the 12th, 1915, in a place called Wee Waa in the northwest of New South Wales. My father had horse teams out there before the days of motor lorries and he sold that, then he came into Wee Waa and he bought a business, and everything in Wee Waa in them days was made of cypress pine. A fire started and wiped the whole block out. So we left there and came to a place
called Ebden. It’s near Ravensworth. It’s just out Singleton in New South Wales. He went onto a dairy farm there. He ran into a drought and he was surviving that and a plague of grasshoppers came through and wiped him out again. So from there we went back where our ancestor, he was granted land
at Cedar Creek just between Cessnock and Wollombi. That was the sole Sydney Road. He had three brothers there, so we stopped there and Dad farmed and cut timber and so forth, and eventually moved into Cessnock. And there was eight in our family,
four girls, four boys, and by this time we were coming into the Depression, which people hadn’t been through, one just wouldn’t understand how bad it was. Very little to eat. I think Mother went hungry a lot of times so as we could eat. But still we survived. Went to school, left at fourteen.
Had to leave because Dad was cutting mine timber and I had to go out and help him. So from there that finished. When I was seventeen I got three weeks’ work. I suppose you’d call it work for the dole in them days, and then I started bike riding. I was bike riding for a couple of years and I had a buster [accident],
and I damaged my knee, and after hospital my mother said I better go out to Granny’s out at Wee Waa. So I went out there. I done some work. I picked up a bit of work out there, saved what I could, and I had a brother in Brisbane and I had a brother in Tully in North Queensland. So I went over
to Brisbane and my brother said, “It’s no good going back south, there’s no work down there. You better go up north up to the Tully, up to the other brother,” which I did, and that was in 1933. I had my eighteenth birthday up in the Tully. 1934, I started cane cutting at a place we used to call Lower Tully,
and there, I cut three years there and then we decided that we’d go to Cairns, which we did, and we were lucky enough, we call them runs, like in the cane. So we were lucky enough, we got one of the best runs up in the north for growing cane. It was on the Barron flats, beautiful
big cane and everything, and our contract was we had to cut and load, shift rails across, was ten ton a day which is a lot of hard work. We used to start in the morning at six and knock off about half past ten. You wouldn’t go back out until about two o’clock and work through to six, on account of the heat in the middle of the day up there.
So I was there until the war broke out. When the war finished I hadn’t been home to see my people for six years then. So I thought I better slip down and see them first before I enlisted, so I came back to Cessnock for a while and I went back and I enlisted in June 1940.
We came back down into Brisbane, down to Enoggera, that was the army camp where we did our training. They had a hill there, I don’t know how many times we attacked it. We knew every blade of grass on it. Anyway, it was quite good and we got to know our mates, and I just
couldn’t tell you what date it was when they put us on the train and we came down to Sydney then, onto ferries and out into the Harbour, and there was the most magnificent boat in the world, the Queen Mary, and of course we went aboard. It was beautiful. The big thing is when you’re sailing out and they’re all singing these songs, you know, A Different Home,
your old heart starts to beat a bit but after that you settle down. We went over then to Perth, where we took on more troops, Western Australians. The Queen Mary was a very fast boat. I think from memory somewhere around twenty-eight knots it used to run. It wouldn’t go in convoy because nothing could keep up with her,
because she used to go by herself and then she could zigzag backwards and forwards and that, and the raiders couldn’t catch her. We went on then to Trincomalee in Ceylon and we trans-shipped there onto a smaller boat to go to the Middle East.
– and then you went elsewhere.
When we got to the Lebanons and up to the Lebanons to Aleppo, except for being a rifleman there one day, they said, “Anyone want to do a first aid course?” And I put my hand up, I said, “Yes, I’ll do a first aid course,” and then I said, “Will we go back to our company?” They said, “No,
you’ll become stretcher bearers.” So I got stretcher bearers. I’ve got my little card there to say what I was, and then we came back down in a cattle track it was, but they’d been cleaned, back back down through Beirut by rail, Palestine, back to the Suez and then we got on,
they loaded us onto a boat there, a magnificent, another beautiful boat. It was the Nieuw Amsterdam, a Dutch boat. It had been to South Africa and had just loaded up with fresh food and everything and they, so that’s something we hadn’t had for quite a while and it was lovely. And they wouldn’t let us do any guard duties or anything. They said, “No, it’s our boat. We run it as we
want to.” So we just laid around the deck, and then we went to Bombay, and this was the time when Curtin and the English, Churchill was arguing they wanted us to go to Burma and Curtin said, “No, they’re coming home.” So we laid off Bombay for a week and of course Curtin finished up getting his own way, and then they took
us down to Colombo which is Ceylon, Sri Lanka now, and we transhipped into smaller boats and we went out and we had the Ramillies. I just don’t know if it was a battle ship or a battle cruiser. I think she must’ve been a battle cruiser. It was big and guns poking up everywhere, and they took us almost back to South Africa,
down the coast, back along the Roaring Fifties right down the bottom end. I tell you what, it was rough, and back up into Perth. Of course there were raiders in the Indian Ocean. From there they bought us around to Adelaide where we trans-shipped. They put us in a camp at Sandy Creek in South Australia. We were there for a while,
and they brought us up to Tenterfield in northwest of New South Wales. From there we went to Somerset. From there they sent us, they put us on the old Anshun and took us to Milne Bay. It was a filthy ship. Of course after Milne Bay there was took in our battalion, the 2/12th,
we went to Goodenough Island and while we were on Goodenough Island I got crook. I started to spit up a bit of blood and the doctor thought I had TB [tuberculosis]. So there was a lugger going back with sick and that on it. He said, “Well, you can go back and look after them,” and he thought, “Well, I won’t see him again.” Of course I saw him later, and when I got back there
in hospital after a while it cleared up. In the meantime our brigade had moved over and they went through Buna, Oro Bay, that was the big campaign then. I rejoined the unit on Sanananda and after Sanananda we came home. I can
say more about that after. Then we went up to the Finisterre [Ranges], the Shaggy Ridge, where we got the mountain gun and we came home again and had a bit of leave, a week’s leave. There weren’t ever too liberal, and then we went up to Morotai where we transhipped into landing barges to
take us over to Balikpapan in Borneo. We were there when it finished.
young boy? Well, as I said, we were in the Depression and very little, well, you didn’t have any money. Mum and Dad, they were struggling, you know, with eight in the family in them days. It was very, very hard. So we just in them days, not like today
where you go out, where you could go out and play. We had a lot of bush, go out in the bush, and there were a couple of dams there where the mines used to get their water from. I was forbidden to swim in it, but that didn’t matter, we did. And there once I was, a tree had fell out over the dam. So of course, me, I climbed out over it and slipped and twisted
my knee. I couldn’t walk, so they had to get ambulance and take me. I went into hospital for three weeks. Yes, they were days I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through again. You had nothing, you had very poor clothes. It was, but in one way we, I don’t know what you’d
say. We had plenty of company because everyone was the same, and you had to go out and play or you had to go out in the bush. You did different little things, because as you get older, bike riding and of course I used to, I took dancing and I danced a lot later on.
And another year I changed gangs and we went down to Ingham, sorry, Cardwell, and we went out onto the reef and stopped overnight on the reef and came back. You wonder, why I say, in them days the little coastal boats would come up the coast
with produce. They’d stop at Cardwell, the [UNCLEAR] launch, a good sized launch it was, it would come out and they’d load, say, fuel or potatoes or something, whatever they had, I just couldn’t tell you now, and he’d take them into Cardwell and it would move up to Dunk Island and the boat would come out from the Hull River to the Lower Tully and go out there. I’ll tell you,
on Dunk Island in 1934 no one lived on it. The only people, Bamburgh and his wife had a house there but they were both buried down the gully. They had a big cairn and a monument there and it was a beautiful island. There was nothing on it. You’d go out, huge big oysters and pigeons in the trees and everything. It was lovely, but
today Dunk Island, I’ve been back there and it’s nothing.
his farm and as I said before, there were all barracks. Every farmer had barracks for the gangs to come in, and one off season the brother and his wife and his child and myself, I was with them, they stopped in the barracks for a season, for the off season, and Vic Sant’Elena [?] was his name, lived just across the road and it was very, very good,
and Vic would be, if they had, of course if Italians, if they have a party it goes all night. There’s always a big table laden with food and they sing and carry on, you know, with an accordion and that. And Vic wouldn’t have one without he asked the brother and I. We’d go over
and Vic wouldn’t leave us. Of course there were other Italians there and not everyone was real friendly because, on account of the percentage of, as I said, ninety-five per cent Australians and five per cent would sign on for cane cutting, and Vic would never leave us. We’d be there and we’d just enjoy the party with him. Of course the sister-in-law and
the daughter, they could come across to his wife and he had a couple in the family, proper boys and that. I went back about fourteen, fifteen years ago and I went out to them and I met one of the sons and I just missed his mother, but Vic had died by then, the father.
in the world when it was built. It was before the Queen, before the Lizzie [Queen Elizabeth II] was built. She weighed, I think, 84,000 tons, made her the biggest ship in the world. She was made in them days, when they built it it was made between England and New York. Of course the top end of the Atlantic, which is cold,
and of course when she came down here into our climate it was a different story. But when you went aboard the Mary, of course she had big promenade decks and decks out the front, decks out the back. Not like today, when all around the promenade they had deck chairs and the swimming pool used to be below decks out of the cold weather up in
the Atlantic, and of course she hadn’t been touched. She was still a passenger liner and it was magnificent. The dining rooms were, I suppose we sat in chairs that millionaires had sat in and all this, in them days as the saying goes. It was really beautiful. The lounge rooms were something out of this world. Big lounges and tapestry and so forth.
And the staircase, big huge staircase going up. It was a beautiful ship. Some of the boys, they were lucky, they had cabins. But I was, and a few of the others, we were down around about the water line. Well down below the decks, the upper decks, and
from when we left and went over to Fremantle and that she would be good weather wise because you were down south, but then when we started to go up towards the equator she was hot. It was hot, because as I said no air conditioning or anything in them days, and I was just going to pause
Their food was, you know, good, reasonable, but not a great amount of it on account of the amount of soldiers aboard, but we found out if you went down to the cookhouse after and give the old cook two shillings, you’d get a plate of
loin chops or something like that. You soon wake up to these things when you’re in the army. You scrounge around. It was good, supplemented the meals, very good. As I said, she was a beautiful boat. She didn’t rock or roll or anything like that, and the swimming pool, you could go down, I think you had two swimming pools below decks and you
could cool off. And sometimes, not every day but once in a while on the back deck, they’d open the bar up. Now, people haven’t tasted beer as worse as what they had. The beer would’ve been loaded in England and I just don’t know where she’d been. She’d been in America somewhere, then she came out to Australia.
They didn’t open the bar up until we were getting up around the equator. I think it was the heat and that. So they’d just bring the beer up out of the hold, put it on tap. Of course we didn’t have any glasses or anything. You only had your dixies [mess tins] and they’d pour it into the dixies. It was absolutely terrible. I’d never tasted anything worse.
Of course you only had one or two. You couldn’t drink any more. Terrible stuff. I didn’t like getting off, pardon me. I didn’t like getting off.
Sinai Desert. It’s huge, all the pure sand, and the railway line goes through it and we were going along and I looked out the window and there’s an oasis there, palm trees and water and everything. It wasn’t very big, because the sands were starting to creep in on it, but something that you see in picture books and things like that. We went through the Sinai,
and just before we got to the crossing you look out the window and all I could see was the superstructure of a boat. How in the hell would that get there, out in the middle of the desert? Temporarily it had got in the Canal, she was passing through the Canal, and at the crossing was the name Al Qantara. We got off the train there
then, and of course all the money lenders would be there. You had to watch them very carefully otherwise they’d take you down. You’d change your money from Palestine into Egypt, Gyppo money. And then another town on the other side and I’ve got no idea what it’s like now, and she pulled up there, the train, and as soon as you pull up the Arabs are waiting. They’ve got their baskets of fruit
and mostly grapes. They were beautiful grapes. Of course it’s hot and dry, they were sweet and lovely. They’d be trying to sell you grapes, but the trick was just as the train started to move some of the boys would be up in the carriage. Of course you had no platforms over there, it’s all ground level. Some of the boys would be up the front and sing out, “George,
whisky,” and of course George would pull out a bottle and put his basket down. He’d run along and they had no chance of taking it, buying it because they knew it would be only cold tea or something like that. Of course once George put his basket down and run, someone would take a step down and just pick his basket up. Old George would look around, he’d wave his arms, yeah. But as I said, if you put it
over him he’d accept it because he’d put it over you. Anyway we went up and we went, he goes through the Nile Valley which is beautiful. Corn growing there six and eight foot high and green as green. It was beautiful, and they had their wells with the old donkey going around and around pumping the water up and it was beautiful.
And going the other end, going into Egypt way they said the sand was starting to creep in on it. Just a wall of sand, green, beautiful, then just a wall of sand. On account of the storms and that the sand was starting to creep in, and you cross over the Nile and after you cross over the Nile up a bit, you turned left,
or the railway turns left and goes to Cairo and the other one turns right and you go to Alexandria. Well, we went right and there’s a camp there. Now, the brigade or the battalion was at a place there called Ikingi Mariut, but they were full so we had to make this other camp. They had this other camp there,
and when you got a sandstorm, you had this town of tents, the sand would build up around the tent and everything. It’s a wonder we didn’t all finish up with lungs full of sand, it was terrible. Down at the old cookhouse, they’d bring a corn bag full and they’d dump it down, it sounded like rocks. It was meat, all frozen. Of course they boiled everything, and didn’t
have a very nice taste either. And across the road from us was the English soldiers, so when we were finished a meal, some of them would come across with their dixies, “Have you got anything left over?” If there was they’d give it to them, because all they were getting was a bit of bread with, dry bread and a dob of jam. They
weren’t fed very well at all. So they used to give it to them.
that and then on the other she had the Nile River. It was pretty good, and we, this photo, there’s five of us, we all had a garry, you know. A garry was a horse and buggy on four wheels, to drive around the city to have a look at different things, what was on, and not far away was their tannery works
where they used to tan, I suppose, the hides. Talk about on the nose, it was strong. But we, and it was there we were going along in the main, in the city itself, and an Arab came along, “Bottle of whisky, George, bottle of whisky?” And one of the boys, I don’t know why, I still don’t know why, he must’ve given him a few zackers [sixpences] for it, and
because when he took the top and tasted it, it was tea. He chased the Arab and got his money back. They say, they put it over you, fair enough, but you put it over them and they accepted it. But in the photo there, I think there was five of us, and I’m the only one left of the five. It’s a monument in one of the parks in Alexandria.
after being over the other side and that. They had plenty of water and everything, and we had a tent and everything like to sleep in. And they came along one day and they said, “Pack all your kit bags and everything,” and they marched us down, “All you need is your rifle and your small pack,” which you hung on the side of your webbing with your
personal things in. They said, “Go down the side of the road,” marched us down. They said, “There’ll be trucks along shortly to pick you up,” and take us up and join the division. So we waited there and waited. We waited nearly all day and they didn’t turn up. But apparently the evacuation was started. Just previous to this, between Greece
and the Australians they had the Italians beat, almost beat. Of course when Germany came in it made it different. They couldn’t withstand the might of the Germans, and we were in Camp Daphne the night Germany declared, and they came over and they bombed hell out of the harbour. They sunk boats and blew the installations. They blew it to
pieces. So next day they got all us blokes and went down to help clean up a bit and it was a mess. Things everywhere, and we were sitting down, it must’ve been lunch time or something. We were sitting on the wharf and there was a smaller boat tied up beside the wharf and all of a sudden it rose up out of the water and apparently
they’d laid a mine and it had drifted onto the boat and blew it up out of the water and sunk it. Of course we scarpered, we run. But nearly all the old wharf was sagging with what the Germans had done to it. Anyway, we did what we could and went back to camp.
and when the evacuation started, like, they told us the trucks would be there to get out. We got one truck and some of us on board and we went into Athens looking for blokes that were in there to get them on the truck to get them out, and we
done that. And then they took off because we had to go right down to the bottom end, right down to the south of Athens. I’ll tell you what, it’s a hairy old trip there at night time. You’re going around the roads that cut into the cliffs and you look over the side, and we were all in blackout. The lights only had little blackout lights on. I tell you what,
you were lucky to get there. Anyway, we got down right to the very end where the evacuation was going on. I think it took us from one day to some time the next day before we got down there, and we had to wait until night time then for the boats to come in for the evacuation. The trucks, they run them up under the olive
trees and knocked the oil out of the motors and just revved the motors up then until they seized up so they’d be no good then to the Germans. They didn’t burn them because if they’d have burned them the Germans would’ve seen the smoke and started bombing. So we left them there and the evacuation started after dark. Big barges, they had barges there to take you out to the, there were three boats standing out
and you just climbed aboard the barges, they’d tow them out and you went onto the other boats. That was, say, it was all done after dark. During the day you hid underneath trees, under the olive trees and that in case Germans came over. I got onto a boat called the Costa Rica, three
boats, and we went all day, and all day the Germans were over trying to sink us. Half past two in the afternoon, I’ve got it wrote down there, that they dropped a bomb and it landed right on the, or just missed the tail end of the boat and went off underneath and blew the floats off underneath. She stopped and she started to fill up with water.
By then we hadn’t had a meal for a couple of days and we’d been sitting, I was just sitting down in the queue waiting to get to the cookhouse to get a bit of something to eat and I just got it when the bomb went off. Anyway, I took it down and then again we were down in the hold of the boat and you could hear the water coming in. I just started
to pick the knife and fork up. I had the collapsible ones they used to carry, and the lights went out and they said, “All hands on deck.” So that finished the meal. So you climbed up and you could feel it starting to tip a little bit, only the water on one side. She was started to tip and one destroyer was picking some up out of the water and the other destroyer came
in beside us. Two destroyers came up on us, and when you come up, I should’ve mentioned this, when you come up from below decks to come up, the other two boats you could see them just disappearing over the horizon. I tell you what, it’s not a very good feeling to know you’ve been left. Of course they won’t stop because when they stop they become a sitting duck. But these two destroyers must’ve been close and handy. They whipped in and the one
I got onto, when it comes right in, the boat was tipping over and you stood, you waited and when the boats opened up then they came together. When they came together that’s when you jumped. You jumped onto the destroyer. If you’d have missed you’d have been mincemeat. You’d have went down between the two of them. Anyway, we got onto the – I just can’t think of the name of destroyer. When they got everyone
and the other boat was loaded they started to go and leave, but they tell me after they went back and sunk her, the boat. It would’ve sunk normally but I think they didn’t want the Germans to know that they’d got one. And one of the officers came down, they said, “Now, all sit down on deck. We’re going to clap some speed on. We’ve got to get over to
Crete and back down to the south of Greece again to cover the evacuation again,” that next night. So that’s when they just dumped, run into Crete, dumped us off and they went again, and that’s how we got onto Crete.
We had no one, no officer or nothing. Just make your way up, which you did. We still hadn’t had anything to eat either. Made our way up into the hills and it must’ve been getting, it was, it was half past two when the bomb hit. Of course all the evacuation onto the destroyer and that, it was getting late in the afternoon and we made our way
back up into the hills and of course you didn’t know half the blokes, just a mob of soldiers, and for some reason, I don’t know why, we came across a lot of tents wrapped up. They hadn’t been opened. So we stopped there and we undone them and we crawled in between them and amongst them because it was getting cold, and of course we slept pretty well that night.
At least we were warm, and so sometime the next day someone came along and said, “You’ve got to make your way down to the beach.” So we went down to the beach and they said, “Stop here.” So we waited and waited there and there was a little township there and we went over and we thought, “We’re bound to get something to eat here,” and all we could get was cheese
and it was goat’s cheese and I can’t stand goat’s cheese. I tasted it and I couldn’t eat it, as hungry as I was. Anyway, no one came near us so we scooped out some holes in the sand and laid in that all night and let the breeze blow over us. The next day, then, they came along and we went down and there was a –
and right up in the valley you could still see a bit of snow, so it wasn’t real warm around there, and I think it was the 2/2nd Battalion of the 6th Divvy or part of was there. They said, “You can join them,” which we did, ’cause they had an old cook pot going and it was all M and V. I don’t know if you ever ate M and V,
meat and vegetable, terrible smell, but still this was the first food we were having and it was alright, but after a while you got that sick of it. Food was very, very scarce, and they had the old olive trees there which is all that country, a lot of the country anyway,
and it was old and the old olives. The trees were old and the ground where they’d been scratching around, they’d sowed a bit of wheat or something in it and it was as rough as rough. So they gave us one blanket between three of us. It was alright when it was your turn in the middle, you had a bloke either
side of you, but when you were on the outside it wasn’t too good, cold. It was cold. As I said, there was still a little bit of snow up in the tops. The trouble was you went and got a bucket of water out of the creek and you stripped off and soaked yourself all over and to get the soap off you dived into the creek and straight out again. When you came out you were red,
you were all cold. God, it was cold. After a while I got crook in the chest. I got it again later on, but this time I got crook. Later on, before that, they put a blanket to three and then they came along and they gave us two blankets between three, and I think
that made me like crook in the chest. Later on, up in the islands I started to spit a bit of blood and that, but over there I was crook, so the doctor said, “No good you stopping here,” so they sent me down to the hospital. It was the best thing they ever did, and they didn’t know either. It was some disease, something you picked up along the road. But
I wasn’t there that long. At least you were getting a bed and something to eat and under shelter.
I’m trying to think of the name of the destroyer. I met one of the blokes who was on it. The Rats of Tobruk, we had a get-together up at Nambucca, up the coast. I mentioned the boat and he said he was on it, so he must’ve been on the boat. You go up by destroyer, because there was no other way in or out. You had
to only go by water because it was the siege, you know. Anyway, they used to like to get into Tobruk Harbour around about midnight because it was all mined. They only had a passage in and on the heads just before you go in
was the Italian, I think it was a battlecruiser, a big thing just sitting up on the rock where they run her aground, and inside the harbour they reckon there’s something like sixty-four ships sunk, run up along the beach and that in there. So they only had a narrow passage that wasn’t mined into the wharf. Of course once they got in there it was go go go. They never stopped. Off you went,
and they must’ve only bring food and ammunition up. It’s off, and then any wounded and everything else they load and they get back out again. They lost two destroyers up there, one the Waterhen and the other Ladybird. The Waterhen was sunk in the harbour. Although she was sitting on the bottom, her superstructure up top
was still out and they had a Bofors gun sat on it, and the Waterhen, she was sunk out at sea. And it wasn’t so long ago when the Italian pilot that sunk it wrote to the Rats of Tobruk with a letter to say he was sorry and how he felt about looking down and seeing all these men in the water and everything like that.
But going back, when the ship, when you get into the harbour, around as I said, around about midnight, something like that, one o’clock or something, the Italians down over the back towards Bardia, they had a big naval gun on rails in a cave, and they used to wheel it out and take it back in. So about that time they’d know when the boat was coming in
and they’d open up and you could hear it. I tell you what, it’s eerie. This is the introduction you get. But they had a big air raid shelter cut into the cliffs, so you’d get in there until they’d finish. But we were lucky, all the artillery went over the back and then they came down and the next day I think, or no, that night, they came down and they
take you into Tobruk a bit, away from the harbour. The next day they say, “You go back,” because we were the 2/12th. We joined the 2/12th Battalion, C Company.
the 2/12th Battalion was back in the second line of defence. You do a turn up the front and then they come back to the second line, you rest, back up, like this. And we were on the second line of defence and we had a little, about a six by four hole and about eighteen inches deep dug, sand bags around it, and a bit of
scrap stuff, anything you could get to put over the top to keep the sun out. You’d put one blanket only on the floor and that was your home for two, you know, you had a mate. That’s where you, you only had a pair of shorts on in the day time. You’d be laying there and you could see the dust settling on your stomach and you could write your name on it. We only had a pint
of water. Your water bottle was hanging up, you weren’t game to drink it. Water was a big problem there. You wouldn’t have a shave until your beard got that way, it would be full of sand and itchy. Every razor blade you could scrounge around you kept, because it took about four or five razor blades to get your beard off because it was full of sand and you only had a little tobacco tin,
you know, just a small one with water and that’s all you could afford to use and you’d try and lather that up to make it soft, and that’s how you tried to get shaved. But that was only once in a while when your beard got full of sand, and of course you never washed. You put your towel out at night and the dew would dampen it and you’d wipe your face over.
It was a pretty hard life.
Very peaceful. Of course the old saying is, the sands of the desert grow cold, and they grow cold too. Of course we were about so much ground, like below ground that much that it wasn’t too bad. You could put up with it.
But food was another problem. In the afternoon a truck would come up from the harbour. They had a bit of a cookhouse down there and they’d get the bully beef and they’d warm it up and they had rice or some prunes in. They’d put your beef in one, prunes in the other and you walked the road, I suppose
about forty or fifty yards, and by the time you got back there your prunes had a colour of yellow on it, you know, the dust. Of course you didn’t worry about it. It helped at times because when you had your bully beef, the rice, it didn’t look very well because there were weevils in it that long.
Plenty of them too. You didn’t look. They taste alright cooked up, but you had to eat it because there was nothing else. The only other time if you like in the day had a tin of bully you ate that. But when you broke the seal you made sure the seal when it opened was facing the other way because there’d be a big string of fat
come out. You’d always eat a tin of bully. We were allowed army biscuits. I think they were kept over from the First World War. They were that hard, but they were very nourishing. They were good.
and it was all covered over and either end they had the big gun pits where you’d fix your Bren guns on crossfire. One would go that way, one would go that way and the next bloke would do the same, so you’d cover yourself out the front with machine guns. It was nice and cool down below. The only problem was the fleas, full of fleas,
so you laid there and scratched. Of a night, all British Army, don’t matter, I think in any part of the world of a night, always what we called stand-to because, as I say, they reckon that is time when they reckon the body is of low ebb, especially in the morning, and that’s when you’re liable for attack. So
they’d get two or three, only two or three at a time, they’d go out. You’d have a gap in the wire, it was all barbed wire, and you went out into no man’s land and you laid down and you laid there all night. You had your uniform on and your pockets stuffed with hand grenades and things like that, and you laid down
and anything moving you could skyline, and there were little tufts of grass there and I said to my mate one night, “See anything?” He said, “I can see thousands of them.” The grass, you know, because if you watch anything long enough it’ll move. You know damn well it can’t, but it will. You think it does. So then we could hear the Italians building something. I think they were building a sanger.
We call them sangers. They’d get the rocks and build up around and they’d cover it over. We had one just behind us where the artillery spotter, he used to lay there all day in this heat with binoculars to see any movement. If he’d seen any movement he’d just phone back to the twenty-five pounders then to show our artillery and they could shell them. Anyway,
they could hear these Italians and they said, “We’ve got to go out and shift them, or we’ve got to do something.” We had a lieutenant, Mike Steddy, a champion bloke, came from the Gulf country, and he could walk around in the desert, because to walk around in the desert you get lost easy because you haven’t got your landmarks, and he’d walk around no trouble. So he took us out, halfway out
he said, “Look, there’s a landmine.” You could see where the landmines were put down, so you picked your way through. We went out and the old Italians, I still can’t understand them. I don’t know why. They were there laughing and talking. I don’t know if they had a bottle of wine or what it was, but they were laughing and talking. We were standing on top of them. Of course all we did was, you know, just threw
a few hand grenades in, a machine gun and that. Of course as soon as you do that hell breaks loose. They open up with everything, mortars and artillery, machine guns, everything, and I made my way back. I got almost back there and I thought, the landmines. I’d walked straight through them. I’d never do it again. Someone guided my steps that night.
And we got back and I had a mate wounded. He had punctures in his stomach. Anyway, that was, I don’t know still, something was in the mine, how I walked through a minefield because the way they’re planted it’s hard to do without you could see them. It’s hard to get through them and I just walked straight through them just like walking down George Street in Sydney.
So someone guided my steps.
along, because the gum tree is associated with Australia. Of course you couldn’t see anything down low, you’d only just seen the tops and everything. It was a marvellous feeling. Then of course as I said, when you get up there and see what it was, but it was well kept, beautiful. And as strange as it may seem they,
at a certain time, it was getting on towards Christmas, October, November, it could have been early, end of, early November, something like that, the red poppies were growing. The red poppies of Flanders, you know, from France, the same, and they were growing there. I don’t know how. I had one pressed and I had it in, I just don’t know what happened to it, a sister
got it or not. But I had one pressed to bring home and I had it when I got home, but I don’t know what happened to it, and we were there resting and they took us up to, up into Syria. I never told you –
think of, and that’s why you could walk past Gaza. The war cemetery is there. So I really can’t comment on in Gaza itself. But if it’s like any of the other walled cities it would be pretty rough. There was just off Gaza,
when we went over there in ’40 Palestine was more or less still the same as it had been for thousands of years. Just off where we had the camp there was a mukhtar we used to call him, the old mukhtar. He had a place there and it was all walled in, big high wall, mud walls, and everyone got in there like, all his family, his four or five or six wives, his donkeys and fowls.
Everything he had, his kids, all in that little village, and that’s how he lived, and to divide some of his property off they only had prickly pear. So we were having a march one day and here’s the big fat old mukhtar laying back and he had all his wives there peeling prickly pears for him and he was gorging himself with them. And just down out from,
he had grapevines and the grapes were beautiful. We pinched a few off him. They wasn’t staked, they were just laying there because the ground was like concrete. How they grow I just don’t know. I don’t remember a drop of rain at any time. There must be a certain moisture in the soil because they grow their little wheat, it’s only so high, and onions and a few things like that.
just like a crooked stick and it had a little steel shoe on it. That was their plough. They could only scratch the top of the ground. They’d have a donkey or a cow or something hooked up to one side and the donkey the other side and that’s how they ploughed. They just broke the surface to plant their things. And their wheat was only so high, as I said,
only short and stubby and the women, of course the women did all the work. Women was over there, was only to work and raise children. They had no social life. Of course they harvest the wheat, and this other place, it was there somewhere. I just can’t put my mind on it. It was just a mud house or what it was, but what they used to do, bring
the wheat in and of course the ground, as I said, was hard as concrete, and they’d put it all in a heap. Then they’d have the old donkey and a little sledge and he’d walk round and round and round and break it all up, you know, to practically dust. And when they done that, we were watching, they had a fork and they used to get forks and throw it up in the air the wind would carry the dust away and the wheat would fall and that’s how they separated the wheat from the husk.
As I say, they’re going back thousands of years, I suppose they still lived there.
barren. And down one end, the Mediterranean end, down that way, there was an oasis. It was beautiful, you know, the palms. Of course water’s everything after you come out of the desert. But the Dead Sea was there, we went around it and from there we headed up to Damascus. That’s another walled city all built in around a wall. And
I don’t know why, if we only pulled up for one day to stretch our legs, I think it must’ve been because we could walk in and we had a look just around a little bit of Damascus. They had a big place, a huge place there and they were all sitting around making jewellery, beating silver, and what they made was beautiful. I suppose they’d been making it for donkey’s years, and then I walked just a
little bit further and here’s an old bloke, he had a big white beard down to his chest, his hair was snow white and he’d sitting there at his loom. I suppose he was there and his father and his father and his father going way back was at the same place. It was a little old place, sitting there doing his tapestry. Another thing you’ve got to remember these
days, or in them days, I suppose it could’ve been proved now, I just don’t know, hygiene is not existent. If a child can reach the age of about three they reckon it’s got a good chance of living. It’s only pollution, hygiene and so forth. It still sticks in the mind, I don’t mean it as offensive or
anything like that. As we were walking up past near where this old bloke was with his loom, there was a child there, she was just crawling. I don’t know if it was a girl or a boy to be honest with you, and apparently it had dirtied itself and there were 3,000 flies around it, just swarming around it. So you see how a child had so harsh a life, and another thing, I suppose only just a few
yards or down the road a bit, if they’d have killed a goat they’d just hang him up. No gauze or nothing around it. It would be just hanging there and flies would be crawling over it, see. Dysentery and that was a big part I think. The young ones didn’t have much chance.
But when we were on the move, well, I suppose the country was wide open, and from there, from Damascus we went up into the Lebanon. Now this is very interesting, to me it is, there was a ruin and it was like the ruin went up into like a
gully, all flat and then came back out again and in there was this ruin and there was a column still standing. Most of them had fell but a lot of them were still standing and they were very high and they were marble, and I guarantee they were as smooth as a gun barrel would be inside. On the top there the Corinthian decorations.
I only read not so long ago where this marble, the only place where they could’ve got it from was Italy. Now, how would they get the marble from Italy over, because the Lebanon is in a great big valley. How they’d get it there I wouldn’t know.
And last Anzac Day I got a cab and there was a young Lebanese driver and I mentioned I was over the Middle East and so forth. He said, “I’m a Lebanese.” I said, “You would’ve been there to Ras Baalbek?” That’s the ruin. “Yes,” he said, “I know it well. I lived around that area,” and he said, “Apart from the columns,” he said, “They’re stone
blocks, blocks of stone there that big and heavy and square,” he said, “Even with today’s cranes and that I don’t think they could shift them.” So how did these people do it. I firmly believed that the people before us that lived on this earth were far advanced than we were. There’s other proofs too. How would they get that?
Of course now too they reckon that once the Mediterranean was only shallow and they could’ve brought it overland, because not so long ago, just out on the mouth of the Nile, not at the mouth, but out in the Mediterranean they found the first lighthouse in the world. It’s laying there all in pieces under the water and they said it was
on the mouth of the Nile of course, but it’s out in the Mediterranean and they knew it would only be on a headland. So the Nile, don’t know whether it was the Ice Age or what rose the water. There are quite a lot of things. And then from there we went, we camped up at, in the Lebanons. I think we had a week or a fortnight there, did a bit of training and of course which they always do, and we moved up and I can’t tell you the name
of the place, just before you get to Aleppo which is up on the border. I think it was the French, or the Vichy French I should say, barracks, definitely barracks. They had the huts and parade ground and all walled in, and we seemed to be doing, no leave of course in them places, and we were just doing guarding, sitting around and so forth.
And they said, “Anyone wants to do,” this is the 2/12th Battalion, “Anyone wants to do a first aid course?” I said, “Yes, I’ll do that.” So over we go, sit on the ground and they tell us we do this and do that, and showed us a few bandages. Then they gave us a bag of syringes and some morphine and so forth and they said, “Now you’re stretcher bearers.”
I’ve still got the card there, the first aid, where they were supposed to protect you and if you were taken prisoner you could work, like, in a hospital or things like that. And we were there and then we moved up into Aleppo. Now Aleppo is a big place, beautiful too. They had a lot of German features up in there because up on the hill there’s a big German barracks that they built
after the First World War there, and we went up there. And the layout too of Aleppo was nice, a few trees and so forth there. What we were there for, the railway line before the war, they said you could get on the train in Cairo in Egypt, they’d put the carriages on a punt across the Canal,
you’d go up through Palestine, Syria, through the mountains. Now we were up in the mountains and there were a lot of tunnels and a big bridge, a big viaduct built by the Germans, and we were there to guard it and looking down over it you were looking down into Turkey. Of course all these tunnels and the tunnels were all bored with holes and full of dynamite and gelignite and everything,
all ready to be blown if the Turks should come against us. And the bridge was, all around the pylons was packed with gelignite and the rails and the big structures were all packed with gunpowder and they were ready to blow the whole lot if they came in, and we were there to guard it. While we were there Christmas came on. It snowed,
it wasn’t much good to us because our army boots all had big nails in and they used to freeze and of course your feet were always cold. But I was lucky, a lot of the blokes that were guarding the tunnels, they just slept beside the railway lines out in the cold and snow and that. But being a stretcher bearer, there were two engineers there,
it was their job to blow these things up. They had a tent there and they said, “You can go in and stop with them,” because I had to be on call if anything happened. We had a little drum there and we could light a fire and keep it warm. I don’t know where they got it, they must’ve had a dish or something and you put a bit of water in it to have a wash of a morning. It was warm. As soon as you threw
it out and hit the ground it was ice, you know, cold, and they had planks on two drums to sleep on, so it wasn’t too bad there. But the old Arabs, he’d come down and bring little bags of tree roots and that for the fires and he always wanted socks, “Socka, socka, socka,” all the time he wanted. And you could run out of socks,
and then we said, “Kerosene?” “Oh yes, kerosene.” So after a while we woke up to them. They’d three parts fill the kerosene with water and put a bit of kerosene on top. Poor old Arab, away, happy, and the next thing he’d go, “No kerosene, no kerosene.” As I say, if you put it over him he was happy, but he’d put it over you too if he could.
On there was right out on a point. Turkey was directly down below it and there was a big fort, I suppose built by the Germans too, and of course headquarters was there and apparently someone must’ve shot a goat and they cooked it. You could smell it. I’ve had some, I could smell it in Turkey, strong. I couldn’t eat it, terrible.
Food was very light on too, but it wasn’t too bad. And after that they brought us back down onto the flat country, down where the road from Syria crossed into Turkey. It was quite pleasant there. We camped in a school. Of course the schools over there have got all marble floors, a bit cold of a night, but they had a great big
steam house. When you went in they had a big long wooden like beds and you took your clothes off and you went through, like, an air lock, two doors, one door and then you closed it, and the floor in there was like a little well with Condy’s crystals in and you washed feet before you went into these.
You just went in there and sat there and it was lovely, hot, and they had there if you wanted it, they had a place on the side where you could just lay there and he’d scrub you, soap and hot water and that. You’d do that, then you’d go and sit down and your perspiration again, and you did the same thing when you went out. You went out through, out these two doors, but when you got outside they’d give you
a lovely white cloak like a dressing gown and you’d lay on these tables until your temperature came back down to natural level. It was good.
I just don’t know. I suppose half hour, three quarters of an hour. You could stop there as long as you liked if you want because it was beautiful, because the places we were in water was always a problem. I mean, you didn’t wash, like change your clothes or anything, once in a blue moon.
So these places were a good blessing to get in there. Anyway, you want to carry on down? After that we stayed there, we got on a train but this time no carriages, it was just like cattle trucks type of thing, but they’d been all cleaned and everything. They took us
down past Beirut. We never stopped, Beirut, Palestine, back to the Suez, across the Suez, then down to, not Port Said, down the other end of the Suez, and where this beautiful ship was waiting and so we went
onto it. It was the Nieuw Amsterdam, it was a Dutch boat. It was only reasonably new when the war finished and the Dutch got out with it, and it had just been down to South Africa and was loaded up with all fresh food and everything. Anyway, when she was loaded, of course all their whoppers. “Well, we’ll post our guards
and so forth there,” and that was the first thing they’d think of, and one of the petty officers said, “There’ll be no guards on this ship. This is our ship and we run it.” So we just laid back on deck and had good food and it was heaven until we then went over, of course, to Bombay.
We tied up there for a week. They took our uniforms off us and kit bags and of course Churchill wanted us to go to Burma. Curtin said, “No, they’re coming home.” So they argued backwards and forwards. Anyway, eventually Curtin won, so from there we went back to Colombo in Ceylon. We transhipped into smaller boats. Once again I got on the
Dilwara. I was lucky, then being a stretcher bearer I got a cabin. It was when we left Colombo, the Ramillies, it’s a big English, I think it was a battlecruiser. It’s a lot bigger than the
destroyers and things like that. They had the battlecruiser, then the battleship. And it was big, you ought to have seen the armaments on it. A big thing, used to wallow in the sea, and it escorted us out. During the night I think it left us and there were three ships in our convoy, only small. We were told after that we went almost back to Africa, down the African coast,
down to the Roaring Forties, then back along there and came up into Fremantle because there were raiders in the Indian Ocean and they weren’t that far south. It was cold and rough. You could see right back underneath the ships when they lifted up out of the waves. and I spent a lot of time on deck. It was good.
which they always did to us. Make your own tent, put your own tents up and make your own camp and everything, and we were there. There was a lot of rabbits there, so we used to go out and we’d see a burrow and we’d dig a burrow out and get the rabbits because there were no traps or anything, and they’d be cooked, you know, change of diet. But it was cold there that time of the year.
Then we moved from there up into near the Somerset Dam in southern Queensland. It’s inland, south west, it’s a big dam. It was almost complete when we were there because where we were camped they tell me later on it became underwater. There’s no place there for leave. This lieutenant I mentioned about there in Tobruk, came from
up in the Gulf country, he got married there. I still remember Mike being married, and about three months after he was dead. So he didn’t have much of a married life. Somerset was, we had, I think they said there was a hundred mile march there one day from there, went up
through the back country somewhere to Kingaroy. Never again. I was a stretcher bearer. They said the truck was carrying all the cooking utensils and food and everything, “You ride on the truck,” and when I got there I had big dishes with Condy’s crystals in for the troops to bathe their feet. That’s why we had to go ahead
of the troops. So we did that march. There was no leave, I don’t think, because there was no place to go to. Oh yes, into Somerset, there was a little bit. I forget, it was that long ago now, I forget.
They had no chance at all. The Japs used to annihilate them, and Milne Bay was their last and they, and we were brought back, right back to Gili Gili then, just behind, and the Japs landed and they got in amongst the militia and the militia couldn’t hold them and they got pushed back and pushed back and they lost
a lot, and eventually those that lived got back to where we were. And before this they’d built another airstrip there, what they called Turnbull Strip. There’s photos there of it. It wasn’t meshed over or anything, it was just clear. All the militia and
anyone else they could gather they formed up on the other side, one side of the strip, and they gathered everything they could gather like mortars, every machine gun they could, all kinds, anything that would fire. The artillery was ready to come in and that night the Japs came down and they began to
cross over and if they had’ve crossed over they would’ve took. The next morning, I think it was, pardon me, I think there was nearly ninety-four dead Japs there, and the Japs went back because we broke their back, you know, broke the biggest part of them and then we went. Oh before that, I’ll tell you, it was in a book
written up in Queensland later, now I mean. When they brought us down from up the back, down past the airstrip to Gili Gili we were all sitting around waiting for orders to move up towards where the action was going on. We were all sitting down and Sergeant Doug Scott, was his name,
he said, we had a box of hand-grenades there. He said, “We’ll clean these hand-grenades and get the grease out of them and we’ll get a faster strike.” Because they were only four second strikes, only four seconds before you pull the pin and it went off which was too long. They changed it to three later on, and he said, “Charlie, you sit there, undo the base plate, pull the pin and let it strike.”
Of course there was no fuse in them, they were still in the box. That was my job. The bloke next to him, he said he’ll turn the grease out of them, clean the grease, and the bloke next to him, he put them back in, put the piston back in. And Tom, being the sergeant, he said, “I’ll put the detonator in,” and I’m sitting there and we’re all yakking and talking and pulling the pin and it’s going around and then he
finished one and put it in the box. You wouldn’t want to know, I picked it up and pulled the pin. We were all sitting around it and it started to smoke. Well I could’ve won any Olympics for speed, the same as everyone else. We scattered. We couldn’t throw it because there were too many troops about. I got down behind a palm tree and we were waiting for it to go off in four seconds. One
of the officers had his valise there, all his sleeping bag and all this, and it chopped it to threads. We lost a couple of hand-grenades or something. But that was just something that happened. Nothing was said about it, but it’s not in this book. In another book they published up where the sergeant mentioned the fact that I pulled the pin on it. Yeah, anyway, we got,
next morning when they crossed over and all these dead Japs and that. It was the 18th, no, the 12th Battalion, it was the 12th Battalion. D Company led, they were first. A Company was behind them. B Company was behind them and we were C Company behind them. We brought up the rear.
So we pushed on up to, then there was a mission up there, what they called KB, KB Mission. But we couldn’t get that far. We got again, a river, thereabout the Gama River, and B Company was ahead of us, they were on one side and we were on the other. And that’s the first mistake we ever made. We were still back in the desert. We
put blokes out in the front of us, just out in the jungle the other side of the road as a listening post for Japs, and we couldn’t get them back. The Japs got them. But we only did that once, but it was unfortunate. They reckon there were over a hundred Japs, but we settled down as I said before, that
all British armies, Australian Army, any army, always stand to coming on dark and before daylight. So we were all standing to when the Japs, they didn’t know we were there, they just walked into us. They came up the road, they weren’t ready for us. They had their rifles slung and all this. Of course they waited for them to come up and they got into them. I think they killed over a hundred Japs that night.
But what happened was, there was one, only one in all our times up there got into our line, and for some time or other the Gama River flowed one way and it changed course and went down another way. Of course where it was flowing there was a dint in the road like that, and we had a bloke wounded. He was moaning
and groaning and making a noise and I was there trying to dress him and as I was doing this, pitch dark. You don’t strike any matches or any lights or anything. I couldn’t find, and as I did, Tom McCauley, one of the other sergeants, he walked past and as he walked past a Jap was standing there and drove the bayonet into his back. But Tom was a big bloke, used to do a bit of
wrestling and everything. He swung around and grabbed the Jap, got him down on the ground. Of course somebody went over then, we had Thompson machine guns we then, we brought home from the Middle East and they give him a burst and he went to his ancestors. But if he hadn’t have I think I wouldn’t have been here today to tell the story. I think he was coming, I knew there’d be someone there with the bloke that was wounded, and I couldn’t find where
he was wounded. All I knew there was blood all over his head. You feel in, you know, you use your fingers. You got into the wound and everything. I couldn’t find a wound where he was bleeding, so I just wrapped a field dressing around him, give him a good shot of morphine which you don’t know if you’ve got a full syringe, half a syringe or anything, nothing because it was dark and you just put your syringe into the
bottle. Anyway, we got him to send him back. I met Tom McCauley after in Queensland and he said, “You’re a poor bloody old sergeant, you didn’t even know where the man was wounded.” I said, “How would I know in the dark, you couldn’t see.” I knew he had blood all over his head, and what happened was they got him back to hospital
and by the time they cleaned him up and everything they couldn’t find any wound on him. Apparently they sat him up on the side of the bed and he coughed and blood came up, shot out of his chest. He was shot through the chest. Of course he was bringing up the blood. As I said, pitch dark, you wouldn’t know. You didn’t have any light or anything, and all the way through it was night time. It was all the same, you only felt for it, you
found it, you put a red dressing on and you brought him back behind. After you got him out of the front you brought him back and he stopped there until carriers came up the next day and they’d take him back to where the doctor was and he would have a look. If it wasn’t bleeding he wouldn’t touch him, he’d just put a tag on him to say where he was wounded and had a dose of morphine and so forth, and then the
carries would take him. He’d go back and eventually he’d get back to hospital.
and they had to be built pretty strong too because they got rough treatment up there. They could be wet, they could be anything, you know. We lost a lot of stretcher bearers. Per ratio we lose more stretcher bearers than we would ordinary soldiers, like front line, because we only had four
stretcher bearers to a company, and a company I think was around about 120 strong. We had one at Milne Bay went through, we stopped the night at KB Mission and it rained. After the Gama River we moved up the next day up into KB Mission and the full battalion was
there and we stopped the night. So under the coconut tree they’ve got a butt, you know, up above the ground a little bit. I don’t know who it was now, him and I, we sat there. He sat on one side and he sat on the other. We had a ground cape and tin hats, and rain, it poured. Then you could feel the water seeping up around your bottom. You dare
not move in them places. It don’t matter what, ‘cause our own blokes would shoot you, which they’d done before at the Gama River. They moved and one bloke shot them because you don’t know the difference in the dark. So the rain had come up and then it stopped raining, and it was going down. Then it would rain again and up it came, what a miserable night. The next day we, C Company,
we took the lead then and we moved on and we came to, see, up there too, the jungle grows nearly right to the water’s edge. Very few little beaches, especially like in Milne Bay. So there was this little beach and a river, an ideal place for us to pull up. So we pulled up
and formed our perimeter, the blokes that were front line. We had the beach then. Of course we were always in the middle in case we got called out. If were in the front line and someone got called out it would leave a gap and a Jap could come through it, so they kept us back, and our corporal
stretcher bearer, Jackie, be from Tasmania, he, during the night it was, he must’ve had the call of nature and he went down to the beach and he walked along the beach a little bit and just as he undone his clothes and sat down one of the boys went bang. How we ever missed him I don’t know. I struck him later on in
Sydney. He said he don’t know how he missed him, but he did. That’s how trigger happy they get. The only ones that could move around a bit, and we let them know who we were, was us.
This little place where we stopped, we moved on next day because our company, C Company, we were leading the attack and we ran into a nest of Japanese machine guns and we all got pegged down, and there were three of us laying there, stretcher bearer in front of me, there was me and another bloke, and the machine gun was
cutting the leaves off just above our heads. We weren’t game to move, but what happened was one of the bullets must’ve hit a limb or something and ricocheted down and went into the top of the neck area of one of the stretcher bearers and went down inside. Impossible to do anything. We took him back but it’s impossible. Even if you had a good,
AGH [Australian General Hospital], good doctors or something. They couldn’t do anything because he’d bleed to death inside, and it was there while we were there our sister battalion then came through us and they ran into this next, and French, that’s where he got his VC [Victoria Cross]. He’d taken this machine gun nest, and they pushed on then further on and then they found Squadron
Leader Turnbull. He crashed and they found his plane. He was still in it, and we went further on with the 9th Battalion leading and we stopped again for the night. But that particular, this night we were camped near the water and we
heard this destroyer coming. You could hear the noise of them, and he got down and he put the lights on, big searchlight, and the old Anshun was there and he sunk it, and then the Manunda, that was the hospital ship. He put it on her and there she was, a great big white ship with the red cross on it and luckily they didn’t touch her. But when they were coming back they put the searchlight on the
jungle like, on the edge, and they put it where we were and there must’ve been someone standing up and then they fired but they couldn’t get low enough. They fired into the trees. We lost one bloke, it nearly tore his back off. Another bloke, Herbie Ryan from Cairns, they finished up they had to take his foot off. I got a little bit of shrapnel in the foot, in the boot I should say, but it didn’t
hurt me. And we heard then that instead of landing troops, we thought they were landing troops, but they were taking them off. Anyway, that night they had a big battle up further, the 9th. The next day they called for stretcher bearers and we had to go forward, and we were that tired. We hadn’t slept for days and days and very little food. So two of us had to go forward,
but when we got up there where they were they were, they’d collected their wounded and that’s where they found the militia blokes, hands tied behind their back and bayoneted to death. Their fingers cut off where the Japs had tortured them and all this. Anyway, I still don’t know where it came from, they was a little boat there. It must’ve been
one of the Japs’, like a big rowing boat. So they loaded all their wounded and that into there and took them back that way. The mate and I, we had to make our way back to our own lines and the corporal stretcher bearer said, “Look, we’ve got to put you in the front tonight. We’ve got too big a gap. We’ve got not enough men,” because we were getting well down
on men then and I said, “God, we can’t keep,” “Doesn’t matter, you’ve got to stop there.” Which we did, but they started to take us back and we had to walk back, and on the way back one of the boys were carrying a stretcher and he fell over and he couldn’t get up, he was that tired, you know, and everything. We had
to lift him up. Anyway, we made it back, but after we got back they had tents and that waiting for us and we got a bit of food and change of clothes, because you hadn’t changed your clothes for weeks, especially us blokes too, because we had a lot of blood on us and you’re wet, you could smell it. And your feet, when you took your boats off you could see the blood coming through your skin. It was pretty rough going.
the one barge that got away from Bluey Truscott got amongst the others. They landed on Goodenough Island. Of course over the back they had an airstrip and so it was our job then, they wanted the 2/12th to go up, we had to go and shift them. So three battalions, three companies, 9th,
10th. A, B and D Company, they went off on the destroyer, on the Arunta, it was practically a new destroyer in them days, and we went up on the old Stuart. It was one of the old destroyers, and the idea was the three companies were to go inland and come around the back, the back of them, and come in that way.
Our job was to go up, come to a certain place and stop and if the patrol companies that drove them down wanted to come our way, it was our place to stop them. And by the way, on the way up too, I was under a temperature of 103 [Fahrenheit] because I was full of malaria. It didn’t make any difference. And they creep into
this, it’s a bit eerie too, you creep onto this island and it’s all jungle, jungle right to the water. You didn’t know who or what was there, and the destroyer said, “Now, no smoking, no noise, no lights, nothing.” So the old Stuart, she creeps in. She gets into a certain thing and she drops her anchor. I guarantee you could hear it a hundred miles away. Anyway, we landed and we go down the track towards where
we were supposed to go and we stopped where we were supposed to go, and the next thing we were being attacked by the Japs. We lost a few there. That’s where the mate was lost, his machine gun jammed. The other three that were supposed to come in, they got bushed or they come to a cliff and couldn’t get over it. So the,
it would be after the battle, after the Japs went back, it must’ve been coming on night and in the meantime we had one of the blokes, he got shot through the thighs, which is terrible because you can’t do anything about them, and he was on one side of the track and we were on the other and the machine gun was firing down between us so we just had to wait. He was moaning and groaning and cursing us
to get him. But it was suicide because they had the machine gun firing down the middle. Anyway, they stopped and went. We went and got him and the captain said, “We’re going back. If the launches are there we’ll all go. Not some. We all go or we all stop.” Anyway, we were lucky. There were enough there, we all got
aboard. You can imagine on board with all his thighs shot. I don’t know how much morphine we pumped into him but the doctor said, “It won’t hurt him.” With the movement of the boat his bones would grating and we didn’t have splints. Anyway, they get him back and that night the Japs left. The next
morning they came back over and they went through the kunai grass and that and they found a Jap hiding in there and we got him and they took him back and they tied him up. He poked his eyes out and chewed his tongue and all this and of course you go bad up there pretty quick in the heat, the tropics. They finished up they had to shoot him. But Mud Bay, they called the place. It was rather nice, you know.
It was a village of natives there and they used to bring down sweet potatoes, paw paws and that. It was good. One of our blokes shot a young girl there. They see someone moving through the grass, the kunai, and they sung out for her to stop and she run and they shot her. She survived,
and then we went down and got her and brought her in. Holy Moses, they’re on the nose. Of course the old had the grass skirts and they tell me the old one they leave on until it falls off and they just put the other one over it, you know. We had to dress her up. Just what happened and where she got to I don’t know. That’s where I
started to bring up a bit of blood there, cough blood, and I saw the doctor and went over and he said, “We’ve got a lugger going back with malaria cases and so forth on board.” He said, “You can go and look after them,” and he said to some of the others, “We won’t see him again.” He thought I had TB. But we got back to Milne Bay and I went to hospital and after a while it cleared up.
In the meantime, over the Christmas period, while Goodenough Island they had this airstrip, the Japs had an airstrip, and opposite there was Buna, Sanananda and this is where the next action. So they had to go and get them as they could and use it for an airstrip. They’d moved on up to Buna and them places then and then after I went up. Buna and Sanananda, they were on the track
they call the Sanananda. But I got there, and I was there at the finish when they finished, and we got another four or five Japs there. They were dead beat. They had nothing.
like that, raining like one thing. Water would be up around your feet. Just before it finished we got one bloke hit and wounded in the day time and we couldn’t get him because we thought the Japs would be waiting for us, you see. So we had to wait until dark came on and we went and got him. He was laying in water all day and when we went and got him and brought him back a bit, and
we should’ve kept him there overnight ourselves. But I said to my mate, I said, “Look, if we don’t get him back to our doctor,” Dr Sampson, I said, “he’ll be dead by morning.” Just laying in the rain. So I said, “Come on, we’ll take the risk of going back.” So we put him on the stretcher. Of course we made plenty of noise too and sung out who we were and when we got back they said, “Youse are bloody mad,” excuse the language, but we
shouldn’t have done it. We said, “He’d have been dead by morning if we hadn’t have took him back.” There was a little bit of high ground there, and the padre, and he still goes around today, he’s ninety-two, and Dr, they had two half tents they used to put together and they’d sleep in there. So we got him back and padre got out and we put him in and
Dr Sampson, he cuddled up to him all night to give him a bit of body warmth and next day, I think that’s where he stitched his back up a bit. After that you never hear any more about them. Wouldn’t even know where they went, but as far as I know we didn’t lose anyone. Today, God, if they’re out there and a drop of rain went on them they’d die. They’d think it was terrible. They
wouldn’t know what these blokes went through.
Why, this is MacArthur again. Of course I found out later on. I asked one of our top blokes. He was knighted, Sir Tom Daley, I said, “Why in the hell did we have to go and get that gun?” They could’ve fired away there for twelve months and wouldn’t hit anyone. There was nothing there to fire at. He said, “It was on the flight path.” Of course further down the Ramu Valley the Yanks had a big air base and it was their flight when they were going over to do
Rabaul and New Britain and all those places, and MacArthur wanted them shifted. I don’t know why, I still don’t know they had the gun there. Anyway, we relieved a mob that was there and there were all razorback hills, you know. It’s was like one man fronts the lot of them, so they couldn’t go that way. So what happened, they dug a track right around the base and in behind the Japs.
That’s where we went, the 2/12th, and we actually got in behind the Japs and they didn’t know we were there. But all told I think between dead and wounded we lost forty people. That’s where I almost, I don’t know, still don’t know how it happened, but I nearly met my Waterloo there. A mate got shot and shot through the spleen. I knew
there was nothing, no good taking back to a doctor or anything because there was nothing you could do about it, impossible. And I’m sitting there waiting for him to die and we thought the Jap was over there, and there was a little tree and I’m sitting side on to him and there was a sniper and he had a go and I don’t know how he missed me, but he did. The ears popped and the eyes bulged, the concussion of the bullet going past, it was that close.
Anyway, I ducked out of the road and they turned the gun around where they were shooting that way, firing that one, and they fired it around and hit the tree he was in and shook him out, yeah. So then they just kept on chasing the Japs and they finished that. After that they brought us back. After there we were up in the mountains. They brought us back
down to the floor of the valley, down to the floor of the Ramu Valley. I got malaria again and they had what they called a hospital. They had a few sticks in the ground with forks and a bit of kunai grass over the top, and a few poles with chaff bags on it. At least it was something, and I had the malaria, and while I was there they came around and they were taking names. I said, “What
are you taking names?” They said, “We’re going to evacuate the hospital.” Of course the show had finished, you see. “Oh, that will be good. I’ll go back to Lae.” “No, you won’t, you’re not going back. All we’re doing is taking the young blokes back.” So us older blokes, we had to stop there. Anyway, we stopped there and eventually they flew us out, flew us home again and up to the, pardon me,
that’s Kurai [?Kuranda] in north Queensland, there was a camp there and that’s where we did our training and that’s where I had two stripes and I lost two stripes, and to take two stripes off you they gave me a court martial and took my stripes because they just can’t walk up and take them off you. I did a bit of punishment for it. It cost me a lot of money that, it cost me three stripes.
They’d roll in a bath tub. They never stopped, cranky old things they were. Down in the hold, and we went in that up to Morotai. It’s an island up near Borneo, and we trans-shipped there. This was a terrible place, all mud, rain, you know again, and between trucks and people walking you were over your boot
tops in mud and everything and while there was a jumping place off for Borneo. So they took us down and we went onto the landing barges, the big barges, and underneath the barge inside they had these small little landing craft and we set off, convoy. We had American ships and everything up there then.
Australian ships, and when we got over in Balikpapan they had a big oil refinery there and all the pipes came down from the oil wells and down to the refinery, and then they had all these big petrol tanks. Instead of petrol
it was oil all out along there. There were heaps of them, and of course when we came the Japs burnt all these tanks. They were all on fire, you know, smoke, and they burnt for days. But you’ve got to give the old Yank his due. He made sure there was no one in front of him when you landed. They had like
rocket gun launches, a boat, and it would come in and there would be great heaps of rockets. They’d start at the water’s edge and they’d lift up and they’d go a bit further, and anything, I don’t think a rat could live there. They just cleaned it out for us. So we got out to get into these landing barges and they were just like a small tank, you know how the tracks, and took us in and landed,
and the one I was in we got half up the beach and he dropped his tail get out and someone said, “Move up a bit further, you’re out in the sea.” Of course he hit the gunner and up, we all spewed out the back into the ocean. It tossed us all out. And they pushed on and it was pretty easy. So later on because the Yanks, they’d bomb anything. They even bombed us.
What they had was all coloured strips and that was laid out just behind the front line and anything in front of that they could bomb. But you wouldn’t want to know, they got wet and the Yanks laid them out along the beach. Of course we’d gone well ahead, and
we were, of course you get used of them and when you see them unload the bomb you get an idea if they’re coming your way or somewhere else. You get used to them, and I thought, “These blokes are coming our way,” and just near a little place there was a little dugout and I crouched in there like a rat. I think we lost a few, a couple. One bloke got his knee blown out. Another bloke had half his face blown off.
It was the second time in all my time as a stretcher bearer that we had to walk away and leave someone. He was, actually he was dead but we couldn’t take him. The doctor came down with the jeep and he could only take so many, to pick up our wounded and this bloke was there. He was shot all around the head and he said, “What do you think?”
And I said, “We’ve got to leave him,” and I tell you what, it’s hard to walk away and leave an Australian soldier, but we had to. We couldn’t do anything about it, and we had to push on up. It wasn’t long after that that they dropped the bomb in Japan. Of course they tossed it in.
Where we were they brought us down then towards the coast and they built a compound there and had quite a few Japs in there that surrendered. When it finished they were told to lay down their arms, and we used to, of a morning we’d go down. I think we done a roll call and inspected some of the Japs to see
the health conditions. So we were doing that, I went down and there was a Jap officer. He had all his things there, you know, travelled in style, and I was going through it and he had, of course we had to use open blade razors and I took the razor off him and didn’t he play up. “No, it’s mine.” He wasn’t allowed to have it.
I took it. But we used to go down of a morning and as you say or I say, a lot of them could write English. A lot of them couldn’t spell it, but they could write it for some reason or other. I suppose it was taught that way in school. What happened to them after I just don’t know, I just don’t know. I think we then, after a while
someone else took over and we went back up to where we were camped before. But the Japs then, they knew it was finished and they were pretty docile. You had no trouble with them. We still had towers, like, with machine guns in if they played up, but they was alright.
wrote down, Joy wrote for me to tell them that I won’t be down. Time has come when I just can’t do these things. But Anzac Day is the most important day of the year to me because, as I said, I enlisted in North Queensland and there’s not many of us down this way, and we used to gather there.
As a matter of fact, one of the old mates I’ve known God knows how long, he, only a few months ago he went for a walk. He could barely walk, and a four wheel hit him and killed him. So last Anzac Day I think there was four Rats there out of what used to be a heap. There were only four of us, and the next year
there’ll be only two because the old mate got killed and I won’t be there. So what’s going to happen, like a lot of other things, I think eventually they’ll have to wind up or amalgamate with someone else. We did with the First War diggers. They got down to about three or four of the same numbers, like the 9th, 10th and 12th in the First War diggers and we
took them in and they marched with us or had our reunion and so forth. But eventually, of course, they all passed on, and I think the same thing is going to happen with us. I think we’ll have to amalgamate with some of the 9th Division or something.
Having been through the Second World War what are your thoughts on war?
I don’t know, I don’t know. I think it’s something, not our here, but over there it was something that had to happen. I just finished a book and if you read it, what the German people done to the Jews worse than what the Japs ever done, and
because Hitler was, he was taking all Europe and he was going to take all over there. He’d have finished up damn near taking the world. But then of course when the Americans came in and they got food and ammunition into Britain. They got there themselves. The big thing that helped them was radar. The Americans had big fleets
of submarines and they’d get them out on their convoys, and of course all the boats were old and they were very slow and they were sitting ducks and they used to sink them all. But then when Britain got radar, and someone, I just can’t think who it was, suggested that when the convoy is approaching England they put an aircraft carrier
out there that could scour around the seas, which they did. Of course as soon as they saw a submarine they could sink it. They’d drop their bombs on it. Then the convoys were starting to get though. See, at night time a submarine could be out charging its batteries and a plane fly over, pod him. Of course that wiped the submarines out.
Then they started to push Germany back. I’ve said this before too, when we were there, after Greece I think it was, and because the Germans were in Greece and they wanted the Middle East, they wanted to control the Middle East and I suppose the oil wells and that there. But when Russia came into it that changed them. They had to go back and fight against
the Russians. I think that’s the only thing that saved the Middle East from being in German hands.