of 8 children, two of whom died as babies; there were 6 of us then. Then when I was 3 year old I moved from St Christopher’s Street, which is within an area of Nottingham called Snenton Dale, which is the poorer part of Nottingham. And when I was 3 for some reason we moved up to a higher and better area of Nottingham called Snenton Hill, into a very big house – big
2-storey house with about 5 bedrooms, I think we had. And it was on 4 blocks of land going from one street to another. I don’t know how that happened. We were there then. My father died when I was about 6. And then after a couple of years my mother remarried. Married a builder. Was an Englishman, but working in Australia.
And then he, after they were married, he came back to Australia and set up a house. And my mother brought 4 of us – my older 2 sisters stayed in England. One lived in London and got married there, and the other stayed with the house and ran it as a boarding house. My stepfather then had 2 sons, so we were a family of 8 altogether.
The Depression had struck pretty heavily by then. Nobody had permanent work; you just got what you could when you could. My stepfather and his two sons were out of work. My 2 sisters went as live-in child-minders. My brother got a job in a grocery
shop. And I started delivering and selling newspapers, which was fortunate because I was keeping the family going. I think my brother was getting about 10 shillings a week and I was getting 15 shillings a week.
moved to North Kew because we couldn’t pay the rent. And then we moved to a third house in Kew in Princes Street because we were having trouble paying the rent there. No electricity because we couldn’t afford it. We used to have to do the homework by candlelight at night. We were doing that until I was—I went through Kew State School,
right through there to eighth grade, and got what we knew then as Merit Certificate. Today it would be Form 2, I think. But in those days everybody seemed to leave school at around about 14. I was 13 - 14 less 2 months when I left school, and I had to wait ‘til I was 14 before I could get a job. I got a job in a factory that used to make cases for watches. And
I was on a machine polishing watchstrap buckles. I had to do a thousand a day. That was a great job. But anyway, I had it in my mind that I wanted to get away from the city. So I watched the papers very closely. One day there was an advertisement in the paper. In the those days, incidentally, we had the Sun, Age and Argus daily newspapers
and the Herald at nighttime. So when I was just about 15 I come across someone in Gippsland wanting a lad on the farm. So I wrote, and he wrote back and sent me the fare up. And I went up and stayed with him then for the next 3-3½ years. He was a man by the name
of Bill Morrison, an elderly gentleman. We were milking cows by hand; around about 60 cows by hand. And then he got a bit old for the job and his nephew took over the whole thing. So I worked for his nephew then, Alan Morrison. And I was with him. And then he got married and he didn’t really need anybody working for him. He had his brother working
for him as well. His brother Frank, who had a dairy farm near Dandenong, he wanted someone, so I transferred from one Morrison household to the other. And then the war broke out soon after, or within 12 months of me going there. And in the meantime I’d bought a motorbike.
’39 I said, “I’m off.” So I took off and I went to the place where they were going to do the recruiting and they said they weren’t ready yet, to come back in a few weeks. So in the meantime I managed to get a job at the Town Hall Hotel in Swanston Street Melbourne as Assistant Chef. The work for an assistant chef in those days was, when you started at 7 in the morning, you
peeled a bag of potatoes and then spent the rest of the day washing dishes. That was assistant chef work. So… And then I kept getting in touch with the Army authorities and they finally said, “Right, you can come in now.” And I went in. It was October by this time, October ’39. And I went in and I said, “I want to be a dispatch rider because I’ve got a motorbike.” And they said, “We want infantrymen.”
And this went backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards for quite a while. So they finally gave in and said, “Go to the signals depot in Royal Park and join up there.” So I joined up there. And I’ve got a very low number VX-1523. And when I got there I said, “Right, I want to be a dispatch rider. I’ve got me motorbike as well.” They said, “Well get rid of your motorbike in the first place because we supply the motorbikes anyway.”
So I did that and I got in okay. And they said, “How old are you?” And I said, “Twenty,” when actually I was 19. They said, “Well, because you’re under 21 you’ve got to get a form signed by a parent or guardian.” And at that time I was living with my brother in Kew. He was married and I was living with he and his wife. I went straight back home and said to
my brother, “From this moment on you’re my guardian. Sign this.” Oh – I missed out something there. My mother, in 1938, decided that she would take a 2-year return trip to England and see how everything was going there with the house and the daughter and all that. Anyway, the war broke out and she couldn’t get back. So, okay, I joined the Army. My brother signed the paper as my guardian and I joined the Army – accepted into
the signals. And we were trained for a little while at the showgrounds and then we went to Ingleburn in New South Wales and continued our training there. We all were, in the signals, split up into different sections; and each section had a role to play. I was with F-Section, attached to artillery. We were supposed to be a section of about 12 - wireless operators,
line layers, and dispatch riders. Then on the way— The Army decided we would do exercises with our artillery regiment—2nd 2nd artillery regiment. So we had to go by road from New South Wales to Victoria to meet up with our regiment. And there’s a couple of photos there
about that. And then we did the exercise and went back to Ingleburn. The time came for us to embark, to go overseas. And we were given great lessons on how to behave in the Middle East – Egypt and Palestine. So we knew where we were going. So we got
on the Queen Mary; 2000 troops on the Queen Mary, with a lot of other ships, with the Navy escorts, and started off. And after a few days we changed course. And everybody wondered why we changed course; and we headed for South Africa. And we realised then, by the news, that things weren’t going very well in France. And we called into Cape Town for a couple of days
then headed off to England. We were right on the tail of Dunkirk then. All the troops had just scrambled back into England from France. They welcomed us with open arms because they had nothing. If Hitler had bothered to follow them across he could have taken England without any trouble at all. Now we were there for 6 months—I was—and I came back in the Advance Guard to the Middle East. But in the meantime we went through the Battle of Britain, which was
an amazing experience, and all the bombing that was taking place. One experience that I had— we were traveling all over England and part of Wales right up to the Scottish border, camped in the south of England on the Salisbury Plains. We did thousands of miles in that 6 months that we were there. One experience that I had, we had to take a special dispatch to
one of the big industrial cities in England (I had the name in mind but it’s gone—Coventry). And I wanted to stay the night because it was a fair trip up and back. They said, “No. Get going and come back tonight.” So I raced up, delivered the dispatch, came back, and that night Coventry was wiped out
Palestine. A place called Julis camp, alongside a big orange orchard which the Army bought so we could—because we used to sneak in and get oranges anyway. So they bought the orange orchard and opened it up and let us help ourselves. Beautiful, big Jaffa oranges. We trained there and then we went up the Middle East, right up North Africa,
Benghazi. And then Rommel and his mob came through and chased us back to Tobruk. We were in Tobruk for 8 months, which is scary. Probably the hardest part of the war, actually, that 8 months. And then we were finally relieved by ship. The Royal Navy, with destroyers, used to come in at nighttime to deliver
our needs. Everything was brought in by destroyer: water, food, everything; ammunition. And we were relieved then and we got out on the destroyers one night. Then we went back to Palestine for more training. And from
there we went back to North Africa. We didn’t get quite as far this time: Alamein. We went to Alamein and set up a big line right across there with all the other Allied troops. And I remember the night very well that they opened up.
There was something like 120 big artillery guns, almost wheel-to-wheel right across, and all opened up simultaneously this night. Did quite a lot of damage to the enemy, but there were still some of them there. And the next day—in the meantime we were backwards and forwards with dispatches on our motorbikes madly—
and from then on they never lost another battle. But before that we’d never won a battle. But after that we never lost one. So that was the beginning of the end, actually, for the German forces. After that we left—the Australians came out of that after about a week chasing Germans back up, and then they came back and left it to the others to mop up. We came back
to Palestine again and then we heard of the strike on Pearl Harbour. So they gathered us all up, brought us back to Australia and gave us about 10 days leave, and then up to Atherton tablelands for jungle training. And then off to Milne Bay as a base. And then we did the landings at Lae first and then Finschhafen up the New Guinea coast. We finished up on
means of communication: the Signals. We couldn’t put landlines down for a long time because they’d get blown up pretty quick, and the Japanese were always sniping around the place. So we had to go backwards and forwards – a lot on foot too because there were no roads when we first went on. And you just had to rely on radio, mainly, in those days. And then actually we, as dispatch
riders, became linesmen because you couldn’t ride a motorbike there – we didn’t have vehicles for a while. And then we went up the coast from Lae and then did the landing at Finschhafen. And then we drove up the coast from Finschhafen right up, pretty high up New Guinea. And then onto Borneo where we were on Labuan Island,
just off the coast of Borneo when the war ended.
to farming. So they put my name down for a Soldier’s Settlement Block. And they said, “It will be quite a while before that happens because we’ve got to get it all set up.” I said, “That’s alright. In the meantime I’ll get a job.” I got a job at a place in Kew called the Model Dairy. It was a very big dairy in Cotham Road, Kew. And I decided I’d spend 6 months there because I wanted to see the other end
of milk, what happened with milk. I know where it came from—from the cow—but didn’t know. Now I had 2 months bottle-washing, 2 months pasteurising, and 2 months driving tankers to South Gippsland and picking up the milk. And then in the meantime I got in touch with the people I used to work for in Gippsland and asked them did anyone in that area need someone. They said, “Yes, there’s a fellow by the name of Charlie Treasure wants
someone up there. He’d be only too happy to have you.” So I dropped everything and went onto this farm. I was there for 12 months altogether, middle of ’46. We were milking by hand then. And he wanted me to start share-farming
with him. So I said, “Yes, I’d like that.” And then he said, “I’ll build you a house on the property, and if you’re going to get married you can live in the house.” I said, “Okay.” In the meantime word came through that I’d been allotted a block of land which I’d applied for in the Western District because in the meantime I had met, when I was working at the Model Dairy, a lady by the name of Joan. We went out together a few times and decided that we’d get married. And then I went back
up to Gippsland, back on the farm, and then word came through that we’d been allotted a block of land not far out of—between Camperdown and Toorang, where all the soldiers’ settlements was. And that was great because her family lived in Camperdown and we got to see a lot of them. She wasn’t keen on the land, but because it was near her family she put up with it. I was on that farm for 12 years. We had 4 daughters.
And the eldest one was getting to the age where she needed secondary education. So we decided to—also at that stage the cost of production had gone up tremendously but the prices we were getting had hardly moved at all. So it was really a case of double-up or get out. So I got in touch with the guy next door and he agreed to buy me out and he doubled-up and I got out. He had a family
of sons that could take over. So we came to Melbourne then.
bar in Mentone, near the Post Office. And I ran that for 6 years. After 4 years I decided that I’d had enough, I wanted to get out – took me 2 years to sell it. And then I joined the AMP Society; was with them for 3 years. Then I got a job as Sales Manager at a company near Dingley
that were making plastic bags. I was there for—I didn’t retire from there until I was over 70. It was a great job; I loved that. Did quite well. And in the meantime the children were getting married. First one got married when I was working for AMP. The next one—the two were married within 6 weeks. The bank manager
wasn’t very happy, but we managed.
was working for his brother who had a factory to do with cotton, to do with the lace industry because Nottingham is renowned, or was renowned, for its lace production. And he had what was known as a cotton waste factory. And my father was the manager of the factory for him. He got double pneumonia when I was about 5.
And I just, just vaguely remember—it’s funny how you remember things—I remember two guys carrying a big container of oxygen upstairs to the bedroom, and the next day the doctor coming down shaking his head and saying, “Sorry, he’s gone.”
following up on that on daily life? Was your mother, for instance, fairly religiously-minded?
No, not really. I think it was all forgotten during the week and then come Sunday it all comes back again. So from what I can remember, anyway, because I was only 9 when we left England. I can remember going to church every Sunday; but apart from that we were never told to say prayers at bedtime or anything like that. We were just chooffed off to bed.
a lady from Tasmania. They were living in Launceston and he made application for my sister to join him in Launceston and promised her living quarters. What you had to do in those days was promise living and a job. And he was a caterer, so it was easy for him to give her a job. And she and her 2 sons built
a house on their own with mud bricks. So got on well with her. The next one, my brother and sister were twins, that’s the next 2; got on well with them. My sister moved out of house to take on a live-in job as my other sister did. So
then my next sister, the sister that was next to me, she was only 2 years older than me. And she reared me. She was Meg, she was my second mother, and we got on extremely well. She died—
got a different name now: Home for Intellectual Disabled, or something like that. I thought it was a very good suburb to live in. There was a boy living next door to me, and he and I used to get on our bikes on a weekend, on a Sunday, and ride up to Doncaster, up to some golf links and find golfballs and
sell them, or caddy if we could and then ride home again. Used to enjoy that. That was very enjoyable. A good break because all the other 6 days I was selling and delivering papers.
But I used to get up every morning at 6 o’clock and go straight to the paper shop. Do a delivery round. Always used to finish up close to home, my round, and have breakfast and go back to the shop and get a bundle of papers and sell them at the Kew Post Office. That’s where I came to be a, I wouldn’t say an avid reader, but a good reader. And I used to love reading the newspapers. Went right
through all the front and back pages, the news and the sports, in the Sun Age and the Argus ( in those days). And always liked reading.
or what, but he went back and they got married. But he did a lot of building in Australia but when the Depression came nobody wanted any building done so he didn’t have any work, he and his two sons. His idea was that one of his sons was—he was a bricklayer himself, builder and bricklayer—and one of his sons was a bricklayer’s apprentice or assistant, and the other
son was a painter. And he sent me up at one stage to be an apprentice to a carpenter in Kew, but that only worked for about a month and that was it. But his idea was to have 3 sons: a bricklayer’s labourer, a painter and a carpenter so that between us all we could build houses. But it just didn’t go because of the Depression.
Did you feel Australian? Or did you feel more English, even though you had come here?
Felt very English when we first came out here but after a while, like doing school—having been educated in Australia from 10, 11, 12, 13, (4 years), I felt Australian during that time and after that. Never felt
Something that was left to the politicians to do something about. I was a bit too young, I think, to do anything about it and learn too much about. I just knew that communism was there. But from an early age I did realise that communism itself, if it was properly applied to any country, would be the most wonderful thing in the world because it meant.
what it says: communism. Everybody has exactly the same as everybody else; everything is equally divided amongst everyone. Now, that’s pure communism but it never worked because there’s always the blokes up top that wanted more than the blokes down the bottom. No, I was very disappointed after reading about years and years of communism here and communism there. It just wasn’t working.
And I thought it was quite comfortable actually. And this Joe Goldsmith that I was with, the first thing he did when he went on board he said, went up to someone in charge and said, “I want to be a waiter on the tables.” He said, “You’ll need waiters to feed this mob, and I want to be one.” They said, “Alright, you can be a waiter,” because he was always thinking ahead, this bloke. So we got better food than anybody else because we could pick out the food we
wanted, and any leftover we had that. So we used to serve the food up. And whatever he did I did, of course. When we got to Cape Town on the Queen Mary we went ashore and bought a lot of jars of jam and marmalade and stuff like that, and we used to spread them around a bit. And the boys liked that. We got a lot of—we weren’t too bad on the Queen Mary. I think we ate well, actually, because
they had good cooks on a ship like that; and just made the most of what he had.
the Channel between the might of the German Army and England. Lucky for them, Hitler decided he’d leave England till later and go to Russia. And that was his downfall. Otherwise Germany would’ve won the war without any trouble whatsoever – got England. And once they’d got England that was it. They were training with broomsticks when we got there, members of the Army. And
they lost a lot of men, of course; lot of equipment. We took a lot of equipment with us. But the convoy itself would have consisted of about 6 troop ships, because ours was the biggest with 2000; 6 or 7 troops ships, there would be another 3 or 4 supply ships. And the Navy had one battleship, 2 cruisers and about 4 destroyers
going round us all the time.
of course water was something everybody was always needing. And they were told that the furfy was coming, but it was only a furfy – it wasn’t coming at all. So, in the Second World War, if word went around that something was happening they’d say, “Is that real, or is it a furfy?” A furfy was something that never happened. Of course, during the war,
it’s understandable that the guys think what they would like to happen and they say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if such-and-such happened.” And the next guy would say, “Yeah, I think it will.” And it would go down the line, “Something’s going to happen, ” “Something’s going to happen,” but it was all dreaming. Dreamtime.
because we knew—we were getting news bulletins all the way—that the Germans were driving the British out of France. And we knew, when we got there we knew that France had gone, and that we were going to help them – as much as we could. Considering
what Armies the British had originally, we were only a very small force. We were only 10,000 men. But it was 10,000 trained troops with all their equipment. And that was a big boost to the British people. There were a few New Zealanders there when we got there, too, so they’d been pushed over there. It was a Empire thing, really. It was a big boost to the British people.
Can you give me some examples of how they did that?
Wherever we went—you could be riding your motorbikes along, or riding along a convoy backwards and forwards—and the local people would say, “Good on ya Aussie.” Or walking along the street in uniform they’d come up and shake you by the hand and say, “Welcome,” or something like that. As a matter of fact, one woman came up to
me one day and she said, “Aloha.” And I said, “What?” She said, “Aloha.” I said, “What are you talking about?” She said, “You’re from New Zealand aren’t you?” I said, “No, I’m Australian.” “Oh,” she said, “I thought you were a New Zealander.” But anyway, they welcomed any troops from overseas at that time.
But as far as the dogfights was concerned, they were like thirty- or forty-thousand feet up in the air. And you could see vapour trails, not all day long, a lot of the day you could see these vapour trails going round and round, and hear, eventually, the machine guns. Just wondering who was hitting who. But the Hurricanes and Spitfires did a wonderful job. And the German planes were
much improved to the British planes. But once the second Spitfire mach 2, that was the superior plane of all, and they finally drove the Germans off. But the Germans thought it was only a matter of pounding England and then coming over when they liked and taking over. But they found that wasn’t quite right.
Her name was Rosemary Howard, actually. And she took me home; had a meal there. She had a sister who had just lost her husband in the Navy – his ship was sunk. I only went to her place once. I think I took her to the pictures a couple of times. And then we wrote to each other for quite a while;
even when I was in the Middle East we wrote to each other. A couple there; but it just sort of disappeared, petered out. There was another, there was a girl that I used to write to all the time I was away from Australia. Her name was Lesley Brown: 27 Bayview Crescent, Blackrock.
How I came to meet her was we were riding a convoy from New South Wales to Victoria to do some work with our artillery that we were supposed to be attached to. Driving along and there was a car going past us and a girl was waving some knitting out of the window. And as she
passed, she handed me a piece of paper with her name and address on it. So I wrote to her and she sent me what she was knitting. It was a pair of socks, I think it was. And we corresponded all through the war then, after that. And when I came home I met up with her; lovely girl. She worked at the Melbourne University Press; very
And if you’re having a meal, too, you’ve got to be very careful: all the stuff on the table rolls off – you’ve got to grab it. So it was an experience, though. Although it did worry me at the time, a bit, I wasn’t what you’d call fearful because there was so many others. We were all together. If you’re on your own
you’d die of fright. But because everybody was there you had to put on a brave front anyway and you just passed it off as just another day.
it was essentially uneventful as far as enemy activity was concerned? No subs or ships or anything else?
Oh, well, up to a point it was, yes. There was always, when we were close to land, there was aeroplanes going over, either ours or enemy. We knew there were submarines somewhere not that far away all the time because German submarines were always looking for supply ships. They sunk hundreds of supply ships during the war;
Tripoli. And then we were riding our motorbikes—we used to ride up to the mountains. I think we must have had a headquarters up in the mountains somewhere because I remember going twice. I had special dispatches to deliver up in the mountains. There was snow; it was so cold. The Army authorities were a bit silly at the time because we had to
wear .303 rifles strapped to our back. And they weighed 10 pound each. Until one of our guys had an accident and just about—hurt his back, broke his back I think— because he fell on the rifle. So they took the rifles from us and gave us .45 revolvers, sidearms. Until we had to go to Aleppo from Tripoli
on the long trip and then we took the jeeps and a rifleman.
doing a lot of convoys, a lot of moving around in convoy. And we used to speak—I got to know a few words of Arabic, and the little boys used to come along selling boiled eggs and loaves of bread. “Eggs a cooka bread,” they said, “Eggs a cooka bread.” And whenever we stopped
these little boys used to come up to us and say, “You come see my sister? You come see my sister? She is very good. Very sweet, very clean, very hygiene.” That was all the English they knew, but we never went to see their sisters.
Oh, with prostitutes? There were plenty of prostitutes about. Most of the towns in the Middle East have got their brothels, and they’re quite open about it. But disease is so rife that a lot of us wouldn’t even turn—not one of the guys. They might get inveigled into going with one of the young girls, and they’d
see a beautiful young girl walking along and start talking to her, and ask about sex and she’d say, “Oh, no. I’m a virgin.” One of my mates did this one day and he came across one of these virgins. And he said he finally talked her into going to bed with him and he finished up with VD in the hospital anyway, so… They used to pay for that. There was a brothel in
Tripoli when we were there. It was right—
1941. I was in Syria. And I got a cable. In those days, being in Signals meant that you got news a lot faster than anyone else, because it went straight to you. And everything had to be coded and decoded. And I got a telegram addressed to me saying, “Sorry to inform you,” number whatever it was “68,”
say. So I had to look up the code words for 68 was “mother died.” They wouldn’t put it in there complete: “Sorry to tell you your mother died,” because the Germans were always listening in to these things and they might’ve taken it that something was afoot and that was the code word, the code for that. Everything had to be in code. “Sorry to tell you 68.” Then if it came to a member of the forces that wasn’t
in Signals we used to have to decipher it and send it on to the person concerned. So we had to be radio operators, linesmen, dispatch riders, do everything. That was the job of the dispatch rider, was a jack-of-all-trades in the Army.
You were in those campaigns, weren’t you, in New Guinea?
Yeah. We didn’t do the Kokoda Trail. That was the 6th. Had we still been 6th Division, as we joined up as, we would have done the Kokoda Trail. If we’d have been the 7th Division, a bit later on, we would have done Greece and Crete.
in their country. They’d put up with the French for many years. The British drove the French out, so they didn’t like the British staying there. Then we took over from the British, and we shouldn’t have been there either. So every now and then there’d be a shot fired in anger at some of our blokes somewhere. So we had to be very careful there. I know at one stage there was a—
I think there was a child crossing the road, and one of our convoys was going through. And the child got hit by one of our vehicles and killed. And, oh, there was hundreds of locals came around and they wanted to lynch everybody. Anyway, we finally managed to calm them down; but they never really accepted our troops. I don’t know what happened when we left. I don’t know whether anybody took over from us.
I never heard of anybody taking—we just left them as they were because things were… I think the French wouldn’t be worried about that at that stage because they were busy fighting their own battles in France.
in the operation as a dispatch rider. What did you see on the way toward Benghazi? I know lots of Italians surrendered. Could you tell us anything about that?
The Italians. When we first started going up toward Benghazi there was hundreds and hundreds of Italians used to see us there. There might be only, say, 3 or 4 of us on motorbikes just driving up and we’d see this army of Italians with their arms up, “Commandant, Commandant,” or whatever.
Why? They didn’t like they Germans. They didn’t want to fight; never. An old Italian told me, after the war, that Italians never, ever wanted to fight. Never. Didn’t matter what their superiors said. Not a fighting race; whereas the Germans are a fighting race. Totally different people altogether. And the only way the Germans could get them to do any fighting was to form a corp
or whatever it was, of them and then the Germans come behind and tell them to go forward. They used to hate that. They never liked the Germans anyway.
Did you see anything else while you were on your forward advance towards Benghazi?
Various equipment left by the Italians – and when we came back to Tobruk, especially. There had been an Italian camp there – sort of dug into the side of a hill. And my mate Joe and I decided we’d investigate. And we found cases of Italian
hand grenades, and cases of Italian vino. So we drank a couple of bottles of vino each and then started throwing hand grenades. Silly, I know. I remember one hand grenade, the nitro didn’t go off. And I looked at it and I picked up a big rock and I said, “You so-and-so,” and I dropped the rock on it and it exploded. Now, if it
had’ve been German or a British hand grenade it would have blown my feet off; but being an Italian one I was a bit lucky. Stupid thing to do. You do those things on the spur of the moment. That was when we first got back to Tobruk. We were just looking around, riding our motorbikes around the perimeter and all around the place and getting ready for an attack by Rommel’s mob.
you’ve got the anti-tank, anti-aircraft, anti-tank and the regimental guns – artillery. I saw one – I was with a dispatch. One time I had to take a dispatch to an anti-tank regiment. And while I was there some dive-bombers came over. And one came down to drop a bomb
on where I was, where we were, I was talking to other guys, and they fired 3 shots with their Bofors anti-aircraft gun. The first one missed and the third one was wasted because the second one hit him right on the nose and it blew him to pieces. That was one of the happiest moments of my Army career.
They each carried one bomb and a couple of machine guns. And they’d come down machine-gunning and get close to the ground and then go up and drop the bomb as they went up. They were very accurate mainly, too. They used to come over several of times a day, and with my 2 runs a day into Tobruk port there was always Stukas above. And
one particular day I just happened to look up, and one of them was peeling off the group that was going over. And I happened to be passing some old Italian trucks, there was a wadi with some old Italian transport in it that had been abandoned for years. And this pilot must have spotted that and thought it was some of our transport. So he peeled off and machine-gunned and bombed this one. I was
probably a little bit too close because it blew me off the motorbike but didn’t hurt me. But just sort of picked the bike up and went on my way. I always had to deliver to a guy, an Australian, by the name Staff Captain Edward Wills. We used to call him Teddy Wills. He was a great bloke. He was quite a young fellow for a Staff Captain, and always good for a yarn
when I got there. Quite often when I got there, his sort of dugout he was operating from, was a mess because they were always dropping bombs around the port to try and stop the port from working because that was our lifeline. And that was the aim of all the Stuka bombers. And he was always in a mess, and occasionally had a bit of blood running down his face or his arms or something.
But he was a wonderful bloke, terrific.
be away from the frontline when you were camped?
In Tobruk? It was a matter of… Oh, most of the troops were within 5miles of us, I suppose, or less. But it depends on where we were. I think the New Zealanders were out on that [points to the right] flank, the Indians and New Zealanders [points straight ahead], and then our blokes were sort of coming around that way [draws a half-circle in front]. I suppose within 5 miles you could reach anybody.
You had to know exactly where they were because sometimes we had to do night deliveries. Went out with my mate Joe one night. We took a jeep because it was pretty dark. We were chortling along and I said to Joe, he was driving at the time, I said, “We’ve just passed a sign. Did you notice what it was?” He said, “No.”
So I said, “Well, you better back back and have a look.” So he backed back and it was a German minefield that we’d just entered. Why we didn’t get blown up I don’t know. We managed to veer around it and (UNCLEAR) I suppose. But nighttime it was very—you had to be very careful at nighttime.
and brought back other officers. But they wanted me to join that mob but I said, “No thanks, I’ll stick to the motorbikes.” And they wanted me to become a sniper too because a fellow by the name of Les Parry and myself were the top shots in our unit. And they wanted us to become snipers. But I’d read somewhere, somehow, that the
first people that get shot in the Army were snipers. So I decided—I said, “No thanks, I’ll stick with the motorbikes.” And when we were in England we had a Lieutenant by the name of Payne. Quite a young fellow for a Lieutenant too. We were training under him in Australia in Sydney, New South Wales. And he was posted somewhere else
and he wanted me to go with him as a Corporal. And I said, “No. I’ll stick to the boys on the bikes.” So I stuck with them for the rest of the war then. I wasn’t ambitious.
I didn’t mix much with them, but the ones that I saw and spoke to… As a matter of fact we stopped at this particular POW camp in North Africa at one stage and one fellow came forward and started talking perfect English. And I said, “Gee, your English is good.” He said, “I am a doctor.” He was just another POW that was caught up in the melee. But they were naturally nice
people, the Italians were. There was a lot of them sent back to Australia to work on farms. And a majority of them stayed here and liked the country and the people they worked with and the job they had. And they were good workers.
to take a special dispatch to the Indians. When I got close to where I thought they were I left my bike and started walking. And I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was an Indian feeling—used to feel up [touches his right shoulder with his left hand], we had Australia metal badges on. I didn’t know he was there, I can tell you that. They were good troops, the Indians –
especially to us. If I’d have been a German and he’d have done that I would have got a knife, just a knife. That’s all they did. They were very good troops. Wonderful soldiers, the Indians.
he told me he’d got a dispatch from the British Headquarters that there was a pretty small British contingent that was in Tobruk telling him that there was certain medals available for him to allot to troops that he considered were worthy. There were two MID’s [Mentioned In Dispatches] and two MM’s [Military Medal] that he had to allot.
And he said, “I’ve recommended you for one of the MM’s.” But our commanding officer, he was a Colonel, he wouldn’t have anything to do with it. As a matter of fact he paraded us and told us that if he caught anybody looking for a medal they’d be out. So I never got it.
But we didn’t consider we were doing anything over-and-above what we were supposed to do, just doing our job; even though we were under fire a lot of the time. We got through it. I think the worst experience I had in Tobruk was I was going along McAdam Road, a sealed road. There’s a sealed road and a back road. We used to go on the back road 2 or 3 times a day.
But the sealed road you wouldn’t go on very often. And I was going along this sealed road to deliver some dispatches one day and I noticed an aircraft coming towards me fairly low and spots of dust flying up off the sides of the road. He’d been firing at me and missed me, and he just flew very low over my head. And I thought, “Gee, that was lucky.” But those little spurts of dust were his machine-gun bullets. I sort of
swerved a bit when I saw them coming. I’ve just been lucky, that’s all.
water flasks. Our washing was done in the sea. We used to swim in the sea to keep ourselves clean. We were lucky because the infantry further inland couldn’t get to the sea; they just had to go without because we didn’t have a shower of course. Food was scarce. We had a food dump. Every unit, when we got back to Tobruk, was asked to provide whatever
food they had, and it was all put in a heap. Oh, it was a mountain of food with a barbed-wire enclosure in Tobruk. And that was sent out bit-by-bit to the various troops. That’s where my mate Joe went out one day and crawled under the wire and got a couple of tins. We used to do that occasionally: crawl under the wire and get a couple of tins of food; not knowing, of course, what—
because none of the tins had labels on them. And when he came out there was a dive-bomber came down and shot him in the foot. So he had to go out to hospital. So he was away from the unit for a while. As a matter of fact he didn’t catch up until we were in New Guinea then. He came back to the unit when we were in New Guinea. That was Joe. I had another
mate then called John from New South Wales, a wonderful surfer and rugby player, big rugby player – 2nd row forward. And when we were on the Atherton Tablelands, when we came back to Australia, every unit had a football team and we played like a league ladder. And he said
to me, “I want you to play rugby.” And I said, “I don’t know how to play rugby.” He said, “Oh come one, I’ll show you.” Anyway there was a rugby match going, and he put me in. And he said, “Now, you bend down like that and push your way forward, try and get the ball.” And he said, “If somebody else gets the ball chase him.” I didn’t take to it at all. I didn’t like it. So I took up Australian Rules that I was more used to – had played a bit at school.
So we had an Australian Rules team and a rugby team. We didn’t win much because we didn’t have a lot to choose from. Our unit was taken from every state in Australia, whereas the battalions, the infantry, each battalion had a thousand men. Young, strong,
healthy – a thousand men to choose from. They had wonderful teams. A lot of them had played league football in Australia. So they were very good.
very quickly. We were always running out of socks. So I used to get on my motorbike and go to the 2nd 2nd AGH, General Hospital, and say to my brother and say, “I want some socks.” So he used to gather a few pair of socks and I’d take them back and hand them around. That was pretty intensive training up there. We did a lot of work up there. Lost a lot of sweat up there. But every now and then we’d have a
few hours to spare and a group of us would get on our motorbikes and ride down to Cairns, from the Tablelands down to Cairns through Atherton and those places. And what I can remember best about that was paw paw and ice cream. Have a feed, a bit of a run around Cairns and back up again. You couldn’t be away long,
but it was just long enough to do something different.
They’d all get mowed down, but they were happy to do that. They weren’t stupid, it was just their belief. And although we were outnumbered all the way probably 10 to 1 all the time, but because they just kept coming towards the infantry in big groups they lost a lot of men. We lost a lot of men, but they lost 10 times more I think. To die for the Emperor…
But to get taken prisoner was the worst thing that could happen. If any prisoners were taken, they didn’t want to go home; they were in disgrace.
yes. Three of us went out one time behind the Japanese lines, they’d cut our line, and we were there for three days. We repaired the line and put a phone on it until the Japanese were rounded up a bit. I think we lived on guavas; there was a guava tree nearby. And then we went back to our unit. But that’s the sort of work that we had to do because you couldn’t ride motorbikes and there was no roads
for cars until we got to Labuan Island. We could drive jeeps on that. We were told when we went to Labuan Island that the Japanese had all been rounded up. But we’d only been there for about a week or 10 days and a group of Japanese marched down the road to the port wanting to take over some American boats that were there. The Americans had landed and looked after the port,
they were in charge of the port. And they got wiped out. But the idea was to go to the port, get a boat and go home.
All the time it was dry and dusty. In the jungle when it wasn’t raining it was sweaty; it was very damp and we used to sweat like crazy there. Had to drink a lot to survive there. Mosquitoes. I got malaria. Lot of guys got—there was two types of malaria, one was recurring, one was non-recurring. I was lucky, I got the non-recurring one.
I got a fair bit of experience in hospitals then. I used to have a bit of time to go and help them in the hospitals – do various things. They were pretty short-staffed. My job was to take blood samples and put them under the microscope to see what type of malaria they had and then report it to the doctor. But I was lucky that I was pretty well in those days.
A lot of—I suppose at least 50 percent of our blokes got diarrhoea—dysentery. I didn’t. I missed out on that altogether. So I was very lucky.
being a dispatch rider? What’s the difference being a dispatch rider actually in the jungle?
You’re behind the action, really, wherever you go. You’re behind the action. You see a lot but you’re not that involved in it because you haven’t got a machine-gun, you haven’t got a rifle. You’ve got a sidearms and usually a means of getting about, but not in the jungle, you had to walk. So we were behind the action all the time
against you. You’ve got to try and outwit him. That’s mainly to the officers and the leaders, but the men have to be alert more-or-less just the same. Whereas we are concentrating on our own jobs, what we have to do, where we have to go. Like, we had to do a map-reading course. And
after the map-reading course I had to teach the officers map-reading. You’ve got to know exactly what to do; when you see a map you’ve got to know what you’re looking at, where you’ve got to go. Follow orders and deliver, as it were. In the infantry you don’t travel much, you’re stuck in one
position more-or-less, without travelling very little. We also taught the officers how to ride motorbikes. That was good fun. That was in England, actually, we did that. That was good fun.
hospital when we had spare time, and also give blood. A group of us used to give blood regularly in the hospital in Tobruk, and go round the guys just talking to them. Oh, you’d see them shaking like this [shakes]. I remember one guy who was quite funny. He said, “Wh-when I get b-back to Australia I-I-I’m going to be a barman and I-I-I’ll shake up cocktails.”
He had a sense of humour with it, but mostly they didn’t. It was terrible to see them, actually – just wrecked bodies that would never ever get better really.
words a minute. How to do a line, connect up a line, with a phone at each end. We also learned flag and messages by flashlight, morse code again. We learned those, all the means of communication, but
we never used the flashlight ones as far as I know – we didn’t anyway. We did a lot of flag work when we were on ships going from one place to another. But apart from that I can’t remember using them on land.
we did a little bit of machine-gun work: pulling them to pieces and putting them together. A lot of the time was spent in route-marching. Toughen us up, exercising, get up early, six o’clock of a morning, do our exercises and have breakfast, and then go for a route-march and come back and do some drilling. Had to learn how to drill-point march properly in threes, 3 abreast. I can remember got
a great thrill one time when we were up in Sydney near Liverpool, we were camped there for a while. And we were marching to a band of bagpipes. That was fantastic. Wonderful.
his name was Frank Morrison, “I’m going to join up.” And as soon as the war broke out, was declared, I said, “Well, I’m going to join up.” He said, “Okay, that’s up to you. I won’t talk you out of it.” So I left there and went straight into town and tried to join up straight away, but they weren’t ready. They were setting up.
living in Kew, and my brother was living in Kew, a different part of Kew. They didn’t shed a tear or anything; they accepted that quite well. In fact, when I went in and they said that I couldn’t sign up because I was underage, you had to be 21, I was 19 – I told them I was 20.
But they said, “You’ve got to get this signed by a parent or guardian.” So I rode me motorbike to my brother’s place and said, “You’re my guardian from here on and sign this.” And he did. There was no hesitation about anybody at all. My sister’s husband joined up soon after that. And we both got through the war quite well. The three of us: my brother and myself and my brother-in-law got through it alright.
8 months we spent in Tobruk were probably the most terrifying. We were worried, a bit scared I suppose, day after day because we knew that we were more-or-less sitting ducks. Although we were living more-or-less underground. We’d go into a wadi, that’s a dig in the side, and that’s where we were sleeping and working from. We had radios and lines from there,
and motorbikes. That was always a worry because the Stuka dive-bombers used to come over every day, 3 or 4 times a day, and it was just.. They were heading mainly for—in fact they were always heading for—the port of Tobruk because that was our lifeline. And they wanted to destroy that. If they could wipe out the
port of Tobruk, or sink enough ships so that it couldn’t be used, then we would’ve had to do something about it. But the Australian Navy and the Royal Navy, they were fantastic because they used to send the small boats, the destroyers, stacked with provisions, food, water and everything we needed there was brought in by destroyer at nighttime
from Alexandria. They used to sneak up the coast and head into Tobruk and unload and out again while it was still dark. But the bombers used to come over 3, 4, 5 times a day trying to close the port down – which they never did. But there was probably half a dozen ships sunk in the harbour. You could see part of them sticking out.
at the start. And they just looked at you and said, “Oh yes, you’ll be so-and-so,” and handed you trousers, shirt, jacket, socks, boots. And that was it. And as you needed more you had to go to the quartermaster’s store, from time to time, to get what you needed. But that was the first time.
from—because they knew that we knew nothing, and they were very good, very patient with us and taught us what to do and how to do it. They gave us little booklets on various things, and showing us as well as telling us. And I thought it was a good way to do it. It was like going to school and learning something right from the bottom, gradually going up until you become proficient at that sort of thing. But we didn’t have to be
quite as proficient, as dispatch riders, as the other people who were going to be radio operators and line-layers because they had to be absolutely perfect – everything had to be exact with that: pretty fast on the wireless on the morse code and that sort of thing. So we were lucky there.
about a couple of months, I’d say, and then we were sent up to Ingleburn in New South Wales. That’s where the real stuff started as far as Signals go. We had to reproduce what we were taught at Royal Park. That was only more-or-less a staging
area at Royal Park as an army had to be formed. We, as Signals, were sent to Ingleburn to become a whole divisional signal unit. And each group had to learn what they had to do and who they were attached to and what that meant to do.
So did you normally work in teams, teams of two, or…?
Right through the war everybody had one mate. We worked with everybody else but there was always two stuck together. And when we were out somewhere, say we were gone a few days, a day or two leave, and we wanted to go a local town,
They’d got married either before we left Australia or on leave. A lot of them rushed into marriage when they joined up. But I wouldn’t do that. I vowed I’d never get married while the war was on; didn’t like the idea of leaving your wife, or perhaps family, if I didn’t come back. Although I was only 19 when I joined up, that was one of my pet discussions of myself. Oh yes, there was a lot of discussions
about females because naturally we missed female company. But we knew there was nothing we could do about it, so we just put up with it. We knew that everybody was in the same boat though. I mean, there was no one man said, “I’m lonelier than you,” or anything like that. You knew everybody was feeling the same.
we didn’t see any of their—they didn’t want us to cohabit with them. Just wanted them to be left alone and do what they were doing and not be interfered with in any way whatsoever. So we didn’t see any of their—I saw an odd garden, growing sweet potatoes and stuff like that. Coconut trees were everywhere. And if we wanted a coconut we’d ask one of the natives to climb up a tree and get one. And then we were
issued with spikes that strap onto your ankle. And they were handy for climbing up coconut trees. They were actually for climbing up poles for fixing wires. But we used them for the coconuts. That was part of our diet in New Guinea was green coconuts. Everybody had a machés, machete they call them now, we called them machés. Just knocked the top off and
drink the contents. That was great. That was very good for you.
officers in charge. We had a Colonel in charge of us all. And we had the A, B, C, D, E, F sections (there were 5 sections). Probably in the 5 sections there probably would have been at least a hundred men, I’d say. About a hundred men altogether because some sections were bigger than others. Like A-section was the headquarters section; that was the big one. We were about 12-15 strong and
there was a lines section and a telegraph section and that. The Colonel in charge would decide what we were going to learn and how long we’d be there. And he’d give each section the work to do. And then each section had their own Lieutenant. We had a Lieutenant. The big section had a Captain and a Lieutenant.
We had a Lieutenant and a Sergeant; they were in charge. They were told what we were to learn and we did it that way. We had huts there. Each section had a hut or two to sleep in. A mess hut to eat in.
at that stage. He used to disappear at nighttime and come back in the morning as full as a boot. He became an alcoholic and it killed him in the finish – about 3 years ago. One story about him. He came back one morning pretty stoned and he was standing in front of his mirror
shaving. He always used a cutthroat razor. And he’s swaying about, and he says, “Keep still you bastard or I’ll cut your throat.” I remember that sort of stood out in my memory. But he was a funny man like that. He was always coming up with some sort of quip. Always very, very quick. When we were about to leave Ingleburn the officers lined us up and said,
“Now we’ve got to pack up because we’re going away, going on a boat. We’ve got to pack up all our gear.” And he said, “I want a couple of rough carpenters.” And as soon as he said that Joe stepped forward and he said, “Yes sir.” He said, “Goldsmith, are you a rough carpenter?” He said, “None rougher sir!” That was the sort of mind he had. He always had an answer for something. So he and I—of course if he said he’d do something he always included me, I knew that. So he and I packed all the stores and we got an extra
3 days leave before we went overseas. So…
my sister was okay and the house was running alright. She had a bit of money so she took this 2-year return trip. And that was’38 and of course ’39 war broke out and she couldn’t get back. So she was still there in 1940 when we went over there. I was probably the luckiest guy in the Army at that stage because no one else in the Army had a mother in England. And I was able to visit her with our 3 day leave, and took
Joe up. And we had a big party the last night we were there. Came back and then we were in the south of England, camped, we were doing all our training down in the south. And my mother came down there and went to a house, a boarding house, and lodged there for 2 or 3 weeks while we were near the camp. And Joe and I rode our motorbikes every night and went and had dinner with her.
came Christmas 1943, I think, yeah, must have been ’43. There was a lot of us from other states with nowhere to go because it was Christmas. And the Army let us out for a few days, between Christmas and New Year. And there was an appeal on the radio,
this was I think it was Christmas Eve, for the people of Sydney to take in troops from interstate. We went into Sydney on the train from Ingleburn and got off at Central Station. And two little boys came up to us in scout or cub uniform and said
to us, “Would you like to come home for Christmas dinner?” Must have been Christmas day, Christmas morning we must have gone down. Their name was Foster. There was the two boys and two girls in the family and Mrs Foster. They were all younger than us. Mrs Foster adopted me. That was great.
Tel Aviv. Some of us had had a few drinks one night and I said, “Why don’t we grab a jeep and go into town?” So they said, “Alright.” So about 4 of us got onto the jeep and I drove it into town in Tel Aviv. The other went off somewhere and I stayed with the jeep. I was just standing there on the footpath with the jeep and the Military Police came up, they were local
Military Police, and they said, “Have you got a leave pass?” And I said, “No, I haven’t as a matter of fact.” They said, “What are you doing here?” I said, “Oh, I’m waiting for the driver of this to take me back to camp.” Anyway, I spent the night in jail that time. Went up before the beak the next morning.
high esteem enough to sort of kneel before them, or nod before, whenever I meet them. I like to call them by their Christian names and go to them and find out what’s wrong with me. And if they say, “You need such-and-such,” then I’d say, “Okay.” I’ll always put myself in the hands of the medical profession. I’ve had 2 hip replacements, a shoulder replacement, a knee replacement, a couple of other
small operations. Always known that I’m in the hands of good medical people and I get through it.
yes. We used to take Atebrin, that’s a yellow tablet that then makes your skin go all yellow. But that helped us to keep malaria away. But I had the one that didn’t repeat. There was an MT and a BT, and I had the BT: Benign Tertian. The other one was Malignant Tertian. Malignant Tertian repeats and comes back afterwards.
And some of the guys had it for years and years afterwards, coming back all the time. But mine didn’t. I was lucky that way. But I was pretty well there, apart from a high fever. I used to spend most of my time helping the nurses and doing the—
patient-soldiers that you saw in the hospitals in Tobruk, did you talk to them at all?
Oh yes, we used to talk with them. We used to go and visit them and talk, just go from bed to bed saying, “How you going? Look after yourself. You’ll be right,” sort of thing just to try and bolster them up a little bit. And just go round as many beds as you’ve got time for and then take off again.
really regarded as something that was done, but do you think that in some ways they may have counselled those people anyway? Just by their talking positively that’s sort of almost a form of counselling, do you think?
Yes, I think it would have helped – I hope so anyway. Even getting them to talk about what happened, and how they felt, and all that, that little bit made them
they became sick or disabled later on, through that sort of thing, they were not accepted as war-caused. When I left the Army they said, “Have you got anything that you want to tell us about?” I said, “Yes, I’ve got varicose veins,” which I didn’t have when I joined up, because when I joined up they wouldn’t sign you up if you had varicose veins because you had to walk a long way. But I knew I was going to have varicose veins because my mother had varicose veins, and a doctor
told me, when I was a little boy, not to play too much sport because I was going to get varicose veins because my mother had varicose veins. And then when I was 19 and joined the Army I didn’t have them. When I came out of the Army I did. So they put down as “varicose veins war-caused.” And that put me on a pension. I think it was about 5 shillings a week or something.
that was war-caused, and that that started the ball rolling. But a lot of people they were in terrible, dire circumstances later on—through the war—and it was not recognised. And in those days, if you wanted your payments to be increased you had to go in front of 2 doctors, and I think they were left over from the First World War, and they’d just look you over and try your heart and your lungs and
shake their head, “I’m sorry, we can’t do anything for you.” But in those days they had hundreds of thousands of people to look after. They didn’t have the money that they really needed. But these days they’ve got enough money. They’ll accept a lot of things now as war-caused that they wouldn’t accept straight after the war.
So have you been able to have support ever since then?
Oh yes, oh yes. I’ve found it wonderful. Actually, I had to go to one of the guys that works for the RSL [Returned and Services League], an advocate, and tell him that I thought that particularly my hips—I had very bad hips—after everything had arthritis. And I said that after all the walking we did during the war, it should be classed as war-caused. And he agreed. So he wrote out a big documentary and sent it in to the
powers that be and they gave me a bit more pension. They accepted that, and then when I had a very bad shoulder through arthritis, and had to have that replaced, they accepted that; and accepted my knee. So each time gave me a little bit more pension. Over the years they’ve gradually accepted a lot more. And instead of going to see the doctor, to get their version, before they do anything
they send you out a form to fill in called a Self-Assessment form. And if you fill that in accurately and honestly they know exactly how you feel and what you’re doing. And I sent one of those in and they bumped my money up straight away.
individuals did come into it inasmuch as you’d get one that was always moaning about something. We had one, a fellow by the name of Evans, and his nickname was Whinger Evans – never ever stopped whingeing. Curly Evans, he had blonde, curly hair, or Whinger Evans. And we used to just rib him about that.
I don’t think anybody was to the point of sadness in the Army, you know? We put up with a lot but because everybody else was putting up with it we’d go along with it. There was no jealousy in the Army because everybody was on an even keel. It was communism at its best; everybody was even. Of course we had officers
and NCOs [Non Commissioned Officer] above us, but they were treated the same as us as far as we were talking to each other goes. We knew they were getting about the same rations as we were, and the same treatment, and perhaps a bit more pay. But no, I don’t think there was any real alarmists or sadness in the Army. You just made the most of what you got, I think.
I know he jumped up one breakfast time, and he was crying, and he said, “I’m sick of this. I can’t stand this any longer,” and he walked out of the room. He got sent home. Whether he was, I don’t know; but the way things happened I think he might’ve been. And that was the only case, in the 6 years I was in the Army, that I struck. Not saying that there wasn’t any, but that was the only case I struck.
sister in Kew. We used to go to the pictures, go for joyrides with anybody that had a car, go walking, go into the city shopping. It was really great. And it was a long time as far as getting away from the Army was concerned. Any other time it was only overnight. The most leave we’d had before that, I think, was 3 days when we were in England.
They said, “You could have 3 days London leave.” And I said to the commanding officer, “Sir, my mother lives in Nottingham. Can I go there, or I have to spend my leave in London?” He said, “No, you go up to Nottingham. Blimey, by all means, yes. See your mother.” So Joe and I went up to Nottingham, a couple of days.
with her girlfriend who the 2 of them grew up in the Camperdown western district, went to school together. Then the war broke out and Jo, my wife’s girlfriend, said, “Joan, would you like to come to Melbourne?” And she said, “I’d like that. Alright, I’ll go with you.” So they went to Melbourne and got a job. They were working at the Model Dairy, I came along after the war started working at the Model Dairy and we met there. So we went out together a few times
then. And before I went back into the country, dairy farming again, became engaged and then about 12 months later I got allotted the block of land and we got married.
set of miniature cards actually, they were about that square, a full deck of playing cards that I carried with me right throughout the war—except in England—right through the Middle East and New Guinea. There was 4 of us used to play 500 with those, even in Tobruk. You know, you’d be underground and you’d be putting these little cards around, dealing out and playing
all day and every day, apart from the fact that we had to get up and deliver dispatches every now and then. But they were great. They were wonderful. And in the Queen Mary going to England we used to play cards quite a bit because there wasn’t a hell of a lot to do. That’s where I learned to play bridge; we used to play bridge. People were pretty well astounded when I told them that we played bridge in the Army. They didn’t
relate the two things together: the Army and bridge. Bridge was always regarded, I think, as an old woman’s game. No, we enjoyed playing bridge on the Queen Mary.
So it sounds like it was probably physically a lot more demanding.
It was demanding physically, yes, but at that stage we were so well trained and so fit that we didn’t mind. We could do it. Now, I think the Australian Army was much better trained than any other Army in the world, really, apart from the Indian Ghurkhas; they were the best. No, I think we were better trained than anyone, and I think that’s where the spirit of Anzac, and the Australian Army,
and 9th division, all that sort of thing, comes down to the physical fitness of the people and the way we were trained.
news from time to time – not always regular, but every now and then we’d get a news bulletin to say what was happening. We knew that the war was going fairly well for us while we were in New Guinea. And sort of buoyed our spirits up and we just kept going. Yeah, we had quite good news right through – you know, what the Americans were doing,
particularly when they won that big sea battle up north there. That was the beginning of the end for the Japanese, really – on the sea. And then our guys had pushed the Japs back in New Guinea and that was the beginning of the end on the land.
big rejoicing or anything. No three cheers or champagne. Actually, we had a cup of tea. It was the day before we left Labuan; we were all packed up ready to go. And we were having a cup of tea, standing around talking – wide open spaces – and 2 big American Liberator planes went over flying very low. And there was a sort of a vapour coming out of them. And we didn’t take much notice and
drinking our tea. And I looked down and there was a sort of a film, like an oily film, on the top of my tea. And I said, “Aww, what’s this stuff?” Said, “Oh, I don’t know.” So we drank our tea and then we found out later that those planes were spraying DDT [dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane] right over Labuan to kill off all the mosquitoes so that when the prisoners of war came in there wouldn’t be any malaria. And that’s what we were drinking – that’s a poison.
them didn’t know what they were going to do. I know one fellow, a friend of mine at bowls, he decided when he was discharged—they asked you what you wanted to do as you were discharged. He said, “I want to become a dentist,” so they sent him to university and he became a dentist. But you could choose anything that you wanted to be. But because I’d been dairy farming I said, “I want to go back to dairy farming,” and they said, “Oh, you mightn’t get a block if you put in for a block.” I said, “I’ll take my chance.” So they tried
to talk me out of it, but I was determined that I wanted to go back into dairying.
Declared, the Japanese laid down their arms, the prisoners started coming out of the prison camps. Probably, I’d say, within 2 weeks we’d be on our way, yeah. Everything was starting to settle down. Still small pockets of Japanese in amongst
various countries up north, but none of them worried us.
I think wartime has an effect on people that you won’t get in peacetime. All the women were pressed into some sort of service, that could work. I know the girl that I married, when she first came to Melbourne she was asked to do a job fitting seats, or saddles, as we called them, to motorbikes. That was her job.
And then she and her friend left that and went to this dairy. But women were asked to help the war out by doing something or other. It was a woman’s world and we were told that if we wanted a job, and we went to a factory or anywhere where anybody was employed – if they were employing a woman they were to take us on and put the woman off. That was law.
So I went to the Model Dairy and said, “I want a job,” and they said, “Okay.” But they had room for me anyway because my brother-in-law was working there and he told me that they did need someone.
Not only monetary, but population-wise. And if the world could live without wars it would be a wonderful place. And I don’t know why there is so much bickering and hatred and accusations from country to country throughout the world these days. Why they just can’t get on with each other… I think of Australia as the ideal
place to live, perhaps England could be alright, where we could be at war interstate, state-by-state, because we could start up like some of the Balkan states do. We live together extremely well, I think, because we’re Australians. They can’t seem to be able to do that overseas. There’s always someone bickering about “We want to be free of them; and they should be away from us,” and all this sort of thing. It’s just in people’s minds I think.
It’s a shame, because that’s the sort of thing that starts wars – and people get killed. It’s not right.
oh yes. Made a very great—you see, I was 19 when I joined up; a very impressive age, between 19 and 25. As far as a young person is concerned, that’s a lifetime. And you either learn—you have to learn, you must learn during that period, whether you learn the right things or the wrong things, it’s up to you, and that’s what stays with you the rest of
your life. But I had some very good experiences during that time. And as I say, I grew up, got to know how to treat people and talk to people, mix with people. Otherwise, I don’t know where I’d finish up.
I wanted to see her, and she wanted to see me, and we were great. It was terrific. Because there was only my sister, that was left behind in England, and my mother and I were the only ones of the family that were there at the time. So it was really good and I have appreciated that ever since.
So you got good and bad memories, but I think most of my memories are not bad ones, not really bad ones, really. We went through some hard times, testing times, and tough times, but the fact that most of us got through it in reasonably good health, I think that was a bonus. Lucky.
used to live. We toured around. But, that was the only place we had a chance to go back to because we were touring France, Germany and Holland as well, and a fair bit of England. We stayed with my daughter in England, as a stepping off place, and went through the Continent and came back. But we had time to go and have a look in England where I used to live which was an eye-opener
for them. It wasn’t the same because when we lived in England we had the big house there on 4 blocks of land. Well, in the meantime 3 of the blocks of land had been built on, and that was just another house in the street really. But it was there, still standing.