were very patriotic, and they called us two boys, one Jellicoe Hilton and I was Joffre Milton, and went to school at Macksville’s primary school, super primary school. From there my mother got very sick and she died, and I had to go back and help on the farm. We had a herd of about
75 cows to milk by hand, and then after my mother died Dad sold the herd and rented the farm to a cousin of mine, I grew up with my two other brothers Joe and Nick, and we were cutting sleepers. From there, after about six months I went to Queensland, to Maleny,
got a job with a wonderful family there on a dairy farm, and I was there for about two years, playing cricket every weekend, had a great time. When war broke out I enlisted and I was called up in 1940, I went into camp at Enoggera in Queensland and I was only in the camp about six weeks,
been out on the rifle range once and was trained a bit, but when they wanted a contingent of 250 soldiers to go away on the boat and they only had 200, so they lined up every raw recruit that was there and every sixth soldier had to step forward and I was one of the lucky six, that’s how I got away,
and marched through Brisbane, train to Sydney and went on the boat RMS [Royal Mail Ship] Strathmore, and then we went straight away next day to Melbourne, stopped in Millwell and went to Adelaide and picked up another 200
soldiers, from there we went straight to Cape Town, probably a day or so there in Cape Town, from there we went to Liverpool in England
before it was sunk. The next six months I was in and out of the front lines in Tobruk. When we got relieved, I think about October, and back to Alexandria, up to Palestine again, and then when the 6th Divvy [Division] and the 7th Divvy came home, the Japs had taken over
the Middle East, not the Middle East, the Near East, and we were sent up, our battalion 9th Divvy went up to Syria, it was expected that the Germans might invade Syria and come through to take the Suez Canal, that’s what they were afraid of. But we stopped there until ’42 when
trouble broke out in the desert again. Tobruk was taken by the Germans and we raced down to El Alamein to stop them. That’s how I became a POW [Prisoner of War].
and eventually we got across to Italy through the Corinth Canal and from there in cattle trucks we went to the top end of Italy, about 800 miles. POW camp group it was known as the name of it, but Udine it was called, and I was there until Italy threw the towel in
and the Germans around the camp, before they never even opened the gates and we were rounded up and taken into Austria. That’s about it, I did 21 days in the gaol in Italy, I don’t know if you want to know about that.
one time, but then the work wasn’t that hard and the food wasn’t too bad, we survived. We got a Red Cross parcel fairly often, about once a fortnight. Towards the end of the war, in 1945, the
war was being lost by the Germans and they didn’t know what to do, but they rounded us, hundreds and probably thousands of prisoners, rounded up to go into the mountains. Whatever old Hitler was going to do we don’t know, he was going to use us a hostage, I’d say, and then in 1945, about the end of the war, a week or two before it ended the Yanks arrived at our camp and released
us. The Russians weren’t far away either.
six mile out of Macksville on the Taylors Arm Road, ever heard of it? No, well, six mile out, it was a wonderful farm, it was on 300 acres, and my grandfather settled there way back in 1860, he settled on that same block, that was a virgin scrub that he selected there, and my Dad
finished up with it, then we finished up with it and our son is still on it.
An uncle of mine had 14 kids in his family, there was eight in our family and there was all these people around not far away, maybe half a mile away, but on his farm…we had wonderful times, we’d get together to play cricket. My father built a pitch in one of our paddocks,
a full length pitch, and of a Saturday afternoon quite a lot of the young ones would roll up to practice.
was very clever, anyhow, the teacher. I don’t know what, I think I know the reason, this shouldn’t be put on the tape, I don’t think. But we had a, my father had a man building our a big bull paddock, split rail fence and he was there mornings and he used to bring a kid down from up the river where he lived himself to go to school, when it come nine o’clock this
builder of the fence put his finger in his mouth and he give a whistle as much for the teacher to get the kids in school, ’cause he was a bit of a hopeless teacher and I think he got offside with our family or something like that. Anyhow, at school one day Bob didn’t know a question of some sort, that was my brother, he was two years older than me, and the teacher belted him over the legs with a stick. So the next day
we went across to Uranga school. We had a boat, Dad put us across in the boat, we walked to school at Uranga while ever that teacher was at Tumurra, so when he went away we came back to Tumurra. Then I’d reached the super-primary stage of learning, so I went to Macksville’s super primary school, and that’s when my mother died
and I had to leave it after a couple of years.
Oh, brush the bushes and rubbish, farmers had to keep their paddocks clean, you know, tidied up ferns and all sort of things. Rubbish would come up and you’d get jobs brushing. From one end of the river to the other doing that sort of thing. Then the war came up, I went up to Queensland. I had an uncle up there growing cane.
I went up to his place, he didn’t have any work for me ’cause it was off season. But he did get me a job up at Maleny with a wonderful family up there and that was varying again, milking cows and playing cricket.
Creek on the way to Glen Innes, the old road to Glen Innes, about 20 miles out of Grafton. From there we used to drive out into the up on the Buccarumbi Range out to where we had there was wonderful timber. We used to pull these trees and get sleepers out of them and poles and make octagon poles, eight sided poles
that’s take a little bit off all the way along. But the sleepers were wonderful timber for sleepers, red ironbark. And there wasn’t much, mostly just enough for a sleeper, take a little bit of on the inside. My brother used to square them while Joe and I would fall the tree, saw it up in lengths and rake it up into millets, and then
I would help my brother Nick, he would line it out as square as deeper, and my job was to notch in all the way along, not far apart, a notch in two foot apart, and Nick would square the sleeper. And from there the sleepers went by, we had timber trucks then down to the railway, South Grafton, where they would be inspected
and passed if they were good enough. They always got passed. And we got about three shillings a sleeper, three [shillings] and six [pence] for ironbark, I think it was. That’s not much money. But today they’d be worth three pounds something each or more. The price was very low in those days.
but I was only with Nick and Joe for about six months and then I intended to go to Nambour and Maleny, that’s what I intended to do, and I took off on my motorbike, I had a motorbike, AJS [A.J. Stevens], two and three quarter horse power. I used to ride it, they used to send me into Grafton very often for half a dozen
loaves of bread. I don’t know how I carried it.
When you got to Maleny, could you explain the sort of work you were doing there?
Yes, it was dairying, nothing else, but in between dairying you had to fill the day doing work, you couldn’t get away with doing nothing, even then it was, grubbing was another job we did a lot. Up in Queensland they didn’t brush their paddocks like they did down
And the place where you were living, were you living in accommodation on the farm?
I was living with a family, they had two boys and a girl, the boys were twins too. They weren’t a middle like that, wonderful old people they were, named McCork, Clarence McCork. One of the boys, the last one, he died just recently.
affected the farming life?
Oh, my word, but things were cheap those days, you could buy a pair of boots, hobnail boots, for about one dollar, it was money in those days, 10 shillings, 10 or 12 shillings. But everything was very, very cheap, but our wages were cheap too,
The job you were doing at Maleny, how long did you do that for?
Well, I was there for two years, the first year I was, we met on cricket, the two boys there too, they played cricket, and I’ll tell you about the cricket. We were the second team in Maleny, and A and B team,
These meetings that the people had in Maleny, where were they held?
Private homes, they’d arrange it and they’d go to, oh, there might be 40 or 50 people there, old people, the older ones, they were the ones that were worried the most, the young people, they were ready to go to war, but the old ones were trying to
didn’t interfere with them in any way. But they were good farmers, wonderful farmers, the Germans. They were on good properties too. There was a sawmill out in one place, I think they called it Whitta, that’d be ‘Vitta’ in German, but a lot of them were working there. They got along all right, there was no problem whatever as far as
the people, ’cause they behaved themselves.
hall there, there’s a lot, I don’t know. But they usually, when they had an honour roll in country, they put all the names of those who enlisted on the roll, if they were killed in action or something they put a star next to their names; I’m not sure, I don’t remember how many was killed, but there would have been a lot, I’d say, ’cause they lost a terrific amount
in the First World War. Even this last war, they got the Honour Roll on the wall in the RSL [Returned Services League] in Maleny. I think my name is on it because I enlisted. I haven’t seen it, but they tell me it’s there.
church minded, Church of England I think it was we went to that night. I remember old Churchill said they’d declared war on Germany; I remember that as well as any. But I intended to join up at all times if it did come to war, but I made sure I enlisted pretty soon after that. But I remember the day
as, one Sunday we went to church. We learnt the war was on. It was pretty sad for the old people, but for blokes like myself, we were looking forward to it.
cruel, shocking. I don’t think we reached that stage at any time, in my time at the war. It was tough enough, but the Germans in the Western Front, they were shocking the way it was there. Nearly standing on bodies in the trenches, mud and all that,
in the desert there was no rain at all, although the dust storms were shocking, when you got them you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, a good dust storm
training with a medicine ball, they’re very heavy, they’re probably about five or six kilos, and they throw them around and I think he got hit with it in the face. It must have caused a bit of injury there ’cause they treated him with radium treatment, and my sister was a qualified sister, she was working
in Sydney and used to go and see him pretty often, nearly every day I suppose. And he told her that the doctors, when they had the radium on him, they forgot about him, left it on too long. I don’t know about that, but he was quite positive they did use radium on him in 1940. I read not very long ago,
five or six years ago how there were so many soldiers treated with radium, a couple of thousand I think it said in the paper, and I don’t know how they finished up, but I reckon it give Joe leukaemia. I’d reckon it must have been that, ’cause it was leukaemia that killed him.
Marching up and down, I remember one, where was it somewhere, I didn’t know how to march properly or anything. Anyway, one afternoon they sent them off to march 50 yards down, come back, I was marching down like they do with the lifesavers, feet up in the air in the sand. When I came back he asked me was I a lifesaver. I felt a fool.
But I didn’t know much about it. But that was, it was very monotonous, the parade-ground drill. It was good in the long run. I eventually got on the shooting range, because I’d had a rifle at home I could shoot pretty straight. I remember I got a possible the first time I fired.
to the Middle East, but we went straight to England. England was in terrible danger at the time. France had capitulated and I think Hitler would have went into England, I expect, to make terms with England. ’Cause they were more or less cousins, royalty, the Germans. But that didn’t come off, then they couldn’t
win the war. Battle of the Air, that they decided to bomb the dickens out of London and all those other towns.
around the place on Salisbury Plains, we’d go out there after a week to a certain place and they had to, I don’t know, in case the Germans come over in parachutes, things like that, we were ready, we were training, being trained all the time, digging trenches.
it was all chalky ground there. Once you broke the surface it was white chalk.
it was wintertime. Not a green leaf on the trees, it was pretty grim. It was very quiet then the bombing hadn’t started. It was the phoney war at that stage. Remember that? Then in
about September, that’s when Hitler decided to send the bombers over. He lost, our wonderful pilots they done the job, they knocked out a lot of bombers and fighters. Hitler couldn’t win the war, that’s when he decided to go somewhere else. Getting ready for Russia
it was pretty safe in England, they knew that Hitler wasn’t. While I was in England they had a, what they call it. The barges were being around the ports in France
The planes identified thousands of barges, and that looked like they were going to go across the Chanel. One night we got a call out on patrol that an invasion scare was on. Anyhow, it didn’t go, but we knew roughly what stopped it, the British navy, I understood they had petrol lined up around
the beaches to light up if they came. That would have stopped them. But I don’t know, I think the navy wiped it out anyhow. Stopped the barges from coming over.
And nothing happened until we got, nothing happened right round. We went nearly across to America, then we come back the other way through Sierra Leone, it was a hot place there. Stopped there about three or four days. The natives
were bringing out oranges, bananas and the officers on the boat were trying to keep them away. Then one day one of the smart officers, one of our officers too threw teargas, it wasn’t teargas something like it, and it went right through the ship this gas. The sailors on the boat, they were going to kill the officer
if they could find him. The natives, they’d have bananas and that, then they’d dive for money. You’d throw two bob [shillings] over, they’d dive, go down 20, 30 foot to get it before it hit the bottom. They were clever.
it came back through the portholes, and it went right through the ship. It never hurt anybody, but it was annoying I think. The idea to try to keep these natives away. They were in little canoes, just room enough to sit in, and how they could do it. Blokes on the boat would throw two bob in, twenty cents, and they’d dive down to get it,
some of the silly buggers used to wrap a penny in silver paper, they’d dive for that too and they wouldn’t be too happy about that. That was the idea, to keep them away. I don’t know why, it could have been dangerous; they could have had a bomb to plant on the boat, something like that. But how they used to be sitting in the boat, canoe it is,
about six or eight foot long, and to dive out, they’d go out over the end, and they wouldn’t tip their boat over, it was a work of art how they did that.
So when you were on that train, can you remember what you were seeing out the window?
It was all desert, very poor country. Sand hills and don’t think it was very rocky, and it was very poor country, wouldn’t feed a flea I don’t think. When we’d stop at a station, there were odd places where we stayed; the Arabs would come swarming round trying to sell us this and that.
I suppose they were mostly Jews, ’cause we reckoned if you bought anything, next time the price would jump up. But we learnt to trade with them pretty good in the finish, I think.
of seeing country like that, how different was it for you?
It was very, very poor country, wouldn’t grow hardly a tree. Transplanted gum trees over there in certain places from the First World War, but they did well, they did quite well, the gum trees. But the country was, oh, when you got to Gaza in Israel there was fertile
What kinds of stories were you hearing at the time about what had happened in Greece?
We knew that they were beaten badly, we could, they got beaten in Greece, then Crete. Crete got beaten there by the paratroops, German paratroops; and it looked for a while like we were going to go there, but then when the situation turned bad in the desert 6th Division got chased right back.
I think I’m a bit wrong there, it was the 9th Division that got chased back, they got as far as Tripoli. Some of them to get back into Tobruk; they made a fortress there. I had a cousin of mine was 16 days getting back, the Arabs helped him to get back. That would have been April 1940.
5000 tons was about all it was. It moved at about 10 knots an hour, that was its speed. We got to Tobruk, but the water was too rough and none of our company could get on. So we sailed off, and next day, I think the, a week later the rest of the battalion came by destroyers up to Tobruk. But when we got to Tobruk
there was a real battle on at the time. And our ship, we were only off it half an hour before it was sunk. And our company there we didn’t do anything in that fighting. But the rest of our battalion, that division there that got chased back from Tripoli, they put up a good show and they beat them Germans on the front line. But when our battalion
arrived, first of our battalion arrived, we relieved one of the battalions on the front line.
And were you staying in the trenches all the time, or…?
We’d sleep on top of the ground if it was safe. If we thought it was. There would be too many fleas in the trench, I’d say. Crikey, fleas and ticks. One exciting thing used to be, of an afternoon they’d stir up the rats,
somebody would stir a rat up and everybody would be after it. Catch this rat.
we arrived in England,” that was the first line of it and I was gradually writing, bringing it up to date, right down to Durban and up to the Suez Canal, that sort of thing. I think it was the whole story of what we did in the battalion, to me it’s all right, but you mightn’t find it looks like that.
But that’s how I did it, just to cover what we did.
When you were at the front lines in those positions, how did your job change?
You’d be in the real front line, looking for targets to shoot at, that was the main thing, but at night time we’d, we wouldn’t do any, patrols were the main thing in Tobruk, out every night in patrols.
Not so much in the Salient. We were too close to do any patrolling there, but in other places we’d be out every night on patrols. See what we could find or come across.
men, might have a couple of sections, three sections, but you’d never come across any enemy much out there, but I know one time we were sent out with sticky bombs to put on these tanks that were out there. They were stationed in front of us with searchlights on, well, you couldn’t get close to them, but that was the idea
we’d be sent out with sticky bombs to try and plaster on to these tanks and blow them up. But I never got to that stage, I don’t think we did. It might have been all right in country that’s got plenty of cover, but not out in the desert. It was as flat as a pancake and we could be seen a mile away. Night time was not very dark over there.
that because it had a mixture of divisions in it or…?
No, only sections, a number of sections, I think, 14 men or something like that, couple of dozen. That’d be as big as it gets, but they’d be roaming round, especially the area to go, not to see if they could come across the enemy either. To have a fight with. I don’t think
Could you describe what it’s like to leave your trench at night and go on these patrols in the darkness?
It’s exciting, a bit scared, hoping for the best and all that. Your ears would be glued to every single sound. I think they might have done the same things, the Germans, we used to come across.
telephone wires, they’d be lying on the ground, we’d come across them, so I think they were doing the same as us, they’d have patrols out too. But we didn’t clash too often.
Jim, when you were in the frontline at Tobruk, roughly how far away would the enemy have been?
Varying distances, in the Salient only might be a hundred yards, but in some other places, front line positions, there were about 60 positions around the perimeter,
Did the firing, was the firing, at Tobruk was there firing going all the time, or was there times when it stopped?
Not all the time, we were in, the first position we were in there wasn’t too much firing there, but when we went into the Salient position there was shooting going on nearly all the time in the day time, a lot. That’s why you’d stop down in your trench all day. Dugouts, because when
the 9th Division was thrown back into Tobruk they were chased by the Germans, then when they had this battle, when we got there in April the Germans captured posts number 5, 6 7, I think. They were captured by the Germans and they held them, at times our fellows would go retake them
and they’d lose them again, there was continuous fighting there.
I was talking about one attack that I was in. Went to capture one position, I’m not sure of the number, might have been 5–7, it’s probably in me diary or somewhere the number of it, but some of our fellows got caught up in the barbed wire, they were killed, and the next day our blokes,
officers were trying to get a truce on so they could go and bring them back. And they, I think they brought some back, but they only wanted the truce for an hour or two, and I know that two of our blokes were on the German side of the wire when the truce expired. Grabbed them, captured them, didn’t let them back at all. I don’t think that was very good of them,
not very friendly, was it. I met up with them when I was a POW in Germany. And that one bloke, they called him Socks Simons. He was a bit cuckoo, though. Anyhow, this is getting away from your story, but in the camp at Udine, he was always a bit sort of cheeky, they used to get vino, that’s wine, into the camp, I don’t know
how, and he must have been a bit under the weather, this day. An officer was going around, he had an interpreter with him and old Socks started giving him a hard time, abusing him and that, and this interpreter pulled a revolver out and shot old Simons dead. There was no need to have done it, to have killed him like that, but he did. I was there
I didn’t see it, I think I was probably in gaol; I did 30 days in gaol in that camp. Do you want to go on to that?
Bren, they’d charge in and the idea was to overrun the position and kill the people that were in there. That’s all it amounted to. They had this wire, I don’t know how they got held up but you get caught on the wire, it’s pretty hard to get off that. That was the end of them, really. But the next day they had a truce to go and get the men
back the bodies back or something. They did so much, but when the ones who were still looking around, they got captured by the Germans, taken right away.
Can you tell me about the surrender leaflets that the enemy were dropping over the Allies at Tobruk?
I remember as well as anything; it was a spotter plane, that’s what we called it, a German spotter plane, I think he was well armed, ’cause we used to shoot like the dickens and you couldn’t miss it, but I think they used to bounce off, the bullets.
Tom Blamey. He thought we’d been there long enough, but people were getting sores and things on them a lot. Sores that wouldn’t heal up, ulcers on their legs, and everybody in shorts. There was no grog in the place, no beer, never had a drink of beer the whole time I was in Tobruk. I think it did come up a bit, but I think the big shots got that.
But I think that was the main reason they thought they were getting a bit worn out. ’Cause patrols were out every night. Every position would have a patrol out. Just to see what was going on. Wouldn’t go too far, some might only go a thousand yards.
We had, well, in the trenches, slit trenches, they were only that deep, you couldn’t stand up, if you stood up your head would be in the air. We used to have jam tins, that was one of the ways. Pretty shocking, wasn’t it? But that was one way; while you were down all through the day, you couldn’t get out, if you did you’d be taking an awful
They attempted once or twice to come up from Egypt with armour, they got knocked back, the Germans had their main body down past Tobruk and there wasn’t much chance of getting through to relieve us, so we came out by boat, all but one battalion, that was the 13th Battalion, they stopped there until
the war was, until they came up strong from El Alamain. Montgomery [Montgomery was not actually in command yet], when he come up they fought their way out to meet them.
of the boat they had a tram line running to the stern, where they drive these mines, and it was fast, they reckoned it could do, they told us it could do 40 knots, that’s nearly 50 mile an hour, nearly. We got on at, we went to catch the boat before dusk, but the boat didn’t come in till nearly midnight. Then we were away, and we were down in Alexandria
about some time in the afternoon, 4 o’clock or something. A terrific ride out. But each night there’d be a, a destroyer would come in either to bring in supplies or take people out. Just about every night, suitable nights, mostly turned out to be a moonlight night, I think. But they lost a lot of
ships on that run, destroyers.
lifting of the siege, we got out, say, in September, and it was November I think before the siege was lifted, and Montgomery’s army came up in, the 13th Battalion came out, but they lost a lot of men fighting their way out in that battle. 13th Battalion was the
9th Div. A cousin of mine was in it.
Wbere were you sleeping when you were in Palestine?
We had tents, all tents in Palestine, I think they were, what do they call them, in a circle, six or eight men in a tent, big thick top on it. Bill tents I think they were called. But we tied our rifles
to the centre post of the tent, a chain went through them, so we all was told that the Arabs used to get in and pinch them, I doubted that but they supposed to be, that was the usual thing of a night time, tie your rifles to the post.
Germans to make an incursion through there, that was on the cards, they thought. But that didn’t happen, but we were very downhearted about that the 7th and 6th going home and we had to go up there in trucks while they come home on a boat.
I think the people in Syria were a big improvement on the Palestinians. They were, well, a lot of Vichy French were there, it was the Vichies they were fighting there, but still they were a lot whiter and more educated. Different class of people all together.
What sort of practice where you doing?
Just making out we were going to capture a certain position. It might be a dozen trucks loaded with men; they’d all go in. Over a start line, and go ahead to try and take the position. It was only make believe, of course. But the big shots would be up around on the hill watching it, picking up all the faults and what was good and what wasn’t.
That was learning the ‘box formation’, they called it. Can’t tell you a lot about that; but the whole battalion, once it’s attacked they sort of form a box and they put armour all around it. A bit hard to describe. But we went there for three weeks and came back,
and the situation was grim in the desert; the English tanks were getting belted outside of Tobruk. We were to get six-day leave, and none of us got any. They called that off straight away and we had to race down to El Alamein.
took over. That’s how we got to get them I’d say. We were doing all sorts of stupid things like making dummy rocks, that’s right, out of Plaster of Paris, and they’d get, I suppose in the distance it would look very good, but it wouldn’t stop a bullet very well. We did a good bit of that in different places, moulded dummy rocks.
I suppose it’s Plaster of Paris, that’s what I’d call it. You’d have the powder, and you’d mix it with water and it would set into a fairly hard looking rock.
Another position we had was the tunnel, ran alongside the highway, alongside the Mediterranean, we were camped there, at there, the Gardner Tunnel. Trucks would come along, we’d have to go through them, and come back the other way two trips on both ends, they didn’t want it destroyed or anything
But we were camped between the tunnel and the Mediterranean. The sheer drop of hundreds of feet, and our tent was right over the top of that.
over to soften the ground up, or whatever’s near the camp, and then they send the troops in. That’s the usual way of doing it, and that’s what happened, although in our case I was taken prisoner, the Germans only sent tanks in. We were overrun by tanks, they came back to get their gun that they’d lost, they hooked it up and they rounded a platoon of us up.
We were in slit trenches, we couldn’t do a thing.
What kind of support had you been told?
Well, they said everything, that included tank support for sure, but they, artillery, that’s what we should have got, artillery, ’cause in Tobruk the artillery stopped the German tanks. But down here I don’t know what or why
No, before the capture if you could…
We were on top of the world. We reckoned we’d blocked Rommel after that capture, that attack that night, we’d done very well, and our blokes were sniping away, shooting. Although a battalion came to us to do an attack, the 43rd, through our battalions they got into,
they overrun their target and most of them got captured, the tanks rounded them all up, nearly a whole battalion, that was the 43rd that, the morning of our capture. But we were on top of the world, we’d done what we had to do, that was a bad boon when this other battalion overrun their target. They couldn’t dig in, it was too stony and the tanks were all around them.
That was one of the bad moves of the war.
all the smoke in the air you couldn’t see them. But when the smoke cleared they were going on, but they went too far. And when they were in a bad piece of ground where they couldn’t dig in, nearly sitting up on top of the ground. Their CO [Commanding Officer], who was he?
He called it quits and surrendered. He didn’t want his men being killed for nothing. Tanks all round them, couldn’t do a thing. That would have been four, five hundred men I suppose.
hit one, wasn’t a tank, it was a vehicle of some sort, I think they put it out of action. It was a beautiful gun, never had any training on it whatever. They worked it out how to use it, and they were, the shells that would go there, what do they call it, you could see them in the air, eliminated they were, I can’t think of the word
They could hit the ground and bounce but they were lead, shot you know, can’t think of the word for that. They have it in bullets too. You can see them. The Italians or Germans, they used to have a lot of them. You could see them going through the air.
away when we first saw them lined up. We could see something was on then, all of a sudden a barrage come over that’d mortars and shells, they were lined up on our positions. They wanted that gun back, that’s most likely what they were looking for it, I think. A smokescreen was fired,
a smokebomb, you couldn’t see through it, you could hear the tanks coming, maybe we should have cleared out, we didn’t. We were told to stop in our trenches, even the tanks could ride over us and they wouldn’t hurt us. It’s a bit silly. This smokescreen cleared, it had had time to fizzle out, then the tanks run
right over the top of us. We couldn’t do a thing.
Some of our fellows had held up a flag and surrendered and we followed them, but there was only about 15 of what was left of our platoon, some of them were killed, some mortar bombs landed on our trenches and killed some of our fellows.
But the Germans were very good, I know one bloke, his arm was just hanging in shreds. A German gave me a big bandage to tie it up, he didn’t have to do that, but he did. Called me over and gave me a bandage. I think he was a,
on the anti-tank team, section, and his arm was ruined. But I tied it up as best I could and the German was very good. They pointed which way we had to go. But we weren’t out very far at all and our artillery started firing. That’s what. If they’d only done it a bit sooner we
camp, we travelled in a big bus, trucks. There were plenty of guards. We went to a camp, I don’t know the name of it, but I don’t think it was far away from Tobruk; in the desert, an oasis. We were penned in there by wire, we stopped there till the next day, a
few days later we went on another trip by truck, probably as far as Benghazi. There was a big camp there. The starvation started when we were captured. We had nothing to eat and nothing on ourselves. We’d get a ladle of skilly, soup, tomato soup I think it was
that’s all we’d get each day, once a day. Water was pretty scarce too. At this oasis, where we stopped there for a little while, a couple of our blokes tried to escape up under a truck. Trying to hang on under a truck, but they got caught. The Eyeties treated them very roughly. Tied them up by their thumbs and hardly let them touch the ground
I was going to say how the ticks, in the camp. There were ticks everywhere, crawling everywhere, I think they came from the palm trees, must have been breeding there. Ticks and fleas and flies. The whole lot was there.
No, I was never tied up. I don’t know if any of them did, only those two chaps who tried to escape, they were a bit too game, but they didn’t get far. The Italians gave them a rough time though. But eventually we got to Benghazi, and the compound there, it contained Indians and
Australians, there was thousands of men there, it was shocking. No shade from the sun, hardly any water, and the sewerage system was just a pit and it was just disgraceful.
So what was the climate like at this point?
No rain, dry, cold of a night, no shelter, we still slept on top of the ground in shirts, no change of clothes, it wasn’t very nice. But every time you’d stand up, you’d just about have a blackout.
We’d deteriorated, and most of them had beri-beri, their face would all swell up, that’s the beri-beri infection. And of course everybody had diarrhoea, 90 per cent, I reckon. What was the hygiene like, nonexistent, it was terrible
Just a big pit overflowing with filth. I think they used to come and get a few prisoners to go out and do a bit of work. Probably on a boat or something. I’ve been told that, but I can’t remember them gong. But I think they might have taken a few out.
But the food was really nil.
A bit bigger than this room. Probably 100 men in it. Just room to stand up or sit down. You couldn’t lay down, then they’d allowed us to go down, and then if anybody wanted to go to the toilets on top, over the side of the boat. You had to be pretty active to climb up the ladder.
That’s very poor, disgraceful. And most of the blokes had diarrhoea anyway. There was one boat; none of us were on it. I think there were Aussies on it, prisoner of war boat, it was torpedoed, some of them survived but a lot didn’t
that was round about that time; we knew a bit about it. We’d heard about it. Submarine torpedo.
across to Taranto, that’s an old town, Taranto, from there we got deloused, they started the clippers and went right over, beard and all in the one go. Went through a delousing place, then they gave us Italian, civilian clothes I think it was
might have been army, Italian army clothes. I wasn’t very happy about that either. But at least we were clean again after months and months of never having a shower or anything.
When we come out of the shower we had this haircut, shave, and then they gave us clothes to wear, we were really Eyeties again, looked like them anyhow. But then after that we went straight onto a cattle truck train. Do you know what a cattle truck train is? It’s just got little slats in the wall, you can’t, you can see through it,
we were in that right till the top end of Italy, Udine, up near the Yugoslav border.
When you were on the train looking out?
You could see the countryside in the gap between the slats. Made of steel, I suppose. You could see the tomatoes growing on the hills, they were red-ripe with tomatoes, in certain places they grew a lot of tomatoes, no wonder they fed us on tomatoes. They took us, I’d say it’s eight hundred miles on the train
to Udine, and I can’t remember getting off the train. I think it went pretty much non-stop.
And then we got sent into huts to live in. A hundred men in each hut. The beds were two-tier beds, one on top of the other. That was all right there; eventually you got a food parcel. Red Cross
food parcel. Firstly once a week, but they didn’t always come that often. But they were beautiful food parcels; I think the best ones were Canadian. Canadian Red Cross, they’d have a big block of chocolate, tea, sugar, tin of fish most likely,
the time. It was something to see, it really was, you know. When a plane tried to knock another one out, a lot of that. They seemed to disappear and you wouldn’t see them come down but they were put out of action or something. I think we were starting to get very strong in the air force. I know in that book I said something about
the air force going over, I called them a Rules Team in the air, like Australian Rules; 18 planes going together. I spent, had to be 500, or literally that you saw sometimes
That’s where I first heard about it. I can’t think of his name, but he’s living up in Queensland, and he’s up there OK. But he’s in hospital now. But I thought he was dead that night. I’ll tell you a funny thing, as we charged in, going into action, the whole
company anyhow, one of the officers, we were all leaning forward to dodge the bullets, and our officer, he was saying, “Stand up straight.” He was standing up straight himself, but by crikey I reckon that was ridiculous. Going as hard as they could without falling over. He was singing out, “Stand up straight.” I think that was ridiculous.
He was brave, I’d say, anyhow. And not too many noticed that, but I noticed it. I had the Bren gun; we were leaning over going forward, as hard as, the bigger chance you got of hitting something.
What was sort of medical support was there for the injured?
Every unit had stretcher-bearers. They were always busy there, the done a great job, the stretcher-bearers. One time in Tobruk, one of our blokes trod on a mine, ruined his ankle; we didn’t have any stretcher-bearers there, what we did,
we put our overcoats together and put guns with a bayonet on the end of them and used them to carry him out. Marvellous what they can do.
I think they did the right thing, most of the time. In the Battle of El Alamein, it was a clever bit of work the way Montgomery he had his troops, Australians in one place, in vital places. I think that was pretty clever on his part. He organised a lot of these dummy tanks and guns that they had spread around
the place. Just the, well, that’s all good tactics.
was the use of dummy rocks, dummy tanks, fake scenery?
The dummy tanks at El Alamein, they would have been pretty generous, they were spread all across the front line, but as far as the dummy rocks in Syria, they were just something to keep us busy, I think. They wouldn’t be much good.
All made of pine boards one above the other, a bed. Everything was kept pretty clean and looked pretty good. Probably only new, maybe a year or so old probably. Every so many days they’d put on a search.
And everything would have to be pulled to pieces. Beds would be pulled to pieces, they were all fitted together, all your gear would be taken out. Italians’d inspect it; they’d keep you out for hours on the parade ground. When they got sick of it themselves, they’d tell us we could go inside. I don’t like the Italians much, the way that I got treated anyhow.
I went to the ablutions to have a wash and shower, almost back to the camp, and a bullet landed alongside my foot. Nearly instantly these Carabinieri [paramilitary police] guards were there. But the old commandant of the camp, he wanted his gaol inside of the camp.
He wanted it kept it full. I think I came into that category, to keep the gaol full. So I got grabbed by these Carabinieri and I had to go back to me hut and get me dixie and away I went to gaol. I did 30 days there. I never got a charge sheet, just put in gaol and let out after 30 days. And we was
this gaol, they’d be in a little cell, six or eight men. Side by side on a wooden shelf, sorta. We’d come out for an hour every day, and through the day all we’d get was a ladle of skilly.
I was never happy about that. That was pretty rough treatment. Besides that, do you remember something about the Dieppe raid by the Canadians?
before they got out, but not many got out, nearly all Canadians were captured or killed. What they did with the Germans, they captured them and manacled, put handcuffs on them like that. And while I was in the gaol in, hardly worth thinking about,
while I was in the gaol, nearly every day they’d put these handcuffs, we called them ‘darbies’, and you’d sit like that for hours of day time, because the Canadians did that to the Germans. Their commandant got word of that and he thought he’d try it on us. Actually, it wasn’t, it was just the indignity of it.
It wasn’t hurting at all; you just had to sit there with these darbies on your hands. But I got out of there after 30 days and our sergeant in charge of all the POWs, I think he was a New Zealander, he organised for me to go on a
working party of a Roman Catholic chapel they were building. Help with the civvies [civilians], not that there was any work, but an extra loaf of bread. And that was pretty good. And then I was in there the, my section, it was the day we were captured, we all stuck together. They got taken away on a
party outside the camp permanently. I don’t know where it was, but somewhere in Italy, they had to go work on a property, farm or anything at all, I don’t know. Anyhow, when Italy threw the towel in they capitulated, these mates of mine.
They were released when the war finished, where they were, but the Germans came and recaptured them, and they made them dig their own graves.
Pretty terrible that, wasn’t it. Not long after that I was, a mate and I, we were
sent out onto a forestry place to work in the bush, falling pine trees and chopping them up, sawing them up into lengths. That was in, but there was a lot happened before that, though.
he was a lance corporal; he didn’t have to go on the working party ’cause he was a corporal. But he wanted to go so he could be with me. So he told them he was just a private. We left that camp eventually, after the Italians threw the towel in, we were taken by train into Austria. The Germans around, they never opened the gates at all.
The Italians should have done that. They should have opened the gates and let us out no matter what happened to us, but they didn’t. And the Germans around the camp with flamethrowers and you couldn’t do a thing; you had to get straight onto the train to Austria.
Can I just ask you about that working party, where did you, how far did you travel to outside of the camp to build the church?
It was in the camp. Right in the whole area that chapel, beautiful it was.
I didn’t mind, I enjoyed my time doing that. Wasn’t very big, only a small place, probably hold about, might have held a hundred. But they were civvies that come in, and we just used to go and carry some bricks or whatever they needed. But it was something to do. But I still think really that the New Zealand officer in charge of us, he wangled that for me. He realised I got a rough time going to gaol without a charge sheet.
that was, and they had, don’t know how, they had crystal sets, I don’t know much about it. But they had the story of the war all the time. They knew what was going on. They were able to hide it from the Italians in all the searches, we always knew what was going on while I was in the camp. How the war was going. They were very good, the recent Crete fellows. They had had
a hard time. I think they marched for hundreds of miles to get into Austria. And when they, when we, just before we shifted from Italy
we knew we were going the next day or so, our blokes grabbed everything they could we’d bought, and they bought the pianos I think. I don’t know how they’d bought them, but somehow they’d got them in, some way. But they couldn’t take them with them so they smashed them. Pianos, beautiful pianos.
and talented and they’d, I don’t know just anybody that played the piano accordion, but a beautiful instrument. I don’t know what happened to them in the finish, they may have taken them into Germany. I know some of the camps I was in, that one at Hinterhof, we were out in the timber country, some Pommies, they’re
very clever on the banjo and things like that and they always wanted to know what was the latest tunes. I couldn’t tell them much.
What sort of talk was there about escaping in that camp?
The Australians in Number Three Compound, they made a tunnel, got out, just a few. It’s written in some books how they did it. They started a tunnel under their own hut, got going underneath, and kept bringing the soil back, dispersing it all over the place. Got away with it
and got outside the far fence, the barbed wire where the guards were. But they got caught. Somebody got out, and then there was half of them still trying to get out through the tunnels, then somebody spilled the beans and they got caught. The Italians got them out all right, let them come out, but some got away, I don’t know how far they got. It was a mighty effort
Must have went, say, 60 or 80 yards underground. I wouldn’t like to go in that, I hated going under in the tunnel. ’Cause all the camps said they had plans to escape. Every camp I was in, that was the first thing you heard about in a new camp.
when we went to the timber place. We were at a, it was only a big house, it held about 40 men, I suppose. A lot of rooms. We was always gonna, we stored our chocolate and cigarettes up for get-away day. This day we wanted to get away while there was a one-eyed guard was on. ’Cause we hated him, he was always spying on
everybody. So we, it didn’t make any difference the day that suited us, we had a game of soccer on the side of a hill, which is not very good, but we played, and then we went straight to the toilet to have a wash and get towels, grabbed our files, we all had files to sharpen our axes when we were working in the bush. We took a file each and sneaked up the dead ground gully
to a fixed wire fence. Filed away, but filing away with a file made an awful noise. We thought we’d get picked up, but we didn’t. Away we went.
While we were in Italy we had to sew a red patch on our trousers. And also one in the middle of the back, they gave us, six inches square in the middle of our back. That was the way they could identify us if we were POWs. The moment we got into Austria, the Germans made us pull them off and throw them away.
One thing in their favour, then in the camps, the Germans, they always had plenty of potatoes, we never had a potato in Italy and yet they grew them there. While we was in Germany the cooks had heaps of potatoes, we weren’t allowed to peel them, they had to be cooked in their skins. The cooks‘d do it that way.
That was another point in their favour. But I know they treated the Russians dreadful. Russian prisoners of war.
us, capitalists, they knew that we volunteered to go over there, they would have all been conscripted, Germans too, I suppose. We were volunteers, they called us capitalists. But they were friendly; they got an awful time by the Germans. No food parcels, don’t think they belonged to the Red Cross or something. Might have been something to do with it. They were dying of typhus
right alongside our camp. Starving and dying and freezing. We were a lot better off.
So while you were being sorted out into these parties that were going to go off and work, were you in a prison camp?
Yes, we were in a prison camp, but I can’t remember, we weren’t in there very long. I think we got fed fairly well.
There were no Red Cross parcels there. But when we got to this Hinterhof, eventually we used to get food parcels, they didn’t come regular. Probably once or twice a month. But when you got them you was on top of the world.
nearly everything in them; big block of chocolate, biscuits, tea. They were very good, but they had to go through the German authority; when we got our parcels, anything that was tinned had to be punctured. So we couldn’t store it up or keep, to see if they could find a
compass or something like that in it. Which we did, but I never found one, but they used to find compasses in the tins, meat tin or any sort of a tin; but it had to be punctured. That meant that you nearly had to eat everything straight away. The food part of it. That wasn’t good in a way, ’cause the other
parcels only come, probably average once a fortnight. Which I know some of the silly beggars had competitions to see if they could eat the full parcel as quick as they could. Have a competition. But that’s ridiculous what they did, some of them. I think they kept the blokes alive in a big way. With them we were on top of the world.
Without it they were semi-starved.
and nailed onto a board. They’d build a little fan, and I don’t know what you call it, you’d turn the little handle and it’d fan fire into a little container. You could cook anything in that. All the blokes had to go out from each hut to a certain area to do their cooking.
It was something to see, they were string on these little trolleys, they’d lead them out onto the ground and then they’d do their cooking. I never forgot that. Our blokes soon got one going, my mate Alan. We used to make plum puddings. We used to roll the biscuits with a bottle, roll them into, make flour,
make a plum pudding. And rolled oats; as simple as anything. But you only had a certain time to go out to the parade ground, not the parade ground, the little area where you could do the cooking. About four o’clock of an evening, it was a sight to see. Dozens and dozens of these little trolleys out there with these gadgets.
What was the discipline like in the Italian camps?
They were evil, the Eyeties. That’s one of the things I didn’t like them about. If you were 40 or 50 yards away from a officer strutting by, they were very cocky in front of prisoners. You had to stand to attention while he walked 50, 60 yards past. If you didn’t you’d get grabbed straight away by the Carabinieri
and in gaol for disrespect. That happened lots and lots of times. And our blokes weren’t used to saluting anybody. Not much, anyhow. But that did happen; the discipline was over the odds. I think everything else was pretty straightforward.
When it was felled, our next job was to saw it in certain lengths. The next job was take the bark off, it was one of my jobs, they called that a budler, I think. The bark peeled off easy. And then we used to take the bark, take it down to the road, which was a mile away,
and put it in, filled it up into piles, that wide and that high, bark along side by side. They had nothing to tie it with; I don’t know how it stuck together. But we used to, when we done the job of getting off the bark, we had to take it down to the area. Something would pick it up.
Think they used to make, I dunno what they made of it. Used to use it for tanning, for one thing, but they would use it for something else too. Maybe firewood, then when the rain came or sleet, anything wet, these logs that we’d sawn up in certain lengths, ten, twelve foot long, we put them on our boots so we could walk on logs.
We’d strap them onto boots that had spikes on them. About six spikes down the front, then two on the heel, you could walk, nearly climb up a wall, nearly. And then they had a long steel thing with this handle in, it fairly long handle, you could reach out this piece of iron had a sharp point and you could dig it in and half a dozen,
three or four blokes could pull the logs anywhere. And then when it rained, or rain or sleet, these logs had to be slid down into the gully, I reckon easy a mile, flying head over turkey [head over heels]. They’d slide like anything down to the bottom. That was our job, really.
it was Hinterhof, the name of the big double storey house; I think it was more of a guesthouse. And the German, Austrian big shots used to go out hunting the deer. Shooting. I think that’s what it was built for. A resort, that sort of thing. But we were all in it
It was two storey, big, a lot of, must have been 40 was in that camp. We had a fence right round us.
Tons of running water through the camp. It was quite good that way. The lighting was, but we did have heaters, it’s a wonder the place wasn’t burnt down, I wouldn’t think. Both floors would have a heater in it, with pipes going up. And I reckon the pipes were red hot lots of times, but it was good, it wasn’t cold.
Snow twelve foot high all around, a foot high around all the building. And we just had tracks of it. Wherever we wanted to go.
New Zealand butter tin; made a case out of a New Zealand butter tin. A work of art, it was about 15 inches long, with the lid and everything on it. Beautiful. Some tinsmith gave it to us in Udine, and I paid him with cigarettes for it. I gave him a lot more than what he asked for, because I didn’t use them. Anyway, we had it chock-full when we were
ready to go. I’d had the toothache and I’d been down to the dentist with the guard, that’s how I got that book. He went into a shop, I don’t know how I paid for it but I got it. I didn’t pinch it.
He pointed me to get in the chair. I pointed to the one what was aching. And he had the forceps in his hands all the time. He pulled it out, and it was the best tooth I’ve ever had out. I’ve had the lot out, but that one, it hurt coming out but no after-effects whatever. No novocaine, that’s what makes it bad afterwards. And after I got back to the camp I was ready to go. I didn’t want to go away with toothache,
I dreaded that. After we had this game of soccer, we had our gear ready, at all times. We grabbed the towels, we had a shower or something, grabbed the files and away we went. The dead ground; they couldn’t see it from the guardhouse. It’s a wonder they didn’t have a better system, we just went up the gully, filed the wire and crawled out.
probably a thousand feet high, a couple of thousand, way uphill. We got up there and half an hour into the bush. What I did find there was a pamphlet dropped by the RAF [Royal Air Force] when they were flying over Austria during the war. It was two
big pamphlets, sheets of paper, a couple of sheets. “To Hitler on his Birthday, 20th of April.” It had a sort of a cartoon of all these bombed out cities, Danzig and Stuttgart, I can’t think of the name of... They were like bouquets. “For Hitler on his Birthday.” And would you believe his birthday’s
the same as mine? Pretty unbelievable. I brought that home; it’s in the museum somewhere, over in Barrowville, Barrowville I think it is.
going, our plan was to try and link up with the partisans in Yugoslavia. That was our plan, to make for that direction. Alan, he got a compass from somewhere, I’m not sure, could have got it out of one of the tins, in our food parcels. It showed us what direction to go. About the second night out there was the greatest storm I ever was in. Thunder
storm the whole works, and it poured rain, we were drenched. But the next day we dried out all right. They always say not to shelter under a tree, but we sheltered under this big pine tree. Anyhow, we kept on going across railway lines in the direction our compass pointed.
We were going pretty well. And then we were going through a lot of bush, there was a kid out, a young boy, about 14 years old, I think, and he spotted us, I think the word was out that somebody had escaped. He didn’t come near us, but I think he went back to his father, his father happened to be a policeman, a damned policeman. That night we tried to cross the river.
We come to a bridge first, but it was loaded with guards on the bridge, we couldn’t get across there. Anyhow, we thought we’d walk through the water. There was a raging torrent and I think we would’ve been drowned if we’d kept going. My mate was a bit taller than me; I think he saved me. It was cold and I was up chest high with water. I don’t think we would have made it, it was a fairly wide
stream. But we went back to where we saw a dark clump of trees, we’d go and hide in there and see what we could do the next night. That was the idea. While we were going back to this clump there was a dog bark like blazes, must have spotted us or heard us. Then about nine o’clock the next morning I was having a shave, I like to always keep a bit tidy. And around us arrived the policeman with about half a dozen
civvies. They all had guns. Well, old Sydney was all right, but when Alan got the cigarettes out and gave them all some cigarettes we were getting along good with them, then we had to go back to the town. A good many mile, and there were a lot of people having a look at us, but we got to the policeman’s house and
his wife could speak fluent English. They had kids, and we knew the guards would be around in a while to pick us up. To the farm. So we gave them chocolates and cigarettes and a little port to the policeman. I suppose we were the best godsend he ever met, I bet.
All the chocolates, beautiful chocolates, but it was going well when we was on the move. Anyhow, after that the guards took us to a camp; we had to front up to the forestry blokes that owned the timber that was being taken out of the bush. It must have been a big company, they were. We had to front up to them and they wanted to know why
we escaped, they were saying that all the other prisoners were quite content, and why did we get out? We just said straight out that it was a prisoner’s duty to escape. They didn’t say any more. But after that they, we was given on a charge sheet, absent without leave, I suppose, but not that at all.
But for escaping we were charged, and got sentenced to 21 days gaol. It was right up near the Swiss border. If we’d got out of there we would have been pretty close to Switzerland. But we didn’t. We were considered gaolbirds after that. Wherever we went we were what they called Straflager.
That’s where a lager is, a camp, and we didn’t have much chance after that. But we done our bit. While they’d stopped us from escaping, anybody there at night, they’d have to take their pants off, and they were stored, put away under lock
and key. You couldn’t go far without them. It was pretty smart of the Germans.
Could you describe the gaol that was near the Swiss border, could you describe what the gaol was like?
We didn’t stop there very long at all. It would have been an enclosure, barbed wire. But they got us out nearly straight away to work somewhere else. We went to a city or town called Litzen. And we had to work around the factory, that was nearly straight away after our 21 days were up.
I got the terrible dose of the flu there, I was pretty sick, and the guard, he always used to come and get me to go and get the little bit of tucker they did give us, skilly and a bit of brown bread. I don’t know why he had a bit of sympathy for me. Then there was another bloke, I’ll never forget him, he was an Italian
and singing, he never stopped singing all the day in the gaol. I don’t know what he did to be in there. But he had a terrific voice. He was one of those I do remember well during the 20 days. But as soon as that was over we were shunted off to another site to work round a factory. Digging holes for foundations for buildings or something. And the ground
was solid, solidly frozen pretty well. It was pretty hard work. That was one of the jobs. Another job was to unload gravel trucks would come in like rail trucks. My mate Bailey, he was as stubborn as Ned Kelly, he’d go on strike, he’d sit down on the job, and the guards
were nearly shooting him. When they come round every morning when you first arrived, you had to give them your name and number so they could put you down for pay. But we never got any pay. You’d give him your name in English, and the German, he could write it, no doubt, but he wouldn’t accept it. He’d be doing his block, and the guard with him, nearly off their
rocker. He was a stubborn man. ’Cause I think they used to try them out, they’d go to the limit. They wouldn’t get out to work, some of them. There was a New Zealander fellow there, he’d sit down in the hut and wouldn’t get out. And the guard was roaring at him, put a bullet into the spout, and he still wouldn’t go. I think eventually he did go, but he’d try them out.
they were young. They were capable of doing whatever work they had to do. They were always very, if they got news they’d speak to us very friendly, but I think they got treated very badly by the Germans. But I’d say the Germans, troops and soldiers around the factories and that, were old timers, or
not fit for the front line. They weren’t very good, but they could use their rifle butts all right. That’s how they’d get you going.
if you did what they told you to do you’d get along all right. But we were fairly well fed there. After escaping that time we never got any more Red Cross parcels, I don’t think I ever saw another one, because they weren’t allowed. We used to go on sick parade, nothing wrong with us at all. I did have me fingers, a couple of them smashed
trying to lift a cement block, got caught underneath and didn’t get away quick enough. Went to the, inside the factory, the girl there was doing a little bit of nurse work. Tied me hands up and that. I used to go back on sick parade when I didn’t have to go to work.
Get out of work a lot, and used to go on sick parade. A lot of them used to break their arms and they wouldn’t go on sick parade. Wouldn’t go to work, I mean. I’ve seen them do that. They’d put their hand, arm over the corner of the bed and another bloke’d bash it with a lump of wood. They’d get out of work. Did I tell you about this doctor, he was on the outside? There was always a full bag of potatoes in the door of his surgery,
and everybody would deliberately go on sick parade to get their overcoat pockets full of potatoes. It was almost filled up. So he was on our side.
We used to go through to a big, I don’t know, a big barn; there was hundreds and hundreds of soldiers marching, walking along, and they’d, some of them would stop here, some there. And they’d go to stop the night in the barn. The next day they’d go a bit further, wasn’t altogether climbing up, but I don’t know where they were going to, but it seemed to be going uphill most of the time.
the group was scattered out pretty well. You could easy duck off, one bloke could, not too many, and he come back with a great big rabbit, he had it in his blouse. Battledress blouse, he carried it there all day. We skinned it and cooked it. That was one day’s feed. I think when we got to the barns of a night time they used to give us supper, probably some potatoes,
something like that, ’cause the Germans had plenty of potatoes, nobody else had them, Italy didn’t have any, and they used to grow them there too.
And the last place we was at you couldn’t, somebody said the Yanks were at the gates. And that spread all through the camp. That was really the end of it. End of the war for us. The Yanks, they arrived in a jeep, I think, for a start, next day there was quite a number of American officers
telling us what to do, what we couldn’t do. Told us to stay where we were until they got the trucks ready to pick us up.
walking along a main road. Bumper to bumper with German trucks. And their troops all downhearted, they knew the war was over. One bloke pulled his medals off, and gave them to me. An Iron Cross. I remember they were bumper-to-bumper, miles of them I’d say, poor beggars; they were just like we were at.
El Alamein. Down in the dumps. From there I’d say we were motor trucked to Salzburg, I think it was. Salzburg
Aeroplanes were there to pick us up, and they flew us into Reims in France, we flew over big cities, and you should have seen the bomb craters all around the cities. The areas caved in, side by side. They certainly bombed them to pieces.
And what did the Americans look like, what were they travelling in?
A pair of jeeps, two jeeps came along, only two men in the front, two men in each, but they were, they knew there were camps, prisoners about, and they just wanted to find us. Then it was, next day, when we walked along that road.
But we had to sort ourselves out into about 22 to go in each plane, and the planes were Lancaster bombers. They took about, carry about 22 soldiers. And there was no seats in them whatever, just the same as they were on bombing flights, they were.
Wires, millions of wires everywhere. But they were great to be in one of them Lancaster bombers. Best planes of the war, I think. They flew us to Reims in France.
Only a short flight to get into Reims, might have been. No, I’ve got it wrong there, we flew in American Dakotas into Reims, and from Reims, that’s where we got into the Lancasters. These Dakotas weren’t allowed to fly into England. The Lancasters did,
that’s why we got on the Lancasters. To fly into England. The Dakotas were good planes, but the Americans would fly along with the door open, as casual as anything. You wouldn’t believe it.
We had a good time there, right on the seaside. That was, barracks there, we were well treated there. Eventually we were, they had a boat ready for us. I think it was the Mauritania; it was fairly big, probably 30 or 40,000.
And when we were ready we got on there and must have left the, I don’t know what harbour it would be. Do they have a harbour in Bournemouth? Don’t know; don’t know where we left from. But we went straight across to the Panama Canal. Went through it
From there we went down to Honolulu first. We saw Pearl Harbor, all the boats that was splattered there. In the harbour.
nearly everybody. Some in Queensland, some in Macksville, Melba, my sister, I wrote to her nearly ever 10 days if I had a way of getting a letter away. I used to get cards in the army sometimes. Printed card, you just have to fill in the “I am well,” that sort of thing, just a printed sentence
to sort of, you’d tick it to say, card to send home. That was happened a few times. That was when you were in the front line sometimes.
Looking back what do you think of the necessity of World War 11?
There’s no doubt about it, it had to come. Germany, captured, took Poland when they were told not to. They went in there, that started it. I think they, Hitler had to be stopped, ’cause he and Russia were going to rule the world. And he would have turned on Russia too. But that was the plan. He had a thousand years Reich,
that’s what he planned for. For the country. He was enough to be stopped, I think. And he was so cruel with it, wasn’t he. He butchered six million Jews. But I don’t know why we didn’t know about that. But I don’t think any of us did. I think one
thing came into the camp one time when we were in Germany, it was a list of who’s who, anybody who had a Gold-something in their name, they were marked people straight away. Jews, and they would be obliterated.
Within this dream I thought
Oblivious to action in the battle to be fought
At 14 hundred hours the turmoil still unturned
Tanks, shells, the dogfights while the scorching sun a burn.
32nd Section’s agog in highest glee
Tonight our turn would be
To pack and choose killing guns to carry on the trail
The boys had swift assembled and as the task was said
The unleashed battle fever left faces fiery red
Here is grand deficiency, unseen indecision
For these are men, these Desert Rats, Aussie 9th Division
Defenders strip machine guns and with the graphite grease
Assure perfect action of each automation piece.
Nor would we at this hour choose sweet home to this place
As across the drift they muster
All smartly battle dressed
There’s a thrill that’s exotic, exalting every breath
The crimson sun dips in dust
Its burning beams nigh spent
In the final crows of dusk
It’s the trucks and their arms as looming large they grow
Laughing, jesting, standing by
The joy of growing smokes
Cheerful as a team of scouts
When stretching blackened wire night’s maze disappears
The sand-swept lines are struck
As transports whine and buck
On the tufted withered grass
Of blood stained El Alamein
And the boys’ vibrant voices
Resound theme songs again