David Lang
Archive number: 1806
Date interviewed: 14 April, 2004

Served with:

2/8th Battalion AIF
2/4th Battalion AIF

Other images:

David Lang 1806


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Tape 01


Give us a summary of your life.
I was actually born in Elsternwick. I ended up I was


in New Street in Brighton Beach as a young fellow. I ended up in Haileybury College there. During that period,
Don’t worry if you


don’t remember something. We’ll forget about that summary. It might be easier if I ask questions. You grew up in Elsternwick? What family life did you have?
I was actually just born there and my parents were living in New


Street. I went back to New Street in Brighton Beach. From there to Haileybury College.
Do you remember what life was like during the Depression?
Our family


were a little bit lucky. My father had a few troubles. From there to Haileybury College, I was there until I was about 15. Then I ended up my mother went


overseas to the Jubilee. She was a Scotchwoman. My father met her in World War I. He was an artillery officer. He met her in Scotland and they got married over there.
Did your father tell you much about his


experiences in World War I?
No, we weren’t that friendly, really. I didn’t get on too well with him. When Mother went to the Jubilee, she went back to meet some of her family and things like that, and I ended up


having an argument with my father and I disappeared up into the country around Camperdown. I ran away from home type of business. I spent quite a considerable time up there. My hobbies up there were shooting.


I was a crank on shooting guns and things. I’d actually done a cadet course at the Haileybury in those days. I’m leading up to the point when I joined the army, I was a very good rifle shot. I’m leading up to say that I was very


good on the rifle, but only telling you that, not as striking or anything like that, but just to let you know later on why I was put in certain positions.
When was the first time you used a rifle?
I suppose when I was about, at Haileybury College


they used to take us to the rifle range. I’d be about 15, 14.
What did you like about it?
I don’t know, it was just a sport as far as I was concerned. While I was up in Camperdown working on this dairy farm,


my only relaxation was really shooting in those days. I was shooting rabbits all the time, in my spare time of course. That’s how I ended up being a rather good shot.
What other things did you do for entertainment as a boy?
I was a fishing crank.


I used to do a lot of fishing off Brighton Beach. I had canoes and I used to go out fishing in canoes and that type of thing. Mum finally arrived home and she ended up discovering where I’d moved. She arrives, I’m milking cows this particular day and she


arrived home. I was up there. She wanted me home. It ended up I was interested in agriculture and she said, “Well, we’ll send you to Longeron Agricultural College.”


I ended up going back on holidays to Brighton Beach and I met this girlfriend of mine who was holiday time. He was at Longeron Agricultural College and, “Oh,” he said, “It’s all right up there.” So I said to Mum, “I’d like to go to Longeron.” No regrets


either. I spent nearly a couple of years up there. The war broke out.
Do you remember the day that war broke out?
I remember it was 1939.


Around about October.
Do you remember what you heard that day?
Just that Menzies had declared war and the next day I went to the principal of the college and I said, “I’m going to join


the army.” He said, “You’ll have to wait a little bit longer, yet. They haven’t recruited anybody.” I was young and stupid. I finally ended up going into joining up at Horsham, but


no train or anything. I was then sent down by rail to Melbourne and put in camp in Melbourne. You had to be 21 in those days. I’d just had my 18th birthday.


You had to be 5 foot 6. I was 5 foot 5. I’d got away with everything when I enlisted up in the other place, but I had to go through a proper business in Melbourne. This doctor ended up he said,“5 foot 5. If


you’re that keen to join the army, you’re 5 foot 6.” Later I could have cut his throat. That was the beginning of the army. From there was sent back to Puckapunyal up in.


Why were you so keen to join the army so quickly?
It was just young and silly and fancy type of business. It wasn’t for being patriotic or anything like that.
What did you think it would be like?
The imagination that I had was entirely


wrong. I had a lot of surprises.
What did you imagine at that time?
Not that it’d be as bad as it was. I spent all this training period in Puckapunyal and ended up in the 2/8th Battalion. It was


fairly rigorous training up there. In 1941 in August we ended up catching a boat at Melbourne and we went right up through the Suez Canal to


a place called Kantara. We disembarked at Kantara and then we were put on trains. We were taken right up to Palestine. We were put in several camps. Finally we ended up


in this place called Greta, Palestine.
What was it like when you went along to join up? Were there many other men joining up?
It was pretty early in the war.


I was driven to the barracks and there were two men there. I remember they asked me if I had any cigarettes. I said, “No.” I’d actually been allocated a bed.


I found out that the canteen opened, this would be about an hour or so later, and I went to the canteen and bought a packet of fine cut tobacco and when I got back I gave them tobacco.


From that day they were two villains, not an awful lot older than I was, and they took my under their wings.
What were they like?
One of them was called the Bush Lawyer. The other one


was a swaggie. Really nice guys. The funny part about it was when I finally ended up going up to Puckapunyal and ended up in the 2/8th Battalion, these two jokers were in there. They’d gone up there. So I wasn’t split up with them. I got on very well with them.


They were real mischief fellows. Got into a lot of trouble.
What did they do?
I got into some of it myself, stupid things.


I didn’t take very well to getting bossed around all the time. It was in my nature not to be ordered around very much, which was stupid, but young and silly. At one stage, this is during the training period back


in Palestine, do you want me to go back to Palestine?
That’s all right. I was trying to get a story about Puckapunyal, but if you’ve got a story about these blokes and the trouble you got into.
It was just stupid things. Not trouble in that camp, more when


we got back to Puckapunyal.
You said you didn’t like being bossed around.
On the boat and things like that, it was very, very rough going, going to Palestine, especially when we


left Melbourne. It was unbelievable, The whole bay there, it was rough as billyo. To me it was a joke because I’d been that used to the water and I loved boating. I'm really laughing to myself. Sailors were being sick.


We were right down in the boat and man it was terrible. I ended up, there was people sick all over you, terrible. Once we left Australia, it wasn’t too bad at all. But it was the first time I was charged in the army.


You were on duty. It was only for about an hour. You had to relieve people. So I wasn’t relieved, the person that should have woken me up, nobody turned up. Unfortunately, the officer must have eventually found out


there was nobody on duty and I was supposed to. So I was taken up to the, you know, and charged the next day for not being on my post. It was just before we got to Western Australia. It was just a joke,


really. I was confined to the boat and they were on leave. I never said that I hadn’t been woken up.
What did you think about being charged?
It was more or less a joke as far as I was concerned. It didn’t worry me. It was quite a few incidents, stupid things like that,


got me more annoyed. There was an English corporal in charge of us. We ended up in Greta in Palestine. He annoyed me. He was a Pommy [Englishman], but he was


Australian army. We didn’t get on too good. One morning I must have woken up with a bad liver. He marched me up and said something and I ended up I clubbed him. I’m up on charge in front of this Colonel Mitchell, he came from Horsham.


He was very nice about it. I had to go to my commanding officer and he put me on probation for six weeks or so. So I was good boy for that six weeks and then it was all


How would you describe yourself back then?
I didn’t like, even at school, I didn’t like people telling me what to do. In those days, you used to have prefects and all the rest of it.


They had the opportunity to take you to the schoolmaster and give you, you know, bash you. It was all getting worse and worse, rebelling against authority. It was stupid.
Did you know that when you joined the army you’d be told what to do?


I knew, but it was just the way some people acted that got under my skin. It was no excuse really.
Can you describe the training you did in Puckapunyal?
It was route marches,


really long route marches, bayonet training, shooting, and all that, infantry warfare. It was quite strenuous work. Long route marches. Round about that stage too, there was a big fire


near Puckapunyal out in the back there. We were fire fighting, all those types of things. It was interesting. Getting back to the shooting business, they told us how to shoot and all the rest of it. Then I was told I wasn’t


moving the right way. All these things were checked, but it ended up that me being such a good shot, like I was saying, that it led to me being a scout. In the training in Palestine and all that, it was the people that were good


shots that were put in certain positions. So back in Puckapunyal that was the beginning, because they realised that I’d shot a gun before.
How did you like the training in Puckapunyal?
It was invigorating. I had nothing to complain about really.


It was strenuous, but I didn’t mind it.
What about the conditions at Puckapunyal?
We were fed very well. No complaints. We were all in little huts,


about nine people to a hut. Got on well there.
How did people become friends during that training time? Was there a sense of mateship developing then?


Yes, to a certain extent. I’d say friendships started more in the Middle East. I ended up friendly with quite a few at Puckapunyal.


The unfortunate part, one very nice fellow I got friendly with, we had another physical, doctors checking you over, and I lost him as a mate. He was discharged.


Why was he discharged?
For not being physically fit.
So they let you in even though you were a little bit short?
Yes. The doctor that examined me told me to stand on my


toes type of thing. I was standing on my toes and he said, “I’m not blind. But if you’re that keen, you’re 5 foot 6.” I think I told you that.
Would you have been much smaller than the other blokes that were joining up?
Yes, but I had a very, very hairy chest.


Nobody would have thought a fellow in his 18s would have had a chest that was very hairy. So I had no problems putting it over that I was 21.
What did your parents say about you joining up?
I never got


on very well with my father. When I came back on leave on a few occasions from Puckapunyal, my mother must have told him that, “You’ll let him know that he’s underage and they’d inform the authorities.”


So I told him that I’d run away and enlist somewhere else. Well, I’d done that earlier in life, so they didn’t interfere with me. So that was that.
Was your mother concerned about you joining up?
What did


she say?
I think she more or less talked my father into telling it. I told him that I was going to enlist so it all smoothed over.
What did you know about what was happening in Europe at the time you joined up?


We knew that, Puckapunyal and places like that, the invasion in Dunkirk and all those types of things.
What did you think war would be for you?
An adventure.


That’s all. As I say, I was just young and silly.
On the boat trip, describe the conditions on the boat. How many people were there onboard?
I suppose there’d


be a battalion and a half. About 600 people. The conditions, like I said, was…because you were put down in holds and all these people being sick. I told you about it all.


It was disgusting, the smells down there. So that more or less finished once we got to Perth and it was perfect. Perfect through the Suez Canal and Kantara and up.
What do you remember thinking when you were leaving Australia?


Wondering where I was going next. I wasn’t particularly worried. No. Just take it as it comes. Yeah.
Tell us about


when you first saw the Middle East.
Going through the Suez Canal, it was unbelievable. It seemed that narrow to me, the whole of the Suez. To see the boats on it and all desert. It was unbelievable. I was very


surprised. The train trip to Palestine, I shouldn’t tell you this. This is not for printing or anything like that.
You don’t want to tell us on camera? Is there any reason you can’t tell us?


It’s nothing I did. It was when we were entrained on that boat, we’d been issued with condoms and all that. The chap that was on one of the carriages he blew one up as a balloon.


It was all these Arabs around and they were selling bananas. He’s handing these blown-up condoms and he’s getting all these bananas and things free. They thought it was marvellous. So everybody on the train ended up blowing these damn things up and everybody’s getting all these bananas.


Doesn’t sound very nice, but it was such a joke you couldn’t help but laugh.
When they issued you with the condoms, what did they say to you about that?
I’m damned if I even remember. It was just all sort of a regular thing they did. You didn’t ask for


them, you were just supplied with them. That’s all it was.
Did they tell you about VD [venereal disease] or anything like that?
Yes, we’d been told on lectures on the boat and all that.
What did they tell you?
I suppose more or less what they tell young people nowadays.


They told you about examinations and all the rest of it after leave, just all that type of thing.
Do you remember having any reaction to the warnings about VD?


Did you know much about sex back then?
Not a great deal, no.
What had you learned from school or your parents?
Nothing. No. But I learned plenty at school at Longeron and places. It was all history.


Can you tell us more about the train trip where you travelled into Palestine?
Yes, from the Suez Canal to a place called Kantara, trained through to Gaza.
Describe the conditions on the train.
They were OK. No worries


at all. We were treated pretty good. When we got to Palestine, the tucker was OK. No worries. Ended up in Gaza. In that area there was a big camp there and eventually


got to that.
How long was that train trip?
It wasn’t that long, really.
Did you enjoy it? Were you excited?
I was excited, looking at the scenery, even though it was


just desert most of it. Not very many reactions. They set in at the first camp we went to, we were only there for a few days and well fed. Eventually to Gaza. In Gaza until


19… I ended up in jail there. Being a good shot, some of these manoeuvres that were taken from the Gaza camp, I was on quite a few. This particular one I was left because of me being


a good shot I always ended up putting on guard. A friend of mine who'd been kicked, one of these two men that I spoke about that I got friendly with in Melbourne, I had been with him this particular day


and he’d gone into Gaza and he got himself into a bit of trouble and was kicked in the bollocks [testicles] by provos [Provosts – Military Police]. He was brought back to the camp. It happened to be the time that I was on guard. I was sent to the hospital


to guard him. So he put me to bed the first night, I got a bit piddled. He put me to bed. From there I ended up being bitten by a scorpion


and I ended up in hospital for a while. Charlie and I ended up both going together, sent to a recovery sort of place


in Haifa. In Haifa, we ended up one night going to a café. We ended up, it was run by Jewish Arabs type of business.


This chap in the café diddled us. So I said to Charlie, “We’ll get this bugger.” There was big rows of chooks [chickens]


behind the café.
Interviewee: David Lang Archive ID 1806 Tape 02


You were talking about the chickens behind the shop.
Yes. At Longeron Agricultural College, I’d learned that you could get hold of chooks and if you rock them you could send them to sleep. So Charlie and I crept up behind the café and all these chooks were there.


We’re rocking them and putting them all asleep. The noise must have been a little bit too much, and the next thing I remember was the provos, they were Pommy provos, one’s coming at me and I’ve got a chook and I threw it at him and bang, whack,


I’m out to it. The next thing I remember, I’m in jail. I’m taken in front of the person in charge of the rehabilitation camp. Charlie knew a thing or two about these types


of things. You had the option of being tried by jury or, he said, “60 days is the most I can give you.” So that was 60 days. Oh, I’m sorry, it wasn’t 60 days, it was a month in jail.


Taken down to this Jerusalem jail. When we walked in the gates, people were going, “Cock-a-doodle-doo.” The noise must have got down. How they knew I don’t know. It was


really bad. They were all Australian people in this particular lockup. The funny part about it, most of those men had been put out of battalions as undesirables and they were the screws [warders] in this jail.


They were pigs. One young fellow had committed suicide just before I got there. They were very, very bad people.
Why do you say that? What did they do?
They’d bash you. Everything was on the double.


From the moment you went through those gates you were on the double all the time. They’d bash you. At one stage I thought I was smart. You had to put toilet things on your back cans.


I was right up on the balcony somewhere and I tipped mine over at a provo. Straight in front of the commandant of the camp and I explained it was an accident. “Oh,” he said, “That’s quite all right.


I understand.” I thought, “God, I’ve got away with this.” He knew what would happen. What those guards did to me was unbelievable. They’d have these huge jerry cans and I had to polish them all the time. I suppose I asked for it. As far as


the accident was concerned, he knew damn well what these provos would do to me. It was a short-lived.
Were they physically violent?
Tell us about that?
Yeah, they were mongrels. The thing that annoyed me so much was that they were bastard undesirables that were


put out of the battalion. That was what annoyed me more than anything. Forget it.
Tell us what they did to you.
Just bashings. And these tins that I had to polish all the time. They’d come in and they’d spit on them and, “This is


dirty” and bang, they’d hit you. That’s it.
You were in there for a month?
Were you badly injured at any time?
No. I was finally taken back to the camp before being rehabilitated back into


the guard.
You said a young man had committed suicide in the jail.
I heard that, yes.
Do you know what that was about?
Can you walk us through the jail, what it was like?
It was


originally a monastery type of place. Led down into dungeons and right up into rooms. It’s a bit hard to describe. Up and down.
Did you have your own cell?


There was about four or five to a cell.
Tell us about the time you were bitten by a scorpion.
It was really nothing. I was


on parade. It was a Sunday. We used to be forced to go out. I’m not a religious man, but you had to go out. This particular minister was a drunk.


He came out behind. To cut a long story, he had masks (UNCLEAR) battle dress. And the scorpion must have been in there; they were big fellows. He ended up he bit me


up in this area. Very painful. I wasn’t worried about the bastard silly-looking carryings on going on, so I just dropped everything and I went to the RAP [Regimental Aid Post]. Eventually this is how I ended up


back with my mate that I ended up on guard with. That was that.
How bad was the sting?
The whole arm came up like that. It must have got infected.


It went like that. This is the funny part I told you about that I ended up next to a mate of mine. By then, there’s no guard on. It’s been withdrawn and I ended up in the next bed.


That’s the business of what I just told you.
How long were you in hospital?
Not that long. They treated it and finally it had to be drained a bit. I’ve forgotten now.
When you were bitten, did you know what had happened to you? Could you see the scorpion?
Yeah, I saw


the bugger. He was that long. Really big ones over there. It was more or less like a big needle. That wasn’t so much, it was the infection that must have got into the section. No worries.
Describe the camp at Gaza.


The main camp.
It was a tremendous size camp. There were a few battalions. A brigade had ended up there.


It had been places with shelters with Arabs. They were in there making tucker, even had laundries there. It was very well run. It was


like Puckapunyal, very huge amounts of training. We were there until 1941. Then we moved from there to,


it’d be in 1941 we arrived there.
What equipment were you carrying in Gaza?
There was different chaps with anti-aircraft guns and, not anti-aircraft guns, you


know, we were carrying rifles as an infantry battalion, but
What rifles were you carrying?
303s. It was bayonet practice and an awful lot of long, long marches into the desert. We even used to go as far as a place called Beersheba, which


the men in the Light Horse in World War 1 had been right out in that area. It was a long way from Gaza. Even all through that territory was marches and things like that. From there, up into,


let me think for a few minutes. We were actually back into Cairo.
Describe what Cairo was like at that time.
When I say Cairo, it wasn’t Cairo, it was


Of course.
Tell us about Alexandria.
The population there was unbelievable. There was an awful lot of homeless and people like that. It was a depressing kind of


place. We didn’t’ stop there very long. Then up the coast into Libya and then our battalion ended up taking Tobruk.


From Tobruk we ended up in a place called Derna. It’s further up the coast. Then finally to Benghazi, which is right up the very top. I’ve got to tell you about Benghazi.


We never really went into Benghazi itself. We were just on the outskirts. Our particular battalion were formed up into a square, didn’t know why. Who should arrive and is put on a platform but Menzies?


He got up on a stool in the centre there. “Well, boys,” he said, “I’ve flown all over the territory that you fellows have captured on the point of bayonet.” It’s dead quiet. And this joker yells out on the top of his voice, “Why the bloody hell didn’t you walk like we did, you bastard”.


The whole battalion, officers and all the rest of it, just went hysterical and laughed. I’ll give Menzies this, he never turned an eyelid. Any other man, it would have, he never batted an eyelid. It was funny.
You weren’t expecting


him to be there?
No, we never knew.
What were your thoughts when you saw him?
It happened so quickly, him yapping and this guy yelling. Officers and all, we laughed like hell.
Were there any recriminations afterwards?
No, none whatsoever.


He wasn’t there that long. He must have slunk out of there quick. That was Menzies. From there it was a slow trip back to Alexandria, by bus. Small trips back the whole territory that we’d come.


You haven’t told us about Tobruk. Is this after you’ve been to Tobruk?
Yeah. We were on the outskirts of Tobruk about 4 in the morning and we broke through and it


was, I believe one of the longest trip that any infantryman had done. It was 33 miles from when we started until we captured the joint that night.


A few interesting things there. At one stage of the game all the pay for all the Italian army was captured. There’s all these lire notes.


I jammed quite a few of them into my pocket. We had (UNCLEAR). A lot of that stuff was caught, picked up the next day too.


Unfortunately at one stage of the game we had our artillery behind us and the Italians bombing with our artillery, and we’re in the middle of it. There was quite a few casualties caused by


somebody misjudged things and. OK, finally out of that.
How close were you to those people who were injured or killed?
Anybody was injured.
Were you close by to that?
Tell us what you saw when that was happening.
It just was a close your mind and keep going


back out when you think of moving. The Ities [Italians] were very bad fighters. They were capitulating and all the rest of it. If you were in their artillery fire, then you still,


but more or less after that, if you got in front of their artillery or things like that, (UNCLEAR) handle. The most amazing thing to me, at one stage, really near the end of it,


a few of us had to recharge the machinegun post. It was dark. They’re firing a few, these bullets, and it’s the most amazing thing that I’ve ever struck. All these bullets, they’re luminous and they’re going so slowly. You felt as though


you could pick them up. It must be an illusion or something. It was the strangest thing. In campaigns I’d never struck that type of thing before because I’ve never been, we were machine gunned at night by planes and things, but not attacking. They were coming that slowly past you, you thought you could pluck them out.


Strange sensation. Finally, OK. Next day we did a looking for people and all that. It was all quiet. A fellow and I


were searching things and got down a tunnel. These two Ities were two huge fellows. I’d never seen that Itie They must have been the southern fellows. They were really big men. They’re sitting at


this little table drinking plonk. “Have a drink,” they’re saying. We sat down with them, the two of us, and we ended up knocking off quite a lot of plonk.
This is the day after the big battle with the Italians?


It just shows you the silly things troops get up to.
What happened after your drink with them?
They were annoyed when another patrol came in and took them away.
They took them prisoner?
Yes. There was thousands of these prisoners.


They’d been captured from all over the place. They gave themselves up.
You were happy to sit down and have a drink with the guys you’d been firing at the night before?
Yeah, we didn’t mind. Just shows you how stupid you can get.
What did you think about the enemy in


You don’t think, really. You just set your mind to go. You really just want to move and that’s it. You don’t think.
Tell us more about the battle the night before.


What did you personally do?
It was quite a long slowly moving right through the barriers and all the rest of it, until that little instance that I told you about the machinegun.


More or less just your head down and through barricades and things like that. I can remember a few incidents like that corporal I told you about I was in trouble with,


we were in a trench. A mate and I were alongside and a tank had come up, an Italian tank. They were shooting at us.


This silly-looking corporal yelled out, “Charge.” Me and my mate were, anything in those circumstances you don’t take any notice, you just went. So we got up and he got shot in the arm.


Nobody else moved, including the corporal. We were the only two that moved. He got it in the arm and I managed to get straight back. I couldn’t believe it.
Do you know why the corporal and nobody else moved?
I don’t know.


They mightn’t have heard him, but we heard. But he never moved. It made you disappointed with a lot of things. Finally some English guys arrived in another


tank and blew the Itie up. So I remember those two incidents.
Tell us about the preparation for Tobruk.
All that was made in the training camps in


Palestine. That was it.
Were you briefed about what you were going to do or what the plan was?
Yes. Incidentally we were given some rum before we


went that night. We were being told it was just an advancement to Tobruk. Before we did all this, a good swig of rum. A joke, which you’ll hear later, because in the cold up


in Greece, no rum, but in the desert.
Was the rum to warm you up, or to give you courage?
I should imagine courage. I never had much.
What was the mood among the men like


before that march? Did people talk about what you would be doing?
Not really. Not in the infantry battalions. I should imagine in others. Ours was just a job to get there.
Did you need that rum to give you courage?


God, no. No. To me, as far as it was concerned was to wipe your mind. Finally back to Mersa [Mersa Matruh]. We had leave there. Incidentally, getting back to the money part,


Tobruk, after about a fortnight, it was quite a considerable time, we were told all Italian lire had to be returned. I had quite a bit on me. I hung on to it. We used an awful lot for toilet


paper and it was a joke. Then the Italian lire was still quite viable to use in Alexandria and anywhere.


So unfortunately I still had a fair bit of it, but I got rid of an awful lot of it, including a place in Derna. I was a scout getting into that area. I got there and I got into this


place, met this fellow in there. It was a pub. I’m giving him these liras and there’s enough plonk to keep us. I sent word back that you can get into, that Derna’s OK. It used to be


forward scout. A scout on his own. Our company ended up outside it. All the grog we managed to take back and give to the guys. So that was one time when lire came in handy.


Tell us more about being a forward scout in the Middle East, what your job was.
If you’re doing any big invasions like Tobruk, there was no such thing. You moved in as a lot. But in certain sections like Derna,


you were supposed to. Even in Derna, the scouts were very close together in those sections. Like going up the hills to Derna, not this little town I’m talking about. The Derna


one we’re all spreadeagled alongside these mountains as we’re advancing up to the mountain sort of plateau. They open up with anti-aircraft guns.


They were hitting, they were exploding over our heads. It was very little injuries that I know of. We arrive there and these two English newspaper guys are wandering through, this is just before they opened up with


the shells. They’re walking straight up into it. Fortunately they weren’t killed. We’re all just walking. They were warned not to. To cut a long story short from that part of the business that, later on they were both killed.


When we were put in trucks to go right up to Benghazi, they were killed, they were in the front in trucks. At one stage of the game, when we were getting shelled, this bastard mate of mine must have had a fair bit to drink. Where the hell he got it I don’t know. He’s wandering through


to give me a drink and I’m telling him to get back. So they were the type of mates you had. They’d do anything for you.
What was the incident when those two blokes were killed near Benghazi?
You remember I said that we


ended up taking Derna. A bit outside of Derna, we ended up in trucks. The Italians were evacuated and gone to billyo. We were put into trucks and taken up to Derna more or less. Just shortly after


we got out of Derna in the trucks, there was an ambush. That’s where the two newspaper guys got killed. They were up forward. So that was it.
Were there many other people killed in that ambush?
I don’t know. We were at the bottom end. I’m not quite sure. I don’t think so. They were the only ones


I heard that got killed. They were in the forward truck. I don’t know.
Interviewee: David Lang Archive ID 1806 Tape 03


We’re down in a place called Mersa. We’re on leave before we go over to Greece. Incidentally, some of the money that we’d captured in Tobruk, no worries at all. They were


grabbing them so we had quite a fun time in Mersa. Finally ended up going over to Greece. Ended up in a town called Piraeus outside Athens.


Nothing exciting on the way over. Stopped a few days in Greece, in Athens around that area. Then finally we were taken by truck all right up as close as possible to the border to


Yugoslavia and Greece. It was so cold, snow. After being used to the Middle East it was, this particular spot that we were


taken to. There was a big, long line of divisions. We were on the left hand side. At night, no action whatsoever, it was cold. No planes, thank God. This chap


and I were put in charge of a little shack. It was inside the border. We were told to be very careful, all the explosives were frozen, and to be careful not to jar them or anything.


So that night some Pommy artillery, big 60-pounders, were behind us. They opened up, and the shack was moving like this. So we both spent a very hard night in this shack.


Next morning the Hun [Germans] broke through, right down the line. We were on the very left hand side. There was a bridge that our engineers had blown up. It was all gone.


So an awful lot got through. We were forced to go to the left; evacuation was on. Teamed up with an officer and about a dozen odd guys. We did a forced march, advancing


down that side. We ended up crossing the river right down, doing a forced march right there. We got close to Athens and all the trees there.


There was all these troops. We joined them. They were waiting to get evacuated by boat. Boats were all outside. To cut a long story short, this particular night we were evacuated


on a boat called the Costa Rica. We were only about a day out and the Stukas attacked us. They had quite a few goes. We weren’t the only boats. There was quite a lot of


other people getting evacuated on different boats. They hit us sometime the next morning. When I say, ‘hit us’, I was up in the forward deck and the shell ended up and it hit the


side of the boat. It damaged all underneath. So this [HMS] Hereford, an English cruiser, ended up picking us off this Costa Rica. I think there were very few casualties. There was a couple


of fellows might have been squashed. We were all supposed to be going back to Egypt, but after being hit, this Hereford picked us up and took us to Crete.
Did you see any conflict in Greece? Were you involved in any conflict?
No, not really. Because


as I say, we did this forced march all around. So I never, apart from air strikes and things like that, I saw very little action in Greece.
What were the air strikes like?
The Stukas come right down


and it’s the noise of the jolly things. They spray you. The boat ends up dumping us at a place called Moulmein, which is a little port on Crete. We were there for


quite a few weeks. Virtually doing nothing. It was beyond bombing, Stukas, all that. About three or four weeks later the sky was unbelievable


over Moulmein. You couldn’t see the sky for them. It was unbelievable, just black with aircraft. They consisted of bombers, Stukas, gliders and they virtually,


we managed to shoot an awful lot of the glider fellows. They came down in as paratroopers and gliders. It was a terrific fight in this Moulmein area.
Did you know they were coming?


we didn’t know they were coming. Incidentally, getting back to the Hereford. I’m jumping a little bit, those poor guys that picked us up, it was shortly afterwards, they ended up getting sunk off Crete somewhere.


I remember swearing to myself that if I ever got onto one of them I’d get him drunk for a week. It was a Pommy boat. That was the end of it. Huge battle going on in the Moulmein area. The Stukas, the


paratroopers, they really got a bashing. They were gliding down and you couldn’t miss them. By this time all the Moulmein area has been captured. It was a near spot there for planes. There was also a little hospital there.


They ended up in a matter of days capturing the whole joint, then they drove us all up the south end of Crete. It was fairly narrow. They were ended up in different sections. Finally to a place called Sfakia.


That was where a lot of boats were ready for evacuating us. Finally ended up at Sfakia where they had capitulated this particular day, a lot of them had been put on boats.
Who had capitulated?


The whole island.
But you hadn’t at that point?
Yes, June the 1st.
So you’d been captured at this point?
Yeah. But I ended up with three other fellows, two other fellows; it was June the 1st the capitulation.


Then a few of us moved around, it took us about three days, we were following the coastline. We ended up more or less in the mountains, but looking down into this little fishing village. We could see it was like a little horseshoe with a few boats in it.


We crept down there onto the beach. It had been practically nobody in the place, maybe a few civilians hiding. We’re there for a few hours looking at the


place and we see this patrol coming down the mountainside that we’d come down. It turns out it was a dozen odd fellows, a few naval fellows, naval officer, a mixed mob.


We made ourselves known and told them we were about to go to sea. We got hold of this, this naval fellow reckons we’ll get on and go onto Libya,


Africa. So we get everything organised. Four of us swam out with a sail and this largest of the boats was moored alongside a cliff.


The officer’s onboard the ship and he’s able to pull the sail over. Four Stukas came over that quickly, just bang. A patrol must have spotted us. Three of us


managed to get onto this little cliff and they just bombed the boat clean out of the water. We’re in the cliff, which ends up fortunately it must have been a smuggler’s place and the entrance was right there on the corner and it went right up into the cliff.


All these steps. It was filled with stuff. Lucky for us because with all this bombing going on. The officer never got there. It’s driving all the water from all these explosions, we were only metres away, it’s driving all the water straight into the cave


and the water’s going. If it had been a normal cave we’d have had it. Fortunately we were able to go up these steps, which we never knew anything about. Fortunately the water’s following us with the bombing, but we’re going up and up and up and finally it’s all over and we could still have gone a little bit further, but it was,


as I say a smuggler’s, there was junk and stuff all in there. We came down to the surface, the water had dropped. Honestly, there was just sticks and no sign of the officer. Ended up swimming.
His body wasn’t there?
Blown to smithereens. Nothing at all.


We ended up the three of us swimming into shore. The Huns had sent a patrol down. The other guys were all on the beach. It was just on dark.


The Huns had got right down. They virtually surrounded us. We had our feet in the water. Fortunately I had a Luger [pistol]. Some had German water


bottles and things like that. We were just in the edge of the water, in it really. The Huns got us. I was able to dice the Luger into the water without being seen, fortunately. They caught one of the fellows with a water bottle.


They didn’t kill him, but they bashed him real bad. So I was very lucky.
What were they like to you when you first had to surrender?
These guys weren’t too bad, really, apart from bashing anybody that had German equipment. They did them over.


That was only a couple I think.
How did you feel, having to surrender?
I suppose in one way, after all the canoodle, you were sort of expecting it. So it was no great surprise.


Spent the night there and then taken back to the original place we were surrendered, to Sfakia. I got the job, most of the people had been taken back towards Moulmein, and I


got the job of having to go down a cliff, there was a few of us, there’d been a hospital down there the British had had. There was quite a few wounded. We had to go down and make a tress, a stretcher.


We had to climb up the mountainside with a few of the wounded. It wasn’t a very nice experience, cos they were badly wounded.
What were some of their wounds?
One I pulled up had been hit in the groin.
Had they had any care at all?


I think they’d been semi-patched. We were finally got them right up to, taken to a hospital which the Huns had on top of the, on the way back to Moulmein.


Poor fellow we had, he fortunately passed out by the time we’d gone (UNCLEAR) away. Terrible.
He died?
Did you have to bury him?
No. We took him to the hospital, but he died there.


There was a few others got there, but I don’t know what happened with them.
What nationality were those guys?
The one that I had was an Englishman.
Did he say anything to you before he passed out?
No. Screaming all the time.
Did you try and ease his…?
Couldn’t do anything.


A few more that were taken ended up at this hospital. I was that buggered, as far as the feet were concerned, I stopped in the hospital, hidden, I couldn’t have walked


very well. Stopped there a few days. Finally ended up back at this Moulmein, the prison camp at this Moulmein area. We were kept there for


over five weeks.
What was the camp like?
There was no facilities there whatsoever. There was very little tucker. Other fellows were sick, but there was medical


people there, but they had no gear.
What were the guys sick from?
Malnutrition, dysentery and things like that. Eventually we were put on boats and taken to Salonika in Greece.


How many days? It was quite, I’m guessing now. It wasn’t terribly long, a few days, taken to Salonika and we were put in this huge internment camp.


It was a terrible place. I suppose there’d be around about 2,000 of us, all nationalities.


What did you feel when you first got into that place?
Full of despair and not the very best, because it had sort of taken root by then.
How did you stay


I was pretty healthy. We were put with mongrels. The troops that were


frontline troops weren’t so bad, but these fellows that were non-fighting troops, they were the worst of the lot.
Yes. They’d take us and count us every damn day.
These were German soldiers?
German soldiers,


but not combatants. They were guards and things like that. The food was really inedible. It was just boiled up broth and stuff like


that. They’d line us up and count us. It’d take hours and hours and hours. In the end there was an awful lot of them went down with malaria, dysentery, all those types of things.
What did it smell like?


Sort of been used to bad smells. It was one thing I suppose it was worse than a lot we’d gone through. I finally,


this is how bad they were hassling and all the rest of it. One night one fellow went to a lavatory, which was near the barbed wire. They machine-gunned him on the lavatory. That’s the type they were. One time, earlier than this,


when we got there, some kids ended up throwing some tomatoes over the wall for us. The Huns caught them and they flogged them in front of us. We couldn’t do anything. The kids were only about nine or ten.


That’s the type of beasts they were. Found out very late in the business that a lot of the fellows were going through an escape hole. It was leading under the wire. It was a long distance. I think the Greek people had found it.


I was lucky, I found out very late about it and managed to get the OK. I was just on the entrance, it was just a tiny little thing, couldn’t move.


Shots were ringing out the other side and the people in the other side had been shot. I went straight back. They never realised where the entrance was at that stage. They ended up shooting most of the people in the tunnel. I don’t know who they were, what they were.


That was back to the rigmarole. We were put on boats. I told you this was in Salonika.
Did you have other friends at Salonika? Who did you hang around?


Nobody really.
You said there was three of you that were…?
Oh, this is back on Crete.
When you got to Salonika you were separated from those men?
Yes. I don’t know what happened to them.
You got separated when you got to the hospital?
Yes. After dragging these people out.
They were gone?
I never


found out what happened to them.
At Salonika, did you find other Australians?
There was a lot of Australians in Salonika. I’d say there’d be about 1,000 Australians. About the same mix.
In there, what did they


do to occupy their time?
You didn’t. You had nothing. Your physical condition was where you couldn’t do much at all.
They didn’t play games?
God, no.


Not in physical condition to do anything.
Was there just a big wire fence around all of you in a big area?
Did you have beds?
No, I never. There was a few barracks, but it was just sleeping out for a hell of a lot of people.
How long were you there?


We were there for, we were one of the late ones that were taken out. There had been people there for quite a while. We were there for nearly about two months. It was a hell of a time there. You can imagine the conditions we were in.


Were there fights between the men inside?
No. We were OK. Then from Salonika started our train trip.


It took roughly about six days before we ended up in a place called Moosburg, which was, this train trip, it was just a few buns and


practically nothing to eat. We were let out about five minutes a day. They had 42 a cattle truck. Not even enough room to lie down in a lot of cases. The one


I was in, there was two chaps delirious. A couple fainted and all that type of thing. Arrived at Moosburg and Moosburg was about


30-odd miles outside of Munich. It was another huge camp there. It was all, there was hundreds and thousands of fellows there. Free French,


everybody you could think of. A lot of Dunkirk boys. It was marvellous, really. We were taken out and issued with blankets and allocated space in


beds and things like that. It was really like stepping from hell into heaven, it really was. We were treated reasonable meals. Some of the poor fellows, their stomachs had shrunk. We were all like that.


They’d shrunk that much that some of them, I knew this type of business, they got stuck into biscuits that were given to them and it grew in their stomachs and an awful lot ended up getting crook, but that was their own fault.


After having such empty bellies and whack in stuff to the extent that they did, they were very sick. I don’t think any of them died or anything like that.
Did any of the men die on the cattle trucks?
I should imagine they did.
Not in yours?
What were the men that were delirious doing on the truck?


We were just getting carried to where I’m talking about, Munich.
But the delirious men?
Still in the cattle trucks.
What were they doing, the delirious men?
They were just jammed in the corner.
Were they speaking about hallucinating?
You were


trying to shut your mind off all the time. They were absolutely completely buggered. They were dragged off the train. I don’t know what happened to them.
Interviewee: David Lang Archive ID 1806 Tape 04


Tell us more about Moosburg when you got there.
Well treated. An awful lot of French guys in there. Barracks, big great three tier beds. No


complaints whatsoever. It was like getting out of hell into heaven. I ended up one day I was in the top layer. They brought in some other prisoners into the


room. Some fellow next to me, “See that fellow over there,” he said, “that’s coming in? He used to be a champion swimmer in Melbourne.” I couldn’t believe it. It was a fellow called Dave Morris,


who I went to school with. I don’t know where he was captured or where he came in. We were separated. The funny part about it, this is getting back to another camp, a working camp we ended up in Munich itself, this Dave


ended up knowing a sergeant, I don’t know where he met him, but they decided to escape into Switzerland. His name will come into a section when I get down there.


Moosburg treated well. There was a lot of Russians in the other camp alongside us in Moosburg. They were mostly, they must have been captured on the borders. They had all Alsatians in


this Moosburg camp. They were all let out at nighttime. The Russians were on a separate thing; they couldn’t get into our camp. They were crazy. They used to jump out at night


trying to escape. Nowhere to go, nothing. They were shot. They used to have a couple, two, three bodies up in the wires as warning to others.
Did you see that?
Oh, yes. I didn’t see them getting shot, no, but I saw the bodies.


How did you react to that?
I don’t know. I don’t react very quickly. Just another business to put up with. These Russians used to kill the dogs at nighttime.


They’d go down on one knee, the Alsatian would attack the neck, they’d go down on one knee, flip the dog over and kill it. So they were peculiar people. To get away from them.
Did you meet any of the Russians?


You could see them through the wires.
Who was in your hut?
This Dave Morris, it was quite a few Australians, English. Now we’re back down to


we’re sent from Moosburg down to…
How long were you in Moosburg?
I suppose it would be about six weeks.
What did people do at Moosburg to pass the time?
They used to play


different games and things. Some of the Frenchmen used to play practically anything you could think of. Incidentally, there, I had a bad tooth.


They told me to, some of the people who had been there for a long time, I complained about it one day when it was pretty sore. There was a prisoner who was a dentist. You know what he charged me to fix the tooth? A tin of sardines. This time


they were just getting a few Red Cross parcels. When I finally got to England, I had examinations. I told them about the tooth and they reckoned he did a perfect job.
How did he fix it? What instruments did he have?
He never had anything,


batteries and things, they must have smuggled stuff like that in. He did a marvellous job.
Did he give you drugs for the pain?
Was it a painful experience?
You couldn’t moan really.


We’re moving from Moosburg and going down to
How did you get to Munich?
We were taken by truck down to Munich and we were put into working camps. There was quite a number of different ones. I’ve got photos of them in there.


When did I get down there? Goodness knows.
Did you have a camera?
How these photos were taken, when I got back to Australia there was a fellow in the


Brighton Beach Hotel who was a barman. He’d been an ex-prisoner of war and repatriated back and brought back. He got this job in the Brighton Beach Hotel. It was some funny episodes down there with him. He’d taken all these photographs and he’d shown


them to me. He lent me quite a few of them. Fortunately, I was able to get reprints of them. 90% of them were filmed by him. I got them, which was rather


lucky I thought.
What happened when you got to Munich?
Mostly manual jobs. In the winter, it was very cold down there. I did get a job at one stage in a timber mill.


I got into a bit of trouble there and got sacked and put down into another section. It used to be about nine men and a guard. I ended up near the railways. It was,


remember I was telling you about this Dave Morris, the swimmer. David wasn’t in the particular barracks as I was in, there was a number of barracks. Him and this English guy,


he was an English sergeant, they’d been close down to working on the railway and they decided they’d have a go. They got down there and they decided that they were a bit big to get into the trains.


So they got rid of their gear and gave themselves up. They got a fortnight solitary confinement. It was a different story if you got close, you’d be up for robbery. So Dave’s telling me all about this


one day. The old brain’s ticking over.
So he was trying to escape?
Yeah, him and the Englishman. They gave themselves up because they weren’t happy about the small space that you had to get into. Eventually


during the Easter holidays I’d had a few clothes hidden. I’d noticed that back in another camp that there was a Kiwi [New Zealand] fellow who was a bit bomb happy. He used to get away with anything.


The guards never took much notice. So I thought I might put on a few acts, being a bit bomb happy.
What does “bomb happy” mean?
You know. Round the bend [mad, crazy]. I’d put on a few acts


and probably got away with a bit. I managed to accumulate some clothes in the shack.
What sort of things did you do when you put on an act?
They’d say something and I’d laugh at them. Silly things like that. That’s what the other guy used to do.


Finally ended up on Easter holidays with another, an Englishman. We had a good look at the place. We walked over the bridge; we had to go right over the bridge. This would be in the middle of the night.


It was only about that wide. The other side, over comes some Germans. I think they must have been what they call compulsory Arbeit workers. They must have been going over to do some work or something.


They never said boo. Went to the sideline and walked past. It was crazy. Got to the other side. We ended up underneath the wheels, sort of little ledges.


We ended up we knew it went to a place called St Gallen, which was just over the border into Switzerland.
How did you get under there? What was the space like under the train? It was above the wheels?


It wasn’t very much room in there. You could put your, it was a little slab.
How did you hang on? There’d be a lot of movement.
I’ve got something about it when the mind was working a bit more than it is nowadays. It was sort of on a ledge that just, and


ragged with a sort of iron space in the back. David even got to know about this train that one section of it would go over the border to St Gallen and one part of it would stop in a place called


Menschen, just on the Austrian border, Matreux is the name of the station. It used to stop there and go back to Munich. But one truck went further on, carriage, into Switzerland. So if


he hadn’t told us that, we’d have been up the creek. So I knew this to go to the top end to get under the things. Under there for 13 1/2 hours.
They noise must have been incredible.


wasn’t, you got sort of numb. Finally arrived at St Gallen in Switzerland. Gave ourselves up to the stationmaster in St Gallen.


He was a nice guy. He sent me in for a bath. He didn’t know what I was. He could speak very little English. I was absolutely black. I had to have a scrub up before he realised I was a white man.
Did you find it hard to walk after you


got off the train?
No, not really. Not in those days.
13 hours on the train and you were fine afterwards?
Yeah. St Gallen, all right with him, but


then I was taken into a prison. Not so good there. The first prison was around St Gallen. This chap was put in this very small cell.


It ended up he’d murdered his wife the night before. I was put in with him. “Very small”, I thought, I never knew he murdered his wife or anything like that.


He ended up, he wasn’t speaking to me at all, he couldn’t speak English. He was looking out the window and he had a piece of glass, and I yelled out, “Gendarmes” and they raced in.
Where did he cut himself?


In the groin. I yelled out and they raced in. They told me that he had committed suicide. I never found out whether he died or not. Found out that he’d, all this business. Then I was taken to another prison


in Zurich. We were marched around for about a quarter of an hour a day, with prisoners from another jail. This guy could speak English. “Oh, mate you’ve got another joker on the other side of the wall.” He had been there for, I don’t know how long,


but he had been caught for embezzlement before the war and he was doing a three year sentence. I never met him. It was a prison; I’d never seen anything like it. So modern. I’d been in hundreds of bloody prisons, but not this, it was really deluxe.


How was it modern?
They had lights into, and it was all, everything, automatic gates and all the rest of it. I only spent a day there. Then I was taken back to Bern,


the capital of Switzerland. I was taken in front of, I presume he was a Swiss military intelligence guy. He said, “We don’t want you in here.


If you try to escape, we’ll shoot you.” I couldn’t believe my ears. I thought, “The quicker I get back to bloody Germany the better.” He got me escorted down to Bern, the capital. I was shown to the embassy


there. These were British guys. Made me very welcome. That night I was put into a very nice hotel and I had to meet him the next morning. I still had, we’re talking about the


stomach and all that, oh, this beautiful meal, I had enough brains not to eat what I’d have liked to have eaten. I took very small quantities. That’s this business I was talking about. I knew not to do that. Next morning I had to walk down, this


military joker I was telling you about, he said, “You’ve got to report to the police every day. If you move from one place to another, you’ve got to get permission.”
So he let you out of prison?
Yeah, but…
You weren’t allowed to leave the city?
Yeah. Not until I had permission and reporting.


Once I got to this embassy, after the meal the next day, I got to the embassy to meet there, I think it was supposed to be about 9 o'clock. I think I got there a fraction earlier. And I hear these two Englishmen talking about me. One of them said, “What a shame


it wasn’t an officer.” So I’m laughing to myself. They were very nice. They told me I could stop there. They’d send me to a place called Montreux, which was where quite a few old Englishmen were living down there. I


could stop in a shack and these fellows were down there and I could contact them. He asked me what I intended to do. I said, “I want to get back to my battalion.” He said I could stop there until


the end of the war. I said, “I want to get back.” He said, “You do absolutely nothing until you’re informed.” I said, “OK.” So I’m down there, it must have been quite a few weeks. This five business sounds a bit monotonous because


I say it so much, but it was amazing amongst the five weeks in these places.
What did you do in that time?
I got to know these people and, actually there was two groups of them. They were mostly returned, I’d say


English army or people like that. They weren’t chickens by any means. There were the two groups. They didn’t like each other. I got really friendly with one group.
Why didn’t they like the other group?
Damned if I know. They just didn’t get along. Crazy.


Both English groups?
Yes. This particular group, I got to know them both. This particular mob I got on best with, they used to take me out a bit and show me around and all the rest of it.


They gave me clothes. I only had at this stage practically no civilian clothes. They gave me some in Bern, but they rigged me out with new clothes. One was from the chauffeur.


Shirts, piled everything on. Gave me a good time. I didn’t associate with the other ones very much, but they treated me well. I didn’t really live with them. Not on


their premises. I was put in a little cabin, a little one-way place. I had to report to the police every day there. If I moved, tell the police that I was moving.


Finally, after five weeks, I get this message. They had a telephone on this little place I was in. They told me to immediately move to Geneva. There’d be a man to meet me there


when I got off the train, which I did. Couldn’t even tell the poor people that I’d got that I was going or anything like that. I felt very guilty, not being able to, you know. That’s life.


This guide, he ended up taking me across the river, Rhone the river. It went from Switzerland over into Germany, no France, sorry. So


it was just on dark and, no it was in the morning. He took me over. I waited for the guards to go past and then he slipped me over the Rhone River and told me to walk over, it was all flat


country over there. I’d eventually see a man on a bicycle smoking a pipe, which happened. I crossed over and met this guy. He led me down to a train and ended up at


Marseilles. I was to meet another man in Marseilles. I’m in Marseilles one night and the next


day another fellow must have been hidden by another family and this is Jack Parker, who is mentioned in all these stories that I went with. Jack, I only met him for a few minutes


and we were told to go to a street up where the Czechoslovakian Club was. We were told to say we delivered the coffee for Mario. Unbeknownst


to us, they should have been notified and they weren’t. So we ended up walking back to Marseilles down to the shipping centre. Didn’t know we were being trailed. Two of these guys had been following us. They must have come to the conclusions


that we were trying to escape east. Then they approached us and told us that we’d been refused because they hadn’t been notified. Everything went good. Jack and I are separated.


I end up in a place called Nîmes, by train from Marseilles. This guy, a fellow called Gaston Negris, he lives in Nîmes and he’s in with the underground movement. He couldn’t speak English.


He ended up hiding me in the cellar. He had a big wine cellar and I was hidden down in the cellars. Absolutely, did whatever he could for me.


It just went on and on. He’d come down. He said, “You can help yourself.” But I never touched anything at all. I’d have a drink with him at night. We weren’t very much good company because he couldn’t speak English. I was there for a long time.


He took me for a walk one night, which was unusual. When I got back in the cellar, there was two Englishmen there. They’d been Dunkirk boys and had been on the loose. That night


this Englishman arrived, all well dressed, well spoken man. He apologised to me that I’d been there for so long. He said, “Under these circumstances we couldn’t move you.”
How long had you been there at that stage?


it was quite a few, it was near that five bloody week business again. It was. He apologised to me. He said, “We haven’t been able to get you out. We’re only beholden to take two of you.” I could see the look on these


two fellows’ faces. God almighty, I’m not gonna break them up. So I said, “These fellows have been together. A few more weeks is not going to worry me.” That’s what happened. I did hear that they might have been caught in Spain. Eventually I think they got out.


Luck was with me again.
Interviewee: David Lang Archive ID 1806 Tape 05


Can you go back to when you were taken across the border to France? Tell us more about what happened.
It was very


easy actually because the people in Bern had organised it, these two diplomats in Bern. They put me into this little small cubby place where I stopped. It was just a telephone call straight down to


Geneva, no messing around, straight over the river and then like I said over the border into France and meeting the guy.
What was your state of mind when you crossed the border into France?
I know what it was like in


Switzerland. I was that disappointed what I heard there that I was more wondering what the hell was going to happen next really.
You were in the wine cellar for about five weeks?


Describe that cellar for us.
I’d rather describe who I met there. The two guys they go. The English fellow, he’s disappeared. I was only surmising that he probably was a big head man


in the underground movement. OK. At Nîmes I end up stopping with him for a few more weeks. One night he comes up


and takes me for a little walk. I told you all about the two Englishmen in this home and all that business. So I’m back by myself in Nîmes. Gaston tells me


one night English people arriving. The next weekend four people arrived and he takes me up the stairs and we’re in a little room on the grog. You’d have


heard of Nancy Wake. Nancy Wake is there with her husband and there was two other friends. Nancy Wake at this stage she was only a small way in the underground movement. She hadn’t


ended up, her husband ended up getting killed and she ended up getting to England.
Did you know who she was at that stage?
Yes, she told me.
What did she tell you?
Just that she was Nancy Wake and that she had a


slight movement in the underground movement, but she hadn’t really got into it properly.
What was she like?
She was in those days I should imagine she was round about 30-odd.


A really jovial person. Her and I were actually out of the four of us really the only people that could speak English. The others were French. It was really nice talking to somebody that was English.


Did she tell you what she had been doing?
Not really. It was very early in her movements.
Did she ask you about your experiences?
She only just knew that I’d escaped, that’s all. I never told her anything, really. You weren’t supposed to. Everything was secret, so I never told her


very much, just that I got from Switzerland through to. We all got drunk and she was a character. Ended up singing songs and that. They were all singing songs.


I thought they were a bit crazy because it wasn’t in occupied France, but there were still a lot of people around that could dob you in. By this time, I was singing with them all too. “Cheer up my lads, (UNCLEAR)”,


she’s singing. Rude words with it.
Was it a relief to be in that sort of atmosphere?
Yes, it was very nice. They finally left and very shortly after that, from Nîmes I ended up going to


the Pyrenees more or less by train. Met somebody here and met somebody there. So it was a train trip right down to the borders. There was a group of people there, English people. I think there was


a captain and a colonel, mostly people that were Dunkirk and had been hiding out. They were deciding what they were going to do. Several out of the party


were going one way and some were going other ways. The colonel was going on a well-known trip. I heard they were caught in Spain. They would have got out eventually, but it wasn’t a nice place to get caught in.


I ended up with a Belgian guy, a French guide. He took us through, he was a Belgian getting back through France. He took us on a trail; this particular trail had been tried before. He guided us right over the top of the Pyrenees.


We were supposed to be met by a guide there and of course the guide went back, left us. It was very cold up there. I really only had the gear that I had from the people at Montreux had given me.
What were you wearing?
It was


light shirts and trousers and shoes, white shoes, but not anything that you’d be hanging out for in the snow. So finally was left up there. The other guy didn’t turn up for nearly a couple of days.


It was really cold.
How did you deal with the cold?
It was something I couldn’t deal with very well. You just had to put up with it. The French guy left us and


he ended up Spanish fellow took us over on this trail from the Pyrenees over into Spain. Fortunately it was, for me, I got through that without any trouble, but I met people that had been caught there. We were lucky to get out.


They weren’t very welcome at all in Spain.
What did they tell you about their experiences there?
Just that they’d been ill-treated. They hadn’t been fed too well. They weren’t treated like you’d expect to. A bit like


in leaving Germany and the Swiss telling me that they’d shoot me if I left. Of course, I was lucky. Finally taken through to the British Embassy right down in Spain.


Spent a few days there waiting to be taken over into Gibraltar. I had a few more bastard weeks in


Gib [Gibraltar], back to the old couple of months business. I was treated more or less when I got there as a refugee by the police. There was the English police.


They were more interested in an English prisoner of war who was over there. Each night they used to invite us into this big room. I didn’t wake up the first night. They’d be all around in a circle and


they’d be sending us around. What they were doing was trying to get us really drunk. They were concentrating more I think on the Englishman. I don’t think they knew very much about him. The idea was to get us drunk and


ask us questions, ‘bing, bing, bang, bang’. It was a drunken interrogation, which when I woke up, thought it was a hell of a joke cos it lasted for quite a few days. I ended up getting cheeky in the end and saying, “Look mate, all I’m interested in


is bastard money.” No bugger would give me any money. I was getting that annoyed about not getting money.
Where were you when this interrogation happened?
This is…
You went to Gibraltar and then…
This is Gibraltar.


Was that the welcome you were expecting in Gibraltar?
No. It was a bit of a joke. Finally I got a bit sick of it. I got friendly with this major who was a secret service fellow. I’m moaning


about money. He said, “Look, Dave, you’ll be getting back to England and you’ll be interrogated when you get there.” And he gave me five pounds. He said, “If you feel like it, give it to this man that interrogates you.”


I was right; I had money. Finally, by boat, to Gib and it was only a few days. We were torpedoed one night just outside of Gib and we were


under escort.
What sort of boat was it?
It was a, I think it was a small cruiser. But I know that


once we got out and all these cruisers were around us dropping mines, so it was right, no worries at all.
You were torpedoed?
No. They must have discovered it. We heard noises and all the rest of it. To my knowledge we weren’t actually shot.


So arrive in England. Go to Australia House. No, more or less straight. Then it was through the Black Forest, quite a journey, dark, and taken to, which ended up I quite well knew was


the secret service people. There was navy service, the whole lot. They wanted every detail over the Black Stump. It was quite a long period down there. Finally was


a relief, after they got all the news they wanted, sent back to the Australia House in London. There was a guy there I can’t remember his name. About the first thing he said to me, “How the hell are you?”


I gave the other fellow back his money and I said, “It’s great to see you. Get a bit of money, it’s pretty short running.” From then it was really quite a holiday. Met quite a number of people.


Sent up to a place called Dumfries, which is on the border of Scotland and England. They were the only Australians in England


at that time, apart from the crew at Australia House. That was the only place I could get a uniform. It was the old hat and Australian uniform. They supplied that all up there.
What was it like to put that back on?


Very good. Then back to London and Australia House. Treated very well there.
What did you like most about arriving in England?
The most amazing thing when I arrived in England was getting off the wharf and all


these women in uniforms. I’d never seen a woman in uniform before, like in our army and all the rest. It was amazing the number of women that were in the army and different things were on the wharves. That was the thing that amazed me most.


Do you remember when you arrived in England, what time of year?
It must have been August 1942.
How long had it been from the time you were taken prisoner in Crete?


It was really 1941 when I escaped.
You were travelling?
From 1941 until 1942. I’d been a prisoner


when I got to Gibraltar three days late - because I’d been taken prisoner on June 3rd and I got there on June the 13th.
So it was more than a year?
Twelve months of various


prisons and prison camps?
Yeah. August 1942 when I got back to Australia. I left England and I arrived back two days before the Melbourne Cup, which would have been November. So that was it.
What was it


like to finally end that incredible journey?
I was back to Melbourne; I was by myself in the train. I was looking at Melbourne by myself in the carriage. I’ve never ever


been guilty of crying, but I was that bastard near to it. I really was. I just looked out there and thought, the tears, I didn’t cry, but that was how I felt. It was amazing. I was happy to be back there.


Did you see your family then?
They actually had only heard that I was missing. Finally they’d heard that I’d been a prisoner of war,


but nothing else about what I’ve been describing, because everything was secret. So they heard nothing whatsoever really, until I got back to Melbourne and it was my


21st birthday just a few days before I got back to Melbourne. They had a big party for me. There was quite a few people there, welcoming me back to New Street.
What was it like to see your


mother again?
It was really unbelievable. I couldn’t believe a lot of the things. It was certainly a relief.
So you had a big 21st birthday party?
Yes. I ended up I got a gold watch.


I ended up as a civilian throwing a fishing line around the coast and the damn thing broke. There was huge waves. I had no chance of jumping in even though I was a good swimmer. So I lost it


and I was very sorry about that. That was a civilian problem.
When you saw your father again, what was his reaction?
We ended up reasonably friendly.


At this stage he was a lieutenant up in Seymour. It was artillery, he was teaching artillery up there for quite a while. I’ll never forget I had to meet him for


lunch one day in Melbourne. I was still in uniform and this is before I went to New Guinea. I had to meet him near Young and Jackson’s Hotel. I’ve been in there quite a while before I met him. He was taking me to


dinner. While I was there, there was quite a few Australian soldiers in the bar. I got talking to them. They never knew anything about me. I said, “I believe you’ve got a man called Lang training?” They had artillery


patches. I was able to pick out what they were. I said, “They tell me he was an old bastard.” They spoke pretty well about him. Gave him full marks. They said something about, so


that was quite exciting hearing he wasn’t as bad a joker as I thought he was.
So your relationship with your father changed after you returned?
Why do you think that was?
I’d heard about him being


in this camp, the one I was talking, this artillery camp. He heard that I’d escaped and he was a non-drinker. He got barrels of beer and shouted all the people beer and told them that he had a son that had escaped


from Germany. So I heard this on the grapevine. I thought, “Well, he mightn’t be such a bad joker.” We got friendly again. Actually, he helped me in one way.


I’d had enough of the infantry and I told the people that interviewed me in Melbourne that I’d like a job where I didn’t have to walk. I told my father this too.


Unbeknownst to me, I think he got in touch with these soldiers that had this school up in Werribee where I was sent and trained as an ack-ack [anti-aircraft] gunner.


I think he might have spoken to the man that was in charge there. He must have said, “Could you get him in there.” I never asked him. I was taken up there and joined the Bofors ack-ack training camp up there.


Spent a few months there. Sent to a PT [physical training] school at one stage, one thing and another. At this stage, while I was training up there, I got word that my poor


mate, Jack, that you’ve heard of, I came back with him on the Dominion Monarch on the trip from England. His name is mentioned quite a lot in what we did do, but that was not correct. Poor old Jack got back and he was made a lieutenant up in


a school in New South Wales. He ended up was made a lieutenant and damned if I didn’t get word through that, when I was up in that camp where I’m still talking about, the Bofors school,


that they’d gone on a bit of a trip on a car celebrating and damned if he didn’t get killed. Couldn’t believe it. So I never met him again. I couldn’t believe it.


So, I end up myself back in Greta, New South Wales; sent down there as a PT instructor. I had only been there a couple of days and they didn’t know what to do with me. I met a few of


my friends that had been in the ack-ack company and they were getting sent up the coast to reinforce the 9th Division and all the crowd up in New Guinea. So I got friendly with, went straight to the commander and


said, “Look, I’ve met some friends and I want to go with them up the coast.” “No worries,” he was very, very glad to get rid of me. So that’s how I ended up in the Bofors crowd in New Guinea. Spent a few months


training in the [Atherton] Tablelands. I was attached to the 2/4th Battalion, 9th Division Bofors Company as a reinforcement.


We did quite a bit of training there. The particular company that I was in, there was three companies to a battalion. My company was the Ambon one. There was other naval by boat. What were the others?


I end up with this air force crowd. We ended up in New Guinea. Then by plane we went to the Ramu Valley


in New Guinea. We were trained to dismantle a Bofors and a couple of us would get one and the other aircraft held all the mechanisms. The Bofors was that heavy it had to go in one and then two men in that and the


rest of the crew in the other aircraft. Then we’d have to jump out of the plane and set them up as a Bofors crowd, which we did in the Ramu Valley.
This was a dramatic change from the infantry.


I never knew how hard it was in the infantry until I went into these other places. To me, they were real men. You wouldn’t put that in.
Interviewee: David Lang Archive ID 1806 Tape 06


Can we go back to Crete? Can you give us details about what happened when all those planes came over? How long had you been there before that happened?
We were in Crete for about a month. Only a little bit of bombing here and there and a bit of machine-gunning, but nothing that was really


Was there a camp there? How many of you were there?
I suppose there’d be about 50 of us.
What happened on the day all the planes came over?
It was just a huge mass invasion


of aeroplanes. You couldn’t call it anything else. There was no warning or anything like that. You looked at Moulmein one minute and then it was blacked out completely with all these planes. Unless you see it, you couldn’t believe it. There was hundreds of the damn things.


Stukas, they were dive-bombers. There was quite a lot of planes just pulling gliders. Also the paratroopers coming down. You couldn’t miss them.


Were the Allies trying to shoot the paratroopers as they were coming down?
How were the Allies organised?
How do you mean?
What was happening to combat that amount of planes?
There was nothing. The ridiculous part about it,


you read articles about it and they talk about aeroplanes and how British aeroplanes on Crete and Greece, it was just a joke. I think I saw one British plane in Greece. It was just a joke.
What were they doing from the ground?


You mean the people defending it? Well, around the Moulmein area there was an awful lot of Kiwis, Maoris most of them. I’ve never seen such good infantry soldiers in my life. They did a marvellous job


there. This is on advancing after the Germans had landed in Moulmein and the drome.
What was so good about them as soldiers?
They were, we were broken through quite a few times and they were backing us up. They’d go through us and shove the Germans back. They were good infantry soldiers.


There was an awful lot of them killed there too. I went for a holiday back to Crete quite a few years ago. I was surprised at the amount of headstones that were all there, the Maoris that were killed around that Moulmein area. Once all that


area was under German control, they were just forcing us. It was only small sections that you could get right up to the top of Crete. So there wasn’t much opportunity apart


from machineguns and all that. But they were in such vast quantities after they’d left that Moulmein area that we didn’t have much hope.
Why was it important for Germany to get Crete do you think?
For a start I suppose they could make


airports out of it closer to Libya. Also, naval boats could get closer to Libya and places like that. It’s be shorter than from Greece, not a great deal, but it would be. It was quite big areas where they could have boats


to Moulmein and that area. That’s about the only reason.
Were you feeling threatened and afraid with the planes coming overhead?
You wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t. It was unbelievable, not so much when they came over, was the point when they’d assimilated.


They were armed with mortar guns. We hadn’t had that much experience of people with mortars. We might have had a few for ourselves in Libya and around there, but I hadn’t had that much, it was about the first time I’d come under fire from mortars.


How was it different to be under fire from mortars?
It was the noise. They kick up a hell of a noise if they land. Even the big bombs where you mostly knew, artillery and something like that, but these mortars were right in our faces. The noise, terrible.


That’s about it.
How did the Germans organise the taking of prisoners?
The fellow that was in charge of it, what was his name? I can’t remember. He capitulated. It


was just like that.
What did he do?
Before anybody got up to the area he’d, what was his name, he’d just said, “That’s it.” We couldn’t hold them and


he just completely capitulated.
Did you agree with his decision?
It was the only thing you could do. No way.
Were you firing at the planes above you?
We never even had anti-aircraft guns. Firing at the paratroopers when they were coming down.


We inflicted an awful lot of casualties in all those paratroopers and gliders, getting carried by plane, dragged along. They suffered real casualties there. But if we’d had the right equipment, it would have been a different story altogether, anti-aircraft


guns and things like that. We’d have given them a hell of a shock. It was only rifles. A lot of people arrived on the island with no weapons at all. It wasn’t much you could really do.
Were you angry that you weren’t prepared?


I was angry that the boat got sunk. We were heading back to Alexandria really. I don’t think they really, it wasn’t worth saving I think they thought. They didn’t have the troops; they landed with nothing.


A lot of people know, and ammunition, it was a dead loss as far as defending the place.
How did the civilians react to it?
They were very good. In one instance around that area they were


dive bombing it very bad. There was a lot of women and old Greek fellows. There was a bit of a place you could escape into. We were very close to it. All got them virtually in the thing. We didn’t get a chance to get in ourselves.


How did you get away? You met up with two other people?
This is right up on top of Sfakia where all the boats were taking people off. They’d been doing that for quite a few days before we got there. The island had


capitulated. We walked along the shore. It was June the 1st and a few of us made a run for it and moved around the coast and found this little fishing village with the idea we might get to


Libya, that’s how all that happened.
You were aiming to get a boat to get across to Libya?
Yes, didn’t I tell you all this?
Yeah, you have. Meeting the navy officer?
Where had he been?
He might have been sunk off boats or goodness only knows.


He didn’t tell you?
No. It was a tiny little, we were moving along the mountains and found this little fishing village. That was the 3rd of June. After the capitulation we moved further around the coast a


few of us. I think quite a few fellows went to different places. I’ve heard there was quite a few guys that were picked up months and months after in different places. I know nothing about that.
Who was left in the town?
The little fishing village?


It was virtually evacuated. The Greeks there must have gone up into the mountains or further on.
Was anybody left in town?
We found out later there was a man, a Greek hiding there.
You didn’t talk to him?


He actually more or less told us about there was a few sails. We found him in the deserted village and he disappeared. They were all on the run too. They were frightened of the Germans.
Did you often come across people hiding?


No. Because, you see, after June the 3rd we were prisoners and taken back to a hospital where we pulled out wounded. I believe there was quite a few people might have


gone over the mountains into other sections of Crete right on the other side. There was nothing organised or anything like that, but I heard rumours that only very few, I’d say.
In the conflict before being captured, how did you deal with killing and


the possibility of being killed?
I’d gone through all that business when we went into Tobruk and also in Greece. So it was just another thing, keep going, into Moulmein.
Was Tobruk the first time you shot at a person?


From Tobruk. That was when we first went into action.
Did you have a strong reaction?
No, I mean especially if you’re an infantry soldier, you sort of stop your mind


working and just kept going. That was all.
Did you think about it again years later?
No, not really. I knew I’d done it, but it never worried me afterwards. No.
In the camp at Salonika, describe more of what you could see when you walked through the gates.


It was a huge wire entanglement. Huge wire all around it. Not much of many buildings in the actual place. Most of us were all sleeping in the open; there was nowhere to sleep.


It wasn’t the best. You just had to put up with it. That was all there was.
Where were the guards?
They had quite a few towers on each square of the place. They were up there with their machineguns and searchlights.


It wasn’t the best there. Actually, this is a bit further on, a chap that put us on the train from there across to Moosburg,


the British authorities, he was on their head list as a war criminal at that stage, which amazed me because it got back to England about that trip, the 42 to a cattle truck. They knew, which surprised me. What disgusted


me was all the intelligence people in Britain themselves. They had maps. They were like schoolboys’ maps, especially all that area there in Germany. Not a real map that you could, they might have got them later in the war, this is really early in the war. At that stage,


when I got back to England they had maps, they were useless, which amazed me. That’s war.
Why did that make you angry?
You would have thought if they were asking me questions about Germany and all the rest of it, they never had maps that you could turn around and put your finger on and say,


“I was there, I was there.” Nothing. I couldn’t believe it.
You felt the intelligence should have made more of an effort.
Mind you, it was earlier in the war and they probably had spotter planes and things like that after my episodes and they’d be able to map it.


You’d have thought in Germany itself they’d have had it right up to the borders. No.
When you got to Salonika, what did you think was going to happen to you?
We knew we would eventually arrive in Germany.


How did you know?
I don’t know how that got out. It was a rumour that was true.
I can’t imagine how painful the experience in Salonika was.
It was very.
What was the most difficult part of it for you?


The instance of kids getting flogged in front of us and watching the swine do it. It was ghastly. I think quite a lot of people escaped. I’m not talking about us


prisoners there, it was full of an awful lot of Greeks and all kinds of people that had been captured then. That’s how they kept it secret about this little tunnel business. The tucker was


unbelievable. You wouldn’t think a person could exist on it.
Describe what you ate.
Most of it was, at one stage, no, I shouldn’t. It’s nothing really.
Please tell us.
I was allocated to


hand a biscuit out. It was a biscuit like that. It had to be shared by five men. I had to cut it. If I kept doing that, I couldn’t have done it. They were just like wolves.


Ate it up before, the moment it was split into pieces, like wolves, bang. I threw in the towel. I couldn’t have got anything. That was my first effort at trying to be a good doer cutting these biscuits.


I didn’t last long.
Did they have a latrine?
It was very similar to all the toilet areas in Greece and Crete. Long thing, boxes on top of


trenches. That’s all it was. There was a lot of them along one area of the camp.
Square boxes on top of trenches?
I’ve got photographs of that type of thing. It was a machinegun post on each corner and


they shot this fellow sitting on it one night. It was diarrhoea.
Why did they kill him?
Just for fun. They were, all that mob were bastard war criminals.
How do you feel about Germans today?


No worries. I’ve got a young German who was up recently when we were living in New Street in Brighton Beach. The guy was a (UNCLEAR).


Norma got very friendly with his wife, which lived across the other side of the road. He’d come over to Australia just after the war. I think he told me once that he was about 17 or something like that


when he came to Australia. The war was all over and he got a job as an instrument maker on the passenger planes out at Essendon looking after instruments and things like that. This is in civilian life.


I got quite friendly with him and Norma with his wife. This time I met her, she came over, she knew Norma, she said, “I wonder if David would do something for me.”


Her ring had gone down the sink and I went over and pulled it out. It didn’t worry me. I never met Chris. As they got friendly, she asked Norma


what was my attitude with Germans. She said as a joke, “He has a German friend over here quite often.” This fellow was, I worked for a firm called Bloch and Beren, they were Danish,


she thought he was a German. So I was quite friendly with the Germans. So I got to know Chris really well. We had a lot of good times together. He was our first visitor that came up to Mission Beach and he actually was here


about three months back, less than a month, him and his wife. They were very fortunate. He was discharged from the private planes, but he was eligible to have free rides on the planes. So we used to see a lot


of Chris and his wife cos they were able to fly up for nothing. They often stopped with us. He was an Australian when I really got to know him. He knew more about Australia than the average Australian. He really did.
Did he ever ask you about your experiences?
No, I never told him


as far as that was concerned. I might have, when he was up here, I don’t think so. They knew I’d been a prisoner. That was about it.
In Salonika, how did your day go?


The first part of the business was dividing these biscuits. Then at lunchtime it was like soup. That’s about all. Might have been a bit of rice, but it was virtually water and soup.


You went passed a canteen thing and they put a dob of it into a dish. I think there was one doctor worked it out that on the diet we were getting in Salonika, it would


have kept a man alive for a little over two months. That’s how bad it was. A lot of all the original crowd were slowly getting evacuated onto these trains and taken to Germany.


Did you feel yourself getting weaker?
God, yes.
Did you get sick?
I wasn’t really sick there, no. The times I was sick, I was sick more in New Guinea with malaria and things like that.


No, I stood up to it pretty well. If it had been any longer, it would have been hopeless. Dysentery and malaria, the whole lot of them, it went right through that Salonika. Fortunately it wasn’t everybody, because they were slowly getting trained to Germany.


In the evening you’d have another meal?
The same, this water. No, it was unbelievable that a person could exist as long as we did on it in my book.
What did you hold onto? Did you pray?
Pray, God. I don’t believe in religion. Not after the war.


I lost my religion on that damn boat coming out of Crete. All these people were praying. I was right up on the forward deck watching them. I knew an awful lot of them and I thought, “You hypocritical jokers.” It finished me with religion, but I was never religious at any stage.


That really fixed me. So it wasn’t religion that kept me going.
What do you think it was?
Survival. I was always hoping that I’d eventually come home. That’s the only thing.
Did you think about your mum in Salonika?


At that stage, you didn’t think about anything really, at all. It was just to survive. I never ever heard anybody in this Salonika mention women. In camps and things you


get a lot of jokers talking this and that. I never heard a woman’s name mentioned. No references to women. So if a lot of troops are in a camp and you don’t hear a little bit about, there’s something wrong.
Why do you think that was?
Because we were exhausted. We were practically starving.


Did anybody irritate you in there?
Of course. The guards. At midday before we’d get this meal, they’d spend hours counting us. It was just a joke.


There were people collapsing. It was just a big joke. That was it. That’s all there was.
There were no women or children in there?
Goodness no. The only children I saw were the two kids that threw things in.


What was the demeanour of the guards?
They were just German criminals in my book. That’s all.
Were there some that were nicer than others?
No, they were all the same in Salonika.


They were all bad people in there.
Did you get showers in Salonika?
Practically nothing as far as washing.


How did you keep clean?
I think there were a few taps around the area. There were barracks and stuff like that where they served food where you could throw a bit of water. That’s about all. Germans weren’t all like that. That’s for sure.


They were scum.
Was there any humour with the Australian men?
Not there, no. There was nothing funny about that place. Once we got to Germany, to Moosburg


and went to the big camp there, it was a different tale altogether. Once we got out of the trains. We were treated like pigs on the train journey. That took about six days from Salonika right through to Germany.
You said you couldn’t lie down in those trucks.


a cattle truck, my dear. A few fellows sick, they had to jam along the side and things like that. You might be able to squat down a little bit here and there.
You were standing?
A lot of the time too. We were let out of the train


pulling up to stations and things like that for about five minutes and then straight back. No extra food or anything like that. Once the trains got through to Moosburg, it was OK. No worries at all. They treated us well.
Interviewee: David Lang Archive ID 1806 Tape 07


Tell me about the preparation for the invasion of Tobruk. What were you involved in?
It was just a matter of an infantry


line all around Tobruk and troops going in. We were infantrymen. The record that I meant, it was the first invasion, someone told us after the war, that any troops had done to


capture one town under fire, 33 mile.
Describe what you were experiencing during that 33 mile?
I think I mentioned at one stage,


really near the start of it that Australian artillery were firing behind us as we were going in. The Italians were all right as far as guns were concerned, but once it got down to close fighting they throw in the towel very quickly. We got caught in between our own fire and Italian


fire just near the beginning, which caused a few casualties.
That was near the beginning of that invasion?
You personally was caught in that crossfire?
What did you see and hear when that happened?
For a start we thought it was just the


Italians firing and then we realised we were in the middle of a bombardment of the Australians, our own. It was a mistake that was made. There was plenty of things like that in the war.
What was it like to be in the middle of that bombardment?
It was nasty. There was a few wounded and things like that. I was lucky, I got out of it.


What could you see and hear during that bombardment?
The hearing is sort of, you end up and you can’t hear very much at all, cos your ears give up with all the bombs going round you. We got there about


dark, very close, in Tobruk. We came across a machinegun, which was firing at us. I think I told you that I couldn’t believe machineguns coming at you. You thought you could just pick them like that. Incredible.
In that first


bombardment, did you lose any people that you knew?
You never even knew if they were killed or not because it was just advancing all the time. You never worried about, there was


Red Cross medical guys firing all these things. They were picking up the dead and wounded. You never stopped, you just kept on going.
What were the conditions like in terms of climate and water and food?


We were used to an army can of water. Mostly you’re out the back and a truck would come along and after a show and fill all your stuff up and feed you.
What was the toughest thing


about going into Tobruk?
It was more or less like any bayonet fighting. You’re not using the bayonet that much, but you’re firing and just keeping on going. You make your mind blank.


We’re trying to get a picture of what it was like.
The only way I can explain it is, once you’re on the move you keep on moving. You know that you’ve got stretcher-bearers and things like that for wounded that are following you up and they’re looking after anybody. You’re not


worried at all, all you’re worried about is getting through. That’s about it. We went through quite a lot of action for the 33-odd miles. Then reaching Tobruk the episode with the, we were getting bombed a lot.


The episode, we hadn’t been held up, when I say ‘we’, just a small section that you’re in. There’s a whole company everywhere there. The little section I was in, we ended up attacking this small machinegun post that I told you about.


When did you first see the Italians surrendering?
They were surrendering in loads, all around the place. They were throwing in the towel. I believe on the big line in certain spots they were giving themselves up.


There was a lot that we’d passed with their hands up in the air.
What did you think about seeing them doing that?
“Thank Christ.” It was a relief really to see them doing that. That was about it


when Tobruk was taken.
Did you expect them to surrender?
No. It was a pleasant surprise.
Then you had a drink with some Italians?
Yes, that was the next day. I think I said I struck a lot of Italians, but they were mostly


the small dark Italian. I was terribly surprised when we went into this cave. These two fellows must have come from the southern end of the borders. They


were quite dark Italians. Small men compared with the average Australian.
Why did you sit down and have a drink with them?
I’m damned if I know. It was a stupid thing to do. They went like that with the plonk. They were


drinking two bottles of wine. There was two of us. “All right,” we said, “If it’s good enough for you, it’s good enough for us.” We sat down with them and polished off the couple of bottles of wine. It was just another silly thing that soldiers do.


Does that seem a strange thing to have done the day after a huge battle?
You forget it all. You put it out of your mind. You’ve got to put a lot of these things out of your mind that don’t end up very nicely. You try and forget.


I’ve heard when you took Tobruk they didn’t have a flag but they put a slouch hat on a pole. Did you see that?
That’s quite likely to have happened. There was quite a few small forts. It was a great, big, long invasion right around the


perimeter. I can imagine that would have happened. Not in my case, I didn’t see that.
How did you see the Italian prisoners being treated?
I didn’t have much to do with them. There was thousands of them. They were all taken back to


prison camps in Libya and places like that. So I had very little to do with them at all.
You moved on to Benghazi?
Yes. Our next one was the trip up to Derna. That was


by footslogging. After we left Derna…
What difficulties did you confront on foot through the desert?
I’ll tell you one, there’s a place, this Derna, the following day after the shelling had stopped we were told


the 4-gallon tins, we were told to go right up the mountainside because there must have been some English people coming from some other area. We were told to walk on the left hand side of the road


and the landmines were all in the middle, which we did. How we didn’t let off some of these mines has got me beat because they were all on the left side of the road and they’re quite heavy these petrol tanks, they were water at the time.


I can remember you were pretty tired. You put one down all on the left hand side. We discovered later that’s where all the mines were. That was a bit of a shock. It was a miracle. They must have been set pretty hard, not very well by the Italians because


none of them went off.
Did you come across sandstorms?
Yes, in training in Libya and also Palestine. I’ve never seen anything like them.


We had to hold hands when we went out and wanted to urinate at nighttime or anything. Even in the daytime. You had to hold hands and walk out, we were in tens, walk out one man and urinate, and then swap places. It’s the only way you’d have ever got back into those camps.


Absolutely blackout completely with dust. I’ve never heard or seen anything like it in my life. That never happened on any battle areas, it was training or something like that. There was a lot of them. They came up so


quickly. It was virtually one minute it was all right and then gusts of wind. They were real frightening. I know we were in one particular one for nearly five days. You couldn’t eat. We had bully beef and all that and biscuits. You’d have to hold your mouth


and jam it in. Biscuits too. You opened your mouth up, you had to have sort of a towel around your face. To me, it was a wonder of the world. I never thought anything like that could happen. No injuries or anything like that.


Certainly a bit of a, if you weren’t used to that, it was certainly. The Arabs were. They used to get caught in them. They had little tents they’d go inside them.
What was the most challenging about your time in the Middle East?


Middle East. Route marches and things like that. From Greta we used to have to go right into the desert, Beersheba and things like that along. We were training in


very long route marches and survival and that type of business.
When you were under fire from the Italians, were you worried about getting wounded?
You’ve gotta put those things out of your mind. I wasn’t even thinking of


getting killed when this machinegun was going. I thought I could pick one there and pick one there. It’s strange how the mind works. No.
When you were in Greece,


did you feel abandoned because you didn’t have air support?
Yes, we were crooked on the air force, especially after hearing tales of the RAF [Royal Air Force] that their (UNCLEAR), we were all disgusted. In fact, there’s a little


in there, there a couple of pages.
You were crooked on the air force?
Yes. We were let down badly with the British, really. In the aspect of what was promised, it was a second Dunkirk.


As far as planes was concerned it was just a joke. That poem this joker wrote that, “Here we sit on the isle of Crete,” all that type of business that he said about being on Crete


and the British planes, “If we’re sitting on the isle of Crete and all these British planes are supposed to be there, where the bastard hell are we?” They did let all their own people down. All the troops they sent to Crete were really


let, and Greece, were let down in my book. There wasn’t enough forces, even with all the army that was there. It was really another disaster.
Did you feel that while you were there?
I felt that at the time. Especially


on Crete. I suppose to a certain extent in Greece, because we were getting aeroplanes attacking us before we ever got to the border. All these planes we were led to believe were going to be there weren’t.


We were all crooked on that. I should imagine the British troops, all troops there, were the same way, because we were let down, really, if anything.
Did the troops talk about it at the time?
Yes. We’d be hearing news coming through from England and


places like that saying that the air force were bombing this and that, which was a lot of rubbish. So we were crooked on them. I bet the British troops were the same as us. It was a bit of a let down I thought. I suppose that is how things happen in all wars.
Who was your commander?


In Greece, who the hell was it? Red Robbie? No, not him. He was in…
Do you remember much about him and what he said about


what was happening?
Did any of your senior officers address the troops about what was happening in Greece and Crete?
Before we were sent by truck right up to the borders we were told what to expect,


but we weren’t told how cold and snowy it’d be. Yes, we were informed to a certain degree. These big invasions are a little bit like Tobruk was right down the borders of Yugoslavia. Germans were all in that are.


It was a huge area. I was with sections of people that were right on the far end of the line. The line stopped there and the Huns broke through right through the back of the line.
You went to war for an adventure,


when did you start thinking war wasn’t what you had imagined it would be?
I think I woke up to that very early on the boat going from Melbourne. All the seasick sailors and


that was not what I thought. Just joking. The training was very, very hard like I say. You wouldn’t have expected to have to do such long marches and training and all


the training that we went through. It didn’t worry me.
Did you at any time regret your decision to join the army?
You’ve got to be a few, but that’s just natural. On Greece and Crete you


naturally regretted that you joined the army. You got over it.
Were you optimistic even when you were under fire from planes in Crete?
Frightened and optimistic. Yes.
Did you ever think you wouldn’t make it out of there?


Always hoped for the best. I was very lucky. I had an awful lot of luck on my side.
Some people kept lucky charms, did you have anything like that?
No. Only the old dog tags [identification disks].


Why did you decide to escape from the working camps in Munich?
A lot had to do with Dave Morris, the chap I met,


discussing escaping and all that type of thing. He was the only one that I ever discussed it with. He gave me the idea.
But you had seen people being killed escaping.
Back in Moosburg.
Did it concern you that


that could happen to you?
No, once I got on the train I didn’t think. You put yourself in, you sort of close your brain down and just wait. I don’t suppose you’d be able to understand, but that’s what I did. If I was


in those sort of situations, I tried to blank myself out, which was a good thing in one way because it probably served me not panicking so much and things like that.
Leading up to that escape, were you planning it?


Yes. Even before Dave gave me the train business, yes, I thought of getting out. I’d got hold of a few maps before I went on.
Why were you willing to risk being killed escaping rather than staying there?


The prison camp that I was in wasn’t like the poor Russians that were in Moosburg, getting shot, or anything like that. It was more of a work camp. You went out and worked with civilians. I was always thinking to make a


break for it. For a long time I couldn’t because the whole place was snowed in. We had one winter in Munich and I’ll show you a few photographs of the cabins that we were living in. You can see all the snow. It was impossible to escape before


the Easter turn of the climate. The snow had started to melt and it would have been possible to cross over. There was no snow and things like that. That’s why I never went till the Easter break. The weather was improving and you could have got out without the snow.


Were there moments after the escape when you thought you were done for?
No. You have moments. Reaching Marseilles and going up into this Czechoslovakian


place who used to send ex-prisoners to certain places. That was a shock walking down and not knowing that we had an escape route because nobody knew anything. Wandering down the boats


of Marseilles and thinking, “God Almighty, all this and how the hell is a man ever going to try and jump a boat?” Downhearted things. Then a tap on the shoulder and two guys that had been following us knew that we weren’t what we were supposed to be.


It was very depressing there. Looking at all those ships after going through all the troubles.
How did you deal mentally with the unexpected treatment you got when you came to Switzerland?


Very quickly, because after I got down to the embassy and the two guys in the embassy, I knew I was in safe hands there. The episodes in Zurich they were all just, you know.
When that intelligence


guy told you he would shoot you, what were you thinking then?
Depressed, yes. I think I did say I was half in mind bloody well getting back into Germany. You forget quickly. All the people in Switzerland that I


met afterwards were very, very nice. Couldn’t do enough. From there it was a conducted tour, it really was.
In the twelve months after you were captured before you made your way back to England, what was the most extraordinary time for you?


Arriving on the jetty in London. It was a marvellous feeling to think that a man had made it that far. Very excited.


Looking back now, are you surprised that you were able to do all those things?
I’ve never thought about that. I always thought looking back that I was young and silly. I suppose so.
While you were in those camps and


prisons and making dangerous journeys, other people were being killed or dying for illnesses, what gave you something you needed to keep going?
I really don’t know. I suppose quite a few people felt like escaping. But as far as that prison


camp was concerned from the time we got down to Geneva, it was impossible to go because there had been camps, at Moosburg you couldn’t have got far. Then the winter weather in


Germany, in Munich.
Is there anything you think about your character that helped you get through?
Not really. Just that young and silly, that’s about all. No,


I really can’t, it was just something that you do.
When you arrived back in Australia, did you think about leaving the army?
No. The thing that really hit me, no bastard way in the world would I


go back into the infantry. No, they couldn’t have dragged me. No, I wouldn’t have gone back to the infantry. I was lucky I had options. The first camp in Melbourne I went to they ask you things and I said


I didn’t want to go back into an infantry battalion. I had a chance of stopping in the army, but never going into the army as a troop.
Why were you so against going back into the infantry?
They suffer an awful lot more than a lot of


the troops. It’s a very hard game, the infantry, compared with say the artillery or the mob that I joined, the Bofors people like that. It’s


nothing like the infantry. You can expect to really come home in those conditions. I had about 13 months up in the Ramu Valley with the 2/4th. I think I told you that.
Interviewee: David Lang Archive ID 1806 Tape 08


Tell us what happened when you went to New Guinea.
We were landed in a place called Dumpu and slowly moved right up to Wewak, but never went into Wewak. We


were in the valley. The 7th Brigade were on the hills alongside us. They were all infantrymen walking right up through the mountains, but we were in the valley very fortunately. I got a few attacks of malaria while I was up there.


That was about all.
When did you get the first bout of malaria?
It was funny, when we first got to New Guinea, this officer had a yarn to us and he said, “Any man that catches malaria will be on a charge


sheet.” That was the first we got. We had Atebrin and stuff like that. I got a few bad whacks.
How were the conditions different to where you were for the rest of the war?
Conditions. Marvellous.


In tents and things like that. Quite comfortable in trenches and no hardship really at all. Then we were drawn back. I was 13 months up there and then came back to Australia.
What was the most contact you saw in New Guinea?


Our job was mostly if planes attacking, to keep them up. If you shoot them, fair enough, but to keep them off the lines and keep them out of the way. We struck quite a few air raids like that. Nothing that was really serious.


One particular time I couldn’t believe it, we were sitting there. It was just on dawn. This Jap [Japanese] plane came right down the valley. I could have practically shaken hands with him. We were ordered not to shoot.


We just had to stop there. I could have shot him with an ordinary rifle. Why the hell that happened I don’t know. I suppose they didn’t want to show their position or something like that. I couldn’t work that one out.
Did you talk to the guys about your experiences in Europe?


No, not very much. I never really discussed it a great deal.
What did you think about the Japs compared to the Germans?
Well, I never experienced them. They were in the same category as we were in that prison camp on Salonika


I’d say. What they did, which I never witnessed or saw. After that show I was sent back to Melbourne and then finally discharged. I didn’t see the war completely out.
Where were you at the end of the war?
I was back


in Melbourne.
Do you remember that day?
Yes. It was a few days before the atomic business and all that. A few weeks before that.
How did you react


to the end of the war?
By that time, I was starting to be a wool classer. I was up at the Melbourne Tech [Technical College] doing a rehabilitation course on wool classing. I’d learned a bit at Longeron when I was up there. That’s why I learned how to shake the


chooks. I spent a fair while there. During the training you were sent to different places, Tasmania, as a training wool classer and that type of thing.
What appealed to you about that job?
I don’t know. It was


just cos I’d learned a bit at this Longeron Agriculture before the war. It sort of fascinated me then and I thought I’d like to take it on after I got out of the army. Quite a few years doing that.
What was the hardest thing for you, adjusting to


civilian life?
At this stage, I met a few jokers. I ended up drinking a bit too much at the Brighton pub I suppose.
What are some experiences you had at the Brighton pub?


Not very many, really. A friend and I had a fight one day on the way home. He fell over and broke my leg. My parents were away at the time up in New Street and


poor old Ted, he was an ex-soldier, he used to come up to my house in New Street every day and put me on his back and take me down to the Brighton Pub.
With a broken leg?
That’s how the fight ended up.
What had Ted been doing?


Ted was a lieutenant early in the war. Actually, I don’t think he saw very much action. We got on very well together, Ted and I.


I went to a school holiday in the early days. He’d been there as a senior man. He was quite a few years older than me. So after the war, we got very friendly again. That was about it.
Did meeting friends at the Brighton pub and drinking help you get over some of your experiences?
I really think


it did. I thought I did it for a bit long. It was when I was at this wool classer school I used to think, “Oh, it’d be nice to get back to the old Brighton Beach Hotel.” On Saturdays


we used to go down there a fair bit and drink a bit too much. I never ended up an alcoholic.
Who did you meet down there?
I think I mentioned about a barman. I think


either one of you asked me about how I got the photographs of the prison camp. I mentioned that at this Brighton Hotel a repatriated prisoner of war in the actual camp that I was in finally got home and he had a job in the Brighton


Beach Hotel. He showed me a lot of all these photos and I got them reprinted. He was in the same camp that I’d left.
Did you talk about your experiences?
I suppose we did to a certain extent.
Did he want to know how you escaped?


He was serving all the time. We discussed a few things. I told him how lucky I’d been. Not a great deal.
Did you ever meet up with other POWs [Prisoners of War]


and talk about your experiences years later?
No. When I came up to Mission Beach a fellow traced me down, it must have been through the repat [Repatriation Commission] and


saw that I’d been an ex prisoner of war. From then on, I was actually joined to Townsville RSL [Returned and Services League], but I never used to come down very much, occasionally I did. They send all their papers


for this all around Australia from this RSL business. I kept up with quite a few of them through the magazines that were sent. I met a couple, there was a bit of a turnout down in Brisbane at


one time. I went down to that. I met a few.
That you had remembered?
What was that like?
It was quite good. Another time I went down to Brisbane, it was an invitation to


go to a medallist business. It was for DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal] winners. I got the DCM for escaping, so it wasn’t, it was running away from the enemy, not doing the right thing.
How did you feel about getting the DCM?


it was awarded by the King when I got to Gibraltar. When I got to London, I was taken there and notified that I’d been given the DCM by the King. But I was never presented with it by him because I wanted the next


boat home, which I could through the Dominion Monarch. So I was invited in Victoria to go to an investiture. At the time I was wool classing out in Wodonga out in New South Wales doing a classing job there, so I wasn’t coming home for that.


That was it.
You said you went to a reunion in Brisbane?
The reunion for the DCM business. It was quite interesting. There was a few English people there, quite a few Australians there. I never


met one that I actually knew, but I was quite friendly with a few of them. We had about five days down there visiting all our regiments and Government House and all those types of places. It was quite interesting.


Yes, I quite enjoyed it. it was quite good.
How did you meet Norma?
I met Norma in 1947 at a party in Caulfield. We ended up getting


married in February 1949. We spent quite a while in Victoria and then I used to do an awful lot of caravanning in those days all up


the coast, fishing and all that type of thing in the caravan. We used to get a fair bit of time off in wool classing. You’d have time before you went to another thing, opportunity I’d get down to the beach and made this little caravan eventually and


did a lot of travelling all around Australia.
Did you ever talk to Norma about your experiences as a POW?
She asked quite a lot of questions. I think she’s probably read a lot of these things that are there. I’ve discussed with her, yes, I suppose so. Not very


many of the real gruesome tales.
What do you think now of the Iraq War at the moment?
Isn’t it terrible? At least we knew who we were fighting. I’m really sorry for all those guys. It’s terrible really.


I shouldn’t say this, but I’d like to see them all back. It doesn’t look as though; the actual war was a joke, it is the aftermath.
Do you think it is important that we remember and have a ceremony on Anzac Day?


Yes, I think so. I really do. There’s been a lot of talk of cutting out. A lot of people have enjoyed over the, at least one day a week marching and meeting friends. Yes, I think it’ll probably die out, but as far as I’m concerned


I used to go to a few Anzac marches when I was up in Mission Beach, in Tully. I never went for quite a while. I was on a boat, deckhand and all that business for quite a while there and growing avocadoes.


It was only a small property. I used to work at the railway and send my avocadoes. I had about 100-odd trees. It was a fair bit of money in those days and


working at the railways a few days of the week. In permanently on the boats. I quite enjoyed life. I never went to any Anzac business for quite a while. I was up there for 23 years. I got very friendly with the poor old doc. We used to have


big drinking sessions every Friday night round at his place. He ended up getting me to go to an Anzac march. That’s how I finally ended up going to these Anzac marches up in Tully.


We used to have quite a good time, a few beers and all the rest of it.
What do you think about on Anzac Day?
When you got to the Cenotaph, you used to think of


a few things.
What sort of things?
Friends that you’d lost. You’d have brief rushes while you were marching and stopping at the Cenotaph.


That was that.
Do you feel proud of your war contribution?
I suppose I was proud of being awarded this medal. Yes, I was proud of that. Apart from anything else, I don’t think I was,


I was pretty, you know, ‘who cares’ kind of business.
The escape was really brave, have people said that to you and how do you respond to that?
I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody


really apart from this fellow that wrote a small article up here when I was at Mission Beach. On this Anzac march I used to feel a little


bit proud because I had about eight of them. Most people I saw only had a couple. But that was in my own heart. I was proud to have all those medals, but that was it.
What do you think of portrayals of escapes like The Great Escape and films that have been made?


They were interesting.
Are they rubbish?
They all led to nowhere really. There was no point. It was more or less, in that particular episode, it was


getting the Germans something to do. It wasn’t achieving very much as far as getting back to England or escaping out of the country.
That was more the point for you?
That was more the point for me, to get back home. No, they were very brave, what they did.


I thought it was an awful lot of wasted energy not to really achieve something.
Did you witness in your war experience any cowardice from other men?
You all saw a little


bit of that. I don’t intend to go into that.
Other men have said there were reports of people…
Yes, there was a certain extent. I was very sorry to hear about one before we left to go into Libya, an officer, he was a very nice guy,


he put a bullet through his foot. Funny thing, I was, I think I must have been going to meet somebody on the train one day coming back from Melbourne, and who should sit in front of me than this particular man. I’m certainly not going


to name him. He was sent back to Australia as a training man. He was a captain then, training people.
Could you understand why someone would do that in those conditions?
He probably


had conditions that nobody knew about, family and things like that. A lot of people couldn’t understand. As I say, he was a really nice guy. During training and period like that,


he happened to be the officer I had to report back on my conduct when I hit the corporal and ended up getting fined. I think I mentioned that before. He was actually the man that I had to report to. A really nice man.


Was it upsetting for you to hear about that?
Yes. It was. I was very sorry to hear about it.
Did you see any acts of bravery?
There was always people that were doing crazy things. What I saw these


Maoris doing on Crete. They were some of the bravest soldiers I’ve ever seen. You saw things, but you didn’t, they were heat of the day type of thing. That’s about the whole box of dice.
You’ve been married for 55 years. What’s the secret of a good marriage?


We’re just normal. We have our blues and all the rest of it, don’t worry about that. I always felt attracted to her.


We’ve never broken up really, had interesting lives, moving around in different places and meeting different people. She had a lot of these garden clubs. She started off


in the pottery game. I thought I’d have a look at that so she ended up giving it away and I ended up doing pottery in Mission Beach for quite a few years, making pottery. Quite enjoyed it. All these things were of interest. That was it. The


whole life.
Do you dream about the war?
No way.
Did you dream about it in the years directly after it finished?
I tried to put it out of my mind. I suppose it’d come back a few times.


It was a funny damn thing. When I went down to Brisbane to this bastard reunion business, I had a very bad night. I’d drunk a fair bit, but it all came back. That’s the only time. I thought of


a few things that I’d gone through, peculiar.
Meeting the men and talking to them I guess.
Yeah. But it was only just a spasm. To my knowledge, it was the only time it every really happened, just a little bit that night. So that was the end of the story.
Do you have a final comment to say to Australia about your war


experience or what you feel about life in general?
Don’t give up. If you start any project, I think there’s a price to business and everything, don’t give up, keep going. That’s not a very.
Escaping as a POW, you wouldn’t have given up I imagine.


about the only thing I can think of. It’s been a pleasure meeting the both of you.


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