Archive number: 2240
Preferred name: Maurie
Date interviewed: 16 July, 2004
Pacific Islands Regiment
You are listening to the interview audio
Kiernan [interviewer] was just talking to you about doing an overview of your life. Can you start with your birth please?
I was born during the Depression years in 1929, Paddington Women’s Hospital. A very young mother
and a tram conductor father who had (UNCLEAR) a second time. So ’29, ’30, ’31 it was a pretty tough period in Australia, but I can fairly easily remember the early days then. From there I went to Paddington Junior Technical School until 1942, at which stage I was fortunate enough to be
selected for Sydney Boys’ High School. I completed my matriculation at Sydney Boys’ High School and from there I managed to obtain an entry into the Royal Military College, where I stayed until graduation in 1950. Straight after graduation I moved into preparatory training with 1 Battalion in Liverpool. Then I was posted directly to Korea to 3 Battalion
in May/June 1951. I stayed for a year in operations in 3 Battalion and then I moved to Japan to the Divisional Commonwealth Battle School where I stayed for a year outside of Hiroshima in a place called Haramura. Then I returned to Australia at which stage I was posted for two years to Shepparton in Victoria for the adjutant of the CMF [Citizens’ Military Force, a militia] battalion
there, 59th Battalion. From 59th Battalion I was posted as an instructor on the regimental wing at the School of Infantry, which is in Seymour at that stage. A wonderful couple of years. From there I went into a staff appointment and in 1960 I entered the Staff College in Queenscliff for a promotional course for a year. After there I went to the Pacific Islands Regiment for two years as company commander in the
field. From there I returned to an appointment in headquarters where in 1966 I was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assumed the appointment of commanding officer of the Royal Military College at Duntroon. I stayed two years there and from there I was posted back as the commanding officer of the Pacific Islands Regiment in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. Whilst I was there I was approached by
a series of head hunters from New York who wished to employ me as the director for training and personnel for the new Bougainville copper mine, which is a subsidiary of RTZCRA [Conzinc Rio Tinto] at the time. After some very heavy deliberation I decided to resign and accept the new appointment, which I did. I stayed on Bougainville
in that appointment representing the company in the political arena and also in the series of local and social upheavals, which occurred at the time. I left CRA in 1980. 1981 I returned back to Papua New Guinea as a consultant for Bechtel and Kennecott Mining Company and numerous other mining
companies including Ok Tedi for a number of years until the mid ‘80s when I purchased a share in New Guinea Express Lines and maintained an occupation as one of the directors of New Guinea Express Lines. In 1988, in the collapse, I went broke in 1988. Saved a little bit. Came back to the Gold Coast and commenced a finance business
here on the Gold Coast where I’ve remained ever since and lately of course I’ve been in semi retirement. That would be a brief summary of the life.
1929 Paddington, Sydney. I’m from Paddington, so I know Sydney.
You know at the back of the Victoria Barracks there’s Green
Street and then parallel to Green Street there’s Selwyn Street. We lived in the bottom of the three-storey tenement in about number 10 Selwyn Street I think. In the middle down the bottom is the old Captain Cook Hotel I think and a little barber shop opposite that and it’s quite close to the speed way.
It’s right near Moore Park.
Yes. That’s right. At Moore Park it was.
In those days
Paddington wasn’t as trendy as it is now.
Quite the opposite. Paddington and Glebe and all that area running up Cleveland Street was a very low class area, working class area. Some of these tenements had five or six families in them. I know the one we lived in was right on the bottom, opened out into the back with a chip heater, painted bath
and outside toilet. Very little of the other facilities, but we seemed to get by there. Never too short. Food was never a problem. We ate plenty of bread. Bread and dripping, bread and hundreds and thousands, bread and brown sugar, bread and milk, all the normal things. People seemed to get by. No one had a great deal
of anything, so there was no great enormous hardship for the children, a different matter for the parents I suppose. Had to try and find something to keep their kids. A lot of it went over my head as a five to ten year old in those years. And I enjoyed it.
Did you have any brothers or sisters?
No, I didn’t. I was an only child. Only child. My mother was very young at the time, she was about 17 when I was born.
My father was fairly old.
Did they stay together?
They stayed together til he died in 1942.
Did growing up as an only child have a stigma attached to it?
Not really. It was up to the only child to make his own way in the street, or the gangs or groups of kids that hang around there. I didn’t find any problem
in being an only child. There was always other children in the house coming to have a game of cards or come in to listen to the radio or play a bit of a game at night after school. No, I didn’t suffer from a lack of companionship in any way.
Was that a conscious decision by your mother to only have one child?
I think it may have been because it wasn’t a happy marriage. I suspect it probably
was a decision that she didn’t want further children. And also it was a bit difficult finding the money to feed children then. My father having another family and trying to keep two families going on a tram conductor’s wage was pretty difficult I should imagine.
That’s very working class beginnings.
Yes, it is.
What can you tell us about Sydney in those days?
It was coming out of Depression in about ‘34/’35?
I suspect that we never really came out of the Depression until after the war. Things were very severe in the middle or early ‘30s with the men in the streets. I can constantly remember men in the streets selling braces of rabbits, selling poles to
keep the washing line up. I can remember the milkman still, and the milk carts and the milk jug outside the house and the milk money, which kids used to run around and try and pinch. Also remember waiting for the horses to leave so that you can pick up the manure and run it round into the garden and put it on your choko patch at the back of the house.
And collecting newspapers, which you sold to the fish & chips shops. Collecting bottles at the sports events, which were all sold back to the bottle collectors. There were various ways to find a bit of something to make life a bit more enjoyable.
What kind of child were you?
I can remember everything from the day I went into
a type of kindergarten because I can remember the small toilets and the small washing bowls there because they were so different to everything else. From then on I can remember fairly clearly the whole of my school life. I went into kindergarten in two places somewhere out in Crown Street and the other one in the old,
the small kindergarten in the big Catholic church in Darlinghurst if you remember. I was entered into that and put under the strenuous training of a number of nuns at that stage. We didn’t have a specific religion in the family, but my mother thought it’d be nice if I went to a Catholic kindergarten because
they tended to look after people and her marriage was pretty shaky at that stage. From kindergarten there was a brief break-up in my family at that stage and I was put into a boys’ home for a week or so, at which stage I think the family got back together again and I came back and continued schooling up in the Paddington Junior
Do you mean somewhere like Barnardo’s?
No, it wasn’t Barnardo’s, it was on the North Shore. It was something like Barnardo’s, yeah.
Remember that well?
Yes, I do. Didn't like it much at all. Very frightened. Very terrified. But it passed. All things do, they pass very quickly.
The kindergarten I’m thinking of is now opposite
St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst.
Yes, that’d be the one. It’s not far from St Vincent’s.
Those nuns were probably attached to the St Vincent’s Order or something.
I would think so because that church there was a big centre of social activities in Paddington because they had the big bingo there once a week. Everyone attended. They had different sorts of functions there apart from their
church activities. So I suppose it’s natural we popped in there for a while.
Now it’s all changed because on the other corner is the Albury’s Pub.
Is it? I wouldn’t be surprised. I haven’t been back to Sydney for many years.
Paddington is the heart and soul of that.
Is it? More the pity.
Can you remember if you
were any good at sport?
I was fairly good at sports even as a young lad. I was selected for the Sydney to go down and play Rugby League in the under 11 year olds down in Wollongong. Apart from that I don't think I played sport there. Not much more than primary school. A little bit of football, the
compulsory annual boxing match, which was conducted within the classrooms in those days. Everyone had to box the other boys in the class once a year. Things were a bit tougher in those days.
Was it a coeducational school?
No. Coeducational? Oh, horror. It was a boys’ primary school.
What was that name of the
Paddington Junior Technical School. It’s halfway up the top near the Capital Church, which is up near the corner there where Centennial Park goes in. I don't know whether it’s still there. A big shopping centre there at the top of Oxford Street.
You were friends with these boys and then the teacher says, “Today you’re gonna
beat each other’s brains out.” Is that right?
Yes, it was something like that. They’d move all the chairs and desks back and make a sort of a square and the other boys would stand around the outside and you put your gloves on and you go in for a couple of minutes. If things looked too tough the teacher would stop it. But everyone had a go at it. Times were a little bit different in those days. People were, I think young boys had to
maintain their own position in life without someone else doing it for them. There is the tendency nowadays where if you have a problem you go to someone else to solve it for you, or you go to someone to conciliate, or you go to someone to help you out. In those days there was no one to help you out. You helped yourself out or it didn’t happen.
How did it strike you
as an adolescent having to box? Was it frightening for you?
Yeah, I was frightened, but it was something that had to be done. What was the alternative? Say no? Not done. Not done at all.
Did you ever get the cane or anything like that?
Rarely, but it was fairly common in primary school in those days.
I think on a couple of occasions I was admonished for being a little bit cheeky. I was very fond of my primary school teacher. I can still remember his face now. Name was Mr Turner. A very good man. I spent nearly four years with him. I thought we were treated very fairly and very well.
It’s unusual to spend that amount of
time with one teacher.
Yes. I spent the last three or four years with him right through to entry into high school.
Is Sydney Boys’ Grammar a selective school?
No, Sydney Boys’ High School.
It’s a selective school?
Yes, it’s a state school which is a member of the GPS [Greater Public Schools] schools and it is a selective school. It was one of the most fortunate things that happened in my
life to have the privilege of going to a top high school, which opens up opportunities for you to go elsewhere. It was a particularly good school, and still is I believe. It’s one of the top high schools in the state.
What did you have to do to be accepted?
Selection in those days
was based on the I
The IQ test used to be done in the last year of primary school and everyone did the IQ tests and then all the IQ tests from all the schools used to go into a central agency somewhere and they’d pick out the highest IQs in the testing program and those boys, if they were in the proximity of the Sydney greater area would
go to Sydney Boys’ High School. Another school which was part selective was Fort Street. So there were two of them, Sydney Boys’ High and Fort Street High were the two big schools in those days. They competed with the Grammar and Scots College and all the other GPS schools.
It was good for your parents too because it wasn’t a private school, which meant a lot of money.
Yes. My parents were very lucky in that regard that I could get to the school cos I had an opportunity in life which I wouldn’t have got otherwise, because there was no financial assistance from the family in those days. The unfortunate part, soon after I entered high school my father died in May of that year. So I just turned twelve
and my mother then was faced with a difficult task of trying to keep me at high school working as a waitress and any other jobs she could get to pay the rent, pay the food and keep me there because there were no widows’ pensions or food handouts or whatever you call it. Once a year I used to get an issue of
work trousers and boots and a shirt from the state, or from the government, but fortunately Mum and I managed to get enough money together to buy my suit and my shirt and trousers. Then fortunately I joined the cadets very early on, so I got my clothes issued in the cadets and quite often used to wear cadet clothing to school
three or four times a week because I could always get it replaced.
Is that why you joined?
I was interested in activities and adventure and getting with other boys and that. I think that was the main reason I joined the cadets because it gave me something to do on the weekends as well as something to achieve and learn during the time I was there.
Yes, I had to look for activities which didn’t cost any money. I think that was probably one of the reasons I went there. No military background whatsoever in any of my family. My mother’s side, her husband was an ex-serviceman from the First World War, but apart from that nothing on my father’s side.
Is your mother still alive?
My mother is still alive. She’s
in a rest home here with me on the Gold Coast. She’s 93 years old now.
Were you interested in girls at this time?
I was always interested in girls. Who’s not interested in girls? Who else can you be interested in? I had a normal social life
as a young schoolboy. Activities between girls and boys there were a fairly low level in those days. The schools were separated. There was a big wire fence between the Sydney Boys’ High School and Sydney Girls’ High School, which was just high enough that you could throw messages over the other side, but that’s about all. Prefects used to patrol it so that you didn’t get too close to the wire fence. Most times you would speak to the girls would be on the tram coming to school
or going back home again. There were the normal friendly activities. Welfare groups and social groups and church groups where we had little dances and fellowship meetings and go picnicking and go hiking through the hills at Hornsby and the rest of the area there. Maybe the national park. There was a fairly low level, low passionate level activities in
What were the names of these groups?
One group I remember was the Presbyterian Fellowship Association. I did mention to you that I’ve had a fairly mixed religious background. I decided to change from Roman Catholic when I was in primary school
because I liked the Protestant boys better than I liked the Catholic boys.
Why do you say that?
It happened because I didn’t like being bossed around so much by the Wednesday Catechism where we had to go up to the Catholic church and get bossed around for some time and told what to do and not to look in this and not to say this and not to look up
when the priest didn’t and all that sort of thing. I rebelled against that at an early age and I found the Protestant Catechism was much easier. We sat around a little circle and had a bit of a yarn. Wasn’t too serious. I had no family religion. I wasn’t asked to go to church by the family each weekend and I wasn’t forced to go anywhere, so I just selected what I thought was most appropriate. So there
was a Presbyterian Fellowship Association, which was very popular in those days. We used to meet in the church hall or something every Friday night and had a little bit of a dance and a bit of a talk and a cup of tea or something. Just an opportunity of meeting other people. The bush walking we used to just make our own arrangements. We’d get together on the train at ten o'clock at Central or something and we’ll go walking along the bush and have a look around, or after the cadets
we’ll do so and so. Just make your own fun and activity.
These are the days when you’d be expected to pay for a girl if you asked her out?
Yes, and still would. Never change. It was traditional and it was more or less demanding of young men or boys that they protect their partner.
One of their functions in life was to find someone they could protect and look after. That was the man’s job. The girl’s job was to look after the house and do what they could to make the marriage last. There’s no question. I can remember taking a young girlfriend down to Bondi Beach one time and I just had enough fares to get back up to Bondi
Junction. I said, “What are we gonna do? Are we gonna have an ice cream or will we use our money to take the fares back?” We decided we’d have an ice cream and walk home. So yes, we did. It was up to the boy and the man, definitely. It was also up to the boy to call at the house, take the girl out and when it’s completed take her back to the house. Unknown of for any girl to
leave home to go and have a date with a boy. She was either very, very loose or just not properly protected by her family.
Would it have been inappropriate for her to say, “You get the ice cream, I’ll get the fares home?”
Unheard of. For one thing she didn’t have any. Families in those days
didn’t give money to girls. Families gave pocket money to the men, to the boys, because they were the ones who had to bear the expenses. So you’d have a big shock.
Things have changed a lot nowadays.
I know with my own grandchildren.
Bondi in those days, what was that like?
Bondi Beach, Bronte Beach, Clovelly, Coogee, La Perouse, Tamarama, North Bondi, they were all the social activities of the weekend. Everybody, every child, young man, young girl, went to the beach on the weekend in the summertime. It was cheap, good fun, sat on the beach, played sports, have a swim, come
back again, it was a cheap way of activity. So all the eastern suburbs went to the beaches in the summertime. In the wintertime they all went to the Domain and listened to all the speakers, which was the public forum in those days for public speaking: big activity area down at the back of the news stand there.
They still have the soap boxes there?
Was it a buzz then? Lots of people preaching?
Big buzz. There’d be 30 or 40 speakers there and crowds of people around all of them. The Domain would be packed out with people. What else do you do? It’s a completely different era. 60 years ago. Their children or young people didn’t have the money
to buy electronic toys or look at television. It just wasn’t around. Nor were the earnings enough if it was around. People didn’t have cars. It was very rare to have cars. Not everyone had an icebox in those early days. Refrigerators didn’t come in until the Silent Knight came in after the war. There was the tram, there was home, there were the parks, there was Domain, there was the zoo, there was Manly, the Manly ferry, there were the beaches
on the eastern suburbs and there was bush walking in the national parks.
Was Bondi Beach as yuppie then?
Bondi Beach at that stage had a lot of very poor trashy flats and a few cheap shops along the front there. And they had an old men’s
changing room there, a surf live changing shed along the front here that used to have a little gymnasium in there, which I used to attend occasionally. Used to have a salt water pool up on the top of Coogee and another one on the top of North Bondi.
Did you have any interest in the military as a young man, besides the cadets? Interest in the Second World War or history?
Not really. As a young man growing up, I was in high school during the war, ’39 til ’35, I went into high school in ’42, ’45. So every child read the newspapers in those days, every boy used to make little
model aeroplanes and hang them from his ceiling. The high schoolers used to come out two afternoons a week and dig air raid trenches in the parks. Everone used to carry a little bag with an Oslo lunch or something in it, which never ever frightened me, or terrified me. I never conceived it was possible that we would lose the war. I was never frightened of anyone
taking over, but it was everyone knew what was going on and everyone was losing relatives and friends who had them fighting in the war. It was just a matter of interest for me.
You were too young to enlist in the Second World War.
Yes, I was 16, coming up to 17 when the war ended.
Can you remember the Japanese entering the war and the reactions to that in Sydney?
Yes. More properly I can remember the actual shelling at Sydney because at that stage, this was in 1942, my Dad had just died. Mum and I found a little bed sitter in Kings Cross to live in
and it was right under the path of the Japanese mini subs that shelled North Bondi. So I remember that occasion, running down from Wickham Terrace where we were at, running down to the bottom to try and avoid the shells. That was the first air raid, or supposed air raid. I can remember that quite distinctly. I remember
I had a moneybox hidden on a war bust of Winston Churchill. I used to put small change into the back of this little bust and it was hanging up on the wall and the shall came across when I was downstairs where my mother was, and I had a little bed under the stairs above the floor above it, which the landlord let me sleep up there. I can remember running up there to try and get the moneybox
and my mother chasing me to try and get me down. No way I was gonna come down til I got that money box. By the time I got down the last shell had gone over anyway. Didn't hit anyone from what I heard.
It shows integrity of your character that you’re looking after your mum now.
Well, I’m able to, so obviously I will continue to do that. Yes, it’s
a remarkable feat to be able to look after a young boy in high school for five years by taking casual work and small jobs because there were no permanent jobs for women in those days. They were cleaners or waitresses in those early days. Not even a glass ceiling in those days.
There was no ceiling at all. It was a great concrete plug underneath. It was a wonderful effort on her behalf. Fortunately I was able to be selected for Duntroon. That’s a major stepping stone in my life to be able to get into a self funded career where I could be educated to a
university degree in four years and go out into a guaranteed employment.
What did your father die of?
Heart attack. He was born in 1896 and he died in ’42, so he died at the age of 46 of one of the various types of heart attack, which inflicted men in those days.
Not at all uncommon.
Still very young.
It is very young, yes. Very young indeed. I got him beat, I’m 75, so it hasn’t got me yet.
My partner just turned 40. I just think, “Don’t go carking out on me in six years’ time.”
I don't think they do now. They shove tubes up your nose and look after you now and you get better.
Those days you have a heart attack and no one looked at you. No such thing as a resuscitation or mouth-to-mouth, no one had ever heard of it. You daren’t touch anyone who was sick unless you called a doctor or, course you didn’t have doctors in those days, you had the casualty warders at St Vincent’s Hospital. The few times I was sick, that’s where you went. Everyone just went there and queued up til you saw a doctor, most of whom were in final year
of training. That’s the only way you could train your doctors in those days was in the casualty wards of the public hospitals.
It doesn’t sound very socialistic. It was each man for himself then.
Men tend to do better when they’re challenged. The more you do for people the less they do for
Were you aware of the propaganda about the Japanese people during the Second World War?
Yes. Because Japanese and German, I remember we always used to make up little
singsong doggerel about how bad the Japanese and Germans were and how good Winston Churchill and the British were and how good all our soldiers were and then the propaganda was just part of day-to-day living. I don't think it made that much of an effect on me at all. We all said how bad the Japs were and lived with it. You had to be patriotic. You had to support your own team.
When you went to Korea, was it forgotten?
It was forgotten by me because I wasn’t involved in fighting the Japanese. I’d had a very good education so I was capable of accepting what happened and capable of understanding the Japanese
reaction to war. I had no problem in Japan. I served in Japan for a year. I had no problem whatsoever there. I could quite understand and appreciate why they went to war and why they were so ferocious in the jungles of New Guinea. They went to war because they were squeezed out of
trade by America and the rest of the world. They had to go to war to survive. They were so ferocious in the jungles of Malaya and the prison camps because they didn’t have any food themselves so how the hell could they feed anyone else? They were ferocious in fighting as indeed we were ferocious in fighting. We both tried to kill each other. I never had any problem with
dealing with New Japan or New Germany or anyone else.
Interviewee: Maurice Pears Archive ID 2240 Tape 02
Tell us how you got into the cadets in high school.
I think I was very strongly motivated to do something with my life. I’d started off at a very poor station in life
without having any direct power over my own future life. In high school I was always searching for something that I could do well. I’d had an unfortunate incident in my first year when my Dad died in May. I decided that I wasn’t keen on school so I wagged it from school for nearly five or six weeks by attending in the morning and putting
my name on it and shooting through all day. Going to the beach and other places. Eventually I got caught out. So I had a very difficult first year in trying to catch up on all the work that I’d missed out on. But I did manage to catch it up and then I was inspired to, “What can I do to make my mark on the world?” It was either in sport
or academic achievement or some way. Right at this stage I was a fairly active young boy and I started to do well in school after three years. My way was to join this adventure organisation called ‘school cadets,’ which would enable me to possibly shine and become a cadet lieutenant and maybe make my mark in
the school. I was not a brilliant student, but I won the prizes for oratory and I lead the championship debating team and I was the best captain of the rifles and I just felt that I could do well in cadets. So I started off in the cadets to try and get somewhere in life.
You were looking
at it this far ahead at that stage?
Yes, I was. I was searching for something to make Maurie Pears known. That was the answer for me at the time.
Has it got anything to do with your father dying?
I think maybe that and maybe the fact that Mum and I were finding it difficult. She was working in part time work,
I was working in hamburger joints and Coles in Sydney on Saturdays and Sundays as assistant, or Saturday at least. There was no shops on Sunday. As assistant to short-order cooks and all my holidays I used to work at McDowell’s or different places to earn a little bit of money. So I think it was a necessity too. I had to do
something with my life at that stage.
That’s a lot of responsibility for a teenager.
Yes, it was responsibility, but if I didn’t do it I didn’t have anything. There was no one else to turn to at that stage. And it wasn’t that hard. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a hard life. I’ve had a good life, and a good young life.
Things were available to do and I did them.
Having to earn money on your spare time maybe makes you grow up and think of these things at a young age.
I think it does. I think most people react to a challenge fairly well, or a demand, where you really have no alternative, so it really brings out the best in you I think. I’ve found with your soldiers, young officer cadets, young anyone,
the more pressure you put on them the better they turn out in the long run. The easier it is, the less they value what they achieve.
What were you learning at this stage in cadets in school?
The cadets was really a uniform boys club. We did the basic military skills, Morse code,
drilling, rifle work, we used to do bivouacs in the holidays, a week away, a big camp each year, you could do specialised courses at nights up in Victoria Barracks. Really it was a very big boys club where military cadets got together and had their meeting once a week, their drill parades and then their camps afterwards. It was a very
well organised organisation in those days.
Were you following the war closely at school?
I followed it closely until 1945. You’d read about it in the newspapers, but I didn’t treat it as my vocation at the time. I’d intended
to try for medicine at the university at that stage. I didn’t really think I was going into the army military career. But I was always interested in it.
When did you start thinking of it as a career?
I suppose it developed in my last year where I could see that my performance academically, because of my interest in
other matters, was not going to get me the necessary pass in the six subjects. In those days you had to take six subjects whether you liked it or not. They were maths one, maths two, physics, chemistry, English and a language. You had no choice about it. If you wanted to get to university and matriculate you had to take those courses. I was getting a bit lazy and I was not
getting better each year, and it became pretty clear to me that I wasn’t going to get into medicine halfway through. At which stage the offer to go and, the interview for Duntroon came through and suddenly it occurred to me I suddenly got a great interest in the army, because I can now get a free university course of four years, and if I do well I’ll go into the army and
I’ll have a job and a career and I won’t have to go out and washing dishes and short-ordering cooks any more.
How did you get this offer?
It’s announced just the same as all the other bursaries are announced at the university and naval college and all that that those who are interested may apply to attend Duntroon. You put your name down, you fill in all the
applications and your record and then you go before an interviewing team of normally the CO [Commanding Officer] of Duntroon and a general and a few other people, which I did myself later on when I became CO. Did exactly the same thing. Then they put you through a series of tests and you give a little speech. They test your reaction to the other boys who
were there. Classify you as socio-cohesive or socio-distractive or try and pick out whether you’re going to be a successful officer, whether you can assume responsibility and whether you can in fact gain the attention of other boys, whether you have the potential for leadership. Having done that they then come to a
conclusion after they’ve gone all over Australia and they then select in my days I think it was about 40 cadets out of Australia for Duntroon.
Were they particularly looking at the GPS schools?
No, they only select out of the GPS schools because they considered that the initial selection for GPS schools at the end of primary
school would cull out certain numbers and therefore the best grounds to pick out their future military officers was in the GPS schools. They did in those days only attend those.
Did they look at cadets?
Not necessarily. That wasn’t a necessary part of it. If you were a cadet I suppose it might give you a little advantage. I don't know. You didn’t have to be a cadet.
Many of the guys who went to Duntroon weren’t cadets.
How did you receive the news that you were selected for Duntroon and tell us from there?
I received the news that I was selected subject to me qualifying in the matriculation. I knew I’d matriculated. I thought I’d matriculated, but a couple of the
subjects I was a bit concerned about, they were a bit hard. I thought, “My God, have I matriculated or am I going to miss out by missing out on one subject?” There was a period of about a month while all the papers were marked where everyone were sitting round, myself in particular, just wondering whether I’d get that necessary matriculation to get there. That was a
worry, but I did make it. I got the necessary one part on it to get through. I just scraped through academically, but it was enough to get me into Duntroon.
What did you think about this new (UNCLEAR)?
I was delighted. I was excited. It’d be my first time away from home. It’s a big challenge with a lot of other boys. I was going into a big college in which
I’d be doing military training. I was someone important at last. I was very excited about it and very delighted.
How old were you when you got in?
I was 16 at the time. I turned 17 at the end of the year.
Tell us about your first day at Duntroon.
We went down by train. I knew a couple of other boys there because two other boys from high school were selected with me. We arrived. I can't remember whether it was Queanbeyan or Canberra station at this stage. It was one railway station down there. We were met I think my the RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] and we were treated very courteously
and escorted into the college. I remember being kitted out, the excitement of going to the Q store [quartermaster’s store] and getting all these lovely free goodies, clothes and shoes, boots and everything else. I had a lovely little cubicle room of my own. Bed and furniture and all the rest of it. It was a
wonderful few days. After a couple of days we were introduced to the senior class and the unpleasantness commenced at that stage.
What exactly happened?
It really was a British high school bullying. That’s the military. I’ve been looking back at it over the years and subsequent years in the army and
elsewhere, it was just basic ragging of young kids by the older school boys. In my years, because it was so long ago, things were a bit tougher. You could do things, which nowadays you would never, ever get away with. We weren’t physically abused, but we were mentally abused as a way of
getting the young lad used to the fact that he’s in a military environment and discipline was important. We went through a bastardisation exercise, which nowadays would put everyone in gaol. But in those days it was just something you put up with at the time.
I remember we all had to strip and run around naked, blindfolded in the gymnasium. We were told to hang onto a rope and then we had to swing blindfolded across to another part of the gymnasium and then they’d threatened to pour boiling water over you if you didn’t give the right answer, so they put your feet into a block of ice and you could swear it was boiling water. Then you’d be made to run around the gym in the mud
and finally sit on a block of ice that had an electric detonator attached to it. As soon as you sat on the block of ice someone would press the bloody plunger and about 1,000 volts would shoot through you. You’d jump off the block of ice and you’d land in a pool of mud. From then on you were supposedly initiated into the corps of staff cadets.
In retrospect it was a bit childish and a bit over the hill. It didn’t worry me particularly, but it worried a few others in the class who had had a more leisurely upbringing in life, or a more comfortable upbringing in life. It’s the sort of things I thought the street kids in Paddo would do, that sort of thing. So it didn’t really worry me tremendously. I got over it and then the general hazing
and discipline of Duntroon was something I found very difficult to accept. I didn’t do well in Duntroon. I survived there more by cunning more than anything else and the fact that I was selected for the first 15 in my first year and played in the first grade rugby team until I graduated. As such I have a funny feeling that
might have saved me on a few occasions because the tedium of discipline at Duntroon, I’m being quite honest here because I see no harm in it, the tedium of discipline at Duntroon was very difficult for me to accept indeed. Lining up all my singlets in groups of three and all my underpants in groups of three and all my socks somewhere else and something had to be on the third shelf and
not on the first shelf. Something else had to be in a drawer on the right hand side of my desk. My linen had to be somewhere else. In the end it finally got to me after a few years. I was doing so badly at that stage that I had to be referred to the army psychologist. The commandant was curious as to why I was not doing well.
Why I was always sort of revolting against the discipline and the tedium of Duntroon. It was Colonel Campbell, I remember him to this day, he gave me a long interview under the lights, much the same as I’m standing here now, trying to work out why Staff Cadet Pears was always confined to barracks, always on the drill square or something. Later on, when
Privacy Act came through I applied for my private records. I got his report back and it was quite interesting really. Summarised and said, “There’s quite a few young men who just cannot accept the necessity of the discipline in Duntroon. Or they just can’t se the need for it.
With a bit of luck they’ll do well in the army and if they don’t they’ll leave,” sort of thing. I found it very interesting. It was the thing that really worried me for three years, the lack of personal freedom, after having been an only child of a widowed mother looking after myself since I was about eleven or twelve years old. Suddenly
I had the whole power of the Duntroon system fall down around me. I found it very hard. So I was very fortunate in many ways that I did graduate that course. It’s one of the milestones in my life. Having graduated from there I was well on the way to making something out of my life. If I hadn't graduated from there, who knows what would have happened?
In retrospect, do you see a need for all these
little things like the three underpants and the certain way?
When I came back as CO I didn’t really see the need of it. I know there’s a need for certain amounts. But judging just what that is, is a very difficult matter. You can’t just say to everyone, 100 people there, “You’re all exactly the same.” Some people will react favourably, some won’t. I tried to be as
understanding as I could. Certainly I was violently opposed to the bastardisation when I was a CO. Did everything in my power to try and stop it. But the ingrained habit of the corps of staff cadets was so firmly entrenched that I never ever managed to get rid of it.
I think there were a couple of investigations soon after I left. It was just part of the college and hopefully it’s disappeared now. Even when I was cadet I didn’t like it. When I became a senior cadet I refused to take part in it. I managed, that of course didn’t make me too popular with a lot of
people, but I just, it’s not something I liked and I just wouldn’t be in it.
Why do people who don’t like going through it as a first year cadet do it in their senior year?
None of us are perfect. We’ve all got certain weaknesses in our character. Bullying is basically inbuilt
into every male. It needs to be controlled either by society or by the strength of the personality of the person involved. It’s very easy to bully people. It’s a very happy feeling to bully people, but it’s not to be admired in any way whatsoever. Needs to be controlled. Because if a kid starts to bully other kids when he’s in Duntroon you’ll be a
bloody disaster as an officer in the army because you cannot bully soldiers. Soldiers will do what they wanna do. If they admire you they’ll support you. If they don’t admire you they won’t support you, and there’s nothing you can do to make them do it. Just doesn’t happen.
Why did some of the senior officers
tolerate it if they know it was going on?
I don't know the senior officers ever tolerated it. I was a senior officer, I didn’t tolerate it, I couldn’t stop it. Because the senior class wouldn’t let me in to stop it. The charter of Duntroon as such is that the corps of staff cadets is supposed to be a separate entity which provides its own discipline and it’s own
command structure within the corps. This is modelled a little bit on more on Westpoint than it is on Sandhurst in that regard. So a senior class man is supposed to learn all about discipline by disciplining the junior class. Because of their age and their experience they weren’t able to handle that responsibility properly in my regard. But because of the fact that they were such highly selected young men,
they banded together as a group in the senior class and they were completely loyal to each other and it was impossible to break that loyalty. I failed and a number of others before me have failed. I don't think it was ever as bad as it was when I was a cadet, but the other side of the question is if a young
man can’t react and protect himself against bullying how successful is be going to be when he becomes an adult out in the working world? I was lucky because I played football and was one of the first 15. People were a bit cautious about bullying me.
I was also a qualified wrestler and acrobat and I also won the boxing in my second year. So maybe they laid off me after a while. Maybe, like all bullies, they pick on the weakest link and attack them? I can't remember any specific cases, but that’s the history of it,
the way it happened. You can go on for books and books and books and psychologists and psychologists for 100 years and you would never be able to solve the problem of bullying in schools or where young men group together.
How did you get through a few years of being slightly different
in having a stronger opinion about discipline in yourself?
It was difficult. On a couple of occasions I was nearly discharged for disciplinary reasons. Fortunately some of the instructors maybe saw something in me that others didn’t and thought they’d run a risk with me.
I think that’s one of the strengths of Duntroon is that the instructors all there have been through it, instructors they were pretty senior and most of them would know how to pick out a winner from a loser. It’s that little bit of understanding that gets people through. Not everyone can conform entirely.
What were you learning at Duntroon?
The full military arts. Administration and tactics, weaponry, small arms tactics, minor tactics, and also I did a military arts qualification in geography and English were my two university subjects. We did an extra year. We were the first of the
four-year classes, they went from three to four years. We were affiliated I think with the University of New South Wales. I think they came in to give the degree.
What were your instructors like?
My military instructors? Wonderful guys. One or two of them are still alive today. They were highly selected. Not everyone would come back to Duntroon as a military instructor. So they all did well in the army and they were
all very good guys. Our academic instructors were very good guys. A couple I didn’t get along with because I was a bad student, a couple I did get along with. It’s a wonderful institution, the Royal Military College regardless of what anyone says, regardless of the bastardisation, regardless of the uniformity, regardless of discipline. It produces
on the whole a wonderful group of officers. It does a wonderful thing for the Australian Army.
How were they giving you their experience from World War II so that you would be prepared for Korea, which was coming up?
You can only do certain things. No one can ever prepare you for combat action, taking command
of your first platoon. No one can ever prepare you for that. They can give you the basic ideas of what you should do from a military point of view. How you should command your men, how you should show them examples and a few other aspects of leadership. They did that very well. We worked eight or ten hours a day and covered most of the subjects. We’d have discussion subjects on leadership and the rest of it. We were
prepared as much as you can prepare anyone for the first action.
Was there specific teaching about the possible deployment to Korea?
No, it wasn’t identified. It was just we went out and there was a war on so you can expect to be involved in it at some stage. But the teaching was generalised.
You mentioned you were an acrobat.
Yeah, instead of playing football in high school I used to train in a gymnasium to amuse myself. I took that skill to Sydney High School. We developed there an acrobatic team, which used to give displays around the other schools.
Pyramid displays and tumbling displays. It became a major sport, that and catch as catch can wrestling I did as a sport in Sydney Boys’ High School in stead of playing football, I gave that way, picked it up again when I got to Duntroon.
What position in rugby did you play?
I played hooker all my life. It’s rugby hooker, not league hooker. Little bit of a difference.
Myself and two of my other Duntroon mates, Tony Matara and Denzel Goodall were selected to play against the British Lions in 1950 at Manuka Oval. I was hooker for that too. We were beaten by a cricket score. I can't remember the score, but it was well over 100 I think, but it was a very good
Must have been a tough game.
Yes, I remember very little of it. I was squeezed between two giant packs. I think my head was made much smaller after it, but we got through the game. It was amazing.
What’s it like in the middle of the scrum?
It’s tough for me. It was all right at Duntroon because my two props at Duntroon were Meadows and Williams who
subsequently played for New South Wales and Australia. They were both the same size and they were both wonderful props. We were a wonderful team together. But when we played with the New South Wales country team I had Eric Tweeddale on one side, who was six foot six, and I had a stocky little prop who was five foot nine on the other side. So whenever we hit the scrum together my left arm would be about twelve inches higher than my right arm,
which made it very difficult indeed. They were gentlemanly players, obviously they had us beaten and there was no point in beating the bejesus out of us at that stage. It was a tough game, though.
When you got through Duntroon, was there a passing out parade?
At the end of the year you have a big passing out parade. You have a graduation ball. Then away you go. You’re finished with Duntroon and you’re out onto the end of the big roll once more.
You said nothing can prepare you for leading men, but did they give you any techniques or things you should say?
leadership was a major subject. You were taught the elements of leadership, what you should and shouldn’t do. You were taught the military skills which were necessary for you to command a platoon, aspects of administration and infantry minor tactics. And you were prepared for the job. When I said, “Nothing can prepare you,” I suppose what I should have said, “Nothing can prepare you completely for the assumption for duty of command as a platoon
commander,” because there are so many things that happen when you interact with a group of 30 men under the fear of death that no one can tell you about. That’s something you’ve got to experience.
It’s a personal thing of dealing with people on a one to one basis.
It’s very, very personal indeed. It’s a little bit more personal, a little bit more demanding than
dealing with office staff for instance. You’re dealing with people who are under great stress. You’re under great stress yourself as a platoon commander.
After Duntroon you first posting was to?
It was to the training battalion. 1 Battalion in Ingleburn where soldiers were prepared to be trained for movement to
Korea. Also it was a staging area for the K [Korea] Force, which was a group of ex-servicemen that were in fact rehired in the army so that they could bolster up the young regular army recruits that were coming through. We didn’t have enough men for Korea at that stage. So K Force was created. Wonderful group of, they were still young then, but of experienced soldiers
who had fought in the campaigns in New Guinea.
What were your impressions of K Force?
They were wonderful guys. They probably taught me more than anyone else has. In fact, first six months of my placement, they were just great guys.
I was reading your chapter about going to a Red Cross ball.
As a young man coming out of Duntroon after four years of intolerable discipline people tend to get a little bit wild. I think my first few months’ freedom as an officer on a salary, being able to do the normal things like
go out in the evening and have a glass of beer and whatever you like finally got to me. I think I was a little wild at times. The Red Cross ball was an episode where a few of us went down to attend at the Trocadero nightclub as a lot of the sub lieutenants had to do then, they had to go to these different balls or parties. I’d had a little bit too much to drink
and my corporal who was looking after me was giving me a lift home on his motorcycle, back to Ingleburn. Unfortunately I must have fallen asleep on the motorcycle and fallen off it, because when he got back to Ingleburn I wasn’t there. He had to come back along the road and found me half asleep sitting on the side of the road leaning against a tree. I don't know who would have got into more trouble actually. Either
him for losing me or me for losing him, but I still remember Corporal Casty. Very good chap.
He didn’t notice you were gone?
No, he didn’t notice. I think he might have had a couple of beers too. I’m not too sure.
What were these balls like? Were there ladies there?
In those days they were passing debutante balls and there were vice-regal balls,
and it was one of the standard activities for young ladies of quality and young officers were supposed to attend these debutante balls and assist people to come out. The Red Cross ball was a big fundraiser. So you had to go there and it was more or less a social activity which was expected of you.
Later on, when I’d come back from Korea, I was in Shepparton when the Queen came. I was presented with my Military Cross in the Government House in Melbourne. There was to be a ball the night after that and I was required to attend the ball to look after one of the young society ladies
of Melbourne, and at the same time to be equerry to the Queen to keep the crowd away from her. So I remember the father providing me with a hire car to pick up the young lady and going to the ball. Unfortunately I was occupied with other duties and the poor young lady was left virtually alone for most of the night. Until the end when I took her home
by car. They were just standard social activities of the time.
Interviewee: Maurice Pears Archive ID 2240 Tape 03
What do you think of the Australian military schools being based on the British system?
You’ve gotta start somewhere. Don’t forget the Australian military forces started with the British forces. We were modelled on them. As a
result we changed year to year and now our system is entirely oriented towards the Australian requirement. But you had to start somewhere and it was as good a way as any to start.
You talked about bullies. They exist with girls too.
Yes, sometimes more than with men.
How do you deal with a bully? What do you say to a bully to get rid of them?
I don't know that you can give an answer to that, really. It’s part of social and personal behaviour. You’re either equipped to handle it or you’re not. It’s one of the things you must learn as you grow up.
What can you tell your daughter for instance if she comes home and says she’s being bullied? Do you say to them, “OK, I’m gonna take you straight back to school and I’m going to complain to the head mistress and the teacher,” or do you say, “I’m going to go back to the school and see the mother and complain to her,” or do you say to the child, “I think you should go back and try and talk to the bully and see whether you can resolve it between the two of you?” It depends upon
the child, it depends upon the parent. Sometimes you get a very evil person who is a bully and no one can handle it. Not even the courts of law or the police, because the person is basically ill. Sometimes it is just a matter of schoolboy or schoolgirl rivalry, which has got to be settled between the two people involved. Because if it’s not settled in school as I said before it’ll be settled out in the adult world. If you don’t learn how to
handle it in school you won’t be able to handle it when you get to the bullies in the office or the bullies wherever else you work.
Or the bullies you marry.
That’s right. Some women are dreadful bullies, you know.
You didn’t mention
if you had a girlfriend while you were at Duntroon, or were you too busy for that?
No, there was a fair bit of social activity at Duntroon, starting off with the compulsory fourth class tennis party where all the girls of the Girls’ Grammar School were forced to come out and play tennis with the junior class as soon as they’d arrived there. All the other little social activities to try and
get the Duntroon cadet involved in some form of social activity in Canberra. Time was very limited. As a junior class man you weren’t allowed out for the first few months. Even then his access to town was very, very restricted. But boys and girls will find ways of meeting each other. Lots of families in Canberra used to ask the cadets
home. I used to get asked home quite often by the people I played football with, who were older than me, but still I got invited. There were dances in town and you could go and attend the dances. You were pretty restricted because you had to go on leave in uniform. When I was there in the junior class I had to carry
a very funny swag cane and my uniform, I looked all dolled up like a little tin soldier. You were restricted to where you could go. You couldn’t very well go to some places all dressed up like that. Social activity was difficult in Duntroon. You just had to make the best of it. But yes, cadets went
out with young ladies.
I imagine the motivation behind that was social behaviour. If you’re not interacting with women a lot then you’re not gonna know how to approach them?
Was it so you’d have an idea of how to talk to women?
I suppose to be given an opportunity. It’s a very valid point. Myself and most of my colleagues, I know from my point of view I’ve always found it very difficult to build up a relationship with a young lady, mainly because of the four years of incarceration in Duntroon.
Then, subsequently, involvement in a male activity in a war for a couple of years. I found it very difficult to romance girls because of the, and do doubt they found me a little bit odd too, because they’d come up in another society where boys and girls had spoken freely together and mixed together whereas in my case I’d been in a male society
virtually all my high school and then four years in Duntroon and then continually in the army. It was difficult speaking to young ladies, yes. I think it’s a social factor which has changed now. I would think so anyway.
It’d be better since women are now in the army?
Yes. Something I couldn’t handle. I wouldn’t know how to
handle that. I couldn’t serve in the army now. Not because of the fact that I consider women inferior in any ways, but my generation places women on a pedestal where they’re to be protected and not exposed to danger, and certainly not exposed to the coarse brutalising activity of war. One of the most horrifying
sights I’ve ever seen was the recent prison TV on Iraq where females were being used as prison guards. It just horrified me to the extent that I couldn’t look at it. This was common for my age. A woman was there to be protected, to look after her children and to make a family.
Certainly not there to get out and fight to protect other men. I couldn’t handle the army nowadays.
You’d have to come across bossy women.
I can’t stand bossy women.
I don’t understand why anyone
wants to throw themselves in danger, male or female.
As we were talking about earlier, there’s been a significant social change in the last 60 years. By significant I mean 180 degrees. It’s an enormous change. The generations now are getting used to it and are adapting to it. My generation,
it’s impossible for me to adapt to it. I don’t criticise it, I’m just not part of it, that’s all.
You were only at Ingleburn for six months or so.
Was the social life there better than at Duntroon?
Yes. My word. Weekends we were free. We trained during the week
and young officers, we spent our weekends on leave. They were wild, as young army officers tend to be, wild, outrageous, happy occasions.
Was it bizarre to come from working class and go to Duntroon
which is known as an upper class school, or did you not make that class distinction?
It was a very difficult problem for me. I never ever made the change, and this was difficult for me later on in the army. I was very proud of the fact that now I was part of a
superior group, shall I say that. I felt proud of the fact that I had achieved something and I was now an officer in the army, but I never ever basically changed. I never ever really became what I was expected to become. I did notice the change. I had enough money those days to go to nightclubs and
take people out. I used to work for a fortnight, save all my money, and when my pay came of a fortnight I used to go down to Sydney and blow it and come back and work for another fortnight. Not a very wise thing to do, but a reaction to four years under constant training. They were happy days there, yes. Maybe I should have been a bit
more conscientious, done a better job, but that’s the way it took me.
Did your army career make you more successful in the leadership of men understanding that men come from different classes and you didn’t have a snobby attitude towards them?
I think you may be right. I was not
classified really as a good platoon commander because I didn't sort of act the way most platoon commanders did. I was always very conscious of the fact that I needed the platoon to support me. And I was always conscious of the fact that I didn’t want to be seen as someone who came from another class. I always associated myself more with the soldiers, more than possibly I should have in the early days.
But yes, you are correct, I did feel the difference. Whilst I was quite happy to accept the benefit of my newfound station in life I was always conscious of the fact that I had more in common with the soldier than with the officer. If I’m not being too outrageous in that comment.
It’s almost like being the boss. You can separate yourself from your
staff instead of getting to know one on one. If you separate too much you’re left out of the loop.
From a social point of view I was never happy with being the boss. This may be a little unusual for people to understand, but I tried to be a boss, a proper boss in the army as was expected of me, but I was never terribly happy with it.
I always felt as if, “Why should I be sometimes imposing my world on these guys?” It was not easy for me on many occasions to adapt to the new.
Back at Ingleburn, I was reading
the Colonel Campbell story. That was at Ingleburn wasn’t it?
Yes, that was at Ingleburn. It was after we’d all gone to Ingleburn to be trained as officers to go to Korea and we were all fairly edgy. We wanted to go to Korea, we wanted to prove ourselves, we wanted the adventure of going overseas and we were all keen on it. Colonel
Campbell was put on as the director of infantry. He came up to speak to all the officers and check on the training and all the rest of it. They were all goading me on saying, “Go and ask him when we’re gonna go to Korea.” I said, “No, I’m not asking him. You ask him.” They’re all goading me on and we’d had a few drinks and that. The colonel went to bed and the other officers
were saying, “Why didn’t ask him? Go and ask him.” I said, “I’ll go and ask him now if you like.” I went out of the mess into the bedroom and went and knocked on the door and he’s resting in bed there. I said, “Excuse me, colonel, but we’re all very anxious to know when we’re gonna go to Korea.” He said, “Well, young man, you’ll know soon enough and it won’t be long.” So I came back and I said, “There you are,
I told you I’d ask him and he said we’re going pretty soon.” He subsequently commanded up in Korea too, so I met him again on the way back.
You’re lucky he didn’t tell you to rack off.
What did you know then about communism?
wouldn’t know, but you’d have to read back. 1950 was the Red Menace in Australia. This was when everyone who was a communist was accused of being a spy for Russia and all the unionists were all communist agents who were trying to tear down the government in Australia. If you read back you’ll find that the government and
the army and the police all had a hidden agents at that stage. There were portfolios kept on activists and we were all warned to, “Be careful that you don’t get involved in the communist menace. If you are involved in the communist menace you’ll be kicked out. If the menace does come to fruition you’ll be expected to protect your country.”
Sounds a bit strange now, but if you go back and read about it, it was a McCarthyism existent here, which the right and the left were in battle together and these were the years preceding the break up of the Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party. It was the years of
political upheaval adjusting to the Cold War, which was a pretty significant factor involving Korea at that stage.
Were you interested in politics?
No, I wasn’t particularly interested in politics. I would have liked to have been a politician. I was always keen on that. When I was in the army I never ever directly
became interested in one side of politics or the other. I’m basically a conservative. Whether the army made me that way, whether my Labor Party upbringings, I reacted to that, I don't know. But I’m basically a conservative, even though I did have my photograph taken sitting on the knee of Jack Lang, the famous Labor Politician in Sydney
in the late ‘30s. I’ve never tended towards socialism or Labor politics. Maybe it was my army upbringing that threw me towards the conservative side.
They say the best time to send soldiers into war is when they’re young, had haven’t had time to think about global problems.
enough to do what they’re asked to do.
What were you told about the troubles in Korea before you left?
Very little. I can't remember ever discussing the politics of war with anyone or anyone discussing it with me. I was an officer in the army, I had an opportunity to go and fight a war,
that’s what I was trained for, so I looked forward to it. I didn’t at that stage consider the rights or wrongs of whether we should be in Korea or not. It was only many years after that I was able to have access to both sides of the story and why it happened and what should have happened and what didn’t happen. Many, many books written on Korea now, which
tell the other side of the story. At that stage I was a young man going on an adventure. The rights or wrongs of it didn’t occur to me.
What do you think now? Was it right to go to Korea?
Yes, I think it’s inevitable. It’s very easy to point out what you should and shouldn’t do, but in all these events you’re
faced with two bad decisions. You’ve gotta accept which is the better one. Even in the discussions on Iraq now and on the Middle East area generally, there is no right or wrong decision in that particular area. There’s no black or white. Every decision you make is qualified 1,000 times on subsequent events. So if someone asks you, “Was it right
when the Americans, British and Australians went into Iraq?” you can’t answer that question. It’s the same in Korea. You can only say, “At the time that seemed the best thing to do. If we hadn't done it the result of not doing it would have been worse than doing it.” You can never solve that particular problem. No one will ever know whether it was
the right thing to do or not, because there were some 3,000,000 North and South Koreans killed in that occupation. They’re still at war. Peace has never been declared, and the situation is still pretty ghastly up there. At least South Korea has evolved into a prosperous
democracy I suppose you could call it, but that’s all you can say. The North is in a worse state than it was.
It’s always wise to see things in the big picture.
Yes, but you don’t see things in the big picture until you’re older and wiser and well after the event.
How do you know whether you’ve made the right decision?
You’ll never know.
Until you’re on your death bed maybe?
Even then you don’t know.
After waking up Colonel Campbell, when did you find out you were taking off for Korea?
It was a few weeks afterwards and then it just happened as a normal part of military administration. We were notified that we were on our way to Korea. I was given my orders and I was to take a group of soldiers up there. We were to fly up and report to 3 Battalion
in Korea and that was it.
What do you mean you were to take a group of soldiers up?
People rarely go up alone. There were about 20 of us or so, and I was the senior officer, so I took a draft up. It’s like a leader of the push. Someone’s gotta look after the soldiers on the aeroplane and see they get on and off the aeroplane and see that they don’t shift through
somewhere and see that they get there on time.
You were in charge of their behaviour as well?
It was like a little platoon. I was given a little platoon and told I was to take these men to Korea and report to duty in 3 Battalion.
How did you get there?
We eventually were taken up by Qantas. In those days Qantas didn’t have the Constellations, they had a DC4, which was slightly bigger than the DC3, which was their intercontinental aircraft. We flew from Mascot to Darwin, from Darwin to Manila, and from Manila to
Japan in stages, most of them taking eleven hours. It was wonderful for me because it was the first time I was put in first class in Qantas. I’d never seen such luxury or such absolute beauty. The comfort and everyone was pouring drinks and
food all over me and I saw that the soldiers were all well looked after. It was quite a something to get onto Qantas in those days. Most of us had never flown on an aircraft before.
This was your first time?
Un-pressurised too. It was eleven hours to Darwin, eleven or ten or twelve hours between each of the stops.
Where did you stay in Darwin?
We stayed somewhere, I don't know.
No, we didn’t. They refuelled, or changed the pilots or something there, and then we flew onto Manila. It’s Manila where we stayed for a couple of nights because of problems there. From there we flew up to Japan. We all got there, so that was the main thing. With some little difficulty.
What do you mean?
Have you ever tried looking after 20 odd men in Manila
for 48 hours and keeping them all together and getting them back on the aeroplane?
Are you talking about the houses of ill repute etc?
Amongst other things, yes. My recollection of Manila in those days, in 1951,
it was an unbelievable city. Unbelievable luxury on one hand and unbelievable poverty on the other, but it was a wild west town. Nightclubs and beer halls and brothels were all mixed up. The men wore sidearms, you had to check your sidearm in at the bar when
you were, we didn’t have them, but I’m talking about the civilians.
What are sidearms?
Pistols. Revolvers. Automatics. It was a wild and woolly town this place. The beer halls and God knows what, had little gaming rooms and casinos in the back of them. It was a real eye-opener I can tell you.
We were supposed to stay there one night in the Hotel Manila, which was a luxurious hotel in those days, one of the top hotels in the world. There was insurrection at the time and the guerrillas had cut the road between Manila and the airport on the other side of Makati. Makati City is where it was cut. As a result we couldn’t get back to the aircraft. So the aircraft
was held up and we had to stay in Manila until the troops managed to open the road back again. So we had another 24 hours in Manila. It was hard enough keeping track of these guys for 24 hours, let along 48 hours. So we had lots of yarns and lots of talks and lots of rationalisations, lots of parties. We were unusual, a group of Australian soldiers coming through. All the American traders
and wealthy Americans used to buy us drinks. It was pretty good. We all got back on again without too much trouble.
Did the army take responsibility for giving the soldiers sex education?
Yes. It’s standard in all recruit training, sex education, in those days. Sexually transmitted diseases. The army in those days had what’s called Blue Light Stations in every
camp where you could pick up contraceptives. It was part of military hygiene to be instructed. Every soldier was instructed in that. Very few took any notice, but everyone was instructed in those days. Still are I presume.
This must have been difficult, because you must have been around their age.
I was much younger than
a lot of them because K Force were all from the Second World War. I felt very, this young, brash, 21 year old, Duntroon sub lieutenant, trying to advise these grown and experienced men, “Don’t get into trouble. I don’t want you to go into that place. You make sure you’re back here on time. I’m not gonna let you go unless you’re back here in an hour’s time.”
It was quite an experience. That’s when I really started to learn something about commanding men in a group. You can’t tell them what they’re going to do, you’ve gotta try and advice them and hope that they take your advice and hope that they’ll support you. Because if you try to enforce your will on them and they don’ t know you and don’t understand you, they’re not gonna do it because you’ve gotta work and you’ve gotta gain that
respect from them. You can only do that over a period of time. So it was a pretty dicey period for me. Trying to do my job at that age.
This would have been your first test, really.
Yes. It was the first direct command of men in an area without the support of the army.
Had you had a girlfriend by this time?
Yes, I’d had a couple of girlfriends.
Yes. Quite a few in Sydney.
Yes. I had a little cabaret singer that I was very fond of in those few months, but that of course disappeared. She went to London, I went to Korea.
You didn’t have somebody on the outset to Korea?
I didn’t have a serious. I wasn’t affianced to anyone, or married to anyone, but I had ideas which may have come to fruition, but didn’t.
So you couldn’t partake in any of the houses of ill repute because you were the person in charge?
And I’m not suggesting that all the soldiers did either. I’m suggesting that the soldiers did the right thing. They all turned up on time, they all got to Korea and they all supported me to get there, which is all you can ask of people.
Tell us about arriving in Japan.
From Japan we just overnight-ed down at an air force base, I think it was Iwakuni or somewhere down there on the south of Japan. Then we were loaded onto DC3s and we flew from Japan to Kimpo I think it was, the airport at Seoul, by DC3,
which was a terrifying, cold, long journey. I’m not too sure how many hours it took, but DC3s are very cold in cold weather and they’re very draughty. But we got there safe and sound. Hit the airport and then we were trucked up to the battalion area.
What were your first impressions of Seoul?
Didn't see much of it. We
just landed there quickly and drove through it. It was a wrecked city. It had been severely bombed and shelled and there were more demolished buildings there than there were new ones. So it was a completely devastated city when I went through it. Later I was evacuated there to the hospital and I had a good look at it then, but it was pretty badly tossed around.
The Korean War is known as the forgotten war. Was anyone aware of what you were going to? Your mother, friends?
Certainly not as much as they are now. It was really a fairly secret affair. We embarked,
it was a secret embarkation. We went onto the aircraft and no one knew about it. I was allowed to tell my mother that I was leaving, but there was no one there to see us off. The only contact we had with our families was by letter and the occasional press release. There was nowhere near the daily
consumption of news that we get nowadays. Every month or so we had a few war journalists up there who used to send a story back. I think some of the Korean veterans say, “Maybe it was forgotten or not remembered,” but in those days it was a difficult political decision for Menzies to make anyway.
There was a lot of opposition to it. The army just started to grow again after the ’39-’45 war and another war wasn’t particularly good news to people. So I think that’s reason why. After the war there was very little conscious remembrance of the Korean Campaign. It just seemed to disappear. Many soldiers felt
that it should have been written up a lot more than it was. A lot of soldiers, it was all right for guys like myself who were trained to go there, had a tertiary education, we had something to go back to after we left Korea, we had a career or look forward to. A lot of these soldiers were manual workers and there was no guarantee for a job for them afterwards. In Korea some were top of the heap,
they were heroes doing a wonderful job, courageous Australian diggers, everyone respected them, suddenly they get back to Australia and everyone’s forgotten about them and a few of them got out of the army and everyone said, “Who are you?” sort of thing. I think that got to a few people because I know there are a lot of guys who didn’t take well to leaving the army afterwards and suffered pretty badly from the
stress of the war, or drinking problems, or things like that.
One bloke I spoke to was on a tram in uniform and the bloke behind him asked him where he’d been or something. He said, “Korea.” He said, “What were you doing in Korea?”
People wouldn’t know. You’ve gotta remember the aftermath of the Red Menace that you were talking about
was still there. I sent all my gear back from Korea by ship and all of it was rifled and stolen by the wharf labourers on the wharf at Sydney who had determined that none of the military stuff coming back to Australia would ever get to the soldiers involved. So all my stuff was rifled and stolen because the feeling, this feeling
between communism, socialism and the conservative side was still there. I came back in 1953, which was only two years after I’d left. So there was still a feeling against a soldier who went to war. There was still a large number of Australian people who didn’t want to go to war and they didn’t want to see Australians fighting socialists.
That was just the feeling at the time. Later on it developed into the Santamaria-Mannix deal, it’s a strong area of politics, the ‘50s.
I didn’t know the wharfies gave the Korean veterans a hard time. I knew it happened to the Vietnam veterans.
Personally I think it was worse
for the Korean veterans than it was for the Vietnam veterans. It certainly existed.
Interviewee: Maurice Pears Archive ID 2240 Tape 04
How were you coping with taking command of men? What techniques were you using to gain their trust?
I don't know whether I can answer that. I just did what I thought was right. I just tried to find out what their problems were and I tried to respond to that.
Hopefully I didn’t go around giving orders willy-nilly, I hopefully tried to find out what would be the results of any order. I tried to understand what they needed, what they wanted and I tried to look after them. That’s pretty essential with a group that small. Just a basic platoon commander’s leadership booklet. That’s about all.
When you were in Manila, did you give them rules, orders or lectures of any sort?
My objective in Manila was to get them back on the plane. I thought one of the army ways of doing this is not usually standing up to an unknown group of men, I’m unknown to them, and say, “You’ll do this and you’ll
do that,” so I had little meetings and I had a couple of NCOs with me and I had meetings with them. I said, “How should we handle this problem? What should I do?” Not, “What am I going to tell you to do?” But, “What should I do?” I think that’s pretty basic command at platoon level. You’ve gotta find out from your section commanders and your NCOs, you’ve gotta trust them and take their advice and try and do the right thing. I think
that’s my answer to the question.
It’s good to use the senior NCOs’ experience?
An army can’t survive on officers and soldiers. It must have non commissioned officers. It’s part of the whole running of the army, the command of the army, the NCO is the contact with the men,
through which you pass your commands and through which you understand the conduct of the men and what they require of you. Many things in leadership that you shouldn’t see, or you shouldn’t acknowledge that you see them anyway. You’ve gotta pretend that you didn’t see them. It’s a very wise decision eventually when you decide to take disciplinary action. The only people you can take advice from are your non commissioned officers.
Your flight to Korea was a bit dodgy?
Very could, very rough, yes. Not from an enemy point of view, just a long journey for a DC3.
What was your reaction to coming into Korea like this?
Just overpowered by the whole, I thought nothing of it, it was an adventure and I was on the adventure. So it was cold on the aircraft,
so what? So it was windy, so it was rough, we got there. It was all a stage to get where we were going.
When you got to your position at the front, what were your first impressions?
We were all met by the adjutant who was Sir William Keyes at that stage, or now, before he passed away.
The men were sent off through the RSM to their particular duties. I was interviewed and told that I was posted to a particular company and that, “Behave yourself. You’re in war now, do as you’re told, don’t be stupid. Don’t get killed, don’t get other people killed. Off you go.” Then I was taken up and reported to my first command.
I read a story about arriving and getting scorn for taking off the steel helmets.
That’s a bit of trouble I got into which I wasn’t gonna tell you about. Coming up from Seoul we’d all been issued with these old ’39-’45 saucer helmets. Aircraft couple of the old soldiers said, “You never wear these. They’re too hot and too heavy.
They make a noise and the enemy will see you. Let’s all throw them in the bloody river as we go over.” They all started throwing them in the river. I thought, “God, I’d better do the same myself.” So we all threw them into the river, and when I got up the first question was from Bill Keyes, “Where are the steel helmets?” I said, “We threw them in the river.” He didn’t take that at all
kindly. I was in a lot of trouble at that stage. But eventually I suppose I saw Bill about 20, 30 years afterwards and recited the incident to him and he remembered it quite clearly. One of the silly things you do as a young officer I suppose.
It must have at least endeared you with the men.
I think it might have, but whether that’s for the good of
the army or not I don't know. Still, I think it probably did.
What did Bill Keyes say after you told him you’d thrown them in the river?
He abused me severely. “It’s not the conduct expected of a young officer. You should have stopped them throwing them in the river.” I think if I’d tried to stop them throwing them in the river I’d have got thrown into the river, sure.
How do you take to that
as a young officer, an officer above you giving you a blast?
You’d better take to it, because if you don’t you’ve got no future. I accepted it. I’d made a mistake.
You were reinforcements. The men had already been fighting over a period?
Yes, a period of rotation. When we arrived we were in reserve on the Lozenge Feature. So we weren’t in
direct contact with the enemy when I arrived.
What was your impression of the men that had been fighting?
That was probably the most significant thing, the difference between the guys who had been there for eight or nine months and the new guys coming through. Some of the soldiers who were there had been through the whole of the campaign from the approach to the Yalu right back to Kapyong and
were still there at the time. They were very weary and burnt out. They were probably a few weeks away from rotation back home. So they were pretty concerned about getting out and going home. The newer guys were concerned about proving themselves and getting themselves ready. There was a problem in Korea with rotation. Everyone had to go out on leave at a
certain time. No one could spend more than twelve months there. So the whole time on operations and in reserve, you got people coming and going all the time. It wasn’t a static reinforcement as it was later on with 1 and 2 Battalions when the battalion came and the battalion went. Very difficult period for the senior commanders of 3 Battalion at the time.
What is difficult about this situation?
You’ve always got an under strength platoon. Instead of having 30 men in your platoon you’ve only got about 24. Because some of them have gone out, are waiting for rotation. Some of them have gone on leave. You’ve never got a full fighting force of your platoon. There’s always someone away and coming back again. Which means that most of the time you’re running on a 24 man platoon instead of a 30 man platoon, which is very, very difficult
for everyone involved.
What about the different levels of experience and knowledge?
The Australian soldier is very good at this. Mateship is probably his major distinguishing feature in battle. They tend to look after younger soldiers, they tend to look after inexperienced soldiers. They’re also very good at pretending that the platoon commander’s in charge. They’re also
very good at trying to make you feel better. Australian soldiers have a unique capacity to hold their combat team together, whether it’s a platoon or a section. It would have been very difficult for me, if not impossible, to operate effectively without the nucleus of the
experienced soldiers there.
They help you by pretending you’re in charge?
Yes, you see, junior officers are never completely in charge of their platoon. They might think they are, but they’re not. There are levels of command, which if they do the wrong thing it will be exposed. A lot of young bushy tailed sub lieutenants
like to think that, “I’m the boss of this joint and everyone’s jumping because I say they’re jumping,” and they’re not. They’re doing it because they feel it’s the right thing to do and also because the other non- commissioned officers are supporting them. You can’t run a platoon without good NCOs. You can’t run a platoon unless the platoon wants you to run it.
It sounds you were aware of
this at the time. Were you?
Not really. I was a bit brash and cocky myself, but I think I got to understand the requirement and the needs of the soldiers. I tried to anyway.
You were in reserve at the Lozenge?
It’s called the Lozenge Feature because they were like little cough lollies
across the ground.
What were you doing in reserve at this stage?
This was preparatory training which the commanding officer, Frank Hassett. He knew there were big events coming up and it was his job to train the battalion to be ready for them. So we practised our defensive techniques, digging in, wiring, practised the anti-personnel
mines, the booby traps, practised clearing the minefields in the infantry fashion with grass and forks. Went out on small patrols, all the techniques of battle. Getting ready for a major activity.
What was mine clearing like?
We didn’t do any major mine clearing. The major mine clearing was done by the engineers, but it was an infantry
responsibility to ensure that the area around his defensive position is cleared of mines and these are only anti-personnel mines, which are normally in those days fired by wire attachment. So you get dried grass and you sharpen a fork and you go on your hands and knees down the path
waving the grass in front of you to try and detect any tripwires there. Then if there are tripwires there you’ve gotta follow them back to the explosive device, put the pin back in it, or fix it so it doesn’t fire and then if it’s buried in the ground you’ve gotta prod it with a fork to find it. It’s very slow and tedious activity. We had a few casualties at that time in reserve trying to clear the positions, which had been occupied by
This must have been nerve-wracking to do.
Yes, it was nerve-wracking. Soldiers didn’t like it terribly much, but we all took our turn at it. Some people waved the grass a little bit more furiously than others. But it was all part of the
activities for the day. They were good, solid days. We started at first light, finished at last light. In those periods we were very lucky to have a bottle of beer sent up each, for which we paid for. In the evening. So it was a good training period to get to know each other preparatory to the big battle, which was coming ahead.
Tell us about getting to know each other.
You’d have a chat in the evenings. Hop around to the different foxholes and have a chat. You pull your section commanders in maybe and have a chat to them and see what’s going on. You work with your men in the daytime. They’re putting up wire, you’re putting up wire. If they’re clearing the mines, you’re clearing the mines. You’re a very close-knit family
all the time. Keep things together. You’re living in close proximity too, in holes in the ground. They’re pretty friendly little places.
What are they talking about?
A little bit about their backgrounds, about the activities that day, a few funny stories, whatever groups do when they get together and bond together. But nothing special.
How quickly were your men bonding together?
I thought we did well. I was in two positions. My first position was on the top of Mount Kamaksan, which used to take an hour to walk up to the top and an hour to get down. I only stayed there for a couple of weeks and then I was posted back down to C Company. There was no particular problem.
We were pretty happy there most times.
What was the exact geography of the place?
It looked like lozenges. That was really a reserve position preparatory to moving forward to [Operation] Commando. We stayed there August/September until we moved through to
Commando. We had one major battalion raid there, Operation Lyndon, which we crossed the river into Chinese territory, which gave us a bit of an idea of what we could expect later on. From then on we continued training until finally we crossed the river and started to advance to contact during Operation Commando up towards 355 and 317, which were the major brigade objectives for that
How far away from Lozenge were the Chinese?
They were outside artillery range, which I suppose they were some five to ten miles. No-man's-land was fairly wide at that stage, cos they weren’t advancing to contact us and
we weren’t advancing to contact them, there was some form of a strategically stalemate at that time, which was decided by the Commonwealth Division later on that they would break that stalemate and move forward to engage the enemy.
That is an extensive no-man's-land.
Yes, it is. But if quite often happens in defensive positions. The battle then
becomes who commands no-man's-land. The closer you get, the smaller the no-man's-land gets, the closer you are to extinguishing one or other of the positions.
Also the constant exchange.
Without the constant exchange, what were the men getting up to in their time off duty?
There was no time off from duties. You worked all day and then you slept at night. Occasionally the battalion
put some battalion movies on the other side of the hill. There were a few boxing matches on, a few little sporting activities at the right time. Then you went down the bottom of the hill to have your three meals a day. The day is quite easily filled in cos you’re tired and you sleep at night. Sleep of the just, sleep of the young.
In your stories there was
one about gambling.
Gambling was always active in the Australian Army. There were secret swy games around the place, the commanding officer pretends not to notice they’re there. There are other activities. In my case I got into a lot of trouble because I was playing poker with the men in the platoon.
In retrospect I shouldn’t have been doing so, but at the time it seemed the right thing to do. Unfortunately one of the lads lost some money to someone and falsified his pay book in order to get the money back and as a result I bore the brunt of the activity, which was unfortunate, but we all lived through it. We survived.
Did the gambling get out of hand?
Can’t get out of hand because we hadn't got any money to lose. Not too sure what we were paid up there, but it was very little. No, there was no serious Las Vegas style break-your-legs activity. It was just a little bit of swy [two-up], a bit of cards at night.
Bet your tin had?
Yeah, if you had a tin hat.
I read another story about when you were learning about patrols in the area and you got into strife.
I don't know. One occasion I know we were selected to perform some patrolling for a New Zealand film unit in no-man's-land where fortunately there were no Chinese. We had to pretend that we were
moving in formation with fixed bayonets and a few other things to try and make the film look good. Unfortunately the film director asked me to fire the mortar to give it a bit of impact and I’m so excited in my film making techniques and making sure my profile is correct for the camera that I instructed the two-inch mortar man, who was a great friend of mine,
George, “Go over there and put a round up towards the enemy.” He was a little bit excited too. He was half Chinese and always frightened that he’d get captured by the Chinese. He went over and put the mortar down. The cameraman said, “No, don’t put it there, go back over there, there’s a better background.” So he moved over, and he moved over under a tree and didn’t notice the tree was over the mortar. He put the mortar in
and the wretched mortar exploded straight above and scattered the whole of us. I was the only one wounded, fortunately. I got two or three small puncture holes from this mortar. We decided to call the whole thing off at this stage. The camera crew didn’t wanna do any more. They finished the film and we all went back again. Very embarrassing situation for me to have to explain
to the commanding officer that I’d wounded myself and didn’t check the position of the mortar before it was fired which is the part of the duties of the platoon commander. So I got into a little bit. But we lived through it.
What did the commander say to you?
He abused me. As he should.
Did he see the humour in it?
At the time there was no humour. Maybe later I think he saw the humour in it.
Where were you injured?
In the chest.
If you were hit in the wrong spot you never know.
I was hit from above and the small piece of shrapnel went down my chest between the ribcage and in the flesh. So it was easily taken out and there was no damage.
Just a bit of blood. They treat them very, I remember at the RAP [Regimental Aid Post] I got a long pair of needle nose, looked like pliers really. I said, “What are you gonna do with that?” He said, “I’m gonna pull the shrap’ out.” She he just pushed it down the hole under the skin until he felt the tiny bit of shrapnel and closed it on it and pulled it out again.
They put a bandaid over the top of it, or whatever they do up there.
It was a small aid post?
No, it was my own first aid box that we used until I got back to the aid station. Then I went to the regimental aid post.
Did you see the film?
No, I’ve been wanting to see it ever since. If you ever find out I’d love to see it. It was made by the New Zealand Army and it was made in 1951
as a recruiting film in New Zealand. Never saw it.
What if they included it in the edit?
Yes. I think if they got the look on the face of the cameraman I think that would have been more interesting.
Was the contact in Operation Lyndon your first contact?
Yes, it was. Operation Lyndon was the
first battalion patrol into enemy territory, which occurred somewhere round about September I think as a precursor to the major activity. The battalion moved onto another feature up close to the Chinese. They were subsequently shelled and there were a few casualties in one company. We were on top of a hill and suffered no casualty. We completed the patrol and moved back out again. It was our first time
the battalion had moved together.
What was the purpose of the patrol?
It was mainly training, but also to examine the area in no-man's-land through which we would later travel on the way to the major objectives. So it was a reconnaissance patrol and a training patrol, both together.
What did you notice on the patrol?
in particular. It was just movement over ground. The main impact for a lot of us was just hearing incoming artillery for the first time, thus being able to identify it in the future.
What’s it like coming under fire for the first time?
In my case I was lucky because I was about 1,000 yards away. I was watching it really.
I think all your instincts take over, as normally happens, and you protect yourself and react accordingly to the situation.
Did this action warn the Chinese that something might happen there?
I think, seeing it was the first thing to happen since about Kapyong, and the Gloucesters, I think they may have thought that something’s happening and that the
allies were trying to readjust the battle line, which subsequently a few weeks later they did do.
Would that be a wise thing to do?
It’s gotta be done. At some stage you’ve gotta take an aggressive action, it’s just when, where and how you take it is a matter for the officer involved determining the tactics at the time. It has to happen.
You can’t be secretive all the time. Some stage you’ve gotta come out and thump someone.
I read a story about you being dehydrated.
Yes, that was probably one of the most terrifying incidents of the war for me. I’d never before quite realised what it’s like to be short of water. We’d gone on a patrol and only
taken two water bottles. It was a long patrol. Half of my water bottle was empty. By the time I finished the patrol I had about four hours to go without water. I was completely dehydrated. The other guys had drunk their water, but theirs had lasted a lot better than mine, so I couldn’t go around pinching someone else’s water. We were right out of it when we hit the Imjin River and it took us about an hour to
get across back home again. I was becoming hallucinating and hot and dipping my head in the water to try and cool it off. Then eventually I sucked in a mouthful or so of it and it was salty water, but at least I lasted til I got back again. It was the first time I’d understood the urgent requirement
for water if you’ve gotta go without it for a while.
Was it safe to drink from the Imjin?
No, it was most unsafe. The Imjin at that time carried all the much and filth of Korea plus all the war dead and the civilian dead and it was certainly not wise at all. One of those accidents that happen.
Did it have any effects for you?
I think I had tummy effect from it for a long time afterwards. Most people suffer from stomach problems in war by eating food that’s off or picking up something from around the place. It’s a problem.
You weren’t terribly sick immediately after this?
I was sick for about a day or so in the lines. I remember
taking a while to recover. A bit of vomiting. If we’re nearly finished, I’ve gotta go to the toilet.
We’ve got eight, nine minutes.
Put a stop.
How does training and patrolling in Korea compare to
the training from Duntroon and Ingleburn?
I think it’s much the same until the realisation of the enemy occurs to you or until you are actually fired upon. I think the training brings you to the stage where you can use ground properly and travel across it and occupy it
quite effectively, but it’s not until you’re actually fired upon that the change occurs. So really I’d had an experience before that where I’d gone out on a patrol and I was very casual and lackadaisical about it and unfortunately the patrol was under observation of the CO and some American commanders.
My performance wasn’t good because I was too casual about it. I thought, “There’s no one around here. What’s all the fuss about?” I was quite wrong. I could have been in danger and endangered the men at any moment. But you ask me that particular question and my answer to it is you don’t think there is any difference until finally you realise that you are in danger
or you’re actually fired upon. Then you understand the difference between training and actual combat.
What were the consequences of your being observed by the observers as too casual?
I was reprimanded, quite rightly so. If I was the CO I would have reprimanded me too.
You’re getting into a bit of trouble, cos you’d had a couple of reprimands.
Yes, I was actually.
Fortunately I had one of Australia’s greatest generals in command at the time, Frank Hassett, and he understood men a lot better than most. He gave me a few chances, fortunately.
What was the leadership you were under like?
Frank Hassett commanded the battalion
during the operation, which is one of the finest military operations, certainly of the war. Then he later became the CGS [Chief of General Staff] and later became the chief of defence force. So he was a very talented and courageous leader. He had a natural ability to give confidence to people who worked with him. I thought at that stage he was a
tremendous guy and couldn’t do any wrong. I don't think he did do any wrong. My other commander was similarly a great commander. That’s Jack Gerke, my company commander. But he was a different mould. He was a tough country boy and he also had fought in the ’39-’45, but he was a very strict disciplinarian and used to get stuck into me
on any possible occasion. Strangely enough I didn’t resent it at all because I knew he was right. We got on well as a team together. I did as I was told and I worked well with him. I was very fortunate to have two great commanders looking after me. And I was supported by a wonderful company
sergeant major, Arthur Stanley, who was another hero of the war. I was really very fortunate to be led by those guys and to have a good group of men in the platoon, because they seemed to run the platoon more than I did.
You must have been on a sharp learning curve.
Very sharp learning curve for me. Because
I had been under performing, there’s no question about that. And it was a matter of finally I realised that I did have responsibilities, which I had to live up to. Fortunately I had a platoon who was good to me.
It must have been good too to have the period in the reserve position.
Yes, I really don’t know what
would have happened if you’d been reinforced in the field. It would have been particularly difficult. I don't know how you would have got your men to follow you. I think it would have been very hard.
When would they go out on patrol?
That particular time we weren’t into the patrolling activity, which didn’t occur until 1952 when we were in the defensive position.
Then we went out on night patrols. Right at the period you’re talking about, before Commando, they were day patrols, because they were reconnaissance patrols where you have to observe, whereas later on, after Commando they were defensive patrols which were there to command no-man's-land and were therefore conducted at night.
Tell us about techniques you used in daytime
Standard military use of land. You keep down below the brow of the hill. You use available cover if possible. You observe when you could observe and try and keep yourself on the other side out of the enemy’s sight. Standard military techniques. It’s the bread and butter of an infantry soldier. Fire and movement is the way they fight.
How many men went on the day patrols?
Platoon patrols would be about 24, the whole of the platoon would go on there.
That's larger than the night patrols I’ve heard.
Night patrols are normally cut down to section level for a number of reasons. It’s difficult to command men at night. Difficult to protect each other at night. You don’t see much. So a section is about as large
as you can handle on a patrolling basis. Once you get more than that you’re onto a platoon or attack at night, which is an entirely different kettle of fish.
On the day patrols, were there strict silence in communication?
Yes. It’s another part of the technique. One of the ways you’ll be observed is either by visual or audio, so if you’re chattering or
making noise as you go it’s simple to find out where you are.
Did you have hand signals?
Hand signals within the platoon. We did in those days have a surplus United States walkie-talkie that we used between platoons and company, but it was grossly ineffective.
Because you had to have it turned off so it wouldn’t come on?
Most the time it was no use anyway.
it was very difficult to talk through.
Interviewee: Maurice Pears Archive ID 2240 Tape 05
How long after Lozenge were you given Operation Commando?
Commando commenced at the end of September, beginning of October. So we were briefed at the end of September and we headed off between the
first day was 2nd of October. So we were there for two, three months.
The battle of Maryang San was significant in the Korean War.
Walk through how it began, what were your orders, how did you do the assault and just how the story unravelled.
At this time, the end of September the allied command decided
that they would put pressure on the Chinese front to try and accelerate the peace talks, which were in progress at the time. To do that they had to make a significant entry into the Chinese line running from near the Lozenge through a feature called Kaesong, which was 355, up to Maryang San, which was 317, which would be a deep thrust of some many miles into the Chinese lines.
It was decided to attack with the Commonwealth division with the Australian brigade, which was made up of 3RAR, the KOSBs and the KSLI, British battalions, would attack and take out 355 and 317. We commenced to move
into position at the beginning of October. Then during the night and early morning of the 2nd of October we commenced to move up to our forming up places, which were closer to the objective from whence we started. This was done in a very orderly fashion, but the whole idea was to get close to the Chinese without them understanding that we were getting close to the Chinese.
To do that we approached with 10, 20, 30, 40 yards between soldiers in single file during daylight, gave the impression that there weren't a lot of soldiers around, they were just moving here and there. 3 Battalion was on the right of the brigade, quite close to the river, and we managed to get into position quite successfully
with B and A Companies taking the lead and C and D Companies were in reserve. So the morning of the second day we were in position facing 317 in some distance away ready to follow up in our tasks as soon as the
KOSB [King’s Own Scottish Borders] had achieved their objective, which was the 355, which was on our left. So that was the approach to contact and the preparation for the assault on 317.
Why were these two features important?
They were two dominating features over the whole of the Sameshon Valley and the area in front and behind 317. They were
areas from which you could observe almost to the horizon. They were enormous mountain features which commanded the whole of the valley.
What were your orders?
The battalion orders were broken up into phases. The first phase was that B and A Companies move into
a preparatory position followed by C and D in front of the objective. The next phase was to be an attack on the left of 317 followed up by an attack of the right of 317. But no plan ever stands the test of the first battle round and it didn’t happen that way.
How did it happen?
3RAR reached its objective
and were waiting to continue when the KOSB were held up on feature 355. The opposition was too heavy and they were unable to attack the hill from a frontal position. The Americans had tried to attack it from a frontal position on a number of occasions and they’d failed on each occasion. The KOSB also could not attack from the front because of the difficulty of the
terrain. It was too steep and it was too heavily defended. So the divisional commander spoke to the brigade commander and the brigade commander asked Colonel Hassett, CO of 3RAR, if he could send a diversionary attack round to the rear of 355 and try and confuse the enemy so that they would withdraw from 355. You’d have the
KOSB in the frontal attack and you would have the 3RAR [Royal Australian Regiment] C Company in the rear, both of them attacking at once, Chinese wouldn’t know which direction the main force is coming from and they would in fact withdraw from the position and permit the KOSB to occupy it. That’s virtually what happened. The company that was selected to do the attack was C Company commanded by Jack Gerke
with platoons commanded by myself, Lieutenant Arthur Pembroke and Russ McWilliam. We were given the task of attacking from the rear. To do this we had to move secretly to the rear of 355 so we left our position, 7 Platoon, which was my platoon, was in the lead, and we moved quietly in the hours before
first light across the paddy fields trying to maintain direction in the fog towards 355 and managed to find our way there at first light. From there we commenced our attack along the ridgeline up to the top of 355. It was a very difficult attack and nothing went right at the beginning.
I led up the spur line with two sections from my platoon in single file. I left one section behind as a reserve. When we reached the first knoll we were under constant mortar fire all the way up the hill. The only way to avoid it was to move as quickly as possible so that we were kept in front of the
mortar fire. It was amazing. The soldiers moved through barrages of mortar fire, none of them being wounded, it was chopping up their clothes, and bits of stone, it was quite a horrendous move through there. But there were no casualties. The casualties all occurred to the third section that I’d left down the bottom of the hill. There was 100 per cent casualties in that section and they took no part
in that or subsequent battle. When we reached the first mound where there was Chinese opposition, and were held up behind number of large boulders trying to move forward. I send a section around to the left to try and outflank the enemy. But after waiting about five or ten minutes nothing seemed to happen, so
I remained confused and disoriented behind the rocks trying to find out where the enemy were, what we were supposed to do, when a very courageous soldier in the platoon called Corporal James Burnett, stood up with his Bren gun and started to move forward and blast away at the enemy. At the same time as him doing that we all got up and followed him and at the same time our company commander came running up the hill saying, “What’s happening?”
So we all moved forward on this enemy position, at which stage a lot of them had gone, we’d killed a few, that was the first stage of the operation. Highly successful. Purely because of the determination and the courage of the individual soldiers. There was no great tactical exercise or manoeuvre, it was a straight assault along the
spur line and the soldiers did a magnificent job. Nothing for the platoon commander to do at all.
What is a spur line?
It’s a ridgeline. Say you’ve got a mountain with three or four finger line ridges running down the side of it. That would be classified as a spur. Normally infantry try to take the high ground and stay on the high ground rather than the low ground
on the valley with the enemy looking over you. Stick on the high ground and move along accordingly.
Did the Bren gunner get in trouble for moving forward without command?
Not at all. These are the instances of courage which turn every battle at some stage. Burnett, because of the outstanding courage at the time was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, which is the second highest award to be awarded to a soldier.
There are some people who say that Burnett and Jack Gerke during this operation both of which could easily have won a Victoria Cross because of their behaviour and courage was so exemplary.
Did Burnett survive?
Yes, survived and is surviving to this day.
That was the first part of the operation.
Where were you during this time?
I was with the forward section.
Hiding behind a rock for a brief period.
How close were the Chinese?
From you and I. We were on top of them.
What kind of fighters were they?
I thought they, you don’t see much of them while you’re fighting, but I thought they did very well. I thought they were very courageous and disciplined soldiers. They had the disadvantage or practically no
communications or very poor resupply, which put them at a disadvantage to us. But I was to find out, if they were ever defeated on a hill, they’d move back, regroup and come back and have another go at it. They were very good soldiers. We had to follow that up. We were only halfway up 355 at this stage. So we had to continue forward to two more knolls before we got to the top of 355.
Fortunately the enemy were confused, they withdrew in front of us and then they withdrew in front of the KOSB and we both arrived up the top of the hill.
This was your platoon?
Yes, what was left of it. We lost one section, but we had the rest of it.
How many men in a section?
There should be ten, but there were only about six or eight at that stage. We’d lost a few beforehand. We went into battle with about 24
I think and we lost one of them, so that pulled us down to about 16 men I think.
Was this your first bit of conflict?
It really was your first bit of conflict. You couldn’t classify anything else as conflict. This was the genuine article.
Did you get to see the men that were killed?
Yes. That’s quite inevitable
for an infantryman because the final stage of any war is hand-to-hand engagement. You can’t occupy land without actually closing in at the enemy.
Do you mean literally hand-to-hand?
Yes, there was and there always will be hand-to-hand combat.
There will be bayonet engagement, close range firing of rifles and Owen guns. It was a brutal, very successful attack. It was a great effort by the platoon of men. Quite outstanding.
What kind of hand-to-hand fighting were you doing? Actually using the rifle?
I didn’t have a rifle. Officers in those days were rewarded with a pop gun called a 38 Wembley pistol, which you carried on the side, which is quite a useless piece of weaponry, but traditionally that was it.
How were you fighting the Chinese?
Me personally, I was firing my pistol uselessly forward whilst the rest of my platoon engaged with the enemy and defeated them. It’s normally current with sub lieutenants who’ve got a pistol in their hand.
You were awarded a military medal for this.
The Military Cross.
Was it for the whole operation or for this particular first
It was the whole operation. It was because of the performance of the whole platoon rather than my performance. As it always is.
Not many officers would admit to that.
I think most of us would. If they don’t, they should.
Tell us about the next assault.
We were pretty beat up after that. I was fairly exhausted because I was not
used to this sort of thing. The platoon was pretty tired because they realised they’d done a great job. So we paddled out way back to the position we were in before. Hopefully we thought we’d done our job for God, King and Country and that we would be free from now on, but it wasn’t to be so of course. We’d no sooner got back than the rest of the battalion
attack proceeded up against 317. C Company was asked to support and to do the final attack on the summit of 317 because Bravo and Delta Companies had been fiercely engaged on the bottom slopes of 317, both had done a magnificent job, but had been fighting and suffered very heavy casualties. The CO decided the proper thing was to send
C Company through, to take the top of 317. We continued across the valley fairly early in the morning again. Got into position with B and D Company who were in, they’d been knocked around very badly. They were in good shape and they were prepared to fight as long as you wanted them to, but they’d been badly mauled.
We had to move through them to another feature called Baldy and attack up the almost vertical slopes of 317, very steep ridge. We were successful and we were very fortunate I think, because the Chinese I think had decided that they would withdraw from the top of 317 because by the time we got up there they’d practically all gone into the
little bushed area behind 317. So we managed to occupy 317 by late that afternoon, which put us three companies surrounding 317 and one in reserve, so we were in a very strong position. KOSB now had 355, we had 317, but we didn’t have the rest of the mountain behind 317. Most of the battles for the next two
days occurred on that area, which was called `the hinge of the battle’.
Where it all weighed?
Yes, virtually that. That’s where the whole effort hinged or weighed on the success of that particular area. The British KSLI [King’s Sussex Light infantry], plus A Company of 3RAR were trying to move up the western, that's the left hand spur line, towards the hinge of 317, and the rest of 3RAR were trying to move down
the eastern side of the hinge to try and move the enemy off that feature. They were very heavily ensconced and there was probably one of the largest hand-to-hand contact battles of the whole war occurred in that particular area with Bravo Company and elements of C Company, who were subjected to the biggest artillery barrage of the war,
which went on for many hours at nine o'clock at night and then they were subjected to wave upon wave of Chinese attacks trying to retake the mountain. A magnificent effort on behalf of Bravo and Charlie Company.
By saying ‘effort’, are you saying that it wasn’t taken?
No, the Chinese did not get it
back again. We’d taken it and we’d stuck to it, which in the face of the overpowering enemy was quite a remarkable feat on the part of those soldiers involved.
Were they overpowering in man numbers?
Yes. Much more. I would anticipate that at least a battalion or maybe more attacked the hinge position, which was occupied by Bravo Company plus elements of
How were you bearing up under this pressure? What tactics did you employ for your platoon?
My platoon at this stage were towards the rear of the hinge on top of 317 and remained there at battalion headquarters for the next two nights. We were in reserve for any action forward, and we were also holding the
rear position in case it was needed. So the battle was virtually over for us. The other elements took charge and moved forward. We had to just share the artillery, which was quite intense. Unbelievably intense and accurate artillery fire, which was probably from the Russian guns at that stage.
How did you evade the bullets?
You dig a hole in the ground and - bullets was a different matter, but shells you just dig a hole in the ground and hope that a shell doesn’t hit the hole. It’s quite amazing really, because when the soldiers forward were trying to defend their position they called our own artillery down upon themselves in order to try and annihilate the Chinese and hopefully huddle in their own pits.
Quite a courageous act.
Was it successful?
Yes. The next morning there were many hundreds of Chinese I believe, I wasn’t there, in the forward lines in front of the wire, but I do know that there was a temporary truce. Our soldiers saw the Chinese orderlies trying to collect the wounded and the dead and they ceased firing and
permitted them to clear the battlefield. That was a pretty nice thing to do really.
How long did this take?
Now we’re on day number three.
Actually we’re on day five now. We’ve moved right through three and four and five. Yes.
Your platoon was heavily involved throughout this whole operation?
Yes, our platoon was involved firstly in occupying the assault on 317 and then staying there as the reserve position in support of the other two platoons who were forward with B Company. So we were not engaged in hand-to-hand combat on days
four and five. We were engaged in general artillery attack, that’s all.
The first assault where you lost a section…
That was on 355.
Did you lose men on the second assault?
Because you weren’t in the frontline?
We were in the frontline, we moved up 317 very, very quickly and we moved up before the enemy could engage us.
From then on, over the next few days, we weren’t in the frontline, we weren’t in hand to hand contact with the enemy, the rest of the company, and B Company, were.
Over those five days you were still using your…
Gave it up after a while and didn’t use it at all. Later on I managed to exchange with the Americans
for a 30 calibre sub-machine carbine, which I carried for the rest of the Korean campaign. But I wasn’t smart enough to get that early on.
In the second assault, what did you use?
I still had it stuck on my side. I didn’t have the 30 cal, I didn’t use anything. I used both hands to try and claw my way up the hill it was so steep.
The platoon were doing all the work, not me.
How did you confer with? Who did you answer to?
The first night? The first night my company commander was up there with me. He came up with me during the initial assault, came with me and stayed with me. Then quite soon after that the battalion commander came up and occupied the same feature. So the initial feature of 317 became
battalion headquarters and we had the job of looking after that area whilst the remainder of the troops went forward. The battalion was very much under strength at this stage: a lot of casualties. Even the anti-tank platoon and assault pioneers platoon were all up there on infantry duties trying to build up strength from the top of the mountain.
How did you sleep?
You don’t sleep much at all. In the five days everyone were literally with little or no sleep. It’s remarkable. You catch up a bit in the daytime when nothing’s happening. You had someone on duty and the rest of the platoon would try and nod off in their weapon pit. Other than that it was very little peace.
With the capture of 355, did you take many POWs?
Yes. Not many. I think there were eleven or 13 or something. They were all collected down the hill at 355 and strangely enough the section commander who was wounded, my section commander,
took charge of all the wounded and all the POWs and the POWs carried our wounded out back to the RAP, and the second commander moved them all back. So they performed a very useful function for us.
Did the Chinese have a philosophy that being taken POW made them the lowest of the low as the Japanese did?
Most the Chinese were peasants who were trained as soldiers. I’m not too sure of what attitude. From my experience the POWs were fairly docile. Having been captured they accepted it and did what they were told. I’ve not heard of another incident which contradicts this.
Were you wounded at 355?
I got a small mortar fragment when the sections were moving up the hill in the arm and the wrist. A minor wound. As happened to a hell of a lot of
the other soldiers too and they all remained on duty wounded. Only the people who were quite seriously wounded ever were evacuated. Soldiers are very good in this game.
Probably the adrenaline also.
Yes. I was listening to a murder mystery on the television the other night and the guy was saying he didn’t feel that he got shot. That is quite true. The first
time I was wounded I didn’t feel the mortar fragment go down my chest. It was just as though someone thumped me on the chest. There was no pain at all.
Did you have a doctor with your platoon?
No, the doctors don’t go with the platoon. One doctor, the regimental medical officer, stays with the RAP. Each company has a series of medical orderlies, or
stretcher bearers, which stay with the company. They in fact evacuate and first aid any wounded who are moved as quickly as possible back to the RAP. At the RAP they are given emergency first aid. From there they’re moved back into a MASH [Mobile Army Surgical Hospital], or an area where they can get urgent surgery. From there they’re moved back into a base hospital, which was in Seoul, and from Seoul,
those who require evacuation are sent home to Japan, or are recovered they’re sent back to the line.
How did you take care of the wound on your wrist?
Put a bit of, we all carried field service bandages and a field aid kit. Some of the wounds were so
minor that they were just covered and left that way. About 30 years after I came back from Korea I had a large black mole growing on my thigh, which everyone thought was a melanoma, including me, and I whipped off to the doctor and the doctor thought it was a melanoma. Took a biopsy off it and sent it away and it was pyridoxine. A small
shrapnel chip had worked its way to the surface and rusted in the blood stream and formed a little mole. There you are.
That would have been scary.
Yes, I was delighted when I found out what it was. He was quite astounded. He said, “What the hell is this? Pyridoxine.” So I thought I had the answer and explained to him.
Looking back at Operation Commando,
what was the most difficult aspect of it for you as an officer?
I think gaining the support of the platoon is always the objective. To enable them to continue with the job. There’s no time to think about smart tactics,
at a platoon level, it’s really just get on with the job as quickly as possible, let the battalion commander worry about the tactics. If you do it quickly enough and with enough determination you’ll normally be successful. My job I thought was to try and keep the platoon moving and to support them whenever I could.
Do you have any friends you could talk to?
I became very close friends with most the platoon, especially with the section commander. You try and talk to your other platoon commanders if you can, but normally things are so frenetic during those five days that you don’t get the occasion to even see the other platoon commanders let alone talk to them, because you’ve got your own job to do. Yes, you do create a lot of friendships within the platoon.
Is there anything that sticks in your mind with the hand-to-hand fighting that you find hard to recall?
No, I don’t have a psychological problem with that. I know many soldiers do, and quite rightly so. I think I got off very lightly in the war. I had
good soldiers, they were doing a great job and we were successful. I don’t bear any mental scars from the war, but I know it’s hard for a lot of people.
Did you see men being blown to pieces?
Yes, you do, and you do see enemy also.
Somehow the natural reaction, or the adrenaline or something, takes over and you assume responsibility for dealing with the situation. During the whole time I never saw one of 7 Platoon ever show any signs whatsoever of wanting to withdraw from the task or running away or trying to find an excuse to leave his comrades.
No matter how tough it got they were always unquestionably there to do the job. Made my task very simple.
It would have been dishonourable to go AWL [Absent Without Leave] on your mates.
Yes, if it ever occurred to anyone I think it would be dishonourable, but I don't think it ever occurred to anyone. There might have been one or two soldiers
who really gave serious thought to, “This is too much, I’ve had it.” But I didn’t strike it. I know the men were very tense over extended, indeed I was. I was tired, desperate and over stressed and I think by the time we got off that hill all of us, the battalion commander included, were all dead beat
and I think it was time to have a bit of a blow. You can only ask so much of soldiers for so long. So much of officers for so long. You just couldn’t go on and on and on under that sort of pressure.
Was it the same pressure when you couldn’t sleep at night because you were concerned that you could be killed?
Not so much killed. I think people were concerned. No one ever slept deeply, I agree with you there, but they weren't concerned about being killed, they were concerned about how could they defend their position if they were sound asleep? What would happen if someone crept up on the wire? For this you rely heavily on your comrades and the sentries on duty. That’s why it’s a cardinal sin ever to doze off on duty protecting
the rest of the platoon. If you were there as a guard everyone’s awake in the flash of a second. You’re on the job. That’s the way you do get sleep at night and it’s the way a platoon looks after itself by making sure it’s always got a number of people on lookout.
Were you partly responsible for who would be on duty?
Basically the platoon commander is, but in actual fact he doesn’t do it,
because the section commander’s told, “You will arrange for pickets on duty throughout the night,” section commanders allocate the pickets. If the platoon commander’s got any problem he goes and sees the section commander. He wants anything special done he sees the section commander. That’s the way the Australian Army gets its strength, by having people responsible for little teams of men and for instance I would never go beyond the section commander
because that’s interfering with his command of his men. If I wanted something done I’d have the section commander implement it. For me to go past the section commander would downgrade his authority and I would think this goes all the way through right up to brigade and additional levels.
you think about the Australian soldier, what sets him apart from other nations’ soldiers?
Dear, he is apart. Maybe he's apart just because I know him better than other soldiers. To me he’s unique. From my experience he’s unique. I think it’s because of the spirit of comradeship, mateship,
reliance on each other. You might even say, if you’re a great academic student, that it goes back to the Eureka Stockade. Well, this goes back to Colonial days or back to the prisoners in Tasmania or Norfolk Island. Who knows? Somewhere along the line there Australians tend to band together and rely on each other under stress. Particularly noticeable I find in the infantry. I think that’d be the major
quality. Apart from that they are very courageous. And they’re very determined. You can be brave for 24 hours, but it’s not much good if you’ve gotta fight for 36. You’ve gotta have the endurance and determination to get something done. Very easy in battle to find an excuse not to do something. Not to be sent around a feature and to change your mind halfway round and go and sit down and have a rest instead of going all the
way around and doing the job. Very easy in battle to not do your job. But I found the Australian soldier is not that way inclined. He likes to get the job done and he does rely on his mate a lot. I’ve seen soldiers virtually, not break down in battle, but break down within sight of their friends who have been badly wounded
or killed. Whereas the threat to their own life is disregarded. That’s what I mean by mateship. If you’ve got that, one platoon is equal to ten enemy platoons because it’s all a matter of who gives in first.
Interviewee: Maurice Pears Archive ID 2240 Tape 06
How can you get men to do these things, run towards bullets or stuff flying at them?
I don’t wanna get heretical in this way, but I
think a sub lieutenant doesn’t do as much as many people think he does. I think if he’s got a team and he’s trained with the team, the soldiers tend to take over the battle, they tend to initiate the actual contact, their initiatives. Once you’re in contact with the enemy there’s not much a platoon commander can do. There’s not much
platoon sergeants can do. Section commanders fight the war, and within the section it’s the individual soldier. So if I dared to give any advice to platoon commanders it would be on the basis of make sure you take care of your men before they get into battle and when they do get into battle they’ll take care of you. It’s too late to start to work things out once the battle has started.
If you’re not ready before the shot is fired you’re not going to get ready. If your men are not prepared to battle with you and to do their best to achieve success before you get into battle, it’s not going to change by the time you get there. So I think the main thrust from any platoon commander should be to try and find out the best things for that particular platoon and make sure you look after them and that you respond to their requirements when necessary.
Then you’ll get success.
Describe the atmosphere of that evening.
The atmosphere of the evening, approaching up to 317 we passed through the most horrific sights where Delta Company had been battling for some many hours. They had lost three of their
officers and commanders, wounded and removed out. A lieutenant had taken over command from there major because he was the only guy left to do it. They’d been severely mauled and had a high rate of casualty. There was smoke and wounded laying all around the place when we passed through there.
As we passed through them on the way up to 317 we got a resounding cheer from the company as we passed through them to give us a bit of enthusiasm or go. It was quite a moving experience as we moved through. By the time we got to the top of the hill we were all physically exhausted, but we had the task then
of having to dig in and protect ourselves and try and be prepared for an enemy counterattack, which we knew would come. We knew it would come. Maybe it would come the first night we were there, maybe it would come the second, as indeed it did. Pickets had to be put out. We had to try and prepare something to eat. Our company sergeant major,
Arthur Stanley, who was also awarded the Military Medal, he had to get ammunition up to us. We’d used four times our normal line of ammunition at this stage. Had to somehow get food resupply, get water to is, get the casualties out of the way. It was ordered chaos. People knew what they were doing. Resupply came up, everything just went that way and soldiers just tried to get as much rest
as they could. Just sitting there all night waiting for something to happen or the light to come up so they continue the next day.
What strategies did you use in capturing these things?
In retrospect and later I've thought about it a lot.
From a platoon’s point of view you can’t change your strategies during battle. Hopefully you’re given the right task by the company commander. Once you’re committed to battle there’s no time to change plans or this or that. You’ve gotta go as quickly as you possibly can towards to enemy, so that you astound them,
you aggressively put them out of it and you get to the objective as quickly as possible. In retrospect, if we had delayed on the approach to 355 and on 317, there’s every chance that we would not have got to the top. So my view is that a platoon in the assault must think of nothing but getting to their objective as quickly as they possibly can, because I know we
saved a lot of casualties with mortar fire, because we moved that quickly that the mortar fire didn’t catch up to us. We were through the mortar fire and onto the objective before they could get us. So speed is the main thing.
How do you summon the courage to go through the mortar and bullets?
I don't think it’s courage. You have no alternative. Where else are you going
to go? You gonna go backwards? To the side? It’s a matter of relying on your training, which I think everyone does, knowing what you’ve gotta do and just single-mindedly doing it. Call it what you will. Soldiers are courageous, call it courage if you like, but they know what they’ve gotta do and they do it.
Does he have time for (UNCLEAR) in your mind when you’re in the heat of the battle?
I don't think
so at all. I think fear enters your mind after the battle when you’re sitting down trying to have a think about what’s happened, “What did I do wrong? What’ll happen if I do this next time? What if they’re going to send another massive force up behind me and cut me off?” I think that’s when you start to toss up a little bit of fear. Once you’re committed
I don't think you do.
No time to think?
I don't know you have time to think of anything except getting to the objective, because that’s the only safe place on attack. Everywhere else is a danger.
And the fear enters when you have the time to think?
It enters when the anti climax comes in, when it’s all over and you’re sitting down waiting for the next bell to ring.
How had your men fared? Had there been many
We lost a third of our men on the first engagement. We lost another soldier who was killed on 317, which was possibly the most distressing incident of the war for me. In that it was during a very intense artillery bombardment. I was on one side of the feature covering re-entrant up towards
the platoon position on 317 with a few men. The rest of the platoon was on the other side of the hill. One of the guys was mortally wounded on the other side of the hill. I can remember Jimmy Burnett running over the hill and saying, “Come over and have a look at Jack, I think he’s dying.” I said,
“I can’t. I’m trying to cover this re-entrant,” I don't know, “down there” or something and he got very upset and I got upset. I think that was probably the most distressing incident of the war that I can remember.
Why was it distressing to you as opposed to the other men dying?
It was distressing
because I didn’t go back over the hill and catch Jack before he died. I remained where I was. Rightly or wrongly. In retrospect it would have been more important for me to go over and hopefully nothing would happen on my side.
Was there anything you could have done for him?
No, but I think it would have been a comradely
thing to do. I think that’s probably what I should have done.
Was Jack young?
Yes. Probably about my age.
How did your men cope with losing a third of the strength?
I’ve battled with that ever since. I’ve never quite worked our how we did it or what happened, but I know we were
down one section and we reorganised ourselves into three little groups. We had no platoon sergeant, because we lost him too. So we just worked it out together. Moved the shifts around a bit. “This is your job. You’ll have to do this, you’ll have to fill in there.” Had a lot of help from Arthur Stanley. He was an acting platoon sergeant for me. He knew I didn’t have a
platoon sergeant, so he used to particularly look after my platoon on the resupply because we didn’t have a link down there like the other platoons. We got through, but would have made it very hard after five days if we’d been strongly attacked again. I think we were pretty close to being at the end of our tether. We were well down in strength. The whole battalion was, this is not just
7 Platoon. This was all the other platoons and all the other platoon commanders who were going through exactly the same experiences we were going through.
A few months before you were in Australia.
Just a few months before I was either in the Haven or Gould’s or the Prince Edward Theatre or somewhere in Sydney drinking
beer and amusing myself. I think that got to the soldiers too. Occasionally they think, “Why am I here? My mate’s down there, he’s got a job, he’s probably got my job. Am I gonna get a job when I get back?”
Was war anything like you had expected?
No, I had a fanciful view of war,
of courageous soldiers, of honour and glory and flags waving. Nothing like that at all. It’s just a very testing time for a team to work their problems out.
How stressed were you at this stage?
I think we were all very stressed. I think we were far more stressed than we thought at the time.
Straight after there, a couple of weeks later, I could see signs of stress. Sour faces, nervous faces, including my own. Niggling things. Why have we gotta do this? Why can’t we have a break? I started to see the signs of stress. It certainly started to occur in me too. I started to look forward to leaving.
How long were you dug in on top of the hill?
Only three or four nights. I’ve forgotten.
Still that’s a long time without real sleep.
I’d say the whole battalion were at least eight or nine
days under extreme stress, poorly fed and with little or no sleep. So they’d probably done as much as they could do.
What pressure were the Chinese putting you under?
The Chinese were determined to get the hill back. A month later they did get it back. They counterattacked and took it back again.
The feature was so important to the Chinese and to us because it was commanding position so they had to get it back. Because if we maintained the position on the 317 they would have to move back from the western flank in order to straighten the line up. If they did that they would have to go considerably north of the 38th parallel and give away a considerable amount of ground, which was under
discussion at the peace talks at Panmunjom at that stage. So it was vital to them. The commanders had said, “Get it back at any cost. We’re not to give it up until peace is declared.” That demarcation line is still there to this day, exactly the same.
You must have felt the threat of getting cut off.
Yes. I didn’t at the time, but years later looking at the battle maps
and thinking about it I realise we were completely insulated from the enemy in that the enemy were shooting at us from a long distance from behind. I didn’t realise that, it was only later. If we had stayed there we would have been shooting behind the enemy through those lines. So it was a difficult and perilous position. An amazing series of events for the battalion and
quite a remarkable leadership of the CO at the time.
Did you suffer heavy mortar attacks at this position?
This position we were suffering heavy artillery attacks. Because the mortar is an infantry close contact weapon whereas the artillery is divisional and brigade weapon used from a much longer distance. It’s much heavier, artillery.
This was adding to the stress?
If anything was going to break the soldiers on 317 it would have been the artillery attack on the second last night. It was the most concentrated artillery attack of the war. I’ve forgotten how long it lasted, an hour or something, but it was
just constant bombardment by massive number of artillery weapons. It just lit the sky up.
How close were they coming to hitting you?
They were hitting the positions all the time. How we didn’t get more casualties is just beyond me. I think the fact was that the ground was so hard that we only had time to dig very tiny little foxholes
to get into, which means that our chances of getting hit by a shell were much better, being missed by a shell was much better. The bigger the hole the more chance of getting hit.
How deep were the holes?
As deep as you can get them. The ultimate aim is to get them about five feet so that you can stand up and fire over the rim. In our
case on 317 we were lucky to get them down three or four feet because of the rocks and the haste with which we had to prepare them.
What was the weather like?
The weather was reasonable then. We were in the end of summer. Autumn. The winter starts in November/December, so we were very lucky.
It’s so cold there that even in November I can remember patrolling to the east of 317 on our new positions there and we came across Chinese positions where snow and ice were remaining from the last winter and embedded in the ice were Chinese soldiers
that had remained there from a year ago. That I remember pretty clearly because I could hear the enemy machinegun fire coming over our heads before we moved out of there. So it’s very, very cold in Korea in the wintertime, but fortunately this was autumn.
Must have been an eerie sight.
It is quite a shock. Probably more of a shock when it’s unexpected. Very eerie.
After eight days you were relieved?
Tell us about this and where you went from here?
We moved off the hill in very orderly fashion. It was a very good withdrawal. The KOSBs took over from our position. We moved down
to the bottom of the hill, a few of us who had been wounded in action remained on duty, were sent back to the RAP and MASH for a few days. Then we were brought back into the line. We moved into position on the right hand side. The eastern side of 317 and picked up a defensive position there,
which again was very close to the enemy and we were touching 317, the KOSBs on 317 on the western flank of our position. So we were probably still engaged on and off with the enemy for another month after that. It wasn’t til December that we got out of that position and moved back into a quieter, more reserve position.
Were there counterattacks at this position?
Yes, the major counterattack where the Chinese took 317 back. We got the fringes of it, but they didn’t counterattack or occupy our position. KOSB were forced to move off 317 and very soon after we were forced to move back because we were in an isolated position. That
occurred early November.
What were you doing in this month?
You’re defending a position, patrolling, building up defences, searching for the enemy, protecting yourself against the artillery, because there’s still a lot of the enemy artillery all around, and getting ready for any eventuality that may occur. It was a pretty tiring position also.
It didn’t sound like a reserve position.
It wasn’t a reserve. It was just better than 317. It wasn’t till December that we managed to get back into position where we really called it “reserve,” wash your clothes, have a bath, have a decent feed, have a few beers, take it easy without threat of enemy attack.
How did you get wounds?
When a mortar explodes a multitude of tiny fragments, and especially in rocky ground you get splintering effect from the rocks. Quite a number of us received skin wounds of various intensity which don’t justify removal from the battlefield, but which are classified as
“wounded in action remaining on duty”. There was a lot of that around. Many other soldiers in many other countries could use that as an excuse to remove themselves from the battlefield. Not the Australian soldier.
Did you get this attended to during those few days?
We all attended to it ourselves. After the battle we were evacuated back to the normal medical procedures to the RMO [Regimental Medical Officer] who
dressed it, gave you some penicillin, see whether you needed further attention. If you do, you were evacuated to the next line, repair and if you’re not, you take a night off at the RAP and go back in the line.
That’s what happened with you?
Yes. I had a couple of days because I was evacuated straight through to MASH, which automatically evacuated me down to Seoul,
quite inappropriately because I wasn’t damaged the effect I should have gone to Seoul. I stayed the night in Seoul and I said, “Can I go back now?” and they sent me back again. So I had a couple of nights in the ravages of Seoul because it was completely destroyed. The city was blown apart.
Did you get any relief during this day or two?
Yeah, I was
in the hospital there and that was quite relaxing. Then I had a night in the British officers’ mess in Seoul before I got back. I sat down, had a few beers and something decent to eat and enjoyed the culinary table of the British officers’ messes of those days with sherry and chilled juice on the centre of the table and these stewards with their white coats on.
Quite amusing really.
How hard was it to head back into it after that?
At this stage I was thinking, “It’d be nice if someone said, ‘You can go home now’.” That wasn’t to happen. I think for me and the platoon things started to get a bit better then. Because we had been exposed to what was probably going to be the worst.
We seemed to accept the next few occasions of battle much more readily than the first.
Your position was on the right flank of 317. How was your withdrawal from this position coordinated?
Standard military procedure. There’s a great variety of what are called SOPs in the army, which are Standard Operational Procedure, which you train in. Someone says you’re going to withdraw you know you’ve got a certain number of things to do in a certain sequence. Piece of cake really. We had no problem getting back.
How do you communicate during this
hectic and chaotic period?
You try to communicate if you can see each other by signals. If you can’t you communicate by dashing from one pit to another and talking to people. But during the height of battle there’s not much requirement for you to communicate. Everyone’s in their own little pit fighting like mad to survive, as Bushy Pembroke’s platoon and B Company were forward of us. They were fighting for life and death there.
You find each part of the section operated independently. They know what they’re supposed to do in a defence perimeter and they do it.
What about receiving the order to withdraw?
It’s passed down in normal fashion. You withdraw in a certain order. First man on the hill is last man off. So you withdraw through each position consecutively,
so at any stage when you withdraw you’re in a position to stand up and fight if you have to. When you finally finish, the last man comes down and the other guys are replacing you as you’re withdrawing. So you’ve got one line going up one side and the other coming down the other.
So you finally had time to relax. What did you do?
In reserve our major task is to sleep, get some nice food, have a few beers, have a yarn, wash your clothes, have a decent bath. The laundry unit would come up and you’d have a bath. You get deloused if necessary and get yourself fit. A couple of games of touch football, entertain yourself, sit down and write some letters home. No great significant
event, just a period of getting together.
The men in your platoon must have had a blood bond after all this.
Yeah, I think so. That’s what I mean by mateship. I think they had a very close affiliation in that regard. Respect and trust each other.
They were relatively stressed.
When I say stressed I say they were under great stress, but
it was handled with great care. They were still in an operating position at any stage, but they were looking forward to a break.
Where was your next place you were forward to?
Christmas Day we were still in reserve. I can remember the Chinese moved right through
the lines and put Christmas gifts on our wire in reserve with, “Get rid of the American oppressors,” and a little lolly and a little bit of coloured paper and, “Happy Christmas from the Chinese People’s Republic.” I remember that particularly. Straight after that we had a few parcels from home. Then we moved back into the major position just
south and west of the old 355 into a position called 210. We were to remain in that position until May/June at which stage I was repatriated back to Japan for further duties there.
Tell us about being in this position, especially during these winter months.
Winter’s very cold.
The major task in 210 is when you’re in a defensive area is to take command of the no-man's-land. You must dominate no-man's-land. That means you’ve gotta go out every night in patrol. The way the commander had disposed the battalion, 7 Platoon and my friend Bushy Pembroke, sister platoon, 7 and 8 Platoon, we were located on a small knoll west of 355 which was directly
underneath the position called the Four Apostles, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We were directly underneath John, which was occupied by the Chinese. So we were in a position which was a gateway to no-man's-land. Our major task was to secure that position. Most of the battalion patrols passed through out position in order to get into no-man's-land.
We were it he unique situation of being able to see the Chinese and for the Chinese being able to see us. With a dual lateral independence decreed so that we didn’t fire on each other. Somehow that lasted for some two, three months in that Chinese saw no
point in firing on us and we saw no point in firing on the Chinese. Most unusual. The truce was only broken once when one of my soldiers was sitting outside my bunker in the daytime where they normally let us sit and the sniper shot his nose off from the top of the hill. We responded with such ferocity, because we weren’t used to this sort of treatment,
we responded with such ferocity, every man in the platoon opened fire on the top of the hill and there was such a reaction it never ever happened again. I think it was just a rogue Chinese soldier deciding to take the battle in his own hands. Jack’s nose incidentally was restructured and put back together again when he got back to
He came out all right?
They put a bit back. I don't know where they took it from, but they built it again.
Was he in a lot of pain?
I suppose he was. It was pretty quick. We had him out of there pretty quickly.
Being in this position where you could see each other,
were there any weird exchanges and relationship you had with the Chinese?
We thought the Christmas present thing was quite amusing. That they’d managed to get through the major lines up into the reserve and back again. It was a neat piece of propaganda. Didn't have any great effect on us, but I thought it was quite amusing.
What about talk?
of talk during the battles, talk and whistles, but not on this occasion. I think if we heard someone near we would have reacted and fired upon them. The fact that they came up without our knowledge was during the dead of night.
I’ve heard of loud speakers, “You Aussies shouldn’t,” you know.
Yes. During battle, but not in reserve. You were protected from that in reserve.
In our case anyway. But there was loudspeaker propaganda.
What did they say with this loudspeaker?
I don't remember any great detail. I do remember the whistles and bugles on the attack on 317. I have heard that propaganda over the loudspeakers was merely, “Go home.
Why are you here with the imperialist Yankees?” Mr Truman was always depicted on the pamphlets that were picked up enjoying himself in Miami with all the rich capitalists. The normal sort of propaganda.
How were you sleeping in this position?
There were never any attacks in winter. They were always defensive lines and patrolling. Everyone dug a hole, found as much timber as they could and put a top on it and made a little hole. The smaller it was the more heat you had. You had little stoves which you could use in the larger ones. In my bunker I had two or three people in with me. Hot bed rotation so that
they were kept pretty warm. When you got severely burnt was when you went out, or when you froze at least, was when you went out on patrols. This was very demanding on the soldiers because of the low temperatures would freeze any moisture on your hands. If you didn’t have your gloves on your hands would stick to the metal of the weapons and rip off. You had to be properly equipped. You had to be very careful. The task then was to
lie in the snow quietly for as long as you can on patrol without making a noise to disturb the enemy. I was only out on one of two patrols, but I found it very, very demanding. I take my hat off to the soldiers who were out there a couple of times a month in each platoon, which was really hard. You got so cold that you couldn’t, you might boil a
cup of coffee, which you’d half drink, and use the other half to have a bit of a shave with. You only had a little bit of water. You put it on the side of the tin and you’d turn around to finish your shave. By the time you turn around again the coffee would be frozen in your mug. It was that cold in the midst of winter. Because you were out in the open
and you also get wind chill as well, and it’s really cold. There’s no treatment for frostbite. You’ve just gotta try to avoid it.
Were the weapons all working in these conditions?
In order to keep the weapons working you’ve gotta keep them warm. You’ve gotta keep them close to your clothing. Soldiers were well trained and used to that. They’d had weapons closely
under their arms or wherever the working parts were to keep them warm.
Interviewee: Maurice Pears Archive ID 2240 Tape 07
Something you said about Australian soldiers having to be replaced, was it every two years?
No, it was the policy in Korea was that every soldier had to be replaced after twelve months. Not a day later than twelve months. So if you were in the middle of a battle the soldiers still had to come out. Very demanding and difficult for the commander to battle under those circumstances. Also soldiers had to have
compulsory leave each year, which they would take a short leave of a few days in Kure and a longer leave in Tokyo. That was arbitrary and had to be taken. So the day in and day out and leave period of every soldier in the battalion had to be scheduled at battalion headquarters so that each day so many people were going out and coming in. To try and run a battle
under those circumstances is very, very difficult. Later on, the next battalion in, that changed. It was completely rolled over, so they got over the problems, but it was very difficult at that time.
So the Australian soldier had to learn other people’s jobs because they were always revolving?
Yes, in a way. That’s true. It’s one of the bases
of platoon work, every man is responsible for some particular task. If a section commander gets knocked off the 2IC [Second in Command] takes over. If he gets knocked off the Bren gunner takes over. If the forward scout gets knocked off the second scout takes over. It’s gotta be replacement all the way down till finally there's just one left. Don’t know what happens then.
Did we talk about the shenanigans the men got up to on leave in Tokyo?
No. I wouldn’t know cos I wasn’t there. I presume that young men, when they’re given a bit of leave and money and booze and recreation will take the most use of it as they can and hopefully they do, because that’s the only relief or let off
of steam they’re going to get till they go back to the line again.
Visiting milk bars and…
Maybe beer halls. There was quite a culture, as there always is in battle areas, of booze and girls and parties and that sort of thing. I think the Australian soldier did particularly well out of it. I don't know they ever
disgraced themselves or abused anyone. They might have had a few dustups, but Australians are normally well behaved. The might be a bit cheeky and larrikinish at times, but basically they’re well behaved.
Did you not visit any brothels in Tokyo?
I visited a few geisha houses and we all did
at that stage. Little bit of local culture. There’s nothing harmful in what they do. It was normal. The only time I got into trouble was when I went to, in those days certain areas were out of bounds to Americans, soldiers, officers,
Turks, there was a particularly lovely big nightclub in Tokyo called the Show Boat. That was out of bounds to everyone except senior American officers. It was very closely guarded. A few of my friends and I decided this cannot be. This nightclub we wanna see. It’s called the Show Boat because it was three or four
tiers and it had a little railway line running around the inside which had booze and food on it, which you see off the shelf like they’ve got in restaurants now. So we went there and we were having a nice time. We saw the American shore patrol and police coming in. You could always recognise them because they were all
about eight foot tall and about five yards across the shoulder. They were obviously in there checking. So most of us, even though we had a few drinks, managed to hide and miss it, but one of us got caught. He was taken away by the police to be tanked up for the night. So we decided we’d rescue him.
After a little while we went and presented ourselves at the station and said, “You’ve gotta be kind. This guy has just come back from action in Korea. What about letting him go and we’ll take him home?” They said, “Were you there with him?” We said, “We were all there.” “OK, you come in.” They locked us all up for the night. On getting back to the battalion about
a week after I got back a signal came over for all of us for a delinquency report, which is the American way of reporting an infringement. I had to front up to the CO again with this delinquency report. He understood.
The Americans have been explained like Roger Ramsgate with big jaws and…
Yeah, they’re a frightening sight the American military police. They’re like Roger Ramsgate.
And they’re big men.
Yes, they’re designed that way. So no one argues with them.
Did you get any American friends?
Actually only one in particular when we were on 210.
We were the right hand British/Australian regiment and our left side was the rocket demand, the 5th Infantry Division Americans. There was a guy there, Lieutenant Marshal, American, he was liaison officer for the Australians and I was the liaison officer for the Americans and we talked in the dividing line between the two forces. We corresponded for a while.
How were the Americans behaved in Korea?
I think they were under different situation. We were all volunteers. Everyone was a volunteer. Whereas most the Americans weren’t. Makes a big difference when you’re forced to go there. They had immense numbers. They had over 30,000 casualties there whereas our total casualty was somewhere a bit under 1,600.
But they were just young kids a lot of them. Probably looked younger than our soldiers, I don't know. They were a different type of force. They were operating under different circumstances. Their tactics were different to ours. We were more of an isolated guerrilla type tactic, where theirs was more defensive line. Massive use of firepower.
We didn’t have to go to that extent.
What did the geishas do?
Contrary to general opinion geishas were not prostitutes. Geishas were entertainers. What happened during the process of war on the occupation was a second rate geisha attached herself
and replaced the old traditional geisha. Below that entertainer there was a level of prostitution, which would be obtained through the geisha, but it was never part of the geisha culture. You could have a lot of fun without visiting a whorehouse. These were entertainers, singing and dancing and pour your drinks for you and a lot of harmless entertainment.
There were various grades, or levels, of entertainment available. Most of the soldiers and myself, I used to hang around the little beer halls when I had time off and I was quite happy to get drunk and go and have a sleep. We had enough trouble as it was. We were located in the Marinuchi Hotel. I think we were drunk about 20 of the
24 hours a day. It was handy because it was a nice change when you got back after a few days.
Must have been nice to just see women.
Yeah. You didn’t see many of them.
I suppose there’s a domestic ring to it.
There was a strong bond between South Koreans living in Australia and the Aussies that fought for South Korea.
Tell us about that.
Up there? Now?
Here on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane there’s a very large Gold Coast community which holds anniversaries every year, invites Australian, looks after it. In Korea
we had in our battalion B reserve a number of young boys, not girls, young men, who did washing and dubious tasks out in B echelon. We’d see them in reserve. They were nice kids and there was a very strong
friendship between them and the Australian soldiers. So much so that two of them, one of them is a senior officer in Qantas now, the other one is a very prosperous business man in Seoul, and they have very close contact with the Korean Veterans’ Association. As a result of this, all the Koreans who come to Australia now are indoctrinated to make sure that they honour the Korean experience, the Korean
War. I’m going up to give an address on Korea Day on 27th of July in Brisbane, at which there will probably be more South Koreans than Australians. Wouldn’t surprise me. They take it far more seriously than we do because I suppose their country was saved. They lost some 3,000,000 people in the engagement.
Very significant and important to them. Quite often members of 3 Battalion visit Korea every year to the shrines at Kapyong and the various areas to maintain the relationship. So there’s a strong bond between the two.
You apparently lost two medical assistants out there.
Yes. A particular one
that, they were both such incredibly popular and respected soldiers. Most difficult task to recover people under fire and expose yourself to that sort of danger. The last one was killed in close proximity to me and to Arthur Stanley after the raid in 210 in January 1952.
It was a failed night attack and we were forced off the hill, returning to our own area and he was out trying to recover the number of dead and wounded we’d had and he got killed himself by a shell. That was probably, that’s when you really felt angry against the enemy. Just such an
Would he have been wearing white?
No. He was just wearing a normal, he had an armband on.
They couldn’t see all the way back there?
Whether they could see it or not, he was killed by shell fire on the reverse slopes of the hill. I could happen to anyone. I don't think the Chinese would deliberately pick off a medical personnel
just as the Australians wouldn’t pick off a medical person. But they were in positions of danger and they did get killed.
Sad part of an ugly business.
It is an ugly business. No doubt about that.
Do you feel that Korea made a man out of you?
You can put it any way you like, but that is basically it. It was my first exposure to a real test. To a really nasty experience. To be really aware of the possibility of death. To be exposed in a situation where if I made too many mistakes everyone would know about it. This is an experience I think I shared
with every soldier that was up there. It was a testing time for all of us. There’s nothing like a tough test to qualify you for the future.
Was your mum freaking out by this time?
She may have. I don't know. It was pretty tough for her because there was no communication at all. Letters were very limited. When I was wounded
I think they ran a small feature in the newspaper and that’s all she heard about it. Small telegram and whatever she read in the newspaper. That’s tough.
Would have been tough not knowing.
Yes. She wouldn’t have known anything about it. She’s a tough old bird.
What have I missed out on your operations in Korea?
I don't think anything.
I think you’ve covered it quite adequately. You know how good the soldiers were, how everyone relied on them, how the pyramid works from the bottom to the top and not from the top to the bottom, and you know what sort of a strain they had to go through in order to get back home again. You’re aware basically of some of the problems of rehabilitation that
combat service imposes upon you. When you go back to 1914-18 when you think of the most horrific engagements in France and the almost unbelievable casualty lists and the soldiers in those days. Gas attacks and impossibility of medical treatment, you can only think that we were feather bed compared to
what happened to those guys. It’s almost unbelievable.
I watched All Quiet On The Western Front.
Did you read the book?
It’s a classic. That was from the German side and the British side was the same. Just as tough for the Germans as it was for anyone.
You got posted to
In Japan. So twelve months came up and they said, “What do you wanna do?”?
No, they don’t ask you what you wanna do. They said, “Maurie, you’re going back to Kure in Japan and you’ll spend a year there training reinforcements for Korea. At the end of that year you’ll be posted somewhere else.
So I was very fortunate to have the opportunity of joining the base at Kure and joining the battle school which was a place at Haramura, which was just outside of Hiroshima, which I was able to see firsthand, which was a bit distressing at that stage because that was ’51, the city of Hiroshima was still
in ruins. It hadn't been touched basically. I think it was left there as a memorial for some five or ten years before they started to rebuild the city. The battle school was a very concentrated effort to prepare soldiers for war, which the earlier soldiers didn’t have. We had the battle school where people could do intense battle training
and then they’d be better equipped to move straight into operations when they went over to Korea. I really enjoyed that. It was good active work and it was a nice change in intensity. I enjoyed mixing with the Japanese people. I was very close to the police up in Haramura. I’d done a lot of wrestling in Australia before I left, so the police
let me join the kodakan up in Haramura and they let me go through the three degrees to the black belt in judo. So any time I got let off from training in the afternoon when I finished, I whipped down to the police station and would do some gym work. I found it very enlightening to mix with the young policemen, even
though I couldn’t speak Japanese very well.
What skills were you able to bring to the recruits, having been in Korea, that wasn’t on the manual?
I think mainly the intensity of battle as opposed to peacetime training. Where you can point out things that I’d learned.
The faster you move, the safer you are: even that one simple thing. You might have young soldiers thinking, “When we’re going up the hill, we might go round somewhere else. We might try and change the plan or something.” I think it gives you the opportunity of passing onto them actual battle experience which may help them avoid making the mistakes you made yourself. It’s since proved a very satisfactory way of training people. Canungra up here
the other side of the Gold Coast has been a very famous battle school for years where the final stages of battle training are passed onto the soldier. Haramura was much like that.
Were you relieved you weren’t going back for another tour?
I couldn’t go back for another tour. You were only allowed to do one tour. Not that I would have volunteered for a second tour anyway unless I had to, to be realistic.
You got your black belt in judo?
Yes, I did. It’s a long time ago. 55 years.
Have you had to use it?
When I came back I used to teach judo to the young kids at the CMF battalion in Shepparton. I’ve always been pretty keen on gym work.
Fitness. But have I ever been assaulted and done a kung fu? No. Never happened to me.
It would have been a great story.
It would have been.
What about your social life in Kure? What about the girls, women?
Mainly our activities,
apart from a few odd drunken nights out in the beer hall, mainly our activities were tied up in work and also there was a large contingent of British and Australian nurses at base hospital in Kure. So there was a fair bit of interaction there. A few people got married to nurses. There was an active social life between the British and Australian of both sexes.
There was also a wilder life on the beer hall side. So you had two separate areas.
One was an active social life and one was an active sexual life?
Probably. I’d have to ask them more.
When did you meet your wife?
I didn’t meet my wife until after the war, till I came back.
You didn’t have a nurse friend?
I had a couple of nurse friends, but
I didn’t find the lady who was to look after me for the rest of my life till I came back from Korea. We met again in Sydney and were married soon after I came back.
You mentioned you could understand the Japanese philosophy of war.
What other things did you observe in Japan of the Japanese people?
I found they were very kind to us, they were very submissive to authority, their own authority. I found them fastidious in their household, eating and cleanliness. I found them cheerful.
I had no problem in mixing with them. Many of my duties were involved with the chief magistrate trying to ease the punishment of soldiers who might have had too much to drink occasionally, which was an interesting experience to me at that level of law making, because the magistrate was much older than I was. It was interesting to talk to him
on the quiet and to understand him, cos he was a senior ex serviceman. I really never got to find out how he felt about having his country occupied by little pipsqueaks like myself. I never really got to the extent, but I knew it was probably in the back of his mind. I could understand his feelings. But no, I’d never been in an
unfortunate situation with a Japanese, so it’s never really occurred to me. I know that they were starved and beaten by themselves in the battles in the jungle in that they weren’t resupplied and they starved to death and occasionally were forced into acts of terrorism in order to survive. I just wonder what I would have done if I was starving to death.
There’s always two sides to an argument.
Have you come across any gung-ho patriots in Australia that have a problem with you having an understanding of the Japanese?
Never really discussed it with anyone. No one’s really tackled me on the subject. I’ve met a few ex-servicemen who were exposed to brutality as POWs. I can understand their feelings. They’ve
decided that they don’t want to like any of the Japanese and I think they’re entitled to that opinion. But life goes on, the world goes on, generations go on and just what the generation of Japanese 60 years ago have got to do with the generation that’s running Japan now I don't know. Very little I suspect.
Were there any soldiers that you trained in Kure that did you proud or survived?
I can’t pick any one individual out because so many people went through. I think they all did very well. I don't remember any bad eggs at all, though no doubt there were some. No doubt there were some bad officers around, but
none of them came to my attention. The battle school was intense training for a week and bang they were gone and another group came in and bang they were gone. Main thing was trying to keep ourselves sane and sober long enough to do our job. Occasionally we’d beat up Kure and the officers’ mess at the hospital and
made wretches of ourselves and we’d be banned from the officers’ mess for a month and go back to Haramura. After a while they let us go back again. One occasion the colonel in charge of Kure, we’d been particularly bad, got very drunk in the officers’ mess in Kure and broken things and made disgusting wretches of ourselves so we were banned
from there for a month. After a month he said, “OK, you’ve all behaved yourselves, I’m gonna lift the ban.” So he came up for a regimental dinner to have a meal and all was nice and sweet and we said, “Thank you very much.” In the meantime two of the team had gone outside and wired a small demolition charge to the back of his jeep. We all came out smiling and he came out smiling, got into his
jeep and bang, smoke came out of the back. Then he disappeared. I’ll never forget that. The British were very funny in their messes. I quite enjoyed their company. It was all up to a few larks and tricks.
You were still a young man at this stage.
No, I was almost 22.
Yes, I was grown up by then.
You came back to Australia in 1953.
Where were you posted then?
I had a month leave in Sydney where I reacquainted myself with my mother, tried to find some old friends to get on with my social life. All the friends that I’d had beforehand had all disappeared, or got married or engaged or got somewhere else.
I managed to at that stage team up with another group and I met my darling wife. We found we needed each other quite desperately so we engaged ourselves fairly quickly. I was posted off to the CMF in Victoria in a place called Shepparton and
I spent two years there. First year Judy came down and we were married and we spent the first 18 months of our married life there in the CMF as adjutant training the CMF battalion.
How did you meet your wife?
The family was an acquaintance of an acquaintance of mine. I was desperate to get someone to talk to. I’d seen Judy
beforehand and I thought I’d go and check that family out and find someone to talk to. And it worked for both of us. And it’s worked for 50 years. 2004, yes, we were married in ’54. So you can be lucky. I was lucky to get to high school, I was
lucky to get to Duntroon, I was lucky to get out of Korea and I was lucky to find the perfect woman for me.
Was Judy working?
Yes, Judy was working in clerical work in RAS Headquarters in Sydney at the time. She did clerical duties. In those
days you either did clerical or domestic duties. That’s a pretty dull old life for 2004. Or you could become a nurse. Or a waitress, or you could clean rooms.
Or be a dashing aviator.
Yes, it were some wonderful aviatrixes. You’re not allowed to call
them aviatrixes any more, are you? But there were some wonderful ladies around at that stage.
Who cares about movie stars? Emily Pankhurst I think was a greater hero than movie stars.
It would have taken patience from Judy’s part to marry a military man.
Very hard for her. 20 years in the army was very hard for her. I had the most demanding military life later on in the Pacific Islands Regiment where I was away a lot, out in the bush with the soldiers and moving around every two years. Trying to find a home, we didn’t have the conditions in those days that you’ve got now. Trying to survive
on a sub lieutenant wage, which was grossly inadequate in those days. But better than a lot of other jobs. And to put up with me. I was a bit out of line coming back from Korea. I was a bit tired, a bit overstressed, drinking too much, so she had to tie me down and pull me back into line. Then I was a bit sick for a year after that. So it was tough for her. Very tough for an army wife
in those days.
You had a child as well?
We didn’t have a child til ’59. That was another wonderful occasion for her. Another home run on the board there.
Bringing up that child on her own while you were away must have been difficult.
The most difficult was… The first year of our baby I was at staff college so it wasn’t so bad, we were together a lot. I worked late at night studying, but we were at least together. From then on it was an absolutely disaster for Judy because I was posted to 1PIR [Pacific Island Regiment] in New Guinea as a company commander. The house wasn’t ready so I had to proceed up by myself. Judy was stuck in a flat at Canberra Point by
herself with a young baby who started to become sick. I arrived in Port Moresby and there was a misunderstanding between the soldiers up there at the time and they’d rioted. There was a number of court martials so I was stuck on an aeroplane and flown out to Manus Island where we had a small company group and I stayed there for six months. My wife had to find her own way up into Port Moresby and into a house. Stayed there for five months by herself
I came back for six months in Port Moresby and then I was off on outstation duty to Vanimo on the border for another six months. We didn’t see each other for six months, no telephones. Then I came back for six months and halfway between that six months the other company commander got sick of Vanimo so I had to go back to Vanimo and take his job.
It was tough for her. Very exciting for me, but an absolute nightmare for army wives in those days.
To not have someone to just have an hour break with a baby is difficult.
There was absolutely no one. You couldn’t go to neighbours because most the neighbour men were away. She didn’t know anyone. The army tries to help under those circumstances,
but you can’t replace a husband that’s away for six months and you talk to no one and you’re worried about the baby getting sick. Soon as I got back I built a Coolgardie safe to put the baby in, like a big cot with net sides and wooden things so snakes and spiders and nothing can get into the cot. That’s a worry that she’d have to assume all by herself.
Food and people around. She couldn’t speak the language.
When you went to Victoria, is that when you went to Seymour?
How long were you there?
That was all before you went to New Guinea?
Interviewee: Maurice Pears Archive ID 2240 Tape 08
Tell us about the Pacific Islands Regiment and how you ended up working with them.
I went there straight after staff college in ’61. At that stage the Pacific Islands Regiment was the plum appointment in the army. Vietnam had just started.
The Pacific Islands Regiment was a specialty of the Australian Army where they were trying to train up a regiment ready for independence in Papua New Guinea, so the major task was not only to train the soldiers, but to encourage them to take notice of their own government and develop as a nation. They were particularly good soldiers. Simple village people most of them,
but very good soldiers, very trustworthy, very loyal. I had a very exciting time with them for a couple of years.
What did you do?
Our training activities were mostly six months out on outstation patrol where we’d visit protected areas, the jungle outposts, villages, patrol the border. At that stage we were patrolling Manus Island
as well as Wewak and the Vanimo areas. And bring the soldiers to the people in support of the government program, which was still under control of the Australian administration at that stage. There were still district commissioners there at that stage. Home rule came in 1970 and independence came in 1973.
What problems were you facing?
Clash of culture is the only real problem. You had to abide by their customs and make allowances for their lack of education and lack of understanding of western ways, lack of understanding of a modern army. Relationships between the many different tribes within your
armed force, they came from every particular area in Papua New Guinea. You had to keep peace amongst them whilst you had to try and develop a force that could stand their own.
Were there conflicts that became violent?
In my time there were about three or four major incidents
which were due to misunderstandings. One of them was due to a misunderstanding of the army pay system, the other one was due to an insult by one tribe to another insult in front of some Marys [pidgin – women] down at the market and a fight ensued where people got knocked around. Another one was a misunderstanding between two groups within the barrack area. It lasted a couple of days
and settled down and away we went again. There was never anyone hurt.
What about challenges to the government?
There was never any challenge in those days. I left Papua New Guinea in 1970 and I resigned as CO there. I left a battalion that was completely accepting of government
and authority, one that was in very great military nick and I was proud to have been with them and I was proud to leave them in such a good condition. Unfortunately government has deteriorated and as a result the army has deteriorated.
You returned to Papua New Guinea with your work?
After I left the army I did. My next ten years I was consultant to government and American interests in the various mines: Ok Tedi, Bougainville, Kennecott Mining Company. Also in government work with the different industries in Port Moresby, insurance industry, shipping industry. At one stage in the middle ‘80s I switched from consultancy and
took an active proprietary interest in a shipping country and spent a couple of years with the shipping company until it was disbanded due to economic pressure.
Does the army prepare you for this kind of work?
I think the army is the best training ground that you could possibly get for dealing with stressful problems
and for dealing with other cultures and different types of business cultures. The only problem is you’ve gotta learn when you leave the army to act on your own initiative and not follow the book. That’s one shortcoming, but you very soon pick that up. But I could never have continued in civilian life without the
background and training I’ve had in the army.
Did you have problems in your Rio Tinto job in Bougainville?
It was difficult. It was a new area. I was an ex soldier so I had to be received and accepted by not only the European force but the rest of the force. There were some 10,000
mixed European and Papua New Guinean people there. I think the problem was to maintain peace there, to maintain a training program so that the Papua New Guineans could ultimately assume positions of responsibility. And to keep an eye on the community relations, so that we didn’t have too many revolutions or declarations of independence. Which finally happened.
What was that movement like when you were there?
It was violent. Not as violent as it was in Africa, but it was violent enough and finally deteriorated in the ‘80s into that very unfortunate situation where civil war in fact took over.
In your writings about Korea,
I’m interested in the story about the visit of the minister of the army.
Joshua Francis. You’ll find this referred to by many people that it was, whilst we were in reserve round about Anzac Day in ’52, I can't remember now, it was in a period in reserve, and we were resting and
enjoying our beer and good food and we were told we would have to form up and do a regimental parade and honour the minister for the army who had come up to Korea. No one was in the mood to accept this sort of thing. We were quite happy to lay down and look at the sky for a while. It was ill will from the start. Eventually we all got on parade with the
CSM [Company Sergeant Major] and the sergeants assisting telling us to, “Shut up and behave yourself.” But you could feel an undercurrent. No one wanted to be there. Francis made an unfortunate remark halfway through, because there was an argument about overseas combat pay at this stage. We weren’t getting any combat pay. There was some ill feeling about it. He rather pompously said, “I’ve come a long
way to see you fellows.” Someone in the back said, “How fucking far do you think we’ve come?” All the CSMs and, “Who said that?” There was a kerfuffle for a while, but after a short while he finished his rather boring speech and moved off and that was the end of it. Unfortunately whilst he was out giving his speech a couple of soldiers had moved into
the back of the officers’ mess tent and knocked off all the whisky that had been brought over by the Joss Francis’ special visit. By the time Francis got back there, there was nothing left for him in the officers’ mess. So I think they got their revenge. The soldiers were adequately rewarded for that.
What did you think of this?
I thought it was quite humorous. I think it was a good way for the soldiers to let off a bit of steam.
Did no one any harm.
What do you think of politicians coming to a war zone?
They’ve gotta be very careful. A politician’s lot is not an easy one. I don't know how I’d handle politics at all. Coming to a war zone you’ve gotta think twice about whether you really should go or not. Whether it’s gonna help the soldiers or not.
Maybe Howard going to Iraq was probably appropriate because there was a small force there. Joss Francis coming to Korea, I suppose you could say he was doing his duty. He was minister and he was trying to do the right thing. Politicians and soldiers don’t mix very well in a war zone.
I read another story about where you were put in a position where you
had to sign off for collecting some American equipment.
We’d been in reserve a very short time. We had nothing. It was towards the end of it. We didn’t have any wood to frame up the tents, it was cold, we didn’t have any space heaters. We were having a few drinks around the tent and I was challenged.
I’d stated that I could go down to Seoul and, “I bet you if you gave me a truck I could fill it full of heaters and wood and bring it back.” Everyone said, “No, you can’t possibly do it.” The CO said, “OK. Can you do it?” I said, “Course I can do it.” He said, “OK, you’re off tomorrow. Find your way down to Seoul and come back.” So the challenge having been issued I had my leave pass. I got off to the local American
air field and got a lift down to Seoul in one of their light reconnaissance planes, got into Seoul. Booked myself into the officers’ mess down there, borrowed a jeep, went to the American supply base outside of Seoul and said, “I’ve come to collect the 3 Battalion order for the reserve wood and six space heaters.” They said, “We haven’t got
an order here.” I said, “It’s not a big order. It’s only to build a couple of things and six space heaters. Surely someone’s got that.” I managed to talk myself into it and they delivered it to me and I put it on the truck. I signed it off Ned Kelly, which I thought was an appropriate thing to do under the occasion. And brought it back to the mess and they were rejoicing in the area because
they finally got all these lovely goodies and we built a mess for the soldiers, one for the officers and one for the NCOs and everyone got a space heater. There were great rejoicings and I won the wager. But the humorous part of it was when I’d left Korea and I was associated with the reparations officers in Japan. I found out they’d had about 5,000 different Ned Kellys who’d signed for equipment
all through Japan and Korea. The United States officers were saying, “Is this Ned Kelly the chief appropriations officer? Who is he?” So that was that story.
Did it make you popular amongst the men?
Yeah, I was very proud of it. I was very happy, the CO was happy and we were all happy.
It was great.
Sounds like the COs in the Australian Army have a bit of tolerance for a bit of larrikin behaviour.
Well, we’re dealing with larrikins, and if they haven’t got tolerance for it they’re not gonna be successful. That’s all I can say. We’re very lucky with our commanding officers right through to this day. They’ve been well selected and well trained. Current chief of the defence force was one of my
cadets at Duntroon. He was an outstanding young man in Duntroon. He wasn’t a top graduate, he was down in the lower levels of graduation, but he was marked with success because he was a very popular young cadet and he could talk to people and get what he wanted. He’s eventually come through to the top position.
He was a CO in Vietnam too.
When you’re constantly firing, what’s it like when the guns stop?
It’s one of relief and one of suspicion, because normally when artillery barrages stop it’s a signal for
a counterattack by the enemy. And it was at the occasion on 317 when this enormous barrage stopped. There was a deathly hush for about a few minutes and suddenly there was the whistles and the bangs and the Chinese coming up the hill. So I suppose it’s a relief that it’s stopped and it’s also, “My God, what’s gonna happen next?”
What’s the atmosphere like when it stops?
Wholly absorbent, and curious.
So when the barrage stops,
Lovely, but what’s gonna happen next?
When you can go and collect your dead on the battleground in a momentary cease fire,
Describe what the scene is like.
It didn’t happen to me personally. The scene I was relating to was where Bravo and Charlie Companies had withstood this enormous counterattack on the sixth night of Commando. The next morning at first light, Chinese could be seen moving around the battlefield collecting the wounded and the dead. I was told by
those involved there that they decided not to fire on the enemy and to permit them to recover their wounded. I was also told by the Kiwi artillery officer there at the time that they were discussing whether they should put down a heavy barrage and kill the lot of them and they considered, “I think everyone’s had enough. We’ll leave it.”
That’s an amazing
sign of respect for the enemy.
I think so. I thought it was very significant. It was a major feature.
What gives you respect for your enemy?
I don't know what. You either admire them or you don’t. If they’re sneaky and nasty I suppose and do nasty things to you outside of
what is normally considered to be the rules of normal conduct then you have no respect for them. If they fight in a determined fashion for their own principles, the same as you do, I suppose you have respect for them.
Is there a dark humour that comes through in the midst of hard battle and the horrible things that happen?
I think if you can’t retain your sense of humour through a year of this activity you would go off your brain. There would have to be areas of humour all the time to keep yourself sane. In the position under 217 I quite clearly remember, because we were under observation from the enemy, we had to
visit the toilet and wash ourself and get a bit of fresh air in the night time rather than walk around in the daytime. If anyone ran short during the day withstanding order instructions that you were to get a bit of toilet paper, wave it in the air as you ran to the toilet to indicate to the enemy that you were in a non combatant role at the time. There were dozens of little humorous
incidents. The Australian soldier can make humour out of the darkest of situations.
What about something as grim as death?
Death is not humorous. You adjust to that.
Some of the patrolling you were doing after the big battles, was
there any close calls with enemy contact during these?
Yes, with all of them. Not in my patrols cos I only patrolled twice out of our position, but the other companies on our left were patrolling at different times all through the night. There were very close contacts everywhere. One of the most difficult skills of soldiering is patrolling at night.
It’s one of the most dangerous and difficult. There were constant contacts, constant close calls. People wandered into minefields and were badly wounded. They took the wrong turn, they were mistaken for the enemy, dozens of things happen when you’re out on a patrol. You can’t adjust to it.
You didn’t have any close calls on patrol?
No, I didn’t. Both of them were an investigation of the enemy on 217 to determine whether there was anyone there for the company raid. We went out into the snow and it was quite obvious we were there. We had no reaction, so it was presumed there was no enemy on the hill. As it turned out they were on the hill behind.
your role was to lead the men on patrol?
Only if it’s a platoon patrol. Normally patrols are sent out by the section commanders. The section commanders are the ones who'd be at the brunt of patrols. Quite often the platoon sergeant would take a patrol out. More often the platoon commander stayed behind on the base unless there was a reason he was required to conduct
What were some of the signals that you could give on a patrol?
They’re standard field signals that are used by armies all over the world for halt, lay down, quiet, move in that direction, come forward. Pretty hard to use at night, mind you when it’s very dark. So you don’t do much
movement at night, you just follow each other. Too dark. You hold the belt in front.
How had you changed as a person after all these experiences?
Probably more responsible, grown up, more emotionally stressed than I’d been in the
There was one story before you went out on the first hill. There was a concert.
This was before the operation started. Gladys Moncrieff visited the lines when we were on the Lozenge just before we moved off into Operation Commando. She gave a most moving concert.
We were on a natural amphitheatre with the battalion seated around the different hills. They’d set up a little tent board for Gladys and her pianist, which was on the back of a truck. She gave an open air concert. It was really impressive. There was deadly quiet. There wasn’t a murmur from anyone in the
battalion. Completely and utterly quiet. All you could hear was her voice and the piano. It was a very moving experience in view of what was to happen very soon after.
What thoughts were going through your head?
I really started to think about home. Started to think about my small family, my mother,
was reminiscent of my childhood and Australia. Just seemed a strange little spot of history at the time.
Tell us about your reactions of returning to Australia. We were talking about the concept of the forgotten war.
It was forgotten, but it was only just after the war, so I think generally people think it was forgotten long after, not during at the time. It didn’t particularly worry me, I had plenty to do. I didn’t feel as if I’d missed or lost anything. I do think that later on when before the war histories were written
there seemed to be a tendency that the war had been forgotten mainly because of the social dispute which was on in Australia in the early ‘50s and generally the unpopularity of the war. I don't think Menzies took the decision lightly, but there were many Australians who didn’t agree with
Australian troops being involved in any overseas activities unless it was in direct defence of the homeland. A very worthy thought, but one which doesn’t exist in the modern world I’m afraid. If you wait till someone’s battering on the shores of Australia it’s too late to do anything about it.
How did you feel being a frontline troop in the hot end of the
It didn’t occur to me politically. It was a military task that I had to do. I was happy to get it over with, was happy to get to Japan, was happy to get back home in one piece.
What was the best of your experiences in Korea?
The best fun times I had was on leave. The most valuable times I had was interrelating with the men of the platoon. The most exciting times were in direct combat activities with the enemy. The most memorable ones were the ones where I didn’t get killed.
What’s the worst of the experiences?
I think really the sadness of the injuries to our own men. Casualties were significant, some 1,600 casualties I think. Also the impact of war on the civil community, that was the first occasion
I’d ever seen the impact on civilians, on women and children. They were the most intense emotional experiences I think.
Did you have South Koreans working closely with you?
Yes, we had a number of young people who were in our B Echelon, young men who assisted in the washing and cooking areas and the general
hygiene areas. They were wonderful, but I think more wonderful were the workforce who carried up the resupply to the frontline. These were unarmed civilian men who in fact carried A frames on their back, full of ammunition, supplies, water, we couldn’t have fought without them. They resupplied us every night as part of
the, attached to the ROK [Republic of Korea] army at the time. They were a bit like the fuzzy wuzzies of New Guinea. I think very little has been written about them, but their job was immense. Extremely dangerous, a large number injured.
As a soldier, can you accept the sight of dead or wounded soldiers more
than the sights of civilians?
Of course. Certainly.
What impact does it have on you when you see this kind of thing?
I didn’t think too much about war. I was a soldier, that was my job. I didn’t get deeply upset about whether I was going to war or coming back. Someone else made those decisions. Governments
and the government told me to go and I accepted. I think unless a soldier has that view he’s gonna tear himself into pieces. He’s got an unpleasant task to do. If he starts to delve into his own psyche as to why I should be here. Should I be doing this? Should I not be doing? He’ll lose sight of his primary objective, which is to stay alive. I think you’ve gotta differentiate certain levels, let someone else solve the moral
problems of war. Don’t load that onto an already heavily burdened frontline soldier.
Looking back at your life, do you have any regrets about any of it?
No. I think I was very, very lucky to have the opportunity of being trained and serving with such a wonderful bunch of men. Then opening up a
very satisfying career in the army for me.
Do you fell part of the Anzac tradition?
I feel part of the military tradition of Australia, which is tied up with an Anzac spirit.
Do you have any final comments you’d like to add?
No, I don’t have any, thank you.