Because I didn’t have a job when I left, I was working in New Zealand but not a job that was satisfactory for me. And I came over to Melbourne with this jockey Keith Pointer for a holiday when the Melbourne Centenary was on. He shouted me over; I went over with him. He stayed; I went back to New Zealand. Twelve months later I’m back in Australia. I made up my mind, I collected what little money I had, sold my golf clubs, got on a boat and got over, and I had practically
nothing in my pockets when I landed in Melbourne. But my father met me; he and I got accommodation out at Caulfield. I told the woman that I didn’t know how I was going to pay her but I was going to get a job and I’d pay her back, and she believed me and that’s what I did. And I finally got a job with Woolworths [supermarkets]. Woolworths had just started in Melbourne; they had a big chain in
Sydney. But they only had one shop in Melbourne that was in Bourke Street, and it was quite a big shop next to Coles [supermarkets], which had a lot of shops in Victoria. And I interviewed the manager and asked for a job. I never forget what he said to me, “Why should I give you a job?” I said “Because I’ve had to come over here to get a job” and so he took me on and I said “What job I was”
and he said, “We are a big company and we are looking for different people, managers and things like that”, he said, “We’ll see how you go, we might make you a trainee manager”. A trainee manager, so the next thing I know he tells me I can start in a week’s time or something. Well I tell you I got home to where I was staying, I didn’t have any money to even get back to get me job to get in,
no when I went to see him first I didn’t have a job to get into town, money for the meeting and I hitch-hiked on a tram into Melbourne to see him, that’s how…anyway I got the job, I started a couple of weeks later. And when I went into this big shop, I met a country boy as you might say and they had quite a big staff and he gave me a grey coat to wear
and I thought this was great you didn’t see too many managers getting around in grey coats, so they put me up into the top floor. And the top floor is where all the stock came in or some of it, and they put me on opening cases. And all the store came in and my first store at Woolworths was opening cases from Japan sorting out crockery, which was surrounded by straw, and it was over 100 degrees in temperature and the roof was
about 6 feet above me head and I came from a cold climate and that was my introduction to my job.
Sounds like a bit of fun.
It was fun and dangerous too I might add. If you had to pull up suddenly, and the bloke at the back he has a pole, a pole comes through his horse and himself and if he pulls up he can’t pull up the same time as me that pole shoots forward with him and takes him in the back. But that’s by the way. It was very interesting for me and the lads. Then when I came to Australia I didn’t go back, but when I heard this over the war yeah I thought, “We’re at
war”. And I must have had the background in the army and I thought, “Well if you are going to be in it, be in it straightaway. So this Prentice the son who is doing his first year medicine at the Monash university, a brilliant scholar, well he signed the next day to enlist. And we went to St Kilda Barracks to enlist and I wanted to know where the artillery barracks were I wanted to enlist.
And someone at the barracks told us to go to the artillery barracks near the Melbourne Cricket Ground and see there. So we walked from St Kilda Barracks to there, which was a fair hike and get there; the doors were shut and there was no movement on the ground. I knock on the door and a bloke comes to the door and he’s got army pants on, winter dress, one of the grey singlets we were issued with,
lather over his face, he said, “What do you want?” We said, “We want to enlist.” He says, “We’re full up”. So that was that. We walked back from there and we get back to town, and Des was still only about 16 and I was 25 and we went to the Young & Jacksons [Hotel] and stayed there and had a few beers. We were going to get back to the hotel, so we finally walked down King and Elizabeth Street where the hotel was down the corner
near the markets. And I can still remember this people outside the hotel, his mother sees us walking along and I can still hear her voice now screaming, and she’d heard us going to enlist and here’s this eldest boy that is just doing university for medicine going to enlist. And of course when I got up she abused me, reckoned I should have my brains bashed and then got stuck into him and then she started to cry and
I told her he wasn’t enlisted. So that’s how I didn’t get in the army.
And you can put and cover this whole building with it if you wanted to, just to make it bigger. But this coat has to be covered with these. It’s got certain cotton in it that has to be special coats cotton that came from England; big 10,000 yard cones. The cloth was alright, we had the cloth and we had the rubber to put on it. But we didn’t have the buttons and we didn’t have the eyelets. So as factory manager, I had to order
everything that was to manufacture those groundsheets. So I had to get 5 million buttons. Well just before that there was an embargo put on Japan and all those buttons were made in vegetable material that came from Japan, and you couldn’t get a button in Australia. The eyelets were made in Adelaide and the bloke rang me through from there thinking I had made a mistake in
the order, 17 million eyelets, I said, “No that’s right we are doing it for so and so”. He said, “There is not that much brass in Adelaide”. Then it came to the cotton we had to unpick that thing it had been all sewn up and all those stitches had to be so far apart to make them strong, we had to unpick that cotton until we had yards and yards of cotton from that one sheet.
And then we multiplied that by a million and it told us how many cones or hundreds of cones of cotton we had to get, they came from England and the war is on. I put the order straight in for cotton and we got it over to England to be sent. The eyelets eventually came but the buttons they didn’t have, I couldn’t get the buttons. So I went to the plastic, the Australian glass, big company in
Melbourne that just started plastics. They made teacups and eggcups and little things, not what you see now they make, just simple things. So I took the button along to them and I said, “Can you make one of them?” “Oh yes we could.” I said, “It’s got to be the same colour.” “Oh yes we can make that. But you’ll have to get a mould made.” I said. “What’s a mould?” “Well it’s a steel thing about this big or whatever it is you’ve got to get it made” I said, “Well make it, make it and we’ll pay for it”. So he makes it and the buttons were
exactly the same as we had and better but they weren’t made from plastic or vegetable stuff but water and stuff that might sit soft, these were better than that and that was the beginning of getting plastic buttons made in Australia from that day.
money had to be paid at the wharf before they’d put it off, when it was delivered it was paid for at the wharf and the bond. My boss Mr Bramble sent the boy that does all the travel, send the ute [utility truck] down to pick up the cotton and then he came back and he said, “Look at this bill, look at this bill”. He said, “They had to send a bigger truck to go and get the cotton”. But what happened then, he said,
“You’ll make me broke, you’ll send me broke.” I said, “Look if you don’t want it I can get rid of that now”. I could have because no one in Australia could get it, I just got the first order from England, he realised that and kept it. We got all this staff and started making these groundsheets. And that is all the new system had to do. Now it got to the stage where Dunkirk came and I couldn’t just stay there and watch and do this and the war is on like
that and there is Dunkirk and Britain is being pushed back to England. And I was brought up in a military background in New Zealand and that. And I said, “I’ve got to enlist” and I said, “There is only one way I can enlist is if you arrange for the government to release me because I’m in a particular occupation and being manager”. He did that for me and that allowed me to enlist.
So one day I go to enlist again and I thought, I was in town and I had my best suit on. I’d just bought it as a matter of fact, I was going to enlist and go back and tell them where I was staying, I was doing all this. So I went into the town hall in Melbourne said I wanted to enlist and had the pass that I could get in on account of the reserved occupation being allowed to be done.
All he did was take a urine test off me, took me name, there was about 50 of us, took us out to Swanston Street and marched us to the Flinders Street Station. We didn’t know where we were going, they were all in suits like me, and they just walk along, we get into this carriage. We finished up when we got out of the train in the Caulfield Racecourse. And there is about two or three thousand others rushing around
and World War diggers there rushing around as RSMs [Regimental Sergeant Majors] giving orders and telling everyone what to do. And we were finally sworn in in the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] and then told to go to the QM [Quartermaster] store to get our clothing. We go to the QM store they had a pair of boots they gave me, they didn’t try them on. They said, “What size do you take” and they gave me, they gave me a hat and they gave me a greatcoat. I said, “What about the rest of the gear?” “We haven’t got anything.
That’s all we got”. So I got this hat and coat and now I’ve got to get out, I haven’t told them I’ve enlisted: I’ve got to go back to Brambles and tell them, I’ve got to arrange at where I’m staying at the hotel. They are not going to let me out, once I was in there I was in there. So I made found out who was the senior officer of the camp and I went and explained things to him I was in a position I couldn’t, I had to go. He said, “Well I’ll give you 24 hours
but you’ve got to wear your army uniform”. I said, “I’ve only got a hat, boots and a greatcoat.” He said, “Wear them”. I said, “Why wear them?” He said, “If you get into trouble, the provos [provost, military police] will know you’re in the AIF”. So I had to wear them out the gates until I got out of sight and then I took them off and I went back afterwards. But they didn’t have uniforms for us, no equipment, no
write this down, the 1st Ordinance Field Park. This unit has never been in any other war before; there have been field engineers’ field parks. But a field park is where all the equipment is stored on the ground and like the engineers they have bridges, parts and everything to make bridges across rivers and so on and so on and so on, that is a field park.
Ours was called an ordinance field park and I didn’t find out what it was for until some time. The war now was mechanised and all the, where they had horses before in the First World War, they had all vehicles and all these tanks and cars, everything, and they had engines in them and they had our workshops to fix them and they had to have a place like you have a place like to get spare parts from everything from
mending cars or replacements and things like that. We were the ordinance field park and ordinance carries everything from guns, vehicles, everything, not clothing. And we went with every division and the field park would break up into the brigades and the brigades broke up into battalions and there’d be a field park in a battalion and it would even be like that in the field.
So wherever there was a workshop to fix up, there was always us to give them the parts and that but I was in another part of the ordinance field park, I was in the recovery. And the recovery is where anything breaks down in action, if you’re not in action, like a gun breaking down, a 25 pounder [field artillery gun] going or some vehicle it had to be recovered and brought back to the workshops to be done and then we had to take a new one in its place. Those
were two different things and that is what our ordnance field park was. And it was called the 1st and it was never ever called the 2/1st, because it was the first one in the history of AIF. And that’s how we went overseas.
us fit, and route marches was the beginning. I told you I got my boots issued to me when I was went into the camp at Caulfield and they weren’t, they didn’t fit me in effect they were too big. Until that time I could wear them they were quite reasonably comfortable. But when we started the route march I found how bad they were because after my first route march I finished up with huge blisters
on me feet. And I that give me a problem then because I had to change me boots. And I went to the RSM that issued them, but didn’t issue them but was responsible for me onwards in that camp, with our uniform after we cleaned the camp up. The quartermaster sergeant there was a First World War Irishman and
he had to keep a tag of all his clothing there what he had and he wasn’t going to change my boots. Anyway I went and got a certificate from the doctor that he had to and he had to do that and I think I was very unpopular with that bloke for some time. That’s the first thing. Well we were on these route marches and then we got our equipment issued to us, our rifles, our bayonets, our webbing, all those sort of things.
And then we start what they call the bullring and that’s where you march and march and march and do this and do that from morning to night. And then they got, they brought the other things into training, we had a Lewis gun [machine gun, World War I vintage], which was obsolete in those days even then. And we had to learn how to take that to bits and put it together and all its stoppages, mostly gas stoppages, and what to do and then replace it, and even do
this in the dark. And it wasn’t sometime before, about two or three months while we were in there before we even saw a Bren gun [Bren light machine gun]. And then with the Bren gun we went through the same batch again. Sergeant-major who was in the Q store used to give the instructions on how to use the Bren gun and that went on for days and days and then we’d have bayonet charges and everything that was
relevant to infantry training under the circumstances. We still didn’t know what a field park was, we still didn’t know what we had to do. There was some people in there that didn’t know what to do because as I explained earlier a field park is the supply of the parts and pieces to a workshop which is mainly car parts, you know like one of these Repco stores you know where you go to get car parts, same thing. Well they had to come from the Ford works and the Holden works,
people who supplied these things because all the vehicles we got were either Holdens or Fords. And they worked for Ford and they were told to join our unit and if they did they would get promoted quickly and they knew what they were going to be before they came in and most of those two left sergeants, we were still privates. There was no, the officers came in that was a company, the regiment was formed as a pre war
thing, the field park, they had been working on this you know naturally. And the CO [Commanding Officer] was a colonel, there was a major 2IC and a captain and I think they had another lieutenant. And we were all privates and we trained with them. And I remember I got sent to a school, which still had guards by the way on the gates, and there was always a sergeant who was a guard, there was a corporal as a guard and there was a privates, they were running out of
corporals. So they sent me to a school with a couple of other blokes; we thought we were going to get two stripes because with two stripes you get an increase in pay from five shillings a day to about eight shillings a day which is much better than five. But I got one stripe, which you’ve got all the responsibility of a corporal but you don’t get paid. And I found out myself why I was that, because when it came to corporals of the guard or anything like that when it was nighttime,
I’d be every now and again put on as corporal of the guard and that’s when you’re on for the dusk till dawn. And this went on, oh it was boring, we knew, you know, 6th had gone over, Division and we didn’t know how long we were going to stay, each week or month went on boring, boring and boring. Until something happened there that,
oh that’s right. We had to go to Adelaide to pick up some vehicles, oh before this picking up the vehicles we were still trained as though we were driving vehicles, to get all the instructions of what you did when you were driving a vehicle. And we had to have, as I explained earlier, we had to have living trucks [mock truck drill using men]. And there’d be two blokes put out the front being the front wheels of the truck, there’d be two
out the back being the back wheels of the truck and they were there and then there was a gap and there was two more of these, these are vehicles. And the sergeant in control of the vehicle is beside them so that’s five of them. Now you are ordered to proceed give the signal what the procedure was for going and they’d start walking forward. That’s the engine going and then they’d put up this sign for stopping, then that would be
the order. And then he’d say, “Mount”.
they serviced the 6th Divvy, they tried to do something with the 7th Divvy, they got the numbers but were doing nothing. But if you were in the infantry well they’d be the same, they’d be away where they trained, but they were going through the same thing as we were on the oval. But as soon as the trucks came they took our bayonets away. Because you can’t drive vehicles with bayonets or get in; you can’t do things. So any transport soldier
in the AIF like in the Army Service Corps that supply all the goods and the food stores and drive a truck, you don’t see them with bayonets only infantry, you don’t see artillery with bayonets. And so they took our bayonets; we didn’t know what we were going to be then but we know we had a rifle. But while all this is going on as a unit we trained very hard, we were very good, we were quite capable and they weren’t
trained hard you know the physical part of it. And then we were allotted where we were supposed to be and then we knew what’s happening. And then a big truck came in with all the parts, parts that supply all the different types of cars or trucks or whatever it is and that’s where the original men from the Ford companies and the spare parts places came in, they had the job already, they were all sergeants and then
we were and that’s where we were. And then the rumours started to fly when we are going to go, when we are not going to go. And then I remember getting in December round about the 15th of December they gave us final leave and that’s when we knew we were going, we went on final leave and took that and came back into camp. And then on Christmas
Eve we were taken by train to Sydney and then out on lighters on Sydney Harbour and then out onto the Queen Mary.
from the civilian luxury trips and our unit was in the A class cabins and each cabin had two beds, proper beds and an ensuite bathroom and they put a bunk over above the beds to make four of us and we were in the A, some were down deeper, some were up higher. And we had our life
jackets and we didn’t have drill or any or anything on that boat, 5,000 troops and you are not allowed to drill, but we used to sit up in the sun, or lay up in the sun up top deck and use the thing as a pillow and when they said for the meals you’d go down again and everyone sat at tables, there were several sittings on them the Queen Mary that they made into dining rooms. And the 5,000 sat down and I was a sergeant then,
they made me a sergeant a couple weeks before we sailed and I was in the sergeants mess and when we ate, we ate in the first class dining room of the Queen Mary and there was a waiter with his gear on and his white jacket and his menu and he was coming around giving us our meals and I said to him, I said, “Are the officers having it better than us?” because we had to go first and the officers and the nurses came in the second time in the first
class dining room. He said, “No the menu is just the same actually they might put a couple of hors d’oeuvres in for them but it’s the same”. He came in like a what’s the name and we sat there and all the other troops sat down, now that was as bad as it turned out, when they were finished their meals they sat down and started talking for the next bloke to finish whatever like that. And it took us several long times for us to get the whole troops on that boat to get fed
but with us we did it. And the only thing, there was a lot of lovely big paintings on the Queen Mary, they stored those and they had good timber floorwork and they covered that with plywood but apart from that it was exactly as the civilians did on that boat trip. Well when we got here we found that the Aratea from New Zealand was in
Fremantle. They brought the New Zealanders over. There was the Dominion Monarch, about three other boats and a few warships and we left sailing from here on the convoy. Well once we got to sea the first thing they did was take our life jackets away from us and say that we had to leave them in the cabin. And every time there was a boat drill we had to go down to the cabin to
get our life jackets to go onto the position on the boat for the boat drill. And if I was up top of the Queen Mary I used to take about a mile before I got back to the, to get me jacket before I got back because the length of the boat was nearly 300 yards and the number of decks you’ve got to down to do it shows you the size of the boat.
everyone was passing things over to send messages down below. And we had a member in our unit a corporal and he put a note in a tobacco tin and he threw it over and they caught it and he said to take it, there was a letter inside to post it to his people. And when we were at sea, he was called up because of this thing over the ship, and when the boat, there was all these launches got to shore,
there were police and security guards, each bloke that came in checking to see if they’d dropped anything over the boat’s sides and they got this one letter and they eventually got it and he got put before the CO on the boat and lost his stripes before he got to Suez, so they were on the ball. But the Queen Mary, we took off with the convoy and all these boats were
you know away from each other, and all the navy was just up and down and around just to see whether there were submarines and so on, all the way all the trip and with a convoy like that, the speed of the convoy is at the maximum of the slowest boat they can’t go any faster than that because the Mary can do 32 knots or 33 knots just doing this all the time and you’d think you were in a room,
there was no murmur of the boat you could just hear, it was a bit like, no murmur at all. And one day the whole convoy stopped and when it stopped all the engines were shut off the engines of all the boats and there was a terrific silence that went across that ocean, and someone had died and they were burying him at sea. And the bugles went and all that sort of thing out and they put the thing out and you see the corpse being
dropped into the ocean at the burial, as soon as he was in the bugle went again. All the engines started up again and then we went on again in the most, it wasn’t hair-raising, it was sort of fantastic.
That sounds like a furphy to me.
Yeah. But then that was we landed, we left on Christmas Day. Up til about April I was there, March, we were there from about the time we got to Berbera until about March. Then I was called before the CO and I had to take
about 12 others similar to what I put into when I enlisted in the army for Williamstown Racecourse for the people that went to get the camp prepared. I had to go to [El] Amariya; that’s a place outside, a staging camp outside Alexandria. At this time the 6th divvy were in Greece. The Greece campaign was
on. And we went to Amariya to prepare the camp for our unit coming. When we got there, there was other camps being prepared by the English, and a lot of them, South Africans, they’re all camps but adjacent to our camp, which means we had to put all those EPI tents up, we had all EPI tents with us for our whole unit our units. And worked on that.
And then our main body came and we were ready to embark to go to Greece for the campaign. And just then it appeared in the Alexandria Times were the 9th Divvy who had gone up into Libya to take over from the 6th Divvy that went to Greece, were there just as they finished their training. But Rommel [Field Marshal Erwin Rommel] came over with his Afrika Korps and landed in Tripoli and started high
tailing it into this 9th Divvy and put them into retreat. And I read in the Alexandria Times, wasn’t much, the strategic withdrawal from Benghazi for the 9th divvy. And I had to get, I had instructions from our CO to take 10 Marmon-Harrington vehicles and 19 ORs [other ranks] and myself to Cairo and pick up 10 anti-tank guns,
which I had to deliver to the anti-tank regiment in Derna, which is past Tobruk, and then hightail it back to where I came from to go to Greece with the contingent that were leaving. I left there on the 6th of April with this contingent of 10 vehicles. We got to Cairo that day, we picked up the guns and we took off the next morning and I got to
Mersa Matruh on the 7th. We stayed there overnight and Mersa Matruh was all bombed out from previous campaigns. We then took our next was from Mersa Matruh to Sollum, we start going on there and I got on the tail of a big convoy, which slowed me up and I found out that they were the Royal Horse Artillery moving up the way we were
going. I couldn’t get past them so we had to go to the side of them on the desert, and we passed the convoy and finally got past them. We hadn’t gone very further and we got pulled up again from another big convoy. And this was the Scots Guards, the English Scots Guards, and that we did the same for that until we finally made it to the front, and we finally got into Sollum at about 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock at night.
It was just getting dusk. I dispersed the vehicles and got the cook to make some meals, we had cooks travelling with us and mechanics and all that sort of thing. And the rest of this crowd went to the beach and had a swim. Before they got back a Don R [Dispatch rider] driver, the motorbike cyclist, come from the town major of Sollum; he wanted to see me. And when I saw him, he told us we had to go on,
not stay the night, go on. I never been up that way before. So we had to go on. So we got going again, and there’s a pass that you had to get up to Sollum up to the escarpment [Halfaya Pass], it was pretty steep and I never been up there and we’re driving and it was dark by this time. And we could only drive with these very bad covered lights you drive in the dark, you only see about a couple of yards in front of you. So I found my way up there, and I was up there
waiting for the rest of my vehicles to come up and a vehicle came back from the way that we were going and there was an English truck with a flattop at the back of it, the back was an Indian with a turban. In the front was a driver and two officers, I presume they had to go around them. He pulled up and he wanted to know where we were going. I told him it was
confidential and they blurted out that he was a general. And he said, “Well if you’re going up there” he said, “They’re all coming back” and I said, “Well if that is so correct sir, you tell the town major down the bottom if it is sure. I’m sure he’ll send a Don R after me and turn me round again” and off he went. Naturally I thought he would do that.
So I go on and I’m waiting all this time for this Don R to come, he didn’t come. So we went on and on and finally I realised we had to go on. And I get to the turn off, I hadn’t been up there before and there was a turn off to Bardia, and I thought Bardia would continue on to Tobruk, so we turned into Bardia and by this time the moon started to come up a bit. And it was absolutely deserted, Bardia, the moon was up, it was only a little place too.
But they still had guards there from the 6th been pulling out and there was just these old soldiers, the guards. He wanted to know the hell and I said, “I’m going up there” and he said, “You’re on the wrong road”. So we had to turn around in there, which was pretty hard in the short space we had to turn around, and off we went again and got onto the main road that took us straight to Tobruk. But we’ve got to go to Derna not Tobruk. We know nothing about what’s going on, I’m supposed to hand these over at Derna to the
company coming back to meet me. When I we got so far and the mist started to come on and I couldn’t see much so I had to pull off and we stayed there and early in the dawn breaking I could hear gunfire. It sounded like ack-ack [anti-aircraft] gunfire. But there is not supposed to be anyone there, there is supposed to be no one no closer than Derna if they were there. And as we got on I came to the perimeter of Tobruk and there was a hive of
industry; all the infantry was there digging in. And there was everything was coming in and going and I go thought because I’ve got these guns, “Where do I take them?” And I pull up into the town and everywhere you could see, everything has been bombed and so on. And I find the army headquarters, which was in town then and the person in charge then
got hold of me. And he said, “Take the guns out of the vehicles”. So we had to, we had a compound made up of concertina wire around to put all this gear in. So I took the guns out and put them there and amongst there was all these other things, there was clothing, there’s machinery, there is everything there. I put them there on this retreat so you can’t get them. And then he uses us and the trucks and he takes us out to the perimeter
where we’ve got to pick up ten truckloads of prisoners, one truckload of Germans, which I had, and nine trucks of Italians. We’ve got to take them back into town; there was a compound there where they were near the perimeter. We put them in the compound and went back to him and he said, “Well that’s alright, take them up, pick them up in the morning, you’ll be taking them back to Alexandria”. So we dispersed the
vehicles round there. The hospital was just near there where we were, the 2/4th Field Hospital it was pretty close to the town, it had white flags flying, all the flags flying, we just parked in that area. So that night I went to the sergeants mess, the young blokes we fed them down first, went into the sergeants mess and I come out of it. I was talking to a bloke and above us was a
plane, not a dive bomber an ordinary plane, a big one, looked like a bomber, but just sort of hovering. I couldn’t see it’s insignia, I thought it was one of ours, at least that’s one of ours, I see the trap doors open underneath and suddenly the bombs started coming down. And boy did we take cover and they did come down in our area because I was spread there, I’ve got a photo of it, the bloke there had sort of a holiday trip for us he still had like a camera
and he was still taking photographs because they’re not supposed to have photographs in that area, but we didn’t know, but he had it. And he took several photographs and one was, he got me after I went into, it was a builder’s yard that I went down in, and it had like chalk stuff whatever it was making and I went down and the concussion lifted me off the ground and half me uniform has got all this white over it, I’ve got the photo there. And that was the first bombs dropped in the siege.
But it was the night before the siege started. Now the next day we had to go and pick the prisoners up, all these Italians they were easy handled because they knew they were being…they preferred to be captured I think. And they all got into the trucks, you didn’t have to order them and some of them had this and that and other things. But the Germans weren’t there; they’d been taken somewhere else. We lined up into convoy overlooking the harbour. There was another couple
joined our convoy and we dispersed not very far apart from each other and we were going to go on back the road we came and take them back. The air raid went and down came the dive-bombers and they sank five boats in the harbour and I watched every one of them go down. And then we had, as soon as that happened two of them pulled out these dive-bombers and one of them pulled out and strafed us as
he was coming through and I suppose he didn’t miss us by more than 20, 30 yards our convoy. And all the Italians were out of the trucks and they were going to a drain just beside and they are all running all over the place like ants. But as soon as it was all over, the siren went for all clear, back they came and hopped in the truck again, you didn’t have to tell them and we had to put them back in the compound.
jobs, which was you had to do something and you did it. But we did we were in our wadis, which is the, wherever we were, I’ve got photos to show you what they are. For example when we were with the infantry that we had in sharing when we first got there, they were relief ones
that came in from out that night, they’d been relieved and were out the back, they had a cookhouse and they used to let us use their cookhouse, gave us food. But I could draw it, I used to go to the idea they used to call it to order what we had to eat, well you they gave us bread after a while, but they gave us bully beef and tin of those things. And they used to, if they could make tea or whatever it was they’d make it and share it with us.
And anything they wanted to be done, they’d take us into the harbour after the ships had come in to offload, well all ammunition and stuff and they’d send the infantry in too to help offload it off there. They wanted to get back into the front because they reckon the worst place to be was the harbour where the bombers used to come over every day and bomb. And it was like that all the time.
There’d be, I’ll never forget the first time when I saw about 10 of them come over and then in the finish they were coming over in their 40s and 50s. And they had no opposition; we didn’t have any air force protection. We had good ack-ack but they came over whenever they wanted to and they always seemed to know when ships came into the harbour that was at night, they had some way of being told that the ships had come in because on one occasion there they
came in on leading lights in the harbour and someone would move the leading light to another spot so that they came in on the wrong thing so that was some fun game duddery going on there. And also you could see bullets, the what do you call them they were all colours coming through the air when you fire at night
you get them on the target, different colours.
the wharf talking to him, I had to go and see him, it was midday, and this bloke called Dave O’Shannessy, he was a captain, he finished up a major and he got decorated, he had no fear of anything this bloke. And he had me in the middle of the wharf talking and he was telling me that where I had to go there was a jetty just up from where that main wharf was, up near the entrance to the harbour and to be up there by 0100 hours.
Do this and do that and do the other thing but be there at 0100 hours. The air raid alarm went and the sun is right above us and the dive bombers come in and you couldn’t see him through the sun, you’re looking up and you couldn’t see him they come in on the sun. And then they started bombing and they were dropping bombs around us in the bleaking harbour where I was. You know that bloke never
stopped, he went on talking to me. And all I wanted to do was find out the easiest place I could run and bloody well get under and he kept me there, he didn’t keep me there, I stood there, I didn’t know what I was doing but I stayed there and listened to him, but he didn’t care. And that’s how it was and he told me what to do, which is “Right well,” I thought to myself, “I’ve got to do it”. So I went back to where we were, told the blokes that we were going that night. One bloke we couldn’t take he got diarrhoea, he was in the
hospital, dysentery couldn’t go. We got all our, incidentally all the time we were in there, we landed there in our winter uniforms. When we were in this loaded off these guns in the compound there was a lot of clothing and there was a lot of summer dresses, like men’s shorts, summer dress. So we made available to some of those and we grabbed
what we wanted and took. And we put those in and that’s all I was in from the time I was in Tobruk that summer dress that we took. And we had to get back to our winter dress, well we had kit bags, and all our winter kit was in the bottom of our kit bags which we hadn’t opened since we got in there. So we had to get all this out and get our webbing out and things like that, and all our equipment, rifle, the lot. One o’clock in the morning I got to be at this
position. I get there, it’s dark because boats come in at the night, it’s dark. Go to the wharf thinking it was there and half of it’s blown away through the raid that day, and I can’t see it, I can’t hear anyone, and I can’t do anything. So I go away back with this mob and I hear a bit of movement further on. And I go further on and there’s the boat, another one on a jetty
that’s still not quite good but they’re unloading, loading the wounded onto the boat and taking off stuff they brought in. And then we got that and we got onto it, and that was the [HMAS] Vendetta, the Australian boat Vendetta. And we got on there and then they left and we went on there to Mersa Matruh and they told us that the boat had to get past Sollum before the dawn because the Germans were
down there and they were there and we got off at Mersa Matruh and that’s where we landed back in Africa.
they knew where we were when they wanted us. I had to report to the movement control officer on the wharf. You were made to walk there, no one said do you want to go there just any part of the day because it is regularly bombed. So I went and found him and then he told me that we were to leave that night. And it was a fine day and the sun was overhead and everything was more or less quiet and he just
started to tell me all about it and the siren went for the air for the bombers, you could hear them coming, you could see them coming then suddenly they disappeared because as they got higher up or towards you they got into the sunrays because they always come in on the sun so you can’t see them they can do it, always midday, in the daytime. And then the ack-ack started firing which is very loud where we were on the wharf because all the big
ack-ack aircraft defence is handy to the wharfs. And was firing these often and it was loud and then they started to come down and the dive bomber dives doesn’t drop the bombs, just got over us and then he hits down at you. And the more, when he hits down whether they got a specific scream on their plane or not it screams, they must do that purposely. And oh this terrible screaming noise coming down, and then there is the noise of ack-ack going
and he drops this bomb and it levels off and by that time it might be 4 or 5 hundred feet above you and then out she goes like that but always on top of the target, and then the other one follows it. There is one after the other, it depends how many are there, you never know when it is going to stop when you can’t see them. But there has been up to 50 come over. When I left they said there was 80 a batch of 80 come over. And they don’t go round and spread everywhere they take their target you
know really try and, if they damage the wharfs that’s stopping us isn’t it. Because you’ve got to off load it and all I wanted to do was scramble, but he kept talking to me as though nothing was going on, there was plenty going on in my mind but I heard him through and he didn’t move and that’s how courageous he was. He was like that whether he’s bomb happy or courageous but he was there doing it. He did it right through the siege
and he had a pair of Lewis guns himself especially that he had, to attack himself. And he told us where to go. And when I went to get there that night with our blokes, we had to get our garb and everything we had to travel with. What we had in our kit bag we never used it the whole time we were there. And then with our pack on back and our rifles and we headed for this spot which was where the jetty was past leading
towards the entrance to the harbour. When I got there the one I was supposed to everything had been hit by this raid that came that morning. And it wasn’t possible to walk on it, planks were missing and everything. So I went back and I thought what are we going to do now. And it’s dark, because all this is in the dark, not in the moon and I could hear someone talking further back where we hadn’t gone so we just wanted to have a look and there’s the
Australian boat, warship waiting there loading prisoners, wounded onto it and already taken off the stuff they had brought over, stock and shells and armaments and everything they brought over, food. And we were just ready to go because it was in there as quickly as possible and you’ve only got a certain amount of time to be in and out. And we finally got on
there and welcomed the fact that the sailor was an Australian sailor from the Vendetta, and I remember they gave us soup when we got on there marvellous. Anyway once we got on we were pretty tired naturally and I remember going to sleep and wasn’t very comfortable and I slept and I found I was sleeping on a depth charge there ready to be thrown overboard
and I was asleep on them, I didn’t care where I slept, I was that tired. But then they told us the boat had to get past a certain spot quickly before dawn because the the Germans were up there with their planes, because they got as far as Sollum, they didn’t get into Sollum, they were still being held, and that part never got past Sollum. If we had of been, if Tobruk had fallen and he’d taken over Tobruk, they would have gone straight through Alexandria.
We were the only ones holding them back, not because we were in front of them fighting because if they left us there and went down themselves they would get out of there and hit us in the rear, we would have our rear all over that with them fighting them and they couldn’t do it. And what’s more their lines of communication were too long, they had to get to port for their boats to land there because the distance was too far to take it. And that’s how we got out of Tobruk and we landed in
or that is the name of the place; it’s the staging camp in Alexandria anyway. That’s where all our units were embarked for Greece or were going to embark for Greece. Our unit finally didn’t embark. They sent me on this mission and I was to return back and get on a boat and go with them to Greece for the campaign going on in there, but Greece was tossed out and all the Australians and New Zealanders got turfed out of Greece by the Germans. Some of them finished in Crete and got killed and captured.
And the rest of them came back to Alexandria so while this was going on; our unit didn’t have to go over. So they went up back to Palestine where they came from and then later went up to the Syria, to the Syrian campaign and they were in that, I wasn’t in that, they were, and that’s where they were when we were trying to find them, they’d gone. So we were getting looked after when we got back to
this place. We’re getting fed. We decided to go to Alexandria. We still had our pay books when we went into Tobruk, we had our winter uniform on and our pay book always kept in our pocket because there was no spending money in there, but the money is still going in there somewhere in your account. So we all decide to go to Alexandria, and there is a race meeting on. And over there, there is all
very gregarious tracks in the races. All the horses are beautiful Arab horses and before they race they are led around the enclosure like they do in the ring here. But each horse has got a big Arab or Egyptian holding each side of them, they are dressed up in big white garbs and sashes and they look you know the part. And they led it round and they are taken off and the jockey gets on and most of them are all Arab and Egyptian jockeys
except one was an English jockey. And the English jockey got leave to ride in the races there and the horse he was on was a bay one and every horse in the race was a white Arab. This was a bay colour horse. And when we went into the front, we didn’t know what we were going to back at the races or anything, the race hadn’t started.
When he stood his perimeter on there, he started to sweat and you see this sweat you know and he’s making a noise like horses make when they drink water you know they go when their trotting, it wasn’t water of course, it might have just been things moving up. And because I know a bit about the horses I was brought up on the thoroughbreds. And anyway we got the money on and then the race is on and blow me down coming around the straight it hits the
front and one of our party called, you’ll see his photo soon ,Tom Lawler, he was away from the winning post but I guarantee he beat the horse past the winning post running down the side following him and the horse won. And oh the horse come in with all lather on his face and Tom runs up to the horse and rubs the lather off its neck and puts it all over and covers himself with
slime. And then we get up there and the old bloke comes and sees me and he’s waving to me, he’s going, trying to tell me 30 to 1 it paid. And there when they give you the dividend or pay they are going to give you, there is one place where you put in the back of these totes, you get your money and there’s rows for those who backed the first one, the second
one and the third one, you know we’re the only ones standing in the win post all the others that placed the other ones are in for places and two rows of young people. Of course we are right at the door waiting for the window to open and the the young people there next door to us you know looked like Greeks, because a lot of Greeks in these places apart from Egyptians, well dressed.
And the bloke said, “God” he said, “How’d you back that, how’d you back that?” he said, “It’s never won a race in its life.” Lawler said, “It won that bloody race”. And here we are loaded up.
After this instance I was telling you about, I got back to Cairo on leave one day, when I was doing, I’ll follow another story later on. But the people I was staying with in Melbourne in the hotel, Dorothy friends of the daughters, they went for world trip just before the war broke out. And they were very well known socialites and when they went to Cairo they stopped,
that part of the way they stopped in Cairo and then an introduction to a very fashionable woman that ran very high-class guesthouses in Cairo. And people that stayed there during the war were like the generals and all those sort of people. They gave me an introduction to her if I ever got to Cairo, I didn’t think I’d ever see her, and gave her a name and told me where she’d lived and referred them to them. So I went and saw this woman, she was a very nice woman, she was
an Aussie. And I said, “One thing you could do for me,” I said, “They tell me they’ve got very nice scent here, I’d like to buy some and take it home if I ever get home, could you put me onto the right place I could buy it or get it” and she got it for me, a big bottle of violets, you know, you get concentrated violets. And it cost me very little for what it was worth.
And I got this violet and I talked about, “Where could I get a decent restaurant or something”, she put me onto this address for this restaurant. So this day with a mate of mine, we were both on leave together. We go down this side street and can’t see any actual things up for restaurants, and we come to a shop that’s got loaves of bread, selling loaves of bread in the window and there is a lot of people going in buying loaves of bread. But it’s the same
number that she told me to go to. So I looked at it, I couldn’t see anything so I went back and said, “Do you know of any restaurant of any round here?” She said, “Yes that’s down the passage and through the door” and it was just like the Arabs and everything getting their loaves of bread and going out this thing that, the windows of the street, and we walked down there and you honestly you think it’s Aladdin’s cave or Aladdin’s loft. This beautiful restaurant
with chandeliers and garden waiters and beautiful things and Arabs and not a soldier in the place, only Europeans mainly, not even Egyptians, a lot of Greeks and see in Cairo most of the commerce is done by Greeks, not Arabs and they live well too and they were there and I made my name selected to this woman to the head of the
dining room, oh big bloke he was and he made us comfortable. We didn’t even know what to order. So we sat down and he told us what to eat first, and then he must of said something and he said, “Yeah” and bowls and bowls of stuff came in front of us. And then I still don’t know it was damn tasty, beautiful, but it turns out that they eat everything, you know a penis
off a bull or anything or offal how they do it. And then you wouldn’t recognise the cooking; you’d never be able to do it yourself. But in the next table there were about six of about 18, 19, 22, 23 group, very attractive girls and young blokes and they were sitting down, they were going into the things and the thing was crowded the place. But we were the only ones in khaki, two blokes with this beautiful
lighting and chandeliers and things. And I couldn’t see, there was this one bloke that kept going up and going into the toilet, there was a toilet there a wash basin and toilet, he kept going in there and he came back and he started eating again and he’d be going again. We commented on the fact that he must have a pretty weak bladder or something. But I didn’t wake up to it because they eat with their hands, and we were doing it too, he told us how to eat, they eat with their
hands, and they go in and wash their hands after each meal. And then they come back and go on the next one but he’s doing this all the time so that explains that. But we never told anyone about that and I don’t suppose another army bloke was in there, was never told.
much, it was less than a year from when we got there, we left Christmas Day from Melbourne, from Sydney and it only took about 13 days to get over plus the time we took to get to Palestine, so it would be the end of January starting in February say we were in Palestine and then I had to get away to start to get this camp ready for them to come to Greece and I left there
on the 6th of April and we left on Christmas Day, that’s only four months. And then I was in there for about another five months what’s his name we got back and it was getting onto October, November or something by the time I got to Palestine, well not even a year we had been away. All these things happened to me in that time. And then we got, my mob that I was with there, they
kept us together because we were recovery and we were, not sort of not ostracized, but we were anything hard they gave us. And we had to be represented to a place called Tel-El-Kabir in the middle of Egypt. It is a big base camp there with workshops and things, and they transferred us there and I was there, same old gag, no officer with me. I was in charge; I had to report back to head office in Palestine. They got these
blokes to do it because we were professional hard easy drivers anything, we were experienced. And then they start putting us on jobs there. There was no action there at all, we never seen a plane go over or any action, there was a couple but there were planes dropping magnetic bombs, mines into the Suez Canal. And
a magnetic mine is where they drop them in and every ship goes over them makes a click on a bomb, might be two might be 20, they would never know. But one day on the 21st of the 3rd one blows it up that boat. And that is about the only thing you got watched, the only thing was, no they didn’t come over attacking you, they didn’t come south much of Sollum,
because when the siege of Tobruk was on, it held Rommel back. And it wasn’t until El Alamein that things got closer to Alexandria.
Crete with our unit because our unit didn’t go there, they went to Palestine and then they went up to Syria, and that section went up there also, a recovery section like ours. We got the wrong order. The order to go on that boat back to wherever we had to go was supposed to be delivered to that recovery, which they didn’t come, they got a recovery which put them into El Alamein show and we got the one to go on the boat.
And when we got to loading onto the boat which is called the SS America, it was an auxiliary cruiser, it was a luxury liner converted into an auxiliary cruiser, it was half the size of the Queen Mary and had the same number of troops 5,000. We get on there and they all got cabins to go to, you know they ring up our names and things, cabin cabin cabin, they all went through and the bloke is ready to sail and we’re in the quarterdeck of the boat which is all
steel and just like this room and big, you know, piled into it, they close everything and we are away. And we are fully packed up sitting in there just waiting; we are thinking well what are they going to do with us. We sat there for the whole day until the next day and the Yanks themselves are feeding us. We lost our contact with our unit and everything because our other unit was on the boat, the rest of our unit
that wasn’t in El Alamein. So I got sick of this and I demanded to see the CO of the boat. And they took me along eventually to it and I entered the poshy part of the boat, the cabin looked like you know first class there, I knock on the door, it’s wide open and blow me dead there is about four or five of me own officers of the unit drinking champagne and the CO of the boat is
our own CO. And of course I go in and bluster in and made a bit of a false move and the bloke that is supposed to be looking after us, one of the lieutenants that hadn’t been long promoted, told me to be quiet. And then the CO says, “We will attend to it, we will attend to that, Hatch” and away I go. Within bleeding half an hour, we got rounded up and our
cabins were there because the other crowd hadn’t arrived on the boat and they were vacant, they had the wrong section of our recovery and we got the recovery movement instead of them and that’s how we got back, that’s how we were going, they still stayed back where we were going, they still stayed on the El Alamein show.
that when we had our meals on the Queen Mary everyone sat down at tables and the officers were in the first class and I was in the first class being a sergeant. This was absolutely American run, as it should be run. When you, during the day you were out of the cabin, what you did after that was your business you got up on the deck and sunbathed and all like that. There was boat drill all the time.
That is where putting up mock ones, and there were submarines there and all this sort of jazz, and you had to go to your station. These were going through all the trips of the Mary and this, you didn’t know what time of the day it was or whatever it was, you had to be there quickly. They taught you how to do what’s going to happen if it’s true, so that was quite good. Now the meal, they had rooms made for the dining areas for everybody, there wasn’t a difference between an officer and a private. But all the dining
rooms were made to…the rooms had picture shows and picture things and big libraries and whatever was taken out and it was made into a dining room. But the only difference was the tables were suspended from the roof. You had to stand up to eat. Now you see the point of that, going through the Red Sea and all that, we had to get out of the heat. When you’re sitting down your meals take longer and you talk.
If you form there, you’re waiting for the other bloke to finish, when you’re sitting at the table and it’s hot and things like that, you’re not going to talk if you’re standing up all the time, that makes it worse, you want to get out as quick as possible. And they had half the size of the boat of the Queen Mary and they fed 5,000 troops faster than the Queen Mary did. And how they did it was this. You get the blast into your cabin, so many times before the meal.
Along the passages the boat are red and blue lines right through, every passage, every passage has up whatever deck it was. You come out of your cabin, say it’s the end of your meal, a meal you’re going to get on the blue line, everyone stands on the blue line that is going to go through and get a meal, you had to bring your own pannikins and then a shuffle along that boat 5,000 troops, officers and everyone. They went down and down and down up
to the bottom where the kitchen was and you went through the kitchen and there’s all the cooks there with everything on the things like a smorgasbord thing and putting everything on your plate what you wanted everything like that. And out the door and then you followed the blue line, get on the blue line and then you go up and out and that’s how they fed them. And when they got you out, you knew which dining room to go to, you go to the dining room and that’s how quickly they did it and how professionally they did it.
picture had a good time with me I tell ya. We were in a very nice street, in fact the big boss of the brewery lived next door and the other woman was a widow and she had a son and had two vacant flats where Jack Sutcliffe and myself we went in there. And they looked after us marvellous those people, those billets. But then we landed and to keep yourselves busy
or active or to keep them out of trouble, that would be the best way of describing it, is to keeping them marching somewhere and route marching. And that’s all we did when we first started there around Adelaide. But not around the streets, up the blinking Mt Lofty to keep us going and we still had armaments; we still had our cartridges with our live ammunition. And pubs were open only
for so many hours during the day in Adelaide then, they weren’t any long hours and one of the route marches we made, we’d take our rest somewhere near the pub that would be open. And of course they were in this, I wasn’t in this at all. But one of the blokes there got a bit full, when they haven’t been drinking for a long time they can be stupid and he started knocking bottles off the shelf with his rifle in there.
Of course the provosts came down and took his magazine, out of magazine, and thumped him on the chin and broke his jaw and he finished in hospital and out of the army. And that was the only incident that happened there. But mainly they were all, didn’t do that, but this stupid bugger did. But then we all had to do a job, so the next job we got town picquet. They picked units out to be the town picquet.
I was the sergeant of the town picquet.
I went back and said, “All’s well” and everyone’s all well, and back I go to the… “All’s well”. He said, “Yeah” he said, “The biggest fight amongst the troops in history of Adelaide is on”. The navy and the army got stuck into the Yanks whatever it was; there was a fight out of the Post Office. When I told the bloke “Why did you give me a bum steer for?” he said, “What can I do, carry a bayonet and ask them to stop?” that is all they had for cover, just a bayonet, that was wound around their wrist, not a
provost but a picquet, he said, “I went into the pub”. That wasn’t a good job. But then we had to go to a certain football ground and for the first time since I left Australia, our unit would be as a whole apart from the ones in El Alamein. Everyone, the officers, the COs, the whole lot to meet for the first time.
But we’ve all got to come from localities, different streets. And the order was it was winter, this is April, it was cold and it was raining, but it wasn’t raining the day the order was given. Summer dress, OK, I’m the sergeant, Terry Ring is our officer, the bloke that didn’t come and look after us when we were on the boat, he’s our officer. So one of the
blokes of our orderly room they came to us and said, “What are they going to do now it’s raining?” “Winter uniforms because it’s winter”. That means your uniform and your greatcoat. And it rained like stinking hell. We were the last to march onto the field. Now the orderly well he never told our lieutenant it was winter, he naturally thought it came from the right, not me well the mess.
We all line up to march and he marches first with the officers and he’s standing with the officers and then we march through the gates and there he is, the only officer in winter dress and all the others, and we march through and we’re nice and warm and we’ve got the coats on and things like that. And of course as we walked past the other sections of the other
blokes there is about 3 or 500 there and they’re all laughing, and we get in there and gee I thought we were in trouble because I thought they would change it from that. No one in their life would think it would be from summer to winter like that, when they ask for winter. Well we line up. And then comes the CO for final examining and every face in that place he comes up and he’s in his short trousers and his what’s his name, summer dress, and he looked at me and I just looked
straight at him and I never said a word. And he never said a word to me and we went on and we finished up there that’s nothing came of it. Later on in my story he does come into it again.
before, Sutcliffe. We were in having a beer, and when you’re marching and that, you got a full brigade with the full breast blazers and everything, it was a hot stinking day. And I was in there and I was drinking a beer out of the bottle and he was drinking a bottle, had me tin hat with a thing at the back of me. And I was wanted in the orderly room. I had t go and there’s a brigadier-general there and he asked me,
he knew who I was and he started asking me questions, what did I do before I joined the army and all this sort of jazz. I told him he said, “Yeah, yeah, mmm, mmm. Well we want you to sign this,” I said, “What is it?” He said, “A22.” I said, “What does that do?” “Oh that’s an application for a commission” Oh I sign it, “That’s all”. I go back and Sutcliffe says, “What’s happened
now?” I said, “Buggered if I know, some bloke there is talking about a commission or something”. Well two days later it came through and I’m a lieutenant. I haven’t even got the pips on me shoulder. And one of me good mates there Howard Day, he was a very good singer for the unit and he used to be singing these different things and he always used to take me to get me leave because I was his manager you see. He comes up to me absolutely no more than two minutes I’ve got me blinking thing on the notice board.
He said, “Sign a leave pass for us, we want to go tonight and see” I said, “What?” He says, “A leave pass” I said, “Gee you’re making it a bit bloody hot, after all they haven’t even put the pips on me shoulder yet”. Anyway I signed them and off he went. But I was only there about two or three days and they transferred me to Sydney and then they transferred me to Perth. I didn’t come to Perth I came to, out at Mullaloo
there the train pulled up there and dropped us out and there was the makings there of a camp; there was some sheds there for cookhouses and it was wet and raining and cold and miserable. It was just about 4 o’clock in the morning. I still don’t know what’s going on. So I thought we got to find something and we got our own groundsheet and a blanket and things like that and make the best we can. And there were tents there too. There was four boys, but it went very
badly for everyone for the first few days. Then we get there is an officer coming out to see us and, blow me, it was the CO of the unit that I spoke to on the boat telling him about our condition and he was big boss in headquarters in there. And he was up; our unit was part of his control. And
I said, “What’s going on?” He said, “You’ve got to form a new unit called the infantry troops, 3 LoC [Line of Communications] Corps Infantry Troops Field Park, you’ve got to get it trained, you’ve got to do it, you got the power to promote up to warrant officer and recommend warrant officers. I said, “I’m a sergeant, oh sorry a Lieutenant”. I didn’t have another; I had a corporal,
one corporal in that mob and that was out of the blokes I knew. And I had to train them and I finally had this unit trained in the state farm in the Wongan Hills. And I promoted and I got the whole, and most of the sergeants I promoted all became captains, lieutenants and captains right through and it got bigger and bigger. That’s how I got to Ipswich and that’s how I got away from it.
that I was to form the unit and be the CO of the unit from scratch. And that’s what I did, we got new equipment, new vehicles everything and we were there in Swan Hills and the workshops was in the next paddock to us training their men and then they promoted me to captain very shortly after that. And then I was on leave one day at the Pavilion Hotel,
which was called the some other name now it wasn’t the Pavilion, you know the one that was there that got bigger. Now and I was in the cocktail bar, and I hadn’t been to Perth much and I was drinking there, and a provost come up to me he said, “You better get back to your camp” and I said, “What’s going on?” He said, “The Japs have been sighted coming down the coast”. And they were a convoy of Japanese were coming down past up north.
And we all had to go back to camp and of course the rustle went round in Perth that there was, and housing was being changed, the hotel there at Scarborough changed hands for practically nothing. And a big battle the Americans had won changed the war and the Japanese Navy turned around and went back. And they never ever came back here again. And we as a 3 LoC Corps another army
which I was part of, we went right up to past Geraldton and everything was in order for a stoush if they landed. But then when it was all over, we were going to be disbanded. So our unit was brought back to Perth onto the flat tops of the train over the Nullarbor back to a big base in Victoria, Bandiana [near Albury-Wodonga]. Our unit was disbanded
and I’m a floating captain. I haven’t got a unit I’m disbanded. But one thing I did before we disbanded, every unit had a comfort fund which they had money which they’d keep in there to buy for their luxuries. We still had a thousand bucks in it. So this wasn’t going so we had a party, a big party.
That came out for every officer in the army virtually. And here I got this crowd and a bloke that does the mechanical work has got to go on guard duty twice a week anyway as well, we didn’t have enough guards there is a big place to guard. People are breaking in and pinching things and so on. So I wrote to the general in charge in Canberra, in Queensland. I think it was Sturdee. To General Sturdee [Lieutenant-General Sir Vernon Sturdee
for his eyes only on the envelope. And said that recognising courtesy that officers should not drive their own vehicles, I am objecting on the grounds that I’m responsible for over 6,000 or whatever the vehicles were and I think the Commonwealth Government think me fit enough to be responsible for over
hundreds of vehicles, I’m quite capable of looking after me own and that it will give place for people that badly need staff even to be on guard. Stop, sealed, for his eyes only and I post this, it got taken away. I get a ring from Townsville and he said, “I got something here for you” I said, “What”.
He said, “You got the authority that Captain R J Hatch VX9656 is allowed to advise all provosts that he is allowed to drive his own vehicle and take any passengers he wish and be responsible for them” well that was that, but then I get a ring from a colonel from Townsville one
day, I can go and drive and park in the street and everything. And he said, “Are you going to the nurses’ do?” I said, “What nurses do?” He said, “There is a nurses’ do on.” I said, “I don’t know anything about it but I might, I don’t know it’s on”. He said, “If you go, will you give us a lift?” I am to give him a lift to the nurses do because I can drive my own car so that
didn’t work too well with other officers. But straight after that I got made it a majority because they came, oh that’s right they sent out another person from the cabinet who must have been due to that letter I wrote to the OC [Officer Commanding] and these blokes were picked from businesses, things like Broken Hill or things like that were doing
work for the army, going to camps and seeing if everything was in order. And this bloke came round to see us and when he came, he came to examine what I was telling you about the shortage of staff and things like that and I told him I was and said, “I was glad you went and had a look and saw it” and about a week after that, they made me a major. And that’s how I became a major.
In Queensland, when I got posted up there I was coming on leave from Charters Towers back to Perth and I knew Dorothy was working in the headquarters of MacArthur and I knew where she lived and I was told to look her up when I was coming through and I did. And when I was coming through I went to her
unit where she was staying and she had this American officer that she was going around with there and a couple of others and they invited me to come to a party, while I was in Brisbane. And he said, “Look can you pick me up at the headquarters?” I said, “What headquarters, where are you?” He said, “I’m in the Bain’s Hotel in Brisbane”
MacArthur’s headquarters he took over the big hotel there and this bloke was the G staff [General staff], which is the big staff. When I get there, there is a couple of marines on guard outside the Bain’s Hotel with sub-machine guns. I go up there I was a major they gave me this thing they give their own major. I said, I’ve forgotten his name this bloke
but, “Major so and so where will I find him?” “Oh he’s upstairs in the so and so” “Oh thanks very much” and I just walked through and up I go. I go up the stairs and in the passage I see no one because all the doors are closed. And a chap comes out, an American Army bloke with all ribbons on “Who are you, what are you doing here?” I said, “I’m looking for major so and so” “How did you get in?” I said, “Through the
front door” “Did you?” He took me into this place and told the bloke I was going to find, and after we walk out and that’s right he told me he’d meet me somewhere later, so I go I meet him later and he says, “Remember those two blokes you saw outside, the two marines outside the door?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “They are on their way to America now”. To be able to walk into MacArthur’s
me the contact between the Australian government and the disposal of all vehicles under my control to go back into the business world. Because all these car dealers and things didn’t have any cars to sell and that’s the only place you could get them from was to buy back army vehicles to resell to the public.
And I was the go-between the army and getting the vehicles the army and the dispersal to the private market. And that was big too because you got the instructions to get them made up even the tyres; see all army tyres have got an arrow on it to say it’s government property or things like that. They sell all these parts, its got to be
neutral, neutralising all this, otherwise the person can get picked up for stealing. And that was quite a big thing, but that’s when I got that started in Townsville. I was dealing with the people and I still wanted to leave and that’s when I went on leave to try and get out. And I went back to Perth and I went to the headquarters he’s asking for leave,
that I wanted to get out of the army and they wouldn’t discharge me, they were going to keep me in because other things had, a lot of blokes went to Japan for example. I had to not only leave my contract for the army but I had to stay in for 12 months if they wanted me after war, you know peacetime. And they weren’t going to do that and I thought that was wrong. But Bramble himself in charge of his own business where I was a manager
before wanted me back because he was ill in hospital. He had been ill and he was going to hospital. And what’s his name, the politician that was the labour bloke that was going to take over before the last lot, Beasley, Kim Beasley. His father had just got in as the Labour
representative for Fremantle and I’ve got to get out of the army because they weren’t going to release me properly. So we had a meeting with him and told him my conditions of where I, they want me back in the factory where they had me before, the proprietor of that factory it was well known was ill in hospital and the army
won’t release me. I said, “I’d been five years in the army, I’m drawing a pension, I’m drawing major pay,” I said, “It won’t disadvantage me but he wants me”. He’s just writing away on his table and he gave me a cup of tea and he said, “I’ll see about it”. Three days later I get an urgent signal from the Minister of Army
to Swan Barracks to St Kilda Barracks to release me forthwith pending discharge. And that’s how I got out of the army.
I wasn’t going to go back then because for five years I wasn’t even near his businesses. And they were all set who was who, so I stayed here. And here is the part now that I can tell you where I said I know a bit about Korea. When the Korea was on the same thing happened as it did in the First and Second World War. The war started there and they didn’t have any equipment.
They didn’t have any uniforms. And when they thought they’d get the uniforms now would be a time to go to Korea, they could just put the tenders out for army uniforms and they’d be rushed. They never got a tender to tender for them because the people that were making uniforms during this Second World War were made to – compulsory - made to make those where they couldn’t make private suits and things, and those big
companies were back making private suits and things and they didn’t want to break into army contracts again and kept right away from tendering until the whole of Australia they couldn’t get tenders to do it. They had the government factory in Melbourne the only ones trying to make the uniforms, which they couldn’t do the quantities. So they sent around to all states someone from the Department of Supply to meet the manufacturers of a particular town. They came to
Perth here and I had a little clothing factory that I started here, which I got friendly with a bloke that had a warehouse here, but I had the experience from being a manager in the other one in Melbourne before that. I just went to the meeting and he said he was wanting them to tender and he got no answers. But he wanted them to tender for the pants and the battle jacket, not the old-fashioned ones we used to wear, the battle jacket and the trousers. And he wanted them to tender for
those as just one pair. Well that wasn’t so good because most people that make coats suits made jackets but they can’t make trousers long trousers, not like that mass, trouser manufacturers make their own trousers in a separate factory. And I said, “Why don’t you break it down? Have your contract for your jackets and a contract for your pants.” He said, “That’s no good khaki there is two different colours in the khaki” I said, “So what”
I said, “When you get to the manufacturer” I said, “You put them in a case a certain size a coat and you put in with 30 others or 3,000 others and you seal it up, the pants the same you put in another case, they all go into bulk store and someone wants pants and someone wants this, they don’t go opening the cases to see if they can match them, they just send them out”, I said, “They never match again.” He said, “I see your point.” I said,
“You break them up and we’ll contract for the jackets,” He said, “How do you do that?” I said, “I’ll build this, get the machinery, I’ll build it up. We can do it”. What we had to do was buy the material from an ordinance store in Midland. I had to buy the material. I said, “I’ll do it on one condition, that I can go to your government factory in Melbourne and have a week there and no one’s to stop me going any part of that factory or asking any questions”.
Right they arranged that. So back I go to Melbourne and I go there and I sit on these benches where these girls are making these suits. I see the bloke cutting them out and how they cut them out and they gave me the patterns and they showed me how to lay the patterns out and save six inches on a lay by doing it certain ways. And each laying is about 20 or 30 sheets and each one’s got four on it, there’s 120 or 200 jackets to be cut out at once
and you save back well, that’s three of those make a yard see what I mean, you save material there. So I was going to gain there for starters just on materials, I reckon I could do better than them. Anyway I started. And I think we got 10,000 we practically printed out this Korean battle army
because they couldn’t’ get uniforms. They stared a war and they couldn’t get uniforms and that’s the same as me going in at Caulfield that time when they gave me a hat, a coat and a pair of boots and I had to wait for the rest of me equipment.
Formed, was asked to form that by the Perth Club and I got, the boys he’s the headmaster of Christchurch Primary School and another bloke he was a chemist and myself, we formed that club and started it. Peter was the foundation president and I was the foundation vice president. I was president of the Seaview Golf Club. I
was a member of Royal Perth Club and I was a member from the beginning from Claremont. I used to play rugby but I got injured but I did play a bit of Australian football in the army. But then when I came out when I got injured in rugby in New Zealand when I was younger I took on golf
and I was fairly you know more than better than average at golf. When I started playing here again I got down to one handicap or something. And I played in the pennant sides and played in a couple of championships. But then I got a few injuries here and there and I gave it up when I was about 70. But no I was 50 when I gave up playing
competitive comp [competition] but I stopped playing golf when I was 70 but I still played that, but competitive comp I used to play in the pennants and do all the trips you know. My kids are growing up, my teenage children boys and golf is not a game where you can fraternise and have kids as well, they don’t get any pleasure out of caddying for you. And they wanted a boat, and the only thing I have against a boat, the Queen Mary is the only boat I’ve been on that I wasn’t sea sick on.
I get seasick. I used to travel on a boat to go from Wellington to Christchurch when I was playing cricket; I used to play cricket for the state or province they call it. If you have to play down the South island you had to go across on this ferry. Bigger than a ferry it was a 10,000 boat or something. And it was a nice trip and I got on the boat and it hadn’t even left the wharf and I was seasick. So
that’s what I think of that. So getting a boat was the last thing I wanted. But I was thinking of something to go round the river catching crabs or you know something like that. Anyway I got not conned into it but they told me about this boat but I went and had a look at it and it was bigger than I was expecting but it had a decent engine in it. I could stand up and the gunnel came to here but I found that was the name of the wood that goes up there. And
I boarded and when I went to finalise it he said, “I’ll rig it up and let’s have a look at it”. I go back and it’s got a 33-foot mast on it; it’s a yacht and I’ve never been on a yacht. Anyway I kept it and I didn’t have a crew and I used to get them from the golf club at Seaview on a Friday night if anyone wanted to have a sail and I knew nothing about it. And Paul Rigby, have you ever heard of him,
the artist, the painter [best known as a newspaper cartoonist], he was one of me crew, he knew nothing, another couple of hard doers. But I learnt to sail I joined the yacht club, I learnt to sail and then in the finish me wife knew nothing about it, she used to come out. And we used to race, and we raced it and it took five people to run the boat when you’re racing and she was one of them. We both learnt from absolutely scratch
and I still got seasick every time we went out in it. And I finished up winning a lot of trophies and a lot of other things happened there too but you’ve got too bad lowering this mast to come under the bridges when we’re coming back from Rottnest and things like that, so I had a launch built, which I had for a while and then sold it. That was the best
thing I ever had was a boat.
But it was when I was working for Holeproofs, they used to have lunch every day over at the club there where there is a billiard table and we used to have a game of snooker, bridge in the lunch hour with the executives, and I was one of the executives. And one bloke was evidently a freemason and I was introduced to him and as I found out later the way I addressed him and things I did,
he thought I was too a freemason. Then he started asking me questions, which you need to know, you would know the answer to and I didn’t know what he was talking about. And then I realised he asked me and I said, “Well I’m not a freemason”. And you know the way it was going and he got me to join the freemasonry.
And I joined the freemasonry just before war was declared. And I joined the university freemasonry in Melbourne. And they put you through degrees to get your full thing. And I done one degree, you’ve got to do three degrees. I done one degree, now the other degrees are done at different times and then onwards the next month or the next month after that.
But war was, I was still in the army but I was still in Australia when it got to that stage and I was sent on final leave, so they arranged that I got through the two degrees together. And oh no it was before my final leave, it was when I first joined the
army, just joined the army in Williamstown Racecourse. And when I said I look like getting final leave we said “We don’t know, we look like getting final leave before six months” and they said, “Well rush through the other two degrees”. They put me through the other two degrees so that I was a full-certified mason. Now when I went into camp, we were only allowed leave on a Saturday,
and a Wednesday night. If you went out on Wednesday you had to come back on Wednesday; if you went out on Friday, you could have Friday off and come back on Sunday and so on, that was the only leave we had in camp. When we went to Williamstown I was in a camp, our beds were in the middle of Williamstown Racecourse, which was outside the bookies the races,
it was concrete floor, open sides, a tin roof and they put the tin up high all around it to protect if from the…it was mid winter when we went in, bloody cold I’ll tell ya, and lights were out at a certain time and turn the lights out at 9 o’clock. And this particular night wasn’t a Wednesday and it wasn’t a weekend, it was a Tuesday or a Monday say. And we hear trucks coming in and a lot of cheering and laughing.
and we wonder who the hell that’s coming in, oh laughing and singing songs and a few of those blokes were in the same part where we slept in this concrete bloody joint with all the beds all around the joint, about 100 of us. And this bloke comes in with this voice and starts singing oh beautiful but loud, “Shut up you mug, go to bed” who is making they are all come out we finally get to bed, next day we
found out through the grapevine that the local Masonic Lodge in the district where we were camped invited the masons of our unit to be entertained because the CO was a mason, the 2IC was a mason and about two other officers were masons, and they soon found out who the masons they had in the unit and they were invited and they took about two or three bloody truck loads of blokes
to be boozed up in the…and have a great time. Because I wasn’t in there and they’re saying who was and what they’d done in and I found out who it was, that’s what put me off freemasonry, it didn’t put me off the principles of freemasonry. I think it’s very good but to do that in a camp where no one else knew anybody they all different nationalities, different religions but they find they can be given a day other than the
proper days to go on leave and headed by the CO and I didn’t like it. I was wrapped up in freemason at that stage because I’d just joined. The great things they did and so and so, and that’s the truth.
join the army because I was brought up in New Zealand where they had the preference on compulsory training. We were trained as soldiers in New Zealand. From the jump go and very loyal to the British Empire, always been loyal because they depended so much on England except when they went through the depression, when they wouldn’t buy our butter fat. But they always called it the old country. The old country and
always had the old country. And this is another funny thing that happened. I was in Claremont and the postmaster told me the story about the Greek had a restaurant there. And he came into the restaurant; he could speak English very well. And he said, “I want to put some money to the old country” “Oh no problem”. So the postmaster there made out everything to go to England. “No, no” he said, this is true,
“Not going to England,” he said, “To Greece”. The old country, well Greece is the oldest country in the world but it was always New Zealand, England was always called the old country and that’s how we were brought up, I can’t remember having a pair of shoes that weren’t made in England. Or if you wanted a good… If you go to merchant shop over there when I left or buying something, say underwear or
shirts or singlets you know, “Do you want the New Zealand singlets or do you want some good ones?” The good ones are the English ones; our own were just as good but you know, they reckon they were imported. Or we never got…we could have got Australian cars; we wouldn’t buy any from Australia because they wouldn’t buy our potatoes. So we didn’t buy any from
Australia. We used to buy our own motorcars from America. We had all American cars when I left. All American wireless sets. All the latest of wireless sets that didn’t come in vogue in Australia for 10, 10 or more years after I left.