Kenneth Banks
Archive number: 2008
Preferred name: Ken
Date interviewed: 28 June, 2004

Served with:

2/1st Battalion
6th Division
2/1st Anti Tank Regiment

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Kenneth Banks 2008

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Transcript

Tape 01

01:00:52:00

Ken, can you tell us a little bit about your childhood?
My what?
Your childhood.
Well, this is what you’ve got to get to now, is that you’ve got to speak a bit

01:01:00:00

slower and a bit louder, because I have a terrible deaf problem.
Absolutely.
It’s cost me nearly seven thousand bucks so I can hear a little bit. I put in four-something and the Veterans Affairs put in three-something. No, more.
Ok.
Anyway, I have a problem particularly with ladies, soft voiced young ladies, but gruff old blokes, no problem.
Oh, ok.
Right, where do we start?
Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood?
Yeah, my childhood was,

01:01:30:00

I was born in a place called Inglewood in 1922, which doesn’t of course come into the right figures with my service because I put my age up, see. So anyway, I think it was 1922, January 28th. From then I don’t remember anything much for a couple of years. We went up to the Gulf [of Carpentaria] in 1924, a family of five, seven with Mum and Dad,

01:02:00:00

and one dog sitting on the running board, that’s important. We took two properties up, selected them, two hundred and fifty square mile on the Flinders River outside Normanton. We unfortunately went up there just before the Depression started, and although we got going pretty well, the Depression came along and things weren't of much value, and Mum was

01:02:30:00

working like mad, she was a great horse lady. As a result of that, purely by accident she got thrown and broke her neck. That was of course before the flying doctor days, and as a result she died about four or five days after, leaving me and a little daughter, sister of mine, the only one left besides me. She was only about five I think, and we were dispersed

01:03:00:00

to an aunty and some went away to school. I stayed with my father on the property.
How many children were there?
Five – four boys and the last one was a girl, and I was the last boy. So I stayed with him and as a result of that the only other white people, some of the ring, as we call them, a couple, and most of them Aboriginal people

01:03:30:00

in the place. But prior to that whilst Mum was there, there was an experience that we had that – this goes back to the stolen generation thing – that makes me a bit bitter at times. There was an Aboriginal lady in Normanton outside of Normanton camp, they were especially Aboriginal in those days. She begged my mother to take her daughter, who was

01:04:00:00

probably nine, ten, eleven, something like that, to take her out to the station to keep her and educate her to be a housewife. She was a yellow girl, we called them yellow because she wasn't a pure bred – very attractive and I think she had a bit of Chinese blood in there somewhere, but the reason why Mum was asked to take her, and Mum said she wasn't very keen on the idea, she had a mob of her own kids, and this little one

01:04:30:00

was a pretty wild little lass. You couldn’t get talk out of her, she’d sort of hide behind you. Her mother’s name was Linda or Lina, I can't remember, but the girl’s name was Jessie. Anyway, Mum eventually took her out and she was so wild you used to have to – well the first couple of nights she cleared out and we had to track her back about eleven miles, she was walking back to Normanton, you know. She hid in the grass, but we found her, my brothers found her and brought her home.

01:05:00:00

She settled down – it was just like getting a new cat you know, and wants to run away. She was such a meek little lass. Anyway we eventually got her to, when she settled down and she treated the house as one of the family – a bit of an embarrassment to us because the boys who were learning schooling, they were pretty dull and she was only working in the kitchen and she could answer all the questions that Mum was asking, you know. She became very much

01:05:30:00

dependent on us, and us on her. The good part about it, the way it so worked out after Mum got killed, she would have been about fifteen or sixteen or something like that, she just took over the kitchen, you know, but we had other Aboriginal women who used to do the laundry and washing and whatever, and they were there, but Jessie sort of just took over and she run the camp.

01:06:00:00

We were very dependent on her, we sort of didn’t realise, and it was probably only in latter years that I started realising myself what a great thing she was, and she was just sort of put there by whatever. Then nowadays, I guess she would be classed as the stolen generation. The actual fact of the story was that she, what her mother wanted to go somewhere else because – and I don't know if you know about these sort of things, but

01:06:30:00

the old Aborigines used to take them walkabout when they got to a certain age and they never came home. She was fearful that Jessie was going to go the same way, and being such a pretty girl that she would have probably went. I sometimes wonder about that, you know, all this that’s going on. But anyway, there were other pickaninnies there who were the children of two or three Aboriginal ladies –

01:07:00:00

they were great old ladies that do all the work, but these fellas, the little larrikin blokes, they were about my age, and we had a big mob of goats there and we seemed to be always mucking around with goats and smelling like goats. They had names that were not easy to remember, being Aboriginal, so I gave them nicknames. One was called

01:07:30:00

Chunder because he was always vomiting, and the other bloke was called Pong because he smelt a bit, and the other bloke’s name was – I can't remember that bloke. One bloke had his original name that was given to him, was – at that particular time there was a happening in the Royal family and you took all the Aboriginals –

01:08:00:00

I can't remember what it was now. Anyway, but that was his real name. But we had no toys, there was no Santa Claus or anything like that. We had nothing else to do much, apart from I was getting very little school, Dad kind of couldn’t be bothered, he was busy, and I can remember we used to have to milk these goats, and because the little pickaninny fellas were so dirty,

01:08:30:00

their hands – mine were just as dirty – and we used to have to catch the goats and Jessie had to milk them, see. At the time it didn’t seem strange to me, but as soon as Jessie said, “Catch another goat,” we’d have it hold there, and she’d let two little pickaninnies jump on either side and ‘tch, tch, tch’ and used to suck the old nannies out. I thought that’s a funny thing, thinking back now. We used to get no toys, as I said earlier, but we used to get

01:09:00:00

the bladder out of – when we’d kill, there was a bladder in the beast – and clean it reasonably well and you could blow it up and tie it. We’d play the football and kick that around, and the dogs would be trying to take it of course, there’d still be fat on it, you know. We used to kill every fortnight, there were a lot of Aboriginals out on the river, and we used to give them meat. We used to kick that ball, that was just wonderful, we used to kick it up and down the road. I can remember another time –

01:09:30:00

I’ve got that in the notice for obvious reasons – about someone told us, we had an aeroplane that used to fly Cloncurry across to Normanton every Friday, over and back. They used to take the mail over and take the fishing back I think. So anyway, somebody, one of the ringers I think, one of the wonderful ringers, told us that, “Oh you fellas, you put a big mirror and you put it on the plane when he’s flying over and he’ll drop you a

01:10:00:00

bag of lollies.” “Oh, yeah?” So anyway, we decided we’d try and pinch the big mirror out of the bathroom, and these little old planes used to fly very low and they used to fly from station to station over the homesteads, and we were out in a homestead on the station, he’d fly, and we got this mirror and we went behind the chook house and we were giving him a hell of a burst with this stuff and he must’ve caught him. So when he got into Normanton he got onto the police sergeant and said, “There could be a problem out at Turruleroy,” – that

01:10:30:00

was the name of our place – and Banks said, “they were flashing this mirror on me.” And the old sarge said, “Well, I’ll ring them up.” So the old sergeant rang up – Mum was alive then – and she came out and said, “I don’t know anything about it.” “Well, the pilot said they just dazzled him with this mirror.” So anyway Mum went out the back and she said, “Do you kids know anything about that?” and of course we (UNCLEAR), and she went in and said, “The kids,” and told the story,

01:11:00:00

and they said, “Oh, that’s ok then.” So when the plane flew back, ‘Bang’, down with a bag of lollies. Every time he used to fly back he used to drop a bag of lollies, so there’s something in it. That was the closest we ever got to Santa Claus. That was an incidence that I can remember well.
When you say you didn’t have Santa Claus, what was Christmas like?
Well, if there was an old chook down in the yard and she wasn't laying eggs, we got chook for Christmas dinner, but if she was laying eggs

01:11:30:00

we probably missed out. That was the best I could help you, but there was no toys. I can remember the only toy I ever really had was, my sister when, after Mum got killed, there was a doll left there. So anyway, I must have been a terribly lonely little fella because I was terribly embarrassed that I adopted this, and I called it Roy, and I used to pick him up and nurse him when no-one was looking.

01:12:00:00

I’d hide him of a day down in the heap of wood under the house, and I was embarrassed about him but I thought I needed him. That’s the only toy I’ve ever had in my life, and it was sort of a hand-me-down. But we had the ball and we had pickaninnies to play and that sort of stuff, I don't think we really missed out on anything. So, you know, that was sort of a plus.
How old were you when your Mum died?
I think it might have been going on 1929 and I was born in ’22,

01:12:30:00

so whatever that works out at. Two, three, four, five, six, seven. Eight, seven. And of course my sister was only three or four. Yeah, it was sort of a life that today – you know I was thirteen year old before I ever tasted ice cream. I never knew there was such a thing. This was when we left the Gulf, we sold the place

01:13:00:00

or just about gave it away because of the Depression years, and we came down to Julia Creek and we stayed the night there, there was someone we knew there. This fella that said, “If we go around to old Mrs. So and so, she makes ice cream.” “What’s ice cream?” “You go and see.” I think about threepence they were, ’36, 1936, yeah, November. So I went down and I bought this, and I thought, ‘Gee, this is good stuff,’ and I found another threepence and I got stuck into it.

01:13:30:00

I reckon that ice cream – it was home-made – and I reckon that ice cream was the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten, and I’m not kidding, and I’ve eaten ice cream all over the world since. So there you are. And then milkshakes, I didn’t get a milkshake until I went to down the south-west Queensland and we drove down to Sydney. We got a milkshake there. Came back to the Gulf again, when we found out, when we first went up there in

01:14:00:00

1924, ’25 – no, anyway, somewhere there. We had a new car which was a Dodge 1924 model tourer, and it was the fourth car that ever went into the Gulf country. My father, who had a terrible impediment, and how he ever got to be on the council I don't know, he was a deputy chairman and whatever happened, and my father used to sort of

01:14:30:00

run the council, the biggest council in the world, the Carpentaria Council. So anyway, whilst we were up there, it was 1926, notification of the Governor General, Lord Stonehaven , the first governor to visit up there ever to arrive on a plane. My father was a little nervous about this. So he met the plane and Lord Stonehaven was on it,

01:15:00:00

and when he got off the old fella, he had a very bad impediment, my father, and I never knew he had it, but when you grew up with something, but he used to go, “Wo, wo, wo, wo, wo,” and then he’d get it out. Of course most things I’d heard a hundred times before and it didn’t matter, and I see people looking at him. So anyway, when the governor got off, he started and the governor is trying to look at these Queenslanders and, ‘Can't understand this language’. A little old Pom [English person] he was,

01:15:30:00

English, Lord Stonehaven. So anyway, whilst they had a meeting, the council meeting, he requested that he might be able to be taken out duck shooting, because he had a Dalmatian dog and a beautiful Greener gun and he wanted to shoot some ducks. And the old fella said, “Yeah, we’ll organise that.” So, being the best car in Normanton I think, and of course the shire chairman, he set across the Normanton River. At the time, now there are two bridges across, a new one and an old one,

01:16:00:00

so anyway they had to get on a punt, and this punt would take two cars comfortably but three cars was a tight fit. So my father, who never used to worry much about brakes, he never got up to thirty mile an hour, that was really fast in those days, but he said, “Whoa, wo, wo, wo.” So anyway, he was the first one on

01:16:30:00

and the Governor is sitting there with his Greener and the dog in the back and another bloke with a pipe and old councillor. He got up and the bloke that was conducting the punt across the Normanton River didn’t want to do two trips, so he said, “Move up Mr. Banks. Move up a bit further.” And punts go up like this and like that, see. And my old fella’s there trying to tell him, “Wo, wo, wo, wo.” and he said, “Mate, a bit further.” And of course the old fella got this thing, and, “Wo, wo,” and twenty foot of water, down they went. Up come the dog,

01:17:00:00

up come the Governor, up come Bill Banks, up come the other old fella, still smoking his pipe. The photos are, I’ve got them here and they’re in the Council Chambers and all that in Normanton. Yeah, he was sort of, everyone took it for granted that Bill Banks had this, but one of the first …
Was there much reaction in the town to the accident?
Oh yeah, God yes. But the

01:17:30:00

Governor, father said to the Governor – no, the Governor said to them, he was very English he was, old Lord Stonehaven, he said, “Oh that’s nothing. I was dunked in the Ganges once and that’s full of sharks.” And Bill Banks said, “B-b-but Governor, t-t-this is full of b-b-bloody alligators.” And sharks. So anyway they pulled it out and they cleaned and changed the oil or something

01:18:00:00

and gave it a pull, and away she went and drove on for twelve years after, they were made pretty good. But the funniest thing, I can't, I think I can remember a part of it, maybe because I heard and I’ve put a picture in and I think it’s the real thing, but on the way up to the Gulf in ’24 – and I was only born in ’22, the beginning of ’22 of course. I would be three, probably three and a half. We were going out and in those days there was no real roads, only dirt tracks, and there was two,

01:18:30:00

one down the middle, and the one down the middle was where the sulky horse used to trot. We were going up to the Gulf and we were going through a place called Iffley, which incidentally joined our properties when we took the country up. But it was a back road sort of thing, and it was getting late in the afternoon and we weren't too sure where we were. Actually we were bushed, I suppose you could say. As I say, Mum and Dad and five kids, and the dog on the running board. And so we could see a cloud of dust down the track

01:19:00:00

and Mum said, “That’s a chasing horse, catch him.” So Bill would put her up to fifteen mile an hour, twenty or whatever, and they run this down. This horse had apparently never seen a car, and they went like mad, and the fella behind, he’s trying to catch him up and he’s going and the old fella behind tooting the bloody horn. After a couple of miles, the horse was tooting around and looking and snorting, and this bloke looked over his shoulder and realised there’s a car coming behind him, this was

01:19:30:00

creating his problem, so he came over and his horse was bucking around sideways, and the old bloke stuck his head out. My father said, “Wo, wo, wo,” and this bloke is looking at the old fella, and this bloke was called ‘Deafy’ Stewart, he’d read lips, he’s having trouble with my father with his, “Wo, wo, wo, wo, where are we?” or something, you know. Mum realised and she butted in and she went around the car and she asked the way. Luckily we were on the highway,

01:20:00:00

the main road. But I often thought about that fella, he must have been looking at my father trying to read his lips with this impediment. Yeah, then we discovered that he was stone deaf, old Deafy Stewart. But the only thing that we, the only thing that I can remember is that I was always around when he was telling these stories, and I’d heard them so many times. I can remember he was saying something about – he was trying to tell this story to a bloke

01:20:30:00

and it happened on a Monday or something, and he’s going, “Mon, Mon, Mon, Mon,” and the bloke said, “Mondayville?” and Bill, he didn’t like being corrected, hated being corrected. He said, “Tue, Tue, Tue,” “Oh, Tuesdayville?” “We, We, We,” “Oh, Wednesdayville?” So anyway, he got down to about, and my old fella he sat up and said, “Who’s t-t-telling this bloody story, you or me?” I always

01:21:00:00

remember that. He tried to get in the First World War, but because of his terrible impediment they wouldn’t have him. He’d have created some problems with the sergeant majors, I can tell you.
He couldn’t go to the war because of his speech?
No, his impediment was too bad. He’d be a bit of an embarrassment. Somebody would come up and ask him a question, someone of authority and he went, “Wo, wo, wo.” “You're under a-bloody-rrest.”

01:21:30:00

It must have been quite a blow to lose your mother at such a young age?
Oh yes, it was a terrible blow for him, and there’s been latter times since I’ve lost Audrey, I think I realised more than anything that he – the Depression years, we’d lost our money and lost just about everything and got out of the place. Drove away in the old car that we drove up with a family of seven, and the dog on the running board – don’t forget the dog on the running board. We drove away, just Dad and I , no dog, no running board

01:22:00:00

no Mum, no kids at all, and when we left that place it was going to be one of the biggest sheep stations in the world, it sort of broke him and whatever. When we drove away, I didn’t realise at the time, but it must have been a terribly sad moment when we drove away from that house. We left there with the furniture and everything still in it, but you know he couldn’t sell it, he just told people to come and help themselves. Got rid of the cattle we had, and the horses, but we got away with very little money. But you know, it must have been,

01:22:30:00

as you said, a terrible blow to him, to have had to look back and to leave Mum behind, yeah.
What do you remember of your mother?
I can remember her giving me a couple of good beltings and throwing a rock at me and just missing me, and then she grabbed me and cried and I wondered why and now I realise she cried because she shouldn’t have done it. She was a very strong-willed woman. Her family, the

01:23:00:00

Ludlows from the Ludlow Castle thing over there, the women, there was three and three boys. The three boys were very nice little people but didn’t have a great lot of drive in them. The three women were very ambitious and wanted to become something, and my mother was a very ambitious woman, more so than my father. My Mum was a sort of no-nonsense sort of person, and Dad would put up with a bit, you know. So I can remember, mainly because of that,

01:23:30:00

she was trying to salvage us I think, because we went up there and were going to be this and going to do that, and when the Depression came – she had her own brand and she had her own horses. Still used to ride, and seven kids, which was pretty fatal because when you get to – she was in her forties, late forties by then, they can't take a fall, and Dad was sort of, he was practically a sheep man.

01:24:00:00

It was going to be the biggest sheep station in the world, but Mum bought cattle and was doing pretty well, numbers wise. But they were worth nothing, cattle are worth absolutely bloody nothing just about.
Was it the Depression that destroyed, caused the problems for your family?
Oh yeah, it was, because the livestock industry was just nothing, finished.

01:24:30:00

You couldn’t get rid of cattle or whatever. It’s so bad and people don’t realise. I look back on it now, back in about 19 – around about the year my Mum died, I think it would have been later, there was quite a lot of husbands and wives, your age, carrying their swags past. You know, used to come and get some food of us,

01:25:00:00

tinned sugar, looking for work, lots and lots of them, and it was just a common thing for these people. And some of those people went on, you know, we used to call them bagmen, and those people went on and went away off into the country, a lot of those later on, the older ones. I think back now, what were they fighting for? – because they couldn’t even get a job back where they came from.

01:25:30:00

There was quite a lot of those, the people that did survive carrying their swags, that went on to become people of repute, politically and otherwise. They’d done well, but it was just one of those things, the possibilities weren't there any longer for anyone to become, to make a go of it, even though they had money, lost money. I’ve often thought back about those, but probably like me,

01:26:00:00

I was only after we’d come back from the Gulf – I think I’ll leave the Gulf about here, there’s quite a lot of other things, but there’s enough there said. After we’d left the Gulf and come down, I was supposed to – I had been going to school in Normanton for a couple of years, boarding with an old lady there. It was rather embarrassing because I went in there, I was a tall, skinny kid – I didn’t have much going for me. My father used to say, “There’s no doubt, son, you're a plain child.”

01:26:30:00

He was right. Anyway, when we came down from there and I was supposed to go to school in all promises, but Dad had enough and he only had me, he didn’t want to let me go, and we sort of travelled around to mixed relations and friends and he was very, very good with the wool industry, and wool classing. He got out west and got sort of a connection there classing wool, had a house and doing bandying in south-west Queensland.

01:27:00:00

Never ever – like me and I never think I will – but he never took another lady. He could have, he was the image of me. Anyway, he – I got off the track there.
You were talking about starting school.
Oh yes, that’s right. “You’re going to school, you're going to be sent to school,” well some of them were at university still, two of them,

01:27:30:00

and the other bloke was pretty smart too. But anyway, the first job, a fellow came around, I used to knock around with some kids in Dirranbandi, and one fellow said, “Do you want a job?” and I said, “I’m supposed to go to school.” “Oh, well.” Anyway, I told my father and I told him. The job was selling apples for two bob [two shillings] a bucket, and this fellow from Dirranbandi used to go down to Stanthorpe and get a big truck load of them

01:28:00:00

and go around all Gunnawarra and Roma you know, all those places, and our job was to go from house to house to house and sell these apples. I was about fourteen I suppose, thirteen or fourteen. That was the first job I had, selling apples for two bob a bucket. And you could eat any good apple, one good side, and one you ate that side, and that was your keep. Travelled all day and walked all day on apples. And I was happy, we were happy.

01:28:30:00

We were playing up a little bit. Anyway, then when I came back to Dirran. and one morning, very early, a man came up and said he was looking for drovers, and my father said, “Why? I’m not a drover.” “No, but they tell me your son might be interested.” And my father said, “What?” and he said, “Or sheep, there’s a big mob of sheep I’ve bought out

01:29:00:00

Cunnamulla, somewhere in New South Wales.” My father always wanted me to be in sheep and nothing else because he knew I was not much bloody good for anything else. So he said, “Oh, that won’t go to waste on him.” So he called me in and said, “Would you like to go with, Mr – what’s your name?” “Cameron. It will probably be six or seven weeks of droving sheep.” And I said, “Yeah, that will be ok.” Anyway, the old fella said to him, “What are you p-p-paying him?”

01:29:30:00

He said something, and, “Oh, he’s worth much more than that.” “Oh, ok.” So he grabbed me and away I went with a little swag. “Dad, I’m coming back.” “When the trip’s over I’ll see you, don’t forget son.” “Righto, ok Dad”. So away I went on this trip, and I won’t go through too much of that, it was a pretty tough, arduous sort of trip, and there was a few things happened that I don’t want to enlarge upon. So anyway, having got down there,

01:30:00:00

seven weeks on the road, we had six thousand head of sheep. He cut them in half, half way down, but anyway. Got down to this place where the owner, Cameron, he was dealing sheep. He said to me, “Do you really want to go back to Dirranbandi? I can give you a job, would you like a job?” And it was wheat, sheep and wool, and I just loved the look of that wheat country and that, and cattle. Wheat, sheep and cattle. Anyway,

01:30:30:00

“Righto, yeah for a while I’ll take it on.” I stayed there right up until I joined up, three years I was there. The wages were seven shillings and tenpence a week, and keep. I think what kept me there more than anything, they always had attractive housemaids, and I used to think, ‘This looks pretty good.’ So anyway – but it didn’t always work out that way, don’t get the wrong idea.

01:31:00:00

So then I joined up from there, but unfortunately, because when the thing was five bob a day and keep – keep and clobber – and I was on seven shillings and tenpence working for Cameron, pretty lousy, money didn’t really seem to matter as long as you could go and play a bit of football or tennis too. So anyway, I went in and joined up in Moree, and

01:31:30:00

a mob of us went down. I wrote down the details there but you didn’t appear to need too much details of the year, do you?
No, that’s alright. Ken. Just before you talk about joining up, I just want to ask you one or two more questions about when you were growing up as a child. What did you know about war? Or what did you think war was?
Well, I was always a reader. As a kid, even before I went to school, more or less, I could read a book.

01:32:00:00

Because in the bush there was nothing much else to do but read the ‘North Queensland Register’ every week when it came in, you know. I was always reading, even when I went away to school they put me in second class or something, and the other little kids were, “Ba, ba, ba,” and I could just ‘blang, blang, blang’. The school teacher said, “You must have done a lot of reading.” Of course I was that much taller than them too, you know. Yeah, and I was always a great reader, and then we

01:32:30:00

had a school teacher that used to come down, I didn’t tell you about him – I should have told you all about that too. He was a tutor and he had a sulky and a horse and he used to come around every now and again. Mum used to just love to see Mr. Hunt call in because she was trying to run the cattle, run the camp, run everything else, cook, look after a mob of kids and as soon as he came she just handed it over to Mr. Hunt. A

01:33:00:00

little fat, little jovial, nice man. He used to teach the kids, and I was just starting at that time to learn a little bit. I must have learnt more than I realised, because, as I said, I learnt to read pretty early. Not much good on figures, not good on spelling still, because I, just too many classes too quickly, and atrociously on my spelling. As the years go past it deteriorated. Anyway – I’m going

01:33:30:00

back a bit, I hope you don’t mind.
Absolutely not.
But I can remember a couple of very funny instances there, while he was there, we had a Church of England minister turn up. He had a brand new car, and it was an old Whippet, I think it was, and he used to shine it, his pride and joy. So anyway, he turned up uninvited and of course, the usual thing, they came and the mob of kids

01:34:00:00

and you discovered – well we’re not too sure if we were Presbyterian or Church of England at the time because Mum was one and Dad was the other. Anyway, he sort of moved in – I can't remember, Stevens I think was his name – but he wasn't popular with us, Mum didn’t like him and Jessie hated him because he used to put a under his pot, he didn’t need, and he used to use it and used to say, “Empty my pot.” Jessie didn’t like that, especially from someone that no-one liked much. He was a pain in the proverbial, we didn’t like him.

01:34:30:00

As soon as he arrived, this old Mr. Hunt had this sulky and of course as soon as he arrived we used to pull a dray out of the shed and put his sulky, very carefully because there was a rafter up the top with a chook and she thought she was too good to go to the chook house, and she was always having chickens and they used to roost up there, so they were sort of, the rafter was above the, between the shafts, and all the droppings went down so it didn’t matter. We used to put it in, Mr. Hunt’s sulky in there.

01:35:00:00

You know what a sulky is, eh? Two wheels and a shaft and a horse and the bloke sits up here. This parson, he told us and the pickaninnies, “Pull that sulky out of there and put my new car in there.” ‘Fair enough, that sounds pretty good,’ so we put it straight in underneath where the chook used to roost, right where the bonnet is, no, over the canvas hood. The old chook and her

01:35:30:00

five or six chicks did a pretty good job, and we used to go in every morning and, “Yeah, you're doing well, love,” you know, because we hated him. So anyway, when the time eventually came – oh I can remember one thing was, one of my brothers had been away somewhere, and someone told him and told Jessie – Jessie was complaining about this bloody pot job. So my brother had heard this story about putting a few little Condy’s [Condy’s Crystals – potassium permanganate] in the bottom of the pot.

01:36:00:00

So through the night he uses the pot and the next minute he gets up and, of course, what he sees he didn’t like the look of, so he quickly and promptly rang up the doctor and made an appointment in Cloncurry and wanted to see him immediately, he didn’t know what was wrong with himself. So he said, “Get that sulky out of there and I’m going.” So everybody was happy, and we went out and it was suitably covered with about a week,

01:36:30:00

probably, of chook, and about six or seven. He wasn't very happy about that so he got a bit of oil and scraped it off and chucked it in, and we never saw him again. That was one of the things I can always remember about that fella.
Did you know anyone who had been in the First World War?
Oh yes, I knew lots of them.
What did they tell you about their experiences, if any?
They didn’t talk, a bit like me until today. I never talked, my family even complain that I never talk, you know. Until Alan really got me onto

01:37:00:00

profile. But that has happened, I’ve noticed in my war generation thingo too, a lot of them are coming back to Anzac [Australian and New Zealand Army Corps] Day that usually go. I’ve always gone if I was in a place, but I’ve lived in the country most of my life and not always have had the opportunity. No, there was a few up in the north, there was a couple of drovers that I knew very well, there was a station owner, and then of course when I did actually get into the army,

01:37:30:00

the people that taught us, the instructors were the younger generation of the ’14 -’18 war, and they were instructing us. They used to sit there and I thought they were ancient, and they were only in their late fifties I suppose, sixties. They used to tell us a few stories about that, but prior to that apart from what you read, it was not a lot. But I didn’t know anything about it and of course that didn’t concern me.

01:38:00:00

I just wanted to get over there and wanted to be in – it was suggested perhaps that I could get into the air force, but I knew my education was going to be a problem, I would never got off the ground, I’d been mucking around on the ground at the back of airports. So I just wanted to get in and get a rifle. And I didn’t know, after getting into the army, I left the Gulf again – but anyway, we’ll leave that again –

01:38:30:00

after, when I joined up, I didn’t realise that you had to be twenty, and I was only eighteen and a half, and I put the right age up. When I got down there I went to Tamworth and I was in there and I made a lot of mates, all of a sudden someone twigged that I was under-age by a lot, and they just … and I’d given me gear away, given me job away and everything.

01:39:00:00

Oh, gee, that was a kick, and I thought I was going to go away to the war. They’d given me a big send off, so I couldn’t go back home, back to where I was at the old tennis club and say, “I’m not going to war, and the presents you gave me …,” and so anyway, I went straight back to Narrabri. I joined up at Moree the first time, and Narrabri the second time, and I put my age up immediately, eighteen months.

01:39:30:00

Anyway …
Why did you want to join up, Ken?
Oh, ask someone that was my age at that time. Well, it was a pretty dull life I was living in a lot of ways, and it was not that it was ‘King and Country’ sort of thing, it wasn't that with me, it was just a great adventure. Yeah, ok, some people get killed, a few hundred thousand but, you know, I wouldn’t be one. And I was right, I didn’t get

01:40:00:00

killed, so there you go, I made a good decision. That was the basis of it. And never anywhere along the line – and I did have opportunities to have got out too, on a medical background later on, which I’ll tell you about later. But I never wanted to. Once I started something I wanted to be in it. That’s where all my mates were, the people that camped in the same slit trench and carried one another to help one another, they were too close to leave.

01:40:30:00

I wasn't too sure that I wanted the bloody war to finish at one stage, until I started to get medical problems, physical problem things. But anyway, we …
Interviewee: Kenneth Banks Archive ID 2008 Tape 02

02:00:33:00

Yes, you asked that question a little while ago about how I felt about going, as I said, I was really, that was what I wanted to do because all the other fellas were doing the same thing. I didn’t want them to come back and say, “Where were you during the war, Banksy?” But having gone over there and promising my Dad I’d be back when I was only

02:01:00:00

thirteen or fourteen or whatever, no fifteen I was, and he said, “You’re coming back?” and I said, “Yeah, I’m coming back,” and I didn’t of course. The next time he seen me, as in the first time into long pants, when I went droving, I had to buy a couple of pairs of long pants, the next time he seen me, I came back in uniform with three stripes on my shoulder as a sergeant. And I hadn't asked him permission and he started to ask me about it, “No, no, no,”

02:01:30:00

and I changed the subject before he could get it out. I suppose he thought, ‘Well, there he was, the last time I saw him he was in short pants, and here he is as a soldier going away to war. I don’t know where he’s going, I don’t know if he’s going to come back.’ I was just so happy that him through his eyes, or looked at me through his eyes, but there was nothing much he could do in the way.
What did he think of you joining up?
Well, he was not

02:02:00:00

a person to be very articulate in that sort of thing, he was never close. I don't think I can ever remember Dad putting his arms around me. But Dad didn’t do that, Mum did that, and Dad was the bloke who gave you the boot up the bottom when you needed it, which was pretty frequently. It was sort of a different world, the relationships then. Mum was – well she was supposed to be, but if you’ve got a mob of kids you can only do so much, can't you?

02:02:30:00

He didn’t, but he used to write very regularly over there to me, but he never told me to be careful or anything like that, he just gave me the local gossip around the place and what he was doing. I used to write back to him, along with a lot of letters that I used to write.
How do you think your mother’s death affected you as a boy growing up, before you joined the army?
I think perhaps it made me grow up quicker.

02:03:00:00

With men, apart from the pickaninny thingo, I was always with the thought of the cattlemen and stuff, hanging around and listening to all the conversations, until I went away to school. But when I went away to school, the school teacher, his name was Mr. Bruce – he always called me ‘Banks’, but anyway, he used to, I think, yeah, he was amazed so much that I was so mature

02:03:30:00

in a lot of the things I used to, and I realised that all the other kids in the class were talking about little trivial stuff, and it was just a lot of garbage to me. He probably thought, and I remember him saying, “Banks, you read don’t you?” and I said, “Yeah, I’ve got nothing to do.” But I sort of grew up and all the conversation was adult conversation. No other,

02:04:00:00

apart from the pickaninny thingo. Then I remember when we came down from the Gulf and I had a brother staying in Kings Cross in Sydney in Marrons Court. We went down to see him and we stayed there a little while, and the people at the boarding house I was at, that’s where Dad put me first, he brought me a seat, and they could not get over the fact that I was

02:04:30:00

fourteen, perhaps, around thirteen. They were used to the city kids, you know, little fellas talking very, whatever. They just couldn’t get over, and they were asking me questions like, you know, you're asking me about the Gulf and the things like that, and I used to answer them and they couldn’t get over the fact that I was so oldish and so articulate in a older sort of an age.

02:05:00:00

So I just put it down to that, if that answers the question that you asked me, I can't remember what it was now.
It was about how your mother’s death affected you.
Oh. It did, and in very strange ways it did affect me. Yes, I can't really go into that too much, how it affected me.

02:05:30:00

Yeah, she’s buried in the Normanton cemetery and I pretty regularly go up. She’d been fifty years in the cemetery without a headstone, just a sort of a hood down I suppose, and five domes and little angels in it, and it was galvanised with wire net on it, and it was cemented in. And today it looks as good as it was seventy years ago.

02:06:00:00

But I go up and my daughter and I were up there last September. Oh yeah, in the intervening years, when about fifty years were up, and there was no-one there to put headstones. So I took the cement and I got a plaque made – we’ve got the photo of it – I took it up and I made the thing with my own hands. I put the headstone over it with the thing on it and every few years, for the fact that Normanton is my home town, I go back there for things. The last time I was

02:06:30:00

up there – I knew everyone and every goat and every black fella there at one time – and the last time I was there, there was only one white fella alive up there that I knew, I went to school with. So it’s got to the stage where the only people I know are out with Mum at the cemetery. So we went up, my daughter had never been up, then Carol said, “We’re going to go up.” Her hubby had done the Kokoda Trail last year – this year it was, no, last September. So I took her up there

02:07:00:00

and cleaned up around Mum’s grave and my daughter done a few little things around the place. But I’ve always sort of never, I’ve always quite remembered because I have that connection with Normanton because that’s where my Mum is, she’s still there. Like I said, with my wife, who

02:07:30:00

died three years next September, and her ashes are still upstairs, and her mother before her. But her request was to – I remember when my mother-in-law was dying and she said, “Ken,” – she was on her way out, poor old dear, she was blind – and she said to me, “Ken, what’s going to happen to you? What are you going to do when you die?” I think I might have asked her, “What would you like us to do, Mary, when you go?”

02:08:00:00

That’s right, I did, and she said, “What are you going to do Ken?” and I said, “Well, I’m going back to Belmont Park. I want my ashes to go back there.” And Audrey was there, their daughter, and she said, “What about you Audrey?” and she said, “Well, if he’s going back there, I’m going back there too.” Anyway, she thought for a little while, old Mary, and she said, “Can I come too?” So she’s up there now, and Audrey’s up there now, and the big rock out on the cattle property – I've got a pretty big cattle property,

02:08:30:00

two sons manage it – there’s rocks there and the plaque they could be putting it on, it might be on in the next few days. Their two ashes to go out there and be put in, and plenty of room for me later on. So there you go. Although at the moment people say, “It must be very strange for you to still have Audrey’s ashes,” and I think it’ll be strange when they’re gone.

02:09:00:00

So, let’s go back to you talking – do you want to have a break? Shall we have a break for a second?
When I first joined up in Moree and didn’t know that you had to be twenty, we got down there and they kept me in and I sort of made friends, give stuff away. And I used to collect books, you wouldn’t believe it, a lot of it political.

02:09:30:00

I gave them all away, that’s another part of my life that’s behind me, and then one day they came along and said, “We were looking through and you're too young, you're eighteen months too young.” I said, “No I’m not.” They gave me a number, a four figure number, which I can't remember now. So they said, “Well, you’ve got to go.” I’ll never forget me walking out there with my gear, and my mates are waving me, “Banksy, you’ll be back!” I said, “Bloody oath, I’ll be back.” So I went out and I went straight back and joined up.

02:10:00:00

But I put my age up to twenty straight away, and they called me, and luckily when they called me back they called me into Sydney, to there. When I get down there, I’m still a matter of weeks too short. Middle of November I think it was, or late November, the call up came, because there were people, there was thousands rolling in. The regional number I had was

02:10:30:00

I think it was four three something, thou [thousand], and the next note on it was sixty four thou – mine was 67980. So this gave you an idea how many, they were just rolling in. So anyway, when they called me in Sydney they said, “How come this?” and I didn’t tell them, I couldn’t say, ‘You’ve done it before, you’ve done it a month ago,’

02:11:00:00

because they’d say, ‘How come you’ve jumped eighteen months old?’ They had me there. So anyway, one bright spark said, “Well, what we can do with you is, you can do a couple of courses.” “Oh yeah?” and the first one was small arms training, and that filled in some time. So I did pretty well at that. They sent me to Goulburn up there with a mob.

02:11:30:00

I never let on that I was still too young or whatever, won a girl’s heart and lost her again. So anyway, that was part of the deal. Anyway I came back and I still had a bit of time, and they said, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do with you, we’ll send you to a NCO [Non Commissioned Officer],” – a non commission, corporal, sergeant, whatever thing – “course, and you can do that.” So they sent me up to Tamworth, so

02:12:00:00

I was up there and was mucking around and passed it and they chucked two stripes at me, and I made a corporal and I’m not even in the bloody army. They wouldn’t give me a number until I was the right dates. Anyway, what am I going to do then? So I still had a bit of time and, as I said earlier about the people that were training us, were old soldiers from the previous war. So anyway, I was talking with one of these old fellas – he wasn't old, he was only in his late fifties and I’ve got sons in their late sixties,

02:12:30:00

and he said, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll go down to the orderly room and I’ll tell them that I need a bit of help because there’s so many people coming through and there’s bayonet charges and all this sort of stuff, and see if you can come with me and help me.” So he was there, “Yeah, you're right Banks,” patched my two stripes on, and so I stayed on there until – and I was still nearly two weeks too soon then. He said to me, “Oh, you’ll go to Malaya.” And I said, “Why bloody Malaya?”

02:13:00:00

And he said, “Well, because you're going as reinforcements to Malaya.” I said, “No, I’m not going there.” “Where are you going?” I said, “I want to go to the Middle East.” “Why?” “Because I’ve got a brother over there,” – my eldest brother, Gordon. He was one of the first that went overseas, and he was a sergeant in the 2nd/1st India Tank. He said, “Well why him?” and I said, “Well, he wants to claim me.” And I said, “It will be a lot easier for him to claim from over there than from Malaya.” So he said, “Go up to the orderly room and tell them.”

02:13:30:00

So I went up to the orderly room, “You’ve got me down for the 30th or the 31st Battalion for Malaya?” “Yes, reinforcements.” So I said, “I don’t want – ,” and I told him the story and he said, “Where do you want to go?” so I told him the story again, “I want to go to the Middle East.” “Oh, well, we’ve got reinforcements going to the 2nd/1st Infantry Battalion, but they leave very shortly.” So I said, “That’s ok by me.” “We’ll see what we can do.” So anyway they mucked around, and they hadn't given me a number by then, yeah.

02:14:00:00

So they put me on this reinforcement thing and the next thing I knew there was a ship on the harbour, in Sydney Harbour, and Banksy’s on the bloody ship on the way to the Middle East. Great, happy, so I went down, I remember it was on the Lizzie. So I took my gear down there and down there, and it was pretty hard to find your way around, so I thought I’d go up and look at Sydney Harbour and looked and there

02:14:30:00

was only ocean. Unbeknownst to me, we’d moved while I was down, and I didn’t get to say goodbye. But I did because we pulled up at Perth and we played up there, because I’d seen enough of Australia and they’d seen enough of me too. So then I was straight over to the Middle East and at that particular time my battalion, the 2nd/1st Infantry Battalion was fighting up in Libya, between

02:15:00:00

Bardia and Tobruk, so we were on the Nile, a very short time camped there, after we got off the Lizzie.
Ken, what was the Queen Elizabeth like, what was it like on board that trip over?
It was just enormous. I remember one day I found the swimming pool and went back to get my towel, and I was there for a couple of weeks before I ever found the swimming pool, so to give you – it was an enormous bloody thing. Yeah, there was twenty two thousand in the convoy.

02:15:30:00

We had no escort, we had three ships, the Lizzie [Queen Elizabeth], Mary and the Aquitania, and we had no escort because they travelled too fast for submarines. We had to go right out around the Arctic Circle and we had iceberg watches, but we got over there. Because you know, in the rough water submarines can't operate.
Before you had gone on board, how had you enjoyed the training?

02:16:00:00

Oh I loved it, I was like a bush boy and anything that – well I don't know, there were very few people, they were all volunteers, there was no conscription, well there may have been for the local militia but we were AIF [Australian Imperial Force], the imperial overseas force. No, I just loved it and I put everything into it. People, a lot of them go out on physical culture thing and are doing this and looking around, and I’d be putting everything into it.

02:16:30:00

I could feel myself developing you know, and I was putting on weight and really looking good. I wanted to make a success of it because everything I ever wanted to do I always felt second best. So, I put everything into it, and I was always a good shot because I came from the bush. I shot a brumby stallion when I was six year old, only

02:17:00:00

because he got in amongst the horses and Mum and Dad wasn't there, and I took the rifle down from the garage, and I went ‘bang’ and fell backwards. I got up and the brumby’s flown and gone, ‘Missed him, where is he?’ Next thing, I heard him groaning and I went over and I shot him, he was there with the station mares, because he had to be shot, see. Anyway, that’s a long way back in the Gulf. Yeah, so I just loved it and I used to put everything into it. I liked it, and I never had any real regrets about the army whatsoever, apart from getting some problems later

02:17:30:00

on, and malaria, I had a lot of bad trouble and things.
What's the thing you remember most about the training?
Going on leave I think, and giving the girls a bit of a thrill. I used to go dancing every night and training all day and, you know, you had to be fit didn’t you?
Fit for the dancing or fit for the training?
Now I was pretty good at both, I think, I

02:18:00:00

don’t know how I stood up to it, but anyway I was still only going on close to nineteen, no, eighteen and a half, that’s right, I had my nineteenth birthday in the desert. Yes, there was another great lot of thing, but the infantry work was more or less rifle work and digging trowels and bayonet charges and throwing grenades around and a lot of that tripe. Today

02:18:30:00

it’s pretty irrelevant in the college you’ve got now, you’re killing them without seeing them. In those days you had to see them before you could kill them. But I took it very seriously, and particularly there was so much in the First World War with bayonet work, and I used to watch a lot of the people that were in the army with me that weren't as physically fit or capable, and I thought to myself, ‘How are these fellas going to get on with

02:19:00:00

the big Germans? They're trained.’ And I thought, ‘I’m going to live, I’m going to survive, and I’m going to do this as good as anyone else.’ I used to put so much into it that I was pulled out as an example to show the other fellas. It wasn't intended, I was always a bit vain, ok, I knew that, but by the same token I wanted to leave and I wanted to be me. And if there were any decisions down the track – I knew I had a problem getting a commission, pips, education –

02:19:30:00

they looked for educated people. If you wanted a skilled teacher or a bank Johnny or someone like that, they’d sort of think, ‘Well – ,’ and my way of thinking was not terribly important, the important thing was that if you could set an example and could control men and have men like you, that was more important. But then the army had their own ideas about that. Later on I was proved right, because fellas that were

02:20:00:00

deemed to be unfit for commissions were grabbed up for officers and turned out to be our best officers, you know. But that’s the way it went, but I got to a sergeant.
Had you made any special friends during training?
Oh yeah. I had some very good friends, and not all of them came back either, unfortunately. Some of the most –

02:20:30:00

I lost one or two in the Middle East – I never really lost them but, they were mainly bush people, and the 2nd/1st Infantry Battalion was a Sydney battalion, they were Sydney fellas, hoons and that sort of stuff, never thought you’d ever make a soldier out of them. They’d never seen a – you know, didn’t know what end of a rifle to point. But it’s amazing what training and that sort of stuff, how they developed later on. I used to look at them and say, “I can remember when that fella first came in. I thought,

02:21:00:00

‘What the bloody hell are we using – what are we going to make out of him?’” and they turned out very responsible soldiers. Also, if they didn’t, they probably didn’t fire on them. I knew people that went in one day and dead the next, sort of stuff. And others went in and went right through, that’s the way it was.
How did you come to make those friendships?
Well my case was, as I said, was a Sydney battalion, but there were just a few of us that

02:21:30:00

came from the bush. Me, accidentally from Queensland, another fella was at Goondiwindi, he was a – I don’t know what he was, he was a bit darkish, Billy Jenkins. He and I became great mates, and he was a horseman and I was a horseman. A couple of other fellas we met, there were some farmer fellas from – Gusty Widebourne was another bloke, a little bit older than me. They reckoned that he and I should have been brothers to look at us, I couldn’t see it. He was well educated and I wasn't, and they ended up

02:22:00:00

throwing two pips at him and he ended up becoming an officer. But Billy Jenkins, and then there was another fella, Tommy O’Brien, he was from down central New South Wales, on a farm. He and I became very, very, very close friends, and unfortunately he’s up in Kokoda, pushing up kunai grass – he’s been there for a long time now. There was just a few like that, but there were other city boys too that, we forgot the bush and they forgot the

02:22:30:00

city and we sort of became great mates. But they were very close friends, you know, you are very close. In the infantry, they’re different to other parts of the army I always think because you're so dependant on one another, in war situations and in peace situations and on leave situations you're terribly dependant on one another, and that makes you so much closer than some of the other services.

02:23:00:00

The air force blokes told me the same story, apart from their own crew, they never sort of always together, they were always shuffled around, they never got really close, but the infantry you got really close. You dug trenches, you know, to save you and your mates, and often dead. You’d carry a bloke out if he’s wounded, and he’d do the same, that sort of stuff. That made you so much closer.

02:23:30:00

At the time you don’t realise it, but it’s a part that’s got to be, and it always was. They were my mates mainly, well you didn’t just help your mates, everyone was your mate I suppose. Some of the officers were a pain in the proverbial, but anyway, most of them were only doing their job.
When you left Australia for the Middle East, how well prepared did you feel you were to go to war?
Oh I thought I was just raring to go. We got over there and they said the Italians were coming down there and

02:24:00:00

were going to take Cairo, and I said, “It’ll be over my dead body.” And it nearly was too, I’ll tell you. But we were very well trained for that type of war – today it’s probably not, you know. We were very well trained, and obviously we must have been very well trained because I think in the first week we went in to join (Meb’s Battalion UNCLEAR) and we took twenty thousand prisoners. Fortunately they were against the

02:24:30:00

Italians, and the Italians didn’t want to fight, and they were all nice blokes, most of them didn’t want to fight. The singers started to sing Ave Maria and that, and they done that pretty well too.
What were your thoughts, as you were leaving Australia, as to what might happen in the future?
The future was just over the ocean, that was my future. I never looked any further than that. When you're eighteen you're a kid, you know – nearly nineteen.

02:25:00:00

No, you're still a kid, you don’t, you never thought of anything like that. I thought there were a couple of girls behind, I thought, ‘The bloody Yanks are going to get them.’ And they did, good luck to them. I ended up with the one that I didn’t know I was going to get and it was the best thing that ever happened to me, my life was complete.
Had you met Audrey before you left Australia?
It’s strange to say,

02:25:30:00

when I told you about coming back to see my father, she was still going to All Hallows [school] in Brissy [Brisbane] school, she was seventeen or something. She was on the same train along with some other kids and of course she was only seventeen and I was still only eighteen and half. So she was on the train too but I never took much notice, she was a long skinny kid.

02:26:00:00

But there was something about her, and she was asking questions a bit, you know like you did. Some other kids were sort of playing up and on around, and she and I sat and we talked a lot, and she was a nice girl. It was a funny thing, I never sort of noticed her back in Dirranbandi where her mother and father, and she was the one and only daughter. I thought, ‘That girl, she’s a pretty plain child,’ I thought, and she was, particularly in her uniform.

02:26:30:00

So anyway, we – no, she went away to school again for the last year I think it could have been, yeah, probably. Then when I came back from the Middle East, now I was not – I sort of forgot about her, you know, pebbles on the beach everywhere.

02:27:00:00

Anyway, then I went up to New Guinea ...
Before we go on there, we’ll just go back to your arriving, if you don’t mind, arriving in the Middle- East. What were your first impressions of what you saw there?
Yeah, you're right. Well the first thing, I looked at something and I said, “God, there’s some big ant hills,” these sort of things, “back in Australia, but there was never one as big as that bugger over there.” That was the

02:27:30:00

pyramids. And I remember a bloke, we were sitting on a truck going up to the desert and there was another young fella sitting near me, and he said, “Get on them, Banksy,” – he came from out western New South Wales – , “Get on them, Banksy. They're the biggest bloody ant hills I’ve ever seen.” And that poor bugger, it was three days after I think, he was killed. I don’t think he was eighteen, he looked a real little kid, a freckly faced kid from out west somewhere, Burke

02:28:00:00

or Broken Hill or somewhere. I’ve been back to see them and they're in the same place and they don’t look much different. That was one of the first things I’ve seen, and I was back there the year before last and I’ve seen them again, I done a trip up the Nile, you know.
Do you remember what your thoughts were when you first arrived in the Middle East?
You think in another sixty years you’ll remember what your thoughts were today?

02:28:30:00

Or what you were feeling, you know, just the sort of impression of this place that was so different from where you'd come from?
Oh yeah, that sort of thing, is a different world totally over there. No sheep or horses or cattle or pretty girls, or getting around. Men wore frocks and the girls wore things over their faces,

02:29:00:00

except when they wanted to glad-eye you. Yeah, and of course there was just sand and sand and more sand. At that particular time, I don't know what the population was but when I was over there the other day it was more people lived in Cairo than lived in the whole of Australia, eighteen million lived in Cairo and they haven't got one since we’ve nearly been in the whole place, and that speaks a bit.

02:29:30:00

I can't think any more. We went up and they put us on a train, actually I’ve got a picture of the train and the mob that went up there, the day before we went into action they took a photo of some of us, most of us. Just someone took the photo, I ended up coming by it later on, and found it in a book, and I’m in it, in the background.

02:30:00:00

Where did you first set up camp in the Middle East?
It was in the Nile delta there somewhere, and I can't remember the name of it. There’s just a few places that I can recall the names of – we moved about pretty quickly. Later in Palestine, I can remember quite a few of the names there, and up in the Gaza area. Then of course, before I got to there, I had quite another very exciting part

02:30:30:00

of my life was, anyway, we went up the desert first, we’ve got to fight that fight, win that war, or lose or whatever. But with me, after we took Tobruk, which was not a real big deal, we took plenty of prisoners and took a lot of guns and things like that.
Can you tell us a little bit about that battle and what happened there?
It was sort of a pretty – it’s pretty hard to really nail in. I was very

02:31:00:00

disappointed there was no bayonet charges, you know, I thought I was going to be in this bayonet charge thing but there was none of that, the Italians could run faster than we could, so we couldn’t catch them, and when we caught them they had their hands up with the white flag and singing Ave Maria, and of course you can't bayonet a bloke doing that, can you? They were lovely people and they still are, and I’ve been to Italy and those places, they’re lovely people, the Italians, and I’m pleased that I didn’t have to be too destructive. Anyway, it was a sort of a pretty mobile sort of a thing,

02:31:30:00

we were moving around pretty fast getting over the ground. Not much static digging holes and that, just get them dug and sit in comfort and, “Come on, up,” and away you’d go again. As long as we were going in the right direction it didn’t matter. So after Tobruk, I think it was a week before, I tried to get the records, it’s not important here, we were outside Derna, not that far out of Derna, back towards Tobruk

02:32:00:00

moving towards Derna. We were getting a bit of a touch up, mainly from the German Stuka dive bombers they’ve got coming over, you know, making it comfortable for us, and a bit of artillery. I remember this particular place and we dug a trench, me and three other fellas. Anyway, mainly because of these dive bombers, they came in and, ‘Rrrr’, you could feel them going down, a bomb down the back of your shirt, just about.

02:32:30:00

So I can remember this particular time there, sitting around there and this Stuka was flying around trying to pick us, and Stukas were around everywhere trying to pick us. He decided to try and pick on Banksy’s bloody slit trench, so I’ve seen him wheel around and he’s coming in and I can see him. I thought he was going to land in the trench with me, but anyway, he decided he’d drop a big bomb. Fortunately the bomb landed

02:33:00:00

just on the other side, like you dig a trench and you put all the dirt in your parapet, and it hit there and blew the whole trench over on top of us, and filled the whole thing in. The next thing I knew was a terrific ringing and concussion or whatever, and I was buried under dirt and sand. But I was still sitting up, and I can still remember feeling the suffocation thing. I suffered claustrophobia since that of course. But anyway,

02:33:30:00

I passed out, and the next thing I knew, because I was sitting up in the slit trench, and the other fellas are right down, because they got blown right down, I don't know, they were three fellas. They hit me, the tin hat, and fortunately this tin hat had fallen over my face and that’s why I hadn't quite suffocated. So they got me out and I can just remember a little bit of what was going on. They put me on an ambulance and I went back somewhere. Concussion was the

02:34:00:00

biggest problem. So then I found myself back in Alexandria in a hospital. I came to there properly, but unfortunately these three mates of mine, they were too late, they were buried. When they dug them out they were dead – they're buried up there. When I went back there I went and saw their graves, the year before last. Anyway, that’s where I was, that was the end of the desert for me.

02:34:30:00

I ended the Italians and Ave Maria and, you know, and Gracie Fields singing Ave Maria – wherever you went there was bloody Ave Maria – you were humming it all the time. The food was terrible, we were living on this tinned beef and army biscuits, and that sort. I said, the same as everything else, “If this is what I need to survive, I’ve got to get to like these.” And I used to, and the people would say, “What are you eating?” and I’d say, “Army” – “God, how can you?” And I used to get them and I’d chew them. I got them and, just like people smoking cigarettes,

02:35:00:00

I’d be chewing an army biscuit. Because I knew that all the ingredients were in there to keep me going, and they did. Anyway, have we finished with the desert?
No, not yet.
I’ve got a lot more to go.
I know we do, but we’ve got a lot of time. Can you tell us a little bit more about what happened with the Italians and when they surrendered?
Oh, yes, there’s things in there that I’d forgotten. I can remember

02:35:30:00

that there was one lot of prisoners that we took, and I think by that time we’d had some casualties and sergeants were a bit thin on the ground, and they packed another stripe and I was a sergeant – not too bad at eighteen and a half, and I hadn't shaved. I remember one same bloke saying to me, “Banksy, you better start shaving or they’ll start querying your age.” And I was ‘Rrrr’ every day, clean shave. I couldn’t grow a mo [moustache] of course, I didn’t have any hair.

02:36:00:00

I remember these fellas, and there must have been six hundred, I think, of these Italians, and I was a sergeant and we only had about four or five of us carrying rifles around. Actually, the Italians come around and carry your rifles for you. I remember this officer, this young Italian, and you could see he’d been educated in England, and he said, “Excuse me, can I spoke to you, sergeant?” “Yeah, right mate, what do you want?” He said, “Do you know where we’re going?” I said, “You’re just going back to some prisoner of war compound,”

02:36:30:00

I don't know where, it was somewhere in Egypt I suppose. “You might think this is a strange question to ask. Will we be given wine when we get there?” I said, “What? They wouldn’t give us bloody wine.” He said, “Oh, don’t tell these prisoners, these friends of mine. They’ll bail up, they won’t go back.” I said, “No, you can't get wine.” He said, “We’re not going anywhere, we can't get wine.” I said, “Oh, you’ll probably get plenty of wine.” He said,

02:37:00:00

“I don’t think so, but I won’t tell them.” I can remember that, and I thought that was quite funny. And he said, “They’re very placid, they’re very happy. They think they're going to get a nice camp. They like Australians.” The others, the English, and there was a lot of Indians who were really pretty cruel. There were good soldiers but no mucking around. They gave the Iti’s [Italians] a bit of a touch up, given them a lot too, rather unnecessarily I think.

02:37:30:00

But anyway, they were our mates sort of thing, you know. “Yeah, I know some Itis back where I come from, they're good fellas,” and all that. But we weren't very rapt about the Germans, but it turns out they're good people too. But anyway, we discovered then that they had plentiful

02:38:00:00

wine, Mussolini made sure they had plenty of wine. They had great storage and they showed us where the wine was and we were having parties together, that’s where I learnt to sing Ave Maria. Later on, getting back to them after we came back from the Middle East, the prisoner of war compound there at Port Tufic, and they used to send these prisoners out to clean their camps and that sort of stuff, and we

02:38:30:00

used to buy English beer, cartons of it, tinned stuff – oh, terrible stuff. But anyway, these fellas would come, these prisoners of war would come down and clean and, “Come in here, Tony, you drink this.” Oh yeah, and the next thing they’d be full of that and we’d be singing songs, and when the Pommys would come back to take them back to the compound, we used to have to lift these guys up and put them in the back of the truck. “He’s my mate, goodbye Aussie.” That’s the way it was, that particular part of it,

02:39:00:00

because they didn’t want to fight. Some of them talk English, “We don’t want to fight you, we don’t want to fight anybody. We want to make love and to sing songs.” Lovely people.
How did it affect you being in a situation where you were actually fighting these people who you thought were quite friendly, and you liked?
Well, if they’re shooting at you that made a difference, didn’t it? Most of them,

02:39:30:00

you know, if they were pulling the trigger or if they were pointing a rifle at you, and chucking grenades at you, and things like that. No, everyone’s a soldier, some are a little bit more conscientious about what they do.
But you developed quite friendly relations with the Italian POWs [Prisoners of War]?
Oh yes, buy beer for them and give it to them when they came out. But even when they were prisoners of war coming back,

02:40:00:00

if they were walking past you’d give them a bit of a wink and wave. They’re not used to that sort of stuff, all their enemies always been, you know, Germans and things like that, and conscientious about how they were trained. But the Italians weren't, most of them, they told me that we were fortunate in so much as the standing Italian army, they were

02:40:30:00

brainwashed and they were different. But the ones we had were conscripts, the ones we were fighting. They didn’t want to fight anyway, you know. So we were probably lucky in having those sort of people, they said if we had’ve distracted some of the other Italians that were very long trained and well trained and conscientious, you’d have been in a different situation that you found yourselves in. It could have been. I found that with the English too, the Poms, the standing army fellows were very strict

02:41:00:00

and very one-eyed, and a lot of the fellows over there that we talked to, they were more or less volunteer con [conscript] blokes that were not full-term soldiers, and they were easier to get along with. But the other fellas were a bit superior to us Aussies, and they probably might have been too, but of course you don’t like to be told, do you?

02:41:30:00

End of tape
Interviewee: Kenneth Banks Archive ID 2008 Tape 03

03:00:33:00

How difficult was it being much younger than the other men?
I didn’t feel that at all because I always had, I don’t know, it might have been a superiority complex. When I first went into the army with – I don't know if you understand this, but bush people think that they're better than city people, for a good reason.

03:01:00:00

It could have been that.
Why is that?
I thought that a lot of people that went into the army with me were sort of still pretty peculiar in their thinking, and as a result of it I probably felt that I was better.
What about sex education? Did the army teach you about sex or venereal disease?
Well we got plenty of that when we got over to the Middle East,

03:01:30:00

the venereal thingo, almost kept me a virgin, but didn’t. No, discard that. Yeah it was very prominent over there in the Middle East, there was so much of it. But they had the means to cure it, very cruel means, and that was to put a scare into a lot of them. It never got caught twice, anyway. But they

03:02:00:00

used to supply us with all the paraphernalia to protect yourself.
Were you surprised, did you come into contact with brothels and were you surprised at that?
Yes, a lot, really. Yeah a lot, because places, they didn’t have the usual sort of places like hotels that you could go and that sort of stuff.

03:02:30:00

The first sort of – well the first one I went in, I didn’t have time, but down the track, I’m going to tell you very shortly about, a lot, and actually I suppose could have saved my life. But we used to, after a – no, I shouldn’t

03:03:00:00

go into that area, it’s just a little later. All that brothel thing, there was no scope for that sort of stuff, you read in areas where they have them or didn’t have them, the places where, some of the places I went were pretty religious and they were ostracised a little bit. But there was a lot of love-making going on. In some of those places, particularly in Palestine, there was lots and

03:03:30:00

lots of Russian Jews, German Jews and Polish Jews, and they all escaped to there, and a lot of them just with the clothes that were on them. A lot of the ladies, well not much scope for making money, so a lot of them did, you know. It wasn't professional, you’d meet them at a bar and that sort of stuff. They wanted the money of course, Jews want the money. That was sort of – I had a

03:04:00:00

girlfriend over – well I had her on Tuesday night and then I had her on Wednesday and Thursday, but anyway. She was very nice and we used to meet at a place called Rishon [Rishon LeZion] in Palestine – it’s pretty well mentioned now, there’s a lot of activity down there.
How different was she to the Australian women that you left behind?
Oh, well the language thing was a bit of a problem. But most of them could talk fairly good English, and they

03:04:30:00

were intelligent people and they could talk, when they used to talk about their escape and all that sort of stuff, and what they did before, most of them had come from very wealthy families. Were very wide awake and very much, very intelligent and articulate, conversationally compatible people. Well I thought that anyway, but I didn’t have a lot to do with them, I only knew the one lass.
How did you meet her?

03:05:00:00

Well, it was in a restaurant thing, and Rishon (or Rava UNCLEAR) or something, I can't remember now, one of those two places. We were in there drinking a few drinks and she was a barmaid actually. Yeah, anyway, we got to talking and she probably knew I was eyeing her over saying, “Hi,” and I was probably the best looking of an ugly group. I don’t know how it came about,

03:05:30:00

but she knocked off and I asked her if she wanted to come and have a coffee at the table, and sat at the table there and got to talking. I asked could I meet her again next week, or whenever it was, and she stipulated Tuesday – I think I was her Tuesday. I wonder if I had’ve said Wednesday, she would have gone, ‘I can't do that.’ No, she mightn’t have been, but anyway, that was the situation. Yeah, so that’s how I really got to know her.

03:06:00:00

I wouldn’t have been up there that long, probably four times I suppose, three or four times at the most. But she was a very nice person.
Do you remember the very first time you were in a conflict?
Yes, it was a very mobile sort of a thing. We were very sort of – actually it was an attack in the morning and we went and were all ready and lined up

03:06:30:00

and we made this early morning attack – it was very early. The thing I can remember about it, we had the Black Watch with us, and they were Scottish and they had bagpipes. When the attack went over a certain time and they fired the very shots and we had to move forwards, the old forty and eighty traditional thing. I suppose the Italians thought, ‘Pretty, eh?’ all these things going up in the air. Next thing

03:07:00:00

they knew there was a glint of sunlight on the bayonets coming through and the bagpipes, and of course there’s nothing more rousing than the bagpipes. It’d kill God if he turned up and looked nasty at it. No, that was my very first introduction, and the next thing we knew there was a big lot of white flags everywhere. “What are those?” and they said, “Surrender.” “Oh, no we haven't had a fight yet.”

03:07:30:00

What was your job in that?
I was a sergeant connected with a certain section, and give them orders that nobody took.
They didn’t take the orders?
Oh yeah, I suppose they did but most of them knew it. I don't know what I did, I was just there. I was sort of looked upon to make decisions that nobody else wanted to make, I suppose. All sergeants have to do that, and the officers unfortunately were sort of –

03:08:00:00

at that particular point in time I thought they were less talented at wars and that sort of thing than the sergeants were. They were keeping, well I suppose they had their job to do, but they weren't out in the front sticking their necks out either but some of them did later on.
How did some of the other men react on that first day? Did you see people afraid?
Say that again?

03:08:30:00

Were there other young men that were afraid to go out on the first day?
Afraid? If they were – and most of us were – it wouldn’t have showed. Oh not, don’t do that. The Americans do but not the Australians. No, you'd never admit to that. Well it’s not afraid, it’s a – how do you put it? –

03:09:00:00

you know that someone’s going to die and you’re not terribly too sure if it’s you or not. But you hope that if it happens, that it happens quick and it’s not a big maim job or something like that. That’s what you hope for, I think. They might be my thoughts, but you didn’t say, ‘How did you feel, Jack, about that?’ ‘Great mate, great!’ He’d be sitting there, ‘Mrrr.’ It’s a funny old world isn't it?
Do you remember the first

03:09:30:00

experience of someone dying around you?
Oh yeah. It happened that morning, there were bullets flying around and people going down, and I thought, ‘Not him,’ and things, you know, had had it or not had it. Or you needed to call for an ambulance or stretchers to come back but you knew there was still plenty of lead flying around and you had to keep your head down, zig when they were zagging,

03:10:00:00

or you could be the next. Yes, and time went on, it was pretty commonplace to go around picking up the wounded and the dead and that sort of stuff. You just hope that they weren't your mate in most cases – or not your real close mate. You always had three or four really special fellas, and we were very fortunate with those in that particular case, and then I lost three of them in a row in the slit trench I told you about. They

03:10:30:00

were pretty close mates too.
How did you all end up together in the slit trench, were you digging yourself?
Well, we were in there because these dive bombers were getting around, the German Stukas, and whilst there was no attack going on, it was sort of a static situation. Regrouping I suppose you could say, yeah, regrouping, that these Stukas were coming over and making life a bit miserable for us. That’s how we were there,

03:11:00:00

I mean, when they were out and in the open and get out of the way, and you weren't really in an action situation, so you sat in the slitty [slit trench] and had a yarn, watch these blokes go around, “Oh, he’s gone – no he’s not, he’s gone that way around, he’s right. Some poor bugger over there is going to cop it.” But they were a big troop, that was, because we were safe and we didn’t have any real air force to protect us, very little.

03:11:30:00

They were in the party, they were, and that was their job, doing a good job for Herr Hitler, and they were very professional pilots.
Do you remember how long it was from when you were bombed to when you managed to get out of the slit trench?
No, they pulled me out.
Oh, you were unconscious at that point.
I can remember certain little things, I can remember trying to tell them that

03:12:00:00

there were other blokes with me. No, I was sort of in and out of consciousness all the time. But the terrible, terrible feeling of that was, and I thought, “This is it,” I was suffocating, and there’s nothing worse than suffocating. It’s a terrible thing, and that’s why I’ve got claustrophobia today and I’ve got to sleep with the windows wide open.

03:12:30:00

I’ve travelled overseas and there’s situations there where you could go down – I remember we were in Scotland and there was a Scottish night they had in Scotland and we went on looking forward to this Scottish night. I’ve been to an Irish night before and it was wonderful. We went to a Scottish night and it was way, way down under a castle. I got about half way down and it grabbed me, I couldn’t go. I said, “I can't go.” I sat there for quite a long time and a couple of them brought me up

03:13:00:00

two or three whiskeys or something, and I slowly got down and joined them. And then out on my cattle property there used to be a mine that used to go underneath my property for several kilometres. I can remember they were always trying to get me down to show me down. I used to think, ‘Yeah, I’d love to go down there.’ And then this thing would start to come over the top of me and I would just get this claustrophobia thing. There’s lots of cases –

03:13:30:00

of being in a crowd and it’s a bit tight around me, I have to stop myself from panicking. It’s terrible.
Today, what do you remember about that feeling of suffocating?
Not a very nice feeling. I thought, ‘This is the way you die when you suffocate, I suppose.’ Of course you're in there and there’s nothing you can do, you're covered with dirt and you can't move. You're just there, you're blocked in there, sand and dirt and you don’t know how

03:14:00:00

far it is. But anyway, they dug down and luckily they hit the tin hat sticking up over my face, and it’s the only thing that saved me, the tin hat – I used to hate those things. There was no protection, they would sit on top of your head and the Germans had ones that would come right down under here. The Pommies had this one, it was a terrible thing, I always had a headache from it. But after that, I thought it was great. They said that’s what saved me, and it probably would have to have been, because I would have sucked in all the dust into my nose. But I was apparently, I still had enough sparks in me.

03:14:30:00

So there you go. So I was half lucky, a little bit of each. It could have been half unlucky to have got into the situation, and half lucky to have survived it.
Did you want to go home after that experience?
No. Why? What would you want to go home for? That’s a funny question for you to ask that question.
I just think it would have been so painful?

03:15:00:00

It’s not painful, it’s just frightening, terribly frightening. There’s no pain in it at all, apart from the ringing of the ears, and the concussion. I was a bit nervy for a while but I was back in hospital for – I can't even tell you on that score. Slowly I sort of, well when I started, slowly into it, but then when I started to pick up I wondered what they were keeping me for.

03:15:30:00

Eventually they let me back to join the unit. I thought I was pretty good by then, I was pretty good, they’d done a good job. All I needed was no medical thing, medication, just peace and quiet and good tucker. The nursing sisters were looking after us real well, I was nothing – there were people around who’d lost their legs and arms and an awful mess, you know.

03:16:00:00

So I was, ‘What am I doing here? I shouldn’t be here.’ I was lucky.
What do you remember of the hospital?
Oh it was just canvas, a canvas big tent. I can't even remember, it was pretty close to where it was. It was on the edge of the

03:16:30:00

delta, because you could look out to one side of it and see coconut palms, and look out the other side of it and see mountains of sand.
What happened after that, Ken? Where did you go from there?
Well, they discharged quite a few of us and we had to go back to our unit. I thought they were still up in the desert fighting because I heard no more about it. They sent us to a place called Mersa Matruh

03:17:00:00

on the Mediterranean coast. I’m not sure if it was on the Egyptian side or the Libyan side, but that’s about where it is, I’m pretty sure – it doesn’t matter. Anyway, they sent us there and there was a big staging camp and they were shuffling around. I discovered then that my battalion, division actually, had been pulled out of the desert and were in

03:17:30:00

Greece, fighting. So I thought, ‘What’s going to happen here?’ So they said, “All those people that belong to those units that’s in Greece, tomorrow we’ll get together and you’ll be shipped over there.” So I said, “That’s good, I’ll go and join my mates in Greece.” Anyway, they put us all in a ship, the Costa Rica – sometimes I can remember it and sometimes I can't –

03:18:00:00

they put the lot of us on to go over and join them, then they said, “There’s no point in taking you to Greece because the Germans are giving them a pretty good hiding over there, and they're pulling out and evacuating to a place called,” – not El Kantara, it doesn’t matter, it was right down the bottom end of Greece – , “and they’re coming back to Crete.” That’s where they were going to be offloaded, in Crete. “So we’re not going to take you any further, we’re going to drop you mob off in Crete.” So they took us to

03:18:30:00

a place called Suda Bay – it’s on the north-western end of Crete. They loaded us there, and in the meantime these boats are coming in from Greece with all these people that were escaping. It’s just one great bloody shemozzle, and I found out where my battalion was and it was great to see them. They were getting awful mourning, they were down to about two thirds, and a third was left behind, were prisoners of war or killed. So that was sort of

03:19:00:00

a, ‘Who’s alive and who’s not alive?’ sort of thing. I was out of hospital and was raring to go.
Were they surprised to see you again?
I don't know, I wasn't that popular that I would be missed, I don't think. I don't know what they said, but some of my mates, most of my mates, were there. One or two were taken prisoner.

03:19:30:00

Did you ever talk about the guys that were missing?
Oh, just together sometimes, we would have a few beers sometimes and say, oh you know, “It would be great for Larry to be here,” or Tom, Dick or Harry. “They’re probably having a better time where they are.” “I don't know, I think they’d be cooking.” “No, I don't think so, one bloke I know he’d be up there for sure.” Not talking – change the subject. But yeah, I can't really remember too much about that.

03:20:00:00

When you're gone, you're gone. Then they decided that they were going to put in a great stand in Crete, so anyway we all sorted ourselves out, and there was this battalion of New Zealand Maoris there, big, they were raring to go too. Their commanding officer was a bloke called General Freyberg, he was

03:20:30:00

half Maori too. He had a pretty good name, he’d been in the First World War I think, a good officer. So anyway, we set ourselves up in defensive mode if anything happened, and the next thing, the Germans are coming over in planes and parachuting. They were parachuting down mainly on aerodromes that were on Crete, and that’s sort of where we were camped, we were all sort of defending.

03:21:00:00

They were coming and parachuting out and we were just down there shooting them out of the air. It was a terrible thing that was happening, but they didn’t have a hope, they were dangling in the parachutes and that and not many hit the ground alive. So we were winning and that was great, and then they kept coming, more and more. The next thing we knew, these big gliders, they used to put them out in gliders and they'd glide across loaded with Germans.

03:21:30:00

We had a lot of fun with them, but then they must have thought, ‘This is stupid, landing where they are. We’ll land them somewhere.’ So they started to drop them off at other places away from us, and they were established, they had communication back to Greece. We realised that we were getting outflanked by these Germans. They were just in their thousands, you know. We didn’t have such big numbers because we lost so many in Greece, the division had.

03:22:00:00

It was then that we realised that they were getting the better of us again, and so we had another evacuation on our hands then. So they said we’d have to evacuate, we can't do it from Suda Bay or that area, because the Germans had more or less taken over that area by then. The only way was forty miles across a part of Crete, to a place, ‘Alakajakan’ or something. They had to go across, march across,

03:22:30:00

but they had to put up a rear guard, these Maoris, a lot of those and a lot of others selected as the rear guard. The rear guard would keep the Germans, or the enemy, back while the others were escaping. And I can't remember, it was suggested that because I had

03:23:00:00

missed the Grecian thing and felt a bit guilty, suggested that I volunteer to be in it. I was at that age and I was that silly, and I thought it was probably my duty too. So I ended up with that mob, along with some of the other battalion boys. We didn’t really know what we were letting ourselves in for but we were promised that when we got over there, we held them back, that there would be a boat to take us off. “Oh, yes that will be good.”

03:23:30:00

So I think it was about forty-odd miles we crossed, and up until then my war had been a pretty easy war, you know. But these were the Germans and crack troops, and we were sort of fighting rearguard action. We put on a very good show, we were jut holding them back all the time. I’d never been in a real war until then, this is where people were really dying – good, both sides, good soldiers from both sides

03:24:00:00

were really dying. We had a timetable to get these divisions to, and they were going straight over to Egypt, see, in the Mediterranean. You know your geography pretty well? So anyway, we held them back and lost a lot, a lot were wounded and we kept on keeping them back. When we eventually got over there, we were buggered.

03:24:30:00

Food had run out and the ammunition was just about finished. We thought we’d done a good job, and we had, but when we got there, the last of them were still to go. We put up a big stand against the Germans and really got a big slaughtering there. So when they got the boat, they got off, our boat was there but only the mast was sticking out of the water and that was not much use to us. So we went down to the beaches and looked out over the sea. Egypt’s over there and that’s freedom

03:25:00:00

and not for us. So we sat down on the ground and we were out of tucker and the Germans realised that we had no hope. They had wounded they hadn't buried, and we had wounded that we hadn't buried, and bugger-all food and they didn’t have much either, I don't think. There was half a dozen of us there and we didn’t know each other much prior to that

03:25:30:00

but we were sort of together there. Someone suggested that we’re going to starve to death, the Germans, they’ve got no tucker and the villages, the Cretians were very good to us, they were very simple poor people, very religious, and very volatile people too, the men. Anyway, and the women were lovely, anyway, we decided we’d go up in the village in the hills and get some food if we could,

03:26:00:00

and six of us went. There was one fella, somehow along the line he was a Greek and he’d been a freedom fighter in Albania against the Italians. He was eighteen months to twenty months or something older than me – by the way I was nineteen – the army had me down as twenty because I put my age up, see. I was nineteen and a sergeant and the others were just privates, the other five blokes. But this Albanian bloke,

03:26:30:00

his name was something like Spiros Papadopoulous, that’s as near as I can get to it, I think that was probably it, but because we thought we decided that somewhere just about then, or somewhere just a bit later, we’d become number one, two, three, four, five, six, and we looked at

03:27:00:00

Papadopoulous and we said, “Plus one,” and so we called him ‘Plus One’. That’s what we went under, and it’s handy this way, and these people did give us food and that sort of stuff, which was only predominately – they had goats. It takes me back to Turruleroy and the goats and, you know, milk and whatever. Of course we never complained about the food, we were hungry, and they gave us cheeses and bread and milk, and roast goat.

03:27:30:00

That was good, so we decided then that, bugger that, this was good, the girls were pretty. “We’re not going to go back there to the Germans and surrender,” because it was only a matter – they were coming in. We were actually in a situation that we were prisoners of war, we couldn’t go anywhere. That’s your prison out there, you can't swim and you can't get back through us. But you could get up the hills, I didn’t think you could do that. So we wandered a bit there, and they looked after us and they pushed us back another couple of villages safely.

03:28:00:00

They were lovely little villages on Crete, it was a pretty place but they were very poor, and the villages were small and, you know, stone houses and plenty of goats. Rocky and rough and mountains, and where that wasn't, there was – what do they call those trees? Green things, you eat them?
Olives?
Yeah, olives – there were olive trees everywhere,

03:28:30:00

and that was a great saviour because they protected us, the olive trees, from the air force and the mountains and the Germans. So anyway, then we discovered there was a force of Cretian guerrillas – you know what guerrillas are? So anyway, we located them and they were only too happy to have us. We were terribly lucky in having Plus One because he could talk mobs of languages, but he had some difficulty with them

03:29:00:00

because they were village people. But they were happy to have us and we were happy to have them. We were trained troops and they had old funny old rifles and things and didn’t have any idea. But they were very ambitious about they were going to protect their country and we joined them. So we stayed with them and fought with them, and they were very bright in so much as they didn’t wasn't to go in and win a war – their idea

03:29:30:00

was to ambush. To sit down all day and wait for the German trucks to go past, and they were too big a targets, and we just sort of pick our targets and get in and do them over. Get food and that, and ammunition or whatever, back to the hills again, see. It was good, and we got away with that for quite a while – there were somewhere between thirty and forty of the Cretians, and they all had black beards. Most of them were young you know, and I

03:30:00:00

still hadn't started to shave properly.
Did they know that you were Australians?
Oh yes, of course.
What did they know of Australia?
They didn’t even know where it was. They thought there was only one place in the world, and that was the Mediterranean, everywhere else was nowhere, just like the moon. So anyway, we sort of went very well until the Germans got lucky.

03:30:30:00

We ran ourselves into a trap, we thought we were safe and sound, and the next thing we knew there were bloody Germans everywhere. They cleaned out just about half the force, my three mates, and left us with three. All killed thank God, because there were no – the only medical thing people had was to go back to the village and they hid them so that the Germans couldn’t find them, and they treated them

03:31:00:00

or whatever. Of course, when they found that anyone had been shot or wounded, the village was in trouble. They were good that way, they would feed us. Of course the Germans’ air force were looking for us all day and their army had patrols out looking for us too, because we never stayed in the one place, we had to be moving all the time. So that’s what we were doing.

03:31:30:00

Every village used to – for food and stuff, most of the food was brought to us by Grecian ladies, or wives, or young – had to be physically fit because they had to climb half the bloody mountain just to get to us. A lot of very pretty unmarried ones, and I noticed that too so, “Great, this is a good war.”

03:32:00:00

We were going great guns, and after that one big battle where we lost our two top leaders, two Grecians and they were smart blokes, we sort of inherited a couple of blokes that were not happy with what was going on before, but you always get someone that was not happy, but no-one that sort of contradicts the fellas, not always, but anyway, they became out leaders. Their problem was, and I had noticed it before,

03:32:30:00

a lot of time when we were near villages, we went into villages at night, they used to make drink and grog and had dancing going on, all that sort of happens, Adam and Eve stuff. It was a great life but it was a little bit too much, I thought we were drawing the crowds too much onto the villages. You would only need one person to speak out about it and trouble was created.

03:33:00:00

I knew that and this Plus One, he was a smart cookie, he and I, I never wore my stripes, no one else called me sergeant or anything like that, they just called me One, I wasn't Plus One, just One, or Ken sometimes, mainly for these other fellas, they didn’t know our name, couldn’t spell it, but they got to know us as One, Two , Three, Four , Five, Six – until there was only One, Two, Three, Plus One.

03:33:30:00

So anyway, we used to go down to these villages, and these fellas with whiskers and wild and bloody woolly, and I said that, “We’ve got to keep clean shaved.” I found it pretty handy, the girls used to come and. I remember Plus One said, “He’s a bum fluff,” and they used to call me Bum Fluff – but they didn’t know what bum fluff meant. I didn’t mind, I could

03:34:00:00

handle that.
Were the older women worried about you being around the younger women?
No, they were more than keen to have us than these volatile Cretians. Once they had a drink they were starting to want to fight, and we were a bit like the Itis – we didn’t want to sing but we wanted to make love alright. But then we were getting nowhere, the Germans were getting sort of, beating us most times. Mainly because of these two new leaders,

03:34:30:00

they didn’t have the qualities about them to do the, select the right targets and things like that. They used to – and because of these troubles that we were having, getting beaten, they started looking for excuses, these two leaders. They said, “There’s a traitor in our midst.” There was this traitor thing, they’ve always got to make an excuse,

03:35:00:00

there was a traitor. I said to Plus One, I said, “Do you think?” he said, “No, there’s no traitor.” He said that they were just trying to cover up for their lack of leadership, which was the fact. I said, “I’m concerned about us. There’s none of these fellas here. What’s his idea?” He said, “If they think he’s a traitor they take him in and shoot him.” I said, “No.

03:35:30:00

Gee, this is not good. I’m worried about that.” He said, “No, it’s not good.” They used to have meetings, and because Plus One could talk their English and I said, “No, you go along. It’s no good me going along, I don’t know what you're talking about,” he’d come back to me and he’d tell me. He came back with a face that long, he said, “Bad news, Banksy.” I said, “What?” He said, “They’ve made the decision that when they locate the traitor, or traitors are,

03:36:00:00

we have been detailed to take them away and destroy them, shoot them.” “Ohhhh.” He said, “I know how you feel.” “How are we going to handle that?” I said, “Do you think we make a dash?” and he said, “No. The moment we make a dash, they’ll know we’ve gone and they’ll run us down, and they’ll say, ‘They’re the traitor. We’ve destroyed them, shot them. They were the fellas, the Aussies and Plus One.’” He said, “We can't do that, they’re right onto us. The opportunity

03:36:30:00

will come.” I said, “You're right mate.” So anyway, then they had a bit of a thing with one big village that was pretty close to where, and it was pretty inaccessible for the Germans and that sort of stuff. They could get there but we knew they were coming every time. Then the

03:37:00:00

leaders, these two fellas and others there too, got the idea that we were getting too much attention from the better looking Cretian girls – I think they were right too. The difference was we were different in so much as we treated them as they should be treated, and were not so much beer and language and all that sort of stuff. We were pretty young,

03:37:30:00

very early twenties, and I was still nineteen. That was sort of, you know, and Plus One said, “Those girls, they like your shaven faces,” and that. “I realise that.” “Well, you’ve just got to be very careful because there’s a few jealous people amongst them,” amongst these Cretian guerrillas, these volatile fellas. They were very funny people. One thing I noticed about them, they made mistakes, everyone makes

03:38:00:00

mistakes and you sort of make a joke about it, and they’d laugh, they don’t do it twice. They don’t laugh the second time and they carry a knife. That’s the way they were, they would laugh the first time and after that …. Plus One, he just put me on to so many things and I thought, ‘How could we ever have got this far without him?’ There was a situation there that was very, I’ll never forget.

03:38:30:00

We’d been down, and I knew we’d been there too long in the village, played up too long, and I don’t know if it was someone in the village that wasn't happy with what was going on, and they might have told the Germans, it got back to the Germans. Anyway, we had been there that particular night and camped up the hill a bit, about half a mile or a mile up the hill. The next thing I heard, there

03:39:00:00

was a lot of noise going on, and of course they were a bit, you might have seen them on TV, they like to shoot in the air sometimes. I thought, ‘Not that time in the morning,’ so anyway, next thing, a kid comes gasping up to us and he’s telling me that the Germans have been in and are killing the people. There was about four hundred in the village. So anyway, daylight came and they had taken them all out, just about everyone that hadn't hidden and got away, and they were out in the street and shot dead. Dead – all these people that had been

03:39:30:00

so good to us. Straight away, I said that we had brought it on. Then we said – and the Germans were really coming in after us then, that was when Plus One said, and I said, “Yeah, right, when we make our break,” because the guerrillas that we were with, they were fully occupied and trying to save their own skin and get away, and they were dispersing everywhere, and we would get away together. There were four of us

03:40:00:00

and he knew a bit about the geography – I didn’t even know Crete was there up until the – . So anyway, he said that we’d make a break and he knew the best way. He’d never been in that island before but he knew a bit about it, and he said, “We’ll make a break for so and so.” It was over on the Turkish side of the island where a lot of trading boats are and that sort of stuff. He said, “We’ve got a hope that we can get away to the islands or somewhere,” and I said, “Well, if we can get to Turkey,” a neutral country, and he said,

03:40:30:00

“We should be able to do that if we get lucky.” So we went down. Anyway he poked around and he came back and said, “There's a boat in here, I’ve found out it’s fully fuelled up. It’s a pretty slow boat.” But he said, “I was talking to one of the crew,” and he told him the story, he was an ex-(UNCLEAR), or he used to cart different stuff, timber, island to island. It was a fairly lump of a job, slow. And he said, “I think it’s ripe for the taking if we can get down at night and can make your mind up, we’ll go aboard and just take over, hijack it.” That’s right, so.
Interviewee: Kenneth Banks Archive ID 2008 Tape 04

04:00:32:00

You’d just found the boat.
Yeah, right, we went down and that boat was there and so we, I don't know, I think it was about ten o'clock at night or something, and so we went aboard. The captain, and he had a crew of three, they were sound asleep, full of wine too I think, they didn’t know what was going on, they thought they were having a bad dream. We told them – Plus One, he could talk the language and he told them, “This is a hijack, get up and go.”

04:01:00:00

And with the help of a revolver or two in the ribs, they got up and went pretty quick and got sober pretty quick. So we started the old motor up and she chugged away. So, “Where do you want to go to?” and Plus One said, “Turkey.”
Ken, can I just ask you what happened to the guerrillas that were in Crete before you left? When you saw all the

04:01:30:00

villagers, where were the guerrillas at that point?
We were all camped when we were told about this and went down and seen the awful slaughter. Then we went back and we realised that the Germans were coming in force and they knew where we were. They went hell west and crooked, I don't know, I didn’t care, I didn’t see any of them any more. I can tell you more

04:02:00:00

about it down in this conversation later, I can tell you more about what happened, that’s a bit down the track. Back to the boat. Yeah, we got the old thing chugging away, she was a reliable old girl. So we got out into the Aegean Sea and islands everywhere – have you been over there? You ought to go there some time, it’s beautiful, but not as a prisoner of war, which I am, I always said I was an Australian prisoner of war

04:02:30:00

because back at Crete in the beginning we were prisoners. We hit out and a lot of little islands, and we came to a pretty big island. The captain bloke who owned the boat, it was just a one-decker sort of thing with a few cut timber and fuel and tar and road stuff, chugging about, very reliable old diesel, so we get out a fair way out and

04:03:00:00

we come to an island and he said, “Ok, Turkey!” and I thought, ‘Oh, gee, that wasn't long.’ My geography wasn't all that crash hot, so anyway Plus One is there, because he knew more about that and had come from that area. He said, “This isn't Turkey,” told him. Anyway, he was talking to the crew about it and

04:03:30:00

the crew told him that this captain that owned the boat had bought it in Turkey and forgot to pay for it, and there was no way in the world that he was going back to Turkey. He told me about it and I said, “Oh, well it looks like – what do we do?” So he said, this other fella said, “Drop us all some other place other than Turkey.” We were chugging around for, this is about the third or fourth day, and an Italian fighter plane came over and used to patrol around.

04:04:00:00

Anyone that was going to towards Greece was ok, if he was going towards Egypt you were shot up. We weren't sort of going one way or the other, we weren't too sure, so he shot us up. Of course we got down underneath the, and the crew are waving, that didn’t make that much – I wonder if this bloke had a few rounds to fire, and shot one bloke dead, and the other bloke was very badly wounded. So we went a burial at sea almost immediately, and the other bloke was very, he

04:04:30:00

needed attention bad. The captain said, John and Plus One were doing the talking, and Plus One said that he was prepared to take us to the Isle of Rhodes, which wasn't that far away, and that’s where the nearest attention would be to see to one of his crew, who happened to be some relation to the captain too. He was dead keen to have him treated. We

04:05:00:00

chugged on and got to the Isle of Rhodes, and this is the funny part about it, I can't remember the name of the place without checking the atlas, a very well known place. This is where Plus One comes from, this is his home territory. His parents had a trading post there, a pretty big trading post too. He let on to me that this is where his Mum and Dad are.

04:05:30:00

He didn’t tell me about the two pretty twin daughters, but I soon found out. We got this fella off, and to this day I don’t know whether he lived or died, but he was gut shot, and that’s not good, anyway, we never seen that boat any more, and went up and met Plus One’s parents. Met the daddio and he was crying

04:06:00:00

because his son had come home and his mother, you wouldn’t believe how, I [brought] her son home, you know. I was the greatest bloke of all times. And the two beautiful creatures, daughters of theirs, twins, you couldn’t tell the difference, that was a bit of a problem. Yeah, he’d been the black sheep of the family and him and Dad fell out and he went freelance fighting. He went to

04:06:30:00

help the Albanians against the Italians, that’s where he was, and the Italians eventually chased them, beat Albania, and he joined the Australians in Greece and then came over to Crete, and that’s where I met him, on Crete. All the way around he ended back up in his home. Then they really looked after us and the other two Aussies, set us all up, and of course we were pretty grumpy,

04:07:00:00

the clothes we were living in were chuck away stuff. They don’t chuck them away until they well and truly need chucking on Crete. And the boots were buggered and whatever, and we had a big clean up. We stayed there for the best part of a week I think. Plus One’s father could talk fairly good English, but the old mama could talk pretty good English too. The two daughters couldn’t, but that didn’t matter.

04:07:30:00

They really, really thought I’d brought their prodigal son home, and they looked after us real good, including the beautiful twin daughters.
What was his house like?
It was a double storey block, you know, like block, white block. His was better than most of the others because he was a trader in the town, he was like

04:08:00:00

a store keeper, all sorts of produce. In a pretty big way, he was probably in his own rights a pretty wealthy person and the people there.
Was Plus One happy to be home?
He was a strange person – what we went through together, he was never an up class mate. He didn’t

04:08:30:00

even give the appearance that he wanted to be thought to be one of us, he was his own man. He was still only twenty one, and he was always – I tell you who he reminds me of, not as big as him but, the Scud. He looked like him and everything, and the same

04:09:00:00

personality. Scud’s not a man’s man, he’s his own man. This fella was – as soon as I seen him on TV I thought, ‘Gee, that’s Plus One all over again,’ but Plus One was about a foot shorter. But that’s the sort of person he was, if you wanted to know what sort of person he was. It’s just the right sort of person that I needed to get me out of trouble. I have in my memoirs there, I’ve written him up a special page,

04:09:30:00

I thought he was worthy of a special page for what he’d done for us to get us out, and I believe that we would not be alive today without him. Perhaps he wouldn’t have survived without us. I had great, great faith in him. The strange thing, I’ve been back over there – I never went back to Crete but I’ve been to Greece,

04:10:00:00

I made some, I was quite a while in Greece on a holiday tour on me own – no, in a group, in one situation. I thought, ‘Well, I’ll see if I can find out if I can whatever happened to him.’ But too long, too late, whatever, I don't know if he left there and went back to the war or whatever. I never went to the Isle of Rhodes, and when I mentioned the name Papadopoulous, it was like Smith over there, it’s as common as common.

04:10:30:00

Spiros was like John, you know. They said, “Oh yes, we know him,” and all twenty eight around there knew separate Spiros Papadopoulous’s. Even one of their Prime Ministers was called something very similar to a Papadopoulous. You’re not Greek are you? You’re a bit like one of those twins, and they looked alike. They were fatter than you though, but they were cuddly. Anyway, so they decided, my plan was to get back to Turkey,

04:11:00:00

and Turkey was a neutral country and could get back through Turkey. Then of course Syria came and I was to get back through there, so they put us on a fast boat on sundown, the other two fellas and me, and we travelled and we landed on the Turkish coast at just a fishing village and dropped us off. We were all in good clothes, and a heap of currency, Turkish currency. So we set off then

04:11:30:00

to walk the distance to Turkey from west to east. That’s right, yeah, west to east. We did most of it, apart from a one little bus trip and it was too short, but the people sort of knew who we were and what we were. They were very fishermen people, very plain, common, generous people. They sort of looked after us, and we walked and walked, and I was only nineteen. But one fella

04:12:00:00

was about twenty four, an old fella at twenty four and he complained about the bloody long way. He kept up, he was no problem. So we walked all the way back through there and Plus One left, and when we got this bus and he pulled up and he hopped on and he said, “Down the back.” He knew we were escaped prisoners. Others had got back through Turkey but with different routes.

04:12:30:00

Of course the Turks are ok as long as you didn’t approach the officialdom, you know, if you were doing your own thing they’d leave you alone, but they were under an obligation, thinking that Germany might win the war. Anyway these fellas came in and we’re suppose to take them – I don't know what they’re supposed to take you for but they did have rights to hold you. But we just kept going, so we get right back to the

04:13:00:00

Turkish/Syrian border at Aleppo. So anyway, back along the track we had this money and we used to go into restaurants and buy tucker, and we had people looking after us in some of the bigger villages, some of the big good villages, towns they were, Turkish towns. And someone mentioned that when we went to a certain place, and he

04:13:30:00

was someone at a (UNCLEAR) or a manager or whatever, that we should go to so and so, this particular place. I kept that in my mind and so when we got to Aleppo, I located this place, and when I asked about they used to look at me with a bit of a grin. They’d say, “Yes, on there.”

04:14:00:00

“Oh,” so just down there and knocked on the door and it was a double storey sort of fashionable sort of house, and the next thing this lady comes out and we said that we were told to come here, and she grabbed me, “In here, up there. Stay up there.” It’s the brothel – so you wanted brothels now. So up we went, and she said, “You stay there.” So we stayed the night there, and in the meantime – we didn’t know but we were at war with Syria at that particular time.

04:14:30:00

I knew nothing about it, we’d been out of circulation for a long time, there was no newspapers thrown on my doorstep like they do here. Yeah, for war, so she came up and had a yarn to us, and she could talk fairly good English. She was a real Madam, and she had some beautiful girls there. The funny thing about it was, we were fighting the Vichy French at the time – or the Australians were – I didn’t know where we were, I didn’t even know where my unit was or anything, nothing. She couldn’t tell us much, and she said that they

04:15:00:00

were fighting in Damascus. I planned to go that way, so anyway she told us and we gave her all our Turkish money and handed all our Turkish money over and she gave us Syrian money. She told us where to go to the next place, and the next two places I can't remember the names of. They were only villages but they were brothels. We went from them to there, and they looked after us.
What was the first brothel like? Can you describe a little about how they operated?

04:15:30:00

Well, I didn’t go down there with a handful of money and say, “Are you girls vacant?” I stayed upstairs because the Vichy French officers, our enemy, were in there having the fun, and we were up there. A handful of money and nothing else. I can't tell you what was going on, I didn’t even go down to, but we were kept in that room up there and fed.
You said that she was a real Madam, what was she like?
Oh she was, well she looked like she was sort of –

04:16:00:00

I reckon she’d come from the bottom of the rank, the trade. She had a fair bit of jewellery hanging off her, and she had a long frock and pretty bosomy, and hardy – a face when you get a bit hard, like they often do I suppose. But she was very motherly with us because she would have been about sixty, and she sort of looked me straight in the eye

04:16:30:00

when she talked to me. I would be fidgeting around, you know. But then the next ones were sort of low-grade brothels and we didn’t have the trouble there of Vichy French officers. There just didn’t seem to be any other high grade places around, and business was pretty poor

04:17:00:00

I think. They were prepared to take our money, anyway.
So you were in a lower grade brothel you said?
Well, they were sort of village brothels I suppose, catering for the locals. But we had been warned, I think it was the original Madam, and she apologised for us not being able to use some of this money up.

04:17:30:00

And she also warned us, she said, “You’ll be going to a lot of brothels,” she didn’t tell us the reason why, but later I found out it actually had been already organised by intelligence, our intelligence is that these were the safe houses. She said that in other places, “You will find that they will have no money off you if you want to, but I warn you the place is rotten with venereal disease.” Of course, although there had been

04:18:00:00

army issues of the rubber stuff, we weren't carrying them. But me, being a pure young nineteen year old, wouldn’t even think about that. But the other fellas were sort of a bit put out. So that was a bit of a scary thing, but whether they did or they didn’t, they could have had the opportunity because we had open slather to get around and drink stuff. They had a lot of home-made terrible stuff. We mostly went to bed

04:18:30:00

a bit stupid.
So you’d never been with a prostitute?
What?
Had you had an experience with a prostitute before? Well, we’ve heard that a lot of men in that area had in that area, especially going into the Middle East, because there was quite a lot of the brothel experiences that happened at that time.
It’s just like another shop in the street in a lot of places.

04:19:00:00

No, there’s some things that I shouldn’t talk about.
It’s ok, we’ve heard lots of those experiences of men that have …
Well, I did say about the Russian Jew lass, and that was doing it for money actually, in the long run I suppose. Later on, after this and coming along – I’ll have to get along pretty quickly,

04:19:30:00

and jump pretty quickly now. When we went back to – am I on TV?
Yeah.
Well, you asked the question so I’ll answer it. When we, after, later than this when we got back into Palestine, we used to go on leave to Tel Aviv and those places there. The funny thing, the Jews weren't keen to have us in their places, but the Arabs were very good to us. The Jews sort of thought themselves a cut above us

04:20:00:00

but the Arabs were very good, and we used to go and drink in this like a club sort of stuff, and there was plenty of girls there. That was their business. I can't remember ever doing anything naughty, no, I’m sure I didn’t.
So travelling through, going from brothel to brothel, were you ever afraid, were you close to capture again? How did you know where you were going?
Well, we were dressed in, you know,

04:20:30:00

we actually made ourselves into a situation where we looked more like the Arabs and the Palestinians – the Syrians at least.
What were you wearing, can you describe it?
Just civvy clothes and most of all wearing a black coat and trousers, I don't know what kind, and dirty boots, and some sort of thing pulled over your head. We never walked together the, we did a bit in Turkey to begin with and then we realised

04:21:00:00

we were pretty safe. We went with one fella in the front, I was in the front, and someone in the back, and when I stopped he’d stop and he’d stop. So that if one of us was taken prisoner the other two were still right and get a chance to escape. So when we found ourselves in Syria – stop me if I’m fidgeting too much – into Syria, there’d be walking tracks, so we got out between the Lebanon and into the Lebanese mountains. We used to

04:21:30:00

keep ourselves scattered because there was vehicles going past with the enemy, Vichy French troops and that. But we never looked up, we just plugged along like an old Syrian battler. So we got through, and one of the places that I remember, mainly because of later, I was back in Syria as a sort of peacekeeper, was a place called Jounieh and don’t ask me how it’s spelt but this is one of the

04:22:00:00

places that I can remember, it’s one of the brothels, and then the next two places were not – two I think. Then there's Ryak [?] and Baalbek, the two very well-known biblically, I suppose you’d say, historically. And then the next – one of them was a brothel, I can't remember which one. Then from then on we were to go on to Damascus,

04:22:30:00

but at the particular time the Australians were on the outskirts of Damascus fighting there. So we had to go into the war, into Lebanon, and climb the mountains, and it was rough and hard. We walked through, there were no problems there. We were sort of up high and could look out and see everywhere, passing all the Syrian people and women and kids and whatever, and goats

04:23:00:00

and camels and donkeys by the thousands. It was just sort poking along, knocking the hell out of our boots, and little rocky paths and little rocky villages. We had Syrian money and could buy ourselves some food. It was quite a long walk, it wasn't that far but it was a very slow walk that one, across the, (between the Lebanons and the anti-Lebanons UNCLEAR) [Lebanese Mountains].
How long would it have taken you? Have a guess.
Well, I never kept a record but I thought the Turkey one would have done,

04:23:30:00

it would have been nearly two weeks. We didn’t walk long distances, we found that earlier in the afternoon, somewhere that we could be comfortable, luckily it was summertime. The same luckily in winter in Syria, because I was up there in ’41 in winter, you know, not that long after, in snow that deep where we walked. So it was pretty good, and so we walked and walked and one day – didn’t know where we were – lost,

04:24:00:00

we knew we couldn’t get up over the Lebanons, we had to stay on the foothills of the Lebanons, mountains. The next thing we heard a bloke call out, “Halt!” “Yes.” “Halt,” he said. “Who are you?” I twigged the voice, “Bloody Aussie, that fella.” I said, “Are you Aussie?” he said, “Yes, who are you?”

04:24:30:00

I said, “Yes, we’re Aussies too.” “Oh, right. Come down and put your hands up.” I called the other fellas in, they were waiting back. “I’ve got a couple of mates.” “Righto, bring them up.” So I said, “Where are we?” He said, “You're at the base of Lake Tiberias.” “Lake Tiberias? Never heard of it.”

04:25:00:00

He said, “That’s what it gets for you blokes that don’t study your army Bible.” I said, “Where’s that?” He said, “Galilee.” I said, “Yeah, I know where Galilee is, it’s on the Red Sea.” He said, “That’s it down there.” You could see down there, you could see the ocean and Lake Tiberias. “That’s Galilee, I’ll be buggered, eh. I’ve heard about that place.” So anyway it didn’t take long and they shuffled us down. Then the three of us then, from there, they brought into a

04:25:30:00

place there. They said, “Well, you go there, and your battalion’s now up in – ,” it’s not El Kantara, no it doesn’t matter, one of the places, Julius I think. “And you, and you…,” there were three different units. “Ok, Blue,” blah, blah, blah, “Goodbye,” and I said, “I’m pleased to see the last of you.” Anyway, I went back to my unit and, “Where did you bloody come from? You’re supposed to be a prisoner in Germany by now.”

04:26:00:00

“No, no. Never mind about that, we’ll talk about that later on.” So we went up to the orderly room and, “Bloody hell, eh. We thought you were gone.” I said, “I thought I was gone too, but I’m not, I’m here.” So they rang headquarters, “Where have you been?” and I told them and they said, “Oh, I think headquarters will want to know about that.” So they rang headquarters and headquarters got back to them and said, “Don’t let him out of your sight, don’t let him talk to anybody. We’ll come to get him

04:26:30:00

and take him to Cairo.” So they took me to Cairo and I went up before the big red caps and everything with all the information I could tell them about Crete, which was good and which was bad. So they had no information of what’s going on and half-taught things that the Cretians were doing pretty well and doing a good job. I said we were, and I told them the story to begin with how we were, and how bad it was back there now. So they were calling

04:27:00:00

in people now. I started to cough and the bloke said, “Do you feel like a cup of coffee?” and I said, “I feel like something, I’m dry.” and he said, “Oh, I’m sorry about that.” So they got me a cup of coffee, and I come back out again and they asked a lot of questions about where I was, and I said, “Really, if you’ve got a map I can give you an idea. I can't pronounce the names of the places. I never even tried to learn.” They said, “We don’t blame you, we know what they’re like.”

04:27:30:00

So anyway, I got the map and I told them we were roughly here, and camped there and we moved from there over to here. “What’s up there? Any Germans?” “No Germans, the only Germans are back as far as so and so as far as we know.” See I was giving them the information they didn’t have. So anyway, right up to and then I told the story about the big kill and where it was. I knew the village of exactly where it was and where we got off and where we went. They wanted to know all about that and how we got to

04:28:00:00

Syria. They couldn’t believe that we got through Syria because they thought that, you know, and to get right back to their lines, they thought that we’d been saved, or protected. Then they told me, “That particular part of your life, from when you landed on Crete until you got back to your unit, is completely wiped off your record

04:28:30:00

for two reasons.” I said, “What?” “Well, the first reason is that you’ve given us information that the Germans would not believe that we have access to now, of what they’re doing or where they are.” I got a fair bit of good information for them. “That’s one, and the other thing is, in future if ever you're taken prisoner of war, you will be considered to be an escaped prisoner of war back in

04:29:00:00

Crete and you can be shot.” and I said, “Well, I don’t want to be shot.” So they said, “Well, don’t talk about it, you're sworn to secrecy forever.” So I went back and I told my brother – he was in that area – and I told my brother about it, and he said, “Well, keep quiet about that.” Anyway, I thought you may have asked how was the welcome back by my mates and that,

04:29:30:00

and the answer’s this, that very, very well except two blokes that I owed money to, no, they owed money to me. I suppose they thought, ‘I’m not going to pay that bugger.’ They were only joking though. Yeah so I joined my unit.
What was it like seeing your brother again, Ken?
I had seen him earlier over in the desert.
But you’d been through a lot in that couple of months.
Yeah, but he’d been through, he fought in Greece, he was lucky to get out of Greece,

04:30:00:00

he escaped from there very fortunately. When he got back to find out his baby brother, what, eight years younger than him, was killed or missing or whatever over in Crete. Then he had to write to the old fella and tell him that, ‘The young fella’s not coming back probably, don’t know, don’t like his chances.’ Then of course he was very happy to see me and the first thing he said to me was, “I’m claiming you.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Older brothers can claim younger brothers,”

04:30:30:00

they could, see, “and I’m claiming you to my unit.” He was an anti-tanks regiment and I was infantry, footslogger. Of course I didn’t want to lose my mates and I was not happy, and I told him. He said, “Well, I’m claiming you.”
Why did he do that?
Why did he? Well, I suppose he thought he had a responsibility to get me out of the infantry, I think, because it was pretty dangerous.

04:31:00:00

To be in anti-tank was supposed to be – and as it so happened he probably saved my life, which I will tell you about later. Anyway that was it, and I was a bit cranky about that, and they took my stripes off me straight away, because I was in anti-tank, when I was a jumped up young, footslogging sergeant and went into a situation where no knowledge, no nothing,

04:31:30:00

gunner in anti-tank. But I’d lost the benefit of the stripes so, anyway, I didn’t take long to realise that they travelled in vehicles and a footslogger walked and walked and walked. I made new mates and got around that. Then – I missed a spot in there, when I

04:32:00:00

came back and joined my battalion and you asked me about my brother, I got off the track a little bit there. But what happened then was my battalion was going up – we’d won the war in Syria and they were going up into the Lebanon valleys and they were putting in fortifications, and this happened to be at this place Jounieh in one of the safe houses. And as I said, when I came through it was hot and stony and everything and when I went back up it was just starting to snow. We were there for the ’41 winter in the snow.

04:32:30:00

Then whilst we were there it was when the Japs came into the war back here. No, when I came back from the infantry battalion – sorry about all this.
No, that’s ok.
I was sent up with my battalion into Damascus – Damascus is now in our hands, and we were sent up

04:33:00:00

to a place (in the Sausage Wood UNCLEAR), and that’s where I was, and I was a sergeant. Anyway, that’s when my brother Gordon – I got word to say from Gordon, he hadn't told me that he claimed me, and to say that I was to report back, I got all the warrants and things for the train journey back, to go back and join his battalion, his regiment, the 2nd/1st Anti-Tank Regiment. So I had to go back there and that’s when I joined, left me infantry mates and

04:33:30:00

went back to join them and had to find new mates, back in Palestine. Anyway just not long after that was when the anti-tank was sent up to Jounieh and we were in the snow. Whilst we were in there, in that situation, was when the Japs came into the war, I think it must have been. So we were then called back to Palestine, from Palestine we went back to (Spotchivic UNCLEAR), the Suez Canal.

04:34:00:00

To cut a long story short we were put on a boat to come and defend Australia because the Japanese thought that there was only the wife and kids at home and that was an easy place to take.
On that trip home, you spent some time in Ceylon? Is that right?
How did you know that? We haven't got there yet.
It was something I read, I’ve heard a few things about you.
The first boat was the El Kantara, no it wasn't, the El Kantara was a place. Doesn’t matter, nice part. Got this back to

04:34:30:00

Bombay. In Bombay they offloaded us and put us on another boat and we were in a convoy, and in between Bombay and Colombo, Ceylon, a Japanese submarine got amongst them and did no damage but they scattered us hell west and crooked. So we had to rush back to Bombay again and we were kept there to pick up another convoy. A bit of time in India, which was good, I had a good look around Bombay.

04:35:00:00

What was Bombay like at that time?
Oh it was probably the same as it is today, either rich or poor. The thing that really got to me, the thing – you walk off your boat to go on leave and you're walking through the wharves and through the towns, through the cities or whatever, and there’d be women nursing a baby, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the baby would be dead, and you’d be putting money in it. I walked past the same woman four or five times, and

04:35:30:00

every time I seen her she had a different dead baby. She’d pick it up from the morgue or whatever and that was her means of begging. Then I seen fellas hopping around there on their foot, just all blown up, and they said that he probably put his foot under a bullock dray and got it crushed. But that was so poverty, and then you had to have something to beg with, and you really had to have something really worthwhile, you know.

04:36:00:00

You couldn’t strum a guitar and sing a bloody yodelling song or whatever and get anything. So that was something, and one of the things I remember was, I had a very good mate that came from – oh, I’ll give it a miss because it’s a long story and I’ve written a big article about him. He and I were great mates and he came from Dirranbandi, Bob Thompson’s his name. So anyway, Bob went, he was another fella that went walkabout

04:36:30:00

to the outskirts of Bombay, and he came back, “Banksy, I want to take you somewhere and show you.” And he took me over and it was a hospital, a native hospital sort of place, but this was the first time I’d ever seen babies born in the gutter – they couldn’t even get them inside. There was people there that were just about completely laying and they wouldn’t bring them inside because their skin, they had some terrible disease of the skin. They were laying on little sheds outside

04:37:00:00

and around about, and flies everywhere. It was just tragedy, it was. Actually they were having babies in the gutter, the natives you know, near the – I thought, ‘Terrible, terrible thing.’ The staff were doing their best I imagine, and I was happy to get away because of the bloody flies.

04:37:30:00

So that was one of the things that I’d seen there, and of course I’ve seen the Taj Mahal and a few things around while I was there, and this was the other side of it. And the other thing was about the cattle, it used to lay in the street, you know, the sacred cattle. We started to kick them and, “Get up!” you know, and the Indians are looking and they’re sacred, you’re not supposed to touch them, they can do anything. So those were the things that are stuck in my memory. And sex was a terrible

04:38:00:00

trade as I saw it, I suppose they all try and make money but it’s hard to walk down the street and you look up and women are exposing themselves to you. That was something to me that was terrible, terrible. When you're only a clean cut, half shaven lad it’s hard to handle, you know. I hope the Japs never take over Australia and

04:38:30:00

see our ladies exposing themselves. I never think God got around to the favour of a lot of blood spilt later. Yeah, well anyway, we’re in Colombo, we got a boat to Colombo and when we got there the Japs came over and they bombed, they bombed Colombo town.

04:39:00:00

Ceylon, it’s not called that now any more. One amusing thing was that they bombed us and they sank a boat beside us – we were first in the convoy in, and when the others in the convoy came and they got the information that the Japanese bombers were coming over, they were turning around and getting out. We were the first ones in, we never got out, we were still tied up actually. Anyhow, they missed us

04:39:30:00

but they sunk an old war boat beside us and hit another one just down the wharf a bit. So they took us off and when we got over, one of the first jobs that they gave us – I’ve often thought about that – one of the Jap bombs had hit the side of a looney place, you know, what do you call them? Asylums. So they gave us this job, there were two hundred loonies escaped so we were given the job of rounding them up.

04:40:00:00

I think before dinner we had not two hundred, we had four hundred, and two hundred of them were protesting madly – no pun meant. They all looked as though they should be in there, they were getting around, four hundred of them. So then they had the job of sorting out who was legitimately entitled to go. That was quite amusing, to think that we could come up with four hundred when there was only two hundred loonies.

04:40:30:00

Then they decided, we were there for a while and it was very nice, lovely, and the people were very, very good to us, very nice.
Interviewee: Kenneth Banks Archive ID 2008 Tape 05

05:00:34:00

I was leaving Colombo and they sent me up to a place called Trincomalee, and it’s on the Indian side of Ceylon and the most beautiful place you could – on the way over on the boat we called in there. A big natural harbour and coconut palms around, and a beautiful, beautiful place – the name alone tells it, Trincomalee.

05:01:00:00

So we said – I am on camera?
Yeah.
Yeah, so we went up to Trinco [Trincomalee] by train, and we got up there just for another pasting, they bombed us but they didn’t do much harm. We were there for, I don't know, I was there for a total of three months in Ceylon before they took us back to – and I had the benefit of going to another beautiful place, Kandy – it’s one of the prettiest places in the world, it’s where the

05:01:30:00

tea grows in Ceylon, you know, a beautiful place, inland, it was wonderful up there. There were some very sad things that didn’t happen to me, but happened to us, actually an air force people who crowd down a lot of Australians, and they used to be sent over to bomb the Japanese Navy and they had these little old slow planes, and they never even got

05:02:00:00

near the navy, they were shot down. I was a sergeant then and we had a Sergeants’ Mess, that’s how good it was, and there was grog and all sorts of stuff. They used to come and join us, and it took us a little while before we started to realise that these fellas were drinking the next morning the day they hop in these planes and not coming back, and usually not coming back. We started asking questions, “Where was so and so, he was here?”

05:02:30:00

They would, sort of didn’t want to talk too much, and they’d say, “He went fishing.” They used to say he went fishing, and we realised that’s what used to be said. It was terribly sad to see those blokes come and we didn’t mind how much whiskey or rum they drank because they weren't coming back tomorrow. They used to fly over and they’d wave to us, the planes were so slow and the Japs had the Zeros and all those, and they used to meet them out at

05:03:00:00

sea before they even got near the navy. They were carrying torpedos see, but they couldn’t get close enough to use the torpedos. I don't know how many of those went but it was very sad that later on – and I was devastated by his explanation later on for it, the sacrifice, that Churchill made reference to them and why that was very necessary they did what they had to do. I still don’t believe that it had to be done,

05:03:30:00

but some people seem to think it was.
Where were you, Ken, when that was happening?
That was at Trincomalee.
That was at Trincomalee? And where were the pilots from?
Oh, there you mean? There was an aerodrome there.
Were they local pilots, were they British pilots?
No, they were Australians.
They were all Australians?
Oh yes, they came from towns around North Queensland, most of them, too.

05:04:00:00

And you got to know those pilots?
Yeah, well most them only used to come and see us the night before they went fishing, you only met them the once, and they never came back, see. The next time would be a fresh batch that would come in. Probably only about three or four of them would come down and join us in the mess and have a bit of a thingo, a party and whatever, just a quiet dinner. We didn’t realise and we started asking where, and “They went fishing.”

05:04:30:00

And they said, “We’re going fishing tomorrow as well, so ta ta [good-bye].” and that’s what happened, and I thought to myself after, ‘How brave can you get?’ They knew what was happening to them. I never felt – I used to think about that and I blame the English Air Force or whoever there was in charge. Then

05:05:00:00

when Churchill chose in one of his writings, and it was handed on to me, why the sacrifice had to be made, but I don’t like it, I didn’t believe any of it. Anyway that was it, and Trincomalee, they trained us back up to Ceylon and Colombo and we were all put on guns there for a while, while they were trying to get a convoy together or while they were trying to catch a convoy back to Australia. I was put in charge of a gun

05:05:30:00

outside the south side of one of the edges of Colombo at a place called – some gardens, it’s a zoo actually, beautiful. Anyway, I was on this gun that was right down on the beach and I was there for a while and I discovered that the houses up there – there were houses up there. I went up

05:06:00:00

for something, I don’t know what it was, and I met the lady and her husband was away fighting in the Merchant Navy, he was a Scotchman, I never met him but I saw his photo there. There was two girls, they had two girls, and the father was Scotchman and pretty gingery, by the photo, and the mother was a Berger and they were – well they actually go back to Portuguese,

05:06:30:00

Portuguese background, and she was a sort of a, not a fat face, she had a nice face. And these two girls, they took after the mother and had fingers that long, beautiful, and they were terribly pretty girls. They used to play the piano – that might have got me up there, I used to hear them playing the piano and I’d get a bit closer. So the mother trusted me with her daughters and she didn’t know

05:07:00:00

what I was thinking, and that was a good thing too, but nothing happened. I used to go up there a lot, I could go up any time at all and get a cup of coffee and talk, the girls wanted to talk about Australia. I got very, very friendly with them, I even had their address and when I came back I wrote them two or three times. I never got a reply but, I imagine that in wartime there's not much, probably they would have written if they got my letter, but whether I would get it would be another thing.

05:07:30:00

But anyway, I always remember those two girls – Mount Lavinia, lovely name, isn't it, Mount Lavinia? So that was the only part there, and then we got on a ship and headed out for Australia, and I can remember it being pretty rough, it was the old Katoomba. No it wasn't, it was another one, the Katoomba was the one that I was on when they took

05:08:00:00

us off to Colombo first. No, it was another boat, an English boat. It was its maiden voyage and the food was atrocious. Anyway, we got back to Perth and they gave us leave – and you can imagine leaving a ship load of Australian hungry blokes that have been away long enough, they thought. It happened to be a Sunday of all days, and pubs threw themselves open and just turned the taps on.

05:08:30:00

And Banksy, I was never a big drinker and still I’m not, I still have my wine and have a few beers and a whiskey a night, not a bottle of whiskey a night, but a big wine or a little whiskey. But anyway, I got drunk, it was the thing to do. I was just about to collapse in the street and someone grabbed me and threw me into a car and I thought it was the bloody provos [Provosts – Military Police] have got me.

05:09:00:00

I looked around and there was a nice lady sitting there and another lady sitting there and a gentleman there and so they whizzed me off and threw me in the corner and told me what they were going to do with me. He was an alderman of the Perth Council and they were out trying to rescue us innocent young fellas like me and sober us up, get us out of trouble, and took me home. For whatever reason I started to sober up

05:09:30:00

with the dinner. Then of course my leave pass cut out at twenty-two fifty-one, which is a minute to twelve, and I was overdue back at the wharf and onto the boat. I got back there and the provos were pretty prevalent, bluffed my way out of that one and got up. So yeah, what would have happened to me if they hadn't rescued me off the streets of Perth, I wouldn’t have known – I would have dirtied my trousers, that’s for sure.
Had you done much drinking in the army in the Middle East and …?

05:10:00:00

No, I was not a – I always used to go, I was never into the drinking thing because the alcohol over there was deadly, most of that like arrack and rum spelt with two H’s and things like that. No, wasn't into that sort of thing. I was more interested in the fairer sex – not that I had a lot of luck.
What about other blokes, friends of yours?

05:10:30:00

Well, they were sort of like thinking people. If they wanted to go with mates and drink alcohol and get drunk – I got terribly full at Jericho, you know the four walls of Jericho? I got picked up by the provos and chucked in the back of a vehicle, they carted me around for half the night and no-one knew where I went. God, I was sore the next morning, it was a steel bottom. They found it just on sunrise the next morning, where I

05:11:00:00

come back. Never again, hey. That was where I got full there. I used to get pretty merry when I was at Crete and the parties down there.
What sort of alcohol was available there?
Don’t ask me, they made their own. Don’t ask me, and it was very potent I tell you. You just drank it because, you know. I went

05:11:30:00

through, back a month or two ago, I came back from over the road here, we’d had a football game and I’d had a bit too much. Put my pyjamas on and put one leg in and the other leg was out and the next thing, bang, I hit the – and I didn’t know what happened. The next thing, in the morning there was a big patch like that, I’d gone through the fibro. So I’ve left it undone so it’s there to remind me, ‘Don’t come home like that.’
What role do you think alcohol had for people during those war years?

05:12:00:00

Was it important to people to have a drink?
That’s probably a question I would like to ask someone else. I can't see that it was important because I never – I don’t think it was terribly important any time. There’s plenty of other things better than getting yourself stupid. I can't ever see that.
You said that when you went on leave, the thing to do was to go and have a drink, so was there a culture of drinking for people to let their hair down?

05:12:30:00

Yeah, there was in our unit that I belonged to, there was – it was sort of like birds of a feather they get together and they end up in a pub and they’d have a fight with the provos and a blue with the locals and something like that. Well I was dancing a lot, I was more of a love maker in that situation. I used to feel more satisfied with my actions the next morning than they did, because they didn’t

05:13:00:00

look terribly good when they came on parade.
Did you think that some men used alcohol to let their hair down or relax? You were in some pretty tense situations.
No, well I think it’s something the world could have done without, and particularly with so many marriages where alcohol seems to have been the

05:13:30:00

creator of domestic problems. You pull into the pub on the way with the mates and Mum’s cranky because, you know, most wives are cranky after a mob of cranky kids around, playing up. And he comes in with only half his money and chucks it on there, and she says, “How am I going to pay the rent?” and this, that and somewhere else, and she snaps at him and he snaps back at her. I think that alcohol – and these one armed bandits [poker machines],

05:14:00:00

you know, and that sort of stuff. They’re into booze and gambling and, you know, you can't win. You're not going to win, and you're losing ground all the time.
I was really referring to when you were in the army.
Sorry about that.
No, that’s alright, you got, were talking about you got back on the boat anyway after your night out in Western Australia?
Yeah, I don’t know what they did to me but I seemed to be sober

05:14:30:00

when I got back, and it couldn’t have been too bad because they said, “Will you come back tomorrow night?” and I said, “I will,” but anyway when I got back up to the boat I found out that I was in charge of one of the guards the next night and I told my brother and he went and called and seen them and he said what lovely people they were. My brother was a bloody alcoholic but apparently he went sober. He could hold his grog pretty well, he could drink a lot and hold it.

05:15:00:00

Then, there’s nothing much more about Perth that I can remember, they put us on a boat and took us to Port Melbourne and took us off and sent us up to the camp up there – I can't remember the name at the moment. The Japs were becoming very close in New Guinea, and they wanted as much of the AIF

05:15:30:00

back on the defences so they whizzed us back – I remember going through Melbourne. When we were going up through Melbourne we just got off the boat and been overseas and come back, and we thought we were bloody heroes and whatever, and we were sent a long way around, they told us we couldn’t because the militia were marching, and the militia weren't going anywhere.

05:16:00:00

That’s what kept the Australians there, but they had the march, been nowhere, and we were not happy with that. So I remember a couple of fellas said to me, “When we go on this train,” – we were going on a train, we were going up to a part of Melbourne – , “and we go right past and Mum will be there on the back step and waving to us. She’ll be there, she’ll give us a welcome. She won’t know I’m there but she’ll give us a welcome.” So he goes up and it’s coming up, “That it, that’s her house.” And here’s old Mum leaning on the broom and we waved and waved and she just looked at us.

05:16:30:00

And he said, “Bloody hell, your mother won’t even wave to you when you come home.” She didn’t know her son was there, she was just sick of bloody troops. We never let up on him about that and his Mum, and he said, “And I bloody told Mum about that and she said that she’d never forgive herself.” She didn’t know he was even back in Australia, she thought he was still back in the Middle East because in those days they didn’t tell you anything. Anyway we came back to Queensland …
Did your father know that you were coming

05:17:00:00

back to Australia?
No, no-one knew until you rang them up and told them. Communication was pretty thin on the ground and it was utilized by people that thought they were more important than us. It wasn't until I got back to Brissy that I rang him and told him I was coming home on leave and, yes, I was coming out on leave. He said, “What do you mean, leave?” I said, “Well, they’re re-equipping us, we’re going to New Guinea.” “Well, you’ve just got back.”

05:17:30:00

“Well, we’ve got to go to, it looks like we’re going to Milne Bay because the Japanese have got that far and they’ve never been defeated,” – you know where Milne Bay is, not too far away across the straits of Australia. Anyway, they gave us some leave – and I’m just trying to think now, no, I’m not answering the question your friend asked a minute ago yet.

05:18:00:00

Anyway, that’s right, I had a girlfriend in Goondiwindi, it was there, so anyway she must be in Brisbane. We ended up then, they put us on a train to go up to Cairns and from there we had to catch a troop ship up to Milne Bay where the war was about to kick off against the Japs. This was invasion imminent by the Japs.

05:18:30:00

So we get there and the (UNCLEAR) and we’re to go on a boat and the wharfies decided to strike, they wouldn’t load our gear. They wanted more money, they said it was danger money because they were loading our guns, but they wanted more money. Of course we were very hostile about that, here you are, going over to fight, and they’re not prepared to load our ammunition and our guns. You only had to look at them,

05:19:00:00

I don't know what your relationship with wharfies are but from then it’s down the bottom for me. We decided then that we’d go down and touch the wharfies up, but at that particular time we had the Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin, and although he was very well liked and thought to be the saviour, word got through that we were going to go to the wars,

05:19:30:00

he sent word to leave the wharfies alone. Anyone charged with assaulting a wharfie would be dealt with. So anyway, we went back and decided then – and also it didn’t happen only in Cairns, in Townsville, we had to send some of our fellas back to help load stuff that had gone on strike in Brissy. They wouldn’t load our stuff to go over and fight,

05:20:00:00

wouldn’t load our equipment. So that sort of held us up and we were held up for a little while.
What were your thoughts about what the wharfies were doing?
It was General MacArthur, he heard about this and he said, “Mr Curtin, if you want us over here to defend you, you’d better do something about controlling your own men.” He said, “If at any time

05:20:30:00

your wharfies interfere with the loading of our equipment anywhere in Australia, I’m prepared to pack up and let you handle it yourself,” or words to that effect, so of course Curtin was in a corner and so he had to send up his Good Samaritans to tell them not to, that those Yanks would chuck you in the water very quickly, those big Negro fellas. So that got over that, it was too late, but by the time we got over to Milne Bay it was just about all over, but luckily they had

05:21:00:00

enough troops there and it was the first defeat the Japs had ever had in their lives. It was the first big defeat. We killed them in droves and then we were there, and that’s when I got my first dose of malaria. Oh God, and there was no hospitals, you just sort of had to cop it. I was terribly, terribly sick. We used to be bombed every night, it was no big deal that way.

05:21:30:00

It must have been quite a different experience to what you’d experienced in the Middle East and the Mediterranean?
A totally different war, being thrown into a tropical thing, that malaria, and of course we didn’t have Quinine and we didn’t have anything for it. We had to bring the few things like that. The Japanese used to come over and they’d be flying all night around dropping bombs here and there just to keep us out of our mosquito nets, out in the skids where the mosquitoes were getting at us and giving us malaria. It was all part of their plan and it was very effective, I can assure you.

05:22:00:00

We were there and we had a bit of action there, not a lot, buried a lot of their dead. Then decided to put an airstrip on top of them, where we buried them, so then – I think there were about six hundred of them in one big grave. Then we had to bulldoze them all back out again and shove them in another hole somewhere to put this airstrip straight over. Anyway, we lost quite a number in there too.

05:22:30:00

But they really came over in one big bombing – it was the biggest bombing in the South Pacific at the time – it was about two o'clock, three o'clock in the afternoon. The sirens went and we didn’t take a lot of notice because they used to go and then the all clear sign, it did go. We had, were having a bit of a feed and, ‘rrr, rrr’, and I looked up and way up there to buggery, mobs of Jap planes.

05:23:00:00

A big force of bombers coming over, Zeros flying around like butterflies, and I said to sir, “They’re bloody Japs. I’ll be buggered.” I said, “It’s alright now, they’re over us, the bombs won’t get us.” The next thing – ‘brum , brum, brum’. They dropped them back there but they were still coming. “We’ll die finished there.” None of us were killed or wounded or anything, but we were lucky, they missed.

05:23:30:00

That was the one and only big, big raid. They tried us in other raids but they were met by our fighters, went out and dispersed them, but that had been the biggest one. They didn’t do a lot of damage really, in a way. They shot that airstrip I was telling you about, where the Japs were all bulldozed out of, but that was all patched up again. A few planes were shot up and

05:24:00:00

a bit of other wrecks, they sunk a boat in the harbour and killed a few.
What were you doing when that really big bombing attack occurred, when that started, where were you?
We were sitting down having dinner, I think we were, when it started. We had a slit trench already dug and of course we slipped into that. We were right on the end of the airstrip and this is what they wanted to bomb mainly, because there were planes on the strip, you know, to put it out of action. I forget now, I used to know, but I think there was

05:24:30:00

a hundred and nineteen bombs had landed within – I can't remember now – a hundred and ninety yards from where our trench was. We had a gun position right on the end of the strip, for obvious reasons, to protect the strip. Of course it all came down and we got the tail end of that. But they weren't big bombs, they were only personal bombs.

05:25:00:00

Yeah, so they, it’s unbelievable that so many bombs can land so close and not do you damage.
Were there people killed during that?
Oh yeah.
And where were you in relation to people who were being injured and killed?
In the slitty.

05:25:30:00

But there were people nearby that were being injured and killed?
Those that weren't in slitties got hit. Americans really, there was a big mob of Americans over there on road construction, airstrip construction fellas. I don’t know if they didn’t have enough deep enough to dig a slit trench but they were unlucky, they lost a few. There were other places, it was a pretty big area, eight to almost twelve miles long

05:26:00:00

along the coast.
Did you have any warning that that attack was coming?
No, well the first thing we knew was when the sirens went, and we took no notice on the day, we were just waiting for the all clear sign to go and it didn’t happen. We heard this drone and I think there were forty or fifty planes, and there might have been sixty. It was the biggest raid that the Japs had made up until then. The whole thing including

05:26:30:00

the – Pearl Harbor was smaller, you know. It was a softening up for the landing of their troops in a day or two. Then of course the Coral Sea thing came along then and the invasion force came out and they were given a hiding too. So that’s when the Japs were really starting to

05:27:00:00

count their dead in big numbers.
How long did that bombing campaign actually last?
Well, that particular one was only, a lifetime, twenty minutes, when the bombs are coming down. But they used to come over every night and drop some, just a few, as I said, a nuisance thing it was, they fly around in the dark. There was one funny experience there, a big moonlight night it was,

05:27:30:00

and sitting there and it’s flying around and one bloke got up and, “Look, Look!” he said. They were dropping these Japs out of planes and there’s this parachute coming down over the face of the moon, which was unfortunate because we knew the Japs were landed see. The next day they sent us up to locate them, to find them, and on the way up we come to some more of the natives, and they got this

05:28:00:00

Jap, “We got a Jap.” They carried him like a pig, through a long stick and you put the arms over there and the legs over there. Here he is and they're bringing him down and he’s swinging between them on this stick. He wasn't comfortable and he wasn't happy, apparently not, he was putting on an act, he was. They were bringing him back because they reckoned they’d get a reward for him – whether they did or not – so we sent him back down. We’d done our thing, we’d found them all. But it was so unfortunate that he just floated across the face of the big full moon,

05:28:30:00

the tropical moon. Whether that was the same bloke, I don't know. I don't know whatever happened to him.
Ken, what sort of special training or preparations had you undergone in Australia before you went to New Guinea?
What?
Because you were going to a different type of war in the Pacific from what you came from, what kind of training or …?
The only thing they did, they took off our khaki clothes and dipped them in green and whatever. We had a lot of fun making designs and tying knots, and put us back into green

05:29:00:00

clothes and sent us up there. That’s the only difference, there was nothing else, absolutely nothing. Same equipment, same everything and the food was no better. I was up there for two years and I never tasted fresh meat once. Well I did, that was (Bittleakle UNCLEAR), but I won’t go into that. It was meant for the Americans but a mate of mine spotted it and we got a lift on a ute and he said, “Look, meat.”

05:29:30:00

So when we got back to the camp we were going to tap the ute and say, “Thanks very much.” So back a bit we chucked a couple of pieces out and threw them underneath the palm trees. So we went back and got them, hid them. That night we sent a couple of mates, we were putting on a bit of a feed, a barbeque thing out, “What have you got, some rabbits? Wallaby?” “You’ll be right, you’ll see.” So anyway, this Bob Thompson, this

05:30:00:00

mate of mine that I was really, really, really close to, he found this huge ovine, and he decided to barbeque the steak and cut it up. I said to him, “It’s starting to go off a bit.” and he said, “He’s right, once he’s cooked, mate, you won’t even know.” So anyway, we put the fire and three or four of us went down the gully to get away from everyone else so they couldn’t smell it. We were having it there and he was cooking it and I walked over and I said,

05:30:30:00

“Look, Bob, there’s a maggot,” and [he] said, “Yeah, they can't handle the heat, can they? The little fellas are running off, sweep them off with a stick. Don’t tell the mates.” “No.” It all went down. It had been fly-blown, see. It was the only fresh meat we had in New Guinea, for two years, two separate terms of just about a total of

05:31:00:00

two years. It was lousy, unbelievable, and you'd go back to the bases, in Moresby or Wewak or all those places, there were so many people there that were not combatant, they were sort of basic, you could smell the steaks cooking but it never got to us, it never got back up to the fighting troops. Most of the time we were up there we were fed

05:31:30:00

with the biscuit bombers dropping us biscuits and the bully beef, not out of the parachutes, just dropping it down in a big bag. It was up in the place where you really should have been getting the top tucker.
Can you describe your first experience of New Guinea, when you arrived there, when you landed at Milne Bay, what you saw and what was happening?

05:32:00:00

Well, I can remember getting off the boat and onto – we had to come up through a place, a beautiful place, the most beautiful thing I ever saw in New Guinea – and it was called Samaria, it was a little town, a city. It was an old, I think the Germans used to have for the First World War, and Samaria was their capital just about. It was a beautiful place, and to come into Milne Bay, which is a long bay twenty miles long,

05:32:30:00

it sort of comes through this place and Samaria is right there, the ocean’s there and you have to come past it. I seen that for the first time and, “This is a beautiful place,” but down the coast it was all mangroves and terrible, terrible place. Just mountains covered with timber and just nothing very attractive. And Milne Bay, it wouldn’t stop raining and it was boggy. The only thing it seemed to be good for was it had very good palms,

05:33:00:00

coconut palm plantations, copra they called it, they were doing very well, and the first time I seen the natives, and they were a pretty degenerate looking mob, mainly they suffered from skin problems, ringworm, they had a lot of ringworm. They were very plain looking people, still are, always will be. But they didn’t have any blessings from me, I was starting to lose a little bit of interest in the war about then

05:33:30:00

because I thought that this is not the sort of war I wanted to be involved in. They had us stay there for – didn’t have to do a lot, luckily – this is where I’m going to tell you about my brother claiming me out of infantry into anti-tank. My infantry battalion, the 2nd/1st Battalion, that I left in the Middle East, they were the first ones that got sent up to Kokoda, in the

05:34:00:00

68 Brigade, went up there. That’s where I lost, just about, my section got wiped right out. I thanked Gordon for claiming me then because I would have been up in Kokoda somewhere. They all got wiped out at one time or another, and that was a very moving sort of feeling, to know that all those fellas had gone through all the Middle East and then went up there,

05:34:30:00

and only for the grace of God and the help of an elder brother, I would have probably been with them. But that’s the way it goes, doesn’t it? You win some, you lose some, and I was winning all the time, I thought. Yeah, so that was a miserable sort of time up there, filling in gaps or whatever. They turned us into infantry and escaped for the anti-tank,

05:35:00:00

and turned us in from infantry, bango-bango, I get my three stripes back, you know. Then I sort of left to go to other units where they were short on, they always seemed to be short on for reinforcements, particularly NCOs. I used to be lent to them for a while until they got their reinforcement from Australia and I would be sent back. I moved around a lot and that was good.

05:35:30:00

I moved through the different units and that sort of stuff, and it happened to a lot of the regiment.
Ken, when you say that you realised that you were getting a bit tired of the war, it wasn't the type of war that you wanted to be involved in, what do you mean by that?
I think I was having a health thing that was creeping in a bit, too. Malaria really knocked me about terribly and then also at that time

05:36:00:00

I had another thing that they couldn’t get to the bottom of. When I came back from the Middle East, I was twelve stone, I was fit and great. After I got the malaria, and I got this other thing, I reckon it was something else, I lost a lot of weight, I got very thin and not as strong or vigorous or belligerent as I had been.

05:36:30:00

Just about when I had about a gut full of that they decided then that I should get sent back to Australia. I can't remember how long I had been up there, eight, nine, ten months or something like that. Sent back to Australia and that’s when I went on leave and bugger me Audrey’s back home from school and she’s with her mother out in the west. We sort of – I have to admit that I had another couple of girlfriends

05:37:00:00

scattered around, not trying to gloat but I did have. Audrey was a pretty pure young thing, probably a bit too pure, I thought, but anyway. I got to know her pretty well and there was something about her that I like about her, perhaps the pure factor might have come into it there. We were conversationally

05:37:30:00

interested and yeah, so we sort of got to talking a lot and I was home on leave, they gave me a fair bit of leave then. I saw quite a lot of her because in those sort of places they give you a big welcome home, and most of the time I found myself eating over at Audrey’s or taking out a pizza and going out somewhere together.

05:38:00:00

But she had more, it transpired that she had more ambition about our future together than I had at the time, because I had a lot more of the war to fight, see. I couldn’t believe that I was going to survive forever because too many of my mates had not survived. I thought, ‘I’m not going to get terribly involved with – .’ And I had a mate, this Bob Thompson that I mentioned, which I’ve written in great area, but I’m not going to bring him into this,

05:38:30:00

but he was so good a mate and when we came back from the Middle East, I was his best man, and he came from that area out there. So he got married, and he said to me, “This is the life,” and I said, “Well, I’m not ready for that. I’m having a bit of fun.” So anyway, Audrey,

05:39:00:00

the leave came out and I went back to the unit, but anyway we decided then that it was a bit of a situation with, I was pretty prodigious at writing love letters and I thought I’d try one on her too. We corresponded, and I came back and I was not back here long, I was given the job of instructing the School of Artillery for a month down in Sydney, which didn’t give the

05:39:30:00

opportunity to come up and see Audrey. I had friends down there – I missed something that I should have told you about.
So you were exchanging love letters with Audrey?
Yeah but they were pretty, you know they were no big sporting pages, because no big sporting events had happened. When you get married, that’s soon enough.
There must have been a little bit of – by this stage was she a bit of

05:40:00:00

a sweetheart, a special girlfriend?
Oh yes she was a sweetheart, yes there were cuddles and kisses going on and stuff. I could handle that, she was still learning and I could teach her. Anyway, one of the things I would like to remind you of in this was – this is going back to Crete, but I’ve got to tell you this. I’ve told you about losing three mates in that one big action. There was one fellow there, young clean-cut sort of

05:40:30:00

bloke, a nice bloke. Although I’d never met him before we became pretty good mates, we learned very quickly to make mates in those situations, and he and I were very good friends. He told me that just prior to leaving Australia he got married, he was married on his final leave. I said, “That’s pretty brave.” and he said, “Well, my lady friend, I’d been going with her forever just about and she wanted to get married

05:41:00:00

and talked me into it.” I said, “That’s great.” So anyway, and then he said, just before we came and we were isolated on Crete, he got word to say that she was pregnant from the long weekend after the honeymoon – which is just about all it would have been because it was pretty short – but she was pregnant

05:41:30:00

and he was happy as Larry about that and I said, “That’s great.” He had a photo of her and showed me, and she was a lovely, pretty blonde, looking lass. Anyway, he was one of those killed. So when we came back from the Middle East, one of the first things – and she came from Sydney – and one of the things you do, which is sort of you’re expected to do but you don’t have to do, is go and see the people that …
Interviewee: Kenneth Banks Archive ID 2008 Tape 06

06:00:31:00

What happened was, as I told you, this fellow had word that he had a child coming and got killed very soon after that. When I came back from the Middle East, from the situation in Crete, it’s not that you're forced to do it, but you were expected to do it, that if you’ve got a close relative

06:01:00:00

there to do it, the sergeant or the officer – mainly the officer – should go to see the people and just explain, not necessarily how he died but the way and the circumstances. So I came back from the Middle East and went up to New Guinea, as we’ve already talked about, and I didn’t have an opportunity, I hadn't thought too much about it. Then it sort of got to me later when I came back and I was

06:01:30:00

in Dirranbandi and my love affair started with Audrey. And prior to going over there, they sent me to the assault course training thing at Liverpool for three months’ instructing. At that time I was having a little bit of a health thing and they thought that would be a good thing. However, whilst I was down there, and having the address of the young fella that was killed,

06:02:00:00

and the others – the others were not of Sydney – and I thought, well I just felt curious, I’d just like to go and see, you know, what the people were like and what she was like and how she was. By this time, two years had gone past. So anyway, I dug up the address and, as I said, I was only at the School of Artillery at Holsworthy. So I decided to go one day,

06:02:30:00

and I went out to the parents’ place – that’s the only address I had. Mum and Dad were there, and when I told them who I was they just wanted to know more and more and more about it. Then they said of course, “Our daughter, who is now a little [one] running around her, a little girl, she would be very interested too.” She was not living with them but not far away and she had a job.

06:03:00:00

The kid used to be nearly at grandma and granddad’s most of the time. That’s back, anyway, I found them and, as I said, I went to see them, and they asked a lot of very quite close and personal questions and I thought, ‘I wonder if I should have done this.’ So they insisted I stayed until after she came home from work. I can’t remember, I think she was teaching, something in some capacity, to see the wife, the young wife,

06:03:30:00

and the little child was there. I could see the father, it was a child you could see the father in, very much so. He was fair headed and nice face, a lovely kid. When the young widow came home, Mum went out there and met here and they talked out there for a while, explaining I’d turned up

06:04:00:00

and they never expected it, you know. Knew nothing about what happened in Crete about him, just that he was missing. Then later on, when I reported him missing, killed in Crete, that’s all they got. So they wanted to know everything, and boy, did she ask questions. She was a lovely, lovely person. Kept asking me questions, like, that were

06:04:30:00

pretty hard to answer, like, “How did he die? Did he suffer?” and that. He didn’t suffer, he was shot dead straight away. I just told them he wouldn’t have known what happened, which is pretty true. She kept asking questions, and she said, “You were pretty close?” and I said, “Yes, we were very friendly. He and I were compatible. He was just a lovely bloke.” and I don’t need to tell you that. Anyway, she kept asking these questions about,

06:05:00:00

“What did he say, how did you know I had a child?” and I said, “Well, he told me.” and she said, “You must have been pretty close.” I said, “He only got one word from you, to say that the child arrived and you never heard from him again.” And she said, “No, I never heard another thing.” And I said, “That’s when we went to Crete, where he was lost.” But she kept on, she was hanging on to things, trying to find out things, you know. Anyway I thought around the time came and I said, “Well, I’ve got to go.”

06:05:30:00

So I went out to the gate with Mum and Dad and the lass stayed in, I think she had a bit of a howl. The Dad got onto me, and he said, “We would like you to come back.” He knew that I was camped at the School of Artillery at Holsworthy, not that far away. “Would you like to come over and have dinner with us and we can ask more questions?” because they wanted to know more about him, and the lass, so I consented to do that. I ended up going back there

06:06:00:00

probably half a dozen times, more. The worst part about it was, I started reading between the lines and Mum and Dad thought I would probably be a very good catch, and the girl showed no objection to me, you know, any part thereof. I didn’t want to be involved, actually I had another lady friend. But I had some problems sort of weaning

06:06:30:00

away from that. She asked me, I think it might have been the Mum that asked me, but when I was going up to New Guinea, and they knew I was going up for the second time, could she correspond and could she send parcels, fruit parcels and that sort of stuff. They did and, bloody hell, I was feeding the battalion just about, and getting letters, getting letters from the young widow, and she was becoming increasingly more woe.

06:07:00:00

So I sort of, I wasn't going to write back and be cruel about the whole thing, just let it go on and I never made any indication or suggestions that something might happen between us. She was just a beautiful person and I would have been quite happy, but I had Audrey on the line too and I didn’t want her to get off. Anyway, so it got to a stage where she was

06:07:30:00

nearly sending love letters sort of thing. She was terribly lonely and she told me that, ‘You’re the only fella,’ and it got to that stage. I knew when I was coming home, or I had come home, I can't remember now, I just had to write a letter and I just had to explain what the situation was and, ‘All the best, but I didn’t want any reply to that letter any more, and just let it stop at that.’ I thought, ‘You’ve got to be quick, and so then I never heard any more about it.

06:08:00:00

But she was, and the parents just wanted me to come back, and he had a government job, and he said, “If you haven't got a job when you come back, I can get you a good job and you can stay here. They had it all worked out between them, you know. But it didn’t happen, and that’s the story, full stop.
When you think about that now, what do you think about that situation, looking back on it?
I don’t look back on it now, so long down the track, but I thought to myself,

06:08:30:00

‘I hope she did turn out, for the child and for herself, she did meet some very nice person,’ – she deserved it because she was a top person. There was nothing rough about her at all, she was just a top, lovely person. If Audrey wasn't waiting back in Dirranbandi, then …, although I didn’t want a ready made family, I’ll do my own making.

06:09:00:00

Were you really reluctant to go back to New Guinea the second time?
The second time, I don't think so because I had this – I was telling you about getting very thin and losing weight and that sort of stuff, and I didn’t realise but I had a glandular problem.

06:09:30:00

I don't know what that was, but I couldn’t perspire, and I used to think I was terribly fit but, ‘Why am I in this condition?’ But I felt well enough, I had this glandular thing, and then this bloody fever kept re-occurring – not big doses but small doses, until the last one, that was a biggie. That happened after I was married, I had that. I didn’t like New Guinea, I didn’t like what I had to do in the first one. So when they sent us up again, but straight as soon as we got there this time there was no mucking about.

06:10:00:00

I was sent to different units and I fought with different places, and when they didn’t need me they sent me back to base. I was in hospital a couple of times, I was in once I started to grow bones inside my eyelids here. They said that was something to do with the bury business, what’s its name?

06:10:30:00

Anyway, I eventually got them cut off and whatever and got over that.
Was that to do with the suffocation?
Mm, they blamed that but I can't see any relationship at all. I don't know what it was, but they were little bones growing, awful. They whacked them off and treated me and I was in hospital, and met a very nice sister. I wanted to get out of the hospital in a hurry until I met her, and then I wanted to stay there for a while longer. Anyway,

06:11:00:00

they kicked me out eventually, a good thing, too. Anyway, I went back to the camp and then I was sent – oh yeah, that’s right, I joined a commandos, they let me in with them. I had a mortar and some men to operate this mortar. Anyway, I had a funny experience there. We were

06:11:30:00

up the coast and we were taking a place the Japs had very well fortified – I think I know the name but I don’t know if I can pronounce it properly, so I won’t bother. They were fortified and they had peel boxes made out of coconut palms, you know the little slips, and they were giving us a hell of a deal on this particular day, and couldn’t get near them, and we had a lot more casualty than we should have had. So someone suggested –

06:12:00:00

we didn’t have them but they knew where they get them, so we sit back and they got a couple of flame throwers and they shoot a flame way out in front. The idea was to get someone in close enough to get the flame thrower in where they were shooting out of the thing, and then someone could just rush around there and just roll a hand grenade in. Anyway I just happened to be the sergeant in charge and I was on the flame thrower, and I was giving it a bit of a toast and I reckoned the Japs inside are getting a bit cooked. The next thing, out come about a dozen screaming,

06:12:30:00

they weren't Japs, they were Indians. Of course we realised straight away they weren't Japs, they were wearing laps, skinny, poor as (crow UNCLEAR), terrible mess, of course after a bit of a singeing they didn’t look any better, either. We discover after we get them aside there were thirteen actually and the thirteenth bloke was a warrant officer, and he was a big tall Sikh – you know, they still have a bit of a thingummybob,

06:13:00:00

army issue. They were an awful mess, and burnt too. Anyway, someone gave this big Indian chief, the warrant officer, a tin of bully beef and someone else around and, you know, and they’d been living on kunai grass, that’s all. “The Japanese and his prisoners, they’d taken a thousand, six or nine hundred,” or something, “in Singapore,” and they were a working party.

06:13:30:00

Plus they were eating them. We didn’t know that at the time but we soon found out, see. So we then gave this chief, this fella, and he ups and dies. So we, as I told you we had a lot of wounded and that, and I went back with the wounded that night to the hospital at Wewak.

06:14:00:00

Gee, I jumped a long way there, didn’t I?
That’s alright, we’ll go back.
We’d taken Wewak. We landed in New Guinea around the other side and we had taken Wewak and right up the coast, we cleaned the coast out. Yeah, so anyway, we sent these dozen Indians back, pushed (UNCLEAR) and I went back with wounded, dead, I don't know what they’d done.

06:14:30:00

We went back there and this Bob Thompson and I, we always seemed to be together somewhere, anyway while we were there we were having a feed at the hospital and a doctor came along, an Australian doctor, and he said, “Were you fellas involved with that Indian?” and we said, “Yeah.” We didn’t tell him much more than that. He said, “That Sikh,” because up till then we didn’t know, but he had gone back and he had died. I said, “He was the strongest looking one of the lot.” He said, “Well, I’m not too sure but I think I know, I’m going over to find out now, would

06:15:00:00

you like to come over?” and Bob said, “Yeah, we’ll go over and have a look.” We went over and he had an autopsy, and he stretched out – he was about six foot four he looked like, and good looking. Anyway he put the lights on, opened him up, and his little tummy was only this little thing like that by then. He opened it up and it was full of kunai grass plus bully beef and it actually killed him. He said, “That’s killed him.”

06:15:30:00

Yeah, so I’ve seen a bloke with his tummy, and he opened him up and he seemed to be bloodless because he was dead a while and frozen and in the cold room. Everything was so clean about him, this beautiful brown skin, and they opened him and not a speck of blood shown. Opened him up and pulled that out, and I couldn’t get over that because I’d seen so many people wounded and covered in blood, you know. So that was end of the story as far as I was concerned.

06:16:00:00

Then straight after that I was sent over with – I was in charge of, well second in charge, of a platoon, we called them troop, over to Maprik in central New Guinea to clean out Japs over there. So we were over there, scrapping over there. We were there for quite a long time too. Actually, we were there when

06:16:30:00

the bombs dropped. When that was finished, and I was very down in condition, and this glandular thing, which I didn’t know I had, I couldn’t sweat but I didn’t know that was any relation was. Something was happening all the time, I was never too well. So when that finished we had to stay there for quite a while until the Japs surrendered and whatever, and went in,

06:17:00:00

they sent us back to Wewak. The war was over for all intents and purposes. Then they came to me then and said, “We’re sending you back to Maprik again. But you don’t have to go because we know you're having some health problems.” I said, “Oh, I’m not too bad. What, why?” They said, “Well, you were involved with nearly all the fighting in that area and you were in charge of a lot of fellas, and you were in charge of a lot of fellas that are buried back there. And the Graves Commission are going back up there to dig them up.

06:17:30:00

Somebody has to go,” despite the fact that they’ve got their identification ticket like that, “most of them don’t even know where the graves are, and the fact that you were there and would probably be able to point out most of them. You don’t have to do any of the digging, they’ve got the natives and two white Australians there as representatives of the Graves Commission. You’re only there for identification purposes.” And I said, “That would be pretty simple.” But mainly to show

06:18:00:00

them where the graves were, which I didn’t have a lot of trouble with. But then I discovered, having already the meat ticket thing thingo, for identification, then they expected me to examine the faces and identify them by face. These are mates of mine, I buried them. And three months down the road in that climate, they're not a nice fume. That sort of then really got to me. It really, really got to me.

06:18:30:00

Ken, what was involved in that job, can you tell us from the start of that day how you would carry out that job?
Well, what they had was, they had a jeep and a trailer and we used to go from grave to grave. These fellas, these PNG [Papua New Guinea] fellas, the natives, they used to have Johnson’s Baby Powder and they used to put a thing around their nose because of the terrible smell. They were a bit weak in the stomach and it was a big job to handle, they’d walk away and some

06:19:00:00

others would come. They had to be dug out because when we buried them, we only buried them about that far down. And how we used to do it, we put them in their one blanket and their ground sheet and we wrapped them in that. Then we used to get signal cable, signal wire and wrap them like a Minty, tie the end and wrap them around like that, and it would be just like a Minty, more or less, wrapped around. That would be a parcel about that round, and

06:19:30:00

just dig the hole, put them down there and cover them over. Of course there wasn't much involvement in digging because they were there, pretty close, but not a very good smell, but strange to say it, they were still in one piece and all that. The other thing was that someone said that if you dug them up about a month before or so, they would have been up like that, but by this time they’d gone back like that, they looked pretty much like normal.

06:20:00:00

Yeah, so that was a bit of a plus I suppose, but I said to him, “Look, I can't do that.” “Well, you're supposed to,” and I said, “Well, I wasn't told about that.” The thing about it was, that used to annoy me, was that they used to, they had this trailer and we chucked them in like a Minty, about six or eight and put them in there. Hop in the jeep and back, and they’d put them in a bombed out slit trench or something and chuck them in there, and we’d sort of half bury them. They used to have a sort of a card

06:20:30:00

thing they’d put on, or a big thing and they’d write on it. Then I noticed the natives and they couldn’t read or write or whatever, and they were just putting bang, bang, bang, and chucking these on top and I said, “They're losing their identification.” But they still had one thing left in their chest. So anyway that went on and that was getting to me, and I said, “I can't handle this.” and they said, “We’ve not got a bit more, but you’ve got to stay here now because further back is the earlier part where they were and this is the ones that you’ve definitely got to show.”

06:21:00:00

And by this time the grass had started to come. So I said to them, “I’ll do that, I should do that.” And then I got a touch of malaria and I was sort of weak, I don't know what it was but I was just feeling terrible. I couldn’t sort of put my finger on it. I just told [them], “I’m getting out of it.” So I went up in the jeep one day and we found the graves and that, and indicated on the map

06:21:30:00

where they were and I said, “Now you know where the graves [are], they’ve got identification and you’ve just got to read them. You don’t need me. This is what’s ruined this. These are mates of mine.” “Oh, yeah, we’re sorry.” I went and hopped in [a] plane back to Lae, ah, Wewak. While I was there, mail was there, and so I go through the mail and the last two love letters from Audrey.

06:22:00:00

She kept sending them up to me, I’ve still got them up there. So anyway, in it was a very official looking thing from the army informing me that I was subpoenaed to go over to Rabaul to act as a witness in a cannibalism case, and I knew straight away what it was because these Indians that had been eaten and the fact that I was the sergeant when they were taken. ‘Gee,’ I thought, ‘I can't handle this.’ So I thought, ‘How am I going to get out? I can't get

06:22:30:00

out if I’m the only one – the others have probably all gone home.’ The war was over and they’d probably gone home. But it was only that I was sent back up to the Graves Commission that I was still there. So anyway, I got word to say from the orderly room, I got word to say, ‘Disregard that request to go to Borneo,’ – not Borneo, Rabaul – , ‘for the War Crimes Commission.’ I said, “Thank God for that, they must have found

06:23:00:00

someone else.” It wasn't that long I found out after, those twelve survivors who I never seen after that day, but some of the other fellas had seen them, and they were all fat as mud, you know, happy. They actually came back to the unit headquarters to thank them. But they were put on a plane and flown over to Rabaul – hit a bloody mountain and killed the lot of them. So

06:23:30:00

that made it worse, and I thought it was good that I didn’t have to go, but for the reason that I didn’t have to go, really terrible. So right up to this day, whatever happened to the person who was charged, I never knew, there was two of them charged for cannibalism because they were eating these Indians. Anyway, the only other case was, that I didn’t have a connection with, it happened at Wewak. There was another cannibalism case and

06:24:00:00

there was a sergeant major up for cannibalism. At this particular time I wasn't there but a mate of mine went to this case that was held in the office headquarters. They had everyone there for the case against – I didn’t know anything about the case, but a mate of mine went along. Anyway, for the one of witnesses had got sick and couldn’t appear,

06:24:30:00

they couldn’t turn up, the judge that was over there said, “Well, we haven't got enough evidence to get this man,” and the case was wiped. Cannibalism – and I remember my mate saying to me, “I wonder if that judge had’ve been the person who was told to report to the cook house in his oldest pair of underpants

06:25:00:00

and without his mess dixies [pots], how he’d feel about freeing this Japanese.” So that’s the story, but he got off, but whatever happened to the others I don't know, they might have, after Rabaul I didn’t hear anything about it. But I mentioned that in this book, anyway, strange to say, an Indian

06:25:30:00

in Victoria, in Melbourne somewhere, he got onto Shannon and said that his father was one of these people that were in it. They weren't all sent over there, there was a couple, two or three of them, that were sick or whatever, and his father repatriated to India. I never knew, I never followed up on it but Alan rang me up and told me about it. I said, “I don’t know anything about it, but all I know is that it’s supposed to be all in there,” and he

06:26:00:00

didn’t come back to Australia, and he’s not all that long dead. But his son, who is a doctor, is a doctor in Melbourne, and he said, “Dad often talked about that.” Amazing isn't it, that that had to sort of bring it out. Anyway, Alan Shannon said, “Well, he couldn’t get in touch with me, but ring my, Don Hayman, my daughter’s husband here.” So he got onto Don and Don was all for, “Yeah, we’ll find out

06:26:30:00

more about that.” And Don got onto me about it, and I said, “Just let it sleep, I don’t really want to.” And he was talking about coming up here and interviewing me and all that sort of stuff. I didn’t want to get involved any more than that. He even sent a photo up of his father, and he asked Don to ask his father, me, did he recognise his father. Well, his father was like that, you know, skin

06:27:00:00

burnt off him the last time I’d seen him, I imagine. But anyway, it’s amazing how coincidences …
It’s incredible. What did they say to you when they first came out of that camp? How did they explain what happened, and did you hear it first hand from those Indian men?
About the cannibalism? This warrant officer talked pretty good English and he explained it all, he said how they'd been eaten.

06:27:30:00

Actually the Japanese were desperately short of food too, you see, well you’d have to wouldn’t you, to eat a skinny Indian. Yeah, so that was all I knew about it and it was pretty true too. He divulged that information there on the day I believe, but we were fighting a war, we couldn’t sit around and have a smoke and talk about things, we had bloody Japs to dispose of. I wish we did.

06:28:00:00

There's something in there that I don’t want to leave out either, when I went over to …
Wewak?
No, inland, to Maprik, it was then – it wasn't till then, but others knew before, that the people we were fighting

06:28:30:00

was the 18th Japanese Army who were responsible for the rape of Nam King, if you’ve ever heard about that – the Nanking in China? When they, just before they had our war they came to China, into Nanking which was an enormous place, and they slaughtered – slaughtered, slaughtered. They were unarmed, and that was army, and the

06:29:00:00

officer in charge was the General Adachi, and he was still in charge of them in New Guinea. When once we found out that they were the 18th Army, did what they were responsible for, I said, “These bastards have got to pay for this.” And we had no compunction about no prisoners, just dead. They were slaughtered like that, and we felt that it was a good revenge sort of thing. Because the rape of Nanking, it goes down in history, doesn’t it, a terrible, terrible thing they’d done in China.

06:29:30:00

It was an unarmed city.
How did you know about that?
Well, all the authorities knew about it, it was pretty well written up – this happened before the war, it was before our war, when they took China years and years ago. It was a very well known thing, the rape of Nanking. I think there was a picture made of it later. Everyone knew about that at that particular time anyway, it was just like talking about

06:30:00:00

who won the football yesterday. That was one of the things about it that got no – yeah it was Adachi that surrendered, and he surrendered to my particular mob, but not just me, I was at a place called Alupna Harp [surrender occurred at Cape Wom near Wewak]. No, not Alupna Harp, that was where it happened I think, the surrender, and I was at a place called –

06:30:30:00

I didn’t think I’d ever forget it. Anyway I was there, but I did see him. They had the surrender, they had the big surrender in the Wewak airstrip. And Adachi’s only a little fella about that high, and he was the general. He surrendered and gave his sword over, but not the one with all the diamonds in it. It was some other old one and he got the other one. Some Aussie’s probably got it hidden in his back room somewhere.

06:31:00:00

Alukna Hoita [?], that’s where I was. Alukna Hoita – you can't spell it either. It’s only a village, and while we were at Alukna Hoita there was up a side in the Torricelli Mountains, they were very high. The little fuzzy wuzzy [Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels (New Guineans who aided Australian troops on the Kokoda Track)] kids, there were only about that high, probably eight or ten of them,

06:31:30:00

big fat bellies on them covered in ringworm. Seven or eight of them came in to us in our area, and a nice little fella, and of course we were soft hearted. We had plenty to eat but it was all thrown from the air and it was all horrific, like bully beef and biscuit and things like that. But anyway we gave them it and they thought it was great, but the biggest thing they wanted, and they couldn’t believe it,

06:32:00:00

this thing that they had to have and they didn’t have it, was salt. Because they had all this skin ringworm, and so they discovered we had salt and it was just like giving a kid ice cream. They were craving for it, and we had that much salt and they were licking it. In next to no time and the bully beef they were shining. The little fellas, they adopted us or we adopted them, I don't know,

06:32:30:00

whatever happened. They used to go way down and bring the water up with buckets, they were only tiny fellas and they brought the water all the way up the hill. I can also remember about them, it used to rain a lot and the poor little buggers were wet and we couldn’t have them in the tents with us, and we were sort of sitting there waiting for the water to wind up properly,

06:33:00:00

and they – the stuff that was thrown out of the planes was wrapped up in sisal craft, big sheets of it, and the next thing we knew they were making themselves little camps you know, sisal craft camps. They’d be in there and chatting like a lot of lazy jacks. Some of our boys were playing cards and they were looking in, and next to no time and there was a whole cut of cards and showing the cards, and next they’re in there and they’re playing the cards and going all night. Cute little blokes.

06:33:30:00

And they told us, or we found out or whatever, why they were orphans, that the Japanese had actually killed their parents for food, and killed a lot of them, but they ran away. All the little girls, they said, “Sister, they’ve all gone, dead. The Japanese chop, chop.” But the little boys had seen the girls dead in this particular village that we’d taken, this Akukna Hoita.
Do you remember at the time what the reaction was between the Aussie blokes to those stories of cannibalism?

06:34:00:00

Well, that was just in my particular mob of about a little under thirty, probably, of us. Whether it happened in other areas or not, I don't know. It was not a front, it was isolated pockets of defence and attacks, and we were scattered around, like up near the Fly River, it was not a concentrated turn out at all. But we knew there was a hell of a lot of cannibalism going on. But the Jap,

06:34:30:00

it was looked upon as not a complete fully human being. I forget how I pronounce the word in the (UNCLEAR) or something. But they were in a terrible state – I’m not condoning the fact that they were eating anyone, but they had beriberi and they were really, really in a terrible state. They’d been slaughtered up the coast there

06:35:00:00

and wherever you looked you could see Japanese skulls and bones laying about. When we went into different places like Aitape and Wewak, But [airfield] and Wewak and a couple of other places, the American Negroes used to bring in our supplies in these boats and row them up. Anyway, I didn’t know how it happened, but anyway someone showed him one of these Jap skulls, and they were given – managed it like a find –

06:35:30:00

given five pound a head. So we were blinded with all this – they were taking them back to America, I believe they were making big money out if it, you know. Then in the end when we ran out of skulls, I think they were sending them leg bones, I think they were a bit cheaper, something like that. Then there was another situation not far from Wewak, where the Japanese had been cremating their dead, that they liked to do in little square boxes. There was a shed, not as long as this,

06:36:00:00

probably from here back to the wall or a big higher, and this was stacked full of these little things, and they were expected to be sent back to Japan. So some of the smarties got them and took them down to the wharves and the American sailors were taking them off by the hundreds. Wartime – it’s a souvenir – Jap ash. They had the symbols on the back of them. Anyway, this officer got to hear about it put a match to it and burnt the whole lot.

06:36:30:00

So they were double cremated. There were not a great lot of …
What did you think of the Japanese soldier back then?
Oh, he was pretty – anywhere else I don’t think he would have been much good, but I think in the jungle he shone. We used to have a lot of trouble with them coming out at night and

06:37:00:00

coming into our area and bayoneting people in the dark. They kept us a bit on our toes, but in most cases we were winning all the time. But they were – I mean, I've been to Japan and stayed in the best hotels – I’m involved in the meat industry and have had a fair bit to do with the meat industry over there,

06:37:30:00

we sell quite a lot of meat to them. I was a member of the Cattlemen Union Council and others in the meat industry. You know, to stay at the magnificent hotels and see all the business people walking around, and the food and everything, it’s uncomprehensible for me to associate those people and those people,

06:38:00:00

because they were, I suppose, their uniform done nothing for them and they looked like monkeys dressed up. Some of the officers you seen with them, they stood out, you could see that they were of different character. Most of those people were the poor people, the coolie types, they were conscripted into the Japanese army, millions of course, and told to kill, and that was it. Given a rifle,

06:38:30:00

and people said that they were short sighted and shortened this and shortened that, but they weren't all short on. It was all close in fighting, but they were not involved in bayoneting there. They wouldn’t be involved in that at all, they used to sit back and shoot you while you were trying to play games with them. But they were a really good soldier I suppose, but it’s not …
How different did you view the Japanese as an enemy

06:39:00:00

compared to the Germans as an enemy?
Oh, chalk and cheese. It’s hard, I wouldn’t insult a German by trying to compare them as a person, as a physical person or an intellectual person. Because the Germans were all, gave me the impression of all, “I’ve got a bit of an inferior complex,” that’s their very vibe. But they had a different outlook on life to us, with how they thought

06:39:30:00

and had well-meant ideas, and they were strutters and saluters, and no humour, whereas we make a big joke of anything. They couldn’t understand that.
What do you think was good about the Aussie soldier?
Oh, his adaptability to circumstances, that was his main thing. He didn’t follow the rules all the time, if something had to be done, and even sometimes disregard all the rules, lots of times, actually,

06:40:00:00

which were good because sometimes officers gave the wrong orders and people would get killed, and if they thought that that’s not a good order they made their own arrangements, you know. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong. No, they were a very adaptable sort of person and spur of the moment people, and make good decisions whereas the Germans were trained to do what they were trained to do. If they said, “Walk over there and get yourself shot,”

06:40:30:00

they walked over there and got himself shot. Tell an Australian to do it and he’d tell you where to go, where to get and how to get there, and he’d do it. Just so different, everyone, yeah.
Interviewee: Kenneth Banks Archive ID 2008 Tape 07

07:00:30:00

You wouldn’t believe it you know but a mate of mine, Dick Mackenzie, a little bit older than me, not much, but still going strong. We correspond and keep pretty close together, he said to me – he keeps a rat out in Queensland and I’m in Dirranbandi, and it’s not that far apart. Anyway, we got to know each other, we were in the same unit,

07:01:00:00

we were pretty close, both being bushies, anyway he said to me, “What are you going to do, the war’s over.” I said, “I don't know, I’ve only had one job before I came, I don't know what’s going to happen to me.” He said, “I’m the same. I’ve been thinking, you know.” I must have been not thinking at all actually. I said, “I’d just like to go over to Japan in the occupational forces, just for a short time.” He said,

07:01:30:00

“I’d like to do that too.” I said, “Fair dinkum?” he said, “Yes.” We went down and put our names down and they looked at us and said, “What do you want? You’ve been one of the longest service,” – well me, he hadn't been, he was a reinforcement later on. He said to me, “You, why the hell would you want to go?” and I said, “Well, I just want to go and see how these bastards live, what the country looks like, but not for long.” So anyway, they said, “Righto, ok.” So he came back and said, “If you go over,

07:02:00:00

we’re prepared to give you a commission as a lieutenant.” I said, “But no schools,” and he said, “Well, you should,” and I said, “No bloody schools because,” I said, “I don’t want to be mucked around with that.” So he said, “Ok, righto then, no schools.” It’s been a long serving sergeant. Anyway, righto, we put our names down and Dick and I are going to go over there and we’re going to give these geisha girls a bit of a touch up when we get over there.

07:02:30:00

So we were there for, and then they said, “We’re shipping you around to, two years ago, and we’re going to send you around to Lae.” And that’s where they’re putting people together there and there’s quite a few people in Lae that hadn't fired a shot but didn’t want to leave the army and wanted to go over there in peacetime. So we went around there and when I got there they had a job for me and they had a job for Dick too. My job was, I was put in charge of

07:03:00:00

a prisoner of war compound of seven hundred Japanese at Lae. I was the sergeant in charge, there was a young officer over me, he’d never fired a shot. Had five kids during the war, never obviously left Australia but he put in for compassionate leave because he had a mob of howling kids and he went back. Then they said, “Righto Banks, you're in charge of the prisoner of war compound.” It was a joke really, because they had a big compound that looked good, and they had things on the corner for the guards,

07:03:30:00

and they used to have to have guards and they stayed up till about nine o'clock, and when everything settled down and the lights turned out you could come in and do what you wanted to do. We’d give the Japs the keys to come out early in the morning to cook their food. You couldn’t get rid of them because they were waiting for boats to go home too. And Dick, they put him in charge of the transport of these Japs off the working parties. That was Dick’s job, and my job was to sort of – I didn’t even have to detail

07:04:00:00

the records, the Japs done it themselves. I even had a Japanese, a little Japanese fella taken prisoner of war, who volunteered as a batman for me. He couldn’t talk any English but I got cranky sometimes and he used to sing this song, ‘You Are My Sunshine’, and he could sing it right through but he didn’t have a bloody clue what he was singing you know. And I just, “Ok, ok, ok,” and laugh. But he used to put me right off when I’d gone

07:04:30:00

crook about something he’d done wrong and of course, ‘Sunshine’, and he had this lovely voice and he could sing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ and that time it was just about when he could think, you know, it was instinct kind of thing. He’d sing it in line with ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ and a few other things. But anyway, as I said, at nine o'clock when things settled down, I didn’t have to tell them to come off, they just used to come off and settle in, the Japs knew, they wouldn’t run away,

07:05:00:00

nothing to win in that but a lot to lose. So anyway, this Dick Mackenzie, he was camped there and so was I, on the job, and he – that’s right, I’d been away Tom Cat and somewhere down to AGH [Australian General Hospital] at the hospital, and I came back in the morning

07:05:30:00

and he met me, and he said, “Banksy, you're in big trouble.” “What’s wrong?” He said, “A big red head major came in last night and called the guard out.” “What guard?” “Who’s in charge of the guard?” “Sergeant Banks.” “Where’s he?” “Don’t know.” He said, “Mate, you're in big trouble.” And I knew, but where this big red head had

07:06:00:00

come from I don't know, he was just some bloke that came in and clean the – anyway, he said, “Tell Sergeant Banks I’ll be here tomorrow and I’ll see him.” “Ok.” So Dick said, “You’ve got to think about something quick.” And of course I’d had this – what’s the name, the problem that I told you, the complaint.
The glandular problem?
Yeah, the glandular thing.

07:06:30:00

When I went and seen about it the doctor said to me, “Yeah it’s a glandular thing, but unless your knees or your elbows ache – ,” the fact that I couldn’t perspire, see. He said, “If that doesn’t ever occur, you're right, but if it does occur get to a doctor, quick.” Of course it didn’t happen, but I thought it was a good excuse so I rushed off next morning and as soon as I get to the hospital, “Is he, doctor, here? I think it’s my glands.” “Yeah, how long have you had it?” I said,

07:07:00:00

“Oh, two years or something since I started losing weight.” “You should never have come up to the tropics.” I said, “Tell me now! No one ever told me.” He said, “You should never have been here, you should never have come up in here.” “Right, tell me now. What are we going to do, doctor?” “I’ll have you back in Australia in thirty six hours.” I said, “Mate, I’ll hold you to that.” I’m thinking about that big red headed bloke

07:07:30:00

back at the prisoner of war compound. So I got onto Dick, I said, “Dick, get my gear out of there, I don’t want to go back there in case he turns up.” And he got all my gear and brought it down to the hospital, and within thirty six hours I was landed in Brissy, that was the end of the Japanese trip. Once I got back to Australia I was feeling – and on top of this, of all things, of course they whizzed me straight into Greenslopes and couldn’t do anything for me, they told me.

07:08:00:00

And all I wanted was to get out, there was nothing wrong with me, I just used that as an excuse to get away from the big red headed rooster from New Guinea. So I rang up Father somewhere and I said, “How are the Hiles?” and he said, “Oh, Mrs. Hile and Audrey are down at Surfers Paradise having a bit of a break down there.” I said, “Ahh, you don’t tell me.” So I got my gear and hit out to Surfers Paradise and I think he must have

07:08:30:00

told me where the house they were renting [was]. So I wandered up the footpath with my kitbag over my shoulder, Audrey doesn’t even know I’m back in Australia and looks out the window and, “Oh!” Rushed out and smothered me, and so that was pretty sort of fatal, I sort of forgot about the geisha girls and all that by that time.
Had you and Audrey been communicating with each other?
Oh letter-wise, yeah. I’ve still got my letters up there.

07:09:00:00

How often did you get letters from her in New Guinea?
Oh, in wartime you get letters when letters get through. I probably, every couple of weeks or so, I suppose.
How important were those letters for you?
Along with a few other letters, very important.

07:09:30:00

How many girls did you have writing to you?
I think four at the one time was the most. I used to – it was the most I could handle. I used to have a bit of trouble [they] went into the right envelopes, and if I wanted to get rid of that one I’d put that envelope in there, and that was one way of sorting that one out.
A bit of a Casanova really, weren't you?
Not really, I just sort of – I liked girls’ presence a bit more than I liked alcoholic drinks and stuff like that.

07:10:00:00

I was always a pretty good dancer, and in wartime if you went to a dance, if you couldn’t take a girlfriend home you wanted to put a bullet in your head because, you know.
Can you describe one of those dances for us?
Yeah, there was the quickstep, the foxtrot, the (shoddies UNCLEAR), the barn dances of course, and the pride of erin, and the jazz waltz was a modern thing at that particular time.

07:10:30:00

I was a good dancer and Audrey was an extra special good dancer so in that way we were very compatible that way.
Can you tell us about what the atmosphere was like in those places when you went dancing?
I tell you there were some awful looking places, when you were in Sydney it was strange. When I was at the School of Artillery I used to go different dances at different places, and when you get out there, “Oh, you come from so and so.” “How do you know?” “Oh, that’s the way they do the dance.”

07:11:00:00

Every suburb’s done it a little different, and you could sort of pick it out that way. But then that was around Sydney, and up in Brisbane it was pretty much the same. I remember when we came back from New Guinea and the first time we were camped at Helidon – do you know where Helidon is, out near Toowoomba, between Gatton and Toowoomba? – we were camped out there. We used to, there were all those German cockies there and their big fat

07:11:30:00

German daughters. We learnt pretty smartly, if you go to the dance you don’t go there till about half past nine, because these German girls used to be down doing the milking and they’d turn up to the dance at about then, all flushed and red and raring to go. So I can remember going to this particular dance up at Heifer Creek, I think it was, there were a lot of heifers there.

07:12:00:00

So anyway we went into this dance, and a truck load of us went, and we had a few beers, not too many, but were a bit noisy. So we bowl into this place and they're all very respectable German dairy farm people, and we were a little bit noisy I suppose, so when we went in you could sort of see everyone, back. I’m looking around for a good sort, and they were a pretty ordinary looking lot – (UNCLEAR).

07:12:30:00

Anyway, the next thing we knew they were all dancing and one was sitting up there and I went and asked for a dance, I got up and she was a big hefty lass. Oh, that’s right, it was a Monte Carlo, you got a prize, (UNCLEAR) or something, and she was so slow and she was dragging around, and I couldn’t get her into the spot I wanted to. Next thing I remember, I ended up with a prize, I can't remember what it was, and of course

07:13:00:00

I had to share it with her, and she’s never had a fella in her life. The fellas were saying, “Gee, you're not doing too good tonight, Banksy! Can't you do any better than that?” “Oh, yeah, ok.” So anyway, I think they must have got a bit noisy because all of a sudden at around half past ten or eleven o'clock, they played “God Save the King” and as soon as they put on the last dance, “Let’s get out of here,” you know. I looked at my, “Sorry, love.”

07:13:30:00

So we hopped in the bus and went down the road a half a mile or so and someone said, “I want a leak.” “Me too,” so we’re out there, and the next thing we knew, ‘When It’s Springtime in the Rockies’, they just got rid of us and then went back to dancing again. So we took the hint but we never went back. There were cases like that, you know.
How did you come to be such a good dancer?
In the west and those sort of places there was nothing much else.

07:14:00:00

There was always a two bob hop every weekend somewhere and if you weren't a pub frequenter there was nothing else but to go dancing. It’s just wonderful, wonderful – actually I’m very seriously thinking about going dancing again. I’ve got friends here that go dancing four or five times a week. See, I had this open heart surgery and they gave my legs a terrible deal, taking veins out of them, and I’ve been having a bit of trouble with my

07:14:30:00

circulation. I’m in the opinion that I don’t know how I’d stand up to a bit of heavy dancing. So I’m going to have a go.
Fantastic.
You don’t have to laugh at that!
No, I think that’s great, fantastic. Why not?
But these couple I know, they're grandparents, they had a christening of a grandkid yesterday, the first one,

07:15:00:00

but they're in their mid-fifties or a bit later, and they go dancing four or five times a week. They just love it, and they know I dance because I’ve been to a lot of family things around and there's always dances going on, just a few pretty good old dances, and we get up and we dance and we can still do it as good as ever. I don't know how I’d go on a prolonged excursion. I suggested to them, I said, “I don’t have a partner,”

07:15:30:00

and they said, “Don’t worry, there’s plenty of partners,” and I said, “I don’t want any fat ones or long skinny wrinkly ones, either.” So they said, “You're a bit too choosy aren't you?” No, anyway, that’s beside the point. We digressed a bit.
That’s alright. Getting back to when you came home and saw Audrey …
Well, anyway, as I said, the most important part was walking up with the kitbag over and Audrey spots me and came out

07:16:00:00

and it was wonderful, wonderful place to get together again. She didn’t have a clue that I was back in Australia, or had arrived. So anyway, we had ten days or a fortnight there, and while I was there, it was – certain time of the year, romantic time, what do you call it?

07:16:30:00

Valentine’s Day?
Valentine’s Day, it was then. So she said, “Oh, it’s Valentine’s Day,” and we were cuddling, and the moon was coming in through the window, and she said, “Valentine’s Day.” and I said, “What does that mean?” and she told me all about it. I must have weakened or something because I proposed to her, there and then. She hopped off the bed, never said yes, no or anything and ran in to her mother, and she said, “Ken just

07:17:00:00

proposed to me. What do you reckon?” she said, “You know what you’re going to do, go and do it.” She came back and she never ever said yes and I said, “You still haven't said yes,” you know, three kids away. So anyway, at that time she was twenty, but she wanted to be twenty-one before she got married,

07:17:30:00

so she put the date at twenty one and three days, for whatever reason. It happened to be on the twenty third of September that particular same year and we got married.
Had you been planning to propose to her?
I think it was a spur of the moment, I was sure. I wouldn’t tell her that, but I think I was going to make it last a bit longer. I was always one to keep my options open – I still do that

07:18:00:00

in regard to business things, not romance any more. But anyway, it was the best thing I ever done, and we were married and we didn’t have any money but I had a little bit, not much. Today it’s not nothing but it was very important then. We got married and I got into little businesses here and there and we put money together and eventually got enough money to be able to go in for land ballots.

07:18:30:00

I’d been in and not sold them and not had a lot of luck, and one day I bought a couple of houses really cheap because the bloke was in trouble. I got them cheap, and I’d done one up while the other one I was renting. Anyway, the first son, Paul, was going off to school and the little bugger used to ride his bike in vehicles and everything, and I used to say, “He’s going to get run over.”

07:19:00:00

“Well, you can't do much about it.” Righto, so anyway, I bought an irrigated water factory in Dirranbandi, and it was going very well, progressing very well. As I might have said, I got my discharge back there, quite a few months before. I’m down there one day and the next thing, I saw Audrey coming around helter pelter around the corner, howling her bloody head off, and I thought, ‘That bloody Paul, I knew he was going to get run over.’ So when she came up I said, “Did Paul get run over?” and she said, “No, it’s worse

07:19:30:00

than that. You drew a block of land way out there in Queensland. I don’t want to go up there.” I said, “Oh, God. Whereabouts?” “Don’t know, I don’t care. I don’t want to go.” She was a real town girl, she didn’t want to leave Dirranbandi. So after trying to find out where it was I said, “I think (UNCLEAR) block was one of them.” It just happened to be the only cattle block, it was real big, it was a hundred square mile, it wasn't a horse paddock,

07:20:00:00

it’s a hundred square mile. So I discovered not a fence on it, not a nothing on it, not even a sheet of iron even. It was just bare open, and I came up and had a look at it, ‘I don't know how I’m going to handle this with two thousand quid,’ that’s all I could muster. So I thought, well it was my mother-in-law more than anything, she said, “Ken, you might have to wait for a while but it will come good.” So Audrey and I came up and I built part of the house

07:20:30:00

and came up and brought the three lengths of kids up, like that, that, and that, and a bloke up that, I had him on a horse most of the time because I couldn’t afford wages. We’ve hung in there and I’ve been there for, yeah, this year, fifty years. And today it’s worth millions – the two married sons are out there and they manage it, and they use two thirds of it, and I use, I still cattle buy if ever they want to get out of that situation.

07:21:00:00

My daughter’s married here and her and the hubby have got their own real estate and banking a couple of hundred thousand each year, so they’re not doing too badly.
How did that land ballot system work?
Well see, there were two types, there was the ex-servicemen ballot and there was the open ballot, for other people, anyone could go in for. Actually, in fact, there was ninety nine of us in it, and I was the ninety ninth

07:21:30:00

marble that went in, I believe. I was the ninety-ninth marble, and I was the first one to come out, that was me. That’s the way they have it. You’ve got to have the certain criteria, the financial background and that sort of stuff, and experience. You go into the ballot if you’ve got that, you can fill that in satisfactorily to the Land Commission’s requirements. Yeah, so I come out of it, minus enough money –

07:22:00:00

the government didn’t lend money at all, you were on your own, so we just made applications for money and got knocked back and Audrey just said, “Well, we’ll bloody do it without them. We’ll just hang in there.” And at that particular time cattle was starting to rise, and I bought some cheap cattle and we just hung in there, until today I've spent millions on the place just about, to make it what it is, you know. And today,

07:22:30:00

I’ve got a bloke coming in to – I paid him the other night down here, fifty five thousand just for blade ploughing in advance of the 30th June so I won’t have to pay tax. So I’m improving the land all the time and carrying the passage greater, and one day I’m just going to give it to the boys and that’s it. Because I don’t really need it, I’m comfortable and I’ve got two homes here, and I’ve bought what I really want.

07:23:00:00

I’m hanging in out there for the reason of, well it’s an interest, my interest, and I buy cattle. I’m a cattle dealer and it gives me an opportunity to get out amongst old mates, other cattlemen, and travel. So, the best of both worlds. Anywhere in between that, I don’t know where we might have missed out, but after we were married I got into lots of little businesses – I got into furniture and an irrigated water factory,

07:23:30:00

and buying dead wool and selling wool, and catching oil pigs and sending them, all sorts of things to put the quid together.
What sort of wedding did you have?
A little wedding in a little church, yeah, just a little wedding in a little church. At half past seven in the morning because we had no car so we had to catch the train to go down on our honeymoon to Surfers Paradise. So we had the wedding in the morning and the breakfast

07:24:00:00

and went and got on the train, and that was about midday to Lakeside today. It was supposed to be winter time, and I was supposed to have a bedroll and blanket sort of stuff and I forgot them in my great excitement to get away on this honeymoon thing, because I hadn't experienced any honeymoon, not with Audrey anyway. I forgot the blankets and we got in to Goondiwindi, I had to get them from a woman and she rushed around

07:24:30:00

and bought some blankets from around the railway station. Then we couldn’t get a cabin on our own on the train, and as soon as we looked like getting comfortable someone would roll in. “I hope you don’t mind.” “Oh, no we’re only on our honeymoon.” “Oh, congratulations!” Bang, they’d put their bum down. “Is she going to run?” “No, she’s not.” So we got down into Brissy and had to hang around all day, and to get to go down,

07:25:00:00

we booked into a house for six weeks, honeymoon at Surfers, because I had this glandular problem and I had another thing was dyspepsia, which is a nerve thing. So the mother-in-law said, “Go down there and bloody stay down there for six weeks and try and get over what your problems are.” So that’s what we went, and we didn’t get down to Surfers Paradise until bloody midnight, that was three nights away I think it was, and it was too late then wasn't it? It had to be the longest

07:25:30:00

waiting job I ever had, I think. But anyway, it was worth it.
That was just after the war, what was Surfers Paradise like then?
Well, I could have bought all of Surfers Paradise for about two thousand quid I think. The people come along and say, “Would you be interested in buying a block of land here?” and some of those have got twenty storey buildings on them now, just unbelievable. And paying rent there, it was fifteen shillings a week on a big house.

07:26:00:00

And today – you know the opportunities that were there and you didn’t have to have a lot of money, just a bit, but I didn’t have it.
How hard was it for you to come back after all those years away in such incredible circumstances, how hard was it for you to adjust to being back in Australia and living a civilian life?
Yeah, it was hard, particularly because I was still young and I didn’t have any world experience before I went. I

07:26:30:00

worked on a place in New South Wales, I was telling you about that, where I went on that droving trip, and the people there – it’s strange to say, he was reasonably decent to me, he ought to have been because he was getting cheap labour, but his wife was a bitch, and you wouldn’t believe it there, I was fourteen , fifteen, sixteen something like that.

07:27:00:00

I never ate with the family, I used to have to eat in the kitchen and they – not that they wanted to but today, you know – there was nothing wrong with me, I thought I was respectable enough to be employed by them and live by them but she didn’t like me, mainly because her sister liked me, I think, and she was looking for better things for her sister. And that might have been a good thought too on her part, because I had nothing to give.

07:27:30:00

But she treated me very shabbily, and you know I even used to play a fair game of tennis, I always have, and there was a tennis court there and I asked the boss bloke, “Do you mind if I do the tennis court up?” and he said, “Yeah, go ahead. We used to play a lot here once.” I said, “I would like to do that.” and he had some kids and they could play. So I got it up nice, and doing it all in my own time, and anyway,

07:28:00:00

when they had the big opening of the tennis court, you wouldn’t believe it, they didn’t even invite me in to come and play with them. Never invited me, they just had their own family and friends and neighbours – the neighbours couldn’t believe it. They didn’t know that I had been the one doing the work. So then there was another tennis court about three miles up the creek that had sort of run into neglect, and I said, “Well, bugger it.” So I got a couple of others and, “We’ll go and do that up.” So we done that up and we formed a club, we used to play there every weekend. I was actually,

07:28:30:00

well I don't know what I was, but I used to be putting all my time into keeping it under playing conditions. We used to gather there and it was great, and that’s where they gave me the big send off from. This is where the bosses wife, she was down there playing tennis too, and where we declared ourselves – a bit too late now love – that we had a

07:29:00:00

lot of compatibility. She was sort of very teary that I was going because she was never allowed, her sister used to keep an eye on her, “Keep away from Kenny, he’s a bad egg that fella.” But anyway, she said to me, because she knew that I’d been badly treated, and it hurt her to see, she used to help me up at the tennis court a lot and she said that, “I couldn’t believe the day”. I said, “What, about Ken?” and she said, “No, Ken’s not included today.”

07:29:30:00

She and I used to go down and play ourselves, but those sort of days, people like that, I don't think they’re about no more, I hope not.
You said that it was quite hard coming back and living a civilian life. What was most difficult about it for you?
I had some difficulties I can remember.

07:30:00:00

Most of the fellas that came back started a football team out in the town at Dirranbandi, and it was a pretty good football team too. But because I had this, I’d lost weight and skinny as a rake I was, I was starting to play football but I didn’t have the stamina. I was getting hurt, and that was when I thought, you know,

07:30:30:00

‘I’m over there and was a sergeant and I’m somebody of count, and I come back here and I can't even play a bloody game of football with these fellas.’ That really hurt me a lot. It took me years and years to get the condition back on me, I’ve never really got over that problem. But otherwise …
Ken, why did you want to go and be part of the occupational forces in Japan?
I think I was a little frightened of civvy [civilian] life back in Australia

07:31:00:00

because I hadn't really experienced any of it, because I went from a kid to a place and from a place into the army. I didn’t know how I was going to handle it, you know. I stayed too long in the one place, where I went to that (Irrigappy UNCLEAR). I should have got out of there and moved about a bit, you know. I had great, great opportunity of people with distant relatives later on, they said, “You were over in this area too, and why didn’t you come and see us?”

07:31:30:00

I don't know why, but if I had’ve got out with those people, I would have been – well I wouldn’t be sitting here now, I could have been anywhere, dead, whatever. But, everything’s turned out for the good. I was scared of how I was going to handle civvy [civilian] life. It was a terrible thing to be, but I was compatible with the army, I knew what I was doing there. I knew what to do and what was to do, and how to conduct myself, and had a bloody good time doing it.

07:32:00:00

Why do you think it was so hard to adjust to civilian life after?
By a result of so many cases, it must have been terribly hard for many people, terribly hard, because I knew lots that came home and got married and they gave their, they just weren't ready to settle down and they wanted to be with the boys all the time.

07:32:30:00

They wanted to be with ex-servicemen all the time because they talked their language. It was very hard, but I never had any problems that way. I was always happy to be with Audrey, I never ever wanted to go out to pubs and that, and with the boys and that sort of stuff. Saturday I might go and have two or three beers or whatever, that’s the most I ever did. But to go out, I’d sooner wait till after Saturday afternoon, there was always a dance

07:33:00:00

on and Audrey and I would go dancing. That was my life.
Did you miss the war?
I can't remember that, whether I missed it. Once it started to get, when I became proper in civilian life – that’s not the word, but anyway, no I was happy enough in a civilian capacity. No I never really missed it at all. I went to a few reunions

07:33:30:00

but they were a disappointment with me because the local reunions out there were a little too blokey, too much drinky and internal bickering about, ‘You were there, I was there, and I was there and you weren't helping,’ and all that sort of stuff – particularly in the infantry division, and the militia people, we’d give them a hard time

07:34:00:00

and they, I suppose, could have joined the AIF but they didn’t. The fact that they never got away, thousands and thousands, and wanted to go, it was not them, it was a government thing. To protect an Australian you just had to have something out there on the outskirts doing the fighting. But there was a lot of anti-militia feeling amongst the fellas that had been away. I was more tolerant, I think I’ve been

07:34:30:00

a pretty tolerant person on lots of things. I try to look at both sides and if I can get any sort of compatibility – that’s not the word, but anyway – between them I’ll look for that side. Other people don’t look for that. ‘Oh, he was a provos [Provost – Military Police],’ or, ‘He was this, we don’t talk to him,’ but he was probably detailed into that situation.

07:35:00:00

You mentioned earlier, briefly, about the end of the war, but what was it like for you when the war ended?
I was really happy then to be finished, had it, because I was really in a state of health where I wasn't myself, not at all. I just didn’t know how long I would be able to hang out. It was a little

07:35:30:00

bit of a sort of up here thing too, I think. I was starting to feel insecure in myself, that I was no longer the robust bloke that I was that wanted to be involved in something. It wouldn’t matter if it was a little bit cruel – not so much cruel,

07:36:00:00

it didn’t matter if I – I just felt that I had lost the punch, and I had. I soon found that out when I was sent up to the Graves Commission and then I sort of started to break down badly then, and I was a bit concerned that I might be going to lose the plot. I had a bit of a fear in there, yet I’d done some extraordinary things in regard to

07:36:30:00

volunteering to want to go. I knew that would be a big holiday for me to go over there because we were just going in to be occupational forces and we’d push a few Japs around, and we’d have a look around, then come back with my commission, I’d love to come back with my commission. I went over as a kid that hadn't been able to shave, and then going through six years, wearing a commissioned officer rank,

07:37:00:00

that would have made – and my brother did that, he made commissioned rank. He was one that went to university and he got his pips pretty soon because of his education. I’d done some courses and I know that it was recognised that I had a bit of an educational problem in there. I knew it myself, it used to embarrass me too. I used to have to cover it up with other ways of doing that.

07:37:30:00

How much do you think that those things you witnessed in New Guinea affected you? You said that your mental and emotional state was quite low.
I don't think New Guinea had any part of that. I think probably in my wartime experience the only thing that really affected me was Crete mainly, Crete, and when I started to see a lot of women dead.

07:38:00:00

That was really – blokes was just blokes, enemy or otherwise, it was just too bad, it could have been me. But when women and kids were involved in the slaughter, and in particular, you know, the big kill in Crete at the very end, that really got to me, and got to everyone I think. Particularly the Cretians themselves because fortunately

07:38:30:00

most of the people that were guerrillas at that particular time when that slaughter was, they were not people from that village, they were people from other villages back further. We were moving about and we moved to this area because they were a bigger village and they were looking after us so well and we stayed there. I think some of these fellas had wives back there and were having fun over here, some of these Cretians.

07:39:00:00

I don't know what the story is really, but it didn’t seem to concern them too much, they seemed more concerned with getting away and surviving. None of them had relations in that village that were killed, I’m pretty sure of that. Yeah, that got to me, and that was a terrible thing. It’s so vivid. People that yesterday you were with, and cuddling and kissing and

07:39:30:00

loving and going on, and dancing and drinking with, and there they are, slaughtered – awful, terrible. But otherwise, oh I lost mates and that in wartime, you know, it could have been somebody else.

07:40:00:00

You don’t, it doesn’t really go so deep on you.
What do you think gave you the strength to cope with those sort of situations at the time?
Stupidity I suppose. A little bit silly, well you would have to be, wouldn’t you? No, fair dinkum, you would have to be a bit stupid. The good part about it was there were so many other stupid people with you I suppose.

07:40:30:00

I always thought I was right and I always thought I was on the right side. That’s terribly important I think, when you're fighting, that you're allying on the right side. ‘Is what I’m fighting for right, or is what they're fighting for right, and I’m wrong?’ but I always – in my particular wars, and I can't say the same for present wars or recent wars. I don’t think we should ever have been in Vietnam, and we should never have been in Korea, and we should most certainly, should not ever be – with proviso –

07:41:00:00

we should not be in Iraq. But there is a proviso, and the proviso is, if the Indonesians heard tomorrow of two million people under arms, decided tomorrow to cut lunch and invade Australia, you’d be eating with chopsticks tomorrow night. Our present Prime Minister knows that without the American force to help us, we’re very, very vulnerable. And I give him enough credit to know that he’s doing the right thing by doing it because it’s not a lot of skin off his nose, but it’s a lot of skin off a lot of Australians’ nose[s] if we haven't got enough defence. And we haven't got the population or the taxation set up to fund us …
Interviewee: Kenneth Banks Archive ID 2008 Tape 08

08:00:31:00

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a terrible thing that’s happened to the Iraqi people. My thing is, he’s one bloke but there’s women and children being slaughtered there, that’s a terrible thing. And they’re slaughtered by people that they can't get at, that are flying at fifty bloody thousand feet up there dropping bombs on them, they can't be shot down. There’s nothing, there’s no bravery in that, my thoughts. That’s a terrible thing to happen and I just feel that someone will pay for it some day,

08:01:00:00

and I think that America today, and I’ve travelled the world a few years ago, and wherever I went they were the most hated people wherever I went. I think they’re even more so now – not the people, they're lovely people, but the unfortunate people that seem to have to elect leaders. They become like just about, England was the same when they were all powerful, they were cruel

08:01:30:00

and thought they were right all the time. The Germans is another situation, lovely people but the people they’ve got in control. And the Americans and the Russians – I don't know much about the Russians at all, but the Americans are just about as bad, “We are the greatest.” That’s a terrible attitude for anyone to have, and that’s what happened now, you know. If someone,

08:02:00:00

their policy does not fit in with their policy, it’s wrong and, ‘We’ve got to change it, destroy it,’ whatever. That’s the way they think about it now. The oil thing is a big thing, especially is the basis of all this, you know, Israel/Palestinian thing. That is one of the worst wars

08:02:30:00

that’s gone all along, because, you know …
Have your political views or views about the war and the world changed?
I think that when I was in the army I wasn't old enough to form an opinion, but I have been very politically oriented for a very long time. My allegiances have changed from time to time, and that’s good. I always claim myself as a swinging voter, and I think

08:03:00:00

anyone who is not a swinging voter is pig headed and whatever. I think if you can see something that’s much better, then do that, vote that way. I always think [I am] one of the most important voters in our electorate. I am the person that makes the decision, not the one that has always done this and that and this and that, and never change, it’s me that does the changing. End of story.
How about your relationship to Audrey? When you first came back you said that she bore the brunt of a

08:03:30:00

lot of the frustration of coming back from the war. Did that change at some point?
No, it was not coming back from the war, it was my, I had this dyspepsia, was the biggest thing. Paul, my eldest son, he arrived within twelve months, I think it might have been,

08:04:00:00

and he was in the house with us, and at that, the time we were living with the mother-in-law and father-in-law. There was trouble between – and he was forever howling and going on, and it used to get through to me. They were bluing because grandma reckoned the poor little bugger was not getting enough to eat, and Audrey saying he’s getting too much, and this was going on. So anyway my father-in-law said, “I’ll solve this,” and grabbed the kid and took him down to the hospital and the matron had a look and she said, “The poor little bugger’s that

08:04:30:00

bloated with bloody milk. You could stir a pump and pump out ten gallons of milk out of him,” and he was right. And mother-in-law said, “Oh, must have been wrong.” But this was the sort of thing that was going on a bit. It was not a problem of me and someone else, it was not that sort of upsetting. I got this dyspepsia, and dyspepsia is a nervous thing. Yeah, I still

08:05:00:00

get a bit of it at times. And of course malaria, and there was a little bit of concern how I was going to make the grade as a civilian, I was never short of keeping the work and making decisions. No, it wasn't a big deal, we had no other problems.
They were very extreme experiences that you went through. Do you think that

08:05:30:00

there was a natural kind of depression that came out of those experiences from the war?
No, I don't think so, I honestly don’t think so. It could be hidden and you don’t realise it – sometimes the last person to know about these things is you. But I don't think that was it. I never missed me mates, they were dead. I had a mate, a lifetime mate, and that’s all I needed.

08:06:00:00

All I wanted to do was to prove to some other people who treated me as a lesser person that I was capable of, not making great heights but getting to a situation where I could look anyone in the face and had money in the bank. That[‘s how] I

08:06:30:00

became interested in my industry, the cattle industry, and very much involved in it. I go overseas with them and I was a councillor and made a lot of the suggestions. And even today, it no longer exists but we still like to get together and talk about those days, which we did, and wish we still had them, because there’s problems within our industry now. The opportunity is gone because we’ve sold it up,

08:07:00:00

some of our organisations, that shouldn’t have. I’m still involved in writing letters and publishing them in the paper.
You grew up on properties and it was quite hard in the Depression, you watched your father go through really a terrible time walking away from his property. Why did you choose to go back to that life do you think?
Well I, the

08:07:30:00

rural thing is something that is built into you, generations of it, going right back to Scotland and Wales, and the fact that I was under-educated and not capable of doing anything else in the field of city jobs, it had to be in the bush. In the bush you could be two things, the owner or the worker. I wanted to be the owner, and I

08:08:00:00

was offered plenty of jobs in management and that sort of stuff, and I wouldn’t accept them, it was just a wage thing. I got involved in the same area in the water factory and I started a fellowship place, and then I used to buy and sell wool, lots of things like that I used to do, bringing in money all the time. I knew then that was my one hope, but Audrey never sort of ever made, I think she secretly

08:08:30:00

thought I would never draw a block, and when I did of course – then again, when she came up there and I couldn’t have got a better mate on the place, she used to make the bread and make the butter and grow the things, rear the kids and teach the kids and manage the books, and paid the bills. I couldn’t get a better mate, and never a whinge.
Did she grow to like the property, the land?

08:09:00:00

Yes, I think so. But then again, my daughter, who was down here then, living down here, rang up and she said – because we had money by then, not a lot but by those standards – she rang and she said, “Dad, there's a house down here and I’d like to have a look. It looks like you.” “Oh, God, I don’t want to live in it if it looks like me.” “No, Dad, just come down and have a look. I think you can get it pretty reasonable.”

08:09:30:00

“How reasonable?” and she quoted a figure and I said, “It can't be much bloody good, eh?” She said, “No, it’s better than you think.” So I come down and it was this, twenty years ago. I had a look and I said, “I didn’t think I was that good looking. How much money’s on it?” and she said, “It’s seventy four thousand but I can give you it for seventy three.” You can't buy the land for twice that now. So I said, “Right.” and we bought it and Audrey said, “That will be nice, I can come down here every now and again and have a thing.”

08:10:00:00

She came down about three times in a fortnight and she decided she wouldn’t go home. She said, “Bugger you.” and she got some nice furniture and I said, “Fair enough,” but then of course I agreed she had to come down afterwards, and I had my own house up there, I kept the homestead. My two sons got married so I built a house for them and still got the third house I live in myself – for how long I don't know because my grandson got engaged, it was in the paper the other day,

08:10:30:00

so he’ll be trying to push me out I imagine. I’m getting ready almost to the situation where I have to start, at my age to sort of give the bush away because I’m going on eighty three, and I bought a fifty five thousand dollar car ten days ago to go backwards and forwards. Someone said, “Don’t tell me you're still driving?” I said, “Bloody oath I am,” I’m still one of the most – I've never had a big accident in my life, and I got a beautiful car and I go out there and back.

08:11:00:00

I go there and I’ve got a lot of friends way out west, and they always have an open invitation to go out and see them.
Have you enjoyed being a father?
Oh yeah, I never was a doting father, not that way. I know I nearly lost one of my sons, he got bitten by a big brown snake out there as a kid

08:11:30:00

and luckily I wasn't too far away from the station, and by the time I got back they had already washed the wound and had a razor ready for me, we always knew what had happened. They had to run the razor down his foot there in two or three places and suck the blood out. They called and the plane flew out and dumped us out and we brought him down here. In fact, they said that we sucked the blood out of it saved his life. Before the old Audrey flew away she said she’d never see Ross and she’d probably never see me either because

08:12:00:00

she was very scared of the little plane. Anyway, he survived and he’s out there and he’s a grandfather now, a fortnight ago he was a grandfather.
You must be proud that your sons went into the same field of work?
Well Paul, the elder fella, he and I had bits of problems with him

08:12:30:00

and one of the problems is that we’re too much alike, so they could be right. But the other fella, Ross, he wanted to go to Vietnam and he was ready and raring to go, a bit like me, he wanted to go and get away, a big strapping young fella. But anyway, Gough Whitlam, the only thing I thought he ever done good in his life was to stop them going to Vietnam, because I didn’t want Ross to go, I wouldn’t send a dog over there. But anyway, he stopped it and Ross was terribly cranky

08:13:00:00

for stopping him because he wanted to go. I think he was the bloke they were giving that thing to and he was very much involved with the other bloke. He didn’t care anything about, he wouldn’t be bothered. But he’s the cattleman of the two of them and he’s – I hope don’t ever read this or see this, but he’s the, you can only have one manager and he’s the manager. The other bloke is probably half happy with that and half unhappy.

08:13:30:00

His wife would probably like to have her hubby to be just as responsible, but you can only have one boss, I’ve found that out. But they get on ok, and they’ve got plenty of cattle and make enough money I think. They know that very shortly down the track I’ll have to take a few backward steps out of it and just hand it over to them. But I don’t want to do that until, I haven't done all the work yet that I wanted to do.

08:14:00:00

Have you talked to them about your war experiences very much?
No. I never, well up until very recent times, until that profile, I never talked to anyone about wartimes I don’t think, just a little bit. Audrey was never interested to know, she just wanted me to forget, just forget about it. Because she said, “You came home unhappy and unhealthy and the sooner you can get that out of your blood the better.” Ross was the only one,

08:14:30:00

he was very keen to know about that, and he was very keen to have you people interview me, and Carol was the same, she was very keen too. But the other fella, he’d like to change the subject halfway through. It happens in all families.
Do you ever dream about the war?
Strange to say, very, very little. Yes,

08:15:00:00

very, very little. A lot of people say that, ‘It’s a wonder that you don’t,’ but nightmares, it’s a very rare occasion now. I can't remember the last one. There are other happenings in lives since then that crop up very regular for whatever reason. But no, wartime things, no, I can say that never.

08:15:30:00

When you first went out and you first joined the army, you said that you were keen for a big adventure. Is that how you look back at it?
Now? Well, the fact that I’m so well at my age and that sort of stuff, I’m quite happy that I didn’t miss that adventure. If I

08:16:00:00

had one leg or one arm or half me mo was blown out, I would not, I would say, “No,” I would wish to God it never happened. But to look back now, I’m not the poorer for it, none the poorer for it.
Are you the better for it?
I think so, I think I’m a much more tolerant person. I wouldn’t have known how I would have grown up to be, matured to have been. But I think I’m a much more tolerant person. I sort of think in one side

08:16:30:00

and then have to automatically switch over and have a look from the other side. That’s tolerance because you then come to some consensus of what's right and what's wrong.
Did you see anyone in your war, I mean, you were in there for so long and in different places under really heavy conflict, did you see anybody go troppo?
This troppo thing was a thing that was invented in New Guinea.

08:17:00:00

I seen two or three people, whether they were troppo or not, I don't know. The latter part of New Guinea there was two cases there. They were man-made troppo acts and the first case was two brothers with us, and one fella was very cool and calculated and no problems. The other bloke was sort of a

08:17:30:00

different kettle of fish altogether. He wanted to get back to Australia for whatever reason. He cut his wrists, and they said, “Oh, you’ve [gone] troppo,” but I think he just showed a weakness there. The same thing happened to another fella. He did it just about in front of me, I think he did it intentionally so that I seen him straight away.

08:18:00:00

Of course as soon as you done that they put you on a plane back to Australia to get rid of you, because once you start doing that, and I think they thought if they cut themselves and a little bit of blood and they put them on a plane and we’d go back. Both cases that’s what happened, they came back and they were right as rain. But they were treated as troppo. No, I never really. No, I think myself, you were part, a bit short on up there to begin with. Wait a minute, I’m sorry, we had a Tasmanian officer, JJ Stubbs –

08:18:30:00

I shouldn’t mention names I don’t suppose but anyway, he was a hell of a nice bloke, a really nice gentleman type, soft, lovely bloke. He came from King Island. It was in an action in New Guinea and we were up against some very tough Japs, and he was officer and I was sergeant, there were two sergeants involved, and a lot of fellas. We got

08:19:00:00

a hell of a doing and we were withdrawing, we were under fire and it was night time. The Japs are still up us. One of the fellas came to me and said, “You better go and see Jo Jo,” – we always called him Jo Jo or JJ – “there’s something wrong.” I said, “What?” and he said, “Go and have a look, I don't know.” And he had reverted to a little two or three year old boy. He was actually pushing sticks around in the ground and making noises, he just lost it completely.

08:19:30:00

But he should never have been in the army, he was too nice a bloke, he was too gentle soul. He had a commission too, Stubbsy. That was a fair dinkum, there was no put on there about him, and they sent him back. I believe later on, and I’ve been over to Tassie [Tasmania] a couple of times, and him cry about him, and he died later on but he never properly, really recovered, so that was a true case of losing the plot. The

08:20:00:00

trouble was that he was the officer in charge of us and we lost a few blokes and he took the responsibility for losing them. You don’t look at it that way, someone’s got to go and do it, and someone’s got to die doing it, and if it happens then you don’t blame yourself.
Did you feel when you were doing the Grave Commission that you were losing the plot a little bit?
Oh yeah, I did. I didn’t know, I had a feeling that I couldn’t put my finger on and that

08:20:30:00

was worrying me because I was wondering if I was going to break down. What’s this breakdown? Well, you lose the plot don’t you, and it’s part mental I suppose. I thought it could happen quickly, you know. Under the circumstances up there in that particular part of the world, it was a terrible place. Actually, it’s quite a pretty place in that Alukna Hoit area, but

08:21:00:00

in the Torricellis …
What were the living conditions like there?
Oh atrocious from the food angle, and the rest of it, well it was terribly wet. Most of the time you were wet and miserable. No, the living conditions were atrocious, and a lot of people broke down with various things. Malaria

08:21:30:00

was one of the main ones, and dengue and typhus – typhus was a terrible thing, seen a few cases of that but in the end always died.
Did you ever cry with any of those more dramatic experiences?
No, and I wouldn’t tell you if I did, would I?

08:22:00:00

No, I never cried. I might have got a bit teary at times but I never cried, not openly anyway. It’s pretty foreign to me – I’d have been concerned if I’d have got to that stage that I was losing the plot. I’d have been concerned, that would have been a real concern once I started to lose faith in my own capability

08:22:30:00

and ability to stand and to hold up to those sorts of situations.
Of all of those different places that you ended up in, when do you think you felt the most alone?
Alone? That’s not an easy question to answer. I suppose it could have been in the hospital in

08:23:00:00

Alex when I was back there with my problems there. I was on my own and I didn’t know what had happened, how I got there properly, or what was happening, where was I going. Was I ever going to get out of there? Then I looked around and saw people I knew couldn’t get out of there, and I thought, ‘Well, there's nothing to complain about yet.’

08:23:30:00

There always seemed to be somebody around me and never felt terribly alone.
What about the best times of those experiences? When was the best time, the most enjoyable, liveliest time for you?
I think when we got back to Palestine after I come back over, walked through Turkey and Syria. I was in

08:24:00:00

Palestine up in the Gaza area of Palestine, used to go on leave into Tel Aviv and over into Damascus – no, Tel Aviv mainly. Used to go on leave, and they were very enjoyable times. I seen all the Biblical things and through Jerusalem and all that sort of stuff, and not that that was enjoyable times, but after coming out of Crete alive and I thought, ‘I was really given a second chance here,’

08:24:30:00

I think that’s what was going through my mind. If I ever used to get an opportunity to go on leave, I used to go on leave, which was sometimes every weekend for a while. If you had the money, and I always seemed to have the money, and money to lend to some of the other fellas to go too, especially your mates. Yeah, they were probably the most enjoyable, and then just little odd,

08:25:00:00

like Trincomalee was a place that I enjoyed. I told you about the place at Mount Lavinia when I saw the Berger lady and the two daughters and I used to go up there, I just felt that I was so forced into being accepted by them. They were really, really good to me and whatever I do and all the temptation I had I wasn't going to spoil the opportunity to be their friend.

08:25:30:00

So that was a great occasion. Going on leave of course out to, I didn’t always go to Doon before that, I told you when I had a girl up at, when I did the first course up at Goulbourn, I had a lass up there. She was nursing and she was in love – when you're only eighteen you were in love. Then I sort of

08:26:00:00

came back to Tamworth and I was in love again. Then I had a girl in Goondiwindi for about three years, it wasn't always a great love thing but we were very compatible, arrangement between us. I knew we would never be and she knew I would never marry her. She was a lovely girl but there was something

08:26:30:00

about her that I knew that I would never get to that situation.
Did you fall in love with anyone overseas while you were away?
No, not even close. You didn’t get the opportunities. Not that you ever looked for them either. I can't think of anyone – that Jewish lass at Vehovit [?], or Rishon, I can't remember now, I think it was Rishon.

08:27:00:00

No, it wasn't a love affair but she was a lovely, lovely person. We were up close too, but that’s not love when you’re talking love, I hope.
Was it difficult having had that many experiences, both very intimate experiences with women in lots of different places,

08:27:30:00

was it then difficult with Audrey because she hadn't with many people?
She had a puppy love sort of a thing, he went away in the air force and got himself killed over France or something, but I don’t think there was anything that I would have to be sure – I am pretty sure there was nothing there. There was a couple of other relationships that I’m

08:28:00:00

pretty sure there was no hanky panky about that. I think that was one of the greatest attractions with Audrey, that wasn't a hanky panky person – inconvenient.
Even though you were.
Don’t remind me.
That’s not a bad thing, it’s just more experience.
Anyway, she had these other girlfriends

08:28:30:00

or whatever, and she never brought it up, ever. She never mentioned, “What did you pair ever get up to?” but it was wartime thingo. But anyway she seemed to handle it alright, she was above that sort of thing, she was a pretty strong person in most respects.

08:29:00:00

Did you ever see any evidence of homosexuality in the army at that time?
Yeah, one. You couldn’t believe it, they say that one in every four is a homo, but I was in two units and both of them about a thousand people, and one fella was a homo and he had a boyfriend.

08:29:30:00

That’s the only one.
A boyfriend back home or in the army?
No, he had it in another unit. He used to make sure he could get over there, and we knew it. He didn’t pull any punches either, and we poked fun at him and he could handle it. But there were a few suspects but I don’t believe that they were. It’s such a, to my way of thinking, particularly in men – women, it amuses me a bit,

08:30:00:00

but men, no, it’s the bottom of the barrel.
Was that how it was viewed in the army? How did the men view it, that other guy?
Oh, they just treated him jokily. I wouldn’t know, I think it was a bit of a joke. But this fella had a bit of age on him,

08:30:30:00

I think he might have been an ex-school teacher too. He came from Western Australia. But he definitely was and he admitted he was a – but he wasn't in my – see we were in the infantry, we were in companies, and in the regiment we were in batteries, and he wasn't in my battery and he wasn't in my company when I was in the infantry so he was somewhere else, someone else’s problem, if he was a problem to them, I don't know.

08:31:00:00

But after coming back from – no he was up in New Guinea, in the first time, the second time he, whatever happened. I don't think he came back to the unit, he was probably transferred or chucked out. He was sort of, real sort of a nice bloke, but a lot of those blokes are like that I suppose. It’s just sort of thing, and then

08:31:30:00

see I’ve been overseas and a lot of countries since then, I’ve travelled a lot. Going through a lot of those countries you go through and men are arm in arm, and they seem to flock in areas, and it’s treated as it’s the homosexual cool sort of Paris, or wherever, but, Sydney now too of course.

08:32:00:00

When I was a kid down there living in Barons Court there for a few months, down in Kings Cross there, there – what’s the name of the street they’ve got up there now, a certain part of Sydney at Darlinghurst? – it’s the home of them now, but that, of course, in those days was – well I suppose it was there but they don’t flaunt it like they do now. But I’m terribly disgusted with men living – but as I say it’s the same with women, and I said, “No.”

08:32:30:00

I’ll tell you why I have this opinion about this women thing. I was got into this conversation on a train and there were two ladies and I didn’t take much notice of them. When they got off they were holding hands, and I said, “You two are very close,” – this was about fifteen years ago – “You’re very close, you're holding hands.” They said, “Yes, she’s my girlfriend.”

08:33:00:00

I said, “Homosexual, lesbians?” she said, “Yes. Do you object to that?” and I said, “I don't know what to think about it.” So anyway, on the train we had this conversation, we had a talk about it, and after that conversation I’ve sort of tempered my feeling about that. What they explained to me was that both of them had

08:33:30:00

been married, one had a child nearly grown up and away at school I think, and they had been very good friends. Both were married, and they said that how it really began was one of their husbands was a womaniser and also his sexual relations with his wife – that was one of these – was a very selfish sexual relationship.

08:34:00:00

I said, “What do you mean by that?” They said, “He used to” – well I shouldn’t be talking about it. Anyway, she said, “It was just hop into bed, hop on, hop off and finish the night and it would be, ‘What’s this all about? Nothing in it for me.’” So anyway, she got talking to this other one and she said that she had a mutual friend and that she had that same problem and how she got over it was

08:34:30:00

she locked the doors when they left the hubby and they got together. What they do is I’m not too sure – I’ve heard lots of stories, but they come up with a very compatible satisfying relationship, sexually in bed. “So that’s why we are what we are. We were getting nowhere with our husbands, they were just looking after themselves, couldn’t get it up, come home half full, roll me over – bang, bang.

08:35:00:00

Gone, like a rooster.” They said that, “We’ve been told there’s more to this than what's coming out of this.” So they got together and they were, and I thought to myself, ‘Banksy, you’ve learnt something.’ And I think now that they have a reason for what they're doing. They were lovely clean people and stuff and they lived together, still, I believe. They were town people,

08:35:30:00

New South Wales people, came from Inverell. I have a friend from Inverell, an old girlfriend from way back, and I still correspond with here a bit. But she was a friend of Audrey’s and mine, she became later. We really talked, she got an MBE [Member of the Order of the British Empire] the other day for services to charity or something or other. But anyway I said, “How are they going?” and she said, “They’re going great.” They’re getting a bit long

08:36:00:00

in the tooth now, too, but their rising ship is complete, so what do you think about that?
I understand what you're saying.
I’ve told you two or three times probably, I’ve said I’ve learnt to look at other points of view. It’s amazing if you're prepared to do that, you can come up with some strange answers. That was just one.
When you were in your war years, was there a commanding officer

08:36:30:00

that you looked up to more than anyone else, someone that stood out to you?
Oh yes, yes indeed. They did that because they were a very important part of the …
Who were some of the people that you looked up to for the way that they acted in the war?
I think the first person was a fella

08:37:00:00

from Melbourne, he’s dead now, and he was a big fella. He was a Jew, I’m not a real Jew person, lover of Jews, not really, not a lover but he was a – I can always remember him, he was only a leader at the time, this was in the infantry battalion, and the

08:37:30:00

things he used to do for lesser lights – he was a big, physically strong fella – and I’ve seen him getting, when we were in long marches at night, I’ve actually seen him carrying someone, carrying their rifle too. He put them on his back – “Give us a piggy back,” and he’d give them a piggy back to get them down the track, things like that, and I thought, ‘He’s not just someone that tells you what to do, but he demonstrates,’ you know. He went on then to be, after I left, after Crete,

08:38:00:00

that was only a short time in the desert, but after Crete I never seen much of him. But then when we went up to do the Kokoda thingo, he got shot in the eye up there and lost an eye, but he carried on, and he was, he was looked upon so favourably by everyone because he would go back to look for someone that was wounded and carry them out and that sort of stuff. It’s strange to say, he never ever got

08:38:30:00

decorated. Another strange thing about him was he married very well but he’s also become a terrible alcoholic. When he was over there you would never see him drinking, but of course losing the eye, he seemed to, he went through a lot of things and probably the things that he seen happened with people that he detailed and made decisions on to do things to people that didn’t come back, may have got through to him. I don't know, but he committed suicide

08:39:00:00

in Rockhampton, of all places, and he came from Victoria. Yeah, I always looked up to – we always called him ‘Loot your Hoodie’, because Hoodie means stew, and we used to call him Loot your Hoodie. I won’t mention his real name but I had a lot of respect for him. Yeah, there was other people too. There was a colonel who became a general later on, Colonel Ether. He was

08:39:30:00

in charge of a section of us in the desert, a company, and became a general later on. And he was a First World War fella.
What was it about him that was …?
Well, he was a sort of down to earth sort of bloke. He was a soldier but a real down to earth sort of bloke. I can remember in the desert he wanted – it was a situation where a lot of

08:40:00:00

orders were given at night – excuse me, Jeez I’ve done some talking today.
Interviewee: Kenneth Banks Archive ID 2008 Tape 09

09:00:36:00

The colonel who had been someone you looked up to.
Yeah, there are a lot of things that I can't sort of, there's a lot of things – I respected him for his tactical brain when he was in charge of the battalion, and then there were little things. I can remember when we first got over there, and as I said it was a Sydney battalion, and I took them up there

09:01:00:00

and turned them around and they wouldn’t know how to find their way back, a lot of them, because they had never been involved in finding their way in the desert or whatever. Anyway, he had his own base there and he was organised from there and he used to send what they call runners out – runners take the messages to the different companies, platoons or whatever and give them instructions. Anyway, these fellas that were the runners that were nominated at night, they were lost. Couldn’t find

09:01:30:00

where they were going, sometimes they even walked into enemy lines, got taken prisoner or got shot. He said to a Sergeant Gosnall, hell of a great bloke, “Goz,” he said to him – he called him Goz because that’s the sort of bloke he was, “isn't there anybody out there that I can rely on that can find his way around at night?” and Goz said, “Well, there’s two blokes.

09:02:00:00

There’s Sergeant Banks, he’s from the bush and I know he would be alright but he’s a sergeant and we can't have him as a runner,” and he said, “No, but if I need to I’ll call on him.” He said, “The other bloke, he’s a fella from Boohigh [Booie?] near Goondiwindi,” and he was half – I don't know what he was, he wasn't Aboriginal he was something else. He was great mates with – and he reckoned he was French Canadian. I said, “Ok.” He was really frizzy haired, top bloke, Billy, survived the war.

09:02:30:00

He said, “Grab him,” so I went out and grabbed Billy, and poor old Billy, he ran him to the ground, because Billy could find his way in the dark, read tracks in the dark. And Billy wore out. Billy said one day to Goz, he was sort of an orderly, no, a warrant officer,

09:03:00:00

permanent with Colonel Ether. The arrangement there was, “I’ve got a good bloke and I’m keeping him,” you know. Goz didn’t like the job, he wanted to be up there firing bullets too. So anyway, Billy Jenkins was there one day and he said, “Goz, I’m sick to the bloody teeth of this. Get someone else to take this, I can't be doing it all the time.” Goz said, “But there’s nobody else,” and he said, “Banks,” he said.

09:03:30:00

“But he’s a sergeant.” He said, “I don’t care, get him in, he can do it.” So Goz says, “I don't know,” and he went back to the colonel and he said to him – we used to call him Chloroform, because his name was Ether, he knew we called him Chloroform – anyway, Goz said, “Give Billy a couple of days’ break and get that fella Banks in here under any pretext at all.” So I come down and they told me, and

09:04:00:00

because Billy was a mate of mine – we joined up and camped together and everything, we used to go on leave together – and Billy said, “I want a break, can you take over?” I said, “Alright, ok.” So I was running for a – I think I ended up there for four or five days, or it might have been a week. It was no trouble to me because I was a bushie too. I could come out in the dark and find my way around no trouble. In the end

09:04:30:00

Gosnall said to me one day, “Are you happy with this?” and I said, “No, I want to get back to my unit,” “Oh, ok fair enough.” So he called Billy back then as a runner, but Billy had had a bit of a break and I think he’d had a bit of a gut full of lead fired at him and he settled down. But whilst I was there, I can remember they had a tent, they dug down and there was a tent over the top, that’s where headquarters was, it was always

09:05:00:00

tea or coffee there and you could make a cup of tea or coffee when you wanted it. I can remember Gosnall – no, someone made a cup of coffee, and said, “What about getting, Ken might need one.” The colonel himself said, “I’m your colonel, don’t ever call me by my Christian name.” And we

09:05:30:00

never knew his name was Ken, the same as mine, but what they were alluding to was making a cup of tea or coffee for me. He said, “I’m your colonel, don’t ever call me by my Christian name.” He came out and said, “Yeah, I will have a cup of coffee,” and he sat down with us. But he was that sort of bloke, hell of a nice bloke. He’d even been in the First World War. He was very efficient with people that were coming and going, and particularly the other officers, he used to put them on their toes very strictly. But with us,

09:06:00:00

it was sort of his family sort of stuff and I really got to love the man for that. He was a great bloke, he was old enough to be my father, he was very much old enough to be my father. A great bloke, I had great respect for him. There were other fellas that survived and didn’t survive, but you do, you have respect for people that make the right decisions and gave the right orders, and was fair, and didn’t give you terribly too much of other responsibilities or the risk taking.

09:06:30:00

When you look back on your war experience and all those years and the different places you were in, what would you say was the most difficult thing you had to do?
Always, in lots of places, making decisions of, you might be instructed to detail certain people to do something like mine laying or

09:07:00:00

things like that, risky, risky things, and also the chance of getting blown about a bit. You have to select people, who are you going to select? There's a good chance that some of them are not coming back, but you're playing with someone else’s life, but what do you do? Something’s got to go, you can't go every time. That was the toughest time, and particularly when somebody didn’t come back, but you knew that’s war.

09:07:30:00

You have to sort of – and I did, I think to begin with I started to show it, and I get pulled aside by somebody and they say, “Banksy, you’ve got to handle that sort of situation, don’t take all the blame for yourself because you were detailed to do it and you just passed the detail on to somebody else.” But no one ever sort of, there were never any repercussions from anyone else because it happened that way. I think most of us

09:08:00:00

said, “Thank God he didn’t send me. Better him than me.” That happened a lot. But up in New Guinea there was a lot of patrol work the second time up there, and I was in charge. But because I was from the bush and I’ve got a very keen eye, I’m very alert and have a keen eye, I used to have what they called a forward scout. He goes ahead and he keeps his eye open, makes sure it’s

09:08:30:00

safe as best he can and whatever, and he stays ahead and waves the fellas up a bit, and stops. I got led into a couple of situations where we were ambushed by the Japs and I was of the opinion that we should not have been allowed to go into that situation. If a good forward scout was doing – a lot of them it’s not the particular person, it’s a

09:09:00:00

God-given gift that you can see something that’s not there or whatever. So I used to do most of my own, and I was also chastised by the officer, or the sergeant, “You're supposed to stay alive and run the show, not go up and stick your neck out.” I said, “Well, I’m of the opinion that if someone’s going to get me killed, I’ll get myself killed than let somebody else do it. I feel like I can do a better job.”

09:09:30:00

I used to do that as much as I could because I came from the bush. I used to go kangaroo shooting and the eyes are trained to that sort of stuff, it still is too, in the bush I can still spot things that people don’t know how to look at it, or have too short or too far a distance. They were never reared up in that environment, so I used to do a lot of that, a hell of a lot. And not only me, a lot of other fellas had the same belief. “I just don’t trust someone else to be doing that,” they’d say.

09:10:00:00

And I’d say, “It’s exactly the way I feel.” I think we were all the better off for it too, because I was pretty smart at catching them, especially Japs up trees and things like that.
How confident were you that you were always making the right decision? Did you ever have any doubts about decisions that you had made?
Well, you can never be terrible sure about a decision, because a decision

09:10:30:00

you make, someone else would make the decision to counteract your decision. You don’t know who it is but you know that somebody’s doing something that’s going to try and block you, or make you get good results out of your decision. You had to, because he was the enemy, that’s the same as I am to him. That’s just one of those things, and once it’s made and over and done with you’ve got to forget about it quick, because you’ve got other things to

09:11:00:00

think of. That’s why I always wanted to become a sergeant because I was always of the opinion – and I still am – that sergeants are the most important person. Officers are there to make the big decisions but not the lifesaving decisions, when they're coming up close and nasty. Anyone below that took orders and done his best too, but the sergeant, hopefully, was always looked

09:11:30:00

upon to be the leader, the saviour of a situation. I wanted to be, if I was going to get killed, I wanted to get killed as the result of my own bad judgement. That was the outlook of most sergeants too.
What do you think kept you alive during all those different theatres of war, and through the years?
Duckin’ and divin’. Ziggin’ when they were zaggin’ I suppose,

09:12:00:00

or vice versa. A lot of luck comes into it you know. I got a few bits of wounds, not much to worry about. Most of it the health thingo. They were so close, a lot of things, I don’t think I could have got much closer than the time I was buried of course, that was, I reckon if I got out of that one I could survive the whole lot

09:12:30:00

because I thought I was dead when I was suffocating. Luckily people came on the scene soon enough, because as soon as the bombs were dropped they came looking around to see what landed near anyone and of course they would come over. We were in a trench that was about four or six foot deep, and about, probably eight or nine foot long.

09:13:00:00

It just wasn't there, it was just a heap of dirt all blown in. So they just sort of dug in the right spot and ‘wang’, they hit my steel helmet and dug the back of my neck with a sharp shovel, that wouldn’t have helped. That got me out, but whilst they were putting in a lot of time with me, but I think the others would have been too late before they got to them. I was unconscious, I don't know how long I’d been under there. It took them a little while to dig down you know, about that far before they hit my head.

09:13:30:00

I was sitting in the bottom of the trench, yeah about that far probably. Yeah, that was the big one that I got over.
To what extent did you have any belief system or any faith that helped you during those years?
No, I had no faith in anything in regard, not a religious one.

09:14:00:00

I was not brought up that way. No, I didn’t have any faith, but after going to Bethlehem and some of those places I thought I had some doubts there, and later on that situation to here, and still have. No, I had no faith. Although I think the same old story that if a

09:14:30:00

bullet’s got your number on it, you're a goner. If it hasn’t, well that’s not a real good way of looking at it, it’s stupid to say that what’s to be will be.
Did you ever see other men praying in very frightening situations?

09:15:00:00

No, I don't think I saw anyone pray. I think if they would be doing it, they would be doing it under their – not letting anyone see. No, I don’t.
And you never prayed?
Never. Not for some help from Him. I just never believed that He was going to help me out that much, and particularly after

09:15:30:00

seeing so much slaughter, and particularly in civilian things where the women and kids – and they would pray, they were terribly religious people the Cretian people. Terrible seeing them die that way and I thought, well, ‘Banksy, all the naughty things you’ve got up to, you haven't got a hope.’ You’d only be a hypocrite praying, because tomorrow you’d probably do the same thing again. That’s how

09:16:00:00

I used to look at it. I know that some – I had a very good friend, Tommy O’Brien, who was killed in Kokoda, he wouldn’t miss mass for anything. Unbelievable, he was the greatest mate of all time, and he died the most violent death, I believe. That sort of thing makes you wonder, and I’m sure that Tommy never done a thing wrong in his life.

09:16:30:00

He was just that sort of bloke. I know a lot of villains that were in the army and they come home and were civilian villains after, you know. That doesn’t do anything towards making you a better Christian, I don't know what it is, but I like to leave those things to the individual to make their own mind up.
When you left Australia for the war, you were very excited, you were looking forward to a big adventure. To what extent was the

09:17:00:00

reality of war different from your expectations?
Yes, it wasn't as violent as I hoped it would be, I don’t think, because we thought we were going to France, see, and I read about it that they used to go there in waves there and lose a thousand before breakfast in the morning. ‘Gee, this is crook, we haven't even lost ten near smoko.’ Yeah, that[s] the fact, ‘This is a funny little old war, this one.’ But only because the Itis stick their hands up and started singing

09:17:30:00

Ave Maria, mainly. The materials were there for a big slaughter but they didn’t want to be in there, they had more sense than we did.
At what moment did it seem a real war to you? At what moment did that change?
Oh, in the rear guard on Crete, when we were holding back the Germans. That was a terrible slaughter, they were crucifying us and we were giving them a terrible deal too.

09:18:00:00

Everyone was sort of coming out too much into the open, trying to push the other one, the Germans were trying to push and we were trying to push them long enough to get out, off the island. That was a terrible slaughter, awful, bloody terrible. Of course, the trouble was we were leaving our wounded behind, and I do believe that there were quite a few of those that we left behind that were treated

09:18:30:00

pretty well with the Germans and were taken back as prisoners of war, and when the war finished, the European war finished, they were released. But the cruellest part probably was, that was a cruel war in itself, but when I joined the Cretian guerrillas, when we joined the Cretian guerrillas, the situation there was that you couldn’t take a prisoner. We couldn’t handle prisoners,

09:19:00:00

we were moving too fast and they would be a bloody nuisance. And because everyone had to die see, the Germans had the same situation, if we took no prisoners, they took no prisoners. We knew that if you got wounded, you had to do your damnedest or the worst you could do to them before you died, because you weren't going to survive, they were going to shoot you there on the ground. That, I thought, was, you don’t get a second chance with that,

09:19:30:00

we gave no second chances to them. Well, that was the way the Cretian guerrillas worked. As I said, they were very volatile, they were pretty cruel people, the men. They not only are, they look it too, terrible. But anyway, I thought that was a bit ungentlemanly, to kill

09:20:00:00

somebody when he’s wounded, but anyway, I didn’t do it but there was plenty of people prepared to do that. I never sort of noticed them, did it, somebody else noticed them. But they had no compunction about doing that, the guerrillas, they loved it because they were invaded and people like the land. The same thing that happened to the Japs over here, I had no compunction about wiping them fellas out for whatever reason.

09:20:30:00

I always did say, and I still do, that they were coming here with a force, the thoughts that there was only Mum and the kids at home, we were all over fighting somewhere else and it would be a walk-over. And what they would have done, after seeing what they did in the Rape of Nanking and all the other places where they’ve ever been,

09:21:00:00

what they would have done to our womenfolk would be unbelievable. Yeah, so – I have in the book, I’ve stated my opinion of the Japanese, and I haven't stated to you and I won’t, but I can never forgive them, never forgive them. And anyone that’s fought in the war that has forgiven them, I can't forgive them for forgiving the Japs either. That’s my opinion

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because I knew what they were going to do.
Ken, we’ve talked about you having to witness other people being killed and having to defend yourself, was there a time when you had to kill somebody else?
No, I’m not going to answer that. You can't fight, go through a six years’ war and come out the other side and say, “I never killed anybody,”

09:22:00:00

can you? No, I wouldn’t come into that, no one wants to come into that and admit that.
But as a young man how did you come to terms with being in that sort of situation, do you think? Would the risk of being killed or having to kill somebody else …?
Oh that’s the story yeah. You're not there just to kill somebody just because he’s happy sitting there looking on a stump, cutting his toenails

09:22:30:00

or anything like that. He was trying to do the same to you. That’s the way it will and always will be, I imagine.
When you look back on the war, what is your main impression of your experience in the war? What are you proud of about your time in the war?
I think the only thing I can say I’m proud of, and I

09:23:00:00

genuinely mean this, that along with so many more people, we defended this country so that you and the lady behind you and your kids and grandkids of future generations are not eating with chopsticks. And you didn’t have a – offspring. Well, you would certainly would never be here because that would never have been allowed. The men would have been

09:23:30:00

incapable if they were allowed to live to produce, that was the plan, all part of the plan. You know, let’s face it, to us it seems a terrible thing but in that era of Japanese history, thinking, that was just part of the – what's the word? –

09:24:00:00

that’s what had to happen, there was nothing wrong with that as far as they were concerned. They’d exterminate us, they could have done without us, they had millions of people they could have sent over in no time and this place would probably be a much more progressive looking place now because I’ve been over to Japan and it’s unbelievable, I’ve travelled from one end to the other

09:24:30:00

and it’s a fantastic place, and they lost the war.
Ken, you helped to win the war, do you think we won the peace?
What peace? There's never been peace ever since, how many wars have we been through since then? No, unfortunately I’m afraid that the big one is to come,

09:25:00:00

the big disaster with this war, the big disaster. I think the invention of the wonderful, that we thought we’d done, and got us back to Australia, coming back with the atom bomb and the other bomb, that it was just a prelude in the whole thing, and I think it’s set the stage for bigger and worse things because if every Tom, Dick and Harry

09:25:30:00

carrying an atomic bomb around in his pockets now, just about. Sad that it was ever invented, I think. We had that war won anyway without it. But, then again, lots of other places were right on close to having a bomb too. We live in very, very troubled times, more than ever, the next war can't be won with a bayonet, that’s for sure.

09:26:00:00

It’ll be – I don't know how you're going to win it. Perhaps if I’ve fortunate, hopefully it’ll be much later than I’ve gone when anything happens, not just for my own skin but the longer we can master some human being, or some power might come from somewhere and solve all this problem, and sit us back into corners and say, “You folks better start talking, not shooting.”

09:26:30:00

I don't know, I’m only just a little, little tiny cog in the thinking world.
Ken, how important is Anzac Day for you?
It’s getting lesser I think, because I go to, my property out there is about half way out to this place at Nebo, it’s a small place but it’s getting bigger because all the mines that have opened up out there. But anyway, forty odd years ago when I started going to Anzac Day, I started there and

09:27:00:00

the chairman of it was a lovely bloke and he said to me, “Banksy, you’ve got to keep coming here, we’re short of numbers.” And I have been, apart from when I was overseas and a couple of time, I’ve always gone there. This year it looked to be to me that there was only two or possibly three of us left to march. Then there was a couple more and they found a couple of Vietnam fellas that are still sober.

09:27:30:00

But we enticed some of the grandsons of some of the old diggers to wear the medals at their side and come in, and I think we had about eight or something, nine. I’ve got my, the fellas got, he was a national service bloke, and they now are fully fledged and eligible. That’s ok, and he got a medal for that,

09:28:00:00

he marched. I will keep doing it. I don’t feel any great thing about it. I remember that this year or last year, a lady I know, she seen me and walked up and she put her arm on me and she said, “You must feel terrible, terribly proud, Ken.” I said, “What do you mean?” and she said, “Wearing those ribbons, and you fought for this country,” and whatever, and I said, “Don’t bring that up, Perry.

09:28:30:00

I don’t want it. This is not a glorified. I’m just here to remember.” And I do, they were playing ‘The Last Post’ and a few things, I just chop everything off and I go through the different fields of where we lost blokes, mates. I try to get through each one of them, just momentarily remember them, just at that particular, you know, ‘The Last Post’ doesn’t go on forever, and I’ve got a lot to remember,

09:29:00:00

and I, a lot I forget too. But I go for that caper, that one, that’s what I’m mainly there for. Just to remember that one day, and to remember them. They’ve been long, long dead. So that’s Anzac Day for me.
Do you have a final thing that you would like to say, put on the record for future generations?

09:29:30:00

A comment about anything about the war or your life experience?
No, I haven’t thought about that, that’s out of my realm of responsibility, to come up with any advice.
Anything, it doesn’t have to be advice, any comment that you’d like to make at all that you'd like to put on the record. Or a song you’d like to sing from the war days, or anything at all.

09:30:00:00

I did quote my …
That would be great, yeah.
At the end there, and it was my philosophy. I’ve asked my philosophy, and it’s taken from Kipling’s If, up there. Normally I can quote this from, you know, always have it. I used to quote the whole lot, because I reckon that every child should learn that. I have sort of

09:30:30:00

half forgotten. ‘Ken’s Philosophy’, it’s from Kipling.
“If you can trust yourself when some men doubt you and make allowances for their doubting too.
If you can dream and not make dreams your master, or think and not make thoughts your aim.

09:31:00:00

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtues, or walk with kings and not lose the common touch.
If all men count with you, but not too much.”
That’s it. So, I always think that you can live by those standards, and of course if you go through that, the one that, if you’ve ever heard the last one, if you can do all these things,

09:31:30:00

“Well, you’ll be a man my son.” This is just me, I took it out of that and I thought that was a lovely final thingo.
That’s fantastic, Ken. Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure talking with you today, thank you very much indeed.
A couple of lovely young ladies to interview me, and you’ve done it without any embarrassment. One question I wouldn’t answer, but …

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