was everywhere else, I suppose, at that time. Life was pretty good, no one had any money, it was in a Depression days. Right from when I was a child until I was probably eighteen, I never had more than five shillings at a time in my pocket, that’s fifty cents. Even though I was working on the station and I was working as a jackeroo as I got older, which was working under
the manager who happened to be my father, so you’d virtually been trained to be a station manager or person on the land.
In those days, more so, much more so than now of course, the land was a very important part of Australian life, can you describe that?
Exactly, because it was very thinly populated in those days. Like the towns were very small, the farms were mostly small except the big
stations. Canary Station in particular, in 1925, when my father went there, it had been cut up from a huge station into a small station and all of the surrounding properties from that, most of them they had the returned fellows from the First World War on so they were soldier settlers’ blocks. And a lot of those fellows were bachelors living on their own and they just had a tin shed on say a thousand acres of
land and horse teams of course, and grew wheat. And everything was done physically, not so much machinery like you have today. All the wheat was carried on your back and loaded by hand and the bags sewn by hand and all that sort of thing.
What were some of your duties on the station?
Well, being a stud sheep station, of course, different to an ordinary cocky [farmer]. Our sheep were in the yards probably at least once a week, every sheep and their toes would be trimmed and their
wool around their eyes cut away and if there was any fly damage, you know with fly blown, they had to be treated immediately. And they were always being culled and sorted out into different groups because every sheep, of course, was entered in a ledger and every ram, of course, just like all stock places like that.
the First World War and used to often talk about it to me ‘cause right from a child, being an only son, I was the only young man on the station and all of these guys. The other farmers and people like that were, I used to go with my father to their places and when they were working for us doing a lot of share farming and often in groups they’d talk about the war. You know and
this particular bloke that I’m talking about always said to me, “Dean, if there’s ever another war, never join the bloody infantry!“ he said. And what did I do, I joined the infantry. Yeah. All of that land and those farms are still probably with those same families, a lot of them anyway. Yeah. Yeah.
Because he had such a shocking time in, it was at Villers-Bretonneux where he was hit and, “Just like hell let loose.” he said. You know, ‘going to the meat grinders’, they used to call it ‘cause thousands of blokes’d get killed, nearly every night you know. And far more than in this last war, as far as the Australians were concerned anyway. Must’ve been shocking.
what sort of things you did to kind of entertain yourself, when you were out in the bush, you were fairly remote, what was….?
Well, we always had a tennis court so we played a lot of tennis and my sisters, one was a year old than me and one two years younger, they were very good tennis players. A couple of chaps on the other farms they were very good tennis players and one of them had actually won the country championship
in Adelaide here three or four times and he was actually in one of the Davis Cup practising squads as a young man. This is going back, well now, seventy years, when I was about ten years old. We used to play golf, my mother was a very good golfer and my father played golf so we started, we used to hit golf balls around the paddock and we joined Hallett Golf Club. Hallett’s got a population of about thirty people and I’d add that to,
probably Hallett the town itself has probably still only got thirty people, it hasn’t changed. But most of the people come from the farms, the outlying farms and things.
Yeah. In my case, my parents were quite old. My dad was forty-two when I was born so I never ever knew him as a young man. So we never ever went to dances and things, like a lot of the, they used to have a dance somewhere every Saturday night in one of the little towns around the place but because our parents never went, we never went. It was only until when we come to town that my sisters learned to dance but I never ever did, so never got mixed up with
said, it was Depression days. No one had any money, I think all the farmers and even the sheep breeders were all battling a bit. Just after the war, after the First World War, I think that they did pretty well until about 1928 when the big Depression started and from then on nobody had any money. When we were on the station, every day of the week, we would have guys call in who were carrying their swags [on the roads]. Most of them
returned blokes from the war and they would cut wood for my mother for a meal and we’d always give them a bit of meat and a bit of bread because we used to make our own bread and kill our own sheep. And they’d get up in the shearers’ quarters and stay there for the night and then they’d go on again the next day and try and get some more to do. It never ended. I don’t know, I don’t know how many people were out
of work here before the war but I would say it must have been nearly half the population, half the working population because women didn’t work so much in those days. You know once girls got married, of course, they generally stayed at home but things were bad. Things were bad.
So in the 30’s what were you hearing about what was happening in Germany, for example?
Well, the only paper we used to get was a paper called The Chronicle, which we got once a week and that was like, incorporated all the actual daily newspapers for the week and it was condensed into one paper and
that’s what most of the farmers got, The Chronicle. And it would, all the news would have been in there but I can’t remember, as a young man, hearing very much about what was going on overseas, mainly the sporting things, that’s all.
Australia, to England, to the Empire?
Yeah, to the Empire for sure, yes. I had very little schooling, it’s a… We were, as I said, twelve miles from the nearest town and my eldest sister, she went to Strathalbyn to go to school where my grandmother was. Now that was a hundred and fifty miles away from where we were and she went there for about five years but when I started
school, I only went down there for about six months in grade one and I was about six or seven when I went down there. But as a child, as a child I had a very bad stammer and my father had a stammer all his life, even though he was an accountant, a trade virtually, a bookkeeper on some of the big stations. So, I didn’t get on that well at school so
I went back to the station and a couple of, probably a year later on, I went back to Strathalbyn and went to school again for about six months and again the same thing. My grandparents who were looking after me, they were in their eighties I think and I think I was having a bad time at school because of my stammer with other kids. You know you always got hammered because you stammered and couldn’t talk properly and the fact that you did that, you were
very shy, I s’pose, because you were reluctant to talk, you know. One of the main things I remember and this is a sort of personal thing but I wouldn’t ask to leave the room because half the time you couldn’t get the word out that you wanted to leave the room, you had to hold your hand up and say, ‘Can I leave the room?’ this sort of thing. So those sort of things might have had some impact on my mother
and she took me back and she started teaching us at home, my younger sister and me in what [is] called correspondence schools. She did that for a couple of years but that was all too much and then a little school started about six, seven miles away and I went there for a few months and then that closed up. So, that was all the schooling I had, yeah.
We had a pianola at home and my father was a very good musician, he played the violin in a band as a young man. He could play the piano, the piano accordion, banjo and that sort of thing but none of us children, my sisters they learnt the piano, but none of them could learn, none of them ever played a musical instrument. But we all liked music.
and we’d all sing along with the rolls because pianola rolls have got the words to the songs on, yeah, yeah and in particular, when I was in the army, I could, not that I could ever sing but I could sing, I could sing every word to nearly every song that you ever heard, you know, because we’d done it right from when we were children.
and oh, it’s hard to think of now but all those sort of things. Yeah. Yeah. But you seem to be, when I was going to school it was always salute the flag of a morning and go through the little recitation they used to give and I’ve forgotten the words to that now but oh yes, we were very, well we were very English-minded. I mean
England was home virtually, I think. My parents all came from Scotland and England was always home, they always referred to it as home, even though they were about third generation Australians. It was the place, you know where all their ancestors were, had come from, yeah.
worked everywhere, worked everywhere on the station, you know mustering sheep and drafting sheep and dipping sheep and crutching sheep and tailing sheep. ‘Cause we used to cut their tails off with a knife in those days and of course castrate them with a knife. The shearing shed, my father was always in charge of the shed, of course and I used to round up and put the sheep in the shed the night before and as he would, they’d shear them and we’d
put them in another paddock and eventually put them out on the farm and bring in more sheep to keep them going. But we never had, see it wasn’t a very big property once it was cut up but we used to have eight shearers sometimes and they’d only be there for about a week. But they were generally teams that would shear, say each man about a hundred and fifty sheep a day, so they shore a lot of sheep and you picked up a lot of wool on the run. You never stopped running from when you
started and I don’t know whether you know about shearing sheds but they still do, they work in two hours stints. They start seven-thirty ‘til nine-thirty, have a half hour and then ten ‘til twelve and one ‘til three and half hour and then three-thirty till five-thirty, they still work those eight hours from donkeys’ years ago. Yeah.
when I was born and my uncle, he was working up there as a jackeroo under my father. He was his brother-in-law, actually, he was only a young guy, a lot of difference in their ages but yeah so that was, all those guns, my father was a wonderful shotgun shot and he had two beautiful guns that he had won in, I used to shoot pigeons with live birds. Do you know about this?
Well, they used to have pigeon shoots with live birds. Fifty traps, a bird under each one, mightn’t be under every one and they’d let two birds go at once and of course you were about fifty metres away and shoot at those birds. Like they have clay birds today, these were live birds and he won the South Australian championship twice for shooting pigeons like that. And the gun, each time, the gun was a present and it was always an English gun probably worth about a
hundred guineas, which was a lot of money in those days. But during the war they picked up all those guns from all the people and my mother handed those in and father’s, he was still alive then and they handed in my .44 high power as well so there was no guns in the house when I came home. Yeah. But I actually shot myself in the groin, here. Shooting
at a snake and I shot the snake and I didn’t kill it and I put another bullet in the gun and cocked it and the bullets, were again expensive to buy as far as we were concerned, they were two shillings a packet of fifty. So we never wasted them and I turned the gun around and I tapped the snake on the head with the butt and of course that was enough to discharge it and the bullet went up through my groin and into my hip bone.
So, we were about three miles from the station on a horse and dray, we’d been fencing, my father and I, I was twelve and had to go three mile back to the station then get in the car, twelve miles into Jamestown to the hospital. Dr Swan who was there, he was a doctor from the First World War, and he wasn’t too perturbed about it, only the fact that I’d lost a lot of blood but he did tell me that I missed my main arteries in
my thigh by an eighth of an inch and if the bullet’d gone through there, of course, I’d have bled to death in no time, couldn’t stop it.
Can you remember, back to that period, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, what your ambitions were for your life?
No, I can’t. When I say what my ambitions were, I always thought that I’d be on the land. When the station changed hands
in 1939 or ’38, I wasn’t needed on the station because the new owner lived on the station as well as my father. He kept my father on as manager for a couple of years but he, himself, lived on the station too so they didn’t, particularly didn’t need me. So, I came to the city and stayed with my cousins and my aunty, of course, and I got a job at Kelvinators [makers of whitegoods]. So, I was just working there
and I was working there for about twelve months when the war started.
half of them were unemployed. You know it was somewhere to get some money and get something to do. I am certain that, you know, half of the original people that joined up, I know there were a lot of guys that were in militia battalions and those sort of things who were interested in the army and that sort of thing, they probably joined up too. But see in South Australia the 10th Battalion was formed first, they were
formed in ’39 and then in 1940, early, the 43rd Battalion and the 27th Battalion and when our battalion was formed that was when France fell in 1940 and then of course we knew that things were serious. That’s when all the guys that were in the crowd that I joined up, they all joined up then, a lot of blokes joined up at that particular time.
of German background, what’s your memory of what happened to them?
Well, I know that they interned a lot of them. When I joined the army, a fellow that was in the same section as I was, was a fella called Kingsley George Albrecht and
time joined and as I said there was a big influx of people joined at that stage. So much so here that they couldn’t take you in when you joined up, they just had too many people to handle. They put people off for a month, they’d join you up and say come back in a month and we can get you in the army and get you clothed and start you training and that sort of thing because otherwise it would have been a steady trickle coming in but
just at that time when France fell and it was imminent that they might cross the channel and attack England that all those people joined up.
say there was five or six hundred guys in a row, three deep and they’d say, you know, number off from the front, from one to twenty, you’re in the artillery, from twenty to thirty-two, you’re in the machine gunners. Somebody else from, you were fed out into these different squads, you’d be in that little group for two or three days and it’d all form up again, that’s been abandoned. Number off again, you’re in the artillery, you’re in something else, so you could have finished up anywhere. I,
when I joined up I had a platoon sergeant who was a returned fellow from the First World War but he stayed with us half way through this war and he reckoned the only place for a man to be in the army was the infantry and he’d been in the infantry in the First World War as a young man. Seventeen in France in the last couple of years of the war and he said, “If you want to get in the fight, get in the infantry.” Yeah,
so you can laugh about it now.
What was the thought about men who didn’t volunteer at that stage?
I think a lot of people looked down on people who didn’t join and who were able to join but there were a lot of people, of course, who couldn’t join, who they wouldn’t have. They wouldn’t take station managers for a start, they wouldn’t take farmers if they
were the sole person on the farm because someone had to produce the wheat and the wool and all this sort of thing. Fellows who were highly qualified engineers and things like this in factories, of course, they were necessary to keep, they were far more valuable there than they were in the army. Schoolteachers, young schoolteachers and those sort of people had difficulty in getting in because they didn’t want to lose them from the Education Department.
Still had to teach the kids of course, those sort of jobs, those guys never had the opportunity to get away.
What advantage was it being a country boy in the army?
Well, it was a big, it was a big advantage in the infantry because number one, a lot of city chaps weren’t very fit. I mean we were very, very fit because we walked miles, you know, and
always wore heavy boots and did heavy work and that sort of thing. All our fencing and that sort of thing and woodcutting was all done with axes and our fencing was all done with shovel and crowbar and any work at all on the farm was, lumping wheat and all this sort of thing, working with horses, it was all work that made you very tough. But some of the things I’ve heard chaps say even now that when they first got those army boots and they’d never
wore a big pair of boots like that, they couldn’t believe how heavy they were. Well, country blokes had worn those all their lives. Also country people, country people were always bought up with guns, which city people weren’t and they were all good shots so to me, they were ideal people to be in the infantry. They only need to be, they only needed to be shown how the army operated, they didn’t need to teach ‘em to shoot,
they didn’t need to get them fit. They were fit when they went in there, probably fitter than they ever were afterwards.
At that stage, as you joined up, what was your, where were your allegiances then?
Well, I s’pose still with England. I s’pose England was the country we thought about and that’s where we thought we’d go and fight and when we went away that’s where we thought we were going.
so weeks before we went away, we went to Woodside which is an army camp and still is an army camp. About thirty mile out of Adelaide and we finished our training up there but we, as I said, we were only half trained, I s’pose, at that stage, yeah.
girls and they all had other boyfriends but they were just friends to that way and I wrote to some of those while I went away. Consi [?], my wife, she was fifteen when I went away, she was only a kid. I was twenty, there was five years difference in our age but she was always with my sisters so they used to go to dances and all that sort of thing and
I always knew who she was going with and who here boyfriends were, in fact the first time I come home from leave I went to her boyfriend’s place to a party so we still used to write and even the times when I was in New Guinea she had different boyfriends and some serious, some not.
when you had to leave, the separation, saying goodbye to family and friends and girlfriends?
I don’t think it was hard to leave. I think probably hard to say goodbye to Mum but the rest, I don’t think it worried us, probably excited to be going away overseas and this sort of thing.
onto the different stations. Mr Soares a chap that owned our station, he owned two other stations, Wilcatana Station and Oreprinna [?] Station in the Flinders Ranges up by Blenheim and I’d been up there and worked on those stations for a little while. Been to a lot of country towns around the place where we used to go and play tennis and golf at different times. Down at Strathalbyn, where
my grandmother lived, several times. I think I’d probably only been to Adelaide half a dozen times before I came to work in Adelaide. Yeah, generally just come down for a couple of weeks and stay with my cousins.
So, with that kind of experience of the world, what was it like, tell me what it was like getting on a ship and going to the other side of the world?
Well, it’s…. to go to Cairo it was a bit of a, they had more people in
Cairo than we did in Australia. That was hard to believe but of course we went from here to Ceylon and spent a few days there and that was an eye opener for anybody who hadn’t met people from other countries. On the station we used to meet quite a few English people because they were mixed up with the company but as far as Italians or Indians
or anybody like that, or Egyptians or Afghans, hadn’t met any of those people, ever. Yeah, yeah. Hadn’t travelled much and hadn’t seen much.
but had one major city which was very nice, that was Tel Aviv and that was a city that grew up after the First World War. But we were actually camped at a place called Dimra which was only a couple of miles out of Gaza, the old biblical town, and we managed to get probably once every two or three months they’d give you a couple of days’ leave into those towns.
We were quite a long way from Cairo, probably a day’s trip on the train and I went down there for seven days at one stage, early in the piece and that was, as I said amazing to go there and see the pyramids and the number of people that were there. And of course they still all rode donkeys and, you know most people had donkeys and, donkeys and carts and oxen in carts and all this sort of thing. Not that many motor cars. Mostly the British, of course, had, British, there were a lot of British people in
Cairo. Army, navy and air force.
What were you hearing at this stage about the 6th Division and what they were up to?
Yeah, well we knew what they were doing. I mean they were going up the coast when we were there and they’d got as far as Benghazi, they’d been through all the smaller towns, Tobruk and Derna and Fort Capuzzo and some of those places,
But you’d been hearing about their victories?
Oh yes, yes. Yes. Then of course there was lots of Italian prisoners coming back over, they were, a lot of them surrendered. Virtually by the thousands and of course they were coming back and going through the camps and the, sending them back to
So how did you feel when you learnt that you were going in to back them up, after they’d been withdrawn?
Well, when, they got to Benghazi which was as far as the Australians had gotten there and we virtually went up just as troops in occupation just to occupy the place to hold it, not to fight anybody. But of course when we got up there,
the Germans had come in and they had a couple of divisions of tanks as well as infantry and of course they were the people that we struck first. And as I said, we dawdled up the coast in little hops and steps and eventually got up just to the outskirts of Benghazi and then of course we realised that the Germans had
actually cut us off. They’d gone through the desert where the English said they could never go with armour and they’d actually cut the 9th Division just about right off and not only the 9th Division, a lot of English units as well. So, that’s when we retreated from there, we retreated back as far as Tobruk and that’s where we stopped and held Tobruk because they’d actually, the Germans had actually bypassed Tobruk and gone on further, down the coast towards
What was the feeling having to sacrifice that ground that the 6th Division had taken?
Well, it was a bit of a panic actually, I think because, you know, when you get a withdrawal like that, we were the last people to come out. We were still going up when the English troops and some of the Australian troops were actually coming back. They were,
Tobruk was a town surrounded by cement posts that the Italians had built. The Italians were in North Africa for years. I don’t know how many years, three or four years perhaps, might be five years and around these towns they’d built forts and particularly Tobruk, which was a very good harbour. And they’d built these forts,
cement trenches and, you know, you could get down undercover, the cement overhead and all that sort of thing and they had a string of those around the actual town, sixteen miles out from the town in a sort of half circle. Then we actually went into those and we also dug trenches between them because they were pretty wide apart.
Which is why the Germans only fought the Italians and the Italians were, a lot of the Italians didn’t want to be in the army, they didn’t want to fight. The irregular army blokes probably did fight a bit and I know the 6th did have a lot of casualties taking those towns but all the Italians that we struck there was a lot of them, all they wanted to do
was surrender because a lot of cases the Germans wouldn’t let them surrender. The Germans’d fire on them themselves if they tried to surrender because they would surrender in groups of thirty, forty, fifty people. As soon as they’d try and come in they’d get shelled with their own artillery.
Germans that I struck I was surprised how young they were. I know I was young, I don’t s’pose I thought about that but they didn’t seem much, much more than boys, you know. Then of course they’re very fair, very fair, most of them are fair haired and very light coloured skin but they were well and truly brainwashed that they were the greatest and Hitler was, you know,
they were going to rule the world. Most of them, a big quantity could speak English because I mean being in Europe, a lot of people could speak English but they, a lot of them could speak English.
describe, for me, the conditions there as you set up for this siege?
Well, the conditions were bad because there was a great water shortage and there always was right through the siege and it was bad to get supplies up to the infantry from the town because it was all open country and they could be shelled if they were bringing up trucks. They
Paint me a picture of what you would have to do in those early days, in a typical day, describe in detail for me, as an infantryman.
Well, we were in these trenches of course, in the front line and then they had a blue line which was back about a couple of miles. If you came out of the front line you went back to the blue line. But in the front line, of course, you didn’t get the, practically no sleep because you got shelled and
mortared every day and all day and at night time, of course, there was always fighting patrols, standing patrols, reconnaissance patrols and it was, it was, you got very little sleep of a night time. If you slept at all you’d probably sleep in the day time and of course there was millions of flies and millions of fleas in those trenches. The Germans, in some cases
at the finish, were only probably a hundred yards away. Their front line but in the start the front lines were probably at least a mile apart so we used to patrol out into no mans land of a night time and of course they used to patrol as well. But nowhere near as much as we did and we were always trying to get prisoners, you know, to get information about who was out there and what they were doing
and that sort of thing. And these fighting patrols, of course, you’d go out and you’d contact the enemy, that’s why their called fighting patrols but you always had the standing patrol. Which could be out in front of your company which could be ten, twelve men go out three or four hundred, five hundred yards in front of your company and they’d just string out in a long line and just lay there all night and shoot troops [that] are moving up to attack you. Of course, these are the first people that, the first people that know what’s going on, they fall back
and tell you. Even ahead of them, they’ve got listening posts which might only be two, two people in and this is all to give you warning if you’re gonna get attacked.
Yeah, well we got casualties all the time. Casualties all the time, a lot of casualties, a lot of casualties in the trenches too, of course, with the mortars and the shelling and that sort of thing. But Australians were renowned for their patrolling and the Germans, the Germans were pretty, pretty scared of the Australian patrols.
How did you respond to it?
Well, I did pretty well I think but, you know, it was nerve-wracking and sometimes you’d go out two or three times a week on different patrols. But the fighting patrols, of course,
How were you dealing with death, if you like, I mean had you, was it something you had to deal with before in your life?
No, I’d never seen a dead person before I was in the army. Pretty hard actually for a start but I’ve told a lot of people, that my way of dealing with it was just to turn your brain off. Just turn your brain off when you’re in those battles and people are getting shot and blown up and
killed and other people are, you know, breaking down and all this sort of thing that goes in, in action. I think I used to be pretty calm, not that I wasn’t scared but it was just something that you just acted like a robot, really, I think. Well, I did anyway, that was my answer to it and I did that right through the war.
were the sort of things that you’d be seeing, there were some pretty terrible things?
Oh yeah, yes, people blown to bits and mortar fire and mines on the grounds and all this sort of thing. Of course, people get shot, they only need to get one bullet and they’re dead, you know, might stagger round a bit for a while but usually they just drop like a stone and often, you know, people that you’d become very friendly with. Yeah. And it all makes you pretty aggressive,
How about those men who couldn’t handle that kind of strain, what would happen there?
Oh, they would come, they’d be sent out eventually but there was a lot of fellas broke down. The shellfire was probably the worst to put up with because, you know, you’re helpless to do anything about shellfire
When you say broke down, what do they, what happened?
Oh, they’d be like people with dementia, wandering around like lost and talking to themselves, you know, just a complete nervous breakdown. Yeah.
And how would you deal with that yourself?
Well, it never, when I say it didn’t worry me, I just had that attitude that I wasn’t going to let it get to me and you know, further on through the war when I was a corporal and then a sergeant and you’re actually responsible for sending people out to get killed and that’s pretty hard to take too.
you know, you just keep going and you just keep shooting and you’ve got grenades, of course, which you throw and throw down, throw into dug outs and things like this. It’s, it’s very hard to describe to anybody what it’s like to be in action, where, where you’re getting shot at and shelled
and your people are doing the same to the other people.
Dean, you were just talking before about these patrols, give me a description of something that can happen on a patrol?
Well, one of the patrols that we did, it was against a German [(UNCLEAR)] post, this is an observation post which was out of our front about fifteen hundred yards and for three nights before we did the fighting patrol,
three of us went out on the reconnaissance patrol and we noticed that the Germans changed their shift out here, on this mound where they were observing from. They actually changed over their people at about eight o’clock every night so on the night that we did the fighting patrol in there, we thought we’d catch them as they were changing over. So we got out
there, there was about ten of us on the patrol and as we were getting close to where they were, they were actually moving out the people that were in this mound and as they moved out, we moved forward and got in the trenches that they’d dug in this little hill where they were observing from and it wasn’t long before the relief crowd started to come in. So what obviously happened is that the ones that were
in there, left before the others got there, you see. So, anyway when they came in, they actually came in ten abreast, not in line, not in column, in line abreast and our platoon commander who was on this patrol, when they got within about twenty yards, called on them to surrender and he actually stood up in the trench which was only about waist deep and the
first German shot him in the stomach, shot our platoon commander in the stomach at point blank range. Now there was ten of us on, we had ten Thompson sub-machine guns on this patrol, so we just wiped out the eight or ten Germans that were left and then we had to get our lieut back to the line. Well, immediately we had to carry him so we got one guy on each arm, one guy on each leg and we kept changing
over and dragging him along the desert and over the bushes and rocks and things and he was still alive, and of course he did live eventually, and all the way back they hammered us with mortars which was about fifteen hundred yards, which is like a couple of kilometres today and there’s probably hundreds of mortars they fired trying to pick up the patrol, I suppose, yeah. But that’s just one thing that you do on a fighting patrol, it just happened that they
didn’t actually change over together. The first crowd pulled out and then the other crowd came in and we’d actually occupied their trench.
No, I’m just thinking about the whole Tobruk siege, in terms of the amount of….?
Oh, every night there’d be fighting patrol, every night there’d, every night on the front, which was probably twenty-six miles around that half
that I was in charge of, this was only three guys. There was a dead German out in the front, probably three or four hundred yards out from our front line and they wanted to get his jacket to get the tabs off to find out what unit he was with, in the German Army and of course I had a forward scout and myself and then a chap that we always used to call a getaway man. There was always a bloke behind that if you got in trouble would get back and report what had happened, just
the way they do it, they’d always have a guy out the front. Anyway the forward scout, when he got near the German’s body, they had the body mined, they had it hooked up with cottons to jumping jack mines which are buried in the ground and as soon as you pull the pin out they jump out of the ground probably about three feet and explode and they’re full of metal and of course he actually, when he got near the body he actually tripped over one of these
pieces of cotton and pulled the pin out and this mine went off right amongst the three of us. The chap in the front lost half his hand and I got a bit in the back, not enough to put me into hospital but I went back to the first aid place for ten days and the other chap got badly concussed, that was just the things that happened. So, we never got his jacket. We weren’t game to move around out there then
because they used to have, they obviously had half a dozen of these mines planted around his body with cottons running back to him.
What was this doing to your nerves progressively over the seven months?
Oh I think we all pretty, all pretty, like when I say nervous, we were all pretty down, I think, by the end of seven months. I mean, that’s why they had to get us out in the finish. Because the food we had was only just enough to sustain us.
weeks without a bath, weeks and weeks without changing your clothes. The trenches were full of fleas, millions of fleas, you’d sit down during the day and go through your shirts and seams and used to be competition to see how many you had, how many fleas you could find in your shirt, could be hundreds, could be hundreds, they were just crawling. And of course in those front trenches where you were close to the Germans, you couldn’t
get out to go to the toilet or anything like that, you all just had to do it where you were and chuck it out of the trench with a shovel or something like that. And of course after people had occupied those trenches for a long while, weeks and weeks and weeks, you were virtually living in a sewer virtually, yeah.
but they were still where they could be reached by shellfire. They’d bring that up and of course you had one dixie and a spoon, all we used to carry was one dixie and a spoon, it was just to get rid of the weight. The main thing to carry was ammunition. And sometimes they’d have stew and sometimes they’d have prunes and custard. They’d plop the lot in the dixie and in the dark, of course, you got a spoon and you just ate a spoonful of custard, spoonful of prune, spoonful of stew
and that was the only meal you got through the day except a tin of bully beef which generally you used to share five, five people to a tin of bully beef, that was just enough to put on a hard biscuit. Mmm, yeah. So, the food wasn’t good, so it wasn’t plentiful. We lived like animals virtually, yeah, yeah.
I was going to ask you, what about your sense of humour through all of this?
Well, I don’t think I was a, I don’t think I was a great person that way but we did have guys who were real characters, you know, but there was all too serious to, in the frontline to be joking. They used to say, there’s no
comedians and there’s no atheists in the front line. It was a great expression. Yeah, yeah. You know, you’re playing for keeps when you’re up there and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? That you are the front. And you know, when you think of it, you’re protecting all the people behind you, like especially in a situation like that, they’d overrun us two or three times. They overrun us with tanks the front line and they got through to the second line of defence and eventually,
eventually we stopped them but in one case in Tobruk they put a great dent in the perimeter and they actually held that until the siege finished. With that big dent where they put it in, they come in with about sixty tanks on the one front. Of course we always adopted the position of letting the tanks go through and stopping the infantry which the Germans had never been used to have happen to them.
The German troops would ride on the back of the tanks, you know. And another habit the German commanders had, the tank commanders, they’d come in with half of their body out of the tank turret and they’d done this right through Europe. Well if they did it against the Australians, we had blokes would shoot ‘em from three hundred yards off if they were out like that with a three-oh-three rifle. So,
in the finish there was none of them ever, ever, because, you know, they’re pretty blind except they got that chap looking out the top. They got a general view but once you get down to the driver and the gunners, they’re just looking through telescopic sights virtually and the driver’s looking through a mirror which reflects, reflects the, you know where the slit is in the tank, that’s not where he’s looking through, he’s looking through in a different place it’s just with a mirror. So, if you fire a bullet through there,
of course, you don’t hit him, you just smash the mirror that’s inside. So, anyway like they couldn’t manoeuvre anywhere near as much as they could with the guy on top telling them where to go and watching what was going on. So we made sure they never had a bloke with his head out of the top. But they ran over our trenches several times with these big tanks, right over the top of the trenches and the trenches were only bloody two foot six, three foot deep. Yeah, we had a few fellas crushed, I got run over twice, like that tank went straight over the top.
Not only me, lots of other guys. But if you stopped the infantry, ‘cause what do the tanks do? They can’t do anything. They’ve got a machine gun and they’ve got another gun but they can’t hold any ground with a tank. So, we had great success against the tanks and I think it was adopted all over the world afterwards the way the Australian troops fought the tanks.
Why did Tobruk become a legend?
I think because, because [Erwin] Rommel [German field marshal] couldn’t get rid of us, because it was, actually impeded his progress into Egypt, as long as we were there, as long as we were there we were a great threat. See, he kept two divisions around us all the time. We had one division there but we also had, like had the Northumberland Fusiliers, the British unit
troops and the Royal Horse Artillery, the English crowd, wonderful artillery units and every time he tried to take us out, you know, he got beaten. So the first time he’d ever been beaten, he didn’t get beaten once, he got beaten twenty or thirty times, every time he attacked he got beaten.
Haw-Haw [propaganda broadcaster], he was an English guy who used to broadcast over the German radio and he described us as living in holes like rats, which is exactly what we were doing. We were all going to die in these holes, he said, so yeah, and he used to broadcast all the time. He used to broadcast about the whole of the war for the Germans but he always
had a bit for the Tobruk Rats.
How did you hear about this on the front line?
Oh, only, only because we had newsletters and things used to come up from headquarters and battalion and divisional headquarters. They had radios, they used to listen to it and they would type it out on a bit of paper and send up a sheet of paper and it’d be passed all around them, not every day but every now and again they’d do all this. Yeah.
How did you feel, finally, about being pulled out of Tobruk?
Well, I was glad to get out. Of course to get out of Tobruk was a nightmare too because, as I said, the two air strips the Germans had, one each side
of the town were only twenty miles away and they could bomb you and they could go up and load up again and of course the navy, they gave the navy hell with their bombers. I came out of Tobruk on a ship and it was a mine laying cruiser and I suppose the crew would mainly consist of sixteen or seventeen year old naval ratings three hundred and sixty, four hundred
of them. I came out on the thirteenth trip and the sailors were really worried about this being the thirteenth trip. Well we got off in Alexandria that day, that next morning they went back to Tobruk and they took a bomb down the funnel and it hit their magazine and lost the lot of them. The whole lot, they never saved one. So, they went on the fourteenth trip. Yeah. And that was just one of the many, many
ships that got sunk on the Tobruk run. They’d run from Alexandria up to Tobruk and of course they could get bombed all the way up and they could be seen from the shore or even, you know, with the German aircraft’d pick them up, yeah. So, they had a terrible time but they, without the navy Tobruk would’ve never existed ‘cause they brought all the food in, all the ammunition, took all the wounded
out, brought new reinforcements in, did the lot. Did a wonderful job.
At the end of the Tobruk campaign as you’re being ….?
Oh, I think everybody was pretty down. ‘Cause one battalion got left. One battalion got left behind because the ship couldn’t get in, that was supposed to take them off. When you’d go into Tobruk harbour to get on the ships, you had to walk over a couple of hulks that’d already been sunk, they just had gangplanks across them and
You went up to Garus and Syria, then you ended up back in North Africa in Alamein?
Yeah, we went, after Tobruk we went to Palestine and after a few weeks we went to Syria and the idea in Syria, we dug a lot of trenches up there in the mountains and in the olive groves because they were expecting the Turks to join up with the Germans,
So, how did you feel about going back into that part of the world, into battle with the Germans?
Oh, I don’t know about how I felt but you just went where you were sent, that’s what happened, isn’t it? And of course that was only fifty miles
never hear of. Had a lot of casualties over about a month there and the Germans had a lot of casualties as well and that was a, one of the days there was the worst day I’ve put in, in the army. We got run over by tanks twice; we got bombed about three or four times and under artillery fire all the time
and under our own artillery fire some of the time because we were in amongst the German tanks, in the infantry in trenches and of course our artillery was bombing, shelling the tanks. Some of our fighters, we did have some fighters at that stage, that was long long after Tobruk and they were having a go at the German fighters and then the bombers that were actually bombing us and quite a few planes falling out of the sky and our own as well as Germans.
So, there was a lot of hand-to-hand fighting then, I wasn’t involved in hand-to-hand fighting but some of our companies were. Some of the companies, half of them got wiped out, the companies. So, that was before, that was before the Battle of Alamein.
You know, seven months in Tobruk and then this couple of months at, you know because it was action that was on every day, from daylight ‘til dark. But anyway, as you were saying about Alamein, when we went into Alamein, which of course it’s the night that we went in and everybody else went in, there was twelve hundred guns opened up behind us and I don’t know whether you say about noise, you could not imagine the noise. We weren’t the first battalion
in on our front, we followed the 24th Battalion, Victorian battalion. They went in for about two miles and then we went through them and went on. Yeah. But some of the Germans we struck, they’d been under this barrage were just pretty well all concussed and ready to surrender before we got to them, a lot of them. Yeah. Yeah.
Well, for infantry, it’s always the same, you know, it’s a matter of carrying as much ammo as you can, carrying as much food as you can, without overloading yourself because nothing worse than having too much, ‘cause you’re on your feet all the time. We used to carry probably four grenades and a hundred rounds of ammunition which is pretty heavy and some of the guys carried a Bren gun which weighs about thirty pounds
which they do as a lifting barrage, they lift the barrage at about walking pace. So as you’re going in all these shells, they’re not going too far over your head, they’re only landing at say at two hundred yards in front of you and of course as they lift you keep moving forward all the time and attacking anybody or any post that you come on. And it’s in the dark and the dust and the cordite from the shells and the
noise of the guns, of course, was, you’d just about feel the ground jump. ‘cause you know you’ve got twelve hundred, they’re firing twenty, thirty rounds of rapid fire and then stop the gun for a while. They had the guns they reckon that the barrels were white hot with the amount of shells they threw through them.
from the coast, heading west along the Mediterranean, along the North African coast and ‘cause the Germans were holding all that ground. So when we got in three or four miles, we had two or three miles of Germans on our right hand side, right back to where we’d started from. And the idea, there was an idea of that, that they thought they’d get too many casualties attacking that particular part of the line, so they just left it and
a few days after, after a few more attacks we actually turned round and went backwards over that area. And that was the last couple of nights at Alamein and that was one of the worst nights, that’s when we suffered most of our casualties, fighting the pockets of Germans that were left in that area between us and the sea, where we went in the first night.
Just describe that, what is it exactly?
Well, they put the dummies out to draw the artillery fire when they’re doing a battle somewhere else. If they’re gonna attack somewhere else, they actually make up these dummies and put out in no man’s land and it does draw the fire for a while until they realise that they are dummies but I mean it takes the fire away from the attacking troops.
line, how close did you get in the end?
Oh, we were right on top of their lines. On the third night, after we’d gone over their general front line area, they had an Opip [observation post], this is these observation posts and it was what they call, point two nine and that was the highest part in that area of the desert, like a little pimple and they had the German artillery officers there.
So, they took our company, we were already in the front line, they took our company and put us in carriers and they took us straight into no man’s land and dropped us right on top of the pimple. That was C Company, the other companies in the battalion they went in but they walked in. But my particular company and my platoon, we went in on carriers and they dropped us right in the German trenches, with them, right on top of
them, yeah. So, that was a bit of trench fighting and hand-to-hand fighting and close fighting, you know, but all in the dark of course, well not dark, semi-darkness. But in that case you know everybody that’s in front of you’s gotta be the enemy, so because in some cases of course, when you are fighting in the dark you can start shooting up your own troops, if you get mixed up, some get further ahead, some get further back and they see movement ahead and they start opening up, could be their own people. Gotta be very
What’s it like fighting at those close quarters, all this hand-to-hand fighting?
Well, it’s pretty rough. We had guys that night that actually cleared trenches right out. One fellow called Frank Kennedy, a big farmer from one of our northern farms here, he was in my platoon and he was the first guy in the trench and he killed probably fifteen, twenty Germans with a bayonet, just
running through the trenches and everybody ran into him he bayoneted and he had a chap behind him called Harry Jarmen from Western Australia, who’d never been in action before and all Harry was getting was Germans lobbing on top of his head, ‘cause Frank had said to him, “You follow me, keep close behind me and you’ll be alright, I’ll look after you.” knowing that he was a recruit, raw. That was just one of the guys that he did, you know.
the back of the hat and he was in a dugout, you know. I couldn’t see him, I just looked in there and of course he must have fired at me with a pistol and all I did was chuck a hand grenade in there, so I don’t know how many were in there but I never looked back, so, you didn’t have to. Then the last night of Alamein, we struck a lot of
Germans in their trenches and in their dugouts and things and we used of hand grenades and we killed a lot of Germans and they killed a lot of our guys. ‘Cause it was, when it was over, that last night of Alamein, it was, you could have just about called it a draw. We had forty-four blokes left in our battalion out of the six hundred that had gone in about eight days before. The Germans had
not many more and that was, you know, they were walking around and surrendering, at least we weren’t surrendering but they were. They’d had enough.
retreat and there was enormous tank battles. We had about, I am only guessing the number now, but we had probably seven or eight hundred tanks. The Germans had about four hundred but their tanks were a lot bigger than ours. They also had an eighty-eight millimetre gun which could out range any of the tanks and they used it, it was an anti-aircraft gun that they used for anti-tank
attack and right across the Alamein plain there they had about ten or fifteen of these eighty-eight millimetres in strategic places where they could cover hell a lot of ground. And after, I went back after the battle because they sent some of us back to try and find our own blokes where we’d buried ‘em and where the Germans had buried them and we knew where they’d been killed for instance and you could stand in one of these eighty-eight millimetre gun pits
and you could count the tanks that they’d knocked out, you could, you know there’d be one here, one there, one there, one there, one there, one there, might be ten tanks.
Dean, we’ll just go back, just what we were talking about just as we ran out of tape there so I’ll get you to go back a little bit again, just when you said you came back….?
This was after, after the Alamein Battle, yeah.
to find out our own chaps who had been killed, who some of them we had buried ourselves and some the Germans had buried. But I went on to say about the tank battles that raged, there was hundreds, hundreds of tanks on the battle field, knocked out with the, with these, mainly with these eighty-eight millimetre guns. The crew still in them, mainly burnt of course, they’d catch
on fire because they are full of fuel and full of ammo and just as many, probably just as many German tanks that our people had knocked out as well.
What was that scene like, I mean how could you….?
Oh it was terrible. Terrible. All these guys in the tanks, I s’pose they eventually took them out but they were just burnt to cinders, you know, most of them.
We brought them, we brought them into headquarters, they would have put them in the Tobruk cemetery but at that stage, of course, other people would take over that but we knew where to find them, the ones, only our own guys out of our own platoon. There was a blockhouse there which was on the railway line and while all this, the last day of that battle and night that battle was going on they used
quite a few prisoners. Took quite a few prisoners. The last night, before the last night, I was a corporal and my section, I had to go forward with three blokes, only had three blokes left, to contact the 32nd Battalion who were down in front of us. And they were in action but we wanted to join up with them and only a track
to go down there, the track that we followed to go down there we ran into two German artillery guns and all their crew. And we fired a few bursts at ‘em and threw a couple of hand grenades in amongst where they were and they all surrendered and I think that they’d had enough, of course. So, I had to send one of my guys back with these thirty odd German prisoners and he came back to the battalion about a month after, he
finished up back at Cairo because no one’d take the prisoners off him. You know if you take prisoners, you gotta feed ‘em and no one’s got rations for prisoners, so until they get right back to base they only get a bit of a snack here and there, you know. But that’s just one incident that those people had all been, they’d fought themselves to a standstill virtually and being an artillery regiment they’d been hammered
by our guns, of course, yeah.
What impact does it have on you when you finally do come face to face with the people you’ve been fighting with, you’re supposed to hate or defeat or annihilate, I mean when you, are they humans, just like anyone else?
Oh yeah, of course they are. Yeah, yeah, they are. I’ve never met
I’m just thinking about when you finally take prisoners or you, what impact does that have on you, kind of having to come face to face?
Oh, well, you know, you just, you know if they surrender, well you just take them prisoner, that’s all and one of the things, one of these things that had
before we went into Alamein, it was an unofficial order from [Field Marshall] Montgomery, take no prisoners whether they’ve got their hands up or not. Because every time you take a prisoner, you’ve gotta send someone back with them, so you’re sending your front line troops back with prisoners. But we went in behind the 24th Battalion and they were sending prisoners back, so they obviously weren’t, they weren’t shooting ‘em with their hands up but you know, it could
happen I s’pose. But I’ve never seen any of our guys shoot prisoners with their hands up. But that was one of the unofficial orders that we were told and I mean, I know the value of it because if you keep taking prisoners and you keep sending guys back you finish up with nobody in your section.
How did you feel at the end of that?
Yeah, well you can definitely get shell shock but of course the army doesn’t recognise shell shock. You understand that if they did, what it would cost them in money after the war, especially, with people with bad nerves. They never recognised your nerves being shattered as shell shock. It was just called fatigue or some other name they had for it but never shell shock. Yeah.
Tobruk, were there times when you could get away from the combat, that you could relax, tell me about that?
No, you couldn’t if, you couldn’t if you were an infantry soldier. Some of the chaps back in the headquarter companies and the cooks and the transport people and these sort of people, back in the ravines that were down by the sea, they had all sorts of dug outs into the sides of the hills as big as
rooms, you know, the dug out and a lot of them were caves and things like this and even the Italians had big rooms underground there, so they could, they were quite safe there from the bombing and all that sort of thing. But the infantry people could never get away from it anywhere because no matter where you where, you were within range of the guns or the bombs. Twice they took us swimming; they took us from the front line or the blue line usually,
the second line back, take you down for swimming but it always had to be at dusk or dawn where you could get in the water and just have a wash and, you know, don’t be caught out there when the fighters come along, could strafe you in the water or bomb you, that sort of thing. Yeah. So, didn’t have a proper wash for seven and a half months, I s’pose, except in a bit of sea water a couple of times and yeah it was pretty hard on the front, on the combat troops,
put it that way, all the combat troops, artillery, machine gunners, boarder men, the infantry, especially who are always up the front.
Oh there was, yeah there was a parade in Palestine, yeah one of the royal family came out. Yeah, I could remember that, yeah, I can’t remember a lot about it but I can remember there was a whole division was on parade there, the whole of the 9th Division.
Well, that wasn’t too good either from what I remember of it. I think we were there for about six, seven hours before the thing started, you know, just standing around and waiting for them, you know, to get that many troops into an area and it takes hours to get them all in and standing up and yes, it’s very dim in my memory that, actually.
Let’s now, at this stage, think about what was happening back in Australia, how aware were you about what was happening in Australia at that stage, especially the emerging threat from Japan?
Oh well, I knew quite a bit because, you know, I was getting letters from my mother and my sisters and my sisters worked in munitions and
Oh well, you thought about home a lot because it’s a, you know, it’s a, the army, you only had your own friends. The army overseas, is a pretty class orientated, there’s a lot of things that, I mean I was a sergeant for two years and I still [(UNCLEAR)] finished but sergeants’ messes when you are out of action, they have good meals and that sort of
thing. Officers have excellent meals; just as good as you’d get at home. They get a lot more leave than the other ranks get. When you go to towns in the Middle East, all of the top hotels and restaurants are out of bounds to other ranks. A lot of the major ones are officers only. You live in a different world; they couldn’t do it in Australia,
but they certainly do it over there and of course the English do it all the time anyway didn’t they, their army people? It’s like class distinction. For instance, a private soldier couldn’t go out with a nursing sister, who was an officer. One of my friends, who was in my platoon, his sister was a nursing sister and he had to get special
dispensation from somewhere to even take his sister out for a meal.
To make it simple, what thoughts were you having about home?
Oh, you’re always thinking about how they were getting on and that sort of thing, you know. As I said, you know, it was very hard times for people here. When I joined up
it was six bob a day, I think or five bob a day, one of the two but I left a pound week to my mother, right through the war, that was two thirds of my only salary. You know, I was always thinking about them, how they were going and getting on and you know, they had rationing here, as you’ve probably heard about so it wasn’t easy for people here
So, what did you want to do?
Well, there is no way we would, there is no way we would have surrendered. In some of the conditions that people surrendered. I mean some people, if you’re ordered to surrender by your officers, I s’pose you have to surrender but,
Well, we reckon they didn’t do it properly. If you can understand what I mean, that they actually kept falling back all the time, yeah, yeah. I mean we could have all surrendered in Tobruk just because we were surrounded, it didn’t mean we had to surrender. But as soon as people apparently got surrounded, you know when they were fighting the Japs, soon as they got surrounded or cut off they would surrender.
Where are you referring to, like Singapore?
Oh yeah, in Malaysia and those places, yeah, yeah. I’m not referring to our places in New Guinea where they, some of our troops did a wonderful job up there, some of the early troops.
Yeah but where were you referring to earlier?
Oh to Malaysia and when they came down through Malaysia [actually Malaya] and Singapore and through there. I mean when you think that, I don’t know how many thousand people but I think there was over a hundred thousand people surrendered, if you took all the troops that surrendered, I think the Japs had about a hundred thousand in troops that had surrendered at one stage. As I said, I can’t remember the numbers
What was it like to be back in Australia at that time, what was the mood?
Well, the people here had surprised, they surprised me because they, they didn’t seem to be too worried about the Japs. They weren’t anywhere near as worried about the Japs as
we were, the troops. Things were going on virtually as they were when we left. There was dances every night of the week all over the place and people were still going on holidays and down to Victor [Harbour] and the normal places they used to go here and apart from the fact that there was rationing and that sort of thing, no one seemed to worry, you know. It absolutely amazed me, sort of going on further, like going to
New Guinea and knowing how close the Japs were, to come back to Australia after being in New Guinea and the people in Sydney, they wouldn’t have known there was a war on. The town was just operating exactly the same as if it was peacetime. And yet the Japanese, you know, were in force up there.
the fact that they didn’t, they weren’t more concerned about it. In fact army people were treated with the disdain because the American troops were here, of course, by the thousands and everybody sort of kowtowed out to them. Especially the women which didn’t worry me too much because I wasn’t involved but, you know,
Australians of course on leave, and when you’re an infantry soldier you know you’re gonna get three weeks leave and you’re gonna be back in that front line again and you know, you’re gonna be dead. That’s the thought. So, we used to play up a bit on leave and drink too much I s’pose and got a bit of a bad name that way, I s’pose. Not only our battalion but every probably Australian digger who was a combat troop and also a lot of Americans who were combat troops, you know,
the sailors and some of their marines got bad names here for playing up and getting on the booze. But we understood exactly what they were up to because they were in the same boat as us, that they could be sent off anytime to do a landing somewhere.
Well, it’s hard to describe I s’pose but, I mean, we just went where we had to go and we knew as long as the war was on that we would be kept, they’d keep sending us back in. Even when we went the second time, when we did the landing on Borneo, of course they had something like a hundred thousand troops in camp here that had never been in action. But it’s well known that they wouldn’t send them in when they had, when they had experienced troops
you know, we thought that we’d had our share after five, nearly five years. And a lot of these people that were here were dying to get into action, you know, the blokes that would join the army and they were trying to get overseas. But they still kept sending back the old units and the old divisions, yeah. And they were the ones they had success with and that’s what they used.
survived, I mean how do you feel about that, I mean…?
Just, just a very fortunate person. Very fortunate person. You wonder how you can walk through fire like that. Like I did at Alamein and those months at Tobruk and then we did the landing at Lae and then we did a landing at Finschhafen which is a hundred mile or so up from Lae. And I got wounded on,
at Finschhafen and I got wounded with a shell that lobbed right in the middle of our platoon, killed two of my blokes and I got a big through the leg and got concussed and one of my blokes got a bit of shrapnel right through both lungs just from that one shell. So in that same shelling it was our 2IC [2nd in command], our major got killed, our adjutant got killed, our doctor, the bloke I was talking about a while ago who is still with us, he got
badly wounded. So, you know, then I went, of course, did the landing on Tarakan, I’ve been everywhere. Did the landing on Tarakan and lasted seven days there, on the seventh day got the Japanese throwing grenades into our lines and got a bit through the elbow, then was taken out but that day we lost probably eight or ten guys killed in our platoon.
What is it that enables some people to survive and others not? People, people come to you, when you’re a sergeant, like I was the last couple of years. People come to you in the dark, you don’t see them, they come in the dark and they’re allocated to a section, they go over to that section, they get wounded or killed, they’ve gone out and you’re actually in charge
of the platoon and you never seen the guy and he’s been in action, in the front line, wounded and gone out again. It happens all the time. Happens all the time. It’s just the first, his first minute or first hour in the front line, he gets hit, yet you’ve got blokes alongside of him that have been in there three or four years and been in every action that we’ve ever had, you know.
Something like thirteen hundred days I was in active service, like in action. Nearly three years and not only me, lots of other blokes. We haven’t got many left now in our battalion, I’m one of the last few that are the originals that went right through but there were a lot, after the war, a lot of them died since.
to tell us exactly how the Japs operated. So there’s all sorts of things that the Japs got up to that they didn’t know about and we didn’t know about but we wouldn’t have known about it unless they told us because they only learnt the hard way, by having blokes killed, you know. And simple things like the Japs in the jungle, it’s so dark of a night you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. The Japs would crawl up in the last
two or three minutes of light until they were right up alongside one of your posts, they’d only be from here to the camera away from the post and of course they could get over that bit of ground and knife somebody or bayonet somebody in the dark. And that used to happen all the time but what the people originally thought was these blokes were coming in through the jungle and getting them but they weren’t, they were coming up in the daylight ‘til they
could almost touch you, you know, the thick jungle. So, of course when we went up, the first thing we would always do, just with the last few minutes before dark, we’d immediately scour out in front of our lines. And often caught Japs hiding out there, hiding under the jungle and under the leaves and just doing the same things as I was talking about, they could have a machine gun, anything, and they wouldn’t fire it then, would they. As soon as it got dark they’d fire it, but they knew exactly where you were. Those sort of things and
being surrounded. You see you got surrounded in the jungle and this is what I’m talking about in those first, when the first troops struck in Malaysia. Soon as they got surrounded, they were cut off; they reckoned that was the end of it. But in the jungle, a platoon of forty men could fight on their own for days because the jungle’s so thick, you can be a hundred yards away from somebody and you wouldn’t even know they’re there. Quite often platoons and companies were cut off for days.
They never panicked, as long as they had enough food and if you knew where they were, well you could just fight your way into where they were to supply them with ammunition and that sort of thing. But this was a different type of war because it was where the desert was all open, this was close. When you, and of course we were the attackers which you always get more casualties if you’re the attacker because the other people are always in trenches and bunkers and in dug outs
and foxholes and all these things and you’re trying to get them out of there.
How difficult is that, fighting under those conditions?
Well, it was a different world to what we had been used to. Yeah. Yeah. And very nerve wracking. Very nerve wracking because, you know, if you didn’t see the enemy, probably most fellas that got shot wouldn’t have even seen the bloke that shot them, you know. Probably shooting ‘em through foliage or somewhere like that,
where he’s camouflaged and hit them. But when we did some of the actual attacks, well then we were just attacking their bunkers and their fox holes and things where they were but there was really no such thing as a front line. Just pockets of people all over the place, yeah. They were always, in New Guinea, they were always on the ridges and the high parts
because it was very difficult to get to anybody up those razor backs, you can only walk along the top, they’re so steep.
There were no Japanese where we landed, we expected there to be but there was no Japanese there and it took us about fifteen or sixteen days to get to Lae. We had to cross two or three major rivers, one the Busu River which had three or four major streams all running at about twenty knots out of the mountains and a lot of hardship. We went three days without food on
that, on that trek because we weren’t expected to take so long to get there. Some of the other battalions stuck a few Japanese. We got to the outskirts of Lae, which was a very small town then, and ran into some 7th Division guys, just out of the town we ran into them and they’d been into the town and there was no
Japanese there, they’d gone. There had been twenty thousand Japanese there apparently, but they knew about the landing, of course, and they knew we were coming down the coast and they actually went overland and of course a lot of them went to Finschhafen. Where we did the second landing but we did eighteen days or sixteen or eighteen days there of hard slog through the jungle and over these rivers. One of the battalions lost about
twenty guys drowned, down by the mouth, trying to get across. And some of those fella’s right down by the beach, we were inland about four or five miles, some of those blokes right down by the beach, they did strike a few Japanese on the other side of the river in machinegun posts but we never struck anybody except two blokes that were dying with dysentery. It was the only Japanese we saw on that
occasion. So, we did all that work and the 7th Div came down the Ramu Valley, they were landed by plane up in the hills, as far as I can recall they didn’t strike anybody down around Lae area.
We also did the landing exactly like they did, in a different spot but again there was no Japanese where we landed. We went in expecting to find Japanese there but they weren’t and they’d all pulled back quite a bit from the coast but the other battalions who’d landed before us they had quite a battle, they’d had quite a battle before we got there, with a lot of Japanese, probably some thousands of Japanese.
After that’d all settled down a bit and we’d taken a lot of ground on the plane, we started to go up to Sattelberg Mountain, which was quite a high feature in that area. And that was the first time that they’d used tanks, with our troops, and they were our own tanks, our own armed div[division] that we had three tanks and they were able to go up this road that went up this ridge to go up to Sattelberg.
And about halfway up there was a place called Coconut Ridge and one of the tanks had a track blown off. The Japs had mined the road and blew the tank track off and of course the tanks wouldn’t go off the road because it was very steep and very boggy. So that held the other two tanks up that were behind it and our company, that I was in then, we actually attacked this Coconut Ridge and we
had a few casualties but we took the ridge. And while we were occupying the ridge, this is when we got shelled from a gun that was right up on the top of this mountain about five or six miles away and that’s when I got, I got wounded there and two of my blokes got killed. And after our battalion had taken the mountain,
the mountain top, they said that from where the Japanese were firing this gun you could look straight down and you could see us all walking about, down in the jungle because you were looking straight down on top of us virtually. But that’s where ‘Diver’ [Thomas Currie] Derrick won his VC, taking the top, the village of Sattelberg because it was very steep where they crawled up and climbed up and he made three or four attempts to get up there before he eventually got up and he knocked
out about three or four machine gun posts on his way up there. He had his platoon behind him but he was the guy in front.
The Italians, what about the Japanese, what sort of soldiers were they?
Well, they would stay where they were, normally, until the, like at Lae they didn’t
stay where they were, they all left but that would have been a manoeuvre of course. But they stuck where they were on the ridge going up to Sattelberg; they just fought and died where they were. And as I said, when the, after I got wounded the next two or three days they took the top of the mountain and they knocked out several machine gun posts up there. Well none of those blokes surrendered or gave up their post, they were just,
they just had to be knocked out, so they were killed, yeah. They were very fatalistic, you know.
especially with the Japanese because they’d immediately bloody shoot you. So, what was the good of surrendering? I mean, it was just stupid, there was no way in the world any of our guys were ever going to surrender against the Japanese, not as long as they were able to fight, you know. I always felt sorry for the fellas in the air force because as soon as, you know, if they got shot down over Japanese territory, the first thing the Japs would do was execute
‘em all. Yeah. So, that was not on the cards, that surrendering business.
What stories had you heard about the Japanese before you were encountered them?
Well, we heard a lot of stories and we saw a lot of film. When we first came back, when we went to the tablelands to train, they showed us a lot of films about the Japanese, Japanese in Shanghai and the Japanese coming down the Malaysian Coast and what they used to do
the Chinese in Shanghai, mainly, where they were bayoneting people in the street and anybody over about four years old to eighty years old got raped in the streets by the troops and they just went crazy. We depicted them as animals, Japanese soldiers. We knew,
we knew that the sort of things that they did, we didn’t look at them anywhere near the same way we looked at Italians or German people. Because mostly with the Germans, the people that got taken prisoner, they were treated well and with the Italians and what we did, we took German prisoners and that and they got treated well but with the Japanese they had this business of just executing everybody or raping them or whatever else they wanted to do.
Why did that, the view of the Japanese, what effect did that view of the Japanese have on your state of mind as you were in that jungle?
Well as I said, there was no way we were ever going to surrender. No matter what, you know. Yes, so I s’pose it made us a lot more aggressive, I s’pose you could say that to fighting them.
What attitude, was there a sort of different way that you approached the…. ?
I don’t think so, I don’t think so. I think it was just, just the same way as we did over there, as I said, I, this was only the thing that I did myself that I
could just about turn my head off when I went into action and I thought, well if you’re gonna get killed, you’re gonna get killed but anybody that I see in front, I am gonna kill. And most infantry blokes thought the same way, you know, that you don’t hesitate because if you do, you’re the bloke that gets killed. And this is why so many recruits get, you know young blokes that have never been in action, get killed. They just wait that second before
they’ll do anything drastic, don’t wanna shoot somebody or anything like that. I think older troops, they realise that it’s just split second business between you and them, you know.
I think you’re fighting desperately too for yourself, I think, that would be the, at the moment what you are doing, I would say. Yeah. Yes, it’s a hard question to answer, how you feel, yeah. I mean you know that if you don’t win, you’re gonna lose, aren’t you? And to lose against the Japanese, you’re gonna be,
So, what affect did that have, in the direct physical terms, that attitude that you developed towards the Japanese as a reaction to their attitude to you, what kind of things did you see Australian troops doing to the Japanese?
Well, I never saw them do anything because, I mean, when I say that, they wouldn’t surrender,
they wouldn’t surrender and you had to be very, very careful if one was wounded because they could have a grenade with the pin out in their hand. You know, they would take you with ‘em deliberately, they’d kill themselves of course and quite often on patrols if they were surrounded, when I say they would fight. On one occasion that we got mixed up with three Japanese chaps that got surrounded with our platoon,
they actually committed hari kari [suicide] with a grenade, just pulled the pin out and held it against their body, they were in foxholes but they all killed themselves. So, they’re hard people to understand, hard people to understand. I look at them all with suspicion, even today. Yeah. I’ve met a lot of Japanese chaps through business
which I was in, in the electrical trades, I’ve never shook one by the hand yet, ever and I won’t ever. I don’t like the Japanese.
Yes, I mean, I never saw any of the atrocities that they committed but I’ve heard about so many and the true things that have happened where they’ve taken over missions and hospitals and just bayoneted everybody in the hospitals and the nurses as well. Killed people who are non-combatants and raping people and all this sort of thing.
And I think probably the people that I got involved with were, were people in their infantry were probably the lowest of their ranks although their navy has got almost as bad a reputation for exterminating people in the water and doing all sorts of things, when people have had their boats sunk and they’ve been shot down and this sort of thing. Japs immediately would execute them in the water.
Which our troops would never do, not that I knew of anyway.
What were your feelings about that particular campaign?
Well, again we just did it, you know, just something you do. We did that from Morotai Island, that landing, on the boats there
to go to Tarakan and we had a great concentration of ships that shelled hell out of the place before we went in. They had big oil tanks along the shore, huge tanks full of oil, and they were all set on fire, when we landed, of course, there was great things blazing and black smoke and that sort of thing. Where I landed, again, there was no Japanese but there were Japanese where other people landed
but where we landed, there was no Japanese and they’d actually moved out of the town. They’d moved out of the town back into the foothills and the hills and this is when we started to follow them up and again get fighting them there and some of the troops had a hard job to take the airport. Which was the major reason they took the island, was to get the airport so that our planes could land
there to go further afield and there was a lot of Japanese up there and they had a pretty hard fight up there. But our battalion had lots of small skirmishes and fights and things. And this particular, it was on the seventh day, we landed there on May 1st, I can remember that day, only because it was the first of May. The Japanese held this hill in strength and one of our
platoons had attacked it and came down and then our platoon attacked and we actually got a foot hold up there and they were throwing grenades and things into our trenches, fox holes we had. Didn’t dig trenches up there, mainly just fox holes. Enough for two people and I got shrapnel through my left elbow and my officer immediately after
got shot through the stomach and he died next day and I was sent back to hospital from that, so that was the end of the war for me. I was in hospital for about six weeks, I then went to a convalescent depot and not long after that, of course, they dropped the bombs. But at that stage of the war I thought the war was gonna go on for years because I thought, you know, we gotta take the Philippines
and we gotta take Okinawa and we got all these places to go. Because when we did the landing at Tarakan, we thought we were gonna land in the Philippines. And you know why we didn’t land, because [General] MacArthur only wanted American troops to take the Philippines. That’s what they tell us and I believe it’s true.
There was talk at the time that some of the troops were resentful that they were involved in costly mopping up operations?
Exactly, the island could have been bypassed. Could have been bypassed but that was, it’s all, that’s all said after the things all over, isn’t it? It’s alright to say that then, I s’pose because they bypassed so many islands,
yeah. The Americans, the American Navy stopped the Japs, they stopped the Japs in the Coral Sea Battle, that’s what saved Australia and because they did a wonderful job there and they lost a lot of people. We got on well with
the American combat troops, the chaps that used to drive the landing barges and that sort of thing and on the American liberty ships, we got on well with all those guys.
Because, again, it was a battle of the little ridges and the little hills, it wasn’t mountainous, it wasn’t real mountainous but very heavy jungle and small hills but also still with a steep, steep sides and this sort of thing, yeah.
How did that manifest itself?
Well, it didn’t, it didn’t worry me too much. I was very fortunate, I kept my health pretty well and the only time I ever got malaria was when I went back to Port Moresby when I got wounded in New Guinea and I was in the Moresby Hospital with my leg for six to eight weeks and of all things when I was in, the day I got out of hospital they said, oh you can go up with the [UNCLEAR], you’ve got malaria.
There was a lot of, a lot more people killed than, in the jungle, going the other way. If you went to the desert there was to every one that was killed there was six or eight wounded but in the jungle to every person that was killed, there was one wounded or to every one wounded there was one killed because it was so close, the fighting. If someone was shot at, you know, the forward scout or something like that, he’d eventually get killed. Yeah. Always get killed, you know.
And even throwing grenades and things, it was so close, yeah. So, there’s a big cemetery in Tarakan of our guys, yeah, and my lieut’s buried there, the chap that got shot in the stomach, yeah.
but as I said, I’m, of the eight or ten guys that I was very friendly with in the very start of the war, they’re all been dead for years. Like you say to me, “How do I survive?” I don’t know. I had a young chap come up to me in the Plympton RSL a few weeks ago and said, “We found a photo of you behind our piano.” I used to go there because the chap that was a platoon
sergeant, I told you the returned bloke from the First World War, he used, his wife was a great pianist and he used to have the boys there when we were on leave, you know, and he said, “I found a photo of you.” Then he said, “There’s about eight of you there and you’re the only one that’s alive.” I said, “Well thank God for that.” But there you are, it’s just one of those things.
through the headquarters and didn’t quite believe it, I don’t think, for two or three days until it was officially confirmed because there was still a lot of Japanese on, still a lot of Japanese on Tarakan Island, of course, when the war finished and they didn’t know the war was over. They were, eventually they got
a couple of Japanese interpreters and sent them out in Japanese clothes and, you know, brave enough to walk into the Japanese groups and tell them that the war was over and they’d surrender, so in little dribs and drabs a lot of them came in. But a lot of them still tried to escape and they tried to get across, Tarakan Island’s two or three miles from Borneo, but when the tides out you can just about walk across there
and they were trying to get across there in little boats and logs and things and they are still trying to escape virtually. So those guys apparently still didn’t know that the war was over. But it was a great relief, I can tell you, yeah. Yes, we went into a, eventually our battalion was broken up on Tarakan Island, it was demobilised
and I went into a, what they call, a five years’ camp. Anybody that’d been in the army over five years they put you in this special camp, didn’t have to do anything but play basketball and sleep and play footy and wait until you got taken home. Well, being young and single they had a point system so all the married blokes with the most children they went home first and then the married blokes went home and eventually the single blokes, as the older ones and right down to the younger ones. So, we were
there for quite a few months after the war, on Tarakan Island and only last year we got a medal for that little bit of service because they issued a medal. Only last year, they issued a medal for the troops that were in the southwest Pacific from 1945 after October until 1975 and two or three of us just qualified for that by about a month.
So, we did get a medal for Tarakan.
of guys would be locked out of the factory and whoever wanted them to do a couple of hours work would go out to the gate and call them in and say you can get a couple of hours welding or a couple of hours doing something else. But when I came back, of course, they’d all been in manufacturing armaments and guns and shells and things and they’d all made a lot of money and apart from that, the unions had become very strong and
they had a system that you couldn’t go back to work until your final leave was up because you were getting paid by the army. Even though you’re out of the army, you’re still getting paid by the army. So, I had to wait three months and when I, the first day I walked in the factory they said, because you left from the factory, they had to give you a job when you came back, that was the
law the government made and as soon as I walked in the door they said, this union bloke came up and he said, “You gotta join this union.” and I said, “I’ve never been in a union.” and he said, “Well, you gotta be in a union now.” And I said, “I don’t want to be in the union.” I said, “I’m happy to have a contract with the boss.” Anyway he said, “Well if you don’t join the union, we’ll stop work.” So, anyway I went and saw my manager, my direct
manager and he said, “Well, you’ll have to join a union,” but he said, “Don’t join the ironworkers’ union.” which was a Communist union which all these guys were in. “Join the furniture trades.” that covers refrigerators, so I joined the furniture trades. It soon got round that because I was in the furniture trades I was getting a shilling a week more than the blokes who were in the ironworkers and you can believe me or not but within about two months half
the guys in the factory had transferred to the furniture trades. Yeah, so it was quite funny. Yeah. But you know, when we came back to the factory the blokes who had been on the factory floor, they were all bosses, they’d been there right through the war and they’d gone up from just ordinary guys to foreman and senior foreman and all this sort of thing and inspectors and everything else and of course all the guys who went away, they just came back and went back on the bench, like before.
blown up with that landmine that the Germans had one of their guys set up with booby traps and jumping jack mines. The noise was unbelievable, so deaf for days after, you couldn’t hear a thing. And shock from the blast, I s’pose, a bit of panic, I s’pose at that time
and we had one guy quite badly wounded on the hand, as I told you, yeah.
So, how do you feel though, were you, is there a sense that you are going to die?
Well, no. Not at that time, not at that time. When I was wounded in New Guinea, that’s when the shell landed in amongst four of us, I didn’t quite
know what happened there, I virtually didn’t know very much until I got back to Moresby which was seven days after. Just flashes and yet apparently I was walking around and crawling around ‘cause I had two shrapnel wounds right through the calf of my leg and but mainly the blast was so close. It was only probably six or eight foot away from where the shell landed because it landed on top of a dug out and we were sitting just on the lee side of the dugout
so we had a bit of shrapnel but all the blast, the two other fellas that were killed didn’t have a mark on them, they just got killed with the concussion. They were, that time, in amongst a few of those moments that I was conscious, as you say, or knowing what is going on, I did thought I was going to die. Yeah. Yeah, it was just the, I heard the shell, they
say you never hear the shell but I heard that one, just probably the direction of the way it came and you know, I knew it was right on the spot even though it was only a couple of seconds to know it. Yeah.
but this one that I got through the calf of the leg, right through the muscle, in one side and out the other, size of a bit of shrapnel about the size of a marble, that was really very painful and I was sort of lapsing in and out of consciousness I s’pose but I don’t think it was from the wound, I think it was from the blast. Yeah. ‘Cause they had the doctor there quite, the doctor was only a few hundred yards behind the line on that occasion and as I told
you, he got wounded also afterwards. And he gave me morphine so I wasn’t too bad after that but of course I’d been wounded probably half an hour before that and it was very, very painful.
that you’re away from the front line?
Oh I think so yeah, after, when I was back in hospital there was. Yeah, they looked after me. Not a strange thing happened, not a strange thing but I apparently looked very young. I was a platoon sergeant when I was twenty, twenty one but I was twenty-two then and just, and
just on twenty-three and the matron of the hospital was concerned that I, she couldn’t believe that I’d been in the Middle East and been over there and up in the islands all that time, at my age and we had blokes in the battalion four years younger than me. We had blokes in our company sixteen years old.
Anyway, but she looked after me, the matron herself, she’d come round every day and give me special treatment, yeah, and that’s when I got malaria.
What about the sense that this was the end of the war for you, was that going through your mind, how did you feel about that?
Yeah, well I was there a long time, I was about five or six weeks in hospital and a long time in the con[valescent] camp.
A matter of fact I never came home with the battalion, the battalion came home then I came home from Moresby, straight across to Queensland. Eventually joined up with the battalion again but no, I never thought it’d keep me out of action because I was by that stage again after I’d been there a couple of months, three months, I could walk again quite well, yeah, yeah. It looked, I had this thought, as I said before in Tarakan that
this war’s never gonna be, this war’s gonna go on for years and you know, if you’re gonna be in it, you’re gonna get killed eventually, yeah. That was my thoughts at that stage, at the end of Tarakan, I thought if it goes on, if it keeps going, before we knew about the bombs being dropped because every time we’d go to action we’d lose four or five of our blokes, you know, ‘cause you gotta be, you can’t miss out all the time, you gotta eventually be the one that gets it, you know.
So, you just accepted it, I s’pose. Hard to remember now, what I was thinking.
Can you describe, for me, the feeling when you got back to your family?
Yeah, when I came back from the Middle East I was more emotional I think, especially with my mother. I was very close to my mother and my father, but my father was a very quiet man but my mother was always
Yes, what was her response then?
Oh, I went back on my own because, as I told you, in Tarakan they had this point system, everybody’d come home and a lot of them had had marches through the city but when I come home, I come home on my own. Like, just
our battalion had been broken up and just come home, got off the boat and got on the train and come down to Adelaide and walked from the station to home with my gear and that was it. Yeah. Yeah, that wasn’t anywhere near as emotional as coming back from the Middle East, I think, being so far away and the first time I’d ever really been away from home, you know.
What did people at home understand about what you’d been through?
Civilians, you’re talking about civilians, sorry. Nothing. They didn’t know. They had no idea, they had no idea. No idea at all. I had trouble with my nerves when I came back apparently, I didn’t have any troubles with my nerves when I was in the army but I wasn’t too long out of the army, a few months, eighteen months,
twelve months or so and I started to get all sorts of nightmares and mad thoughts and I was drinking pretty heavily and all sorts of things, you know. And it went on for quite a long while, quiet a long while and I got treated for it at the repat[riation hospital], they were very good. Yeah. The first guy I went to down there, they sent me to a psychiatrist and when I came back I said to my mother,
it might have even been my wife, I might have been married then, I can’t remember but anyway I said, “This guy, he’s crazier than I am.” and believe it or not, the next week he committed suicide. The doctor. Yeah, so it went on for a long time and I still have, I can still have nightmares about the war, not very often but every now and again I’m up in New Guinea somewhere or
mainly in New Guinea or Tarakan or up in the islands somewhere, not so much the Middle East. Yeah.
Not very often now but every now and again, yeah. It’s things, probably things I’ve been thinking about what we’re doing and reading a few articles and things to try and remember, you know, what I did and where we went as a battalion. I think you sort of just start to freshen it up in your mind again, yeah.
How much were you able to talk about what happened during the war, immediately afterwards?
Oh well amongst army people, you know, we talk all the time. Even today when we go to reunions and things we talk about places we’ve been and what we did and where we were but we don’t talk about it to people who’ve never been there ‘cause they would never
What about that battalion of yours? I mean, what did it say about the Australian soldier, what sort of people, where did they come from, how did they become a fighting, from all over the place?
They came from all over the place and
the other battalions, we were the last battalion to be formed in South Australia and of course everybody who was wanted to go or who was eligible to go had gone before our crew and it was when France fell that all these, this influx of people. We had people from stations, from miners, stockmen, jockeys, imagine, you know we had blokes five foot four
and nearly fifty kilos in the army, tiny little people who they wouldn’t take in the start and now they got this great conglomeration of people together and finish up to be what is recognised as the greatest battalion in the AIF. Certainly the highest decorated Australian battalion ever, yeah. But as I said before, mainly because of our battalion leaders
and our officers and also our sergeants, your platoon sergeants and your corporals, they’re the people that make a unit and you know, people, other ranks can come and go but if you‘ve got a good sergeant or a good lieutenant or a good captain. And we had three very good, very good battalion commanders and
of course in Tobruk we had more [Lieutenant General Leslie James] Morshead as a divisional commander, so they were all wonderful people, people who have gone down in history now as, you know, to what they were.
What does that, what does that say about the way those characters came together and fought, what does that say about the Australian character?
We, you know, we are all in our eighties now, all the originals
and we still meet for dinners and go to each others places and so we’re still all, we’re still all mates, after sixty years. You know, we’ve stuck together through thick and thin, yeah. We’ve got a battalion club that’s probably the wealthiest battalion club in Australia, as far as an army club goes and they’ve, you know, all stuck to the club and
put money in it and the welfare of their widows and that sort of thing.
What does the word mateship mean?
I don’t know exactly. Oh well, good mates who stick together mainly. As I said it’s a, all of my mates, they’ve been mates for fifty, sixty years. They were, you can be mates for a week or mates for a month, I s’pose but when people are mates for that long,
When you came back to Australia, did you think about going back on the land?
Yes, I thought about going back on the land but the chap that I was wounded with in New Guinea eventually became my brother-in-law, this is a long story. He came from Maree, which is way up
in the centre of South Australia, in the outback and he and I, we decided, we become pals because we were both off sheep stations, he was off cattle station, I was off sheep station. His family had been up around Maree for a hundred years and all the family had properties up there and they knew that quite a big bit of government land up there that no one had ever taken up and
through this, Bob Williams his name was, he eventually married my sister. He said, you know, “Well when we come back we’ll go up there, as soon as we get discharged we’ll go up there and open up that bit of country and we can get cattle off my uncles, if they don’t give them to us, we’ll pinch them.” Anyway, of course, the thing that happened when we both got skittled with this shell, he was the one that got the bullet through his lungs and the shrapnel through his lungs
and he was sent back to Adelaide and he was twelve months in hospital here and then he was down here again for another eighteen months or so. While he was down here he stayed at my Mum’s house and of course this is when he started to go out with my sister and eventually married her. But he never went back to the bush for years and years. He eventually went back for a few years but he came back to Adelaide again. So, I never worried about it then
I’d gone back to Kelvinators and started working, I’d gone to the school of mines [?] and did a refrigeration course and then I was sort of into refrigeration then and I was doing refrigeration service, which I like doing, mechanical work, and I was in that for donkey’s years till eventually I became manager of Allen’s Refrigeration Store in Rundell Street in Adelaide and I was
there for twenty-three years, yeah.
When you came back from the war, that person who walked down the street and railway station with your kit, how had that person changed from the person who’d left for war?
Oh well, you’d been in a different world, just living in a different world. Yeah. Yeah. Changed a great deal. Yeah.
out of action, you know, the army life. I didn’t mind the army life because coming from the country and not having a terrific social life as far as partying on and that sort of thing. I was saying to someone the other day, when I joined at Kelvinators, I was getting twenty-seven and six a week, that’s two dollars seventy-five a week, ‘cause you got no idea what the difference in the money is now but that’s what it is in
today’s money, two dollars seventy-five for eight hours work a week and of course when I joined the army, I was getting five bob a day and that was thirty-five shillings a week. So I was getting eight dollars a week more in the army than I was working in a factory and also being found with clothes and medicine and everything else, so I thought that was pretty good at the time. Yeah. Yeah,
so money is a funny thing in those days, money was so tight. Yeah. Yeah.