Eustace Marsden
Archive number: 455
Preferred name: Roos
Date interviewed: 01 October, 2003

Served with:

2/4th Field Regiment Artillery

Other images:

Eustace Marsden 0455


Any access that you make of this website is undertaken at your own risk

You are listening to the interview audio


Tape 01


Alright, so we are recording now. So if I could ask you first off to just give me that overview.
Yes, well my name is Eustace Cowan Hudson Marsden but I am known everywhere as Ruce. Which, apparently as I am told by an aunty in England, I was born in England, originates from the time I was in my cot and my father used to say I’d sit up and crowed like a little rooster. That’s what


I am told is the origin. But no one knows me as Eustace, very, very few people, mainly medical and official lines. But I came out here to Australia when I was just a bit over two and I spent quite a spell in the quarantine station with my father, which, it’s is a wonder I ever got through that because Dad was absolutely incompetent at looking after kids and doing household work. However, I did, and my mother went


of necessity to the land in Victorian Melbourne where she gave birth to a second child. But we had smallpox on the ship, that was the reason for the spell in the quarantine station at Portsea. After that we went to, we lived in various odd places for a very short time. But Dad got a diary farm in Gippsland at Beaconsfield which was country, very country those days.


and we stayed there, I went for some years, I’m not sure how long now and I started off school at Berwick Grammar and I was there for about two years and the school went bankrupt. So after that then I went to Clyde North State School. Each of these involved a pony ride about four-miles each way. So I used to leave in the dark in the winter and came back home in the dark in the winter. But after going to Clyde North then the family moved up to


Melbourne. We lived at Hampton and I went to Hampton Higher Elementary School where I, where’d I get to there? I got to what was intermediate standard, then I got a scholarship to Melbourne Grammar and was there for only one year and Dad got me a job in the Commonwealth Bank. Actually, I was camping with a friend and we were down ((UNCLEAR) – Dofser) way when a neighbour came down


with a telegram of Dad said come home immediately sort of thing. So, when I got home I discovered he had two jobs which was quite a, really a victory in the depression years, this was nineteen, end of thirty-three I’m talking about and one for the Union Bank where he had worked for a few years himself as a lad and the other with the Commonwealth where he apparently talked his way into getting me accepted. But on his advice I joined the Commonwealth and I was


delighted that I had. I was fifteen when I joined the bank, and I stayed with them all my working career. I retired when I was sixty-four and a bit, at that stage I was the longest serving officer in the bank, having started at such a young age. So, that’s about, that’s my sort of beginning of my life. Then obviously I had a spell obviously in the militia and during the war. After the war I came back with the bank and


pre-war when I first joined the bank, the character in Melbourne said to me, “You know one of the things about working in the bank is that you’re gonna get transferred all over the country, all over Australia without much warning and you won’t have any right of appeal, the answer is you’ll either go or you’ll resign.” And I thought as a kid that just sounded wonderful. But after the war I was married and a family coming, it was ghastly, particularly when education involved.


However, I went from, after a while I came back to Melbourne and had a variety of jobs there. Then I was appointed manager at Kyneton, I was the youngest bank manager appointed in the Commonwealth at that time. After four years there I moved to manager, Devonport which was a lovely place. Milder climate than Melbourne, both summer and winter and then after that I got, while I was at Devonport after


about three and a bit years, one of the senior people at head office whom I knew fairly well from Melbourne called in one day, I was on holidays and said, "Your name will come up for promotion one day as head officer. Where would you like to go?" I said, “If you keep me in country branch managerates I’ll be very happy indeed.” I’ll tell you, about six months later I was transferred to head office in Sydney. It shows how much notice they take of one’s wishes. I was there for about seventeen


years and I moved through various positions, I finished up deputy manager for New South Wales. I got another promotion to manager of Victoria and I saw my time out there, although I had the opportunity of going back to Sydney as manager for New South Wales. But it wasn’t long before I was about to retire but I couldn’t bear the though of moving the whole family with the furniture and everything again. And I had a bank house here in Melbourne. There wasn’t one available in Sydney.


So I declined that and I am quite happy I did. But since then, I was sixty-four when I retired and I’m eighty-five now. I have had a very enjoyable, very happy and enjoyed my retired life really. I’ve been getting quite involved with the 2/4th Field Regiment Association. I am getting more and more involved in that, probably because one of the reducing number of people who can still add


up two and two and not get seven. But I got a major setback ten, nearly eleven years ago. It is eleven-years ago, it’s eleven-years ago September 27th this year. I had a stroke and that. The first prognosis was I’d never walk again. Well, I’ve overcome that and I’ve got a variety or real handicaps arising from that, but you turn your life around your abilities.


And so I managed to sort of overcome that and get other interests, but no more hill climbing or mountaineering, which my wife and I both loved, and amazingly so and it’s been a great handicap to her to have to forgo this because I just physically can’t do it. And as the years go on I can find myself getting a bit weaker and less able to do things, but I suppose that’s growing old.


And here I am talking to you at the age of eighty-five, and my stroke, I remember that date well because it was on my son’s birthday, as he says, "A hell of a birthday present you gave me." But that’s about all I can tell you in a quick overview of what’s what.
OK. Can you just tell me a little bit more about your service details? When did you enlist and where were you posted?
I enlisted I think in 1939. I joined


the militia. I joined, I was working in the bank at Prahran. I was a junior there, one of our customers was a Major in the militia and he worked in the shop right, he was the manager of a furniture shop right opposite the bank and he came in one day and opened an account for the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Company. I asked him about what it’s all about and he said, “I’m just forming this company.” I was


getting interested in the militia and war service at that time because all the signs were that we were going to be in bother. So I said, “How would you like me as a recruit?” So he said, “I’ll have you with both hands.” So I joined them up and I was in the engineers. When we joined I s’pose there were about a dozen in the company, it grew and it grew and I eventually got one stripe, which I was very proud of, and I realized after a time that I couldn’t get very far


well I couldn’t get, my ambition was to get commissioned in the engineers without an engineering degree. So I eventually transferred to the 2nd Medium Brigade which was also a militia brigade of, they had two batteries of, one battery of sixty-pounders and of four point five-inch Howitzers and when I joined, they were just forming another battery of sixty pounders and I was, that was the 8th Battery and I was very lucky cause I came in on the


ground floor, it was a new battery and ninety-nine percent of the people there, except the officers and probably the RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] and a few other odds and sods, senior people I mean, had no military knowledge whatever. They didn’t know what right turn or left turn meant. And so I got extremely rapid promotion there. I lost my one stripe but within about eighteen months I was nominated for a


commission, after progressing through a couple of stripes into sergeant and so on and about that time war broke out and I had quite a quandary as to whether I’d stay with the militia regiment or enlist. But I decided, as a commission was coming up, I’d get the commission firmly and enlist later on. Well, I finally enlisted in January 1941 and was posted as a


secondary reinforcement to the 2/4th Field Regiment which was then in Palestine. How much further do you want me to go with this?
All the way through the war.
You’re doing well. Alright, I was put in charge of a group of thirty people, three officers including myself and twenty-seven other chaps all of whom were second-reinforcements. The first reinforcements always travelled with the unit. So I was, we sort of represented the first new blood that came into this regiment.


And we, after a stay, a fortnight in India while they sorted out shipping and very interesting that, at a hill station at Deolali, one of the sort of renowned British hill stations where everyone goes to in the hot season and disappears out of in the wet season. We landed at Palestine and within a few weeks the regiment was moved across into the Western desert.


And at that stage I was completely lost in the field artillery. I’d been brought up on sixty pounders, which we moved very, very slowly. In fact, we didn’t have any, when we went on exercises with the militia with sixty pounders we had to hire lorries and whatever you could get to pull the guns along and the guns hadn’t been moved very much at all, so much


so that, a lot of cases the trail line, I don’t know what; something went wrong with it any rate and the engineer he said, the “trail line’s just broke, snapped off,” and as we went, the highway was semi-littered with discarded sixty pounder guns on the roadside waiting for some people come along fix the trail line and tow them back to ordinance to get fixed up permanently. But so that was such a change


from the field artillery where mobility was the main thing. I had this in my mind, a lot of the commands were quite different to me. So I was stuck there for quite a time, a long time really. And I wasn’t used to the field artillery functioning with the officer, observation officer being with the infantry and moving with them and bringing down fire immediately. I mean


all our lessons were on observation post up a nice convenient hill and it probably a relatively safe hill, observing the zone and bringing down fire as and when required. However, he went to [Mersa] Matruh which was then to be sort of the last fortress against Rommel’s attack coming through, but fortunately he was well and truly held up at Tobruk. But


we got bombed a lot by the I-ties but that wasn’t a worry, the danger with the I-ties bombing was to stay near the target cause they went all over the country. We had quite a few losses though for landmines. There were landmines all over the place, laid by British forces at one time and German forces at another and no one had or produced a map showing where these mines were.


The general impression we had was the Egyptian Authorities had maps but they weren’t on anyone’s side particularly and they refused to disclose them. So we lost, we didn’t loose many killed, we had quite a few wounded and injured through landmines going off and this is despite putting sandbags on the floors of trucks and doing what we could to sort of safeguard ourselves against it. But I was put in charge of a section of guns out on a little sandpit, way out in the,


very isolated it was at Matruh on what was known as Cleopatra’s Bath and we were just, well a few sand dunes away from the Mediterranean and we didn’t have enough strength in numbers to be able to let people go there and have a bath in Cleopatra’s Bath. So we just put up with the dirt and the flies and all the general problems with living in a sandy desert. But I had a few instances there, driving along,


and one time I was sent to, for a week I think it was, to stay with the 2/14th Infantry Battalion as I discovered after I’d been there a while, as an infantry protection, as a forward observation officer. Well, that was completely new to me because all this time, I was, thank goodness nothing ever happened cause I would a been lost as to how to go about it and do my job properly.


But it’s interesting driving across the sand there. We had, in some cases they had metal strips which you had to drive along, but narrow strips. Had to keep on the strips or you were really in trouble with getting bogged and in fact, I used to drive, sit on the front mud guard and so I watched where we were going and yell out to the driver to right or left so much and it was easier to call out because we had no windscreens, they were all taken out and stored


because of the danger of enemy planes seeing the flash as we moved along and sort of realizing there was a target there. But every now and again we’d run off these strips and other cases where the sand was fairly hard, there was a defined track, it was alright if you stayed on that, but if you got off that too much, you were in trouble and if you got bogged in the sand there was no way out of it except to get another truck to come along and haul you out, winch you out.


If I could just ask you to hold on to those stories for a moment and just give us the overview of which countries you were in and how long you spent there.
Alright well, after that we moved through Cairo and through Palestine, very short stay and we invaded Syria, I was wounded after a short time there and evacuated I can tell you a very interesting little side bit about that.


We’ll come to that a bit later.
However, I rejoined the regiment then we went back, we came back to Australia after flipping around in the ocean for some time while Churchill and Curtin had an argument whether we’re going to do Rangoon or not. And we landed back in Australia and then after some long time we were part of this so-called Brisbane line which certainly existed but is strenuously


denied or was years ago and we went, finally we went to New Guinea after a long spell where we took part in the invasion of Lae and the capture of Lae and that was a time when the regiment established history by dropping two guns and their crews from the planes, landing with the, well the first infantry to go in was the 53rd American US Parachute battalion or some such name


as that. But we were about four months in New Guinea and I learned a lot and I had a wonderful time there. I was troop commander, at the end of which I was promoted to captain. Then we came back to Australia and we fiddled about. We got very bored in Australia, it was just routine training and just filling in time virtually. We took part in the invasion of Borneo for which I was


was, I was adjutant at that time and I found that extremely interesting. It was extremely hard work because I was part of the planing team to organize it all for the regiment and we took part in Borneo and I was still adjutant until I had a little blow-in with the CO [Commanding Officer] and I finished up then as acting battery commander of 54th Battery which comprised two troops, one of which was Fox troop, which I had


been the CO of in New Guinea and I dearly loved. They were a wonderful troop and I was very happy to be back there. I was much more comfortable, to be quite frank. Then we saw the war out in Balikpapan and I fell over playing cricket, and dislocated an elbow and was evacuated medically before my time on the point system. But there wasn’t much joy because I was stuck in hospitals and con [convalescent] camps and various places, til I was finally discharged


early 1946. That’s about the summary, brief summary what have you, of my war experience.
That’s great. Alright we’ll now go back and I’ll ask you questions and we can go into much more detail and any little divergences and stories, please feel absolutely free to give us as much detail as possible.


Wind her on.
So tell me first off, how long did you spend in Gippsland and what was it like growing up there?
Well, it was a strange thing. When I realized after my father was very cruel to my mother in a way. He was very severely gassed in the First [World] War. He was an AIF [Australian Imperial Force] officer in the artillery and he was evacuated to


London where he met my mother, who was a nurse. They eventually married but Mother came from a country farm in England, where she had, there were six girls altogether and one brother, and one brother got killed during the First World War, so there were, virtually she was brought up with six girls. She wasn’t the oldest or the youngest, she was somewhere in the middle. Didn’t do much, if any, housework. They had a cook in the place and she knew nothing really


about cooking, except what she’d picked up in the hospital I suppose and from that he took her to this farm in Beaconsfield where the nearest neighbour was a good half-mile away and the nearest woman neighbour was at least two-miles. ‘Cause there were a lot of paddocks, at Cardinia Creek and going through various other paddocks of neighbours and we came across Mrs Brunt, Mrs Milly Brunt, who was well my mothers saviour


in a way because she was the only woman, she could talk to. We were there, I’m not sure how long now. Let me see if I can work it back. I would have been about three or four when we went there and I went to, one, two, three, four, five, I was about eleven or twelve when we left, I suppose. But I enjoyed that immensely.


We were, my sister and I, she was two-years young than I was and we played together, we didn’t play with any other kids, which was a real handicap to me in later life. My mother taught me at home for a very long time. She was a born teacher and she taught me. I was terribly advanced in a lot of subjects and very much behind in other subjects when I went to school. This is getting


a bit off the track. But as a, going to school with that background I got promoted to classes where I was always the youngest in the class by about a year or two. I was socially inept, and socially out of this world in any case, having been brought up just with a sister and no other boys to play with and when I went to Barrack Grammar we didn’t have enough boys there to make a football team. We got a cricket team going from really tops down to little toddlers almost.


But that was, I enjoyed it very much. I had my own pony. I could go as I liked and do what I liked virtually. We’d explored the country, used to dig out rabbits and go ferreting. We, Dad found a ferret wandering round the place one day, so he bought it home and I took it over and we got a couple of nets and we used to go ferreting and we had him for maybe two or three years and I had a cord


attached to a little collar around his neck. So if he caught a rabbit in a dead end and just sat down to eat it and then go to sleep I could haul him out. But eventually he got away at some stage and we lost him. That was quite a blow to us in those days. W got back to pick and mattock very often in digging out burrows and that was, also rabbiting, we used to do a lot of rabbiting with traps and


I dunno whether, I used to, I skinned them off, skinned the rabbits after a time, and Dad did a few early years. Then we used to put them on wire frames and hang them up to dry and Dad used to send them off to one of the skin merchants in Melbourne and every now and again a cheque would come back, sometimes as little as a few pence, ten-pence or eleven-pence and or perhaps if you were lucky, had a lot of good furs, one-shilling and tuppence or something like that. Which I dunno


what happened to that, I think it went to the family. But it wasn’t very big, it was a small budget. I mean if we had thirty-milkers we were doing very well. It was a hard life for my mother and father. They got up about four-thirty and got the cows in, later in life, I got the cows in and they were times in the winter when my first job every morning was to get up and break the ice on the horse's trough


so they could have a drink. But it was very hard for them cause there was no holiday period involved. You had to have cows milking right through the year to maintain your milk contract. But overall it was good fun and the cows were interesting and you learned a lot about nature from watching animals perform, in all respects.
Tell me, you father was involved


in the First World War. What did you know about his experience there?
I knew very little. My father was a dreadful casualty of the First War. Pre-war he always described himself as an artist, in fact he was a, what’ll I say? Musical artist, he was a singer, and he was a very good singer. He was the principal tenor in the Apollo and Lyric Theatres,


I think, the Lyric was one, I don’t know about the Apollo, but two of the London Theatres, he took part in all their pre-war productions as a lead tenor. Then after he was gassed though he lost, I used to think his voice was very good, but he’d lost that little bit of tambour that was necessary to be a top singer and he didn’t get any jobs at all. But the worst part of it all, in a way was he had no sense of smell whatever and no sense of taste


whatever. So there was no encouragement for a mother who was a raw hand in the kitchen in any case, no encouragement for her to cook nice meals because all Dad wanted was just fodder, something to keep the man going until the next meal. So he’d eat whatever she dished up to him and with a lack of knowledge and no encouragement, she just, we grew up on anything and everything, but we thrived on it. The baker used to come


once a week and I still love stale bread. The butcher came once a week and we bought a certain amount. We ate a lot of rabbit though, but without refrigeration, there was no refrigeration in those days, a course you could only buy a certain amount of meat to last you a couple of days or what have you. After that, you were rather confined to vegetables, which we grew, or rabbits, which we caught, or a trip


to Beaconsfield, which was the nearest town. That was about two and a half miles and of course, we used to go in every morning to catch the milk train, at ten-to-eight the milk train went and I still remember going in with Dad a few of times and the mad rushes we had to catch this train. On one occasion there my heart was in my mouth, maybe I exaggerated, but the train was coming blowing his whistle like mad and Dad was galloping the pony or the horse


to get across the rail crossing before the train got there, and so we were going across, the train got nearer and nearer but it missed us. It probably missed us by a mile, but as a kid I was a bit horrified and terrified. Then we’d have to gallop round the back and bypass a lot of the paperwork and do that afterwards with the railway booking office and get the cans onto the loading platform just as fast as we could before the other ones


there were loaded up and the train took off. I don’t think we ever missed it but we had a few very tight runs. But at that time of day the shops in Beaconsfield weren’t open. There were only a few. There was a post office, a barber, a hotel, a general store. I don’t think there was much else. Because it was a little village, you passed through or passed by.


All these shops, except the hotel and the general store, all the others were shops, there was a butcher there. He used to attend certain days of the week, they were on the side street leading off to the station, which was about quarter, half-mile away from the highway. But they were interesting days there living on the farm and I loved every minute of it.
Tell me more about your


Mother. It must have been difficult for her. I mean she’d never eaten rabbit before?
Oh, I think she’d eaten rabbit; I think they’re wild rabbit in England was not unusual.
OK. But she certainly hadn’t cooked it and rural Australia was fairly tough in those days?
Yes well, of course, most of her rabbit was stew. We used to, at times I can remember the four-gallon kerosene


tin which was the common thing that’s used on every farm in, probably in Australia. You take the top of it, belt the sides down to get the rough edges away and put a wire handle through it, and wash it out or boil it out, and from then on you put anything you liked in this tin. We used to boil it on the wood stove regularly with all


sorts, the rabbits would go in almost whole and vegetables almost whole and in time of course, they broke up more into a, more than a stew, almost a soup, with a sort of a refreshing boil every now and again. But I don’t ever remember being deprived of food. Mightn’t have been the most nourishing food, it possibly was or possibly wasn’t, I just don’t know. But I, was happy times and I had to eat everything my


parents, I always used to think my parents were very hard, today they probably would be, but if I didn’t like something, they’d say, “well you eat it, you’re not getting anything else.” So I’d sit there for a while and realise they meant it, so I’d eat it against my will. Then sometimes if they had a very nice desert, or what I thought was a nice desert, they’d say, "well, you’re not getting that until you finish your whatever." Whatever the first course was and they meant it.


It was, what will I say? It followed through til today, there are very few, in fact, I don’t think I can think of anything I don’t like. Some things I obviously like more than others, but nothing I don’t’ know to the stage where I’d say, “I don’t want that really, thank you” and then I think I’m all the better for it really. But my mother was, she was incredible woman. She had a wonderful way with kids and


after Dad died she lived for another twelve-years I think it was. She was very much on her own and was very English. We were in Sydney with the bank at the time when she was living at Sandringham and she was living jointly in the house with somebody else, a Mrs Somebody and they had about half each and used to come together for meals and most things. When I got there after


being, she was living there for some years, I found they called each other, Mrs. Brown or what have you, and Mrs Marsden. I couldn’t believe it. I said to my mother, “Do you still use those surnames with this whoever she was?” “Oh yes dear, I always do,” and I said, “I just don’t believe it.” So next time I went there they were on Christian name terms. But you know she was very much that way but all the kids in the neighbourhood used to come to see her and she’d get, had a big box of


biscuits, broken biscuits, I think she used to buy from the grocer and she’d just give them away and the kids’d know where that was and they’d go straight for it and eat them up. But she had a wonderful way with kids, all the grandchildren, let me see, did she know any grandchildren? But all the children in the area used to love coming to and the house was always full of kids and sort of happiness and fun. But of course eventually she died too, she had a stroke although


she didn’t ever acknowledge having it. But she died and that was the end of that. But she was also a very good teacher, as I said earlier, she taught me at home and after I got some of my first exam papers that the family kept, one of the few things they did keep, where she set me quite good exam papers and all my laborious answers written down there and they used to be marked and I’d get so many out of a hundred, or ten, or what have you and


Overall she was not a born housekeeper, as you can imagine, and we lived through it all. We enjoyed it the fun.
What sort of things did you used to do for fun with the other kids? What kind of games would you play?
Well, there weren’t any other kids, just my sister and I. We were alone on that farm.
You mentioned before about the broken biscuits and your house was always full of kids?
That was when


I was in Sydney. I was married with a family, I would come down to see her occasionally. That was in the later years of her life.
I see. OK. So growing up in Berwick, was it Berwick or Beaconsfield?
Beaconsfield, tell me what kind of things did you learn about the First World War when you were at school? Did they teach you?
No. Nothing. I learned nothing about the First World War


either at school or for that matter from my father, except a few isolated funny or hilarious things. I knew all about Madam Fat who used to walk ten-miles each way to get a loaf of bread and I used to have Madam Fat thrown up, she was a Belgium woman and Madam Fat thrown up to me every time I didn’t want to eat something. “You ought to have been in Belgium those days my son, you would’ve known what it was like.


You eat it up. ” And but there were one or two others. I remember he made great fun one time of some piece of shell fragment fell off near his feet, course it was hot from the burst and he apparently went along the trench where some of the chaps were and said, “Who’d like a piece of toast?” and chucked it down and they all thought it was going to be toast, you know, one of those silly things. But they were just the two or three odd things he


used to talk about. He was in the Camel Corps before he went to Egypt, before he went to France and I think he loved that because he was in charge of the Camel Corps or some sub-unit of it, I guess. And he was very used to horses in Australia and that was one of the things he used to talk about, but just trivial matters, I don’t think he did much more than patrol and a sort of a show of presence, they didn’t ever get


any fighting that I know of.
Do you know what kind of gas he was gassed with?
Mustard gas, it was all mustard, it was a pretty, it was not at all uncommon, it was a regular thing. They had these gas rattlers in the trenches, they would just, they were a form of rattle you held up on a stick and whirled it round, it went clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack and the sound carried well and obviously that was the


signal that there was gas around.
Apart from his voice, was he very affected by the gas? Was he sick at all?
He wasn’t ever sick that I know of. No, I did see a man who was sick from the gas. It horrified me, I was a teenager then, I was playing cricket against some team and one of the batsmen there had suffered gas during the first war, one a the opposing batsman and


he collapsed on the wicket while he was batting and he vomited up some awful green tack, no which was apparently not uncommon for him. It was a legacy of it. But Dad had a very interesting life pre-war. He was in the permanent forces with a commission for some time in the artillery, then he went to, I don’t know why he did, but he went to Fiji, where he trained a Fijian cricket eleven, brought them over to Australia and they toured


Australia and played all the states, they all lost, but and they toured inland. They won a lot, as many games as they lost I would think. But they were a tough race and they must’ve been a wonderful people, they used to play without any boots or shoes on and bat that way too. You wouldn’t do it now, they’d bowl it, the fast bowlers’d aim for feet every time. But no they played it all and they were fast and they loved the ball game. But what


on earth sort of made him to that, I don’t know. He used to play for South Melbourne. He kept the wicket for South Melbourne for some years.
You said before that you had plenty of food and you never went hungry. Do you think the family was fairly well off though?
No. They weren’t well off. No they were....
Did you have enough clothes?
I did. As far as I was concerned I did.


but I don’t know, well how you define 'enough' really. I s’pose I
Well I guess what I mean is…?
had adequate clothing but I was always, I remember one white jumper I had. It was a polo neck, roll neck thing and it was too small for me, Mother used to drag it over my head and pull it off over my head and I’d almost scream with what it did to my ears, but I think as good clothes like that were


scarce, but knock about clothes on the farm were always there at any rate.
I guess what I’m trying to ask is, compared with the other kids in the area, do you think you were better or worse off or about the middle?
Oh, you asked me how long is a piece of string. There weren’t any other kids in the area and within, from our place


to Beaconsfield, about two and a half miles. I don’t think there was one other kid there and that was about as far as we ever went. I used to go at holiday time, Christmas I know and maybe Easter, there was a big reserve on the Cardinia Creek which had joined our place, and always a few families camping there. I must have appeared a funny sort of boy those days because I used to go down


on my pony and just sit and watch these kids all playing and eventually, I remember, they sort of said, “come and join us,” and I played a game of cricket with them. But that stands out in my mind as my only incident of playing with other kids as a boy. Then when I went to Barrack Grammar of course and the same with Clyde, we had a four-mile pony ride each way and I couldn’t stay long, in fact I used to get into all the trouble in the world


if I stayed long at school cause the headmaster was obviously told to get that boy out of the place and get him home. But it,
Interviewee: Eustace Marsden Archive ID 0455 Tape 02


Right. Tell me a little bit more about your time at Berwick Grammar?
I don’t remember a great deal about that. There were only about twelve or fourteen kids there and I made some good friends with a couple of them, but I saw them only at, strictly during school hours because I’d get there just about starting time and I used to be pushed off to get home straight away.


But I enjoyed it there. It was a bit foreign to me playing around with other boys. We just had a cricket team and that was about all. Mind you it, I can’t even remember the Headmaster's name now. It was a financial disaster obviously, and how my parents paid for it, I don’t know because they were, as I said were certainly not well off. I remember one incident there, razor blades were strictly prohibited


amongst the boys in the school and, like a lot of others, I had one I used to use for sharpening pencils and things like that and I cut my finger badly on one and it was bleeding like old Nick and I had to take it to matron and she said, “How did you do this?” And I thought God I’m in for it now. So I said, “I was walking along the fence after my pony and I scratched it on the barbed wire.” She must have known I was a liar because from the nature of the cut


it was obviously one of those razor blade cuts, clean and deep, not the jagged sort a thing you see from barbed wire. But she accepted it, she obviously thought I had learned a lesson, and that was it. But that’s one of the few things I remember there. I remember riding home one night, one winter night it must have been, I had to ride along the Princess Highway a little way. There were a few cars about then, but only a few because that’s all that were in existence


there and when a car dipped its lights when they passed me I used to give them a wave to say thankyou. It was as rare as all that, not only cars, but cars dipping their lights as well. But once I got from Berwick Grammar and got down the hill and across to Cardinia well then I swung off to the right, and got onto, off the sealed roads onto gravel roads and I was in my element then. The pony knew the way as well as I did.


Did many of the kids have ponies or horses?
Oh no, only two or three, they were, well each, Berwick Grammar and Clyde North both had a little pony paddock there with a small shed to hang up your saddle and bridle in. The problem used to be sometimes to catch the pony after school because he was probably in a strange area and was making friends with other horses or ponies.


there and didn’t want to be caught. No, it always worked itself out. There was usually one or two others who horses there or to help.
How long where you at Berwick Grammar for?
I think it was about two years. I’m not at all sure of that.
And where did you move to from there?
Well, we moved from, oh, from Berwick Grammar? I went to Clyde North State School. That was about half way


between, nearer Clyde than Berwick. It was on that main road, Berwick and Clyde, no very far from Cranbrook, but for some reason Dad or my Mum, I s’pose Dad maybe had the Beaconsfield school in his snout, he wouldn’t ever go there for some reason. That was much closer, that would a been, well probably less than three-miles, but this other, Clyde North was a good four-miles.


But we had a very, I had a very happy time there. The headmaster was a Mr. Cantwell and he had a part time assistant, a young woman who was probably about eighteen or nineteen. I can’t remember her age now except she was quite, young Miss Mags, a local woman and we enjoyed it. I used to, I got into all the trouble in the world at home regularly. I used to leave there with another chap and we would go rabbiting on his place.


Usually walking with the dogs, and what else did we have? I think he had a gun, his parent's gun, which apparently they let him have. But we caught a few, not many though, but sometimes I’d get home in the dark and one or two occasions I would suddenly see some lights coming along the road and it’d be my father in a buggy coming to look for me and that’s where I really got into trouble.


When you say a buggy, is that a horse drawn buggy?
Horse drawn buggy, a two wheel horse-drawn buggy, yes well that was only transport we had, something horse drawn.
Was your father a strict man?
He was very strict, was a hard man in some ways. But I was more frightened of him than of anything else I think in a way. He had his standards and he stuck to


them, he expected me to observe them, which I didn’t always want to do or believe in for that matter. But I can remember one time I was terrified of him. At times, when he used to get into a rage he used to belt the hell out of me. But one time I went to school and I was late and my mother took pity on me and gave me a note to the Headmaster and going along the track there and I was interested to see


what was in the note. So I ripped it open and tossed the envelope away. Read it, which was quite innocuous, something like "Please excuse him for being late. It’s not his fault." Which was a lie, a nice white lie. But and then some my memory it’d be months after it, Dad suddenly appeared, he’d been ploughing or working down one of the back paddocks and he said, “look what I’ve found here,” and he pulled out this damned envelope addressed to the headmaster all ripped open and I


thought, gosh am I in for it now and my Mum said, “that’s all right, I know all about that.” which was a, it saved me, but anything but the truth. But I think she, cause Dad had, as I said earlier, he was very hard on my mother, the sort of life he took her to and I think he’s, well I dunno whether he realized it in a way, he was a man with perhaps his own idea. But I was going to say something


then and it slipped my mid. Oh, I could never win an argument with my father. If I had a discussion at breakfast time and we’d finish up we’d just sort of said, “I can’t understand that,” and he’d go off down the farm doing something, at lunchtime he’d appear again, “no,” he’d say, “what we were discussing a breakfast, tut, tut, tut, now don’t you realize this, that and


so on?” After a while I got into the habit, well like my mother, I realised my mother didn’t say, “yes of course that’s right,” but I didn’t believe and didn’t, the easiest way to avoid a continuing situation which I could see was only resolved, so from one way you’d have to agree that he was right. But he was like that with my mother. My mother used to sort of just brush him off, more or less. I can remember one famous remark that my she made.


Dad said, “No woman’s going to tell me what to do,” and Mum said, "no man either," and that was about his form. He had his, in his own way he was very fond of us and do what he could for us but he just didn’t have the right attitude I think, as we saw it and I think as the world would’ve seen it in those times too.
In what sense?
Well he didn’t let us grow up as individuals and have our own


opinions, our own likes and dislikes. We had to like or dislike everything he liked and. Oh, I know what I was going to say earlier. He was terribly hard on my mother. He was, for some reason, had a real anti-British outlook though he’d been living there for some years, pre-war particularly when he was singing. But anything British he used to sound off about and, I got to the stage I used to hate it because my mother was


English and that didn’t mean anything to him at all and I grew up and I was violently British and anti-Australian until, let me think, not long ago, in my life not long ago, about fifteen or so years ago, I sort of, it was about then I stopped barracking for the English Eleven for instance when they came out. Things like that but I gradually have swung


round now, but I still kept my British nationality, and I intend to too. That’s just part of the background he forced on me by his ruthless and hard treatment of my mother.
So, excuse me, so you are still a British citizen?
Yeah, I am, and I intend to stay that way too. It’s a damn nuisance, well I don’t go overseas now, but when I went overseas, which I did several times,


the first time I went over was the bank sent me over to a school in America and I applied then for an Australian Passport and, acting on the advice from the, the bank wanted me to be an Australian citizen, and when I got the papers they were so full of, being born in England, they were so full of requirements, like my mother


was the only person who could have certified to what they wanted, to be certified to as regards my stay in Australia and tenure here and so on. She was in Melbourne at the time and I was in Sydney and I certainly wasn’t going to worry her and try and do things by correspondence or phone and so I went along to the bank and said, "This is going to take a long time I think". They said, "Forget about it,” they said, “get an English passport,” which I did.


Any rate, believe it or not, a week or so after, there was a letter in the Sydney Morning Herald by a someone complaining bitterly about his experience in tyring to apply for an Australian passport, he was in exactly the same position as I was and he said that he gave up and got an Australian passport. Then a few days later appeared another letter in The Herald, signed by the minister or I can’t remember the minister’s name,


saying he much regretted the problems Mr So-and-So has experienced, but unfortunately his department has sent out the wrong set of papers. That was obviously what held me up, what sort of confirmed me. I got a British passport and I’ve still got one now. I think it’s still current.
You said fifteen or so-years ago you had a bit of a change of heart, what brought that about? How much have you changed?


Oh, I don’t know. That’s a hard question. I don’t know what brought it about, it’s just a fluxion of time and familiarity with the Australian scene and information about the Australian sports people in particular, and the Australians and lack of information about the British, I dare say. But I to what extent I’ve changed, I don’t know, I’ve certainly have very soft spot for things British


and despite, although I don’t always like what’s going on there, but still, I would object to anyone being anti-British in my presence.
What do you think caused your father's anti-British sentiment?
I wish I knew. But I don’t know. He had one very unhappy experience, but that’s it. I don’t think that could have accounted for it. He’d applied for


the position of leading tenor in some show coming on and they were apparently having auditions and they said, "We’ll let you know." Well he went on holidays at the time and let his landlady know where he was going and said, “if there’s a letter from this mob, for goodness sakes send it on to me quickly,” So he heard nothing from them, but when he got back after his holiday he found a letter there saying, “the job’s yours.” The landlady


just put it with the other mail, but when he rang them up or contacted them they said, “Oh, too late. We didn’t hear from you. We’ve given it to somebody else.” Now whether that was the real reason, I don’t know. That’s the only specific thing I can think of that he ever mentioned. He used to be very cranky about one of the Bishops in England, in London apparently he had a big, what he used to call a palace, it might a been, outside that were a lot of


seats and there was some sign on one saying, something along the lines of, 'No verminous persons should sit on these seats or words to that. Whether that was the bishop or whether it was the city or London or whatever the local government was, I don’t know. I don’t suppose he knew really but he always held that to be the Bishop's at any rate.
Do you, well your father met your mother in London,


was he in hospital at the time?
Oh, he was in hospital. He was classified as severely gassed and I don’t know how long it takes to get over these gassings, but he was in hospital and she was nursing him there at the time, that’s how it all happened.
Being of a, from a fairly upper class family, I presume, your mother,


did she, was it a difficult match? Did her family object to the marriage at all?
Not that I know of. I wouldn’t call her upper class. She was just a farming type, you know, her father was a farmer there and he had a farm that was owned by the University of Cambridge, once a year the


all the tenants, apparently Cambridge Uni owned a lot of property around this little hamlet it was of Abbotsley and all the tenants used to go there once a year and they’d have a glorious lunch and well and they’d all pay their years rental at this occasion. So they went on, he didn’t actually own the property, but no I don’t know quite, I didn’t ever know any,


don’t remember any of my mother’s family. I didn’t meet them until I was well advanced, when I went to England one time and I met several of my aunts there and the one who was nearest my mother, my heart turned over when I saw her. She was so like my mother in appearance it was unbelievable. But the family story goes, and I think it’s probably right, that my grandfather wrote from London saying that,


to my father, saying it was some time since he’d seen my mother and he’d like to see her again, and if she would come over to England for a visit, taking me, he would pay the fares both ways and my father wrote back saying that she didn’t want to go. Well whether, what all that, how true that all is, I don’t know, but I think there’s probably some element of truth in it, that mother would never asked I would say,


I think that Dad was scared that once she got there that she would stay there, that’d be the end of it. But there wasn’t, I don’t think it was a very loving marriage really.
You mentioned before that when he got mad he would wallop you, did he use his hands or did he have a strap or something else?
I can remember he used a strap.


Nothing like the strap that my, the head teacher at Clyde North used to use. He used a britching strap. Do you know the britching straps? It’s the strap that goes round the hind quarters of a horse, it’s very strong. It’s comprised using three or four straps of leather all stitched together an when the horse is going down the hill and the buggy or what have you behind the horse starts to gain on the horse and push him,


if the horse leans back into this with his hind quarters, so it takes a lot of pressure. Well the headmaster would keep one of these, and if you swore you would get this on your hand and my God it hurt. I opted out one time. I was a, I don’t say I was a coward, I certainly was this time. When I used to ride home from Clyde North with some girls whose parents property was a bit of a shortcut and some time on the,


one of these rides we had a fierce row and I went off saying, “I’ll be buggered.” or “Go to buggery,” or something like that and I didn’t ever, as a result of that I couldn’t ever ride through her parents place again, which was a much longer ride home then, but next day to my horror, she reported me to the headmaster for swearing and he asked me, and I still remember this, I said, “no I didn’t swear sir, I know what she thinks I said, but I said can’t be


bothered or something like that,” and he said, “OK,” but again, he probably thought I’d learnt a lesson.
After you were at Clyde, well how long were you at Clyde for, the school there?
Probably three or four-years I s’pose, we moved up then to a place in


Cardinia Street, Hampton. That was my first experience of living in the Melbourne suburbs. Beaconsfield was quite isolated, we used to, when we went to town which was very rarely, we used to catch the steamer to Dandenong, and then go across the platform and catch the electric train cause Dandenong was the terminus for the electric train then, and whiz along into Melbourne which was all quite, really quite a thrilling experience for a young bloke. But


when we went to Margarita Street it was, Hampton, number seventeen, my first experience of living in the suburbs and first experience of electric light, gas, and all these so-called amenities and I can still remember my first day there. We were moved up by one of the neighbours, Harry Hopgood who had an old T-model Ford truck and Harry used to


do all the odd carting jobs around the place and I went up with my father and we got there, and these were depression years, we hadn’t been there more than a few hours and the milkman called and left a bottle of milk there as a sample and hoped we’d buy his milk in the future because there were other milk men around, the same with the baker. We didn’t have anything for lunch until these things arrived and this fresh loaf and then Harry


dived underneath the truck seat and pulled out a jar of peanut butter, the first time I had known peanut butter and I still worship it. It was the taste of heaven to me. That was at, I can remember, I was still young enough, Mother used to say, “you should have a sleep every afternoon," at Hampton and I used to, I wasn’t I didn’t feel like a sleep, I can remember lying on the bed and putting my


feet up against the wall swinging around and in the course of time there were great scratches around the wall, but I got into a lot of strife over that, it just didn’t enter my mind. But those were on, Dad brought at place at Middle Brighton where he was brought up, his family were. This was a beautiful old place on about would a been three-quarters of an acre. It’s only a,


I was gonna say a stones throw, today’s language it would be a stone’s throw from Brighton, Brighton Middle the station, so there was a matter of four or five-minutes walk no more than that. The big old weatherboard place, we stayed there for many years and I think he moved up, he always said this, I think he was probably right, for his children’s education, he was one a those people who sort of loved his family and did a lot for them, but he couldn’t ever


sort of think the right way to bring them up and achieve their affections as well as lot of parents did, any rate. But Brighton was a very happy home there. We had a big lawn there where I had a cricket pitch and every now and again Dad’d put a tent up there and we used to love that. We’d just live in the tent for a while just for something to do. But


while I was at Hampton I went to Hampton Higher Elementary School which was a major experience for me with a group of boys and a school that size. They were, I was there for three-years, if my memory is right, after which, at the end of which I got to intermediate standard, which I think was as far as the school went in those days and I played a bit of cricket there. I used to play a lot of cricket at lunchtime.


We had very little organised sport, well I think probably none between schools and the only cricket you played used to be just sort of a wicket with a net round it. I’m not sure it even had a net thinking back now. No it didn’t because the, when you went to grab the equipment at lunchtime, the first one there he always used to get the wicket keeping gloves, the second one the bat, and the wicket keeping gloves


was the prime thing because so many balls would be missed by the batsmen and then with the wicket keeper having the ball, then he could decide which of his friends he would throw it too to bowl and that was the number one thing and then the batsman obviously was the next one up and I forget how the next batsman used to, excuse me, used to be chosen, I think it was


either the bowler or the person who caught him out depending on how he went out, but any rate if you got a bat once, you did pretty well.
How did you find adjusting to these large groups of kids?
Very hard, very hard indeed. I wasn’t used to the, what’ll I say? The byplay that goes on between boys of that age, the


and the animosity that went on, I couldn’t cope with it. I remember, I was a good runner those days. I used to win most of the races I ever went into and I remember one kid saying to me, “you can’t run Marsden,” and I didn’t know quite what to do about that and one of my, someone else said, “well he can beat you at any rate,” which would’ve been the obvious thing for me to have said, but I just wasn’t used to that sort of talk. But I had friends there with


three other very mixed, thinking back there was Ross McCooberry, who was the son of a plumber, Charlie Wilson, who was the son of a carpenter and I used to see a lot of Charlie cause he lived on the way home which I had to walk, used to take me a good half-hour to walk to school from Brighton and Jock McAlpine was the other one, a Scot, a very Scotch Scotsman. Funny how


names come back to you. But we used to hang around together but because we were, what’ll I say? We were different in a way, I was for a start because as I said earlier, I was a good year or two young for the class. When I was thirteen, they were all fourteen, when I was ten they were all eleven and I was sort of out of my depth there and I think these others were also a bit of misfits, we were four misfits together and we used to have a,


every now and again the class would gang up against us and lunchtime was spent in them chasing us and we used to run miles around the place and we were all good runners, we had to be I think. We’re usually beat them without any trouble, got away from them.
Were you brought up with any religion?
I was brought up as Church of England. Very


much. I was not, my parents were both Church of England as it was then, Anglicans it is today. My family or whoever then, I became a chorister in the St. Andrews Church at Brighton and Dad used to, Dad sort of talked me


into going there. I was, although I say myself, I had quite a good voice, but again I suffered from my upbringing as I didn’t have the confidence to sing as well as I could later on and particularly singing on my own, singing in a group I was good. But I enjoyed that for some years and, I dunno what happened. We had a extraordinary vicar there, H B Hewitt, Harold Blackwell Hewitt and he and Dad used to


just so-so, but Harold Hewitt was an unusual man. He was always a hail-fellow, well-met type, and he used to say to Dad, "I must come to see you sometime, visit you," and he didn’t ever, so it became a joke right through the parish. I think I remember one of the, one of his curates saying to Dad one day, “I must come and visit you one day Mr Marsden,” with a twinkle in his


eye. But whether he and Dad had a fight, I don’t know because after that, our allegiance turned to St. Peters in Weir Street, Brighton Beach. We used to walk there and it was quite a walk those days because we had to go round the old Brighton Orphanage which was a very big building, it’s been pulled down now and gone into housing. But that was, god knows how much space that took up, but that used to be right in a direct line, we had to make quite a long


detour to get around that. But I enjoyed that immensely, both of them really in some ways. But from then I got mixed up. I sung in several choirs as, after my voice broke as a tenor. But well I used to sing a fair bit until I had the stroke. Now I can’t, I can’t sing a note now. I can,


I come out with some extraordinary sound. I think it’s seriously on tune, but you wouldn’t think it a very pleasant note.
That’s about how I sing. At that time can you remember much division between Catholics and Protestants?
There was a lot. There used to be notes, job advertisements in the paper. No Catholics need apply.


It was quite as much as that and I remember the National Bank. I went in there one day for some reason, they had plaques all round the wall all about Anglican churches and nothing about the Catholic churches. There was a very distinct division there and Archbishop Mannix, of course was, he kept sort of putting a bit more fuel on the fire all the time. He stirred it up.


In your youth what was your personal experience of it?
I didn’t have very much.
Was it mostly Protestants in your area?
Yes, yes, again I didn’t know many boys in the area at Brighton. Before Brighton I had no experience whatever. I used to play cricket with Charlie Woods, God knows where he went to school, to church if he ever did. He lived round


the corner from me and he had a gang of about six to eight chaps. We used to play cricket together. But I don’t think I ever had any personal experience, either good or bad, of it.
Alright, so during the depression did things get harder for your family?
Yes, I’m sure they did. They were never good. Dad


bought a car on terms, the first, perhaps the only car he ever had and my sister was driving it one day and she got in an altercation with a tram and that put that thing, I think he virtually sold it, the cost of a repair, he probably didn’t have it insured I would think. ‘Cause we never did see that again. But he bought the car


not long before we left Beaconsfield and we went for a camping holiday down to Mallacoota, which was quite a highlight in our lives, a big highlight, and it took a long time both ways. Dad had this thing in his mind that the car was just suited to travelling at eighteen miles per hour, and so that was the maximum speed we ever went to. He probably wasn’t used to driving even at that speed with a horse,


riding a horse you could certainly do better than that, but driving with some conveyance with people on board you wouldn’t have got to that speed. But we had a great time there. We camped all the way and stayed a week or two and camped all the way back. But overall, the family were far from well off. Dad had an ongoing fight with the repatriation department, as it was then, and he was eventually transpired as


TPI, Totally and Permanently Incapacitated which gave you a major sort of income. But prior to that, I don’t know what went on. There used to be a bitter feud in the background of his family. His father was an architect in Melbourne and apparently very successful architect. He owned a property in Collins Street, where the Hotel Australia is now, and when he died,


well before he died, there was some bitter division with his wife, my Grandmother and I don’t know quite what the outcome of that all was. But when I remember it, there was a chap named Best, a was a solicitor, Sir something-or-other Best was the solicitor in charge of his estate and Dad used to go in there and have very furious fights and arguments with him and I don’t think he ever won very much cause he used to come home, and we’d, the next few days


we’d hear all about this so-and-so Best. But that thing, I don’t know what eventually happened to it. It obviously sold. Maybe, there were so many beneficiaries that what the family got out of it was just a little drop in the ocean relatively. But apart from that, I don’t think he had much income at all. That’s after he left the farm and …


Do you remember being hungry at this time? How did your family get by?
No, I don’t. I don’t remember being hungry. No. I think if we were hungry we get some bread and whatever was going with it, we used to make our used to make our own butter, a course with the cows there. So there was always a bit of that and, I think


that’s about, I am pretty sure I was never hungry. I was, like all kids, you can eat anything nice, you enjoyed it you’ll eat it of course, but I don’t ever remember thinking, gosh I wish I had a feed.
When you got your first job in 1933, it must have been quite a stroke of good


luck at that time?
Oh yes, I was overjoyed with it. Twelfth of February 1934 I started in the Commonwealth bank and I was overjoyed at that and it wasn’t til I realised later, looked round and saw my contemporaries how they were battling, that I realised how lucky I was. I was extremely lucky, this was owing to Dad’s intelligence or his persuasive talk,


he was a pretty persuasive talker, getting me the opportunity of two jobs, one at the Union Bank, one at the Commonwealth
Why did you join the Commonwealth Bank over the Union?
On his advice, purely on his advice. Because see, this time in the Union Bank he was, he always used to say, that, I think correctly, when there’s a top job in the Union Bank came back, they’d send someone out from England where the head office was, and he said, “there’s never any


future in the Union Bank in Australia,” with that sort of situation. Because when I joined that was the situation, the Union Bank and the Bank of Australasia eventually merged. They were both English banks and controlled by the head offices in London. But he said also the Commonwealth Bank, in his opinion, had a much bigger future well he was quite right because the Union sort of went through a lot of mergers and what have you and it’s


the ANZ [Australian New Zealand], it’s become part of the ANZ now. But it’s an also-round compared to the Commonwealth.
Do you remember other families who were maybe not doing so well at the time?
Oh, not particularly. I think we were all in the same boat really in, this is round, I’m thinking when you say that, around Beaconsfield time and they were all,


they were pretty well all soldier settler's blocks there and the ones we used to know best were a family called Nixon. There were two brothers and a sister: Bill and Harry and Miss Nixon always. They were three very fine people. They’re all single and the lived and worked together, and apart from them and Harry Hopgood, who own the farm almost opposite the Nixon’s where he had this


truck. But Harry and his truck got me into trouble one day with my Dad. I know, but I don’t know how far it went. Dad apparently sold some cattle out to Xavier College in Kew and Harry Hopgood took them up on his truck. So Harry, they stopped the truck and went off to discuss something or other with the college authorities and I was left in the truck, so I fiddled with it and eventually


took the break off and on the slope, it just rolled comfortably along. I didn’t know what to do or how to do it and it came to a stop after demolishing a couple of pounds of Xavier College fencing. There was a fair bit of a row when I got, the family got back. But I didn’t ever sort of hear anything much more about that. I think Dad realized I’d learned a lesson and he probably wasn’t prepared to take his rage out on me at the time with other people there. But I certainly learned a lesson.


Don’t fiddle with things you don’t know much about.
Do you remember seeing any swagmen or?
Oh, they were regulars yes. They were wonderful people really. Most of them were people who couldn’t earn a living at home and they’d go out and try and get a living out of, bit of money out of working round the country area and they send a bit home to their wives when they had bit, they were


all, well I suppose all’s too, nearly all very, I thought, very fine men. But they had a code amongst themselves. I mean they’d, I don’t know what it was, but they’d mark on the front gate of the property whether you were good or bad for a feed or for work, probably some arrangement of scratches or sticks or something or other, it was well known amongst the fraternity, the ‘gentlemen of the road’, I think they called themselves. It was something like that at


any rate. But they’d do any odd jobs for a feed and if you gave them a few pence as well they’d be overjoyed.
Interviewee: Eustace Marsden Archive ID 0455 Tape 03


OK we’re recording now. Right, we left off at the depression with Colin [interviewer].
Now, what I’m interested in is that, if we could talk about your understanding of what was happening to the latter stages of the thirties, with Hitler and Mussolini and things like that?
Yes I know what you mean, I just, I go, the general feeling of uncertainty.


I wish I could remember, I bought a book on either the Russian threat or the German threat and my father was amazingly interested in that which quite surprised me, but it was that more or less that contributed to, or had a lot to do with my desire to join the militia which I did pre-war. But there was general sort of feeling that it was trouble coming, but I don’t remember any sort of world-wide


panic or Australia-wide panic for that matter.
Were you an avid reader of newspapers?
Not very no, not a great deal. I was working at the time and I found other things to do at that age I think.
Did you take a liking towards history?
No, history was not one of my, regrettably one of my main subjects. I think I was a, my main subjects were mathematics at school and when I joined the


Commonwealth Bank of course there was mainly a mathematical touch to it. Some parts of it were very mathematical and some weren’t. But history was something I did ever study particularly. We did a bit at school but it wasn’t one of my follow-up, later subjects that I learnt.
With the depression, I understand that you left school rather early like a lot of other people. How old were


you when you left?
I was fifteen when I first joined the bank. I joined in February and I was sixteen the following March.
And what year was that?
That was 1934.
I joined in February 1934 and I joined sixteen in March coming on. So that contributed to when I retired, I was the longest in time, serving officer in the bank. But I think,


but a lot of people joined the bank at a fairly young age except a few, a few at school must’ve had some, maybe had some influence to get to the bank, I don’t know. But there were always few around who stayed on, they went to public schools and they were in the rowing eight, they stayed on to row the head of the river, which was usually just before Easter, about March


or April, just before the holidays, having taken part in that, then they left school and scratched around and as I said, a few got a job in the bank.
Did you like working in the bank?
Loved it.
What did you like about the work in the bank?
I think public contact was my main thing. I said to Colin earlier, when I was at Devonport I was manager at Devonport and one of the inspectors from head office called on holidays and


said to me I was due for a promotion fairly soon, what would I like and I said I’d like to stick to county management and a course, then shortly afterwards I got transferred to head office in Sydney. The complete, it couldn’t have been a more greater reversal. But I liked the management, I liked dealing with people and particularly country management where you could follow the, see how people went with their businesses or what have you and


you’d know you’d done a good thing or been silly, or whatever the case might be.
With your father being in the war, the previous war, did you show an interest in any military, things military?
No not in the least I think.
What about the militia? Did you want to join the militia?
I joined the militia of my own volition, and


as I said earlier, I joined the 2nd Anti-aircraft Searchlight Company, which was obviously a searchlight company attached to the engineers. I was a sapper. But the first time I went, the family didn’t realize it and I just turned up one day with my uniform on and the family were a bit concerned about that and my mother said, “what have you joined?” And I said, “The anti-aircraft searchlight company.” She got the word anti-aircraft, she decided I’d joined the


air force, I thought she was going to pass out. “Oh no, no, no. Not that, no.” I had to sort of put her right. But apart from that, my father always said I should’ve joined the artillery, which I did later. But he was always anxious for me to join the fortress artillery which I realized, after a short time, was purely a nice safe haven to be really. It was in the First War, not in the Second [World] War though, in fact


the fortress artillery ceased to exist in the Second War.
Fortress artillery, what’s that? Is that garrison artillery?
That’s garrison artillery in,
OK, so you’re just basically?
at Queenscliff and places like that where you’re.
Right, he’s smart isn’t he? He’s looking after his son.
Yes. I suppose he was in his life. But as things developed, it was a silly place to be because not only were they equally at risk but


after a while they disbanded them all and the people in them got scattered all over the place according to where there were vacancies.
Now what year did you join the militia?
I could tell you if I look up my records, but it would be about 1939 I think. I joined because, I mentioned this to Colin, I had an acquaintance with a chap who was forming this new unit which was in the engineers, it happened as a searchlight company


and when we started off there were only about twelve or fifteen in the unit and I got one stripe. But then after a while I realised you couldn’t get commissioned in the engineers without an engineering degree and I couldn’t see myself getting that just to get a promotion in the engineers, so I tried for the artillery then. I went and practised at the nearest artillery depot to home which was the medium brigade in St. Kilda.
You said that


to get in the engineers you needed to have a degree?
No, no, to get a commission in the engineers.
As an officer, I see?
Right. Why was it so stringent?
Well I suppose because they do all sorts of things like build bridges and roads and various, well I don’t know what else they do in the construction line. But I could understand that you’d need some skilled knowledge to be able to know where you’ve got to work out stresses


and strains on materials and use of materials. In the anti-aircraft searchlight it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered a damn. In the engineers generally and I think that because they were in the RAE [Royal Australian Engineers] it applied equally to them, well in that you could get a commission in the searchlights and you might be transferred next month to one of the civil engineering groups where you really do need some skilled knowledge.


What prompted you to join the artillery? Why not the infantry? What appeal did the artillery have?
I think it was because my father had a commission in the artillery and I think I sort of yearned towards that, but I, basically I did join, what the reason was, I’m not quite sure, the nearest unit which had a depot to home, which was Argyle Street, St. Kilda,


which and it was the medium artillery, which was a handicap to me during the war because I was used to sixty-pounders whereas, in the field regiment they were eighteen-pounders unless we could get twenty-five pounders. But the lack of mobility in one, and immense mobility in the second.
Yes that’s true. Now


when war was declared, tell us where you were and what you remember at the time?
Well, I remember I was at home and a friend of mine from the militia unit, he had two stripes, he was a corporal and I had once stripe, I was a lance corporal, came to me and we went over and had a drink at the Prince of Wales Hotel in St. Kilda but


I don’t think the immensity of it dawned on us really at that stage. We could both see, in fact at the time I must’ve been still in the engineers, I would think, because I know we had a bit of a joke there. One of our chaps, chap named Patton, Sapper Patton, one of his jobs was to sell papers in the, evening papers. The Herald and


whatever the other newspaper was, The Sun, no it wasn’t The Sun, doesn’t matter, from a pitch he had in Collins Street, no Swanston Street it was and the joke was if we ever had a call up we’d make our place of meeting in Sapper Patton’s pitch on Swanston Street where he sold the papers, everyone knew that, and knew him.


So, when war began in 1939 it wouldn’t have been a surprise, I understand?
Not really no, I think it was greatly developed, people sort of expected it. But it’s like everything else you expect you know, it’s like a death, when you know someone’s dying, when they die it’s a bit of a jolt and the same thing with that.


When it began were you excited? How did you feel about taking part in the conflict?
Oh no, I wish I could remember that, I think I was, I’m only guessing what I should have been I think, rather than what I remember. I think I sort of well thought I’ve just got to be in it. That’s it. I’ll do my bit and


keep my fingers crossed that I don’t get into trouble. That’s all I can remember really about it. It was inevitable the situation really and I think we were all, all of us in the militia were quite pleased we’d at least had some background. But I said to Colin, again talking about sort of the overview of my experience that when I joined, when I switched from the engineers to the artillery I


was extremely, more than extremely lucky, incredibly lucky there, in that I joined a new battery. I was put into a new battery that was just being formed and they had the officers and very few ORs [Other Ranks], and I lost my one stripe when I transferred to the artillery which is fair enough, but within about eighteen-months, I was commissioned. Which if I’d joined one of the other batteries where they’ve got a lot of


well-trained sergeants who had been probably sergeants for many years or bombardiers before that and so on, I’d still be waiting for a commission today, I think. But oh no, that just worked out incredibly so.
You felt prepared to take on the Germans, your training? How did you feel, confident?
Well, I did early in the piece,


and later when I joined the AIF though, I felt most incompetent. See I went from this sixty-pounder unit, medium artillery, which was virtually static artillery and, we moved a bit but, I don’t know whether you want me to go over the same ground as I covered with Colin.
It’s OK because you did that in the overview that’s alright, we can still talk about that. We’ll go into greater detail.
Yeah well, the medium artillery of course was, worked from a, virtually a fixed position


well behind the lines with a greater range and a greater hitting power, and similarly much less mobility and as a militia unit with the sixty-pounders when we went on bivouacs or camps, we had to hire trucks and God knows whatever you could get to tow the guns around for us and one time I remember the trail lights, they all broke.


I think the material crystallized or something like that and the trail light lines and along our track, I won’t say littered, but there were a number of sixty-pounder guns pulled along the side of the road, waiting for someone from ordinance to come along and put new trail lights in there and tow them away back and get them fixed up properly. But that was the sort of thing, then I went from there to the 2/4th Field Artillery where movement and quick movement was the order of the day.


and yeah, they even had movement orders for going into action, trail right, trail left and various other things that were completely foreign to me, I had no idea and there I was, landed as an officer, supposed to give all these orders and it didn’t work out that way in practise thank goodness, but I feared it would. As I said, I felt quite unprepared for that cause I had no knowledge whatever of artillery observers being up forward with the infantry in the forward lines sort of


being right in the middle of it and directing the infantry attacks. I was more used to being on an observation posts a bit further back and looking the binoculars and seeing what was going on.
Before we get to the campaign route, I’d like to work up from Australia and your trip to the Middle East, and then I want to go into great depth on the campaign, which is very interesting.
Yes well,
I want to ask you before we proceed


there, what, can you tell us what empire meant to you?
The British Empire meant a lot to me. I was born in England and for various reasons, I mentioned this again to Colin. I’m still an English national and I still have a British passport and I’ve stuck to that for various family reasons. But I was very much a supporter of England and I still will be always. So to me I was quite sort of


quite happy about all that side of things. But when we left from Australia to go, we didn’t know where. We were just being shipped overseas. At that stage I was the second reinforcement for the 2/4th Medium Regiment. The first reinforcements always travelled with them as part of the regiment, they were just sort of a surplus there for immediate use or to fill immediate vacancies with


casualties or any reason you would like to name. But we got all these instructions, I can still remember we had to paint various numbers and things on our sea chests and each of the officers had a, sort of, you could take a sealed chest overseas with you and you could lock it and put all your uniforms and bits and pieces in that. But we made, there were three or four of us in this


camp at the time in Puckapunyal, made such a hash of the painting that the officer in charge of us, he just threw his hands up in horror, he said, “ If I’d known you lot would be as bad as this I’d have got a decent painter to paint them on.” We had to paint coloured strips, colour coded for the unit and the regiment and so on. We went on the [SS] Mauritania. One of my trips I can remember was the Mauritania. I was always very sorry about this. I was


standing at the door of the train as it slowly worked its way through towards the station at Port, or the pier at Port Melbourne and I saw my family there, and I waved like, whether they saw me or not I don’t know. But I thought if only I’d had the sense to point to them, they’d have recognized me there. Whether they saw me or not I have just no idea. We had an interesting trip there. I was in charge of a group of thirty. There were two other officers and twenty-seven.


One sergeant and three bombardiers I think and the rest were gunners. And my memory of it was in the days when I hadn’t sort of learnt to delegate anything at all, a number of nominal rolls we had to make out of this damned second reinforcement 2/4th Field Regiment. I probably wrote out about thirty nominal rolls, I could, till a few years ago I could name most of them with name and number off by


off by heart. You know, I started with myself. BX39363 Lieutenant ECH Marsden, then I’d go to two other lieutenants, McFarlane and McDonald and then Sergeant Ross Dell and so on. God, I wrote these all out by hand. But any rate, we went from there on an interesting convoy really. And on the way we said goodbye to the [HMS] Queen Mary which sailed off to Singapore.


which was a sad thing in the long-run, we realised. We landed at Bombay and we went for a fortnight up to Deolali, a camp station, an English camp station it was in the hills. Where we had quite an interesting adventure there. We had a few days leave in Bombay. I saw Bombay with a friend of mine, Harry Chucker, was in the 7 Div Sigs [Division Signals].


But we went up by train to this station up there where we camped there with the British, we were dominating and we were very spoiled, we had Indian servants you could call them almost, looking after us, making our beds, cleaning our shoes and doing every damn thing and they must have been very poorly paid and very hard up


cause I know, they’d clean your shoes, but they would, as the polish got near the bottom of the tin they would scrape it all out and put it into another tin and do the same with several other tins until they got a nice tin full, then they’d sell it to you at retail price. Which was fair enough because obviously they were, well they were scratching to get money at all, I think poor chaps. But I still remember


the officers mess there the first morning, there was a little bloody one pip in the English army chap named Wilson, a red-headed bloke and I couldn’t forget him, we were sitting there for breakfast, we had a beautiful breakfast, including cutlets and Wilson didn’t like cutlets and I still remember him, “Cutlets! Cutlets!” over his shoulder goes one, “culet’s, I wouldn’t feed these to my hound.” And the poor bloody Indians were running around


gathering these and in a panic to appease this little blasted one pipper bloke who was putting on this performance. But it’s an education as to how English officers were behaving those days. They were pretty brutal.
Did they beat their servants?
I don’t think they ever physically touched them. I wouldn’t have thought so. But you know they were, they gave them a pretty rough trot mentally.


Then from there, of course we went back to Bombay and after a couple of days we went on an English troop ship. I’ve forgotten what it was called now. I often wish I could remember, but coming from the Mauritania where we had converted cabins to an English troop ship was like going from heaven down to hell almost. No, we moved up into the Red Sea and got off at El Kantara


and moved by train up to Palestine. I think we went to a rest, not a rest camp, an AIF training regiment where we stayed a few days and then we moved on to the 2/4th.
OK now, what rank were you at this stage?
I was lieutenant.
You were Lieutenant in the 2/4th Field Artillery?
Yes, in the 2/4th Field Regiment. RAA. Royal Australian Artillery.
Alright. So you weren’t a second-lieutenant you were just


a lieutenant?
No, I was a second lieutenant when I was commissioned in the militia, but the minute I joined the AIF it was confirmed as a lieutenant.
Now, I’m curious to find out how you found leadership. Leadership role as a lieutenant, during the militia and up to this point in Palestine, how you found dealing with your men? Did you have problems? Did you encounter things that you can tell us about?


I don’t think so. I had problems and I had to force myself a bit and I didn’t delegate half as much as I should have. But I don’t think I experienced problems. I’d had enough experience in the militia fortunately to get me accustomed to doing something which was quite unlike my nature. But I remember one time I almost shocked myself, and I shocked I think, all the twenty-seven


ORs blokes who were in the reinforcement. The language was bloody incredible, that they used to use, it was to me at any rate and I said to the sergeant, I said “you tell them they’ve got to cut that out while I’m here,” and somewhat to my surprise they all cut it out. But that was my sort of first direct command to people at a personal level, as distinct from saying right turn, left turn, attention, what have you, but


I got used to it, though it took me a while to fully delegate and recognize the value of delegating to people too, in training.
You said the language, so you’re you referring to that they were speaking in filthy?
Yes absolutely, I was obviously used to a certain amount of bad language, but not the, no every second word was, a bit too much for me.


I think I recognized or considered also, that with an officer there they should be prepared to sort of give credence to it, I s’pose is the way to say it.
How did the senior NCOs [Non Commissioned Officer] react to your leadership?
They were wonderful chaps.
Like the sergeants and what not?
Yeah, we had one sergeant, Harry Wostell, and then two bombardiers, a chap named Elliot and a


god I should know this other fellow. He died not long ago. That doesn’t matter much but they were, what’ll I say? More elderly, much older chaps and I don’t think they stayed with the unit long, I think they were pushed out as being too old for the present day war as it was then. But they were very good, they were very reliable, stead, good well-trained chaps.
Did you have any run-ins with the sergeants or the


warrant officers?
No, no. Well there was only thirty of us there, just one unit in the reinforcement we’re talking about? One sergeant and either two or three bombardiers that was all and the bombardiers were all very good and so was the sergeant too, he was, they were all much older than the young chaps. There was a very big, marked difference in age. I probably came somewhere in the middle. I think the sergeants and


bombardiers were older than I was, then I came, then most of the younger chaps were younger, all except one chap, Bluey Wagland, who was an ex-pug, and looked like it. He was a great chap, God he was and could do anything, would do anything. He was one of the older group. Most of them were much younger.
So you didn’t find problems communicating with elder men from your position?


I did for a while, more in the militia. But I’d sort of steel myself to having to do it, and I found after I did it, well it wasn’t so tough after all and I was able to keep going then. But I certainly sort of felt a qualm about it for a while. But you know needs must from the devil drive, you have little option.
What were you expecting in Palestine? Did you know what was going to happen when you were stationed in Palestine?
No. I had no idea. I was


there a very short time and after we arrived there with the regiment, almost simultaneously with our arrival, they got a movement order to go to the Western Desert and there was a real panic around the place. We were all issued with new webbing equipment and no one, it was quite a tangle of stuff. No one had any idea what to do or how to sort it out, and even sorting out


who got what and how to, so you got one of each of these and two of those and it took a while. But that was only just one example. The troop I was in, Ack Troop [ack ack - anti aircraft] it was, was supplied with twenty-five pounders and there were others, one other troop got it, Charlie Troop I think got twenty-five pounders and the other troops got eighteen-pounders. Very old First War eighteen pounders which were


well I s’pose they would’ve done a job, but they were so much below the twenty-five pounders as not to be funny in capacity. But we all packed off and went to the Western Desert to Matruh, going through Ikingi Mariut and we and we stopped there for a while where we got all this equipment and we got several dust storms there. I remember one of them. Some strange body arrived,


out of a dust storm a man suddenly appeared and I didn’t recognize him at all and he didn’t know what was what, so I pulled my pistol out and I said, “Walk.” I kept him about a few paces ahead of me. That’s all I could see and I took him to RHQ [Regimental Headquarters] or battalion, battery headquarters I’ve forgotten which now and said, "I don’t know who this bloke is, or what he is, but he’s wandering around," I didn’t ever hear out the outcome of that. That was my first experience of dealing with someone


I didn’t know and didn’t trust. But then we went off to Matruh there. Do you want me to keep going on this?
Yes, yes, yes absolutely.
We were in a fortress role at Matruh. We were there as a sort of a the final stopper for, or would be final stopper for Rommel if he broke through Tobruk, well he didn’t break through Tobruk, thank goodness. But we got bombed a fair bit by the Italians while we were there and we also got, we didn’t get any


casualties from that. That was, what is said about Italian bombing. And as a side issue I went, that’s right I went sometime after, I was sent to Cairo to do a Sig. school and we were in the train then there was an alarm, an aircraft alarm and we had a serious discussion as to whether we’d stay on the train because they were Italians would be safe or get off the train and


run the risk of being hit when the Italians missed the train. So I think some stayed on the train and I got off and got into a ditch. The bombs were fairly close, but not much. I still remember that ditch an English Tommy landed on the ditch on top of me and he was absolutely terrified, he was shivering and shaking, I got the shock of my life at that reaction. But we went back onto the train


and I still remember the sequel to that. We had all been in the dining room having a very nice dinner, thankyou, and, when this alarm came, and when we got back we went to our little berth on the train and a course the dining room steward came along and said, “You owe me so much, Sahib?” and whatever it was and we all denied it, he was he obviously, he was quite sure it was us, but he, in the


face of our four or five-strong denials, he gave up. So I don’t know what he did about getting paid, or what happened about being paid. But that was a side issue. At Matruh I got sent off with a small section, two guns, to a place called Cleopatra’s Bath, which was out on, quite near the coast, very close to the Mediterranean coast, as part of the sort of defensive line up and


this, what’s the word I want? Disposal or scattering of the regiment and the guns in case of the aircraft bombing, but it was a very lonely spot there. I was just the one officer, with the two gun crews whom I hardly knew at all, and lots and lots of sand. The Mediterranean was over a couple of sand dunes but we were so short of men and so apprehensive about what


was happening, we couldn’t afford to let anyone take time off to go and have a swim in the Mediterranean even. We just had enough for the gun crews and that was all. But we stayed there for I don’t know how long now, a couple of months maybe and I was completely lost in the role of an officer in the field artillery though, not only in the mobility of the guns, but in the observation and


and usage of the FOO, forward observation officer with the infantry. But as port of, sort of a, familiarisation routine, both for them and for us, I spent a few days with the 2/14th Battalion who were somewhere up near the front and I remember, I didn’t even quite realize what I was there for even. That in itself was an interesting, what’ll I say, trip, for on the way to,


to get there and back. Sand was everywhere and if you got off the tracks you got bogged and when you were bogged you were just about completely stuck. We had some sand tracks we carried on the vehicle. If you could dig down enough to the driving wheel, it’s usually, well they always were the back wheels, if you put the sand tracks down you could get off, out of the bog as long as you could get onto hard ground to somewhere you could travel. I used to sit on the front mudguard and yell out to the driver


to watch where we were going cause there was so much, we travelled in the dark most the time and any case, there was so much sand blowing he couldn’t really see half the time where he was going, I’d give him directions, as to go right, left or a foot to the right and what have you. But we didn’t ever get bogged in this particular trip although we got held at up one time by a 2/14th Infantry Battalion chap that, strange to say, I knew when I was at school, though I didn’t realize till later


he suddenly appeared out of the sand with his bayonet and said, “Halt. Who goes there?” you know and, “Password?” Like no one had told me there was a password, let alone what it was. I said, “I don’t know.” I said, “I’m from the artillery,” “Oh,” he said, “that’s OK then. Off you go.” He didn’t realize and I didn’t realize until afterwards the passwords were to be, an area password, it’s not a divisional password, it applies to everyone travelling. But I was quite pleased that Ken Clarke didn’t take it to extremes.


on that occasion.
Where were you at this stage? Which position were you at?
I was at Matruh, on Cleopatra’s Bath.
At Mersa Matruh?
Yeah, Mersa Matruh, and I stayed there until our unit was ready to go back to Palestine.
Did you see much action at Mersa Matruh?
None at all, we didn’t ever fire the guns. All we did was to get, well, we did get bombed, we got bomb scares, that’s all you could say.
By the Italians?
Yes, the Italians were,


I don’t know whether they were incompetent or just scared or wanted to get rid of their bombs quickly or what the heck, but they didn’t, they rarely did any damage to us, thank goodness.
And the Germans weren’t in the picture at this stage, were they?
No they weren’t, no they were still messing about further along the coast working towards around Tobruk.
So what took place from Mersa Matruh onwards? How did you get back to the Vichy-French campaign which was about to


take place?
Yes well, that’s where we went. We moved up from Mersa Matruh and handed over to a Polish regiment. I was sorry for them. They were obviously tossed into desert conditions without any warning because, we were on a very strict water ration there, I think we got personally one water bottle full of water, to last you for the day and you know for personal ablutions, you put about


half a pannikin full and you’d clean your teeth in that first, then you’d shave in it and then you’d wash, whatever’s left over your face or whatever part you think needed washing. But the Polish regiment, before lunchtime they’d gone through nearly all their water bottles, emptied them and the rest of the day they wouldn’t have had a drop of water individually. I don’t know how the hell they got on, but still, we went back. I was with a


rear party and we had to go like old Harry to catch up with the main group. That was a very, very hot dry drive down to Cairo. We drove down to Cairo, I know the bike riders, we had a few bike riders there. We used to change them ever, I forget now, every ten or fifteen minutes, otherwise the heat was too much for them, then they’d sit in the back of one of the trucks, try to sort of come back to normal until their next


stint came on the road. So it was a hard, we did in one-day what the regiment did in two-days. And here am I speeding all the way and no stops of any consequence. Then we caught up to them at Cairo and then we drove right though to, right through Palestine up to [al] Fula, I think it was, just a little bit south of the Syrian border and after a very


short time then, we took part in this invasion of Syria. By which time all the regiment had twenty-five pounders, thank goodness. But the other two, the missing troops had picked them up somewhere along route. I think on the way out.
Now tell us about the preparation for the Syrian campaign. How long did it take for your unit to be up to strength in its preparation?
I don’t think it took very long really.


We’d a new CO and a relatively new battery commander. But it didn’t take long and of course we didn’t do anything at the gun position really beyond, a bit of marching around to get fit. But on the other hand, it was all supposed to be secret and we weren’t supposed to make a show of ourselves or, it was all a bit silly really because anyone who wanted to know would’ve known. When we went up there, we were


supposed to put our felt hats away and out of sight and pretend we were anything but an Australian unit, which was also damn silly, I mean you only had to talk to one of our chaps to work out what his language was. However, when we went in, we were pretty well qualified, in that we were all very well trained individually. We weren’t trained as a troop or a battery or a regiment to fight, but then that didn’t occur.


A certain amount of battery shooting came, took place later in Syria, but never a regimental shoot. So, overall I think we were as well trained as we could have been in the circumstances at any rate.
Were you surprised that you were fighting against the Vichy-French or you were about to?
Not all together. I think there was a sort of build up gossip we got or communication came through accustomed us,


accustomed us to the thought. But once we got used to it, they were just another pest to get out of the way.
You must have known you were going to fight against the French foreign legion?
No, we didn’t know. Maybe our senior people did, but within the regiment I didn’t know at all. I didn’t know what the composition would have been.
Interviewee: Eustace Marsden Archive ID 0455 Tape 04


OK, we were talking about your preparation for the Syrian campaign. Which access were you stationed at, near the costal area?
We worked around the coastal area and we stayed except for a detachment of one troop towards the centre area, up the coast the whole time. We left about, I forget what time, in the dark any rate, and drove all the way.


I had a driver on my truck, a chap named Steve Wood who had very heavy glasses and he managed to run bang into a damned anti-tank, a concrete parapets on the way and put the truck right out of commission which upset things a bit, we weren’t prepared for that sort of thing so early in the piece. But any rate I managed to get ourselves transferred across to another truck, all our gear and all our party and off we went.


But the first, major first hold up we came to, the French had blown the road on a big escarpment, the engineers were flat out there making a temporary one, with earth moving gear and the chaps with picks and shovels and all hands on deck. I still remember the CO, a chap named McDonald was engineer CO and a bad tempered little bugger he was too. He was controlling the traffic he probably did a very good job


but he annoyed me cause I s’pose I didn’t get through as quickly as I wanted to. But we got through there alright and we went on there past Tayyar and we settled down, I’ve forgotten just what now, just south of the Tayyani River, we took a gun position we occupied there, we were pretty well scattered, fortunately, and very heavy clay soil it was, very difficult hard soil and


I didn’t have a batman. That was one of the penalties of joining the regiment as I did. No one wanted to be a batman at that stage and I sort of, well I didn’t have it in me, I didn’t have the capacity or the common sense to say to someone, "You’ll be my batman." I mean, it is no good having a batman that doesn’t want to be a batman, any rate, he’d just wouldn’t do the things he should and do things he shouldn’t. So I remember having to dig a slit trench for myself with the


pick and shovel which was damned hard work in that heavy soil. But while we were there we were shelled by two French destroyers coming off the coast and we took them on, after our battery commander told us not to and then the CO said to go forward, we took them on too and we drove them off but they landed a few shells pretty, mightily close to the gun position,


and they were enormous holes but probably in a lighter soil they would have been much, much worse. I mean there was this heavy soil, the shells just went in and they didn’t move as much as they might of other wise. But these destroyers outgunned us in both firepower and range, up went a smoke screen and they disappeared down the coast, we were delighted with that, needless to say. But that was just south of Litani


and we, over the Litani, the 2/16th Battalion led the advance over Litani and one of our, my troops, David Gaunt, he got on MC there with the 2/16th just over the way. That was the first bravery award the regiment had ever got and so that he got over there, the 2/16th had a vicious crossing. We eventually got across with a


makeshift bridge, a pontoon bridge that the engineers put up, it was hard going because you couldn’t take much weight. First of all, you had to run the Marmon Herrington, we called them tractors but they were just darn big trucks really across, then man-handle the gun across. Then man-handle the trailer across which carried a lot of shells and ammunition in it and link them all up and off you go at the other side. One by one we got across that way.


We put up a gun position there and, let me see, we did a bit of night firing then, and then we'd moved on. The first firing I ever sort of controlled, when I heard a gun fairly, quite well forward with the leading infantry and they got held up by a solitary machine gun in very much in a rock built little


fortress on the hillside. Any rate, I had a bit of a job working out, giving the directions for the range and the line to the number three on the gun who controlled the sights until I managed to get him, show him the spot where it was, and then he put one into there in no time and God, I’ll never forget, the infantry all cheered. But the scatter of rocks was everywhere, we didn’t,


didn’t see what’s happened to the blokes, but they would’ve been blown to shreds in there. So we went on there and later I got, this was one of my, it’s the beginning of a funny story really. I got told to take another gun up forward to, some French tanks were worrying the infantry and I was told to go up and report to a Lieutenant Mills from the 6th Div Cav [Cavalry], who were equipped with


Bren carriers, no more than that, who were to tell me what to do and I was under the command of Mills, which was a misfortune too. So he put me out in a rather exposed position there and said, "Now, keep your eye out,” and a French tank just went over there for a short distance, disappeared out of sight behind the hill. The next time it, or we didn’t see it, he just got this turret above there enough to see it.


It was too far away and they got onto us with their machine gun and the cannon and the cannon was getting closer and closer would a been nasty and the machine gun were peppering bullets off the shield on the gun. They had our line exactly and the range, and while I was there I got one in the leg, in the left thigh, and tell you I could see we were in a, well a losing position obviously. We couldn’t identify this well enough to fire at


it and whether we’d have gotten such a small spot, there was just a bit of a turret over the hill, I don’t know but I said, “well let’s get out,” and then the driver panicked. He couldn’t keep his foot steady on the accelerator, he jumped and jerked and he had to back the exact line to get the hook in the tractor in line with the trailer eye on the gun. So I called out to, in advance,


to give him some direction and God was I delighted when I heard another voice. One of the gunners on the other side, I hadn’t noticed, had gone out told the driver to get the hell out of it and taken over and he was as steady as a rock, this chap. He said, “Now how am I going, Sir?” and do this and do that and we hooked up and got off and all of us were hanging on the outside of the tractor anywhere we could. We got out and disappeared into some trees and at the


same time, the 6th Div carrier went across into the space between the French tank and us. They put up a smoke screen which really saved, let us get out in peace and strange to say, living in Sydney as I was later, I got very friendly with a solicitor there, Chris Britton and we used to meet up for holidays together, we were both camping and we got drinking one night


and Chris was talking about his experiences in Syria and how he was in charge of the damned 6th Div Cav. carrier which went across and put the smokescreens up which saved me. But I got a relief. A very good friend of mine, Charlie Carol, came and relieved me about, I dunno what time, sometime during the night


and when dawn came I was whizzed back in the medical section and they didn’t have many casualties then. They had very few I would say and the medical section were obviously anxious to test themselves out and I went from the casualty clearing station to the main dressing station or vice versa, whichever it was, in next to no time, I was whizzed down to a British hospital in Haifa in next to no time and I know I caused


a major panic there when I was sort of, the said, “into bed you go,” and I started taking my gear off and when I pulled my pistol, out it was still loaded and I emptied it and gosh there was a panic everywhere in the hospital. “What else have you got on you?” But that was a home from home that British hospital. I wasn’t there long but the first day I was there I remember the one a the nurses came along and said, "Would you like your beer before or after lunch?" Well


that was so unexpected, it was a home from home. They were very efficient there. They came in quietly one day and pulled the blinds down, just walked out, disappeared and later on I realised there’d been an aircraft alert bombing, and they pulled the blind down just to, well it’s to protect against glass splinters as much as possible.
And before we proceed in the hospital, I wanted to ask you


what it was like being at the front line in Syria before you got, by the time you got wounded that is and before that?
I didn’t ever visualize getting hit. It didn’t enter my mind at all so it didn’t concern me very much. On the way up there I remember I was hiding behind a grass embankment with a lot in infantry chaps, 2/14th I think they were, and we could hear the bullets going along over the tops. Scud, Scud, Scud,


you know as the French machine-gun bullets that went over the top of us. It was there that I saw my first dead Frenchman. He was a Negro of some sort and course, he’d been dead for a day or two, he’d blown up into gigantic proportions. You have no idea how much they blow up with gas. But that sort of brought the war home a bit to me. But war of course in the artillery, war was a bit remote in that you didn’t


physically fire personally at anyone, you fired, well in my case I gave orders for a gun that fired at something, and with any luck killed someone. But it didn’t worry me much. I got quite a shock when I felt this wack on my leg, but I was incredibly lucky that I had this little haversack on my side that I carried a few maps in and it went through that first of all. So I finished up, there’s still bits of that


the shell in there. But they decided they wouldn’t operate and I don’t know what happened to the shell. It didn’t, apparently it didn’t stay in there as a complete unit, it disintegrated, or I said a shell, a bullet, it disintegrated a bits, they said there are still bits of it in there, but the main body of it must’ve dropped out somewhere on the route.
And you were a forward observation officer as well, weren’t you?
I was, not in Syria. That was the end of the Syrian campaign for me.


But if I can, do you want me to continue with the hospital side or?
Actually, no there’s a few more questions I’d like to ask. Had you seen an infantry attack in Syria?
No, not as such, no. The times I had been up with them, I’d been up early one, very early one dawn and it was still black almost and with a gun and the CO came down, in his dressed in his


pyjamas and took command. We fired a few rounds but we didn’t, that was right through, we didn’t do any good that I know of and went off. But apart from that I hadn’t seen any infantry. See, I was back at the gun position all the time. I was a section officer there and we had six guns in the troop at that time and each, were each with three sections, each with two guns. I was in charge of one section.
Were you surprised at


the French, the Vichy-French resistance?
Yes I think everyone was. We were told to wear our felt hats, there’s no need to wear our steel helmets because the French, if put up resistance at all, it’ll just be a token. But by gosh, it was anything but a token and they had the area so well zoned. I mean they had little stone cans all round the place, markers for their range for the artillery.


Now if they saw you between this one and this one, they’d know you’re between say seven-hundred and seven-hundred and fifty, or seven and one hundred you know, they had that place very well organised.
So how did they mark it, with the stone?
Oh, little cans of stones. You know, little built up piles of stones, just some marker that they knew, it wouldn’t matter much what it was.
Was the artillery fire accurate?
Theirs was yes.


We were very lucky. They were very early in the piece, one of our battery commanders or troop commanders was just firing generally on the few sort of valleys he could see, where there was a valley you could see a range here and another one behind it and he dropped a few rounds in between, and by clear coincidence we found out later, the first rounds and one shot landed within a few hundred yards of a French gun emplacement, a


battery it would a been and of course the French thought, “God, they’ve got onto us somehow, let’s get out,” and they pulled out, which was very fortunate indeed. But they were accurate. I was on the road one time with several of the infantry blokes there and in a, and we had trucks and what have you and the artillery got onto us then and I remember hiding underneath one of the trucks, sort of lying across-ways between the two front wheels


and laying crosswise between the two back wheels was the CO of the infantry and we were all ducking for cover, but I don’t know what happened. They didn’t continue with it at any rate.
Tell us about the artillery duels you’d had?
The artillery?
Not that I know of. See well, I was only there for about a week in Syria and we didn’t have any artillery duels


at all. The only counter-fire we ever got, or it wasn’t counter fire, was the attack by the French destroyers. While I was there, they weren’t anywhere near us at all. Their own artillery was concentrated really on attacking our forward infantry all the time.
Did you have any command problems when you were liaising with your higher officers about


the placement of the artillery and whether to support the infantry or to lift your guns?
No, not really. Well I, see I wasn’t with the forward area at all and the people who gave the commands for the range were up with the infantry. They could see, at the command end, we couldn’t see anything beyond a few hills and trees and what have you, we you couldn’t see anything


of what was happening. It was all indirect firing in that you, well direct is where you can see your target, indirect is where you have to get directions from an observing officer, someone who can see both, where he can see the fall of ground and the target and he knows on the map where the guns are.
Did you get to see a lot of wounded people who were being taken to the rear areas?
No. There weren’t many wounded when I was there. No,


we were lucky. The 2/16th had a few but I didn’t ever see them. If they went through the gun position they would’ve gone in ambulances at that stage and the guns were far enough back that you could travel in vehicles with safety, they didn’t, either they didn’t have observation of us or they were too busy firing at the closer more, what they thought were more immediate dangerous targets.


But the gun position was a pretty safe one really.
Was the going slow, like the forward movement?
It was very time at times. We went in fits and starts, according to whether the French got pushed out of a defensive position and went, got back to another defended locality or not I s’pose. You know you’d get held up, then you’d have a quite a quick advance for a while until the next hold up came and then you’d be


slow while that was overcome.
Did you get a chance to see any French POWs [prisoner of war] in your first week?
No, I did not. No, I didn’t see any at all that I can remember. I think if I had I would’ve remembered. See we were, in the gun position we weren’t sort of on the main road. It was sort of near a main road, but


just off it a bit and, well in the positions thought most suitable for guns really.
What about French aircraft?
Oh, they were a damn nuisance. There were no British aircraft about at all, and the French gave us a bit of Larry Dooley at times. Particularly they’d come low and machine gun us, but they didn’t ever cause any casualties. I don’t know quite how it is.
Were there frequent air raids?


Not very frequent, no. I think the targets were scattered too much and I think more, again I think they concentrated more on the infantry than on us. But I remember we had a British anti-aircraft gun, a Bofors near us and like all artillery, there’s a very defined sequence of orders given to engage a target, you know you start off with


a description, the range and the line and angle of sight and a few other things and the corrections and, the British sort of forwent all of these. I remember the bombardier in charge of them, when he got to the line h said, “give em buggery.” Never mind about fire or gunfire or anything like that, but they did a great job. They drove them off even if they didn’t, I think I saw one plane come down,


not very close to us, but they kept them away from us which was the main thing.
Are there any other stories you can tell us about? Tell us about the funnier stories of the Syrian campaign?
Oh, I don’t know if there are any funny ones really. You’ve got me guessing a bit.
What were the officers like?


Oh, my troop commander was an accountant in civil life, a very, he was called Gunner Gaunt, mainly because he was never on intimate terms with anyone, all the troops he used to address as gunner, he’d never get, he’d never use their surnames normally, or their Christian names for that matter and the gun position officer was a little chap named Henry whom couldn’t have been a more


egotistical little character than he was. But he was very efficient, but he was super-efficient. He told me one time he learnt his gun drill at home. He had no father and his mother used to hear him on the gun drill. He’d say, “Mum hear me on this,” and then his gun drill, the sequence of orders and various other things. But he was pretty efficient in many ways. Except


his egotism was too much for him and I remember just as a side issue about Henry. He was doing some practice shoot sometime with an aircraft observation, an aircraft giving orders of, not directed to the gun, but correctional orders, go a hundred yards to the left or five hundred yards plus, and we’d change them into orders suitable for the gun range equipment.


But Henry couldn’t get any and he finally sent the order back, “Tell the pilot to check his target position on his map,” and a course, Henry had the damn thing plotted incorrectly all the time and that was typical Henry. He would never concede that he could have made a mistake. In fact, one of the,


what’ll I say? Little histories of the regiment included one shoot in Syria where the, order to stop firing was 'stop' you know, that means you don’t fire again and the order to recommence was 'go on'. That was very, very firmly in the gun drill, any rate we had to stop and something happened in a panic, and Henry called out "Fire, fire," and I think four


out of, or five out of the six guns fired and one other Sergeant there held up his hand and said, “Check, go on sir,” he said, “Fire, fuck you, fire,” and the sergeant is still alive now, and still enjoys the story. He got the message that you’d better fire. Yeah, that’s about it. I can’t remember anything in particular.


What about the other ranks? What were they like?
They were very good. Very experienced. We had a large quota of country people in the regiment, in the troop and they were steady and all hand, they could do anything really and coach themselves to anything at all. We had a permanent Warrant Officer attached,


he was a good chap, not very flamboyant, but a very good reliable chap, Felix McCabe and the gun sergeant was, pretty well all country people and Western Districts Victoria largely but a bit like the planters you mentioned in Ceylon. Very reliable and very good and very sound and very used to commanding and controlling their gun crew. Now I think we were very lucky,


the regiment was extremely lucky with the type of NCO we had.
What were the problems you encountered in the Syrian campaign?
They were largely personal problems. Largely not having a batman. Cause I still had my officers duties to carry out and I had to be called up for orders meetings at different times and different things and then I’d get back


to the troop position and find that everyone was snug in bed with their, or well covered up with a slit trench dug and I’d have to get to work with a spade and pick and dig myself one, and things like that. But I got, I remember being so tired one night I was using a pick and I fell asleep with the, the pick went in, I just fell over asleep on the bit of a hole I’d dug without knowing it, or intending it rather for that


matter. But they were personal things. I didn’t have any interpersonal problems within the troop.
Now after the campaign was over, well actually you got sent away when you were injured. After the hospital what took place?
After the hospital?
How long were you in hospital for by the way?


About ten days I suppose, but after that, the sequel was unbelievable. I was sent off to Cairo for the convalescent leave and quite unnecessarily and I think they were testing out, and proving the need to have a medical team on board, without, a medical team without any patients, they wouldn’t have been much good. So I went on this, I went to Cairo and had a fortnight in Cairo on a houseboat along


the Nile. The OC [Officer Commanding] of the houseboat was a some connection of General Blamey's, so obviously there was a bit of nepotism there. That was a home from home that was. We were honorary members of the Geziro Country Club which was a magnificent club. A gold course, tennis club, swimming pools, you name it, it was there.
Where was that again?
In Cairo, Geziro. G-E-Z-I-R-O. That was


the suburb I think, the name of the country club. It was quite close to the houseboat and just clapped our hands and a native servant would come rushing out and say, “What do you want?” and I had a fortnight exploring Cairo to some extent or other. No all I had to do there was sleep overnight and I was quite capable of moving around. My leg wasn’t as bad as all that. If I had got it in New Guinea I think I’d have probably stayed on duty or


been told to stay on duty, one or the other. But I, cause I wended my way back to the regiment through usual army slow trips, spell at the training centre, I think they called it, and then when I joined them they were all well and truly camped in a beautiful little spot near a native village, I say native, I mean a Syrian village or a,


in the hills just overlooking, not far from, oh my God, the capital of Syria, the capital of Lebanon it was, really.
Beirut yes of course, not far from Beirut. We used to go on Beirut on day leave quite regularly.
So you must have been relieved to see the campaign finished?
I was quite delighted. It was well and truly finished by the time I got back to the regiment.


What did they say about the campaign when you went to see your friends again, your regimental colleagues?
They didn’t have much to say about it really. I think they magnified their problems, which wouldn’t be a unusual, but nothing that I can remember at all. They did a lot of firing the, at the attack at Damour, the Damour River, the crossing there. But apart from that, I think they did a, did some firing, obviously to support the infantry


as they went along, but not a major sort of, the Damour attack was much more of a planned attack on a timetable. Firing timetable worked out, it was designed to coincide with the expected movement of the infantry but controlled by voice, with an FOO with the infantry to sort of say well, lift a hundred yards now, instead of


two minutes or whatever.
Now you didn’t suffer many losses?
No, no, very few. The losses they mainly had were through landmines and sickness. Now, I caught malaria in Syria, but didn’t manifest itself until I got back to the mainland here and then I had a long spell of malarial treatment, over


perhaps a year or two. But in the main there weren’t many losses.
Now how long did you stay at Beirut?
Oh, gosh, how long’s a piece of string? Perhaps a month.
And did you visit Damascus as well?
Yes, I visited there one day. That was very interesting that, but it was only a short time there, by the time you drove


there and back.
What were the people like in Beirut?
They were a bit remote. They didn’t welcome us very much, I think. They were, of course Beirut was really a French city, or French and American. American University was one of the main things there and one of the main employers I would have thought in the area. But most of the people were a bit remote. They had no


time for the Australians. One of my friends was here was, he comes from the Western District. He was very well brought up, a very rich family and well used to good dining and good living and just after the war, when peace was declared in Beirut, this chap was a Sergeant and he went along with a group of friends and he had a wonderful


dinner at a wonderful little restaurant there with linen table clothes and nice napkins and they went there a week or two later and found that the tablecloths and napkins had all gone. They just had lino topped tables and paper napkins and obviously they either had some bad experiences with the Australians, or thought the Australians don’t sort of, welcome or understand fine living as the French did.


But overall we didn’t ever feel very welcome by the populus there.
Now I know that the Middle East, especially Cairo and Beirut was notorious for brothels and the soldiers, I know, visited. Can you tell us about their behaviour?
The soldiers?
Well Cairo of course, well I was there twice Cairo, I went to a school later


and, oh, you couldn’t go a hundred yards without being accosted by someone. “You want to see my sister? My, very hygienic, very clean.” It was always my sister and they had cabs there, they’d take you to my sister, wherever she was. But Beirut had a few there. The story went that they had one rather famous one, was “officers only”, but


only “officers only” during the evenings. The daytime it was all and sundry. But any rate there were a few about I would say. The troops, were always well behaved as far as I know. I didn’t ever remember any sort of comments or criticism arising from their behaviour.
Were you given lectures or briefings on VD [venereal disease]?
Oh a little bit, not very


What would they say?
I remember Tom Braymie [Blamey?] gave one and he said, “You fellows are putting your pricks where I wouldn’t put my walking stick.” That’s the sort of lecture one remembers, you see. But apart from that they were very general, you know, you ought to take care and look after yourselves. There was a generous issue of condoms. They had some other stuff they used to issue too. Some ointment or other you could put inside


your old Tom Harry after you’d been where you shouldn’t have been with it. But the condoms were largely used by troops to put over the muzzles of the rifles to keep them clean and save them from having to clean them all the time from the dust and rubbish around.
They had a different use of the condoms?
Oh yes.
Did you know of


any of your soldiers who had contracted VD? Was it a common occurrence?
I don’t know of anyone. There might have been some. They just gone off to hospital and that would have been the end of it, but. My father had a funny experience in the First War. He got mumps and it went down to the testicles and he,


Dad was very prudish; I suppose is one word for it. He got this in Cairo in the Middle East and he was rushed off to the special hospital, which was of course was the VD hospital. And I can imagine when he realized where he was, the performance he would have put on. But I noticed his record shows that about two days later he was transferred to another one. But then my brother said to me one time, when I


got a copy of Dad’s army records for him, and he said, “Dad must’ve been very special, he was transferred to a special hospital.” He didn’t know what they were. But any rate, no, I can’t remember anyone knowingly having VD. But there wouldn’t have been many because the word would’ve got around and the absence of a few people would’ve become felt somewhere too. In times of non-combat


you’d notice the chaps missing much more than you do in combat.
Now at this stage of your time in Syria when you were in Beirut, you were telling me before about Empire, now you got a first hand view of the British Empire in Bombay and Cairo and Beirut, so what did you think about it at that point?
It wasn’t evident in Beirut at all, of course. In Bombay, well


I think I put it down to nasty little individuals rather than the British empire as such. Perhaps I was being a bit generous, I don’t know. But we didn’t, I didn't come across the British Empire side of Cairo very much. There were a few people round there but, the main thing about the British of Cairo used to be the military police, usually a major would walk along the street and behind him would walk two or three


military police and if anyone passed the major without saluting, the military police would grab him and put him on a charge sheet. So that was in Cairo in the main street. They were pretty brutal there with their own troops though, course, the Australians used to studiously avoid saluting British officers and the British MPs [military police] were never game to try to apprehend them, I think they’d have known that waste of time putting them on a charge sheet,


the CO would say, “what the hell," and tear it up.
I know that the Australians had a fairly notorious reputation amongst the Egyptian people in general, especially from the First World War, how did they interact with the Egyptian population when the second AIF came there, from your experience and what you heard?
Alright I think, we went, see we didn’t have any units situated in or around Cairo. Like ourselves, as a unit we just passed through


and no I didn’t ever hear of any problems there. I had some funny experiences later on when I went to the Sig. School in Cairo but that’s another story.
When was that?
Oh, that was one time in Syria later on. I got that, that was a bonus trip if ever there was one. This vacancy came for a Sig. School and the CO decided


I would go, but he thought the Australian Sig. School in Palestine somewhere and I got a rail warrant to go there, when I got there they said, “you’re not wanted here, we don’t know anything about you,” So people got on the phone and said, “you’re down for the British one in Cairo." And of course if the CO had realized that, he wouldn’t have sent me, he would have sent one of his mates. But I had a wonderful time there. Now we were there for about six weeks and


I think I came top of the course, which did me a lot of good when I came back and met old Charlie Oka, the CO. He said, “Well Marsden, how did you go? Did you come top of the school?” I said, “yes sir.” That took the wind out of his sails. But I had a great time there with a lot of, I made a lot of friends. I was the only Australian there. There were one New Zealander I think and the rest were all English. It was a Cavalier Royal Artillery Sig. School.


We had, my most interesting times in Cairo was, I got given the job of riding a motorbike through on exercises, and the first time I got a bike, the sergeant in charge of the pool said, "You might have a bit of trouble with the gears, sir. There’s something wrong, funny about them." I couldn’t get the bloody thing out of gear and you know going through Cairo, with all the, no one sort of cleared the way and said,


stop everyone, here’s a convoy going through. People’d be rushing through and dodging in between trucks. How the heck I didn’t slam somebody I don’t know. But I mucked around with the throttle as much as I could, but I got out alive that’s about all I could say. But I got the horrors on that. That was where I made a bad mistake. If I can remember this correctly. When the CO


or the chief instructor said, “Who can ride a motorbike?" I think I said no. No wait a minute, I said "Yeah", that’s right. I’ve got to get this right and later on I thought, well that’s a bad mistake, so I went up and he had a little list on the front of his lectern where he lectured from, I got a rubber and rubbed out the 'yes' and put a 'no' there. What I didn’t realise was that he allocated the jobs from a duplicate list he had at home or in his tent.


and the duplicate list said 'yes' of course, so Marsden was allocated the job of riding this motorbike.
Interviewee: Eustace Marsden Archive ID 0455 Tape 05


Alright. We left off, you were just about to leave the Middle East.
At that point you came back though Cairo? Is that right?
When we left the Middle East no, we left from Syria, from Lebanon
and we didn’t go, we went down to Tewfik, right down south on the


You mentioned that at that point there was some debate between Churchill and Curtain about where you were going?
On the convoy? Yes, a very nasty debate we got into and it’s been well publicised this debate, as to where the convoy’d go. We went up north towards Burma, then south, then north again, then south again.
Did you know at the time what was going on?


We knew there was some mucking around, we didn’t know the extent of the, or the, what’ll I say? The battle, the extent of the battle that went on between Churchill and Curtain. I mean Curtain told, he sent a very definite signal to Churchill and Churchill had the cheek to say back, send back something along the lines, where he didn’t ever think he would disagree with our request to send this AIF up


to the north, however at, because of your insistence, I’ve arranged for it to turn around, something like that.
So you went towards Burma but didn’t actually go that far?
No, thank goodness. We would have been just meat for eating there with the Japanese because our guns were in a separate convoy, the guns weren’t with us even. No we’d a been, we’d a finished up infantry which we wouldn’t have known which day it was


with that.
And where did you stop on the trip back?
Went back to Colombo. That was the only place and we stayed on the ship because there was a quarantined, there was a case of smallpox onboard, so we stayed in there and it was hot and unpleasant. The only, what’ll I say? Diversion was watching a Russian ship there, where the, as far as we could make out, the chief engineer was a woman who dived overboard


and swan in the harbour with nothing on and binoculars were very much in demand at that stage.
And then you came back to Melbourne?
It was Adelaide, we went to Adelaide and stayed at Adelaide where we got periods of leave from there, then we finally assembled back up, part of the Queensland line, near quite close to Nambour actually.


At this point you had already met Jean?
I knew Jean pre-war in the bank. She worked in the bank there and I knew her then and yes during this leave I got to know her a bit more and,
So did you meet up at this point?
Oh, I’m pretty sure we did, I can’t remember. I expect I would’ve, I called at the bank because Melbourne was a foreign place to me in a way. Except for my


own family, they were, I didn’t know anyone there. Whereas when I left, you couldn’t walk down Collins Street without meeting someone you knew. But it was very much changed then. I called at the bank several times I know just to meet old friends there.
Jean mentioned to me actually earlier on that she used to sneak away and whenever you were in the country she would


hitch a ride on some plane, bribe somebody and do all sorts of things to get up to see you?
That was going up to Queensland? That was villainous. See they were, you couldn’t cross interstate boundaries without getting a permit and you had to have a good reason. There were posters everywhere. “Is your trip really necessary?” And they were all round the place. The usual thing was you’d catch the train up to somewhere


just south of the Murray and then get a local bus and cross over at some obscure point, get back onto the rail line then catch a train up north, but you couldn’t go through the main crossing points, Albury and in particular. But yeah it worked goodness, the trouble people must’ve gone to, to get up there, I don’t, it’s amazing.
You mentioned


earlier that when you came back you were sent to maintain the Brisbane line. Now what did you know about this idea at that time?
Not a great deal. We knew we were there to sort of look after it, we didn’t know we were sort of the first line of defence or the only line of defence I s’pose I should say. But we dug a few gun pits just for exercise if nothing else, and toured the country. We knew the country


pretty well by the time we left there. We were there several months. We went all around, we were stationed, 7 Battery I was with was stationed at Nambour and others were stationed around the country, not far away but bit distant and Nambour was a great home for the regiment. We married, I think about nineteen or twenty chaps in the regiment married Nambour girls. You know we were there long enough and fresh enough from the Middle East to sort of be looking for some female company at long last.


Was it a great relief to be back in Australia?
Yes. I suppose it was. Yes, I enjoyed the Middle East, what I saw of it because I didn’t have a tough war and you know with the wound I got in Syria I only saw a little fraction of the action there. The desert wasn’t bad. One’s mind tends to rub out the bad things and remember only the good things at any time.


Did you notice many changes in Australia from since you had left?
Oh, there were a lot of changes in transport and the blackout was much more obvious and much more observed too and the people were in more of a hurry I think you’d say and there was certainly an absence of men that wasn’t there when I left.


That was about the main thing that I can sort of think of quickly.
Did you talk to civilians at that time about what they knew of the war?
No, I don’t think we did at all. We used to meet up, in town, you’d often meet chaps from the regiment on leave or wandering around and one of the main things, there was a great beer shortage was where the beer was coming on,


you’d be scattered in parts of Melbourne, the hotels would only get a limited ration and someone found it turned on at five-o’clock and somewhere else’d be on at four-o’clock until it ran out, usually about half past or something like that and the great know-how was when and where.
Did you get a lot of leave at this time?
Yeah, we had quite a lot, yes. I’ve forgotten how much, though. We had, I think


it was a month or so from Warradale in South Australia before we went up north. Then we got limited leave from north, just always enough left to look after the regiment in an immediate panic until the rest had been assembled and sent up there.
And how were you feeling physically? Had you recovered from your wound by then?
Oh, yes, yes,


my wound wasn’t a bad one. I was saying earlier, if it hadn’t been that the medical profession wanted to justify its existence and have a few people to handle, I would a been told get back and on the job, smart, pronto, and if it happened in New Guinea, I don’t think I would ever have been evacuated. I’d a made sure I wasn’t you know, it wasn’t all that bad, although there’s still a few bits in there, but they don’t worry me.
Did you do any training at this point?


We trained until we were blue in the face. No, we’d started off from scratch in our unit, individual training and then troop training and then battery training and then regimental training and we went on and on. The CO and the 2IC [Second In Command] who looked after training, were all at their wits end to get something to interest us. We had one week where we turned the week upside down, we slept by day and


trained by night, which was interesting in a way, but it got a bit mucked up with me. Because my stomach didn’t take to, you know starting the day off with a damn big meal, the sort of meal we have at dinner. We cut roads and the great problem was there were always a few blokes who disappeared into the scrub and had a snooze. You could never find them and you were flat out trying to find out even


who was missing, let alone find out what happened to them.
Did you do some jungle training?
No, not really. We used to think it was jungle training but it was just a travesty of what the actual jungle training was. We didn’t do very much at that stage, we did more later on, so called jungle training, but again, it was just a joke compared to what we really found when we went to New Guinea.


What sort of training was it?
Oh, operating in difficult country and difficult undergrowth and climbing up and down mountains and things like that. From Nambour we didn’t do much at all though, we just, we’re in a fortress role there to a large extent. The main training we did was just to accustom ourselves to the area generally, and know what we had to do and where we had to go to meet


emergencies in that particular part of our zone. That’s about where it stopped and finished really.
And how long were you in Nambour for all together?
Oh, several weeks I would say. It might have been two or three-months. It was a long time.
And from there did you go to the Atherton Tablelands?
Went up north through Northern New South Wales. I got malaria there then. When we came to Glen Innes I got


malaria and I remember that incident well because I was watching a, sitting at a watching a regimental football match I think it was, I got this attack turning came on and next to me was why troop commander who was a lovely little chap but a very tight man for discipline and he was pretty sure I had a hangover from the night before in the Mess and he was quite rude. I think he must’ve felt guilt when I was


whipped off to hospital and I stayed there only, I forget now, one or two nights. That was enjoyable in a way because I met up again with one of the nurses I had taken out the night before and the matron there was sorry to see me go because she said, “I’ve never nursed a malarial patient before and I’m going to learn something from you,” instead of which I was bundled onto a hospital train and taken south to an army hospital in Tamworth


where I saw that period out there, about three-weeks I think it was and then back north again, through the training camp, which is sort of allocation, organise transport and back to the regiment which at that time was had gone up further north.
Where were they stationed?
I wish I could tell you.
Northern Queensland?
Yes. That’s a good description. Yes.


Alright and so you rejoined the regiment. Did you then embark for New Guinea?
No, we didn’t go to New Guinea for a long time. That was one of our dead periods. We got browned off with excessive, we were over-trained and over bored with life. See, when the first Japanese attack really came over the Owen Stanley’s there was no scope for field


artillery there at all and we were left behind except for a couple of small units, which were dispatched. One we called X-Battery which went to New Guinea, and we don’t know quite what for. When they got to Moresby, their guns were taken away by New Guinea Command and they didn’t ever seen them again, they just hung around and eventually got back to the unit on some little old pearl ship or something, it was a rubbishy old


crate, I think it was. It was hopeless to travel on compared to what we had before. I wasn’t there that one, then we had to send a battery, Y-Battery to Milne Bay, who did a bit of shooting there, but nothing much, they came back too but, they were the only, let out were just a few people. Otherwise we just trained on and on, interspersed with leave and plain boredom and fed up with everything.


We lost a lot of people there. But people got out for various reasons, real or imaginary they got their way out. We lost a lot of good officers who went to, naval command as observers on ships, looking out of ships for firing onto land. But I dunno whether that was all boredom or whether they, we had a new CO who had his own ideas and a lot of the


older officers didn’t sort of match with him at all eye to eye and I think it was a happier release for everyone. In fact, we the new CO, we didn’t love him. He was a man of fertile imagination, but we always used to say the regiment flourished despite him, not because of him. But still, that’s our opinion at any rate.
Why do you say he had a fertile imagination?


Well, he used to think up all sorts of interesting things. The most interesting of course was when we did eventually go to New Guinea for the Lae campaign we were the first and I think, I dunno about only, but the first and only until very recently, artillery regiment to drop guns and crews by parachute from planes with attacking infantry. That was a world-wide first and, but he thought that up and it took a lot of talk, I understand,


to get the general to agree with it too.
Why do you say then that the regiment flourished in spite of him?
He was an unusual man. I became his adjutant after a time. A job I didn’t relish all together but it was a bit of a job and I enjoyed doing it, not. But I’ll give you an example. Now, the first day or two I was there he said


to me, "one of your jobs, of course, is to play bridge with me at night". Now I’d hardly played any bridge at all but still, I was one of the four and we sat down and he looked and me and he said, “I might as well tell you, I cheat,” he said, “if you can catch me good luck to you, but if you can’t, well bad luck.” So I didn’t ever catch him, but whether he was having me on or whether he cheated and I was too dumb to work it out, I’ve just no idea. But he had his likes and dislikes.


He was senior to me and he said, "Oh, just ring him at the door and say captain so and so, sir." But course, I knew what that meant. Captain so and so had the skids under him and off he went. But as far as we were concerned, this so and so bloke was doing a good job and, but he got the skids under him


him for some reason.
What to you men the skids under him?
He was transferred out.
The army is a funny place.
Oh, it is, yes.
So at what point did you make the journey from Northern Queensland to Lae?
Oh, that was 1943.


‘Bout, mid forty-three when we went by ship to Moresby. 54 Battery, the one I was in. I was a troop commander at that stage and they’d lead the way. In fact, they did nearly all the initial fighting in the Lae campaign for some months, just 54 Battery on its own, the regiment stayed in Queensland.


and a feather in our cap cause we were the most efficient, picked at the most efficient battery. But we landed there, and out of this developed this idea of this parachute drop and the chaps didn’t know about it, they were, the regiment, or the battalions were… the batteries were all out to nominate so many people for arduous PT [physical training]


course and so they all nominated them and the general specified no officer above the rank of lieutenant was to go. So we picked four officers and they went with this and they went to this American 503 Parachute Battalion, and of course trained with them to some extent and they did one practise jump, and one only. One, one at least, of the officers was injured in the practise jump, so


he was replaced. But then off they went from Moresby. But oh, Moresby was a place of funny remembrances though. We went there and we had the pick of the ground in a way. But Moresby, on top of the hill tops wasn’t bad, in the valleys was just unbearable heat and humidity and


on top of the hilltops, particularly evening, wasn’t bad. So we were early, we got our mess up there, our lines were further down in the valley, which wasn’t very nice, but when we left to go there, that’s one of the bad memories of my life I think really. We all lined up and we were put in these, or I’ll just start again. We had to practise very hard to take our guns


by air with us and we break, we had a light specially manufactured, light twenty-five-pounder gun which was a devil of a thing. It was most inaccurate and jumped about and. Any rate, we had to learn to break them up into component parts and to pack them, lift it into the aircraft and we knew all the weights and what, after a while we knew the weights of each one and what to break when you break them up


them up and how to break them up and get them organized. But when we came to go we were all in aircraft lots… We’re in aircraft lots, in trucks and have you heard of this tragedy that fell the 2/33rd Battalion?
The aeroplane crash?
I’ve heard a bit about it, but please tell us all that you know.
Well, barely dawn it was and the planes were taking off and they were all fairly close to the trees,


then one came louder and louder and louder and there was an unbelievable explosion. Not only did it hit the trees and the fuel went up, but then the damn bomb load it was carrying went off too, one by one and of course it went right into one company, Don Company of the 2/33rd Battalion, virtually wiped that company out. You’ve got no idea of the panic it caused. Well it was close enough to us, one of the chaps at the back of my truck got hit by a bit of flying steel from


some explosion or another. But going past the trucks a bit later on in the day wasn’t very pleasant either. They were all there just burning rapidly and you couldn’t, didn’t see any bodies thank goodness, I think they got them all out. But there were an incredible number killed and burnt, burnt very badly. The whole company was virtually wiped out, there were only about less than a dozen left I think and they reinforced them by a company from the Pioneer


Battalion who came and sort of took over from Don Company and joined the Regiment, 2/33rd.
How did this affect your men?
Alright. The same in the 2/33rd , the brigadier said, “Well how do you feel about the rest of the battalion going? and they said, “Let them go. It’s something they’ve got to get over sooner or later and


the quicker they face up to it, the better they will be." and they did too, marvellously really. But we didn’t get away til mid-afternoon, I s’pose it was. We had a sort of a brunch thing served up willy nilly somehow by Army Service Corps and got away, then to our surprise we landed at Tsili Tsili. Tsili Tsili aerodrome is


a way down there, in amongst a great surrounding mass of mountains and it was incredible going in there. These Douglas's, one after the other they flew round and round in gradually lowering circles and landed on the strip, nose to tail and we all piled out and ate an evening meal from the rations we carried with us, bully beef and biscuits, and then slept on the ground next to the planes,


and next morning we all loaded again and off we went to land at Nadzab for the Lae, by which time of course the American para-troop battalion had landed, and together with our two guns and crews and Lae was, Nadzab was a place of utter confusion. A lot of the kunai had been burned as a precaution I think, and there


was dirt and dust everywhere. You’ve just no conception of what it was like. Landing down wasn’t an enjoyable sight. There were two or three wrecked planes quite obvious to where you were landing and of course, every time you landed the props on the planes stirred up the dust and the rubbish and it just disappeared, the plane disappeared in a mass of dust and cloud. So we got off and that was that. Johnny Pearson was in charge of


the light section, as we called these two guns that landed, he was there and sort of pointed out the track we had to take. I was with the 2/25th Battalion, it was and I went with them as an FOO, a forward observation bloke and our guns from Fox-Troop, my troop didn’t arrive till the next day, but Easy-Troop guns had come in


so and their O [operation] party was with the 2/33rd Battalion which had suffered this plane damage. But we moved up the track and then sort of moved on, just moved on steadily up bit by bit and,
What sort of guns did you have at this point?
Oh, twenty-five pounders. That’s all we ever used.
They’re an awfully heavy gun?


they are when you come to manhandle them yes, but still, they’re a wonderful gun. They were so much better than the eighteen-pounders. Besides having a much heavier shell they have a much bigger range and more flexibility with the charges. They had four different charges. The super one, two and three charge and you had different ranges according to the guns and charge one, your gun was almost like a Howitzer, not quite but it’d go right up and drop


down, with a very short range and super was rarely used because the damage it did to the barrel, but that was getting out into the thirteen-thousand-yards. As one of my chaps used to say, “nine-mile snipers,” that was the difference in the ranges. But we had to of course carry our own ammunition or the regiment, or the battery did have to carry our own ammunition and sort of get on as best we could with it all. But it all worked out


very well. I was, later on, as we moved further away from Nadzab, which was the plane head, course the planes brought in ammunition and we had to get it up. Well, our drivers, jeep drivers used to drive there with the trailer attached, bring it up and the conditions on the track got from bad to worse. Usually pretty steady heavy rain every afternoon or evening and vehicles, they were in mud and slush everywhere and


then to our delight a lot of the pilots of the American Douglas’s took over, well assisted didn’t take over, they assisted and drove up there and the general was that whereas sometimes it would be about say five or six-miles for the sake of example, we told the pilots, they told the pilots they were about a mile or so up the track and they all got there and they drove, gosh they drove well. They were really brilliant drivers.


But with the two lots, our ammunition was fairly short, but it wasn’t desperately short ever thank goodness.
So where were you at this point? Where
We were getting near Heath’s Plantation I s’pose we would be. We were coming up there and I was with 2/25,


they took over the advance and cause I stayed with the battalion CO and I was an FOO with the forward company. But it was very, extremely difficult shooting with the very tall timbers there, you couldn’t bring rounds down close enough to yourself without getting explosions or hits over head and ruining your own troops. And so in


practice, there were relatively few cases where you could fire on the Jap troops in front on their positions. You could go further back and just hope you might hit something, but that was a pig in a poke if ever there was.
So as the forward operations officer what exactly did your role entail?
Well, I was a troop commander. I wasn’t the FOO. But the FOO


was, he just moved with the leading company, usually he’d go with the company commander who would probably be behind the first platoon, the leading platoon, they’d usually advance one platoon, company commander or company headquarters and two other platoons as his reserve quite close by, usually one behind the other, had to be on the track. But the same way with the, I was with the battalion, there’d be one company


up forward, then battalion headquarters, then two companies behind for his use as he wanted them. But the FOO did a bit of shooting, but he was very limited and I did a bit occasionally when, one time I was with the 2/33, we ran into a lot of trouble there. We went along without any opposition and came night time, or evening and we decided


the CO decided to set up camp on a little spot and he was just getting well set up and when a bloody medley of fire broke out from the trees opposite. It was only about a hundred yards away, we’d run right into a Jap ambush there. It was a big ambush and the Japs, as usual, fired high. They didn’t get anyone that first burst of fire, which was incredible because they had time on their hands, they could make sure of their aim and wait for


the signal whatever it was, a dropping of the sword or a beat of the drum or something, to fire, they didn’t get anyone and I was, well we were out in the wilderness more or less with the 2/33 with one company of course, detached from the Pioneers and all batteries were, all companies were engaged, everyone was caught up in this fight and the CO had no reserve. The middle of


all this, Keith Parson, one of my signallers, I suddenly heard his voice from round behind a tree, “Where do you want the phone, sir?” Which was like heaven. Course, I told Keith, "Over there or somewhere," and I told Tom Cotton the CO, he was a wonderful man, Tom Cotton. They were wonderful battalions really in 25 Brigade, Tom was over the other side and he ran across the opening, the gap where


all the firing was going, waving his hat and he passed through a spot where I had been a minute to two ago and where a chap I was alongside had gone down with the fire. They missed me, thank goodness and he died. But Tom Cotton got there and he got through to the brigadier and a course told the situation. There wasn’t much the Brig could do at the time, beyond say, "bad luck, Tom." I suppose, or “do the best you can.” But any rate the battalion got organized and they drove


the Japs out.
Can you just go back a little bit and
I don’t quite follow that. This chap ran out into the fire with his hat in his hands?
Well, he was a CO. See it was on the broad front and I was at one end more or less, and he was at the other end of it and in this gap where the Japs had been firing was a clearing, you could say, well he was the other end and the phone and I were at this end here, so


when I yelled out to him, “I’ve got a phone over here sir,” so he just ran across the area where the Japs were doing all the firing, waved his hat to the Japs and got there alright. I think he worked on the surprise factor and I think one, I think they were too startled to do anything about it. But it a wonderful of course example, to the Battalion, that sort of thing you know.


A little bit of daring goes a long way?
Yes, he was an exceptional commander, they were an exceptional battalion really.
What was the morale like at this point?
Oh, good. Yeah. We knew we could beat the Japs and we did, thank goodness. But we were quite confident we’d do that. There was never any problem about it, either with our chaps or with the infantry.


What had you heard about some of the other campaigns in New Guinea at this point, such as the Kokoda Trail?
Not a great deal. We’d, what we heard worried us a bit, particularly the Jap's infiltration ability, they’re getting around behind, taking a long detours and coming around behind and breaking your lines of communication or actually cutting it off and attacking from the back. None of us were sure what that really


meant. Before we went on the Lae trail we did, from the Tablelands, Atherton Tablelands, we did a lot of exercises towards Mt Garnet, which was about thirty miles away, the same distance as Lae was roughly, and theoretically similar country with a bit of flat plain we were on, narrow plain and a high range on our left as we went along. But a course


the range on the left was just timber on it and the bracken and the fern and a bit of what have you, everything you like. It was just nothing at all compared to New Guinea which was, you came across the lantana which was, you had to slash it with a machete to get through, every yard you had to slash your way through and that was hard work, impossible work to do it quietly. But we’d done a lot of training for that, so we were


very physically fit for distance, but no conception whatever of the type of ground we were going to fight over. But just the same you know, the chaps were all quite confident of their capacity.
So when you mentioned before that the training you did in the Atherton Tablelands was, the jungle training was a travesty?
It was, that’s what I was thinking of the other day, talked about that.


Well I did a lot of training there. In fact, I did so much I got stopped and they sent a few other officers on instead because, I and my mate used to enjoy it very much, but there was other people, didn’t enjoy it and didn’t go out and we went out with every battalion that went, so we’d go with them. And as I said, I got stopped.


"You stay at home Marsden, so and so’s going to go this time." But physically we were extremely fit. But any conception of what the ground was going to be like, we had no idea at all, not only the lantana and the scrub, but the tall trees they were everywhere. Wherever you went, there were these enormously tall trees. You couldn’t shoot over them with any degree of safety at all.
So the Queensland


jungle was different, in that it didn’t have such tall trees?
Not where we were, no. No, nothing like that.
So did you develop anything, any particular strategies to deal with the tall trees?
Only just starting with


about a four or five hundred yards plus from where you thought the enemy was and coming down fifty or a hundred yards at a time until you could hear them going over head and occasionally you’d get one that’s pretty darn close and you’d think well that’s enough. Because the line of a shell is always very accurate unless there’s a lot a wind, but the range does vary quite a bit according to the ammunition and the


meteorological factors at the time and you can’t guarantee within fifty or a hundred yards on a given line where the shell will fall, if it’s there or here. So once you get one overhead or nearly overhead you’ve got to be finished George. It mean, it might be a plus, it might be a minus, it might be anything.
I don’t quite follow. You worked out…
Well, in the components of firing


generally, are your line that is the…
I understand that, but how were you judging, is it a matter of trial and error to work out the range?
Well, we’ve got maps, they weren’t very good, but we had maps and you’d make an estimate of where you were and you’d know about where, you’d know exactly where the guns were, exactly as the map was accurate and you’d measure the range and then, you’d add, as


I said, a very generous amount onto it, where you imagine the Jap was or as near as you could guess on the map and then you expect it to fall away, a way ahead of you and behind them, which it did. Then you would just gradually shorten the range until you got dangerously close.
Alright so you’d do a shot too far and then work your way back?
Oh yeah, you could do five or six


ranging shots as we called them, just while you’ve got to come down very closely and careful, because I said, the factor, the distance factor is so variable. There was, I forget what they call it now, there was a zone, in the range tables, at a certain range, a probability zone, that’s right, is worked out for you, but you can’t guarantee it in any conditions.
Interviewee: Eustace Marsden Archive ID 0455 Tape 06


Alright we were speaking off camera before.
Yes I guessed that.
But I wanted to ask you now that we’re recording, just about the attachment that men have to their own particular guns?
Oh yes, well every number one was, in theory at least, responsible for his own gun, looking after it and taking care of it


and they got terribly attached to it. They were very proud of it and its obvious achievements and keeping it clean and in good working order. They all had their individual names for the guns and they were all painted on the front of the shield. That was quite accepted. On the front also was usually the divisional logo, which our case was a Kookaburra on a boomerang and also the gun number usually, regimental number. We were forty-two,


and very often the gun numbers, A1 for a number one, the right hand gun in A Troop, and F3 for the number three gun in Fox Troop and so on. But, oh yes, they were very, they were passionately keen, that’s a good word for it.
What were some of the names of the guns?
Look I only remember Intrepid, and I dunno why I remember that, Dreadnought, I’m not sure I’m only guessing now.


OK. Were you working with any natives at this point?
Later on we were. Purely as carriers. The boong trains as we called them and the natives were just terrific. With their work in carrying wounded out on stretchers was unbelievably skilful and reliable and careful. They were very humane people. But we had an


extraordinarily funny incident with a native boong train later on in the campaign. I was up on top of St. John’s Knoll, I think they called it and we had these batteries which we used for the radio set. They were acid carrying batteries and they of course ran out from time to time, had to go back to the battery position for it to be recharged. They were recharged by use of a petrol motor so you certainly couldn’t have it up near there, near where we were with the infantry, it’d give everything away.


So the natives used to bring up these charged batteries. Well the first time this happened, this happened periodically for a long, long time. First time it happened they just, they’d plomped em all down, we changed em over and gave em another lot to take back. Well they thought they were the same lot to be taken back, and they thought the white man was making a fool of them. Oh God, it took an incredible effort to convince them we weren’t just having them on, just making


monkeys of them and I don’t. As I said, the whole scene had to be repeated periodically, perhaps different natives I can’t remember, but overall they were nice chaps. I used to talk to them quite a lot. I only remember one conversation really, one chap said to me, “You got a Mary, master?” “no, no Mary,” “ah, you young, Master?” That was the difference between a married man and a single man apparently.


Did you learn a lot of pidgin?
No, very little. See, these boong trains had their own white OCs, not that they came up with them. They usually had one or two of their own people to lead them. But we didn’t discuss a lot with them. To talk to them, you had to go out of your way to go and visit them, they wouldn’t wander around and sort of sit


down for a talk, you had to go over there and accost one, so to speak.
The little that you did learn, can you remember any particular phrases?
Oh, not really no. Nothing very much at all just, and the sort of things that crop up once in discussion and not again. Mary’s the only one I could use and the title, 'Young Master'.


Can you remember any encounters with local wildlife?
There was no local wildlife really. The only one that used to worry us a bit was from a big native, I dunno what it was, a big native bird, used to fly around and the wind rushing through his wings


made exactly the same sound as a mortar shell coming down and dozens of times everyone in the area hearing this would dive for cover, waiting for the bang, which of course never came. But that was the only wildlife that I can remember seeing. Except there was a sort of a native bee I s’pose, or a sugar bee or something like that and they loved sweat and they got all over your face and you couldn’t, as fast as you slapped


yourself and killed about ten or twenty, there’d be another ten or twenty there a minute later, they were, they became a darned irritation after a time. They’re about the only, there was something else now, it was some sort of native insect. They’d have a vicious acidic spray, remember the RSM of the 2/33 got it over his face and his whole of the side


of his face was a brilliant red, it really burnt it. But I didn’t ever come across this thing, fortunately and he was one of the few who did. They’re about the only instances that come to mind.
What about pigs or snakes?
No pigs. No, no. They were all scared out. I mean the Japs would’ve had them for food if there’d a been any around. I didn’t ever see a


snake or hear of a snake. There were probably some about. But the pigs were very valuable property, particularly with the natives there, a course if you owned a pig or two you were sort of a rich man almost. So any about, there’d be very few wild pigs, that’s be accidentally wild I think.
And what about disease within your regiment?


well, that was a continuing problem. Malaria was the number one of course and then typhus was the number two. There were little mites used to cause the typhus and of course the mosquitos the malaria. But we had a mosquito lotion, which we used to rub on at night, over all your faces, usually except your hands because it was, I dunno if you call it acidic or not, but if you get it on your fingers


and touch anything with paint on it, it would dissolve the paint and you’d stick onto it. I discovered it with pencil after a time, that my fingers would come off all red and I’d look at the pencil there’d be nothing in the colour line at all on the pencil. So in practise you just, you didn’t put it on your hand, you just kept them under cover or washed them very closely. But as for mites, well we just like for mosquitos you had to keep covered up and there was a mite lotion.


But a course the mosquitos, the main thing at the time against mosquitos and malaria was Atebrin, and we used to have a daily Atebrin parade and it became necessary because Atebrin used to turn your skin a brilliant yellow and after a time word went around that it made them, anyone who took it, impotent. So a lot a the chaps didn’t want to be like that at all and they didn’t take them and so


so most regiments or most units had an Atebrin parade where they’re usually taken by an officer and the chaps’d go around with a, or the officer’d go around with the sergeant, chaps put his tongue out and the sergeant’d put the Atebrin tablet on his tongue, then he’d have a, the chap’d have a mug of water in his and swallow it and be watched for a while to make sure he did swallow the whole lot, didn’t


sort of horde it in his mouth, then move onto the next man. That was the only thing there. Then of course we got dysentery or diarrhoea, call it what you like, quite badly at times and sulphaguanidine was the main cure then. I don’t know how he worked it out. We had an RAP [Regimental Aid Post] bombardier, a chap who was trained by the doctors or something, but we didn’t have a doctor attached to the battery


at that stage. If you were crook you had to go to the infantry doctor. But Iodine Coots was our man and for dysentery he either used to give you eight or sixteen of these tablets to take in one go and it was pretty effective too, it needed to be because dysentery was, oh God it was, it didn’t matter who you were or where you were, if you got it, you had it.
Were many of the men


struck down by dysentery, malaria or?
Oh, quite a lot. Yes, towards the end we were losing men fairly quickly. Some of them were careless, not all of them, some of the most careful ones, I’m not sure now whether if I remember rightly, but I have an idea that one of the docs got caught up with something. Well you couldn’t a got more careful treatment people than those.


Did you catch anything yourself?
No. I got malaria in the Middle East, Syria and I had a lot of attacks afterwards, I was in hospital about four times I think with it. But no, I didn’t get anything in New Guinea. Touch wood.
Did you have any problems with ticks?
No, I didn’t have any. I had problems with teeth.


Just before we went into Lae I developed a bit of an abscess on my top front tooth and went to the, I didn’t know what it was, just a little pocket of pus that was on the inside. Went to the dental locum said the tooth’s got to come out. Well I discovered later a course, that everyone who went in with tooth trouble, take the tooth out then, we won’t muck about, it might recur or develop while he’s in action and be a continuing nuisance. So I lost


that tooth and I went around with a great big gap up here for some weeks. Then all of a sudden in the middle, somewhere in the middle of nowhere in New Guinea I got a little parcel delivered which had a small upper denture in it, with one tooth. So that strange to say, it fitted pretty well, so I was right after that. I could talk without a whistling sort of sound.
How long were you at Lae for?


In Lae itself, or in that part of New Guinea?
In Lae itself?
We didn’t ever get to Lae. I was with the point battalion going into Lae when the OC, for some reason known only to him, sent me a message to drop out and let Easy Troop carry on, which I did about two-miles short of Lae.
So he pulled you back alone?
Well when I,


when I say the back, Fox Troop,
The whole troop?
the whole of the observation party. It’s a big party at that time, I had assistants and signallers and quite a big party, about maybe fifteen or twenty and we camped by a, stopped for lunch by a little creek there and we buried a Jap who was becoming on the nose, very much on the nose and one of the, before we buried


him, we went through his pockets looking for any documents and one of the things we produced was a very tasty sketch, the Egyptian nasty postcards weren’t in it, they were just beginners in this and one of our chaps grabbed it, “I’ll have that as a souvenir,” and later on I asked him what happened to it and he said, “some so and so pinched it from me, I dunno whose got it now.” But we stopped for a cup of tea there and I still remember that stop because we


we carried a, I’d say a billy, it was just a tin with a bit of wire, sig wire around it, making a handle for it and used that as a billy and a cup and everything and we made this and it was stinking hot and so I put it in the creek to cool it down and then all of a sudden we got an order to move back towards Nadzab. In the panic of organizing that, I suddenly remembered my


cup of tea. So I rushed back and the darn thing was hot at the top and stone cold at the bottom. God I was disappointed. I’d been looking forward to that cup of tea all day. So we went back then and we picked up the troop and we had an incredible trip back. At midnight we had, or about midnight, we had to cross a creek and go back to Nadzab where we were going to go up on a patrol with the 2/14th Battalion


and we got half way across this creek when the runners on the bridge gave way. The gun and everything sank down into the bed of this creek. Well, we had one of our sergeants, a chap named Mathews, Spider Matthews, he was an incredibly strong man and he worked for, I had some notes on this, he worked for about an hour and a half, standing in the water trying to free the runners and get the gun clear.


Eventually we got five jeeps from all sorts of neighbouring units. I sent search parties out looking for someone who had a jeep and we harnessed them to the gun and dragged it all up onto the bank and the whole of the bridge came up, the remnants of the bridge came up with the gun and the poor old engineers were left with a creek without a bridge or anything. They were terrific. I think one of them said, “Well we’ll build another bloody bridge, let’s get on with it.”


So we got to Nadzab about dawn I think and I had a heck of a job finding out anyone who knew where we were to go. We went, we were to go up north to a place called Camp Diddi and Camp Diddi’s one of the expeditions Fox Troop only knows of and only did. But I had a dickens of a job finding regimental headquarters and


divisional headquarters to find out, well it wasn’t divisional, it was brigade headquarters, to find out where we were going and where we were and I got a crummy map about four inches to the mile. No, no, four miles to the inch it was, it wasn’t worth two-bob really. And so off we went to join the 2/14th and found that they’d already left that morning and it was about mid-afternoon by the time we got there. We never caught them up.


So I turned around, fortunately, there was a rear party going up the next morning which was a blessing too because none of my blokes had any sleep from the whole of the night, we’d been pulling guns, the gun out of the creek. So we settled down for the night and left early the next morning. All we knew was we’re going somewhere north, so we laid the guns out on true north, three-sixty-degrees and off we went then with this captain,


Captain Russell of the 2/14th and his small party. Well, Camp Diddi, from where we were on the map was five-miles. I’d taken twelve-miles of cable to be on the safe side and the blasted thing ran out before we got there across the range. It was just hard slog all the way up and the track was dirty and muddy and mucky after the battalion had gone over the day before. It was you know hard work, you had to work hard for every step.


So we left a maintenance party about halfway along and tee-ed them into the wire and hid the tee, buried it and hid it and buried the tee off into the, and put them into the scrub somewhere just to keep in touch with the line so that if it did go, they’d know at least which half the line had gone out. So we went on, we ran out of cable so we left another maintenance party then,


and Cocky Carol, my OP [Observation Post] and I went on ahead with one, with one assistant. The radio was no good in that mountainous territory. So we got there in time to find out the battalion was, their trip was in vein. They had missed the Japanese retreating force that they’d hope to intercede with and they were on their way back. So of course


we had to go back and reel in the wire as we went and I said at the time, “if I’d know, if I’d had more experience I’d have left the damn wire where it was.” But it was terribly hard work reeling this in one-mile drums, which we had some natives to help us with that, that’s right and a third of mile drums which our chaps had to carry, in addition to their normal equipment and ammunition and what have you, but we


made it the day after with a small, I think a Section, of infantry to provide local security. But that was our trip back from Lae. Then we moved up inland by steps and stages, mostly by plane, by plane or walking. Guns went by plane and we went by walking usually with the infantry, up towards the foot of Shaggy Ridge.


And this was getting on to, I’m only guessing wildly now, about September, I suppose, maybe October, and I was with the 25th Battalion there. I was with them for many months, and got a great attachment to them and I knew them all personally and I knew them all well and by their Christian names and Tom McCauley the battalion adjutant and I we got on very well and in fact,


one of these, let me see, we went up to John’s Knoll with them. I was there with them for some time and we had two observation posts there. One a forward, a very forward one overlooking the Japs and I don’t think the Japs knew we were there. But we did our best to ensure they didn’t. So we got a hole dug there at dusk, I think it was, I’ve forgotten now when and we used to crawl


along to get in it and crawl along to get out. But we were on a big, high cliff overlooking the river and the Jap position just on the other side. And we used to be able to report their movements, and we couldn’t ever do any firing on there. I tried a lot but the timber was the trouble, with overhead bursts and the main timber trouble was on Shaggy Ridge. We were firing over part of Shaggy where our own


troops were scattered all round in that area and I got one hell of a fright when I was firing. There was a big bang over somewhere on my left and I didn’t know it was our gun, I was pretty suspicious, and at any rate, I did a lot of investigation and found it was. So that was the end of that, trying to fire over that way. But later after I left there, they had what we used to call an elephant gun. It was a point five gun which the infantry


used had and carted round, theoretically anti-tank. They were a big solid lump of projectile. Then we brought that up and put it in position near the OP this hidden OP, and we it worked out when we’d fire the gun from the back, we knew the time of flight in the


range tables exactly, and it didn’t matter where it landed, as long as it landed over the other side quite safely. As it came to land and exploded we’d fire the elephant gun at some known position to the Japanese, hoping that the one would mask the sound of the other. Whether it ever did, I don’t know but they at least got a couple of Japs. I didn’t see it but they say that one of them, I remember them saying it, it caught the Jap and tossed him round like a leaf in the wind.


It was certainly heavy and it was a high velocity thing. But that was a funny old position there, we got shelled by the Japs an awful lot. The Japs had a gun which they used to hide in a tunnel and run out and fire it, then run it back into the tunnel and we had all sorts of complication with our own air force. We’d


start some firing, just annoying firing, and they’d run the gun out sooner or later or we’d have a Jap boomerang flying around in the background somewhere and when we gave him the OK, he was due to come over and spot the Jap gun for us and tell us where it was. Well one pilot said he thought he’d seen it and he got shot down, so we didn’t ever hear any more. None of the others ever found it and we sort of, we had to live through that. But they used to harass


us a lot on John’s Knoll and it was, with tree bursts it was quite demoralizing because the shrapnel and stuff would come down everywhere and most of the fox-holes we built little roofs for them, sandbags and dirt and what have you which makes it’s fairly safe. Though one, I’m just rambling on, is this quite OK?
Yeah, that’s fine.
One time there


the 2/25th Battalion had a pay corporal or pay sergeant called Ted Geach. Now, Ted was too old really for the Battalion. He’d got kicked out and managed to come back there as the pay sergeant and he was up there with us and we were getting a pretty good pasting, I think one chap had been killed and you know it was, there was a moment's silence and Ted Geach’s voice suddenly floated out, “Anyone want to send any money home before


it’s too late?” And it broke the tension up incredibly so and you know from being nervy and on edge, everyone started laughing. It was a very apt move, that of Ted’s. What I found then, I seized the opportunity to get out, I was away from phone too, I grabbed a phone, we had a few recorded targets where we fired, used to irritate the Japs, so I


got some counter-fire put down and that for some reason, I dunno what we were firing at now, I’ve forgotten, but it used to stop the Jap firing very often. That was our only way out was a bit of counter-fire, on known targets we had registered or hoped the Japs were there.
Can you tell me and go into more detail about the battle at Shaggy Ridge?
Can’t tell you much about that at all.


See 54 Battery were pulled out at the end of December. We had been there since, from the very beginning, the only battery that had and we were pulled out while 7 and 8 Battery came in and they took over and did the Shaggy Ridge operation. So at that time, we were back in Moresby, just resting and gathering ourselves together again.
Alright then tell me what the aim was at


John’s Knoll? What was the…?
It was largely a holding operation and to see what the Japanese were going to do and until they built up enough forces to mount an attack over Shaggy and ensure they were there. But Shaggy was a one-man front virtually. It was a terrible spot to be in. One of our OPOs [Observation Post Officer] got an MC [Military Cross] for that cause he went along there


and just, with the infantry and kept the rounds falling just in front and once you got the line, you were pretty right cause the line wouldn’t vary much with even, except with wind, and the range didn’t matter much if you were on that one strip running away from you, the Japs were on it somewhere. But one of the great problems used to be Japs dug in just a little bit down the side of the mountain and they had


tents covers or canvas covers across the top of them, so that if you threw a grenade down there, they’d just knock it off and go down the mountainside and burst harmlessly there. Our infantry chaps were full of ideas, they soon solved that one. They got darn big poles, tied the ring of the grenade onto the end of the pole and just pushed it down til it was a foot or so away from the Japs folk hole


and it’d go off and he couldn’t knock it off the canvas and get it exploding down the mountain side.
How did that work, sorry, I didn’t quite follow? Was it like a spear?
Well any long stick, long pole. See, the problem was, that if they threw it over or dropped it over, the Jap and it landed on the Jap canvas, the Jap would just give the canvas a jump, a shove, and if it didn’t roll off by itself, he’d give it a


shove to let it, in the time factor it would bounce away and you could only hold a grenade for a certain time before you know, you know, the fuses have certain fixed delays on them but you don’t want to guarantee it too closely in your hand. So they tied this grenade to the end of a long pole, long tree stump or tree post, and just pushed that over down, kept it on the end of the stick or


the pole, till it was just near the Jap dugout there and left it there. Of course, the Jap either didn’t know it was there or he had no way of knocking it away and getting it sent down the mountain, so he got the full blast.
Did you lose many men in this time?
Only through sickness. I don’t think we lost any men through


enemy action.
Were there any snipers?
Not very many because it was fairly, most of the thing was fairly fluid. There wasn’t a fixed position, but we had some, infantry had some extremely accurate riffle shots amongst them. They were country chaps like ours, we had some pretty good shots with our chaps. But


mainly country men who were used to firing at rabbits or something and they’d rarely miss. But overall there were, we were never close enough or never able to pinpoint their positions accurately enough to make use of snipers as a major factor.
Did you come under fire yourselves very often?
Not direct fire. I


got, going back from this hidden OP one time we got some Jap fire which was just spasmodic fire, I think they sent over just, landed right amongst where the company commander and I were going back and I was lucky there in that I, I had a phone with me coming back from the OP which, I took the phone up there with me and tied it in and all the telephones cables were up overhead, I dunno how many there were now, and I sort of jumped up and grabbed one and


dragged it down and bared it and tied the phone onto that. If it worked, that was OK, if it, after two or three I got one that was the one I wanted and I got an earth through my body and I was able to get some orders to bring down some retaliatory fire on, targeted, usually it’s to stop the Jap and it did fortunately. But out of that I got a bit of shrapnel through my sleeve. That was the closest I got to that.
Were you well supplied here?


Oh, pretty well. We thought we were. Many a time we had to eat bully beef and biscuits and, cooked in various ways or raw according to where we were. The most popular method after a while was to puncture the tin with a bayonet and toss it on the fire and let all the fat get burned out of it or boiled out of it and then open it up and eat the residue because it was fatty and pretty unpleasant to eat it


at times. Everything went into these tins, no matter what it was, except bones didn’t.
And what about sleeping? How did you sleep during this time, it must’ve been very tense?
Oh well, we each had half a tent. A little two-man tent thing which you clip up on the top with


somebody else that had another half and you sleep in that if you got someone else who had a half. Otherwise you just slept where you were, you’d put down a ground sheet and depending on the circumstances you take your boots off or not, if you thought it was reasonably safe, you took your boots off and I put a pullover on or haversack on them and use them as a pillow. Otherwise, you just do the best you can, sleep where you stop sort of.


Did you ever have trouble sleeping?
No, not that I remember, no I didn’t. But at times I, well, no I don’t think I ever had real trouble. At times, we had a system of, depending where we were of having someone on watch all the time and I took, with the limited numbers we had, I took my share of doing the watch. The chap who was on duty would soon come along


wake you up, because he couldn’t go off until you were on the job. The same applied to my relief for that matter. But I don’t ever remember any trouble sleeping.
So from John’s Knoll you eventually pulled back to Port Moresby?
Well, from that area, yes.
And how long were you at


Port Moresby for?
Oh, about a month I think, about a month. We left, we were at, regarded as a separate sub-unit and not involved with the regiment at all at that stage because we were at, we’d gone in some much earlier and pulled out so much earlier, we were shipped back to the mainland and sent on leave then. That was one leave where I did


very well. When I got back to Melbourne rationing was in full scale then, meat, butter, clothing and I forget what else. But there were coupons for those and, petrol was the other thing, you get a certain ration of coupons, each family did, so many probably per head, per person in the family, so often. But when I got there as OC of the


sub-Unit I was given a great mass of ration cards to share out to the chaps. So I gave them their quota, then I discovered that I had quite a few left over. I was married at that stage and I was staying at my mother-in-law’s place and I think I was very welcome with all these extra coupons.
At that point what kind of foods or


things were high on your list? What did you desire after living on bully beef for so long?
It sounds damn silly, but my one anxiety was to eat cauliflower, I don’t know why I decided on that. But I lost over two stone in the New Guinea thing. Well I was, lead a pretty active life, in fact, an infantry officer and I set the record for climbing up from the foot of John’s Knoll up to


the top in, I forget now, twenty-four minutes or something, without a stop anywhere. Which is quite a climb too, it’s well over a thousand feet high. I was as fit as a fiddle really. But I was, my stomach wouldn’t take much food I discovered, I gradually sort of overcame that dreadful handicap. But for a while there I just couldn’t eat much at all. I think I was a great disappointment to


my mother-in-law who used to cook nice meals and say, "Here you are. You’ll love this." and I’d eat only about a quarter of it.
And you must have been very happy to see Jean again?
Oh, delightful, yes.
Did you have much time alone?
Oh, a fair bit. I’ve forgotten now how long, but quite a lot. We had no restrictions on our movements, so


it was, and her father let her drive his car, which was even more wonderful really. But,
What kind of things would you do? Did you go dancing?
No, I don’t think we did ever. I wouldn’t be sure of that, no I wouldn’t be too sure. I used to dance in Brisbane with a few girls I knew there when we were stationed near Brisbane.


But I don’t, I remember dancing with Jean occasionally, not as a regular thing. I think we were sort of quite happy with each other’s company largely. I remember quite a spell walking around the Botanic Gardens and things like that, though I was a bit anti- walking then I must say, anything in the way of climbing up, I was right anti-, absolutely.
I’m not surprised. So how long were you back in


in Australia for?
Oh, dear now you’re, we left for Borneo about mid ‘44, first half of ‘45, no we came out from Moresby early forty-four, so that would sort of explain the time factor very roughly, I could,


I’ve got some notes there I could give it to you exactly, but I think that’s near enough without my wading through a mass of paper.
And so when you returned to New Guinea you went to Borneo?
Oh, my return to New Guinea was, to Borneo was a bit strange in a way, it was unusual at least. At that time I was adjutant and I was a bit,


the regimental planning party for the Borneo thing, and we set off with a big advance party by ship from Cairns. A landing ship tank it was LST, and we ran into a big storm just outside Cairns, we were part of a convoy and the convoy got completely lost. I think it was an American


convoy and I think they had only one navigator in the convoy, which was not uncommon with the Americans. A lot of their planes they had only had only one navigator to the squadron or whatever that, flew over. So if he went, if he got a knock, well it was just bad luck. But any rate we got lost and after about three days of incredible storm, the ship's crew said it was the worst they’d ever known. We found we were not far off the mainland of


Cairns, steaming flat out towards it. So there was immediate panic, turn around. We lost three days and then one of our engines broke down, we were behind and the rest of the convoy just went off and left us and we eventually got going again, but we were very late then and I was the planning party, so when we got to Milne Bay they stayed behind to do something about the ship and I arranged to go on by air with my Batman from Milne Bay to go up to


Morotai where we were situated for the planning group and off course at Milne Bay we ran into the weather conditions, it rained and rained, I lost about two-days there. Just never-ceasing rain and we took off finally in the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] with a lot of, all the planning gear, which was in a lot of wooden crates and


before we left we had to make out a manifest and make an estimate of the weight of these crates, so we did a sort of, "What do you think, what do you think, what do you think?" “Well I think such and such,” and we took the highest and multiplied it by two and put it down so we were pretty safe. Then we got to Madang where the American Air Force took us over and a course they weighed the crates and we were far, far above what they actually


were so the Yank said, "Well we can’t take all this stuff." Well we were in a hell of a quandary because I didn’t know, no one knew what was in each box, whether it was a couple a typewriters or it was the records we wanted for the planning party or what. So I remember I argued and went up the line to see this chap and this chap and for about half a day I got no sympathy and no help anywhere and some old American sergeant came to me and he said,


“I hear you’re in trouble with your…….”
Interviewee: Eustace Marsden Archive ID 0455 Tape 07


OK, so please continue.
Well, this old American sergeant, he was of those old people, the back bone of any unit, he’d been experienced for a long time and known everything and knows everyone, he said to me, “You’ve got one of those crates,” he said, “well we can’t take more than was on the manifest that came up with you, but,” he said, “the rest,” he said, “it doesn’t matter what you weight you know," so that was a good enough hint to me, and believe it or not, this is how the American Air Force operated,


I got on their scales holding a, bending over and holding a crate like this and my batman put one on my back. I forget what I weighed, it was well over twenty-stone and he got on the scales and carrying a crate in his hands like that and I put one on his back and he must’ve weighed god knows what and then all was well. We carried all our stuff on board. They transported it quite happily to Morotai


you know, it’s the sort of thing you wouldn’t ever, couldn’t imagine it happening during a war really. But any rate, I got square at Madang in a way, I had a rickety old stretcher for my bed and the Yanks had some very, very good ones. All there equipment was very good. So I left them my rickety one and took one of the Yank ones. I think I might still have that. It was a wonderfully built stretcher, strong and compact and everything going for it.


How did you find the Americans?
Oh, alright I suppose. I didn’t take them particularly. Though I must say my first encounter with them was at Lae, on the way to Lae and I wanted, one position I wanted for a battery, a troop position with the forward guns, and the Americans had a big set up there and I talked them out of it, much to my delight. They allowed me to talk them out of it I suppose there is a better way of putting it.


and they left a lot of their rations, which was very generous and very good because their rations were so wonderful compared with ours. There was no comparison at all. But this thing at Madang was a bit off-putting. And later I didn’t come across them except on the trip from Morotai to Balikpapan, on the ship and they were very good on the ship, I must say


that. I think the naval types were a better type. More accustomed probably to dealing with all sorts and kinds than were this mob I struck at Madang. Other than that though I didn’t ever come across them at all except remotely when they were firing a lot of covering fire over our landing where they were very, very good and very, a course the Americans worked on the principle that


they’d fire off a couple of hundred yards just to save one life every the time and they believed in incredibly expensive ammunition to save man power and man power would be used only as a very last resort. That obviously suited us well and truly too.
Fine if you have the equipment. It’s better to spend a bit a money than to waste human life?
Oh yes well first time I came across the Yanks with their


equipment was again in New Guinea. We got these little walkie talkie things. Prior to that we had what we called 108 wireless sets, which were big backpack things, were carried by the sig [signaller] with earphones over his head and a mic [microphone] here and a great big whip aerial that went up about three-feet and of course it had these drawbacks that the whip aerial could easily be identified by the Japanese and secondly he wouldn’t know they were firing


at them because he had these big ear pieces on, these phones on his head. So they were dreadful things to be carting around. So we got these little walkie talkie things. They were only about, I forget now, about maybe a foot long, maybe not as much as that. Any rate I had one that went bung so I rang up the quartermaster. I was somewhere up in New Guinea in the hills and I said, “I’m sending this back. I want


you to send me up another one pronto, quickly.” He said, “We’ll send you up another one pronto, quickly,” he said, “but don’t worry about that one. Just chuck it in the undergrowth,” I said, "What, don’t you repair it?” “No,” he said, “the American’s won’t, it’s American equipment they won’t repair it,” he said, “if you don’t chuck it away, they will.” So there we are, that was their attitude.
So at this point where we left off in your


journey, you had got as far as Madang, where did you go from there?
We went from there to Morotai, where we were camped, we were camped in a funny old place at Morotai. It was semi-swamp, dreadful camping if you think of it, it was a primitive camp and the place was riddled with snakes, mostly non-venomous, but not all of them and they’d sometimes come in the tents at night. They were dynamite. But Morotai was,


I was terribly busy there being on the advance party. From memory the brigadier used to hold his orders session at about midnight. I would be there for that. Then I would have to go back and work out something for ourselves, then go to bed and then get up again for the first thing in the morning, which I think was six o’clock or some ungodly hour like that. So my days were very long and very tiring, actually. Mentally, not physically. I didn’t do much more than move between two or three points.


But we got that all organized and we got onboard the ships, various landing ships. I had all the landing parties grouped out, the CO or 2IC told me who was, what officers were basically going with what and I had to do the rest of it and work our weights and capacities, how many people we were allowed on different ships. And at ay rate, we all got organised on these ships and then we


did a, went to a nearby island where we did a mock landing, just to see how it was going at a pretend bombardment from the navy over the top of us just to, I think a few blanks they fired, something like that, which very well. We were delighted, that ours went well because we had the 9 Div when they did it, had I forget now how many attempts I think it was three or four before they passed OK and one


incident there that crops up in mind was the LST I was on, was one by the, or chosen by the American flotilla commander to be onboard. That was the one that got stuck in the sand and couldn’t get off. All the others got off but we watched the bosses ship floundering and battling and I forget now whether we had to wait for the tide or whether they gave it a tow or what happened. We got off and then we


waited around on the road for about a day and then set off for Dili. Which was an interesting trip. We passed a couple of live volcanos and you know, we could see them. I’d never seen them do anything like this before. Spouting smoke and god knows what out as we went past. But the landing at Balikpapan was just, that was incredible there, the amount of fire that went over the top of us. Not only


fire, heavy, very heavy guns from the ship but also rockets, banks of rockets and the small craft rush into the shore, blast off these rockets then go flat out to get away. Then there’d be more come in and do it again. It is a wonder anything ever lived through it. But we landed fairly accurately, not on the beach where we were supposed to, but not very far from it,


and fairly well on time.
By day or by night?
Day. Nine O’clock in the morning was zero hour and the beach was a bit of a mess. There were a few things stuck in the sand and more things there than it was coped for. Everything was supposed to be clear of the beach as quickly as possible, it didn’t work out like that. We got ourselves organized and got away.


But the interesting thing was that Balik, was nearly all the houses there had shingle roofs and the houses that weren’t hit by the bombardment, and there were a lot not hit, all had their shingle rooves blasted off by the concussion from the shells going off. Every one, well every one was roofless, otherwise not touched. We went along,


we set up in quite good spot near one of the batteries, one of our Troops it would a been and there was, this is RHQ I’m talking about. We got dug in there and day two I think it was, it may not have been, it may have been day one, I had a bad run in with the CO whom I didn’t like very much and I asked the


RSM, the sergeant major for a working party for something, which was a bit of a required, working party for something to do to contribute to the war effort and he said, “I’m sorry sir. I haven’t got any spare men at all.” I said, “Well where are they all,” what’s his name? “Fred?” "Oh," he said, “they’re working for the CO.” I said, “doing what?” he said, “digging a latrine for him.” Well, I let my head go about what I thought of COs who had their latrines dug for them holding up the, and blast me if the old


so-and-so wasn’t just a bit behind me and got the full blast. The day after, he said to me, “I’m thinking of making a change. I’m going to send you to 54 Battery and get Bradley Lewis to come in as adjutant” Well, that suited me too. So I went to 54 Battery of which Fox Troop, my old troop, were part of, a component of. That was wonderful because they were an exceptionally good troop. They won all, of all the


nine troops in the division, Fox Troop always won the first, the battle to be ready first ready divisional shoot, and you know we were challenged once or twice by other regiments, but when they were given the OK to fire, they couldn’t’ fire, they couldn’t fire. They obviously said before they were ready before they were and so, we’ll back our luck, we’ll be ready on time when the whistle blows. No but they were a wonderful regiment, wonderful troop. So I went, I was battery commander there for


most of Balikpapan show, but then the true battery commander, Lou Longworth, who had been a liaison officer with corps headquarters came back and took over. I went along back to the sort of true job of a Battery Captain which was more administration and very little shooting involved at all. More organizing things behind the


What sort of things?
Oh, rations and movement and local defence and, I had a scheme and I think I achieved it too, of making our battery position the best position of all the divisional ones in Balikpapan. We were there when peace was declared because prior to that, Lou Longworth, the battery commander


was a very selfish gentleman. I know his son in law who said he was the most selfish man he’d ever known. Lou was a charming bloke to talk to, but that’s where it stopped I think. Any rate, he went across, as part of his job to, across the bay at Balikpapan up to near the mouth of the Riko River where the 2/10th Battalion were situated and he didn’t like that. After a couple of days,


he said, "I’m coming back. You’d better take over here." So I took over there and I discovered why. The 2/10th Battalion were part of 18 Brigade and we’d never worked with 18 Brigade before, we’d worked with the other two and they were terrific. But the 2/18 Brigade Battalions were on the nose as far as I was concerned and obviously as far as Lou was concerned too. But
In what ways?
Oh, just lack of friendship and cooperation and,


I remember at some stage, not till after I was there, not long after, the officers’ mess got donated a bottle of whisky as part of the rations that came ashore, that came from somewhere. They decided to have a sweep and I won the sweep, much to their absolute horror and disgust, I was only an attached officer and I said to someone, “I’ve got a lot of friends in the 2/10th Battalion now.” But Dion Lang and I, who was my OPO,


with me, we scoffed the lot. Bugger them. No, but they did nothing at all to, you know, to be friendly or even acknowledge my being around there. I had some wonderful tips up the Riko River to see some of our troop positions there, looking at the native life and the locals what they were doing and how they were living. The sad part of it was, there were a lot or orang-utans still


around there, you could watch them as you went along. Until the Yanks came and they got, anything that moved on the shore, they got to work with their machine guns and shot them down. It didn’t matter what the heck it was. A big monkey or a little monkey and of course all the monks gradually disappeared away from. But
Were they shooting them just for sport?
Just for something to do yes. Just, Americans they’re gun happy in many ways, a lot of Americans were.


I’ve forgotten that you asked me about what I thought of Americans. But one of the interesting things there, was we had a Sig. Bombardier called Sid Jennings, well Sid was a hyperactive type. He was never happy unless he was working and he was a wonderful bombardier. He got on well with everyone. He had a high-pitched voice. He never stopped talking, never stopped working and on this ship up, we went Sid had a native


prow dragging along behind, a little canoe craft and he and, he picked up three of the locals he had worked with somewhere along the line and he knew them, and we dropped them off at one stage or other to maintenance the line which we had, well I’d say the line, telephone lines of course, tied up in the palms as much as we could, but every now and again it would stretch or the palms would break over and break the line or it would get in the water and


Sid went off to them, he talked native whatever language they talked as well as these three chaps did and he had them working like diggers. I think Sid organized it, the old bloke used to climb up the trees like a monkey, and sort of hitch the line up higher and higher and tauter and tauter and so on, and they had, I forget now, one other chap did the steering I think,


then they had a boy there was a general purpose man. But that was a most interesting trip that. I went up and I know I had a book or something to read on the way back, but I gave it up. It was too interesting to bother about reading. I just sat there and admired the scenery. But that was my spell away from the battery position. When I came back though we had, I had already organized the battery position


pretty well. As a safety thing I had a big double open barbed-wire fence put up on our vulnerable side, where we could be approached fairly close without observation and the other sides I had pretty well covered. I had spent a lot of time with the infantry, and I had a pretty good idea how to organize local defence which was more than your average artillery person has, as it happens, or it just


works out automatically. I got that going and then I got all the, I think I got the showers concreted and kitchen area concreted and proper drains dug. I had a great time improving it and we even got to the stage of building an Officer's Mess from broken down Japanese huts which we managed, which we salvaged and I think we probably helped to break it down too, somehow. There was something


I was going to say there now. Oh, we had one interesting little thing. When we took up this command post position for the battery we had to turf out some natives who were living in this old house. They thanked us right afterwards because part of the reparation, they got a lovely new house. But, so we turfed them out of this and knocked down a couple of walls and made a decent working space. The Americans had a little bomb, they called it a bomb,


it was about the size of a big coffee mug I suppose, containing some gas, which you could put on the floor of the room and open the valve and let it go and it cleaned up all the rubbish, all the insects and the wogs in the whole place, including the roof. There was no ceiling or anything like that, it went straight up into the roof which was straw and gosh did it bring down a collection of stuff, including a couple of snakes, small ones were just living up there and enjoying life,


until they got hit by this stuff. We got rid of that. But then to our horror we found, under some bushes not far away a native who had obviously been killed by the Japs, he had his hands tied behind his back and he had been bayoneted, he was just a body. I got in touch with the engineers who, to came along to see if it was booby trapped or not. They said that it was, for goodness sake don’t touch it, we’ll come back with a bomb disposal


mob to move it. At any rate before the bomb disposal mob arrived, we had a chap we used to call Pyrotechnic Tim, Tim James in the regiment who had a yen for lighting fires and he lit the bit of shrubbery where this dead native was and we all feared the worst, but there was no bomb there. He was incinerated or cremated rather well, thank you. But that was


one the thing with the bomb disposal squad. Another one occurred later on when another chap and I were sleeping one, we put up our tents one night to sleep, in the morning we woke up and saw this bloody big Jap bomb in between the two tents, about three or four-feet from each one of them and so we got onto the bomb disposal mob and all sorts of precautions, I got onto regimental headquarters first and said, “what’s


to do?" and they said, "oh, keep a way from it, don’t let anyone get there." So turned around, I got a few men, we built a bit of a dirt palisade all around it to protect us and we went off. The bomb disposal people came they had a long conference and, “Is that all it is? Gosh we’ve come out here for nothing.” It was a darned smoke bomb, and of course they fiddled, they were


a pair that’s right. One they got the fuse out quite comfortably. The other one, to my horror, the chap picked it up and shook it to loosen the fuse and he got that out alright and he said, "there you are, Sir, now just tip out the stuff and do what you like with them, " so we tipped out the contents and lit it and had a nice little fire there for a while and then put the two shell, bomb cases down by our fence, our double apron fence and they disappeared, so one of the


natives thought he had a trophy, got to be worth something to him. But that’s about my experiences with the bomb disposal mob. But Balik was an interesting thing. I did a fair bit of shooting while four loogs [?] came over. But it was peaceful shooting for me. We got shelled a bit there but we were well protected and there was a darn big tree fallen in front of, just


in front of where OP was. Or the OP was virtually on the tree. We could cover, the shelter behind that with great safety and I did a lot of shooting from there. I think from memory I did a couple of regimental shoots, you know, all the guns in the regiment were on the job. But from then on I had a peaceful life really. Til I was playing cricket there one day and I slipped on some


gravel or something when I was running after a ball and I looked around and saw my right arm going down like this with the other, from the elbow up sticking up around behind me. I’d dislocated the elbow, so I was carted off to hospital and I was turfed out of the unit willy nilly, long before I would have been discharged otherwise, under the point scheme they had for release of people, you know, the time you were in the regiment and time overseas


counted and also married and with children all counted, but my priority wasn’t all that high. It wasn’t bad but, so I went through all the hospital channels and was sent back to Melbourne, to Heidelberg Repat. I went from…
Sorry I was going to ask, at what point did you learn that the war was over?


while I was at, I think while I was with the 2/10th Battalion, it was yes, over the Riko, on the other side of Riko on the bay, yes so I learned then. Then of course we packed up and went back quite quickly. The Japs didn’t give any trouble after that. I think they learnt and I don’t think they wanted to give trouble because they were just in a, in a live and death leave situation.


Did you celebrate?
Not particularly. We didn’t have anything to celebrate with. We did a lot of wild firing at night I know that, the gunners really let their heads go several times and Lou Longworth the battery commander distinguished himself. He went round telling everyone they shouldn’t do that, it’s not safe, don’t do it, don’t do it. But a course the war was over and they all sort of said, you’re only the battery commander. They didn’t say out loud no doubt, but


they took no notice of him. The next thing was someone saw Lou on the gun about to pull the firing lever and they said, “Sir, that’s what you’ve been telling us not to do.” and he said, “It’s quite safe. I know it is,” he said, “well, that’s what we’ve been telling you all night.” So he joined the mob then and came good. But that’s about the only celebration we did.
How did you react to the news?
Oh, I think we were pleased and a bit stunned in


a way. We hadn’t anticipated that, although we knew about the atom bombs in Japan, but hadn’t realized how quickly the surrender would come. But you know, once we got used to it, well then we got a bit toey. When do I go? When do I finish? And of course for some of the chaps, it was many months before they got home and they were left to sort of tidy up the remnants and clean up a few pockets who didn’t know about


surrendering and, not round Borneo so much as some of the islands, they were moved around to other islands. They were particularly young chaps, see all our reinforcements, we were a Victorian regiment basically we were entirely, but then the reinforcements gradually came in from New South Wales and Queensland and later in the war, of course, we got reinforced with chaps who were still at school when


the war started, had a lot, and New South Wales and Queensland, our membership there is much younger than the average membership in Victoria for instance, that’s probably where the association will survive to it’s last days, up in one of those two states. But they were all very young chaps with very poor priority for going home. They were scattered all round into all sorts of odd jobs for


months and months, after the rest of us had gone, the rest of the regiment had gone. But going back to where I was. I was moved to a hospital in Morotai, then by plane to Darwin. Transhipped from Darwin by plane, I will never forget that trip. It was a converted bomber and was one arm in a sling, the right arm in a


sling, and I was given a spot right up in the front, underneath the pilot where the bomb aimer usually is and the bomb aimer had nothing between him and the ground except some Perspex and there’s a fair certain amount of cross supporting beams or probably aluminium bars or something like that to sort of strengthen the Perspex.


Here was I lying on this damn Perspex and every time I looked down I saw nothing but the ground below me and I thought wow. But I was given a sleeping tablet, it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference. It was cold, it was freezing cold. There was no heating in the plane of course, and being at the front there, with only Perspex there to provide a bit of, what’ll I say? Support or, protection from the cold, meant nothing at all. I was, by the time I


got to Melbourne, it’s a wonder I wasn’t made of ice. They whipped me into Heidelberg hospital where I had a hot bath and a bed and to my amazement, Jean suddenly turned up. How she worked out, I don’t know whether I sent her something from Darwin or not. I can’t remember now. How she worked out I was getting there. I don’t know, but she suddenly turned up that first morning.


But from then on I did a bit of, I was given some treatment for the dislocation and then moved to Como in South Yarra, which was a sort of rest, recuperation place. I got into trouble there for trying to be nice. I used to wiz off and spend my night at Balwyn with Jean and her people there and get back early in the morning


and then ruffle up my bed and no one ever said a word and I thought one morning, "Well, I’m just making work for these nice people come along here and come to do the bed again, so I won’t bother bout roughing it up." The next minute I’m in front of matron, “Where were you last night?” And of course I was caught well and truly. I had been reported. “I was in bed what I slept in last night, Matron,” so I got a real dressing down from her and I didn’t have any defence to it


either. Then I was moved to Darley where there was a sort of a country recuperation place and Jean went and stayed at a hotel in Bacchus Marsh and it was, Darley was a reasonable walk from Bacchus Marsh. I don’t know whether you know the area but we, on the way, we walked there we passed an Itie POW camp and the Ities were very, they were very basically a very happy people and they used


to line the, I think they liked a bit of interest or something different happening. So when we went past they’d all line the fences there and wolf whistles and cheers and hello’s and you know, everything they could think of. We’d give them a couple of waves. I don’t think we’d have been too popular with the authorities if we’d gone approaching the fence from the outside. We didn’t ever try at any rate. But
What was it like to


finally see Jean and your family again?
It was quite a thing believe you me, yeah. I can’t think when I saw my family again, obviously while I was in Heidelberg. It wasn’t at Heidelberg very long before I was shipped out to Como. I got, I continued treatment at Como physiotherapist and then at Darley I just no


treatment at all. I don’t know why, quite why I was sent there. Part of the system I think it was and then I was discharged then. I was sent back to Royal Park where I was discharged.
Did you find it difficult to adjust to peace-time?
Oh, in some ways I did. I went back to the bank and I first, the bank was very good. They ran a course for returned people.


I think it lasted about a month on the present systems then in use and the general things that went on and I was lucky there in that it covered basic banking and I’d had a lot of experience pre-war in the Melbourne office and in branches. So I was pretty well equipped for both lots and at the end of that, they made me an instructor at the next several courses. So I did quite well with that and it was relatively a long time before I


got back to the nitty gritty of actually working in the branch and getting on with it.
Any trouble sleeping or nightmares?
No, no, Jean said I had nightmares. I don’t remember it. She said I, she woke up one night and I had her by the throat and I was throttling her and I was obviously having some sort of, that’s the only time I can ever remember being told about it, I can’t even remember that. But I didn’t, I lack


imagination in some ways I think. I knew it would never happen to me and I suppose that was it.
What about some of the chaps that were killed around you? Did that ever disturb you?
It didn’t really. I think it was part of the, one of our chaps was killed in New Guinea. That was a funny incident if ever there was.


Terry Feely was forward with two companies of the 2/25th battalion, A and C Companies and they were under the command of a chap called Cam Robertson who was commander of A Company and a chap named Divi Cox was a commander of C Company. But, Robertson was one of these very brilliant leaders in wartime and I used to say about Cam, during the peace they used to send him off to a training battalion to get him out of


the way, then they’d let him off the leash when war was, when a battle was on, they’d bring him back to the battalion to strut his stuff there. But he was brilliant, you know and I remember in New Guinea I was with him one time, we were going up, and he took me out in the middle of a creek and he stood there and he said, “See that thing up there, whatever it is, it’s where the Japs are? They’ve got a machine gun there and a something else there,” and I thought God, when the first burst of fire come in. But he didn’t worry and


I pretended not to at any rate. But at any rate, we came back there were signs of Japanese movement in these two companies and they attacked one night, attacked in great numbers and of course the two companies had to retreat finally, but Terry Feely was bringing down fire with just one gun and on the line the Japs were coming, started off


with a plus you know and gradually reduced the range and got it amongst the Japs, but they were very close to our own troops at that stage, you had to be careful. Of course then after a while the line went dead and Cam Robertson came on it saying, “Terry’s been hit.” So Cam went on and told me, he said, “Bring that bit fifty-yards to the left or something and a hundred yards closer or something,” and I’d try and state then the fire orders


the guns would understand and rang them through to the GPO [Gun Positioning Officer], the gun position bloke and he would fire it off the one gun, and then the line went dead and I didn’t know what the hell to do. So, this is one of the incidents in life which I s’pose, I don’t know whether I should be proud or say what a bloody fool I was. But I rang the battery commander, Peter Thomas, whom I’d, I liked Peter immensely as a person but thinking back, he wasn’t much


of a BC [Battery Commander], he didn’t ever come up near the op area and see what was what. He was always pretty safe back in, he was with the brigade commander at that stage because we were just operating as the only artillery in the area. I told Peter, I said, “I’m going to continue firing where Terry left off,” and he said, “You can’t do that,” he said, “you mustn’t do that.” But any rate I gave it some thought and I thought bugger him and I told the, Cocky Carroll my gun position officer to carry on and do what


Terry did, and come the morning I thought, well, do I get a court marshal or what the hell do I get out a this? At any rate, come the morning, the two companies had to withdraw. They’d withdrawn extremely successfully. They’d taken all their dead and wounded with them and the Japs were so close that Divi Cox who was commanding C Company had walked on one a the Japs while he was moving around in his own position. They were wriggling in right amongst them. But


any rate, the next morning I discovered Terry Feely had died and all was well. In fact, the infantry were saying, “Thank God for the guns,” instead of, “why did you bastard fellas go and kill twenty-four of our men by firing into them.” So I was lucky there and Thomas didn’t ever say a word to me about it. I suppose it would have, it would’ve shown him up in a very bad light because when Terry was up there on his own I kept pestering him to get


me another officer or someone to send up there, as a standby for him and he kept saying, no, no, no. So he didn’t ever say a word about it and I was quite happy. But the next day or the day after I was, we’re talking about dead bodies, I went up there and there were dead Japs everywhere. It’s the one occasion I nearly vomited I think, there was, you’d see the Japs there and of course you’d suddenly see a little wriggler come out of his nose and walk in,


wriggle down and go into his mouth and all the cavities of his body were being explored by wrigglers of various sorts. I had to sort of say, they’re blasted Japs you know, out here to kill you. And I got over that without, but that’s been the sort of, as revolting as a sight like that.
How were you affected by Terry’s death?
Oh, I was quite upset about it. In fact, the hardest job I had


during the war in a way, was writing to his family about it, then I went to see his, his family, his parents lived somewhere a way in the mulga we couldn’t get there, so I went to see his sister who lived at Brighton and to my surprise she didn’t welcome me with open arms, I dunno whether she thought I was responsible for it. She was quite nice, but not as friendly as I’d hoped she would a been. That’s life I guess.


Did it give you pause to reflect when the bloke was killed?
I don’t think so, you know, I saw to much of it in the infantry, not always chaps near me killed, though once when we ran into that ambush the chap next to me was killed, that was the Battalion Intelligence Officer Mal Creed. But you know of them being killed


so much and they were just another vacancy to be filled up and let’s get on with it.
Did you ever think about God or pray for your safety?
No, I can’t say I did.
Were you afraid?
Afraid? No I don’t think I was ever afraid. I sort of had this fortunate sort of view that oh yeah, I’d be OK


I didn’t like being up in that creek with Cam Robertson looking up at the Japanese positions which were mighty close. Whether they didn’t see us or whether or what, I don’t know, but they should have been able to mow us down with a couple of rounds. But that’s the one time I sort of thought well, I’m volunteering to get into trouble here with my eyes open. But apart from that, I don’t think I was. No.


I don’t remember it at any rate, that’s all I can say. But the CO, God, I’m Church of England and the CO was a Catholic and I can remember him saying to me one time, he said, “I’m a pretty poor catholic,” he said, “I never go to church and I never do anything, yet,” he said, “it’s strange how your religion comes back at you.” He said, “I went to confession,” this was the day before we went somewhere in New Guinea I s’pose, he said,


“and I went to the padre and confessed tonight.” The first time he’d ever been near a padre I think, for the whole time.
Interviewee: Eustace Marsden Archive ID 0455 Tape 08


OK, now I’d like to ask you about some of the songs and poems you were, you’d sing during the actual your time in the AIF? Can you tell us about them?
Well no, not easily. The songs we sang were mostly First War songs I think, interspaced with a few,


'Waltzing Matilda' obviously. 'Mademoiselle from Armatures' was another one that got a bit and 'A Long Way to Tipperary'. As for poems I don’t think, I can’t think of any one, except a few very lewd ones, there were always a few of those around.
Yeah I would love to here them, actually. I was secretly referring to them really?
I’ve got to think hard to remember them now.
There was one called Queen Farida?


yes that was, the British army started this in Cairo and no wonder the Gypo’s hated the English, “Old Queen Farida. How the Boys would like to ride her / Inter quice, quice, gad ere / Munga ere.” I told you I can’t sing for nuts now. “Good King Farouk / Hang you bollocks on the hook,” and I think the next line was, “Inter quice, quice sincere, inter quice, quice quatere” …no,


I’m not sure what that means now. I think it means give me some money. Inter quice quice, cattier. Munga ere. is food, it’s a mish mash of words just put together to make a bit of a rhyme I think. But I’m not sure I can remember that one. But no, of course the stories about Farouk were legend, about his love for the woman and


his peculiarities, I would say and he had, I suppose he had a museum there of, I dunno whether it was a birth museum or what it was, but a museum of, he had spare parts of women and all sorts of strange things.
Not so much instruments, actually preserved bodies, parts of bodies, I’ not too sure now.
I haven’t heard of that one before. Are there any other songs or poems you could tell us?


Oh, of course there was, in the AIF we didn’t sing much at all, that I can remember.
Anything unique to the AIF? When you were in Bombay?
That’s an interesting question. I had an interesting time in Bombay, but not unique to the AIF in that I went round Bombay


a bit with Harry Chuckett who was an officer in 7 Div Sigs. who I got friendly with on the Mauritania going overseas there and we went round and we went to a variety of places. All were quite clean and quite good. Not like the Egyptian, “Want to see my sister? Very clean, very hygienic.” No, they were a different type all together. But no


Bombay was very interesting. But
So what were the women like in Bombay?
I think the Indian women are beautiful, I really do. I think, their carriage is so marvellously upright and they’ve got a nice, what do I say, pleasant or, haven’t got the right words. Their faces look so sort of comfortable and happy and pleasant. No, I think they’re outstanding.


I have a great fondness for the Indian race. I think their soldiers were the same. They were marvellous fighters and nothing would daunt them and they were capable of doing anything at all, and they were, well those in the English officer's regiments were very obedient and I don’t think they were encouraged to think on their own at all. But they would certainly carry out whatever orders they were given without question as far as I could see.


But I only saw a certain amount of it. They were very strict, or yes strict in observance of army routines and army, what do I say, ideas and tolerances. I remember passing an Indian guardsman I think he was, on the entrance to some fort or somewhere in Bombay,


and he saluted me from a way up, he was a long way up on a horse and I didn’t realize for a second he was saluting me, he was, the salute peculiar to a horseman. I think it was a matter of just stiffening one arm or something like that. But I managed to catch it out of the corner of my eye and return the salute. But they were so very good at that. I’d have felt horribly guilty if I had missed it and ignored


him. Thinking of that, I saw Roden Cutler, you know, Sir Roden Cutler VC [Victoria Cross] in a march, Anzac Day march in Sydney. I must a been just looking on then I think, I don’t know, but Ro Cutler was going along in a truck and a chap on the first floor of a building he was passing saluted him and Cutler spotted that out of the corner of his eye and returned the salute. But


he was an amazing man, Cutler. I met him again up in, the heights of Kosciusko right up the top there, with one leg, he was getting around there like as nimble as you like.
How did you deal with the absence of women in your life when you were at the front? It must have been pretty tough, I’m sure that…I know the other soldiers had a really tough time?
Well some of them did. At the front I don’t think it ever worried me.


I think I had enough on my mind without sort of bordering on that. No, it didn’t ever worry me particularly. I was perhaps a bit, I was going to say asexual, I don’t think that’s quite the right word. I might be putting my foot in now I’ve said that. But no, it didn’t disturb me at all. In fact I was a virgin until I married my wife, which was probably more than


a lot of people could say.
What were most of the other soldiers like in that regard, were they constantly engaging in sexual activity outside the front line, when they were in Cairo and Beirut etc?
Oh, one or two were. I mean I could name a couple who sort of, they were insatiable almost. But in the main, I don’t think they were. We, I didn’t ever know about it any rate. I had a friend


who was a very good friend of mine who was a bit that way inclined when the opportunity came, he didn’t go out of his way to make it though, he just when an opportunity knocked at the door he said, “OK come on in.”
When your unit was in Bombay did that also take place?
Oh, we weren’t in Bombay more than a couple of days at the most.
Did any of the soldiers to your knowledge


engage in sexual activity with the local women when they were there?
In India no. At Deolali in the camp we went to some native village there and we, somehow we got, I think it was out of balance of officers, we took our pips off couple of us and went along there with an English Tommy, we got mixed up with who sort of gave us a demonstration and


he got into sexual activity with an Indian woman there and it didn’t appeal to me at all, I must say, particularly when she said, “Your turn next, ” sort a thing. But that’s about the only time I’ve ever been present while the act has gone on. I must say I didn’t enjoy it. It was an experience though.
How do you think your experience of travelling overseas during wartime,


like Beirut, Cairo, Bombay. How do you think that impacted on you as a person, your view of the world?
I think it did a lot of good, particularly when I went to some of these places after the war. No, I suppose some of these places, I suppose India is the, or Sri Lanka rather than India was the main one. I had to control myself when I went to Sri Lanka.


The first time we got off there some chap came pestering us to buy something and I felt inclined to give him a kick in the bum or a slap across the tail with my stick and say, “Get the hell out of here, mate,” and I had to realize all of a sudden that he was as good as I am in today’s language. But once I got that in mind I was right.
Was this after you came from India you stopped in Ceylon?
No, no this is about twelve or thirteen-years ago my wife and I went over there and we


had a spell in Ceylon and then went on to Kandy.
When you say twelve or thirteen years ago, did you also go to India as well in the same trip?
No didn’t go to India at all. We tossed up and we decided we’d prefer to go to Sri Lanka. But we had a funny experience at Sri Lanka just in passing. We were at Kandy in this very nice hotel and one evening the hotel management came to us and


said, “It’s a smorgasbord tonight. I think you want to get down there early because the campers are in and they’ll clean the place out. " So we got down there early and the campers duly arrived, but they were a team of beautiful local girls, they were the Sri Lankan netball team. And you know they, but campers is one word given to them locally. But they were, and we just queued up with them in the line and as soon as they knew we were visitors


there, they stood past and waved us up to the front of the line and we sort of said, no we’ll take our place and any rate the middle of this, their manager came across, and said “what’s all the rumpus?” and we explained it to her and she told us what was what and I said to her, “Do you know,” I forget her name now, the Australian netball manager whom I knew reasonably well, "Oh, do I know so and so? I stayed with her here and there.” Any rate the upshot


was that Jean and I had dinner that night at the same table with the Sri Lankan manager and the local manager, the four of us. And in the discussion one of them said to me, he said “I’ll tell you what,” he said, “our girls are quite different from your Australian girls. All our girls are virgins."
I can tell you he’s lying.
It rocked me a bit. Then the other lass said,


I still remember the name now, "no, Monaki you are wrong. Two of them are married.” And any rate I didn’t know which way to look. And she was probably right you know.
OK. Well we had better get back to the war.
Yeah. I think so.
On the topic of virgins though…


Tell us how you dealt with the possibility of being killed or wounded. It must have entered your head at some stage, especially being involved in combat?
Not very much. It didn’t enter my mind much. If it did, I sort of, well I didn’t worry about being killed. I went into the war and it stayed with me all my life, all my life still with me I think that, I’ll take what comes and do the best I can to cope with it when it comes and


the same with being wounded or captured for that matter. I wouldn’t have liked to be captured, but you know it didn’t, well it didn’t enter my mind it was possible. I was sort of, maybe it’s a self-protection thing, I put it out of my mind cause I didn’t want to think about it which is probably the more likely, but some of the prisoners of the Japanese were treated pretty roughly and also, some of our people


didn’t treat the Japanese as nicely as they could.
What do you mean by that?
Well the first Japanese I saw as a prisoner I think was taken on the Lae trail and they brought him down from the front. He passed through where I was, battalion headquarters and he was dressed in a shirt and his boots, nothing underneath at all, the idea was of course, it’d stop him trying to get


away in amongst the thick lantana growth and you know trying to get out of through there with nothing on your bottom at all, you’d scratch hell out of yourself in next to no time. But there was no brutal treatment that I know of just that was a safety measure I s’pose you could say or a precaution.
He wasn’t killed later on?
Oh no, no, no. They would never have done nothing like that. He went into the cage I think.


There was, many of the veterans who had served in the Papua New Guinea campaign had mentioned that both sides unofficially or officially for that matter, had tended not to take prisoners at all? If they did capture them they’d interrogate or just kill them straight outright? You must’ve heard of this surely?
No, I haven’t heard of that at all. Because we didn’t take many prisoners in the


Lae at all. There was, on the fleeing, they were withdrawing all the time. In Borneo I was just a bit remote from the front line there, I was a battery commander I would a spent most of my time either at a rear OP or with the battalion commander.
Now you would have been in the landing in Balikpapan?
Yes I was,
Can you tell us about that massive artillery bombardment?


massive’s the only word I can tell you about it.
What did it look like?
Unbelievable because it was all done from the ships of course, and there was the constant roar of, it was a roar of shells going overhead, constant roar, then periodically there would be a smaller gunboat would charge along and fire off a great a mass of rockets with incredible speed, the first time we’d seen rockets in action,


and the speed at which they fired them into the shore somewhere. I don’t know whether they had defined targets or what they shot at. We were either too far out to tell or, on a landing, on a craft coming in you were too low down to see what was happening on the shore.
Can you describe to me what the noise was like?
Well, it was almost deafening, I suppose you could say, but it wasn’t quite. It was like an


express trains going over the top really. But that was the main thing that went over the top was the heavy shells from the ships. The rockets and so on went in far closer to the shore than we were. We were behind all that noise. But I don’t know, perhaps I’m not good at descriptions, but my memory of that noise is just the constant roar of it and well, that’s about all I could say about it I guess.


Was this the only amphibious assault you had taken part in?
Yes one and only.
What about Lae?
Oh no, that was a land 9th Division landed near Lae, and came down south. We landed at Nadzab and went overland about thirty-miles towards the coast, so that was, that’s where we dropped the guns from, with a parachute battalions. But that was purely an aircraft landing and that was a dirty,


mucky thing, particularly the guns when they came in. The whole of the guns and the sights and everything got smothered in soot and dust and ash.
Where was this again?
At Nadzab, inland from Lae. Where we landed by plane. But I mentioned that to Colin. But that was a dirty spot, a filthy spot.
What about Balikpapan, can you tell me about the fighting that took place


there from your unit and your point of view?
Well, I was again remote. When I landed I was Adjutant and I was well at the back of it all then in a pretty safe, relatively quite a safe place. It proved to be quite a safe place too, except for the odd sniper who was in the tunnel near, but someone got rid of him alright. But later on I became battery commander of 54 Battery,


while the, also I told Colin the circumstances under which the CO moved me out. I was battery commander while the normal BC was liaison officer with corps headquarters. So I did a bit of shooting there but I was never in the activity zone of fighting. It was, I think I just, you know it was like being on the top of a big saucer with the whole


battlefield spread out in front of you, you could see what was going on and see our own troops and see something of the enemy or you could at least see where they were firing from. We got shot at a lot by enemy artillery, who obviously worked out, either we were there or it was the sort of place we would be there. But I didn’t sort of get involved in that in detail at all.
Was it a hard fight there?


Balik? Parts of it were. Just in spasms more or less, particularly early in the piece. I think after that the Japs sort of realized they were on a losing thing and they were just intent on retreating from one fortified position to another. But they were, what’ll I say? One of the things that helped us fight the Japs, was the Americans


had some gas they dropped, either to defoliate the place or to kill vermin, I never know which. But the Japs all thought it was a poison gas and they all put respirators on. Wearing respirators of course drops your personal ability by god knows what percentage, maybe forty or fifty-percent and a lot of cases where our infantry went in, they had


all these Japs in front of them wearing gas masks and of course they were much easier than they would have been otherwise to get rid of. But they steadily pushed them back really, without a great deal of opposition except isolated strong points they thought, either thought they could hold on to or were told to hold onto while the main body got further back and got themselves into a more defined defensive position. But we lost a couple


of officers there in advance positions. One was a bit silly. I think the general impression was that he went to get a gong for himself and he went against the infantry advice and a course he paid the penalty for it, he got bowled over by a machine gun. And the other chap, I can’t remember how he died. I don’t
What was the necessity of the Balikpapan operation?


I think it was clearing out the pockets of resistance, they wanted to bypass it, when they went in, worked in gradually towards Japan. I think it was just cleaning up some pockets of nasty resistance behind you and also in theory, cutting off the oil supplies. Of course, when we got there the oil supplies were just one hell of a wreck. Everything, the oil producing thing was a wreck, a mass of tangled up equipment and there was that


sweet cloying smell of oil over everything. It stayed there the whole time we were there. There was oil spilt on the sand and the beaches and all round the big tanks that they had there. But Balik was mainly noticeable in the initial landing for the weight of armament that the Americans put over. They believed quite rightly


I s’pose you could say, that if they could save one life by putting over tonnes and tonnes of steel, well they would do that. They had ammunition to burn, much more than we had of course and our ammunition was relatively scarce compared to the Yank's. In New Guinea we were very short. In fact, every unit was rationed in New Guinea, and if you wanted to exceed your ration you had to ring up regimental headquarters and plead a case to


be allowed to do it.
What was the hardest battle that you had fought?
In all the campaigns you’d been in?
I suppose New Guinea would probably be it, long, it lasted so long.
Which battle in New Guinea?
Oh, it was a continuing battle in New Guinea. There was no


fixed battle really. It was,
But I mean you had fixed battles here and there, like Shaggy Ridge?
Oh. I wasn’t in Shaggy Ridge. See, 54 Battery which I was in, led the advance and we were there on our own for some months, and then when the other two batteries came in about the end of the year, 54 [Battery] were withdrawn to go back for a rest, so Shaggy Ridge was not, that would’ve been the toughest one individually. But then of course only


very few people in the artillery fought that battle. Just a small observation party group really, which got, well the OPO got an MC and his signaller got an MM [Military Medal] and I think somebody else got a mention in dispatches. But they were the sort of, it was a one man front, of course, Shaggy Ridge. There was no space for widespread fighting or


recommendation for honours or awards.
You said you were speaking about a Japanese infantry attack that got into the Australian ranks and they had to retreat and there was only one gun defending them?
Oh yes, I spoke to Colin in some length on that.
That’s right yeah?
Would you like me to talk a little more about that if I ..?
Were you involved in that battle itself?
No not personally. I was involved to this extent that I said


before, that I was, it was my troop, I was in charge of the troop and my observation post officer was up the front with these two companies and I couldn’t, when one of his offsiders was taken away sick, he didn’t have any standby and I tried very hard to get the battery commander to give me a standby which he wouldn’t do, and a course when Terry was shot,


we were without any artillery officer up there with these two companies and the company commander took over for a time and said, you know I knew him well personally thank god, you know, “Come fifty-yards to the left, or drop down twenty-five, or do something or other.” So I tried to state that in the fire orders which I passed onto the gun position officer and he did this with one gun, shot down with. Well


overnight of course the two companies had to withdraw and the brigadier made a hell of a fuss about that too. He had a court of enquiry as to why they had to withdraw. Well, it was completely justified because the company commander of C-Company, a chap named Cox, had actually walked on one of the Japanese who was crawling in amongst his lines when he went round his own troops, so they couldn’t a been much closer to him.
That’s right.


I remember you saying that now.
Yes. But of course I kept on firing against the battery commanders orders, and it was a, what’ll I say? A considered decision, one it either would’ve, could’ve got me into all sorts of bloody trouble if it had gone wrong, and one if it didn’t, well I was alright. It went alright and no one ever said a word about it again. I think


only because the BC would have been in an awkward position himself if I had said, “well sir, you wouldn’t give me any relief for Terry and I asked you for it many a time.” Not that it would have justified me but it would have put him in a, he’d a joined me in a, as a bloody silly thing to do.
What did you think of your enemy, the Japanese?
I respected them. As fighters, yes, they were good.


I mean the old story that they used to say about the Japanese, little tiny squirts of men. But those little tiny squirt of a man at the end of a machine gun’s very effective, just as effective as a great big giant. Though some Japanese from the northern islands were very big strong men.
You’d seen them, had you?
No we didn’t see, I didn’t see any of them, but that was the reports I got from all the infantry chaps, that and this one particular unit I s’pose,


or sub-unit, had these big tall strong men and they said, “Don’t you believe the story about the little squirts of Japanese.”
Yeah that’s right of heard of that, I think they were marines?
They might have been too. That’s quite likely.
They were over six foot, everyone in the unit?
Yes they were enormous men, they were strong men too. But then when, let me see, when the 2/14th Battalion took Palliers Hill and I think


he was a sergeant at the time, Teddy Bear with the 2/14th was amongst them and he threw several of them over the edge of the Palliers Hill with his rifle, he bayoneted them and just, like a man throwing a bundle of straw up on top of a haystack, just flipped them over, one after the other. He was heavy and strong and these were small and well, light-weight I


s’pose. But that was a hell of a battle, that was, for a very short time. But we weren’t in that. Was just something that they did. But that hill was a funny story, that, I don’t know whether I told you or Colin. But the CO wasn’t altogether respected in the battalion, the regiment. We used to say that the regiment did well despite him and not because of him. But he decided one time he would go for a trip up to the


observation post area, which is more than my battery commander ever did. And at any rate, one of the batmen took him on the way and the batman must have been one of the anti-CO blokes, cause instead of taking him along the gully the river track, he took him over the top of Palliers Hill and down again and just about Euchre’d him. Any rate, the CO there wasn’t very pleasant. He came up to our, I had an OP,


I wasn’t there, I had control of about three or four OPs with different chaps in them. He comes down to one of my OPs and I’d got the word passed round the CO was on the way, all except a few people who were in transit from one place to another and they had done all sorts of things to their hats, their army Khaki hats, khaki felt, some you know, had ribbons dangled over


the end of it and beads and queer shapes and they came down the hill to the CO and I gather he put on some act about this sacrilegious treatment of the army hat. And you know everyone was quite pleased to see him go because as long as these chaps did their job and were and it didn’t affect them otherwise, they got pleasure from mucking about with the hat, khaki, fur, felt, I didn’t give a damn what they did with it. But


the story runs that after he got back he went to bed for some days and wasn’t sighted.
Are you saying that the infantry used to tell you some stories about what was happening at the front line? About the Japanese and things like that?
Oh, not particularly, no. I was with the infantry for a lot of the time.
What sort of things would they tell you about the fighting and the Japanese and things like that?
They never said very much. They were sort of,


they kept their experiences to themselves. One patrol did a marvellous job I remember. It was a section patrol led by a corporal by the name of Carter, and they, I forget what they did now, but they were very active and did a wonderful job and I was talking to one of them sometime later on and I said, "Oh, Carters patrol did such and such on such and such," and “Oh yes” he said, “they did,” and went on and all of a sudden


I realised I was talking to Carter, the man who led them. But it’s one of those things that stick in your mind as, thank God I didn’t make a blue. But they were, overall they didn’t talk much about them. I think they were expected to do these things and just took it as part of their line of duty.
Do you remember Major Henry Gullet?
Joe? No, I didn’t ever meet him.
Joe, Yeah.
He was in the 6 Div., he was


2/7th Battalion I think. I’m not sure now.
Yes he was 2/7th .
I didn’t ever meet him, but
How do you know his name?
He wrote a book. Have you read it?
No, I haven’t read his book, but I’ve heard a lot about him from other veterans?
Yes, he was a brilliant operator I would say. But he wrote a book and he got, in that book, I quoted a bit of his book in one of those recent barrages I put out, he wrote a definition of infantry morale


and it’s a wonderful description. The morale and the way an infantry battalion welds itself together, it becomes a home within itself. Everyone is part of everyone else. It’s a language that only a man who was a part of the thing could master and put out and that’s why, that’s how I remember him. But he had a very interesting career because he had a father who was involved in politics and helped his


career along in that I think he got transferred, he was part of the Normandy landing, if my memory’s right, he was part of the fighting on the Continent at any rate and I think his father had a bit to do with his getting him posted to these other places, otherwise he would’ve spent all the time with his battalion, you couldn’t just apply to go overseas and be sent there.
I was told he refused an officer commission?


Oh, no, he became a major.
But he started off as a private?
Yes he started off as a private but quite likely his Dad said, "I can get you a commission Joe." That’s very likely. He was a sergeant in the first attack in the desert against Bardia, I think. I’m not sure of that. But from then on he got commissioned very quickly and promoted quickly.
Was he a good officer?
As far as I know he was. I’ve


got no personal knowledge of him, I only know what I’ve read really. Why do you ask?
I’m curious because a lot of other veterans have spoken so highly of him, soldiers who served underneath him and so forth?
Just curious, he’s a strange sort of personality you know, it’s just…?
I wouldn’t be surprised at that, Yes.
Now did you think that, or rather, I shall rephrase it this way,


did you notice the physical beauty of the places you fought?
No. Syria perhaps, or Lebanon. That was beautiful really, it was, but not where we fought, where we were after the peace really. Where we fought was on the coastal run and it was mainly just a flat coastal plain with a high mountain ridge on the


right all the way up. But afterwards in Syria it was just beautiful country there, it was, well it was going back in my imagination up to a thousand-years to these winding country lanes and little villages here and there and everywhere, then up above it, overseeing Beirut was Aley A-L-E-Y which was also a beautiful, a hill resort it was, but I’m told in the recent fighting, I say recent, five or ten-years ago


I s’pose, that Aley was just devastated and the whole place was sort of just a mass of ruined scenery and timber and just not worth going to see.
What about PNG [Papua New Guinea], what about the jungle?
Bloody awful. Oh, PNG was, well the Jungle was something we had never anticipated at all. The lantana there was growing very, very thick.


To get through the lantana you had to slash your way with a machete all the way through, you couldn’t get through quietly without, because you wouldn’t get anywhere without actually cutting your way through and making a track you could follow. There were a few defined tracks but they were, there was one every five-miles or ten-miles or something like that, very rare indeed. And the rest of it of course, where we were was interspersed with very


tall trees. I think there were so many of them they were in competition with each other and of necessity, they grew high to get up to the sunlight and get something to make life worth living.
What about the diseases you had to look out for in PNG? Can you tell us about them?
Yes, well of course malaria and, not dengue, one mite


good mite, it was something with the bugs…
Scrub typhus?
Scrub typhus that’s the word I’m after, they were rampant there. In fact I think I talked to Colin about the malarial precautions we had to take. We had to force the chaps to take Atebrin after a time, mainly because they all thought it was going to make them impotent and they thought leave mightn’t be too far away. But we had


ointments used to put on there to guard against the mite and the malarial mosquito. Well one chap, one of our warrant officers died from malaria. He got cerebral malaria and it affected his brain and he died very, very quickly after being diagnosed and I’m not sure about typhus. We had a few chaps who caught it but whether, I don’t think they died from it but I think they were invalided out or downgraded medically.


There was, I think I believe there was a type of leaf that was very prickly?
Oh God yes.
There must have been many of them in fact?
Well, I met this in Northern Queensland. The Gympie Bush we used to call it.
Gympie Bush, that’s it Gympie bush,
That it?
Yes, yes that’s the one.
Well of course the stories of Gympie Bush were rampant, I brushed against some of it on my arm one time and it worried me for weeks and weeks afterwards.


It didn’t stay on there but it left must’ve been thousands of tiny little almost invisible hairs stuck in the skin and when they got wet, they would either produce, inject some poison or something into your arm and god it itched like mad. But a course the story went like wild-fire about one a the nurses, supposed to have relieved herself and wiped herself with a bit of Gympie Bush


and you know, well I don’t have to say any more. Whether it was true or not I don’t know, but that was a very current story. But I met that only in Queensland. A course the other thing in Queensland was these great bit serpents that were around there, quite harmless sort of things, but they looked a bit vicious.


But there weren’t many sort of wild animals that disturbed us. I was talking about Borneo to Colin and the monkeys there, it was tragic the Americans used to shoot them down.
The monkey’s?
Just for something to do really, just to, you know they were a gun-happy race really and there were lots of orang-utan about, of course the orang-utan, the word orang-utan comes from or-ang-a-oo-tan.


Orang is man and oo-tan is forest, the men of the forest. But they used to shoot them down, well so much so of course, that they get, went right away from the waterways and all the tracks used and after a while you didn’t ever see an orang-utan anywhere.
They’d all been scared off or shot?
Well, one or the other, but certain one or t’other. They just vanished.
Interviewee: Eustace Marsden Archive ID 0455 Tape 09


Sorry your question?
Talk to many infantry chaps?
Yeah, lots of infantry actually. They’re very interesting the infantry.
Yeah. They would be. Yes
I mean naturally because they’ve got some very harrowing stories and incredible stories to tell.
I can imagine that. Have you talked to anyone who was closely involved with the 2/33rd plain action in Moresby?
No, I don’t, tell us about that. I think you mentioned…
I talked to Colin a bit about it but,


Oh right.
it was tragic that. It nearly wiped one company out, with the dead and wounded. There was only about ten or twelve of that company left.
Yes I think I heard something about this.
Oh God yes and there’s a most graphic description given in the 2/33rd Battalion history of it. You know, of one of the American air crew for instance, who turned up to one of the Australian officers there and there was nothing left on him, everything was


burnt off him except his boots, he said, “Where do I go for help, sir?” And just died on the spot and things like that, you know, one after the other, it was very tough.
You must have seen people die in front of you in the PNG campaign?
No, not die in front of me. No I didn’t see them, no the chaps, the infantry were killed when I was up there, were either,


I was just a bit remote enough too, not to have seen it. I was, as troop commander I was usually with the company commander and the, I had an OPO, a forward observation officer really, with the leading platoons an a course he got into, see it was almost a one man front New Guinea and away and he got into hot water


or I didn’t and the same similarly with the troops around him. Except for that one time with the 2/33rd Battalion, when we walked into that ambush. Well, Mal Creed, the battalion IO [Intelligence Officer] was next to me got shot and he died of it, but he died of it a day later, so I didn’t actually see him die of wounds either. But the most tragic thing I think in a way was Butch,


Adjutant of the 2/14th Battalion in the Kokoda where his brother was in the same battalion and his brother got killed and he died in his brother’s arms. That would have been pretty hard to take I think.
This was on the Kokoda Track?
Yes. I’m glad to hear you call it track. The Americans try hard to call it trail, but there was,


I’m told that the New Guinea government has adopted trail as the word and trail is on all the maps that they issue now. But those that were there stick to track as much as they can.
Now you would have heard of this when you came back to Australia, about the Kokoda, the battle for the Kokoda Track?
Oh yes, well we were in Australia at the time but of course we didn’t go because there was no scope for artillery to be used


on that sort of battle, we heard of it and while it was going on we heard a bit and when they got back we heard a lot more. But what we heard didn’t please us very much either, with the Japs ability to infiltrate and get around and generally sort of outwit any defensive position, no matter how far it was spread they seemed to have enough men to keep on feeding them round and round and round


so they got to the edge where they could get around, there weren’t any more infantry there.
Have you been to Wewak?
No, I have not, no.
I’m curious to know how you looked at the senior command in New Guinea, that is like Blamey and the higher ups?
Blamey wasn’t liked at all.


wasn’t, he was disliked, I think I could say. I don’t know whether he earned it or not but he was, no one liked Blamey at all and of course Blamey used to muck about with the senior officers in New Guinea to a great extent and there was a story went round that any case they used to swap jobs between New Guinea and the mainland to get indemnity from Australian tax for income earned overseas. I don’t know how true


that was, or is, but that was one story. But Blamey, particularly after the 39th Battalion withdrawal, I s’pose is s a nice word to describe it, and the 2/14th also at the first attack at Kokoda, he was quite ruthless, talking about the rabbit that runs that gets shot. You heard the story did you?
Did he say about this at Wewak?
No, no he said this about the Kokoda


No, I didn’t hear about his sorry go on.
Kokoda Track there am I using the wrong word already.
No I haven’t heard about that. Could you tell me?
Yes, well. Blamey addressed the troops of the 7th Division after they sort of came, what was left, came out victorious from this thing and he really tore into them on the withdrawal, the first original initial withdrawal from Kokoda with the 2/14th Battalion and the


39 Battalion who were a militia crowd and they were an incredibly good militia crowd, had to withdraw. The 53rd Battalion was also there, another militia crowd. Both these militia units were very young, eighteen or nineteen mainly, and but officered and senior NCOed by more experienced people. Well the 53rd wasn’t worth tuppence and I think they got pulled out and virtually


disbanded. But the 39th were an outstandingly good job. But Blamey at any rate, sort of castigated them for withdrawing and as such brought out this remark about the rabbit that gets shot is the rabbit that runs, which may be right, I don’t know. But from then on, it took a lot of controlling every time Blamey went near a 7th Division Infantry unit, there’d be chaps round the back going woof woof woof. That’s the dog


chasing the rabbits. And of course, the officers shut their ears to it. They didn’t hear it. But eventually it was stopped, but Blamey was disliked. Now our Divisional Commander George Vasey was admired immensely. I met him in the Lae track in New Guinea just going along the track all by himself, his full uniform his red tabs and red cap, just mooching along and we sort of exchanged pleasantries as I went this way and he went that


way, and we had a brigadier, Brig Ether. He was a fiery brigadier but he was a good man. I remember him saying to one of the COs., quite unjustified cause this bloke, it was Ether’s way of getting some action and he said, “I could crawl on my belly faster to Lae than you’re getting there.” And you know he stirred the place up, but that was Ether. Ether was a menace, he’d descend on a unit, sometimes about


nine o’clock at night half full and say, “All the officers out,” and all the officers, except those that went into hiding because they knew he was around, would be dragged out in their pyjamas or whatever they were dressed and into the mess and Ether’d get behind the bar and mix ups some ghastly cocktails from anything he got his hands on, he’d grab one bottle put half in the glass, another one put half in and, “drink this,” and he was played very hard


and fought hard, but he was a good brigadier just the same. I think everyone respected him for it. They ran for cover when he was around in peace-time.
Just on the topic of cocktails, what about Jungle Juice?
Oh, that was a, there was a lot of that about. Of course lemon essence was one of the main things that was used. Also it was taken out from some of the recuperators on planes I


understand. But I don’t know about that. There was a lot of use of jungle juice. But some chaps you know took jungle juice, they’d pass out for forty-eight hours. You wondered whether they’d ever come good. But I don’t think there were many like that, but there were certainly a few who sort of proudly talk about it occasionally.
I also heard that there were soldiers who couldn’t get access to cigarettes, they’d roll their own with leaves they can


get from the jungle?
I’ve never heard that. The natives would give anything for a page of newspaper or something to roll their, it was Traders Twist they called it. Some villainous stuff that the traders used to provide them with or the plantation owners used to as a sort of a cheep substitute for wages I think. Though it was a villainous mixture but they used to like it apparently and so they were quite


happy to smoke it. But I’ve never heard of soldiers smoking any old thing. But there was an issue of cigarettes and tobacco given periodically to the troops, but I don’t know. I didn’t smoke at the time so it didn’t worry me at all.
Can I ask what was the relationship like between officers and other ranks in Papua New Guinea and as


opposed to your deployment in Syria?
Well Syria was, I can only talk about the artillery in Syria.
Of course yep.
It was rather remote. It had developed that way from peacetime, through training and without sort of facing up to hardships together in a big way it’d tend be rather remote. We had a Troop Commander, David Good, who was a lovely little chap, but very


punctilious and he was known as Gunner Gaunt because he addressed every, well trooper, every gunner as Gunner, never called em anything else but gunner, and he didn’t ever use their names or, I think he knew them alright. But he was always that, in New Guinea that, in Syria that was very much the case. Now in New Guinea I don’t know how it went at the gun position, I think it tended to be a little bit that way,


but with the observation parties, well I found if I didn’t get on Christian name terms there was something wrong with all of us. We were all in together, and all faced the same thing, ate the same food and had the same problems and we were just one working party really and the chaps all, the knew when, if I said, “jump,” they knew that I meant jump and that’s all there was to it.
You were talking about that incident beforehand where


the gun crews in Syria were ordered to fire?
Can you tell us?
I’ll tell you again.
Yes please.
Yes well, the artillery have a rigid gun drill about firing and not firing and obviously necessary and when you’re firing the one order not to fire anymore at all, is to “stop”, and every order from the gun position officer is acknowledged by the gun


sergeant by holding his hand out. So you know if he gets it and understands it, he puts his hand up. So any rate something happened in the firing there, where GPO Russell Henry ordered “stop” and they all acknowledged it and all stopped. But then apparently, I suppose it’s while the OPO was getting his line and range right, when he was right, he sent down the order to, “go on,” which was the only order appropriate to resume firing


and Henry in his excitement yelled out, “Fire”. Well there were six guns in the troop and five of them fired and the sixth one, he’s alive today, I see him quite a bit, the gun sergeant, put up his hand and said, “Check, go on sir,” and Henry who was a fiery little bad tempered bloke and didn’t like to be caught out in any mistake at all, particularly when it was gun drill, said, “Fire, fuck you, fire,” and he fired then.


Oh ,that’s written up in our history except the four letter word is not there.
Incidentally, I recall one of the other veterans, when you were in North Africa you must have come across Italian POWs?
We saw quite a few of them yes.
Yes now


there was a sort of rumour going around the Italians that the Australians were cannibals?
I’d never heard of that one. No. We didn’t, where we were in the 7th Div, in Matruh, we didn’t have any need to be cannibals. We were well supplied with rations and I don’t think I like eating Italian in any case. But no, I wouldn’t have believed that one.


In Africa? No, most unlikely I would say. However that’s all I can say about that one. I did get mixed up in a slight way with a Japanese POW in Borneo. After peace was declared we were given a, I forget now, twenty or thirty Jap POWs to come and work and they were all


taken from some camp or other. I don’t know whether they were detailed or volunteered or how they were chosen, but a couple of them hadn’t been out of hospital more than a day or two and a curse they worked incredibly hard, they were used to working hard. To some extent, though they, I think most of the very hard work they did was done by natives in Borneo acting under orders from the Japs. But they did a lot of work in cleaning up and tidying the area and


we had very strict instructions which we adhered to very strictly too, about the hours they were to work and what they were to be fed with and given to drink and so on. But I was very taken with the care they took of each other. Some of these chaps when they finished they were too weak to get into the trucks by themselves and they looked after each other much more than I ever thought the Japs would have. But we only had them once or twice and I think that was about


the end of that. I suppose they found some other job for them or something like that. Unless we could, what’ll I say? State enough work for them to do, we wouldn’t a been given any and I s’pose we had to have the work there for them to do which we didn’t always have it. Meant a certain amount of supervision all the time.
Did you engage in any conversation with the Japanese or


Italian POWs?
No, none at all. Well I would have been very careful with the, never with the Japanese. With the Italians I’d have been very careful about going to the outside of the POW cage in case the guards mistook what I was going there for and decided to give me one warning and then open fire. But the Italians were a happy, friendly looking mob and of course they sent


a lot of them, a great number went to India and quite a lot went to Australia. A lot of them came to Darley, just outside Bacchus Marsh. They were happy garrulous, friendly people, but I think they were, I don’t know to what extent they got involved in the war, willingly or unwillingly but they were not a war inclined race I would say to talk to them. Their officers lived in


extravagant luxury. The places we took on the Western Desert, the Italian officers there were living though they were in a top quality hotel with all the personal luxuries they had there in the way of cosmetics and clothes and it was just another holiday for them almost. But the Japs, Japs in Borneo were very, were terribly tough on the


natives there. They killed, God knows how many they killed. I don’t think the number’s ever been worked out and the Japanese, whenever a Japanese and a native passed, the natives had to salute. I’ve got photos here and there of Japanese passing a group of natives and all the natives going along like this as they walk. But after the war then the Dutch took over


command again. I mean Balikpapan was a Dutch area, definitely controlled by the Dutch for their oil and they were hard on the natives, very hard. They used to employ them up to a certain level, they never let them get very far in their employment. If they got too good they’d always switch them onto something else where they weren’t so hot at it, and keep them out of place. But immediately after the war, of course, the natives got even with the


Dutch as much as they could in that they, the Dutch had all retreated very fast to some place safe and the natives looted their houses what the Japanese hadn’t taken and cleaned them out and where we were, there was a constant stream of natives going up in the morning and coming back in the afternoon carrying all sorts of loot and junk and later on though it, the NEI,


the Netherlands East Indies recruited a lot of local people as policemen, gave them a uniform and a gun and a lot of authority which they loved exercising and they stopped a lot of that. But then on the other hand, they were pretty ruthless, these NEI people, they, a lot of them were young and married and they were looking for homes for their wives and they’d go along to


some home they wanted, which was occupied by the natives, and wait till the menfolk were away at work somewhere and just terrify the women, saying you know, “There’s an order here that you have to get out and vacate the house, it’s been taken over," so much so that they won nearly every time and we had a family living next to us whom we had booted out of their house to use as a command post, but the got another


one built for them for the, I suppose it would probably be the Dutch authorities. I don’t know. A very nice house and these NEI people came along to them, again when the males were away at work, and the women came to us and said, “What can we do? What can we do?” So we gave them just a bit of a chit authorizing them to stay on there and most of these NEI people were quite illiterate. They used to pretend


they could read and if they saw a chit with a bit of writing on it and a rubber stamp and a signature, they would pretend they could read it and would go along with what it was purported to be. So we gave them a chit to authorize them to stay there. We had a long discussion about what we would put on the chit. I know one of the suggestions was, “South Melbourne beat Collingwood in the final” or something like that, on the basis that these other mob couldn’t read and no one would know what was written on there.


But any rate they successfully stayed in their house and then they decided they’d acknowledge it by giving the battery commander, who signed the thing, a present. Now for some strange reason Lou Longworth, the battery commander had asked to have a pet monkey. God knows what he wanted it for or what they thought he wanted it for either, cause they couldn’t get him a monkey and they tried long and hard, instead of which they gave him a


chicken and chickens were worth, I think at that time, about one weeks pay for the ordinary Dutch worker. So it’s a very valuable present in their eyes. But they brought this chicken along to outside his tent, they promptly beheaded it and plucked it and proceeded to go and cook it, right in front of him on the ground. But he stopped that and we got our own cooks to cook it later on. But we all, still wonder what they thought he wanted the


monkey for, when they did that to the chicken. But we had, they were a funny race. We had one of our chaps, we had several, these Dutch or native chaps, as batman, they were wonderful, most of them were great chaps really and the Dutch authorities used to allow us


to use them as batman as long as we transferred them, or moved them out from within their area of control and I think there were restrictions on other things, I can’t remember now, but one of them we had was, he was in love with a girl from some other island, who wanted to marry him right away and he didn’t want to get married til next year and God we never stopped hearing about this


and he moaned and he groaned and he finally met this girl one day somewhere and she said, “Well if you won’t marry me this year, I’ve got some bloke from somewhere else that’s gonna marry me right away so we’ll call our engagement off." He came back and he gave us hell, he was grumbling and complaining about it and he went off to join the Dutch forces, the permanent army. But we had a lot of funny incidents like that and I can’t remember them in detail now,


I think most of them are in more detail on that tape I gave your people. Let me think now. The Americans were, when the war was, when peace was declared a lot of the units went to pots, a lot a the RAAF people in particular, they sort of lacked cohesion


and discipline and they dressed old anyhow and they came, I was with the 2/10th Battalion I think it was over the harbour at the mouth of the Riko River and they came over there for the barge trip and they were a ragged mob if ever there was one. They sort of charged ashore just to see what it was all about, there was nothing to see when they got ashore, the old wander round and look at trees


and things, but one of the times they came over, this barge used to be our lifeline to the mainland. It used to come and bring us our rations and our mail and everything and also take away all the mail and anyone who wanted to go back to the mainland travelled either to or from on the barge, and it’s arrival used to cause a major concern. Particularly because there was a rough old engineer unit, which had acquired a


Jap vessel of some sort which they moored next to the little old barge, little old jetty there and they didn’t know what they were doing with this thing and they were flat-out some times to move it in time to let the jetty, to let the barge land at the jetty. The troubles they had there and the great collisions and panics that went on were beyond belief almost. But the Riko River was a very interesting


river I found, just going up there because the native houses were all built over the river and they used that for all their ablutions of course, there was no problem, it got washed out to sea or washed somewhere. They had had a lot of, well they had had a lot of fish traps along there. There is a very big rise and fall and there were very big posts on these fish traps and nets. But of course most of them went to rack and ruin because


the natives found that if they got fish in them, the Japs would come along and take them. So there was no future in just catching fish to be taken away, so they didn’t repair them. But they were gradually repairing them. But it was a scene of very interesting activity and when the barge I went in up the Riko, used to call in periodically at different villages, all the women used to crowd around the windows and the doors of these houses, they’d never come


out, the men would come out but the women wouldn’t. But they were most picturesque in their various coloured dresses and sarongs or whatever they wore. They were like a lot of peacocks in female disguise almost, in their colours. But it was a very interesting trip and a very varied, almost exciting trip to go up there and back again because you never knew what was round the next corner. It was always interesting in some way or other.


What was the difference between the Japanese in Borneo and PNG?
The difference?
I don’t know. The Japanese in PNG were mainly native navy personnel and I think that they were originally more inclined to fight, but as they got pushed back they got less and less inclined and they eventually made their escape up, going up north.


Most of them got away from the net. We had a big net around the 2/33rd on their front. I was with the 2/33rd at the time and the 2/31st came in behind them to complete the net, but somehow they got out, somehow through the 2/31st lines which was in line with what I though that battalion too, it was the one battalion in 25 Brigade which I


well, I put number three in the, very much number three of the three battalions there. It just didn’t ever click. But we might’ve caught a lot of them that way, but they got away and filtered a way up north towards Madang. I don’t know where they finished up. A lot of them of course, when we pulled out of New Guinea, were just left in the mountains to look after themselves as best they could and some of them


stayed on for years. Others just came alone and surrendered themselves to whoever they could find to surrender to. But they were left for dead too, the, when it came to the showdown the, what’ll I say? The Japanese high command looked after some more important parts of itself and left the rest to look after themselves as best they could.
You said there were some Japanese there for years?
Yes, if you


read, well for years afterwards you’d read occasionally of a Japanese being discovered or coming in from the hinterland and he’d been living either by himself and trapping native game of some sort or other, or with some support from one of these remote tribes that didn’t ever move out of their tribal area. There were quite a few of those in New Guinea, it was amazing. Some of our chaps came


across a tribe of pygmies and only once, no twice, I think he came across them. They just came and went and no one knew quite where they came from or where they went to, they just disappeared. But there were some, a lot of remote people living in New Guinea that no one ever knew anything about and they’d pop up when it suited them and not otherwise.
That’s fascinating isn’t it?
Its amazing country yes


I had a friend who was manager of the Commonwealth Bank at Lae for some years post war and the natives didn’t ever believe in paper money and they’d come in periodically and ask to withdraw all their money, they’d want it all in coin and silver and they’d sit down on the floor of the bank and count it all out to make sure it was all still there and looked after, then go back and put it in again. And had to be recounted, otherwise


you could be sure they could stick a bit in their pockets while no one was looking, you know. It filled time in no doubt, but pretty unproductive.
Can I ask you now what beliefs sustained you in times of danger?


I think it was a belief in myself. I didn’t ever feel I was sort of threatened. I had the odd occasions where I felt a qualm or two, but in the main I didn’t feel, even when I was shot, in Syria, I thought it was just bad luck mate, you’ll, you know, time to get out of here, which we did. But I didn’t ever feel that I was in


the, in a position of real danger or anything like that. I don’t know. That’s just how it works itself out in my mind.
Were you superstitious in any way or did you have a lucky charm?
No, I don’t think I, I didn’t ever have a lucky charm. After we were engaged I carried a photo of my wife round with me


religiously right through all my army life or all my army life and it got in a battered condition a bit until we got to Borneo. We had a chap in the troop who was very clever with his hands, Kevin Beaumont, a South Australian whose died since, and he made me a beautiful little folder for it, of solid leather and hand stitched with a piece of plastic or


Perspex across the front to show the photo through. But before that, it used to get carried in my pay book I think, in whatever I could carry with me. But I didn’t have any superstitions really. I used to go through the act of touch wood or something silly like that at times, but just an act.
Did you find that the infantry


were quite superstitious?
Don’t think so, no. No, I don’t remember anyone in the infantry being like that at all. The infantry were unusual. They would, what I could see of them they had a job to do and if their job was to be the point man on the point


platoon and just lead the way and take what came, well it was my turn, I’m going to do it. That was about all that mattered to, never any grumble. They just, they did their job and part of their job. They were very, the infantry battalion became extremely close knit and the one very big family and very close, well close together family and I think they’re all part of the one thing and , what’s good for one’s good for all sort of thing.


They took their turn when it came. That’s what I saw of them and I admired them immensely because, you know, they have skills that I’d have dearly have loved to have had at times, but I just wasn’t brought up that way and I didn’t have the need for them really. But
What sort of skills are you referring to?
In camouflage, concealment, stalking,


crawling, getting around. I learned a great deal from them while I was with them in setting up local defence. Of course when I went to Balikpapan I had to put up, select the battery positions for the guns and organize the local defence. What I had learned from the infantry then was invaluable to me in where to sight guns or machine gun posts, and what not to do and I put up a double-apron


barbed-wire fence in one area where we were vulnerable, all that sort of thing, I learned a lot from them. But I was probably only just learning what was probably learned by most of these chaps in their first week in the infantry.
Did you ever see any men who could not cope with battle?
Yes. one or two.
Tell us about them?


Well I only saw them. I remember one, I was with, I can’t think which battalion it was then, one of the 25th Brigade Battalions with the CO there and a chap came down there and he said, “look Sir, I got shot in the hand,” he had a shot in one finger I think and he went on and the CO said to me, “we’re quite well rid of him, that’d be self-inflicted.”


That’s, the extremities that people go to, to get themselves, they get beyond reason when they do that to themselves. But still that’s just the way they’re made up and I s’pose you can’t hold it against them, although they’re a damn nuisance in a, obviously in a unit. But other than that, I don’t remember any. I remember, in a battalion you tend to find that people of that nature took up


sort of non-combatant jobs in a way. I mean one chap I went to school with who was a very peace loving fellow, I think he might even have joined the church after the war, but he became the chiropodist and he would be attached to battalion headquarters and when things got really grim, he’d a said, grabbed a rifle, been told, “Grab your rifle Ken and get over there and there’s your zone and watch that.” But that’d be very rare and he wasn’t ever really called


into any combat position. But they tended to take that sort of job on if they could find them. But they liked to stay with the unit. They probably didn’t like to disclose what they really felt. But I think that their officers probably worked out for themselves what the thing to do with them in any case.
Have you heard of the term lack of moral fibre?
Yes, I’ve heard of that. But I’ve never struck it personally with anyone.


What were they referring to when the said lack of moral fibre?
No guts, you know just won’t stand up for themselves and do their job. That’s the only way I’ve heard it used, I mean you could put it in a lot of ways, just morality or I’ve always heard it used in the army just as a matter of wouldn’t sort of face up to your job of whatever it was at the time


for fear of any possible consequences. That’s about all I could say for it.
And the other thing I want to ask you since we are on the topic of that. Did you ever encounter people who received white feathers?
No. I think the white feathers were a thing in the First War. I didn’t hear them being used in the Second War at all. They may have been, but I don’t think so. I certainly didn’t ever hear of


anyone, didn’t meet anyone or hear of anyone who got one in the Second War. The First War it was not uncommon and I think the people who were in the forces had to make sure that when they went out, they always had their uniform on. If they went in civvies, they’d probably get a white feather in next to no time.
What about suicides?
No. I’ve never known that.
Did you hear about them?


No never. That’s an extremity that.
Apparently quite a few of them took place.
They might have. I couldn’t tell you that, but see in the AIF we had the ability, the battalions did, of getting rid of people who they suspected and the officers get pretty alert to assessing a person and his capacity, for facing up to situations


and if he’s no good well they’ll soon get rid of him and send him out to a back line somewhere and try and get him a job or leave him if he got a job in somewhere more suitable for him. But I’ve never heard of any suicides. Thank goodness.
Now we’ve only got about a minute left. So I’d like to ask you, is there anything you’d like to say for the historical record. Now is quite a


good time to say it, even things you haven’t told us?
No I don’t think so. I would have liked to have continued on in the army, but I was married and I had the opportunity, I had the opportunity of going and joining the Indian army which I knocked that back, had the opportunity of going and joining the BCOF [British Commonwealth Occupation Force], the occupational force and I knocked that back because I was married and I’m not sorry I did that with hindsight. Though at the time it was, I liked the army life, I enjoyed it


very much and I think I was quite a good officer. I didn’t ever hear any grumbling about me although they used to say I was strict but I knew my job and that was what, well I was paid there to be, to do really. But overall, that was just an incident in life and now it’s gone and past and I get great interest and activity from being very involved in our Association and maintaining old contacts and I get a lot of, terrible lot of pleasure out of that because ………


0 Comments You must to sign in to add a comment Add a comment