William Jenkins
Archive number: 21
Preferred name: Bill
Date interviewed: 28 April, 2003

Served with:

6th Division
2/3rd Battalion

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Bill Jenkins 0021

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Transcript

Tape 01

01:00:31:00

Okay Bill as I said before, we'll just start with an overview of your life. Just your birth, when and where it happened and points from then on.
Well getting back to

01:01:00:00

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

01:01:30:00

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

01:02:00:00

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.

01:02:30:00

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

01:03:00:00

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

01:03:30:00

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

01:04:00:00

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.

01:04:30:00

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.

01:05:00:00

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,

01:05:30:00

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

01:06:00:00

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

01:06:30:00

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

01:07:00:00

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

01:07:30:00

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

01:08:00:00

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

01:08:30:00

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

01:09:00:00

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

01:09:30:00

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

01:10:00:00

'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

01:10:30:00

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.

01:11:00:00

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

01:11:30:00

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

01:12:00:00

Swearing in?
No, when the current comes through you know
Oh the tide?
Oh anyway that's what we did and the minute came to be getting on the trucks and the day was getting on quite a bit and we had to go outside and get into trucks and buses had been assembled to go up to Ingleburn and they called out the names of people and my brothers and that got on a certain bus and I said "Well you're not going without me." so

01:12:30:00

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

01:13:00:00

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

01:13:30:00

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,

01:14:00:00

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."

01:14:30:00

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

01:15:00:00

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

01:15:30:00

and I caught up to the battalion that I joined before in the Middle East as a reinforcement.
And what campaigns were they serving in at that time?
Well they hadn't, they were still training and we stayed at the training battalion until November 1940. Got over there in August, stayed 'til November,

01:16:00:00

when I joined the battalion and then we went up to the desert, up to Libya.
This was with the 2/3rd Battalion?
The 2/3rd Battalion and first of all I was a runner for the RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major]. He was a World War I man and he had asthma.

01:16:30:00

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

01:17:00:00

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

01:17:30:00

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

01:18:00:00

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

01:18:30:00

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

01:19:00:00

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

01:19:30:00

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,

01:20:00:00

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

01:20:30:00

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

01:21:00:00

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,

01:21:30:00

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,

01:22:00:00

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,

01:22:30:00

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,

01:23:00:00

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.

01:23:30:00

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

01:24:00:00

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

01:24:30:00

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]

01:25:00:00

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,

01:25:30:00

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],

01:26:00:00

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

01:26:30:00

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

01:27:00:00

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

01:27:30:00

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,

01:28:00:00

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

01:28:30:00

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

01:29:00:00

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

01:29:30:00

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

01:30:00:00

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

01:30:30:00

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

01:31:00:00

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

01:31:30:00

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

01:32:00:00

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

01:32:30:00

the other and it's virtually impossible to get it back together again.
It's unusable.
Unusable and they had to line up along the wharf and a group of us, and I was in charge, I was a lance corporal at the time, was told to take a patrol back to the edge of the town called a standing patrol. We had to not let anybody past except generals or

01:33:00:00

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

01:33:30:00

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

01:34:00:00

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

01:34:30:00

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,

01:35:00:00

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

01:35:30:00

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

01:36:00:00

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

01:36:30:00

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

01:37:00:00

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

01:37:30:00

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.

01:38:00:00

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

01:38:30:00

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.
Now, sounds like some fascinating detail

01:39:00:00

in just that campaign alone. We'll definitely come back and visit that in greater depth but we'll probably just move onto which other campaigns you served in that area?
Well we got back to Palestine eventually and the difference in the Egypt, in the attitude of the Egyptians. Whilst we were winning, oh they'd do anything for us, but we'd been kicked out of Greece and they turned on us. We

01:39:30:00

couldn't bargain with them about buying their oranges or anything. There was no bargaining at all. You take it at my price or go without. One bloke pulled a knife on me. If it hadn't been for Speed Gordon, an officer sitting on an edge of the carriage, goods wagon not a carriage, he pulled his pistol out and said "Imshi" [Arabic – Go Away!] and the bloke soon shot through.

01:40:00:00

But we were taken back to Palestine, to our old camps, and gradually the fellows who'd escaped from where they'd been cut off and what not, they were coming back for oh, nearly a couple of weeks, in all sorts of boats and some of them rowed back or paddled back or whatever and sailed back and all sorts of boats,

01:40:30:00

but they were straggling in until finally, it was our battalion mainly, were told that we had to give a hundred men to the 2/1st Battalion because a lot of them had been wiped out in Crete, had heavy casualties, so we did this, then we got some reinforcements and we were told that

01:41:00:00

we were going up to Syria so we piled onto these little toy trains again, different ones of course, and
Sorry, we might just pause there. We have to have a change of tape, I'm sorry Bill.
Oh sure.
We've run to the end of there already.
Interviewee: Bill Jenkins Archive ID 0021 Tape 02

02:00:02:00

of Greece at Kalamata. All these soldiers who were lined up along the wharf were people who were considered…. they were mostly artillerymen and other ASC [Army Service Corps] workers and so forth. The artillerymen had destroyed their guns, so they had nothing to take, and there were only armed infantry being taken off.

02:00:30:00

I didn't know at the time that this was happening but years later I went to a function where this fellow was giving a talk on his experiences in Greece and he said that they'd spiked their guns and they were stretched out along the wharf at Kalamata waiting for a ship to take them off, and he said, "And finally very late in the in the night a ragged lot of infantry came along." like

02:01:00:00

I was knocked back at this idea and he said "And they filed on board." he said "They pulled the gangway up, the gangplank back, and the ship took off and I spent four years as a prisoner of war in Germany." I wasn't game to get up and say I was one of those fellows that I was the last one on board.
Again, that's a…. that sounds like

02:01:30:00

an interesting story we'll revisit in greater length later.
Yeah.
If I can take you back to when you were coming to Syria
Syria
and we'll talk about going
Going up on these trains up through the Jordan Valley, Jordan River, an ancient Biblical thing, and it was a steep go down into the Valley and a steep run up the other side and it was hot

02:02:00:00

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

02:02:30:00

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

02:03:00:00

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

02:03:30:00

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

02:04:00:00

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

02:04:30:00

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

02:05:00:00

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.
This was in late 1941 or early 1942?
In

02:05:30:00

'41. This was still in June, yeah June.
How long was the campaign there you were involved in?
Only June, July, a bit of July and the 7th Division went into Syria but then they experienced difficulty because they were one brigade down and my battalion, 2/3rd and the 2/5th Battalion, a

02:06:00:00

Victorian battalion, they were the only two out of 6th Division that went into Syria. In fact they were the only two who are credited with…. the only two units in the British forces in the allied or coalition forces who fought all the King's enemies, the Italians, the Germans,

02:06:30:00

the Vichy French, the Foreign Legion and the Japanese. And the Foreign Legion were pretty tough. Tough customers and in fact our battalion headquarters was taken prisoner by one fort. They thought it was empty but they walked in and the Foreign Legion was still there and took 'em prisoner, but Carl

02:07:00:00

Smith, he was the quartermaster sergeant of Headquarters Company, he took the fort himself, him and his storeman, they came down with rations and food, hot food, and they knocked the guard over at the gate and the rest of them surrendered and they got out blokes out. Meanwhile our company took another fort -

02:07:30:00

Sarrail, I think was the name of it and I climbed up, it wasn't a flagpole, it was a piece of galvanised water pipe that was the pole, and I climbed up it to get this French flag down and I donated that flag with the signatures of all our company on it to 3 Battalion RAR [Royal Australian Regiment] up at Holsworthy. It's still up there.
Mm, I reckon they'd prize it.

02:08:00:00

But the pole was bending this way and that way and the wall had broken glass impregnated into the concrete and I thought "Jeez it's going to be great if I fall onto that." you know.
Did you get the opportunity to rejoin the rest of your brigade?
Later on after the campaign was over, they came up to a camp near Damascus.
What time would that have been?

02:08:30:00

Near September Octo…. no October that's right, because we spent Christmas just outside Damascus that year and camp was snow up to our ears. Wonderful Christmas it was, a White Christmas, but
In the desert?
In the desert, yeah. We weren't actually far

02:09:00:00

from Mount Hermon then at that place and we were digging defences because they thought the Germans were going to come down through Turkey and this is the reason that we were in that campaign, but then at this one stage we had to take this hill, Jebel Mazar. Jebel is the Arabic word for mountain. Mount Jebel

02:09:30:00

Mazar, and a local guide got us lost and took us into a ravine away from where…. we couldn't get up to the top, but another company came up behind us and they went to the right one and they got to the top but then the Foreign Legion counterattacked and drove him off and almost cut us off

02:10:00:00

but we all got out and then we were taken around the coast of Lebanon 'cause we there we were in Syria around Damascus. We were taken around to Lebanon for the final attack on Damour and Beirut and that's when they surrendered, the Vichy French surrendered there and we had to provide

02:10:30:00

a guard and a colonel and four sergeants to go and arrest the Vichy French general and we had several taken as prisoner and they were taken as far as Italy and Spain and they wouldn't let this French general go until he signed the armistice and our prisoners came back and they got 'em back. In fact Johnny Maitland got

02:11:00:00

as far as Spain. He was a lieutenant in C Company but he came back.
They were returned to your company?
Yeah and from then we went up to the north of Lebanon and up to the Cedars of the Lebanon. We had a week up there. It's a ski resort in the

02:11:30:00

winter time, but it was getting a little bit past winter then in ooh, that was what, in June, July, August yeah. It was well and truly summer and there was no snow about but we did a lot of work around

02:12:00:00

there securing and put supplying guards for the oil pipe lines and 'cause these were targets for sabotage you know. We were occupying the country we'd captured you know.
I believe you spent some time there.
Yeah.
But then subsequently you were shipped to Ceylon. Is that right?
Yes we were then at Christmas after this, Christmas time

02:12:30:00

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,

02:13:00:00

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

02:13:30:00

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

02:14:00:00

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,

02:14:30:00

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

02:15:00:00

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

02:15:30:00

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

02:16:00:00

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
"The boys were cheering madly, they thought they were going home,

02:16:30:00

but the gods of fate had rostered Billy Boomerang to be.
The senior duty officer that fateful night at sea".
I'll give you a copy of it before you go.
Mm, do
And this Billy Boomerang, Captain Rishworth, he was mad keen on navigation by the stars and he got his company lost on a route march in Palestine once and they reckon that Billy

02:17:00:00

Boomerang talked to the skipper and showed him where the famous stars were meant to lie and got lost and it's quite amusing, we….
Were you in port long before you sailed out towards Ceylon?
About three days we were stuck there. Some blokes dived overboard and swam in but I saw a few sharks in the water, I wasn't going to be in it

02:17:30:00

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

02:18:00:00

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

02:18:30:00

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.

02:19:00:00

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

02:19:30:00

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

02:20:00:00

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

02:20:30:00

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.

02:21:00:00

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,

02:21:30:00

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.

02:22:00:00

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

02:22:30:00

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.
Mm, yes we'll visit that campaign later on definitely.
Yeah.
Following that, where was your next engagement?
Hm?
Where was your next engagement following that campaign?
Well

02:23:00:00

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

02:23:30:00

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,

02:24:00:00

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

02:24:30:00

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

02:25:00:00

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

02:25:30:00

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

02:26:00:00

because the danger was real. You could just walk past a tree and there'd be a Jap there with a machine gun.
Considering those dangers, how long was your rehabilitation back in Atherton?
Oh twelve over twelve months, you know, by the time we'd had leave and

02:26:30:00

while you were on leave you'd get a repercussion of malaria you know another attack so it took a nearly twelve months to build the whole force up together again.
But after that you went back to New Guinea?
We went back to New Guinea to the Aitape - Wewak campaign which was a waste of men, money and resources because they could've just bottled the Japs up there.

02:27:00:00

They couldn't get out and we were losing good men just because they said we had to. We didn't like it at all it's as I say some good men were lost unnecessarily.
And those campaigns lasted 'til the end of the war?

02:27:30:00

Right 'til the end of the War…. it was a funny thing that Neville Blundell, great mate of mine. I've given his name in. He was a signaller but he was the sort of signaller that just ran the lines out. He was not much good at Morse or anything else but he was on duty the night that the

02:28:00:00

the bomb, you know the end of the war.
Hiroshima.
Hiroshima and a signal came through that this signal was coming through in code. Got to be decoded and handed to the CO [Commanding Officer] and Neville was no good at Morse and he'd go de de de de da and then get a bit of it down and "Ah now go back,

02:28:30:00

go back to so and so.” Finally worked it out that Japan has surrendered, took it up to the CO and he said "The war's over sir.”
Did he believe him?
And he Neville'd say it, relate the incident you know when he's taking the Morse. It was hilarious you know. "No, go back to there!"

02:29:00:00

and the bloke doing it he said "Oh he gave it over verbally eventually".
And you stayed on in New Guinea for some time after?
Yes, I didn't get back until 'til after Christmas. Yes I missed Christmas, that's right,

02:29:30:00

and then I had was taken to hospital again and I spent the next seven no eleven months in hospital. I didn't get out of the army 'til November '46.
Where was the hospital you returned to?
I went to Merrylands first. There was a hospital at Merrylands

02:30:00:00

I think it was the 2nd 11th AGH [Australian General Hospital] and then I went from there to the Lady Gowrie Convalescent Home, which is Woolcott Forbes' old home at Gordon. Woolcott Forbes was a millionaire that did the wrong thing and went bust and what not and they grabbed it for a sort of army hospital during the war. So I spent a

02:30:30:00

couple of months there. In fact I finished up I was a commander because even though I was a patient they were discharging all other people and they asked me would I take commander and send in the daily returns and that's all I had to do and Lady Mountbatten visited here. She was the head of the Red Cross and the Red Cross was heavily involved in this place and I had to line up the inhabitants

02:31:00:00

of the of the hospital or the camp, many of whom there were blindies, limbies you know limbies are one leg off or two or arm or whatever and I had to line up them down the drive when Lady Mountbatten was coming down the drive so I had to call them to attention and I called them to attention and you ought to have seen the blokes with crutches waving the crutches about

02:31:30:00

and Lady Mountbatten was laughing her head off when she got out of the out of the vehicle and she wouldn't go into the dinner with the matron and all the other chiefs. She came out and sat with us. She was still laughing her head off.
Were you still a corporal at that stage or had you advanced in the ranks?
No, sergeant. In fact I had been told that I was getting a field commission but at the end of the war a whole lot of

02:32:00:00

graduates from Duntroon were sent up so we were over strength of officers and he said that if I stayed in the army long enough I would probably get my pips but I didn't, I wanted to get out so I said to the doctor at Concord "I really would rather go out and get a job.”
And that's what you did?

02:32:30:00

And I did it. I got married and I got a job for awhile but then my wife's parents had a property up near Mudgee and she wanted to go up there and look after them, so I had to go too and I was working up there on the property for a couple of years until I was putting in applications for a

02:33:00:00

soldier's settlement block, you know, but I was missing out all the time on the ballot you know, they balloted for it and I never won a ballot in my life so I finished up I said "Oh I'll give it away." and I said "I won't get anything staying here on this property." because her my wife's brother would eventually get the property and I didn't want to stay there and be a slave on the place or it was a grazing

02:33:30:00

property you know, so I came to Sydney and I got a job with the Health Department, New South Wales Health Department, for whom I worked for the next thirty years until I retired in 1979, which is what, thirty-odd years ago.
And where had you met your wife?
Well I'd

02:34:00:00

met her previously from Goolma or the Mudgee area. I knew her brother and she was a nurse and she nursed me so we met again and of course we decided we'd get married and we had two children

02:34:30:00

and then a miscarriage and we were living at Concord and then we moved up to Carlingford and we were there until my daughter went nursing and my son went wool classing.
None of your children joined the services?
No

02:35:00:00

well, Catherine was a nurse. She almost joined the services because she was working at St Joseph's Hospital at Auburn and the nurses used to come sneak back in at night late through the fire door and the matron found out about it or the Mother Superior or something found out about it and she locked it and Catherine rang the Fire Department

02:35:30:00

and said that the fire door was locked. That they couldn't get in or out so the Fire Department came 'round and fixed it up and told the matron she shouldn't do that so I had a call from the matron to go and see her. She said "I don't think Catherine is suited for nursing." and I said "Oh too bad." so she had to leave there.

02:36:00:00

Of course I knew Matron Farthing at Concord and so I went and told her about it and she said "Well send her over to me." she said "I'll teach her to be a nurse." so that's where she finished her training at Concord, which was still a military hospital then, so she was nearly in the service 'cause when she graduated she decided to get married and now she's got a grandson and I've got a great grandson.

02:36:30:00

And none of your service involvement continued after the war?
Pardon?
You didn't stay involved in the services in any way after the war?
No ex-service. I was pretty well into the association. My old battalion formed an association. We had over a thousand members there at one stage 'course they're getting down now.

02:37:00:00

I became an executive officer of the 6th Division association. I still am. Can't get rid of the job and I've just given up a job as Chairman of the Legion of Ex-Service Club. I ran the dawn service for thirty-odd years. In fact I handed it over to a group of people the other morning

02:37:30:00

and told the Governor “I won't be here to hold your hand anymore.” and I'm on a on the organising committee for the Anzac Day march as well. I'm heavily involved in ex-service matters, but not a member of the RSL [Returned Services League].
Never have been?
Oh I joined when I came back in from the Middle East in '42

02:38:00:00

but they told me I didn't have to pay anything until the end of the end of the war and I was busy at the end of the war and didn't go back there and didn't pay them any, so they sent me a letter to say to send my badge back but you didn't get a badge while you were still in uniform so I told 'em to keep it.
I imagine this is a busy time for ex-service associations?
Oh, well it has been over the last

02:38:30:00

month or so but now it's over we've can relax a bit, but I was buggered on Friday, God the running around and I'm not going to do it anymore. I told a few people that about it and they said look we can ask the National Servicemen's Association. They are willing to

02:39:00:00

supply people to do the things I want them to do. I said "You beaut this was what I'd been looking for. Volunteers. You and you.".
Do you still have many mates from your battalion?
Well we had about forty turn up the other day for the reunion. Forty reasonably fit ones but a hell of a lot of

02:39:30:00

too old and too sick to get there. In fact Col Windon, the great rugby player, he captained the Australian rugby team, eleven tests, he's got some sort of cancer now. He was always there but he couldn't come the other day. I mean we're in the tow away area

02:40:00:00

so I told I told Michael [Project Director for the Archive] I think if you want to interview a lot of us you'd better get hopping mate. We mightn't be around much longer.
But you still enjoy the day itself?
Sure. The comradeship and so forth and if you if you're organising something, as long as it goes off alright that's what you get a kick out of

02:40:30:00

if it's successful. Now the dawn service this year was one of the best ever. Everybody behaved themselves and did everything I told 'em. Even the Governor.
We might take a break there thanks Bill. We're coming to the end of another tape.
Interviewee: Bill Jenkins Archive ID 0021 Tape 03

03:00:30:00

That's the time it really hits home you know that's you're suddenly there at it.
So if I can just interrupt for a minute Bill and ask you how did you feel about your training before you left to go? Your training as a soldier?
Well, just we were just told how to come to attention, stand at ease and

03:01:00:00

salute and how to take your weapons to pieces and put 'em back together again, fire them and the reason that you are firing them and when to fire, when not to fire and the whole gambit of training you know it's hard work.
Did you feel prepared?
Well, I think so. I was young and

03:01:30:00

strong and I was almost eleven stone. I was playing football and football and cricket and riding a bike and bike racing, so I was pretty fit and if you're fit you can put up with these things, you know. We didn't get a great deal

03:02:00:00

in Australia except that basic training but when we you get to the unit actually that's when you work as a whole unit and exercise requiring the use of the whole brigade for instance. It's when you begin to see the overall pattern of how each soldier contributes towards it.

03:02:30:00

And how did you feel about your mates? The other soldiers?
Well, most of them were you know were absolutely friendly. There always one a bit of a nark or something, you know, who tries to put it over other people and another one

03:03:00:00

a prankster who'll play tricks on you and what not, but it all settles down into a great thing and on Friday, Anzac Day, as I say there were about forty of our mob all together. Each one knew the other and we're more like a family. Now every

03:03:30:00

quarter we have a wives and widows luncheon where we take our wives and we invite the widows of deceased members and the women always say that we're like family because we've been so through so much together and still mates. In every group you get one who

03:04:00:00

stands out and they don't hang around. They'll ask for a transfer to get out away from that mob. They mightn't realise it's not the mob, it's them, but as long as they go, that's the main thing.
And if you can take me to the first day that you were packing up preparing to go. What did you pack in your bag to take with you?
To go to camp?
Yeah, when

03:04:30:00

you were going overseas. Ready, going off to war.
Well, you were told battle order or marching order. Now marching order is full pack and haversack down here, water bottle, all your arms and your ammunition and what not, and battle order is that haversack that goes on your back where the pack goes and you have your pouches

03:05:00:00

in which the ammunition goes and maybe a tin of bully beef or something you know and that is your, that's what you pack. Sufficient rations to do you for the day, sufficient water, ammunition, you can only carry so much. That's all you can pack up because now people say to me, "Haven't you got any photos

03:05:30:00

and that?". I said "Well look, you're not allowed to have a camera in an infantry battalion when you're going into action.” If someone saw you with a camera you'd they'd take it from you, if the officer saw you because if you had photos on that and you were taken prisoner or something, it could be a security risk if there was something on it that would benefit the enemy.

03:06:00:00

So generally speaking you'd get a camera to go on leave and but very few people got shots of themselves or anyone else in action. You didn't even think of it.
Did you take any personal items with you?
Oh only oh probably

03:06:30:00

a little diary that I kept. Just one of those ordinary…. not much bigger than this you know, daily diary. Oh well you might have a photo or something like that of somebody, your latest girlfriend

03:07:00:00

or mum or whatever.
Who did you have?
I think there was only a photo of my sister and her eldest child, Sylvie and Valerie, that's right. Nothing much not much else in it.

03:07:30:00

I had a wallet and not much in it because we didn't get much money in those days.
So can you describe the gun that you had to take with you or the gun that you used?
Well, in the Australian infantry the standard weapon was the 303 point 303 Lee Enfield rifle, single bolt action with a magazine which would hold

03:08:00:00

nine or ten rounds and you would have that and a bayonet which fitted on the end of it. The only other weapon you would have would be a pocket knife, an army pocket knife with all sorts of gadgets on it, you know. Pig sticker and a blade and a corkscrew and a bottle opener but the….

03:08:30:00

Was the gun easy to use?
Hm?
Was the gun easy to use?
Oh yes well, this is the thing about weapons training. You learn every little bit that can come apart from it to take it to pieces. You do it quickly so that if anything goes wrong you can repair it on the spot by pulling it to pieces and if there's a piece missing well you correct it.

03:09:00:00

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

03:09:30:00

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,

03:10:00:00

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

03:10:30:00

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,

03:11:00:00

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,

03:11:30:00

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….

03:12:00:00

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.
So perhaps you could take

03:12:30:00

me to when you first arrived in Bardia and you were under fire?
Well as I say I was, and I said during the interrogation that I was the sergeant major's messenger boy but we were being shelled and it's a frightening thing. You're hearing explosions and the whistles going rrrrrrrrrrr and the

03:13:00:00

crunch and as to where it lands and all the tales about, you hear about the one that that hits, you don't hear the whistle. The one that you hear the whistle of it's gone past but it's not quite right like that. Sometimes the one that goes past is just gone behind you a little bit and is still just as dangerous, but

03:13:30:00

the feeling well you know you you're afraid but then you know that being afraid doesn't do any good so you've just got to be unafraid and sort of do whatever you've got to do it's….

03:14:00:00

and I think that you become…. it becomes ingrained in you that your duty is to do such and such a thing no matter what's happening around you.
And did you feel support from your other mates, your other soldiers?
Sure. This is a thing that binds you together, I think, that you know that

03:14:30:00

no matter what's happening to you the fellow next to you is going to watch out for you, and you're going to do the same for him. If he goes down for instance, you you'll be the one to dash over and help him get his field dressing on if he's hit or whatever and you know he's going to do the same for you.
What happened at the time the day that you first had to fire your gun?

03:15:00:00

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.

03:15:30:00

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

03:16:00:00

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

03:16:30:00

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

03:17:00:00

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

03:17:30:00

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

03:18:00:00

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

03:18:30:00

as I say it's your job, you've been trained to do it.
And you felt like the war in the Mediterranean. the Middle East, was a just war?
Well we went first of all as I say to Palestine and the Italians began advancing into Egypt

03:19:00:00

and the allies had promised the Egyptian government that they would support them, so we felt that we were justified in fighting the Italians because they were doing the wrong thing and the only way to get them to turn around was to belt them out of, they shouldn't have even been in Libya. They were invading Libya so we thought if we get 'em out of there too

03:19:30:00

we're doing the right thing. When we went to Greece we were going to the aid of the Greeks and in Syria I think it was the fear was that the Germans would link up with Turkey again and come down through Turkey into the Middle East and secure the Suez Canal.

03:20:00:00

This is what they were afraid of. If they secure the Suez Canal as well we'd lose all our oil. The only other place that had oil was America and it wasn't even in the war in those days. It didn't look like coming in so no war is just, you know, it's just

03:20:30:00

that the politicians and the others have given up on negotiating. It’s similar to this last one. I'm sure that they could have gone on negotiating with Hussein and Saddam or whatever his name is [Saddam Hussein] and the weapons inspectors could have kept going but he was just dragging it on, dragging it on

03:21:00:00

and just more or less making a fool of them so you know, yes we could have gone on doing that and had no war but how long could it would it have gone on before somebody did their block so….
Well you've been in a lot of campaigns and I can only imagine

03:21:30:00

that life was tough during the war. Can you describe what your living conditions were like? How did you live?
Well, we were if we were in an ordinary camp out of action and so forth you usually had some sort of a stretcher to sleep on and a blanket and that's about

03:22:00:00

all and you packed your gear behind you, you know, but when you're in the field you have nothing except a ground sheet, that's a waterproof sheet. It also did as a cape if it did rain, you know, so it was double purpose; but you laid that on the ground and wrapped yourself up in a blanket and that's how you slept.

03:22:30:00

You see people when they camped at night they'd pull out, get out their bayonet and they'd loosen some soil up for a hip hole, at least make it soft where the hip goes and you could be quite comfortable. Use your pack for your pillow so and you carry your rations

03:23:00:00

with you and if you're not directly in front of the enemy the cooks bring up a feed now and again, hot food, always stew. It's the easiest thing to cook I suppose. Throw a lot of things in the pot and see what comes out.
So there was no shortage of food?
At times there were, there was rather,

03:23:30:00

but mainly in places where transport was…. wasn't accessible to transport, you know. In the Middle East we had very little trouble but it was only bully beef and biscuits that's about all, no hot food, and those army biscuits there were many a broken tooth went in those.

03:24:00:00

And what did you do when you weren't on the front line? When you were resting?
Well you were making your camp site wherever, you were camping tidy, keeping it tidy and hygienic digging to dig latrines. There's always something to do and because there's nobody else to do it

03:24:30:00

you've got to do it. There's no special troops to come in and do it for you, you've got to do it. A battalion is a moving city that a battalion has everything it needs with it. You might bring up extra rations, extra ammunition but it you have what you require

03:25:00:00

on you and if you move from here to there the whole city moves and these are not stories but it's a fact that a fellow if he goes to hospital, he gets sick or wounded or goes to hospital, he can't wait to get back home. That's his home. The whole time we were in the Middle East

03:25:30:00

if you were away from your battalion and you heard they were moving "Oh blimey, got to get back there.” You'd be on leave or something you know and you've got to go back. Esprit de corps you know. It is home. Home is where the heart is.
So you didn't miss Australia?
Oh sure you some people got homesick I s'pose

03:26:00:00

but you were occupied most of the time with something. If you were in a camp there were theatres, you know, theatre nights and every every camp had a theatre. Even up in New Guinea they had open air theatres. There in the Middle East they had them in big buildings.

03:26:30:00

And what did you think of the new places that you were going to, like you went to the desert, in Bardia, Damascus
Yeah.
and then you were in the mountains in Greece.
Yeah.
Was it a new, amazing environment, what did you think of it?
Oh well, it's it was certainly different to anything we'd experienced before and it would….

03:27:00:00

you'd go and have a look at this and have a look at that you know and record that in your memory bank. I remember when we were going from Athens up to the top of Greece you could see this white mountain and coming from the desert people were saying "It's sand.” "No, it's snow!"

03:27:30:00

but it wasn't until we got up there that we found it was snow because it looked a bit dirty colour and everyone was saying it was sand. And Mount Olympus for instance you know when we got up on the side of there and there was snow there was still snow on it and the…. oh and a river

03:28:00:00

down near Larisa someone said "Oh there's a river over there.” "Oh beaut, let's go over and have a swim.” We dived in and it was coming directly off the snow and god blimey, we nearly froze. Take your breath away.
Bill if I could just take you back to your campaigns and the action. I'm just wondering were you wounded?

03:28:30:00

Slightly wounded twice. I got a little bit in the arm here. A little bit of shrapnel I think it was but I was able to dig it out and just put a bit of small bandage on it. Within a few days it was right.
Can you tell me where that was? Describe to me the day that that happened.
I think that was near Damascus when we were being shelled.

03:29:00:00

The French 75mm was a famous gun in the First World War and they were very good with it and they could practically skittle a beetle going along the road and the other time I was hit with a spit

03:29:30:00

a bullet must have hit a tree and it must have shattered there's a there's a skin on most bullets and it must have shattered it a bit 'cause it hit me there and tore the skin along there and left a little bit of the skin stayed there until

03:30:00:00

nearly the end of the war. They took that out.
The bullet stayed?
No the piece of it you know. Stayed there.
And where did that happen?
That happened up at Eora Creek and the Kokoda Trail. It was pretty bloody affair that whole thing.
Do you remember that day?

03:30:30:00

I'll never forget it. It was just one roar of explosions going off the whole time and machine guns and the one thing that sticks out in my memory about that battle was Donald the Duck. Now Billy Young was his name but

03:31:00:00

we called him Donald the Duck because he used to quack "Quack quack quack quack quack." like that's the way he talked because he naturally got the name Donald the Duck. In fact he was killed up there. What he was doing was…. what we were doing, we were trying to get through and we were being stopped by heavy fire coming from directly in front

03:31:30:00

and we thought the only thing to do was to get them to keep the fire away so if we'd move over that way, their fire will swing away from here but how are we going to do that without being shot ourselves and Donald the Duck said "Okay you start to move, I'll keep their heads down." and he did. He got stuck into it. He mightn't have been hitting them but he was making them keep their heads down,

03:32:00:00

firing rapid fire until he got shot himself. After we'd finished this attack and came back we found him. He was surrounded by empty cartridge cases of the bullets he'd extracted and he was stone cold dead and we were able to outflank this couple of guns that were causing the trouble

03:32:30:00

and quieten the whole thing down and the whole rest of them came in from the other direction and the battle was won. But another fellow called Inky Allsop and I went to a place in Petersham where Donald the Duck lived

03:33:00:00

and we wanted to go and see his mother to tell her that he died gamely and what not, you know, and we couldn't think of his first name and when she came to the door Ollie said "Are you Donald the Duck's mother?” and she laughed a bit to herself because she knew that's what we called him and she was

03:33:30:00

so grateful that we'd been there, to go there to tell her how he died you know and I think it does help.
What you've just told me is something quite sad and moving. What did you do when you found him again? When you found his body?
Well we knew he'd gone as soon as we started to move.
You had to keep

03:34:00:00

going?
We had just had to keep going but we went back and found him there and helped bury him 'cause the final attack was the end of the attack and there was a whole battalion swarmed through then and the place was taken. The Japs had gone and we came back and we got his

03:34:30:00

dead meat tickets we call 'em, identification tags. You bury one with the body and send one, give one to the Padre and they usually get in touch with headquarters but we did a lot of burying up there. It was a pretty savage affair.

03:35:00:00

Well that's when we…. really from there they really ran from there all the way to the coast. We didn't have much more trouble except for a few places along the way. They tried to stand.
So you lost a few good mates?
Oh yes. Bugs Logan and

03:35:30:00

names don't come so easily now. I have a good memory but it doesn't last long. Another thing about that area there too, we found some of our dead mates with meat cut from them because the Japanese were eating

03:36:00:00

human flesh and this didn't make us like them any better. In fact we became very savage and some crimes were…. probably what would be considered war crimes were committed by us in our anger at

03:36:30:00

such a thing being done you know 'cause you you'd we'd find the flesh in cooking pots. That's something that we don't talk about a lot but it did happen.
Did it happen to Donald?
No it hadn't to him because we got back.

03:37:00:00

What he did helped our attack to carry through and they weren't there to do anything. It's….
So can you tell me, during the Kokoda you said you buried a lot of men. Did you

03:37:30:00

have particular rituals that you would do to….
No.
Or just….
We'd leave that to the Padre, the chaplains. We all we would do would be to wrap them in the blanket with a bit of signal wire tie the blanket so it's like a

03:38:00:00

shroud and bury them and then you would try to identify the spot not only by sticking a…. one thing we'd do we'd cut a piece of a limb from a tree, small stick of a limb, use a bayonet or machete

03:38:30:00

to get the bark off and write on it who it was, then any burial place you would take a compass bearing. I had a compass. There'd be at least one compass in every section. Take a compass bearing and, a couple of bearings one north and south and whatever so that the war graves people coming through

03:39:00:00

later would be able to what do they call it when they dig up a grave? What's the word for that? Exhume, exhume the body for reburial elsewhere. Yeah. One of my mates went back over the

03:39:30:00

trail helping the war graves people find the…. they wanted me to go too but I was too yuck. But Dusty was in good form. Still is.
Okay, I think that's a good time to stop.
Interviewee: Bill Jenkins Archive ID 0021 Tape 04

04:00:31:00

I'll just start by asking you what do you think of on Anzac Day?
Oh most of the time I'm just thinking that all the things that I've helped to arrange or organise are going to work out and I hope that I during the day I'll get to meet some of my old pals and just have a bit of a chin wag, you know, and see how they're getting on.

04:01:00:00

'Cause most of the time we're talking to each other you know "How are you doing now?, "What sort of a job are you doing?" "How's your wife?" and this is just a general conversation. As I say we don't talk about the war except about the time that Bluey went to the toilet when they were an open pit you know and they have

04:01:30:00

this bloke put this stick, he called it a purge stick and it broke and he fell back in it. In the pit and someone said that the other day. It was Tiny Sliger and Tiny was a big man and he was about six foot seven and about that wide and I can just imagine that the stick he was sort of crouching down hanging down onto this stick and it broke. I can just think about it.

04:02:00:00

Yeah, there's lots of funny stories. And you've got a bit of a funny story about the day that you were….
Nearly a POW. Yes, when we had to withdraw when they…. I remember I told you about the bridge over the Aliakmon River was blown up and we couldn't get we had no trucks to get across. Well to shift all our gear, our ammunition and whatever

04:02:30:00

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

04:03:00:00

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

04:03:30:00

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

04:04:00:00

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.

04:04:30:00

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,

04:05:00:00

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

04:05:30:00

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

04:06:00:00

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

04:06:30:00

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.

04:07:00:00

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.

04:07:30:00

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

04:08:00:00

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,

04:08:30:00

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

04:09:00:00

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

04:09:30:00

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"

04:10:00:00

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

04:10:30:00

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."
So you were separated from the rest of your battalion?
No the rest of my company.
Your company.
And I tried to to follow the one where they'd gone and I walked through the village, it was a small village, and walked almost to the top of a hill and I saw nothing and I said "Well they can't have come this way."

04:11:00:00

and I walked back to the village and I saw where a whole lot of footprints through a muddy path went to a gate, a wooden gate like a paling gate you know and I pushed it and it opened and I could see where the dozens and dozens of people had walked through. I said "That's where they went." so I followed them and it was about, oh

04:11:30:00

after midnight before I caught up to them. When I finally did catch up and what did they ask me for when I got there "Where's the tea and sugar?". "Over the side." but I could I never live that down and I often said to them after "Well what would you have done?"
But you had plenty of ammunition?
Yes.

04:12:00:00

But some of your, correct me if I'm wrong, but some of your battalion were taken prisoner?
Oh yes.
Yeah.
I don't think Troubles was but other people who had to drop out being sick, you just had to leave them in a case like that, but we got right out back to the road and then we got down to this Pinios Gorge and this

04:12:30:00

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

04:13:00:00

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

04:13:30:00

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

04:14:00:00

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

04:14:30:00

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

04:15:00:00

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

04:15:30:00

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

04:16:00:00

and by getting out we made it possible for them to be freed again.
And do you know, did you have an idea of how many in your battalion had been taken prisoner?
Not until we got back to Australia and we began to get letters from people who knew people and I think we only

04:16:30:00

had about fifty or so of our battalion but 2/1st Battalion had two or three hundred 'cause they were caught in Crete by the paratroopers you know and surrounded again and no ammunition left, and they just had to put their hands up.

04:17:00:00

All in all there must have been, I've got a thing somewhere at home. It gives the number of prisoners take taken.
But if I can just go back to your saying that you had a bit of a go at Chris Masters for his position on you moving out
Yes.
How did you feel about it at the time and how do you feel about it now?

04:17:30:00

Have your feelings changed?
Well I feel that we did the best we could and when we were told we were withdrawing from Greece. That's what this…. remember how I told you about the little old lady that brought out the tray of drinks and she was crying and the blokes were saying "Never mind ma, we'll be back, we'll come back." and that's the way we

04:18:00:00

felt. That we had to go, we were told we had to go, and we got out really unscathed except for the few prisoners. We didn't have a great many killed up in Greece. We did have a number but you can't sling bullets at each other without someone getting hit sometimes

04:18:30:00

but I think that ever since that, the Greeks have looked on us with favour. I've been back several times and had friends, they're all dead now, particularly in Volos I used to go back and see Angelo every time we went there and he'd take us up into the mountains up to, I can't think of the name of the place

04:19:00:00

now, beautiful place. An old mediaeval castle-type home you know it was really lovely.
So you made or had quite a few connections with some locals is that what you're saying?
Yes. A lot of us had various ones that we and in Crete

04:19:30:00

as well and I didn't go to Crete during the campaign but I went there afterwards and I met people who had had befriended friends of mine. Angelo, not Angelo no I can't think of his name, Pouliadakis, at Rethymnon. We got him the Order of Australia medal. He was so

04:20:00:00

wrapped up in the Australian memorials and cemetery there that we recommended him for an Order of Australia medal and he got it. He's still alive I think and quite a few others have had friends there you know.
So you've been back to visit the site?
Yes. Oh I've been back three times.

04:20:30:00

Once I did a whole trip right 'round the country.
And what did you hope to find when you went back?
Well just to go to Volos because this is where that I found that fellow who was a an orderly at the hospital and I had met him whilst we were there.

04:21:00:00

But after the war I found out that Wobby Emerson, one of my mates who had been wounded at that particular battle and he'd been got to Volos and they put him….this fellow put him into the hospital with a Greek patient's record on the end of the bed and kept him there

04:21:30:00

until it was safe to get him out, but he was eventually taken prisoner, but this fellow was risking his own life hiding Wobby and I I wrote to this fellow 'til he died and we corresponded and then his sister was still alive last time I was there and then she's died since but

04:22:00:00

what a wonderful thing to do you know, so these sort of things did happen and in Syria or Lebanon rather, we got to know a hell of a lot of people especially up around the north of Syria, north of Lebanon where we finished up the end of the campaign.
And did you…. sorry for interrupting…. did you find any language barriers?

04:22:30:00

How did you cope?
Oh well Arabic. I became fairly well, not fluent, but I could be understood and could understand. I can still count in Arabic. I used to count, used to count things when we were over there you know. We had a native gang

04:23:00:00

helping to make a camp for us and we had to issue shovels and spades out you know to them and when it came time to count them back in I'd say "Righto." (UNCLEAR) and so on. I can count to a hundred and then up to two hundred and what not, but I'm getting a bit sloppy now but

04:23:30:00

I found the Arabs quite nice people, but you can't trust 'em because they have a different culture; that you can't talk about religion, but their religion makes their…. gives their culture a different flavour to ours. You see Islam is only the one God and he's the boss

04:24:00:00

and you can't argue about that, that's if you argue about it well you're not on their level. When we were getting near the Middle East on the ship going over our commanding officer, who was a First World War soldier, lined us up there one day and he said "You are about to meet the most untrustworthy people on earth." He said "No I retract that,

04:24:30:00

it's not untrustworthy people.” He said "They're just different to us. They have different values and if you know that and realise it you'll probably get on all right with them. But don't expect the same from them as you would from your neighbours." and that's about what it is.

04:25:00:00

Excuse me while I just check my notes for a minute. I've just got a couple of things I need to check. I think we're probably coming to the end of a tape so I'll just. You've got a lot of nicknames. I've noticed that you've referred to you know Donald Duck and…..
Oh yes. Nicknames, look the….
….Chuckles and do you have

04:25:30:00

a nickname for yourself?
I was Snowy.
You were Snowy?
Yeah. Billy or Snowy. When I got to be a sergeant I was ‘Sarge’ of course but that's not a nickname it's just a rank.
Tell me about when you became a sergeant. When that's…. so you stopped being a private and you….
Well I was up and down a fair bit

04:26:00:00

because if you were in a section and your section leader becomes ill or has to be you know hospitalised, or goes on leave or something, or goes to a training course somewhere else for a promotion, someone else jumps into that position, acting corporal, the same as if you're an acting

04:26:30:00

corporal, the platoon sergeant might go on something like that so you become an acting sergeant and I was up and down and up and down you know. They'd come back and you'd drop down to whatever you were so you just got used to it. You knew what you had to do and luckily I did not have to worry much because I was getting my pay made up to civilian's pay.

04:27:00:00

I worked for Chubbs, you know the safe people, and they were making up my pay and instead of five bob a day I was getting around about fifteen bob a day or close to it and so I didn't worry, I wasn't worried about the money so when they came back I'd think "Oh well, the responsibility's off my head, off my shoulders"

04:27:30:00

but eventually I had to become a sergeant and I became a sergeant and that was my final rank. I acted as a sar [sergeant] major for a couple of months towards the end of the war but I didn't like it. I'd sooner be back with the blokes you know, too much bookwork with the sergeant major. All the ammunition returns,

04:28:00:00

daily returns, casualties whatever you know so.
But you've….
The CO told me that he was going to give me a field commission but he said "Don't talk too loud about it. We don't want the Japs to hear. They'll start the war all over again." and then he wanted me to go to Korea with him and I said "Not on your life. I've had my war."

04:28:30:00

But generally you feel that the 2/3rd was under good command, well run?
Well not entirely. Our first CO, Colonel England, a First World War soldier, he was like a father to us you know, he was and everybody jumped at his command and things went well.

04:29:00:00

Jimmy Lamb who took over from him was a Singer sewing machine salesman before the war and not a terribly competent soldier. Then John Stevenson took over from him when he was wounded at Damascus. Now John Stevenson was a Clerk of Parliament in New South Wales and before the war he was

04:29:30:00

in that sort of a job you know, in a clerical job at New South Wales Parliament. After the war he became Usher of the Black Rod and all this sort of thing and Clerk of Parliament and he wasn't very good. He was a clerical gentleman but not a good soldier. Not too many liked him either because of that and then "Wee Hutch" took over, Ian Hutchison.

04:30:00:00

Now he had a nickname of "the Little King" or "the Boy Scout". He was the boy that never grew up. He still had that boyish oh charm I suppose you'd call it. You liked him but he really was boyish and you know childish in a lot of ways and he was the one that said

04:30:30:00

"We won't tell the Japs. They'll want to start the war all over again.” He thought that was funny and I suppose it was to him too. But generally speaking in a battalion, most battalions they run themselves because everybody knows their job and they do it, so the CO hasn't got

04:31:00:00

a hell of a lot to worry about and providing everything goes alright he doesn't worry. You've got some good officers, a lot of good company commanders, a good adjutant, who needs a CO? And they know that.
And did you have any songs that you used to sing?
Actually you

04:31:30:00

you're really breaking my heart now because I used to sing in the Sydney Male Choir but I had a stroke, two strokes actually about six years ago, and it knocked the music right out of my head. I used to play a couple of instruments by ear but I can't, don't know where to start now. I'll recognise a

04:32:00:00

song, I say "I remember that song." but I can't tell you what it is and there's two songs that I whistle, that I hum to myself. I only found out what one of them was the other day and that was 'Amazing Grace'. I often hum or whistle that and the other one was 'The Silence of the Night'

04:32:30:00

you know the 'The Music of the Night' and I had to ask someone too "What's this song?" It's gone and I loved the music you know. I did go down to the choir practice the Sydney Male Choir a couple of times

04:33:00:00

and when someone starts to, when they singing along with them I sort of joined in, thought I was going alright but Alan Frith the choir master came past and said "Who's singing the melody or something like it?" "Me.” I shut up. I thought "Oh well." but it really broke me heart yeah. I've got a little old button accordion.

04:33:30:00

I don't know where it is now, at my son's place I think. I used to love playing that. Not accordion, yeah accordion. That's the accordion. The concertina's the Mexican one, isn't it? Yeah. But I was lucky that I got out of it so lightly I suppose. 'cause there's a big black spot there on x-rays where…. so it's not only the music that's gone, prob'ly

04:34:00:00

a lot of other things.
And did you have I'll just take you back to going off when you were first setting off to war. Going off to Bardia and you've been all trained up and you've got your gear and you know how to use your gun. I'm just wondering and you've talked a little bit about it's kill or be killed and you know your duty. But did you have

04:34:30:00

something that you were most afraid of, like was there a wound that you were most fearful of….
Yes. It would probably be when there's a lot of

04:35:00:00

flak about your greatest urge is to fling yourself flat to protect your torso 'cause anything hit there is bad. You've got a tin hat on so you feel a little bit of confidence about that although bullets go straight through those too. No,

04:35:30:00

I think it's just the fear of anything in the torso. You just go straight hit the deck and you might damage that part by going down but as long as you got there quick.
And you can you remember the first battle that you were in that somebody

04:36:00:00

next to you was wounded?
Oh God yes. At Tobruk. John McDonald, Horse McDonald. He was an officer in 16th platoon. They were attacking this strong post and he got shot in the leg, in the thigh

04:36:30:00

and I ran over to him and "Where is it?" and he patted his leg and then Zambuk, we don't call him Zambuk, but the stretcher bearer came over with a field dressing. It was a double-ended bandage you know that you just wrapped it and we had him on a stretcher in no time

04:37:00:00

but he was still firing his pistol at the back at the things because he won an MC [Military Cross] later in the war too. He was that sort of a bloke and funnily enough his grandson, Ross McDonald, I just got a letter from his mother a while ago to

04:37:30:00

say that he died in a tragic accident up at Mackay in Queensland and from the letter she wrote about it telling me about Ross, he was a very much similar man to his grandfather. Only a boy you know, twenty-odd. Twenty seven but the….

04:38:00:00

What were you going to say?
No. Another friend of mine, Mick Ross, he was a giant of a man. He was hit up at Eora Creek. That’s the place where Donald Duck got was killed and Mick was a big man

04:38:30:00

and was hit in the leg and had to be carried. There was no stretchers. It was up there in the jungle and all you could cut was a sapling, wrap a couple of blankets around him and tie them on the sapling and two or three men each end of the of the stick carry him down the hill.

04:39:00:00

Do you dream about the war?
Hm?
Do you have dreams?
No.
No?
I think I might have you know going back a few years, but most of my dreams are about present day things you know, difficulties you might get into or something. Me memory's so bad I can't remember anyway.

04:39:30:00

Well I think that's a good place to stop for us today.
Rightio.
Interviewee: Bill Jenkins Archive ID 0021 Tape 05
Okay Bill, serving with the 6th Division. As you said yesterday, you fought all the King's enemies. What sort of impression did you get about the enemies you fought against? How did they rate against one another?
Well I mean the Italians were rather an

05:01:00:00

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

05:01:30:00

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.

05:02:00:00

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,

05:02:30:00

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.

05:03:00:00

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

05:03:30:00

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

05:04:00:00

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.

05:04:30:00

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.

05:05:00:00

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.
How long were the Japanese held prisoner

05:05:30:00

there for after the surrender?
After surrender? Look I'm not sure. They were still there when I left in December, late December early January, and probably until other arrangements were made about getting them transported back to Japan or to other more easily managed centres.

05:06:00:00

What sort of a centre were they kept in?
Well they were put onto an island, just near Wewak. A large island, I can't think of the name of it now, and they were given rations and told to look after themselves, which they did. I suppose it was administratively okay with our people. We didn't have to supply any guards all the time. Just had naval ships

05:06:30:00

going around the island.
So there wasn't much contact with them as such?
No. No we'd had enough contact with them. Oh we held sports meetings there and boat races. Everyone had a boat. I had some fellows that made a boat for me, the engineers. It was a little, about a fourteen footer made of strong good Australian timber

05:07:00:00

and galvanised iron you know flat pieces of galvanised iron and she was a good little ship. I was sorry to pass it on when I left.
You said that there were some Black Shirt brigades amongst the Italians that you fought in North Africa?
Black Shirts, yeah.
What did you know of them beforehand?
Oh only that they were a fanatical type of people, you know, fascists

05:07:30:00

and after all it was Mussolini's close forces. Like Saddam Hussein’s mob I suppose only the ones close to him that were loyal and similarly these were only loyal to Mussolini and the rest of them thought I think "Well Mussolini's a long way away and nobody else was threatening us, so we could put our hands up.”
Was there anything known of Mussolini's politics at the time?
Oh except that

05:08:00:00

he was a dictator and a bit of a right winger you know and he'd taken over with…. we knew that he'd taken over with, joined up with Hitler as a partner but I don't think partner. There was a joke going around that when Hitler and Churchill bumped into each other up in wherever they went after the war when they passed,

05:08:30:00

Hitler complained to Churchill that "If it hadn't been for those Italians we would have won." and Churchill said "Well it was your turn. We had 'em the previous war.”
Looking back how do you how do you see your role in combating those forces those fascist forces as they were then and your role in….
Well they were in the way and opposing us

05:09:00:00

and that was our job to do, to knock 'em down and get 'em out of the way. It didn’t matter whether they were fascist or anything else. The ones that didn't fight "Goodoh. In you go, in the bag you go." but the ones that did just copped a hiding just the same. Such as one post at the end of the day at Tobruk, at the second day at Tobruk they'd holed up in a sangar [slang for salient] we used to call 'em,

05:09:30:00

a concrete built trench system you know with the tunnel underneath and what not, and they kept throwing grenades out and what not and getting up to try and fire their automatic weapons and we just threw grenades down the hole until they just, they were so shocked they just came out stunned like punch drunk boxers, but they got the same treatment,

05:10:00:00

disarmed and start marching to the rear.
Once they were in the bag, there were very many of them, what sort of enclosures were they kept in?
Barbed wire fenced right 'round. Six to eight foot wire fences and at each corner they were built sort of octagonally or so that…. there was at each corner a fixed machine gun

05:10:30:00

would be pointing down so that anyone who poked his head outside the wire would have it shot off pretty quickly and it also had people patrolling the wire, patrolling certain sections of it and they were no trouble. We did allow some of them to go out. They knew where the ration dumps were and to go out and get rations for themselves

05:11:00:00

and in fact we'd go with them and they'd show us where all the Chianti and other wines and stuff were stored and we'd have a bit of that.
So they weren't a disagreeable group of prisoners to be….
Oh not at all. They were glad to be prisoners. One fellow rushed up to one of our fellows and wanted to take his rifle and the fellow was fighting him for it. "No, no, me carry

05:11:30:00

my carry for you.” He wanted to carry it for him.
Like a caddy.
Yeah.
Well there's pictures of lines of thousands of Italian prisoners
Yeah.
after the fall of Bardia. What was the process, that these prisoners were taken back to camps such as that?
Well they were usually given one guard or some fore and aft like, and just taken back 'til until they were

05:12:00:00

met by some Military Police or members of the intelligence section who had the necessary information where to send them and to whom to send them and that was it. Once they were out of our hands we didn't care. Just get 'em out of the road.

05:12:30:00

Some prisoners we took in Greece. They didn't last long either they, just get 'em out of the road. If they're likely to give any trouble all the better to get 'em out of the road. Let someone else deal with the trouble 'cause once a person's disarmed, well he's no longer any trouble 'cause if he does play up he'll get a rifle butt

05:13:00:00

across the jaw, which would soon put paid to any nonsense 'cause rifle butts are pretty hard.
Did you ever have to escort any prisoners yourself?
Oh only a short distance. I never had any trouble at all, a couple of

05:13:30:00

French prisoners we took, one of them was shot in the groin and he was holding his hands there and smiling all the time. I don't know what he was but he was a French Foreign Legion Legionnaire and his friends were with him were solicitous towards him so none of them were any trouble you know really. They'd surrendered, laid down their arms so

05:14:00:00

they were prisoners and you had to treat them as such.
How was that generally?
Hm?
What rules were there for treating the prisoners or the way you treated them?
Well just ordinary chivalry I suppose that the fellow's laid down his arms. He's surrendered. You can't go up and smack him on the jaw, he surrendered as a prisoner and there are certain rules.

05:14:30:00

We didn't know the rules but generally speaking you realise that it was just proper human behaviour towards another human.
And once they were behind enclosures, how did those human relations alter?
Not a great deal really.

05:15:00:00

With the Italians we got some of them out to work as cooks and dishwashers and all that sort of thing you know and they were very good. We used to go to the fence and say "Anyone cook, good cook you know good chef?" and they could do things with tins of bully beef that we never thought of. Some beautiful meals were cooked you know, some sort of a ravioli mixed with it

05:15:30:00

and we'd never heard of it in our philosophy. With the others I don't know, we never had much to do actually with German prisoners. We usually got them out of the road pretty quickly and they'd be under proper guard. There were well they had, we had what they call a guard battalion to each division

05:16:00:00

and they were mostly old First World War soldiers. Too old to be actually in the infantry but schooled enough in the military arts to be handy at doing any of those sort of jobs guarding prisoners and they looked after them. That's the thing about the army, everybody has their job whereas the infantry

05:16:30:00

are men of all trades, they've got to do everything.
Well were there designated cooks in your companies?
Oh yes. Every company had their company headquarters' cooks. Some of them weren’t very good. In fact that stem from the saying people used to be

05:17:00:00

abusing the cooks "Who called the cook a bastard?" and the reply was "Who called me a cook?" Generally speaking a lot of them, most of them tried but a lot of them didn't have much idea of…. all they knew about cooking was heating something up but towards the end of the war though, they'd been sent to schools and taught how to do it.

05:17:30:00

How did they take to being replaced in some cases by prisoners?
Oh, goodoh, they joined in. In fact we used to give them jobs as overseers of the kitchen and they'd just tell the Italians or whatever to do so and so then an argument'd spring up "No, you don't do it that way.”
What sort of new things were you introduced to in these interactions with the prisoners?
The cooks?

05:18:00:00

Oh well, you know you just wouldn't have bully beef and biscuits. They would find something, some tinned tomatoes and other tinned vegetables and what not to mix in with it and somehow they'd find pasta somewhere and the meal would be doubled and of course anything they could save on our rations they could have. Take back into the compound with them, which was very good.

05:18:30:00

When you fought against the Vichy French forces in Syria
Yeah.
You had an idea that there were Free French forces fighting at the same time?
No they weren't fighting. They were behind us but they weren't fighting. They never fired a shot in most of those actions and it was understandable they that they didn't like

05:19:00:00

to fire on French as well but they took all the all the glory for it anyway at the final surrender and when someone from De Gaulle's mob had to be there you know.
Did it have any bearing on you firing on French forces with other French forces acting as allies?
Not, as I say

05:19:30:00

they were behind and nowhere near us. We weren't involved with them what in any way whatsoever.
Was there any, did anyone have an impression of the French as turncoats almost as some refer to them for….
Well a lot of people thought this about the Vichy French, you know.

05:20:00:00

I s'pose it was understandable in a way that, but don't forget that the same thing had happened in Greece, that the Greek government had surrendered and the people to obey their government had to go along with it but there were some that didn't and there was a lot of trouble, they got into a lot of trouble too.

05:20:30:00

A brother of yours served in the First World War?
Hm?
One of your brothers served in the First World War?
Yes.
He fought against the Germans?
Yes.
Did he ever relate to you any impressions to you of doing that?
No, which I found out generally that I had a couple of uncles and my eldest sister married a World War One veteran when he returned. He was a lot older than her but they never talked about the war. You didn't begin to

05:21:00:00

get to know anything about the war until I was up in late primary school when we'd talk about a certain teacher in another class "Oh he was a soldier in the First World War.” We didn’t say anything about the First World War then it was just "in the war" and other people would tell me tell us what they had done but we had one sports teacher

05:21:30:00

can't think of his name now. Arthur something, Mr. Arthur that's right, but they used to try and get him to say something about his war experiences but nothing doing, not on your Nellie. Perhaps it would have been better had they done so. That's like this friend of mine that got it off his chest in a book, you know. If something troubles you, talk about it but that wasn’t the

05:22:00:00

the thing then. It wasn't the thing in the end of our war either. Everybody all thought the war was a terrible thing, and it is, it's an absolutely terrible thing when men deliberately kill set out to either kill or be killed.
Is that something you wish you'd be able to tell as soon as you came back from war?
If we'd

05:22:30:00

done this things may have been different, but evey we were happy to get back home. People at home were happy to have us back so the war's over, you beaut, let's forget about it.
What did you know of Germany and Germans at the outset of the war?
Well only from a carry over from what the First World War was. The Hun was a nasty person

05:23:00:00

threw babies up in the air and had them, landed them onto their bayonets, which was done again in the Second World War, but propaganda comes from both sides you know, run each other down to the lowest and so that your people will believe in you're doing the right thing so who's in the right and who's in the wrong? That's why I think

05:23:30:00

that for a lot of people it's easier to see that America is in the wrong in what they've been going into Iraq. They need not have gone but then again it could have been carrying on for another couple of years in the same sort of bad situation so you do what has to be done. If your government says you've got to do it, the governments are the rulers so

05:24:00:00

if you obey the law you do as you're told and I think it's as simple as that. The whole group of people the army as a rule has never gone on strike. There's no way in the world they can because they've got too many people who are in it who believe in what they're there for. The Canadian

05:24:30:00

Army I believe after the…. even the Second World War were not being taken home quick enough and they were shoved up in camps in Scotland and further north and they actually reacted and when on strike and they brought the British Military Police in and really did 'em over. There was a film about it I think and it was a pretty terrible situation really.

05:25:00:00

All they wanted to do was get home and they didn't have the ships or anything to get them home and they were just told to be quiet and stay where they were 'til they were ready. Which could have happened to us. Well it did happen to a certain degree that they couldn't get us home. There weren't enough ships available straight after the war and we had to come home by length of service. If you were in for so long and you had relatives or dependants well you were allowed out, that was so many

05:25:30:00

points you made to make it okay, to be brought home, but if you were at the bottom of the ladder you had to wait 'til they were ready to bring you home.
Was propaganda something you were aware of at the time?
Well this is it. We didn't get much opportunity to see what was being generally fed to the public except that if we got old newspapers

05:26:00:00

sent up to us or in our letters. Letters were censored both ways. Ones that were going from home to us. They were passed through censors on many occasions. I remember getting letters with bits cut out of them and I don't know what was going to be said in it but some of my letters I believe were like confetti almost. You had to put them together out of the envelope. I'd say things that I shouldn't have

05:26:30:00

said, so when you're in a censored environment all together you don't get to know the full truth. You hear about what's being said from the other side 'cause whatever they say comes over loud and clear over radio or whatever and you only hear what our side are saying and you think "Well they're just running down the

05:27:00:00

the enemy as low as they can." so it's a very one-sided affair and I suppose it's got to be that way. You've got to keep the morale of the troops up. Don't let 'em know that things are not so good at home otherwise they might jack up and not fight.

05:27:30:00

I don't know, being away we just didn't know what it was like to be at home with most of the men away and it was when I say most of the men, the only men who weren't away were the boys and those who were too old and the ones in what do they call them

05:28:00:00

in occupations that are necessary to, what's the word?
Prohibited occupations?
Hm?
Prohibited occupations? Protected occupations?
Well not prohibited so much as exceptionally needed, you know, oh you know what I mean. There's a word for it but I can't think what it is and

05:28:30:00

apart from that there's only our own relatives and people who were working, women who were working and the kids at school who were getting all the propaganda I suppose from their teachers and also war is a dirty thing. It's the only thing good thing about it when it was good if such a thing is good is the sacrifice

05:29:00:00

the self-sacrifice of people who really felt they shouldn't be doing it but went ahead and did it anyway because they thought it was their duty or they felt it was their duty.
Are these the sort of things you'd write in letters home?
Hm?
Would you write these sort of things in letters home?
No you couldn't do that. That would be immediately cut out.

05:29:30:00

Usually the junior officers were the people who censored the letters, like your platoon commander would be the censor for the whole of his platoon and that way he would get to know what each of his men were like, you know, from the just the general. In fact I remember my one of my platoon commanders once said to me once

05:30:00:00

about this girlfriend of mine, I can't think of her name now but I can remember what she did though. He asked me had I heard from her and I said "Yes, she writes to me too.”
So you did receive incoming mail?
Yes, it was….sometimes it was held up. When we were in the Middle East, oh very often it'd be a month or more go by without getting any

05:30:30:00

but then a whole batch'd arrive at once. You'd be going through it like a with a fine tooth comb you know and I can remember some blokes who never never used to get mail. One of their mates would hand them "Here, read one of mine.” At least it'd give them a bit of a bit of a lift to know there was someone else in the world. Yes there was a

05:31:00:00

strange thing really. One of our senior doctors, his wife went over to the Middle East as well early in the piece as a Red Cross worker and was virtually a citizen in Cairo and she was writing home completely free of any censorial work or anything like that

05:31:30:00

and she got into trouble and she had to pull her head in.
Do you know what sort of things she wrote?
Oh no, just she was saying her husband and his boys were up in the mid Western Desert and so forth and she was confronted with what she'd done and admitted to it and "Okay, in future your letters will be censored as well as everybody else's.”
What about the

05:32:00:00

mail coming from home? Did it convey any sense of what it was like with the men gone as you were saying earlier?
Oh yes, that would be, they would say that Mrs. So and So next door lost her husband and someone else down the road had a letter from her son or her husband or whatever to say that he'd been wounded or sick or something. The news would go both ways

05:32:30:00

you know. They'd tell you what's happening at home and the other relatives whether they had a job or been promoted or whatever. This sort of thing was fairly, that was just home news, you know, you expected something like that. Me dog had died once,

05:33:00:00

Rusty the old kelpie and I thought "Oh poor old Rusty he wouldn't have lasted 'til I got home anyway." so.
They must have been happy occasions on the most part when mail arrived?
Oh sure because most of it was good news about how all the family were getting on and what they were doing. If any of the younger people were at school or anything, whether they'd passed exams or whatever and another older one's getting close

05:33:30:00

to… he wants… it's time when he wanted to join up too and just ordinary home news.
Would it also increase any feeling of missing home or longing to be elsewhere?
Well at times you'd get a bit homesick, you know, you'd become a bit nostalgic and want to "I wonder what they're doing at home now?" you know and start everyone thinking and say "Oh well, they're probably having a Sunday dinner

05:34:00:00

or something now." you know and but you always had someone to talk to you know if you were feeling a bit low or something, you know you'd be happy to say to your mate "Oh well we're all in the same boat." you know and you couldn't complain too much or they'd call you a bloody whinger. "Don't talk to him he he's a whinger." but

05:34:30:00

on the whole I think a group of men do get on better than a group of women. Now that might sound sexist but the men can put up with more criticism from each other. I don't know this is, I'm not a woman so I can't but it just it's what I feel from what I could observe you know.

05:35:00:00

But generally speaking there wasn't much argument. There were a few fights but once the fight was over, well we were mates, just shake hands and we were mates. It often did a bit of good to have a bit of a punch up you know and I had a go with one bloke once. He was niggling me a bit and I got up and I landed one right on him. I must have hit him very hard because he didn't come back

05:35:30:00

at me but after that we were good mates. He knew how far he could push me so and I suppose I was a cranky bugger especially when I got a bit of a promotion and people wouldn't do as they were told.
So at times of thinking of home, friendship and the company of other men around you, was a support?
It was a support yes.

05:36:00:00

The same if you did something wrong and had to go up before the Commanding Officer and be sentenced to a fine or a seven days what do they call it? Seven days heavy duty of working in the kitchen or

05:36:30:00

peeling spuds or something like that. Anything that'll make you pay for what you did you know, or you'd always get a couple of the boys who would sort of say they were sorry that this happened to you. Took pity on you a bit you know "Oh well, at least someone feels sorry for me.”
Were there occasions such as those or others where the company of women was missed?

05:37:00:00

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.

05:37:30:00

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

05:38:00:00

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

05:38:30:00

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.

05:39:00:00

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

05:39:30:00

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.

05:40:00:00

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

05:40:30:00

evidence that you should behave yourself. The risks were pretty great.
And most men knew of those risks?
Hm?
Most men knew the of the risks?
Oh sure, yes. There were some that took no notice of them of it because we did have fellows who went down for the treatment and "Where have you been?" "Oh I've been down to the special down to the college." "Oh.

05:41:00:00

You okay, you right?" and you'd shift your bed a bit far away from him.
Oh yes, we might pause there. We've just come to the end of the tape. I think we'll take it up again. You're jumping the gun. I was going to ask you about
Interviewee: Bill Jenkins Archive ID 0021 Tape 06

06:00:34:00

Okay Bill. I believe you had some leave time in Alexandria?
Hm?
You had some leave in Alexandria. Is that correct?
Alexandria. Yes, not a great deal but this was after we came back from the desert before we went to Greece and I didn't have much Egyptian money or anything on me and I'd spent

06:01:00:00

that, and we went into a café and we ordered a slap up meal. It was a really a massive meal you know, four or five courses and good food too, and I didn't have enough money to pay for it but I pulled out my wallet and it was stacked with Italian money that I'd got up at Tobruk and this fellow's eyes lit up and "Oh, is good is good." and he took

06:01:30:00

it away and he came back and he gave me a lot of change and I said "More." and he said "More." so he took that away and came back he went to the bank and changed it because Egypt was a neutral country at that stage. So I went to Greece with a wallet full of Egyptian money and I didn't try to use it over there but we were paid in Greek drachmas whilst we were there

06:02:00:00

a little bit of…. but I had a bit of leave in Alexandria when we came back and as I say it was a different place. The natives treated us far different because we'd been beaten you know. We weren't such the great conquering heroes that we were before but I liked Alexandria. It was a hustling place very, there were the

06:02:30:00

grey areas like Sister Street and other places but down 'round the harbour there were lots of nice places, ordinary ,some of the clubs or one of the clubs was down there, the British services club. We went down there a fair bit.
Australian soldiers were welcomed in the British club?
Oh yes.

06:03:00:00

They'd look you up and down to see that you were properly attired and what not but then it was back to Palestine and then back into Tel Aviv on leave on a couple of days and I had a girlfriend in Tel Aviv. In fact she was a Sylvia Demarchov and I went to find her out where she

06:03:30:00

was and she was kicking around with this great Provo, military policeman, so she dumped me, but I was ready to dump her for going to the Military Police so it wasn't as good as it was before 'cause I used to go to her home and be welcomed in the home you know.
Was this during the time of training in Palestine?
No, this is when we came back from Greece and before we went up into

06:04:00:00

Syria but it was in I think that…. yeah it was then that we went up into Syria.
How long would it take you strike up a relationship with - a friendship with any of the locals?
Ah well

06:04:30:00

some of them who wanted to would make it obvious. Mostly men, but Sylvia, I met her when we were first over there and when I went into town and I was buying a watch in Tel Aviv and she could speak English, and she was helping me select different watches you know and look at different watches so I

06:05:00:00

asked her for a date you kno,w and was invited to her home and we wrote to each other and even when I was in Greece, I got a couple of letters from her but when I got back I found that that was all past, but up in Tripoli which was where we were after the surrender up

06:05:30:00

in Syria, in Lebanon, I didn't get to know any of the locals up there very well. I was a motorcycle messenger despatch rider for awhile there and on my days off I would take off to go up to country towns, you know, out of the city and I met some quite nice people and I did meet people who

06:06:00:00

came out here after the war and one of them found me one Anzac Day. They went up and down looking for Bill Jenkins and they said "Here he is here." and they'd settled down in southern New South Wales somewhere. Lost track of them now but the they were the only ones really that

06:06:30:00

just hung on for a while you know.
Do you recall taking the time to get a sense of your surroundings, of the surrounding culture?
Well you would be, you would be forced to sort of look at it to see to see what it was 'cause the Arab culture was, the women were taboo, had their yashmak or whatever it is on and

06:07:00:00

the men and the children were quite happy to talk to you. The Jewish people were much the same because the Jewish people in Palestine in those days were different to the ones that are there now, because the Arabs and the Jews in those days they worked together. It was a community. It was when the European Jews came in

06:07:30:00

to Palestine they forced the others out because the others were collaborating with the Arabs, with the locals, and I think this has been brought out, there was an article in the paper earlier this year I think about this sort of thing. At one time they were able to cohabit but now they can't and

06:08:00:00

'cause each side accuses the other of pulling down the fence.
So you've taken an interest in the places that you were stationed at since?
Not a lot. Greece, I I've been back to Greece several times. I never wanted to go back to Egypt. There was too much desert dust in my craw.

06:08:30:00

Yeah, I've been back to New Guinea a couple of times or a number of times one way or another but I was never terribly interested in the country itself. It's either too hot, too muddy, too wet or not nice not a nice place to be unless you're in a comfortable motel

06:09:00:00

or hotel room.
Too far from home?
Not that. I can go far from home alright without that being any worry but it's not Australia. I think it should have been kept as part of Australia as it was in the early 1900's, Papua anyway,

06:09:30:00

but I think the natives would have been far happier and the place might have been able to go somewhere instead of down the drain like it's going at the current, at the present time, but even though we don't do everything right we seem to be able to manage a country pretty well. Our system of government and system of culture

06:10:00:00

seems to be able to deal with most things that come up. Probably people will argue with me about that but that's what I feel. I'm willing to accept anybody providing they knuckle down and do the same as we had to do and learn to love the country and get the best out of it.

06:10:30:00

So do you feel a sadness about what's happened to some of the countries in which you fought and what's become of them?
Well in a way, I think that the whole thing about Palestine is purely religion, because there's no doubt about the Islamic religion does not allow for combining

06:11:00:00

cultures either with the Christian or the Jewish or any other religion, which is a pity and I'm sure it's the mullahs and the head people who are keeping this alive but then again the Australian and

06:11:30:00

American largely and probably the British, their religious convictions are so loose that they get on with anybody. I'm sure that's at the bottom of it, no matter what anyone thinks and I'd like to spread the word about that. What have we got to do, have we got to become ultra religious to fit in with the rest of the world or have they got to come down our way?

06:12:00:00

Did you ever feel after the war that perhaps some of the people you'd helped to liberate in some cases or at least that some of your fellows fell in that….
I think that we did in Syria and Lebanon. I hope that we left some feeling back there,

06:12:30:00

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

06:13:00:00

'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

06:13:30:00

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,

06:14:00:00

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.

06:14:30:00

“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.

06:15:00:00

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.

06:15:30:00

You mentioned before the British and in places like Alexandria running into them. They supported the 6th Division in the operations in North Africa with their artillery
Oh yes. Artillery and an armoured regiment, 7th division armoured regiment [7th Royal Tank Regiment].
What sort of feelings were there between or amongst the Australians towards the British?
Oh they were quite good.

06:16:00:00

I can't think of any time that we were with British troops where there was any conflict except we were on leave in Syria and there when we were camped up near Tripoli they decided they'd have

06:16:30:00

fourteen day tours around Lebanon and Syria. They'd take a couple of truckloads. You'd take your all your gear and blankets and what not and get into this truck and we went up to the border at Turkey and then out to the towns in the back of Syria, mostly biblical named places you know that we got to know, and we got down to

06:17:00:00

a place just above Damascus, Homs. It's been mentioned in the bible many times and another place nearby and there was a huge waterwheel there on the it must have been there from the time before Christ you know and we were all very much taken with this but there was a British regiment camped there and a NAAFI [Navy, Army, Air Force Institute] canteen was what the British canteen was

06:17:30:00

and we went to this canteen one night drinking beer and got into a mess and there was a Scottish regiment in camp and they were singing their songs and we joined in and they decided “You sing your own songs.” and a blue started, but that was the only period of time that we disagreed with them at all; but we were trying to sing Scottish songs with the Scots. “You sing your own bloody songs”. But generally speaking,

06:18:00:00

we got on pretty well with them and we were carried mostly on British ships. For instance we were taken to Greece and back from Greece on British naval ships and we spoke the same language and most of them couldn't tell the difference.
What of the British commanders in that campaign in North Africa?
Oh well the British officers

06:18:30:00

were a little bit different. They found that we were different and when we were getting out I was sitting in the back of a station wagon, no not station wagon, a covered in utility like, and I had been sitting in the front but the platoon sergeant said to me “You go and sit in the back. I've got to….”

06:19:00:00

he had to pick up somebody further down and these two British, one was a major and one was a captain, and they climbed in the back too and they thought they should have been in the front and I said “You do as Laurie tells you, not what you want to do. You're the junior here when it comes to him and we back him up.” and they were very much put out with it that, they were officers and had to sit in the back with the privates but they learned

06:19:30:00

their lesson. Generally I think the Australians are self-reliant and they do what they've been trained to do and what they think is the right thing but generally speaking we got on pretty well with the officers and the men.

06:20:00:00

Was the North African campaign considered a well run show?
By and large it was looked on as a copybook plan carried out to the plan. It was used at most military instruction schools, officers' schools and everything else, as the

06:20:30:00

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

06:21:00:00

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

06:21:30:00

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

06:22:00:00

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

06:22:30:00

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,

06:23:00:00

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.

06:23:30:00

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,

06:24:00:00

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

06:24:30:00

technology and everything else has changed.
Well speaking of technology and its advances in a military sense, when you were in and around Bardia, your battalion came up against a tank division of Italians?
Yes.
And these would have been tanks that wouldn't have been seen before I'd imagine?
Well we had we had nothing like it. We had a troop of

06:25:00:00

British armoured regiment. Nobody thought to bring them up when the tanks came around; one of our fellows on a two-pounder anti-tank gun, which was fairly new technology for us, he got up on the back of his of his truck on this anti-tank gun and he knocked five of them out with a two-pounder. He was blown off his gun on about the fifth

06:25:30:00

one, by the fifth one and another fellow came along and, no he climbed back onto another one and knocked the other one off and he was awarded a DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal] for that, a distinguished conduct medal. I think he should have got the VC but his widow's still alive in fact. In fact she rang me up to wish me well for Anzac Day.
Could you describe for me the sort of mounting. You said it was on the back of a
Mounted on the back of a

06:26:00:00

truck.
A truck?
Yes. They took the tabletop off and just mounted it on the chassis you know. There was barely room for the bloke to sit and the loaders to load the thing you know, but he'd be able to swing it 'round and he was bouncing 'em off the sides of the tanks because if he'd been hitting the front of the tanks the shell would have ricocheted off probably but the sides of the tanks weren't as heavily armoured

06:26:30:00

and it was going in and the shrapnel was winding. We had a look, another fellow and I had a look inside one of these tanks and you'd swear blind sausage meat had been spread around the place. Yuck.
Well these guns that your mate was firing they're basically a small cannon?
Yes, two-pounder which is probably fired a missile about that round and about that long out

06:27:00:00

of about a four or five foot long length barrel and I don't know what the amount of charge was in the cartridge but the whole thing was about this long had to be bugged into the breach of the gun.
Was it manned by just the one soldier or more than one?
No. More than one. There was the loader and the

06:27:30:00

the actual fellow sitting in the seat who fired and aimed and fired but there was there was the loader and the firer and another fellow standing and handing ammunition up as it required.
Presumably one of these soldiers would also drive the truck around to wherever the gun was needed?
Yes, but and then in this case the whole truck, the driver

06:28:00:00

and a couple of others were killed as well when the when the last tank got stuck into them.
Did you ever have occasion to fire one of these guns?
Yeah, I became the sergeant of that platoon when they put that platoon over to the battalion but never fired in anger because when we finally got up to Aitape - Wewak in the campaign there they found that the Japanese had no tanks so they took them from us

06:28:30:00

and the only thing I did was to sight the guns over a bay near Aitape where they expected Japanese submarines to land reinforcements or something, and I was sighting the guns on the bay, various parts of the bay when we got the order to “Dismantle the guns, take them back to base 'cause you're going back to infantry. We're not using the gun.” so we became infantry again.

06:29:00:00

What sort of an experience would it have been for a gunner being in the midst of a desert battle in terms of noise? I imagine the gun itself was very loud when it was fired?
Oh my word yes, yes and the recoil was great you know if you were sitting in the seat the thing'd come back past you there.

06:29:30:00

I suppose that this fellow who got the five tanks must have been feeling on top of the world. He must have been, because he got back on another one and had another go. Pickett, the fella's name, Arthur Pickett, yeah. I knew I'd think of it.
Were the feats that he carried out that day the sort of things you saw on any given day?
No fear. You very rarely see

06:30:00:00

that sort of thing. Others may have had shots at the tanks and what not, but to take on six tanks at once was a pretty nifty job.
Well you said he would have been feeling on top of the world. How did it make you feel witnessing it?
Well it we thought it was great too because he was keeping them away from us because we were hunkered down behind rocks and any cover we could find

06:30:30:00

such as Neville did. He got behind a small rock and later they must have fired to him because when he came to and shook his head the rock was in splinters. It must have hit directly hit on the rock and gave him a bit of a knock and made him a bit dizzy but it just shows you what the tank could have done to us.
When you were fighting in

06:31:00:00

Greece this was completely different terrain to the desert of course.
Oh yes.
Was it a relief then to be knowing that you weren't going to be facing similar sort of armament?
Well it was worse because the tanks were bigger, had heavier armament and there were more of them and there were certainly more soldiers because we could see them streaming across the river and “How are we going to stop them?” you know.

06:31:30:00

But stop them we did for a short while and enough time for their tanks to withdraw and when the tanks withdrew so too did the infantry which gave us enough time to get into trucks and withdraw to previously prepared positions. That's what they'd say “We're withdrawing to previously prepared positions.” which weren't prepared because we had to prepare them when we got there. Dig a hole

06:32:00:00

and get in it.
And how would you dig these holes? With tools?
Well there was a small spade which you'd, about so long. I suppose the blade of it would be so by so big which a lot of people carried on their on their backs and just buckled onto the back of your back

06:32:30:00

pack, and there was an also an entrenching tool with only a little handle about that long but on one side of it was like a pick, broad-bladed like a spade sized blade on one side and a chisel size on the other to use as a pick and you could use it as a shovel as well. Some of them had those

06:33:00:00

but they were pretty hard to use in the desert because the desert was not only sand and soil and but lots of rocks as well. In Greece it was pretty easy to dig. Up in the mountains of course there was a lot of rock. Of course in the jungle it was no trouble to dig a hole. Of course it was filled with water as soon as you dug it.

06:33:30:00

How long would it take you to dig a hole?
It depends how heavy the fire was. You know you'd be hack hacking away and a few shots'd go over your head. That'd make you go a bit faster. You had to get down out of sight and some holes particularly were only about that deep so you could lie in them and just look out the other end but at least it was cover.

06:34:00:00

You mentioned I think yesterday when you were talking of the Greek campaign and in the case where the Germans were really pouring from Yugoslavia in into northern Greece
Yeah.
Units were forced to withdraw. Now you mentioned there would have been cases where men were leaving their arms in order to make a speedy get away.
Yes, this happened with the 2/8th Battalion mainly. They were the first to meet

06:34:30:00

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.

06:35:00:00

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

06:35:30:00

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

06:36:00:00

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

06:36:30:00

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.

06:37:00:00

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

06:37:30:00

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.
How close did you come to facing your enemy?
Hm?
in that campaign how close were you

06:38:00:00

to the enemy in that campaign?
Oh across the river, at the Aliakmon River, we were within shooting distance of them, rifle shooting distance and light machine gun fire and the Pinios Gorge. We were really mowing them down. You know you're exulting, the fact that you could shoot into a mass of them and be sure of hitting something. They say that the river was running red with blood further down

06:38:30:00

with the number of Germans that were killed crossing the river.
Were you aware of your shots hitting their target?
Well we were seeing the people, soldiers, going down and not getting up and then the ranks would break and they'd pull back and their stretcher bearers would be coming forward picking up the wounded, so we knew that we were being effective;

06:39:00:00

and then as I say some of our people were being pulled out on our flanks and there was a danger then that we'd be outflanked, so we had to be pulled out down the line and this is where we…. this is about the only place where some of our people were left behind and picked up as prisoners and the rest of us were

06:39:30:00

on our way south.
What sort of feelings did it invoke seeing the men being left?
We didn't know that they were being left because they were beyond our side, some people between them and us had pulled out and

06:40:00:00

as far as we knew we could have been surrounded if we hadn't pulled back, but it was with grateful thanks to the British navy that the majority of us got ou, and it was often remarked that we were getting out of Greece at the same time that twenty five years earlier that

06:40:30:00

our Anzacs had landed in Gallipoli, so it was another Gallipoli, but at least we got out and they got out without losing a man. They'd lost many men in the in the battle at Gallipoli of course, but they got out without losing a man. They got out without the Turks knowing they'd gone, whereas

06:41:00:00

we almost got out the same way that we lost, had to leave men behind
Interviewee: Bill Jenkins Archive ID 0021 Tape 07

07:00:34:00

You've just described a fairly fierce battle in Greece when the river was running red with blood. Can you tell me a bit about the protocol of collecting wounded?
Well, when someone was wounded if they were

07:01:00:00

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

07:01:30:00

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

07:02:00:00

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,

07:02:30:00

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

07:03:00:00

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

07:03:30:00

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

07:04:00:00

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….
And why did you get into trouble about, you….
Oh this was in New Guinea up at Eora

07:04:30:00

Creek in fact, during the battle there, or not so much during the battle, we went back to where we'd started the attack from where this fellow Donald the Duck was killed. Someone else had come through us and taken over the attack and we went back and we were busy helping the wounded that were our wounded,

07:05:00:00

that were there 'cause there were quite a number of them and some of us stayed with them and we had to carry them back down this mountain because the ambulance people even, they were on foot like us, they couldn't get up there, so we thought we'd take them down, the wounded, and there must have been nearly twenty of us

07:05:30:00

involved in getting them down to a safer area where they could be picked up, and when we got back to our platoons they really got stuck into us “Leave it to the stretcher bearers. Leave it. That's not your job.” but they were our mates and they were badly wounded and they were getting them to “The war still goes on no matter what happens to your mates.”

07:06:00:00

This is what we were told and we saw the sense in it, but we had more or less been, if our mates had other mates had been forced into another further action further on they'd have been light handed without us, so we saw the sense in it, but at the same time we had to help these badly wounded people to be tended to. It's a

07:06:30:00

difficult decision to make I know but it's got to be looked at in its proper perspective.
I'd like to come back to when you were wounded in New Guinea but first of all perhaps you could tell me about when the 6th Division was recalled from the Mediterranean. You came back to Australia to rest for awhile before you went

07:07:00:00

to New Guinea?
No we didn't. We were only back a matter of days before we were recalled and sent to New Guinea. We were recalled because Mr Curtin and Mr Churchill were arguing about what to do with us. See the 7th Division were only a little bit in front of us and they'd come home and they were camped all over the place in Australia and the 9th division was kept in the Middle East because they were

07:07:30:00

needed for Alamein and other places and the 6th Division were sent to Ceylon. We didn't know whether we were going to Burma or wherever we were going but finally Mr Curtin won and we were brought home and this is when the elements of the 7th Division, the first brigade that was home went up to Isurava to bolster

07:08:00:00

the 39th Battalion, the militia. That was the finish of the 7th Division. We were the first of the 6th Division home and first ones that had finished their bit of leave that they were given so we were bunged up there. It was just more or less back from the Middle East, go home and see Mum and the kids and what not, then back again and up to New Guinea. Hardly any

07:08:30:00

space between you know, just a matter of waiting to get a ship and some other transport to move us from point to point.
Did you have a good understanding of why you were going to New Guinea?
Oh sure, the, as I said it when we were recalled from leave down at the showground and I asked this officer why we were recalled from leave he held up the Telegraph which said “The Japanese have landed.

07:09:00:00

The Japanese are moving towards Moresby now, they're thirty miles from Moresby and seasoned AIF troops are being rushed up there to stem the tide".” This is what he said “See those seasoned AIF troops. You're it.” and we were. We were on the train that night and we were out at sea three days later.
And what did you,

07:09:30:00

describe to me what you saw when you got to New Guinea?
We saw a blaze of lights in Port Moresby because they didn't need to be blacked out all the time. They had plenty of warning from the air warning posts up in the mountains and around the place to warn them of approaching enemy planes or any planes. If they weren't identified as friends well they were enemy, so that then the lights would go out.

07:10:00:00

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

07:10:30:00

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

07:11:00:00

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

07:11:30:00

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

07:12:00:00

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

07:12:30:00

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

07:13:00:00

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

07:13:30:00

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.

07:14:00:00

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

07:14:30:00

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,

07:15:00:00

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

07:15:30:00

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,

07:16:00:00

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

07:16:30:00

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

07:17:00:00

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

07:17:30:00

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

07:18:00:00

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,

07:18:30:00

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.
And how did you…. what were your living conditions on Kokoda?
Ah well you just managed with what you had. Our ground sheet, we cut it down to half a blanket because of the weight and you got wet anyway

07:19:00:00

and it was twice as heavy when it was wet. You had your mostly haversack, battle order was the order which was equipment, which was the haversack, pouches, belt, water bottle, side arms, like the bayonet, your rifle, your tin hat because we were using still using tin hats at that stage

07:19:30:00

and in the haversack you'd have your bare toilet equipment, razor and whatever, toothbrush, a bit of soap, maybe a couple of tins of bully beef and a couple of packets of biscuits that's about as much as you could get into it and your water bottle'd be on your other on the other side and carried about a pint and a half or a bit more than a pint and a half and….
But you had to

07:20:00:00

keep moving, you couldn't establish a camp site?
Oh we couldn’t' establish a camp. When we'd stop for the night we would just spread out in a defensive position and wherever we going to stretch out, dig a hip hole and use that to, that's your bed for the night and it rained most of the time so you, your blanket and everything else was soaking wet. You were soaking wet most of the time.

07:20:30:00

You might dry out during the day if it doesn't rain through, you’ve the heat of your body drying your clothes out, but when it came to that night with your half blanket you were still soaking wet when you're tried to put it 'round you. It was just primitive living. Couldn't have been more primitive and you couldn't light fires. In the rear until we got up to

07:21:00:00

nearer the front lines 'til we had contact with the Japs we could light a fire if you could get wood that would burn because it was wet, everything was wet all the time. But as we got closer there were no fires to be lit, we couldn't, didn't even get hot food at all when we were stopped for a day. It was just still bully beef and biscuits. If we'd

07:21:30:00

now and again we might run through a native garden that the Japs hadn't looted already we might dig up some yams or something like that and at one time we found some chokos. I don't like chokos, we'd find some chokos. Sometimes they'd be half raw but we'd be eating them; but we found if you had any sugar and put some sugar in them they tasted like pears you know tinned pears or something so you find out a lot of things

07:22:00:00

when you're hungry and if there we missed a food drop, there were planes came over dropping food, but because they didn't know where we were, it was difficult to be in contact with them, the food would be often dropped near somewhere near the Japanese or dropped in the next gully, next valley or somewhere so we didn't get the food.

07:22:30:00

We went days sometimes without any food and suddenly someone'd come across a case of bully beef that might have been dropped because they weren't dropped with parachutes they were just kicked out of the plane and if the ground was soft the case stayed intact, but very often it was broken open by hitting a tree or something and splashed everywhere. As I say it was very primitive, indeed it was you could eat what you could find

07:23:00:00

if it wasn't there to be delivered to you to be issued to you.
And you had some difficulty getting water as well?
Well water was plentiful. You'd come to a creek and it it'd look to be fresh but you had no way of telling, but it could have been coming from somewhere where the Japs had been and they weren't particularly

07:23:30:00

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

07:24:00:00

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

07:24:30:00

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

07:25:00:00

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.

07:25:30:00

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

07:26:00:00

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

07:26:30:00

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

07:27:00:00

and most others were the same.
I'd like to come back to the story about when you were wounded and your malaria, but just before we talk about that did you have any particular lucky charms or did you have any superstitions?
Oh not really.

07:27:30:00

Sometimes you say “Oh I better…. I won't do that that's bad luck.” but it was just one of those things you know like having the thirteenth card or something like that. I can't think what any, some of those little things that people are always saying you know but I was never. Most of us weren't

07:28:00:00

superstitious people. You had to do whatever you did whether it was bad luck or not. It was probably bad luck that you were there in the first place. No, I….
You didn't carry any little good luck charm with you?
No I

07:28:30:00

can't remember anything that I ever carried that was of that nature. Still don't. I don't carry any jewellery except my watch. My wife bought that for me on Norfolk Island in 1979 I think and it's still going.
So there were pretty unhygienic conditions at Kokoda

07:29:00:00

so you weren't able to wash your clothes or shower?
Oh
No.
There was no showers. We used to wash in creeks and what not and everyone else would too. I suppose the Japanese were doing the same that's why you couldn't depend on what was in the wate,r so all you could believe in was the fact that running water usually cleanses itself within about

07:29:30:00

six feet. It gets rid of any impurities you know, but it doesn't really. It gets rid of some introduced things like lumps of things and what not caught on stones and cleans itself that way but if it's a poison that's in it or some sort of thing like that it doesn’t really. All water's running isn't it?

07:30:00:00

Runs through our pipes.
Okay. Well could you take me or describe what happened on the day that you were wounded. Tell me about that campaign?
Ah this was up at the Eora Creek actually and I was, but I was only a slight wound I didn't take any notice of it except that this one here in the arm.

07:30:30:00

I picked the…. and I can feel a little lump there probably. There's nothing in it but it's just a probably a scar tissue. The bit of shrapnel was sticking out. I pulled it out and I just applied a piece of rag to it, I don't know what the rag was now, until someone came and put a field dressing on it and I thought to myself

07:31:00:00

“This'll get me out of here.” as one fellow did. He fell over a cliff and I looked down and I said “You alright Jika?” He said “Yes bugger it, not even a scratch.” Even a good-sized scratch'd get you out of out of the picture but
Can I just ask you. You're wanting to eat a lot of Anticols, are you feeling really sore in your throat?
No, no, it's alright.
Can you talk without them, without eating another one

07:31:30:00

or….
I can, yes. I can.
Yeah. It's good for us if you
Yeah.
Thanks. Thank you.
Anyway it's when you, I mean when you…. the same as when you have an accident at home or at work or something you know. When you actually hurt yourself and blood showing and what not you're a casualty.
Did you

07:32:00:00

put your bayonet in the ground and….
No I didn't because I was still walkable and still able to still able to shoot if I had to and this is what I did, I just pulled it out and tried to stem the flow of blood and I thought “Oh that's not too bad.” A fellow put the field dressing on it. I didn't even go to the RAP,

07:32:30:00

Regimental Aid Post. It was never actually recorded because I didn't think it was sufficiently bad and it didn't become infected in any way. It was bit sore for about a week but it gradually healed up and oh in a few weeks you hardly knew it was there. I sort of carried my wound bravely,

07:33:00:00

proudly, bit of enemy muck.
Was that gunfire or bomb?
No it was a…. I think it was a piece of a shell. They were firing a mountain gun and what would happen, the shell would go off by hitting a branch of a tree or something up above you and you you'd get the showering down or the shell might go off go off after it hit half way to the ground and that's probably what

07:33:30:00

happened, but then it could have hit a tree first, a bit of shrapnel before it got in my arm otherwise it might have gone right through but I knew it wasn't enough to get really het up about 'cause I saw other fellows who were hit with bits of shrapnel one through the ear and so forth and I said to him “Oh stick a pad

07:34:00:00

over it and you'll be right.” you didn't complain about a lot of things because you would be branded as a as a malingerer so I've seen people as I did later didn't complain about a bad back. I mean I lifted a the rear end of an anti-tank gun

07:34:30:00

or I had to had to hold it rather, I didn't lift it, but the fellow who was helping to carry it with a bar across slipped and fell and it started to slide down on top of him and I grabbed it and of course it caused one of my discs to be knocked about and I had a bad back for awhile but you didn't complain about bad backs in the army “Oh, another malingerer.” so you just shut up about it

07:35:00:00

so there's no record of it and I was telling the doctor that did the operation on me and he said “Ah that's a pity. Pity it's not in there because you could get a pension for it.” I said “I'm not looking for a pension I'm looking for it to be fixed.” which he tried to do.
So you had trouble with your back after the war?
Oh yes. Still having it.

07:35:30:00

But it didn't get bad 'til I got older of course until it got so bad that I wasn't able to sleep with it and couldn't get about with it but still these things happen.
And you also suffered from malaria?
I had over thirty separate treatments in hospital in a period of two years

07:36:00:00

from 1942 'til nearly '44 with a malaria attacks and repeated attacks, recurrent attacks. They weren't the same attack but a fresh attack and you'd know when it was coming on. You'd have a bit of a temperature and you'd start to feel cold and you got the shivers and sweats and

07:36:30:00

sometimes you'd go right out to it which I did many a time but after about, oh yeah towards the end of '43 I think, I was beginning to slow down and they put me onto some medication which you had to take on a decreasing rate over a period of six months and I never had an attack after that

07:37:00:00

at the end of the six months it was gone so they'd found the cure for it.
And was it during one of those stays in hospital that you met your wife who was nursing you?
No actually it was after the war. I was complaining about my back and my spine generally. She was in the neurosurgical

07:37:30:00

ward at Concord but as I say I'd known her and her family from the country, from our families knew each other you know, and we started to go out when I could, she took me out a few times on leave when I was given leave from the hospital and we just kept kicking 'round together and we even went on leave to her home together up near up near Mudgee and then

07:38:00:00

one day we decided we'd get married, so that day we went to…. it was a marriage cathedral, got married, then went out to the races at Randwick and met her family and a lot of other family we knew and I said “Guess what we did today?” “Oh I don't know, went to the pictures.” I said “No, we got married.” of course that was the 12th of April

07:38:30:00

1946, yeah.
That must have been a memorable day.
No it wasn't, it was 1947 yeah. 'Cause my daughter was born in December '47 so it must have been.

07:39:00:00

I think that might be a good place to stop.
Interviewee: Bill Jenkins Archive ID 0021 Tape 08

08:00:30:00

I've never been involved in the in the RSL itself although I'm on several committees related to it.
So do you feel like you got due recognition for your campaigns, particularly in New Guinea?
I think so. I think I've worked to make that happen. Of the number of organisations that I'm in

08:01:00:00

I have endeavoured to have them officially recognised and why we exist to commemorate what we're commemorating. For instance I've been a member of the Legion of Ex-Service Clubs for probably nearly forty-odd years. They were they formed

08:01:30:00

clubs before the RSL formed clubs, social clubs but they also did welfare work so I've worked through them. I've been on the executive of the 6th division association since it was formed in about ooh 1960 something, and in turn we are being a senior division we were involved sideways in RSL affairs like

08:02:00:00

the march committee, Remembrance Day and VP Day [Victory in the Pacific] and what not. The when the Vietnam veterans were finally recognised I was nominated by Sir Colin Hines, the then President of the RSL, to be one of the trustees and the members of the committee that that

08:02:30:00

organised the Vietnam welcome home. It was the RSL President that nominated me to be on the committee and he knew that I wasn't an RSL supporter more or less, so I've had close connections with it all the time. Even now I'm warmly welcomed at Anzac House even though I'm only a member of a distant

08:03:00:00

sub-branch of it at all you know, but because I'm in these other committees which are also involved with RSL and DVA but it's a necessary organisation. It's done a lot of good work over the years in having soldiers' difficulties rectified and pensions paid for them and/or gained for them

08:03:30:00

and they've also been able to lean on the Government to do things for the ex-servicemen so I think any of the organisations, ex-service organisations, are not doing things for themselves, they're doing them for their members and also to spread the word across the nation about the history of Australia's involvement in wars.

08:04:00:00

Did you find it difficult adjusting after the war?
Well I tried to get back into civilian life. I first of all went to work on my parents-in-law property at up Goolma near Mudgee, between Mudgee and Wellington, but I saw and I tried to get a myself elected to a

08:04:30:00

ballot in the soldier settlement scheme whereby soldiers were names were put into a hat and drawn out and they'd had the choice of getting a property either very cheaply, or either with the help of the Government to some sort of a grazing or farming property, and I went in several ballots but was unsuccessful

08:05:00:00

and I could see that by staying on my in-laws' property that I would not be a beneficiary once they passed away but their son, my brother-in-law would probably take over the property and I would still remain as a slave on the place so I said to my wife “Well, let's go back to Sydney.” We came back to Sydney and I walked around Sydney and met somebody who got me a job at

08:05:30:00

the Health Department, New South Wales Health Department, where I worked for thirty-odd years so
Do you think that some of your war memories are some of the strongest memories that you have even today?
No, I don't think so. I think you tried to expunge any of the

08:06:00:00

bad memories that we had you know. You only tend to stick to the funny things that happened or the good things that happened such as going on leave with a fellow once, Ron Toovey, into Damascus

08:06:30:00

and he was a mad photographer. He'd go through a roll of film in an hour flat just about. He had to carry a haversack with him to put all of the used films into it and I went on leave with him and I can remember being photographed in the mosque of Omar and all these places and up at Ohms and

08:07:00:00

I can't think of the, I can't think of a lot of the names of the places there, but they were not only historical but biblical places and I related them to where we were during the war, like during our action there later and the fact that I'd been there and seen them in better times you know but I don't think it's natural

08:07:30:00

to hang on to unpleasant memories. You want to forget 'em unless you're a sadist or something you. I'm sure there's another term for it.
You were, talking about unpleasant memories, you were trained to use a bayonet. Did you ever have to use your bayonet?
Well, it's….

08:08:00:00

yes I have but it it's not a nice thing to think about. The only thing that you can if you had to shoot sometimes or do this or that, you had to do it in a fit of something like anger but “If I don't do it to you, you'll do it to me.”

08:08:30:00

and I realised how hard it was for it to penetrate but it's not something that you ever think about. You sort of put it out of your mind altogether.

08:09:00:00

And when you think about it, the only soft parts of a human anatomy are the torso, anything higher there you've got the breastbones and ribs and so forth and it's just natural that you would go for the softer option and all that you require is for the

08:09:30:00

person to go down and you move on.
And did that happen in New Guinea?
Yes and our feelings towards the Japanese at that time was that they were less

08:10:00:00

than human anyway. They…. some of the things we'd found where they'd cut our mates' bodies you know cut the meat off, it stayed in your mind very much so anything could you do to them was not as bad as anything they'd done to us.
Do you remember that day that you first came across human, what you discovered to be human flesh?

08:10:30:00

Yes I think it was up there at Eora Creek and the bodies were nearby. You could see where the flesh belonged to there so it was definitely done and it was definitely done to Indian troops that had been captured in Malaya by the Japanese were

08:11:00:00

taken down to New Guinea to be used as slave labour in New Guinea later in the war and we released some of these people who told us that their mates had been used as fodder. Any of them that had put on weight they'd be slaughtered and their meat eaten by the Japanese. So there wasn't just a one-off thing at all it was

08:11:30:00

quite commonly done by the by the Japs. If they had no food and many of the Japanese soldiers mind you were uneducated peasants, really, uneducated peasants so that they did not have a lot of the niceties

08:12:00:00

of an educated Western person so I think something's got to be said for them, that if they themselves were starved and had no knowledge of how to get around that problem the next thing was fresh meat. This is on reflection I'm talking about,

08:12:30:00

but at the time we thought it was so horrible that, as I say, anything we could do to them wasn't as bad as what they had been doing. Not that we did anything terrible, but if you bayoneted a corpse well it was only to try and get some of your anger out of yourself.
Did you do that?
Yes, I think I did it once and found out how hard

08:13:00:00

it was to penetrate any of that area. I just gave up. Thought “He's dead anyway so.” These are the things that you can think back over years and you think “What a stupid thing to do.” but at the time you do anything which you thinks a fair thing. But any time I don't think I've ever done something which I thought

08:13:30:00

was unfair to anybody else or the wrong thing, otherwise I'd feel some remorse about it and I never felt any remorse about anything I've done in war because it's a total thing. The ordinary niceties go out the window. You're there and you're

08:14:00:00

fighting for your own life, trying to stay alive and anyone that tries to interfere with that purpose they are in danger themselves, because you'll do your damnedest to put a stop to their tactics.
And when you mentioned war crimes yesterday is it the removal of flesh off bodies

08:14:30:00

that you were referring to, or are there other instances of what you would consider to be wrongdoings?
Oh the slaughter of our fellows who had been taken prisoner. See some of the graves that we found across the, over past Kokoda, were the graves of fellows from the 39th Battalion and the [2/]14th Battalions

08:15:00:00

who had been taken prisoner and just shot out of hand as prisoners. They weren't killed in battle because the Japs wouldn't bother to bury anyone who was killed in battle, not of only their own of course and we'd heard stories of this too, that they were

08:15:30:00

even in I think Milne Bay I think they said it was, that some of the fellows who'd fallen into Japanese hands had just been slaughtered out of hand because they'd been taken prisoner, apparently the Japanese were taught that to be taken prisoner was an insult to the Emperor Hirohito and whoever

08:16:00:00

you know, and they couldn't allow that to happen so they didn't, but anyone else doing it to them but a being taken prisoner by them wasn't worth thinking about either.
And you did you come across mass graves did you say?
They weren't mass graves but we came across graves.
Yeah.
And we knew they weren't any of our

08:16:30:00

fellows, but we'd found through the war graves people that they were Australians and they were obviously all killed with multiple bullets in various parts of their body. Some of them shot in the back of the head.
It's not a very honourable thing to have done.
No. You know

08:17:00:00

there have always been principles of war which some actions are totally out of order. They've never been written down but generally speaking an Englishman would probably say that “Not done old chap.” And I think a lot of the

08:17:30:00

knightly things and so forth have sprung from that sort of thing you know “Do the right thing old chap.” and you can't go wrong. The right thing is what you think is right.
You've got a very strong approach, you strike me as having a really strong constitution in the

08:18:00:00

face of danger. Did you have mates who were perhaps not quite as strong as you in facing danger?
Well, I remember having to bolster some people up saying “Come on, pick 'em up there. We're got to get this job done.” and they usually do because if some people lead

08:18:30:00

others will follow and you don't have to be out in front leading, you can lead from the side by saying to your mates “Come on, I think this is…. if we go 'round this way it'll… be we'll be okay.” you know and because they feel that you you're with them or they're part of you they'll follow. Yes, leadership is not just about being in front waving a

08:19:00:00

sword. It's being able to convince others or make others think that “This bloke's doing it, so can I.” and I suppose I felt the same thing myself. I didn't feel like going in but look at Bluey out there in front with his going in flat out you know. I can't be left behind.

08:19:30:00

Much the same on a football field I suppose. When your mate's running away with the ball and he looks like being tackled and throwing the ball to you, you know as soon as you get the ball you're going to be tackled too, but you're going to do it anyway and down you come but….
'Cause you've talked a bit about the campaigns

08:20:00:00

in the Middle East being quite a just war but you maybe didn't have the same feeling in Kokoda?
Up to a point yes, and I think whilst ever the Germans, Italians and Vichy French and so forth, whilst ever they did the right thing well we thought “The war's going along okay you know, everyone's playing to the rules.”

08:20:30:00

but when you find that you've got people who don't play to the rules well then you tend to get a little bit uptight yourself. You've got to let them know it in some way or other and even if it's only the fact of going up and belting the hell out of them.

08:21:00:00

I think probably that most people become enraged at what they feel is the wrong thing. Get their knickers in a knot. As to whether they're justified or not remains of what is done I suppose and what they do

08:21:30:00

has got to be weighed up against what has been done, but this has always been the case in any engagement there were difference of opinion or whatever
And after you crossed the Owen Stanley Ranges can you tell me what happened after that?
Yes, well when we finally got down to Sanananda

08:22:00:00

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

08:22:30:00

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,

08:23:00:00

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….

08:23:30:00

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,

08:24:00:00

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,

08:24:30:00

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

08:25:00:00

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

08:25:30:00

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

08:26:00:00

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

08:26:30:00

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

08:27:00:00

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.
Do you want to have another sip of water?
Yeah but by this time most of us were either back in hospital or on the way back to Australia.

08:27:30:00

And you…. but you were at Wewak the day the war ended?
At Wewak yes.
Yeah.
But as I say the Japanese that were at Sanananda escaped and they were up there you see, so they'd had a pretty rough war as well, but when we were in hospital at Moresby came 'round one morning and they said “Righto everybody, gather your gear together, all this tent. We're going out.”

08:28:00:00

We were taken out to the hospital front where we were loaded onto trucks and they said “You're going down to Moresby.” So we started off down to Moresby and a whole line of trucks were going down from hospitals and convalescent camps and what not, and we came to Murray Barracks which was where all the headquarters were, that was half way down the hill towards Moresby, and

08:28:30:00

the trucks went into a circle like a wagon train pulls up you know, and this little fellow comes out and he was our original brigade commander, Major General Tubby Allen, who had been sacked by General Blamey and he came out and addressed us and he congratulated us on the job we had done in driving the Japs back out of New Guinea

08:29:00:00

out of Papua and he said “The powers that be have decided that you deserve some leave.” He said “That ship down in the harbour, get down and get onto it before some b changes his mind.” which we did and we came home on leave and whilst I was on leave I had two attacks of malaria and my leave went on for quite awhile.

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Some people'd say I've been talking too much.
Not at all. And but then you went back?
Ah no we were rehabilitated and retrained or reassembled and we went back towards the end of 1944 we were finally

08:30:00:00

got back up to New Guinea up to the Aitape - Wewak campaign, which we should never have done because the Japs were bottled up there, they could have been starved out, but they said we were doing it as much to liberate the native population of New Guinea and Sir Michael Somare [later to become Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea] lived at Wewak so he was one of them that was liberated and I have

08:30:30:00

spoken to him often since and he has said “We were glad you came.” And I said “Well I'll withdraw my remark about we should never have been there.” and he said “Oh you must.” Lovely man.
Can you tell me about that campaign?
Yes, it was a campaign of chasing groups of Japanese who were holed up along the coast

08:31:00:00

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.

08:31:30:00

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

08:32:00:00

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

08:32:30:00

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

08:33:00:00

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

08:33:30:00

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

08:34:00:00

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

08:34:30:00

“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.
And can you tell me what you recall of the day the war ended when you were in Wewak?
Yes I was up on the Mount Shiburangu. We were ready to ready to pounce, to go into a big Japanese

08:35:00:00

area facing, they were down to the south of us and the friend of mine was a signaller. It was his job on the night shift to man the wireless, and I think I told you about him receiving the message that this had to be taken down in code because it was coming through and

08:35:30:00

'cause it got all around the little area where we were, the war was over and another fellow said to me “I'm going to crawl into a hole now 'til it we make sure of this and make sure the war is over.” he said “Because it'll be my luck to walk outside and get a stray bullet.” and there wasn't any, we didn't know what to do, we thought “Okay the war's over, what? What do we do now?” This is the sort of

08:36:00:00

thing that mostly that “Okay we've lost our job. The job we've been trained to do is now over. What do we do now?” They then started to talk about getting troops to go to Japan as an occupation force and what not. Another fellow and I volunteered our names for this

08:36:30:00

but when it became time for my point numbers to come up, I got an attack of malaria again I think, and so whatever I had, and I looked like going to hospital, and so I was put down on a draft to go onto where they went ,to

08:37:00:00

Morotai is where they formed the Japanese occupation force and I was to go there, but I was too sick to go so they put me on another ship which was going home. So I landed back in Australia that was right, that was nearly Christmas. I just missed Christmas at home.
Who greeted you when you got back to Sydney?

08:37:30:00

Oh I think I went straight to my sister's place. Two of my sisters were living together at the time. My youngest, the youngest of my sisters was living with the second eldest at Hurlstone Park and she just had a new baby not long before and it was sick and I remember walking around the house with a sick baby in my arms

08:38:00:00

so….
And were you still…. the memory of the war must have still been fresh in your mind and it must have been a bit strange to be at war one minute and then back home the next?
Well gradually getting used to the idea because I'd come back, I was on leave and I was shortly to be discharged, but when I went to be discharged they found that I

08:38:30:00

had several physical ailments and decided to put it off and I finally had to go to hospital and I spent almost six months in and out of hospitals getting this repaired and that repaired and the shoulder wound repaired and the back and oh, all sorts of things so I suppose it was a gradual decline

08:39:00:00

in getting used to it and I finally did get out, got married and started all over again.
And is that why you didn't want to go to Korea?
Yes. I had children, Kate and Richard, Catherine

08:39:30:00

proper name, but she was called Kate then after her grandmother and maternal grandmother, and I thought “Well I've had my share of war. Let someone else have a go.” Somebody wanted me to join the militia. I said “No thank you very much. I

08:40:00:00

have other things to do.” I don't know what they were at the time but I was making a home and making a life for myself you know 'cause once I got into the Health Department I thought “Well this is where I want promotion, within the Department.” and I finished up as a right hand man of the Under Secretary of the Department of Health and an advisor to the Minister of Health at the time

08:40:30:00

and I can't think of his name now. That's how it goes.

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