at Wayville, which is the showgrounds in Adelaide and we were there for quite some time. They formed us into units in the – when we camped in the motor pavilion at Wayville and sleeping on the floor on palliasses. And then they
we were – our instructors were mainly World War 1 soldiers and we learned how to march and to slope arms and all the rest of it there and then they formed the 48th Battalion from us group that were there. And from there on we were the 2/48th Battalion. And we stayed at Wayville for a few months and then we went to Woodside and from
Woodside we went to – we sailed to the Middle East we come down by train from Woodside and we got on The Stratheden and out of harbour and we set sail for the Middle East and that was in November, 1940 and the boat stopped at Fremantle and Colombo and we finished up in the Suez Canal where the
boat stopped and we were disembarked and taken by train to Palestine. And we were there for – in a camp there for quite some months. Training. And from there we went to the desert in North Africa. And our battalion was sent to
Darnah a town in North Africa where we were there for garrisoning the town actually. But things deteriorated and the Germans came back at us and we had to get out and from there we come back into Tobruk and we were in the Siege of Tobruk for seven months or whatever it was, something like that and quite a lot went on there. And then we
were taken out of there on destroyers and relieved by a Polish brigade they were. And we came back to – from – to Alexandria on the destroyer, then by train back to Palestine and we were there for quite a while just forget the – some months and then we went up to Syria where
we trained in all sorts of things up there. And we were at Tripoli for quite a while and in barracks there that were French barracks they were. And we were there. And from there we were called back to Egypt. Germans had got nearly down to Alexandria and we were driven
by motor convoy right through from Syria right down through Cairo and right into Egypt – right into – right up to Alexandria and we went up to the front line. We had to try and stop the Germans which were coming down they were nearly and from there we went into action from there and that went on to become the battle of El Alamein a bit later on. And we
went right through that and we come back – what was left of us come back to Palestine and we – from there we came home after that to – on a boat called the New Amsterdam, beautiful Dutch liner and we had leave – we got off at – in Melbourne. They put us straight on trains
all the South Australians and we come back to Adelaide by train. And one experience I’ll never forget is that on the train coming through, it was five o’clock at night and we got on the train, in the afternoon we got on the train and we travelled right through the night on the train and we just to smell the gum trees, things like that were very good. And we had leave in Adelaide and from there
straight from here on troop trains right up to tablelands in Queensland where we trained in jungle training and was the next thing was, we were sent to – landing at Lae, captured Lae. We were in that and after Lae fell we went up to Finschhafen and from there –
course, a full-time course, trained by instructors, how to lay bricks and you know, all the things. And after we were there – I can’t remember the time but we were sent out then to builders and the government paid sixty per cent and the builder paid forty per cent of our wages and it gradually till we got proficient at the game and they – just how long it took I’ve forgotten now, but till they – working full time, being paid
by the builders and we were passed building certificates and everything, exams and things, we had to be able to do the job properly and from there on, I worked for a builder for a few years and then I went out and subcontracted on my own. And that’s what I stayed at, subcontract bricklayer right till I retired.
So I retired when I was 60, cos we could get a pension when there was a slump on the building trade, work was hard to get. And I thought, “Oh if I can get a pension, I’ll get out.” So I did.
two – five, eight. My stepson was killed 1966, Colin, he was drowned in Sydney Harbour and they never found his body, he was living in Sydney and he was a great rock fisherman. Round the harbour, out, a lot of it done over there. And
a wave washed him off a rock and he was drowned and never found his body and that was quite a sad episode. Dorothy my stepdaughter, she’s been wonderful, she’s made all that book for me. And Graeme’s married, lives in Sydney. And he’s 59 now, and he –
he’s been a plumber till a couple of years ago, he had a motor accident and he can’t do his trade any more he hurt his hand in that, but he works in the office for the same firm, he’s doing office work and he’s quite happy with what’s happening.
if you – they nested in the tree, you could go and take the young ones out when they were just – just before they were ready to fly, put them in a cage, and hang them in a tree and the mother would very often feed them and then you – they become a cage bird, like the canaries these days. And we used to do all sorts of things like that. At one place we were in, we had our trap
set for rabbits and Dick and I had six traps and we used to go out and set them and this night, we could hear this awful noise, across the paddock from the house. And my father said, “Oh you’d better go and have a look, there’s something caught in the trap.” We wanted him to come too, but he wouldn’t come cos we was frightened. Thought it might have been a fox or something, anyway it was a hare, it was caught in this trap.
Making a hell of a noise. Anyway, we had to stand off and dong him and well cos we ate him, took him home and Mum cooked him. But made a heck of a noise and we were a bit scared to go over. Anyway, we handled it all right. We had cooked hare then for a day or two. Yeah, things like that.
hills still at Heathfield actually and it was pretty horrific for the rest of the family, we didn’t know what was going to happen. But it was a sad state of affairs, we found out Mum had kept it from us, but me father had a relationship with another woman, and she’d found out. And we don’t know to really to this day, I don’t really know
what caused her to, you know what took her off in the end, but she was a terribly sad thing for all of us and her knowing what was happening, she never lived to see her – any of her kids grow up and be able to help her. And there was three were still going to school, Dick, Lorna and Les, were still going to school so
and me father had ‘freed out’ and went and lived with the other woman. And so left us to try and look after the other kids. Well we all chipped in we were all there and my second sister, the second to oldest one, she got married and kids moved in with her. But it was too much and we finally,
the three of them went out to rellies and lived with, my youngest brother lived at Port Noarlunga with an aunty and another one lives at Reynella with an aunty and – for a while, you know while he went to school and we just all put in a little bit of money that we was earning. And it got through by doing that. Even when I joined the army I had a lot of
money, or a shilling a day I think it was, to my sister to help pay for their keep.
they didn’t have any rifles for us to train with and oh gee, it was real rough. But gradually those, you know we got our uniforms and yeah, I can remember that quite well. And they took us into Wayville and give us a hessian palliasse that’s like hessian bag and filled it up with straw and we had to go and fill it up with the straw, then we put that on the asphalt to
floor in the motor pavilion and that was our bed with a couple of blankets. And had all lines painted in the – had to keep in line and all the rest of it. Yeah, so it was an experience, I can tell you. Cos then you had to be inspected that was the thing in army they, you had to shave every day and you know they inspect you and all that sort of thing.
Stuff that’s just, as you go, go along it’s just natural thing, but when it first hits you, it impacts on your life, you think, “Wow, what’s this going to be like?” But as you go along you just take it for granted.
Eventually they you know got around to trying to fit us a bit better, but our uniforms in them days, were pretty rough and they used to, we’d call it a ‘giggle suit’, they’d give us a khaki drill pair of pants and a funny little jacket and that’s sort of our working stuff and we used to call it our giggle suit and gee that was about all we had. And a great coat, the old great coat was handy the
overcoat. Put a – over us of a night to keep warm. Yeah, they – then to learn to march, slope arms and do all the regimental stuff, you know the – it was quite different. But a lot of the World War 1, guys come in as instructors and they were good, you know, they helped us and showed us and
eventually pulled us into shape, we could march and that. And it was – we finished up quite a thing. We used to come in and out of Wayville and we’d go over to the parkland and train, drill. And march in and out of Wayville. Yeah. Yes I didn’t actually mind
the regimentation of it all. It was good. If you’re – I don’t know, just good for you I think a bit of discipline and things like that. Think a bit more could be used today on some of these young guys.
Well, how well equipped were you at this point in time?
Oh, not – eventually got a rifle. And we learnt to drill with the rifle cos that was the main thing, and that but they were old World War 1 rifles and they before we – as we got along a bit further we got new ones but for a start they were the old discards from World War 1, had been handed in, but that was okay for drilling and all that sort of thing.
Yeah, we weren’t well equipped at all, we were actually we weren’t too on the machine guns, we learnt on the Vickers [Medium] machine gun and then we never, ever saw one in the army they were World War 1, things and no it wasn’t a Vickers, it was a Lewis [Medium] machine gun and they were World War 1, and then we got issued with the latest in Bren [Light] machine guns and all that. But yeah, equipment was a
problem in them days because they couldn’t supply us all with the latest stuff.
a battalion had moved out, I think it was the 2nd/43rd had moved out to go overseas and we went up to there, took over their camp. But Woodside was pretty cold and – it’s a pretty ordinary place. We were in tin sheds out there, now you go up there, it’s a different story but yeah. I can remember the frosty mornings and things like that. It was
pretty cold. And trying to get a bit of warm water to have a shave and things like that, was quite a problem. Yeah and showers were on all the time cos they had to – we’d have different shower days where we went, there’d be a shower parade, we’d all have to go and have a shower and you couldn’t just go and get a cup of water, hot water to have a shave or anything you had to do the best you could. Yeah that was, although it was an army
camp, it was pretty primitive. Not the standards of nowadays. But yeah, there was plenty of room up there to train, like we could train to – they’d take us out on trucks and do manoeuvres with us which we couldn’t do at Wayville and we learnt a lot up there. Which was a regular army camp, I think the facilities were there.
we were all in tents, we were – there was four or six to a tent, I’ve forgotten now, but it was yeah, it was pretty ordinary, you know but we were quite okay, we – they had these beds that they gave us over there were cane beds and they stood off the ground, about this high and they were made of
they were pretty flimsy things. But the kept us up off the floor, if you sat on one, you know, it would collapse if you wasn’t careful. And yeah, and that was all right and the weather was, what was it, over there in – yeah, pretty cold I think. That’s – we left here in November and it was their winter over there. But
they soon had us going training and marching and all sorts of things to keep us fit.
Why were you guarding it?
The civilian population would have just take over you know, I don’t know, who it belonged to or what the whole story of it was, but it was this big dump of foodstuffs and if we hadn’t have been there it would have – the civilians would have just you know, took it all. But it wasn’t our, what we ate, they used to call it, it was tuna in big tins a lot of it and we didn’t
used to like it – it was terrible stuff, but the Arabs and that, they were – it was beautiful, they used to give you plenty of money for it if they could get it, yeah, so and there was everything in the town there, there was a nice hotel there, where it was to accommodate tourists, you know, it was quite a nice town.
he had – then all of a sudden we had to get out. So I don’t know what happened after that. But it was quite a nice town. Especially the surrounding country that you go through to get there. Like, your North African desert is just nothing, you know, but you get into these, like an oasis you get into it and they’ve got water there and they can grow things and it was
yeah and I believe some of the other towns were the same, none of us saw them, well I saw Tobruk, but that was wrecked anyway but Benghazi and those places were quite big cities, quite nice. Yeah, it was quite an experience getting out of there it was – we finished up landing right in Tobruk, big truck took us right into the town. And
then from there, well we had to find the rest of our battalion cos we were sort of split up on trucks and everything. And wasn’t until next day that we saw our first shells, the Germans were ‘knocking on the door’, so we had to get organised and be prepared for what was going to happen. They were starting to shell us and we saw our first shells had been fired at us.
From there on, we had to take over the perimeter, Tobruk was surrounded by perimeter of – built by Italians, big ‘tank traps’ and all these places where we guarded the town. And we took over that – like the whole 9th Division got taken there and we were there for seven months.
they used to put us in there for a couple of weeks or something then pull us out and put another mob in. And it was – and the Germans attacked us at – and they took one of the posts off the perimeter – and we had to pull back we used to call it ‘the Salient’ and we dug in to hold them, and they couldn’t come any further, but they actually took the
post that was there and we stayed there and wouldn’t let them come any further, but we couldn’t show ourselves all day. Cos they could see us if we moved. They were on a bit of a rise. So as soon as at night, it was a terribly funny situation, they have a truce at night. We couldn’t get any food in or out anything moved, so it got dark and
then you had to take your chances. Or as soon as it got dark this – we’d have a couple of hours, they wouldn’t fire on us and then at certain time they’d fire up these tracer bullets and that was the end of it, it was on again and we were firing at each other, but it was a phenomenal set up. You wouldn’t believe it in a war. but they were in a bit of the same position, we wouldn’t fire at them for
this two or three hours every night and they wouldn’t fire at us. But soon as we see these tracer bullets go up, get in under cover, cos she was on again. It was just one of those things, and they had a truce at one stage, with Australians, a company from the 47th Battalion tried to get this position back off them and they just got wiped out. And
they called a truce there, I just forget how it was worked now. And to – so we could get our wounded and dead out and they were in the same position. So then they – started up again. So it was just unreal. But they never, ever got any further, they tried hard enough a few times, but they never got it. We held them off.
and cover it with sandbags and make it, in a – to look like the surrounding country’s as nice as you could and just, but they used to shell us and they you know, they killed and wounded a lot of people cos they could get a direct hit on the position or something but they never actually took it, come out and tried to beat us off. But they give us ‘billy-oh’ [trouble], with every other weapon they could think of, but they wouldn’t sort of come and attack us straight
out on this position. They did in a few of the others. Yeah, it was a funny set up there. So we used to go out on patrol, used to do a lot of patrolling, I used to hate it. It was really nerve racking, all that, all done of a night. We’d go out to their
positions and at one stage I was on the patrol and we had to try and get a prisoner, they wanted to interrogate a prisoner, and we thought they were Italians in front of us, but we didn’t think they were Germans, and they were Italians, anyway our officer took us out and we got up at – got up a prisoner, he
organised a ‘grab man’, there was a big guy in our mob, knew him well, and he had to try and get the prisoner, was his job. And we had to be there to – cos they were going to take after us or fire everything at us, so we had to then try and protect him so he could get this prisoner back. Which he did and he had this -–they were on the working party, they were digging trenches, talking away in Italian, and we were sneaking up on them and
all of a sudden we were right on them and he dashed in and got a fella by the scruff of the neck and his trousers and the pack and headed back as hard as he could go. Cos they took a few minutes to realise what had happened cos they hadn’t heard us, then they opened up with everything. But it was too late, we were too far away by this time. So
we got a prisoner. Took him back to our camp and of course intelligence took him and I don’t know what happened to him but he – the officer, got a decoration for that. Was well planned and well carried out. But I was on that, I remember it quite plainly.
Around about that figure. And yeah, we did a lot of, lot of patrols. And trying to pick up information and all sorts of little things and it was always, it was terribly nerve racking. This – every position had what they called a listening post out front, they’d have a person out the front and concealed in a position, would listen to
for patrols. And another time we went out on one and we saw – we were told to try and get a prisoner – I don’t know if we got out there, but the listening post heard us and we seen him and get up and run back in. So that was it, everything just went quiet. Our officer said, “No,” he said, “They’re just sitting there waiting for us.” So he wouldn’t go on with it. Which was a good idea I thought.
Things like that went on all the time, just patrolling and trying to pick up information and where they were and what they were doing. It was yeah, quite we had system in my section where there were no volunteers, just, “It’s your turn,” you know, and you know when your turn come around, you had to go.
And we found that was the best way to go, yeah. No detail and you didn’t have to tell anyone, they knew it was their turn next.
cos it was rocky ground and oh my God. Sometimes we’d be laying on our tummies just about couldn’t get down there deeper cos of the rocky ground and things like that. It was yeah, wasn’t too pleasant to have to get underground. But as I said, the longer you were there, everybody just worked on it. One time we were digging was
pretty quiet on this position and we got – they sent us up some explosives cos we couldn’t get underground, it was too rocky. And we blasted a few rocks out to get ourselves undercover. Yeah, it was – quite hazardous and hard living, you know, rations were thin and water was, all the time you know, just the barest thing, cos everything had
come into Tobruk by sea and the water mostly was seawater desalinated it was hard, you know it was terrible to drink and if you try to have a wash your soap wouldn’t last or anything like that cos it was, I don’t think they used to get all the saltiness out if it. But we survived on it, it was fine.
So how would you make your trench a bit more comfortable?
Oh, all sorts of ways. If you were just in, dig deeper and dig longer so you could stretch out in it. And if you could get some sandbags or anything for a cover over the top you felt a bit more secure, but you couldn’t, we could never get deep enough to stand up in – was just existence of moving around as least as possible in the daytime, cos they could spot us.
And they had air supremacy, they could fly planes over all the time without, well we’d fire at them but from the land but we had no planes, you see and we had – they could just do as they liked and if they decided to bomb us they come in screaming with their bombs and they bombed the town that much that there wasn’t much left of it. I
got dysentery and was sent out to the hospital in Tobruk and there was a big building but it had been bombed and that, it was pretty ordinary but the water point, the main water point was just where the trucks used to come out and get the water for the desalination, it was only just up the road from me, cos they used to come in and try and bomb that. And they hit the hospital,
the night I was there, the hospital was hit. And the building’s a flat roofed and they have sort of terracotta or masonry ceilings and things like that, and I was that ill that I didn’t feel like running and they said, “Here and hey.” And everyone was running in terror and I just got under my bed. And next thing ‘boom!’ Didn’t come in, it was far enough away but it showered us all with stuff from the roof,
me bed was covered and the whole ward was covered with it and oh, what a mess. But I wasn’t injured or anything like that. But I was pretty ill with dysentery at the time. And that was an experience that I didn’t think much of, going to hospital in Tobruk. And they shifted us out into a tent hospital that they’d put up and that was nearly as
bad. It didn’t have the buildings or anything like that, but they used to shell it and bomb it, Germans didn’t worry whether it had a red cross on it or not half the time, if they could have a go at us, they would. But I survived that and got back to the unit and yeah, we were shifted around quite a lot.
Who did you share your trench with?
Mainly with my mate, Harold Gast his name was and he survived the war and got wounded in Tobruk actually. He come out. And he got wounded at Alamein, yeah he was my mate most of the time, and then later on there was a fella called, Vingoods, he was a – he shared later on, we were together yeah, usually
you know, chum up with a two of a – it’s a funny thing, you know the personalities and things. One bloke who can’t stand the sight of him, cos he nags too much or something or other but they’d usually come together and you’d pick on somebody and soon as you – you got on well together. Yeah.
yes, where they were situated usually is in small groups, you know, everybody’d – each section would have their own area and we’d be in contact with one another, yell out or whatever. Yeah it was a funny set up but in the desert there we did most of our fighting and patrolling and that at night in the dark, was
sometimes it was quite easy to get lost if you didn’t have a landmark or something. So we had to lay tapes, used to have a roll of white tape and if we had to go somewhere in the night or something like that, you’d have a tape during the day or do it, whenever you could so that you wouldn’t get lost cos you’d turn around and you wouldn’t know which way it’s going, was just eerie. But the biggest thing that helped us all was the
North Star, in the northern hemisphere, you can always find the North Star, it’s so easy to find and oh, used to help us time and time again. You’d look for the North Star and you’d know where you were and which way to go. That was always a big help to us over there. It was eerie the way you could just, if you walked over to see a mate and it was dark, you sit there and have a think on it for a while and you’d just get up and go the opposite way, you’d swear you were going home, back to
your own trench and you wouldn’t be at all. But we used to have to have tapes laying and all sorts of things like that.
little thing of water like that and a flannel or something and just freshen themselves, you couldn’t scrub yourself, you know, but oh, whenever they could they’d send us down to the beach and we’d have a night or two nights near the sea. Well, you’d strip off and get into the sea and re-freshen yourself up you know and clean up all your gear and your
utensils from your food dixie and all that you couldn’t clean it properly and with a bit of sea sand and bit of salt water and we’d scrub everything up and have a good clean up and a decent sleep, that was the best parts of the – you know a bit of a- and they used to do that for us often as they could, so you can get a couple of days respite. Because in the Mediterranean, all the
sea, there’s no tide. The tide doesn’t come in like other seas, you can go and put your tent up three feet away from the water and you’ll be safe, you know and it – yeah we used to do that wherever we could. Not that we’d put tents up very often and up in Tobruk but you can lay down and you wouldn’t be worried with the water coming in. Yeah that used to be a good thing,
we used to like to do that. And clean up – not that you could get – scrub yourself that well but you – if you had tinea in between your toes which was a hell of a thing, you know, cos you couldn’t wash them but you’d clean your feet up with just walking in the sand and salt water and – but yeah, it was – it cleaned us up and we appreciated that a lot.
sick with it. So anyway our turn come to come out and they took us down to the harbour in the dark put us on a – march onto this destroyer, as we were marching off one side end, the others – our relief was marching off the other and cos they could only come into the harbour at night and we got on this – the [HMS] Kingston, I think it was. And
it took off. They warned us that if certain time the bell would ring and that was it, if you was half on the boat jump. Cos the boat would move and that was the time they had to pull out and that’s the time, gives us no time to do anything, anyway we got on. But these boats are not meant for carrying troops, they were destroyers, we just had to sit around on the deck with our pack on our back, we’d drop it and we’d sit on it
and that was all we had. You could get up and walk to the toilet if you wanted to but there was a battle. And the boat takes off to back to Alexandria and well, we were sailing and we’re going along there and next thing the bells were clanging and things and they got a warning of some sort and the boat start to zigzag and they go fast as they can, wow. What an experience.
Anyway we got back. And we went straight from there into Palestine, yeah to one of our camps and they said, they draw a raffle or something for first leave in Jerusalem. I got on it and I went to Jerusalem cos we had a bit of a – few drinks and a bit of a
celebration and everything to be, that we got out of it and I got back to camp and I think I was hanging back – suffering with a hangover more than anything, I went sick and they swabbed my throat and I had diphtheria. I had diphtheria from the swab and they rushed me off to blinking hospital and all the jabbing needles into me and all sorts but I survived that all right. But I shouldn’t have done it really
but I did. Couldn’t have had it that bad, I don’t think. Yeah, so that was the end of Tobruk and we were back in Palestine again by that time.
guys come to us and you were always teaching them the danger things and you know, to keep away from this and to so and so and yeah. Any advice that, and they would seek advice from, you know from us that had been and done it, you know they were, yeah, that was pretty good set up they had there. With and the way they reinforcements
came in. As soon as we get back from Palestine they were all even –wherever we were, they were trying to keep our numbers up to what they should have been if they – the reinforcements were available which they were most of the time. We had a – you know, like the 48th was formed all Australian at Wayville, that we had a lot of Western Australians in the finish and they were really
really good. Good guys, but yeah they came into us and as reinforcements. They were good.
sightseeing and there was a lot of things that interested me were olden things. The Crusaders had built castles right through that area, you know, right through Palestine, and some of the buildings and the old castles were hundreds of years old and they were just amazing stone buildings you know, that were – and I just loved it, I used to wander round and look at the work how it all
used to just intrigue me, I used to love that. Yeah, and of course we went through the religious part of it the – where the Jesus was born in the manger and all that sort of stuff, that some people are more interested in that than I was, you know but there was plenty to see, it was good, I liked the leave we had in Jerusalem. And there was the Wailing Wall where you’d see all these – great
big wall. Just an ordinary old stone wall and they’d – all the Jews would be down there and they – you know doing their piece, you know whatever they’re doing there and you know, it was – and the streets, some of them in the old city, are just like little lane ways. You know, with donkeys and people and it just amazes you. They can have a modern part of the city which is a really modern then they have this old part that’s so old and you wonder how people
they come out of their little buildings like rats out of a blinking hole. There was people everywhere. They take their camels and their donkeys in with them and oh. It was just yeah, I really liked the leave that I had there.
mess huts and the cook houses and all those sort of thing but the main accommodation was just tents and we were there one winter, I think it – and for Christmas we were there and the mud, it just rained and rained and the trenches were – well the slit trenches, they bombed, and they were all got full of water and the mud that was, you know, no floors in our tents we just had to walk in the mud and we were up on beds these small
wicker bed things they give us. She was a pretty ordinary Christmas I tell you. Through the weather you know, some of the guys were up on trips to the snow, up in the mountains there, there was a bit of snow you could see the snow in the mountains, something like, you know the weather we’re getting here, you know it’s – and if you’re living in tents, it’s not that – not the greatest. Yeah, we
got through that all right.
they were built for the army solid construction, you know, two storey and big long rooms or whatever they call them. Sleep on beds, and yeah it was really good. We had few weeks there, and they said, I think they said, “Oh too good for you guys.” They took us up on the mountains and – in amongst the olive groves
and the town tents, again. And they really – our colonel he really got stuck into us there, he trained the legs off us. Hilly, very hilly country and mountainous and olive groves and all that sort of thing. I remember he – we did a manoeuvre – we were out for days and the last morning we had a mock attack on our own camp so we finished up back
in our own camp. We climbed up this great gully and things that you have to do and we got back to our tents and – at least we’re home in our own tents, can we get to sleep tonight. Word come around that we had to move out again that night. He had something else arranged for us. So they called a sick parade, and we all got our heads together and nearly the whole battalion
was on sick parade. And when the old doc came out to have a look at the sick parade it was, you know half a mile long, he went to see the colonel and the colonel just switched everything around and took us down onto a place down on the coast where nice olive groves there and left us there for a week. We could swim, we could do anything we liked. And we had the time of our lives for a week. Yeah, it was, but then
of course back into it again, train, train, train. And then we got word that we didn’t know- the rumour went around that we was going to go home cos the 7th Divvy had left the Middle East and they were in the islands and a lot of them were taken prisoner and all the rest of it. They said, I think we’re going home. We got down to Egypt and the Germans were back nearly in Alexandria and that’s where we went to
up to fight them again. And that’s when El Alamein and all that started.
When you got to Cairo, you knew where you were going, where was that?
Well we knew we were going up to, we weren’t going home cos we would have been down in the Suez and catching boats and whatever, so we knew that we were – the Germans were getting down to Egypt and we knew that’s what’s, but the – we just knew that that’s where we’d finish up. That’s where we did.
But we were in – because there’d been a retreat on the South Africans and the Indians and all that had come racing back from out of the desert cos the Germans were coming down and we were not fully equipped, we wanted some new guns and those things. Anyway some of our officers I wasn’t there at the time but some of our officers went some of these Indians were going back with
guns on their trucks and all that, so they stopped the trucks and took the guns away from them to fully equip us. And there was quite a to do about it all but it all got hushed up pretty well and anyway we got the guns we needed and we sure did need them.
yeah that just went. Whoever got it, that was ours, you know, close friends, your section, yeah, got a cake today and we’re all into it. Yeah that was unspoken word, anyone gets a cake we’re all having a piece. That was in everything though, when you’re living in the conditions we were, shared everything, anyone that like, we all smoked, and anyone had
tobacco and that was ours, if it was short, which it was quite often. And yeah. So yeah, the camaraderie is just something.
take your old one in and get another one you know, but it was pretty hard to get. Had to wear them out. Yes, so, because over there was in shorts and shirts most of the time. And it was a lot easier. We’d have a shorts and shirt and couple of pair of shorts, couple of pullovers, that’d be as much as you need – the rest you throw away, you’re throwing all your underwear away, cos you had to carry it on your back
or you’d pack it somewhere, but you – things like – underwear and stuff like that, really you just wouldn’t bother with it and whenever we got anywhere you know, a stream or anything, camp by stream or even if we pulled up for lunch or something for an hour we’d take our shorts off and wash them and hang them up and they’d be dry in a lot of places. And we were all walking around with nothing on. Yeah. so it was
yeah, so uniforms didn’t come into it much. Other than just shirts and shorts over in the Middle East, but different story when we got up here.
But that’s what we used to do, we were all pretty browned up. The nights used to get cold and – in the desert, in North Africa, dewy nights and we’d have a – cos plastic wasn’t invented. Oh, plastic, would have loved to have had some plastic. But they had these groundsheets that we were issued with and they were sort of a waterproof, showerproof sort of stuff. Forget what, and we used to put that over us. And lay on the sand and the sand would be warm because it
was a sunny day, warm day and put the sheet over the top of us cos the dew would come down and you’d be wet. And if you got your blankets wet or whatever you got over you, it was, you know you had to get them dry and that. And of course, the sand’d be, you just feel yourself into the sand and it was warm. Good. Yeah, I could sleep on a barbed wire fence, just drop down and wriggle round and
nice warm I’d sleep. So we – pretty primitive way to live but it was very – we made it.
the Egyptians, cos the Germans were coming horribly close to Egypt. And they just drove us around the streets of Cairo and just was all in trucks and you’re just showing people a bit of something going on and then we went from there to Alexandria, and we stayed in a camp there for – only a couple of days and then we moved straight up to
meet the Germans and but we when we got up there we went into – we were pretty well straight into an attack on them, they – but they were all Italians, they weren’t the Germans. And we took hundreds of prisoners, hundreds of prisoners. The Italians didn’t want to fight, as soon as we got close to them they surrendered. Heaps of trucks,
and guns, the first attack we did on them which was – we captured everything and it was just amazing, and we hardly lost a casualty, they just didn’t fight us. But then that all happened the first day and we had all this stuff. By night before dusk, we could see a cloud of dust coming over on the horizon, we went on a bit of a
risen bit of ground there and I knew what it was, it was a – the Germans, he’s bringing his crack 90th Light Infantry in to take over from us, cos he didn’t like the way the Italians were surrendering and by that night, we – they came in and they would with their tanks and trucks and all that and they’d met one
of our companies out on the railway line and they’d played a bit of havoc with them. But it was getting dark. And they started to, was getting too late and so they organised this our company to go in and soon as it got really dark to attack them, so pulled in for the night. And they were a bit lost, they’d been travelling all day and we went straight in and
our company that were there, they’d more or less overrun them, there were still a lot there and we went straight in and attacked them. And we took a lot of German prisoners and really put them on the go, and from then on they did consolidate and we had a few we were into position where we were just fighting them as they showed themselves and they were doing the same to us and the Battle of Tel el Eisa
yeah, just fire on the ground in front of them and they’re just – say if you don’t surrender well you’re going to cop this. And they – it just all happened, you know, we were, when you get on top on a thing like that, it’s marvellous what snowballs, one of them are surrendering and a dozen of his mates will surrender and if one fires a shot well now and again someone else will, well if that happened well
you just have to shoot at them. And it got to the stage where they all surrendered quite easy, I don’t know how many hundreds it was, but there was a lot. On that day. But, and the trucks and the ammunition that we got, see they’d come down from into further North Africa along the coast. They’d captured a lot of British guns and stuff and
supplies. They were drinking Canadian beer. And they had bottles of Canadian beer in their trucks that they’d picked up on the road down. Canadian beer was well sought after over in the Middle East, we used to get a bit of it. So they’d been drinking their beer, they had a bit of it back.
there was troops come up behind that did a lot of that. They took the prisoners away and put them on trucks, I don’t know where they went but they went off. And yeah, the guns were all collected and the unit come through and took, got the trucks and they’d handle all that part of it. And we – all we had to handle was ourselves and the enemy, you know. And left us there.
To – but it was a different story when that night, we had to go and got the Germans – but it got that bad, I thought we would be taken prisoner, I thought I was a goner, I thought that was, we heard them out – we got to this railway line, Tel el Eisa Railway Station and we’d attacked that, run over that and
a lot of them had nicked off back there, these were Germans and we come back into our positions on the side of the railway line and we could hear them out there, trucks and things going. And we didn’t know what they had there, but I thought we were surrounded ,seemed a lot of them to me. I said, “I reckon we’re going to get lumbered here tonight, they’re going to be all around us in the morning.” But it didn’t happen that way at all. They didn’t know
where we were and we didn’t know where they were. And a couple of our blokes sneaked around and had a couple of shots at a few of theirs and they, a lot of them surrendered too. The Germans which was unusual they thought – it was just a matter of how these things happen, you know, you- how they unfold and the actual things and we took quite a few German prisoners.
was a machine gun which you usually put down and fire on the ground, but you can fire them standing, I used to, a lot of them would fire from the hip and I let go – we knew the enemy were there and we just was dark and we just let go at them. No, I didn’t – didn’t sit down and fire any person or anything like that but just put – we just put up a field of fire in front of us as we moved forward.
And yeah, it was quite dramatic while it lasted, but as I say, the situation arises where the one who sticks in there the longest usually wins yeah, does it well, we did it, a few brave men, you know, of our men. Went out and surprised a couple of Germans and they
surrendered and then with that about another dozen put up their hands and things like that, there was a sergeant, 7th Platoon, called Bill Zeezy, he got killed later on and he was marvellous, he crawled out on his stomach to this tank that had been shot out there and yelled out and there was a couple of Germans on the other side of it and they surrendered and it gives the clue for a few more.
And things like that happened.
share it. Yeah and B Company went through and they lost a lot of blokes that day. Any rate, yeah there was another full day, and they decided we’d have to have go at that hill, cos it was – so that night we’d all prepared to have a go at this hill and
we got out and up we went and they were that gone. The Germans had pulled back and we took over the high ground that we wanted without hardly firing a shot that night. But we heard – we got there and things quietened down and we could hear some voices, and they kept calling, calling, and a couple of our blokes and our officers said,
“We’ll have to go out and have a look at them.” Could have been a trap, could have been anything. Anyway, two or three of the guys decided that they had to get out and have a look and they found two of our blokes who had got there, when this attack was from B Company and had been laying out there for a couple of days. Wounded in the legs, couldn’t move, Germans just saw them there and walked away and left them. Anyway they got rescued and they come back and they
they were okay, they survived, but one had a terribly bad leg, he nearly lost his leg and yeah, they were rescued, they’d been out there for two days without nothing.
of the 8th Army, that this was it. We either won the battle or we died on the trying and there was no – nothing to it but to – this was the big thing – we had to stop the Germans and we were just going in there and to beat them or die there, one of the two and he told us in those terms too that –
they had to build up to – with materials and equipment to fight an all out battle and we were just going to do it. But the build up you know was pretty, everyone was tense and you know, it was pretty dramatic. It was going to be the biggest artillery barrage ever for – in any battle after that. 1000 guns were going to open up at
ten o’clock at night. And from then on, we had to go in – we were actually in trucks brought up from back behind where we were camped and when the guns arrived and that, just ‘boom!’ 1000 guns opened up and just thought, you know the world was coming to an end, it was that dramatic. And we had to
move up a bit further in trucks and then get out and it started. There was a start line, it was all set up and things were done and worked out in paces, they had someone counting paces, we had to go that direction so many paces and then go that direction in so many paces and meet the opposition whatever was there. And that’s how it all started.
And we didn’t – the first night wasn’t too bad, we didn’t meet face to face opposition too much, but lost a few casualties from their return gunfire, our shells, that’s when Harold was – him and I were walking together – we hadn’t even started and
the shell lobbed about – well it was over on our left, he was on my right and the shell lobbed over here and we didn’t even go to ground cos it was fair distance away. Next thing, Harold goes over and I said, “What’s wrong with you?” And he had a bit of shrapnel right through his leg and sticking out in here. Bit of metal like that. I can never work out how it missed me and got him cos he was on my left – shell was on my right, he was there. But that was the end of it and he just turned around and he said,
“Good luck, Fred.” And he was our corporal and I had to take over from then, I was the corporal of the section. And I had –I was a Bren gunner, so I just kept the gun I didn’t swap – I could have swapped over for a submachine gun but I – I’ll stick with me old Bren gun, knew how to handle that. That was that. We went on. Didn’t lose any casualties the first night, we got to our position
but we had to stay there and the – you know it was quite hard to fathom out what was going on around us you know, cos everything was, the whole front moved forward and different ones struck stronger opposition and all that sort of thing.
the other companies which were spread out across the front, some of them struck heavier opposition than we did but we got to our objectives and we stayed there. And but it was a whole plan – quite a thing the way they had it worked out. 43rd Battalion which was a South Australian battalion were on the coast, and we were inland from them.
But they stayed where they were, they didn’t move forward. They stayed there, we were out to where we had to go and then we had to cut across. In the main road where there were the strongest defence the Germans were. But it took a few days for all this to happen. We were relieved from our position and after a couple of days we didn’t move much and they
took us out, back, we spent one night, they sent us in again the next night, we had the – to attack Germans from a different position and they were pretty strong that night and we lost quite a lot of men. But anyway we got to where we had to go and same thing happened again. Sent in the 17th Battalion to take over us. And we went out and one night out and
by this time we’d lost a lot of men. Sent us in again. And we had to cut across to the coast and sort of try and trap the Germans in a pocket but we just lost so many men that it didn’t happen like that at all. We just finished up fighting wherever we saw them, it was just horrific. And we actually went out, went
across to our right to the coast road and then turned back towards our position where we started where the 43rd were trying to trap these Germans which we did, a lot of them, we captured a lot. And we were coming across their positions where there was dugouts, lights and they were, it was actually behind the enemy line and we were – it was a hell of a thing to work out.
And we were losing men, all the time. And I had this Bren gun and we were coming across these positions dug in and dugouts and things that they had there. And this one had a light in it. I don’t know what it was, it was either headquarters or I don’t think it was a medical thing, and anyway we were just putting our guns and firing a few shots down and get taking prisoners and what not,
and this German officer, stood right up in front of me, and you know, I had me Bren gun, I could have, right in his stomach. Just had to pull the trigger and he was gone. I didn’t do it because he had his hands up and I took his, he had a Luger pistol on him so I just took that off him and sent him back as a prisoner. But a lot of the prisoners were getting away. We didn’t have the men to guard them or take them out or do anything
so – and we’d advanced as far as we could. And our colonel was with us, up with as at the time, by this time, our numbers were down to you know, very, very low. And he sent ‘Diver’ Derrick [Lieutenant (then Sergeant) Thomas Derrick], he said, “You go over to the right and see if you can find the 24th Battalion. See where they are.” He come back, quarter of an hour later, he says, “It’s only Germans out there. No Aussies over there.” And
so we come – they were supposed to advance with us, and keep together and they got held up. So we had to pull back a bit to link up with them. By this time it’s getting to – it’s getting near daylight. And our numbers were just so, so depleted that they decided that – our colonel was there and he decided that we’d stay where we are. And dig in and
stay the day and see what happened. Which we did. But by that time, there were so many wounded and that we were, we didn’t know at the time but we were down to 40 men in the battalion, actually 42 men come out. And they relieved us that night. And it was only 42 of us come in, on two trucks. The 43rd Division had been standing by watching it
they come in and relieved us and just as well they did because the Germans were – a counter attack with everything they had that night. And if we’d have been there they would have just overrun us cos there wasn’t enough of us. But the 43rd were able to –cos they had the numbers, were able to hold them out. And within a day or so from then, the Germans packed it in and went, and left. But we – we’d inflicted a lot of casualties
on them and the Germans knew they were beaten and they just packed up their stuff and went. And our tanks broke through, that was a big thing. See the tanks were okay, but we had to clear the way for them to get through, once they got through, the lines, got onto open country they played havoc with everything that was behind there. Because that sent the Germans
in full retreat and they just nicked off. But boy, oh boy, it was a horrific few days and casualties were so great. They sent us – they brought us back behind the lines and dumped us in a position there where we could – and we just fell off the trucks and we hadn’t had much to eat or drink or of anything, anyway we didn’t and next
morning the food truck come up and we got a meal. But there were so few of us, it was just such – and we spent a day there and then they sent us out on what was left of us out on burial parties. To bury our own mates. Which was, you know was absolutely ghastly. We went right through to where they – they were still there where they were killed and there was no chance of
anything being done with their bodies that – we just had to bury them where they were. And put their dog tags where, on top of the grave on the rifles, or whatever we could till people could get there and do this job properly. Eventually they were taken back to a cemetery and it was – but a lot of them were just buried on the battlefield. And
we did a lot of that and that was awful. Absolutely terrible. And then by this time the Germans had retreated and all the forces that were behind come through and the – we had plenty in reserve. They sent us in first. All was saved, we were used up but you know that’s beside the point.
The – we stopped them and they – from then on, the 8th Army went on and cleared them all out of North Africa until we didn’t go any further, we stayed there on the battlefield for a week or more I suppose. And just camped in whatever we could and by this time, a few of the wounded, were seeping back, they’d been wounded and gone into hospital and got fixed
up and they were starting to, a few of them were starting to come back. And they took us out then from and we finished up back in Palestine again.
just like all those, everything is – you don’t know what the next-one-overs are doing, you know, you only see what’s in front of you that job you’ve got in front of you. And everyone’s the same and it’s very hard to get an overall picture of it until it’s all over and you – see what happened. So, I never got a scratch, never got a scratch,
when I say I never got a scratch, I – something hit me on the leg, and I thought, oh this is it. Down I went, and well I went straight on my face and I thought my leg was gone, you know and put my hand down I got a handful of blood, and I started to move and I thought, “Ooh, I can still move it.” Next thing, I got up and walked. Was a great lump of metal had hit me on the leg and made a gash and a big bruise that was all, so I was
you know just so, so lucky.
day. Jack Rilebush who was a mate of mine, he dug a hole three or four foot away and he was on his own and we got down there with our heads below ground by daylight, but in that day they shelled us pretty badly and Vin and I were in the trench and one lobbed so close it buried us, we were sitting with our knees like this in the trench and it just caved in
and there was dust and we got out and it had landed on Jack’s feet and blew both his legs off. He was in the hole, his hands on his knees, pulling his knees up and no feet and legs are gone. And oh, we thought, cos he was bleeding from everywhere, his nose and ears and
eyes and everything. Thought he would die but and there was no stretcher bearers at all. Gone by the wayside, but there was a spot on the railway line that we all called ‘The Blockhouse’, and that was, they used that as a medical centre, the Germans were using it and we were using it, everyone was using it, combined. And after about half an hour Vin and I were able to get a stretcher
and we took him over there and as we took him in the German doctor came up, looked at him and he shook his head like this. Cos he was just shattered bone and skin. Just remarkable, wasn’t – not so much blood, but just flesh, you know. And we thought, oh that’s the end of Jack. So we had to go back and leave it at that.
A week later when we got settled down we asked, “What happened to Jack?” He was in the hospital, bright as a button, he was okay. He’d come home and lived, got married and had a family and had no legs. Yeah, it was, had two wooden legs and yeah, it was just remarkable. That was a pretty bad thing that happened with us. But to see it all and you know
the flesh and – it’s just, your mind boggles with the enormity of the whole thing.
the blood would be coming out of all his veins or something like that but it wasn’t. Just don’t know, why and I don’t think he was in so much pain cos he was bombed out, you know, and he didn’t know what had happened he was – the shell lobbing so close and blowed him and his – he didn’t – probably unconscious I would have think, although he was groaning and he had his hands on his knee
he didn’t make any sense at all, we couldn’t talk to him. But just amazing. Yeah, he got back. My sister was on a hospital boat that brought him back to Australia. And
it was amazing. And there was a lot of things like that happened, the colonel that was with us right till the end, to that last day, got a bullet through his mouth, cos he was always hollering and yelling at us and they reckoned he had his mouth open, he got a bullet straight through his mouth there and he went down to the hospital and within two hours he was back with us, they’d patched him up. Didn’t – must have had his mouth open cos he
didn’t do much damage. It was just through his cheek. It’s amazing things happen like that.
what we used to call our ‘head formation’, there was two sections out there and one behind here, and our officer was in the middle and we sensed that we were – somehow I don’t know how it was but we were getting closer to the German lines, and all of a sudden there was a horrific explosion and what they did, they saw us coming and they threw grenades. And they wiped out all our 9 Platoon, our officer was killed and
both the two front sections are – were a lot of them killed and wounded and they all threw grenades at us. And ‘Diver’ Derrick was our sergeant and he was behind, they – the officer was in the front and our sergeant always come behind, well he come and took over, and I know he came up to me and he said, “Put a burst over that cos there’s a couple of Germans there.” And I fired my Bren gun from the ground at them and they were
on a machine gun, on a stand, they went ‘sphoo-sphoo-sphoo!’ Went over, just about took me skin off me back I think. He said, “There’s only one thing to do here.” He says, “Get up and get into them!” So he got us going and we went over that trench you know firing and we got the whole lot of them I think there was about six Germans there and but they – when we went out to bury the party we could see exactly what had happened,
well, that was terrible. Yes, some good men got killed that night.
didn’t get as far as we did. So they said we had to pull back to try and meet up. When we did that, by this time, it’s getting daylight. And when we did pull back we found a lot of our – well I know one bloke, he’s only died just recently, Jack Rattle we picked him up he’s shot in the legs, couldn’t walk and we grabbed him and
the two of us helped him along to get out. I don’t know how he would have got out. So we picked up a few wounded as we come back through but we didn’t – then we got into a position where there was a big group of us all together and that’s when that side would stay for the day and which we did, stayed there all day and that’s when Jack got his legs blown off and yeah, and we lost some more of them, they just shelled us and shelled us.
A few tanks go over – our tanks come around which we were cursing because they, the Germans could see the tanks and they were shelling the tanks and we were copping it. Cos they were all round the positions where we were dug in. Yeah, it was a really, really – it was horrific to think how it all panned out and
we hung there until we beat them.
between six and 800 and only 42 come out on the trucks that night. And the – I just – I don’t know the numbers of the dead cos a lot were wounded and you know, the different sorts of wounds and the – some come back to the battalion, some weren’t fit enough and all that sort of thing. Went on. Yes and after that we got back to
Palestine again and I forget what camp we were in then, but we weren’t there for that long. And we come down – there was a battalion and got on a boat in the Red Sea. And it was called The New Amsterdam, it was a Dutch liner. Beautiful boat.
And we were, we got on board that, forget the name of the place we were going, somewhere in the – near abouts to the Suez Canal and the Red Sea there and it took us out on these big lighters and we got on this boat, wow was that a boat and a half. And we had good trip home. They looked after us very well.
to rest the ship because everyone wanted to be on the wharf side, cos it was full of troops, you know, and they put the thing out of balance. They couldn’t manoeuvre the ship properly and blow me down, I’m on the other side, I missed out and we had to – had to have dress it all round. And yeah and they had a bit of a ceremony there. Blamey was welcoming them back and then we set sail
from there and we went to Melbourne. Pulled in there and they – straight off the boat onto train, straight into a train, filled the train, train took off, up, we were so pleased to get moving, we didn’t want to stop anywhere else just wanted to get home. And then the feeling, you know is coming through, it was February, beautiful weather in Australia, you know, summer
just about over and to walk out on the platform as the train’s chugging through from Melbourne and smell of the gum trees, you know, you live with them and you don’t take any notice of them, but when you’ve been away, and you come back, and I’ll never forget that, as long as I live. Just to be home.
They finished up, we had a camp at Springbank Road, by you know Springbank Road I guess, well where the school is there now, there was big open area there straight opposite the hospital and they had all tents up there and we camped there for the time I was in Adelaide. We had three weeks leave or something like that. And yeah, it was an excellent time. But then they spoiled it,
they – well I don’t know about spoiled it but they marched us – took us into the parade ground and – Kingaroy Road and marched us with fixed bayonets and all our gear, or we didn’t have all our pack on our back but we had fixed bayonets on our rifles and they marched us to Springbank and we went the full length of King William Street, up South Terrace to Huntley Road, Huntley
Road to Crossroads, Crossroads down to Goodred Road, then out to the camp, that was the march we did. And we were you know, we’d been on three weeks leave and we were just about had it and they lined us up and the governor had to inspect us out at the camp, well he was an English governor I forget his name, but oh,
didn’t go much on him at all. Any rate, he went up every row, you know, like this instead of just walking right past the battalion and dismissing us, and using a bit of common sense, he just stood – we stood to attention for a blinking hour. While this governor walked up and down and they dismissed us and our second in charge of the battalion at the time was a Major Batten
and he said, “Don’t leave the camp. No one’s to leave the camp. We’re on draft.” He said, “there’s trains coming in to Mitcham Station and we’ve got to be ready to fill the troop train.” No one took any notice, we just all went home. Got on the trams and people come and picked us up. And no one couldn’t care less what – next morning we come back to on the first trams and all this sort of thing,
and there’s trucks going always out of the camp. And there’s a train up in Mitcham Station waiting to get filled up with troops and they didn’t know where to find them cos they’d all gone home. But as they – we come back into camp they grabbed us and next thing we’re on the troop train and we’re off.
they took us out to – from Cairns on these lighters out to sea quite a way out too it was, and these American ships were there. And I thought to meself, “How the heck are we going to get on board there?” We were down on a little flat things and these – and as we got closer over come the rope ladders. Up we had to go. We had to climb up the side of the boat
on rope ladders and yeah, we did that. Get on board the boat and the Yanks give us a slap-up feed – all out, they had good rations, so that was all right and off we sailed to Milne Bay. We get in there and it’s dark. And same thing happened again. Rope ladders over the side and away you go. The boats, bobbing round like this, one minute you’re against the boat, next minute you’re
way out and blokes are down the bottom grabbing us as we tumbled into this light I think and whence that was full, they take us in to shore. Yeah and we were there. Trained there for a few weeks I think. I just don’t know the period that we were there but it was a horrible place, it never stopped raining.
And we learnt – we did amphibious landings and that from there, and learnt a lot about that, then they say, “Righto, she’s on. We’re up to Lae.” So they briefed us on that and I was put on a – the 48th Battalion were going to be the reserve battalion there was the 23rd and the 24th
in the brigade they were going to land as assault troops on this beach, the 48th were coming in after and they sent an NCO from each company and an officer from the battalion in with assault troops, to be there when their mob come in and we had to take them into the jungle and you know, disperse them around and all this sort of thing, we had to be there as guides and I was picked for that.
And for A Company and we went in with the 23rd Battalion, as on the assault landing the barges were not the ones that open in the front. They were opened, two ramps, one on each side. And they’d go charging into the beach drop their ramps and we’d run off each side. And we were twelve boats coming into Lae
twelve right up the coast from Lae and charging in and nearly to the beach and two bombers, Jap bombers, I don’t know how they got in but they did and they dropped a string of bombs along and they got the boat I was on. And they got another one, was two. The colonel of the 23rd was on the boat and he got killed, on the way down. What had happened cos we didn’t – weren’t making the assault we had to go right at the back of the boat and be last off.
And the bomb went right down the middle and oh, blew the boat to hell, a lot of troops got killed. Colonel of the 23rd got killed and the boat swung around and anyway come time for – I’ll never forget the Yankee crew they just – the word come through, “Abandon ship.” They were the first off, the crew of the boat. They went straight on, got on the next one. Left us
stranded. Anyway we eventually found our way to get off and eventually and I can remember jumping into the water and I was up to here, and pack on me back trying to get – me feet were just touching the bottom.
got bombed. And we knew as soon as they were coming in that we had to be on the beach to guide them to their assembly areas of where it was designated they were – had to go to be ready to if they were needed to take up the attack or whatever, but at the time, the 23rd and the 24th had done all right they had taken their positions as far as they had to go that day and everything was running to
very good time. So our mob just came in and they went to these areas that we had picked out for them and we stayed there all that day. And then from then on they were sent to take their part in the advance into Lae. We were sent inland actually for about a couple of miles and we had to go inland and then go
head towards Lae and but it was a real struggle because the rivers there were so, that we struck the Busa River is a very strong running river and we couldn’t get across it. Japs were over the other side too having a few pot shots at us and we – you couldn’t walk across it; running too fast.
We chopped down trees, engineers come up, chopped down trees, thought that might bridge it but the trees went straight down the river they weren’t big enough. So we was in trouble, was held up for a week. They finished up, they sent us as working party and we had to ‘corduroy’ a road, to corduroy means you chop down trees and lay them crossways to make a – for vehicles and they brought in a big steel girder, huge great thing it was and towed it in
on jeeps or something or other and couple of them I don’t know and they got that in and they got that across the river after a few days. And I can remember going across the river and the – where we had to walk was underwater and the water was rushing through and the thing was shaking and wobbling but we got across.
You also, when you were describing the landing – going in with the US allies, this is the first time you’ve started fighting alongside of them, how did you find them?
Okay, yeah. Japs, the Yanks were different – to us. In a lot of ways, I don’t think they were trained as well as they should have been. For instance, we were on a boat going up to Finschhafen, this was as bit later and there was a young lad on there and we were talking to him on the crew of the boat and he had never seen the sea in his life until three months
before and he was out there in New Guinea. He hadn’t even seen the sea in his life, because, he told us where he come from but I’ve forgotten. Three months ago and he was out there and he was only a kid, you know. And I thought, “God, poor thing.” Yeah and –then we had trouble with them, they used to run the barges, up the coast and we used to use barges a lot where we were needed and all the crews were Yanks
and they would do some strange things at times. There was some wounded from the 28th Battalion had been in a bit of skirmish they’d had and these barges had to come in and pick up the wounded and they came in, and they were starting to – get organised to get all the wounded on and they heard a Jap plane – they heard a plane, don’t know whether it was a Jap, suppose it was, they
just upped their barges and went. Left the wounded on the beach. And our boys were really, really cross. So the next night, they come in and there was the – our officer, an Australian officer went on every barge and he said, “You’ll go out when we let – tell you to go, you’re not going out until we tell you.” And things like that they did in – I always thought it was a lack of training and you know but weight of numbers always got the
Yanks through. They’re just weight of numbers. They just, if you got killed they send some more in you know, until they – quite different to us.
we was sent in after the troops were on the ground, I don’t know, how long after, it might have been a week after. We had to take up positions there and we met up on a lot of Japs there, and yeah, we was had a fair bit of fighting then. But they were just so different, you know. They
come charging down this track and they did it six times. And we were just sitting there and shooting them right there, they had no chance of getting to us cos we was in a nice position and yet, they kept trying. And didn’t sort of make sense what they were trying to do. That’s what they did. Then we pushed inland and
this is where the whole thing ends with me, pretty soon, I – they held Sattelberg, that was a – well known place up in the mountains a bit, and we were heading up there, like and we were sent out on a patrol, Derrick was in charge of it.
An all-day patrol. We had to try and find this track that they were supplying, there were troops up on Sattelberg, and we found it. It was late in the afternoon and we had a – we knew where it was and everything and we had to get back – it was dark when we got in. And I’ll never forget the whole patrol – we laid a wire, cos our communication was in them days
to get right to – the sigs [Signals]come with us and they run a wire with us, all the way, all day. So they could talk to the colonel back in the command post. And when we found the track, he – well actually we were just about to the limit of our day’s journey and it was going to get dark too quick so Derrick said,
he said, “You, myself and another bloke will go forward and we’ll walk as quick as we can for half an hour.” Or whatever it was and, “See if we can locate it.” Well we did. And we located the track and we come back to the mob, and we told the colonel over the telephone that we’d found it, and he said, “Get back as quick as you can.” Well it was after dark before we got back to our unit and the jungle gets pretty dark.
And yeah, I took crook that night. And he come over to me and he said, “What’s the matter?” I said, “Oh not too well, I’ve got the shakes. I’ve got malaria.” And he said, “Oh well, I’ll come and see you in the morning and if you’re no better you’ll have to go out.” And
that’s where it ended. I went out. And a couple of days later they’d – had my unit, at Sattelberg and that’s where they captured Sattelberg but I wasn’t there, right on the spot, I was – I had to walk out for sickness – I don’t know how many miles.
Down this muddy track and there wasn’t only me, there was a half a dozen others, all suffering with malaria and whatever and we got to the coast and the barge picked us up, took us to down the coast and it was with a hospital, a bush hospital set up. Near the – went into there and they had the doctor – we said, “Give us some treatment for malaria.” Which was usual procedure we knew what to do
and I was there for days and didn’t respond to the treatment. So they put me on a boat, took 28 bed patients and we went down to Buna and I can remember them rolling me over and I had to – heard the doctor say, “There it is, there.” And I had a bug bite on me which was then knew I had scrub typhus.
and pushed further out into the jungle and met quite a lot of Japs in there and yeah, but fighting got a bit grim there at different times. The – the thing of it was, we wanted to get this high ground where Sattelberg was and they brought in tanks, first time we’d ever seen tanks again and but they couldn’t move off the track they
were a liability and none of our blokes – the tank commander wouldn’t move unless he had foot troops on either side, we had to walk out in the jungle and track – tank trying to keep to the track and the – if they come across they had Jap machine gun posts, well they were good then they’d just blast it to pieces. But we had to walk alongside these tanks cos they
were frightened of ‘Molotov cocktails’ [makeshift ordnance] being thrown at them. Well the Japs which – the Molotov cocktail is a bottle of flammable stuff, soon as it hits metal it bursts into flames, sits in the tank and you know it puts them out of action. They were scared of that, so we had to walk alongside and cos everyone’d be firing at the tanks and we’d be trying to walk alongside, so we didn’t like them at all.
Yeah that happened a bit.
How did your Bren gun cope in the jungle?
Well, that’s another thing I didn’t – we didn’t – I didn’t take a Bren gun up. We had them but I didn’t have it, I had a Owen submachine gun. Cos the Owen gun come into it when we got up – they did away with the Thompson submachine gun, that was an American thing, and we had supplied with Owen guns, they were invented by an Australian. And they were excellent, they were a lightweight Tommy gun like that.
Short barrel and they fired a nine millimetre shell which was only a little bullet, which – and you could carry a lot more of them, and they were excellent and you could fire them and you know, you could leave them out in the mud and pick them up and fire them and they were really good and I had one of them right through New Guinea. And yeah, they were really good little gun.
and it was a nice hospital, it was good but they had a few male nurses there that I didn’t like. One bloke used to rub my back with metho [methylated spirit]. I said, “Is this is necessary?” And I had a lot of bed sores and it used to sting like crazy, you know, it was raw, he shouldn’t have done it, and I said to the doctor, “That orderly there rubbed me back with metho.” And he had a look at me and he said, “He doesn’t!” and I said, “Yes he does.” And he got into trouble. And the same guy, he was
walking past my bed one day and I’m pretty groggy and that and he’s talking to someone. He said, “We’ll be burying him before long.” And he nodded over to me and I thought, “Yeah, not if I have my say in it.” He really got my back up that guy. Probably did me good.
What were your physical ailments with scrub typhus?
Didn’t effect you any more once you got over it than what malaria did, I don’t think, but it was just the fever and a bit more intense that malaria you know, I really can’t – everything worked all right once I got going again, the weight just fell off me and I was skin and bone and I come back to Adelaide
I – they put me in the hospital out at Northfield and I thought, I won’t tell my wife that I was home, cos I’d ring her the next day or something. Anyway the Red Cross went and got all the wives and ‘rellies’ [relatives] and they took them out there and we were only – got into the hospital in the morning in the afternoon all the family had arrived. I’d broke out in boils. Coming home on the hospital boat from
Moresby they were feeding me up on a bottle of stout and all the good food that I – next thing I got a boil, I had a boil on me face and I was yellow as a Chinaman and me hair had fallen out through the high temperatures, I was a real mess. And I can remember her looking at me and the tears running down her eyes and I said, “Oh I’m okay now, I’m getting better.” She said, “You don’t look too good.”
But I was a ‘walking’ patient by that time.
And did you have any nightmares at all?
No, I don’t think I did. No, I can’t remember having really bad nightmares about anything. It’s a wonder, but I didn’t. The thing is when you got discharged we had nowhere to live, that was a burning problem, we were living with Alice’s mother and father and they were only renting a house and
we had room there and by this time, three kids, and it was just couldn’t get a house anywhere to live. And everyone was getting out the army, I remember working on a job and this was twelve months later and we were all ex-servicemen working on a building site and not one of us had a house – we were all living with in laws or somebody’s back-ender
or something like that. That was the hardest part. But gradually things come good.
go for that much at all. I just took things as they come and that was it. But I know quite a few did. Another thing struck me was premonitions, I believed in them, there was different things happened and blokes would say or do something
and it turned out they – one thing in particular, when a good mate of ours got killed in Alamein on the last night, and it was a terribly sad thing for the family, there were three boys and they all got killed in the Middle East, two of them were with the 48th and Phil was the last one and the night – the last night we went in, he went and seen the quartermaster, sarge, and he handed him some photos and things he said,
“Send them to Mum.” He said, “I won’t come out of it tonight.” And he didn’t. A few things like that happened at times, you know premonitions an it always seemed a bit strange to me, they – I never had anything other than I thought I would survive. I always felt I’d survive. But no, I had nothing about being wounded or anything could happen, but I always thought I’d survive
right through. But towards the end, I thought my luck was running out, you know and I’d – I got the scrub typhus and that was the end of my fighting service and yeah, I thought, you know, there wasn’t too many original 48th left and –
Well you mentioned that the 9th Division did have a bit of a reputation, how would you – when you reflect on your war service, how would you like the 2/48th Battalion to be remembered?
Oh, just the greatest, yeah they were good. We went into everything that was put in front of us and did the job properly, well trained and good officers and wonderful lot of men. Yeah they now and again
you’d get somebody you didn’t like – officer or something, got your back up or something. Overall it was good, you know, good guys and yeah, they did the job wherever they were and some of the fellas that – there was a fella had a reputation he was ‘Tex West’ and he used to do patrols in Egypt and he used to like doing them. In North Africa and he
won a DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal] and oh wow. What a soldier. Different ones I can remember, I can reflect on and they were really, really brave men. Really brave. But yeah, but kind of it all boils down as you get older you think back on how stupid it all was, you know, the war is, why do we have to go out and kill men, you know, kill each other
it’s just so ridiculous, but of course in them days the enemy was the enemy and they had to be stopped. So still going on today isn’t it.
fighting unit they were pushed into everything, and survived and just did what was expected of you. I never used to volunteer, I didn’t believe in volunteering, if ever they called for volunteers no, but if I was picked out, away I went and did what I had to do but I wouldn’t stick my neck out on anything, ever on that, and a lot of my mates, close
mates were the same, we for instance, if we knew we had to go out on patrol, we were in order, if it was your turn you just went. You just, you weren’t picked out or you had to volunteer, it was your turn and off you go and do it. And all that sort of thing and we took – was just a part of what we had to do. Yeah.
Oh yes, as the years go by you – sometimes you – I sometimes think back on it when this war was coming up now, I thought, why am I here? And you know and I’m nobody special. Not really special but you know, I suppose to my family I am. But you just wonder why you get over all these years and I’m still here and I’ve