the Five Ways and my mother’s name was Willis my father’s name was John Macintosh Dickson and we moved when I was one to Greenslopes just close to where the
present military hospital is. And I had two elder sisters and two younger brothers. Well the two younger brothers were born at Greenslopes. I went to Greenslopes State School, I think my next sister to me
was only eleven months older than I. Her birthday was in July and I think because she was starting school at five I started with her so I was probably four and a half. And then I went through the school, Greenslopes State school,
played football and cricket for them, with them and then I sat for scholarship in 1933 the end of 1933. I passed scholarship; I got fifty one point two percent. We sat at the
East Brisbane State School that they held the State scholarships exam in those days. And then dad allowed me to go to the Industrial High School
for, I went to the Industrial for about eight months and then I applied for a job and started work as an apprentice in October 1934.
I think that makes sense.
and one half day a week at the college doing practical work and I earned, the first year I earned thirteen and a penny a week which is not unusual it was good money for a fourteen year old in those days. I think I started
with them on the 23rd of October. I’m not sure of that but, and when war was declared on September the 3rd, 1939 I was still an apprenticeship in 5th year and I had to start,
I had to sit for my final exam and my tickets in November. Now either I had to miss my exams or I went in the army. I tried to get into the army but I couldn’t because then I was very
youthful in looks and I wasn’t very big either and so that you know I couldn’t just disclose my age really and I went to Kelvin Grove at the last resort. Kelvin Grove Depot, military depot, and the
lieutenant, Lieutenant Lissett in those days was I knew actually because he worked with the Electricity Commission and they had contact with the people I worked for and so he knew me and not well but he
knew of me and he said, “Well how old are you?” and I said, “I’m twenty years of age.” He said, “Alright, when were you born?” and I said, “The 4th of August 1920.” And that gave me away really because
he was quite, he was a young man and he was quite quick. He said, “Well you take this letter home, this form home and have it signed by your father and we’ll accept you but we must have your father’s signature.” My father worked in the Government
Printing Office so I went down straight away and he signed it for me and I took it back and that made Lieutenant German quite happy and so he said, “Look you still have your fifth year exams to go and your ticket exams to go in
November. I said, “Yes” he said “Well, if you come to my unit I’ll give you leave to go and sit, sit for your ticket exams.” I said, “Good, good.” But I had to shift; I had to move from the depot companies to his company
which he formed as he came in November. That’s the first thing he did was give me a leave pass to go and sit for my exams. So, that was a company which was called the 2/1st Field Park Company. Now the Field Park Companies remained
in the army but as we got through into 1940 they built our company up to field company strength and we were changed to field engineers, the 2/3rd Field Engineers.
The, from here I, do I go to when we boarded ship and so forth?
Raymond Terrace, Liverpool, Ingleburn different camps and then we sailed from Sydney on the Mauritania on the 5th of May 1940 and then we picked up a ship the Empress of Britain
and I think the Empress of Canada as we passed Melbourne we didn’t go into Melbourne but we did go into Fremantle and we were joined by the Queen Mary I think maybe the Queen Mary joined us at Melbourne and we picked
up another ship the Andes and that convoy was to pull in at Colombo to refuel. But at that time, this would be in May 1940 Italy came into the war somewhere about that time and we
switched courses and went to Cape Town. The idea was that we go to France. This didn’t happen really but we had leave in Cape Town and then we went on and pulled into Freetown at Sierra Leone and we didn’t get off ship
but we landed in Scotland at Greenoch – and I, stop now – can you stop the…
Clyde on the ship and then we were transferred to the rail and we travelled from Greenoch I think it was that we went ashore and we travelled straight down to Salisbury Plains. In Salisbury Plains we, we were camped at
Tidworth and moved across to Ludgershall and spent the time trenching and building machine gun posts and one thing and another because the boys were just coming back from
Dunkirk. And so some of them were coming into those camps and wherever you know. They did expect Germany to attack of course but they didn’t and we stayed there in England until November
and the Battle of Britain had been decided maybe and the, they decided to move us. I think General Tom Blamey wanted the rest of his of his 6th Division back in Palestine because
the Italians had attacked in Egypt and at that time Italy, as you probably know, had a mandate over Libya which they gained because of their being an ally of Britain during the 1st World War and
they built Tobruk really as a port and as a defensive position and however we boarded the Renodel Pacifico in, in Liverpool I think it was the 7th of March 1940 and it was
only a small ship I think it was about ten thousand tonner and we travelled back down round the Cape we didn’t call into Cape Town we called into Durban and had a leave here in Durban and then the convoy continued on to
the Suez, Suez Canal and we went into a camp called Ingleburn, not Ingleburn I’m sorry, never mind I forget the name but the – and then we joined the 6th Division and we went up the Desert. The 6th Division attacked
with the British Army and but the 6th Division did most of the attacking of the Italians as infantry and took a number of places as you know Bardia and I think they took about thirty thousand or forty thousand prisoners there and then Tobruk and about the same number
and then we went on to Derna and we stopped at Derna for a brief period while the rest of the Division went on and took Barce and were pushing on towards Benghazi. I was sent with
two other men to Appolonia and with a company of the 1st Australian Battalion of the 6th Division. They, we met them at Cyrene and went down into
Appolonia we had to footed – walk down of course because Italians had blown the escarpment down into Appolonia. They had tried to destroy the power station and they had left in a hurry. We were able to
get the power station working again that’s why we were sent down to there. They had, they had attacked the diesels driving the sets and also attacked the DC [direct current] generators on the alternator
plants and so forth and we repaired them and got it working again. They were going to move the headquarters up to Cyrene which was on the main down the road to Benghazi. I don’t know whether they did or not but when we had finished there we moved on to Barce
to the power station there and on to Agheila. From there I was brought back to Barce and there was a POW [prisoners of war] camp at Barce full of Italian soldiers and we worked
with them on their tank mines, their mines. The mines are about three feet long and they were easy to repair and so forth and we, they did the work and we supervised it although they knew more about the
mines than we did at that stage and we used them because we didn’t have mines, tank mines.
move. We set up a minefield across the, between Barce and Benghazi to stop the Derna Road being used as transport for him and the idea was that we blow the road there, they had blown
the road further back from El Agheila back to Benghazi and what damage they did in Benghazi I don’t know I wasn’t there I was in Barce. And then we, we lost, we had our first casualty at
that minefield the, what happened our sapper was placing the mines across the road and moved them back to let trucks pass and then unfortunately
one of the trucks passed one that was, he hadn’t move back, far enough back out of the way or something like that so we had our first casualty there and then we had, we blew a bridge at Maddalena which was between Barce and Cyrene.
Cyrene was a, there was a big American business going on there. There was an old amphitheatre there went back to the days, well who knows how long back. We gathered there, our unit all came together there
and it was decided that they’d go down and blow Barce, not Barce, Appollonia. We had blown Barce as we left it. Then there was two trucks out, there was one out over the Barce Pass and one on the Derna Road well
I wasn’t to go down to Barce some of our other companies went through Barce and through the desert. We went back along the, we sent men down to
Apollonia to blow it and then continued on to Derna. Now we didn’t enter Derna because there was a Red Cap, America – British Police
Red Cap on the road. It turned out he was not a Red Cap he was a, apparently a German who had got through from the tanks, see the tanks were well below us in the desert and they weren’t using the road necessarily and they were trying to go right round
us and take Derna, Tobruk and whatever you know. They did attack the group that came through Mechili in the desert and we lost one of our other companies lost some men there in Mechili and
there was a British 18th Mountain Brigade they call them, they were originally horse mounted in India, they were all Indian troops and they were you might say mauled by the
tanks. However but they got back to Tobruk and we tried to come, we were turned off the road by the Red Cap, so called Red Cap, and we were going to bed down because by this time it was all hours of the morning. We were going to stop and have a blow but anyway
we decide we would carry on to Gazala and there was a, the German tanks did come into to Gazala and, but they weren’t strong enough to affect us and we moved on to Tobruk. And
Woolloongabba belonged to my grandfather and my father was paying rent for it and that’s where I was born but we moved to Greenslopes when I was one in my first year anyway because he had managed to get a war service home. That area where we moved to were all war service
home, First World War service homes. We were the last house in Peach Street, Greenslopes on a place called Stephens Hill and then there was a bare paddock right over the Kingfisher Creek and it was
all dairy farms around there, dairy farms on both sides of the creek. And Chinese gardens right on the creek so it was pretty rural, yes. There were on the same line of the houses in a street that was named but wasn’t built really
was Nudagate Street and very few, well there were very few cars came there in those days and there was a dairy farm belonging to people called Jefferies only oh half a dozen houses from, up from where we lived or down and up the other side of the valley from where lived. So yes, it was rural.
And the… we’d get a, by tram from Greenslopes and we’d get a weekly ticket and I can’t remember just how much it was but it wasn’t very much you could get one penny tickets
and when we played football for the school I’d be eleven or twelve I suppose, thirteen, and if we went to play say Morningside which was cross country we’d, we’d be able to walk home but we’d leave the school and we’d have to have our
concession ticket it was a penny down to Woolloongabba and another penny up to, and a penny was twelve pennies in a shilling as I started work in 1934 and I was getting thirteen and a penny
a week and that was a good wage.
my mother arranged to buy a bike for me, I didn’t have a bike and arranged a bike. She bought a Scout bicycle, Scout bicycles were quite popular in those days. Named Scout which was handy for me. And it meant that
when I did start work I used to ride the bike into Brisbane and back to work would save me tram fare. There were, my mother died the next year and in 19… now I can’t count properly,
when I was fifteen anyway she died and I was still going into, into Albert Street we had the workshop then. The first workshop that I was apprenticed to was in Bernard Lane, Bernard Lane is still there runs from George Street, from Albert Street to George Street
between Queen Street and Adelaide Street and I think Bernard Lane is still there. The first shop they had, Hammil and Pas had, was in Bernard Lane and then the next year which would’ve been 1935 they moved to
just opposite the T and G Building on the corner of Queen and Albert next door to George Shaw’s Sports Shop, just down from Queen Street. It was an old butcher’s shop an
but there was a laneway between, up along George Shaw’s shop and we could get large motors up around the back into the back portion of the shop. It was a lot of hard work because there were concrete steps coming down into the same level as the bottom floor of the building. The following year after twelve months or so there they moved down to
Charlotte Street. Charlotte Street is the next one from Queen Street, there’s Elizabeth Street and Charlotte Street and so it was just down the road and around the corner between Albert Street and George Street. There was quite, quite a few electrical repair
shops in that area. There was in Elizabeth Street there were electrical repair company, George Gilbert and Son, George Gilbert and Company and there were other shops like W.E. Peterman and T. Tonks and Company which dealt with electrical repair
materials and so forth. It was more an industrial area than it is today of course.
male friends that danced to you know and we used to go in a, in company into Brisbane. There was a dance hall in Elizabeth Street the Caledonian Club. There was the Trocadero which was on the south side of the river very, very popular in Melbourne Street not far from the
river. And then there was another dance hall down at the end of Adelaide Street just across Wickham Street which was very popular and old time dancing and modern as they called it then dancing and the Jazz Waltz and so forth
was called modern dancing but it was all old time dancing I suppose you’d call it. Very popular, and of course yes, we met girls, yeah.
strangely enough they didn’t dance but there was always, well I had two sisters that danced and we went to dances every Saturday night anyway. And, there was another dance hall down in
George Street the Druiders was quite a popular dancehall and there was the Blind Deaf and Dumb Institute had a dancehall for all combined in Vulture Street in South Brisbane. Dancing was very popular in the outer suburbs at Kenmore and the,
well at Caboolture like we have a hall here every outer district, and the rural districts had a hall, and dances were held there every, once a week I would say. So…
we’d go to picture shows, Toowong picture shows and that sort of thing and I thought I would come home and still have her as my girlfriend but it was three years before I came home and
I wasn’t a good letter writer and I did meet her when I came home in 1943 she was working at Finney Isles across the , well at Finney Isles I was going to say across the road from the Grand Central Hotel because I used to drink a little bit in those days. And
she was working in the, where ladies buy powder and stuff I don’t know what you call that sort of department but she was in that section and she agreed to meet me that night because she was working and I think in those days if you were working at something in a shop
you didn’t stop and chat to people for very long you know and she just said, “I’ll see you tonight.” And I said, “I’ll pick you up at home.” And she said, “No, I’ll meet you down at the corner of Milton Road just down from the brewery, Four X Brewery, I think it’s still there in Milton Road, and I met her there and we walked to the
Toowong Theatre and walked back and I was going to wall home with her to say g’day to her mother and she said you get on the tram here and I said, “Oh yes but I can catch the tram.” She said, “There’s a tram coming now, I think you’d better get on it.” I said, “Why?” She said, “Well I have
another friend I’m engaged to.” And I said, “Okay”. So yes I had a steady girlfriend when I left.
for instance all the time we were in the desert but I didn’t see any in New Guinea but just a little card which you put your name, see security was very keen in those days and every letter you wrote had to o to the orderly room or an officer who would read it
and if it mentioned anything about for instance say you were in Tobruk it had to be cut out, and they’d cut them out now whether they did cut them all out or not I don’t know. I used to write to my sister, my sister closest to me, frequently, well I wouldn’t say frequently but you know, but
I used to send this girl one of these little card which just said, I am sick, I am well, I have been wounded, I am in hospital and that’s all and it didn’t mention where you were or anything else like that and that was a security method. But you
could write a letter and give it to an officer and he would have to delete like cut out anything that gave an indication of where, this started oh way back in England. I don’t know about and I don’t think it worried in Australia as we left but I wasn’t very long
in the army when I left I don’t think they read your letters then.
thought about it but it’s one of those things. I didn’t have any girlfriends from then on until I came home. But I did, as a matter of fact I married, my
wife was the daughter of one of the fellows who was I was a lance corporal and he was a corporal over me and he, when I first arrived back from overseas, on my first leave I was only home a few days and
I had to go into hospital. I still had a leak in a wound I had in my leg which wasn’t worrying me greatly but I also had a carbuncle in my ear and fortunately the, on the boat they’d pressed and it had sort of spread a bit, and that was worrying me a bit and I went in, I was only there for
a few days because we only had three weeks ‘Liddington Leave’ they called it and then we moved north. This mate of mine Sandy, his name was Sanderson and of course he had to get the name, nickname Sandy didn’t he and Sandy brought his daughter down to see me in the
showgrounds, Brisbane Showgrounds there was a hospital underneath the grandstand. It was only a small hospital you know and I was in there for a couple of days. Also another fellow in our unit brought his two daughters down to see me you know.
But, yeah well my wife worked with the National Bank, oh Commonwealth Bank I should say, yeah Commonwealth Bank in those days in George and I, when I came back from New Guinea I, we started to go out together,
yeah. She was younger than I. I was about five years older than her.
he had nothing to do with our friendship. It was, and well we lasted together for forty one years of course she died. So, yeah, but we were always good friends, remained good friends. He died very soon
after actually he died oh, he died when just after when Robyn was born, she was in 1953 and I do believe he was born in, he Sandy was born in 1900, so when he joined the army he was thirty nine years of age and they got away with it,
well I got away with it too but I was only a year younger. Yeah.
and but she did write to me in New Guinea just a short letter and the, I did I think, I’m not sure, I did answer it maybe. But we weren’t in, I was only in New Guinea for about twelve months. I don’t
know how long it was now. I didn’t, I didn’t get on well in the army, see I got Malaria early and Dengue and I suffered from Malaria. As a matter of fact we
did are we going back to…, when we moved up to New Guinea our job as field engineers wasn’t, as a matter of fact I never ever saw a Japanese mine or booby trap and I can say that honestly because
I should’ve, I would’ve thought. Some of the boys said that they did run into them but I didn’t. I never but at that stage I had become staff sergeant, headquarter sergeant in the company and I didn’t spend as much time
involved with the infantry and the – so it was different but I was sick and after we, we did a landing at the, can we go on to the…
She was more my mate’s daughter than she was my girlfriend I hadn’t been out with her or anything like that. And I did also, I don’t think we had our letters
censored, that was the word actually, censored, in New Guinea. I can’t remember that. There’s so much I can’t recall about New Guinea and I think that was created by Malaria and I had Dengue [fever] as well. Dengue was quite prevalent then.
up there some fellows went through New Guinea and never, never even got Malaria. I was getting Malaria oh for a few years after coming out of the army. It would repeat on me for some reason or other and it
it made me quite ill, yeah. They also found that I had Amoebic Dysentery. I didn’t have Dysentery but Amoebic Dysentery is something different and I spent, after coming out of New Guinea, we’re going back to New Guinea again eh… but, better stay with the girls, eh?
either in 1935 but she was being treated at the Mater Hospital. She had to travel there and by tram and that sort of thing but she was treated not regularly I wouldn’t say I think it was once a month or something and I don’t know what sort of treatment she was getting. I’m
afraid I wasn’t told or don’t remember. She eventually swelled up and, they put her in La Palms Hospital up in Kangaroo Point or her people did. All of her people lived up in Shafton Avenue and down the streets of there cause there was thirteen children in the family and they, nearly all girls.
So they were all living up in there and they were more aware of her condition than my father was I think and my father was fairly, I wouldn’t say rough
but, he wasn’t a rough man but well he didn’t think about those things and I don’t think too many people did really. They know about cancer more today don’t they and it’s, a lot of people are dying from it before they know they have it.
in the First World War, two of their fathers I’m sorry, two of their fathers had been in the First World War and my father had been in the 9th Battalion in the First World War. Now the easiest place to go and enlist was over at the 9/49th Drill Hall which was just across Kingfisher Creek over at Junction
Park you might call it, there was a Drill Hall there and you could enlist there so we all went together. And one of them the younger boy he was refused and he never did get in the army. Oh he did, I’m sorry
he did he got into the army the same time as I did, he was a printer’s apprentice, he was the same age as I was and he’d put his age up but he didn’t pass the medical, we had a medical when we went into depot company before we were in the company you know. We
went in depot in lots, in depot companies in Redbank and we had a medical examination there and he didn’t pass it he had flat feet. And he, I think he eventually got into the army but later on I think it was when, well conscription came in
and I think he did eventually get into the army and I don’t know that he would’ve been manpowered he was a printer’s apprentice and somehow or other he got in, he did get in for a short period. That’s what he was put out for flat feet.
company and I was paid six shillings a day that’s a technician, that’s not the right word either. The other two came in as truck drivers. Now the 2/1st Field Park Company was a
backward, I shouldn’t say backward, but it was a unit that was involved mainly in roadwork and that type of thing and they needed, whereas a field company needed all of those things too
but the Field Park was more, would carry bridge building stuff and that type of thing you know. The Field Company was more involved in mines and but then on the other hand the field company was necessary as I told you about Apollonia
and Derna we had to run the power house at Derna. They have to do that if you know but in a place like Tobruk for instance there were no power houses to worry about there was nothing like that.
I would it wasn’t, it was a bank account that the chemist shop in those days you could bank at the chemist shop from the school, now I had an account there, a bank account and I put, and we used to, I shouldn’t tell you this, you’ll put me in and
I’ll go to gaol. We used to collect cast iron and sell it to Crown Stoves because Crown Stoves were making Crown woodstoves in those days not far from where we lived. It was out in the suburbs at it wasn’t Holland Park really it was Raff Avenue I think they called it. It was between Greenslopes
and Holland Park. And we used to, any scrap iron we’d break it up and put it in our go-karts and wheelbarrows and take it up and we’d sell it to them.
no I could never have afford a horse from as I did mention to you I think if we did the people across Kingfisher Creek particularly had horses and some of the boys that came to school rode horses to school and we’d occasionally
we’d look after the cattle for them just to stop the herds getting together if there was a couple on the plains from where the hospital is now, we’d just make sure they didn’t get mixed up and so forth and stop them getting too far up into the Stephens Hill because there was a quarry up in there, a road, little quarry you know and just to
give the dairy men a bit of a break from looking after cattle out in the paddock you know and we’d take them back across the creek and sometimes we get, might get a small amount given to us pennies or something like that. But a penny was quite a lot of money really to a child, to a youngster.
we didn’t have rabbit plague or anything like that that we could shoot we did go shooting out further out into Ipswich on the other side and when they were started to make the, forget the name of the dam, the first dam they built on the Brisbane River, dear I know it so well,
never mind, and yeah there were rabbits about and wallabies but the Daisy air rifle didn’t do them much harm. I did have a rifle, I did get a rifle later in my life and in fact my, my brother
John eventually was twenty two and he inherited from me when I joined the army and he had trouble with the, one of the lads, lived across the road from us and he shot him with it, shot him in the ankle. So you know, we did have, yeah,
we did have access to, to up to a point but we couldn’t afford ammunition for a twenty two really and so it would only be to shoot a rabbit go rabbit shooting or something like that.
actually. It was third, first, third, second, fourth year and then the fifth year was the final deal. So, I was there the company, the companies, the areas where you were going had been formed and it
was late in November that we moved as a company down south. Now I don’t know whether 9th Battalion went for instance. Some of them went to Enoggera some of them stayed at Redbank and all that sort of thing you know I don’t know where the artillery went to. But we spent the next, until we sailed,
spent the next few months travelling around New South Wales various places route marching and route marching was very prominent really amongst them and it was either that or drill and drill’s a pain in the neck.
So they’d put you in the engineers because of your electrical skills?
Yes well I was sort of honour bound to go there because I had already made that decision with Gus Gurman to get into his unit I had to go and but I was paid an extra shilling a day, I still can’t think of the term, I was a ticketed man actually. And,
so, that’s that. The next step was getting on the boat I suppose. Down in New South Wales well we had Christmas leave we came back home for Christmas and not the whole unit because by this time the unit had grown in reinforcements from other States
so we were a bigger unit not as big as a field company but we were a bigger field park unit and we were ready to go. And, we didn’t have any basic training like in mines or things which we were going to be involved in, which we
knew we would be involved in eventually but there was no one there, there was no one that could tell us anything about them cause, they this tank thing only started in the First World War didn’t it, you know there weren’t years and years of experience in looking after the tank. They knew all about it in Europe because you know they were well up in that sort of thing.
It wasn’t until we arrived in England that we started to see what a mine was, we didn’t know what a mine was really or how it worked or anything else or how it was deloused. And there was no point in anyone else trying to read a book and tell you about it so we just kept on training you know, drilling.
and the only time they bothered to stop one air raid was just they wanted to get rid of their load before they went home or they were on the wrong track, pushed off the wrong track or something like that. But the destruction in, particularly in London, was terrific, was dreadful. They did make a mess of the place
but the Battle of Britain was over, the Battle of Britain was all fought in the air and Britain had gained ascendancy over air for, over air war over the south of Britain and France and the Yanks weren’t in it there then either. The
Battle of Britain was won by the, well the RAF [Royal Air Force] and the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] and the Canadian Air Force. And yeah, we were transferred across to the north of London, a barracks there was just preparing us to move straight away as soon as they could put us on ships because as I
said before I think General Blamey wanted his 6th Division in one piece back in the Middle East because he knew the Italians had attacked and no one really knew how the Italians, how good they would be and fortunately they didn’t turn out as good as he thought they would or they thought they
would and but the 6th Division was placed on the coastal road to take care of it, I’m not saying there were more Australian troops there than English troops but we must remember that England had to maintain a big force in England because
it, he hadn’t come and they had equally strength in the air but might’ve still come you know.
And that’s where it all went on although they did bomb England and Scotland because it was just as easy for them to come across and bomb Scotland as it was to bomb London, really because they had control of Denmark, Sweden they were still fighting in…
Norway, I was going to say Norfolk, Norway but he was bombing, well the navy had, Scappa Flow was the big naval base, and of course they were going to cop their share of it so all of England was being bombed but it was mainly on the south
of England Bournemouth and Southampton where there was a congregation of people and army that was bombed more.
rail of course and we couldn’t get right in to the south of London, we did get in as far as Oxford Street. And we got off at Oxford Street walked through the seating area and what have you there were people sleeping everywhere those underground stations
were ready made bomb shelters and then we made our way across, across Waterloo Bridge to I think it was Paddington Station, no it wasn’t Paddington, Waterloo Station I think and we met two girls there this mate and I
and there were two girls on the station and the Australians were quite popular with the English people well most of them I’d say and these two girls said, “Good day Aussie,” or something like that would you like a, it wasn’t hamburgers in those days
it was sausage rolls or something and a cup of tea you know, “Yes” and so come on and they said, “Where are you going to?” we said, “We’re going back to…” at that stage we had moved to near Reading, Pang, a place called Pangbourne and they said, “Why are you over this -
where are you going to?” we said, “We’re going to Pangbourne.” “Oh well you won’t get a train tonight.” And the trains had stopped Basicsto… Bassingstone I think it is a big station, a big railway junction that side of London was out of action it had been bombed so they said, “You won’t be going anywhere tonight and where
are you going to sleep?” And well we said, “We’ll just sleep on the platform there.” And the platform wasn’t underground it was up above and they said, “Come down in the shelter we’ll get you a bed down there.” which we did. I couldn’t even tell you their names, their Christian names, really, I never ever saw them again. We went down and they had a bed roll each
and there was a policeman living in the underground with them and he was in command of the underground, not underground what you call the bomb shelter and so and they introduced to him and he said, “Where are you going to sleep boys?” And
we said, “Well the girls said they find us…” “Okay right” he said, “Go with them and get their bed rolls.” So we gave them a hand out with their bed rolls and they just put their rolls down and they hopped into one and we hopped into the other and slept there the night and then we went up in the morning and had a cup of tea again and waited for a train and
they went off to their work, they were working girls and that’s the way it was. People were coming in during different times during the night and getting their bed roll putting it down and going to bed and go back to work in the morning.
there wasn’t a great deal of bombing on that on any on our camp even for that matter. So we weren’t, I don’t think too many of the Australian forces that were there I don’t think we suffered a great deal of casualties I don’t know we certainly didn’t suffer any casualties. There was two companies, two field companies there then.
The 2/3rd Field Company and then we were formed into the 2/13th now these numbers of field companies were the same in Australia you know and our battalion numbers the 9th Battalion and 10th Battalion, see there was a full Brigade of us went over there. There
was the 9th, 10th and 12th Battalions. Now the 12th Battalion was half Tasmania and half Queensland, 9th Battalion was Queensland Battalion. But the 10th Battalion was Victorian, South Australian whatever you know West Australian it was a mixed Battalion.
because I don’t think the English people, well certainly our instructors anyway like the English, the Australian we didn’t really realise what it was all about and we didn’t have to use them over there but we were taught what they were like and how they would delouse and that’s all.
The war in the Middle East changed everything for us because the Germans came into it, their mines came into it and the Italians had mines and they were producing them by the millions no doubt and we only saw samples of the English mines Mark 1 and
Mark 2 which didn’t teach us very much. Didn’t teach us how to lay them either. And I don’t know that they were teaching English field companies how to lay them really because it became a mechanised war, an armoured war, more so in the Middle East because Rommel came across with his troops we had a 7th Armoured Brigade,
Armoured Division that was in action the first run up the desert against the Italians. The delousing of the Italian mine and that was the only mine there at that time was just simply a little stick with a det on the end of it, in the end of the roughly made mine and
it was so easy to just pull it out and we had learnt that but we hadn’t really laid mines. We didn’t get mines of our own to lay until we got into Tobruk by this time there was a mine being made in
Egypt called the ‘gypo mine’ [Egyptian] and it was a pressed metal thing we didn’t think much of it after seeing, as we had done in Tobruk, the German ‘teller mines’ which were cast and you know they were beautifully made. And all of the German stuff was beautifully made an the Italian mine was
a sheet metal thing just pressed out you know cheaply made it was only to blow up and but the Germans made some wonderful things and they were designed properly and they worked well too. And they dropped mines from the air, they called the thermos flasks, they were just shaped like a thermos flask and they had a
the cap that you drink out of the thermos flask you know it was sitting on the top and a little propeller on the top, not of the cup but on the top of the cup, and as it was unloaded out of the plane the little propeller on the top unscrewed the air coming down unscrewed the propeller and they were dropped at a certain height obviously,
hopefully when they hit the ground the case would be half off or thereabout and there’s three little – little lugs inside that came apart and some oil dripped out and once that oil dripped out the plunger that hit the det was just sitting on a ball, like a little ball bearing
and the idea was for it not to explode by the time it hit the ground some of them would explode but the others would lay there ready to go. The little prop coming off the top and the cup coming off or coming half off even letting the oil out and these ball bearings would just move and the det would be ready
at the slightest touch of it and they had to be deloused then and that wasn’t easy.
Tobruk every night to each post the, the post around Tobruk were laid right from the coast on a nine mile radius right around Tobruk right to the other side to the Mediterranean you know. And
the posts were staggered and on the outside of the posts they weren’t all completely finished but there were tank mines, tank traps, they had dug so that the tanks couldn’t come across very easily. So the, am I getting side tracked? So
the German stuff, the Italians did alright in Tobruk but and they could hold off, you can’t hold every – it didn’t take the Australian 6th Division to take Tobruk off the Italians. It only took them overnight. The same in
Bardia but then the heart wasn’t in it for the Italians.
I’ve left out the fact that in England we were getting reinforcements all the time to the Brigade and we were changed from a field park company, they sent a field park, another field park company over and they made us into a field company which is a much bigger company and the, we
were renamed the 2/13th Field Company. So we were the 2/13th Field Company in England, we became in England the 2/13th. So when we went up to the desert, not back, came to the desert we went up as a field company. We didn’t…
there was a bit of a problem here apparently, higher up, because they had three field companies over there for the attack and we came into it so we went up still as a 2/13th Field Company but as Corp troops and because in a
Division I don’t know how many divisions make up a Corp I didn’t get that hight in rank but there was, we were went up with the 30th Corp I think they were.
Tobruk. I was talking before about us going up the desert, we went up with the 6th Division but we weren’t controlled by the 6th Division we were controlled by 30th Corp really because they had their three divisions, the three field companies and we did go up and we went into Derna
and we ran the, got the power station going in Derna and attached to the power station was a mill, a flour mill and that was all controlled by the power station. So, and there were Italian people still living in Derna. They had to be looked after and you know so the power station was
necessary. The lines had been knocked down by shelling and this sort of thing so we repaired the lines as best we could or as nearly as good and whilst this was going on three of us moved with a, I already told you this, but moved with the, a company
of the 2/1st Battalion, 6th Division to go down into Apollonia by this time Barce had fallen and Cyrene had been taken that’s a town which leads down to Apollonia which is right on the sea, on the Mediterranean sea and became a
U-Boat [Unterseeboot, German submarine] Base in the Mediterranean belonging to the Italians. Not a U-Boat, I shouldn’t call it a U-Boat that’s German isn’t it…
staff sergeant had been an orchardist, an orchard, he had an orchard in Tasmania, worked in an orchard and he had worked with diesels, diesel engines and these four plants in the power station at Apollonia were diesel driven alternators and his job was to,
to make sure because they took needle valves out of the injectors of the diesels and he had to find that out and get the diesels running and it was my job to look after the electrical side of it which I did. And Sandy was there because he was, there was only the three of us NCO’s [Non Commissioned Officers] in the
headquarter company of our field company and the, they were all involved in something else. So, we went down there. That’s where and at this time Barce had fallen and then when we got the field company power house going in Apollonia
which served the Tureenie up in the top of the hill we moved over to Barce and that’s when we looked after, well had the Italian prisoners working, started them working on fixing up their or reassembling gypo, not gypo, Italian
mines. We used to call them coffin boxes actually because they were long, they were about three feet long you know. And that’s about where we got to when I stopped talking on the way back from Benghazi. Well actually it was a way back from I’ve lost the name of the town again, don’t worry
about it but you’ve got it already, you’ve got it there anyway.
but there was a, a we were brought back, our Brigade, the 18th Brigade was brought back from England and went up the desert with the 6th Division and they had enough men over there to make up a whole division anyway but, and the 18th Brigade stayed with us when we were pushed back from Benghazi, the Benghazi
handicap they called it, pushed back to Tobruk and they were trapped in Tobruk with us but they never ever became 9th Division. 9th Division was formed in Barce, the 18th Brigade didn’t come up to, as far as Barce it was spread out doing something
they went down in to the desert out from in Egypt somewhere but the 9th Brigade, the 9th, 10th and 12th eventually came up to Tobruk and at that time the 9th Division was formed they didn’t include the 18th Brigade in it because in England we had formed another Brigade
with reinforcements and they were all now back in the Middle East so there was a big turnaround you know big change over. They formed the 9th Division and we stayed, we didn’t know which division we belonged to really until we were in Tobruk. We were still 6th Division as far as we were concerned and
there was a division, there was an infantry battalion, the 32nd Battalion 30/32nd and they were formed in England or given their name in England, and they stayed in the 9th Division. They formed another Brigade the 32nd,
the 28th, 32nd and 43rd now most Brigade numbers run 9th ,10th and 12th and so on you know but this extra division, extra brigade, am I making it difficult for you?
the alternator sets which all had a DC commutator, DC generator and they smashed the, with a hammer they smashed the brush gear and he commutators they went along and they ran along the switchboard and hit all the meters with a hammer, broke the glass and so forth. It was, they were in that much of a hurry
to get out that that stopped you using the plant and stopping the diesels stopped them using the plant and it didn’t take very long to repair it. I had a bit of trouble with the alternators, with the DC generators on the end of the alternators
because they’d hit the commutators and I had to lift them you know and that was my job before I joined so it wasn’t a difficult thing to do just took a little bit of time and I just pulled the glass out and shook the meters loose glass out of that and we had it running in oh a matter of a week I suppose.
anything really and so it wasn’t you know serious as far as the army was concerned. And it went on but and it didn’t stop the armour it stopped the motorised, it didn’t really stopped the motorised infantry coming, the German infantry coming either really the Panzer Division because they can go round the road we could only mine the road that’s all, at
that position. But then there was a, we blew a bridge at the bottom, at Barce. I don’t know what they did going the other side of Barce down to Mechili but there was a big cutting from Barce, Barce is a beautiful valley in the desert it’s really lovely. It’s not an oasis it’s a really beautiful place and
there was a little village called Maddalena and we blew the bridge there and then there’s an escarpment goes up, it’s quite a steep one but it was a beautiful Italian road, made road, made up which runs down to Derna and on further to the border to the Egyptian border and that had blown. The Italians had blown that as they went
out, blew the escarpment. So you couldn’t get traffic down you know, we had to put a detour around to get round it or the 6th Divvie did as they went you know to get their truck round it because it was quite steep, really steep but we blew that as we went up to stop him but that didn’t stop his armour.
His armour did come up around it and came down the road. So the armour was a problem and we didn’t have armour to protect us coming along the Derna road. The armour was too busy looking after Rommel out in the desert and they weren’t doing it too well. Or he was doing it better than
they did. Yes he was very very good.
our Gus Gurman and our Commander of Royal Engineers, Australian Engineers who was a colonel, Gus Gurman was the Major then, our Major, and Sir John Overall was our Lieutenant he I don’t
know what he did at Canberra, he had something with a building at Canberra I don’t know whether you, his name was ever mentioned, he became a colonel he became a knight too for his work on Canberra, anyone who works on Canberra can get a knighthood. And I’m not saying that against him because he was a very good man. They went into Derna,
the, most of the infantry went round through the desert, not through Derna, they tried to steer clear of Derna but most of the infantry by this time was back in Tobruk because it’s not far and they went into Tobruk and blew Tobruk
and made a job of it and then they were late getting back into Tobruk and I think they date they’ve put on the start of the siege of Tobruk is the 8th of April, I think.
They, they had already done two years in the desert for a misdemeanour that had occurred in Palestine there was a problem with the British Army against the Palestinians before the war started. And the Northumberland Fusiliers and the Black Watch was involved in it. I think they took the Black Watch home I’m not sure they left them
in Egypt or what happened that’s how the story goes but the Royal Horse Artillery and the Northumberland Fusiliers were in Tobruk all they time we were there. I don’t know whether they came out with us but we came out in November. I had been out before that I got wounded in I
think June and I was operated on in – the hospital in Tobruk was still operating although they’d bombed it and bombed the top of it but the underneath was quite okay and everything was in working condition and of course the Australian
Army Medical Corp got it working properly if it wasn’t and they, they tried to take this piece out of my leg. I was going to say they broke it, well shrapnel can be in segments, it’s all stuck together sort of business. You know it’s molten metal broken out of a bomb or whatever
you know and I got a piece in the, in the, and they call it a, they call it a gunshot wound. I must, I did disagree with them. How would you, I was sort of shrapnel wound and I disagreed with a couple, when I first come out of the army I was disagreeing with everybody
but when you come to think of it a shell throws shrapnel and it’s a gun, it’s a field gun, that’s what the shell comes out of so… but to me a gunshot would’ve been from like a rifle and that’s where I was wrong I had to admit it eventually.
of my leg but it had gone into the bone. Into the centre and it probably was, it was a flattish bit and it must’ve turned, it had turned in the marrow or whatever’s in there you know and it broke off. Well it meant then it was a major job to cut the bone to get it out. And
so they put me on a destroyer took me down to Alexandria, from Alexandria they, there was a Greek hospital which the Australians had taken over and they had a look at the whatever information came with me in the envelope but they said “Oh no we can’t do
that either.” And they sent be to the 2nd AGH [Australian General Hospital] at the town named, I’ll get it in a minute, I’ll tell you when I get it, it was on the Canal or close to the Canal on the railway line and it was a 2nd AGH and they took it. They had a specialist there that
could do that. The boys in, the doctors in Tobruk weren’t interested in that you know it was too bloody difficult. But to them in the hospital down that at 2nd AGH, I think it was the 4th AGH in Tobruk but they didn’t have the class that was necessary you know. The fellow that looked at it said, “I’ll get that out alright.”
sappers out with them and the idea was, so that they could get back, they’d have to open the field because we had built, we had replaced the, not replaced the Itie mines, we left them where they are but we had enlarged the length of the mines fields in front of our posts and so forth
so that the tanks couldn’t get into the posts. And it meant that we had to lift them to get them out to get the patrol out and we had to close the wire or they’d close, we’d leave someone behind to close the wire and we had to get them back and we might have to come back in a
hurry further on because the minefield around Tobruk became a lot better than the Italians had it. Because the Italian hadn’t when the built it they hadn’t come up to the attacks like Rommel was, like the German army was at that time. It was an
old minefield in other words. And actually they were only, some of the minefields were only one mine wide and one mine and a wire in front, barbed wire in front which would stop natives or you know.
putting them together but they didn’t have any detonators. What we had, the most dangerous part of it, see they couldn’t explode the mines or anything. They could put the, we put gun cotton, some of them had gun cotton in them we put jelly bag in them. Amanol it was actually. Until the det’s placed in there and the dets weren’t placed in
until such times as they were going to be used so they could be travel, they could be you know the same with the gypo mine it was, we carried them in truckloads and not that I was ever in a truck with them but the driver had to worry about it if one exploded the lot would go up. And the but it
wasn’t dangerous to a tank you could put it out there and run over it a thousand times and it wouldn’t explode probably but it was the detonator that did the damage, that started it you know. You know what a detonator is? The gypo mine was just a, like a cup, like a plate it was about
nine inches in diameter but it was just a hood and a base and one fitted over the other and would on the top you know and it just had a det in a, on a stick again pushed in to pull out. And once the, to delouse it pulling out the det delouse the mine.
It’s not a, it’s not a, I know the infantry said they wouldn’t touch them you know. It needed a brave man to go out near them. But that’s not true. Well it’s true in a fashion a fool could make a mess of it you know but once the det came out the mine’s quite, quite
okay, excepting that you can’t just delouse one because if the other one goes off sympathetic explosion could occur and that one will go off as well you know.
No Sydney quite different.
Oh okay, well the detonators. Well the detonator is a little aluminium cylinder an the explosive part it’s about as long as my forefinger there that part of it and you push a, the fusible,
which is a fuse, into the end of it and if you light the end it’ll give you time to get away from it if you’re blowing something and you can set it the same as a fuse in a hand grenade.
When you let the, say on a Mills bomb you can pull the pin out and you can hold it until such time because as soon as you let it go and the lever flies out you can set it for seconds or whatever you know but that gives you time anyway to let it go,
you’ve got time to throw it. So the det, that goes in you push it in the only reason you’ve got it on a stick is so you can push the det in and something has to hit that det and from the top of the mine there is a little plunger
comes down and hits the det and sets it off that sets the whole thing off. So it’s not, you know unless you’re, we did have a few casualties with sappers because they get so accustomed
to using dets if they’re in a field company and even some of them haven got pliers they just bite the end on the fuse before the push it in and put it into place. Well biting the end of a det is ridiculous but it’s been done. And it’s done in mines
you know in mining and this type of thing it shouldn’t be done like that it should’ve been nipped a little bit. But with the gypo mine and the Itie [Italian] mine the stick just fits nicely into the end of the det [detonator] and you just push it gently into the or just pull it out to delouse it.
How would you find the mines when you were doing a bit of mine clearing, or clearing the mines?
When we started in Tobruk we had to, we never had mine detectors and all the time I was in the army I never ever used a mine detector I never saw one. We didn’t get them in Tobruk and so we went along and poked with the bayonet into the ground and once you felt it then you’d pull the sand away from
round it and felt for the det and pulled the det out. With the Teller mine, the German Teller mine you didn’t have to do that but you had to find the tappet and find the Teller mine it’s laying underneath the ground and the, there’s a plunger on the top and that’s what the tank runs over and
if you unscrew that it’s attached to the tope of the mine, if you unscrew that it’s safe. So your bayonet goes down through the, or you can dig around and try and find it but once you find where the mine is you can scrap the, you can find the knob, if you unscrew the knob
get it then the mines safe so it’s not such a difficult job but you want to know what you’re doing, yeah.
because you could probably walk over one and not set it off. Once you know where the first one is you know where the others’ll be. You find the first one and you’ll know, when they lay them you must lay them in a pattern, we had to lay them in a pattern, maybe four deep or whatever what depth you want
and as long as you want but a tank can’t, you can’t guide a tank through it because the first rows set and the second row, the next row’s half way so it come down to say four or five feet. They’re not, we don’t measure them with a tape measure or anything
to make sure they’re accurate so it’s difficult, a tank couldn’t be driven through it. They’d hit one sooner or later.
Now, he’s, if he puts them down he’s got to be able to pick them up sooner or later. It doesn’t always work I know, but it’s wise isn’t it if you’re going to put something like that down in the ground you’ve got to know what the pattern is and
because and when we got to Alamein it was made, it was very, very important because we laid mines right from the sea right across our front and it wasn’t a straight line either you know but you can follow the wire whichever the wire goes, the wire’s on
the other side of it so the wire isn’t any problem to a tank he can run over the wire for that matter but he’s going to hit a mine sooner or later so he’s not going to run over the wire even but to get in and out we had to take patrols out of a night time and they wouldn’t, the
infantry, I’m not saying every infantrymen wouldn’t do it but they, the infantry decided it wasn’t worth trying because sooner or later one of them are going to make a mistake and so let the bloke that put them down pick them up. And they had them, we had
fellows working at El Alamein on the mine fields that we laid and we laid quite a lot of them and they were all mapped and they were all laid to a patter, same pattern and you know the, they had to be picked, we didn’t every have to pick them
up only to get out whilst we were there. When we left, when we sailed the mine field was still there and had to be picked up after we left. And I think they’re finding after the Vietnam War and you know in
Iraq today mines have just been laid higgledy piggledy you know and it’s created a lot of trouble in Vietnam anyway.
off different dets just poking up three little pins sticking up out of the ground. If they exploded the, a sympathetic explosion the tank mine would go up too but the, the booby trap the S-mine when
you stood on it or you hit the fire or pulled the wire the S-mine flew up in the air and then flew up just above head high and then exploded. And the, it would not only kill the man that it stood over, set it off but it spread out and they were
a container and they different things in them like when they were made old ball bearings, in factories like old ball bearings, old bits of steel and so forth and the case of course would break up into shrapnel and that’s where a lot of, a lot of well most of, I’d say, probably most,
a big percentage of the casualties came amongst the engineers.
And how would you mark these gaps? Or would you guard these gaps or?
We put a tape down so that, and near a post we’d put a tape down so that we could go out and leave it there so they could come back unless it was in a position where they might say, no you’ve got to pull that tape out and put it in when you come back, but
that seldom happened. It’s not as, it can be done quite easily providing you know what you have to do. The biggest problem was booby traps and
I didn’t see any in New Guinea I was in company headquarters and I wasn’t going out for boobies. They did find some boobies at the Finschhafen …
area at Jemaluang I never ever saw one but then again I didn’t have to go out with the infantry at that stage cause I’d come up to headquarter sergeant. They didn’t meet a lot though, we didn’t have a problem.
Not by that much, depending on the full moon.
Yeah. Well he attacked, well he didn’t really he probed and the infantry were able to look after him but he, his first real attack happened on El Adam Road which ran out from the south of Tobruk. It’s a road that runs right down
into the desert and it, there was the post thirty three and thirty five, all of those mines around Tobruk the, they were staggered and the outside line were all
uneven numbers like one, three five and seven you know and the inside posts were even numbers. So they were numbered from into Tobruk a road called… I’ve lost the name of that I’ll tell you in a minute,
not El Adam Road, another road that run at right angles from Fort Palestino which is right in Tobruk, and what was the question?
in the centre of those but stepped back. That’s so that they could fire enfiladed fire and from the inside posts you know and knew where the outposts were and the, he attacked at that point and that is the point El Adam Road where the 6th Divvie made one of the
first attacks because Bardia Road and Derna Road come in along the coastline and more or less you know not necessarily on the coast but they were closer to the coast than anywhere else. Particularly on the Derna side of Tobruk it’s quite close to the coast
on the Egypt side of Tobruk it’s further south, Bardia Road comes in and it depends on the waddies, the waddies are valleys, gorges you might call them, that come up and run from the coast caused by rain thousands of years ago you know. And well that’s where he attacked first that was
a particularly strong attempt he used engineers, assault engineers and motorised infantry to come up in the El Adam Road area and his tanks and he was going to demolish the forward posts and the,
he got in through the wire. There was a, El Adam Road there’s no tank trap, there’s a tank trap that comes up to each side of it but it’s not so bad at El Adam Road because it is a roadway in and out of Tobruk and he eventually got in with his tanks. He got through the infantry with his tanks and the infantry was
smart enough to forget about it let him go what could they do with him what can they do with a tank wait for his infantry and his tanks got in quite past the forward posts and it meant that the artillery twenty five pounders had him under open sights.
The, whilst this was happening his infantry came in and attacked the posts of course and there was quite a fight there and the twenty five pounders destroyed a couple of his tanks
and he had to retire but he was in there long enough before the infantry, before the artillery really got at him for the infantry to get in, for his infantry to get in and attack.
Our positions, our jobs were to cover 3 Battalion, Brigade, and so we’d only have two or three men at each battalion you know and we’d have two men to go to a post
and at the Easter Battle I was in the post thirty five and they went through and the infantry couldn’t do anything about him with his tanks but they had to deal with the infantry
and there was a big fight there. There was a VC [Victoria Cross] winner at that time. The first one, I think probably the first of the Australian Forces in the Second World War, Jack Edmondson I think, I’m not quite sure I think
but he went to the assistance of the, I can’t think of the Lieutenant’s name, who was having trouble with a couple of Germans and he had his bayonet stuck and Edmonson ran in and
saved the day for him and then he attacked, not only, he attacked quite frequently with the bayonet and he was awarded the VC but he died that night before he got the VC.
say probably particularly in Tobruk and in El Alamein yeah, yes, hundreds. We probably laid thousands because particularly in Tobruk. No I shouldn’t say that because we were only seven months in Tobruk and I was out for a month or so but
in El Alamein we were back at El Alamein in June 1942. See we went out of Tobruk in September, October, November, no, no, October
I think the last of the battalions came out in November about October and we went up into Syria.
Tobruk as a Division and in our division was three battalions, 9th, 10th and 12th which were the battalions of the 18th Brigade and they belonged to the 7th Division and the 7th Division had been moved back to Australia
and the, I think, I don’t know who was, Curtin was the Prime Minister wasn’t he? I forget but anyway I think it was Curtin and he wanted the whole 9th Division brought back to Australia. He’d already moved the 6th back
and rightly so you know but they didn’t get right back they got held up in Java or somewhere and fell into trouble there and so forth and it’s just as well he did as he did. I’m not saying that… Howard should bring the troops home from
Iraq you know there’s nothing political about it as far as I’m concerned but it was the right thing for Curtin to do and he also wanted the 7th and 9th back and of course General Blamey went back with the 6th and 7th and took some, half the 7th back and then he took the 9th 10th and
12th home as well because they belonged to the 7th. The 8th division had been annihilated in May, in Malaya and so he wanted the 9th, Curtin wanted the 9th or Tom did I suppose, I suppose I can call him Tom, so
it meant that the 7th Division without the 9th, 10th and 12th had gone up into Syria and I think they fought the French up there cause they had Syria and the so the 9th, 10th and 12th
went back to join their Division they were never in the 9th Division as I told you before, the 9th was formed in Barce and although it’s, Tobruk is called, I shouldn’t say the 9th Division did it, the 9th, 10th and 12th I don’t think
were included in that and they were there all the time anyway I’m not going to argue about that. They didn’t come up to Syria when we went up to Syria where it was more as a rest, as a you know, and I can’t think of the name of the place I think it was
Farvickcombe [?] or something it was up in the Kurd Country up in the north and almost to Aleppo almost to the Turkish border and so they decided that we’d do exercises up there along the Turkish border because there was a problem as far as Britain was concerned that the Turks
may come in on Germany’s side and come down and it would’ve been difficult for the British Army to stop them they had enough on their hands with Rommel and had Germany been able to talk the Turks into attacking down at the same time as Rommel was attacking
and we thought that the British would hold Tobruk anyway and they didn’t, did they, you know. The, we were up there on a, having a break you know doing exercises. We didn’t do anything really,
we… it snowed whilst we were up there and there was nothing we could do and we were getting leave to Damascus and this sort of thing and we had a good break but that was in say
November, December. It snowed about Christmas time I think then we moved back to the coast to Tripoli, see there’s a Tripoli in Syria and there’s a Tripoli in Libya and from Tripoli there’s a pipeline
from the Iraq oilfields and it runs up underground I think anyway, and comes out in, to a refinery in Tripoli on the coastline or just north of Tripoli and it’s called the IPC Barracks, Iranian, no Iraqi
Petroleum Company Barracks and we moved our headquarters into Iraqi Petroleum Company’s Barracks fortunately. They were good barracks nicely concrete barracks and you know. And so it was really a holiday and we were given leave into Tripoli wherever we wanted to go and down to Beirut
and this sort of thing. And the war was over as far as they were concerned. The 7 Divvie had attended to that with the British no doubt and so it was a real good break you know. But then in June, I don’t know when Tobruk fell really
but Rommel did take Tobruk and I can’t tell you the month, I don’t remember really but it must’ve been around June, May or June or something like that because he also came right down as far as El Alamein and he
so they moved us back from Syria back up to supposedly El Alamein but it was the next station further west at this place called Tel el Eisa so that’s where the Battle for El Alamein started
at Tel el Eisa. It didn’t start until October 23rd so but he held that position right down to almost to Tel el Eisa his front line was just up past, actually he was at Tel el Eisa station.
I think earlier on he was right at El Alamein but there’s a, Qattara Depression is right down in the valley, in the desert I should say and he, that’s where he was halted and, but all the time armour was being built up by the British Army and,
when did the Japanese attack…?
experience of New Guinea isn’t, wasn’t, wasn’t so good either I didn’t like it very much afterwards but I mean because I got Malaria early and Dengue fever and the, we left Rabaul, Buna by
landing craft, landing, LST’s [Landing Ships Transport]and we landed fourteen miles the other side of Lae and we worked back along the coast at the same time the 7th Division left Port Moresby by plane and they landed at Nadzab north of Lae
up in the Ramu Valley and we attacked it wasn’t a devil of a big attack. They had us under fire of course they were out there protecting Lae and also I think they gave 7th Divvie a bigger hiding than they gave us. They didn’t give us a hiding but they gave them more trouble than they gave
us. They held us up for some time, we were at the Busu River, north, west of the Busu River I was with the 28th Battalion not with them that’s a Battalion that we were looking after and the
24th they were north of them and at that stage I was headquarter sergeant and we didn’t go up to the infantry we, they were, they were between the Busu River and the Burep and they were, they were holding waiting for the 7
Divvie coming down the Ramu Valley and I think he put more weight on them then he was putting on us. And…
anything like that so it was a different, entirely different war you know. And I didn’t get malaria until we moved from – when the 7th. Divvie got to Lae we moved in on him and but he moved out between us.
When we got into Lae he wasn’t there, he’d gone. There was some talk he must’ve gone out by submarine well I don’t think so. We’d had a big battle in the Solomon’s and the Coral Sea and I don’t think that although
we had a couple of miniature subs down in Sydney didn’t we. But I don’t think anything like that it could’ve happened I don’t know he was still a bit stronger further up towards the Madang area you know but we only went, when we did move from Lae
we, I got Malaria about that time. I managed to go over across to the 7th. Divvie with a mate of mine that had a brother in the 7th. Divvie and he met him and so forth and
but they didn’t know where the Japs had gone either some how or other they cleared out between us but they were still up at the Shaggy Ridge and at Finschhafen they were well established but then we made another landing up at Finschhafen
That’s alright, so I’m just trying to get this right when you, you didn’t actually spend much time there in Finschhafen because you were sick?
No I didn’t get sick in Finschhafen I was right until, after I came back from, from New Guinea, from Port Moresby I was alright until and I went up to Sattleberg and up from Sattleberg across I did a trip across to and I’m trying to think of the name of the place and I can’t
it was a mission up there beforehand so was Sattleberg and we were going to do a, the 2/24th were up there, and we were going to do an attack down to the coast but and he gave us a bit of a hiding up there for awhile. Not a hiding but kept us quiet
and it’s so close in the jungle you know they are so close and although once he was, he was pushed off Sattleberg the only place to fight was up on top of
Boria, not Boria, no, I can’ think of the name of it, it doesn’t matter… but he could see us from up on that ridge he could see us at Sattleberg you could see him, all out in the jungle but he was too far away the two peaks were too far
up and we moved right up to a place called Kanomi Beach and I think the front went to Sio and from, at, on Sattleberg, let’s go back to the Busu at Lae
we moved across the Busu and got to the Burat River and I’d been across to the 7th Divvie and come back and I hadn’t seen our major who wasn’t Gurman then, he’d left us in Australia he got burnt in his sleeping bag but the captain had gone up, Moody had gone up to Major.
And Major Moody came down to me and I was down and he said, “Ah ha you haven’t been taking your Atebrin’s.” I said, “I’ve been taking them every night.” And I hadn’t seen him since we left Buna at this time and
he’d never got up to our line actually he was in contact with the because it was spread up through the jungle and it wasn’t so easy to get from one place to another you know and to come up the coastline we were walking in water all the time you know and
there was no way we could make a track to bring some vehicles in you know so that’s what he said to me, he said, “You haven’t been taking your Atebrin.” I said, “I’ve been taking them everyday.” And but I did have malaria bad and he said, “Well we’re going to move again shortly” and he said,
“so you’ll have to get some real treatment and put you on a plane in Nadzab.” And so they drove me up to Nadzab and I got a plane, it wasn’t, I think it was a DC3 or something which was a big plane in those days you know. I don’t know what it was really and
then I flew back. I still, I was alright and I was alright up in Sattleberg and I hadn’t had an attack since and I thought well I was just unlucky that’s all and we used t have a, up on Sattleberg
I was in headquarter section, of course, I was staff sergeant at headquarters and of a morning we used to make a cup of tea and Moody would sleep in his mosquito net and what’s a name and his batman came out this morning and he, with a cup of
tea and took it back into his, where he had his little hideaway and we call him the Bull that was his name, Bull Moody we called him and the Bull’s not coming out for a cup of tea this morning. And Sammy said…
the next thing we know there’s a jeep, you could run a jeep up to Sattleberg cause it was a mission at one time and so was the other place and a jeep comes up and you didn’t drive a jeep up there just for fun you know, but you could get one up there. And turns around and Moody come out a blanket over his head and got straight in the
car, he’d had it, he had malaria. And I didn’t get a chance to say anything and I don’t think I would’ve said it either. “Have you been taking your Atebrin, Sir?”
It’s had to describe but really… he was beaten in that battle really it only lasted from the 23rd to the 1st - we were pulled out on the 7th of November, it was all over it started on the 23rd of October
and the first week of it was, we didn’t know which way it was going and he came up, he moved his armour up at the coast to try and break through, he didn’t break through us and he thought it was because there was so much armour down below and Montgomery obviously played the game
better than he did, he won it he must’ve. But when he moved the, he moved one of his big Panzer Division I think it was the 21st Panzer Division up against us to break through there. See we were on the highway actually, the main road and
across the main road and down further they were in the desert, desert all the time and so there was a big battle out in front of us the 30th Corp battle and once they broke through from us and that decided what was going to happen to him really but he moved his
armour up and he attacked closer to the coastline to try and break through us. It was a… It was far, far greater stuff falling around you than could possible fall around you in the jungle.
but the fire power couldn’t compare anywhere near what the fire power was at, and he’d built up his forces on the other side of the line too you know we weren’t the only ones firing he had tremendous fire power too and big eighty, seventy eights and plenty of
tanks but it was a big tank battle that, then again our armour had to get out to him they couldn’t get past each other down in the desert and they couldn’t decide it, it had to be decided up there and we had to hold him there and that’s all we did. We push him
oh probably I don’t know how far, probably not very far but we’d beaten him, we had beaten his infantry and brought his Panzers around and it was the last stroke to play and had he broken through there he’d have got around behind the armour but he didn’t get though.
were going for different positions too and we might move from one battalion to another but we’d go in with them because every position that you went to, not towards the end of course, he didn’t have time, but there was a chance there’d be a booby trap field around him and we had to go in with them.
But it was only a week or so you know but it was a pretty rough week and I think after being in Tobruk for that long we were accustomed t it, yeah but we weren’t accustomed to the jungle warfare and I think you’d have to fight in
the jungle to become accustomed to it and the boys in the 8th Division they faced it, threat, you see we knew nothing about jungle fighting really and I don’t think they’d know a great deal about it
and he got into them quick and but he’d had plenty of experience in the jungle.
and gone through and then that the sappers that weren’t with the battalion that made the attack cleared the minefield to a width wide enough for a road, a tank road and of course those, those
tank roads were well made to, well known to him to him more the devil you know when he thought someone was using it but not during the heat of battle. Once we’d gone through it relieves the pressure on that area up to a point and he still heavy
shell stuff behind him of course he could pop over and mortar fire but he was too busy in, with the frontal troops and so those that weren’t in with the infantry, for the initial attack, would clear the field and just make it wide enough and the mines were just stacked up on the outer part of the
the individual on the person for instance we had a fellow named Ted Perdy, now he had a son in the air force that was his age you know I’m saying he was, he would have to be a man over forty, and wouldn’t have to be but, he would’ve been and Ted was, hadn’t gone through the first gap
with the infantry he was back and his job was with the rest of the platoon that he was with clearing what was left you know make it wide enough for a tank to go through and he had, he was picking mines up someone was lifting them and he was picking them up and stacking them
and he had, instead of carrying two at a time he was carrying he had five in his arms and obviously one of them the stick had, they were gypo mines, and the stick probably came out of the det and left the det in there
and he had these five mines, it was alright to carry them but you had to drop them but that wouldn’t matter if they’d been deloused properly but whoever deloused it hadn’t seen the det come out they pulled the stick out of it out of the det and he must’ve squeezed it and it went off well we didn’t find him, well they didn’t find him. They said they found part of his back bone
and part of this and… and there’s always a danger probably but that’s what do you call it… it’s foolhardy yes but it’s an individual, no that’s not the right it’s…
well it’s the wrong way to do it anyway. Yes there is always a problem like that. Well it’s not as dangerous going out lifting them in the first place.
and they were only two pound pressure. You could actually use them as a hand grenade cause if you threw them hard enough at oncoming traffic well personnel oncoming, it would explode if you hit him right. Two pounds in not a lot of
weight necessarily and you could do it, you could throw it at someone and it would explode but we didn’t see them I never ever used one. The, some of our fellows did they supplied them, they put them out in front of the, just laid them on the ground in front of the infantry. Infantry
wouldn’t touch them, wouldn’t use them, they wouldn’t do it themselves but and rightly so because see how dangerous it can be if you do the wrong thing.
he said to me and he got the CB’s [Construction Battalions], the American CB’s were doing all the landings for us, he got a CB to come in to Kenomi Beach and I was down with Malaria again and sent me back to a hospital which wasn’t as back as Finschhafen,
it was a tent hospital in off the beach somewhere and I was that crook and he I got into the tent hospital there were Japanese, sick Japanese prisoners on this, on this boat coming, going back, taking them back to the hospital, captured and you know and they were too
sick to be of danger to anybody you know the poor devils and they were really sick, they were sicker than I was and anyway I went into the hospital and I wasn’t there for very long a brigadier came in, a doctor, but he was a brigadier and Englishman and I don’t know what he was doing out here
really but probably he was sent out because he wasn’t good at what he was doing but he was a doctor, probably learning something about Malaria and so forth and he just happened to stop near me and he was talking to the doctors and he said, “No,”, he said, “look” well they were all 9th Divvie fellas in the
tent in the tent hospital and the Japanese and the Japanese were some of them, and he said, “These fellows want sending home.” And the doctors said, “Well it’s a matter of our governments to do that we can’t, we’ve got to do our job.” And they sort of had a little bit of a talk about it and he said, “Well
they won’t last much longer up here.” you know and I thought to myself, “Well you know you’re not going to last much longer up here either.” Then they sent me back from there by road to Finschhafen and because our mob had moved back and they were going
home but we were at Finschhafen itself not in hospital or anything for two or three weeks I think before we moved and I’d, I’d got worse at this time I shouldn’t have left the hospital and come back, and moved back with the unit I don’t think because I wasn’t, I hadn’t,
you know I hadn’t been right for so long and we, I think we caught a, were put on a boat at Dredge’s Harbour must’ve been taken out to the boat, I don’t remember that and I don’t remember, I don’t know whether we landed at Cairns or Townsville we didn’t come down to Brisbane but
we obviously came back by train but I can’t remember the train trip down which is quite unusual you know because sometimes in those troop trains you’ve got to sleep up on the, some of the fellas have got to get up on the, to get a sleep to get up on the luggage rack you know on the old carriages so but I don’t remember anything, I can’t now remember
and I thought I’d get it back but it hasn’t come back.
moved up to New Guinea he left us beforehand, he was older he was pushing forty I think anyway and he’d married my sister, I didn’t know about this any case the, he wanted to go up and see his mother up in the Downs up in Cecil Plains
and I’d only been home a day or so and I remember getting home, not getting home but I remember they were living at West End and I remember the house at West End being there and they said you know, “We’re going up to Cecil Plains will you come up with us?” I said, “Yes” I don’t know whether I wanted to not or really but and we
got the train from there and went up to Cecil Plains by, up to Toowoomba and out to Cecil Plains and that was on an Anzac Day or a couple of days I think and the, I was sick all the time and Anzac Day occurred and they said,
“We’re going into Cecil Plains because there’s a march on.” And, I went in with them, I wasn’t quite on to it you know and there was only seven people going to march and, in the township, ex-servicemen
and most of them were Second, were First World War diggers and they said, “You should march too.” And my god I marched in it and that’s the only Anzac Day march I’ve ever marched in. I never ever march again.
the… they sent me to away from Greenslopes, they put me in Greenslopes hospital and they sent me across to Holland Park hospital. The Americans had moved and they had built a hospital up near Mount Thomson, the Crematorium up there,
Mount Thomson and Mount Gravatt and they sent me there and I don’t know why the sent me but I did find out I didn’t know why they sent me I didn’t know what was going on and it was to treat the Amoebic Dysentery and I had treatment there for oh months
and then when I got discharged I went out to Redbank to get my discharge and got my call up early because I was an early number. The war was over, the war had finished and all the rest of it.
I got a, I didn’t get a discharge certificate it was sent in the mail... and it says Private and I’d never ever been a Private, and I had a bit of trouble with it since because I’ve got no
discharge number I tore it up, it’s no good to me but I can’t show you the discharge. So…
here one moment and gone the next, but I went back to work as soon as I was discharged and the, the first day back at work was very difficult because, and I went back to the same shop
for the same people I’d worked for. The ruling was if you’d been in the army since the beginning of the war or whatever you had to get, they had to give you, they had to re-employ you for six months. Well I wasn’t worth anything really when I first went back there and
the, one of the, Emden Pass said to me, “You’ll have to smarten yourself up Tom if you’re going to compete with the apprentices.” And I was the only tradesmen that they had they said, you know some of them
were fifth year apprentices and so forth and that was probably true, he was right in saying that. Hamilton didn’t say anything about it at all and but I didn’t know where anything was in the shop like to pull a pulley off a motor we used a pair of drags which
everyone knew where they were and I had to tell an apprentice to go and get some and pull that pulley I couldn’t, I didn’t know how to do it myself, and that, once I saw it happen again I knew and it came back and when , when one thing’d
come back like pulling the pulley off say well then I knew what had to happen next. And that lasted for oh I suppose a couple of months but then I only stayed with them for about six months I suppose
because I wanted to be on my own I wanted to work on my own I didn’t want to work with anybody else but that was sickness that wasn’t because of my personality at all it was just that I was still sick and so I got over it gradually though
and once I started on my own and I didn’t have an attack of Malaria for probably, I was only on my own for about six months but the wage was three pounds fifteen sixteen for a week for a tradesman and that’s all they paid me and I don’t think I was worth that really but they didn’t put me out but then
I was winding smaller staters on my own at home and I was getting five pound a stater for it.