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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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