Donald Cody
Archive number: 1772
Preferred name: Snowy
Date interviewed: 24 March, 2004

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2/3rd Field Company

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Donald Cody 1772


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Tape 01


We’re recording now, so do you want to give us that introduction please?
Right. I was born in Queenstown 1917, went to the state school, started work when I was 14 and a half, joined the army when I was 21, went to England, back to the Middle East, up the desert,


in Tobruk for eight months, then up the Turkish border, then back to Alamein. After Alamein I came back to Australia, then went up to the Tablelands. We landed at Lae. We were the first ones to make an amphibious landing since Gallipoli. Then we went to Finschhafen, then back to Australia and the next year we went up to


Morotai and finished up in North Borneo. How was that? That do you?
Yeah, it’s pretty good.
Can you tell us what you did in the post-war please?
In the what?
The post-war era after the war?
After the war, yes, I went back to Mount Lyall for five years and was the boss in the workshop for Mount Lyall. Got away from there, had taxis for four or five years, sold the taxis,


came down to New Norfolk as a security officer at Boyer Paper Mills. I was put off work at 58 through ill health caused through the war.
How will that do you?
Now let’s get to the real juice starting from your childhood days in Queenstown. Can you tell us what Queenstown was like in your childhood?
What was Queenstown like, what?
Yeah, can you tell us what Queenstown was like?
In them days?


when you were a young chap?
Queenstown was a pretty rough place. It used to rain about 300 days of the year and when the Depression was on there was always a meal at Queenstown. A lot of people came from all over Tasmania to work when the Depression was on. Some really good people, good honest people, rough people but very good people, very friendly and all that. How will that do you?
How big was the town?


How big was the town population-wise?
The town, we had a population of about 12,000. I think there were twelve pubs in Queenstown. It was a pretty big town in them days and they used to produce all copper in the mine, copper, gold and silver, and the railway line used to run to Strahan in them days with all the ore and that.


Then it shut down in 1961. Now they’ve opened it up as that West Coast Railway now for the big tourist resort. Strahan was the pick of the west coast. Strahan was a big place. When I first went to Strahan in about 1952, ’53 the population, there was only about 300. Now you go around and you see the places, how big growing Strahan is, a big tourist place now. You could buy a block of land around there in my day


for £5, now you’re paying $40,000 or $50,000 for a block of land at the present time.
So it was a rough place you said?
Oh Queenstown was very rough. If you never went back to work on a Monday morning with a black eye there was something wrong. They’d ask you, “Didn’t you have a fight over the weekend?” No, used to be eight Tasmanian amateur champion boxers in Queenstown in roughly ‘37, ’38.


There were six football teams. It was a great place for sport on the west coast, cricket, football, running, boxing, bike riding. Go back to Hubert Opperman, he was a world’s champion bike rider, Fatty Lamb. They used to all ride around there on the eight hour weekends in Queenstown. Used to have all the great choppers around there, a New Zealand bloke named Watta Green. David Foster used to be around there as a chopper in them days. The


big sports, sports used to be for Saturday, Sunday and Monday but now it’s all died down.
You said it was a mining town as well. Was that your first job when you finished school?
Yes, I started boiling the billies in the open cut. I graduated; I started serving my time as a fitter and turner. Then I joined the army and played up.
Can you tell us a bit about your parents, their background?


Yes, I had wonderful parents. I had five sisters and one brother. Three sisters younger than me, the others were all elder. My brother was older than me. We had a real good life. Dad was assistant manager of a little mine called the Comstock about five mile out of Queenstown from Mount Lyall. Yeah, we had a good life when we were kids. Yeah, real good.


Your dad, did he serve in the First World War?
No, no. Dad was born in Austria and he came out about 1900 I think. In them days they used to send the young kids from school down to the German Navy. Him and another bloke, at sixteen or something, they had to go down to some place in Germany for the navy. Anyway, they wasn’t going to the navy so they jumped ship and come to Tasmania, and


they went up to a place, it’s Collinsvale, Colin’s Gap. They used to call that Germantown.
Yeah, and of course they were Austrian. The German people hid them up there for a while and then they walked through to the west coast to work in Queenstown. Dad was there when the big mine disaster was on in 1912. He was underground when that happened. Yeah, so he had a brother. He was a professor, a


doctor, a professor. The last letter we had from him was about 1938 and he was telling Dad all about the war was going to start, how they were hoarding butter. We never heard no more from him after the war.
And that was from Austria, was it?
He was in Austria, yeah. Dad’s father was Irish, his mother was Austrian. Yeah, so that’s Dad’s life. Mum was born up at Collinsvale


and she went to Queenstown when they got married and Mum died there.
That’s an interesting mix you have, you’re half Austrian and half Irish on your dad’s side.
What was your mother’s background?
Mum was English, a pom. I’m a Tasmanian.
Huge differences, hey?
Yeah, I’m not Australian, I’m a Tasmanian.
A bit of a Tassie Devil?


So I take it your father would’ve been a Catholic?
I’ll say, yeah. I’m not. I’m English.
Did you have a strict religious upbringing?
No, we were never strict. We were made to go to school, made to go to Sunday School and when we got confirmed in the English Church


it was up to us then whether we went to church or not. I wasn’t very religious.
Can you tell us what role the church played in your lives just on a weekly sort of basis?
Very little in my life, mate.
Even in your young days?
In my young days I went to Sunday school, but when I got older and got confirmed I give the Church away. I used to go to Church at Easter time and Christmas time with Mum,


but that was all. I wasn’t a very religious fellow.
During the Depression can you tell us how it impacted on your family?
Well around in Queenstown they never felt the Depression. Always had work there and no one ever starved around there. No, the west coast never felt the Depression. Zeehan did, Rosebery


did, but Queenstown never. A lot of the mines shut down, the Zeehan mines and Rosebery and that went down. A lot of the miners came from Zeehan and Rosebery worked in Queenstown, but in Queenstown you never felt the Depression at all. Was always plenty of food, a few bob, a couple of beers. That was out life through the Depression.
What was the general sort of stuff you’d eat during that period?
I beg your pardon?


bread and dripping a part of the
No, we were pretty right. We used to have plenty of meat and plenty of vegetables.
So you didn’t have bread and dripping?
As kids we had bread and dripping. Everyone had bread and dripping when we were kids, pepper and salt. Come home from school, grab a loaf of bread and dripping, but no, it was always pretty good meals. We used to have porridge for breakfast too, but it was all good solid food, not like today, this


junk food.
You’d be shot dead if you were eating bread and dripping today.
They don’t believe you, the kids today. We used to live on rabbits and kangaroo, you know what I mean? They don’t believe you, the kids today, “You never used to eat that Dad!”
You’ve got supermarkets now.
I’ve got supermarkets. As a matter of fact I had a curried rabbit for tea on Monday night. I had it curried


for tea on Monday night.
So you’d go hunting for your own rabbits?
We used to in them days, yeah. When we were kids, eight or nine, I had a great mate. We used to go away shooting everywhere. We were only eight or nine years of age. We started off with a 22 rifle and then we got a 410 and then we got a single shotgun. We used to go away shooting all the weekend in the bush on our own. Gold scratched out of the rivers, get a few bob.
And kangaroos as well?


lovely days, good days, rain, wet, but you enjoyed it. No, it was a pretty hard life but it was a good life, a good clean life.
What was hard about it?
The weather conditions. As I said like, it would be snowing and raining. One year it rained 360 days in one year, it did around there. It was always raining a lot and cold, but outside of that it was a good life.


You were saying before about your father’s Austrian heritage. I’m curious to know whether he spoke German or German/Austrian, I think it’s very much similar.
Mainly, they all sort of speak the same language. Yeah, he used to speak all the languages.
Did he teach you that?
No, no. When I told him I was going to join the army he said, “Don’t tell them you’re a German son.”


No, Dad, when Dad come here and lived as an Australian and never interfered. He used to like his few beers now and again. No, Dad never interfered with anything.
Can you tell us about the German population in Queenstown?
There weren’t many Germans in Queenstown. It was all up around Collinsvale, it used to be called Germantown. There used to be a hell of


a lot of German and Dutch up there I believe, you know what I mean, from what I can gather. There were a few Germans in Queenstown, not a lot. After the First World War there were a few Germans went around there to work, coming out from Germany I suppose after the First World War, but they were all good citizens, good citizens and a lot of Italians came out. They came out just after the First World War.


They had pretty good citizens around, good workers. I can tell you a story about a couple of them Germans. They worked at, I knew them when I was in Tobruk. I was going past a prisoner of war camp one day in Tobruk and a bloke sung out, “How are you going Don?” It was one of these Germans. They’d left, they worked at the Comstock, but they left late in ’38. They used to go back and buy these sort of a little village. They had


plenty of money working underground so they went back and bought a couple of villages they told me, or this friend did. When the war broke out Mussolini threw them in the army so I ran into them in Tobruk.
And he was from Tasmania?
Yeah, yeah. You run into them, you run into people from everywhere.
Did you say this guy was a German or an Italian?
He was an Italian bloke. They used to buy, a think they call them villas or something. They used to buy these


little areas where they had grapes and all that, and he finished up Mussolini threw him in the army and we had him for a prisoner in Tobruk.
We must ask you about that later on. It’s an interesting encounter. Can you tell us about Empire. Was it important to you in those days?
No. No, we just joined the army I think for adventure. We were never worried about kings and queens. I think


it was just young and adventure I think.
What sort of adventure were you looking for?
Well, I suppose excitement or whatever you liked, how you like to go about getting probably out of Queenstown. For one thing, a lot of people couldn’t get out. I think it was just a matter of trying to get away from Queenstown at the time.
What were your aspirations as a


young lad? What did you want to do with your life before the war started?
I wanted to be a boxer and a runner. That’s all I wanted to be, and a footballer. Yes.
Was life in Queenstown boring?
No, it was very good. As I said there was plenty of sport, used to have plenty of dances. I wasn’t a dancer. I wasn’t a twinkle toes.


There was always plenty of sport, things like that. No, it was a very good town for things like that.
Did you know the war was starting before it did?
Yes. I was playing poker on Sunday night when Churchill made the speech. I think it was Churchill. It was at a place called Comstock Work and


Mum and Dad used to have the boarding house out there. We had about fifty, sixty boarders. They used to all live in huts. They used to only come in to get their meals and that in the boarding house. It was a pay weekend and we always used to play poker on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights when we were young and we were playing poker when they gave it out about 9.00 o’clock. Three or four of us looked at one another and said, “What are we going to do?” One bloke said, “We join the bloody army, mate.” When they came through,


that was in September, when they came through to enlist in October we all went and joined up. So yeah, that was it. They kept saying, “You’ll be sorry.”
Who kept on saying that?
Everyone you see, “You’ll be sorry, son.” We were sorry at times, but we had a pretty good time, yeah.
The people who were saying that, were they from World War I?
World War I, yes. Yes, we had a fair few World War I blokes around there.


Actually, one bloke was the manager of the mine and they tried to stop a lot of us from joining up. They said it was an essential service and all that, but under the lap he said, “I’m pleased to see youse go.” He was a very nice chap, he was.
Did the World War I vets ever talk about their war experience?
No, no.


They just never. Like I always found all the Second World War vets, they don’t like talking about the bad times. They’ll always talk about the good times, you know what I mean, but they never used to talk about their experiences much until after we came home from the Second World War and we joined the RSL [Returned and Services League] clubs. There’d be dinners on Anzac eve and all that. The old First War blokes, they’d be telling us and asking us, but they’d


never talk it outside the club. It was just in amongst their own members.
What sort of things did they talk about?
They used to talk about in the trenches and all that sort of thing, and I said, “Our war was different.” There wasn’t a lot of trench warfare in our Second World War, only in the desert, but it wasn’t nowhere near what they saw in the First World War in France and that, the mud and shit.


See, they never had the planes and the tanks like we used to have, or we had in the Second World War either. They must’ve had it pretty tough, them poor devils in the First World War. They must’ve had it very very tough with the gas and all that. We had no problem. We carried a gas mask for two years and never ever used it, so we were lucky they never used gas, you know what I mean?
You must’ve had German relatives who fought against


the British and the Aussies in the First World War?
I beg your pardon?
You must’ve relatives from Germany or Austria who fought against the Aussies and the British in the First World War?
No, I don’t think so. I mean I don’t know because, see, Dad’s father, he’d have been too old to go to the war in the First World War, and Dad and his brother weren’t old enough. I don’t know about my old grandmother’s side. I don’t know


very much about her. She wasn’t a bad looking sheila being Austrian, but I don’t know.
I’ll ask you more about questions like that a bit later actually. So, I take it a lot of chaps from Queenstown did join up?
Yes, I think,


I’m not quite sure, I think it was about 400 or 500 come away in the first lot with us which was a lot for a little town like that. I think it was 400 or 500. Most of them went into the 12th Battalion, infantry battalion. As you lined up, when we got to (UNCLEAR), they lined us all up and as you went past they’d say, “What was you? What was that? What were you doing underground?” nearly everyone said miner, so they’d say, “Over there,


over there.” When it come my turn and I saw my mates, they went to the 12th Battalion and when I came along I said, “I’m a miner.” He said, “You go over there,” and I finished up with the engineers, but I wanted to go to the 12th Battalion and missed out on it, you see. I asked a couple of times to transfer me but they wouldn’t transfer me. I stopped there in engineers. I suppose I was lucky. But they talked, you know, in all these accounts they don’t talk much about the engineers.


They call them the pride of the army and the shit in the line. Of course they’re always there for infantry and they’re always last out. But engineers don’t get much recognition. See, they’ve got to be ahead of the infantry to let them out through the barbed wire or the mines, whatever the case may be. Then when you get up to the enemy lines, you’ve got to go; you might have to go ahead of the infantry to lift the enemy’s blown barbed wire. When you come back you’ve got


to connect the wires up in our own mine field. So the engineers don’t get much recognition. It’s always first in and last out.
Yeah, OK. Can you please tell us about the training, where you went in Victoria before you went?
We went into camp, I think it was about the 10th of November roughly, but you never went on what they called the strength until the 27th of November


and we left Hobart, I think it was about the 12th of December they took us up to Raymond Terrace just out of Maitland. I’ll tell you about that after too. But anyway, we went there. All we did was learn to slope arms and all that bauble. But then we went up to Ingleburn in January, that’s when we settled down to rigid courses and barbed wire, how to put barbed wire up and how to lay minefields and things like that.


It was pretty, very interesting work, engineers. Of course they’re into everything; they go for road building, they go for power into towns or whatever. What you learn in engineers you can always take on in civvy life afterwards and that’s where a lot of our blokes done really well. In Tobruk I said to the transport sergeant, “Can I get a couple of these Italians?”


They’re great mechanics on diesels. We never had much diesel in Australia before the war. So the transport sergeant got us a couple of prisoners and they showed us a terrible lot about diesels you see. That’s how I finished up with a good job in Mount Lyall after I come back because I knew a lot about diesels.
Did you find the training tough?
I beg your pardon.
Did you find the training tough?
Bloody hell it was tough, going over barbed


wire and running around with bayonets in your hand stabbing bags of straw, things like that. No, it was pretty hard training. They drilled us very hard to get you into good condition. Going back a little bit when we first went into Brighton Camp the reveille used to be at 6.00 o’clock. They’d give you a cup of coffee. At quarter past 6.00, twenty past 6.00 you had to be out on the parade ground and you ran from Brighton down to Bridgewater and back.


Then you had to have a shave, wash and have breakfast at 8.00 o’clock. It’s a long way for a runner when you’re green from Brighton down to Bridgewater and back of a morning. But you got in really good condition and you were really well trained. It’s hard for a start. You really enjoy it.
How long would the training have gone for, the basic training in Tasmania?
Only about three weeks, a fortnight or three weeks.


They sent us over to Raymond Terrace you see. We never did much at Raymond Terrace. I’ll tell you about a strike we had there. They were going to shoot us all they reckon, and they never, over uniforms, but no, we never did really a lot at, of course we knew once the first brigade went out of Ingleburn in January to go overseas, we were going up to Ingleburn to finish our training up there, you see. So we never got really much training at


Raymond Terrace at all, but they hammered us when we got up to Ingleburn, bridge building and things like that.
What did it involve to be in the engineers? You were a field engineer?
What sort of tasks, specific training tasks did they allot you?
Well, first of all you had to learn about barbed wire, putting up barbed wire, mine fields, going on patrol with the infantry,


things like that. Then we had to learn to make roads out of anything you could get, road building. You had electricians, you had crane drivers in your units, everything come into engineers. It was a pretty…. you had to be pretty fit and you had to have, well I never had much brains but you were supposed to have brains,


but I never had much. But it’s a very good thing. I’d advise anyone, go into the army, join the engineers because you can learn so much that when you come out of the army you can go and get a job somewhere, electricians, fitters and turners, crane drivers, truck drivers, bulldozer drivers, whatever, you see.
What was the difference between the engineers and the pioneers?
Engineers and?
And the pioneers.


A good question too. The pioneers are nicer, but they used to use the pioneers mainly for infantry, burying people, burying corpses. But we used to learn the pioneers lift mines too. A lot of the pioneers weren’t used as engineers, only the odd case, but mainly they were used as infantry, things


like that, the pioneers. That was a good mob too. I’ll tell you about the pioneers later.
I look forward to it. By the way can you tell us what the exact name of your unit was?
How many in the unit?
No no, what was your exact unit? What was the name of it?
The unit I was in? The 2/3rd Field Company. It consisted of roughly 260 men.


They started off calling them sections and then they altered them to platoons and each platoon was roughly sixty men and you had one lieutenant and a couple of sergeants and a couple of corporals to each platoon.
How long did your training last in Australia?
How long?
Did your training last in Australia?
We went really from Ingleburn and then we sailed in May, but they gave us


twenty-one leaves to come home. It was about three or four months hard training. The engineers I was with, we did a lot of bridge building and a lot of road building. That consisted of most of our training. We did barbed wire and mine laying and that but our main thing was bridge building and road building. Pick and shovel, we never had the bulldozers then. Pick and shovel.


Did you know where you were going to be deployed once you finished your training?
So what happened, what took place when you finished your training in Australia?
We were in the 18th Brigade in D Company I was with and they said we were going to go to the Middle East and we got on the boats, away we went, blah blah. But instead of going to the Middle East they shot us


to Capetown. “Are we going to England?” And they said, the rumour was they were going to put us into France, but it was about three days out of Scotland when France fell, three or four days. So we never went to France so we were lucky. Had about six months in England and back to the Middle East.
Tell us about your voyage? What was the name of the ship you boarded?
We went over on the


Mauritania, was about a 48,000, 49,000 ton ship. She’s just done a maiden voyage from England to America so when it came to Australia we had beautiful cabins, all these beautiful bunks, cabin beds, the best of everything on it. We had a wonderful trip going to England on it. The meals were perfect; you couldn’t fault it, and the beds


were wonderful beds. They were going to put passengers in them, you see. We had a wonderful trip to England, Queen Mary and the Mauritania, the Isle de France, Aquitania, I can’t think of the names of the rest of the boats, but it was one of the biggest convoys ever left Australia they said, up till that time. Plenty of warships, plenty of cruisers to protect us. We had a good time. Had a good time in Capetown before we landed. We had a couple of days in


I heard you got up to no good?
Well, we won’t mention that. Then we landed in Goorick in Scotland, then we come down by train to England. Do you want me to go on with that story or not?
No actually. Just a bit more on the voyage. The actual facilities on the ship, the Mauritania, tell us about that?
Oh, it was unbelievable, but we did a lot of training on the ship. There was no sitting around. We did bayonet training,


and tie knots and ropes, lashes and all that sort of thing. Plenty of training, plenty of sport, boxing, running, medicine ball, any sport, but you had to do it. Everyone had to join in some sport. There was no sitting around like you were a passenger. You had to do your training and you had to be in some sort of sport which was good, you know what I mean. Yeah, I saw some lovely boxers on that trip to England.


Were you involved in any boxing competitions?
I had a couple of goes.
How did you go?
Fair, fair. Win won, you lose won. If you win one you still get a hiding, mate. No, we had some good boxers too on the boats. One bloke I can remember was a bloke named Yank Henneberry. He was a brother to Fred Henneberry, the middle weight champion of Australia. Yank Henneberry was a heavy weight, he was a good boxer. He was on the same boat as us


going to England and that, yes.
What about in your spare time, I heard two-up was popular on the ships?
Two-up was going all the time. Wasn’t suppose to play two-up but it was going all the time.
Why weren’t you supposed to play two-up?
I beg your pardon?
Why was that? You said you couldn’t play two-up.
According to the army you weren’t allowed to play two-up but everyone played it because the army was never hard on it. It’s our local game. Two-up is an Australian game,


and they used to give us three tickets to get our beer of a night, but you had to line up and you’d be hours getting along to get your three beers, you know what I mean, so we’d sell them to someone or give them away to one of your mates. Mainly sell them, make a quid, and play two-up. A mate of mine, he got into two-up and he had three kit bags full of pound notes, ten bob notes and five pound notes.


When we got to Capetown him and I had a marvellous time because he had the money and I had the time. His name was Jackie Stewart and that’s his nephew, that Ian Stewart that played football with St Kilda and Richmond.
I’ve heard stories where people were thrown overboard for trying to stop people from playing two-up?
No, I never got mixed up with it. I know where they got rid of a lieutenant.


He went overboard between Fremantle and Capetown. He was smart, this little smart boy, so he went overboard one night.
You’re fair dinkum here?
Yes. Lived on the sharks probably, or the sharks lived on him.
So this did happen to a lieutenant?
Oh a lieutenant, a lieutenant.
What was the reason, what took place?
Well we won’t discuss that, will we like?


Well it’s fifty years ago?
But you get these smart young blokes; do you know what I mean? And they don’t go down with some blokes and he was a bit of a bugger. They warned him a couple of times.
Who warned him?
All his mates, the platoons. They warned him a couple, they said, “If you don’t behave yourself or pull yourself in you’ll go overboard,” but he kept on and he did go bloody overboard.
What sort of things was he doing to antagonise the soldiers?


Trying to make them do things they never really had to do and things like that. Being a little smart boy. He was a young bloke about twenty-five, university degree, he thought he was above everyone else but he found himself at the bottom of the ocean. You don’t tangle with ordinary men off these cattle stations or miners just ‘cause you’ve got a university degree.


How did you find the officers, I mean speaking of this?
The engineers, our company, we had terrific officers. You might get one or two, but we pegged them down a bit. No, we had, our first officer we had was a captain. He started off as Captain Bob Rish and he finished up as a major general, but he came from Victoria. He came over to Tassie to see us engineers because he was going to be in charge of the company, but he turned out a real


champion bloke. Couldn’t get a finer bloke. Most of our officers were really good. Yes, they were really good, but old Bob as we called him, he was an unbelievable bloke. I can tell you a lot about him later. Champion bloke he was.
Now that incident about the man overboard, was that investigated by the army?
They tried to. They tried to investigate, but


they came to a blank wall. No one knows, didn’t know what happened to him. They knew what happened but they couldn’t prove it. I believe it happened on other ships too, but I don’t know. I know it happened on the Mauritania. I know that did happen on the Mauritania. Just a bit unlucky, wasn’t he?
I think he made his way to Ceylon.


I wouldn’t know where. The sharks got him. The sharks got him I reckon.
I’ve been told by other blokes, other diggers that a lot of people saw the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] as fairly robust, strong, sort of full on, a full on force, you know?
Oh yeah, yeah.
The chaps in it that is. Like you were telling me about some of these guys.


Did some of these guys have some pretty rough backgrounds?
See, a lot of them come off cattle stations, mining. See, and the Depression, poor buggers, just the end of the Depression, ’39, when the war broke out. I think you had to be five foot nine I think were the shortest. Your chest had to be so much expanded, so many inches, all of that, when they first took them in, so you get some


pretty tall blokes and pretty strong blokes and a lot of them had been on the track on the Depression walking all over Australia for a feed or a job. They were a pretty lot of tough customers. You knew when to open your mouth and you knew when to shut it, or they’d shut it for you.
Did some of the fights get pretty serious?
I beg your pardon?
Did some of these fights, I mean this sounds like a serious incident obviously, a guy thrown overboard, but would some of the fights also get quite serious quickly?


Yeah. Every time we went into the ring to have a fight on the boats it was all serious, like there was no pulling no punches. You got into it, you know what I mean. But it wasn’t allowed to go up where the nurses were. That was for officers only.
The nurses.
The nurses on the boats, you know what I mean. But we couldn’t mix with them, they were the officers.


By the way, just be careful about the mike there, Don.
No worries. What about Capetown when you stopped at Capetown?
Yes, we had a marvellous time at Capetown, yes. Two or three days there and played up a little bit, but people were very good to us. A few beers, a few fights.
Oh yeah, got in a fight, get half pissed.
With the locals?
No, among yourselves.


You might get stuck into some other mob, not your own mob, some other, might get stuck up some infantry blokes, might be a couple of artillery blokes. A bit of practise I suppose when you get half charged.
Was this at one of the pubs?
Maybe in the streets. Yeah, they’ve got big streets over there in Capetown and that. But the people, the locals were very good to us.
Tell us about the fights you got into?
Well, you get on the grog over there


and it might be an artillery bloke, it might be a bloody infantry bloke or whatever. You might be having a few, a bit of a snarl and you get into it. The next there’d be probably fifty or sixty fighting. He didn’t know who he was fighting.
It became a big brawl?
Oh yeah, all a bit pissed. But they used to cart the barrels along in horse, big long drays, a big barrel. We pinched a couple of barrels off these horse and carts and got into it.


But this is part of army life, really good.
What about, what were the other entertainment things you got up to, activities?
What do you mean by other entertainment? You mean the girls?
Yeah, of course I do. What else would I mean?
I wouldn’t know. Yeah, we loved the girls mate. Good old Aussies love the girls, we love the pretty girls.


We’re going to have to pause now. We’re going to change the tape.
Interviewee: Donald Cody Archive ID 1772 Tape 02


At this point in the trip and the journey was there a mateship already being formed between you and the others?
Beg your pardon?
Was there a mateship being formed you and the other soldiers?
Well it was all a good mix and good mates. They were always mates. We used to watch the infantry train. They trained very hard on the boats, the infantry, we did too, but we were all good mates.
Was it


like a family?
Oh yeah, thick as thieves, stuck like shit to a rag. No, they were all great people.
Would you look out for each other and so on?
Yeah, always looked after one another. Everyone looked after, even if you didn’t know the Australian, someone was doing the wrong thing by him, you went and helped him and looked after one another. They were very


thick, the Australians, to one another, very very thick. They won’t see no one down trodden either if you know what I mean.
Who were your closest mates at this time in Capetown and so on?
Well, mainly the blokes from Queenstown. I think there were about thirty engineers from Queenstown, nearly a hundred infantry blokes, all in the


12th Battalion. We all joined up together, we were all great mates.
Was it a big or a large group? Did you have a small group of mates?
We had small groups, but mainly all in big groups. There was about five engineers in a little group. We used to stick mainly to about five or six of us, you know what I mean. But in the big groups we all got together and done whatever we wanted.


You were drinking a lot in Capetown and so on, yeah?
Oh God, yes, we had our share there.
Were you also able to drink when you weren’t on leave?
When you were on leave you could drink. You could drink when you were on leave.
But when you were on active duty did they provide beer or anything?


Never seen, I’ve heard blokes say they used to give them rum before they went out on patrol. We were never allowed to have a drink of rum before we went on a patrol, but when we came back after patrol we’d get a little bit in our enamel mug, a bit of rum, but not to go out before. Some people said they used to get them half charged and send them out. That’s all bullshit. We never got a drink until we came back.


Never ever got a drink.
And while you were on the journey to Capetown, were you drinking on the ship as well?
It was allowed. See, they used to call them Lady Blamey, that was a beer bottle with the neck cut off them, you know. We’d get about three of them a night, but they issued a ticket. They used to issue you with tickets, you see. If you had some good mates


and they didn’t want a drink you’d give them a dozen of these Lady Blameys and that. But the beer, some of the beer wasn’t too bloody good either. It was cheap beer I think.
So there was a ticket system you were saying?
Yeah, you pay so much for your ticket, I think about sixpence of something, but you were only allowed a certain number, say three tickets. So you paid that. So you wasn’t supposed to have too much to drink, you see.


But then the guys who didn’t drink would give their tickets away?
Yeah, I mean it helped your mates out or they’d help you out. It depends what sort of, if you want to play two-up, you’d say, “I’ll sell you my tickets for….” it’s be three tickets for two bob and you’d go down and play two-up with it.
How big was two-up?
Two-up was big. I seen some big business. It might sound a bit out of place but I’ve seen people back £100 in a bet, one straight out bet,


which was a big lot of money in them days. I’ll tell you about some two-up after we got up to the Tablelands when we came back from the Middle East, how big the bets were up there in them days. Yes, there’d be some big gamblers.
Can you describe the scene of two-up taking place?
Yeah, you’ve got a square or a circle and you all sit around or stand around. You’ve got your ring keepers and bloke with the pennies.


You might want to back heads and they back tails and money there and money there, and another bloke, the spinner comes in and away you go. They’re looking up like the Yanks you see, “Them Aussies are looking up again, and we say, “Yes, we’re bloody praying for you mongrels.” You’re head would go up and your head would come down watching the pennies.
How many people would be taking part


in this?
Probably anything, 400 or 500. It would be a big round, it would be round and round, fair dinkum. Like, well I’d say on the average at least 100, 150, but some of them probably had 200 or 300. Depends how big the school was and how much room you had, yes.
And how would the money be organised?


if you’re going to spin for money you had a ring keeper. He’d come along and he’d say, “How much are you going to spin for?” You might say, “Ten bob.” Then he’d sing out, “I want ten bob in the guts.” But other bets were among yourselves out around there, but you daren’t cause no trouble, no thieving. But you made your bets around with, say around the ring. The ring keeper being what they used to call


the guts, money in the guts.
So the betting would take place between individuals?
Individuals, yeah, yeah.
And if there was thieving what would happen?
I wouldn’t like to say. I don’t know. Mainly the bloke with the spin he’d be spinning for heads. He could nominate his spin for tails but normally he spun for heads you see, yes. I’ve seen some big money


won and lost. Yes, I’ve seen one bloke one night; he walked in, he said, “I’ll spin for 100.” He had it on four times and he walked out with roughly £1200 all in about a quarter of an hour, but that’s another story.
It was a big game?
Oh, it was a big game, yes, yes, very serious too


they used to take it.
I’ve heard in the past that if someone was, thieves and liars, they wouldn’t survive, would they?
They wouldn’t survive, no no no. One thing you were always taught in the army, you never thieved off your mates. You daren’t thieve off your mates. I mean you might thieve a bit of stuff from another unit but you weren’t allowed to thieve off your mates because that was a sin. That was always, from the day


you joined the army you don’t thieve off your mates.
Do you know if there was a criminal element in the army at that time?
Christ, the bloody crims came out of bloody Pentridge and were joined up, but I mean they never done nothing wrong in the army. You got the odd thief in the army, a blah blah, which is only natural, but most of the blokes were really honest and with their mates, they were very honest with their mates. It doesn’t matter what bad records you had, they were never


bad people.
Do you think the guys from Pentridge and so on saw it as a new start?
Yes, I do, yeah. They came from Rushcutters Bay and all the bloody underworld. Jesus Christ, they came from the underworld. I knew a few of them, but there was no problem in the army. They were good blokes. I suppose they had to thieve when the Depression was on, I don’t know.
And everyone knew who they were?
More or less. They’d tell you. There was no trying to hide it, they’d tell you,


you know what I mean, blah blah. No, they were all good blokes, yes.
Probably you need those tough guys in war?
Well you’ve got to have one or two of them, haven’t you? You’ve got to have one or two of them, but I found a lot of these quiet blokes, they were dangerous ones. A lot of these quiet blokes, they were the ones you had to watch. You get a few with a big mouth, when you get them in the front line they weren’t worth two bob, but you get the quiet bloke, it’s


just one of those things.
Were people, were others worried about the criminal element?
No, all joined in, mate, all joined in. If they’d done anything wrong they’d all be on to them and they probably knew it.
They’d be thrown overboard?
I won’t say overboard, but they’d get rid of them somehow. See, if you get anyone bad they might send them out of the unit too, if you want anyone


transferred. If you play up in the unit they get rid of you.
Was it very political in that sense?
No, no, not political. Not political. I got rid of a bloody lieutenant in New Guinea just over, he done wrong. I rang up (UNCLEAR) signal, I said, “Don’t want him up here on the front line with us, mate.” He said, “He’ll be back on the bloody boat to Australia tonight.” and


he was. That was up in bloody Finschhafen.
What was the worst thing you saw on the trip to Capetown?
Oh, I don’t know what would be the worst. I wouldn’t know. I don’t think there was anything bad going on, you know mate. I don’t think there was anything bad on our trip on the boats. See, you’re in a confined space of a boat too. I mean it’s pretty hard to do anything bad. But no, I don’t remember anything bad on the boats.


The lieutenant you said that got thrown overboard, did you happen to see that?
I seen it with my own eyes mate. I suppose I was about ten foot away when it happened.
And how did they do it, they picked him up?
Four blokes picked him up, over. They conned him, they conned him he was wanted up in the end of the boat, up the back of the boat.


He was conned. When he went up there these four blokes, oof, over. That was it. I think it was a 9th Battalion bloke.
Were you startled or surprised?
Were you startled or surprised by this?
We weren’t surprised. Look, I’d say there was ninety percent of the blokes on the boat knew they were going to get rid of him. When or what sort of thing, but in the afternoon we got the tip that he was going to get


rid of that night. So it was no surprise to anyone really.
And that was before or after Capetown?
Before Capetown. Between, I don’t know for sure but I believe a lot of it went on when we were in, we had a couple of days in Fremantle in Perth on our way over, and I think something that happened there really sent it off.


What happened I don’t really know. I don’t want to know, but apparently I think it triggered off what happened in Fremantle or in Perth while we were there for two or three days. He had to go, he had to go. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.
By the time you reached Capetown and you were on leave and you were drinking and having a good time, what were you thinking about army life at this stage?


Bugger the army, mate, we’re having a good time. We were having a good time. You don’t think, you don’t think of the army all the time, you know what I mean, but at the back of the mind. When you’re on leave you don’t think about the army. You don’t think of the front line blah blah. You just have a good time, live it up while you can because tomorrow you mightn’t be there.
Was that a big thought in people’s minds, that tomorrow we’re in battle?
This is right, yeah. I think, I’d say eighty, ninety


percent, have a good time today mate, we mightn’t be here tomorrow, which you didn’t know either. You didn’t know, did you?
On that thought it’s strange that people would be like winning so much at two-up when it might not count in a few weeks time?
Well I mean, that’s the way life goes. You live today and die tomorrow, or vice versa. But no, I think that was everyone’s attitude,


have a good time today, mate, you mightn’t be here tomorrow type of, you know what I mean, which is pretty true when you work it out.
And how long were you in Capetown?
We had about four days, four days. We were only supposed to have one day’s leave because they never let everyone off the boat all at, only so many off each boat at a time, you see. Sometimes you never went back that night.


You were supposed to go back that night, you see. Some blokes never went back and they stopped an extra day.
Would that happen often, AWL[ Absent Without Leave]?
Oh God, yes mate. When they get up before the bloody OC [Officer Commanding] and he’d say, he had a great habit of saying, “£3 and one day’s pay,” or, “£5 and one day’s pay,” depends on the circumstances, but that’s all they could say, £3 and one day’s pay or £5 and one day’s pay. Not many bloody pound


in the one day’s pay, £3 and £5. We were only on bloody five bob a day and then a bloody fortnight’s wages gone in one hit. So that’s why you never went AWL too much. You couldn’t afford it.
So they were pretty harsh about it?
Oh, they were hard; hard as goats’ knees some of them bloody officers. I don’t think they had a mother or a father some of them.


What was the relationship between the officers and the enlisted men?
Well I mean I suppose our company would be, ours was great. Ours was really great. Our OC, if he had to fine you he’d be making excuses to how sorry he was, and he really wasn’t so hard when he had to fine you, but he’d be trying to make excuses to you. Our officers were very good, you see. Being a small unit you’re


more closely knit and things like that.
And when you were in Capetown was there organisation of any dances or anything like that?
Never had time for dances, mate. We were too busy boozing, and other things.
Do you want to expand on that a bit? Was it twenty-four hours you


were constantly gong for these four days?
If you could fit twenty-six hours in twenty-four you would. You were going all the time. Generally you’d leave the boat of a morning about 8.00 o’clock or half past 8.00 and you had to back at what they call 23.59 which is 12.00 o’clock at night, you see. That was your, fifteen or sixteen hours, something like that. If you was on a good sort well


you’d hang on a bit longer, wouldn’t you? When you’re on a good thing you stick to them, mate.
Were there many good things in Capetown?
Yes, yes, yes. There’s no bad things.
Did you have a chance to mix with the locals at all there?
Yes. This bloke I said won all the money and I went ashore and we just called in, sort of got into the town


and a bloke and his wife with his two daughters picked us up and they took us around. We never had no beer until late in the afternoon. They took us, he had a car there, up to the mountain, Table Mountain or something, whatever it was, but they were very good.
Did you see many of the black population?
Yes, a lot of blacks. They’ve got them, Capetown they’ve got that real browny yellowy


skin, not bad looking sheilas.
What did you see of how they were integrating the population?
See, you’re only there for a day. You don’t see what goes on between the blacks and the whites whatever the case may be, but what we seen they seemed to be alright, like in Capetown itself. Because when you went ashore


you had to, what they call town pickets. I know different blokes, so many from each units used to walk around with a bayonet strapped on their side, town pickets. They’d go where the provos [Military Police] were supposed to. I think the bloody town pickets take the provos around the back while the blokes played up. No, but they were really good. People were really good in Capetown.
Did there seem to be a lot of conflict between blacks and whites at the time?
No, no.


Well like I say, we were only there for, so you never sort of see, they’d talk, say gooday as they walked past, but I couldn’t see too much. But you don’t know what goes on deep down, do we, under the skin.
When you’re not there?
When you’re not there, yeah. We found them very good. Of course you get bad elements in everything. We’ve got bad Australians too.
So after Capetown


where did you head to?
We went to Scotland. We landed at a place called Goorick and then they took us by train down to England.
What was Scotland like?
We were only there for about three hours but we went back for a few days leave later. It was lovely. Lovely place Scotland. I’ll tell you about that later on.
When you’re travelling to all these places, is this what you wanted as part of army life, to travel?


I suppose so, yeah. They took us down to Salisbury Plains, down to, they sent us down to Bath because they thought the Germans were going to come across the Channel, you see. They sent the infantry down. The engineers, they wanted us to dig bloody trenches for tank traps about bloody thirty foot wide and fifteen foot deep with a bloody pick and shovel. I wouldn’t be in this, so I made myself a cook for a few months,


turned myself into a cook.
This is in Bath?
In Bath, yeah.
In England?
We pinched bloody sheep and blew his fish up. I’ll tell you that.
So you’re building trenches in England in case there was a land invasion?
Yeah, they thought they were going to come across the channel, you see.
What year was this?
1940. We landed in England about June, just when


France fell. As I said, the rumour was they were going to send our brigade over into France. Apparently that was the rumour, but France fell a couple of days before we got to Scotland, you see. Probably we were lucky, but when we were coming down by train there was still a lot, there’d been a lot out of Dunkirk. A lot of the Pommy blokes were still coming across in the boats from Dunkirk when we got down there.
Was that a hard defeat, Dunkirk, from


what you saw?
Oh, the poor devils, yes. See, you can’t charge tanks with rifles and bloody bayonets, can you, you know what I mean? And planes, they had plenty of planes, they had nothing. We were there in August when the big London Blitz was in London about a few of us; four or five from our unit were on a couple of days leave. They shot down I think it was 500 or 600 German planes that day. But you’d come out from the tube station, down


the tube station to get away from the bloody bombing, you’d come up and see a big square of buildings, pubs, shops. When you came back up it would be just flat. That’s how bad the bombing was.
The Battle of Britain was taking place at this time?
That was it, the Battle of Britain, yeah, in August. I got a little clip on my ribbons in there to say I was in the Battle of Britain. That was another, some of us got the little clip, Battle of Britain wrote on it.


We thought only their air force was to get them, you know what I mean, but after the war they sent them out from England to some of us who served in England. I’ll show you them after.
So what officially was your role in the Battle of Britain?
Hiding. Hiding mate, hiding from too many bombs coming down.
So it was more because you were there?
Yeah, because we were there.
And digging the trenches?
See, we had to,


we went to see a couple of blokes from Tasmania, pilots. They were in the Battle of Britain. One bloke, his father used to be a doctor, a Dr Ratt. I knew Jack Ratt. Jack used to be, Jack Ratt used to go to university and was learning to be a mining engineer and when they had holidays from the university, say over Christmas, a lot of them used to come around the west coast and work underground for experience. That’s how I met Jack Ratt, and when I went to


England he was over there in the air force. He was a Battle of Britain pilot. A couple of other blokes, I can’t remember. A couple of other Tassies.
What would you see from the ground in the Battle of Britain? Could you see dogfights? Could you see anything?
Oh, you could see them fighting mate. Falling down, it was horrible to watch. Everyone would cheer when a German plane came down, a bomber or a fighter. Everyone would cheer, but you sort of got out of the road. But you could see them in the air.


You could see miles away flying, and dogfights was unbelievable, unbelievable to watch them. All them ack-ack [anti-aircraft] guns would be going, shooting up, but they sent all balloons all over the place too. London was covered in balloons. Yeah, it’s not a very nice feeling.
Were the skies just full of action, were they?
Oh, it would be full of everything.


Full of planes, all the bloody pieces, full of bloody balloons, bloody ack-ack guns going. You really had to, I honestly don’t know how the poor people, the civilians in England stood up to it for so long. I honestly don’t. People in Australia don’t really know what the poor civilians suffered in the Battle of Britain in them days. I don’t know how their nerves stood up to it


day and night, day and night. We had no air force in them days either. Yeah.
You say people don’t understand what was happening, can you describe more about what was happening to them?
I don’t know how you’d understand, wouldn’t know. I don’t know how.
What destruction did you see?
God, I’ve seen


acres and acres of shops blown down and digging bloody, help try and dig people out. Like everyone hopped in, we were supposed to be on leave but it any buildings went down and we happened to be there, we’d be in there trying to dig the people out to, you know what I mean. But most of the air raids, if they got time, they’d be down in the tube stations underground. No, it was shocking, it was really shocking.
So they used the railways as bunkers?
I beg your pardon?
They used


the railways system as bunkers?
Yes, as bunkers, yeah. They called them tube stations. If you get down there mate, them poor buggers would be taking their blankets and tucker all day long. If you were lucky enough you could work in next to a good sheila, if you were lucky.
They’re everywhere, aren’t they?
No, they’d take all their


blankets and all their food down and sleep in them of a night time, you know what I mean. You had to see it, you can never describe it because you had to see how they bloody lived. Poor little bloody kids.
What was the mood of the people?
Very strong. The Poms are very strong willed, you know what I mean. Very strong willed people, yeah.


So it looked like they were riding the bump?
They sort of took it in. They’d be singing down there to keep their morale up I suppose. There’d be singing and blah blah, things like that.
While all this is occurring did it seem well organised, people going to the bunkers and so on?
Yes, it seemed very well organised, yeah, yeah. It seemed very good. The fire wardens, I’ve got a lot of time for them fire wardens, they used to call them and all them,


and the ambulance drivers. They were unbelievable people. They’d be there and the bombs would be dropping, they’d still be working, the poor buggers, yes.
So, this was your first taste of warfare, wasn’t it, the Battle of Britain and what was happening?
Yeah, yeah.
How did it hit you?
I don’t think you realised


it was hitting. I don’t think you realised, do you know what I mean. We never had a clue.
Did it seem surreal to a point where it didn’t feel real?
It felt real alright. I don’t really know how you feel. I honestly don’t know. When we were out at Salisbury Plains, after we went back to Salisbury Plains,


one of our blokes was the first bloke got killed in England by the German Air Force. He came over and he belted shit out of our camp one day and he killed one of our blokes. But it happened so quick with these plains and blah blah, you’re gone, you see. You don’t realise that you’ve been knocked arse over head. They get in so quick, you know what I mean.
It’s so quick you don’t have time to soak it in?
You don’t have time to think. As soon as you’d hear them you’d


run and lay on the ground, you know what I mean, blah blah. It’s so quick you don’t realise, you know what I mean.
What was it like seeing your first dogfight in the sky?
I don’t know. I suppose we thought it was alright because we weren’t on the receiving end. It was them poor buggers up there. It looks so fantastic, do you know what I mean, bloody planes diving and brake. It’s unbelievable the way they spin


around and down and up and around, over they go.
Could you see them firing at each other?
Of a night time you could, but not in the day time. You couldn’t see the machine guns firing of a day time. But of a night time you could, yeah.
When you’re at that distance from what’s happening in the sky, was it somehow entertaining?
It was really good. Sometimes you could hear the guns firing, you know what I mean. You could hear


the guns going but you couldn’t see if it was daylight, but you could hear the guns going off in the planes. I don’t know how to explain it, I don’t know to explain it, wouldn’t know.
Must’ve been a sight?
Unbelievable sight, you know what I mean, unbelievable.
These were Spitfires and so on and Hurricanes?
Yes. They were Spitfires, the Hurricanes, the old Kittyhawks.
Did you see the airfields


as well?
Yeah, I’ve been around a few of the airfields.
Can you describe them for us?
We were camped near one of the airfields, fighter airfield, and we used to wave of a night and talk to the pilots and mechanics.
How did you find them?
Good, mostly Aussies too, mainly Aussies. They wanted to know how it was going, what we were doing. We’d ask them what they were doing and that. No,


they were very nice, very good.
Did they seem tired and stressed from all the fighting?
Yeah, some of them were, they were really worn out some of the poor buggers. They were really worn out, especially the bomber pilots. But fighter pilots, see, they might just go up, come down and refuel and back up again. No rest for the poor devils.
From what I know they seem like they’re on twenty-four hour notice. They had to go any time.
On twenty-four hours a day, yeah, yeah.


As I said, they might go up and fly, they’ve got to come straight down. Some would be refuelled and petrol would be refuelled and the ammunition. They had it all worked out, and straight up again. They were busy boys.
Did you see airfields bombed or strafed?
Yes, yeah. Yes, we seen a few airfields bombed and that there.
How would they get the planes


up in time when that was coming?
Some never got up. Some would get up but some wouldn’t. If they came over to you and they dropped a bomb, they always bombed a runaway so they couldn’t get up there, then they’d come down with a machine gun at the same time, you know what I mean. Sometimes they never got off the ground, poor buggers. Some did and some didn’t. It’s just the toss of the coin, mate, toss of the coin. If you’re number’s up it’s up.


In the Battle of Britain they were the first deaths you saw, are they?
Yes, first time I’d seen it. I’ve seen people killed underground but not the number over there I mean. Poor devils, bloody bilge on them, bloody women and kids caught. It’s a shocking feeling. I don’t think you ever get used to it. I don’t know. I don’t think you’d ever get used to no matter what you’ve done. You don’t


get used to death, you know what I mean. Yes. Just go along to the shops and pick up a sheila.
Is there a difference when you see a fellow soldier killed


and a difference when you see a woman and a child killed? Does it affect you differently?
Yes, it’s a lot of difference. I mean you expect it with a soldier, you know what I mean. It’s part of your training, but you don’t expect to see poor bloody kids and women, do you? It’s a different feeling, or you see little babies and women, but with a soldier you expect it. It’s part of your training.
When you see all this death and destruction what do you start thinking


about Hitler?
Never had time to think about him. You’d be thinking about your bloody self. Bugger Hitler. You’re thinking about yourself, mate. No, you don’t sort of think about Hitler. Then you go, you say, well look what bloody Churchill done, you know what I mean. We’ve got to be honest, look at both sides of it. I always say the big blokes, they won’t go to war. They’ll send everyone else. We had bloody Bob Menzies


and all them. They’ll send us but they don’t go. You’ve got it here today. It’s alright for them to say about Iraq and this and that. Where’s their sons, he’s not there, but they’ll send your son or my son.
Does it make you want to fight the Germans more though, when you see what’s happening?
I mean I don’t know. One’s on the civilian side and the


other one’s on the battle side. So, well you don’t blame the Germans. See, they talk about Auschwitz and those places you know, but people don’t realise. It’s alright to blame the German soldier; he’s got to do what he’s told the same as we had to. I know they burnt the Jews and all that, but you don’t blame the German soldier.


It’s only my idea. You blame the bloke up on top, he issues the orders. If you don’t do it they get rid of you. That’s the way I look at it. We had to do what we were told. So you don’t blame the ordinary soldier, it’s the blokes up on top, isn’t it?
Is there an understanding between soldiers?
Yeah, I think so, yeah, yeah.
On both sides, you understand?
That’s right, yeah.


I think so, yeah.
How important was Churchill during the Battle of Britain?
I beg your pardon?
How important was Churchill during the Battle of Britain?
How what?
Important was Churchill and his leadership?
Oh, he had, he was a good leader I think, but look what he done at bloody Gallipoli when he killed all the bloody Australians when he was head of the bloody Admiralty there. People got short memories,


mate. I’m old, I’ve got a long memory with a lot of then, you know what I mean. But I think he was the right man at the right time there. He was a bloody butcher too as far as I’m concerned, but he was the right man at the right time I think.
So when you’re there in the Battle of Britain you remember that Churchill did what he did at Gallipoli and so on?
Of course, you never forget them sort of things. I wasn’t born but I read about it, you know, and I’ve seen people that did come back from Gallipoli on the west coast.


They told me what went on there. Yeah, he wasn’t a real good gentleman, but I think he was the right bloke at the right time to be the leader of England. I do, I’ll honestly say that.
Did you realise that later on or at the time?
Later on I think. You’ve got your mind on other things when it’s happening, but you realise, you look back


and you can study things after it’s all happened. I think he was the right bloke at the right time. You couldn’t have that bloody Chamberlain, he was as week as dishwater. The umbrella man I call him.
The umbrella man?
The umbrella man I call him.
Why is that?
He always had an umbrella.
And Churchill had?
He had the cigar. He had the cigar.
How long were you in


Britain at this time?
We were over there six months.
So you would’ve been in the fiercest action of the Battle of Britain itself?
You would’ve seen it from the ground?
Yeah, we saw a lot of it, yes, seen a lot of it, yeah, yeah. We went over there, we landed there about June and we left toward the end of November to come back to the Middle East. About six months. They gave us seven days leave; I went up to Sheffield for that.


How were your mates and the people around you feeling about the Battle of Britain that was going on?
We all felt the same, you know what I mean. It was a real, you don’t sort of realise, it was all strange to us and you don’t realise, but we all thought about the same. But as I said, it used to upset all of us when we had to, if you helping


in London, like if you were helping get the kids and the women out of the debris and all that it used to upset everyone.
Did you save a lot of people in the debris?
I don’t know.
You pulled them out though?
We helped, saved a few, but pulled out a lot of dead people, kids, women, you know what I mean. But you don’t look at them sort of things now, do you? It’s too long, it’s in the past, mate.


No, it’s a terrible terrible feeling when you get women or kids out, they’re dead. If they’re alive you’re sky high. There’s another one saved blah blah, but when you pick up the dead it’s not too good, especially little women and kids. Little kids, they’re still in their bloody prams, that long in their pram, bloody all stuff on them sitting in the pram, poor little buggers. Not too good, is it?


Well, we’ll stop there. We’ve finished another tape.
Interviewee: Donald Cody Archive ID 1772 Tape 03


Tell us about when you didn’t want to dig the ditches and what happened there?
When what, mate?
When you didn’t want to dig the ditches in England, you didn’t want to dig the ditches.
No, I didn’t want to dig no trenches. No, stuff it. I said to the bloke, lieutenant, he was as young as I, I said, “I’ll go cook, I’ll do the cooking, mate.” There were six of us in our platoon. Of course you had blokes to help peel the


spuds and all this. So he said, “Right.” So we’re sitting there one night half pissed and we used to drink cider because you never had enough money to buy beer. That rotten cider was shocking, you’d get pissed. Anyway, and my mate, I’ve got a photo of his grave over there, in a minute I’ll show you. We was this pissed this night, he said, “You’re a c.... of a cook.” He said, “You can’t even cook f...... bully beef.” I said, “No,” I said, “Go and so something.” I said, “Look at them f...... sheep,” that were on this bloody Earl Dabar’s property you see.


These sheep are over in the paddock. “Go and get half a dozen of them bastards,” I said, “I’ll cook your f...... meal.” The next day he went over, him and three or four (UNCLEAR) pissed. We got these bloody sheep and the next day I was in the cookhouse and I said, “Roast legs of lamb, baked potatoes,” blah blah. I didn’t know the f...... boss was coming, the major was coming. I’ve got all this f...... dinner, legs of lamb,


and the boss comes along with his f...... dixie, the major. Of course I had to give him f...... lamb, there was nothing else. So when he had his meal he kept looking at me while he was eating, the bastard, he said, “Don, where do you get your rations from?” I said, “The old Earl over here gave me the rations today, sir.” He said, “No, where did you get them from?” I said, “Well, what happened last night, sir,


I was sitting here,” I said, “And his sheep were running over the paddock and there were five of them fell over and broke their legs, so we went and got them.” He said, “You’re a bloody good cook,” he said. But that was the major. I tell you he was a champion bloke. He was a Victorian, he was a champion bloke. Yes, so anyway the next day they got on the piss again that night and the officer said, “I’ll take you on a route march.”


These c....s fill your water bottles up with f...... cider, you see. They’re getting drunker and drunker and he couldn’t make out how we were getting drunker and drunk, but they filled the water bottles up with cider. That’s the things they used to get up to over there.
How did they make the cider and so on?
How did they prepare the cider, was it in the kitchen?
They used to buy it but it was real cheap stuff, you know. Buy it out of the barrels, get


about half a gallon for about fourpence. Shocking cider it was, rough as bags of cider, but you had to drink it. That was our episode down there.
Did you enjoy cooking?
Yeah, I loved it. If they wanted fish I used to blow hand grenades or plugs of geli [gelignite] in this, see, over they the Earls or whatever, they own the rivers you see, and you’ve got to get permission to go and fish, blah blah.


So we’d go down with plugs of geli or hand grenades and get the fish. We had the poor old buggers bloody popping. Oh, we were buggers. We were buggers. But he took it all in good part I think. I don’t think he worried about us much.
Was it soon after this you went to Sheffield on leave?
Yes, just after that. They’d have you on the parade ground, you know,


and they’d call out towns where we wanted to go. I’ve got a photo of my mate out there, I said to him, “When they call out some bloody town and no bastard goes there we’ll put our hand up.” So Sheffield, away we go. On our way to Sheffield we had to go through London to go to Sheffield, you see, so we left London, they started bombing the railway line. We never got into Sheffield until about


12.00 o’clock that night, pitch black dark. We didn’t know where we was, and here’s all this f...... big provos, Pommy provos, red caps. “Who are you blokes?” “We’re Australians.” “Never ever heard of you.” Never heard of Australians, this is true. Anyway, I said, “Can you give us a bed in the gaol, mate?” It’s 12.00 o’clock at night and we wouldn’t know where to look and Sheffield is a bloody big steel city. “Give us a bed down the gaol?” They said, “No. There’s an Australian bloke got a pub down here


from the First World War, so we’ll take you down.” So we went down. Jack Andrews was his name, and he takes us down. As soon as old Jack sees us, “Oh gee, you’re stopping here. How long leave have you got?” “Six or seven days.” “You’re stopping with me, you’re stopping with me.” They’ve got big dance floor in their pubs, you see, and they were still dancing that hour of the morning. We were up there until about 4.00 o’clock in the morning


before we went to bed. The next morning we get up. Trevor and I had a bath. Had to have a bath, no showers you see. Had a bath and a shave, come down. Old Jack was up getting about, “Come here, have your breakfast,” he said. Goes into his kitchen, we only went to the door, here comes this sheila, his f...... daughter, about 19, she was gorgeous. My eyes were like f...... ball bearings, they kept rolling over.


So I got talking to her. We said, “Have you got another girlfriend?” So she was a banker’s daughter, so she got her down and old Jack, he had a bloody Austin car and he said to me, “Do any of youse drive?” Trevor said, “This bastard, he’ll drive anything,” and old Jack lent us his car and we took the sheilas for a drive. Anyway, that night everyone came down to his f...... pub to have a look at the Australians,


you see. He was making a f...... fortune, the old bastard. But he looked after us. A couple of days after, one morning he got up and he said, “I’ve got to go up the brewery and I’ve got to go the bank. I’ll take you with me.” So away we go, around the brewery. All the sheilas are working in this f...... brewery, f...... gee, you know. He had to go to the bloody brewery manager’s office and he said to old Jack, he said, “Where are you going?” Old Jack said, “I’ve got to go up to the bank


and I’ve got to go to some pub.” This f...... manager came with us. I had to get into the car with this brewery manager, Trevor sat with old Jack. So around we go to the bank, f...... bank manager comes, he comes with us. Then we go down to this, we’re drinking them f...... Pimms. We never drank Pimms in our life, we couldn’t afford it. Anyway, they said we’ll go out to Nottingham, that’s where all the big brothels are you see. We didn’t know, we’re f...... innocent Australians.


F...... sheilas were f...... lovely, so we put the night there. Old Jack and them had to come back, but the brewery manager and the bank manager, they stopped with Trevor and I because they had the money. We had nothing. They stopped the night. The next morning the brewery manager had to come back and the bank manager, “I’m stopping another day, do you want to stop?” “No,” because we had to go back to old Jack’s you see. So we go back the next day and that afternoon


the bloody bank people are ringing up, “Where’s the bank manager?” He said, “The last I seen he was out (UNCLEAR).” The old bastard stopped there. I mean that was the way it went on. We had a marvellous time in Sheffield, unbelievable. I never knocked her off because I didn’t like to. We had six, actually we stopped a couple of days. When we got back we were charged AWL for a couple of days, you see, you know what I mean.


I used to drive him a little bit now and again. I had to go into this, he owned a bloody (UNCLEAR) and guard and he tried and he said, pitched his trailer getting hung up with the bloody bombs, the railway, and he let us off you see. But that used to happen, you couldn’t get back sometimes. But yes, he was a fine old fellow.
Were there a lot of soldiers up in Sheffield at that time?
No. It was funny,


we came out the pub this morning, we were standing on the footpath, sun was out, about probably half past 9.00 and this bloody Pommy officer came along with all his f...... gear and he walked up to us and he said, “How are you two bastards going?” This Pommy officer. “Yeah, get f…….” He said, “I haven’t had a decent swear for eight years since I left Australia.” He was a Pom but he wanted to take us everywhere. “We can’t,”


we said, “We’re tied up.” Pommy officers over there, yeah.
What about at the brothels, were there a lot of soldiers there?
Lot of what?
Lot of soldiers at the brothels in Nottingham?
No. Aussies never went that far, you see. That’s why I said to Trevor, “If no one goes, we’ll put our hand up.”
Were there British soldiers at the brothels?
British soldiers?
Pommy soldiers, yeah, the odd one but not a lot, no. But they never had enough


money, you see, they were like us. A lot of them blokes were only on a shilling a day, the Pommy poor bastards. They were underpaid the Pom soldiers.
So the brothels up there would’ve been for industry workers and so on, weren’t they?
No. They were real monied people, monied people. French, others from all over Europe, you see. Bloody lovely, it’s a lovely place, Nottingham. They even showed us a bloody big tree, you know,


where Friar Tuck and whatever his name was, Robin Hood. They showed us around everywhere mate. But you ought to have seen the sheilas in this brewery and down the steelworks. Jesus Christ, they’d have f...... killed us. Yeah, we had a good time there. We had to put up a bloody gaol out at Salisbury Plains. We had to put up this bloody


gaol, bloody barbed wire. We were doing all that, you see.
The gaol?
Yeah. One bloke, one of my mates turned to me and he said, “I reckon one of us bastards will be the first f...... one in this gaol mate.” Sure enough, he was the first bloke to go into the gaol. He had twenty-eight days.
Was this a military gaol?
It was an Australian gaol. Like we had to make this bloody gaol up you see.
Where at?
Salisbury Plains.


Is that for when the Aussies got in trouble, they were sent to here?
Yeah, sent there.
And your mate was the first one in?
Yeah. My mate said to me, “I bet it will be one of us f...... engineers first.” Sure enough, it was a bloke from Victoria went in, twenty-eight days.
And what would people be put in there for?
Probably gone AWL two or three times or something. They were pretty hard, even


with their sentences, 28 days in the boob [gaol] for little things in them days. I suppose they had to be hard to learn us, you see.
Did you find as time went on they relaxed the rules a bit more?
I beg your pardon?
Did they relax the rules a bit more as the war progressed?
Oh yes, as the war went on, you know, sort of, when they were going to the front line, the officers, we had good officers, but some would use their mouth,


but they wouldn’t play up against their men because they knew they’d be going up to the f...... front line, you see, and they mightn’t come out.
What else did you have to build in England while you were there?
We done a lot of, learned a lot about bomb disposals and all that, you see, at schools. We never built too much, mainly went to a lot of schools and that.
So there was a lot of training in England?
Yeah, bomb


disposal schools and underwater demolition and all that, you know, yeah.
Do you think they were preparing you really well for what was to come?
Well, I heard it said, but they said we were the best trained troops that ever went back to the Middle East because there’d been all the latest stuff in England, you see. Jeez, they made the infantry work over there. Them poor bastards were on route marches all the time,


the infantry. They were trained alright, they were hard as nails.
Did they do the same to you, work you really hard?
Well ours wasn’t a lot of manual work. You learn how to delouse bombs and you learn underwater demolition. It was sort of more up here, but not a lot of hard manual work, things like that.


Just to go back a bit quickly, did you choose to be an engineer?
No. Just like I said, walking along in a line and they said, you go over there and you go over there. I wanted to be an infantryman.
So it was just luck?
Just luck, luck of the draw, you see, yeah.
Any other times in England that stick out in the memory?
Oh yeah. Yeah.


I was in London one night and this bloody Pommy officer came along and he said, “What are you boys doing?” He said, “Would you like to go through Soho?” You know. We wouldn’t know what f...... Soho, one of them big brothels, probably cost you twenty quid to take you out. Anyway this old bloke, this officer took us


down there, Pommy bugger, but really good to us, you know what I mean. Went down there and had a rest, had a feed. He wanted to know if we wanted a sheila, “Oh yeah.” But the Poms were really good to us.
What was Soho like at that time?
I beg your pardon?
What was Soho like at that time?
Lovely, lovely. There were all them blackouts but once you got inside


where the lights couldn’t be seen, beautiful. Bloody sheilas running around with little things f...... waiting on you. Your cock was up in your brain. We had six months there.
So life was just going on normally underneath? Like you say it was blacked out but inside everything was going on as planned?
Well, I suppose they had to do it. Then


they sent me and another bloke, or six of us, up on what they call the advance party. We had to go to bloody Scotland up to Glasgow, you see. They sent so many from each unit to get ready to go to the Middle East. Six of us up there and they put us in the asylum. There was a bit of an asylum building, so we got out,


we used to knock around in twos, you know what I mean. So me and my mate were down this bloody, Glasgow this night. Went down by tram, gets into the pub and you’ve got no idea how them Scotch people are. They used to have their big pint pots of beer and a bloody great big glass of whisky, and you and I might be over at this. Blokes over in that bar, “Give them two.” You’d have six of each of these f...... big glasses. He was pissed to the eyebrows.


Get back on the tram to get back up this asylum. It’d be full of bloody women and blokes in there going home. The tram guy, “Where you going, Digger?” “Drop us off at the asylum,” we used to say. Drop us off at the asylum. But anyway, we went out on this, one day we went down to Glasgow to have a bit of a look around and Woolworths used to be the big shops over there. So me and my mate went there looking for a sheila you see. We go down to Woolworths to pick up a sheila


and this f...... Aussie sailor came along. “How you going, Digger?” “Yeah, good mate.” He said, “Do you know your way around?” We didn’t know our f...... way at all. “Of course we know our way around.” He said, “I’ll come with you,” you see. We says, “Yeah.” He said, “I’ve just been six months at sea.” So I said to him straight out, “Look mate, we’ve got f...... near no money.” “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ve got,”


first time I’d ever seen a £100 note. I’d never ever seen one in my life. He pulled it, “You have one.” “No.” We took about £10, you see. We got his name and address. We caught up with him years after in f...... Queensland. So away we goes and gets on the piss. We gets into this f...... pub. These three Irish sheilas are there so we gets onto them and gets a bottle of whisky each, down to one


of them f...... dugouts we went with these f...... Irish sheilas. F...... nearly killed us. So that was part of our trip in Glasgow, you see.
What were the Scots like?
What were the Scottish like?
Unbelievable, yeah, really lovely. Yeah, gee, couldn’t do enough for us, mate. See, you might have eight or nine or three or four of these pots of whisky left over. If you went back to that pub the next day the barmaid, you got so many free ones


to come. No, they’re unbelievable people. But after we came back, we had to go into Cairns one night.
They were big drinkers, the Scots?
Oh yeah, I was under the table. We come down to Cairns to do the amphibious training and a couple of these boats, cruisers, were in there. Bugger me, the bloke we got the money, he was there. He didn’t want to take the £10.


After all these years we ran, we asked him, you know what I mean. We got his address and everything because we did intend to send it to him. They were lovely.
OK, so after Glasgow where did you go?
Back to the Middle East.
Straight from Glasgow?
We called into Capetown on our way back to, we landed over El Kantara I think it was, but


I went with some transport drivers to pick our transport up to Port Tewfik. Then we come back down to Egypt. That was getting towards the end of January. The 6th Div [Division], they’d gone up to the desert. They sent our company of engineers up behind the 6th Div. We got into Tobruk about four or five


days after the 6th Div had gone on, you see. So we were there doing a bit of scrounging, and the Germans had left bloody thermos flasks and fountain pens all over the place, booby trapped. If you picked up a fountain pen it would blow your bloody fingers off, or if you picked up a thermos it might blow your guts out. What we done, we made these long bits of wire about 30 foot long, strong wire. If you see them, you’d tip them


over. If they didn’t went off they were alright, beautiful fountain pens. So we did that and after that we….
Let’s just stop for a minute because you’re racing ahead. Before you left Glasgow to go the Middle East did you know you were going there and what to expect?
All they just told us was going up the desert. They never said, where, how or why. They just said to our platoon, “You’re going up the desert,” because


apparently some of the 6th Division engineer companies had got knocked about a bit, but we don’t know. They sent us up. They left the 7th Field Company and the 13th Field Company still in Egypt and all the 9th Div infantry was left there, but we went up, as I said, we got to Tobruk.
Did they give you any special desert training before you left?
No. We’d only been out there about,


getting towards the end, the beginning of January, the middle. We got back about the middle, no training. We just off, you see. We followed the infantry up, the 6th Div up to Benghazi and they stopped there and anyway, they said to us, “You go up further.” So we went ahead of the infantry, went up past El Madjal and up


Mar Sobriga [?] and then we came to a place they called the Bottleneck. There were big marshes, supposed to be big marshes on the left hand side. They said no one can get around there, you see. So we’re up this Bottleneck doing a few patrols, probably about (UNCLEAR). Next thing he came down with all his army so we had to piss off, and I


was driving this little fifteen hundredweight forward truck or ute, and I had a corporal with me used to work in the bank in Hobart, a bloke named Les Patterson. He was a good map reader. So when the retreat started, like all our blokes had to spread out, different areas to blow up and whatever, and so when the big retreat came to Benghazi we had to go out and tell them to piss off and all this bullshit.


They were blowing up all ammunition dumps, petrol dumps and just putting diesoline down the water wells and oil down the water wells and all that sort of thing. So that started the retreat. When we came back from Benghazi we started blowing the bridges up around Bars and all them places. We came back getting toward dusk.


We were on the arse end. Engineers of course are always last out, you see. We were on the arse end of the line We’d been chasing the other blokes out, you see. So this bloody provo, big long provo pulled us up and these two generals. We didn’t realise it was General Neems [?] and O’Connor and this provo was a bloody German dressed in an English redcap,


and he said to us, “You go that way. You’ve got to go down the coast road. Don’t go down the desert road,” you see. Anyway, Ginger said to me, “You go down the f...... desert road, Don.” All he sent down there got taken prisoners, so we got back to Tobruk, you see. But we lost about forty of our engineers. They went down with this f...... lieutenant. They got taken prisoner.
So let’s go right


back. You’re coming up to Tobruk. Are the engineers the first in and the last out?
Yeah. As I say, they don’t get enough recognition.
So when you’re landing at Tobruk, what did you see, what was it like?
Like I said, we’d been there three or four days on our way up. We’d been knocking around Tobruk for three or four, we had a fair idea, blah blah. But the infantry had to, they went into


the dugouts and that. We were back a bit from them a bit, but then of a night time we used to have go and lay mines and barbed wire. Our platoon, Lieutenant Ray Tarley and our platoon, we made a record. We laid 5,000 mines in one night. The record was never ever broken. See, plus you’ve got to do patrols with the infantry, but when we entered Tobruk, [General] Mooreshead said, “You’ve got to mine, mine the whole lot.”


Three field companies were flat out mining and putting up barbed wire, three field companies.
Where are the Germans at this time?
He was out over, you know. He was trying to get into Tobruk two or three times, knocked him back. When Easter came out with the big battle at Easter time he broke through what we called the red line with his tank, and he couldn’t understand when the tanks used to come over our dugout,


the infantry used to let him come, and when his infantry came up, and he couldn’t understand because everywhere he’d been in France, they told us after, the Germans did themselves, Rommel even said in his history, he couldn’t understand why the Australians let the tanks go because they were always used to, everybody used to give in when the tanks came, you see. But some of our blokes had even put a bar through the track, they go around one, and another bloke drop a hand grenade in the tanks.


So when you arrived how fierce was the fighting?
We were there probably nearly a fortnight before he attacked Tobruk. He attacked a couple of times, it wasn’t really, at Easter time was when he tried to get, he was going to take Tobruk at Easter. That was terrible.
So you had time to prepare everything and the tank ditches?
No, we took about six months to really prepare the whole lot, but we did what we could in


that month or whatever the case may be. Our blokes used to let them go over the trenches and when the tanks would go through the infantry would come, they’d shoot the bloody infantry and the tanks were left like a shag on a rock. Then the artillery would get into the tanks, you see.
What did you think of Mooreshead?
I beg your pardon?
The greatest. A little bastard he was. We used to call him Ming, Ming the Merciless. But he was one of the greatest generals in the Second World War.


He never ever forgot us either. He was a very strict disciplinarian and all that. You had to be trained right, blah blah. He didn’t like you smoking and he didn’t like you drinking, but we had to drink and he had to smoke. But he was a bloke, I’d seen him going around some of the dugouts one day and he gave all his cigarettes to his other officers underneath him, but he wouldn’t give, and he’d often dropped the cigarettes to the soldiers. That was the sort of bloke he was. He knew,


but he was a very sort of straight-laced sort of bloke, you know what I mean. But a champion bloke, champion.
Did you know why Tobruk was so important?
Well they said it was a big seaport and he wanted it so he could get his boat to come in with equipment and that, you see. But we were only supposed to be there for a month. When we retreated bloody Auchinleck


could only hold it for a month. We were there bloody eight months, you know.
So it was explained to you why it was important and why you were there?
Yeah, they explained it was a seaport, that’s all.
And in preparing the defence of Tobruk, you’re laying mines you said?
Laying mines, bloody our hands on barbed wire. Unexploded bombs, we put them down. We picked up with booby traps on, you know.
How dangerous is this work?


Pretty bloody dangerous. Well, you can image, you only make one wrong move, and he had what they call the jumping jacks. Some call them jumping jacks, some call them field pots. They used to have five different triggers on them you see, and wires running all from them. If you pulled the wrong wires it used to just get you fair in the guts and in the balls. It was full of ball bearings and old bolts and things, you see. So you had to be careful when you,


plus the fact besides doing all that, you still had to go with the infantry when they were doing their patrols too. There was no sitting on your arse.
So you were doing infantry as well?
Yeah, doing infantry work as well.
Did you see any accidents in the laying of mines?
God yes, seen a lot. See, if one bloke makes a mistake


there might be three or four around him. He had all the tricks around the trade rigging up his booby, so we used to lay booby traps on our bloody mines for him too. Do you know what I mean, it goes around and around.


Was it common to see these accidents?
It never used to happen a real lot. Not a real lot, but it happened every now and again.
And when it did, were they dismembered or killed instantly?
There’d be some poor bastard in bloody pieces. It depends how big the charge was too, you see.
Do they pay you extra for this?


Yeah. One thing, we’d never leave anyone. Like all the Australians seemed, they always wanted to get to their own men, wounded, they always wanted to get them, you see. Yeah, get them back.


We had our ups and downs, mate, ups and down. More downs than ups.
What would take place when someone was laying a mine, they’re finished, how would they handle things from then? Would there be a ceremony?
Would there be a what, mate?
Would there be a


ceremony or what would happen?
See, you worked, like two of you might be digging holes and the next two would come along and put the mine in, and then there might be a couple more to what they used to call to arm the mines, and there might be a couple more to cover them up. It was all done in a system, you know what I mean, and you always took your turn at whatever.
So some people had a more dangerous job than others when they


were arming them and so on?
This is right. When you dig your holes like it’s alright. When you put the mines in, but when you’ve got to arm them, you know what I mean by arm them, and the bloke’s got to cover them up because you’re nearly under fire nearly all the time too from the enemy, all the time, do you know what I mean? Nearly under bloody fire all the time. It wasn’t a very nice job. I’d sooner go on a fighting patrol with the infantry as any, because you knew what you were doing when you went


on a fighting patrol with the infantry. Like you knew you were going to have a go, blah blah, but if you went out, if they wanted a prisoner and you went out with the infantry you didn’t know what you was going to run into or things like that, but if you were on a fighting patrol you knew what you were doing, so I think that was better. Do you know what I mean, to go on a fighting patrol.
Would you had rather been doing that all the time than laying mines?
Oh, you had to take your turns at everything.


You couldn’t say what you were going to do. They’d tell you what you’re going to do, yeah.
How did you deal with it personally when you saw someone get blown up or whatever?
Well, I suppose I sort of got used to it in one way, a bit clear. You sort of got used, you started to get hardened to it, you know. When you see one of your close mates you might think a little


bit deeper, blah blah, but you sort of got hardened to things. As things went along you got hardened to them.
After seeing all the deaths so far you become desensitised?
I think so, yeah. You still felt it but you never let on, all them sort of things. You thought it was all just part of the job or whatever, you know what I mean. Of course the infantry blokes do the same with their mates I suppose. Everyone feels it, but you’ve


got to get on with the job as the saying is. You haven’t got time to think. You do things when you’re in action that you don’t realise you’re doing. You know what I mean? You think after.
Does the training take over?
Yeah. You think after.
How did your colleagues around you react to what was happening?
I think all the same. People say were you ever frightened. I say, “By Jesus I was.”


Everyone I ask, you never let on you’re frightened because you let your mates down, but I think you’re frightened to a certain degree and I used to say, “Were you frightened?” “Bloody oath we were frightened, mate.” But you never let on because you didn’t want to let your mates down, but I think everyone had that little bit of fear in them. I think, I know that, yeah.


And what would happen on the patrols, was it a different experience joining the infantry for a bit when you went on patrols?
Well, you knew what you had to do. Like when you went out for a start you had to let a bit of our


wire down, lift a few of our own mines to go through. Normally, say you were going out with a platoon of infantry, take two engineers, they’d more or less put the two engineers right at the back because they said they couldn’t afford to lose you because when you got up to his mines they’d have to go and delouse the mines and cut the wire off. But they’d always put us on the tail end when you were


normal circumstances with the infantry.
So you’re on patrol, were you actually trained for patrolling before you went?
Oh yes, you’re trained, you know. Everyone trained, but engineers, we’re trained, our patrol, see then, you learned to go with the infantry you see. Now, when you came back, back after, whatever, you had to put,


you’d always try and put a few German mines, you’d alter their German mines. See, you’d be last our there. Then when you came back to our lines, the infantry went through, we’d relay our mines and fix our barbed wire, you see. Same old story, engineers first in and last out as they say. Pride of the army, shit of the line, mate.
How did the infantry regard engineers?
They used to look after us


like bad mothers. They used to look after you, really protect us. Really protect us, yeah, infantry.
In what way?
Well they’d say, before we’d go on patrol we might have to go up to the front line, say an hour, a couple of hours before we went in, “Would you like a cup of tea, mate? Would you like this, mate,” and they were sort of like an old mother hen looking after us because they didn’t want to lose us, you see. No, they were very good to us.
They really understood your value


and your contribution?
They valued us. I mean I don’t believe this, but they say one engineer is as good as six infantry. I don’t believe that, but that’s how the saying goes, because they’re trained to do this type of thing. The same as the infantryman, he’s trained to do his job, you see. He’s trained to do his job, mate, yes.


When you were setting up the defence of Tobruk how was it planned?
What do you mean?
How did they plan where they were going to put the mines and the trenches and so on?
See, Tobruk was a thirty mile, you know, boundary type of thing. You might’ve bloody the whole lot, barbed wire the whole lot, you know what I mean. That’s all there was to it, as thick as you could.


And these were direct orders from Mooreshead?
These were direct orders from Mooreshead?
From Mooreshead, yes. He said, “There’ll be no retreat from here,” he said. “If we’ve got to get out we’ll fight our way out. No Dunkirk here.” he said. He was a stickler too, I mean, a good bloke, yeah.
So he really wanted to turn the tide after the defeats?
I beg your pardon?
He wanted to turn the tide after the defeats?
Yes, and he said, “That


land in the middle, if that’s not the Germans’, it’s going to be.” he had patrols out every night. There wasn’t one night there wasn’t patrols sent out. He stirred the bloody Germans up. Let him know it’s our land, not yours. That’s the type of bloke he was.
And what can you tell us about the guys in the fox holes, in the trenches with the guns up the front defending Tobruk?
They were the infantry. As I said before,


when these tanks used to come through they’d let the tanks go past and shoot the infantry.
Did they seem very weary and tired?
Oh yes. See, you sort of tried to sleep of a day time. See, our blokes loved going out of a night time on patrol. They really loved night, so they’d be tired and they’d be trying to get a sleep of a day time. Now one part what they call The Salient was up like that


and then he was back here on a big flat, but he pushed us blokes off so he was looking down on us. Well you couldn’t put your hand up. If you wanted to go to the toilet you had to shit in a tin, piss in a tin, and then of a night time they had a truce.
We’ll have to stop there Don. We’ve just finished another tape. No, great stuff. We wish we didn’t have to stop. We’ll get those big tapes out one day.
Interviewee: Donald Cody Archive ID 1772 Tape 04


Yes, so you were on the retreat from Benghazi. Can you tell us about what happened at Abu Gheila?
Well that’s where we were, up at El Agheila, you see, up at the Bottleneck. I gave you all that, didn’t I?
Sort of. You said something about the Germans capturing a lot of engineers. Can you tell us more about that?
Well that’s when I said


when Neems and O’Connor were there, the two generals they captured. We didn’t know who they were captured, but they had this bloody German bloke dressed up in a provo uniform and he was guiding them down that way. See, there was along, what they call the coast road, and one went into the desert, and those guys and these poor buggers down to the coast road. They had a lot of infantry and all there, Australian infantry, a few 13th Battalion blokes


plus the engineers and probably a lot of artillery blokes too, you see.
So how come you didn’t get caught there? What happened?
As I said, the bloke who was with me, a corporal, he was a great map reader. He said, “Don’t go down that, go to the f...... desert road, Don.” See, the bloke’s saying go there. Ginger said, “You go f...... there.” I went there because he was in the ute with me.
So you went down the beach road?
No, we went to the desert road.
The desert road.


That’s why we never got taken, you see.
So when you got to Tobruk,
Got to Tobruk.
You were talking about The Salient before.
I beg your pardon?
The Salient. You were there when the Battle of The Salient took place?
The Salient? Yeah.
Yeah, you were there?
We weren’t in The Salient. We were around the other side near Pallestrino and the 12th Battalion, they went up The Salient


and they got knocked back. But the night my mate got pinched up The Salient, I’d been up there that night. They build patrols, and I left, or me and another couple of engineers left, and I said to this Lefty, the bloke who wrote that book, I said, he was intelligence for the 12th Battalion. I said, “Are you coming back now Lefty?” He said, “No, I’ve got a couple of little things to do.” So we pissed off. A quarter of an hour later he was taken prisoner, about thirty other blokes


from the 12th Battalion. Just the luck of the draw you see. We got out, they got caught. But when they wanted meals up at The Salient after, they used to call a truce, say 8.00 o’clock. Of course we could shell his, he was up on the hill and he had a flat, you see, and we had to go up this way. Well he couldn’t get the food because


we could shell his and we couldn’t get our food to our blokes because he was looking down on. So what they used to do was, probably 8.00 o’clock or whatever the case may be, one of our, one of the infantry blokes would fire off so many rounds of ammo out of a machine gun and a German would do the same. That’s when they used come out of their f...... burrow and sit up and eat. Say they were out there an hour, yeah, roughly, and they’d fire another lot of


guns each. Down the f...... burrow they’d go, and you couldn’t put your f...... head up there during the day. That’s why they had to shit in the tins, piss in the tins and everything, you see, because you couldn’t get out to have a shit or anything. Snipers and that.
How long would a truce go for normally?
How long would a truce go for?
I say around about an hour, about the hour.
How far would they be in front of the Allied positions?
200 Or 300 yards,


but see, the night they all had the big battle up there were that many f...... dead and wounded on both sides, our stretcher bearers went out, his stretcher bearers. They called a truce, they had to, and they worked on one another’s wounded. German blokes would be working on our blokes and our docs would be working on theirs and our stretcher bearers would be helping them onto their stretcher bearers and vice versa.
Were you there?
No, I was down below.
You could see this?
We could it through the binoculars, you see.


Once they call a truce you can’t fire. One thing about, he done it and we done it, one thing we stuck to the rules, know what I mean, yep.
Did that surprise you initially?
No no no, not really because even in a retreat we got a few prisoners too, but we always found them


really good blokes, and I’d say nearly ninety percent could speak English too of them. You know, funny thing, hell of a lot could speak English.
I didn’t know that many Germans could.
Yeah, they could speak a lot of, nearly ninety percent I’d say, you know what I mean. They were a good race.
Can you tell me about your living conditions in Tobruk? I mean you were telling me about the toileting, but describe to


me what your bunkers looked like?
Well, you see, some were sleeping in a building. We had a big building. The platoon, we got a big building. We used to sleep in there. Of course that was back about three mile from the front line you know, and other blokes slept in the holes. We used to dig bloody holes and put a bit of canvas over it, sandbag it, you know, blah blah. Pretty rough going. The food was f...... crook.


We never had no fresh vegetables, fresh meat for, oh Jesus, I think we had one feed of fresh meat just before we came out all the time we were there, and no beer. We were all f...... dehydrated for the want of a grog. We were all going to get pissed when we got, I think we had a bottle when we got to Alexandria on our way out. We all passed out. Wasn’t used to it, you see.
A bottle of what?
A bottle of what?
A bottle of beer.


Just one bottle, longnecks.
And you passed out?
We were as drunk as c....s, true, couldn’t stand it, you see. We never had a beer from the time we went up there at the end of January until we got out say in the middle of November, not one drink of beer.
The living conditions you were in, how big was a bunker?
It all depends what sort of, it depends where you were. Sometimes they were as big as this house,


a big dugout, blah blah, and a mob of you might be in that and then you’d have a smaller one, I suppose from there to there and about that wide, sandbags all around, full of bloody fleas. There were just bloody fleas everywhere, them sandfleas. They bite shit out of you too.
How did you deal with them?
Well sometimes you’d take your clothes off and chuck a couple of tins of petrol down the bloody dugout and set fire


to it, but you never ever controlled them. They’d get all in the seams of your bloody shirt, shorts. But you’ve got to be good to shave your, that’s why we never used to have much hair because we didn’t want, shave, bald-headed, you had fleas in your hair. It was bloody hard living really.
Was it boring most of the time?
There must’ve been a lot of boredom as well.
No, you never had time really.
Never had time to be


No. There was always someone, you were on the go all the time. Tobruk was a funny place. There was always something happening all the time. See, it’s only about eight or nine mile from the line right into the middle of the town. Artillery would be, didn’t matter where, you were never safe in Tobruk. If you were half way down near the wharf to have a spell you were never free because the artillery could get you and his bloody bombers get you.


We had no air force there, you see.
So the German artillery could reach the port?
Yeah, yeah. Oh God, yes. See, those guns would go bloody twenty mile, and they had a couple of big, can’t think of the name, Big Bertha or something they used to call them. Those big c....s, they’d get f...... fifty mile. F...... shells like that. Yeah, you were never ever, no one, as I said, what we say sort of, base people; they were never safe because there were all in the range of everything in


Tobruk, you see. Food dumps, no one was safe. Bloody food dumps or petrol dumps weren’t safe. That’s why we put a lot of caves in for our wounded. We dug a hell of a lot of caves, engineers, to put the wounded in until they could take them out by boat. But something was always going on. I can’t say I might’ve been bored. I don’t reckon that.


You said you couldn’t leave your bunker in the day?
No, you couldn’t put your head up above the bunker.
Yeah, you’d get the bastard shot off.
Have you seen guys get shot by snipers?
Yeah, yeah.
Can you tell us about that?
We used to go out; the average would be two or three mile behind the front line of a night. We’d come out and have a, unless we were laying mines or something. In the day time there might be two or three or us sit all around in the infantry, well you’d be in the front line with them.


You had to keep your f...... down all the time, you know what I mean. So it wasn’t safe anywhere.
Did you have any close shaves yourself?
One or two, lucky ones.
What happened?
Bloody of a night time, you see them f...... red, green and blue f...... bullets coming at you. You think they’re going to hit you but it would be just bip, bip, bip. You could hear them, but you know.


You know them little camel bushes? You get behind them, you’d think you were behind a f...... brick wall. Had to go out there one night to blow some guns up and we had these f...... six pound sticks of geli on our back and he opened up. We were sitting behind one of these little bushes, thought it was f...... safe. We could hear the bullet, sp sp sp sp. If it weren’t for the f...... geli we would’ve been f...... gone. But you don’t think you see. But you get behind anything small and you think it’s like a f...... big brick wall.


Little bastard going sp sp sp.
It’s hitting the bush?
Sp sp sp, it’s going over the top of you. You’re f...... trying to wobble a little bit deeper, yeah. Oh no.
What about fighting patrols, did you go on reccy [reconnoitre] and fighting patrols?
Yeah, I loved them. (UNCLEAR) which you do, we were going to have a go, you know what I mean.


Can you take us on a couple of your hardest patrols you had, the most dangerous ones?
A couple, they wanted some guns they wanted behind this bloody front line, they wanted them blown out. We went out with the 17th Battalion, platoon or might’ve been a company. We got through his f...... front line and then we had to get about another half a mile where his guns were to blow them bastards up, you know what I mean.


We blew a few guns up but we had to get out of it at the finish. It was just as hard trying to get back out as it was f...... going in because the c....s woke up to us, you see. But they say did you kill them. You don’t know whether you killed them or not. You wouldn’t have a clue sometimes. You had to either bayonet a bloke yourself or if you had a machine gun you’d have to be the only bastard. If they’re coming across, people thing they come in


hordes. They don’t, they’re about ten yards apart, but you might be on a machine gun here, I’ll be on one, he’s on one, we all open, you wouldn’t know whether you shot him or I shot him, would you? So you’ve really got to bayonet a bloke or f...... shoot him in a trench or something like that to know you’ve done it, or throw a few hand grenades in. When you see the whites of their eyes, mate, it’s time to f...... go, isn’t it?


Were the Germans were renowned for close combat?
They didn’t like the bayonet.
I suppose no one really like the bayonet.
No one really liked, no, they did not like the bayonet and they did not like us on this f...... night. See, we all went for night work, the Australians and they didn’t go much on that night work. He’d send his patrols out of a night too, but they didn’t like it, whereas we loved going on the night time, you see for some unknown reason.
What was the


weather like, the climate at night?
Good. Cold as Christ.
How cold are we talking?
Well, cold, if you’re going out late you’d have bloody long trousers on and bloody leather jerkins, you know, a couple of jumpers. It’s bloody hot of a day but bloody freezing of a night, mate. When you’ve got them (UNCLEAR) you might be laying there for two days under one of them (UNCLEAR). You can’t see nothing, you can’t move. If you was


laying there and you covered yourself, you’d have that much bloody sand you could only get out from underneath the weight of the sand on you when the wind blew. Water was very scarce. You had to, used to get two pints a day. Well a pint was supposed to go to the cookhouse. The other pint you were supposed to wash in it, shave in it and drink it. So water was pretty scarce. We were pretty lucky. We had a couple of water points where


we used to have to get water out to the troops and all that. So we might scrounge a little bit extra but not very much. We’d always stick together, you know what I mean, but water was a big problem. Yeah, water was a very big problem. Food was a bastard. We used to have them biscuits from the First World f...... War. You’d have to soak them in f...... water all night to eat them the next morning. Always f...... bully beef or M and V.


The biscuits were First World War biscuits for a start. My oath they were. They were that hard you’d put them in a little dixie of water so you could eat them the next morning and have them soft. Food was another problem. See, you never had the transport, water transport to get everything in that you wanted. So they brought them, I think it was the 4th Indian Division in there once, but they had to take them back out because they had to kill their


own sheep themselves. Had to take them in a line into Tobruk and they couldn’t do it. So that’s why they never lasted long, the Indians there, you see.
Did you serve alongside the Indians?
I’ve been with them all.
What were the Indians like?
We had this section, the Ghurkhas, good. Out there one night, we went out there with them on patrol with them and this German bloke said to this f...... Sikh, he said, “You missed me.” This bloke said, “You shake your f...... head and find out.” He cut his


f...... head off and it never fell off. This bloke thought he was still alive.
You’re not pulling my leg, are you?
Yeah. Oh, they’re bastards on that knife. Whoosh, they’d go. They were going crook there one day in Tobruk. Like they weren’t there long because they couldn’t get the sheep meat. We were out in the front line and they say, “Come back next.” they say, “Ten ten ten.” They got ten.


A couple of times we said, “You’re a f...... liar.” You know us Aussies. A couple of nights later they brought their f...... ears back and pinned them on the barbed wire to show us they got them alright, and that’s a true story.
That’s the Ghurkhas or the Sikhs?
Both, Ghurkhas and Sikhs. They cut their f...... ears and put them on the barbed wire. They weren’t telling us lies, they showed us. Apparently when they drew the knife, like I don’t know if this is true, only what we’ve been told with their castes and all that, when they drew the knife


they had to keep going until they drew blood. Whether that’s true or false I don’t know, but that’s what we were told.
Can you describe to us what they looked like, the Ghurkhas and the Sikhs physically?
Like just like us, ordinary, with our bloody giggle suits on. But they used to wear the turban when they went out of a night or anything like that, but they were dressed like the same as us, just the same. Rubber soled boots and all that.
What about their body? Were they big chaps?


Some were. They’re like Australians, you get the big blokes, you get the middle and you get the little blokes. Some of them had wonderful physiques on them. But they were always under the control of Pommy officers, you know, from India, you see. But they were good, yeah.
So you respected, good respect?
Yeah, we always got on well and they liked us and we liked them.
Which chaps didn’t the Aussies get along with?
I beg your pardon?


Which soldiers didn’t the Aussies get along with?
I don’t think there was any really. Not as far as I know. Everyone like us and we always liked everyone, but we had our blues with the Poms at times. But we all recognised one another yeah.
And when you go on reccies or fighting patrols, as an engineer what would you job be


for that specific purpose?
Well as I said we let them out of our wire and our mine field and let them in the enemy one, you see. But see, when they went on a fighting patrol you kept going with them because you’re not going to sit back here while them poor bastards are in their fighting, are you, because some bastard might sneak up and chop your ears off. So you kept going with them.
How big would be a fighting patrol?
It all depends what they wanted. See, they might send a fighting patrol of ten or fifteen men or they might send one with fifty or sixty men. It depends how


big and what they wanted. It all depends what they were going to do.
How could you patrol in the dark, how could you see?
You could f...... see alright. You’ve got eyes like a cat. You’ll see in the dark.
What have you got to rely on, the moonlight?
You had your moonlight, you had a compass. We always had a compass. The officer or all engineers, we all carried a compass each.


Whereas the infantry, like they might have one compass or two between the lot of them. We always carried our own compasses. We were out there one night, this sounds far fetched but this is f...... true. We were out with this infantry mob and this f...... officer was going, I sung out to him, “Where the f...... hell are you going. We’ve been walking for f...... hours. Where are you going?” He said, “My,” “Well there’s something f...... wrong with your compass,” I said. “Mine’s different to yours.”


He had a f...... hand grenade in his shirt and the hand grenade was pulling the f...... hand off the compass. It don’t take much to throw a compass off, it’s easy, you see.
Can you tell us what the relationship was like with officers at Tobruk?
Oh, yes, they were, but they were good because,


the front line blokes, the front line officers and men are different to the blokes back at f...... base. F…. them, we don’t salute them. We call them by their name.
Your first name?
By their first name. If they were in front of a big officer you’d say sir, but it was Tom, Dick. This bloke and I, our first captain, he finished up as a major general. When he was a major general and I was talking to him I was never allowed to call him sir.


He got a knighthood. I was never allowed to call him sir. He said, “My name’s Bob, Don, when you met me and my name’s still f...... Bob.” That’s the sort of bloke. You got good officers, but if there was any big blokes you’d say sir or blah blah because you respected, you don’t respect the man, you respected the uniform. That’s what you do. It’s not the man, it’s the uniform.
What were the officers like in the British Army or the Indian Army?
They were


typical Poms. They wanted us to f...... salute them in the f...... front line. That’s shit with us. They stuck to the old f...... guard. “I’m an officer, you’ve got to f...... salute.” F...... shit.
Indians as well?
Indians had to salute the Pommy officers and all, yeah, bloody oath they did. Yeah, they stuck to the old rigid rule, you know what I mean. The Pommy officers, when we first met


the Pommy officers they couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t salute our officers and we called them by their Christian name. You had to call them mister or whatever their rank was, you see. Always called the lieutenant mister, f…… up your, shit.
Did you go on patrols where you actually encountered Italians?
Oh Christ, they’d run like f...... rabbits. They f......,


they’d scream like a, you know, you f...... wound a rabbit, they’d f...... squeal too, the little black bastards, they were. Them little southern Italians, you know them. See, the northerners, they’re the big blond ones, the northerners. The f...... little fleas, they’re the little short black bastards from the Mediterranean. I hope you’re not one.
No, I’m not. I was on the Allied


side, Ceylon.
Well you know what I mean when I’m talking.
Yeah, yeah.
But the Mediterranean, they’re the little Italians, little black B bastards.
Tell us about the Italians, about your encounters with them? Were there any situations where you actually had fights, gun fights, skirmishes?
Oh yeah. They didn’t like it. Give them a f...... burst, get two or three of the cats. They’d throw their hands in, you know what I mean.


But they used to be that shit frightened they’d come out in f...... hundreds and give themselves up. You couldn’t keep them from underneath your f...... feet. They were f...... afraid. They were f...... plain frightened, you know what I mean.
Why do you think they surrendered like that?
Why do you think they surrendered so easily?
Well I don’t know. I wouldn’t have a bloody clue why. But in the finish in Tobruk, if we were going to put the Italians into a,


you could get behind the bastards and drive the bastards, the Germans would. He’d use them for f...... bullet fodder. But they wouldn’t be bullet fodder because they’d be in front and they’d run for their f...... lives and give themselves up. He’d shoot them down too. Old Germans shoot them down.
Have you seen that happen?
I’ve seen that happen, yeah.
Can you tell us what happened, that incident?
Well they said to me, they wanted to take a couple of posts, seven or eight or something, a couple of posts. He put the, sent the Ities [Italians] in first and he come behind


and as soon as the f......, out come their f...... big f...... hanky run towards our bloody dugout and an old German opened up on him. Shot a f...... few of them too.
So they’re running towards you and they’re getting shot?
Yeah, f......, give them a f......, fight you bastard. Well you couldn’t blame them, could you? But there were some Italians would fight.


Some would, but very rare, very rare. Well you’ve only got to read about it, they’d give themselves up in f...... hundreds, thousands, for some unknown reason you know. I don’t know.
You said there was a difference between the Italians, you get the blond ones and you get the dark skinned?
They’re what they call the northern, the northern blokes are the big blond big bastards, bigger than you and I too, and the southern was the little black bastards.
They were bigger than us?
They were a bloody good six


foot. Well over six foot, them big northerners, and they were big men, big long bastards, big blond blokes. Pick you up and hold you out to piss.
Were they the same as the Germans in physical stature?
Yeah. In size, yeah, but I don’t think they were as, we don’t know their side, but I don’t think a lot of Italians wanted to f...... fight, I don’t know.


I don’t know whether they wanted to fight, but they was made, sent to the front line, you see.
Could you see, when you see the differences between southern and northern, you took them prisoners,
And these northerners would belt shit out of these southerners sometimes too.
Belt them?
They’d punch shit out of them, yeah, over little odds and ends. The northerners hated the southerners and the southerners hated the northerners. So you had that rift say just like say Victoria and New South Wales,


that line sort of thing. They had their differences, the southerners and the northerners, yeah, yeah.
Who surrendered more often? Was it the southerners?
Mainly the southerners.
So the northerners were the more
They’d have a bit of a go but they didn’t seem to be really interested in the war to be, see, we don’t know what went on between Italians and the Germans, plus the fact a lot of the Italians didn’t like Mussolini. A lot of Italians didn’t like Mussolini, you see. See,


Mussa was a northerner, he was a big bugger. You’ve seen probably pictures of him; he was a northerner, old Mussa.
There were some Italians that were good troops?
Yeah, some would have a go, yeah.
The Blackshirts, they were fascists.
I don’t know what colour f...... shirts they had.
Describe what an Italian soldier looked like in his uniform and his weapons?
He always f......,


all their officers, they all wanted to have these f...... medals showing. They’re real f...... show ponies. They always wanted to be dressed up with these f...... feathers in the hats. F...... shit like that, ostrich feathers I used to call them. Shoot one of them f...... feathers off. But they was sort of a parade ground soldier, I’ll put it to you that way. They wanted to be


done up with all medals on and these f...... feathers in their, you’ve seen photos of them. For some unknown reason they wanted to be f...... lit up like the pox doctor at a Jew’s picnic.
You said you came across an Italian soldier that was a POW [prisoner of war] who lived in Australia?
Yes, they worked at the mine, at the Comstock I told you. They


went back about ’38 to buy. They used to buy sort of a little village. They’d buy the whole lot, mainly grapes and all that, and they went back. They were good little blokes when they worked at Mount Lyall. They went back over there and Frankie, Frankie, I can’t think of his surname, little Frankie and the other bloke, can’t think of his name. But I remember little Frankie very well. Apparently they got picked up, sent


over to the desert and they were both in Tobruk as prisoners of war as I was going past there one day and they sang out. Little Frank, well Frankie, he wasn’t very tall but he had f...... shoulders about that big on him, you know, but he wasn’t that tall, probably pushing five foot eight, five foot nine, you know. So I went over to the f...... barbed wire and had a talk to him, asked him what was going on. He could talk good English because he’d been out here. (UNCLEAR)


Yes, I said, “You won’t come back to the f...... Comstock.” I heard later, years and years, I heard he was one who got sent to Canada or America when they sent the POWs to different countries, you see, and I heard he was one who went over there.
You stayed the whole time in Tobruk


didn’t you almost?
I understand you stayed at Tobruk practically the whole siege?
I was the last Australian to come out, mate. There was three of us left behind and I was the last one to get on the boat.
Do you remember, if you were the last one to get out, do you remember the breakout of Tobruk when I believe, Tobruk was near El Alamein?
Yeah, we left the 13th Battalion


behind. They were supposed to come out the same night as I came out. I came out as part of the 23rd, us three, we were the last engineers left there. Les Patterson from Hobart and a bloke named, old bloke, Joe Sage, came from Windeyer up the north east coast of (UNCLEAR). I had to hand the transport over to the Poms. Joe had to hand some stores over to the Poms, and Ginger was sort of, he was


corporal in charge, and when we were walking up the gangplank I was the last bastard to go up. “You’re the last f...... engineer to come out of Tobruk,” they said mate. That would be around about the middle of November I think. I can’t give you the exact date but I know it was getting towards the middle of November and the 13th Battalion, they broke out about the 6th or 7th of December. The dates may not be correct but around about


that. They came out in December. But the 23rd Battalion, they were the last of the Aussie Battalions to come out.
Now, having been involved in action can you tell us what it was like when you first encountered, or when you first actually killed a German or Italian in combat?


It’s bloody hard to think. You do all these things on the spur of the moment. You may do some silly things but you don’t realise it at the time. That’s why a lot of these blokes when these decorations, they just go sort of berserk and do these things on the spur of the moment, so I don’t know


how to explain it.
You were telling us about Italians, that they were problematic when they’d surrender.
They might attack you still?
Well, see if you had, like you might have say ten or eleven. What we used to do is line them up. One bloke would have a bloody Bren gun or something and the other bloke would go and search them for knives or whatever.


Sometimes you might have forty or fifty, just two of you. You put them in line and you always have then, say that one line there and the other line about here and sometimes you’d forget and you’d only be that far apart when you were going along to run your hands, they’d get you with a knife. Even if you had three rows, one there, one there and one over there. A bastard over there might throw a f...... hand grenade at you, you see.


So that happened?
To you?
Happened to me.
Hand grenade. What happened in that instance when they threw a hand grenade?
Never threw a hand grenade, got me with a knife. Little bastard got me two times with a knife about the size of, they’re not alive now mate. My mate sang out, “Look out the f...... road, bastard,” he said. He had the Bren, shot the f...... lot of them.
How many were there roughly?
Probably twenty odd.


There was a hell of a stink actually. When you’re sent back with prisoners sometimes they’ll send you back, it might be an infantry officer. You might be going back and an infantry officer will say to you, “Are you going back now, mate?” “Yeah.” “Take these prisoners,” and he’d always have it wrote down in code. We had no proof; they wanted to know what happened to our prisoners. We said, “They started shelling, they went one way, we went the f...... other.”


We had to say something. You daren’t say you shot them because they’d f...... (UNCLEAR). We used to stick to that f...... Geneva what's-a-name.
How often would that happen with the Italians?
It used to happen a fair bit with the f...... Italians.
But how many times did you experience
Just once with me.
Just once?
With twenty guys?
Just the one guy, yeah.
So just you and another friend and twenty Italians?
Yeah, about twenty.


We were coming back and the officer said, “Are you going back?” We said, “Yeah.” “Take these prisoners back,” you see. It used to happen to anyone. It might be some infantry, a couple of blokes walking wounded. They might bring some prisoners back, you see, but you could always rely on the Jerry. When he said finished, no problem. I’ve seen them even carry the f...... rifle bayonets for blokes. He’s be coming out and we’d be going in. When the German said he was finished, that was it.


I have seen with my own eyes Germans carrying a rifle, the Aussie’s rifle and f...... bayonet walking beside them. They were going into the f...... cage and the Aussies were going back. I have seen that several times.
Did you hate the Germans?
No, we loved them. Well, we loved them, but we all got on well and they respected us and we respected them. We always got on well with the Germans. They were really good people as far as we were


concerned. What we like about them, when they said they were finished, that was it.
Can you tell us how you saw the war with the Germans?
You said that you liked the Germans, but how would you describe the war with the Germans?
It sounds almost like sport in a way.
I’ve got a f...... book here, yeah. How they appreciated us so we appreciated them. When you fight, you fight,


but when you finish, you’re finished type of thing. They respected us, we respected them. You go right through Rommel’s papers, he could never speak highly of us blokes in Tobruk and us blokes at Alamein, yet he ran the Poms and all that down in his memoirs, you see, but he always respected the Australians.
But you didn’t respect the


No, they were f...... shit. No respect for them whatsoever. I’d probably say eighty or ninety percent of Australians never respected the Italians.
What did they think of the Italians, did they hate them?
You wouldn’t know with them f...... Italians, would you, whether they hated you or f...... loved you, would you? We just didn’t like Italians?
But why?
Because they were dirty little bastards.


Just couldn’t, they wouldn’t respect anything. You go into their f...... dugouts, they’d be f...... stinking, the dirty filthy f...... bastards. You might have to use their dugouts, you’d have to clean the f...... shit and rubbish out, the f...... filthy dirty. F...... Yanks used to be the same. The Yanks would be the dirtiest filthiest f...... soldiers I’ve seen.
Where did you meet the Yanks?
Up in f...... New Guinea.


You can tell us about that, yeah?
I reckon they’re bloody filthy they way they used to live. We’d dig latrines and all that to try and keep flies and diseases, but they couldn’t care f...... less. The Yanks are f...... the same. Of course they’re the League of f...... Nations. No, the Yanks are very dirty in camps, mate, very dirty in camps.


So you’re basically saying that the Italians came across at treacherous?
Yeah, yeah, treacherous little bastards, yeah.
Treacherous chaps?
Especially the little ones.
The Southern Italians?
The little southern bastards, yeah. Little pricks they were.


Bit of a love hate relationship with them, isn’t it?
You stirred me up over those Italians, didn’t you, you bastard, hey?
I understand you also served with the Polish in Tobruk?
You also were attached to the Polish Army in Tobruk?
Yeah, I was with them for a couple of months.
Can you please tell us about that?
When they came in, you know, they attached infantry to their


infantry, engineers and artillery. So there’s four of us, we were down with the engineers and they were a bloody good race. We showed them how, before we took them out to the mines, we had our mines at base where we were in the camps. We had to show them what we done and we didn’t do and all that bullshit. Then we went out on a couple of patrols with them. They were good blokes, yeah, they were good blokes.
So your job


was to get them accustomed to life in Tobruk?
Yeah. The same as the infantry, to get them accustomed to the infantry. See, most of the Poles were only young blokes about eighteen or twenty roughly, because they’d walked from Poland I think right down through Syria and all them places into Egypt. They walked all the bloody way, poor little bastards, but only very young they were.
How many were in the Polish Army there?


They had a brigade in there so that would be roughly 8,000 or 9,000 that I know of. They (UNCLEAR) I’ve got it in there somewhere. I think it was the 18th Carpathian Rifle Brigade I think they called themselves, the ones I got attached to. Other Australians too got attached to them to show them this and show them that.


But they really, they were really bitter on the Germans. They hated Germans, what they done to their country they told me.
Just a moment, we’ll have to stop.
Interviewee: Donald Cody Archive ID 1772 Tape 05


Yeah, let’s talk more about Italians?
No, no more. I’m finished with them Italians.
At Benghazi. No, no. We’ll get back to that. You can tell us about your love for food from around the world. Now back to the Polish Army.


You were saying about the Poles hating the Germans?
Oh, they really hated, hated for what they’d done in Poland. Like that’s what they told us, the way they treated them in Poland and what they did there, you know.
What did they say about the way the Germans treated them, what did they do?
They talk with their bloody hands; you know what they’re like, but what they’d done when they took some of them prisoners, what they’d done to their women and what they did, blah blah. They reckon the Germans were


worse than the Russians at that time, you know what I mean.
Tell us how you reacted to that? You said you admired the Germans.
Well we kept on because they’d never done it out here, you know what I mean. They never went down our estimation whatsoever, because it never happened with us.


I could never understand the French with the f...... Germans, what the French used to say when we were at Alamein. I never trusted the f...... French either. None of us trusted the French.
You served with them where?
At Alamein.
At Alamein?
I’ll tell you about what they done to them f...... French over there, mate. They put the New Zealanders behind them to make them f...... go too.


We were on the coast, the 51st Highland Division was next to us, there was the Free French, put the New Zealanders behind the Free French. You f...... go otherwise, they don’t print that in their books, in their bloody histories.
You went on some patrols with the Poles, didn’t you?
Yeah, yeah.
Now, you said, were they eager for combat?


Were they eager to fight the Germans?
Bloody oath they were. They were more than eager. We’d say, “You’ve got to go back now.” “Can’t we go a bit more?” You know. When we went out with them on patrol, see their infantry and a couple of our infantry blokes would go with them and a couple of their engineers with us. So we were going out with a part of our own infantry and part of theirs. See, they might send out forty Poles


and they might have about three Aussie infantry with the forty Poles, and they might send ten or twelve engineers. It’d be two of us, you see. But the infantry, we’ve got to go back. You had to go a certain distance always off a compass and they’d say, “Can’t we go a bit further, can’t we go a bit further?” You’ve got to go back, you see. But when they went into action, mate, they’d


f...... be screaming at them. They’d be f...... screaming getting into these Germans.
Do you think the Germans were scared of them?
I don’t think so, no, no. I don’t think so. The more noise you can make when you’re attacking, the more it makes the other mob get a bit nervous. That’s why when you go into a bayonet charge you all f...... roar when there’s a bayonet charge


because you’ll distract the enemy and it sort of upsets him, takes his mind off something you see. That’s what we’ve been told. They’d be screaming, these f...... Poles, scream at the top of their voices.
Were they good soldiers?
A lot of them when we came out of Tobruk, they went over to England and they joined the air force and got sent back to England, a lot of the blokes that were in Tobruk, Poles. We’ve got a couple in


Hobart I know. They were Poles in Tobruk. When they came out of Tobruk they applied to join the air force and they went back to England and some were bomber pilots, some fighter pilots, yeah. They done a good job in Casino in Italy, Monte Casino, that bloody mountain, the Poles. They were good fighters mate, yeah, yeah, good fighters.


After you left Tobruk what happened then?
We came back to Egypt, didn’t we?
How long did you stay in Egypt for, or what took place when you were in Egypt?
We went into Gaza or somewhere. It was just down from Tel Aviv. We were only there a fortnight. They give us a couple of days in Tel Aviv.


We f...... near wrecked that place. I’ll show you some photos out there of it, shagging and drinking. That’s when they sent up to Damascus in Syria. Our company was only probably a fortnight out of Tobruk and then they sent us up to Damascus. We frigged arsed around there, that there was that much f...... snow there. F...... snowed


in and snowed and snowed everywhere, the bastard of a place. We were only there for about six weeks that’s when they sent us up to Tripoli, up past Beirut, and then we started doing all these fortifications up on the Turkish border in all different places around toward the Turkish border. I had the time of my life there too. I was driving around every f...... where.
The Turkish border?


at a place called Aleppo, yes. I was in the transport, I was only a lance corporal then, but all the bloody corporals and the f...... sergeants they sent away to these f...... schools, and the major said to me, “You’re in charge of all the transport.” So they were all spread out all over the f...... country, groups of ten and twenty with


jack-hammers and all this and they’re putting these fortifications in. I used to have go around the bloody lot. So I had the time of my life there, mate. If I’d have wanted to shag a French sheila, we had these interpreters with us, you see.


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I had a really good time there. I went and played in Beirut for three or four f...... days. I can tell you funny stories about there. I’m not getting taped now, am I?
Yeah, you are.
Yeah, tell us about Beirut.
What happened in Beirut, me and my mate when down, you see. Got on the piss,


forgot to go and get a bed. So it come about 10.00 o’clock at night, we’re pissed. Trevor, he said, I said, “We’ll go around to the f...... gendarmes and get them to lock us up for the night.” So we go around to this f...... gendarmes, the police station. We said to this bloke, “What about giving us a bed for the night?” He said, “I’ll get a better bed for you than that, mate,” he said, “Take you down to this brothel.” We were pissed so away we go to the brothel. I don’t know whether I had one or not


that night. I don’t know.


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We had some fun there in Beirut. We walked around the next day and they’ve got all these French sheilas doing your fingernails and all that, and I wouldn’t have my f...... fingernails. My mate, he got


f...... all, “Have a look at the sheila doing, f...... French, look at the f...... fingernails. I’m going to get my f...... fingernails manicured.” I said, he went, he got his f......, he never got nothing. He put the hard word on her. Oh, laugh. Went down there, these officers come down, like some of our officers, we go down to this


f......, officers’ f...... joint. We got a lend of a coat off them, and this f...... lieut says to us, “Jeez, I’ve got a lovely sheila down here, Don.” I said, “Have you?” I said, Bamgarten was his name and I said, “Have you Bam?” “F......, she’s gorgeous.” His brain was here instead of up here. We go to this f...... cabaret. She wasn’t bad either, and the stupid c...., his f...... mind went, you see,


on this sheila. So a f...... fortnight after she was a f...... spy and he wanted us to f...... shoot her. She was a spy. So they used to work in these café joints, but we wouldn’t shoot her because that’s the provos job, not ours. The provos must’ve had to shoot her.
Can you stop for a sec, mate?


For the Australian soldiers in the Middle East which places did they like to frequent the most with brothels? Like what type of women, were they attracted to the French, Italians?
Mainly a lot of Hungarians, the real blond Hungarians, little things, Hungarian




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Did you get along with the Arabs?
Did you find


that Australians and yourself get along with the Arabs?
We got along with everyone. We’re funny, we’re a f...... funny race, don’t worry about that. We seem to get on well with everyone until someone upsets us. Then we get f...... mad, we’re bad bastards. But we normally get on with every race in the world.
Tell us about the incidents where you got upset, when the Aussies got upset because of something the Arabs did or whatever?


They’d come around pinching your f...... rifles, cut your tent down, take the tent. You’d be asleep, the bastards. This is true.
This happened to you?
It happened in my unit. By oath they will.
How did they get the tent up?
Well, you’re f...... asleep, 4.00 or 5.00. They’re that f...... soft and tender. They cut the tent, the next thing you’re f...... looking at the stars. There is no bullshit attached there, mate. No, that’s not bullshit.


They’re the greatest thieves in the f...... world, them Arabs. You get out there and you belt f...... shit out of them, kick their f...... arses and hit them with anything you get your hands on. They’re no good. See, they’re the bad Arabs, you know what I mean. You’ve got your Christian Arabs and you’ve got this Arab and that f......, all them type. You get them bad bastards; they’re f...... shifty bastards. It’s no wonder you see on the TV getting in with them f...... logs of wood and belting shit out of them.


You can understand why they do it, mate.
So what else would they try and steel?
They’d f...... take everything. They loved stealing rifles. You had to watch, you’d f...... want to sleep with your rife in the bed with you. They loved getting f...... rifles. They’d thieve anything. They’d even take the f...... eye out of your head, shit in it and then call you shit eye.


Did they actually kill Australian soldiers though?
No no, they didn’t kill you. I don’t know of any of them killing.
I was told that in Cairo, if Australian soldiers walked around in Cairo they had to be careful that they didn’t wander off the main areas?
Yeah, always stuck to, normally two to three of you, not one on your own.


The military police they were everywhere. Don’t go up that street because it’s bad or you know what I mean. It was a rotten f...... place Cairo, filthy, filthy mate. And then you go down to Shepherd’s Hotel, a big hotel.
With the Australians, I remember reading a report by an American officer who had said that Australians are known to be selling guns to the Arabs?


I’ll guarantee there was not a f...... Australian sold them a gun. We sold everything; we’d sell them f...... blankets, petrol, tyres, never sold arms to them. Never sell ammo or arms to anyone. The price they used to offer you for your rifle, how could you sell the rifle because that was your responsibility and each rifle had a number on it and it’s all in your f...... pay books and everything? How could you sell your rifle? There’d be no trying to sell it and getting another one because they’d


check the number of the rifle you were supposed to have. If that didn’t correspond to the rifle you had in your hand, you were asked f...... bad questions, mate. I could never ever believe that, they may do, but I’ve never ever known an Australian to sell ammo or rifles to anyone, to anyone. Never.


But I say, you never say the never because you can’t guarantee everyone, but as far as I know, no. No, never sell rifles to anyone.
Can you tell us about Australians in the Middle East. Some of them say they never went to brothels. How important were brothels to Australian soldiers?
Very important. That’s why they had them. See, a lot of the brothels


were under army control as I said to you before where the doctors went every week and inspected every woman. Brothels are very important to any troops. Germany used to bring women up in caravans to his front line soldiers in Alamein. A woman is very important to a soldier. It doesn’t matter what army or what, they’ve been doing it since the f...... year


dot, haven’t they? They’re sitting on a goldmine, them women. But you know yourself, it’s only nature, it’s nature, isn’t it? And you’ve got to keep your troops happy, you know what I mean. You’ve got to keep them happy. If you don’t keep them happy they’re no f...... good to you.
After coming back from the front line and visiting a brothel, what affect would that have on you mentally, physically?
Oh f...... lovely. Oh, looking for the


next one, one around the corner. No, you were really sort of free, type of thing, you know what I mean.
It’s a release?
Release, sort of relief, yes, yeah. It’s like getting on the beer. Something sort of went off your shoulders or off your head, I wouldn’t know what, but a short of relief. Have a few beers. Can you imagine like


we were always good beer drinkers, Australians. Normally he’s a good drinker. Could imagine being locked up with eight f...... months without having a beer? Eight or nine months? Really, eleven months? Wouldn’t you go mad when you got a bottle into you, you know what I mean. That’s what happened to us.
Is that how long it was in Tobruk?
We went up in January. We never come out until the middle of November and when I say the middle of January, back in the middle of, it’s bloody near eleven months without a f...... drink, mate.


I got on the cognac in Tobruk going up the first time. Bloody all this cognac was in barrels. But I mean we never had a drink more or less for eleven months. My oath we never.
What about officers, would they visit the same brothels?
No, you had officers’ brothels.


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How did you react to that?
F...... didn’t worry us. We didn’t give a fuck if we were black or white. But they honestly told us they thought, “We thought all Australians were black.”
These are the Scots?
And the Poms, and the Poms mate. Not only the f...... Scots, the Poms too, yes. They thought we were f...... all Abos.
Were these like working class Poms?


And some of the middle class?
Are you sure they weren’t trying to pull your leg?
No. We pulled their legs when we told them we owned f...... sheep farms and kangaroo farms, ostrich farms, and they all swallowed it. Everyone thought, “We own ostrich farms.” “I own a f...... kangaroo farm.” (UNCLEAR) “I own some f...... thing, pineapple farm.” They f...... believed it you know, poor bastards. They


all wanted to marry you to get out here, all the Poms. What we couldn’t understand when we went there, like we got a couple of sheilas, “We’ll take you to the pictures, duck,” you know what I mean. You go along to get her ticket; you couldn’t pay for her to go in. She had to pay for herself. The same when you got on the tram. She paid her own tram. We couldn’t work that out. We said, “Why? We take you out we want to pay for your tram fare. We want to pay for your


meal or pictures.” No, always paid their own way.
Before you actually went to the Middle East, did most guys your age in Queenstown have sexual experiences at all?
Never without around a mining town, mate.
There’s plenty of sex in them mining towns.
Even at a young age, at eighteen?
Yes. Christ, you started f...... when you were about fourteen.


Alright, so what did you learn about women when you went to the Middle East, or what do you think the other soldiers as well?
Well we never had brothels like, you know. The first brothel I went to was in f...... Perth on our way over.


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Did you learn a lot about women through this?
Oh yeah, a great education.
In what way would you say?
Well, how am I going to put it? They’re very broad-minded. You probably know they are very broad-minded. Your mind expands with


theirs when they talk about blah blah, you know, and the different ways to do it. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?
So you learn, don’t you?
Well I haven’t been, so I don’t know.
Oh, you lying bastard. You bastard. You’d be the first cab off the rank. You’d be the first cab off the rank. You’d push everyone aside and break their legs getting in there.


That’s a bit judgemental there?
I can judge you, I can judge you boy.
What about Benghazi? Benghazi was also a haven for brothels.
See, all up through there, the Italian Army, they all had brothels, you see. Every big city, don’t matter where you go, what you do. It’s


just like going to Melbourne or Sydney, they’ve had brothels there since before I was f...... born. Little Swanson Street and all them bloody places in Melbourne, haven’t they. You know what I mean. It’s funny naturally, in them big places they’re bigger and they’ve got them everywhere, brothels everywhere.
Now Benghazi was the first time you would’ve actually met Italian girls in brothels?
No, not in a brothel. They were walking along the f...... street.


She was walking along, so I
There weren’t brothels in Benghazi?
Yes. There were brothels and bars. They had brothels. They had brothels in Tobruk.


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Do you know of any Australian soldiers who had been with Papuan women?
Yeah, yeah, and they got bloody diseases too.
Really? So it did happen?


did happen. They’re bloody filthy, really filthy
Who are these Australian soldiers who would sleep with them if they are so filthy?
But you know some, I said to you before, some Australians, they’re as low as a duck’s arse, you know what I mean, in every race. But the normal Australian wouldn’t even piss on them. But you get that one or two who wants to f….. them, you see, and they did. Then they got a disease and then they were going crook.
What sort of disease?
Syphilis and f......


shankers, everything.
Shankers? What’s shankers?
You get them big sores on the side and your cock drops off. Haven’t you seen them shankers?
No, I haven’t seen them.
It was just like leprosy. Everything will drop off you. If the old fellow drops off you you’re f…...
I’m quite happy I’ve never seen it either.
Well don’t let it drop off.
So you know some guys who’ve done it?
Yes, yes.
And what happened when they did it?


Well, they took them back but they send them home.
But how would the Aussie chaps, your mates, react to them doing it?
There wasn’t my f...... mates. Not in my f...... unit, would’ve shot the c....s, but you get a mob from other units. But they treated them and then they sent them back to Australia. Dishonourably discharged, yeah. There was another island off Borneo,


I can’t think of the name of the place. It’s not inhabited, but a lot of blokes start f...... around, you know, bad sheilas up there.
In Borneo did you say?
Yeah, and they used to send them over to this island. They’d give them a heap of tucker and a f...... rifle and a heap of bloody bullets. No one ever went near that island when they got this disease.


So when they ate the tucker all they could do was shoot their f...... mate out. That’s true. That is true.
I don’t know what the disease was but it came from some of the women. Mainly a lot come from the little Dyak women and that, you see. It’s incurable and they sent them over to this f...... island with a heap of tucker and a rifle and a few rounds of ammo.
These are the Aussie soldiers you’re talking


No. I don’t know who they were. I know they were Australian. I know four went over there onto this island, but apparently there were others over there plus some civilians over a period of years. That’s as much as I can tell you about that side of it. So that’s why I had to go and get myself a little Eurasian girl and get her inspected. Then the f...... doctor wanted one. I knew I was on safe ground then.


You were at the Battle of El Alamein?
El Alamein, you got to the Battle of El Alamein?
Yeah. You going on with that now?
Yeah. We’ll come back to the brothels a bit later.
There’s a lot of f...... sheilas in this.
You’ve got me interested.
You going over?
Battle of El Alamein, tell us how you got involved in this battle.


After you came back to Cairo you did your Turkish border thing. What happened then?
We went up, the 6th and 7th Divvy came over, you see. I can only speak from where I was and the unit I was with.
Go for it, yeah.
I can’t talk about another unit.
No, that’s what I want. I want you to speak about your own experiences.
All I know, this afternoon the major came to me and he said to me, “Get all the trucks filled up; get them full of petrol and oil


and everything, and they’ve got to carry fifty gallons of petrol spare in them drums,” you see. One for each vehicle. And I said, “Where are we going?” Well he said, “The 6th and 7th Divvies have gone home,” he said, “and I reckon we may be going home.” Well we did go. We went down. We went to El Kantara, the port there. No f...... boats there, was there? So we had a day or two there


and we had an idea we might’ve been coming home, you see. Might’ve been waiting on boats. Anyway, we were there a couple of days and then the next thing up the f...... desert we went, up to f...... El Alamein. That would be getting towards July, early July. Could’ve been late June but I’ve got an idea it was early July. We went up there, so it all started all over again, f...... barbed wire, f...... mines. I laid


70,000 mines, I laid 75,000 miles of barbed wire in my time, mate. It all starts to (UNCLEAR) and then it got bigger and bigger and bigger. We were right on the coast we were camped and that’s where it all started from.
I’ll pause you there and we’ll continue the next tape with Alamein. We’ve run out of tape.
Interviewee: Donald Cody Archive ID 1772 Tape 06


Alright, El Alamein?
Where you were saying what was happening there, do you want to just continue from there?
Yeah, we were camped on the beach and we had the 51st Highland Division, before the attack the 51st Highland Division come next to us and they put some bloody Free French and they put


some New Zealanders behind the Free French. I don’t know what for, and some South Africans and a mob of Poms behind the South Africans. We don’t know what for, but they were there. Then it all started all over again, laying bloody mines, putting up barbed wire, running bloody patrols. I cut new bloody tracks in the desert for them, all things like that. When it come


to the night of the big attack we had to go out, the platoon I was with, I had to take twenty blokes with me. I’ve got them on that bloody, photostats out there after boys; I’ll show you what we done. We had to open the minefield up about sixteen or eighteen feet wide. We had to run a wide inch tape and then we had kerosene tins with the front


cut out and a kerosene lamp in it. So we got all that ready and then they opened the barrage up at twenty to 10.00, 21.40 hours. So about a quarter past 9.00 we had to take a blanket, get over the tin and light the kerosene lamps so it shone that way for them to come through in the tape.


We were sitting out there in f...... no man’s land when they opened up with a f...... thousand f...... guns. Frightened f...... shit, f...... near died of a heart attack. You can imagine 100,000 guns go off. Then they put two search lights up to join like that and that’s where the infantry had to head. As the infantry came through some of them had to join them and some had to go back and get more truck loads of mines in case they advanced. You had to put a minefield


out before the next morning, you see. So that was the night of the big attack. That went on for roughly ten days and if he hadn’t sort of break that night we would’ve broke. We were f……. I think it was about the 2nd of December we had to cut the railway line to let the bloody infantry and that, and the pioneers through, you see.


They had two platoons of us which were roughly about 120 officers. We had to dig through this f...... big railway line. F...... high as, we had to dig through to let them through, you see, the railway line. But we had to get the pioneers. It took us over three hours to dig through with picks and shovels. We had to get the pioneers to help, but when we got through the infantry spread out to head back towards the coast. They wanted to cut half his bloody army off,


you see. So that was the night of the big battle. I was there twelve days.
Can you describe what it was like to be in that twelve days?
You’ve got no idea. No one could ever describe it.
Try your best.
The bloody shells are screaming over you. You know, you can’t, you had to be there. And the noise, you know, it’s a horrible bloody feeling, shocking.


No wonder some of the poor bastards got bomb happy as they used to call it, their nerves, you know. The bloody shells are screaming over you. Well, you imagine 900 to 1,000 guns going off, whoof, whoof, whoof, that was non-stop. It went for twenty minutes before they stopped and then they opened up again. You could imagine what it would be like underneath, all these bloody shells screaming at you and by the time they finish you’ve got the f...... bullets coming at you from the f...... Germans and his f...... artillery shooting back


at you. It’s really hard to explain. It was an unbelievable sight but I wouldn’t like to be under that barrage again. Once was enough for me, not everyone. But the sight was unbelievable; it was just like broad daylight the way these bloody guns were going. And I’ve got no faith in the bloody tanks, the bastards.


Everywhere we got mixed up with f...... tanks they stuffed everything up. So we put this tape, used to be an inch wide, right through, and lamps right through. Half the c....s (UNCLEAR) and the c....s wanted to fight. They ran into a f......, and blew their f...... tracks off, and we always had trouble with the f...... tanks. We always did, in Tobruk and everywhere we were, f...... tanks caused trouble I don’t know what was wrong.


They all seemed to get off the f...... minefield or never turn up. They were too late turning up, all this sort of thing. F…. them f...... tanks. I never had much faith in them, but they’re handy. They’re good when they do get going. Bloody oath they are. I’ve seen some lovely tank battles at Alamein, beautiful tank battles, unbelievable. I never had faith in the bastard, never on time or they ran off onto a minefield and blow a track off. That gave us the impression the


punks didn’t want to go in, you see. How could you f...... run off a tape? You’ve got tapes and f...... lamps to do through. How could you run over there? Pull a f...... stick, (UNCLEAR).
Can you describe these tanks battles you saw?
The tank battles?
Gee, them tank battles, Jesus. You can’t see ahead of you because there’s so much dust. You’ll see these f...... cannons going off and the bloody machine guns in their tanks,


and then you’ll see the top of the tank get f...... blown off and then you’ll see a tank a light and all these poor c....s trying to run away from it. It’s hard, very hard to describe it all, poor bastards. I wouldn’t go in a tank, f...... not going to get burnt to death. I’ll get burnt when I die but not in a f...... tank. The poor bastards, they have a c.... of a life really, the tankies, tank crews. You can imagine the f...... top of the tank getting blown off


and the c.... catching on fire and you’re trying to get out and then these c....s roam up in machine, both sides, you know. The Germans done it to our blokes and we done it to their blokes. They’re trying to run away. The bastards are sitting there with their f...... Bren, f...... machine. Not too good is it? No. So when we cut the railway line you’d see all these f...... red, blue and green tracers just above the railway line. We’re trying to get through and f...... red, blue and green,


white f...... tracer bullets. See every tenth bullet was a tracer, a different colour, you see. You can just imagine all these f...... machine guns trained on you. Yes, yeah. Between June and December about the 3rd, we had 5,000 Aussies killed at Alamein. They were just killed. I


can’t think how many prisoners. I think there were about 4,000 or 5,000 wounded. I know when we finished Alamein we were told there were only 8,000 left on their feet. That’s what we were told. When we did get through, like through the railway line and got down to the coast, and the New Zealanders, we were f………. We had not many men left. So the New Zealanders and the Poms kept going. We had to come back a couple of days after. We


were stuffed, and then we had to go and bury our blokes, bury the f...... Germans and that, and the poor bastards, they were going black and stink, smell was rotten. And everyone around, we used to take their tags off them so we knew who they were. It’s not a very nice job. Yeah, that was our turn out there. Then we came back and we had a big march past.


12,000 But they sent reinforcements. We had 12,000 marched past at the airfield at Gaza in front of [Field Marshall] Montgomery and all them big bastards before we came home, you see.
When you were at El Alamein did you know you were fighting Rommel?
Oh yes, oh Christ, yes. Yes, you always knew when you were fighting that bastard.
Can you describe his tactics and what he was doing?
Well, he was a great tank man. See, when the Second World


War broke he was in charge of some tank mob in Germany that went through France. He was what they call a Blitzkrieg man, everything was for tanks. Nothing would stop a tank in them days, but we used to stop him in Tobruk when we used to stop there in the trenches, you see. That’s why he couldn’t work it out. But he was a great tank man, Rommel.
Do you remember any other tactics he used besides the tanks?


Yes, he used to use a lot of artillery, a lot of artillery tanks. He had them self-propelled guns they used to call them. They’d run up and they’d run back firing f...... shells. They had great armour, the Germans did. They’re a very clever race you know.
And how would he attack? Would he attack in waves at night or during the day?
He was generally a day man. When we first started at Alamein we used to


fight of a night and we’d try and rest of a day, but he’d attack of a day, you see. He always wanted to attack in day light.
So you’d be buggered if you’re fighting at night and defending at day?
Yeah, that’s right. They didn’t like fighting of a night. See that’s what, at Alamein you’d have an infantry company go in, or two companies. They’d fight all night, try to


push push push and just before daylight they’d try and get one or two of those companies up and send two more of our blokes in so they’d be fresh for the day. Engineers used to change over too. Of course you had engineers of a night time and engineers of a day time just in case. But that’s how the main battle of Alamein was fought.
Did you have to serve in infantry as well in that battle?
If you were there, yeah. You were just there.


And what was that like if you can describe it at all? I know it’s hard.
It’s going back to the old story, you kill him or he kills you, self-protection, yeah.
Did you see hand to hand combat?
I beg your pardon?
Hand to hand combat there?
I’ve seen plenty of that. Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of that with the infantry. I never used to worry, I used to have a f...... Bren gun. It’s a bit


heavy to carry, but I didn’t like the f...... bayonets either.
How did the Germans fight in hand to hand combat?
They’d be fine, the same as our blokes. They’d have a go, bloody oath they would. Well, if you’re going to stick a bayonet into me I’m going to have a f...... go back, you know what I mean? It’s instinct, isn’t it, nature, or whatever you like to call it.
When you see hand to hand combat does it look like there’s some formal


structure to it or is it just flailing for their lives?
It’s every man for himself, you know what I mean. If your bayonet gets stuck, you always had a bullet up your spout as they used to say. If your bayonet got stuck, well you’d find a bullet and get free your bayonet. All you had to do was put two inches of bayonet in the right spot to kill anyone, but you’re that excited, you’ll go like that, won’t you, and like when that bloody far might get stuck, well you find a bullet and pull it out, you see.


It’s not pretty to watch is it, hand to hand?
No. As I said before when you see the whites of their eyes it’s time you went back. Like you’re all keyed up, and I said before you do things you don’t realise you’re doing them or you’ve done them until after. It mightn’t affect until a couple of days after, you know what I mean. It mightn’t affect you for two


days, and then it hits you.
Is there a lot of adrenaline and pump?
It’s everything. You’re really off your f...... head, putting it plainly. You go off your head; you don’t know what you’re doing. Well you must be off your head to do some of the things you do do. You must be, I don’t know. But you’re all worked up with adrenaline. You’re worked up and you can’t let your mates down and you do things you don’t realise you’ve done them or whatever. It really doesn’t affect you


until a couple of days after. When you’re out for a couple, then you go a bit bonkers in yourself.
What would happen when you,
You think sort of, work around your head, that sort of thing.
you see friends die and things?
Oh, you see a poor old mate, yeah. That’s the bad part. That’s the bad part when you see your own mates, yeah. You’ve


got to be fast on your feet, mate, and go for your f...... life, yeah. I carried a little German out one night. He cut his leg off, got blown off. Come along when I was coming back. I could hear this bloke singing, he was singing out, “Aqua, aqua.” I knew he wanted water, you see. Only a bloke about nineteen. I had f......


photos of him here and everything but I can’t find them. I carried him back to the first aid room, but after we came out of Alamein I had to go into Gaza one day. I went to the Gaza Hospital, he was there, sitting up with his leg. He said, “I’ll go back to Germany.” They were going to repatriate him, you see. Only about eighteen or nineteen, nice little fellow too.


But they were a funny lot, when you were taking them prisoner they’d be start taking their watches off or their bloody medals because they knew f...... well you were going to take them. But they’d be (UNCLEAR) their watches for you, their rings, medals. He was alright, the old German, yeah.


I’ll repeat myself. We could’ve had better officers (UNCLEAR). Not better officers at all, one in all in, you know what I mean. A photo of my mate’s grave over there. He won the MM [Military Medal] at Alamein that night. I was with him when he won it, that Bingham.


What did he do to win that?
What did he do to win it?
We went in with, I don’t know if it was 15th or 17th Battalion, no, 43rd Battalion. They told us there were two machine gun nests and where to go to get on it, like they told us two, and there were three engineers, myself and my two mates from Queensland. Three of us went in and when we got there, there was f...... three f...... machine gun


nests. He first caught this bloody infantry officer down the bloody leg and one of my mates, he got a burst leg, engineer, and it killed about ten infantry blokes, and he said, he had more f...... guts up here, he said, “I’ll go around the back, you go up here.” So he went around the back with three or four infantry, but he shot three or four


Germans in the back of the head. Anyway, we cleared one machine; there were two machine gun nests. The other blokes, they chucked their hand in. So we got one of them bloody German ground sheets and a couple of rifles and he made these four prisoners carry this officer back so he got an MM for it which he bloody earned it too. Pity, it played on his mind. He blew his f...... brains out with me up in Borneo


about a fortnight before the war finished, but it always played on his mind because when we come back from the Middle East up in the Tablelands he’d wake up screaming of a night, you know. He was in the same tent as me. He finished up a warrant officer, and he’d say, “I never gave them blokes a fair f...... go,” you know what I mean. It played on his mind, the poor bastard, but as I said to him, “Well look Fat, it’s you or f...... them. Shoot them from the f...... back or the front. They’d do the same to you.” But he never ever got over it.


So he got buried in Labuan. A bloke sent me a photo a while back of his grave. These things happen, and you’ll see another bloke do f...... nothing and get a f...... decoration. It depends who you are, where you are, who sees it. I said he should’ve got the VC [Victoria Cross] for what he done that night, but got an MM. F...... lucky to get that, but that goes on in all wars. Depends


where you are, who sees you, what happens, blah blah. I suppose I was from here to the road off the first VC ever won in the Second War, an airman from New South Wales in Tobruk. I’d beaten that road off him when he won it, and his officer got knocked, never killed him. He got wounded and f...... went mad with a rifle, bayonet. He cleaned about two machine gun posts out.


They killed him. He was the first one to win the VC in the Second World War, yeah.
When you said it played on his mind, can you describe that further?
Well, the idea was he shot them from behind. He got around the back, you see, and he shot four of them and the other three or four threw their hand in. He reckoned he should’ve shot them from the front, but how can you shoot them from the front when you went around the back?


See, they’ve got their machine guns opened up on us here and he went around the back and he shot four of them. You can’t shoot them from the f...... front when they’re shooting a machine gun down here, can they? But that was his way of life. He said, “I never give them a fair go.” But he was a little bit bonkers up here. He was, at the finish. He started to go a little but funny up here at the finish, but he was a bloody mighty soldier, bloody oath he was.


Do anything, mad, the bastard was.
Did he have nightmares and things like that?
He did after, yeah. He’d be fast asleep, all of a sudden he’d be asleep singing out, “I shouldn’t have done that, I shouldn’t have done that.” It really played on him I think. He did really want treatment as far as I’m concerned, but you don’t do nothing, do you?
At the time was there treatment available?
Was there treatment available at the time?
We weren’t f...... game to ask for it.


When I was, after the war and I came back I had to go before the f...... medical board. I never got discharged until 1945. I had to go before this medical board and the bloke in charge, he said, “Why wasn’t you discharged in 1944?” He said, “You should’ve been discharged in 1944.” He said, “Your nerves were gone then,” but no one wanted you, you know what I mean. No bastard wants


you. Don’t you worry, they still f...... don’t want you a lot of these f...... governments either. Don’t you worry about that. Don’t tell me about these f...... governments. The only decent thing I will say about them, especially here in Tasmania, we get good treatment from the doctors and hospitals. As for our f...... pensioners, no. They’ll sit back and get all their f...... big super. They promise you this, I don’t want to talk. Hawke and Keating caused all this in 1984, ’88.


They said once you turn sixty-five you can’t get a TPI [Totally and Permanently Incapacitated pension]. Can’t get a, but if you were a doctor, a lawyer, a politician or had a farm, you could get one, and I said to the bloke, “That’s f...... class distinction.” I said it to a tribunal president, that’s class distinction. It’s just a f...... lie, that’s all. I said, “I’m three months over the age of sixty-five.


I’ve had three lots of f...... cancer. I can’t get a TPI?” He said, “No.” So where does your class f...... distinction come in?
When the doctor said your nerves were gone in ’44, what do they mean by nerves are gone?
Well, they send you to these f...... head shrinks. I talk straight Australian. When I had to go before this head shrink, he was a f...... Pom too.


He said, no hope for this f...... Pommy. Every time you went before a f...... Pom he wouldn’t shit. Anyway, I had to go before this Pom and I thought a f...... waste of my time. He’s asking me questions, what them psych bastards do. So when he finished he said, he called me Mr Cody, “I’ve got to write a letter to the doctor at Woden in Canberra over your case.”


You think they’re, what’s that c...., a f...... waste. He wrote and that was, I should’ve been, he could trace everything back and what he asked me I should’ve been discharged from the army in 1944. I got a lovely letter from f...... Canberra too. They must be able to somewhere (UNCLEAR), I don’t know.
When you were in El Alamein and you see all that’s going on, would


you see guys around you also falling apart?
I’ve seen poor buggers just go off their head and you’ve had to bloody well tie them down more or less. Their nerves are broken. They just couldn’t stand it anymore. I mean some people are stronger than others, but they used to say they were gutless. They weren’t gutless, the poor bastards, their nerves just stood as much as what the body and mind could take. That’s the way I looked at it. They just couldn’t stand it no more. I mean you can


imagine some of the sights you’d see. I mean I don’t want to make things sound bad, but some of the sights you see, they’re not bloody human. You can understand people can’t stand any more of it, can’t you? But these bastards sitting on their arse in Canberra they can’t understand that because they’ve never ever seen. You go up to the f...... repatriation hospital, the department there; they’ve got bloody kids in there twenty-one telling you what to do. I’ve never seen, I’m mixed up in the RSL a fair bit,


you see. I was up there the other f...... week and this f...... young, he’d be no more than twenty-two and he started telling me. I said, “Look mate, get one of them f...... counters or I’ll knock your f...... head off.” I don’t give a fuck for them. They all know me up here. I said, “You little c....,” I said, “I was kicking arse when I was your f...... age. You’ve never kicked a f...... decent sheila, have you, you bastard,” I said. But they’re the bastards telling us what to do now. I’m eighty-six and there’s a c.... up there, twenty-two,


telling me all about the war and the c.... has never left the f...... main street of Hobart. Just what you’ve got to put up with today.
So you’re saying that different soldiers had different thresholds to what was happening?
Yes, this is right, yeah, yeah.
It was basically different personalities?
Yeah. I’ve been state president of this (UNCLEAR) Disabled War Veterans for f...... three years. I resigned the other day because you know, blah, blah,


and I don’t want to talk, but I’ve tried to do, I’ve got to go up there to deputy commissioners. We’ve got a lovely deputy commissioner, he’s a nice bloke, but as he said, “Don,” he said, “I can only do what I’m told from Canberra.” He said, “I can see your side of it and I know, but I can’t do nothing about it.” But them c....s are sitting in f...... Canberra with their f...... big superannuation on their big fat boards doing nothing and they’re not looking after. We don’t want to look after, only


little odds and ends we want.
Who was in charge at El Alamein?
Mooreshead was in charge at El Alamein as well? Who was in charge at El Alamein?
Montgomery. Leslie Mooreshead was our general but Montgomery was in charge of the corps and Alexander was in charge of the whole 8th Army.
Were they hands on?
Were they hands on?
No. They were good blokes. Alexander was only about that high. He was a good bloke. Montgomery was born in Hobart.


His father was a minister. He went back to England when he was only about eight or nine and he was in the First World War, Montgomery, and he worked his way up. He was a good bloke. When he come out to Alamein he asked were there any Tasmanians over there. They must’ve told him and he met every one of us. Every one of us he met, but he was a very strict


disciplinarian. He didn’t drink and he didn’t smoke and he was like Mooreshead. Mooreshead, our bloke, were exactly the same, but fantastic. They would go to the f...... front line, not sit back in f...... Cairo and them places. They were up in the front line and they’d go out too. They’re good generals.
Were they very charismatic?
No, no, no. Very nice, didn’t matter


if you were a bloody bottom soldier, when they walked by, “How are you digger,” you know, wave their hand at you.
People loved them?
We loved them that way because they were down to earth blokes, you know what I mean. You know those smart bastards wanted you to salute every time you turned your arse.
And people respected them?
They’d get more respect and blokes would do more for them. We used to call Mooreshead Ming the Merciless. He was a bastard. You had to train, he wanted us to be the


top. He got us to the bloody top too. We named him Ming the Merciless and then we called him Mooreshead and his twenty f...... thousand thieves, we called him, because we were all f...... thieves.
What did Montgomery look like, was he big in stature?
No, only tall, thin. Similar to me only a bit taller. Wasn’t broad or anything, very tall. I suppose about six foot two I suppose.


And do you know who was organising, what was happening, was it Mooreshead or Montgomery?
At Alamein? Alexander, he was the brains. Montgomery was the big field general, you see, and when we went to Alamein Montgomery had it if anything happened to him Mooreshead had to take over the whole corps, whole front line. You’ve got to name a successor if anything


happens, you see.
Would that have been acceptable to the other British people?
He just told them. One Pommy bloody general tried to kick up and Montgomery said, “I’m the bloke in charge. He’s the next bloke in charge,” which was Mooreshead.
What other countries were you fighting with at El Alamein?
Only Germans and Ities. We wasn’t fighting f...... Ities ‘cause they were gutless.
No, on your side?
They were on our side.


They were on our side, yeah.
There was you, the Australians, the British and?
British, South Africans, New Zealanders, Free French, Poles. Poles never had much to do with Alamein ‘cause they’d sent them over towards Ethiopia


way, towards somewhere over that way.
And how did all these different nationalities blend together?
I think alright. See, the Scots, they’re marvellous. They’re marvellous blokes. They’re good fighters. I’ve seen, well I wasn’t the only one, we were in the front line and the 51st Highland Division was attacking this morning, about f...... 8.00 o’clock in the morning, broad f...... daylight.


A bloke gets out in front playing the bagpipes. They’ll stir you up. They’ll make you fight them bag pipes, don’t worry about too. Anyway, I reckon about twice as big as this house, 600 Scotch blokes was killed going after this gun, this eighty-eight millimetre. The bagpipe bloke, they gave him a VC but he got killed too. By jeez they’ll fight, them Scotch. The black whites, they wear different ribbons for different battles.


If they lose a battle they lose a ribbon. It’s the worst thing that can happen to them, lose a ribbon. They got chased out of Dunkirk, they lost about three ribbons. That’s against the Scotch grain, whatever you call it, blah blah. They don’t like losing, them Scotch. (UNCLEAR) the bagpipes and away you f...... go.
What other traits did other nationalities bring?
What other thing did other


nationalities bring to the battle?
Really nothing. We had nothing to go into war with. We had no bloody bugles blowing like the f...... Japs and them. That’s part of their history I think, the Scots and the bagpipes. You know how they got the bagpipes, don’t you? Do you know where the bagpipes originally came from? They come from Ireland. That’s the original story behind the bagpipes,


and they were that bag in Ireland they kicked them out and the f...... Scotch got them. That’s how the Scotch got the bagpipes. No, that’s true. They originated in Ireland. See, the Irish had the bagpipes too, the Irish. We had a lot of Irish soldiers up there at Alamein too. They’re mad as f...... rabbits, them Irish, worse than me. They’re mad, them c....s, f...... Irish.
What would they get up to?
They’d do anything, mate. They’d go f...... berserk.


They were f...... up here. I was living up at New Norfolk when I worked at Boyne and I had an Irish bloke living up next door to me. He was f...... real Irish. He couldn’t get his f...... lawn going, trying to start the lawn mower this morning. I said, “I’ll have a look at it.” He kicked it and broke two toes. This is how f...... stupid he was, wouldn’t wait for me to go around. But they’re all totally (UNCLEAR) and you can’t understand half the c....s. They’re like them f...... Cockneys, you can’t,


half them Pommies, you can’t, they’ve all got different dialects you see, little counties. Don’t know what they’re saying. You’d be saying yes, when you should be saying f...... no.
Were they good in battle though?
I’d guarantee, people go crook about the Poms, but I can’t fault them. The only thing I thought with them they’re not allowed to think for themselves. Now, when we were coming out, just out of Beirut,


Benghazi, they were out on a bloody, I can’t think of the name of the place. I’ve got it out on a f...... map out there, and we had to go out, like they were some of the blokes we had to tell get going. There was I suppose about eighty or ninety of them, infantry, and you could see the f...... armour coming, like we could see it coming and we said, “You’ve got to get out of it.” Officers told them not to go. They were f...... killed because they never left the post. They weren’t allowed to think for


themselves. If you said, “F...... stop there,” they’d f...... stop to the last man, mate. Not allowed to think for themselves. How can you fight f...... tanks with a f...... rifle and bayonet? Well how can you, you know what I mean? Live to fight another day I used to say, but you wasn’t. They were wonderful fighters, the Poms, mate, what I saw of them. I’ve seen them in Tobruk, that


80th, 70th Division went into Tobruk. They’re f...... wonderful fighters. I’ve seen all the Poms at Alamein, all good fighters, mate, what I’ve seen of them, yep.
What defences did you have at El Alamein?
Just bloody little dugouts.
And that was it?
And what guns were you using, rifles at that time?
Rifles, still the old Bren guns. Still using the old 303’s


from f...... World War I, f...... Boer War. Still using them old bastards, but then they gave us them Yankee Thompson sub-machine guns there. They’re still the same weapons, but their tanks were improving. They had good planes. Got the 25 pounder. We used to have the two pound anti-tank gun. They were good enough against (UNCLEAR). So then we got the six pound anti-tank, they were good.


But 88 millimetre, that was the best f...... gun I’d ever seen in my life. The Germans had that, that 88 millimetre, they could use it for anything, on tanks, on f...... shoulders, up in the anti-tank gun. It would do everything it would.
When you saw German technology, did you think I wish we had that?
Yes, we used to say that. Yes, yes, we did. They were miles and miles ahead of us, mate, miles and miles. As far as I could see it was only our weight of numbers at Alamein we beat him. I forget how many


tanks we had and how many he had and things like that, artillery pieces. We had a hell of a lot.
So it was just a war of attrition really?
Yeah, that’s right, yeah.
How long were you there at El Alamein?
I don’t know whether we went up towards the end of June or early July and we came out on December the 12th I think it was, something like that, yeah.


Does that time pass quickly or slowly?
It drags sometimes, when you want to get out. You don’t notice the time because as I said, you’re doing something. See the platoon, I was half in charge of this platoon and I always had a little ton truck and three tonner. Three tonner


had mines and pickets and barbed wire on it and I had a ute. I had a driver for that. You might be four or five mile away and you’d get in touch with headquarters and they’d get in touch. You might want something over there or you might go down the other way, so it was going all the time. You might be f...... around all day going here and there and then you might go out on patrol that night, a couple of hours on patrol that night. See,


you don’t think, do you? You’re sort of going all the time.
Did you know why El Alamein was important at the time you were fighting?
Oh yes. If he’d have got through and into Cairo, he’d have had all them oil wells, you see, right through up there. He’d have got all the oil wells. That’s why they had to stop him there, mate, yeah.
And that was explained to you?
Yeah, we knew what he wanted, what was going on. Of course I said, “F...... let him have the oil and send us home.”


I wasn’t the only who said it either. Now, if he’d have got up in them oil wells, he’d have met up with Turkey and gone straight back up into Russia that way too, you see.
Do you know if all the soldiers knew why they were fighting for Tobruk and El Alamein?
They what, mate?
Do you know if other soldiers knew why they were fighting these positions like you did?
They’d know, they’d know, yeah, yeah. See, going back in the First World War they never used to tell the soldiers what was going on.


But this war they did. At Alamein, all these units, they all had in big sand, the whole map, whole map of Alamein and everyone was explained to them what you had to do, where you had to go, how long it was supposed to take you and you knew what you had to do, you see. It was all on a map.
And that was a better way of fighting if you knew what you were fighting for?
See, you knew, I knew, he’d know, you see.


And how did your time at El Alamein finish up in the last couple of days?
Once we broke through the railway line we sort of knew it would only be a day or two. We were that (UNCLEAR) we couldn’t have went. We couldn’t have went so that’s when he went the New Zealanders, them and the Poms, they went over us. We


got through to the coast like that, you see. We were buggered, so that’s when the New Zealanders and the Poms took off after the Germans then up to Mersa Matruh and all those places and they kept going then. But we were really stuffed, poor bastards. I don’t think we woke up for f...... three days. I think we just lay there and they got us to go and get these f......, different


ones went and got the bodies and that, you see, to bury. They were f...... stinking and going black and they blow up. Got a uniform, blow up, and then you might be picking the bloke up and the bloke there will go, he’ll bust like a bloody, and all these bloody fumes come out. Oh, it stinks, all these fumes. You see blue, purple fumes come where he explodes, all the gasses out of his body, and f......


stink. I can still smell it.
Right. We’ll stop there and we’ll change.
Interviewee: Donald Cody Archive ID 1772 Tape 07


Alright, I’d love to talk about the Battle of El Alamein more, but we’ll have to move on now because we’ve got time constraints.
I’ve told you a bit.
Yeah, you could tell us a lot more as well, can’t you. Now, back to the brothels.
We’ll be here until tomorrow.
OK, tell us how you got back from the Middle East to Australia?
We came back on the Queen Mary.


Yeah, we came back on the Queen Mary and they took us to Sydney. Then we had to come by train to Melbourne and over to Tassie by boat. They gave us twenty-one days leave and then we went back. We had the big march in Melbourne on our way back. We went up the Tablelands to do our jungle training, went down to Cairns to Trinity Beach to do the amphibious training. We went to Gordonvale to do our bridging


course, and then went back up the Tablelands and then we come down to Townsville and went to Lae.
When you heard about the Japanese, when you heard about the Japanese attacking Australia, what was the reaction amongst the troops?
Well naturally we wanted to come, you know what I mean, but the big boy said no. Mr Churchill said, “No, you’re not going to take them home. We want them, want the 9th Divvy here.” But we


wanted to come back when we found out about it, you know what I mean. That was that.
Did you stop by on the way to Ceylon on the way back, 9th Divvy? Straight to Perth?
Straight to Perth. We could’ve left all the other boats behind because the Mary was that fast, you see, but you’ve got to keep up with the slowest boat in the convoy. That’s how they work it.
What was it like coming back to Australia?


If felt very strange, it felt very strange. We didn’t know whether people would know us or did they want us. It’s a queer feeling, but you go through it, don’t you. Yes, we didn’t know whether anyone wanted us or blah blah, but everyone made us welcome and that was it, yes.
So who were the first people you met?
Tell us about the first people you met, your family members and friends?


Well, they brought us to Devonport by boat. They had army trucks here. Never sort of really stopped to talk to anyone until we got back to Queenstown. We stopped and had a feed at a pub at Derwent Bridge, but it was only a pub on the road. We never sort of really talked to the people until we got back to Queenstown. We talked to a couple of the boat coming home. There wasn’t many travelling on the boat in them days because they were all wrapped up by army.


But never really struck until we got back to Queenstown, then they made a fuss of us. They made a fuss of us back in Queenstown and Gormanston. Gormanston and Lyndon were big places then. They made a fuss when we got back there.
What happened in Queenstown for you?
What happened in Queenstown for you and your mates?
We got rotten drunk every day.


That’s when I met my missus, first night I was back. We got that f...... pissed and I can’t dance, you know what I mean. I got that f...... pissed, someone said, “There’s a dance down the f...... dance hall.” So down we went looking for sheilas of course. That’s where I met my missus.
Did you get married straight away?
No, I never got married until ’46. That was ’42, you see. About March


’42 I met her. You couldn’t marry when you were going away again, could you?
Did you ask her?
No. I knew what the answer would f...... be. I was trying too, I got f...... knocked back all the time. I was a trier. “You’re not leaving me here,” she said, “with babies.” “I wouldn’t do that darling,” I said. I still got knocked back.


So you’d communicate with her from PNG [Papua New Guinea]? When you got to the islands, you’d write to her?
Yes. You only got a letter about every three months. She was a nurse, she was a nurse, you see, but you only got a letter about every three months. You know what it was like.
Tell us what it was like to see your mum and dad, your family?
I beg your pardon?
Can you tell us what it was like to see your mum and dad and your family?
Dad was


dead. Dad died on my final leave, that was in 1940. We went home in about January I think, twenty-one days’ leave and Dad died while I was home. But Mum, poor old Mum, she was there when I came home from the Middle East and it’s a funny feeling when you walk in the door. It was four years since I’d seen her. It’s a funny feeling. You see, you don’t know whether you’ve f...... changed, which you probably have. We


don’t realise it. But Mum changed, blah blah. Yes, it’s really a funny feeling, yeah, poor old Mum. Yes, my sisters were there. My brother, he went, he was boss of all them houses over at Erd’s Oak [?]


and all that in Victoria. He nearly finished up, he was assistant manager at the Shell Oil Company at Geelong on the construction side. He was in charge of all the construction out at Geelong, Shell Oil Company there.
How long was your actual leave for?
How long was your leave for?
Twenty-one days.


Twenty-one, they gave us twenty-one days.
So you knew you were going to go back to Papua New Guinea, or not back to, but you were going to go to?
We thought that’s where we’d be going. We didn’t know, but we thought that’s where we’d be going.
What sort of training was involved before you went?
Up in the jungles all around the Atherton Tablelands and out Herberton, all them places jungle training. And I said we had amphibious training and bridging schools.


We’d done all the bridging and all that but we hadn’t done jungle training or amphibious training, you see. So that was new to us. We done all that, then up to Lae we went. Our landing at Lae was pretty easy really. We never struck much trouble there until we got inland.
Was that our first battle, Lae?
Yes, at Lae, yeah, in the jungles.
That was your


first battle against the Japanese?
Yeah. We killed a few and they killed a few of our men, but it wasn’t the big battle there like. We were only there about five days, five or six days and the called our company of engineers back and the 20th Brigade and put us on the boat to go to Finschhafen. That’s where we f...... copped it there, boy. F...... dirty bastards. The Japs were up in the trees, coconut trees, and we went on one of these


f...... Yankee boats to land and the f...... Yank wouldn’t go in. The f...... water was deeper than this. Our leader pulled a f...... pistol on him, he said, “Take the f...... thing in.” But there was a good Yankee bloke up on the oerliken guns. He started cutting the tree tops for us. Anyway, they knocked shit out of us. We lost a hell of a lot of men.
On the landing on the beach itself?
When we got inland. We got inland that


afternoon and I lost thirty-one blokes out of my platoon. Fourteen got killed instant and seventeen wounded. I had eight f...... men left. Bombers came over and got us. Knocked shit out of me, one of my best mates got killed, yeah.


Yes, Finsch was a bastard of a place. We heard after, I don’t know, we heard after if they could’ve got boats and took us back out of Finsch, but they never had the boats, and we were there about nearly a fortnight before they sent another two brigades in to help us out. We were stuffed mate, I tell you.
When you got off the beach can you tell us about the resistance you faced?


Well see, the bloody kunai grass is about that high, and jungle, and he opened up with f...... everything on us. We had to get in, you know what I mean. Instead of us landing at Scarlet Beach, typical f...... Yanks, they landed the three boats up around there nearly half a mile away. So some of our boats got into Scarlet Beach. We had to try and join up with one another. He f...... cleaned a hell


of a lot of us out. Bloody stinking f...... bastard he is. They say you forgive and forget. We lost blokes when you couldn’t get them, we lost three or four blokes and we couldn’t get them that afternoon. We had the next morning to get them and they cut the f...... cheeks of their arse off and ate it, the f...... Jap bastards. They were f...... animals, mate. They’re f...... animals, them Japs.


Dirty f...... bastards, they are. Filthy f...... animals. Animals, that’s all they are, and they get around here saying forgive and forget. Every time I see them in f...... Hobart like that I f...... near go berserk, yeah.
The moment your unit, your platoon walked out of the barge, were you


facing fire instantly?
Yeah, we had an infantry platoon with us too, you see. See, when you go in all your engineers don’t go in together. They go on a different boat with different infantry because if you lose, if you had them all on one boat and the boat went down you’d lose the lot, whereas you might only lose twenty. We were with the infantry we were with and the other blokes landed, blah blah. They had f...... rocks and all to get over off the f......


bastard, off the barge to get into the f...... jungle right up to the water. We had to fight our way right through, you see. Every man for his f...... self. You had to mates there, mate, it was every man for himself, yeah. We went in with the 15th Battalion there.
Tell us what the job of the engineer was, the field engineer, your role in the beach landing?


we were supposed to get on the beach, any mines there we had to lift them and get the transport off. Then you spread out, but you’ve all got your jobs to do. Some have got to move straight with the infantry. Some stop back on the beach clearing the beach and blah blah. (UNCLEAR) from that, and as the infantry pushes there’s always so many engineers to go with the infantry just in case they run into mines.


We never struck no mines up there at all hardly, very few in New Guinea, and things like that. Our main jobs up there were keeping the roads, making new roads, building bridges; get the transport in and artillery in, all that sort of thing, putting boats up the bloody rivers. We had to man the boats and take stuff up the rivers. You get plenty of different work to do,


you see. You’re trained for everything. Yeah, trained for everything. Cut the f...... pine trees down to make f...... roads and bridges, was in bloody mud that deep. You’d have four or five of them big coconut trees on top of one another for trucks to go through. Bastard of a job, and he’s hammering shit out of you all the time.
The Japs? Now,


the actual landing at Finschhafen, how big was the actual initial landing? You were the first wave?
Full brigade. Well, you had what they call three waves. Like there’s so many infantry to go in, so many engineers, so many medical staff, and then the next wave are the same and the third wave, blah blah. And then your transport is either on the second or third wave,


all your transport. When one mob of engineers get on the beach, it might be twenty of you, your job is to see if there’s any mines, get the bloody beach ready to get all your trucks and that off, you see, stores off.
That comes in the third wave, does it?
Yeah, comes in third.
So that’s like the logistics?
Yeah. You haven’t got much f...... time when you’ve got three boats, three waves coming. They don’t waste no time, they’re not sitting out there for an hour. They


sort of come in one after the other type thing. Probably ten minutes, quarter of an hour. You’re flat out, you haven’t got time to stop, have you? Infantry moves in to sort of form a line to stop the Japs coming onto the beach. Everyone’s got their jobs to do. You’ve got a few artillery blokes come off with their artillery pieces, 25 pounders and that. The engineers have got to help them get theirs off because those bastards, they get f...... bogged. I mean you’re flat out, you know what I mean.
What sort of weapons were you


up against at the beach?
He had his machine guns. We used to call them woodpeckers. His artillery, the same as everyone else, yeah. He’d be blowing the f...... bugle. We’d shoot the bugler. We got into trouble for shooting the bugler. “Don’t shoot the f...... bugler,” they’d say, “we know when they’re coming.” You could hear them f...... blowing the bugle. You shoot anything, don’t you? You weren’t allowed to shoot the bugler, he’d let you know they were, I could see,


when he blew you knew they were coming, you see.
When you say they were coming, what would they do when the bugler
Charge, charge.
They’d charge you at the beach?
Banzai, banzai, they’d be screaming at you. F…. you.
This is at the beach?
Yeah, up on the beach, when you got back off the beach. Every time they attacked they had buglers.
Can you describe what it’s like to face a banzai charge?
Well, you’re f...... sitting there with a,


you know. Like we used to sit with the infantry but you had to have a f...... gun too, you know what it’s like. They’d come in and we just f...... opened up on them, opened up on the, give me the impression them f...... Japs would give everything. F...... our blokes would be throwing hand grenades, machine guns going, artillery going. F...... Owen guns would be going, little c....s and things. Opened up with everything, you know what I mean.
Did they ever get in close range?


Oh Christ, yes. Be f...... beside you. They used to attack by numbers. Death to them is a f...... honour. Death to the Japs was an honour to die on the battle field, you see. They’d come in f...... hordes of the c....s. I was going to tell you something, but I won’t.
Oh come on, tell me?
Come on, what is it?
It’s only a bit of


That’s alright, tell us.
There was a bloke in there one day and he said to me, “F...... oath, I’m f...... tired.” I said, “(UNCLEAR)”. He said, “I had fourteen f...... Japs on my f...... bayonet. I’m trying to kick them off to make room for the next.” Aussies have got a very funny sense of humour and it doesn’t matter how grim or how bad, some c.... will come out with some f...... wise-crack and everyone laughs. He’s got a great


sense of humour, the Aussie. When things are really down and out and f...... tough and hard, you’re about to throw the spade, some c.... will come out with a couple of words and away you go again. They’ve got a great sense of humour, Aussies.
Now, did you feel this hatred towards the Japanese before the Finschhafen landing?
We knew they were no f...... good and things like that, but


we never had the hate into them until we’d seen what they’d done to a couple of our blokes and a couple of infantry blokes. Not only our blokes, couple of infantry, when they cut the f...... cheeks of their arse off. That’s when the hate comes into you. No prisoners, f…. prisoners we said. No prisoners as far as we were concerned. They’re no good, mate. I still hate them. I still can’t help it. I suppose if you ask bloody ninety percent of the Aussies who


was in contact, they’d still hate them. But they say you shouldn’t hate the ones now, but the f...... breed’s in them. The breed’s in them, mate. They couldn’t care less about you. They’ll be talking to you and f...... stab you in the back, wouldn’t they, as far as we’re concerned. Bloody f...... bastards.
You said you got attacked by a plane, a Japanese Zero. Was it a Zero or a bomber?
A bomber. Yeah, we were moving in.


The infantry was about 300 yards ahead of us and the artillery was back there. We just walked through the artillery to push with the infantry and he comes over. He dropped them f...... phosphorous bombs and yeah, we lost all them. Then we buried them in blankets, you know, blah blah, and then be what,


three or four months after, the burial mob comes along to dig them up to put them into a war cemetery and here they are, their flesh was still burning in the blanket with the phosphorous, you see. Bloody bastards.
You said one of your best mates got killed?
Yeah, he laid on top of me.
What do you mean he laid on top of you?
Well, I was getting near a creek you see, and you never went to a creek to have a, you’ve got to get away from the creek. Now all these blokes went to the creek and I went


over the river with these two sergeants and I sung out to these blokes down there, “Get away from that f...... creek, you c....s. You’re not supposed to be,” then whoof, he comes over and got the lot. But my mate, he always said to me, he came from Glenorchy over here. He was about six foot four and about fourteen stone, big, and he always said to me when we first, he said, “If ever we get, I’ll look after you mate.” So when the bombs came over we went down. He laid on top of me and my other mate


laid there. Whoosh, they’re gone, just like that, and I could feel this f...... stuff down my leg and I said, “Get off me, you big fat bastard, Woody,” you know, it’s only natural. And I said to Frank, “Frank, get this c.... off me.” I said, “The c.... won’t move.” Anyway Frank pulled him off, a f...... hole in his back like that, all the blood running. We put them f...... big dressings, about eight big


dressings, field dressings in this hole, got him to a jeep and sent him off to the beach at the hospital but he died the next morning. Terrific bloke, he was, yeah, poor old Woody, yeah, good bloke, yeah.
Did you have time to grieve?
Did you have time to grieve over his death?
Did I what, mate?
Did you have time to grieve?
No, we had to keep going again.


That’s when I got rid of the f...... lieut. The f...... lieut, he went down the river. What made me f...... wild was all the blokes I’d been all through Tobruk and the Western Desert with, they was all the c....s that stopped in the f...... creek. They knew f...... better. Now when this happened I got onto the wireless operator. We always had a wireless operator with you, I said, “Get in touch with f...... Dooley Mueller, the c...., and tell him to get rid of the f...... lieut and send some f...... men. We’ve got no f...... men left,” I said. And Dooley


got me to talk back and I told him. He said, “That c.... will be on the boat back to Australia tonight.” Yeah, he’d f...... gone too, the little c..... I said, “What about some more f...... men?” He said, “We’re short of men down here now.” He said, “Another couple of,” “Well I said, “We’re with the f...... infantry mate.” I said, “There’s only about f...... ten or eleven of us left. We’re trying to push up with a bulldozer and a couple of f......


jeeps,” I said. “We’re f……” I said. Anyway that was about 11.00 o’clock, 12.00 o’clock in the morning. About 3.00 o’clock in the afternoon he sent up a few blokes, eight or nine I think, yeah. Of course you stretch that thin, it’s such a big area, you see, yeah.
So you said that you were using a bulldozer and jeeps, what do you mean by bulldozer and jeeps?
Well, you’ve got to have bulldozers. You try and make your roads and you’ve got all f...... mud and shit.


And them little jeeps, you’ve seen them little jeeps, little c.... about that long.
Like the American type jeeps?
We had the English ones, the Willis. Willis was better than the Yanks, and jeez they could pull some f...... loads, them little bastards. If anyone got bogged we could pull them out with the jeeps, you know, blah blah, and then with our big trucks moving we built bridge and equipment, other equipment on them, f...... axes and whatever, saws. No chainsaws in them days,


till after. So you’re f...... going all the time.
So the bulldozer would create the road?
Yeah, the bastard. If it was too boggy you’d have to go and cut f...... coconut trees down and drop them on one another, make a corduroy track for the vehicles to go on and that.
Did you actually use the bulldozer to fight against the Japanese as well?
Yes. One of


my mates, he came from the 24th Battalion. I don’t like telling you these things because you think you’re booming. He was attached to us, he was driving a bulldozer, he was attached to us, Bluey, a Queenslander, Bluey, Bluey? Anyway I said to him, he was under me, I was in charge of all that sort of equipment at the time, and I said, “Bluey.” So when we got


into Sattelberg the Japs were down these f...... fox holes, you see, and infantry couldn’t get in. I said to Bluey, I said, “We’ll get a sheet of steel.” Like we carry everything. “We’ll weld a f...... sheet of steel across the radiator of the bulldozer,” and I said, “we’ll get some corner flat sheets of steel to go across the windscreen and just leave about that much to look out.”


I said, “I’ll take the dozer, mate. I won’t be f...... fox hole, I’ll drop the f...... blade on them and push the dirt in on them.” He said, “No, you won’t, that’s my job, Don.” So he done that, we got the infantry out. He got an MM for that which was good. A nice bloke, Bluey, too, yeah.
So this would be used in the jungle?
Yes, yeah.
The bulldozer?
The f...... hill was like that too, and you came to a bit of a, and the fox holes were down, the infantry couldn’t get in because he was sort of on the fox holes and sort of looking


down and couldn’t get into knocking shit out of the infantry. So my idea was to go and drop the blade on top of the fox hole and rake some dirt with the back of the blade. It took us about two hours to fix the dozer up how I wanted it. We had welders and that with us. I told them what I wanted, but I wanted to take the bulldozer in. Bluey said, “No,” he said “That’s my job, Don. You stop with the


infantry,” you see. He got an MM which was good of him too. Bluey Blatchford, that was his name, Blatchford.
What sort of weapons would they use against the bulldozer, the Japanese?
Use machine guns and all that. Probably six pounder or something like that. They could’ve stopped them, you know what I mean, stop a dozer, but (UNCLEAR) down the front so they wouldn’t bust the radiator. I had it about that far wider than the front of the dozer so it wouldn’t hurt the engine,


and a couple of bits along the side and a piece where he was sitting up in the cabin with a little slit so he could see. So you’ve got to be quick on your f...... head. I cannot, quick now, but you had to be quick for those things like that. Plus the fact we had the trucks there with the welders and you know. It took us about two hours to get the bulldozer ready, and I went and told the infantry lieut what we were going to do and he said, “Oh jeez, hope you do it.” I said, “We can do it mate, if you


have the f...... infantry with us too to protect us while we get the dozer ready,” you see. So that’s what we done there up in Sattelberg.
That was in Sattelberg, was it?
Yeah, yeah.
So from Finschhafen you moved inland into Sattelberg?
Well Sattelberg was only a big hill. They called it Sattelberg. That’s going that way.


Then after we got up there we had to go the other way up over the Song River and all that, you know, up the coast.
Tell us about the Battle of Sattelberg? That was a pretty nasty
Oh, very nasty there. We lost a lot of infantry there.
Tell us about your experience in the battle? What sort of role did you have?
I was only there to, with the infantry, but I’d look after the bulldozer and a couple


of jeeps and a couple of trucks, that’s all there was. I wasn’t going to chase around the f...... jungle with a f...... knife in my ears. That was my job, to keep the machinery, whatever we wanted, bits of roads. Sometimes I’d have to use the jeep to bring the wounded out, you see. You fell for everything, you know what I mean.
How strong were the Japanese


fortifications there at Sattelberg?
He was well dug in. See, they’d come up from Lae. I forget how many thousand they told us, but they wanted old Finschhafen apparently. They wanted to hold it for some reason. (UNCLEAR) pretty strong they were there. It was hard right through, right through Finsch.
From Finschhafen to Sattelberg?
From Sattelberg over,


we had this big river to cross, going toward Langamag Bay [?] and there was a bloody big hill like that up there, you know. We got to the, I think it was the Butibum River, big f...... river. We got across there, but he was up on this f...... bill hill you see, and they had what they called a mission down below on a bit of a flat. Anyway, this is true, I’m not bullshitting you, mate. This is
No, I


believe you.
F...... true, mate.
I believe you.
Anyway, they sent word up they were going to send our bombers over to bomb the f...... mission, and in the afternoon they said the Aussies, they’ve got the hill off the Japs when was overlooking the mission. So the next bloke, the next morning this Joe Warner and myself, Joe and I only got a f...... 45 pistol and a pair of binoculars. I said to Joe, “F...... bombe.,” you see. We goes


up the f......, we didn’t see a f...... Aussie. We goes up the top of the hill, watch the f...... bomber, f...... bomber and a pair of binoculars, you see, walking back down the hill and this Aussie bloke says, “Where the f...... hell have you been.” “Top of the hill.” They said, “The f...... Japs pushed us off it last night.” But we never seen them. The Japs must’ve kept on going. We never seen a gun. But the f...... Aussies on top of the hill. But I mean these things happen. I wouldn’t tell you no lie, mate.
No, I believe that.
But this f...... Joe, we laughed,


this Joe Warner, he said, “You’re a c.....” He says, “You wander everywhere, mate.” But we wanted to watch the f...... dive bombers bomb the f...... mission, you see. Yeah, poor old Joe. They’re all f...... dead on me. All the c....s have died on me. Yeah, poor old Joe, yeah. We had a lovely young bloke,


they come to us as reinforcements, we had this young bloke from New South Wales. I see in the paper they sent me the other day he died. He was about eighteen, seventeen or eighteen when he came to us, and he said to me this day, “Don,” he said, “Don.” I said, “Yeah, Mack.” He was only about that wide across the f...... shoulders. They should never have sent the little c....s up there. they should’ve sent these other big c....s that were in these base camps. I’ll tell you about them c....s after too. Poor little bastards, seventeen and eighteen they sent them us to us. Anyway, he said to me this day,


he said, “Don, Don.” I said, “Yes Mack?” “If we get a Jap can I shoot him?” “OK, you shoot him.” We got a couple of prisoners, or the infantry did. We said to Mack, “Go and shoot that c.....” He took him out in the bush and shot him. He wanted to shoot a Jap. They were bastards. But why send kids up?


Now, this is, I’d clean that f...... big army camp out in Sydney, Wallgrove. When I got back to Melbourne I got crook and they said, “You’ve got to go to hospital for a couple of days.” I was in hospital for about three days. Well our blokes had gone to Queensland you see. So when I came out to the showgrounds in Melbourne to get my f...... thing to go back up to Queensland, they said, “You’ve got to go to South Australia,


to Woodville Camp.” “What for?” I said, you know. It’s a c.... on your own. He said, “You’ve got go on the engineering course.” Away they sent me over to f...... South Australia, never even had my name on the book over there. I said, “Fuck you, I’m off.” I came back to Melbourne because you had to go through Melbourne. “You’ve got to go up to Wagga Wagga.” “What for?” I said. “You c....s sent me to f...... South Australia.” “No, we sent you to the wrong


school, up to Wagga.” Big engineering school at Wagga Wagga. C...., up I go, up to see them. Go down to the orderly room to report in and this, “Haven’t got you down here for anything, mate,” he says, “Not you.” Fuck, I went back to Melbourne, go to Sydney, up the Tablelands, right. I got to f...... Wallgrove and all these f......, I seen the c....s in ’39. Never left Australia. So I goes in there


and I was a sergeant then and the major in charge of the camp, he said, “Don, you’ve got to stop here three or four days.” I said, “What f...... for? I want to get on the f...... train up to Queensland.” “No,” he said, “The sergeant here that calls the roll, he’s got two or three days leave.” So I said, “Alright.” You’ve got to do these. I said to this f...... sergeant, “What goes?” He said, “I call the roll at 6.00 o’clock. If they give you two and sixpence you wipe


them off the draft.” The c.... made a packet. Anyway, when he went, a couple of days I was there and he went. So I called this f...... draft, call the names out and they catch the train. He gave me two and six, “What’s your name, mate?” Two and six, “Yeah, mate, yeah, yeah.” I took all their two and six and then I went down the f...... orderly room and put them all on the draft. They’d been there for f...... (UNCLEAR). Fuck, I got into trouble there. I cleaned the f...... camp out, mate.


There’s f...... grown men, and f...... boys they’re sending to you. I cleaned that Wallgrove Camp out.
So the replacements you got hadn’t been in the Middle East of course?
No, they were young boys.
Well, fresh replacements from Australia?
They were fresh replacements, yeah, poor little buggers.
Tell us, how did you, being an experienced soldier at that time, how did you help them to get accustomed to battle?
It all depends how many you’ve got. Like


see, you might get four or five. The sergeants or the corporals will sort of take one or possibly two at the most under their wing and learn them. So that’s how the poor little buggers had to learn, you see. But this same little bloke, when we got to Borneo I’ll tell you about him. He said, I was a bastard, but this little kid used to f...... do anything for me. He used to idolise me for some unknown, he said, “Don, is that right,


the Jap sheilas (UNCLEAR)?” “Yeah, they are f......, Mack, yeah” I said. (UNCLEAR) f...... boy. So we got these Chinese sheilas. He said, “Can I have a look?” I said, “Yeah, we’ll put one up on the table.” I had the poor c.... convinced it went. I got this f...... Chinese, so have a look. He gets down, he said, “No, it’s f......,”


poor little kid, they didn’t know no f....... but they’re the little tricks that made the army life too, you know what I mean. Enjoyed it.
How did they handle jungle fighting?
Good, they were good. It’s the same as when you were in the Middle East, you got these reinforcements, they hadn’t been into battle before but they f...... soon learned. But you took them under your


wing. You said don’t do this, don’t do blah blah. If I wanted to go out on patrol, if I had to go on a patrol in the Middle East, they might say, “You’ve got to take two or three sappers with you. Ask for volunteers.” Every time I’d have f...... hundreds, blokes would always want to go. Like the little black Abo from f...... Queensland, a bloke named Vince Bunder, fought like a f...... thrashing machine the black c.... could. And when he came to us we’d come


out of Tobruk, you know. I thought you poor little weasel c..... I don’t worry about them being black like that, got there talking to him and he said to me, “I was educated in one of them white missions up in Queensland. They took me away,” and nice young bloke, about twenty-one, twenty-two. So I sort of took him under my wing. We were going up to Syria and I took him under my wing type of thing, done what I could, plus the other blokes helped. When


we went to Alamein he’d be the first c.... who wanted to go with me. It’s funny like. Vince would say, “I’m going with you, are you going tonight, Don?” If I said, “Yes,” “I’m coming.” That was good to have someone the way they respected you. I was always a f...... lying c.... too up there. I’d tell them all the f...... bullshit around the place. You know me. But I mean you get the confidence of the man too, but it didn’t matter where I


was going, he was up in the Tablelands, if I was going out to f...... Babinda or anywhere, “We can’t get leave.” “I’ll get you a f...... leave pass,” I’d say. I’d go up the orderly room, I’d say to the 2I [second in charge], “Give us a leave pass for four or five blokes.” “Where are you going?” “I’m going down to Babinda.” I got four, see, that’s how they all paid you back. When they could get out you’d take them, get a leave pass. I used to have them f......


officers around my f...... finger. I always got on well with the officers. I’d go up the f...... orderly room, get tickets off. (UNCLEAR) one poor old c...., he was about 45, the captain, he was a f...... champion bloke too. His name was Varden and we used to call him Dolly Varden after the chocolate because his name was Captain Varden. We were running short of money this day. They were saying, “Can you get any money, Don?” “Yeah,” I said, “I’ll go up the f...... and I’ll get the


old c.... to write me out an indent for f...... 400 gallons of petrol.” I wrote the f...... thing out, the docket, “Sign this for us, Sir.” Never even looked at it. (UNCLEAR) f...... petrol, used to get the petrol in forty gallon drums. I said to one of the drivers, “Go and pick that f...... petrol up mate.” But I’d share the money, you see, it used to go around.


We’ve got to change the tape.
Interviewee: Donald Cody Archive ID 1772 Tape 08


We had Gurney and Edmonton won the first (UNCLEAR). Gurney, things are going up here? About eight of nine VC’s 9th Divvy won, you know.
Plus we had more killed than any other division in the Second World War. Gee, we lost some men at times.
Do you think you should’ve got a VC?
Do you think you should’ve got a VC?
No. Didn’t want nothing. I want my f......


health and life. F…. them VC’s and f….. them medals.
What did you think of the CMF [Citizens’ Military Force]?
CMF, what, up in the islands? We never had much to do with them, mate. The blokes we got shitty on were 5th Div that came into Finsch when we were just about finished. We left some of our gear on the beach and all that and the bastards pinched stuff out of our packs,


5th Div blokes. I lost a Japanese samurai sword there too. I got that and I left, blah blah because you can’t carry them. A few other things, a camera, I lost a camera out of my pack there. I knew it was none of our blokes so it must’ve been the 5th Div blokes who got it. (UNCLEAR) you blokes are green on the outside and yellow on the


inside because there was f...... near a civil war amongst us at Finschhafen on the beach. This 5th Div blokes, they were. It keeps. Give them f...... green on the outside and yellow on the inside. We give them yellow on the inside.
What was the word going around about the CMF even though you didn’t deal with them?


didn’t know much about them at all. I’ll be quite, we didn’t know much about them. Only things we heard about them up on the Kokoda Trail and all that. Some used to say bad things, but we always said you can only do what you’ve been asked to do, and we thought they did a pretty good job up on the Kokoda Trail but we weren’t up that way at the time, so we can’t say. But we respected them, mate. You always


respect anyone that goes to the front line, don’t you, whether they do good or bad. We always respect everyone.
Which did you prefer, the deserts or the jungles?
Really the desert I think. Yeah, the desert I think, yeah.
Why is that?
Yes, I mean a lot of people think the desert is just flat and sand, that’s all. You’ve got what they bloody call wadi, they’re bloody 200 and 300 feet deep. Everyone seems to think it’s just a big


flat sand. Bloody stones, I’ve got photos there of doing some bloody gun emplacements, it’s bloody jack-hammers making the stones, big stones. It’s not all just flat sand, you know what I mean. No, I think we preferred the desert really. Pardon me. You just go where you’re sent and do what you’ve got to do. I suppose we were lucky. We sort


of (UNCLEAR) in the retreat. We never ever lost a battle anywhere, you know what I mean, but we were lucky. We lost a lot of men. We lost more men than any other division. We’ve seen more fighting than any other division, so you’ve got to lose more men. We were lucky we were never ever beaten after the handicap. We couldn’t fight, we can’t, we only had the 13th Battalion up there around Ben Goa and they sent the 15th I think it was.


We only had rifles and bayonets. You can’t fight tanks with rifle and bayonets. No excuses, but you can’t fight tanks with rifles and bayonets, and no air force. You’ve got to have that air force, mate.
What was the hardest thing about fighting in the jungle?
Getting a wet arse every f...... day in the mud I think. In mud I think, mud, mud I think. Yeah, mud, I’d say mud.


But you get in, see, mud all the time, mud all the time, and bloody mosquitos and f...... malaria. It’s just a dirty filthy place, dirty filthy bloody place I saw, I put it down. That’s only my opinion. Other people have got their own opinion. I never wanted to go back to see the dirty filthy place again.
So it was the conditions and the heat?
Yeah, the


conditions, yeah, yeah.
How did they impact on the job you had to do?
Well it made it hard. As I say, trying to put roads in, trying to get bridges across rivers, trying to cut coconut trees down to make corduroy tracks. After New Guinea they built, roughly was 260 men to an engineer company, after


we come back from New Guinea they built it up to about 320 men to each company because they knew the engineers did all the road work, all that type of stuff. Plus you’ve got boats with outboard motors to run bloody stuff up the rivers. See, people don’t realise what engineers do. That’s why I say, I’m not an engineer, but they don’t get enough recognition because don’t realise. See, for a start they wouldn’t realise that we had to put boats in the river and


take bloody ammunition and food up the rivers to people. People don’t know nothing about that, you see, but this is what goes on. Plus the fact I say building bridges, things like that.
How was it organised that you were protected while you were constructing things and so on?
There was infantry with us to protect us. As I said, we couldn’t care, but they said they couldn’t afford to lose an engineer. You don’t realise it


when you’re in these units. We used to all say, “Gee, we’d be stuffed without the infantry.” You know what I mean, stuff like that. It goes around in circles, but as I say, people don’t realise what engineers have got to do. All you hear about is artillery and infantry. Like they are the two main things people talk about. But they forget the poor bloody, he’s first in and last


out. As I said, they call them the pride of the army, the shit of the line.
What was the most enjoyable thing about New Guinea?
Enjoyable? Never found anything any good. Never found one thing enjoyable up there. The only thing enjoyable I found was when they said you’re going home. Never seen anything in New Guinea which, I couldn’t understand what they fought over it for.


Of course it was to stop them coming into Australia, but they could’ve had New Guinea as far as I’m concerned and I think as far as ninety-nine percent of the blokes. It was such a shocking horrible place. Filthy bloody joint.
Can you describe for us guerrilla warfare you saw?
What mate?
The guerrilla warfare you saw and action taken?
It’s alright. The guerrilla stuff’s alright. The


first thing you’ve got to learn, you don’t keep going up tracks. If you see tracks you don’t follow it because you know he’s going to sit around there somewhere to get you as you come around a bend or something. So you cut off the tracks and go around the other way. See, you learn. When they first went up there, the 6th and 7th Div, they lost a lot just following the tracks. But you don’t follow tracks. We learnt that too, the same as everywhere you went they had


these bungy, I forget what they used to call them. They used to strap the Japs up in the bloody top of the coconut trees with a little bit of tucker and a heap of ammo. As you came through they’d ambush you and shoot you down. So we’d open up with our gun and shoot the tops of the coconut trees. If there were in it, you got them. If they weren’t up there, you never got them. But that was another thing you had to learn. Of course they’d leave their poor bloody, well I used to call them snipers, on the coconut trees, you see.


So you soon learned to cut the top of the coconut with the machine gun.
Did they tell you about all this type of warfare before you got there?
No. As I said, it don’t matter what they, it’s no good them trying to tell you out of a book this and that. You’ve got to learn on the actual thing. You can’t go by the book all the time and it don’t matter what they teach you on the parade ground or what you’ve got to do. When you go into action it’s a different type of thing. So


that’s where you learn more. The other stuff they’ve learnt you before you go does come in handy, but you’ve got to learn in action what to do. I think what goes on today is too much of this bloody book work instead of, you’ve got to have actual warfare to really learn stuff.
Did you come under fire much while you were building and working?
Oh yes, yes. We always had a few infantry blokes


around us. Used to come under a lot of fire, especially bridge building and road building, all that type of thing, you know what I mean. Yes, you come under a lot of fire, but no worse than anyone else I suppose.
With the jungles around you, do you see your enemy?
I beg your pardon.
Do you see your enemy or
you just see the bullets flying past?
They can’t see you. Probably,


see you’re sitting, their sitting still and you’re moving they can see you. But if they’re sitting still and you’re moving you can’t see them because when they open up you go to ground and might have to go around, know what I mean, blah blah. But if there’s only difference. See, when anyone’s attacking you always lose more men than the defender until he overruns the defence, you see,


because you’re going at him and he’s sitting there in the bloody hole. You and I could be sitting in a hole and a bloody machine gun, some bloke, they’re going to lose more men than you and I. They’ll overrun us at the finish, we’ll only lose two men. You might’ve shot down bloody forty or fifty. The attacker always loses more men than the defender. That’s what we always found out. I think it’s only natural. If you’re coming onto machine gun fire


you’re going to lose more men than two or three at a bloody machine gun post, aren’t you?
So can you take us through building a bridge, you come under fire, you go to ground. Do you actually fire or leave it to the infantry?
We leave it to the infantry because you can’t carry a rifle. You’ve got your rifles back on land. The same, some of the rivers we couldn’t get across so you had to get a bloke to swim across with a bloody rope,


hook it on to a bloody coconut tree the other side of the river to start getting a bridge to walk across even, you see, things like that. People don’t realise them things. Sometimes the rivers are that big and fast flowing you can’t get your bridge going. You’ve got to get the infantry across so they can protect you while you’re putting something. See, a bloke might swim across with a rope, a long rope. He’ll tie it around a tree and then you can’t start building a little


footbridge so the infantry can go across, you see, things like that. They don’t write that in them books for you, do you, to read just what goes on.
How do you build the bridge? You’ve described it slightly, but how much organisation goes into it and how quick do you have to do this in?
Well, it depends what sort of bridge your putting across. Putting a footbridge, that only


consists of more or less a few ropes and a few boards across. That goes pretty quick. Then you come to a small light bridge to get a jeep across, that’s pretty easy. Then you come to, if you want to put heavy equipment you’ve got to put a Bailey bridge in, you see. So you’ve got your two footings each side and you’ve got to build your Bailey bridge out on it. They work off rollers. You push one out and it drops into these slots, you see, and then you come along with the next one.


It’s like a Meccano set, a Bailey bridge. Like a Meccano.
And what did you build them out of, did you have your supplies with you?
You’ve got that equipment. See, in the finish up at the islands they had what they called a bridging company. The bridging company used to carry all the bridging for the engineers to put across. They were what’s called a bridging company. They’d carry all the bridging equipment.


See, sometimes you want to get the infantry, you had what you called, you had these bloody boats, canvas boats, I suppose from there to there long and you’d put them across ways, put some boards across for the infantry to go across, see, things like that. Well, you had to raise the bloody boat to put it into position. People don’t realise these things until you see it done. That’s sort of a pontoon,


they used to call those, yeah. Anyway, if anyone wants New Guinea they can have it as far as I’m concerned. I don’t want New Guinea, they can have it, filthy joint.
So how long were you in New Guinea itself?
Roughly twelve months, roughly I mean, yes.
How do you survive day to day in the jungle?
How do you survive day to day?


It’s like everything else, mate, you go and do your job and come back to your camp, whatever the case may be, whatever. Away you go again the next day, same thing over. Yes, I never ever want to see that rotten filthy place for the rest of my life.
How safe were the camps?
I beg your pardon?
How safe were the camps?
It all depends,


you see. Like we always had a part of it, every engineer, see you never lived as a company of engineers. All lived in platoons, so half your platoon might be working on roads or three parts on the roads and infantry, and you might have the other quarter back at camp cooking meals and that for you. It was pretty well, pretty well like that.


That part of it was alright. Good engineers always had good camps, you know what I mean. That’s part of being an engineer. You know what you can do and you make yourself comfortable and then you try and help the infantry. We used to try and help the infantry to make them comfortable. “Stuff the others,” we used to say. But engineers always had a good camp because they knew what to do and had the equipment to do it.


Did you deal with the natives much?
I wouldn’t have nothing to do with them. Some of our blokes went, what did they used to call them? They used to go in charge of these native carriers and all them. They wouldn’t carry your frigging message, they’re that weak. I wouldn’t have nothing to do with them. They started carrying ammo. They’d only carry about ten pounds. What’s the bloody good of them?


I mean that was only my idea. Some idolise them. Look at the poor buggers, they’re too weak, they couldn’t carry. They talk about the Fuzzy Wuzzy, they may have done a good job. I can never understand how they could carry a human being because they’ve got legs like that and arms like that. They’re weak as dishwater. They were alright but I wouldn’t have anything to do with them. We used to call our blokes ANGAU [Australian and New Guinea Administrative Unit], ANGAU. Of course


they were the whites, these carriers, New Guinea carriers, ANGAU crowd they used to call them, A U N G U A, or something like that. You could’ve joined them if you wanted to, but I wasn’t, they did a good job (UNCLEAR) but I wasn’t ever impressed with them. That’s only my opinion.
Do you know of natives who were helping the Japanese?
Yes. That’s why I never trusted them.


You might think he’s a good bloke, but behind your back he might give your place to the Japs. I never had no time for them, mate. I liked my old Aussie mates, yeah.
Did you find out about these people that were helping the Japs?
I only seen them, see, you hear lots of things, plus the fact you don’t know, they could be over in (UNCLEAR) working here. It could happen in, it’s only word of mouth. I can’t say I


really seen them. No, I wouldn’t say I really seen them, but I have heard them. They shot them and all this, but I never actually seen them, no.
Being in New Guinea for twelve months you would’ve seen all the seasons. Which was the worst to go through, winter, summer?
You could nearly set your clock, about 11.00 o’clock of a day time, or 11.00 or 12.00, every day this bloody great downpour.


Be wet to dark and after it would come out sunshine. But you could nearly set your clock between 11.00 and 12.00 that you were going to get this big downpour, and then everything would be sticky and bloody mud would be up to your knees.
I think I know the answer to this, but did you respect the Japanese as a fighting machine?
He was a fanatic.


As I said, it’s bred in them it’s an honour to die on a battlefield. That made them good fighters. They were good fighters, yeah, yeah.
What was the worst fighting you actually saw in New Guinea?
Probably up around Sattelberg, up around Sattelberg I think, yeah.


They were dirty. Yeah, I think it was around Sattelberg I think.
What was the worst thing about it?
What, New Guinea?
No, Sattelberg.
They were fierce fighters up there, mate, he was fierce. A lot of hand to hand fighting went on up there, a lot of hand to hand fighting.


Yes, they were savage up there. Yeah, a fair few medals won up there, DCM’s [Distinguished Conduct Medal] and MM’s were won at Sattelberg, MC [Military Cross] officers. Yes, there were a fair few medals won at Sattelberg, mate.
More hand to hand fighting than you saw in the desert?
Well, in the desert


it was more in a bigger scale, a bigger scale out there fighting in the desert. Hand to hand fighting with the Japs was fierce but it wasn’t the numbers because you might only have seventy or eighty Japs where in the Middle East you’d be a hundred against you, know what I mean. Depends what it was and all that.
And how did the Japanese and Germans compare in hand to hand


They were good. See, coming back to the old story, they’re only too pleased to die on the battlefield. That’s part of their upbringing and all that, you see. But they talk about his hari-kari, I’ve tried some of the Japs out with hari-kari. I’ve tried with a bloody bullet in a revolver and a bloody knife, but never seen one commit hari-kari. Possibly did some of them, but our blokes will


try something, but never ever commit hari-kari.
What was your actual role in the battle?
I beg your pardon?
What was your actual role in the battle?
Whatever cropped up. Whatever cropped up, mate. Depends where you were caught. See, lots of times I might be 300 or 400 yards back out, but the next thing you might be doing something, you pick up your bloody Owen gun and open it up on the bloody


Japs. All depends what you were doing and where you were.
At Sattelberg where were you most?
Where were you most?
See, we used to go up there say with a bulldozer and all that, and sometimes he’d cut the bloody infantry up there and when you came back the bloody Japs would be behind you, cutting in behind you. But normally if we were coming back they’d normally send two or three infantry blokes with us too. But it used to be every


man for himself. You had to help yourself too. You can’t expect three or four infantry blokes to do it all the time, can you.
How many engineers did you lose in New Guinea?
Oh, I can’t tell you off hand. I think our company lost about nearly, I lost fourteen in one day killed. Just in five minutes, fourteen killed, seventeen wounded.


That’s thirty-one you lost in five minutes. Then you’ve got your other engineer companies in other places too. They’d lose some. Yeah,
So how do you make up for that lost workforce?
Well, you’ve got to go without until they get reinforcements. If you don’t get reinforcements, what twenty’s got to do, there might only be eighty, they’ve got to do as much as the twenty. You know what I mean. That’s what it works out at.


How tough does it get to fill those gaps?
Well, probably make your days longer. More hours, blah blah, you know what I mean. Say, you might knock off, well you can’t, we’d be making roads in the bloody day time and sometimes you might have to, which was dangerous, put lights on and try and work in the bloody dark, try and catch up on work and things like that. It was too dangerous with lights on. He could


see the lights so he knows you’re there working. You can’t work in the dark without lights, light on your bulldozer or tractors, whatever the case may be. So it’s just a risk you ran.
How were these fourteen killed and seventeen wounded?
He just came over, down near the river; he came over with these phosphorous bombs. Foof, he went. Inside, they just went over, take two minutes, the planes went four or five (UNCLEAR), that was it.


Were you lucky that day?
Yeah, I was lucky. My mate fell on top of me. He said he would. When it was over I ran down to the river, seen all these blokes laying everywhere. The artillery was back about 400 or 500 yards and I sung out to artillery to come down with their medics and give us a hand.
This is when the friend fell on you and he was dead?
Yeah. Yeah, nice bloke.


Poor old Woody. I went and seen his mother and his wife when I came home from the war. They lived out at Mersey. I called in to see them. See, that bloke should’ve probably got a decoration. Got nothing. These things happen.
What did you say when you went to see his family?
I was married, I had my wife. We’d come down to see, my wife come with me. When I knocked on the door and I said to Mrs Woodham, “I’m


Don Cody.” she started crying. What can you say? You just cuddle them, tell her what happened.
Do you think he saved your life that day?
I’m sure he did. I’m sure. He had this hole in his back. Yes, he saved my life, poor old Woody, yep.


Yeah, poor old bugger. Yes, he was a nice bloke.
Where’s he buried now?
He’s buried up in New Guinea.


I can’t think of the name of the place. They brought them all down to this place to bury them all in New Guinea. They made a big cemetery there. Buna or Bona, Buna, Buna somewhere. I’ve seen photos of it but I can’t, see, the same as all these blokes that were killed on Tarakan and North Borneo, they brought them over to Labuan and made the big cemetery at Labuan, you see, war cemetery at Labuan, yeah.
Do you think they should


be brought home or they should be buried there?
Very debatable question. I think there’d be too many to bring home. It wasn’t like the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War went for twelve years and there was only, really there was only about 300 killed but they lost about 500 people, but I think only about 300 killed. They could afford to bring them home. It would


be nice to bring them home to be buried, but how are we going to bring them all back from the Middle East, thousands. How are we going to bring them home? I’d love to see everyone buried back in their own country but then you’ve got to look, can you do it, can you do this? What is the answer, yes or no?
How did your time in New Guinea come to an end?
I beg your pardon?
How did your time in New Guinea come to an end?
When we finished


we went up towards Wewak at a place called Ninety Mile Anchorage and the Japs pissed off towards Wewak, you see. That’s when they put this 5th Div in and they let us come back. We came back to Langamag Bay and got on a boat there and came home. Brought us home to Townsville I think it was, Brisbane I think. Brought us home to Brisbane I think, some of us.


Came home by train to train and some they flew over to Tassie from Melbourne, some they brought home by boat.
What was it like coming home again?
It was good. We’d only been away, say fifteen to sixteen months. So it was, you know, pretty good. I couldn’t get back home quick enough to see my girlfriend. She’s working in a hospital and I was home one day and I got malaria and they


put me in the hospital, but she was on the men’s ward but when they brought me in the matron said, “You can’t stop on a ward where your boyfriend is.” I went down with malaria you see.
How long was this leave?
Twenty-one days. But I was in hospital for eight days I think altogether, so they told me I could have another seven days. So I finished up nearly a month, you know, really like. That suited me too.
So you had malaria.


How did that knock you about?
You get the shakes and the shivers and sit in a bed, sweating You’d be sitting out (UNCLEAR) bloody bed would be over there. Break out in these sweats, shocking. You don’t know, you’re sort of unconscious for two or three days and then you sort of float out of it. But everyone got it. We used to get it in the Middle East. They used to call it dengue over there, but if you were an officer in the Middle East it was


malaria. But an ordinary soldier, especially up in Syria, “You’ve got dengue,” but it was the same. When we got malaria up here we knew it was the same thing, see.
So when you had malaria it hit you when you came back home, did it?
Yeah. You get it up there two. I had two or three trips to hospital in New Guinea. I think everyone did, but even when the war finished for the first


twelve months I hardly worked at all. I worked about four months of the year because every three or four weeks I’d go down with malaria, you see. Be off for a bloody fortnight, so I never done much work at all, and living on the west coast you’ve got no benefits down from Repat [Repatriation], none at all. Not even any money at all, living around the west coast you were on the bloody outer.
When you were on leave did you know


they were going to call you up again and off you’d go?
They’d say, they sent you on leave twenty-one days, you’d report back on, we’d have to report back to Launceston such and such a date. You knew you had to come back, yeah. But our base on the west coast was the barracks in Launceston. The blokes in Hobart, their barracks would be out at Brighton, you see.


Where were they going to send you to next?
They sent you back to, see, you’d get into Launceston, they’d say you’ve got to go to Melbourne to the showgrounds or blah blah. You get there, or to Seymour, they’d say your unit’s up in Queensland so they’d put you on the bloody train and away you’d go again, you see.
And where did you end up after leave?
After we came back from New Guinea I came home and had leave,


had to go back up the Tablelands again see, before we went to Borneo.
What were your thoughts when you first reached Borneo?
Didn’t know for a start. After a couple of hours we did. Borneo was a lovely place, lovely, clean. We got into the old Sultan’s bloody palace and pinched his bloody gold crown. Had to get the dentist to melt that down


because every bastard was chasing us. We got in the Sultan of Brunei’s palace, eight engineers, six pound of gold out of his crown, six pound of gold. Bloody priest was looking for it. We gave it to a dentist, we knew a dentist. “I’m not touching that,” he says, “It’s too hot.” We said, “You melt the bastard down.” Poor dentist, dentist had to melt it down.


How did you get in the palace?
How did you get in the palace?
Blew our way in. Got through the doors and then blew the safe.
And where were the royalty at this time?
They’d gone bloody years before. See, the Japs came into Borneo when they came down through Singapore to get the oil. But he was gone, the old Sultan of Brunei. We played up in his bloody palace.


So when you melted the crown down what did you do with the gold?
We had to split it up about four ways, the gold. But the straight gold is only worth about £2 /10s in our money whereas the Australian gold then was about £4. But there’s ways and means of getting rid of (UNCLEAR).
What are those ways and means of getting rid of it?
The Dayaks, you can get some gold off the little


Dayaks, you know. They used to have that bloody cock fighting with their roosters and that.
In Borneo?
Yeah, we used to give them a bit of tucker, bit of gold and they’d tell us where the Japs were too, they’d tell us. Only little Dayaks, bloody poison darts, yeah.
Was there a big black market in Borneo?
Not really, no, not really. There were black markets everywhere, doesn’t matter where you go


there’s always something. Up in New Guinea there was a little black market, little black markets for different things, you see. Some dealt in food, some dealt in other things, you know what I mean. There’s always black markets for everything when you get to know.
Did they trade in cigarettes?
Oh God yes, cigarettes and grog. Poor bloody Yanks up in New Guinea would get this bloody whisky, we’d put about that much whisky in it.


We’d fill it up with black tea, £5 for a bottle of whisky. Only that much bloody whisky in it. Then we started painting them Jap, see, we had sign writers and all with us engineers, you see. You’ve got everything. They were turning these bloody Jap flags out. We were selling them bastards $10 Yankee money. Our blokes were, now, got them up in the jungle. Our bloody blokes were turning them out as fast as they could paint them. That’s the beauty of the engineers, see, you’ve got sign writers, you’ve got everything in them.


Poor bloody Yanks, we used to put it over them poor bastards. They never had a frigging clue what was going on, them Yanks.
So you were making your own memorabilia?
You were making your own memorabilia of the occasion?
Yeah, yes, yeah.
Do you know if anything you made ended up in a museum or something?
Christ, I wouldn’t know, mate where things finished. I had that much bloody stuff here one time. I’ve lost a lot, I’ve lent stuff


and they never bring it back. They promise to bring it back. Yes, so wouldn’t know where everything finished up, don’t know.
How would you compare Borneo to New Guinea?
Top of the world, top of the wozza. Beautiful, Borneo. We had one platoon putting thirty-seven wells they put out. That was one mob. Other blokes had, another part of the platoon had


boats up the bloody rivers delivering stuff. Other blokes went with the infantry and I used to have to go around the lot, you see, so I had a good look around.
What’s the weather and terrain like up there?
The weather’s beautiful and the girls are lovely looking. Little Eurasians. We were in their


Merry headquarters in Merry. Our engineer comes right on the beach, a bloody big house we were in, beautiful, and there were a lot of unexploded bombs so we had to get these bombs out. Pull them out with bloody six by six trucks, we was. But we go around there with all the, they were nearly all Chinese, three parts Chinese, lovely. Take them around a tin of bully or stuff like that.


They’d do your washing for you, and that’s all. No, we loved it there, we loved Borneo, yeah. Borneo is a very clean place. I’d love to go back up. I tried to go back but I missed out on the trip. They said free trips and I had the trip, but they wouldn’t let me go back on account of me losing my lung, you see. Up to the Sultan of Brunei’s place, lovely. I loved it up there, so clean, even with the


(UNCLEAR) blah blah. They’re a nice clean race.
It’s still jungle though, isn’t it?
Oh yeah, a lot of jungle, but a lot of it is
It’s not as harsh as New Guinea then?
Oh God, no. But see, they’ve got modern towns and modern cities there too. You’ve heard of Jessleton and all them places, you see. What is the name of their place, we wanted to go in and get them poor bloody prisoners out. They chopped their bloody heads off, the Japs did. What was the name of that


place? We thought we were going to go in to get them out, but f...... MacArthur wouldn’t let us go. What was the name? Sandakan, the march to Sandakan. I think there were only about three Australians got out of it. The rest they chopped their bloody heads off, and we thought we were going to try to get them out, but MacArthur wouldn’t let us go in. He’s a bastard of a thing. Reckons he couldn’t spare the planes. F...... bastard.
Was that


feeling of MacArthur right throughout?
Yes. We had the same feeling for him as we had the same feeling for General Blamey. I’ve never, I can’t or never heard any Australian say what a good bloke Blamey was either, never.
Was that after his speech?
Was that after the speech at….?
No, right from the word go.


See, when we went to the Middle East he was the general in charge of f...... Australia. No c.... had any time for him mate. Big fat cunning bastard he was. Well he was an ex bloody commissioner of police in Victoria. If war hadn’t have broke out, he’d have finished up in gaol as police commissioner. He was mixed up in all the brothels in Melbourne, all the underworld stuff they said, and they reckon he was the police commissioner of Victoria. If the war hadn’t have broke out he’d have been up f...... Pentridge too.


We’ll stop there.
Interviewee: Donald Cody Archive ID 1772 Tape 09


Can you tell us about the differences you faced in combat between the Germans, Italians in North Africa and the Japanese in the jungle fighting of the islands?
What do you mean, the difference in?
The differences in the enemy?
The what mate?
The differences between the enemy you fought in the islands and in North Africa?


Well the Germans in North Africa were gentlemen. The Japs in the f...... jungle were shit. That’s the difference between them. They’re so dirty. They’d do anything, they would. They’d do anything, mate. If I told you they used to sleep with one another you wouldn’t believe me, would you?
What was that?
If I told you they slept with one another you wouldn’t believe me.
I don’t know. Tell me.
Well I’ll tell you. They’d have


all this bloody scent, powder, ladies’ bloody knickers, everything. They told they used to sleep with one another and take it in turns.
So homosexuality is that?
Homosexuality, yeah. And we found the gear. That’s what they told us, they used to take it turns sleeping with one another. But I don’t know whether it’s true but I’d say it would because they had all these ladies’ scanties and bloody powder and scent. So I’d quite believe they’d do it too,


the dirty filthy bastards.
Where did you find this?
Up in New Guinea in the dugouts.
In their dug outs.
In Finschhafen, Sattelberg?
Finschhafen, mainly Finschhafen. We got into a cave their once and we found these four Japanese geisha girls, their wrists cut, just about dead. They’d take them to shag them, you see. When they left they cut the f...... girls’ wrists, they left them f...... near dead. Our blokes could do nothing for them. It was too far gone,


in a cave. They’re dirty bastards, mate. Shag them and then cut their wrists. If it had been me, I’d have shagged them and took them with me, but they cut their wrists and left them. That’s true. They were mongrels, mate.
Tell us about the tactics the Japanese used in the jungle


when you were fighting them throughout the entire campaign? Were they different in Borneo as opposed to Papua New Guinea?
Up in north, we never struck many at all. I think we only killed about thirteen or fourteen. We only lost about two blokes there ‘cause they pissed off. Never struck many Japs in Borneo at all really. Got a fair few prisoners further out in the jungles,


but no, they never done much fighting up there.
Were they good shots, the Japanese?
Yes. Like we always said every Jap we used to see used to wear glasses and were about that high, but when we went to New Guinea it was all their bloody marines. These blokes were six foot four or six foot five and they had no bloody glasses on them, odd one. They were crack troops they told


us. We don’t know, but marines, you’d have to be crack troops. They were big blokes, big blokes.
Where about in New Guinea did you actually fight them?
Finsch, especially Finsch. See, we never seen much in Lae at all really. We only went in for three or four days and they dragged us out, you see. But we never saw much fighting at all in Lae, not a lot, only a little bit, not much.
Did your unit take part in fighting the marines in hand to hand combat?
What, mate?
Did you


fight the Japanese marines in hand to hand combat?
Yes, our blokes did, yeah.
You were there as well?
I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the infantry, yes.
Can you tell us what it’s like to see this hand to hand combat which is pretty much the ultimate in combat, isn’t it?
It’s every man for himself. People say, but as I say you don’t know what you’re doing half the time. It happens, you’re there, you’ve got to do this. You don’t realise what


you’ve done until two or three days after it when it’s all over and you finished. It hits you up the brain. You’ve got no f...... brain, it hits you up there anyway.
What do they think about when you say it hits you?
What mate?
What do they think about? You said it hits you up in the brain a couple of days later?
See, three or four of you are sitting around talking but you don’t know what you’ve done there. Little bits come back as you talk among your mates. They’re in the same boat


and you piece little bits together, you know what I mean. Like when you’re in there you don’t know what you’re doing half the time.
When you mean half the time are you talking about in hand to hand combat or in the jungle?
When you’re fighting in the jungle. When you working away in the jungle that’s different, but when you’re into this, in the front line with the infantry then you’re doing things, you’re trying to shoot at every bastard whatever the case,


not even hand to hand combat, just shooting bloody guns at one another. It’s you know, it’s a weird feeling. Very weird I’d say, ‘cause you don’t realise half of what you’re doing.
Have you faced the Japanese yourself at hand to hand combat?
Yes, yes. I had a go. Had a go at them, yeah. Well it’s only natural, if you’re there you’ve got to be in it. You can’t get


out of it. But if we were there and the infantry could get us out of it, they would because they didn’t want to lose you.
I know this may sound like a silly question, but I’m trying to understand it from your point of view, how would you describe the sense of, is it a terrifying experience to be in hand to hand combat?
I think everything’s terrifying. I do honestly, yes, but I think hand to hand combat is yeah, pretty crook.


Pretty crook, mate, yeah, yes.
What disturbs you about it?
Well, blokes are bloody screaming and hollering, you know what I mean. Everyone’s bloody screaming and singing out whether it’s me, you or anyone, them. Really nerve-racking but you don’t realise because you’re under this tension.


So you don’t realise what you’re doing or what you hear half the time. When you go out in a couple of days you get back to hearing this bloody screaming and hollering and that too, you see. Both sides, not one side, both sides. So it’s a bit nerve-racking, yeah. That’s why I’m cranky now.
I wouldn’t like to face you


in hand to hand combat?
Hang on, I’m only cranky, I know. But you can hear it, you’re buggered. I don’t think anyone will ever be the same.
After it?
After. Look, I finished my war in November ’45. Well the war finished in August ’45. I came out the army


and I still dream of a night, different things. I can never ever forget. I’ve asked my mates. I said, “Do you still think what happened?” They said, “We can go right back to the day we joined up, mate.” I don’t think it ever goes out of your mind. It’s always laying dormant and it comes out sometimes when you go to bed. It’s a shocker, it’s a shocker.
Did you talk about this stuff with your mates after the war?


Oh yes, we do, yes, when we get together. When we get together, mate, like to go over different things. I nearly killed my missus when I was dreaming of f...... war one night. Must’ve been f...... dreaming. She said I was screaming she said. I got her by the throat. I was choking her but she happened to get my f...... hands off her throat, see. I was killing all these Germans with my, up here. Just as well she was strong. I bloody near choked her to death. That happened about


twice. So it sort of never, I always say we’re all bloody queer to a certain extent because it never goes out of your head. Never goes out of your head. I meet different mates, sometimes they’re not my mates, they’ve been in different divisions, up to the barracks, have a couple of beers. They’ll talk about 6th Div blokes, 7th Div blokes, 9th Div, get there talking to one another and all of this comes out.


You know what I mean. But they’re strangers to me, them other division blokes, you know, and they tell me they still have bloody nightmares and I quite believe them. I really quite believe them, mate. It never leaves your brain. It’s alright for these bloody politicians and doctors to say blah blah. They’ve been through it and they don’t understand. They don’t understand it.
Were you basically with the same battalion


or platoon for
Were you basically with the same battalion
in PNG or most of the time until Moresby?
You’ve got your nine battalions right. You’ve got three field companies. Well, somebody might have to change over. We went in with the 20th Brigade at Finsch. We finished up with the 43rd and 48th Battalion before we were finished. So you might be switched to different


battalions. Engineers would be shifted to different battalions, you see. It depends what’s going on. See, you’re going in saying you’re with the 20th Brigade. Say you’re 7th Field Company, even the 20th Brigade. You might get knocked around. You know, engineer. They’ll pull you out and they’ll send us in with a battalion, you see. So you’re mixed up. I think it’s a good thing


to be mixed up with a different battalion at different times and you get to know different blokes and things like that. But you never know what, engineers don’t know where they are half the time or where they’re going or what they’re bloody doing. So you start here this morning, you could finish way down twenty mile away with another mob before the afternoon’s out, you know what I mean. Depends what’s going on and what they want.
Because you’re a specialist unit?


Because we’re specialists. We’re supposed to know all about infantry fighting, we’re trained in that too, blah blah. Then you’re supposed to know all about everything else. You’re sort of a specialist. Then something might go wrong way down there. They might send half the company, might send two platoons, might send twenty engineers, you see. You get down there, you do, you’re way over here next.


Being an experienced soldier you said before you used to put the younger chaps under your wing and try and help them out?
Yeah, show them, yeah.
When you get involved in bayonet fighting hand to hand
Well you sort of try and look after him too, you know, until he gets used to it.
How would you do that though in a battle?
Get behind me or get near me, son. Someone might be just as old as you are and only just come as a real, and you still call them


son, ‘cause you thought you were an old bastard but you were the same age. But you tried to protect them and tell them what to do, get behind me, don’t do this, don’t do that, blah blah, and that’s what you tried to do. That’s what you tried to do. But we never did a lot of hand to hand fighting, not a real lot. I did a bit in the Middle East, done a bit up in New Guinea.


Probably about twenty times over the years I was in it. Of course if you were going, they’d try and get you out of hand to hand combat. The officer might say, “Look, you’re too,” it depends, or if you’re just on your own you piss off. Go into infantry back over there. Try and get you out of it. So the engineers, like they were in the front line, they did a lot of fighting.


They’d try and keep you out of hand to hand combat as much as they could, the infantry. Of course the story was they’d say you’re too valuable. Probably wasn’t valuable because we say we’re just ordinary bloody jokers. We may have been valuable to them, we don’t know. It would be about twenty times I’ve been in hand to hand combat right over it all.
Twenty times?


twenty I reckon.
That’s quite a lot.
(UNCLEAR) trumps twenty-eight times out of that twenty times, yeah.
How did the younger, the newer recruits that just came in, how did they adjust to that sort of situation?
Well, they adjusted like we had to the first time we were there. We didn’t know what it was to go into f...... hand to hand combat.


We had to learn ourselves, but we tried to teach these ones because we’d done it, we tried to teach them. But they had to learn too, the same as what we did, you know what I mean. Get a good learner you get a good boy. Bad learner, you’ve lost your boy.
Have you lost a boy in that situation?
No, I never lost a boy.
But you’ve seen it happen?
Yeah, I’ve seen it happen now and again.


Some boys won’t listen to what they’re told. You can only help; you can’t make them do it. If they’re not going to listen to you or take your advice what can you do?
What would you mean that they wouldn’t listen to you?
Well, you’d say, “We’re going to go out and do this tonight,” and explain what you’re going to do. “You understand? Ask any questions before we go. I don’t want to get out there, we get out there I don’t want you to ask


me questions. I want to tell you before we go what we’re going to do. If you’re not sure, ask me now before we go.” When you get out there and he says, “What are we going to do?” you haven’t got f...... time, have you? He’s a bad boy. He’ll learn. He’ll get bloody killed or he’ll learn. It’s one or the other, that’s all it amounts to and you can’t do nothing about them mate.
How did the eighteen year old chaps, the ones who were younger
They were good. They


turned out really good, pretty good. They were good, poor little buggers, yes. No, they turned out alright, yeah.
But they would be the ones who would often get killed as well?
Well, generally the young ones, you know, but they’re inexperienced. But if they listen and blah blah, talk to you, you


try and look after them too, even (UNCLEAR) you’ve sort of got one bloody eye on them. No, they’re good, yeah. Yes. I had a couple of good boys. When we were out in the place I wouldn’t do any washing. They wouldn’t let me wash my bloody shirts, trousers, socks. “No, we’ll do them for you, Don,” because they knew I’d look after them.


If I go to town and they couldn’t go I’d work some way to get them out. What I’d done for them, they repaid me in other ways. You know what I mean.
So you were like an older brother in a way?
Oh yes.
That was the relationship?
Plus the fact I drove a few officers at different times and I could get away with bloody murder with nine times out of ten with our own officers. I could ask them anything and they’d do it, you know.


Of course they thought the world of me and I thought the world of them. When you get a bloody general comes to you in Melbourne and sends a bloody special car to pick you up to go to the dinner at Treasury House with the Premier of Victoria, you and your wife, what would you think? He must think the world of me too, mustn’t he? That’s what my old major general done to me. He used to, if anyone


was about I’d call him sir. No one about he’d say, “You call me Bob. My name is still Bob to you, Don.” I wasn’t the only one in the unit. Other members of the unit he done the same too. He even came around to Queenstown to see us in 1948, ’49, from Victoria. He always said after the war, “I’m going to come to Queenstown to meet you bastard.” He used to call us bastards, you see. “You bastard from the west coast,” he used to say. That’s the sort of bloke he was, you know what I mean. “When the war, I’m going to come to the f...... west coast to see


you bastards.” He came.
Was that the one who started from private?
He started as a captain there.
He was a captain, sorry, yes.
Captain Bob Brisher. He was head of the Tramways of Victoria after the war. Anyway, he came around about ’48 or ’49. We were up working up at West Lyall, about five of our company, you see. Was up there, we wouldn’t work for no c..... He in charge of the garage came along, he said, “There’s a bloke down at the RSL club, you’ve got to call him


when you knock off work.” We used to knock off about 4.00 o’clock, you see, and come down by, but we’d get down there about half past 4.00, have a shower. I think we had about two bob each. We had no f...... money in them days. We walks in the RSL room and this voice, “Here’s my,” that’s how he used to talk, “Here’s my sappers.” He had all this f...... red and gold f...... braid on him, old f...... Bob. We had a couple of beers or something there and it came about 6.00 o’clock


and there was another bloke used to live next door to me. He was a sergeant, one of my mates. I said to this f...... Toohey, he is a f...... (UNCLEAR) too. I said, “That woman was only cooking a f...... stew,” I said, “I asked the old bastard to come up and have tea.” Well you talk like that. Of course he had a car outside with a f...... chauffeur and all, you see. About 6.00 o’clock I said, “Well sir, we’ve got to go home for tea. Will you come and have tea with


me?” “My jolly word, I’ll come and have tea with you.” I said, “It’s only a bloody stew mate.” Told him straight, you swear like that. “It’s right,” he said, “I’m coming,” and he said to the, the bloke that was behind the bar used to be in our company but he got hurt in the Middle East in Tobruk so he was sent home early. He was the bar manager at the RSL. He said to old Vic, he said, “How do you sell your bottles of beer here, Vic?” And Vic said, used to be in the big longnecks, a dozen


in the box. Vic said, “A dozen longnecks in a box, Bob.” “Well, how many can you drink, Don? “How many can you drink, Toohey? Couple of cartons?” he said. I said, “No, Jesus Christ, no woman will go f...... cook when I walk in with this bastard,” you know what I mean, half pissed too. “Let’s put a couple of cartons in the car,” he said. Away we go up home.


Of course Toohey goes inside. I said, “You bring your missus over and have f...... tea too, Toohey.” “No,” he says, “I’ll come over after I have my tea,” and we walks inside. My missus nearly dropped f...... dead when she seen us coming, all this f...... red and gold braid. “Jesus,” she said, “what the f...... hell is that bastard up to now.” I was a bastard. “This is my old boss, this is Major General Bob Brisher.” He said, “Yes,” and he put his arm around and he said, “This is one of my best sappers.”


He said, “What’s your wife’s name, Don.” I said, “Marce, Marcell.” “Marcell,” he said, “This is one of my best sappers.” He said, “I was sure I was coming to Queenstown.” He said, “Do you have a drink, Marcell?” She said, “I might have one.” She never used to drink. He said, “I never got a bottle of wine.” He said, “I’ll send the chauffeur down to get a bottle of wine,” he said. “No,” I said, “She’ll have a glass of beer.” So I said, “What about your chauffeur having tea?” He said, “No, he goes back to the pub. He’s


booked into the pub. He can have his tea down the pub.” He said, “When I want him,” he said, “we’ll get,” we had no f...... phones on in them days. We’ll get you there. Toohey and his missus came over after. Toohey and I were too f...... frightened and we’re trying to say, “Bob, don’t you f...... say too much, Bob, about us.” Getting half pissed. Anyway about 10.00 o’clock he said, “I best go, best go, how am I going to get my taxi? How am I going to get my car up here? Got the phone?” “No, we’re too poor to have phones here.”


I said, “The mine manager is a couple of doors up, he’s got the phone on.” I went and knocked on this f...... mine manager’s door half pissed and he rang up the pub. But anyway, he went back a couple of days after and we went over to the reunion in 1980, the world wide Rats of Tobruk reunion. They were out from Germany and Pommy land and everywhere and that’s where we were booked into this motel out at St Kilda, you see. This c.... came up about


f...... 5.00 o’clock. F...... f...... uniform done up f...... looking for Mr Cody. Them big motels, you know what they’re like, they’re f......, I went down to the f...... office. Cody there. “How are you? Are you Mr Cody?” “Yeah, I’m Mr Cody, yeah.” He said, “I’ve got to pick you up at 6.00 o’clock, you and your wife. I’ve got to go down to the Treasury building to the Premier of Victoria,


Mr Dick Hamer. I said, “That bastard’s not down there too, is he, old Dick?” I said, “Bugger that bastard.” He said, “The Premier.” F...... c...., fuck you, I thought. So the missus and I, all the other blokes, Rats of Tobruk from Tassie and Victoria are in this f...... motel. Mum and I and the two kids got in the car, down we go to the Treasury building and they announce you at the f...... door, you see, and this bloke said, “Mr and Mrs Cody.”


I said to Marce, “I’m Mr Cody.” So when we walks in the f...... door old Dick Hamer run over and grabbed my missus and started kissing her. I said, “Where’s your missus, Dick?” He said, so I run over and kissed her, you see. They had the full sized pigs cooked and all this f...... free grog. We had to go around to the St Kilda Town Hall for the big dinner there at 8.00 o’clock. We had a f...... good hour. That old Dick, couldn’t do enough for me either,


and old Bob. So when we go around to the Town Hall they’ve got all these f...... generals and all these piss pots up on the stage. I’m half pissed by this time and a bloke said to me, in the same unit, “I’d love to see old Bob.” I said, “Do you want to talk to him?” We walked up this big f......, you know. I said, “Come with me, I’ll take you up to him on the f...... stage,” I said, “F…. them cats.”


They’ve got blokes each end of the f...... stage with a bayonet, you know, dressed. Bloke said, “Where are you?” I said, “Up to see Bob.” “I beg your pardon?” he said. “Up to see Bob Brisher.” He said, “You can’t go up there.” “Don’t tell me I can’t go and see him, mate. I want to talk to Dick Hamer too,” and some other f...... sir c.... I knew in the army, just say goodday. “You can’t.” I said, “Look, I’m going up to see Bob and I’ll take that bloody bayonet and rifle off you and I’ll stick the bayonet up your


f...... arse.” “Wait a minute,” so he called another bloke down and wrote a note up to old Bob. “Come on,” up the f...... stage. He’s a champion bloke. So we go out to the f...... big dinner, oh, that was the dinner. Then the next morning we got to the f...... Shrine of Remembrance, (UNCLEAR) like that. Anyway, I don’t know what time I had to go there. Am I holding you up?
No, no.


This f...... jeep comes along with a flag flying up to the motel. “Mr & Mrs Cody?” We’re sitting back in this jeep, flag flying, all these bastards looking. Anyway, the old boy, he lived down at Toorak and he just lost his wife he told me, the old boy. So he wanted Marce and I to go down and stop with him. I said, “I can’t because I’ve got to go to Geelong to my niece and nephew.” We’d all arranged this, you see.


But poor old Bob, he was a bloody rower, f...... bastard. Gee, my missus, “You’ll get into trouble, you’ll get into trouble.” I said, “I know I’m order. They all know me darling,” I said. She said, “You’re a bastard, you bastard.”
How did you find yourself settling down after the war was over?
How did you find yourself settling down to civilian life?
No good, no good, no good.


No, a bastard trying to settle down. No one could settle, know what I mean. I felt sorry for my missus, but all the other blokes’ wives went through the same thing, you know what I mean. You do f...... stupid things. In them days you used to get three ten ounce beers for a shilling when you knocked off work, you know,


but we’d only have say two bob, you know what I mean, and the missus would say, “What time will you be home for tea?” “About half past 5.00 duck,” you know. Well you’d get home about 8.00 o’clock. She’d be there trying to keep the f...... tea hot for me. My mates were doing the same. It wasn’t fair to the wives but you don’t realise it, do you? I thought she’d divorce me but she must’ve loved me because she never divorced me.


Yeah, but if she saw some of the stuff you said today she may reconsider.
Oh laugh, poor little bugger. Can I have a pee?
Yeah, sure. Yeah, you were telling us about suicides before as well.
I beg your pardon?
About suicides? Suicides?
Yeah, yeah.
And guys that went troppo. You knew a guy who actually


committed suicide, didn’t you?
My mate, yeah. I’ve got his photo here and where he’s buried at Labuan. His photo, yeah, poor bugger, yeah, yeah. They were putting the oil wells out, you see. He was a WO [warrant officer] and I was a transport sergeant and you always had a Bren gun rigged up on your jeep, you see, because one bloke wasn’t allowed to go anywhere on his own. So the corporal from the transport when they were putting oil wells out, he rang up and he wanted some bloody stuff brought down.


‘Cause he’d wireless through to headquarters. They told me in the orderly room, so I said, “I’ll go down.” It was a half past 5.00, 6.00 o’clock. Anyway, Fat said to me, “I’m coming too.” “F…. you,” I said, “You’re not.” He was a WO, but “No, f….. you.” He said, “I’m coming. Got my mates down there too the same as you have.” So down we go. We had a bottle of beer each when we got down there with them. Anyway, while we’re there talking I told


the corporal about the stuff he wanted and bullshit. So they wirelessed through and told us that the Japs had cut the f...... road. I said, and they told us to stop the night. This was from headquarters, “You’d best stop the night. We don’t know how many Japs have cut the road.” Well, I was prepared to stop there and have a few f...... beers, free, for nothing too. “No, f….. them,” he said, “We’ll go back. I’ll get up on the f...... Bren


gun,” he said, “I’ll give the f...... Japs, the c....s.” I said, “Alright,” so we goes back and we had to go into this cookhouse. Every c.... hated the sergeants’ cook. He was a c.... too. We had a little bloke named Jackie Clode, he’d been original, but his little nerves were going, poor little bugger, and they were playing crib you see, and Bingham, that’s my mate, he said to this Jackie Clode, blurter,


“If that f...... cook c.... play ups,” he said, “Shoot the c....,” and threw a 45 Wembley down, and poor little Jackie started to shake. The poor little bugger was stuffed. Bang bang bang and the f...... thing there next to him went boof, and I’m standing beside, his f...... brains were all over me. But anyway I ran around to headquarters and got the RAP [Regimental Aid Post]bloke. I had to get him.


I said, “He’s f...... dead,” but he had to come, you see. Anyway he got a f...... ambo and they took him down to some f...... hospital. They said they were going to operate and I said, “It’s no good operating. His f...... brains went across my face, mate.” Anyway, at 2.00 o’clock in the morning they came in and said, “He’s dead.” I said, “He was f...... dead before he left here.” There was a big stink. You’re supposed to have


a 38 Smith and Wesson, not the 45. When we were in New Guinea, the Yank wanted the 38 Smith and Wesson off him and Bingham wanted the f...... big Wembley. “(UNCLEAR) killed no c.....” There was a big f...... enquiry over that. I was the main f...... witness, you see. They wanted to know where he got this Smith and, I explained to the f...... board what happened, blah blah. “He shouldn’t have even,” see, and I was frightened they might want


to give him a dishonourable discharge because armies are funny, you see. But to cut a long story short they (UNCLEAR) and they buried him at Merry. Now we were coming home on the barge from Merry over to Labuan and we had to pick up another boat to go to Morotai from Labuan. Harry Bourne and I, both from Evandale,


and I knew some of the engineers on the boat were running the boat, you see. Got on the boat, this bloke said to me, “I’ve got your f...... mate up here.” I said, “Hey? What f...... mate?” “I’ve got him up here in a f...... blanket, he said. Taking him over to Labuan, it was f...... Bingham, you see. That was the story of my mate there, poor bastard.
If a guy killed himself, I’m sure it happened many times,
Oh, a lot of blokes did commit suicide, yes, yes.
Tell us about this, the other guys?
I mean a lot of


guys did.
They did, yeah, but a lot of them, they couldn’t stand it. I’ve seen a bloke in Tobruk put his f...... fingers in an electric fan and cut his fingers off because he couldn’t stand it any longer, so he put his hand in electric fan, cut three or four fingers so they sent him back to f...... Egypt. Poor bastard, I mean people don’t realise these little odds and ends. He deliberately put his hand in a f...... electric what’s-a-name, cut three fingers off.


But they don’t tell you these. All the f...... stories they tell you, if you went through some of them f...... archives in Canberra a lot of this stuff won’t be in them. They won’t print the bastard.
So the guys who did commit suicide, did you know a lot about this in Papua New Guinea? Did it happen in Papua New Guinea?
No, I can’t say up in New Guinea, I can’t, I can’t. It’s a different type of war. In the desert you were under so much pressure


and so much fierce, how can I, so much fierce bloody artillery and bloody aeroplanes. You were under constant fire twenty-four hours a day as the saying is. When we were up in the jungle you might’ve only had six or seven hours, you see. But the pressure was more on you in the desert than what it was in the jungle up that way. It beat a lot of poor buggers. A lot of blokes committed suicide.


In the desert?
A hell of a lot, yeah. But you find it in f...... archives in Canberra I bet.
Now these guys who did commit suicide,
Were they marked as killed in action?
Well it depends on what some of the bastards said on these boards, these base fellow bastards. They put my mate down as died of wounds.
I see.
But he was dead, he was dead. I put my hands over his,


the hole was about that big where the bullet, the f...... whole was that big where it came out. You know what a bloody 45 bullet, and all his f...... brains were all over my f...... face.
How did you handle this stuff?
It’s a lot of stuff to handle, what you’ve been through.
Yeah, I know.
How did you deal with it?
I don’t know. I don’t know.
What kept you going? Why didn’t you go troppo?
I don’t know. I reckon that’s when they reckoned I should’ve been discharged in ’44. I reckon


that’s when my f...... mind was going in 1944. Who do you complain to? If you went to a doctor or something, he’d say, “You’re only a f...... bludger.” The doctors would tell you a malingerer, a malingerer, they’d say to you, “You get back to your unit.” You had no help, you had nothing, and you couldn’t get anyone to answer for you.
What about your mates?
Your mates can’t help you.
Can’t you talk to them about it?
You talk to them, but they can’t help. We used to talk to one another. You know,


f...... up here, this that, and you go to the doctor and you say to the doctor, “Jeez, I feel funny up the f...... head.” “You’re only a malingerer, get back where you belong.”
What would you feel though, when you said you feel funny up here, what thoughts are you having?
Well, everything would be going around and you’re thinking these f......, it must be your nerves doing something to you, mustn’t it? You know what I mean.
Did you think you were going out of control?
You think you’re going ratty.
That you were a danger to other people?
Yes, this is right. But see, your


mates can’t help you. You can only talk. I know blokes that went to the docs and told them about their, the doctor told them f…. off. See the doctors wouldn’t listen. They reckoned you were a f...... malingerer. I’ve got no time for a lot of bloody.
You must’ve believed in something that kept you going?
I don’t know, we don’t know.
Wanting to come back home?


You get that sand blight in your eyes up the desert at Alamein, you see. I went to the doctor because I had black spots in my eyes. “You’ve got to go back to Alexandria to see an eye specialist.” Sand blight, fair enough. They sent me back; I wasn’t the only one, probably a truck load. So I went to see this eye specialist and he said, “What can you see?” I said, “Little black dots in my eyes, sir,” ‘cause he was a f......, I called the


c.... sir, right. He said, “Do you know what they are, son?” I said, “No.” He said, “They’re ships going to Australia.” I said, “Are they?” He said, “Yes, but you won’t be on them.” That’s the f...... sympathy you get. That’s the sort of thing that went on. You’ve got no idea what went on. If you told f...... John Howard that they’d say you’re telling f...... lies because they wouldn’t know. Telling me f...... black spots, ships going to Australia and I wasn’t going to be on them. All I went


there, I said to him, which is sand blight.
Did you also see the, how did the younger chaps handle all this stuff? It must’ve been heavy on the younger chaps.
Well I mean, no wonder half of them finished up, look how many finished up in the rat houses after the war. When I came down I wasn’t too bad. I’d lived on the west, I wouldn’t f...... complain and I came down to work about ’61 at Boyne and I got crook. So I had to go into the repat hospital. They sent me around the


east west and this bloke said to me, he was a nerve bloke, you know, blah blah, he said, “Well jeez, you’re crook mate.” “Crook, my f...... arse,” I said, you know what I mean. He said, “Millbrook,” in them days the rat house was up at New Norfolk and Millbrook Rise was a place to rest and you’d get those electric shock treatment, you see, and I was (UNCLEAR) this shock treatment. “Never have that bastard, Don,” he said.


He was a returned bloke too, you see. He said, “You go, we’ll put you into Millbrook Rise for three weeks rest.” I said, “You won’t be f...... putting me in Millbrook Rise, mate,” I said, “I’m f...... going.” I only lived around from Millbrook Rise at New Norfolk myself, you see. “Oh no,” he said, “You’ve got to go up there and have a rest,” he said, “You’re buggered.” But I should’ve went, but I wouldn’t go. If I’d have went then I would’ve got a TPI


‘cause he was all for me going, but there was that many blokes finished up in the asylum all over Australia, not only, all over Australia. But they used to give them that electric shock treatment, put them electrodes. It was bloody burning, mate, and I was frightened I was going to get one of them. I thought I was going to get when he said to go there.
What about after the war, did any of the diggers or did a lot of diggers commit suicide after the war?
They did, yes. Yes, a hell of a lot and finished up in asylums.
And asylums?
In asylums.


But they won’t tell you that in Canberra on our archives.
Any of your mates?
Any of your mates?
No, only my brother-in-law. He finished up having this electro treatment up here. He always said to me, “Don’t ever have that, Don, never ever, mate.” He said, “That’s bloody shocking.” We’ve talked ourselves out.
Mate, I could ask you a lot of questions but we’ve run out of time.


I’d like to thank you.
No worries.
A great privilege to interview you today.
You’re right, mate. Any time, mate.
Thanks a lot.
No worries.
Alright then.


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