Year 12, and I went right through and got my intermediate and so on. And then, that was in the height of the Depression, 1934, and I got a job, which were very scarce in those days, with a local shop there, a draper’s shop, which I didn’t like very much. But my father thought it best I grab it when I could, because of the
state of the country at the time. Euroa was about 2,000 people in those days, and it hasn’t grown much. I worked in this shop, and then I later decided I would accept a job which was offered to me in Jerilderie with a big firm over there, that had numerous branches. It was called A. Miller and Co, and I
was in charge of one of their departments there, and that was in 1937. And I worked there for two years, and oddly enough, I met my, the girl who was to be my wife there. And then in 1939 I was at home and on holidays, and my father
said he’d been talking to a friend of his who was a brigadier in the army. And this brigadier had told my friend that the intelligence had indicated that there was a war coming, and Germany was building up its armaments and so on. And if he had a son, he’d put him into the army in the early stages. My father told me this,
and strangely enough about a week later there was an advertisement in the press seeking recruits to go down to join the army, the permanent army. Go down to Queenscliff out of Melbourne, which is on the point of, the bay there, go onto the coastal guns, big guns that were there, to guard the entrance to the port.
So I put in for this, for this, to be a recruit and there were 130 in it, and they wanted 30. And I got, I was one of the 30, I think the brigadier might have put a word in somebody’s ear, because how I got in, I don’t know, but anyway, I was one of the 30. I went down to Queenscliff then and became a recruit,
this is 1939. Shortly after that, the war started. And I did the usual recruit training and it was very, very strict in those days, and I became a gunner on the six-inch coastal gun. I was posted across to the other side of the bay, to Point Nepean
after I’d done my first three months, and there I, together with a lot of others, we did more extensive training. Until in April 1940, the CO [Commanding Officer] of the Coastal Defences, Lieutenant Colonel Goodwin, held a parade in Queenscliff of all the soldiers, cooks, bottle-washers and everybody. And he informed us that
he had been asked to form a medium regiment to go into the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] and go to the Middle East. Or, at that stage of course he didn’t tell us that, but that was the intention. And he wanted us, being trained soldiers, it was a volunteer situation and he wanted us to join up and go with him and join his regiment. And he said, “All those happy
to do this, take one pace forward,” and I was one of 85% who did so. And we went then out to Puckapunyal in, the camp in Victoria, and trained on these World War 1 60-pounders which the militia were using, there was quite a few militia fellows also joined up. And that was on May the 17th when we first went to Puckapunyal, and
we trained there on, in the cold and it was bitterly cold until the October. And then we were informed at another parade by the same CO, that the guns, 60-pounders that we were to get to go overseas with had been lost at Dunkirk, and therefore
we were, we would not be, we would be going overseas, but we would not be on 60-pounders, we would be not a medium regiment, but a field regiment, and they are smaller guns, 25-pounders. And if you want to hear a little interesting thing that happened while we were at training there, my mother and father lived up at Euroa, which was only 30 miles away from Puckapunyal.
And another fellow and I, we were a bit sick and tired of the boredom of the camp and so on, we decided we’d go AWL [Absent Without Leave]. And I was a two-striper then, bombardier they were called, so we put our kitbags in our beds and shot through up to Euroa and had a beautiful dinner with my parents and so on. And strange as it may seem…
be checked off and everything. And they find these two fellows are asleep in the beds, and then the fellow goes, the officer gave it a bit of a prod and it turned out to be my kitbag. Anyway, of course we went up on a charge, and we went before the major in charge, and he gave us a reprimand, quite a severe reprimand, for going AWL. Anyway that was a bit of bad luck on our part,
but it was worth it for the meal my mother turned on. Anyway, October, and the 60-pounders had been lost at Dunkirk, they’d had to abandon those. And we were now to be a field regiment and we were to be part of 9th Division, one of the field regiments for the 9th Division. So that meant an alteration, and it was good for
me, being a bombardier, I was promoted to sergeant. So although we had no guns, it was October, and in the November we then caught the train, and went across to Adelaide, and we boarded the ship called the Stratheden, one of the Stratheden, one of the Strath lines, there were quite a few of them. And
we then sailed from Adelaide to, we thought we’d be going to the Middle East, we were never told of course, they wouldn’t tell you these things. And being a sergeant, I had a beautiful cabin with another bloke, I think it was better than what the officers had onboard the Stratheden, because this was its last trip before it was converted into a troopship. And it was to carry a hell of a lot more
soldiers in future than what it had on, it even had stewardesses and that sort of thing onboard, and a nice swimming pool just outside our cabin. So we started the trip across to the Middle East, and pulled in at Perth and it so happened that our, excuse me, our
convoy escorts were the Canberra, the ship the Canberra and the Perth. And there was there was talk of a German raider being out in the Indian Ocean and therefore they kept us in Perth, they weren’t prepared to take the risk. In any case, the Perth and the Canberra went out, off out into the Indian Ocean, trying to find this raider. And we had a week in Perth, well, you can imagine, we had our last
time in Australia, we had a wonderful time, because every second day we had leave and it was very, very good, and the Perth people just opened their homes to us. Anyway, back we go to the boat and we sail off to the Middle East. We called in at Colombo, as it was, what is now Sri Lanka,
and we had a couple of days leave there. And then we went on to the Suez Canal, up through the Suez Canal to Kantara, where we were, where we stopped and it was our first sight of natives and, as we called them, Arabs, wogs, wogs. And they were very,
very different to Australians, I can assure you. Camels and all the rest of it, so it was an eye-opener for us. We caught the train then, and went to a camp called Kostina in Palestine. And this was to be our camp for some months. We still had no guns, of course, and
we did a lot of training such as route marches and map reading and all sorts of lectures, and also a lot of drill. It was a nice camp Kostina, it had a theatre there, and it wasn’t far from Tel Aviv, which was a very attractive place to go to, to have a bit of leave.
So my mate and I, we went on leave and we met, while we were there, a couple of girls who were schoolteachers. But they didn’t want to be seen with Australian soldiers, because some of them used to get drunk, and they didn’t advertise our army too well, I can assure you. And these, well, were very
classy type of girls, you see. But they took us around and gave us a good look at Tel Aviv while we were on leave, and we really enjoyed their company. And from then on we wrote to them, and while we went into action and so on. Kostina was a very fertile
sort of an area, and the citrus grown there were very, very…You’ve heard of Jaffa oranges, well, that’s where they came from, Jaffa was a suburb of Tel Aviv. And we used to be very, we got quite friendly with the Jewish people who had their farms nearby to our camps, and they loved us to go and visit them.
strike camp and that we were moving. And the train came along and we, some went by road in the trucks that we had, which weren’t many. And some, the rest of the body, the main body of the regiment, went on the train. There is an incident, which I’ll tell you later, which happened on the train across. We went across to,
the Suez Canal and crossed over through Cairo and up to Alexandria, which is quite a big city in North Africa. And there we went into a camp called El Majab, and there was sandstorms, there was, there was dust storms, and we had to put these tents up,
and it was a terrible place, just sand and nothing else really. And we got walking outside the tent, you could walk 50 yards and you wouldn’t be able to find your way back, that’s how bad it was. But there was plenty of beer, and we knew there was something on, because we, they were rationing out the beer, but we were enjoying that part of it. And we were waiting, and waiting to
go into action, it was obvious that’s what we were, although we weren’t told, we were there ready to go. And the cancellations, there must have been about half a dozen cancellations, “Oh no, can’t go today, something, there’s no transport available.” We were to go by road, but then that was cancelled. Anyway, finally one night we were taken to the wharf, and the destroyer called the Waterhen
took, we were loaded onto the Waterhen and off we went. Now, it was an uneventful trip up to Tobruk, we had to…I’ll have to have a…We had to get there so that we were out of range, we weren’t in range for the German Stukas [dive bombers], and therefore
they went in there in the dark, of course, so they couldn’t be spotted by the Stukas. And we were offloaded, the piers had been all destroyed by bombing in Tobruk, and we were offloaded and, sort of, more or less thrown off with all our gear and the rest of it, cause the destroyer had to offload its food, ammunition,
weapons and that sort of thing,, and soldiers and get out before, get back towards Marsa Matruh before the Stukas got them. So they had to get out of range of the Stukas, and that’s why it was a very quick action that they took. We got into trucks and we went to a place called, I can’t remember, the wadi [dry stream bed] anyway,
and the next day we were issued with our guns, which were old World War 1 60-pounders. And they were a very good weapon, actually, but they were breaking down continually, we had five of them, and we needed five because, we needed five to keep four, which is a troop, you know.
Well, then I got a job up at Jerilderie, you see, and I was a bit older, and strangely enough, I boarded in one of the hotels up there, and I was a non-drinker, so I wasn’t much good to the publican. But I used to pay 32 [shillings] and six [pence] [this seems quite high] as it was in those days, a week board. And I then started to go out with a girl,
who was to, later to become my wife, for a couple of years there. Then we parted and I had another girlfriend there, so…But then along comes the war, and of course, I, I went up to Queenscliff.
and it is rammed by two people, ram the shell into the breech of the gun. The shell has copper driving bands around on it, and they are soft. Therefore, when it goes into the shell, there is the rifling of the, it’s like a, when you
fire a gun, the rifling sends the bullet that way, you know, on. And the same applies with artillery, the soft part of, the copper driving band bites into the rifling and, so that it remains solid. Then you put the bag of ink explosives in, then you close the breech, with a big long lever, the
breech is closed. Then the layer, while you’re doing this, he’s laying, as it should be, getting the line of sight, as it were, and the elevation all adjusted, so that the shell will land in the place that you want it to. To work out where that place is, I’ll tell you later, because we have artillery boards, we had those in the desert,
artillery boards which pinpointed the targets, you see. And from that, we’d be able to work out, adjust the guns so that they were on the target. And then he’d pull the trigger, when the order came to fire, the order was given, fire, he’d pull this. The 60-pounders had a lanyard which was about six feet long, and the
number one, which I was, all the time that we were. You’d put the lanyard in, so that, I would stand a little bit away and pull that lanyard, and that’s how you fired the 60-pounder. The 25-pounder you just, there was a trigger there, it was a much smaller gun, it was only 25 pound, as against 60 pound.
the orders and interpreted them, and the layer would then adjust his instrument, dial sight, so that the correction was made, you see, if you know what I mean. Because there was somebody at the other end, an officer, who was seeing the fall of the round, and he would then correct it, so that it got onto the target.
And there was also what they called predicted fire, where you worked out exactly how the elements were to affect the shell in its flight, and you would then fire onto targets, without any being, we did this of a night, we would fire onto a, with this, what they called predicted fire.
Where it was all worked out by maps and logarithms and other means, so that you got an accurate, you could convey what was on the artillery board to the guns. And as well as that he, as I say, he was in charge and he made sure that the ammunition numbers were bringing
the ammunition up, and there was sufficient ammunition for, it was a big task, you had to get your ammunition into the gun pit. We always had our guns protected by either digging gun pits to put, protect the gun and ourselves, or building in Tobruk, where it was so, the ground was so rocky, and there was just sand on the top of all these rocks and everything. We were not able to dig, so we built
a wall around our gun in case shells were, landed near us.
gun itself, but on the layout of the enemy, if you could, if you had map. You’d have talks with your own gun crew and also, matters of man management, if you know what I mean. It was the number one’s responsibility, he had to know
every one of his blokes and every little bit about him, because you had to get the best out of them. And some men you had to coax and some men you had to drive, it was a continual…We were always improving our gun positions, because as sure as hell just when you got your gun positions nice, it’d be time to move, because the enemy would have pinpointed you, and you had to move to another spot.
So we were busy building gun pits and building slit trenches to protect yourself. Slit trench would be about six feet long and about that wide, and you’d sleep in these, because often the Germans would put down concentrations of a night, shell you of a night. Well, if you were in your, below the level
of the ground, you were pretty right, you had to land one in it, in your slit trench to be wiped out. So it was essential that you had your own personal slit trench.
battery. So that meant there were six troops in all, and they, that meant 24 guns in the whole regiment, and you were posted to one of those troops, you see. As a sergeant I was, the gunners remained constant, but I, any of us sergeants could have been sent somewhere else. Also, I was lucky in that
when people went from the regiment went to schools or into hospital and that sort of thing, if it happened to be a warrant officer, the commanding officer had the power to promote somebody else while that person was away. And I got promoted three times up to warrant officer, and then when the fellow came back, I went back to sergeant, because he went back to his old job, see. So there was postings like that,
that I was put, I got extra pay of course, it was all right.
itself, lectures on how to identify a target, and lectures on how you found your target from what I call predicted fire. It was fairly simple really, except that you also had to, when the shell is going through the
air, if it’s a hot day for instance, the air is rarer and the gun can go further, the shell can go further. Therefore, they used to send up balloons, the meteorological people, and we got that data and the meteor would tell you, the effect the balloon had, they, they traced this balloon with a telescope,
so they could tell what the atmosphere was, where the wind was and things like that, which all affected the flight of a shell, as you can understand. On a heavy day, for instance, when the atmosphere is heavier, the shell receives more resistance and wouldn’t go as far, if you can follow what I mean. These are the things that we were taught, too. And we were also taught how to operate the
artillery board, which was the board which, what they call, acts, well, the acts doesn’t mean anything to you. Where the, they used to operate and find out exactly the direction or the bearing on which the gun had to be pointed, if you, if that means anything to you.
Well, it was just a sort of a picket that sort of, one bloke would be on for two hours and then he’d be off for four, and then someone, there’d be three fellows that would do it and then he’d come back on again, you see, you would do that as a roster. But in the desert, of course, you had, to be
ready to receive orders that you were to fire, so they had somebody who was awake on the telephones or the wirelesses, and somebody that was awake at the guns, and you were on for two hours and off for four. You’d go and wake somebody else, and they’d take your place.
misbehaved themselves and got taken back to the ship and so on. But one of the big thing that caused a stir in Colombo was, the British there were of course very class conscious and everything, and they, the gharries, the fellows that used to pull the gharries along, you’ve seen them in the, up in Asia and everything, they pull these gharries along with two
soldiers in them. And they decided that they’d take over from the bloke who was doing, doing the pulling. And of course, in the eyes of the English that was terrible, they had to keep them under the thumb. And here was Australian soldiers doing what they, you know, what they were. In order to keep them under the thumb, you couldn’t let them do things like that. Pull the gharries along.
has been overrun and the desert, the desert had gone all right except, the Australians had forced back, Wavell’s forces had forced all the Italians back to Benghazi. But at the stage we were sent up to Tobruk, of course, Rommel, the German general whom you might have heard of, he was
probably the best German general, he was highly regarded by Hitler. And he had, he had landed with his Afrika Korps at Tripoli, and therefore he was forming an army and he formed it pretty quickly, and he had tanks and, you know, he was quite a force, the Afrika Korps, that had
happened right to the west. And we were in Palestine, where we had no guns, route marching and hearing lectures and everything, and we felt we’d like to get up where the rest of the Australians were, up near Benghazi where they pushed the Germans, the Italians right back. So we, morale was starting to flag at this stage.
they let us know when we were getting close, to be on, that it was possible that we could be attacked. But not by Stukas, the German dive bombers are called Stukas, but there could have been German ships around or Italian ships around at that stage. But anyway, we got in quite safely, and as I say, there was no pier, they just pulled up alongside
a sunken ship, and we got off our ship, well, we were thrown off, more or less, because they had to get us off, there was no dilly-dallying, they had to get everything off and out on their way back to Alexandria or Marsa Matruh in those days.
In my opinion, it’s the best place in the world to have a war, the desert. There’s no towns that you’re, well, there were a few towns, but what I mean, there’s no fertile country there. There’s, it’s very poor type country, the harsh and unyielding country, and you can see your enemies, because
there was, although there weren’t any high hills, you could usually find a high area, a high hill that could use for an observation post, an OP. And so much different to the jungle, where you can’t see your enemy, and you’re battling to move, it was easy to move in the desert, because it was pretty rough,
on vehicles and guns and everything.
digging gun pits. And we did not sleep until we’d finished digging, first of all ourselves, our slit trenches for ourselves, to protect ourselves, so that in the event of shelling we had a hole to jump into. The next thing was to protect the gun, and the ground was so rocky underneath, there was sand on the top like any other desert, but when you got down six inches there were these rocks,
these huge rocks, which caused us to require the engineers at times, but we just built walls of stones, we went and collected stones from everywhere, about the size of a football or even bigger, heaped them one on top of the other until you got them about that high, right around your gun pit. And that gave us protection, we called them ‘sangers’,
these protection, also for sleeping purposes too sometimes, you couldn’t get down to dig a gun pit, dig a slit trench.
from maps and from the infantry. Now when I talk about Tobruk, I, the whole defence of Tobruk relied on the infantry. The infantry is the fellow that is hand to hand with the enemy, the artillery is there as a support role, and the infanteers were magnificent. And they would go out of a night on patrols, this was every
night they went out, they were sent out by their COs, their Commanding Officers. And Morshead, General Morshead, who was the commander of Tobruk, he adopted an aggressive defence. He said, “Well, we’ve just got to keep them on their toes,” and that’s what he did. He kept, sent out patrols to find out where things were,
in what they called No Man’s Land and further out. And every night the infantry went out, and that’s how they would find out where…and observation, by observation too, there were parts that were hilly, little parts that, where, which could be used for observation posts, so you could tell. And also,
by going out at night, the infantry would find out where the congregation, the concentration of troops were.
What can you generally see in front of you?
Desert, just nothing, although as I say there were, it was slightly undulating and there were no trees. There was one tree, that was called the fig tree, and that’s where patrols going out of a night would get their bearings from, the tree and from the stars, they were trained, this was one of the things they were
trained in. And often they went out and followed a line along, one of our cables, one of our telephone lines, until that finished up at the artillery place, that would get them that far, and then from there they’d go out on a bearing. In other words, they’d work out a bearing they had to keep on, and the officer would walk on that bearing all the time,
if you can understand what I mean, so that’s how they would get direction. But they were wonderful, they were the best patrol soldiers, infantry, that we had.
how the 6th Division managed to capture Tobruk is amazing. Because that they, the Italians didn’t have the heart in the war, Mussolini had forced them into it, and they weren’t very good infantry soldiers, they were good artillery soldiers. And they had their own guns, which I’ll talk to you about later, we also used later.
Anyway, the five 60-pounders that we are now concerned with, because I was a sergeant in charge of one of those. They were, at the early stages, one of the main weapons to fire a long distance. The British had three regiments there, they were on 25-pounders which was a very, very good gun in the Second
World War. And the British, the English 104 RHA it was called, Royal Horse Artillery, they were there, they had been there when we got there, and they had been responsible for knocking out the tanks that had broken through. Anyway, that’s another story which I, doesn’t actually concern me.
But the, our infantry were wonderful.
Tell me about how you’d get fed.
Oh well, we lived on, by what they lived on gun crew cooking, and we, our food was mainly bully beef, you’ve seen them in the supermarkets, corned beef. Tins of corned beef and M&V, meat and vegetables, tins of meat and vegetable. And then we had these
hard biscuits, that was our, that was what we lived on. But the big difficulty was water, where, when we first went into the position at Tobruk, we were given a water bottle full of water a day, that was all we could, we were given a day. Now, that had to cope with everything, the CO insisted
that from the point of view of morale, we had to shave every second day.
and have a decent swim. Now that was great when we could get near the sea. But actually we weren’t, we were some miles from the sea, but on the odd occasion you had some particular job to do and you went near the sea it was great to dive in and have a decent old clean-up. Then we had, towards the finish, we were living on these bully beef and
M&V, and towards the finish of our time, the last month or so, we were getting fresh meat bought in once a week. And also we used to have tins of peaches, you know, tins of peaches and you’d get one of those for each gun crew,
so that you’d have to dole out a piece to, if you had eight blokes, you wouldn’t get too many pieces more than a couple of pieces, but still it was very nice. We, I had a bloke on my gun, he was bought up in an orphanage, and he, Bombardier Curran was his name, and he, what he could do with bully beef was amazing. He could boil it, he could fry it, he could roast it and everything, and he
became our cook. And we relieved him of other duties so that he could cook it. And he did very well with bully beef. It was far better than eating it straight out of the tin. Boy oh boy, it used to, in the hot sun, it used to just sort of melt in front of you, but you had to eat something. But that, they were, that was one of the big drawbacks we had about Tobruk, one of the big
things we had to suffer a lot.
or sometimes even two guns and put it in another place, so that if the enemy, if the Germans had pinpointed our gun position and we opened up, he would then fire back at us, of course. But at night we would take these guns out, or one gun, and we’d put in harassing fire on a well-known
crossroad, and we’d fire one. There was no sort of regular pattern with firing one. We’d alternate the shells that we sent over and then we’d come back and have our gun in the next morning. So that was what was called harassing fire. We would also fire in support of the infantry, because at the other end of the telephone line was
the OP Officer, and he was the, he was there to direct the fire of our artillery, and if he wanted 60-pounders of support for infantry he would call upon us and we would fire. He would then direct the fire on a concentration, if it was infantry or trucks or whatever it might be.
enabled us to… Nearby to the infantry, we would send an officer, an OP Officer, an Observation Post Officer, and he would set up his phone line back to the guns and everything and he would communicate with the guns to call for fire. And that’s how we used to help the infantry. Or we might have to fire on
a known ammunition dump, or a suspected ammunition dump, or a concentration of vehicles or something. And that was our job in life, to assist the infantry by harassing them. And a 60-pounder shell, when it bursts, it had a decent sort of a burst and it would make a decent hole. Also, there was
one particular gun the Germans had in one particular area outside the perimeter as it was, that’s what I’m explaining to you, about perimeter, with all these infantry posts. And it was called Bardia Bill, and it used to fire on the harbour of a day and night, because the harbour was right alongside the workshops
where they used to repair and tanks and the guns and everything. And they used to fire, it was a building in the Tobruk township, as was the hospital. Although the hospital was a little further away, well marked with the red cross, and in accordance with the Geneva Convention that was not bombed, although it was at times. Some of the Stukas forget about the Geneva Convention,
some of the pilots. Anyway, the Bardia Bill used to fire and, a very big gun, and we were never able to find out what it was, but we think it was a big French naval gun, and it would open up and it would do a lot of damage in the harbour area while they were trying to unload the troops and everything. That’s why the, they wanted to get out in a big hurry.
And our job, being the biggest gun they had there, the 60-pounder, the moment this Bardia Bill opened up, we were to fire on where we thought he was, and we must have been close, because we used to stop him. He used to stop once we put a few rounds at him. The thing that we were lacking was air observation, and that’s what the Germans
had, we had no planes of our own whatsoever, no fighter planes to shoot down the Stukas. The Stukas were shot down by the anti-aircraft that was there, the anti-aircraft guns, they were brave fellows too, they kept firing while the bombers were coming down and everything. They had a wall around them too, they were protected, or a gun pit.
But we had no air support at all. Had we had a, an air photographs, we might have been able to locate Bardia Bill, but we didn’t.
machine gunners were there. But we were 14,000 Australians and 9,000, so that completed the, the complete fortress. And the artillery was a fair, oh, sorry, I’m getting, getting away from the point. You wanted to know about the command. Well, there’s the fortress commander and then there was the
9th Division, Australian division and the British troops. They had their own commander too, but they were mainly artillerymen, a lieutenant, Brigadier Thompson was in charge of them, and there were three or four regiments, I’m not sure which, three I think, three regiments of 25-pounders. And so that was their part of
it, it all came under Morshead. And our 9th Division, which comprised three brigades, four brigades, sorry, one brigade was on loan to us from the 7th Division, so they came directly under Morshead too. And then the brigade, they were infantry and the artillery, which came, there were three, there was,
normally there was three regiments in a division, but in this case we were the only field regiment in Tobruk. Now, do you want me to tell you about the Italian guns?
an artillery regiment put into Tobruk with no guns, with not enough guns, all there were were five 60-pounders and there were also some howitzers, an 18-pounder and they were all First World War, too. So we had to find, our CO said, “Well, we’ve got to find a role.” And the Italians, when they had surrendered Tobruk, had left behind a lot of
Italian First World War guns that they had been using. And all their ammunition was in the caves, had been left behind in the caves. As I said before, they surrendered in thousands, the Italians, great columns of them, threw up their hands and surrendered to the 6th Division when they captured Tobruk. But they left behind these guns and this ammunition, so our CO said, “Right-o, we’ll get
these guns and we’ll fire them back at Rommel.” He also had the same sort of guns, firing them at us, that’s the ironical part. But it was found that a lot of the shells didn’t go off, and we, when they fired at us, and the shell hit the ground, it didn’t explode. And that was caused in the,
in Czechoslovakia, the Resistance, a lot of the factories were manned by Resistance people who were anti-Hitler, and they used to fiddle around with the little fuse in the shell which caused it to explode. And therefore that became a blind, when it reached the other end, it just landed in the
sand. Well, a lot of those shells, probably about a third of the shells that we fired, were blind. And the same when they were fired them, they were blind. I can distinctly remember these shells that used to come screaming across, and you’d hear them go ‘thump’ into the, into the sand, and nothing would happen. But, so we had 75-millimetre, 149-millimetre
Italian guns, 75-millimetre and later we had the 105, all those guns were First World War, and they were terrible, but we had to, we lost a lot of fellows through the shell, bursting at the muzzle. And you know, it was a hazardous business, but I suppose three quarters of our
unit, were firing these used, firing these guns. But they did play a role. The 75-millimetres turned out to be the best of all the others. But we, sometimes when a shell is fired the barrel goes back, you’ve seen the recoil, what they call the recoil when the shell, the, sorry, when the barrel goes back with the force of the shell
going out. Sometimes they’d go back before the trigger was pulled, and we lost a couple of blokes killed by that, too.
these high areas, high parts of the country. But it was very, very harsh, there was just stones, stones everywhere, you know, quite large-sized stones, as big as a basketball and bigger. It was very harsh sort of country. As I said before, it’s the best place to have a
war, because there’s no fertile land there at all. And the Italians had built these defences which were very, they consisted of a concrete pillbox. But, and then they was running off to a sort of, sleeping areas. In front of these pillbox
things, the posts, was a tank ditch to stop the tanks from getting in, but they’d, the tanks, the German tanks had managed to get through those all right, either filled them in, you know, filled in an area so that they could have a road to go across. Or some other means, but they managed to get their tanks across the ditch. And outside that
was the wire, the barbed wire, so it was pretty difficult to break into Tobruk, but the 6th Division did it because, as I said before, the Italians were very ready to surrender.
April, and he used tanks and the tanks were followed by infantry, and he broke through the other perimeter, our fellows had to pull back, he was just too strong, and his weapons and tanks were just, no way we could combat them. But the infantry further back in their slit trenches, they waited and the German tanks went on
through, and then the, they ran into the, our anti-tank guns and our dug-in tanks, and the 25-pounders, mainly the 25-pounders, and they knocked out 17 of his tanks. And when they passed over the infantry slit trenches, our infantry got up and tackled their, their Infantry, and they
decided they weren’t to be in it, and they got on their way, went back again. So that was quite a, a wonderful effort by our infantry and by our 25-pounders and anti-tank guns.
ones on the side, the pillboxes or posts on the side of the salient. And we put in a couple of attacks to capture S, S7 and R10 I think it was, was the two posts that they badly wanted,
Morshead badly wanted to capture those back again, but they cost a lot of casualties. And in the end they got into them, but the Germans counterattacked and they took them back again. But I think we lost, I think we had about 83 blokes killed trying to do that, something like that. Or, I’ve got it written down here, but they were heavy casualties. But
had it not been for knocking out the tanks, that was the thing that caused Rommel to pull back his tanks and abandon the idea. He made other attacks on the salient, but he still wasn’t able to have enough strength or be able to defeat our infantry to get his tanks through and go straight up to the township of Tobruk.
What would morning banter be like?
Oh, not much, there wouldn’t be much banter about it, we were, we didn’t have all that much to talk about unless our mail had come through or something, we used to get mail fairly regularly, bought up by the destroyer. And we’d always have a cup of tea, we lived on, I told you about the bully beef and everything, but the black tea, it’s certainly a drug, tea is a drug. And it used to give us
a lift. And we’d never have milk in it because that would weaken the effect, we’d have sugar, we were pretty well off for sugar. So we’d boil the billy, that would be the first thing, that would be in the gun pit, we’d all gather round in the gun pit, boil the billy, have a cup of black tea. And then, you know, perhaps some bully beef or something, that’s about all it was.
artillery officer would see the Germans getting out of their slit trenches and put down a few rounds. First thing in the morning, they’d be shaking their blankets and, you know, sort of doing the normal things that you would when you got up out of bed. But, and that was the time when we used to…first light was the time when everybody had to stand to, because
that was, in war, warfare through the ages, first light has been the time when often attacks go in, because people are, they can see their targets and people, you know, the other side are not as alert as, having slept, that sort of thing.
see it happening on others, and you’d think, “Oh gosh, they’re going to be wiped out.” And you’d hear about two blokes that’d been killed or something because they were all in their slit trenches. And as I said before, you had to, almost had to get a direct hit on the slit trench, which is that wide and six foot long. So they survived, amazingly enough. And as I said, the blinds that wouldn’t go off, they all came
over too. But the shriek of a shell going through the air is enough to scare you off, but you get used to it, it’s like everything else, you got used to it. And also sometimes you could tell if you were being fired at, because the sound of the German gun or an Italian gun being fired, you could tell, you learnt to tell by that,
that it was coming to, if it was coming at you, strangely enough.
bitumen roads right through, right throughout the fortress area. And I’m sitting in the front, being a sergeant, and all my gun crew are in the back of the vehicle, the towing vehicle. And I saw this plane coming towards us, I knew it would have to be a German one, it wouldn’t have been more than 60 feet above the ground, and I thought, “Oh crikey, we’re going to cop it here.” It was no good me ordering the blokes or stopping or anything,
we didn’t have time. It was just about 60 feet above the ground, and it was following the road. And I thought, “He’s going to strafe hell out of us,” so we just prayed. And I saw these great two black crosses on the wings as it went over, it did not fire anything at us, and we can only think that it had run out of ammunition, and it had got down
low so the anti-aircraft couldn’t attack it, and there it was coming towards us, and he must have been out of ammunition, imagine the great big gun in a towing vehicle, he’d have strafed hell out of us with his machine gun, I think it was a Heinkel, German plane. A bit further along.
You can imagine, he’s coming towards us, you’ve just got to sit there and wait. So, that was, that was a bit fortuitous. We get along to another, to a bit further along, almost into the town, and there’s a military policeman directing us around this crossroad. And right in the middle of the crossroad, there’s this great big hole there, obviously one of the Stukas had landed a
bomb right in the centre. I said, “By crikey,” I said, “That was a close, that was a good shot, he’s got right in the middle of these crossroads.” And this military policeman said, “Ron Barassi got killed here this morning.” You’ve heard of Ron Barassi [Australian Rules football player and coach]? That was his father. Yes, so that’s a little aside.
It gradually brings the barrel back to its firing position again. But there is another, I was talking to you about the salient. And R6 and R10, when they attacked that particular post, and there was a padre, he’s the religious, he’s the chaplain, every unit
has a padre, they’re called padres, not chaplains. And he is rather famous, because after this attack on, I’m not sure whether it was S7 or R10, but in the salient, when Morshead wanted us to get this, these two posts back again. And
they put in this pretty heavy attack, two battalions, not a complete battalion but the platoons involved had a pretty, made a pretty successful attack on this, but they lost, I think, 83 fellows were killed. And this padre in a truck, he stood on the top of the truck
with a Red Cross flag and drove up, right to where the action had taken place, there was a slight lull in the proceedings. And the Germans stopped firing and we stopped firing. And they got out, and they even put, got some fellows to come along with anti-tank, not anti-tank,
detectors, mine detectors and they made a track through, very quickly for the vehicle to come right up, these are the Germans. And they came forward from where their positions were, and they swapped cigarettes and they had a drink, you know, a drink of water and had a bit of a talk and everything. And they brought in all their,
their dead and the wounded and everything. We brought in all ours, and they brought in all theirs, they took all their casualties back and we did the same. And that was the sort of German we were fighting against, it made you feel that, you know, there was some good fellows amongst the enemy as well. And after a while, after everyone had been evacuated
off the thing, it was on again, they fired a flare or gave some sort of a sign, and everybody opened up on everybody else again. But that was a, quite a thing that showed you.
A warrant officer, and I think it was ten men in a truck, they’d been up to the forward posts and they were on their way back. And there was a spotting plane, a German spotting plane in the air at the time, and it directed a concentration
of shells onto this vehicle as it was travelling along the road, and one landed in the back of the truck, the whole lot were killed, the ten of them. And these were, I remember going to the funeral which they had. But the, they had the cemetery by the way at Tobruk which the engineers had built, and so we lost ten men in the, on the one go, the one occasion.
One was a warrant officer, highly regarded, so that was the saddest day we had while we were in Tobruk, to lose that many.
I suppose there would have been 20 of us in this cave, and a shell burst at the, a German shell, or Italian, burst at the entrance to this cave. And do you know that it killed two, and they were sitting right at the back, right at the back of this cave. One was a sergeant, Sergeant Nash. How in the world the piece of shrapnel got, didn’t, all those pieces of shrapnel didn’t get anybody at the entrance,
but got these two blokes that were at the back, it was amazing. Anyway, there’s a saying that if your name’s on it, you’ll cop it. So the name was on it for poor old Sergeant Nash.
be full of droppings of various animals. So we’d have to pick those out, because we wanted the rice to eat. But the fleas and the lice and the like, scorpions, they had to be watched and, well, everything that crawled, I think, was in Tobruk, in amongst the sand and the stuff the
Italians had left behind, which they left a lot of behind. That was one of the things. I got lice here on my body and so on, that was quite a problem, yeah. Anyway, I didn’t suffer from desert sores and that was one of the main things that the fellows were getting, desert sores and their health was depreciating, as you can, as you can appreciate, with the rations
we had and so on, and the lack of water. And the health people reported to Blamey, who was the head army bloke in the Middle East, General Blamey that, you know, he felt that our health was such that we should be evacuated. So that’s what, I won’t go into why and how we came to be evacuated, but it was a big argument between
Curtin and Churchill, and eventually Curtin won, and he was the Prime Minister here. And we were brought out. Personally, but of course I was at the blunt end, I wasn’t in the infantry, I reckon we could have stayed there for longer. However, we’d done our job and they were going to relieve us, they decided to relieve us. So we were brought out on destroyers,
I came out on the HMS [His Majesty’s Ship] Jackal, and the same way as we came in. And they had to avoid the moonlit nights, because the Stukas were now very active on any moonlit nights because they could see their targets. And we were brought out, and it was a very big operation as you can imagine,
bringing about all but one battalion, which was about 700 men, were brought out on boats every night. And they were replaced by the 144th, sorry, the 40th British Infantry Division and the Polish. The Poles came in prior to us leaving, we were one of the last to leave,
we left in October, the end of September and the Poles came in and we fostered them in and told them all about the guns and they were already artillerymen, so they had to be told how to go about things in the desert.
and it got down to the wharf on the night that it was to come out, and it turned out the destroyer who, which was to bring them out had been sunk and the survivors of the sinking were on another ship, which was not able to come into the harbour and pick them up. They had to, they saved, I think, most of the crew. The same with the Waterhen
that I was on, when it was returning to Tobruk it was sunk also. But fortunately there was a British battle, warship nearby, I think it was a destroyer, and every one of the people on the Waterhen was saved. They started to tow it for a little way towards Marsa Matruh, but it had already been sunk by a bomb. But it was sinking, and they had to
allow it to sink, but they saved every person that was on the Waterhen. Anyway, they couldn’t get in to pick up the 2/13th, so they remained there, and this was the end of October. And there was no navy ships who could bring them out, so they stayed there until the 10th of December,
and then they were relieved, and they took part in another action, which I don’t know anything about.
to…We finished up back at Kostina, the camp we were in in the first place, and there we settled down to, you know, rehabilitate ourselves and recover and start training again. By this time we had received a complete regiment of 25-pounder guns, and that was a great joy to us,
so we started to do gun drill again on the 25-pounders. And it was something that gave the whole unit a lift, the fact that we had these terrific guns, which were now belonging to the 2/12th Field Regiment. We were there and we had quite a bit of leave, and
we went into Jerusalem, of course, and up to Haifa, Haifa was a very attractive city in, which is now Israel, of course, and Palestine. And then word came through in the January that we were to move to Lebanon. Lebanon is a country north of Palestine, and it was thought that
maybe the Turks…because Germany, by this time were very, very, they’re established everywhere and the Russian front, they’re doing all right, at this stage they’re doing all right, but that changed on the Russian front. And they thought Turkey may agree to go in on Germany’s side. So they were building these, this is what we were doing as well, building these
enforcements and establishing a solid line north on the south side of Turkey in case Turkey did come in, but Turkey didn’t. And so we were in the Lebanon, and there again we were, we did a lot of training on the 25-pounders, it, we were gradually physically building ourselves up again.
and they, they’d come every morning and, the girls from the families that lived in the nearby villages come round and pick up our washing, our shirts and so on. And when they brought them back they always had a flower in there, that was a sign of friendship. And we’d give them, when we possibly could, we’d give them a tin of bully beef, because they were short of food. ’Cause the Vichy French had been through there
and they’d been ill-treated, so they were very fond of us because we were kind to them, you see. And we got very friendly and we were invited into their, up into their villages, especially of a Sunday you’d go up there. We couldn’t speak their language, but they all had olive trees and two-room
house. They lived in one room and the animals were in the next, and the animals were very precious to them, and they tended these olive trees and so on, but they loved us to come. And we, my mate and I went and had a few meals with them of a Sunday and that, but it was too sort of oily, the food, the olive oil, and we just couldn’t take to the food much.
But we, and then we’d hike back to the camp. A lot of the others were drinking the arrack, arrack was a type of a drink where if you tipped water into it, it turns a milky colour. There’s a, is vodka like that, I think it might be.
terraces, it was a beautiful country, the Lebanon, with all the terraces, that’s the word I was after, terraced. With all the trees, and as you looked at a mountain you’d see all this beautiful terracing. And at the top of the mountain there was snow, so a lot of fellows, when they had leave, went up to the snow. So we were there from, oh, and the interesting
thing here was that we were camped at a place, Jdaide, J-D-A-I-D-E, it was a monastery. And the priests had all left so we took over the monastery, and that’s where the officers had their quarters and all the officers, all the offices, all the administration was done. All the troops, including myself, were in tents
in the general area around the monastery. And we had football matches, and we did a lot of training and we were getting fit again. The next thing that happened was, oh, some of us went on leave into Tripoli, and also we had to provide a picket, not exactly a guard, but a picket in the town. Some of the blokes
started to have fights with the locals and were, and went to the brothels and so on and played up, so we had these pickets on the brothels. But I had some leave and went down to Beirut, and that was a very nice city, had a university there. My mate and I, we had about three or four days down there, it was very nice,
on the beach. And we also did some anti-tank practice with our 25-pounders, firing out to sea.
finally, when we, we were there from early January until the beginning of June, so we had quite a long time there. And word came through that we were to pack up everything, we had to, there was a top secret move on. We had to take all the signs of Australia, that indicated Australia
on all the trucks, on all the, had to cover them all over. We had to keep our hats hidden, because we were the only ones that had the khaki felt hats, you know, turned up at the side. And we were to move, and we moved in the night, and we moved up to Baalbek. Baalbek was an old ruins with beautiful columns, and on a back road we went down to
Palestine again, and all on our way through, across the Sinai Desert. Some went by train, but mostly it was from Palestine, mostly it was in our vehicles with our guns. The idea was, there was fifth column activity in both Palestine and Egypt, especially in Egypt, a lot of pro-German people there.
And we wanted to be kept secret that we were on, we were moving, we all thought we might have been going home. But we got a big shock, because we kept on going through Cairo, and everywhere the kids were singing out, “Oh, good old Australia, Australia,” you know, they were clapping, so the top secret business had failed, our trying to disguise everything. Because one of
the factors was that we were the only troops in the Middle East who wore tan shoes, tan boots, everybody else had black boots. And they saw the black, the tan shoes, of course, tan. So anyway, that move turned out to be successful, and what had happened, Rommel had, with this Afrika Korps, had
beaten the Allies back again from Benghazi, this is the second time this had happened. They had captured Tobruk, Rommel had captured Tobruk, which was held by the South African Division and a whole lot of British units, had captured Tobruk in 24 hours, we held it for five months and Rommel got it in 24 hours. So,
and the retreat was on, with withdrawal was on, and we get to Cairo and the roads from Cairo to Alexandria, it was absolutely chock-a-block with guns and vehicles and everything that would move from the 8th Army on the retreat, and we’re the only ones, the Pommy soldiers were singing out, “You’re going the wrong way,
Aussie, you’re going the wrong way.” Anyway, we were on our way up the desert again, and 70 miles from Alexandria General Auchinleck had formed a defence line to stop Rommel. Because, as you can appreciate, Rommel had long lines of communication all the way now from Benghazi and Tobruk,
and he was weakened at the point where his forward columns were, he was weak. He didn’t have all that many troops, he didn’t have all that many tanks, and that gave Auchinleck a chance to establish a defence line, of which the 9th Division formed. They were the ones that set up the defences between the sea and the Qattara Depression, which
he couldn’t get past because that was a sort of swamp area with, his tanks would never negotiate through the Qattara depression.
it’s about the size of this ordinary, about as big as this room, the station, but it’s a station on the railway there, you see. And the north side is the sea, then the railway line and the road and then all the defences were established across there by the 9th Division. And we went into action at night,
and the infantry put in some attacks straight away as soon as they got there, because they wanted to take advantage of how weak and how few troops Rommel had. And, but even then we lost quite a few blokes, it wasn’t easy. And Tel el Eisa was another station
where they fought too, it had a big sort of a cutting through it and so on, and Tel el Eisa station was a good place to defend. And the units went in and the 2/24th, which was a Victorian unit, it got cut around pretty badly. And we were giving, we went straight into action at night
with the 25-pounders, dug them in, the same old procedures we did in Tobruk, this time we could dig ourselves in, we didn’t have to make the walls around them.
oil wells in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, that, he was running short of petrol. And he had the Germans, the offensive in Russia and everything, so you can imagine, he wanted petrol badly, so we had to stop him. Auchinleck was the general, and personally I thought he was a pretty good general, I thought, think he did a pretty good job
with that defence line at, at Alamein, but didn’t take long for Churchill to give him the sack. And the next thing we see, is a slight, prominent-nosed General called General Montgomery, he was sent out and that was in August.
And in the meantime, of course, Auchinleck had sent our troops on a lot of missions trying to let the Germans know we were pretty strong, and that we were, that he was not going to get past. And the artillery at this stage, instead of having one Australian field regiment,
now we had three Australian field regiments, because the complete division is there at Alamein. And also, gradually the 8th Army is building up its strength, having experienced this terrible withdrawal from Benghazi, it’s building up. And Montgomery is getting ships going round the south of Africa,
and with reinforcements and armaments and there was planes, we had air superiority and the whole thing was so different to Tobruk. We had bombers, fighters and Montgomery was gradually building up his forces, and that was in August.
trying to persuade Montgomery to attack, but Montgomery was a very astute general, and he wasn’t going to until he was very, very strong. And he was, as the weeks went past, this was from July through to October, and during that time, we did a lot of firing with our 25-pounders, and he made an
attack on the 30th of August, and tried to skirt round, this is how, he tried to out-flank the infantry, skirt round with these tanks. But our tanks could see what was happening, and they wiped out a lot of his tanks and that weakened him again, so he abandoned that idea. And Rommel, you know, was
doing the best he could with the soldiers he had and the equipment he had, and he was running out of petrol for his tanks, diesel and so on.
a sort of a package for their, for their lunch this day. And they were doing some sort of reconnaissance and they stopped at our gun position and opened up their lunch, and it was bread and jam and cheese, cheese on the jam, ever tried that, it’s quite nice. Bread and jam and cheese, and that was their lunch, so we used to sneak them into our
queue at the cookhouse whenever we could, they reckoned that was great if they could get a nice hot meal in our position. So at this stage, of course, some of the units are getting depleted and there was a whole lot, some reinforcements were
sent across to 9th Division from Australia and that boosted our regiment, who’d lost a few fellows, quite a few.
they had to sort of bolster the Italians, the Ariete Division, Rommel had to send Germans into each unit to give it a boost and make it fight, if you see what I mean. They weren’t all that good infanteers, they were still good artillerymen, but… Oh no, we, we stopped that attack on the 30th of,
when I say we, I mean the whole. There were, I’ll tell you this when we come to the actual battle itself. So at this stage, it’s a sort of a quiet period, it’s a stagnant period, because both sides are trying to build up. Rommel is trying to build up his strength and get what reinforcements he could get across through Italy and so on.
And we were getting, we got our reinforcements and building up with the tanks, the Sherman tank came into its own there, that was a very good tank. And the planes, we had bombers, very active and fighters. We used to sit and watch the dogfights with the fighters fighting each other, the German Messerschmitts and
our fellows were on Kittyhawks and Hurricanes. And one day in front of our gun position, we see this, it was one of ours, it was coming down and he was getting lower and lower. And he, we could see he was either wounded or something wrong with the plane, anyway, and he couldn’t get his undercarriage down.
And this pilot he, well, only a couple of hundred yards in front of our gun position when we saw all this, he came down and he got his tail down and he dragged the plane till, and then just plonked it down, took the pace off the landing, and then plonked it down. Of course we ran over to see him and see he was all right, we knew it was one of ours. He couldn’t have cared less, he said, “Have you got a cigarette?’, he’d
just lost a plane, but that’s what they were like.
had no undercarriage, so he just plonked it down in front of our guns. But oh yeah, he was, couldn’t have cared less. But he wasn’t wounded or anything, he was all right, but he cost them a plane. And then there were lots of occasions. For instance, I went out with a patrol one day, and we came across a tank which had,
shortly before we’d arrived had been burnt out, and there was a dead German officer lying on the ground outside his tank. And he had a lovely Luger pistol, so I thought, “That’ll do me for a souvenir.” So I grabbed it from him, and I got it all the way back to Australia, to be honest, wasn’t supposed to, with all the kit inspections and everything, you weren’t allowed to bring weapons like that. I got it back to Australia.
came out, you were not to touch. One of our sergeants gave one of them a kick before he knew what it was all about, and he damaged all his leg, his leg was full of shrapnel and he had to go back from Tobruk, back to Marsa Matruh, and by train then to hospital, that’s how bad he was. And they did a lot of that, and then of course they, I told you about the
surrender documents, they dropped those and it says, the documents say, this is in Tobruk. “Come forward,” the last para, “come forward, show white flags and you’ll be out of danger,” and it talked about, you know, bombers, England will be driven out of the Mediterranean and all the rest of it. So Morshead thought, oh well, we’d better get back to them,
but send a message saying we can’t show white flags, because we haven’t got any water to wash them, so that was his answer to that.
thing, and send troops, send vehicles away on reconnaissances, send vehicles away to get water if they could, and, you know, lots of sort of administrative work then, whereas I was away from the gun. But I had had my turn, this is coming up to the big battle. I had had my turn as the number one on the gun and we fired a lot of, fired a lot at night, too.
And the worm had certainly turned. But that’s about what I was doing, and I was the go-between, the blokes and the officers and I had to put out certain instructions and see that they were obeyed and so on, you were a Sergeant Major when you’re a WO2 [Warrant Officer Second Class],
but a Troop Sergeant Major.
Well, I suppose we’d be, there again, we moved a lot, and we moved back at one stage. When these Germans, on the 30th of August when he made his attack, our High Command woke up straight away what he was on about, and they sent us back to sort of, to where he may happen to get to, but he didn’t make it. And that was on the road, back about
some miles, I can’t remember the name, it was an Arab name. But we went, we dug in there and got ourselves all set in case he got through, so we were moving quite a bit.
the navy out to sea were. And this is on the 23rd of October 1942, and everybody, all the plans were that the infantry would move behind, what they call a barrage, and a barrage of artillery is where you have your fire 200 yards in front of the
infantry, the idea being to knock out anything that’s there. And then after, what they consider a minute or two minutes or whatever it is, they take the traverse that 200 yards, or a hundred yards, they lift the fire and back another 200 yards. And all the time, of course, they’re devastating any enemy in the way. And that is called a barrage, and we had to plan
all these barrages prior to the 23rd of October.
there was no observation at all, it was all worked out prior, taking into consideration all the factors that might affect the shell. So that it was very scientific, very technical, and this was done over sometime prior to the actual attack. And I was warrant officer, I wasn’t, I was just keeping my eye on the troops and that sort of thing, it was a quiet period at this
stage. And also, I had been required to go each night up to the, where the infantry were, and with a team of men and dig a hole and put all the ammunition in there, in this hole and then come back before first light. Because that, when we move forward, which we
expected to do, we would have the ammunition there where we had it marked and so on, ready for us in this hole, and there it was. Instead of having to cart it and wait for trucks to bring it up and so on, there it was.
taken away and the tanks would be put there, or vehicles would be put there, depending on where it was. The reason being the planes photographing, taking photos of the area wouldn’t see any difference, and would not know that there was anything coming from that point of view. So all these dummy trucks were made out of
three ply and they got a big supply of that, but from the air they looked like trucks. And also Montgomery built, had built a pipeline, and he had the engineers building a pipeline down to the south where, south, towards the south, some distance. And he had these fellows working, well, these fellows were all photographed by the German planes
as they were building this pipeline. Now that was to give the, it was a dummy pipeline, it was, I don’t know what it was made of, anything other than pipes. It was to give the Germans the impression that we were going to put, our attack was going to come in from the south. But in actual fact, Montgomery had decided the attack was to go in in the north, where the 9th Division were. And so that
we, Montgomery was a general that made everybody know what was going on. He took the risk on fellows being captured and having to be beaten up or something, but they wouldn’t, they wouldn’t expose this to the enemy, to the Germans. So that was one of this ideas. The other was, the
anti-aircraft gun fired rounds in the direction the, you can imagine the, I talked about fellows being lost in the desert. Anti-aircraft fire was, with bullets, tracer, tracer every third or fourth, that’s what they used to get direction, tracer bullets which you can see in the night. But he just had them firing tracer in the line that he wanted the infantry to go, and they just had to get behind this line,
this line of tracer bullets that were being fired in the air. That was another way of keeping the right direction. But one of the big problems was the minefields. And there was a bad mistake made by somebody, I don’t know who it was, but they
underestimated the number of minefields and the size of them. The Germans had laid thousands of mines, so when it, the idea was the attack was to go in on the right side by the 9th Division. Next to the 9th Division was the 51st Highland Division, that was a Scottish unit, which incidentally we had fostered in when they arrived, we’d
this was another job we had to do, was to teach them desert warfare, they’d come over from Scotland, the 51st Highland Division. Then there was the New Zealanders, South Africans. South Africans, New Zealanders and then the British tanks were all on the south side. And the idea was, the plan of the attack was that the attack would go in on the north, and then the 9th Division
was to do a right hand swing towards the coast and try and bottle up 164th in that area there, but that was a very, very vicious battle. And they lost a lot of fellows. So this is only the outline, I wasn’t involved in this, I was just back at the gun
position at this stage. And when these, nearly a thousand at twenty to ten on the 23rd of October, when the word “Fire” came, the whole lot of guns opened up at the one time. You can just imagine what it was like, it was, the noise and the dust and, here they fired, this was heavy concentrations on the German
positions that they knew. Before they ever started the barrage idea of the fellows moving forward they fired for a quarter of an hour, belting hell out of the concentrations wherever the British infantry were, they were getting. And the air force was in on the deal too, they were dropping bombs, they were really softening him up.
So we just sat back and watched this until it was time for us to provide this barrage. And then I had to make sure that my four guns were all ready to go and waiting the officers’ word to fire, and then lifting their fire, and the technical blokes in the command post, they were advising the officer when to lift and that sort of thing.
And the gun layers would lift the sights so that the shells would land another 200 yards and the infantry would fire through, that’s how barrage works. And that happened, and there was, this was the 23rd, and there was a lot of very fierce fighting went on.
of course lifted the fire. And the Germans, a good soldier, he’d immediately counterattack, and there was some awful slaughter went on. Officers tell me, I wasn’t there, officers that were there up in the OP, the following day, said they drove up in all these trucks and all the fellows got out, and all of a sudden down comes the artillery, and it cut them to ribbons. You can imagine
with three regiments, you could call on three regiments, and each one had 24 guns, and they’d fire six rounds at least a minute. During the night of this barrage, I remember looking out along the line of guns, and they were, the barrels were white hot with the heat, they were just shining in the dark, white, you could see all these guns, so that will tell you how many rounds we fired.
One would think nobody would live through that, but they did.
experience up at the OP, because that was the main job of the officers. So he said for me to go up to a certain, to a particular OP, and this was all relayed to me by my troop commander from the CO, so I went up, a truck took me up there, and I stayed up there for three days. On the night of the third day I got, an urgent call came through to say that Sergeant
Watts, I’m back as a sergeant now, I was a warrant officer earlier and I was, at this stage I’m a sergeant. “The Germans had landed an 88 shell in his gun pit,” and one was killed and a few wounded. Well, that rocked me completely, so…
to my gun position, that’s where I should be.” He said, I said, “Can I have permission?” he gave me permission, so I ran back. And I suppose it’d be about 4,000 yards, oh, less than that, about 3,000 yards, and I’m utterly devastated about it, and I just ran and I just about…
All of a sudden there’s a British soldier pulled me up with his rifle and he said, “What are you doing?” I think he thought I was a German or something. I said, “I’m running back to the, my gun position, a shell has landed in the gun pit.” He said, “Do you realise you’ve just run through a minefield?” so there you are, luck. So anyway I got back to the gun, and the fellow who had collected most of the blast,
had I been there would have been standing, would have been, he was laying the gun, I would have been standing just a few feet away from him. But anyway.
realising that Rommel has weakened to the extent that he could bring his tanks in. So he brought his tanks in, and he cleared most of the minefields at this stage, and he brought his tanks in against Rommel, and Rommel just had to turn and flee. And he left all the Italians without any transport,
and they all surrendered, there were hundreds and thousands of them, hundreds of them surrendered, they didn’t have any transport. And we sort of overran all their positions and the Australians at that stage were, had ceased to become a fighting force, and the, General Montgomery had decided that there was no way we could do any more. And we were
sort of a week or two, just in the, where the battle had taken place, cleaning up and recovering and getting everything set again. But I had been sent off, as the CO had said, to this Officer’s School in a place called Acre, an old biblical town just outside Haifa. And at this school, there were all
fellows who had been recommended for a commission, and there were British, Australians, New Zealanders, Rhodesians, South Africans, it was a real League of Nations there. And I was there to start the course, the course went through, that was the section of the course where you learned to be, what the infantry does.
It was all on tactics and that sort of thing, as well as that, you had to show leadership qualities, you had to give talks, you had to give instructional lectures and cope with situations where they put up with you, what an officer would have to do. After six weeks, I was sent from them, from there,
over to, back to Egypt, this is from Palestine, Haifa back to Egypt. Because the Special to Arm as they called it, that was the artillery path that I had to learn also, not only learn but be tested for. That was a, a two months course, at a place called Almazar, an artillery school there. And
another fellow and I, we were sent there, having done the infantry part we were then sent across to Almazar, and we started the artillery part. We’d only done two weeks when word came through that we both had to report back to our units, that we were moving, and that was our move back to Australia. And…
The Arabs, of course, would, would pick up a lot of, they used to make these trinkets and no doubt, anything of a copper nature or brass and everything, they’d extract it from tanks and vehicles and everything, and… Of course, the brass in the… When you fired the 25-pounder you put the shell in first and rammed it, the number one had to ram it with a rammer about that long, as I
explained to you earlier, so that it went into the breech properly, and then you closed. Then you put in a brass cartridge, which was full of the explosives, which sent the shell on its way. And you had to put that in, and then it had a detonator at the end, and that’s how you fired that, and it exploded and out went the shell, that’s briefly how a gun works.
Before we leave the Middle East, the number of casualties, which will tell you the enormity of the El Alamein battle, it was nothing compared with the Russian Front, I might add. The, in the El Alamein battle,
the, there was, on our side, the Allies’ side, there was 13,560 casualties, 13,560. The Australian casualties were 2,694, of which 1,010, I think, were killed. So you, now, that’ll tell you the cost.
then I had to talk on a subject that they gave me, and then I had to talk on a subject I selected myself. Then I had a situation where they had a mock-up of an area on the ground, and they posed a certain situation, and I had to work out
what I would do to overcome or attack or whatever it might have been, whatever I’d been given to do. In other words, they were making sure you knew what you were about, and was able to make decisions. Because an officer, his big job is to make decisions. Now if he makes the wrong decision, it doesn’t matter. Well, it matters, but
if he makes no decision, it’s, he loses marks. But, and then of course there was the usual in charge of a group of men on parade, and that sort of thing, you’re testing your man management.
a lot of the fellows were anxious because of the Japanese threat. You can imagine at this stage in 1942, the Japanese are, landed in New Guinea, and here we are all these thousands of miles over there. The 6th and 7th Divisions had been sent back, Churchill wanted us to be sent to Burma, because of the Burma campaign,
but Curtin said no, and he won, that the Japanese threat was too serious for us not to go back to Australia. But you can imagine how difficult it was to, having fought in the desert where you can see wide open spaces. And then all of a sudden you’re fighting in the jungle where you can’t see from here to the television in front of you, and there could be a Japanese
there and you wouldn’t see him. Anyway, that’s how it all happened, we soon adapted.
We were training, and the complete division was there and we were, we hadn’t been issued with our guns yet, most of the guns were being used up in New Guinea at that time. And I don’t think there was enough to go around, but we were doing route marches and so on, and we were sort of settling in to
a lovely Australian environment where there was a river right alongside our camp, and we’d get out of bed and go on parade at 6.30 in the morning. And then we’d have to run down to the river, keeping ourselves fit, that would be about a mile, I suppose. And this beautiful fast-flowing river, we’d just strip off and get in and have a swim, it was pretty cold too, I tell you,
coming down from the mountains, we were up high in the mountains, anyway. And one bloke lost his teeth and it was flowing so much that he kept chasing his fangs down the, over the rocks and everything, finally about half a mile down, he managed to catch up with them. But they, we had
a few amenities there and there was two-up and there was, you know, people were writing letters home and sort of settling into camp life again.
they had in those days the Owen gun, which was an automatic gun and it was a light little machine gun. But it only had to fire about 50 yards was as far as it needed to fire, because you were always closer, or as close as that to the enemy, so you didn’t have to have a 303 which would fire 3,000 yards. There was another thing we had to learn,
close contact fighting, and we’d, they’d have dummies that would shoot out from behind a tree or something, and they had strings and everything. They taught us, as we went through the jungle, this thing would, you’d have to fire at it straight away, that sort of thing. It was to represent a Jap [Japanese]. And there was a
lot of that sort of thing done.
would go to units which hadn’t had experience. And also Blamey, which was a wrong concept in my view with Australian troops, said that an officer shouldn’t go back to his own unit because he was familiar with all the blokes and it would be harder to keep discipline, and that was wrong with Australian troops, so wrong. So I got posted to the 2/11th.
After a short time up in the Atherton Tablelands, I got posted to the 2/11th Field Regiment, which hadn’t been in action, and it was in Darwin. So I had to catch the train and go, come down, and I had a week with my wife and sneaked a week somehow or other, I don’t know how I did it, through these staging camps anyway. And another bloke and I
went all the way on the, on the buses and train, train from Adelaide to Alice Springs, then semi-trailers through to Adelaide, to Darwin, this was after the bombing of course, this was now 1943. And I came in there as an officer who’d fought in Tobruk and I was accepted pretty well, but
I missed all my mates a lot from my regiment, and I wasn’t as happy as I could have been had I gone back to my unit. But still I found that they were good blokes, they were all just as good. And after a while, after they got to know me and I got to know them, we were as thick as thieves again.
and they were part of the force which was to stop any Japanese landing which might happen in the north of Australia. And we did exercises at a spot which was 46 miles south of Darwin, they called it the 46-mile camp, and we were in tented camps there. And we used to,
you know, operate our 25-pounders there and go out on exercises, this unit had never been in action, and it should have been, because it was a very good unit. And it was beautiful weather up, if you go to, up in the Northern Territory and Darwin, that’s the time to go, between, say, June and September, the nights are cool
and the days are beautiful and we played a lot of basketball and we played cards of a night, and it was good. Anyway, I was, I had left the 2/12th Field Regiment and I was now with the 2/11th, and a short time after that, a small ship, I can’t remember the name of it, it took us across to New Guinea from Darwin. And…
So this officer that I’m playing cards with, he was nearest to the side of the boat, jumped up, looked out, saw the bloke that was in the water, dived over the side and went and rescued him and held him until the ship, which had to go up around, and this fellow had decided he’d rather commit suicide than go into action. And that’s why he’d gone overboard,
it wasn’t an accident we found out afterwards. Anyway he, the ship took a long time to turn around, anyway, he kept him, he kept him afloat there, oh well, we threw what’s her names over to him, lifebelts and what have you.
the tents weren’t too bad, they kept the troops kept fairly waterproof. And from there I got to know the fellows better, and we engaged in quite a few shoots, other officers at OPs, but now it was my turn to become an officer up at the OP. And I went out with a patrol
this particular day, and I had a signaller and one other, because we had to carry this wire, roll of wire, and I had to, I had a wireless as well. But half the time, because of the terrain, you couldn’t, the wireless were ineffective, so that’s why you had the wire back to your guns. And this particular day
we had one of the natives with us, and they were very adept at smelling or knowing where the Japanese were. And this boy as they were known as, the boy, he told us that the Japanese had a market garden, “Him along,” the way they used to speak pidgin English, which we got to learn, “Him along the track so far, Japan man.” They were always known
as Japan man. Anyway, the officer in charge of the infantry patrol decided to have an attack on it, so we all, we made the attack and I went in with my wireless and left the signaller bloke back, because I couldn’t carry the roll of wire in too. So I was going to use my wireless, but when we got there the Japs had gone. But what I did find there was, it was an OP, an Observation Post,
and in the Observation Post was a bag of slide rules. Do you know what a slide rule is, Julian? Do you know, you’d know too, I guess. Slide rulers are calculations, an instrument for calculating, used a lot in artillery.
one day when I was poking around in the garage, and I thought, “That’s stupid, me having this when it’s a war souvenir for the War Museum.” So I write to the War Museum saying I’ve had it, I’ve got it, and if they wanted it, I’d post it up to them. I get a letter back saying, “We are not interested in souvenirs of this sort,” I was amazed. “Thank you for your interest,” and so on, it was,
it staggered me, that they wouldn’t want. Because I went to the War Museum and there was never ever a slide rule there, it was what artillery, all artillery units in the world use, slide rules.
the Japanese were starving there, and we, they were looking for food all the time. And we used to put booby traps around our gun positions, because, and these booby traps consisted of a jam tin and a grenade with the pin pulled out of it, put in the jam tin, and a string rope tied on,
’cause they used to operate at night, the Japs would be looking for food at night, to a tree or something. And the idea was that the Jap would rub against the rope, which was about that high from the ground, rub against it, and out would come the grenade and it was all set to go of course, four seconds later it would explode, you see. So we used to protect our
gun positions with this sort of thing.
off the Buin Road, which was a main road going south in the Solomons, right through the jungle, and they wanted to trap a whole lot of Japanese. If they cut off the road at such and such a point, they would pocket the Japanese that were in the area of the road, and they wouldn’t have been able to get further south, you see. And they couldn’t go north, because that’s where our troops
were. And we were out for 14 days, and I had dysentery, and boy was I sick. And I, the Medical Officer who was with us, he used to give me about 20 tablets every day, oh God. Anyway, the interesting thing about this is, we finally do this skirting movement after all these days, and we reach the Buin Road, and I’m with the leading platoon, being the
artillery representative, in case they want artillery fire in a hurry. And this, the forward scouts as they tell, pass the word back, that there’s five Japanese coming down the Buin Road towards us. And he said they’re unarmed, they haven’t got any arms. It turned out that they were part of the Medical Corps, and this secret move,
if we’d have killed them or anything they would never have reached the destination and they would have known that something was wrong. So the officer said, “Well, we’ll wait until they get past,” but they elected to stop and have a cigarette, right within a few yards of the forward scout, and they were sitting there yabbering away. And here, they’re holding up a complete battalion of troops right through the jungle,
who were waiting to form the ambush on the road, and they’re medical people without any arms, it was ridiculous, really. But we didn’t want to let it be known, and it would have been known, because they wouldn’t have reached their destination and they’d have known something was wrong. So we waited until they moved on, and then they formed an ambush. But it turned out, that it wasn’t
very successful, the number of Japanese that were in this pocket were a lot less than we anticipated.
with some other officers, ready for an attack which was to take place. And as he, he’s walking, I’ve only been told this, hearsay, I’ve only been told this. He’s walking past a soldier in a slit trench, and the soldier said, “I wouldn’t go down that way, sir, if I were you, we think there could be Japs down there.”
And this CO of ours took no notice of him, he kept walking, and next minute he tripped over, he tripped on a landmine or something, rope with a landmine, similar to what we had, blew himself to smithereens, that was our CO gone.
he would have the corporal in charge of that section deploy his men so that they can see the Buin Road and have an arc of fire with their rifles or with their machine guns. And he’d do the same with this section, and then he’d probably have one section maybe in reserve, so that they’re mutually supporting each other,
that was the whole strength of infantry tactics. You’ve got to have, and your weapons, such as Bren guns which have a high rate of fire and a long range, whereas an Owen gun only fired a short distance, the Bren gun was a better weapon as a machine gun. And then there was also mortars, mortars are the ones there, where you dropped the mortar
down, shell in the muzzle of the mortar, and when it drops down it fires out again, you see. Well, mortars were part of the platoon’s weapons too. And then of course there were grenades, every soldier had grenades, and this, the officer would make sure he had his weapons correctly placed, and with the right sections of his platoon,
he’d have them properly deployed so that they could see what they wanted to see.
malaria and a lot of scrub typhus, and serious, serious health problems that you could get in the jungle, that you couldn’t, you didn’t get in the desert. It’s a healthier place to live in the desert, to fight a war. And a lot of those young fellows, they just had to keep fighting, and they’re
running a temperature and they’re very, very sick, but they had to keep going. And those fellows on the Kokoda Track, by crikey I’m glad I wasn’t there, they deserve all the praise they can get, because they saved Australia. And the desert, of course, is, you have the ability to be able to see, you can see your enemy when he’s hundreds of yards
away. In the jungle you’ve got to, it’s more stressful when you’re going out on patrols, you’ve got to have a forward scout, somebody up the front. Now that kid that’s up the front with his machine gun, he’s got to be able to tell when you’re going to, when you’re running into a Japanese ambush or something like that. And then you had a special drill, as soon as you ran into an ambush you’d spread out on each side
and that sort of thing, that was all part of the training for jungle warfare, close contact all the time, more, you’re under strain.
and then I was destined to go out a third time, because they decided to, the, I think, I forget which unit it was now, it might have been the 42nd, I was an FOO with the 42nd, and they were to cross the Hari River, sorry, the Hari River, I think that was the name of the river, anyway, it was a fast flowing river.
And they knew there were a lot of Japs on the other side, and they wanted to, again, set up some sort of an ambush to trap them, I can’t remember the actual details. Although there was a lot of planning went into this operation, again I forget the name of the operation. And this was to take place, the crossing of the Hari River. And I was to be, it was my,
I was rostered to be the FOO, provide the artillery support, and I had a signaller and one other and a batman [officer’s servant]. And we did numerous sort of models they had on the river, and they were made up by the Intelligence Officer in the brigade and so on, ready for, to explain
how you got there and what was to happen. And they were to send these fellows that were good swimmers, across the river with a rope and tie it onto a tree on the other side so that the rest of the unit could work its way across by hanging onto the rope, with all their heavy gear on the, on their backs and everything. That was to, all planned, how it was to happen, what time, and
it was destined to go on the 10th of August 1945. And would you believe, they dropped the atomic bomb on the 6th and the 9th, and on the, just before the second atomic bomb the word came through to my unit, Operation So-on was cancelled, and I was very pleased. Because it would have been a bit hairy, crossing with the leading troops, with a rope and
a wireless set and all the rest on my back, and a rifle, you never carried a Bren gun because if you were an officer, because you were a target. The officer carried exactly the same as the troops, because if they could see you were an officer, of course, they would do their best to exterminate you. This was in particular with the Germans.
And so that operation was cancelled, and it was then that the war was over, I think they dropped the second atomic bomb on the 9th or something, the Americans.
either they put out a special sort of a leaflet about this, saying that the atomic bomb had been dropped, and the, the Allies were now negotiating an unconditional surrender. And you would remember that Mac Sheen went up to Saigon [Singapore?] to cut the cables, do you remember him telling you that?
And bring it up, bring up the length, it’s in the Maritime Museum in, at Fremantle. Well, he forced the Japanese to abandon the cable, that was useless, and they went on the air. So then they were able to decode everything that was between Singapore and Saigon, and they were able to follow
exactly what was happening in the Japanese hierarchy about the conditions of the surrender and all this sort of stuff. He got a DSO [Distinguished Service Order] for that.
up with my wife again, we were discussing what I would do, and at that time an approach was made to officers who’d have active experience, would they stay on in the regular Army to train the CMF, which was the Citizen Military Forces, which were coming in for,
the Government to decide they’d go in for three months in those days, excuse me. So I was a senior lieutenant by this time and knew that a captaincy was not far away, and I was more or less assured that I would get a captaincy if I stayed on. So we decided that I would stay on, and a captain’s pay was pretty good
in the regular army, and that’s what I did. And I didn’t get posted until, it was 1950, I think, before they started the National Service training. So in the meantime I had a job as a staff officer down at Victoria Barracks or Southern Command in Melbourne, and I was concerned with, I was called the
Staff Captain Disposables. And I was concerned with the selling of all the camps, the huts, the toilets, the cisterns, the kitchen and everything, by liaison with the Disposables Commission selling up the camps that they’d taken over, there was quite a few in Victoria that they’d taken over from,
I don’t think it was private land, probably Crown Land, especially in Seymour and those sort of places. But there was one at Darley and up near Beechworth there was a camp. So that’s what I did, I had a staff sergeant and one other private, and I worked in a nice, soft, cushy job for a couple of years,
that was about ’48. And then they started to form the CMF, and I was then posted as the adjutant, the adjutant is sort of the executive officer, of one of the Citizen Military Force Units, in an armoured regiment. So then I had to learn from artillery, I had to learn all about tanks and armour. And they sent me up to a school, up, again up at Puckapunyal, I was away from home
a lot, and it wasn’t pleasing me or my wife, she didn’t want to be an army wife. And in 1947 another daughter arrived, so here I am with two daughters, and she’s living down in Melbourne and I’m up at Puckapunyal doing these courses, and anyway, to cut a long story short, I, I put in for a job as a staff officer again,
down at Southern Command, and I managed to get it. So I was then back as a staff officer, I could walk to work, that’s how closely I lived. And, but in the army, when you’re in the regular army you very seldom seem to get a posting that lasts more than two years, and again I didn’t, it was two years, and they posted me then up as a company commander
to Puckapunyal again to train the National Servicemen. They came in 1950, I think it was, and the Korean War was on then. And I went up to Puckapunyal, I think it was late ’50, and I was a company commander up there, and I got home of a weekend. But I didn’t always get home, if there was a draft coming in of National Servicemen you
couldn’t get home, the army had first call on you, that was the way they worked. So I’d have to ring my wife and say, “Look, I can’t get home.” In the end it, we got quite cheesed off with this, and my son was born in 1950, so she’s got three children and I’m up at Puckapunyal training these young kids that come in for three months. It was a very satisfying job though, I wish they had it
now, it would do a lot of good for a lot of kids that need it.
on the range. They fired the Bren gun on the range, they threw two grenades each and they fired the 25-pounder, I had the artillery company. And when they had done all that, they were a lot confident, they were, and they did a hell of a lot of route marches and drill. And they had, were highly competitive, one platoon against the other, and they wanted to win and they fitted in, most of those kids, they were
good. And when they marched out they were a different lad altogether, confident and, you know, sensible, I reckon. Anyway in 1954 I decided that, with my wife, that I’d get out of the regular army. I loved, I liked the army a lot, so I transferred
over to, myself to the CMF as a captain.
three months strict discipline, army living and looking after themselves and drill, drill galore, they got a lot of drill and cleaning their boots and turning themselves out absolutely immaculately. Living in clean quarters and doing all these things, like I said, with the Bren gun and so on. They
started to enjoy it, the kids, and we did a lot of route marches and they came home, they were tired, I tell you, and they dropped into bed and that was it. And they finished up, I think most of them liked their National Service. They brought it in later, of course, prior to the Vietnam War, as you know, as you probably know.
years of battery commander and then I got posted to the Command and Staff Training Unit, where I gave lectures on staff duties in the army. And I suppose I would have been there a couple of years in Melbourne, we used to get these officers who were going for promotion would come in, and I’d give them a talk on staff
duties. And, which is writing proper military letters and orders and appreciation and all that sort of stuff. And, by this time it’s 1960 and, oh, it was later than that, it was about 1963. My wife developed a brain
tumour and I gave the, I resigned from the army in view of that, we had three children, and she was confined to bed and hospital and she died early in 1964. So then I was left with three children and the army was second priority to me by a long shot. And that was the finish of
my army career, but I had 24 years.
from an Australian point of view, to have fought on in New Guinea, and this has been borne out by history too. It was only MacArthur and Blamey and the Government fell for the three card trick by keeping those fellows, and we lost hundreds and hundreds of young blokes because they continued to fight the Japanese who were starving, and who were not going to
make any progress anywhere. I don’t know the reasons for it, but I do believe that that’s when, from an Australian point of view, they should have finished before they lost all those fellows. See, they landed at Tarakan and they landed at Balikpapan, and they fought in Borneo, and MacArthur with his
forces had gone on, the next thing was landing on the mainland of Japan. And all these, they were all left to starve, which, which would have been a good idea.
militia boys, they hadn’t volunteered, they were sent over there through the National Service, National Service scheme. And they fought magnificently and they were the first to meet the Japs that came from Gona, and they were led by Brigadier Potts, who’s a West Australian. And Blamey sacked him, which was absolutely terrible
how he was treated, and another West Australian called Honner, who was their CO, he was a brilliant soldier Honner, they’re all dead now, of course. But from my own point of view, I mean, it’s all very well to say I’m pleased I went away to the war, but I am, because I came back. But when I think back of it,
most of my mates think, “Well, I wouldn’t have missed it for quids,” they’ve come back, that’s the thing.
The Australian soldier is a, is second to none as an infantry soldier, I think. Maybe the German would be the next, and be very close to the Australian, as an infantry soldier I’m speaking of. But that was my experience, and there’s a bond
that exists amongst ex-servicemen that you don’t get anywhere else in life. You don’t get it in the church, you don’t get it in any other organisation of a peaceful nature, because the bond that exists between servicemen, you had to depend on them for your life, and you don’t get that in civil life, do you? If you’re doing an attack or something,
you know you’ve got a fellow there who’s giving you support, as I said these platoons that support each other. You know that he’s going to support you, and you finish up with a certain love for him, and all the rest of them. It’s something unique, doesn’t exist anywhere else in life, I found.
in the units. I would rather the children were marched in the Anzac Day parade after their father’s unit, so that, not alongside their father, I think that sort of takes away a bit of the dignity away from it. It’s still, we’re still to the stage where we won’t have an Anzac Day in another 30
years, I don’t think, unless there’s another war or something. But, and then perhaps the kids could march. Now with the Rats, for instance, the Rats of Tobruk, we’ve got the Christchurch Grammar School, which is conducting a memorial service for the Rats of Tobruk every year, and they do everything. They provide the speaker, the MC [Master of Ceremonies], the chairs, the program,
the invitations. And the invitations often include the governor, and last year the governor came along and we Rats were only there as part of the audience, because we’re not able to run it any longer ourselves. But they’ve taken it, and they’re going to, and that’s going to make history. I reckon Australian history was always
neglected. And even after the Second World War you’d ask kids, you know, kids about 15, 16, “Have you heard of Tobruk?” and they’ve never heard of Tobruk, ’cause they haven’t been taught Australian history in school.
we’re disappointed that they aren’t taught it in school, because it is history, it’s the same as the Magna Carta or the, any of those. Gallipoli was, is remembered, most people remember Gallipoli because it’s, it was the first time that Australian troops had. Well, it wasn’t the first time, but I mean they did a
great job there, even though they had to pull out and so on. But then again it’s, war has a lot of good parts, sides to it, I suppose. Medically, all the medical operations that were done and the use of penicillin was,
under adverse conditions, how those doctors on the Burma Railway for instance, how they got those fellows who were still living, continue to live.
you keep that bond going right throughout your life, that’s why in Legacy, we look after the dependants of ex-Servicemen who have died. Now, there are not many children from the Second World War that we look after, they’re all 18 and older, but we’ve still got widows, there’s 9,000 widows on our books in Western Australia. And
we, we’ve given the torch by the fellow who’s either been killed in war, or died from war causes or has just died, to look after his family, and therefore we look after the widow. We have very active organisation there. And if any kids are
Legacy kids, I think that they should think about giving something back to Legacy, and we’ve got a good organisation going called the Companions of Legacy, which helps Legacy out. Go and work, do a widow’s garden, or go and talk to her, or, there’s not many kids now.