a mouse, but that’s not quite right but you know what I mean. It was, when I went up to the front on 20th, on the night of the
30th I think it was the 30th of April, 1st of May that’s when they made their definite big push they made an extra special effort. And you’ll find in any war the leaders will make a push at some time or other, Montgomery made a push and so and so and so did the Rommel and whatever.