She was born in Haiphong, Indochina in those days. I spent a lot of my babyhood in Malaysia and periodically as my father was a sea captain and his home was in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia. He would get six months leave every two and a half years and he and the family
would go to Victoria. By this stage my Australian grandmother lived at Mooroolbark in Victoria. She had about sixty acres of land and was quite elderly at the stage. And I remember first recollections she had this lovely little jersey cow and we used to cuddle this Jersey cow and play with it.
This was to say my brother and I and my sister. And so we made several trips from the East to Australia every time my father was due for a holiday. I think I should mention in Malaysia I would have been about six or seven at the time
we were living in Kuala Lumpur, and next to where we were living was a zoo. It was really a collection point by an American fellow called Buck, colloquially know as "Buck- Bring- them- Back Alive" and he used to collect these animals for the silent films. Particularly at that stage Johnny Weismuller, an Olympic swimmer,
was an actor and he depicted himself as a child in Malaysia brought up by animals [Tarzan]. Anyway to cut a long story short the manager of this collecting zoo on one occasion gave us a baby tiger. Later on I will elaborate on that, but I remember with
great joy the enormous amount of fun we had with this baby tiger. That tiger had to be returned when it grew up and was too big and was possibly dangerous and so we substituted that pet for another pet which was a baby elephant. They were highlights of my childhood. Ultimately the depressions settled in at that period, the whole world was affected by it, and my father's firm started to close down.
So he came back with us to Mooroolbark where we had purchased a seventy acre property in the bush. So for a while I was an Australian bush boy. Later on at the end of the depression my father accepted a position as a sea captain with Jardine Matheson [trading conglomerate] in Hong Kong. We returned back to the East,
this time in Hong Kong. Whilst in Hong Kong I went to De La Salle College. I forgot, prior to that I went to the primary school in Mooroolbark and in Hong Kong I went to De La Salle and it was there that my father regrettably contracted typhoid, died, and my mother went back to her maternal home in
Haiphong in Indochina as it was then known. Now it is known as Vietnam and Haiphong is was a sea port not very far from Hanoi, which was the capital. There I went to a French college, the Honken De Vierre College in Haiphong which of course resulted in me being tri-lingual because I could speak Malay and French of course
and English. My mother could see what was going to happen and so we returned to Australia. At that time we had a sixty acre property, a little cottage in Australia, my mother's home of course in Haiphong was closed down, we returned to Australia and incidentally
I should mention that my brother was almost completely blind, and my younger sister was going to school. There was no money coming in, although we had property there was no money in those days, there was no social service and I had to go to work when I was fifteen I worked at The Herald office in Victoria and also at Kodak as an office boy. And when the war started I was a sixteen
and a half, against my mother's wishes I assumed my brother's name, who was two years older than I was and joined the 2/ 8th Infantry Battalion in February 1940. So that was 2 /8th Infantry Battalion, 6th Division, I was one of the originals. We went to the Middle East, Palestine, where we trained for some
considerable time. Then we went from Palestine into Egypt and we were at the start of the first North African campaign. I fought at Bardia, Tobruk, Benghazi, Giarabub. These were the major battle in that time, we captured Bardia, Tobruk, Benghazi and that took us right up into Tripoli.
Around about that period of time Churchill made arrangements to give support to Greece which we thought was a bad judgement and so the Australian 6th Division and a few aircraft were sent to Greece. This in effect split up the force in the desert.
This weakened us, we didn’t have sufficient representation in Greece and because we were halved now, when I say we the Australians and the British, there was insufficient in the desert to stop Rommel who about that time had landed and was conducting the first of his campaigns in North Africa. In Greece, we were endeavouring to stop the Germans coming down .We were badly hit by the Leibstandarte [Hitler’s SS Bodyguard Division],
the Adolf Hitler bodyguard and the panzer [tank] division. We were forced out of the Veria Pass which was the first major battle and then we did the retreat down Greece. The Domokos Pass we were very badly battered and then eventually got to Kalamata where we got off on the destroyers and then were taken to a troopship. What was left of my battalion was split in half,
one half got safely back to Alexandria, and my half under the command of the second in command Major Keys we were on the Costa Rica which was a troopship to get back to Alex. But on the way we were dive bombed and sunk. We were picked up by the
destroyers and taken to Crete, that’s half of the battalion. At Crete one of the major battles of that period took place. The German airborne division landed in Crete, and I, with what was left, about half of the battalion, we fought several battles on Crete. Also with some British
Marines we did the rear guard from north to south and got off with the British navy. Went from there to Alex and regrouped and got re-enforcements and then occupied Syria. Then we were in Syria when the Japanese started their campaigns and caused a lot of consternation. Singapore fell.
And the Australian government brought the 6th Division back to Australia. Panic reigned supreme at that particular stage and they thought the Japs would come through the Northern Territory so they rushed us up to the Northern Territory when we came to full strength and started to train under tropical conditions. From there we went to North Queensland
Wondalga area and we had just about finished our training to go to New Guinea when I was sent for by an organization called the Allied Intelligence Bureau. The Allied Intelligence Bureau was an organization to provide intelligence for
MacArthur and for the campaign that MacArthur and the Australian troops conducted in the Pacific. And I joined an organization which came under the AIB, Allied Intelligence Bureau, a unit called Z, it was simply called Z Unit. A lot of people call it Z Special Unit but it was really Z Unit. There I
trained. The intention was to land Z operatives behind enemy lines, in the first instance to collect intelligence and secondly to conduct guerrilla warfare. I trained in all manners of warlike crafts, work or detail whatever it was and in
May, four of us got onto a Liberator bomber with all of our gear and what have you and we parachuted into a place called Beaufort in the centre of Borneo. I was sent down by my commanding officer, I was sent down on my own down the Padas River to cover an area
Sipitang area where I recruited guerrillas and started to collect military intelligence for the future landings in Borneo. It was quite hectic at times. We had to live off the land and we had no medication at all.
I was still in the jungle fighting the Japs when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan and the Japanese had to sue for peace. And the Pacific or the Japanese War came to an end around the end of August although we were still fighting each other for around two weeks after the Japanese had surrendered. By that time I was very ill
suffering from malnutrition, malaria, amoebic dysentery, brucellosis and fortunately for me one of the other operatives came down, got me down to the coast they sent a torpedo boat to pick me up. And I finished up on the island of Labuan the 2 /5th Australian Hospital. From there I was flown back to Australia,
four months in hospital and about four years completely unemployable. My physical and mental state had deteriorated so much. It took a long time to recuperate. Do you want me to continue to the regular army?
Having had these experiences through childhood and growing up did you notice and differences between you and other copy boys of your age changes this had made in you?
Yes in a sense that I was probably, I had a wider knowledge of everything. I was conscious of that. I was amongst adults I imagine to a greater extent than these kids were here in Australia because they would come home from school and they would go out and play or something and I don’t think they would have read as much as I read.
Or was reading at the time. I also have to digress, when we were at Haiphong we had this large house on one of he tributaries of the Red River and at that particular time the country was infested with what they called the "Po phun Wa" the "Black Flaggers".
They had a black flag, and they were river pirates. And on one occasion the servants came up terror stricken and they told my other that they had heard the river pirates were on the prowl. So my mother had grabbed all of us including the servants and took us all into the house and closed and locked all of the doors and closed the typhoon shutters which were wooden. We had a large top veranda
and there she got the servants to dampen down bed sheets and blankets, drape them everywhere. Because one of the characteristics of the Po phun Wa was to attack a place and each pirate would have a section of bamboo which had kerosene in it and after they did whatever they wanted to do they would set fire to the villages with
this kerosene. That’s why my mother, thinking that perhaps they would attack us, had plenty of water in containers and wet blankets all over the place, although the house was concrete, draped over the balustrade and so on. I was a good shot because in the country in Australia had taught me how to shoot .
And my brother, blind as a bat could still us a shotgun. And on this occasion we still had my father's arms; one was a .44 Winchester repeater, the other was a single shot shotgun and a double barrel shotgun and also a 22 rifle. So my brother took the shotgun
so he could blaze away and whatever he saw moving because he could see out of the corner of his eye a little bit. I took the Winchester 44 because I was prepared to shoot at a longer range. That night we heard the thunking of the oars and the rowlocks. They came up, landed, and we could see into the moonlit night
These natives, they didn’t touch us, they went straight past. They were all naked except for a loin cloth with this bamboo container stuck in their belt and in their hands they would have a cup cup, it was like a large sword. And they went about two or three kilometres up to the post office and we saw the flares
of what we later learnt was the post office burning and they had raped the postman's wife, killed the postman, thrown their bodies into the fire and then had come back. Once again they just passed our front. I remember I was going to fire at one point and my brother told me, “Don’t be a bloody fool!” And fortunately I
didn’t fire. And they came back got into the sampans and paddled away and the next day the French came along with a lot of native troops and went looking for them. Incidentally too, digressing for a moment, in Hong Kong at that time there were a lot of pirates and they used to congregate around a place called Poatas Reef.,
and they were known as pirate areas. Each ship would have a master at arms, generally a refugee Russian. In those days the Russian revolutioneers were fighting the White Russians and the White Russians were kicked out and they fled to China. Generally the master at arms would be a Russian,
in a rack on the vessel there would be a rack of Winchester 44s and wire netting around the bridge.The character of what the pirates used to do would be to join up, because sometimes the ship would carry natives from one port to another for work and they would rush the bridge, capture the bridge, kill the European crew and take the vessel to Poatas Reef and strip it completely.
Well tell us about the initial start, that first day when you walked in, and the training?
Well they held us at the Showgrounds, we went in there in our civil suits and each held a suitcase. And then we changed and got issued with our army uniforms and so on. Big red stiff boots, clothing that didn’t fit, either too big or too small. And you couldn’t exchange them.
The quartermaster couldn’t be bothered and there was too many anyway .We got our clothes and started to swap with each other and eventually got something that you could wear. The boots, we were taught to rub our feet with methylated spirits and to put on a thick pair of socks and wet the boots and walk around in those for
five, six, eight hours to let them take the shape of your feet. There was a lot of marching in those days. There was some really rough blokes with us, some from Fitzroy slums and so on, a lot of swearing, a lot of abuse from the NCOs , ”Can't you find your own bloody feet, you idiots?” and this went on,
teaching us our drills, and I can understand. We probably tested their patience a lot because we were really a bunch of raw recruits. I volunteered for the infantry and so I was only a short time in the depot, Flinders Street and I went infantry, they took us to Seymour, to the 2 /8th and dropped us
off ,one or two o’clock in the morning, the quartermaster swearing a little bit, got up and gave us a feed of bully beef and got our palliasses, that’s a hessian bag with straw in it, and we dossed down in these long houses. It was pretty grim.
And a lot of it, I was learning quickly, but a lot of it was pretty rough and course, "F!" this and "F!" that. It was a mixture, we were all volunteers and there were all kinds of people from let's say, and I hate using the word, lower class as opposed to the more gentile sophisticated class.
We had in my platoon alone, when we formed up into platoon we had a newspaper reporter, we had a retired naval officer, we had tram conductors, butchers and so on and some people from the slums. But you found your own level. And gradually as time progressed you went into a type of work
that was more appealing than another. But there was rough days, some of the coarseness annoyed me quite a bit. They would get drunk and there is no electric light, there was lanterns and they would have competitions to see how long you could keep an erection with a lantern hanging from your penis. Or a rifle,
some very strong people, that’s ten pounds. But that was the sort of fun they had. Of course they were not all like that. But then we started training and the training was hard. You start off with five miles route march and then seven, ten, fifteen and twenty. Twenty miles is a lot of kilometres, you get blisters all over
your feet. You start to lose your puppy fat, my puppy fat I was only sixteen and a half. You get much leaner and stronger and you’re carrying weight too. You have your harness and a duffle pack, it is a small pack and your rifle Then you go into advanced training, you start firing your rifle on the
range. I was a master rifleman principally because I had done so much shooting in the bush. And I got my 'cross rifle with the crown [badge] which made me the battalion marksman which came in very handy later with the Japs. Most of the marksmen were bushmen, the city fellows didn’t have the opportunity to train as a youngster.
Then we started, we had what we used to call the bull ring. On one side there they would be teaching you the Bren gun, well it wasn’t a Bren gun it was a Lewis in those days, the light machine gun. And then over there you would be doing the rifle shooting. Laying prone, legs apart, first press, second press of the trigger,
how to aim and so on. And then over there you would be doing bayonet practice. So you would do that for an hour and then ten minutes break and then go to the next one and so on. This was basic infantry training. Bayoneting is quite interesting -
high port, en guard, thrust, butt stroke, you bring the butt around to the side of the face. And then, by the time you get to the second dummy and it is on the ground and you poke him, the dummy, constant. And then of course you had night manoeuvres and then you learnt the basic various infantry tactics. Basic
organization in an infantry battalion, these are the men that really see the white of the enemies eyes, a section of ten men and the ten men are under the control of a corporal or lance corporal. And in ten men you have one machine gunner with his assistant. One LMG, light machine gunner with his assistant and the rest have rifles. In
the jungle a lot of them had sub-machine carbines. Sub-machine guns. And then the time comes, it was only a short time for me and we went overseas. I was on the Neralia conditions were very rough indeed, we struck a storm crossing the Bight and most of the people were land lubbers, so
they were vomiting all over the place and so on. And the stench down below was shocking. It was a British troop ship, the British Navy had never looked after their men particularly well and we had eighteen inches per hammock space, and you were head to foot, because then the
broader part of your body is your shoulders and hips, so by having feet on that side and feet there, you were able to cram more people in. Food was appalling, bully beef or stew or tinned fish. That’s all we had day in day out. Porridge for breakfast, then we had we continued drill on the troop ship going over.
Got to in Egypt, I am trying to think of the name., it doesn’t matter, we got
off the ship and I thanked God that I got off it, had been a dreadful trip. And we went by train to Palestine to and started to form up as a brigade. At that time we had the old style 14 – 18 war configuration. In other words you had four sections
to a platoon, four platoons to a company. Four rifle companies and headquarters company to a battalion, four battalions to a brigade, four brigades to a division, they called it a square division. And then they introduced the triangular division. So instead of the four you had three sections to every platoon and each company had for some reason or other I think four I
don’t know why, three platoons. Each company then there was A B C D, still four companies, basically it was three battalions to a brigade, triangular division. We went over with a lot of old equipment, like our harness was 14 /18 War stuff, and so on. When we got over there they outfitted us with a new harness which had the Bren
pouches. Tommy guns didn’t come until later. They gave us khaki, light khaki working clothes instead of the wool and we started to train together. Platoons together and then companies and then battalions and then we
would have the big manoeuvres where we would have brigade manoeuvres up to divisional strength. Division generally consisted of roughly twenty thousand men. But that’s all support troops, artillery, ambulance and so on, division is self supporting more or less. Now the training becomes more complex, particularly for the senior
people, the larger the organization it becomes more and more complex. Troopers like me, a basic infantry soldier, there is still a lot to learn, an enormous amount to learn and I won't go into the detail but making what they call shell mats. In those days they had no efficient system of finding out where the enemy artillery was, so you would have two men in a slit trench there and about
fifty or seventy five yards away another two men. And as soon as you heard the cough, because sound travels straight, a howitzer shell particularly goes up into the heavens and then returns, so the sound reaches you before the shell. And so I would take a quick bearing on the sound and my mate would note down time and those two there are doing the same thing.
When the shell landed you would take a bearing on that and he would put down the time, and so you built up over a period of time what they call a shelling map. You would go back to battalion at night time and plot them all in, so where you get an intersection of bearings you would know that the enemy gun pits are there.
We did all of that training and it was long and tedious and very demanding. We had occasion once or twice to go on leave, I didn’t have very much money but the duty battalion, what they called the duty battalion had to provide what they called pickets, in a township there would be like any other township but brothels
as well, and the picket duty was to keep the diggers in order. If they got too drunk you just threw them into the back of a truck and took them back to battalion. If there was a brawl of some kind between the Egyptians and the diggers you would stop that and get the diggers out of the road. Sometimes there would be brawls between the English soldiers and ourselves. So the duty of the picket was to keep the peace,
they were not armed except for a bayonet, that’s all. A sergeant and thirty men. Now this is quite interesting because sometimes you have to visit the brothel areas because the madam of the brothel might find one or two of the diggers a nuisance. They would send a runner very quickly and we would go inside, grab him and take him out of harm's way.
Some of the diggers were so stupid when they got drunk they didn’t know what they were doing anyway. I don’t know whether I should tell you about some of the experiences there. There was all forms of sexual entertainment. In those days I used to think that Egypt was the cesspool of the world. There is basically
no form of sexual variation or deviation which the human mind can conceive that you couldn’t buy in Egypt. You could fornicate with a donkey, they provided all of this sort of thing. One episode
I describe in my book is where three harlots did a cancan over three bottles of beer with the tops taken off. Then they would squat over that and pick up the bottles with their vaginas, and then they would hand it out to some of the diggers and some drunken digger would drink out of it.
But on this episode there was a digger sitting on a chair with arm rests about so thick and he apparently called something out like, “Ha, you didn’t come.” Or something like that. This was another, the other episode was where they had I have forgotten, a thing called the electric fuck
where the Sudanese fellow has a connection to his ankle and so does the female and it is connected ostensibly to something in the wall, whether it is a transformer or not I don’t know. A lot of this is make believe stuff you know and they proceed to become galvanised and the big Sudanese fornicates the harlot,
and on this occasion the harlot is only a few feet away from this digger and the digger called out, “Ha, you didn’t come.” So it is all very disgusting and then she scooped herself out and flicked it into his face, and then she jumped up on the armrest where he was sitting and
pushed her groin into his face. And he had a digger's hat on, stuck on the side of his head and he pulled his head back and must have scratched her because she let out a shriek and out they came, Sudanese and Gyppos [Egyptians] they had blackjacks in their hands, they had knives. We descended, we grabbed hold of chairs and stools
and protected ourselves as we got downstairs and then ran for it. Fortunately the British MPs, there were four British MPs, they were armed and when the Gyppos saw them they just disappeared. One of the big problems was there
was no provision made for the digger when he went on leave. The shopkeepers were on the make all of the time taking him down. There was at that stage nothing that what would have been interesting. I would have been interested in archaeological trips where you could go to the pyramids. But really the whole population was
geared to making more money and catering for the appetites of primitive man I suppose. It was sad in a way because both Egypt and Palestine had so much to offer. I was very interested, my father was a very keen historian and he taught me a lot about Egyptian culture and so on. But also I was very interested in Palestine
because my mother was a strict Catholic and we believed in a lot of stuff in the bible and it was fascinating to allegedly see the parts where Christ had trod you know. But you could go to Palestine then and they would sell you a piece of wood which they swore came from the original cross. There was a lot of commercialism.
Anyway we were trained and then we went to Egypt on the way to Bardia.
experience with this lady in Haiphong. I had a romantic view of intercourse between a man and a woman and still do. I still believe any intense relationship where a man and a woman enjoy each other, I think
it is a very fine relationship in depth and of great feeling. I for instance would never just automatically sleep with a woman, there has to be an enormous amount of understanding and real, not love if you don’t wish to call it love, but real liking for each other. I couldn’t understand, well I
never did, didn’t go to a harlot until later on, I will tell you about that, which changed my view on harlots by the way .But I remember and this I found quite interesting when we knew we were going up into action you would be surprised how many ,men went to the brothels. Whether this is a biological subconscious attempt and I am putting my own thoughts into this,
whether it was a submerged biological action or not I don’t know, but it looked as though men wanted to copulate, to procreate. Possibly, I don’t know. But I remember a young lad, he was only a year older than me and he asked me to go with him and keep an eye on him. It was his first and they way he described it to me,
when he came out he was crying and I said, “What’s wrong?” She just laid there with an apple, chewing the apple while he fornicated her. And it so cheapened it in his eyes, he got killed later anyway so there we are. Perhaps he might have had a premonition which has occurred, a premonition.
How did it affect me? I despised, not now but then I despised the social set-up in Egypt. Egypt was owned by five percent and the rest of them were [(UNCLEAR)]
and they lived a dreadful life. They had patches on their patches on their shirts. There was very little, there was no middle class, you were either very rich or very poor. Perhaps I should describe another situation. I was always curious and I was wandering around and in the better
quarters, there they all had their high fences with glass along the top or steel pointed spears along the court yards, and always a guard on the entry to the grounds. And always plenty of servants and I was wandering around having a gawk at some of these areas and this young Egyptian gentleman, for lack of a better word,
beautifully dressed, a bit fat, saw me there and we got talking. I could speak French. And most of the Egyptians in those days would send their boys, not the girls, but boys to colleges in Switzerland or France and so we got talking, he invited me in and filled me up with sweets
and Turkish delight and what have you, and with his servants cringing. Actually you would have thought he was royalty, they would bring something in and bow and walk out backwards, and this irked me a bit. I was taught by my father to be more socialistic I suppose and then the bastard put the hard word on me. There was a lot of that too with the
Egyptians. So I was stamped out of the place in sheer disgust and anger. Boy I was naïve. You have no idea. Well I knew so much but I was still a naïve boy, I had a lot of faith in human nature and I despised the Gyppos, still do.
Culturally these rich upper crust Gyppos were culturally very well informed and experienced, they were Europeans, they couldn’t care less about this own people. In Egypt, I don’t know whether you know, you would find some of the farmers who were paying off debts that their grandfathers had enacted. Perhaps their grandfather or great grandfather had had a bad season so they would go to a moneylender to buy seed way back and they
would put the seed down and unfortunately for them there would be a second bad season and next minute they are in the hands of a money lender and they are paying interest on the interest, for God's sake. Some of them were paying off debts that had belonged to their great grandfather. And that’s virtual slavery. That’s enough of that I think.
you don’t think you’re going to get hurt. You are very curious about how you’re going to react. Infantry, you can sometimes come into contact with the enemy. How you’re going to react, am I going to run away? You are half fearful and then you’re half fearful also that you’re going to run away, which you don’t do in the best of circles.
You don’t let your mates down, number one. And number two, if you do run away you’re classified as having LMF, loss of moral fibre. They didn’t realise that men could crack, break whatever. So in Bardia we were the reserve brigade. That meant that the two other brigades in my division broke into Bardia and for us it was relatively light,
we only lost about five or six men. Several experiences there. The second day ,we were in reserve the first day in Bardia and then we relieved the front line battalion. And the
second day I shot, I killed my first two men. We came under heavy shell fire and we walked through the shell fire and when the smoke cleared we could see the lines of the defences of the Italian infantry. They were
perhaps four hundred yards and we came under machine gun fire and we kept on advancing. So we got into the high port, that’s ready for the bayonet charge and I saw two Italians perhaps two hundred yards climb out of the front line and
start to run back. They could have been running back to the second line of defence. I was a marksman and I dropped them both, at least they fell onto the ground. When we continued, as we got up to the trench they all came out and started
to wave white handkerchiefs. We were in a very nervous condition. Then we continued on. I went down this large hole with steps and found that it was a underground first aid post, regimental aid post
and there was a lot of Italian soldiers there that were badly wounded and on the side of the entrance there were stretchers with dead Italian soldiers. There was one stretcher that had an army boot and about that much of the foot still in it, with blackened blood all over the place; obviously
the fellow had had his leg blown off or it had been surgically cut, I wouldn’t know. And that’s when the penny started to drop that I suppose one could get hurt. That was the first time I went into action. I didn’t barge into the First Aid post, the Italian doctors there, unlike our doctors were armed.
So I took the Biretta pistol off one of the officers and put it into my coat pocket and left them to it. Italians were screaming and calling out, “Mama mia.” Mother, mother. Some of them were in a bad way, I saw one fellow with a huge hole where his shoulder blade should have been. That night
I couldn’t sleep, I was very mixed up. I couldn’t talk to the mates in my section because they were older than me and I thought I am a bit of a sissy if I talk to them about it. It was a cold desert night and I remember I had little sleep. I walked up and down and stamped my
feet and what have you. Next day I felt a bit better and had a hot breakfast and went on. Then Bardia had fallen and we got into trucks and went up to the outskirts of Tobruk. Now at Tobruk we knew that we would have to break the inner defences. Tobruk had,
typical Italian formation. Two half circles with each flank sitting on the water, Tobruk in the centre so it would have been like that with Tobruk there. And inner defences and outer defences. A lot of people just think you start a battle but you don’t. Before you actually have a set piece battle there might be two or three weeks where you are sending out patrols,
probing patrols, standing patrols, different kinds of patrols. Sometimes you just lie out in the desert at night and get as close as you can and wait for them to light up, and then you’re taking bearings on them all of the time, so that you know where their defence lines were. The Italians are quite jittery so they would quite often set off their machine guns, light machine guns, heavy machine guns and they all had
tracers, so you built up a chart of where the heavy or light machine gun was and so on, you could build up the defences. Now all of this goes on for two or three weeks or whatever and then you do the attack . In the attack there was
still parts of my brigade, their job was to break through the outer defences and each turn left and right and start to roll it up, while we dove through the gap and continued to the second line of defences. That’s where we struck a lot of problems .The Italians had dug in their tanks
so that only the gun was above the desert floor. C Company of my battalion was very badly knocked around, lost all of its officers except for one and lost most of its sergeants, except for one or two. I lost a few mates there. And strangely enough when we got in amongst the tanks
a second group of mobile tanks came up and hit C Company, and I don’t know what happened but probably the heavy fire from us stopped the
tanks and that’s the occasion when strangely enough one tank was stopped. Either a twenty-eight pounder [shell] had struck it or not I don’t know; but the turret opened and two young Italians started to run away and
I got one and the other one continued running and I got him too.
That evening a lot of dumps of enemy stores and ammunition and whatever were set alight. And there was explosions all night long. Then we got into trucks. By this time we had captured so much Italian equipment that we were
a lot more comfortable. In other words the normal operation in an infantry division is that you have the service corps, the army service corps and they are the people that transport this around normally. But normally the Australian division only had enough transport to transport one third at a time.
Having captured a lot of diesel equipment from the Italians we were much more comfortable and we were packed into the trucks like sardines as per usual. And we took off for Benghazi. The Benghazi operation was a much looser operation in the sense that there was a lot more small fire fights, but not one huge major battle.
We captured Benghazi and the mayor of Benghazi declared it an open city and we marched in very formally and took over the city. What was interesting now was that the Italian people in Libya, in the Benghazi area from the Tobruk area on in Libya they
were becoming frightened that the Arabs in that particular area would get their revenge on them. And in some outlying districts in actual fact the Arab people and the nomads particularly began to kill and interfere with the Italian settlers. An interesting
comment here on the side is that we had intelligence information that the Italians had stored a lot of phosgene and mustard gas. And we received this intelligence information from divisional headquarters, warning us not to inadvertently open any forty-four
gallon drums in any dump that we came across. And they could be identified by various colours. I have a copy of that divisional intelligence information somewhere or other in my files and it is available whenever I find it. After Benghazi I ended up at a place called El Agheila
that was the end of the campaign as far as we were concerned. In El Agheila this is right now not very far from Tripoli, in North Africa. And in El Agheila we were billeted for a week or two amongst the Italian settlers. What is interesting is that in the
battle of Bardia the Italian propaganda people explained the downfall of Bardia by explaining that Bardia had been captured by hordes of savage Australians who were wearing armour. What we actually did have was sleeveless jerkins made from leather to keep us warm.
The propaganda was turned against them in effect because it frightened the hell out of them and they thought that we were protected by armour vests which would be much more difficult to counteract. So when we settled in amongst the population to recuperate and were billeted on the farms of the Italians they all thought
we were all savage Australians and were going to kill and rape them or whatever. Which was absolutely contrary because the average digger really in my time was just a normal fellow quick to make friends. In my case, where I was billeted with several others, it took about a week or two before the Italian parents there brought out their children. Particularly their young girls which they had
been hiding in case we were going to rape or murder them. We soon made friends. But when we left there to go to Mersa Matruh in Egypt they were actually crying, we had become such close friends with the Italian peasants. They were nice people, very gentle people too. Anyway we all left and went to Mersa Matruh.
By this time the Australian 9th Division and some of the 7th Division was also arriving in the desert. At that particular time the Germans had already gone into Yugoslavia and the Greeks were becoming concerned. And [British Prime Minister Winston] Churchill, brilliant man in many ways,
and[Anthony] Eden [British Foreign Secretary], had I think really lent on the Greek government and promised them assistance, promised them two or three divisions of troops and quite a lot of planes and as this was taking place the Germans declared war on the Greeks and started to come down to attack the Greeks.
So to get these extra men to Greece the British government milked a lot of Australians and sent them over to Greece and that included my division the 6th Infantry Division. It was pretty obvious to anybody, even a simple solider like me and my mates, that this was a dreadful mistake.
Brought about by the simple fact that at the same time when these untried unblooded divisions, the 9th Division and most of the 7th Division landed in the desert, Rommel landed with his Afrika Korps to give aid to the Italians. So what virtually occurred was this; the British forces in the desert were split, half to go to Greece
and half that was left there consisted of the inexperienced 9th Div and a few British and some of the 7th Division. In other words the British forces were cut in half and it served no purpose at all, with the net result that they were run over by Rommel in the desert and also we were run over by the Germans in Greece.
When we landed in Greece, lovely people and I was fascinated by Greece of course. As I said, my father was a historian and as a young boy I had been filled with all of the historical events of early Greek civilisation. A mate of mine went up to the Parthenon, fascinating building, all pock marked with
bullets because at one stage Greece was under the control of the Turks. And there had been massive battles there between the Turks and the Greeks. To cut a long story short Athens was a unique and historical city, I was absolutely enchanted with it. Once
again I did go with a mate of mine to give him support to one of the Greek brothels which was housed in a very ancient old building, beautiful furniture and lovely women. And at that stage I was still very naïve in many ways and I will never forget the Madame of the house offered me a lovely young lady
on the house so to speak. But digressing for a moment anyway, my mother had warned me about the so-called inverted commas "dangerous women" and the sickness one could have from associating with them. But going over on the troop ship we had been
lectured by our doctor on the various forms of sexually transmitted diseases one could pick up from these so called bad women. And so I had the hell frightened out of me and all I could do was look at them, so to speak and I couldn’t enjoy their charms. But lots of diggers didn’t worry about that and so once again
I would accompany a mate and sit talking to the Madame or whatever it was while my friend made use of these ladies.
What was your role to be in particular in Greece?
I was still with the battalion, “I" section [Intelligence]. Perhaps I should explain, members in the "I" section were generally chosen because they could speak one of the languages or they were expert in something or other, it is called the "Intelligence Section", it is really field intelligence, a lot of the stuff is pushed together information that is coming all of the time. The strength of your enemy,
who was there? Were they specialised troops? All of this has got to be collated into some sort of sensible form and made available to the commanding officer of the battalion. So they greeted us with open arms, now the fascinating thing at this stage was that the Germans had not yet declared war and when we came off the troop ship we actually saw the German
consul with some of his staff complete with the swastika swatch on his arm making notes of our colour patches and other things as we came down the gangway. The Greek population themselves were absolutely glorious. They grabbed a hold of us, they carried us shoulder high and made a great fuss of us. Gave us kratsi, Greek wine. And a sort of a drink
that’s very similar to the French drink, that aniseed drink that the French drink? Piamou yes. Then they hustled the Germans then declared war, and on the front where the battalion was sent which was at Vevi Pass Monastir Gap, there is a huge mountain range and we were sent up there, but first we had to get there
We got there by train and also by marching and in our own trucks where possible, and it was areal disaster. It was just the end of winter there and there was snow and slush and mud everywhere and
trucks were getting bogged all of the time and the Greek villagers, refugees, were rushing out and interfering with our traffic, we could barely move. Eventually we got to a place called Saltier just south of Monastir Gap or Veria Pass. And there we had to lug, on our back, all of our
equipment and what have you up into the pass at Veria And we tried to dig in. The ground was frozen, you couldn’t dig in so we gathered stones and made what you call sangers, sangers are really big heavy stones organised so that you have some sort of protection. Now approaching us and barrelling down towards us was the
Adolf Hitler Leibstandarte, that’s Adolf Hitler’s bodyguard, all big men, magnificent men. Cockahoop they were, they had just gone through France, did very well both in France and in Poland, very well equipped and also one Panzer Division. We were three battalions, the
2 /4th on the left flank, the 2/8th on the right flank, and in between us was the King's Royal Rangers KORs and they were settling, their defensive position was between us, the two Australian divisions, further down the hill so to speak. And down that pass was a railway line. The KRRs had never seen action before,
the only people there that had seen action was the 2 /5th and ourselves the 2 /8th . There was three or four incidents there before we really got used to the Germans. Our fellows were just digging in and the 2 /8th were digging in as best as we could. We didn’t have enough spades or picks and were trying to dig ourselves in with our bayonets.
And could only get about four or five inches through the frozen surface and then rushed around gathering stones and then they hit us with patrols. Very shrewd move. A patrol of the enemy, but dressed in British battle dress came up to one of our sections and had a chat with us for a while,
and then suddenly said in a lower voice, “All right fellows don’t move you’re captured, we’re Germans.” And then we suddenly realised we were really up against a different and much more experienced professional army than the Italian Army .So all of that night in a flurry of snow and what have you, we stayed awake of
course, it reached the stage where some of us almost froze. The Bren gunner could only keep his hand from freezing by unbuttoning his fly and putting his hand in his crotch to keep his hand flexible. That’s the condition we were in. We had only our greatcoats, no protection from the snow at all except our
greatcoats. And then the next day the Germans were probing, sending out patrols and the fire fight continued and then we started to run low on ammunition and they grabbed hold of all of the odds and sods including myself and we started to lug ammunition up from the village where all of the ammunition had been brought to this village
but they couldn’t get it up the hill any further with mechanical means and so we had to lug the ammunition on our backs while the battalion was still under fire. Now the ammunition is boxed in a box that has a sealed tin contained inside, all sealed to keep the moisture away. You rip that open and inside is what they call bandoliers, cloth bandoliers with about
I forget now, a hundred rounds in each bandolier and so we would have to lug it up to the top of the pass rip open the ammunition boxes, throw bandoliers all over your shoulder and then try and get through to the sections.
This is where you were under fire all of the time. Anyway to cut a long story short we were supposed to hold the Germans back for three days, what I must explain, we were three battalions, try and remember this if possible, three battalions make a brigade, three brigades make a division.
The Germans had two divisions, one armoured and one Panzer Division against three battalions, so the odds were roughly four to one in favour of the Germans. In addition a normal battalion front is about a thousand yards, because we were trying to cover too big of an area the battalion was actually covering about two and a half thousand yards which meant that the
sections and companies were so sparse the German patrols could walk through at night time in the flurry of snow you wouldn’t see them. So we were at a great disadvantage. Anyway at half past three, the
KORs started to retreat, they were pushed back about a kilometre and then a kilometres and a half, and then at half past three the Panzers [tanks] broke through and it is just like an immoveable object being hit by a massive mobile object and we were just completely splintered. And we lost a lot of men there.
I got away with a fellow, George Simkins good mate of mine in the I Section came rushing up on his horse and he said, “Right piss off you silly bastards!”
and we said, “Where to?” And he said, “We are collecting at Saltier.” I think it is. “We are collecting there and will be picked up and taken back to a defensive position.” That was being organised. And then the tanks broke through.
Alan Fleming the IO [intelligence officer] was close to me, we were scattered all over the place. The Germans were streaming in between the 2 /5th and us because the KRRs had retreated. So our left flank had collapsed completely and they were around us and shooting up our behind, so to speak. Shooting from behind us towards us and we broke and the tanks came through.
Fleming was with me. I got a German machine gunner there and I have a witness to that. My mate Alan Fleming saw that. But in the flurry of snow you would see the enemy and then suddenly there would be a flurry of snow and then you would be like a white out, you couldn’t see anything at all.
We had to cross a stream which was flooded with the melting snow because it was the end of winter and I thought I could swim across with my gear on. I had a blanket and my battle pack and my rifle. Normally I could have done it easily
but I got swept away. I threw off my harness and rifle and tin hat and I thought I was drowning because I started to think of my Mum and my sister. And suddenly I felt the bulrushes under my feet and next minute I surfaced. And George Simmo, George Simpkins grabbed hold of me.
He was calling out, “George, George, George” Because you know I had a bodgey name. And he grabbed me and pulled me out. And we had a Greek soldier with us at that stage and he disappeared in the water anyway when we got to the village it was too late, the trucks had already left.
Something occurred here, which I can give no explanation for whatsoever. There was an old Greek Church. And I remember thinking,"Crikey! I am going to seek sanctuary in the church" and the church had two big old wooden doors with steel knobs all over it. I remember going to knock on the door to seek sanctuary, to get in there
and then suddenly I didn’t, I continued on my way. And here I must say something which comes later really, two years later when I come home on leave to Australia, my sister and brother and mother and I were gabbling away talking about everything under the sun and then suddenly my brother said, “What happened on such and such a date?”
and I said, “I wouldn’t know.” and he said, “Well it was about four days before your birthday.” And suddenly it dawned on me and he said, “I will explain what I experienced.” And he explained this as what we now see as a TV screen. He said, “Look I saw you there in the snow, there was white coming down which I take it was snow and you had a tin hat on,” which I didn’t have on “you had a tin hat on and you had your
hand out and you were knocking at the door of the monastery.” And to this day there is no explanation unless there is such a thing as thought transmission. Anyway that occurred. Whether anyone believes it or not, it really occurred. We got away George and I, and then that night we managed to find battalion.
By that stage there was only about four hundred of us left, the battalion is about eight hundred. And then we retreated down from northern Greece right down, every day being strafed and machine-gunned and bombs from the air. At the Domokos, at the place called the Domokos I was blown up by an aerial bomb.
And I suffered bruises and damages and loss of hearing in the right ear. And strangely enough I was half buried and became unconscious and when I came to I was on the road way and my mates that were looking after me washing my eyes out with their water bottles and so on, and then they threw me on the back of the truck.
And as it turns out, one fellow who threw me on the back of the truck now lives only a few miles away from me. He survived the war and he remembers it very clearly. Anyway we got away to Greece. I told you the Greeks were magnificent people. Eventually we got to Kalamata. Every time you go shopping and get Greek olives look for Kalamata olives, beautiful olives. And there we destroyed our trucks and
the British navy was waiting for us. But before then the Greek people fed us and so on. An incident occurred there too that I should always remember with great affection. A young Greek lady, well a middle aged Greek lady, as I was walking through the village she grabbed a hold of me by the arm and pulled me aside and took me to a Greek house and there they
had a couple of storeys or whatever it was and the steps were very steep. And this young lad and she, I didn’t know what was happening to me, I thought they might have been trying to kidnap me I don’t know why. They pushed me up the stairs and there was a beautiful repast all laid out, roast chicken, olives and Greek bread and so on all laid out. And I apologised to them for
my mates and I not being able to hold back the Germans. And she said, “Never mind you’ll be back.” They were lovely people. What happened was some of the remaining people of the battalions came along, I think we lost a hundred and sixty men there killed, wounded and missing. And what was left of the battalion there was split in two. That
half went on one troop ship which went straight o Alexandria. The other half went on the troop ship called the Costa Rica, that was the half I was in and so the battalion commander Colonel Mitchell and that half went to Alexandria and the 2IC [second in command] Major Keyes and the group I was in went on the Costa Rica and away we went.
Just before that when we were half way down Greece a Stuka [German dive-bomber] was shot down. Now in a Stuka there is two in a crew, a pilot and a gunner navigator in the back. Now the gunner navigator was badly wounded but the pilot was a young blonde haired fellow. Very arrogant but quite a nice fellow, but he could speak French
and I got talking with him and then my commanding officer told me to escort him to Divisional Headquarters for questioning by the Divisional Intelligence people. So I and another mate, Tom, he is in Melbourne escorted him. Out on the road, thumbed a ride until we found a
British organization, English. It was an English brigade, not a division. When we arrived the brigade was all in sixes and sevens, they were packing up to retreat further down the road you see? And they were definitely in a bit of a panic to get away in a hurry and I went up to this officer and said, “Sir, I can't find Divisional Headquarters, can I hand over this prisoner to you?” And he said, “Is that the fellow?” And he pointed to the Stuka pilot and I said, “Yes Sir!” Then
the Stuka pilot stupidly put his hand out, clicked his heels and said, “Heil Hitler!.” And now Stuka pilots were particularly hated because they used to strafe and bomb the villages and so on and cause a lot of confusion among refugees, which used to impede our progress. We couldn’t advance through to attack and that would interfere with our capacity to fight them.
They used to shepherd the refugees like sheep, they would bomb or strafe certain roads until they got the refugees to go down the road they wanted. They all hated them. If a Greek civilian ever caught a Stuka pilot on his own they would kill him. Anyway the officer looked at me and said, “Take him away and shoot him!” And that left me in a quandary.
So I took him away with my mate, he is still down in Melbourne, Bluey Evans. And I sat him down cross legged on the ground because it is very hard for a person to jump up and attack you if he is sitting cross legged on the ground. And I didn’t know what to do, and I couldn’t shoot an unarmed man. So I rolled a cigarette and I gave him a cigarette and I had one myself
and Bluey Evans, and then I said, “Right piss off” in French, and we left him there. So to this day I don’t know whether he is alive or not. The reason I mention this is because when we got off Greece and were on the Costa Rica, my half of what was left of the battalion and Major Keyes, we were dived bombed from morning until roughly about midday. A Stuka came out of
the sun and blew in the plates on the starboard side and the Costa Rica the troop ship started to sink. All of the time they were strafing us I was wondering if he had got back to his mates and he was now dive bombing and machine-gunning us. I thought, perhaps I have done the wrong thing to let him live, I don’t know. I could never shoot an unarmed man. Later on
when I captured a Jap and I didn’t shoot him, I sent him to hospital.
The first destroyer came alongside and we were all lined up all up on deck, hordes of us and the first destroyer came along side. Now the
Mediterranean was relatively calm but since the troop ship was a bigger ship and also starting to sink, the destroyer being a might lighter vessel was bouncing up and down scraping the hull, sparks everywhere. And the Dutch crew had run around and said, "Everybody for himself."
and a couple of diggers had already dived overboard and started to swim around. And I have to chuckle about this, you’re not going to believe it. Here we are sinking, there is still the possibility of being dive bombed by the Stuka and one bright spark, I will never forget him, he had glasses and bright red hair, he is swimming around and he said, “Come on fellows it is lovely and warm.” I thought you clod
we’re in this situation and you’re making a joke out of it. Anyway the first destroyer came alongside and we threw his a rope and he came clambering back up. And the first destroyer filled with troops and a destroyer is only a small vessel and was practically sinking with all of the troops on board. Then they got away and all of the time the men were throwing their rifles before jumping onto the
destroyer and they would hit the deck and go bouncing in all directions. It became very dangerous. I am telling you this for a specific reason the commander of the destroyer with his bull horn, loud speaker yelled, “Chuck them overboard you bloody fools don’t throw them on the destroyer!” because his men were getting injured, you could throw something it could be twelve fifteen feet to this steel deck and they bounced everywhere. They become a missile.
So we threw our rifles into the water. Then a second destroyer came in and filled up and away it went and then a third came along. And before the third came along I thought God this is it, so I took my shoes off and this is interesting, I took my socks off threw off my
equipment and I had a little book that belonged to my father "Elmark I am", a little book with a leather cover and I always carried it with me whenever I was in action, it was my lucky charm and I put that in my pocket and so on. And when the second destroyer went away I thought this is it I have got to swim. And then someone pointed out, “There is another destroyer coming alongside.” So we looked around and could see it coming and by this time we were very badly keeling
over and I got off with the last destroyer. Anyway we went. When we got to Crete we went ashore at Crete and I found out that I had only taken one sock off instead of two. Now that shows you, I remember stripping off and thinking, “Now keep calm, keep calm", I had thought I had taken off the two socks but I finished up with one sock which shows I wasn’t
as calm and collected as I thought I was. Anyway then we had to march eight miles bare footed, a lot of us were barefooted because we thought we would be in the water. We got re-equipped and what have you in Crete. The reason why I said about throwing the rifles over and
mentioned it in detail was because when we landed, and soldiers never lose their arms, they are not supposed to throw their arms away, some idiot English general was going to court martial us for not arriving with our rifles. Well number one it would have been idiotic to try and jump overboard with a rifle onto a deck that is
going up and down, you would throttle yourself and anyway we had been ordered to. We didn’t hear any more about that, but some English generals are incredibly naïve. They outfitted us and then there was a lot of people that had been dumped there, about ten thousand odd non-combatant soldiers. And they proved a disaster in the
end; but then we got information that they [Germans] were going to drop paratroopers on Crete so Ken Grosvenor and I we were Ops[ observation posts] day and night, really trying to find out what was going to happen. The Germans were probing with aircraft what they would do, come over and just aim
without any intention, strafe random areas hoping that if they could see troops running out they would know there would be some troops waiting for them. Paratroopers are very vulnerable and if they had dropped into a military encampment it is disastrous for a paratrooper because he is lightly armed and it takes a while when he hits the ground for him to reorganise himself and get a weapon.
Okay to cut a long story short, I must say one or two things. Once again the Cretans are not Greeks, in fact the Cretans and the Greeks don’t get on well together. Crete again interested me because of my historically inclined father because Crete was the home of the Minotaur. The Minotaur if you recall was a half man half bull monster
and they had to sacrifice a man or a maiden or whatever, a youth, to it every year. And on one occasion, I can't remember the Greek's name, this young man, the son of a chieftain, went there, the Minotaur and the victim or the sacrificial individual had to go through this maze. This young Greek male, like
all young Greeks, seduced or fell in love with the daughter of the Minotaur and she gave him a ball of wool and he went through the maze with this ball of wool, killed the Minotaur and got out of the maze. That’s mythology and I was fascinated and every opportunity I had I tried to talk to the people. They were very
suspicious of strangers, or were. And the men are very protective of their females. You look sideways at one of them, all of the men had little knives in their trousers, stuck in the waistband, and if you showed an interest in one of their ladies they were just as likely to disembowel you. Very, what's the word I am looking for,
some Italians are like that and some Greeks too.
positions and what have you and they would come up and get our clothes and wash and iron them and give them back with little yellow flowers in the clothes, lovely people. Anyway then the Germans started to strafe and bomb and strafe and bomb and then this particular day I heard this, it sounded like thousands of bees all buzzing
and then the paratroopers arrived, no more than about four hundred feet above. You could see the paratroopers' heads. The paratrooping plane is the Fokker tri-motor, which used to be used in the [Australian] bush. Very big plane [The planes the Germans used were in fact Junkers Ju-52s]. We had orders not to fire at them and so we didn’t fire but we could see them going past and then they
started coming down and we were allowed to fire. Those young lads were slaughtered. They dropped twenty thousand I think paratroopers and one in four was shot and killed. And they landed right in amongst us, most of them. They landed in a place in the east called
Georgioupolis, and a few other places, and to this very day I say we should never have given up Crete. They were practically wiped out and then they brought in mountain troops. So we saw action, at least my battalion saw action. Georgioupolis, another place, and then we did the rear guard with the
British marines from the north part of Crete, to Sfakia which is on the south part of Crete. But I want to say that we were so short of equipment that at one stage we were opposite a feature, which we called Castle Hill, the Germans were
occupying it and they were calling it Monastery Hill, and they would sunbake themselves in the sun and I could see them with my binoculars and even with my bare eyes, they would sunbake and what have you in broad daylight and there was nothing we could do, we didn’t have mortars, artillery or planes.
We did the rear guard, oh I was wounded when I was dived bombed in Greece and I was wounded again in Crete. A nine millimetre parabellum round, that’s the type of ammunition used by the German's Schmeisser machine pistol, which has a long range but is
used as a submachine gun. I got a leg wound from someone firing a Schmeisser, it was out of range but I didn’t realise I was wounded. This is quite normal because when you’re in action you don’t feel pain. You’re so full of adrenalin you don’t even know what you’re doing. I have a friend who had his hand blown off
and I offered him a cigarette and he said, “No I have got my own.” And he put the butt of his hand in his pocket. That’s how shocked you are, you were full of adrenalin. So on this occasion we came under fire and we would hold up the Germans during the day and at night time we would march eight or ten miles and start digging in for the attack in the morning. And
this went on for about eight days I think until we got to Sfakia. There is one particular incident I must explain. One area where we were dug in, it was just on dusk. I grabbed a hold of my mate's water bottle and my own and went looking for water, water was at a premium you couldn’t get it. And on my left flank there was a very poor
Cretan hovel I guess, little farm. And I went there and it had this well and this windless and I am fiddling around with this ancient windless when this young lady, young girl came out. She was a Cretan girl possibly just married. She was very pretty, dark raven hair and she had a black frock on and
through signs and a bit of Latin and what have you I said I wanted water or something to that effect. And she knew how to operate the windless and she dropped the bucket down the well and got the water. And I said to her that next morning I would be coming around again because I wanted to see her, she was a pretty girl.
And next morning when I went to fill the water bottles, she was dead. During the night she must have come out and in the cross fire she was killed. So we did the rear guard across Crete and got onto the beaches
there and we held up the Germans there for two days. The last major battle there, we were in a ravine one platoon and myself, right up on the side of the ravine, there was a platoon down the bottom of the ravine and another platoon down the other side. And by this time we were all exhausted. We hadn’t eaten very much.
I think on the last three days we had a small tin of bully beef and a hard biscuit. Our clothes were battered and in very rocky mountainous country our shoes were falling to bits. Anyway we were falling asleep absolutely exhausted and I saw these, I didn’t know they were Germans in the beginning.
The Germans had the mountain troops and what was left of the paratroopers had broached one of our stores that we had left behind, and because it was hot, had put on these British khaki shorts. And their normal uniform is bluish in colour and so I saw these fellows coming down the ravine and suddenly it occurred to me
who they were, and so I gave the signal all around and we started firing. It would have been about forty-five degrees down from the horizontal. We had a mixed bag of ammunition, that is to say different kinds of .303, I had some tracers in mine and I got one German, I could see the tracer go through his pack into his body and then I couldn’t tell any more. We were just firing like mad. We were doing searching,
that is to say any thick shrub or anything like that, you always fired a few rounds into it. Anyone hiding there would collect it. Next morning we found that about eighty-two Germans had been killed, all young men. Oh the waste. Anyway by that time,
I didn’t mention previous to that I got another German, ratted his body and, went through his pockets and what have you to get information intelligence. And I got his pay book and his name was Shugg S H U G G. And he had a photograph of his
I assume it was his wife and two young kiddies. Waste. And now when we got down to the coast we couldn’t go off because there was roughly about ten thousand of these non combatants and we had Maoris with us. I must tell you this one.
Dickie Cardiou was the "I" sergeant. Half way through the battle for Crete we were dug in at a place called 42nd Street and Dickie Cardiou had some papers to be taken to our Brigade Headquarters. So he gave me, we didn’t even have a dispatch satchel in which
dispatches are sent. And somehow in one of the houses he found a small pressed cardboard suitcase. You carry it by hand. So he put the papers in there and said, “Right get that back to headquarters straight away.” So I grab my rifle in my right hand and this stupid school case in my other.
Being young and what is the term I am looking for? I thought it was a bit sissy carrying the school case around in the middle of battle and so I started to go back to Brigade Headquarters. There was so many German planes moving and strafing all of the time that I was literally moving from tree to tree. I would wait until the observation plane had turned away and hop in behind another tree and so on. And
so I wasn’t looking very carefully where I was going and suddenly I hear this very strong English voice saying something like this. “I say, I say there, soldier you can't do that.” And I thought Jesus Christ and I looked around and here was a young subaltern in the British Marines with his body half out of a slit trench. He had his overcoat on, his gold buttons and his hard hat
which has just been painted or something, it was glistening in the sun, and I thought, “What is this bloody apparition?" You are supposed to be camouflaged you see. And he said, “You can't do that, go back where you came from.” And then it dawned on me that this fellow thought I was running away. He would have to be pretty dense because you don’t run away with a rifle in one hand and a suitcase in the other, well not in my book anyway so I didn’t know what to do. And the other Tommies were standing up and having a look and a bit of a laugh and a grin.
And I didn’t know what to do so I told him to get conventional word. And away I went you see. And I mentioned this in my book, it had such an impact on me. And years later when I was in Tel Aviv I got speaking to a young English subaltern and I told him the incident and he said, “Well you know, we have to set an example to the troops.”
And I thought you bloody idiot, you don’t have to know that if you go around with bright clothes in the middle of a battle, you attract attention. They were courageous the young English officers but they were pretty dumb in my humble opinion, even though I have English heritage. Anyway we had to try and get rid of these ten thousand odd non-combatants.
The disembarkation officer had got some Maori troops, by the way the Maori troops are magnificent. If anyone asks who was the best soldier I would say the Maori was, the real fighting men .A lot of people yes?
And at that stage I didn’t know anything about radar and we arrived at the cruiser Phoebes we were absolutely exhausted and they took us down below and we just collapsed asleep. But just before then an English cook came around with some hot cocoa and buns and he said, “Get that into you.” And so
with the hot cocoa and the bun and so on we just fell asleep. And then we heard the klaxons [alarms], what woke me up was the klaxons, action station and then the voice of the commander, the commander had speakers everywhere so that he could keep the ship posted and the voice came over, “Bandits coming over fifteen miles away.”
And one of the diggers said, “Jesus that bastard has got eyes in the back of his arse, how can he see fifteen miles?“ and it was the first time it came out that we had radar that could pick up planes. We couldn’t understand in the beginning how they could see fifteen miles. We landed at Alexandria and in Alexandria they took us into a rest camp and we slept and slept.
And ate and ate. Gradually recuperated and were gradually re-equipped and what have you. I was wounded in Crete. And then we went to El Arish, which is on the Egyptian border, which is where the half of the battalion had gone.
The first half of the battalion that had gone onto Alexandria was stationed waiting for us. We joined them. That was quite traumatic because there had been mates that had been separated by this action of halving the battalion and putting them on different ships and of course some of the mates had lost their mates that were with us in Crete. That was harrowing. But we were depleted and they brought us up to strength. I
remember the first day a hundred and seventy re-enforcements arrived, poor fellows they didn’t know anything at all, they were badly trained. And eventually we started to do manoeuvres and retrain for the benefit of the youngsters. Very briefly, El Arish was a place where Napoleon had staged when he wanted to capture Egypt. My friend at that time was a fellow called Ray Williams, Ray was a good swimmer and so was I and after manoeuvres we used to swim out
into the Mediterranean as mush as half a mile. The Mediterranean was a very mild sea, very salty and very buoyant. And this little episode I must explain .We saw a felucca, a small Arabic craft with a lateens sail and we are diving around and sporting ourselves in the water. It changed course towards us and we waved to it. It came up alongside and the Arab lent
forward to give me a hand onto his boat and I looked up and I was absolutely amazed. He had blue eyes and red hair. And I tried to find out what his background was, I couldn’t make sense of it. but for the sake of history in the 14-18 War the Light Horse was in Egypt. Now whether he was the progeny of an interlude of an Arab girl and one of the Australian Light Horse I don’t know, but he could even have been a
descendant of the French that was there during the Napoleonic Wars, or he could have even been a descendant of one of the crusaders. I have always been intrigued how this Arab could have blue eyes and red hair, he had a beard on him, reddish hair. Fascinating. Anyway we went to Syria and occupied Syria,
We occupied a place called Baalbek and in case you get the wrong impression, I am not a lecherous man. But again I went to a brothel with a mate of mine to keep an eye on him. And this is in Baalbek and once again in Syria I could speak French and I became battalion interpreter.
And on this occasion I went with a mate on leave, we were at Baalbek and we went to big town what is it called? To the brothel there and I am sitting there talking to the Madame and so on. There was a sort
of dais one end and when the girls had finished with a particular customer they would go and stand there and wait to be called or wander around. And there was a drunken digger there and there was a very nice little lass with a black shift., and he was a bit drunk and he said, “Hey, I will have you.” Sort of thing. And she said, “No. no.”
He said, “What's wrong with my money?” It is as good as anyone else's?” and then she placed her legs akimbo and then she pointed to her pubic area and said, “Cherry brandy.” And there was silence in the hall and suddenly it dawned that she was menstruating and this was her alibi not to have this drunken digger. Which madams didn’t like,
this sort of independence because it meant that some of the other girls had to put up with his loud mouth. Cherry brandy, we thought, the whole of us all burst out clapping our hands. We thought what a wonderful rejoinder, I have never forgotten that.
that I marry her, that I desert. And he offered me as a dowry two thirds of his flock of sheep and olive trees and what have you. But, I was tempted but I thought no you can't do that, it is not done. So we departed, but before that he gave me a little very primitive flint lighter which had been used by the shepherds.
I think I still have it somewhere but I couldn’t find it, I had a look. She cried and I cried and it was very traumatic. I don’t know what happened to her. Anyway I think before we leave the Middle East I should tell you when I came back from Crete I had a lot of bad news from home,
so I went on leave in Tel Aviv. I was down in the dumps and didn’t have much money and I was in the middle of the street somewhere in Tel Aviv when this lady came along, an attractive young woman of about thirty with sandals. And she said something like, “I am Marie, you want me all night?” Something like that. And I was very
miserable with myself and I had been shaken up badly in Crete. And I told her to piss off and sell herself to some officer who had lots of money. There was a lot of base dwellers, non combatant people around there. She walked off and I walked off and then I heard footsteps and she was there again and she touched me on the arm and said, “Why so sad soldier?”
And then I was very miserable and I had bad news from home. Money was needed for my sister and my brother had had an accident because he was blind and chopping firewood or something. And she said, “You come with me.” And it turned out she was half Jewish half German.
I think, and she had been a refugee from Danzig somewhere or other. And the Jews didn’t get on with her, that was her story, because she wasn’t a pure Jew. The Germans had kicked her out but she said she listened and I weakened and I told her I didn’t want the war I was tired of the war, and I was frightened of
losing a limb or something or other. Really I had a bad attack of the juvenile reaction to war I suppose, I don’t know. Anyway as I described in my book, that night she restored my manhood for me. That’s the only way I will describe that. A lovely lady, and
from that day on I have had the greatest of respect for the ladies of the night. A lot of them, I don’t think they do this voluntarily. A lot of them do it for financial purposes to bring up a family or kids or something. But my view of a harlot isn’t the conventional view which exists everywhere. They are wonderful people in my opinion.
Anyway so we went on the troop ship, three days at sea when they called into Port Sudan. Yeah. And they pulled this ship out of the convoy and went to Port Sudan and then we received instructions and issued arms, we all
had our weapons but issued ammunition and at that stage it was thought that Rommel had broken though and got into Cairo. However a couple of days on, that was cancelled. While we were at Sudan as per usual being a curious fellow we had a good look around, and I saw
a large tower and all of the ground and timber work was covered with white excrement from birds. And I was trying to find out what this was about. And there was a Sudanese soldier there and he explained in broken English that it was the custom there to take the corpse lift it up to the platform and the
vultures would come down and consume the flesh and leave the bones and they would inter the bones. That was quite interesting. Anyway after three or four days the message
came through that we were no longer required and so we got back into our troop ship and came back to Australia. The news was very bad, around about the time when Singapore had fallen and there was a lot of fellows in my battalion who had relations in the Australian 8th Division, and of course were very concerned about what had happened to them.
We knew that the Japanese were quite barbaric from the information we had received, so we didn’t have much hope for those that were captured by the Japanese. From there we were stationed at Strathalbyn for a long time. The first time we landed in Australia it was absolutely glorious, you could smell the eucalyptus and we landed in WA, Fremantle,
I went ashore and a fellow there came up and shook my hand and said, “Welcome back now we feel a lot safer.” And so on, and he wanted to take me to the pub and I said, “No I am not drinking.“ and so he took me to a pie cart, bought two pies, real dinkie di [genuine] Australian pies and rammed into my hand, they were red hot, beautiful luscious. I hadn’t eaten an Australian pie for two years and this is a glorious sensation, he wouldn’t take any money.
And that was my introduction on return to Australia, anyway we finished up in Strathalbyn, South Australia, and once again I must quite an interlude there. The commanding officer, we had a new one by that time, the first one was Mitchell, I can't remember the second one. He said to us, “Look I'm going to billet you in the town. If you misbehave you will be under canvas. So behave yourself.” And so we did
generally behave ourselves. But on this occasion three louts got drunk, went into the hotel which was a double storey and got all of the flowerpots from the top and threw them over. So the local sergeant of police came along and grabbed all of them and put them in the clink [jail]. I happened to be on duty, picket duty, where as I said before the picket goes around
making sure there is not too many drunken diggers and keeping things quiet and so on. So I and the sergeant came along and plucked me and two other fellows, went down to the police sergeant and called out to the sergeant policeman and said he wanted those three drunks. And I knew what was going to happen. The policeman said, “No you can't have them, they have committed an offence and they will be charged.” Anyway they had a bit of a conference and the sergeant of police was a
wise old man said, “Okay you take them, better that I charge them because then they have got a criminal offence.” Record. So the sergeant was a big burly man, he got the three drunks, still a bit unsteady on their legs lined them up like that and then he called us and said, “Right each of you take one of those and bash him up.” And he was too big for me to argue with. So each of us
just walked up to the fellow and knocked him down you see. I didn’t like the idea of doing that and the sergeant looked at me and I thought it would be wiser to obey. So I just dropped the fellow, hit him one blow on the jaw and at the last minute I sort of pulled my punch. Anyway we
carted them off and brought them back to the unit and I went back to quarters and I was billeted with another fellow. And all night long I had this pain in the hand and in the morning my hand was right up like a balloon and this stupid friend of mine and stupid me said, “Look it is only a dislocation, I can fix that by just pulling on the finger.” So he is pulling on the finger like this and it is excruciating pain and I told him to stop and I went to the hospital and he said, “Oh you have got a broken bone in your hand.”
That happened on the 1st of April, April Fools Day. I have never forgotten that. It was stupid of me, I shouldn’t have pulled punches. From Strathalbyn we go to Darwin. All I can say about Darwin was that it was a revelation for me, Darwin had been bombed by the Japanese and many men had run away.
Some of the commanders had followed them. It was a nasty piece of work and to me it was a reflection on Australian soldiers the way they acted in Darwin. Some of them looted the place and caused a lot of trouble, I won't spend any more time on that. Except to say it is a very dark smudge
on the conduct of soldiers. These were mainly militia. And I have got nothing against militia because they did a wonderful job on the Kokoda Trail. From there we went to do jungle training. We were there for a year and we went to the Atherton Tablelands to do jungle training in preparation for going to New Guinea. It was at this stage that
my commanding officer received an instruction to send me down to an organization with its headquarters in Melbourne. He didn’t know anything about it, I didn’t know anything about it. He was very annoyed, not that I was important but I was an experienced soldier and always came in handy with new recruits. You tuck a new recruit under your control
and it is easier for the recruit to pick up and get mobile and so on. They flew me down and I went for an interview in this very handsome mansion in St Kilda Road, still I didn’t know what the score was and I was getting a bit irritated by this., I was taken upstairs to an upstairs room and interviewed by an English colonel. And he started off by questioning me and my background
and languages and so on. My experiences as an infantry soldier and weaponry, whether I was familiar with weapons and so on. And I got a bit irritated and said, “Tell me what is this all about?” and he said, “in a very dangerous situation would you be prepared to serve your country?” and I said, “No.” Because by this stage I had learnt you never volunteer for anything.
He said, “Well I repeat that we are interested in having you but it must be of your own volition and you must volunteer.” I said, “Well I don’t know what I am volunteering for, “and he said, “Well it will be for operations behind enemy lines.” And then I stupidly thought, I can get back to Indochina, because there are Japanese there. And I thought I would be working behind Japanese lines in
the Haiphong area, in what is now Vietnam. Those days French Indochina. He said, “Go away, here is a food chit [voucher], go to a restaurant, spend the night in this area, come back tomorrow morning.” That night I thought about it very severely. I knew that in conventional warfare there are so many high explosives and I knew that I had been badly affected in Crete.
The detonations and explosions in Crete had upset me. So when I came back the following morning I said, “Yes.” And that’s when I became an operative with Z Unit. Z unit, not Z Special. I already knew all of my weaponry of course, I was a marksman and knew all of my infantry weapons and then I learnt a lot more. How to garrotte a person, how to
break into a house, about setting booby traps, this that and the other .and we trained on kayaks and using underwater bombs against shipping. Then I qualified as a parachutist, I did two qualifications: as an ordinary
parachutist and then as a parachutist jumping out , it doesn’t matter, the conventional parachuting in those days used to exit out of the side door of a DC-2 or a DC-3 [transport plane].But because we were operatives
going into enemy country, the only way they could get the operatives into there was to go with a standard bomber group and one bomber would peel off, drop the agents, rejoin the bomber flight and do their bombing and come back and the enemy would assume that it was only a bomber group, not realising that they had dropped operatives in behind the lines.
I can't remember the name [of the aircraft] right now. The exit for this particular bomber is through its belly, you slide down a chute. So I did all of my training and unbeknownst to me I have got to explain this, when I did my training I did some of my training with an English captain at the time, he got his majority [promotion to major] later,
a fellow called Tom Harrison. A sick man I think mentally, and later on I think it was proved that he was mentally disturbed. But he was very erratic and so on. But in the beginning I didn’t know this and he and a sergeant and I did ninety-three mile route march in the Baw Baw Mountains in three days. We carried a sixty pound pack and I told him,
in those days he was quite rational, and I told him how the Italian Bersagliere Regiment used to jog a couple of hundred yards, walk a couple of hundred yards, march a couple of hundred yards. And they could cover enormous distances. So we tried it. the sergeant couldn’t keep up, he fell by the wayside, but Tom Harrison and I did three days through the Baw Baws.
We finished up at a place called Valhalla in the mountains. Holiday resort, it is now a holiday resort a couple of hundred miles from Melbourne. It has a large hotel there, it must be explained because of what came later. When we got to the large hotel at Valhalla there was a couple of civilians there including a couple of ladies and
and a male so called footballer. And they wined and dined us and what have you, and this footballer became interested in this lady and she came up to me and said, “This man is making a nuisance of himself can you help me?” and I said, “Yes okay.” And he was a bit drunk and so when
he went to the toilet I just followed him out and said, “Look mate just lay off the lady will you? She is not interested in you.” And he said, “I can do F… what I want”. And this that and the other. So I kneed him in the kidneys and dropped him and that was that as I thought. In the meantime Tom Harrison who was a bird expert, ornithologist
and so on and had written books, kept his audience spellbound with all of his adventures in various places and that night I finished up with this lady in her room. And suddenly we hear thumping on the door and I thought it was this drunk coming back. So I whipped
the door open and grabbed a hold of the shadowy figure by the shirt and pushed him against the wall the other side of the passageway. And I told him, “Piss off you silly bastard.” Or something like that. Turned out to be Harrison. I explain this for what I think is the reason for his antagonism.
Which occurs later on. Anyway next morning he couldn’t look me in the face and I couldn’t look at him. I thought I would be court martialled because he was a captain at that stage and you don’t strike an officer, not supposed to. So I finished all of my training. Interestingly we also had to do water jumps and night jumps. Jump at night time and jump in water.
It is a quite interesting thing, we did that in Darwin. They gave us a little container which had perforations and was filled with what they called a shark repellent. So we knew we had sharks in Darwin Harbour so when we jumped, you jumped with a small dinghy which is folded up. You jump, you get out of your harness you sit in your harness you drop your dinghy
it has a little CO2 bottle in it, and as soon as your feet hit the water you lean forward, your chute slides away and you swim around, turn on the CO2 bottle and the dinghy flaps open and you hop into it and start paddling away. So that night after the first water jump we were in the water and drinking and telling each other how fast we were and so on and one fellow said, “You know that shark repellent?” I said, “Yeah is pretty good, keeps the sharks away doesn’t it?”
He said, “Yes but it doesn’t keep the salt water crocs away.” And Darwin harbour was full of salt-water crocs. So next day when we jumped into the harbour you have never seen people move so fast in all of your life, we were practically walking on water getting these dinghies inflated. That’s an interesting thing. Yes, so eventually in early May we did fold boating,
two men kayaks. Limpets, we were trained in the use of limpets. These were explosives that you put on the side of a ship's hull to blow up the ship. So in early May, four of us we dropped into Borneo at a place called Blouit. And by the way I had all of my special gear; I had silencer, pistol with
a silencer, sub machine carbine with a silencer, I had my commando dagger, cyanide tablets, escape kit which is compressed and contains maps, morphine, fishing lines and so on. And so Harrison
took my kit away from me and sent me down, right where all of the Japs were, with only what I stood up in. I met an operative, I was asked to deliver a message to an operative that I was told I would meet on the way. He then also provided me with ten rifles to recruit guerrillas.
So I went down the Padas River, met Colin McPherson, he was the other operative, a very good mate of mine and we are very close. He is dying now, he has got dementia poor fellow. So I went down to a place called Malaman on the coastline. At this stage I was on my own.
I recruited some Dyaks. Now the term Dyak is a generic term because in that particular group of Dyaks you have the sea Dyak and the land Dyak and in the land Dyaks you have various tribes. The best warriors of all were Ibans, magnificent little headhunters. They were all head hunters.
At Malaman I had my first contact with the Nips [Japanese], I walked out in the mud flats in amongst the shore line one evening. I had my LMG, light machine gun. My Bren gun saddled up, I hadn’t trained anyone yet on how to use the Bren gun so I had to use it, but I used one indigenous Dyak to carry my
Bren magazines, I didn’t know how many I would require. This Nip patrol came through in a prau, a prau is like a long dugout, it is a canoe and I poured fire into them and they all plopped into the water and then it was sunset and I couldn’t see anymore. Covered in mosquitoes.
Full of mud. And then two days later I took some of my Dyaks with me and we entered the jungles. Some of the natives had said to us that there was half a dozen or more Nips there in the swamp area. And this was one of the most ferocious that occurred to me in the whole of the war. We tracked them, the Dyak scouts
are magnificent trackers, every bit as good as the black fellow tracker. And he called me over and he said, (Speaks another language) perhaps five or six Japs and he showed me a mangrove root, I
couldn’t see anything but he said, “There you are , fresh five minutes.” So we came upon the Nips and one Nip fired and just missed me and I shot two Nips. By that time we were using American automatic carbines.
Then my guerrillas started to open up but they couldn’t hit a bulls arse with a hand full of rice,[couldn't shoot straight] for a variety of reasons. We gave them the wrong weapons. I must digress, when I trained, we gave them .303 rifles and they were little men and they couldn’t hold the rifle properly which meant that they couldn’t pull the rifle butt into their shoulders. Now when you get a kick from the 303 it is all right, so long as you have got it hard into your shoulder, but if you leave it
loose it whacks your shoulder pretty solid. And they got gun shy. The term is gun shy. But they started to shoot in all directions. I had a Chinese man that I had recruited, Artor, magnificent man and we screamed out, “Geman maninback.” “Stop firing Stop firing.” And then they all pulled their parangs, parangs are their head hunter swords and they slaughtered those Nips.
And then they took their heads off and brought them up to me to examine. “Look master, I got me head.” And I had seen a lot by that time but that really shook me and from that night on I had nightmares. Well so
the initial intention first was to get intelligence for the landings in Borneo and we collected quite a few Japs, small pieces here and there .And I was lucky I captured some very valuable information, intelligence which I sent to Harrison. Which in turn went to the 9th Division and
helped I hope or think with their landing information. Defensive positions.
village, a village chieftain. A philosophical sort of man, a young man, bit older than me but still young and sometimes we used to philosophise and talk about the Muslim religion, my philosophies, his philosophies, a wonderful man. Typical Malay Muslim, though he was very proud that he had three sons,
later on after the war I kept in contact, three sons that had been educated in England and I asked him about the girls and he said, “Oh I don’t know.” The Asians, particularly the Chinese and Malays, as long as they have got sons, they are more important than the females. They love their daughters but don’t worry about educating them, well those days.
I got close to Artor if ever a man deserved a VC[Victoria Cross] it was him. He was Chinese and I loved him like a mate. He had a gold tooth and when he grinned, nothing was too much for him. Now the interesting thing you see, I have spoken to a number of pingaloos, they would say all practically the same thing, “You
know when the British were kicked out and the Japanese came along and said "This is the 'Great East Asian Co-operative Scheme' let's work together as Asians and get rid of these colonials". We thought it was a good idea, only for three or four months until we realised when the British were here the British had primary school, they also had hospitals manned by a dresser.” A man that is an Asian
who is probably a little bit more trained than a nurse but not trained as a full doctor and he can give injections and do minor operations and so on. In other words the British were doing some sort of effort to improve their lot and the particular English district officer in the area I was involved in, he was well regarded. They said, “This is crazy why should we help these Japanese when they’re interfering with our weapon and they are
very severe?” I had three hundred Javanese coolies sent to me, originally there had been seven thousand Javanese coolies collected by the Japanese to produce food for them and work in Borneo. I got three hundred of them, I don’t know how many of them died, thousands. When I got them they were full of dysentery, full of malaria,
and you could almost put your hand like that around their thigh bones. They were like Belsen camp horrors. Now you know what I mean when I say Belsen camp horrors? [Nazi concentration camp] It was ghastly. And my villagers used to have to push them into the water so they could get cleansed, they had yaws, tropical ulcers almost as big as that sometimes.
on the thigh bone, deep craters of rotten flesh. They treated those unfortunate people like animals. They grew the food and weren’t allowed to eat it. I stand in wonderment as to why some of us go over and weep with the Japanese on the anniversary of the atomic bomb.
The atomic bomb stopped the war like that, it killed a lot less than the Japanese killed in China and elsewhere. What do people expect? Not to use the atomic bomb. The Japanese themselves had so little regard for their own people, they had a million and a half, and this is intelligence, a million and half adolescent boys and girls armed with bamboo sticks, sharpened at one end
and put in the fire which hardens them and makes them like iron almost. They were supposed to repel the Americans and the British when they landed. Those kids would have been slaughtered. They had kamikaze motorboats and kamikaze one-man submarines and so on. They were putting at risk the whole of the Japanese population. Just because the army, particularly the army generals, didn’t want to surrender.
And they wouldn’t have surrendered hadn’t it have been for the Emperor. So the Japanese had even less regard than they had for their own people, don’t kid yourself, they were completely dishonest. In the sense that they were liars, I had to take a group of guerrillas up to a place called Eburu and Colin McPherson my mate was there, and
the 2IC [second in command] Rick Edmeades was there, there was no food there so I had to go back to the coast. While I was there they brought two prisoners, one was a Jap and the other was a Japanese harlot, and the Japanese male was only too happy to co-operate and so was the female. They took something
like about fifty thousand or more Korean women for their brothels, and the Japanese now have got the hide to say they volunteered, and they have got no recompense., they have appealed to the Japanese time and time again and no recompense what so ever. Even today, sixty years later, I think they are a bunch of, my generation. I am very
heated as you will realise, I am very upset and annoyed and the thing that annoyed me, one of the biggest war criminals unhung, the Emperor, and when he died Bob Hawke had all of the flags in Australia put at half mast. I don’t know whether you remember that. What a farce. I am just getting heated up.
Well tell me some more about encounters that you and your guerrillas had with Japanese troops?
We had another encounter, a fascinating one which I also mentioned in the book. I had instructions, shows you how stupid Tom Harrison was, Major Harrison. When I got right down to the place called Sindumin or Sipitang, by that time the Australians had landed at Borneo and he gave me
instructions never to go more than a day's march from Sipitang in case I was needed or in case the Australian divisions wanted to contact me. Which is ridiculous. If you put a one day limitation, you are really putting a half day limitation, so if you go somewhere you have got to go back, so that meant I could only have half a day operation and you can't go far in half a day.
Now the Japanese alright, I heard that there was a group of Japanese in a place called north from where I was, I forget it. And because I had to remain in a given area, made Artor
guerrilla leader in place and gave him some guerrillas to check out an area where allegedly there were some Japs. As soon as I sent them off and I cautioned him. He had with him a Bren gunner that I had trained and away they went and I had to wait for Harrison, I knew I had to wait for Harrison on a given day and then I would follow them up.
So I met Harrison, he used to abuse me for no reason at all and he abused me again on this occasion again and then he left and I said, “Thank God.” And away I went with a Chinese captain, Captain Gong, following up where I had sent my guerrillas, in the meantime they were jumped by quite a strong Japanese party. They killed quite a few, they killed about fifteen of this party of Japs.
But Artor was killed and four others were badly shot up. On the way there I came into a village and there was Japs everywhere and I saw on the roadway what I thought was a woman, a naked body with black pubic hair. And then I heard
this strange gibberish and in a sulap, a sulap doesn’t have windows they just have an opening like a window, here is this human head being jangled up and down like that. And Gong said, “Don’t shoot that’s a victory dance from a head hunter.” And then I thought that’s the head, and this headless woman, because the Japanese have very small breasts
and no hair you see, very little hair. This must be the headhunter that did this Jap over. They on their own accord were bumping off Japs too. And as it turned out he had a mate, and since there was only one head he decided to take off the testicles of he Jap. It was a Japanese soldier and they stripped him of his clothes, it was a very savage war. And when I approached the corpse the pubic hair disappeared,
it was blow flies, and that’s what I thought was pubic hair. It wasn’t, he had been emasculated and flies had collected. And as I said the mate of the first head hunter he couldn’t get two heads out of one so he decided to get another appendage to hang around. It is a cruel world, it was a cruel world.
People have no idea how callous one becomes. I never in a million years abused a corpse, not my cup of tea. The head hunters would have a dance with the head, but again let's understand this clearly, they were very fine people, they were very gentle people.
It was a rite of passage for the man to demonstrate that he was a warrior, and any self respecting maiden wouldn’t marry a man unless he had at least one head. They used to tattoo the fingers for the heads.