Archive number: 1787
Date interviewed: 12 March, 2004
24th Battalion/ 15th Brigade
You are listening to the interview audio
Let’s start with the five minute version of the life of John Lyne.
My name is John Lyne, I was born in Newcastle, in 1925 and we
were living through the Depression years. Father was out of work for three years, so he got on a train and come up to Ipswich, and got a job in the railway workshops. He was a boilermaker. We followed him a year later, and I was about ten years of age, then. There was five of us,
four girls and a boy, and then me sister was – last sister was born here in Ipswich. I went to the Christian Brothers School and I’m lost. I did most sports that could be played, did a lot
of swimming, tennis, cricket, football, hockey, played golf in later years. My father died when I was thirteen years of age, and it sort of
really cruelled the family at that stage. There was six of us. Mum had a real hard time. I got a job at – I used to repair pushbikes, in one of the shops in town. And then cos the war was on a few years, there, 1943, I was eighteen and I went
and joined up. Owned horses, used to ride horses around, they used to call us, gee I can’t remember the name. Anyway we weren’t popular with the people around, we never did anything wrong, only galloped up and down the streets, you know.
We used to go pushbike riding, I used to go pushbike riding with no trouble to jump on the pushbike and ride from Ipswich to Brisbane, just to see the planes at Archerfield. Ride twenty miles just to go out to the river to swim. Was really good, easy life.
Never had to worry about anything, you know, it was – wasn’t very many cars on the road, I think that’s about all I can remember.
What’s your very earliest memory from being a kid?
I can remember my grandfather dying in the toilet. Yeah. My dad’s father, he was a big man, used to be a tobacconist, and I got pictures somewhere, taken – he had
a wagon. Not a wagon, what do you call it? A closed in cart, you know, like a – what the bakers used to have, something big you could get in the back of it anyway. And he had it back to front with the steering wheel in the front, the horse used to push. And he steered it. Got a photo of that. I don’t think he was an old man when he died, he had a heart attack or something. I remember them trying to get him out
of the toilet. I must have been only about three or four.
And what do you remember about that? About them trying to get him out of the toilet?
Had a hard job, you know. That’s all I can remember, I can remember it – can remember him putting me on the horse, the horse that he had. That used to push the cart. He belonged to a
gold brick society. I had one here, I had it for years – we melted it down and got a ring made out of it for one of the grandsons, it was a – would only been about three quarters of an inch long and it was made exactly the same as a brick with a dint in the top, you know how they have the dint? And had a ruby in the centre of it.
What’s a gold brick society?
I don’t know. But it was one of them things they had those days.
What did your grandad do for a living?
He was a tobacconist. Sell tobacco and cigarettes and cigars and stuff like that. What else I don’t know.
So this was in Newcastle?
Yeah, that was in Newcastle. Yeah.
Where did the family live in Newcastle?
Yes, we lived in 92
Lambton Road, Broadmeadow. Just down from the station.
Can you remember the house?
Yes, it was a big old house, my grandfather built, he was a carpenter. His name was, Carpenter, and he was a carpenter by trade. And he had built the house and he died – he died when I was young too.
About 49 I think he was, 50 or something. He owned three houses, and public curator took everything except the house that my grandmother had to live in till she died.
Do you know why?
That was the way it was. Those days. Yeah.
So who lived in the house with you?
We had the house first and then when the grandfather died, she come and lived with us. Because that was the house that she – you know like she could have till she died. They don’t give anything to the women in them days.
Do you know what happened to the other houses?
Yeah, they sold them off.
And did what with the money?
Kept it. As far as I know.
Cos she didn’t get it.
What was that like, living in a house full of people with that many brothers and sisters?
Big house. Think it had three big bedrooms, big lounge room, a big sleep out it was, the sleep out must have been about 25, 20 feet, 25 feet long, it was
about twelve feet wide. It was – we used it as a breakfast room and at the end we used to have double-decker bunks and –
Where did you sleep?
Well, when I was young, I slept with my – in a double bed – in one of the rooms, there used to be six of us in the bed. My uncle – my mother’s brother was only two years older than me. And then he – and
the youngest sister, well she was about six years older than me. Anyway we used to all sleep in the bed. We’d get the mumps or anything like that and everybody’d end up with all the mumps. And you know.
What do you remember about that? All sleeping in the one bed?
Oh yeah. Yeah.
With that many kids in the house, you must have found plenty of ways to amuse yourselves?
Oh well, we never had TV or wireless sets or anything like that, so I thought they were happy days. Didn’t have any worries.
What sort of things did all of the kids get up to?
To tell you the truth, I can’t remember. Well, we used to make kites. Fly kites,
play cricket, that’s about – we had swings and parallel bars down the backyard, my father put them up.
What did you used to make the kites from?
Sticks and newspaper and glue. Use a fishing line to send them up.
And where did you used to go to fly them?
Where we lived there was
three big cricket fields, behind the house, it was a big, a really big open parkland. I can’t think of anything, only that when the grandfather, he had a car, we used to go out to Catherine Hill Bay and Swansea and
Belmont. Those places, you know, picnics on Sundays. I can remember there wasn’t enough room in the car and I had to ride with me uncle, Mick, he was only two years older than me, on pushbikes out there, it was – I thought I was never going to get there. He ended up getting a piece of fencing wire and – of course he wasn’t very old either, and we hooked the two bikes up and he was pulling me along.
And was that a regular event, for the family to go on picnics?
Oh yeah. Yeah. Used to have – it was an old Chev [Chevrolet], I think a Chev – it wasn’t old them days, it was a Chev or Ford and big running boards on the side, and you actually used to have a big box, the full length of the running board, and up to the top of the door and used
to be, oh it had straps on it, that’s what – like to hold it there. And it was all with all the gear, you know, for the picnic.
What did the family used to do at the picnics?
Just swim and just play that’s all.
Who taught you to swim?
Well, I couldn’t swim in them days. I never learnt to swim till I was, God, I must have been eleven. Ten or eleven. Must have been, it was –
must have been nearly twelve, because I – when we come up to Ipswich, I could dog paddle a little bit and we used to go out with some friends who lived next door to us, had three boys and we used to go out to Saddlers Crossing, River out there, fishing. Anyway, we went for a swim and
one of them said, “Why don’t you come dog paddle across the other side.” And I said, “It’s too far.” And they pushed me in. And they all jumped in with me and then you couldn’t get out, cos the banks were too high. Had to swim across, so they got me there, I was confident after that.
So when you’d go on the picnics back in Newcastle, what did you used to do when you went swimming then?
I suppose I used to only paddle, cos I can remember the first time they ever took me in there
and I screamed out I was getting wet.
Could all the other kids swim?
I don’t think so. I probably – uncle, Mick, Mick was his name – I think they could swim.
Did you have a special swimming costume?
Oh yes. But not like they –
it was a full like singlet thing, and a skirt right down to here, you know. Old time.
Did you have a favourite brother or sister that you got along with better?
No, I can’t say I did cos it was – oh, I suppose you were one big happy family really. You know. You had to get on well then. Anyway,
there was too many of them.
What do you recall about your mum?
Oh, she lived till she was 89. She only died in the nineties. She was a hard worker, she – I don’t know how she got to feed us when we – like after Dad died. She was lucky in one way, the
railway workshops over here, they took up a collection when Dad died, and they got enough money to buy the house, the house is the second house over the road here. Yeah, enough to buy a house. So that’s where we come – we come and living in out Wandandian. But social security, which is not like today. They used to come out every three months and strip the beds.
To see if they were clean. Because we would end up in an orphanage, had everything been right for them. So they got it made these days. Yeah. None of us starved, always seemed to have enough to eat, I don’t know where she got the money from, you know. Well, she got widow’s pension and probably something for each one of us, but how much it was, I don’t know. Wouldn’t have been too much.
What was she like?
Really easygoing. Yeah. The worst swear word she used to use is, “My hat!” Yes, she was a good person.
What was her name?
Doris Irene. Didn’t like it either. She said she was – wished they’d have called her something else,
you know. There was – one, two, three, four, there was about six in their family.
When you were saying before that when you were a kid, if you all got sick, you all got sick. Do you remember a time that you all come down with mumps or…?
Not altogether, but
one half and the other, we wouldn’t get out of the bed, we used to always sleep with the one that was sick, so we could get over it easy. That was the measles and everything and they told you that’ll kill you. None of us died. We always caught it but everyone got it, but. Got over it quicker.
Which of the childhood illnesses did you get?
Think I got them all.
Yeah, I don’t think I missed out on any. And I’ve had this dengue fever twice.
When you were a kid, do you remember how they treated you for measles and things like that?
Stay in bed. That’s all I can remember anyway.
So you were in – the family was living in Newcastle when the Great Depression started?
Yeah, well, it started in the ’20s when I was born, was about – when I was born was about 1925, so that’s when it started to get slack cos I can remember my father, he worked in the Walsh Island, it was a big steel works, and he had a motorbike and you
should have seen that motorbike. They don’t know what – these fellas that ride these motorbikes around these days, they don’t know what a motorbike is. It was a rigid frame, it was driven by a belt. Not a chain, a belt.
Did you ever get to ride on the bike with your dad?
Yeah, Dad used to – I can remember getting – you’d hit a bump or something like that, and you know, you’d get
over, sitting on the tank. Down go, oh have bleeding nose, from hitting the handlebars, you know cos you used to be on the old shackle on the front forks. Yeah.
Did either of you wear a helmet on the bike?
No. It wasn’t thought of then. I remember when I was about five I was away and I found some spanners and I went and tried them on the
bike and I undid every nut and bolt I could find. He wasn’t very happy.
What do you recall from the Great Depression?
Well, when my Dad was out of work, was three years in Newcastle he was out of work and he used to have to go to different police stations like,
and you have to walk, cos there was no buses or anything and never had any money to buy anything anyway. Like, might have to walk over to Charlestown or walk over to Hamlet and different places in it was always miles you had to walk to get rations. And I can remember him bringing home rations in a sugar bag; mouldy bread and cheese.
I think they used to give them a little bit of money you know, for other things but you always got bread and cheese. Mouldy bread and cheese. It used to be mouldy and we had to cut all the mould off the bread. Yeah. But we survived. That was the main thing.
What sort of meals did the family generally have?
Oh well, breakfast, wasn’t too bad. Down there, you could send away two shillings with a big corn bag, that – and it, I don’t know where it was, but I know it used to go by train, and they’d fill it up with broken Weet Bix, yeah, Weet Bix they were. You’d get a big corn bag full, for two bob or something.
Yeah, two shillings or a shilling or something. That’s what we lived on.
Just for breakfast?
What about the other meals?
Oh no, I couldn’t remember. Can’t remember. Though I remember that.
When you were talking about you and your uncle riding the pushbikes, who taught you to ride a bike?
actually, Micky, he was the one – well he didn’t teach me, he said, “Get on here.” And I put me feet on the pedals, you know and he said, “Go.” And he just given me a push and I kept on going and going and going, don’t know how far I went. And I ended up stopping, and I couldn’t get on it. And some man was coming along the road and I asked him, would he hold the bike up while I got on and give me a shove. So that’s how I got home. So that was easy. I was only little, because I
could just reach over the bar that held me feet on the pedals.
Did you ever come off the bike?
Oh yeah. You always had those accidents, because the roads weren’t real good those days, there was no bitumen or anything like that. You know. Just dirt roads. I never got really hurt, can’t remember, might have gravel rashes, that’s about all.
What do you remember of Newcastle back then?
Dirty, smoky place. You know with, well, not so much now, because all the industry’s gone, you know. But I can’t really – when I come up here I never, ever wanted to go back. Didn’t want to go back to that old place. It was,
it’s God’s country up here.
Was Newcastle very industrial?
Oh yes, yeah everywhere. Everything’s got. Just like Ipswich. Ipswich was an industrial area, nothing here now. They got pushed out. Sold out or whatever.
What was the main industry in Newcastle?
Well there was coal mines,
well steel works, I don’t know whether they – the pipe works was you know they made pipes, all different sorts of pipes. I don’t know whether that was – and then there was, this place, my father worked at, it was Walsh Island, I think. It was a big steel works. He was a boilermaker and it’s not there now.
And I think there’s too much there, you know. But I didn’t know too much about it, you know the Newcastle, even though I went back for holidays now and then you know.
Did you ever get to go to work with your dad?
No. I don’t think they would have let us in. No. I didn’t do that.
What do you recall about your dad from back then?
Oh I don’t know. Cos he was only a short man, he was half an inch shorter than me mother and me mother was only four foot eleven and half. And he was practically balding by the time he was 35. Yeah.
What was his name?
Charlie. Charles Henry.
Yeah, he was only a little fella.
What sort of man was he?
Oh he was a good fella, as far as I was concerned. But you know, thirteen, you don’t remember too much after you’re thirteen, well up till then anyway. He was just one of the old
people that, like those days they – you come up with an example of your parents. So English to a certain extent because I think his mother was English, Grandma. She was very tall, she was a tall piece.
Thin, very strict. So it was more or less English I think. I don’t know whether she come from England but she was – reminded me of that English, you know, upper crust sort of business.
What did you call her?
Grandma. Alice was her name.
Did Grandma rule the house?
Yeah, more or less her, yeah, yeah she was very strict. Yeah, especially where kids came, “Don’t do this and don’t do that.”
Do you remember any of the specifics of that, the things she was telling you?
No, she come to us, where was it, she didn’t live with us. That’s right.
She used to only come and visit us. And then she went and lived, she was in Newcastle but no one knew where she lived, she said she didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. And she was living with a couple of other old girls. And then when my father died, oh, they had a terrible time to find her. Even
when my uncle went to – he must have got some word from somewhere that where she was. And when he knocked on the door, this old person come to the door, and it wasn’t her, it was one of her friends, and wouldn’t say that my grandmother was there. She’d give her a message, and what was the message? You know, cos that’s how they got contact with her. When
he told her that her son had died. That’s when they found out she was there. But they weren’t going to tell us. Strange people.
Did your other grandmother live with you?
What was she like?
Yeah, I was her boy. Cos
we used to go and stay with her and she was one of these people that used to help at all the fetes and everything like that. The church, you know. And of course, I was always with her. And I remember hearing somebody said, “Oh who’s that little boy?” “No,” they said, “That’s Mrs Carpenter’s little boy.” So – and we used to call her ‘Mum’ too. Cos my mum, you know
like when we used to go and she used to call her ‘Mum’ so we ended up, being the kids, we called her ‘Mum’ too, so I don’t know how they got on because there was two mums. Anyway, I was her boy then.
Do you remember going to the fetes with her?
Oh yeah. Yes, it was a good time – had toffee apples and everything like that. You know they used to make.
What else was there at the fetes?
No can’t – too far back. The usual, I suppose.
Were there many rules in your house when you were a kid?
Do you ever remember getting disciplined?
Oh yeah, if you get cracked with the strap or something like that. But what for I can’t remember.
But was all right, anyway, that’s nothing, getting the strap, I think the kids should be still getting the strap.
During those Depression years, do you ever remember swaggies coming by?
Oh, they always come for some reason, they always ended up at our house. Well that’s what we used to think anyway cos one’d tell the other, “Oh call into such and such, you’ll get a few
sandwiches and a billy of tea.” You know. Yeah.
What do you remember about them?
Well I – the only thing that – some of them were very, oh, you wouldn’t call them scrupulous, but silly. We never had very much and Grandma always made a couple of sandwiches and wrapped it up and gave it to them with a
billy of tea. And I can remember going out to the front fence and watch this swaggie go along the road, and he tossed the sandwiches into the grass. Still wrapped up, never even opened them. So I went and got them and took them home again. Yeah, that’s the only thing that I can really sticks in my mind. I thought, how ungrateful.
What did your grandma say when you brought the sandwiches back?
What did the swaggies used to have with them?
Oh, just a bed roll, a blanket rolled up, you know, probably a towel in it. And they weren’t too bad, well they were – I suppose if my father didn’t have six kids or five kids, at the time, he probably would have had to roll up his swag and go on the track cos that’s how the – they used to make them travel from town to town to pick up
their rations. So they wouldn’t all be in the same place at the – you know, if they’re hanging round – say all the fellas that were out of work at Newcastle, if they just hung around the town, you can just imagine what’d happen. But they didn’t, they had to make them go to the next town to get it. Then they’d have to go to another town. Yeah, and they didn’t make it easy.
Just for the record, can you describe what a swaggie is?
Just an ordinary person, that has got no place to live and no money and has to travel from place to place to get rations. Just an ordinary person.
Were there very many of them?
Well, I imagine there would have been thousands of them. I couldn’t
tell you, I never – too far back to remember how many used to come. But they’d be on the – you could always see them because there was always someone trudging along the road.
Who were the family friends?
No, it’s too long ago.
Do you remember if the family got visitors often?
Only relations turning up, that’s all.
What about school?
We used to go to a Broadmeadow Catholic School, the nuns’ school, I can’t remember too much about that either.
Do you remember the nuns?
I can remember one nun, they used to do me up like a when I was really little, you know the – elastic in the legs of me pants you know and they used to frill out and everything like that and then Mum used to get them and pull them down to me knees, like knickerbockers. You know what a knickerbocker is? Well, they looked a bit like that when you pulled them down but they – Mum and them were always pulled them up
so you couldn’t see the elastic and the pants used to hang you know.
And was that a uniform or…?
No, that’s how they sent me to school.
What were the other kids wearing?
They never wore anything like that, no. You want to see a – oh remind me after, I’ll show you a photo, it’s out there on the wall. What I looked like.
What sort of clothes did you generally wear?
Just short pants and shirt that’s all.
Now, that’s debatable. Don’t know, can’t remember.
Did the family go to church?
Yeah, all the time. Always said the rosary at night time, kneeling down
beside the big bed. I never, ever finished, I can always remember, always waking up in bed the next morning, but I don’t remember getting into bed. They used to tell me that I used to go, you know, go off to sleep then and –
And did the whole family used to say the rosary?
Yeah, yeah, very religious. Yeah.
Do you remember what that was like, saying the rosary?
at that age. Yeah, very boring.
Did one particular parent or grandmother lead the saying of the rosary?
It just seemed like it was a family thing. Just like sitting down for tea.
Do you remember if you had rosary beads?
Oh yeah. We all had rosary beads. I
still say the rosary now. All me life.
Can you describe going to church?
Not in those days. Though my – my mother’s father, he was a non-Catholic, so it was a bit dicky those – well going back to when my grandmother got married,
that was – oh when did she get married? In 1880 or something like that. Non-Catholics, didn’t marry Catholics, you know that was, oh it was a – anyway she – he married this, what’s his name? Jack, I think he was, Jack Carpenter.
And he – and they were – she was Irish, and the father wouldn’t even go to the wedding, he – when she – she said, when she went past him in the carriage, he was in the pub and he come out and lifted the glass and drank some beer to her, that’s all. Anyway, this grandfather, he used to go to mass, every Sunday,
of course he used to drive everyone to mass. You know. Then he’d go and they never pressured him into becoming a Catholic, but I can remember this time I was there with them, Easter Sunday it was, and everyone got up to got to communion, he got up and went too. You know. Everyone’s going, “Ahhh!” He’d snuck off and had
instructions to become a Catholic, without them knowing, he thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened. He died probably about ten years after that.
Did you wear special clothes to church?
Only Sunday best, that’s all, you know, the best clothes you had, that’s all. And if
I had it, there was only one suit, or whatever it was. Nothing special.
Do you remember getting your first communion?
Vaguely. Yeah, vaguely. It was hard those days, you had to fast from twelve o'clock the night before. Don’t have a drink of water or anything, you know. It was really hard. Course it was only a man made law and
it got changed. They found out it was, the old people didn’t think so, you know, you had to sacrifice something. But it was really hard.
Interviewee: John Lyne Archive ID 1787 Tape 02
At what point did your dad move down to Ipswich?
Must have been somewhere about 1935, I was about ten.
He’d been out of work for three years, I said before, and there was no jobs to be had and there was an ad in the paper in Newcastle for boilermakers for Ipswich workshops, and him and one of his mates, they got on the train and they come up here, and when they got up here, there was no jobs. They said, they
don’t know why there was in the paper, that there was jobs in Ipswich. Anyway, he said, he was here and only had a one way ticket, and so he used to go over every day and haunt them over there, till in the – ended up getting a job.
That three years while your dad was out of work, do you know if that was constant or were there dribs and drabs of work coming in?
Only that my grandfather at the time, he was building houses – a house every now and then and he’d give him a couple of days work, he wasn’t a carpenter, he was a boilermaker. You know, he probably humping timber and stuff like that. But it was not a permanent job, you know.
Do you remember that being a very
stressful time for the family when your dad was out of work?
Oh yes. I can’t remember too much about it, but it was – it wasn’t a good time. I mean, even when they had jobs it was a good – a real good wage was only five pounds a week. You know, a lot of them didn’t get five pound. And a – well, I can remember him doing some tricks on the
out the back standing on his head and an halfpenny fell out of his pocket and I grabbed it and run up the shop. I forget what I bought. I got a licking that day. And they took the lollies, whatever it was I had and shared them among the other kids and I never got any. Yeah. And I tried – ever seen a cigarette packet
think it used to be three, threes or something like that and they had money on the back. You know printed, you know money. And I cut them out with the scissors and took them up the shop and tried to spend it.
No. No, no. Yeah. I can remember going
to the shop for a pen’orth [pennyworth] of milk. You wouldn’t get too much now for a pen’orth, you know. Penny. And they always I don’t know whether it was my grandmother, think – she was a bit, must have been a bit devious anyway, she used to give me a – it was a billy can and it was that high and about that round. And when they put a pen’orth worth of milk in it, just covered the bottom. And I can remember going to walk out
and he called me back and looked in. Then poured some more milk into the can because – I thought, “Oh.” Yeah. It was funny. Not too bad I suppose. Can’t think of anything else. But anyway, he come up here and he got a job,
and he was – about a year later we came up – he’d saved enough money to get our fares and everything.
Do you remember him actually leaving Newcastle?
No. No. No. Just I suppose there was a big do, I don’t know. But I think he just –
no one really got excited I don’t think. Hoping he’d get a job that’s all, that’s all everyone was worried about, you know, he could get a job.
That must have been pretty tough on your mum, having so many kids?
Yeah, it was.
Would she then go and get rations while he was away?
I don’t know how that worked.
I imagine, oh, I don’t know. Unless someone else, picked up the rations for us, I don’t know. Cos, my grandmother I suppose, she would have had to get rations too. She was on a widow’s pension, I don’t know. You know. Too long ago. I wasn’t interested in things like that.
Do you remember the atmosphere changing when
your dad left?
No, no. No can’t say I do.
How did you used to hear from him, when he was in Ipswich?
Letter. I don’t know how Mum, how many letters, he wouldn’t have wrote too many I suppose. So I don’t really know.
Do you remember the mail actually being delivered?
No. Used to be only by letter anyway, someone come along and stick them in the letterbox, that’s all.
Do you remember how the postman got around, were they on foot?
No. Don’t know. No, I don’t know. I know they used to come along and whenever they were doing they used to put a letter, if they put a letter in the box they’d
blow a whistle. Yeah, but I can’t remember whether they were walking or not. I imagine they must have been.
How were most people getting around?
Catch a tram. Trams used to go past your front door. Out your – just outside, the main road. Yeah, everybody used to travel by tram. Wasn’t too many, oh well, I suppose there was a few cars, but there wasn’t too many cars. Not
What do you remember of the move from Newcastle to Ipswich?
Can’t remember. I suppose cos it was a two day trip, in the train, you know, I can remember that. But boring, you know, you couldn’t do anything, you couldn’t go anywhere,
that’s about the only thing I can remember.
Did your Uncle Mick and your grandmother come with you?
No. No, they stayed in the house down there. My grandmother was only about 45 or – no she would have been in her fifties then, cos I think Mick was born when she was in her forties.
Do you remember saying goodbye to them?
What’s your first memory of Ipswich?
I got eaten with mosquitoes. I must have been – must have been summer time when we got up here, and we – you don’t know Ipswich. You know Denmark Hill, we lived right up next to the reservoir
in a big boarding house up there. And no mosquito nets and we were fresh from the down south, you know. I went to school and the fellas I teamed up with, they thought I had some sort of acne. Yeah, I was just covered with bites. Yeah, they really ate me.
Was there a home remedy to make them better?
Not that I can
remember. Just mosquito bites, we slept out on the verandah, see, no mosquito nets or anything. And they love southerners.
What was the boarding house like?
Well, it had three steps in the front, and about 30 or 40 steps at the back. Was on side of the hill. If you fell over, you would have died, it would have killed you.
Still – place is still there.
How many people lived there?
Now I don’t know. We had like, a flat. You know, so many rooms, and the verandah. And on the other side, real big old houses, you know. And there – I know there was other people
even in the place too, you know beside the owners.
Did you have much to do with the other people?
I can’t remember. I don’t think so. We stayed there, I think we only stayed there for about three or four months and then we got – rented a house down by the police station.
Did the whole family come from Newcastle? All the kids?
Yeah. There was five of us then. Two boys, yeah, there was, three girls and me and a brother. Then the other – the last girl – was born in Ipswich over in
what – Roderick Street, it was. And she was the first one to die. She died when she was about 35. She had six kids.
Did all the kids get along?
Yep. One became a nun. She ended up going back down to Sydney and
she went down there to you know, job, her aunty worked in a convent, North Sydney, Monte Saint Angelo. She went down there to get a job and never left. She said that was the life for her. So she become a nun.
How old was she when she went to do that?
She was only about fifteen, fourteen or fifteen when she went there. Never come home. Oh,
well, she didn’t really. She comes home, she comes back to Ipswich every now and then, now.
Were they happy times when you first moved to Ipswich?
Yeah, I thought they were great, yeah. Liked the warm weather, even though this Ipswich was an industrial town, it was a lot cleaner than
Newcastle. Well, it seemed to be anyway. Course that’s only – well when I come here, there was only 25,000 people here, now there’s about 125,000. You knew – well you got to know everyone, just about, well not everyone but you know, great variety of people.
What were your impressions of Ipswich back then?
something new, that was all.
Do you remember starting school down here?
Yeah, that was – with all the mosquito bites. That’s the only thing I can remember, you know. And there was a couple of fellows who were in my class, they lived up on Denmark Hill too, but not as far up as me. And cos me name was Lyne, they
used to call me ‘Tiger Lynes’. And I hadn’t seen him for about 45 years and there was a reunion down at the school and I went down there and there he was, and I couldn’t – didn’t really recognise him, so I introduced meself, I just went up and I said, “I don’t know whether you know me, or I know you.” But I said,
“They used to call me ‘Tiger Lynes’.” He said, “Yes, I named you that.”
Was it hard settling into a new school?
The only thing I can remember is we were put down a class. I was put down a class. Because New South Wales were seen to be ahead than – of up here. One class ahead. They wouldn’t have me in – what was it?
I don’t know whether it was fourth class, it was down at – anyway they put me back a class. Yeah, that’s the only thing I can remember.
What school did you go to here?
Christian Brothers. I think I went – I think I had at least one strap for each day of school. Yep.
For what sort of things?
I can’t remember now. Must have done something wrong. Sometimes I used to get six cuts and then you’d mightn’t get any – you know, for weeks, but I reckon I averaged a cut [strap] a day for school. Yeah, every day of school.
Did you like school?
Yes I did like school. I used to study really hard and it
didn’t make any difference. You know, I used to – exams come and I used to go blank. It was like stage fright, you know. Couldn’t do anything, couldn’t remember anything. But it didn’t – I left school, got a job. Everything come easy to me cos it was in there. But I couldn’t get it out. But it come to me.
Was it very big, the school that you went to?
It was – I suppose there would have been probably four or five hundred boys at the school.
Yeah. It was Christian Brothers.
Did you wear a uniform?
Best you could. Those days you’re pretty poor if you – if you had a complete uniform you was a rich person, you know a rich family. Yes, I can remember being, I can remember going to school and the brother said, “Oh look at those cold feet.” And I didn’t have shoes on. The most we used to be able to afford was a pair of sandshoes, you know. Used to get ripe.
What sort of things do you remember learning at school?
Just the usual. Nothing spectacular.
What sort of things was that?
Like, writing, arithmetic, reading,
which I was terrible at, reading. History and geography, had to know – and that’s something that they don’t teach these days, we had to know every country in the world, what they produced and what they exported and everything like that. You ask any of the kids these days they wouldn’t even know where the bloody place was. But we had to learn all those things.
Don’t know – didn’t do any good, cos I can’t remember what they were there now.
What sort of sport did you play?
Everything that went. I wasn’t competitive, you know, like big time, I used to, when I used to run for the Brothers, when I was young.
Like inter-school and we used to play football inter-school. Tennis, that was only – it was only school. Cricket was only school. I played soccer. I played tennis when I was fifty. Yeah, had a comeback,
like with, wasn’t competitive or anything like that but it was somebody – I just felt like I wanted to get out and do some sport so I got me, I went and bought a new racquet, that’s right, and went down to the school and some people used to play on Sundays, afternoons, you know. I played there for a long time. It was good.
When you used to do the inter-school sports,
did you have to travel far?
No, only in Ipswich, that all. I won me last race when I was 40.
Running. Wasn’t against any team or – really it wasn’t against any team. It was – we were in a – I was in the Incapacitated Services Association. And we used to go on big picnics, you know with everyone’d turn up
yeah, I run this race against a fella who used to run for Queensland. Thought, I’d never forget that, I thought that was a great feat.
How long did you stay at school for?
I was fourteen when I left. I’d had a job in a dairy farm for
a couple of months, you know, when I was thirteen. And went back to school and then I got this job in town when I was fourteen.
Tell us about the dairy farm?
Well, there’s not too much to tell, but it was a bit traumatic in a sense. I was only
thirteen and we had 40 cows to milk and I’d never milked before, I had to learn to milk. And I had to do my share, of so many cows. It was only five of us milking. And then we’d load up all the milk, in the truck and go round Ipswich, pint to this place, and half a pint to that place
we used to start off at three o'clock in the morning. We’d be up at half past one, I think, half past one in the morning. Milk 40 cows, get on the road by three o'clock, and then we’d go till, about nine o'clock in the morning, go back to the dairy farm, have a bit of breakfast, fall into bed, woke up at half past eleven, milked all the cows again, and by three o'clock in the afternoon we used to
be out delivering milk again. Twice a day. It was a job and a half.
Tell us about milking the cows?
It’s easy once you know how, that’s all. You know. Your hands ache like hell, and you can hardly move them after you finished milking, you know, “Agghh.” Yeah
there’s nothing – once you do it you sort of don’t forget, that’s all.
Who were the other guys that were doing the milking?
Well, I think the owner, he was – his name was Fred Gooseberry
or something. Goosetry. He was a German chap. Oh well, his name was German anyway. And another fella. There was another chap the same age as me, about thirteen then there was a – he was a chap
about 20 I think. He was. I can’t – it’s only one of those things you say, “Oh yes, I was on a dairy farm.” That’s all.
It sounds like it was hard work, was there fun to be had when you were there as well?
No time. No time. Ten bob [shillings] a week. Yeah, I thought I was made but. Ten bob a week, that’s good money. Bloody earned
So what would happen after you milked the cows?
Your have something to eat and fall into bed. That’s all you could do. Stuffed, you know, worn out. Wasn’t getting enough sleep either, you know. You’d do the – finish the run in the afternoon, you’d come home and have a shower or something and have something to eat and fall into bed cos you was out of bed at one o'clock, half past. To milk the cows again.
Wasn’t real – it wasn’t really a good job, but it was a job.
What did you used to deliver the milk in?
Well, we had a utility with the milk cans on the back, with taps on them. And you had to learn, it was more or less a standard order every morning and afternoon, the same
houses, see. They’d say, oh, they want a half a pint of milk. And they’d leave the money out with the jug and you knew who was who, or – they used to tell me who it was. You know. “Righto, into that place. Half a pint of milk. You’ll find the jug by the front door.” Or something like that.
And how long did you do that for?
A couple of months.
What did your ten bob buy?
Well, ten bob. I suppose wages in those days was – you had – was really good money if you got five pound. I think the wages was the same from the First World War up to the Second World War.
Nothing changed, you know. But ten bob, it was good.
Did you keep your wage or did you give it to the family?
Tell you the truth, now I can’t remember. I wouldn’t have spent it, because I can remember when I did get a job in town, yes, I was getting seventeen and six a week.
And I used to keep the sixpence.
And give the rest to the family?
Had your dad passed away before you got the job in town?
Oh yes, yeah, he passed away before I’d worked on the dairy farm.
I was thirteen.
Can you tell us about that?
Yes, well he had appendicitis. He went into hospital up here and the day he was to come home, he bent over to do up his shoelace and he died. He had a clot of blood, went to his heart. And that doesn’t happen these days,
you know, it was just one of – in those days, they never knew too much about – well I’ve had appendicitis and I was out of bed the next day. He was in bed for nearly a fortnight. No exercise to get the blood moving and clot of blood went to his heart and killed him. Yeah, that was a bit of a devastating effect, that’s all.
Do you remember getting the news that your dad had passed away?
went – we were just round from the hospitals, one street away from the hospital, they sent a nurse or somebody round to – and she went up there and then she come back. Told us. But after that, it’s – everything’s too young to realise what the devastating effects – you know of everything.
Did you have a funeral service for your dad?
Oh yeah. Yeah, he was buried in St Mary’s Church down here. Yes, they even came – Grandmother came up from down south and Mum’s other sister. They got here when the funeral was at the church, before they left.
Did you become the man of the house then?
Yes, it was too much on me. Well, that – it automatically falls onto you. We had this place over there and we had a spare allotment beside it and when we first went there, there was a
horse in the spare allotment and we never knew cos the bloody grass and the weeds was up that big, high. Every year I had to cut it down. I had to – with a reaping hook. You know what a reaping hook is? A handle hook and the blade’s bent round like that. And you keep chop, chop, chop, hand job. Yes.
Can you tell us again how you came to be in the house?
They took up a collection over at the railway workshops. At a payday, you know. Oh I suppose there was over 3000 men working over there. And they must all dobbed in a – ten bob or something like that. Cos the house cost about 270, or nearly 300 dollars. 300 pound and that’s what she bought the house with.
So the men were good over there, cos they knew he had six kids. Was devastating, but when he died – we never had any – see we used to – in those days with six kids, you’d live from payday to payday. There’s no money left over, you paid the rent and then you lived on the rest. And everything was always booked up at the grocer shop
which they used to always do in those days, you know. I’ll put it on the slate, you know. And then payday came, you’d run down and pay the bill so you’d be out of debt. And we never had any money. We were waiting for payday, for him to go back to work and – cos he was every fortnight they used to pay him. He died and Mum said, “Well he’s got wages over there, we need them.” And I’m only thirteen so she
sent me over the railway. I only got as far as the gate. “Oh no, we can’t.” You know, went over to the pay office at the gate there. “No, that’s his estate. No, you can’t get to – the wages.” I don’t know what Mum did. See there’s – you know, even though the family’s entitled to wages, they wouldn’t pay it. Terrible.
Do you know if they ever got it?
Oh yes, we probably ended up, got it, but they wouldn’t pay it out.
So when you went to work at the dairy farm, were you the sole breadwinner?
Yeah. Except for what Mum got, whatever she got. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure – I never found out what – I knew she got the widow’s pension, but
money wise, I never knew what we were really getting. And I can’t remember if there was a time – age limit on the – each child, see. Might have been getting so much for each child and then when they get to age, if they don’t get out and get a job well, you wouldn’t be getting anything. See, I don’t know. But I
imagine that’s what it would have been cos they never give anything away. Life wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t meant to be easy, you know. Even these days.
What were your sisters doing, while you were working at the dairy?
Oh they were only going to school. Oh, actually it was
a couple of months over the Christmas period, I worked there, so they were on Christmas holidays, you know. Didn’t go to school.
So after that Christmas holidays, did you go back to school?
For very long?
One year. And then I got a – well mightn’t have been – yes, it was a year
because this shop wanted a delivery boy, I was ended up I started off was a delivery boy. Coming on Christmas, you know, delivering all parcels and things like that. And then they – when the Christmas holidays were over they just kept me on and I was there for – till I went in the army.
When you were at school
here in Ipswich, what sort of things did you used to do on your weekends and outside of school?
Ride bikes, swim, ride horses, always – after I used to have to do the work first, I always had chores to do but had to get over them.
What sort of chores?
Oh, used to have to make the beds, cut the grass, if that ever need cutting, empty the rubbish,
chop wood. Things like that. Just ordinary.
Tell us about when you found out there was a horse?
Well the horse belonged to the people next door to us, he was a – he worked in a grocery shop, and he used to go out to – say, coming out to this place out here, he’d know all his customers out here, and he’d
just stop in, “What do you want this week? Orders.” That’s what he used to do, ride a horse round.
And whose horse were you riding when you went horse riding?
Oh, my own horse, I ended up saving up enough money, it cost me six pound, ten, I think. For a horse.
What did you –
Cos I was working then, I was working in this shop and I saved up money for it.
Think by the time I went into the army, the last pay I got when I turned 18, that’s right, was two pound, ten. Two pound, ten. And I used to give Mum two pound. I had a – she only got it once. Before I went into the army.
Tell us about the shop that you worked at.
Well, it was a saddlery, you could buy pushbikes there, fishing gear, ladies’ handbags, ports, you know, cases, you know travelling cases, anything to do with repairing shoes and
stuff like that. With – it was real big haberdashery sort of place. And I was a – I got the – when I first went there I was delivery – first thing in the morning I used to have to – no I didn’t. That was last. I used to deliver all the parcels, and do – and serve behind the counter, during the day, when I wasn’t delivering parcels.
And then how I got into the repairing pushbikes was the chap who was the apprentice, turned 18 or he was out of his time, cos it’s five years, with four or five, nineteen. He would have been out of his time, five years. And he got called up in the army. And there was a tradesman there, and
he couldn’t just do the work, so I just used to fill in. And I ended up staying there doing, I learnt how to repair the pushbikes. And then I joined the army then.
Tell us about repairing the pushbikes?
Nothing much to it. You fix up punctures, broken chains,
put ball bearings in wheels and put cones on them. Centre bracket axles, and stuff like that, pedals. Nothing much in it.
Did you like it?
Yeah, quite enjoyed it really, yeah. But I never went back to that, it was, they didn’t want to know me, I got wounded and they didn’t want to know me.
They said, “No, we couldn’t give you a job back here, you might hurt yourself.” And they’d be responsible.
How many people worked there before you joined the army?
Two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. I was nine.
Were you the youngest?
Yes. They used to – those days,
if you were the man you stood over the kids, and I was the kid.
End of tape
Interviewee: John Lyne Archive ID 1787 Tape 03
Can you remember hearing about the war starting?
Oh well, I was still going to school then. The war was in – the war had started in Europe. And then there was – I was working at the saddlery place and I remember war being declared
against Japan. I haven’t got a great recollection, but I can remember going up to the – this was when I was – no I was working, that’s right, they called on the church one time, they wanted volunteers to dig slit trenches. Big workers’ bee. And they ended up at the convent here and they had all slit trenches all through the
rose beds and everything. To fit all these kids in. And I yes, I was just living over the road here and I had to dig a big slit trench in the backyard for ourselves, yeah.
Can you remember what other preparations they had in Ipswich at the time, for the war?
Yes, along Limestone Street they had the
big air raid shelters. Concrete air raid shelters, up the middle of the street they were. And they had water pipe from – I think the Bremmar River, they had the big – cos there was big valves and everything sticking up near the dug – the concrete bunkers.
So they’d have plenty of water, for fires. We had a few scares, don’t know who it was, but somebody was up there with a plane come over Brisbane real high up, probably some galah [joker], just trying to make a note of himself. But the sirens went and everyone rushed out and jumped in the bloody slit trenches and everything.
And I worked there till I was eighteen, I turned eighteen and I thought, “Oh well.” Either go and join up or I’d be called up, you know. So just went and up to the drill sheds and joined up.
Was there much war coming through, much news coming through about the war?
We knew that Darwin had been bombed a few times,
and they’d had something over Townsville, wasn’t very, a lot because oh, not every – some people had, you know wireless sets, but we didn’t have wireless set so we only got it second hand, you know, what – they wouldn’t tell you much anyway.
What about the activity over at Amberley, did you see many aircraft flying around?
Oh, yes, it was a big thing, I used to – when I was
going to school, I used to go out there and trap birds, you know, the double bars and zebras and things like that and it was a swamp. And I can remember being out there when the first plane landed and it was a Tiger Moth, they’d – I don’t know whether it was an aero club or what, but they had the – post up with the big sock on it, you know, the wind gauge and then this plane landed and then
I can’t remember when that was, but later on, must have been a couple of years later, that they started to build an aerodrome there because Bell, my wife, she comes from Dolby. And her father was a contractor doing roads. Bulldozers and things like that, graders. And they more or less ordered him down to the
aerodrome or out here and they had to make the aerodrome so that’s what he was doing, that’s when they started to build a big runway and the Yanks turned up flying these B-29, oh no, were they B-29? Oh anyway, no, they weren’t Spitfires. Anyway, the planes that they had those days, I just can’t remember the name.
Was it the
Not B-17 – they used to – ‘flying cigars’, They called them. I think they were B-59s, anyway it doesn’t really matter, they were aeroplanes and they had Aeracobras, the fighter planes. We saw a lot of them coming down, you know high up, and with the pilot passed out or anything, you know, down, down, down
crashed, killed. And they had Australian aircraft there, bloody slow things they got from somewhere. Anyway and then – yeah they built up to something really big, you know.
Did you see many of the Yanks in town itself, in Ipswich?
Oh yeah, they overrun the place.
Yeah, they used to have a lot of the black Americans they weren’t allowed in but, they weren’t allowed in town, because they shot one in town, on the railway station, they weren’t supposed to come into Ipswich or something like that. Provo [Provost – military police] shot him on the station.
What else did you see of the Yanks in town?
Only one wanted to fight me one day. Yeah, I probably would have been in trouble too. Only a couple of soldiers come, couple of our soldiers come along and he said, “You all right mate?” And I said, “Not really.” You know. He – and they told the Yank to get off.
What was he trying to pick you for?
I think they always thought they were all fighters or something. I don’t know. Yeah, now there’s nothing. We used to run a dance here down at St Mary’s Hall. On Thursdays. I was on the committee in the – the Yanks used to – there’d be more Yanks than anyone else there, you know. Two bob to get in.
Can you recall what the feeling was towards them?
Seemed like everyone got on all right with them. They had plenty of money. You know. I think that’s what – well if there was any discrepancy about it, they had too much money. Compared to our fellas.
But otherwise they got on all right.
You mentioned the American Negroes weren’t allowed into town, were there much of an Aboriginal population in Ipswich, back then, that you can remember?
They had a mission out here, at oh about ten miles out, I forget the name of it. Yeah, that’s about the only one I know of. Course it’s not there now. Purga, was the Purga Mission. Where the
blacks were. Only one of them, they used to – there was a fella where I – I got to know him, can’t remember his name now. But he was about my age and he brought his bike in to get repaired, I was talking to him and I said, “You coming to join up? You know, fight for the country?” He said, “You whites took this country off us, you fight for it.”
I thought – yeah.
So when was it that you started to think about joining up?
Well, when I was getting close to eighteen. I thought, well, they would have called me up, I thought, “Oh well, may as well go and join up and be done with it.”
Did you have mates that had already been called up or had already joined up?
no. No the fellow I used to knock about with, he was a year younger than me, and he said, “I’d be in with you.” And he was – one of his first jobs he ever got was in a retread factory, it was in – one in town there was and you know, getting the rubber off the tyre and it’s a
wheel and spike with all the spikes on it. Don’t know what he’d done, don’t know which hand of his got caught. Anyway he slipped, bloody all the cut him all through there, you know. And he went to join up and they more or less laughed at him, he went home crying to his mother. Yeah. He said, I used to write to him when I was away and she wrote me a letter to say that Jimmy had tried to get in and
come home crying, because he couldn’t get in.
You must have seen a lot of the fellas around town, you must have noticed the numbers dropping off as they all went away, did you?
No, not really, because there was a lot of essential work here. A lot – one of the other fellas that was my age, well I know of one fella that did it,
I think I probably know more. But one fella sticks in me mind, his mother said, “You’re not going away.” One of his brothers was in, she said, “You get over to Hancocks.” The ply mill over here. “You get over there, that’s an essential work. So you’ll get a job there, and you won’t have to go away.” So that’s what he did.
How were the blokes in protected industries, how were they treated by the public?
All right. They – I think the public understood
what was going on.
Did anybody ever come up to you and ask you weren’t already in yet?
No, they – well they – I must be 22 there, I think. When I went into the army, cos some of the people around here, wanted to know where I’d gone.
And Mum said, “He’s in the army.” And they said, “Oh we thought he was only about fourteen or fifteen.”
So you first decided when you first turned eighteen, did you? What did – did you tell your mum what you were up to?
Oh yeah, she knew.
What did she think?
It was all right. She knew I’d either go and join up or I’d get called up. Would have been only a couple of months difference.
What did you think the advantages of joining up on your own volition would be?
Never been away from home before. Adventure, I always thought, even though the war was on, I went away and got wounded and things like that, still it was one of the best days of my life, being in the army. Yeah. Go away everywhere.
So what did you know of the war? What was going on the
Didn’t know – I never knew what was going on till I got there. Different story. Yeah.
So where did you go to join up?
Up the drill sheds up in Ipswich here.
Whereabouts are they?
Up in Queens Park. Oh well, on the other end. Yeah, and I went in and they passed me and I said, “Well,” I said, “I
want to go away for a holiday. I’ve never even had a holiday yet.” And he said, “How long do you want?” And I said, “Oh a fortnight or so.” So he wrote out the call up papers to come back at a certain date. That give me a couple of weeks away, you know.
Can you remember what the tests were that you had to do, to get in?
Had an eye test,
had to take a physical, not much else. I don’t think there was anything else. Had to see if you were flat feeted, footed, but no, there wasn’t very much.
Did they question your age when they saw how young you looked?
I can’t remember that to tell you the truth. Can’t remember that.
Did you need any…?
I might have had to take me birth certificate. I don’t know.
Did your mum have to sign anything for you?
No, no. No I was eighteen. Went and had me first drink when I knocked off work. With the fellow I was working with. Didn’t like it.
Did you have any sort of party?
No. Had a party after I’d done me training and we were – before I went overseas anyway, the cobber’s mother said they’d put on a party, you know, going away party, so we had it down at their place.
Did you go into recruiting on your own, or with a mate?
No, by meself. Didn’t take long to – yeah the fella that in that book, he was one of them, he was a called up the same time as me. He’d done, we were down at Redbank, actually I went AWOL [absent without leave],
the second day I was there. You know they call you for medical and you get your teeth done at the dentist and all that, you know, when they’d bring you out on parade the first, cos we never had uniforms and my name never got called out, so I come home. I got the – got into trouble, they said, “Where were you, yesterday?” I said, “I went home, you didn’t need me.” That was only the first
call. Me teeth needed doing bad, I think I had eight drilled the first day. Drilled and filled. Done a good job, because I went to a dentist in about the middle of sixties, and he said, to me, he said, “Whoever put these fillings in knew what he was doing.” I think I might still have some of the fillings they’d done. Yeah.
That two weeks the fella at the recruiting gave you off, what did you do with those two weeks?
Well, this cobber of mine I used to knock about with, he had – relations had a farm outside of, well up at Swan Falls it was, outside of Warwick, up in the mountains. And they said, “Any time you want a holiday, come up.” You know. “Send us a telegram
so we can come to the station and pick you up.” So I sent them a telegram, come up. Oh it was a fortnight up there was out of this world really. Never been to the bush. Well, I had been to the bush, but I mean, you know, to stay up there on a farm. And we went shooting kangaroos and stuff up in the mountains. Yeah it was good. And I come back and
went straight in.
And where did you actually march in?
I just had to report into get the train down, report into Redbank. That’s where the big army camp was. Used to be two – in the reveille in the morning, you know the bugles blow. There was two fellas – jeez, it really made you, ‘ew’, go all gooey, you know. They used to get up there and
two of them’d go, you know, playing this, oh it was fantastic. Had a bloody good job, didn’t they? Bugle in a call up camp.
And what was your introduction to army life like?
Oh, not too bad. I always say, if you got to go in, if you get caught up in anything, the best thing is, don’t fight it, go with it. And that’s what I did, I just went
with it, you know. Took everything that came. Even if I didn’t mean to volunteer, but the fella said to me, “Put your hand up.” So I put me bloody hand up, and kitchen duty straight away.
That’s the first thing they teach in the army, isn’t it? Don’t volunteer for anything.
Yeah, that’s right, yeah. Well that’s what I was going to do, but I wasn’t listening, see, I must have been talking to somebody. He said, “Put your hand up.” Always
some funny bugger in the army.
What was the very first thing they got you to do when you first got to Redbank?
Well they didn’t give us uniforms, we had to go and – well dentist was one of the things, and I can’t remember what else was. Must have been other things but I can’t remember what it was.
How long did it take you before they gave
you a uniform?
Oh, about a week. Yeah. Then as soon as they give us a uniform they put us on a train down to Cowra, I went to.
How was the train trip?
Boring, don’t know how long it took us because, those days, it was – was there one line? No, there must have been two lines, coming up from the south.
I can’t remember, but it took us that long, they had to shunt us into some place and we’d stay there for a day or a full night or something like that. Meals were on stations, there was always sausages and mashed potato. Wasn’t bad, I didn’t mind the food.
Did you have to change gauges on the railway between Queensland and New South Wales?
Yes, we had to change, Kyogle, I think that’s where we changed trains. Yeah, I think it was Kyogle. I think it was the coast way we went. Yes, it must have been, that’s too long a way going that way out through Warwick, that’s the long way around.
Yes, we had to change trains in Sydney to get out to Cowra, we’d done time out there. I think we’d done close on must have been, no it wouldn’t have been six months, and we were too young to be sent anywhere.
And they called for volunteers to go down grape picking. You know, down South Australia, five pound a week it was. That was better wages than the army was paying. Yeah, five pound a week, I thought, oh that’ll do. But it – something new. So volunteer – I wrote home to Mum, cos I’d – allotted half me pay, me pay was only
35 bob a week. I allotted half of that to me mother. And I kept on writing and I said, and then I thought she wasn’t getting it, you know, it hadn’t come through. Anyway they – I went down there and she went in to pick up money and there was no money there. They said, “Oh, he’s gone fruit picking.” And luckily I’d – I think
she used to get paid every fortnight, from this in the post office and they told her I’d gone – and that was when I got paid down there, for the first week’s pay or something and I wired home five pound. She said, she never had nothing. She said, “Just as well you sent that otherwise,” she said, “We would have been living on nothing.”
So you weren’t getting paid while you were doing the grape picking, the army wasn’t paying you?
That’s right. See that was only 35 bob, getting five pound a week, that was good money, you know.
So where’d you go to do that?
Well, we were at Barmera, it’s – you ever – don’t know the
where the hell is it? It’s Lake Bonney, it’s on the Murray. Down from Renmark, not far from there, actually we took over we were
allotted the buildings that were the prisoner of war camp. We used all the buildings they had and they shifted the – cos they arrested everyone in those days, even if they were born in Australia, they were bloody mad. We went into their camp. We picked grapes, but –
So how many blokes from the army went down to do that work?
Probably twenty or thirty. I never knew any of them but I did later, you know.
Do you remember what time of year that was?
November. No. Yeah, I think it was 14th of November, 1943
Think that’s when I joined up or – yeah, I think it’s on the certificate over there, I got me discharge certificate there. I think that was 13th, 14th.
And how long were you down there, eight weeks was it?
Down in South Australia?
Yeah, about eight weeks I think. Yeah.
Sultanas and – sultana grapes, currants, oh something, I think some wine grapes.
Did the blokes get stuck into the vino [wine] while they were down there?
Yes, well I was with that chap that’s in that book. And another fella, we sort of teamed up together and
we got a job on one farm or one vineyard and he was a teetotaller. Yeah. ‘Soda Water Joe’ they used to call him. We never got any wine off him. But his wife was a good cook, she used to cook you know, cakes and things like that for us. The other fellas used to come back rotten from the winery, as soon as they’d knock off work out come – cos a lot of them were Italians you know, and they’d bring out the wine
and cos some of those fellas used to drink anything, it didn’t matter. I’ve tasted some of their wines they made at home, you know, it was not too good. Anyway, that wasn’t not too bad.
What other sort of fraternisation was going on down there?
We used to go to dances, they used to hold dances, so we could go to dances. Local girls used to turn up.
I got mixed up with one girl, well she run after me, really. I wasn’t interested. And it didn’t last long. I told her she was the first girl I ever kissed, you know. Then after a couple of days said, “Well you’re not really practising on me.” So we parted. Yeah.
When you were down there, were you wearing your uniform?
Oh yeah. No, we were all in uniform. We were under army regulations, yeah.
So what happened at the end of that eight weeks?
We were all put on a train to come back to Cowra, that’s right. And I – the whole train load of fellas you know, there was a whole bloody train,
and you know what they did? While the train was in the station, we were all getting loaded up to – somebody I don’t know how many was in it, but they broke into a goods wagon. It was full of grog cos they got stuck into it, they pinched all the bloody grog. Brought it onto the train, we didn’t
know anything about it, you know. I think we were in the front of the train. Anyway, later on, a big stink, a real herbie, heard about it. And the army come around and took a dollar, one pound off each person. To cover it. They must have made a bloody fortune out of it cos you know, grog in those days, grog wasn’t that – it was dear, but it wasn’t – it must have been thousands of jugs
on the train. I suppose the officers paid it out and then kept the bloody rest of the money. And if you didn’t get a drink, well that was a quid you lost. And I never got a drink, I never saw any of it.
So you would have been better off knowing about it and having a drink?
So what happened when you got back to Cowra?
We got back to Cowra, and there was a scare.
About the Japs breaking out. And actually they made a mistake, we weren’t supposed to go there. And they – anyway they billeted us there for about a week or so and they said, “You’re off to Bathurst.” So we ended up in train to Bathurst.
So with the Cowra break out that was going on, where were you guys in relation to that?
We’d got out of there. Well, I don’t know how long it was, but it wasn’t too long after that the Japs broke out.
So they did have wind of something…?
Oh yes, it was on for months, yeah cos they had – at first they had all the rookies with the .303s with bullets in them and ready to and then when it did turn up
they’d taken everything, they wouldn’t even let them carry their rifles. Only their bayonets. Silly. Anyway we were at Bathurst when they broke out.
So at this stage had you guys done any basic training at all?
Yeah, oh yeah, we’d done the basic training, at Cowra.
So you did that before you went off at the grapes?
That’s right, yeah and then we come back and when we went to Bathurst we were
back into the training again. You know.
So what did basic training consist of?
Marching, teaching us to strip down Bren guns and we’d have all types of – throwing grenades and – no we used to do PT [physical training] and everything like that, we ended up
they picked so much – so many of us and we went to Bathurst and marched on some sort of a day, I can’t remember what it was, that we were in shorts and singlets and we’d done our PT in the streets and stuff like that.
What did you think of all the training?
Oh, it wasn’t too bad. Yeah, I suppose it wasn’t – I never complained about it anyway. I was
The barracks you guys were in, at Cowra, where was that in relation to the Japanese prisoner of war camp?
No, it was only, as far as I was concerned, it was – I can’t – I think I only went into Cowra once. Yeah, I think it was only once. And I didn’t know – I couldn’t tell you which – whether it was north, south, east or west of the camp.
You know. And then we went to Bathurst, the camp was about three or four miles from town cos I remember walking it one night because we missed the bus. Yeah.
So were you getting leave
at that stage or were you jumping the fence?
Oh yes, sometimes we get the leave to go into town, yeah, just for a night. That’s all, a dance or something. But I mean, in Bathurst when it’s – we were there in the bloody winter time. They’d get you out of, just at dawn, you know, to march. Freezing cold, you’d by the time it got real light, all the icicles hanging down off the trees and the
grass – you walked on it and it crinkled and cracked and was all white and. Then they’d take you out bivouacking in that. Sleep out. I saw one fella get up in the morning, tried to fold his blanket and broke it in two. Broke the blanket in two. Was that stiff and hard.
How was the training at
Bathurst different to what you’d previously done at Cowra?
Well, I think mostly at Cowra, you know was discipline more or less. You know dragging yourself into – well they were dragging us into discipline to do the right thing all the time. I come second in the rifle shoot there. Out of 200. Was – what was the prize?
It was about a hundred pound, the prize. You know, they collected so much off everyone, off 200 men.
How much rifle shooting had you done prior to that?
Not in the 30 – never fired a shot before. I had a 20 – I had a .22. I didn’t fire too many bullets in them but no, it was quite good, it was quite interesting, it was – anyway, I nearly got the money but
somebody who had been shooting .303s got it.
No second prize, eh?
No second prize, no. I forgot to tell you too, when we were at Cowra when we went out on that shoot, rabbits everywhere. And they detailed about a dozen of us, “Righto, we want enough rabbits to
feed 200 men.” And no bullets or anything, no guns or anything like that. So we had to – we run all the rabbits into a corner of a netting fence and hit them over the head with the sticks. We got enough to feed the whole bloody lot, yeah. Gawd they were thick. Yeah. Yeah it was good fun, those days. I always
thought best years of my life. Oh well, I wouldn’t say it was the best years – but at that time, it was.
Where to from Bathurst?
We were – while I was at Bathurst, they gave us home leave. It was me and this fella and two other fellas. We don’t know why we got leave. Yeah, two weeks leave.
And I didn’t drink, middle of winter, they sent us off, and the boys said, “When we get to the station, we’ll have a double header.” I said, “What’s this double header?” Anyway, we get into the bar, “Four double headers.” You know. And I said, “What is it?” “Wait till you get it into you.”
And I didn’t drink at all, you know. Drank this double header down and that’s about the last I remember. I was – they woke me up at about three o'clock in the morning, the train had come in. I was laying on all the kit bags, and everything, fast asleep.
So what was your double header?
Just a double shot of rum?
Yeah. Well for anyone that don’t drink, a double head of rum, first time, fairly knocked you. Anyway we
went on that. Oh that’s right, that’s when we were on this leave, that’s when the Japs broke out. Was it? No, it wasn’t, sorry, that’s, it was something. Something else happened, no it didn’t.
I’m not too sure of that, I’m thinking back too far. We went on this leave, it could have been when the Japs broke out. And when we were come back, after two weeks, we got to the showgrounds
in Brisbane, exhibition grounds, that’s where the army was, to be shipped back. They told us that camp was quarantined. I never, ever did find out what they were quarantined for. So – oh, we were going back to Bathurst weren’t we? Anyway, the camp was quarantined, no one allowed back in or out.
But you were on the outside at that stage?
Oh yeah, I was still at the camp here. They said, “Oh well, we’ll keep you here.” I got a job in the cookhouse. Lighting fires, getting up real early, you know, to get the fires going and was rainy weather, and I ended up in hospital with bronchial pneumonia. You know running out and stoking the fires and bloody rain coming down. So
I ended up in hospital, I don’t – I can’t remember how long I was down there anyway. When I got out of hospital I went to the army office and I said, “Any chance of getting compassionate leave?” You know. “Just got out of the hospital.” “No, you’ll be on call any day now to go back to your unit.” So filled in, working in the bloody canteen and kitchen. We finally got back there... (TAPE ENDS)
Interviewee: John Lyne Archive ID 1787 Tape 04
You’d come back for leave but you actually hadn’t gotten any, to Brisbane, so you never got home at all.
Oh yes. This was when we went back.
But had you got back home during that time?
Oh yes, I used to come back, night times or go to the mate’s place in Brisbane, you know, for a sleep over, but they had a bed there for me in the kitchen, or just off the kitchen.
But basically your leave had –
Had finished, yeah.
And the – I can’t remember what the quarantine was. Eventually we got back there and finished our training. And – oh yes, they were shipping us off to our battalions that we were going to. And they were at Maypee [?], up on the Tablelands. And cos the
train come as far as Brisbane, and we had to – we got out at Indooroopilly, was it? No, not Indooroopilly, Yeerongpilly. That’s where the staging camp was. And I come home, you know, you’d have no leave passes, and I
got back there before seven o'clock in the morning, I hitchhiked home – can’t remember, think I might have, yeah, I caught the train and train to Brisbane then a tram out then I was walking the rest of the way and the provos picked me up, never asked me for a pass. Anyway, I was going back to the camp. The sergeant major, wasn’t he ropeable. No one was there, for the night call.
We got there in the afternoon, everyone blew through. And they had them all there, these thousands of jokers out there and they – and they’re – they’d call out a name, they’re going, “Ho- ho!” You know. He said, “There’s no bloody ho-hoin’ where you’re goin’.” I can’t remember whether we got docked a day’s leave
or anything. I think there was too many of them, you know, to get caught.
So when you first signed up for the army, what was it for the term of hostilities, or did you sign up for three years, or six years or anything?
Oh no. The life of the war.
And did you have any choice on where you’d be going, or was it pretty well…?
No, no, just I was a foot slogger, so I could have went into something else, cos that fella in the book
he ended up being a mortar, I think he went to the mortar pool. Mortar bombs. Anyhow, I don’t know why I didn’t go to something else, I don’t know. Anyway, yes we ended up going up to Maypee, Tolga
is where it was. Just outside of Tolga. We were there for – tell you the truth I don’t know, I ended up in hospital there too. What did I end up in hospital there for? Oh, dengue fever. They thought I had malaria they said. “You haven’t been out of Australia have you?” I said, “No.” Gee I was sick. Now they tell you it killed you, dengue fever.
Anyway, that’s the second time I’d had it, cos I’d had it when I was about fifteen. Anyway, that was all right.
So when was it that they told you which battalion you were going to?
When they – at Bathurst.
And did all your mates stick together?
Oh some did, some didn’t. Oh no, sorry, I’m getting ahead of meself.
Yeah, when we – we didn’t come up to – got off the train here. Where was it? We went to Canungra. Do jungle training. We come from Bathurst to Canungra. And it was then, when we finished – when we come into Yeerongpilly, yeah. Now, that’s a place to go to. Canungra.
What can you tell us about Canungra?
Well, I was in good condition, cos I’d – you know, I put on – I was usually only ten stone, when I was training, and everything, that’s all I was. Bones and muscle, real good, fit. And of course, knock off that, we went down all the good food and all the grapes and everything, like that, I put on a stone, or a little over a stone.
And when we got back to Bathurst it – training wasn’t hard, it was only doing stripping guns and everything like that, and I got to Canungra and they took that weight off me, I think twelve pound in the first week. Thought I was going to die. For a wash in the morning, you had to run for about a mile. Out of the tents, you know, grab your towel and they’d run you,
no walking, run, down to the river. For a shave. And a wash. Course I didn’t shave then either. Well I had a blade, I had a razor, and I – all I had to do was run it over me face every couple of months.
Did they still make you go through the motions every morning?
Well, you’re supposed to, but anyway. Yes, and
food was pretty – wasn’t really good, cos everyone complained about it. But I always had enough to eat. You know. Cos it’s only to keep you going, you know. Food’s only to keep you going. And we lived on a lot of biscuits and bully beef and bread that was half cooked, you know, with still dough in the middle.
We used to have a fella that, oh he’s dead now. Come from Victoria, he was my second scout when we got away. He could – oh beautiful voice. And you know, you know what a camp’d be like. A couple of thousand jokers in it, all round the hills and there, where the camps are put up. And he used to sing at night time.
And you’d swear there was no one there. No one’d be singing out, you’d never hear a voice or anything, he’d just sing, and it’d carry all through the valley. Beautiful it was. Stumpy Meadows, his name was. I don’t know how he got in the army, to tell you the truth, he never – he – it was that finger, right finger, chopped off to there.
Yeah, he used to use this one. That’s why I couldn’t understand
why he got – ended up in the infantry, though. It’s a wonder they didn’t shove him into something else.
What was the main emphasis of training at Canungra?
Jungle fighting. You know, creeping through the jungle, I ended up in hospital there too. Bronchial pneumonia, sleeping in the bloody water, they take you out, bivouacking and I woke up this night in a – cos you put your ground sheet down, so you wouldn’t get the dampness out of there
and there’ll be – you’ll be in the grass and the sides’ll be up like this and you put your mosquito net over you, and I woke up and I’m laying in the water cos the ground sheet was in a hollow sort of – and it was all full up with water, you know, water was up and it was dripping out of the mosquito net, you know. Drip, drip. Bronchial pneumonia. And I missed out on the –
they had a track through the jungle, and it was – and all these figures used to pop up here, or pop up there and you’d be going through with – well I didn’t, I was in hospital with live ammunition, you know and you had to hit these, you know everyone’d have to keep back and they just spring these things up in front of you
all of a sudden you’d have to hit them. Owen guns. I missed out on that. I come out of hospital, I was out a couple of days and – fortnight in hospital I was – and we had to go to a tank place. Where the tanks were.
25 miles anyway. We had to climb the mountains and out the mountains and up to where the tanks were and we had to get in slit trenches and the tanks were rolling over you and everything like that, you know. Mad it was. I just made it. They carried me pack and they carried me rifle and I was almost crying. Getting up these bloody hills.
Was that just after effect of you being sick?
And while I was there, of course, once I got there, it sort of eased off after a couple of days. And the lieut [lieutenant] was talking to the sergeants who were in control of us. And he called me over and he said, “If you can’t make it on your own, going back.” He said, “You’ll be staying here for another shot.”
So, go through it again. I said, “I was sorry I broke down, I only got out of hospital a couple of days and I was in hospital for two weeks.” “No excuse.” Oh he was a bugger of a joker. Reesback, I think his name was. Anyway, I said, “I’ll make it back.” I made it back. Sorry now, I shouldn’t have made it back.
I wouldn’t have been there, wouldn’t have been over there where they were firing bullets at me.
Did you have any idea at that stage that once you were sent overseas, did you know where you would be sent?
No. We didn’t know where we were going when we got on the boat. Everyone else did, everyone’s seemed to know where we were going, we didn’t – no. Yeah, nobody’s supposed to have known
what boat we were getting on, or the name of the boat, or when it was going to happen. You should have seen the people at the wharf. At Cairns it was. We were up there at Cairns.
So you – Yeerongpilly then up to Cairns from Yeerongpilly?
No, yeah we went from Yeerongpilly – this is when we went through and then we went up to
Tolga, and they trained there, oh I got out of that training too. I cut me hand on a bloody bully beef tin. The scar right there. They said, “Now be careful, don’t cut yourselves.” You know, we’re – bloody thing slipped, got me down there. They put me in the bleeding jeep and took me back to camp and I got stitches in me hand
and everyone’s out in the bloody bush, bush –
You must have been getting a reputation for yourself at this stage were you?
No, no one seemed to know anything about it. Anyway. I got out of that. They reckoned it was terrible weekend. Week or whatever it was they were out.
And what sort of training were they doing at Tolga?
I got out of most of it.
But was it just a continuation of jungle training?
Yeah, more or less.
No, there was no – where they were training, there was no jungle, it was – thick bush but they had all these tanks and everything there for the – they must have been doing tank – going with tanks. But I missed out on it.
So, where from Tolga?
From Tolga we went to Ravenshoe I think it was, outside of Cairns.
Down from the –what’s the waterfalls up there? Barron Falls, the Barron Falls, just down from the Barron Falls. And that was something too. We come down the range there, and the Barron Falls were not like they are now, the water was – they hadn’t hydrated see, and it was a beautiful falls they were, you know, the water gushing over all the time. Yeah it
was good. And we were at a staging camp, I think it was Redfern, something like Red, something anyway. And we were there for a couple of days. No one knew where we were going, they didn’t say we were getting shipped overseas either. You know. We were just staging camp there and all of a sudden they took us down, put us on this boat, this Van Heutz it was the name of it. Little
Dutch cargo vessel. There was 1300 of us on it. They allotted you a six by two, piece of the deck. It was all marked out. You had to put all your gear and sleep there. I’d never been to sea before, but I was a bit squeamish. But that was because the cookhouse was in the middle of the boat and the fumes went everywhere. So it was otherwise
wasn’t a bad trip. We went through the islands and saw all the different islands.
Were you surprised they hadn’t given you any pre-embarkation leave?
I think that’s what we got when we were coming back and we – you know I got caught at, when the camp was quarantined, I think that might have been it. But not everyone got it. That’s what I couldn’t understand.
But the fact that you didn’t know that you were going overseas
you didn’t get to really say goodbye to your mum or your sisters or anything?
No that’s right. But every time we saw them, we don’t know where we’re going next, you know, so it was always a goodbye. Yes, and we got to – after a few days we ended up at Torokina. On Bougainville. They never had
any wharf, we had to climb down bloody nets, you know, to get into the barges. The Yanks had taken a perimeter of fourteen by seven or something like that. When they’d landed, you know, when MacArthur was going through the islands. They only took enough to build a big airport and land their planes. And then they never bothered the Japs. So we landed there and the Yanks were still there,
and there was a lot of troops on – a lot of Australian troops on the island. Yes, when we were landing some poor bugger he blew his brains out on the boat. He was one of the last to get off, you know, and he wondered where he was and he’d shot himself. On the boat. It disturbed – some fellas were,
you know, really upset I think. I think they were getting over there and was getting too close, he was getting too close to – couldn’t cop it.
What sort of effect did that have on other blokes?
Oh well, they tried to keep it away from us, you know. You can’t keep a secret in the army. Yeah.
So what were your first impressions of Torokina?
Yeah, it was always something new, for me. It wasn’t bad. We did a little bit of training there and – no we didn’t. We just went for, you know for compass marches, on dusk or something like that. It started before dusk and we went into some places where we shouldn’t have bloody went. They – where the
Yanks had got stuck into them, the Japs in dugouts and everything like that and burnt them all. You know. Not nice.
So you were with the battalion at this stage?
Oh yes, I ended up on the 24th Battalion, Victorian unit it was. Belonged to the 25th Brigade of the 3rd Division.
Yeah, they were all Victorians.
How many Queenslanders?
Only – there was me. There was – there might have been a hundred. They were reinforcements, we were. Yeah, it might have been a hundred Queenslanders.
So were you militia or AIF [Australian Imperial Force]?
Were there militia
fellas within the battalion?
Yes, they did too. Chockos, they used to call them. And they said, “Oh anywhere you’ve been, we’ve been.” That was – it wasn’t anything, nothing big. You know, might have been outside but it wasn’t big in the army. They’d – you know, you’d say to them, “Oh you know.” Like somebody’d have a bit of a argument or something and he said, “Oh you’re only a bloody old chocko anyhow.” It was never said, anything
you’d get called for everything, you couldn’t take any notice of it, otherwise there’d be fights everywhere. You know.
Why were they called chockos?
Because it was the colour of everything, you know. There was no colour in the – they couldn’t wear a puggaree, you know, white gaiters or anything like – well they wasn’t supposed to but they did. But you wasn’t Australian Infantry Forces, see. They weren’t supposed to go overseas, they were
they were Australian militia, and they sent them overseas. You know. They were the first ones to go. Milne Bay and all those, they were all chockos. They were soldiers, that’s all. Yeah. Yes, I ended up with bronchitis there too.
They give me a good going over there but. I got – how did I get..? Used to rain every day. You know if you went anywhere, it’d rain. You’d get soaking wet, cos you wouldn’t have your groundsheet, didn’t want to carry your groundsheet anyway, cos you’d get soaking wet, within an hour you’d be dry. Anyway, ended up with bronchitis, again.
Put me in hospital and oh they x-rayed me and had specialists onto me and I told them, you know, if I get wet I get – I didn’t have to get real wet, all I had to do was you know, sprinkled on me head or something like that. Down I’d go. I could get soaked and nothing’d happen. Anyway they sent me back and probably if I had have complained a lot more, I might have got a – they might have sent me home.
Oh yes, the camp we took over, was an American camp, they’d taken all their tents and everything. And we put up our camp and the Yanks had diverted a river, river wouldn’t have been – not quite as wide as this room, you know. Water rushing all the time. And they’d
dug a bloody big swimming pool, it was monstrous thing, and they’d run the water in and the water out, you know, to continue out. It was a good place. Yeah. I got – I used to go to mass, every time our padre’d have mass there somewhere, I’d always go, you know. We weren’t there long.
How often would he do that?
Oh you might get it once a week, or you might get it two times a
week or something like that. Anyway, this night I knew mass was on, away I went. And I’d mated it up with another – a little fella, what was his name? Frank Barnier. I don’t know how I come to mate up with him but – he was – you know, something clicks. Anyway, and when I went missing, he had the whole camp looking for me.
He thought I’d done meself in, somewhere down the bush or something. Wasn’t long after we got there. You know, like the fella when we’d come, more or less got out that this fella had blew his brains out on the boat. He thought I’d gone – no and didn’t he give it to me, when I come back from mass. Called me for everything. He said, “I’m down scrounging in the bush, round looking for you.” I said, “What makes you – giving the idea that I was
going to knock meself off?”
Were there any Japanese in the general vicinity at Torokina at that stage?
No. No. I don’t think so anyway, no one ever struck them because I’d been on patrols, I was – after I come out of hospital – where was the mob? This makes me think now. What happened to them? They must have went
on some bivouac or something or other. And I come out of hospital and there was a couple of other jokers there and the cooks, our CO, no-hoper, no-hoper he was. And we were doing – I don’t know where the battalion had gone.
But they were away somewhere and there was only us in the camp. And we had to do a patrol on the Chop Chop Trail. Jeep patrol. I thought, how bloody stupid. You know, you’ve got two jeeps, and they’re roaring along these tracks, any Jap, they’d hear you for miles. I thought
it was because they bloody used to make so much bloody noise. The noise of the motor and everything, that’d wake everyone up. But anyway, I thought, oh stupid. Anyway I started to go on and then we didn’t have to – the last patrol we done, the captain come with us.
This is a jeep patrol as well?
And he thought he was going to strike the bloody Japs. You know. And anyway we come to a big bivouac area, I don’t know whose it was, whether it was the Japs or not, but there was four gallons, four gallon drums made into chimneys over some sort of a stove or something like that. And he said, “You watch this.” And he nearly shot his bloody foot off. What they teach you, you know, you
keep the nose of the Owen gun pointing to the ground, if you’re going to shoot ahead. Because it’ll pull up like that and he had it down too far and nearly shot his foot off. Bullet started just past his toes and then went vvvooooo’. We got fixed that day. The – had to go down some trail and there was a bridge.
And we stopped and I said, “Oh there’s heaps of fish down there.” And someone said, “Oh we’ll throw a grenade in.” So they threw a grenade in and I don’t know whether the – I never stopped to think, could have been a small crocodile in there. Oh bloody thrashing in the water, you know, underneath the bridge. Anyway all these fish come up. So I stripped off and went in and got them all. You know, we
went home and got the cooks to cook it for breakfast. I don’t know – I can’t remember where the company had gone.
We’ve never heard of the jeep patrols before, can you just explain in detail what exactly it consists of?
Consists of fellas sitting in there with their guns ready and they just drive along.
So you’ve got two jeeps, two drivers, how many other people in the vehicle?
I think about four. Three.
Two in the back and one in the front.
All with automatics?
Whether it be – yeah all with Owen guns. I thought it was silly, but, see I’d been, later on part of it in the story, see, when you’re in the jungle, you think – two jeeps make a bloody lot of noise, ‘Rrrrr, rrrr’. You know. And it’s not as though you’re going along a highway. It’s through water and
bumps and everything like that and the motor’s roaring and you don’t get in top gear or anything. But it only travelled a few yards the noise. All the trees and all the leaves sort of deaden it out. Anyway, we never struck anything. They said there was a – what did I say before? Why they did it. They said there was about 80 Japs broke through the lines.
This is about a hundred – no, it wouldn’t have been about a hundred miles. That’s 60 miles away. I don’t know where they got that idea from. They couldn’t, we had – you know the, I-section [intelligence section] supposed to be over the – not yeah, they’re called the, I-section, people who were giving you information. Yeah, information.
They put it out. But they told us, when we first went there, we got the information there was only about when the Yanks was there, there’s supposed to have been only thirteen to fifteen thousand Japs on the island and he said, “What had been killed?” He said, “There’d be about only about ten or eleven thousand left.” Over 30,000 marched in at the end of the war.
They were behind us and everywhere. They – you know, getting ahead of meself, aren’t I?
Was it when you first got to Torokina and were doing your compass patrols and things like that, that’s when you saw your first dead Jap soldiers?
No, no. No that was already. I think we saw a few skeletons blackened, you know they used flame throwers into the dugouts and everything
like – burnt everything. And like, we were on the move and we didn’t stop to investigate or anything like that.
So when did you finally catch back up to the blokes?
Tell you the truth, I can’t remember that. I don’t even know where they went but they definitely come back to the camp. Because when I – when we left the camp, everyone went, so they must have been out somewhere, I don’t know where. Was just that
I come out of hospital at the right time. I never got away.
So once you did get back, what did the battalion do, where’d you go from Torokina?
We went from there to Toko, Toko Bay which is down at the southern end of Bougainville cos most of the Japs were down there, you know they’d pulled right back because I think their headquarters was at
Buin, I think it was the name, it was supposed to have been a town on the coast on the southern, northern side, yeah, would have been north-east or something like that, side. But right down low. They had, I think they had aeroplanes and they had tanks. But they didn’t ever have any petrol.
That’s all what I heard, you know. They had big guns and plenty of ammunition. Yeah, that’s where we went. I – we were at Toko Bay for about a week before we went in to take over the positions from 25th Battalion I think. Anyway, oh we had a bad time
of it. That’s where the hospital was. Toko Bay. And at night time we’d slip over onto the beach where the operating theatre was and you know like operating theatre was a hut with all gores all the way round, you know, you’d have walls up to your chest height and then gores up to the roof. We used to watch the operations.
Didn’t seem to worry us. And we used to go surfing every day, good surf there. I got caught one day, I got dumped on me head. And I got dumped – I got hit over – I got dumped on me head, and I got up and I was holding me head and another wave hit me and down I went again. And me mates were sitting on the beach laughing at me, and
I was bloody serious, cos I couldn’t see. I thought I’d broke me neck. Anyway they took me to the RAP [regimental aid post], this is funny, this is. And I told them what happened and they should have put it down in the records, and of course they thought I was having a shot at them. I think. And they said, “Here, here’s a couple of Aspros, take them, they’ll fix you.”
He said, “The only way you’re going to get off this beach is on a stretcher.” That’s what the RAP man said. Yeah. I’d have to be wounded to get off it.
So what’s army life like at this stage, what are you thinking of army life at this stage?
I was having a good time. Yeah, hadn’t realised what it was all about yet.
What was the food like there?
Oh all right, yeah nothing wrong with it. Yeah we had good cooks. They travelled with us, everywhere. Luckily. They even come into action with us. They travelled with us, yeah, they said, this brigadier, what was his – Savage, I think his name was.
He said, “The cooks will be going with you.” He said, “There’s none of this laying back and the headquarters company cooks doing nothing.” He said, “They’re travelling with you. They’ll cook for you every day.” I don’t think the cooks liked it, but they went with it. Yeah we went from there, from Toko Bay, when our turn came. About week before, a week?
Might have been a couple of weeks before. We took over from the 25th Battalion, that’s the start of that story. You want to start that?
If that’s where you’re up to, yeah.
You better give it to me, so I can read, oh no, this story here.
Did the chockos have a name for the AIF?
No, no. Yes we did have. There was lots of different names, but nothing that clung to them like chocko, you were either AIF or you were chocko. Was no discrimination or any – well as far as I was concerned it wasn’t. I suppose there was, some people who would degrade them, but there was no need to degrade- they were the same as us, only that they’d
had the uniform that – they didn’t have the uniform that we had. See. There was and actually when we were training, all the colour was the same because you had putties, which were wound up – wound, like big bandages like they had in the Boer War and First World War.
They had their hat, and it was only a strip of khaki band, round it. And you never had, your webbing was not white, it was coloured, yellowish colour that – khaki colour.
See and then – and you couldn’t like the chockos and the – they were the same colour see, but if you got overseas, and you come back, they’d give you the white puggaree, for your band on your hat and you could – you’d have white gaiters, and white belt. You’ve seen them dressed like that. Yeah, the puggaree that one’s up there. And that’s – but the chockos, they didn’t have that.
That was out.
What sort of other names were getting bandied around?
I couldn’t tell you.
Oh yes, you can, you can tell us anything.
No, there was no – there’s no other names. Only what you’d get called, you know. Now and then. No, there’s – there was, I think that’s about – that covers it, yeah.
We were a good bunch really.
When you were doing some of the training, you were saying you were in a slit trench with tanks going over the top of you, what were you thinking at that point?
Bit of – what do you call it, exhilarating sort of a feeling, you know, they’d only just run over us, there was nothing to it, nothing was going to happen. Unless they stopped and screwed around, where they’d screw the slit trench together and bury you. But
Nothing to it.
Did any of your training feel real?
Yes, bits, when we were jungle training, getting us to crawl through, what would they call it? Some sort of a course they used to call it.
Anyway it was dangerous. Some – we had to go across the river on a bloody wire a rope or something like that, some fellas fell in and got drowned and – not when I was there, but you had to be careful. If you’re carrying a pack and a rifle and ammunition and stuff like that and you fall into the water, down you go. There’s no, unless you can get out of it, you’re drowned. We had to crawl
through – obstacle course, it was. All these obstacles and they’d be firing a Bren gun over your head. Real, live bullets. And they’d have explosions going off close to you. They threw a concussion grenade at me and it nearly went between me legs. Nearly threw me off me feet. And they said, “Oh, they won’t hurt ya.” And I thought, no?
They had a lead ball in them. A concussion grenade, you can throw it and it won’t go off until it hits the ground, you know and then it goes, and it’s the lead pellet in it that hits the striking pin that makes it go off. I don’t know where that used to go to, but it was made out of bakelite the whole grenade, except for that lead pellet. God, I could’ve knocked the bloody lieutenant down, that did that. Dangerous bloody things.
I mean, I don’t know where the bullet went. I don’t know whether it would have went like a bullet anyway.
Interviewee: John Lyne Archive ID 1787 Tape 05
John, when you first arrived at Torokina, what do you remember of the actual physical surrounds?
The whole area that the Yanks had taken, in Torokina, there was no tops on coconut trees, most bushes didn’t have any leaves on them. Trees you know,
cut to pieces. Like, when the Yanks went in there, they didn’t- they blasted the place just about before they landed. There was a – I don’t know what mountain it was, volcano, just sat in the background. Everything else was cut to pieces.
Had you ever seen anything like it?
No. As I say, it was an experience to me.
Was all – everything was all right. Till this next part. Still that wasn’t too bad either, I suppose, considering.
We’ve heard reports that some of the Yanks’ camps were decked out with Coca-Cola factories and..?
Oh, they had everything. When – the last camp that was leaving was the hospital camp. And the Australian
heads shouldn’t have any heads at all, from what happened. Was the Yanks, with their hospital, see everything was lend lease. And they had as they said, our doctors were 100% on their doctors, so they were giving our hospitals all their equipment. They wouldn’t accept it.
They reckoned the Yanks took it out the bay and dropped it into the ocean. They never accepted it. We could have done with it too. Funny.
What were the hospitals like that you were in?
I think the one I was in, was 2/1st AGH [Australian General Hospital]. Well, full of wounded soldiers that’s all. They looked after us, they had a lot of nurses and sisters.
When you went into the hospital, was it like a ward, with stretchers, or..?
No, a big tent. Big tent it was. Real big tent. Oh with probably a couple of them – all beds along.
Were they actual beds?
Oh yeah, yeah, hospital beds. Hard as hell. Yeah.
Who were the medical staff?
women. And nurses and sisters, Australian doctors. That’s all.
What was your interaction with the nurses like?
Oh they only looked after us, that’s all. They were good, they were nice girls. Wasn’t interested in the girls then.
Was anyone romancing the nurses?
I couldn’t tell you. Could have. Probably had to be an officer I suppose. Well, see there was about 25,000 Australian troops there but there was only probably seven to eight thousand soldiers, you know, infantry soldiers, you know
that did, you had to have, they did say one time, you had to have about four or five soldiers to back up the real soldiers, you know, you had to have back up. But that was drivers and mechanics and everything like that. That’s what made up most of the troops.
The battalion that you joined, were they already
in existence when you joined them?
Oh yes, they’d been over in New Guinea before. And we were only reinforcements when they come back. Like they pulled them back out and sent them on leave and everything like that and then, for so long and then they sent them back in.
So the blokes that had been there for a while, what did they say to you?
they had to teach us whatever we, what they knew, how to stay alive but they only called us reos [reinforcements]. Didn’t matter, reo, “You’re only a reo.” You know. I couldn’t care less what they called me cos I thought I was as good as them. Well, I was too. I’m a Queenslander and they were Victorians.
But everything worked out all right to a certain extent I suppose.
Was there anyone in particular that took you under their wing?
No, not really. Had to be just one of them, that’s all. The corporals and
the sergeants were pretty good cos they had to teach us because they relied on us to look after them. You know, when we went into action. So everyone was more or less a brother to each other, you know, you had to be.
Do you recall the sort of things they were teaching you when you got there?
No. Not off hand.
You know would have been, would’ve been just ordinary things that we probably knew a lot about it because we went through the jungle training and the places like Cowra and Bathurst, you know. Training. Yeah, they had, well more or less, had to teach you to be responsible,
you had to be responsible, otherwise you’d get yourself killed.
Responsible in what sort of way?
Everything really. Make sure – like – don’t get caught in cross-fires, you know. From your own people and everything like that and make sure you’re in a position where you don’t shoot some of your own men, you know.
I had one incident, we were out on a patrol up near the volcano and was only a training thing. And we had live ammunition and everything. They said, just in case we did run into some Japs up there. And we crawled through all this scrub and everything. And I lost two grenades, I had the grenades
stuck in me webbing, you know, clamped tight, I thought they were clamped tight. I looked down they’d disappeared and I went for me life cos I was about the last, no I was the second last person. And I thought shit, if the bloody pins come out of those, we’re gone. Then we got out of that. We were going across a creek bed and they said, “Load your guns.” So I had a – cos
the fellas were all round you, make sure where the barrel is, so I loaded and went ‘click’. I let the bloody thing go, I didn’t know it was my gun that went off. Bang! And everyone hit the ground. And I’m laying there and I thought, “Where did that shot come from?” And then I just happened to look at the muzzle of my gun and smoke was coming out the point of it. I’d like, you
have your gun in this hand and you load it that way and it went ‘click’. But there’s two clicks. Before it’ll, so it’ll come cocked. And I just went ‘click’, and pulled me hand away and she went. Bang! You know just with, that was make sure you’re gun is facing away from anyone else. So I just let the sergeant know, he said, “Be more
careful.” I thought I would have been up before the bloody captain or something but no. Got passed by. I didn’t tell them about the losing the grenades but. So I suppose they’re up in the jungle rotting away now.
The time that you were doing the training, when you’d just come out of hospital and the other guys
were helping you, did that – was that like a bonding experience for you that they helped you like that?
No, no that’s one of the things, that’s mateship. Don’t have to ask. For anything like that, it was just one of those things that happened. As I say, ended up being like brothers. You know. Help each other do things and yeah.
Funny life. It’s a good life. But more people aren’t in it. Especially in peacetime.
When you moved to Toko Bay, how far away was the frontline?
About an hour’s drive I’d say.
Might have been a bit more. You couldn’t go fast in those. See they were – had bulldozers going to the place, they’d try and get a road, you’d go ahead and then a bulldozer’d follow you up along the track and clear it. And a lot of the places were swamp area. Like, wet ground, a truck couldn’t go along, so they used to make it a corduroy
road, you know what a corduroy road is? It’s – they cut down all the trees and lay all the logs across. And that goes for miles and miles and miles. So you can’t drive real fast on it, cos it’s – like that.
What word were you getting back from the frontline?
Never got any. They never told us anything. Only that the Japs that
attacked the – the 25th Battalion I think it was, we took over. The Japs had- and they just mowed them down, there was – I don’t think there was any of our fellas killed. Might have been some wounded. And they killed hundreds of them. The Japs kept on coming. Banzai [Japanese for ‘Hurray!’] attack, you know. They said, they were mowing them down
and another lot’d come and they’d mow them down. Cos when we got up there, there was, you could see a big placard, ‘So many hundred Japs buried here’. Cos they had the bulldozer up there to dig a big trench and roll them in. So there was lots of graves there.
Do you remember what you thought the first time you saw a sign like that?
No. Don’t remember. We weren’t really worrying about the sign, we were worrying about the live ones.
When you were in Toko Bay, were you getting anxious to see your first action?
No. I don’t say, I would have been anxious. I think I was a bit frightened
meself. You know. Yeah, cos I remember seeing we hadn’t seen action or anything like that, there was me and another chap, he got wounded earlier in the piece. They sent us out in the jungle to more or less, what they call an OP [Operation Post]. What’s
OP stand for? I don’t know but we had the, they used to say ‘OP’. And they probably told us, it’s a – be on guard duty outside the perimeter or something like that out in the jungle out by yourself. You know, just keeping an eye out. And we were there and it was starting to get dark. And it’s scary, you know very scary in the jungle, you know
when you’re by yourself, more or less. And all of a sudden this Fuzzy Wuzzy [indigenous Papua New Guinean] stood up in front of us, we never saw him coming and he’s – oh, we died and nearly shot him. You know, real scary when somebody can come right up and stand in front of you, and you never saw them coming. What could a Jap do? That’s what goes through your mind.
Things like that it’s getting me a bit worked up. I’m starting to feel a little bit shaky. It never leaves you. Anyway. Any more questions?
Were you getting any word of what the
superiors were thinking? Blamey and guys like that?
No, I can tell you an incident that it has nothing really to do with me. But yet, I know about it. I met a chap who was – a couple of chaps who were in it and that was a landing, they landed 200 men
up in the northern Bougainville, because Blamey wanted to see Australian troops land. And up in the northern Bougainville, were the Jap Imperial Forces, the ones that come down through, you’re pretty young you mightn’t know, you might know about the story. When the Japs were coming down through China, these were the ones that raped Nanking, you know was throwing babies up in the air and
catching them on bayonets and everything like that. That’s who they run into. The Japs more or less were waiting for them. They landed them and the tide went out and the barges couldn’t get back in and they run out of ammunition, they dropped everything and only took their bayonets with them and they run for the water and the Japs come in after them with knives, or bayonets.
I don’t think anyone, there might have been one killed, I’m not too sure. But every one of them, they got away, I’m – one fella come back on the hospital ship with me, he swam three miles, he was sitting out on a coral reef, he said, he didn’t know how he was going to get back he was that frightened, he – if he had have said, “Oh swim out three mile.” He wouldn’t have been able to do it. But he said, he swam three miles. And he said, the next day
he set out on this reef and a Corsair come up the coast, you know, must have been looking for stragglers or whatever you like to call them. And they spotted him and they sent a barge for him. But Blamey, he was the cause of that, landed 200 men. Silly, just so he could see a landing. Every one of them were hospitalised. Some got picked up when the tide come in but at a different place,
you know they must have – anyway they were walking down the coast there. They must have travelled by night or something. They were cut to pieces with coral and everything. Yeah, they made it.
So what was the general opinion of Blamey at that stage?
Was that sort of stuff spoken about amongst the blokes?
Not really, they just shook their heads,
and you know. A lot of the big times, they mean nothing to you because they’ve never been anywhere. Only – money got him where he was, you know. Big time, big family, and a lot of the officers, there was a lot of officers that – they might have went to training school and everything like that, weren’t worth a pinch. No. They were terrible.
So when did you first get word that your guys were moving into action?
Oh when we went to Toko Bay we knew we were going into action. When they shipped us out of the Torokina. That’s where we were going, we knew that we were going into action. And we were to relieve this 25th Battalion, I think it was.
So when did you first engage with the enemy?
Well, we didn’t fire any shots but we were – that’s where this starts, we took over from the 25th Battalion and it was morning – they had a – there was a tank there and it was a blasting a – I don’t know whether it was a K or a pillbox
or something like that and they said there was Japs in there and they wouldn’t come out. Wouldn’t surrender. So the tank got up close and kept on blasting shells into it. They didn’t know how far down they’d go cos they used to tunnel like rabbits. Could have been right down. Anyway that was the last we heard of that. But they lined us up, our company and in a big long
straight line. I knew they were there but I never, couldn’t see them. But only ones I saw were the section I was in. Section was – nine or ten men, plus a corporal and a sergeant. Think that was about the right number and we were stretched out in a line. And they said, “Move forward and keep in line.” You know, so I don’t
know if the line could have been all straggly or all over the place. We started off and then the Bren gunner was getting down through some trees and he said to us, he said, “Oh, here’s a wire.” Was too late. He got barrel when he’s bent down the barrel got caught in the wire and there was three grenades went off. Our grenades, left by the other company that – they should have took them all in. Somebody messed up, didn’t do the job.
And my mate, he was next to me and he got shrapnel through his lungs. And I was going to stop and they yelled out, “Don’t stop, the medics’ll pick him up when we get through.” That was the last I saw him till I got wounded. He was in hospital, he nearly died. I don’t know whether he’s still alive or not. And we kept on going, most of the day I think
it – yeah must have been most of the day because we got to a position and they said, “Oh we’ll dig in here.” And it got dark real quick, you know, like it’s marvellous up there, even though it’s in – you know there’s light one minute, and it’s just like closing your fist and it’s bloody dark. You know, hardly any dusk. And we never finished our weapon pit.
That means we had to dig a weapon pit to fire out of and dig a big bay so you can lay down. So you’d be below ground. I was that tired and I knew there wasn’t enough room for two of us to sleep so I just got me blanket out and I – did I have a blanket? Groundsheet or something, anyway, I laid on the top of the ground and went to sleep.
And in the morning the fella said, “Oh you’re game, sleeping up there when the shells are falling.” I said, “I never heard any.” And he took me, showed me where two shells had fallen, they’d shelled us during the night, two shells had fallen in our perimeter. You know like we put our barbed wire round in a circle. Never heard a thing. I was that tired. And I never slept heavy any more.
You know, didn’t matter how tired I was, had to sleep with one eye open, more or less. Yeah.
How did you react the next morning when you knew that you’d been shelled while you were asleep?
The only thing I thought was, I better not sleep real deep again. That’s all, that was the only thing I could think of, I thought I – there was no big what’s-a-name about it, I thought
“Oh well, I must have been lucky,” or something like that. That’s all. And then the patrol started. From thereon we went – might be getting ahead of meself here.
Can’t even think of that second paragraph. My memory’s shocking.
When you were saying about finding the wire with the grenades on it, was that a booby trap that our guys would have set up for them?
Yeah, for the Japs yeah. And somebody didn’t take them in. Too tired, too lazy. Or forgot about them. You don’t forget about things like that. I think they were just too – couldn’t be bothered.
Cos they’re real dangerous, you only have to hit the wire, they used to be made out of a bully beef tin, tied to a tree on an angle like that and you’d pull the pin out of the grenade and you’d hang onto the lever, push it up into the pin, then tie a string onto it, or a wire, whatever, and take it across a track. Tie it to
another tree. So as soon as you hit that, the grenade falls out of the pin. And that was – they’re instant grenades. They go off as soon as the pin flies off. Other grenades are four second grenades where you can pull the pin out, leave the lever go and then throw it. Long as you get it away in time. Throw it and it goes off when the four seconds is up. From the time the lever goes.
What do you think that did to morale amongst your guys, knowing that one of your own was injured by your own?
Oh there were a few nasty words and things like that, I mean, yeah sort of more or less forget it. Had other things on your mind.
This place where you took over from the 25th. Did it have a name?
Slater’s Knoll. Yeah, Slater’s Knoll. They – I don’t know why they called it Slater’s Knoll,
might have been the first man that got killed there, or something. Yeah.
What happened then when you did start going out on patrols?
That’s what I’m trying to think of, what I’ve read there, while they put it together.
Is it maybe something about Buin Road?
Yeah it’s on the Buin Road but
What was your job on the patrols?
Tell me about that?
Yeah well that’s the next paragraph. But that’s all right. How I come to be a forward scout. Before we – it must have been in – where would it have been. I think it might have
been in Toko Bay. They didn’t know who to have for scouts. So they tested the whole lot of fellas. They put them on a compass bearing, like we were out on patrol, but we were behind the lines, more or less. And they started off some fellow and said, “Righto.” They don’t give you the compass,
they take the compass. And they said, “Right the compass, we want you to go straight there through there.” Well, you never saw anything like it. You’d nearly end up in a bloody circle some of the fellas, they’d just, they’d step around a tree, but the wouldn’t straighten up they’d just, they’d go, and there was a few of us in the company. Well I wasn’t a company scout,
I was only my section scout. See. And the ones that kept on the right compass bearing or real near to it, they’re the ones that they picked for forward scouts. That’s how I come to be and it’s not easy, it’s a job that you’ve got to be careful, when they give you a compass bearing,
if it’s done right, if you do it right, they say, “Go on this compass bearing, 600 paces.” Then they might say – this is so they can get back to the same place they started. They’d give you another compass bearing there to say a thousand paces, then they’d give you – you’re going for miles, see. And they give you another compass bearing
so many paces. They worked all this out approximately on maps see. Then the last compass bearing’d be back to where you started from. That’s if you done it right, you know. That’s a – you’ve got to think of all that. You’ve got to watch to see that you don’t walk into a booby trap. And you don’t walk into an ambush cos you’ve got to be responsible for all the chaps that’s behind you.
What else? I think that’s about all. It’s not all because it’s – I got it all written out, as I told you, it’s –
As the forward scout, how far ahead are you?
Oh, it depends on how far you can see through the jungle, sometimes it’s pretty close, other times it might be fifteen to twenty feet
ahead. Of the second scout. It says, don’t get too far ahead, make sure that you can see your second scout and he can see the Bren gunner behind him and like that. But you can’t see the whole patrol because it’s too dense.
So what’s the role of the second scout?
He’s to relieve me when I get too tired.
I – well they used to say that you’re supposed to take a break after every hour. But I used to take a break every hour, and I was un – I felt meself unsafe, cos you take break, you wouldn’t go second scout, you’d move somewhere in the bloody middle of the patrol. And you get very lax. And you’re only relying on
the man at the end to make sure no one’s following, and the one in front. You know you sort of go along as though you’re going to a picnic, that’s how I felt anyway, and I didn’t like it. So I used to go for hours before I took a break. It wasn’t too bad, I got into some dicky places, but I thought it was the safest
place even though the forward scout got killed first. Which I didn’t.
Do you want to have a quick check of your notes?
Yeah, it might be an idea. This might have been, it wasn’t the first patrol, but
it was a patrol where we were going out for a couple of days, you know. This wandering around, not to – we were – a lot of times, we had to go out on patrols, just to seek and find you know. Don’t – if you see the Japs, get out of the way, don’t fire on them or anything like that. Keep clean. And anyway, we were on this – we were doing a compass marches
and it was getting dark and I was leading through, it was pretty dense jungle, and I can hear these voices and I couldn’t make out whether they were English or whatever language, it’s just that it was. And I stopped the patrol and I got the sergeant up and we went forward and we struck the Buin Road and right across the road was a
native village, it was cram packed with bloody Japs. Full of Japs, it was. I didn’t count them all. So it was getting dark, so the sergeant said, “We’ll just creep back and we better not get the whole patrol up and try and get away. We’ll just sleep there.” So we were about 30 yards off the road and we slept all night. Then the next morning, me and the sergeant went forward to look it over
and there wasn’t any Japs left. They’d gone through, during the night and they’d moved out. Luckily. And so we had to make contact with another company who’d sent out a patrol for a couple of days too. And they told us to, you know, bearings and how long to take – forget how many hours it took us. Four or five hours to get
to where we were going anyway. And we got there and there we could hear all this laughing and yakking and going on. And we looked – it was near some sort of a road with tracks and there they were, across the road, half of them running around with towels around them, about ten of them in the creek washing themselves. And two Bren guns mounted with a couple of men around them.
And course if it had have been Japs that crept up on them, it would have been really bad. We made audible contact, you know. And you should have seen them run. Terrible it was. Silly men. Thought they were safe. You know it was – yeah that was one of the
On the night that you and the sergeant saw the village overrun by the Japs, you couldn’t have had a very good sleep that night, could you?
Yes. I never woke up all night. Never woke up till dawn. I can’t remember anyone – we possibly could have took turns during the night, you know to be awake. But I just can’t remember, it probably would have been.
Cos there was always someone on guard duty, you’d just stay awake to make sure nothing comes your way. You know. But I can’t remember that. That was only a minor, that was a thing that you don’t think about because every night that’s what you did. You know, it doesn’t matter how tired you were, your turn come, you had to be there, awake. Everyone had their chance, you know.
So, I imagine that’s what happened that night. I had a good sleep. Well we were – used to be tired out, you know, you go into a dead sleep but no one come near. I said I never slept deep again, so I couldn’t have slept deep but I mean nothing – we never heard the Japs move out, we don’t know whether they went on the road or they went – took another track or what.
But they just moved out.
When you were sleeping out on patrol like that, how close was your weapon while you were asleep?
In your hand. Never put it down. It was your friend. Another patrol we were on, we had to – ambush patrol. This is a couple of weeks after this one.
We were going on patrols just about every day, you know you’d – you’d get days off because I used to have to wash meself. You know, no water. Even in the jungle, you know, they used to have to bring water up, you’d get water from the creek and sterilise it and everything like that. We did, at one stage, we did have a hole dug in the ground but hardly any water in it.
Anyway, we used to – we always had water to drink. You’d never got a bath, you smelled like a – you know when you got past a butcher’s shop and you get that smell of stale meat, that’s what – no one up there probably noticed, because everyone smelled like that. Well, I never had a singlet, they rotted away, they
you know, never had any underpants, they went too. And ended up I tossed me bloody socks away because they were full of holes. So I just wear, boots straight onto me feet. And just a shirt and a pair of pants on, no underclothes. I don’t know whether I should have got away with it, but other fellas wore theirs. But it was bad enough to wear your clothes, because they stunk that much. You’d have days off
sometimes. And I – the dixie [mess tin] I had for eating out of, I used to fill that up with water and I – lucky I had a washer, you know, those little towelly things, and a cake of soap and that’s me bath. You’d do your best with that. Just to try and get, but washing your clothes, well you got washed every day if you wasn’t out on a patrol because it used to rain like bloody hell. And the water’d
you’d be soaked, completely soaked. Then an hour or so later you’d be dry.
Your pants and your shirt, were they long or?
Oh yeah, yeah, no short – had to have the sleeves down because of malaria. We used to take Atebrin tablets every day, too, I think it was only one Atebrin tablet. I never got malaria, kept me sleeves down, a lot of fellas got malaria, I didn’t, I was lucky.
End of tape
Interviewee: John Lyne Archive ID 1787 Tape 06
Another patrol we were going out, we were recce [reconnaissance] patrol again, this time, and gee, there’s some things that’s in it – you see a lot of phantom things in the jungle, like when it rains, water
dropping on big leaves and it runs down and drops on another big leaf, and then by the time it hits the ground it’s just like if someone brushed up against it, you know it’s very, very, but this patrol we were – I was leading the patrol along this track and I could hear running feet and I just faded the patrol that into the jungle, and we waited, and then along came these – our men
in green running and we stopped and they nearly died of fright, I think. And they said, “Don’t go that way cos the Japs are chasing us.” And what had happened, is they were coming back, they’d been out all night and they’d come back and they’d come along this track and they’d run straight into a Jap camp. And the
Japs had – must have had men out as guards, but they must have got through them, they must have been very quiet. And the Japs were out doing PT and their rifles were all stacked in pyramid fashion, on the parade ground. And they said, they thought it was a good idea to have a lash and then go for their lives, which they did, they threw grenades and opened fire and then run for their life. And one of the boys, he
got a bullet in the back, it went through his pack first. And he said, it wasn’t bleeding very much so – and it wasn’t hurting too much and he wasn’t stopping. Yeah.
How did you make yourself known to those guys, if they’re coming, belting through the jungle?
Well, I tell you the truth, we just yelled out to them, that’s all. I couldn’t remember what was said. But – they
couldn’t do too much, cos we were strung right out, you know. I can’t remember what was said.
Just scared the crap out of them?
Yeah, just about yeah.
So what did you do, once they told you..?
We went back with them. You know we didn’t, we cancelled the patrol which was good. Then there was another patrol we went out on, we went out on an ambush
on an ambush position, and it had one of our telephone wires running along it and I think there was about three other wires, which we reckoned were Japs. And our signal, one of the signallers, he – like he makes sure you keep in contact with the – specially when there’s wires running. And he keeps in contact with the base camp.
Anyway, we were out on this patrol and we stayed all day. Nothing, never struck anything, you know. Then the next day, they were sending out another patrol and they said, “We want you to…” They said to me, “Lead these fellas out, get into the same position as you were in yesterday.” So we did that,
and they said, “The signaller will tell you which wire to run, come back on.” That was me and me second scout. And I – while I’m on the patrol on the ambush, one of the fellas with the rifle said, “Give us your Owen gun. Here you take me rifle.” Owen gun’s better than a rifle, you know. And I said, “Oh all right.” And if I’d given it a thought, there was only five bullets in the rifle.
Anyway, he said, “Take this wire, follow it.” So away we went. We followed it and it was going on the wrong way as far as I was concerned. And we come to this village, and we waited and waited and waited to see if there’s any movement or anything like that. And so after about an hour we thought, “Oh well, looks
pretty deserted.” So we kept on going, we went into the huts and we found a lot of Jap papers and stuff like that. There was something that was, it – there was two big war drums, I think they were or communications drums from the natives, they were – oh they were about four foot through, and they had a little slit about four inches, right along, and I’d say the drum itself, must have been only about
two inches thick all the way around. They’d chopped all the – you know get your arm into the slot and chopped it all out. They must have been able to hear them for bloody miles when they had them going. Two of them there was. Anyway, collected all the papers we could see, followed the wire and it went out onto the Buin Road, and I got out there and when I got out on the Buin Road, I looked back onto the huts
and it was the same huts that I’d seen a couple of weeks before where we come onto the road that was full of Japs. Yeah and then anyway we got onto the Buin Road and followed it, I knew I was going in the right direction when we were going south. We got back to our company and reported all the paper, I don’t know whether they were any good or not.
How often would you travel on known roads and tracks?
Very seldom. They – we were advancing in the Buin Road, you know. You don’t usually walk on the – cos the – we had some tanks with us and that’s the only place they could travel, was on the roads, you know. The Japs got one of our tanks, too. Squashed it like –
the Corsairs used to go over and drop 500 pound bombs on them, you know. And big bomb, you know. And sometimes they didn’t go off. And that’s what they later – the Japs loaded it to go off when a tank went over it. Squashed the bloody tank like a sardine can, killed everybody.
What sort of tanks were they?
Matildas, I think.
Did you see much of the Allied
air support unit?
Oh they were only Corsairs. New Zealand mob, was. They used to fly over every now and then. One of them – what happened, they knew where our position was and one of the pilots saw these – this patrol coming around the back edge of the perimeter and he went down strafing them. They
were our fellas. One fella got a – one bullet – well it was a ricochet off a tree that hit him in the back, you could have put your fist in his back. You know. I think he got all right. What was else? We advanced down the Buin Road with a Matilda tank. We knew we were going to strike something, and we sort of come around and
you’d think a – you know a tank coming along, everyone’d be awake, you know the Japs for miles – when you’d hear a tank, but you can’t. Kills the – see the jungle kills the sound. Anyway we come around the bend and there was a gun. Right straight in front of the tank. A 37 mils or something, you know. Like a 25 pounder, you know. And they couldn’t have heard the tank coming because
the tank opened fire on them and even killed the fellas who were running with the shells to put them in the gun. That’s how much noise the tank made. Anyway there was a bit of a firing going on and my section’s, “Get over to the left side of the road. Up on the side there.” And away we went. And we’d no sooner settled in, we got another bloody, “Get over on the right side
of the road.” So we did. And we ended up back on the bloody left side of the road and – the second time we were going across, one of the fellas got hit with a bullet. And when we were coming back to the other – back again after another order, he’s sitting on the side of the road with the medic and he said, “Look what I got!” He said, “I got a homer.” Got hit in the elbow with a bullet. Didn’t do his arm any good.
Did you often see little bits of humour in the middle of stuff like that?
Yeah, yeah. He thought it was funny. Yeah.
So you – on a patrol like those, what sort of company strength would you do those patrols in?
Oh well this would have been – this would have been a company. 200 men. But that was only to – see we had – we were in a perimeter back further
and actually we were the lead company battalion with it. No, company the 200 men. And we had, like we’d take a position, put the barbed wire out oh, I suppose it was, maybe 200 yards wide, you know across.
I think. Then you’d dig all your weapon pits and sleeping bays an everything like that. Yes, they – we took this position, got the gun and killed all the Japs and they said, “Oh we’ll dig in here.” What a silly place – and I thought, no, you know the Japs’d have where this gun is, marked on their map.
Sure enough. Over come the shells at night time. Bloody marvellous they were. You couldn’t hear the gun, the first time we got shelled, they said it was a 75 millimetre or something like that, it was a naval gun. And the first shell that come over, we never heard it till it go, “Whoosh!” You know. And it exploded. We were, tea time it was. Cooks were there,
they had their big dugout, the tent over it, cooking our tea. And anyway everyone was lined out getting their dixie filled or something, and this shell come over, well, they run out like rabbits. No one got hurt, luckily. And then cos it all gets quiet, you know, the shell burst and everyone’s in there, wondering whether they’re going to get hit or the next shell’s going to hit them or what.
And everything’s really quiet. Then you could hear the ‘Boom’. Then for a little while after you’d hear the shell coming over. So it was a long way away. Had it – they had it pinpointed. They nearly blew up the three inch mortar, we had it right in the middle of the perimeter, three inch mortar all the ammunition. Boxes and boxes stacked up.
Do you reckon the Japanese would have had a forward observer calling in those
shots or do you reckon it was just from that previous position?
It’s quite possible, then again if they had the position, they knew exactly where it was and how far it was.
Could you – times like that, where it’s meal time, were they more susceptible to an artillery barrage or mortar barrage?
Yeah, after that, they’d had these like 25 pounders, they weren’t – 37 millimetres or, you know,
some Jap code I suppose it was. But they had six of them, I think. Six guns or seven guns. And one night they’d – all the seven guns had fired, you know. And the next night only six guns had fired. Then only five guns, and then four guns and then, till there was only one gun fire. You thought, oh well, you know what’s coming next? The whole lot again. And that – what they were doing, they were
firing, then take that gun to another position, keep on taking them, till they got them all, then just come again.
Was it reassuring that at least you knew at that stage that you had them on the run?
We didn’t really. Not really cos there was bloody Japs were everywhere, they were behind us and at one stage the Salvation Army, you know the Red Shield, if you went far enough back, through a couple of companies, you could
get to the Red Shield hut or used to be a tent and you can have coffee, if you’re lucky enough to get back that way. Big sign, you know, “Hop in” sign, you know, kangaroo on it. Japs got in there one night and pinched the coffee and sign, all the coffee and everything. They were there behind us. As I said, before they reckoned it would only be about 11,000 or 10,000 left, and over 30,000 of them marched in after the war ended.
In retrospect, what did you think of the American
approach? That they had there before you guys went in to take over?
Well, they had the right idea. I mean, MacArthur said, you know the – they wanted – he didn’t want the Australian soldiers to go into battle because he said, “There’s not enough of youse.” You know like – and we were only to police the airfield more or less, but Blamey says, that the people in Australia
are not hearing anything that Australians are doing. They’re doing nothing. So what he said, “Get in there and mop them up.” We lost a man every, for every day there was fighting we lost one man killed. We were – actually we were lucky I suppose, but there was really no need for it because the Japs had tanks and aeroplanes and no petrol. And then no food, coming in. When the Coral Sea battle ended,
all these people were stranded, all the troops on the, all those islands had no way of getting anything in. No food, or – they were growing potatoes and everything. You know. Growing whatever they can to live on. Half of them were starved.
So at the time what did you think of the operations you guys were engaged in?
We thought it stunk. We didn’t – seeing we didn’t need to be there.
Yeah, we could have done without it. But I mean, you can’t turn back the clock now. We were there and we had to put up with it I suppose. Hoping the war’d end cos we were kept on advancing but we don’t know how many was behind us. You know cos the jungle’s a – it’s a big place and you can
you can look 20 yards ahead of you and see nothing there but it could be full of Japs, you know. Which did happen. Yeah. So you didn’t know where the hell they were. Yeah, well when I said, they said to dig in there, right on the – where the Japs knew where the – anyway the Japs that got killed that day,
they’d buried them the same time, and we put out booby traps and we – you had to stand to, at dusk and get up, before it gets light and stand to, you know, just in case they attacked. And the next day, about – I suppose about eight o'clock they said to me, “Get out there with...” I took one of the other fellas with me, anyway the –
and he said, “There’s a dead Jap outside the wire.” Well, somebody must have went out and found him I can’t remember. Anyway, they said, “Take a shovel out there and bury him.” And he must have been in with the gun crew, because he must have got, when they fired the shell at the gun when it exploded, cut his arm off, like that.
And probably didn’t know what to do. Bled to death. Yeah, only a young fella about my age. Anyway, I buried him out there, that was the first one I buried.
What sort of impact did that have on you?
Nought. Didn’t feel anything. As far as I can remember, I couldn’t – didn’t upset me, you know.
When blokes had to do that would they go through the pockets of the fella involved?
Well, we didn’t go through his pockets. I just rolled him in. But it’ll come into this other – later. We went on another patrol, I just read that you know.
I’ll just ask you –
when you’re doing those sort of patrols, in your own little area of responsibility what sort of way are you thinking, are you thinking in section strength? Or are you on a broader thing with platoons, what’s your immediate responsibility?
Well, most of the time I was only in sections, see? The only patrol I went out on, was more or less a section patrol unless they put a couple of extra men on, the most of them was about sixteen I think,
the biggest patrol I ever went on, particularly as there was only a section patrol. You was only relying on your own little group to keep everything right. But when it come to – the perimeter or anything like – you had to be relying on the whole company.
What sort of back up, if you’re going out on a section patrol, what sort of back up do you have?
The last man. No, no
You wouldn’t have another section, a kilometre or so…?
Nup, nup, nup. They just sent you out, that’s it. I’ve been out on a three man patrol, that was the worst one I ever been on. We never struck any Japs but, three men, you know what’re you going to do? Run into half a dozen Japs or something.
What do you remember of that patrol?
No, I don’t remember too much about it, somehow, all I can remember,
we started out on it, and we had to go to another battalion. 59th, 60th or something like that, which were travelling probably a couple of miles away in the same as us. And only got – I’d say the only thing I can remember, is getting about halfway and
we were going to – I didn’t smoke but the other fellas did, and they said, “We’ll stop for a smoke.” And this big tree was there. He might have seen it too, they most of those trees up there they were only surface roots, you know. But the root’s about this wide, and it starts about six or eight feet up and it comes down right out. And you can get in between them. That’s the only thing I can remember
about it. We got in there, you know stayed there a while. I can’t remember getting to the other company. Mustn’t have been anything, anyway. And I don’t remember coming back so couldn’t have been eventful.
What sort of visibility when you’re going through the jungle like that, would you have?
Oh it depends, sometimes there was, you’d get a spare sort of jungle which you can see probably 50 yards or something like that,
but it’s very seldom you can see any more than about here to the front door. You know. It’s that thick.
So obviously travelling fairly slow in those situations?
Yeah, the only time you can travel fast was when it was raining cos it was like being in a waterfall. You know, the noise of the water coming down, hitting he leaves, oh it roars. One of the patrols we were on,
I was the forward scout and we come across this hut, was no door on the hut and I just glanced in. Silly. Just glanced in, couldn’t see anything. No one standing up. Last man looked in, there was two Japs having a sleep, and we were in a hurry because we were recce patrol and we were going to cut the signal wires of the Japs and put booby traps on the ends. Under the wire so when they
pulled it, blow themselves up. Yeah, so the – when it rained, you could make all the noise you cared –
So what happened to those two fellas?
We never touched them, we just left them. They were still sleeping. Luckily, see, we weren’t supposed to fire a shot, to say that we were around. Now what was that other one I was going to tell you about?
They’d be two lucky Japanese soldiers, eh?
We found out when we used to dig the weapon pits at night time when it got dark, all the twigs that were rotting on the ground, were phosphorous and they used to glow, you know, like glow worms. And find it, you’d be on, you might be on midnight shift or something like that and to find the next weapon pit, it used to be that bloody dark
in the jungle you know, you couldn’t see anything. So we used to line all the sticks up to the next weapon pit, so we could find our way back. Then another patrol we went on, there were sixteen of us, and this is where, when it rained, we went past this hut. Anyway we – I think we struck – yeah, a Jap patrol that day. I think they were going
along the signal wire. And we just disappeared into the jungle and waited till they’ve gone then come back and cut the wires. And we had two natives. We weren’t taking compass bearings and – oh we might have took a compass bearing but never took the number of steps and anything like that, cos they said they knew the way around there. They got us bloody lost. Didn’t know anything.
Did you ever come across ANGAU blokes or PIRs [Pacific Islands Regiment]?
Yeah one of my mates that I went into this 24th with, he was only five foot, six high. And you could pick him up, he was that little, you know and they said, “Oh, he’s no good, he can’t carry any weight.” So he ended up in the ANGAU mobs. Anyway, this patrol we were on we passed the hut
and let the Japs go past and then we cut the wires and put booby traps on and we kept on going on a compass bearing and these niggers [indigenous Papua New Guineans] supposed to tell us where, how to get us back to the company, they knew, yeah. So we kept on going, and oh it was getting late in the afternoon, and we had the niggers in front, and in the jungle when it started to get dark, it’s really dark in the jungle
but if you get out into a little bit of a clearing it’s only dusk. And we kept on going and going, and everyone had hold of the fella in front. So you wouldn’t get lost. And the next thing we heard voice say, “Where the bloody hell did you bastards come from?” We went straight into another company’s – through the – we never struck any
we had booby traps out, they had wire, never struck any of them, we just walked straight in. They said, “Oh, it’s a wonder you didn’t blow yourselves up.” Sixteen of us walked into this company.
Led by the native scouts?
Yeah. I don’t think they knew where they were going. I don’t know how we, I don’t know whether we slept there that night, must have. Must have slept there that night and went back to our company the next day. Yeah.
How much gear would you carry on a patrol?
Your pack, which would only hold couple of days rations, they were crap, too. And probably a ground sheet, and ammunition, that’s all.
How many days’ food, rations and all that?
Oh well if you was going out for two days, you’d have two days’ rations.
Tinned stuff. Yeah. When we had the cooks with us, the – well they were with us all the time, they used to – the jeep trains used to come up on the corduroy road cos they couldn’t travel fast, and they used to bring water up too. You know, Japs used to ambush them. Shoot the bloody tanks full of bloody holes. I can’t remember but
They ambushed it one day and we never had any meat for tea. They’d pinched all the meat off the jeeps. Whether the driver went for the bush, you know when they opened fire or what I don’t know, I can’t remember. But they pinched all the meat off the jeep.
Had you guys been told that the Japanese were starving and all that sort of stuff?
Oh yeah, they were starving. Yeah we knew all about it because they sometimes used to catch prisoners, you know. And they were as skinny as
mongrel dogs. They were hungry. Half of them couldn’t walk because they had tinea and rotten feet and no boots, running around in the jungle with nothing on their feet cos any of the Jap soldiers they were just left dead, they never had any boots on, cos their mates’d take the boots. Recycle them.
you went to New Guinea, or once you knew, okay we’re here to fight the Japanese, what had you been told about what to expect of the Japanese soldier?
Well they used to try and drum it into us to hate them cos they’d get you out with the bayonet on the bloody rifle, stick it into bloody hay bags and things like that. Didn’t work for me.
But had they led you to believe that they were an inferior soldier or…?
Oh no, no the sergeants had
they’d been in like the – these fellas had been in New Guinea and Markham Valley and all those places, Tokyo, you ever heard of Tokyo Rose? She knew – the white diamond, the red and white butchers they called them. I wasn’t with them, and they said you couldn’t trust any of the Japs, so they – what happened, why the called them, red and white butchers,
one of the – I don’t know whether it was Markham Valley or one of those places, they – the Japs had retreated and left all their wounded and sick and everything, left them to die. And these fellas they didn’t know what to do and they didn’t want to go to close to them, cos they’d have had hand grenades or anything. Blow you up, so they shot them all. Killed them all.
They probably would have died anyhow, but they killed them. Oh and that’s what I was told. Only second hand information.
Did you ever hear Tokyo Rose yourself?
No. No we didn’t have any wireless sets with us.
So it must have been good for you blokes being trained back in Australia, the fact that you were being trained by veterans that had been up there.
Oh yeah. Yeah. Yes all the – even the fellas down
at Cowra and Bathurst, they were all returned from somewhere. They knew what it was all about.
What did you think of the Japanese soldier?
He was very clever, cunning, a lot of stamina, they seemed like – they had – course if they didn’t do what a corporal said to them, you know, a corporal give them orders and they didn’t do it, he could kill them.
That’s how they were. They said, “Charge and charge and charge and charge.” Well there was thousands of them, they’d keep on charging. They weren’t an educated race because half of them – they thought up in New Guinea was when they got into Lae and all those places, they thought that was Sydney.
Is that something you read or is that first hand?
The fact the Japs thought that..?
Somebody told me, somebody who was there, Japs thought it was Sydney. I forget whether it was Lae or one of those places. Port Moresby I think, was Sydney. Yeah.
So some guys had a real genuine hatred of the Japanese, did you have that?
I couldn’t get meself to hate.
So how did you
face every day? How did you face the enemy?
Well he’s going to kill me, or I’m going to kill him. This hate business, I can’t see even though right up till this day, I don’t – I never hated anyone in me life, I – oh well, I suppose, probably some soldiers might think,
I don’t know what they think really. But even the fellas with me, they – it wasn’t as far as I can make out, they were just like me, I didn’t think they were hateful of the Japs. I didn’t like them, but I didn’t hate them, you know. A dead Jap was a good Jap.
Did you ever come across any of the horrible things that they’d
done to Australian soldiers that they’d caught?
No. No. Though, one of the jeep trains got ambushed one day and the – I think it was an officer, chopped their heads off or something. But I didn’t see it. Only heard about it, that’s all.
So how would your gear hold up to the conditions that you were in up there?
Well, I told you me
shirt be – me singlets and underpants fell apart and me socks fell apart.
What about your fatigues?
Well, I was luck, I had two sets. I used to just change them. I suppose they might have been getting threadbare. I hadn’t quite been there long enough to be – me boots to fall off me feet. You know, when I got after the war had ended,
I was still wore no socks, you know. And the perspiration you could see it on me boots, it used to get white around the ankle, and one day the tops come off altogether. I had shoes, you know. Shoes. I ended up going and getting another pair, of course. Yeah, tops fell off the boots.
And did you wear tin hats up there?
No. Tossed them away, they make too much noise. The branches hitting them,
we only had berets. Little green berets.
And what were you taking for anti-malaria up there?
Atebrin tablets. I never got out – I never got malaria, a lot of the other fellas did with me. I don’t know how they got them but they were doing the same thing as me. Unless having dengue fever twice, you know, stopped it or what, I don’t know.
The mozzies [mosquitoes] never
got you the way they did when you were in Ipswich?
No, no, no, no. I went – well one of the nights, not long after we got into action, like we were still carrying our mosquito nets. I got caught up in me – on night they firing started and I got – I woke up out of a start I had to – I used to sleep with me feet more or less stuck on me gun, you know in the –
I had an Owen gun and I grabbed it and I got up, and I was all tangled up in the net. That was the last time I used it, I just left it there, I just bundled it up and threw it away. All the rest of the fellas did too, they said, “You can’t get out of them.” You know waking up and trying to get out of them. Yeah.
Did you stand to every dusk and dawn?
How long for?
About an hour. Like as soon as it
started to get dusk, you’d stand to for an hour. The same at the – at dawn. We got there late one night and we dug this – we kept on digging in the dark and we made this pit and the sleeping bay. This is when I got caught in the net. And when it got daylight the next day, right out in front of us, about from here to the wall there, there was a pyramid of shells.
Up like that. Jap shells. They stashed them in the jungle and we were camping on top of them just about.
And when everyone’s dead silent for the stand to, what sort of noises do you hear in the jungle?
Everything and you see everything jumping around the trees and everything. And you – on stand to. “Is that a Jap there?” Hiding behind the tree and – your eyes play a
trick on you and they – you think they’re jumping from tree to tree, you know. They’re not, but. Luckily.
Did you ever see much wildlife up there?
Yeah, some real big rats. Big as cats. I was laying down one night and this thing running along the top of the, it was a bloody big rat as big as a cat. Another night I was laying there and I thought it was a fella coming to wake me up for
my turn, you know, running fingers up me shoulder. It run across me face. And I reckon it was as big as my hand. A bloody big spider. Nearly died.
Did any blokes get scrub typhus up there?
No, there could have been, but I never, not in our mob. That’s why you wore gaiters and everything, you know,
and if they thought about it, if there was any scrub typhus they’d let you spray inside your gaiters. So if they got inside, they’d die. But when we were at Maypee, up in Tolga and the tablelands, they made us spray inside our what’s-a-name from scrub typhus and I don’t know whether it was up there or not, unless it was just a drill.
So did you guys, you ditched the gaiters when you went up there?
No we had – we had gaiters that were issued by the army but when we got up there, we ended up, with Yankee gaiters. You seen the big long ones that comes right up to here. Yeah, we had them. Bloody good gaiters, you know, keeps your – well it didn’t keep the water out of your boots, but saved your legs from getting scratched and everything. They ended up being an army issue.
End of tape
Interviewee: John Lyne Archive ID 1787 Tape 07
On this patrol with the natives, that got us lost, I was – before they took over I was leading the patrol, we were going through this bit of jungle that was pretty sparse, I suppose the Japs
cleaned all the underbrush away. You couldn’t see it and I couldn’t tell what was wrong, I was seeing these things but it couldn’t work it out that all the palm leaves had no trunks. And as I got closer, oh, I nearly died when I realised, what I – I walked right up to about six feet away from all these weapon pits.
And I stopped the patrol and I – I think I was stood there for ten minutes waiting for someone to move. You know, I never moved. And I had me gun pointed straight in the hole, if somebody had have jumped up, I would have killed them all right, I might have got killed meself. But we waited and waited and waited, till I thought, no, there’s no – can’t be anyone here, so I sent the word back, and they all sort of snuck up,
you know and there was a big pillbox as big as this room was about, you know probably ten or twelve foot square, it had big thick logs on the top and slit holes in the side where they pushed the guns – weapon holes and there was a slit trench about every seven or eight feet.
All the way round it. And it was about 20 feet from the box itself, the big pillbox. Then we found out there was no one there, well we didn’t check the pillbox because they could have been sleeping for all we know. Anyway, we snuck around it and found a .303 rifle, one of ours, leaned up against a tree, so we took it and we just disappeared into the greenery then.
But all I could hear when I was standing there was me heart thumping and I thought, gee, someone’ll hear it.
Did you ever have any superstitions or good luck charms before you went out on a patrol?
Well I carried a pair of rosary beads that I won at school when I was about
twelve. I was – for ‘best improved boy in the class’. And I can remember the brother saying, “I’ve got a pair of rosary beads here for best in…” And I thought, “Oh gee, I’d love that.” Called me name out, give it to me. Anyway, I wore them. I had them around me neck for all the time I was away. And I had a – it’s in
the car down there now, I think that’s the one I used, it’s Saint Christopher, I had it on me dog tag chain, you know. That was the only things I had.
Did you pray a lot while you were there?
Yeah. Always said the rosary, couldn’t – I couldn’t do without it, I don’t think. Think that’s what pulled me through. Gotta have some faith in something.
Do you think you leaned more heavily towards your faith while you were away?
No, it was just one of those things. It’s been with me all me life. This – well you don’t understand life or why you’re here, but there’s something in the universe that you can’t see but you can feel. Not
human touch, but you can feel within yourself. And I know they’re there. That’s my faith.
When you got an order that you didn’t necessarily agree with, did you ever express your concern or dissatisfaction?
No, not to an officer.
No. To anybody else, like that – when I was on – oh I haven’t got to that. Well this is another story, this is getting to the end. But there’s a lot before the end.
We can come back to this story later if you like, when we’re further down the track.
Well, I’ll tell you the story when the Japs hit us one morning. It must have been around the 1st of May, about the 1st of May it was, I think. Don’t know what day it was. Anyway, we were –
we had been forward company for so long, they said, “Oh, we’ll send up A Company.” Or something like that. “They can take the lead from now on.” And it was all arranged, there was so many men was going to go forward scout along the road while this company come up through us, and consolidated a thousand yards ahead of us.
And they’d just got the – the scouts had gone ahead, and there was weapon pits around our perimeter, were empty. So they mated me up with somebody else and we got into this weapon pit and there was a big tree had fallen over, they used to fall over
I used to be out in the jungle and they’d fall over, you’d hear this big thump, you know, a tree would just fall over for no reason. No wind or anything. And anyway, this tree had fallen over and it was about five or six feet, you know thick. And it went out for about a hundred feet. And we were on this side. And the company was just about to come into our
company or go through on the road, and the Japs attacked us. And they’d got through the wire, you know everyone was busy and they were these people coming through us and everything, no one thought about the Japs bloody – they got through the barbed wire. And they were into us. Anyway, me and this other chap, we could hear all this firing ahead of us, the noise was terrible,
and we weren’t in it, we didn’t see anything. And then all of sudden we hear, we got – we had a sniper on us. We were only two in the pit, you know and this fella was, I reckon a bullet was coming at us, about every 30 seconds. And his rifle must have been out of true. Because I didn’t know whether he was shooting at me or shooting at the other fella, cos the other fella was you know, like standing here.
I never thought I had so many muscles in me body that would shake. I was shitless. Everything, I couldn’t keep meself still. And we couldn’t – there was trees about a hundred yards away, you know there’s bush between but he had to be up in the trees, you know. And we couldn’t
pick out – couldn’t see anything. And I was leaning forward, there was, you know grass. The pit was up to about here, and there was grass about that high above it. And I was leaning looking through and then a bloody bullet come real close and it cut the – about four strands of grass. And you could see where the bullet, come ‘Zzzt!’ Cut them down and I thought, “If I look up there, that should be where he’s firing
from.” So I got me gun and I loaded it up and I aimed to where this was coming from and I – cos the Owen gun is only you know short if it’s a – if you’re firing at a target, and it’s close, almost direct but when you’ve got a hundred yards or so, the bullet will go that way. So I tilted it up and let fire with about
30 rounds, the whole magazine. It must have scattered all over, never got another shot at us, then. Don’t know whether I hit him or he got – died of fright or what. But no more bullets come at us. And the attack lasted from – oh must have been about three hours. They kept on coming in and coming in. And there was, when it ended, well
there was a – our lieutenant, mad as a bloody hatter, they called him, Rowdy, he never said very much, you know they called him Rowdy and he – while all the firing was going on, the Owen gunners and the Bren gunners were running out of ammunition and he was running around to all the pits, you know, grabbing spare ammo, and he’d run back to it and give it to them. And I gave him 200 rounds. Which I was sorry later. Yeah, he never got hit.
One fella got, I don’t think, no we never lost any men dead. One fella got a bullet through his shoulder, and I think another fella got wounded somehow. And there was 68 Japs dead. And some of them had been wounded a couple of times, got bandaged up and come back in again. That was 68 out the front. We stood to for all the rest of the afternoon, just in case they struck
again. But they didn’t. And then the next morning, sergeant said to me and another chap, “Go round the back and bury those Japs around the back.” You know, we didn’t know they were – they’d got in round behind us too. And I don’t know whether the pits around there got them or the fellas coming up the road.
Anyway, we got round there and I was you know, there was about twelve or so dead Japs there. And they all had their boots off, tied, with the laces tied together. And I couldn’t even make out that, that’s what they were doing, recycling the boots if they got killed, well, their mates could get their boots, but their mates never got in to get the boots. And
I mean, the bodies went off real quick. Oh, you could hardly breathe and we had to dig a bloody big hole to put all these Japs in. And I was looking at them and I don’t know whether somebody, the day before had gone through their pockets, but they were all laying on their back. And they had bullet holes in the front of them. In their face. And
it struck me real funny, that their faces glowed. You know like lit up, real pinky colour. And I looked and looked and I wonder, you know. That what you do when you die? You know. Anyway, then I went around the side and
I looked and they had no back of heads, you know heads were blown right off, only had the face there. And it was the sun shining in their skulls that made all their face light up, real bright. And I never looked down to see what was on the ground, oh the bloody maggots were crawling up me legs. And I couldn’t make out what all this grey black stuff was, where all the maggots were – their brains, scattered. Oh it must have covered, nearly all this room.
It was devastating, had the bloody smell in me mouth and nose for days. Yeah. It’s about the worst I’ve struck, it’s even, the following Christmas, we got some reinforcements from the mainland, you know to come and – I don’t know what they were there for. Anyway this young fella, we used to call
him ‘Peaches and Cream’ because we were as yellow as the Japs because the Atebrin pill, tablets, were yellow and it made all your skin yellow, you know. And they looked like peaches and cream, you know. And this young fella come in and said, “What’s it like?” You know, “What’s it like if you have to bury Japs?” And I told him and, “All the smell.” The smell come back in me nose and down me throat and oh I was like that for a couple of days till it wore off and I thought,
“I don’t want that.” And then for some reason I just some inner self or whatever it was, just blocked it out of me mind, you know. And I never thought about it after that. Yeah.
Was there ever a smell after that, that triggers that memory?
No, but I’ve got no bloody smell, everything smells the same. You know what
unleaded petrol smells like? You know it gets into your car, that’s – everything smells like that, so whether it’s done something to me, I don’t know. It wasn’t always like that but. But that’s how everything smells now. But I know, no I don’t think I ever had it in me nose and throat any more. Can’t remember anyway. Not since ’91 or whenever it was, when I went to the psychologist, never
it never come back on me, I was frightened it would. Because, oh, it’s a terrible smell.
At times like that, when you’ve just been through a really close call with your own life, and then had to bury dead Japanese like that in a fairly horrific kind of circumstance, did it ever make you stop and wonder whether it was all worth it?
I often whether it – it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it.
You’ve still got to do it but, just the same. That’s it, and you – you get I don’t know how you put this, not pathetic, callous in a sense. You know, it must be goes through all this bombing and whatever and people getting killed and they leave them
in the street and everything like that, you know all these places, especially in Africa, you know there’s dead people everywhere, the people must get to a certain, oh it doesn’t matter, you know, don’t care. That’s what it seems like to me. You know don’t worry about it, you know, put it out of your mind. You see it, it’s there, it’s done, can’t help it. It’s a funny feeling. But all the soldiers get like that. It doesn’t matter where they are,
they get to a stage where they can get really callous themselves, cos I’ve seen it. I’ve seen a fella knocking all the gold out of the dead Jap’s mouth, some weren’t even dead. Had a big bottle, had a big pickle bottle like that full of gold teeth. I suppose he’ll be dead by the time this comes on the TV. I don’t know what he was going to do with
them he was – he used to pick them out with a bloody bayonet, or a knife. Sit on them and take the gold teeth out of their mouth.
Had you heard stories by then of what, supposedly the Japs were doing to Australian people that they’d captured?
I had read about it before – you know, before I went into the army. Yeah. And I – a lot of the stories I’d got from fellas that come back from the islands.
Knowing that they didn’t necessarily treat our dead with any dignity, did you ever not want to give them the dignity of being buried?
Oh, no. I don’t think so. We had to bury them, because the smell was too bad. You know, you can’t leave bodies laying around especially round your – where you are, like if you’re out in the jungle and you had a fight with – you’d just leave – you’d just fight, get out. You know. Anyone get killed, too bad.
We didn’t lose too many soldiers like that but we had – at one stage there we had our chaplain, Father English, he was telling us one day, he said, “I’ve been out on a patrol.” Went out to bury one of our fellas, you know. And he said, “There was a shot and I looked around.” And he said, “I’m the only one that’s there.” He said,
he got left on the trail. They just disappeared you know, he wasn’t a soldier, so when shot’s fired, you disappear. You know he was left there, he said, “I was left there.” Never saw anyone, he said. Never got killed, but.
At that stage did you have any indication that it was towards the end of the war?
No, nothing, no, we never heard anything. Though, we used to – like I think we used to get news, how far the Yanks were going, I thought well, it couldn’t last too much longer. And the Japs were losing right from the time MacArthur come out here, you know they’re pushing them back and pushing them back and pushing them back. Landing, not so much pushing them back because they were left on the islands, you know, and they’d just jump past them going towards Japan.
How much time we got? Quarter past four. I better get onto this last one, ay?
Yeah, do you want to tell us about the day you got wounded?
Yeah is that what this is? Oh, right. Mothers Day, 13th of May, 1945.
Anyway, leading out this patrol we were going for a couple of days, and we’d got out of our company and went – we went a thousand yards to the forward company which took over two weeks before. And I was going through there,
and Father English was saying mass. And I did wish it could have stopped the patrol I went – you know go to communion before I went. Anyway, there’s not much chance of me doing that, so I just kept on going. And we got out of the perimeter and they set me on a course and I – there was
thirteen on the patrol. Oh I never told you, I was born on number thirteen, me sister was born on thirteen, my birthday, I was wounded on the thirteenth, I think my son’s born on the thirteenth, and I think I’ve got a grand daughter on the thirteenth. All these thirteenths come out
now today, I though today was thirteen, cos I looked at the – I looked at the wrong month and I thought, oh I was – how does this thing happen? I thought it was thirteen tomorrow. Anyway, it’s 13th of May, Mothers Day. Anyway I’d gone about 600 paces, and there was a bit of a clearing, long grass but no trees, you know and the
these men were – they were behind me, I suppose I might have been about ten, twelve feet or something in front of my second scout. And as I come across, I could see where somebody walked. You get – you get like an Indian, you know read signs. And I thought, oh, that hasn’t been done long. And I thought to meself,
no one, none of our mob should be out this way. So I pulled up, pulled them all up and the second scout said, “Oh go ahead! I’ll tell them when it get too – you know somebody’s been up this trail.” I said, “Not on your life.” I said, “I’m not going here till I – the sergeant comes up and talks to me.” And I showed him, and the grass was, I tell you how far ahead the Japs were, the grass was
still rising, where he’d walked through the grass and the grass was coming up like that. I thought, that’s it. And just as the sergeant got to me, the Bren gunners way back, like say in the back, in the bedroom back there, and he said, “There’s a Jap.” So he knelt down and he opened fire with a Bren gun. And the sergeant said, or he hadn’t got to me and he said, “Slip up there and see if we got him.”
I said, “Not on the life.” I said, “I’m not going up there.” I said, “I just heard about 30 rifles getting loaded.” Cos I was up, I reckon I must have been here to the other room away from them.
How far is that?
About fifteen to twenty feet. They were that close. And anyway, they opened fire and I dived down behind this little bloody sapling, about this big,
had a lot of grass around it, but. And the sergeant got hit with a bullet went through his neck here and out his back and he died later. And another – one of the other chaps, a rifleman, he got a burst of machine gun across his chest or something and killed him. We were there for two hours or more. I – they thought I was dead, cos they couldn’t hear me, but still there was that much noise, you couldn’t hear my gun,
going off. Anyway I had two magazines, tied together so that as soon as I used them I could switch it over. Used them up, I had a four extra mags [magazines] in me pouch and I pulled them out. Slapped one on, “click,” wouldn’t work. And I thought, righto, too many bullets in the magazine, thumped a few out. “Click.” No, it wouldn’t go. Pulled out another one, four of them, were no good.
And I had to lay there and I pushed the bullets out of the magazines that were crook and put them into the two good mags I had. And that was – that would have been four, three, there was – that’s be 120 rounds. Yeah, 120 or 130, rounds. They would have been and I put these in these other magazines, and by the time I’d finished, and they decided –
oh beforehand, one of them said, “I’ll throw a grenade.” Where do you think the grenade went? Next to me, hit a tree, and bounced back and I could almost – well it would have been from here to the seat here away from me. About four feet, and I thought, oh, you know. It hadn’t gone off, it seemed like a long time, it was only four second grenade and it seemed like a long time, and I pushed the gun out and tried to reach it to push it further away.
Couldn’t do it and I thought, I’ve got no time. And you’re supposed to be at least eight feet away from a grenade when it goes off, you know, laying on the ground you won’t get hit. And I just laid there and I put the gun over and if there had have been a snake there, I would have been lower than the bloody snake, I never got hit, it went off. Anyway, yeah, I was getting low in ammunition,
cos I was down to a single shot, and I didn’t have many left in by the time I got wounded but what’d I do? Yeah, they – I heard one of them yell out, “Is Lynesie alive?” You know. “Has anyone heard from him?” And somebody said, “No, he must be dead, we never heard from him.” And then a little while after that, I yelled out but they couldn’t hear me. And
then I heard one of them say, “We’ll have to get out of here.” And I thought, they don’t know whether I’m dead or wounded, and no one’s going to come up here so I better get out. So I just turned round and started crawling out. And the voice right next to me, this is – so, you know there’s somebody out there. It was just like me talking to you. A voice said, “You don’t want to get hit in the backside, do ya?”
And I turned the wrong way, really. And I’d forgot I had me pack on, so when I turned there was a track, up that track I was talking about they must have had a gun straight down the bloody track and as I turned me backside went round the track and then must have sort of, and then opened fire but I was back to front and the bullets just went, two bullets went straight through me arm.
And I still don’t know to this day, why I picked up the dud magazines. I had them in me hand. Anyway I dropped them and I dropped the – Owen gun. Which I shouldn’t have. But then when you’ve got a shock like that, and oh the blood burst, it cut the vein, and it squirted everywhere, blood squirting and I never though so much blood could come out of you
in such fast pace. And I thought, oh I’ll have to cut the circulation down. So I put me thumb underneath me arm here and just pressed and pressed and pressed and it gradually subsided and I got further back down where the other fellas were and lance corporal he crawled over to me and put a bandage on me arm and told me to keep going, cos they were coming too. And
I got back, I was all right when I was crawling along and then a few of the other fellas got back and – oh yes, when we got back into thick jungle, we could stand up and keep going, and of course that’s what the corporal said, “Keep going.” And he went back in, he got in – he got a DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal] out of it. And a discharge.
He went back in and there was only – there was the sergeant, he was wounded, he was still there, the fella who got killed and another chap, reckoned he was pinned down and he couldn’t get out so this – the lance corporal he went back and then he said, when he got there, there was three Japs, they must have knew we were getting out. They were up with their bayonets on, ready to finish anyone off. And he killed them.
Anyway, I was all right, while I was crawling, but as soon as I stand up, my sight went, I couldn’t see. I’d lost too much blood. Anyway me second scout, he’s – he grabbed me arm and he said, he wouldn’t leave me, just keep on going and he was dragging me along, I could hardly breathe I – every time I sat down I could see where I was, my eyesight’d come back, and I had to tell them which way to go
to get back. You know to where we were started from cos I always used to take notice of where the sun was, shining on the leaves. And I’d say, “Go this way.” And we ended up a hundred yards off from where we started. So I wasn’t too bad for a forward scout. And they could hear me coming, they couldn’t hear anybody moving or anything, but they could hear me breathing. In this forward company.
Oh, I was like a bloody steam engine, you know raspy – like I was getting I don’t know whether I was getting – wasn’t getting enough oxygen or I didn’t have enough, I was getting oxygen all right, but it wasn’t going anywhere, cos I didn’t have enough blood. And I drank five cups of tea, I didn’t know whether I was supposed to or not, oh, wasn’t I thirsty. We got back at dinner time, or they’d just had dinner or something or they were just
getting dinner. And I said, “Oh gee, I’d love a cup of tea.” And I drank that. “I’d like another one. Put some more sugar in it.” And I think it was like treacle by the time I’d had me fifth cup. And I never had a pee for three days. Oh, it was agony, I was back in the hospital and it – they bandaged me up there, put me in a jeep, with the sergeant, they’d got him out
too, he hadn’t died then. And as I said, these corduroy roads, you know the jeep, you couldn’t go fast on them, and especially wounded people. Anyway, they had a patrol walking beside the jeep going back, took them nine hours to get us back to the hospital. Then they wondered why there was so much wrong with me, they still don’t believe it.
What sort of pain
were you in?
I wasn’t in any pain, I don’t know how many needles they stabbed into me, every time I’d move, I was sitting at the back of the jeep, every time I moved or something, first aid man’d come over and said, “Here another needle.” I had that much morphine in me, I couldn’t breathe – that’s why I reckon there’s a lot of trouble too. I shouldn’t have been given so much. I’d lost too much blood.
Do you recall what the sensation was when the bullets hit you?
Was a shock, and numb. That was all, no pain. Never pain till hours later. You know.
Did you think you were a goner when you got shot?
No, I thought, I was, when I was crawling out and I was using both hands, I had a bandage round, but I – and I said, to the fellas, I think, “I don’t think it’s broken any bones.” But you have a look at the x-ray and you’ll soon know. I
spent six months in the hospital on Bougainville and about two and a half years in hospital here. I was – they took a bone graft off me here, first. Oh, first when I got back to the – when they took me back to the hospital at Toko Bay, I woke up.
They had me on the table, ready to do something with me arm to clean it and everything. And I looked up and I said, “Oh, I used to stand out there.” Looking at – all the faces were all round. Then they shoved me back, put me on a launch or something and took me back to a hospital halfway back to Torokina or it must have been halfway out. I was in agony.
Not from the bloody wounds, but I couldn’t have a pee. You know there must have been – the shock must have cut everything all off. And I said to the orderly, I said, “I want to have a pee.” He said, “Oh, here’s a bottle.” I said, “I can’t use that.” I said, “Help me outside, so I can stand up and lean up against something I think it might happen then.” No, he wouldn’t let me out of that bloody bed. And they waited till about midnight,
I could hardly walk, I was that crook, and I crawled out underneath the tent. And stood outside hanging onto the tent. I had to have a pee. It was right.
Best pee of your life?
Yeah, pees a pee, what’s a pee? Yeah, it was a bloody relief. Then I ended up back in Torokina and they x-rayed me and they said, “Oh you’ve got a foreign body in your arm. And I said, “What’s a
foreign body?” And he said, “The bullet.” So one bullet went through and the other bullet, first bullet smashed the bone and lodged around here somewhere, of course they cut – there was a little hole there where the other bullet had come through so they just made the hole bigger and took the bullet out. And then they set it. And I – when – by the time they discharged me, the war had over, and they sent me back to the unit,
and me arm was skinny as anything, you know and I thought, oh I’ll try and build it up. I used to be, they used to do a lot of things around the camp, making it nice and go and get loads of sand and spread it and I used to get in the truck and load the sand and everything like that, I had an onionated fracture. Never ever mended properly cos they could – why it never knitted was because I could hold anything in me hand, and I couldn’t hold it, it used to just go like that, you know.
But I could bring it back up. And I never bothered about it, but every time it used to rain, it used to, it was agony. And then they – the battalion was going back home, the 24th Battalion was going back to Melbourne and they had classed me B2 or B1 or something like that, I wasn’t fit. So they tossed me out.
Sent me to a headquarter company or something like that – no, division headquarters and I was too young to go home, points weren’t, I never had enough points to go home. So they left me there and I ended up over in Rabaul guarding Japanese soldiers. There was a company of us, you know, all people that couldn’t get home,
and we was about thirty of us guarding 17,000 Japs. And one of the fellas said, he said, “If I had all the trouble you had, I’d be going to the doctor straight away.” He kept at me and at me and at me, and I thought, oh okay. I got leave to go down to see the doctor. We had to go back few miles to it and I went back then and he shoved me in hospital straight away and
x-ray straight away. Bloody colonels and lieuts and had the bloody big doctors come round to see me. Who did this job? They wanted to – I don’t know whether the fella got the doctor in the 2nd AGH, I don’t know whether he got into trouble or not, but it hadn’t knitted. And that’s why they – they sent me back on the first hospital ship that was available and I had a nice trip, right down to Sydney. Then come up here by train,
and wasn’t here long, I – did I get leave? I might have got leave and then come home for overnight or something, and they operated, didn’t take long to start operating.
Was there something about the bullet being in backwards or something?
Yes. Oh yeah, the Japs used to – their machine guns and they used to put so many bullets through back to front, like they mightn’t – not every bullet, but one or two, say a dozen bullets, they might
pull the bullet out and put the point in- into the shell and the blunt end comes out first. And that’s what hit me. I had the bullet for years and years and till the flood. And I don’t know what happened after that. It got thrown out I think. But I had the bone still embedded in the end of the bullet and it was all squashed. Yeah. And then
End of tape
Interviewee: John Lyne Archive ID 1787 Tape 08
Can you tell us about guarding all those Japanese POWs [Prisoners of War]?
Fruitcake. It was. They didn’t want the war either. Actually they were – it was in Rabaul, is it on? In Rabaul and anyone that the army didn’t want to know they shoved them over there to guard these Japs.
The Japs didn’t need guarding, cos they couldn’t go anywhere, though they were put in big camps, they had to grow their own food. I suppose Australia gave them so much. But they had market gardens everywhere, cos on Rabaul, more or less, the war didn’t really – land war never really got to them. They got bombed and everything like that,
and – oh the place was like a bloody rabbit warren. There was caves everywhere. I wouldn’t go. Well as soon as it started to get dark, I used to beat it out of there, because they didn’t look safe, you know. Yeah and we used to always go on work, we’d have to go on working parties with them.
We’d have a truckload of Japs, you know we’d sit in the front. And, course, never had any – I took me Owen gun or a rifle, or whatever, but we never carried any bullets. They were just ordinary – well actually the were mostly all navy – see, in the Coral Sea battle, they were the survivors that got to land. And even they got –they were cut off from any
provisions or – no ships got through because the Yanks used to sink them whatever. So they were just left high and dry. They weren’t any trouble at all. They were – I net quite a few of them, I met some Catholics among them. They weren’t too bad.
Did that surprise you, to find some Christians amongst the…?
No, Christians everywhere.
How did you communicate with them?
A lot of them could speak English, or pidgin English, you know some sort of English, any way they could make themselves understand. And the ones, you know, English is the most spoken-est language in the world, as far as I know. As far as going into different cultures. There’s always someone who’s learnt something, somewhere. And you know, communicate,
sometimes they mightn’t understand but they speak it, and they’d get in touch with. If he was talking to you and you couldn’t understand English, this fella would translate it, you know. You’d get by like that. But they used to have – they used to have a big junk up there that so many’d be allotted to go out on this junk and catch fish for them. I don’t know how good they were, but they had to feed themselves like that. It was no big deal,
they were only waiting to be transported back home anyway.
When you go back on all the time you were there, what was the correspondence situation like with home?
Oh, if you got, well there wasn’t too many letters I wrote, when I was in action, but when I could, I’d write, but before we went in, I was writing to about six different girls, they used to write, I mean, they weren’t my girlfriends, but I mean,
they were girls I knew. We went to dances and everything like that, met them there and they said, “Oh when you’re away, we’ll write to you.” And I said, “Okay.” But I used to write one letter and then transfer it into about six. You know, put different names on. Only got mixed up once, I think it was a bloody lieutenant who you know, they’d censor them, you know and he must have pulled it out and said, “I’ve just read this.” And you know opened the bloody thing up. Put the wrong one in the wrong envelope. Luckily it was the people I – that I went
to their farm, outside Warwick, she said, “I got one of your girls’ letters. Such and such.” And I said, “Oh.” And I asked the girl when I come back, did she get the wrong letter and she said, “Yes.” But the two letters never come together, luckily, cos they would have been the same. I couldn’t change the – one letter done the lot. But I mean they used to write to me, that was the main thing.
How often would you get mail?
Oh, every week, I suppose. Somebody’d write. You know somewhere along the line.
What does that do for you?
Oh it was a morale booster I suppose. The fella who got wounded first when, the one who had the shrapnel in his lungs, he had a girlfriend, but they never – he married her when he come back – never wrote a letter. Neither of them. I said, “Why don’t you write a letter?”
“What for?” And he always sat next to me when I got mail. So he could read my letters cos at one stage he said, “Oh she said, listen, this is what she says, it’s ‘actually’.” You know she’d be telling and every sentence was in it, every sentence in it, was ‘actually’. He said, “That’d drive me up the wall.” I said, “Well don’t read it.”
So bloody characters.
Did blokes ever get ‘Dear Johns’ [letter informing that a relationship is over]?
I can’t remember. Can’t remember, I can’t remember that.
What about Red Cross parcels and care packages?
Oh yeah, we used to get Red Cross parcels.
Comforts Fund [Australian Comforts Fund]?
Yeah. Cigarettes, I didn’t smoke. Used to make me nervous. I tried it, everyone used to – they’d say, “Righto, pull up have a rest.” When we were out on patrol. “Ten minutes rest, that’ll give you time to have a smoke.” And I tried it a couple of times and by the time – I was shaking.
So I used to sit down and clean me teeth. Had a toothbrush with me, you know. Just keep on brushing me teeth. Didn’t make any difference. Still got full of holes, but that kept me going. Yeah, I never started to smoke till, after I got out of hospital I went to the convalescent camp and they were always round, you know cigarettes or packet of tobacco and it was boring.
All I had to do all day was sit in a tent, wait till the whistle blows for breakfast, dinner and tea and go back and sit in the tent. Or go up to the rec hut [recreation hut] and write a letter. But mostly all day, you know, so I used to get a packet of tobacco and – a packet, they used to be ounce packets, little packets. And if I smoked one of those a week I was all right.
But if I smoked it quicker than the week, I was smoking them too heavy. And that happened to me all me life, I used to – when I come back, I give it away, 21st birthday, one of the girls who thought she was my girlfriend, bought me a silver cigarette case, with smokes in it.
So I thought, oh well. I started all over again then. But I didn’t smoke heavy. A packet – a two ounce packet used to last me ten days to a fortnight. I did that all me life.
So how long did you spend up in Rabaul before you came home?
Oh I don’t know, a couple of months, that’s about all. It’s a long time ago.
How did you get home?
Hospital ship. Manunda.
Yeah, I took – the trip was – well some of the fellas who were with us, they said, “Oh.” Like when they start shipping all the fellas home, they had to have so many points – how long you’d been in the army and everything like that. And how many days overseas. Anyway, some of them had – the points had come down, you know
instead of having to have a – or it went up, which way? No it must have come down. If you didn’t have too many points, you never got home. So it come down so that they were right, they were the next ship. They said, “Hooray, you’ll be here for a while, we’re going on the next ship.” I was on the next ship. I beat them home. Only because the hospital couldn’t do up there.
Did being wounded count for anything?
Yeah, that’s what I come home on.
They couldn’t do anything up there because of me – I had an onionated fracture. Yeah, they – I said, they took bone off me hip, was nine months before they found out it never took. So they cut me here. Right around there and took a big piece out of there and squirt it in there. It didn’t take either so they dropped – I think it was the ulna got smashed up
and they dropped it down onto the radius and welded it more or less made weld there. So I can’t do that. It’s fixed. And –
Did any of the doctors ever suggest to you that you were close to losing your arm?
I come back to the doctor here, he was an army doctor, my doctor, he’d got – had to go in the army and he come back and he saw the x-ray and he said, “I don’t know.” He said,
“It’s a wonder they didn’t take your arm off at the elbow.” I’m glad they didn’t. Would have been a mistake. Even though I went to a – through all the pain and suffering I suppose, but it was worth it, they thought they could – this is where it all comes in, these wars, they learn how to do things that is never done before. Because they’ve got, you know everything’s on tap.
Different things that happen.
So you reckon with them repairing your arm, you were a bit of a guinea pig?
Yeah, I was an experiment, which was a good idea. I pulled through it, I had a home away from home in the hospital, I had to get to leave –
Where did the Manunda land?
Sydney, had a bloody good trip down to Sydney, I went
I sent a telegram to me Uncle Mick, he’d got out the army he was in the tank corps. He got out of the army and his brother, his brother was as old as my mother. Anyway, they both come down to Sydney and – to Heidelberg I think it was. That’s where I was, stayed there for, a week or so and they come and pick me up and
I bloody, I had a pack, I brought it back, a pack, all new clothes in it, I – when I was in the headquarter company, I thought, “Oh well, I might need some clothes when I get – knock off.” So I used to pick up all the old shirts and I’d take them up to the quartermaster and I’d wash them, you know. “This one’s no good.” So they’d give me a new shirt and I’d take it back and it’d be pinned, ironed to a
certain extent, and I’d put it in me pack and I kept on getting shirts and pairs of pants and I used to and seeing I didn’t smoke very much, I used to go to the canteen and buy two ounce packets of tobacco, you know stack them in me, and it was like a rock. The bag when I got it home. It was like a rock. You couldn’t push anything in, I’d just packed it that tight. And anyway, they
turned up – they smoked, so I give them a packet of tobacco each. And they took me over to the convent in North Sydney, to see me sister. Yeah then – yeah they took me back then I think that’s – oh no, I was doing the kitchen work in the hospital, you know volunteer, cos I had nothing to do, and they’re all this smashing line come in. This day.
She was beautiful. And she must have been told what I looked like, you know. This fella that bandaged me up, this lieut, he got a DCM on discharge, he heard that I was there and he sent her to go and see me. And she walked past and then she looked in
to where I was wiping the dishes, you know and then a little while later she come back in. Yeah. It was his girlfriend. Then I tried to ring them up, I never even knew how to use a phone, here I was nineteen years of age, and I never knew how to use a phone. I went to the phone line and put the money in and it rang, rang, I could hear them the other end, they were saying, “There’s somebody there.”
And I’m talking, “No, we can’t hear anything.” And they’d hang up, you know. Don’t know how many times I done that. Wasted a lot of money, oh it was only tuppence I think, but – yeah. How did I get in contact with them then? Might have been after that she – when this girl came looking for me.
Yeah, I went out to their place too. I was very happy to see them and they wanted to know what went on, you know. Cos he probably never spoke too much about it and I didn’t speak too much about it, but I told them what he done. You know. Stayed for tea, wiped. the dishes, and the mother said, “Boy, you’ve done some dishes in your time, because you polish them.” I said, “Well that’s what I was taught. You know, make the dishes shine when you dry them up.”
Then I come up to Brisbane and they put me into Holland Park Hospital first. Think I had the first operation there.
Did you get to come home first?
I tell you the truth, I can’t remember. I can’t remember whether they gave me leave or not cos see, I was still in the army.
Did you get – you must have got some disembarkation leave at some stage? Was that in Sydney or?
Do you know what they did to me? They discharged me while I was still in hospital, I couldn’t get away, and they gave me a rail pass for anywhere in Australia. I couldn’t use it. Bloody no hoping buggers they were. Discharged me, while I was in the hospital, having operations. Never got
anything. I think I might have used the ticket once, I went down to see me grandmother down in Newcastle. Yeah. But it was useless otherwise.
Can you remember the first time you did get home to see your mum?
No they – I don’t think I did get home before I had the operations. They didn’t waste any time when I got in the hospital. But
I got word to them, I don’t know whether I sent a telegram, no couldn’t be rung up, cos there was no one to ring up. No one had phones those days, you know. Think I might have wrote a letter, I would have wrote a letter while I was in Sydney. It’s a bit hard, trying to think back that far, what happened. But I know I had the operation and they all – Mum come down, and me cobber down the road, his
mother come down. They – like I had visitors.
Can you remember the first time you saw your mum when you – from getting back?
No. No. No I – when I think back, over those years, my mother was only in her late forties, now I see my daughters in their late forties and they’re only young girls. But I never realised that.
Till I, thought, oh. Of course, anyway, my mum used to go up to dances with us. We used to go to dances there, sometimes, well she didn’t, but I danced seven days a week. We used to often go, you know, there was always dances different places and we used to go to every dance we could. We were fit as fiddles, you know. I
me and a cobber we used to go dancing and this – for some – how’d we get? We picked up these two girls. He was – he got sweet on one and I got left with the other one. She was a real nice girl. And I went with her nine months and I never even kissed her. Yeah and I never woke up till years later, there was something, well,
my son in law’s uncle, he was in the war too. He was a stoker in one of the ships and he got torpedoed twice in the one day, he got picked up with a ship and got torpedoed again. And how he got, he said he doesn’t know how he got out, he was being a stoker round the boiler room. And he said, and I used to just we were talking, you know. And I just happened to say, “You know I went with this girl for nine months.” And I said,
“I never kissed her till we decided to break it up because she was a Methodist and I was a Catholic.” And I said, “And I never got around to kissing her till I was breaking up.” And he said, “Don’t you know why?” And I said, “No. I never sort of got around to finding out why.” And he said, “Well, it happened to a lot of fellas. You see, your mates go down and they get attached
to them. And you don’t – and the next fella comes along and you don’t want to get – cos he’ll go down too.” And he said, “You lose all your mates, and then what do you do you’re left on your own. If you get too tied up with them, it hurts too hard or something like that.” You know. And he said, “That’s what was wrong with you,” he said, “You liked the girl, you could nearly fall in love with her, but you just couldn’t go that last little
bit to commit yourself.” And that’s – and I thought, shit, that’s what was wrong with me. You know, I just couldn’t commit meself. Was the same with – apparently I took a long time to get to the stage where I’d say I loved her. It was hard job and then, after a while it
come easy, I sort of got over it, but that’s what it was. Yeah. And then our first baby was stillborn. It was really hard, it was hard for me as it was for her, you know. She said, “You should be consoling me.” She said, “I’m consoling you.” Anyway, that –
How long did you spend in the hospital in Brisbane?
First of all you said you went to Holland Park?
Yeah and they closed Holland Park and sent me over to Greenslopes, was just that they were closing up the army hospital. I think I was there about two and a half years.
Must have been a long time to spend in hospital?
Well, it was. I used to come home every now and then. They’d give us a leave pass to come home. Wasn’t too bad – well I had to get a leave pass – I can, lousy buggers, the bloody army.
Our – one of the chaps I was in – we used to knock about together, we went to South Australia and everything like that, I used to go – when we was on leave I used to go to his place, sleep at his place, his mother and father was, Methodist or whatever it was. And they didn’t mind, me being a Catholic. They used to say, “Oh the Catholic church is over there.” If I was over there on the weekend, “Just across the road.” They were just like mother and father to me.
Anyway, he – I was still in the army, and he happened to be in Greenslopes for some reason cos I hadn’t seen him, you know, till – well I hadn’t seen him since we went away, he went into a different battalion. And he said, “It’s me birthday, 21st birthday on such and such a night, what about coming out?” And I thought,
getting an overnight pass was impossible. You had to be back – even in the army, you had to be back sleeping in your bed. And I thought, oh bugger them, what can they do to me? I went and had a good night and slept at his place and we had a good party, 21st birthday party, went back. AWOL. Marched me up before the bloody
sergeant major, “What’s your excuse?” I said, “Well, I went to a 21st birthday party and I couldn’t get back.” “One days pay, one days leave.” Marched me out. That’s how bloody lousy they were. You couldn’t believe that, you know. AWOL.
So for the bulk of the time, you were in hospital when
you’re back in Australia, you were still in the army?
Yeah till – when did I get discharged, in ’47, I think. Yeah. I think it was, it’s in me discharge papers, yeah about ’47 I think it was. And then I was in – I was still – I was under repat [repatriation] then. Yeah.
So how did all your discharge – how did all that sort of happen?
They just wanted
to get rid of me that’s all. They were, well it was ’47 and they wanted to get everyone that wasn’t any good in the army, get rid of them. You know. So that’s what they did.
So repat, did that mean that you couldn’t do any of the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Training Schemes or anything like that?
I did, yeah. After I got out of the hospital, they discharged me out of hospital, they gave me a half plaster, so that I could go to bed at night and they had the plaster on me so I wouldn’t roll on it and break it again. They said it wasn’t strong enough. So I was like that for a year after I got out of the hospital. But I wasn’t to work. And I was getting two pound, ten a week.
Bloody shocking, you know. And then before I got out of the hospital, they said, what work did I want to do? Well, when I was in hospital I used to do leatherwork, you know, rehabilitation or whatever you like to call it, making handbags, embossing them, hand embossed, not stamps. Hand embossed, oh I used to do beautiful work. And I used
to make sandals. And I just said to them, I had to fill out a form I think. Cabinet making or if I couldn’t have that, I’d be a bootmaker. And this sergeant major that docked me, me pay and everything like that, he was marching me up to the board and he said,
“What do you want to do?” I didn’t think he was so friendly. He was friendly then. And I said, “Well, I’d like to either take up cabinet making or boot making.” He said, “Stuff the bootmaking, anyone can make a boot. Or repair a boot.” He said, “Stick to the bloody cabinet making.” Oh I didn’t – well so I – you know I said, “I want to be a cabinet maker.”
“Don’t think you’ll be able to do that.” You know, they knew what me arm looked like and but I insisted, anyway they said, “All right, we’ll…” After the year was up, you know they’d – or me time come round to get into the rehabilitation, they
gave me a pass whatever it was, to do one night a week at the college here. While I was doing the course in Brisbane it was out Lutwyche way there was a big college out there for rehabilitation. And I went out there and I was, well, it must have been in me cos me
grandfather was a carpenter and a lot of his relations were carpenters too, by name and – so it must have rubbed off and I – you know I did it. It was hard because not being able to turn me hand over, but I got used to the stage where I could do what anybody else could do, any perseverance I suppose, and I’ve done carpentry and cabinet
making, boat building, carriage building, body building, everything else that goes with it. It must have – the name must have been good.
So how has the war affected your life?
I don’t know any other way. I don’t – you know, what, I was nineteen when I got wounded, well I don’t know what it would have been like if I handed got wounded. You know, it would have been different altogether probably, I probably would never got into the trade that I wanted cos it was a hard job getting an apprenticeship, you know.
Not so much as a hard job getting into an apprenticeship, but must have been something somewhere along the line, probably would have ended up a bloody shop assistant. You know, opportunity came, I took it. Yeah.
So that Commonwealth [Rehabilitation] Training Scheme ultimately worth it?
Yeah, that’s what it was. Never looked back.
I was doing a lot of things that the fellas that had two good arms doing, couldn’t do, so I was quite happy.
What about – a lot of blokes say, when they look back at the years they spent in the army during the war, they feel like they lost those years. How do you look at that?
Best years of me life. I’ve often said that. It was the best, you know in that time, I never missed anything because
you mightn’t say it was a big thrill, it was a bloody thrill all right, but I mean, you gotta experience something, you’ve got to be adventurous to a certain degree of your life. And that was my adventure. And even though I got wounded, I still don’t say it wasn’t the best years of me life because in the army and you’re with all these fellas it really, I went
from a meek little, homeward bound kid, to grown up real quick, we’d grow up real quick when you hit it where the whips are crackin’.
Should blokes be forced to grow up the way you had to?
Not really, but I would say, this is my idea, every kid past sixteen
should be drafted into the army to do three or six months. Compulsory, conscription. You don’t have to be a soldier, but every other country in the bloody world does it, you know. This is the only stupid bloody country that doesn’t do it. And we need them. I mean, you take our army now, how many have we got under arms?
Not very many. And some day, some country is going to have a go at us, and they’re very close to us too, only they haven’t got their gear together yet, cos they can’t feed themselves properly now, but it won’t be like the Japs, the Japs had the right idea but their lines of communication was too long. You know it’s a long way from there to here. And this country’s closer to us,
and if we had to say, “Right.” They couldn’t do what they done to us when early in our war, they were given broomsticks to slope arms and everything like that cos they didn’t have enough bloody rifles. Now they’ve got the – they can get the bloody rifles but they haven’t got anyone to handle them. And there’s no discipline. I mean, the kids are out of this world as far as I’m concerned.
Yeah, they’ve got to be taught discipline, how to use arms, how to fire a gun, all this stuff, it can be still a country without guns – still have a gun law, but if you’ve trained somebody, and someone attacks you, throw them a gun, say, “Righto, you got to defend.” And they know
what to do.
Besides a trade then, what do you feel you got from the army?
Well, I was always disciplined, when I was little, so didn’t – just mateship in a sense, bloody Prime Minister says about mateship, he wouldn’t know. He never had a mate, I don’t think.
Not in the parliament anyway. But you know, you get to know people and you get to know how they are. How different they are to you. It’s a good thing, because not two persons are the same. Living experience it is. To
be in the army. To be with all these fellas, they’ve got all different ideas and everything like that, that’s why I say, you grow up real quick, you know. I recommend it to anyone.
What are your thoughts on Anzac Day?
Well that – they – I always go to mass. I’m always up for the mass, up for the fallen soldiers.
I’ve marched once in me life, that was only when my grandkids were this high and they wanted to wear their grandfather’s medals and so I thought, oh well, I’ll go and march with them and I pinned a medal on each one of them, their grandfather, he was in the first war and I got a lend of some medals off a cobber down the road, his father was in the First War,
and we pinned them on all the boys and the girls and we marched. That was the first time in my life I’ve marched. Because I don’t know whether I was right or not. I knew a lot of fellas that – they’d march and they’d go back the RSL [Returned and Services League] and they’d get on the slops [booze] and they’d get drunk and everything. And as far as I’m concerned they never saw a shot fired.
Because you think different. I couldn’t mix, when I come back out of the army I got married and people said, “Why don’t you – on your way home from work, call in and have a few drinks with your mates?” Cos there were a lot of fellas I knew used to – and I knew where they went to drink and everything like that and I didn’t drink. And I said – and I think I did once. The crap they talked. You know they worked in town, you know shop assistant they didn’t talk my language, they never was
in the army, they never talked my language, you know. I said, “I wouldn’t waste me time going and talking to them.” Cos I can remember when I come back first and I was going to the dentist and I had me arm in plaster and some of the fellas I went to school with, “Oh, what happened to you?” I told them what happened, they just walk away. They didn’t want to know. That was strange wasn’t it? And when I started work,
I used to get sent out on jobs and there’d be some heavy lifting and stuff like that and I got called a lazy bastard and good for nothing, cos I used to stand back and let them do the heavy lifting cos I couldn’t. But it was no good me trying to explain anything to them. Yeah, no one fella, wanted to know was it SIW, self inflicted wound. Cos see,
it was late – ’47, they didn’t think anybody had their arm in plaster, 1947, two years after the war had ended. I didn’t know what, SIW meant. Yeah. Accused me of shooting meself. Get out of the army. And that’s why I always wanted to – I even wrote away to the bloody politicians, to get a medal like purple heart the Yanks had,
and I could wear and they knew what it would, “No.” Still haven’t got one. They still won’t make one. Didn’t want to know us, they didn’t want to know us right from the start. Even a repat didn’t want to know us.
How did you feel towards blokes that would say stuff like this and hadn’t gone themselves?
Oh well, there was a lot of them and
I thought, well if they’re – you know, you can get away, there was a lot doing it and a lot even never went away but they’d put the bloody medals on but there was a lot of fellas that went away even with, like when I went away, they’d be wearing the same medals as me. And there was nothing to – no distinction, they might have been a headquarter company as a cook or, whatever they do,
a bugler or something like that and he’s wearing the same medal as me and I said, “That’s not right, there should be a front line service medal.” And I wrote about it too. And they wouldn’t put one out. But they said I could write to 24th Battalion, no 21st Battalion in Brisbane it was, it was in Queensland, write to them and
put your case to them. And I wrote to them, got a nice letter back. And I think they rung me up, could I prove, that I was in the frontline service? And I told them I was wounded and what things happened and, “Oh right.” And they sent me a medal. I had to pay for it but they sent a frontline, crossed rifles and – you ever seen one? Yeah. So that was the only distinction you get from frontline service and other service that didn’t really count for much.
Interviewee: John Lyne Archive ID 1787 Tape 09
Yes, as I said, I got the bullet through the arm, bullet, one bullet back to front, which smashed the bone about two inches of the bone all splintered all up. There’s tattoo there, well these two fellas that I always knocked around with, well one of them, he’s dead
now, but he was a real hard sort of a case and he said, “I’m going to tattoo something on me arm.” So he had two or three needles bound up on a pen. And he had a bottle of Indian ink that black – he said, “I think I’ll put a rising sun.” So he drew
I might have drew it and he just with this, what’s-a-name, done it. And some fella come along and he said, when I was doing mine, no I didn’t do mine. He must have done it. I drew a boomerang, with the rising sun, you know, like the medal. And a good job, too it was. And this fella come along and he said, “Well if the Japs catch you, they’ll cut that right off.”
And two bullets went straight through it. It split me arm from there right up to there when that blunt end bullet hit me, otherwise it should have been just a hole. The other bullet come out here, was only a little hole here, and the blunt end bullet was just lodged underneath the skin. And they just cut it bigger and took the bullet out but this mark down
here, this is where they cut it open to do the bone grafts, it’s been opened about five times. See how the stitches are, they just stitch it up just like a bag cos it was that – got done, that got opened that many times, it used to just swell up, you know, and they just couldn’t pull it together. So and the – you can see where the stitches just pulled through. And
me wrist, with that bone going like that, came away – the bone come away from the wrist that shows a gap in the x-rays, and if I do the wrong thing sometimes, this has happened quite often, might twist it or something like that and the whole wrist jumps out of joint. Oh, it’s agony, I – and what I’ve got to do is get somewhere where there’s a pipe or a bit of wood hanging down, grab me hand like that and
swing more or less, you know drag me arm down to get it back in. Oh, it’s – terrible. I went for a drive, I went for a balloon trip, what was it, kids bought a ticket – yeah, it had to be an early morning one, you know, we had to go up the north coast. Got on this – we went
was a nice trip, and when the balloon come down the cage hit the ground and everything stopped, and he said to me, “All right, jump out and just hold it.” And in me – I sort of jumped up on the side and grabbed the top and over I went. And I don’t know what I done, but I nearly passed out I stood there, I couldn’t see properly, something happened in me whole arm,
you know. From when I pulled meself up. Must have done something wrong. And I – and the woman that came to pick up her husband, I was still holding the – and they run down to pull the balloon down and I wasn’t holding the thing, I was just holding meself up. And she said, “You look bloody terrible.” She said, “Let me hold it.” And I said, “No, it’s not that.” I was – the pain was so bad that I think I nearly passed out.
So – haven’t happened since but – thought I was going to die. Worse than getting hit by bullets, it was.
You were telling us before about your attitude towards the Japanese, early on, did that change once you got wounded?
No. Never changed, no. How do you know I never killed some of them when I was – I fired about 180
rounds at them. It might have killed somebody.
Do you know if you did?
No, they got the others who were – had the Japs there, I never got the full story, but after the war ended, the first attack, where we killed 68, we must have killed more because I had to go and bury a dozen behind us. That was only out the front. So it must have been 70 or 80. Anyway,
they got the officer who done that charge, and they said, “There wasn’t a Japanese that got away without a bullet in him.” And there was 200, attacked. Every one was wounded. Some of them come back. They were bandaged up and come back. Fight again. And this one was, there was only 60 Japs, what we struck. But I don’t know whether, what happened, how many was killed or whatever.
When you were wounded and the rest of the battalion came home without you, did any of the blokes come and say goodbye?
No, not really. No. They just – I was just called up and I was B-class and they were sending me to what’s-a-name company, I suppose the fellas I was in the tents with had – “Hooray, good luck. See you again.” Probably
that’s all they did.
What were your thoughts when they went home and you had to stay?
Oh, I was only disappointed I wasn’t going home with them, they had a bloody great reception when they got down to Melbourne. You know I was entitled to that, I reckon. But they didn’t think so, I was only a ‘banana bender’ [Queenslander], that’s all. There was a few of us, there was a few from some from Tasmania, this was when I joined them
there was some from – a couple from Tasmania, some from South Australia, New South Wales, Western Australia, you know, but all the rest were Victorian.
When you were saying just before about that after the war some guys used to ask you if you’d self inflicted your wound, did you ever see stuff like that?
Did you ever see stuff like that going on?
How do you mean.
Do you know anyone that gave themself a wound to be able to…?
On yeah, SIW, yeah, self inflicted wound. Oh yeah they used to shoot themselves through the foot and everything. To get out of it. Yeah, like that fella that shot is, blew his brains out on the boat, that was self inflicted wound. There wasn’t too many like that. But they used to – yeah, well better to shoot yourself in the foot than kill yourself, isn’t it?
Shoot themselves through the hand or something like that. Do something to get out of it. We had one fella, he was – where’d he live? South Australia I think he did. Adelaide. And he went through all the training, went overseas, don’t know what he went over there, why he didn’t do it before he went over there.
I think he wanted the medals. He got over to Torokina and he said, “There’s no way in the world they’re going to get me up into action.” So he got himself dermatitis in the crotch. How’d he do that? Cos if you went to hospital that’s – he must have went to hospital for something,
probably put some lark on, got there. Well, they usen’t to boil the pyjamas properly and a lot of kids – fellas went into there and they used to have dermatitis, in the crotch and when they washed them, anyone could get the pyjamas. I ended up with it. But he told me, he said, “I’m not going to action.” He said, “I’m going to get a homer out of this.” And each time he tried to – each
time they were treating him and getting him better, he’d go to the shower and get some washing soda and rub it onto himself cos it’d break out again. I don’t know how long he was in the hospital there but they ended up sending him home. He would have – wore all the medals and everything. Shocking. What people will do, see.
Where were you when the war ended?
In a convalescent camp. I’d been to hospital, no, up in the islands it was. I spent about four months, I suppose, in hospital and then I had to go to the convalescent camp and they was giving me physiotherapy to get me hand and everything, fingers working. And I was there for a couple of months. And then they sent me back to the unit,
which I went back and I tried to build me arm up, but then they got rid of me. Yeah.
How did you hear the news?
Tell you the truth, I don’t know, I suppose over the wireless or something. Yeah, I think it might have been because it would have been from the Salvation Army. The Red Shield, they always had the wireless going. Actually,
that’s where I heard it from, so everyone’s celebrating. Did we celebrate? No, there was nothing to celebrate with, you know. Yeah there was no grog or anything, so we didn’t celebrate. We celebrated when I got back to the – when they come back to the Torokina when they all come back. There was two bottles a week per man.
Beer. You should have seen the grog. They started off each week, oh yeah, you could go and draw your six bottles or something like that. I didn’t drink. Though I had a few, was bloody hot stuff. Hot beer in a hot climate. Anyway they got sick and tired of opening the canteen to dish out – so they said, “Come and get all your beer.” Well
every tent had a pyramid of beer, about this high, you know bottles up like this. Eight men in a tent. One fella ended up in hospital cos he couldn’t find his teeth. He thought he swallowed it cos someone said, “Have you got a gnawing pain in your stomach?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “You’ve swallowed…” They took him to hospital and they x-rayed him and everything.
Never swallowed them. He come back and unravelled his mosquito net and there they were. God, there were some drunks there cos they didn’t have anything else to do. There was a big night, one night, and must have got hungry, it was late and they raided the cook’s house. Everything went off. They ate everything, there was nothing left. Tinned stuff
and everything, there was nothing for the cooks to cook the next day. Don’t know how they got on. But there was a big to-do about it.
How did people treat you when you came home wounded?
Well, as I said before, there was chaps I went to school with, and they hadn’t seen me for a while, didn’t know I was away or anything
and, “What happened to you?” And I’d go to explain and soon as I say I was wounded. Used to walk away. Didn’t want to know. So.
Did you experience the flip-side of that? People treating you like a hero because you were wounded for your country?
No, I wasn’t a hero, just that I went away, that’s all. You know they just didn’t want to know because they never went away, there
was very few of my friends, went in the army. I was about the only one out when it ended. There were some, but they weren’t close friends or anything. Or fellas that I went to school with that I knew well. None of them went away. So whether I was a hero or not didn’t matter, I don’t think I’m a hero, I’m just one of those fellas that went.
Do you feel like you were fairly compensated?
No. Not really. They wouldn’t believe me. I – see I was suffering from arterial fibrillation, I used to get – when I – after I come back and I started to work, I had – I used to get these
palpitate – heart you know, used to palpitate and the doctor said, “Oh lots of people have that.” And I never took – really took much notice. I used to just keep on getting them and that was it. And then, I used to fall asleep, I had narcolepsy, they told me. I used to go to the doctor, “You’re working too hard.” I was working hard all right, cos I used to do eight hours at work and come
home and do – you know make furniture for – to sell. I’d work till eleven o'clock at night. So it was a bloody long day and they said to me, “You’re working to late, working too long.” You know. “Cut it out.” But it never made any difference to me, I went away – Christmas holidays and I could sleep sixteen hours a day, and go to bed at night and sleep all night. And then
still wouldn’t take any notice of me, until I started to fall asleep using a bandsaw, a rip saw, me knees used to give away and I used to wake up. “Oh you got catalepsy.” And so, yeah, “Take these pills, they’ll help you.” Never slept for three days. The bloody pills worked, but I never went to sleep. He said, “Come back in a week.” I went back there after the three days were up. “Oh, send you to head
specialist.” You know, and I went to Brisbane and they give me a lactosaphlagram [?] I think it was. And they said, “Oh, you’ve got narcolepsy.” Well, if I had – I never had narcolepsy when I went into the army cos there was nothing like that. Well, they passed me, A-1. And I said, “Well there must have been something,” I said, “Must have,
when I lost all that blood and they were pumping the drugs into me, must have done something to my brain, you know, when I couldn’t see.” “No.” I fought, I said, I had bronchial pneumonia that many times, I never got a pension for that till I was in the ’80s and they gave me ten per cent then. They gave me a 50% pension
for me arm. And that was for life, they said. Well, when they gave me the pension for the bronchitis, they took ten per cent off me arm. So I couldn’t get 70, see if I got 70, if they’d have built me up to 70, I could have appealed on 100%. You know.
It was easy that way, they – you had to get up to 70, but they wouldn’t give me 70. Anyway this other fibrillation I reckon that was caused from losing all the blood too. It never really hit me bad till – if I got, well this night. We’d been to a dance. I was drinking a bit of scotch [whisky], but specialist said, “That’s not what brought it on.”
But me brother in law, he’d been in the army, too, he’d been up in Bougainville, and he’d got – he’d chopped a – they were building their weapon pits and chopping trees down and putting them over and somebody chopped a tree down and yelled out, “Timber!” You know and he never got out of the way and it hit him on the head and he was unconscious for two days I think. And after that he used to take epileptic fits. And I never knew this we were coming home in this Kombi and
he took this fit in the car and oh, I thought he was going to die. I had him out on the road, running up and down, well it wasn’t – I had hold of him you know. Making him walk, cos that upset me. And then the next day I think it was, me heart was going like hell. I couldn’t move, I was – it was that fast that it was hard for me to get up and walk. Anyway, it gradually died down and – on the Monday, that was
Sunday, yeah it went all day and then on the Monday and I went to the doctor, but it had gone back to normal, sent me to specialist, no didn’t know what that was. And then I was all right till I had another bad shock, and we were going round Australia and I got caught under some traffic and it was bad business and I
ended up with it again. And they – oh they did lots of things to and the first thing the specialist said, “You’ve been in a car accident and you’ve lost a lot of blood.” I said, “No I haven’t, I got wounded and lost a lot of blood.” He said, “Well, that’s what it was, that’s what…” Then I got caught again and I’ve been caught a few times, I had to go to hospital and they stopped me heart and started it again, you know, with those
paddles. You know the – they put me under and stopped me heart and started again. They said, if it happens too often, I’ll have to have a pacemaker. But they – I wrote to the repat and I explained everything and I got a letter back to say, “You wouldn’t have lost much blood with a bullet through your arm.” So give them away. When they took me the ten per cent off me, I come home and I found every repat
paper I could in the house, and I went down and burnt them all, I said, “I’m not going back to those people.” They – some of them weren’t even born when they were on the board, when the war was on. That’s how bad it was. You couldn’t get a bloody pension out of them. Anyway they – when I went to this psychologist, this – cousin of Beryl’s, she was the secretary of the ISA – Incapacitated Servicemen’s [Association].
Down in Brisbane somewhere, Wavell or somewhere. And we went to a Christmas party with them and she said, “Oh you’re on TPI.” And I said, “No, I’m not.” And she asked me why and how much I was getting, and she said, “Well I know a fella who will get you a TPI.” But he couldn’t get me a TPI. 100% pension that’s what I ended up on. And that was only because I turned 70.
I found out they give everyone, if they’re on a pension, they give them 100% pension when they turn 70 because they don’t expect you to live long.
John, have you ever spoken to your family about all of your war experiences?
Only – only this. I gave them – me oldest daughter hasn’t read this yet. And I done this, what, five or six years ago. I done this.
Can we talk about that. You’ve done lots of writing about the war, about your experience in the war, how did that come about?
That was because when I went to this psychologist, this – fellow in the ISA, advocate, he said, “You’d…” You know, like he asked me lots of different things and he said, “You’d never been…”
What do they call it, that – they talk you out of it. Psychologist talks you out of it. You know, not assessors, when the police get into trouble and they shoot somebody, what do they have to – no, not a negotiator, to talk you out of the trauma that you’re in. Simple…
Counselling. I’d never been counselled. And he said, it’d be affecting me somewhere along the line it affect me see, and he said, “That’s a good point to up your pension to say that,” Anyway, he went through that and he sent me to this psychologist and I said to the psychologist, I said, “I think I’ve handled it pretty good over the years.” You know and I just simple little things, you know. And
he said, “Yes, you have.” And I quoted some of the experiences I had, but none of the big stuff. Because I never remembered it. And I come home and went to bed that night and I was thinking what he was saying and all this other stuff started to come good and oh, it was – I had to ring up and tell him that – and then I had to go back and see him and I told him, you know sort of opened up a tin of worms when
I got talking about it and it all come back and it was a bit devastating in a sense. But it was – actually ended up real good, because I thought, Well, the best thing to do is, put it down on paper and get it out of me system. And see and then I – then they sent me the book. Post-war stress, 50 years after it happened.
Anyway I’d done this, I’d fixed meself up more or less. But I thought I did handle it pretty good over all those years. Except when I used to get a few drinks aboard and have to stand in the corner and you know, keep on drinking and thinking and drinking and thinking and drinking.
What was that about standing in a corner?
I used to stand out there in the kitchen in the corner against the cupboards and I’d be drinking scotch.
One after the other and that’s when Beryl used to say, “What , are you drinking with your mates?” I wasn’t a drunk or anything like that, but you’d get to a stage where I suppose I didn’t think that it was affecting me. That you know, you’d get into your – state of mind, probably, I wasn’t depressed or anything, like that but
you’d get tired and something would sort of start your mind going and then it wouldn’t stop and you’d be thinking about all the fellas that – went down and what you did and what could have happened and you know and your mind’d go – I used to drink a lot of scotch.
How often do you think you used to think about the war, or do think about the war?
Oh I don’t now, only I never
thought a lot about it. It’s just used to these sessions used to come onto me, you know. I might go six months and it’d not come and then all of a sudden, I’d get them and then I’d start to drink and then it’d get worse and worse and the more scotch I put in, the more I could remember. You know. But I didn’t drink much, well I do knock a few off, but I mean, I don’t – see, and the point
is what used to happen to me, why I could drink a lot, I used to not get any hangover. No hangover. I used to get a little bit tired the next day, but no hangover, no dry mouth or perkin’ [vomiting] or anything like that. No headaches, used to just drink it and that was it.
Do you remember any particular songs that the boys used to sing when you were in New Guinea?
No, we never had songs. I don’t remember. They used to put on concert parties, now and then but no, nothing that I could put down to. Only that when I was in Canungra, this second scout that I ended up with, he was a baritone, he was – he had a beautiful voice and it – he – I don’t remember hearing him sing up there, only at a concert party, you know,
like the battalion used to put on a concert and they’d get different artists from probably Australia and then anyone that was artistic, in the what’s-a-name, used to be able to get up and give songs, things like that. No. I used to sing meself. I used to sing, yeah, I didn’t have a bad voice, only what stopped me was I used to sing every night when I come home from work in the bath tub, you know, in the shower.
I come out one night and I said to Beryl, “You know my voice doesn’t sound too bad when I’m in the shower.” She said, “Yes,” She said, “You want to get a space helmet.” But I used to sing at all the parties and things like that, yeah.
What’s your opinion of the Japanese now?
Same as it was before. I’ve spoken to them, I’ve had one here.
My daughter was – she used to – oh she’s brought back fellas home, and the Japanese and this was, she was in a Bible revival she is. She was a – she was born a Catholic, but she wandered off and she’s in this Bible revival and yeah, she said, “I’m
bringing home…” Or, “Invited a so and so out tonight, for supper.” Or something like that. “He’s got a good tan.” Black as the ace of spades. And then this other night she said, “I met this so and so at this meeting, he’s a Japanese.”
She said, “Do you mind if he comes?” I said, “No, he can come.” Out he come, he was a – he wasn’t in the war, he was a lot younger. He speak good English. But doesn’t worry me.
Did you have any family members, like your dad or uncles that served in the war, not in World War 2, but in…?
Only me Uncle Mick. He was the one, two years older than me. But he never got away to the war. He only got as far as Townsville.
He was crook when they took off, in the tanks and went up to New Guinea, he got a bit of steel in his eye and he was hospital a long time and – cos I wrote to him I said, “I’ll beat you up in the islands.” You know. And he said, “No you won’t.” He said, “My mob’s up there and I’m on me way.” And he got as far as Townsville, and they were coming back. So he never got away at all.
No, I had my mother’s cousins, they – some of them went to the Middle East, I met them, they were – name was Francis, they lived down Newcastle. I didn’t know too many of them down there. I did – I met him after the war, and when he come
back from the Middle East, he was at Caboolture, and he come up here to see us. But they was about the only ones.
Looking back, what’s the thing that makes you most proud about your service?
Just that I did my bit that’s all. No big deal. I helped to save this country, put it that way.
Just double check when I
just asked you then about your family having served, you didn’t have family that served in World War 1, or any earlier than that?
No. No. Grandfathers didn’t, no. I don’t think so anyway, not that I can remember.
Did you join the RSL when you got back?
No. No that was
didn’t actually – when I come back I didn’t want to know anyone. No, I was – I don’t know, well the same as I was talking about the girl that I went with. I just couldn’t – they didn’t speak my language. That’s what it was, if they weren’t in the army, they didn’t speak my on language.
I’d experienced something that they’d never, ever experienced and it did make me different I suppose. And I never joined the RSL, and I never marched cos I thought, it looked to me like a big farce, then. I’d go to the, there’s a monument down the corner, I go with Jimmy, me cobber down there, he’s a year younger than me and his father went to the First World War,
he wears his father’s medals and I go down and we walk together, put the wreath on the monument. And there’s, you know they have bugles and it’s a dawn parade more or less, that’s just down the corner, yeah.
Would you do it all over again?
That’s a hard question. No, that’s
well, knowing what I know now, no. But that’s – you know it’s not really a good question, to ask a person. Maybe if the country got into war and they were desperate, yeah I’d shoulder an arm again, but they don’t ask the 80-year-old people to do that, do they?
Is there any final thoughts or comments that you’d like to say for the archive?
No. I don’t really, but I mean this is the best thing that ever happened. For me, you know this is what I wanted all the time, that could we have something on tape or pictures or something like that to
record what they – the people that went into action. You know there’s lots of things that happened to a lot of other jokers that were probably worse than what happened to me, you know. And it should be recorded, and the people of Australia should know. If they could make films of them and put them on TVs. A series. Which they’ve had before, but whether they were true or not, I don’t know.
Like the story of the – the sail boat that they used to go over and the fellas used to go in and – in canoes and put mines on Japanese ships, one of the fellas was the cook on the ship and he lived down West Ipswich, I knew him. And they made a film of that. He wasn’t in it, but I mean,
part of his story was in it. You know what he did and what they did. They died, they chopped their heads off. And this is what the Australian people should know, not this bloody top secret business.
If you could say something about war, for future generations, what would you say?
Don’t have any. Don’t have any wars.
Get out of it if you can. It’s not pretty, doesn’t do anyone any good. No one wins. You might be on the winning side, but no one wins because you’ve lost too much. You know, you lose a lot of troops, a lot of people die that are only just beginning to live. And I pray for all the ones that are having war in their country, you know.
And then it’s worse now, when the stupid buggers put – strap themselves up with bombs and blow themselves up, gotta be mad. That’s about all I can say.