spent all my young years more or less there. And I went to the, from there I went to, my people were Presbyterians and I was christened in a Methodist Church. So that’s where my mix up comes from the start, I was neither one or the other in those days. And from there I went to the Bayswater North School and I went there until
I was about twelve. I had a difference with a teacher there and there was about forty kids went to that school. And from there I went to the Bayswater School. I spent my last two years there and there was a girl there that used to really get up my nose. She was long black curly hair and
she was a real tomboy. I was captain of the footy team and I tried to get the kids down to play football and this curly headed wavy black haired piece, she used to get the kids down on the horse riding. But anyway I ended up I got my own back on her, I married her when I finished, when I come back from the war. So I’ve had her for about fifty-seven years since then. And then I
was at Bayswater, I did alright at Bayswater, I was dux of the Bayswater School when I was there and the last year I was there. My first job I got with a motor car firm in Lonsdale Street in Melbourne in the spare parts department, they sold Singer cars, a sole agent and that was in the Princess Mary Club in Lonsdale Street. And I spent about, and I
got sixteen [shillings] and six [pence] a week. And I worked five and a half days a week and until nine o’clock on Friday night. And from there I transferred to another firm when I was sixteen, I took on a job as spare parts manager for them but it paid three fifteen a week and I stayed there until I joined the army.
Battalion Royal Scots and his father and his grandfather, they were both army sergeants of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Scots, like generations going back. Of course he went through the First World War with them and he met my mother and they both came out here to Australia. On my mother’s side she came from
a family with the name of Carr that went to Ballarat in 1853, they settled in Ballarat in 1853. And from that her mother, her grandmother actually married a Walker from Sydney and her mother was brought up in Sydney. And that’s about all I know about,
that’s all I can tell you about the previous part of my family there. And my father, my mother at least we were talking about her, I joined the army on the 29th of February and well I’ll tell you about that later, but she died on the 19th
of May in 1941 and I was taken prisoner on the 1st of June so she never ever really knew that I’d been taken. So I think that’s about the history about my father and mother.
didn’t have any idea either. I don’t know where, they come from the Mallee, I think, to there, so they didn’t do any good on it either and it was a poor piece of ground, poor farmers or something. There was a couple of retirement people, there was a Premier of Victoria, our next door neighbour a Premier of Victoria, Stanley Argyle I think his name was
he settled next door it was the other bush block and built a house on it and lived there. Then we had another fellow by the name of Horne that lived down the road and he was a British Consulate in Malaya I think if my memory serves me rightly, he settled there. And then next door, this is like right in our vicinity, and next door to him was a Victorian
artist by the name of Rowell, John Rowell and he operated a studio, an art studio there. But other than those I don’t think, there was a dairy farm a bit further down the road but that was about all the neighbours that we had actually.
So can you recall for us any of the characters from that period, I mean you sort of mentioned in passing that teacher that you didn’t get along with, anyone else that sort of sticks in your mind?
Yes, there was oh well naturally the kid that shot me, yeah. We remained good mates and we decided that we wouldn’t tell anybody that he shot me, I shot myself you see because we knew we would be in trouble you know if it had have been said that he shot me so I said I shot myself.
I told my parents and everybody that I had to tell like when I had to go to the doctors and the hospitals that I’d shot myself. And his father, he didn’t have a mother but his father we told that like I shot myself and my father and his father didn’t know that it was him that shot me until I came back from the
war, so we kept that pretty secret. He was a great mate of mine actually, we got on you know pretty good together, he was a real nice fella. He was one, I don’t know about, I can remember other kids but they didn’t really do much I don’t think. There was Leo Greenwood he was another one
but he was a pretty wild sort of a bloke, I had a bit to do with him, we used to go hunting and that together. He joined up the army and he was a great family man, he ended up with about twelve kids so he did have some talent, but other than that I don’t know much about him other than that. You know I was in contact
with most of them for a number of years but they sort of gone by the by. I think one of the girls I went to school with originally when I first started school, she’s still alive and she lives out at Knoxfield still. But other than that I don’t know where they are now. That was more or less you know of what I can remember of the young ones.
officer for the night had to get around my horse. You had to ride a horse around all the battalion lines, all the brigade lines actually because all the 5th, 6th and 7th battalions were sort of around the area. Anyway this Ron and I were put on this picket duty this night and the idea of this picket duty was, we were supposed to guard the horses so the Arabs wouldn’t pinch them during the night.
But it was a bit of a racket, everybody had taken a bit of a racket I think. They would split the blokes up into two and they were detailed, you do from the nine to eleven stretch and the other two do from eleven to one and so on through the night. Well Ron and I we got say from nine to eleven stretch and what we used to do after we got dedicated
that, when we got tired we’d all hop underneath a big tarp to go to sleep, have a sleep. Well this particular night this field officer came along and he was field officer of the 6th Battalion and of course we were asleep, sound asleep when he come. We were put on a charge and of course we went up and because we were the 7th Battalion this 6th Battalion bloke
thought it was real beaut that he caught these 7th Battalion blokes. Anyway we got fourteen days CB [confined to barracks] out of it. And every time the bloke blew the bugle whether it was for revelry in the morning or night or whatever it is or for some ceremony during the day, wherever you were you had to answer the bugle
and you had to answer it quick. We were right out on the edge of the blessed place and we had to run like made to get in there and to report to the bugle when the thing went. And we had to do this for fourteen days plus pack duty at night. So that was how I know we were out in the furthest tent because I had to run from the damn thing about four or five times a day.
duty to go, message to take to another battalion or it might be, it might be a bit of equipment or something you’d have to be taking somewhere or something to be taken for repairs to somewhere else, you know a warehouse. Or you might have to go a base camp where they’ve got all the materials and
pick up things, ammunition or stuff like that. And that’s what we were doing around the Cairo area anyway. And indeed after Cairo we moved onto Alexandria. We went to a camp there called Ikingi Mariut. That was, there we were introduced to our platoon, that’s where I became a platoon driver
which meant that, well there’s thirty men in a platoon and everything that they owned or what they needed like ammunition and grenades and all that sort of stuff in my truck, I had to carry all that sort of stuff. And when they went into, with the idea of when they went into action I had to go in there and be with them when they needed their ammunition and
stuff and weapons and that but that was at this Ikingi Mariut in Alexandria. But we were still having good times there, plenty of leave in Alexandria, but we were starting to realise then that we were going to fight the Italians like and we were getting closer to Libya all the time.
And that went on for a few more weeks at the Ikingi. And I think there we would have been fully equipped to what we were going to be when we went into battle at that stage.
on top of a big hill as I remember it although we had to go up what was called a hellfire pass and it was like on a plateau at the top of where we went, through this pass. And we, they pulled up their positions which was so far out of Bardia and that’s
when, probably when the action first started. The Italians were firing the shells at us and we, yes that would be the start of it like. We were on the outside perimeters surrounding Bardia and then there would be some artillery drills going on.
I can remember one instance we were up there on the front line and I was a B Company driver at this time and a motorbike rider, they used to call them don-Rs, he got lost in the desert and he went passed our lines and he headed off toward the Italian lines
and of course they opened up on him and oh there was all hell broke lose. Anyway he got back alright but that was the first real lot of firing I saw that was you know concentrated sort of fire. And then came the morning of the attack and I had to go in like with the platoon and when we got to the
wire it wasn’t very pleasant sitting in a truck, I would have rathered been walking like with the other blokes. I couldn’t go straight through the wire because they had big trenches dug around the outside and they had to bring the engineers in and fill up the trench before I could get across in the truck. But as soon as I got across in the truck I had to go hell bent and look for my platoon again and caught up to them
and this was through everything that was going on.
We were sort of a reinforcements for the people that were there, I think it was the 11th Battalion were there. Anyway we had a bit of an action there. And from Derna we went onto a place called Barce, no Giavanni Berta was the first one, Giavanni Berta. And that was, there was no action really much there. And then we went to Barce
and Menzies [Australian Prime Minister] came over to us there and gave us a lecture and praised us up and seen what they were going to do with us next when we got to Barce. And from Barce we went to Benghazi, this was all pretty well on the same things as what I described before but by this time, by the time we got to Barce the
Italians had pretty well given it right up and it was just sort of driving ahead. And we went through Benghazi to a place called el Brega and that was as far, at that time, that the allies ever got was this el Brega and that’s when we first came in contact with German planes, was el Brega. We were relieved at el Brega by the
7th Division, the Australian 7th Division and they were very poorly equipped they just didn’t have enough Bren guns or anything like that. And we handed most of our equipment over to them and then we left them there. And then we went back to Tobruk, we went as far as Tobruk on the way back and we spent a few nights there,
three or four nights or something and then we went back to Ikingi Mariut at Alexandria. And then when we got back there they re-equipped us fully to go to Greece.
like I told you. I remember coming back, I mentioned this to you that I burnt it once and there was a major in our battalion looking and he had me, I was scared stiff of him, a fellow by the name of Marshall, Major Marshall, we used to call him Monk Marshall. Anyway he knew me well enough and he was directing the trucks into this area at this Giovanni Berta,
and I’d washed my truck previously and I’d got a hitch back from another truck to our battalion and I had my gear over my shoulder and I was walking along the road and he said, “Where are you going Roy?” And I said, “I’m going to join up the battalion again, Sir.” And he said, “Where’s your truck?” And I said, “Oh.” I said, “It blew up.” And he said, “Get the hell out of here, I don’t want you if you haven’t got your truck, you’re no good
to me.” And I’m standing out on the road I didn’t know where to go. He had me bluffed, I didn’t know whether to go back or go in or what to do. He was that type of bloke you know. He must have realised I was a bit young or something but he had me real bluffed. He didn’t want me without my truck.
So when the battalion arrived what happened then?
Straight off we went, headed up to central Greece we got as far as a place called Larisa in central Greece. The night we got there there was a damn earthquake on to start it with. And then we were going to go up to Yugoslavia to the border but the retreat had already started by this time and
so we took positions up near, I think it was a place called Domokos, Domokos Pass. That was our first positions that we took, our battalion took up. Maybe I might not be one hundred percent accurate about that but I think that’s about what it was. That’s as I recall it anyway.
And from then on I, in the trucks got really plastered absolutely plastered. We not only got shelled and bombed and machine gunned we had to put up a fifth column [supporters of the enemy], a Greek fifth column and they blocked the mountain passes and they put herds of sheep onto the passes so we couldn’t get past. And
were mountain passes I’m talking about mountain passes you know hundreds of feet down the side you know. They’d get vehicles and block it with vehicles and oh it was pandemonium, pandemonium. That was all the way back to Corinth, out of Athens
it was just retreat after retreat. I think we held them up a couple of times at a place called Domokos and what was the other one? The plains of Themopylae was another place and Brallos, Brallos was another pass that we held them up on. But yeah it was hopeless, the airpower was - you’ve got no
Idea: there was hundreds and hundreds of planes just coming down and just dropping the bombs like rain. I’ll tell you what did happen to me, I became a good runner. I could leave a truck and run two hundred yards faster than John Landy, believe me.
just you know drank and ate. We took up positions, we weren’t there too long before they attacked in Crete and we took up these positions we were at and then went on from there. And that’s where
in my experience was you know where the real sort of war business came in there with all the hand to hand fighting and all that sort of jazz that went on there, I mean you don’t need to go into those details, that’s where we were really you know fighting them hand to hand there. A place, one well known place was 42nd Street
and it was, we were in contact with them constantly from them until the very last day. It was the first time the Germans had ever used paratroops and their losses were that enormous that they never ever used them again, through all the war. And there was, I’ve heard different
estimates, but what the navy killed and what we killed the casualties were in the sixty thousand mark. So there was a slaughter, the parachutes weren’t made the same as they are these days. They were bringing the Germans in with gliders and full of troops and they just let
the gliders go, you know a hundred feet or so above ground and some made it some didn’t, a lot didn’t. And whole glider full of them were going you know in one hit. Like I said I think without exaggerating it was a real killing field, and strangely our losses weren’t all that enormous by comparison, oh there was no comparison.
And we were fortunate that we weren’t, do you want to go back on anything I’ve said?
the Germans and then the Maoris would form up a defence area you know a few miles back. You know they’d dig in and for up a defence area and then we’d pull back behind their lines the same distance, like seventeen miles or whatever behind them and we stepped over one another all the way back until we got to the south coast of Crete, a
place called Sphakia. And it went on like that and of course the men, you’ve got to remember there is only the one road across from the north of Crete to the south and this road was full of refugees of all descriptions and Greek, the Greek Army with the remnants of the Greek Army and even Italians and
British, oh every nationality alive to name was on the roads. Like there were plenty of say artillery, Australian artillery men you know they couldn’t get out of Greece with any artillery pieces so they were useless. There was just thousands literally and civilians of course they were just flooding the road back to the south in the hope of getting away.
And we had to sort of hold positions and fall back all the time at different places and we kept on doing that. Am I clear up to there, is there anything else from there before we go any further?
did the finish, towards the finish on the last day, before the last day it came for us to, we had to do the last rear guard action. I was telling you how these Kiwis did one and then we did one and we still had to fight it over. Well it came to us that we had to do that last one. Now they said to us, “Now if you do this last rear guard action, we’ll see that you go through first to the
landing craft to take us out onto the boats, if you do this last rear guard.” This was like a promise the authorities made to us if we did this. Well we did this, we did the last rear guard and getting down, we had to go down a cliff down to the beach and going down to the beach, and it was only sort of goat tracks that we had to go down, well our A
company - and this is a fact too - our A company they went down the wrong damn track and we got down to the bottom onto the beach and all the rest of the companies got down to the beach okay bar our A Company. Anyway the colonel wouldn’t go until he found A Company and they caught up to us. Well it must have been and hour or an hour and a half at least before they
caught this A Company and found out where they were and got them back to us. And the moment they got back to us they took us past all these, and there was literally thousands of people on the beach waiting in a line you know in a column waiting to get off at this landing point where the boat, the small boats were coming in to take out to the cruiser. They took the whole lot of those and literally
the water was at our, rushing on our feet when it got three o’clock in the morning and the navy wouldn’t wait any longer and they, my vivid recollection I can see that boat to this day turning around and going away. They wouldn’t wait any longer after three o’clock in the morning. And I’m sure that if A Company hadn’t have got lost the whole lot of us would have got off. I know it’s a hard luck story, but that’s an absolute
fact of what happened. And our colonel went out on the last boat, well with the boat that got filled like, there was one all the battalion headquarter people got off in this last boat that went out to the cruiser including the colonial. Anyway the navel people said, “Well there’s no more, it’s finished, we can’t wait any longer.” Anyway he demanded to be brought back and he came
back and he stayed with us and the boat went back empty, wouldn’t take anymore back out but they brought him back and he had to face the court martial over that.
some just took off and some went and a couple, a couple of them we stayed together but of course we were caught you know taken in. But I didn’t, to this day I’ve got no recollection of being herded together or anything I can just
you know just remember follow the leader after that. There was no physical bashing or anything like that it was just a, actually those Germans that were there when we surrendered they were quite nice blokes you know they had been fighting us for ages and they had a great deal of respect for us I
think. They weren’t our problem, they were never a problem to me or anybody. I never saw anybody, whatever you might hear in the future or anything, one thing I’ll put my word on the bible I never saw anybody ill treated by them. Physically, the Germans had a different way of breaking you other than physically doing it.
I never saw one man put his hands up in the air which is a thing which should be explained more to people about prisoners of war. They’ve got the vision from the First World War that you were fighting in the trenches and a couple of big burly Germans came over and you know you packed the willies and you put your hands up and you said, “Don’t stab me.” That’s what people of got of becoming a prisoner
of war but it’s not like that in our time. It comes from above again. Righto I’ve told you about remembering this warship turning around and leaving this bay at three o’clock in the morning. I’ve got a vision also of seeing an aeroplane flying low over us, one of our aeroplanes with a bloke, with a general that’s supposed to be looking after us and he was a
New Zealander too, a fellow by the name of Freyburg, General Freyburg and the order came through. We weren’t allowed to keep fighting its finished you’ve got to lay down your arms it’s finished.
Anyway somebody stuck their head in and said, “Look it’s all over we’ve got to get rid of our rifles and ammunition.” I had a beautiful Berretta, it was a chrome plated thing and I can remember breaking it and throwing one one way and the other another and another piece another way. And then my old rifle, I absolutely smashed
it to smithereens and this was at this cave like we were at and we all did the same of course. I often wondered, I put a piece of my rifle in the smallest crack and I don’t think anybody would have found it and I covered it over with a few rocks you know in a particular way that I didn’t think it looked obvious that something was hidden there.
I often wonder if it is still there. And then after that well we were marched back and as I said I saw no physical abuse and I’ve got no vision really of seeing any German troops wandering around the place, they were there I know they were there. I know they were there herding us the first night we went back up
a track back up this mountain that we came down the night before and I slept in the gutter of this damn track the first night I was captured. But there was no food given to us and there was no water given to us and there was a well about halfway across Crete that we had used like when we were retreating back
and we all had a drink there. But there was no more water until we got to a place called Skenes where they put up the barbed wire fences and they herded us into there. And no food coming in with food, no nothing had been given to us in the way of food all the time and that was sixty mile that we marched back but we thought we were hard done by then but we were still
strong because you know we had tough rations but we were still pretty strong and fit. And then they put us in this damn camp in Skenes and they were good to us, they used to ask the colonel in for a drink and all that sort of thing but we were left sitting in
the barbed wire and just gradually deteriorating. And then its, well just then lice to dysentery to everything else that comes with starvation and that’s the way they treated you. They called for volunteers one day for a work party and I wouldn’t
volunteer and most of the other blokes wouldn’t volunteer but this particular day they volunteered for transport drivers and I thought, “Oh cripes I’ll be in this you know I be able to scrounge some food or something being a transport driver.” So I volunteered amongst about another thousand blokes that were in the camp volunteered too, but anyway I got the job and they put us in a couple of trucks and they took us
to a hill towards Suda Bay where the you know the main part of Crete. And on the top of this little hillock they were building a German monument for German victory and all the rest of the jazz. And we got out of the trucks and they lined us up and they called us out one by one and they gave us a
donkey each and that was the transport driver. We had to put a dirty great big rock on the back of this donkey and wind around the track to the top of this damn hill for them to build this blasted monument on. Up and down all day, I only lasted one day on that, never volunteered anymore after that. But that’s what they were, no extra rations or anything like that.
that’s what they did right along. They just right along, we were, I told you that we got re-equipped when we went to Greece well we had all you know new uniforms, new boots but tropical remember it was tropical stuff we had. And anyway we were pretty clean cut and all the rest of it but we were gradually going down in Skenes, well we went down
very quickly in Skenes because remember we got the dysentery and the lice and the stuff, you don’t last long when that comes in. And they herded us into an old tug in Suda Bay. Altogether it was a thousand Australians oh no, I think it was a thousand I’m not sure whether it was a thousand there or no but our battalion was there pretty well. Anyway they put us in this old boat
and they shipped us up the east coast to Greece to Salonika and we went into a number one camp, what they call a number one camp at Salonika and there was, that was pretty tough there but we were only there for two or three days, I was anyway. And then they marched another lot out of that and they
put us in what they call a number two camp in Salonika, well it was a hell hole, absolute hell hole. And we used to get a feed of lentil soup once a day and we had no, you’ve got to remember we didn’t have our utensils or anything and if you had nothing to put it in you didn’t sort of get it but everybody would scrounge a tin of some description to put it in. I’ve even seen blokes hold their boots up to put it into their boots you know.
You got this ladle of lentil stuff a day and half of it was red mud. I’m not exaggerating about that either, and you ate the mud because it was something to eat. And the dysentery was worse and the lice, you were lousy with damn lice and it was crook.
right they were definitely going. Like you hear about the Japanese prisoners they, how we were treated in those first two or three months they wouldn’t have never ever possibly couldn’t have lasted three years, like on that. Forget about the beltings and that, we didn’t get that I still to this day I had never ever see a bloke get physically hit but they used to get at you with this food thing.
And this, in this damn Salonika there was a hell of a lot of fighting, you were asking me about fights and things before. But they had Cypriots in the camp as well and the Cypriots found a way to get out of the camp through the sewerage system and they were getting out of the camps and of course you know Cypriots
they could be Greek or Turkish or they could collate with one another, especially with Greek Cypriots anyway. And of course they got out and they were getting stuff outside the camps and coming back and bartering it again, they were making a fortune out of it some of them. And of course you know people would end up selling their souls to get a feed in the finish. But oh gee it caused some trouble you
know there was, I remember one of the chaps he got into a fight with one of the Cypriots and to the day he died he had a great slash down his head you know where he had been knifed. Because you know we tried to bash them up if they did anything to us but we were too damn weak to do any good.
you you’d give it away for just some food you know. But oh that was a hell camp. They brought down, I don’t know to this day who he was, I don’t know whether it was Himmler or Goebbels and they put us out on the parade ground to stay and we were still in the tropical uniforms at this stage it was very hot, hotter than in Greece at the time too but it didn’t worry us, I’m talking about having shorts and shirts and things on.
And they were getting a visit from either Goebbels or Himmler or somebody or other and they put us out about at eight o’clock in the morning out in this parade ground and they left us there until five o’clock in the afternoon, we had to stand all the damn time. And they purposely did it you know because by the time Goebbels came along, I mean we were bad enough before but by the time he got there
we must have been a pathetic mob to bring. And it was all done I think for the reasons I think that when they took us to Germany to show the population what a ragged tagged mob of people we were. But that wasn’t the finish of it, we stayed there for four or five or six weeks or something and then they put us on a train and they gave us a loaf of bread about that
size you know. And they said, “Now that’s got to last you for two or three days and you’ll be given a feed at Budapest.” So being as hungry as we are, that loaf of bread was whacked straight down by every man that was on the train, and there was a thousand of us on this train. I don’t know how many were in the carriage but you couldn’t lie down and sleep, or you couldn’t all lie down at
once and sleep, and there was just little windows up in the corner and they were criss-crossed with barbed wire and this little window. And on your tippee toes you could look out to see the country side as it went by. And the first night out three blokes got out one of these windows, and one you people are going to interview, my friend that I rang up before was one of them.
the Bulgarian Red Cross had lined up that we would you know get a feed but anyway they wouldn’t give it to us. But they gave us a wee little tin of meat of some description, God know what it was but it was a very little bit better than a sardine tin you know. And that was punishment because of the escape thing and anyway
that’s all we had until we got to a place called Hammelburg in Germany. And we were that weak that when we got to, at Hammelburg the station was down in a valley and the Hammelburg Stalag which was Stalag 13C was up quite a big hill about three or four kilometres out of the town. And anyway
when they opened the doors for us to get out at the Hammelburg Station half of us couldn’t stand, I mean we were that weak and clapped out that you know they didn’t know what to do with us. So they left us there and they went and they got a few big containers of soup and they gave us a good feed of soup and they
left us there for a while to have a bit of a rest and then gradually, they didn’t force us up the hill but we gradually moved up the hill to Hammelburg. That was like the first stalag we had been into and at that stage we hadn’t been paraded in front of any civilians to any great extent other than the ones that saw us get off at Hammelburg and all that sort of thing.
And then we went into the stalag well we were able to wash and you know have a good bath and clean up there. And they did give us a good feed of soup everyday, god knows what was in it but it was pretty good to us. We were only there a few days and then they registered us. We became, I’ve got registration
forms in there, I’ve got a copy of it, the original I gave to the War Museum and it’s the only one they’ve got and that’s another part of the story to how I come to get it. Anyhow we were registered, that was fingerprinted and given a POW number and you know our home address and all that sort of thing. They tried to get our unit and all that sort
of thing, I think I gave my unit but I gave the wrong address I think and we didn’t give them all accurate stuff you know but it was near enough.
and put on a train, we went to a place called Fludungan. And in this Fludungan it was barrack type accommodation, a little bit better food, not a great deal better but there might have been a few spuds in the stuff there but we were made to make cobble stone roads. And a
punishment if you spent too long on the toilet or you weren’t working hard enough you were ordered to stand in a puddle of water you know two foot deep for a couple of hours. You know that becomes pretty harem too after a couple of hours. And we were still in our tropical uniforms and
what was left of our boots and things and we weren’t there long, we were there about a month at Fludungan. I think that was to maybe install a bit of discipline in us, if you work you’re going to be alright if you don’t work you’re in trouble, type of place. Then again nothing, you having to go and stand in this water and all that sort of stuff, nothing physical you know you’re just under
threat that you’ll be shot if you don’t do it. You know I can’t say that there was anything physical.
I never, after that experience at Fludungan I never saw anything, any tough personally I got myself into a bit of trouble through the time I was in Germany but I never saw anything as tough as that done to us, like after that.
But we as I say we were only there a little short time, I think that was the strength of Fludungan. The apple trees they used to plant in Germany were along the roadside and they would be enormous trees, if you’ve been to Europe and that you’d know what I mean. They were enormous like oak tree type of things you know. And when we were there, there would be apples on the ground because it was coming up
towards the ground and of course there was a great stampede for these windfall apples like as they marched us to work of a morning and they used to allow that. But that was about the, I think there must have been a better supply of Russian and French cigarettes there too because we used to play poker for those you know
between ourselves and try and get a heap of cigarettes together. But I started smoking, I was eighteen when I started smoking and I learned to smoke on these damn black French cigarettes. They’d blow your head off if you smoked one. But I think that’s about all I can tell you of Fludungan I think. And then one day they decided to split us up and I think there was
fourteen of us they took in my particular lot and they took us to a place called Hollstadt, Hollstadt on the sign. And we got into Hollstadt, we must have got there in the evening some time because the, we went up and they took us up into this old two storey home and we were up in the top storey, it must have been three storey we were up in the third floor, ground, one
yeah we were up in the third floor. There was all barbed wire windows and that in it and a lot of double bunks in the place like double tiered bunks. And then they brought in a herd of farmers from the town, there was fourteen of them there must have been. They came in and they were allotted a POW each,
that had to go and work for them. Well I drew a live lou-lou, he was oh he and I really we didn’t click from the time we met but some collected the good blokes they were well looked after but the bloke I went to, I can only talk about myself. I went to a bloke by the name of Irvin Reinhardt and old Irvin was a First
World War returning soldier, a German bloke. And as I say Australians meant nothing to them, we were British you know and British really stuck in his craw and he couldn’t take British and he made me suffer for that. And anyway they had to take us home and give us a feed, we were you know we were pretty weak.
But he took me home they gave me a good feed that night, a real good feed. Then the very next morning, this had got to be the greatest culture shock that we could have ever had, it wasn’t like modern German is today or where we were, we were in the back blocks of Germany. Even the German population detested what they call Bauer which is farmers, poor farmers you know really
hillbilly type of farmers that we were at. And the culture shock was unbelievable even for rough tough blokes like we’d become. Anyway the next morning I went to work and the old Irvin spouse, she got stuck into me first, God knows what she was talking about. I wouldn’t have a clue but I can just visualise her yelling and screaming under my face and too, no teeth in her damn head
and a big thick skirt on and she’s laying down the law to me about, and I’m just standing there. And anyway she moved away and – yeah I’ll say it – when she went and walked away the old devil had a wee while she was yapping at me. And I couldn’t understand how the hell she’d had a wee but she had a wee right there, there was a great big pool of water where she had been standing.
Actually I came to grips with the idea that these German women didn’t wear pants, so that was one culture shock I got. And then old Irvin went in and he brought out a couple of cows out of the cow shed and I had to go and watch him harness up the two cows to a wagon and
then I was made to come and follow him out to the paddocks to the fields where they were. And this particular day, the first day I was there we had to pick up potatoes. And he went along with the cows and he ploughed out a row of potatoes each and the young, his daughter-in-law the young frau and then he had a daughter, a nineteen
year old daughter Marie and she had another row and the prisoner bloke he had to come up the other row. And that was my introduction to work I had to keep up with them all day. No toilet facilities or anything like that, it was just where you stood the whole lot of them, no dignity no nothing and that was a great shock to
the system. And anyway coming into the day and they thought they’d get the prisoner to load up the wagon and the frau and the fraulein got on either side of a bag of spuds and threw it onto my shoulders and of course I collapsed under the damn thing and they had to lift the bag of spuds off me so I could get up again. So I wasn’t much use to them. He and I we just did not get on. He tried to lord it over me and I wouldn’t take it
and I fought with him for I don’t know, three years I suppose. In the finish I got jack, oh he had me charged for everything, sabotage and God knows what, everything he had me sabotaged for. But I, in the finish I got fed up and I blew through, two sergeants and myself took off. We went up
into the wild, we didn’t last long, we had nowhere to go I was right in the bang centre in the middle of Germany. I got away for a while and when they caught me they slapped me in the boob in a place called Neustadt on der Saale and I was in there for a few days and they sent me back to work for this Irvin Reinhardt and I told them I wasn’t going to and they said,
“You are going to.” I woke up that I had to at that stage. So I said, “Oh well if he behaves himself.” And they took me and this German officer said, “Well we’ve told him he’s got to be better to you.” It lasted for a little while but he just hated the British that much that we didn’t get on. But anyway because of that episode, me clearing through they told me I had to go on bread and
water for another period of time at a place called Konigshofen as punishment. When the time came they sent me to Konigshofen and I refused to work. There was French and Belgium, German prisoners were in that place as well, German and Yugoslavs as I said and Russian but I was the only British one
there. Anyway I’d studied it up beforehand and the Geneva Convention said that while you were on punishment you didn’t have to work. So I refused, I told them you know I don’t have to work and as I previously said they had a lot of German prisoners of war taken into North Africa by this time so they were a bit easy on us, we didn’t take the
bullying around that we’d been taking. Anyway every morning they’d take these blokes out to work and I’d be left in a cell with my bread and water and the guard must have got a bit fed up with it I think and he thought, “Oh gee I’m going to make you work.” So he sent the two guards this morning for me to go to work and of all the places they took me was a winery. And they sent me down in the biggest barrel you’ve ever seen in your life
and there was a supply line of wine bottles come along and I had to fill these wine bottles up. I lasted to dinner time, they carried me back and they must have thrown me about twenty feet away from the cell into the floor because God I was sore afterwards. Never asked me again.
the top and my job at night was before I went home I had to cut the hay so that it went down to the cow stall, down a shoot to the cow stall and then I had to go down stairs and I had to mangle up the sugar beet and mix it with a hay ready for the cows for the next morning. Well I came in
this day and I had been out working somewhere I suppose in the paddocks with the fraus [women] and they, there was an electric motor that they had on the hay thing. I came in and I just pressed the damn button for the hay to go through. And in Germany the steel was like gold, the general of the army took every ounce of steel that was
available, anything that was made of steel you couldn’t buy. So anyway I pressed the button as I was saying and bang, bang, bang, crash. Old Irvin had been up there and sharpen it but he wouldn’t let me sharpen the blades, he sharpened the blades and left the damn file in the hay. Of course it absolutely ruined the two blades on the chaff cutter. Of course I copped it for that. That was a serious one. He reckoned that I threw it in, he
wouldn’t have that he left it there you know. I put it in deliberately.
I ended up I went down to Haustrau to work. I lasted there about a month too. Any they, it came wintertime and everything was all frozen over and it come up a beautiful sunny day, a winters day like and old Irvin said to me, he had a horse and the German army by this time had taken every horse that had any good in it at all, they’d
confiscated it to take for the Russian front but this old horse of Irvin’s it was that clapped out that all it was good for was a bit of sausage you know. But he loved this, Fanny was its name, old Fanny. And anyway this winters day he said to me, “Go and take the horse for a walk around the streets.” So I put a halter on old Fanny and they
shoed them the same as we, you know how to shoe a horse here? Well they shoed them in the toe, they have a sort of a knife thing on the toe and at the heel they had a spike on each heel to grip the snow. And anyway I went out into the street and blow me down one of my mates, a fellow named Johnny Holden his boss had sent him out with a young foal that they had for exercise. You could walk around the streets quite freely
and we usually and I mean lets face it in the wintertime, I mean there was nowhere to go in the summertime but in the wintertime there was literally absolutely nowhere to go. And the main road sort of came through a gateway to the village and went out through gateway at the other end. It was like from old medieval times you know with the walls around it. Anyway we got to the gateway and it was absolutely forbidden to go out these gateways and it was wintertime and there was nobody
about so we said, “Well let’s go down to the next bend and have a look down there with the two horses.” So we get down to the bend and that was alright you know gee, go down and have a look around the next one. So we went down to the next one and then, “Oh gee lets get down to Haustrau and let’s see if we can see any of the Australians down there.” So away we go and we end up on Haustrau, oh my god. There was yelling and as soon as we went through the
entrance into Haustrau there was yelling and screaming and Germans tearing around all over the damn place and called out to the local guard bloke and he comes tearing out. And if the Germans can do anything they can yell, yell and scream they were beaut at it. Less speak for poor old Fanny, you know when, and I told you about the knives and the spikes and when she went down, she went down on the snow. And
when she went down her front legs folded underneath her and ripped all that soft part of the chest of her. And anyway she cut a slice about that long out of her and there was blood everywhere, all over the place. And these Germans there, and no way was she going to get up she was down and she was staying down. Anyway all these Germans trying to get these ropes under her and sheets under her to lift her back up onto her feet. Anyway she gets back up on her feet
and they were threatening us and everything. Anyway I got a couple of handfuls of snow and I poked it into this great cut and that stopped it a bit and anyway we were kicked off and told to get out of the place and god knows what was going to happen to us, you know. Anyway I get back and I get back to old Irvin’s place and I sneak in the other door and took her into her stall and gave her a feed and I went home for the day. God, I copped it after that.
He went mad over that. That wasn’t sabotage, that was something else, I don’t know what that was I got charged with.
working, and god they used to have to work pretty hard. But I got to thinking in the finish that you know odds were, I was getting gamer and I was give him as much as what he was giving me in the finish and it had to come to part. They put me with frau, worked for a frau then by the name of Goodwin. The husband and frau it was at the time, they changed me over there and no
sooner got there and they sent the husband off to Russia and I worked for them and that was quite good. I’d got a wanderlust by this time, and I don’t know what did I do to get out of that. Oh, I changed it with a bloke at Haustrau just to have a change you know I got fed up with the place. Oh and that was a terrible decision I made too and I lasted there about a month. I had trouble with a guard there
and anyway he went in and said that he didn’t want me, I had caused too much trouble and they sent me to a place called Schonau and it was half a punishment camp, it was working out in the forests or the wood. And for some reason I was only there two or three months I suppose and they shut it down for some reason or another and they sent me
back to a place called Lebenshaun and that was a Catholic convent and we were only sort of imprisoned there we didn’t have to work or anything. But they decided that they would get us to work and anyway I refused to work, I said I wasn’t going to work anymore. But what I was doing as I told you I was a lance corporal well if I had have been a corporal they couldn’t have made
were all having a pretty rough time and we decided well you know we’ll make a break and see how far we can get. The way we got away was that in the mornings the guard took us to the farm and in theory the farmer had to take us back to where they locked us up at night. Well this particular morning the guards had relaxed a little bit, there was only one
guard on the town and he’d relaxed a little bit, and he used to take us down this one particular street and then we had to go and turn right down another street. Well the first street he took us down went on through the railway station up into the forest. Well he used to let us go and say well you know you can go down the other street well when he turned around with the other prisoners we just turned around out of the street we went
and went down the one across the river and up to the forest. We did it singly, we didn’t do it together each one did it singly was he was left off the farm and we were to meet at the other end of the rendezvous at a certain place up in the forest. The three of us did it, I don’t know what happened to the other bloke but he didn’t come but the three of us stayed there and we just
stayed low during the day in this particular piece of forest and we took off that night and got as far as we could away we could in one single direction, no particular direction, just went and kept going. And that’s how we took off.
Patten and when the Americans got across the line into Germany a company of American tanks took off and came straight for our stalag. And we, and the first indication we had that they were there they’d come into where the railway station was at Hammelburg and they fired some
shots over our camp from these tanks and of course right the Americans have come and we took over the camp. And that’s how I got this particular document that I brought back to Australia because the Germans just took off, the German guards and everything just took off and left us in the camp. Well the other, we all took off and the Germans used to keep a flock of geese and ducks and chooks and stuff for their
own use and you know everybody that could was heading off for this place to get our little kitchens a chook or a duck or a goose or something so we could have a smash up feed. And on the way when I was going I went past the administrative block, well I’d been hauled up so many times to the administrative block that I knew where these files were. So I thought, “God, I’ll
go and get my file.” And I went in and that’s how I got the thing out from Germany. And they say that like in the museum that’s the only one that’s there. I’ve got a copy of it if you want to see it.
that made a record for myself you know and of course they read these records back and then of course when I refused to work any longer that went against me and making a bit of an escape that went against me and they sort of classed me as a bit of a trouble maker I think. So that’s why they kept on, anything that went wrong they’d haul me in and then well I knew where they went to get
my file you know. So that’s how I come to know where to go. But anyway leading on from that if I may, I told you about these tanks shooting these shells up over our camp and the, we took the camp all over and the Germans cleared out and the Americans
were supposed to have come in for this General Patten’s son, he was supposed to have been captured by the Germans but the truth of that I don’t know, but they come there for some particular reason. But anyway when the Germans left the camp and everything the American tank company they didn’t come into our stalag, they went onto a hill on the other side of our stalag on the side of the hill and they just set up camp there
and they had their kitchen and the whole works that go with an American group and they had their field kitchen and everything and they were just parked there for the night. Anyway a German panzer [tank] company came along and blew them to smithereens the next morning and we were back in prison camp again. They just swarmed over us after that and they took it like other, the
regular soldiers took over the camp and kept us confined in the place and there was no punishment or anything handed out they just took us all over and they were going to make us do what they do. But they decided to ship us all out of the place to, well apparently going south
towards Munich, that was the idea, all prisoners of war and slave labour were going to be sent to Hitler’s hide out in the mountains. We were supposed to going to build entrenchments for him, you know his last stand sort of thing. That’s just a story, no we wouldn’t know that, but that’s what it was. And anyway we were all going to be put on the road and marched down there. So
there was a hospital there so we all couldn’t get into the hospital and be sick so a few of us we went underneath the hospital, we hid underneath the hospital when they hurled all the other rest of them out. And anyway they took all the others out and we thought we were right and after they took all the others out and put them on the train and they left they came in with the dogs and put them underneath the hospital and of course we all come
out. And then the next day we were put on another train and we were to go to Nuremberg I think it was yeah and anyway on the way we were strafed by American planes on the train but we did carry on. In the night time
the train, well it wasn’t night time it must have been late in the afternoon we got to Nuremberg and I think it was a hundred of us, around approximately a hundred Australians and they put us into this camp with these American air force officers and they said, “We’ll pick you up in the morning and we’ll take you away.” Well they put us in with these American air force officers and the next morning they come to collect them and there was an extra hundred air force
officers, we changed uniforms, we got into their uniforms and they didn’t know one from the other. So they just gave up, they knew what we’d done but there was no way they could sort us out.
I really covered that at the beginning, I found that I gave you an indication of where you were going up to get your food like in the army and some guy would come along and push you out of the way. Well if you were going to take that you’re going to have a pretty miserable life. Well I wouldn’t take those sort of things, you know. I never looked for fights
but I could look after myself. I took a few beltings too, actually, but I learned to look after myself because you had to learn to, and especially when I got in the prison camp. I mean when it became dog eat dog you really had to look after yourself. And I think if I was a bit, well righto you’d say why didn’t the other blokes get like that well the ones when they landed, I had Irvin Reinhardt, remember that part of it
and some of them landed a nice cushy little place. Well you can’t really blame them to stay cushy. They were getting all the food they wanted, they were getting probably a little bit on the side and that made their life you know quite happy. But I had this continual agitation with old Irvin all the time and
it became a thing of his wits against mine whether I was going to be bettered or I was going to better him you know and I think that’s probably what made me a bit hard to manage with them. I think you know, thinking back I did have occasions where I would have been in serious trouble if it had have happened probably earlier on
in the war sort of business or as a civilian in Germany even, if I had have behaved like I did I probably would have been in serious trouble.
predominantly in our stalag were Australians, French, Belgium and Yugoslav with a scattering of Americans and probably a scattering of English too to be honest. There wouldn’t be too many of either of them. But there was a specific reason why this tank column came across. Incidentally,
another little thing I can remember about that, there was a German General by the name of Von Rundstedt and I can clearly remember him walking across the fields the day that these Americans got blasted and they used to look gorgeous in their uniforms but he was very mild and he wasn’t aggressive or anything like that
because we were sort of not that far away to him you know. That was in the lull between, well before the Germans took it over. When the Germans took it over they, I don’t know what the reason was but they cleared our camp out pretty well straight away when they took it, took control of it again and that’s how I said I got under the hospital and there was about, oh there wouldn’t have been a hundred of us under the hospital but
there would have been a hundred of us they herded together that got out in different hiding places and took us out the next day.
block bombing you know they just flew over in lots of planes and all dropped them all at once. When I was at Hollstadt, I can show the fellows name now, a fellow by the name of Alec Forsyth he got appendicitis badly and he had to go to a prison hospital called Ebelsbech. And anyway
I was allowed to go with him, with the guard and him to carry his bags because he was too clapped out to carry his bags and when you moved around you had to take all your gear with you. If you went to hospital you had to take everything with you in case you didn’t get sent back I guess or something. Anyway I went with Alec Forsythe this day to this Ebelsbech and we got on a train at Neustadt and we had to change
trains at a place called Schweinfurt. And anyway I don’t know we had two or three hours to wait for the other train that we had to change onto. And an air raid came on, an American air raid and they wouldn’t let us go into the air raid shelters because you know we were the prisoners and the guard had to put up with it too, he had to stay up at the top too. But we got into the mouth
of it, like the air raid shelter bit it was down below ground a bit anyway after the American planes went over they just dropped their bombs all at once you know, right go and the whole thousand planes or however many there were just let them go. And there was a hell of an explosion as you can imagine but when the dust settled and we came out of this where we were, we looked around at the view and the typical Yanks they missed the whole damn lot. Anyway we walked down the
street a bit and it was just completely flattened there wasn’t a place standing, just completely oh it wasn’t bare ground because the bricks were there but it was just, not a thing not a chimney nothing left, just all gone. Just you know you were walking down the street and you’d think nothing is happening and all and everything was just flattened, that was a place called Schweinfurt. So we had all those experiences to go through again. I mean
from the damn time I landed in Greece I got nothing else but bombed until I got home. But I was quite used to that. No I wasn’t used to it, I shouldn’t say that I never got used to that.
you’re just weak and probably the only thing you think about is a bit of food I would say, that would be all you can think off. Then when you get to the weak stage I think you get past even worrying about that to tell you the truth. I’ll tell you a funny instance before we’ve finished on the train it came to mind. We had a fellow in our truck, on the cattle truck to the name of Dick Beale. Now Dicky Beale, his
parents used to own a piano place in Bourke Street in Melbourne, Beale Pianos and Dick had lived pretty comfortably all his you know his life, his young life. He was a little thin weedy little bloke but he as I said lived very comfortably. And he was lying in this truck, this carriage and he’s moaning and groaning and he said, “Oh god, if I don’t get something to eat I’ll think I’ll die.”
Anyway there was a big raw boned Western Australian bloke down the other end of the carriage and jumped up and he said, “You little bugger, you die, I’ll eat you.” And he waved this knife under his Dick’s nose and they reckon it was the only thing that kept him alive. Every time he got a hunger pain he used to look at this engineer bloke. And that’s true, too.