I was put in a child’s home, children’s home in Strathfield, and there were two sisters and a brother. One sister was older and one younger, and my brother was younger than me. The four of us were in this home, at Strathfield. And when you mixed children like that, when they turned nine they had to be segregated, so when I turned nine I was sent to a home at Ashfield.
And it was just boys there, and I spent from 1929 till 1932 in that home. In the meantime my mother had got things together a bit and she had the two girls home with her and she was renting a place in round near Strathfield. And she was doing odd jobs to make ends meet, so cleaning houses,
dental surgeries and people she knew that gave her the opportunities to get some money, and eventually she did bring my brother and myself, he came to join me at Ashfield eventually, and we had them all together as a family at Strathfield and we just carried on living there and through the….eventually I got a job as a process worker in an engineering firm. Things were pretty grim then, it was the Depression years,
and I was lucky to get the job and I was working there right from 1935, as the war seemed imminent. The firm I was in was getting good contracts for making all the war equipment. So the job was pretty secure. But what they use to do at this firm, when you turned 21 they’d sack you, and because
the money was a bit hard for them to pay you full wages. So they knew young fellows would be coming on all the time, but seeing the war was on they kept us on. But when the war was declared, the rule was that all men in their 21st year had to enrol for compulsory military service. And so I was in that category and I
went down and enrolled and in January of 1940 I was allocated to a searchlight unit out at Middle Head. But the first two weeks were spent at North Head in the artillery barracks and that was getting us used to squad drill and discipline. And then we moved over to our area in Middle Head and from there, we did three months, just about camping around Sydney
with the searchlights and getting the experience in that. And at night time the air force would come over with their Avro Ansons and we’d have to try and find them and it was really good experience. But the reason why I didn’t enrol in the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] was I thought, “I’d be better to have this three months in camp before I joined the AIF.” Cause my ambition was to be in the AIF. And so once the camp,
the three months finished, they were recruiting for the 7th Division, so I enrolled for that and eventually I was accepted, went through the medical and swearing in and sent to Ingleburn Camp. And this was the 2/17th Battalion and we did our initial training there and in about August, we did a march to Bathurst, the camp at Bathurst
was getting built. They decided it would be good training for us to do that, by route marching and having little stunts on the way. We were well looked after by the people in the towns that we went through. And we were billeted in some private homes and other times in halls and we eventually arrived in Bathurst and continued our training there. Then we got 10 days leave while we were up
there. That was the last leave I was going to have before I left Australia. I came back to camp and in October we packed camp and moved by train to Darling Harbour. And then we were ferried over to the [HMS] Queen Mary in was anchored in the Acheron Bite and then we eventually took off from Sydney with the Aquitania in company with us, and away we went outside and
on our way to wherever and we picked up the Mauritania out of Melbourne and we went down right south, south of Tasmania. It was a good trip over to Fremantle, then onto Bombay. We had to get out, pull into Bombay, because the Italians had come in the war by then. It was a risk of ships going up the African coast, being bombed,
so we pulled in Bombay. And being such a large ship the Queen Mary had to anchor off shore and we spent a day and a night there and they took us ashore and we were entrained up to Deolali Military Camp up in the…about 100 miles out of Bombay. Then we, while we were there they brought our supplies from the Queen Mary into
the boat that was going to take us over to the Middle East. And we spent 3 or 4 days up there in Deolali, the camp was and very interesting seeing the natives there. When we came back to Bombay, when the ship was ready, we were granted a day’s leave and in that time we had a, we met up with a…there was five of us….we met up a lady whose husband played in a band, the Governor’s Band
and that was the highlight of our trip really, because she had been the housekeeper of Government House previously. And she said, “Would you like to come look over Government House?,” and we said, “We would,” so we looked through the grounds and eventually her husband came with you know band practice and they took us for a jaunt around Bombay seeing the more pleasant sights and then we went back and had lunch with them and we even had a swim on the Governor’s Beach,
the private beach, so that was really a highlight, things that the average soldier wouldn’t have got. So we had something we could look back on. And we sailed from Bombay and arrived up in the Suez Canal and I got off at Kantara half way up the canal and trained, entrained into Palestine. Then we were stationed in a camp near Gaza called
Crono 89, each camp had its own name. We started out training there and after a few weeks, the assault on the Italians had commenced in Egypt and they needed some troops to shepherd the prisoners coming back to Port Said and shipping them to various places. So our
battalion was sent to Port Said and we camped across the river in a place called Port Fuad and we spent about 3 or 4 weeks and we spent Christmas there. And I remember Christmas Eve, we were doing garrison duty around the town and there was a local bar keep, he had a bar and café sort of thing, he had been in the AIF in the First [World] War and he had stayed in Egypt. So he thought he was going to give us a surprise
tea on Christmas Eve in the night and he put on baked beans on toast cause it was just a bit of a thing, that we hated those baked beans. Anyhow, we had a nice time there and eventually we had to go back to our camp at Crono 89 and eventually the 6th Division was doing well up in the desert and we
prepared to move up that way. And the Greek campaign was getting desperate, there was some thought of sending us over to support that action there. But he decided that it would be better for us to relieve the 6th Division, who’d gone on past Benghazi by then and they’d bring them back and send them over to Greece. So that was our first action then, was up in that area, we took over
up past Benghazi, there was no enemy in sight but they were, Rommel had just arrived in Tripoli and was gathering his forces together and then the Benghazi Derby started to, the armour, the British Armour was depleted by then and so we had to do slow withdrawals, back to and we got into the area of Tobruk and
they decided we would have to defend that place, because there was a good defence system around there, so we were put into the various positions and we were just before the Easter Battle came on, we were in there ready for that and then Rommel made his big attack, which came onto our battalion area but one of the main companies,
was Don Company that bore the brunt of it and the British artillery did a wonderful job there, firing over open sites, knock over quite a few German tanks and the plan for them stopped there and then, so they decided to bypass and keep us hemmed in, which they did. And we spent the rest of the year up until November in under siege situation.
A few battles raging now and doing a lot of patrol work out in no man’s land and we’d shift around into various positions, Rommel broke through in a couple of spots, there were some out there, very hot spots but we were able to contain him there and eventually we were relieved by the Polish brigade, came in and a English division came in and that was great
joy. We were taken out on destroyers from Tobruk one night and back to Alexandria and then we went back into Palestine to a different camp called, a place called Julis and the one, our camp was called Hill 69, well just after we got there I’d had an injury on my elbow, a cyst causing me a lot of pain and I had to be
sent to the local AGH [Australian General Hospital], 7th AGH at Kantara, I spent a fortnight there. And on return from hospital, you usually go to a training battalion, you don’t go back to your unit. So I went to the 20th Brigade infantry training battalion, where all reinforcements came in and the returning from hospital and we had a boring time there, just route marches and drilling and so while I was there, they
opened a mortar school and a transport, anyone who wanted to learn mechanics and that. So I decided I’d do the mortar school and after a months training there, I went back to the ITB [Infantry Training Battalion] and then our unit was moving up into Syria and so we rejoined the unit there and we went by train for a certain distance, then trucks
in through Syria right up on the Turkish Border, we were doing garrison work and from that time the mortar platoon was increasing their membership so they decided that I should go into mortar platoon in Headquarter Company, cause I was originally in C Company. So I was a little bit resentful of that because I wanted to stay with my mates, but once I joined the new group, and there were two
from each company selected to add to the mortar platoon, we had quite a group. We had quite a good friendship going and so I decided to stay with the mortars, to serve the rest of my time with the mortars platoon. Then while we were up in Syria we did various guard duties on the border towns, we even swam across the river into Turkey, to say we’d been in Turkey.
Then we came back down to Tripoli, in the Lebanon area, and did some more camping there and they opened a holiday resort at Beirut, you got a week’s leave, you’d go to Beirut, it was just like going to Bondi. It was a, just having a good time in the town; they even had lifesavers on the beach. We had, one of my mates was a lifesaver and in
civilian life, he had a nice job just being a lifesaver on the beach all through the camp, after you had 6 or 7 days there you went back to your unit but by that time that Western Desert was getting in a bad state. Rommel had recaptured Tobruk and we were ready to come home to follow the 6th and 7th Division. They decided we
would have to go up to support the campaign in the desert, so we went up there in about July and we went right through to the Battle of El Alamein and we went through that campaign then back to Palestine and then shortly after that we moved on to Port Said, oh not Port Said to Port Suez, and then we were put on the Aquitania then
brought home to Australia. Then we had leave. A strange part of that was when I arrived home, my brother was about to be married and he said, “I want you to be best man at the wedding,” so I thought, “That’d be nice,” so he took me over to see his future bride and while I was there I met my wife. She was his bride’s elder sister and I
had no intentions there, but when we got talking and while I was on leave at the time, I had a few visits to the home and I got attracted to her, instead of…. my plans were to go away with the boys and have a good time. I decided I’d stay around and romance developed and after 6 weeks we were married and then a week later I left to go up to Queensland for jungle training
and we did that in camps up in Queensland. And then we moved to over to Port Moresby, no Milne Bay and we did our training there for amphibious training and eventually we moved around to the Lae campaign. We did an amphibious landing there on Red Beach, which was unopposed but
just after we landed, our next lot coming in, the Japs sent some bombers over and bombed some of the ships, that were unloading troops. And we were lucky we were on land but we survived that and the campaign towards Lae just steadily moving along, crossing rivers and that. And the 7th Division were coming down the Markham Valley and they got into Lae before we did. But
then they decided Finschhafen was the next step, so we moved onto Finschhafen and that. We struck pretty severe opposition there and it was a little bit tense for awhile until we consolidated and secured the beach head and we did various things around the place, clear the area we were moving up towards Sattelberg, was a high spot, was the next
place to be captured and while I was on that journey I was wounded by a sniper, it got through my leg, and we were going back to battalion headquarters to get supplies, and so I stayed with the MO [Medical Officer] there and he sent me back to the CCS [Casualty Clearing Station] and on the way down in a jeep. There was the driver, and I was sitting beside the driver and there was a chap with a
bad back on a stretcher at the back and we drove down towards the CCS on the beach at Finschhafen, we had to go through a Field Ambulance of the way they kept the fellow with the sore back there because the journey was a bit rough for him and they took me on down. But in the meantime the Japs had cut the track behind us, so there was no person could get past from then on, so we’re lucky
to get out then, down to the CCS. And the next morning they operated on my leg. And while I was recovering afterwards the Japs had landed on the beach and they were attacking in the hospital area and there were bullets flying, mortar, someone gave me a rifle and I was trying to do my bit, hopefully. And then the word came, “All walking wounded had to get down to the beach and
stretcher cases had to be wheeled out and an LST [Landing Ship Tank] was coming to take us to a safer place.” In the meantime another brigade had been landed there and they mopped up the few Japs that were still left around. So it eased that situation. And we had to go around to another clearing station where the fellows had gone the night before, so it was overloaded, there we spent a couple
of days before we were shipped on a LST back to Buna where the 2/11th AGH had formed and they had nursing sisters. It was wonderful to have women you know to look after you in the right situation. So we spent a night there and then after examination by the doctors they sent me back by plane over to Port Moresby. And there I had 6 weeks in the 2/5th AGH
and then you go to a convalescence depot after you’ve been in hospital and I spent 6 weeks recuperating, getting fit to return to the unit, which I did eventually. They were on their way up the coast of New Guinea and I was only back two days and I got stricken with malaria. So next thing I was back, back in CCS and I never really rejoined the unit
after that time because I kept getting recurrences of this malaria and they couldn’t treat it properly because they didn’t get the right result from the test. So I was having ups and downs with that, so I, eventually my unit came back and they went back and came back home. And I eventually I came on a, I was in hospital still, I came back on a hospital, not hospital ship but a
transport with others that were still there and we came around through, I think we called in Port Moresby and picked up some more and came back to Townsville. And then train down to Sydney and then on leave again. And that’s when I had my honeymoon then, sort of business. But in the meantime I’d got very severe illness with the malaria and I was in Concord Hospital under the AGH
and I developed a bit of amnesia. The day I was being discharged to a convalescent camp I decided I wasn’t going there, I was going home and I sort of …what you call a bit “Troppo” [mentally affected by the war] with the effects of the, having malaria and I just went home and picked up my wife at the hospital where she was nursing and I was at home having a, you know just happily
going about my business and my brother rung the hospital and told them I was there and worried about my condition because I was acting a bit strange. They said, “Well, he disappeared from the hospital, so you better bring him back.” So I went back there and I spent about a week or so having treatment, gradually I picked up and I was back to normal again. They wanted me to go
to a convalescent depot but I wanted to get away on honeymoon, which I did. And it carried on from there and then after a few weeks I returned to the unit back in Queensland. Carried on training ready for the next campaign. And it was a long time up there; it was over a year up in there and eventually in 1945, my son was born and after
he was about 4 or 5 weeks old he developed a serious illness and they sent for me to come home on compassionate leave which I did, after I’d finished that leave the doctors decided I should be kept home a bit more and got extra leave from the unit and eventually after another bout of malaria, I was on my way back to the unit, which had already gone to Borneo campaign.
And at the time I got back to Brisbane they weren’t sending any reinforcements back because the campaign was just about finished, so I just stayed around in Queensland, in Brisbane for a while and frustrated. So I managed to get a doctor to send me back to Sydney and then on into Goulburn Hospital, in Goulburn and spend 4 or 5 weeks there before I was discharged. So that was more or less my
campaign. So I carried on my normal happy life at home then.
we knew it, we’re going back, we’ll be able to get home to Australia it looks like now. That was where we really wanted to be. I think there was that thrill of knowing that we were coming home, which was pretty obvious that we were going to. Because the longer each day the British drove Rommel further back until it was just about annihilation really and they were preparing for the 8th Army to go on into Tripoli and into Libya or right through
Libya and right through to North Africa. It was obvious that they were well and truly in command then, so we knew we were coming home. I remember about the 1st of November, oh that’s right, we went back to … what camp did we go to then, back to
Palestine, that might have been Julis. That might have been when we went to Julis. The last camp I mentioned, Hill 69, that wasn’t Julis,that was 69, this was Julis and we were in camp there and then we got some leave. I remember Christmas Eve in that, that would be 1942 just before Christmas Eve,
we got our 6 day leave to Cairo. I took a day to get there I suppose from Palestine and there was a group of us together and we got into Cairo and we met up with some New Zealanders. New Zealand troops, they were pretty popular with us and they were hateful of the English, there was always a bit of a war on with them. So we got mingled up with these
New Zealanders and we went around the town having a good time, having a few grogs and things. They used to have Garry’s, they were like a horsedrawn taxi, that’s what they used to run around town in and we’re in one of these, there was four of us, and we’re going back, we had to go back to the hotel we were staying at. And the chap was, we realised he was going down the wrong road, wrong way, so we told him to reverse,
and as he did a U-turn with the horses and the thing tipped over, got knocked some how, you know, when they do. And we all fell out on the road and we were groggy, full of grog, well not too bad, we were half unconscious, and by the time the provos [Provosts – Military Police] arrived. New Zealand provos came up with a utility truck and started to sort things out and they decided we were the cause of it.
It was only because this thing got locked and tipped over but they would hear of that, so they put us in this paddy wagon and took us to the jail, Babelhab was a big red capped jail, a British MP [Military Police], anybody playing up, they put them in this jail for the night. And we had to spend the night in this jail cell, a big cell it was with all these English troops and New Zealanders and four or five of us.
And the next day we had to front up the Australian provo in charge and give our story and we managed to prove, not prove, persuaded him that it was accidental, that we weren’t playing up or anything. So we were just discharged and allowed to continue our leave but one of my mates was a corporal and he said, “I’ll leave you in charge of your men and if
you come back again, you’ll go straight back here again,” so we finished Christmas Eve in the jail at Cairo. We went back to the New Zealand club on Christmas Day, we had a …. I’ve got the card here somewhere, the New Zealanders, it was a special invitation to go to their club for Christmas Dinner or something, so we went in there and had a nice time in the New Zealand Club
and carried on our leave, had a good time the rest of the time, behaving ourselves, it was just unfortunate experience that I would rather forget. It was another fun time in our lives.
and they were all dispersed amongst the trees and all around and there was Japs mortaring the position, they were surrounding us a bit. They were mortaring with light mortars and there must have been the odd rifle shot and as we were moving across to a group, we were going to head for some big trees, to get in amongst the trees cause there was a fair bit of mortar firing. I just felt this whack in me leg and
I had a look, I dropped me trousers and there was a hole, there was a mark there and another one further around, it must have been, a sniper must of shot at me. At first I thought it was a mortar, only thing I could hear was mortars bursting on the ground but if that had been a mortar shrapnel it would have torn me trousers and torn my leg and so when I dropped my trousers I seen it, one of my mates put the field bandage on, I got special bandage wrapped around and tied me up and
it wasn’t sore and it didn’t look crook so I said, “I think we’ll wait till we get our supplies and I’ll go back to the company area.” And the first aid man, like the Zambuck, came up and had a look and he said, “No, you’ll have to see the doctor first.” And he was in with the battalion headquarters area, so I fronted him and he said, “No” and he wrote a tag on me and he said. “It’s a gunshot wound and you’ll go back to a field ambulance
and further on.” They had a jeep there with a driver and they put this fellow with a crook back on that on the back of it with a stretcher and I was sitting in with the driver and so we headed down the track. The first stage is after you get wounded like that you go to a, there’s a field ambulance somewhere just close where there’s doctors and orderlies to look after you a bit. We called in there and they decided
the track was too rough for the bloke with the crook back to take any further, so they left him there and they took me right down to the beach where they had the CCS and I spent the night there. They looked at my wound and they said, “We’ll operate on that in the morning.” Which they did, in the early hours of the morning, they just gouged it all out so it would just scarify, so there was no germs and that.
I had a big gash on my leg. I was just coming to in the morning and I’d been under pentothal they used to put you out with – and that was a nice sort of a drug, it makes you feel happy when you wake up. When I woke up there was bullets flying around, mortars dropping in the hospital and a Jap party had landed on the beach in the early hours of the morning. And there was American machine guns protecting
the beachhead because they were looking after the supplies, they sort of attacked them a bit and stopped them. But they got inland and were in amongst the hospital getting close, so they evacuated all… The order came to evacuate all walking wounded to walk down to the beach and stretcher cases had to be wheeled down or got out somehow. And so the.. But
there was a brigade of ours, reinforcements had been landed that night before, so they had them close by. So they got in amongst the Japs and mopped them all up. And there was quite a few Japs tried to get in, the beach machine gunners got a few but then the rest of this brigade cleaned up the rest. The trouble was they sent one of the bigger LSTs around to pick us up off the beach. That came
round and we walked onboard and they took the stretcher cases onboard but some of the stretcher cases were seriously ill and some of them died through that, you know, shaking up, It was sad to see that happen but we were all evacuated around to that Langemak Bay area I was telling you about. They had an advanced CCS there where they take the load that was ready to go back to hospital, they used to take them around
there, we were loaded around to them and that area was doubled up with so many wounded men. So we stayed a day there then we got on a LST and it took us back to Buna I think, it was, they had a 2/11th AGH formed, proper army hospital, with nursing sisters and all and they landed us there and we spent the night there. And the next morning the doctor
came and check us all and he decided I’d go back to Moresby. So the next morning I was taken to the airport, Dobodura I think it was, flew over to Port Moresby and I spent about 6 weeks in the 2/5th AGH and then when I came out of that I went to the convalescent depot in that area and I spent 6 weeks there getting… you got checked every
week to see how fit you were, so gradually you got hardened up enough to go back to your unit.
“He advised my presence to be still at home,” so I had to send a message up to my CO at the unit and get him to ok it, which he did, granting me some more leave and in that time the unit moved away over to Morotai and on their way to the Borneo campaign. And so when I finished that lot of leave I got stricken with
malaria then. I had some more time in hospital and eventually I was cleared of that and I was sent on the way to sent back to the unit, back through Brisbane and onward and in the meantime an order had come out that any troops with five years war service could be on the discharge list.
They were starting to discharge troops even from the front line, even they would pull them out if they had five years service, so I came under that category and the Borneo campaign was well on the way then. So I got back to Brisbane and they weren’t sending any more troops back to reinforce the unit so we just, just in camp at Brisbane each day, and if you didn’t have a duty you’d
just go on leave into town. So I was a bit frustrated I wasn’t going to go back to the unit and so I went to the doctor explained to him the situation, and I was wanting to get back home to me family and it looks like there’s no thoughts of getting this five year plan, you’re not racking up the time, so he decided he’d send me back with an
anxiety state or something like that. So I went to hospital in Brisbane and fronted a doctor there and he decided to send me down to Goulburn Hospital there and that’s close to home and I was examined by a psychiatrist and explained the situation and he decided I was ready for discharge but he said, “Settle back and take it easy for a week or two and
we’ll settle your discharge eventually.” So I had six weeks down there and finally I got me discharge and home to my family and we went to Bundeena, a place in Sydney for our honeymoon and we just, my wife had a friend down there sharing a house, so we lived in that for a few weeks,
after I was discharged. And then I had to get back to work, I had a family to keep, so I cut out all me leave that I was granted, so I had to go back and live in Sydney, at my wife’s mother’s place and I went back to the firm I worked with and they put me on again but they wouldn’t give me the, as a tradesmen – which I was entitled to – until
they saw how my experiences, if they’d been effected by being away. Anyhow I finally got my… backdated it as an apprentice and that gave me good training and I got a tradesman’s wage, so I was able to keep a family without any struggling and so I carried on in that firm and finished me apprenticeship and in those years ahead, my wife had
purchased a home before the war ended at Cabarita, so we moved into that, had our own home. It’s all paid for and so we got on with our life and had, our family greatly increased and then we had to go, we ended up brought a block of ground in Bundeena to have a weekender. So we finally went to live there permanently and all the 1950s we lived there. And when my wife’s health was failing a bit
we were under a doctor up here at Engadine, so we bought a block of ground at Heathcote where we live now and we moved up here and as the family grew, my son had to do tech work and so it was a bit hard to get out of Bundeena for that, so everything was running well up here at Heathcote, so we just kept on living as a happy family and gradually the kids got older and married off.