Archive number: 2032
Date interviewed: 28 June, 2004
You are listening to the interview audio
OK Bruce, we'll make a start for the day. Could you give us a brief overview of your life thus far …
Well, I was born in Adelaide and I'm a twin. We went to school in Adelaide. I went to an agricultural school - a college - and my twin brother did too.
We finished up at Roseworthy College. I had an elder brother who went to Scotch College and a sister who went to the Presbyterian Ladies’ College. We all grew up in a very happy homestead really, and had a father and mother who were very good to us. It was during the Depression years and I suppose we had to go without some things but we
always had good holidays - eight weeks every summertime, down at the beach, and camping. After going to school my eldest brother and I went jackarooing for a while, up in the Adelaide Hills. He joined the air force when he was eighteen, and later, I joined the navy when I was eighteen. My twin brother finished his course at Roseworthy before he joined the air force after that.
Then I was in the navy for four … five years, from 1942 to 1946 … no, four years it was. Then I got out and went back on the land for a while, and I was up on a small property in the Adelaide Hills, which my grandmother had bought before the war. We went back to that but it was too small for the both of us; and my twin brother was very keen on a girl up there and got married, and he stayed up there. I wasn't very happy there though; I think probably, because life was very different from
the navy life. And it was daring, and I didn't like that. So I rejoined the navy again, and stayed in there for another year. I signed on for two years but only stayed for a bit over a year. Then I got out and applied for a Soldier's Settlement Block in Victoria, and got that and stayed there for twenty seven years, on the Settlement Block. Then we sold that and came up here to Queensland, where we've been ever since.
Well done! I'm just curious, but what made you decide to come north after living in a cold climate for thirty years?
Well, I didn't like the cold climate. I had an operation on my back in 1970, and I was having trouble with that for the rest of the time that I was on the land; and that's why I left the land in 1979. But we used to come up to Mackay - or near Mackay - for holidays,
and I quite liked it up here. I would have preferred to move up around there, but Anne wouldn't go any further than Noosa, so we decided to come here. So that's why - it was warmer, and the winters were miles better. We've really liked it here.
But your children are still in Victoria?
Well, one of them - our eldest girl - she married a farmer from near Ballan in Victoria, and my other son, well,
he went to Marcus Oldham Agricultural School down at Geelong, then went farming over to Flinders Island in Bass Strait. He brought property over there which was a bit of a disaster, because it … wool prices fell and stock were very costly to transport over there; superphosphate was twice as expensive to put on over there - all costs were very dear.
So he sold out of there and now he manages a property in the south east of South Australia. And our other daughter, she came up to Queensland after being at a Melbourne University. She had done one degree, and was doing a postgraduate degree when we came up here. So she transferred to a Queensland university. And she met a fellow there at uni, and they married, and she now lives up here.
That's where my husband works - at Queensland University …
Oh, does he? … huh.
So, what was the land that you applied for in Victoria? Was it a particular type of farming land?
Is that what you felt comfortable doing?
Oh yes, yes. I liked sheep and cattle, yes. I had enough of dairying from when I was jackarooing. They had dairy, and we had to get up at six o'clock every morning and milk cows. It was freezing cold. After a Saturday night
or when you'd played golf, you'd have to come back and milk them again. Oh yes, I'd had enough of that. No, we had sheep and cattle - fat cattle, down in Victoria. We had a dairy cow, but we had a fellow to milk that.
It seems like the grazing life would have been so different for a man who had been in the navy - on the sea, and then on the land …
Well, I was brought up in Adelaide. My father had been an accountant in the State Bank of South Australia, and I think, although my mother came
from the land … well, I think we had the land in our blood, I suppose. We were all going to finish up on the land. My twin brother did but my elder brother was killed during the war but he was going to marry a girl from Forbes in New South Wales, whose family had a property. They were going to set him up there.
No, we all had it in our blood. My sister married a farmer from the York Peninsula.
Did your brother's fiancé marry someone else? Did she remarry?
Yes she did. She joined … after he was killed, I got her into the navy as a WRAN [Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service] in Sydney. It helped her a lot, I think, because she was … you know, met a lot of people that I knew. She eventually married another air force fellow.
But she never really got over it, I think … no.
How much older than you was your older brother?
OK, so it was eighteen months, then the twins, then a sister …
Yes, our sister was six years younger than we were. She's the same age as Anne - six years younger than we were.
All right, I'll just bring you all the way back now to when you first grew up. If you could tell us a little bit about the land, and what your parents were like when you were growing up …
Well, they were good. Father always took a keen interest in what we did at school. They always came to the sports days and the break-up nights. Yes, they always took a great interest in the school, and in all the schooling
we did; and especially in sport. My father only had one leg, since he had an accident when he was seven years old - a train accident. His father went to the Boer War and he died there. So his mother was left with four young children, and he was the only one out of the four who continued his education to graduate, more or less.
The other three had to work, and because he only had one leg she kept him at school for quite some time. So he joined the State Bank. He was in the bank all his life. His grandfather was the Chairman of the State Bank, and he got him in there - so that was good.
Did they have prosthetic legs in those days?
Well they did, but it was so heavy that Dad never wore it. He never wore it at all. It was like
a very heavy thing, not at all like the ones they made after the war. They were greatly improved then. I think the war improved a lot of things. You know, with the experimentation and the skin grafting and everything that goes with it. But no, he could swim, and he played table tennis, and took an interest in sport all the time. He used to take us to boxing matches and that type of thing. He always took us to the cricket when they were in Adelaide
and when Bradman and Larwood were playing. Yes, we had a good life.
Were you any good at sport, Bruce?
Well, my brother and I always won the senior sports events at school every year. I usually came second and he usually came first. He was a bit more brainy than I was, and a bit better at sport probably. I could run. I was a distance runner, and he was
more of a high jumper and sprinter. Yes, we were quite good at sport. I won the mile at Flinders Naval Depot against seven thousand, so I think I did pretty well there. Yes, I was alright at sport. Young David, our son - he's up here now. He won the sports at primary school - the whole District Sports. And so did our other daughter - Jenny, the one in Brisbane - she was a good runner too. But Sue, our other daughter, she had asthma, and she didn't.
But they used to ride horses when we were on the land. They loved it on the land.
Was your twin identical?
Yes. We had to wear different coloured badges when we were at school, so they could tell us apart. But they used to get us mixed up even then, because they forgot which badge was which.
Did you ever play any tricks on girls?
No, not really. I don't think so, no. See, when we left school, we never really stayed together. He went to Roseworthy, and I was jackarooing. Then I went in the navy, and he went in the air force. Then … we were always together before. Right up until the time we left high school we were always together - never without one another.
What about after the war? Were you just as close then?
Oh, we're very close now. I ring him up a couple of times a week, and he rings me. We're very close.
So tell us about some of the stuff you used to do when you were a child?
Well, that's going back a long time, isn't it … at what age do you mean? Well, we used to go to the beach every summer
down at Port Elliot, near Victor Harbour. That was our main holiday of the year. Our father used to come down and set the tent up and get everything ready, and mother would come down afterwards when everything was going well - because dad would have to go back to work. They only got a fortnight's holiday in those times, and they had to work on Saturdays, which … you can't imagine that now, can you?
These were the Depression years, and things were a bit tough, I suppose. But we used to go on holidays to my mother's sister's place up on the York Peninsula. They had a farm up there, and up to Hallett. We had cousins up there. We had people on the land all over the place. So we had plenty of holidays. Yes, we had a really good time.
And we didn't like school all that much - well, I didn't.
Growing up on the land, did you learn some of the skills associated with farming, like butchering or mustering, or anything like that?
Well, we were always in the city until I left school. We went to holidays up at Tarcoola once, to the McLachlan's place up there. My mother's cousin was the manager of the station up there, and we stayed up there for about twelve weeks, and we had
a wonderful time there, riding horses and mustering. We just liked it - liked the thought of it, I suppose.
That's what you ended up doing, so it must have had a great influence on you?
I think so. There were so many of mother's relatives on the land. That's where we used to go for holidays, so we just got used to it, I suppose. But apart from that we were city born and bred.
Sorry …Tarcoola … is that near Roma?
No, it's in South Australia, just up from St. Jena, more or less, on The Bight.
It's straight up from there, about four hundred and fifty miles from Adelaide, on the railway line to Perth. It's a very isolated station and was one of the biggest sheep properties in Australia at that time. It used to comprise two stations, but now it's been divided into two. It was owned by the McLachlan family.
Was your sister into riding horses and being one of the boys?
No, she played tennis, and travelled a lot doing that. She played tennis very well. No, she's wasn't into horse riding, no. But she turned out to be a farmer's wife. We all finished up that way.
What about your mum. What was she like?
She was nice, really nice. Really, a homely sort of person. Not a gadabout or anything. She more or less looked after her children. That's what her whole life was. And she lived to within two months of one hundred. She only died in '97.
Gee. You have good genes.
That's right, yes. And her sisters all lived to an average age of ninety four.
One was ninety eight, one was ninety four, and one was eighty seven. And their mother lived to ninety seven. So we might have a bit of time left on this earth. Yeah.
The word you used just then - gadabout - that's an old-fashioned word, isn't it?
What does it mean … skittish?
Yes. Well … it does.
Were you brought up with a particular religion?
Yes, my mother and father were Baptists. I don't think they were originally, but that was the closest church to where they were at the time. It was a pretty popular one, apparently. So we were brought up as Baptists, yes. We used to go to church, well, we never missed a Sunday. It was a bit
overbearing really. We used to go to Endeavour church and Sunday school all on a Sunday - three times. I think it put me off a bit.
The Baptists also have the Boy's Brigade, don't they?
I don't know - do they? It's a bit different over here in the eastern states, compared to South Australia. It's a much more relaxed religion over there. It's not so stiff. You'd have dancing and all the rest of it,
just like an ordinary Presbyterian or one of those others. But over here, I think they were a bit more strict in their religion.
What was the predominant religion in Adelaide when you were growing up?
In Adelaide … there were a lot of Baptists, because of the Welsh people who came out there mining. I think it was the same as in Tasmania. Baptists were fairly common there.
Yes, I suppose most were Church of England or Baptists or Presbyterians. Presbyterian was fairly common, like it was in the western district of Victoria. The old Scots people came out and went on the land there. Lots of the old properties there had people who were originally Scots.
Back in those days I hear it was difficult if one person was Catholic and another was Anglican …
I think they had their rows, and it was difficult to inter-marry. Oh yes, I think there was some animosity between the two. More so then, than now.
No-one would care now …
Oh no. They don't seem to worry at all, now.
And what about growing up in the Depression? You did say your family managed to get by. Do you remember any families that were struggling, or the coupons that they had, or the lifestyle …
Well, I don't think they had coupons then. Not during the Depression. But I can remember an uncle of mine that was at the First World War,
and he lost his job during the Depression. He was a turner and fitter, and I know we used to take him vegetables and things like that. We used to go shopping for him. He lost his house in that time, I remember. A lot of people did. And I can always remember some of the kids’ fathers, at school, who used to work for a shilling [ten cents] an hour, painting rooves and things like that - a few bob to get along, because work was pretty hard to get. But my father - being in a government position - he was pretty fortunate.
They did have to take a cut in pay in those days, but they still had plenty to live on.
What about in the old movies like 'Caddie' - there were rabbitohs; men walking around the streets, selling rabbits. Do you remember people doing that?
Well, I remember people coming to the door and even selling pins and
needles. They used to open up their little suitcases and sell things like that. Anything to make a few shillings. But there were rabbitohs, yes, in the country. They'd go round and get rabbits then come down to sell them in the city, yes. I remember that. There used to be a lot of old Afghans going around selling
things. That was in the country more. I don't think that was in the Depression though - I think they'd always done that.
That's interesting. I haven't heard of Afghani people …
Yes, they used to come around on a big horse and cart, and open up the sides of the van. They'd have everything there - socks, and clothes and anything you wanted.
Did your mum used to buy any?
That was in the country. But mother used to buy things from these people. It was more or less like these other people who used to come round selling balms and … I forget what … they used to come to the door in those days, but that's all gone now, because people are pretty … affluent
now, aren't they - compared to then.
Yes, I've noticed that in …
In fact, even if they're on the dole now, they're still pretty affluent compared to back then.
My grandparents and people I know from your generation, they would often have their cupboards full of food, so in case something happened, they wouldn't run out of food. And if something came on Special, then they'd buy four of them. I remember there were often
jars and jars of jam in my grandparent's house. I think that mentality may have come from the Depression - from the 'You never know what may happen' thing. They were much more stringent and controlling of the food that they had …
Yes, today things are very different. Not too many people are really
suffering, unless it's their own fault, by their method of living - from spending it on things they don't really need. But in those days, people had to be very careful what they did spend it on.
And was your mum much of a cook?
She was not so much of a roast cook. Anne's a better roast cook than mother. But she used to make
a lot of fancy cakes and that sort of thing, which we used to like. She was a good cook, yep.
Do you remember eating bread and dipping …
Yes I can, and we used to have fried bread. Fried bread was bread in dripping with pepper and salt. It was quite nice too. It had to be beef dripping. It was really rich stuff.
Well you seem pretty fit and healthy, so that just debunks the myth that people who eat fat get clogged arteries and die early …
Well, I've had five bypasses, so … don't be too hasty with that. My mother didn't. She lived to that age and there was never anything wrong with her. And she probably had
the same as we had. She would have. So it doesn't clog everybody's up. I think it's in your make-up.
What about entertainment and forms of fun when you were growing up as a teenager? Do you remember the kinds of things you would do?
Well, we'd go to the pictures. You never had any worries about being
picked up by paedophiles or anything. You just went to the pictures any time you wanted to; when you were quite young. Mothers didn't seem to worry too much about. Not like they do now. Now they seem to, don't they? It was pretty free and easy. We used to make bombs at school and go
to an old tip, up above where we were. They were getting rid of these old iron bed heads, with the brass nobs on top of them. We used to take the brass nobs off them and fill them with potassium nitrate and bit of sulphur and a bit of charcoal. We'd put a wick in them and … we were right opposite a park -
Hazelwood Park - our house was, and there was a creek running through there. And we used to set them off in the creek, and run like mad home, in case the police caught us. We'd put enough wick in them to get home before they'd blow up. It was a wonder we didn't blow someone up.
You watched from your house?
You could see it, yes. Usually that's what happened, yes. But a lot of kids were interested in that kind of thing.
We did it at school. We were told not to do it, of course. But kids, you know. You could buy potassium nitrate from chemists in those days. You'd get the sulphur and charcoal from a hardware store. Those kinds of things. Apart from that, we just played together. We had marbles. Everything was pretty simple.
Did your parents ever find out about making the bombs?
Oh yeah, they knew. Yep. They knew. They tried to stop us. I don't think they really tried too hard or worried about it. All the kids were doing it, so it didn't matter too much.
So you joined the navy later on … had you been interested in sailing or boating or anything like that when you were a younger child?
No, not really. I think I read a few books about the navy at the beginning of the war, and I became close to it. I suppose that's normal. If you're going to join the air force you read air force books, and Biggles and … you don't know what Biggles was?
I've heard of it - it's a character isn't it?
That's right, yes. First World War, and that kind of thing.
In the air force. I just got interested in that way. Otherwise, I hadn't had any naval experience.
I've heard anyway, that a lot of men wanted to be Spitfire pilots, which was the sort of mythology - maybe it's that Biggles character racing through the air and dropping bombs here and there. So that wasn't obviously something you aspired to?
No. In fact, I don't even like flying much now. I do fly, but I don't like being up there. I like taking off but I don't like landing. Once you're up there it doesn't matter much. But I don't particularly like flying. My eldest brother loved it. In fact he was CO [Commanding Officer] of the squadron - or rather, he was acting CO
of the squadron when he was killed, and he loved flying. And my twin brother didn't like it either. He got out of it as soon as he could when the war finished. He was glad to be out of it, I think. He was on Boomerangs - flying Boomerangs. The other one was flying Austins.
It was amazing he came back really. I was just watching one of the 'Australians at War' CDs [Compact Discs] , and it was saying that only one in three of the Australian pilots came back. It was a very high statistic …
Well, David was on Boomerangs, and they were doing army co-op work. Anne's brother was in bombers, over in England - in Lancasters. He came back. A few did.
Yes, they must have. They came back to tell the tale, didn't they. Well … what about girls. Did you take an interest in girls from a young age, or not particularly?
No, not particularly, not from a very young age. But when I was in the navy I did, yes. We all had our girls. Yes, I've got some very good memories of some of the girls I used to go around with.
What was the protocol with girls back then? Would you say, ask her out, and then pay?
Oh yes. Always. It was not … no, not like it is now. You paid all the time.
So how could you afford it? Did you have a part time job? This was when you were a teenager, I'm talking about. Did you go out with girls when you were fifteen or sixteen?
No I didn't, really. Not ‘til after I left school. We had our little romances with kids when we were on holidays, yes, but it was pretty innocent sort of stuff. We didn't take them out then because we didn't have any money. So it didn't matter much. I suppose we were all in the same boat. But when I was in the navy, yes,
we took them out. We had a bit of money then, I suppose. But not as much as the Americans had. But … I think you had to pay in those days. Back then, women never paid. But now it's completely turned around. There's equal rights now. I think that the women have
got themselves to blame for this, if they have to pay now. They forced it on themselves, by saying they're just as important as men!
[female interviewer responds] Oh! If that's all we have to do to be equal it's all right with me - pay for my meal, pay your own way. I suppose it varies, to be honest, because I mean, it's been a while since I was out dating. But if you met somebody and went out to dinner, you know, you'd sort of pay your own way; and if it seemed like he wanted to see you more, then he may pay for you.
Oh no. I think it's more likely that you'd pay, for her, straight away. To get her interested. The more you stopped her from paying, the more interested she'd become.
It's a nice gesture to pay for someone, anyway, isn't it?
So do I. We still do it now. If Anne and I invite people up to say, a birthday dinner, at a restaurant in Noosa, then we pay for them. We
wouldn't ask them out unless we did.
That's just a cultural change, I think : a social change that's happened …
That's happened, yes. A lot of people ask you out with them and then they expect you to pay. It irks me a bit.
That's right. They don't expect you to pay for them, but for yourself …
That's right, yes. They think they're doing such a wonderful thing by asking you out to a flash restaurant
and then when you get the bill, it's not so flash.
I guess when you don't have much money - talking about your early navy days here - and you take a girl out, it wouldn't be very nice for her to order roast beef, Grand Marnier to drink and that sort of thing. Would that be right?
Yep. I think probably in those early days in the navy, we'd come up from Flinders Naval Depot
and we used to mainly go to St.Moritz for ice skating, and these type of things, down in St.Kilda. We'd go to the pictures or go to a hotel. if you met girls at all, you just shared time with them. You didn't really become involved with them at all. They'd pay their way and you'd pay yours. With the sports and ice skating, you
didn't kind of pay for them - it's only when you got a little bit serious with someone that you'd pay for them. It wasn't anything very formal in those days.
What did your parents … did your parents give you any preparation in your adolescence with regard to the opposite sex? Did they sit you down and give you any sort of birds and bees talk?
No, no. I don't think so. It was taboo with most parents. All they told you was to respect girls, and not to treat them as play things. I think that stayed in my memory, always. And I think I have always respected girls, yes.
What were your parent's names?
George was my father, and my mother's name was Lulu.
Lulu, really? That was her name?
Yes, it was amazing. When I used to go to school I'd never get my mother to sign my report card, because I thought it sounded like a black fella [laughs] . So I always got my father to sign my report. It wouldn't worry me at all now, but when I was a kid I was a bit stupid like that. Of course, there's quite a few
Lulu's around - there's a singer in America. It wasn't all that common a name though.
I love it! If I was to have another child and she was a daughter, I would love to call her Lulu. I just think it's a great name. How was it spelt?
L-U-L-U. Yes. Her second name was Largon, and it sort of rhymed - Lulu Largon Murrie. She never changed it, the way it was pronounced anyway, because she was M-U-R-R-A-Y beforehand, and my father's surname was M-U-R-R-I-E. So she didn't have to change
Was she able to … I suppose it's very hard to get over the grief of losing a child more than anything, I would say. Was she able to carry on and be the same kind of person after the loss of your brother?
Yes she was. She was pretty good. It must have affected her a hell of a lot
really, but no, I don't think she ever got over it, and she never spoke much about it. You know, you'd have to bring it up, if she did speak about it. But, I think losing your first born is always the worst, and … no she was good that way. She always kept in touch with his fiancé, even after she was married;
they kept in touch the whole of her life. So she had … they both had that to stand by, but … I think it affects the mother more than the father. But it's a pretty bad loss I think, yes.
I don't think I can imagine anything worse really. I mean, losing a sibling or a parent is terrible enough, but losing your child …
Yes, I know. It is bad. It's bad to think that they died before you. Yeah.
Like, death doesn't work chronologically, does it?
No it doesn't. My twin brother, he's had that kind of thing happen. He had a baby that died at about four or five months.
And a son was killed over in … he was a mining engineer over in Norseman Mines, over in Western Australia. And he was killed coming back from a football match. A car overturned. He wasn't driving. It was a four wheel drive and I think there were quite a few in it. They might have been playing up a bit - I don't know. It turned over and he was killed. So, I know it's affected them a lot.
Interviewee: Bruce Murrie Archive ID 2032 Tape 02
I was interested to know how your family coped with the Depression?
I think they coped very well. I can't remember suffering through the Depression. I can remember other families, yes, having to go without. But we always had a car, and we always managed to get along. Mother was
always very careful - they all had to be very careful - how they spent their money in those days. But no, we didn't really feel it. In fact, I don't think I would have known there was a Depression on, myself, unless we had other people around us who were affected by it.
Did you note this as unusual, or did you feel you were lucky?
Well, when the Depression first came on I was only six years old, so I wouldn't have known, no. It was probably just natural to be like that. I think it's kept with me all my life, you know, being careful with money. We didn't throw money around. I know with my grandchildren today that a hundred dollars in their pocket is not kept there for long.
Well, they buy anything they want. They buy television sets … in my daughter's home in Brisbane, they've got four television sets and three kids. There's one in the lounge, one for the parents, and two of the sons have got them; as well as a couple of computers. So they just buy what they want to buy. Really, in those days, we wouldn't have done that.
Well, we would have had television anyway. We'd have a crystal radio set.
Was it unusual to have a car in those days?
Yes it was. My grandmother always had a car, and she had a driver - a chauffeur. I can remember going around with that; and I think we didn't have a car at that stage, because it was available to us as well. But, as young as I can remember, we had an old Fiat - our first car - then we had an Essex - you know, the General Motors car, and from then on
we had a Chev. It was alright. But we always had a car, yes.
So was your family better off than most?
Oh they would have been, yes. Probably because of being in a Government job. Private enterprise was the one that suffered a lot. Even being in a Government job though,
they had to take a lowering in wages. Today, that seems to be a very hard thing to do, even when times get tough. But in those days they had to.
You mentioned a chauffeur - do you remember what he was like?
Yes I do. And his name was Mr Murray too. My grandmother was a Murrie. No relation. He was a gardener and chauffer too. He was just an old fella - well, an old fella to us. he was probably about forty.
Did he have any characteristics or mannerisms that you can remember?
Not really, no. We used to go and stay with our grandmother a fair bit, but I can't remember much more than that he was a gardener and a chauffeur. She couldn't drive, anyhow.
It was an old Hupmobile - you've heard of them?
Tell us about the lead up to when war was declared. Can you remember if you knew what was happening overseas?
Yes. I was probably interested. I can remember being at school and sitting in the classroom when it was declared in September 1939. I remember old Menzies saying that because Britain was at war, we were at war too. It was the old British Empire at that stage
and that meant that if England declared war, everybody else followed. Yes, I can remember it quite well. And I thought then - I was only sixteen - I thought then that it would be all over by the time I'd have to go. I was probably hoping that it would be. Well, I was, hoping that
it would be. Because there was so much slaughter then, when they attacked Poland. But it wasn't. It had to go on for a lot longer. You got used to it after the first couple of years. I've always admired the first ones that joined up - especially in the army, because they put themselves right at the head of everything. They knew that they'd be in it anyway, at that stage
but we didn't really, ‘til later on.
So what were you hearing as a sixteen year old? What sort of impressions were you developing of what the war was like?
Well, first of all we were told that Hitler really only had tanks that were made of cardboard or plywood, and that they'd fall to bits when they started. It didn't turn out that way. They must have had things covered up very well, I think, because
whether the British didn't want us to know, or whether they just didn't seem to know they had a pretty good system of covering things up … that was all the impression I had. We knew that Britain wasn't really prepared, and I think they were pretty game to stand up to it. But they had to.
How did you follow the war as you remember it, in the classroom, or at home, in those early few months?
Well in '39, what age was I? I think I only had about another year at school after that. We used to talk about it because some of the other blokes’ fathers were enlisting. It never really affected us much but.
We weren't really right into it, then. We did send troops over to the Middle East but they were a little later getting into the action, because it was after France had collapsed that that more or less happened - when Italy came into the war. So no, I don't think Australian troops were really involved until 1941 when
the Japs came into it. Except for the troops in the Middle East, before that. 1940, probably. But no, I can't remember all that much about it.
Did you think it might just be a year, and that you wouldn't be involved? What about once the war developed and you were seventeen, nearly eighteen?
Yes, I knew then that it wasn't going to just fold up. You knew then that you'd probably be in it, yes.
How did you feel personally about the possibility of being involved?
Oh, I didn't mind. I didn't really mind. You were so used to seeing other people go, that … you just got so used to it. In fact, I think in the end I was just breaking my neck to go. You wanted to be in something, anyhow, because … you didn't want to be a choco [chocolate soldier] . You wanted to be in something reasonable. I think that's why I picked the navy, because
I didn't want to be in the army and I didn't want to be in the air force. I didn't like flying. So I thought the only other one was the navy. Which I really … I don't think I would have ever have chosen that normally. I'd be back there again if another war came. In fact, I'd take it on now … get rid of some of these … I'm getting towards the end of my life, and I might as well tackle something in time, valiantly, and let the young ones live.
You mentioned chocos. What was said about chocos that you can remember?
Well, they were conscripts, really, and they were first of all supposed to be kept in Australia, and not sent overseas. The AIF [Australian Imperial Force] were the only ones to go overseas. So I think they didn't have a very good name, because they weren't volunteers. And people used to send a few white feathers to some of them, and that type of thing.
That was cruel, I suppose, because in the end they did become involved in the New Guinea campaign, and in Darwin and places like that. But I didn't want to be one of them, no.
So was that a strong motivation for joining up early - the possibility that you'd receive a white feather or be considered …
Huh. No I don't think so. It wasn't.
No, that wasn't a motivation at all. I just wanted to join up, yep. In fact I could have not joined up, because I was on the land at the time. I was working for a cousin on the land at the time and that was a reserved occupation. He was trying to get me to stay because of that, so I said, "Well, I'll just leave. It doesn't matter".
So he couldn't stop me leaving. And he didn't try, anyway.
Did you personally have an allegiance to the British Empire?
Oh yes, always have. I think it was a good thing. The world was better, then. Today, we're getting too mixed up - too many mixtures.
Could you describe how it affected you? Did you think of yourself as a British subject?
Well, I think so, yes. My father used to always talk about 'going home'. And he was born out here. We'd been out here since 1839 - three years after South Australia was settled. But the family still had great loyalty to Britain. I think a lot of people did in those days.
We've become such a mixed race since then, that we don't seem to have many loyalties to anybody anymore, except to ourselves - and some people don't even have too much loyalty there.
So, when you're first joining up, where did you expect to go? Where did you think you'd end up fighting?
I didn't have a clue. Not a clue. I joined up at the end of 1941,
in October 1941. I joined up just before I was eighteen. I put my name down and was hoping to join by the time I was eighteen. But they didn't call me until February '42, and during that time it was when the Repulse and Prince of Wales were sunk. That gave me a bit of a sinking feeling. But no, it didn't seem to stop me. The navy was fairly hard to get into
compared to the other services because so many people had applied. We were lucky, because my cousin who was six weeks older than I was, he'd applied for the navy, but he was called up into the army, because they didn't call him up quick enough. His father went crook at the army and told them what he thought of them, and got him pulled out, and the navy took him straight away.
And in the meantime I'd applied, and my uncle told them about that also, so they put us both in together. So I was lucky, and got in earlier than I might have, otherwise.
At that stage - as a young man - did the possibility of death ever enter your mind?
No, certainly not.
I don't know. You never think you're going to die. You never do. You might if you're in the air force. I can remember my brother saying - I met him about five weeks before he was killed - I met him in Sydney at the Officers’ Club. He said things were getting a bit tough up there, and two
of the COs [Commanding Officer] had already been killed in 22 Squadron - that was the squadron that Bill Newton was in; the one that was beheaded by the Japs; and he said things were getting a bit hot. I think he had a feeling that things were getting a bit touchy. But apart from, in the navy I think you're either in it, or you're not. I mean, the whole ship's in it. Which is what I used to like. Every sailor from the captain down,
every sailor is dependent on everyone in that ship, and it's a good feeling. The captain takes the same responsibility and the same risks as everyone else; and that's one thing that in the army you don't have. The big bosses are right behind, there - not all of them, there are field blokes, but in the navy
you're all together, and you've got even the admiral of the fleet there - the senior one, he's there too.
So this helped you psychologically?
I think so, yes. It does, because you've got a kind of comradeship in the crew, that I used to like, yep.
You mentioned before that your brother and you joined different forces. Did you discuss before, which forces you were going to join?
He was always interested in the Air Training Corps. When he was going to Scotch College he took Air Training Corps classes, because he knew he was going to go in the air force. That was right at the start of the war. He was keen on flying, and he really, really loved it. My other brother, I don't know. I don't know why he joined up
in the air force, but he did. But I didn't discuss it with him because he was going to Roseworthy Agricultural College at the time, and I was already in the navy. So he just made up his own mind.
I guess that some people hold the cliché of identical twins …
Yeah, sticking together. Yep. Well, we've always stuck together, as far as being really close to one another goes. I mean, as I said, I do ring him a
couple of times a week to see how things are. He rings me. Yes, we ring … we don't write much, but we ring. I go and see him every Christmas time in Adelaide. We do the circuit - we go and see our children, as well as go to Adelaide.
What about the cliché of 'special bonds' - or even extra-sensory kind of connections?
No, I've never noticed that. You mean, like when one of us is in danger, the other one knows? No, I don't think we've got any feeling that way, no. I just wonder whether there's much in it. But, I have explained in those things … when I was on the Geelong when it was sunk, there was a
fellow on there, who had told me that something was going to happen. We sailed from Milne Bay on Friday the thirteenth, and he was on board as a passenger - this fellow, he was a lieutenant - and he said that night on watch that something was going to happen. He said he knew something was going to happen. And he told me about other things he had predicted. He was a bit of fortune teller, because he had had that happen before.
But we didn't have anything like that - nothing.
So did you get to see each other before you went off to the navy and he went off to the air force?
Yes, I used to ride across when I was on the land, jackarooing. I used to ride across to Roseworthy and stay the weekend with him. I used to ride a horse for four and a half hours and back again. We didn't have much transport in those days. We used to have an old Morris car - an old bull
nosed Morris - but it used to give a bit of trouble sometimes. Yes, we used to keep in touch then, before I joined the navy. But once I joined the navy, no. I tried to ring him when I was up in Lae one time, when my elder brother was killed. He was up at Nadzab in New Guinea, and he had gone over to Biak where my brother's squadron was based, to find out what had happened.
But that was the only contact we … but I didn't get onto him even then, because he had left.
And what about when you were both waiting for your call-up? Did you discuss what expectations you had about what was before you?
No, I don't think anybody did, really. I think once you joined up, you just wanted to get in - simple. You saw everybody else doing the same thing.
All your friends were going in, and you just wanted to be in it too. I think that was the feeling, really. There was no fear attached to it. Everyone you knew was going to live. Most people did.
And with your older brother being in the air force earlier, would you receive news about what he was up to, or what he was going through?
Yes, well I met up with him
quite a few times in Sydney during the war. We met up at Kineal [?] Officers’ Club in Sydney, so yes, we met up several times. Probably no more than three times during the whole war, but we met up, yes. I mean, my mother used to write to us every week. She used to write to all of us, and tell us what was going on, so we knew.
What kind of things would she write about?
Well … what mothers do write about. I can't remember the details. Just about things that were happening at home, and how our brothers were getting on. Just to keep in touch.
Now, you said you signed up for it in October 1941. Tell us how the news of Japan entering the war strike you?
Well … that was in December '41, wasn't it? Well, I think we all knew it was going to happen. We all had suspicions it was going to happen, but we didn't think it would happen the way it did. It was probably just as well it did happen the way it did, because that brought America in.
But the Japs were making threats of coming down towards Australia, though we didn't think they would attack America first. It was a very big mistake they made in doing that. But we thought that … they were trying to bring the troops back from the Middle East at that stage, because of the threat. We knew that Japan was building up a pretty big naval force too. They were in China for a fair while. So, yep, we knew.
But it was a shock when the Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk. They were supposed to be the power of the fleet out here.
So in those early stages, did you think you would be fighting in the seas of the European theatre, or in the Pacific?
Well, first of all I thought that's where I would be fighting.
But after that, no, we didn't much of a chance. It was all in the Pacific. The Indian Ocean was about the furthest we got away.
Well, tell us about the process of joining up; what you did when you first signed on, and then what you did when you joined up?
Well, you go before the Recruiting Officer and give your particulars and present your references. You always had to have references for these sorts of things. They didn't take you without references. I think two or three references.
And they check on you - whether you'd been a crim and that sort of thing. Then you're put on the list for calling up. They just take their time. When they do call you up after that … they can give you some idea. But unless you persist - you can persist and get in fairly quickly.
Who did you use as references?
Oh, my cousin up on the land and a few others around the place. They only had to be people you knew. They didn't have to be anyone of great
importance; as long as they provided good character references, that's all.
And what did you think when they called you up a few months later and said you should come in and be a part of the navy?
Well, I was breaking my neck to get in there. I think, once you've signed up to join, then the only thing is to join. I didn't really think about it.
It might sound a bit dumb, but I don't think any of us did, really. We didn't worry about it, no.
Well, talk us through that first day, or that first couple of days …
Going into the navy? OK, I can tell you that. We took off from Adelaide railway station and my cousin and I were
the only ones from the east side of Adelaide that were called up in that draft… you see, what they used to do was call people up in sections - like, from Port Adelaide, East side, West side, South side - to try and get them from the same kind of … group. We went in with the Port Adelaide mob. They were pretty tough, I'll tell you. They were nice blokes, but they could swear like anything. We'd never heard this before, and we went over by train. They made themselves at home on the train -
on the express going over to Flinders. And we got to Flinders Naval Depot the next day, and we had to line up outside the gates; and we were marched into the depot. We must have looked like a pretty bad lot of hobos, because we were all dressed in anything and we couldn't march; and there was a Lieutenant Collins there and he was
trying to hurry things up and get things going. He said what a disgraceful mob we were - which we probably did look like, too. We didn't sleep much the night before. We got into the depot the first thing in the afternoon, and it was tea time. I can remember this. Tea time in the navy is just a cup of tea or coffee and a few sandwiches; and jam and stuff like that. So they slopped it on the table
and before I even had time to think about it, the whole lot had gone. The blokes from Port Adelaide, they grabbed the lot. And I thought, "God, if that's tea, I've had it!" It wasn't `til later that night when we had supper - which was the proper sit-down meal - that I was OK. But that was the particular lesson I remember on going into the navy : you've got to jump in and help yourself, or you get left behind.
Then we had to go in and have injections, and be kitted out. They were quite good. After they got a bit of discipline in them they were some of the best blokes in the world- they really were. They did have discipline eventually, and when they did have discipline it became so much easier. Everybody seemed to get on very well.
How did they instil discipline from the first day?
Oh … marching. Marching and marching and drill. You'd march all day, and if you did something wrong they'd give you a rifle and make you double around the parade ground with it up above your head. And then they'd bellow at you when you got back. You learnt to do what you had to do.
But it was only for three months - that was initial training. And by that time they could all march well, and they looked good, the whole thing.
And how did you take it yourself - as a young man being told what to do? What was that like for you?
I'd been told what to do at school for the whole of my life, I suppose, up to that stage. No, I don't think it made much difference being told what to do. I took it pretty well.
Like, well, you had to. If you didn't, then you just dropped out. You didn't drop out actually, you were just forced to do what you had to.
What kind of things did they bellow at you?
Well, they get so close to you sometimes, these Gunner's Mates - they kind of spit right in your face when they're yelling at you. They put the fear of death in you. We had one called Torture Slight. His name was Slight and he was from England. He was a Gunner's Mate from England,
and he was a real terror. Really, he did have complete command. And really, that's the kind of blokes they sent out from England to train us. We were short of people to train sailors out here, so we got most of them from England - petty officers and that. There were about seven thousand down at Flinders Naval Depot
and that was quite a fair few people.
And what about the friendships? Were you developing friendships?
Well, that's one thing in the navy; I don't think, well see, I didn't stay with them long. You see, I went through the Officers’ Training School straight away, after I'd finished the first course. And once you become an officer you make friends
yes, but you don't make …'bosom friends' because you're never on a ship long enough. The longest I've ever been on a ship is nine months; that was on Vendetta, and Echuca, both for about the same time. For the rest of the time, if you go in for a refit then you might be taken off that ship and put on another ship because they require officers there. So you're changed around a fair bit. Crews might often stay on the same ship for quite a long time, but not officers. They shifted around. So you don't make many friends. I made a couple
of friends, but not blokes that you'd keep in touch with for years afterwards, no. It's a bit of a difference with the army there. If I go to a reunion of Echuca, I know very few of them there, because most of the ones that I was on with are probably dead, or dying - you know - sick, and can't go there; whereas the crews have changed around so much
and the younger ones are probably there. But I have been to quite a few reunions, and except for two or three officers, I didn't know anyone else, no.
So how did you come to be chosen for the Officer's Training School?
Well, you're picked out by the fellow in charge - he was a chief petty Officer in our case. You've got to have certain qualifications, an Intermediate or Leaving Certificate at a minimum. Intermediate was, in the old
day, that was … I don't know if you know what the Intermediate was; but the Leaving, that was what you needed to get into university. And you had to have that before you were chosen, and if you had that, you were recommended by the fellow in charge, and if you were lucky, you got in. So, I applied. I thought I might as well.
Were there any personal characteristics that you had, that you think helped you get chosen for officer training?
I don't think so. Upbringing might have been … no, I don't … there was a forty percent failure rate, anyhow. They could toss you out any time they liked.
So no, as long as you had the education I think you were pretty right. Probably, the chief petty officer assessed you to a certain extent, anyhow - how you behaved, and that sort of thing.
You mentioned upbringing. How do you think your upbringing might have helped you?
I think it was just your education. That helped a lot.
How did you feel personally about being chosen for this?
Well, I was the only one in the group who did go into officer training from that group. My cousin didn't. No, I didn't feel proud. I thought I was jolly lucky to get in. But no, I didn't feel proud. I'm not a proud person.
What were they teaching you initially in the officer training?
Well, they teach you everything. They go right through mathematics, and they teach you navigation, gunnery, torpedoes, sailing, practical sailing; and then they take you out on a ship and teach you ship handling. They go through the whole lot. It's fairly intense. You didn't get any leave while you were there, for nearly four months. The only difference was that, you know how the sailors have a black hatband
with HMAS Cerberus or whatever on it, in gold - well they had white ones with the HMAS Cerberus on them. That was the only difference you had. You otherwise wore the same sailor's uniform. You weren't given any leave because they didn't want you to mix with the others when you went ashore. There was a bit of animosity from the other sailors sometimes, who thought you shouldn't do it. So that's the way it was. It was very intense. Up at five o'clock in the morning
and run out to the West Gate, which was a couple of miles up. Then back to do PT [Physical Training] and have a shower and breakfast; and then get on to classes. Then it kept on going at night as well. So it was pretty intense. You felt … that's when I won the mile at the Depot. I was as fit as a fiddle. Yes, it really was quite a good course. Then, if you graduated under twenty years of age
you became a midshipman, and if your were over twenty you became a sub-lieutenant.
Did they teach you about taking command of …
Oh yes. You've got to parade in the morning - every morning at the raising of the colours, and you were given turns of taking the different classes and marching them around. You had to do that in front of the commanding officer, yep. I did all that.
So tell us what happened next? Where did you go from here?
When I was first appointed, I was the only one in the class to be appointed to a destroyer. I got appointed to Vendetta. Whether they thought I needed a bit more discipline, I don't know. The others went to corvettes mainly, or to Fairmiles - Fairmiles are anti-submarine small craft,
and they had to do further training at Rushcutters’ Bay in Sydney before they went on. But the corvette ones went straight on. But in the meantime, Vendetta had been damaged in Singapore. It was towed back to Australia, so I missed out on that one, and they sent me to Echuca. And after I had been on Echuca for nine months, they sent me to Vendetta,
so I don't know how they worked that one out. I thought I was very lucky getting a destroyer, compared to what the others got. I was either the best or the worst - I don't know.
Why do you say that?
Well, the Vendetta was manned by permanent naval officers. Whether they thought I needed more discipline, or whether they thought I'd improve with more discipline I don't know; because all the rest of the ships were mainly manned
by reserves. So, I think if they thought that, they were wrong, because I really enjoyed Vendetta more than any of the rest of them. I got on well with permanent service officers - always.
Where did you pick up with the Echuca?
They sent me up to Townsville to pick it up. I picked up the train to
Brisbane and then another train from Brisbane. I thought I'd be there the next day, but oh no; somebody said on the train that we might take four or five days to get there. Which it did - I think it took four days to get to Townsville. But I was given a seat on a passenger train, and when I got onto the platform, there was an army transport officer there and he
bundled me into a carriage at the back of the train which was for army officers. It was one of those ones where there's seats on one side and seats on another, and they were looking at each other all the time. So I couldn't stand that. So, when it got going, I walked up the length of the train and found where my seat was. It wasn't being used and it was right next to some civilian people going back to Townsville. So I sat next to them
for the rest of the trip and they fed me and looked after me well; because I thought we were going to be there the next day. I didn't know it was going to take that long. They knew all about the trip. So we got up to Townsville … and the ship had gone. It had come back to Maryborough for a refit. So I jumped on another train and came all the way back to Maryborough. So that was the first … the first … joining a ship, yeah.
We'll just pause there, as we're at the end of the tape.
Interviewee: Bruce Murrie Archive ID 2032 Tape 03
Something that occurred to me about when you joined the navy was food. Was it any good?
Navy food was good, yep. Yes it was - much better than the army ever had. It was better when you got to ships, because you got supplied by supply ships.
Most of our supply ships in the Pacific were American, because we worked with American ships a lot, and you'd get turkeys and everything else - eggs - we never got powdered eggs like the army or the air force. We could always carry three months supply of fresh meat with us - frozen. So no, we really had the best food of any service.
And you didn't have to carry your luggage. It was all carried for you. Everything was good.
It's nice to hear that confirmed from the horse's mouth - so to speak - because I had heard from other servicemen that the navy food was the best …
Oh, it was. By far. I know, because I was talking to my brothers, and their food was just as tough as the army food sometimes. I think they were a little better though, because they were permanently stationed.
No, I didn't like bully beef and I never, ever ate it. They had it on - they had it on every Saturday when they closed all the galleys down for cleaning. You could have salmon if you wanted, if you didn't want bully beef. So I had salmon then. I got sick of that too.
Tinned salmon. The pink stuff.
I was going to say, if you had fresh salmon every day, it wouldn't be so bad at all, would it?
Well, in the navy, the officers’ mess was a catered mess. You had a caterer. You could put in extra money - if the whole wardroom agreed to it - and you just had what you wanted.
The caterer would go ashore every time you made shore and get the wardroom what they wanted. It was not necessarily supplied by the navy. You had everything supplied by the navy, but you could always get extras.
What about that old British navy … the rum; being allocated a nip of rum?
No, the Australian Navy didn't give you rum. They gave you sixpence a day extra instead of the rum. So you got sixpence a day extra, on top of
your pay, instead of the rum.
What, so you could buy the rum?
No, no. No, nobody … navy ships were completely dry, except … no, when I first joined the navy, none of the sailors were allowed to drink on board at all. The officers had grog, yes, and plenty of it. But not at sea. It was banned from drinking at sea. And it
still is. But when you got to harbour you made up for it, of course. But no, it was a dry ship at sea.
I had no idea. I thought you could have a glass of wine or beer with your meal?
No, not during wartime. Not while I was at war. Once you got to harbour you could; but there was no drinking at sea. If there was any drinking at sea, it was quite illegal.
Very interesting. When you went to Flinders to do the officer training course, did you find that there was a particular subject that you were better at?
Yes, navigation. I loved it. That was one thing I was … I didn't like gunnery, yet I finished up doing it. I was sent there to do it. But I liked navigation. They never really gave me a chance
to do a navigation course. I did one in Flinders, at that time, and I was lucky when I was on Vendetta that the Fleet Navigator - Commander Mesley - he had been sunk on the Canberra and he came to take over and for about four months while he was there, I learned a lot of navigation. And Duncan Stevens was the navigator and … I probably shouldn't say this, but
half the time, after he'd been at shore for a while, he couldn't see very well to take star sights. It finished up that the captain was taking my star sights instead of his. So I always loved navigation, yes. But nowadays you don't
have to take star sights because of satellite navigation. I think they still must know how to do it in case the satellite navigation breaks down. But we've got satellite navigation up here in Coast Guard. All the ships have got it now - all the big ships. It's accurate to the nearest couple of metres. So navigation used to take at least twenty minutes to work out star sights, to find out
where you were. And by that time you'd gone on a fair way.
Just talking to me - the uninitiated - about navigation, in any shape, way or form, let me say, what is the key in understanding navigation? Is it the stars? Do you have to know where the stars are?
You've got to know where the stars are and you've got to know which stars to look at. You take stars at right angles to one another
because that gives you a more accurate position. You can't just take a star here and a star alongside of it - that's no good. You only take the one star, or you usually take three stars, so they all cross in and leave a slight triangle. And you're supposed to be in the middle of that triangle, when you work out the sights.
Is it accurate?
Yes, very accurate. It works out. You should be within a mile, and a mile's not bad on the sea. You're not going to hit a reef … well,
you could, I suppose. It's quite accurate, yes.
And in the training school, did you also learn about picking up submarines … 'ping' and all that?
ASDIC, [Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Commission] yes. You do that. But you have ASDIC Officers. They're specially trained. I was never in ASDIC, but I know how it works, yeah.
It just sends a note out, and it gets a note back, and it tells the distance between - between sending it out and back. It tells you how far the thing is from the ship. Every ship had an ASDIC Officer. And then they had special sailors sitting in a little room, taking all the pings. They were a separate breed all of their own, yeah.
And when you were at Flinders you were talking about how you were never at a place long enough to become friends, but what about mentors? Did you find somebody that really, really helped you along the way; that helped you understand everything that you were learning?
Yes, I think the chief petty officers
on the ship. I mentioned that in my notes there. They helped everybody. They were like the old grandfathers of the ship. They had a lot to do with the navy. They had been in there so long. They could help anybody - junior officers or just ordinary seamen. It didn't worry them. And yet they weren't commissioned. They were good. They were the best.
If they saw you not coping with things, they'd try and help. They were good. And some of the officers were alright, too. Very rarely they … they had to be alright, because we were living in pretty close quarters for many months on end, you know - sharing the same table. You had to get on. If you didn't get on, it was hopeless. So everybody got on. I think the comradeship in the navy was … yes, we had good comradeship, but not
permanent friends, because you were changing around too much. There was only one that I did have, and he was not on the ship all that long. But his parents knew my family up here in Queensland, where they came from. It was that kind of association. He went to Geelong Grammar and I knew other blokes who went there, and we became quite friendly. He died a few years ago. But we kept in touch all the time.
So you did make the odd friendship, but not very often, no.
What were your parent's reactions to all their sons joining the services?
Well, I don't think they liked it very much, but they didn't try and stop us. But plenty of others did too … all their sons went away. No, they didn't try and stop us at all.
But I think they must have, you know … had thoughts …
And you joining the navy instead of the air force?
Well, I think they were probably glad I was in the navy, probably. There was probably less risk in the navy than in the air force. In the air force, I think the biggest risk is in the training.
Your youngest sister must have been only twelve or something …
Yes, she was about twelve, yeah, when we joined up, yeah.
She was the only one left at home then?
Did Adelaide have the same kind of thing that happened in Brisbane, where the Americans infiltrated the city and …
No, but Adelaide had a lot of the Middle East people, when they came back - our own soldiers and plenty of them.
I can remember going home one time on leave and my parents had three billeted with them. Hazelwood Park was right opposite our place - we looked right over Hazelwood Park, and that was where the camp was. They billeted them around to the different people. So they had a lot of troops there, that way, passing through. The three we had staying there were Queenslanders.
In the army?
Yes, in the army.
It must have been strange coming home and seeing three new blokes in your living room?
Yeah. They'd come back from the Middle East. They were quite nice - pretty good fellows.
And what about boxing? You said that your dad would take you to see the boxing. I know that it was a popular sport in the navy. Did you learn to box in the navy?
No, I didn't do any boxing in the navy. But it was still popular in the navy. They did have it. But I didn't do any of it, no. But my father bought us
boxing gloves and my brother and I used to get stuck into one another. You know, when we hit one another improperly or something, then we'd really get stuck into one another. But he went on to boxing over at Roseworthy, and when he was at the initiation ceremony, he was given the option of either boxing the school champion
or doing something else. So he chose the boxing and flattened the fellow - the school boxing champion - and we knew the bloke; we had been to school with the fellow before, the bloke he flattened. So then he was champion.
Sorry Bruce, we'll just stop for a second … [technical interruption] . Did your brother feel bad about flattening this bloke you knew from primary school?
I don't think so, no. They were good friends - always good friends.
So what about hobbies? You'd just joined the navy and done Officer's School … was there a particular hobby your were interested in?
Not then, no. We were too involved in the navy, doing things there. Really, once you were in the navy, you were always kept pretty busy on the ship. You never had time to do anything else like hobbies, no.
I guess when you see these old war movies of men in the navy, they're all sitting around doing this like playing cards …
Well, some of the sailors had hobbies. Like, they used to love plaiting ropes and making special knots and that type of thing. But I've never liked that type of thing, no. I wasn't that interested in ropes. But I probably should have been, because they were used a lot in the navy.
But if anyone would do it … I didn't want to do it. I'd get the sailors to do it.
What did they call that? As part of learning how to do ropes and what have you - what was that termed under?
Well, it was just termed 'knots and splices'. That's what they called it. Splicing was a very important … you had to learn about splicing, because splicing ropes together and wires together … not that we did a lot of it, but the sailors had do it. Really, you should know what they had
to do. If you didn't know what they had to do, then you couldn't tell them how to do it … tell them how to do it, but you couldn't do it yourself, that's … huh?
Well what about chess and checkers and all that sort of thing?
No, I'm not a player. I didn't play that sort of thing. I never played cards. I don't play cards now. Anne likes cards, and she likes Mahjong. I taught her how to play. We played Mahjong in China, but I don't play now.
I do like it though. Golf was my main hobby when I came back but I'm not a card player. I haven't got the patience for cards. I'd rather play the stock exchange.
What about reading? I see you've got quite a few books here in your house …
No, I'm not a reader. Anne's a reader. I do like reading and if I get into a book and I like, I will read it. But I'm not like her - she'll pick up one book after another.
I'm like that. Now, you were in the navy a year before your older brother died. Is that correct?
No, I was in the navy for … he died in 1944. Two years that would be.
It was in September '44 … '42, '43, '44 … yes, two years.
I know that your brother was squadron commander …
No, he was acting squadron commander when he was killed, yeah.
Do you know how he was killed?
Yes. He was doing a strafing raid on Ambon Island. I have met the
commanding officer of the squadron … he was a wing commander in 22 Squadron, and he was living in Brisbane. He came up to see us. We went down to see him at the RSL [Returned and Services League] at Caboolture. He told us all about it then. He was strafing and they don't really know what happened but he … there were two in the plane, the observer and the pilot
and the observer called him up and wondered why he wasn't taking a certain action. And he got no reply, so they think he was probably hit while doing the strafing run. They crashed into the sea, anyhow. That was the end. They never recovered it. They never recovered him, no. But he's buried up at … well, he's at the Ambon cemetery, anyhow. There's a tombstone there.
And you didn't find out all that information until recently?
Well, we knew he was missing. He was missing, presumed killed. Well, first he was listed as missing and then presumed killed, afterwards. But we didn't really know, no. Mother got a letter from the commanding officer, and that said what had happened; and I went and saw him and he knew all about it. But he was
a wing commander up there, and he was more or less in charge of two squadrons : 22 Squadron and 33 Squadron. 33 Squadron was a Beaufighter squadron, and 22 Squadron was then a Boston squadron. They later changed - when they lost all their Bostons - they changed to Beaufighters. They finished up with Beaufighters.
So can you tell us about … your first posting was on a corvette? Is that right?
Now, for the uninitiated, can you explain was a corvette is?
It's a minesweeper. They were designed as minesweepers in the first place, and used as corvettes. They weren't used as minesweepers until the end of the war, unless they had to be - had to be used as minesweepers.
But they were quite good as escort ships for slow convoys. They had a top speed of sixteen knots, and they'd roll like mad. They were a dreadful ship to be in as far as rolling went and their speed was their main disability but they were quite successful in slow convoys,
because slow convoys are only about eight knots, anyhow. So they had double that speed. Their real disability was in getting to a contact - with a submarine - in a reasonable time. They didn't have the power and it was a slow process getting there - and it was. A few knots - even eighteen - would have been better than sixteen.
I get the feeling that you didn't like it?
No, it was a different feeling altogether than when you were in a destroyer. They had so much horsepower. They'd just leap out of the water. Well, some of them could do thirty-five knots, which is over forty miles an hour - which is really going through the water, whereas corvettes were slow, too slow. You see, they had different engines. Corvettes had reciprocating engines and they were triple expansion.
They went from a big piston down to a small piston, using the same steam. pretty economical. Whereas destroyers had turbines - much more, much faster, more powerful.
What was the corvette called?
You had graduated from the training course as a midshipman. Is that correct?
What is a midshipman? What were his duties?
Well, you're a dogsbody, really. You did anything. I was the captain's secretary and you did watch keeping with another officer. And you did all the jobs that other officers wanted you to do. Just anything. But no, you were more or less a dogsbody.
You were supposed to be learning. And you could do navigation, or you could take an interest in gunnery. Anything you wanted to do, really; it was just a matter of training.
When you say, "Take watch," is that the way we think of navy men sitting up there in a little perch with binoculars?
Did it get pretty cold up there at night?
Well, it depends. You see, the corvettes had closed bridges - most of them. Some of them didn't. The Burnie was one I was on that didn't have an open bridge. But destroyers, they had open bridges, yes. You'd sit out there in the cold and the wet, yep. It was quite alright. You were well-rugged up.
How long would you be on watch and how would you stay awake?
Four hours. Watches start at twelve, four, and then there's two dog watches : four ‘til two and then four ‘til six … two to four, I mean, and then four ‘til six; then eight ‘til twelve, and then the middle watch is twelve ‘til four in the morning.
And the morning watch comes up at four ‘til eight in the morning.
Would you drink coffee up there?
Cocoa was the main thing. 'Kai' they used to call it. Thick, hot cocoa. Beautiful, it was. You could stand your spoon up in it. Great on those cold nights.
Sounds yummy. And what if you needed to go to the loo [toilet] ?
Oh, they had what were called 'piss-o-phones' on the back of the bridge. Yeah, they were there.
So what do you mean? You'd go and stand there and pee into a hose?
Yeah, a kind of funnel-hose thing.
And where would the hose go to?
Oh, out over the side of the ship somewhere. I don't know where it went but it didn't come into the ship, anyhow. Everything went over the side. Everything went out to see, then. Nowadays they've got to have holding tanks, don't they?
A couple of other navy fellow we've interviewed said that often the experience on a ship is not so much about the ship, but the people on it - feeling, like a family or what have you. How was that, on the Echuca? I'm thinking that this was a much smaller ship than the
Vendetta, of course, so less men. So did that make for a tighter group of people?
Yes, I got on well with the officers there. The captain was a lieutenant commander, and he was a reserve officer. He'd been pretty social in Tasmania. He'd been an aide to the Governor, and that type of thing. But I got on well with him,
even though he was a bit uppish. But we got on alright. In fact, after the war, I wanted a Welsford [?] stove, and Metafolds were the only ones that were importing them, so I went and saw him and he gave me all that I wanted. We got on well, but no, he was a bit more uppish than some of them.
When you say 'uppish', do you mean 'snobbish'?
Yeah. Well, he thought he was somebody.
Now I'm keen to talk about the Vendetta, because as I mentioned earlier, my father served on the new version. You'd been on the corvette - the Echuca - for nine months? Is that correct?
And then you went on to the Vendetta. Can you tell us about changing from the corvette to the Vendetta? What was that like?
Well, it was good. I wanted to do it. I'd rather have been on destroyers any day, rather than corvettes. It was pretty well the same. The only
difference was the permanent officers on board, who had been trained in the navy all their lives. They were much more 'definite' - they knew what they wanted, which made for a much happier ship. First of all, we had Lieutenant Commander Plunkett-Cole. He was another one
who thought he was pretty good, too. He was not easy to get on with and in fact, I can remember getting swiped across the bridge with him - he came up to the bridge and … he used to get panicky, and when I was in the way of the chart house - where the chart was kept - he just brushed me aside
like that. He was like that. He got … he was worried about something, and so … no, when he left we got Commander Mesley. He was different altogether: a navigator and quite placid, quite calm, quite capable. He finished up as a commodore in training. Plunkett-Cole finished up as a commodore in training at Flinders Naval Depot, afterwards.
So they got up, eventually. He had a pretty social wife, as a lot of them did. Some of those permanent service blokes, they had pretty social wives. It helped!
Well, talking about socializing, I suppose when you were on the Echuca - we'll get to the Vendetta in detail presently - but did you stop and meet the local girls at different places, on the corvette?
Well yes. I did meet a very nice girl when we were up at Cairns - Eileen O'Hara. She was an Irish as anything. She was lovely, yeah. I never used to go around with just anybody. If I had a girlfriend, then she was a real girlfriend. I wasn't a tearaway, anyway. I used to go out with her all the time, anyway.
And when I worked in Melbourne, then I had a girlfriend in Melbourne - Margo Thompson - and another one in Sydney. Yes, and I had a special one in Western Australia, yep … hmmm …
Hmmm … a girl in every port?
Yes, a girl in every port.
But none that were taking your heart away, it seems, at that time …
Oh yes, a couple of them did … they did. They were jolly nice girls. The one in Western Australia was, particularly.
What happened to her?
I kept going around with her for quite a while. She came over to Adelaide. Her father was general manager of Elder-Smith. He transferred from Perth to Adelaide. I met her in Perth first of all, and I quite liked her, yeah. But I think … things just broke up in the end.
You didn't ask her to marry you?
No, no I didn't. Well, I didn't have any really, ah … prospects … at that stage. It was between when I got out of the navy the first time, and when I got out of the navy and I was on the land with my brother. I knew he was going to take over the place because he was marrying someone who had land and they were going to be right but the place was too small for the both of us.
He stayed on and that's why I went back to the navy. So at the time, I didn't really have any prospects, so I didn't go on with it.
Is that what men thought in those day? You know, "Oh, I don't have much to back me up, so I can't ask a woman to be serious about me?"
Well, I think the women thought a bit that way, too. It's probably why things drifted apart. But no, I was very keen on her. She was a lovely girl - blonde, blue-eyed …
Well, so much for 'love conquers all' I guess. You've got to have …
Well, I did have some friends. There was one in Melbourne, and I used to take her out a lot. But we never had anything between us, you know. We just liked each others' company. Margaret Lenahan. And she used to come up to Sydney when I was up there. She had something to do with the airways, in the florist set-up … I mean, with the florists in the different airway terminals.
She used to fly from Melbourne to Sydney for that. She lived in Melbourne, and when I was in Sydney she'd fly up; and when I was in Melbourne I'd see her there. We used to go round a lot together. But no, we never intended to get married. No, not in that set-up. But no, she was good - good company. She married someone else in the end. And her sister married Jeff Brown, the Davis Cup tennis player.
I don't know if you've ever heard of him? He was probably before your time.
So going on to the Vendetta … I mean, since you were an officer-in-training, did you have to learn everything about … you were still an officer-in-training then, is that correct?
Yes, I was still a midshipman on Vendetta. I became a sub-lieutenant when I was on there. When I turned twenty. I turned twenty on Vendetta.
So now you had to learn how to work on a destroyer, and where everything was, and what the hierarchy was. Is that correct?
Well yes. What they normally do with a midshipman coming on board, was, he was allocated to an officer. I was allocated to Duncan Stevens, the navigator - which was what I wanted, anyhow. Probably I suggested that I liked navigation, so they put me there with him. So you do your watch keeping with him on the bridge and gives you
work to do, like chart corrections and keeping everything up to date for him. The more he puts onto you, the better for him, since he doesn't have to work so hard. And that's what I did. And of course you do watch keeping with him all the time. So you got four hours on, eight hours off, four hours on and so on - while you were at sea. And you do chart corrections in your spare time, along with whatever else the other officers
want you to do.
Did you get treated differently by the other sailors on the Vendetta because you were an officer-in-training? I mean, did they think, "Oh, we can't socialise with you because you're above us." Did that go on?
Well you don't mix very well. You don't mix with each other in the navy. Officers and ratings are not supposed to mix. But there's no kind of animosity between the two of them - I never found that.
I used to get on well with them. Some officers did mix with them and they got themselves into trouble, because they let themselves get too free with them. I think that's one discipline in the navy that had to be maintained, because if you had a very good commanding officer, he was usually very tough.
And if you had a lax one - you know, "Oh, well met old fella," then it didn't usually work out well, because people used to take a few liberties with it. We had a particularly good one on Quickmatch - Otto Humphrey- Beech - he was a German bloke, but he became flag officer of the Australian fleet when Melbourne rammed the Voyager,
he was on the Melbourne. And he was a gunnery officer, and absolutely a disciplinarian, and a yet a wonderful fellow to be with. I was his gunnery control officer and I thought, "Fancy going to a ship with him on it." Especially doing gunnery. But I got on with him, got on very well with him, because you knew exactly what you had to do and you didn't take
any liberties. He was a fellow who if he found anything wrong with you he'd tell you straight out and he'd never bring it up again - because you wouldn't do anything wrong again, anyhow. But he wouldn't follow it up and hold a grudge against anybody. No, he was good.
When you were saying you were his gunnery officer, did that mean you had to have a knowledge of all of the guns, or just one particular gun, or did you look after the men who manned the guns?
No, I was gunnery control officer. The gunnery officer on a destroyer is usually the first lieutenant. He's on the bridge and he gives all the orders about when to open fire. He's in touch with the captain up there. But the gunnery control officer sits up in the director, up above the bridge. It's self-contained and everything
and it's got telescopes and is in touch with radar. You're the one who sights the target, and you give the orders to the room down below in the ship where they assess all those orders. They put it on the table, work it all out and then it goes back to the gunnery officer. Then he gives the orders to fire. But you're the one
who's responsible for directing the fire, as gunnery control officer. The captain's in touch with you all the time, to see that you're doing the right thing. So that's how it's worked. There's a gunnery control room down below where all the assessing is done. It's like a computer. But there were no computers in those days - it was kind of like a handmade computer set-up. And you did the original range
and the original deflection; the speed of the enemy ship - you had to assess all that and then sight the target and if you're shots were too far out then you had to make and assessment straight away, to correct that.
Just to clarify - which ship were you on when you were the gunnery officer?
Quickmatch, as gunnery control officer.
But that was after Vendetta?
Yes, that was after Vendetta.
So when you first came on Vendetta you were a midshipman and a dogsbody - for want of a better word - and you were under that first bloke that thought perhaps himself a bit special. And then the other bloke was Wormsley, was it …
No, no, Jack Mesley.
So can you tell us about where you went on the Vendetta?
Well, we were mainly fast ship transports - single ship transports up in the Pacific. We were mainly on ships like the Mariposa and the Monterey - those fast ships that went across to America. We used to go about halfway across and then they'd meet up with the Americans, who'd take over from there. That's all we did on Vendetta; we took the Prime Minister over, half way -
old Ben Chifley, I think it was - no, John Curtin, probably John Curtin. He was on the Monterey.
You escorted the Monterey to New Guinea?
No, halfway across the Pacific towards America. He was going to America to meet the President and have a meeting about the war, during wartime.
I'd like to ask you more about where the Vendetta went, but we'll stop for a moment as we're running out of tape.
Interviewee: Bruce Murrie Archive ID 2032 Tape 04
I'm going to talk about Echuca first. Being, like, your first ship, describe how … you were talking about that train trip journey … describe why it was at Maryborough, for a start … how you'd been posted to Townsville and it was in Maryborough
Well I don't know, that was the navy all over, I think - chasing around ‘til
you found the ship. It was in Maryborough for a refit. It was at Walker's Shipyards. They built a lot of corvettes there and sloops, during the war. Yes, we were up there doing a refit, in the river. It was terribly hot. It was a dreadful time, and everybody finished up with dengue fever. I finished up in hospital for a fortnight and I think most of the crew did too.
That was the only introduction I had to dengue fever but I didn't want it again. It was a dreadful feeling when you get it.
What did it feel like?
Well, you feel like you're going to die. You sweat like mad and you have to change your bedclothes about three times a day. It was not a very wonderful thing to have. But nobody died. The mosquitoes were thick, because we were just lying in the river doing the refit.
Why had they left you on the boat if there was this …
Well, they always do. Oh, you stay on the ship always. Cheap, I suppose. They couldn't put you in a hotel - that'd be out of the question.
How did everyone feel about it - the morale, and all that?
I don't think they worried about it. The morale was pretty good on that ship, yes. No, people
don't worry about that. They know. That's their home. They eat on it and if they have to go to hospital, then good luck. Better food there, probably, for a while. But, it was pretty good on the ships, as I said before.
Well, describe for us - if you can remember - the thoughts that came to mind when you first saw the ship, when you finally arrived there …
Well, I think you first feel a little apprehensive when you go to any ship.
What it's going to be like. But it doesn't take long before someone else has taken you under their wing - especially when you're younger - and you settle down quite well. It doesn't take long to get used to a ship. You soon find out who you like and who you don't like. But no, I got on pretty well
with most ships I was on, I think. I didn't have any enemies …
Do you remember any initial differences you had, now that you were on a ship, as opposed to training, and what you'd gone through before? What were you noticing that was different?
On the ship? Well, it was much more relaxed than at training down at Flinders. You were much more your own person and the main thing I think, on a ship, is to get on with the crew. You've got to be sensible
and you can't muck around and do things that they wouldn't expect you to do. That's the main thing - you've got to get on with them, because they are the works of the ship, really.
Had your training prepared you for …
Yes, it does, I think. It prepares you
to work with them. In lecturing they do stress what an officer's role is, on a ship. It's pretty straightforward. I think the discipline in the navy was terrific. It helps you a lot. The discipline the sailors went through helps you - it does help the whole set-up to work. And if you haven't got discipline on a ship then it's just hopeless.
Were there any issues … well, maybe not 'issues' … but was there any strange feeling being such a young person above some of the older sailors who were of lower rank?
Yes. Well, as I said before. The chief petty officers were the ones who'd take you under their wing and they'd had more experience than anybody - even the captain - on the ship; as far as sailors went. And they were always very accommodating.
they were like your grandfather. They'd look after you. So once you had that kind of bond and they could see that you were going to take notice of them, then it was easy. Because if you did something that was wrong, or were going to do something that was wrong, then they'd let you know - in a very nice way.
And what about men who were ranks lower than you? How did you interact with them, now that you were new to the ship?
Oh, I just got on with them. I don't know. It never worried me very much. As I said, discipline was the thing that kept it together. They didn't take advantage of it.
Were there any particular characters that you remember on board?
Well, we always had a 'ship's clown', of course. But no, they were on every ship, and they used to get themselves
into trouble, too. They were usually nice fellows.
Do you remember the Echuca's clown?
No, I can't remember that. There were probably too many of them.
Well, tell us about going out to sea for the first time, on board a ship, outside of training - the first time 'out to war', so to speak?
Well, the first time you go out to sea after a refit, you take civilian personnel with you - like engineers and that sort of thing, just to check. So you just stand in the background and they take over, more or less. The captain of course is in complete control, but they direct things more or less, and make sure everything's working OK.
And the navy doesn't actually take over until the dockyard has given their clearance. Once they are landed, then everything goes into navy style, I suppose. But yeah, you feel a bit lost when you first go out to sea, because you don't know anything. Even though you've had training on a ship before - on a training ship - it's not the same
on the ship when you first go out. But you just feel your way, until you get to know things, and then once you do, then you become quite confident on the job, yeah.
And how long, all up, were you in Maryborough before you left?
I think we were only there for about three weeks. Refits were a bit of a bugbear. Luckily, I knew
a flight lieutenant there who was in the air force - as a meteorologist - with his wife. They came from Adelaide, and I used to stay with them a bit.
Did you get up to any shenanigans or go to dances or anything …
No, no. Well, I was in hospital for about a fortnight, with dengue, so I didn't have much chance.
And what was the feeling like for you, heading out to sea, heading overseas on your very first journey?
Well, the very first trip I think we did was up to Port Moresby and Milne Bay. It was a very, very calm trip. I remember it was just like millpond, and I thought that if this was the navy, then it was OK. In that kind of still
tropical waters, when there was a slight swell, there were flying fish swimming out and jumping from one wave to another. Sometime's they'd land on the deck. And that happened all the way. In fact, we didn't have any rough weather for the first couple of months I was in the navy. I thought, "This is terrific." But that all changed later on. Then we went to New Guinea and we took some troops around to Oro Bay
for landing there; and did some escort of supply ships from Milne Bay up to Lae for a while. Then we came back to Thursday Island, and then we went to Merauke in Dutch New Guinea. There was an air force base there and we used to escort a ship called the Heemskop. We did a that couple of times. Then we
came back and operated along the coast of New South Wales and Queensland, when the submarine attacks were on, down there. We did escorts from Brisbane down as far as Bass Strait.
And in your role and position, would you be told where you were heading?
No. the captain was the only one. He'd get the orders and he'd open them just before we
sailed. I mean, he'd be notified where we'd be going and he'd just open them and find out what ships were going and all the rest of it. It was all worked out ashore. In fact it had to be, because it was pretty secret, really, where the ships and convoys were going. If it had got out anywhere, then that would be destroying the reason why we had convoys.
But would you speculate where you were headed, with the other men?
No, I don't think so. We might speculate. If we were in Sydney, we might be going to Brisbane or to Newcastle then on to Brisbane, or down south. We didn't know though, because the captain would go ashore and have a conference with the naval staff ashore and be handed the sailing orders - which would also go to the senior officer escorts. He was usually
an ex-naval fellow on board one of the transports. And they'd be the only two who'd know and those orders wouldn't be opened until just before the ships sailed. So you didn't know. You just went where you were told.
Well, on this first journey to Port Moresby, what were your impressions as you arrived in those tropical areas?
Oh, quite pretty. Especially going through
the straits between Milne Bay and Samaria, on the entrance to Milne Bay. Lovely, really lovely. A tropical paradise. There were white beaches and trees coming down to the water's edge. The sea was as blue as and calm. It was good. I was quite impressed. But it can get rough too.
And with such a nice journey and such beautiful sights …
I thought it was good - I really did. I thought, "Yeah, the navy'll do me!" I thought I'd picked the right service.
What about the evidence of war? Did anything scary come to mind?
No. I think we were all a bit disappointed we didn't get into it further. We did a lot of escort work and that kind of thing but we only did one bombardment ever, in the whole time I was in the navy.
it was a bit dull, really. Work - as far as escorts was concerned - was a dull job. You know, you were kept on your toes though, especially at night time. When we first started escorting ships, we didn't have radar, and you'd have a pitch black night teeming with rain, and you're supposed to keep station on ships and it
pretty well it takes it out of you. You sit up there on the bridge and try to find out where the ships are. Sometimes you're miles behind and sometimes you're nearly colliding with them. So when radar came in, that made a lot of difference. I'm talking about nineteen … I think … when I was on Vendetta we had radar put on. That was the first time we had it, and
and that was towards the end of 1943. So the first year of escort work wasn't too good.
What were some of the tasks you'd have to do on your action stations and on your watch?
Well, if you get a contact with a submarine, the first thing you do is call the captain. If you're on watch you've got to call the captain - he's the most important bloke on the ship.
He has full responsibility. He has a pretty lonely life, really. He lives just below the bridge of a corvette. In most navy ships the captain lived separate from the officers. That's where he'd be, on his own, for the whole voyage. And they were always worried, I think, about anything hitting the ship - collisions or any other thing that might happen
and they could be called any time of the night or any time of the day. So they didn't get a lot of sleep and you couldn't blame them for getting a bit touchy sometimes. But no, if you got a contact then you called the ASDIC Officer. The ASDIC Officer and the captain were the first two to be called. And then they took over from there. The captain always took over when there was a submarine attack. I might have to go - like later on - go down below to look after the depth charges
and that type of thing; you know, firing them and setting the depths that they had to be set at. You go straight into action stations. That's when the alarm bells ring and everybody goes to the position they're supposed to be in.
Do you remember any particular scares on this first ship - the Echuca - concerning submarines?
We had a few, going south, yes.
As I said in my notes there, we were never accredited with sinking a submarine but that's pretty hard, because you can do attacks and you'll never know whether you've got them or whether you haven't got them, or whether they've been put out of action and are going to recover again. Unless they pop to the surface, you don't know if you've got them or not. I mean, they can put a lot of oil out and that makes you think you've
got him but he's probably done that intentionally, anyhow. Really, you don't know unless the ship comes to the surface. So, we did several attacks on submarines; and I think the main thing with convoys was not to sink them - well, it was to sink them, yes, if you could - but the main thing was to protect the convoy. The more attacks the submarines had, the less likely they were to sink the ships.
After all, the convoys were more important than the escorts. They were taking the goods and supplies that were necessary during wartime. The Atlantic convoys, well, if they didn't get through, then England starved. The corvette's job was to keep the submarines away and if they could sink them, then good.
And tell us how you received the news that a submarine was possibly in the area. Describe for us what happened on board.
Well, I don't think anyone on board knows at first, except the officer on watch and he just presses the alarm and everybody goes to their action stations. They don't let you know what's going on until you're told by the captain, when they're ready. You hoist the black flag - a black pennant - and that's a long black pennant, a big one. And that shows that you're about to make an attack on a submarine.
That tell everybody what's going on, anyhow. That tells all the ships in the convoy.
And tell us what you do at an action station position with the depth charges.
Well first the captain assesses where the submarine is from what he is given by the ASDIC officer, who is now in the little cabin operating the ASDIC set. He can give you the range and speed and estimated depth of the submarine.
He works out all that kind of thing and gives it to the captain. The captain then estimates where the submarine will be at a certain time and makes a course alteration to that area. Once he knows the depth, he gets the officer in charge of the depth charges to have the depth charges set to a pattern. Some are set low - to sink further down - and that's done by water pressure. When the depth charges are thrown over the side, they take water in
and the water pressure sets the depth charges off - triggers them off. Some are set shallow and some are set low, to try and squash the submarine - you know, one on top and one on the bottom and in a pattern all around it. So you've got depth charge throwers, which throw the depth charges a fair way away from the ship on both sides. And you've got two rollers, like rails, which allow you to roll charges
off the stern. And once they were all set, then they're charging then and that's when the order from the bridge is given to release them - to release them according to the pattern that's required. And you hope you get something … which is pretty rare. It depends. It's pretty hard to assess where the submarine will be at the time. We've done a few charges on
whales, too. We used to think that they were submarines coming up on the coast. And it's not too good for whales.
Did you see any poor whales come to the surface?
No, never saw any. They can usually tell before they're ready to attack, because it gives a different sound, and they can hear the whale blowing,
like when it gets near the surface. And they can see it. But it's a different sound than the ping from a submarine, yes.
And tell us how you were learning and developing on this first ship - from your training. Did you feel yourself growing into the navy?
Well, as I said in my notes, it was the only ship I was called a 'snotty' on. A snotty was a midshipman, and
not even permanent service officers called me a snotty but he did - the captain of Echuca. You felt really … well, you were one. I think I was learning. It was just a learning curve. The Echuca was. I was fairly young and inexperienced and I was just getting to know what was happening on the ship.
And really, a midshipman's job was just to learn.
And what kind of things exactly were you learning?
Well, learning navigation. And you had to go with the gunnery officer when they were firing the guns and that type of thing. You did learn everything that was happening on the ship, yes. Well, you should know everything that goes on, because later on in life when you're made an officer you had to know everything that goes on, yes - about steering and the secondary steering position
and if the rudder's damaged. Yes, you're supposed to know everything.
What were your ambitions as a young man, as you're learning all these things? Did you have ambitions to become a captain?
Oh no, no. I had no ambition to become a captain. Well, I always probably wanted to go back to the land, eventually. But I didn't really have any naval ambitions
that way, no. When we used to come into port at places like Sydney and that and in major towns, all the officers used to go out together. And this was a thing I found completely different after the war, because most of the officers were permanent servicemen, and they were studying for higher positions. You lost that type of wartime comradeship between officers after the war.
It was a different type of set-up altogether then. But during the war it was good, because probably you thought, "Well, might as well have a good time while you can." So you'd always go around together. It was good.
Were you getting up to different kinds of activities as officers, compared to the other crew?
You can't. You've got to pick your hotels and that kind of thing. You can't
go to the 'bud house' as they used to call one of them in Sydney - where all the sailors used to go. You had to pick your places, yes.
What was the officer's pub in Sydney?
Well we used to go to one … I can't think of the name of it now, but it was in Castlereagh Street. We would always go to that one. Or we used to
go to the Officers’ Club, which had all the facilities that the pub had. And that was open to all officers - air force, navy, and army. And you could stay there, too.
Was there any rowdiness in these bars for the officers?
No, I don't think so, no. We behaved ourselves pretty well. Well, we did, because we were told and we were taught to. You couldn't go and hijack around the place.
Later on, the second time I was in the navy, I was Court Officer in Sydney. I used to have to go to the Magistrates Court every morning at ten o'clock and take all the sailors who had been picked up the night before - take them up. They used to get in some terrible fixes, some of the sailors. But no, we went to mainly private parties if we went to them
and kept pretty separate, yeah.
What kind of stories would you hear from these sailors?
Well, they were mainly drunk - picked up for drunkenness, yeah. It used to be very amusing to go to these court cases, because prostitutes used to come up and the same ones used to come up again and again. The magistrate would kind of wipe his eyes and say,
"Not you again, Miss so-and-so …" And fine them again and off they'd go and do the same thing again. They were very inhuman, the magistrates in the Central Court in Sydney. They really were. And they used to understand the sailors. I used to have to get up and say that - if the
offence was pretty serious - that the navy would fix him up. And they used to rely on that and not provide another penalty. I was there just to keep them out of trouble by being put into a civilian clink. I'd try to get them back to the navy, where they'd really get it.
Would they tell you everything, do you think?
No but it would all come out in the court case, because the police would
be there charging them - the police prosecutor. They used to get into some funny places, those sailors.
Did they share stuff with you in confidence?
No, not really, no. No they wouldn't want to divulge anything.
Tell us about how you felt transferring from the Echuca to the Vendetta …
Well, I liked the idea. I always wanted to go to a destroyer. It was a different feeling altogether. When they put on a bit of speed you could really feel the thing pick up, whereas with the corvette, you can't.
Although, the corvettes …I belong to the Corvette Association now. They're very loyal. I forget how many of them there were - about sixty of them, I think, or more. They've had a very strong association since the war, and I've been to several of them. But the destroyers are more of a fleet ship, which I enjoyed, yeah.
And how do the ships compare, as far as atmosphere on board goes, and the crew?
I think they're all pretty similar. It doesn't really matter, no. They were both taken as small ships in the navy, anyhow. You had the big ship sailors and the small ship sailors. You know, the cruiser fellows used to look down on us but when they'd come on board they'd be seasick as anything, so we could always have it back on them.
Once you'd had a ride in a corvette, you were pretty free of seasickness. There's a difference in motion. Some cruisers 'hang', they go over and they hang, which is a bad kind of motion, too. It depends on the motion as to what kind of seasickness you get. But I didn't - well, I did the first time we hit rough weather but after that I didn't, never.
How do you get over seasickness?
I don't know. I've never been seasick since. I was in the Coast Guard here for fifteen years and we've been out
in some very rough weather but I've never been seasick since. Never even felt like it.
Did they teach you any techniques, or anything to do about it?
No, no. In fact, if you get seasick … I think I was on Echuca when the ASDIC Officer … no, one of the ASDIC ratings there, he used to get terribly seasick, because he was working in a little, tiny ASDIC hut, and he had a bucket alongside; and he used to be
seasick into it all the time; and he used to carry this bucket around with him everywhere he went, and he used to be seasick all the time. In the end they had to land him, because he couldn't handle it. But he was determined to stay there, but he just couldn't handle it. So they had to get rid of him in the end. But … most people get over it, just naturally. They didn't have any seasickness tablets or anything though.
What were the conditions like, living onboard the Echuca and the corvettes?
Officers had good conditions. We had bunks to sleep in. The others had hammocks and were pretty cramped. I forget just how many were on a corvette now but there were a lot of blokes for the size of the ship, yeah. And hammocks … they'd take up all of the mess decks and would have to be stowed - roped up and stowed every day,
in order to make room to have a meal there. Not like the Yankee ships. They had bunks. And of course the navy today - they've got bunks now.
Did you get to go on board Yankee ships?
Oh yeah, plenty of them, yeah.
How did you come to get this occasion to go and inspect their ships?
Well, we used to be invited over to them for parties and such, by other officers. We quite often went to Yankee ships - aircraft carriers, yeah. If we
were working with the Yanks, they were pretty good. They were dry ships - completely dry ships. No grog at all on them. They used to love coming over to our ships to have a bit of grog. But it used to turn them properly; they couldn't take it, because they hadn't had it before on their ships. They were as mad as wheels, some of them.
How was your interaction with the Americans?
Good. They were a pretty good mob, yeah. Their supply ships were good - that's what we were mainly interested in. They were pretty raw … a lot of the commanders they had on their destroyers were pretty inexperienced, but they had firepower. The Yanks were pretty good that way. They didn't care about restrictions placed on shells and firing shells.
They used to fire like mad. We had to be careful because we didn't have enough ammunition. We had to account for our shell cases, unless it was in a desperate action when they might roll over the side. I'm talking about the brass shell cases, because they were solid brass. We were short of brass, they said. But the Yanks didn't worry about that. It was all firepower
with them. Which was good probably, when they went in for the landings up in the islands. When they sent their troops ashore, they'd blast the place properly.
Speaking of supplies, were their any stories of … I dunno … trying to nick some of the American supplies, or anything of that order?
No. It was sometimes a bit hard to get the American supplies, they used to come in 'units'. If you were, say, a cruiser, then you'd be allowed say, seven units of supplies; but if you were a destroyer you might be allowed two and if you were a corvette, one.
But really, they had everything there. They had turkeys and hams and stuff you never saw otherwise - all this stuff they were getting from America. And a lot of the stuff came from Australia. So, we used to take a few bottles of whisky over to get a few things, yep - get a few favours.
Were there any times when you'd try to nick some of the stuff?
Oh no. Well … we did but only on sunken ships, yep. When ships were sunk or grounded and we went alongside. We'd go for cigarettes.
Well, tell us the story about this …
Up at Milne Bay, there was a ship sunk on the north side of the bay and
it was guarded by some Yanks. But they were sitting on the wharf. The ship was full of supplies, so we found out about this and we waited for a dark night and we rowed across. We came on from the sea side and put a couple of blokes over. They got two cartons of cigarettes - ten thousand a carton, and some boots and a bit of clothing; and off we went.
That was the only time we did do anything. It was a bit stupid, really, because the Yanks - if they had known - they could be pretty trigger happy. But we got back with the stuff alright.
Did you enjoy this? Was this fun?
A bit of fun, yeah. It was the first episode we had of getting American cigarettes. Beforehand we were all on English cigarettes or Australian cigarettes, the American cigarettes
were the ones that were always sought after; and they were cheap. We could buy them for three cents a packet or thirty cents for a carton of two hundred. That was duty free - good. But it made you smoke more and that was the trouble. And I smoked right up until I was nearly sixty.
Was smoking encouraged at all?
Well, it wasn't discouraged. Most people did smoke, yep. It seemed to be a thing that people did in those days. I noticed on a television program the other day that it wasn't until the 1950s that it was first recognised that lung cancer was probably due to cigarette smoking. So it was after the war.
We didn't think that it was going to harm us, anyhow.
And when you went on this little mission, describe for us who went? How many went?
There were just some sailors and myself, that's all. I was in charge of the boat, and was probably sent over because I was a bit of a rookie, I suppose. By the captain! He was all in it too, because he was the one who divided up the cigarettes afterwards. He didn't give me any, because I wasn't smoking at that stage;
and I kicked up a bit of a row about that because I said that I had been smoking, secretly. So he let me have some. But that started me off smoking. It was a bad thing, really.
So your little thieving mission started you off smoking?
That's right, yeah.
So the captain was the one organising all this?
He knew we were going, yeah. And he organised the distribution when we came back.
Was there a sense that if you were caught or found out, he wouldn't have anything to do with it?
Oh no, he didn't have anything to do with it, no. We put it together, but he didn't order … he didn't organise it. But he didn't disagree with it when he saw the cigarettes coming aboard. If we had made it official he probably wouldn't have let us go.
Was this something unique about the Australian navy - that the captain would turn a bit of a blind eye to some shenanigans?
Oh, I think they were pretty good. The British navy was a bit different - the RN [Royal Navy] - when I was on Quickmatch we did a few trips with others in the British Navy,
with the Q-Class flotilla. They had a different attitude towards their sailors really. Much more aloof. In fact, they rarely said thank you to a sailor. We were always told that we had to be polite and if a sailor did something for you then you thanked him. But not the RN blokes, no. Half the time they just turned their backs on them.
It was just their manner, and I don't think the crews really appreciated it either. Not even their crews, even though they'd been brought up to accept it, it didn't go down too well, really. But the Australian Navy had good relations with their crews, and also the discipline that was necessary to … but they were always supposed to be polite. I remember when I was down at Flinders Naval Depot,
a midshipman dropped a glass on the floor in the wardroom and smashed the glass up. He called over the steward to clean it up and the commander told the midshipman what he thought of him. The steward was a WRAN, the midshipman just turned his back. He didn't even thank her for doing it. And that was the kind of thing that happened in the Australian Navy. You had to be polite.
Interviewee: Bruce Murrie Archive ID 2032 Tape 05
Bruce, I was wondering. When we've interviewed a lot of navy people, you know, they get called for a posting. Can you tell us how that actually happens?
You just get notification from the Navy Office. We do - officers do. I think it's probably the same with the crew too, because it's not associated with the ship's captain at all,
unless he dismisses you, or wants you changed, which he could probably do if he wanted to. But no, they come from the Navy Office.
Is it a telegram?
No, well, I've got some here which I can show you later on. It's a form you get, a big thing that says, "The Navy Board hereby directs you to join such and such a ship as soon as possible." Or, "in haste," or "with haste," or something like that.
Does it tell you how long you will be there, or just to arrive at …
No, no. You can be there forever or you can be there for a week. It depends. Like, when I was on Quickmatch, I hadn't been on Quickmatch for very long before I became the gunnery officer for Lismore.… The gunnery officer for the Lismore was ill, and he couldn't go. They were going over to New Zealand for a refit, and they were
doing practice with submarines - with the British submarines - when they came out here. They were going over for refits over there too, because there were so many ships being refitted in Sydney that they couldn't take them. So I was put on the Lismore and went across there; and I stayed on there for about four months, or four of five months. But it was only to relieve an officer, first of all. I suppose the other fellow, when he got better, he went somewhere else. But they
could just direct you to go anywhere, anytime.
Can you request to go somewhere?
Not really. No, I did request to do a course in navigation after I left Vendetta. And the captain - who was a navigator - he recommended me; but they didn't. They didn't take any notice. Nobody takes any notice.
And you ended up doing the gunnery course, further down the track, didn't you?
Yes, that's right, yes. Which I didn't like anyway. I didn't like gunnery, particularly. I liked navigation, and I think I probably would have been better at that than anything else.
Why do you think they had you do the gunnery course? Do you think they were in need of officers to do that?
Well, I suppose they were, because it takes a while to do. It's done down at Flinders. It depends on what kind of gunnery course you do. If you do a gunnery course for a corvette, then it doesn't take a long time. But if you do it for a destroyer, then you have to get to know how the director works - which corvettes don't have. But destroyers and above, they do have directors.
That's the only difference. It's a little bit different. And then, you're not really a gunnery officer - you're controlling the gun, but not ordering the fire.
Were you a bit of a good shot, or not so good a shot?
Oh, I was alright, I think. Yeah, I was alright. Yeah, I had to be. [5-7 words (UNCLEAR)] . Yes, I had to be.
Now, they were using radar though, weren't they?
Yes, radar for night firing, and you used visual for daytime, with the
aid of radar. It gives you an estimate of the range. But for night fire you had to use radar all the time. But in daytime you did it by spotting. When you fired a round and say it fell short, then you'd go up eight hundred - that's eight hundred yards - and if you crossed the target, then you'd come back four hundred, and you're supposed to hit it. That's how they worked it out. Or, if you're so far ahead,
then you adjust with so much inclination to the right or left, just to line it up. It was all by trial and error for the first few. You tried to be as accurate as you could, of course, yes, but you usually missed with the first salvo but you could see where they were, yes.
Why didn't you like it?
Oh, I just didn't like gunnery all that much.
I don't know. Too much row.
Too much noise?
Yeah, too much noise. Frightening. No, it wasn't that. I just would rather have done navigation. You had several jobs you could do in the navy, and that was the one I liked.
Now, after the Vendetta, you were posted to the Geelong, and you were made a sub-lieutenant …
Yes, I went there as gunnery officer.
And the Geelong happened straight after the Vendetta, didn't it - was there much of a break between the two ships?
Well, I had to chase it up. I was supposed to join it in Sydney first of all, but I didn't join it ‘til Milne Bay. No, I finished up by taking a transport - a Yankee transport liberty ship - from Sydney to
Milne Bay, to pick it up there.
Did you miss the boat?
Well, no, sometimes they were a bit useless in telling you where to go. Sometimes they told you where to go but when you got there the ship wasn't always there. It was somewhere else.
You had to find out there, from the officer in charge. Usually there was a transport officer there. Or you'd get in touch with somebody and they'd find out for you. So you had to chase them around.
So, tell us the story about going on the American liberty ship, and arriving in Milne Bay? When you were on the liberty ship, was it mainly Americans?
All Americans. All Americans except … I think I was the only Australian
on it. It was a troop ship. They were carrying troops and they were mainly down in the hold. I was lucky. I was up on the upper deck. It was a slow ship, but it was very comfortable. There was plenty of coffee - hot coffee - and the pancakes, I remember the pancakes with maple syrup. That was good.
They ate really well, but the troops only had two meals a day. On all their troop ships, that's all they had. On our ships, we had three. The Yanks only had two - a prolonged breakfast in the morning, and then dinner at night.
Well they wouldn't need any more if they've got …
Well, they weren't doing any work
but there were so many people to feed. I suppose they had to stretch it out.
And these were the men that were going over to New Guinea - the troops? They were army blokes?
And how did you get on with the Americans? Did you find a similar sensibility?
Yes, they were quite friendly. A little bit stand-offish but I don't suppose they knew us as well, we didn't know them and their attitudes. They were a funny mob, in some ways. But no, I got on quite well
with them, yeah. They looked after you, yeah.
How did you manage to secure a voyage with them on the liberty ship? How did you do that? Was it a transport officer?
The navy told me to get on board. they found out the ship was going there and they said I should get on board.
And what was the name of it? Do you remember?
No, I don't remember. They probably just had numbers anyway, the liberty ships. There were so many of them.
Although they did have names, yeah, they did have names. But I can't remember what it was. I can hardly remember the corvettes I was on.
But you can remember the food?
We always had very good food. Yes, I can remember the food. Even when we went to the Philippines. You know, we went ashore … the captain said we should buy as many eggs as we could buy. Well, we bought the eggs all right. They were little, tiny things, cock eggs.
But that's all they had up there. But we did have fresh eggs and it didn't really matter how small they were.
So tell us about joining the Geelong. Where did you arrive to join the Geelong?
I joined the Geelong in Milne Bay. I only had a very short trip on the Geelong, because I think I joined it a couple of days before it left Milne Bay. I will always remember that, it sailed on Friday the thirteenth of October,
and this is when that fellow came up on the bridge. He was on passage, on his way to Madang. We were supposed to be going to Madang ourselves. I don't know if he was being offloaded there but it was somewhere near there, to join another ship; and he told us that something was going to happen to the ship, that night … not 'that night', but sometime in the near future.
So, I had the watch and he just came up as a second thingy type of thing, while he was on transit. And then we called into Langemak [Bay] , which was near Lae, and we left there on there on the eighteenth - the eighteenth of October - that's my birthday. I was twenty one. And we were sunk that night,
in a collision, yeah.
Can you tell us about … well, first of all, I'd like to hear about the collision in a little more detail. That's very interesting. But also, when you joined the Geelong, was it a similar corvette to the Echuca?
Yes, pretty much the same, yep. As far as everything went, yes. Probably … I would think the discipline was a bit lax on it, more so
than … see, I didn't really have a lot of time on it to realise … but the captain was a bit lax - I think - a midshipman to take the watch, which is what happened when the ships collided. You know, that wouldn't have happened on any other ship I was on.
Excuse me, but who would have taken the watch?
Another officer but one above the rank of a midshipman.
I never, ever knew a midshipman to take a watch, like, without another officer with him, because really they were just in training. Actually, you're putting the entire ship in danger by having someone inexperienced up there, because they are in charge of the whole ship in the middle of the night - which is what happened with this one … well, not the middle of the night in this case - it was just after eight o'clock.
So, I didn't know any other ship that ever did that. That's why I think the discipline was a bit lax.
So, can you walk us through the 18th of October - your twenty-first birthday …
Yes, huh, I remember it pretty well. I was on the middle watch. That was twelve o'clock to four o'clock in the morning; and we had action stations every night at sunset and in the morning. We'd just come down from that.
No, we were well finished with that, because I'd had some dinner. The steward had cooked up a few extra things for us. And then I went to bed I suppose, just before eight o'clock. You had to get your head down when you could and the longer you could sleep, the better. We had very broken hours, because you never had
more than eight hours that you didn't have watch and in those eight hours you had to do other work. And you had the two action stations, morning and night, also. So I went to bed about eight o'clock and just started to doze off; and I heard the ship rev up like mad; and it swung hard
to starboard at first and then to port. And I could feel that lurching and trembling, because when a ship like that goes to full revs they tremble like mad, because of the action of the propellers, I suppose. And I knew something was up and all of a sudden there was a terrific crash. I thought we'd run on a reef or something. But we hadn't - a tanker had hit it, yeah. And it hit very close to the cabin I was in - right alongside the cabin I was in. If it had hit
a few yards further, I wouldn't have been there. It just carved the back of the corvette off. The officer's cabins were right down the stern. They were the last things down the stern, except for the depth charges. So, I was kind of half knocked out I think. I can remember getting up off the floor, off the deck
and there didn't seem to be anybody and there was no sound … and it was all darkness, because all the lights had gone out; and I found the wardrobe which was on the cabin bulkhead at the back was thrown across the door. And there was water everywhere and I thought that I'd better get out of there. And by the time I got out, everybody had
got off the ship, pretty well …
Wasn't anybody looking for you?
Oh no, they'd forgotten about me, huh. I think they were all looking out for themselves. There were people in the wardroom too. But you would have thought they'd have had a look in - or tried to look in. When I got onto the deck, I think I was the only … no, I wasn't the only one left on - the engineer was still on, and the chief petty officer for the engine room,
he was still there. But they were still down in the engine room trying to patch it up, or to stop water coming in, or just having a look at it. I didn't know they were down there, but they did come off afterwards. They were the last to leave, yeah. The captain was off - he was one of the first. He was directing operations from a lifeboat - from the motorboat - and so many people got into that, that it sank.
So that was the end of him, too - I mean, it wasn't the end of him : they all survived, but that was the end of his boat.
Isn't he supposed to go down with his boat, or is that only in conflict?
[laughs] No, he wasn't going down with the boat.
Well, you'd think someone would be running down - well, these are all the wrong words, I know - but you'd think someone would be running down all the corridors saying, "Get off the boat!" …
Well, they might have been but if they were, I couldn't hear it because the door was closed and everything was in total blackness and nobody
seemed to know what was happening - it was pitch black, and only those on the bridge probably saw what was happening. There was no communication between the bridge and the wardroom. There should be, but there wasn't. So, I didn't know.
Do you know how and why the tanker hit? Did you find out later on?
Well, I don't know, because we had radar. I think they probably had radar too, being American. There was no reason why we should have hit. No reason at all. I mean, I wasn't involved in the enquiry afterwards. I didn't have anything to do with it because I wasn't on watch or I wasn't handing over.
I mean, the people who had been handing over the watch at eight o'clock, they should have informed the next watch that there was a ship in the area and where it was. They'd be kind of responsible to a certain extent and also the one who took over. So I was well out of that, because I'd left the watch at four o'clock and wasn't going on again until midnight. I was left out, and wasn't a part of the enquiry
that took place afterwards. So I don't know what they found.
But it was a big tanker, so you were quite lucky, I would say …
We were lucky we weren't hit amidships. If we were hit amidships, we would have rolled over, the same as the Voyager type of thing. There would have been a fair loss of life in that case.
But nobody died?
Nobody, no. The area where it hit, there was nobody there. The officer's cabins were the last ones that had anybody in them
and the stern was just carved off. It took off the propellers and water flooded into the engine room; and the depth charges started to go off, because they'd been damaged, and that kind of thing. I knew when I heard the depth charges going off - I could hear those going off - then I knew something was going on, that we hadn't run aground. And when I got
on deck I could see people in the water. Anyhow, I dived over and got onto a carly float … I hung onto a carly float … they were all pretty full by that time …
What's a 'carly float'?
You've probably seen them. They're a round, tubular type of thing with a net underneath them, and they hold a lot of people. You can hang onto the sides of them too. They're the best kind of life saving equipment, because they won't sink. They're built in sections, so if one part is damaged then they still hold up. So it's a big tubular thing. They're very light too.
You've probably seen them on American ships during the war. They were on the riggings. If anything happened, then they'd just toss them over.
So your body would actually hang in the net …
No, you sat on the side, and your feet would rest on the net. That's because the net was just water - the net was just to protect you from things like sharks coming up and having a nibble at you. Not that it would probably protect you much from that, either. But no, we were hanging on the sides because there was no room in them anyway, by the time we got
there. There was a lot of people hanging on the sides, anyway, because one of the boats had sunk. We only had a whaler left, plus Carly floats.
Did you watch the ship sink?
Yep. It didn't sink until we got onto the tanker. That was about three hours afterwards.
Jeez - it's like the Titanic, isn't it?
Yeah. It took a fair while to sink. But it had a hell of a list on it.
A 'list' - you know, to starboard; it was listing over to starboard at about forty degrees, which is a hell of an angle. It feels a lot more than it really is, when you're on it.
Whereabouts at sea did this all happen? When it sunk?
It was in the Vitiaz Straits, between New Guinea and New Britain. Up the
top, the north-east end of New Guinea. It was before we got to Merauke.
There would have been sharks in the water?
Well there must have been I guess but nobody got tackled by one. It was just lucky, I think.
And it would have been cold, would it?
No, the water was pretty warm. But you do get cold. I don't know why you get cold - it's probably the circumstances, because you're in the water but you do get cold, yes.
This may seem like a silly question - it probably is - but did you take off with your bag when you jumped in the water?
Oh no, no. Left everything. We only had shorts on, that's all. Up in the tropics there, you couldn't sleep with anything on. Just a pair of shorts, because it was so hot.
Well, that would have been a close shave for you, had you not woken up? If you were in a very deep sleep?
Well, I would have woken up all right. I WOULD have woken up, because there was a hell of a bang. Yeah, I would have woken up. I don't think I would have gone down without waking up.
Do you think 'someone' was looking after you, in a way? Do you have religious beliefs?
No, no. I don't think anybody was looking after me. Nobody even attempted to - huh. No.
Each man for himself?
Tell us what happened when you got onto the tanker? What was the name of the tanker?
Well … the USS York, yep, that's it. We just stayed on the deck there. They brought us blankets, and they gave us something to eat. Then we
went to Lae the next day … no, not Lae, the place I said before. The next day. Then I was told to take an aircraft down to … they gave me leave, from there. Well, not from there but they put me on an aircraft down to Milne Bay, then I got leave from there; and I took some of the crew down with me - several aircraft took the crew down, you know, those old DC3s.
We landed at Milne Bay, and they fitted us out with clothing there, and then I got a plane from there, on my own, down to … that was a fortnights 'survivor leave' in Adelaide. So it didn't matter how long it took to get there. That didn't come in the leave period.
So I just took my time, really. I got a Sunderland flying boat to Moresby and then an American plane from there to Townsville and then another American plane to Brisbane and then I got another couple of planes down to Melbourne. I stayed with girlfriend down there for a while, before going to Adelaide.
When they give you two weeks survivor leave, do they give you extra money?
No, no more money, no. No, you get an air pass, which entitles you to go by air anywhere you want to. You can go on aircraft that's available. It's good that way. But you don't get any extra money. But they do fit you out with clothes again. Not then however. You had to write out a whole list of whatever you had
and then they have to approve it. They take their time; and in the meantime you've got to pay for your own. But they do recompense you for what you lost.
So you wear civilian clothes?
No, naval uniforms. They won't give you civilian clothes, no. In fact, we always used to carry civilian clothes around with us. Sometimes, if you go ashore, it's better to go in civilian clothes than in an officer's uniform.
So, we used to carry those but they wouldn't reimburse you for that, no. But they did with all uniforms. And anything you lost personally you could put in for - anything you'd carry normally.
You'd have lost quite a lot then?
I lost everything. I only had the shorts I was in, that's all. The watches in
those days weren't waterproof like they are now. That was all ruined. Yeah, I didn't have anything.
Did you write home a lot?
No, I wrote to particular girlfriends a lot. I tried to write to my mother every week or fortnight, because she always used to write us every week. And I always thought I should reply. I was always brought up to be very … obedient.
did your letters suffer the same consequences that the army … I mean, through censoring?
No, we could censor them on board. The officers censored the letters on board. I might be the censor officer for one month, and someone else might do it the next month. When you did write, you knew you couldn't put anything stupid in. You couldn't tell where you were. And when you
censor letters you just browse through them. You don't really take in what they're saying. You just look for names and places and this sort of thing, without reading about their love life and all the rest of it … which some of them, they had pretty spicy ones, I can tell you. You're supposed to
overlook all that, which is non-censorable. But the only thing that is censorable is name, places and things that can identify you. That's all.
Would you come across that type of thing much, or rarely?
No, rarely. they were good. They knew they were going to be censored. You had to put the censor's stamp on them and the officer responsible for the censoring knew he had to be responsible, in case they were picked up.
No, but they were pretty good really. You didn't interfere with the personal life of a sailor, or anything like that at all. That was taboo.
Who censored you, then?
We censored our own. But I never put anything in. In fact, a lot of the people kept diaries. I never kept a diary and you're not supposed to. But some people did. And you're not supposed to keep photographs and this sort of thing. You can take photographs, as long as you get rid of them -
but you're not supposed to have a record of where you'd been or what you'd been doing. Diaries were really out of it. So, I think we used to abide by the rules; and I think most people were too lazy to have diaries, anyhow. It meant extra work, having to write things up. The only diary on
the ship was the logbook, you see. That was everything. That was kept on the bridge and if the ship was likely to be captured, then that had to be disposed of. So that was the only record, really, of everything on the ship.
Did that experience of the Geelong sinking have an impact on you, somewhat, mentally?
Well, it did for a while I suppose, but not overall … although, because of
it, I was given a stress … what do they call it? A pension with a stress kind of thing on it …
A PTSD …
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Yeah, that's it. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They sent me to a psychiatrist fella up here
and I couldn't find his rooms. I was looking in the wrong place, you see. And I thought, "Yeah, this is a good start." I think he took that as me being a bit stupid. He must have recommended that I get a pension for post traumatic stress [laughs] . But I don't think I've got it. But when we were going over to Canada a couple of years ago
I was nearly going to go. We were booked but I had to have another back operation; and I applied for insurance, and that was the worst thing I could have had. They didn't want to insure me first of all, because of the post traumatic stress thing. That was QBE Insurance Company. I shouldn't have put it down. But I put it down was because I said I was covered for this and this and this as far as the navy is concerned; and they said, "Ooh," so I shouldn't have put it down at all.
So the insurance goes up like mad when you've got anything like that wrong with you. No, I don't think I was really affected [by the sinking] . The only thing that did affect me … for quite some time afterwards, I didn't want to sleep alone. I used to sleep on the deck. It was the tropics and it was good there, anyway. They had stretchers, and I'd
just sleep on the deck. But I got over that. But it just gave me a funny feeling that I might be down there again …
It's understandable. Why would you want to go and sleep cave like down there, with no fresh air, when you could sleep on the deck and have fresh air?
Yes, it's quite cooler there too, on the deck, up top. But you can't have everybody sleeping on the deck.
Well, not everybody could. There's not enough room. You'd be falling over one another.
I had this idea that it's slippery. If you're sleeping on a stretcher, it could slip. Is that correct?
Well, the stretcher's aren't very high. They're RN ones, and canvas, with rods going either side. They had these sprung steel hoops that used to lock in - four of them - going up the length; and they had these rubber
cushion seats on them, on the bottom, and they used to grip pretty well. No, they were right low to the deck. You wouldn't slip unless it was too rough - then you wouldn't sleep up there anyway, because there'd be water coming across. But no, most of the tropical cruises were pretty flat - fairly calm. It's only when you get down to the
southern ocean … the worst trip we ever had was from New Zealand to Hobart. That was dreadful. They were the roughest seas I've ever seen. No, you get terribly rough seas in the Roaring Forties area down there. And it's worse when you get down to the fifties, they say. But I've never been down there.
How low is that?
Well, the Roaring Forties is about midway between Tasmania and the
Australian mainland - right where my son was at Flinders Island. That's forty degrees south.
So the Sydney to Hobart race would go through there?
Yeah, they go through there. They can get into a bit of trouble down there. But down further, it does get rougher. But then it gets calmer when you get right down south.
So tell us now, you'd been on the Geelong, and you'd survived, and got two weeks in Adelaide and catching up with Margaret - the one in Melbourne - was it Margaret?
No, Margo Thompson. She was a nice little French girl; yeah, she was lovely.
What happened to Margo?
Well, it's a funny thing. We kept in touch for a long time, Margo and me. She went to England and was a model for a while - nylon stockings and
that sort of thing. She had a lovely figure. And she came back in 1947 when I was home in Adelaide, after I'd got out of the navy the first time; and she called in, and we had quite a nice time together. Yes, she was nice. And that was the last time I saw her. I don't know what happened to her in the end. But I was going around with another girl at that time. I always had one on the …
Well, Margo must have had nice legs to do stockings, that's all I can say.
Yes, she had a nice figure. They all did … mine.
So now, what happened then? You came back to Adelaide, and you got posted to the Quickmatch. How long was it ‘til you went to the Quickmatch?
Well, I think pretty soon. I had to go to Flinders to do a course in gunnery control and then go to Quickmatch. Quickmatch was then at Cockatoo Island for a refit.
Sorry, I got ahead of myself there. So, the gunnery course you did, that was a six month course or something?
No, no. That one was only about a month. I'm not quite sure of that. It must have been October … yeah, about four weeks, I guess. I joined in
December, so it must have been. It didn't seem to take that long but it was. Anyhow, I joined Quickmatch in December as she was doing the refit and then we did the trip to New Zealand. Well, first of all, a ship was sunk outside Sydney
and we went out to rescue the people there; then came in on Christmas Day - I remember that one, because most of the sailors wanted to go ashore for Christmas. Most of them were from Sydney but they couldn't go. We stayed out there for a couple of days looking for the sub. We had another sloop with us; and then we went to New Zealand straight after that
to pick up a few troop ships that were on their way to the Middle East - American ships.
I might just stop you there, before you go to New Zealand on the Quickmatch. I'll back up a little bit. With the gunnery course you were doing that only took three weeks, was this a specialised course, because of the one you'd done prior …
Same kind of thing really but it just dealt with having a director on the ship - like the director control of gunnery, that corvettes didn't have. But the modern destroyers and all the modern ships had these, yes. So that was the only difference, yeah - how to do that. So instead of being in complete charge of the guns, you were a gunnery control officer,
so really, it was a little bit more specialised to be in gunnery control.
Thanks, we'll just switch tapes now.
Interviewee: Bruce Murrie Archive ID 2032 Tape 06
You might have talked about this earlier, but we're following a bit of a chronology. Before you move onto the next part, you heard about your brother's death. How exactly did you receive the news?
When I first heard about it, he was missing. He wasn't but he was listed as missing, and not even presumed dead;
and then, it wasn't until I got to Melbourne that my mother rang Margo's place, where I was staying and said that he was presumed to be dead. That was the first time I knew. I only thought … my other brother had gone across there, as I said before, from Nadzab to Biak, to find out what was happening, because we didn't know what was happening until he actually went and saw what was happening.
How did you receive the news first, that he was just missing - before Melbourne. How did you receive the news?
Well, I wasn't very happy about it, no. But … I thought he might be found but I didn't know. It was pretty hard, because if they're missing - the plane's not there; and he always said that he wouldn't ever - not ever - be captured, so I had a good idea that he wasn't going to give himself up
or something. That was probably related to John Newton, who was in the same squadron, and who was beheaded by the Japs. So, they were pretty callous to our pilots.
And what about receiving the confirmation that he was most likely dead? How did that hit you?
Well, it hit mother very much so. She wasn't too good for a while. But she got over it. She had to. She was fairly strong.
Did it create more worries for her about you and your other brother?
Yes, especially on top of the news that the Geelong had been sunk, and they didn't know if there were any survivors on that at the time. So, yes, the two coming together … my brother was killed in September and the Geelong was in October. But they didn't hear of the other for some time;
they heard about both around the same time.
So they heard the news that it had been sunk, before they heard that you were OK?
Yes - well, they had the news that the Geelong had been sunk. But they got the news pretty soon after that everybody had been saved.
What did your mother say to you when she heard your voice again?
Oh, she was glad I was alright. But she knew before. She knew before she rang me. She knew I was there.
And how did you personally take the news?
Well, you know, everybody had to take the news. It wasn't the best, no. You can't do much about it, can you? It's a thing that
just happens in war. Really, I suppose our family was fairly lucky compared to some. I mean, one American family from the Houston or something, they lost five brothers from the one ship. We were lucky that way. There were two of us left.
And did your brother's death and the sinking change the way you thought about the service?
No, I don't think so, no.
What about your fear of death or mortality? Did it change?
Well, no, I've never had any fear of death. I wouldn't like to die, I can tell you that but I've never had any fear of death. I mean, when I was in Coast Guard up here, I remember going over the bar one time and we hit a terrific wave and it smashed the windows and I was cut all over the place - right through an artery - and there was blood
everywhere. But it didn't worry me. I never get in a panic over things like that - it doesn't worry me. Blokes on board bandaged everything up and everything was all right. No, that type of thing doesn't worry me. No, I've never worried about it. I've had five bypasses and I've had two back operations. One of the back operations they did four discs at once. People say, "Are you frightened?" But it never worries me.
If I pass out underneath, well, I won't know; and if I'm alive then I'm OK and things have been fixed up. A doctor, he said to me - I doctor I used to know - he said he'd never have a heart operation, and he never has. He has had a heart attack, but he says, "Oh no, I'd never have one of those operations - they're too invasive." You know, if you go
to the right fellows, you put your trust in them. So that's never worried me. I've had both hips done, heart, and my back done twice. So, I couldn't have much bigger ones.
Do you think there's something about going through the services or a war that makes one fatalistic, maybe?
I don't know. I think it might just
be in my make-up. I don't know. No, I have never really worried about it. I don't want to die, no. I'm not really fatalistic that way, no. I don't want to die even now, at this age.
I guess what I'm getting at is, that you're on a ship, and if you got hit by a torpedo in the middle of the ocean …
Well, that's right. That's a sinking. But you'd all be together, anyhow. That's what I say. You'd all be in it together, from the captain right down
to the lowest rank and you'd all have to take it. So that's probably the reason, yes.
Well, talking about this all-in type of teamwork thing, what was the best crew that you think you served with?
The Vendetta by far, yes. I really enjoyed Vendetta, yes.
What were the standout features of this crew in particular?
Well, pretty good discipline. And I think that counts for more than anything on a ship, yep. It's like, as you were saying before, you go ashore and there's playing up, well, we couldn't play up. We had to keep our distance from the ratings. It's not that we thought we were any different but you had to have that little bit of difference
to keep things right. You couldn't go and play up with them. It's just the way that you were trained in the navy. And I think probably, in the air force, most blokes live together - sergeants and officers and ratings all live together in the same tent, because they were all in the same crew. But we didn't have to have that and we didn't have it. And I think
the ratings respected the officers for being what they were and we respected the ratings for being what they were. It was a good situation.
Were there certain characteristics of the commanders on board that gave it …
I think probably, if I'd stayed on Quickmatch much longer I would have really enjoyed that one. I did enjoy it. I wasn't on it long enough though - not like on the other ships. And that all came down
to the CO really, from the CO right down. Captain Beecher was one of the best captains I ever sailed with. The other one - the navigator, Mesley - he was good. And we've had quite a bit of contact with people who knew him. Captain MacDonald up here married a girl who was very closely associated with the War Board. She used to do
all the promotion for the War Board. She knew Jack Mesley. She introduced Jack Mesley to his wife. We've had contact since, and …
And Captain Beecher, what was his style?
Oh, very Prussian.
He was a real backdated man. He'd stand up, straight as a ramrod and let you know exactly how he felt. And people used to - down at Flinders Naval Depot - people used to shudder when he used to come around, because he might pick fault with them. But he'd only do it if they had their hands in their pockets or something. He'd say, "Stand to attention!" And you soon got to know his way but on the ship he was different.
He had discipline, but it was a relaxed discipline. You couldn't do anything wrong with him. You knew just how far you could go.
Were there moments when you could you get past that and get to know the man behind the kind of …
Well yes I did but not until after the war. He became Director General of Recruiting after he left the navy; and I met him in Melbourne, in McEwan's [?] shop one day
and I was buying a tent and we had quite a long chat. He was very human. They are. They're all human. And another thing was Plunket-Cole, the one I was telling you about before, who was the first CO of the Vendetta when I was on there. I thought he was kind of panicky, and a bit uppish but when I met him down in Warrnambool one time … and I was in the hotel when he walked in.
He was an assistant to the Judge - what do you call them? … that tended the town, whatever you call them … his assistant, or looker-after kind of thing. Those were the kinds of jobs those blokes got after the war. I went up to him and we had afternoon tea together. We had quite a good old chat. He was pretty dark, he was. But in the wartime they've got to be a little bit different.
Well, talking about this discipline theme, and yourself being an officer, did you ever have to discipline one of the sailors yourself?
Well, you've got to take charge of the lot you're with. But when people are brought up for disciplinary offences, they come up before the first lieutenant, really. He dishes out that type of thing. And if he gives the wrong decision, the crewman can apply
to have a captain's hearing. If he does that, he's got to be pretty certain of his grounds, otherwise he'll get double for going up for a stupid reason. But the first lieutenant takes defaulters most of the time. They're first brought up before the officer of the watch, who passes them on to the first lieutenant. It's an easy and very good system, where the junior officers don't
have to take a lot of responsibility in determining what punishments are dished out. They pass it on. Until you become the first lieutenant of a ship, you don't really have to worry about that.
And you were talking to Heather [interviewer] earlier about your new training in the gunnery control area; and you mentioned the differences in the two gunnery systems. Would you like to tell us a bit more about that?
The corvettes had old guns on them. They were probably First World War guns - open, four inch turrets. So they weren't even enclosed. And everything was done by voice, from the bridge. Like, the gunnery officer could stay on the bridge and just look over and yell at them and tell them what to do - whether to fire,
what to aim at and all the rest of it. Well, they aimed themselves. Whereas in a more modern ship there was a gunnery control centre down in the middle of the ship, which was supposed to be pretty well protected. It did all the computing of the different orders and the different things that were given from the director - and they amassed
everything together and passed it automatically onto the guns, by dials, and they set their guns to their dials - and that's all. And when the time came to fire they'd just say, "Ready to Fire," and the captain or the gunnery officer would give the order to actually fire. They were on the bridge.
The first lieutenant was usually the gunnery officer on a destroyer. The first lieutenant was everybody really, except the captain.
And this was when you became a sub-lieutenant? Or were you already a sub-lieutenant?
No, I was already a sub-lieutenant.
And how did you feel about your progress up the ranks?
It never worried me. I really never had any intention of staying in the navy - not for good. I did at one time. That was when I got out the first time.
I thought I might go back there and do it. But after I'd had a taste, I thought, "No." I was mainly too pleased to get out. I first of all volunteered to go back on destroyers for the occupation force in Japan. That's what I wanted to do. Then the navy decided they wanted me minesweeping up in the Barrier Reef. I'd had it by that time. So, I was supposed
to stay there for two years but my cousin had married the daughter of a commander in Melbourne, so I went and saw him. He soon got me out. I tried the navy first, but the Navy Board didn't want to let me go. They'd finished minesweeping by that time, anyway. They put me on a transport ship on the run from Brisbane to Sydney. A dreadful old thing - the old Woomera, an ex-army ship with a bridge at the back
and made of wood. It used to transport supplies from Brisbane to Sydney. It was really not a navy ship, not a navy ship at all. In fact the speed was dreadful. You'd go against the sea in a bit of a wind, and you'd think you were going backwards! No, I never enjoyed that kind of thing.
We might talk post-war a bit later; but first, you were talking about the Quickmatch. What were your first impressions of this vessel?
It was good. We went out on trials outside Sydney doing gunnery shooting and this sort of thing. Yes, it was good. It really had some pick up, and a nice stern line, and when they gave it full power she really quite lifted out of the water. No, they were good. Miles better than corvettes, huh.
How did you feel about being on board this ship for your posting?
Well I thought it was good. It was a good posting for a reserve officer to get on, like, in Australia. Like, in England, reserve officers got destroyers and other sorts of ships. In Australia, they mainly gave it to the permanent servicemen. Mainly because of their training, and for their further training in the navy. So no, I think I did pretty well in being appointed to destroyers.
So this was a new ship, was it? A new built one?
Yes, newly built for the war. They were built in 1941, so they weren't brand new, but still new. 1941- they were built in the war time.
You mentioned going to New Zealand? What was this for?
We were going over there to pick up some troop transports and escort them to Western Australia.
We first of all went to Hobart and picked up another couple of them there, then took them all over to the west. We were to leave them in … they were to be picked up by someone else when we got to Western Australia, and then we were to return to Albany and await for further instructions. So Quiberon and Quickmatch - both of us - went over there and stayed in Albany. I had a wonderful time in Albany for a fortnight and then
we were given instructions to go and pick up this ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It was the little old Rimutaka, a coal-burning ship and it had the new Governor General on board - the Duke of Gloucester, and the Duchess, they were on board. So we escorted them and we took them down, right down to the bottom of Tasmania, which was the furthest south I'd ever been. We had to go right around in case of submarines, then up to Sydney.
So that one, I suppose it was an important trip but … it was slow.
What was he doing on board a ship like that?
I have no idea. Because, when we met them, they had a cruiser and a couple of destroyers - at least - with them. He would have been better off on the cruiser. But I suppose they had to have certain conditions. On the Rimutaka, well, I guess they ripped the guts out of the ship to try and
build a cabin for him but it was much more likely to be sunk. Well, I guess they had so many ships around him that they wouldn't have worried. He was alright. But no, I don't know. You would have thought it would have paid to put him on the cruiser and bring him out as quick as possible, because there were ships coming out at that time, from England. A lot of them
were finishing over there and coming here.
Well, tell us about the escorting system that you'd use? How many were there, and what kind of positions would you take?
In normal convoys, you mean?
Yeah. Or these ones in particular, with one ship …
Well, in escorting one ship you could do what you wanted to do, as long as you were protecting the ship. We didn't seem to be protecting it that much, because we were having naval exercises on the way
over, between the two destroyers. We were scooting around the place but we were there to protect it, yes. But normally, with a one or two ship convoy, you stayed at the rear of the convoy, because that's where the attacks would normally come up. If you went too far ahead on a slow convoy like that, subs could come up underneath. So you
stayed behind. But with normal convoys, you had the corvettes all spread out - two up the front leading, and a couple behind. So you might have four corvettes protecting, and even a couple on the sides. And they'd all just be pinging away with their ASDIC gear. You kept in station on the senior ship of the convoy.
It wasn't a navy ship. Most of them were commanded by ex-navy officers and some of them wore naval uniforms. But they weren't actually naval officers. And you were supposed to keep your station all the time. You were supposed to, but it was very hard without radar, especially at night time.
With the new equipment, and also the stage of how the war was going, was the threat diminishing by this stage?
Oh yes. Yeah it was. I think that ship we went out to - that one sunk
outside Sydney Harbour - I think that was the last one to be sunk on the coast here in Australia, and that was on Christmas day, 1944. I don't think there was anything after that, sunk around here.
Did you feel - as a navy man yourself - that there was a bit of relaxation of the pressure of that threat?
No, not really. I was a bit disappointed that we weren't getting a bit more into it. Later on we did … no, not later on but before that, when I was on Lismore, we did a lot of escort work up towards the Philippines with the British Fleet and … that was getting into it a bit. Escort ships were damaged and you had to bury the dead and do
a few things like that but we never really got into it except on the odd occasions, like the Armidale and a few of those others. But it was more by bad luck. So we mainly did escort work. That was the job.
So you were on the Lismore before, up near the Philippines? Can you tell us about some of this work?
Well, we were operating from that island … the one where they've recently had all the migrants
coming into Australia … Manus, yeah Manus. It's a terrific harbour, it's a very big harbour and it's protected by a coral reef nearly all the way around. It's a very deep port, with a narrow entrance into it. The Yanks were there. They had dozens of ships there and so were the British; and they had a big floating dock there. The floating dock was damaged a couple of times by the bomb raids but that was
the big base … anything that came there went up to say, the Philippines, in tankers. Oil went in tankers and provisions went in ships, like liberty ships. So it was our job to escort those up.
You told us a bit about the set-up on Manus Island, but what was it like? Did you get ashore there?
Oh, yeah, you'd go ashore.
What was the set-up like there on Manus Island?
Well, there was nothing there except stores - terrific stores. You could buy anything there, from the Yankee stores. But no, it was purely military. We used to have football matches there between crews and we used to play water polo between ships, if we were there for any length of time. But apart from that, we were pretty well on the move most of the time.
We never had much time though and it was a bit hot for playing football, anyhow. But it was a very nice island - a tropical paradise I suppose, really, in peacetime.
Did you play football, yourself?
Yeah, I played football, yeah - Australian Rules. I played for Carmet when I went there and I played for Eden Valley when I was over in South Australia and I played at school.
Well, describe some of these football matches for us on Manus Island?
Football was rarely played in the navy. It was mainly rugby, because most of them were from Sydney. And the football matches were pretty scrappy, because you had to teach most of the fellas how to play, for a start. So they were pretty scrappy, but they gave some enjoyment to the fellas. They weren't serious, just a bit of recreation.
Did you kick any goals?
No, I don't think we had any goal posts! I think we just had things on the ground.
Did you have any time off there to interact with the Americans?
Oh yeah. You'd go to the canteens. You could go there. When you were in harbour you could go there; if you weren't on duty crew or duty officer, you could go ashore, yes.
Well, tell us what these times were like? What would you talk about?
Nothing much. I suppose you just talked general talk. Whatever was going on there or in relation to whatever was going on up there. There was nothing to do with girlfriends or anything like that, because you didn't have any up there. And the navy. But no, it was just about what the ships were doing and general discussion, I suppose. It was good to talk to the Americans and to find out how they were going.
I suppose they found it the same with us. And we got pretty friendly with some of them, because they used to try and come over to our ships for the grog. We had grog on board and they didn't and when they were away they didn't have any grog, so … although they could get it at their canteens.
Talking about girls - would there be talk about girls back home, or stories that people would tell?
Not really. No, they were pretty private. Most people were pretty private about that sort of thing. I was - I had my girlfriends but I didn't go and tell anybody about it, because I didn't want them to take them away [laughs] .
Did you carry photographs of them?
How many photographs did you have?
Two or three I suppose. Yeah, you always carried a photograph, yes.
Did you keep the photographs separate, or together?
Huh [laughs] … it wouldn't matter on a ship. it wouldn't matter to them. They wouldn't know.
And would there be any talk about the war, about how the war was progressing, and whether you were winning?
Oh yes. That would probably be the main subject, just finding out what they'd been doing and where they'd been and how they were going. That's about the only conversation you could have up there.
You wouldn't have any conversation about swimming or that, because you could swim anywhere. You know it's amazing. We didn't have any worry about those creatures that can get you up here now. And yet we were right in the tropics. Now, you can't bathe up above Mackay, can you - in the summertime - because of the box jellyfish.
We didn't see any of those. We used to stick a fella up on the bridge to keep an eye out for sharks. There were more crewmen in the water than sharks. But just in case they came around, we had to do that. At Milne Bay, it was fairly deep water and we used to anchor a couple of ships up together and have water polo matches between them.
At Milne Bay it was quite good, because the Australians were there and the air force was there. Quite often we'd go and have a meal with them.
Were there any mannerisms or any style about the air force that would … that was different from the navy - that you'd notice when you'd interact?
No, they seemed pretty casual. The air force blokes always seemed pretty casual. They were a good mob. I liked them, yeah. And they were always very friendly with the navy. In fact, we did have a couple of air force fellows out on Vendetta for a while and they were put there for air force/navy communications. No, we enjoyed them.
What about army guys? Did they seem a bit less disciplined or …
Yeah, less disciplined. Yep. We brought some army blokes down to Biak when we were coming down from Hong Kong. All the army officers did was sit in the wardroom and drink all day. Huh. We weren't allowed to drink at sea but we told them they could help themselves. They did - they drank it all! We brought some troops down as well but they didn't get to the grog. But I think by that time we did have
an issue of beer for the sailors. That came in towards the later part of the war. They got a couple of bottles a week.
What were they drinking? What was the brand?
Mainly Victoria Bitter. Mainly Victorian brands - Fosters, Crown Lager was good; and so was Cascade. They were the ones that we always tried to stock up with. Sydney beer was terrible. Tooheys and some other ones.
Tooheys was going then, and some other crowd. No, they weren't very good. And some of the smaller ports you went to, you had to take the local beer, and that wasn't very good. New Zealand beer dreadful too. I can tell you where all the good beers are. Western Australia was good, and Victorian and Tassie, they were good.
And during your time escorting these ships, did you ever come into contact with Japanese planes?
No, we didn't, no. We must have missed a few, because there were times when others were bombed - up around Milne Bay. But no we didn't. There were quite a few bombed when they went to Merauke. We used to get in and out OK.
I think it was a pretty soft sort of a war as far as I was concerned, in that way, yeah.
Well, that's a good thing …
I suppose it was in a way, but it lacked a bit of excitement.
Do you think that was possibly due to some good command, or some good decisions?
No, I think it was just good luck, because when we were up in Oro Bay, north of Milne Bay, the Perry - that was another corvette - they got a bomb right down the funnel. It took the head right off the gunnery officer who was leaning over the bridge giving instructions to the gun crews. It took his head right off.
So that was while we were up there, so he was just in the wrong position at the wrong time. So, it's just luck.
How did you know it took his head off?
Word spreads. There were quite a few who were killed on that.
Did you know any of these fellows?
I knew some of them, but I didn't know him, no.
What kind of effect does it have when you hear of another ship being bombed, and there being casualties?
Just jolly lucky that you didn't get it yourself - that's about all.
Does it make you sad, or lower morale …
No, it doesn't. It doesn't really have any effect on you.
Were there any casualties at any time on any of the ships you served on?
I don't think so. No, we were pretty lucky. I was pretty lucky, yeah.
That's a very good thing!
We were talking earlier about the Quickmatch. Tell us about what this ship looked like when you first saw it - what was the feeling you had when you saw this ship?
A good feeling. I liked it - I liked the structure of the destroyers. They were long, sleek, they were about forty three feet wide I suppose, and a lot wider than Vendetta. It was only about twenty seven or twenty eight foot wide but she was a lot longer - about three hundred or three fifty foot long. They can't battle heavy seas very much,
because they do tend to bend. If you take them too hard into a heavy sea, they'd get smashed up. They bang, they really do clang. You just can't drive them into a heavy sea. So in convoy work, we'd have to slow them right down if it got very rough. But normally we escorted pretty fast ships - twenty four knots or above. And they were always pretty safe in rough
weather, anyhow, because they could keep their speed up. And submarines were not as likely to attack - or weren't as accurate - in rough weather. So they'd keep on going and we'd stay behind in rough weather; and when it stopped, we'd go pick them up again.
What's it like out in the deep depths of the ocean, when you're far
away from land? Is there a kind of mesmerizing effect that the sea can have on you if you're looking out on it?
No … it never worried me. the only time I was really worried was when I was out on a corvette between New Zealand and Australia, and it rolled like mad. I thought we were going to roll over
but we didn't. They were pretty seaworthy in a way but they were very rolly; and when we were on the Quickmatch and coming across, we had to stay on the bridge area. We couldn't go down to the wardroom, it was so rough. The water was flooding over the decks all the time. They are pretty low in the water and you'd just take your life in your hand
if you walked on the decks. You have got lifelines to hang onto but they're not the best because they twang like mad when they're not tight enough. They'd send you up to the ceiling. But no, I never worried when I was out at sea. It was quite pleasant, I think. I don't mind the sea at all now.
Were there any stories of people becoming hypnotised by the sea?
No, I don't think so, no. You'd soon be de-hypnotised by the jobs you had to do [laughs] .
Alright, we'll pause there for a tape change.
Interviewee: Bill Murrie Archive ID 2032 Tape 07
You went onto the Lismore after the Quickmatch. The Lismore was another corvette, and that was when you had the rocky ride between Australia and New Zealand?
Coming back. On the way over, we were exercising with a British submarine and the weather wasn't too bad. We took about four days to
get across to Auckland and we were just exercising all the way with the submarine; and coming back was the time it got rough.
And coming back, you were escorting the American ships?
No, no, that was on Quickmatch.
Sorry, that was the Mauritania, and …
No, that was on Vendetta. We were escorting the Empress of Scotland and couple of President ships. They were big twenty thousand tonners -
well, that's not big now, but they were big in those days. They were called the President Line and they were the troop ships the Yanks used in the war. And the Empress ships were fast too. We took about six of those over to the Mauritania. They were taking American troops
over to the Middle East. That was getting pretty late in the war, that was - 1944 - I think the war finished … they were probably going in through Italy because I think the war finished over there in August 1945, so they would have got there. They were going over there pretty late.
You were talking with Kiernan [ interviewer] earlier, about how the war would end up. Did you become actively interested in politics at all during the war? Did you become more interested in what was happening globally?
Yes. I was always interested in politics - in Australian politics, I was yes, yes. Even during the war. They did have voting for the elections and
because I was interested, they put me in charge. I probably interested a few people, too.
What would you do? Would you take ballots from the men?
Yes. They were all entitled to a vote in the elections, yes. But I've always been interested in politics, even from the age of sixteen.
I'm still a member of the Liberal Party up here, but I very rarely go. I was on Malcolm Fraser's Electoral Committee; I knew Malcolm very well, because I used to come home quite a bit, because we lived in the same electorate. He was a bit of a disappointment, really, when he didn't do what we wanted him to do. And he's having too much to say, now.
He's done a lot now though, hasn't he - I mean, over the last twenty years?
In what way?
Hasn't he done a lot so far as helping …
Oh yeah, I think so - Care Australia. Yes, I don't know what he's done there. I'm not so much interested in that … well, I am, and I do support a child over in Thailand and that type of thing but I'm more interested in politics here, as far as he's concerned; and I just think he interferes a bit too much
with the Liberal Party. He's had his go.
When an election was on - a Federal election - where the men would have to cast a vote, and you said you maybe influenced a few …
Well, some of them would ask you.
Would you stand up and lobby?
No, no. You wouldn't do that. If they'd ask you … no, you couldn't do that. You couldn't stand up and tell them what to do - who to vote for. That would be wrong to do that, wouldn't it? But if they asked you, you
could say, couldn't you?
What got you interested in politics at such a young age?
I think my family were always interested in politics. I don't know. Anne's father was very interested in politics. He was one of the heads of the Liberal-Country Party in South Australia.
I suppose it all came together that way. No, I just liked it. I have never stood for politics though. Like, I've never stood for any party. I was asked to stand several times but I never did. I should have. That would have been the best thing in the world : a pension for life!
Why didn't you?
I don't know - too interested in farming. I shouldn't have been so interested in farming. No, it was mainly when I was on the land, farming in Victoria. I was very interested then. Because I was on all the electoral
committees around the place and I was secretary of the local Liberal Party there for about twenty odd years. I knew a fair bit about it, and I knew a lot of people in it.
What about now? Do you still have an active interest?
No, no I haven't, because they have the meetings down here and they're a pretty wishy-washy lot, I think. I don't take much of an interest in it now … well, I take an interest in it,
and in fact I curse them when they do the wrong thing but they don't hear me and they don't take any notice of me. In other words, I talk to the television. That's about as far as I get now.
It's very interesting. It must have been towards the end of the war - towards D-Day. Do you remember where you were then?
D-Day, well, in Australia?
Not 1944, I mean in 1944 …Normandy?
No, I can't remember where I was in June that year. I probably didn't take a lot of notice of it. We knew, and we probably thought it was pretty good. In fact, we probably thought it was probably better than it did go, because there were a lot of lives lost, especially amongst the Americans.
We didn't know that ‘til afterwards, though. I mean, propaganda was good on our side. Today, everyone knows everything, you know. In the war over Iraq, we know when one fellow has been shot and everything but back in those days you didn't. It's probably just as well in a way, because
it kept people in the dark a bit and back then, if there hadn't been censorship, a lot of people would have given in - a lot of them. Because England was in pretty dire straits when old Churchill took over. He was the kind of rally call.
There must have been a kind of sense though, that after D-Day that, oh right, the war was now on its downward spiral?
Yes, yes there was, I think. Though it did take quite a while, didn't it? From June ‘til the following August - a year away.
Yes, fourteen months later.
Fourteen months later, yes, that's right. It took a long time.
Now, on the Lismore, you were in charge of the guns, is that right? But they didn't have a director?
No, they didn't have a director.
They just had the one gun? What was that called?
It was just a four inch gun, that's all. They were pretty old, pretty antiquated types of gun, those - pretty useless, those. I mean, if you struck any kind of destroyer, they'd blow you out of the water. You were only
good for anti-submarine work. That's about all. They weren't much good for anything else. They were low level - they couldn't elevate to a high level for anti-aircraft. I suppose they got them cheap, you see and they probably couldn't get anything else for them. They were the same kind of guns they put on the back of merchant ships. They were old guns too. We weren't very well equipped, you know. At the beginning
of the war, England didn't have anything. It was remarkable really, that Germany didn't go across the Channel. Early in the piece, they could have gobbled up England as easy as anything. If there was anything from up above, then that probably saved them.
Did you end up using the gun at all?
No, never. All we did after that was
to do patrol work, up towards the Philippines. We never used the gun, no. Our main work was anti-submarine work. That was all it was, on corvettes. They very rarely used their guns except in practice. You used to do a few practice runs yes, just to keep it in order but no, not in action.
And you had the depth charges?
Yeah, depth charges, yep.
Now, the Lismore was the last ship you were on before the end of the war … is that right?
Yes, it was the last one I was on before the end of the war, that's right.
I went to the Burnie after that but that was when the war was over. After I left Lismore to go the Burnie they gave me leave and I was in Adelaide on that leave when the war finished - the war in the Pacific finished. And they forgot me I think, because I was over there in Adelaide for a month. Nobody seemed to know where I was and then I was appointed to the Burnie. I was appointed beforehand but they told me to go on leave from Lismore first.
When the war finished … I suppose they were so bamboozled by those wanting to get out and all those ships coming home, that they didn't know what to do for a while. Then they decided to send me over to Hong Kong, to join the minesweeper over there.
Oh, just before we find out what happened in Hong Kong, you then were in port in Adelaide when the war finished … is that right?
No, I was in Adelaide on leave.
You were at home? Tell us about that? Did you hear over the wireless that the war was over?
Oh, we all knew the war was over because there was dancing in the streets and everything. We all had a good time. There were parties and …
How did you know, though? I mean, did you see people running out of their houses, or …
I heard it over the radio or something … I don't know if we had radios in those days. We had crystal sets. Yeah, we had radios in those days; but I remember the crystal sets well before that. But no, news soon got around that the war was finished. After the atomic bomb … well, everybody expected it after the first atomic bomb. The second one, that just made certain.
What was the turnout in Adelaide? What did South Australia put on for the end of the war?
Well, it was pretty spontaneous. People gathered in the streets andit was pretty joyous for a lot of people, wasn't it? They knew that their children were OK and were coming back and they knew that everything was over. There were a lot of private parties put on in Adelaide. We went to a good few of those.
Did your mum and dad go out and start dancing on the streets?
Oh no. No, they didn't. They're not that type, no. I think they were just very glad it was over. But my brother - my other brother - he came home from the air force pretty well straight after that. They were releasing them pretty quickly. But the navy, no, I hadn't been
on minesweepers before, so they sent me up there to be on one. Though I suppose being on corvettes before, they were pretty much the same sort of thing.
You mentioned Bruce, that your brother was buried at Ambon. Was it Ambon?
Well, he hadn't been buried. They never found his body. But his memorial stone is there. He's in one of the war cemeteries at Ambon, yeah.
Did the navy give him a funeral service back in Australia, later on?
No, the air force …
Beg your pardon - the air force.
No, they never worried about that. No, I don't think anything like that ever happened unless the body was returned. But that didn't happen here. The Yanks always took their dead home, if they could. But not us.
What was your brother's name, that died?
Glenn … so, after the Lismore, you went to the Burnie, and you were on a minesweeper. Was that worrying for you?
Oh no, minesweepers never worried me, except when I was up hereat the Barrier Reef sometimes. We got into some funny kinds of positions, I thought.
What do you mean?
Well, by the time I got to the flotilla up here they'd been minesweeping for six months and it was a two year job. I think they were getting a bit careless. I was on an HDML [Harbour Defence Motor Launch] - Harbour Defence … the ship's only about eighty feet long, and we used to do the sweeps alongside the reef, to allow the corvettes to come in later, because they couldn't get too close to the reef.
And we used to sweep with very small sweeps and many times you'd break your sweep, because they were so small, or because of fine gauge mooring wire for a sweep wire. Everything was on a miniature scale but we just had to sweep around the reefs to allow the corvettes to start their sweep; and I can remember that this was a bit touchy, we didn't have much of a draught - which was helpful,
because you didn't know where the mines were. But after that we used to shoot the mines. We used to have shooting practice at them … well, not practice, but we'd try to sink them - they were the ones that had been cut off by the corvettes and that had popped to the surface. And this fellow I was on - he'd been minesweeping for some time - he was an Englishman, and he was on the same boat as I was - and he'd just let the craft drift into the minefield
and I'd say to him, "Look, be a bit careful." And he'd say, "Oh, we've only got a very shallow draught - we won't hit anything." That was a bit stupid. But he hadn't hit anything and we didn't hit anything but it was just carelessness. He was just casual because he'd been doing it for some time, I think. But luckily we didn't. There was only one ship ever sunk there, and that was the Warrnambool. It was sunk up on the reef, sweeping.
But it was pretty safe if you did it properly.
Did it get boring?
Yes, terribly. In fact it is boring because you don't get on with the job very quickly, especially on the Barrier Reef. The winds there get terribly vicious in the winter time from the south east, all up the coast and you can't sweep when it's windy. It's pretty dangerous.
So we used to have to shelter for days on end, sometimes. You'd never get anyway, and it was boring. You just sheltered behind an island and made your own fun somehow - a bit of crocodile shooting and few things like that. But apart from that, it was pretty boring, yeah.
Now your time came up, when you were on the Burnie, that you could actually leave the navy, didn't it? So what happened then? Did they say that that's it and you could take off?
Well, no, when Burnie came back to Australia, she was de-commissioned. And then they were decommissioning everybody - sailors and everybody. And my time came up I think in March 1946 and I was just sent over to Torrens to be debunked [discharged?] - the same as anybody did when
the ships came in and they were decommissioned. They were going out of commission altogether. Some of them were being sold overseas to India and Pakistan and New Zealand. We had so many of them, and they didn't want them here any more.
What would happen for instance, if you went out on a ship a day or two before the end of the war - well, that's too bad? You just go out until it's finished its job?
You'd be recalled, I suppose. See, it was a good … after the war when Burnie was decommissioned … what month was that?
August '45 … OK, that's alright; we were still going til '46, so anybody that was on the different ships, they stayed there. They couldn't ask to be demobbed, no, they stayed with the ships ‘til they finished.
I can imagine that could have become frustrating? The war was ended and everybody was coming home, and you'd want to see your siblings and your parents, and you're still out there …
Yeah, most of the blokes were single I suppose. Yeah, most of them were single - except the commanding officers and that. They were married. But they knew … well, if any of them were permanent service officers, they knew the conditions. But we never worried too much about it. They seem to make a terrible fuss about it now. If they're not in contact with their
loved ones for a couple of days they get on the email and send emails. We could never do that. In fact, you were lucky if you got your letters in months, sometimes, because you moved from one place to another. That's all you had. You never had anything else. No, I think they worry about too much now - cry about nothing.
Well, what about once Burnie was decommissioned and you were demobbed from the navy, what was it like for you to be set free and back in civilian life?
Well, I thought it was pretty good - first of all. By going back to the land though, I didn't like being where I was and I knew there was no future there for me, anyhow. I don't know why I didn't apply for a Soldier's Settlement Block in South Australia, straightaway. But I didn't. I thought we could both live on the same place. But we couldn't. It was too small.
Excuse me Bruce - you mean, you and your brother, on the same place?
Yes. He was married by that time and it was just hopeless for me to go back there. So my mother's cousin well, I've got a lot of mother’s cousins and all that; but he was a commissioner for the Soldier's Settlement Commission in Victoria and I went and saw him one day and he suggested I apply for one over there. I did. And I think it was a much better scheme over there too.
Why was it better than South Australia?
Well, South Australia was not a freehold type of thing. In Victoria you got your land freehold. You paid it off. In South Australia you rented it.
I think you could eventually make it freehold but it took a long time. We were freehold straight from the beginning and we paid it off, as a mortgage. So it was miles better. You felt you owned the land. Yeah, it
was better. And I think the commission were more helpful too. It was quite a good scheme.
And you went off and did that as a single man? Or had you met Cecily by then?
Anne … no. I don't think I'd met Anne then. I met her afterwards. But yes, I did it single. I went over there.
I should clarify that for the tape. Your wife's name is Cecily-Anne, but she's known as Anne …
Anne, yes, that's right.
So you met Anne then, after you got the block of land?
Yes, it must have been. And we were married within about a year I suppose. Just under a year and she came over after I'd had the block for a year, yeah.
How did you meet Anne?
Oh, at her aunt's place down at Victor Harbour. They were having a bit of
a party down there. They had quite a few parties down there. I used to try and get away from the farm as much as possible, because I was single then, anyhow.
Were you concerned about taking on the farm by yourself, and not having a partner to do it with?
No. What sort do you mean - a female partner?
No, no, not at all. I'd batched a fair bit. That never worried me. I wasn't worried about that. I thought it was good,
that it was good to get a block.
So what was it about Anne that made you give up being a bachelor?
I think she probably made me give up being a bachelor. I don't know, I just liked her, yeah.
She was happy to become a farmer's wife?
Yes. Not all are, but she was. Not that she'd had any contact with the land, except for an uncle who'd been a manager of stations. But her father was a sharebroker.
And then you had three children?
Three kids, yeah. Two girls first of all and then a boy afterwards. They were all about three and a half years apart,
we had them well planned.
That is actually a good timeframe.
Yes it is.
Are they friends?
Yes. Jenny was up here yesterday to see David because he'd come up and… yeah, they're friends. Sue would be up here too …
she flew up here to see … no, it was for my eightieth birthday. She flew up from Melbourne to Jenny's place and they had the party there for me, in Brisbane. She flew back the same night again. We're a pretty close family. Sue's over in Denmark now. She left a couple of days ago, to see some friends. They had an exchange student staying at their place, and two of them came from Denmark.
So they're going over to Denmark for the school holidays to see them.
Bruce, in your life arc that you mentioned earlier today, you said that you'd been out on the land for a while, and you wanted to see if maybe the navy was, after all, the right place for you to be? So, just to get this right, when you got the settlement block, that was …
Afterwards. After the second time I'd been in the navy.
OK, and part of your disappointment - correct me if I'm wrong - part of your disappointment in the second time in the navy, was that you thought you'd be in the occupation forces. But you ended up doing minesweeping in the Barrier Reef again. Is that correct?
Yes, that's right, yes. I was supposed to be going. I told them I wanted to go on destroyers, because destroyers were being used up there to do the occupation forces; and when I got in again, the first ship they put me on
was a tank landing ship in Sydney Harbour, dumping ammunition. And then they put me on the minesweepers. Really, I wasn't very happy with the whole set-up. It didn't fit in with what they told me I'd be doing; because you could volunteer to go - to go back to the navy and do these sorts of things … not minesweeping, but the occupation forces; and then when they put me
on that, they said, "Bad luck." Huh.
Where were they dumping ammunition?
All the old ammunition from the war they were dumping outside Sydney. Out past the deepwater line. We dumped hundreds of tons of the stuff out there - bombs, shells …
So, you'd let them off?
No, just throw them overboard.
Would they not go off though?
No, they were just tossed in the water.
So they're still sitting there?
Yeah, probably. They wouldn't be any good now. They'd have water in them and they'd be all over the place, now. They're still sitting there, yeah.
So at this particular time in your life you thought maybe the navy could be a career advancement?
I did think so. I did think that it might be - that if I'd got on the right ship
it could make a difference. But seeing I didn't get on the right ship, it certainly made up my mind about staying in there.
When did it strike you that, "OK, I need to get out now."
Well, after I'd been minesweeping up there for awhile. And especially after they put me on that transport ship from Brisbane to Sydney. That was the last straw.
Why was that so bad?
Well, it didn't even look like a navy ship. Huh. If anybody really tried to have a career in the navy it was probably the worst ship they could have put you on. The captain was a two and a half [two and a half rings-lieutenant commander] … I think he was a lieutenant commander and not a straight laced fellow, not a permanent serviceman. He was a seagoing lieutenant commander. That's a merchant
service fellow who had transferred over to the navy. They wore criss-cross stripes. And he loved it. He thought it was a wonderful ship, being a merchant seaman and all that kind of thing. But I never got on well with him, either. He just loved it as a toy, and I thought, "Well, how stupid can you be?" So I got out as soon as I could.
When you look back now, do you feel that the navy looked after you the way they should have?
Not then, no. No, I was a bit disappointed with the way they looked after me. I did stay in the Naval Reserve until 1957, that was in case another war broke out. But when I was so involved in the land after that, I couldn't go for training, so I just resigned from that.
No, I was disappointed with the navy then.
Now, I have to ask you … before, you were joking with Kiernan about if there were another war they should put the old blokes back on the ships, or what have you, and then, "There would be a saving of so many young men's lives," well, do you believe that?
Oh yes. Yes. I'm very friendly with air force fellows up at the
Noosa RSL [Returned and Services League] Club these days. We have a few drinks together. And they're all my age - all World War II fellas - and they all volunteered too. They reckon they'd get on a ship or a plane and prang it into the ‘gypos’ - the Arabs or whatever. You know, I think so. It's a good idea.
Spare the young ones. See, we've got to die sooner or later, and as I said, we might as well die doing something and not being painful. Because I hate the thought of lying in a bed for years with something wrong with me. I do. I'd rather die fighting.
I think that's a great idea, for what my opinion's worth.
Yeah. I suppose - to a certain extent - you've lived your life and raised your family and all that kind of stuff, and you've got all the skills and experience of being in a war …
Well, you wouldn't have many skills now, because there's so much difference in what's going on. But you know, suicide bombers and this type of thing - you could be one of those. Not that I'd like to be a suicide bomber. I'd like to give myself a bit of a chance [laughs] . The old air forces fellas though, they reckon they could crash a plane into something and do
away with having to put up with life in a bed for years and years. But yeah, I don't like to see people suffer in their old age. And a lot of people do, don't they? Better to pass out, doing something.
Something to look forward to! OK. What do you think about some of the changes that have occurred in the navy over the last thirty years, with women now in the navy, going to sea?
Yeah, I didn't like it. I think it's a bit silly. I might be old fashioned but I still think it's better to have them separated. I don't mind women being in the navy in administrative jobs and that type of thing but at sea … they've had trouble with them, haven't they, with blokes playing up. I think it's better to keep them apart.
Do you think it would work if blokes were up one side of the side and women were down the other, something like that?
I don't think it would work that way. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't. Not in wartime, not in action, anyhow. No. See, most men would go to the protection of women; well, they should and they would possibly if they saw them in trouble. And I think that's a bad thing to do
if you're leaving a post to do something like that. I feel that's wrong. But they haven't really seen any action yet and well, they've been sent over to the Gulf but the Gulf was pretty minor. It was more like escorting ships and that sort of thing. They weren't really in action. But I think really, it's bad, it's a step backwards.
So what you're saying is that in a crucial moment, a man might be inclined to look after a woman rather than look after what he's supposed to be doing …
Yes, I think so; more so than he might look after a man.
Perhaps also, the whole sexual thing too, with men competing for women - if you like - on a ship. That wouldn't be a good environment. Is that what you mean?
Well, we used to be away at sea for three or four months at a time, without ever coming to land, because you could refuel at sea -
like we did when we were doing the escort work up in the islands - and you can get provisions at sea and everything. You're away all the time and really, it's pretty lonely for blokes. And if they've got an eye for a women then they might do things they wouldn't do otherwise. Today they seem to have more time in harbour. They study more and be more like that - bring them home a lot quicker.
But no, they didn't in my day. I remember Shropshire, she held the record. She was nine months at sea without hitting land during the war. That's a long time. She was refuelled and everything at sea. So it's a long time.
Though I'd say, with the introduction of this new legislation - these new rules - there would be a lot of ripple effects in making sure that it works out. You know what I mean - that bureaucratically, there'd
be a lot of preparation to making sure that men and women could actually work together …
Yes, I suppose. Well, I know that one woman's a captain of a patrol boat …
I didn't know that, and I should be flag-waving about it, shouldn't I? Well, that's wonderful …
There was one, yes. I just wonder how she gets on giving orders.
Is she married?
Yes, I think she was.
Well, there you go.
Yes, she knows how to give orders.
They give orders all the time.
Yes, she probably knows all about it.
OK, I'll just ask you one quick question before we run out of tape here. How was it finding your land legs again after being at sea? Did you have trouble with that?
No. Except after rough weather, when you always do. Then, you always have wobbliness. Did you mean that, or did you mean 'land legs' in the way of finding a 'land' job rather than a 'sea' job? But no, it never worried me. I don't think it worries anybody really. I think you feel a bit wobbly after you come off a ship that's been in rough weather;
but that soon goes away. But not the other. I think you miss it. You do miss the sea. I like it. Since I've been here I've been mainly involved in Coast Guard. Fifteen years. Fifteen years I was involved, until four or five years ago. So yeah, I liked that too.
What about cruises? Do you go on any cruises?
I'd like to go, but Anne doesn't want to go. I'd like to go to Canada on a cruise. But she doesn't. She'd rather fly.
I like the idea of sitting by a pool with a Pina Colada …
Yes, so do I. I like the idea of just resting, just taking your time - sitting in a deck chair, reading a book. Yes, floating along. I think it's ideal. Aircraft, well, you're all crowded up. I've got too long a legs for that.
OK, thanks Bruce. We'd better change tapes.
Interviewee: Bill Murrie Archive ID 2032 Tape 08
OK. We were just talking about your role, but I'll just ask you one question about the war ending. Did you hear the news about the atomic bomb?
What did you think of this weapon?
Good. Best thing that ever happened. Saved thousands of lives. Saved thousands of our lives, on our side of the fence. Not mine particularly, but people fighting for the allies.
I don't think the Japs would have given in until they really had to. So I think it was a good thing. It had to finish sometime. It even saved a lot of lives on the Burma railway. A lot of those would have died, poor fellows. They'd been there for years. If it hadn't have happened.
Could you quite believe that there was a bomb this powerful when you first heard?
No, no. I couldn't. I suppose we heard that it could be like that, didn't we. Well, you don't remember, but we did. We did know that it was pretty powerful, yep.
OK, we were just talking off camera before and I was going to ask you about your role once the war was over. You were on the Burnie. Tell us about where you went and what your role was in this post-war period …
Well, Burnie was up in Hong Kong and she swept Hong Kong Harbour - along with the other minesweepers - in order to allow British ships of the Pacific Fleet to go in there. When I got there, that had been done and we were sent up to the Formosa Straits to do the minesweeping there. We were up there, based at a place called Amoy Harbour, opposite Formosa.
What's the name of the town now?
Oh, you mean Chinese Taipei, or …
Yeah. Amoy is the place that's in dispute now with the Chinese people who think they still own it. But those little islands are not owned by … they're owned by …
Yes, Taiwan. So we were based there. It was a very good harbour and we did minesweeping from there. It's quite a good place. We thoroughly
enjoyed it. I liked the Chinese people. The Chinese people were good. They were not communists then - this was before the communists came down. And there were thousands of Japs there too. They didn't seem to want to give in; they had laid down their arms of course but they were still walking around like they owned the place.
And the Chinese hated them. But they had so many people there that they couldn't do much about it I guess.
Describe how they, "Walked around like they owned the place;" what was in their mannerisms, or what did you notice?
Their mannerisms if we went up to them, they'd more or less 'beg'.
They weren't cocky; they just walked around. They knew they were defeated. But we had a motor torpedo boat and it was made available to our ship as a liberty boat, when we were up there, because we could go on them any time of day or night, if we wanted to go ashore. And these Japs were the ones who were taking us backwards and forwards to our ship. Large as life. And they'd salute you
and bow down to you every time you go on the boat. They were really down under at that time. I mean, when they're on top, they're on top; and when they're down, they're down. The Chinese seemed to be frightened of them.
Tell me, did this seem a strange situation to be in, with these interactions with the Japanese? I know you knew that the war was over, but did it still seem kind of unusual?
Yes, it did. Completely different from anywhere else, I think. The Chinese seemed to be quite frightened of them. I don't know why, though they gave the Chinese a pretty bad time when they were there and there were many, many of them. But the British were back there again, by the time we got there. They were in on the trading business. They seemed to be living it up pretty well.
But nobody seemed to have control over where the Japanese were. They had prison camps but they seemed to be just walking around everywhere. I don't know what happened after that. But Hong Kong was alright. That was all under control. It was controlled by the British. The Chinese there seemed to be very easygoing.
So how do you think the Japanese managed not to be, say, attacked by the Chinese, or how that was controlled … there wasn't vendettas …
You'd think so, wouldn't you. But they didn't seem to worry. And we went ashore one time and stopped a truck on the road; and it was a Japanese truck - like, an old Japanese truck - and Neil Ferguson and myself, we wanted to take a trip out to have a look around the place and we
stopped him; and he bowed and scraped and we got in the truck and told him where to go … and we had a good old trip around. They were a funny mob, yeah. I think when they're on top they really kind of dominate everything but when they're down they just do anything you ask.
Did you manage to get any souvenirs or any mementos from the Japanese?
Oh, I got a few. I got a revolver from the Chinese - a Chinese major. I got
a couple of flags from the Japanese. I've still got them I think. But otherwise, no. I didn't go much for mementos, no. I've got a .303 [rifle] and a naval revolver, and a few things like that; but otherwise, no.
And you mentioned the British were coming back. How were they re-establishing themselves as 'colonial masters', so to speak?
Yeah, they were. They were the old colonial masters. It was still non-communist then, and they were welcomed back
by the Chinese government then. So they were welcomed back and we went to a couple of dinners they had. It was just like living in the lap of luxury. They got back to it pretty quickly. There was … Squires - that was one of the main shipping crowds. They had their managers there and everything and they were just living in the lap of luxury.
Describe a dinner for us? What would go on?
Well, we'd all sit around and I think at one dinner they had one servant for every person that was there. At our beck and call, all the time. Chinese. And they served wine and they had everything going for you. You just had to ask for it and it turned up on the table - prehistoric it was. But I don't think they enjoyed it much when the communists came down.
So they were there, ready to kind of put a serviette on your face …
Yeah, it was well-conducted. They can certainly put on a show, the British can. A bit of class attached to it, which Australians weren't used to.
How did you fit in personally with all this?
Oh, it was alright I guess. I fitted in alright. The Chinese were a bit like
that though. The wealthy Chinese in Hong Kong, they had equally as good dinners. They were millionaires, a lot of them. They were importers and exporters mainly and we went to quite a few dinners there. And they were equally as entertaining. Good hosts. So they probably got it from the British.
So how quick was Hong Kong re-establishing itself?
Pretty quick. It was. The nightclubs got going again, more or less
straight after the occupation. Yeah, they pulled themselves together pretty well. There wasn't a lot of damage done in Hong Kong. The buildings hadn't been damaged, so it was more or less just taken over, more or less as it was.
And tell us, was there poverty as well?
Oh yeah, a lot of poverty amongst the Chinese. Most of them lived in
sampans and just around the harbour; selling things to you and they used to do our washing for practically nothing - you know, even for a bar of soap, or something from the Comfort Fund. They'd do our washing for that. The Comfort Fund wouldn't like that very much, but a lot of it went that way. And these great big woollen socks that we had no use for at all; they used to knit those for us, and we used to trade those.
You could buy hand embroidered table cloths - I've got one here - for practically nothing. All hand embroidered and you can't tell the back from the front. All Irish linen. The British used to bring the Irish linen over and get it woven - you know, embroidered - and then export it back over again.
They'd get it done for nothing, poor things. And it's probably still a bit like that when you buy these Nike shoes and that. They make them for a song and sell them for a fortune. They probably won't last for long.
And tell us about the night life? What was that like?
It was pretty good. The nightclubs were going. We'd get a party together and go and you'd have a few girls come and sit with you at the tables; and
no … they were excellent. You'd have to pay them so much an hour for sitting there. They were good fun; and the young Chinese are quite attractive.
What would the girls do? They'd sit with you? What kind of things would happen?
Well, it's pretty hard to make conversation because they didn't speak English, a lot of them. Some of them did. But they used to just giggle and
laugh and we'd supply them with drinks. It was just a bit of fun. They'd dance with you and that type of thing. Not that I was ever much of a dancer. But they used to entertain you a bit, yeah.
In what ways would they entertain?
[laughs] Well … it was all above board … or pretty much above board … unless you did things afterwards. But they were just supposed to be for the entertainment during the night.
Did they say certain things to you, or give you certain nicknames, or anything?
Oh yeah, they had a bit of broken English and they could talk to you a bit. But you sometimes had a bit of a hard time talking to them. But they took everything as a bit of fun. It was just a fun time, I suppose. They were trying to enjoy themselves as much as possible. It was the first bit of freedom they'd had in quite a while. So it was quite good, yeah.
Did they have any opinion about Australian servicemen?
Oh yeah, they liked us. Always did, yeah.
Oh, I think the Australian servicemen had a pretty good recognition anywhere they'd go. They're more friendly than most are and fairly honest. In China it's all traded. When you buy anything it's traded. They put a price on it but you'd always knock that back and go down and down and down until
you come to a final price. And a lot of people, when they'd agree to this price, they'd just do it for fun and then walk away. That would annoy them, because once they'd made an offer and the price was accepted, you should take it. The Australians were pretty aware of that. A lot of others weren't - Americans particularly. They'd just walk away.
Were you seeing any evidence of the Japanese occupation - any stories or anything which showed the history of the Japanese occupation there?
No, not particularly, because we weren't ashore much, except in Hong Kong. We got plenty of shore time there. The British were locked in camps there and the Americans … the amazing things about the
Americans they were exported away, if they were there. Even though the Americans were in the war, they were taken away; but the British were still kept there. Some of those had pretty hard conditions, yeah.
Tell us about your role. You were telling us about minesweeping. How did it exactly operate. Talk us through. Tell us how you would sweep the Formosa Strait?
Well to start a sweep off, one ship starts the sweep off and sweeps an area. There's a wire coming up from the ship - from the back of the ship - and it's kept down in the water by what they call 'kites'. It's like a louvre window, made of steel. And they go down to a certain depth. You set them to a certain depth
and it's tugged down there and it's tugged down out near the floats. There's a float with a line with another one on, out there; and there's another kite which takes the wire away from the ship. That one keeps it out away from the ship. That's the area you sweep. So you're going along with this wire that goes out and you sweep this area. Then the next ship coming behind stays within that float, because that's 'swept water'.
And the next one does the next … you might have six minesweepers all going in a line and after the last minesweeper comes along, there's a boat - like, we used to be the boats that used to follow and dump what were called 'dan buoys' to mark where it had been swept. And those dan buoys are dropped well inside the area that's been swept. So by the time the minesweepers come around again they can go
outside those dan buoys and they know they’re inside swept water; and they keep on going, around and around, on a set course and sweep that way. And when you've finished sweeping a minefield, you put two sweeps out - one each side of the ship, and the ships go up and down, as quickly as possible, just to see if there's any mines left. But they put themselves in danger by being open to striking a mine, if there's one there. But there shouldn't be, because it would all be swept, anyhow. The 'clearing sweep' they call that.
The wires, is it a pattern across like a certain area, in the water? Of wiring?
It's just one wire, and that wire catches the mine's mooring wire that comes up from the bottom and if it doesn't cut it through before it gets to the end of the float, there are big cutters on the end of the float and they cut the mine wire and it bobs to the surface. Sometimes it explodes and
smashes the float itself and that mucks things up properly, then.
And what was your specific role in this?
Oh, I was minesweeper officer. I was in charge of putting out the sweeps.
What were the specific tasks that you actually do?
You stand at the back and see that the crew do the job properly, that's all. They've got a winch that allows
the wire to run out - the mine sweep wire is quite heavy, rough, twisted wire, so it cuts. But my job on the small ships, our minesweeping wire was mine mooring wire - the same stuff, because we could only take very small gauge wire. Normally, if we hit a mine, it broke our line
and we'd have to start all over again. So we were only there to see if there were any mines close to the reef. We were lucky if we didn't get any mines, because it would stop mucking things up. And then our job after that was to explode mines that came to the surface, by firing at them.
A lot of them didn't explode - they just sank. They were punctured and they just sank. Then they were just left there. But if they exploded, then we got our fish for the next month. There were fish all over the place.
Did you have any close calls in any of your minesweeping operations?
No … well, there was one. The ship, the Ballarat was mined, going into
Amoy Harbour. I don't know why, because we'd been going into the same place a lot of times. It wasn't a moored mine, it was a magnetic mine that was there. We didn't know there were magnetic mines there. There must have been one there. Huh. But she found it. But it only buckled the plates and she was able to get to Hong Kong. Actually,
we had very few accidents. The only accidents we had was putting the wire out. People occasionally got caught in them, and this type of thing. But apart from that, no. The only time ships were hit were … two times - the Ballarat and the Toowoomba, which sunk. That wasn't a bad effort, because there were thousands of mines
laid in the Barrier Reef during the war, by the Bungaree.
How long, all up, were you in that kind of area - Hong Kong, Formosa, Taiwan? How long, all up, were you operating there for?
I was only there for about two months - two and a half months.
So tell us where did you go from the Hong Kong area? Where did you head from there?
We came south. That was the end. The British Pacific Fleet was up there then. They had all their main battleships and aircraft carriers and that sort of thing in Hong Kong Harbour then. We left there because we'd finished our job. We had two minesweeping flotillas up there. We did have a magnetic minesweeper flotilla.
They sweep with a couple of cables out the back with a magnetic current going between them. They were 22nd Minesweeping Flotilla, and we were the 21st, which we called 'Aurapisa' - that's the wire one. When we'd finished sweeping there we both came down and picked up … that was the last job, except we swept around Rottenest Island in West Australia.
And that was the last sweeping job we did.
And who did you pick up? You said you picked up someone?
We picked up the army crowd at Biak and took them down to Darwin and then we went on to Perth. We dropped them at Perth.
And what were they like at this late stage of the war?
Oh good. They were pleased to get home. They were all West Australians that we took down, so they were pleased to get home again.
What was the trip back like with them?
Good. They were quite entertaining. Drinking all the time. They drank all the grog. We called into Geraldton on the way back. I've never seen such a desolate town in all my life. The wind was blowing a hurricane and there was red sand blowing everywhere. Went back there only a few years ago and it was a magnificent town. It's amazing how it's grown. But it wasn't then and it had the worst beer in the world; because they'd
drunk us out of beer. But we did get a lot of crayfish there. They've got some beautiful crays [crayfish] .
And how much longer were you in the navy from this point?
We went from Perth to Adelaide and from Adelaide to Burnie and that's where we had a week off. More than a week actually. I probably got up to a few pranks there. I did fire a star shell over the top of the showground when they were having the Stawell Gift.
Not the Stawell Gift - the Burnie Gift. I was left on board and I was a bit annoyed. So just for a bit of fun we fired a starshell. The captain wasn't very happy about it but I was very friendly with the captain's girlfriend, so she got me off. But that’s about the only pranks we got up to.
And then … you talked earlier about leaving the navy and rejoining … yeah, we were just asking you about that off camera …
Well, you'd get leave about every two months …
Sorry, I didn't ask the question, which will just confuse the viewers. That was off-camera. The question is, when you rejoined the second time you were doing some minesweeping up in the Barrier Reef. How long were the sweeps?
About two months before got leave, yes. But most of those leaves you came down and did boiler cleaning if you were on a corvette. We did have boiler cleanings because we had diesel motors. But they used to change us around a bit and let us go on leave, yeah.
Where would you go? Where were you based?
Well, we were based in Cairns mainly. That was the main base. All the ships went back there for boiler cleans.
We didn't get enough leave to go south. Sometimes we did. But you'd have to catch a plane to do it; and if you could catch a plane then they'd let you go. But normally we used to go up to a hotel at Yungaburra and play golf and have a bit of a good time.
Were you keeping in touch with some of those girls?
No, not then. She'd left - Eileen, she'd left. She was working for a doctor down in Brisbane.
No, I didn't have any more … it was just men's male golf, yeah. Plenty of drinking.
Well, talking about times at sea and being without women, how do men cope with being without women for long stints at sea?
Well, I think they cope pretty well. I mean they've always got the one
they think they love and she thinks you love her too. You keep pretty loyal to that type of thing. Most of them did. Some of the blokes didn't. I don't know about the crew but most of the officers kept pretty loyal. You did get the radical, sometimes, though. But if they were married they
seemed to stick to their wives pretty well. And if they really loved the girl, then they stayed with her. I think that was what kept you going. I mean, I was never a one to go tearing around with any girl. In fact, when I went in the navy first of all, they arranged a blind date thing for me in Melbourne and was parked with this girl who I couldn't stand. That put
me off for the rest of the time. I just didn't have anything to talk about. I've always liked to have a bit of conversation. So I've always picked my own, and take it easy.
That's a good idea. Were there any men which maybe liked a …that were … um … didn't worry about the women, so to speak?
No, I never struck any. Well, I did strike one at one time; but he was in the navy but wasn't on my ship. He was ex-RN, and I met him in a hotel in Sydney. And he was dressed in his navy uniform … and he was a navy pilot. And I think he'd been affected by a few of the crashes he'd had.
He'd had about three crashes. And I was talking about the cap badges he had and he had one from Guise, which is supposed to be the ideal set-up to get things from London … and he said, "Oh, I've got one; I can give you one." So I said, "Oh, that's terrific." Anyhow, luckily I was with other officers from Vendetta, and when I got away I said,
"He's invited me to his hotel for dinner tomorrow night." And they said, "God, he's a poofter - you'd wanna watch yourself." So we got back to the ship and really, it did give me a bit of a worry but I was determined to get this jolly badge he was going to give me. So we worked out a scheme where I could get away from him afterwards. It was a bit cruel I suppose, but it worked out alright.
So I went to dinner and got the cap badge, and then ordered cab. I said the ship was sailing. So I got away. But that was the only one, except there were quite a few in the merchant navy, they were quite prevalent. We often used to be invited over to these ships after we came into port, especially when we were on destroyers and were doing single ship convoys.
in those times, yes, they used to get you down to their cabins. But you were pretty wary. Their excuse was … well, some of them were married but they wanted to remain loyal to their wives. That was their excuse. So they didn't go out with other women. Huh. That's what they used to say, anyhow.
You had to watch it too, you know, being younger?
Yeah, that's right. The more senior officers knew more than I did. I was pretty raw then.
Would they point anyone out? Would they say, "I wouldn't go to this bloke's …"
No, not really. It was only when it came up. They'd find out if it was on a ship. If you were on a merchant ship having dinner or something like that, yeah.
You'd have to watch out having dinner sometimes?
So from your time in the navy, what was the best lesson you learnt, personally?
Well, I think discipline. That's the thing that carries you through your life. I'm sure that the people today would be a lot better if they had more discipline - like, the younger people. I've got grandchildren, and they could do with a bit. But it does carry you through life, because it gives you respect for other people and it lets you know how other people feel.
I think it's good, yep. And when it comes to business, it's good too.
You talked earlier about settling back into the landed life. Would things come back to you? You just mentioned the link there with business. Would some of the lessons you learnt from your war service and your navy service come back to you later in life?
Well, I don't think so. There was a lot of difference. I mean, only discipline in the way you treated other people and paid your accounts. Sometimes we'd try to let those go for as long as we could too, when you're on the land. But you didn't have to worry about that when you're in the navy. All your accounts were paid for you and you got everything given to you but I just think it's the respect
you have for other people, that's all.
And I think we talked briefly about this, but I'll just ask you again … that physical removal from the sea - did you miss it as a farmer?
No, because I think I was always very interested in the land. I just couldn't stand dairy farming. That sort of 'tying' to the land was very foreign to what I wanted to do. If I was on the land and I wanted to
go for a holiday, then I'd have to go for a holiday. Not that we did go on many holidays when we were on the land for quite some time but I hate to be tied to this thing where - as I said before - where you'd play golf and have to come back and milk cows. I think that was … poor old dairy farmers, I feel sorry for them. I'd give them every penny they want for their milk. They don't get much.
And tell us, what's some of the best memories you have from your navy service?
Oh, I think my love affairs. I got very attached to quite a few girls, and I made some very good friends; which I still have today. I was engaged to get married once, but that fell apart.
I think my mother was very pleased about that falling apart, I can tell you. She was a model and I don't think she would have done very well on the land, one iota. She was a fashion model in Melbourne. But you do some stupid things probably. But she was a nice girl and we used to have a lot of fun together.
Was there something else about being an officer and having a navy uniform that helped you in this regard?
I think it was a lot of help. Yes, it was.
Were there any special techniques you'd adopt?
No, I don't think so. I seemed to just have these girls in different ports. They were good, they were nice girls. If they were anything else I wouldn't have gone around with them. I quite mean that. They were
good. The one I met in Western Australia, who came over to Adelaide afterwards, she was very nice. And so was Margo Thompson, the one in Melbourne. There was one girl I used to go around with quite a lot - Margaret Lenehan - from Melbourne and she used to come up to Sydney and back to Melbourne when I was there.
But we never had anything between us. I just liked her company and she liked my company but we never, ever intended it to go any further. I was just proud to take her out. She was into fashion and this kind of thing; she was always at the races … and really, I enjoyed that type of thing.
Did you break any of their hearts?
I don't think so. They probably broke my heart. Margo, Margaret … but that was pretty early in the piece, with her.
The fact that you were in the navy and had to keep going away …
It made things a bit like that, yeah. Well, it made it more romantic. You only had a short time home. And I think it did. Wartime romances were
probably very romantic, more so than they probably are in peacetime, because you knew you couldn't stay there for long. Probably that was a bit … expecting too much probably, or, you felt too much compared to what it would have been if you had been there all the time. And they probably felt the same way.
You couldn't kind of get bored and take things for granted or anything like that. Time was too short?
That's right, yes. And you enjoyed yourself when you were both together and when you said farewell, it was a very sad farewell. And there was something to remember. I think a lot of servicemen did have that, too - something to remember. It kept them going. You didn't have to go out with other girls.
Was that an important thing?
Well, it was to me. Yes. I think so.
With the possibility of potential death, if you've got something to look forward to …
Oh yes, yes. It's a connection isn't it? It's a connection to home, or somebody. Yeah. I mean, you've always got your mother and father and that type of thing but they're different from girls.
And looking back, what's the worst memories of your time in the service?
Well, being away from them for too long, probably. Nothing else. I really enjoyed the service. I really did. I wouldn't have picked another one. I wouldn't have picked the air force or the army.
Well Bruce, I think we're coming close to the end of the interview so I might just ask one last question, which is … do you have any final words or thoughts you'd like to add to the record?
No, I don't think so. The only thing I'd like to say is that the navy did stand me in good stead for being up here in the Coast Guard. I finished up as commodore - I was only in the Coast Guard for a couple of years before I was flotilla commander, then I became squadron commodore.
So, the administration of that was very good. I met a lot of people in governments too. So it held me in good stead there. I was flotilla commander for five years and commodore for another three; and I was in the Coast Guard for fifteen years and advisor to the Squadron Board after that, so I had fairly senior positions there. And it was good to get to know all those people. I got to know local government pretty well because they were donating other rescue services
and also the SES [State Emergency Services] . It was good to come to a new place … because I came here when I was fifty five. It gave me something to do and be interested in. So I think the navy gave me that sort of advantage. We had another fellow who was down here at Mooloolaba - he was an ex-submarine commander. The navy did hold most of the better positions in the Coast
Guard. I don't think they do now. I think they've gone to the pack. But they did then.
Excellent. Well done, and congratulations on a good interview. It was terrific.