Francis Hall
Archive number: 2053
Preferred name: Frank
Date interviewed: 30 June, 2004

Served with:

2/7th Battalion

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Francis Hall 2053

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Transcript

Tape 01

01:00:37:00

We’re on now, so if you can give us that summary like we discussed Frank?
Well, do you want where I was born, age, or start off with school?
From the beginning where you were raised up?
Well, I was born in Notting Hill, the local area, and my father was a market gardener. Well,

01:01:00:00

my early life was pretty tough. I went to school then when I was about four and a half. I went to Clayton school and it was a fairly long walk. It was a matter of about three or four mile, and then I went there until I got about the sixth grade and a new school opened close to home and went to that, called the Notting Hill School, and I done my merit

01:01:30:00

certificate there. I was just under fourteen then, so they said instead of going back and working with my father, they said, “You better go to the Dandenong High School for twelve months.” So then I went to the Dandenong High School for twelve months and done there, and of course at that time we had enough work at home and my father wanted me to go into his trade, like the market gardens. Instead of employing someone he’d have me working on the garden, and so I worked in a market garden

01:02:00:00

there and that was my start of learning all about the market gardens, and in my recreation later on I played football at Mulgrave and Mount Waverley, later on at Glen Waverley. I also played tennis for Notting Hill. They had a good tennis team at the time. We

01:02:30:00

played tennis in my spare time. We never had a cricket team at Notting Hill so we played tennis. I don’t know where else we could go onto now.
When you joined up?
When I joined up, well, when the war stated I thought “Oh well, this will be a bit of a trip around” so I joined up. Went up the Dandenong and joined up. My

01:03:00:00

elder brother too, he joined up, but he went into town and he went into the, into South Melbourne and joined up. We got called up and went into the showground on Caulfield Cup day in 1939, which was about the 21st of October, 1939, and done my initial training at the showgrounds under

01:03:30:00

AIF [Australian Imperial Force] man who looked after us pretty well, and we stayed there until the Melbourne Cup. We had a good time there. They let us tour around, and after Melbourne Cup we went straight up to Puckapunyal and did our training up there for at least six months before we sailed for the Middle East. We went over, we were lucky enough, we got

01:04:00:00

a good ship when we went over. We went over on the Strathaird, that was with the 17th Brigade, was on the same big boat. So we had good conditions going over. We had cabins, treated well, and stopped, called in at Fremantle there for a day and Colombo just for a short stop, and then into the

01:04:30:00

Middle East into Palestine and finished our training. Training there was pretty hard. At the time I joined the Transport. I thought I’d get out of this foot slogging business and I was a driver, drive a truck, and that made it reasonably good for us. We had good company and good NCOs [non commissioned officers] and got on well with them,

01:05:00:00

and good officers. It was quite an enjoyable time until we, about Christmas then it would be, we started going up to the desert. First of all we went from Palestine to Cairo and then to Alexandria at a camp there,

01:05:30:00

I might mention Ikingi Mariut, and then the Italians were pushed back into Bardia so we were called up and we were given the job, the 6th Division were the Allied troops, the English support groups that tackled Bardia. I was made the

01:06:00:00

driver for the carriers. I had to carry all their spare stuff and gear and we were attached to the carriers. We went up there to the outskirts of Bardia and the carriers didn’t have much to do because the English had tanks there that were going to do the break through and the patrolling, and we sat back and watched them and we kept

01:06:30:00

just behind. We could see the prisoners coming out from Bardia, actually probably hundreds of prisoners and there’d be one soldier just pointing them in the right direction coming up. We were wondering what was coming towards us at time, but that’s the way things went on. And that was on for about three or four days and it finished Bardia. A bit of a rest and we

01:07:00:00

were pushed up towards Tobruk then, and after Tobruk was a big wait around there because they thought it was a bit of a harder nut to crack. My lieutenant was a very keen bloke name of, will I mention names? Keith Walker, and he had a

01:07:30:00

bright idea. There was an aerodrome there and he went up and had a look around and there was a lot of big guns on it like. He said, “I’ll take you up and we’ll go up and get one of the guns and I’ll fit it up to one of the carriers.” Of course, unbeknownst to me, I’m only a rookie, we go up there but the artillery was right onto us. I don’t know now to this day if they were dud shells, but they were hitting into the sand and skidding all around

01:08:00:00

us but none of them went off, whether they were armour piercing or dud shells. But I dropped him off and went back a bit and things quietened down and give me a wave and picked up. But I always see him at the march now. He’s still going strong and I say, “That’s the time you nearly got me killed,” I said. He couldn’t tell me whether they were armour piercing shells. I wouldn’t know much about them, the shells then, but I know they weren’t going off. I said, “Just as well they’re duds.”

01:08:30:00

That was my experience as a rookie close to fire, and I think he got in a bit of trouble too for, a bit of dressing down from the colonel for being so enterprising. And also a lot of them there got a lot of Italian money and of course it was floating around or off

01:09:00:00

the prisoners when they got there, but we thought it was no good but later on when we got back on leave to Cairo their money was good, but nobody had any. We were real crook on ourselves, throwing it away and not taking much notice of it.
Frank, this is great stuff that we really really want, but later on. We’ll get all these stories later, but for now if we just move onto the places and so on.

01:09:30:00

So where were you next?
We went up to, the Italians pulled out and they were going hell for leather back to Benghazi and we were only following them up and we pulled into Benghazi, an Italian barracks there and stayed at Benghazi. There was no more fighting. Everything was left for the tanks.

01:10:00:00

Tanks went up around them and were doing, no more fighting but a lot of just holding the line, the front line. They kept edging up and we ended up right up at the place called Agedabia. We were up there, done our time up there just holding the front line, getting harassed probably with aircraft coming over and occasionally firing

01:10:30:00

a few shots at us, dropping the occasional bomb around, and our troops, they were set up, a few mines, mainly Italian mines. We didn’t have many of our own, but they set mines in front of ourselves for a place. Then later on when we were relieved, we were pulled out and came back to Alexandria, slow trip back and then we were warned

01:11:00:00

that we were going to Greece. We had a bit of a rest in Alexandria, a few days leave, and we were the transport, fortunate or unfortunate, selected to go over first on a slow boat going over to Greece without much escort. So we went over and I think they knew what was going on because Egypt wasn’t

01:11:30:00

actually in the war and I think there were Germans there, or spies. They reckon they let them know when the boats were leaving. They got the information back to Italy somehow and we were pretty well bombed. I think our ship was about the only one that wasn’t hit on the way, but they weren’t hit very bad because they were mainly Italian planes and they were high level bombers and didn’t cause a great deal of damage. All I remember is we had one

01:12:00:00

ack-ack [anti-aircraft fire] ship running around and it kept pretty close to us and kept the planes up high and we were real fortunate. We happened to be there for a few days. We camped in a place called Daphne and all the trucks were hidden in a pine plantation waiting for the battalion to arrive, and we were there when Piraeus

01:12:30:00

Harbour was blown up. Of course that caused a lot of chaos and put things in a bad, the Greeks were quite happy until then. We noticed then that they were very distressed when things started to happen around the town and that. Well, the battalion arrived. We didn’t see them but they went up as far as Larisa,

01:13:00:00

looking up the history. But by that time the German planes were keeping everything pretty low key. We were told, we were trying more or less passive resistance to them, keeping under cover or keeping the trucks well dispersed, and the next thing we heard the

01:13:30:00

Greeks were, the Germans had broken through and our troops were told to withdraw. We made a slow withdrawal. We went up and brought troops back as far as, not our own troops, trucks went up and brought troops back as far as the pass at the Bralos and Domokos Pass. They made short stops there but I think the heads knew and we were half informed that we were

01:14:00:00

making a withdrawal from Crete because we couldn’t get enough aircraft on the roads and we had no hope. I think the Greek Government were told or they were of the same opinion, they were going to capitulate, and we only could travel then as far south, as far as about three days travelling down. We stopped at various places

01:14:30:00

and some of our battalion was left at the Corinth Canal to try and hold it but they, the Germans I think dropped a few parachutes as far as we know. We kept going with the trucks down as far as Calamata and were there for three or four days and what happened then was the ships came in to take them off, but we didn’t know when

01:15:00:00

they were coming in or whether they’d take the lot off. We were to drive the trucks. We were told to stay with our trucks in case we were needed. When the ships did come in they were in such a hurry to get off they never had time to warn us to get down to the boat, and anyone driving a truck was left behind with our officer and NCOs and the same with the other battalion drivers. So that’s how we happened to be left behind on Greece. We were to be picked

01:15:30:00

up the next night but when we got word back that our battalion on the Costa Rica was cleared for the day, but near nightfall a near miss blew some plates at the back of the ship and she was going down. They had to be taken off on a destroyer and the destroyer dropped the battalion on Crete. Our battalion was never intended in the first place to go to Crete,

01:16:00:00

but that’s how the battalion ended up on Crete. The brother of mine, I had a brother with me all the time, his truck had broken down so he was off on that and he was left on Crete. Then we were left behind on Greece. The first day no boats came back because of a mishap. I think they had to go to Alexandria, the delay, that meant that no

01:16:30:00

planes could come in, no boats could come in the next night. So we were waiting around the port and that. The following day after when we go down to pick up the boats, a machine gun and an anti-tank gun started to fire down the road. The Germans got into the town. We don’t know how they got in. There’s two or three ways,

01:17:00:00

they came in around by boat or that, but there wasn’t many of them there. We formed up to sort of make a counter-attack on them. We weren’t needed. I don’t know to this day whether it was the New Zealanders or some other ones, but they took the Germans. There wasn’t many of them. But the boats hearing the commotion and so forth never came in until late and only took off a few wounded or something. So,

01:17:30:00

and they got the message that owing to the losses the navy was suffering they wouldn’t be coming back anymore. It was too risky with the aircraft making it too hot for them and they were losing that many ships and boats. I know, I got the history later on and I know that they had a very torrid time.
Where to next?
Well then we formed up and the English were in

01:18:00:00

charge then. They had the higher rank. Our biggest officer was a lieutenant of the transport and men from the brigade that was only probably the highest they got would be a captain. And the English decided we had very little arms and food and that tomorrow morning, no more boats were supposed to be coming back, they were going to surrender and they said that “Anyone that wanted to, it was every man for himself”. If you wanted to

01:18:30:00

take your chances and take to the hills or that, but they were going to stay on the beach and surrender. Our officer, I won’t mention his name, he was doing a very good job. He said he’ll decide to get a truck and go down further the road. So driving the road as far as the road

01:19:00:00

went, it wasn’t a great distance and the road finished and we went and took to the hills. So that was daylight by that time and the officer said, “I can’t take to the hills.” He was rather a large man. I think he was having trouble with his feet and so forth and he said, “Well, I’ll stay here and see what goes on.” So we took off

01:19:30:00

and went down the coast a bit further. We struck up, who was one of our, not one of our officers, and Australian officer that was taking over a Greek boat, so we said, “Well, we’ll be in it and we’ll make a strip by boat. That’ll suit us.” So we were all ready to go. We got the message that the Germans were down at the end of the road. “We’d better get out in daylight. We’d

01:20:00:00

only put the sail up but we had a man trying to start the engine”. I knew him, he was a mate of mine, and there was oil, the fuel pipe line was missing, so he was going to take the oil pipe and fix it up and get the boat going.
The boat got sunk and we had to swim ashore. They set fire to

01:20:30:00

the boat and a few of them got killed on the boat. But we went down the coast and met up with English signallers and the Greeks told us that the navy was still active out there and the signallers put out an SOS [‘Save Our Souls’ – rescue signal] and got a flashback and they sent a boat in and took us back to Alex [Alexandria]. We were the first of the battalion to arrive back in Alex. We formed a camp at Hill

01:21:00:00

69 and the battalion was on Crete. When they capitulated on Crete very few got off, our battalion. They done the rear guard action and very few of them got off, and we formed the battalion again at Hill 69 and got reinforcements from the other battalion, the 5th Battalion, and the reinforcements

01:21:30:00

and the brigade went to Syria and we were left behind. We went up there after the fighting in Syria. We went up to Syria and did a bit of mapping out because they thought the Germans were going to come down through Syria. Syria, we got there in the snow and after that when the Japanese were coming into the war they thought we’ll be coming

01:22:00:00

back home. So we came back and made our way back and we got held up in Ceylon [now Sri Lanka]. We were on Ceylon for three months while the Jap was patrolling the sea there, but we were doing a lot of jungle training and we ended up coming back to Australia on the Athlone Castle and there was a short leave. Short

01:22:30:00

leave, we then went up to the Tablelands and went across to Milne Bay. In reserve at Milne Bay and while I was at Milne Bay the fighting was on at Buna. They took the carriers. The carrier platoon went up to Buna and got in a lot of trouble up there, got a few killed and tried to do the work of tank carriers, trying to do the work of tanks

01:23:00:00

and we were then taken to Moresby. Our job was to defend Wau. So we were thrown into Wau at a very bad time. The Jap was pretty close handy but with the support of the air force, we had great support from the air force, and they landed artillery there. We fought the Jap back and finally held him

01:23:30:00

until the Americans landed on the coast and they took Salamaua and we went home to Australia for a rest. Then after recouping in Australia towards the end of the war we went to Aitape to defend the Japanese from taking the dromes [aerodromes] and moving further up the islands, and we had

01:24:00:00

an unnecessary job of trying to chase the Jap. He was retreating all the time and he was retreating into the hills. He wasn’t doing much attacking unless you run into him or try to force him off a position, although we had the upper hand all the time because we had strong support from aircraft and everything

01:24:30:00

we needed, better equipment and so forth, until we were there at the finish we went inland and took the airstrip at Kaiapit until the end of the war. Then we came back. They said, “Do you want to stay on in the army and go to Japan as the peacekeeping force?” I said, “I’ve had it.” I came home on the first trip. I had points up [required service points to obtain a discharge]. Come

01:25:00:00

straight back to Australia and got out of the army and that was very near, it was only a few days off, or it would’ve been six years. I got paid up for my leave and everything. I got signed off my discharge and got out and that was it.
And after the war you became?
I went back and my father still had the, was still going and my two younger brothers kept the market garden going. I went back in on the

01:25:30:00

market garden.
What year did you retire?
I retired when I turned fifty-five. We had a market garden and I said, “It’s getting a bit hard for me.” I went and looked for an easier job. We had an offer to sell out the market garden. We transferred to Dandenong at the present time. Our garden was there. I was still living at Notting Hill

01:26:00:00

and we, I went and worked at McEwans then. I got offered a job as a storeman at McEwans bulk store in Clayton which is just an 8.00 till 5.00 job and was quite easy. I spent ten years until I retired there at McEwans.
Excellent, that’s fantastic. You’ve experienced a lot there, haven’t you?
Yeah.

01:26:30:00

Now, we’ll move in and get all the details and as much as you can tell us. Don’t hold anything back now. It’s a free for all really. You can tell us anything, but we’ll guide you.
You can delete some I suppose.
No, that’s fine.
I don’t know what you want and it’s hard to keep going. You start rambling on.
No, we’ll keep you in line. Don’t worry. You’re fine. So now we’ll go right back to the beginning and if you could just tell us something about your parents, your mother

01:27:00:00

and father and what they were like?
Well yeah, my father first of all was a gold miner in the, do you want it now?
Yeah.
He was a gold miner up at Bendigo, Golden Square. He was well up in the game and knew all about the mine and he was head man, foreman and so forth, but he went over to

01:27:30:00

Tasmania. They sent him over there, the same firm, but it was too cold for him so he came back to Bendigo, but then he started to suffer from what they called miner’s typhus. It was lung trouble with the blasting down in the dust there, so his brother-in-law told him he knew a farm down here in Melbourne, go down on that. He started off, it was more

01:28:00:00

or less poultry and orchard at the time. But there wasn’t much cash in that and he gradually turned it over into a market garden and he had, in the family there were six boys and he wanted to keep them all home. Things were tough and jobs were hard to get but he

01:28:30:00

thought he’d start off and expand his market garden. He rented property around and he got in a big way with the market garden for a while and that was his main living, but his health wasn’t the best. More or less he learnt it and supervised it and run a successful market garden.
And your mother, what was she like?

01:29:00:00

She was a, her people were farmers out at Marong near Bendigo when they got married. She liked the life and often used to, when the garden was first, she’d do a lot of the work and everything, and it made it hard on her because later on in life when the father’s health deteriorated it made it

01:29:30:00

hard on her trying to look after him. He couldn’t walk much because his lungs were shot. In them times they didn’t give you a bit of oxygen to help you on. I know that he’d go for a walk and have to sit down and have a bit of a spell. You wouldn’t know what it was. But he got very interested there and helped the school. The school started up a young farmers’

01:30:00:00

club and he helped them and got on committees with the school and so forth. He was very well respected in the district.
Were they good parents, loving parents?
Yes, you couldn’t have wished for better people. The only thing was that things were tough and we didn’t go for many holidays and so forth. Working there, we’d work Saturday afternoon. We might get time off Saturday morning. We might go to the football Saturday afternoon if there was a match on or

01:30:30:00

something.
Speaking of those tough times, how tough was the Depression?
Yeah, that’s why I say it was tough times and often you’d take the stuff to market and you wouldn’t get much for it. You might have a patch of peas in and you’d say, “Will I get enough money to pay the pea pickers?” They’d get so much for a hundred pound of peas, bags and that, and you’d

01:31:00:00

have enough to pay the pea pickers. Things was real tough.
Being so young during the Depression did you realise what was happening at the time?
Not really. We weren’t hungry or anything like that but you had no money, and you knew you couldn’t go out anywhere. If you wanted to go out to Oakleigh well we’ll

01:31:30:00

walk into Oakleigh rather than, you couldn’t get the transport, although the brothers had horses and so forth and jinkers and so forth.
But you never went without food?
No. No, never went hungry. A lot of the stuff was self grown. You’d have all sort of vegetables for a start off.

01:32:00:00

That was a big help.
Even though it was tough times were you happy as a young kid?
Yes, yes, quite happy. Yes, we were never looking to leave home or anything. We were quite happy to stay home. We had our sport later on, like tennis of a Saturday afternoon or playing football.

01:32:30:00

During the Depression when it was tough for most people anyway, was there a sense that the community got together and got through it together?
I think so, I think so. Everyone one was in the same boat. There was no one seemed to be any better off than you was. Everyone was willing to pitch in to do a bit. I know there was a meeting at the school and we’d get down there and help the school. The school was only like a new school

01:33:00:00

starting off and they had a lot to be done there, planting trees and fixing gardens up. They all seemed to find enough time to help each other and do community work.
Did you have any relatives or know people that were involved in World War I?
Yes. I had three, my father’s brother, Matthew, he was in that, and my mother’s two

01:33:30:00

brothers, Frank and Albert. We were more or less named after them. Matt, the brother, he went to the war, he was in the ASC [Army Service Corps]. And Albert, he was named after the brother and I was supposed to be named after Frank. The only one got killed was Frank, got killed when he was only about eighteen or nineteen. I’ve got his photos and history. When I went to England they gave me his history, like they never found his body in

01:34:00:00

the fight in Belgium.
Did they speak about what they experienced in World War I?
Very little. They were a lot older than me, and you met them but never struck them. Like my elder brother, he knocked around with them a bit because they lived up at Bendigo when they were boys and with him, but when I was born I was born down in Melbourne here. I never knew them because they were living up at Bendigo, around Bendigo and Golden Square and Marong,

01:34:30:00

in that area, but he knew them more. And the other, my Dad’s brother, we went up to Bendigo for a holiday but he was mainly up at Mildura because I think he got a block up at Mildura and his family were working on that. They had a house in Bendigo. A lot of the time he was up there. I never saw a great deal of him, but I saw Uncle Albert as I said, who’d been to the war, but he was

01:35:00:00

like away working a lot. He didn’t have his own property, he was more or less, I think he did get on the solider settlement somewhere but he had to turn it in and he’d sooner work for wages.
Before you went to World War II did you know of the horrors and reality of wartime?
Yes. I knew about it because my Dad’s brother, he was gassed in the war and he was like my Dad, but Dad said he

01:35:30:00

was worse than my Dad. He only had what they called “miner’s typhus”. Dad used to say miner’s typhus, bad lungs, but the other uncle was real bad because he’d been gassed and so forth [gas was used during World War I]. And of course we had the stories of when they used to send them over, head on against things.

01:36:00:00

So what were you thinking in the mid 1930s when the rise of Hitler [Adolph Hitler, German Chancellor] was happening in Germany?
Well the way we thought it wouldn’t last too long. Our impression was we’d go over and have a look around. If you leave it too long you’ll be missing out. You never know, it dragged on.
Did you think it

01:36:30:00

was far away?
We knew it was a fair way, but we thought we could put up with it. Well we really enjoyed the time in training camp. We had good men with us and good officers and so forth. We really enjoyed the life of it.

01:37:00:00

Was Empire [British Empire] important to you before the war?
We didn’t think a great deal about it, about the Empire. We weren’t old enough to start worrying about the pros and cons and so forth. We thought we didn’t want to let them get overrun, that was more or less.
Before the war started and

01:37:30:00

you weren’t involved in it, what did you think the war was about?
Well, when the brother, the brothers had done a lot of military training before, the elder brothers. Three of them were older than me and they’d done a lot of military training and they really enjoyed that at the time. We didn’t go into pros and cons it was going to be tough as tough as it was, you know.
Did you understand the politics behind it and what

01:38:00:00

Hitler was trying to do and so on?
Only the propaganda we had, we’ve got to stop him and so forth and they’ll let him take over everything, they way he was going. Like you sort of understood you’ve got a stitch in time, you’ve got to stop him sooner or later. He’d get one grab, he’d grab more and more.
Do you remember the day war was declared?
Yes,

01:38:30:00

yeah. Yes, we remember that.
What happened?
Well, we were listening to the wireless and so forth and listened to it all, the big speeches and so forth, Churchill [Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Britain] and so forth, and Chamberlain [Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Britain prior to Churchill, who attempted to obtain a peace guarantee from Hitler in 1938] going over and trying to make peace and that, but they, we could see they done their best to, we reckon they done their best to

01:39:00:00

give it, to stop the war. No one, well I suppose we realise now, no one was inclined to think that was necessary.
When you heard the speeches and the declarations of war, was it somehow inspiring for you to join up, or what were your feelings about these speeches?
Well, yeah.

01:39:30:00

We thought, well, a bit of chance that we hadn’t done our military training, but they said you’ve got to join up and do a bit of training now and be ready for anything that goes on. Of course once you sign up you’re straight into camp. They were looking for troops.
Before you signed up and war was declared

01:40:00:00

far away in Europe, did you ever think or contemplate that the war would come to Australia?
No no no, never in our wildest dreams did we think Australia was far enough away not to be mostly involved.
Alright, we’ll stop there.
Interviewee: Francis Hall Archive ID 2053 Tape 02

02:00:30:00

We’re back on. So what compelled you to join up and enlist?
More or less the spirit of adventure. We looked like get a trip overseas and look around a bit more or less. More or less the spirit of adventure more than anything else.
You really thought it would be a fun time?
Yeah, yeah. We just thought it would

02:01:00:00

be a good time, you know, a trip around and see a bit of the country and I didn’t think it was going to be as tough as it was like. Although you took the good with the bad, it’s no use growling. You had your men there, you’d say, “Don’t go out,” because you’d reckon you’d get the bad jobs. Just take the good with the bad and you’ll end

02:01:30:00

up won’t be called a pack of whingers or you don’t get more than anything else. It evens out in the long run.
You thought it would be a fun experience even though you knew what happened in World War I and mustard gas and you’d seen…
Well, we thought we’d overcome that. We were trained with our gas mask and everything like that and even up in Puckapunyal we took them with us. They thought there would be a bit of gas

02:02:00:00

but we never did strike anything like that, like the gas or anything.
So you just thought that things would’ve improved in war time and it would be safer in a way? Is that right?
Well yes, more or less. I didn’t think it would go on for long.
You didn’t think it would be anything like World War I?
No, no, no,

02:02:30:00

we didn’t think. When you get them planes over and incessant for six or eight hours for a time you can’t get your head up. It’s alright if you got your head up, but we know now once you get your head down it’s hard to get it up again. Even if you’re moving in you don’t worry about a few stray shots, but once you go down it gives the enemy

02:03:00:00

the chance. Getting up was the hardest part again. You’ve just got to keep going.
When war was declared how long was it before you went and joined up?
We went in and joined up, signed on pretty early, but before you were called up was probably, well from when the war was declared, September the

02:03:30:00

3rd until October, about a bit over a month before we were called up for a medical examination and so forth. You just put your name down and you get called up for a medical and so forth and see if you’re medically fit for a start off, and then you get medically fit and it wasn’t long after that you’ve got to go in and sign on the dotted line and go in for training, because we had no training.

02:04:00:00

Did you join up with mates?
Well, not necessarily. No, there was very few from around there. They gradually joined up like later on, three or four from the area joined up and came to the battalion. We were mainly Mildura and East Gippsland like Dandenong down, our battalion. You knew a few of them.

02:04:30:00

Was that unusual at the time for an individual to just want to go and join up?
Well you had to go in and put your name down and you wait to get called up, you see. You wouldn’t know. They might say, “I’ll put my name down,” and they mightn’t get called for a while and certain people get called up, I don’t know. But I think those that got their name down early got called up for the medical examinations fast.
So when you joined up it was

02:05:00:00

an individual decision without any peer group or mates telling, “Come on, let’s go”?
No, no, no, it was an individual decision.
And it sounds to me like it was for yourself, you went, did you go because it would add something to your life and experience? Why did you go?
Well, that was the main thing,

02:05:30:00

we thought we’d get a trip, even only in Australia. We thought we mightn’t even leave Australia, you know. We might even only be held in Australia, get an army; they had no permanent army at the time, just the militia doing their training. We thought we might be held in Australia. We thought it would be a piece of cake [easy] or something. That’s

02:06:00:00

more or less.
So can you take us through what training was like in Australia before you went?
Well, we got into a couple of old, we had a couple of old diggers [soldiers] from the war and we got into the transport and we had it reasonably easy. First of all we went with the horses and limbers up there. They had no trucks much at the time

02:06:30:00

and we were looking after horses and the blokes were driving limbers and we got it pretty easy. We’d take the cookers or pull the cookers out or they had a few horses there to look after. A couple of officers used to ride them occasionally, but we missed out on more or less not so much rigid guard duty, more or less

02:07:00:00

looking after the horses. You’d be up and walk the horse line to see that they weren’t tangled up or anything was happening to them. It wasn’t like later on when you were there. You’d be guarding a certain thing, you might be guarding the water tank or you might be in front of the orderly room marching up and down with the officers looking at you. You’d come on guard duty and your rifle sling was a bit loose or something or other and you’d get looked up and down

02:07:30:00

and said, “Your rifle sling is loose,” and pick you. You’d say, you had to take it all. You’d soon learn to do as you’re told and say nothing, cop it sweet. There’s no use saying anything back or making excuses.
How did you take to the army life?
Pretty good. I never had any trouble taking it. I

02:08:00:00

think we were more or less used to doing as we were told. You’ve got to go and do this and go and do that. You didn’t like doing certain things, other jobs, but they’ve soon got to change their ways because when you’re told to do a thing you do it. It might be a fiver and twenty-eight days or something if you got too cheeky. If you

02:08:30:00

didn’t come back from leave on time they soon pulled you into, you were told to come back on a certain day you had to be back on a certain day.
Was there a lot of AWLs [Absent Without Leave] happening?
Not greatly, but you might only be a few hours late and they’d pull you in for, wasn’t there for roll call or something, you know. You could sneak off as long as you were back for roll call in the morning and so forth. Of course most of it was covered more or less.

02:09:00:00

Early in the piece you could cover for them for a while, but you soon learnt you had to do as, leave was leave and if you were given a job to do you had to do it. You couldn’t just leave it undone.
We’ve previously heard that when people went AWL it wasn’t really looked down on that much as long as the people came back. Is that what you experienced?

02:09:30:00

Well, you had a certain amount of time. When we were over in the Middle East a couple thought it would be great to get into Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and hang off, but they got the message you could be away for a certain time and you were only Absent Without Leave, but if you were too long they’d put it on you were supposed to be deserter, you see, after a certain time and they’d go looking for you and it would be a more serious crime.
In Australia during the

02:10:00:00

training, just in that initial phase did you find a lot of guys around you getting homesick or something?
A few of them would get on leave and so forth and be a bit late and did want to come back, make excuses they didn’t want to come back, but I think they know the address. I think the provo, I don’t know, it never happened in my case, but they might’ve had someone come around and want to know where they were and so forth and tell them they had to

02:10:30:00

front up. You know, you’d come home and have to put your case. You might get compassionate leave or something or other.
When you have all these different guys what was the mix like in training in Australian with all these different guys getting together?
I find it alright. You’d generally bunch up a bit. If there was a big heap, usually you’d get it down to threes or fours or something and you’d

02:11:00:00

mix up with blokes that you liked and blokes that used to like going, it might be playing swy, go down to the swy school. Other blokes would like to go into the pub for a beer or other blokes would might go to the pictures or run around. They all had to toe the line. There was no, you couldn’t find any fault with any of them.

02:11:30:00

Was there a difference between the country guys and the city guys?
Not necessarily. We had mainly country guys, Mildura and East Gippsland. We didn’t get many from the city.
Really? More from country?
From Dandenong onwards down as far Sale, and Mildura. A sprinkling

02:12:00:00

of militia in amongst them. A lot of them came straight out of the militia.
Why did the other guys want to be there, do you know?
Well, a lot of them, I think they seemed to be the same. They thought it would be a piece of cake more or less and a change. Most of them left good jobs because a lot of them were getting their pay made up

02:12:30:00

and so forth. A lot of them had good jobs and reckoned they were right. They were getting their pay made up and so forth.
Sorry.
I was just thinking coming from Mildura, working in the factories up there, they’d come down and say, “Our firm is making the diff between the army pay,” and their pay, they were putting it aside for them.

02:13:00:00

They were sort of being patriotic enough to make their wages up they told me.
Was there a criminal element that joined up to get away from their past, do you know?
There was, not criminals to get away from their past, but a couple blokes was running, I know,

02:13:30:00

I heard later on were running an SP bookie [starting price bookmaker – illegal] business and things like that, you know, and when they got caught and up front they made excuses that they said they wanted to join the army and that, and that was it. They let them off with a caution, things like that. I don’t know whether that was a lurk to get out of it or whether they really intended to join the army, but that’s what they said. They beat the rap that way.

02:14:00:00

I don’t think there was ever no criminal element, because there were publicans and all. There were blokes that used to run pubs, have interest in pubs and so forth. Some were well off. Even amongst officers, some of them were well up in the grazing business or had their own properties and so forth.
It was a real mixture then?
Yeah, a real mixture right through.

02:14:30:00

So how long were you at training for in Australia then?
Well, we’d be nine months I suppose. From October until about April, about that, about nine months.
Was that frustrating at all?
No no. They kept us doing rifle training. Early in the

02:15:00:00

piece they kept us honest because there was no training and we had to clear the stumps off the parade ground and make our own short rifle range, twenty-five yards or thirty yard rifle range into the hills, dig into the hill and level off. Teach you how to use a pick and shovel. You know all about it. You had instructors say, “Raise, strike, break and rake,” or somehow to use a

02:15:30:00

pick and shovel. We all used to laugh about it and make out we didn’t know how to use it. And they’d try a few tricks on you, say, “Anyone can drive a truck?” Some bloke would put up his hand and they’d say, “Well go and get that wheelbarrow. You’d make a good wheelbarrow.” That would make it a bit comical. You never volunteer for anything. You woke up to that quick. No

02:16:00:00

asking for volunteers.
When you were in training for this nine months did you think that’s what the war is about or were you expecting to be sent on?
Yes, but I don’t know why we were waiting. We were hoping to get away as soon as we could. When the advance guard went we said, “Why didn’t we get on the advance guard?”
At the end of the nine months did you think you were ready for war?

02:16:30:00

We were ready to get over there, but we had to do a lot more training over there. We were fit enough but I don’t know, we couldn’t get any fitter, what more they could do and teach you. We all had to pass a test on the rifle range. They kept at you like that. You had to be able to fire. Even when we went over to the Middle East we were in this big rifle range. You had to get a

02:17:00:00

good, a reasonable score and so forth. And then small arms fire, you had to fire so many rounds in a time and when you did get onto the Bren guns you had to be able to load the magazines in a certain time and fix stoppages, change barrels and do everything. Nearly do it blindfolded at the finish.
So what were you actually trained for

02:17:30:00

as, you trained basically for infantry?
infantryman, yeah. We had to do infantry training before we actually, some blokes would be machine gunners or different jobs, bordermen, or something like that, but they all had to do their basic infantry training. Aircraft, the signallers, they had to do the same thing.
So the call comes up and you have

02:18:00:00

leave, can you tell us about the trip? First of all, did you know where you were being sent, and about the trip over?
Well, we knew we were going over to the Middle East because we knew our advance guard had gone over there. We were lucky enough, as I say, we got on the Strathaird. We had cabins. The 5th Battalion were on the old Ettrick, the coal burner, the real tramp ship. It was hard to keep up with them,

02:18:30:00

she was always on the tail end of the thing. We reckoned we were pretty safe. We had the big HMS Ramillies, the escort, I suppose in a way, and the HMS Friendship took over.
Was it a comfortable trip over?
Yeah, very comfortable, very comfortable. We had cabins and everything. Reasonably good tucker in our eyes. A lot of nurses on

02:19:00:00

the boat. It was a good trip over. It was the big old Strathaird, it was a luxury liner.
What did all those guys get up to on that trip? How long did it take?
Be about a week or so. It was a slow trip because they were doing that much zigzagging in the Indian Ocean and so forth. We were going to Colombo. We stopped there for a couple of days. We couldn’t get up to

02:19:30:00

much, they kept you doing drill and doing something, to give you something to do. Even give you guard duty on the boat. You were doing this and doing that. You get a bit tired but you had to keep awake. If you started to fall asleep they’d be onto you, or you disappeared off your post and you weren’t there. They soon let you know that you

02:20:00:00

had to do it whether you thought it was worthwhile or not.
Was alcohol available at this time on the boat?
There were certain nights you could get it. Couldn’t buy it, it was rationed more or less. You had to pay for it but it would be so much, you’d go up and get a bottle of beer or something or other. It wasn’t freely available all the time. There might’ve been a ration on every now

02:20:30:00

and then.
With all those guys on the boat was there a lot of fights?
No, no. They had the padre there, he was organising boxing and things like that just to keep the troops entertained, try to get a concert party going to keep them entertained and then they’d play a bit of housie housie or bingo on the boat. To try and fill in

02:21:00:00

the night time, a bit of a picture show or something.
And how were the officers treating you at this point on the boat?
We had real good officers. We didn’t see much of them but they were on the upper decks. They’d come down through the day but we didn’t see much of them.
Have you heard the stories about guys being thrown overboard?
No, there was

02:21:30:00

only one stage there there was one officer got missing. They reckon, this tale went around, he went up into the lifeboat with one of the nurses and they’d probably been drinking or something and he got out the wrong side, they reckon, someone said. We never knew anything of it, but someone was supposed to have been missing. I don’t know whether it’s true or not, and there was another tale around, one of the Provos [provosts; military police] or something tried to break up a two-up

02:22:00:00

school or something and they hung him over the side, dropped him, and they said, “We’ll let you go next time you run in and try to break up a two-up or try to run in and grab the money.” Someone hung him over the side they reckon. One bloke silly enough to get money against a heap of blokes.
We’ll just stop for one second. So, you’re on the boat going over. When you reached Ceylon, how long,

02:22:30:00

was it just a stopover there?
Yeah, it was only just a stopover. It wasn’t for long, might’ve been twenty-four hours or so, that was all. Probably refuelled and water and so forth. We got just a run around. We only got one day’s leave.
That was the first country you saw outside of Australia?
Yeah, yeah.

02:23:00:00

That’s right.
What impact did that have on you?
We didn’t have much time. We were running around more or less looking for curios. One of the blokes even went and bought a monkey or something aboard. It was biting things, some money, I didn’t know. No, I wasn’t there long enough to have an impression.
What was the feeling on board the ship

02:23:30:00

going to war? Was there any apprehension at all?
No. We were all very keen, fitting in well there. They kept on occupying doing something or other and no one had a chance to complain. They wouldn’t have listened to you anyhow. They wouldn’t listen to you. It was too hard to get anyone to listen to you

02:24:00:00

The NCOs were a bit keen, blokes trying to boss themselves, but a lot of the blokes would say, “Don’t volunteer, don’t be a corporal because you’ve got to do as you’re told.” A lot of them said that, but we were quite happy because we were in the Transport, we weren’t looking for promotion. We reckoned that’s as far as we’ll go, driving with horses, and we’ll get trucks when we get over there.

02:24:30:00

You earlier mentioned about the guy and the nurse being missing and so on. On the trip over was there a lot of mixing between the nurses and the guys on board?
No. Troops weren’t allowed up there but the officers might have been. Probably they could meet in the lounge and so forth I would think. We’d be on guard there and the nurses could come down, but the men, the officers weren’t allowed up there. We’d be on guard duty

02:25:00:00

and they’d say can they sneak back with them. I said, “No.” Even they had to take note. “I’m on guard, we’ve got instructions. No one, no one but nurses allowed past this point.” We’d just tell them, “That’s my instruction.” They’d say, “I’ll report it to whoever is in charge of the guard.” You’d say, “Well, an officer,”

02:25:30:00

they knew. Even they were only young, you know, young officers too, they knew that they had to obey the rules as much as anyone else, not to bend the rules and that.
Was it nice just having them on board anyway?
We never saw much of them. They were up on the top deck. We only saw them, they’d probably come down, we’d,

02:26:00:00

probably officers then, we’d only seen them like when we were on guard duty, probably we set up, probably the nurses quarters were probably shut off. I was only on it once but on that particular spot, but some of the others might’ve been on other different places. No, there was no much chance, like they’d come down and fraternise like probably down

02:26:30:00

to where they used to eat or they might have a bar down there for the officers and so forth where they could mix or something.
After Ceylon where did you go to next?
We went straight to Palestine like into Beit Jirja for a training camp there, big training camp there. The whole brigade was there.
And what was your initial reaction when you landed in Palestine and saw what it was all about?

02:27:00:00

It was only a matter of training in the sand. We got it pretty easy but the troops didn’t like it because they were marching through heavy sand all the time and going out to the rifle range and so forth. We had new trucks, Pommy [English] trucks there at the time. We were quite happy to follow them out and take rations out to them and so forth and drive around. We reckoned it was alright. Some

02:27:30:00

of the troops, they weren’t complaining, they knew what they were up for I suppose.
At this stage did you really think you were there to save England in a way?
No. I suppose we thought we’d be fighting, but we thought we were going to get to England, but I don’t know. We didn’t think we’d be going up the desert. That seemed to be our cause, then when the,

02:28:00:00

only because the Italians came into the war. I think we were intended to go to England like, but I know there was a bit of a fuss when, I think they came in when we were in the Suez Canal. They had a bit of a scare on there in case they came over, the boats might get caught in the Canal. I think they were wanting to get through and get out. It was about that time. There’s not much you can do with the military in there.

02:28:30:00

I think that’s why the next convoy the brother was in, like in the ASC, they were supposed to come to Palestine but they were diverted around and went to England. He got, he was in the ASC. It was original 6 Divvy [Division], but when they came back from the Middle East they called them the 9th Divvy and we had to get another ASC.
At this point in time training in Palestine who were

02:29:00:00

your mates around you there?
We had a lot of young blokes. Blokes from the local area, all young blokes. I had good mates. A lot of them were taken prisoner of war on Crete then, ‘cause they were the drivers that got off when we were left behind. A lot of them were taken prisoner of war on Crete.
And what was the training you went through in Palestine there?

02:29:30:00

Well you had to do a certain, we had to do a certain, we still had to go out to the rifle range but we could go down there swimming down there on the coast, go swimming and so forth on certain days. We got a lot of sports going. We played football there. Just normal camp life it was more or less. I don’t think anyone complained because we were all pretty fit in them times. You weren’t

02:30:00:00

getting allowed to ease up. Once you got fit you sort of kept fit.
At this point in time after all your training and what the officers are telling you, did they actually tell you what it was going to be like?
No, I don’t think they knew. No, there was no discussion of what was going on. Just do as you’re told, don’t ask questions and do as you’re told. I don’t think they knew

02:30:30:00

anything different. A lot of the officers too, they were, a lot of the lieutenants were going to Pommy training camps and getting promotion and so forth. Lieutenants were getting made up to captain. They were going away to school, (twyver? UNCLEAR) school we used to call it, training school. They were going away to them too.
So from just quickly comparing from what you experienced to what you were going through in training and at that

02:31:00:00

point in Palestine, you had no idea what you were in for, did you?
No, no. No, had no idea what we were in for.
On the cultural aspects, when you were in this foreign land and in a place, what were they telling you about the culture and the people of Palestine and North Africa and stuff?

02:31:30:00

They kept the Arabs pretty well out of our camp. We started watching, all of our rifles had to be locked up and we were told it was a very serious crime. You locked, you couldn’t leave your rifle, even at night time you had to chain it to the middle and take your bolt out of your rifle and carry it with you and so forth, more or less. The Arabs, we couldn’t fraternise. They’d come around the outside

02:32:00:00

of the camp and try and sell you watermelons and things like that. Of course we were pretty cunning in them times, “Oh, this is a lovely one,” and drop it and break it and say, “It’s only worth half.” Only give them a few piastas for it, a watermelon, or they’d bring you a big brunch of grapes and want some money. I’d want to taste them first. We’d say, “They’re no good, they’re too sour,” or something, and you’d get them for next to nothing. We were getting pretty

02:32:30:00

cunning too. Even Cairo, we’d get a taxi and we’d be short of money so we’d say, “We’ve got to get back to camp,” and get a taxi and say, “We’re running late, you better run us around the back of the camp. You can’t go to the guard house, we’d be too gone.” Then we’d walk through the camp. Walk through the camp without paying the poor…

02:33:00:00

we had to get back to camp somehow. We spent our money on grog and sheilas or something or other.
Were there anymore shenanigans like that?
I hope my name don’t get known. They all had their tricks. Go into a café or something and try and knock stuff off or something or other. Knock a bottle of booze or something off.

02:33:30:00

Start a bit of a rumpus so we’d get a few extra something.
How did the locals take to the Aussies?
Well they were trying to make a quid out of it I suppose, trying to sell you stuff. I suppose they were getting a quid [money] out of it. We got treated alright in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. A lot of Jews, there’re more Jews than

02:34:00:00

Arabs in the joint.
Did they seem happy for you to be there?
Yeah, yeah. Well, the Arabs, they weren’t given much of chance because I think they were giving the bloke watching them a pretty tough time, like if it was peace it would work out, but I think the Aussies, they were there in war time and we wouldn’t put up with any of their tricks. They’d try and

02:34:30:00

knock something off and they’d get knocked off themselves quick smart, you know.
Just quickly on the conditions when you arrived in Palestine and the heat and so on, can you describe the conditions for us?
Well, it was really warm but we soon got down to shorts and that there and so forth, and the troops of course had to be

02:35:00:00

reasonably dressed on parade and everything like that, but with us were a bit more lax with us. We’d be driving a truck or cleaning your truck or doing a bit of work on your truck, well you’d strip down to your singlet or take your top off and get browned up and that. But the troops on parade, they had to be dressed in whatever was on the go. An order would come out what you had to wear and what you didn’t have to wear.

02:35:30:00

If they said overcoats had to be worn, overcoats had to be worn, how you had to be dressed.
How uncomfortable were the conditions for you?
Pretty good. Yeah, they were pretty good.
What about the sand and so on, did that cause trouble?
No, not necessarily. Made it awkward

02:36:00:00

for the trucks occasionally. They wouldn’t know, you know, you might be going along on firm sand, you might get up a rise and you had to let your tyres down a bit, you know, half flat tyres so you could get a bit more bite or something. Waking up to them sort of tricks. Someone would pull you out if you got bogged I suppose in the sand.
So how long were you in training in Palestine for?
About nearly,

02:36:30:00

as soon as we got there, it was over six months anyhow. We went from Palestine like from Cairo, and then Cairo to Alex.
Just quickly, you’ve had nine months training in Australia, a few weeks on a boat, six months training in Palestine, were people becoming anxious to actually get to the war?

02:37:00:00

I don’t know if I was anxious to get to the war, but it was getting monotonous doing that you know. You’re doing the same thing over again. It’s more or less hard on the instructors because you wouldn’t take much notice of them. The bloke would be telling you to do this and you’d do it. I don’t know how the instructors put up with it, you know, you wouldn’t be taking much notice of them. Of course,

02:37:30:00

we were all a bit green and you had to do what you were told. Later on when you got a bit cunning, they sent you to school and you knew it all, you’d find a few tricks. At school you’d say, “A night stunt on tonight.” You’d get to the tail end of the thing and you’d drop off and go back to bed. If you done them sort of things they woke up. Of course you weren’t too worried, these old

02:38:00:00

soldiers.
And what was the pay like?
Well everyone was on the same money. You made do. You had to spend it, but basically it was smoking. They found it hard because by the time they bought a bit of tobacco or something they might go down to the two-up school and do their dough, and they’d find it hard if they wanted to smoke. They’d be trying to buy it, but everyone was in the same boat, “I’ve got no money to lend you.”

02:38:30:00

You’d have to do without. But a bloke that wasn’t a smoker, well you say, “I’ll have to do without my beer. I’ve drunk my quota for the week,” and watch your money but it made it hard on a bloke that was a heavy smoker. He might go down and get caught in a two-up school and do his dough and then he had no money to buy his tobacco and he’d be doing it hard. They’d do it hard some of them

02:39:00:00

blokes?
Did they hand out cigarettes?
There was, but they used to call them “Three Cs” or something, Cough to Coffin or something. Me not being a smoker I didn’t worry, but a lot of them didn’t like, or wasn’t a great deal. You’d occasionally get a comfort fund issue or a thing, but they didn’t go, they weren’t handed out very heavy.

02:39:30:00

And then you moved to Cairo?
Yeah.
What did you think of Cairo?
We got a fair bit of leave, alright. We’d get around the town. We’d save up a bit of money and get a few beers and that there. Most of it wasn’t overnight leave. It was just day leave, get in and get out. They might send a truck, might take a truck. They might take a truck load in. I met a few New Zealanders there and so forth.

02:40:00:00

We got on alright.
Did you see the pyramids and so on?
Yeah, we got tripped out to the pyramids, yeah. You got guided tours out there. Yeah, the pyramids and all those places.
Did these places have an affect on you personally?
We were keen to see them. It filled in a day’s leave you got. You’d be sort of tied up with them. Plenty of

02:40:30:00

wogs [Egyptians] trying to sell you photographs of sheilas [women] and God knows what and tipped off and putting on side shows they try and put on for you to go and see if you were silly enough to go in. Plenty of
Before you were in these places in Cairo and so on, did they give you lectures about STDs [Sexually Transmitted Diseases] and what was going on in these places?
Yeah. The doc would come up and be a big bluster and tell you not

02:41:00:00

to go to these brothels and so forth and be careful and keep your money out, pickpockets. They reckon there was, but I think they weren’t too game to, not many of our blokes got, not unless they got real drunk or something, then they might get, I think they woke up an Australian wasn’t too

02:41:30:00

frightened to if they tried to get knocked off. They’ll stand up for their rights more or less.
We’ve heard that there were, the army said, “These brothels are good to go to and these brothels, don’t go near them.” Is that what you experienced?
Some areas were supposed to be out of bounds. They might have certain brothels. They were supposed to be checked. The girls were supposed to be checked. They’d say that, you know. They reckon it was a self-inflicted wound if you got
Interviewee: Francis Hall Archive ID 2053 Tape 03

03:00:33:00

OK, so we’re at Cairo.
Cairo.
Do you want to tell us about what you thought about Cairo?
Well, it was a good place to be on leave. We got a fair amount of leave there and it wasn’t such a clean place but there were a few New Zealanders there and we got into town and got up to a few

03:01:00:00

tricks. As I say, we’d get day leave and if we ran out of money we’d get a taxi home and go in the back way. Probably the poor old taxi driver would have to get out, we had much the spare change we had anything. We’d walk through the back of the lines and he couldn’t leave his cab and come after us. There wasn’t a great deal. We went to Alex.

03:01:30:00

We were really on the move, only waiting for our time to go up the desert. We weren’t there long; we went up to Alexandria there and Ikingi Mariut, just out of Alexandria.
What’s Alexandria like compared to Cairo?
That was a very clean place and on the sea there. The navy was there all the time too. The navy, that was their big depot, and call in. More life and so forth.
Egypt was famous for its

03:02:00:00

night life?
Yes. If you got in there was nightlife, plenty of brothels and shows on. If you had the, we were running sort of money all the time in there. They’d tell great stories.
What were the shows like?
Pretty lewd sort of shows.

03:02:30:00

Can you describe one for us?
No, I better not. Someone might, what went on at those places.
That’s OK. We’ve heard it from a lot of others.
I know. You wouldn’t want another one.
Yeah, come on. You’re OK to do it. It’s completely fine.
Well, you’d get into the brothels, the sheilas. One of the blokes would go in and he wouldn’t

03:03:00:00

know anything and there’d be someone looking over the top of the door at him giving a broadcast description what was going on. He’d go crook when he came out and knew what we were doing. We tangled with the Pommy Provos a few times. They used to think they were Jesus Christ because they had one stripe [small amount of rank] on them, telling us what to do. They were giving their own blokes a very hard time and the tried the same on us.

03:03:30:00

Most times they were outnumbered and couldn’t do much to us. They’d leave us pretty well alone, unless we got up to mischief and try and knock stuff off like that, they’d interfere with you. As long as you were only having a few beers and a poke around they left us pretty well alone.

03:04:00:00

What were the people like in Egypt?
Very good, very good, most of them. Anyone you didn’t want to know kept out of your road I suppose. Most of them got on well with them, shopkeepers and restaurants. You got good food and good amenities.
I was told

03:04:30:00

that there was a lot of thieving going on in Egypt?
Only in a minor way. A bloke might come up and show you a lot of dirty photographs and he’d shuffle them all around and he’d say, “That’s a good one,” and put it in his pocket and a few little things like that. That’s about the only thing, not as far as our blokes were concerned.

03:05:00:00

One bloke, one of our blokes, he was a top fitter, you know, and these big money, so a lot of dixies [cooking pots] were getting knocked off, our own dixies. So he must’ve had some sort of thing that he could make it look like the money and he was passing it around the camp and in the shops until

03:05:30:00

it got back to the camp and he must’ve got the message that he better get rid of it or he’d be in a bit of trouble, making the counterfeit coin out of our dixies. Not much else went on there.
What were the

03:06:00:00

other troops you came across in Cairo? There must’ve been lots of other troops from different countries?
Mainly a few sailors and a few New Zealanders. Some (UNCLEAR) the New Zealand camp. We never got there. Some of our blokes did knock off a bit of New Zealand stuff but they had to hand it all back. When the heads got together they woke up who’d knocked it off or something.

03:06:30:00

No, it was just routine. Just the same thing happened day after day, getting a bit of leave and waiting to, wasn’t long before we shot up out of the road. They kept us well out of the camp. You couldn’t sneak into camp. We were out far enough you had to catch the train in, or they’d run a truck in; take a truck in or something like that.

03:07:00:00

It was difficult to sneak in?
Yeah, to awkward to get in and out with a leave pass, and of course in them times I think they made it pretty serious if you were away without leave. They reckon you were nearly on active service up there. It was different when you were in Palestine; they weren’t worried if you were away for a day or two.

03:07:30:00

What happened after Cairo?
We went from Cairo to Alexandria then we went straight up to the desert then. We had the call up and they got the job. The Pommy’s, the Englishmen chased them back into Bardia and they said it was our job then to take Bardia then, with their support. Like not

03:08:00:00

their infantry, but their machine gunners and artillery and tanks.
So your first battle account was Bardia, was it?
Yeah.
Tell us about your experience at Bardia?
Well, we had a good look on. We had the Lysander planes flying over the top spotting for us all the time. We used to wonder how they’d be up there. The black smoke was, the ack-ack couldn’t sort of get onto him. I don’t know

03:08:30:00

whether he was above their range. He seemed to be amongst the smoke but he never seemed to get hit and we was spotting for…kept their artillery quiet. Their artillery wasn’t game to open up on anything because the plane would spot them and our artillery would range on them. The main thing before we went in there, we had patrols going out to the tank traps and finding the way in

03:09:00:00

and what they had to do to break in, the barbed wires around it and how they could blow the tank traps and get the tanks through and the troops get through, and they woke up, but once they got one post the other post was only too easy to get in.
Why do you think that was the case?
I don’t know. It seemed to be the whole

03:09:30:00

thing with the Italians. I think they were forced into the war and I don’t think they were too happy with it. I don’t think their heart was into it unless they were really pushed. It might’ve been a case that some posts might be more keen than others. I know at one stage there they were supposed to surrender

03:10:00:00

and they shot one of our officers surrendering out of one end of their concrete pill boxes and so forth, and at the other end the bloke was firing and they shot this officer and there was a bit of a ruckus for a while. They weren’t too happy about taking prisoners after that for a while.
They shot an Australian officer?

03:10:30:00

Yeah. It’s well documented in our history.
I was told that Italians would sometimes pull out knives and grenades?
The grenades were a great thing in the concrete pill boxes, in the

03:11:00:00

concrete pits they had. They were all concrete. If you thought before you went in there you might surrender (UNCLEAR), to show there’s nothing in there you’d throw a grenade down. There was no hope of (UNCLEAR) once they started to go off in the concrete pill boxes, dugouts. But we never seen

03:11:30:00

much abate. Once that was over we were soon shot up to Tobruk waiting for the next place. It was only just a big gap between the two forts. We got more rest after Tobruk than anything else. We didn’t have any prisoners to look after.
What did Bardia look like?

03:12:00:00

We never got really into the town, but it was a little place on the coast, well fortified on the outside but we never got into town much. We got into Tobruk, it was a bit different. We were there longer and we had plenty of Italian trucks to drive around in at Tobruk. We got their big diesel trucks and we

03:12:30:00

started them up and had a run around. But we weren’t too game at Bardia. One of our blokes run into a land mine when he was driving around in his truck.
A land mine?
Yeah. Didn’t kill him but blew a wheel off. He must’ve been lucky. It made him bomb happy and he was in hospital for a while, but he never got hurt himself, but it made him a bit bomb happy [mentally upset by war experience]. So,

03:13:00:00

it frightened all a bit there driving around at Bardia. I don’t know if it was just unlucky. I remember that quite plainly. It was the only thing that had us worried, driving around. And we were lucky at Tobruk because we went in

03:13:30:00

in a pretty quiet place, but some went in where they had tanks sunk into the ground, dug in like, as well as the pill boxes. Well they didn’t make much headway until they got around them a bit.
Where was this?
At Tobruk, when they took Tobruk the first time, after Bardia.
I see, Tobruk?
Yeah.
So what was the resistance like at Tobruk

03:14:00:00

with the Italians? Were you there?
Yes, I was there. But no, they, once we broke through the perimeter they capitulated pretty quick. They held out. They had a good perimeter, but once we broke into the perimeter the rest capitulated pretty quick. There were more troops there; there were that many prisoners they didn’t know what to do with them. We couldn’t

03:14:30:00

keep the water supply up to them because they salted the water supply in the town. They must’ve dumped salt or something. That’s what we heard, or they did something to it. Anyhow, the water was no good and we had to cart water from a far way back and they were pretty short of water supply around there for a while. I remember that pretty well.

03:15:00:00

And a lot of them got a lot Italian money in Tobruk, some of the troops that got in there, but they didn’t take much notice of it until they got back to Cairo and reckoned it was still alright. The dago money was good in Cairo and some of them didn’t wake up. Up at Benghazi some of the bakery shops were making bread for the locals where they could go and buy bread and so forth and get a change from biscuits and

03:15:30:00

hard rations.
Were they known collectively as dagos to Aussies?
Hey?
The Italians, were they known as dagos to the Aussies?
Yeah, more or less, yeah. Call them, yeah. We had no trouble and we weren’t hostile with them because they

03:16:00:00

give themselves up. They weren’t up to any tricks or anything. They came out, they came out real peaceful. As a matter of fact at Tobruk I think one of the blokes looking for souvenirs, an English speaking Italian came out to them and wanted to surrender the whole lot. They said, “Wait until the morning.” It was too late in the day to take prisoners. Came out and told them at one of the places.

03:16:30:00

That’s the story that went around. We weren’t up there with them, but one of the blokes told us that’s what happened to them. One lot of dagos came out when they got cut off, only too pleased to surrender.
What were the spoils you managed to get?

03:17:00:00

Italian wine?
Yeah, (UNCLEAR). Got a big telescope and so forth and shot guns and other things. But I kept them on the truck and took them all over to Greece but we lost them all in Greece, all them. We kept them on the truck and so forth. I sent a few

03:17:30:00

watches and that home. We were going through dugouts, artillery watches, watches and so forth, a few things like that, cameras and binoculars. But you found it hard to send things home from there because you weren’t, if you had a little bit of stuff when you went back to Cairo you could send them home.

03:18:00:00

Where was the next stop after Tobruk?
The Italians ran back as far, we were just edging our way, never caught up with them. They pulled out of Derna and we stopped at the battalion barracks at Benghazi for a while. That’s where I think we had a few of the heads from Australia come over and give us

03:18:30:00

a bit of a (UNCLEAR) going over to England, Menzies and a few of them, Ford and a few of them I think came in and gave us a bit of a speech at Benghazi. Then we went up as far as we went. We held the front line, setting a few, as I said there were a few land mines around, but we soon got the call to go to Greece so we came back and were relieved. We came back and a few days leave at Alex and

03:19:00:00

we were unfortunate, the transport, they sent us over to Greece early.
Now before you went to Greece there’s one more thing. Did you have any problem with the Italian air force in North Africa?
Very little. They did come over. There wasn’t much air force activity against us up there. They came over a couple of times and fired a few shots into the water tank that was there, that was all. They fired a few,

03:19:30:00

the tail gunner fired a few shots but there was very little activity in their air force. We had not much of our own either. We never had any trouble with their air force.
You never had any narrow shaves?
Only the one that I told him earlier. When we were going into Tobruk I was driving for the carriers and the lieut [lieutenant] said he’d been up,

03:20:00:00

there were a lot of planes there. There was a bit of an air force just outside their perimeter. They must’ve had the range on. He said, “I’ve been up there and there’s some guns in these planes. I might put one on my carrier if I can get it out easy.” So I drove him up there and while I drove up the artillery must’ve opened up and I thought hello, whether they were dud shells. They were hitting the side of the truck and around in front

03:20:30:00

and skewing up all the sand, or whether they were armour piercing, not going off, just missing the target. I soon dropped him off and went back. He wasn’t up there long before he waved me to come and pick him up and get out of it. He got into a bit of trouble about it. I still (UNCLEAR). He got up the major, went to the Pommy army. Always telling me about the time he tried to get me killed. I don’t think he knew much about it that the time either, whether they were armour piercing,

03:21:00:00

not going off, just hitting the sand and skidding through, wasn’t a direct hit. They never exploded, none of them exploded but they were pretty close. They must’ve had range right up. It must’ve been up. He knew the guns were there. I didn’t know anything about it. He said, “Take me up, we’re going to get a gun out of one of these planes.” That was my closest shave.

03:21:30:00

Were you taken to Greece from Tobruk?
No, we came back to Alex. We pulled out all the way back from the front line right back to Alex. Pulled out, we weren’t there for long. They knew what was going on, pulled us out so we could go over. We went over before the troops. They sent the trucks over and that before the troops.

03:22:00:00

You were the advance party?
Advance party, yeah, for our battalion, yeah.
So tell us what happened. Tell us about the trip to Greece?
Well, a pretty slow moving convoy and we only had one ack-ack ship looking after us, little HMS Phoebe it was. She kept, most of the ships got a bit of a doing over but planes kept,

03:22:30:00

kept them up high. It mightn’t have got a, couldn’t have been a big bomb, but they might’ve set a bit of a fire going and so forth. We never got hit and Phoebe was close to us. They always seemed to be going for her more than anything else, trying to knock her because she was throwing up all the ack-ack. She was a special ack-ack ship keeping the planes up. They came in low level torpedo bombers and all, and the big high bombers.

03:23:00:00

But just kept us on our toes. “Righto,” they said to me, they said, “Get up the crow’s nest and you might be able to put a gun up there.” That’s how silly some of the lieuts were. I got up there when they were only going slow and I could see the water this side and see the water this side every time she swayed. I got down quick smart. Anyhow, one bloke said, “I’m alright up there. I’m used to that.”

03:23:30:00

He got up there and when the planes came over he had to duck down because the blokes on the deck had Bren guns or had carriers aboard and our own blokes were whizzing around, and they never got a shot away. That was the comical part of it.
What was Greece

03:24:00:00

like when you first arrived there?
Pretty good. They took us to Daphne and hid the trucks in among the pine plantations. Plenty of leave, plenty of wine there, and nothing to do so we got plenty of leave into the town. We were there when they blew up the harbour. We were in town the night they blew it up, the big bang, and the Greeks were pretty happy until that got blown up. They didn’t

03:24:30:00

take to it too much. They were good to us, good to us all the time. We never seen much of the battalion. They came in and went straight up the front line.
What was your job as the advance party?
We just took the trucks over, get the trucks aboard and waiting for the battalion to come over. We took a lot of the supplies over with us and so forth.

03:25:00:00

We were waiting for them. But when they went up the front line, they were coming back as soon as they got up. I don’t think they did any fighting up there, they never reached the front line. Like they held defensive positions when they were retreating. They held up but we met up with the battalion and then they stopped at whichever the first, Bralos and Domokos Pass. They held for a day or two there but they wasn’t holding

03:25:30:00

it for long. They orders to, they knew what was going on. We were retreating and just getting them time to get out. We kept moving down, moving back to different ports to get troops off.
Tell us how the people behaved with you? The Greek people?
They were very good all the way

03:26:00:00

through. Coming over and offering you food. They had no food themselves half the time, but they helped us out. They were looking after us, giving us a bit of wine and coming over offering you stuff, very hospitable in the town. All I can

03:26:30:00

say was they looked after us well and especially afterwards when we were left behind there.
Did you meet people from the Greek Army?
A few of them on leave in there, the Evzones. They were dressed up in their white rigmarole, clothing, a few of them.

03:27:00:00

I didn’t see much of the other Greeks because they were probably up at the front line dispersing, coming back. In the town we got a few of their crack troops. The Evzones they call them or something. Met a few of them. Got on alright, having a few beers and wines with them. But we didn’t know much about their lingo. We could just say good morning or whatever it was,

03:27:30:00

‘kalamira’ or ‘kalaspira’, a few words like that, but we knew how to order a few drinks and get something to eat. That’s all we were worried about.
What did you think of the situation in Greece when you arrived there?
No very happy because every time we had to use passive resistance all the time. We were told not to fire on them with our trucks because we didn’t want to give our positions away and it was happening all

03:28:00:00

the way. We were back peddling all the time. We only got up as far as Larisa, brought troops back and we stopped at the two passes for a day or two and we were back. By the time we got back there from picking the troops off from one of the passes they sneaked up and were going to pull out at dusk or something and was up there picking up the troops and they said, “Go up without lights and that

03:28:30:00

on,” and they said, “For Christ sake put your lights on and get out of here when you load up. As soon as you load up disappear,” because the German artillery, they must’ve woken up that we were pulling out or something. They couldn’t see, it was probably just over the ridge, but they were firing a few shots. I think that’s where they knocked out our own artillery because our own artillery was on

03:29:00:00

the forward slope a bit and as soon as they gave their positions away the Germans out ranged them, had bigger guns or something. Some of the 2/2nd Artillery lost their guns there. I only know by our history and so froth, what’s written down in our history about them.
How important is mateship in these

03:29:30:00

circumstances?
Pretty good. They’re all good mates, the troops. You’d do anything for your mates. One bloke was getting a bit crook and he had to go around to the hospital and of course the trucks weren’t supposed to be on the road that day. They had to roam down to the joint. He said, “We’ll run you down.” The planes were still coming over but you wouldn’t take much notice. You’d run him down to the dressing station if he was crook or wanting to get away.

03:30:00:00

No, everyone stuck as thick as glue, couldn’t do enough for each other.
Your brother was with you as well?
Yeah, my older brother was. He came over a bit after me. He was in the recovery mob but he came over and joined my battalion. He was a driver. He got off, he got to Greece. I was left behind on Greece,

03:30:30:00

but he wasn’t driving at the time. He was a driver but his truck had broken down and he got off with the battalion and was left behind on Crete, and then he got off on a barge after they capitulated. A few of them got off, they grabbed a barge, or the Pommies grabbed a barge and he got on the barge with them. Spent five or six days crossing from Crete to Egypt.

03:31:00:00

It’s well documented in the all the papers and so forth. But that’s how he got off. And I got off like the story I came in, picked us up afterwards, three or four days after with the Pommy signaller.

03:31:30:00

Then the battalion reformed. I was there for the reformed battalion then. We were only drivers, then they made me a corporal, corporal of Transport all through up in Syria in the snow. We were only up there mapping out fortifications in case the Germans came down through there. When they were taking Crete they thought they might come down towards the

03:32:00:00

oil there in Palestine, they’d come down. We didn’t do much. We didn’t do any fighting up there. We just did the mapping out for the defensive positions until we got recalled to come back to Australia. Then the call, we came to Palestine to start off and then the Japanese was giving the Indian Ocean a bit of a nudge and we had to stop and stay on Ceylon for three months.

03:32:30:00

Had to hold defence positions on Ceylon until they reckoned it was safe to come back to Australia.
Before we go that far on, just a few more questions on Greece. The German Air Force, this would’ve been the first time you would’ve probably seen them?
Yes,

03:33:00:00

in any quantity. There was just the odd one that would fly around the desert, but they were more or less a reconnaissance plane. They weren’t causing a great deal of damage, any damage. In Greece you couldn’t life your head up. They even said, “We’re on the defensive, don’t give your positions away not to fire.” If someone fired they pick up, just looking for places to drop bombs. They’d just drop a bomb.

03:33:30:00

But that was the, they had the bomb. They were just dropping indiscriminately if they had nowhere to drop them, but if you give your position away they saturate it with a few bombs.
Did you drive in the day time or was it too dangers?
No, too dangerous in the day time. All the retreating was done at night time, all night from dusk till dawn, right down as far as you could get, and I had

03:34:00:00

enough (UNCLEAR). When they had to drive in the day time you’d have to, as soon as the planes came over you’d have to leave your truck and hop off. You had to clear off. They’d get the signal from the front. The front truck would stop and you’d get off the side of the road.
Where would you hide in the day?
Just disperse

03:34:30:00

off the road. There was nowhere to hide. You’d just get out and lay down. They say, “Lay down, don’t look up, just lay down.” But once you lay down and didn’t look and you wouldn’t know. If looked and you reckoned you were safe because you could hear the dive bombers, the screaming bombs or the whistles or the planes, the whistles and the noise and that trying to frighten you. It didn’t worry you, but if you were looking you could see the bombs.

03:35:00:00

There was a constant supply of aircraft. It wasn’t that thick because only the road to follow down, you know. One or two around all the time.
Would you have to put the trucks anywhere in particular?
No, you couldn’t get off the road. You couldn’t get off the road.
So you were visible from the air?
Yeah.
Even once you left them?
Yeah, yeah.
Did you ever see

03:35:30:00

German soldiers?
Only from a distance. They came on the pass. We were up the pass and we saw them come up to the bridges and that and try and repair to get across them or something or other. But only if you were up on the front line there looking down at the pass watching. They had (UNCLEAR). That’s about the only time. Never got in

03:36:00:00

contact with them. They only artillery fired at them and so forth.
So when were you asked or when were you told by the English it was basically every man for themselves?
That was Calamata after the battalion had got off. They’d got word from the navy it was too dangerous

03:36:30:00

for them to come back anymore. They said, “Well, we’ve got not much equipment and no big guns or anything and the Germans are coming,” and it was only a matter of capitulation and they were in charge.
And when did the Germans start to send messages to surrender?
Well, they only sent it to us after we got away.

03:37:00:00

Our blokes said they were going to surrender in the morning on the beaches. They were going to contact the Germans and surrender at Calamata, but they got a message. We were a couple of days away, we went and took to the hills and got sunk trying to get off on a boat, a Greek boat. They knew we were there and they sent a message up with the Greeks because it was only a goat track up to where we were. They weren’t game for them to come up because they didn’t know what we had, though we lost most

03:37:30:00

of our rifles and ammunition when our boat got sunk trying to get off, but they weren’t game enough or knew it would be foolhardy for them to try and come up against a few blokes. They sent messages up to us to surrender, but in the meantime the Pommy signaller had one night contacted the navy and they came in and picked us up

03:38:00:00

and took us straight back to Alex, and that’s how we missed Crete with the battalion. A few of us got picked up, our battalion, about six or seven of us with other people from other battalions and so forth. We went straight back to Alex.
Did you have any intention of surrendering ever?
No, no.

03:38:30:00

You’re pretty lucky aren’t you; you didn’t get taken to Crete?
Yeah, I was lucky I wasn’t taken to Crete. They had a tough time of it there, yeah. At the time we reckoned we were unlucky being left behind there but then after we got back up at Alex we reckoned we were lucky we were left behind. Over

03:39:00:00

500 of them were captured on Crete. A few of them, a couple of hundred got off, some after and some at the time straight away.
What did you do when you went back to Alexandria?
We were there and a few interviews and went straight back to Palestine where the brigade was. The 17th Brigade we belonged to, they were back there. We set up a camp

03:39:30:00

there and a few, we had a bit of a camp there. We were left there to start off. They give us a bit of holiday. We went out to a couple of Greek settlements for about a week or two while we recuperated waiting for the battalion. Then they gradually started reforming the battalion. A few got off from Crete and a few from

03:40:00:00

the other battalions came over and reinforcements. We got all the reinforcements, Western Australia, South Australian, Tasmanian, Queenslanders, everyone.
How many reinforcements did you need?
We needed a lot, we lost 500. We needed 500.
You lost 500 in Greece?
Yeah, prisoners of war, yeah.
Interviewee: Francis Hall Archive ID 2053 Tape 04

04:00:32:00

We left off talking about, you had just left Alexandria to go to Syria to do garrison duties. Tell us about your time in Syria, what happened and where did you go?
Well Syria, or Almyra

04:01:00:00

or something or other, just outside of Damascus anyhow, just outside Damascus, and the biggest snow. After we’d been there for a little while it came onto the winter time. Getting near Christmas I know it was and there was that much snow you couldn’t do anything. Four foot of snow everywhere. Trucks had to be drained. We never had this anti-freeze stuff. We had to drain the trucks every night of water in the radiators and everything because

04:01:30:00

it would bust everything, and I don’t know about the snow. You couldn’t do anything. Our tents were falling down, you were freezing.
Yes, so it was very cold?
Cold, and we all thought it was a great time. A lot of blokes got injured. They’d get on a bit of sheet of iron and come down the hills on a bit of sheet of iron and end

04:02:00:00

up couldn’t stop, hitting a brick wall or something and putting an arm out or a leg out of commission for a couple of days. No beer restrictions there, plenty of beer, Australian beer or wog beer. Australian beer was a bit dearer, so I was fortunate enough I had some money at the time so I could buy the Australian beer and any left over, I could buy that too.

04:02:30:00

We had a good officer going into the canteen. I don’t know if this will do him any good. I hope he’s dead, he would be dead now, and he’d bring extra supplies out until they caught up with him, you know. So he had more troops than he was looking after.
So tell us about Damascus, that now was notorious for its brothels, Damascus?
Notorious brothels and that, and the beer in there wasn’t good. A lot of the blokes used to get onto crème

04:03:00:00

de menthe and come home feeling really sick, I know that, drinking liquor instead of beer. We had plenty of beer back up at camp. And the Free French [French opposed to their German occupiers, in contrast to the Vichy French] were a bit inclined to still be a bit cheeky if they got half a chance.
Why is that?
I don’t know. They thought they could stand over some of the Aussies or something, but they got a bit of a rude shock.

04:03:30:00

They were big blokes but our blokes carried their side arms. We’d go on picket duty, they’d put you on picket duty to look after your own blokes more or less to see that they didn’t get up to any mischief or something. A couple of our blokes, when the Free French started to get a bit cheeky, they pulled the old bayonet [blade attachment for the end of a gun] out and that soon quietened them down. That’s all they had, was a side

04:04:00:00

arm, a belt with your bayonet on it. That was their self-defence.
The Aussies used to carry a bayonet?
Well, the ones on picket duty. They were the only ones. I know a few times we went down the out of bounds quarters. Certain quarters were out of bounds, you

04:04:30:00

know, when you get down like the Arab quarters and the kids would be like the Arabs over in Jerusalem, start throwing a few stones at you and things like that. You’d go down a bit and you’d say, “We’ve gone down far enough,” and there was a big herd following you throwing stones. You’d make a bit of a run at them and get back.
Why would they throw stones?
Well, why’d they throw them at the poor old Jews for? To try and intimidate you I think. Pick up a stone

04:05:00:00

and throw it at you. That’s all, only kids and that, but later on you might get bigger ones with sticks and something and they might be a bit more cheeky. I suppose we were still pretty confident. A couple of us still had a few Itie revolvers and that on us. If we got into real trouble we soon got ourselves out of it.

04:05:30:00

You got into a few fights there, did you?
No no no. But I said the Free French weren’t, some of them weren’t, alright in the towns but you go down to some of the, it was supposed to be out of bounds areas. Some of the joints were supposed to be marked out of bounds I suppose. They didn’t want you wandering around too many places.

04:06:00:00

But otherwise it was a pretty good time.
What’s it like compared to Egypt?
Well we were all scattered about and you didn’t travel around much. You got plenty of leave in to Damascus and that. The troops were scattered all around. Some had to go up to the Turkish border and others were doing work on mapping out, more or

04:06:30:00

less mapping out defensive positions, that was all. And doing a bit of, they did a lot of training there for attacking warfare, how they could get through barbed wire defences and things like that. I kept well clear. I kept with the transport at the time. I just

04:07:00:00

stood back and watched them. But we had pretty lenient officers. Things were pretty easy, pretty easy going.
How long were you in Syria for?
Probably about six months, six months I suppose. It wasn’t bad when we went up there. We went up through the winter, through the snow. We had a Christmas up there.

04:07:30:00

It was Christmas, Christmas 1941, was it? Christmas 1941, yeah, probably that. We had a good Christmas up there, plenty of beer and plenty of everything and not a great deal of work because it was snowing and everything, if you could put up with the cold.

04:08:00:00

Were there any incidents where enemy were sighted?
No, no, no. Nothing came down. They just thought they might come down. They had one in Crete, and they thought they might be wanting another front and come down through there for the oil. I think that was the main thing. They were frightened they’d come down. The oil, they were supposed to be protecting the oil I think more or less. After the Free French

04:08:30:00

capitulated things got pretty quiet there. I don’t know whether anyone ever took over from us after we pulled out. We just pulled out and came down to come home. I don’t know if anyone ever took over from us even. In Ceylon the Ghurkhas took over from us in Ceylon. And everywhere else someone generally took over before we pulled out.

04:09:00:00

So after Syria, tell us what happened to you?
Well we came down to Palestine, down to Jerusalem. It was a big parade for the, the big Emirate of Jordan I suppose he’d be, the King of Jordan I suppose. He came and interviewed us and a big parade for him, and then we shifted. It was mainly

04:09:30:00

packing up ready to come. We were only waiting orders to come. We knew we were called back to Australia. It wasn’t long before we were on the way and we got held up in Ceylon as I say. We didn’t stay anywhere else long. We just kept moving.
Ceylon? This is the
Although we did take our trucks and that to Ceylon. We must’ve been bringing some of them back to Australia now when I

04:10:00:00

recall, because we didn’t come with the troops to Ceylon. We came on the transport with the trucks you see. It was a bit slower getting there, a bit late. And like a few other things we reckoned Colombo was a good place to be in, so we get the tail end of the convoy and get lost and go back to the base for a few extra days waiting for another convoy to go out to where the battalion were out at Akuressa

04:10:30:00

or the Buza Racecourse, some were. Some were at the Galle, Galle Face, Point of Galle Face I think. The 5th Battalion were mainly there.
The Galle Face Hotel?
Yeah.
In Colombo?
Yeah.
I was there a couple of weeks ago.
Well, I was lucky. I got shot down to Weligama like on the beach there

04:11:00:00

in big rest houses there. Like they had no business and our officers, were more or less for officers and that, but our officers were alright. I was alright with them, all out blokes. Anyone had any money could go up and get a good feed there or get a few beers, or get a few, whisky or spirits anyhow at the rest houses and so forth.

04:11:30:00

So when you first arrived in Ceylon what was your impression of the place?
Well, we liked the climate and we got looked after well. We all thought we were going home, we all run around. We heard tea was short at home, we bought lots of tea up, you know, and got it all packed up to take home, but by the time we were getting home I think a lot of it went a bit mouldy. I don’t know whether it was the damp climate or it wasn’t packed too good. We just bought it,

04:12:00:00

and no, there were plenty of little tea houses there. You got well looked after there, good climate. We weren’t hard pressed for anything. Just enough work to keep you occupied.
What were the people like compared to the Arabs?
Very good. We didn’t get much of a chance, only mixed with a few shopkeepers; didn’t mix with the people. We were out near the camp, there wasn’t many civilians.

04:12:30:00

In Colombo they treated us pretty well, what we could see of them. They never came around the camp much. Down on the beach we got well treated when we went into the little villages off the beach. The troops used to go in there. We had a few sports games, played a couple of football matches there and so forth against the other battalions.

04:13:00:00

Did you go to any other places outside Colombo?
No, we didn’t. We only went down, we went to Akuressa and we were stationed on the beach there. But some of the patrols might’ve been. The carrier mob was turned into a donar mob and they used to have to go between the posts every morning or something. Ride up in the morning and that just

04:13:30:00

to keep in touch with things. But we never, we just stayed on the beach. Our job was watching on the beach for anything that might happen.
I presume the Aussies created quite a few problems with the locals?
Oh no.
That’s what I’ve heard?
Some of them might have

04:14:00:00

but we didn’t have much trouble. We were down at Akuressa. Some of the others might have but they were all in camp at different places. I think my brother wouldn’t have got into much trouble because he was with C Company and they were out where the sea planes landed, Koggala Lake or something or other, or one of the lakes there or something. He used to come over and see me occasionally and we’d go down to this rest joint and have

04:14:30:00

a feed and a few spirits. There wasn’t much beer there, but a few spirits. Plenty of gin if anyone liked it, but I didn’t like it.
What were the brothels like in Ceylon?
We never struck many brothels but you’d get plenty of touts that would run around and want to know, got a sister or something, did you want to go and see their sister or something like that.

04:15:00:00

It was more or less private places. Old Doc would give you a bit of a lecture, “You’re not supposed to be doing this.” Warned us against it in case there was a bit of VD [venereal disease] or anything around, but I never struck it. Never struck any big brothels like there was in Alexandria or Cairo or any of them places. More or less plenty of touts would come around. Like boys would come around and say they’ve got a sister, “Do you want to see my sister?” And they’d sort of drum you up,

04:15:30:00

take you down to a bit of a joint.
How much would they charge?
It wouldn’t be much. It wouldn’t be much because we didn’t have big money in those times. It wasn’t much money I know. It wouldn’t be much, a few rupees, it wouldn’t be much.
How far out did you have to go?
Not far, no, not far at all. Not when you were on leave or that. It wasn’t so much, in the villages, you went to the village. We were camped just outside the villages. When you went to the villages mainly you’d

04:16:00:00

get it.
Now how did you find, or how did the Aussies find the women in Ceylon?
They were alright. We had no trouble, but as I say, we never got much of a chance to mix with them unless we were on leave and that. But most of them we had no trouble with anything. We never had any trouble, our battalion or our company never anyhow. I never heard of any of the others getting into any trouble.

04:16:30:00

Would they generally like the women?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think the women, if you wanted to get it and wanted to chase around, I think there was plenty of it around. The main fact was we were probably just out of the village and they seemed to have, you didn’t get much night leave. You might get day leave and that.

04:17:00:00

They were probably more interested in going and having a few beers together.
Do you remember the Petta Market, or the Petta?
Not, we didn’t go into many. We went through a few of them but some, there in, we never went to them. They’re probably there.
By the time you were there

04:17:30:00

the Japanese would’ve started their air strikes.
They chased us out. We couldn’t pull into Colombo when we got there. The troops got there before us and they got away. But the navy, there were four or five navy ships sunk in the harbour and everyone deserted. I think we unloaded our own boats at the time. Like they got us driving the winches and that to lift our trucks off and so forth, but everything was pretty well deserted. They

04:18:00:00

gave them a bit of a doing over, but we weren’t there with it and our, got the word I think they went the other way, you see, out of the road, not come into the, but they got them all sitting ducks in the harbour. Weren’t out like, they got sunk at the moorings in the harbour. But according to what happened, what we got, they followed some of the planes back and,

04:18:30:00

or frightened the aircraft carriers out and their own planes couldn’t find them they reckon. A lot of their own planes, by the time they came into Colombo, they let them off a fair way out and come in. But they said a lot of the planes ran out of fuel and crashed, and also if they got an aircraft carrier; that meant their planes had nowhere to land. They lost all their planes nearly after the first few raids. So that’s what

04:19:00:00

(UNCLEAR) was. We never got many raids after we were there. They reckon our planes followed them back or something. The reckon a sea plane picked them up early but only sent the message in and got shot down. They reckon the Jap Zeros [aircraft] were too fast and could catch up with the sea plane and they could pick them up. They had a sea plane base at,

04:19:30:00

that’s where my brother was at Lake…I did think of the name it. It’s down in the history, but it was pretty nerve-racking. The planes could go out and stay out a long time and could pick up the Japs, but the trouble is the Japs might pick them up and very few of them could get back then. They’d send enough Zeros after them that could shoot them down.

04:20:00:00

It was only a matter of standing-to. We had a stand-to every morning and so forth and patrolled the beach of a night time and so forth; frightened they might send a sub or send a landing party in or something. But no, nothing ever happened.
Did you think that the Japanese would invade?
They seemed to, not

04:20:30:00

only, I suppose they must’ve thought they were going to invade or whether they were frightened that their navy was too strong and they were frightened to send us home, you see. The talk was we weren’t going to go home, we were going to go straight to Java. That was a bit of the talk early, but when we were at Colombo, Singapore was getting a battling. I think they were more or less wanting to get us home.

04:21:00:00

After three months, you had three months in Ceylon to get prepared to go back to Australia?
Yeah, yeah. They just put a few manoeuvres. We were supposed to be doing a bit of jungle training. The troops were kept reasonably busy doing a few exercises out in the jungle and so forth. It kept them fit anyhow.
What was the jungle training like compared to your actual experiences of training?
Well,

04:21:30:00

it wasn’t actually jungle, no. It was more or less tall grass and things in Ceylon. Not like up in New Guinea. In New Guinea you only had to keep on a track and you couldn’t get off the track much.
Too thick?
Too thick, yeah, too hard the going, yeah, too hard the going. In most places it was, you couldn’t get off the track. Like if you had any distance to go, if you took your time you could probably work your way

04:22:00:00

through it, but you couldn’t if you had any distance to go. You couldn’t make any time. If you were travelling anywhere you wouldn’t get off the track.
How often were you doing jungle training in Ceylon?
Not very often, not very often because they were more or less on guard duty. The 5th Battalion, our other battalion, were down at the Galle, they were at Galle. They were more or less holding the fort

04:22:30:00

and others were doing, the carriers, were travelling between posts to keep in touch with, they were on motor bikes going up the road and travelling between. We were only doing our patrols along the beach. We weren’t doing a great deal of exercises. They did do a couple of exercises with the Ghurkhas [Regiment of Nepalese fighting under British Army] but it fell foul of things. One

04:23:00:00

of our, you know, one is supposed to be opposition and the other is enemy, you see, and one of ours was supposed to capture someone. One of our blokes got a couple of Ghurkha blokes and said, “You’re our prisoners,” or something. Of course they couldn’t understand the lingo too much and didn’t understand what was going on, but I think they knew that things were alright until

04:23:30:00

one of the blokes went to take the rifle of him. Of course the Ghurkha just turned around at butt strutted him. That finished the exercise. The bloke said, “If you want to play fair dinkum,” they put a couple up the spout and said, “If you want to play fair dinkum, we’ll play fair dinkum.” Things got a bit hot so they called things off at the time I think.
Whereabouts was this?
Just one of the bits of exercises they had out there,

04:24:00:00

a it of mock warfare. You’re the enemy and that and you catch up.
Where was this undertaken?
In Ceylon.
Yeah, whereabouts in Ceylon?
I couldn’t remember the names of where they went, on a bit of a place.
Did you do any exercises with other Indian troops?
No, no, no. No, they weren’t there that long. When they came, they came to take over

04:24:30:00

from us I think more or less. We had one bit of an exercise with them I think.
What about the Ceylon planters?
They were alright, but we never got a chance to go and see them. Some of the officers or some would go up and see them and they were well looked after. But they’d hire a truck and a driver might go up with them but we never got up to see them. They might them occasionally at some of the guest houses we’d go to, but we

04:25:00:00

never bothered. We’d generally only go to the guest houses when someone came over from the other battalion and you went up there. We never saw a great deal of them. Those that struck them said they were alright. Can’t think of anything else much I can thing of.

04:25:30:00

Just more or less the same thing. It gets a bit boring doing the same thing day after day, patrolling the beach of a night time. You get a bit lax on it then. You think this is a piece of cake and if nothing doing you’d probably sit down and do your two hours on and your four off.
If you got really bored of patrolling would you go for a swim or something when you were doing the patrol?

04:26:00:00

No, no no. You wouldn’t, no. No, you wouldn’t have much time. They’d be on to you. You’d walk up and down the beach for a while and get a bit tired, you might sit down, but you’ve got to be a bit careful. Of course you’d always have a bit of an excuse. You might be caught sitting down. You’d say, “The bloke is an idiot.” I was supposed to be guarding the water tank one day and supposed to be walking around

04:26:30:00

all the time and of course I got a bit, “This is no good to me, I’ll sit down,” and I think I might’ve gone to sleep, but I woke up when I heard someone coming up. I woke up and I challenged him and he said, or he got pretty close and said, “What are you doing sitting down?” I said, “You’d be an idiot walking around.” I said, “They could pick you up. You didn’t know where I was and I saw you a long way off. I saw you coming, had you covered all the way up,” I said. “Here am I walking around,” I said, “The Arabs of whoever

04:27:00:00

wants to blow the water tank up they’d pick you up,” and of course that shut him up. One of our blokes, we had some horses there and they were supposed to be picketing them. They said, “We’ll do picket until about 10.00 o’clock and we’ll all go to bed.” (UNCLEAR) but all the officers came over and picked them up and one of the blokes had to do a bit of pack drill and it nearly killed him. Get a pack on after you parade down and

04:27:30:00

march around for about an hour in the heat and so forth. And it wasn’t we could take them out the back and sit them down. It was on the parade ground where everyone could see what was going on. One of our blokes had to cop it.
When you left Ceylon you were told you were going

04:28:00:00

back to Australia?
Yeah, yeah.
So what happened there?
Well, we crowded on to the Athlone Castle and us and the 5th Battalion were on anyhow, and straight back to Australia and we reckoned it was alright. But we didn’t get much leave. We came home, straight up to Pucka and we got a little bit of leave, you know. That was about it. We soon shot up to the Tablelands

04:28:30:00

and over to Milne Bay because things were pretty, well they were holding the Japs then and they wanted to keep holding them I think. They were pushing; they sent our carriers; that was about all, all our carrier mob. They sent the carriers and a few men up to Buna but they got knocked around pretty well because the troops never kept up with them and I think there were all the Yanks [American] there as well as our own. We didn’t have our blokes

04:29:00:00

supporting them, and the carriers got out the front and the snipers, or they bellied on a coconut log or something or other and a lot of them got picked off by snipers, you know. We got two officers killed there trying to go up too early.
That’s probably a bit too far ahead. I want to get to that New Guinea Campaign actually a bit later. Tell us about Australia. Now, where did you arrive, from your first port?
Port Melbourne,

04:29:30:00

but we were taken straight up to Puckapunyal and stayed there until we settled down to get fixed up for leave. We got about a fortnight’s leave then I think. Got a little leave from there, but it wasn’t long when we got back that we were up in the Tablelands, up at Ascot and there for a while.

04:30:00:00

Then shipped over to Milne Bay more or less in reserve. Now they did a bit of a trial. I think they did pick up an odd Jap poking around that got left after the skirmish or something, or seen where they’d been.
(UNCLEAR)?
Yeah.
Before we get to New Guinea though, I’m interested to see how you felt when you got back.

04:30:30:00

Cold. We come back and it was that cold in Puckapunyal, I know that much, because they didn’t have much, probably one blanket or something or other. But we were camped not actually at Puckapunyal, we were camped out a bit, but there was plenty of wood around. You could light a big fire around and keep ourselves a bit warm.
And what was happening in Melbourne? What did Melbourne look

04:31:00:00

like when you came back?
Well everything was on the dim. I think everything was dimmed out I think more or less. They were talking about that. Whether they were frightened about aeroplanes or anything like that, but everything seemed to be ready for the blackout. I don’t know whether they enforced it or not because we weren’t down there much, if it was enforced. Going by what

04:31:30:00

we heard they thought that the Jap was going to take some stopping off. I’ve talked to a few blokes since and they said, “The Jap had no intention to come here. I think their main thing was the Coral Sea.” But I know the blokes that were in the navy and I got a lot of their history and the Coral Sea Battle, you know, knocked the Jap back on his heels for a start off, stopping him reinforcing New Guinea and Buna and them places, and also he was

04:32:00:00

tied up with the Yanks at Guadalacanal action and so forth. I think that slowed them down. I think before that they were talking about giving the top of Australia away according to what some were saying, after they bombed Darwin and a few places.
The Brisbane Line?
Yeah, yeah.
Not a bad idea, is it?
No, I don’t know about idea, but

04:32:30:00

once they, as I say, communication, we struck it all the time. Communication and keeping supplies up was a big thing. Not talking about New Guinea at present, but I know what it’s like trying to keep supplies up there, boong trains trying to carry things up and they can only carry a certain amount, and you can spend it quicker than you can keep up with it.

04:33:00:00

So how long did you stay in Puckapunyal for?
Not long, mainly only for leave. Like we were only there for a few days and we got leave and as soon as we got leave we were shot up to Ascot. We stayed at Ascot and then up to the Tableland.
So when you got to the Tablelands I presume you would’ve run into Americans?
We did in Brisbane. We did strike a bit of trouble in Brisbane when we were on leave. We got a bit of

04:33:30:00

leave in Brisbane. We never actually, more or less was crook on them because we reckoned they were getting better service in the cafes. We only had trouble, like you could go to a café and wait for your meal and they’d be getting better looked after. A couple of times our blokes would say, “We’ll turf them out,” turf them out of the cafes and so forth. But the girls and the proprietor didn’t matter because they were spending big money there. But

04:34:00:00

we didn’t worry we might turf them out. I think that’s what happened, one of our blokes got crook on them for one week. They stopped a bit of leave because one of our blokes must’ve picked a fight with them and he got stabbed with a pair of scissors or something. He got killed, one of them in our battalion.
An American guy stabbed him with a pair of scissors?
Yeah. Of course that started a bit of stuff there, but it got a bit of that,

04:34:30:00

cut out leave for a while, but things soon settled down.
There was a lot of tension in Brisbane, wasn’t there?
Well they seemed to have the money, and you’d go into a café and they’d be sitting there talking. They had the money to spend; they’d sit there probably all the time. You’d go to a café and there wasn’t hardly any tables. They were all, so at the finish they said, “We’ll make room.”
When you say

04:35:00:00

“make room”, what exactly happened?
Well, turf them out. Just say, “This is our table, out.” You wouldn’t be outnumbered, you’d have more numbers if not more, and there’d be about half a dozen or eight of you would come in and four or five of them would sit at the table. They had no option but to say…

04:35:30:00

They were smart enough to leave?
Yeah.
Did any of them refuse to leave?
No, not necessarily. Not where we were, but some of the other mob had one bloke was a headbutter, you know, a “Liverpool ice man” we used to call him. We used to know him and

04:36:00:00

the first thing he’d do is butt you with his head and you’d be half knocked out from being hit in the head, and he used to do that to a few Yanks, and they reckon he was pretty keen to show his skills at that on a few of them. I think it was one of his mates that got stabbed I think. Whether they were stirring up the Yanks or not we don’t know.
Did you

04:36:30:00

like the Yanks?
Hey?
Did you like them, the Yanks?
Yeah, we got on alright with them, at Milne Bay. But we never got with their troops mainly. Just at Milne Bay they had a lot of sort of labourers there, men working on the wharves and so forth. Some of the others had trouble with the troops up at Buna. They were fighting alongside of them. They said some were pretty good but the other lot were reinforcements

04:37:00:00

and they wouldn’t go forward, or they wouldn’t even site their rifles they reckoned. As long as they were firing shots they reckoned they were alright, or get there and they’d fire up in the coconut trees without seeing anything and things like that, you know. As I say, I was with the transport for most of the time and our own mob. We never got tied up, never fought with the Yanks, never fought with them.
They were known

04:37:30:00

to be very trigger happy [willing to shoot without much provocation]?
They were, yeah. They were supposed to be trigger happy, yeah. But as I say, we were never with the fighting men at all, us. I think Blamey [General Thomas Blamey Commander-in-Chief, Australian Military Forces (AMF) and Commander, Allied Land Forces] always wanted the Australians kept as a force on their own. He didn’t want them split up. The 17th Brigade never fought alongside the Yanks. The few that did were the carriers that went up to Buna. There were a few up there and that was only what they’ve said. We never fought alongside them

04:38:00:00

at all. We were always with our kind all the time, our own battalion, the 17th Brigade.
Tell us about the Atherton Tablelands and your training. What sort of training did you have to do?
Pretty tough there. They go out, they get you out on,

04:38:30:00

they’d send you out up there in the scrub and had spots you had to find more or less. They’d give you a bit of a map and say, “You’ve got to go west for so far and you’ll find this.” They give you a bearing on a compass and there’d bit a little, a couple of blokes there to check this and you had to find this spot and go onto the next. And the weather wasn’t too good. We got a bit browned-off out in the bad weather and travelling. You had

04:39:00:00

to find the, you might go passed it. You had to go back and check in this camp before you went on. But it was good training if you had the right equipment and the right compasses to get the bearing. A lot of us were going by guesswork. It worked out alright. The last night we came on,

04:39:30:00

we couldn’t find the checkpoint but we knew we weren’t far from the camp. It was raining so we said, “Blow the checkpoint.” We marched straight into the camp. We’ll go back next morning, tell them, and find the checkpoint.
How long was your training at the Atherton Tablelands for?
Well, we did a lot of training. Like between coming back from Salamaua before we went up to Aitape. That was the only time we did a lot of training. We must’ve been there nearly

04:40:00:00

twelve months I suppose. It was a fair length of time, nine months. I’d have to look up the dates but I know we were there for a long while. We got leave, so we’d have to be there nearly twelve months to get leave. We got one leave. When we came back from New Guinea we got leave. We must’ve been there for nearly twelve months I suppose.
Interviewee: Francis Hall Archive ID 2053 Tape 05

05:00:33:00

So what was Wau like?
Well, getting into Wau was the main thing. We were waiting that long to get in. The planes had trouble getting over the mountains. It was generally foggy getting over the mountains and they’d take off and go up there and turn back a lot of the time. Until in desperation they said, “Well, we’ve got to get in,” because the Jap was right up getting around them, and

05:01:00:00

when the planes came in we weren’t the first. The 5th Battalion were up there before us and we got in and the Jap was getting around them. You see, they were out a bit from the drome and the Japs were getting around them I think. I don’t think it was in large quantities. I think small patrols got around there, snipers and that getting there. They never struck anything heavy.

05:01:30:00

When our plane landed I think there were a few shots fired. The planes got a bit excited, the pilots, they wanted to get off, and one of the planes in a hurry was landing up hill more or less. It was a short drome and they had to land uphill and they had to turn around and take off downhill. Well, as he was wheeling around to take off he ran into one of the parked planes and cut into the tail of that. Of course that pilot had to leave his plane there overnight

05:02:00:00

and hop in the plane and go back with the other bloke and get the plane fixed up next day like. He wasn’t game to take off. I think it was only an odd sniper because we got down and formed a perimeter at the base of the drome for the night and that day, and looked around but nothing happened. Nothing happened as far as any push to take the drome. That

05:02:30:00

was our first day, and then we got spread out and got good positions.
What did you know of the Japanese fighting machine before that?
Nothing at all, only what the said up at Buna. They said there weren’t wanting to surrender. They reckoned they didn’t want to surrender even in dire circumstances. You know, they’d be in a pill box and surrounded and there was no chance. They never sort of came out

05:03:00:00

with their hands up. They didn’t seem to want to surrender. Our blokes said, “It’s no use looking for them. You’ve just got to keep at them.” If there’s nothing coming out, well, you’ve got the pill box; they’d throw a couple of grenades or something in. But that was the thing, there were very few prisoners. They weren’t like Italians or even the Germans. When it was hopeless they wouldn’t say, “Oh well,

05:03:30:00

I’ll call it a day,” or anything like that. Whether it was their officers were willing to make sure they kept at it, I don’t know. We never struck any of them that wanted to surrender, even in bad circumstances. They’d try and get away somehow, even when they knew it was pretty impossible.
Did they tell you things about the Japanese,

05:04:00:00

like they were unable to fight before you went there, or they had bad vision or anything like that?
No no. We knew that their tactics were going to be the same all round. They didn’t like the head on charges. They’d go around you more or less and try and get you to withdraw. You see, you’d reckon you were cut off and they’d know our system was if you were cut off

05:04:30:00

you’d pull back, you see. I think that’s what their idea was. Every time going into Wau, every time they struck any outpost they wouldn’t try and eliminate it, they’d go around it. I suppose they were running on a time table wanting to get to the drome. They didn’t want to be held up. That seemed to be more our way of thinking with

05:05:00:00

them they way they done. They reckon when they came down to Singapore they often went around the outposts. They came down the coast leap-frogging, go down until they hit anything and around it. Very seldom did they tackle anything head on.
What did you think of the conditions compared to what you had experienced in the Middle East and so on?
Well,

05:05:30:00

it was not like a front line. It was all little skirmishes all the time. There was no front line. There was always plenty of room in between. They’d be on the track, you see. There’d be a track over this, and if you could guard this track. But they could still infiltrate and be going down along the rivers or through the scrub and around you. There was no, you’d be holding position more than you’d be holding a line.

05:06:00:00

Like at Wau we’d hold the Black Cat Track or something. After a while I went up onto that, and hold a position there. You’d hold that but the Japs would easy go between you and go around you. But at the time we had no worries because you’d run out of steam and were going back all the time when we were up there.

05:06:30:00

Do you think you were really prepared for the jungle conditions?
I think we soon adapted to it. I think it suited us reasonably well. I think we had better fire power than they had with our automatics. We had the American Tommy gun and so forth with fifty rounds. That was a great help, you had fifty

05:07:00:00

rounds, not ten or twelve or fifteen or something. Fifty rounds in a magazine; that could do a lot of damage if ever any of them were coming head on and you got a chance to use it, and the forty-five was a good stopper.
How did the guns react in those conditions of the jungle?
Alright if you looked after it, and everyone looked after their

05:07:30:00

weapons. I know, all my Bren gun carriers and them, they had to make sure their magazines and everything were up to scratch. (UNCLEAR) empty them out and load them again and keep them up to scratch. You wouldn’t let your gun get dirty or get in any, as soon as you came back from patrol you’d strip it down and clean and have it all

05:08:00:00

oiled up and clean and then dry it off and ready for action again. You’d look after it. You had no trouble with any of them.
Was moisture and the wetness trouble for the guns at all?
No, not necessarily. I think it was more or less going through, you might have to cross a river and that and you might get mud or things like that in it and you’d be frightened it would stop. But I don’t

05:08:30:00

think very few of them had, I never struck any with any stoppages with them.
This was the gun with the metal handle, right?
No, not the Tommy gun. You’re talking about Owen or the Sten gun.
Owen, sorry.
Owen. The only trouble some of them found with the Owen gun, but they soon woke up, you’d cock it, see,

05:09:00:00

the main thing is you’d put your magazine on and cock it. Well, you mightn’t pull it back far enough. It might just catch behind the round and you think it’s cocked instead of back on the catch, and then you’d hit a bump and the weight of the heavy bolt would take the round and the bloke in front of you, if you had the safety catch on if you were behind like, but it wouldn’t be any help to you. Of course orders soon came

05:09:30:00

out with the Owen gun, you cocked the gun first. You cocked the gun before you put your magazine on. Cocked it like that. That soon got around, that. That would only take a couple of frights.
So when you landed in Wau you said you took positions and so on? In what formation?
Well, we just moved down to the bottom of the drome. We got out of the road off the drome and took up position at the bottom of the drome

05:10:00:00

at the bottom of the drome. Took up positions there, that’s all we could do until we could find out what was going on. We soon got orders then. It was getting pretty late in the day then. We held up for the night then. Of course we spread out, took more ground and shifted out further and further. Took the high ground around the place then.
Was there any trouble at this point in time?
No no. No, there was no trouble.
Right. So we’re

05:10:30:00

talking about taking positions and so on.
Everyone was a bit keyed up and they just took positions to hold until the next morning until we moved out. Even that night, I’ll tell you the funny part of it. Well, an officer came down and said, “I’ve got some hand grenades for you.” He’s at the back there and came down. He was a Q [quartermaster] man,

05:11:00:00

he wasn’t an infantry bloke. So he hands them out and in the dark, you know. I said, “Alright,” and in the morning I’ve got nothing to do so I’m fiddling, I screw the base plate out and (UNCLEAR) straight out of the box and handed them around. I said, “Gee, I’d have to hit the bloke on the head with these. You’d want to be a good shot.” He felt a bit embarrassed. He took it all in his stride, but he wasn’t one of the infantry, a Q man.

05:11:30:00

That was the funny part of it.
How long was it before you encountered trouble at Wau?
The front troops were (UNCLEAR) but we were sort of guarding the drome where. We had the job of, we were sort of headquarters company. We had no trucks so we were sort of attached to the headquarters. We were army headquarters and we were mainly guarding the drome, but the other troops were striking them all

05:12:00:00

the time, like trying to get through the company. They all had a position. Every company was striking a little bit of trouble but they mainly got out of it because when they got there they’d put trip wires out with a grenade on it. They got a jam or a little milk can tin and set the grenade in it and they had plenty of fine wire, you could hardly see it, and trip wire.

05:12:30:00

That would give you warning that there was something doing and blow the Jap up or something like that. But it stopped the Japs in his track with a warning like that. Later on when we moved out a bit there was that much trouble. We were up on the, we had the high ground there, and I’m up there looking around and I said, “There’s some troops coming in.” I said,

05:13:00:00

“There’s about fifteen blokes.” They said, “What, how do you know?” I said, “They’ve got their packs on and they’re going down following the creek along.” It wasn’t two minutes later they came back and said, “Can you see where (UNCLEAR)?” They woke up they were Japs coming in. So they got the Vickers lined up where they saw them go in and they got the machine gun, they got the artillery to fire over their sites at the bottom of the drome, and then

05:13:30:00

they sent the poor commandos in to see what was happening. The Japs got out because there was plenty of cover for them to get out, and probably followed the creek back and got out. I think they only got a couple of Japs. They got one bloke wounded and got a Jap or so. But you couldn’t tell, you see. You couldn’t tell, from a distance it was. When they had the machine

05:14:00:00

gun firing and the artillery, the colonel came up to me and he had me on the great big telescope and I’m looking through it, you know, and I looked for a while. This was going on for a while, and I started to look away. You start seeing things, you know, a fair distance. And he, “Oh, what!” And I said, “You keep seeing things, you keep staring at it.” “Get someone to relieve you.” I said, “Good,” These guys are going at this for

05:14:30:00

a while I suppose to get out of it. Anyone that came up against three machine guns, they were Vickers machine guns, and they were boiling the billy alright. As I said, what happens when you get a bit excited and think something’s going on and looking, you think you see them moving and you say, “I’d better not start blowing the whistle,” and you look away and look back and nothing is there.

05:15:00:00

I’d say, “You’ve got to look away,” and he’s looking over at me, what I was, giving a bit of wrong, nothing doing and he’s looking over, and I said, “Why aren’t you looking? Little buggers may be sneaking up,” I said. They might be sneaking up into…they got some. My daughter got it on the website. They had a photo. I got a mention. She said, “Were you in the photo?” I said, “No. The Vickers machine gun, we were sitting well back out of trouble.”
One thing, you were talking about being unable to distinguish people, the good from the bad basically. Is that during patrols and so on?
It’s the same any time.

05:16:00:00

You only see them for a split second and they’re moving and you can’t tell them. One incidence there, this is later on in the piece when A Company was cut off, one patrol went out patrolling to get them out and he got pinned down. Well, we were set up to give a bit of a hand and

05:16:30:00

pull them out and as soon as they saw us coming they pulled out, but instead of waiting for us, being under fire, under the ridge, when they started coming back through the scrub you couldn’t tell who it was. You’re moving and that; you’re not too sure, so we just let them go. They’d come through and find who it was. They all came out, except one bloke did the wrong thing. Instead of coming out through the scrub,

05:17:00:00

he run straight up the track. Of course, he got one through the head. You know the machine gun is waiting for anyone coming down the track. That machine gun, he couldn’t probably fire between trees and he’s got the track lined up. That’s the only bloke.
When you’re doing patrols, not only people, but when you hear things or see a tree move

05:17:30:00

or so on, do you get jumpy around that?
You’ve got to be a bit careful; you don’t want to give your position away too much. It’s just a matter of waking up. One time we saw a bit of movement over, we were setting an ambush and I saw over on another ridge a bit of movement but it was some birds playing up there. We woke up. We rung up and said, “I think we’ve seen the Japs digging in over there. We see some movement over

05:18:00:00

there,” and we kept watching and you know, gradually we worked out what it was, but you can’t tell. You see a bit of movement and it’s only fleeting in the, it’s a fair way across, one ridge to another ridge if you’re looking across. If they had have been in range we would’ve probably got them to put some long range mortars on them but

05:18:30:00

we rung up and they said, “It’s out of our range. See what’s doing,” but before long you watch, you pick it up if you’ve got time, in the same spot all the time you can see it. But if you only see a bit of movement for a while you say, “Well it could’ve been someone moving through there and he disappeared.”
Can it drive you a bit batty when you’re looking for these things and they’re just twigs moving or so?

05:19:00:00

You’ve got to keep your wits about you because you change over. If you’re moving you change your forward scout. He’s on for a while and if you get a bloke up there too long he starts to get too slow and that’s the worst thing. You’ve got to tell them you can’t move slow. If you’re move in bursts it’s not so bad, but this slow moving, sneaking, sneaking, all sneaking at the same pace, just sneaking,

05:19:30:00

your blokes behind you get toey because they’re stopped all the time. They let you get a bit in front. You get on the job and they know what you’re doing. They get your crew and you know who’s good for the job and who’s not. You’ve got your good Bren gunner and he knows his job and you’ve got the blokes with the automatic weapons up

05:20:00:00

towards the front and you know they’re not going to get casual. They’re on the ball. You don’t start getting cheeky or saying, “This is a piece of cake,” or anything. You say, “Well, we’re only on patrol for a while and we better keep our wits about ourself because we’re not looking someone else, we’re looking after ourselves.” That’s what I say, when you take

05:20:30:00

a patrol out you take your own blokes out. You don’t like to take anyone out that you don’t know.
How many guys would go on a patrol?
Generally it all depends. If it’s a fighting patrol you’d take quite a few, but if it was only a bit of a recce patrol, four, four or five. You’d get down to three if you were only a recce patrol going to sneak in and try and pick out where they are or if they’re occupying a ridge

05:21:00:00

You might be wanting to take a ridge. One time in New Guinea there they wanted to get behind the Japs so they didn’t know what the ridge was behind him. So they said to us, “You get all your gear ready and we’re going to send C Company up to take the ridge. If they take it you’ve got to go up there with all year. You’ve got to hold it for the night.”

05:21:30:00

Of course that was alright with us. We got up there, they got up there, nothing on. They sent up a flare to say that we came up. So we had to hold it for the night because once you got behind the Nip [Japanese], he was like us, they decided we had to be careful that night, it was a bit of a moonlight night, he might try and get out on the track but he probably went out through the scrub. But being in the area for a long while he’d probably have a back entrance,

05:22:00:00

you know. We were just knew to the place, we just covered the main track. They never came though or anything like that. But we reckoned we had the easy job, going up and holding it for the night. They had to go up and take it. They had to go up and take the place, but no one was there. They got behind him far enough.
Did you come under fire when you were on patrol?
Not a great deal.

05:22:30:00

We didn’t do, we kept out of trouble. We were real fortunate. No, we were lucky a couple of times, but we never got ambushed or anything like that.
How were you lucky on those couple of times?
Well, one time we were going to Salamaua. We got behind the line.

05:23:00:00

We had a good lieutenant. We had to go behind it, but we had to go out real wide to come in, but we hadn’t good enough maps or anything to say where we were going. We couldn’t get back in time to get onto the main track to do the ambush. We struck no Japs on the way out. We were careful because they probably knew we were there, but we came back on a

05:23:30:00

different track, followed the river down. We were out for two nights anyhow, three days, two nights.
How were you awarded the Military Medal? What action was that for?
I’d been out the day before on a patrol. We knew there were Japs in the area and so they were going to send out a fighting patrol.

05:24:00:00

I lined up to reinforce them and the officer went out to try and find them and while he was away doing, we were waiting there. We left our positions and low and behold, the Japs came over in an air raid and their blokes came out of the scrub and started to lay out strips right in our position we just left. So

05:24:30:00

when the officer came back he said, “Oh well, they’re between us and home and we’ve got to,” we were looking for the Japs and we found him. So what are we going to do? So we said, “We’ll go in and see what we can do.” I drew the short straw I suppose in a way, that me and the other patrolman that knew the area, I said, “I’ve got the Tommy gun.” They only had the Tommy

05:25:00:00

gun with the little mags [magazines]. I said, “I’ve got the one with the big one, fifty rounds.” I said, “Now, when we go in,” I said, “As soon as we hear them open up on us, you two blokes with the little mags keep their heads down. Keep firing and keep their heads down.” We didn’t know there was a machine gun there. We thought it was only a few rifles. When we got in they opened up, but they done the right thing,

05:25:30:00

they fired a few shots and we could see where the machine guns were and we’d go around and got in close to them and came in over the top of them and they kept their heads down while I got in on them. I got in there with a big mag and let them have the fifty rounds and that frightened the lot of them. The others kept coming, like we had other troops following in. But when we got there the officer in charge

05:26:00:00

started to look around and there was another position up hill with another lot of Japs and of course he picked, snipers picked him off, and the big heavyweight fighter from the 6th Divvy, was pretty keen on this lieut and used to be his guardian and he run up to help him and of course he got knocked off. I said, “You’re right in the line of snipers.” I said, “That’s a hot spot.”

05:26:30:00

And of course a couple of other lieuts went back to tell them what was going on and they said, “We’ll hold the position”. That’s all we could do then. We did capture this gun and two or three others which were on our position; they were all their gunners, two or three automatics and so forth and eight or ten dead Japs. A lot got wounded. A patrol went through the next day and found wounded down

05:27:00:00

the track more or less. But all we could do was hold on and threw a few, just keep out of the road of the snipers. And of course at that time, my officer came up to give us instructions how to go in or what to do. He’d gone back and blew the whistle on them and we got a reserve mob up that took our couple of wounded out

05:27:30:00

and they sent the artillery up. (UNCLEAR) he said, “Pull back and we’ll put,” so when we were pulling back he said to me, “Come and show us where you reckon they are.” We only walked up on a bit of a rise, silly. Bloody sniper whizzed through my shirt. I said, I fell down. He said, “Are you hit?” I said, “I don’t know. I’m not getting up to find

05:28:00:00

out. I’m crawling out of here.” He done the same. He put the artillery on them. They disappeared next morning after we give them a bit of a doing over.
When something like that happens though, what goes through your mind how close it could’ve been?
Don’t start worrying, just good luck. Don’t be like the bloke that got a hit and he started jumping up and down and he said, “I’ve got a homer.” Don’t get

05:28:30:00

down, he’ll be here forever and a day.
In the course of the Military Medal and that when you took over the position of the Japanese, did you actually kill the Japanese who were on their guns?
Well, they left them. They couldn’t get the bit heavy gun up. They were firing there and we came up and they were down and they couldn’t get it up. They run

05:29:00:00

through in amongst, a heap of them there. I don’t know what the others were doing because they were all in a heap, I don’t know why, but they sort of melted into the scrub. A lot of them got left there and the others disappeared and we just set up to hold the position then again, and we actually never woke that the other mob was up there for the first hit until

05:29:30:00

the sniper started. There’s another mob up, and then we got quite a few sniper shots coming down, you know, but well, they couldn’t have, if they had machine guns, we couldn’t say they did have. I suppose there would be another mob up there but they couldn’t get the machine guns on them. The same with these machine guns. They’re position could only fire that way. We came up around over the hill, well they couldn’t fire up when we came in between the…

05:30:00:00

we were just lucky to come in between the two lots.
What type of emotions go through you when you’re actually attacking that position and so on?
You don’t worry about it, but later on my brother said to me, “What, did you try to think you were winning the war?” I said, “I’m buggered if I know.” You’ve

05:30:30:00

got no time, you don’t start worrying about anything.
When did you actually find out you were being awarded for that action?
Later on someone told me I was being recommended. You never know, recommended, you say recommended, (UNCLEAR) been recommended for some certain action whether you’ll get it or whether you don’t get it. Someone told me I’d been recommended for it.

05:31:00:00

Were you proud when you heard that?
I don’t know. It’s just one of those things that happen. Other blokes do other jobs and this is just the luck of the draw. I suppose we got a fair bit of information , we got three or four, we got the heavy machine gun, a couple of light, two or three light machine guns

05:31:30:00

and a mortar there. They were well set up with mortars and so forth and a lot of rifles and one of the blokes didn’t tell me until well afterwards, he got a Japanese sword. Of course in them times they got them a lot of the idea was, well, we all got in, we’ll sort of draw for it. He wanted to keep the sword, told me later he got (UNCLEAR). I said, “I didn’t have time to look around

05:32:00:00

for a sword. We had a machine gun, telling the blokes to keep their heads down and hold the position.” He was looking after a couple of the wounded.
When you’re going through these actions, do you think others can understand what it’s like at all unless you’ve been there?
I think they all know.

05:32:30:00

I think it’s the luck of the draw. It can happen to the best. Some are killed when things are real quiet. They say they’re going out to get a few souvenirs, might be a few Japs there, might be going to go through them, and there’s a Jap probably playing on a thing like that, or they might set a booby trap under one of their dead or things like that.

05:33:00:00

The old trick, you’ve got to be very careful picking your own wounded up. You can’t just dive in because they’ll often like I say, the sniper’s in position, if a sniper’s got him well he’s probably up a tree and he can’t move around much but he’s got a certain field of vision. You sort of wake up to them things. You’ve got to either get down low or come in even up further or

05:33:30:00

see what’s going on. I don’t know, you get a bit wise to all that sort of thing.
Did you lose any close friends in the Wau area?
Two or three of them up Salamaua. I was in B Company for a while and they got a bad doing over going into Salamaua. A lot of them got lost there, yeah, and

05:34:00:00

another good footballer. I better not mention the name. You might want to ask me afterwards about these fellows. You’ve got to say, you can’t give details. You don’t know what their version of it is. “Do you know Butch? Did he get wounded?” “Well he got shot through the head. That’s all I can tell you. He never left any messages and he wasn’t wounded. He went quick.” That’s all you can say to them, you know.
Is that the truth

05:34:30:00

though of what happened?
Yeah yeah, the truth, yeah yeah. Yeah, that’s what I was saying.
How do you handle it when you lose your friends in combat like that?
At the time it’s pretty hard. I know we never lost many out there. We were fortunate. We

05:35:00:00

had a good lieut. We did a lot of ambush and we never lost anyone. That’s one of our lieuts. He’s passed on but he was very careful and came with us and one thing he always said, he didn’t come up to us until late, when I went out of Transport into the, I was supposed to be on the two pounder guns, but of course we didn’t take them up the islands so we were back to the old foot slogging job again.

05:35:30:00

When you lose friends and colleagues just in general do you have time to mourn for them?
No, you don’t have a great deal of time. You know blokes in the company, other companies, well known people, you know. You see it written up in the history, their names and that there. I won’t mention their name, but blokes you knew that well. He got killed,

05:36:00:00

a couple of blokes went out looking for souvenirs and the Jap was on and hid them, and of course he went to pull them out and the blokes got killed and he got shot going, trying to go and help them, you see. That is a very dangerous time. You wake up to snipers. Well, they’re fifty yards away, no more than fifty yards away.

05:36:30:00

Well, Christ strike me, with a rifle at fifty yards you can’t miss. You can’t miss.
The Americans have a motto of “We don’t leave anyone behind,” was there a similar thing for the Australians at that time?
Well, you don’t leave anyone behind. You might have to take your time, even the wounded.

05:37:00:00

You know they’re there and you don’t leave them, but you might have to go around or try and shift the sniper that’s on them, but you can’t just say, “I’ll just dive in and help them,” because that might be the worst thing you could do. There are ways of getting around it. See how big, mainly just a little bit of an ambush or something you might be able to get around them and shift

05:37:30:00

them. But as I say, these two blokes looking for souvenirs, going out where there was a couple of dead Japs and the others were up on the hill. Well they were pretty close and the others rushed in to help them, but it meant that three of them. He was an officer that went in, but he gets no thanks from

05:38:00:00

anyone, but just a bit of a write up that he was doing his best to help them. There’s a couple of other stories but they don’t look too good in print so I mightn’t tell it.
You can tell us.

05:38:30:00

No no.
We’ve heard tonnes.
I know, but some other blokes might hear it.
If you’re worried about it don’t mention names.
I don’t mention names. That’s what I say.
Just tell us what happened. Don’t mention names or anything but just say, “I saw a guy, this happened.” Can you do that because we really need to know what happened there.

05:39:00:00

No. More a bloke’s stupidity than bad luck that caused the trouble.

05:39:30:00

No, it was a bad mistake, that was all.
In harming someone?
No, people might have a different version of it. That’s what I’m saying. I wouldn’t put it down.

05:40:00:00

Well at times like people getting shot through their own men at times, but you can imagine one time a bloke goes out investigating a noise, but you’ve got to be careful coming in after dark because you can’t be too sure. As I used to always tell them up at my place when I was right out at Salamaua, right out in no man’s

05:40:30:00

land, “Don’t come to my place after dark,” I said, “because we fire the first shot in you and the second one over your head. So you know what to expect if you come to my place after dark.” You start challenging people and you get a hand grenade thrown at you or something. I said, “So don’t come in after dark.” I know people who have stayed out overnight. It got too late out or left behind on patrol. They said, “Well, it’s no use coming in after dark, it’s a bit tricky.

05:41:00:00

Better to stay out for the night.”
Do you know people who were killed accidentally with friendly fire and their relatives were told otherwise?
I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t know how they’ve been told. Probably they might be just told killed in action. You see, they might be just told killed in action. That’s why I say you’ve got to be careful. They might’ve got a thing to say that he

05:41:30:00

was killed in action. That’s all, they’ve got no details at all, you see. They don’t say that he was killed with friendly fire or things like that. The same as a bloke going out to help someone that gets wounded, you see.
Was it just an accepted part of warfare that accidents happen?
It’s got to happen. Accidents happen, yeah.
Alright, that’s the end of that tape.
Interviewee: Francis Hall Archive ID 2053 Tape 06

06:00:31:00

OK, we’re back recording now. Before you went to Salamaua can you tell us about the replacements that came into your unit after Wau?
We got a lot of Queenslanders and so forth. We got them all over. They weren’t too fussy. They weren’t all Victorians then. We got New South Wales; we were a Victorian regiment for a start

06:01:00:00

off but we got replacements from everywhere like up there. A lot of Queenslanders, a batch of Queenslanders came in up at Wau. A pretty good side too, mainly Queenslanders. I had a bit to do with a few of them there. I put a sign line through with them for a while.
How were the

06:01:30:00

new replacements taken by other experienced ones?
They were taken pretty well. They all, they’d all done a lot of training. They’d all done more training than we did before. They fitted in pretty well. We had no trouble with any of them. They seemed to be a good lot of blokes that came up towards the finish.
Would they be curious, would they ask you questions?
No, they fitted in pretty well.

06:02:00:00

All of them that I struck they were all good, good soldiers. A lot of them got bumped off too. Took their chances with everyone else and weren’t looking for any easy jobs or anything.

06:02:30:00

No. I can’t think of anything. They were all, (UNCLEAR) four or five Queenslanders and a couple from New South Wales. A lot of good blokes from New South Wales. They were going to their battalions, probably the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th, they came to us. Probably was down on strength. Of course,

06:03:00:00

a lot of casualties up there. Like the malaria and that, they were pulling them out and getting home. A lot of them couldn’t put up with the tough conditions and made B class. A lot of them, the old blokes, they said we’ve got to keep what they called the old and bold. “We want some old blokes to look after brigade headquarters because they were following behind like. They were frightened

06:03:30:00

the Japs might get around towards them or something. They kept pretty good guard down at battalion headquarters. We called them the old and bold, any old blokes they reckon couldn’t stand up to the continual patrols. It was all pretty heavy going. Some of them were getting on a bit, you know, forty-five and forty. Some of them were a bit older because they put their ages up.

06:04:00:00

It started to tell on anyone that wasn’t real fit.

06:04:30:00

By that stage you were entering the Salamaua Campaign?
Yeah. There was four or five big campaigns like. Every little bit of a hill or village they took was called nearly a campaign. There was only more or less the two battalions doing it. The 5th would relieve us or we’d relieve the 5th. The 6th was sort of stationed up at Bulolo

06:05:00:00

to stop them coming in that way. I don’t say the easy job, but they were up at Bulolo and we were doing the, we’d be in for a spell and we’d be pulled out and the 5th would relieve us and we’d relieve the 5th. They had a pretty tough time too, but they weren’t in, what we could take it, they weren’t in a hurry to

06:05:30:00

go forward because I think they knew the Yanks were coming in at Nassau Bay. They had patrols at Nassau Bay that said there were no Nips there and they knew that the Yanks were going to come up along the coast because it was too hard to keep the supplies up to us. A lot of the stuff they dropped, they couldn’t drop mortar bombs in the parachute or anything like that and it was too heavy for the, it was too far and too heavy

06:06:00:00

for the boongs to carry it up from Wau. They were looking for a coastal landing. They didn’t want us to push the Japs back too far, they wanted to keep them strung out as far as I could, that was my opinion. I think a lot of other opinions too. Often we’d go out ahead and find there was no one on ‘observation hill’ or some of them things. They weren’t fussy about occupying them.

06:06:30:00

It was a good position, but they said, “No, we’ve got to cut a new dropping strip, get another dropping strip,” or something. “Just keep in touch with the Japanese and see where they are.”
Were you hoping to capture Japanese soldiers?
Often they made attempts but I don’t think very few of them conceded

06:07:00:00

because they weren’t too keen to give themselves up. Even if you run into one he’d make an effort to get away in the scrub. He’d dive off in the scrub and so forth. You’d only probably wound him or do anything like that. Often they sent out patrols hoping to capture Japs but very few of them succeeded. They did get an odd one or two, but that was

06:07:30:00

pretty rare.
Was there any compassion for the Japanese?
No, not at all. No, no. I never struck anyone that had any compassion for one.

06:08:00:00

I think they, through the grapevine they got a few things that they’d done, atrocities and so forth and that. Like even their own wounded, they set booby traps on their own wounded. I never struck them but we’d get messages back you want to be careful if you go to a dead Jap looking for a few souvenirs on them. I got a lot of watches

06:08:30:00

off them up there in the last show. One of the blokes said, we took over from the 5th Battalion, they said, “Any souvenirs?” You know, joking. He said, “Don’t go looking for them.” There happened to be a big Jap there and he had a lot of Yankee watches and lord knows what on him. Yankee watches. I brought them home and my mother thought I was going to give them to someone, so she said, “I’ll

06:09:00:00

keep it, a good Yankee watch.” It stopped going now but it’s still there. I’ve still got it. She wore it for years and years. I tried to get it fixed but the bloke said they’re too hard to repair. You get a battery watch now a lot cheaper, you know.

06:09:30:00

I’ve run out of gas now.
I know that the Australian High Command issued an order to Australian troops asking them not to shoot Japanese if they surrendered?
That’s correct. They never shot them if they

06:10:00:00

surrendered. No, they let…one of our lot did bring in a lot of prisoners. They surrendered to them, they brought them in, and even after when the war was finished some of our blokes got killed after it was over. The Japs didn’t know it was surrender although we were sending them messages according to our book, but no, they were well treated once they got them. I had to bring a prisoner in once and the blokes go crook at me, the blokes

06:10:30:00

back at headquarters. We were short of rations and couldn’t get boots. When I came in they give them warm clothing and as much as they could eat. I didn’t capture him, one of the companies captured him and they wanted to bring him in and it was getting late and they said, “You’ve got to meet them half way and bring him in.” There was a lot of no man’s land between us and I had to take a patrol out and bring him in. When he got there

06:11:00:00

they looked after him pretty well. He got real cheeky when he got back to brigade.
Can you tell us about the Battle of Salamaua?

06:11:30:00

I didn’t know much about it because I was out on the flanks and came in behind, was pulled in and came in behind them. The company I used to be with, B Company, they got a lot of blokes killed there. They had to take one of the positions, taking it head on instead of going around it. They thought the Jap wasn’t there and they got a lot of men killed there, good men.

06:12:00:00

We didn’t actually take Salamaua. The Jap pulled out and disappeared and the others came up the coastline, the Yanks and it might’ve been the 15th Brigade or something. They were first into Salamaua. We weren’t first into Salamaua. We were coming in through the land, they came up along

06:12:30:00

the coastline I think, Nassau Bay, and came up the coast. One point there, I’d come in from there. We knew who was doing the push into Salamaua. They knew the Jap was going back. They said, “Go up the hill and see if

06:13:00:00

the Jap is still up there, a night patrol.” I go up there, I hadn’t been up there, and I come back and I said, “The track peters out, there’s no track, ends up there.” He said, “I’ll go up in the morning.” They ran into a Jap barricade. He had a barricade across the track. I said to them, the major, “What, are you trying to get me killed or something?” When we went up in the morning the Japs were up the top of the hill but they weren’t down where the barricade was. They had another place there, but I said, “They’re packing up.” I watched them, they were packing up and disappearing. So

06:13:30:00

we fired a couple of shots at them and came back. He said, “Take a fighting patrol up.” I said, “Are you interested?” And he told me to be quiet then. He kept saying, “Ssh.” He was a good old solider too, but he’s dead now.

06:14:00:00

No, the troops were suffering from malaria and that. They couldn’t use their mosquito nets

06:14:30:00

and that up there and the same with us out on patrols. There was no mosquito lotion or stuff to boil the billy and so forth. They sent out a message to me one day, “You want to be careful there,” they said, “Right alongside you we can see the Japs cooking their rice.” I said, “It might be us

06:15:00:00

boiling the billy.” I didn’t know you could see the smoke from the trees from the ridge across there. Since I’ve been up there, my daughter’s got a place up at Marysville, and you look across from one ridge to the other and you can see the smoke coming up between the trees. We were only lighting a bit of a fire, probably damp wood, but boiling the billy, I said, “No one will see this.” But across on the other ridge someone could see the smoke.

06:15:30:00

What was the difference between your experience at Salamaua and Wau?
No difference. It was only a matter of at Wau the Jap was attacking and before he never attacked up their much. A couple of times he came out and went around one of the companies, A Company, but more

06:16:00:00

he was just holding his position. He never, very seldom attacked. Attacked the company only once. He came out and attacked A Company. Mainly just holding his position. He never attacked much. He was attacking at Wau, trying to take the drome. That’s the only difference.

06:16:30:00

What type of marines were you fighting against?
All I know is what ones they was. They said one lot was, then they had the daffodil sign or something or some sort of marines. I don’t know what they were, the Japs. I don’t know what they were. We never got much information back. Anything we

06:17:00:00

captured they took back for intelligence to go into. We never got into any, who they who or what they were much.
You said that the Japs really wanted to hold onto Salamaua?
No, I don’t know, but they pulled out in the finish, but I suppose they

06:17:30:00

probably didn’t want to go back without being pushed back, and I don’t think we were keen to push them. We’d just keep in touch with them more or less. Taking the high ground all the time, trying to ambush them occasionally. Go behind them and ambush them as patrols, but I couldn’t

06:18:00:00

say whether they really wanted to hold on to it. They had no option I guess when the Yanks landed at Nassau Bay and started to come up the coast and they didn’t have the force there to protect it so much. They were getting pushed back. They disappeared. I don’t think there was many killed at Salamaua. They pushed back up

06:18:30:00

into Lae. They kept pulling back as they were pushed back.
How many ambushes were you involved with in Salamaua?
We only went out twice. Twice, that was enough.
Can you tell us about these ambushes

06:19:00:00

specifically? How many Japanese?
We only got two Japanese. We were out there, we waited on a track and waited for them and I think they might’ve known we were there or got wind of us because we only ended up getting two Japanese.
Was it a Japanese patrol?
No no. Probably, I don’t know how they came but wouldn’t be us, was only a lone Jap or whether it was a lone one coming out in front, well out in front.

06:19:30:00

We waited until he came right up to us and nothing was coming behind them.
What were you starting to feel about the war at this stage?
I was getting browned-off.
What do you mean by browned-off?
I reckon

06:20:00:00

I’d done enough. (UNCLEAR) put it on the record. Some might think I’m squealing a bit.
I don’t think so.
Well at one stage they came up and said, give me the first opportunity to take this patrol out, you know, and I said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll go if my

06:20:30:00

men will go.” I said, “I’m not taking a lot of yahoos out or anything like that. Go and ask my men if they want to go out on patrol. If they go I’ll take them out.” I said, “That’s the way it works. Don’t volunteer for nothing. You can get yourself into a trouble.” You might be a yah-hoo and volunteer and what about your men you’ve taken out. If you volunteer, they reckon

06:21:00:00

they’re entitled to volunteer too. I said, “Let the men volunteer first. I’m not volunteering.” I said, “I’ll take my men out if they volunteer.” (UNCLEAR). Very few knew about it. At the time they had no one in reserve to pick on, you see. They wanted a patrol to go out; they had to call for volunteers. Everyone up there at the time

06:21:30:00

had a position to hold and if anyone got into trouble, like when A Company got into trouble, there’s no one in reserve to help them out. They got surrounded and bringing everything they could.

06:22:00:00

Your next stop was Aitape?
We came back for a good spell in Australia before that, yeah.
Three weeks in Melbourne leave?
We got a bit of leave.
Actually before you went back to Melbourne, once you finished up at Salamaua you were relieved by another battalion?

06:22:30:00

No no, Salamaua was finished. Others were going up further up to Lae, although some came in there, but Salamaua was finished when we left. We were the last to leave. I think the 5th and 6th Battalion that were with us, they’d pulled out and gone home, and we were due to come back. The others went up the coast around Finschhafen and so forth, another battalion. I don’t know

06:23:00:00

who it was without looking it up. We came back for a pretty good leave, and then of course malaria. I never got malaria up there because we were taking that much Atebrin all the time, suppressant drugs. When we got back and knocked it off, well the malaria came on. I was out at Heidelberg [Repatriation Hospital] a couple of times with malaria. And I tell you this, they said, everyone else when

06:23:30:00

they got malaria would go to a con [convalescent] camp. “Oh, you’re 17th Brigade. You don’t go to con camp, you’re wanted up in the Tablelands.” We had to go to return to unit, RTU, return to unit. That’s how important they thought some of us were. Anyone else who got a bit sick they’d say, “You can go to a convalescent camp for a week or two. You’re

06:24:00:00

17th Brigade? We’ve got a directive.” I don’t whether they got a directive, but we had to all go straight back to the Tablelands.
So you had to go to Port Moresby for instructors school?
I did.
That was straight after Salamaua?
No, that was before Salamaua. We came back from the spell from the attack on Salamaua. We came back from there and they said, “Go down there.” I don’t know whether they wanted to make an instructor out of me or something or other,

06:24:30:00

and I said to them, “If you’re going to send me to a school, send me to a school in Australia,” but they wouldn’t listen to it.
That was before?
Hey?
So you got sent from Salamaua? How did you get back to Melbourne?
Well they barged you out of Milne Bay and then a boat across from Milne Bay to Cairns and down that way. That’s after Salamaua.

06:25:00:00

Tell us about your leave in Melbourne, what did you do?
Nearly everything. Coming home we met a few, we used to meet the blokes in

06:25:30:00

town a few times, the battalion blokes that lived in town, meet up in town or meet over and spend our leave. I wasn’t too keen to do anything. Just normal, normal procedure, travel around. Might’ve went up

06:26:00:00

and seen a few relations up Bendigo or something. It didn’t take long. Don’t take long when you’re here and there for a couple of days and into town. It soon went.

06:26:30:00

Must bring back some old memories, hey?
A few of them. I don’t take much notice of them now. I don’t read many war books now or watch war pictures. I’ve seen it all and don’t talk about it much unless we meet up with some of my old mates from Sydney or something or we go up to Corowa occasionally and so forth.
Do you think about it still?
No.
Like your mates?

06:27:00:00

Sometimes when you’re by yourself?
No, they’re all passing on now slowly, all the old blokes. There are very few of them left that were there early in the piece now, like the 1939ers. They’ve all got to be up near their nineties, those that joined up in 1939. They were all around about 20, well in their 20s.

06:27:30:00

Who were the mates you caught up with in Melbourne?
Blokes in the battalion, they’ve passed on now. Alfie Haines, used to come from Yarraville and Dinny Bannon used to B Company and all them. They had a big crew there. We used to meet at certain pubs in town. You’d always meet them there. Carlton, some had a bit of a, certain

06:28:00:00

pubs.
You spent all your time with your mates?
Well, the blokes you knew in civvy [civilian] life, they had their jobs. They couldn’t get off and you weren’t too keen to hang around and

06:28:30:00

watch them do the work. You might as well go in, and we weren’t paying much train fares. We’d hop on a train I think whether we were supposed to or whether we wanted to. We weren’t paying many fares, I know that.
You met up with old friends from the battalion though?
Yeah. Well, you’d know where they’d meet in certain pubs there. You had to be careful; a few of them were broke and would want to bite you. You’d say, “I’m broke too.”

06:29:00:00

Money seemed to evaporate in them days. And leave is too short anyhow. Leave seemed to go that quick.

06:29:30:00

You’d make up your mind you’d want to go there and you can’t map it out, and before you know where you are. I think I got a bit longer. I got malaria and I got two extra days. I stayed back and watched my mate play football for Fitzroy. He played football. He was in my, this is when we were in the army. He played football for Fitzroy in the final

06:30:00:00

against Richmond when they won. Yeah, and my other mate, Leo Monagan, he was with the 5th Battalion. He couldn’t get leave to stay back. He played in the semi-final but he couldn’t stay back for the final, but still he got permission from the colonel to stay back to play in that final. And I was there, had to stay back.

06:30:30:00

It must’ve been good to see your parents as well?
Yes. They were getting old. As I say, my father, he had lung trouble and he had trouble getting a bit of brandy. He used to like a sip of brandy when he wasn’t feeling too good. But the brother, he knew the publican pretty well in Oakleigh and he could always get,

06:31:00:00

he used to say to him, “Send someone down and (UNCLEAR) find him if we’re away. Send someone down and mention your name, I’ll have a bottle of brandy for him.” They used to look after us, old Stanley’s pub at Oakleigh. And the local pub over here, the Notting Hill, used to look after us.

06:31:30:00

You must’ve been pretty upset to leave Melbourne to go back to the campaign, to the front line?
No use getting crook. It was just a case of have to. You were in the army and couldn’t get out of it, and anyone that

06:32:00:00

tried to hang around, they’d have the Provos. Even a day or two leave wasn’t too kindly thought of in them times. Your leave was up, it was just like a job. You had to be there to catch a train or get back. You had to have a good excuse or be crook or do something.

06:32:30:00

Don’t think there’s too many didn’t go back. They knew it had to be done. A lot of them might’ve had pull, might’ve got transferred into something else. A few of them, you know, probably getting old and might be made B class or something, not fit for front line duty or something or other, or

06:33:00:00

know someone in some unit and get transferred. A few blokes got pulled out of the army. Said someone with a bit of influence wanted them in some urgent job.

06:33:30:00

So you went back to Aitape by ship?
Yeah.
Your battalion reformed?
Yeah. We landed at Aitape and were kept at Aitape for a while unloading stores. We weren’t pushed into much action. We more or less defended the drome. Stopped the Japs from coming up and taking the big drome they had there

06:34:00:00

more or less. I think we were the only battalion there. I don’t know where the 5th were. They might’ve been inland a bit more, but we were unloading stores on the boat or out defending the drome. They had companies out around the drome. They had no defence themselves, you know, the air, mainly Yanks and that.

06:34:30:00

A few of the boys would get on the milk run or something. They reckon there was a milk run just flying up and seeing any activity in the sea or something. They’d say, “Do you want a ride, a flight?” I never got one. I never got out to the drome. We were back on the beach, but some of those that went out to the drome could get a free trip on a plane.
Had Aitape been already taken by then?
Yes,

06:35:00:00

yes. It was a big airbase when we got there.
Your battalion was there to defend the airbase?
Yeah, more or less. Then we started to push inland later on, yeah, at the finish.
At the finish?
Yeah.
Did you run into any Japanese stragglers?
No no, not until we got right up in amongst them.

06:35:30:00

You got right up in amongst them, did you say?
Yeah. We were pushing the Jap back and taking positions, always trying to corner him all the time.
What were the Japanese soldiers like you came up

06:36:00:00

against there?
They were very tender. They didn’t like, they’d hold opposition but they didn’t actually come forward much in attack and attack us. They defended their position pretty well because they had pretty good defensive positions. They’d pick a pretty high hard place to get to, on top of a hill or something. You could get around them alright but you had to,

06:36:30:00

find it hard to make a frontal attack on them. They were hard to push off some of these good positions. They had their fox holes and machine guns and so forth, but we were fortunate that we had plenty of support from the planes. If we wanted to push them off the hills, we’d send contact with the air force and if they weren’t over-busy or had nothing special on they’d drop some

06:37:00:00

pretty big bombs on them and we’d send smoke bombs over and tell them where the positions were like. They’d know where to drop the bombs then. They wouldn’t know from the scrub or the hills and that, but they’d be in contact, some of them would be in contact with the planes and the pilots. Send a smoke bomb over and drop it on the position you wanted to drop the bombs on. Of course, it would

06:37:30:00

knock three or four positions out, but you might be unlucky when you went to go in. There might be one position that wasn’t hardly damaged, you know. You might be careful you didn’t get a few casualties off that. They’d still be there. And one position there, when they done that trick, the Jap was starting to wake up to it. When the planes came over and that instead of running off the hill and

06:38:00:00

missing the bomb, they’d come forward. They knew you’d be back waiting for the bomber to come forward between us and, by the time you’d go there they’d just go back to their position. Even though they were knocked around a bit the Jap was still a capable fighting force.
Even at that stage, Aitape?
At the finish, yes, when we were trying to take the Pimple there. Not at Aitape. This is mainly at Salamaua.

06:38:30:00

We didn’t have, were trying to get a couple of bad positions, the Pimple and a few of them places. That’s what he was up against.
Would these guys have woodpeckers in the hills and all that?
Yes. They had their machine guns and that, yeah. They never had any short, they had short rifles and that, but they were not automatic weapons. They had a couple like

06:39:00:00

our Bren, but I don’t think they were very effective. I can’t think of much more now. I think I’ve run out of gas now. We’ll have to finish.
I’ve got a few more questions to ask you.
Well ask away.

06:39:30:00

Get it over and done with.
What were the Japanese, as a whole what do you think of the Japanese soldier, his fighting capability?
Well I think he was alright. I think they were very, I think their officers were pretty strict on them and they didn’t leave their positions. They stuck it right out to the finish. I never struck, even in a bad position they wouldn’t surrender. They more or less,

06:40:00:00

was their position. I think they were fatalists. They said, “We’re there to soldier. I’m there to do or die, do or die.” I think that was more their attitude. (UNCLEAR). They wouldn’t say, “Oh well, we’ll surrender and be taken prisoner of war,” and so forth. I don’t know.
Interviewee: Francis Hall Archive ID 2053 Tape 07

07:00:31:00

So what do you recall about the day you heard that the bomb had been dropped in Japan?
Well, we were pleased our blokes got it instead of their blokes, dropped a decent bomb and blew half the joint away. As you say, England got bombed to pieces, so lucky Japan doing that, they might, well they were gradually getting pushed back and I think like,

07:01:30:00

well, we reckoned we were on the winning side. Before you didn’t know if you were on the winning side or the losing side. It was touch and go the way they were shifting back and going to get in Australia. One time they were talking about letting them get half Australia. When Germany got, like the European part was over, I said, “We can now put a bit of, the Yanks can put a bit more

07:02:00:00

into their side of it. We were a bit disappointed when the English lost the two big boats going up there without any air cover, you see. They started to wake up how good air cover was. You can’t do much if you relied on the vastly superior air cover, which the Germans were like in Greece and Crete and them places.
When victory in Europe happened, what was the feeling around the men and did it mean anything to the Australians?
Yeah, I think it meant a lot. It took a while until they started to win

07:02:30:00

there, after the second front came in. Things were looking real drastic for us. We hadn’t had anything to jump up and down about until they started to push up through Italy and so forth and Germany was getting pushed back from Russia and that, and we were holding our own at this end,

07:03:00:00

well, things looked a bit brighter. But you always think you can go to the wall once too often.
When the [atomic] bomb was dropped in Japan and you heard of the devastation, did you believe what they were saying, that a whole city was destroyed?
We reckoned they did something.

07:03:30:00

Yes, we seemed to believe it. I think they had sort of pictures and that and so forth what was going on. It was no use, the propaganda, what a decent size bomb will do, when they said how strong they were and blasted a whole city out.

07:04:00:00

Was it a shock to hear about that, how powerful bombs had become?
A shock? We were pleased, pleased about it you might say. “Save a few lives,” I said. Save a few lives instead of taking it in dribs and drabs. That’s a pretty tough proposition taking it, taking it street by street or island by island.

07:04:30:00

Once you get to Japan you might find, we might find our supplies were getting a bit hard to keep up to as they found it, the Jap found it and the Germans found it. Everyone finds the supplies is a major proposition, keeping.
If the bomb wasn’t dropped do you think Australian

07:05:00:00

troops would’ve been involved in landing on Japan and that invasion?
I think so. They’d have been into it I think. I think it was only a matter that they wanted someone, Blamey sort of wanted to keep them together and they gave them the job of mopping up the Japs and keeping the dromes clear and that,

07:05:30:00

which is, well some of them did go over to Bougainville and that. We didn’t know much about that at the time. We just knew what we had to do. It’s probably pretty important to keep the planes. The planes were doing the damage, not us. We weren’t doing the damage, but we were protecting the dromes and the planes.
Did it feel like the

07:06:00:00

Americans were pushing the Australians aside on their major, not involving them in the major assaults?
No, I don’t think so. We got on pretty well with the American soldiers. Some of our blokes even went with them when they, or three or four of them went with them when they left Aitape to go over there, and they just, they welcomed our blokes to go with them too. Two or three of them sort of,

07:06:30:00

the Yanks with their good tucker and everything, you were well looked after. They said, “This is for us.” Their rations were a lot better than our rations, I’ll tell you that.
What did you think of the American fighting force?
Towards the finish, I think once the troops got down, I think some of the first, they rushed in, weren’t too well trained I think,

07:07:00:00

or weren’t too well led. That’s all I think you can say. They lacked a bit of leadership I think early in the piece. I don’t know because I never fought with them, but I was talking to some of our men that were up at Buna where they first saw them like, and they said they weren’t too keen to follow the Bren gunner when they went in and the troops got too far back and let the things, instead of keeping up with them. They said they’d have been

07:07:30:00

better off if they had some of their own troops.
Did they seem more pampered to you than you were?
I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know about pampered. I think it was just a matter of they weren’t led or weren’t properly trained. They mightn’t have been in the service much, the first blokes they had out. They might’ve sent their good troops over to Europe, you see.

07:08:00:00

They might’ve been, I don’t know, but I was speaking, all I’ve seen of them in action was alright, but I just thought some reports that came back from Buna, some of our blokes went up with their Bren gun carriers, should never have been forced into the role they took.
What do you remember of the

07:08:30:00

actual day that you heard that the war was over and the Japanese surrendered?
We were jumping up and down with joy because the battalion was in a pretty serious position. They were out like probably trying, the Jap was in a hole and he was wanting to defend it. He seemed to have a fair few supplies there

07:09:00:00

and the attacking force was always at a fair amount of disadvantage because they can keep pushing back and you want to sort of annihilate them but you’ve got no hope if he keeps withdrawing, withdrawing. You’re losing a few men and he’s losing men. You’re not making much headway. All you’re doing is pushing back and you’ve got the hard job of taking his positions and keeping supplies up

07:09:30:00

to you because where we were there were no main roads to keep plenty of supplies up to you.
What were the celebrations like when you heard the war was over?
It wasn’t over as far as we were concerned for weeks after because they were negotiating with the

07:10:00:00

Jap, but they were saying, “We haven’t heard. We haven’t had any orders to lay down or arms,” or, “We haven’t heard of the surrender,” or, “We haven’t been instructed to surrender.” That seemed to be, they more or less were just a no stand-off. We decided not to send out patrols and that. But there was two or three of our blokes killed after supposed to be the cease. They sent a,

07:10:30:00

I think it was a native, they called him, I forget what they called him. He went in and put a couple of blast bombs in or something. Whether they went off at the time or set a timer on them I don’t know, but where the blokes were sleeping two or three got blokes got killed after they reckoned the war over. They weren’t doing patrols out into his territory, but I think the Japs couldn’t come in but I think a couple of the natives came in that were

07:11:00:00

tied up with the Japs and put, must’ve set some sort of a blast bomb. I don’t think it was a shrapnel bomb, probably gelignite. They called the bloke something “Gelignite Jack”, the native. They reckon that’s what they put the blame down to. We didn’t send patrols out through their lines until they got official information that war was over and they agreed

07:11:30:00

to surrender.
At the time did you think much about if the Japanese knew that the war had finished?
Well, they kept saying they didn’t. They had sort of correspondence with them, they’d send messages out to them. But I think they sort of agreed that as far as, they weren’t going, later on after a week so they weren’t going to attack or anything. They were just going to hold their positions until

07:12:00:00

they heard things. I think they gradually got the news through. They had wirelesses and that there, but probably gradually got through to them. But I suppose there was no one to give the down right orders because the pretty high ranking Japanese officer was in charge there, General Adachi, or something. He was pretty well up, pretty high up.
Do you know if the Japanese were

07:12:30:00

pretty isolated and living off the land and didn’t have really a central control? They were just in the jungle, what type of action they took?
Well when they came down to Wau they’d run out of, they were living off the land and they were always raiding the natives’ gardens around there, but I don’t know whether up there there were many native gardens there, but they were trying to live off the land more or less. Any native

07:13:00:00

gardens, they were living off that. I don’t know what, at one stage there they said they had a net up catching the bats and were eating the bats or something, big bats that were in a thick colony there. I don’t know what sort of tucker it was but they reckon it was good tucker [food]. Our blokes thought, when they saw the things up in the air, they thought it was some sort of a wireless station and went in to investigate and they said no, a Jap told them it was only where they used to catch the bats

07:13:30:00

or something up in the hills.
Did you hear reports of cannibalisation?
There were reports of it, yeah. They reckoned they was and they reckoned they found one bloke with, been sliced off his buttocks. Whether they ate it, but they reckon he’d been mutilated, one of the bodies early in the piece. There was only talk of it,

07:14:00:00

and I think some of the, we got a couple of Indians they brought over as slave labour more or less with them and seemed to think they had been, but that’s only hearsay. They found blokes that they said had pieces cut off their buttocks, but whether it was just mutilation or they done

07:14:30:00

it to try and keep themselves going it’s hard to say.
When you’re there and you hear about them eating bats and living off the land and cannibalisation and so on, what did you think about them at the time and these stories?
Well, the same with us. When we were at Wau we’d go to the native gardens and get their sweet potatoes and their paw paws because there was no one in the villages. If

07:15:00:00

you struck a native garden and their might be bananas there ripe, you’d say, “Well, there’s no one been around here because there’s plenty of ripe bananas or paw paws or sweet potatoes where they had a bit of a garden.
When you heard of cannibalisation or so did you think they were savages, or did you think any less of them?
Well, we didn’t know what to believe,

07:15:30:00

whether it was only isolated cases of it, you know. I said, “They must be hard pressed for tucker if that’s what they’re going on.” But I didn’t understand how they could be that bad off. We took it with a grain of salt more or less. There was only an odd case where they had any sort of evidence at all, very odd.

07:16:00:00

It could’ve been anything. It could’ve been just something after he’d been killed, they might’ve slashed at him or something because often for scrub cutting, cutting their way through the scrub, they might have a slasher or something and they might’ve just slashed a bit off him, nothing to do. Or mainly their officers carried a sword, you see, well, he might’ve just tried to be smart with his sword, you know.

07:16:30:00

Slashed a piece of his arm or leg or whatever they did.
When you hear how desperate they were for food, in some way does it help the morale of the Australians because they think they must be in trouble or anything like that?
Wouldn’t do us any harm but we knew tucker was short ourselves at times.

07:17:00:00

Aeroplanes never dropped, or never picked up the drops. You might be short of certain things on the dropping grounds. They might find it hard to pick up the tucker you wanted. You could always get plenty of biscuits or dehydrated meat, but tea and sugar and stuff like that, that’s what they dropped, might be scarce. That was mainly our scarce item. But nothing went wrong with dehydrated meat or dehydrated spuds or

07:17:30:00

apples or stuff like that in the big tins. They could always be found. I don’t know whether the boongs knocked off or some of our blokes knocked the good stuff off too if they’d seen it. If you were supposed to be picking up you’d say, “Well, here’s some tea. We better have a bit of that,” if you knew what it was.
Did you have much to do with the natives in New Guinea and

07:18:00:00

on the island?
Not a great deal, but occasionally you’d have to be called on to escort them. You might be back and it might be your job to, you’d have a bloke out in front escorting them and a bloke in the middle and a couple of blokes on the front. There might be four or five of you escorting a boong train. Wouldn’t be many, but the boongs liked to see you. There’d be a couple out the front and a couple in the middle and a couple on the tail end. Used to make sure that

07:18:30:00

the, give the natives a bit of confidence. They’d be happier that way too. They went into some pretty awkward positions bring the supplies through, you know, through no man’s land some of the time. But they never struck any trouble. We never had any trouble with them. We might’ve got a couple of scares when they dropped their load for a while when a few

07:19:00:00

shots were fired, but it was just a false alarm as far as we knew, could see. Dropped their load but they never panicked or anything.
Did you know of any natives that were helping the Japanese?
No, but I think a lot of them were forced to. There was one position we took from the Japanese, we had the ANGAU [Australia and New Guinea Administrative Unit] bloke there and

07:19:30:00

he brought them in and gave them a bit of a lecture because they were, of course, they were more or less their country and they never left the village and they had to do what the Japanese said. He gave them a bit of a lecture and so forth, and they were quite happy to come over and work for us. So I suppose it was under the same

07:20:00:00

conditions. We left it to the ANGAU blokes to do all the work with the natives. There would be two or three of them travelling around looking after, with the boong trains and so forth. If you took a village and the natives came in he’d be there. I suppose he talked their lingo a bit or talked the Pidgin English to them and get around them and they’d be

07:20:30:00

quite willing to work for you. After he gave them a lecture one night he said, “You needn’t bother standing guard tonight. They’ll stand guard.” I said, “I wouldn’t trust them,” because he’d give them such a lecture and give a couple of them a whack with his cane if they didn’t answer his questions. That doesn’t sound too good.
When the war was

07:21:00:00

over and it was declared over, but people were still getting killed because the Japanese didn’t know, did those deaths have a different impact on you than the others?
Yes, it did. Hell, yeah. It’s still sad today when you read of the blokes that went right through the war and were over there and got killed afterwards. In our history there, this one bloke got killed. His father got killed after the last war, when the last was over.

07:21:30:00

A bloke called Kingy or something or other. They must’ve found out that his father got killed after the last war was over last. Something happened, whether it was an accident or not, but he go killed with this blast bomb. He was only wounded but he died of wounds afterwards. Another bloke had gone right through the war, an original member of the battalion and he got killed after it was all supposed to be over.

07:22:00:00

Not that they let their guard down. I think they still had their, they didn’t let their guard down say, it was just that they came in and must’ve planted, they reckoned this native planted either a time bomb or a blast bomb that went off at a certain time. When they were left with such a big blast that it wrecked where they were sleeping and killed two or three, or killed a

07:22:30:00

couple and wounded a couple pretty badly I think.
How would you compare the Germans and Italians you faced and the Japanese you faced?
Well, the German was a more, he was a good fighter too but if he got in a hole, I think they’re like the Englishmen, they feel there’s no hope, well we might as well

07:23:00:00

surrender and that. But I think the Japanese were more or less resigned we’re here to do or die. That’s all I can, they weren’t, even in tight situations where you had no hope they still seemed to want to fight on, outnumbered and so forth.
And the Italians?
Well, they came out with their hands up pretty easy, all I’ve seen of them. I was mainly

07:23:30:00

with the trucks at the time. I was right up in the hot end of it, but we could see them coming out. They’d be carrying, I’ve seen them coming out and a bloke would be carrying the guard’s rifle. He’d make him carry his rifle. He’d just walk alongside having a smoke and a bloke’s walking alongside him with his rifle. He’s got about 100 or 200 prisoners marching out.
So when you say that the Japanese

07:24:00:00

would fight to the death, whereas the Germans were good fighters but wouldn’t fight that far, do you think the Japanese were a better fighting machine than the Germans?
No, I don’t. No, I wouldn’t say that, but they were more fatalist. That’s all I can say. They did what they were told I think if they had their officers with them. I think they were lost without good leadership I think.

07:24:30:00

I think they were just, “I’m here to do or die,” more or less. Early in the piece they reckon they put on a few, not with us, but coming down in the islands they reckon they might put on a bit of banzai charge or something, do a bit of a thing. But all we ever heard them singing out was, “Mr Officer,” or something or other. “Where are you Mr Officer?” Or, “Mr White,” or something. They had the

07:25:00:00

transcript but it didn’t come out right. “Mr Officer, Mr Officer,” or Mr something like that. I never got that close to them of a night time to hear them. They got a few hand grenades over when they started to sing that out whenever they were near us. But some reckon one time they were trying to find out your position by saying, “Mr Officer, where are you?” Or, “Where are you?” Or, “Mr White,” or something.

07:25:30:00

Things like that, something that they’d been probably taught, taught to say, you know.
So after the war was finished, how long were you still on the island then?
No time, no time, no time. I had my points up. I was single but I they had a sort of a points system. Married men could, they reckon the war was going our way

07:26:00:00

and some married men that had five years up could get a discharge if you wanted it. Single men were different. They said, “You’ve got,” the points system was about half or something or not as great anyhow. But anyone with points up could dominate, say, “Well, do you want to hang on and go to Japan with the Defence Force?” The battalion was disbanded

07:26:30:00

up there after. They never came back as a unit. That’s what I say, they just split them up and put them into where they wanted them or something. They just joined with new reinforcements. They had to stay and do their job, whatever was going on. They never got the opportunity. When I got the opportunity I said, “I’m off home.” Yep, first boat.
How do you feel being one of those rare people that went though the

07:27:00:00

war from beginning to end and surviving?
I’m keeping my fingers crossed now.
Were you injured at all in those six years?
No, no. I got a self-inflicted wound with a training school. A grenade took the skin off my hand. A practice grenade was thrown around, took a bit of skin off the back of my hand and so forth

07:27:30:00

for a couple of days.
Is that rare amongst your colleagues, that apart from that incident, you didn’t get injured at all?
Yeah, very rare. Very few, they either got wounded and that. The only thing I got like was went back with malaria a couple of times. Malaria got that bad that I went back

07:28:00:00

to hospital for (UNCLEAR), take a dose of quinine or malaria treatment dose and get back again. That was the only time.
So what was your secret to survival and not getting injured? Was there a secret?
I don’t know. Someone gave me a lucky charm but I lost it in Greece with all my gear. In the kit

07:28:30:00

bags and that and we lost it all in Greece and never came out. All our souvenirs and that from the (UNCLEAR) show.
At the time, even though the Japanese and Italians and the Germans are your enemy, is there some way you relate to them as soldiers?
After we heard what the

07:29:00:00

Japs were doing to some of our prisoners of war, we sort of got hardened. We never took to the Japanese at all. It filtered back the way some of the blokes got treated and what they did to the civilian population and what they did to the, they had some Indians they must’ve had as carriers and they all got killed off. They must’ve been badly treated, we had a few of them telling us.

07:29:30:00

We’ll just stop for one second. Alright, so the Japanese you didn’t feel, did you know what they were doing in their POW [prisoner of war] camps at that stage when you were fighting them?
Yes, it sort of filtered back to us, yeah, what they did to them, yeah. We got a bit back too. We got a couple of Indian prisoners. They’d been prisoners of the Japs and they sort of told us that they’d

07:30:00:00

mistreated them and they couldn’t account for them. They knew they brought some over but they must’ve just let them fall by the wayside, you know. They asked the Japanese can they account for the prisoners they took and they couldn’t account for them, you know. People they’d brought over as probably carrying their stuff, using them as slave labour more or less. Probably got them from Burma or somewhere, or got them there.

07:30:30:00

What was the Australian, how did the Australians deal with Japanese POWs that they captured in the jungle?
Well we only caught a few of them and they got well treated. They wanted them back at divvy and brigade headquarters. They were all looking for prisoners. They intelligence blokes and interpreters wanted to get a couple and try and found out a bit of information and that, any they

07:31:00:00

could capture. But one time a bloke was trying to capture a Jap but he got into trouble. He caught the Jap asleep or something and sort of woke him up, but by the time he got him another Jap woke up and in the meantime they had to shoot the Jap and one of our own blokes’ got wounded by another Jap, and they got into a Jap position, or they’d seen some of them. They were trying to take a prisoner, and

07:31:30:00

I’ve seen a native silly enough to go up and grab one and he thought he was unarmed, but he had one of our grenades he probably got from a booby trap or somewhere wrapped up with just a bit of vine around it. He undone it and blew himself up and the native was badly wounded to trying to arrest him, you know, trying to reckon he could capture him or something more or less. He wasn’t a very big Jap but

07:32:00:00

he had a grenade. That’s all they had. I say you’ve got to be a bit careful. They reckon often as not they’d come in trying to surrender and have their hands up, but they might have a grenade or something on the head under their hat or something or other, things like that. So we heard tales of it. Blokes up at Buna said they’d be wading out to see and they’d be catching them and they’d come in and the next minute they’d find out they had a grenade or something, you know.

07:32:30:00

Whether they were going to blow themselves up or wait and catch someone and blow you up with them, like some of these bombs they’re dropping over in Tel Aviv and these places. Blow themselves up and blow you up too.
Was it physically hard to take prisoners in the jungle?
Yeah, it was. That’s what I’m saying, they always

07:33:00:00

have a thought to get away. I was on a patrol going out and I had my safety catch and the bloke had just taken over and he forgot to take his safety catch off, and of course the first time he sees a Jap there and he wants to shoot him and by the time he wakes up, pulls the trigger and wonders why his gun’s not going off and puts the safety catch on, the bloke’s disappeared through

07:33:30:00

the scrub, you see. He could have shot him the first, by the time he looks down and sees what’s wrong, the safety catch is on. I said, “Jesus, the first thing you do, you want the bloke behind you to have his safety catch on in case any blokes with everything ready to go, and he knows he’s got to push it on.” But he thought he’d taken over but he forgot to take the safety catch off and by the time he lines up and pulls the trigger and

07:34:00:00

what’s going on, he didn’t wait. Just automatic when he went up he took the safety off. Things like that happen, but it give him a chance to get away. You’ve just got to go a few yards and the track would turn a corner following the contours of the hill and around like this. You’ve only got to go a couple of yards and he’s around a bit of a corner at least.

07:34:30:00

Have you heard of the commandos not taking prisoners?
No no. Well, I don’t think they got much chance to take prisoners. Theirs is in and out. Never heard of any of them. We only had the independent companies, what they call them up there with us. They call them independent companies like

07:35:00:00

doing their own bit of business, doing raids and so forth, but I think the main raids were at night time more or less to disrupt something. Go in and throw a bit of bomb and shoot something up and out. Shoot and scatter we used to say. I couldn’t, they wouldn’t be going in looking for prisoners but it’s probably mainly, it’s not daylight,

07:35:30:00

it’s night time work what I’ve heard of. I don’t think there’s any daylight raids on their camps. They got on observation and find out they got get in and might go in and shoot up a few huts or something and throw a few grenades and out again.
How were the commandos regarded at the time, the Australian commandos?
Alright, yeah. Two or three of our blokes fell foul of

07:36:00:00

blokes and crossed over. They reckoned they were alright. They got on well with them.
Fell foul?
Well, the officer in charge of the company, they didn’t, I don’t think he was much chop and the colonel was (UNCLEAR) because they were sergeants at the time and he started giving them most of the work or something and hand over a bit and they knew Worfy at the time up at,

07:36:30:00

he was used to come in contact a bit. He was the commanding officer of them, “Can we come over with you?” And of course he accepted them with open arms, knew they were top soldiers. I know the lieut got into trouble with the colonel over it for losing a couple of his men. I don’t think they could do much about it when the other blokes went over and he accepted them, or something. I don’t think they did much book work in them times up there, got the OK, because I know two or three

07:37:00:00

blokes went from battalion back to brigade. Someone with a bit of pull said, “We went them back at brigade for a certain job,” or something.
Which did you prefer, the jungle of New Guinea and so on, or the arid land of North Africa and the Middle East?
I thought the jungle you had more individual work and that. I didn’t like that open country you were more or less going

07:37:30:00

in, they could see you coming more or less. After you took one place you had to keep going to try and take the other and you might get the first place like in the early morning in a raid, a dawn raid as you say, but the rest of the day you’re under fire so you had to try and take, as you say, we were lucky we didn’t strike reasonably good fighters. I know in one case

07:38:00:00

they sent the prisoner over to tell the other mob to surrender before they opened up on them more or less. In a couple of cases it might’ve paid off.
Through your long six years in the whole entire war, how much stress and mental energy does that take for you to survive?

07:38:30:00

Once you start worrying you get grey haired over nothing. If you get hit you worry about it, if you don’t get hit what’s the use of worrying. You don’t start getting into that sort of thinking. That’s the worst thing. You say, “Things are going well with us.”
Did others around you go into that thinking and get very stressed out?
No one seemed to worry. The

07:39:00:00

only time you started to worry was when tobacco got scarce and heavy smokers couldn’t get a smoke. They used to try everything and you’d never see a bloke, a heavy smoker, that couldn’t get tobacco.
Did you see blokes around you during that whole time that couldn’t take the pounding, the sound, everything involved?
There were two or three might’ve got sent back but I don’t know. Probably mainly

07:39:30:00

hadn’t been, shot up pretty quick, and reinforcements hadn’t got into the caper I don’t think. I think two or three of them more or less got, they call them shell shocked and couldn’t help themselves, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t do anything.
So how did you cope yourself from day to day?
Just took things as they came. Never had a real bad time of

07:40:00:00

it, just took it as it come. If you did a patrol and you got out of it alright, you said, “Well, that’s over and done with and I hope the next one is just as easy or just as sweet.”
OK, that’s another tape.
Interviewee: Francis Hall Archive ID 2053 Tape 08

08:00:31:00

Alright Frank, do you want to tell us what you did when the war was over, when you came home?
Yeah, well I went back with the brother that kept the market garden going. We started to build it up again. It got down pretty well, but we built it up. I didn’t want to do anything else much. I was happy enough working with the brother and we could get a quid out of it.

08:01:00:00

Doing my love of labour and working in the market garden, probably working reasonably long hours when we had to and short hours when we didn’t. We were our own boss.
You were fed up of the war, weren’t you?
Yes, I’d

08:01:30:00

had enough, yeah. Yeah, I’d seen enough, enough of the war, yeah. I didn’t want to keep soldiering on.
Why is that?
I didn’t want to keep in the army, no. No, I thought, I didn’t want to be, if you kept on they wanted me to be an instructor and I didn’t like telling blokes what to do, the same thing over

08:02:00:00

and over. I’d been to schools and seen what the instructors do and it browned them off. One of our blokes was a top instructor when I went back to school. I knew him real well. What’s his name? Anyhow, he was fed up with it. He had a good life there. He was on good tucker and everything and all he had to do was instruct and that. He said to us, “For Christ’s sake, get me back to the battalion.” Of course the school (UNCLEAR).

08:02:30:00

Went back to the battalion and got bumped off at the first action. He was living the life of luxury down at Moresby there, the top instructor and knew everything. Of course he was only doing the one weapon over and over again and he could say it with his eyes shut. It was like a piece of cake to him, and he was a good bloke and helped you out and do anything for you. As I say, he went up there and wanted to get back with the boys. Went up there

08:03:00:00

and first time in he copped it.
Such is the nature of war.
Such is the nature. That’s what I’m saying. I could tell you, another battalion bloke, he was a big strong bloke in the army and of course they grab a lot of them for Provos. You’d be a corporal, and he said, “I couldn’t be.” He was in it for a while and he came back. He was going up there and he had his own money and bought tobacco for all

08:03:30:00

the boys because tobacco was scarce and he’d get out there handing out tobacco to all the boys. He was a top man. He was the same thing, trying to get back. Anyway, he was killed. Good champion footballer, champion everything, a big strong bloke. They took him into the Provos for a while and a corporal in the Provos and he said, “This is not the life for me. I want to be back with the boys,” and that’s what happened. I don’t know if it’s the luck of the draw or what

08:04:00:00

it is.
Did he live after the war?
No no no.
He got killed?
He got killed, yeah.
At the front?
Yeah, such a good bloke. He wasn’t in our battalion, he was in another battalion. We used to know him. He used to play football against us and we knew him well. All shed a tear over him, such a good bloke, and after what he’d done, you know, he wanted to get back up, and that’s what happened.

08:04:30:00

Did you lose a lot of mates in the war?
Yes, a lot of good mates. We had a good football team up there and blokes were top footballers like, and two or three of them got killed.

08:05:00:00

Two or three, and our captain said, “God, strike me, all of my good footballers getting wounded.” Getting wounded, a lot of them didn’t get killed, some of them got wounded and so forth. Two or three of them got killed. One bloke was on (hsnl? UNCLEAR) for a while like, and another two or three got wounded like, Monagan for Fitzroy and so forth, but he got over it. Tommy McRae, he never played

08:05:30:00

football until he got in the army but he was a top footballer and he got killed. Two or three of them, you know. A bloke from Tasmania, our full forward, got wounded and so forth. Never played football again I don’t think.
Throughout the war, especially in the islands, fighting the Japanese, did you have any close encounters yourself where

08:06:00:00

you were nearly killed or wounded?
No no. I kept, trusted luck, no. I nearly killed some of our own blokes once. I was up at the, after Wau I was up at the Black Cat and I set all the booby traps up there and

08:06:30:00

when we pulled out they told me to stay behind and show them, take them down. Gosh, I took the bloke down, showed him once and said, “Here they are. There’s only one booby trap and this is one.” “Yeah, yeah, I know everything.” He was a know-all. He was probably another sergeant, know-all. “Yeah, I’ll be right.” I said, “I want to get back with my mates. I’ll take you down again tomorrow morning. Once is enough to show you.” Anyhow, “I’ll be right, I’ll be right,” he said.

08:07:00:00

Said, “Well, if I hurry now,” this is a day behind, if I get away, I had a bloke stayed back with me, “We’ll catch up with our own blokes instead of being a day behind. We’ll catch them up at Wau. We’ll get back.” So late in the day I stepped off and went about. Anyhow, we heard back later that the next morning they walked into the booby trap. No one got killed but it was set the other way, to go off the other way.

08:07:30:00

And they were wanting to know why I didn’t stay back and take them two or three times. Well, you can only lead a horse to water so often. I said, “I took them down and showed them and he reckoned it was alright,” but I was supposed, according to the good book I was supposed to take them down to where this big booby trap was set to go off. Anyhow, I didn’t hear anymore about it. There was supposed

08:08:00:00

to be a bit of a complaint coming through, but I was up in the font line and nothing ever came through, only on the grapevine [informally], why I didn’t stop there and the 5th Battalion were pretty crook on me. They reckoned I was to blame for not staying for two or three days and showing them where it was. Anyhow nothing happened and I didn’t shed any tears of blood over it.

08:08:30:00

It wasn’t actually my, you know, the bloke said, you know. Even if I had showed him two or three times he probably still would’ve walked into it or he sent someone else down and someone else walked into it, but they didn’t, nothing happened. Only got wounded I think. When you set them, you come from this way so you only set the thing off and you’ve got a few seconds. You’ve got them all set with instantaneous fuse down the other way, you see.

08:09:00:00

Once the one big, is the catch of those behind it, the bloke that sets it off. That’ the way you set it, this one was set anyhow, with a lot of nuts and bolts and gelignite from the mine. We had everything.
Do you think that war is about chance for the soldier on the ground in the front?

08:09:30:00

How much of it is?
Not so much chance now because they’ve got such a big bomb. I’ve been up to Pucka and seen the exercises they put on after the war and that, and they can drop a bomb in the doorway now. How would you be now if they could drop a bomb on the boat you’re on? You wouldn’t be, dead, there’s more hits and misses, whereas before it was more misses than hits, you see. And the way they’ve got now

08:10:00:00

with the flame throwers or something like that, you haven’t got much hope. You’re in an ambush and a bloke pulls a trigger on a flame thrower or something at you. You want to be in the right spot at the right time. You wouldn’t want to be in the wrong spot.

08:10:30:00

In jungle warfare do you know what the distance was between no man’s land, from the Japanese bunkers to the Australian bunkers? How big would that be normally, from your experience?
It’s often one hill away to the next hill, but there’s a lot of no man’s land in between. You’d be on one ridge and it would be a ridge they called, or Observation Ridge, and they’d be on the Pimple or something or other, but there’s a lot of ground in between, and they

08:11:00:00

might be patrolling it but more often or not you’d be patrolling it to see where they are, to see if they’re still in the same position. You had to be mighty careful more or less. I think we were doing more patrols than they were because they were more or less holding their position and we were just trying to keep in touch with them. That was all, only keep in touch. We wasn’t wanting to take the position at the time.
Was it harder for you in

08:11:30:00

Papua New Guinea than it was in Greece or North Africa? How would you compare those other experiences to the New Guinea Campaign?
Yeah, it was a lot tougher up there, a lot tougher up there. I had an argument with a couple of our blokes that were prisoner of war on Crete and I said, “You were lucky, you were only a prisoner of war in Germany.” I said, “And you were getting that. We were up there fighting the Japs, short of tucker, short of everything and getting

08:12:00:00

shot at.” They started talking about their prisoners of war. Of course they get a bit better go form Veterans Affairs, than anyone else if you were a prisoner of war. It don’t matter whether you were with the Japs or the Germans. I pity the poor buggers that were with the Japs, but the German blokes got pretty well looked after, most of them anyhow. The odd one mightn’t have.

08:12:30:00

What sort of tactics did the Japanese use from your experiences? I understand that some of the Japanese tended to speak out in English to try and deceive Australian soldiers?
There were a couple of times when they got real close they reckon. I never heard them, but they were only talking, which was easy picked up, they’d sing out, “Mister Officer,” or

08:13:00:00

something like that trying to get your position. “Where are you Mr Officer?” Or something like that, you know, or might say, “Sergeant,” or something, or something like that. “Mr White, where are you mister? Mr Sergeant,” or something like, or mister something, which you’d never use in the army. “Where are you, Mr White?” Or something or might be a Smith, common name, but that’s all.

08:13:30:00

I wasn’t ever…some of them up the sharp end reckon it went on a couple of times.
Was it easy to identify that they were Japanese?
You’d know it wasn’t one of your own blokes singing out that. He might be only

08:14:00:00

wanting you to, he wouldn’t fire you see. You’d only give your position away if you fired. This was at night time, you know. Well, our instructions were, like I told all my blokes, “Don’t fire your shots of a night time. If you must do something throw a hand grenade as far as you can,” or something. Don’t think you’re doing great (UNCLEAR) firing a shot at them.

08:14:30:00

That was always my instructions to the men. That might be only their ruse to find out where your position is, whereabouts you are and so forth.
I’ve also heard that the Japanese used to tie a piece of string or a string to a bush and stay back lying down for about five or ten metres and

08:15:00:00

pull the string and make the bush move to try and induce the soldiers, Australians, to fire at the bush and give away their positions?
I’ve never heard it, coming up with that sort of thing.
What other tactics did you come across?
The only thing, when they were trying to get to a drome they didn’t want to be held up anywhere. They’d strike a position and go around over their own track. If they struck much opposition

08:15:30:00

instead of meeting it head on where they had the numbers probably, they had a mob behind it, but they’d go around it. Go off the track and go around it. See, they wanted to get to the drome. We would’ve been stuffed if they got the drome because we had no way of getting supplies in we had probably a big hike back to Moresby probably. We didn’t know the track but there was a track. We could’ve gone back down the Bulldog Track, they called it, where they were trying to make a road up through there.

08:16:00:00

We would’ve been stuffed anyhow if they’d have got the drome because it was our only way of getting supplies in, and I think their main object was to get the drome. That’s where they were heading for all the time, anyway. They weren’t worried about anything else.

08:16:30:00

Would you say as an enemy the Japanese were generally very tricky? That they improvised, did they improvise well to their environment?
Yeah, I think they used the country. They hid their fox holes well and so forth.

08:17:00:00

At one stage where they had a bit of a lookout they had a dead tree and they would have a bloke in there for a lookout. Well, how would you feel? A dead tree and all of you’ve got is a hole bored in where they can see you coming along. You’ve got no hope of picking him up until he’s fired a shot at you or something or other. Or he couldn’t even fire a shot; probably all he had was a hole in the tree to keep an eye on anyone coming. He might disappear then and just warn the others that someone was coming. They look out and things like that they found out.

08:17:30:00

What about Japanese snipers? They were a big problem throughout the whole campaign?
They were, but they never had like proper snipers. They just had ordinary rifles but they were that close enough they couldn’t miss. They were probably in a position where you wouldn’t be, you wouldn’t be, you’d be under a hundred yards or fifty to a hundred yards or even closer. You couldn’t miss. Some of our blokes

08:18:00:00

that were snipers would have a sniper’s rifle and telescopic sights and all. We could pick them off like 150 or further away probably. They had the ordinary rifles, but you’d get up a tree and so forth and one bloke up there would probably stay in the tree for hours and hours waiting to get a shot or similar,

08:18:30:00

or tying to get
Did the Aussies ever catch onto that? Did they also use trees?
They knew but what’s the good. Unless you can see them what’s the good at just firing into a tree even with a machine gun. You don’t know, he might be behind the truck. He might be anywhere, but the Yanks used to, up at Buna, they’d blow all

08:19:00:00

the tops out of all the coconut trees because there might be a sniper in them. They didn’t worry. They just put the anti-tank gun or something pretty big on them and blow the top out of them in case there was a sniper up there. They had the game down because they had plenty of ammunition and plenty of everything. That was their idea.
The Australians never took on the tactic of climbing up a tree and shooting at the Japanese?
No. We were never,

08:19:30:00

if the Jap had been coming towards us we might’ve been doing that, but the Japanese were never coming forward all the time. We were actually hounding them back all the time. We’d set an ambush and go around the back and set an ambush. You wouldn’t get up a tree where you could fire. If you had trouble you could get away, had a back door to get of if there was a big mob.

08:20:00:00

Once the war was over, did you have a problem readjusting to civilian life?
No, no, no. I was pleased to get back to it. I settled in and had to do it to get a quid. Working for, my father was actually the boss there but he wasn’t doing much. We had

08:20:30:00

to get the work and get it done, and what had to be done had to be done. There was plenty to do, plenty to do, plenty to do. I had no trouble finding something to do to keep me occupied.
Did you want to forget the war?
Yes. I never talked about it much, not that anyone else,

08:21:00:00

mainly my brother that was in it and so forth. We might have a bit of a yarn what happened when he were driving or so forth, or when you meet a few mates, some of them interstate or army blokes that were with you.
So why is that? Why did you find that you didn’t want to talk about the war?
Well it looks as though you’re bragging or something or other. When they asked for an interview, I said, “I don’t want to

08:21:30:00

advertise it.” I was a soldier; I was in the war; that was the main thing. The war is over, it’s been over, it’s over now, it’s over. Let’s forget about it.
Would you say the memories of the war are the strongest memories you have, your memories?
I don’t

08:22:00:00

think about it much unless someone mentions something. I can remember, I read the history book, I remember all that. I don’t cotton onto much of it. We have our annual meeting for our battalion. We’ve got a bit of an association and that, but we don’t talk about the war much.

08:22:30:00

Did you ever dream about the war?
No no. I don’t, no.
You’ve never had any dreams about it?
If something crops up, but no, once you start thinking of one thing you go onto another, so I don’t watch many war pictures or go to see things. I’m not interested in them

08:23:00:00

a great deal.
Have you seen any of the [1990s] war films like Saving Private Ryan?
No no no. I went to see a couple of them and it was a bit too magic for me.

08:23:30:00

No one seems to get hit, or the right bloke don’t seem to get hit. He can do things and do this and that. The law of averages, the good guy has got to cop it occasionally. The good guy never gets hit in the war films. Good guys are all the ones that get hit I reckon in the army, like blokes that shouldn’t have been there.

08:24:00:00

One bloke went out on a patrol that he wasn’t supposed to go on and another bloke said, “Are you a bit crook or something?” And it was his turn to go, and the other bloke went out and he copped it, you know. It wasn’t his turn to go on the job, or wasn’t his place to be there but he had to do it going out for the bloke that was crook or something was wrong. Feeling a bit off colour, had a bit of diarrhoea and he said, “I’ll take your place and

08:24:30:00

go out.” Helped him out. It’s not like taking, when you’re taking them out it’s not like taking your guard duty on. You don’t mind saying, “I’ll do your guard duty for you.”
Is there any particular memory of the war that affected you, any particular incident?

08:25:00:00

No, I don’t look back on them much. They’re all pretty bad. I only remember the good times. I don’t think of the tough times. I never think of them. I block them all out.
How did the war impact on you as

08:25:30:00

a person?
Didn’t worry me but a lot of my mates reckon I’m a racist against the Japanese or something or other sometimes. I might say things. I can’t go up to the local school. I might say, “Gosh, there’s a lot of slitty eyes [Asians] up at the…going to this school up here.” The people up there, their kids are going to

08:26:00:00

the school and the women, I used to pick my grandchildren up from the school and there would be a lot of women driving cars and picking up kids, and I’d be picking up, “Jeez, there’s more at this school, more slitty eyes.” “Oh, not allowed.” So I had to stop saying that. I shouldn’t say it now in case it comes on the thing that I’m a racist because I said that, things like that.
But outside just fighting the Japanese, personally, obviously you have seen some pretty

08:26:30:00

sad things and pretty heavy things. You know, war isn’t nice but how did it shape you as a person, your thoughts, your views of life? Did it affect your view of religion?
No no. I just took things as they come. I don’t think it shaped me in any way or form. It’s over and done with now.

08:27:00:00

I got back to civvy life pretty easy and I’m quite happy with the way the war went with me and the way things went in civvy life. I’m content with my lot.
Are you a religious person?
No no.
Never have been?
No, not really. My family did, the wife and the girls, the kids all went to Sunday School and got their things, but I never, no.

08:27:30:00

I respect them all. I always attend their services, all in the army, had to go to the church parade and always went and so forth. Went and respected all the blokes at their funerals and so forth, yeah.

08:28:00:00

Some of the best blokes we had were padres, even Catholic or Church of England. One bloke stayed up there, Padre Sherwin, he was nothing, Padre O’Keefe. They were all champion blokes. I got on real good close friends with them all. They never forced anything on me. Often

08:28:30:00

when I had a crook hand they said, “I’ll write your letters home for you,” and things like this, and I said, “No news is always good news,” I’d say, “I don’t want letters wrote.” I still get on that practise. If I go away my wife used to say, “Ring up,” or my daughters would say, “Are you going up to Corowa or New South Wales? Ring up and let me know.” I’d say, “No news. If I get up there and don’t ring you up you’ll be worrying.” That’s why I say, “No news is good news. You’ll hear enough if I want something or something happens. Someone will let you know.” That’s

08:29:00:00

the way I go and I still them. My daughter goes crook at her husband because he doesn’t ring her up for some time because he rings her up, he’s got the mobile. “I haven’t heard from him. I don’t know what’s happened to him.” I said, “That’s the trouble. They expect you to ring up when you’ve got the phone.” Or she’s working late and she don’t ring him up. “I forgot to ring Barry up and I’m working late.” I said, “Why don’t you have it the way I have it? No news is good news.” If you want something or something

08:29:30:00

happens they’ll let you know quick enough.
Did you ever tell your children about the war?
No, very little. No, they don’t know much about it, no. They go into reunions with me and a couple of times there they used to come to the services we have over Springvale or up at the local place. They always want to come there but they never talk much about the war. They come up to the club with

08:30:00:00

us at the Waverley club occasionally for meals. They’re associate members of the club, but I never talk to them about the war.
With your mates who you catch up with at the reunions, what sort of conversations would you generally have, or have you had over the years? About the war, that is?
A couple of good mates. We always go up to Corowa around about Caulfield

08:30:30:00

Cup time and meet a few Sydney blokes that we played football with and so forth. Used to be hundreds go up there, but now it’s down to a handful that come from Sydney down. They all got too old and only two or three of the staunchies [staunch members] come down, real good mates, and going up.
Do you still talk about the war?
No, not much. We might talk about certain little aspects of it, you got wounded or something or other. This good footballer

08:31:00:00

bloke, he got wounded. He might say how lucky he was or what he did or so forth.
How many of your mates have been affected by the war, who’ve had a tough time after settling down, psychologically?
Not many that lasted long. Two or three of them used to go around biting a bit they tell me. I never struck them at all, but blokes say the went down, they’d see some bloke that was down there. He had a farm down Gippsland

08:31:30:00

way and they used to come down and find out, come and annoy him, “Can I get a job down here.” They weren’t looking for work; they were looking for a hand out all the time. There were only two or three of them, but most of them settled down pretty well. Those that didn’t, didn’t last long. They either got on the grog all the time or something, or something happened to them.
When did you get married, sorry, what was the year you got married?

08:32:00:00

That would be about 1950 I think it was. Be about five years after the war, four years anyhow.
When did you meet your wife?
She was a local girl. I met her when I was going around. She was a lot younger than me. I knew her brothers pretty well. I used to knock around with her brothers. I decided to get married in the finish.

08:32:30:00

How old were you when you got married?
About thirty.
It’s a good age to get married.
Yeah.
How old was your wife at the time?
She’d be about five years, six years younger than me.
Did you ever tell her about the war?
No no. She knew I’d been there, but you don’t talk about it. She knew I was,

08:33:00:00

at the time I was getting malaria a lot there. I was out the hospital for a while there, but we didn’t talk about the war.
She never asked?
No no no.
Is it something you could tell women about if you were to tell anyone? Could you tell a woman?
No, I don’t think so. People that hadn’t been there wouldn’t understand it. You don’t talk about because they think, you talk about a funny time when you were

08:33:30:00

playing football or something, but you wouldn’t talk about the war. They wouldn’t believe it. You’d look like you were bragging or something if you said you went in and took this position, that position and no one got hurt, or someone got killed or something or so forth. You don’t talk about it, no. They might, it’s like someone asks you questions.
Are there some things you could never tell people in all honesty?
There’s nothing you couldn’t tell them,

08:34:00:00

but they’d have to ask a direction question and you might answer it.
So if I ask you for instance what’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen in the front line, the worst experience you’ve had, could you honestly tell me what it was?
No, I couldn’t think of anything that would stand out more than anything else. The worst part you put aside. No, there’s no bad times.

08:34:30:00

Was there a lot emotional strain for you while you were at the front line, especially in New Guinea?
No, you never let it get on top of you, no. Just take things as they come. Just do as you’re told is the main thing. You had someone above you telling you what to do or you’d work it out with them what you had to do. You know what you had to do.
Out of your

08:35:00:00

whole war, your war service, which campaign do you remember the most if you do think of the war? Do you think of New Guinea or Greece or North Africa?
There was more fighting in New Guinea. We had it reasonably over in the desert because we were driving a truck most of the time there and the same in Greece, we were driving a truck. We weren’t up the sharp end of things. We were getting bombed more than anyone else because you were driving a truck and you had to leave your truck

08:35:30:00

and get off. We were probably getting harassed more than anyone else for driving in Greece than the troops were, but we never looked at it that way.
Have you ever been back to the places you fought?
No no. I put in for it a couple of times and I got tired of putting in for them and I never got them. I wasn’t even going to put in for

08:36:00:00

the trip to England, but I put in and I got the trip over there. So I reckon I was lucky, I got the good trip, good trip over there.
To England? Never been back to New Guinea or Greece?
No, no, no, no. I never put in for the trip to Greece. I thought there was only a few going and I wouldn’t get it. I know two or three of my mates got it.
Would you want to go back?
No, not now, no. I’ve got plenty of mates

08:36:30:00

I’d like to get around Australia and see, some up in Queensland. They’re all getting too old now. One of my good mates died over in Western Australia. He was going to come over and see us. He was our own age but things happened and he died over there. We’ve got mates all over Australia, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and even Tassie. There’s only a couple left there now.

08:37:00:00

Our good full forward, the footballer bloke, died over in Tassie. There’s only one lieutenant still alive over there I think. They’ve all died, the officers all died, they were reasonably young too, but there’s only about two or three left now.
How old are you now?
Me? I’ll be eighty-seven in July the 21st. I’m eighty-six now. Eighty-seven. I was thinking a lot of them are that old, ninety. I don’t know whether I’ll get to ninety but I’m going alright at present.
Do you think that at your stage of life now, I mean at your age, that you prefer not to remember the war because it’s just been so long and you don’t want to pick up some memories.

08:38:00:00

Well no, I don’t dig them up, only if someone asks you a direct question but you wouldn’t answer unless it was some of your old army mates. They might ask you, “Do you know this bloke,” or, “He passed away,” and what he’d done or something. He might’ve been a footballer or he might’ve been a sergeant or he might’ve been in a special unit or something. Might’ve been in the mortars or something and did a job with them or something, or had a special patrol out. But

08:38:30:00

they’re all getting, the bloke that was there earlier, are getting pretty thin in the ranks now. A lot of them are country people, you don’t see them much now. We were formed from Mildura and East Gippsland, you see. We don’t get many to our reunions and marches now, they’re all getting too old. It’s too far for them to travel. The Mildura blokes don’t come down now. They used to come down and come to Puckapunyal. The same from Gippsland, it’s too far for them to come when they’re

08:39:00:00

aged. They just can’t be bothered. As you say yourself, for Anzac Day we had a service at the local place. We’re close to town, we can go into town and have our reunion and so forth. But those a bit further out don’t bother coming. They go to their local turnout.
Now we’ve only got a few minutes left.
Good. Thank goodness, thank goodness.

08:39:30:00

I suppose what I’d like to ask you is, my second last question is how did you deal with the absence of the people you loved at home? How did you deal with their absence when you were at the front? It was such a long time and you didn’t see them often.
Well, you’d send the occasional letter home and you’d get letters from them. More often than not they’d send you over

08:40:00:00

a parcel every now and then just to keep in touch. You’d send a letter home occasionally. You knew everything was going alright with them, that’s all you knew, and they were happy to know that everything was going alright with you. That was all; just keep in touch to know that you were still going strong and so forth. I’d be writing home or my brother would be writing home. They realised too no

08:40:30:00

news is good news. If anything happened to you you’d get a letter from the department of the army or something or other and they’d let them know if you were wounded or crook or anything happened to you anyhow. If the worst happened they’d let you know pretty quick smart I suppose.
Now we’re practically out of time so is there anything you’d like to say for the record?
Except this is my

08:41:00:00

first and last. That’s what we used to say, the first and last. It’s like the pub when we were going up to Pucka, the one there at Broadmeadows, it used to be the first and the last. The first coming into town and the last going out. We often used to stop there.
I can tell you you’re probably never going to have an interview that goes for six hours.
I know I won’t. I’m not having any.
(UNCLEAR)

08:41:30:00

young guys we’ve interviewed?
I put them off. I was supposed to get an interview with a local; they were going to put in our local paper or something. The girl came down and me first or something, and she got well paid for it or something and then she made an appointment to see me and said, “I’ve got to go back.” She had to go back to work, called back to work. She was doing a big book on it or something and, “I’ll make another appointment.” I was pleased she never made another

08:42:00:00

appointment. Everyone else got one.
INTERVIEW ENDS

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