at Brisbane. I went to school at Hamilton then my parents rented a house there, while another house was being built and then I spent the rest of my schooling at Salisbury State School. I sat for the scholarship in 1931 but I never passed, my overall pass
I had but I failed maths, for some strange reason because it was my best subject but you had to have 50% and I only got 49%. It was the height of the depression. Eventually I was an apprenticed to a printer in a printing place in Brisbane, but I never liked the job. When I finished my time I left and
went out into the bush and I worked all round Queensland, Millaa Millaa and worked on farms there. Innisfail and Cairns then I was on cattle stations north of Maxwell into the gold country and finally at
Langton Downs near Clermont and from there I joined the army, when they called for volunteers for the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] sometime in September. From there we didn’t go into camps straight away, they had no camps ready for us, the CMF, it is called the CMF [Citizens Military Forces - the militia] now.
They had the WWI camps and they were all called up. So the AIF had to have new camps built everywhere. The one in Queensland was Redbank. We were there for a few weeks and they formed the 6th Division at that time, and in Queensland there was a
full Queensland battalion and half of the battalion were filled by men from North Queensland and Tasmania. The battalion was united at Rutherford near Maitland in New South Wales and then we moved down to Ingleburn when the New South Wales Brigade 16th Brigade and they left for the Middle East
and we occupied their camp until we went over seas. We left Australia on the 4th May 1940, my battalion was on the [HMS] Queen Mary. We were heading for the Middle East, and about a day out from Colombo we got up
one morning and the sun was on the other side of the ship, so we knew that he changed direction, we were heading north. We then finished up in Cape Town. We were there for a few days, then we had to stop again at Freetown, Sierra Leone, but we never got ashore there, it was supposed to be called the White Man’s Grave,
so we never got ashore there at all. We finished up out in the Atlantic to dodge the U-boats [Untersee boots – German submarines] then came into Scotland, we went around the north of Ireland and disembarked in Scotland. We had a bit of excitement when about half of the British fleet
were around the convoy for about the last few days and we were all down at mess, down in the big dining room they had there. We felt a bump, it was on a big boat and we felt this bump, you could of heard a pin drop waiting for an explosion, but there wasn’t. I went out on the deck and had a look, and there was all the
rubbish from a sunken ship floating, their hunks of timber and clothing and all that sort of stuff floating and we went through it. A couple of hours later we were on the deck and all the planes started taking off from the aircraft carrier that was with us, and dropping bombs
into the ocean, that was probably the U-boat that sunk the ship ahead of us. Whether they got them or not we never knew. We landed the following day. We went by train down to Salisbury, Salisbury Plains the camp was situated between
Salisbury and Hanover. We were there for a few months it was getting towards the cooler months, we landed in June, and they moved us from tents into barracks at a place called Colchester.
We were there only a few weeks and we went back up north again, to the same place that we had disembarked and left for the Middle East. We disembarked on the 31st December 1940 and we were there for about two or three months from January until early April.
At one stage we were to go up and join the rest of them that were going through Libya. We got as far as sitting on the parade ground with all our gear and then we went back and apparently the other battalions in the brigade they had gone on the boat and had to come off again because
somebody had mined the harbour at Tobruk. In any case the opposition collapsed and they didn’t need us at that stage and we were suppose to be going to Greece. Late in the afternoon we had to start rushing around and getting everything ready again to go and we were taken up to Tobruk
by sea on the Holster Prince and it had been a ferryboat. We were all packed on like sardines, there wasn’t any room to lie down at night or anything. You had to sleep sitting up and then it was rough. About three quarters of the men were seasick, I wasn’t too bad, but
there wasn’t enough men to man the machine guns around the side of the boat. We got into Tobruk and we were there for five months from the beginning of April until the end of August. Then we were taken out and a Polish brigade relieved my brigade and we went to Palestine
for a couple of weeks and then up to Syria. The first place in Syria was a place called Ras Baalbek, it was a pretty rough old camp. Then we went by train up to Aleppo and we were in that area
until January after the Japanese came into the war and we came back to Palestine preparing to come home. We arrived back in Fremantle, but we never got off the boat there, it took us around to Adelaide or Port Adelaide where we disembarked. I wasn’t with the battalion at that stage I’d been in
hospital when they left so I was just coming along with the rear party. We were kept in Adelaide whilst the South Australians were given seven days leave and then we all came around to Tenterfield. When we got there we were given seven days leave and that was all. While we were on leave the battalion moved to Kilcoy
and it was apart of then known as the Brisbane Line and we were there until August and then we went up to New Guinea to Milne Bay. It was decided to fight the Japanese in New Guinea instead of coming back to Australia to fight them.
We went to Milne Bay and there was a militia brigade there before us, in a pretty raw area. We were stationed at the back area incase the Japanese came down, over the ranges to attack us from the rear, but they didn’t they made a sea landing
in the wrong place, for them. After a few days fighting the sister battalion went in first and they pushed up a few miles and at nighttime the Japanese attacked them with tanks with headlights on them.
they cut through that battalion and some went into the jungle and up and waited out to see if they could get away from them. We went up and pushed the Japanese back from the number 3 airstrip, and that was as far as the Japanese got, and we attacked across the strip and drove them up to a place called KB Mission where the 2/10th had been attacked.
We were attacked at night by a number of Japanese coming in, we had quite a few casualties but the Japanese never broke through. We then advanced up a bit further and stopped where we were and another battalion
came up and finished the job, out of the same brigade. We went from there to Goodenough Island, which was just north of New Guinea and took that place and we were there until about Christmas, or just before Christmas. I came back on a hospital
ship, they cleared a whole lot of us from Goodenough Island who had malaria. I came back to Australia and went into hospital but the battalion went up to Buna and Salamander where they had terrific casualties doing this. They came back to Australia and I joined them again
in about April 1943. We went up to New Guinea again and we were camped on the Tablelands at Ravenshoe and then we went up to New Guinea again. We were part of the 7th Division, two brigades of that division
went over land, they flew from Moresby to a place called Nadzab where they had taken an airstrip, they went overland to Lae with the 9th Division came in from the sea landing. Then they pushed up the Ramu Valley in which we went over
to relieve one of those brigades, just in the New Year, that was January 1944. We attacked the Japanese up there and pushed them back and we came back to Australia again. I was having continual attacks of malaria so I never went away again.
The battalion went back up again to Borneo just before the war had finished, but I missed that because I was a civilian again by then. I was discharged on 24th June. So I was a civilian again when they landed up there in July at Borneo.
That was my war history. In the meantime I got married in 1944 when we came back from the islands. I got a
job in a printing place where I had served my time and I stayed there for a few years and then worked in other places and finished up in The Courier Mail and worked there for about twenty odd years, until I retired at 63. I had a heart attack so I thought that I should give work away, but I have had twenty two years of retirement so far.
In my retirement years I became the secretary then secretary treasurer of the Rats of Tobruk Association and I had that job for about fifteen years, and I gave that up because I had another heart attack.
I also was and still am the secretary and treasurer of the 2/12th Battalion and my wife and I run an indoor bowls club for pensioners and that’s where she is this morning. That’s it.
pretty rough in those days and they had a big rubbish dump on the edge of the town and the kids used to play on that and look on this rubbish dump and one kid was there in my class on Sunday and we were hitting tins and the lid flew off one of them that was laying around
and it was full of sovereigns, I forget how many there were now. My father read about this in the paper before he had gone to work, he said, “Do you know this kid?” And I said, “Yes, he is in my class.” I went to school and he wasn’t there. Part
way through the morning he turned up and he brought a brand new push bike, push bikes were very plentiful in Cairns because it is flat. They had bikes racks at school where you put your bike in. I don’t know much else about my school days there, I was still pretty
young when I left. There was one instance with our teacher, we thought she was an old lady but she might have only been about thirty or something I don’t know but she was single. She had a house and garden and it was the pride of her life, there were all these flower gardens that she had. One of the kids in my class, she didn’t use a stick but she had
a strap and she strapped this boy and he took exception to it and the next day he didn’t turn up at school but he rounded up a lot of goats that used to roam around the streets in the Queensland country towns in those days and put them in her yard. When she came back the yard was full of goats and they had eaten everything flat.
So that’s about all I can remember about my school days there. I was only in class two when we left to come down to Brisbane. We traveled by boat in those days, the train line was through from Brisbane to Cairns,
but it hadn’t been in that long, in the early 1920s was when the last link was filled in and the trains would go. Everybody traveled by boat and they had coastal steamers going up and down the coast from Melbourne –Sydney – Brisbane and up the coast and stopped at different places.
On this boat, there was a boy from my class on this boat and they were traveling first class, we were down in second class. I used to go up and play with him, but his mother took exception to this, a second class coming up and playing on their deck. She complained about it to one of the ship officers,
and they chased me off that deck and he said “If I catch you up here again we will throw you overboard,” so I didn’t know any better so I went back up again. The same bloke was coming towards me when I was running down the stairs so I climbed under the bunk in the cabin and I stayed there.
There were two ladies walking along the passageway they said “That’s the cabin where they are going to throw the boy overboard.” I could hear them through a ventilator that was down low and my mother came looking for me and she had great difficulty getting me out because I didn’t want to come out.
Even in those days they certainly didn’t throw boys overboard but I didn’t know that. We came down to Hamilton, and my parents rented a house there. We were there for a few months and my father brought a block of ground and had a house built on it for us to go into, and that was at Salisbury.
I finished my schooling there, I didn’t go to high school, and not many kids did in those days. They used to have a scholarship exam and only the top kids in the class sat for it but the others got the opportunity of
going for it. In my class there were only three of us that sat for it in 1931, I think the government might of made it pretty tough because they didn’t want too many boys or girls going to high school, with the depression at it’s worst. I didn’t pass in arithmetic. One of the three that
sat for it that year, and they didn’t have an overall pass but she passed in English and maths. I had to go back to school until I was fourteen, which was the leaving age. I don’t know why but my parents never said about sitting it again the following year, which they should of done.
The boy that was with me that failed, they took him to another school and he passed the following year but my parents didn’t do that for some reason or other. I left school and it was at the height of the depression. There were no jobs anywhere
and occasionally there would be an add in the classified columns in the paper ‘a boy wanted’ or ‘an office boy wanted’ or something. You’d go into Brisbane and there’d be about two hundred kids that turned out for the job, and you’d stand there and we’d go in one
at a time. As soon as they had selected a kid the rest of us had to go home. Then I used to go around a baking factory and plywood, engineering place and there was never any jobs you had to know somebody to get into one. From April until October I
never had a job at all. I used to just cut wood, go out in the bush and cut timber down and take it home for firewood. It wasn’t until I got this apprenticeship at H Poland Co. printers.
I had a job, I started off I think at fourteen and sixpence a week, which was less than one dollar fifty a week. I was a message boy then a first year apprentice. I didn’t like that job very much and it was an inside job I wasn’t really
machine minded, but anyway that’s what I did. As soon as I could I left and went out into the bush, for a couple of years I kept going form place to place and work here and work there and get then get tired of it and then go some place else. It was quite an interesting
life in many respects, but there wasn’t much future in it. The war started so I left, I was out on a sheep station at Rankin Downs, which was where I was working. We didn’t have any paper there,
we only heard what people spoke about, we had no radio and no paper out there, but we did know that the war had started. I was trying to find out were they going to have another AIF like in WWI, and they did and I used to ride down to a little siding,
where two trains a week used to come in and I’d hand the guard the bag of mail if there was any and he’d give me any mail coming in, and he used to tell me what was going on. I left the job and went into Clermont and
found I had a couple of days to wait for the train and I got this trip with a mailman to Mount Coolum, it cost be two pound for the trip but I must of drank that much whiskey, he used to have this whiskey in a water bag in front of his truck. Every time he had a drink I had a drink so
I reckon I cut my two pound down out there. It was quite an interesting trip too, it was country that I had never seen before. When we left Clermont we went to a mining place called Mount Clara, the gold mining place just outside Clermont, I don’t know how far now, but it was probably about half an hour or so in the mail van.
It was a real old style thing, the mailman sat there and people would come out and he’d read the addresses out to the people who came to claim their mail, it was a very small place. We left there and on just about dark we got to a place called Kilcummin Downs and it was a cattle station
and we stayed there the night. The next morning, we did have dinner and breakfast there and we continued on to Mount Coolum and they were old small selections and people had all come out. When the mailman came he’d blow the horn before he got there and they’d all be standing
on the side of the road to get there mail and this continued on until I got to Mount Coolum. That was a gold mining place in those days, and it had just closed down the mine and the people were getting out. So I got a lift with a couple who were going down to Bowen we went to Collinsville then to Bowen.
I went to see if I could join the army they said “No but you can join the home defence, the militia, you can join that here but you have to go into Townsville to join the AIF.” That night I caught the training into Townsville and went down and we got there into Townsville in the
morning and went down and enlisted. Then I had to wait until they had a camp ready for us. We never got paid or anything, we went before a doctor and everything and then we had to wait around at our own expense until they had a camp. We never got paid for our costs of getting to
the recruiting place either, that was at your own expense. If you didn’t pass you then had to get back again at your own expense. That was what it was like in those days. It was about a fortnight I suppose that I was waiting. On the 21st October they took us in and
about sixty that came down from Townsville in that batch and we were sworn in, six at a time on an old bible that looked like it had been used in WWI. We all put our hand on the bible and swore to defend the Commonwealth of Australia etcetera, for the duration of the war
and twelve months thereafter. When they had sworn us all in, there was a captain in the permanent forces, Captain Taylor was the head bloke there in Townsville and he was very nice, gentle “Do this and do that,” but once you were sworn in he changed. He
said “You have got granted leave until eight o’clock tonight, and then you have to appear in front of Townsville railway station.” We all went our various ways and we all formed up or lined up at the station and they tried to count us, to see if we were all there. Every time he tried to count
some and they would duck off into the bar, he’d get a different number every time. He knew that there were some missing and there was one block missing, he was drunk and disorderly and he’d been put in the lockup but he did came down at a later date and they had to pay him for all that time too because he had been sworn in. We were all lined up and there was a big crowd standing around
watching, because this was the first time that men had gone away to war, since WWI. We had a train come in and all the people surged in and they opened the double gates and all the people surged onto the platform and the train came down from Cairns and had the Cairns men onboard who had enlisted from the Cairns area
and they had to try and fight their way through all this crowd, to get to somewhere to have their meal. They had the band there, the militia band was there playing tunes. We had sleepers the one and only time in the army we had a sleeper.
All the way along, the train left a bit after eight o’clock at night and all the way down in daylight, we got down to Mackay and they were picking up another batch there, the people had flags hanging out and signs up wishing us good luck and all that sort thing.
We got to Rockhampton for lunch and picked up some Rockhampton fellows and that was Rockhampton for lunch and Bundaberg for dinner then we came through Brisbane in the morning and the train
didn’t stop until Redbank. Then we had to walk from the station to the camp area, carrying our ports and whatever. The got to our camp and the Brisbane men had gone in on the Saturday, on the 21st too but they had been there over the weekend. We saw all these fellows standing there with light khaki
blouse, trousers and the white hat, we thought they were convicts, so that’s the sort of clothes that they gave us when we arrived there.
We were walking up the road and there were men from the Australian Structural Corps, walking along side of us and giving us some sort of an orderly line. The bloke that wasn’t keeping in step
“Why did you join the army?” And you’d say miner or something like that, and he’d say, “Well you’re not now, you are in the army.” He came to one fellow who was a bit hung over “What were you before you joined the army?” He said, “I was a professional soldier.” He was a colonel in the Chinese Army fighting the Japanese at the time, he
finished up in my battalion and he was soon an officer because he had been through officers school I think in England, he was a Scotsman. We went into huts, the Brisbane men were all in tents they had a few huts and they were still building and the ones that were habitable we went into.
The first night, one fellow from our batch he took a funny turn he was running and we were packed in like sardines and he was running around with a knife and they were all talking about it the next morning. One fellow was joined up, he recognized this fellow, and he’d been
a warden in a mental home, and this chap was one of them who had been in the mental home. He was taken away to a hospital down at Brisbane. Later on in the war we wondered who was the bloke that got out into the big comfort back in Australia, or up in the desert.[?]
We were all in Depot Company and there were ten, the first batch to go into camp there were ten with about one hundred men. The one that I was in was number nine, and that was men who were enlisted in Townsville. A number from Rockhampton and the Cairns ones they went into a different
one and they were number seven, the last one to come in was from the south west of Queensland and they were number ten. We had no breakfast and we went up for our meal, it was about ten or eleven o’clock in the morning. We go in and they had a cold hot pie, and that was
our meal, most of them threw the pie to one side and was waiting for our meal, thinking it was an appetizer but the pie that was our meal. There was trouble over food the whole time we were in Redbank. They even had a reporter come from The Brisbane Courier to go up there and seeing what the men were complaining about.
The meals were mainly stew because the cooks had to learn to cook. They weren’t really that bad but it was just that people weren’t used to the army style of meals. As I said the cooks had to learn their jobs just as the same as everybody else. We were there and then a fortnight later another
batch came down to Redbank from all over Queensland they took another batch down then a fortnight later the third one came in and that was our quota, that was the Queensland quota for the 6th Division. Then they had a big parade to form the unit. We used to refer to it as the ‘big slave march’, we were all sitting down in long lines
on the parade ground in our depot company. They filled up our quota for the tactical unit first and they wanted men for the Army Service Corps, transport for drivers and things like that, but they weren’t getting enough to do that. So they came down and detailed
so many, to go into the ASC [Army Service Corps]. My father was in the infantry in WWI and his brother-in-law was in the ASC in WWI, I heard all my life from my father rubbishing this brother in law for being in transport while he was in the front line. So I thought to my self ‘I can’t
go and tell them that, in the Army Service Corps’ the officer came to collected us, so I turned my head and I ducked back again and rejoined the depot company. I went into the infantry of course, which most of us wanted to do in those days. Even though we knew exactly how bad it was from all the books. The old diggers never spoke
much about it, my father never spoke about the war hardly at all. We went into our units, it was only about a week later and we were given six days leave before we left our own state and went down to
Rutherford just about a mile or so outside of Maitland. When we got to this camp there had been a militia in camp there before we reached it, they left it in a filthy condition, there was food left in the dixies and all that sort of thing. The 2/11th Battalion got there before us and they came from Western Australia.
There was trouble with the canteen, they were over charging they were run by private enterprise. All over Australia in the big camps there was a lot of trouble over this. We declared the one at Rutherford, we declared it black,
but the Western Australians didn’t go along with that so we finished up there was a bit of a brawl. At Ingleburn the 16th Brigade they were New South Wales men they not only kicked up a stink about it they burnt the canteen down. From then on the army decided to use soldiers
for the canteen services and that’s what they did for the rest of the war, and things improved no end. That was just one of the things that went on. We weren’t Rutherford very long, we were only there for a few weeks. We went down to Sydney, but before we left it was Christmas in 1939 and
in England a lot of the British troops got leave to go home for Christmas, and we were miles from any war. We weren’t allowed to leave to go back to our own state. The rest of Australia barring New South Wales and Victoria,
so the Queenslanders could of gone home, and Christmas was over a weekend at that time so there were about four days all together. We went down to Sydney as we couldn’t get home. The first time that most of us had been to Sydney. When we got there a mate and I had a dinner at a
restaurant and then went to Luna Park, there were three of us altogether and we went to Luna Park and spent most of our money that we had with us. We never thought of getting any accommodation and there wasn’t any in those days a lot of the country people came to Sydney for Christmas. Then there was the New South Wales Brigade and most of them come from Sydney and they were there.
We slept in Hyde Park, that’s where we finished up spending the night. I got up in the morning and the park was covered with soldiers, just laying on the ground and sleeping. We walked down to Sydney Central Station to get breakfast and Centennial Park was the same,
down at the beaches, a lot of them had gone down to the beaches. There was just no accommodation even if you had the money. One of the radio stations decided to do something about it and they were asking people if they would accept soldiers for Christmas dinner.
My mate and I we went down and went to some peoples place for dinner on Christmas day and we went back to camp on Boxing Day. Most of us were broke by that time and we spent most of our money on the first night, because it was something new to us, something like Luna Park.
We were invited down for New Year with the people that we had spent Christmas with so we went down and we still hadn’t had another pay. This particular time there was trouble with the communist party they had in the Domain. There was one group from my
battalion they were down to the Domain and the communist had speakers there and had the red flag flying, and the soldiers objected to this. There was a big brawl and they tore the red flag down and burnt it, there were pictures in the paper about this.
That happened over the Christmas weekend, and the next weekend was New Year and they went back again, plus a whole lot of others went to see the fun, and there was a big brawl again, and after that the government banned the communist party from having meetings. Most of them wouldn’t know a communist if they fell over one, but just because of the fun of the thing
they went down to have a break from the monotony.
There was scuffling and the communists were trying to stop them from getting their flag, one of the fellows in my hut he had his picture in the paper holding a piece of the flag, holding it while they were burning it. Then we went on final
leave, the 16th Brigade they sailed at the beginning of January about the 3rd or 4th of January I think. We came down as they vacated the huts, my brigade came down and occupied the huts. A lot of people didn’t even know that this had happened, and I was standing there
on guard one day, the day after we got there. A lady came up and she said, “I’m here to see my son,” and she wanted us to let him know that she was here and we asked, “What unit is he in?” She said “The same as you the 2/4th “and their color patch was white over green and ours
was white over light blue. I told her and she had come all the way down from Mudgee to see her son and she heard that they were going to go and he was on the boat and he was gone. A lot of people really didn’t know, it was all suppose to be hush hush and a secret about everything.
When this convoy got around to Perth, or to Fremantle they went into Perth they had high jinx. It wasn’t published in the paper, but there was a weekly paper published called Smiths Weekly, I don’t know if you have ever heard of that but it was printed down New South Wales somewhere, it was Australia wide. They had a whole lot about the army and things like that in there, it was a bit hard to describe what it was.
It was a weekly journal and they were saying about this high jinx in Perth. It was the first time that a lot of people knew that they had gone. We were still training all this time, then had the whole brigade, it was a brigade camp at Ingleburn
and in those days the brigade had four battalions. Around about April the government changed it to have three battalions to conform to a British division which made it four to three. They had three battalions too many in the 6th Division, so they took the last one off each battalion for this brigade, 2/4th, 2/8th and 2/12th.
When we sailed my battalion on in a different brigade to the other two, and the 2/11th had gone around to Perth in Western Australia and they never brought them back. They went overseas with the Victorian brigade which they were a fortnight ahead of us. They went in April and we went in the beginning of May.
On this final leave in my battalion most of them came at least from Townsville, or Cairns. The ones that were put in for further west we went up first and the other there was a whole train load of troops the ones to Townsville
and Cairns. When they got to Bundaberg and they had breakfast there, they used to have a big bell to ring to tell them when the train was going. Someone pinched the bell at Bundaberg when they got to Rockhampton another group
decided to pinch another bell there. The station master seen it and came out and was after this bell, but he didn’t know there was two. Some of them would lean out of the carriage and ring the bell from the opposite end to where he was and he came charging down to get it and he said “The trains not going to leave until he gets one,” and when he just gets down to one end of the train and someone would lean out and ring it at the back end. Eventually they gave his back again
and they continued on their way. They came to Home Hill, as far as Home Hill and the Burdekin River was in flood, and it used to flood every year in those days because there was a fairly low lever bridge in the wet season and it would flood. You had to cross that, they’d take you across from that train to the one on the other side. We got an extra
three days leave on the strength of that and they gave us six days and those going north of Burdekin got another three days. Now we get down to the stage when we were expecting to go, we had different trial packs and from the time we had them
we marched through Sydney. They had trains that were taking us out from Ingleburn camp to Sydney, there were the four battalions there at that time and we were the 4th Battalion and the first ones were coming back on the train and we were going back in again.
We marched from Central Station down to Circular Quay down a back road and marched through Pitt Street and the big crowd there and it was packed and
a hot day and over one hundred that was the temperature in Sydney at that time. People were bring beer out and giving it to the soldiers, and they’d pass the jug back when they had finished it to somebody in the crowd. As I said my battalion was from Queensland and Tasmania and you could hear the crowd cheering the
Western Australians and they went past and they were calling us Tasmanians and one fellow he couldn’t take any more of it and he sings out “We are not bloody Tasmanians we are Queenslanders,” only he didn’t use bloody. That was the march
and we past the 2/9th all standing around having a beer, their colonel had got kegs of beer for them, he saw the other three battalions and the colonel had brought beer all for them, I don’t know where he got the money from.
When we got ours, we got a soft drink and it wasn’t even cold, so we weren’t too happy about that. Now I get back onto the morning that we left, after a lot of false alarms and the day came and they closed the camp and nobody was suppose to go out, although a lot of them did.
We knew we had to get up fairly early in the morning to catch the train. As I said there had been a whole lot of false alarms and we knew that this one was right, we were going. There was a bit of a scene there, it was still dark and we had to take our palliasses all filled with straw to sleep on,
they were called palliasses, to a big heap and burn the straw and then hand the covers back in. They could see the flames, the people silhouetted by the flames. When we started off we marched down past the other two battalions because the Western Australians had gone.
A few of them ran out to see if it was fair dinkum that we were going, it was suppose to be a secret embarkation and nobody was suppose to know about it. We get down to Ingleburn station, we marched to Ingleburn station and there were blokes selling hot pies and things like that. There were other people standing there and this was a five o’clock in the morning, it was just daylight.
We caught the train and there were people waving and holding up messages all the way from Ingleburn to Darling Wharf because we had to go on the Queen Mary but she couldn’t tie up. We board this ferry boat and the packs were blowing sirens, and it was quite an occasion. We boarded
the Queen Mary and we had cabins and for the one time the infantry had the best cabins, we were up on the main deck and the others were down about F deck or G deck was as far as they went down. They had little pokey cabins where the crew normally slept, and w e had the cabins.
We were all over the place, because most of us hadn’t been on a boat before and at that time it was the biggest. All day the ferry boat was bringing people onto the boat, I think there were about three thousand onboard all together. It had just come across
from New York down past South Africa to Australia to pick us up. It was still like it was during peace time, it was tied up in Sydney Harbour about week before we boarded it and they had been putting bunks in them.
We had state rooms where we were, but instead of only two people they had four double decker bunks in there, but there was still plenty of room. Your own private bathroom, each state room had it’s own bathroom. The funny thing with that was they had tassels, or
a sort of material cord thing with a tassel on it in the bathroom and one was for the steward and the other was for the stewardess, if you wanted any service because this was a peace time thing. They were sick of people who were in the bath pulling for the stewardess, there were no stewardess on the boat but it used to ring down in the stewards quarters so they disconnected that.
Another chap and I we climbed up the funnel and there were steps up the inside of the funnel, I was up the top leaning over the funnel and way down to the deck and there were boats coming into the harbour, they soon had places out of bounds for troops after that first day we were there.
It took them a while to get it all organised properly. You had to go into certain numbers at different times for meals because they couldn’t fit them all in the one dining room. It was a bit chaotic with the feeding at the start but they soon had it settled down.
Nobody ever got sick on it, even with the Australian Bight and it’s supposed to be rough but the boat was too big. We left Sydney on a Sunday morning, picked up another boat outside the [SS] Aquitania it had come from
New Zealand and it had Kiwis onboard and they joined the convoy. We went around to Fremantle and they explained to us that we couldn’t go ashore because the boat couldn’t tie up, it was too big. We accepted that, that was just bad luck. The other boats accepted the Aquitania
they could tie up, the Aquitania was anchored out like ours. The next morning all the tugs were coming out from Fremantle and taking the Kiwis ashore, and that caused some trouble. There was a lot of hot talk and that going on, so they decided to invade the officer’s quarters.
The chap in charge of the boat we said, “Why can the Kiwis get ashore and we can’t?” I was not for any positioning but where I was standing they all rushed up the stairs and I was right up the front pushed up by the ones from behind. When we got up to the officers’ quarters,
the deck above from where we were our colonel was there, when I saw him I pushed my shoulder back behind the other fellow and he couldn’t see me. Then another fellow with me he didn’t think of that because when the Colonel saw him he said, “What are you doing here?” He said, “The same as
the rest of them, for a bit of justice.” The blokes down below they had the officers beside them. The brigadier general was in charge of the boat a fellow by the name of Robinson, he was fairly well known later on he decided when we all went down to the mess to come down
and find out what the trouble was. So we did that and he came down, when we first started to talk some of them would be counting them out and others would be ‘Give him a go’, it was real chaotic. He said, “I’m a Western Australian,” and I don’t think he was,
“And I’m not ashore,” he said. “ Its just that there’s not enough boats,” And we said, “How are the Kiwis getting ashore?” And he said, “They have been at sea longer than us,” and it was a day longer. Next he said, “I’ll go ashore and see what I can do.” He knew that he couldn’t do anything, but him and a few of his mates
went ashore. The next morning we wake up and we were out at sea, they had taken us outside so there would be no more trouble. They put a notice up on the board ‘You will definitely get leave at our next port of call’, which was to be Colombo. We accepted that and
it was getting hotter every day and the Queen Mary wasn’t built for hot weather traveling, it was only for going across the Atlantic, but it was pretty hot in the cabins, they were very hot and steamy. I think I mentioned before that we got up one morning and the boat was heading the opposite
way, and it turned out that the Germans had invaded France, Belgium and Holland. They got a new prime minister in England and it was Winston Churchill, they didn’t know where the two convoys were, there were two on the water at the one time.
They said, “If the convoys haven’t reached Colombo, to turn around to Cape Town.” Then he got the OK from the Australian government afterwards. Later on you could see the big change when they tried to take us to Burma, the same prime minister.
We got down to Cape Town and we were going to get leave, but once again the boat was too big to tie up, and it was in Table Bay, and Table Bay was fairly rough. They decided to bring tugs out to take us to shore and
I think the infantry were the last to get ashore. The tug would come out and you had to go down to the bow of the Queen Mary to the door just above water line, and the two boats were rocking and it was rough. When the two becomes level someone had to jump from the Queen Mary onto the tug. I don’t know how many they got
ashore but it was quite a number, but the Captain stopped it and he said “ Its only a matter of time before somebody goes down between the two ships.” So we had no leave again. On top of that when the fellows came back from their leave, their day in Cape Town they didn’t mind jumping to go on leave but they objected to jumping back because it was the same thing,
so they put them on another boat and we thought ‘This is going to be nice, we are not going to get leave again’, and we still didn’t know where we were going we had theories of where we were going but nobody knew. During the night the boat moved off again and we went to a place called Simonstown its around the bottom of
Africa from Cape Town and it was a naval base and it was calm there, we got a days leave. We had to catch a train from Simonstown to Cape Town, by that time we had been three weeks on the water.
The first thing I saw when we got ashore was the rubbish cart, a big rubbish cart that was pulled by two horses and there were a couple of Kiwis on them and they were galloping around and the rubbish was flying everywhere, with a black rubbish man running behind and this was the sort of thing
that was going on all the time. When we got onto the train, somebody got to a siren on the train and they had the siren blowing and we thought it was a joke for a while but they had jammed it somehow and it blew all the way into Cape Town, for about twenty odd miles. They closed the pubs
the day we got ashore, after all the strife in the town they closed the pubs, and we had to go out to the suburbs to go and get a drink.
where they were but it wasn’t all fenced. Then on top of that you had what they used to call potty dodges, knocking off calves. The station I was on was called Saxby Downs, that was the last station on the mail run from a place called
Maxwell on the railway line and there were a few little selection further north, on our northern boundary. They were suspected quote rightly of knocking of the calves and cattle because they weren’t branded, and then they’d put their own brand on them.
The police came up with them, they drove them to where a bit of a bore drain had spread into a water hole and they were making a cup of tea and have a bit of breakfast or whatever. The police came up and they had the cattle there with them, they never caught them
doing anything, and they denied any knowledge of it, the cattle that they had wasn’t ours they said. They got a case that I know of, and this crowd strangely enough there were three of them partners on this selection and one of them was in my company
during the war. He enlisted and he was fairly well off because they were sending him his share of the money, he never used his army pay and that used to mount up and they used to send him his stare from this selection from selling the cattle. It was a much better life really on a cattle station only
you had to live on dried meat, you’d butcher a cow and cut it up and we only had a little butchers block out of a butcher shop and there was no such thing as refrigeration and they had gauges all around from about that high. You had to salt it and
you only had it every couple of weeks, you kill a cow or bull or bullock. Then we’d spend the morning cutting it up. One bloke was cutting it up and the rest of us were rubbing salt into it with that course salt and we used to have fresh meat for a couple of days then we were back onto the
salt meat. It was very hard and they used to have to soak if over night before they could cook it. It wasn’t the best, as I said there was no refrigeration and no electricity on this particular station, and it was a big one two hundred square miles. What we had was a charcoal
cooler, there was a wooden case with a door on it and then a wire netting from about six inches to a foot filled with charcoal and everybody that walked past used to have to pick up the hose, they had a hose there running off a big tank and keep that charcoal
moist, and that’s the way that we could keep things. But it wasn’t very effective but it was better than nothing at all. There was no butter, because we couldn’t keep it in that climate. It was about one hundred and thirty mile I think to Maxwell and it took all day to get there
in the mail run. Every time they came to a bore drain they had pounds of butter sown into hessian and you’d dip it into the bore drain and it would try and keep the butter reasonably. We had no milk, but normally you’d have a milking cow but they didn’t have one there.
You had potatoes but there was no such thing as fruit, we had potatoes, pumpkin and different things like that that they could keep, but any fresh stuff was just out of the question.
then you give them a sample of urine, but I don’t know what they did with it, they put it under a flame but I don’t know what was suppose to happen. The sugar content on mine must have been a bit high, he said “What did you have for breakfast?” And I said “A slice of fruitcake,” because I was on the train coming
up from Bowen, he said “That would account for it,” but my sugar content must have been high anyway even then because I’m a diabetic now but for years I have been above normal but not bad enough to be a diabetic but that’s only happened since I’ve gotten older.
When we went down to Redbank they had a stricter medical exam and some of them got turfed out from there, I don’t know for what reason. When we were at Ingleburn they had a little X-ray and some more went with that, particularly the
fellows from the mines because most of them had dust in their lungs. The chap that slept next to me he was one of them who was sent back. I knew about others but you just didn’t know what was wrong but they just sent them away. I know one fellow that was sent back just before we sailed, when we came into Tobruk he was over there in another unit
he’d gone back to Townsville and enlisted again, as I say there are other things like that. One fellow in my platoon had a glass eye, how on Earth he got in with a glass eye you would never know, but it must have been a pretty good one because until they told me there was something funny about his eyes but I never came to what it was.
When you had to put your hand over one eye, he’d memorize the thing so when he had to put his hand over with his good eye he really had the thing off pat, so that’s how he got in. When we were in Syria he went to hospital and he went into the British Army Hospital, probably a fever or something.
The doctor came around and looked at him and says “You are in the infantry?” And he said, “Yes,” he said, “How in hell did you get into the infantry with a glass eye? We will have to fix this up.” He said, “What do you do when you close one eye for fire a rifle?” He said, “I don’t carry a rifle
it was only a revolver:, he was a signaler. He was going to recommend that he get tested again, and they were going to send him home, but he didn’t want that. We moved from Ras Baalbek to Aleppo, he got out and came up in his pajamas with us.
He did one trip to New Guinea and a lot of the Tasmanians were kept back in Tasmania because they had malaria but it was the Queensland people that were sent back up again.
Initially we used to do what they called a squad drill and right turn and how to salute and things like that. Then they had us march in fours initially, then they changed it to
threes after about six months. Then we got our rifles, they were all WWI rifles, a lot of the equipment that we got was WWI that they had stored up. I think it was only prior to us that it went in first, later on they made new ones. On of the things that we got
was what they called a ‘housewife’, about that big and rolled up and it had needles and cottons and things in it, to do any repairs on your clothing. When you pulled the needles out and they were rusted through where it had gone through the material, but they were no good.
As the equipment that came through, the first we spend half the time sitting down waiting outside the stores to get the equipment. You’d go through one day and probably get a razor or something like that, or a hat. Another time you might get some under clothing.
They started us off with WWI stuff as I said, in those days a lot of the labouring class I suppose you’d say used to wear a bluey grey flannel shirt and no collar, they issued us with that but we never wore them, our generation never bother about those. I gave mine
to my father I was issued with two, because he wore them. At that stage we were at Redbank and basically it was very recruit stuff and then we went to Rutherford and they introduced us a bit further ahead we were using our rifles. Not so much too
do shooting, we only went on a rifle range once, which wasn’t really good for infantry men, with only one shoot on the rifle range. There should have been more training on that. Another thing we never learnt which we should of done, as far as casualties were concerned, how to pick up and carry a
man on your shoulder, we should of practiced that and we were never even told about it. From the first day we should have been taught for an infantry man should have been taught first aide, but it was never mentioned. When we got our rifles they each had a number on it and we were
in doubledecker bunks and I put mine down. I was on the top bunk, the fellow underneath he had been in the CMF at one stage, and we were hearing his knowledge of how to clean them and how to look after them, with two or three listening to him. He was cleaning my rifle, he got the wrong one, he was a bit peeved about that.
We did night training, maybe the start we went out marching around at night for a night march, but when we went to Ingleburn we had these fellows from the Instructional Corps and they started training us then the one we had we used to call him Beau Geste, I can’t ever remember his real name.
He used to be always saying, “With you blokes going away, they wont allow us to do it,” and he was always saying that. Somebody had written to the paper about who was in that wanted to joined and it was in the Sydney paper and there was no bar to them joining the AIF at all, and boy did he cop if after that.
Then we learnt bayonet training there, but that wasn’t done properly. You’d just run down and they had bags of straw on a frame and you ran and poked the bayonet into it, we should have been taught bayonet fighting with a person, but we weren’t. I thought that our training was very poor really, to fit us out with what we had to go through.
I could think of a lot of things that could have been done differently, and we should have been taught but we weren’t. They wasted time teaching us things that we weren’t going to use anyway. One of the things that they taught us was from WWI, a whole bunch of us marching up the road together in threes or fours, and then if an airplane came over they’d order ‘airplane
left or right’ or something, and you’d fire your rifle at an airplane. It might have been alright in WWI, in WWII they would of machine gunned the whole lot of us and you don’t have had a chance of doing anything to them. We saw that illustrated in England, they took us out and they were very concerned about using gas, we had to take a mask everywhere we went.
They took us out into an open paddock or a bit of open country the whole battalion and marching along and we knew what was going to happen. A plane came across and sprayed aniseed instead of gas, it was just aniseed. We used to have a gas cape rolled up on top of your haversack and gloves
to put your hands into. Before you could even get the haversack down the plane had gone, and we were covered with all of this aniseed. Just to see how different that was to have a whole bunch of you together marching along and ‘Aircraft right and aircraft left’, and all that nonsense. They were teaching us to shoot
left or right or things like that, but we never used it. There was a saying that was very true in many respects, ‘One day in action is worth about six months of training’, you either learnt a lot or you didn’t or you were a casualty. Then we went up in platoons to company training
and then we learnt village fighting at Campbelltown in New South Wales, and all of this was WWI things. We dug trenches and sat in the trenches at night, there was one instance there and it was rather humorous.
They’d have a listening post out in front of the trench, you took your turn there. A very unpopular bloke was there at night time and when he came back, he’d been relieved and he came back and we were all belting him with clumps of dirt from when we dug up the trench, and he was shouting out. The password
which was ‘Beef’, he was shouting “Beef you bastards, beef!” And we were all pelting him, he was a very unpopular fellow and he was a bugler. Of course we had to practice going on guard. When we were at Ingleburn and at six o’clock they’d pull the flag down,
which wasn’t the Australian flag incidentally it was the battalion flag the same as our colour patch. We had all this talk about the flag and never ever saw one or carried one at that stage. To get back to this fellow, it was his turn to go on as the company bugler, he cleaned the bugle up and polished it up
to get it ready. He went across to the toilet, well when he came back someone had jammed soap up inside the bugle. When the guard was changed and we were standing at attention at six o’clock and he was to blow the bugle his cheeks puffed out and he went red in the face and now a sound came out of the bugle.
I think the sergeant major in charge there he roasted him the poor old fellow, it wasn’t even his fault at all, he had cleaned his bugle. When he came back we were all watching this, when he came back into the hut he stood at the door and said “There are some funny bastards in this hut.”
Tell us about arriving in the UK?
We sailed up the Clyde River once we landed at Scotland. What was very impressive was the British navy they were escorting us in and there a dozen ships. As we anchored of a place called Gourock its now a suburb of Glasgow and all these British ships sailed past and
when we went past all the soldiers were lined up on deck and gave three cheers as they past our convoy, or passed each ship. We stayed there that night and the next morning we were up fairly early, a ferry boat called strangely enough Queen Mary too and it had painted on it, and transported
us back to the land to a suburb called Gourock. There was a railway station on the wharf there and en we birthed our band got off first, our band was playing tunes as we sailed up the river. They got off first and then the British Broadcasting Commission were there with banners
and things and the band was playing while they were talking about the first Australian troops arriving since WWI. The people in the nearby houses, before you knew where they were they were standing on the wharf and they came down with tea pots and cups of tea for us and we just had breakfast
and we really didn’t want anything with scones and things like that. I noticed their complexion, all milky skin with red cheeks, I’d never seen anyone like that before and they were all like that there. We caught the train and got on the train and we went down I can’t think of all the places, but we went through Glasgow
to get on the main line I suppose. We stopped at a place called Crewe, a long side of us was a hospital trained loaded up with the wounded from Dunkirk and it was just on the end and finishing at Dunkirk when we landed. The walking wounded were leaning out of the windows
talking to us and one of our fellows who was one of the most uneducated, rough character that you’d ever see he got up and he said “Speak English you bastards,” which I thought was rather strange since he was talking to Englishmen. He had the most uneducated voice that I’d ever heard. We had tea there
at Crewe then we waited for it to get dark, the train went on and on and on and it never got dark for the first time we were seeing this twilight, it was about eleven o’clock at night before the sun went down and it got dark and by two in the morning it was light again. We went down to a place called Salisbury, the buses were there to take us to our camp. It was the prettiest
placed you’d ever see, the grass was so green and there were some paddock with all hedges around them, and some paddocks were just bright red with poppers. They had some British troops there and they had a meal ready for us, when we arrived. He couldn’t get over how some of us went about our different way of doing things,
we called our officers by their Christian names, just talking like I’m talking to you. Of course they didn’t have that in the British army or they didn’t have it then. The informal way we went about doing things. One bloke said that he couldn’t get over it, he went past the century of the gate picking his fingernails with his bayonet.
He came up and blokes were walking around with no boots and no shoes or shocks on, they’d never seen anything like that. The weather wasn’t too bad, it was like a good winters day, of course it was mid summer there or close to mid summer in June. We settle in there and at night time we could go to Salisbury or Hanover a little village is called a wallop
there are about four with the same name, with upper and lower and nether and names like that. We were there because there was a big aerodrome at the camp area. We’d been there about a week to ten days and
we were all lined up for breakfast and then all of a sudden over the Brown hill came a plane because most blokes hadn’t seen much in the way of planes before, and they were waving to it. It had big black crosses on it, never fired at my company but they got too big of a shock seeing so many there. The machine gun then went right through the camp
machine gunning. There was battalion headquarters and the cook house and he machine gunned them and then he stopped then had one burst right in like was a marquee with about one hundred blokes in it having breakfast. Then he opened up again which was around some stores and headquarters and he
peppered them and then the next thing he was right in line with the other two battalions that were there and he wounded one man, out of all that machine gunning and three battalions he got one man and he was a Private Webb from the 2/10th Battalion, he was the first Australian wounded in enemy action in WWII in the army.
Before long they were out digging the bullets out of the ground for souvenirs, because you could follow where the bullets had gone by the blokes there digging in the ground. One chap who was on guard at the gate at the time, he came back and he knew it was a German plane and they were ribbing him a bit “Why didn’t you fire at it Lofty?” He was on guard again in front
of battalion headquarters and a plane came over, it was a British plane a Lysander, he didn’t know the difference of course and he started firing at it with his rifle, the major came charging out “What’s that man doing, take his ammunition off him?” he said.
Old Lofty goes up to him smartly and salutes and said “Sir, I’ve engaged the enemy.” He was ribbed that much that he went out and brought a pair of binoculars and he wouldn’t go out with them, so he could pick out the enemy planes he said, he was a bit of a character this bloke. He used to go down to the mess tent after this and he would take his rifle with him. One day one of the fellows said to him
“What are you bringing that rifle and bayonet for? Do you cut your meals with a bayonet?” he said, “I suppose if the German parachuters walked in the door, you’d engage with them with your knife and fork,” he was a real character and he survived the war too. They tipped him out into another unit before we went to New Guinea, they got rid of the blokes a bit old in their late 30s.
from Colombo to England. Then we were there for an anti invasion things, we used to have every day a company called The Flying Squad they called them you didn’t do anything else but even at night you had to have your rifle and bayonet and equipment on just in case the German parachuters come,
which they expected and particularly being near an aerodrome. We’d whistle and run out from where we were and climb into the back of trucks they whizzed us flat out down to the aerodrome. It amazed me that there weren’t accidents with the speed that they used to go. We went over to England once for a holiday
and I was showing the wife the roads “How with all the narrow roads all lined with hedges and how in the earth did we go through with the speeds that they did without hitting anything.” We were given thirty six hours leave in London because by that time about third of them had been anyway, and they’d gone AWL and gone up
and had a look around. All the blokes that came back they had them in the battalion jail, which was over crowded. So the king came out and they gave them all the kings’ pardon to get them out of the jail. He came out to see us, with a whole lot of different ones, Churchill came out, the head bloke in England
some General, they had to have a look at us, Duke of Gloucester came out once. We got this thirty six hours leave in London and we went in batches. They impressed on those going first if they don’t come back on time one of their mates will miss out on the next batch.
So the first batch came back, all back on time except on man and he was an officer. So they tipped him out and he was put under arrest in his tent, they didn’t put him in the battalion lockup, but he couldn’t go to the officers mess and his batman had to go and get his meals for him.
They formed another couple of infantry units there, people from our brigade and they got rid of him and it wasn’t long before he was in trouble there and he clobbered a Major in the mess. They sent him back to Australia and discharged him, with a dishonorable discharge. He was the only one
that never came back on time. When I went on, another chap and I we went too the Tower of London but we couldn’t get in, then we went back to Trafalgar Square I think, had a meal and I
stayed the night in a Canadian club in London and looked around, but that was about it for my day, because we had to go back the next morning and the next lot came on. There were problems with the blokes going AWL [Absent Without Leave] there all the time there, it was a big problem.
We eventually got to do in September maneuvers all the time, three and four days around the countryside. On one of them we went down towards Southhampton, on the second day we were sitting down while the officers were up ahead doing whatever they were doing. A farmer’s wife came out and said “Would any of you fellows like to have a drink of tea
while you are waiting?” and we said “Yeah.” She took us into the farm and we went past a big barn, she said, “My husbands got big barrels of cider,” because it was apple country where we were, “Would any of you fellows rather have a drink of cider?” We said “Oh yeah, we will have the cider.” We sat down there and we were there for the rest of the afternoon,
the others had gone and we didn’t know where they’d gone. We all sat there drinking this cider and we sleep on the side somewhere that night and caught up with them the next morning we had to keep asking people if they’d seen any Australian soldiers around. We get back and they’d just about finished and we joined them again, I think there were about six of us.
When it was over they came and thanked us that they hadn’t fallen out along the way, we were still there we only missed the night and the afternoon the day before. There was another incidence on these maneuvers. They used to have umpires going around, they’d say ‘You can’t do this’ or ‘This had been captured’ and all of that sorts of thing. They came to a bridge
over a creek, the umpire said “You can’t use this bridge because it has been destroyed by enemy action, you have got to cross at the creek,” so the company commander gets in the creek and wades across, the rest of us were standing on the other side and he said “Come on.” A couple
of the sergeants and NCOs [Non-Commissioned Officers] went across the rest of us wouldn’t go, the captain in charge said “You can’t go across that bridge because you have got to imagine that its been destroyed,” one of the fellows said “If we can imagine it has been destroyed then you can imagine that we walked across the creek,” and we all trooped over the bridge. A lot of these light hearted sort of things happened.
Then they gave us six days leave. I went on mine and I went up to London as I say that night with that family we met a couple of girls and we had dinner up near Hyde Park. We went across to the Miter Inn [?] which was on the corner of Hyde Park.
We sit down and there was the two girls and my mate and I, sat down and had a quiet drink and all of a sudden the lights went out and an air raid siren went and the first bombs dropped all at the one time. The girls wanted to go home we said “You’d be safer in the park,”
because there’s no use them bombing a park so we went across the road to Hyde Park and sat down and of course by this time it was night and all of a sudden some planes went over and not far from us was a great clump of trees and an anti aircraft gun in the middle of it, we nearly jumped out of our skin when they fired it.
We took the girls home, I went to different places and I was coming back and they dropped bombs or a bomb on a big stone building and it was all built up like in London. I heard this bomb come down and
I got down and I was pushed down into this gutter and it hit that building but it was at the back of it. I finished up taking her home and I was going to walk back and I was going to meet a mate at Trafalgar Square, I said I’d see him there. I was walking down whistling and a came up to a company air raid shelter and there was air raid wardens outside and I always remember this, this fellow said
“The only person walking down the street with an air raid siren going on whistling had to be an Australian,” anyway I continued on my way and I got to Trafalgar Square and met my friend. We slept what was left of the night because it was about two or three in the morning by now, we slept in this air raid shelter. They bombed all night
because we could hear the planes going over and dropping their bombs. The noise of the bombs and the anti aircraft going up they had fires going everywhere, they were using cinder’s on them. That was early in September 1940 that was. They tell me what happened was
this is a little bit of history, what they were doing was the Germans were bombing the airfields and radar installations and things like that. They just about had the RAF [Royal Air Force] on their knees they didn’t much in the way of sleep they were up all the time, they were just sitting in armchairs near their planes waiting for the orders to take off.
They were getting a bit low down on pilots because they had been shot down. One German plane that had been over got lost, and he’s coming back and he’s crossing London to try and get back to Germany or France and he emptied his bombs out on London.
Immediately there was a big out cry from them bombing the civilians and people were saying that they had to bomb Berlin because if London’s going to get it, but they didn’t know then that it was only an accident. The RAF went over and bombed Berlin that night and Hitler got mad then and decided to bomb London by given it a real bombing
and took them off bombing the airfields and the radar installations and military points like that they were trying the pin point them. They got a spell, once they stopped their daylight bombs and shifted to night.
There was an air raid shelter or the aerodrome near us and they hit an air raid shelter and they killed about thirty five people in it and that was on Wallop Aerodrome. That was my leave there.
As the time went on it never looked like there was going to be an invasion in England, also I got sick of England with the climate and so forth. We were all looking forward to going to the Middle East and that took us six weeks too, from England to the Middle East.
The first stop was Sierra Leone, there
had been an attempt to land troops at a place called Dakar just before hand it was a French place that the British wanted to take. There was the boats that were damaged in the fighting there, they were being fixed up at Sierra Leone. They didn’t have us in Cape Town on our way back we landed at Durban instead.
They were much better behaved this time. I got leave in Durban and I went up to a nearby town about fifty miles away, Pietermaritzburg, and went to the races up there. The South Africans at that time
they had a real good way of hitchhiking because all the vehicles the letter of the town and the letter of their province on their number. They told me about this when I had to go back from Pietermaritzburg back to Durban, always look for PN [Pietermaritzburg Natal], they are local ones, and DN that’s Durban Natal they are going down to Durban and you can flag them.
I went down and I got the day at the races and then I went home. I went to a night club and I met one of our officers in there and he said he was going to find this big party at the night club so he took me along with him. It was pretty late when I got back on the boat, my leave pass had expired hours before and the guard who
was on top of the boat the gangway, he said to me about my time on my pass had expired. This officer said, “Oh, he’s with me anyway,” so it was all right, I never got booked for that. Incidentally I was telling you about the Queen Mary at Cape Town
and I had an extra day or a couple of days there, when I came back my face was all swollen up because I’d been in a fight, and there was an epidemic of mumps on the boat at that time. They had concert halls and hospitals all filled up with men with mumps. The sergeant major saw me as I was coming back onto the boat
and said “Let me have a look at that face of yours?” I turned around and he said, “You’ve got mumps you have to go to hospital,” so I was put into hospital then for mumps but I never had them, I wasn’t sick or anything. I was in bed and I saw one our sergeants coming up one end of
the ward with a note pad taking names, I reckoned he was looking for people who had been AWL. So I promptly went to sleep and he came down to my bed and I heard him say to one of the sisters, “Is this one of my men?” She said “Don’t disturb him he’s very sick,” but I wasn’t sick at all and I never got fined, he didn’t take my name.
Getting back to the Middle East. We came up to Christmas Day and it was on the Red Sea and they gave us a good Christmas dinner on the boat, with a tiny English bottle of beer each. Then we got to Suez and we stayed the night in Suez the whole convoy, these ships could go up the Suez Canal
but the Queen Mary couldn’t. It was quite an experience to go through that canal. Where the canal has been dug, its not very wide at all and you can talk to the people on the ground and you are way up in the air. Its strange you can see all the ships in the convoy and there’s all this desert, there’s just desert all around.
There were Australian soldiers camped in that area somewhere, someone sung out to us “When did you leave Australia?” And we said, “Last May,” and someone said, “They are the bludgers from England.” The others were a bit sore about the trip we got out of it because they never got it.
It was New Years Eve when we eventually got to our camp. We had to go in cattle trucks from Alexandra to the camp because all the rolling stop was taking the last of the 6th Division up toward Bardia to there where they were going to fight. We had a few months there in Alexandria
or just outside Alex. We could go in there pretty much when we wanted on weekends when we weren’t on duty. When they brought the 6th Division back from Libya to go to Greece the town was full of them, they had all gone into town, they had trucks taking the men in and they were hitchhiking back
in. We had some re-enforcements come to us, they hadn’t been into Egypt before so we all got in the back of a big vehicle with big high sides on it, we all climbed into the back of this and we promised him so much if he got us past the road block, the provosts [military police] had a road block.
Sure enough he was pulled up there and I don’t know what was said and the next minute he said “Come on, all of you guys out, you don’t have a leave pass all of you guys out,” they had all these fellows that were with me, they all had to climb out plus others as well. I showed them my leave pass, it was an out of date one but they never read it.
I was left on and there was another fellow who had just come back from Libya, we were the only two left on and he had a leave pass. Going into Alexandria from the desert side there is a huge swamp, the road only goes through the swamp and he stopped and wanted his money, we had no intention of paying
him, it was only a few pesos if there was a body, when there was only two of us it meant a lot of money. This other chap I was thinking of tossing him into the swamp and driving into Alexandria ourselves. He pulled his note book out of his pocket and he goes up to the driver and he says, “I want to see your permit to carry passengers?”
because he never had one. He said, “Driver, you will drive us up to the gendarmes post and we will hand you into them.” And he said, “No don’t do that.” He ended up charging him for so much and I’ve forgotten what it was now, probably half of an Egyptian pound of something, to pay us for allowing him to get through
and not go to the gendarmes post. One of the fellows was pulled off, he wasn’t going to be beaten. He walked some distance away from the post and he waded through that swamp and I saw him in a street at Alexandria afterwards covered in mud and everything. So I took him up to a hotel where he could get cleaned up.
I can’t think of any. We used to go to the cabarets too, they’d come up and want you to buy them a drink, and they’d have cold tea and they reckoned it was scotch. We would wake up to that because we had some old diggers from WWI there and they told us all these lurks that were going on, so we never fell for them. It was a terribly depraved sort of place Egypt.
Then we get to the stage where we were waiting to take our turn to go to Greece, and as I said we finished up on the boat. We had two of the most uncomfortable nights on it, once it was tied up at the wharf there was nowhere to sleep, you had to sleep standing up or sitting down.
We were packed in there like sardines on it. A lot of the boats were taking the troops across to Greece at that stage. We brought a paper the next day in Egypt and it had that the British were retreating from Benghazi. We reckoned that’s where we were going, and it was right.
It was fairly rough, it was the roughest seas I saw the whole time I was in the army. It was in an inland sea of the Mediterranean, it was terribly rough. The conditions on the boat were frightful. We were all packed up on the top, the heads area was down quite a few
steps down and that was swimming with water that had washed over the side. There was vomit and faces and that swishing around the decks. After we got off in Tobruk, our army nurses got on, what an awful boat to have to go back on. They evacuated them out before the Germans got there the nurses,
they only had male nurses in Tobruk. As we went into the heads that morning, into the harbour and it was a beautiful harbour there was a dead body floating around and it was an airman, I didn’t know what side he was on, he had a flying suit on like overalls. Whether it was British or Italian we don’t know
or German, so that was a great sort of a welcome to get when we came in. They had the whole brigade of troops, us three battalions sitting on the wharf in Tobruk waiting, nobody knew what to do with us. We sat down with them for about one hour and a half it would have been a massacre if the German planes would of come over, but they were too
busy strafing those that were retreating back. Eventually we got moving, and my platoon led the brigade up and we went out as far as an outpost on the Bardia Road and we stayed there the night, we dug trenches and stayed there the night. All the time the traffic was going through bumper
to bumper, mostly British troops and they were getting out. I can still hear them singing out “The Germans are coming and there’s thousands of them,” but there wasn’t that many. We gradually got moved down and back towards the town area as they sorted the troops out.
The Germans attacked first when they came down, up until then they’d just gone in and people were blown through with their tanks and that but it didn’t happen, when they struck Australians. They waited a bit until we got organised a bit, and they made another attempt to get in and we were dug out,
it was dark and we were going to make a counter attack at night, but the Germans were driven out, they never really broken through. Then the third attempt they made to get in, we were involved in that and that was our first action, they took about two thousand yards of the front line and all the high ground.
The Australians had blokes that were lying behind bits of stones and that to start with to hold them back. We went up to counter attack that night, and we made another attack afterwards onto us, that was a couple of weeks later. After that they never made anymore attempts to get into Tobruk because the Germans
high command stopped them because of the high casualty rate and that they were suffering and of course they were getting ready to go into Russia.
country, we had little trenches about that deep, because it was on solid rock, and we had it built up with sand bags. I was laying there in a little trench, that just held your body and at the back there was a crawl trench to get from one to the other, it was nothing like the trenches in WWI.
The night that they attacked us they started about one or two in the morning, I was just in my own little one and I could of sworn I was the only one left alive and they were dropping them all around us, the ground was sort of heaving up and down with the thing. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation but I was pleased when they stopped.
In the one I was in there wasn’t one man injured. In one of the other trenches it had some casualties but it just goes to show there were craters all around us. An air raid they had put on before this, there was an old pine hut and it used to have ammunition in it when the Italians had it, and we thought that this was a good place
to be, when we arrived in the area. There were our vehicles parked around it too, the Germans decided that they would hit that particular area, but they reckoned that troops were there somewhere. They were reading to us what was happening up to date, and the platoon was there.
Just as he’d finished he said there’d be more troops landing at Tripoli and they expected them to be down at the frontline area in a day or so. As he walked out, this was our platoon commander, and as he walked out he says, “They are here,” and they dived bombed the area that I was in, and there was about thirty of us there.
Once again the ground was heaving and up and down, that’s what it felt like with the sound waves going through. I had a tin with tea in it in my hand and I laid on the ground and I had my tea in my hand and I thought that the bombing and the machine gunning had gone on for hours, and they kept dropping
bombs all around us and they were machine gunning. When it was over there wasn’t one man in that hut that was injured and when I looked outside you could see the shell holes where the bombs had landed all around it. We were the target but they never put one right on it, and from that time on they had to get an almost direct hit on you but they never worried much about that after that.
When it finished, or while it was still going I lifted my head up to have a look around and there was all smoke and dust in the air and you could hardly see anything. While I was looking there was a piece of shrapnel went through the board on the outside of the hut, and it came through and a dozen pieces of shrapnel went through and I saw this hole appear. When it finished I went
to have my drink of tea and it was still hot, and I thought that we’d been there for hours and it seemed like a long time and I don’t know how long it was and there was quite a number of planes in that attack. They did get some of the other fellows in the other two platoons of the company, and in the battalion. One sergeant was at battalion headquarters he knows the son
who stuck their head up to have a look around and he put his head up to tell him to get down and a bomb landed and took his head off. We must have had about one dozen casualties I suppose out of the hundred at that time, two of them when the attack started they climbed under a vehicle, and it had a steel floor and the cannon shell went through the floor,
through the axel part into one blokes head and killed him. There were two that were killed, you’d think it was safe climbing under a truck, but not with modern weaponry.
We didn’t enjoy it. One of our fellows found a cave, it was a cabin really not a cave and it had an opening in the top, it wasn’t like a cave with an entrance in the side, this had an entrance in the top, and I think they call them systems. He found one of them and we lived in there for the rest of the time that we were in that area. The air raids didn’t worry us then because
they had to have a direct hit to get into where we were. If you got a direct hit you didn’t know anything about it anyway. I wasn’t particularly frightened, apprehensive probably. Not like the first night we attacked, I was frightened that night. I better tell you this one because something very unusual happened to me there.
We were doing a counter attack and we were taking back some of the positions that the Germans had taken and it was night time which was a mistake to have an attack at night, really experienced troops and we weren’t then even though we had been in the army a long time. We started of, first of all we were going to our wadi [valley, depression], on top of the
escarpment, they were dropping shells in the wadi, they saw us coming because they got the high ground. We were stopped there for a little waiting for another company to come through who had gone up the wrong wadi, and they were dropping shells in the wadi we were in. We were resting against the side of the wadi closest
to the Germans because the shells came over the top and they can’t come straight down like that, that’s something that you learnt quick. At night one of our blokes was laying there and we used to call them ‘elephant guns’ but they were anti tank rifles and he had that with him and they are pretty heavy. A shell landed right along side of him and never exploded because it was a dud shell, so he picked that elephant up in one hand
and he handed across to our side of the wadi. Then we went up to wadi and came to the start line and it had been pegged out for us and we were all lined up on it. As we were going along I saw some colored lights drifting past, and then I heard the noise, it was a machine gun firing and the colored lights was their tracer bullets,
there was one in ten that was a tracer bullet so I could see where it was going, so they drifted one past us. I looked back and there was another company coming behind us, about one hundred yards behind and when our artillery was firing it literally lit the skyline up and you could see them as plain as anything and I thought to myself ‘Now I can see them, so the Germans can see us’.
We got to a point and we were catching up to our own artillery so we had to go to ground, and we were laying there and they starting dropping them among us, mortars, shells, machine gun bullets. We were laying flat on the ground and I lifted my head up to have
a look around, and one of the mortar shells must of got just to the point of exploding just as I raised my head up it was just in front of me, and I saw the shape but it was a broken shape just before it blew apart like that. I’ve never heard of anyone ever seeing that. I saw the exact shape of it, and it was red hot, that was so you could see it at night, and it was only there for a second and then just went.
I got the blast from the explosion, and my mate along side of me he was killed with it, he got a big piece of shrapnel in his back.
sheet, because we had ground sheets with us, and try and pick him up with our rifles, his rifle and my rifle, but as soon as you moved him he would scream out, and they’d open up again, and we had to lay there until he had quietened down and we did that three times. What we should of done was to have be conversant and put them over your shoulder with their heads down one side
and their legs down the other, we should have been taught that so that you did it automatically, but we didn’t think about it. He was conscious, and the platoon commander said, “We will go back and get the stretcher party to come up and get him out,” but his spine had been cut,
by that time when we saw him he couldn’t feel his legs, he was gradually dying from the feet up sort of thing, because the spinal cord had been cut by the shrapnel. While the platoon commander was making up his mind what to do, it was starting to break day, the darkness was disappearing, I said “If we don’t get out soon, we are going to be shot or captured,”
and he said “Yes, we will go back and get a couple of stretcher bearers to come and get him out.” So I told him what was happening and a chap by the name of Painter from South Australia, he hadn’t been with us very long and he was a young bloke and he would have been only about nineteen or twenty I suppose, a very big bloke.
I don’t think I could of carried him on my shoulder because he was such a big bloke and I wasn’t particularly big in those days and not now for that matter. We got out and went back to where the battalion was forming up again and the platoon commander went up to the doctor, they were just packing up the RAP [Regimental Aid Post], and the attack
had been called off, we told him about this fellow and he said, “look, I’m not going to lose two stretcher bearers, to try and get him out because he’s going to die anyway,” but when I left him I told him we were going to get stretcher bears for him. I stuck his rifle in the ground, with the bayonet pushed into the sand, the Germans could see him, if
we didn’t get there, and I put his water bottle in his hand and I said, “We will soon get you out.” In the meantime too, two other fellows from the platoon they’d gone back and got stretcher bearers from another battalion which was along side of us and they came out to get him and it was just on daylight when they were there. They got him onto the stretcher
and there was four of them to carry him, one a each handle. One of the fellows bent down to say something to him and Painter said “good on you Tex, I knew you would come back,” he didn’t recognize it wasn’t me, I always felt bad about that ever since. When they got him back he was dead on the stretcher.
when we came out of the front line after we’d been there about six weeks and they were short in the signals platoon. What they wanted was men to fix the telephone lines up. They took two from each company and I went from the company I was in C Company and we had a weeks training
when we were out of the front line and then we were signalers then, they only used us to repair the telephone line. They were always going out because there are no trees in Tobruk, so you have to run along the ground the telephone lines and a tank or a carrier
or all track vehicles and they would go over the top of it and rip about one hundred yards of it away. You were always responsible for your own telephone lines from battalion headquarters to the companies also to the battalion on your left, you had to maintain the line to the battalion to your left, and the one on the right they maintained it to us. One night we went out and it was near to the
2/10th and they were on our left we went along and the break was right near the company headquarters and it was near a wadi, that’s where there sig office was. To stop the tanks and that from running through it, they ran it across the top of the wadi to the line, that’s where the shells had blown it apart.
We sat there and repaired it and we contacted the 2/10th and the 2/12th with the telephone that we carried with us and repaired it and just as we were leaving, the Germans could see us and we got half way down the wadi they fired on us and they all landed right across the top.
Eventually you never noticed the shells firing, they tried shelling you but the chance of them hitting you was pretty remote, its a wonder they don’t aim at you. That’s what we did in Tobruk was repairing the telephone lines. When we came out we were trained and we did other training
as signalers too. The 9th Division headquarters had a sigs school, because the sigs weren’t doing signal work and in all of the battalions they were mainly doing repairing of the telephone lines they ran this school and they’d take one from each battalion that
was in Tobruk and they’d have a weeks school learning all about signaling. It came to my turn, we had gone back up in the front line, they sent me down. When I went to this school it was in a hole in the ground a big cabin and we slept there and ate there and had our classroom there.
I thought that it was funny that there wasn’t anybody from the 2/9th or the 2/10th there was only one from my brigade, but I never thought anymore about it. The pioneer battalion was up there, our pioneer battalion and one of the fellows called in to see his mate who was at this school, he said, “We are back up in the front line again,” he said,
“Where?” He said, “Up in the (UNCLEAR),” I said “That can’t be right we are up there and we’ve only been there a couple of weeks,” he said, “Oh, that’s what they tell us.” The next day the school had finished. We were waiting for vehicles to come pick us up and take us back to our unit. One fellow came down the ladder into the cabin and he said to us “Did you hear the latest?”
He said, “No, what was it?” And he said, “the 18th Brigade had been taken out of Tobruk.” I thought that can’t be right, I said so and he said, “ Its right alright. I was down at the wharf and the 2/9th Battalion went out last night that’s how I knew.” When I got back we were going out that night.
Our sig sergeant was there in the truck and we had the driver and a fellow in a Polish uniform and he was a Pole he was relieving in the 18th Brigade and the two sergeants went away for something and I said, “What’s the latest news?” And he said, “There’s some talk about us going out, after we do another attack on the (UNCLEAR),” “That figures,” I said.
When we got back to where we were camped and my mate came over with a big smile from ear to ear so I knew we weren’t going to do an attack that night.
they all were so happy that they were getting out they all were singing, by this time the rest of the troops knew that they were going out. We had to assemble on a sunken ship that was there, an Italian ship that had been beat, we had to climb up the sides and then assemble on the deck of this boat.
The destroyer came in and they had to be very quick and there was a British naval fellow and he was going to explain to us what was going to happen and it was well organised and they were going to be there for twenty minutes only. In that time at one end of the ship the re-enforcements were getting off and we were going on the other end and in the middle they were unloading ammunition and supplies,
and it all had to be done in twenty minutes, and it was really well organised. The destroyer came in and pulled up, just like a car pulling up. They ran a gangplank across and as we got onto the boat they were point to us which way to go and we went and they were directing us
and we finished up down the crew quarters, and that was very good. They supplied cakes and drinks out of their own pockets. They offered us cigarettes but we didn’t need them. It was exactly twenty minutes and away we went and as we were leaving the harbour the last we saw of Tobruk was
bombs bursting into the place and the ack-ack [anti aircraft] guns firing away and bombing. The German dive bombers us to come down to us very low, and we used to say that the Italians used to dive bomb from five thousand to six thousand feet, they were actually worse than the Germans because we didn’t know where their bombs were going to go, when the Stukas were attacking
and you weren’t in the target area you could sit there and watch it which we did. As I say you couldn’t sit and watch the Italian ones, you didn’t know where they were going to land and I don’t think the Italians knew either. The next morning we got up and a German plane flew over as we were going down in the morning, that was all we saw.
We got into Alex about midday and got off the boat and there were trucks waiting to whisk us off to camp. Where we had a midday meal and it tasted really great after bully beef after five and a half months and to get real fresh meat and there was bread, we hadn’t tasted bread in that time.
We were all given two bottles of beer each, we thought that we were in heaven. There was a canteen there and a lot of them went up and bought beer at the canteen. What they hadn’t allowed for was our stomachs had shrunk, after all those months with hardly any food, our stomachs had shrunk and they couldn’t drink the beer because there wasn’t any room for it,
because it had shrunken and of course we had plenty of food that day. We stayed there overnight and in the morning we went down to the railway line at a place called Anne Maria [Sidi Gaber], the station Anne Maria and we got on the train and we sat and sat and sat. They’d ordered the trains, and there were carriages there but no engines,
we were there for about two or three hours waiting for them to bring an engine up they had forgotten the engine. It was quite a delightful trip through the Nile Delta, we got off the train at a place called Ismailia, which is in Egypt on the Egyptian side of the Canal.
Then we cross the canal in ferries and we stayed overnight on the Palestine side at staging camps, then caught another train that took us to a place in Palestine called Beit Jirja,
we stayed there overnight. We had a few weeks at a place called Kilo 89, that night we were at Beit Jirja and went to the pictures and they had movies there and that was something we hadn’t seen for a while. The next morning we
were getting into trucks to take us to our camp to Kilo 89. Our sergeant major of headquarters company gets up on the back of the truck lecturing us on looking after our rifles, its a crime if you lose your rifle or the bolt out of your rifle because the wogs would pinch it, get ready for the war after, there war with the Jews.
So he gave us this great lecture on what was going to happen to us if we lose it, then he bent down to pick up his rifle and it wasn’t there, instead of saying nothing he said “What man in headquarter company has two rifles?” we all knew that he had lost his because someone had pinched his, it wasn’t any of us but it probably was somebody in Beit Jirja camp.
After he lectured us later on we were on parade and they’d all sing out, “Who’s the only man at headquarters company whose lost his rifle?” We spent about two or three weeks at Kilo 89, we had no officer
because he’d been captured, so we had it pretty easy. It was among the orange groves, beautiful oranges, Jaffa oranges they grew there. The sergeant just used to march us into the orange grove area and we’d just lay there and talk and eat oranges and then we’d go to the movies in the afternoon it was really good.
From there we went to Syria, it was a British vehicle, British driver that took us over. We started off and we were all packed in the back covered up in the back of the trucks and they had a big canopy over the top of the frame work. Somebody worked out
that in between the ribs would make a great bed, there used to be about eight of us on top, so that’s where we went. We got on top and we had a bird’s eye view of the countryside as we went up. We went through these collective farms which the Israelis were having at the time,
they lined the road and cheered us as we went pass. Then we got to a place called Afrah where we stayed the night. The next morning we’d get up and we took our places on the top, there was a British Major who was in charge of this convoy and ours was the first truck out there
and he looked up and saw eight of us sitting up on top and he bellowed out, “Men get down from there!” We ignored him and told him what he could do with himself. I’ve never seen a man dance with rage until then and he did and his hands like this and he was jumping up and down with rage, every vehicle that went past they all had men on top. The next night we stayed at
Damascus, on the airstrip at Damascus and it was drizzling rain. My special friend we thoughts we’d get out of the rain and we got underneath the truck we laid down there and went to sleep in our blankets. During the night, there’d been a disturbance because some of them had gone into Damascus, they had to use the trucks
to bring them out again. They didn’t know we were underneath. In the morning I wake up and look around and there’s no truck in sight so I shook my mate and said, “Where has our truck gone?” And he nearly had a fit. We hadn’t woken up during the night, we were just lucky we were laying parallel with the truck instead of across it, and it was certainly a shock to
see no truck there in the morning. That day we went from Damascus which was on the out skirts and quite scenic and the road ran along side a little river. We finished up at a place called Ras Baalbek which was a village. I got a knew job there as a dispatch rider and
with another fellow there and the two of us were dispatch riders. One afternoon our corporal came along and said, “Are you using your bike this afternoon?” And I said, “No,” he said, “Do you mind if I use it to go into Baalbek?” Its about twenty six miles away, we’d been through the town. I said, “Oh no
I don’t mind.” Then later in the afternoon a friend of mine came along and said, “Some of us are going into Baalbek do you want to come along?” I said, “I can’t be bothered.” He said, “Come on you can get a decent meal there.” We went into Baalbek in a truck, we had a good meal there and then we went down to a cabaret place it was on the road out. While I was standing there
at the doorway a British red cap or military police fellow said to me, “Have you got transport back to your camp?” I said, “We are going to get a lift.” He said “You wont get a lift tonight you’ve got to tramp on it.” I said, “Gee, that’s going to be nice.” He said, ” How far do you have to go?” “Baalbek.” He said, “Look how many of you are there?”
And I think there were only about five or six of us. Incidentally before that there was another bunch of blokes from the 6th Platoon and they hadn’t even been to a meal by this time. He said, “I’ll tell you what, I’ve got to go out to one of our road blocks
which is stopping military transport, I’ve got to take their coffee out to them, if you haven’t got a lift nine o’clock I will take you out that far and it can help you on your way.” I said, “Thanks.” So I told the others about it and they were saying, “Oh, he’ll book us for sure,” and I said “I don’t think he will,” I said, “We don’t have much of an alternative.” Nine o’clock came around and this chap came back
and said “Are you going to hop on?” and I said “Yes,” he had a ute and he had an Australian provost driving it and we looked daggers at him because we knew that we were AWL. He took us out the six miles out to the road block he said, “Hang on while they are drinking their coffee wait I’ll take you down the road a bit more.” So he took us another few miles down the road and dropped us off.
We had some bottles of beer so we gave him some. We walked and walked and then a wog came along with a dray and we got on the dray and it took us back near to the village. The next morning we got up and the other half a dozen hadn’t gotten back, while we were having breakfast we saw them tramping in, they’d
walked every inch. I said to one of them “Why didn’t you wait until daylight and get a lift back,” he said “We tried that but it was too cold,” by this time it was getting into the cold weather. We came to Ras Baalbek and that was to be a second line of defence if the Germans came through Turkey. Then we went up to the first line of defence
at Aleppo our battalion was spread along the Euphrates River which is the boundary between Syria and Turkey in that area. They have guarded bridges that they were going to blow up if the Germans come through. It snowed while we were there, the Queensland people
aren’t used to snow, it was even the first time that we’d even seen it fallen, but the Tasmanians were used to it. We built a big snowman out in front of the Sig office and they’d dress up like the colonel who objected to it. The next morning they made us knock it down and it go frozen overnight and we had to use picks to get rid of it. It was terribly cold there and I
was a dispatch rider. When I used to go out I used to go to the brigade headquarters and it would be about sixty miles and another one was about twenty or closer in. I’d drive along with two pair of gloves on with one hand wrapped around the cylinder of the motor bike and steering it with the other, then I’d change hands every now and again, it was terribly cold.
When we got to brigade headquarters at Aleppo, all the dispatch riders had to be there by a certain time. There was even a British unit there under the command of the Australian 18th Brigade. When you get off the bike you’d walked crouched just like you were on the motorbike,
you were frozen. They had a big fire roaring at brigade headquarters, we’d go and stand near this fire to thaw out, its painful thawing out but we still did it and then got on the road to go back. It wasn’t so bad going back because the sun was coming up. It was a dry cold.
We were still there when Japan came into the war. I got six days leave in Jerusalem in that time, it took three days to get from Aleppo to Jerusalem there were all the fellows going on leave from all the different units. It snowed in Jerusalem the first night we were there. The last time it snowed was
in 1918 and this was the beginning of 1942 and they said what a good omen the war might finish soon, but it had a long way to go. When we got up in the morning, the Australians were on one side of the road and the wogs were on the other, and we were having snowball fights. The Australian nurses were mixed up in with it too, they were pelting snowballs around.
The British and Kiwis were looking at us if we were silly, because they were used to it but we weren’t. The snow fight went on for quite a while until it got a bit serious because someone discovered if you put a stone in the middle of a snowball it goes better. We got on top of the buildings, if you roll a snowball and keep it on
a flat surface it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and we used to drop it over the side. Our boots got wet through and when we came back to the hotel where we were staying, we’d put them in front of the fire and they shrunk, the leather had shrunk from the heat and I was hobbling around for the rest of the time that I was on leave, for the other four days that I was on leave. It was very good there and it was run by the Red Cross
and it never cost anything, we got three meals a day and accommodation, the only money we needed was what we wanted to spend ourselves. We just got back and we had to pack up and we were going to be relieved by the Australian 9th Division, and we were going back to Palestine. We’d moved into our new camp
in that area called Ragu and we had a certain number of mission huts there. When the relieving force was suppose to be there at daylight but it had been delayed it was our 2/17th Battalion the AIF were going to relieve us. When we went to bed that night
somebody said, “Everybody get on one side and leave room on the other side for the others to come in,” but it was snowing outside. We all did that and when we woke up in the morning the other side was empty and they were sleeping out in the snow, nobody had told them that half of a hut was available for them, they were laying out there with snow all around them. Nobody seemed to get a cold
or anything like that. Christmas Eve I was still there we had a big party at Aleppo and caught a truck back to camp and we got the Sig office and they were having a big party. I went to sleep eventually but one of those sigs and he was only a young bloke too.
He went outside to relieve himself and went to sleep, he slept outside in the snow all night and never even got a cold out of it, there must be some special quality in the snow that the others haven’t go, and nobody ever got a cold that I know of. That was another three day trip and we came down to Aleppo the first day
and on the second day we went down to Tripoli and we got there too early. The two dispatch riders we rode up behind the colonel’s car that was ahead so if he wanted to send messages back which we did occasionally. It was a twenty mile an hour convoy
to be on a motorbike and he kept going to sleep all the time and his bike would start wobbling and it would wake him up. We pulled up on the outskirts of Tripoli, and children came out like children do when there are soldiers, these were Arab children. One of them ran out onto the road and a car was coming the other way, Australian, and they were stationed at Tripoli and they came out of Tripoli
and they hit this girl and threw her body right up into the air, they never stopped. Our doctor was up near the front of our convoy and he went and had a look and shook his head because she was as dead as a door nail. We got into Tripoli and stayed in barracks overnight and the next morning we were just
lined up to go and I looked down and I had a flat tyre. The transport officer said to put your bike on the back of one of the LAD [Light Aid Detatchment] trucks and we will get it fixed at lunchtime so I did. A storm came up, and the road went right along side the Mediterranean, the waves were washing across and all the motorbikes were conked out
with the magneto that they had in the bikes those days was all wet, and they had to dry them out before they could get moving. My motorbike was safe in the back of the LAD truck. We got down to some place, I think it might be Afrah and then we finished up at the Australian camp at Palestine the next day,
we were there at a place called Jewel and we were there for a few days. I went to hospital so I didn’t go with the battalion because they left and went to Suez and caught a boat home.
I had to go into a staging area where they were collecting blokes that were coming back from schools or AWL or hospitals and when they got a boat load they would send them home. We got down to Suez and we were there for about one week waiting for a boat, one went out and we just missed going on it. We went down to board the boat and
the ship’s officer that was attending to us, there were two blokes ahead of men and he put his arm across them and said “That’s the lot,” so I had to wait there with others for about another week and catch the next boat back. We came back across the Indian Ocean without any escort or anything, we were on a New Zealand chilled meat boat that’s what it did
during peace time and it was called the Melbourne Star that was the name of it and its still gone after the war because I saw it tied up at the wharfs here a couple of times. We eventually got going and we didn’t know where we were going when we left. There were all sorts of rumours about but nobody seemed to know where the battalion
or the brigade was. There was a magazine called Pix in those days and there was a double spread of it with a map of the world and somebody had pasted it up on one of the walls on the ship. People would come out and look at the sun in the sky and they’d move their finger along where they thought we were going,
and by doing that they wore the paper right through and follow our track with the boat coming back. After we left Aden we stayed there a couple of nights there in Aden but we never got ashore, after that we went down South East
towards Australia. One day a plane flew over and I was up on deck and saw that it was a RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] plane, it was out patrolling the skies over North Australia. One of the 2/10th blokes who was with us he was a bit of an old women, he was an elderly fellow
about thirty five I suppose or more. I was on deck and he was down below, I went down below and he said, “What was all that commotion?” And I said, “There was a plane that flew over.” And he said, “Whose was it?” I knew what it was but it didn’t have our signs on it with the red, white and blue I said, “I don’t know what it was, it just had a red circle.” And he said, “Oh, that’s Japanese,
we are in for it now, they know where we are.” He was that upset I couldn’t convince him that I was only joking. We came down and we were playing bridge on the deck of the boat, and we saw landing in the distance and we looked up and it was right on the horizon, it was Rottnest Island
so we knew where we were then. We reckoned we were almost due to get back to Australia after we kept going South there is nowhere else to go. We landed at Adelaide and they took us to a camp at the racecourse, we waited while the South Australians were given leave, they had seven
days leave there and we had to wait for them to have it and come back. Then we left for Melbourne, went by train from Adelaide to Melbourne and we had to wait for the train that night and we got there in the morning at Melbourne and went on leave that night and I went to see an aunt that I had living in Melbourne.
We left that night and we went up to the Victorian boarder and we had to change trains because in those days they were different gauge, we cut all through the back of New South Wales up to where out battalion was at Tenterfield. We had about a week there,
they gave us seven days leave that’s all after we’d been away for a bit over two years.
bustling about. We spent a few days on the road just waiting to find out what was happening, we didn’t know what was happening. Eventually we were told that we were to make an attack in the morning, which we did. The road was just bogged with mud up over
your boots because so many people had been walking through the wet ground and turning the mud up. We got to the one edge of number three strip and the Japanese were on the other side of it. The night before the Japanese had attacked the militia battalions that were on this edge of the strip and an American combat engineers. They defeated
the Japanese because the machines gun cut them down while they were trying to cross the strip. Our leading companies went across. I was one outside unreeling the cable and unreeling as we were going along. We get to the strip, cross the strip and there were a few Japanese just shooting around
there, and the leading companies were cleaning up what was there and some made out that they were dead and they weren’t, we soon cottoned onto that. We had absolutely no time for the Japanese at all, we looked on them as an animal, this was helped by their two toed boots, they had a special sock
for their big toe and you could see their tracks in the mud. We pushed them back to the edge of a river but it was only a creek in size and half of the battalion were left there and the other half were pushed on to a place called KB Mission with a jetty,
and we had to have a place with a jetty for the supplies. The others had pushed on because we were unreeling this cable and couldn’t keep up with the speed that they were going, so we were there by ourselves. Fortunate for us the Japanese attacked further down where we had been, and ran into half of the battalion that was still there.
They fought all night and we had Japanese at the mission. When we got there it was just getting dark as we were arriving there with the telephone cable, we didn’t have time to fit it up with a switchboard or anything. I spent the night under a tree and it rained all night and didn’t stop, and it was very miserable, with a telephone
all night. The next night the rest of the battalion came and the militia came up and took over from where they were, Rabi I think is the name of the place. They joined us and the third day we kept on losing men all the time
and we pushed on again up to a place called Gategood Cove after one of our company commanders. We took the cable out and then a couple of the sigs we went back, our cable had run out so we went back to KB Mission. I spent the rest of the time in the battle there. At night time
the Japanese crews would come in and shell us and we had the Sig office with a switchboard and a native hut and they were up high, not stumps like the houses here the native huts on a very slender one, with the bombs going over head it used to make it shake. There’s no good digging slit trenches because you would be full of water
because it rained all the time. We were there and the 2/9th came through us and after we had about three days of it I think and they pushed the Japs back, and the Japanese crews came in and evacuated some of them. They got some
of our blokes with the shelling at night but fortunately most of them went over head into the jungle behind us.
they were by what their soldiers did. I went to Japan about 1982 and it was very hard for me to see all these friendly curious people running around the same as the animals that we struck during the war. We never took any
prisoners. The telephone line was draped out over miles and the resistance and they couldn’t here from one end to the other with repeater stations. Our brigadier was on the phone and I was on one section of it repeated station and he wanted
prisoners for information, we didn’t took any there were no prisoners. So when the 2/9th went up and he told them that he wanted prisoners, but they never took any either the first day, he roasted the 2/9th Colonel and we had to repeat all the swear words that he was using, as it went along.
They got one for him, they took a prisoner and went down and he gave them all the information that they wanted and they were taking him down to the boat to take him back to Australia. A cook ran out from brigade headquarters and shot the Jap, said “What did you do that for?” He said, “I’ve always wanted to shoot a Jap,” so that was that, that was one that never got back. They took
a few prisoners afterwards but there were very few. At Buna they took a few prisoners and there were two miserable looking Japanese and they were half starved, they couldn’t of lived much longer because they were starving. He told them to take them back, he told the two blokes
and they didn’t want to do it but he made them do it. They went out of sight and then you heard a couple of shots and they came back and they said, “What happened to the prisoners?” And they said, “They tried to escape,” but of course they just shot them, when they got them out of sight they just shot them. The next time we were in New Guinea I was attached with other Sigs to an area
in the Asian group between the Americans air force and the 7th Division and they brought some Japanese prisoners back on the plane, on the plane., they had one of our provosts guarding them. They were going to be brought back to Moresby while we were still there and
the Yanks wanted to give them five pound so they could throw them out the plane, but they said that they had signed for them and that they had to deliver them, so the Yanks were up to those little things too. We never looked on them as men, until I went there and saw them you just thought that they were just animals the way they carried on,
and they really were. They ate some of our dead when they were hungry, they found bodies with steaks cut off them. A white person, no matter how hungry you’d be you wouldn’t become a cannibal, but they did. I suppose when you think about it they haven’t had that many years of being
civilized. At Milne Bay, that was the end of Milne Bay when the 2/9th finished their attack they evacuated the few that were left and then we went to Goodenough Island. The 2/9th, but not the whole battalion to the Point and left them there
and they were catching the Japs, the few that had escaped were making their way back along the coast to join the Japanese at Buna, and they caught them as they were coming around. Some of the Japs when they found out that the Australians were waiting for them, a couple of them went and hung themselves, they are weird,
but it was drilled into them, a prisoner is counted as a dead person. We went to Goodenough Island we attacked one night and we landed and we did everything that you shouldn’t do in a sea landing, it was one of the first sea landings that the Australians did in the war.
We went in on boats from a destroyer, with the destroyer there is a ledge and the water was on the South side of this Goodenough Island , a bit of a ledge under the water, and the front of the boat would go onto the sand and people would jump off the back of the boat and it was over their head, so they were loaded down with all their equipment and steel helmet, and
some of them drowned. Before we left Milne Bay they thought that some of the sigs were sent up to see what equipment we could salvage from the Japanese before they dumped it into the ocean, and because they thought that the Japanese were going to come back.
I was in one of them and we went up to a landing barge up and a fellow came running out of the jungle and waving to us and we went in and he was a 2/9th bloke that had got lost. We went up to where they were, the battalion was and we had a look at the equipment but we didn’t take any.
They were dumping it in the ocean rather than the Japs coming back and having their equipment, we’d have it there waiting for them. All the medical stores and everything was all dumped into the ocean, what a great shame it was. That was the end of Milne Bay. At Goodenough Island we were there for five or six weeks all together and
then we went to Buna but I’d come back to Australia at that time. I had a pretty bad case of malaria and I was on my third or fourth attack by then, if you’re not out of it it keeps coming back all the time in those days. I came back to Australia and firstly to Charters Towers then
I was put on a hospital train down to Warwick, but I was pretty bad with another attack of malaria on the way on the hospital train. They’d put us off at Toowoomba, they ran Brisbane to take us off at Brisbane, but there were no ambulances there for us. It was pretty early in the morning so they said they’d take us up to Toowoomba,
which they did. They took another fellow who had his leg off, it was hemorrhaging again and I was having an attack of malaria so they left us on the station and nobody had picked us up at Toowoomba either, but they said there was somebody on their way. We were laying on the station on stretchers and the ambulance came down and took us up to the hospital
where I spent about two or three weeks I suppose. I went to a convalescent camp at Warwick we had about three weeks there at a convalescent camp and I was getting ready to go and join the training battalion at Tenterfield.
There was another chap in my tent said to me, this is at the convalescent camp, he said “how about we duck down and have a meal in Warwick before they go?” I said “Yes, that would be alright.” So we went down and we had a couple of drinks and a meal at Tattersfield Hotel in Warwick and we went back to camp
and the draft had gone, they’d gone down by limber down to the station. They told us “You are under arrest now get back to your tent.” This other fellow said to me “I don’t think that train has gone yet, if we pick up our gear we can catch them up.”
So we headed down towards Warwick station about a mile away from where the convalescent camp was and then we saw these limbers coming up the hill loading with people from the hospital who were going to the convalescent camp. We stop and asked them was any gear put on there, our gear had gone down. I struck one and he said “Yes, there are a couple here,” so he gave
them to us and we got down to the station and the train had gone. There was an ordinary train coming down to Wallangarra we will wait for that, so we did. The train came and we just boarded the train we didn’t buy tickets or anything and we got to Wallangarra and there was a draft sitting on the station at Wallangarra. So, I go up
to the fellow in charge and say, “I’ve been sitting here think I don’t remember our names being called out on the roll?” He had the roster with the names on the role, he said, “What name?” And I said, “Allaway.” And he said, “You names here but its been crossed out.” I said, “That stupid so and so up there and they have mucked things up again.” He said, “I don’t think my name was called out.”
He put a tick on it again and the other bloke did the same thing, it happened to him. We got to the training battalion, I got there in the morning and by lunchtime I’d had another attack of malaria and I went to the hospital at Tenterfield then back to the hospital in Warwick and then back to Warwick
convalescent camp again after I had finished the treatment. They had the list there, those that came out and they called me out to the orderly room, and they said, “You have been AWL for so long,” I said, “What are you talking about, I’m not AWL,” they said “Oh yes you were you were missing from the draft,”
I said, “It can’t be me you must have me mixed up with somebody else,” he said, “No and don’t think I wont check up on you,” I said, “Well you check up on me because I came from the 18th Training Battalion to the Tenterfield hospital to Warwick hospital and now to here,” he said, “You are not going to get away with this, I know you are AWL.” A couple days later he called me up again “I don’t know what you’ve done,
I know you’re AWL, but your story tallies with what you’ve told me.” He said, “I know very well that you’ve been somewhere and you’ve been AWL and you’ve got away with it,” so that was alright. When we came out hospital the second time out of Warwick hospital they done away with the training battalion for some reason or other
which I didn’t know and we were sent to Redbank. A whole trainload of us were put on a draft to go back to the Tablelands, where the battalion was. We told them they were all getting fourteen days leave, because we were due for this leave. The whole train we went up and go to these camps and we had to wait about ten days or so
and all the same train load came back again, what a waste of rolling stock when it was scarce because they could of given us the leave in Brisbane but that’s the way that the army goes, I got fourteen days there. I went down to Newcastle this time and I spent the leave with her.
we were going to wait until the end of the war but the end of the war kept getting further and further away. I went back up to the Tablelands and we trained up there for a while then we went to New Guinea again at Moresby then I was attached to this liaison group, the 18th Brigade
was the last brigade of the 7th Division to go over the top. They used us in the liaison group, all they had there was Sigs. They had this marshalling area at Moresby and that’s where we were attached to, they were all out of the 18th Brigade from the three battalions.
One thing that was never ever published during the war was the fact that when the troops were going over the top with plane loads and each plane load was in one truck with about twenty men the trucks used to come out of the liaison area where they’d be told which aerodrome the driver had to take them too, there were three different aerodromes at Moresby
taking the troops that were going over the top. There was the 2/33rd Battalion there and they were lined up in companies, there was one company like that and then D Company was right at the end. A liberator bomber took off loaded with bombs and clipped the tree at the edge of the airstrip and nose dived down onto the trucks
that were still loaded there. I wasn’t there, because the telephone line had to go out to one of the aerodromes to let them know who was coming. It was about two o’clock in the morning when this happened. I was just ambling back, and I took a short cut across the strip which you weren’t suppose too, it was a lot quicker and when I came up to the little hill
near the camp there was one of the provosts that were attached to us and said, “Stop, you can’t get in there, there is a plane that crashed into the camp,” the first thing that went through my mind was I’d written a letter to Dulcie that night and I bet it got burnt, but it didn’t. I left my bike with them and he said there’s ammunition exploding all over the place.
I walked down and had a look and then came back and got my bike. It was on a bit of a dirt road that went through the camp and we were camped on one side and the grounds where the troops assembled, that’s where the plane landed. When I walked down somebody came running up out of the darkness with their hands out like this and the flesh was hanging from
his arms. I think there were about seventy three Australians that were killed from that crash, and it was never made public. Then there was the crew of the American bomber, I think there were about thirteen of them, it was one of the worst air disasters but it was never published.
I suppose for morale reasons I don’t know. Strange enough about a couple of weeks later another plane crashed, under the same circumstances. This time we were all asleep in our bunks and I woke up, and the noise must of woke me and I looked out and I could see a great sheet of flame going up into the air. I was out of the
bed and running back, but the other blokes in the tent had beaten me too it. One bloke still had his mosquito net wrapped around him when he ran. It was a bit further away than it appeared but when you first wake up all you could see was the great sheet of flame going up and we knew exactly what it was, another plane had came down. I’ve got a be wary of planes. Then again at Milne Bay
or before that happened at Milne Bay after the fighting was over we went to a camp to a place called Route 7. We were sitting and it had a fly over because it was always wet there and we had headquarter company, the whole company was there I suppose around about one hundred men. A plane came flying down and we thought that it was a zero,
because it came down that low and it was flat and over the other side of the hill it went up, this plane crashed into the hill, it was a Airacobra. We all dropped to the ground when we heard it coming down, and it sounded like it was going to hit us so we went across the road. The officer’s tents were there and it crashed into them.
The pilot was thrown clear but he was dead from the impact, with his parachute wrapped around him. I got a bit wary about planes after that.
No matter how much practice I don’t think you could profession it more than that, just enough to pass the exam and that was it, because we got extra pay for being a signaler. In an attack the signals were attached to each company,
they would be running out with the telephone line out and they could instantly get back by speech to battalion headquarters, that’s what they mainly used for except they were bad. In the jungle it was bad but it was even worse in open country, if you went over a hill, and you were talking to them and when their vehicle went over the hill
they just faded away. The Yanks and the Papuans, they all had walkie-talkies, the Sigs had walkie-talkies, and they could get back straight away, it was like a telephone set they had on their backs. I don’t know whether it improved towards the end of the war, they weren’t much good what
we had while I was there. After our fighting in out second tour of New Guinea the battalion came back to Brisbane and then they eventually went up to the Tablelands and they were there for close to twelve months, and of course they were practicing sea landings which of course they used that landing
in Borneo, they had a sea landing in Borneo. We had a few killed up there but not many. The second time in New Guinea we never had as many causalities as they had the first time. Those men should never of been killed like that, the conditions were absolutely fearful, at Buna and Sanananda.
It was just swamp area and they had to sleep in water and there were maggots and filth floating all around, all they had to do was sit there and stop the Japs from getting out, and they were starved to death. We had control of the air and the sea by that time and they couldn’t re-enforce them, they did make a couple of attempts.
There was one called the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, our planes spotted the big convoy coming down from New Britain to New Guinea and they destroyed the whole convoy coming down, none of them got back they were sunk by our air force, they were packed with troops to come down to New Guinea.
There were no re-enforcements, they had no supplies, but General Macarthur wanted a victory from his part of the world. The other part of the sea in the Pacific Ocean and they wanted the supplies for them. There was a battle between these Generals and Admirals about
the supplies and the troops. MacArthur wanted to get back to the Philippines and the others were just catching one island out of the group, they’d take one and they’d have terrific casualties getting them with that one, and they’d kill all the Japanese on them and then they’d use that as an air base for the next one, which was the only way to fight the Pacific war.
Its easy enough to say it from the outside when you are not involved in it but that was it.
The second time up in New Guinea when we went up the Ramu Valley the war in New Guinea had reached a stage where the Australian 9th Division was advancing along the coast and the 7th Division was inland and they were separated by the Finisterre Rangers, they were pretty high ranges something like the Owen Stanleys.
The Japanese were up in these mountains and we had to clean them out as we went along, one day the brigade that we relieved the 21st Australian Brigade of the 7th Division. They reached a point at a placed called Shaggy Ridge; there is only one person at the peak,
only person can walk at a time it came up to such a narrow peak. The Japanese were on the side with machine guns playing across there and it made it very difficult and it was precipitous sides you just couldn’t go down twenty or thirty yards from the company. We got there the 2/9th had the places
what they call the pimple, and 2/12th marched through the jungle and came in behind the Japanese and we attacked them, they were coming up in their rear. They had a mountain gun which we captured and it at the moment is down at
Canowindra and its got a little plague on it and it said, ‘Captured by the 2/12th Battalion and 7th’. When the Japanese opened up with the machine guns, there was a big old tree trunk lying there and they ducked behind this tree trunk but it was hollow and the bullets went straight through them,
and a few got killed there, the colonel himself was wounded there. We pushed up and killed the Japanese that were there. There were a lot of them in the jungle up in this mountain. That’s all we had to do after the Battle of Shaggy Ridge and we captured Shaggy Ridge.
We just moved up through the jungle until eventually we got to a point and you could see the Pacific Ocean, you are right at the top but that’s as far as we went. We had to wait while the troops on the coast caught up to us. That wasn’t anywhere near the casualties that we had in New Guinea. In one day we had about
two hundred killed at Buna. The second night with three battalions and another brigade lost a terrific amount of men there. When I was in hospital at Warwick con [convalescent] camp I went down to Brisbane one week end and I was hitchhiking back and there were some
Americans put on who had been in hospital, the agricultural college at Gaythorne was an American hospital during the war and they were hitchhiking back. We were on the back and one of them looked at my colour patch, he said, “Do you have anything to do with the two bar nine?” I thought ‘Two bar nine, what’s this?’, it suddenly dawned on me it was the 2/9th , two stroke nine. I said, “Yes, they are in
our brigade, do you want to meet them?” He said, “Yes.” We spent three weeks trying to take this place at Buna and they came in and he told me how many pill boxes were there and they came in and cleaned it up in two hours and twenty minutes and he said, “There were terrific casualties that they suffered, they dreamt the troops wouldn’t go through what they went through.”
The Americans were attacking them, then they’d lose a lot of me and then they’d come back and have another go later on. The 2/9th went straight through, and the 2/10th and 2/12th did the same, those were at our peak, they were experienced then we beat them at Milne Bay at Goodenough Island we were quite confident, we were superior to the Japs and we were.
days leave which we had accrued while we were away. I went down to Newcastle and I got married. I was getting malaria all the time, I got to Newcastle one day and we were talking about getting married, and we’d get married on
a certain day. The next day I get up and with the climate in Newcastle it was pretty cold and I was shivering, I went out and there was a big fire going and they have them down south. I said to my wife, “Is it especially cold this morning?” I had a overcoat on and a big fire roaring and I was shaking
and she said, “ Its no worse than it has been.” And I said, “I bet you I’ve got malaria,” and it did develop into that. We went down to catch a tram to the nearest army camp at Broadmeadows. I was staggering around, I should never of been out,
people didn’t think about ringing up and getting an army ambulance out or any ambulance. I was staggering around and I was vomiting, and we still weren’t married then, got back from taken me to Broadmeadows camp they wouldn’t let her in then they sent me off to the hospital in Newcastle.
Someone had gone and told her mother that she was down the road with a drunken soldier, but her mother knew very well that I was sick. I was taken to hospital and I came out. When I was in the hospital I said that we should get married in between the attacks of malaria
or else we will never get married. We made all the arrangements while I was still in hospital. I came out cured, and we got married and went down to Sydney for our honeymoon. The second or third day
we were late going down for breakfast and we had to go down the road to get something to eat. I started to get cold again, and I said to my wife “I think I’m getting another attack of malaria,” and sure enough. We were trying to get back to the hotel but we were in Pitt Street, and my wife ducked
into the shop to buy something in the shop and when she came out I had collapsed on the footpath and there was a crowd standing around and there was a sailor there, and someone said, “The soldiers are getting drunk early in the morning.” And he said, “He’s not drunk, that’s malaria,” which it was and he got a cab and put us into the cab to go back to the hotel.
We stayed there, I had that attack and I said, “Tomorrow won’t be so bad and we will go home the next day,” and again the next day I had another attack, it comes in forty eight hour bursts and that’s what happened. I’d just got back to Newcastle and by this time we were married I was sick on the train coming back from Sydney,
and I went into hospital. By the time I got back it was a Thursday, and that’s when they put the wedding pictures in the paper in Newcastle in those days, in the afternoon paper. I was laying there and I was pretty crook, the fellow in the next bed to me, they had an annex attached
to Newcastle hospital for servicemen. He said, “Did they say your name was Allaway?” And I said, “Yes.” He said, “Does this happen to have anything to do with you?” And there was a picture of my wife and me and a story about our wedding the previous Saturday. When the wife came up that night to see me, they were all
peering and she felt terribly embarrassed because everybody had just seen the paper and I was in hospital already. They were saying to her, “It didn’t take long to put them into hospital.” I kept getting attacks and going into hospital, eventually they brought in the B class,
unfit for tropical service. I was attached to a ordnance unit at Gaythorne and I wasn’t there and my wife came up from Newcastle, before that I was in hospital in Tamworth for quiet a while in a AGH [Australian General Hospital] that was there. They broke the hospital up to go to Borneo and getting ready for the attack on Borneo.
They sent us to a convalescent camp from the hospital I came up to where Greenslopes is now for one night and they sent me to a convalescent camp and up to Burleigh Heads. The wife came up when I was stationed up here
and accommodation was pretty hard to get, through Brisbane’s summer that was February, February the following year and that’s in 1945. I used to come home to where my wife was and it had a single room and a single bed in it and the two of us were trying to fit into this single bed, the wife
was pregnant at the same time. Some nights I’d finish up laying on the floor under the bed, but the mosquitoes would attack me and I’d get back into bed again. I was there for a while, and I had dermatitis badly as well as getting malaria. The head of the hospital happened to be a skin specialist and he woke up to what it was straight away, I had suffered
dermatitis for two or three years and it was caused by khaki dye. They put me out of the army then. We used I think a mineral dye that we used on our khaki clothes, the Americans had a vegetable one and their’s was alright, it wasn’t unusual for some of them to get dermatitis
to use the khaki dye. When I got out of the army I suffered with it for a few years, and I used to go for treatment and it was the same doctor who put me out of the army, and he had a place up at Wickham Terrace. You’d have this ray treatment and all sorts of things. He’d start treating one rash and another one would come up somewhere else.
I’d had that for about two or three years, never connected it to using khaki dye you wouldn’t of heard about it, such a thing as that. That was my army career finished in June and the war finished in August.