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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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 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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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…….”
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.
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,
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
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.