where I started. My family were an old western family. Most of my siblings were born from between Cobar and Wellington and Mudgee area but a sister next to me and myself, we were born in Sydney. My father had been a miner for most of his life but he came down to Sydney on retirement and was
born in Campsie, and I was I think, born at Newtown. My mother had six others before me, I was the last, and my eldest brother was twenty years older than me. In fact he went to the First World War. But the main
thing I remember we were at Campsie it was me in a high chair lording it over everybody except a big rooster we had in the back yard. He didn't like me and he got me down and I still bear a scar where he pecked me on the butt; he was had for dinner the next, shortly after that.
And then my dad became ill. He had stone on the lungs, you know, the miner's asbestosis sort of thing and we moved down to, not Surry Hills but near City Road, near the University, you know, you know that place I can't think of the name of the….close to the Prince Alfred Hospital so that he could go over there for treatment, some sort of treatment they had, mercury to
get the lungs working again. And I have memories of going across the park there either my mother went with dad and I went with them or my sister, one of my sisters, in that park near the Uni what do you call it. I can't think of it, anyway it doesn't matter. My father died there when
I was around about six or so and we moved to a place at Marrickville in Marrickville Road. The main thing I remember about Marrickville that we had quite a few parties there and I had a pet duck, but of course
the duck went off once because food was short and I think that my pet duck appeared on the dinner table once, so from there were a lot of moves around because the family was a bit…. some of them were getting married and some of them were married and in fact I had nephews and nieces who were almost as old as me.
We moved near to Canterbury and it was at Hardy Street Canterbury at first I think and then we moved in that area the streets surrounding Canterbury High School, Hardy Street, Watkins Street and Mount Street at Hurlstone Park.
My sisters and some of the brothers were married. My eldest brother was married when he came back from the First World War. He married a Scots girl but they generally moved in he went away to the bush but the others stayed around that area and most of them lived there 'til they died. I'm the last,
I'm the remaining being the youngest, the remaining one. I joined up from Hurlstone Park. In fact I went to school at Canterbury and I had to leave school just as I turned fourteen 'cause my mother died and having no father as well and
my sister and couldn't look after me. This was in the middle of the Depression. So I had to get out and go to work. At all sorts of jobs. I worked in a in a dyeing factory. Poolars I think they called them, at Rushcutters Bay. All I had to do was walk through the water, through the drying
layers they called them, arranging the drying clothing, not clothing, rag you know whatever it was. Then I got a job with a welder. All sorts of jobs and once you'd had a birthday in those days the boss would have to pay you an extra couple of bob a week, so you'd be asked to take a walk so he could get someone
younger at a cheaper price, so there were a few jobs about but because there was never much money about and I had patent leather shoes, and they were, the soles were very thin so if you were walking from one place to another - take your shoes off and put them under my arm because you'd wear them out quick and you were walking on your bare feet. But in
1937, '38 I was working for a subsidiary of Chubbs safe factory and I was doing a stint at the main Chubbs factory at Woolloom… no Waterloo and a mate of mine with whom I joined up later he said to me, we wanted to buy motorbikes but we couldn't buy motorbikes
on the wages we were on, and he had a brilliant idea. He said, "The glassworks up the road have vacancies on the night shift" he said, "Pretty easy job" he says, "We could do it a couple of weeks or a month or so doing the two jobs, the night shift there and not far to come to our own work the next day." which we did for a couple of weeks but it's pretty hard when you're having your lunch next day
after working the night before and you drop your sandwich because you're half asleep, and anyway it went on this way until the Sunday. We used to have work from the Sunday night through 'til the Friday night, you'd get Saturday off and Sunday. You'd come in on Sunday night and we were going into town on a
this last week on the 3rd of Janu… 3rd of Dec, 3rd of September, and paperboys were running around madly saying that Germany had marched into Poland and all this sort of thing and at the glassworks that night the main topic of conversation was what's going happen to the war, you know, so Bluey and I decided, "Oh we'll join up
in the morning." which we did when we knocked off. We walked from there down to Victoria Barracks. There were a few other people waiting around there and finally someone came out, he was a sergeant I think because we didn't know what ranks were what in those days, and he asked us what we were there for and we said "We want to join up". He said "Oh you can't join up here". We said "Well where else would you join up?" you know and eventually
'cause some of the others got a bit restive and were saying to him you know, “We want to talk to somebody who knows what they're talking about." so they did. They must have got an officer from somewhere and he came up putting his tie on because it was still early in the morning, and asked us what was it all about and we said "We want to join the army. There's a war on. Don't you know?" and he said "Well you can't join up here. There are no facilities here for joining up. You'll have to go to your local drill
hall." because there was no actual force being raised at that time and anyway Bluey said to me "Oh bugger the war." he said" I'm going home." he said, "I've had enough." So we shot through and it wasn't 'til about a fortnight later that two of my brothers and myself and some other friends went up to Lakemba to a drill hall and signed on.
We were living at Hurlstone Park then and at the end of October I think it was, two of my brothers and a fellow that was living with us, Alan McDonald, and Sailor I can't think what Sailor's other name was, who were all living in the place with us
they got their call up notices but I didn't get mine and I said when the day came that we had to go up to Ingel, Ingel… Marrickville first, we went down there and we're all lined up and we're sworn in and all that sort of thing and – attestation they call it – put your hand on the bible but there wasn't enough room so you each one put your hand on the bloke in front of you he had his arm on the bible what do they call that by
I got on too. We got up to Ingleburn and at the end of the day they found everyone had a place except me. They said my name wasn't on the list. Anyway they let me camp there for the night in the what they call the Q [Quartermaster] store. I didn't know what a Q store was but I soon found out, so for the next fortnight I was running around, they used me as a messenger. I later learned that the job was
a runner and you had to take messages from place to place because individual telephones weren't heard of in those days. One person'd get a message you'd have to say "Take this message down to the colonel or whatever." until one day I was called into the adjutant's room and he was a very dour Scot with the kilt on and he said "There appears to be something wrong
with your enlistment papers. Your parents haven't signed them." and I said, "I haven't got parents. Both of them are dead." "Oh well, your guardian then." I said, "I haven't got a guardian." I said I worked and looked after myself and he said "Well you can't stay here, we've been instructed to have you leave the camp" and I was escorted down to Aero Road which is now McDonald Road, they changed the name,
but I couldn't there, was no buses running then in that area, so I hitched a ride in the garbage truck into Liverpool and get home to my sister's place at Hurlstone Park and I walked up the side passage and my younger, not my younger sister but the youngest the next one to me, she came out "I thought you were in the army?" and I said "They wouldn't have me."
and my sister she wouldn't sign the paper so I asked an uncle and he said, "Oh I wouldn't sign it." he says, "Your mother'd never forgive me." and I said "Well my mother's been dead for five years now." four years or whatever it was. Anyway I had to go and I thought "Next time you go down I'll…." because I was christened Clement Henry and I'd used that name
when I went down to try and join up but I said, "I'll trick 'em. I'll change my name to William George." 'cause I was always called Bill. First of all my brothers used to call me Buff, Buffalo Bill, then it came just came down to Bill or Billy, so I finally went up to Campsie to a drill hall and William George Jenkins became a member of the force
and I caught up to the battalion that I joined before in the Middle East as a reinforcement.
In the desert with the dust storms it can blow up and someone's only got to sneeze and there's a dust storm. He became ill and I had to look after him more than anything and run his messages hither and yon, so I didn't see much of the action in Bardia but once Bardia had fallen, we were shelled and shot at and
what not, but we moved on then to Tobruk which was our next action and the night before we were due to go in, some reinforcements had arrived and these were fellows that I'd come overseas with and the RSM was saying to me "Take this lot to A company." and it started to get dark and I took
the last lot out to Don Company, you know way out on the wing, and when I got them there the CSM, the Company Sergeant Major said, "You won't be able to get back." because in the desert at night you soon get lost. People did 'cause there's no distinguishing marks. Camel bushes, all camel bushes look the same. That's a salt bush sort of thing. So I had to stay there with them and I
went in with Don Company into Tobruk and that was the first action that I had in Tobruk. And some funny things happened there because I lost contact with my platoon and finished up with another platoon and we were fired on by Italian tanks and we decided we'd jump into a
like a sanger [salient] we called it but it was a concrete dugout which had been previously occupied by Italians and we dived in there and we thought oh, we'd found Vichy water, which was sort of soda water, and some Italian tinned meat and oh we had a feed you know, and assuaged our thirst and the next
thing the advance started again, 'cause our fellas were pinned down by this battalion fire and we started to move forward and we had a bit of funny goings on that towards that evening. We got up to the place where the machine gun fire was coming from and we surrounded it and they were still firing, but if you can imagine
they were down behind the bunker and put the gun over the top. You couldn't see them but they were just reaching up and firing over the…. and they couldn't see where they were firing and the bullets were going up in the air so we threw grenades in until they decided to throw it in and that was end of the day. The whole thing collapsed and we were allowed to move on, stay there rather which we did, we moved down to Tobruk itself into the town,
and next day we went swimming in the Mediterranean so it was a good war for awhile. Some of the other brigades went on to Derna and Benghazi but we stayed in Tobruk because we had to look after forty thousand prisoners and what our brigade was staying in Tobruk and Derna. There was only two thousand-odd in our brigade looking after forty thousand prisoners
who were quite happy to be prisoners. In fact they wanted to do things for us. They'd take us and show us where some of their rations were and they they'd want to cook some of it for us and they were good cooks. We certainly utilised their expertise. There were some funny things happened there you know. A dust storm blew up again
and Mr. Menzies [Australian Prime Minister] arrived to congratulate the troops and the morning of his where he interviewed our parade, he was saying it was a remarkable place we were in. It was a little waddy down near the sea with a little creek running out of it, and what a lovely place and someone said "Yeah,
you should have been here yesterday when the black storm was on, dust storm. You couldn't see your finger in front of you!” but I don't think he heard what was said, but after that next thing we heard was that we were moving back to Egypt. We didn't know what was on but we soon found out. We moved back to a place called Mersa Matruh,
which was a place where Cleopatra had her beachside villa back in the Cleopatra days so we learned later, but there was a lot of stone buildings there, but by this time they had no roofs and another dust storm came up and we were living in a place where there was no roofs, it wasn't very comfortable, but then we moved back down to Amiriya near Alexandria,
the whole brigade. We had one day's leave in Alexandria and suddenly we were recalled. The Military Police were going around seeing anyone without a colour patch on back to camp and back to camp we went. We packed up and next day we moved down to the Harbour into Alexandria and there were full of ships,
all sorts, and we were put onto a British cruiser, the HMS Gloucester, and we headed off into the Mediterranean. We didn't know where we going, we weren't told anything, but Malta or Greece or whatever was mentioned, and it was Greece.
It only took nineteen hours for us to get across. We were bombed by Italian planes on the way across but they were so high, their aim was bad, so we were quite safe. In fact the ship's chaplain was giving a description of the raid over the intercom on the ship. "Flying over
at about thirty thousand feet and they've let a couple go and they've landed astern". We eventually arrived in Piraeus which was the port near Athens and we were disembarking in companies. There are four rifle companies in a battalion and a headquarters company. Don Company, which was us, was the last
to leave and the Greeks were out in force to welcome us you know, mostly ladies and children 'cause the men were away fighting, and we shouldered arms and swept arms and started marching towards Athens because we were the first combat troops to arrive there and the only transport were RAF [Royal Air Force]
semi-trailers. They'd put a whole heap of fellows on the semi-trailer with no sides or anything, just hang on the best they could, and off they'd go towards Athens. And they were picking up, they'd take them there then come back and pick up another load and like relay, and we were the last and I remember we were marching along for half an hour or so. Usually you get to change arms you know,
whoop, whoop, whoop, but our boss was busy waving to the crowds and our arms was nearly stiff as a board. In fact I said that to him years later and he said "Oh well you needed a bit of exercise. You were nineteen hours stuck on that shi." but we got up to a place called Daphni, a forest. Now after being in the desert we were in a forest and I can remember next morning the CO [Commanding Officer],
gathered us in a clearing and he said "There's no chopping down these trees or any of the wood". He said "In fact, if I ever see a fellow chopping a tree down again" he said, "I'll shoot him." after being in the desert but we were there for two or three days and we had some leave in Athens. The Greeks were very…. they were marvellous to us. They didn't have much to give, but they'd give us anything and
then became the move, and we boarded trains at the Athens railway and the trains were like little…. like Hornby you know the children's trains, you could only fit about a platoon in a carriage. Small things and away we went up into the centre of Greece and we went to Larisa
which had suffered earthquakes not very long before and then the Italians bombed it, so it it'd had a pretty rough time. We stayed in there for a couple of days then our company was sent out to a place called Volos on the coast, on the east side of Greece and we were out there for over a week
and we were billeted in houses, empty houses, but the some of the houses had neighbours. I remember one place where we were had a couple of nice young girls who were eager to learn English over the fence and we were willing to teach them too, so it was memories of that part of Greece were very good, you know,
and of course then the Germans rolled in and started to roll in through Yugoslavia and we were pulled out of there and sent back and we went up to the Veria Pass, northern Greece, over looking Yugoslavia and the Germans being what they were they didn't come that way, they came another way to outflank us
so we had to withdraw across the Aliakmon River. We had to 'cause the silly engineers blew the bridge across the Aliakmon River to Elasson and we had to march out over the mountains, over the side of Mount Olympus, a good ninety miles over very rough country because they couldn't get us
out any other way, but we eventually did and got onto trucks on the other side. They say it was a feat, quite a feat for us to do it in the time we did over the sort of country it was, and loaded as we were with ammunition and enough food for the time; but then next day when we
got onto the trucks we were bombed all the way to Larisa and we were directed down a side road. There were three trucks full of I forget what there was, three or four, and we were going on down the central road and late in the day some motorcyclists overtook us
and told us we were going on the wrong road and we had to go back and as we were going back some New Zealanders were pulling out and you could see some of them were wounded. One fellow had his leg hanging over the side and it was bandaged and still blood dripping out of it and they were yelling out to us "Don't go back there Oz, there's millions of them." but we had to go back and we joined a battalion
at the Pinios Gorge, where we had to dig in and face the might of the Hun trying to cross the Pinios Gorge River, which we were supposed to hold them up for twenty four hours and we held him up for thirty six hours, but then we were given the nod to get out ourselves. There was a bit of a mix up there
and some companies and some fellows were left out on a wing and they were left and they got, some of them got out but quite a few of them were taken prisoner. There's no other way out of it, we were encircled but we got out down the main road and eventually after being bombed and strafed
and kicked and all the way down, but they decided we'd go across the Corinthian [Corinth] Canal and down the Peloponnese which is a big lump at the bottom there, you know, eventually reaching a place called Kalamata which is right at the tip of the Peloponnese and that's what my book's going to be 'From Kalamata to Kokoda and Beyond', thought I'd
throw that in, where we had to destroy any equipment we couldn't carry, trucks had to be damaged that couldn't be used, field guns, the artillery had to spike their guns. Do you know how they spiked them? They'd take the recoil nut off the back and fire it and the barrel and everything goes one way and everything goes
the other and it's virtually impossible to get it back together again.
what, but any troops coming through wouldn’t be ours. So we stuck there all day then about midnight, a fellow came up on a motorbike and said we'd be relieved and we were to go straight down to the wharf area, the harbour, and having come from there we knew where to go and as we started to go down a little old lady came out of an old cottage
and she had a tray on which there were little glasses and there was ouzo, which is a Greek national drink, and some wine, and little bits of cakes, sort of cake or bread and she was weeping. They knew we had to get out because the Greek government had surrendered, signed an armistice, and anyway we trudged
all the way back and it must have been three, four o'clock in the morning by the time we got there and as soon as I got to the wharf gates there were Military Police there and I told them "Standing patrol reporting in." "Go right down." and all these Aussie soldiers, they were all lined up on the edge of the wharf just sitting there on their rifles or on their packs or whatever. Anyway we
were told to keep kept going, took them down to there was a ship, warship there with a gangway going on to it and I called out to them "Standing patrol reporting in." "Righto, all aboard." so I waved the fellows on and I went on myself. We were told because it was they said, they can't take any more, so we were sent over to sit under the forward guns,
just sit on our packs where we were and as soon as soon as I got on board they pulled the gangway away, shot the ropes off and they started to pull out and I remember there were these fellows that were waiting to get on, they were left there and something'll come up later about that too. Quite funny really, but the ship was the HMS
Hero, the ship that done a hell of a lot of good work before and it did afterwards too, and we could hear somebody up above us saying, "I don't think we'll be able to come back for another run. It'll be daylight before we can get back." and of course the Stukas'd be over all over the place so we were taken out to a troop ship, oh it must have been
a couple of miles, four or five miles out, or it might have been further I don't know, I couldn't measure it in the dark, and we were put on this ship called the Dilwarra and it was after the war it was turned into a into a cruise ship and it often came out here to Malaya or something, I can't think of the name of it, but I went aboard it but it was different to when we were on it and we were bombed
unmercifully and strafed all the way across. In fact there were three ships in the convoy and two of them were sunk and a couple of bombs landed under our propeller and bent the propeller. It slowed us down and made a leak and the skipper found that if he stopped, the leak would become bigger, if he kept going he could handle the leak he could pump it out in order to keep the motor going
or the engines going, so we sailed past Crete but the poor fellows that were sunk were taken to Crete. We pulled up in Alexandria a day and a half later, and as we tied up at the wharf we were all getting ready, our packs, and I'd been up on deck with the Bren gunners. We had forty five Bren guns, Vickers guns of our own
on mounted on their mounts and tied to the rigging as anti-aircraft fire and we were keeping the planes high. There was so much lead going up they could have landed on it and as we were packing up the skipper came out with a loud hailer. He said "I've got to use this". He said "You've shot my rigging to pieces. My aerials are all shot to pieces.
The masts have got full of holes. So have the funnels." he said "But you saved my ship. Thank you." and we were allowed off. Now apparently I was reported as missing in Greece for some reason or other, but when we were getting off the ship going down the gangway because it was
high tide and it was very steep down the gangway, a fella said to me "Oh we're being filmed." and I looked up to see where the camera was and of course missed my footing and tumbled down and apparently this was a newsreel and my family found out that I was alright and wasn't missing at all that I'd safely got back.
and on the way down the train couldn't brake well enough and a couple of carriages were derailed and caused a bit of trouble, so they broke the train up into two because it wouldn't have been able to get up the other side, and we eventually did get up to the other side into Jordan and into Syria at a place called Deraa, it was almost on the border
just below the place now that's being argued between the Syrians and Israel, the Mount Hemron, around that way, and we were taken off there and then we didn't know where to go, our CO didn't know where to go, and finally he had to send a motorcyclist, a
despatch rider, to find British headquarters, to find out what we had to do 'cause we were one battalion, and a depleted one at that, 'cause we'd given a hundred men to the [2/]1st Battalion and that's when it came that we were to join the Indian brigade, 51st Indian Brigade [5th Indian Brigade] or something. It had been pretty well knocked about
in its endeavour so far to dislodge the French Foreign Legion from these forts around Damascus, so we were given the job of knocking these forts off one by one. They were more or less set up to protect anyone coming from the north but we were coming from the south, so we had that in our favour a bit, that their main weaponry
was pointed the other way so that was a bit of help, but we had we lost several men killed. One fellow, he was a First World War man, Bill Orr, Bill Scott Orr. He had a Bren gun and he went forward firing from the hip and fired through the slits in the
fort but another one from somewhere else got him and he was shot stone dead, but he should have been decorated you know, he really made these forts surrender even though they got him and finally we didn't, unbeknownst to us, another company of ours came up from the other side, but the commander of the fort came out and surrendered
to one of our corporals. He wanted to find an equal officer to surrender to and Bob Morgan was only a corporal. He said "I'll have to do mate." He says "I'm surrendering." he said, "But you're taking the fort." he said. "But why with so few men"? 'cause he only had about half a dozen men. Took a fort with about fifty or sixty people in it.
and we were there when Japan came into the war. Now we didn't know much about what was going on, we weren't…. the only news we got was on the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] and they weren't giving it much of a much mention at all you know, except that the Japanese had come in and bombed Pearl Harbour and they'd done this and done that but we were completely unaware of what was happening at home and it was a pretty anxious time for us,
wondering what was happening so it wasn’t until, oh it must have been late February, we were pulled out of Syria and sent back down to Palestine, back to the old camps, and still we weren't told what was happening, we were just listening madly because
they used to have a big speaker at battalion headquarters which was going over the whole camp, you'd have the BBC news'd come on at a certain time you know, and you'd hear all the news as it was. We were hearing all the sorts of things that were happening in Malaya and what not and then the move, we had to start to move down to
Port Tewfik which is the Suez, you know, the Suez Canal, which was not being used very much then because the Germans were bombing it so much and the whole brigade, our brigade was pushed onto one ship, the Orient liner,
what was it…. oh one of the Orient liners, Oronsay I think, and she was pretty crowded, you had the whole brigade on it and we headed off down the Red Sea. We had to get out of Tewfik pretty quickly because it was bombed heavily and the skipper just threw the ropes aside and headed off to get out of the port
and we were heading down the Red Sea and anyway we were heading down the Red Sea and one night we went to bed and what not and next morning we get up and the sun's on the wrong side of the ship. We'd turned back and later that day we
finished up in Aden. We dropped anchor in Aden and later that day a British aircraft carrier came in with its nose shot off and some other naval ships came in all knocked about. Apparently there'd been a battle going out in front of us, that's why we turned back, but a group of us were up in the
corporal's mess that night and when I say a group of us, one bloke, Earl Porter, was a little bit of a wordsmith and we all helped him. We composed a ditty a poem 'The reason why we're coming home' and I've got a got a copy it up in my room. It's rough but it's
But then we moved off and on to Ceylon. We disembarked in Ceylon, where we were stuck for fourteen weeks, so it took us from March 'til August to get from Palestine to home to Melbourne. We docked in Melbourne on the 7th of August and we went up to a camp at in
Victoria, oh I can't think of the name of it now, it wasn't one of the big camps. It was near one of the big camps and we were to get leave. So the first batch went on leave and I was one of the ones who were left on the rearguard. Had to do all the work of packing things up and what not so
they were on leave and came up and they marched through Sydney and had a great old time. We eventually packed up and got the trucks onto flat tops and went up through Tocumwal you know and eventually got up to Blacktown, and we dumped all the trucks and were given leave passes to get to Sydney.
I'd had three days leave and I got a telegram to report to camp immediately and next morning, I didn't go immediately because I could smell a roast dinner being cooked by my sister, and so I didn't go in 'til next morning and we had to go to the showground, that's where everyone was raked into
and we went in and people were standing all over the place and people were coming up and asking me, I had two stripes at the time I think, "Hey corp what's going on?" you know and I said "I don't know." and "I'm in the dark as well as you.” "Oh well you know why are we here?” Now I saw a captain leaning up against a pole reading a paper and it was a tabloid sized paper. Now I'd never seen a tabloid
sized paper, The Labour Daily, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald. All these papers were all these big double ones you know, like they are today and I went up to him and I said "Excuse me sir. I've been asked by several people why we're here you know, why did we get this telegram. Are we getting more leave or what?” He said "You'll find out in a minute." he said "We'll fall you in and tell you." and
when we'd fallen in he said, "I've been asked by several people why are you here." and he held up the front page of the paper "Japs thirty miles from Moresby. Seasoned AIF [Australian Imperial Force] troops being rushed up there.” He said "See those seasoned AIF troops. You're it.” We were on a train that night up to where the battalion brigade gathered up at Greta.
We were only up there for that one night. Next morning we started to pack up and that night we got onto trains, the whole brigade got onto trains, and up to Brisbane. They even beat the Brisbane Express and we pulled into Brisbane the following day I think and straight down to the wharf area and we got onto all sorts of ships,
they were liberty ships, you know, the American fast-tracked ships and we were out at sea on the way to New Guinea and over the famous Kokoda Trail and as far as were concerned it was the Kokoda Trail because that's what it was being called in the papers down here.
But we got up to Moresby which we left Brisbane and it was blacked out, everything was blacked out down here, but we got up to Moresby in the night time and the place was a flood of light because they had plenty of warning. They had the air warning stations all along the islands you know so if any planes were coming over they'd just get straight through
by phone and say "They're on the way." and then they would black it out so we were straight into New Guinea and up over and over the Kokoda Trail which is a campaign on its own.
we had to be…. now I went from eleven stone down to seven stone owing to malaria and the starvation in the campaign because you didn't, we didn't get food regularly and so many others were in similar condition we had to be rehabilitated. The wounded had to be repaired
and the sick had to be built up again and we went into camp on the Atherton Tablelands and began mild training and were reinforced because we started the Kokoda Trail campaign with near nearly six hundred men and sixty walked out,
were flown out from Salamaua. The rest of them were killed, wounded or very sick and when I say sick, malaria was the least of them. Scrub typhus was…. I had scrub typhus and out of the eleven that were in this ward that I was taken to, there was only three of us survived because we were so
puny you know. and weak from other reasons. It'd be like this SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] I s'pose you'd just, if you were out of condition it would knock you quicker. So all in all it was a one of the hardest campaigns that Australians ever went through. MacArthur
with his blustering and what not you know, "Why don't we send this up and send that up?" but there was only room for one man to go out ahead. Thick jungle either side. What do you do and you can't get bulldozers up there where even horses can't go and mules and when you send a man out as a forward scout, the only thing that he had to do was keep going
until he was shot at or saw the enemy himself, so he was either going to get wounded or killed, but there was never any hesitation. You knew when it was your turn and out you went even though you were shit frightened. Sorry about that, but that's really what. Anyone who said they weren't is an idiot
because the danger was real. You could just walk past a tree and there'd be a Jap there with a machine gun.
In every section there is a Bren, an automatic, what do they call it, a machine gun, a light machine gun, LMG that's right. Got to get the word right, and in early in the war there was a Lewis gun which was in the First World War which is a great round barrel thing and clumsy to use
and its got a round magazine on top that circulates but we got the Bren gun which was invented by a Czechoslovakian I think, and the British grabbed it and thought it was good and we got it too and it was good. It holds up to twenty-odd rounds in the magazine,
a curved magazine that clicks on top of it, and we found that a good way to use it when you were going into action is to from the hip. It throws you back because when you get about four or five rounds from a single pull of the trigger it does, you've got to lean into it to so as to keep it straight and on line but it's very accurate by
lying down and firing it from on the ground. It's able to be put on a tripod and used like in a trench or the tripod could be extended like this to be used for anti-aircraft fire. In weapons training you've got to get to know your weapon. As far as when to use it,
well you you're told when to use it. When the enemy is in sight you still fire under orders because you may not be able to see the whole picture but your commander can, so he knows - well you stop firing because there's no more need for it over there, and the other things that are used too the hand grenades,
the mortars. A mortar is a stovepipe thing where they drop the bomb in tail first and there's an explosive charge at the bottom of it which propels it and the infantry have the two-inch mortar which is the infantry section one. Those bombs are about weigh about ooh….
six pound I think. Back to our old weights I don't know what it is in the three-inch mortar, much bigger one, is a stovepipe about that big that sends the mortar bomb which is pretty deadly. It sends it a good way, a couple of hundred yards.
What happened at the time the day that you first had to fire your gun?
Well it was in Tobruk actually the first time I used it in action and I was being fired at so I just…. from the hip I just loaded and fired back and I don't know whether I made a hit or anything but at least it keeps their heads down. They won't be firing another one for awhile.
A lot of the time a lot of the bullets that are fired don't hit anything except a wall or a side of a trench but it's keeping the heads down of the people who might fire back and as long as you're not wasting ammunition or as long as it's doing that job that you want it to do then again
you train to do your job and your job is to advance, take position, occupy the position and make it secure and the whole lot of you together can do it. Now a section is usually ten men
commanded by a corporal. Now there are three of those to a platoon. You have thirty men in a platoon now and there's a Bren gunner he has a number two that helps. He carries the spare barrel because a machine gun gets very hot with bullets going
through it all the time and the spare barrel's got to be put on to give it a rest, give the other one a rest he also carries extra ammunition, the magazines with twenty-odd rounds in it and he carries those extra, the fellow who has the two-inch mortar he's got the fellow carrying the bombs, 'cause those bombs, if you've got
two lots of five bombs he's got about fifty pounds, he's got to carry extra. Later on in the war I think we took them to Greece, that's right the Tommy gun. Later on it became the Owen gun, the Australian-made one, but the Tommy gun was an American Thompson sub-machine gun and it had
a round magazine on it and also a short rectangular one but there were usually two of those to a section so a section had pretty great fire power. It could really make an impression on what they were doing and as for the feelings about it well
as I say it's your job, you've been trained to do it.
else we had we had to get mules and donkeys so we went 'round the Greek villages and giving them a slip of paper guaranteeing them that they 'd be paid for them, you know, and get them back. If they didn't get them back they'd at least get money and so forth and I got a little it was only a little one. I didn't know it was as old as it was. It sort of
nudged up to me and I thought "Oh well, you'll do me. You and I'll look after each other." and I packed the…. there was a, you know those canvas buckets? Have you ever seen those at a camp you know? There was one of those filled up with Tommy gun ammunition, that's .45 calibre ammunition, and another bag and I had a look
at it and it had tea and sugar and some biscuits in it, in a bag, and I thought "Well the two are about even weight." and I said "That's about all this poor little donkey could carry." so I strapped it on to the little packing thing that he had. It was just like a saddle but a wooden saddle and stuck it there and we started off along the track down to the Aliakmon River and
a few of us were going along like this and my little fella, it was obvious to me that he was a bit old or sick, one of the two, or both. It wasn't going very well at all and I came across one of, it wasn't one of our blokes he was… my blokes, he was one of the fellows from another company. I knew his name, Troubles Whiteley.
He was called Troubles because he was always in trouble and he was in trouble again. He said he was sick and he looked sick. Anyway all I could do was I grabbed his rifle from him and put it and put it over this saddle thing to relieve him of some load and I said "Give us your haversack too and I'll sling that on." and the poor little donkey,
it was a bit more of a load so he couldn't do it. A little bit further on it almost laid down and I thought "Oh gosh, what'll I do?" so I gave Troubles back his rifle and his pack and I said "You'll have to do something mate. You'll have to get going." and he staggered up and started to wobble along and I got the other
things, the Tommy gun ammunition and the tea and sugar and stuff, and slung it around my neck and started plodding along the track too and just slapped the donkey on the tail and hoped it'd go home or do something but I couldn't do anything about it and we were going along like this and Chuckles, not Chuckles Troubles, was moaning and groaning and suddenly I heard not footsteps
but the sound of hooves and there were horses, men on horses coming down and they were Greeks who were also retreating had to go across the river and I was at that time trying to help Troubles up he was sitting down again and I said something to him and this voice said "Gor, how you going
mate?" I said “Where are you from?" He said "I'm from Junee." in New South Wales, you know I said "Oh struth." and as we walked along he was helping Troubles and eventually he put Troubles on the back of his horse which got him down and as we were walking down he was telling me about himself.
His father had emigrated to Australia early in the century, he was born out in Australia but his father wanted him to go back to Greece to see Greece you know, and shouted him a trip right on that particular time. When he got back there he was conscripted into the army and so we went on down and when he saw me starting to stagger with this load he put that on his horse too.
So a little later on the horse was beginning to get a little bit tired of carrying the big load it had and I thought "Well I've got to throw something away. What'll I throw?” So I threw the sugar and tea away. I thought "The ammunition's more important because if we if we get attacked and we've got no ammunition
there's no good having tea and sugar." and I started to struggle down the path myself. It was very steep and winding down to the river and Troubles was still in trouble. Anyway we get down, there's a stone hut and at the back of the stone hut there was a little corral out of built out of stone you know,
either a goat yard or a sheep yard or something like that and I thought "Well this is a good place to rest." because there was a bit of a wind blowing and we huddled up against this stone wall and I don't know whether you know excuse me a rifle, you can sit on your rifle by putting it between your legs and sitting on the on the butt of it you know and I had the two rifles like this
and my great coat. An army great coat's a great thing and it came right 'round there and I was sitting like this and next thing I know along comes a couple of Germans and they took the Greek fellows prisoner. They didn't come into where we were and I saw them going away and I saw this bloke I'd been talking to, Joe was the only name I got out of him, and away
he went and I thought "God what are we going to do?” and so they didn't come back so I said to Troubles "Look, get off your bum and we'll get down to the river here." and I went down to the river and the punt was still there but the engineers had tried to blow it up but it hadn't completely sunk so I said to the fellow the Greek bloke "You take me across". "Oh no no"
I said "Oh yes you do " and I pointed my rifle at him "Yes you will" and I put Troubles on. We hung on to it like grim death and we were up to there in water but at least we got across. When we got across to the other side I looked back and these Germans were coming back down. I though "God blimey, let's get out of here" and I booted Troubles "Come on scoot out of it" and we got up over the bank and out of sight and out of mind and I started to fill my water bottles up and he went
on and someone saw him and from his own company, grabbed him and took him. I don't know what happened to him after that and I said "I'm getting out of here too."
is where things started to go wrong because one group pulled out and left another group who were further up in the gorge completely unprotected. Now most of them got away but some of them were taken prisoner. When I say got away, they went north and then over to the coast and got hold of a boat and
got across to Turkey, but the others were taken prisoner, the ones that didn't go with them but there we were, probably the only two battalions and against ten or fifteen German divisions. It was a…. I mean we were only a small pocket. They'd engage us for a while and send another division around the back of us. It was impossible
to hold them. Do you know Chris Masters, a journalist from the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation]? He did a thing on Greece once, a television show and he was accusing people of throwing their weapons away and running away. Well I didn't see it happen but I can understand it happening. When you get tanks coming towards you and all you've got is a rifle it's better to get rid of it so that you can run faster
because you can't do anything with a rifle to a tank and I had a real go at him and he was calling them cowards and what not and I said "I wonder how many more cowards there'd be in the same situation.” This was where it happened it did happen we called it Larisa but it was actually Pinios Gorge and
it was really a bit of a mess there, but it was only about two or three days after this that we heard that the Greek Prime Minister had committed suicide and the fellow who took over had surrendered to the Germans. Well we had to get out, we had no right being there. For us to stay and fight, the
Greeks were going to be the ones to suffer and we couldn't fight. We didn't have the numbers of men. While the Greek army was willing to fight, there weren't enough of them either and they weren't properly armed and the whole thing is that we should not have gone there in such a small number, but Churchill had promised it and he
promised them some troops so give 'em the Australians, and I think the Greeks have never had any animosity towards us about being left in the lurch themselves and us getting out because they realised that we had to get out
and by getting out we made it possible for them to be freed again.
easy push over. They didn't want to fight. In fact one of our fellows described our first action. He said "We finished up our training against the Italians." which was more or less true because they did not put up a fight. They only fired when they could feel that there was no threat to them and they wouldn't be shot. As soon as you fired back they ducked their heads and put their hands up
so only a few of the famed Black Shirts regiments put up a bit of a stiff fight in other areas of the attack, but generally speaking the Germans were very determined fighters and there were just too many of them for us.
The French Foreign Legion were the ones we struck around the Damascus area and Syria and they were a different kettle of fish. They would keep fighting 'til there was no hope and expected you to put your hands up at the right time and all the people I'm talking about until we met the Japanese, fought wars by the rules, such as they are,
you know more or less under the Con… Geneva Convention or whatever rules were originally drawn up for warfare. You only lead with your left and hit with your right you know so, excuse me. That was the difference of course because the Japanese were fanatical but they were also good soldiers as far as the fighting ability was concerned.
They were trained well and fought well and they rarely gave up until it became obvious it was futile to carry on and they rarely ran as they did at Eora Creek the battle there
but we really had 'em licked there although we thought for awhile there that we didn't have them licked because they stopped us alright, held us up for many days. And going back to Syria, the other Vichy French troops were reasonable. They were probably the regulars and there were some
Spahis, the North African Arabs who were recruited by the by the French but we didn't have much to do about them, with them. They were there in the final surrender but generally speaking it was mostly the French Foreign Legion that we confronted.
The Japanese towards the end of the war well they were bottled up in Aitape, Aitape - Wewak, got behind in the Torricelli Mountains and of course only their best troops were fed and they were still dangerous and had plenty of ammunition right up 'til the last.
But once the surrender came it was it was all over and they just marched out to the points where they were told to march to and as prisoners and the war was over. After all those years. But we didn't get to go home for some months afterwards.
Were there occasions such as those or others where the company of women was missed?
Oh I suppose it was all the time sort of back home with my girlfriend especially the ones that had girlfriends and what not and of course you might have read in the paper about a fellow that I know who wrote a play and it was played at the Bondi Pavilion over the weekend 'Sister Street'. He was talking about the brothels in Alexandria but the majority of blokes didn't go there.
There were some who did because some of them picked up venereal diseases and what they call the college of carnal knowledge was the hospital where the special hospital was but the majority of blokes if they went to what was known as a brothel they were usually places where you could get food and drink
as well so a lot of them went there because they someone said "The tucker's not bad at that sort of a place." you know, and you you'd see fellows from…. Australian fellows going through and the girls hugging them and whatnot "oo yuck" you know and the stories you'd hear about the sexual diseases and so forth was enough to put you off in those sort of
occasions and of course if you if you did happen to go to hospital yourself or now and again you'd go on leave and the nurses would have leave as well you know and you might bump into a nurse that you knew you or knew your family or whatever so you weren't completely deprived and the Red Cross women were often around you know, from the Red Cross huts that proliferated through the camps.
There weren't many of them of course but they were all very popular and there were some people in these Egyptian towns, Israeli towns, not Israeli but Palestine towns and whatnot who quite welcomed us and shopkeepers especially, so you weren’t completely cut off from
at least talking to females you know, and if you were so passionate that you had to go to the brothels well it was there providing you took all the precautions necessary and you were encouraged to do this by signs. There was a, what do they call it, a Red Cross would appear on the side of a building.
I can't think what they called them, where a prophylactic procedure could be carried out or they could get prophylactic equipment but you know people you wouldn't go near them because someone said "I saw Bill going into that place the other day." so it was a fair bit of
evidence that you should behave yourself. The risks were pretty great.
certainly amongst the people who emigrated here from those areas after the war and fitted into our culture fairly well. Take our present governor and family, Nick Shehadie and his missus and Professor Bashir; those people with whom we mixed in those days had must have some influence on these people to emigrate and become Australians
'cause there's no doubt she is an Australian. She's proved it many a time you know she's for the Australian way. The Greeks, our relationship with the Greeks is excellent. I've been back there several times. You've only got to be wearing a badge with the Australian flag on it. "Oh, welcome." you know
wherever you go. As I say, Egypt I haven't been back to. I have no desire to go there. France, we didn't go there during the war but I've been there a few times and "Australian oh yes alright." but if you're "Anglaise" oh I would. In fact I was refused to be served because they thought I was English in a place in near Dieppe,
and I said “Not Anglaise, Australian.” “Oh, come and sit down.” A different thing altogether. England, I suppose because of my upbringing and education; I'm more English than any anything else 'cause that we were taught, English history. It's the only history we were taught.
“Australia, where's that?” And I'm not at all keen on America and Americanism. There's a lot about them I don't like. I've been there but again as I say, I wouldn't like to live there. Now we were in Ceylon for about three or four months.
Found the people there to be very very easy to live with and look at Kamahl. I've only been back there once but the place still seemed the same and if you happened to mention that you were there before, oh they were…. you were welcome anywhere, you know.
sort of plan to be used when mounting a large attack on a major defensive position. In fact I don't think there was another similar one devised for the rest of the war, except maybe in Europe, but which I didn't know a great deal about. Alamein may have been something on a bigger scale of course but
it had it's own drawbacks as well. There was very often, particularly in the British army, they carried, they fought one war on the experience of the previous war. Now in between wars of the Twentieth century technology changed so much in between those times
that they should have been forced to look at what they had now rather than what they had then but it still didn't make much difference because Greece was a case in point where they sent a small force over, inadequately armed, to meet a very large force more than adequately armed with
modern weapons that we didn't have and the British commanders senior commanders, Wavell and so forth, were still going on the previous war's policies of action; how to take action, how to plan an attack or defence, or whatever. But when we came to
the jungle instead of being in masses we were strung out a mile apart. When you had to deal with anything within a ten foot frontage of you. The other bloke would do the same, probably overlap you a bit, but instead of shoulder to shoulder like they were back in the eighteen,
eighteen hundreds, you were that far apart and 'cause in the jungle of course you'd be just one man files and then you'd have to find a path. Put one man out in front and it became a section, a corporal's war. A section leader's a corporal. They'd be deciding the course of action to take because of what was in front of them.
And of course now days, with the all the modern paratroopers and special forces going 'round in the rear and doing all sorts of things, tactics have altered completely to what they were twenty years ago. They say another war, the Korean War,
the Battle of Maryang San, Maryang San, in Korea, it was drawn up by now the retired General Hassett who was at one time in our battalion in the Second World War. They say it was one of the most comprehensive and brilliant battle plans ever drawn up but even that is now overshadowed, it's had to be changed because of
technology and everything else has changed.
them and they had got to the positions where they were supposed to deploy and the Germans were less than a hundred yards away from them, already advancing so they had no cover, very little, no support except their own weapons and the tanks came through the German infantry and they were just left with nothing else to do.
To stay was to fight and fight, one shot probably and then be killed yourself so I guess probably what the thinking was “Let's get outta here!” But they were lucky that another battalion had come in behind them and dug in so that when they actually got out of the place there was someone there to hold them up for awhile and there was an artillery unit also who got stuck into the tanks
which made them pull their head in a bit but meanwhile we were around on another flank and we were being told to withdraw to sort of back this other people up but we couldn't because we when we finally got down from the mountains to the valley below we found that we'd had to cross the Aliakmon River over this bridge, then go
up another road up to where the other people were, which we couldn't do. Now we had to march out over the side of Mount Olympus and the other people had to get out as best they could and the New Zealanders then were the back up for them whilst they pulled out and that's what it was. They'd….. the Germans'd probe around 'til they found
the weakest link or what they thought was the weakest link and then throw everything into that and whilst they were doing that, they were coming around on another flank and so one completely unknown to anyone, no one'd think they'd ever come that way but they did, and finally we came together down below Larisa at Pinios Gorge and there was another.
We, as I say we were supposed to hold them for thirty six hours but it was nearly forty eight hours we held 'em up there, which allowed not only the New Zealanders but the other brigades to get down to a pass through which the Spartans had defended many many thousands of years ago. I can't think of the name of that one now, but the 17th brigade and others were
at that area. We'd skirted that, got behind them to put up defensive positions nearer Athens but then they broke through over that area and then we had to pull out down through the Peloponnesus and that by that time the Greeks had surrendered so we had to get out.
lying down someone would go back, pick up their rifle and stick the bayonet in the ground of the rifle the butt up in the air and if it was available, put his tin hat on it. That would signal to the stretcher bearers or the medical people, I think the Americans
call them medics, that there was a wounded person, wounded or dead person there and you would you have to carry on. I mean you couldn't stop because someone went down. Your job was to go and take the objective and in fact I got into trouble about this sort of thing later on in the war, some of us did. And then what would happen they would come along, the
stretcher bearer would be coming in a section behind. He would drop down and examine the person and see what he could do for him and would leave the rifle and everything there in place for someone to see that there was a what do you call them…. casualty,
there was a casualty there and then he would sort of move on make sure that the patient was okay. otherwise he would try and get someone else involved as well. Stay there until someone else became involved. Meanwhile the man's section or platoon would have to keep going forward, continue the attack. This would happen all the time. So the wounded then
would be picked up by the regimental stretcher bearers who would then probably get them to a point where they could be picked up by the field ambulance and then directed back to either what they called dressing stations or emergency dressing stations
so they could be sorted out, casualty clearing stations was another one further back. That's how the wounded were dealt with. The dead were often left until a Padre came along so that he could or chaplain so that they could be buried but the whole war couldn't stop because one man was
wounded and down. This was something you were taught. If he wasn't too badly wounded he could put his own….say it was in the leg or something, he might be able to put his own, but he would still try and signify that he was wounded so that somebody knew about it. I think….
So we landed there in the middle of one raid, it was only a small raid apparently, then we went on up to where we could dye our clothing with gum leaves and other leaves 'cause we had desert equipment. We had to put a bit of green into it as camouflage. We did that and then we were
on up the trail to Ower’s Corner, where's there's a famous picture of General MacArthur and General Blamey and somebody, some other general at Ower’s Corner wishing the troops God speed. “By some act of God.” or something MacArthur's saying, “You have been chosen to
lead this advance to knock 'em back to billyo. God speed and may God go with you.” or something like this. There's plenty, there's one in our book and there's one in several other books there, references to it you know, this incident. And I saw that. I was only a few yards away from where the picture was taken and seeing all the brass hats around I got out of the road pretty quickly. I thought someone might give me a job
and it was an historical moment. Then we started down into the golden or up to the golden stairway as they called it. Now these had been cut into the sides of the mountain by engineers. They'd cut steps and to contain the earth in it where it was, they'd drive some yoke
sticks either side and stick another stick across to hold it so that it was like a step. You could step onto the actual cross stick as a step and these were going up three thousand feet so there's three thousand of them and there might be a break, a bit of flat land there for awhile and then some more. They were the golden stairs alright and because the rain
had washed a lot of the earth away and sometimes you'd be struggling through mud as well as you'd put your foot on the stick and it'd slip off and into the mud. It was absolutely the worst part of it I think, and you'd be bad enough when you got to the top, although you'd get to where you could see blue sky in front of you but it was a false crest. It'd be somewhere where it'd come out
onto a bit of a crest but ahead about fifty yards there'd be another huge rise. When you'd finally attained the crest of this particular range, the trip down the other side was just as bad. In fact after about a couple of hundred feet you'd stop and
your legs, your knees'd be shaking because of the constant pressure on your knees from bending your knees to lower yourself. Different to going up. Going down is just as bad and wobbly knees was the answer and it was just as tiring and damaging to your health I suppose as climbing.
Then you'd walk through a valley for awhile through mud and slush and crossing rivers and creeks and then up another range of mountains because in New Guinea the mountains run along the spine of New Guinea and you go up and down, up and down. There's no way, you can't go 'round anything because there's no way to go around. If you walk along the top of the ridge you've still got to go down. You walk along the valley you've still got to go up
and that became the famous Kokoda Trail. We never called it the Trail, we called it the bloody track because that's what it was. Just a track through the over the mountains but because it was over a mountain pass it was actually a trail, and this happened because a an Australian correspondent at Moresby,
they were living at the seven mile mark, all the correspondents, the war correspondents, and they would get the bulletins, they would come through and they would have to write their things back to their editors and then send them by cable. Now what they would do they would say “In New Guinea along the
Owen Stanley ranges at so and so at Koitaki.” or this one or that one and they'd have to put a hyphen between name. Now hyphen, the word hyphen, used to cost them for a word because there was no particular Morse figure or sound that would signified hyphen so they had to pay for the word hyphen,
so if they had as many hyphens as words in it, in their cable, they had to pay for the whole lot and Geoff Redding, who is still alive actually, developed a means of cutting this down and he began to call it the Kokoda Trail and may put one hyphen in but he might put the word "at" which is shorter at
Efogi or Templeton’s Crossing or whatever and the phrase or the name became common to the editors down there, they loved it because it kept everything short and described everything thoroughly and people down here were accepting it as Kokoda Trail and towards the end of it we were getting letters from our relatives saying we “I know you're in New Guinea but
I hope you're not on that terrible Kokoda Trail.” and of course we were but we couldn't say it in our letters of course, but Geoff Redding has been ridiculed ever since to say that he was the one that began the…. but he was a keen reader of a lot of the Canadian, early Canadian writers writing about the Klondike Trails, what in New Guinea in Canada in the Yukon
but it was sensible. It's a way over the mountains, over the Kokoda Trail, because previously it was called by whatever direction you were going in and the planters who were going towards Buna called it the Buna Road. If they were at Buna coming back towards Kokoda they'd call it the Kokoda Road. If they were leaving Kokoda and coming back over the mountains to go to back to Moresby they'd call it the Moresby Road and vice versa so this made
it simple, the Kokoda Trail. “And what part of the Kokoda Trail?” “Oh Eora Creek.” or whatever so it was actually a simple way of describing the whole thing and our own map makers at the same time were putting 'Kokoda Trail' on our maps that we were using, so for people to call it the Kokoda Track, they're just hillbillies, Ockers,
you know that 'cause everything in Australia is a track, it's not a road it's a track, but even not all those are tracks either.
happy about hygiene or anything, so you wouldn't know whether it was contaminated or not, and sometimes it was. So people began to develop dysentery and other similar things you know and I remember one fellow once, he did have at least diarrhoea anyway, it must have been, and he was going along he had to and he was ducking off into the jungle so often
to relieve himself and he came back there once and he said “It must have been wrong sort of water I had.” It must have been because he was absolutely weak from diarrhoea, it must have been dysentery probably he had, very often and at one particular place where we were, one of our officers, a fella
called Nicky Lysaght, in fact he was one of the members of the family of Lysaghts the engineering company from Wollongong and Newcastle. He was an Englishman but he'd been out here for years and spoke in a very Oxford accent “Oh don't you know old chap.” and he was filling his little water bottle from a bit of a creek and he took a sip of it
and he said “That water is beautiful.” he says “Like nectar.” and one of our fellows said “It ought to be.” he says “There's a dead Jap in it just up the road there.” and of course he tipped it out immediately. “By gad.” he said. He was a wonderful bloke Nick.
This did happen that there were, as I say, the Japanese weren't hygienic and they would use the rivers as a toilet as much as anything, or the creeks and there would be dead animals, dead Japanese and sometimes graves of even our own fellas had been dug too near the creek and even that would be
seeping into the creek you know it wasn't a hygienic area. At one stage we were nearly six days without any rations at all. When we come into a village we'd be trying to dig up trees with a fairly good root system to see if the roots were tender enough to
eat 'cause we had no food. I finished the Kokoda Trail and I was weighed at the hospital. I think I was six, a little bit over six and a half stone. My usual weight's around about eleven stone and that was not only due to lack of food it was due to malaria and what not and illness
and most others were the same.
which was the there were three main points where the Japanese dug in, really dug in. This is why they got away from Oivi - Gorari and fled back to the coast but they built concrete sangers and defences and great logs above them piled with dirt to prevent them being shelled and what not
safe them from shelling and monstrous defences and well defined areas of defence, like fixed lines of fire or machine guns where it's almost impossible for people to get through that fire and there were one was Gona, which was towards the west along the coast and one was Sanananda and the other was Buna,
they were the three main ones. Now Gona was the first to fall, mainly due to the efforts of the 18th Brigade and the 25th Brigade of the 7th Division. They were finally finished off when one of the militia battalions came up and they mopped up and took prisoner the….
There wasn't a great deal of fighting and they didn't have many casualties because a lot of the Japanese by that time were unarmed but then at the main battle went down to Buna, which was the furthest east where the Americans had come in but we were at Sanananda, which was the central place,
and it was along a long narrow road and there were swamps one side, mud flats the other, terrible country. We went forward as far as we could and we were finally blocked by coming up against these built in fortresses, almost fortresses, and we were down to,
oh each battalion would only have little more than a hundred men in it where they previously had six hundred, and the Americans came in there and they were supposed to relieve us and they were supposed to go into an attack with us but as soon as the Japanese got out of their holes and started to come forward the Americans turned tail and ran and one of our
fellows stopped a major and he said “Hey major you're going the wrong way.” and it didn't make any difference, he still went the wrong way, and that particular unit was taken out of dropped out of action by the General Eichelberger who MacArthur sent up to sack any officer who wouldn't obey and replace him with a corporal if necessary because they were completely untrained
and just didn't want to fight. They later fought with distinction in the Philippines or somewhere you know, but at that particular stage they left us in the lurch and as I say we were down to just a few men and finally sixty all told, the sick and all, were evacuated and flown back to Moresby to hospitals and whatever
and one of the militia battalions relieved us and they had heavy casualties not from fighting but from sickness, and some Americans were there with them at the time too and they didn't do any good, but finally the Japanese were starved out and it wasn't long but Sanananda didn't fall until some time in January of 1943 and it didn't fall to an assault, it just fell because
the Japanese were starved or had been taken off by submarines or something and it was just. I'd pity them because they were just boxed in and had no food and but most of them were
evacuated and went up to the west towards the Wewak area, where they were 'til the end of the war, the ones that were got out of around there.
where they could grow things and keep themselves by pinching stuff from the natives and what not, and we'd find them, defeat them and they'd clear out and go back to wherever their headquarters were and then finally we'd come across a larger group who would decide to put up a fight and then we'd do that and we'd eventually overcome them.
A lot of the time they didn't have enough weapons, enough ammunition so we were the eventual winners but they would clear out and probably go back to their original groups or headquarters and what not and make that mob larger, and there was also another brigade in the Torricelli Mountains which is behind Aitape and Wewak. A ridge of mountains that run along the back
of the back of the coast so we had we were blocking them up between us and them and it was a fight all the way down in small groups but at the same time we were winning, but we were losing men unnecessarily. We could have just kept them bottled up and starved them out but
we decided that we'd attack and chase them off instead so I don't know, it's as I say it was a campaign which was long, bloody because it was, the idea was to
attack and destroy them if possible, destroy their opposition. Get them out of the place and it didn't finally happen 'til the bomb, the bomb on Hiroshima. There were two VCs won in that campaign for individual bravery but
it's doubtful whether they actually deserved it as far as campaign-wise, the worth to the campaign as a whole and I probably I shouldn't say that but in my view it was an unnecessary campaign. A lot of people I know have that
regard for it, and we lost a lot of good mates in doing it and because at the end of the war just at the end our Commanding Officer was egged on to create new officers and I was told by him that I was going to be recommended for a field commission but he said
“Don't talk about it too much because if the Japs get to hear it they'll want to start the war all over again.” so I didn't get it anyway.