mother used to always dress me in a bright red dressing gown because I’d chase fire engines and she’d lose me and I was only, when I was a little kid. And from there we moved, Dad was in the bank and he was, just got out of First World War, and he was second officer there. And then we, he was transferred to West Maitland as accountant and we moved there and we lived at a suburb called Lorne. And
a little school across the road from where we lived was called Nilo. And I must tell you this, me young brother went there, I was going to a big school, but there was a kid there that was always scratching Bill and that, and they called him Jazz Garters. And Dad told Bill in the end, he said, “Look son,” he said, “You’ll have to hit him, you’ll have to punch him in the nose if he does it again,” because Bill was coming home with... Anyway, they had a P&C [Parents and Citizens] meeting one
afternoon there and Mother was there, and all of a sudden there’s screams out the back and they run out and here’s Bill sitting on top of this little bugger, and he’s going ‘whoomph, whoomph.’ Anyway, they sep [separated]... he said, “Daddy told me I had to punch him in the nose if he scratched me again Mummy.” So, that was a story about that. And yes, and so from Dunedoo we got moved, from Maitland, Lorne Maitland, Dad got moved to Dunedoo.
That was his first branch in the Depression days and things were very tough there, tough for banking. I can remember the Australian Bank of Commerce went broke and the New South Wales Government Savings Bank went broke and they merged with the Commonwealth Bank and the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] merged with the Bank of New South Wales, the one Dad was a manager of at Dunedoo. And I got, went to school there and then I got sent to Dubbo High School, and I stayed
at some hostel there for a while. And Dad got moved from Dunedoo to Ashford and once again I went to Armidale High School and I was away from home, used to go home for all the school holidays. Bill got to the stage he was going to high school at Armidale too and they thought having two of us there, so Dad swapped with the accountant at
Armidale and he took over Ashford manager and Dad took over accountant at Armidale. And they made a home for Bill and I again so we didn’t have to go boarding anywhere. And that was the young life, but from there I started work in about 1936 in Uralla as a probationer with the Bank of New South Wales and anyone was lucky to get a job in those days, and I think I got the job not because of my
brilliance but because Dad was in the bank in a senior position. And from there I got moved to bank corner branch in Newcastle and whilst I was there I joined the militia. And I was with the militia a while and from there we got, I got transferred to Coffs Harbour branch and I joined the militia at Coffs Harbour, which was the 13th Battalion, the
13th Platoon, Byron Scottish Regiment. And I met May at Coffs Harbour. Quite interesting, one of the lads and I got off early one Thursday and we went down to Coffs Harbour jetty, they had a very good surfing beach at the jetty as well as Park Beach at Coffs Harbour. And there were two girls swimming in there and Jock and I went down and had a surf and of course we had to go out a bit further than the girls, being boys
you’ve gotta do that of course, but I don't think we got any better waves than them. And as we were going out after about half an hour or so, I saw the fin of a shark between the girls and us and I screamed out, “Shark! Shark!” And the two girls looked at us as though they were, you know, I was crazy. And of course they’d been born and bred in Coffs Harbour and we were birds of passage and that’s how they treated us. And the following Saturday I met May, and the Sunday, at a dance at the
jetty, and we arranged to meet on the Sunday and go for a bit of a walk. And we walked up Beacon Hill at Coffs Harbour and I over looked the place where we were having our surf and I told her about these two stupid girls and, because we’d waited just to pick up the pieces, but I think the shark must’ve swum out to sea. Anyway, May started to laugh like billy-oh and turns out that she was one of the two girls. And where’d we go from there? Yes, I was in
camp with the militia at Coffs Harbour in 1939 when war was declared. We were all paraded and told that Australia was at war and all those intending to serve take one pace for, on the command, take one pace forward. And he gave the command and everyone took one pace forward and I think only fifteen percent of the militia boys joined up for the first lot anyway. When we got back,
I don’t remember for a while after that but I, next thing I know was that we, those that had put their names in to join up... Why did I join up? That’s one of the questions you’re gonna ask for certain. I don't know whether it was for a little bit of experience, excitement plus a bit of loyalty, mix it all up and you most probably have the reason. But
then anyway we, all those around about forty of us I suppose were going to join up and we were paraded in the old showground. And there was an army chap there and a local doctor. And the army fella gave us our attestation and our army numbers and the doctor examined us all to see if we were fit and proper people to join the army. And his name was Doctor David Hawke,
a particularly fine man. And the hotels used to close at six o'clock every night and Doctor Hawke used to love to get over and have a couple of noggins before his tea and go home. And he started to look at his watch and it was getting very close to quarter to six at the time and he started hurrying through these fellows and, you know, get him, “Cough. Come. Cough.” And he got to one chap, chappy right at the end and
I know I was in the line, anyway right at the end, and he said, “Well, all I want from you’s a specimen,” and he was a banana grower, a good lad. And he said, “A what?” He said, “A specimen, you know, a specimen of your urine.” He said, “You what?” He said, “Urine, piss.” He said, “See those little buckets, little tiny ice-cream things over there,” he said, “Piss in one of those will ya?” He said, “What, from ‘ere?”
Anyway, that was that. And there was another good one there, that same day, I was, we were lined up early and one chap tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey Don, will you do it in this for me,” he said, “I’ll never get in if you don’t,” so I did, and he got in the army without any trouble. Where do we go from there?
what’s a nice name for it? Anyway, I know that they, and it was impossible for em to get work, so I know that Mother took a fairly elderly lady who did most of the lackey work I suppose. I don't know if she paid her more than about two [shillings] and six [pence] a week or something but she’d have done it for nothing just to have a, good meals and a home to be with and
everywhere we went we took her, I mean she was part of the family. And Bill and I were too young to appreciate any snobbery or anything like that. I know Bill and I’d still get our penny to go to the, or threepence to go to the picture theatre, and we’d go into the penny aisles and as soon as the lights went out, we’d duck up into the threepenny ones. And oh, we used to do
same thing when the show was on there, the old man’d belt us if he knew. But we used to always sneak up under the tent in the boxing tents and that and go for our lives and hide from them, get caught sometimes, get a good kick in the tail. But oh no, it was a, life was always interesting. I can’t remember a, we...
bad ear. And that’s one thing he did tell me that he was the leader on a lumber, a lumber’s one of these things that cart the shells from the base up to the guns in the front. And a lumber’s a big place and the shells fit in from both sides in little grooves like that and it’s about thirty feet long and pulled by about half a dozen horses. And one day when Dad was, I... Anyway,
the boss bloke, I think used to ride the horse and the other bloke’d be at the back somewhere but they copped a German shell and it blew the, killed all the horses and the other bloke and blew Dad’s ear drum. And he was forever trying, I’ve got all the information, but repat’d never accept it, never, never, never accept it. Not even the day before he died and I’ve got... And then I found his diaries which, all written in pencil but still as clear as the thing where he’s
had to go to hospital, and had to go for his ear, and had to go to specialists and doctors and it’s in the diaries as clear as a bell, and he never thought of looking at his diaries or producing these to substantiate it. I think Dad was one that thought, if they’re not gonna take me by my word, they can go to buggery, and I think that’s the way he thought. And instead of using his brain a bit and getting it...
He was very hurt about that, very, very hurt about it, all his life. Where am I up to now?
for two years, and when you’re about, you know, in that age group, two years is a hell, a lot different. But oh yes, Bill, oh he was my best mate for sure and for certain and we got on wonderfully well. But in the Depression days at Dunedoo, one of the first things Dad did, he went to an auction sale and he bought about rabbit twenty-eight traps for two shillings.
And then he arranged for one of the farmers that had a good granite property for us to go out and set the traps. And Bill and I used to go out every morning and we’d, you know, kill the rabbits and skin them and take a few of the bodies home for cooking because they taste as good as a good chook, and a lot of them we sold to the freezing works. And we sold the skin, we used to hang the skins up on our fence on the
wire until they’re dry and then we’d sell the skins to the real estate, ah, stock and station agent. And oh no, we used to have to go through them after school as well. We used to have to walk two miles of a morning before school to get the milk and they had a wild duck there, I know, a drake, and it used to chase us, and we used to spill the milk and get into dreadful trouble when we got home, but nevertheless, we’d get home
with some milk. But, oh no, somehow or other my life’s never been boring.
picking cherries. And Dad’d, well I’d applied through Dad to join the bank and when we’re in the middle of this the approval came through. So it wasn’t far to go from Armidale to Uralla, and I think Dad organised a chappy that lived in Armidale but
worked in a big store at Uralla, I think he partly owned it and he used to give me a lift out, lift into Uralla to start with. After a few months there I found accommodation myself and started on fifty pound a year and living away from home allowance, I think that was about twenty. And I had to pay my board and my lodgings and my food and living and everything else on that amount
of money, and lucky to have a job in those days, it was pretty hard going. The thing I remember most about those days was listening to the cricket and the wonderful old bloke that used to hit the two bits of wood together, that sounded like them hitting the thing for a four or something. And we’d sit up till after midnight just listening to the cricket when it was on over in England. And, you know, you were with all the men and you were only a whipper snapper kid and but we, you
used to love it, you know, because you felt you were one of them. I think it was more important than the cricket itself. But yes...
We got off at the siding after about twelve hours in the train, special troop train, and nobody was in uniform cause we had to hand our militia uniforms back. And everyone had a little tiny suitcase or something, like a Gladstone bag they used to carry in those days, most of them wore a little hat, little Akubra hat with a feather in the side. Most of them were as full as bulls because every station
we stopped they had a refreshment room and they got into it as though it was going out of fashion. And anyway, we all got off the train there, there were two chaps to meet us there, there was one cove, McDermott, private, who, he might have been the corporal, anyway he was there and he just looked very, bit of a scallywag. And then there was an officer there with all the
militia regalia all over him, he had everything polished to the highest degree and everything. And, you know, these two are trying to get us into some kind of an order to get us to the camp, had to go about two or three miles to the camp, and they certainly didn’t march us there, we strolled there. But just before we took off, the officer yelled out, some bloke’d noticed him in the room there, and he yelled out, “Get on the bloody pansy.”
And his name was Goslett and he was called Pansy Goslett from then on and right up to this moment he’s still, by all his friends and his off, fellow officers and everything, he’s still Pansy Goslett. Anyway, we got up to the camp at Ingleburn and there was one spaced at the, I think they were going to have as a parade ground and there were about four hundred of us. And
we’re carrying these things and marching out of step, you’d think they’d, they were just, no march at all, it was just a walk up there. When we got there, here’s this huge Regimental Sergeant Major Sanderson, he was with the Australian Instructional Corps. and he’d joined up. And warrant officer class one, and he joined up to become our regimental sergeant major, of the 2/2nd Infantry Battalion, the best battalion that ever was. And
he stood up in front of us and he said, “Now I know you know nothing about standing to attention here but try to stand like I am now, you know, with your head up and your chest in and your belly out, belly in and your chest out.” And, you know, “And now stand still and turn round to go about eight paces,” to the officer who was gonna take over the parade, and then he was gonna hand it over to Colonel Wootton, who was our, gonna be our very first commanding
officer. This big RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] bloke took about three steps, and a loud clear authoritative voice yelled out, “Sit down,” and every bastard sat down, four hundred of us sat down, and the RSM turns round, here’s all his men sitting down on the bloody ground. He went red and purple and he’s screaming out, “Stand up! Stand up!” you see, and he walks through the ranks, “Who did that?” and
everybody goes like this, behind, ‘Some bloke back there,’ you know. Even when he got to the back row, they’re all going like this. Anyway, he got us together again, to cut a long story short we did that three times, now I knew I was in the army. Three times. This bloke was just ropable, he was gonna, he was gonna show everyone who the boss was, you see. Oh, we know who did it too, everybody who’s an original knows
who did it, a wonderful man. And, we all just sat there and well, you never seen anything like it. That was the introduction to Ingleburn, a thing you never, never, never forget. Yeah his face wasn’t red, it was scarlet. Oh God, anyway, Colonel Wootton didn’t even take over the parade that day, he just turned round and said to the adjutant bloke who had been made the adjutant before he had any
troops. And he just said, “I’m not taking em over today, I’ll have, we’ll have a parade tomorrow,” he said, “dismiss them and let em go to the sheds.” We moved over to all these brand new sheds, most of the books say that they’ve got camouflage on the top of the walls but they didn’t have any camouflage, and they were just good sheds. And then we went up to the Q-store [quartermaster store] and we were issued with long bags, palliasses [hay filled hessian bag], you know, to fill up with straw, and
bed boards, and that, from there we had to go up to the horse yards to get the straw and hay to put into the palliasses to sleep on. And we had to work out how you put these bed boards together to, anyway we had beds to lay on that night, that way. But oh yes, it was quite interesting. We eventually, a couple of days later, we were issued with our first ever machine gun. It was a, not a Bren gun, oh no,
no, be months and months and months, years I think before we got a Bren gun, months anyway, a lot of months. And we got an old Vickers, an old, not Vickers, an old Lewis gun, big round magazine on the top. They’re all in these big oil drums full of grease and, and the rifles were all in those too, every boy got his rifle. And every section got a
Lewis gun and we had to do all this training with these things. We had the Lewis guns for a long time before we got Bren guns too, we were well and truly over in the Middle East, but they were all First World War weapons. But yeah.
the main reason why nobody liked him was that he wouldn’t give em back a penny on the bottles, in the return, and that’s how money was in those days, and you didn’t get your penny back on your bottle. And everyone was complaining about this bloke, he was an arrogant bugger too. And I think he sold beer, and he sold toothbrushes and paste and you know, like a little general store really. But he, you had to go up to the oh, a long way to get beer if you didn’t get it now, I
think he did, he most probably sold bottled beer or cans of beer. But in the end the army weren’t doing anything about it so the boys took it into their own hands and one night there was a lovely fire and the whole bloody thing got burned to the ground, lock, stock and barrel. So nobody knew who did it of course, nobody cared. As a matter of fact when the flames started, all the boys gathered round and started singing, you know, songs about it. But yes,
the, and the funny thing about that is, the most wonderful thing about it is, that there was no thought at that time that the Australian Army would have a canteen service, and that was the beginning of the army thinking about and deciding to have their own canteen service. So the next thing they built was a proper shed for a canteen and get a sergeant or warrant officer in charge of it and he’d have another lad with him and
they were army personnel. And that was the start of the whole of the canteen service in the whole of the services.
corporal or an acting someone, we had to get these boys from somewhere, nobody was sergeants, or nobody was a corporal. I mean what you did in the militia that was just playing soldiers, this was the real thing. But I had a mate there from Coffs Harbour, wonderful bloke, Harry Lovett. And Harry said, somebody talked about the, one of the officers had come down to see, ‘If you wanna be an NCO [Non Commissioned Officer] or anything, take a pace forward.’ And
Harry turned round to me and he said, “There’s money in it, come on,” so we both took a pace forward. And that’s absolutely how I became an acting sergeant and then a sergeant. And I was an acting sergeant from, we got into camp on the 4th of November ’39, and I would say before November, October, no, October, November, yeah, I’d say before the
end of November I was an acting sergeant. And my platoon commander, our platoon commander, was Charlie Green, 3rd Royal Australian Regiment over in Korea.
from Uralla, who was old enough, joined up. They had more blokes from Uralla than they had from Grafton. They had more blokes from Uralla than they had from Lismore. Coffs Harbour, more from little Uralla. And Charlie Green had a bashed up face, and I always thought that he’d had a hair lip and had had an operation done. But when I got his book that his wife wrote,
Call me Charlie, or something, he was kicked in the face by a draft horse, when he was a real little kid, and that’s how his face was smashed up. And I never, never knew till I read that book that Olive or something, I forget her name, she’s a lovely lady, Charlie’s widow. And but Charlie was in charge of 13 Platoon, I was acting sergeant and the chap that said, “There’s money in it,” he was our company sergeant major. And
that’s how I become a sergeant. But no, we didn’t have any hats except for, ready for this march, and everybody got issued with a hat. And that was the worst part of all our training, in the sun, they got under trees, anywhere, but oh God, it was a hot summer, and you needed a hat.
for the training we did there I don't think we had a range, therefore you’d, we could’ve got to Liverpool but I don't think we did much range work at all, if any. But all that teaches you is how to aim properly and how the pull, squeeze the trigger, not pull the trigger and the same with the Bren gun, you know, you learned how to do all these things by
repetition I’d say. “Your turn next Charlie, your turn next,” you know, and they get there and they’d do all these things. And with the hand grenades, we got hand grenades and we had the, you know, dummy ones to start with I suppose. But, and the Lewis gun, hand grenades, your rifle, your
bayonet, that was about it, that was about it. And we did our march through Sydney and...
it was a semi social thing. You know, if you became an officer you walked around with pips on and that, and if you became a sergeant you had stripes and you were a bit better than he was, and I mean that kind of thing just didn’t exist in the army. I mean you were just there, you had a different job to do, and you were respected because of that. You had to, it’s funny, when you get all these different ranks and that and you wonder about them,
what makes a good officer for instance? A lot of blokes have got the ability to win their confidence and get em to do exactly what they say, merely by saying it. I found that I could always get them to do these things by doing everything better than they could do them. I could do all the tests of elementary training on a Bren gun, on a Lewis gun, on a
rifle, better than anybody else under me could do it. I was too young to be able to win them over any other way, and I found that this way, and not only could I beat them but I could beat any other bloke in the whole company at all these timed tests of elementary training and that sort of thing. And I just worked that out for myself that it was important that I could get their respect
in something at my age. See some of these blokes were bloody, in their late thirties, you know, and they’d worked, men, we had a lot of blokes came out of jail you know to join our mob, because they couldn’t get them. And these guys came out of jail and they were wonderful guys, they didn’t play up, they were really men, you didn’t treat them stupidly.
But they just knuckled down and did what they were supposed to do, they were great guys. Yeah.
first. He’s a real good bloke, a real country man, and he had a brain, he was wonderful with horses, absolutely wonderful with horses. But Charlie Green hurt his foot at Mersa Matruh going up to Bardia and Tobruk. And warrant officer Harry Lovett took over from him and did the
whole platoon leading in Bardia and in Tobruk, Charlie Green has never, never to this day seen the inside of Bardia or Tobruk. Coming home, they stopped at Colombo, or Sri Lanka, or whatever it is, once they, John Curtin [Prime Minister of Australia] had beaten Menzies [Robert Menzies, previous Prime Minister of Australia] and Churchill [Winston Churchill, Prime Minster of Britain] to let the 6th Division come home. The officer’s mess had a big party and they were
throwing little bombs around, these bombs that they used to simulate shells that bombed. And they were throwing ’em round the sergeant’s mess and when it come over near Charlie he put his big foot on it and it went off, and he never saw any part of the Kokoda Track either. He was in hospital again for all that, so he never saw a war in his life as a lieutenant.
And then he went over, when we came back out of that, we went to Greece and we already had a company and all the rest of it and so they made him an acting, what’d they make him, 2IC [Second in Command] of the company. As 2IC of the company he’s not controlling any men in war, he’s just making certain that all the food’s, comes up and the cooks are ready for this and there’s ammunition for that and all this type of thing.
And so Charlie didn’t see much war from that angle. But then he became the CO [Commanding Officer] of 2/29th Battalion or something, which was a Western Australian battalion, I know it but I’ve forgotten the number, and he did a magnificent job, absolutely magnificent. And then he went over to Korea, 3rd Royal Australian Regiment
CO. Nobody I’ve ever seen in my life could’ve done a better job. And he knew the name of every one of the seven hundred and seventy-seven blokes in his battalion. Can I tell you how he got killed? Righto, this is something not many peopled know, I’m no, truly... They were withdrawing from the front because they’d had a terrible time and they’d been
marching to get back for a rest for nearly three days and nights, they were all beggared. Anyway, he still had his batman of course, being the CO, which, this is right, should have. And he picked a spot, “How about here sir?” And Charlie said, “Righto,” so he put his blankets out and he made a thing, not under a tree because under a tree’s always dangerous. And he was, and there was a hill like that and the badness are on this side, if, and Charlie was on that
side there you see. Now if they were to fire an artillery piece, it’d land there and if it went over the top of the hill, there’s no way, it wouldn’t land anywhere near here because ... And what happened? There was a tree about twenty feet away from Charlie, it landed in the middle of the bloody tree, and a big hunk of metal went through his guts. Hard
to believe. Wonderful man. How could they kill him? Here’s this bloody hill, guns are firing there, only fired two shells and it hits this bloody tree in the top and a bit of shell, straight... that’s how he died. Isn’t it amazing? He’s on the other side of the hill, there’s no way an artillery piece that cleared the hill
would, could land within two hundred yards of him, absolutely impossible, but when it hits the tree it just goes off. Yeah, poor bugger. Good man too. Now you know more about Charlie Green than you ever knew before.
these ships. We got onto the Otranto which was the first boat, on the 9th of January and the 10th we sailed out. And I got a little cabin with another bloke, two young sergeants just a cabin to ourselves, you know. And this was beaut you know and sergeant’s mess was... and we noticed that they still got all their staff around the place, they still had their
cabin stewards and their cooks, they had all their own thing. And anyway, the first morning we were out we heard this knock on our door, or I, woke us up. And I yelled out, “Come in!” And here’s a bloke in white, dressed in white, and he came in and he said, “Your bath is poured sir,” you know, to me and the other young whipper snapper. And I said, “Oh, you’re bloody kidding mate.”
And he said, “No, come and I’ll show you.” And he melt, you know, came down, I hopped out of the bed and put a towel around me and tucked it in, we walked down the passage way and opened a door and there’s about eight baths in there. And he said, “Same number as your cabin, there it is, that’s yours.” And he said, “I’ll be knocking on your door every morning all the way over and now you know where to come.” And I said, “Oh, that’s beaut, thanks a lot mate.” And he said, “Here, don’t give ’em any... he gave us two,
two bits of soap. And he said, “That’s salt water soap,” he said, “if you don’t use that soap,” he said, “you won’t get any lather at all in these baths, they’re all salt water.” So we were made, we had made a friend and but that’s the, that was the first thing that... laugh, I have never... I still laugh about it. You know, here he is, standing up, you know, about six foot two, and we little whipper snappers, “Your bath is poured sir.” Beautiful.
Yeah, that’s what the army was like. And I had my bath poured for me and I walked up and had, was given my salt water soap, yeah. You can’t believe it can you.
might have been a couple of sisters there from the hospital too. And yeah, that was our ship, the 2/1st Battalion were on the RMS Orford they were right behind us and they, I don't know what else they had on them. The other two ships, I don't know, I don't know. But when we went out into the, right out into the ocean, we were joined up with by six
ships from New Zealand. Six. And they were full. From New Zealand. They mightn’t have been as big a ships as ours, but God what an effort that must’ve been from New Zealand. Six ships joined us, all from New Zealand. Got a little list over there of all the ships that were in the convoy and all the, what do you call it, the navy vessels. The HMS Ramillies was the big one that escorted us,
big battle ship, Ramillies. The Eagle, I think it was, was the aircraft carrier. And we had so many blasted cruisers and this, that and the other thing, we never saw them, we never saw them, they were so far out, around, just protecting us all the way. And we saw most of them when we stopped at, as we got off Melbourne one of the oh, big ships came out and joined our group,
the six Kiwis [New Zealand ships] and the four from Sydney, one from Melbourne. And then we stopped in Perth in the harbour and had a day’s leave there, just about a day. Oh it, that was most probably one, I don’t think I stopped laughing from the time I got ashore till the time I got back on the boat. Oh, the blokes didn’t, they didn’t misbehave in a way that anything was broken, or anything was damaged or anyone was hurt, we took over
driving the trams and the buses, and the blokes let us, they just let us. And at one stage there I can remember about twenty blokes picked up a little Morris Minor [motor car], a little, not the mini but the one before it. They carried it right up the top of the town hall and just put it up there and wished everybody goodbye and away they went, up all the steps of the town hall. And a
French cruiser joined us there, and of course, by the time the boys got nice and tight, they were swapping uniforms with the French sailors. The French sailors were giving ’em theirs and, not only did they get onto the right ship with the wrong uniform, but a lot of them got on to the wrong ship with the wrong uniform. And
when they’re out at sea they had to transfer them from when they got. Oh no, matter of fact, at that particular time I think the officers were very, very considerate. You know, I’m trying to think of another word to say that’s more manly than that. They didn’t act just as officers, they acted as men, and good men. And they, there wasn’t,
very, very few penalties were handed out and there were very few blokes that didn’t deserve to get ‘castigised’ for something they did.
up, you know, get me stuff out and see that all me gear’s here and that everything’s right. And by the time we got out it was just about a meal time too I might add and, you know, I thought, “I wonder where we’ll go for our first meal,” but haven’t been told yet where our mess is going to be. And I was a sergeant, I had to be able to tell all the boys where they had to go. And I might add, beautiful on that ship, all the way from
Perth anyway, they, oh no, from Sydney even. Beer was about tuppence ha’penny a pint and we used to get into groups where they served the beer and we get the big dixies [cooking pot] from the cookhouse, you know, great big things like this. And we’d get about four blokes together, we’d say, “Fill her up,” you see, and they’d fill her up and we’d pay em whatever it was. And then we’d get in the end of the queue
to go right round the ship again and come back and then we’d fill it up again. But we used to just dip these, we used to have these Lady Blamey’s, where they cut em off, you know, everyone had their own Lady Blamey. You just dip it in and fill her up and, you know, and by the time you got all the way round again it was just about empty so you’d fill the thing up again. And oh it was wonderful, it was good beer too. But even though we were doing that, the boys couldn’t help but knock off a keg every now and again. And
they used to, they had groups of blokes that were, you know, every day you’re on the keg for tea, used to have to get these kegs and roll ’em upstairs and gangways, whatever they call them, and get them to the beer place. And every now and again you’d go past a cabin where all your mates were, and the door’d open and a bloody keg’d disappear. So when we got into the, oh, between Colombo and the Red Sea,
the captain had to, in the end, said, “Because of pilfering they’d have to reduce the price of beer by a ha’penny a pint.” And they did. But oh no, it was that trip that made you, see that’d never happen in the militia in a million years, not a million years, and this is your first day out of Australia roughly. And you know, you’re knocking off beer, you know, and you’re getting beer for
a price that, you know, just crazy. Never could a thing like that ever happen in the militia could it? And that’s nothing to do with what kind of exercises you do or who you salute or any of this type of thing.
Oh, I could tell you, I’ve got miles of stories, I tell you a story now. The, this is, I’m going forward now another six to eight months and we’ve been training in Julis and Palestine. And of course we started training as platoons and getting platoon drill, then it became company and then it became battalion and then it became divisional, 6th Div [Division], we got this very big exercise on. And
they were attacking One Tree Hill, a huge thing, and they had generals and full colonels and brigadiers all over the place and thousands of boys. And the very, very last night before the final assault where they’re going to capture this bloody One Tree Hill, half a dozen of the boys sneaked out and cut the tree down. And there are millions of hills that look the same bloody shape and colour and size and everything else, but there’s only one
One Tree Hill. They’d never found who did it, they never found the tree but the whole exercise had to be called off. Whole exercise was called off. They’re the things where you can laugh, you laugh your head off, you know. Nobody got killed, no, and it was beautiful. You should’ve seen the look of all these bastard, big ranking officers going out with their subordinate officers,
you know, to inspect One Tree Hill next morning, you know, with their glasses and everything, “Where is the bastard? Where is it?” No, that’s a truey. And yeah, I duck into these truey’s again, we had another truey, about the same time as this One Tree Hill bit. They, the woggie boys were knocking off a rifle now and again, and the worst thing you could ever happen to a soldier is to lose your rifle, and they were
nicking rifles. So the wonderful powers that be said that you’ve gotta, when you’re not carrying it with you, you gotta chain it to your fence, your tent centre pole. And they had to do this and it was very rigid. There was one officer who was a real little sneaky bastard, you wouldn’t give tuppence for him and he was always trying to catch the boys. Not find out it’s
done and do something about it but he was sneaking round at night time trying to catch ’em. And of course they’d do, get twenty-eight day’s pay, they lose it and they get put in the boob for a while, and so he wasn’t real popular. And so one night my boys, you know, they said, “It’s on tonight sarge,” and I said, “What you doing tonight?” And he said, “Oh, we’re gonna get this bastard.” And I said, “Oh, good luck to ya’s,” I said, “Keep me out of it.” “Yeah right.” Anyway, they lined it up
with another crowd in another platoon that had a tent around a bit further apart. And they said, “We’ll use your tent,” because if, they’d know who was involved. So all the blokes from the tent they’re going to use to catch this bloke, went to the canteen and made a hell of a lot of noise that was seen by everybody. So they,
they’d cut a kind of a replica of a rifle and left it leaning on the centre pole not chained up or anything. And they all planted around the place and Sneaky came round and he spotted this and he looked round, there was nobody there, then he went in. And once he got up to the pole they dropped, they cut all the ropes and dropped the tent and the fly and everything on top of him and kicked the hell out of it. I think he was
in hospital for a few days after. They called him a...
you know, we didn’t have much money in those days and I said, “I’ve got a pretty good idea,” just work with me. And I told some bloke that one of the boys is having a birthday. So they called ’em all up the top and introduced us all and provided us with grog and everything else round the place, For he’s a jolly good fellow, and everything, and we’re singing. We had a wonderful night out at Colombo,
it was nobody’s birthday, that that was, it went well. But no, nothing happened at Colombo but when they, when we left Colombo about, only about four days out, every bastard got sick, oh, you’ve never seen anything like it, from both ends. And there weren’t any, oh, if they’d have had a hundred times more toilets they wouldn’t have had enough to cope. It was shocking, and I didn’t get it. Look nobody knows what caused
it but the doctors reckoned that it could’ve been a spray that was on the applies, nearly everybody had an apple, they were lovely, they were rosy red and they looked beautiful. They were just like a, a bit smaller than a delicious, but just like that. And everybody was right, back on board and we get into the Dead Sea and I got it. Nobody else got it at that time, why mine was delayed I don't know but... Anyway, I was,
I was... but they all got cramps, while they’re doing all this, they, every muscle in their body’d cramp. And ‘Help! Help! Help!’ and there’s nobody could help you cause they were just as bad themselves or they had one doctor about every two hundred blokes or something. Yeah, that’s all that happened at Colombo. Is that what you expected?
attention, slope arms, and then all this kind of thing, fixed bayonets. Do a bit of, with the Lewis guns, do a bit of drill, get down there and...One of the things they always drilled with all automatic weapons, the stoppages. You know, easiest way to fake a stoppage was to put a blank round in the middle of a lot of good rounds.
So you can really only practise on a range properly, either that or you could tell them to get down, they say, “Fire,” and they pull the trigger and nothing happens, and that’s not training really, that’s all you can do in camp. And then you say, “Stop!” for stoppage and they’d stop and they’d go forward and they’d move a little gas thing a little bit further and they pull it back on and fire again there. And by the time it took ’em to,
supposed to be a time from the time they say stop till the time you’re firing again. Well, you practise all that and a lot of, they had boxing tournaments of all ages, and sizes and weights and...There was a lot, it wasn’t boring at any stage, it wasn’t boring. And then of course you were looking all the time at the clock to see when the beer starts,
again. Well, that’s what it was all about, I think, from the time you got up, you know, right back here somewhere you’re trying to be near the right spot at the right time, to get your, yeah.
and the army had a hell of a lot of trucks ready for us there, the, most probably got it from the Brits [British] and everywhere, to take us to where our camp was going to be. And we got to Julis where we had to pitch our tents, they hadn’t put the tents up, they just marked out areas for all the tents and all the companies and all the rest of it, it worked out pretty well.
And amazing, they had little wog blokes everywhere, they had them doing this, initially had them doing all the hygiene work, the toilets and sewerage and all those things, the garbage stuff. And they were still making roads around the place and
what stunned us more than anything else was the... In those days of course there was no Palestine or Israel, it was just all Palestine, it was all Jewish and it was all run by the Brits. And the Brits had one battalion of guards that’d been out there a while and they were the only law enforcement people in the whole
show. The Jews and the Arabs got on well together, and as soon as they started to give ’em something, like Gaza, they want something more, they want another ten acres here and they give ’em that and you want something more, that’s the main fault of the Arab boys. But yeah, I mixed up with a lot of this, I’ve got it on my little list, I’d have in order. But I was the first bloke in the world to
initiate an army for the Israelis in Palestine. Yeah. This is a while ahead, I’m jumping a bit, but I had my commission at this stage and there’s another lad with his commission and he and I were called up and I was just a few months more senior than he was. And we had to go up and meet these Palestine police blokes about sixty
or seventy of ’em, they had three trucks. And we went up to the Hebron Hills and they had, what happened was they had no army whatsoever, either the Arabs or the Jews in Palestine. All they had was the Palestine police boys. Now having said that, I’m going to get myself mixed up here. Yeah. Mussolini [Benito Mussolini, Prime Minister of Italy] had been
killed and slaughtered by the Nazis and the Germans had taken over the whole of the control of Italy. And from Italy, their bombers, the German bombers, could very easily carry a load of bombs over to Palestine and drop them and get back home, whereas previously with the Italians, they didn’t have a plane that could do that. So all of a sudden the powers that be had said,
“We better get these Palestine blokes, the Israelis and the Jew, ah, the Arabs, to learn something about an army and to get an army going, so that they can fight for ’emselves a bit. We don’t want to be doing all the fighting for ’em, particularly if they come over here and drop parachutes in.” So that’s when I was seconded to take these blokes out in the hills and teach ’em the rudiments of
oh, the little you could teach ’em about an army and the discipline of an army, cause they had no... The Jews and the Arabs got on very well together in the police force, very well indeed. And as a matter of fact, one of the Arab boys in this lot, he’d been mentioned in despatches by the Queen for some heroic thing he did. And all the Jew boys
they respected him, they respected each other, they were a good lot. But we did a lot of training with them, grenades and rifles and Bren guns and all these things.
what’d happened was that my unit had come, had sailed for home and I couldn’t get on it because they had all the shipping things that, with your numbers and everything, they couldn’t take any off and they couldn’t put any on. If they got sick they went into the hospital on the ship, but they couldn’t add any to it. And yeah, I went and saw the CO of the unit and he was a bloke I’d never seen in my life before, and he, never seen him
before. And yes, he said, “I’m sorry we can’t do anything for you.” But he said, “In any case we don’t need any more reinforcement officers.” God strike me, I think I went all red and I, and, yeah. A lot of them, God, we’d be lost without reinforcement officers
but they were just treated as second grade citizens for a while. Not in a real nasty way but in a nice way as second grade citizens. You’re nodding away. No, yeah, because we always reckoned that you could use your sergeants and bring them up a step and make them lieutenants and do all this and they’re already trained, they’ve seen a bit of nasty stuff, whereas the reinforcements, most of ’em never
yeah. But yes, then we went, from Helwan we went to Ismailiya and all these places we’re...Ismailiya was an interesting place. We didn’t have any picks and shovels around, if you had one for a platoon, one pick or one shovel... anyway, they said that we had to dig trenches round our huts, you know, so that if you’d get an air raid you’d
be able to get into your... and have protection. And we, blokes, God, you could, you’d hit a pick into the ground and it’d go, ‘ting,’ and a little hole that big. The boys weren’t very keen and they were supposed to be working hard to make these things and it didn’t happen. But the night came and all of a sudden there’s sirens everywhere and we could see that the search lights had caught
a German plane, and all the Arab anti aircraft stuff was working and the guns were firing and that. They’re a pretty undisciplined mob and they’re not properly trained but they knew if you pulled this and the shell’d go out the end and away it’d go. But before you did that, you had to kind of set fuses and all that for the right height, all that type of thing. Well,
our blokes were looking at it and just standing around have a cup of tea or something and all of a sudden there’s a ‘whee-oow, bang!,’ and there’s one of the, must’ve dropped a shell right in the middle of our, great bomb right in the middle of our parade ground. You never seen blokes dig holes so quick in all your life. But what had happened was that it wasn’t a bomb that’d come out of the plane at all, there were two of them landed in our battalion area.
The next morning, honest to God, you got up and every trench was six foot deep and everyone is full of soldiers, and we had about four to a platoon and, or three to a platoon, should have been one for platoon head quarters as well. But they must’ve fired their anti aircraft guns at these fellas and they
forgot to set the fuse because an anti aircraft shell either goes off at a certain height or when it hits something. Well, now if the planes are flying at about, say, three thousand feet, for example, you set it for three thousand feet and the thing goes, ‘boom!’ and up she goes to three thousand feet, it goes off. Now if it’s not set for three thousand feet it just keeps going off and when it hits the ground it goes off. Or,
if it hits anything on the way, it’ll explode, like a plane or anything on the way. But they’d forgotten to set these fuses for them to go off at three thousand feet, and they just did a nice little loop and they landed right in the middle of our battalion ground and went ‘ker-bang!,’ and we think we’re getting bombed... dig the trenches. But that’s dead true, yeah. A beautiful lot of trenches the next morning.
but you could say from company head quarters up, all the officers would’ve been advised well and truly that we were now being prepared for desert war. Even in Helwan, that previous camp, was all sand, everywhere we went and do all our exercises and, that was all through heavy sand, and you had to march about, often thirty miles a day through sand, sand, sand. And I always remember one day we were out there and the artillery blokes,
they’ve got their trucks of course, and they’d go past us and give us certain rude messages and the rest of it, and some of them even had cans of beer and they’d have a can of beer and they’d be drinking it and we’d be plodding on through. Anyway, our blokes got a bit sick of this and we had a lot of this oh, what’d they call it, anyway it was more or less some kind of salmon or stuff but in tomato sauce, and cans of,
cans of this. So they popped ’em, you know, with their bayonet a little bit and put the old thumb over it hard and next time these blokes drove past they let her go and they got all this filthy rotten stinking stuff all over the back of their truck and into it, and we roared, we gave ’em heaps. But that’s the kind of fun we had. That seems very funny to you? Depends on what end you’re at.
that was what we drank most of the time. We used to sit at a table till we made a nice pyramid with the beer cans and... yeah. Oh, no, it’s an interesting place. Yeah, I’ve got a story over there that I, about Cairo that I, just after I, no, before I got me commission, about the last month
before I got me commission, we were involved in a... do you wanna hear this now so we don’t forget it? An Egyptian Coup. February 1942. During the latter three weeks of the officer’s training course that I was attending at Kazanil Barracks in the heart of Cairo, the following coup took place.
In Egypt, Cairo in particular, towards the end of January ‘42, it was common knowledge that the pro British Prime Minister Nahas Pasha and King Farouk were engaged in serious difference of opinion which could quickly lead to Nahas’s resignation or dismissal from his office. The British Ambassador at the time, Sir Miles Lampson was most perturbed as Nahas had been
a very friendly Prime Minister from a British viewpoint. At the British Forces Officer’s Training School... where I was... all cadet officers with the exception of the junior wing were summoned one evening to attend a general assembly hall where the commandant, Colonel Renton... he only had one wing, he lost it at Dunkirk... introduced Sir Miles Lampson who advised us of the facts and pointed out the
grave danger and affect Nahas’ resignation could have on the allied war effort if an anti Britisher was appointed Prime Minister and invited to form a government. At this time the King Farouk and the, had the bulk of his fortune in Italy, as well as most of his friends. Sir Miles emphasised that the King’s wishes could not be accepted. We were then advised that he had been selected to be, that we had been selected to be quickly trained as a special force for a very
special job which for the time being was top secret. All we knew was that until further notice we had to be prepared to move out as an armed jock column at ten minute’s notice at any time of the day or night. Next morning we were issued with Bren guns, live ammunition, stacks of grenades and the artillery wing received semi armour piercing shells, and our training started in earnest. The jock column comprised a troop of light tanks, these had been sold
by the Brits to the Egyptian army when deemed to be obsolete, we just borrowed them for the exercise. Three motorised companies of infantry, about sixty per company, one troop of twenty-five pound artillery guns with semi armour piercing shells. And during our training period the alarm would sound, we slept with our gear on but had to quickly drag on our boots, grab a Bren gun, the Bren gun and a haversack full of additional loaded
magazines and race to our pre-determined positions, board trucks with the engines running and circuit the parade ground, finishing facing the main gate all in ten minutes. The tanks were always in front when we infantry and trucks followed by the artillery. On the 2nd of February, Nahas resigned and Farouk was consulting politicians known to be unfriendly. Sir Miles sought an audience with King Farouk, which was
refused. Three infantry brigades, New Zealand, British and South African were immediately moved onto the outskirts of the city ostensibly to be on hand if a political crisis led to riots. Actually, our coup was taking shape. At eight thirty p.m. on the evening of the 4th of February ’42 we were again summoned to the general assembly hall and advised that Sir Miles had issued an ultimatum to Farouk to commission Nahas Pasha, a
pro Britisher, to form a government. This ultimatum had expired at eight p.m. Our column was to move into Abdeen Palace grounds and secure the area. Sir Miles was to follow and force Farouk to commission Nahas or the British would take over the government and the affairs of Egypt. The King’s Abdeen Palace was a very solid three storey hollow u-shaped structure. The centre was for the King’s living and his
retinue, the right wing was for his servants and administration while the left wing was for his royal bodyguards of some one thousand two hundred soldiers. The duty guard had sentries on the main gate and other vital positions, our movement had been planned to the last minute with instructions issued. Two infantry companies were to hold off the bodyguard... twelve hundred... while the third company disarmed the duty guard and secured the immediate area
for Sir Miles to escort him to Farouk. The tanks and twenty-five pounders’d [artillery guns] be positioned in the centre of the court yard covering wing. At nine-thirty p.m., we moved out at a constant five miles an hour, a straight road of two and a half miles, then from our barrack gates to the front gate of the palace. Both sides and back of each intersection, four British military police were stationed, and all the traffic were stopped until our column went past.
We never stopped once or slowed down, God it was well done. Where’d we get to? The palace was reached without incident and we quickly and quietly took up our pre-determined positions. The bodyguard must have been alerted as their bugler inside was sounding the alarm. We could hear the running feet of the soldiers along the corridors and up and down the stairs. A window opened and out came the nasty end of a Vickers
machine gun. This was repeated many times until we could distinctly see at least fifty Vickers snouts pointing at us. Rifle bolts were heard working and snapping shut with a message up the spout. I lay exposed on the bitumen courtyard with an icy cold finger caressing the trigger of my Bren gun. Safety catches had been released long ago and I wondered how many other boys felt and what they were thinking. Every second
man on the courtyard had a Bren gun plus two haversacks of loaded magazines, the odd men had grenades weighing them down. Two black cars drove up and stopped at the entrance of Farouk’s quarters, Sir Miles with his driver in one and only a driver in the other. Sir Miles jumped out quickly and with one of the lads shot inside. We just waited with the sweat getting heavier on our brow. Everything was just so quiet, it was eerie. One stupid trigger happy Egyptian...
also one, could’ve been out blokes... and all hell would’ve been let loose. We would’ve had no chance whatsoever out there in the open. It seemed an eternity before Sir Miles returned to his car and drove out giving us the Churchillian ‘V’ for victory sign with a great big smile. We received the signal and pulled out within a minute under the instructions, singing and waving as heartily as we could to the crowd of some five thousand
at the gate and more along the route back. This time the sides and the back covers of the trucks were rolled up. Some odd side lights of the coup. The guard at the gate presented arms as our column passed him and he had no ammunition. The officer of the duty guard had his pistol tied into his holster with a sig. wire. And no bullets. The second
car was there to drive King Farouk in need to Heliopolis aerodrome where an aeroplane was ticking over and ready to take him to India to be held until the end of hostilities. Thank you. Interesting isn’t it?
battle head quarters in Seoul, Korea. This involved a vehicle to Tokyo, collect despatches, train to Iwakuni where the air field was, DC-3 [transport aircraft] to Pusan, then to Seoul where I would deliver the locked back and return to Kure. Sounds a very mundane task but life’s full of surprises. We took off from Iwakuni about midday in light rain and wind with a crew of two, a Canadian
medical officer, two or three other bods [bodies] and myself, all service personnel. The flight was somewhat bumpy with only fair visibility until we approached into the north western side of South Honshu when the rain, when we ran into a shocking horrendous storm, gale force winds with rain and sleet buffeting us in every direction. Visibility was nil and after about twenty minutes of this, the
pilot became completely disoriented and lost as regards actual position. He advised us of this and saying that with no markers visible anywhere... you know, if they see a river or they see a big building or anything, they know exactly where they are. It was a hell of a storm. Where’d we get to anyway? ...to assist getting, ...and for us to
get out... and strain to see something at any of the windows for him that might help him. He further said that he, we could easily give Pusan a miss and head directly to Seoul. He never the less felt he should be able to make it to Pusan and he had our backing. So he intended to slowly descend trusting we would find on, something on land, which
he had done many times, as a marker. We all knew how strong and how reliable the DC-3... or Dakota, call it what you like... was and we had complete faith in our pilot. He did not know if we were over land or sea but thought it was, it should have been land. We descended slowly for what seemed like an eternity, all the time belted by the storm.
We could feel the slow, careful, very bumpy descent when suddenly, ‘Crash!’ and darkness. What in the hell have we hit? Or what hit us? Have we stopped? Seems as though we had. Motors roaring, plane, thank God, ...oh yeah... plane motors roaring, thank God, and the plane madly shuddering.
Then ever so slowly but surely the beautiful, wonderful DC-3 forced it’s way through whatever it was, was holding it back. Yes, we were climbing again, and also thanks to the brilliant flying of our pilot. During this short period of intense anxiety, there was a deathly silence, disturbed only by the power sound generated by the ever-straining engines.
The skipper added one word, “Shit,” and we all laughed, still knowing not why. Some minutes passed before the pilot could talk to convey to us all, who had been looking forward, or not, just what happened. Apparently, we were or we hit by or we hit the top thick curl of a monstrous wave.
That is true. So, we must have been fairly low and were exceedingly lucky not to have gone into the ocean forever, never to have been found. Nevertheless, our pilot must have had anticipation and extreme skill to pull the old bus through that watery, very salty, dangerous, frightening situation. We gave Pusan a miss and he headed directly for Seoul without further
bother, rains, wind or sea, arriving about fourteen hundred hours in sunshine. We were advised that return departure from Iwakuni would be planned for fifteen thirty hours and we all went our separate ways to do what we had to. I spent my spare time watching the newest planes land and take off on the metal landing strips. Talk about noisy, very fast and distinctive. For the
return trip we’d lost the doctor and the odd bods but gained twenty-five British signallers and a couple of Canadian journalists. We were all aboard for take off, motors running, internal checks completed, when the navigator who had removed the chocks gave the pilot the thumbs down. I followed the pilot by invitation down and he cut both engines
to see what the problem was. The navigator had noticed that the starboard engine exhaust pipe had come partly adrift from the manifold and the flames had already burned about four or five inches into the front the edge of the wing, right up near where it joined the body. There were melted droplets of aluminium surrounding the gap. This had to have happened between Iwakuni and Seoul. The manifold outlet had
not done its job and the matter had to be fixed by engineers. The hose clip was not broken. It and the exhaust pipe were both replaced, ...they didn’t have to put new ones on it... and the engineers had never before heard or seen of this happening on a DC-3. All the passengers had shot through and found other transport. We had a safe and uneventful
flight back. Sometime later while contemplating our luck, it suddenly dawned on me that the huge wave we hit could easily have caused the problem... Nothing else could’ve changed that, stainless steel hose clip, you wouldn’t believe it. ...with our exhaust. The force with which contact was made could easily, it was like hitting a brick wall. I wonder if any of the experts ever thought of
this possibility, it would not have been of any real consequence to them anyway, I guess. It would be a pleasure and an honour to meet both or either of them, or even make contact. That’s about all. I’ve never met these guys and I... That was hairy. I don't think anybody knows
about that. Who would? Who’d care? Yeah.
we became the most forward platoon of the whole of the British, New Zealand and Australian forces. Facing a river just out of Veria. I’ll start this with a little funny which is true because a Jeff Coyle, sergeant at the
time, was the sergeant of the mortar platoon and he had his mortar boys trying to reach the German’s heavier mortar, it’s a, the German mortar’d go about another hundred yards or eighty yards further than ours would. Anyway, they couldn’t do much good. So they took, secondary charges that fit in the veins of a bomb, the back of the bomb, you put secondary charges in between
each vein and the middle one is the primary. And when you drop it down a mortar there’s a stick, a steel thing and hits the primary, and the primary ignites all the secondaries and away it goes. So they had ’em with all these, so they took two primaries, two secondaries from the smoke bombs and threw ’em down the spout then dropped the thing and got the extra distance. And they were pummelling the German blokes and the German blokes were right out in the open, knowing we couldn’t reach
’em. The, you could see the amazement in their face say, “This couldn’t be happening.” And he did a wonderful job and he was the forward observation of, you know, for these mortars. And all of a sudden he heard a ‘clunk, clunk,’ and one of the shells out of his mortars, it got half way down when the two extra secondaries had gone off and it had just spurted out and it slid along the rocks and it was about as far as from
there, fully charged. Anyway, he threw it away and they got back and they, the two mortars he had, they bent ’em over so blokes could reach ’em and they all piddled in them and cooled em all down. Every bloke in the place, whether he could or he couldn’t, he had to do that, and put them together again and away he went. And if ever a bloke, if ever a bloke deserved a medal, and he got a mention in despatches for that, not a medal, oh he should’ve got a bravery thing for that. It
was, it was brilliant. Anyway, we’re there, he’s over there and we’re down here, we’re much closer to the action because they reach a long distance. But anyway, our boys saw them coming down and, number three section, and they pummelled hell out of them. And they went back a bit and they got some more, extra blokes, and we couldn’t handle it, and they got to the end of the river and they starting to wade across.
So we had to shoot through and we, our runner’d been hurt badly and I’d taken, being the sergeant , I had nothing to do really in these situations, so I volunteered to do the runner’s job. And I raced up to company head quarters and he said, “No, you can’t go back, you gotta do...” this that and the other thing. So, I went back and I glanced back and I could see the company head quarters had got the message because the tanks were coming
down the road between us. And they shot through and I said, “Bugger it, if it’s good enough for them to shoot through, we’re going to.” So I yelled out, you know, “Retreat, come on, withdraw.” And most of them got out, most of them got out but some didn’t. Anyway, I followed them up and when I got across the road there was a Corporal Harry Honeywell, he was an old First World War man, wonderful soldier, good man too. And
I said, “Can I join you Harry?” And he said, “Yes.” I had an extra Bren gun that we’d knocked off from the desert, one of the British tanks had been knocked out and I picked this up, so each platoon had a Bren gun and platoon head quarters, which should have. Anyway, I had this and plenty of ammunition for it and I climbed up and he had six blokes there and he said, and they were all shooting at the tanks. The tank guys were that
confident, you know, they’re, they had numbers of tanks that could eat us, you know, and the lid in the top of the tank, they had it open and they were standing up in, they could see about that much of the top of em. So we were just popping ’em off, ‘boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.’ And Harry’s just saying, “Do it slowly, do it carefully and squeeze the trigger gently, don’t waste a bullet.” And we were doing this and they must have got the message, the next minute
we saw all the blasted things closed up and they turned the tanks towards us, we were only about sixty yards away from ’em. And he said, “Go!” And we, most of the other blokes went out one way and I went out the left hand side of this, you know, it was like that and there was a waddy on both sides with water in and part... Mount Olympus was right behind us, but the closest one was the sister one, and wouldn’t have been five miles away.
Four, that’d pull it up. Anyway, I went out this way and there was nobody else with me and I had my Bren gun so, I could hear this thundering and I stopped for a minute and had a look and here’s one of these bloody bang, tanks chasing me I think, in this waddy. And every time they could see me they fired something, and if they didn’t hit me they’d hit the side of a ravine and all the chips from the stones and that’d be nearly as bad as bullets. Anyway, I kept going and every now and again I’d
stop and I came to one spot where there’s only about that much on either side and a great big rock in the middle, a huge thing. Thought, “How the hell am I gonna get over that?” And while I’m looking at it I heard this bloody tank fire its gun again and it hit the middle of the rock, and I reckon it had to go through me so I fell over dead. And I’m not joking about that and I could hear him, it didn’t take long and
the tank turned round and went. And I leant up and had a bo peep and he’d gone alright, he must’ve been sure he got me too. Anyway, here I was still alive and so I got up and kept going and I went about another fifty yards and it, we all, it was that cold there that we all wore long johns and they cramped on my legs, oh Jeez, I couldn’t move. And a couple of blokes saw me, they were up further and they came down with their knife, they cut
the long’s right down, you know, about like that. And it wasn’t long and it got the circulation going and away I went with them. But, I could go on forever about that cause we finished rowing a boat across to Turkey practically. But...
he was the guy that yelled out, “Sit down.” And he came from Coffs Harbour but he left Worth’s Circus where he was a rigger at Worth’s Circus, wonderful bloke. And they were in a company that were ahead of us coming into Bardia. And the first thing I saw, Lofty had had a big Boys anti tank rifle, thirty-six pound, hell of a big, a shocking thing to have to carry and lump around, anyway he was a big man,
he’d carry this damn thing. And he’d tied a bayonet onto the end of this bloody big Boys anti tank rifle and he’s standing over the top of a trench which had a lot of enemy in it there, and he said, “You better come out brother.” He called everybody brother, he called the colonel brother, and he never called him anything else, and he did it with respect. But everybody was called brother, no officers or anything else, he’d salute ’em and say, “Aye ya, brother.” And
wouldn’t matter if he’s the general, he’d call him brother. But here’s old Lofty with this huge... and bloody bayonet on the end of this thing, “Better come out brother.” “Eeeh.” Oh dear, that was the first time I saw an enemy bloke come out and he was white, he was white. Only with fear. Oh, Lofty’d frighten anybody. Yeah. No, Bardia was not the show,
a lot of things didn’t, you know, everything went alright, everything went correct but...
to us. And their forward observation officer and their signaller, a corporal, they had a big long round bar, and a big thing with wire in the middle of it, like the old fashioned telephones, and that’s what it was, mobile telephone the wire’d run out. And anyway, every time we got held up, the officer’d just say to our platoon commander who was
Harry Lovett then, he’d say, “Leave it to us Harry.” And be bit of a message, “One gun firing,” and you’d hear, ‘boom, wheoo, boom,’ you see and you make a little correction. And he’d get the whole battery to fire and the next minute you’ve got about two hundred prisoners and you don’t know what to do with them, and say, “Back there somewhere,” you know, send ’em back. But the reason I told you about that cause we, the whole day with that type of thing and oh, people
got killed. And the next day I was called to battalion head quarters to get myself a corporal and go and pick up a truckload of blokes at the cage and go and bury all the Italian dead. And I had of course, I had to get a couple of the younger prisoners and get them to sit down and make crosses and boot
laces and all that kind of thing. And one bloke that I got, God was with me. Frank. He’d gone over to America, he was living as an American and his mum and dad were getting old and sick and he’d come over to see them and he’d got grabbed and put in the army, and he was a warrant officer class one.
Speak English as well as I could and oh, he hated ’em, war and everything. Anyway, I had him and he had his little book and had all the, how you do a Catholic funeral service and all this. And anyway, also of course he speak their language and he didn’t do any work, he just stayed with me old Frank and he got
these young fellas to make the crosses, we put a... And I had one group that were cleaning out trenches, that were Italian trenches, and they were collecting groundsheets, the groundsheets that the boys had. And then while they were doing that I would wrap ’em up in the ground sheet and bury them and try to match up other bits and pieces to make
bodies and put em down the hole. And then when we’d finish one area we’d put it all in and get all these Italian lads and, round the thing, and Frank’d conduct a proper service. I’d salute and we’d do all the, they’d sing Ave Maria or something else, the whole lot of ’em. And
I had to do that all day, and I buried and put together a hundred and two blokes that day. And I used to have to cut off the dead meat tickets and put one on the cross and keep the other one to return to battalion head quarters, and that was the worst day of my life.
Did it make you think about, you know, the next time you went into a conflict, did you think more about the enemy and the people that were dying?
No. I don't know why. The only thing is you could also, the next conflict we had was Greece, so it was more likely to be exactly reversed, exactly reversed. We got a hell of a hiding in Greece on Jeez. Yeah. After I, the thing I read out to you about the tanks and that, we got right over to the eastern coast and
met up with about sixty officers and various ranks of our own unit, they’d all got away. And in the end they said, we waited there in the pretext that there was going to be a British submarine turn up out in the ocean, was gonna come and rescue us all and take us back to another naval ship that’d take us over to Egypt and get out, but of course never turned up. So after about five
days the senior officer said, “If you want to go in smaller groups you can break yourselves up and do what you like and have a go to get back or whatever you feel like doing, otherwise you can come with me, I’m gonna go.” So four other blokes and I said we’d go together. So, I’ve got a whole thingo about that you could take home and read if you like because it’s all about it. But yes, we finished up getting in little boats
and rowing across to islands, and rowing across to other isles. At one stage... is this going?
McGinley, one of my best blokes and he could skin anything. And they used to wrap ’em all up in, we all used our singlet, tied the bottom of it and put meat in and carry our singlet in something. But when we wanted to cook it, it was always a stew, and we’d all sit down in a bit of a, it’s five of us, me and four other blokes, five of us. We had one wooden spoon and we’d take it
in turns, “No, you had it last time, the last time Charlie so it’s his...” had to sit in the same thing. And you’re allowed to pick it, you’re allowed three dips, if you could get more the second dip but on the third one you had to take it you see and then you pass the spoon to the next bloke, that’s the way we ate our stews. And it worked out very well too. But do you know what the stew was cooked in? My tin hat. Now you’ll laugh about this, but all the stuff that the tin hat’d come a bit loose, and one day we’re wondering how we’re gonna cook something, I said, “Why not cook
it in this?” And it was perfect. Perfect. And I still had the stuff to put inside it, it was loose but it... and just rinse it out with some water next creek we came to and wash it and put it back on. And the whole way from there back to Turkey, we cooked everything in my tin hat. Absolute true. Anyhow, we got out from there, we eventually got from island to island to island and eventually we lucky enough to get on to
a little motorboat. We bumped into Colonel Chilton on the last island, Skiros, and we got back to Turkey, and from Turkey we got, we got into the Gulf of Smyrna, you know, the Smyrna figs. And they, you know, hands up, everything, and they’re supposed to be neutral, and we didn’t know what they, how we gonna be treated really. But we, I’d made up my mind we weren’t gonna go to Crete, thank God.
And anyway, the first day fed us and gave us a few things, the first night they put us in this little power boat, oh a beautiful little mine layer or something, and took us right up the Gulf of Smyrna. And that was about the first place we’d seen in nearly twelve months blazing in light at night time, cause they’re neutral. Lights everywhere, God it was a lovely sight to come into. Yeah, and those Turkey blokes treated us well too.
And after about three days they went round looking for clothes for us, and we had to get out of our military uniforms into civvy clothes. And they had trouble getting civvy shoes that’d fit us, somehow or other the Aussies have got bigger feet, generally speaking, than most other races I think, but definitely the Turkey blokes. Anyway, after another night, the British Embassy worked magnificently,
and they paid the bloke what he wanted per body, and gave him money for another drum full of fuel to go over... “If you bring any more back you’ll get double that,” oh gee, they were good to us. Anyway we, eventually we’re on our way and we bumped into another couple of, we bumped into one, oh, not yet. Anyway, we got into a train, the train was a beautiful train, a Krupp train with beautiful German Krupp carriages and...
a filthy little toilet up the back end. They don’t use any paper. Ever. And anyway, we went right up the top of a mount, up to sixteen thousand feet, one of the mountains, and right round the thing and down to Alexandretta, that would be the most southern easterly part of the bottom of Turkey. And after a while, there was a little Norwegian oil tanker about eight
thousand tonnes in there and they’d just disgorged all the oil, and they were taking on water ballast and we had to wait. We rode out to it in a little boat about one or two at a time and then went down the bilges and kept right out of sight and everything, and then we had to wait till the water ballast was full and the next morning we took off. And we picked up a lot of people there that were like us, but there were about, our group with Colonel Chilton’s lot, there’s
about twenty of us. But there were about forty Norwegians that’d all been contestants in the last Olympic Games and they’d all somehow been allowed out by the Russians and they’d, by foot, they’d come all the way from Russia right down to this particular spot. Gee, they’re a wonderful type of people, you know, they really were, they’re wonderful. And they played contract bridge, we only played auction bridge but we played contract but auction rules,
we were doing em over. Anyway, they’re wonderful people. The second...
they didn’t go out at night but the next morning we took out and we’re only about ooh, three or four hours out, we got picked up by six Stukas [dive bomber]. And we’d already had a bit of a look round the ship to see what they had in the way of armaments. And the old captain up there in his bridge, he had twin Lewis guns, not Vickers, the old Lewis guns that we’d trained with in, the First World War ones. He had twin ones with two, the big
two round ones with the magazines. And he said, “Can any of you blokes load magazines quick?” “Yeah!” And another bloke, “Yeah.” So, he had us up on the bridge with him and he’s got one hand on the wheel and he’s steering and he’s waiting for these buggers to come along. And they came down low too, they should’ve bombed the shitter out of us, they should’ve, oh we were sitting ducks. And he’s ‘rr-rr,’ and he’s firing away going, ‘rr-rr,’ and he’s steering with the other hand, ‘rr-rr.’
And helping him, pick another magazine up and put the magazine, ‘rr-rr,’ God he’s a wonderful bloke, oh gee, marvellous man. Then the next morning... they went, they dropped two bombs within about, I’d say three or four metres of us and they didn’t smash the sides, didn’t smash anything thank God. How they didn’t hit us I wouldn’t know, why they went away I don't know. They still had a lot of bombs left but oh, they gave us a pounding and never hit us.
Next morning we got up and the old captain was swearing a bit, and he said, “I oughta blame you Don, you bastard Don,” you know, he could talk English enough. And I said, “Why?” He said, “Look,” here’s these bloody two funnels riddled with bloody bullet holes by himself, you know, going, following the planes and going like that. He had bullet holes through his funnels, they were, yeah I laughed, no I’ll never forget that. I think I...
and away you go. But in Tobruk we did the start line job. We had the cleaning type of stuff you use for cleaning out the barrels, your rifle, in big rolls of it and heaps of it, and they use that to work the night start lines so nobody gets off course with their thingo. And they got a start line that way to go in and a cross line and the enemy’s just over there, you know, fifty yards, say. Well,
we laid these lines and then we had to lay down and let the first mob go through over the top of us and then we could follow ’em in the morning. We had to stay there all night on top of the start line to see that nobody moved it or changed it, which, I mean there wasn’t much involved there. But there was one bloke on a fixed line fire and every now and then he’d pull the trigger, he’d go, ‘baaa, ba, ba, ba, ba,’ and then he’d give it away for a while and have a drink or something and leave us alone. But they got a bit close
cause we’re all laying down so we’re pretty close to the ground and we’ve all got our full gear on, and water bottle always sits about here and it was a most uncomfortable thing in the world to get it underneath you, it’s always up there. And everyone had to be as quiet as a mouse. And all of a sudden we heard this, ‘baa-aaa, baa, boomp.’ “What the bloody hell, someone’s been hit.” And all of a sudden some bloke says, “I’ve gone! I’ve gone! I’ve gone!” I said, “Shut up ya bastard!”
“I’ve gone! I’ve been hit! I’ve been hit! Blood everywhere!” And I crawled over to him and I said, “Well, just shut up whatever you do.” I said, “Let’s have a look at it,” you see. And oh he said he can feel the blood, everywhere, “It’s gone! I’m gone! I’m gone!” “Oh,” you know, “silly bastard,” and you know, have a look. Bloody bullet from this, it’d gone right through the top of his water bottle and out the other end of it, the water’s coming down all over him everywhere. And to be hit in the
middle of the night with a bullet like that on your back, it’d drive you back about a yard with the force of it. And he was dead sure. And they laughed at him, “Oh ya silly bugger, old bastard.” But it’s absolutely true, oh we gave him heaps. But, yeah...
lads, all mates of mine. And of course I couldn’t be at that, and I was doing the right thing by these Italian lads. I often wonder where’d I’d have been without Frank because he knew how to do all the religious bit of the Catholic ceremony, I wouldn’t know nothing about it.
And he did it so well and so nicely. And the Lance Corporal Checkers Clift, who was with me, we’re the only two Aussies there. You got forty Italians with Frank, and they could’ve murdered us any time they wanted to, but you know, the war was over, they’d lost, that was it. But
no, that burying those people. I’m pretty hard, pretty... when I got back to battalion head quarters, gave them all the dead meat tickets and, or what do you call them, identification tags. And went back to camp and they were just having tea and I said g’day to Harry, platoon commander,
and reported back and I walked into the dark bush and spewed my guts out. Absolutely. Yeah, wasn’t very nice. But when you gotta do it, you gotta
do it. I don't think anybody ever knew that. Oh, most probably May did. Yeah. We were camped there, it was funny, we were camped at, in Tobruk we had a double bed, Harry and I, the lieutenant and sergeant. We didn’t have enough room on it for Frank though, bugger him, he had to get his own. Oh, he’s a great bloke. No, everybody made
’emselves as comfortable as possible and there was a, they had some beautiful wines about too. And lots of oh, what was it called, condensed milk, what was that normal condensed milk you usually get it in, anyway don’t say a brand name, but there was a lot of that about. And yeah, after that we had to go down and actually take over the cage at
Tobruk for a week and while we were there, if you can imagine a cage with thirty-six thousand in, you know. And they were cleaning out some of the tunnels down near Tobruk township, just back from the wharf, and they were cleaning them out of shells and bombs and things and that. And they were using
store man that’d been there that were Italian, and one young bloke dropped a box of detonators, and we were up in our cage at the time. And the whole damn thing went up and the next thing I saw, I heard this, like you can imagine, a volcano kind of exploding, and there’s everything up in the
air and I could see a body up there too in the middle of it all, I thought... And it wasn’t very nice for the poor buggers in the cage either because it was one of their own blokes that was carrying the thing that got blown sky high. And I know we got two legs and a bit of a body and had to cart them off and bury them separately. These are the kind of things that happened there. But we looked after, we fed, I don't know where we got it from, we fed ’em.
We were getting ships coming in every night with supplies. I mean they are prisoners they gotta be treated correctly under the Geneva Convention, you gotta, they weren’t bad blokes, they didn’t want to fight. They, but in Tobruk they had a little township over here and all the way round there’s soldiers and that, over here they had the harbour and above the harbour they had two huge British Vickers kind of
naval guns to protect em. And they were huge, they could’ve, any ship, the size that could get in the harbour, could be sunk by them for sure with this. And... I don't know where I’m up to. Anyway, that was the last spot where there was actually fighting, and we had one British I-tank, infantry tank. And thank God for him and he, marvellous things, as slow
as hell but big and strong. And anyway, they came with us and we took the fort, and having taken the fort I think the whole, that was more or less the finish of the Tobruk show, not Bardia, Tobruk. And yeah.
and I’m not kidding, they can nearly land it on a threepenny bit if they could see it, from back a couple of mile. They’re just like, a mortar is one of these things that doesn’t go, ‘pshoong,’ with great velocity, a mortar shoots things up in the air, they go down, they go down like that. That’s exactly what these things do. But whereas a mortar’s about that round, these things have got a hole about, a barrel about that big. And then you hear them
go ‘whoh-whoh-whoh,’ and then you wait for a while and you hear, ‘whoo-whoo-whoo, per-oong,’ away they go. And course when we got into Greece and the Germans had their, had it all over us, all over us, you could still hear their, we had three inch mortars, they had four point two’s, and their four inch mortars, you’d hear ’em go, ‘whoh-whoh-whoh.’
If there was a, see there were lots of fences there made of stones, stone, about that wide. And you’d dive on the other side of the stone thing and lay down, ‘harumph,’ and sometimes they’d, oh gee, they’d land within ten feet of ya sometimes. They could fire these damn things, small or big, so accurately it’s unbelievable. Frightening damn things they are, because you can hear em and you know they’re getting closer because the sound changes all the time and...
When it’s all over and the last one goes, you stand up and you turn round you say, “Get stuffed you...” Yeah. Oh, we got a hell of a hiding there in Greece, a hell of a hiding.
I think they thought our truck was taking em down to a boat, to get em out. That’s it. I hadn’t thought of it, but that’s what, that’s why they were all in a hurry to get on the truck. And Frank was the last one and I said, “I think we got enough mate.” And he said, “Oh, you got room for another one?” And I said, “You speak English?” And he said, “Yes.” I said, “Okay, hop on mate.” And then we had a yarn when we got to the spot where we had to do all this. And
I said, “How, what are we gonna start with?” I said, “We’ll have to get the kids to make some crosses, there’s plenty of bits of timber around.” And he said, “I’ll get the kids to, the young fellas,” his young blokes, “to take the boot laces out of the boots, before we bury ’em, and we’d use all those to tie the crosses on.” And we put one dead meat ticket on the thingo and tried to put a name on it, where
we could. But I often wonder if after the war you know, any department of theirs went over trying to find those type of thing. But no we, I told Frank what I wanted, what to do, but never, never, never in the spirit of Christianity could he have done it better.
And I couldn’t have done that. No. I couldn’t have done that.
getting ’em out and they were jumping and I thought, “Gee this bloke’ll do me.” And I went up to him and said, “How ya going mate?” And he said, “Not bad.” I said, “Oh Jeez,” I’d forgotten he was the, speak English anyway. Great it was. And I said, “Can you conduct a Catholic burial?” He said, “Yes Don,” he said, “I’ve got my little book here, it’s all in it.” I thought, “Oh, you bloody beauty.” I said, “We’ll get into it.” And I,
he said, “What do you want me to do?” And I said, “Look after all the kids to start with, get em to make all these crosses and get the shoe, boot laces out and then we’ll work out the next lot Frank.” He said, “Righto,” so he went out and that.
I would say that if a bullet had gone through the blasted, the platoon commanders eyebrows, that I’d have had to just walk in and taken over. That’s the main thing. This platoon commander of ours, we were talking a while back about Charlie Green and so and so. Harry Lovett, he
was the best junior officer I ever fought with or under. He never, never, never lost sight of achieving his objective, with the least loss of life. And he was brilliant at doing it and still doing it on time, and getting it right. Very, very few of them
make that a priority, with the least... we didn’t lose a bloke in Bardia or Tobruk, killed. Our whole platoon. And there’re a lot of blokes got killed. And that was because of Harry Lovett. I don’t think, I don't know... Charlie Green was a wonderful officer. And
you can’t say anything about any other officer unless you’ve been in the same position with them. But there’s certainly no officer I’ve ever heard or known of in the army who was as explicit about carrying out and achieving his object on the right time, by the time he had to do it, and still with the least loss of life of his own men. Oh boy,
he was marvellous. Yeah. I often wonder if it’d got you know, it did get through to me, but I often wonder had I... I’ve never been in a stoush as an officer. Yeah. I’ve, it’s funny, I’ve been
a temporary sergeant, or an acting sergeant, and a sergeant and a warrant officer class II and a warrant officer, acting warrant officer class I. I was RSM of the 2/1st Infantry Battalion, oh there’s a funny thing... When we got back from all this Greece business, we found out there were no 2/1st Battalion
blokes. I was 2/2nd right through Bardia and Tobruk and Greece. And then we found out that they had been caught on Crete, they’d run out of ammunition, they’d run out of food, they’d run out of petrol, and the colonel just had to go with the white flag with all his officers and
surrender. Before he did that he got all the men together the night before and told em what he was going to do, what he had to do. And they couldn’t get back, they couldn’t get a ship out. And he said, “Any one that wants to go and try to make it on their own,” I would’ve done that, by the way, for sure and for certain, but...“they have my full permission
and agreement for doing it.” But the whole battalion just had to surrender. Had to. And well, the brigade’s the 2/2nd of the 2/1st, 2/2nd, 2/3rd, so what they did was out of all the blokes that got back from the 2/2nd like us, when the blokes came out of the hospitals and the cages and everywhere else, there were roughly three hundred. The
2/3rd the same, roughly three hundred, the 2/1st, none. So they took a hundred mixed ranks from the 2/2nd, a hundred mixed ranks from the 2/3rd, always training, and they sent them over to form the nucleus of the new 2/1st Battalion, and then the three battalions’d be filled up with reinforcements. And under normal circumstances they should be of equal
calibre. Because they’ve got officers, warrant officers, sergeants, privates, corporals, the lot, all in the mix that had to go across. I went across to the 2/1st as a company sergeant major. And I didn’t want to leave the 2/2nd under any circumstance but I think I had a little bit of a spell there, you know, a bit of pride, if you want to call it that, just for the folks at home, that I was...
Oh, when I, it, I can always remember an uncle of mine, and he said, “Just remember Don, never volunteer for anything, never, never, never.” I never did, I never did. And that was the best advice I ever got. They, you know, there was a thing in the army, they, an officer’ll come out
or the sergeant, never the officer, the sergeant or sergeant major, say. “Battalion headquarters wants six volunteers, you, you, you and you.” That’s what they did in the army. Yeah, you never got volunteers. Very seldom, if you did they were new boys. Yeah, you knew that, you’ve heard that a thousand times. Oh, you must’ve. Oh no, you never volunteer for any thing.
After dinner for drinks. It was most enjoyable and interesting. After TB [Tom Blamey] considered we’d consumed enough Black Label [Scotch] to talk openly, he questioned us incessantly on how to improve things affecting the infantry soldier. My better version is overloading the soldier, carrying this to, carry this to, oh no, sorry. We’re taught that the
infantry should always be mobile, able to move quickly from A to B and at a minutes notice to quell trouble etcetera. How do you do this when he, the digger [Australian soldier], is continually being loaded with, loaded down with every new and conceivable gadget the brains think of. I sounded off. At present, apart from pay book, identification tags, cigarettes, matches, medical kit, he must
carry his rifle, bayonet, bandoleer of rifle ammunition, two full magazines of the section’s Bren guns, two tins of bully beef and dog biscuits. Water bottle, usually full, gas respirator usually, spare full magazine of Boys anti tank rifle, heavy ammunition for the two inch mortars, one per section, spare bombs for each of the mortars, smoke and HE [high explosive].
Spare Owen gun magazines, two grenades each, at least these were a must. Grenades, I agreed that they’re a must. TB: “Don, I’ve got the picture.” He said, “You better have another scotch.” I did. TB: “I’ve learned more in this short session than I thought possible.” Then I told him, “Officer’s pistols ought to be thrown away and they should be given a light sub machine gun because the pistols are
never used.” And he said, “Shut up and have another...” And that was General Tom Blamey. Yeah.
Owen gun? No. It was a Tommy gun [machine gun], an American Tommy gun. An American Tommy gun’s got a five point five bullet, great bloody things, and they’re heavy to carry. The boys have to carry ammunition for a Tommy gun, dreadful bloody things they are. Who’d ever want to bloody load us up with a Tommy gun. Never in, an infantry
man would never have bought the things. Anyhow, later on of course we got rid of all those stupid... the boys lost ’em all or threw ’em in a hole or something, I don't know what they did but they... They loved to get things, this Boys anti tank rifle was a useless big thing too because it wouldn’t do more to a light tank than a burst of machine gun, of a Bren gun bullet. If you keep plugging a Bren gun bullet for about
say ten bullets in a row, it’s gonna go right through. But oh they’re heavy things. But the stupid Tommy gun, point five... I can remember when I was a kid the bank used to have a Smith & Wesson or something or Webbley or some kind of pistol, revolver. And they had these great bullets about that big across, diameter, and that’s the size the things were in this,
except a bit longer. Yeah. Tommy gun, no good at all. They don’t get infantry men to take their new fangled ideas out and try them out and think about them in every aspect of the business, they just give ’em to em and tell ’em to use ’em.
we ate at the, Julis before we came down. No, the food was good, it was funny there, army food’s always good but you have a lot of stews but that’s good for you, nothing wrong with a good stew. But I know that when I went, when I went over there I didn’t like pumpkin and I don't know if I’d eat peas. And only a young fella, why’s he got these bloody likes and dis-
likes, it’s crazy. But if you didn’t eat everything that was put in front of you in the army you’d either starve or get sick. And didn’t take you long to get used to it and like it. Food’s food. But oh no, it was never fancy, not even at Christmas time or anything like that, nothing really fancy. There used to be an old army saying that the, on Christmas Day the officers
served all the privates and actually waited on their tables, this is an old military happening. And I believe that did happen around about that time, but I don’t recollect ever having seen it. And I think our blokes did it, and whether it was at Julis, at there or, where would we have been at Christmas time? At Christmas time I think that our blokes would most likely have been, 25th,
they’d have most probably been on the way up to Bardia from, not from Helwan but from the next camp, what’s it called? Ismailiya? Yeah. That’s closer to Alex, about nine, ten miles out of Alex on the northern side, so we just got in trucks from there and went up to
Libya. Yeah that, that thing about the Greece one that I missed out telling you, I think it is, stop me if I didn’t. But one of the islands we got to, we got there a little bit late, we’re looking for spots and we...
this little island, Alonissos. And it was getting a bit dark and we passed a little stone looking shed, stone walls and looked, I don't know what was on top, but just like a stone shed, fairly strong door. Anyway, we went hunting for something better and couldn’t find it, it was getting dark and Jock said, “I think we better go back to that first place.” So we went in, down there and whipped the door open and
found out it was a morgue, and there was a stiff on the slab. So we looked at that and one of the boys said, “Oh, I can fix that up,” so they just slid the stiff right down the far end and then got our half blankets out. At that stage we all had half blankets, and if you were lucky enough to have two of em, well you had an extra one, you could have one on top. And we used to all manage to get on a certain number, and what was left we put on
top of us. Anyway, we were pretty tired and so we didn’t even eat, we decided just to go to sleep. And we were, we slid the stiff down the end and we’re really off to sleep pretty quickly. Anyway, about four o'clock in the morning, or three o'clock in the morning we heard somebody rattling at the door. We thought, “Oh Jeez, the
Jerries [Germans] are here,” cause they had been on most of the islands. Jock had a pistol, a Beretta, one of the Italian ones and he said, “Don’t do a thing, leave this to me.” He’s a very competent bloke, we knew what to do, we all shut up. And the door opened, in came this little, poor little Greek bloke about five foot two or something like that. A little baby hurricane lantern and he’s holding it up and he sees that
he’s, either his stiff’s back or somebody’s back on the slab and he’s leaning round having a look to see what he can see. Anyway, he came up a little bit closer and stopped again, then all of a sudden Jock started to raise his stiff left leg like, or right leg like that. And this poor fella, he’s watching it and watching it and staring at it and the leg came up, and when the leg got to about there it just stopped and then Jock suddenly let it go and
it went ‘crash!,’ and it hit the slab. And it made a noise that would frighten the, anybody, and because you know, the back of the army boot you got a steel kind of horse shoe shaped bit. And it made a noise, I reckon you could’ve heard it ten miles away. The poor old bugger dropped his lantern and screamed and he either went straight through the middle of the door or the door could’ve been ajar and he went out of it. But we got the giggles and we’re laughing like hell and it was snowing outside,
and we could just see him disappearing in the snow. And we wondered if he ever stopped the poor old bastard, really and truly. It was a dreadful thing to do to him but you had to break the monotony with a bit of humour, we laughed and laughed, and poor old fella. Anyway, we grabbed our things and pulled em up again and went back to sleep. But that was our story of the night we slept in the morgue.
Same as we do. Except that they cook everything in olive oil, everything. When I say meat, I’m talking about vegies, no matter what they do there’s always half a beer bottle of olive oil goes in first. And it keeps you on the move anyway, yeah. Anyway, yeah we got on to a larger boat, on this little island it was too, we left our
boat, got this larger boat and it was a bit like the old wooden surf boats that they rowed, and, not the lighter ones. And there were two blokes could sit down in the middle and have an oar each and the other blokes had a spell at the back. Anyway, we rode out on this thing for about twelve hours or so and there was a storm came up and it was a bugger of a storm. And we talked about it a bit cause none of us been
in yacht clubs or associated with the sea that way, we liked fishing but we’d never owned a boat. Well, one thing that we all, we’d all remembered, was that if you’re in a rough sea, always head into it, so that all we could do was just sit there and row, and row and row and row into the head of this storm. About two o'clock in the morning we got washed up on the beach that we left that night, same beach, we didn’t know the storm was that
bad. We’d rowed for over twelve hours, never stopped, and it was that strong it rowed us back into the same beach. So.
a very senior bloke, they sent us over knowing we had no chance of winning. But the whole story was, apparently when I was at that OC2, we had two lectures by Randolph Churchill. And he was one of the chiefs in, oh what do they call it, propaganda, kind of thing. And he said, and he told us the, and it’s turned
out right, the main reason we went there was to try to tie up a bit more of Hitler’s army so that the Russian thing could go more our way. And that they didn’t, I mean if there was no war on there, they’d have had another heap of Alpine soldiers and parachutists, and they’d have had a hundred thousand
extra troops they could have put in over there which would have made things very difficult for the Ruskies [Russians]. We had no chance anyway, so might as well throw the old Aussies and, oh Kiwis got thrown in too we had, and a few Brits. But no we were thrown in, there’s no doubt about that, but that was the reason, to try to divert them so that they’d have to fight us at least, and in doing so they would not be sending more troops to
fight against the Russians.
it’s a beautiful spot, absolutely beautiful. And having come out of the desert straight over there, we thought we’re in heaven, it was, oh no, it was beautiful. Anyway, when we moved from there to go up north, where war was on, going to be on, hadn’t declared war at this stage, we got into trucks that were, you know, the old First World War Diggers talk about, with so many Omms [?] and so many cheveaux, that’s exactly what we got into, the Cheveaux [horse] section. The platoon
commander, Harry, had to go and have a nice carriage with a lean back thing and everything, and truthfully, he asked the chief whether he could go back with the boys, they wouldn’t let him. He did. Ridgy didge. That’s how good a bloke he was. We went up on the way and when we got right up near the northern border,
of what, Yugoslavia or something, I forget now, the Aliakmon River’s up there. And it was a pretty nasty spot where they declared war about that stage, and the Germans had a lot of Stukas and they’re a dreadful thing as far as, I don't know, men or anything else. And they used to come over and we weren’t supposed to fire
at ’em either, because if you fire’d at em they’d just get on the buzzer and get about twenty more planes over the top of where it came from and they’d just bomb the hell out of it. So, that was funny. Like I was telling you earlier about this big bloke Lofty Stafford, you know, six-foot-eight with his anti tank rifle, he got sick of being told you can’t, couldn’t do it, at one stage, and they were flying low too. And he put his anti tank rifle between the fork of a tree and he went,
‘whack,’ and what, I thought he downed the plane too. Anyway, he said, “Bugger ’em, I’m gonna have a go anyway.” By gee, I think he hit ’em too, but anyway, dunno what happened, he didn’t have a, the officers got onto him and he didn’t have another go. But we went right up to parachute protection platoon there, we’re about only ten and eleven miles from Selonika. And oh, it was a dreadful climb
up the top of the mountain, steep as billy-oh and slippery because there was that much snow.
I don't know whether it was not physically a hundred percent or mentally a hundred percent in every way, but blokes that I reckon shouldn’t have been over there, shouldn’t have been in with... because somebody’s gotta bloody look after the bastards. Gets a bit hard. But as long as they line up to the doc, the doctor says you’re A1 [in good health],
can’t do much else about it. No, I don’t, didn’t, truthfully didn’t hear of anyone that was sent back because of that. They, oh they sent a lot of blokes back I believe, but I think they just got jack of the hum drum [daily/repetitive] life or something and that could’ve been fear too. But they, you know,
they must probably put a bullet through their foot or something like that and they’d go home. They’d call ’em snarlers, self inflicted something, something, something, I forget what it is, they’d go back.
canteen, played Two Up [coin game]. Lofty Stafford the one I talked about earlier, he ran the Two Up all the time. That’s a good story about Lofty. I told you he called everyone brother, well he got, all those psalm singing blokes that every now and again they’d say that they want to ban gambling. It’s not good for the bloke, you know, must ban gambling, as though they’ve, you know, they go here to the senior blokes and put out routine orders saying, “Gambling’ll cease,” and all this. But
course make no difference to Lofty, he’d still have his Two Up school at the same time. So the senior officers knew they’d have to pick him up so they picked him up and charged him and he duly reported to George Wootton, our lieutenant colonel in charge of the 2/2nd Battalion. And he was marched in by the RSM and George Wootton, the colonel said, “You can wait
outside sergeant major.” And he went outside. And he said, “Sit down Lofty.” He said, “What the hell do you think you’re doing, you know what I’ve got to do, don’t you?” And he said, “Yes sir.” No he doesn’t he, everyone was brother, “Yes, brother.” And it wouldn’t matter whether there was a general there or what. “I know brother,” and he reached into his pocket, he dragged out a couple of great rolls of notes and he says, “There’s a couple of hundred pound there,” he said, “for battalion funds, how would that do?” And he said, “Very good idea Lofty. Thanks very
much indeed,” he said, “Case dismissed.” And Lofty just walked out, said, “Thanks brother, see ya non, cheerio.” And colonel said, “See ya Lofty, thank you.” And that was the end of that. Can you imagine anything more simple? Wonderful isn’t it. Ah, that, you know, you wouldn’t, you could do that I suppose in normal civvy life if you used a bit of brains. If it’d work the way it did
for these fellas, neither lost any respect for the other, neither got hurt. A penalty was voluntarily imposed, the battalion came out on top because they had extra funds for whatever they wanted to, battalion funds, whatever they wanted to spend it on. Like they might’ve had surf races or something and, yeah.
No that was very good, I remember that one very well. But yeah they had a big surf carnival over there, but, about where Gaza is. But it was a well conducted surf carnival too, the blokes that conducted it must’ve been in the surf lifesaving association. And the time of the events was excellent too. Oh no,
it was a lot of, see you do all this thing every now and again, just to break the monotony, although you didn’t have time to have, get too much monotony, you talk about it but you don’t see it.
for first, second and third and as many events as you can think of. Yeah it was quite good. You know, the, have the ever been to the, Bath in England, where they’ve got those underground pools and things? They got the same in Gaza you know, they got exactly the same there, they’re a smaller area,
under ground water’s beautiful, yeah Jesus, like out of this world. And you look at the place on the top and there’s nothing but apparent filth and nobody cares about hygiene. Silly. Yeah, want to know where that’s all gonna start and finish of, because poor old Arabs, the
you can feel sorry for em but they give em that, you know, Gaza area which I don't think should ever have given em, and the next minute they want another area, like they wanted Bethlehem and they got that. And then they wanted another area and get that, and it’s gimme, gimme, gimme all the time, it never ceases, no matter how much you give ’em. And the only thing they understand’s fear and hurt,
nothing else. I don't know what’s gonna happen there now.
monotonous things, same thing over and over and over again. One of the interesting things that I did come across, this was, I wasn’t personally involved but this was up in the Kokoda Track. All their food, all their supply of reserve ammunition and mortars or anything you wanted, it all came in by the biscuit bombers. And
they were, they were the good old DC-3’s or Dakota’s with the doors on both sides just taken off, screwed off or pulled off or something. Just had this great blasted opening here and there and they had a couple of boards in the back of. They had one bloke there that’d pull the boxes up and another bloke’d sit down and he’d get his boot on, he’d just give em a push and away it’d go. No parachute, no parachute or anything at all. And of course they yell out, “Now!” and the bloke’d, ‘Meng,’ and he’d miss the mark by
miles, the blokes gotta walk miles through this dreadful jungle and find the stuff. But anyway, it was, it worked well, I mean at least they got food and at least they got their ammunition. But at one stage there, they were having trouble with the three inch mortars I was talking about earlier with Jeff Coyle. They were dropping the mortar down, before the mortar hit the firing pin, as the mortar
hit the firing pin, the whole bloody thing exploded inside the barrel and they lost about seventy-nine blokes, killed, just by their own mortars. Not just our battalion, all the battalions. And no one could work out what it was. And it turns out that, I hope you’re a bit mechanically minded... In the top of a mortar bomb, there’s a little firing pin that, when it’s hit
the pin goes down and hits a detonator and the detonator explodes the main high explosive and what, it all happens together. Well, they took months to find this out. The little pin at the top is kept back by a spring, and it’s kept back in a place like there. When the, it hits the
firing pin at the bottom the pin comes a bit forward like that and slides across, because being on a spring, and gets into the right position so that it’s gonna do this. Well, what’d happened was that as these blokes with their biscuit bombers were kicking, throwing these things out, when they hit the ground, they hit the ground with such a force that it released this pin, the bloody pin’d slide across here, then as soon as it got down into the bloody
barrel of the thing and the pin hit the thing and exploded, it hit the main... the whole thing just went off inside the thing. Took ’em ages to find that out. Ages and ages. Lot of blokes killed because of that. Nobody’s fault, just a lack of, I don't know, not knowledge even, preparedness. I mean
you had to get the food, you had to get your supplies, you had to get your reserve ammunition and all that. My God you had to pay for it too if you weren’t careful. You needed a... and how you overcome these things. I think he’s only about an eighteen year old lad that worked it out in the end too. The falling from way up there without a parachute on, as they hit the ground, ‘zhoong.’ Just imagine, and the spring goes and the things goes across and
next time it’s ready to go straight into the high explosive and the whole of the barrel just goes, ‘schtgoh,’ with the explosive it’s got inside it too. God, a lot of blokes were killed with that.
About mid 1940 the 2/2nd Battalion must have been given prior notice that our unit had to become aware, prepared for a future move. Part of this entailed having each mess with every office filled. ...That meant that we got word that we,
we didn’t, but the chiefs did that we’d be moving down to Egypt. And before you could make a unit move, every position in the officer’s mess or the sergeant’s mess or anywhere else, all had to be filled before you moved. And, so I said here... Our existing treasurer at the time
was in hospital ill and would not be returning to our unit. This meant a general... righto... About mid 1940 the 2/2nd Battalion must have been given prior notice that our unit had to become prepared for a future move and part of this entailed having each mess with every office filled. Our sergeant’s mess was short a treasurer, he was in hospital ill and would not be returning to our unit.
This meant a general meeting had to be held and a new treasurer elected. The ill sergeant was our pay sergeant called Nick... and I forget to this day his proper name, Nichols or Nicholas or, anyway. ...and we were mates, perhaps because we both had worked for banks. I called on him socially, never mentioned the mess and
the final advice he offered me that day was to never accept any mess office while RSM Sanderson was chairman. I have never seen nor heard of Nick since. Some months or so later our sergeant’s mess was called for a general meeting with compulsory attendance. All sergeant’s duties for that evening were filled by senior corporals. The mess was
had with all the usual trimmings and toasts. We were advised by the president that the tables and chairs would be then arranged for the general meeting for the purpose of electing a new treasurer. All was organised so we sat down in the usual u-shaped arrangement with warrant officer one, Sanderson, at the top table with his senior buddies. The meeting was called to order and we were advised that a new treasurer
had to be appointed. My mind went back to the hospital where Nick had given me the advice not to become an officer under any circumstance while Sanderson was in the chair. I remembered it well. The meeting was opened and RSM nominated a warrant officer, was seconded and he declined. Then he nominated another warrant officer and it was seconded, he declined.
And they went on and nominated every warrant officer in the place and he declined. Sanderson, the president, did all the nominating, he was furious, red and purple around the head and neck and gills. He then spoke to a few buddies and started nominating sergeants, nomination was seconded, and declined. The RSM lost his cool completely.
After another talk with his few friends he stood up in temper and yelled that the situation was not funny and that he was appointing a treasurer and no-one would decline. I was frightened but ready. He half yelled, “I appoint Sergeant Pierce mess treasurer.” I jumped up and loudly declined. “Ya can’t do it! Ya can’t do it!” yelled the RSM ...what’s there?... and closed the meeting.
I was never treasurer and our sergeant’s mess and everyone who was present knows this. From the time of that general meeting until we had settled in Helwan, no officer, person, RSM Sanderson or any other member of the sergeant’s mess had ever addressed me as treasurer or requested or ordered me to do anything closely resembling a treasurer’s function or duty
within our mess or anywhere else. At this stage this report or story surely sounds weird, unbelievable or concocted or too unbelievable to be true, but believe me it’s true. And two of our trusted and respected officers had been ordered to investigate this whole unbelievable business. ...I don't know
whether they were short of money or stock or both, just say assets, I don't know what I was charged with, don’t know what was short in the mess, and I’ve never heard anybody tell me what was short. I was never advised anyway... And they’d been ordered to investigate the whole unbelievable business. They never asked me one question nor would they listen to one word from me. I considered they should have been court marshalled for negligence.
And I still believe that. If that’s the way they investigated the thing and wouldn’t listen to a word from me or a lot of other blokes I spoke to... I spoke to at least half the total of members who had been present, none of whom had been interviewed or questioned by either investigating officer and all had clearly heard me decline appointment to
treasurer. They had all agreed to advise a court marshal on oath of this if and when I subpoenaed them. Further, I have never heard what the extent in money loss was at Julis or Ingleburn, never heard, ...oh, anyway that’s about it... 1) I have never touched a cent of mess money 2) I’ve
never been behind the bar nor had a free drink 3) I’ve never seen a cheque withdrawn or deposit form 4) Never been told where the funds are lodged 5) Never been given a specimen signature to operate an account 6) Never received a key to anything 7) Never seen or known where reserve stock of spirits, wine etcetera are locked 8)
Never, I’ve never looked at a cashbook. I believe this cashbook was amongst a pile of books thrown at me in the days before my fronting up to the CO [Commanding Officer], by the so-called investigators. ...Where we going here?... Exactly the same situation arose at Ingleburn shortly before we were due to leave the Middle East. ...I don't think anybody
in the unit remembered that this had happened to us at the end of December ’39 before we sailed, but I remembered it, the same president... Again mess pres [president], ah, RSM Sanderson again mess president. We all had to chip in ten pounds, I think, it was a lot of money to be as my earnings were only eighty pound a year plus a small living away from home allowance,
at previous work. I wondered if the investigators even looked at this, remembered it or considered the similarity. If one top line bottle of scotch was taken each week, with perhaps a wine etcetera. how much would this add up to in seven or eight months? ...Black label. That sounds common sense but to this day I don't know whether we were short ten
pound, twenty pound, two hundred pound, five hun, I had no idea. Anyway... Sanderson had a weekly party in the tent with close friends, the investigators looked into this. I was fully prepared to demand a court marshal and subpoena every member of the mess who attended the meeting, mainly to get the investigators charged. ...Not so much Sanderson, cause you gotta prove that, but the investigators for their
method of investigating, without even talking to me or letting me say anything. They should’ve been charged or put into the bloody can. Where did we go?... Feared that could have, yeah, fear that we could have become a laughing stock for the 2/1st and 2/3rd Battalions, and we could never risk that happening, so I had the idea of demanding a court marshal. No one has ever heard this story, I have no
other battalion friends and I just want to sleep at night. Please don’t feel, ...this is addressed to the colonel... please don’t feel badly, it certainly, it is certainly not aimed at you my friend. I did get a commission so a good fairy has more than helped me...I reckon he must’ve torn up my papers when he got a bit of a conscience about it, he’s been a terrific bloke to me, he was the one that recommended me for my commission.
And if my records had shown that I’d been reprimanded or severely reprimanded, I’d have no more had a chance of getting a commission than fly. Amazing isn’t it? Anyway, where did we go?... No one has ever heard this story and I have no other battalion friends and just want to sleep at night. Please don’t feel badly, this is certainly not aimed at you my friend. I did get my commission so a good fairy’s been,
more than helped me. Best wishes, it’s all over and done with at last, sincere regards, Don. J.P. forty-seven years Queensland, forty-six years, New South Wales. He wouldn’t have know that, anyway.
hurts. No one ever said, “Sorry, we made a mistake.” I’m the thief around the place. And I went back to the bank and I had about eighteen years a bank manager. I most probably done a lot of silly things in my life but you never come at that kind of caper. Never had a, never touched a book. I don't know to this day, truthfully, and I’ve never heard of a,
there were about fifty, oh forty say, thirty sergeants, members of the mess I suppose, between thirty and forty, and I’ve never spoken to one of them in my life that knew what was missing. I don't know. I was never told. And I’ll bet ya, none of them remembered the same episode
at Ingleburn before we got on the boat, we all had to dob in... same bloke. The whole thing is such, so similar, that it’s more than a coincidence. You’d think I was out after Sanderson, I’m out after anybody that I think possibly could have been the culprit, and of course he’s at the top of the list, but it’s not because he’s Sanderson.
He’s on the top of the list of course. But no, I’m human, and the jobs I’ve done and the positions I’ve held, still hurts me that I’ve got this behind me.
Did you have any idea, I mean did you imagine what it might be like?
No. I was just gonna learn as I went. See the type of things that did happen. One company or one platoon, I’ve forgotten which, a platoon, they had a... the worst leaders in the world are those without
fear. There’s very, very few people in the world without fear. And if you happened to get a leader without fear, that is the bottom of the barrel. He’s a, I only struck one bloke, I think in the 2/2nd Battalion, he was either a captain or a lieutenant or something. And, but he, he had, he was like racing a race horse in a Melbourne Cup, you know, he had to, he
did, I don't know... but he nearly always had his boys out, too far out in front. And at one stage about five of em got, a couple of em got shot in the backside and other fellas got shot somewhere else. To be shot in the backside’s a dreadful thing in the army, it was only because this stupid officer had gone out on his own further than he should’ve, exceeded the, didn’t play as part of the team, he just wanted to get his mob there and get em there first.
Yeah, and that was in Bardia and he’d never been in any kind of a war before. Yes. But yeah a few of em got shot in the backside but, which always looks as though you’re running away but it wasn’t that at all, they were that far in front that our blokes couldn’t pick who was the enemy and who was the goodies. And they didn’t think anybody’d be that bloody silly to be as far in front as
they should, because they shouldn’t have been.
There were not many killed there. Very, very few. No we, we had the best platoon commander there was at that stage but you could certainly learn from him too. And he didn’t go round saying, “Oh I
did this and I did that...” One of the worst things the 2/2nd Battalion ever did was that they, after Bardia, the CO had to get all his young officers together and say, “Well, this is the time we’ve got to consider recommending blokes for medals, bravery medals.” And all our blokes were, they said, “Oh, bugger that, the whole platoon was good, if you give
one to one, you’ve gotta give one to every one,” which sounds alright, and that was the call cry from the 2/2nd Battalion. What happened is that the 2/3rd Battalion said, “Sure, we’ll be in it, you know, I’ve got Joe Blow here and Jimmy Cox here and Jackie Green there and so-and-so and so.” He said, “Well, sit down and write em out and get your sergeant to endorse it and sign it and bring ’em back in,” and they got all their,
all their gongs. And of course at the end of the war, 2/3rd Battalion’s got so many MMs [Military Medal] and so many DCMs [Distinguished Conduct Medal] and so many this, and the 2/2nd Battalion, nil. Oh, well, three, the CO got one because the brigadier gave it to him, and that’s what happens. What do you do about a thing like that? You ever think about it? What would be the best way of going about it?
If ever I was a leader again, I’d make certain I got out as many medals as I could to all my blokes. As long as they did a good job, you know, if they wanted to knock a few back they could but I I’d get as many as possible. Because you got so many years after it’s all over and done with and your unit’s got to have some glory and distinction. Yeah, if you only got a handful of medals and the other bloody unit’s got ten
times or five times as many. Funny isn’t it? Do many people think like this?
whole thing and somehow to get on the inside, you’ve gotta get through the wire. Well, there’s two or three ways of getting through the wire and every course you go to for officers or sergeants courses or... they always have a course of getting through danet wire, which is the curly stuff, or straight wire. And they teach you various ways of getting through it, like just diving on top you know, like a beautiful surf of, going into the
water like a great bloody idiot, and there’s lots of ways going through it. And another way of course is to get a Bangalore torpedo, I never heard the word or phrase in my life before. I thought, “What the hell’s one of those?” It’s just a bit of, only about two inch piping basically, like corrugated iron water piping, and they fill it up with bloody explosive and then block,
block both ends and have a detonator in the middle. And when they blow it up the whole thing smashes with such an impetus that it throws the wire on both sides. And actually after two of them were gone off, if they’re put say, six feet apart, you got a wide enough path to drive tanks through without the going, having any trouble at all, trucks, anything. Yeah.
I’d never heard of them, we’ve never seen... in all our training I never saw one being used. The worst, I’ll make you happy now. One thing that senior officers love to do is to send out patrols. And if they don’t do it themselves,
they instruct somebody else to send out patrols. Now because so many books were written about patrols and that, most officers have, no matter how high you go, they’ve got an inbred thing in their brain about patrols. You know, somebody comes along and says, “Good show today Charlie, now what are you doing now?” Well, I said, “C company have got a patrol going out so-and-so, and go, got a patrol, is in there...”
Patrols, patrols. So much so that they send out bloody patrols just to satisfy the, where there’s no point in the world or need. Now at Bardia, just before we went in, yes there was a need for patrols, and their patrols had to be very cautious and very quiet and act like a real patrol,
to try to find out how deep the trench is. After the wire coming outward, not inward, you’ve always got a tank trench, which is usually about from here to the wall by ten feet, about six foot deep and, you know, kind of stops at, something like that. So on this particular occasion they send Harry Lovett out,
I had to take over the platoon, they sent him out with a group of lads, good lads too and they still had army boots on. Of course it’s gotta be so quiet as a little mouse. Have you ever tried to walk quiet, at night time, in army bloody boots? Well, they didn’t have any sand shoes, nobody’s ever thought of getting bloody sneakers, or whatever they call them, for the army boys to
do their patrolling in. They, just never come to their mind. So what do they have to do, the poor bastards, they gotta try to keep em quiet so they finish up getting a lot of cord and stuff and wrapping sand bags around their boots. Now this is the way it happened, it’s just not a story. This wonderful lot of blokes and they got away with it, they were quiet enough and they got right in
and they measured these bloody tank traps and things on the other side and the rest of it. And all of a sudden another, they heard another patrol coming along and they kept very quiet, it was a night I patrolled, they just walked past and, ‘Whoo,’ you know, must have breathed like that, let em go. But they like you to bring back... if you can, without killing the bloke, if you can bring back his
insignia or something which would show what regiment he belongs to and this type of thing, they like you to get that off a bloke now and again. It’s hard to do without killing him, but that kind of thing. But I loathe patrols and patrolling, mainly because ninety percent of the time it’s done because it should be done. Because the powers that
be at bloody Duntroon and all these other places, they spend weeks and months and years studying patrolling but they forget to give you bloody right kind of shoes to patrol in. But of course that’s neither here nor there. Yes, I don’t like, you’ve gotta have a very, very, very special purpose to send a group on patrol.
Easiest way in the world to get killed, easiest way in the world to give away your own position. I mean if they kill one of you, they sure know what regiment it is, what battalion it is. Yes, so, there you go, that was an extra one for you.
I told you earlier that I’d missed getting on the shipping list. And the colonel said something about we wouldn’t have taken on reinforcement officers anyway, remember that time? Yeah but, so I was over
acting adjutant for some training unit and doing that business for the Jews and you know, and a few other things like that. And then a mate of a , mate and me, we’re both in the same unit, Merve Percival, got sent to the 17th Battalion while the 8th Army war was still on.
And we got there at the last day of the clean up, you could call it, in other words there was no hand-to-hand fighting and there were, I don't think we heard a gun shot fired in action, in anger. But we arrived and the CO of that unit said to us
that he didn’t want us, that he had his own sergeants and senior corporals who could well and truly be promoted and fill in the gaps where they, from officers they’d lost. And we weren’t welcome. So we just said, “Righto sir, thanks for letting us know so clearly,” so we wandered round and saw the brigadier.
The brigadier said, “Stay here!” And oh Jesus, he went round he tore strips off [shouted at] this bastard, and oh Jesus did he ever. He said, “Now,” he said, “I don't think he’d want you and I don't think you’d want to go into his unit, so go back to where you came from, it’s the best thing you could do now, I’m sorry that you’ve had this happen to you.” Both of us.
So we went back and we’d no sooner put a foot back into Palestine than we were told that we were going home on the next available ship which happened to be a, what was it? I think it was a freezing vessel, one of the, North, oh God, North Coast? May’d remember it, anyway it was about eight thousand tonnes, something like that.
And it was loaded up and with weirdoes and blokes that shot themselves in the foot or blokes that were sick and blokes that were no good. And when they got out to the ocean, about five miles away, they cleaned emselves up the next day and shaved for the first time for months and months. They were ready to step off the ship and meet their sweethearts and the rest of it, and they looked thorough gentlemen and good soldiers and, you know, best in the world. Anyway, we were on that ship. I
was mess officer as a matter of fact and I’d never been a mess officer in me life before, and here I was for about eight, I don't know how many bloody blokes on this ship, there’s a lot of em. And I just said, you know, first time I did it, I went according to some kind of schedule they had laid out about the amount of meat each man gets and that kind of thing. I thought, “Oh, bugger it, there’s miles of bloody stuff here,” so I fed ’em up, whole lot of ’em, officers and all, I
fed ’em up. Do you know when we got home, we had about one half of a sheep left? And Jesus I’d have been shot and I’d have deserved it too. Oh, God, all... no. Then we came right across the bloody ocean that was full of bloody Jap submarines and everything, and unescorted on this Norwegian Star, not Norwegian Star, that’s the, it’s like that anyway, I’m sorry, a little ship. And when we
came past Rottnest Island before going into Perth they sent out an Australian frigate to escort us in. We docked and we were still filling up with oil when the frigate hadn’t arrived in the river at all, hadn’t even arrived in, it was that bloody slow. And that was the only naval ship we had in Australia guarding the whole of the west. That is the truth. You got that bloody
thing going? I’m telling you it’s the truth. Yeah.
we didn’t go to Colombo though but I got it somewhere, we had a heap of stuff. I carted this bloody thing all the way over to Hurstville and there was no one there. Then I went back to Neutral Bay where there was no one there. Anyway, eventually May came home from work and we met and yeah, it was lovely. Nobody knew I was home, or coming home. But you should’ve seen all these blokes that were, honest to God, the day after we got out into
the sea and they all brightened themselves up without telling em anything, they were doing drill like the brig, you know, the guards of, you know, Black Watch. Absolutely marvellous, you couldn’t have done anything better in all your life, the miserable lot of bastards. Honestly they were, you wouldn’t recognise them and it was a pleasure to be on the ship with them. You wouldn’t believe it. How poor old Merve and I got on that bloody ship, anyway. I fed ’em
all well. Christ I was lucky. Oh, one day, I fed ’em like bloody Kings, nobody knows that but me.
decided we’d get married and I got seven days compassionate leave and May was down in Sydney and she’s got her frock made and a little hat, she, oh anyway, she looked beautiful. And she was gonna fly up to Townsville and I hitch hiked down to Townsville, I got there alright but May couldn’t get on the plane because the Americans had more priority. And the next day May couldn’t get on the plane, the next day May couldn’t get on the plane. And then while I was out, while I was out there on the
jetty waiting for the plane to arrive and hoping, I met an air force padre, Padre McWilliam, wonderful bloke. And he was there to meet the kin folk of a plane load of Catalina’s [flying boat] that’d gone into the harbour there and they’d all been killed and it was a very sad thing. And we talked a bit and one day he said, “Is there anything I can do for you Don,” he said, “any old time.” And I said, “Oh I don't think it matters padre.” I said, “Oh, by the way, you wouldn’t
marry us would you?” He said, “I’d love to.” And he was Presbyterian but that, you know, we were church of England, I think. And I said, “Well, what do we do, we want to get married in that big cathedral at Townsville?” He said, “Oh, I’ll fix it up.” So anyway, the next day or two, and he said, “It’s all set, everything’s right,” he said, “The only thing is the old Canon up there wants to talk to you,” and he didn’t tell me what about or anything. So the day May’s got on the plane, I go up and see this bloody Canon,
and he started to talk to me about, “Not just a wartime marriage, you sure you’re doing the right thing,” and it’s not this, it’s... and he’s going on and on. And after the first hour and a half, I could hear May’s plane over the top and he still wouldn’t let me go. And in the end I rudely got up and I left him, he was a rotten bastard. And when I got there May’s plane had landed and she’d come ashore and there wasn’t a soul to meet her. She’s sitting
in the little shelter shed all by herself. How do you like that? We got married that night, thank God. And we had, Padre McWilliam conducted the service in the big cathedral. And I met two Aussie army boys who’d been seconded to the Shell company, and they all had, loading big cans of, drums of petrol on trucks, take them out to the
army camp. And these two blokes said, “Yeah, we’d love to be your witnesses.” Witnesses wasn’t it? Yeah, the two witnesses and they got themselves all neat and tidy. And then the chappy at the hotel said, “Look Don, we haven’t had a ding oh, for months and months and months, and he had two boys in the army, up in the ah, New Guinea. And he said, “Whole staff’ll be there,” every Tom, Dick and Harry on his staff
to rouse about the lot, and Padre McWilliam, and oh it was wonderful what they put on. The only, and he didn’t charge us a cent for any of the grog, he just charged us for the nights we were there. Oh, wonderful. And I had to get some meat, he couldn’t get meat, he just could not get meat. So I went out early in the morning and, the day I had to get it, I found a few army camps and some good blokes who liked a bottle of grog or
whatever it was, small bottle of scotch or something like that. And I came back with the meat and they were happy as Larry and we were happy as, oh they were wonderful and they put on a lovely show for us. Now what do you think about that? That’s the best part of the whole story isn’t it?
Did you say, ‘Yes darl?’ Yeah. Yes, yes it was hard. No, I think I resigned from the bank first thing, I couldn’t be told what to do by little Tom, Dick and Harry bankies and so I resigned from that. And then I got a promise of a couple of good kind of jobs that never eventuated and upset about that. And then I saw a
bus run for sale somewhere on the Clarence River from Loris to Maclean, and pick up all the school kids on the island and take them there, mums and dads that want to do some shopping. And the first seven or eight months we were there we had three full floods and the punt was off the road for three weeks each time and tied up to a big gum tree and nearly went broke there. And so then I bought a shop at Maclean, was gonna run
a bottle shop there at Maclean, opposite the Argyle Hotel, and the council wouldn’t let us use that. And, did you come down to Sydney with me that time? I went down and saw the minister for local government and he was ropable with them and he got it fixed up. And by the time he did that, we’d sold it hadn’t we? Yeah. And we sold it to Viena Styles from Grafton. So then we went to Coffs Harbour and
at Coffs Harbour we couldn’t get housing so we stayed with May’s mum and dad for a while. Then we bought an old army tent, disposals, and we got a block of land from Mr McGregor down in Palm Beach and put the tent up and... Park Beach, sorry. And May’s dad built a little hut, big enough for the kitchen,
to cook in and the bathroom and they both had power on but the rest of the tent didn’t, and we lived there for thirteen months. Jan was born while we were in the tent there. But May’s had a very happy time, haven’t you darling?