the hotel, the shop. Nerriga is on the southern highlands. Lots of people have never heard of Nerriga but it was where I spend the first five years of my life. I went to Nerriga’s school for a little while after my fifth birthday, which is a one-classroom school. My brother was in the class at the same school for a little while and then he went down to Sydney for a better education.
The family on my mother’s side was relatively well off. My grandfather had been a bank manager in the early part of the 20th Century, and they had accumulated a bit of property and so on and they built this big home at Wollstonecraft. So my brother went down there to go to school. He went to Gordon School, I stayed up there but when I was five,
my mother and father had been separated and my mother one Sunday decided to take me with her and the new man in her life to Queanbeyan by car, a (UNCLEAR) car which had a faulty door lock on the passenger side. On the road from Braidwood to Queanbeyan
at night the car rolled crossing a creek, and there was no bridge there at that time. My mother was thrown out into the creek bed, and as we subsequently discovered she suffered a broken spine. She lived another eighteen months in various hospitals, mostly in the Mater at Crows Nest,
and I only ever saw her three times after that accident. Once in Queanbeyan Hospital, once in the St Luke’s at Darlinghurst and once in the Mater Hospital. My brother remained at Wollstonecraft. My father was boarding there at the time. I went to my mother’s brother’s home, he had three daughters out at Croydon.
I went there until my mother died after being in hospital as I probably said, for the rest of her life, eighteen months of it in plaster in hospital beds. When she died I went back to Wollstonecraft and lived for a while there with my brother, but then my father claimed me and I went to Roseville, went to live with him at Roseville
with his mother, who had also been rather wealthy. She was one of the direct descendents of Richard Archibald, which run the Archibald Estate, which was an extensive property on the north shore. And from there I went to Roseville School for about four years. I was dux of Roseville School and won a scholarship to Sydney Grammar School.
When I started at Sydney Grammar School, I went back to live at Wollstonecraft. I don’t really know why, possibly because my grandmother may have wished for me to live with her, or it might have been because it was easier for me to get to school by train, I’m not sure. But I lived with her then for a while there at Wollstonecraft. I did well at Sydney Grammar School. In the first year I was the top in most subjects, or many subjects, I should say.
And in second year I needed a Latin grammar book, my father told me he couldn’t afford to buy it for me and I sort of, to some extent, lost interest. I switched from Latin to Geography and without much feeling for it. I rather fear it was all down hill from then on. He married about that time a woman with four children.
And he told me he couldn’t afford to buy me the Latin book, but he married again and I lived with that family. Now, I liked my stepmother very much and I liked the children, I got on well with the children. In fact, I liked being part of a family, I had not been part of a continuous family, since my brother and I were separated at Nerriga. At the same time, I felt I wasn’t really of them,
I was just with them. But they, the children there, were of working class family as I was of course, but their father had died young and they had known poverty, and as far as they were concerned, as soon as they could, they got out and went to work, and I thought well, so should I, so I stopped studying and I barely scraped through the intermediate certificate, but
I did get a job at the Sydney County Council as a clerk, it was the beginning of 1936, and I stayed there until I joined up in the beginning of 1940. I joined the army and I spent, I was overseas, I joined up in time to catch the first convoy, which sailed on the 10th January 1940. I was in the infantry, the 2/3rd Infantry Battalion
and I was there for the next, the best part of six years, the Western Desert, Greece, Syria, and some few months in Ceylon. Came home and then went up to the Owen Stanley, Kokoda, Sanananda campaign. Came back to Australia, spent some eighteen months on the Atherton Tablelands, training, and then went to
New Guinea again to the Aitape, Wewak campaign and I was discharged in October 1945. In 1942, I’d married my childhood sweetheart, I suppose I could call her, depends on what constitutes childhood, actually. We met when she came to work in the same section of the Sydney County Council as I was working. I was working in the advertising
department, the department also included the Home Management Cookery Demonstrator staff, who were there to promote the use of electric cookery and my wife went there as a general assistant. She was three years older than me and I used to have to go down and help her, wash up after there had been cookery demonstrations on. So that constant intimacy with her led to my asking her out. She was the first girl I ever took out.
And of course I fell in love with her. But she was three years older than me, so it was a bit, I had the feeling that she liked being taken out maybe as all girls do, but that she wasn’t all that keen on me, but eventually we did have an on and off romance and when I went away we were corresponding and I rather thought that she was finally in love with me but she
became engaged when I was away, which upset me, to somebody else of course, but then that fell through and she finally decided that, yes, she was happy to become engaged to me. So when I came home in 1942 in August, she was in the women’s, the women’s air force [WAAAF – Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force], and she got leave to come home and we got married, then we could leave in January 1943, after that 1942 campaign in New Guinea, and we lived together for a while there and our first son was born that year, Brian and so then at the end of the war I went back to Sydney County Council and stayed there until 1959. Our second son, Peter was born in 1949 and in 1959,
I thought, I had studied advertising and I was doing well enough at Sydney County Council to realise there was a steady progression there but I, we had a difficult time coping with the health problems of the children. We lived at Manly on the beach, which was a great place to live in the summer. You could go for a swim before work in the morning
but the problem was in winter it was too damp for my eldest son, Brian. The result was that he was continually bronchial. A doctor told us that we just had to get out of there in winter. So we rented another place up in the Blue Mountains over the next three or four years, so that meant we were paying two rents, one in the Mountains and one in Sydney.
So money became a bit of a problem but we managed, and by 1959 we decided there wasn’t all that much of a future in Sydney County Council, being just one of a large number of people and I applied for a job with the Standards Association of Australia which I took, which they offered me and I took, and I eventually stayed there
for another 24 years and became Publishing Manager and Chief Editor, and it was the best move I ever made in my life. If I can say about marriage, I had a happy marriage but I became you know, from nobody, I became responsible for 22 people and every Australian standard that was published over those years, I read and organised the publishing of
and felt that I had a very responsible job, a unique job in Australia because I was the only person doing that job. But in 1983 the Standards Association had, was going places. About 1980, 1979 they sent me on a round the world trip to investigate methods of production in other Standards bodies,
which was quite good but I had already made up my mind what equipment we needed to become an effective in-house publishing organisation. And my trip overseas, which took in an exhibition in New York, proved to me that the equipment I had already made up my mind about was still the best equipment. I didn’t learn anything,
in other words, about what other organisations were doing, I already knew and so we got this equipment. And I was rather proud of the fact that within a couple of years I was saving about a million dollars a year in outside printing costs but the pressures of work built up. And I was happy too, that we had an International Standards meeting there in my time with the Standards. We were in North Sydney,
and they brought all the leaders of the other Standards Organisations out and I was very chuffed when the leader of the British Standards institution came and looked at our set up there and he said, “By God, you’ve got a good set up here and I’ve learned a few things from that to take back home.” When they came, I had already investigated what they had over there and they had their operations split. I brought everything together, you know and sort of
had a work flow procedure operating. But work pressures got too much for me. I felt that I loved the work, but it was building up too much and in the situation of having grown from nothing I didn’t have anybody with me who could do my job and sort of give me a break. The work was divided into divisions
and so I decided to leave and work for myself for a while, which I did. I had a three day a week job at the Law Book Company, just proofreading but with other retired people and they were, we were a good team there, reading law reports but I found that with the experience with the Standards Association, I was able to teach them a thing or two
with the result that they offered me a permanent job as a senior editor there but I said, “No.” I was happy to work three days a week because I was also working at home doing publishing for other magazines and we, in the meantime we had moved to Rozelle to a townhouse and we were quite happy there, and as I say with three days permanent and being able to choose my hours on the other two days we had quite a good life. We went to
anything that culturally was going. We would go to the operas, the ballets, plays and subscribed to all the different theatre organisations. But then in 1988, my son Brian in the meantime had moved in the meantime to Tasmania as manager of Motorola. He himself had been part owner of a business here, which the senior partner had sold off,
so he was looking to get something more responsible himself. And he went to Tasmania as Motorola’s manager, but he found they weren’t doing the right thing in support and there was a big need down there for somebody as technically trained as he was to provide good service for mobile phones, which were then coming in, and for CB radio and that area.
I should mention that he himself had been to Vietnam and he had nine years in the army in signals, and he had done the Marconi School of Signals. So he left Motorola, set up his own business and within a matter of three or four years he had three shops going, and a factory and he finished up eventually, he was the biggest mobile phone retailer in Tasmania.
Originally, he was based in Ulverstone and then in Devonport, but in 1988 his wife rang to say that “She thought he had a heart condition,” and I said to my wife, my wife’s name was Nancy by the way, “I think we ought to go down there. We’ve got nothing to tie us here and we would be with family.” We had the other son, he was living up north of Sydney at Karuah I think,
and so we packed up and went down to Tasmania and bought a home down there in the hills out of Penguin. It was an old home and restored it, we made it a very nice home. And the other son decided he, too, would like to live in Tasmania, so he came down and got a job and we are all there together. Unfortunately, my wife was developing dementia.
This wasn’t apparent to me at the time but she more or less suddenly turned against the family. She didn’t want anything to do with the grandchildren. She thought they were dreadful. They were teenagers growing up, I saw no problem with them, they were cheeky to their parents and fought with each other. But they were teenagers and it didn’t worry me, but she thought they were badly behaved and therefore didn’t want them in the home,
which upset them of course. They said many times they wanted to come up and visit us but no, she didn’t want them. So I said to her one day, “Do you want to go back to Sydney?” And she said, “Yes.” Well, in hindsight that was a bad decision. But she said, “Yes,” and we packed up and came back to Sydney and moved to Chatswood Garden Village, where I’m now living. My life in the village itself has been good,
I’m very happy. But for my wife, it was more or less all down hill. The dementia, she seemed happy enough at first here, we were meeting old friends again. But even then she started not to want to be with our friends, and then I found that she was telling all our friends stories about me that I was some terrible person, and people in the village, she told that too, and I didn’t
know what to do about this, but the manageress of the village here told me one day to get in touch with the Department of the Ageing because she felt that she had dementia. I still hadn’t recognised it. So, they came and took her away for tests and they said, “Yes, she had Alzheimer’s disease.” We kept together here for a while but life was very difficult. It was very stressful
because she had really turned against me and even though we were nearly by that time, we had been married about 56 years, but life was hell to put it mildly. We never went anywhere together and then she got to the stage of roaming and getting lost, and with the support of the Department of the Ageing we got her into respite at the James Nilson village. The respite idea
is mainly to give respite to the other partner for a break. I was in the unfortunate situation, I read many stories of where partners have kept their, say husbands or wife, have kept their other partner going even though they have Alzheimer’s, I’ve read many books on it, but in every case they had family backup. I had no family up here and I felt terribly about putting my
wife into care. If I hadn’t, the stress levels had got so high that I developed asthma, I developed a heart condition and was told, you know that I would just have to do something about it. If she remained here and I suddenly carked it to put it mildly, she’d still have to go.
So, we were just fortunate once she was in care in the dementia unit at the James Nilson Village, a bed became available, so they accepted her immediately, and she did not return here. Now, that was two years ago. The first year was difficult. I visited her often and she would resent the fact that she was there
and resent my leaving but there were good moments. Gradually, with the help of the therapists and the caring staff, she settled down and now today, she is completely placid. When I visit her we are happy to throw our arms around each other,
but I have to leave her then after, and I hate leaving her because I feel that I am letting her down just by leaving her. But I know that she is well cared for. I could not wish for people to be more caring. So this is what I’m doing now. Trying to keep myself occupied.
I do Meals on Wheels once a week, I’ve been doing that for the past, most of the last ten years, with Lane Cove and Willoughby and I’ve also been doing a little bit for an organisation called SHUSH, Self Help for Hard of Hearing. You help with people here in the village. Living in a retirement village you tend to help each other. Yesterday, one of our
lady neighbours, she needed to see her doctor who is at Greenwich, which would have meant getting three buses, and I thought, first I was on a Meals on Wheels run yesterday, and so I said, “I could take you down there, and leave you there, and then go and do my Meals on Wheels run.”
But she was being investigated for a tumour in the throat, which the doctor was so concerned about, she said, “I want you to go.” Well, she knows it was nothing to do with me but she said, “I want you to go, well, I want you to go and see the specialist straight away down at North Shore [Hospital],” and as it turned out I wasn’t on Meals on Wheels, so I said, “All right, I’ll take you down there, I can wait.” We had lunch, we couldn’t see anyone till after lunch,
so we decided to have lunch and we went down at Harbord for a drive. I bought her back there, she thought she might be there half an hour. She was there two hours and I waited in the car. That’s the sort of thing. I’m not saying that to build myself up, being there all day waiting for her, I didn’t wait with her. I just waited in the car but that’s the sort of thing we do in the village. Other people are doing that driving,
picking up people who don’t have cars, take them to doctor’s, take them on outings. It’s a good life in the village and I’m regretful that my wife is no longer here to share it with me.
and it might have been that they, it might have been because of my mother’s and father’s marriage splitting up that she wanted to get away from the city. I don’t really know that of course, and I can’t ask anybody who would know, but she did have the hotel there and obviously, we had been there probably at least four years there.
And when I was four, I went down to visit a neighbour, a little boy friend of mine, and his dog, which was a fox terrier or it could have been a bull terrier. I know it was white with black spots. Sitting on the top step and I was a bit wary of him and he sensed that I think, because I said, “Look out Spot.” I can remember saying those words, “Look out Spot.” And he attacked me about the head rather savagely of course, he took a piece out of my ear
and I’ve got scars on the top of my head, and I do remember the lady of the house having blood-stained towels, and the next thing memory I have is being in hospital and my mother bringing me some toys. I went back to Braidwood to see the hospital, to see if they had any records of my being there, but the records didn’t go back that far.
I’ve no doubt there would have been newspaper stories of what happened. You know, dog attacks on children always rate a newspaper story. As would the incident with the car crash involving my mother. That was a really stressful situation, although as a five year old boy at the time I did not feel it stressful. It was all too confusing for me.
But when she was thrown out of the car, I lay in that creek bed, and this was not as if it was a main road, with houses either side. It was bushland with, and it was night-time, and this was 1926 in, I’m not sure if it was the start of winter or the end of winter, I rather think it might have been early in winter, that’s right because she died
in November 1927, but we were hoping, the driver was uninjured and we were hoping for something to come through to help us. We didn’t have a phone, how could we contact anybody? She was lying there on the bed of the creek. Fortunately, a bus of footballers came though.
I don’t know whether they were probably returning to Braidwood, perhaps. But the help came through them. What form the help took, I don’t remember. But as I say it was a sort of change in my life. A bad change of course because from then on I was brought up without a mother. My grandmother on my mother’s side was a very wonderful person,
and I loved living with her. But as I mentioned, my father took me to live with him as was no doubt was his right, although he never took my brother too. If we had both gone it might have been easier growing up because I was something of an only child in those years.
But my other grandmother was not quite as kind and caring I felt, as my mother’s mother. So I was happier living at Wollstonecraft than I was living at Roseville. Or I would have been better off say, had I remained at Wollstonecraft as far as my future life was concerned. I would have been growing up with my brother. He was four years older than me. But because of that separation from him we didn’t
get to be very close in later years, although he became very successful. He went to the islands working with a shipping company, worked for Burns Philp, that’s right he went to work in the New Hebrides for Burns Philp and eventually became Managing Director of Burns Philp New Hebrides.
We had read about the terrible things that happened you know, in the trenches in World War I and the dreadful conditions, which they had to live under. And we’re not going to go into them but the artillery might have a better proposition. So we went up to Victoria Barracks and said, “We want to join the artillery.” “No, we’re only taking people for the infantry.” I said, “All right, we’re not going to join up.” So we didn’t then, that was in November.
But on 2nd January 1941, we said, “Let’s go.” We’d take the infantry. But the funny thing is, even as far as the effect of you know, remembering what it was like in World War I, in Greece say, Middle East we didn’t strike those conditions they had in the trenches in World War I. Although the more sophisticated weapons, tanks and air craft and
so on. But the New Guinea campaign, the first one through the Owen Stanleys, Kokoda and Sanananda, I think the conditions at Sanananda were somewhat akin to what they put up with in World War I. We weren’t in trenches, we couldn’t because we were living in a swamp. But you know, you had to lie down at night where you were,
and in the morning you would be in a pool of water. There was no escape from it. That’s where the Japanese were entrenched there and we couldn’t budge them. We had to stay where we were. And so when we came home on leave another friend and I, and many other fellows had the same view. We’re mugs to think we would go through that again, those conditions. Let’s go to the air force. They can sleep in beds and night and we were on starvation rations at times
there in the Owen Stanley Ranges. You know they were trying to drop food from planes which was a failure in those days. They weren’t using parachutes. I think they had about a 30 percent recovery rate. So I said, “Let’s join the air force.” So, this particular mate of mine and I went along and went for the test and I joined the AIF. Perhaps I should mention this, one of the little things that had happened in my early life.
At the age of sixteen I lost the hearing in my right ear, as the result of a mastoid. So, I joined the army with that, being totally deaf in one ear. They didn’t test my hearing. I think they should have because during, I had to do the same as any other serving man, that is do my share of guard duty. And I could have been the cause of a position being overrun through not hearing, you know enemy movements.
Fortunately, I was not put in that position. I did have to do my share of guard duty though, just the same though. I think that anybody who joins the army should have good hearing in both ears. Joining the infantry I should say. Certainly there are positions in the army that don’t require good hearing in both ears but the infantry does. And I thought I could cheat them in the air force when they did the hearing test because they ask you to put your hand over one ear and decide what’s being said to you.
Which was all right when I put my hand over my deaf ear. But when I put it over my good ear, I slightly cupped it and I could still hear what they said. So, I cheated there but they had another test of hearing frequencies, and I couldn’t get the high frequencies. That let me down. I told them it was the effect of the Quinine I was taking for malaria. Well, they said, “Come back when the effect of the Quinine has worn off.” But in the meantime there was so many of the
6th Division and 7th Division, the 9th Division wasn’t involved at that stage, that were trying to transfer to the air force that an edict came out that there would be no more transfers from 6th or 7th Divisions. Some of the fellows did get through you know, who were medically fit, and this is nothing to do with me. But it’s a story that I’d like to tell because one fellow that went up from our platoon did
enlist and in his pilot training he was a failure. He crash landed two Wirraways. So they put him into ground signals operations, and he was one of the few who had been in the army who actually was at the Philippines because we were led to believe that we were going to the Philippines. In fact, I can tell how my brother had breached military security, my brother in-law I should say, had breached military security. He was in army headquarters, a warrant officer class 1, and I called on him after returning from leave
just after that New Guinea campaign where he was based in Brisbane and he told me we were going to the Philippines. But of course General MacArthur wanted only Americans involved, so we didn’t go there. But this fellow that had been in our battalion, did go but only by courtesy of the air force.
You’ve got to have communication between each rifle company, the commander of each rifle company and the commander of the battalion. So the signal platoon sets up, sends people to each of the rifle companies with equipment and you set up, whether it’s by means of telephone lines, which it was mostly. But radios weren’t developed sufficiently in those days. It had to be by telephone line or by visual
signalling. So that was our job. To lay lines to provide the means of communication, to know how to keep our equipment operating and so on. You would come under fire if you were with the rifle company. My own personal best experience of being an active signaller was in Syria because
my battalion, the 2/3rd because when we came back from Greece, we didn’t go to Crete, some members of the battalion did, but most of the battalion who were able to, hadn’t been captured, or hadn’t been lost, say, and were unable to get down to the embarkation point in time for the evacuation, we caught the ship called the Dilwara,
and some went on the ship called the Costa Rica, on the voyage across. At that stage it wasn’t intended for us to be involved in the defence of Crete, the Australian 6th Division to be involved in the defence of Crete, but the Costa Rica was bombed and damaged and had to go to Crete but our ship, while we suffered damage from a near miss,
didn’t disable the ship, so we went on to Egypt. So when we got there we had I suppose about 300, 400 members of the battalion. The 2/1st Battalion had suffered grievously. Most of them were on the Costa Rica and went to Crete and so it was decided that some of our people would have to go from our battalion and bolster the 2/1st Battalion. I’m glad I wasn’t one.
Nobody wanted to. You loved your own battalion and people were very upset about having to go to another one. But then we also had a lot of reinforcements waiting there for us. So when the decision was made to attack the Vichy French in Syria, there wasn’t a big enough force available and they then decided that we were about 400 strong as a battalion that they would use us
and they would also use the 2/5th Battalion. But we didn’t go with the 7th Division. We went to the Damascus area where we were attached first of all to an Indian Brigade. And then later on, in a later stage of that operation we became attached to an English Brigade. We were the only Australians involved in the Damascus area, in fact we were the only Australians who served truly in Syria.
They talk about the Syrian campaign but the 7th Division was in Lebanon. The whole of that campaign took place in what was actually the Lebanon area. But Lebanon and Syria for purposes of French administration, which was the true situation at the time, were regarded as one country, Syria. But anyway, at the end of Damascus, the campaign there was, we copped everything, aircraft, bombing raids, tank attacks,
and I even considered myself to have been the man who took the first prisoner of war there because we were coming under attack from a fort on the outskirts, it was on a hill and we returned fire. I even fired my first shot there, but the company commander, I was with A Company said, “Come with me, sig.”
And so we went through some winding streets and coming out on the Damascus, Beirut road, which was the main road of course, and there was only one man in sight and he was in uniform. I think he was probably a policeman, but our OC, a very fine soldier, he tried to talk to him but we didn’t have enough French. Even though I had learnt French at school, no doubt he did too,
he was a very well educated man, but he decided that he couldn’t afford to let this man go for what he had in mind, so he said, “Take that man prisoner.” So I had to produce my, I had my rifle, yes my rifle at the time, so I took him prisoner, which meant bringing him back to where the rest of the company was, but then we all advanced on to that road and took up a position, and set up a road block.
In the course of that night we captured, I think the record says we captured 26 vehicles and 80 odd French troops, including three colonels. It was just incredible to me that the CO and I, or the OC I should say, the CO is a commander of a battalion, the OC is the officer of a company, when we went on to that road there was no French in sight. If there had of been, they might have taken us prisoner. So,
that was a very successful campaign in that respect. Then next day we had, during the middle of the night, it was the coldest I have ever been in my life, we were only dressed in summer gear, but we were in the valley that came off Mount Herman, which was the highest mountain in that area - 12,000 feet. So, I had to do my share of guard duty during the middle of the night on those prisoners that were being collected. I was standing there, I was shivering,
I couldn’t stop shivering. I had my Tommy gun. Just as well I didn’t have an itchy finger. The next morning we had to, we decided to attack the fort that had been firing on us from that side of the road, and we attacked them from the other side and another company came up on that side, so the two companies attacked it and we captured the fort. It was a little bit alarming because it was on a steep hill side
and a scree type surface and the French were throwing grenades down onto us out of the fort, but they weren’t our grenades like the British have, which are deadly weapons. These were more stun grenades and a few people got hurt including our medical officer who was with us, he sustained a wound but then was awarded a Military Cross for having been with us in action. But we took the fort and then my signalling experience came into use there
because somebody drew attention to the fact that there was an Indian Battalion over there, we were part of that brigade trying to signal, I forget whether it was by a light or by hand, by waving a flag. I think it was a light and I had no signalling gear. I had lost everything in Greece. I had no equipment and so there was a tower,
you know a watch tower in the fort, and I went up to the watch tower and read what they were signalling, and they were saying “They were under attack from a point a certain distance away and could we put some machine gun fire onto them?” So I told the OC, and I replied to them by waving my rifle. So he put up a Bren gun and sprayed a few bursts in the area where we thought they meant,
but that was that. Then we moved on from that fort and down on to, we were pushing the French back, and there was another fort on the same ridge where another company had taken it, and we pushed the French back. When we got down on to a lower area the OC said,
“Can you signal back to that fort up there?” I forget what he wanted me to tell them. I got my rifle out and I knew it was a bit of a distance there, so I tied my pullover to the rifle and I used that as a signalling means. Then a little later on he said, “I want you to take a message back to the commander of B Company,” which was occupying the original fort that we had engaged and I had to go back across the hills,
there were more or less foothills around this fort and then along the ridge that connected the two forts. And when I got to the top of the hill, the French artillery opened up, and you get a sense about guns. You hear a gun and you drop, and the shell burst near me, and so I got up and went forward again.
Another shot from that gun and another shell burst just ahead of me. They were bursting just ahead of me. That happened three times. And I thought, “Why the hell are they targeting me, one soldier?” And then just as I got into the fort another shell burst inside and it wounded a couple of fellows nearby, fortunately it didn’t hurt me and I hit the ground, the concrete floor of the fort so hard that I took a chunk out of my knee.
That was my only war injury. But I realised later on what the French were doing was what they call ranging. I should have remembered that from my time when I served in the artillery in the militia. You can’t target an area, say that’s such and such a distance right, and you’re going to land on it. You fire at what you think might be the distance and the bullet leaves a shell, see where the shell lands, and right, up the elevation, fire again and that’s what they were doing so.
We pushed them back, so they had to re-target at the targets, if you like. By re-ranging, so I thought I was being the sole target of a 75mm gun, but I wasn’t, just a co-incidence.
we got called upon there, not long after we got there to be, some members of my battalion were called on to act as stretcher-bearers. And the 2/1st Battalion was being heavily mortared by a Japanese gun, what they called a mountain gun, some called it a mortar and some called it a mountain gun, and it was deadly accurate. They obviously were looking down on the site from a hill, or the top of a
tree somewhere, and they had an exact observation of where these things could be targeted. The 2/1st Battalion Headquarters was suffering, and some of us had to go down there and act as stretcher-bearers to take them up. There wasn’t enough stretchers. They were makeshift stretchers. One party of four of us, we started out to go up, back up. There was what they called an advance dressing station up the top of the mountain, or the hill.
And we had to cross an exposed area, and as I said before there is something that tells you when you here a pop somewhere in the distance, something tells you to take cover. We heard the pop and we hit the ground, and the mortar bomb was aimed at us, but it hit the trees above us and didn’t explode. So we got up, went forward another few paces, we were still exposed, pop again, down we went.
This time it burst. You can imagine a four-man stretcher team, one, two on each side, and I was at the back on this side, and the fellow on the front on that side had his leg blown off. And so we then had two casualties. We got him as far as, I don’t know how we did it, but we got him and the other stretcher patient, we got him as far as the advance dressing station but he died up there. And an interesting thing
about his death was, he and I both got married at the same time, and when we were in Ceylon, we were together on this observation post, we were both silly enough to have the same tattoo done on our arm. But as an appendage to that story if you like, some years later around about 1984, a group of us from our platoon decided to go and visit
an old chap, it was at a nursing home on the Central Coast, the Entrance area. He was a much older man than the others in our platoon. And the other man with him was also fairly old. And we thought, we’ll go up there, two lots of us in two cars, and we picked up our old ex-officer, who was living in the Central Coast, and we picked him up and took him to the Entrance RSL Club
for lunch. I was sitting next to him at lunch, and we were talking about things that happened, and I mentioned Clarrie, the one who was killed by having his leg blown off, and he said, “That should have been me.” This man was in his eighties then, and I said, “What do you mean?” And he said, “I was originally on that party,” he said. “But I wanted be on the party with my special mate Bob, and I asked Clarrie to swap with me.”
And there he was all these years later, and he said, “That’s on my conscience.” I said, “Oh, Charlie. That’s life, things happen, you couldn’t have anticipated that.”