place called Kootingal. And my father lived there for a number of years and then when the war broke out he went away and he served in World War 1 and had previously met my mother who was a teacher at this place Kootingal. And when he came back they were married and he then worked in a
family business for a few years in Sydney, up in Gordon. My grandfather, my great grandfather had a business in Hornsby which was established quite early in the piece and father worked with them for about five years. And then I think he must’ve fallen out with them or something, but he then became the manager of a station property out at Corindi outside - away from Tamworth a bit. And then after that
he went to Tamworth and worked for a stock and station agent and became a land valuer. But to go back a touch, I was born in Sydney. I lived there for about four or five years and then we went to Corindi and we came to Tamworth when I was about seven and of course I started to go to school there and I went to the local primary school. And I went to Tamworth High School
for a few years until about, it was then called the intermediate certificate stage. And then I came down here to Sydney to school and went to Scotch College at Sydney and finished up doing my leaving certificate there. And by that time I’d applied for a job in CSR which was then called the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited.
And happily I was offered a job there and started work in 1937. At the princely sum of sixty five pounds a year payable monthly. But when I turned seventeen, which I wasn’t quite when I started, it came to seventy two, I think, instead of sixty five. And I became a commercial cadet I suppose they’d call them these days. But I
- the letter of offer for the job said I would be joining the commercial staff so on and so forth. But I moved around the company a bit. They sort of had you in one department for a while and somewhere else for another period basically to get a picture of what working in CSR was like. But then at about August 1937 a friend of mine and I, both of
whom had been at Scotch, decided we would like to join the militia. Because lots of young men in those days did join the militia [Citizen’s Military Force] of one sort or another. There were - you know it was quite a big organisation the militia in the middle to late thirties. And so because we’d been at Scotch and you know we were associated with the New South Wales Scottish Regiment
we both joined. You had to be nineteen and in fact I was only seventeen at that stage. So I put my age up two years and I joined that battalion and because I’d been interested for quite a number of years in electronics and radio as a hobby I joined the signal section. Well
that was quite a major activity the militia because the 30th Battalion was a very good unit and it was hard to get into it. And therefore you had to be a good soldier while you were there. And I spent a heck of a lot of weekends doing training and promotions - to get one stripe in the 30th was a big deal, I thought. And
I did quite a lot of that sort of thing. And eventually by about 1939 I’d become the sig [signals]sergeant. You know there was a platoon of about thirty people and there was an officer and a sergeant and few corporals. But I was the sergeant. But it - other people might have been playing a lot of sport and that sort of thing but this took up so much time that I
really didn’t do a great deal other than swim at the weekends when I wasn’t doing anything in the army. Oh I played an occasional bit of tennis but I really can’t claim to have ever been a great sports person because it turned out eventually that I had a stigmatism. And therefore small ball games weren’t my forte. But nevertheless I took, I was interested in sport. And as I say I enjoyed swimming a great deal
because we were living at that stage, well my mother and my sister and I were living at Randwick. And of course it was close to Coogee. And we went there a lot and of course I spent a lot of time with friends that I’d been at school with and other people that I’d met. And at this stage my father was still in Tamworth. He - oh I suppose effectively he and my mother had virtually separated.
But she came down to Sydney as I say and we lived at Randwick. But I suppose at that stage you know I became more and more interested in the army and apart from my job, and I was doing reasonably well there. Because I was being shifted around and being given
quite decent jobs instead of pen pushing and that sort of thing. And in 1939, early ’39 I was sent up to Brisbane which was good from my point of view because it was a change and I spent about three months up in Brisbane, relieving a fellow who’d been sent to one of the sugar mills in north Queensland. And oh it was quite an interesting time because I was boarding
and you know living with other people in a boarding house and eventually the relief finished and I came back to Sydney. And at that stage, beginning of 1939 things were starting to look as if there might be a war but I suppose my mind was as much as anything, apart from doing a decent job for
my boss and the company, I was quite interested and September ’39 came and I thought, “Well hello this is it.” And in - early in the piece in the war the militia unit were you know sent off for three months to special camps. And we were up at Rutherford in the 30th and you know we
sort of spent our time in Newcastle. And sitting around beaches at night waiting for the enemy, whoever it might be attempt to land on some pleasant beach around Shoal Bay or somewhere. Anyway that went on for quite some time and oh in about early May 1940 I had
a call from one of the officers who’d been picked out by the CO [commanding officer] to be part of the team for the 2/13th Battalion. Which was in 7th Division. And he said, “Are you thinking of joining the AIF [Australian Imperial Force]?” And I said, “Yes.” And he said, “Well our CO’s looking for a new sig officer, signals officers, would you be interested?” And I said, “Yes.” At this stage I’m a sergeant.
And so I enlisted and I was a private soldier for one day and I got paid one day’s pay and then I went down to sign at the engineer’s depot at Moore Park and out we went to Ingleburn and I became the commander of the signals platoon but I still only had three stripes. And the CO
then completed the papers and off it went and on the 6th June I had two pips on my shoulder. Which was some pleasure. And you know it increased my interest and I enjoyed the opportunity or I suppose the experience for a young person of having about thirty people. And
we’d been, the Scottish Regiment had been very good at all kinds of military activities like they used to have things called gymkhanas which are really sort of military exercises and competitions and you know, we used to win all these things so I suppose the CO of the battalion knew about us and was in the same brigade. And thought
well a 30th Battalion bloke might be alright for me and I was apparently. And so there we are Ingleburn camp. And you know it was a really pleasant experience then although it was hard work because our CO was a tough old fellow. And I suppose it was good for young blokes like me because of
you know he was like a very strict father so to speak. There was no mucking about. You had responsibilities and in those days, or as always I suppose, if something went wrong in your platoon well you got blamed not the people who were at fault half the time. It may seem a bit of a strange thing but you know it’s the old old thing. Well what were you doing? Why weren’t you looking after these fellows? Why didn’t you keep an eye on them? And this sort of thing. So it was good for me because
I’d not had - I really hadn’t had a father for quite some time. Because my father, well because my grandfather had died when he was, oh I was only about eight. He had two quite large farms outside Tamworth and he’d gone to live in the town anyway and had some people working on it.
- oh he wasn’t an outgoing - well yes he was an outgoing sort of fellow but he had very strict and conservative ideas of the behaviour of young officers. And you know I can remember one particular night when we had what they call a dining in mess and that meant that all the officers had to be in the mess and there was no escape. And the CO started fairly early and we all had a few drinks and one thing and another and
then we all started to sing. And next day there was an order to all the lieutenants to be assembled at five o’clock in the afternoon and Major Simpson wanted to speak to us. And then he gave us a very very stern lecture on behaviour in the mess. And I can remember his words, he said, “And the spectacle of subalterns beating time on the table with their spoons
impressed me as being something that one might expect in a back alley tap room in Surry Hills.” And that was the Red Fox they called him, because he had red hair. So after that we all watched our Ps and Qs [behaved]. So we trained there for a while and then in August 1940 recruitment was proceeding I suppose and they wanted Ingleburn camp and they were building a new camp at
Bathurst. And so someone conceived the idea it would be a good, a good way of getting us to Bathurst if we marched up there but it would be an equally good way of attracting a whole lot of interest in publicity for recruitment for the services. So we spent the next nine days in a very very pleasant march to Bathurst. It would be -
it couldn’t be described as a hard march or anything like that because the most we ever did was twenty two miles in one day. Well that might seem a lot but when you’re young and fit that wasn’t too bad. But we’d you know we used to stage it along the way. And by the time we got to about Katoomba we had a couple of days when we had a rest there, but all the way along the way people were very good to us and people came out and cheered and
so forth and so on. And at night people would invite you home for a meal and you know it was easy going really. And then ultimately we found Bathurst in about September and a jolly cold place it was. We were outside Bathurst at a place called Kelso which you might know. But it was a new camp and we discovered it
was a pretty cold place. And then we had, oh we had marches through Bathurst. The whole tribe of us went through Bathurst. They gave us the key to the city and all this sort of thing. And I can remember you know at the end of the day people were shouting out things and so forth. And I remember my platoon, oh when we marched back to Kelso I had all the sober ones around the outside and all the fellows who weren’t too sober
in the middle so they got out there.
and out on a ferry to the Queen Mary and off we went to the Middle East. And we did that via Bombay. The Queen Mary - well we were ultimately going to Palestine what we called in those days. But the Queen Mary took us to Bombay where we were taken off the ship and sent up to an army camp, about a hundred and fifty
miles up for a few days. And then we embarked on a Dutch ship and up the canal and disembarked at a place called Kantara. Popped on a train and up we went to a camp, to our first camp in Palestine which was called ‘Kilo 89’. I suppose that was because it was eighty-nine kilo’s [kilometres] from somewhere. But it was near Gaza which was of interest because nowadays anyway because
we weren’t far from Gaza. And to toughen us up they used to march us over the sand hills towards Gaza. Well from there we - 6th Division had captured Libya and Cyrenaica. But they were required to come back and [General] Blamey nominated them to go to Greece and Crete.
And a new division, the 9th Division was formed and we became part of that and we were supposed to be under equipped. We were indeed. And you know hadn’t had a great deal of training in the desert sort of thing. And so anyway off we went off to take over from the 6th Div. And we got as far as Benghazi.
We occupied some bits and pieces and one company was sent off to guard Italian prisoners but it was the beginning of the Rommel [Field Marshal Erwin Rommel] period because the Germans started to land in North Africa and in about - oh in March 1941
down they came and we finished up being the first unit to meet the Germans at a place - oh I’ll never forget it. It’s called Beda Fomm and it subsequently turned out to be a major oil field. But we were gradually pushed back and the rest of the division had been moved into Tobruk. And we had our first encounter with the Germans, in fact we were
the first unit to ever meet the Germans. And we gradually - and then on about the 3rd or 4th April, two days after my twenty first birthday we were - some trucks came up, some transport came up and we came back and finished up in Tobruk on the 10th April. And from the 10th April till December that’s where we were.
And from after - the ship that was to take us out of Tobruk eventually - see the war changed and the Germans were chased back up the desert again. And we - the Australian troops were all to be relieved out of Tobruk because at that stage they,
Thomas Blamey, wanted us all to be gathered together as an Australian Corps. And after all we’d been there a fair while and bits and pieces of the 9th Division were then relieved by Poles and British Army brigade and so forth. And then the ship that was to take us out unfortunately was sunk on the way up so we got left behind.
And we had to fight another battle then because the Germans were trying to get into Tobruk still. But happily that - the Germans were defeated and pushed off. So unlike the rest of the 9th Division we were drove out on trucks. And off we went back down to the [Suez] Canal and back up to Palestine to another camp
where we were fed like fighting cocks because we’d had some pretty lousy time before. And there was more beer around than you could drink and all this sort of thing and I can remember steak was something you got just about every meal if you wanted it. And then I think there was some feeling that the Germans might sort of get too pally with the
Turks and come down through Turkey and come down to the desert that way. And so off we went up to, in a defensive role up to Lebanon really to a place called Latakia which was you know up towards the Turkish border and we had one company right near the Turkish border. But we had some time at Latakia, which was cold, west
and did some more training and - oh you know it was an interesting time I suppose because we’d not been in a populated place before. And then as part of a scheme to have some desert exercise off we went to Aleppo. And by that time the Germans were on the go again. And in about June 1942 popped on a train and down we went
and we came to El Alamein. And then of course we were there in a defensive role there for some time. The Germans used to poke around and we used to fight back. And then ultimately of course the 8th Army was formed properly and Montgomery came out and preparations were made for the Battle of El Alamein. And
our battalion took part in that and we eventually of course it was all over and the - we came back up to Palestine after that and on, in about February ’43 back we came to Australia on the Aquitania and - how far have I got to go?
Okay back we came on the Aquitania and we had six weeks leave and then we gathered together and were sent by train up to the Atherton Tablelands to a place called Keiri, which was quite pleasant and we did a whole lot of training of one sort including amphibious training which meant landing off landing ships and things. And then we went to Milne Bay
and we landed at Lae which - our division had the job of capturing Lae first of all which was quite an important place for the Japanese. 7th Div were going to do it one way, we were going to do it the other. 7 Div were going to do it by airborne landings, we were doing it from the landing ships. So fortunately Lae was not very well defended by the Japanese and it was -
although we landed on the wrong beach, we were there. And then the next move was up the coast and our brigade then was chosen to capture a place called Finschhafen, which was further up the Peninsula. And that was rather a more difficult thing because well it was, well you know part of these amphibious landings is get your feet on the ground
and you know get yourself ashore and - you know not be too cleaned up as you’re attempting to bring stuff ashore and bring yourselves ashore and you know it was an unpleasant sort of landing because you know half the time you were landing in four feet of water instead of on a beach and this sort of thing. Anyway Finschhafen was quite a battle for us and we eventually captured the place. And
we were there for some time and you know quite a lot of soldiering and waring was going on. And then the battalion came back to Finschhafen and we all got some dry clothing and that sort of thing after quite a long time of being wet. And at that point, about November, late November 1943 I was chosen to go to an army
staff school in Duntroon in Canberra. And so I gave up my job as adjutant of the battalion and down I came to Sydney. And I met my wife, because my sister was in the WRANS [Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service] too. And I met Lorna and then off I went to Canberra and
they really worked us hard for three months down there because they had a staff officers course which normally took about 12 months compressed into three. And you know we used to work day and night and it was really tough. But at the end of it I was posted off by mistake to a brigade for a while but then they discovered they’d sent me to the wrong place. And I was sent to a unit called the
1 Aust Combined Operations Section. Now basically it was a unit of the three services set up to manage if you like, oh the training of units for amphibious operations. And we were parked in a lovely old house up at Cairns and that was a very pleasant piece of war as far as I was concerned. But we had a lot of American landing ships came in as
- for training purposes and you know, we had to manage the training operations for you know various parts of it, the division who’d come down from the Tablelands and they’d spend three days you know jumping in and out of landing ships and climbing down the sides of ships and this sort of thing. And eventually the need for that apparently must have passed but I was then posted to a
staff job in headquarters of 9th Division, it was called G2 Combined Ops [operations]. It was a new thing because we were going into this thing. Well the operational side of the divisional headquarters apart from the divisional commander, we had a senior staff officer for operations and another staff officer for administration. But then they had offsiders. Well I was one of the offsiders in the operations
side. And we spent time then planning the Borneo operations. You know and we finished up going to Morotai which is north west of New Guinea and that was a concentration area for everyone at that stage. And from there we engaged in the Borneo landings and we went to -
then I finished up in a place called Labuan Island which was off Borneo and the rest of the division you know picked up bits of the coast line. And that went on until the Japanese threw in the towel and we - well there was a place called Sarawak and a place called Kuching which was the capital of Sarawak and there was quite a big
prisoner of war [POW] camp there. There were quite a lot of civilians and quite a lot of army people. You know British army and Australian officers and all sorts of people there. So I was then sent with a brigadier and another major and myself and a tribe of other kind of support people, you know infantry troops and supply people and we were put on a
naval ship and sent down to Kuching to take over the place and release the prisoners. Well that was a worthwhile thing to do and while we were parked in a very nice old palace on the side of a river. And we managed you know the shipping out of all the prisoners including quite a few of the civilians who were still there. And they were flown out. We had
air force people and there was an aerodrome there so they were all flown off to Singapore. And eventually the place, all the POWs were sent back to Singapore. Well then we had - the chaps had to be collected up and disposed of, sent home I suppose. But then I had the job of gathering up all the Japanese in Sarawak and also what’s now called Kalimantan which was Dutch Borneo
and that was really one of the most interesting times I think I spent in the war. Because there were quite a lot of garrison troops. None of them were very war like I didn’t think. They were basically garrison troops to provide guards and people for the POWs I suppose. And also the local administration. See the Japanese came into these places and they took over everything.
Banks, every kind of facility around the place and substituted Japanese money for all the local currency and that sort of thing. But they also had sent sort of garrison groups down to Dutch Borneo as it was in those days and so I had the job of collecting them all. And of course Kuching was a very good place to collect the Japanese POWs
because we had all these camps to use. And so I spent some time then doing that. And I don’t know how much detail you want of that.
posted to a department and happily the head of it was a ex World War 1 fellow anyway. But I realised that I - in the post war world I needed more education and more study was needed. And I’d got used to studying at this three month’s staff course and for the first time in my life I was a hard working student. You know it
interested me to be a student again. Anyway I realised I needed to do something so I fortunately took advantage of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme and I went to Sydney University and I did economics as an evening student. Well that was hard because I worked all day till five o’clock. I’d jump on the tram and I’d go up to the university and have a quick bite to eat and get home - we lived
in Roseville in those days. Well we built a house at Roseville. And well I spent four years and out I came with a Bachelor of Economics. And then I worked - well I was in a group at head office of CSR in those days that dealt with superannuation and investment and
insurance and all sorts of things. And ultimately I became head of that and in about 1963 I think I moved to another job and I went into marketing, sugar marketing. And then I was sent to a course down at Melbourne University for some few months.
And when I came back the Deputy General Manager said to me, “How’d you like Melbourne?” And I said, “Well I quite enjoyed it.” And he said, “Well how’d you like to be Victorian Manager for the company?” So off we went and for nearly seven years I was Victorian Manager for CSR and this gets to about 1972.
And so I came back - prior to that I’d said to Lorna, “Look I think inflation’s catching up and one of these days I’ll get sent back to head office anyway. You’d better go and buy something.” So she looked around and she bought this townhouse in Waverton Avenue and we came back eventually. I was transferred back into a General Manager of the Division. And I said, “Look we’ll live in the townhouse
for a while” because we wanted to go back up the north shore where we’d been before and twenty years later we’re still in Waverton Avenue. And well I retired in 1962. CSR had a compulsory retiring - ’82 I mean - had a compulsory retiring age of 62. So off I retired and
then I you know, started to do other things. Prior to that I’d always been very much involved in service type activity and that sort of thing. I was in a thing called a Junior Chamber of Commerce for many years, which doesn’t exist now. And then when I went to Melbourne I was asked to join Melbourne Rotary Club which I was pleased about. And when I came back to Sydney I was - somebody said I was a good Rotarian in Melbourne so they took me into Sydney Rotary Club.
And I was very active in that. And I became President in 1982/3 and that used to be about three days a week in those days. And oh other than that I got involved in Probus [worldwide association of retired and semi-retired people] and became chairman of the Probus centre which was the administrative organisation for Probus for a couple of years. And then we started to feel that we needed to
think about moving. We’d had a weekend house up at Lake Macquarie for - oh some years. And we liked this area and I came up here one day with Lorna to see a friend of ours who lived here in this village. And thought, “Gee this is not bad.” So 1994 up we came and bought this - this was a new
place then and we bought it and here we are.
and you know I was a choir boy at the local St Johns Anglican Church. And I think my voice must’ve been breaking or something but I also had a couple of misdemeanours and we pushed a whole lot of kids into the parish hall one night when there was some lecture on and I happened to walk past the arch deacon’s hat and pushed it in and I think it was time I left. So I got kicked out of the choir.
Other than that there were all kinds of tennis things from time to time, although I wasn’t much good at tennis. But oh you know - then I became - at one stage I became quite interested in what’s now called electronics and I used to fiddle around with - and I knew - my father knew
a man who was very much involved in amateur radio in those days. And you know I used to hang around this fellow a bit and see how it all worked and so forth. And that’s how I really started to develop an interest in communications really. And - but then - well you know as I say we had the scouts
and church, although I wasn’t a very good church goer. I must say I’m not very much involved in that now. But you know, we went on picnics occasionally but my father was - my grandfather’s farms of course had been left - when grandfather died they’d been left in the hands of people who worked on it and theoretically would become manager of it. But jolly
nearly every Saturday afternoon Dad used to get in the car and we’d all go out to the farm. That was the big Saturday afternoon deal and you know he’d sort of stir the place up a bit. So that was a sort of a fairly regular activity. We’d put the dog on the running board and off we’d go out to Loughborough, which wasn’t very far out of Tamworth really. And so I did quite a bit of that sort of thing. But it was enough to indicate to me
that I was never going to be a farmer. Although he was - I think he was more than just a farmer because ultimately he became very much involved in land management. And Sydney University Geography Department came up there - he became friendly with a man who was a geographer in the University and they became very interested
in land management. And improving the quality of the property.
- well for a start most of the so called salary staff in CSR were recruited from boys who’d been to GPS schools. You know they used to laughingly say to get a job in CSR you had to protestant. People had to be Anglican, to have been to Shore or Sydney Grammar.
Be related to somebody in the company and that was seen as, not so much as a sort of piece of snobbery but because the company had sugar mills all over the jolly place and the Fiji operation, they reckoned if they got people from the same sort of social background and upbringing and so forth they could live with each other when it came to being whacked
off to north Queensland or down to Fiji or somewhere. And there was never too much insistence on academic brilliance but they reckoned that the bright fellows’d float up to the top and the other ones would do the kind of jobs that were you know every day sort of jobs. Accountants and bookkeepers and that sort of thing. But it was a pleasant
place to work. I enjoyed it because you know there were young fellows in there and we were all the same sort of people and we got on well together. And you know it was a very formal sort of place. You had to wear a hat and a suit and the - you know you were always called by your surname. You were never called Jack or Charlie or Jim.
Except by your peers and your mates. But I mean your boss’d call you Somerville or whatever. And the general manager himself was God almighty. And I spent the first few months of my service in a job in the department which used to be called the correspondence department. Basically a general sort of communications office.
Or typing pool and that sort of thing. And there were no women in the place except for two girls on the switch. And you’d have three particular duties. One was to sit on a chair outside the general manager’s office with a row of bells in front of you and if the senior officers wanted something they’d ring a bell and you’d go chundering off down to find out what they want. And then there was another one where we used to send -
had to take down the cables every afternoon to the cables office. And another job we had to go up to the post office and pick up the mail. And that was sort of a low digidy job and carrying the bag full of letters down from the GPO, oh that wasn’t any big deal. But we used to have to do it with a great big solid leather suitcase that we used to cart all this stuff. And you had to take up all the mail in the afternoon. Because in those days phones -
to ring up interstate was not encouraged. And there was the branch letters and the mill letters that went out every afternoon. We used to press copy. And you’d have to rush off up to the post office and get the Adelaide mail in by six o’clock. If you happened to be careless and shove it in the Melbourne box you had to go down the back and pay a fellow a shilling to drag it out for you.
That’s what happened. So in answer to your question it was a very good place to work in those days because you were given every opportunity. And to go back to the militia bit again, it was encouraged because although not many of the hierarchy of CSR had been at World War 1. There were quite a lot of fellows who had and it was seen as something that should be encouraged
and a lot of fellows in the office belonged to various kinds of artillery units and like it did, an infantry unit. And you know - when we went to camp we’d get our annual holidays and on top of time off to go to camps. We used to go and do a fortnight’s camp every year, well that was freebee
and you still got paid. So it was a good place to work. And I stayed there for forty five years.
I suppose the chemist always thought they were a superior tribe. I was offered - after I’d joined the company and they discovered that I’d passed the leaving in chemistry I was offered a switch from the commercial staff to the chemical staff. But I thought, “Well I’ll go down - before I know where I am I’ll be sent off to a sugar mill or somewhere”. So I said, “No thanks I’ll stay where I am.” And I’m glad I did. But
it’s the sort of - CSR’s success in the early days was based on chemistry. Because the old Knox family people had come to the conclusion was that the way to make money out of sugar was not waste it. And chemical staff controlled the whole process from go to whoa and they were very important people. Engineers were
- they were not socially the same sort of levels as chemists. They were sort of thought of as mechanics. And there were hardly any graduate engineers in the place. There were a hell of a lot of people who’d done their apprenticeship and CSR ran an enormous work shop over at Pyrmont and there were a lot of apprentices and a lot of people were trained by CSR and went elsewhere.
So in answer to your question well the commercial people were there, the chemists were there and the engineers were there. But you could - there was no sort of special - the chemists and the commercial people were the ones that were mostly together I suppose.
And it’s a terribly important thing in the army or anywhere to be able to read a map. If somebody said, “Well look draw a little sketch of what your position is” - you might be sent out to do a reconnaissance and see where the enemy is and you’ve got to come back and be able to sort of say, “Well there’s a hill there, and a creek there” and this sort of thing. That was one kind. And I can remember feeling a
bit foolish one day I had to give a lecture on field hygiene. And all this sort of thing. And you’d read it up in the book the night before and I remember I had a book - a text book for young officers and how to lecture on this that or the other. And in answer to your question, no there were a variety of subjects.
And there were a few on the organisation of the army. You had to answer how the battalion was made up and who else was in it and what was the job of the cooks and bottle washers. What was the job of the mortar platoon. And the strength. How many people were in it and that sort of thing. So there was a variety, there was no sort of education if that’s the sort of question you’ve got in
your mind. But as I say the object in those days was to turn civilians into soldiers so there was more of the basic kind of military activity like rifle drill and discipline. And how to perform the jobs that you had.
And he had got together a whole lot of very good bandsmen. He was a Salvation Army fellow and he got some of them and we always reckoned - well the other units always reckoned that we’d pinched the BHP [Broken Hill Propriety] Steelworks Bank at Newcastle. So we used to - this was a very good military band and we sort of marched off with a flurry to Bathurst.
Oh I forget the first night: it might’ve been Penrith; I forget the stages now. But you’d get to one of these places and there’d be a tribe of newspaper photographers who’d come and take pictures of the fellows taking their socks off and rubbing their feet and all this kind of thing. It was a bit of a joke. And then you’d get to a town and you’d be put up in church halls and
we had our own feeding arrangements. But quite often the local townspeople would like to entertain ten men for dinner and this sort of happened along the way. And then you kept going. Springwood might be a place - and then you’d stop over there and the same thing’d happen and you’d always put up, under cover. We got to Katoomba and I think our company was all in the old town hall in
Katoomba. And that was pretty good because you’d get leave straight away almost. And people had friends and some of their relatives and camp followers’d come afterwards. And they’d see their wives and kids sometimes because Mum and the kids’d be staying in one of the boarding houses or something. So it was a pretty comfortable arrangement. And then we - after that we went on and as I say, we went to - the coldest night
I ever spent was at a place called Wallerawang, where there was a big power station and oh boy was it a frosty joint. But they’d put up tents and one thing and another so it wasn’t too bad. But after that off we went and kept going and marched into this Glenmire camp at Kelso near Bathurst with a blaze of glory and settled ourselves down.
fellows who were linesmen. You had people in your battalion headquarters - their job was to - you liaise or work with the fellows that are allocated out in say A Company so there was two there and there might be a couple of blokes who when the A Company line went out they started their end and they started your end sort of thing, and met up in the middle happily and fixed up the break. But we didn’t have much radio, we had some radio sets that came with us
and there were a few fellows that we had who were familiar with this sort of - with radio but not very familiar I’d say. But these things were a damn nuisance. They weren’t much good. They were heavy and they really required operation beyond the capability of most of the fellows we had. And they operated offertories which you had to have and
they weren’t a great deal of use. But ultimately we used them a bit but, not a lot. I mean that’s in the beginning of the war. Towards the end of the war of course when we came back to Australia we had all the American equipment. We had walkie talkies and all sorts of wonderful things that we’d not had before. But in those early days, well there was - in a battalion there was not much other facility than telephones and
a bit of radio, but not much. I mean the main radio sets started about brigade level. They had a brigade signal section and they had wirelesses and all this sort of business. But we actually had scrounged some of these things but when we got up the desert you know there were a lot of - more equipment scattered around the place and we had grabbed a couple of army sets
that we had to keep quiet about because you weren’t supposed to do it. And we used them for all sorts of purposes but not necessary for communications, as much as anything for listening to the BBC news at night or something.
we withdraw to this place, Beda Fomm which was an air field and then that didn’t look to be a proposition to defend so there was a hill behind a place called Er Regima which was an escarpment and there was a road down the bottom and it came up the top. And we were there sitting on this place at Er Regima and you know about
three thousand Germans and tanks and goodness knows what were milling around down the bottom. And they started to come up and we had some support from artillery and they shot up a bit but it was pretty apparent that we were not going to be able to keep this position very long. And actually a couple of our units were surrounded by Germans and captured, sub units. And then overnight
some military transport trucks came up and we then set off through a very dusty night to get our way back down the coast. It was funny - it was not very pleasant because it was terribly - it was almost like driving through a cloud, with the dust that was on. And I can remember feeling diffident about shoving a rifle butt through the
window screen of the truck that I was because you couldn’t see. And that was my first experience of doing that and it came a bit hard really. Not hard but you think, fancy shoving your rifle butt through a truck’s window you know. But it happened, it had to.
was in one of the forward positions - well the daily routine would be - by day not much happening. Because you’d get your head shot off. And by night - oh there were daylight patrols sometimes depending on where you were. But by night there was a great amount of patrolling went on.
Morshead’s [Major General Leslie Morshead, commander 9th Division 2nd AIF] great benefit to Tobruk was that he instigated patrolling, you weren’t just allowed to sit in your hole and hope the Germans didn’t come. There was active patrols, fighting patrols, reconnaissance patrols that went out to check up on what the Germans and Italians were up to. But in the reserve position which was called the blue line well
that was a bit further back, probably a couple of miles back. Well you could move around in the day time but ... well you just put in time, kept your head down and you know we were shelled and mortared a heck of a lot. But as far as I was concerned - my job was - I wasn’t in a rifle company so I didn’t have to go out on patrols but my job would be to be a spare
officer at battalion headquarters. That’s all. I mean the other people couldn’t sit up twenty four hours a day running the war. So you know I might be the battalion duty officer. Well comes night Somerville’s on the job and the phones’d ring and C Company would report that a patrol to XYZ had come back and nothing to report or they’d had two casualties. Or they’d something to report. And you would have to
record this. There was a thing called a war diary kept all the time. And other than that you’d be looking after your fellows and making sure they were getting fed, this sort of thing and more over that the system was working. But basically I had a good sergeant and a couple of good corporals and in those days we used to have a hell of a lot of trouble with dust in equipment. Telephone exchange in those days was
a thing - well there’d be relays and the little things’d flop down and they’d go bzzzzz. That meant that somebody was calling. But the way to overcome that they used to - oh these relays’d come out and they used to put them in condoms to be quite honest to keep the dust out of them. But you always - sometimes you might have to give a bit of a hand to the fellows to get it fixed because nobody’d be there. So really I suppose
my main job in Tobruk would’ve been doing my job of making sure that the 13th Battalion signals were as good as anybody else’s or better. And being a sort of spare headquarters officer. And sometimes you’d be sent out as a liaison officer. You might be sent out to a company to explain to the company commander what the CO had on his mind. If they weren’t able - there’d be battalion -
or conferences - you know and if it was daylight in some of the reserve positions, company commanders would come in and there’d be a conference and there’d be a plan of all the patrols for the next week. It depended on how long you were in a position. And you’d be in a particular position for sometimes up to a month but then somebody else would take off. And there was all this planning that went on of who relieved who, and who did what and what patrols did. And whether
A Company and B Company were forward and C and D were in reserve. And whether it was C Company to be in the forward position. It wasn’t just sort of sitting around doing nothing all day I can tell you.
Tobruk was a filthy place, left that way by the Italians. There was rubbish everywhere and all these positions I talk about had - oh rubbish of all kinds. Clothing and that sort of thing. And there was great deal of effort put in to cleaning the place up and making sure that we had proper - always as good as could be provided hygiene for a start.
You know they had - well you know there were latrines. There were - even in some of these forward positions with the concrete positions there was one element, one bit of it was set aside where they used to have four gallon tins for urine and probably an ammunition box with a hole in it
for the other job. But a larger picture was there was a fellow on divisional headquarters who had General Morshead’s complete backing and A.B. Fryberg was his name. He was a health officer for the Brisbane City Council. A.B. Fryberg was given the job of trying to clean the place up.
Well that improved things quite a bit but the biggest trouble was flies from all this rubbish, and that brought on dysentery. And then food was very limited because in the forward area you could only bring it up at night and nine times out of ten a hot meal would come up and then there’d be hard rations like bully beef and biscuits issued for the next couple of meals. Or sometimes it was
what we used to call goldfish in tins, that was awful stuff I’ve never eaten it since. But you know - and there was no way of having a wash. We had very limited water and you only got a water bottle a day. Even at the best of times I think we only ever got about - oh three quarters a gallon a man water for the battalion. Well a lot of that went in cooking and
meals down at the rear area where all this was done. And so you know there was - the food was pretty awful or pretty limited. There was enough but - and there was bread. They had a bakery in Tobruk where we used to get bread up. And that was a luxury but otherwise lack of sleep. Continual from time to time
bombardment by the enemy and you know just living like a rat in a trap sort of thing.
the same sort of unit would take over from the same sort of unit in the front. So that - and everything was left in place. Your reserve ammunition stayed there and our reserve ammunition’d be there for when the 2/15th Battalion came in. And then the emergency rations and equipment of every kind so there was no great
difficulty in switching units over because as I say men took over rather than haul in another lot of new equipment. So it was preordained and if you’d been there too long or you wanted to be pulled back for some particular reason well okay there’d be a take over of positions by
another unit of yours. That’s during the course of the operation but later on when Tobruk was being relieved and Australians were being pulled out it was a rather different set up. A different set up - I don’t know how far you want to go with that. You see the Australian Government wanted to pull out. After [John] Curtin became Prime Minister
the Australian Government wanted to pull out all the Australian troops in the Middle East and bring them home to look after Australia. Defend the place against the Japanese. And the 7th Div went home and remainder of 6th Div went home. And the job of relieving the 9th Division finished up that the 18th Brigade which belonged to 7th Division
was relieved by Poles. The Polish regiment that was mainly made up of refugee officers and NCOs [non commissioned officers] from the Polish Army. They were good. They came in and then overnight and always in darkness when the moon was down they came in and took over the positions so the 18th Brigade
had been withdrawn to if you like. And then they - we had the job then of sponsoring them in. Or units of ours that were already there had the job of sponsoring them in and you’d bring up groups of officers and NCOs and show them the kind of positions we had. And the Poles were a very fierce lot because you’d take them out and say, “Well the XYZ
Italian Regiment is over there.” And they’d sort of listen fairly patiently and then they’d say, “Yeah but where are the Germans?” They were only interested in shooting up Germans and when they first came in they had to put the clamps on them for using up all the ammunition in the place I think. But then when the British came in they’d take over from the brigade. You’d arrange that
they’d just move into the areas that the other brigade had in their units. And out they’d go. Everyone’d withdraw down to town and hopefully finish up on a ship that got back to Alexandria. But it was a pretty practised art by the time all this finished. But we unfortunately got left behind.
I mean sometimes, the chap you were talking to, Joe Madeley [Joseph] was talking about stealing the sausages well that’s a sort of classic 13th Battalion story but, I can remember my platoon had a little raid on the same place one night. And it was a big sort of stores depot down towards the town and
it - oh it was surrounded by barbed wire but also there were a lot of dust storms and three of my fellows got under the fence one night and came back with the cigarettes and a bit of tinned fruit and that sort of thing and parked it under my bunk. So I was the villain. But one of them had been caught. And a young British army officer brought this chap back and started to tell our
CO what he ought to do about these villains that come down and raid his depot and Colonel Burrows was not the man to take that sort of thing lightly. But it was a court martial offence in Tobruk to pinch stuff you know like that. But the old bull arranged that when the court martial was convened there was - the chairman of the court martial was a major from another battalion who was a legal bloke.
And he arranged for our 2IC [second in command] who was a barrister in Sydney and he became the defending officer and he got him off. So they fixed it all up. So to answer your question there was no black market. You couldn’t swap - nothing to swap. I mean you might, oh I don’t know -
the people in the B echelon, it was called, which was the back up area for supplies and ammunition and all that sort of thing they might have done a bit of a trade with another unit who was lucky enough to have got onto something. And there was a certainly amount of Italian rations left behind. When the Italians cleared out they left four gallon tins of dried onions and all this sort of thing. Well you know
that wasn’t bad, that made a hell of a lot of difference to this famous ‘McConnicky’ stew, which was this British stew. I don’t know what was in it but it wasn’t too flash. So the answer to your question is not much opportunity. I mean even at one stage somebody sent us up some beer. Well it was about one bottle of beer between four men and I can remember fellows saying, “God I wouldn’t worry my thirst with that drop.” And gave it to somebody else. But that was a rarity. But
we didn’t occasionally get a bit of chocolate sent up from the comforts fund and I say tinned fruit was a really luxury.
down to Sydney to school I came down with a couple of other fellows who knew about it and I got called Slim Somerville. I started to work for CSR and my fellows that I worked with there they knew about this nicknames. And nicknames in that era were very common. I mean CSR was full of fellows that were Sandy or Joe - you know something else. And it didn’t seem to matter too much.
So that was perpetuated when I went to work and then in the army was Slim Somerville. And even today I’m always referred to - as the patron of our association I’m Slim Somerville. And I’ve got a fellow I know very very well and we were doing something recently and he said, “I’ve got to know your full name.” And I said, “Rupert James.” He said, “God I never heard that before.”
So there you are. So that’s how the Slim Somerville and my old friends now call me that. But when I was in Melbourne in the - when I went down there for the company I got sick of explaining to people where this came from so I hauled out me second name which was Jim and I’ve been widely used that since. Down there I was always Jim Somerville. Here, if you were talking to Eric Flood he’d call me Jim. But
if you were talking to Joe Madeley he’d - if you said Jim Somerville he’d say, “Who’s that? Is that the same as Slim Somerville?” And a lot of soldiers had this nickname.
all the platoons had their own commanders. I got handed a whole lot of compensation claims. And what had happened of course, we’d been preceded there by a so called divisional cavalry regiment which had a lot of Bren carriers and vehicles of one sort. And they chased around all over the place and they’d caused a lot of damage to olive groves and some of the tobacco
growing farms. And oh people had been injured by army vehicles and all types of things. The locals got the idea well, let’s put our hand out and see what the army’ll pay. So I got this pile of stuff. And I was allocated an interpreter, a young French-Lebanese called Albert. But Albert’s
father was the local postmaster. But I had to investigate all these things and authorise the payment on them if they were genuine. But I had the precaution of one of our fellows from the intelligence section who’d been born in Egypt, spoke Arabic and French and he used to give me the tip if they were trying to pull my leg. So well we paid out quite a lot of these things. A decent big olive grove branch’d be worth about thirty shillings in those days. And
oh you know there were people that claimed they’d been run over or injured by army vehicles. Well half the time if you gave them an army blanket and patted them on the back they were happy. ‘Cause I remember I used to have to go and see a couple of people in hospital there and you know it had to be done fairly formally because when the money was paid out it had to be properly authorised. And I sort of had virtually certify that I’d properly investigated it
and it was a serious and fair dinkum claim.
What was the nature of those training advances, what new tactics were you practising?
Well towards the end, towards when the battle started there were extensive mine fields that the Germans had put down and I suppose we’d put some of them too. But there were a whole lot of training exercises which involved getting through minefields and a very significant part of the whole exercise. When the actual battle started there were
start lines, taped. And passages through the minefields sort of worked out and the engineers did a marvellous of mine clearance. But also on a larger scale there were dummy vehicles set up. And tanks that were made up out of trucks with camouflage all over them. And the spirit of the division was being worked
up. Montgomery came out there and it’s well known that he did a great job of assuring 8th Army that he wasn’t going to go into any battle unless he was ready for it. And that sort of spirit caught on. And we then - I mean we had quite a lot of attempts by the Germans to get into the place but never got past us much. And there were special factors about El Alamein. There was a great
sand depression on one side and the sea on the other. And it was in the middle.
contrast - I mean we’d been sent up there to be converted from being desert soldiers to being jungle fighters. And the Atherton Tables is a beautiful place. It is still is and it was then. And we used to marvel at the wonderful country it was but we spent a lot of time up there on amphibious training. And we used to go down to Cairns and we did quite a lot of training
with an American - oh it was called an engineers special brigade but basically it was an American unit that took over the beach when the forward troops had captured it. And they set up all the facilities for receiving stores and enabling ships to come in and that sort of thing. It was called an engineers special brigade. And they were a good lot of chaps and we spent a lot of time with them because they were unlike a lot of Americans.
They were really good fellows and they’d had a fair bit of battle experience and I remember the head of it was a wonderful big fellow and I think his name was McDonald. But his mother was a Red Indian [American Indian] and his father was a Scotsman. And they used to instead of calling us the 2/13th Battalion they used to call us the two bar one three combat team. Which greatly amused us. But that’s what we did there and then we’d go back up to the tablelands and carry on with
being issued with jungle kit. Jungle uniforms and we had quite a lot of - oh concern I suppose - quite a few fellows got a disease called scrub typhus which was a real killer. But then we were imbued with the idea of being careful of malaria. Not that there was malaria up there but there was you know
we were being trained to manage the jungle when we got there. So it was quite important for a unit to be good at accommodating itself to new conditions all the time. And that’s what we did.
And 7th Div - they were supposed to do an airborne landing there, parachute landing. And they did it. They were unopposed too so not much happened there. But of course 7th Div were given the job of going up through the middle and we were to go up through the coast. And they had a bad -
it was a bad sort of war they had at that stage because it was very - crossing rivers, it was jungle. And there was no doubt about it - it is hot and it is wet and it’s jolly uncomfortable. I’d never go back there in a fit. So then we sat around at Lae for a while until we got new orders for our brigade to get ready to embark to go and capture Finschhafen and we marched up the coast
to an embarkation point where we - we had to - we just didn’t get on the ship and go. I mean there was a plan which we had to be ready for and you know we were allocated this beach and they were allocated that beach and in the end we didn’t get onto the right beach anyway. We got ashore alright at Finschhafen and unfortunately a couple of our fellows were killed by snipers sitting up in trees. But we cleaned them up
and we got just so far. But the Japanese were well dug into an area and we had to go and clean them out of that before we got anywhere because the whole aim of the thing was to get up a track to a place called Sattleberg which had been a reasonably German mission come winter quarters kind of place for the German missionaries. And that was a serious war for a while, we lost a lot of people.
And at one stage one of the battalions was cut off because the Japs had got across the track and they couldn’t supply them. And anyway ultimately Finschhafen was captured.
It was a township and we were there but then we had to do the next bit then and get to this place called Kakapo it was called which is - well one of our companies actually attacked it and captured it. But then we all resumed operations on going up this track. And it was a dangerous place because you never quite knew when you were going to be ambushed
and it was difficult to supply us because it was steep. And you know jeeps had trouble even getting up it but you know I can remember I think I saw my first bulldozer. Americans had landed a couple of bulldozers and some of our engineers were operating them. And I admired the fellow that was doing it because there he is out in the middle of the jungle sort of ploughing away with his bulldozer, not another soul in sight. I thought, “Well I hope everybody keeps out of your road from the other
side.” But there we are - and finally the Japanese cleared out. They were running out of food, they were, obviously. When we came across some of them eventually they were pretty much starving because at that stage of course there was an enormous air cover and the Americans were there with their Lightnings and goodness knows what. And they used to shoot up everything Japanese. The Japanese attempted to try and resupply some of these places by floating in bags of rice. But they got shot
up or alternatively our fellows caught them first. And so they really had no other course but to withdraw because they were virtually unable to be supplied and they would have starved to death if they’d stayed there.
a few times. But I had to co-ordinate their activities with other things that were happening, and the navy and so forth. And so that was an enjoyable bit of fun. But I also went down and visited the 13th one time. But then the war was coming to an end and there were -
when the Japanese threw it in, a force was sent down to Kuching, which was the capital of Sarawak and where there were a lot of POWs. And our job then was to release the POWs and gather up all the Japanese. And it was a - we went down on a navy
ship from Labuan and landed up at Kuching. And took over the place - we had troops with us. You know quite a few of us - the divisional artillery commander was in command of this exercise and I was one of his offsiders and another chap was an equally offsider. and you know we sort of hoisted the Australian flag. And
the Japanese by that time had been told that they were surrendering. It was very difficult with the Japanese because they had lousy communications. But the RAAF started to drop a whole lot of food and goodies into the camps. And we got there and of course we went straight out to the POW camp and opened the gates and out came - one fellow
I was at school with came out of the gate. And I was delighted to see him. And then we set about, we had facilities from the liaison with the RAAF and hundreds of POWs and a number of civilians were flown over to Singapore. Out as quick as you could. And we had a hospital - quite a substantial hospital came with us. And some people needed treatment and all that before they were sent back to Singapore. And we …
some of them weren’t bad. The officers camp, they won’t too bad. The Japanese kept the officers away from the general one of troops because they reckoned they were likely to put them up to no, try to escape and all this sort of business. So they tended to be separated, as indeed that was the case with a lot of, Germans, and in fact our own army. You kept the, tried to keep the leaders
away from the led. But they weren’t good. Mentally quite a few of them were, with respect, a bit away with the fairies and they took a lot of settling down I would think. Some of the British people we were - they were still madly running around saluting each other, that sort of thing when the war was over. But the answer was, not too good. There
was a number of ordinary troops there and they were not in the same sort of bad condition I don’t think as the fellows were over on the railway and in Changi. And as for the civilians they weren’t too badly off. There was a women called Agnes Keith and she wrote a book ‘Three Came Back’ and it was about her experience in the Kuching Camp. And she reckoned the old commandant wasn’t a bad old fellow.
He was reasonably kind and gave the kids lollies and all this sort of business. He, poor old fellow, was flown back to Labuan and he committed suicide in a tent. But then we had the job of gathering up all the Japanese. Now the Japanese in Kuching were under the command of a Japanese brigade
commander who was a pretty old fellow and he - they were not the cream of the Japanese army. But they would garrison troops, they provided guard duty I suppose on the camps and they took over all the civilian activities. You know there were people that took over the bank and the postal system and the transport. And particularly the currency and they really ran the place, administratively. So we then,
with the help of some British civil affairs unit people who served in the place before the war, set up administration in the capital Kuching to sort of get all this back together again. But the main body of the Japs were down a river there and I had the job of gathering the Japanese up. But I
found that one of the Japanese who was a major spoke excellent English with an American accent - he’d been manager of the Tokyo Bank in New York before the war. And Major Tatara was a very well educated and sensible man. And the chief of staff of the units there he was a permanent soldier but you know he was a bit old. But he was a good man.
He was easy to deal with. And then there was the little Japanese captain. And he was an agricultural scientist, I eventually found out. He was easy enough. So we had them herded the headquarters of this outfit into a house. We took all the arms away from the Japanese including stuff that they’d pinched from the civilians. Shot guns and God only knows what.
So I used to have a sort of meeting with these guys every morning and I’d go down there with an armed guard, a fellow - two fellows standing beside me with a rifle and bayonet fixed - it was a bit of a charade I suppose. And then I would sort of issue the orders for the day just that they were to bring back all the money from the bank. The Bank of Sarawak which they had at this place some
miles down the river. Well okay, they’d transmit the orders to their people down there and say, “We are ordered today to bring back the money and we want it here by five o’clock this afternoon or look out.” And then we used to use all these Japanese for working parties for things that had to be fixed up. Anything that had to be repaired around the place like roads and holes in the
fence and so forth, we’d say, “Well we want a working party of a hundred men this afternoon. And we’ll give them picks and shovels and they’d better get on with the job.” And that went on for quite some time and we gradually got then all back into what used to be the prisoner of war camp ready to be repatriated or you know taken back to Japan. And
as I said it was a very interesting exercise because I got used to these Japanese people that I dealt with and I got quite interested. In the end I had enough of their language to be able to cope a bit and I could ring them up on the phone and as long as I got to Tarasan on the phone it was alright. But they were sensible people and the war was over and they just wanted to get home.
What sort of shape were they in physically?
Oh they were in good shape. They were well fed. They were alright. Then there was another sort of group of Japanese down at a place called Pontianak which is now what is Kalimantan. It was a port on what was then called Dutch Borneo. And we had to get them up too. So one of these American
Japanese was with us and I had him all the time. So he and I and another couple of fellows were given a Catalina and we flew down to Ponchianak, having previously told the Japanese to warn their people down there we were coming and they’d better get to work, putting all their arms in one place and getting ready to be taken out of it. So we went down there and this all happened and they
were doing what they were supposed to do. And we had arranged for a thing called a landing ship tank. Now it was a British - a big landing ship they put tanks on - there was a hell of a lot of room on them. And so that went down there and it turned up in Pontianak and all these Japanese were shovelling on board that. And they came back to Kuching and picked up some more and they were all taken over to - I think they were taken over to Singapore where they were then put on
ships and carted back to Japan. So that was an interesting experience really because it was just something you might never have done otherwise. And I found that the Japanese chief down in Pontianak had a beautiful Pontiac car that he’d obviously pinched from some Dutch person. So I got him out of that pretty quick and lively and that went on the landing ship
tank and it went back to Kuching. Not for me but for our brigade commander. By that time the Dutch were starting to infiltrate back into the place but the Indonesians as they turned out to be - Javanese and all the races they didn’t want them. When I was at Pontianak I used to get delegations come to me every night. We were there for about a week or more. I’d get a paper sent up for me to read.
It’d be addressed to the allied commander of West Borneo, that’s me. And it’d come from the Chinese community who were complaining about the way that the Indonesians were treating them. The Japanese were hated because they had - the Chinese were hated because they had all the money even though the Japanese were there. And so then the Chinese’d then complain about the Javanese
and they’d all have a harrowing tale to tell you about what had happened to them with the Japanese. But it amused me no end that I used to be addressed as the allied commander in West Borneo. Poor old Somerville. But anyway back I came to Kuching. And we had collected - oh all kinds of arms. And Japanese swords of course. When the Japanese small arms had been taken from them and all the officers
swords had been taken from them. We had a great room full of them in this palace place we were staying in. But one day the RAAF fellow - the air force fellow rang me up from the airport and he said there’s a Japanese aeroplane landed here and there’s a colonel aboard and he didn’t even know the war was over. So I said, “Oh I’ll come out.” So I took out a party of fellows and anyway there was this colonel fellow and relieved him of his sword pretty smartly
and the RAAF took over his plane and his crew finished up in the POW camp. But it was just indicative of the fact that they had such poor communication to tell everybody that they’d surrendered and the war was over. But anyway I went back to Labuan and took the sword with me because you never quite know
in the army who you’ve got to bribe to get things done. And those sort of souvenirs were valuable. And anyway back to Labuan I sat there until my time on the priorities came to go home. And it came around and I got on a plane one day, which as I mentioned earlier finished up in the mud, because the undercarriage broke when it was taking off and so
a Catalina took us over to Balikpapan and then across to Darwin, across to Cairns. And I got home.
with kid gloves. But nobody - oh there was none of the kind of things you hear about now let’s put it that way. But they were not treated with kid gloves. They were herded onto these ships and taken back to Singapore and how they were treated after that I don’t know. But basically nobody went around shooting them and doing things
like that. That was just not on. So it was a different state of mind. You know it’s easy now when you hear about all these atrocities that happen afterwards and happened in POWs in 8th Div and that sort of thing. I don’t think everybody was - I really don’t know what the attitude was but as far as we were concerned, again we had a job to do and we would’ve been in strife ourselves if we’d allowed that thing to happen.
We were the managers of the operation for want of a better way to put it. So it didn’t happen. I don’t know anybody who actually assaulted a Japanese soldier. There was a Japanese in charge of the group in the POW camp - some of his troops escaped out of the place and I said, “You’d better find them quick old boy or you’ll be in trouble” or words to that effect. And he said, “When they come back they will be executed.” I said, “No you don’t. When they come back they won’t be executed.” I said,
“You’re not going to do that.” They weren’t terribly good to their own troops, the Japanese really. There was a sort of social order of some of them. But they really didn’t have much respect for their own troops. In the way we did. Because I suppose they’d come from a different sort of social order.
Anyway that’s not really a very large issue in itself. But that’s what I felt at the time.
superannuation and funds investment and insurance and one thing and another. But I came to the conclusion fairly smartly that two things were required. More education and the kind of study that was likely to help me as I progressed through the ranks of CSR. And also there used to be a feeling amongst lots of people that ex servicemen had trouble settling
down. Lots of fellows did and they used to get on the grog and this sort of thing. But I reckon that if I had hard work to do and plenty of it I’d settle down pretty quickly. So I was able under the Commonwealth rehabilitation training thing to go to Sydney University and do economics as an evening student. And it was a pretty
fast old course because they used to do it in four years in those days. And I used to go to lectures at least four nights a week and nearly every weekend I used to have to do some study because in those days it was terribly hard to get textbooks and get at textbooks because the day students would monopolise them. So Lorna and I used to spend many a weekend at the public library, me pouring through J.M. Keyne’s theory of
economic activity or something. So you know it was all hard work and tough on her because she was working as a part time person and this Captain Howard we were talking about he employed her as a civilian. But I’d go to work in the morning and I’d knock off at five o’clock and hop on the tram up to the university, have a bite to eat and go to lectures.
And we lived about a mile from the station at Roseville so I’d have to walk home. And I’d be jolly time when I got home but I’d get up early in the morning and do a bit of study before you went to work. That kind of thing so that was my lot for about four years and I graduated - well I completed at the end of 1949 and got the cap and gown in 1950 in May and that was how I got over being at the war.
And by that time I had more of a responsible job and it was recognised that because I was able to pass the examinations at the university and that sort of thing, that my intellect was alright and you know I was promoted in this department I was in. And I went from there.
of friends. It’s like growing up - they were your family. They were like your brothers in a family because you saw a lot of them still. In about 1950, that’s after I graduated, somebody got together a group of ex officers to run training courses for the young officers who were going to
go for their examinations for promotion to major. And we used to run these weekly exercises for them and do a bit of that and that fizzled out and I gave it up. But it was a relationship with the army and then you were talking about Ray Worlies this morning. Well there used to be an organisation called the Junior Chamber of Commerce, called JC’s and it was a worldwide young men’s organisation
that engaged in training of young fellows under forty through community service. We learnt about meeting procedure and public speaking and that sort of thing. So Ray Worlies was due to be out of it and I was nominated by CSR to you know, they paid me subscription and all that to be a member of this. Well apart from my work I got interested in that and
I became President of the Sydney Club. And I think - well about 1957 I was thirty seven I think at this stage, I became National President of it. And you know I enjoyed that and I got a lot of benefit out of it because I reckon if you get a bunch of volunteers to do things you could get anybody to do anything. And that was part of it. And then - well
then I got very much involved in work with investment and we had internal superannuation fund which had a very large investment portfolio. I used to have to deal with stockbrokers and make recommendations to the trustees. And also look after all the company’s insurance which was quite - very considerable really. And I did that for a number of years and as I was saying earlier
about 1961 or 2 another chap took over from me, my assistant and I was transferred to the sugar division and I got involved in fine sugar marketing which was you know a big part of CSR’s business in those days. And then there was a Melbourne summer school of business administration which was
you know for advanced training of young managers and down I went to that for several months. And came back and the deputy general manager asked me what I thought of Melbourne. And I was sensible enough to say, I quite liked the place. And he said, “Well would you accept an appointment as Victorian Manager for the company down there. Perhaps you’d like to discuss it with your wife.” And
so I went home to Lorna and I said, “How would you like an account at Georges.” Because Georges was a big deal shop in Melbourne for women. And so she burst into tears and anyway, we got over that and down we went to Melbourne. And we were there for nearly seven years and I had a very interesting time down there because you know CSR was a big big company in those days and in all sorts of things. And you know I was the sort of representative of head office and head office
was God - it was a very centrally managed company in those days. And one of my friends used to call me God’s vigour in Victoria. But I had a most interesting time down there and I got into the Melbourne Rugby Club which was an important sort of side line activity. And I - prior to that in Sydney I’d been very involved with the first National Heart
Foundation appeal. It was the first door knock that had ever been run in Sydney. And I was the door knock chief and that was good. Then down in Melbourne I got involved with the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal. We showed them how to do it really and did well there. But ultimately as I was saying earlier, I said to Lorna, “Look this can’t last I’m bound to be appointed to something else. So we’d better buy something in Sydney.” And
so she came up and looked around at houses and one thing and another and we bought this home unit - town house in Waverton. And then the day came and I was appointed General Manager of the division in Sydney. And we lived in a company flat in Bay Road Waverton for a while until our tenants got out and in we went and twenty years later we’re still but in the meantime
I’d been involved in all sorts of activities in the sugar division. And take-overs. We took over a firm called the Australian Estates at one stage which was a British - yeah UK owned company and they owned a heck of a lot of properties - you know pastoral properties but they also owned some sugar mills which we really wanted. But they had - you know agricultural agencies like Dalgety’s and people like that. And
I was on the board of that. I was also company secretary. We had to have a company secretary because it was still registered in Britain. And ultimately it required an act of the British Parliament to transfer the thing out to Australia. And then I was, as I say, on a board, on the board. And I knew the chairman of the board very well. That was a most interesting time really. It was the best time I ever had in CSR because
I think it was felt without being boastful that I was a fairly diplomatic sort of character with a good political sense and could handle this sort of - I got put on the board of one of the sugar mills which we only partly owned and some people thought it was a crazy appointment but I had the job of reconciling CSR’s style of doing things with their style, which was entirely different. And then
I also had the job of reconciling CSR’s management style with what they’d been doing before. So it needed, as I say without being boastful, a fair bit of political sensitivity to cope with all this sort of thing and I seemed to do it pretty well. And then it’s about
near enough time for me to retire from CSR and in the meantime I got very much involved with Sydney Rotary when I came back. But we had a compulsory retiring age of sixty two. And fortunately the chap had retired in head office and I was appointed to become general manager of the group in the headquarters of the company that owned all the corporate
services. It was called the corporate services group and that meant that unless it was law or accounting it was mine. It embraced all sorts of corporate purchasing. And land, we owned a hell of a lot of land around the place and I was responsible for that. And buildings, and we owned a company aeroplane which I used to be responsible for.
And a number of - when they couldn’t think of anybody else to give it to they gave it to me that’s what it boils down to. And I had a very interesting time for the last couple of years and age sixty two came around and Somerville gets the wave goodbye and I’m retired. By that time I was very much involved with Rotary and I became president of Sydney Rotary which was a big operation in those days in ’82 ’83. And
then in Probus and all kinds of service activities. And in 1994 we came up here. We decided we wanted to go to a retirement village and so we settled on this place because we’d visited somebody and liked it. And here we are ten years later. You know I keep reasonable pretty good health. At one stage about 1996 I had a fairly serious heart problem.
I had seven arterial bypasses. And that didn’t do me much good but I’d also been unfortunate enough to get bladder cancer but for ten years I was treated for that regularly. But they found a new cure for this fortunately and I’ve not had any problem. But I’ve got to be a bit careful with myself now because you can’t have your heart chopped about and that sort of thing and get away with it forever. Although I get regular checks and here we are.
If you were to leave a message for future generations about serving one’s country, what would it be?
I think people’s attitude would have to be prepared so that they thought it was worthwhile. I mean I don’t think young men and young women would be prepared to sort of rush off and
you know you’re joining up to fight for queen and country, as readily as they might in the past. I think they would have to be prepared and conditioned to the idea that this was worth doing. I mean we had the advantage of Nazi Germany likely to be masters of the world
which we wouldn’t have liked. We had the Japanese who would have taken over our country and heaven knows what would have happened to us. So you know I suppose the answer to the question is, I just think people are better educated and indeed women are better educated than they ever were in those days. And men - there are more thinking people about.
And you would just have to - not exactly persuade them I suppose - but as I say you would have to mentally condition the population that we had to do it for our own good.