Frank Roy
Archive number: 1936
Date interviewed: 28 April, 2004

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2/7th Battalion

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Frank Roy 1936

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Transcript

Tape 01

01:00:36:00

Alright Frank, it would great to get a picture of where you come from, your early years?
Well I was born in between, on Bayswater Road between Bayswater and Croydon on 22nd of the 9th, ‘22, and I

01:01:00:00

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

01:01:30:00

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

01:02:00:00

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

01:02:30:00

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

01:03:00:00

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.

01:03:30:00

Ok if we can just go back a bit Frank, what can you tell me about your parents, where they came from?
Well my father was a third generation army person from Scotland, he was in the Royal Scots Regiment all the family had been in that from beginning to end. And my father he was an officer in the 1st

01:04:00:00

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

01:04:30:00

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,

01:05:00:00

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

01:05:30:00

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.
As you were growing up in the twenties and thirties did your Dad talk much about his experience?
No very little, I knew very little about his previous things until after he died you know I got a few things there that I’ve never been able to check up on or

01:06:00:00

I’ve just got photographs and things like that about it.
So do you know where he saw service?
Oh he was, well he was orphaned when he was eight years of age and he was brought up in the Caledonian, by the Caledonian Society in Scotland and so literally he was in the army from the age of eight because I mean the Caledonian Society were pretty

01:06:30:00

strict sort of a lot and he knew nothing else but discipline and army life you know. And he had difficulty adapting to civilian life out here. He had been served in India previous to the First World War and then I think my, he became and orphan,

01:07:00:00

my grandfather and my grandmother apparently something happened to them in South Africa, they were stationed in South Africa it must have been I think in the Zulu Wars or something at that time. My grandfather died when he was thirty-five and my grandmother must have been about the same time and then that’s when the three boys were orphaned and brought up by the Caledonian

01:07:30:00

Society.
So what did your Dad do for a crust when he came to Melbourne?
Just gradually go broke. He couldn’t handle it, civilian life. I didn’t really know anything about that though we had our home on Bayswater Road and I was well looked after and there was no difficulty

01:08:00:00

for me. I never knew what was going on and I didn’t know how desperate they were until I came back from the war actually. So I didn’t, I can’t tell really you know from the financial part of it what happened but he didn’t do what he could’ve because he wasn’t you know he had no knowledge of it.
But there was an industry, there was a trade that he tried to – ?
No, he had the ability, but he just didn’t. No,

01:08:30:00

I think personally I think really you know when I think back he must have suffered a fair bit from the effects of the First World War because I do think that he had a lot of time on the front line. But that’s only a theory I’ve got no idea.
So do you know how the family sort of made it through those tough years or do you – ?
No, no, no, because I joined, I left school

01:09:00:00

in ‘36 which was still, you know what they called the Great Depression was still on. I left school and I went to work and then from work I joined the army. I don’t, I literally didn’t know anything, I was that young it didn’t worry me I suppose and I was an only child, so. That’s about all I can you know tell you

01:09:30:00

about it but as far as their finances and that I’ve really got no idea.
And what are your memories of your Mum?
She was very caring. I think I was spoilt by her without any doubt. She worked, I know she worked she used to manage a boarding house in St Kilda at one

01:10:00:00

stage I remember and another one in South Yarra was another time I remember so apparently she went out to work and you know kept the [laundry] coppers going, as I can understand it. She, as I said to you, she died when I was away at the war. But she came from

01:10:30:00

a family that like lived in Balgowlah and around Manly in Sydney.
You told us about your meeting a young lass with curly black locks, what else do you recall from sort of the childhood, whether it be at school or the high jinks you might have got up to out of school?
Well the high jinks when I went to school, well I went to the army and I wasn’t shot or anything, but I got shot before,

01:11:00:00

when I was tearing around the paddocks at Bayswater. I have just recently given up the blessed rifle that shot me too. Me and my mate were fooling around rabbiting or something one day and it started to rain and we went into a school shelter shed and we were resting in there and my mate had the gun and he said, “Hey look.” And I looked around and he let go with the trigger and the bullet went

01:11:30:00

through my chin and into my arm, I’ve still got the bullet in my arm somewhere or it was there. I suppose it’s travelled around a bit but it went straight through my chin and into my arm. That was one high jinks I got up to. I was just, you know, now days bird nesting and rabbiting and fishing, creek fishing and just going wild in the bush really.

01:12:00:00

What assistance did your mate give you after he shot you? How did you get out of that scrap, I mean what did you do?
Well we were about, we were at the Bayswater North School where it happened and all my lower part of my chin was all hanging down and I had to walk about a mile and a half home and then the old bloke had an old Chev [Chevrolet] car opposite, he took me

01:12:30:00

into Croydon which was about another couple of miles to the doctor and he just sat me up in the chair and pulled it altogether and he tried to get the bullet out of my arm and he couldn’t, so he said I had to go to the Royal Melbourne Hospital the next day to get the bullet out. So I went in by train for that you know with my face all bandaged up. And they called me in eventually when I went

01:13:00:00

into the hospital to take this bullet out and they had taken an x-ray and they said, “Oh gee you know it’s right in the muscle, it might damage his muscle.” And I said, “Oh don’t bother about it.” And I got up and left and it’s still there. They didn’t tell me to go, I went but the bullet’s still in there, somewhere I hope.
So what was, you talk about Croydon, Bayswater which are the suburbs

01:13:30:00

today, but what was it like back then?
Oh it was bush, it was literally bush. It was that, where we lived it was that lonely on the road you know it was a spooky sort of a walk home at night it was that, you know we were out in nowhere really, literally. And yeah there was a bridge between us and there was always talk about ghosts on the bridge you know

01:14:00:00

and it was, no we were right out in the bush in those days.
Was there crops or animals kept on the property where you were?
Yeah I think we must have been an area of poor farmers because there was no real good farm that I can remember. The people across the road from us they had about forty acres and they tried to make a living out it but they

01:14:30:00

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

01:15:00:00

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

01:15:30:00

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.

01:16:00:00

What was your schooling like, what sort of a scholar were you?
I did alright at school. I got dux at Bayswater State School and I didn’t have any problems at school, only with the teachers. No, I did have trouble with one of the teachers that’s why I left one school and went to another.
What was the trouble there?
Well he had his daughter in the same class as me and

01:16:30:00

I reckoned that she was an idiot you know but she was always beating me on the marks so I reckon that her father used to boost up the things. That got into me head so that’s what I judge it on. He and I had differences of opinion so I had to leave. So that was in essence what happened at school.
This is when you were just twelve, is that right?
That was when I was twelve, yeah.

01:17:00:00

So what sort of subjects were you keen on at the time?
Oh I think I got through them alright. Arithmetic I was ok at and I don’t know about history, I wasn’t all that, if I can remember rightly I wasn’t all that phased on history but I used to do it alright. But geography was one of my pet subjects, I loved geography but no none of them, they

01:17:30:00

never worried me. I wasn’t a great drawer, I didn’t like any drawing stuff and that but actual school work, no I liked it.
What about sports?
Yeah, I was alright at sports. I was captain of the footy and the cricket and I did alright on both of those. I had a run, when I was only twelve at the time, it was before I went to Bayswater I had a run with the

01:18:00:00

Victorian schoolkids team. I never got into it they found better players than me but I at least had a run there. No, I would have been alright I think if the war years hadn’t have come on, in sport.
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?

01:18:30:00

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.

01:19:00:00

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

01:19:30:00

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

01:20:00:00

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

01:20:30:00

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.

01:21:00:00

What about when you moved, what was the other school, you moved when you were twelve?
I started Bayswater North and I ended up at Bayswater. It was a big school, there was about one hundred and forty kids went to that. So, but I spent about eighteen months there I suppose. The classes were still small by present

01:21:30:00

day standard I think in the eighth grade there’d be, oh there might have been, there might have been four kids in the eighth grade when I was there, that was all four or five. So you know the classes weren’t big. And still it was a very small school, our children went there like when they started off school and I think what there would have been about three

01:22:00:00

hundred, two to three hundred then. So it’s sort of grown since then.
What else do you recall of, I mean I know you were just a young boy, but the Depression period and the different ways that the people sort of coped or struggled?
It didn’t affect me at all and as I said I was an only child and probably spoilt to the hilt but I,

01:22:30:00

I didn’t know what the depression was about, never interested me, but believe me I know kids that did. I referred to a Leo Greenwood a while ago, well I can’t even remember him wearing shoes and socks. They just didn’t have, you know they had no money at all. It wouldn’t mean much now, but his father, this Leo Greenwood’s father used to work as

01:23:00:00

a labourer in the Cave Hill Quarries in Lilydale and he used to ride an old clapped out bike from where we lived all the way to Lilydale, you know, to pick and shovel all day and then ride home again at night you know probably for two or three pound a week to look after half a dozen kids. They did it very tough. Yeah

01:23:30:00

they used to have a sustenance thing happening.
Was your Dad getting sustenance payments?
No, no, no. He would have starved before he done that. But as I say he, I didn’t feel any of that. I didn’t, you know I had no recollection about you know how tough they were if I wanted, you

01:24:00:00

know, a couple of bob or something like that or money to go to the pictures I was given it you know. If I needed a new pair of shoes I was given a pair of shoes, mind you only one pair, I didn’t have three or four, half a dozen pairs like people have got now, you know, I only had the one pair of shoes and the one set of clothing but I had no idea what, I knew what the Depression was like because they used to,

01:24:30:00

these kids that their parents were on this sustenance thing, they used to get free school books, and I knew that my parents had to pay for my school books, so I knew the difference there. But you know it didn’t concern me, I didn’t have to worry about it.
And what about, were there like swaggies, were they like – ?
Oh yeah there were

01:25:00:00

swaggies, yeah, they used to go up and down the roads and there was an empty house next door to where we lived, a shacky sort of a place and they used to camp there and some were there for ages, an example of one swaggie that went in there. He was apparently a good painter and he got a job of painting pretty near every shop in Croydon at the time. And while he finished there he packed his swag

01:25:30:00

and went off somewhere else but oh yes they were quite common in our time, swaggies.
Would they come knocking at your door?
Yeah I guess, I think I can remember them coming in, well I’m sure I remember them coming in but we were fortunate, we were off the road a bit. You know the swaggies were inclined to go to the people that were on the road I think. We didn’t have a lot of them but

01:26:00:00

as I say we had this empty place next door that it was a well know swaggie haunt.
What about you said your Mum was managing some boarding houses and that, so what sort of hours and was she there until – ?
Oh she’d be working her butt off, I should say. Yeah, she was a hard worker and I think she was very competent in what she did.

01:26:30:00

She at another stage in a later stage in her life, this must have been about I don’t know when there was an American writer by the name of Zane Gray came out here and I don’t know whether you’ve heard of him, he used to write cowboy stories, and he came out here fishing at Bermagui and my mother did all his cater when she was there and saw that all the cooking was done and

01:27:00:00

all that sort of thing. She was with him for quite some time while he was in Australia anyway, but no she was a goer.
Sorry, Zane Gray?
Zane Gray was the author. He wrote cowboy books.
Westerns, yeah.
Westerns, yeah.
Sorry how long was he around?
Oh it was a great thing for Australia him coming out here you know in those times. I don’t know, two or three months I guess. He went to Bermagui

01:27:30:00

and he did his fishing from there, he didn’t go deep sea fishing.
Did you meet him?
No, I didn’t meet him but that was the other thing. I travelled over, that was another thing when I was young I went backwards and forwards to Sydney a couple of times, all my mother’s family

01:28:00:00

were there. Incidentally my uncle on her side, Tom Walker, I’ve got a paper in my things out there where he specifies he was the first bloke with a surfboard in Manly. There is a story of him out there, I’ll let you read it later it’s quite interesting. But they were, they lived in the Manly area, I went up there

01:28:30:00

a couple of times when I was young.
Did you ever get to visit the boarding houses where your Mum worked?
Yeah.
What were they like?
Oh yeah I’d stay there sometimes yeah, with her like. When I was working in town at the motor place sometimes I’d stay there the week and come home on the weekend to what I knew was home. Not always but I’d, oh yeah I’d stayed at the different ones.
What were they like?
They were good, they were pretty

01:29:00:00

good joints.
So what, was it a matter of they received bed and board there, how did it, what sort of work did your Mum have to do?
Well it was, yeah it was not a boarding house they were sort of like permanent people that were. One was in South Yarra, in the main road of South Yarra and the other one was in, oh it’s probably not a good address now but at the time it

01:29:30:00

was in the corner of Fitzroy and Beaconsfield Parade and the place was called Elenara. But as I remember I wasn’t allowed to go into the dining room and all that sort of stuff. But I can remember you know they were what’s known as better class people they weren’t just down and outs and that.
What was St Kilda like

01:30:00:00

in those days?
Good, yeah it was good. It was good there I learnt my swimming and all that sort of thing there and I was there just across from the sea baths in St Kilda, that was good.
Was Luna Park was?
It was there too, it was there, yeah. I used to scrounge a few bob from Mum occasionally to go down to Luna Park yeah.
So you finished school at

01:30:30:00

Bayswater North, is that right, or Bayswater?
Bayswater yeah.
Bayswater sorry and so what did you get, did you end up with a merit or something.
A merit certificate that’s right, yeah.
Right. So at that time before you sort of started work did you have any, were there plans, did you have sort of any ambitions to do anything particular or was it?
No, not really, no I just wanted a job I mean that was what it was all about. As I say my first job

01:31:00:00

was sixteen and six a week, this old bloke I worked for at Tottenham and I think he gave me a rise after about twelve months to ten bob or something. But then I saw this advert in the paper they wanted a manager for a spare parts job. So I applied for that and I got it and I was sixteen and this was a spare parts manager. Anyway I got it and it was three fifteen a week and that was for

01:31:30:00

Allen Coffey Motors. Everybody knows in Melbourne Coffey Motors but this was when he first started up in William Street. And he lived in Croydon, old Allen Coffey, and he used to take me home every night after work. You know I used to work ridiculous hours but I liked it and I was getting good money and I got taken home at night so.
And a bit of responsibility

01:32:00:00

too?
And I had the responsibility, yeah. A real smart bum I was.
So what about the job before that, was also spare parts wasn’t it?
Yeah, yep.
So what was your role there?
Oh well in the spare parts I had to take messages around and all that sort of thing when I started off. And then I to sell spare parts and like the different garages would come in for

01:32:30:00

spare parts and for these things. I learned it all right thoroughly the job I had to do like you know I learned to driver there. I fell out of a car there, the mechanics kidded me to take a car around to their workshop that was in Littlelon and I came out of Lonsdale Street into Exhibition Street and turned the corner and fell out the door and that was my first crash. Fourteen years of age or something.

01:33:00:00

So what did you learn about cars themselves and their workings of mechanics of a car?
Not really a lot but I knew what you know a piston was and a valve cover was and all those sort of things. I knew all the technical things about it but where they went and how they worked I didn’t have too much of a clue, no. But it gave me you know it was a good experience. And

01:33:30:00

it would have been a good job as well if the war hadn’t come on I guess. I could have stuck at it.
What was the traffic like in Melbourne at the time?
Oh well it was next to nothing to what it is now, unbelievable nothing no. You know we thought it was busy but not to what it is now, no comparison.
What about Melbourne itself, you said you were working in the City was it Lonsdale Street?
Yeah.
How does that compare with today?

01:34:00:00

Well it’s exactly the same actually where I was, there is no different to what it is today in the particular area, do you know it at all?
Yeah.
You know where the Princess Mary Club is? Are you aware of where the Wesley Church is, do you know that?
Yeah.
Well it’s next door to the Wesley Church. And there’s this girls club or something like that, it’s always been the Princess Mary’s Club next door to it. And there’s this Singer car place they had the ground floor of this club.

01:34:30:00

And then as you know I mean the church is still there and the place, the Princess Mary Club is still there next door to it. So no in that particular spot it hasn’t changed. Across the road and everything it has but not there.
So why was it you think that you were given all that responsibility at the age of sixteen to be managing that section?
Well I don’t know I suppose

01:35:00:00

I was good at it. I don’t know they seemed to have the confidence in me. And when I went to Coffey’s I think he was delighted with me at the time because I didn’t care what hours I worked because I knocked off when he knocked off. And I got on alright with him. And I liked doing it I suppose that would be the main thing, I liked doing it.
So you used to get a lift home, he’d

01:35:30:00

drive you back?
He’d drive me home, yeah he’d drive me home at nights.
What sort of car did he drive?
Godfather, I couldn’t tell you, I wouldn’t have a clue now. No I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what sort and make it was. But in those days he was just a garage he wasn’t, it was a big garage it was in William Street but he didn’t have any agency or any particular make, it was just a garage, a big garage.

01:36:00:00

You mentioned that young lass, was this your girlfriend at the time?
This was Mary here.
Yeah, but during those years?
No, at the time, no we weren’t no. No, she wasn’t my girlfriend no, no not at that time. But no, she wasn’t my girlfriend.
Was there a girlfriend though around those days?
Those days, no not really, no I don’t think they’d have anything to do with me I don’t think. You don’t think I’m going to tell you that in front of my wife do you?

01:36:30:00

Exactly. Right, so what about, you’re obviously working long hours there at Coffey’s but you’re making a few bob now, so what are you doing with the money?
Spending it. Spending it.
How and where?
Well I’m blowed if I know now, I couldn’t tell you now but I never ever had any I know that. I told you I was spoilt, I was an only child, I

01:37:00:00

was spoilt. I had everything I probably needed at the time. But if I needed any, I can remember I saw a real flash bike, it was a Cecil Walker - they still make bikes, push bikes, incidentally, in Elizabeth Street - and I saw this beautiful chrome plated bike and I was getting my mother to buy it for me and I think it was twenty-two pound I think and twenty-two

01:37:30:00

pound in those days was a lot of money but anyway she bought me the bike and I was a bit irresponsible I think.
So the older you got I mean did you spend your recreation time any differently, I mean you talked about going out and rabbiting and getting shot?
No, I don’t think so, no. I used to love getting back to Bayswater and just poking around but there wasn’t too, I didn’t have too long because I was seventeen when I joined the

01:38:00:00

army. So you know I didn’t have too much of a long working life probably only three years probably. I can’t really think of, there was any big deal of anything I did in those three years by any means other than what I did when I was a kid.
What about things like the movies and dances and?
Yeah, once a week type a movie yeah,

01:38:30:00

we’d go to the movies once a week. Head and tail to walk four miles, two mile there and two mile back to go. So no, I would say up until I joined the army I didn’t knock, you know didn’t do anything else other than when I was a kid. There was go to the footy you know watch the footy just like probably what other kids do.

01:39:00:00

And who was your team back then?
St Kilda.
Still.
Yeah. Yeah still hang onto it.
So would you go to any of the league [Victorian Football League] games?
Oh yeah. Yeah I’d go to the league games. Not regularly every week type of thing but I’d go when St Kilda used to play at St Kilda. But

01:39:30:00

I’d go to the pictures and the footy games, that’s mainly what went on in my life and I took to swimming a fair bit, I used to love my swimming in summer. As I said I did like sports.
What about cricket?
Yeah.
Did you ever go to the test matches or anything?
No, I never ever went to a test match, no. I have no recollection of ever going to a test match.

01:40:00:00

We used to always like to see the Poms get beaten just the same as now but no I’ve never ever went to a test match.
So during your working life there are we talking mid to late thirties, yeah?
Late thirties yeah.
Yeah, so just before war.
Yeah, ‘37, ‘38.
How well informed do you think people were and you yourself about what was going on in Europe and the possibility

01:40:30:00

of a war?
Oh well naturally Hitler was spoken a lot about because that was on the headlines all the time but I don’t think anybody was worrying it you know it’s sort of over there you know you didn’t worry too much about it. I mean nobody really knew that Japan was Japan then, in those times either you know

01:41:00:00

so I can’t remember any apprehension about a world war coming up or anything like that.
Interviewee: Frank Roy Archive ID 1936 Tape 02

02:00:31:00

I don’t think I can add much more to that than what I told you, no.
No anecdotes like the one like you getting shot, any other sort of highlights like that or lowlights?
Oh you know, no I can’t, let me. I think I can think of things that could have happened I remember another thing we, no no that didn’t.

02:01:00:00

We used to, there was a Croydon drain, an old sloppy, dirty, filthy, slimy drain that used to come out of Croydon. And in the summer time we used to run along the bank of this thing and do belly whackers along it and you know slide for about two or three chain down the end drain and you know you’d never think about tins or bottles or anything being in it. But

02:01:30:00

no I don’t think I can. Oh yeah different things do come back to me I was tell you about Greenwood and his father was, he was hard on him and anyway we went out rabbiting this day with him and he always made this Leo, this friend of mine, carry the gun when he wasn’t want it and as soon as he wanted the gun he’d take it off Leo to shoot the rabbit

02:02:00:00

or whatever. And anyway he was prancing along in the front old Greenwood and Leo’s carrying the gun with him and anyway Leo put it up and aimed at something and pulled the trigger and boom off it went. Old Greenwood nearly died on the spot. I don’t think he never asked him to carry the gun again, cured him of that. Different silly little things like that probably happened but.

02:02:30:00

So if you went rabbiting what would you do with the rabbits, was it for the pelts or the meat?
Oh the meat, gee you’d eat them yeah. Yeah they’d be eaten in those days. Oh then the pelts would be kept too, yeah they’d put them on a wire and dry them and sell them. Oh yeah all those things were done.
While you were at school did you do little sort of little odd jobs or paper rounds or did you?

02:03:00:00

No, I never did any of that, no. No I didn’t do any of that. As I said I didn’t do it tough, I’d be the first to admit it. I know looking back there were plenty of kids that did do it tough. I was sheltered from all of that.
And for you and your family was there such thing as a holiday, would you ever get any?
No, no. You know I used to be given

02:03:30:00

the holidays as I say I had my couple of breaks up to Sydney and back. I had to go up on my own you know. But that’s where all the family was like my mother’s family so. But no I never had a break at all.
Where in Sydney was this?
Balgowlah, out at Manly that’s where mainly. I had another aunty who lived up at Glenbrook

02:04:00:00

in the Blue Mountains and another one at Wahroonga and another one at Collaroy.
That must have been good fun as a young fellow getting the train up to?
Oh yeah. I was twelve when I, the first time I went up. I went up in 1934, when I was going around trying to look for some of these things you might be interested in I saw where I’d signed the visitor’s book on the Sydney Harbour and that was in ‘34,

02:04:30:00

in December, ‘34. So it was only open just previous to that. I got a, they gave you a certificate when you signed it. Oh yeah it was good actually I used to be able to get around on my own I could look after myself alright.
Did you have any family, were there cousins or anything in Melbourne at the time?
None at all, no other family at all they were all Sydney people.

02:05:00:00

Oh eventually, no eventually I had a cousin that came down and he started, now which one was it now, I think it was the Anglesea Surf Lifesaving Club, a fellow by the name Ainslie Walker and he came and lived in Melbourne after he, he had something

02:05:30:00

to do with the wool business but other than that all the rest are up in Sydney and still are.
Ok is there anything else before we sort of maybe get onto that war service?
No, I told you about the surfboard bloke. With that I think there’s a few blokes that

02:06:00:00

said they brought the first one out but I’ve got verification of that on a piece of paper that this Ainslie Walker did it, this Tommy Walker did it. Ainslie Walker he was the bloke that started the, I think it was either the Portsea or Anglesea Surf Lifesaving Club. Which it’s popular now surfing but in Victoria

02:06:30:00

going back to when we were young you know it was unheard of, really.
Did you ever get on a surfboard then?
No. I used to try the, when I went up to Sydney I used to try to do the ones on the rubber. They used to have rubber things about high, stood about that wide and about that long you know and tried it on those but I was hopeless at it.

02:07:00:00

No, I can’t think of any other major things about it.
I’ve just got two questions, you said your family were Presbyterian, is that right?
Yeah.
Were they sort of church going people?
No, no but being Scotch, they were both Scotch. My father was and my mother was from a Scotch crowd. I think, well when they were Carrs,

02:07:30:00

the Carr people remained very religious but when they got branched off to the Walker mob I think they didn’t become religious for too long.
So it wasn’t an important part of –
No, no,
Your upbringing?
No, no. Just a tag of who and what you were you know. But the

02:08:00:00

like there was no Presbyterian Church when I was christened in the area and there was only the Methodist Church so that’s where I was christened. It was funny when I joined the scouts, when I was that age, when I was ten I suppose nine or ten and all their church services were Methodist Church services too so I can assure you I wouldn’t have been a good Methodist.
What was the scouts

02:08:30:00

experience like?
It was not a very prominent part of my life but I joined it when I was about, I think I was about nine when I joined it. You had to be ten but I think I got in when I was nine into this Bayswater troop but I only got into it for a couple of years and it went kafuff [collapsed]. They didn’t you know it just sort of, they couldn’t apparently get the leaders, I don’t know why but

02:09:00:00

then I never carried on with it then.
Did you ever get involved in the cadets?
No, no, no. No, straight in I went. As I say I was also seventeen when I went into it.
Ok well let’s take it to 1939 and the declaration of war, do you actually remember –
Oh yeah.
Hearing that news on the radio?
Yeah, yep.
Tell us about that, that time.
Well it was,

02:09:30:00

the war started, we knew the war had started and they were calling for volunteers and people were joining up. This was like in ‘39. My first real recollection of seeing it was seeing the papers

02:10:00:00

and then there was - no before we get into that there was a, the first contingent of Australians that went away were what was called the 16th brigade and they left from Sydney. And they left from Sydney it must have been in about, it must have been in late December or early January that they left Sydney and they went over to the Middle East.

02:10:30:00

And my first recollection of the war was seeing all the photos of these Australians on camels and donkeys and chasing Arabs around the place. And I thought, “Oh gee that looks terrific.” You know and that’s what my first recollection of war. And they were recruiting here in Melbourne actually too but

02:11:00:00

I didn’t join up until 1940, February ‘40 but it was already on the go here in Melbourne.
Do you remember what your father had to say about his – ?
Well he wouldn’t discourage me but I can’t remember exactly his attitude but I know he wouldn’t discourage me from it. He would have thought, I should think, he would have thought it was good.
So it sounds like it was a

02:11:30:00

sort of, it was an adventure as such if anything.
Yeah for me, no way about it. I wouldn’t try to say anything else because it looked good.
So what was the process then of your signing up?
My joining up?
Yeah.
A very, very quick one. I was walking along, they started recruiting out of the ticket boxes at Flinders Street

02:12:00:00

Railway Station and I was walking, I walked across Princes Bridge this day and I saw all these ticket boxes and I thought, “Right, I’ll go and join up.” And it was just like that. And I went to the ticket box and I put my particulars down and that was on a Monday. Anyway I was told I had to report to the drill hall in Ringwood on the Wednesday.

02:12:30:00

Anyway I went and reported to the drill hall on the Wednesday, to the Ringwood drill hall. I was given a medical and I passed the medical from my own old family doctor. I was given an army number and I was told to report to the showgrounds on the Friday. So my mother had no hope of getting me out, I was in.
Did she know at this time?
No, no,

02:13:00:00

no. Neither of them knew.
Weren’t you –
That was in a week. That was in a week.
But you had to be, how old were you?
Well at that time, I’ll tell you this I had to be, everybody that was twenty and twenty one had to register just before I joined up. So I thought well God, I can’t say I was twenty or twenty one because I was supposed to be registered to go in. So I was

02:13:30:00

seventeen and I put my age up to twenty two. And that’s, I’ve got papers out there to show that to you. And anyway I went in on the Monday and I was in the showgrounds on the Friday.
No questions asked when they –
No, not a question was ever, I was never ever queried about my age.
Not even an eyebrow raised?
No, no, oh well behind my back probably or something as they went past, I don’t know.

02:14:00:00

And I went up to Pucka [Puckapunyal] and I went. I joined on the 29th of February and I went through all the procedures and that and I sailed on the 15th of April.
When did your folks find out that you – ?
Well after I’d got a uniform from Pucka.
And their reaction?
Oh my mother was shocked, absolutely shocked. As I said not a great reaction from

02:14:30:00

my father, but it was a great shock to my mother.
What was said?
I can just remember her breaking down and all that sort of thing but I was in it. And I don’t think, well I wasn’t there long enough for her to really, if she thought about trying to get me out

02:15:00:00

because I mean I joined on the 29th of February and I sailed on the 15th of April. I went straight into a battalion, I mean why there was a great rush for the likes of me was they wanted to make up the strength of the battalions before they sailed and I went straight into it.
So did you sign up on your own or were there mates of yours who was sort of – ?
No I was on my own, no.

02:15:30:00

No, I was a loner.
Was it something you discussed though with – ?
No, no, no. No, it was me, just me. No I just made up my own mind and in I went.
So obviously your Mum was pretty distraught but what about your Dad, what did he think of it?
Well he would have thought it was alright I’m sure. He was an unemotional sort of a bloke and he would have

02:16:00:00

reckoned it was alright.
It would be good if we could get a bit more detail. That week a lot happened for you from saying I’ll think I’ll join the army to you being on your way. What else can you recall of the medical for example, that was at the family doctor was it?
Oh well there were a group of us I wasn’t on my own at it. There had been more that had been sent to the Ringwood drill hall and he happened to be the family doctor but

02:16:30:00

it was you know, there was nothing great it was just a pretty light medical really. Just tested your ticker and that’s all I can remember, there wasn’t much involved in it.
Were there any other tests, I mean did they look at your school results, was there anything else other than the medical?
No, no, no. They weren’t interested in that.

02:17:00:00

And you were given your VX number [Victorian armed forces number] that week as well?
Yeah.
What’s your number?
Sixteen three one five.
Ok so there was some training though wasn’t there before they?
A little bit. They told me how to shoot a .303. But when I went into it I met a bloke,

02:17:30:00

there was either crown on anchor or two-up that was you know the pastimes in the army. And I met this young bloke, we got a bit pally and we got playing I think it was crown and anchor I think or something we were playing. And we got to sort of half mated up and he was a bush boy and he was a great horse

02:18:00:00

rider and he did a lot of rough riding. Anyway he at the time at Pucka they were training all the blokes with horse transport. Horse transport is such that all the cooks had to be horse trained you know they had these big boilers on being dragged by horses because they had nothing else there in Australia, lets face it, so they trained with

02:18:30:00

them. So this bloke who I was mated up with decided he wanted to go into the transport you know wanted to be with the horses. So anyway I knew there were some cars they had some trucks and things too so being as I told you in the spare parts business, so I said well you know I’d have a go at the transport too. So I got in and he didn’t and they took me because I said I had

02:19:00:00

mechanical experience and so they took me and so I got into the transport.
So when you went to Pucka you were already being allocated to the unit?
Not straight away, no, no, when I first got to Pucka, no. No it was just that sort of came, probably it must have only been after a few days but they, somewhere

02:19:30:00

along the line I had put my name down that I had motor experience and then I was called up to go and do it then. And the group that I went in with they were allocated a different company or whatever you know like a signals or an infantry or whatever. But no I was called into the transport section.
So all of the fellows there were to be a part

02:20:00:00

of the 2/7th?
Yeah, it was the 2/7th yeah. I was in the 2/7th when I went to Pucka I was put straight into it there.
Ok. Were there many others like you who were well underage like that?
In it I think there were about eight hundred blokes in the battalion and there was one other bloke. It’s problematical whether he was younger than me or not. I was one of

02:20:30:00

the two youngest at the time. There was a Pommy bloke, I’m not sure he never came to task but it’s only since the war that I tried to work out whether I was the youngest but there was this other bloke that could have been, him and me. But I couldn’t find, other than him, I couldn’t find anybody else that was. And none of the others knew of any

02:21:00:00

that were younger then me either.
But at the time was it sort of common knowledge that you were the age you were or did you have to sort of keep up that ruse?
No, no I just, I kept up that ruse while I was there yeah that would be for sure but when I got over the other side I was my own age then, I never worried about it.

02:21:30:00

And how was it fitting in to a group of blokes, I mean I guess there were those that were just only a year or two older as well but there were a lot of older?
No, I had not trouble you know I had to look after myself but I was always capable of doing that, I never had any worry of that. But the, no I fitted in alright.
Can you tell us a bit more about Pucka and the sort of training that you did, the equipment?
Well it was

02:22:00:00

very short and it is very hazy as you can understand like because I wasn’t there that long but I can distinctly remember the bayonet training and the rifle training and of course the drill and all that sort of jazz. And being in the transport I didn’t have a lot to do with that either actually,

02:22:30:00

at that time. We had the shooting instilled into us and the bayonet training. But I didn’t have a lot to do with any truck work either. I was sort of in limbo to be honest.
How well equipped were they in terms of the transport and also weapons?
Well the only weapons they had were the, I think at that time they had, I don’t think they even had the Bren

02:23:00:00

guns I think they only had the old Lewis guns and machine guns. By standards later on very poor, very poor. Although I had the first, gee I can even remember the number of my rifle actually, but I had the, I was given the rifle and I had that right through until I had to destroy it on Crete.
What was the number of the rifle?
Eight seven eight two. Yep.

02:23:30:00

What about the transport section, it sounds like they weren’t quite up to speed then but what?
Well then there is nothing I can really tell you much about it like before we sailed away. We really became a transport section after that and I jumped from the frying pan into the fire by going into it but I didn’t know that at the time.

02:24:00:00

And how was the discipline side of things, that must have been a bit of?
Oh well from the transport section it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t like being in the company section or something like that. It was a bit, it wasn’t lack of days hill but you know you had a, you mixed with the officer class, the officers more by

02:24:30:00

being in the transport than probably the ordinary Joe Blow does. You know they only get used to their own blokes telling them what to do but with the transport you’re mixing with them all you know. That’s what I found anyway. The discipline didn’t no it was never any big deal.
What was the mood like amongst the men before you

02:25:00:00

embarked?
Oh you know, everybody was, nobody was worried they were you know, they were a pretty wild lot to tell you the truth. You know they didn’t give a hoot about what was happening. It must have been, you know I think how terrible it must have been for the married blokes, it must have been pretty crook but no there was a

02:25:30:00

jovial mood all through when we sailed. And then while we sailed it was you know people were downcast a bit probably with going down the bay I suppose but no, nobody was depressed about it, no.
So you sailed from Melbourne?
Yeah. We went down by truck from Pucka to Seymour

02:26:00:00

and then we went from there to, they took us straight out to the Station Pier and we hopped on the boat.
And through that process were you aware of where you were headed, was it definitely?
Well we knew we were going to the Middle East.

02:26:30:00

So do you remember the name of the ship?
Yes, SS Strathaird.
Yeah so tell us about that voyage?
Well we went down the bay and we got out through the heads. And from the time we got out the heads the blokes started to get sick, it was pretty rough. We learned later that they went direct south after we got out of the heads

02:27:00:00

and they went right around in a big semi circle and came back into Perth. We had, I think it was two days leave in Perth and we joined, at Perth we joined a convoy then. If my memory serves me right I think it was five or six ships I think that was there. I think it was five or six ships and plus the

02:27:30:00

escort vessel that took us there. After two days in Perth we –
Do you remember Perth?
Yeah, yeah.
Was there –
The pier and you know where we pulled in.
Was there any, was the public out?
No, no. We just blew in and, it might have only been a day,

02:28:00:00

but if it was we sort of only got in one day and then stayed a day and then left I think. It wasn’t a very short, I can only remember going out the one day and looking around. But it was only to join up with another convoy that took us across. We had Anzac Day going across the Indian Ocean and

02:28:30:00

on Anzac Day I can vividly remember the ceremony. I don’t know what warship it was, Shropshire I think it was. It was a Pommy one. No I can’t be sure whether it was that or not but anyway this warship steamed down beside the ships like, in between the convoy and we had a sort of a bit of a

02:29:00:00

ceremony up on deck for Anzac Day. And then we went on to Colombo and we had a couple of days in Colombo.
So did you get on shore at Colombo?
Yeah, yeah. There was no pier at Colombo we had to get off onto small boats off the ship, onto small boats and they took us into Colombo on the small boats.

02:29:30:00

That must have been a bit of an eye opener?
Yeah that was something, that’s when things started to change definitely, all the dark people there and they were all begging and diving around the boats and begging for titbits and things. That’s when we started to find, you know, that the world’s different to what Australia was.
And how was your time on board spent?

02:30:00:00

Discipline again you know up on deck and deck drill and being on duty, guard duty day and night. But you know well fed and plenty of beer and all that sort of thing, it was quite good.
Was there a beer ration or?
No, well I think there was I think you know

02:30:30:00

something about four pints a night – a sitting – or something like that, you know. It was very comfortable and we were in a very good ship. At that time it was one of the top class England to Australia steam ships. We were all in good cabins, about four to a cabin. Where I was there was four to a cabin, it varied

02:31:00:00

from place to place. Incidentally one of my cabin chaps he lives at Melbourne north and he’s still going too. He’s a bit of a wreck but we sort of followed through and my number is sixteen three one five, his is seventeen three one five. We were in the same cabin going over and we followed in the same tents as we went through.

02:31:30:00

He’s still going.
What’s his name?
Frank Woods.
So he was in your section or?
Yeah, he was in transport too. And he was taken prisoner on Crete too.
Ok just going back a little bit, when you left Melbourne had there been any ceremonies for your departure or farewell parties or?
No, there were people that knew because

02:32:00:00

we came through Flinders Street when people were going to work like in the morning, early morning and there was no secrecy about us going, everybody sort of knew it and there were people down at the wharf when the ship sailed. So there was, no there was no real secrecy about it. Whether it was splashed over the pages, I don’t think it was

02:32:30:00

splashed over the pages that we were going to leave the next day or anything like that but I think wives and girlfriends and that would have known that we were going because we knew in advance that we were.
And it was the whole battalion was it?
Yeah, the whole battalion went. Our whole battalion went on the Strathaird along with the divisional headquarters and that sort of thing, all the top brass.
Was there anything else about Colombo

02:33:00:00

that you, or Ceylon [Sri Lanka]?
No Ceylon, not really other than you know I haven’t got a great deal of memory of that. I know it was very hard to find where we had to go back to get the boats to get back on the ship again. We were, I can remember going into

02:33:30:00

an English canteen and having a meal but you know there was nothing. Actually truthfully there wasn’t a lot to see other than you know. I think I say that probably some people bought rugs or something I don’t know but I never went into that, but it never impressed me much anyway,

02:34:00:00

not at that time.
So then you set sail again for Colombo?
Yeah, up through the Red Sea and we disembarked, up through the Suez Canal and we disembarked at a placed called El Kantara and we got straight off that and into cattle trucks and we went by train up into Palestine and we got off at a place called

02:34:30:00

Beit Jirja.
So what struck you about that part of the world then?
It was hot, it was damn hot. And we got to Beit Jirja and these New South Wales blokes were there, they got to camp already for us and everything and they were there in their grey coats to welcome us. They put the grey coat, gee it was cold, you know, sweat was absolutely dripping out of us. We wondered what we were in for.
What was the set-up like there, tell me about the camp?

02:35:00:00

Well they weren’t in a straight line of tents like you image, they were scattered all over the place because it was supposed to be less damage in an air raid by them being scattered all over the area. And I was probably in the furthest, well I know I was in the furthest tent out from the rest of the camp. You know we were right on the edge as far as it could go. Of course I’ve got a story about that later how I know how far it was.

02:35:30:00

And there was twelve men to a tent and this tiny, Frank Woods that that I was telling you about he was in that same tent with me too. And I had another, by this time I had another real good friend, a fellow by the name of Ron Curry. We’re still good mates, nearly brothers you know we were close

02:36:00:00

together but he was in the same tent as me too.
You said you found out later how far out you were? Do you want to tell us later, are you going to remember or do you want to tell us?
I’ll tell you now.
You might as well while we’re on the subject.
Yeah well we’ll have to come back a bit. Well Ron and I, this is the fella I was telling you we’re nearly blood brothers, we had to go on picket duty because the tents were so scattered the field

02:36:30:00

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.

02:37:00:00

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

02:37:30:00

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

02:38:00:00

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

02:38:30:00

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.
So how long had you been based there before that?

02:39:00:00

Oh quite a while, quite a while. I ran into a lot of trouble just about that time, things weren’t going too good for me at all. But the, oh we’d been there I’d say it must have been two or three months at least that we’d been there when this happened.
So what was happening there, what work was going on for those months?
Oh the training you know

02:39:30:00

I told you I was in the transport. Well the transport was really you know getting into real proper training then. But we still had to do guard duty and picket duty and all that besides those things. But the leave was liberal you could get into Jerusalem or Tel Aviv pretty regularly

02:40:00:00

and it was a good time actually, it was quite a good time.
You said you got into a bit more trouble.
Oh yeah.
What sort of?
Well I got that CB trouble and then after that I was on guard duty and you know they come along and they inspect all your rifles and things like that and see that they’re clean and you’ve got to go on guard. And I had a dirty rifle this day and

02:40:30:00

oh god I nearly went down on my hands and knees to plead with the sergeant bloke not to charge me. I got out of that but I was still in trouble with it but you know those sort of things happened. But I see that, everything seemed to be you know I was getting myself into trouble you know little things. But that passed by.
So tell us a bit more about the transport section –
Interviewee: Frank Roy Archive ID 1936 Tape 03

03:00:31:00

Alright well we’ll pick up from, you were talking about leave briefly and going to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Yeah well, we used to get regular leave and it was a good time, we were having a good time. It was hard, they were making us tough and plenty of training. Even though I was in the transport I mean we still have to do our route marches and all that type of thing too so

03:01:00:00

it was a time of toughening us up and getting us used to the heat I guess. And there was training. We had probably more equipment then when we were there. We were, my memory of it is a great time I think you know there leave, it was hard it was, even though I got myself into a bit of trouble here and there, it was a good time.
What sort of trouble did

03:01:30:00

you get into?
Oh well I relayed it about you know the going to sleep on duty that was one, dirty rifle.
What about on leave, what was it like in town?
Absolutely terrific and it was probably one of my regrets. I was only seventeen. Especially going, and I’m not particularly religious by any means of the imagination, but

03:02:00:00

I’ll always regret I wasn’t able to take in more when we went to Jerusalem. The things we saw. Probably you know people wouldn’t have the opportunity to see again in the same light we saw it actually, you know with all this trouble that’s been going on in recent years. I can’t imagine it being the same as when I saw it. But of all the places I think, you know if I could’ve gone, wanted

03:02:30:00

to go back anywhere, put it that way I could’ve gone back if I wanted to but if I had have gone back anywhere the places I would have liked to go, one of them anyway, was back into Palestine. In the war years, that was one of the good times in my life I think.
So what did you actually see?
Oh well the old biblical places, the Holy Sepulchre and the Wailing Wall.
So what, you’d go on a tour with your mates or?
No, no. Oh well yeah, we’d

03:03:00:00

have our mates you know we’d have our mates and certainly go into a bar or two and have a few drinks and you know but there was a lot of sight seeing to be seen as well. Both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Tel Aviv was a, you know it was a different kettle of fish to what Jerusalem was. Jerusalem was an educational type of place

03:03:30:00

but Tel Aviv was a good time place.
And what was happening with the transport, you said you had a bit more equipment by the time you got to Palestine?
Well we got our trucks and we had our trucks. And it still hadn’t been formed at that time exactly how it was when we went into action but

03:04:00:00

it was starting to get formed you know we were just being used as general transport at that time while we were in Palestine. And at that time I personally didn’t have a truck of my own so I can’t give you much information about that at that time. I was just sort of a co-driver type of thing at that time.

03:04:30:00

Where were you driving to?
Oh it would be, oh I’ll tell you one good trip I went. Our colonel made a good will trip to see the Mukta [village leader] of Beersheba from where we were and there were six of us, six trucks went down. And that was very good because even the remains of the old horse

03:05:00:00

charges in World War I, you could still see where the trenches where and the old guns were when we went down and that was a highlight of our time in Palestine too, the trip to Beersheba.
Was that like a few days that you were there?
No, no it was only a two day affair, it was only a two day affair. But our colonel made, he made this good will trip

03:05:30:00

to see this old Muktah bloke. We didn’t get any of the pleasures that he got but at least we had the trip down.
Ok, so things were kind of hotting up in the desert weren’t they, were you aware of what was going on in Libya and?
Nothing had happened in the desert then because we were, we ended up, we were the first

03:06:00:00

ones that were in the desert when it started. So while we were in Palestine there was nothing there. I do remember a couple of times there was a single Italian plane that flew at a terrific hight above our camp. But no nothing, while we were in Palestine we didn’t know there was a war on sort of thing. Of course we heard about

03:06:30:00

what was happening over in Europe. At that stage we were a long way away from Europe.
Ok so where did you go to from Palestine?
Well from Palestine, when we went to Palestine being in the transport we drove down from Palestine to a placed called Helwan just out of Cairo and that was our camp, it was going to be the 7th Battalion campers

03:07:00:00

at this placed called Helwan and there was only a few mile out of Cairo. And we drove down there from Palestine and back across to this Helwan and that was our next camp. And that was also a very good place to be to because it was open camp to Cairo every night, like after we had finished during the day it was in Cairo at night.

03:07:30:00

But it was pretty hard training there too, every place we went it seemed to get tougher. And Helwan the route marches and that were getting longer and harder. But still you know a lot to see, different place to be and the pyramids and all the rest of the jazz around Cairo. We

03:08:00:00

had the opportunity of seeing all those things, the Nile and all the rest of it. Yeah so that’s that.
Was there other training besides the route marches that you were doing?
Oh well there was rifle training and you know different Bren gun training at that stage. I don’t know whether there was at Helwan, I think it was Helwan they brought out another blessed

03:08:30:00

gun I think called a boys anti-tank rifle. And it was an enormous thing and it had a kick on it like a mule you know not everybody could handle them, they were a terrible weapon. But I think it was, I’m not sure whether it was a Helwan or the next camp we were in, we were introduced to this thing and everybody had to have a go at firing this thing, it was a shocker.

03:09:00:00

Some, you know once the blokes got used to it they were alright but the first time it happened but these little things were getting introduced time and, you know little bit by bit. Helwan, in the transport for me was, golly Helwan yeah I was given my first, Helwan yeah I was given my first truck at Helwan. But they were still just using it

03:09:30:00

at their will you know to carry things about and that. We weren’t still designated what our real job was to be but we were just sort a bloke with a truck and we were using them you know. But we used to get some good trips of them you know like into Cairo and things like that.
Can you tell me a bit more about the boys’ anti-tank guns, was it like a single operator gun?
Yeah, yeah,

03:10:00:00

it was just like an enormous rifle but it had a shell, a big shell instead of just an ordinary bullet but it just fired a shell. I don’t know it was still in operation when we went to Greece they still had it but it was, to somebody just to pick it up and fire it the first time it was a big shock. But

03:10:30:00

the ones that got used to it, I think it was very accurate, a very good gun.
So how did you hold it, what sort of position did you used to be in?
It was the same as a rifle, you fired it exactly the same as a rifle. But it was heavy and it was bigger and it was more, it could go out, it had a bigger kick on it, it had a kick on it like a mule.
And what sort of targets were you firing at when you were training?
Oh just

03:11:00:00

ordinary target shooting, shooting targets you know not old tanks or anything, no just ordinary target practice.
What kind of damage would it do?
Well it would go through armoured plating you know it was armoured plating we were shooting at you know. But we were introduced to, I think it was Helwan we were introduced to it

03:11:30:00

the first time. It was a new experience.
And you also got your first truck there, what sort of truck was that?
It was a fifteen hundred weight Chev, my first one. And that’s interesting for present day warfare, they go in with these trucks into battle armoured plated and

03:12:00:00

they look like tanks more than trucks. Ours were just ordinary utilities and we had to do the same when we got into the front line, we had to go in with the infantry in just an ordinary utility truck.
No armour plating?
No armour plating, no nothing, just straight off the assembly line here in Melbourne and that’s what we had to go in with. I said in my previous talk

03:12:30:00

that going into the transport I jumped out from the frying pan into the fire because it wasn’t a very pleasant experience but you know you had to do it, you had to do it.
So what did it actually mean having your own truck, did it mean – ?
Oh well you know you’d get called up to go into Cairo or some officer bloke wanted to go somewhere else and you went on your own with

03:13:00:00

them you know. Your barriers are down when you’re in a truck with somebody, it doesn’t matter what rank they are. It was a pleasant experience that, that was a good clutch.
So you were able to get to know the officers?
Oh yeah, yep. You’d get them, if you were in an infantry platoon or something you got to know your own officers very well but doing what I was doing you got to know all the officers.

03:13:30:00

Possibly on a more personal basis than what you would if you were in a platoon. You know if you go driving with one it was just like driving, going out with another bloke you know they don’t pull rank on you the same and all that sort of thing.
So these troops they were taking you outside the camp obviously, to what sort of places and what sort of – ?
Oh well they might have some sort of

03:14:00:00

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

03:14:30:00

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

03:15:00:00

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

03:15:30:00

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.

03:16:00:00

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.
Alexandria has got a bit of a reputation for being a fun town during the war.
Yeah, probably not as big as Cairo was I don’t think. That’s my

03:16:30:00

personal experience of it. They were both pretty tough towns but Alexandria was a beautiful city, it was right on the Mediterranean and it was, Cairo was a dirty old joint if you could put it that way. Yeah, that would be the best to explain it, a dirty old city.

03:17:00:00

To my way of thinking anyway that is, but Alexandria was to me a clean fresh looking place you know. The habits of both towns might have been the same but I mean to me I thought Alexandria was a nice looking town.
Did you drink?
Oh yeah. I lived, yeah I drank.

03:17:30:00

Probably a bit too much sometimes but I wasn’t any worse or any better than anybody else I don’t think. I know men that didn’t drink, I had one fellow that spent all his prison life and I never saw him have a drink that was only one bloke I know. Yeah, I drank when I was there.
So was there ever any trouble in town?
Oh yeah fights, there was always fights.

03:18:00:00

Blues and you know blokes that had too much to drink there was all that sort of thing that went on. Then if you wanted you went around looking for trouble you could find it. But I don’t think you know there was plenty of sightseeing to do too I don’t think everybody did that. It was there available, I mean you could go into a bar and have a few drinks but you needn’t to go any further than that if you didn’t want to.

03:18:30:00

What about with the locals, was there ever trouble with the locals or between the troops and the locals?
No. They used to, we used to I suppose moored it over them to a great extent I mean we didn’t take anything from them in any degree. They’d thieve the eye out of a needle, if they had half the chance, from the hole, which they were very, very good at.

03:19:00:00

Where you ever stung by them?
Oh I suppose I was, yeah.
Do you remember the situation?
No, I can’t really remember it. I can’t remember being stung by them. I remember once, I’ve got my original pay book out there that I had and I remember losing it one night, that was in Cairo but I got it back.

03:19:30:00

It came back after a few weeks so it was alright for some, it didn’t go right for others.
Yeah look, I’m not suggesting it didn’t I’m just trying to get a detailed, colourful picture.
Well it was pretty rough, I’m not saying it wasn’t rough you know but if you went looking for trouble you got it.

03:20:00:00

I didn’t have any of that experience I used to, I was probably with the right sort of blokes I supposed you know we’d get on alright, we’d have a few drinks no fights you know.
There was a British naval base there wasn’t there at Alexandria?
Yeah but –
Did you see much of the sailors?
No, very little very little. Gee you know now that you brought that up I know there was but do you know in my

03:20:30:00

memory I can’t really remember seeing any Pommies about. No, I really can’t, or navy blokes. Not there, no I can’t remember seeing any at all, no. But they were there I’m sure but that’s something that I have got no recollection of whatsoever, seeing any, my memories not too bad but I can’t remember

03:21:00:00

any naval people there.
So were you doing desert training at the time?
Yeah that was on all the time, yeah. We would go out into the desert and tear around in the desert. By this time I wasn’t marching, incidentally, when we got up there because it was getting out of bogs and getting through the sand and learning

03:21:30:00

all those things you know with a truck, how to handle the truck in the sand. That was mainly around Ikingi Mariut or Alexandria.
So how would you do that in the sand in the desert?
Well it’s how you drive, like I mean if you were getting bogged you wouldn’t put your foot down on the accelerator you’ve got to sort of learn to crawl out of it and

03:22:00:00

certainly you’ve got to learn how to dig out of it too in a lot of cases too. But you’ve got to drive differently than what you were driving like in the paddock or something.
Did you have a winch or equipment that you use?
No, you had to get your mate to pull you out or you dug it out that’s all. We’re going back sixty years here we were pretty primitive in those days. No winches on, no winches on the trucks.

03:22:30:00

And what was it like to drive?
Good, yeah I liked it, I enjoyed it, it was a good thing. At that particular time I was having a ball. Yeah, I didn’t have to walk, I didn’t have to march, it was quite good.
So with these exercises would that be part, would you be doing them with the infantry?
Yeah, we’d be doing it with the infantry yeah.
And what were you sort of rehearsing?

03:23:00:00

Well how can I describe it? In those times everything went in V’s. If you had a section of seven men there was one up the front and then two down the side in a V right. And then a platoon was thirty men well there’d be, the three sections would form the thirty men and they’d be in a V.

03:23:30:00

And then if the company which was say a hundred men they also went in a V and that’s how the whole system worked. Apparently when it goes through the divisions and all at that time the desert warfare everything went up in this type of V all the time. And with a platoon of thirty men as they went along and doing their thing and how they were you

03:24:00:00

know going across the desert I was in that V so that they could, say a bloke packed up he got a sore foot or something, he could hop in the truck or something. Or they wanted some extra water or something, that’s what my job, I had to be there with the truck wherever they went.

03:24:30:00

Where would you travel, did you have – ?
Oh just across the desert.
Yeah but in this V formation, like at what level?
Well with them, I had to go wherever they went I had to go you know that was my job. I had to see and if, I see what you’re getting at, but say for arguments there was a bit of a ravine or something like that that they had to go down, I had to find my own way around

03:25:00:00

that so that when they got on the other side I could catch up with them again. Like I was independent, if the truck couldn’t go down a steep thing like that I had to find a way around it, that was the idea. And if the whole battalion sort of went through a heap of rough country then they’d put all the trucks in a certain area and like from all the

03:25:30:00

platoons and all the different companies and we’d all be together and until the powers would be found a way where we could catch back up to the battalion again, so that was literally how it worked.
What would you do about fuel if you were travelling long distances, would you carry extra fuel?
Well there was a fuel truck that came with the battalion. That covered all the trucks of the battalion, that was

03:26:00:00

his job to keep the fuel up to us. Mainly that was all canned stuff, our fuel in those days it wasn’t tankers like it was fuel trucks in tins, kerosene tins.
So were you doing training with the other forces, I’m just thinking of the British and – ?
No, no, no. We passed them after we left Alexandria

03:26:30:00

there was a place called Mersa Matruh and there were English people there but they were just sort of holding an area as we went past to head, we headed on towards this Bardia and Bardia was the first action Australians were in too. The English were in Bardia too, there was some there too. But you never really got to see

03:27:00:00

them you know they, it was mainly all Australians you saw all the time, it was predominantly Australians. But although at Bardia, at this Mersa Matruh there were a lot of English people there.
So you saw your first action at Bardia, can you tell me about your arrival there and what the situation was?
Well Bardia was

03:27:30:00

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

03:28:00:00

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.

03:28:30:00

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

03:29:00:00

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

03:29:30:00

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

03:30:00:00

and this was through everything that was going on.
So you were under fire then?
Oh yeah, yeah. So I think I was up the desert I think I lost five trucks when I was at the desert, altogether.
So your trucks were hit while you were driving them?
Yeah, yeah, yeah well one was, yeah.
What happened to you?
Oh nothing happened to me. No, only frightened the billy daylight out of me but no

03:30:30:00

that’s happened. I had another one blown up at a place called Derna, that was further on but that’s another story.
So what were you carrying at the truck at the time, any – ?
All the ammunition, hand grenades, their water, their equipment, anything other that they needed, medical supplies and whatever they needed. I had to take all their supplies, food the whole lot. I had

03:31:00:00

their army rations that they had dished out to them.
So to lose your truck like that?
They lose everything, yeah. You’ve got to remember too that, well their personal items they lose those too but I think most of the things that happened to me I think I transferred

03:31:30:00

most of the stuff over when I got another truck. You know I can’t really say that they lost all their stuff all the time. It did happen though, it certainly did happen.
At that time when the truck was hit, what was it hit by?
Oh a land mine they did at one stage and one just,

03:32:00:00

oh no there was two of them that just blew up because you know couldn’t go any further, the motors blew up on them. Oh not blown up by the enemy no the motors just blew up on them. But I had two badly hit you know from enemy fire but still I thought

03:32:30:00

that was crook but it wasn’t as bad as what Greece was later on, Greece was worse. That was really traumatic event although I didn’t lose a truck but it was oh it was a terrible place, but that’s later on.
Ok, we’re slowly getting there.
Yeah. Yeah well we went to Bardia and two platoons and us we went to, the 7th Battalion went to a place called Derna.

03:33:00:00

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

03:33:30:00

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

03:34:00:00

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

03:34:30:00

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,

03:35:00:00

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.
Ok, we just need to spend a little bit more time there on the Middle East, on Libya I think, some of these places. Yeah what you just said about the 7th Division, what I’ve heard was that there was a bit of scrounging

03:35:30:00

of Italian weapons in the desert that went on because – ?
It wasn’t scrounging we were told to hand them over because they just didn’t have any.
Did you get weapons from the Italians during – ?
Oh oh, well I don’t think we used too many weapons, like revolvers and things like that we took those off them. If we saw a bloke with a nice looking revolver or something we took it. We got their

03:36:00:00

trucks, we took their trucks from them and there was, we were using a lot of their trucks and their tanks you know what were available. That type of equipment was scrounged from them, taken from them. And indeed we had to some of the uniforms, like our uniforms were getting pretty knocked around by this time

03:36:30:00

and if you’re pants were shot you’d take an Italians pants off him you know. That sort of thing went on. And scrounge well I mean if you could find anything that was worth scrounging I suppose but I don’t think there was too much of that type of scrounging, personal scrounging I don’t think there was much. Unless you knew of a place that had

03:37:00:00

a case of beer or something you could try and scrounge a bit of beer out of it.
Could you do that?
Oh I could do that if it was there.
Where did you scrounge beer from?
Well in Tobruk coming back I think, that’s right we came into contact with English people there, of course being a truck bloke they said, “What about going down and seeing if you can get us some grog?” So down I go into Tobruk and anyway I

03:37:30:00

couldn’t get beer anywhere I started off to late but I got a crate of gin but oh my god it was the worst thing I ever did, the whole place went berserk that night. But that sort of thing went on.
Where from though, where was the depot?
Out of an English warehouse it was. But I had an officer with me so he was to blame, not me.
I guess there would have been a few requests wouldn’t there if you had a truck.
Oh yes, yeah

03:38:00:00

for that sort of thing you know but I mean that’s all you had to live for was smokes and dregs, you know.
Tell me again, where were you when Menzies came to visit?
A place called Barce. They lined us all up to welcome him, yeah. He made a statement, he said, “Oh you blokes have

03:38:30:00

taken all this country.” He said, “We don’t want this barren desolate place.” He said, “I can see what it does.” He said, “I’ve just flown over it.” And he was very quickly told he should have walked over it.
Were you saying, you should bother [UNCLEAR]
He actually got a pretty rough reception because we were a pretty haggy draggy lot by this time too.
What do you mean by that?
Oh

03:39:00:00

well I’m referring to our uniforms you know, and our boots and things I mean they were, mine weren’t because I wasn’t wearing them, but the blokes that were foot slogging, I mean their boots were cracking up on them and their uniforms they were torn to ribbons. And you know you look at us and you wouldn’t know whether we were Australians or Italians half the time when the blokes take the other uniforms

03:39:30:00

from them. So they let him know that we weren’t getting looking after properly believe me.
Well that would have been very clear.
Yeah. And that was Barce.
So did he give you any encouragement in his speech?
No, the only encouragement he gave us, he said, “I’m going to England now.” And he said, “See Mr Churchill and see where we can send you fellows next.”

03:40:00:00

And he sure did that, it was Greece, disaster.
Did you get the sensing of what he was doing?
No, no. He didn’t get a very good reception, we weren’t very happy with him at that time.
So did you, was he booed or did people say something to him?
Yeah, oh yeah, he had a few

03:40:30:00

things flung back at him, yeah. Not in an uncontrolled manner no but there was always the bloke that would have something to yell out you know. Everybody still stood in rank and file as they were told to do but there was still remarks shot out at him, yeah. You know you do these things you don’t expect to

03:41:00:00

be dressed in nothing you know and the food supplies not kept up and that sort of thing. They let him know, there was plenty of fellas that would let him know.
Interviewee: Frank Roy Archive ID 1936 Tape 04

04:00:40:00

You obviously feel some anger towards Menzies -
Yeah I do.
and your commitment to Greece.
No we should have never ever been committed to Greece. I think Churchill wanted to start another front.

04:01:00:00

We’ve heard all sorts of rumours because of the Greek royal family I mean being involved with the British royal family, the Queen’s husband, he’s Greek isn’t he? And whether it was an obligation for them or whether he wanted a second front I don’t

04:01:30:00

know but he should have started it on his own we should never have been there. I mean Australia was, Australia should have been looking after themselves here on the islands. Because I mean it’s a well known fact that if the Americans hadn’t have helped Australia in the islands we would have been gone for sure. And I think it was a gross, gross

04:02:00:00

miscalculation.
So to have our troops over there occupying Greece when?
To have them in Greece, they should have never been sent to Greece. We were a fully equipped battle tested division and here’s Australia in danger out here and we’re sent to Greece instead of to the islands. And I say, “Who knows?” I mean if we had have gone there with out equipment and with our

04:02:30:00

experience we might have been good enough to hold Singapore. When there was only a small battalion, there was only more or less a battalion of men that stopped the Japanese onslaught through New Guinea when they were really on a role, so we might have been able to stop them in Singapore too. Who knows but we should have been allowed to try.
So by the time you got to Tobruk you were

04:03:00:00

very battle hardened, yeah?
Well we’d had our experiences there yeah we’d had our experiences there. We had another small experience again at Derna and that was only two platoons of the 7th Battalion that went there but after that other than strafing from the air I wouldn’t say that there was

04:03:30:00

any real warfare after that at all until we got back to Greece.
So there was some air attacks, you were exposed to that?
Oh yeah the Germans were starting to strafe us at this place called el Brega, that’s as far as we got and that’s when they first started to strafe us.
So how severe was that, how intense was it?
Oh well –
Like was it daily?
Yeah it was

04:04:00:00

continual oh it was continual but only by three or four planes at a time probably it wasn’t on any great numbers at that stage but they could please themselves because there was nothing to combat them. You know it was only anti aircraft fire that they had to be wary of but you know there was only two or three or four planes at a time that did it. But we were, that was our first

04:04:30:00

taste of the German side of it.
Had there been any casualties in your platoon by that stage?
Yes, there were a few hit and there was a few killed but not in great numbers, no not in great numbers. But there were a few killed by then.
And did you have to transport them?
No, no, no. No that’s a different, a different group looks after that part of it.

04:05:00:00

So what happened at Tobruk when you got there?
It was the same, pretty well the same as Bardia. We surrounded it and then we attacked it, like a dawn attack and then we went into Tobruk the same way as we did Bardia. Just overwhelmed them, they didn’t want to fight and they just come out in their thousands. It was

04:05:30:00

not the Tobruk that happened afterwards, like the siege. It was nothing like the siege of Tobruk. We just went in, took the place and that was it, it was finished.
Were just the Italians there?
Oh yeah it was all Italians there. In Bardia, Tobruk, Barce, Giovanni Berta, Derna, it was all Italians.
What was your assessment of them?
Oh they didn’t want to fight, they weren’t interested in

04:06:00:00

fighting I don’t think. They were heavily fortified you know, it was you know the fortification were unbelievable but they, apparently they just didn’t want to fight, that’s all. I’m not saying they were cowards or anything like that, they just they didn’t, they had no interest in it. Well you take Bardia

04:06:30:00

on the border of Egypt, I mean it’s a long way from home for them too you know and God knows how long they’d been out there, stuck out there waiting for us to come along. But anyway they, I wouldn’t say they didn’t put up a good fight but a few wiz bangs going on but you know they didn’t have the stomach

04:07:00:00

to keep going.
So there were a lot of POWs [prisoners of war] taken?
Oh thousands of them, yeah thousands.
Did you have anything to do with them?
Oh as they went past and that, yeah. I saw, they just sort of filed back and other people take them over from behind the lines somewhere or the other. I can remember being behind the

04:07:30:00

building in Bardia and there was, Italian officers were there that had given up and anyway people were that unconcerned about them we were there for quite some time and this one bloke came over and handed us his revolver that he had on him all the time. So nobody was worrying about them. But that’s you know

04:08:00:00

that was a different story than what it was later on though. But we had our first experiences there. My experience was, I wish I had have been in the infantry instead of in a truck.
Why was that?
Well I’d have been a smaller target.
So you felt that you were very conscious

04:08:30:00

of that were you, of being a victim?
Oh well I knew I couldn’t do anything about it, I knew I was a bigger target. And actually I had a lot, I wasn’t right in the hand to hand fighting at that stage but I was there nevertheless but

04:09:00:00

I couldn’t I had to look after myself in the truck.
So how did, was the truck ever struck?
Oh it had a few holes in it yeah.
So it could hold up?
Oh yeah it did. Well if it got hit you know in a vital place well you’d be wounded too so, but no. But as I told you I lost a couple

04:09:30:00

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,

04:10:00:00

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

04:10:30:00

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.
Did many people know that you were actually a lot younger than?
Oh I don’t know, I didn’t spread it around. You know but they must have known that

04:11:00:00

I was only a big of a kid. And gee I had to look after myself too I’ll tell you. I did look after myself, I had a few scraps I can tell you. But no I got left alone and some blokes would try to stand over you and bully you and that you know you had to say you wouldn’t stand that.
Is that what caused these scraps you standing up for yourself?
Oh yeah, that’s what it

04:11:30:00

would be yeah. Yeah nine times out of ten, but I learned to do it.
But what would you get bullied about?
Well I don’t know, I don’t know a bloke would stand over you or push you out of the way or something like that you know. If you were in line for your food or something and a bloke would say, “That’s my place there.” And you’ve got to say,

04:12:00:00

“No, it’s mine.” You’ve got to stand your ground.
So I guess the troops would have been feeling pretty tense after that, it’s quite a long period that you were up there in North Africa wasn’t it?
Oh not a long, no not a long time. We were about three months I guess, yeah about three months. It wasn’t a lot of time before they called us back and

04:12:30:00

re-equipped us to go to Greece.
Ok so they took you back to Alexandria is that right?
Yeah. And that’s where they re-equipped us.
And what did they re-equip you with?
New trucks, new uniforms, you know post us all up. Given Tommy [Thompson] guns there I think that’s where they issued us the Tommy guns,

04:13:00:00

Bren guns. There was a lot more Bren guns, every second bloke more or less had a Bren gun. That would be mainly the stuff and new uniforms and stuff like that.
And you got a new truck?
I got a new truck, yeah.
And what – ?
It was a ton Chev this time I went up five hundred weight but I had to still do the same job but it didn’t quite

04:13:30:00

work out like that in Greece. So if you want to go on to Greece from there.
Yeah, I just want to know though at what point, when they were equipping you did you know you were going to Greece?
Yeah, yeah we knew, we knew we were off to Greece. And they, we went aboard, I couldn’t tell you the name of the boat now, I’ve got no idea. But we went ten

04:14:00:00

days before the battalion the infantry went with out trucks and things. It took us three days to get from Alexandria to Piraeus in Greece and in that three days we were bombed twelve times by the Germans. There was one of the boats that was in our convoy was sunk.

04:14:30:00

But we were strafed and bombed and strafed and bombed and everyday. But anyway we eventually got to Piraeus and unloaded and we went, the first place we went to was a place called Daphne in Athens, just out of Athens. While we were in Daphne, the Germans bombed Piraeus, the port that we landed

04:15:00:00

at and it blew up a ship that must have been an ammunition ship or something and it pretty well blew the port to pieces. We were at this Daphne which was, I don’t know ten or twelve mile away from the Piraeus and it actually rocked us out of our bed bunks the explosion was that terrific. But anyway other, that was a war thing that happened but we had

04:15:30:00

ten real good days in Athens. It was a real ball we had.
What did you do?
Oh run around, we had the town to ourselves more or less. You know we were going everywhere and seeing everything and they know how to live, the Greeks.
Good food.
Good, beautiful food, beautiful. Yeah –
Can you just tell me a little bit more

04:16:00:00

about the trip there on the ship and being attacked from the air by the Germans? So what would you do, did you have like action stations?
No, no. You just held onto your hat and hoped that it didn’t hit you, that’s about all you could do. You were like a rat in a trap. It was a horrible feeling actually. I always you know, I feel

04:16:30:00

sympathy for these merchant seaman and sailors because being on a boat and these planes attacking at you, you’re just like a rat in a trap. You’ve got nowhere to go, you’ve got nowhere to hide, you’ve just got to sit it out. It’s not a very pleasant feeling.
And you witnessed the sinking of one of the ships?
Yeah, one of the boats yeah, that was a silent grave. I was even sunk myself coming out of Greece,

04:17:00:00

been in that experience.
Were you able to rescue, was your ship able to rescue any of those people?
When I was coming back?
No, when you were going over there.
I don’t know, no the convoy just keeps on going and whoever hits are left to their fate, whatever happens. I couldn’t tell you what happened to them.
So you had ten days in –

04:17:30:00

In Athens yes.
So that was leave?
Yeah that was leave. Well we had nothing to do, I mean we had to wait until the battalion came there. There was nobody to tell us what to do, we were there and just waiting for them. But you know it was a good then days.
But what were you doing in preparation for the arrival of the battalion?
Nothing, no we were

04:18:00:00

there and we were waiting for them to come on and tell us what to do. But we had an officer in charge of us, we weren’t like just independent, the transport officer was in charge of us so what he said goes, and he just said, well you know, go. We had a good time.
So when the battalion arrived what happened then?

04:18:30:00

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

04:19:00:00

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.

04:19:30:00

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

04:20:00:00

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

04:20:30:00

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

04:21:00:00

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.
So that’s what you would do?
That’s what I’d do, yeah. As soon as we heard the planes I’d, well we all did

04:21:30:00

the same, it was the only hope. And then the brutes in the finish they woke up to what we were doing and they’d come along and strafe a couple of hundred yards in from the roadway to try and get the blokes. Oh it was bedlam. I remember one instance we had a truck parked in a little flat area and this officer wanted to go back up to the front and he

04:22:00:00

said, “Take me up there.” So that was my job I had to take him and I said, “What about these damn planes over the top of me?” And he said, “Well I’ll stand on the running board and when I tell you to stop, stop.” Because this would just come down you know and go right along the road. And anyway so I’m driving him along this road and all of a sudden he yells out, “Stop.” Well naturally I stopped, well the front of the road

04:22:30:00

just completely disappeared where the machine guns like where I would have been, when I wasn’t if I hadn’t have stopped like, where I would have been the road the bitumen level completely disappeared.
It had been hit by the machine guns?
It would have been, I would have been hit if I’d just been going along normally. But he said, “I’ll stand on the running board and watch.”

04:23:00:00

Because the transport couldn’t really move you know because it would be getting bombed. It was only night time really we could move. But when we had to well we had to. But that was one of my little experiences with the bombing.
So how did it work that the transport officer was taking the road, the infantry were?
Well we were transport then too at this stage. I mean they had to get into their trucks and, like we say pulled out of

04:23:30:00

say Domokos Pass and went back to Brallos Pass well those who retreated they just jumped on the trucks and we took them back. And it was chaos you’ve got no idea.
So how long was this period of time from Larisa back?
From Larisa back, only a matter of a few days,

04:24:00:00

only a matter of a few days before, I think it was - February, March, April, May – yeah I reckon that the whole thing I might have been in Greece

04:24:30:00

with the ten days, I might have been in Greece for a month. I doubt whether I was but it may have been a month but it wasn’t long.
So that’s Larisa back to Corinth?
Yeah.
It was only a matter of a few days?
Yeah, yeah. I’m trying to think of the name of the damn port we got off now. Corinth was the last place I can really remember, there was a bit of a stand at

04:25:00:00

Corinth but now it’s gone. I can’t think of the name of the joint we disembarked from now. But anyway the boat we got onto was a thing called the Costa Rica and anyway we were to go back to Egypt and anyway we were bombed like just the same with the planes like when the sea was getting, all the ships

04:25:30:00

were moving around the Mediterranean were getting bombed and strafed just the same. And anyway they dropped a bomb alongside this old Costa Rica we were on and all the whole remnants of the battalion were on it. And anyway it didn’t actually hit the ship but it sprung the plates of the ship and it started to sink and anyway the navy came along and we had to jump of our boat onto a destroyer and

04:26:00:00

the navy ended up sinking the boat. But instead of taking us back to Egypt they landed us in Crete and that’s how we come to be in Crete. Otherwise if the plates on the boat hadn’t have sprung we would have been taken back to Egypt. But then again who knows we mightn’t have got there anyway but that’s what that thing was.
So on Greece, I’d like to if we can sort of draw out a bit more about Greece, that experience

04:26:30:00

[UNCLEAR] at least a couple of weeks of actually fighting?
Of fighting yeah, it could be three weeks yeah but I’m not really sure of the dates now. I was trying to work back of how long I was on Crete and that but it would be around three to four weeks would be the length of it.
And how much of that was on the

04:27:00:00

ground attack?
Out of the three or four weeks?
Yeah.
Well put it this way there was nothing until we got to Larisa and then you could say continually from Larisa until we got back to – oh nearly got it, no I’ve lost it – but past Corinth anyway.

04:27:30:00

Do you want to check it?
No, I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can. No, I don’t think I can. When we have a break after I might ring a bloke up and he might be able to tell me.
Ok.
But I can’t, I just can’t get it at the moment and I’m sure I’ve got no

04:28:00:00

details. I used to know it so well but I just can’t. But anyway when we have a break I’ll ring him. But I know it was, actually it was well past Corinth actually but anyway we’ll try and find out.
So the ground combat, how intensive

04:28:30:00

was that?
There was a fair bit of it, probably nowhere near what we were going to have in Crete, nowhere near of that. It was a very little hand to hand put it that way that’s the best I can describe it. It was

04:29:00:00

just machine gun firing and rifle firing, predominantly. There were a few close skirmishes but it was literally air warfare at this stage. It was completely, absolutely, the skies would be black with planes you know it was unbelievable. We were just bombed off the earth we were.

04:29:30:00

So that was, actually one of the Warragul RSL [Returned and Services League] blokes he was in the 2/1st machine gun battalion and he was wounded in Greece and he went into hospital like on Greece and he was captured. He comes from here in Seahope.

04:30:00:00

So it sounds like quite a rapid retreat –
Yeah it was, yeah.
And moving constantly.
We tried, you know it was organised as far as we were concerned but I told you there was sort of a fifth column thing we had to put up with too you know and that’s where it sort of became disorganised. You know you couldn’t

04:30:30:00

you couldn’t just run over people you know to get out of the place.
So what would do when you came across one of these blocks?
Well if it were sheep we drove through it but if it was people we tried to bully our way out and we found that that was no good because it was the vehicles what was doing it, it wasn’t the people.

04:31:00:00

These were unarmed people?
Yeah, they didn’t have to be armed. They didn’t have to be armed. I mean it was not like modern, if you went to Greece or somewhere now it wouldn’t be the modern roads that there are now they would be a little bit better than tracks although they were bitumen but I mean they were just narrow mountain passes and bits of roads clinging to the side of

04:31:30:00

great precipices. I mean they didn’t need to put much on the roads to stop the flow of traffic and there was a lot unfortunately. The Greeks were beaut in a lot of ways, but they still did have a very strong fifth column.
So when they were challenged about this, what were they saying?
Oh well, “No understand.” You know it’s,

04:32:00:00

lesser people were to run them off the roads. I did see one lot shot but they were dragged out of the trucks and shot but that was, you couldn’t just do that with thousands of people but that’s what it was you know. Infantry

04:32:30:00

people wouldn’t experience that because we had like in those circumstances because it was a different ball game, we had to keep the trucks moving as best we could and where as they would be laying low well away off the roads during the day and we were on the damn roads getting the hell bombed out of us and machine gunned out of us. No

04:33:00:00

it was a tough time.
Ok just a little bit more on Greece I think it is very interesting and perhaps if we can have a bit of a look at each of those main points, main places that you mentioned. So when you got to Larisa what did you encounter there?
Well we had the one night I told you

04:33:30:00

there was an earthquake there and then we just drove out to position, to a position that we had to take out. I mean we didn’t know then for what reason but we were just taking out to this position. We didn’t know what was up ahead of us at this time. I didn’t you know but the officer people they may have known, may not have. Our colonel was probably told to take up the

04:34:00:00

positions at a certain point and that’s where we went. And then the first thing we knew of something going wrong was all the flood of the others coming down from up north, coming past us and you know we had to hold this one position while they all flowed out or what could flow back.
Another division came down?
No it was the different battalions that we had. I think

04:34:30:00

if I’m right I think the 8th Battalion went up further, they got slaughtered and I’ve got an idea the 6th Battalion was another battalion that went further north than Larisa and they both got knocked around pretty heavy. And of course when the remnants of them came through, but they did strike the hand to hand fighting part of it. But either time they got to

04:35:00:00

Larisa and went further south that’s where the big mountain passes are you know from as I mentioned from Domokos and Brallos and the plain at Thermopylae part of it. That’s where the most of the big passes were.
So were they in retreat?
Yeah, oh yeah no question, flat out. No way could we hold them

04:35:30:00

they were just thousands and thousands of German troops. Then we didn’t have even a plane in the damn sky. They were going to help us out there was air, the first air power thing that I think was ever put on.
So when you saw these other battalions coming back, you must have wondered what you were doing there or what was up

04:36:00:00

ahead for you?
Well we, we wondered what was ahead of us, that’s for sure; we didn’t know what was going on. You know we just sort of headed south and hoped for the best. You didn’t know where you were going or what you were going to do. But fortunately, and I’ll say this without any bragging, the battalion still stayed as a unit. A

04:36:30:00

lot of different units came apart but we, when we got on this Costa Rica we got on as a battalion so we were still pretty well much together, they didn’t split us up that much. Which is you know from a battalion point of view I’m very proud of because

04:37:00:00

a lot of them there was just remnants of them here there and everywhere. I’ll tell you more about that when we got onto the Crete part of it.
That was happening in Greece as well, the battalion were being split up?
Yeah split up, yeah that’s where it happened in Greece. Where they were split up and instead of coming back as a unit and getting off as a unit they were only getting off in dribs and

04:37:30:00

drabs whereas ours got off as a unit.
Why is that?
I don’t know. I think its discipline and good organising by our officers I think. I think it was because of that. I’m not saying that we’re any better than any other Australians but I’m just saying that we could have been better lead than some of the others. That could be the best I could say.

04:38:00:00

I mean unless you were there you can’t understand the mayhem that was on, you know that everybody, it was more or less every man for himself - could I put it that way that might explain it better. It got to the stage that oh blow you jack I’m off with a lot of people you know.

04:38:30:00

But whereas our battalion, I’m not saying it didn’t happen in our battalion with some of them, I’m not denying that but at least we did get off as a unit. So you know that’s something good to, that I feel is good about us anyway.
The retreating battalions did you say that the 11th Battalion were recalled as one?
Yeah, yeah.
So did they join up with you?

04:39:00:00

No, no, no, not in Greece. The remnants of it, when we get back onto the Crete part of it there was actually three battalions that came out. That was the 1st Battalion which was New South Wales battalion and the 7th Battalion which was mine and the 11th Battalion which was the Western Australian battalion. And

04:39:30:00

they were the three battalions that were more or less still a unit after they came out of Greece. The 2/6th which was also a Victoria battalion the reason they weren’t as a unit was because they got absolutely mutilated in Greece and they went further north then us and they met the Germans long before we did and they got knocked around as did the 8th Battalion.

04:40:00:00

Yeah I think that’s actually what I mean is that when they retreated from the Germans in Greece and you met up with them you said that there was a flood of Australian battalion troops that were coming back in retreat, did they stay with your battalion to fight?
No, no, no they were working independently. Most of them were like they might be a few mates half a dozen of

04:40:30:00

them or something would stick together but mainly they, it was a self survival thing you know. Other than that 1st Battalion and the 11th Battalion they stuck together too. But the other as I say, I’m only talking from my point of view I’m not talking about these ones that have got all the knowledge I’m just taking as I see it.

04:41:00:00

The 6th Battalion they got knocked around that much in Greece that they, there was only remnants of two come back as was the 8th Battalion. Now the 5th Battalion I don’t know too much about because I didn’t, they were in our brigade too but I don’t know really where they were or what happened to them or anything about them but I’m talking about only the ones I know about.
Interviewee: Frank Roy Archive ID 1936 Tape 05

05:00:30:00

Alright Frank, before the break you called your mate to see, work out what town or what port it was that you embarked from in the evacuation. Did we work it out or was it sort of undecided?
Well it wasn’t Calamari for sure it wasn’t so it must be Kalamata but don’t hold me down to that because it doesn’t ring a bell exactly with me. But as I said I had, when you referred to it

05:01:00:00

before I had no, I’ve got absolutely no clear memory of the place but I’m sure if I heard it would strike a bell but I’ve got, I just cannot remember the port that we come out of. Kalamata I have heard of and it could well have been it but don’t hold me to it.
So tell us about that, that day I mean how orderly was the evacuation?
Alright yeah, quite good yeah it was very orderly. A

05:01:30:00

lot of our transport blokes got left behind, they didn’t make it. For what reason to this day I don’t know why but they didn’t make it. But in the group that didn’t make it there was two, two of our members that took to the hills, they were a brother and a brother-in-law and they got off two nights

05:02:00:00

later by a submarine. So that’s all I can remember about the transport blokes there. But the rest of it were the battalion that I went on and off with, it went off quite orderly.
What sort of activity was there in the sky?
Well it was night, like that’s why, it would have been impossible to do it during the day because the ships wouldn’t have come in for one

05:02:30:00

and as it was they had to run the gauntlet, you know bombing and strafing you know to get away enough to miss out on it. We were bombed and strafed all the time even at sea like in the Mediterranean Sea.
Yeah you sort of mentioned that but can you give us a bit more detail of what that experience was like?
Well it was a shocking experience I though I explained that, like you’ve got nowhere to

05:03:00:00

run. You know you’re on a boat, there’s nowhere to hide, you can’t put your head down and duck for cover because you’re there and you’re like a sitting duck and it’s not a very nice experience. But you’ve got to think about all our sailors and merchant seaman they’ve had to go through that through the war and that’s a terrible experience.
So the boat that you were in

05:03:30:00

was hit, is that correct?
No it wasn’t hit, the bomb was that close to the side of it that it sprung the plates of it and it started to sink. And it would have gone down like but we all had enough time to get off. And they lined us up on the decks and we jumped off onto the navy destroyers that came along side of us and they took us to Crete. That was

05:04:00:00

the whole battalion that was left was on that.
Right. So ok, so on that destroyer you’re finally on the destroyer?
Yeah on the Costa Rica was the name of the boat. And then they landed us in Crete and they marched us off our damn feet. There’s a polka goes to that. Then they landed us in Crete and marched us off our so and so feet and the food was

05:04:30:00

light and the water crook and I got fed up and slung my hook. Retired, returned that night for lap of wine and next day copped a ten bob fine. And so it goes on. It was a, but we still stayed as a battalion and eventually we fought as a battalion on Crete. I was in the transport as I explained before and we were very, you we were well

05:05:00:00

down in strength I don’t know how many of us were there probably only half, five hundred of us probably were left of the battalion. And I was only eighteen at the time and I was put in charge of a section and I was given my first one stripe, which I absolutely detested having one stripe. I reckoned they should have given me two but as I got older I was very proud of the fact that I did get one stripe because I was only a kid of eighteen and put in charge

05:05:30:00

of seven blokes so you know I must have been doing alright.
So what were you doing on Crete before the Germans did arrive, what were you getting up to?
Well we were, it wasn’t too long before they arrived. We stayed as a battalion, as I remember, and we

05:06:00:00

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

05:06:30:00

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

05:07:00:00

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

05:07:30:00

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

05:08:00:00

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.

05:08:30:00

And we were fortunate that we weren’t, do you want to go back on anything I’ve said?
Well I mean Crete is obviously a major, major battle there, and we can go into as much detail as you are prepared to go into it’s up to you entirely.
Yeah well I’ve told you where it is, I don’t think you know not into the real personal stuff it was tough going you know and I’ve explained that was

05:09:00:00

my first experience of you know that hand to hand warfare type of thing. And it was, I think we’ve made a pretty good account of ourselves because after we were captured it was all you know high quality German troops that we were against and they couldn’t understand why we capitulated because they were ready to.

05:09:30:00

But see the whole thing is that England didn’t want to have to look after it. That’s what I feel anyway whether it’s right or wrong but that’s my gut feeling about it, it was going to be too hard for them to hold onto the place.
So the paratroops I mean did many of them actually make it to ground alive or where they?
Yeah, yeah, oh god yeah. The sky was white with them

05:10:00:00

the sky was literally white with them it was you know they were only six feet apart, from one sky edge to the other it was just paratroopers coming down. Planes by the hundreds above them you know it was a big thing, you know from their point of view although

05:10:30:00

they got the objective but by gee they paid heavily for it and he wasn’t prepared to do it ever again.
Had there been any sort of softening up from the sky before they landed?
Oh yeah. Without any exaggeration I think we were pretty immune to that. I shouldn’t say immune to it but it was just part and parcel of the day I think by this time.

05:11:00:00

It was, the bombing was pretty constant in Crete but it never affected me anything near to what I had on Greece. The Greek experience of bombing and strafing to me was the worst that I

05:11:30:00

went through. And I went through a lot of it in Germany when the war finished too from our own side. So you know I had plenty of bombing and strafing experiences.
It would be good to get a bit more detail of the way you sort of did move back. I mean I’m sort of vaguely aware of having you guys moving across the island to the other side of the island sort of having to move back bit by bit?
You’d like to how that goes?
Yeah that approach, how did that go?
Well

05:12:00:00

in our, I can only give you this from my battalions point of view.
Absolutely.
As it happened when it was decided by the powers of Vita that we went and got a hold of Crete we were in conjunction with a Maori battalion, the New Zealander, Maoris and what happened was that we’d attack

05:12:30:00

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

05:13:00:00

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

05:13:30:00

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.

05:14:00:00

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?
Yeah, what about the local population I mean obviously everyone’s trying to get out but – ?
Very good, it was completely different to Greece. We never had that, then again I’m speaking from the

05:14:30:00

experience that I had, we didn’t have that fifth column activity that we had in Greece. And I can’t understand why we did because the, like the population we thought was very, very with us you know but we did get a lot of fifth column in Greece but we never struck that in Crete. Oh well in my case I didn’t anyway.
But were they sort of actively assisting you, were they could?
Yeah I guess

05:15:00:00

so, yeah they were. They were doing their bit to help and the civilian population in Crete helped us enormously. Especially when the place collapsed, they did everything within their power which they were without. Oh they were risking their lives in a lot of cases helping because there was a few blokes wandering around Crete after the capitulation. I’ve got

05:15:30:00

respect for those who were wandering around. I mean everybody can’t wander around in those sort of circumstances. I was one of the ones who didn’t but there was ones that did and they were helped enormously by them. To such an extent a lot of them got away, eventually. One that comes to mind that is well known is Reg Saunders. You’ve heard of him, the Aboriginal officer? Well he was just an ordinary soldier at the time

05:16:00:00

and he was there for about twelve months living in the hills and he eventually got away.
What about you, any personal encounters, experiences of the local people there and how they might have shown their civil lives?
No, no I didn’t. I had no contact with them at all. I had no contact with them at all to be quite honest and like the population until we

05:16:30:00

were put in our first prison camp and then that was only as we went to get some drinking water in sort of a trough thing where they had the water. No, I had no physical contact with them whatsoever.
So as you were sort of moving back with the Maori unit how were you coping in terms of water, food, that sort of thing?
Very bad with water, water was our biggest

05:17:00:00

problem and water that we got was nine times out of ten was crook water. And there was, this chap that I rang up at dinner time he was in A Company of our battalion and he got into a well the day before we capitulated and I saw him on the morning of the capitulation and he was

05:17:30:00

absolutely delirious, he had no idea of where he was going or what had happened and everything like that. But the water what you could get, you know it was mainly crook stuff. It was in my section, I’ll give you an example in this section that I was so proud of leading, I even threatened to shoot one of our blokes because he was pinching another blokes water, things were that crook.

05:18:00:00

You’ve always got to, in a group of men you’ve always got to savour you know if you’re out of smokes there’s always somebody that’s got a few smokes, if you’re out of food there’s always somebody that’s got a bit of tucker. In this case everybody was out of water and this bloke had a bit of water and this bloke had saved his water and he had a bit of water. But that was our biggest worry, food was crook but I mean you can do without food to a degree but not water.

05:18:30:00

So you had a section of seven men under you, what other responsibilities did that entail, what were the other challenges like?
Like I had to hold positions, if I was told you know you had to hold that position there with your six blokes we had to do that. And we had to, and you know we were running out of water we had to

05:19:00:00

get into platoon headquarters and see what was doing about water or make sure that we all had ammo. One of our blokes was sick and I had to see what I could do about it. You know had full responsibility of them and at the same time keep them in line if the need be. I didn’t need to have to do that other than the instance I told you about the water.
What were the lines of communication like from the section platoon like?
Good, good,

05:19:30:00

yeah because you’re not that far apart from one another like just half a dozen men but it’s only a matter of the chain apart probably.
Was there anything left of, had any of the vehicles come across from Greece?
No, no, no nothing like that. I still had my rifle and I still had a Bren gun and I had a Beretta revolver

05:20:00:00

and like we managed, that’s all we all had like what we got out of Greece with.
And ammunition wise you?
Yeah well I had ammo, I can remember I had ammo all the time. Now where, how the hell did we get the ammo? Now I can remember getting it at a, I mentioned a place, this 42nd Street I can remember getting ammo at a

05:20:30:00

roadside dump before we went there but it must have come along somewhere along one of the other lines you know as we went along. But I know I had to get rid of ammo when I threw it in and we had used quite a bit on the way.
You mentioned how there were blokes who sort of went wandering were sort of going to do things on their own, when did that happen?
Well from our battalion it was after we gave up. We

05:21:00:00

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

05:21:30:00

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

05:22:00:00

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

05:22:30:00

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

05:23:00:00

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

05:23:30:00

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

05:24:00:00

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.
Yeah. What were the troops opinion or attitudes to those decisions?
Oh well they left. They you know the old colonel he was the best bloke in the world,

05:24:30:00

Keith Walker oh not Keith Walker, Theo Walker was his name, whatever Theo stands for. And we used to call him Myrtle, so he really had a good nickname, was Myrtle. Oh gee, yeah, the blokes really liked him. But that was then and really

05:25:00:00

I can say with all honesty that when it came daylight a lot of blokes took the hill, the order come around. The colonel said, “Well you can either stay with me and we’ll fight it out today and see what happens if anybody can come in tomorrow night or you can take off and it’s every man for himself.” Well a lot of them did take off and this is the ones that were wandering around on Crete and the numbers were quite substantial

05:25:30:00

and because it was real mountainous, real mountainous country you know. Well I think I’ve heard you both say that you’ve been to Greece, have you?
I think Cath [interviewer] has, I haven’t.
Kath you have, well you know how mountainous Greece is in part. Have you been to Crete? No, well in the Southern part of Crete the mountains are really enormous you know it’s, it’s really goat track country and

05:26:00:00

you know you could have hid there for years I think, with the help of the people. And there was enormous amount of people that did it and got home. I don’t know how the word got to the chaps that were wandering around but they used to get picked up by submarines from time to time. And did you hear me say, Kath about the Aboriginal bloke that ended up coming back? Well

05:26:30:00

he was twelve months wandering around and he got away but he wasn’t the only one though. I thought I’d stay with them and see how it goes.
What about the other men in your section?
Oh some got away, there was a barge there and when it came out that every man was for himself well

05:27:00:00

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

05:27:30:00

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

05:28:00:00

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.

05:28:30:00

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

05:29:00:00

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

05:29:30:00

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.
So do you actually remember that moment itself?
I remember breaking our rifles up, yeah.
Tell us about that?
I can remember me, well I was in a cave and I was with two brothers, two fellows by the name of Bell Chambers, they came from Box Hill.

05:30:00:00

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

05:30:30:00

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.

05:31:00:00

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

05:31:30:00

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

05:32:00:00

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

05:32:30:00

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

05:33:00:00

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

05:33:30:00

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

05:34:00:00

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

05:34:30:00

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.
Was that just because supplies were low or that was an intentional, I mean how?
Oh

05:35:00:00

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

05:35:30:00

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

05:36:00:00

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

05:36:30:00

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.

05:37:00:00

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.
Were men being lost through all this?
Oh yeah they were going down sick, that’s

05:37:30:00

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.

05:38:00:00

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

05:38:30:00

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

05:39:00:00

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.
Just to try and get a little bit of food or whatever?
Just anything just to eat, well that’s all it was you didn’t want anything else. I mean if you had a twelve thousand dollar watch on

05:39:30:00

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.

05:40:00:00

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

05:40:30:00

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

05:41:00:00

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

05:41:30:00

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.
Interviewee: Frank Roy Archive ID 1936 Tape 06

06:00:31:00

So we were talking about the train.
We got the train and the first night out these three fellas escaped and, this was in Bulgaria too, and the three that jumped out, one got killed as he went out and the other two got away but the Germans wouldn’t let us have any food in Budapest,

06:01:00:00

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

06:01:30:00

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

06:02:00:00

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

06:02:30:00

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.

06:03:00:00

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

06:03:30:00

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

06:04:00:00

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.
Do you remember what questions they asked, I mean how much information they tried to get out of you?
No, they didn’t ask anything they could use militarily. They wanted to know your rank and

06:04:30:00

your unit and they didn’t want to know where you’d served because they caught us on, and they knew they caught us on Crete. No, there was no, it was just like you were going through a process of joining a football club or something you know they wanted to know all your details. And

06:05:00:00

they put down your height and your complexion and the rest of the jazz. But being, becoming registered a POW they were responsible for you then if they had have you know stuck to the Geneva Convention, which they did to a degree and no so much in those early days though but after a few thousand got caught in North Africa things got a lot easier you know.
Can I just ask what

06:05:30:00

you said that there were three that jumped out of a train, two managed to escape, is there a story there?
Oh there’s a good story. Ron’s registered with you to get that story. I gave him a ring after you contact me and he’s got in contact with you. But he’s in the process of selling, you might even being doing it yourself I don’t know but he’s shifted up to Queensland and he’s sold his unit and he wants to come

06:06:00:00

back and live back home, he comes from Narre Warren. He was the one that jumped out, he jumped from the frying pan into the fire too, Ron but he’s a hell of a nice bloke. He really had a go but we didn’t realise the Bulgarians were pretty pro-German in those days and they handed him in when they got him.
Did you meet up with him again in your time in the [UNCLEAR]?
No, no they sent Ron to Poland and he was in coalmines for three years.

06:06:30:00

You know he had to dig his six and eight buckets of coal a day and he did it pretty tough.
Just going back a little bit. That parade where you were kept standing all day for Goebbels or, do you actually remember him arriving?
I can remember him arriving there, yeah. I can remember him arriving and I can remember him strutting down between us. It couldn’t have been Goebbels because he didn’t have glasses but it

06:07:00:00

was either, I think it might have been Himmler. You know, that’s how they used to treat you and all this time I still never saw anything physically but by gee they were cruel sods, I mean they would get at you through the food and stuff. They treated

06:07:30:00

all prisoners of war the same, I think they used to bash the Russian prisoners of war a fare bit but anybody else I don’t think they ever physically, because I only heard of one Australian ever being bashed.
So they were trying to develop a dependence on your part, like you know when’s the next meal going to come and that kind of thing?
Oh no, in the first place I think, in the first place I believe it

06:08:00:00

was to make us look like wretches you know and to parade us before the population. You know to say well this is the rubbish that we are fighting you know because every German really was programmed that they were the superior race. Like Hitler had done it for so many years and this is what he wanted, he wanted unless you were an O4 blood

06:08:30:00

group you were out of it. That’s what he was, he wanted to eliminate everybody else other than the O4 blood group people. And he wanted that, he starved us to the degree so that it was to be seen as this is the, we were called British, incidentally, in those days, you’ve got to remember that. I mean ninety percent of the German population didn’t know what

06:09:00:00

Australians were. We were British.
What about the German, the guards and so on did they come to realise that there was a difference?
Between the Pommies and us?
Hmmm.
I don’t think so, no. I don’t think they saw any difference in us, no. They, it was only in about 1944, they

06:09:30:00

had plenty of English POWs from Dunkirk but it wouldn’t be from 1944 that any English people came into Stalag 13C. We were pretty well a hundred percent Australians, not a hundred percent Australians there was the original French and Belgium prisoners and Yugoslavian prisoners were there before us. But

06:10:00:00

the Americans and British they didn’t come in until about ‘44.
And also just another question about Salonika number two camp, you said it was pretty rough there and sort of the fights with the Cypriots, what about internally, just within you know amongst the Aussies themselves was it?
Well it would be if anybody pinched another bloke’s piece of bread. I mean you become like animals when you’re hungry you know,

06:10:30:00

if a bloke was caught pinching a blokes bit of bread or something. I know I’ve seen fights, you used to get a little loaf of bread, but you’d get a little loaf of bread about that big between twelve men, well there’s always some poor coot that had to cut it and he was the bloke that copped it if he was a millimetre out you know of a share. Because you know it was,

06:11:00:00

it was still, it might be bread but it was still starvation stuff I’ll tell you, it was pretty bad. I reckon I’d got to Germany if I’d been, oh I don’t know I was eight stone when I left Germany in ‘45 and I carry around about you know twelve thirteen stone. When I got out of Germany I was about eight and I reckon I would be a lot

06:11:30:00

less than that when I went in.
You were explaining the registration at 13C, do you want to pick up the story from that point?
Yeah well we were registered and after that our condition as I said became a lot better until we spent a little while in the stalag, not long but a hundred of us or about a hundred of us I don’t know exact numbers but we were herded off

06:12:00:00

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

06:12:30:00

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

06:13:00:00

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

06:13:30:00

threat that you’ll be shot if you don’t do it. You know I can’t say that there was anything physical.
What was that experience of standing in the water for a couple of hours, what does that do to your state of mind?
Well that you don’t want to do it again. That’s what it comes about it. You only want to do it once. I had my treatment of it because I was too long in the toilet.

06:14:00:00

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.

06:14:30:00

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

06:15:00:00

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

06:15:30:00

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

06:16:00:00

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

06:16:30:00

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,

06:17:00:00

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

06:17:30:00

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.

06:18:00:00

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

06:18:30:00

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

06:19:00:00

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.

06:19:30:00

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

06:20:00:00

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

06:20:30:00

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

06:21:00:00

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

06:21:30:00

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

06:22:00:00

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,

06:22:30:00

“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

06:23:00:00

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

06:23:30:00

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

06:24:00:00

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

06:24:30:00

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.
Was it a good drop?

06:25:00:00

I loved it anyway, I made sure I was going to have plenty of it.
Can we just go back to, you were there for a couple of years on the farm right –
Yeah about three years.
With Irvin. So I assume during that time your German improved somewhat?
Yeah well I could speak pretty good when I come back. There was a group, we used to live at Bayswater, and there was a group of people called the Templars, they were a religious group of Germans that had been persecuted in Germany

06:25:30:00

you know in the year dot, sometime or the other. There was council elections on at the time and one of the counsellors was my neighbour and I do a lot of talking to them to tell them which way to vote. I formed good friends amongst some of them too. But I was pretty good at German at the time.
With this

06:26:00:00

Irvin, sorry what was his?
Irvin Reinhardt.
Reinhardt, you knew from the word go that you weren’t going to get along?
Oh absolutely.
It was nothing to do with the language?
No, no, nothing at all to do. Oh well I did have a word, I knew what ‘food’ said was and what arbeit was, which is ‘work’ but no I had no clue couldn’t follow it at all.
By the time you picked up more of the language were you able to sort of – ?
Yeah well I got into bigger rows with him then,

06:26:30:00

I had bigger rows with him then. And I could tell you, look I could fill up the end of the afternoon with the things that happened with him?
Well it was a fair bit of time you were there, let’s hear some examples?
Well he had a, they used to feed the stock in the wintertime with sugar beet, and they called it rongels.

06:27:00:00

All their hay used to be stored in a hay barn and the cattle in the village is actually in their homes, it’s in the ground floor of their houses. Have you been to Europe?
Not to Germany I haven’t.
Well France they have much the same system don’t they? They have that underneath they have the, well they have the cow stalls and that. Well anyhow then they had the loft with the hay up

06:27:30:00

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

06:28:00:00

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

06:28:30:00

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

06:29:00:00

wouldn’t have that he left it there you know. I put it in deliberately.
So that was sabotage?
That was sabotages yeah, that was one charge. And then it wasn’t so long after that this damn old mangle machine, the rongel machine as they called it, the sugar beet machine. This night I was going like mad, I must have been running late or something and anyway some of the sugar beet used to be little gnarly blokes, you know

06:29:30:00

most of them are nice fat juicy sort of beet, you know but occasionally you’d get these undergrown hard looking things, probably on a hard bit of dirt or something. Anyway one of these got jammed in the thing and I was going that fast that the whole thing just shattered to pieces, it was made of cast iron this mangle machine. That was another sabotage job. I was in trouble over that. Oh another incident, we were getting

06:30:00:00

these sugar beet again and his son-in-law had a couple of horses and we’d been out in the paddocks and we’d pulled all these beet and he got his son-in-law to come out with two wagons, two hay wagons and bring the whole load in together with these two horses and the two horses in the first wagon and the second wagon

06:30:30:00

they had to pole back, you know, up and lying back, do you know what I’m talking about, the pole on a wagon and lie it back?
Yes, sort of yeah.
Anyway I was the brake man on the second wagon, I had to watch the brakes for the second wagon and I come down a hill, oh it must have been a mile long I made a beaut job of it you know being the brakeman on the second wagon. And we got into the village and where we had to turn down his street there was

06:31:00:00

a gutter, a recession and a gutter going down. And I had to turn the damn on to go down the gutter and then I had to let it off as it went up the other side gutter and then I had to turn it on again as it went down the other side. Well I was too slow going down the other side and anyway the back of the wagon right into the back wheel of the front one and the whole thing collapsed. God strike me it was a hell of a mess

06:31:30:00

and it was snowing and icy then on the road. The old so and so made me stand there for about three hours in the snow and that before he came back and then I had to stay there because he left the horses in it, he did his block like and his horses were still like in the wagon. That was another bit of trouble I had.
So what was the punishment for these things, I mean was he?
I had to go up before the officers, I had to talk my way out of it when I went into the, when they took me into Neustadt,

06:32:00:00

you know. I’ve had them even coming out to see me what the trouble was about. Oh I think they were awake up to him to a degree but by crikey I’ll tell you your word doesn’t man for much when you’re trying to you know talk your way back, and he was recognised as one of the top Nazis in the village so you know I had to be damn careful of what happened with him.
What sort of Nazi propaganda were you getting from the likes of

06:32:30:00

him and?
Oh look the people they are no different to us but they had been brainwashed to such an extent they, it wasn’t fair or anything, he’d done so much good for the German people where they had had nothing and he had given them so much. We’d never seen roads like there was in Germany before we got there. The place was alive and well and you could see that it was

06:33:00:00

prosperous. The German people absolutely adored him though but they used to, they had a great system, in this village I was in. The system was an orchsbaum fuhrer, no a reichsbaum fuhrer an orchsbaum fuhrer to burgermeister, that’s, and they went a burgermeister in ordinary times, he’s a top bloke in the village

06:33:30:00

but under the Nazi the regime they had the orchsbaum fuhrer but then there was another bloke above him again who was the reichsbaum fuhrer and he would be probably to see over half a dozen villages probably. So you can see the organization of how it went up until you end up getting to the top. I suppose the reichsbaum fuhrer here somebody else to report to you know and take the orders from. But

06:34:00:00

there was no way you could get any of them or trust any of them to get on your side. They might like you or dislike you whatever the case may be but you couldn’t trust them. They might pass you a bit of extra schnapps or something like that as a person, you could get little things like that but when it come to politics no way known.

06:34:30:00

So was this Reinhardt fellow was he armed, I mean if you did make a run for it what could he have done?
No, no, no, oh he’d have probably he probably, I know he did have an old blunderbuss but no not in the sand, but no I wouldn’t doubt he had arms there but no if you. When I took off I think the whole village went up in the air over that

06:35:00:00

they brought in all the black shirts and all the you know high pollutant German troops and that made a hell of a scene on the place.
So were you having during that period any contact with any of the other POWs?
Oh yeah there was fourteen of us living there together but I’ll give you another instance of when I got into trouble, your talking about contact well they were the ones. There was another village further down the road called Haustrau and

06:35:30:00

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

06:36:00:00

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

06:36:30:00

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

06:37:00:00

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

06:37:30:00

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

06:38:00:00

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

06:38:30:00

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

06:39:00:00

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.

06:39:30:00

He went mad over that. That wasn’t sabotage, that was something else, I don’t know what that was I got charged with.
Why didn’t he just get rid of you?
He couldn’t, they wouldn’t let him, they wouldn’t let him have another bloke. When I eventually got away from him they wouldn’t give him another one. And he wanted one, he was a lazy old coot himself like, he had his daughter-in-law and his daughter

06:40:00:00

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

06:40:30:00

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

06:41:00:00

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

06:41:30:00

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

06:42:00:00

me work. End of tape.
Interviewee: Frank Roy Archive ID 1936 Tape 07

07:00:31:00

So are you were going to give us a bit more detail about the escape that you made into the forest?
You’d like to know about that?
Yeah, so just take us back to where you were at the time and where you escaped from?
Well this was when I was in Hollstadt and things had got a bit rough for myself with Irvin Reinhardt and also there was these two, there was going to be four of us go in the first place but we

07:01:00:00

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

07:01:30:00

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

07:02:00:00

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

07:02:30:00

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.
So how did you make the plan with the others to do this, did you discuss it?
Oh we talked about it yeah we talked over what we were going to do. Some of the other chaps in our

07:03:00:00

camp they didn’t like the idea because they reckoned we might be making a lot of trouble but we didn’t worry about that we just wanted to do what we wanted to do.
So this is the camp in the old house, the mansion that you stayed in?
Yeah in the old, there was only about fourteen of us there.
And it was, what was the set up it was dormitories?
Yeah there was two rooms and we were split up in the two rooms

07:03:30:00

in double tier beds. And actually it wasn’t the only escape from it, later on there was another two chaps came and they went out through the window during the night and went down the rope down the side of the windows at night and they took off. But our time we took off during the day time by going straight up into the forest. And people saw us going but they

07:04:00:00

thought we were going out to work because up in this forest it was a Catholic area where we lived and the stations of the cross they were scattered through this one particular part of this forest. And of course that used to have to be maintained at different times and probably thought we were going out to do some maintenance work on these stations of the cross

07:04:30:00

but we weren’t we took off in a different direction when we got up there.
So was this sort of an impetuous plan or?
Oh no, we thought about it for quite some time. Oh yeah, the two of us were going to head for Bad Neustadt, that was the big town and see if we could get the train from there. But my partner that was going to go with me he was the one

07:05:00:00

that didn’t turn up so I went with the other two across country. But we new, we knew we wouldn’t get away cross country because it was too far to go and we’d made up our minds we’d escape in our uniforms like our British uniforms because if you went in civilian clothes you could be shot on the spot but if you went in your uniform

07:05:30:00

the idea you could still be shot but not shot as a civilian person would be. Can you following the difference what I’m trying to say? No they had this theory that as long as you stayed in your uniform you’d be punished but not necessarily shot, you could still be shot but not necessarily but if you were in civilians you definitely could be shot.

07:06:00:00

So did you have a map of the area?
No, no. No, it wasn’t a well thought out idea. Really we knew the map, we knew where we were, we knew where we had to go, I mean unless we could get on a train I mean to get to Switzerland we’d have to change trains about three times whereas the line we were on went direct

07:06:30:00

through Munich down south, we could have ended up back in Athens again sort of thing, the train line went in a direct route right through there. But which this other bloke that was going with me thought well we might be lucky enough to get there but we’d get a fair distance if we didn’t you know. But it threw the plan into chaos when he didn’t turn up.
So how did that change your

07:07:00:00

plan?
Well I didn’t want to go on my own. I didn’t want to go on my own at the time. You know I just had that feeling I would have liked somebody going with me you know. It wasn’t that I was frightened of going on my own I just felt that two of us could have been better than one. You know companionship can make a difference.
What about supplies, had you taken supplies?
Oh well no, we knew our way around

07:07:30:00

the country enough, we knew how we could get a feed. It was in, I think it was in August that I think it was that we went so it was in a good part of the year. I mean all the fruit trees and everything, fruits are ripe at that time and all these chooks and geese. Oh no we could have lived well, we had no worry about food.
So were you captured or

07:08:00:00

did you surrender?
No, we were more or less captured but we were probably, we weren’t out that long either. I don’t know now three or four days probably, it might be five days might have even been out. Probably, it might have been five days we could have been out. But no, weary and you know had

07:08:30:00

enough so that was enough. We more or less showed them our point. I thought we did, I thought I’d got rid of old Irvin but I didn’t I had to go back to him.
And what happened when you came back?
Oh well when they captured us they took us into Neustadt on the sail, into this civilian prison there and they put us in there. And they left us in there, I don’t know whether I was in three or four

07:09:00:00

days or something, and they said you’ve got to go back to Irvin Reinhardt again and I said, “Right.” I woke up to the fact that I had to go back to Irvin Reinhardt so righto and back I went. I got off the train and we had a guard at the time he had been severely wounded in Russia and he had been wounded in the

07:09:30:00

head and he was a little bit crazy. Anyway he met me and he pulled out his Luger and he stuck it at my head and marched me right through the town and as I said they could yell and scream and he yelled and screamed at me and paraded me through the town and then he took me back and locked me up an hour later for a couple of days. He read the riot act to me and told me I had to go back to Irvin.

07:10:00:00

So that was my experience of escaping.
Ok. So at the end of the last tape you were actually further on from there, you had been to a number of other?
Yeah I went to the wood place and then they brought me back to a place Lebenshaun which was a Catholic monastery and I didn’t have to work there but then after a while they decided that they were going to send us out to

07:10:30:00

work but I came up to, I said that I was a corporal and I kept on handing that home that I didn’t have to work and they had no right to have me working, which they did have the right but I kept on saying I was a corporal you know. Anyway they sent me back to the stalag to 13C and in this piece of paper that I’ve got a copy

07:11:00:00

of what I gave the War Museum the original it’s got on it at the back that I’ve been returned to the camp, to stalag and that he says he’s a corporal but we don’t think so. And it’s got that written in the thing in German like. And they said put him back in the stalag and don’t send

07:11:30:00

him out to work anymore so I didn’t have to go out to work anymore I stayed in the stalag.
And how were things back in the stalag, was there anyone there that you knew?
Oh no, no you know I had to make more friends but it was alright. We used to live in little kitchens, what they called kitchens and they say four men would pool whatever stuff they could scrounge or anything they could get together

07:12:00:00

and we’d live like that. And there was you know I took on a bit of boxing there and that kept us fit there and there was games and you know we used to play football and things like that, oh we had enough to keep reasonably fit there. We’d get our Red Cross parcels occasionally in the camps, which incidentally I didn’t get when I was

07:12:30:00

out at Neustadt and hardly anybody in the area did get many of them because they’d be pilfered, in some areas they’d pilfer them and you wouldn’t get any, same with the cigarettes. By this time I was a heavy smoker but when I was in the stalag we got a better supply of parcels there, one a month.

07:13:00:00

So what would you get in the parcels?
Cigarettes were the main thing. Dried milk powder, sometimes a tin of meat, sweets, some chocolate. God what else? You’ve thrown me into the memory bypass.

07:13:30:00

Yeah there was a, oh and probably tea and coffee yeah, tea and coffee. We used to do a good trade with coffee because the Germans couldn’t get coffee, their coffee used to be made out of dried acorns, that was their coffee. And oh boy did we used to get some good stuff out of our coffee and our chocolate for trading that.
Like what?
For bread, yeah

07:14:00:00

bread. Nothing else just nice bread, something we could eat. Oh there was you know different things we could get through from the guards too you know they would smuggle stuff in for you know some cigarettes and we used to get English Woodbine cigarettes and mainly

07:14:30:00

Woodbines I think they were. You could have done a bit bartering with it if you got the right guards. Like when I say bartering you know some wurst, they’d smuggle you in a bit of wurst or a bit of sausage, you know what I’m talking about sausage stuff. And

07:15:00:00

towards the end I wouldn’t say that we could get a lot of bread in but towards the end we could get bread in. But no it was a good life in there. And that had another little story too at the finish if you want to hear that, about being in a stalag.
Tell me.
And there’s a matter of, there was an American General

07:15:30:00

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

07:16:00:00

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

07:16:30:00

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

07:17:00:00

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.
Can you describe what’s in your file?
It gives a pretty good work description of where I went to work. It gives all where I worked like I used it to, why I got the copy I used it to, oh

07:17:30:00

some law firm, Jewish law firm come to light that said that we could get maybe compensation if we could prove we were made to work. This was a few years ago, about the year 2000 I think it was. So I thought maybe I’ll have a go for that and see if I can and I got this file out and that’s where you know I got the information from.

07:18:00:00

You said you were hauled up to the admin building quite a lot?
In the what? Oh the administrative building.
Yeah why, what sort of things did you do?
Because I kept on saying that I was a corporal and then didn’t think so and they were going to try and hammer me down that I wasn’t but in the finish they gave up and wrote on it that I was and they let me stay there eventually.
But how did they hammer you down?
Well I wasn’t,

07:18:30:00

I wasn’t a corporal but I said that I was and they didn’t believe me anyway.
So what, they interrogated you?
They kept interrogating me and trying to trip me up and all that sort of thing with it. I had been in trouble, there was no question about it but I wasn’t really made trouble. I gave the idea of what old Irvin did to me you know everything I did he had me up on serious charges. Well

07:19:00:00

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

07:19:30:00

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

07:20:00:00

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

07:20:30:00

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

07:21:00:00

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

07:21:30:00

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

07:22:00:00

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

07:22:30:00

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

07:23:00:00

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

07:23:30:00

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.
Where did you get the uniforms from?
From the Americans.
They had spare uniforms?
Yeah they had everything. They had everything. So I stayed with them until the end of the war. We were put out on the road eventually and we went to,

07:24:00:00

they marched us from Nuremberg to Munich, a place called Moosburg just out of Munich and eventually the Americans came to Munich and we were released.
How long was that period of time, by the time you got up to Nuremberg?
Oh gee I don’t know I think it would be, I was released

07:24:30:00

on April something it was. About the, this 27th, 28th of April I was released and, oh probably early March I supposed around that time there. It might have been a bit later in March it would be. Because when the tank company

07:25:00:00

came in, the Americans had crossed the line, so there was a fair bit of fighting after they had crossed the line because I think the Germans made a stand in Holland or something after our stage. So I think that would be about right, about March I’d say.
So what was happening in Nuremberg then, I mean did you see much of

07:25:30:00

the city or – ?
No, no, we just went in one night and left the next. That’s the only thing I saw of Nuremberg. We were taken off the train and put into this holding camp for the night and then the next day they took us all but we went with the Americans. When the war finished I was in the full American uniform actually, I had the whole lot.

07:26:00:00

I don’t know that I had any decorations like they did but we had everything. Actually one of the, it’s a shocking thing to say I know but I had an American flying jacket I got off a bloke that crashed. It’s down in the bottom shed down there I’ve got it hanging on an old jinket and it’s just about as rotten as the old jinket.
How aware were you of what was happening in

07:26:30:00

Europe with the war?
Oh we knew, we knew it all then.
How did you know?
Oh radio and by that time they, oh well we knew what was going on all the time. You would hear from the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation], somebody always had a radio going. I’m talking about the later couple of years I’m not talking from the beginning. After a couple of years we all knew what was going on.

07:27:00:00

What you had a radio in your camp?
Oh yeah, yeah.
Was that allowed was it?
No, no way. Oh no, but surprising the talent that comes out of people in those situations.
So how did they get hold of a radio?
Bit by bit. Bribing you know a cup of coffee here, tin of coffee here or a cake of chocolate there, a few cigarettes there somewhere else, that’s how you got it you got things that you wanted.

07:27:30:00

So bribing the Germans guards to bring parts in?
Yeah, yeah that’s how you got it. When I was in this Hollstadt where old Irvin Reinhardt was and one of our chaps worked in a schnapps brewery and the civilian population it was impossible to get schnapps, it was forbidden they daren’t say they had schnapps, it had to go to the front line soldiers. Well this

07:28:00:00

bloke that worked in the schnapps brewery he used to get one of his army water bottles and he’d take the hundred percent proof stuff and put it under the tap and bring it home and boy we used to have far better Christmas parties then the Germans ever had, real Christmas parties. So no, we did, surprising how well we did in different circumstances, in the

07:28:30:00

latter years.
Did you have to hide this gear that you had, did you have to keep it secret?
Oh yeah, you couldn’t leave it out in the open you, no you had to hide it.
Where would you hide it?
Oh I don’t know. Well the grog we used to allow this bloke to get it, he’d only bring it as we wanted it you know. He used to hide that stuff down there. Actually he was the bloke that let me down on blowing

07:29:00:00

through when I told you we escaped. He didn’t let me down he reckoned he got caught on the way out but he was the one I was going to go with and he was another Narre Warren bloke.
Did you find out why he stood you up?
No, I didn’t really but he got on pretty well with the frau I think.
Distracted, schnapps and the frau.
He wasn’t going to give up a good thing.

07:29:30:00

I think so. I’ve got my suspicions and he told me he got caught but I doubt it.
Se he didn’t want to leave his frau?
He didn’t want to leave no. He was on a good thing he had all the booze he wanted and he had a good frau that looked after him so. Yeah so that was it and I eventually, and a funny thing the last people that

07:30:00:00

fired a shot at me were Frenchmen when the war finished and they belonged to the French SS [Schutzstaffel]. And they had nowhere to go because they would have been shot by the Americans or they would have been shot by their own people so they just opened, we were in the stalag in the compound and they just opened the machine guns on us.
Where had they come from?
They were

07:30:30:00

French. They were French SS, they were fighting with the German Army. They were trying to get away from the front line all the time but they had nowhere to go.
So who was left in the camp by the time the Americans arrived?
How many people in it?
Yeah and I mean had it diminished in numbers and what was the?
No, no. It was pretty full actually. They brought a lot of

07:31:00:00

people into it. It was a pretty full camp of men, they had brought them in from all over the place actually. That’s the best I can describe that yeah.
And the nationalities?
That would be American, British then, air force, army oh real mixture. I think we were predominantly that, at that camp there were no French or Belgian

07:31:30:00

or Yugoslav, we didn’t have any of those in the last camp. British, Canadians at least another lot, a lot of Canadians, a lot of Americans and quite a few Australians, it wasn’t predominantly Australians, we weren’t as dominant as everywhere else I’d been but because you

07:32:00:00

know having mixed up with these Americans it was predominantly American.
Were you segregated?
No, no. Actually out there in that bit of stuff I’ve got out there I’ve got my release forms and the American bloke that was in charge like when I changed over to the American place. I’d like to show you some of these things because I’m telling you these things and I’d feel happier if I could verify some of the things that I’m telling you and once I’m able to

07:32:30:00

I’d like to do that before you go.
No we’ll do that at the end.
If you’ve got time because I think I said to you at the start there’s nobody to check up on these things other than what I tell you but having, if I can show you the proof of some of the things that I’ve told you, you know it makes me feel more comfortable too. And even this camp I’m telling you

07:33:00:00

being tied up with Americans its written proof of where I was and the date I was released and it’s also signed by this American officer this release form. And the day, the date I was released and the rest of the jazz and where I was released.
Ok, well actually I think we’ll do that now. We might as well have a look now.
Will you, ok. Well I think

07:33:30:00

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

07:34:00:00

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

07:34:30:00

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

07:35:00:00

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

07:35:30:00

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.
You really challenged authorities didn’t you?
I did, I did at different times I did and I’m not boasting about that, I did. I mean even this break that we made, I made with these two other blokes but where we, this Hollstadt was in a little valley, it was in a real

07:36:00:00

valley actually and it was on the River Saale and the Saale flowed right through the village so it was on the flats of the River Saale. And when we escaped where I told you about in the forest we had to go up a very steep mountain type of thing. It wasn’t mountain as such but it was a very, very steep long hill. It

07:36:30:00

was you know it was a sort of a lookout point, put it that that’s what I was trying to say, you could see over the village and when we blew through there the town was full of storm troopers and brown shirts you know they came roaring in their cars and everything like that. It’s a wonder they didn’t come out in the forest looking for us because they would have got us no question.
Could you see this going on?
Oh we could see it going on, yeah.

07:37:00:00

I told you about the chap that didn’t turn up for me. We found out, we found a hiding place and I kept on saying to the other two, “Oh gee I’m sure Ted will turn up, I’ll go back and have a look.” And I used to come half way back to where I could see what was going on in the village because that’s where our meeting place was going to be in this particular, it was a sort of a rotunda up in this forest.

07:37:30:00

But I could see all over the village, I could see what was going on and I must have gone back there three or four times looking for this bloke thinking he would come. I have often through over the years go by of how easy it would have been for me to be, if they had have come looking for me there was no way I wouldn’t have been shot because you know they had to go to that rotunda really to get into the forest proper.
So what would they have done in their search, where would they have searched?

07:38:00:00

Where were they searching?
They didn’t search anywhere that particular day apparently. Well not that I know of anyway even to this day. Apparently they did all the interviewing with old Irvin and the families of the other two blokes that had gone and probably yelled and screamed hell out of the poor old guard that was there looking after us. He probably got hell taken out of him. But I think they spent all

07:38:30:00

the first day on that sort of thing and I think the next day was the day the hunt started for us. We’d put a fair bit of distance between us and I think they expected us to go to the nearest city like Neustadt on the Saale but we didn’t, we went in the opposite direction.
So from walking through the town everyday and working on the farms and stuff you must have been known around the village were you?
Oh yeah everybody knew who I

07:39:00:00

was yeah. We knew who everybody else was too, oh they all new me.
What did you have conversations with people?
Oh yeah you’d speak, oh yeah you’d speak. It was normal, it was a normal life if you’d settle down to it, it was a normal life. And there was,

07:39:30:00

I guess some of them looked down on us because we were prisoners, well they all did to a degree because you know in any group of people there was always a group that was right down the bottom of the rung and we were definitely right down the bottom of a rung as far as people is concerned but no they, but they spoke to us you know. When it was Christmas they’d say, “Merry Christmas.” And all that type of thing to you.

07:40:00:00

And they dare you know especially the women they daren’t fraternise with you or anything you know or anything like that you know but the blokes would all speak to you alright. So you know I’ve got no ill feelings about that. I’ve told you right from the word start from the beginning I don’t know even with the experiences I’ve had

07:40:30:00

I never saw one bashing but I do know of one chap that was bashed. But that’s another story.
Did you, were there guards, how did you get along with your guards, were there guards that you took a shine too?
Some were alright some no good. Some were good some weren’t. Some were absolutely rubbish, they’d thieve everything they could. You know,

07:41:00:00

when we were at work during the day and some of them and you know sometimes we might have got a few schnapps into us and we’d be laughing and joking and some would go out of their mind and stop privileges of some description for us, you know, oh there were some that were real brutes.
Interviewee: Frank Roy Archive ID 1936 Tape 08

08:00:32:00

You know they were all, they had a marriage system worked out I think it was arranged marriages like it is in Italy, actually. They had their systems worked out who they married and occasionally there would be a marriage from another village but predominantly it was all inside the villages.
Did you witness any weddings?
No, no, no. I

08:01:00:00

think they must have abolished that. That was things that didn’t go on in the war type of thing. They didn’t abolish marriages, there were still marriages but they didn’t have a traditional wedding-type thing, or a traditional burial for that matter that was another thing that was taboo. It was just you know there was no flair allowed or anything like that because see he didn’t believe in any

08:01:30:00

church groups whatsoever and well the Nazis abolished pretty well all that thing. And as it is with the marriage thing and that you went down to the burgermeister and he said, “Well right you’re married.” Or whatever and that was the extent of it.
Were there Nazi troops in the streets?
No so much in Hollstadt

08:02:00:00

and Haustrau or Schonau and Lebenshaun but in Hollstadt you’d get a lot of them and all different degrees. You had to know what they were, whether they were just ordinary army people or whether they were SS troops or whether they were storm troopers. They all went into different

08:02:30:00

grades you know. If you’re a storm trooper everybody got out of your way you know. They were top dogs.
Were you ever harassed randomly?
No, no, never. No I never, I can honestly say with all the paper that was built up on me I never, I had a shot fired over my shoulder once

08:03:00:00

but I still wasn’t touched like physically hit. But no I never saw and as I say I only know, I didn’t see it happen but I only know one chap that was physically bashed.
You were talking before about the guards and about how some of them were pretty bad and some of them were ok, where

08:03:30:00

they rostered I’m thinking of Hollstadt I guess when I’m talking about this, where they rostered on and did you know the rosters?
No they weren’t rostered on and off, you had a permanent one or semi-permanent whatever you know. If you had a guard you had him until something went wrong. If he misbehaved himself over some minor thing he’d be shifted off to a worse place you know or sent to the front line if he was too bad,

08:04:00:00

whatever he was but there was no, there was none of that type of Austrian guard in the small villages but when you went into the stalags the only ones that you’d ever get to know were the ones you could bribe you know you’d fish them out because like in the stalags there’d be probably two or three hundred of them you know looking after us.

08:04:30:00

So how would you first approach a guard about bribing?
Oh well ask him if he’d like a cigarette or would you like a bit of chocolate and you know say, “I’ve got more of those if you like them.” Or, “Gee I’m hungry for a bit of bread, do you reckon you could get me a bit of bread? I’ll give you a bit of chocolate.” You know work it in a way something like that.
And was anyone ever punished

08:05:00:00

for bribing or being caught smuggling?
Oh not from our side of the fence you know whether they were caught on the other side or not I wouldn’t have the faintest idea, and who cares anyway.
So you didn’t notice a guard suddenly not taking bribes?
Oh I noticed a guard not being there for some reason or another but we never worried about it. Another instance before the end of the war before we got out of 13C

08:05:30:00

we used to get out and get down to Hammelburg village ourselves out of a double, the fences were about ten foot high, the barbed wire fences and double ones you know six foot apart. And we had a way out that we used to get out and go down the village and barter for bread, openly barter for bread. That’s was towards the end of the war that’s what things were like by then. The discipline had broken down everywhere.

08:06:00:00

What, you had a hole in the fence?
Yeah, we crawled out, yeah.
How did you make the hole?
Oh I think blokes, I didn’t have anything to do with making the hole but I know the hole was there. I told you about these kitchens we had and we, one of us used to have to go you know every week, once a week or something to go and get a loaf of bread that was our job to go and do or barter for some eggs or something. But we used to

08:06:30:00

barter openly for them at that stage.
So you not only were unguarded, you’d escape from the camp?
Yeah, it sounds silly but that’s what it was like. And the guards were still there supposed to be doing their job but they didn’t know what was going to happen to them and I supposed they wanted to keep on our side because they knew they were losing the war. That will be

08:07:00:00

another little thing if you like to put it at the bottom when I told you I was near Munich in 7A at a place called Moosburg and when we got out and wandered around the streets and that the Germans used to beg us to come and stay in the homes with them to keep the Russians out. They were that frightened of the Russians you know they were coming and raping the women and all that sort of thing. They used to ask us to stay overnight in the homes. I’m not talking about

08:07:30:00

women I’m talking about men, families, men asking for us to come and stay, they’d have you there for a week or two weeks at a time or as long as you’d stay because of the fear of the Russians they just went mad. It was a funny sort of an old place then.
Do you mind going back over your move from Stalag

08:08:00:00

13C, so the Americans came and then the Germans. Could you go back over that and we’ll just see if there’s a bit more detail we can get?
Well it was, the first we knew of anything was going wrong was these shells being fired over our camp and it was the, it turned

08:08:30:00

out that it was this American company of tanks that come from the Rhine, this was the time the Rhine was crossed and it was eighty kilometres away the Rhine from where I was. And this column of tanks that come through the German lines this eighty kilometres to our camp. And for what reason I’m not sure but it was told to us that there was this General Patten’s son that they come to

08:09:00:00

rescue.
When did they tell, when did you find out?
Well there was nobody to tell us because this American column ended up getting blown up but that was only a rumour that I can sort of relate to. But it could have been that because there was some major reason that they come that far over the Rhine especially to our stalag and the only,

08:09:30:00

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,

08:10:00:00

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

08:10:30:00

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

08:11:00:00

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.
What were you hoping to be able to do by hiding?
By staying there and hoping the Americans would come along, that was the general idea. That was one of the, the sole reasons was to hide and you know hope that they’d leave us there and clear out but it didn’t happen.
So buying some time virtually.
Yeah, yeah. See

08:11:30:00

well the Americans had been there the day before sort of thing was we thought well the others might be right behind them but they weren’t.
And so what sort of dogs did they use?
Alsatians yeah.
Were they vicious?
Yeah, they had them trained that way, yeah. When they were marching us on the road they you know every six or eight feet they’d have a guard with a German Shepherd dog.

08:12:00:00

So that very day they took you out of the camp and you went up to Nuremberg is that right?
Yeah we ended up in Nuremberg. We went on a train and we ended up in Nuremberg. We had a bit of hiccup on the way, the train got strafed by the American planes and we got out of the train and we went on to Nuremberg, that’s when I infiltrated with the Americans.

08:12:30:00

Tell me about that again?
Well they put us in the holding camp to hold us overnight, the group of Australians, they said, “Well we’ll put you in here and we’ll pick you up tomorrow.” Well they put us in here and we just got into what American uniforms we could get into changed over so they couldn’t find us. Probably some of the Americans put some of our uniforms on so it made a bigger mess out of it. It was just an extra hundred men and they just didn’t even bother about trying to find

08:13:00:00

us so we just stayed with the American blokes after that.
So why was, what was the advantage for you of being with the Americans?
I don’t know, I don’t know what the advantage was. I suppose we might have done better. It was just a harassment thing I suppose. I don’t know why we did it, it was just something to do different I suppose.
Play dress-ups?
Yeah, play dress ups.
You’ve always wanted to be an American.
Yeah, I wanted to be

08:13:30:00

an American, so I turned into one. I was American until I hit England anyway.
So they came back for you the next morning, or they came and got you to do?
Well they came and get us and well there was just an extra hundred Yanks so they just walked out again and left us there. They lost a hundred Australians. I don’t know who got blamed for that.
Did you have a bit of a laugh about that?
Oh we thought we were pretty smart, yeah.

08:14:00:00

We though we were pretty smart but we had our tails up at that time, we didn’t worry too much. We knew they were getting thumped and we were on top, so you know we were making the best of it.
So what did you expect – ?
But remember we were copping it just as bad as the Germans were at that stage because I mean the bombing, they called it

08:14:30:00

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

08:15:00:00

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

08:15:30:00

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

08:16:00:00

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

08:16:30:00

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

08:17:00:00

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.
During your time as a POW what situation were you most fearful in about survival?
When I was in camp two in Salonika.

08:17:30:00

That and on the train, that and the train, probably the train more so yeah, probably more the train because we got onto it and we were damn hungry and starving when we got on the train. Well as I say we were that hungry but the little loaf of bread that they gave us we just knocked straight off.

08:18:00:00

You know it was just impossible to try and save a bit of bread for tomorrow. I think that would be the worst, yeah I think I was on the biggest downer by the time I got to Hammelburg to be honest.
You were really worried as to whether you would survive?
I didn’t care actually, no I’d past worrying. I reckon I was past worrying. And then again when I said about camp to Salonika

08:18:30:00

I’d be honest to say that I got to a stage I didn’t care much there either really. You know things were, I was down we were down that much that I couldn’t see any hope. I mean you’ve got to remember that being Australians too and ten thousand mile away you, ten thousand mile was different in those days to what ten thousand mile is now. I could never

08:19:00:00

see home again, I had given that up ages before.
Had you?
Oh yeah. Oh well the Germans were going ahead like wildfire you know you could never see that we’d ever go back. You couldn’t possible see it. No the number two camp, the questioned you asked me, number two camp in Salonika and the train journey I’d have to put the two together.
What does that feel like to

08:19:30:00

have given up so completely?
Oh well, you just don’t care I don’t think you know you lose, I don’t know you just I suppose you just, you don’t think at all really you just become a bit of something that’s surviving that’s about all. You know you’re thinking capacity’s gone,

08:20:00:00

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

08:20:30:00

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.”

08:21:00:00

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.
But that must have been so special and so important, like having each other

08:21:30:00

having your mates prop you on?
Oh yeah I’ll tell you this is what it does to you, I don’t know about that at the time but it forms a relationship that I’m comfortable whether I knew the blokes or whether I’m not. If I get into a group of POW’s we were all the same and you sort of, you’ve got this relationship you know and it’s very trusting.
But at the time?
No, not at the time.

08:22:00:00

No, I don’t think at the time, no you had to look after yourself still and you had to watch, you know you had to look after yourself there’s no question about that whoever you were.
I remember a POW saying that the one thing he knew when he was being fed the most atrocious virtually inedible food, barely food, but the one thing he knew he had to do was just keep eating it. You know he was like that he was

08:22:30:00

at that point where he could stop eating, but – or he said it was his only chance of a ticket home.
That is exactly right too. I mentioned the lentil soup we used to get at this camp too, and they’d get it into whatever containers you had and literally half of it was red mud. It was you know it was just scooped out and it was literally, you let it sit when you got it into your container and there would be that much red mud in the bottom and

08:23:00:00

you ate that too because it had the flavour of food in it. Oh no, he was spot on. You had to eat it otherwise you were gone.
So throughout this time you haven’t said much about your health, I mean you were weak from not having enough food, what about other diseases?
Oh well dysentery and

08:23:30:00

no, I can honestly say I was fortunate in that light. I never had any real bad sicknesses. I was a pretty fit young bloke I suppose but when I was weak and no I didn’t. I had beri beri, but even in my time

08:24:00:00

in Germany I didn’t have any real sickness. As a sickness I had teeth trouble. I had to get teeth yanked out pretty crudely.
In the camp?
No, it was by a doctor. I was taken to a dentist to do it but no, I could

08:24:30:00

honestly say I never had any bad sickness whilst I was in prison camp, but I’m quite sure it all caught up with me later, without doubt I do. But while I was a prisoner no, you know I’d throw a wheelie if I had a cold and say oh I can’t work and have a couple of days in bed or something you know.

08:25:00:00

But no I never had any bad sickness. Matter of fact when I think of it other than this chap that I was telling you about that I went with to the Ebelsbech Hospital with appendicitis, I know other blokes did but the ones that I was personally associated with I don’t know of any that did. This Ronny Curry that I rang up today

08:25:30:00

he was absolutely terrible the day we were captured but he was delirious and you know he was in a hell of a mess but he got through it alright. But no I didn’t have any of those troubles which was fortunate.
So you were sent to the UK once the war was over?
Yeah, I flew out of Auschburg in Germany to Reims in France in the Dakota

08:26:00:00

and in Reims we were transferred onto Liberators, bombers. They shipped us from Reims to England in the bombers, you know, in the tail blisters and standing up. I stood up alongside the pilot, you know we were all hanging in wherever we could and filled up the bomber.
What was the atmosphere like on the plane?
Good, yeah I liked it, it was good.

08:26:30:00

I mean there must have been a very big sense of relief?
I don’t know about the blokes who got in the bubbles underneath, I think they looked a bit green by the time we got to England.
What I mean is that the war was over and –
Oh yeah.
you’d actually survived it?
Oh yeah, oh it was brilliant, wonderful yeah. We got to England and it was, they put us in a beautiful home in Eastbourne. The army had taken over all these homes and they tried to

08:27:00:00

discipline us, they had idiots from Australia coming in to march us into line and all that but they didn’t have a hope. I had about six weeks in England before we come back. And then I went over through the Suez Canal and home through the Panama Canal so I had a round-the-world trip.
And what was your reception like when you got home?
Oh good, yeah it was good.

08:27:30:00

We got off the boat in Sydney and we came down from Sydney by train and we went to Royal Park. They took us to Royal Park and the relatives and that met us at Royal Park. That was, that’s what it was then. And we you know, I don’t know how much leave we had then but

08:28:00:00

I had a couple of weeks’ leave I suppose. I got back on the 24th of July and I was out of the army on the 29th of August I think it was or the 30th of August. I’d had enough.
And what sort of recognition did you get for what you, you know for being a POW and what you put up with?
Oh I never had any bad receptions.

08:28:30:00

I do think that the public needed to be educated a bit on what a prisoner of war is. It’s a different, as I say it’s not a case of saying oh I give up and that’s it. It’s what comes up from above and what you did do and especially in these times. You know that’s how most of us were taken prisoner, we had no say in it, it was orders that that

08:29:00:00

was it. And I think the public have got to realise that it wasn’t the individual person that was made a prisoner of war whether he went to Japan or whether he was in Europe the same thing applied. I mean all these fellows that went in the islands, they were on islands and they got swamped out on each island and they had no other option but their officers were telling that they surrendered.

08:29:30:00

It’s a different story then what people have got the idea of being in trenches of the First World War where as I say things got too hot and a big fat German comes over the trenches and he’s going to stick you with a bayonet if you don’t throw up your arms and say, “I give up.” None of us ever did that, we were ordered to do what we got to do. And if I had have been a better speaker and could talk better

08:30:00:00

that’s one of the things that I would have dedicated my time too.
Dedicated your time to, what educating people?
Yeah, to let them know what does happen you know it’s not a,

08:30:30:00

those things shouldn’t be swept under the carpet and forgotten about. I don’t think anyway.
When you had to surrender on Crete, what was that like?
Well I told you I didn’t know anything about it. I mean none of us knew anything about it we were just told that that was it. As I say to this day, I can’t even remember any Germans walking around the beach. Really, before I knew it, it was

08:31:00:00

all over.
Because you know when you set out, you enlisted, you went off to war with a purpose of fighting?
Well you expect to be killed or wounded but you don’t expect to be taken a prisoner of war. I think everybody would be like that. I mean, especially if you’re in an infantry unit or an artillery unit or an engineer unit or something like that, you expect that something’s going to

08:31:30:00

happen but you don’t expect to be taken a prisoner.
Could you understand why the sailors that decided not to stick around on Crete went off on their own?
Oh yeah, oh yeah, absolutely. I would have done it if I had the chance. I would have, too, if I’d have had the chance. I probably had the chance but I felt there was too many doing it. There

08:32:00:00

was, coming across in those days in Crete there was actually very little civilisation that you could see but it was there nevertheless I mean the Greek people were living in these hills in little isolated homes you know clinging on

08:32:30:00

the side of mountains and that with their sheep and stuff and eking out a living. These were the people who looked after the blokes that did got but somebody had to stay behind I suppose. But I couldn’t see how we could get out.
So now you’re involved in a POW Association are you?
Yeah, I’m in the POW Association, I have been for years and

08:33:00:00

I’m involved in the EDA Association that meets in Clayton every quarter.
What does EDA stand for?
Extreme Disability Attachment. And I’m involved in the Warragul RSL and we do a lot of work with the Warragul Hospital. We were both made life

08:33:30:00

governors of the Warragul Hospital last year so we put in a fair bit of work with them.
Are there many returned servicemen that rely on that hospital?
Oh yeah. The whole district does but it’s not because of that why I did it. It’s you know it’s our local hospital and it’s something we’ve become involved with gradually.
And the POW Association can you tell me a bit about that?
It’s struggling,

08:34:00:00

it’s struggling. It’s been pretty strong over the years predominantly run by fellows from Japan from the Islands, the Japanese POWs, and they’ve done a very good job too but they you know when you consider we’re all in our eighties and above now you know eighty fives and eighty sixes and there are no more

08:34:30:00

POWs from Japan or Europe for that matter anymore so you know we’re just a dying race. But fortunately the Dandenong RSL is taking over the workings of the POW Association and they are helping us along a bit.
So what do you want the wider community to understand about POWs and their experience?
Well what I said

08:35:00:00

about how a fella becomes a POW. I don’t think they realise the full extent of how they do I think they’ve still got this notion that things get too tough and you throw it in and it’s not like that.
Where does that notion come from?
From the First World War, from the First World trans-warfare.
But people certainly within your

08:35:30:00

own generation would understand what?
No, no, no I don’t think so. I don’t think so, they don’t realise. This business what I referred to before about being sent to Greece that was a shocking thing it should never have been done you know. It’s not blues that the soldiers or the army made, it was blues that the politicians had made.

08:36:00:00

And you never hear anything about what happened in Greece and Crete you just gather your own thoughts of hearing about army things and that and you hear about what happened in the islands and that but you hear very, very little about what happened in Greece and Crete, very little and it was an absolute disaster.

08:36:30:00

You know it’s never been brought to the fore enough, it should have been really told as it was and I’m not talking politically, please don’t think so because my politics, I’m not a raving, you know, left winger type of person by any means but the mistakes that these people made should be

08:37:00:00

brought to the forefront exactly the same as if a general or a colonel makes a big mistake. They’re not backward in saying what an idiot he was but nobody says what an idiot when the damn politicians make the decisions. Now you know when you figure that one out and you try to see what I’m about especially what I’m involved in with the Greek campaign

08:37:30:00

I think it was absolutely terrible.
Do you follow what the current?
Oh yeah, I’m real right wing on it. I think what he’s doing is quite right but he’s got to take the blame for it if anything goes wrong and that’s what never happened in our case. I mean if I had have been an Australian at that time probably I wouldn’t have taken any notice of it either but

08:38:00:00

being there I can still not see why we had to go to Greece. And nobody has ever said why we did or anything. Nobody knows why we went to Greece. I mean why should Churchill for instance say we had to go to Greece? He shouldn’t have had the right to do that, that’s where I’ve become a bit of rebel.
You’ve certainly made a very strong statement about it today on the

08:38:30:00

record, which is good.
But anyway that’s how it is. I don’t know what it will be in the future.
Well, I think the tape is just about at the end.
Well I hope I’ve given a pretty decent sort of an interview. I don’t think I went over myself too many times you know repeating myself to much but –
No, no definitely.
Probably after you’ve gone I’ll think I should have told her that, I should have told

08:39:00:00

Kyle this, but there was a lot of funny incidents that I can still relate, too.
Have you got one?
One to finish off.
To finish off.
Well I told you about poor old Fanny the horse – oh gee, I’m going to get a blank.
Any

08:39:30:00

more Irvin stories?
Yeah, I could get crude. I’m not going to do that. No, well, I think mainly I can say finishing up is to become a prisoner of war and have to work for these German in Bavaria was a real culture shock. That’s the best I could say I think about it. Their hygiene

08:40:00:00

was something to be desired, it was crude. I think that would be the gentlemanly way to get out of it.
Ok, thank you.
INTERVIEW ENDS

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