Henry New
Archive number: 192
Preferred name: Harry
Date interviewed: 20 May, 2003

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Henry New 0192


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Tape 01


Harry, it’s lovely to be with you today.


I’d like to start right at the beginning with where you were born?
I was born on 19 August 1916 and I was born in a weatherboard house on a country road. The midwife was Mrs Blackmore and was the 9th child in a family of 10. My father was James New and my mother was Beatrice New.


They were on a farm at the time and the farm was only 20 miles from the CBD [Central Business District] here but it was very rural. It was outside Dandenong by about 4 miles. Getting onto my mother and father. My father was born on the goldfields in Bendigo and he was a miner


and the son of a miner and my Mum was born in Gympie and she was the daughter of a miner and they naturally both of them moved about a lot to where the gold rushes were. My Dad was in the Bendigo gold rush and my mother was in Gympie, Roma, Mt Morgan and all those gold rushes up there as only a teenage girl. When the Coolgardie gold rush


came in 1892, my Dad left the gold fields in Bendigo and went to the gold rush in Coolgardie and at the same time my Mum’s Dad, his 2 sons and Mum left Gladstone, they were at that time, and they went to the gold rush at Coolgardie. My Dad and Mum were married on the goldfields there in 1896. The gold rush was in 1892.


They came back and they still continued in the gold mining. When they came back they went back up into Queensland to the side of Mt Larkin and they mined there and then they came south here and went into farming and they farmed for the rest of their lives. I attended a one room, 8 grade,


one teacher school. I did 7 years of education there and then I went to Dandenong High School because I was only 13 when I got through State School and I put my extra year in because most people left school at 14 at that time and that meant in 1930, I went out to work because there was


lots of people out of work and the farming was fairly low and there was a big family of us and most of us took work where we could get it. I left home as a matter of fact and went out and lived with people on the farm. That was my first job and was on a dairy farm come market garden and I was


used to work and we really started work when we were 10 years of age. We used to go to the milking shed and feed the calves and kept the weeds down around the place. We were brought up to work and it was good because we were strong and we could work. I worked with those people and became friends with them right up until the end of their life.


I had a lot of happy experiences with them because they just treated me so well. I left there because I wanted to get on to day work. I was well known then and people knew that I could handle teams of horses. I could do most farm work and was a pretty strong lad. I tended to go for the day work and with the day work I could live at home


because I had a pushbike and I could travel to work. I did all sorts of work. It was just unreal what you had to do. Sometimes you’d only get half a day but it brought you in a few shillings and that was the go. A lot of the farmers were having a hard time from 1928 when the Depression started to set in. Come 1930, 1931 it was very severe.


You’d go to work for people and you knew them so well because we were so well known. It was such a community. Frequently, you never got paid and you never worried about it because they were having such a hard time. If they had money they paid you and they’d re-employ you and they’d pay you again but it was a community and people didn’t really worry about it because we could always go and live at home.


At home on the farm was a really good life. Even through the Depression we had a really good life.
How much land did your mum and dad have?
They had 150 acres and they used to grow 200 ton of hay and milk about 30, 35 cows and that provided well for them.


Besides that we grew our own potatoes and pumpkins and beans and peas and we had always had a shed full of hens. So we had plenty of eggs and that type of thing, we had plenty of cream and butter and milk and veggies but it was a strange thing and I wish we could go back. I think a lot of people wish we could go back. It was


a community. Everybody helped everyone else and we all had a ball. It was – you could almost say that it was a moneyless society almost at times because on our farm we always had wheat and barley, oats and chaff besides the milk and there was a big store in Dandenong called


Crumps and they supplied you with everything. You could get your clothes and all your kitchenware. They had a grain store as well and a grocery store. They used to buy from us if they wanted oats or wheat or barley or chaff or eggs or butter. They’d take it in turn buying off the various people about and when it came to the end of the month we seldom owed them any money.


That was a good life.
Where was that store?
That store was McEwan’s later bought them out but Albert Crump was in my time, John Crump was his father when Dandenong was first opened up, he established a store there and if you were going it would be on the east side of


Lonsdale Street and it almost took up that whole area there. In the first when you turn round from Foster Street up to Walker Street on the right hand side and they had a horse yard there because it was all ponies and jinkers and that and you could take the horse out of the jinker and give it a feed in the feed shed and all that type of thing.
I can’t believe you’re talking about Dandenong.
Yes, it was. It was just a


real rural town. In fact, Friday night in Dandenong was a great night. It was the only night of extended shopping hours and we used to meet and go up the street on a Friday night and you got to know everyone in the district because we used to meet up there. It was – you almost knew everyone about and


going to High School in Dandenong, it was the only High School for so far. They came from Carnegie on the Melbourne line. They came from Longwarry on the East Gippsland line and the came from Loch on the Korumburra Line. It meant that not only did we know the local people, I got to know so many people over an extensive


area and then we used to, in those times we didn’t have much money but we always had sports. We had our cricket teams and our football teams and we used to loan each other. We never had complete sets of pads and bats and that but if there were 2 teams we’d loan and we’d always get by.
Going back to your mother and father, did they tell you stories about the goldfields?
Yes, there was quite a few


stories told about the goldfields and it was remarkable the life they had on the goldfields. My Mum, her Mum was very sick and had a lot of ill health. Mum was the second in the family. Her elder sister, to get away from it got married when she was 18 and Mum was 16 and she had to do the whole house.


If they were mining in the area she generally got them lunches and they took food back to the diggings, as they called them in those days but if they moved about, when they went to Roma, Mum went to Roma with them and then they went to Roma for the gold rush and then they went to Mt Morgan and they went to Kinypanial and they went to Targinie and they went to Gladstone and from Gladstone they went to – and could you imagine,


it’s almost impossible for me to imagine having been to Coolgardie even now that my Mum at 18 years of age went out into that unknown with her father and 2 brothers and lived in the bush huts and gold rushes around Coolgardie. It extended to 20 miles out. They’d have a claim and maybe the claim wasn’t working well or maybe the claim


had been worked out, they’d hear about and there’d be a mini rush to another area where somebody had hit on gold again. They told a lot of stories about the people there and one story that really fascinated me was the ground rules that were in force in a mining area. They administered their own punishment to people and


it was really good because the Claims Office was established there immediately that Bailey had struck the gold at Coolgardie and they established an administration there to issue claims and if you struck gold you could work that claim for one day only and then you had to


peg the claim and take the gold back into that office to substantiate the gold claim. They then issued you with a right to work that claim, so you could peg over your claim. They could peg all around it. This was a bit of a nasty experience for these gold diggers because they were


alluvial gold men. They were only taking the alluvial gold. That is only within a distance of 20 feet of the top and they were striking very good reefs of gold and in came the big people from England and took over the gold and they established the mines, deep mines then and the deep mines could peg over their claims


and it created a lot of trouble, a really lot of trouble. The little miner got pushed out and finished. One thing that really impressed me was when Mum talked about roll-ups and these roll-ups used to intrigue me but if a chappie stole gold off another fella’s claim or he jumped another fella’s claim or if he over pegged another fella’s claim and they couldn’t


settle their argument, they’d call a roll-up and a roll-up was all miners in the area at a given time would meet at a given place. Each party was given one – they’d elect a chairman – and each party was given one hour to state his case. All the miners took a vote, and the one that lost the argument, he was given 12 hours to pack up and get out and never return.


They maintained they got rid of all the spivs and claim jumpers. They quickly got those out of the area and it made it a fairly good place to work at. Mum had so many happy memories because when she got married there they didn’t give them presents of money, they just gave them presents of small nuggets of gold and she had so many of these that she later had made into jewellery and


when she left there, they also gave her a presentation because she was one of the really early women on the goldfields, only as an 18 year old lass, so she had lovely experiences.
So your mum and dad had made enough money on the goldfields to buy the property at Dandenong, was that what happened?
No, unfortunately it didn’t happen because Bailey was the first man to put down a deep mine with


the assistance of a British company and they then sold the shares in the mine and these gold – my Dad had a good strike. He had a mine out at a little place called Kinypanial and he’d had a good strike of gold but they had the gold fever and when this big mine went down they all bought shares in it, every miner he said bought shares in


Bailey’s Reward because Bailey was the fella who found the gold and the output of that mine was overstated by miles and they lost pretty near everything they’d made there. Bailey came back as a matter of fact. He came back to live at Seaford and at 26 years of age he was a very, very rich man. Those mines


are still going. I called over there and stayed a few days there. It’s still the richest goldfield in the world. That surprised me. In the first 80 years their total mined gold was 680 tons and that’s a lot of gold and that beat any mine in the world up to that time. I understand it is still the biggest output in the world.


It seems like a very different sort of life, working on the diggings to having a farm?
Well, the land hadn’t been opened up a lot then and they decided after the gold mining they’d settle down on the land and they settled on the land and they were very, very happy and they were good farmers. My Dad was a very good farmer.


Did your father serve in the First World War?
No, my Dad was born in 1865.
Right, he was too old. Did you have any relatives?
Yes, my uncle who was the youngest in my Dad’s family. He served in both the Boer War and the First World War. Sam New. I knew him well. He was a great guy.
Did he used to tell you any


stories about the First World War?
He told us quite a few. I went to work in 1930 and that was only 10 years after the fellows got back from the First World War and I worked with so many returned men. Right up until my enlistment I just worked with so many returned men. We talked so much about the war.
What did they tell you about the First World War?
They weren’t sorry they went


to the war but they had misgivings after the war and quite a few of them didn’t complain. They were tremendous determined people, the people of that era. They really were but they felt that they were used and that the Canadians and Australians were used to shock troops at every opportunity. Their losses of men


was much higher than any other singular number of men in the front line. They got up to losing 1000 a day in some of those hop overs. I knew one fellow, I worked with him a lot. He’d been in 5 hop overs and he went through a lot. They were losing an average of 1000 men a hop over in those times, so he was quite lucky


and glad to be back.
When you were thinking about enlisting in 1939, did you think about those stories they’d told?
Yes. It was uppermost in my mind but it was a thing, we were loyal enough. The First World diggers went out of loyalty. They were all volunteers and


we felt loyal enough to go and there was 4 brothers, we decided 2 would go and 2 would work the farm and that was fair enough for a while. My eldest brother Bob, and myself. I enlisted. At the time I enlisted I was working on a market garden and I was working


2 jobs because I’d work a day in the garden and then I’d pick up because a lot of those chappies were getting aged in the rural soldier’s re-settlement blocks and they didn’t like driving the motor trucks into the Victoria Markets. I’d get up at 2 o’clock in the morning and I’d pick their truck up and take it into the wholesale market. Sell their load, bring their truck back to them and then go to the farm I worked on straight away and


back in time because the wholesale markets had to finish at 7 o’clock to let the retail market move in those days. Lights were up at 5 o’clock and you weren’t legally allowed to sell before the lights went up at 5 o’clock on the wholesale. If you didn’t have half your load sold by that time, you were going to have a bad market because all the hotels and


hospitals were the big buyers at that time and they used to come round early and look at what you had and they’d order, 4 or 6 or 8 dozen of this and all that sort of thing and by the time the light’s up, their orders were ready to pick up and the carts used to pick them up and they’d load them and they’d pay and away they went. Within 10 or 15 minutes of light up they’d left.
Then you’d drive back to Dandenong?


in the market was a tremendous experience. It was hard. It was difficult because sometimes you had no idea when you got into that truck how much you were going to get for your produce. It depended on whether there was a glut or a scarcity in the market and you had to move with the prices or if you weren’t moving just below the price or had higher than the prices


you brought your whole load back home. You had to get a measure of what was in there, strike a price and stick within price and get your load sold but you never had any indication of what that total load would make in the market and that made it very difficult for farmers to obtain honest market and although I was local and knew all those chaps,


I knew chaps who were robbing the fellows of the money. I never, I would never have done it. They were having a hard time and it was dishonest and I wouldn’t be part of it. That’s why I got so many markets.
How did you decide which of the 4 brothers would enlist?
I was the second youngest. My youngest brother worked at home on the farm


all the time whereas Bob, Les and myself worked out and about quite a bit. So that we thought that Vic should stay on the farm and Les had had an accident, as a matter of fact, a terrible accident when he was a year and half old. He was down at the cow shed and a cow walked over him and he always had one leg shorter than the other after that but he couldn’t have got,


but he was a tremendous worker and so he stayed home on the farm too and Bob and I enlisted and went away.
How did a cow manage to walk over him in the cow shed?
Well, my Mum used to go to feed up and bail up the cows to help my Dad out and there was a narrow lane leading down alongside the cow shed and she used to put him in there to play and a cow got into the lane and couldn’t turn around


and just walked straight down the lane over the top of him. It was sad.
Gee, he was lucky to survive?
Well, there was no medical assistance much in those times and possibly he could have. He could do anything only that one leg was a bit shorter than the other. He could play cricket. He couldn’t play football.
So did you and your eldest brother go together to enlist?
No. No, we didn’t


because we always had a shortage on the farm and every farm did at harvest time and it was coming just right on to harvest time and we required the ones to stay to get that harvest in. It was only 200 ton of crop but it had to be cut and sheafed and then it all had to be carted in and stacked


and that was quite, bear in mind that it was only a horse drawn wagons and it had been carted in sheaf by sheaf and then stacked from the paddock and Bob stayed home for that harvest and of course I don’t think it was acceptable by then because they grabbed Vic and put him in the army. They conscripted him into the army that early in the piece but Bob said, “Hang on, I’m going to enlist,”


and he enlisted and Vic got back on the farm. That’s the way we’d agreed to do it. It was a strange thing, in the army how good they were to Bob. They flew him back from the North one harvest to get the harvest in. They did.
That must have been pretty unusual?
No, they did fly a lot of the farmers back. As long as we weren’t in front line action,


they’d fly them back for 3 weeks from New Guinea, Bougainville or those close islands. They’d let the farmers come back to participate in getting in the harvest.
I suppose the food was needed as much as?
It was. It was in those times. The produce. I’m getting a bit ahead but most of our food came from


We didn’t really talk much about your schooling. Can you tell me what your school was like?
The school was, I only had the one teacher through State School. He was a tremendous fellow. He rode the 4 miles out from Dandenong each day on a pushbike. The roads were no good. But he did. He was a great guy. He was very strict on discipline.


He was such a fine fellow, he came out and played cricket. He was really good with us. He was an exceptionally good teacher because he got high ratings. Most of us finished our 8th Grade at 13 years of age and he taught the whole 8 grades. We used to get up – we only had desks to hold 30 but he used to get up to 32 because the bubs used to sit 3 to a desk and he taught


those right through. Not only did he teach, we did the whole maintenance of the grounds if the teacher would ask. We had a horse paddock, a 2 acre paddock that the school was on. We had one acre fenced off for our ponies we used to ride to school and we had to keep the fences up to date. Under him we won 2 years


running the Victorian School Best Garden for that type of school and we got paintings for the school in those 2 years and our prize was the painting. I would say it would be 32 or 30 pupils, near 20 of them were permanent pupils. It was in the times when things were fairly hard.


There were quite a number of farm houses where people had gone broke and walked off their farms and they let the house. They could let the house. When they ever got rent I’ll never know but those children would come to school. May be there 6 months then they’d go somewhere else. More than half the school pupils were regular.
Were you a good student?


I was all right. Yes, I had no difficulty with school. Never had difficulty with school.
When you left school, would you have preferred to stay on if you could?
When I went to Dandy [Dandenong] High to spend that last year when I was too young to go to work, I did think of staying on and then I thought of the complications of staying on.


Where would I go from High School. Even in a Technical School it was very, very difficult to get into a Technical School, so you could put your time in at High School and if you hadn’t gone right through to leaving where you could become a school teacher or had entry to the university, if you didn’t go all that distance,


you came away with nothing really. Other than a bit of an education.
Did you have any idea then of what you wanted to do?
I’d worked so much in my young times with a carpenter. Any job he had he used to call on me because I was good with tools. I worked with him.


I decided if I wanted any trade it would be a carpenter and you learn so much of that on the farm anyhow. You learnt every trade. There was so many trades that you could have quickly picked up in the Blacksmithing. We used to shoe all our own horses, repaired all our own machinery, changed the machinery to suit the job that we


were doing. That meant going to the forge and making parts and that. You picked it up as you went along. Carpentry would be my selected trade.
What was it like being the 9th of a family of 10?
It’s better to be 9th than 10th (Laughs). Mum loved every one of us, she really did.


That was one of the sad times in my life because she loved us that much she fretted that much when Bob and I went away she had a stroke and we lost her. When I went to the Middle East I was there 2 years and I never saw my Mum again. That’s how it is. I said to Mum, “I’m going in to enlist,” and she said to me, “I thought you would.” So she went along.


When you went to enlist, where did you have to go?
The night war broke out, I’d got up at 2 o’clock and I switched on the wireless and I heard Mr Menzies giving an address to the nation at that time of the morning and saying that we were at war with Germany, and I went to the market and I came home and that’s when I told my Mum I was going to enlist. In about 4 or 5


days the papers came out saying to go to the Drill Hall to enlist and I enlisted and I didn’t hear anything for quite a while. I went to the Dandenong Drill Hall and then Friday, 13 October, I was called up for a medical there and on 20 October 1939, I went into camp


and that was the first day of the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] in Victoria and our photos were in The Sun morning, the new AIF marching and it was a strange part of our life because the 20 of us that went in, Dandenong numbers start at 58 and went from 5800 to 5820. There were 20 of us


and by the time the bus got there we were almost all mates. It was a tremendous experience and we had to take with us 2 blankets, 2 towels, 2 meals, 2 changes of clothes and we went into the showground in Melbourne and we were off-loaded the truck and we were put in Centenary Hall in the showground


and said, “That’s where you’ll be for a week.” We got issued with a palliasse. They tried to give us meals from the cafes at the Showground but they didn’t have a hope of coping with that. There was no hot water or anything and there was only one tap in the yard for us to use. You couldn’t wash or anything.


It was a pretty rough life but we were all young and we were all enjoying it but we had some hilarious times in that showground. It was our first experience of being a soldier and the old diggers used to say to me, “Harry never volunteer, never ever volunteer,” so anyhow we get there and we’re all standing around wondering what was doing and the old diggers were watching the gate and doing a bit of gardening


and trying to get some info for us and that kind of thing. This old digger came up and said, “Can anyone ride a horse?” Two of the chaps I’d been friendly with going in gave me a nudge and said, “You can ride a horse,” and I said, “Yes.” They said, “We can ride a horse too.” They said, “They’re still singing out for someone who can ride a horse. It would be great if we had a horse, wouldn’t it?” So we put our hands up.


He said, “Come with me,” and he took us down to this shed and he said, “You can ride a horse?” “Yeah, yeah we can ride a horse.” “Well, you’ll know a lot about hay,” he said and he took us into this shed stacked high with bales of straw and in the other corner was this heap of palliasses. “That’s your job,” he said, “7 beds to one bale of straw and as the fellas walk past the doors, they come in,


hand them a palliasse.” We did that for about a day and a half and then we started to wise ourselves up a bit we said, “That fella never even took our names and he doesn’t know we’re here making palliasses and we’re sick of this, so we’ll bail out.” So we gave up the job of making up palliasses. It was a great experience actually. We didn’t have any food


and there’d be 100 round the one tap trying to have a shave with cold water just running from the tap. The organisation just didn’t exist. But we were young, we didn’t worry. We were used to knocking about going on camps and that sort of thing. There was one strange thing that happened to me there because we’d go down the street and get a meal


when it was supposed to be the evening meal at the showground when you couldn’t eat it or there wasn’t enough. We went to go out and the old digger at the gate said, “No, you can’t go out, you haven’t got a leave pass.” We said, “What’s this leave pass?” He said, “You’ve got to have a leave pass.” We said, “Well, we haven’t got a leave pass,” and we didn’t know where to get a leave pass and he said, “You’ve got to wise yourself up.” He said,


“All you’ve got to do is show me a piece of paper and you can go out that gate.” We said, “We haven’t even got a piece of paper.” He said, “You’ll never make soldiers.” He said, “Go to the latrine and get a piece of paper, show it to me and you can walk out that gate.” (Laughs). We were starting to learn quickly. From the showground it was quite an experience that you wouldn’t have missed because it was strange that everyone


that I knew at the Showgrounds had never been in the army and they were trying to teach us to march and we were marching in fours in those days and we had to do the drills in four and there wasn’t enough rifles only for one squad, so if your instructor was trying to teach you we had brooms and he was trying to teach us the exercises with


broom handles and it’s something you really remember.
Dad’s Army [television comedy series].
It was. It was. Absolutely.
Interviewee: Henry New Archive ID 0192 Tape 02


Harry, you were just about to tell me another story?
When we went into the showgrounds


and when we enlisted, we didn’t know what the pay was. On our enlistment form it said we would get equivalent pay to the First World War soldiers, so we got into the camp and we’d been there a week and we got our 35 shillings for the week but this was sufficient for the chappies because 35 shillings as the chaps used to laugh and say, “Well, it’s 35 bob and our keep.” Not that the keep was worth much


but a number of them that loved the grog got out of the camp and came back with heaps of bottles of beer and of course that wasn’t approved of in the camp. They were drinking in the barracks. We were in Centenary Hall and it held a lot of soldiers and so they decided they wouldn’t let them drink in


rooms where the other chappies were sleeping so they got them out and then they were drinking outside on the steps leading up to Centenary Hall. They were drinking on the steps and then the authority came around and said, “You can’t drink. You’re not allowed to drink in here.” They said, “Oh, that’s all right.” So they picked up the bottles and went back into Centenary Hall. As soon as the


authority had gone, they came back out again and they were drinking and they couldn’t stop them because they were shifting around the camp, so they switched all the lights off but that didn’t stop them from drinking and it was quite comical because they sat there in one place, they sat their empty bottles across the road where this chap that was harassing them used to have to come down and of course he would trip over the bottles and they knew he was coming. So they were


starting to learn the ropes quite early in the piece.
What were the officers like that were supposed to be organising them?
No, there were no officers. They brought down from Darwin a few permanent officers there but there were too many squads, there were 40 or 50 in a squad and they couldn’t do much with that but they did a good job in the fact that they told us so much as to what we were


to expect and what army life was all about it. They were nice fellas. They set us on the way but they mainly took us out every day in big squads and we marched round the area. Just marched round the area to keep ourselves employed.
How long were you at the showgrounds?
I think we were there about 8 or 10 days.


Then up to Puckapunyal. It wasn’t any better than the showgrounds when we went there. The camp was about half built at the time us army fellows went there and when you were reached there you were allotted to your battalions according to where you had enlisted.


Now, I was in 2/7th Battalion. The 2/7th Battalion consisted of Dandenong and Dandenong enlisted right down as far as Warragul and down as far as Korumburra enlisted in Dandenong and the Hawthorn, Malvern


area in the city and the Mildura and Robinvale up on the Murray. All the battalions were made up by the same process. One-third of the battalion was from Melbourne suburban, one-third right from the far country area and one-third from close suburban country area.
Why did they


mix them up like that?
It was a perfect mix. It proved itself. That mix had administrative men, you had better educated men, you had hard working men from different areas and it was just a perfect mix for a battalion, I thought.


I was in the 2/7th Battalion for about 6 months. I did my training with 2/7th.
Did they give you uniforms at that stage?
Oh no. No. We were still in our – when I came home for my Christmas leave, I was still in civilian and that raised a real – it was quite a joke because we


had no uniforms bar about the mid-size uniforms from the First World War. They must have been either big or small in the First World War and they wouldn’t fit any of us. I couldn’t get a uniform to fit me. So many couldn’t. Of course we had no QM [Quartermaster] stores and they established QM stores and the gear used to come through the QM stores and then they did not know how much they wanted because we were issued with what we called giggle


suits and that was a khaki jacket and a khaki pair of pants with a waist tie round it like a pair of pyjamas and that’s what we worked in. All our underclothes and boots and that, they were all our own but as we got something, we’d take something home. When we got blankets, we took our blankets home and that type of thing.


When our gear started to arrive and they had no organisation, which was laughable because you had these storemen coming around trying to make an inventory of what they had to order and what we needed, what belonged to us and what belonged to them and of course you’d say, “Well, the socks belong to me, but this giggle suit belongs to you. My singlet and my shirt belongs to me,” and they


couldn’t get it but then on the ground along side of you, you had all different things. Of course they couldn’t get it right but they tried and tried. They were good lads, trying to get a job going. But an hilarious event came out of it because they made up their minds, there’s no way possible that we can get this without getting all the fellows on parade


and you had to go on parade and you were not to wear any of your civilian things at all. You only had to wear what you’d been issued with. Well, we’d been issued with our giggle suits and we put them on and took what other we had with us. There were these big fellas, mainly sons of the First World War diggers and they were a hard case lot of fellows.


There were a lot of big fellows but there was one really big, well built fellow and he’d be about 6’2” or 3” which was , tall for those times. Anyhow we got called out, this was back in the 2/7th, we got called out on parade in these things and Maurie appeared on parade with a pair of socks on and a pair of braces over his shoulders. That’s all he had. Of course he created quite a laugh. It was just that we were in such a


state but it was amazing how when we got trained, we were a darn good unit.
Did it worry you that these people were going to run a war? They couldn’t organise you into uniforms but these were the people who were going to be sending you off to war?
They seldom got any better. (Laughs) It was poor organisation in the army really but


there wouldn’t have been any fun if everything had gone really well. Pucka [Puckapunyal] was tremendous. When we went to Pucka, our PT [Physical Training] was clearing the grounds where they were going to build the huts for the rest of the division and we’d get


around a log like a centipede and we’d all get a fingernail and we’d walk that log out of the area and they used to burn it. They got Pucka going. When we left there were no canteens. It was a completely dry camp. There was no hot water. The roads were made but there was a – there were


recreation huts, Church of England, CYMS [Centre for Youth Ministry Studies] and different ones like that where you could go and write a letter.
What did you eat?
They had the kitchens going. The kitchens were going and the food wasn’t particularly bad. The cooks soon learned to deal with the ovens that were available. It was amazing in the battalion if you were on kitchen fatigue, which you had to do your turn on for tea, we would


peel 7 bags of potatoes, they were the big 160 pound bags, about 4 bags of onions to make the stews and that type of thing. The amount of food that went through those kitchens because they were feeding 1,000 men in the battalion, or close to 1,000. Some of the other things that happened, people wouldn’t believe them now


I’m sure. They decided to get our health right, that was paramount, so we had to go on dental parade. I couldn’t believe it and I’ve told people and they can’t believe it either. Our company, all companies went on dental parade, so out you went on dental parade. You had 3 columns. You walked along in 3 columns and you came to a chap


with a chair at the head of each column. You sat on the chair and he had the little looking glass and he looked in your mouth and he told you the, and he gave you a card, which he put your name and number on the card and that was the first medical card we had and it lasted for quite a period. He put your name and number on and then the amount of teeth you had to have either filled or pulled out. You got back in the queue and


walked on quite a bit further and then there was another chair. You sat in the chair, the chappie had a look at the sheet and then he had the needle and he injected all your teeth. These 3 rows are walking forward. There were 3 chairs with 2 dentists at each chair out in the open. Buckets of water down along side them. When you got back in the row after you had


the injection then there was a chappie who walked along the row and he used to flick your lip and he was readjusting you in the row according to how your lip used to flick and you eventually got to the dentist and he only had like an ordinary kitchen chair to sit on and one fella used to press hard on your shoulders while you put your head back and the other fellow would reef


them out and they used to go bang! into the bucket and you had to spit in this with your teeth in the bucket and after he got through it all he’d give you a mouthwash back into the bucket and then you went back to your room. They put thousands through Pucka to get their health right, to get their teeth right for a start. That was the most important and then all the injections and vaccinations were almost the same. We used


to line up in great long lines and you’d come to an orderly and he had like a pipe bottle full of what he was going to inject you with and across the top of it ran the plunger with the vernier on the side and he’d suck up enough and he’d read the vernier and he’d pump it in your arm until the vernier came to the amount you had to have. The next fellow walked up and he shot him in the arm


until he used that bottle, he’d fill it up again. The one needle for everybody and the one bottle. Those fellows used to have a joke because you’d say to them, “I hope the needle’s sharp,” and their common reply would be, “We change them every 100 and you’re number 99.” (Laughs) Things like that but we were so healthy. We turned out a tremendous


healthy bunch of fellows.
The ones who made it through Puckapunyal?
Oh yes. (Laughs) It was good.
What sort of training did you have at Puckapunyal?
We had very extensive training. There was a brigade of us at Puckapunyal. The 17th Brigade. We started off we did platoon exercises, then we did company


exercises and then we did battalion exercises and dug in and trench warfare and all that type of thing. Then we got up to battalion and then up to brigade. We were doing brigade exercises, training together as a brigade when we left.
Did you have weapons by this stage?
Yes. We used to and that didn’t worry me at all because I had used a gun from the time I was 6 years of age.


It was 9 miles out in the Seymour Range and we used to march out from Puckapunyal and have a shoot and then march back again after a shoot on the range. We had to go that far to the rifle ranges. It didn’t worry me because shooting was not a problem so but some of the chappies, by the time they’d walked out there they didn’t feel much like anything.


What sort of rifles did they issue you with?
We had the Enfield. The same as they had in the First World War. It was a 10 magazine bolt action 303 rifle.
Did you have bayonets?
Yes. Bayonets.
Did you do bayonet training?
Yes. Did a lot of bayonet training, mainly as a physical training.


Bayonet training was done mainly as a physical training. We had effigies of fellows made out of straw and hessian and you did the art of bayonet training.
When you were doing that training, did you ever imagine you would have to use your bayonet?
We often discussed that whether we would have to and some of the old diggers had said to me, “You’ll only


use your bayonet to open a tin of bully beef.” He was pretty right. We never used the bayonets. We fixed bayonets and we fixed bayonets in our first action but we never, well no-one in my mob used a bayonet. We were vastly different from the First World War.
Were you aware that it was going to be a very different war to the First World War?


When we were in Puckapunyal they hadn’t decided whether we were going overseas and the announcement was made that they were going to send our division overseas. That was our first indication and chappies that I knew said, “It will be over before you get there.” But my Uncle Sam is a very wise fellow, having been in the Boer War, and he said it would last 4 years, so I’d committed myself to 4 years


and it went 6. 6 years and 3 days.
Did you get away on leave at all while you were at Puckapunyal?
Yes, we had regular leave. You could get, and the leave was quite good if you weren’t a Duty Company or a Duty Platoon or a Duty Battalion. They were very free with the leave, they let you go out of camp because it gave you a chance to get your washing done and


take it home to Mum. That was good because it was very difficult to do in camp. You got a good meal and the trains ran but to get in from the camp to Puckapunyal and from Puckapunyal into Seymour was very, very difficult. No buses were running at that time. You had to catch a food wagon or something like that. You were under your own steam to get in there and very


popular thing in the morning was the night carts because they’d cleared the latrines and that. It wasn’t very pleasant but it was a means of getting in there because we only had cold water showers and ordinary pan latrines.
When you were at Puckapunyal did you actually have any idea of what you actually wanted to do in the army?
That was where we had to make,


before we left Pucka they said – I enlisted for the engineers with the intention of going and the chappie said to me, “You’re enlisting in an infantry area and you’ll be put in an Infantry Battalion but before you go overseas, they’ll place you in the unit of your choice if possible.” I said, “That’s fine.” I went into the 2/7th Battalion and that was the best thing I ever did.


Their training absolutely stood me throughout the war because the engineers were a technical unit and you didn’t get the front line training that you got in the infantry.
Tell me about that front line training?
Well, you did all the exercises that they could think of that you would encounter in war. That was going out and


jumping the trenches, diving into other trenches and they emulated shell fire, that you were running through shell fire. It became quite real. Even gas they used. They had tear gas that you had to go through. It was a very, very good training.


How did all the blokes that you were with cope with that training? Gas and shelling. Were there any people who didn’t cope very well?
None of us, you might say, coped with it because everyone – I was nervous and everybody was nervous until you had your first


action you were nervous until you had your first action. It was – I think it was just a natural instinct to be a bit nervous but you were in it and the most difficult thing in the action was to have the fear of letting the people around you think that you were frightened and that went right through a unit.


So at Puckapunyal you were having some pretty intensive training. Were there any casualties? Did anyone get hurt?
There were chappies that got hurt but never fatally. We had a couple of fellas drowned swimming because we used to walk over to what they called – it was a creek that ran off the Goulburn and you had to do your swimming over there


and apart from that they came through well.
The 6 months you spent at Puckapunyal, they’d taken a large group of civilians and turned them into a pretty effective fighting force?
A very effective fighting force and a very, very good force. The


6th Division didn’t get much accolade because when we enlisted we were openly referred to as “Economic Conscripts.” It was chappies that were wanting to join the army and go and fight. That was before the pressure started to come onto people and fit but we never had any top,


really top men with us. We had, Tom Blamey was in charge of us and we had an excellent brigade. Stan Savige was our Brigadier of the 17th Brigade and he was just absolutely a First World [War] soldier and very exceptional soldier and so was Blamey. They set out quite good, the selected, quite good officers.


You said they referred to the men who joined up in ’39 as Economic Conscripts. Is that right?
Why did they call you that?
Because there was an argument about wages. When they said, “The wages were to be 5 shillings a day,” we thought “It would have been


a little bit extra” because that’s what it was in the First World War and we thought we’d moved on a little bit and some people really took it up and said that we want more money. We were passed off with that comment by our Prime Minister of the day. It was the Prime Minister of the day that made that comment or was alleged to have made the comment.
But they didn’t give you any more money?
They didn’t until about 12 months later


they gave us a shilling a day more. 6 shillings. That’s what it was until the finish of the war.
What happened to your pay?
The pay went into what you wanted. If you were a married man you could have 2 shillings a day and you had to put the other 3, I think it was, the government put in 2


for the wife or if you claimed your parents as a dependent, the same applied. You had to allot that amount of money and the government allotted that amount of money also to the dependents. That carried right through the war. You had your pay book. You couldn’t overdraw your pay book but you could accumulate money in our pay book. I took my 5 shillings a day. I had


no dependents. But I did it sometimes, then you didn’t have the opportunity to spend the money. There were plenty of places you didn’t have the opportunity, and further to that the community I came from were just so good. I got so many canteen vouchers I hardly had to draw out any money.
What was a canteen voucher?
Well, a canteen voucher was for 5 shillings and they sent you a


voucher and that was legal tender at any canteen in the Middle East. You could get – we always had to buy our own toilet shaving gear, toothbrushes, soaps and all that type thing but apart from that, your cigarettes and your booze.
I didn’t know you had to buy your own toiletries?
Oh yes. Yes. Always. Right to the end of the war. You bought your own soap.


It seems a bit rough, doesn’t it? You go off to war and you’ve got to buy your own soap?
Well, I suppose it made you care for it that much better and you could have what you wanted then. It was all razors, there wasn’t electric shavers in those days. It was cut throat or safety razor. We were under English rations when we first went to the Middle East and they did used to give us 2 razors


a month. End of tape
Interviewee: Henry New Archive ID 0192 Tape 03


Harry, I’d like to you tell us about the end of your training at Puckapunyal and what happened in the lead up to being sent overseas?
We got a change of equipment at that time. We were brought up into


modern equipment. We guessed we were going to the Middle East because they gave us not the trench warfare type of training in the latter period. We were doing more open training. Travelling over long periods and it gave us the idea then that we were training for a desert war and it turned out to be right.


Getting very close to the end of our training there, they made a lot of changes to the battalions to put people back where they wanted to go. As my mate in civvy [civilian] life and I had joined together, his Dad was in the engineers in the First World War, we decided we’d go into engineers but I’d joined at an infantry and it was time for me to transfer


to the engineers and then I didn’t even know if I wanted to go. I’d made so many mates in the 2/7th and we had a tremendous Lieutenant, Waddy McFarlane, the First Lieutenant of our Battalion. He talked to me and said, “You’ve got so many mates here,” and I said, “Waddy, you know, I want to go with my mate for our Mum’s sake, so we’re both


together, so one can report back to the other and that type of thing.” That’s important in war. He said, “Okay, I wish you the best.” I saw so much of those boys because we were in the same brigade of course, so I saw so much of them right through the war. We’ve always remained friends. Not only that, they broke away the battalions into different types. There used to be a Don


Support Company in the Infantry Battalions. It was all guns and they used to call it Don Support, D Company and they pulled out of them a lot, and they formed a Machine Gun Battalion up in New South Wales and they drew a few chappies from all the battalions right throughout Australia because, while we were 17th Brigade we were at Puckapunyal, the 16th Brigade was Sydney Brigade


or New South Brigade and the 18th Brigade and 19th Brigade. See, there were 4 Brigades in the original 6th Division. They were made up from Tasmania, some out of Victoria, some out of New South Wales and Queensland and those formed those other brigades. They got all that straight before we left, before we left Australia. They got their units, they got their command


right. They swapped around the different commands and generally got us [UNCLEAR] although we’d only trained at that stage as a brigade and we were looking forward to meeting up with the other brigades and training as a division, which didn’t happen until we got to the Middle East but we were outfitted. We were given 2 weeks’


leave, vacation leave. We did a march into Melbourne and that was the most fantastic march you could ever believe. I just couldn’t believe it. We had a million in Victoria at that time and they thought that the crowd, and I still read this, it has never been surpassed even with the increase. We camped the night out at the Exhibition Building and we marched from – I was with the


2/7th. We marched down from the Exhibition Building right down and came right through the main streets of Melbourne to the Spencer Street Station and got on trains back to Pucka and they were 10 deep on the whole journey. It’s amazing how things happen. There were 2 incidents. On that walk we got stopped because the crowd went crazy and you couldn’t


get through – had to unfix the bayonets because they were too dangerous and put them in the scabbard, and we got stopped and I looked and there was my Mum and my sister. Of all in that crowd they were just right where we were stopped. The other incident we got stopped and a woman I’d never seen – didn’t know her from a bar of soap – she raced out to me and put her arms around me and said, “Don’t go boy, you’re too young. Don’t go.” (Laughs). She thought “I was


too young.” I wasn’t. So that was the march. It was fantastic. I’ve got a few photos in there.
Did you have time for a beer at Young & Jackson?
We always found time to when we were passing a pub. They were so great. The hotel keepers were so good to us. Really good


to us. As long as you didn’t abuse it. Some people made a nuisance of themselves and that was unfortunate. Started fires and fights and broke things.
From Spencer Street Station did you go down to Port Melbourne then?
No, we went back to Puckapunyal. We didn’t leave until about a week later. We left Puckapunyal


at about 4 o’clock in the morning and it was so secret. We got on the trains at Seymour and they took us right down by train through to the wharf onto the boat and the line was lined with people, 10 and 12 deep, you know. I saw my brothers. They came, they got the wind that we were going and I was able to wave them goodbye, so that was


that. We weren’t very long onto the boat and when the complement got on the boat they just let go and we pulled straight out. We were gone in an hour from the time we got out of the train I think, and they took us out and anchored us off Dromana for the night and they made up a convoy and all anchored off there.
Now what month was this?


It would have been the end of March or early April 1940. I think it was early April ’40 but we were on the water on Anzac Day. I know it was April. We were on the [HMS] Ettrick and it was a little 9,000 toner. It was only one of the small boats. It was a troop ship and it was used to shift the English


soldiers to where they had their troops in Egypt and India. It was all fitted out as a troop ship. It was a terrible ship to ride on because it both rolled and it reared. It used to rear right out of the water and come back down. They made up the convoy. We had the [HMS] Ramillies in charge. It was a battleship and


we had a few destroyers and that join us along the way. There was 4 troop ships in the convoy. We went out and they upped anchor and they took us out through the rip at about 9 o’clock in the morning, the next morning, and we were on our way. We all got seasick. It was tremendously rough, absolutely blowing a gale (laughs). Around through the [Great Australian] Bight and we had about a day and half’s leave in Fremantle while they took on stores


and took on more troops, the Western Australians. It was good. We got a tremendous reception in Western Australia. We got taken out to lunches and dinners, we got wined and dined. It was just great. We got back on the ship again and on our way to Colombo was the next stop.


I’ll tell you a funny story. When we all got seasick, or most, you could say 98½% were seasick. You were put on the mess table and your life on the boat was on that mess table. Your hammock was above it where you slept at night and you had the same position on the mess table and all your plates and that were in racks at the end, so they didn’t roll out. Two, in turn off the mess


table had to go down to the galley, get the food and bring it up to the mess table. So when we were sick we didn’t even want to look at food but we had to eat and so there were 2 chappies who had been – some of the chaps hadn’t been sick by this stage but there were 2 of the chappies struck a deal with us on our table that if


they did the mess orderly job until we were all fine over our seasickness, they didn’t have any other duties on the boat for the rest of the tour. Well that was great to us until we all got down one time to a meal and down they go with their dixies and up they came with their dixies. With the smell of food a lot used to leave the table and tear up top but


not on this occasion. Those 2 chaps that had been on merchant ships or other ships were used to the sea and were so good at it and they raced up with their dixies and put it on the end of our table and both of them vomited into the (laughs) and the whole 22 of us went “Whoosh” upon the deck. It was a shocking show. This was these people who were so used to the sea and it was so rough


that it got to them but it got us again too. But that happened early in the piece. Very quiet to Colombo (laughs). We had a tremendous show going over the line.
Oh yes, now tell us about that?
Yes, it was quite good. It was a re-enactment really. We had all the pool set up and we dipped the


appropriate people and that type of thing. A lot of people got dipped that didn’t want to get dipped. But it was a lot of fun. We had boxing tournaments and that. A lot of PT. Incidentally, on the boat when we were going over all our heavy equipment was taken off us in the way of anything that you didn’t require on deck and we were given 2 pairs of shorts, a pair of sandshoes and a singlet and that’s all we wore all


the way over. That’s all we wore on the boat. It was very hot, very hot particularly when we got up to Colombo and further on and it was so easy to wash. We had very little water, it was so easy to wash your shorts and get them dry and that sort of thing. The sergeant of our platoon said to me,


“I’ve got to look after the hammocks in the hammock room” and he said, “Now come with me.” I said, “Yeah, yeah Bertie, I’ll come with you.” So then I didn’t have any further duties on the ship only in the hammock room. Get up early in the morning and take the hammocks and put them in their racks for the companies and go down of an evening and hand them out for them at night but it had a tremendous advantage for me because I was used to


fresh air and I loved sleeping on the decks, so it meant that I could get my hammock out and take it up and bobs my place on the deck by rolling my hammock out and I could roll my mates out, so we had our place on deck. It was good. I was in the hammock room all the way over and didn’t have any other duties.
Were you worried at all about meeting German raiders?


We were particularly well protected for those times. A French, I’ve forgotten the name of it, but a French destroyer picked us up as we were getting further out and continued with us over the rest of the journey. See, Italy hadn’t come into the war at this time and they had quite a lot of holdings along the


Red Sea in North Africa and that was a bit of a worry to our people that if they suddenly came into the war it could have been near our base and that type of thing. When we were in the Red Sea and, whether it was an exercise or whether it was a U-boat [German submarine] somewhere around I don’t know and never ever got filled in on it, but all hell broke loose and the navy really went into action with depth charges and


skirmishes and all ran round the convoy. We were held up for quite a period and then we all moved off but we didn’t know anything about it. But Italy wasn’t in the war at that time.
Tell us about Colombo?
Colombo again, we had 2 or 3 of the old diggers with us still and of course they knew what to do in Colombo,


where to go and that type of thing. For us who hadn’t been out of us it was tremendous to go to a country like that and see just how the people lived and this appealed to me. I was always very keen on the history of a place having come from only a town in Australia. Colombo to me was a tremendous experience.


Just having a look at the sights around Colombo but this old digger said to about a dozen of us, “I’ll get you a free meal at the best hotel.” We said, “How will you go about that?” He said, “Don’t worry about it, just meet me at a certain time and I’ll get you a really good meal.” I think we had to meet him at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I think it was the Grand Hotel or something big like that.


We went down there and we met him and he said, “Yeah, it’s all teed up. You’ll get a free dinner. “But,” he said, “Of course I had to trade. You know there’s a lot of troops here and I’ve convinced them they’re starting to get a few beers in them and that sort of thing and your hotel could get damaged if you didn’t have protection. I’ve got 12 blokes who’ll protect your place from these


other fellows as long as we get a free meal and get wined and dined.” He was a cagey old bugger. He had it all worked out. Anyhow we got a beautiful meal by being in there to stop any incidents happening. You learn these things as you go along (laughs).
Sounds like a protection racket!
It was a protection racket actually. It was a racket! Oh, we


enjoyed Colombo. Brought a few trinkets and that and sent them home to the family.
What about animals? Monkeys and things like that?
Yes a few monkeys. Mainly elephants and the old camel, donkeys and that kind of thing. Elephants, rickshaws. Rickshaw races. When the chaps got a few drinks in them they bet on anything. They’d bet on the fellow pulling the rickshaw and they’d be whipping him along.


Win a bet. It was all part of the fun. The natives there, some of the people joined in. They got a lot of money out of us. We were cashed up. We hadn’t had anywhere to spend money for quite a period of time.
After Colombo, where was the next port?
It was in Aden


to take on fuel. We weren’t allowed ashore. We pulled in at Aden and that was quite an experience. They just had the oil flowing there. I didn’t know until that time that the oil gravitated down from Iraq and Iran to Aden. It wasn’t pumped or anything. It just gravitated all the way down there. It also gravitated, I later


found out to Haifa on the Mediterranean. The oil flow was un-pumped and it was only controlled in the pipes to those 2 ports.
There were pipelines then from Mesopotamia to…?
I’ll tell you a story that happened later in our camping. I’ll tell it to you know, while you’ve got me.


When we were camped in Palestine, a colonel turned up and he said to our OC [Officer Commanding] we were all on parade. “Get dressed and all on parade.” Darky Wentworth was our Major and he was a great guy and Tommy Major came up and he goes “Pwop, pwop, pwop, pwop.” “Major,” he said to this fellow. He was a colonel. He said to our major, “If you’ve got a….


Would you have a cup of [UNCLEAR]? I could drive bulldozer.” Darky said to him, “Dammit old man, I’ve got a couple of blokes here who could make a bulldozer.” He said, “Well, that’s it.” We wondered who these 2 fellas were and he said to me, and he pulled another fellow out and said, “You work on the Country Roads Board.” A fellow by the name of Tom Wilson. He said, “I’ve got a job for you.” “What is it?” He talked to this fellow and he said,


“There’s a huge trench digger up on the Syrian border that they use to dredge the pipeline down to Haifa,” and he said, “We want it down the desert to put the pipelines underground because they’re getting bombed, the water lines, and we want to take water down to the desert but we’ve got to get that big digger from there down to the desert


and you and Tom are going to do it’. “Yeah, right. When are we going?” He said, “On your way. You’re on your own. It’s up there. You get yourselves up there.” Well, we hitched rides and we travelled and we pulled in at camps and camped the night. Told them “We were going until we got to this trench digger.” There were a few little railways running up there. There was the main line that ran from Capetown to Dover. Went up through


Palestine and we used to look at that and say, “We’ll follow that up to Germany,” but we never did. (Laughs). We got this thing. We got him down to Cairo. We had to get him down to Cairo. We got him going. It would only do a mile an hour and it was a huge thing. Got fuel. It was so slow and we put it on a flat top on one of these railways. Wouldn’t move for a week.


Anyhow, we got to a Tommy camp and we were camped with those blokes. We had a funny experience there too because – they were tremendous on the parade ground, they really work. The Tommy units weren’t like us. If you were 5’9½” you were in a certain company. If you were 5’9” you were in another company. On parade


they all looked so good. Anyhow Tom and I walked out to the parade one morning. We thought “We’d have a look.” They asked us not to come on parade again. Anyhow, we won ourselves a little Austin out of them. They gave us a little Austin motor car. No hood on it or anything. Open like a jeep. A little Austin 12 and we were made because when we were held up with the Digger, we could find ourselves a camp


to get rations and whatnot. It was quite an experience. When we got to Cairo we had to go to Kasr el-Nil barracks, which was the workshops of the British troop in that area. Right in Cairo. We had it on the flat top and it took us on the railway and the Kasr el-Nil Barracks were about 100 yards from where we took it off the flat top and Tom was right up


at the controls and I’m following in the little Austin. This chug, chug, chugging along. It had huge tracks on it. They were like railway sleepers. Great crawler tracks on it. Of course when it turned, it was a chain turn on the front wheels with a winch on the chain which you pulled back. Tom threw the winch to turn right


and she’s coming round but in the meantime an Egyptian in a little car had pulled up hard on his right and of course Tom couldn’t see him and I couldn’t make him hear because of the roar of the engine. That track picked up the end of his car and “Crunch!,” then the next one crunched it down and he fled out the side door. When the track came off it was as flat


as a sardine tin! It had absolutely flattened his car (laughs). It was amazing to see a car get flattened so much like that. Anyhow we got to Kasr el-Nil Barracks and we said to them there “Now, it’s got to go to Alexandria and there’ll be a crew there to pick up the SSS. They’re going to overhaul it.” So Tom and I went back to the unit and said


“Accomplished that.” But you did get a few jobs like that when you were resting.
How long did that take to get from the Syrian Border back down to Cairo?
It took a few weeks. We were pretty keen to get back because we couldn’t draw pay on Tommy camps and you soon run out of money when you’ve got bloody time to spare. I think


it took us about 5 weeks. But it was an experience. I’ve got photos and that there. I look at it now and think “Oh dear.” That was the pipeline down to Haifa.
All right, well we better take you back down to Aden, where you’re taking on fuel?
That’s all we did, never got off at all. We went up the Suez Canal. That was through the Red Sea


and then up the Suez Canal. That was a tremendous experience. The Suez Canal was only 28 feet deep and 100 feet wide. You looked down from the deck and there was desert on both sides and your chugging up in the convoy. Chugging up the canal. We were to get off at El Kantara. That’s where the railway crossed to go up to Palestine but our stores were going on to Port Said


to be unloaded and the chap in charge of the stores said to me, “Will you come up and help me off the stores,” so I didn’t get off at El Kantara. I went on to Port Said. The troops went up into Palestine and I didn’t go up until the next day. We had to see our stores unloaded at Port Said and put on the railway to take back to Palestine. So I didn’t get back to the unit. They got up there


a day before I got up there and we camped at a place called Beit jirja and it was a good camp. We were in EPIP [English Pattern Indian Product] tents. That’s a big Indian tent with 2 poles and a very cosy tent. A full standing height tent. The sides rolled up and you rolled them up into the corners to let the air right through your tent and then rolled them down again


if you needed cover. They were beautiful warm tents. We were close to Arab villages. Very close to Arab villages. We soon made friends with the Arabs because we had money. That might be a bit unfair to them but I think that was the main reason they encouraged us and we were invited


in and sometimes given coffee and that sort of thing. Started to learn the language, and that in itself was an education to me. I didn’t realise that the Arabs in the villages were so primitive, living in the mud huts and they were so community or


whatever you call it. Whether it was enforced on them or not, I don’t know but they all worked for the Muktar of the village. He had all the money and all the say, the Muktar of the village. All the harvest would go into a central portion, all the grain and it was completely controlled by the Muktar of the village. They lived in poverty,


absolute poverty. It was degrading to see. Yet the Muktar pulled a roll of notes out and showed it one time. A party of us had gone in to talk to them and he had a real big wad of notes in his pocket. They had to work. There was a tremendous comparison, particularly the Jewish villages were all fenced


with similar fences we have round industrial sites. On the inside of the Jewish villages was the most modern farming I had ever seen in my life. It was just an eye opener to me. The machinery they had and the amount of produce they produced off the lands that they had. The care of their land. I


used to go into the Jewish villages and have a look what was doing. You couldn’t get into a Jewish Village without walking through a [UNCLEAR] pad about as big as this room, whether a beast came in or a beast went out they had to walk through, so there was no diseases taken into their farming villages. They had machinery that we had never seen


on our farms here. The difference was so marked. There was a Jewish village with the most beautiful green crops of any kind you wish and outside the village was the Arabs, ploughing the ground with a bent stick with a donkey or a cow or a camel


or something or one or two of the others pulling and them sowing their wheat by hand. They’d have a stick there and a stick there, one that came up there and they used to harvest it with a knife, put it in bundles and put on the donkeys’ backs to take back to the village. They used to strap it onto their donkeys to take it back to their village and they had no harvesting equipment. They got every cow and camel that they had


in the village and they used to couple them all together and they used to spin them round like that. Walk them all over the hay.
For thrashing?
Yes, for thrashing and then they threw it up in the air and the wind blew the light stuff away and the grain fell to the ground. They’d thrown it up again until they’d just got the grain left lying on the ground. It was just so primitive. It was really, and yet the


Jewish farms were so protected.
Why did you think that was?
Well, I don’t know whether the Arabs ever, under the way their money was controlled that if it had got out to a mechanised field, I think it would have got out of hand for the Muktars of the villages.


That’s how it appeared to me. I could have been absolutely incorrect in that. That’s what I came away from those villages with was that the Muktar had all the money and lived a tremendous life and the Arabs lived so much in poverty. At the time there was a big English force keeping the peace in Palestine. There were no arms or ammunition or anything like that allowed in Palestine. Absolutely


banned was any guns or explosives because the hatred between the 2 of them was absolutely like you would never imagine in your lifetime. There were kids from the time they were 2 years of age and their hatred, and we had come from a country where you could dislike a person but you didn’t hate him like those people hated each other and we formed the opinion that


when we came back to Australia we said, “That war would never end” and when we were asked our opinions on that and I’ll say right now, I expressed it. A fellow said to me the other day, “When you came back from war you told me exactly what’s going to happen today.” I said, “It was inevitable that the Muslims were going to be a huge race and they were never going to fight a war. They were going to infiltrate


and they’d turn to terrorism because they used to mix up sugar and different things and make their own explosives and they planted them under the Jewish railways and blow their railways up.” Whether they were justified in doing it, I couldn’t make that assessment because it was


between them not between us. All we were seeing was seeing what was happening but we didn’t know the base of what was causing it to happen. Our early times in Palestine we were a very mixed team of fellows but a very accomplished team of soldiers. But you’d always get the ones out there for a quid. The Arabs were offering us £80 sterling,


they dealt in sterling, for a rifle. They were offering us a pound for a [UNCLEAR] and it was very tempting. It was very tempting. It became so tempting that some fellows started to sell the rifles to the Arabs with the ammunition because you earned money but when you are on 6 shillings a day,


it was a tremendous enticement. Alongside the camp there was an orange grove, a beautiful orange grove and the officers determined that was where the rifles were being sold and they said, “They’ll raise a posse one night and we’d go out and sell rifles,” so I was selected in


the posse and another mate who joined up in Dandenong. We were the 2 leaders in the posse and we went out with rifles on our shoulders and we walked down to the orange grove, met by 2 Arabs and we said to them “We wanted to sell our rifles, they’d give us the money


and we’d sell them the rifles” and yes, they wanted them. But not there. We had to go down a bit further. We went down about 100 yards and we met 2 more Arabs but we had a back up. We knew we had a back up. We had 8 fellows behind us who were armed and we got these 4 blokes and I said to Alan, “We’re getting


out-numbered.” He said, “Yes, we’ll push on.” They took us and they had us and the next batch was 4 but still no money. They wanted to buy our rifles but no money and they wanted to take us on again and we said, “No, no. We’re not going anywhere.” We had our rifle loaded and we fired a shot and the other 8 fellows encircled them and grabbed them.


We took them back to camp and we had an empty galvanised iron shed and we locked them in there. We got in there with them and said, “Strip off.” They wore about 6 or 8 gowns, long. We made them strip and they didn’t have a coin between them.


They didn’t have any money whatsoever. I’m a bit ashamed to say it but that was going to be our compensation for forming the posse, so we got no money but what we got! We got knives with blades that long (indicates about 2 feet). They were loaded with so many knives. They were prepared for us. They didn’t trust us right from the time we got there. Too cunning for us. So they didn’t get the rifles. We got no money.


We got a heap of knives and that was it, but one of our chappies was so annoyed and he fired a shot through the roof of the shed and that scared the dickens out of the Arabs, so I think it was a deterrent for the Arabs to come and try but we had 2 poles in these Indian tents with an eye bolt through the chain


through the pole in the tent. We used to stand all our rifles up against the centre pole and run the chain through the trigger guards and lock and we’d take the bolt out and put it under our pillow when we slept at night. One night in a tent, they got in when everybody was asleep. You wouldn’t think they’d get those rifles off but they got those rifles off


the pole in the tent. Whether they were aided by somebody in the tent, I don’t know but those other chaps were asleep when the rifles went out of the tent. The Jews were in the market for firearms too. They were a bit more subtle.
Interviewee: Henry New Archive ID 0192 Tape 04


Harry, you were telling us about the possible trade in weapons and you mentioned that the Jewish


Kibbutzniks also, were also after rifles.
I was never approached, I must say in fairness to them. I can’t definitely say there were but I was told by people “That there was a market in the Jewish villages also for weapons.”
Were any Australian soldiers ever caught selling their weapons?
There was nobody from our


unit that I ever know of that was caught but we did hear, and it was only hearsay, that people were caught and severely dealt with for that offence. It was a horrible offence because it was a peaceful land and it could have broken the peace in the land.
From Palestine,


where did your company go then?
We did our training as a division there in Palestine. We came together and did divisional training and that was normal training. Only training as a division and then we were re-equipped again with up to date equipment and then we were told to down tents and


that we were going down to Egypt. And we used to listen to Lord Haw Haw because we were getting a lot of shows on the wireless and his was just unreal. He was so accurate, you know. We pulled down our tents and we had our kits and there wasn’t enough buses to keep all the troops going down to Egypt. We were sitting on our kit bags waiting for the bus to come along


and Haw Haw came on the wireless and he said, “Hello 6th Divvies [Division] sitting on your kit bags waiting for buses to go to Egypt.” Well, it was a bit unnerving really. But we did go down to Egypt by bus and there was 36 of us Australians including me. I got included in a lot of the things that went on. We went and camped at the pyramids


in a big camp. It was a very large camp. It had been the Australian camp right at the base of the pyramids at Mena. They called them the Pyramids of Gaza but Mena was what the Wilhelmina Hotel was there.
That had been a camp when the first AIF had gone over?
It was. That was their camp. Yes. I think at one stage there were 200,000 troops in that camp while we were there. There were so many


divisions of Indians. There were Free French, Free Poles, South Africans, Free every country in Europe (laughs) had troops there plus a big complement of British troops and it was a very large camp and we were assigned the job, 36 of us, as supervisors of the


air defence of Cairo and it had all been mapped out. We had to supervise this and we were allocated to our various tasks and we were given thousands of Egyptians to work for us. They worked for the equivalent of threepence or four pence a day. The Egyptians. There were 100 ton of aggregate


went into every pill box and we built a pill box a day and we had thousands of Egyptians. The trucks used to come along and they’d tip the aggregate in the sand and screening and cement. They’d unload the cement maybe 100 yards from where your pill box was and that would all be carried on the head on a type of what we called a plough disc on the head, shovel it into that and they formed circles. There were these circles


operating all over the place, some carrying in sand, some carrying in cement and building piles of that and at the same time there was other Egyptians who had these wide spades be about 16 inches wide and about 18 inches long and flat with a big handle on it and it had a rope on it and they’d have 6 or 8 fellows on the end of a rope and they’d


go to and forward, the length of their arms forward and backward dragging the rope and the fellows stirred the shovel through it and you mixed these great heaps of aggregate into cement and other people were coming round with water on their head to put the water into it until they had a cement mix and there’d be about 6 of those going on with all these feed lines of circles. They never broke the circle. They tipped it, got back in the circle, picked it up again.


It was a tremendous sight and the amount of stuff they were shifting. I couldn’t believe it because those pill boxes were a metre thick on the sides. They were half a metre on the roof. They were shell proof.
Were these just for practice?
Oh no. This was the defence of Cairo because they thought “They were going to get through to Cairo”


and we did over 100 of those were in Cairo and they were placed in such a place on higher ground and we did huge tank traps across the roads. The idea was to, if the German tanks had have broken through, was to man the


– they were machine gun posts – man the pill boxes with the heavy machine guns and let the floodgates to the Nile go and flood all the ground around them when the tanks got in. It would have been a tremendous defence because if they’d have let the floodgates go on the Nile delta – see it was very wet country and very flat.


If they had flooded them in they would have still had their own protection if any tanks had got through. To see what those chappies worked with was just unreal. They first dug, cleared the ground, squared it all up for the pill box and then they built the inner and outer skin out of lumber wood. Just any old wood you


could get and you framed them up with. Then the steel went in but the only tool they had, carpentry tool they had was like a tiny little mattock. What we’d call a trapper’s tool. You know to set the traps they have a tiny little sort of like a tommy axe with a blade going straight. The tommy axe ends the other way. It had a nail puller on the side, a slot to pull the nails. They cut all their timber


and nailed it all up with that one tool and it had to be so good and so strong to hold that weight of concrete. They did the steel – all the steelwork inside. The super structure and they bent all the steel with a plank with different bolts in it at different angles and they just tore it along the plank and pulled it through, round one bolt as far as another bolt and that was the angle


they wanted. All the angles and put it together for four pence a day.
Were they bending steel just with their hands?
Yes. They just pulled it. There was a long plank that had the bolts in it and you’ve got a long bend where you join steel and you might know, you’ve got to turn it right back and then you overlap it about 9 inches and tie it if you’ve got to join steel like that, so it remains an unbroken line


or the equivalent of an unbroken line. Then there was the shaping of it round the gun slits – where you fired the guns. It has to be shaped around that. They were good. They were good, those fellas. It’s amazing, those fellows had no education whatsoever. They could talk their own language to each other but


they couldn’t read or write and yet you could get that amount of work out of them and they were as cunning, those fellows. They were an eye opener. Just how cunning they were and how keen they were for work and we used to pay on a disc. We had hundreds of discs with a number on it and a chappie would come along for his job. Yes, we want more men. You’d give him a disc, register the number.


You’d give him the disc and then he’d come the next morning to work. So you had another big bloke working for you but then we did this so often that we didn’t wake up to it until the pay cart came around. In the pay cart, the English soldier used to ration us and everything. They used to come round to


pay on these discs and you’d see so many fellows lining up at the cart that didn’t work for you and then tremendous fights would break out amongst the fellows and the English fellows used to have pick handles in the pay cart and they’d jump out and belt them with the pick handles and break the fight up.


What was happening was a big chap would come around and you’d think “He’s a good worker” and you’d give him a disc but he in no time had 6 or 8 fellows working for tuppence a day and he was collecting a penny a day and of course he turned up on pay day to get his commission out of the disc and that’s just how cunning they were. They started to exploit their own fellows.


It was something that was very difficult when you had thousands of fellows to control and this used to amuse me and I suppose it happened on so many of the other jobs also. You’d see them coming to work and they’d be carrying a fellow on their shoulders. They’d put him down on the ground at work. You’d look at him and he’d have a disc in his hand and he was nearly dead. He was dying,


see and of course they knew if they gave him a disc and brought him there and got him there alive as long as he died there he could get compensation out of us and they did that so frequently. Brought a fellow who was dying with a disc in his hand to try and get compensation for his death out of the job. It was unreal. They were cunning but they were good workers and nice fellows to work with. If they were really good we used to put them, make them a ‘rayce’


as they called it. A rayce was the equivalent of our sergeant in our language and of course they got a penny a day or the equivalent of a penny a day in mils. We used to pay in mils. They built that and did a mighty good job, a mighty good lot of defence there and all done so cheaply. That’s what they worked for, and that was embarrassing to us to see people really.


We felt for those chappies because there was no such thing as hours. You started to pour the pill boxes first thing in the morning and it was dark when you finished at night. No hours limited to what you could work. So that was our exercise we had and I suppose other fellows have told you there was fights between the English and Australians.
Why was there fights between


the English and the Australians?
Sometimes they couldn’t handle us. There was 36 of us in that camp and we had a lieutenant, who wasn’t a bad fellow. The commandant of the camp called him up one day and said, “I’ve got 200,000 fellas in this camp and I’ve got 36 Australians and the 36 Australians get me into more trouble than the other 200,000” (Laugh). We had nowhere to drink. (Laughs). We had to drink at these


NAAFIs [Navy Army Air Force Institute]. The English had NAAFIs and they controlled the NAAFIs. NAAFI was and we called them NAAFIs and they called them NARFIs. We used to have to go and have a drink in the NAAFIs and of course there’d be a glaring match and then a fight would start. It was a shocker because there were 8 - I got into


a fight. I didn’t believe in it that much but gee, you had to back your mates up and that night after a fight I took 8 to hospital – 8 of our blokes to hospital in Cairo. That put an end to it. They banned us then because it got to the stage one night a little red headed sergeant, who was with us said, “We’ve got to organise


ourselves and we’ll go to the NAAFI early and we’ll put up a barricade. We’ll have our drinks and if they want to fight us we’ll fight them. They’ll probably kill us but we’re going to fight them.” He put the tables all around in a corner, parallel to the walls. Took all the chairs from the front and put them at the back and we all sat and faced them. As they come in we’ll


bash them over the head with the chairs but we had no escape route. (Laughs). They didn’t bash us. They took sympathy on us that night but we got out because they were going to kill us because they couldn’t stand you looking at them. Some blokes passed a comment to them sometimes but we were such good friends with them in the daytime but at night time it used to be on for young and


old. We were still good friends with them. We liked them and they liked us but there were tons of fights. I’ve talked to the old diggers and they said, “It was no different when they were over there either.” There were tons of fights.
What else did chaps get up to of a night time?
Well, blokes are only human. They were human when they went away and they were human when they were in Australia. They talk about things


that happened over there but they happened in Australia. Before I went away, I told you I used to drive a truck into the Victoria Markets years ago at 2 o’clock in the morning. The naughty young girls used to come down from Little Lonsdale Street to the Markets to sell their wares to the chaps that were, the farmers that were there. It was no different to what went on over there. The only thing was that it was legalised and it was


tremendously popular. There were 12 million people in Cairo. It was a huge city.
Can I just ask you again? The farmers, back at the Victoria Markets, taking their – they get their vegies to take to the market and before they sold them they’d have a quick…?
Well, I don’t know (laughs) but they used to be there. The girls used to come down


to the markets there and I suppose if there’s a market for something there you take it to where the market is. So it did apply and it wouldn’t only apply to the Victoria Market but that’s where I saw it first when I was a young chap going in there. One of the old diggers said to me, and he was a nice fellow. He’d been in Egypt during the war and he said to me


“When you get to Cairo,” he said – they used to call it the Wazza over there and they burnt the Wazza down. You might know the story. They burnt the Wazza down. This old digger said to me, “If you get over there, go to the Wazza and see if Tiger Lil’s still there.” Have you ever heard the stories of Tiger Lil? Well my mate from Dandy and I, our first night in Cairo, we thought “We’d go down.” It was the Berka then, not the Wazza. It’s known as the Berka.


We went down the Berka. Beautiful street. All beautiful shops. We thought “Where are these places?,” until we came to a place with a great neon light out the front “Tiger Lil’s” There were floor shows. A lot of them downstairs and there were restaurants and that type of thing. They were very professional.


Anyway, before we and a few Aussies had gone in, a New Zealander had walked in and gosh, Tiger Lil had really gone to seed. She had that New Zealander, and we stood off and she gave it to the New Zealander about “What his father had done to her and he hadn’t paid” but she calling him “An Australian” (laughs) because they had a similar


hat except theirs had the point on the top, so we had to laugh at Tiger Lil and we got out but she would have given us the same. What his father had done to her and he hadn’t paid her. That was our welcome to Tiger Lil. A lot of chaps used the brothels.
Was it something you did as an individual or with a group of mates


if you went to a brothel?
Some of them used to team up. It was amazing and really good fellows. Chaps are only human I guess and there’s always chaps - you know different fellows, like I said in the markets, they were different fellows. Different chaps make up a community and some of them did frequent the brothels quite frequently and


they were regimental brothels. Regimental brothels that were controlled by the British people. Under doctor’s supervision all the time and that took the fear of VD [venereal disease]. VD in Cairo was absolutely – kids were born without an eye and with half an arm and half a leg and all this type of thing.


But the regimental brothels and the prophylactic centres made it reasonably safe if they stayed in the right area.
The doctors, were they inspecting the women or the men or both?
The women that were there. The prostitutes. They used to inspect them daily.
The men didn’t


have to have any inspection?
That were going in? None at all. No. It was a 9 days’ wonder. It was 9 days right to the day after the chap on leave, and had been frequenting brothels, that’s when it came and they used to sweat that 9 days. But there were so many prophylactic centres that they could have taken care of themselves.


But it was rife and not only in the Australian Army but in the British Army and then the other armies and they set up one particular hospital. Just one hospital. The 8th Special in Palestine for those chappies that got infected and they went in there and they got good care.


I think a lot of it – quite a lot of it was chaps did frequent those places with no early intentions of going to. Get a few drinks in and that type of thing and then used the facilities and regretted it later because they’d probably be


out of money and they’d go to the out of bounds ones, which weren’t regimental ones and that. When we went over there we couldn’t understand how we were living and the water tasted terrible. They were putting this bromide in the water. It was all new to us and we couldn’t


understand that the fellows could even be bothered. Because it was – it was really effective that bromide but some nice fellows would get infected and they did get mad about it because sometimes it was supposed to be a supervised brothel that they’d gone into and look, I never used them, but I can,


never if I had a bit of pride. I thought “I had more pride than that.” I don’t even think it was a matter of pride, I think they did get carried away after a few drinks and the striptease and that type of thing in the floor shows and they’d come and sit on your knee with no clothes on and that type of thing and tease the fellows.


Fellow are only human, I guess.
Was there a sense of tradition too? Of living up to the first AIF in that respect?
I don’t think in that respect, whatsoever because all the old diggers warned us against that. They just said, “It would open your eyes.” It’s just such a hot filthy surround. It just thrives, absolutely thrives and


it did too. But then there’s another side to the coin because you go to Alexandria and it was in a big naval port. A huge naval port and it had boats in there of all the navies that fronted the Mediterranean and the navies used to work out of there. So the officers had –


it was a strange thing – everything over there whether you went into a place to have a drink, it was for ORs [Other Ranks] or NCOs [Non-Commissioned Officers]or officers. You were bound where you could go and most of the brothels were the same way. For officers, NCOs or ORs. Well, officers got into trouble and when you went to


Alexandria particularly, we heard from one country that had a big navy there, that their wives openly were living there while their husbands were out at sea in the boats, in some of those top class and I think it was quite so. It wasn’t looked on as a


bad profession at that time. It was a money earning profession.
What about homosexual sex? Was that visible?
Never in our unit. Never. There was a tremendous amount of ground rules in the units. There was an order in the units that


there was a type of ground rule that put down anything that wasn’t agreed upon by the chaps as being acceptable and that was not acceptable at that time and if homosexuality could have occurred that chappie would have been almost kicked to death and I really


mean that because that was the law of the ground rules. When we first went into the army we only had these long barrack rooms. You used to put a towel around yourself to go to the showers. You left your money, you left everything that you had on your bed and if you came back and it wasn’t there, someone had stolen it, there was a strict rule that “You stole nothing out of your tent” and


chappies that broke that rule never ever came back to the unit because they were so wounded when they left – ribs, broken arms and that type of thing. They were really treated for breaking the ground rules in the area. Now homosexuality would never have been covered in the ground rules but we never had the occasion to get that far. Never. Never in my time.


That was 6 years and 3 days and never ever.
You say ground rules. Are these rules that the unit men themselves talked about and set?
Well, it’s the sort of thing as time goes by you work out things that give you good conduct and relationship in your tent. See it might surprise a lot of people but filthy talk became a laugh


for the first time but after that it was not acceptable. Not bad, filthy language particularly if it included the female sex. Generally the fellows were very, very moral type of people. Of course that was a moral time. There was more morality then obviously


to me at that time. Whether it was or not but to me it seemed obvious that there was more morality than there is now. I don’t know but that’s my opinion.
You mentioned that thieving was not on. Did that occur ever?
Yes. It occurred in the early stages. Yes because in the early stages we knew fellows were criminals. We knew they’d been


in the “Bluestone Lodges” as we used to call it and by their conversation we knew what they’d done and where they were, we could put it all together and you could say “That chap’s been inside.” We didn’t hold anything against them until they started stealing stuff. No go. No go at all. Just not acceptable and he


was dealt with. He wasn’t taken to the orderly room. He was dealt with on the spot. Never came back.
Can you talk a bit now about what happened after Cairo? Oh, actually just before we leave Cairo


you had some chaps, some First World War diggers in your unit?
Had they been at Mena Camp or had they been…?
Yes some of them had been in the Middle East but they all got taken off us before we went down to Egypt. They never went into action with us. They got put in what we called the Guard Regiment. They were nice fellows but they were deemed


too old to go into the desert because it was hard living and they knew it. I didn’t know that until we got there but it was hard living. You had to be fit.
Was there much discussion about the fact that here you were 25 years on in exactly the same place as perhaps your fathers, uncles had been?
Yes, there was quite a bit about it because the stories they told us became alive


and there we were and there was the story they were talking about. They talked about Cairo, they talked about the Nile, they talked about the Berka or the Wazza.
Did you climb the Pyramids?
Yes. Oh no, not all the way up. I couldn’t see any advantage in that. I liked to look at them. They were 480 feet high I think.


A bit tall (laughs). I had more things to do. They were a tremendous sight. We had to pay there. They took us up. 30 cents. Clever guys. We were camped there at the pyramids. A chap by the name of Hurley. He was the original photographer for the 6th Division. He came along with his cameras and got us to go up and


get in the shadow of the Pyramids one morning just to have it on record. Where the old diggers were paid, we were being paid also. We only had to walk up the escarpment. We were right under the Pyramids. There was an escarpment all the way round Mena.
Was that Frank Hurley?
Yes, Frank Hurley. He went into the desert


with us and Parer went into the desert with us and they were great. They were along through the shelling and that and there wasn’t automatic cameras. They had to wind it as they ran. They had the camera up in their hand and they were winding as they were taking them. I think one of them got killed.
Damien Parer was killed.
Yes, he was too but they were right in it. They were under enemy shellfire photographing the troops


going forward.
When you were in Cairo, how much did you know about what was happening in the war, particularly in the Mediterranean and the involvement of the Italians?
We talked with the navy fellows because they used to come there on leave and this was


the link up between the news that was happening in the war and they could talk to us and we’d get first hand information and we knew when we’d go into Cairo of a night, there was a curfew in Cairo and the curfew was worked out according to the length of the day. The German bombers wouldn’t fly over land in the daytime and they used to time their run.


They’d pick the canal up as their guide because on a moonlight night it was like a strip of mercury really from the air and they used to fly down the Canal as far as Ishmalia and then they’d take off at an angle for the air over Cairo and they’d fly and we knew and we’d be in Cairo and we’d even stop up after curfew and we used to just get in the doorways and sit in the doorways


until the bombing was over. But they didn’t attack the town much. There was an aerodrome, I suppose it must have been out 20 miles. Helwan Aerodrome I think that’s the name. They used to attack it because they thought the British and that were using it but they never ever used it. Never. But they used to attack that drome quite frequently in the moonlight at night and talking about


that, the Egyptian army what they had, and the Egyptian army, and they sent the search lights over Cairo, was a very close second to London first. It was the whole


sky, it was just like a huge spider web landing in the middle of all these searchlights all around Cairo. Tremendous light when the planes came over and they put the search lights up. It wasn’t a very gallant army. The gunners didn’t like having a go at them much and the Germans used to fly out again. If they got too low


or the lights went out. When we were in Cairo, they didn’t have a volunteer army, they had a press gang army and we got a lot of amusement because this press gang would come up the street. There’d be a chap sitting in the gutter and then you’d see him take off like blazes and people would jump out of the press cart because he had nothing to do


if he was sitting in the gutter and he was in the army and they used to always lead them back by the ear. They’d bring them back and put them in the van and that chap was in the army and they had to teach them then to march and we used to go and watch them trying to teach these fellows to march. Each fellow had a fellow by the ear instructing him and walking him along. The next chap had the next bloke by the ear to try to get them


to walk with their legs together because they didn’t want to be in the army (laughs) in the first place. But they were in by press gang and that made up the army and no wonder they were no good. They were hopeless. Absolutely hopeless as a fighting force. But they had the money. King Farouk. Queen Farida. You can imagine the parodies that came out of being Queen Farida. There were some tremendous parodies.
Interviewee: Henry New Archive ID 0192 Tape 05


Harry, I’d like you to tell us about what happened when you finally left Cairo, heading up to the front?
We left Cairo and we went up to a camp called Amarea that was out of Alexandria and we picked up our company there, the rest of our company and we picked up the brigade and the whole brigade moved forward down the desert immediately at that time.


We never moved into action. Our main job was to move right out into the desert. We made prisoner of war compounds because they were anticipating large numbers of prisoner of war compounds and the Indian Army, there was a Libyan force this side of Bardia and the Indian Army and the


British Army took those prisoners and they were mainly Libyans. They didn’t fight very well, they just poured out in their thousands. They got out of the way and then they moved us up, gradually moved us up until we were close on the bounds of Bardia. That was on about New Year’s Day


in 1941 and they formed the lines and maps and we got all the positions of the machine gun posts and the tank traps and likely minefields.
Where did you get that information from?
It was gained either from prisoners of war, who had given up in the early


stages or it was by intelligence but I couldn’t be sure in that. I didn’t go forward but some of our guys went forward and did reconnaissance the night before but it was already on paper. We already, by that time, had a chart of where their main machine gun posts and certainly of the wire. The wire was so extensive.


I think every night they must have put another row of wire out. You couldn’t see through the wire it was so dense and so far. The arrangement for our company was that one platoon would go in with Bangalore Torpedos and cut the wire. They did, they cut the wire. They were very, very


effective, the Bangalore Torpedo.
Using a torpedo to cut the wire?
Well, they were known as that because they were very effective. What you did, you got a tube about 3 or 4 inches and in the case there we couldn’t get really good tubes and they used fire hose. You pack it right up from end to end with explosives and you put your detonator


and fuse in the other end. They get close to the wire, about 6 or 8 men and they get it up on their shoulder. They light the fuse and then they race up to the wire and spear it into the wire and the effect is just unbelievable. It cuts the steel pickets and it throws the fence back about 20 feet wide in most places.


Of course then if you haven’t got through the density of the fence, a fellow party has to race up and throw another torpedo in front of that. They were very effective.
They would be under fire?
Under very heavy fire. The Italian artillery had a longer range. They had


our artillery out-ranged and they were giving our front line the dickens and our artillery couldn’t reach them but they were racing up behind as hard as they could every 100 yards gained they were getting up. We were fortunate that we had so many of the Australian destroyers and British destroyers helping us in the Med [Mediterranean]. They were going up and down the coast and they were


giving them blazes with long range naval guns and they were trying to counter the Italian guns. The artillery was very fierce and very heavy and in those days there was no way of letting people know what was going on.


They had these Lizzy Lysanders, we called them a “Lizzy Lysander.” It could almost hover over the lines and it was dropping messages in the way of flares and signals as to where the artillery posts were that were giving the problems and they would try to bring fire on those to silence them but they didn’t really silence them until we got right forward enough to reach them.


That was, the main damage was done in the first 2 or 3 hours by their artillery. The platoon that I was with had the tank trap and the mines were our problem. The other platoon had cut the wire


and raced through and let the infantry through. They just flooded through when the wire was cut. They gave us protection from machine guns because they took the posts on straight away. They got tanks through as quickly as we could fill the tank trap in. That helped the infantry go in. The infantry was so well organised there and the whole battalion behind us


when the 2/7th Battalion swung to the right and to take the Mediterranean side and that was where the Black Shirts of the Italians were and they were darn good fighters but in the other areas they gave up at close. When the machine guns and tanks got up close they’d fly the white flag although they were so well dug in they had


a real fortress there. The prisoners were brought out by the diggers but we lost 6 men, killed and 14 wounded in that. That wasn’t good.
From your platoon?
From our company. Some of the infantry loss was fairly heavy. There was fairly heavy losses. The


16th and 17th Brigade did the attack with the 17th Brigade on the right. The 16th Brigade, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions were on the left and they swooped in very fast and were pushing ground. They were gaining ground like steam but the 7th Battalion, particularly of 17th Brigade, 3 days they were pinned


down and they took a terrible pasting. They had to send other troops in to get them out. Some said, “The Italians threw it in quickly” but not in that section they didn’t because the 2/7th was absolutely a tremendous battalion – fought so well. It was a bit


sad because I was in 9 Platoon when I was in 2/7th and I knew the 9 Platoon under Waddy McFarlane. It was sad for me because every man in 9 Platoon was either killed or wounded before they got out in those first 3 days. The 2/7th Battalion suffered huge losses. But apart from that


in 3 days we were clear of Bardia.
You say that it was your job to fill in the tank traps. What does that involve?
Well the tank trap wasn’t really constructed as we’d construct a tank trap. It was a wide ditch with sharp sides, so the tank can’t climb a straight wall. The


tanks could get into the traps but they couldn’t get up the other side, so they could drop over. They had to have a ramp type picked out for them. In those circumstances you worked quickly (laughs). Particularly to get those tanks through because we had a tremendous admiration of our infantry. It’s the best in the world.


Anything to help them was top priority.
Were they Matilda tanks you were working with?
Yes. I think they were Matildas. Our tanks weren’t very big. We only had mainly machine gun carriers but I think they may have been heavier than Matildas. We had a British – and they were known as “Rats” and they had been in the desert


for 2 years and they were a tremendous fighting force. They had beautiful tanks. There was a story about them when they were on leave in Cairo. They kicked up so much trouble they were condemned to the desert for 2 years (Laughs). They were a pretty angry type of fellows. Great blokes to work with.
So how long did it take for Bardia to fall?
3 days. 3 days


it was all cleaned up, with gaps through the minefields and roads cleared and pushing on towards Tobruk within 3 days but the 19th Brigade who hadn’t been used in Bardia took the front and the 17th, we dropped back. Yes.
Are you attached –


structurally are you part of the division or are you attached to a brigade?
Yes. We were Field Engineers. Field Engineers have got 3 platoons to the company. There is one platoon attached to each battalion of the brigade that you’re in. When you go into action


you go in with that battalion. You act as a service to that battalion in the way of taking up mines and de-lousing mines, cutting wire and getting them through bodies and that type of thing. You work so closely with them.
So which battalion were you attached to?
Actually, we were


with the 17th Brigade and as the engineers had to go in first we had that job to do as a Company but we dropped back to the 2/7th Battalion. I was with 5 Platoon at that time but 5 Platoon was attached to 2/7th. We weren’t


there in the horror of the 2/7th.
Tell us now about the rush on to Tobruk?
The rush on Tobruk. I went into Tobruk. We didn’t worry much about that but after Tobruk fell we went in and had a look around. Tobruk wasn’t near the fighting.


The Italians had decided they had their main defence around there. There was a tremendous defence around Tobruk. Tobruk fell, you might say in a day and it was just – to go into Tobruk after it fell. They left in such a hurry that there was half-eaten meals on the tables in the houses and the kid’s toys and beds unmade


and all that type of thing. They didn’t expect Bardia to fall so quickly obviously. Of course there was panic out of Tobruk because I think it was only a matter of 5 or 6 days after Bardia or it seemed about that time that Tobruk fell and our people lost a few. Not our company because we weren’t in there but the 2nd


Field Company and they didn’t lose a lot of people. There wasn’t the artillery barrages that we had to counter at Bardia.
Obviously the POW [Prisoner of War] camps that you built were filling up fast?
(Laughs). It was quite stupid. “It didn’t quite hold all the officers” they told us and we didn’t have a clue.


There were lots and lots of prisoners. Hundreds and hundreds. You’d see one chap leading out 100 prisoners. We laughed at one of our fellows because – he is still living, he’s a doctor. He did the [C]RTS [Commonwealth Rehabilitation Training Scheme] course after the war and became a doctor. We’re real good mates and we have a laugh because out of one dug out, there were so many Italians


who gave up and instead of – he just walked out in front of them and waved his arm the way he was going and said, “Follow me.” It was unheard of turning your back on the enemy but they did, they followed him out. We had a laugh about that. The Italians, they were good fighters until you got close to them. They’d throw everything at you but I don’t


think their heart was in it really.
Did you get a chance to talk to some of the Italians?
Not really. A lot passed through and quite frankly I was very disappointed with the Italians because the Company Commander of B Company and I was in 2/7th.


A lot of them put their arms up and he was leading a company. He was leading the company and a lot put their arms up to surrender and one of the officers threw a red devil and killed him. He was leading the team off that were giving up and the Bren Gunner


there was standing alongside him and he emptied that Bren gun, the full magazine into that group of Italians. So many died for that act. John Green was the leader. He was just a tremendous guy and should never have been killed that way. It might be interesting to them, whether it’s of concern, I don’t know but


if ever you watched ‘The Sullivans’ on TV, it was all B Company, 2/7th and when they showed that episode I knew all the chaps by name but it was very factual. When that chap threw the – when it showed him throwing that red devil, that was a hand grenade, and hit John Green, you heard a fellow


shout out “No Ken!” and Ken was the machine gunner and they didn’t show him mow those people down but he mowed them down.
So the TV show didn’t show that final part of the….?
No, they didn’t. All you heard was the fellow sing out “No Ken!” I wasn’t there but I knew all the chaps and they told me


Did you stay long in Tobruk?
No. No. We kept pushing on and pushing on because we were keen – there was a 72 mile walk. We didn’t walk all the way because we had transport following us but there was a 72


mile walk and they wore their boots out, the infantry in trying to keep up with the Italians to try and get the equipment. The closer they got the more equipment they left behind. When Derna fell – that was the next place – Derna fell very quickly and then there was 2 or 3 little places and of course after Derna there was an oasis at Derna and we had water. We didn’t have water before Derna.


We were able to stay back a bit. Mussolini had built tons of houses, concrete houses, through that area. 40 acre farms, productive farms. They were just getting into production, so we were back in life again. We were out of the desert and back into wheat – almost like the Gippsland area.


That almost went right into Benghazi. It did dry out as you got towards Benghazi and that was the next big town. Benghazi declared an open city and there was no fighting in Benghazi because they declared an open city.


Our tanks had raced round behind Benghazi to cut them off to try and stop them getting back to Tripoli. They were very, very successful and they cut off thousands of retreating Italians. We went quite a way past Benghazi. I don’t know, it was very hard to gauge in the desert but some people said


“200 miles past Benghazi.” We were keen to go on to Tripoli with the navy to give us support from the sea. We were going on to Tripoli and we were going to invade Italy and why they turned us back, I haven’t a clue but Churchill turned us back. So they sent in commanders who were sent


by Churchill to turn us back. We were in full flight and by that time we were a very vicious army. We had nothing but desert between us and Tripoli. We could have been [UNCLEAR] we felt with the navy in control and with the sea on that side and we could have gone on to Tripoli but oh no, they turned us back.
You say that you were in full flight and


you were a vicious army?
Yes. The army, the leaders and the combination of the men and the faith of the men in each other was just fantastic. It was. They were a fantastic army. I don’t know with comparable weapons, I don’t know of any army in the world that would have stopped them.


They were just magnificent. The infantry. It was the best in the world. We got a lot of praise for what we did but I think every infantry man should be given a decoration. They were just so good.


When the order was given to halt the advance and not go on to Tripoli, what did people – was it blamed against Churchill directly at that stage?
Well, as it transpired it was obviously his decision because we had to hand our – the 7th Division had started to move and we handed our gear


that we didn’t bring back from the desert. A lot of it we left with the 7th Division because we were very, very short of weapons and ammunition and that type of thing, so we didn’t bring anything back in that way with us. We handed it over to them and we were returned then from the desert in stages. In camps.


On the way back. I suppose we were 6 or 8 days getting back and we were brought back to Alexandria again and then we were fully re-kitted and reinforced. All brought up to strength again and then we knew why we were turned back because we got word they were going to send – they wanted an experienced force in Greece.


They kitted us up again. Got everything we wanted and we were full strength again.
So how long a respite did you have before you got sent to Greece?
Probably had a fortnight’s respite. To get our gear together and our kits and


reinforcements inducted.
Back in the fleshpots of Egypt?
(Laughs). We didn’t get much time. We didn’t get much leave into Alexandria at that time.
You said that you had some losses in the attack on Bardia. How many blokes had you lost


at this stage?
We lost in Bardia and that’s the only people we lost other than accidental deaths. We lost – 6 people killed in our company and 14 wounded. That’s in the first 3 days.
When you lose a mate in battle, what chance do you have to grieve or mourn?
Not much.


Not much because you’re travelling too. It was sad. A mate of mine, a chap got a whack in the leg with a piece of shrapnel. He pulled out his field dressing to dress it and he was hailed on, “Don’t stop, don’t stop. Leave him there” but there was good follow up with the medical people. Stretcher bearers and that type of thing.


These fellows helped but we weren’t allowed to stop. We were never allowed to stop in battle because you were under direct fire and if a fellow went down, so you just had to fight, keep going. But it was sad, quite sad. We lost our major and our 2 OC’s. He was a great major


and our 2 OC’s. We lost both of them. Our Sergeant, Bluey Brown was a great guy. He didn’t get killed but he almost got his leg ripped off by a piece of shrapnel. He had to be sent home.
Did some of those chaps who had been wounded


rejoin the unit when you went back to Alexandria?
There might have been 2 or 3 of the ones who had minor wounds. Some of them only had a cut in the arm with a piece of shrapnel or something of that nature and they certainly were back with us in no time but some of the chaps we never saw again if they had bad wounds. We never saw Bluey Brown again.


He tried and tried to re-enlist again after the sent him back to Haifa. He was successful. He got in again as a rear gunner in the air force.
Tell us now about Greece? How did you get across to Greece?
We went over in convoys and we were attacked as soon as we came into


range of the aircraft. They had bases in the north of Yugoslavia where they’d pushed in up there. They had a fair long running aircraft and they had to


to pick up convoys and they didn’t pick you up ‘til you got close to Greece. The amazing thing about it was that their intelligence was so good that they knew what was on every ship and their fighter planes would strafe the decks of the troop ships but their main aim was to sink the ships or appeared to be


to sink the ships that had the transports and that type of thing. They were very effective at that. We got over with no mishaps whatsoever but the convoy was attacked and we were struck by the fighter planes. It was only about a 2½ day trip.


When we got there, the harbour, it was blown to bits of course which made it very, very difficult because a couple of nights before they’d hit an ammunition ship in Piraeus. Piraeus was the harbour, and it sunk when it blew to bits, it sunk every other ship in close proximity to it. It killed 600 on the


land. 600 Greeks were killed that lived along the port. It damaged the port but there was still a jetty that we landed on. We got there in the evening when the air attacks had stopped. When we got there they parked us out by a little island. In the evening


they brought us in to the little jetty to unload. It was quite humorous in unloading it, but we didn’t see the humour of it until later. Coming down the other side of the wharf, we were going down one side and coming up the other side were the English soldiers. They were saying to us “You’re going the wrong way, Aussies. You’re going the wrong way.” Things were bad.


Well, we were starting to wake up that things were bad. Anyhow they came out on the same boats that we went in on. We went to a grove of olive trees about 10 miles out of Athens and we got our


equipment and we were marched then as A Company. Next day we were on our way and we were attacked. From about midday and all that day we came under quite a lot of air attack. We kept going. We stood outside towns and saw them blown to bits and smaller villages and that, attacked by dive bombers.


Bridges over rivers and that were attacked. It made it a bit difficult but we kept going and we thought that “There was 2 sections of our company that kept going,” and we thought “We were going to mine the roads up close to the Yugoslav border” but we didn’t get to the border. We got to a little town


not far south of the border and there was shocking attacks. There were so many Yugoslavians crossing the border, the roads were just flooded with people fleeing in front of this enemy attack. We had no hope if we had intended to put down mines, we’d have never put down mines because


we’d have trapped those people. We had a lot of luck there and it was a lot of luck. We struck 3 days of misty rain and we had 3 days relief from the bombers. That was really good. We were able to get our wits going again and there was communication coming through what was going to happen and


some of the Infantry Brigade. The 3 Brigades of the Division split up across the full width of Greece and they met the Germans head on. The Italians had not been doing so well in Albania, and the Albanians, but as soon as the Germans swept into Albania


they drove the Greek Force back out of Albania. They were helping the Albanians against the Italians and they had the horse drawn guns. They had very, very primitive equipment and they blocked the road something shocking. It was difficult to mechanise


transports of guns and that up and down the road. The infantry did a tremendous job because they inflicted quite a lot of casualties on the German and took quite a lot of German prisoners. We then started the withdrawal.


They said, “It was hopeless and we were to withdraw, a fighting withdrawal.” We all came together again. Some of the brigades looked like they’d been cut off because they were progressing further in some areas than others with huge equipment. They were just absolutely,


those fellows had not had a fight since Dunkirk and they just went really hard at that German army. So they brought them in. Each night or every second night a brigade would leap frog over another brigade and dig in like steam and we’d leap frog, leap frog by brigades


all the way down through Greece. It took about, from the drive back, it took us about 3½ weeks I think. When we got to Corinth Canal they took us back to Corinth Canal and I think, it’s very hard to establish because we didn’t know what was going on but they evacuated the 16th and 19th Brigades to Crete


and they’d left the 17th Brigade on their own and we were told “We had to fight the rear guard, the 17th Brigade” and they fought the rear guard and we came right down to the bottom end of Greece where we got off and we were told “We weren’t going to be evacuated.” That was a bit upsetting. We


didn’t know. We lost contact and there were troops still in their companies or in their platoons moving about. I suppose there were about, there were 2 sections of us, about 20 or 30 guys hid in a drain that had bush on both sides and we were in there for 2 days and the Greeks


in the houses close by used to bring us water and bread. That’s all we had to eat, water and bread. The Germans were gone then. Then a chap came in, where he came from, I don’t know but he said, “The navy’s going to evacuate you and if you come back to the beach, the navy’s going to


endeavour to take you off. I don’t know what the Head Officers knew, but they may have been more informed than what we were. They might have intended to evacuate us all along but if they’d have been a day later I’d have been gone because my mate and I had got a map of Greece and we were going to get out. We weren’t going to give up. We were going to go out


and try and go back right up the top of Greece and come back through Turkey to the Middle East. Quite a few chaps did that.
Interviewee: Henry New Archive ID 0192 Tape 06


Harry, can you tell us


a little bit more detail about the withdrawal from the north of Greece and what your role would be on a day to day basis?
In the withdrawal we had to get river crossings as best we could to get as much equipment back across the rivers as we could and to get the infantry back over with the most equipment that we could when the bridges were all blown. Most


of the bridges on the big rivers were blown and it was in a lot of ways a mishap because we laid the bridges with the explosives. Heavily load the bridges with explosives and we’d leave them ready to blow. Just ready to blow when the troops got over. The Germans would frequently put a


dive bomb attack on that bridge and even if they didn’t hit the bridge, if they got close or had a near miss they got sympathetic detonation and the explosive blew the bridge down, so a lot of the bridges or a number of the bridges had been blown by explosives that we’d set on the bridges to blow them at our time, not at their time.


Did this sometimes mean that the retreating Australian troops were left on the other side?
We always got the troops over. We’d make punts or boats and that could get light equipment across but when it came to artillery guns, trucks and that type of thing it was very difficult. It was just bad luck to have to leave them on the other side. They were never left on the other side.


There was nothing, to my knowledge there was nothing left that wasn’t destroyed. We put explosives down the barrels of the artillery and the trucks we’d drive an axe or a pick through the sump and let the engine run full flat out until it seized. We drove a pick through the tyres and did what damage we could to the truck and that applied, we had big ammunition


dumps and big petrol dumps and that type of thing. We had to load them up for demolition as the retreat went on. We destroyed a lot. We destroyed so much stuff, I don’t think they got any gain out of anything that we left behind.
These bridges that you were destroying, were they modern bridges or ancient bridges?


Over the big rivers they were fairly modern bridges for that time but over in some of the villages, there were very, very ancient bridges. We never, ever destroyed an ancient bridge because they were mainly small enough rivers to cross over. We never ever did. I’ve got photos of them there.


We didn’t destroy them.
Did you get a chance to look at Greece?
No. (Laughs). No. It was very difficult to notice the terrain we were in because we were hounded, absolutely we were a defending army. We never had any let up in the day time at all. We were so badly defeated and


so harassed by the air force that it became quite funny because the way we tried to beat the fighters – we were very cluey about the bombers because we got very jack of it really and they’d come over by the hundreds. They’d split and 30 would go in one direction and 30 would go in another and their fighters would go


with them. You’d watch them coming in and you’d see them lined up on us and we knew just how far to look back and if the bomb bays would open and we’d say, “Get out, they’re going to [UNCLEAR].” We became so accurate in anticipating the bomb, when the bomb left the bomb bay we knew whether it was going to fall short of us or fall over


the back of us. If it was coming for us, we’d hit the ground hard and we were very accurate because some of those bombs were close. Otherwise we never stopped, we just kept going. The bombs were not going to hit us, although I’ll tell you there was one plane that took us on. There were about 10 of us and we were walking


through an oat crop, green oat crop. I suppose it was about ½ a metre high and this fighter plane took us on. It was a Messerschmitt and it was the big Messerschmitt that had 2 engines and 8 machine guns across the front of him but he flew by and actually swooped at us. He missed us and he came back at us again because we were lying down and we must have been such an obvious target for him


and he lined up again and he dived at us as he came in at the right angle and the oats were just as though you’d put a reaper through it. His fire power was so heavy as he was coming for us. He made his dive and was running to the line but he got too low before he got to us. If he hadn’t pulled out


at about 20 feet short of us, he’d have killed every one of us. His fire power cut that oat crop just like a reaper. But he pulled out and we all had a laugh and said, “Goodbye.” We went on again. There was another time when 3 of us were on a pass only on a low side of a hill and a


recce [reconnaissance] plane came over and you knew the bombers weren’t far away and one of our chaps who was a hard case put his rifle up and went bang at him and he must have hit him because it annoyed him and he went into attack on us. Three people and he attacked us and we couldn’t believe it because we were getting a shot at him every time. The cutting in the road


was right at a corner. We only had to duck round the corner and the machine gun hit into the bank behind us. By the time he turned around again we were back round the corner on the other side. But that plane, he made about 5 passes on 3 people and that’s just how it was. Yes you could get a laugh about that.


As you pulled further southwards, you said that some of the – one of the brigades was isolated.
They were evacuated. Two of the brigades were evacuated.
In that retreat, were you aware that Australians were being taken prisoner?


There was not a lot of Australians taken prisoner in Greece. There were on Crete but that was some time afterwards because Crete wasn’t attacked until about a month afterwards. After Greece. So there wasn’t a lot of prisoners. We were so well led and guarded and even though we were being so soundly beaten, we still inflicted


damage to the German army. We were outnumbered easy 10 to 1. They had equipment that was unbelievable. We did think after we crossed the Corinth Canal that – when there was only one brigade of us left and we thought “We were in for a nasty


fight there” because the main aerodrome to Greece is just across the canal and he’d never dropped a bomb on that. Although he bombed all around it, he never bombed that airstrip.
He wanted to keep it?
He wanted to keep it and we heard, whether it’s right or not, you heard a lot of stories, “He was going to land paratroops


on Argos” and we were rushed back to Argos to protect the airstrip. We stayed there about 3 days at Argos and nothing happened. He hadn’t crossed at Corinth at this time and we stayed


there for 3 days and nothing happened so we – I suppose there’d be a thousand men there from different battalions and our company.
Were the bridges over the Corinth Canal blown up?
I believe they were blown up after we crossed. They were quite intact. I think us being the only Engineering


company there we’d have known and we didn’t know the causeway at all. We did as an Engineering Unit, twice we were sent back to blow things that had been missed and we were told to. It was an unfortunate thing for the Greeks. They were such nice


people to us and they treated us so well and to meet so many of them trying to keep out of the way and it was hard to blow your crossings until the very last minute because you were cutting them off also. So we’d be sent back and given a time limit when they estimated the Germans would get there and to blow say a bridge or a pass or a railway tunnel


and things like that and we were given a time to do it and to leave and told “If the Germans arrived before that time just to give up.” There’d be no disgrace in giving up to them because there’d only be 10 or 12 of us and we did that on about 2 or 3 different occasions but we got away on both occasions. One time I was in a party


and we went back to blow the passes round behind Delphi. We’d done the main pass, destroyed big bridges there and we thought “We were going on” and we were sent back. We travelled all night and we came to these passes


and we loaded them all up. We were told “To leave at 5 o’clock that night, not to stay.” They anticipated the Germans would come past at 5 o’clock and it was a strange evening that because 5 o’clock was a little bit before dusk and we blew the pass and we’d just blow the pass


and I suppose we’d gone about a quarter of an hour down the road and there were a few Australian Army service trucks going up and down the road picking up the infantry that had obviously been left to defend the place. That late at night we were attacked by bombers and that was unusual, so they knew we were there.


This chap I’d met up at school with and we’d been school mates. Never seen him since school. That bomb attack on us, the bombs were coming and we knew they were ours. We made a throw for a ditch just as another fellow did and he turned and looked at me and said, “Harry New?” I said, “Yes. Jack Ford?” He said, “Yes.” The bombs dropped and he gave me a whack in the shoulder and said, “If I get out, I’ll go and see your mother.”


“If you get out, will you go and see my mother?” I said, “I will Jack.” I never sighted Jack but he got off. I never sighted him back in Greece and that was the night, the evening in that bombing attack was when they dropped the leaflets right on us accusing us of being the Dunkirk Rats again on the run and asking


us to give up and asking the Greeks to stop us from getting out and that was at Levadi. There’s a little town called Levadi. Through that town that night we went through the town in our truck and there were Germans everywhere in the town. Drinking and hurrahing and that type of thing. We backed off and we drove around the town and we never accosted.


They were just having a tremendous party in town and we drove on and we picked our company up again and got out of that one all right. As a service unit, and with such a respect for the infantry, you’ll do anything once you see that infantry in action. They are just the greatest.


The greatest soldier and you’ll do anything to help them. It was your job.
You talk about the Germans trying to influence the Greeks. Some people talk about 5th Column elements in Greece. That there were German sympathisers in Greece and that


some of the Allied troops were betrayed if you like by Greeks. Did you witness any of this? Did you see anything like this?
No. I didn’t. Any Greeks, and the few that we had contact with, they were kind to us. There was obviously, and that happens in any country where they have people in well behind the lines


directing people. They could have been Germans or they could have been Greeks but they knew the flow of our troops all the time. They knew the flow of our troops, they knew the range of our artillery from where they were dug in. They knew that. They’d come right up to the range of our artillery and stop. Wait until they backed up extra weapons and whatnot and then move forward again. They absolutely


had it worked out.
What did you fear most at this time?
I guess the thing you fear most in an army. One fear you always had, I don’t know if many guys would tell you this but there was a fear in every man that he’d show fear to his mates and


it was the hardest thing to do because it wasn’t very comforting. You had to stand up there and you had to stand and hope you wouldn’t crack but that was just an individual fear. I guess the fear of being wounded and that your life would never be any good afterwards. It wasn’t the fear of being killed, it was the fear


of being absolutely maimed for the rest of your life. I think that possibly went for most guys.
What about the possibility of being taken prisoner?
With the Germans, we weren’t so – we didn’t want to be taken prisoner. If it had come to the time of being taken prisoner, we had a lot of faith in the German soldiers


and I think it was borne out by the ones who were taken prisoner. They had hard times. Some of the chaps who were taken prisoner had hard times only calculated against the time they were used to having. But the German soldier,


we had a tremendous respect for. To us, he was the closest soldier to the Australian. That was our thought, as far as a soldier, all we could say is, how he obeyed the Geneva Convention. That was shown very distinctly in one place, he caught us on the flat


between 2 hills and he caught the whole brigade in one of these step overs and he flogged us, I suppose for 2 or 3 hours. He held us down with bombers and you could look up in the sky at any time and see 50 or 60 bombers bombing you and 50 or 60 leaving and 50 or 60 arriving. All that time he pinned us down. A lot of us being wounded and


we were trying to get the wounded out to the road to get them medical and we had no ambulances. The ambulances had the red crosses on them and you never attacked an ambulance. We had no ambulances. We were just using ordinary trucks. Drive them in and lay these wounded fellows in and get them out to the roadway to get them into hospital and


patch them up and that. He could see those fighters that used to strafe us on the ground while bombers were bombing us. They would skip their plane right over that bus and yet they had no marks on them whatsoever. I didn’t take them but one of our chappies went with a truck load into the Leumeah Hospital.


We weren’t far out of Leumeah. He came back and he said it was just unreal. He said Leumeah was laid flat except for about 100 yards around the hospital. Not a bomb landed on the hospital. They weren’t attacked when they were taking a truck load of wounded people to the hospital. The German soldier,


we didn’t have a lot to do with but if you had prisoners to look after he was so much – he was a character. All he wanted to do was kid to you and be friends and then escape. It was so typical of Australians and he got a bad name after the war. The Germans got a bad name because of their treatment of the Jews but I’d be very, very surprised if any of those


German soldiers or their commanders had any knowledge of the slaughter of the Jews. Whether they knew it was going on I wouldn’t know but they weren’t that type of people. They just weren’t that type of people.
Another story we’ve heard about Greece


was that some Germans managed to get hold of Australian uniforms and tried to create confusion in the Australian ranks by impersonating Australian soldiers. Did you see anything of that?
We heard of that at one place we were at. That could have been but we weren’t


aware but we were directed in one place to go up a road that nearly ran us into tragedy where the Germans were and they claimed later that they could have been Germans in Australian uniforms. We didn’t have much time to talk. I looked at people and if they waved their arm to send us up a track, we went up the track. You didn’t query much. You never went back but that could have


occurred, that quite possibly could have occurred. I don’t think that would be outside the Geneva Convention as long as they didn’t kill the fellows, only directed them.
Right at the end, when you believed


you weren’t going to get off Greece, what was the morale like in the unit?
Still very good. Morale was good. The morale in our unit was very good. When looking for things that we could destroy. Trucks that hadn’t been destroyed and equipment that hadn’t been destroyed we just kept working


as best we could. We had nothing to work with. We had to leave the main roads to go inland to take cover but right up until then, we still played our part and still played our part as a unit. We were still a complete unit even though some chappies were being broken off into the 5’s and 6’s and sent to do certain jobs and never thought “They’d get back to the unit.”


I don’t know of any party that didn’t rejoin the unit looking for something else to do. The morale and there again the infantry – I can’t help talking about our infantry. They were just so good. They held, and they held, and they held right to the wharf. They held the Germans right until the end. I got off at about 2 o’clock in the morning.


The morale was still high at that time. If we’d had to have gone back and fought, we’d have gone back and fought. That was the feeling. Even though it was a hopeless state of affairs. I guess there was a hatred of defeat


in the whole show
Did your unit suffer casualties in Greece?
Not a lot. We had quite a few wounded, particularly by the strafing. Our major got shot in the back but he carried on and


we had, I’m not sure what the deaths were but they weren’t high. They didn’t reach 10, I’m sure. There were a few accidental deaths and there always are when you’re playing with explosives and that type of thing, particularly when you’re setting them on bridges and a bombing attack comes in and if you’re caught with explosives of course you get the sympathetic detonation from the bomb.


You don’t have to be hit by the bomb with explosives, you get that sympathetic detonation.
Did you witness that happening?
It didn’t happen – we would have been about 300 yards away on one bridge when it went when some of our chaps were doing it. There was one fellow killed there fore sure on that bridge but he wasn’t in our platoon. We hardly


knew what the other platoons were doing. We were working as a platoon at that time and we were hardly ever meeting up or seeing other platoons, so we didn’t know what was going on with them.
What was your health like at the end of that campaign? Had you had much chance to eat anything?
We hadn’t eaten anything for quite


some time. In fact the last 4 days we never slept for 4 days and 3 nights and that lasted until we took cover in the hills. We didn’t have any of our own rations because you had to carry so much ammunition, it was the prime thing you carried but the Greeks


gave us – they did give us water and bread and came to where we’d been taking cover and gave it to us. Obviously never dobbed us in. We were very appreciative of that. We were still a unit and that was the main thing. We were still a unit and we’d have still gone on if we’d had the chance. If we were asked to go back and fight, we’d have been in it.


You said that you and a mate made a decision if you couldn’t get off Greece, you’d stay and fight and work your way…?
We wouldn’t have fought. We’d have probably, which would have put us on the death list, we would have probably gone back into Greek clothing and tried to work our way up through Greece. Now if you go back into civilian clothing of course,


under the Geneva Convention, I think you can be shot. Not taken prisoner, just shot. We hadn’t got that far. (Laughs). We’d made our mind up next morning that we were going to leave and other chappies were talking about what they were going to do. It turned out that had we left


that morning like a number did out of other units, but they never got back to the Middle East because as soon as they got to the Turkish border they turned them over to the Greeks. The Turks turned on us. It was sad that they turned on our fellows like that because it was months after Greece when they reached the Turkish border.


The few fellows that got out were apparently aware of this happening and they got boats when they got up there and just came around the coast in little boats and got their way back into Palestine. A few of the chaps, none of our chaps.
Did you see any Australians surrendering?
No. Never. Never saw


an Australian surrender. Not in any part of my 6 years and 3 days did I see an Australian surrender. Never. He would have been despised by his own unit.


That’s a thing I really hadn’t thought a lot about. You never thought of it happening. It certainly wouldn’t have happened in our units or in the Infantry Units. I’d say that might be in Headquarters where they were caught in a situation they weren’t trained for. I don’t know. I wouldn’t say if they did.


Though you said you’d been given orders that if the situation was hopeless that you should surrender.
Yes, if you were overrun, it wasn’t really a surrender. It’s hard to say. It would be a surrender I suppose if you happened to be taken prisoner but you wouldn’t be saying “Here I am, I’m finished” but it would be sudden death and you’d fight if you were under


the – if you were being confronted by machine guns and that. If that was classed as a surrender then there were surrenders, yes but I don’t class that as a surrender. I class a surrender when a fellow has had enough and says “I’m going to give myself up.” I don’t believe that is the correct interpretation


but that would be my thinking on it.
Let me ask, then again, did you see, even from a distance, Australian Units being overrun?
Yes. The forward brigade was frequently overrun. They took prisoners. They took prisoners there but they had no escape.


They were in position. It was a retreat when you were in that front line you were trying to hold it while the other 2 brigades behind you were digging in to save you and that was the whole thing. The retreat was dig in, skip. One brigade behind the other digging in while the others were holding the line.


They did. We never got overrun. We always pulled out before it happened.
Before you mentioned a time when you were in a town that was full of German soldiers.
That was at night time. That was when we’d been sent back to blow a pass and we went back and blew the pass and we had a truck and


that was out on the Albanian side of Greece. Apparently they had got south of us and occupied the town. Obviously had thought “All the Australians had passed back through” but we were going and we could see in the main street of that village there was just a great party. You could see it, lights on and everything.


There was lights out when there were bombers but it was brilliantly lit up and you were aware that they were Germans partying and we went around the town and just kept going. Of course, no lights on the truck.
Did you know any ancient history? Any Greek history when you went to Greece?


Did you know anything about the country?
Oh yes, I knew something about it but not a great deal. Not a great deal but I knew the geography quite well of Greece. We had been taught that at school.
You mentioned that you were at Delphi at one time. People go to Delphi


today on a tourist pilgrimage to see where the Oracle – I mean did those sorts of things strike you as somehow ironic that you were….?
Well, as we passed their great monuments in Greece, their old historic monuments, it was just a wave as we went past. It was much the same at Delphi but Delphi was one of the places where we were sent back to


blow a railway tunnel, and the chappie that had worked on the Country Roads Board, and went with me and the 2 of us had picked up that unit at the Syrian Border in Palestine. He knew how to operate steam and


he used to hide the ammunition trucks in the tunnel and bring them out of a day time and get the ammunition out then push them back in the tunnels before the bombers came over. Stores and that were hidden on railway tracks


although the lines were blown outside there was enough line to get them out a bit to get your stores out. Anyhow Tom was running the party to get the steam train going. He got it going and he took it right back into the tunnel. That was a savage thing to do. We blew the whole train up in the tunnel. The destruction in Greece was


hard for the country to take. It was hard for the country to take. They were a great victim of that war. A lot of things destroyed and you felt for them. Coming from the desert where the war should be fought. Nothing but the soldiers but the civilians in Greece and their properties and houses and that and they suffered,


really suffered.
Interviewee: Henry New Archive ID 0192 Tape 07


Harry, I wanted to ask you


about the time you spent in the drain? When you hid in the drain for 2 days? I was intrigued by that. Can you tell us about that time in more detail?
Well, we scattered of course when what we thought was the end of the campaign and the whole lot of troops that were left took refuge


and there were hills right down and you didn’t have to go far back. They weren’t very high hills. There was good cover from the aircraft. They were trying to pick us up and were flying low and we felt they were trying to establish how many of us were left. We stayed there and that was the general opinion of everyone I talked to


“That they stayed there because they still thought we were going to get evacuated.” The dive bombers were going over and they had a very limited range and they were going over and they weren’t far out to sea obviously because they were coming back in a short period of time, so we knew the navy was still out there. That they were attacking the navy, so we knew that there was still help out there.


Actually that was the navy. They were so keen to get us off. They didn’t want to leave us. That was great. They got great pleasure in evacuating us.
How many of you hid in the drain?
I suppose it would be 12 or 14 of us.
Were you in there for 2 days and 2


Well, almost 2 days and 2 nights. We left there on the second night to return to – at 2 o’clock in the morning we were told “To be back at the jetty.”
So tell me about that?
Well, we left there and we went to jetty and there were quite an accumulation of troops at the jetty at Kalamata. It was a very short jetty.


The HMS Hero was close by and obviously must have been very close by or at the end of the jetty. I’m sure that I never took to the water. A lot of fellows had to take to the water to get off but I’m sure the Hero picked us up from that jetty. Now they


did have a cargo net down the side for you to climb up but I think they had other means of getting troops off too. I think they put down ramps. But I climbed up the cargo net and it was a great feeling to be on the side of a ship like that. It was a moment I’ll never forget when those 2 Tommies pulled me over the rail and in their broad


English language they said, “Have a mug of hot chocolate digger” and they jammed this mug of hot chocolate in my hand and we hadn’t had anything like it for so long. It was a moment that seemed quite strange but I remember that moment so well. They treated us to the best while we were on that, probably an hour on that ship. They treated us just so


Was it orderly on the jetty?
Yes. Soldiers had automatically made things ordered. It was so easy because they were so well trained. Everything was done orderly. There was no rushing or pushing or shoving, jumping for places and all that. You just form up and file on. Yes it was very orderly.
Was there more than one boat there


waiting for you?
No, there was only the Hero when we got off but obviously other boats were picking them up probably from the same jetty or other jetties. We didn’t realise that at the time but it was very evident the next morning.
Did the ship sail immediately you were all on board?
Yes, yes. It pulled out fast. Pulled out very fast because they didn’t -


the Germans were right there and while it was after midnight – it was 2 o’clock in the morning – whether they had any heavy equipment we didn’t know but the 5th Battalion, they fought them right to the jetty. They were on the jetty when they got off, the 2/5th, the Victorian Battalion. Stayed in action until they got off and they got off also as we heard later.


When you got on the Hero, were you being fired on at all?
No. No. We weren’t under fire at all. I think that’s probably thanks to the 5th Battalion. They’d formed a circle around those jetties and they were fighting and I guess some of the other Infantry Battalions were fighting also.
Was it the next morning that the 5th Battalion got off?
No, they got off the same night. They must have got off the same night


because when the Hero transferred us to the Dilwara, it was about a 10 or 12,000 ton ship. It was absolutely loaded with soldiers who had been off loaded and of course it was in everyone’s mind obviously as it transpired as the day went on to get as far


away from Greece as we could in darkness to try and get out of the range of the dive bombers. We hadn’t been on board the Dilwara only a very short time when the convoy took off. We didn’t know how many was in the convoy until light broke in the morning and there were 4 troop ships in the convoy and we had 13 destroyers and


battleships circling us trying to defend us all the time. They stuck with us and stuck close in and as soon as it was daylight an order came through the ship. Every machine gun and its crew up on deck and I wasn’t on a machine gun crew but I went up on deck and we established 103 machine guns


on the deck of the Dilwara and they did on most of the other troop ships. Now in the convoy and in charge of the convoy was the Phebes [HMS Phoebe] and that was a totally and completely anti-aircraft boat. A big boat and it had every type of anti-aircraft gun on board and that was soon, it came right across as the


dive bombers were there. The dive bombers came into attack immediately it was daylight and there was a little Greek boat that was in the convoy. That got sunk straight away. It didn’t have soldiers on. We heard later that it had some top Greek people on board. Obviously the Germans knew that and thought, “We’ll have them first.” It got sunk so that left the 3 of us


in the convoy. There was our boat and the City of London, the one that got sunk, the one the 7th Battalion was on and they came into attack. Why people have never featured and didn’t take a film of a dive


bomber attack, it was the most perfect symmetrical operation - you could see them come in probably groups of 35. They’d form this huge circle before they came into attack, then they formed a circle and they moved into the target. They’d dive out of that ring and drop their bombs in the dive and they’d pull back into that circle. They’d stay in that circle all the time, each one dropping a bomb as they went over


the target. The captain of our ship when we got out of aircraft distance, we didn’t get a bomb on deck. I wouldn’t be here if we’d got a bomb on deck. But we got bombs that you could have almost sworn you could have put your hand over the side and pushed them off. We poured 30 rounds out of 103 guns


at every dive bomber as he came into dive. We threw up this huge barrage of lead and at the same time the Phebes was into them and the other 12 warships, battleships and corvettes even were given them the blazes. But you’d see them coming down


into that hail of lead and they’d start to waiver and that would save us. If you could just make them waiver in that rain of lead that they were coming into. There were six of us filling – you didn’t have time to change the machine gunner, they were coming in so rapidly and there were six of us filling magazines and it kept the six of us full-time filling magazines and clamping it on for the next one coming in for the dive.


We’d used machine guns for a long time and that was the first time I’d seen a machine gun glowing red hot in the daylight. We poured so much lead skywards and there was so much attack on them. There were a lot of planes and I don’t know the quantity in those raids that morning and how many were shot down but several hit the water close at hand to our boat and spun over in the water.


They never pulled out of the dive but what the number was, I don’t know. It was a strange thing and it was a sad thing to me. We got out of range of the dive bombers and the Phebes was in charge and they run the white flag up. Now a white flag in a convoy signals all clear, so we sat around and relaxed and then all of a sudden


they run the yellow flag up and the yellow flag indicates aircraft in the area and they ripped it down and put the red flag up, that’s aircraft coming into attack. They put the red flag up and we couldn’t see any aircraft. They took the red flag down and put the white flag up. Just as they took it down, the aircraft came in. The level bombers came in and the long range bombers came in from the other direction


and they whacked bombs right over our boat. How they missed with those strings of bombs, I don’t know. It lifted our boat out of the water, a big boat, and turned it the other way. It loosened the rivets and water was coming in like steam but they hit the – what was its name? I know it well. The 7th Battalion was on it. They got a bomb that close that it burst the side of


their boat and it started to sink. But the City of London and the Dilwara both limped back too, listing quite a bit. The pumps were pumping the water quite okay. We got back to Alexandria but I’ve forgotten just now the name of the boat that was sunk but all troops were taken off it. One of the Australian destroyers whipped in alongside


and although it was listing badly they were able to hold it and get all the troops off and sadly the 7th Battalion was on there and they were taken to Crete. No weapons, nothing and put on Crete and we came back to…
How long did the bombardment last?
The first bombardments,


I suppose lasted for 3 hours until we were out of reach of the dive bombers and we only had that one attack that came in from the other side and they were out of range of course of our machine guns but the navy could have given them the dickens if they’d seen them coming in but they flew in and out I think almost


without a shot being fired. It was just a tremendous manoeuvre that they’d done because they picked them up and then they lost them again and there was no-one alerted to it.
The impact of the bombs near your ship lifted it out of the water?
Oh yes, they would go up out of the water. They were big bombs. Lifted it up with the


rudder and everything was right out of the water. The roar was when you were lifting a screw out of the water and she roars like steam and didn’t come high enough out of the water for the screw to come out and roar before it plunged back down into the water. The Phebes were then 3 miles out of convoy because they were broad siding and they were skipping sideways through the water and it was quite a sight to see


for those fellows who were up on deck. When we had time to have a look at what was going on because they were broad siding and they were skipping sideways in the water out of the convoy and they had to keep steaming back but they kept firing all the time. They did a marvellous job. Absolutely marvellous but so did the machine guns on the deck. We’d have all been wiped out if they’d got a machine gun on deck but they never got a bomb on deck.


There was some conversation when we got out. There was a merchant ship and one of the chaps came down and he said, “I’ve been under water 7 times and I thought this was going to be the 8th” (Laughing). That’s a tremendous record, isn’t it? To be on a merchant ship and have 7 go down under you, and he said, “I thought this was going to be the 8th.” We were a bit luckier.


How long did it take for you to get to Alexandria?
Very slow, very slow after we got damage under the boat. It took us 2½ days I guess. 2½ days to get back and I’m only guessing.
Were there any casualties?
Not on our boat. It would have been shocking. Where you could say 7 to a gun and 100 guns


and there would have been 700 wiped out if they’d got the bombs on deck.
What was morale like?
Good. Excellent. The morale was just absolutely so good. People don’t realise the training you get and you’re so young and you’re so fit


that nothing upsets you like it would in civilian life. So trained to do your job and we were so well trained. We were so well commanded and we had so much confidence in the people who were commanding us. It was unreal in Greece that when the corporals wanted us [UNCLEAR] actions that I knew well


and he was a Western Australian and he still had his haversack when we were retreating, and we’d been down by Corinth at that time and he said, “You wouldn’t believe what happened today,” and I said, “What happened today, Joe?” He said, “I’m standing there thinking things were quiet and we could have something to eat”


and he says, “Along comes Tom Blamey and Stan Savige. Stan Savige shot through the hand and bleeding.” It would seem that Tom was wandering alongside, and he said to him, “Digger, you wouldn’t have anything to eat?” He said, “I can give you the choice. You can have a tin of meat and vegetable or you can have a tin of bully,” and Tom said, “Give me the bully.” You know, when you’ve got people


in command like that, it’s tremendous. They stuck. They stuck right in with the troops.
What was your feeling about the Greek campaign?
I didn’t realise that we had misgivings about it in 2 ways. The British came off and we went in and when it must have been known to someone


that we were sent there possibly never to get off. That irked us a bit and then when the 50 year embargo on things came out and that it was stated by Churchill “That the 6th Division was sent to Greece because they’d had a victory and were now expendable,” so we were sent there as an expendable force


and that didn’t please any of our blokes. Not one bit.
What happened when you arrived at Alexandria?
Well, that was a day to remember because we got off that boat and the canteen and lined up alongside the wharf. Eats and eats and eats and beer and beer and beer! (Laughs). Stacks of it. Just take it as


you went by and it was great. It was a great relief. We were able to cluster up and talk and laugh and that sort of thing. It was good. Good to be on land.
How long were you there?
How long in Greece?
In Alexandria?
We shipped out that night. We shipped back to Palestine that night on the train. They had trains


waiting. We went back to Palestine to a camp called Hill 69. Every time we went for a rest, we always went back to Palestine.
So you knew you were going back for a rest and how long were you able to rest at Camp 69?
Well, that would have been May and we


went up to Syria I suppose in about August/September. About 4 or 5 months. We had nothing. We had to completely re-equip. We had to take on reinforcements and they had to be trained into the units. The 7th Battalion had returned in the meantime with 27 men after Crete. They fought and fought again and that was -


it was interesting because I’ve got the 2/7th Battalion history in there and they named the book The Fiery Phoenix. That was the second time they rose from the ashes and reformed again that battalion. From the men who had got wounded or sick and hadn’t gone to Greece. They made up the battalion and got on with it again. A great battalion.


But everybody had to build up something. We had to get transport. All our transport, all our heavy equipment had gone. We had to get completely re-equipped. So that was all done. We had about 10 days to a fortnight’s leave just to do our own thing on the Mediterranean at a place called El Dura. We just slept on the beach


and played around. Played games and got it out of our system.
You said you had reinforcements, new blokes coming in. Where had they come from?
Well, there was a reinforcement depot in Palestine that was established and by that time there was 3 divisions. There was 6th, 7th and 9th Division and


this reinforcement depot used to supply the reinforcements as required into the different divisions. There were plenty of men who were in the reinforcement depot. Fed through to wherever they were required in the other units. Good men. Some tremendous reinforcements.
What did you know of the bigger picture of the war at this


We didn’t, at that time, things were so grim. Everything had turned against us. We knew that. He had attacked us in Greece and driven us out but Russia wasn’t in the war and we didn’t know. We didn’t know which way Russia was going to turn.


Probably the high people did but we didn’t. We had very little knowledge. Going on, we wondered what our next push would be. We were equipping and equipping fast. We knew that we’d be pushed back into action again. Anyhow the 7th Division had returned from the desert. They got chased right


back from Benghazi right back to 40 miles out of Alexandria. They were re-equipping and they were assigned the Syrian job. We were assigned as reserve to the 7th Division for Syria and never used. We just followed in. I didn’t see any action. That was our next move, up into Syria.


Did you ever consider at this time that we might lose the war?
Yes. A lot of the English fellows did too. The English troops were so upset. More so than us because our people at that time were quite safe. But the English people. The look on some of those fellows’ faces when we’d be in a town on leave and they’d hear on the news service


and hear “That the towns that some of them had come from were so wrecked by bombing” because that was when he was really trying to crack England. It was hard to see where we could go. America was supplying so much stores but hadn’t come into the war and Germany, they’d run riot, absolutely riot


through Europe. Yes, we did wonder.
You went, you followed the 7th up to Syria. What was the aim of that? Why were you being sent up to Syria?
At that time, Germany had attacked Russia and Russia was


brought into the war. The Germans, apart from Leningrad and Stalingrad they were walking through Russia. They were getting very close to Moscow and if they had reached Moscow because they had Turkey on their side and they’d have come down through Turkey and they would have swiped the whole oil belt in the Middle East. That’s what they wanted of course. Every nation wanted those oil fields.


Then we would have lost the war, there’s no two ways about it. Everyone agrees and anybody who writes about war writes that. If it hadn’t been for that huge snowfall. And we were putting it up on the Turkish border. Back from the Turkish border, we were digging defences and making roads and crossings, so we could get an army through. Whole divisions were working with thousands and thousands of


the natives on building defences not far back from the Turkish border. All of a sudden we became absolutely snowed in. It was a tremendous snowfall. It was higher than the camps that we had. We thought that “This was terrible” but then when we heard that it had turned the Germans back


we were quite happy about that and that saved it. That snowfall saved the Middle East, I’ll still bet to this day. The Germans had bypassed Leningrad and Stalingrad and they were still progressing at a rate of knots. Whether they would have taken Moscow, I don’t know but they were very, very close to it. They had nothing once they got past there. They had nothing to the Turkish border. They’d have been through,


absolutely through and that would have been [UNCLEAR].
You said you were working with the natives and digging in. Was that the Syrians?
How did you – what was their attitude?
Any of those natives that had – all they wanted, they were in such a state of poverty


if they could get a job and get a small wage a day, they’d work for you and they’d work well for you. We had thousands of them. I can show you photos of them. I had 200 myself working for me, making the road and they worked well. They didn’t work with other people but on this road I had a stone crusher and I had to put this road through and I had about 4 of my


chaps there with me. I was the NCO in charge. We formed these huge lines of Syrian workers from the stone crusher and they used to pass the stones out of the desert along and feed the stone crusher. That’s all they did all day. Great long legs passing stones along until it reached the stone crusher and they just moved as a wave


right around the stone crusher and completely cleared that area of rocks and metal for the roads. That’s the way they worked. That’s how they did all their work. It was in such a primitive state but so effective with the thousands there were of them.
Where were you building the road from and to?
Well, they set up a defence plan which I never saw.


Our section was up from Baalbek. It was quite a way back from the Turkish border where we were because they thought it was a bit of a defensive area. How far back I’m not sure. We were only doing one section. Other people were doing sections all over.


So you were building a road so troops could get up to…?
So you could get stores, guns and transport and things like that up, so we could form a defensive line that we would have had a supply line to because no defence line is any good unless you’ve got a supply line too.
How did you set about building a road?


Well, we only had to build a road that you knew the type of transport that you had which was mainly 4 wheel drive and you didn’t have to build a road like you’d normally build in a place. It was a case of they’d crawl along a road as long as they had a sound surface. It didn’t matter if it went down through gulches and up the other side


and that type of thing. You didn’t really build a road as we know a road. It was just a road of rocks and crushed rocks when we had a crusher but mainly rocks to get the transports over.
Was this out in the bush or desert?
Out in the desert. Yes. It’s all desert up there. So much of Syria is desert. Just plain desert. Why they fought


to save it, I don’t know. (Laughs) That was another thing with the 7th Division because they were told or so the privates or fellows who did the fighting said. They were told “They only had to go up to the border and form up and march in and they’d throw their hands up. It was all arranged that there wouldn’t be any defence.” This was their thinking but by


jingoes, vicious defence, they fought like steam. They had a fight on their hands. They lost a lot of people, 7th Div up there. It was a dream place for defence because it was so rocky, and the shells and the mortar shells and that, whereas in softer ground they’ll sink a little bit.


Shrapnel will start to rise because it comes out. But on the rocks it just daisy cuts all the time and this was playing the dickens with them. Every shell was creating a daisy cut. Shrapnel wasn’t going up at all, it was just fanning straight out. They had quite a fight up there. We followed on after them and we could see their spots of trouble.
Did you have surveyors


working with you?
We used to do our own surveying. We did our own surveying and we did our own lines by putting a tracer bullet in a rifle and firing it over a hill. The blokes would say “That’s where the road’s coming” and they’d start on that side. That was our surveyor if there was a rise in the ground. Very effective. They’d say “Watch for the tracer bullet.” Then whack! Over they’d go


and they’d pick up the line on that and that was it. It was good. It was effective.
How did you recruit the Syrians to work for you out in the desert?
We employed them and could hire by giving them the disc, the same as with the Egyptians. There was truckloads and truckloads of them. Picked up mainly


by Australian transport that were brought to the job. They must have had someone in the organisation up top that were capable of hiring. Must have been somebody up there who could do something correct.
So after you had built your roads, up near the border, what happened next?


Well, we were snowed in there for about a fortnight and then we heard the Germans were turned back. Huge armies were taken prisoner of war and the threat to the Middle East again was over and then the Japs came into the war and we got that word very quickly. Japan’s in the war. They came in December, I think that’s right and


the Russians had turned the Germans back and the Americans immediately came into the war then and we thought “Oh, we’re right. The Russians have turned the Germans back and the Americans are in the war. We’re back in the fight.” That was a general feeling. We were at that time back in the fight. Anyhow, that was in December. I think it was about the 7th December when America


came into the war.
Do you remember Christmas?
We had Christmas in the snow (laughs). We had Christmas in the snow and it was very – it must have been only a few days after Christmas that we got word that “They’re going to race


the brigade south. Form up and you’ll be notified.” The units and our company was one of the units and they formed a brigade out of the battalions and the picked a brigade from the battalions that had suffered the least problems


and the most experienced people and that brigade, we headed down to the Suez in trucks as fast as we could go and we got to Suez and the canal was blocked. I never told you the story about the canal. The story about the canal was quite an important part of the war,


so I’ll tell you about it now, can I?
Interviewee: Henry New Archive ID 0192 Tape 08


Tell me about the Suez Canal, Harry?
A lot of people didn’t realise just how important that canal was.


The canal was the lifeline of the Middle East because any boats coming in through Gibraltar had to pass so much hostility and they had that narrow neck of land to come past Malta and the tip of Italy. They were under dive bomb attack all the daylight hours and so there was very little transport came through there to maintain


the forces in the Middle East, so Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa had to swing in, in full board to supply the Middle East. The Germans knew this was happening and they had the Middle East cut off from the Suez end, they decided they wanted to cut it off from Suez Canal end and they very successfully


and so cleverly did it. At that time the Suez was nowhere near as big. It was only a 100 feet wide and it was only 28 feet deep. It was such a strip of water, I think about 100 miles long. They could fly down that on a moonlit night and drop mines in the Suez Canal and every day in the Suez at that time, there’d be 20 boats,


merchant ships in convoy would come up from Suez to Port Said or else go down from Port Said to Suez because that was a day’s sailing in itself. They set about and they dropped these mines in. They didn’t give them any worries because they had the mine sweepers, tons of them there and they used to just sweep the mines and then bring the convoys


up and they were achieving what they set out to achieve. Then the Germans were quite aware that that wasn’t successful. Then with the depth of the Suez they found they could drop magnetic bombs in the Suez, which the mine sweepers couldn’t detect. As a boat passed over them, they’d explode


with the magnetic field. It blocked the canal but the boats were not lost because they settled on the ground and frequently they could still operate their cranes and they used to rush barges down and block off the part that had the hole in and get the boat but it took weeks. They were getting the stores and that


disappointed the Germans again. So they invented a timing device on the magnetic bomb and you never knew how many boats could pass over and often 10, 11 boats would get over one mine and then it’d explode and half the convoy facing one way and half the convoy


behind them that couldn’t turn around. They knew there were other mines and they absolutely blocked the canal because they had all different settings on their bombs and the boats that were out in front still could run into a mine that would take them out. Anyhow, when we came back the Suez was completely -


they gave it away. There was no road leading from Suez down to Cairo and there was only a very bad track from Ishmalia to Suez. They had to barge the stuff up past these sunken ships in barges and that was a very slow process. That worried people in the Middle East. I knew because we had the bomb disposal squads in our unit


and we got all the information about this because I was involved in this. When they dropped the one that only went off the first boat that went over it, being in the water, we weren’t allowed to touch it because it was a navy problem and the navy were very jealous if we entered in on anything they had to do.


They used to have on their boats a very small sea plane to fly them off the boats but they couldn’t put them back on again. They had to land if they went out on reconnaissance or anything they used to land. They were tiny little planes and they got these tiny little planes and they put a magnetic ring around it. The cockpit was about the centre


of the circle of the magnetic ring, well out the front, past the propeller and the back of the magnetic ring was out past the tail of the plane. The Germans thought that first bomb was going to do it but it didn’t. The navy overcame it by flying a magnetic field low along the canal and it exploded all the bombs, so they


had him beaten. That’s why he introduced the ones that had such a delay, up to 17 or 18 boats would pass over a bomb and then it would go off. That closed the canal. There were boats sunk in the canal everywhere. When we came back the canal was completely closed. We crossed again at El Kantara and they drove us down the canal and we walked to


Suez - about the last 3 miles with our packs on our backs. We walked to Suez to catch a boat.
Which boat did you catch?
There were so many rumours and we didn’t know. They said, “They’re rushing you to Singapore.” That the Japs have attacked Singapore and they’re racing this brigade to Singapore


and before we got on the boats, Singapore fell. Then they said, “You’re going to Surabaya.” They told us that. “You’re going to Surabaya.” So the convoy got formed up quickly and headed for Surabaya. We were on a little 9,000 toner, a boat by the name of Ettrick I was on


with our company. Several battalions crowded on that boat. We were going to make a run to Surabaya to try and hold the Japs back there. We’d been out 2 days and going down the Red Sea, we got up one morning and had a look out and we were the only boat. We were going back the other way. We couldn’t believe it. What was wrong?


You always had the life boats hanging over in the davits ready to drop straight away if we were hit. We climbed in the lifeboats and had a look at the covers and we were definitely going back the wrong way. Then word was passed around that “The convoy had to speed up and we couldn’t keep speed with them,” so they turned us back and the rest of the convoy continued on to Java and when


they got to Java, of course a sad story, the Japs were there and they had no fuel to return, so they had to sail in and give themselves up. That’s where all those troops, that whole brigade gave themselves up. A Java picked brigade and Weary Dunlop, he was in charge of our camp clearing station, Weary was at that time.


Weary was on one of the other boats with his camp clearing station and of course Weary, we’d heard so much about, Pioneers and Machine Gun Battalions, all dumped in Java, in the hands of the Japs.
What happened to the Ettrick?
Well, we went back to a little port called Tewfik and we stayed there for a week and then it was all on board again


and we got on board and we went one boat out and they put the big balloon up, which they did when boats were one out. Like the London balloons that they used to put up to keep the bombs up. They had it on a winch and they used to fire above us with the dangling chains to keep the bombers off us and we went on out and we went to Colombo.


We took on fuel. We weren’t allowed – I don’t know if we went to Bombay or Colombo first but anyhow it didn’t matter. We headed off again after 2 days. They took on stores, water and fuel. We had a look at the covers and we were going east again. We couldn’t believe it. I think we


went east for 4 days. We must have hit the South African coast. It was just at the time when the Japs had sunk the [HMS] Prince of Wales, the English boat and here was our little boat bobbing along out there on the sea. We weren’t allowed to remove our life jackets or our emergency rations. We had to have them hung


on our shoulder at all times. All life boats were lowered almost to the water and all the rafts were set loose. They just had to be pushed overboard. Half slept and the other half was on the rail all day. Shoulder to shoulder we stood on the rail of that boat, glaring out to sea and you had to report,


even if a fish came up out of the water you had to report it. Every 10 had field glasses and they were passed round to us and then you’d pass them on. There was one with field glasses and then say 9 or 10 without field glasses, looking, looking, looking. Any dappling or anything out of the ordinary had to be reported immediately and we went back.


We were wondering when we were going to hit Africa and then we turned south, dead south. We sailed south. We were 3 weeks on the water from Colombo and we sailed south then for a week. Then all of a sudden we turned east and we thought “Ahh Australia. We’re going home.” You know, and we sailed away


We didn’t realise at the time but we knew we were getting close to land because the birds start to come on ship so you know you’re getting close to land. The birds started to come on ship and by jingoes we’re getting close to land. Then the American navy picked us up and took us into Fremantle after 4 days. That was a real hot spot. We didn’t realise at the time but that was a very hot spot at the time.


So we sailed into Fremantle. Back in Aussie. That was our trip home. We absolutely didn’t know. We didn’t know what was going on.
During that time when you didn’t know what was going on, what were your thoughts about Australia?
Well we didn’t know. We hadn’t had any mail for 3 months. Closing the Suez Canal alone was a cut off from mail and food parcels and that


type of thing. We had no news of what was going on in Australia. Hearing that Australia was likely to come under attack but where that news originated we didn’t know. We had a lot of faith in the Americans being in the war. We didn’t know the extent of the damage at Pearl Harbour. We had been told that “That brought the Americans into the war and that they were attacked at Pearl Harbour.”


So the Americans escorted you into Fremantle. Did you disembark at Fremantle?
Yes. We disembarked for a day while we took on stores and water and oil on the boat. Then we were convoyed right around the tip of Western Australia to about Albany and we were let


loose again on our own through the Bight. We came through the Bight on our own and we pulled into Adelaide and they had no preparation for us. We were billeted out. The whole convoy was billeted out. They were tremendously good to us in the civilian homes.


It was such an arrangement. The army – there may have been a reason for doing it – there may not have been. We could never understand it. The troops were on one boat and the equipment was on another boat. It was so regularly the case. We got to Adelaide and we had no transport and we had no equipment. We waited there about a fortnight in these billets to wait


for a boat to arrive with our transport and they told us we were going to Darwin. Darwin was under siege. We wanted leave back to the east. We’d been away a bit over 2 years. They condescended with 7 days’ leave. We got 7 days’ leave while we were waiting for the transport. Went back home to Melbourne and we went back to Adelaide,


then we formed up as a brigade again and went north to Darwin.
Tell me about Australia when you came back? What was it like here?
What impressed me and impressed us all the time we were away were the parcels and the communications and letters. The patriotism within Australia was absolutely fantastic and in Adelaide


where they’d never had troops camped, what those Adelaide people did for us was unbelievable. They spoilt us rotten. They were just tremendous. They were so patriotic and felt so much for us and we were pretty humble sort of chaps and it was just a little bit overcoming. We didn’t consider ourselves heroes.


They thought we were.
Tell me about your family, when you finally got back to Melbourne?
The first letter I opened of course when I got back was from a woman that was a very, I’d never had correspondence from her before and she told me “My Mum was dead.” That was upsetting.


It took the edge of it.
It must have been very difficult to come back?
It was.
So you spent some time in Melbourne and then when did you reform with your…?
We had 7 days in Melbourne


and then we went straight back to Adelaide. From the 7 days that was the first time we’d been in Melbourne for over 2 years and the 7 days went very quickly as you can imagine. You had to see so many relatives. Very mixed feelings coming back to Melbourne. It was because there was a feeling that


I thought “Australia would ever go through that.” We found Australia had 2 armies and it was difficult, it was strange to think that a country the size of Australia couldn’t have had one army. They had 2 armies: they had the Second AIF and they had the militia army.


The Second AIF were pleased to do anything that they could put them to do and there were so many restrictions on what the other army, even though Australia was in danger. That bewildered us and the amount of troops that were still in Melbourne and base camps around Melbourne and that just absolutely shattered us.


I don’t know and we didn’t know what was really going on. There was so much resentment about sending our troops overseas and that type of thing. And we went back to Adelaide and went up to Darwin. We got badly treated in Melbourne. They didn’t -


there was a nasty fights.
Who were the fights between?
Mainly between the authorities back here and our troops. We maybe expected too much when we came back but we had 7 days and we knew the rules of the army that you had to dress and you were supposed to be dressed that way. We would take our boots off


and put on a pair of shoes when we went on leave. We’d put on a khaki shirt and a khaki tie and open our uniform top and you made reasonable uniform out of our battle dress. We’d go into Melbourne and it wasn’t permitted. We were sent off the streets. The authorities that were running the thing, we were not regimentally dressed.


We felt that we were resented coming back here. A lot of trouble started between the 2 people. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t good at all. I saw things happen that I never thought would happen. We had to go back to Watsonia Camp, to go back to Adelaide


on the train and we back there and the RTO [Rail Transit Officer] said to us, and marshalled us and of course a lot had had quite a few drinks because they were going back on the train. They marshalled us. He started to call a roll. We said, “You don’t need to call a roll here.” Heaps of guys said, “Don’t worry about calling


the roll. We’re all here.” He would persist in calling the roll and chaps wouldn’t answer. They stood over us until it got to a stage every time the fellow called a name, we had live ammunition and the bloke would fire a rifle. Can you imagine that? At Watsonia Station? Things were starting to get grim. Every name that was called, a shot was fired. They eventually gave us away and we got on the train


and went back to Adelaide. We weren’t happy and we were less happy and I don’t want to raise this too much again but it was a very disappointing thing to the AIF. We went back up into the Northern Territory and there was nothing. Everyone bar a few had cleared out. We were put on 2 shifts.


The whole brigade was on 2 shifts. Digging, making defence lines, roads and river crossings and ammunition dumps and food dumps and water points. We worked 2 shifts. We would start work at 4 o’clock in the morning and the other shift took the machinery over and they worked from 12.00 to 8.00 at night and that went on all the time we were in the Northern Territory.


South of Katherine was a huge force of chaps that could not go north of Katherine but we worked our gut out digging trenches and we could have had another 10,000 people. The defences were never used but they could have been used if it hadn’t been for the Coral Sea Battle, they would have been used.
So the men who were, the 10,000


men south of Katherine, were militia is that right? And that’s why they couldn’t be moved to Darwin?
Well, as we understood it, there was some militia that could be conscripted to fight for Australia on any Australian soil. There seemed to be these forces that didn’t come under that. A lot of those conscripted, the militia units that were conscripted turned over to the AIF and were very good battalions.


But there seemed to be an outlying force there that we didn’t know much about. They couldn’t fight in a war zone. Any Australian, any.
What were the conditions like in Darwin?
Very bad for food. Very bad. We had no lights. The road from Alice Springs to Darwin was


under construction. They were trying to get it constructed because the railway went as far as Alice Springs and the railway ran from Townsville to Mt. Isa and their first job was of course establishing aerodromes and airstrips. There were heaps and heaps of those and all the transport was bringing in priority,


which was fuel for the planes and bombs and ammunition and guns. That was mainly what was being carted. They had to take it all to Mt. Isa and put it on transport. If you’ve ever travelled it’s still the same road. The Americans put that in such a hurry they didn’t grade the roads out through the rises at all. It’s just up and down, up and down as they did it but they were very effective.


They brought through a huge amount and then the Australians put convoys up from Alice Springs as that road became where they could get transports on it and food supplies did. We did have Vestys, of course we camped in Vestys at Darwin. The big meatworks there for a while. There was frozen beef in Vestys.


There was other cattle roaming so we had access to free beef. Fish was very plentiful. Some of the Chinese in the far out areas we’d come to on a river had gardens and they supplied us with green vegetables and all in all we survived pretty well but it was


pretty lean for food.
How long were you in Darwin, Harry?
We were in Darwin from say April in ’42 until after the Coral Sea Battle which was, I think about 8 or 9 months but as soon as the Coral Sea Battle was over they brought us back


because the danger was taken off Darwin at that time.
Were you living under canvas in Darwin?
When we were right in Darwin, we lived in the deserted houses and then when the bombing got a bit heavier, we shifted out into gullies which were safer and put up tents and that type of thing right in Darwin when we were doing the fences


but we worked our way right over the top there, establishing crossings back about 40 mile. There was very good thought put into the defence of Darwin because right around Darwin itself, facing out, the northern part we trenched it all the way with weapon pits and trenches and tunnels under buildings and that, so we had a


continuous defensive post all the way round that. Then we dropped back about 40 miles and we put in the food dumps and the petrol dumps, made roads into them and put causeways over rivers to keep the fresh water back to establish water ports. That’s the type of thing we were doing. We


were a bit concerned that they were going to let them land and we’d be 40 mile back but the amount of troops we had up there we could never have manned a perimeter, whereas if they’d landed they’d have been in a concentrated area and they would have concentrated the defence on them. There was a, another reason was that most of those northern rivers are tidal for about


40 miles and there’s no fresh water and so that he wouldn’t have been able to have survived. He’d have had to either quickly get out or push back to where the fresh water was and that turned out that it would have been a very good defence because we would have beaten them.
Were there many civilians still in Darwin?
There was none. None in Darwin at all.


We had a strange experience. There was about 10 of us, I suppose doing a particular, finding tracks through the ranges. They were only very light ranges but they were quite [UNCLEAR] tracks across the north, there we came to a corrugated shack and we called into it, right out in that isolation


and there was a chappie in it and 3 Lubras. He spoke English and he was a white fellow but he’d been so long in the outback there and quite a story came out of it. He was a New Zealander and years, and years and years ago he’d come to Australia and he went on the mines in the Northern Territory


and then he went bush and he got these 3 Lubras and he used to shoot the kangaroos and that for them and they used to go out and every fresh water in the streams they’d go out and speck gold for him. That chappie had nuggets of gold that he’d hammered into shape, as big as your fingers


and that type if thing. We worked that area for quite some time, a week or more and it was quite good because we called him “Maori Jack” and he wanted to know how the war was going. He’d seen the planes coming in and going out and all this type of thing. He thought “There was a war on.” We said to him, one of the boys said to him


“Jack, what do you do with your gold?” He said, “Oh, about every 5 or 6 yeas I go into the big smoke and I splash it all up then I come back here.” He said, “No relatives, no relatives.” We said, “Where’s the big smoke, is it Brisbane or Melbourne or Sydney?” “Oh no,” he said, “Katherine.” (Laughs). Katherine had a pub and a store


at that time but that was the big smoke to Jack. He was very good to us because the natives were still in the tribes up there and the tribes used to have their meetings around there and try and coax those 3 Lubras away from him. We saw a lot of people, lots with


the native tribes that when they mate they have this corroborree and we saw a native corroborree there and he was able to tell us that “The natives would meet there and have a corroborree and it was quite an education.” Unbelievable. To see the natives in the wild having a corroborree.
Tell me about the bombing of Darwin?
There were 47


raids on Darwin and the whereabouts when we were up there. There was some very severe raids on the aerodromes that we formed. A lot of the raids we didn’t see because they were out over Wyndham and sometimes they’d go round Darwin to go into the aerodromes but there was 47 and I’ve got


them all listed, the planes out there that were shot down because I got it from Darwin. There were some heavy raids on Darwin or they passed over Darwin while we were there. The American planes had no hope against them. Their fighters couldn’t compare with the Zeros. It got to the stage that they never took to the air against them. They used to let them come in and land and possibly


out of sight of us they may have attacked the bombers but if the Zeros were with them they gave the Kittyhawks the dickens. They really did and any of the heavier fighters, the Zeros were tremendous. Then they brought 3 squadrons of Spitfires out and they put them on a strip about 35 miles south


of Darwin and we said, “Hurrah, rah, rah” because we’d seen how good the Spitfires were. There was nothing that could touch them in the Middle East. We thought “Bring over your bombers now.” One Sunday morning 22 bombers came in V formation and were flying very low and you could hear the Spitfires. They were right up. They had a ceiling of 33,000. They were up higher and the


the Zeros didn’t have that. Anyhow we heard the Spitties [Spitfires] rising. They had them back that far so they could climb. By the time they got to Darwin we thought “It would be on” and the dogfights started and you could just see them fighting and then a plane would come hurling down and we’d cheer, “Have a look – a Spitfire.” They shot down 15 Spitfires.


They said, “They got 5 Zeros in that fight” but out of those 3 Squadrons, we lost 15 of our Spitties in our first fight. It wasn’t very encouraging but later they came in with a big raid again with the Zeros with them and I believe, we didn’t see that,


we believe the Spitfires cleaned them up because they hadn’t had the opportunity of getting their techniques apparently. They were like a little blowfly. They were as wide as they were long. They could somersault or they could flip back over. They could drop a wing and drop straight down in a second. They were so manoeuvrable. We were glad to hear the Spitfires got on top of them although we didn’t see it but they


must have done because they cut the bombing raids off.
So you were in Darwin for about 9 months?
Yes, Darwin and down as far as Pine Creek. Adelaide River.
When you were pulled out of there, where did they send you?
We came back to Adelaide and we went straight up to the [Atherton] Tablelands to do training and


when we did come back we got 28 days’ leave. That was our first real leave. Back in Melbourne and we yes, we had the 28 days’ leave and then we went back up on the Tablelands. Did our jungle training because the rest of our division had been up in Wau


Salamaua, Buna and Gona in those big fights that we’d missed and we were a bit disappointed that our brigade had missed it. The other 2 brigades, the 6th Div but they had gained so much experience and it was us, they were able to pass it on to us. That was a big help.
How long were you on the Atherton Tablelands?
We were on there for quite a few months. On 2 occasions we went down to Townsville


to go overseas in action and twice we went back to the Tablelands. We heard and we discovered that it was right after the war that MacArthur wanted to take charge of the Australian troops and Blamey said, “You take charge of me, and I’ll take charge of the troops.” He stood firm and that was his rival. He’d seen it in the First World War.


Australian troops came under other people’s command and he, at all times fought to keep the Australians under his command. He’d do anything that he was told to do but he had to have command and that apparently didn’t suit MacArthur or so the story is told. We were sent back. We were supposed to invade the Philippines.
Interviewee: Henry New Archive ID 0192 Tape 09


Harry, can you tell us some of the details of the jungle training that you had up


at the Atherton Tablelands?
Yes, it actually turned out to be, which we did have to use and it was a tremendous training, because we had to forget all our other training, our open warfare training to close at hand training and we were working in such different terrain and working under so much different conditions and it was a different war altogether. Fortunately, they had those big


rain forests at that time up on the Tablelands and we were camped out of that in a place called Wondecla. It was a 6th Divvy camp and we were close at hands to Tablelands and close at hand to the rain forest and we used to do our patrol training and our


survival training in that rain forest. We’d go out there and make camp for the night in the pouring rain and things like that we had to expect in the jungle. It was a training test that tested anyone because our assault courses were so much different. They were so much heavier


and emphasis on assault because we had to operate in such rugged country and we learnt to live in those rain forests. We could bed down at night. We could put out our guards and our listening posts and our sentry posts. Set up our tripwires and all this type of thing


we learnt in the jungle. Something that we hadn’t done before and we were taught close hand to hand fighting where you could only see at best, 30 to 40 feet. Observation had to be so much better but so many men paid with their lives to work this out for us, so we were privileged in that point. One


thing that – if you’ve got time, I’ll tell you about the jungle warfare. When we left the Middle East we were issued with Tommy guns, our light machine guns were the American Tommy guns and they fired a 0.45 bullet which are nearly as heavy as our 303. Now our 303 was an effective rifle and had an effective range, well 800 yards, it was pretty good.


You couldn’t see further than 100 feet, so there was so much patrolling to be done up and down hills, we quickly learned that rifles with the 303 were a very poor weapon. Now the Tommy gun with the weight of the ammunition of it was a little better. The Tommy gun was a gas operated gun like the


Bren gun was. When we were in the Middle East, a chappie went away and we didn’t know him but his name was Owen. He invented the Owen gun and they sent him back to Australia and we were amazed when we came back that we couldn’t get an Owen gun. We still had the American Tommy gun and so did our infantry. Then the talk went


round and a lot of talk goes round in a camp. Some is right and some is wrong. But the talk was substantiated after the war that the Owen gun was such a simple gun, it was recoil action, it could stand the humidity and the wet and everything, whereas the gas operated guns operated through a very small port of gas and they used to block up and those guns used to become non-operational


in jungle conditions. This recoil gun only had a very light point, a bit bigger than a 22, which was quite sufficient and it only had a range of about 80 yards and that was sufficient and a recoil action. Nobody had them and as I was saying they could have been built for £8 but they couldn’t get anyone to build them.


They finally arrived at a contract with Lysarts is how the story went, after 12 months Lysarts built them for £80 each or made them for £80 each and they were issued to the troops. That, when we went to the islands was the difference between us and the Japs, was that light machine gun. It was absolutely tremendous. It wasn’t as rapid a fire


as the gas operated guns, which was good. You didn’t expend so much ammunition, you could fire a single shot, you could fire 2, fire 3, down on the ground you could fire a single shot. If you went on further if you touched the trigger it fired before. You only needed one with the Owen and further it being a recoil gun it bounced around and you had a big cone of fire which was great. It wasn’t near as


accurate but very light gun to carry, very light ammunition but it was one experience that when we did go to the jungle we had the Owen gun and so did the rest of the people up there but that was delayed to those late actions in the islands. I don’t know how many people are aware of that or how true what I’m telling you is but there was a huge delay in the production of that Owen gun.


It was claimed that it was the cost of production. People didn’t want to reduce the price and it could have been. I wouldn’t know.
I’m just wondering about fatigue in the unit by this stage. You’d been at war for 4 years, 5 years almost by the time…?
Yes, 4 years.


4 years anyhow. See a lot of chaps had left us by this stage. When we came back Australia we lost a lot of people. When we went up to Darwin, the Western Australians, we had a lot of Western Australians as reinforcements over the period of the time. The Western Australians were all given the option of going back to defend Western Australia and they were sent up the coast, up


as far as Broome in camps. Up the west coast, so we lost quite a lot of experienced men at that time but of course the nature of the war varied and changed so the reinforcements changed. We were about level with the reinforcements at that stage with activity. The jungle warfare, is a young man’s and a very fit man’s job.


Once you got to 27 and 28 years of age, unless you were a very fit man it was telling. The living conditions were absolutely shocking.
Can you recall what your mental attitude was at this stage? You’d had a bit of a tough time when you’d returned home and now facing going away again?
Yes, I


at this time was the sergeant of the platoon. I’d been sergeant of several platoons and I could have got out. I was offered an Instructor in an Officer Training course in Sydney but I elected to stop with the platoon and with the company and I served in several platoons but with my education


and being in a technical unit, I couldn’t go further than a sergeant but I still elected, if I’d gone on to a commission, which they would have sent me away for. A lot of our fellows did, I would have had to have gone to another unit. I had such good platoons and I think they liked me a bit. I’d had a lot of experience. I knew how to handle


chappies and I elected to stop and having elected to stop I had to be the driving force in the platoon and that’s the least you can expect of a Platoon Leader. He’s got to be the driving force in the platoon and I thrived on that.
Tell us then about the campaign in New Guinea? How did you get up there?


The campaign we had we went right around the back of New Guinea and MacArthur’s Headquarters were in Hollandia, which was in Dutch New Guinea and we didn’t quite get up to it. We landed at Aitape and that was in the Australian New Guinea. The Americans were there and had created an air


field there and I suppose they kept it there to protect Macarthur’s base but by that time they’d pushed on to the Solomon’s and the nearby islands. They pushed back from there but they did maintain that there. We relieved them and the Japs had cut the Americans hard. We were amazed when we took over from the Americans, the Japs didn’t bury any bodies.


They used to just throw them down the gullies and in those gullies there were many American helmets as there was Japanese and that’s how we used to distinguish you’d see a helmet, the Americans were different from us and we were different from the Japanese. There were lots of American helmets in those gullies. They suffered. Trying to hold that base the Japanese


made if very, very difficult for them. We took over there. We took over at place called Ramu River. They were holding down as far as Ramu River. That was our first experience of the Japs but we knew a lot about them. We knew what to expect and what the treatment was going to be.


What to expect I suppose mostly. So we weren’t surprised.
What did you find then?
A different type of warfare altogether because there wasn’t the battles, it was patrol and clear the bush. Beat the bush out as we used to say. There were tracks and we had to use the native tracks. You’d set ambushes over tracks


for him and he’s set the ambushes over the tracks for us. It was only when you got mainly native villages that he’d taken over where he’d taken over their huts and that sort of thing that you caught him in big quantities. Large quantities, otherwise it was different from what our chaps told us in Salamaua, Wau and Gona


because they did head-on fights there. Much the same as they did in the Middle East but in closer quarters. My brother was right through those campaigns and he told me the same thing. He got off the aircraft, my brother did, he told me “He got off the aircraft and fought the Japs on the side of the aerodrome and some of the ones that went over on the aircraft got back in the aircraft wounded and went back


on the same aircraft.” That’s how close they were but we never, we had to hunt them down. They never attacked us. We would have a stand too, every night wherever our patrol was and we’d have a stand too, first thing in the morning and that’s when you’d expect if they were going to attack you they knew you were in the area. That’s when they were most likely to attack. It was mostly hunting down other patrols anyhow. It was


a strange game because the only way we could get anything into the fighting chain was along the beaches and the small craft used to pull in and land and dump off food and ammunition and the medical staff used to move along the beach but most of the patrols went in


about 5 or 7 days and you did a half a circle and came back out roughly. The terrain altered it and you came back in and so many patrols were doing that, circling and coming out at the beach and just beating the whole bush out all the way.
Were you working more with the infantry?
Yes, we were working with the infantry. Our platoon that I was with


and was the sergeant of, we worked the 2/4th Battalion all the time. Worked with them all the time. We never, our chaps and I never did a forward scout and not even as a breakaway man. As you understand, the length of the life of a forward scout was very limited and


he’d only stay up there for a short period of time and he’d be replaced but they had to be so keen. If a twig dropped they had to halt. They had a breakaway man between him and the rest of the patrol. We worked in behind those all the time but if there was a kill, we had to kill because their whole platoon


would move forward straight for the kill. If they came into Japs and wanted to clean them up, take them on. If they thought there were too many for them, they’d back off until they could get another platoon up and then take them on. But by that time the Japs would have left I would say.
Did you see things that disturbed you in that campaign?


No. I saw things happen that I never thought could happen but thy didn’t disturb me because by this time we’d heard so much about our enemy and we were starting to see things that our enemy was doing. We didn’t get a hate,


we got horrible dislike for our enemy and I think that Blamey put it into the correct words when he took a sword from that fellow up there, “I would never class you as a worthy enemy,” he said when he took that sword. That’s how we felt about them.


They were a terrible enemy. They didn’t believe in taking prisoners. There was no such thing as a prisoner. I don’t know. They truly believed if they were a private and dying they went to their heaven as a corporal and if they were corporal they went as a sergeant. They didn’t fear dying.


They’d never give up. Never give up. One man would sit in the ground in a fox hole and he’d hold a platoon off with a machine gun. He knew darn well he was going to get overrun and killed but he didn’t care. He didn’t care. That made him a very difficult fellow to deal with. We were fortunate, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our infantry were the best fighting force in all the world.


It was a tribute to our infantry how they handled them.
Do you think the Japanese were brave?
I always found that hard to find an answer to. I didn’t know whether they were brave or silly. There was an incident one time that I couldn’t, absolutely


couldn’t understand. We had moved through to a river and we’d passed one of our patrols who’d gone down on the river and was holding on the river. We passed by that. We went on to this river and we put down on the side we’d approached the river, so that we didn’t cross that night. That we had an escape route.


We were just putting down. We had nothing to sleep on bar the ground and we were just planning how we would arrange to get out. We had a platoon of the 2/4th Battalion and there was my section. I went with every one of our sections. They had a corporal in charge of the section but I was platoon sergeant.


We were just sitting there, not making a noise and down came a Jap to get some water at the river. One of my blokes just drew a bead on him and shot him. He was just alongside the river and we thought “This is dangerous.” There are other Japs in the area and normally if you heard a shot you’d race to help your bloke. You could tell the difference between the guns.


We knew whether it was Japanese guns firing or our guns firing. No Japs turned up and we crossed that river after daylight the next morning and we hadn’t gone 100 yards when we were in a stoush with the Nips [Japanese]. Now if one of our fellows had gone down to get some water, got shot or even if a shot had rang out we’d have swarmed


down there to defend him. But they never came down. Never came down. Yet they were 100 yards and they had fox holes and everything there to defend themselves. They were waiting for us to attack, I don’t know but when they did get attacked they got cleaned up. Absolutely cleaned up which happened in most cases.
Did the Australians take prisoners?
(Shakes head)


That’s yes and no. The intelligence fellows use to come up the front and wanted prisoners. The front line troops were reluctant to give them prisoners. They’d hardly get anything out of them. There was some nasty things happened to that man as they tried to take him back.


Did people stop to think that perhaps the Australian troops were behaving in a way in New Guinea that they wouldn’t have done elsewhere?
They were very aggressive.


We were probably because we had that deep sense of dislike. It ran right through and we were tremendously looked after by our medical staff, by our orderlies and sisters in the hospital and when they sank the Centaur that sent a wave of dislike through the whole of the Australian Army as far as I knew. That was just not on. That was just


not acceptable. That was a man’s fight. It wasn’t a woman’s fight. They were covered by the Red Cross. That was poor. That didn’t do them any good. We were relieving Indian working parties and they were telling us what the Japs were doing. We had the mishap to have,


I wasn’t in that patrol. It was the 2/11th Patrol. 2/11th were a Western Australian Battalion. Just before dusk one night, their patrol got into trouble and 2 chaps got wounded and they were calling out to their mates “Don’t come in there’s too many.” They knew they were still alive. They pulled a platoon in and


went in the next morning to get those fellows, and get their prisoners out because you did anything, absolutely if you were over numbered you did everything to get a wounded man out. You knew what the result was going to be. They went in and one of them was hanging by the ankles in the tree, completely gutted with a stick across his gut and the other one


was cooking in the pots. That doesn’t do you any good. No good at all. That raised the ire. That stirs a whole army up. It does really. We’d heard they did it over where my brother was, the cannibalism of the wounded was so horrific. They didn’t talk about it. We didn’t talk about it because of the people concerned.


We didn’t know the people behind but in that case we were right there when they cannibalised those 2 fellows. The Indians told us tremendous stories. They didn’t eat the Indians. I suppose they ate too many herbs or something but they even killed their own people to eat.


Any that we got of them were, I can show you photos, they weren’t bad in condition. They were in pretty good condition. They took over the gardens from the natives. They had beautiful gardens there, the Fuzzy Wuzzies and they’d taken over their gardens and were living off the land. Fish were plentiful and they were in good condition and even


we saw it but why cannibalise people? We couldn’t understand it.
How did that campaign come to an end?
We had the 2 biggest campaigns. The 2/4th Battalion was forward for the last I suppose about 15 miles for the attack on Wewak,


so I was right up the front. All the time on the drive on Wewak we got through Wom quite well and across the Owen River and we’d moved down along the coast for the attack on Wewak Point. Then we got to a creek, I suppose a small


river. I suppose it was about 60 to 80 feet wide. The forward patrol and the 2/4th Platoon crossed the creek and they immediately ran into heavy machine gun fire and running inland there was a huge swamp


and there was no way that you could get round the back of them on the narrow neck of land. They were through and the colonel who I knew because I used to report to him every night. We had something to do with the pace of the attacks. They depended on me being able to tell them how quickly they could get their tanks and their artillery up and that.


I was leaving word for the following engineers to log up creek. Push logs in with bulldozers, so you could get a tank over or if it’s too wide to make a causeway across and to assess the pace of the attack, the forward companies can’t get far in front of the back up artillery and that type of thing and stores.


The colonel said to me “We are going to withdraw back again. We’re going to go back a few hundred yards. We can’t sacrifice the men in front of those machine guns.” He said, “We’ll probably withdraw for 2 days. Do you think the engineers could build me a crossing across that creek to get a tank over to wipe out those machine guns?”


I said, “Yes we can. We can do anything.” If we’ve got it, we could. They got the troops up and we built a bridge. We worked all night and we bridged the Minga Creek as it turned out to be. Minga Creek. We were under shellfire all night. Not continual but spasmodic and they never landed a shell on the bridge.


We got a tank over.
Describe this bridge. How did you build this bridge?
I’ve got a picture of it. We just had propping up, making A-frames and ropes and big trestles and then putting logs across it. That type of thing. I’ve got a photo of it. It’s in the museum in Canberra. Also the colonel said to me


“Get the bridge built. As soon as you have it built, will you come back and tell me?” I used to talk to him every night. It was great. He was a great guy. Very comical. I think it was about 4 o’clock. 3 to 4 o’clock in the morning I went back and he was back about 400 or 500 yards and


he’d said, “Wake me. It doesn’t matter what time you come back. Wake me.” I went back and I said, “We’ve fixed it. There’s one tank over on the other side” and he said to us, and this was unbelievable because we weren’t allowed to have fires because it attracted the enemy. This chap who was looking after him, the


batman said, “Give the sergeant a hot cup of coffee.” I thought “Where’s the hot cup of coffee coming from?” but he got a hot cup of coffee for me. (Laughs) I hadn’t had a hot cup of coffee for so long. He was so pleased that fellow because they’d put the tank over first and he wiped out the machine guns. Saved hundred of lives. I was quite proud


of that achievement because it was known as my bridge but it was my men that built it not me. It was our idea too and that was needed and we did it. That was the job of the engineers, to back the infantry up. All you had to do was back the infantry up and they did the job. Really did the job. It was just great because they would have lost a lot of men


off that narrow strip if they had attacked. However, with the tank over we attacked that morning. I went down to the bridge and watched those fellows crossing and then drop in behind them. We had the attack on Wewak Point and when I saw what went on – there was a curve in the road and there was a bank about 5 foot high, a cutting


with an open cutting on the other side and they dug down and they had slits out through the cutting and all machine guns placed. You would never have – the infantry would have just been walking into death. It was a pretty pleasing sight. The attack on Wewak we had 40 artillery lined up and our people and the artillery always travelled too also with the forward infantry


observation post. Travelled also in that forward section and he told me that “We would go in under a barrage of 100 round gunfire from 4000 rounds” and it was that rain that we went in under and that was the biggest barrage we ever went


in under in the islands with 40 25 pounders lined up and a 100 round gunfire but yet the Japs were still going. They suffered but having the tanks over was marvellous. Absolutely marvellous because the tanks didn’t have a lot to do because they couldn’t work in the areas but at Wewak Point


it was just made for them. It was great.
Tell us about the end of the war?
Well after Wewak Point, they had no escape route at Wewak Point, the Japs because it had a very narrow neck of land where the headquarters and all that type of thing but they went through about 3 days before the attack came. What we knew


was that Mission Hill, the aerodrome was over the other side of the swamp and there were causeways across for their aircraft. The same day as we took Wewak Point we occupied the aerodrome but about a mile and a half back from the aerodrome there was there Mission Hill. Wyroorie Mission and that was the only name it was known as


Scrubby Hill. He’d withdrawn to Mission Hill and that was the biggest fight of our time up there. That was our last big fight. There were 2 VCs [Victoria Crosses] at Mission Hill. They had to bring up 2 brigades to take it. It took them nearly 4 days to take it. He fought like death but he still


had an escape route and a lot of them escaped from Mission Hill as he ran. As he was being defeated they were escaping. They didn’t have any escape route, everyone was killed at Wewak Point but he had an escape route and he just went back into the jungle. But we pushed on then and I suppose we were,


the 19th Brigade was withdrawn from the front and the 4th Battalion was up, either the 8th – I think it was the 8th – went forward after Mission Hill and they were pushing him back into the jungle and they were doing the same as the 2/4th Battalion.


They were having the same experiences but he still had those mountain guns and he was shelling that airstrip and we were at the airstrip and our company were given the job because the Americans had bombed the airstrip and it was unusable. It had huge craters in it. They


said to our company, our Platoon Commander, “Would our platoon drop off and supervise the reconstruction of the airstrip?” When we went in we always had a job building a bridge or doing something. But this time we didn’t because the 8th Battalion had taken over from the 4th.


We got quite a lot of mechanical equipment from the field path, bulldozers and graders and we built a chinaman. Do you know what a chinaman is? Well chinaman, I was used to them in civvy life because you couldn’t shift any earth without a chinaman. You build a big frame that you can run a truck under and then you get your


bulldozer and all your bulldozed earth to make a ramp up on top of that frame and a ramp down the other side and you run your trucks under it and there’s a slide and you push the dirt up and it all falls into the truck. The truck pulls out and another truck pulls in. We built a chinaman on the coral reef and we had bulldozers filling in the craters. It’s still there that aerodrome and you know there were so


many bombs round the aerodrome, broken aeroplanes and whatnot we bulldozed the bombs in to fill the holes and of course they weren’t active. They didn’t have any firing devices in them because they didn’t want them flying them out. But they are still under that drome.


We built the drome and we were able to get the Douglasses in there, we got the fighter planes in there. We sheeted it all with coral.
How many days did it take?
It took us about a fortnight to get that drome into action. We absolutely had to get heaps and heaps of coral surfacing. Bulldozers bulldozing the holes in, getting the surface straight and then


sheeting it with about a foot deep of coral. It was a very good landing strip. Then we were getting supplies in by air. That was the first time we could get any reasonable sized aircraft on the ground. Our air strikes used to come up from Nadzab, further back towards Lae. We had no air strikes at that time coming from behind us. They were coming to meet us all the time.


There was an incident happened…
Interviewee: Henry New Archive ID 0192 Tape 10


There was one incident that I hadn’t mentioned to you. We were between Wom and Wewak


when VE [Victory in Europe] day, when they threw it in over in Europe. The Americans had been giving a series of air strikes from Nadzab and the artillery had moved on to Wom to set up because they could range on Wewak Point from Wom. Wom was substantial also. The Americans


obviously didn’t know we were so far forward and they bombed the dickens out of Wom. They knocked a lot of our guns out, killed quite a number of people. That was a sad event. We were told that “They were all disciplined and struck out of the air force. They’d got full in the canteen and decided to go and have a play with the Japs.” That was the story and it couldn’t have been anything else because they kept coming in to bomb,


kept coming in and there was an American barge that was supplying us with stores. It was out to sea and he was signalling to them apparently that they were Australians. That was the first time in war I saw direct blood transfusion.


They called you up and asked what blood group you are and you always had it hanging around your neck. They’d look at someone with their legs blown off and bleeding pretty freely and they just put a tube in your arm and a tube in their arm and fed them direct blood. I heard them talking on the wireless the other day that they’re thinking of doing direct blood transfusions. Direct blood transfusions


were done at Wom that day in 1945. To keep those fellows alive. There was a sad lot of those fellows. It was the 22 Artillery and they were Victorian. They’d gone in and they were in Pucka with us.
Can you remember


the end of the war?
Yes. Very well.
Tell us about that?
Well, we went up with the fighting troops and the platoon I’d previously been with, I was quite friendly with the lieutenant because you had to work very closely together. People were going troppo. We lost our doctor, as a matter of fact, he caught malaria and died within hours and that made you


go all stupid. They were camped about a mile down the track from where we were and Cliff who I was friends with, I’d been in the platoon with him before and he’s coming up the track waving his hands. As he got closer he’s singing out to me “Harry, the war will be over.


Harry, the war will be over” and I thought “Oh gosh, Cliff’s gone troppo!” He was a nice guy and that but when he got closer he said to me, and he was out of breath, he’d run up there to tell me, he was excited. He said, “The war’s going to be over.” I said, “Oh Cliff, no, no” and I couldn’t believe it. He said, “They’ve split the atom” and splitting the atom, I hadn’t been educated to that extent! (Laughs)


I said, “What’s that got to do with the end of the war?” and he said, “The first person who splits the atom will win the war and they’ve dropped this huge bomb on Japan. They can’t stand it. It’s going to be the end of the war.” Sure enough in 4 days it was the end of the war. That was the greatest letdown of your life. From thinking that you had so much more – I was up to the 6 years by this time.


The colonel had said to me “What are you going to do after the war?” a few weeks before that and I’d said to him “Look, why think about after the war. Whenever is it going to end? Why think at this time? I don’t have a clue what I was going to do when the war ends.” It ended about 3 weeks or 4 weeks after that conversation and it ended so suddenly.


We had a job to get the message through to the Nips that it had finished because the batteries on their, although they could block out communications, they had blocking devices but they were having difficulty getting long messages. They couldn’t get the boats in close enough after the


Coral Sea Battle. The Americans had started the hopping. They weren’t getting very much news, the Japs, and we were afraid and they did, they shelled us for 2 days after the Armistice and terrible. It’s sad. I think to be killed after the war was finished was really sad. The doctor of


2/4th Battalion who was on the airstrip, they were camped by the airstrip because they were not in forward action, and they hit one of his boys and he went to attend him and the next shell killed him. Those 2 fellows were killed after the war and he shelled us for about 2 days but then they dropped leaflets. I’ve got leaflets there that they dropped – I can’t read them. They’re in Japanese. They dropped on them


telling them “The war was over.” I suppose in about 3 or 4 days they started coming in, putting their arms down. They were led in by people who confirmed that we were getting confirmation that the war was over. There were a lot of them. A lot of them. We put a prisoner of war camp up on Wom and put a prisoner of war camp over on


Mushu Island. Shipped them over there to the island. Then I came home. (Laughs).
Did you find that – did you celebrate at that time?
No. We were too afraid. We couldn’t believe it. It was hard to get excited about it. Hard to get excited. It came so sudden to us


I thought it was probably – although they had their high level bombing over Tokyo and places like that we knew the Americans were giving them the dickens in Japan but if they – it was absolutely known right down to the lowest rank – that if they’d had to have invaded Japan proper,


they would have lost thousands and thousands of men. The Americans knew that, the Australians knew that. We all knew that. That they would have defended Japan to almost the last woman and child, I think. They were so – and the people knew. They were giving up the islands and Japan – it was generally circulated that to invade Japan would have been a tremendous loss of life.


They would have fought and I still think they would have but the atomic bomb finished the war. It was sad that it had to come to finish the war but to us fellows all I could say it was a lovely bomb. To us fellows it was because we probably would have been in the invasion of Japan. I think all the Australian


Divisions, the 8th Division was lost but the 9th, 7th and 6th would have been used in the invasion of Japan.
You say you felt flat and it was hard to celebrate. Was there a sense even of disappointment that the war had been won in a way that was so different to the way you had been fighting?


It was incredible, really when you thought that there were so many big fights that had to be taken that it could end so abruptly. We didn’t know the damage those atomic bombs had created in Japan and the loss of life at that time. All we knew was that they had bombed Japan and nobody else had because our communications


were very poor.
Tell us about – you must have been one of the first to go back, given you’d been…?
No, I wasn’t. I was up there for about 3 weeks after the Japs came in. There was a priority system worked out on points. Although I was a first day soldier, so I had many points on length of service as anyone had but if you


had dependants, your points were doubled and so chaps with 2 years less service than me if they had a dependant, they had more points than I. I didn’t – it was sad time, that fortnight to me. The war was over


and we got flooded out of Australia. Thousands of troops that had never been out of Australia before. There were thousands of them. We called them TEUs “Tax Evasion Unit” because you had to serve outside Australia before you could get a tax deduction and those chaps. Some of them were majors and colonels and I don’t think they’d had their first shave. They were young fellows that got


thrown into posts because they had people pushing them into the better jobs in the army and that type of thing. It never got under my skin but I thought “It was a bit rude.” I thought “It was a bit rude.” That culminated in a very nasty incident one night. We got the best films. The films that the Americans brought in.


They were not released in Australia yet for 12 to 18 months after. We had films every night. We built this – there was a gully and just a nice sloping gully with nice slopes up the sides and we got the big screen put up, right in the gully. We had a couple of miles to walk to the screen each night. We used to – we’d pick up a log and we made a


complete amphitheatre. It would hold thousands and thousands of men and each night we took a log and put it in and that. We got this new general. He had been not thought good enough when the war started. He started with us as a matter of fact. He came back to us and “Black Jacket” as we called him Jack Stephens, he had gone home.


He issued an edict or a routine order that the 6th Div was a rebel and just had to be disciplined. It didn’t go over very well. He had draftsmen and architects with him. He drew up a complete campsite for the whole division that was exactly the same as a platoon


with the cookhouse and the orderly room, fellows camped around it and they formed a circle with 3 platoons and then you had the Company Headquarters in the middle of that. It went right through these companies, through the battalions and I had a very hard case. We got on tremendously well together. He was a good bloke – called a spade a spade. He said to me, he brought me the plan and he said, he always called me “Sarge” and he said


“Have a look at that Sarge. What do you make of that? This is where we are” and he pointed out where you had to go. He said, “Would you take a compass?” because they had points marked along there. It was to locate where you’ve got to shift it. I said, “Not a problem.” However I found the spot we were in, in 6 foot of water in the swamp.


Where we were located. It was unbelievable what that fellow had done. He had drawn up a list of how we rolled up our blankets. We only had half a blanket. How we polished the soles of our spare pair of boots. We never had a spare pair of boots. Laid our kits out, right throughout


the whole division had to be laid out that way. We had to take the laces out of our spare boots and polish them. We never had any polish and this type of thing. Anyhow, when the pictures got going, he issued this and got the work done and he didn’t get the engineers to do it. But he had barricaded off the first and best section of the picture theatre.


Barricaded it off with a fence. Round it, in a horseshoe around it on each side and around it was barricaded off with a fence. He issued this routine order that all the red tabs had to go into the central position. All the other officers had to occupy all those other places and all the OR’s went to the back. Well, it was the OR’s who had built that. Another thing, we had to wait


for dark of course before you could start the film. He issued the thingo and it was not to start until he got there. Well, I thought, “That’s trouble. You’re in trouble mate.” The first night this came into action we all took up our places. We sat back, you couldn’t get a nice place, you had to be


behind all the others. We were there, the picture didn’t start, the picture didn’t start and then in the dusk comes up about 6 jeeps. The general and all his top ranking red tabs and he got out and there would have been 15,000 men there that night. They told Robbie what they thought of him.


They stood up and they howled abuse at him. It had never happened before. He slunk into his place in that before the picture started and the officers went to stand up. They had to stand to attention while he went to his seat and the blokes who were close to the benches where the officers were said, “If you stand up you’ll get this piece of wood in the back of your head.” So the barriers were removed


the next day. That was our new general. (Laughs). I won’t name him. I came home. Had a beautiful trip home coming home. The River Fitzroy was there and the old officers said, and they couldn’t guarantee anything but if you stay with the platoon, you can’t be a commissioned officer


with the platoon but when the war’s over we’ll have you made a commissioned officer.” They said that and then they went home. I was there 3 weeks extra. I’d got up to the orderly room because there were 2 lieutenants still there. They only had 2 or 3 years’ service. I used to go up and have a yarn with them of a night.


One night I went up and they said, “Harry, your commission’s come through.” Well I thought “That’s lovely, I can go home with a commission.” They said, “But hang on, there’s one condition.” “Yeah, tell me.” You’ve got to go to Japan for 2 years. “They’ve figured your commission, you’ve got to go to Japan.” I said to them “See that hulk out in the harbour? I’ll be on that in the morning” (Laughs).


It was the River Fitzroy, an all steel boat. It didn’t sail that morning. It sailed about 2 days later and the Americans had mobile steam kitchens. The Americans were particularly well looked after. They really looked after their troops and they were very generous in giving overflow to us fellows. The Americans were great in the field.


So they took out to sea, one of these “Café de Move Alongs” they got christened by the Australians. They were mobile, they were on a trailer. They took one of those and they tied it on the decks and it was all steel decks and hot. They tied the whole Café de Move Along on the deck.


I reckon there was 1200 troops crammed on that old River Fitzroy coming home. We had one meal a day starting at 5 o’clock in the morning. You didn’t get another meal and we were all happy to be going home. Those blokes would have been screaming to high heaven you know. We were going home. It was so different. One meal a day we survived on coming home. We got a tremendous welcome at Brisbane. We came up the


Brisbane River and we got a tremendous welcome there. The state’s people came out and addressed us and thanked us. They were very, very good to us. Put us in buses. Took us out to the camp. Said “The train wouldn’t be going until 5 o’clock in the afternoon.” Leave all your gear there at the camp and they put guards on it and supplied bus runs


from the camp to the city of Brisbane. Can I tell you about an experience in Brisbane? With 4 of my mates. We went into Brisbane on the tram and it was the first time I’d had my foot in a bar for years. We went down to the pub and ordered pots of beer. We were having a drink and there was a café next door and we went into the


- we finished our drinks and went into the café. We said to the fellow, “We want the biggest steak you’ve got on the biggest plate you’ve got and a ring of eggs around it. As many eggs as you can put round the steak on the outside.” He said, “Good, good.” We said, “How long?” I forget how long he said but we said, “Right, we’ll be back.” We had a few more drinks and we came


back and sat down and we really enjoyed that meal. He came around and said, “That was a big meal. How did you enjoy it?” We said, “Good, but it wasn’t enough. How long again for another serve?” He said the same time, so we went and had a few more drinks. We went back and we had the same meal over. We were so hollow for a meal. (Laughs) We enjoyed that. That was our first meal back in Australia. It was great. (Laughs)


When you finally got back to Melbourne, what was in store for you?
The same thing applied. They had guards on the – we came by train directly from Brisbane to Melbourne. We had about a 2 hour stop in Sydney. They did the same thing. They had guards arranged for all our


things and we were let loose in Sydney for that 2 hours. Some of my real good mates are New South Wales blokes. They said, “When you come through Sydney there’s a very pointed angle of 2 streets directly across from the station and there’s a pub there and we’ll be waiting for you.”


That’s where I spent my 2 hours and there was about 10 of my mates in there. A lot of them I never saw again after the war. We had a few drinks. You might think I’m a terrible drinker but I’m not but I did enjoy a beer that day (Laughs). It was a long time between beers. We came on to Melbourne and got the same treatment there. We arrived on the Spencer Street Station.


They had open cars and we were driven to a Governor’s Reception and we were feted in as much food and drink as we could eat. Nice party. Real nice party it was. We were all transported – arrangements were made that we could go wherever you wished. You could go home if you liked, which I did.


You can come back next morning and pick your gear up. There’ll still be guards on Spencer Street. I came in next morning and picked my gear up and took it home. I was at Dandenong at the time. I stayed with my sister in Dandenong. It was quite a coincidence. My brother Bob flew in from Bougainville on the same day and we arrived back within an hour of each other.


Yes, it was quite good. Quite good. This colonel that I’ll tell you about. He was such a great fellow. He said to me, “What are you going to do after the war?” and I told him “I don’t know.” At that time he said to me, “Look, if you’re looking for a job, I’ll get


you a good job.” “Thank you very much.” I never thought I’d get to take the job but he referred me to a man in Melbourne and he said, “Go and see this man as soon as you get into Melbourne.” I thought, “I wanted to get back earning money. I’d lost a lot of my life. I wanted to get back on and I wanted a job from the day I was discharged,


I wanted a job.” I went and saw this fellow and he had been contacted by the Colonel of the 4th Battalion. He welcomed me with open arms and he said, “I’ve got a good job for you.” He said, “You’ll be working on Dittman’s staff. He’s the Minister for Repatriation or Reconstruction.” The Department of Reconstruction.


“Who do I go and see?” He said, “You go and see this chappie.” I was still in uniform and I went and saw the chappie and he already knew. He said, “How about a job in the Public Service?” I knew it was going to be because it was a Public Service and I said, “Yes, fair enough,” because I had malaria terribly bad, real, real bad malaria and I thought


“This would tide me over.” I worked with the Ministry and the Department of Reconstruction for 2 years. It was a great pleasure to me because I was in the section where we were putting chaps back into the trade. Ones that had half done their apprenticeships and finding apprenticeships for them


and getting them their money. It was a great scheme, the Reconstruction Scheme. Those chappies, if they started an apprenticeship and the fellow would take them on that had them apprenticed although they were 5 or 6 years older some of them. They went back on full pay and he paid them a third of their wages and we paid them the other two-thirds until they finished their apprenticeship. That was great for him because he had a cheap


employee and the Digger had full pay right from the time he slotted back into the job. Ones that were young and didn’t have trades, we arranged training on the job for them and the same thing if they wanted to be a carpenter, we’d get a carpenter to employ them. They’d pay a third of their wages and we’d pay them two-thirds


of their wage and arrange all the tech training for them. It gave me a lot of pleasure because I saw a lot of my mates go through and they weren’t under the pile I can tell you.
Those years following the war, you’d been away for 6 years. Did you find it easy to adjust back?
It was shocking. It was absolutely shocking.


We did not know how to talk to a female. When we arrived in Fremantle coming back, I was never so embarrassed at our behaviour. We were starting to talk in Arabic to them, we couldn’t hold a conversation with them or we were shy with them. It was a – to be 2 years away from English speaking people and be dropped


back like that. They wanted to do the world for us and I got invited home with other chaps too, one night and they put on a tremendous dinner for us. I didn’t at that time but I thought our behaviour at a nice dinner like that was far from what you’d expect. What you would


have expected. We weren’t as polite as we should have been. We were very grateful but our conversation wasn’t conversation with them. It was conversation between ourselves as we had been used to talking to each other. That was a tremendous handicap when we were billeted at Adelaide. A handicap that I would never have expected.


It took us quite a time to get back to living in an English community.
What about emotionally?
Didn’t worry us. We didn’t worry where we were. We didn’t know where we were half the time we were in the army. It was just pick up your gear and move. Where we were moved from and where we were moved to several times we didn’t know. Didn’t care. Didn’t matter.


That’s what the whole thing was about. The moving and changing that was every second day sometimes.
You did manage to meet a nice girl and got married?
Do you think that in those first few years of marriage that


you were able to – were you still recovering from the war at that stage?
Oh yes. I still had malaria. It was a nasty thing. I worked 2 years in the Public Service. I couldn’t stand it. I wanted the wide open spaces. I was getting better and I never intended to make a career of it.


I was working with nice people and we were all well thought of in our department because we were looking after ex-servicemen and that was what we wanted to do. I could have had quite a career in the Public Service. I wish I had a fellow looking after me very well. But apart from that I did a lot of work. It was a cause as well as a job.


After 2 years I resigned, much to their shock. That a man had resigned from the job I had. And I bought a farm. Moved onto the farm and all the time I was away, the girls that I knew and had known for a long time, I made up my mind before I went away that


I would not commit to a girl. That I’d have friends. I had no commitment to any girl. I thought it was unreasonable if I was going to be away for 4 years for her to be committed to me or me to be committed to a girl. I never went into that. A lot did and were very sorry afterwards. Not all but a lot. To come home and find that your girl wasn’t there and that she was still


writing to you and in some cases drawing their extra money. Wasn’t very tasteful. That’s the reason I didn’t have a girlfriend. I had tons of friends but I didn’t have a girl. Beryl was first girl I had after the army. She lived in the next district and I knew her people very well.


Beryl was only a schoolgirl when I went away. We’ve passed our 55 year mark, so our apprenticeship has been pretty good.
Did you dream about your war experiences?
Terribly. Never about the Middle East. I had nightmares. They weren’t dreams. I kicked Beryl out of bed


I nearly broke her leg. Some nights I was fighting those Japs. I fought the Japs and it was always Japs and I’d wake up screaming and throwing my arms about and kicking. I bruised Beryl on the legs and that type of thing. Shocking nightmares. Took me a long time. I’d say it took me nearly 20 years to get it out of my system but yet I never thought about it in the day time but I’d have these


nightmares at night time.
How regularly would you have these?
I’d say about – Beryl would probably tell you more correctly but I’d say probably about once a week. Once a week, yes. They were tremendous – fighting for your life and you were really fighting. Some of our chappies did.
Did you talk about that with any of your army mates?


Yes, we used to discuss how we – it was a sad thing that we had and I had really good mates and some of them were NCOs and very, very reliable fellows. They were the best living guys that you could strike. They never did a day’s work after they were discharged out of the army. They couldn’t hack it. They just couldn’t hack it when they got out of the army.


That was sad. They just drifted. Chaps that you would never have thought would have drifted. In some cases they went through training and they became – went through the Universities and they went through the CRTS Scheme. Came out of university and never did a day’s work. Put their degree down in the dunny as they used to say, so they could look at it


every time they went to the toilet. Never took it on. That was sad. How it affected those people was sad. It affected some people and they couldn’t live with their wives. That was sad. That was a sad part of the war.
Did you ever think to ask for help about the


nightmares you had?
No. No, I didn’t. I didn’t even mention it to my doctor. Beryl mentioned it to one doctor and he said, “You could have psychiatric treatment,” and I wasn’t keen on it. I didn’t think that I was at that stage because I had no thoughts about it in my normal mind. It was only when I was asleep.


I was a bit sorry for Beryl because she used to get bruised, quite bruised. She’d wake me up very quickly but it was quite violent.
Do you still have those dreams?
No. I’ve got over them.


They’re out of my system. I think I changed attitude. Everyone did what they had to do in the war and although we held grudges I forgot them.


I did really. Those chaps that we were fighting had families at home too and a lot of them got killed and they’d left a family behind. They’d paid the price. They were patriotic to their cause and we were trying to be patriotic to our cause. We were pretty much on the same level and that’s my thought now.


I’ve never been to Japan and I’ll never go to Japan. I thought at one time “I would never buy a Japanese car” but I have ended up buying Japanese cars. All’s forgotten. In the Middle East, the treatment of our


soldiers that were voluntary soldiers by these Provos [Provosts – Military Police] was just unreasonable and they were tried and put in English jails for simple things like being an hour late for parade, 28 days in jail and people do not realise the viciousness of those jails. I had a very good fellow in


my section and he was one of my staff. He’d been through the desert, he’d been through Greece, Syria. He got a day’s leave to Jerusalem. He got a few drinks in him and missed the bus home. He wasn’t satisfied with that. He got out on the road and tried to catch transport back


to be at the unit for roll call the next morning and he didn’t make it by about 2 hours and he was picked up by the Provos and they tried him and put him 28 days in Jerusalem jail run by the English people and the colonel was known as the Bastard of Jerusalem. I had the task of taking that fellow


down to that jail. I drove him down from Syria and back to Palestine in full kit, which was an extensive kit. That’s haversack, rifle and everything you’ve got. There was a big circular wired compound with a guard on the gate. On the other side of the circular compound was a


shutter window and I had his papers.
Interviewee: Henry New Archive ID 0192 Tape 11


We’re still just the greatest of mates. That was something that I would never have experienced if I hadn’t gone through the 6 years of service. I got out fairly lucky.


I got a broken shoulder and broken ribs one time in a booby trap. Got malaria pretty badly but apart from that I was a pretty whole man when I got out.
You say that you don’t speak about the war?
No. Not about the acts of the war at all.
You’ve just spent a long time talking to us and yet there’s obviously things that you haven’t told us.


There are a lot of things I haven’t told you and I wouldn’t tell you because there’s still kin of some of the blokes that served in our unit and they’d know who I was talking about and I don’t think kin should know the lives that some of those people were put to. The war was cruel to them.
What about your personal experiences. Do you still feel the need to


protect parts of your memory?
I try to maintain my memory. It’s not as good as it was. I couldn’t even remember that boat and yet I knew it so well when it went down. There are things but some things are very, very vivid in my mind and my brother, he was a farmer. My brother Bob, and he died 2 years ago. He was 88.


He had long service. Bob got an MID [Mentioned In Despatches] and I got an MID so we’d both been in a lot of action. Bob and I would sometimes sit down on his farm on a log under a tree and talk about some of the experiences. Same experiences but apart from him, never. Never. Some of the chaps, even those who still exist from our unit


want to talk about it. I don’t want to hear about it. I hope sincerely that I haven’t said anything here that would be disturbing to the people that are still living from the war service.
Well, I don’t think you have and I would like to thank you for sharing this time with us.
It’s been a pleasure.
Thanks Harry.


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