So Arthur, tell us about your early life, where were you born?
Well I was born at, oh actually, Oakleigh. Not Oakleigh, no, no, no wrong now Arthur, see my memory goes
And what do you remember about living in Footscray as a child?
I went to school there at High Street, I was a bit of a tiger. There’s one story there, they used to drive the sheep up across to the abattoirs or whatever. And I got in amongst the sheep
and all hell broke loose, because they couldn’t find me and a joker seen me amongst the sheep so he grabbed a hold of me and he took me to the abattoirs of course, over where they would go, and then he brought me back home and said to my mother, “This is what you’re looking for.” I had a ride
What’d you say? Out at HP Mackay was where my father was working, and he was in that street and we had a,
oh they had a war service home. And that, they all went broke, and we went up to the bush to live, lost everything. And we went up to a place called Barkstead.
Found a mine and found some gold, it was down about sixty feet. So that was the normal there, so in 1919 we come back to Melbourne, had to, Dad
went back to work in HP McKay’s. I went to school in there.
I made an appointment and went home, and went home and told my Mum and she went mad at me. Anyhow they came on the Friday morning and I had an anaesthetic and took all my teeth out, they were rotten. And then a week later I
went up to the doctor and told him I wanted to join the army and he said, “No, too soon,” because I had no teeth. So I waited another two or three days and I went into Melbourne Town Hall and signed up there. And went out to Caulfield Race Course and stopped the
night there and then up to Pucka [Puckapunyal].
And it was Old Royally that won it. And was put on a train and we went a hundred mile up to an English camp. And we was there for three weeks. Then we came back and we went up to Suez Canal, and then we got off there
to go down to, they put us in carriages, or on a train. And it was all full of cow manure and that. So the boys, the whole lot of us, when they started to move we were mooing like cows. And we got into a row over that.
And we were there for Christmas, and then I was sent over to Egypt. The whole lot of us, when I went over there I was promoted, well before… I should have said that before that. And I was lance corporal. That was on our way to Western Australia.
So I went over there, and I got into trouble, thought I got into trouble I should say. There was a canteen there and there was a motorbike outside, one of the RPs [Regimental Policemen]. And so two of us got on the bike and took it for a bit of a spin, and left the bike down the road.
And the next morning the parade was there and we were all, the two of us were like this. And they found, we thought we were gone for the motorbike but it wasn’t that at all, it was another joker got into trouble.
Did you go straight to Tobruk? You weren’t involved in Bardia or any of the other?
No, no, went straight up to Tobruk. And, but that was against the Italians. With that we moved around a bit there, scrounging
So you did Tobruk the first time, how long were you there for roughly?
Roughly, two months, three months. And then from there, oh while we was there, very important this one. We were out on this scrounge, three of us. And we were walking up this (UNCLEAR) and we could hear voices. So I said to the other two,
“Look each side and I’ll put my head around and see what’s going on.” So here’s these Italians sitting there and they are writing a letter. So I called the others in and said it’s safe. And they put their hands up and carried on and we had a look around and here’s a big wall there
and it was full of money. So we put our hands through and took some of it and took them back to camp and gave them the money, oh kept a bit of it in our pocket.
we got half way, well not half way, we were out and then these ships coming towards us, they’re signalling of course. And it was the fleet, they were just coming back from a battle. And they turned us around and we had to go back there where we came from.
And that’s where went to Tobruk the second time. I went up by ship, some of them went up by train, or part you know.
hopped into a hole and Titch Patty, he was over there and next thing he was up running towards us. I told him to get down I yelled at him get back in there. But the reply was when he got to us there was a snake in there, a little snake about that long. So that was that. Went crock at him for running across of course.
That was all right. We were on our back from delivering some wounded and the Germans came over, bombing and they dropped a few bombs around us, so we were out of the ambulance. And there was some whole trucks that had been bombed before
so we got in under them. But when we came out of course covered in grease and oil so we had to clean ourselves up before we could get into the… So we cleaned ourselves up and got back. That was one little part. And it wasn’t long after that, I was
living in a little cave and so I come up and I’d been bitten.
And so went to hospital and then they sent me to an English hospital in, on there. From there I went to, I was only... From the English hospital I went to the Australian hospital and from there, because
I was bitten by ticks, I shouldn’t be here by this stage.
But there was a sister with me all day, all night, you know change over. And then finally I got right and they sent me to another hospital. And that was all right, I was there for a little while, three or four weeks. And then I broke out again. So I had to go back to hospital again.
And that was the end of that. I broke everything there, and I rejoined the unit. And that was getting toward the end of the Tobruk siege.
In the, and that… There was a French soldier was picked up in the desert, he was dead. We had to do a post mortem on him. That’s what I was in that part. And we, the doctor went through and said what it was and so forth. And I had to
clean up after him. He said, “Righto Arthur you can finish it.” So I had to put him in the box and so forth. That was there, from there, that was a lot of the work I done there. From there we got shifted up further into Syria.
We was only three mile from the border, and a big town. So there was a school there. And we took over the school and that, part of it. And we looked after all of the kids and that. We had Christmas in there. But then they
found me another job, I had to go to a brothel.
and they’d pick up a girl and she would bring him to me. And I would put down, only put their army number and not their name. And then she would bring him back to me and he would have to wash himself out and so forth and usual thing. So there was two of these places. So I’d work in one one week and the other the next week.
Now in that stint there, there was one soldier that came in and he got VD [Venereal Disease], so the question was, “Where did you get it? Who was it? Name this girl.” So she was put out of work. Anyhow he named this girl
so she was put, wasn’t allowed to work. And she was tested and everything and she was clear of the bug. And he was, then we’d questioned him more and that and we found that he’d gone out on the street and picked up a girl and
that’s where he had got from. And he was sent to, out to, oh gosh it’s gone. Egypt. And he lost all of his money, his pay, and they cleaned him up and sent him home.
And the girls were good girls. Like you know in that respect. They would, you’d meet them at the theatre, the picture theatre and things like that. One of the boys married one of them. And then we, I was coming home back to camp and they
were packing up. So we got to move, and we picked up there we went and robbed, picked up a few bottles of grog from a little shop.
car right down through the desert and out to pick up a ship and we went to Bombay, and we were changed from Bombay onto a little ship, The Tacklewa[?]r, always remember it. And from there we went to Colombo and refuelled, and then
out to, out from I can’t think of the name of it there. Anyhow when we got there the Japs had already got there, so we never landed there. We just turned around and we went back to Colombo, and then we refuelled and come around
past the South Africa coast. And up into South Australia. And there was a few of us camped there. That was my, I had a boil come up on my face.
And I spent it in hospital, that was my birthday. And so that was all right, back to camp
How long had you been away?
One two three, must have been four or five years. And that caused a lot of trouble and we told him to go home to his mother, not go home to her. So that was that, he was really upset,
there was a girl, she was, her father worked on the council. He was the head joker for the council and I went to the dance, by this time I was ready to go back to the unit. And he took us all around his daughter and that gave me a look at the town. And I
corresponded with her for quite a few years. And, I was shifted out of course. Went back to the unit and by this time we moved up to Townsville, and so three of us hopped on the train out to, oh what’s the big town there, out there?
This is where it goes wrong for me a bit. Can’t think of the name of the big town now.
we had to look around the town and that and we decided to go and have a few beers. As soon as we stepped into the pub the army police grabbed us, and said what are we doing there? There’s a train going back to Townsville because the unit is moving out. And when we got down there, they were gone.
So we were put on another ship, the Unsung. And went to Milne Bay, and we just got off the ship when the Japanese came in and sunk the boat. And it’s still there today, it just sunk down in the mud. And it was used as the wharf over the years. So hence
I went from corporal to lance corporal and down again. So that’s where I spent there.
the Japanese marched down for the airstrip, and we had no aeroplanes there at that time. And they formed up right across the airstrip the Australians. We was in the background of course being medical. And they came down blowing their bugles and so on, carrying on, starting to come across there.
And orders went out that no one was to fire a shot until it was given, the order was given. And one joker at the end, or three parts across there, one joker let go. Of course all hell broke loose and the Japanese nicked off then, they got pushed right out. And
so that was the Battle of Milne bay. And then that was while I was there. Of course being a naughty boy as I always was, I had to, with the other boys, the three of us. I had to give them drill, up and down the road.
Is this because you missed the train?
Yeah and all that business. And up past us was American camp, and they used to have to come through our lines to go down to the wharf and all that. They had ice-cream and all that stuff and we had bully beef and hard stuff. But anyhow, this joker he was going past and he was picking at us. And it was the wrong time
because a sergeant major was watching us, to make sure that I was doing the job properly, you know marching them up and down. And anyhow because the American joker started picking at us, he notified the, well this time, I’d done mine was just about to leave that. But our sergeant
major notified the Yanks what he had done, so he had the full army gear, and I had to march him up and down. Just stand there, right turn left turn you know. For a week.
But in Milne Bay while I was there, middle of the night the plane was taking off from there, and one of the troops, they was waiting for, to go onto a plane
this one. Come over and went right through the one that was stationed. Didn’t take off the ground. And so there was some hell to pay there.
Another occasion, oh it was Christmas time, we were there, and my mother sent over in a box, posted, a bottle of wine. And that was all right, so we were drinking that and a plane come over
and there’s a big hill behind us, and he never made it. He crashed into the mountain, so we had to go up and fix that up. That’s another thing. Then we, well of course we were in the, what they call, I can’t think.
We got shifted then from there up to, oh yes that’s right. We used to have a lot of games, like you know running, between different units and so forth. While we were in Moresby, and I was one of the,
we had some good runners and I was one of them so we never got beat.
where we were supposed to land we never landed. They kept on going to a place called Shaggy Ridge. Have you ever heard of that? So we set up camp and all of that. And then while we were, one night I got called up to headquarters and they said the Japanese are going to make a
raid there, and I had to get all the wounded from the hospital and all that and take them over to, over the river, over to the other side. And get all that ready, and the engineers came and put bombs all around the place,
and when we had taken out all the wounded, what we was treating down. We got word to say it’s all over. The air force went over and done the job, what they were supposed to do. So we set up, half way up Shaggy Ridge, well not…
Shaggy Ridge was like that, and down here was the Faria River and that. And that’s where we made a hospital and we, well the doctors done all of their new work on the wounded and so forth. And then I was sent up,
from there, up the coast be about twenty mile. And they... We set up camp there, hospital there. I only lasted three days and I got called back out because things had changed. And so Shaggy Ridge back to there.
And so I had to go up over the ridge which is like that. So that’s all right, so we settled down there. And then I was, I had to take in, this is what’s upset me for years. I had to take a crew, some troops through.
And that’s the longest track. And we had to cut our way in on one side and on our way back, cut our way out to get the stretchers through. So that was all right, we cut it down and we came across a Japanese had been killed on the side of the road. But someone’s taken his ear off.
We’re getting along the road and one of the English officers died on me. And so I had to make a decision of what I would do with him. So I put him on the side of the road because it was getting late in the afternoon and to have him along was, so I put him on the side of the road and
could pick him up the next day. And the other English soldier he was going crook, so we got him down the road further and we left the other one behind. Because we had to cut our way back. On the other side to get the stretchers through. We cut it here, and now we had to cut through the other side to get the stretchers.
Well by this time it was getting late and we had three rivers to cross over. So that’s what we did, and got back and we reported that we left one behind. So the next morning all the other wounded, because it was late night when we got back. I had the job then to…
the Faria River it was open. We didn’t have to go over the ridge. The river, so took a couple of the wounded back to hospital. So that was that virtually. But the whole point of it is, later on after I got discharged I’m reading the papers
and I start getting worried, was he really dead? Because I’ve always followed the medical and that here in Melbourne. And I start to think we knew things were coming out, but was he really dead?
And that used to upset me, and I still worry about it at times you know. And so that was that part of it. And from there, oh should I say about, the Japanese, yeah we done that one. After that
we, now from there we, right down from the ridge through on this side. We were called and we come back to the Tablelands after that. So
then we start doing water and that for landing. Used to come down, down to the sea and have a play around there and go out and swim out to the barges or whatever and that. Anyhow we came back to camp and we were playing football
and I, kicking a goal, kicked the goal and I twisted my knee out of nothing you know. So next morning on the Sunday morning I had three choices, to go on a group march, be a good Catholic
or go and see the doctor. So I said, “Oh that’s easy I’ll have a bludge here.” So it was a new doctor and I went and saw him and told him what happened, sore knee. And up on the table and that and what happened? He twisted my leg and that having a look and he locked my leg up my back.
I couldn’t get it down. For the next, from there I went to hospital.
anyway I was in this orthopaedic hospital and I was all ready, I was on this stretcher ready to go into theatre and a big nob came up from Sydney, he was an orthopaedic doctor. Colonel. And I,
he’s doing the ward and I’m on the stretcher ready to go to theatre. And the sister said to him, “This is a good case for you.” And he had a look and he said, “Put him back to bed.” And he said, “Soldier don’t let anyone put a knife in your leg.” So I went back and they used to pull my leg there until they got it
straight. And then once they got it straight I had to climb ladders and you name it and that. So that was it, when I was able to walk properly and so forth they sent me to Melbourne for discharge.
about 1950 I think it was. Just after the boys all went to, oh I can’t tell you an actual time now it would be in the book anyhow. And anyhow they were going to discharge me, I could get around all right, hobble and that.
So they sent me down to, before I was discharged I went down. Oh before that I had leave and I came down to home and had a fortnight’s leave and I was put on a train to go back to my unit and I got to Brisbane and they put me in a
camp, and oh it’d be two or three o’clock in the morning, a joker came running up the thing, “Corporal Fields, Corporal Fields.” Singing out my name, and, “Yeah what do you want?” He said, “You’re moving out straight away you’ve got to get down to the station.” So they put me on, in a truck and down the station I go, and what happens?
I get in the train, the same carriage, the same seat back to Melbourne.
The same seat you came up on?
What? Yeah, the same train I came up on so I was back on the same train back. And out to, oh what’s the name of the place. Out from the zoo, and anyhow, the doctors down here
they’re going to discharge me, and the question was, “Is there any reason you can’t be discharged A1?” And I said, “Yes there’s me knee playing up,” and so forth. And he said, “You know soldier we can keep you in the army for another two to three weeks?” And I said, “What’s two to three weeks after four or five years?”
and oh yeah, so I had to go and see a specialist, he wouldn’t come down to me. And I was immediately unfit for service so I was discharged. From that point onwards I was working, on the rail.
I was working, I got a job on the railway changing light globes.
to another. And then the VP [Victory in the Pacific] day, that’s when war finished England that was a big day. I went into town and everyone was going mad. And I got to the Melbourne
Town Hall and there’s a conga train of people jogging around you know. Down to Elizabeth Street and around and back and up the hill. Anyhow that was good. And I got my arms around this girl and we jogged around. Anyhow when we got sick of that we went over the bridge,
what’s-a-name bridge and went to the gardens and sat down and talked. And then it was time to go home, I put her on the train. She lived in Spotswood, I lived in Oakleigh. And I was a good boy, I put her on the train, and later on I took her. Oh she had a bit of trouble where she was living and I said,
“You want to give that away, come over here to Oakleigh.” And I got her a, oh a few houses up from the milk bar. She went up and lived with Quirks, people by the name of Quirks. And got her a job in Oakleigh and from that point onwards, I had a row with my mother and so forth. She
wanted something done and changing the shop. And I went up to Linda’s and telling her about it and she said, “The best bloody thing that can happen is you and I can get married.” So that was all right, we went up to the church in Oakleigh and were married. So that
was done, that was going to go to the beach, but we couldn’t get a train. So we finished up going up to Fern Tree Gully for our honeymoon a week up there. And that’s the story of me getting married.
From there I had a chance of going up to Cabbage Tree Creek, they had a sawmill there, Springvale. And they moved that up to Cabbage Tree Creek, and I had the option of going up there as the engine driver because I knew I could look after
the engines all right. So we went up there. Carol, the one that was here, she was born down in Murrumbeena, that’s where we lived before we went to Cabbage Tree. And then we was up there until 1960, and then we decided to come because the kids were getting older
Carol was born down at Murrumbeena but the two boys were born up at Albury. So we decided to come back to Melbourne for the kids’ education. And then that was all right. We come down and bought the house three doors down. And we lived there for a few years,
and this one came on the market and Linda wanted this house because the other’s only a weatherboard, so we bought this house. And lived here ever since. So 1960 it was.
there, but a lot of women. The war widows, they come, and we go to the hotel. Oh what’s the name of the place? Oh Hotel just up from the end
of Swanson Street. And that’s the place that they take tours out and we use that as a place to go to. They’re very good to us. And so that’s all of that story virtually. For the last three years I’ve been president of the unit.
there’s been some funny things in this respect. I came out of the TAB [Totalizator Agency Board] here at Noble Park, walked across the road and as I’m stepping up on the gutter a joker has walked passed there right in front of me. And I stepped up and down I started to go and I grabbed him, grabbed his trousers
and pulled his trousers down a bit and he was going to give me the whack. And he could see the sweat pouring off me and all that. So people come up and they helped me up on my feet and all that again. So I said, “I’ll be right,” so I’m hobbling around to the doctors and seven times I fell over from Noble Park
town, you may as well say until I got to the doctors, seven times, out there.
well I went into town and well I wanted to go across the road to the, Veteran Affairs. And Linda she said to me, she came in with me and she said, “I’ll be in Myers
or David Jones.” So I was longer over the other place, and then I said, “Oh she wont be in Myers, she’ll be in David Jones,” so I get into David Jones and looking around. And here she is over there, right over there. And I done the thing what I should never do, I turned around too quick. From around… she got out of the lift and I looked around,
I said, “There she is over there.” And I turned too quick that way instead of walking around quietly. And arse over head I go, legs out there again, people rushing everywhere. They wanted me to get an ambulance and so forth, I said, “No I’ll be right, just leave me.” And Linda she’s sitting there, she’s laughing her head off. And I said, “No, I’ll
be right just leave me.” And get me up on my feet, and I got on my feet, I pulled a rack of dresses down of course. I waited a few, oh about three to five minutes. Then I walked around the isle, walked in a straight line and good as gold.
there, state school. And the kid behind me whacked my back, and I must have had something because it started bleeding. So that was it and I was taken to a Chinese doctor and he did something, stopped the bleeding and so forth.
So that was that part of it. When we lived in, I can’t think of the name of the street now, but there was a lolly shop next door, and then us and a couple of houses and a bakery shop around the corner. And us as kids, we used to hop on the back of the bakehouse
and we used to go in there and play. And this particular year this room was shut, we weren’t allowed in there. It was just a few days before Christmas, so my sister and I we went around the side and jemmy opened the window and climbed in. And I hopped on this little toy truck and pedalled away yelling out,
“I’ve got a truck, I’ve got a truck.” And my mother heard all of the commotion and she came in and she was laughing her head off at me riding yelling this out. This was a story she told me and that was it. I never got Father Christmas, I’d already got.
Christmas came a bit early in your house.
Was that, came, what’s-a-name. Oh wait up. All the, gone again.
With crackers, fire cracker night. And we were all out in the street throwing crackers and so forth. And as a good boy in those days I put a cracker down a boys back, and he got burnt. And I got a hiding for that.
Tell us a little bit about your circumstances around your move to Ballarat.
Well that was after them they lost their house. We was out at Barkstead and we moved to Ballarat. So I went to the Ballarat School of Mines and when, oh back in Sunshine where I was at school there, there was a teacher there I used to
hate him, sort of you know. And all of my learning was all there, couldn’t be bothered doing and all that, I was always getting the straps and all that. But when I went to the Ballarat School of Mine instead of getting ten and twenty out of a hundred. I started there at the Ballarat School of Mine I was up in the nineties.
You know and that. The funniest part on that. It was getting near the end of that and we were going to live in Ballarat, and we were out scrounging. Coming back from another place in the bush there, we used to go out
there, and the water was coming down. It was there, water, but someone’s laid a trench down where the water used to wash down and look for gold in that. And so I’m, we’re coming back from there and I’m walking through
and I find some gold on the surface. Little nugget. And yelled out to my father and grandfather, what I got. And so they came over and that became, they worked that for a while got a bit of gold, only surface. And that was when we moved to Ballarat.
Out of that was my father and grandfather went back home. But another person, they went and dug a little bit deeper than what my grandfather and father did and that became the Barkstead Goldmining and that lasted right through the fifties
across the river and that we used to go out there swimming. Ride our push bikes down, because you’ve got to go down a steep hill. So all the kids they used to get off their bikes and walk down the steep hill, but no not Arthur. This particular day I hung back, hung back, and the kids were further down,
my sister and so forth. So I hopped on my bike and started riding down the hill here I come, here I come. And got down near the water, the last part of it, hit a big stone and over into the creek. The river, Maribyrnong River. And my bike was all buggered up,
so I carried that home, got a hiding. As usual.
because my Dad and mother they lost their house. And it was a war service home, and they foreclosed on all the houses and that. So we went to Barkstead and when we came back, we went to live opposite the
railway line that came to Ballarat, and that’s when I was walking along the train track and that and playing around. And I fall over and cut my leg on the track, I’ve still got the scar now. That’s one of the things.
We used to go down, they had a creek there, a swimming hole. They used to have races and so forth. Across the creek.
of beans and said to me will you take it up to Mrs, oh I can’t remember her name now. So as a good boy I got it in there, put the dead snake in the bag. So I got up there and I said to Mrs, I can’t remember her name now.
Anyhow, “My Mum sent some beans up for you,” and she puts her hands in and get a hold of the snake and looked at it. And where’d she finish, down on the floor screaming her head off. So…
And they wanted kids, they had Father Christmas and all of that and I was dressed up, and I used to have to call out The Raj of the Bong. And of course I couldn’t say it properly and the people used to laugh and say, I had the crowd all around me. So that
gave me a job and I left school. And I went down, got this job at a place with all stationery, and people would ring up or firms would ring up and they’d want some stationary or whatever and I would hop on my bike and deliver it.
right around. Three day marches. And the cook would do our cooking, a civilian, so I had the job of working with them at times. And we were coming right around heading back to Seymour that way, and
we camped the night. And the cook there he had bottles of wine, so that was my first taste of wine.
And did you have any inkling as the years were rolling on that there might be a war?
Well no not then. But once the war started, when the war started I was living at home with my grandmother and that. And then I got called when war broke out, it was late at night
and I was put on stand-to duty.
yes and no is the answer for that. ’39, Christmas time, you had the boys we went to, just after Christmas it was. We went training, and this is like February,
before this, first year. We went to do our training and there’s only half a dozen of us there. “Where’s so and so? Where’s so and so?” “Oh he’s joined the navy, he’s done this.” So that started us as going to join up myself. And there’s another little instance there.
Why did the others all go? Oh no, that’s another story. The, it was up at Seymour in the camp and this is just when it first started and
the colonel of there, we were all lined up and he said he’s been picked to go to the Middle East, and I would like the company, the whole lot of us to go with him. And he said he had to set up the Egypt and so forth and he asked those in
favour to step forth. And he got the shock of his life when he said that, not one bugger stepped forward.
got there and I still had no teeth and they put me to one side and I had to wait until midnight when they asked all of the questions and all that. And they put me in the, they said, “All right then we’ll send you to Puckapunyal.” I didn’t
know where I was going. And I slept, instead of going home from Caulfield to Oakleigh I had to stop the night there, and they put us on a truck and up to Seymour.
one night, we go over and get under there and we come back with tins of fruit and so forth. And we started to come home, go back to camp. And we start having an argument, the four of us. Between us, two of them wanted to go that way and the other two want to go
this way. And I said, “Well you please yourself I’m going this way, who’s coming with me?” So two of us we started off that way and the other two started off that way. And so next morning we’re packing up the ship and so we’re going back to
Alexandria and the other two hadn’t turned up. And we packed their gear and all that, put it on the truck. And we’re just about to move out when they turned up, and I was the corporal in charge of it, what do I do? Do I go
and tell them what’s happened or give them a bit more time? So I left it as long as I could. So I’m just about to tell the sergeant major what’s happened and they turn up. All the others are on the trucks ready to move, so they turned up. I got them in the truck with us.
“What happened?” And all that. And, “What’s the smell on you?” Oh gee they stank. And anyhow they on a cross road there was a building and they went in there and stopped the night in there, but there was two dead Italians in there
I behaved myself. Yes it was nothing unusual for me to go to Dad’s up at Oakleigh, or I mean going home from the pictures run along bagging all the things up on the roof. You know the ants and all that.
You know bang bang. And there was a policeman who’s a friend of my father, and this is out at Oakleigh, he said, “Right if you want to do that, go right around.” So I had to run around and go over the hill and come back on the other side of the railway line.
And he said you’ve got so much time to do it. So I had to run all the way around, and then he said, oh before that he said, “I’ll be there waiting for you to get back.” So I got back and righto now home, bang. Bloody old foot in the
backside. So that’s all right, he next day, next night should be my father said “You been naughty again,” so I got a clip under the ear too from him. He said, “You don’t do those things.”
And I went up, this is on my final leave. I went up to Ballarat and seen him. No, no. He was living in a hotel in Richmond and I went in there and seen him. He was an alcoholic, but
sent down not a book, a… can’t think of what it was now. It’ll come back again. Something, a keepsake anyhow.
I thought maybe you were up to no good.
No, no no. Things like that. And they had a music, they would put it on, but no band. I don’t know how they worked it. And we used to go in there. But not only that, lectures and things like that.
was in my cabin. And this was up in, where was this? Out from the, I don’t know if I told you about that place. I can’t think of the name of it now, it’ll come. Anyhow
old Jim was laying on the bed and had a few beers and I went in and woke him up, and one of the other boys said leave him alone and carried on like that. And he throws a punch at me, so I went bang and whacked him. And the boys never said a word over that. White haired boy and no-one
else would hit him, but I did. Things like that, that was.
So how did you feel about arriving in India, did you think it was just radically different from what you knew in Australia?
Oh yeah. Big difference. And when we came back, to go to the Middle East, we had a, we come down on the train
And was it hard work there, or more of a holiday?
Holiday, that. And they, what do you call? Like Dandenong, shops, not shops the..? You had all the, you go into this
shed and you can buy anything.
That must have been a bit interesting?
Oh yes, although we was too busy. I came out of the hospital and I went to a place way down the beach and I seen the ships coming in. And then I picked up the unit and went right up the coast right up to, oh what’s the name of that town?
Oh we had there and then we had to. Two places we went to, I told you before but I can’t remember now.
Palestine, you probably met your match there did you?
Yeah they would come around, it didn’t matter where you were, not in Tobruk and that. But you’d come out of there and you could go back to Egypt and that. They would come out of nowhere and they would have oranges or fruit,
something and get along. And they’ve got fruit or whatever and you buy it off them and that was it you know. Oh that’s another thing I didn’t say did I? We was in,
when I come back. Yeah when we come back from Tobruk the first time I was sent down to the rubbish tip. And it was all the Arabs they was scrounging for food in the rubbish tip. And it was all our rubbish and that. And there
was English soldiers there too, but I couldn’t take it. I was there a week, but I would allow them to pick up a bit of good stuff you know what had been thrown out, but the English, no not to do that. So I would sneak it out to them you know, over there. A truckload
would come in and they would all race to the truck, you know, want to go through it. I put a blind eye to it and let them go, so I didn’t last too long on that job. Sent back to the unit.
So you might as well have been just having the time of your lives?
We were. And I went down to, I don’t know how I got there. Down to the river from Jerusalem, where the, was supposed to, the water, I went down there and they
But who are your good mates, have you got a couple that you do everything with?
Oh, well they’re all gone. The ones that are there now, they are all A Company. As far as I can remember. I know there’s one more, I can’t remember. I think we were the only two left of
Otherwise I was a loner in one sense and that. There’s I met up, when I come out of hospital there, there was one lad he wasn’t in our unit. But I met him at the two-up
school, and he said what about we go to the concert. And this is in Jerusalem. Or just out of Jerusalem. And because I was never into that sort of thing you know, I went with him and that’s when I became a very good boy who used to like
to go out in the desert and there was a lot of Italian wine. Barrels of it. So we rolled them back into the camp, we was in a dug hole and that, with a tent over the top of us. And
we rolled it and dropped it in there. So we had plenty to drink, too much. And I was, my crew, I was sent out with an axe and that, all the barrels we could find, the sergeant major was with us.
And all the barrels we could find we had to put an axe through it and let it all run out into the desert. And here we are crying. Virtually, you know.
myself and Reg Harry we got into a little hole and looked over there, there’s, what’s his name? Oh Titch Patty and he’s in a little hole there. And about from here to the far wall between us, and he up
and running over to us. And I yell out to him, “Get back in there you silly bastard,” and so forth and he yells out, “No, there’s a snake in there.” And I, so anyhow by this time they’ve dropped a couple of bombs down.
Yeah but I wanted to ask you about, you say when you are going out on a scrounge, do you tell your sergeant you are going out for a while or do you just nick off?
No, just nick off. You wouldn’t go that far you know. Just scrounging around, right around. You knew the safety parts and
And while you were in Tobruk the first time was there any action that you were a part of?
No not really. No, nothing really it was just only the… We set off. When we first went there, there was a big gun facing Tobruk, down there. And myself
included we turned it around out the beach, not the beach, out there in the bush. Of course there is nothing there, only a few little things. And we fired. So I got in a row over that. You should have more sense and so forth. So I was demoted for that.
Mainly little things and that like tents, things that we don’t want over there because that’s all on the ship we come off. But we were on our way, and it was a wonderful sight at sea, the British naval ships,
they are all coming towards us, and then the next thing they are all flashing lights and that. And the, we got shoved back.
you had the Italians run by king of there, and the other is by, oh what was his name? There was two armies actually fighting in the first there. So
a lot of them, all the ones that was the King’s Army, they all come out to Australia. Up at the, put in the fields for all the fruit you know.
So you could give me a blow by blow description of going out to get the wounded and what you had to do immediately and how you brought them back again?
Yes, you would go in, and you were very alert of what’s around you and that. And you would also know where the soldiers are, the fighting soldiers, you know where they are. And they would tell you where it is, or they would bring one back or two, whatever. Back to you as you were coming in.
Their mates would bring them in. Certain point and we’d pick them up and take them in to the hospital.
Could you tell fairly soon into the piece the difference between a man who was going to make it, and a man who wasn’t depending upon their wounds?
Yes definitely, you’d say, well, “That poor bugger.” Like the English soldier. He had no hope.
What would you do, would you make little jokes with them?
Oh yes make jokes with them and that. Or talk to them about where they come from you know. Where they lived, are you married? You know you’d find out all of those things. “Who’s your girlfriend,” you’d say to them, “Have you got a girlfriend?”
All depends, get them as quick as possible down into the hospital. And then they in Tobruk there was a big hospital, and then the ships used to come in of a night time in the dark and there’d be food and all that stuff and they’d bring it in. And the ones that were being shipped back to Alexandria and that, the bigger hospital
they would start on one part of the ship and unload that first and get the other half of the ship where they wanted, fill that up, they’re coming in so you’ve got to virtually in a circle, and then you’ve got to sneak off in the dark. Everything had to be done in the dark. They’d
come in in the dark, twelve o’clock or two o’clock in the morning. And they had to be out within an hour, unloaded and out. We didn’t lose any ships, what I know of. But that’s one of those things that, you’d start, you’d go in there and then back and around that way, you know.
Well how about the other guys you were working with, how did you keep each other going? Did you, you know shout a few jokes across?
Oh yeah, we did that. But you had to be careful, you had to be careful that you didn’t yell out too much because everything was quiet between each other. You know you’d pass something over to them quietly, and that’s when you’re out. When you’re down the beach it’s a different thing.
And how long did the siege of Tobruk last, how long were there working?
Oh now, that’s, I came out in, second time I was in hospital for a fortnight three weeks in Tobruk and then sent down to an English hospital and
We delivered some patients. And when the bombers come over and started dropping bombs, and we got out of the ambulance and got behind in these old trucks what had been bombed before, and got down under them
but when we went for a dive under them, not realising that it was all oil underneath and we were all covered in oil. So before we could get back into the ambulance we had to de-louse ourselves and wash all that off us, you know, get it all off.
Ok, now what about their propaganda machine, I’m sure you would have picked that up from time to time?
Oh at different times. Lord Haw Haw [German propaganda broadcaster], he used to broadcast every night and tell us, “You’ve only got another day to go,” or silly things like that. We’re going to do this to you.
But before you went there I guess it was not long after you recovered you were in a morgue, and that was where you did that post mortem. I’m a bit curious and I guess it’s a bit morbid, bit I’m a bit curious to learn what that was like, having to do a post mortem and why they did…
Well the officer who done it, he done all that part of it. I only had to clean up afterwards. And,
What was that, tell me what they did? Like where did they start cutting and?
Oh just right through. Just start from there, see and that. Where he, if he had a wound and all that we’d strip him right out and then do a post mortem on him, on what he actually died of.
Did the madams approach the army to say, “Look we need a picket on each one,” or did the army approach the brothels and say, “Here’s a man for you, and here’s a man for you?”
No, it was very specially run, because it’s a French country.
ones that were over in England they came and became 7th Div to make up the numbers and so forth. So we had 7th Div, oh part of 6th Div because everything was in fours, and then they changed it to threes, so you had three of everything.
So the one that we were in became the third division, you know, they come into our category. That later, or the ones going to, where they all got caught? Gee I’m terrible with names.
that knew her and knew where she lived, he took her home. But the other boys, the whole lot of them, didn’t worry me. But a lot of them was upset, the married ones, and they didn’t know what they were going to get when they got there, the married ones. And they were all this getting upset.
With her because I had my broken foot, that’s why I had to go down there. She was working in the post office and I wanted to send a letter home and we got talking. And she said, “There’s a dance tonight would you like to come?” And I said,
“Well I’ve got a crook leg.” She said, “Oh that’s nothing, would you like to come?” And I got to know her and kept corresponding all those three or four years.
Lets talk about that. Why did you go AWL if you were so desperate to get back to your unit?
Well I got back to the unit and we went from Kilcoy by and that with the unit, the whole unit. Not by train, no we were on a train to Townsville and where the train went straight ahead and the other one went out to there we was right
in that corner. Like the train going to Brisbane and another one going out there. So that’s the one we hopped on.
When you’re coming up on a charge like that, and the sergeant major or the lieutenant or the captain is going corporal, private, corporal, corporal, do they say, “Fields what are you bloody playing at? You could have been sergeant by now?” Would they say that kind of thing to you?
No not really, just you’ll never learn and things like that. And you’d get all those things you know.
And the Unsung. I’ve heard about the Unsung before, and I’ve heard it wasn’t a particularly good boat?
No it wasn’t but it was a small boat. And we came into Milne Bay, we just go off the ship, I suppose we would be from here to a couple of doors down from the wharf and that’s when the Japs came in and the sunk it.
like Milne Bay’s here, and it’s a big bay all around that way really. They landed up the other end and we landed this side. And they came down that way. So when they got down to Milne Bay itself, just beforehand, they’re blowing trumpets and marching down the road. Then they sort of disappeared for a while
and that’s when our troops lined the airstrip. And because we had no aeroplanes there. They start with their bugles and that and marching across the airstrip and our boys were in line waiting for them and the word went out that no one was to fire a bullet or anything.
And we had to be very quiet, us at the back. And that’s when they… one joker let fire, not quite half way across they were and bang bang. And they turned and raced away and.
I’m intrigued that you were there during the Battle of Milne Bay but your unit didn’t treat any casualties, where did they go?
Well we had, when we say we never treated them, I wasn’t in that section at the time. One part of our unit was down there, another one over here and they were the ones treating all the casualties if any. And,
But did you think, hang on they’re going to transfer me to a cookhouse, did you think they would?
Yeah. But I did, they did and I done a bit of cooking for the powers that be of the unit, and all that. And the sergeants’ mess and all that.
during the night we got called out, the, now I can’t think of the name of the company. They were all lined up to go into action by aeroplane. And the aeroplane came up there and he couldn’t make it, and he went into the boys
all waiting. And that was about three o’clock in the morning. And we got called out there and had to go over and pick them up.
and then we had another couple who was very good runners. And even the hundred yards or so forth. And was, the 2nd5th Field Ambulance would compete in the games with the other units and the air force and all that. The big, there… So
our… was our second runner up, I can’t think of his name now. Anyhow he started off, he was a long distance runner, anyway he’s off and he’s miles ahead of anybody else he hands the baton over to me, and I increase
the run again. And that was a hundred yards, oh fifty yards oh more than that. And then I had the baton over, a hundred yards to go to win. Double the whole lot, and of course the boys all had a bet on it.
Back to sports day, did you get a medal? Did they give you a medal or anything?
No, no. No medals, oh as far as the unit went it was clap clap clap, you know you got nothing for it. I suppose, what would you say, it was for the unit. You were running for the unit and they got all of the, whatever they wanted.
that joker had cut the ear off, because we had a new razor issued that day, brand new one. Razor blade. And you could see where he had cut the ear off, and then later on back in Australia here he is, met up with him, and he was showing what he done, around here, to the Japanese. And we all went crook on him
and told him we was there after he had. Because it was only just done.
Normal things, so I made the decision and then because we was cutting our way back out again. Boys were taking it in turns. And I took no notice of it, and when I got back to the camp that night and I told the powers that be what happened
and next day they would have to go out and pick him up and bring him in, another crew. But, so there was always then, later on in life, it wasn’t straight away after the war and that, because I’ve done a lot of medical stuff and then
a horrible burden to go around. And then I started to read things, was he really dead? What worried me.
Are you able to tell us what the nightmares are about?
What you are thinking. Mainly when you read something in the paper of, new ideas coming out in the medical part of it, and how it had advanced over the years. And little things, only little wee things that you,
It’s not fair war, is it?
No, but that is the way it is. So, then after the war, when I came back to Melbourne, I done different courses for
and that. I would have to go over there today and they would give me some stuff and I wasn’t allowed to put it down or go to the toilet after, I wasn’t allowed to put it down the sewer. I had to take it over in a bucket and things like that. A taxi would pick me up and take me over and you would give that to them.
And things like that went on for nine months I suppose. Things like that I’ve done. Monash University, gone down there.
there was no dog there, you start there and you’ve got to sit there and watch the screen and so forth and press that button. And that was, you do that and that’s all recorded down there. You’ve got to be quick you know, answering the questions. And then they bring a dog in, and you start again. And so it would have to be
what the, would the dog how it would affect you if anything. And you pressed there and go through it all again.
they were sneaking, trying to sneak through the lines. And so you, we would go out that way, and they’re coming across this way, and you didn’t know which track they were going to be on and things like that. And they seem to sneak through, you know you don’t hear them in the bush or things like that. Funny sort of a thing.
Oh well I was always, when I was a kid and that, I was sent, when I was playing with the snakes and so forth. And I gave her a bag of beans with the snake in it and she nearly died of fright I suppose but as punishment I had to go to church.
And sing in the choir, so I had to go and learn to sing, lessons, and all that. So while we lived in Sunshine that’s when I had to do it all. And so that’s all it was.
and I had a row with Mum and I said to Linda the best bloody thing we can do is get married and she agreed so, she wanted to go into town to a wedding in there. To a registry office and I said, “No, we’ll go to church.” So she agreed so we went up to Oakleigh Church. Church of England, on the corner
of the highway and what’s-a-name road. And so we went in to have that. There was only the three of us.
what do you call them? Oh you know, along side of you, so that was all right and we went back home and my mother put on a bit of turn and an uncle
and he got up to say a few words. And congratulations, this is during supper time you know. And he said, oh he put some remarks, rough remarks they were. And he said, “I don’t think she knows what she’s doing,” and all this business. And I said to her, “Let’s get out of here quick.” So we just left,
hopped on a taxi over to, oh what’s the name of that place? Anyhow and we went up to Fern Tree Gully.
Apart from the poor old Jap that had his ears cut off did you ever face up to them at all? Did you ever confront the Japanese at all?
No, only the joker that was on the ship coming back form Moresby and he’s going around showing the ear. And you know, having a, and when he come up to us and he started bragging about it there, that’s when we went berserk on him.
Did you, to put a finer point on it, beat him?
Wanted to but we didn’t. We wanted to, we dobbed him in and wanted to get a hold of it and they, he wanted to, he’s bragging about it you know. And
Japanese were perpetrating against the Australians?
Yes, we wasn’t involved in that. We were still down in Milne Bay and our soldiers went through there. But some of our unit then went to Goodenough Island and up the coast, and came into where the fighting was again. Stopped the Japanese, they all got captured.
casualties either side there?
Yeah, but because we were broken up into three or four sections and I was way up there out of all that. And our troops were different, everything was down there, you may as well say at Dandenong,
What about the Yanks in Milne Bay, I believe they probably would have sold their arms and their legs to get their hands on some liquor?
Yeah. But we weren’t too happy with them. The aeroplanes used to come in and drop their meals down, and they had everything. They had ice-cream and all that stuff, twice as much and better than us, whatever we
And the doctor said to me, “If you don’t stop smoking you’ll be dead in twelve months.” And I was living at Cabbage Tree then, working. And Linda used to go down to the local shop and get me a tin of tobacco and papers, and bring it home and it would be on the table from morning tea. And I would get up from here
go to the front door, roll a cigarette and before I got there lit it. I was a very heavy smoker. And he said, “If you don’t stop smoking you’ll be dead in twelve months,” so I just threw it all. Oh they put the money, the money went up threepence. So bringing up a family
and that I decided that I couldn’t afford to pay for tobacco and so forth and afford to bring up the kids and that. So I threw I up on the mantle piece and Linda didn’t say a word, but I got out of it. And she said, “Oh you’ll come back on it.” I went on the beer a bit more after that but so
that was it. Never smoked since. That was 1953.
Did you just think it was a stinking dump?
No, not that bad. How would I put it? It’s a pretty place in parts, very hard place. The natives were very good, they, and their food was good, you know what they had planted.
Did any of your friends do anything while you were in the army that disappointed you?
Oh no I don’t think so. Only the, no we saved them from being court martialled. No I think everything was well, these were the ones that were left behind with the different units, not our unit.
We were very close, there was no, I don’t know what you’re doing and all that. So they made me, in the last two years they made me head of the unit.
I can’t remember ever doing anything like that. They’ve already done it and that so you know about it, you’re quiet about it. That’s the same when we got all the money and that. Unfortunately we, we had all the beer, not the beer the wine.
And we rolled it into our tent and we were drinking that all the time and we got caught with that and we had to go out there with an axe and chop it all and let it run down in the sand. Crying.
units there, you know, say there’s a doctor in their part. We’re only picking them up. If we were picking one up in the desert laying there well then we would put a bandage on him and so forth to stop the bleeding, but most of the
time that’s all done. And you go out and put them in the ambulance or carry them back.
and I said to them, “I’ve still got troubles with my knee and that,” and they said, “Well soldier, this will keep you in the army for another two to three weeks,” and I said, “What’s that got to bloody well do with it after three years or four years of army service?” And they said, “Oh well we can see your point,” so they sent me to a doctor
up Collins Street and he put the report in and I got my discharge and I was home three weeks, about three weeks with my Mum, at the most, and I had malaria again. So that was the time I went to.
And that’s when I met Linda. Then also, so that was that. Then we when the war finished the big thing was on in Melbourne and Linda and I went into the town And they had big marquees and everything over in the gardens and all that. It was a good
day, you know crowds and crowds of people. Oh that’s something funny too. We were at Flinders Street station waiting to go across the road and this woman in front of us and she started to fall into the crowd so I grabbed and lifted her up. So I went to grab her on the hip, but a bit too high.
You never seen a girl get back so quick.
off our back door there was a big yard of our property and then there was a vacant block behind and the bus. The bus come along, I’ve got a habit of going. The bus come along and he toots his horn and Linda goes out, “What does he want? What’s going on?”
And he sings out to her, “Does this bugger belong to you?” And she had to come around and get me out, and I brought a big bunch of flowers home for her, poppies.
How long did she stay working for after you got married?
Oh after we got married, oh she always wanted to work and she worked at different places, and she was re-enforcement placing, plastics. And they, that was a place in Oakleigh. And then she
went over, they shifted to another factory near Chadstone and from there they went up to, oh what’s that, up near Westall, and worked there for most of her working life, and she was
a forelady of about seventy-one women.