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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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,
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,
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.
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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?
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
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’
club and he helped them and got on committees with the school and so forth. He was very well respected in the district.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
At the end of the nine months did you think you were ready for war?
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
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.
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
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.
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,”
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.
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?
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
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
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…
we had to get back to camp somehow. We spent our money on grog and sheilas or something or other.
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?
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,
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
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
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,
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Had to hold defence positions on Ceylon until they reckoned it was safe to come back to Australia.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
(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,
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.
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.
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
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
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.
If you got really bored of patrolling would you go for a swim or something when you were doing the patrol?
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
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
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
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
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
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
was our first day, and then we got spread out and got good positions.
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,
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.
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.
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,
“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
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
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
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.
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.”
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
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,
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.
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
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?
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,
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
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
a patrol out you take your own blokes out. You don’t like to take anyone out that you don’t know.
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.”
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,
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.
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
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
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,
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
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.”
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
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
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
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.
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
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…
we were just lucky to come in between the two lots.
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.
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
see what’s going on. I don’t know, you get a bit wise to all that sort of thing.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Better to stay out for the night.”
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.
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,
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
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.
It started to tell on anyone that wasn’t real fit.
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
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
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.
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.”
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
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
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.
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
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
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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
No, the troops were suffering from malaria and that. They couldn’t use their mosquito nets
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
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.
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
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
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.
Actually before you went back to Melbourne, once you finished up at Salamaua you were relieved by another battalion?
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
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
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
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.
Money seemed to evaporate in them days. And leave is too short anyhow. Leave seemed to go that quick.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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.
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.
Slashed a piece of his arm or leg or whatever they did.
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
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
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.
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.
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
couple and wounded a couple pretty badly I think.
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
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.
Things like that, something that they’d been probably taught, taught to say, you know.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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).
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
and first time in he copped it.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I wasn’t ever…some of them up the sharp end reckon it went on a couple of times.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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
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
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
happens they’ll let you know quick enough.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.