What age were you then, you would have been 16?
I was 16 or 17, thereabouts. It was round about that period that I first got involved in the Army, I suppose, I joined the local militia unit which was known as the North West Murray Borderers, the 7th Militia Battalion. I’ll never forget that mainly because we had a hat badge the size of, made like a vine leaf, huge thing it was, we thought it was magnificent but
that the battle went on with the whole area, I think the Eighth Army ‘til it built up to the main battle at Alamein in October and after October of course when we came out, there were 58 of us on our feet and over 700 casualties. Then back to Palestine, refitting, chaps coming back from hospital and so forth, divisional parade which was our pride and joy, we
were very thrilled with that and then we came home. Had a fortnight’s leave staging in Seymour, I should say, and we did a march through Melbourne and we went up to the tablelands to start jungle training. From there we went, we landed in Milne Bay in New Guinea and then we prepared for the landing up at Lae and Finschhafen.
anyhow that was knocked on the head thank goodness, because we were only going to have couple of cruisers and a destroyer to support us, the Americans were having two battle fleets to support their landings. I say that, that’s how we felt about it. Anyway that was canned and we were still disgusted and we thought are we going to be used or aren’t we going to be used. Then they came up with this business, the aim was from our point of
view, and Blamey, was to go and get up to Singapore and recover what we could of the 8th Division they were still tied up there. That was a thing. MacArthur wanted us to go and re-capture all the islands around the place for the Dutch people. Anyhow the long and short of it was it was decided that the 9th Division would do
the Tarakan job and Labuan and the 7th Division would go Balikpapan and our brigade was the ones that drew the unlucky straw to do the Tarakan business, they should have had two brigades there, it was a bit of a shocker.
wasn’t to know, I was classified at Ballarat that I shouldn’t go back to front line service, but I argued the pitch and toss and there was a doctor there, I won’t mention anybody’s name but, he saw to it that I remained on A1 but the idea was that I went back to the battalion and the battalion was sent overseas again and I had to sign a form to say that I was going beyond
a certain limit, there was an area there that if you went north of that … we used to call it the AIF line which was a bit ridiculous anyway because militia forces weren’t supposed to go beyond there and we were, we could be sent anywhere but anyhow that was all a bit of a mystery to me and I forgot all about it and so the medical officer, Frank Haymanson said that’s a lot of nonsense and that was it. Anyway when we landed at Tarakan I was covered with boils, I had one on the lip I couldn’t
talk and had them on me legs and had good fun going down scrambling nets and so forth and my Batman Ernie Diffey used to do all the talking for me on the radio and telephone because I was like this. And then after a few days anyway the strain got at me anyway and while I was having a conference with my commanding officer the following morning on this particular bridge that we were trying to capture, Frank
Haymanson, the doctor said to the CO [Commanding Officer], I’m evacuating Captain Macfarlane out forthwith. Half an hour later I was on my way down to the ship on the wharf.
you know, like things that you’ll never forget, like in Tobruk. My Sergeant and my batman who were with me there, were both killed alongside me and Corporal Tex Alleyne on the other side he got badly wounded and so forth and we were being pulled out, and while they were lying there badly wounded, when I crawled over to see if they were all right the Germans,
I suspect it was the Germans, it wasn’t the Italians, by the sound of the machine gun, opened up and fired on them while they were on the ground and killed them there, and they hit the other bloke but for some miraculous reason they didn’t hit me. Later on when we finally pulled out of that particular area I brought Tex Alleyne back with me, I carried him out, and this is something that you can delete, but I will tell you my CO
said “Macfarlane why didn’t you come out with the rest of your platoon?” after I’d gone through that and I’m afraid I said something that I’ve regretted for the rest of my life, I had to suffer seniority and he made me pay for that because I spoke back to my CO. He was an officer and he’d been in the First World War.
it was something like, I reacted, and said “What was I supposed to do form them up in groups of four and march them down Cromer Road?” which was just a dirt sandy track. He heard me and just stamped off in a rage and took it out on me, and also some very good friends of mine at the time and even some closer friends after the war, a fellow named Bob Searle who only died a few years ago;
he was the I [Intelligence] officer and then the was the Adjutant a fellow named John Brock, Captain Brock both told me in latter years that I and my platoon were being recommended for recognition for that situation and also something had happened the week before, and he refused to sign it. Because of my indiscretion I had to live with that for the rest of my life. It’s a
reflection on those fellows who were with me, the ones that were killed and those that survived and a lot of those fellows in that particular platoon were wounded later on in different actions and so forth. And only a few months ago a fellow named Carmen, Spud Carmen died, he and I were the last members of that original platoon, so now I’m on my own. Something I will live
with that for the rest of my life, I should have known better.
we had married before I went away, she wasn’t too keen on going up where there was no roads, no electricity, no telephone and the place was full of flies and things, but I wanted to get a soldier settlement block. I applied for one to see how I went and I was to be allotted one so I had to decide yes or no, so I decided in favour of the wife and wouldn’t do it, so took on a
part time course at the university which was available. I used to go once or twice a week, the rest was all by correspondence, on marketing and salesmanship and general management of the business like that which I did and then a chap who was in my battalion, a chap named Gus Oakley, said “Why don’t you come and join me with dad?” Dad had had the business that’d been running from 1916 or something or other
in textiles, importing and exporting textiles. I said OK, so I joined him and there I was. That was great for a while going overseas and things, learning all the time, one year you were wealthy and the next year you were broke and so forth, as it is today in that sort of thing. It was always very foreign to me, I just wanted to go back on the land but anyway I stayed there; then a few years later
import restrictions were pretty severe and pretty hectic and the business was starting to disintegrate and I said to my friend Gus “I’ll go and get another job, I’ll go out somewhere.” so I was a member of Legacy, actually working for Legacy in those days and a very good friend of mine who I worked with, Jimmy Leach, was the Melbourne Manager of BP [British Petroleum] although it was called COR [Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited] then, it returned to the name BP a bit later on, they were just about to
launch a new oil on the market and he said “You’d better come and work with me.” so I did. So that was quite an experience.
1977-78, my wife and I decided to call it quits because she was a very clever, smart lady and she had an occupation which occupied a lot of her time, I was never home and when I was home I was always doing something for somebody else and we just grew apart particularly when our daughter who did nursing training and finished her training and went to England and she was over there for 6 years
nursing in England and we just called it a day. I drifted around on my own for many years and so forth and met up with Fay, my wife now, and she was having difficulties and so forth with young children, I used to help as much as I could, so finally she took out a divorce herself and I said that if I’m going to
continue helping her there is only one thing to do and that’s we get married, otherwise ta ta. That was my way of looking at it. Again it was up here you know. Twisted mind. I was very very lucky, she’s a lovely girl and let’s be honest she’s 25 years younger than me and how she puts up with me I don’t know but she does. We get on very well together. Our two boys are grown up now and are both independent,
working, but quite well, doing real well for themselves, the eldest boy he left home some years ago, he’s just built himself a new home and the youngest boy is about to go out next week end I believe. So, which is fairly nice, so in that domestic part again, lucky. Lucky Macfarlane, I should have a nickname really. That’s been life really.
This is an annexure that we produce for the history, that’s our two colour patches by the way. Our original red and white diamond and then we changed to the T colour patch of the 9th Division colour change. That was produced to clarify a story about how we captured the Germans’ special unit which destroyed Rommel’s information. 621 Insignia it was, decipher unit.
I was on the formal committee, there was Bob Searle, these were all great blokes, Bob Searle, Archie Amiett, David Cumming, MacFarlane, Bob Searle and John Shaddock, I’m the only one, oh John Shaddock’s still with us, he’s 90. We formed a committee
and decided to do something about it in the 60’s. And this was finally produced in 1968. It was 50 shillings to purchase. We’ve just had a reprint, a second reprint which is now $50 for pretty well the same book but we’ve put all those bits and pieces in it. But they were good days putting that
together. Bit of tear jerking and things like that. A lot of hard work. Bob Searle was magnificent… we had to contact … he would think of so and so that was involved in a particular action somewhere and we hadn’t heard from him so he would write to him and say “Come on what’s your story, have you got any photos?” and things like that you know and we set out to do it and for Bob Searle’s benefit and he’s worthy of it
of course, the army people in Duntroon I can’t think of the fellow’s name now, but they wrote it up as one of the best infantry histories that had ever been written and it was recommended to the infantry fellows in Duntroon that they should read it. We were very proud of that. We burst the buttons on our shirts from sticking our chests out.
that was a fascinating experience and we finally came on to Australia and arrived in Melbourne in October 1928. We moved into a lodging house it was called, they’re probably called motels today, that style of accommodation in Melbourne and we were only there 2 days and we were robbed and mother lost all her clothing and all her personal bits and pieces, jewellery and everything like that and the only thing she kept was her wedding ring.
That was a bit of a tragedy but as kids we didn’t know anything about it and just didn’t realize just how bad it was, but it was a hell of a set back for her. And then shortly after that I think the Salvation Army had something to do with the placing children in schools and things like that. We were going to a school in Carlton just out of Melbourne. Malcolm and I it was decided that we were to become dairy farmers,
sent up to Healesville to live with this couple on this big dairy farm along the Yarra and from memory I think there were over 100 cows involved on the place and we were given a little horse each, we used to ride to help, we’d used get up early in the morning in the dark and bring in the cows and help milk, we’d already been taught to milk and then we’d ride our horses up to school, the little red brick school was on top of the hill at Healesville
and come home again and bring the cows in again at 3 o’clock, 7 days a week of course.
across the front threshold of the door, the doors were open, looked at her and as a 10 year old, I thought she must be dead so galloped off down to nearest neighbour and told them that Mrs so and so was very ill or she was dead and they came down. Anyhow the next thing the police were there and she had committed suicide and had drunk a bottle of iodine. Turned out that they were alcoholics. The two of them managing this dairy farm.
Perhaps that shouldn’t go in there. But for 2 young boys like Malcolm and I were, it was a bit of a shock. Next thing we were rushed back to Melbourne for safekeeping and my mother had just accepted a position as an emergency chef at a big hotel at the Railway Station in Maryborough it used to be a big travelling centre in those days. We were sent out to a place called
Tally Ho which is just down the road here, this is not a punch line, but here I am now 60 years later back within a mile of the place which was run by the Salvation Army and I think the Church of England was involved in it too, Boys Home, amongst the apple orchards and we were put in there for safe keeping for a while until mother could find something to do with us. It was a dreadful place.
What do you think about that?
Enough said. All we wanted to do was get out of the place. Mum used to come out once a… I have forgotten how long we were there, it must have been several months though because I can remember the apple trees being pruned and I remember eating apples of the trees, so we must have been there 4, 5 or 6 months. And she used to come out on the tram to Burwood, the tram
terminus is at Burwood the old place, which is now Warrigal Road and she used to wait there for the horse and jinkers to come out and pick up the visitors, they used to come out along this dirt track from Tally Ho and she got friendly with a lady called Mrs Bailey I think it was, yes, had the milk bar this one little shop on the corner and she used to sit in there. Anyhow that ended and mother remarried,
and we were taken up to live at Merbein.
hardworking fellow, as a stepfather it must have been difficult for him, I have experienced it myself, he had a family of three boys, two walked out and left him and the other one, the younger one, was still there and a daughter. But he was, he started this, he was one of the first pioneers at Coomealla he had been in the wheat growing country, growing wheat, producing wheat
in the mallee. Later on a house was built over there and we moved over there but in the meantime we had been in Merbein some three years I think it was in this house there, where I went to school and I used to work in the bakehouse on a Friday night, kneading dough and helping get what we called the cakes and things ready for the weekend and what not. And at 8 o’clock in the morning,
without any sleep, I’d go out and help a bloke on a cart delivering bread and so forth. I was determined to buy myself a bicycle which I did. Anyway away we went the house was built and Coomealla and we moved over there. I went to school at Wentworth.
so much as my mother and my step-father would have been and this family who were older than us, my sister would have been more aware of it because she was going to school in Mildura and met some people who befriended my mother and they looked after her, and my brother and I were going to school at Coomealla and we were sent off to Wentworth. And then he went into the Mildura Technical
school later on, he wanted to be a mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, which he did become. But it was grim, we were dependent upon the crop, your dried fruit and your citrus every year. And there were times when things weren’t too good as we were recovering from the depression, you’d have to get an OK from the bank to write a cheque to pay for your monthly
groceries which were delivered from people called Bowerings from Wentworth, and then when you were able to do that, you’d ring them up and say OK they’d deliver, they couldn’t deliver anything until they knew the cheque was right.
that sort of thing so I preferred to ride and you would go up home on the horse and get home about half past three or something like that and you’d be straight out working on the block. Always work to be done, seasonal work, ploughing, disking, cleaning, weeding, pruning, and then the fruit crop, drying, dipping fruit, I used to work on the dip, dipping dried fruit and getting it off the rack, I used to like it, I liked it.
you see vines and things growing and everything is let go. Different, totally different, but no I was very interested in it, very interested indeed and I wanted to go back, when my stepfather… I had a little ten acre lot up the road which I always understood was to be my start in life. I helped clear it in my spare time and got to the stage where we surveyed it and got the stage where we had all the water channels pegged out for the concrete,
we were starting to put posts in for the trellises, he came home from Mildura one Saturday or Sunday afternoon and announced that he had sold the lot. That was just after we had taken the 37 crop off and he wanted to buy an egg producing place, a place called Murrumbeena down here in Melbourne, which used to be egg farms and market gardening.
up with the militia, he used to take me into Wentworth with him in his car, and I used to think fancy people having motor cars. We got one shortly after that but I wasn’t allowed to touch it except, this is very disjointed I know, but I was very keen on football and cricket and I was allowed to play and sometimes I was allowed to take the car provided I put my own petrol in it although there was a big drum of petrol there in the sheds, I wasn’t allowed to use them
and petrol was 10 pence a gallon up at the local store, at Coomealla, 10 pence a gallon so it wasn’t a big hardship, I used to get, I was then getting 4 shillings a week pocket money, things were starting to improve but I’m getting away from the subject. This fellow who had befriended me he was a great bloke, died some years ago, he and I just started talking
and people were starting to think about modernizing the operation in vines and citrus with their equipment and this fellow was talking about buying one of the first Ferguson tractors that were being offered about that time and I said “Well I don’t want to go to Melbourne.” and he said, “Would you be prepared to help me if we get to organize and start
a contracting business instead of people buying all this equipment, get somebody to come in and do all this work for them, all their seasonal work for them?” and he thought this was a terrific idea. And that’s what we were planning to do, we were going to take probably 12 months to 18 months to organize and so forth, I came down to Melbourne with the family, I drove them down, we had a car accident at Wycheproof, we were locked up there for 14
days, my stepfather and mother were in hospital and my young brother was in hospital, the car tipped over, we had luggage strapped up on top of the car and went into a bit of a skid in the mud and away we went. Got over that, came on to Melbourne and I was very unhappy and I saw this place, going out collecting eggs, growing grasses, cutting it all up to feed chooks and things and what not and it didn’t appeal to me at all.
I existed there. I used to get letters from mum saying that things weren’t going too well and that my step-father didn’t like what he was doing and he was neglecting it and so forth and would I please come down and help, so finally I felt I had to go down, back to Melbourne. I came down here at the end of ‘37 I think it was and went out
to live with them in Murrumbeena, a nice home, nice property but eggs, ooh it didn’t appeal to me nor was there an income sufficient enough to support me and the rest of the family. My sister was nursing there, training at Royal Melbourne Hospital and my brother was still at school, tech school somewhere, I forgot, so I decided I had to get a job.
I got a job first of all through my sister’s fiancé, they were engaged, who knew some people in South Melbourne who had a timber mill. Holy mackerel, I remember a young fellow who had been working the land and suddenly going into a great big place which had great big circular saws and buzzes going around the place and dust. I lasted there for about six weeks, in the meantime I had applied for a job as a cadet trainee with a firm called Julius
Kayser who made lingerie and hosiery in Richmond, near Richmond station and I, shock of my life, I was called up for an interview and I was taken on as a cadet trainee and for two years you had to spend six months in the dye house and six months in the hosiery place, six months in the fabric business and six months with sales people or alternatively in the office, that was the two years training.
What fascinated you about the militia do you think?
I think the army life appealed to me, the fellowship, you loved learning about discipline, it wasn’t the fascination about weapons, I mean that was part of it of course it was, but the fact that you were made to wear a uniform and you were mates with this bloke and mates with that fellow it just fascinated me, it always did. The 37th Battalion,
the 37/39th the 37th was called the Cameron Highlanders, they were associated with them, they wore tartan on their collars and Cameron badges on their caps and they had Cameron buttons and being a bit of a Scot descent I thought that will do me. The 39th they had different badges again but they were amalgamated and that went on. And after a while the 37th Battalion was moved down to Gippsland and the 39th were amalgamated with the 24th Battalion and
I stayed on with the 39th Battalion and we were all moved into the 39th section of the joint command. Of course we lost our Cameron badges and all that sort of thing but that didn’t matter and there I was up until war broke out.
people didn’t, and the suffering and so forth that went on, hell you don’t talk about that. Often you used to get remarks after the war, or you’d read in the paper, or someone would make a crack about Anzac Day, oh they all go along and they all got to a reunion and get full and carry on and so forth like that, some did to a certain extent, all those fellows died at a young age I might add. We used to go along and talk about the happy times, the funny things,
“Remember when so and so did so and so, oh yes that was great wasn’t it,?” that’s what used to go on.
who is so much younger than me, she’s fascinated, she helps me, she’d a tremendous help, she tries to question me sometimes but I won’t talk to her, it’s something that I can’t explain it’s something that you’re trying to forget, something that you would never want to do again unless you had to,
hell it wasn’t funny seeing blokes get killed or wounded or knocked about, or blokes nearly dying with malaria as you were in the islands and dengue and typhus and all those things and blokes being mangled and what not and like in the desert , the desert war was totally different thing to up north here, I mean you’re roaming
around with armoured vehicles and people would be getting run over and their weapons (UNCLEAR) with tanks didn’t want to talk about it. I’m talking to you now about it perhaps more than I ever have in my life. And I think that there is also a fear that if you start getting wound up too much you get too deep.
Battalion, it was a sort of a feeler effort but it was bad enough, they performed magnificently that was where the first VC [Victoria Cross – won by Corporal John Edmondson, 3 April 1941] was won but it was different when they turned on us, he turned on the whole thing, we had to be in that particular spot that he picked to choose on and as I said earlier during those two and a half days there were over 80 armoured vehicles of different types in the assault,
we lost the whole of one company, half of another one and two thirds of another one and some bits and pieces of the company I was in. Hell, who wants to talk about that? Except for the bravery of it they had to stay in their weapon pits, their sangers [salients] and their little holes in the ground when they ran out of ammunition, what do you do then? What do you do? In those days we used to carry
50 rounds of ammunition, today they carry 200 or 300 rounds all the weaponry they’ve got now.
at the end of Alamein as far as the 9th Division was concerned we were finished, they sent in those great big infantry trucks to bring us out, and it’s in the book actually, and the CSM [Company Sergeant Major] said, “What are all these trucks for, sir?” he said, “I’ve been sent up to bring out the 2/24th Battalion.” He said, “Would you hurry up?” he said, “I don’t want to lose any of my vehicles with shelling.” and the RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] looked at him and said, “Well, you can send them all back except one, there’s only
58 of us left.” That’s true. And there were over 700 of us when we started you see.
cope with the malaria and sickness and all that sort of thing, totally different war to these blokes, we were called the glorious 9th, a lot of pansies they said, all they did was fight in the desert you know. It was totally different but the casualties were high enough but mainly with sickness, some battalions were worse off than others but then lo and behold we did
this Tarakan show which was most inadequate, the famous historians who sit in their armchairs and write about it say we should never have been sent there, but there should have been two brigades go in and it would have been over in a week on this little island, but we were there for months and our battalion copped it again. There were more casualties in Tarakan for example,
of the brigade, than the whole of 7th Division at Balikpapan and the rest of our battalion up at Labuan where the other two brigades were put together and our battalions’ casualties were highest of the other two battalions at Tarakan.
Doesn’t matter, there weren’t any. It’s like somebody who keeps asking me what do you think about the war, nobody likes war, nobody likes war and particularly fellows who have been in it don’t like it, but if they were volunteers, service personnel in either or any of the services, if they had to go they would go again because
sometimes these thing have to be done but not from choice, not from choice. If that power up there says we are going to have a war then we’ll have a war and there’s nothing you can do about it. But I don’t even like thinking about it.
I think what drives me and keeps me sane is this, as far as my army service is concerned is my pride in what we did, in what my unit did, what my formations did, what the fellows in the Navy did what the Air Force did although we always complained that there was no ruddy Air Force in Tobruk and there wasn’t that’s why it was such a dreadful place to be in, but the Navy fed
us brought up ammunition and so forth but….
I was in the mortar platoon and it was support company it was called in those days Mort platoon and machine gun (UNCLEAR). Some of my mates and one of our sergeants, a fellow named Sergeant Butchy Blake, they all enlisted straight away and half of the platoon went to the 2/7th Battalion along with the CO, Theo Walker who was CO of the militia battalion. Of course when that happened, we all wanted to go, we all wanted to go together
but the edict was issued that they couldn’t allow the militia forces, battalions to be broken up at that stage, so we had to wait our time, so I finally enlisted later on in March. Some of us when we were actually interviewed, we were registered medically examined and later on when we did go in, we discovered that we had a reasonably low regimental number
which surprised a lot of people and that was probably the reason for it.
Some women who were done but they were placed elsewhere as far as I can remember. They were of particular interest not because they were wives of somebody, they were of particular interest as internees. There was one fellow, who I remember by name, was a fellow named Gus Frolich, he was an Olympic swimming champion, he was training our young swimmers in those days as a coach, but he was one of the first that was rounded up. Whether it was necessary or otherwise I don’t
know but you didn’t mess about, if you were suspicious of somebody you did something about it I suppose that’s how they picked on these various people. But it was all a game, an adventurous game for us, we used to go up there for a fortnight at a time and so forth and come home, take the uniform off, go back to work for a week, next thing you know you’re back in again.
And how did your family respond to the war at that time, your girlfriend, your fiancée at that time?
Well I suppose we didn’t talk about it very much. Naturally they were upset about it but they realized I was in the militia and I was committed to it. My mother I think would have been very proud of me but also very worried I imagine. She never said one way or the other. She was always very proud of her eldest son, and later on my youngest son enlisted in the AIF and he was in the armoured division and of course she had the whole
family and Peggy, her husband, was in the army too so it was a family affair so by the time she allocated her sympathy for three blokes, there wasn’t much left for me. I don’t know, I think mum, knowing my mother, she would have been proud of the whole thing. No, it’s inevitable and that’s it.
going on a few months later, people had to stop and think and you see us fellows that joined later on, not so much my group that got in as soon as they could after January, February, March of that year there was a bit of a slow down in recruiting because they couldn’t cope with them and they didn’t know how many formations they were going to make, recruiting slackened off until about the middle of the year, June when they really started again. They didn’t know where they were going to go and what was going to happen and so forth. Those fellows by the same blokes
who went in earlier particularly the earlier blokes, they called those fellow the deep thinkers, so it was going both ways you see, you couldn’t do the right thing, if you enlisted earlier you were a 2 bob murderer and if you enlisted earlier you were a deep thinker. Didn’t the bells ring loud enough for you fellows and all that. Of course the blokes that went in early, and the press who were behind them, who were rubbishing some them on one hand,
egging them on to rubbish the fellows who enlisted later on. Yes….
I was stationed at Caulfield race course, a great mate Peter Hayman, we both went in together, we were nabbed and used as instructors because of our militia background and we thought we didn’t come into the AIF for this we were a bit resentful to it. There were various tasks we had to do and so forth until one day a big tall skinny Major Spowers came strolling up
towards us, he spotted both of us and I give him full marks, he recognized us as one of the two kids from his militia battalion, he was being 2IC [second in Command] and he stood there with his hands on his hips and he said, “What are you two young fellows doing here?” and we told him that we were unhappy and so forth and we were both hoping to get into the 2/7th Battalion as I think I mentioned earlier, Theo Walker was the CO of the 2/7th but they were already to go
I think, they were on their way. “Well.” he said, “I have just been informed that I am to form and command the 2/24th Battalion, so you had better come with me and we’ll be going up to Wangaratta where we will form the battalion.” Wangaratta showground was being used for a recruitment area. He said, “Don’t leave here until you hear from me.” Next thing we know we’re shot out to Broadmeadows under the banner of Corps
Headquarters Troops and we’re still being used as instructors and they called us the employment platoon which was instructors, drivers and all that sort of thing and after a few days a week, I’ve forgotten now exactly when it happened, with much relief to me we got leave of orders to report to Spencer Street Station to go to Wangaratta and we marched into Wangaratta and I was a Lance Corporal would you believe it or not, with no extra pay,
and marched into Wangaratta and the battalion headquarters were already formed, they were in the process of taking over the 10th infantry training unit which it was called and I am recorded in the history as being the first NCO [Non Commissioned Officer] in the battalion because they didn’t take the one stripe off because there was no extra pay involved anyway, so I marched in there, that’s how we got up there. We were there for a while and finally we took over officially
in the order of battle we became the 2/24th battalion on 1st July.
all the fellows Peter Hayman, Ted Harty, Alec Dennett, Peter Hayman the others John Mair, I’ve mentioned him but there were 6 of us and we became sergeants fairly soon in the piece. Just before in September, we were marched to Bonegilla, a new camp being built up there, marched from Wangaratta, the night
before we marched from Wangaratta and the cat got out of the bag and we were told that were being commissioned and that we would be officially informed when we got to Bonegilla and that’s how it happened. We were all delighted young fellows, one that was a bit older than most, it was rather a thrill and rather daunting actually because having been in the militia all that time and looking up to these officers
and senior NCOs of war suddenly you found you were involved in it and you had these responsibilities. Anyway…
the Vittori, had New Zealanders on it and then we linked up with two other ships that came out of Adelaide with the rest of our brigade the 48th Battalion and the 2nd Short Field Regiment and a few others and headed for the Indian Ocean, and all of a sudden we were steaming into Fremantle. There were some raiders in the Indian Ocean and our escort, our naval escort went out chasing them,
trying to find them, hunt them I suppose is the correct term, the suspected raiders, before we could go on. We were there for 10 days, 10 glorious days as everybody used to say before we left Australia. The Perth people are marvellous, we had leave nearly every night and so forth, but we used to go training, the only training we could do would be route marching, we were mainly concerned with everybody’s health, building up the health side of it as you can imagine you’ve got a thousand
troops in different stages of health and whatnot, and also different age groups so the concentration was on getting fit and weapons training with the rifles and whatnot, getting used to handling them which we’d been doing for months, then we all got back on the ships and away we went. We called into Colombo for a couple of days and then up the Canal.
what have you got, please, please, look at me… trying to sell us all sorts of things, take us down for all they could get. It was different, yes, yet in many ways it was the same. They treated us like a tourist ship, the ship was full and we had leave, of course we had trouble in getting some of the troops back on the boat and we had to leave the next day because we were under the command of the navy and once the navy
said right we must go we must cross over, the ships had to go, we had to go willy nilly. They were the early days of being a young baggy tail loop [Lieutenant] we were known as in those days, as young officers about the responsibilities we had getting troops together and so forth, it was all good fun
we would no more have the nerve to call ourselves Anzacs in those days than fly over the moon. Those of us that knew what Anzac meant we were called Anzacs, we were called Diggers but that saved the peace because to be called Diggers, to be called Diggers was fair enough but to be called Anzacs I think was wrong, and we were probably called Anzacs in conversations, in press and things like that, I don’t know. Us
fellows that knew about Gallipoli and knew about World War 1 and France, we held those people in awe but we hadn’t experienced anything like that ourselves, we thought we were going to but we had no idea as to what it was going to be like. We knew we were going to war. To think about what those fellows had done before us as far as building our nation was concerned, let’s face it, they did. It wasn’t until
we got involved in it till we realized what it was all about. Imagination doesn’t compare to the real thing. As we were talking earlier in the piece, blood and guts against realilty, or reality against blood and guts. Yes. What’s next?
there it would disappear, making us aware that we had to be careful of your own personal arms, your equipment, clothing and things like that and treat them with respect whether they did or not that didn’t matter, but that was the guts of it. One thing about health, it’s the land of oranges of course, Palestine, and be careful about eating oranges because it was known that they polished their oranges for you with urine
to make the skin shine on the oranges.. That’s true. The sort of thing that we were told about them, but Gerry O’Dea . He was giving us a background as to what the country was like and what to expect and so forth so when they got off the boat and so forth so it wouldn’t be a shock but it was still a pretty rude shock. When we got off the boat and so forth.
Sorry, but can you just describe what a tank trap is and what does it look like?
Well all we could do was try to build a wall, this is how naïve we were, build a wall out of rocks that high that a tank couldn’t get over, a tank could get over damn near anything really, particularly the modern day tank, but the tanks in those days could go anywhere, it was a question of something to stall them that was basically the idea, and this was our
first experience in being prepared against attack from people with armoured cars and tanks so, well we got enthusiastic about that, but anyhow that didn’t work really and it wasn’t necessary and I was called back again to the battalion, I was with B Company and we were on top of the Tocra Pass which was a main pass coming up the coastline from the revetment there which was
200 or 300 metres above sea level I suppose and the rumbles started and we knew that something was happening, and we all knew what was happening, it could only be one thing but nobody realized that the Germans were involved in it, particularly with armour, and eventually information slowly filtered through and one afternoon or late afternoon, my company commander called me over and said, “Macfarlane, I want you to send down a patrol
and go down with the engineers to Tokrepague.” see they were checking out and mining the place to blow it, “Go down with them and have a look and see what those vehicles are doing over there on the coastline.” I knew what they were, they were ruddy armoured cars and tanks, everybody knew but that was what I was told to do, anyway this was the first big decision that Macfarlane’s going to make in the war, a young lieutenant so I picked out my eldest section leader
a fellow named Alf Mons who would have been 10 years older than me if I remember and I said, “Alf, I want you to take two fellows with you and report to the engineers at such and such a time and check out what those vehicles are down on the coast.” or words to that effect. Away he went, and on the way back their vehicle which they were in ran over a land mine which was all set, booby trapped, blew up
the tank vehicle was blown up and some were killed I think and Alf Mons was badly knocked about, lost an eye and so forth, he was our first casualty. And of course I felt pretty moved about this because it could have been anybody that I could have picked to send but they were all good blokes, but Alf was a bit special to me, being a bit older and so forth and also an ex militia person. There it was and then…
roaming along the beach, they were vehicles, and who else would be using vehicles but the enemy? That was our first contact with the enemy. They’d gone around from Benghazi that way. By that time the retreat had started but we were stuck up there in Tocra, and we were moving out the next day and then it was a case of first in first serve for transport, we didn’t have enough vehicles to get everybody out so we had to do it in relays
to get back, to get all the way back, but this one incident there at the time annoyed me, I had a valise when we went up there, we were going to train and we took a lot of gear up there, a lot of personal gear we normally wouldn’t have had in the place and I had a valise which all of us new officers had been given with our gear in it, but I saw someone throw it off the truck and throw their own on.
I couldn’t do anything about it and I was very upset about it because my mother-in-law of the time had given me a beautiful fountain pen and a writing pad, but the pen had belonged to her husband who had died in Canada, he had been in World War 1 and it was something special that she had handed on to me. Of course all that went. Because we went on foot then because no vehicles arrived to pick us up
and it was on for young and old. Like in stages at different places.
moving them back units by units into Tobruk and we were one of the last brigades to go in. I think that was 10th April that we went to what we call the gates, the perimeter. The last day we were outside, we were in our area there, we were strafed by some Messerschmitts 110’s, big twin-engined things and they had a machine gun in the front and you would be very wary
because once they had gone that way they had a tail gunner as well, and he’d have a go at you as he passed, from underneath, and that was a thing we learned very quickly about those.
You can laugh about it now but as raw boned soldiers on a retreat like that, of course we were very worried, the 6th Division had gone up and won all these places going up with the other British troops and they had been involved in Bardia and Tobruk and places like that going up and it had been what they call a bit of a bit of a walk over against the Italians, but the Italians didn’t want to fight anyway,
some did and some didn’t and here we were on the way back letting everybody down, we didn’t feel very good about it, but under the pressure of it and so forth, we didn’t have time to think about those things but I think it was a culmination of that and when we got into Tobruk we were being sent out to occupy these posts within a 30 mile perimeter.
and find that you were bigger than the rock. If we were in fixed defences it would have felt a lot better put it that way, even if you were only in a little hole in the ground, the defence, there was someone there and there was someone there, but then in that retreat it was known as the Benghazi Handicap, a lot of it was free for all, and the powers
that be couldn’t organize it any better because there wasn’t sufficient transport to move that group back at a time and you cover this lot, it wasn’t, and the only line where we had any permanency for a while was the Gazala Line, which figured later on several times, there was line there, but everywhere else it was, you know, my truck’s quicker than yours.
The truck would stop, break down and the next one you’d hail would have 40 or 50 blokes on it and end up with 60 blokes on it and you’d set fire to the one that had broken down and things like that.
Alf Mons he’d been injured, he was back in hospital there, Lucky Mons we used to say, he’s in hospital. He would have gone back the day before us, and my batman Curly Dyke who was killed with Mackie, a little lad from a dairy farm in Gippsland. I’ve got some letters here that he wrote to his mother which were given to me by some relative, only recently. I cried, I cried just like a baby, I couldn’t stop.
One day I’ll get those things specially framed and put them somewhere. He talks about me and how he became my batman and what he did and so forth, how he liked his job and how lucky he was to be my batman and so forth and a couple of other letters he wrote later on when he got a bit serious,
and he got killed the way he did. He got wounded and then they fired on him again while he was on the ground.
that was his first big attempt after the one he tried in Easter which didn’t work and he came in with triple the number of troops I suppose and every armoured vehicle he could find, was to bash through, because once he got right through there through to where I was in the minefield, he’d be on his way to the harbour, he’d bypass the 92 headquarters which wasn’t far behind us just like that. But once he’d broken through that main line
there was very little stop him and he’d had enough thank God, and also us, and the fact that we hung on for a while and were able to, and the British artillery who were absolutely fantastic, we didn’t have our own artillery then and the 2/12th Regiment came on a bit later, didn’t have any of our own guns at that stage so the pommy artillery God bless ‘em, I can see them now, there were some guns near me firing over open
ground at those ruddy tanks.
Company, A Company and Don Company and then B Company here, all on us, it was pretty obvious who was going to be hit and we had to put up with that, and we had a lot of casualties from that, a lot of casualties from all that, and then that quietened down and then during the night they started to come in with their tanks and they were able to break the wire, what wire was there around the place and so forth was damaged or blown away and some of the anti tank ditches around some
of the posts had collapsed and the walls had fallen in and so forth and it was easy for them, so during the night very early in the morning, he came through with all this armour. Surrounded the whole of A Company and part of C Company and part of Don Company with these tanks and if you showed your face, I wasn’t in one of those pits I was back, you had a tank looking down at you. Also flame throwers. That was the first anybody had heard of flame throwers they had
them on trailers at the back of some of the tanks and our blokes were magnificent, they kept firing and retaliating, firing rifles which were ineffective against anything, but they did do a lot of damage with the German and Italian Infantry that were coming in, with the tanks of course it was a different question. Anyhow, one of the tanks got around one of the posts and the posts are there, nothing they could do about it, all of a sudden they were out of ammunition, they didn’t even have any ammunition left for their rifles
so that could show some anger and fire at something, they had to give up. And I didn’t have to experience that thank God, that would have been terrible. It was bad enough, actually we were better off where we were out in the open because we could see what was going on. All the time they were in these Italian concrete weapon pits that had been dug out years and years before, some of them were down below, some of them were up top but when the tanks let go with a few bursts
with the flame throwers and firing their tanks into the concrete places, you can imagine what it was like, I hope you can imagine what it was like.
intercom equipment that you have now or even that we had later on, we had nothing, we had nothing. We had no communications, if you wanted to send a message to someone you had to ask or order I didn’t order I used to ask and they’d send a runner to somebody else over there and knowing damn well that he would probably only get half way, but that was the communication system that we had there but there was so much going on I suppose but as
you said, what was the noise like. Bloody deafening. It wasn’t just what was been thrown at you, it was your own, what was behind you, your own artillery and anti tank and things like that. There were a number of tanks, I think there were seven I think from memory, I could be wrong, that got through right into the main minefield which was behind the other three companies where I was and they got their tanks blown off or they’d get partially damaged
and so forth, and they were stuck there, but they were able to pop up through their turrets and just machine gun us all the time for the next 36 hours 24 hours at least. Anyhow we were hiding behind heaps of rocks and things no higher than that and about that far into the sand. What could we do? We were firing back, yes
firing at blokes with heads showing out the head of a tank.
knocked out and all the crews were killed from the 26th Brigade Anti Tank and also the 2nd and 13th Attack Regiment, they were the blokes that damaged, these tanks that got through to the minefields. And they were all gone and there was nothing so that was the end of the night of the first of May when it came dark the information got through that A Company had all gone and half of C Company
and two thirds of Don Company or vice versa which is virtually sixty per cent to seventy per cent of the effective fighting force of the battalion plus all the signallers that were with them, the anti tank people, the mortar people and all the specialists and all that, some of our carriers, one of our fellows went down in a carrier to try to get some ammunition through and he got down
the road and the tank was hit, burst into flames and that was that; he was a commander of the Carrier Platoon. Another carrier got hit and the driver was wounded and his foot was jammed under the accelerator and it was going around and around and around until they blew it out of the ground. But what I’m saying is that everything was helpless with everything we tried to, do but God bless the British Artillery if they had come through further into that
minefield, there was no reason why they didn’t, for some reason or other they stalled, I think the fact that we reacted so strongly and so well against them with inadequate equipment was a surprise to him, to a fully equipped modern army, this is the army and tactics that he had used, Rommel I’m talking about; invaded France with that, that’s how they went through France.
But if he had kept coming there would have been B Company of us and the 9th, I think it was the 9th or 10th Battalion, 8th Brigade, moving up behind us that day, if he had kept rolling through there and broken into through that thing where we were into the artillery lines it would been all over in two days. Probably one day.
you were in three different places supporting each other, you pulled that one out first, then that group came out and the last group came out which was the section behind which is generally your platoon headquarters, And the same thing would happen with a company. I’d got that group out and there were some wounded men there and then the other section’s gone up near Cromer Road where we were going and it was our turn to move and we started and I stood up got out of the holes and said, “Let’s go!”
Tom Mackie the sergeant and the batman were down that end in a little hole alongside me, they got up and they both got hit, they fell over there, there, right there, and I was over here and I crawled over to see if they were all right and as I was moving over there the machine guns opened up again on both of them as they were lying there. That did something to me and
I heard them go “Ooh, ooh.” both of them and that was it, they died. So I went over, what the hell, they’re dead. And the corporal of the section who was with me in this last section, Corporal Tex Alleyne, he got up to move out and he got hit, here, chest and both thighs, lying on the ground and I cried, I can’t do anything for those things, this is my instantaneous
reaction, well I crawled over to Tex and said, “Well, I’ve got a field dressing in my pocket.” we all had one field dressing, one in your pocket, “Come on, I’ll tie you up around the neck stop that blood making a mess on your shirt a bit.” something silly like that. “No Skip.” my nickname was Skip, “You go.” he said, “I’ve had it.” I said “No, you’ll be all right, where’s your field dressing?” and I got his and put it around and put it around his neck and I started to work on
his legs, and our artillery opened up, they thought we were all out, and our artillery started firing on our platoon area to stop Jerry who was coming through the minefield, to come in and occupy these pits, it was the first time that I had ever been close to one of our own 25 pounder shells going off and I never want to hear it again, I did hear it a lot of times after that of course but I never want to hear it again.
They would hit the sand and make a hole about that deep and it was all that way you know. That went on for a few minutes don’t ask me how many I don’t know, but it seemed like a lifetime. We both survived, Tex and I. Soon as it was finished I stood and said “Come on Tex.” he said “No, no.” he was almost unconscious then , “Come on!” and I picked him up put him half over my shoulder and started to walk up the road.
We got back to where the platoon was being assembled, they were all sitting around having a cup of tea out of what we called hot boxes, it was full of hot black tea with about ten pounds of sugar in it and we were all sitting around there and that was when the CO and I had our difference of opinion and he asked me why I didn’t come out with the rest of the platoon.
I could have explained to him if I wanted to, but he should have known, and I said something stupid like “What was I supposed to do, form the troops up in fours and march them up Cromer Road?” That had better be deleted later on, but I blew my top, I just lost control of myself I was so angry, because in my opinion we should have been pulled out before dawn.
Those blokes wouldn’t have been killed, injured or wounded. Even I as a kid, even I could see that. Anyway that was that. I paid for that indiscretion. Friends of mine told me in latter years particularly Bob Searle, Johnny
Brock, they were at battalion headquarters, battalion officers and adjutant, but my platoon had been noted for an action we had had about 8 days before where 500 Ities [Italians] had attacked the perimeter on their own with a bit of artillery behind them, but I think it was only a feeler thing you know, came through the wire on top of me in front of the platoon
and we were occupying two posts, we ran out of ammunition, and the Itie decided that he had had enough and went back again and we ran out of ammunition. They cleared off and I put in two blokes to be recognized for that particular show and the platoon was to be recognized in some manner I was told and then this later episode, I was supposed to have done something and the old man refused to sign it.
he was promoted to sergeant and was made the Battalion Regimental Policeman. You had to have Regimental Police to control traffic and all that sort of thing and he was given this nice cushy job, we used to joke about it, “He’s got a cushy job Tex now, battalion headquarters.” Later on at Alamein he survived the Tel el Eisa show later on and the last few days at Alamein, I think it was C Company I wouldn’t be sure, one rifle
company had no officers left there were only 3 officers left anyway at that stage of the Police, Tex went up to one of the Rifle companies and he finished up in command of what was left of the company in the last attack that was made, he was killed. Tex Alleyne, tall, skinny, ugly so and so I used to call him. But what a bloke. Anyway he used to go crook at me and say why the bloody
hell didn’t you leave me there, I could have been just picked up wounded, evacuated and gone home. Because of you I recovered and went back to the battalion. He said that to me only a few days before he was killed actually, or a few weeks actually [Sgt F. O. ‘Tex’ Alleyne was killed in action near Thompson’s Post (Tel el Eisa sector) on 31 October 1942. Ironically he was trying to rescue one of his own wounded men]. They were terrible days anyway but that was that...
The Germans occupied that area known as the Salient and from the rest of the time then on into Tobruk and different battalions we were moved all round the place relieving, on the front line, the blue line, the red line and so on different units went round the Salient and we were always trying to recapture some it back to shorten it which we did and so forth.
on the first day got shot down and the others were gradually withdrawn because they couldn’t be maintained and they were no match for the Germans in many ways, not at all. There was one of them, I did know his name, he took his Hurricane out when the Messerschmitts were about and they used to fly around and they used to chase him he used to fly back over the perimeter, where he knew we had some
ack ack guns hoping that we could shoot them as they were going past. There were some wonderful things that happened in the seige of Tobruk, Army Air Force and Navy, but unfortunately the air force was unable to stay there and help us, they didn’t have the planes and the range was too great from Egypt to fly up there; they could fly up there but they couldn’t get back. So they were the days. Our battalion was
rebuilt, we had one company was reformed from reinforcements of the 2/48th Battalion who were all South Australians, a whole company of them, two platoons went back to the 48th later on and the other platoon wanted to stay with us and they stayed with us right throughout the war. There were still some of them still some of them with us right at the end of the war. South Australians.
and he presented the Battalion with this fourteen foot pennant which he had made up particularly for us, especially in grey and so forth and red and white which was then our colour patches, and on it was emblazoned ‘Wangaratta’s Own’, the first time we had any reference to this title which they were honouring us with it, and he gave it to the Battalion Commander and the next day we were marching out, we formed up again and Sergeant Alan Macfarlane was picked out to carry
this pennant which was a tremendous honour of course, there were about a thousand other people who could have had it, and away we went loaded with our packs and we marched out through the streets of the town, it wasn’t a city then, and the first stop on the way to Bonegilla was, we used to stop for ten minutes on the hour, that’s right, smoko period, I leant back
against a fence post on my pack like that and I said to this bloke, “By gee my back pack seems to be heavy today.” and had a look inside and here’s two nine pound bricks that had been stacked in on top of all my gear, on top, somebody either didn’t like me or had a very hot idea as to what was a practical joke, but anyway that was OK, but that having the fourteen foot banner stuck in my belt
and with a bit of a breeze blowing in was a bit tiring even for twenty one year old. But a lot of the fellows keep reminding me about that, keep saying we must find out who did it. I always had my suspicions it was one of the instructors that was permanently at Wangaratta and was at Recruit Training collection point like all the showgrounds were and he was B class fellows and so
forth and he was envious of me or envious of us, I don’t know, but he picked on me, but I’m pretty sure it was him.
by a fellow named Jimmy Hughes, he lives at Castlemaine only recently, bits of pieces, the regimental march, army marches and things like this and he starts off with “Remember this lads, this is the tune that we marched out of Wangaratta and Sergeant Macfarlane had the honour of carrying the fourteen foot banner.” and so forth, “What a great day it was, people cheering and waving to us and our first stop all hell broke loose when Alan Macfarlane discovered
that he had two bricks in his pack.” So I was reminded of it only the other day.
there were three groups, there were those who would join in and be happy in any environment, then you had the group that was a bit iffy, and then you had the others who were always going to object to something that they didn’t want to do or wanted to be interested in, that was my experience anyway and what we call man management. Our responsibility, particularly in the lower end of the scale in the infantry battalion of the platoons, the platoon commander he was responsible for man management really
in his own little group. There were those three definite groups I always found, and you could generally gauge it by the reaction to oneself when you told someone to do something, or please to hurry up, or this is they way to do it and not that way, and you could tell by the reaction of what they were and how you had to handle them and it was a privilege for me anyway as a twenty one year old
or twenty two year old to have that situation where you are trying to handle men. Let’s face it they were aged fourty right down to eighteen, seventeen.
no matter what you were doing. Later on when I became a company commander I got more responsibilities all the time and you had to, when you are a company commander for example, some might drift and you had go sideways, you had three platoons and you were able to say right to so and so to each of those platoons that’s your job, you only had to worry about three people and you had to make sure that they were doing their job, so it comes back, as I was saying before
like a little close knit, like a rifle platoon and man management and a good platoon commander knew exactly where that fellow came from, when he enlisted, what his home address was, what his family situation was, what he thought he was going to do when the war ended if we made it, and all that sort of thing, his own personal history, and that way you got to know each other and understood each other which is very important.
I had one fellow early in the piece at Tobruk, George Duff, he was Englishman and he had been in the last 12, 18 months of World War 1, he wore medals on his chest and here am I a kid, his commander, I learnt a lot from him. He was a good bloke, a tremendous soldier and he gave me every respect which of course helped and I could always lean on him for any advice or so forth.
His advice wasn’t always good it wasn’t always good, he was a funny man, a funny man. Sometimes I used to think was he having a loan of you as you say and then at the other end there was a 17 year old GG, poor fellow, he was only a school boy, a school boy but he acted like a grown man
when the time came along. No it was interesting.
kids, I shouldn’t have used that term, but young lads that should never have been in the army, but got in there because they wanted to. I’ll quote you a prime example, a fellow who wasn’t in my platoon, he was in A company as a matter of fact, a fellow who’s still alive today, he’s very ill actually, he’s got terminal cancer, he enlisted just before he was 16, and they caught up with him and sent him home
and he tried again at another depot, he forged his father’s signature, that’s right, he got in and was caught up with again and he was kicked out. So he tried again, this time his brother forged his mother’s signature for him totally different thing altogether, and this time he got away with it. Lo and behold he finished up in Wangaratta and became a member of the 2/24th Battalion.
Later on when we went down to Port Melbourne to embark on this troop ship, the Strathmore, he got to the gangplank and who would you believe was the RTO [Rail Transport Officer] at the bottom of the gangplank as he was going up, but his father who was a World War 1 veteran and here’s his 16 year old son, his papers forged and he was going up the gangway away to the war with the 24th
Battalion. He couldn’t do anything about it then, he couldn’t stop him. But a nice little touch happened after that, he got himself into a situation where certain RTO people had to stay on the ship as far as Fremantle I think it was, some of them went overseas and then they came back with the ship, RTO, they’re transport people, and he got on the ship and had a wow of a time and went all the way to the Middle East with his son, every time their beer ration
was on he would get one too, and both of them were quite good friends, they were always good friends, but they became even better friends after that. It’s silly isn’t it? That lad was taken prisoner of war when he was 16 years of age in Tobruk he hadn’t got to his seventeenth birthday. Spent 4 years in Italy and Germany as a POW [Prisoner of War]. Here he is home now, he’s survived but the cruel thing now is that he is dying of cancer.
He’s still only 77. But that is a typical example of how young fellows got into the army, he had three attempts and he made it.
sectors, there was the front line, then there was the red line, the red line was the front line, and then there was a blue line, and then there was the green line which was further back which was a rest area, and when you’re on the blue line you were on standby all the time in case you’re wanted to go in to help out with counter attacks and things like that, but back further was the blue line and while you were on the blue line, we used to make arrangements that you had to pick your time, and hope you were right anyway and at
certain times go down for a swim and be away for the day swimming and so forth at one of the waddis back near the town, and if any comfort funds arrived I would get those. Comforts funds used to be issued as fairly as possible to everybody, so the only relaxation available for breaking up was when you went down with a beach party, you might go away with the ration truck to go back to the ration place
and that took you off duty and off stand-to, because we were all in the habit of being on alert all the time, as you can imagine with a fortification like that anything could have happened. There wasn’t much time to relax and that’s where the Australia humour came out and we used to keep ourselves amused, some of the troops as I remember them throughout the war were hilarious, the Australians they really are, crazy
but hilarious. We used to make our fun when and where you could. But in other words, there was no need for leave pass in Tobruk that’s the best way to put it as I could see it, because there was nowhere to go.
years. But we were fit and hardened to the situation, as fit as we could have been anyway and I suppose we took care of ourselves as much as possible, nobody ran around at night time because there was nothing on, because the situation wasn’t such that if you didn’t have a greatcoat you’d go and pinch somebody else’s.
Blankets, I can’t remember seeing a blanket while in Tobruk, there were perhaps initially, but they probably would have been pooled anyway, but sometimes we used to send out listening posts at night time and to get a hole in no-man’s land somewhere, they would go out in their greatcoats and blanket and they would stay there all day, and they would have a telephone line with them, they were just spotting and things like that you know but they couldn’t be relieved until
night time because it was cold and they’d be out in that very, very hot sun all day and then in the cold at night time. I do know that people used to get half blankets in those particular episodes. That’s all so long ago, I can’t remember much more about that.
you could dig down a foot with your bayonet and things like that, there weren’t many trenching tools around like that and we didn’t have that sort of equipment anyway, you’d a shovel and you’d strike solid rock. Sometimes you’d only get down six inches and you would be on to rock and it would all depend on where you happened to stop. If you had the opportunity or the luxury of scouting around to find a nice spot, a nice softer sport, well so be it, but you wouldn’t get down very far so you’d build up
what we called sangers and you’d put your rocks around the place and it added to protection around the top, but where situations were required, where the battalion headquarters had to be protected and all that sort of thing, the Sig [Signals] office and those things and I remember a padre once had to have a special doover dug for him, and they struck what could have been an old water hole, they were down about ten feet before they knew where they were, but everywhere else was rock, and that did
happen. But that’s what the trenches were like. In Tobruk itself they were all these fortifications that had already been built there by the Italians, because it was a fortress town when they occupied that part of Libya. But there weren’t sufficient to man the whole perimeter or to protect it properly, so we had to make these make-shift things in between which were called sangers. Sometimes you couldn’t get down more than that on the ground and up on the front line or the red line, sangers,
the rocks were anything up to two or three feet high and as thick as you could by collecting all the stones and rocks from around the place. That was the situation right through the desert it was just same in Egypt and Alamein.
one per man, little ones like that, bigger ones for groups of people. Also Red Cross parcels used to come through at different times and then a lot of people, instead of sending off an individual parcel they’d give it to the ACF to go amongst all those things, and the troops used to get personal parcels from home because when you’re in Tobruk the only time you’d get any mail was when it came up on a destroyer and the priority on a destroyer was No 1 ammunition,
No 2 was food rations, water, well they used to bring up a bit of water but that didn’t go very far and the other thing was bringing up replacements. When they went out of course they took in injured, casualties and things like that. They always used to find room for a few bags of mail but it had probably been collecting down in Alexandria the main central post office waiting
for dispatch, it would have been waiting there for weeks and weeks and it would all come up at once and you could probably get 3 to 4 letters at a time, same with the parcels.
wherever you were, bombed and shelled and any news is vital, but we also realized it was difficult and we accepted the situation and one fellow might, one chap in a platoon might just get one letter and nobody had got one and they would think they had missed out, so he would pass the letter around and all that sort of thing. And we used to write letters furiously on bits of paper and on all sorts of things.
It’s easy to say it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but it was a situation that nobody wanted to be in and never wanted to be in again, and we survived by a lot of people doing the utmost to help us, the army command and everybody else and people at home and so forth. We in our own battalion we came across
an old, I’ve forgotten what you call it now you slam a bit of paper down on it and run an ink pad over it.
you couldn’t describe how all individuals felt like and how they reacted to anything really in any shape or form in life. I couldn’t remember myself either and I don’t think I’d like to at this stage of the piece, we were all young fellows, most of us were young fellows trying to do our bit who met in rather extraordinary
circumstances. I have often felt that there has been an awful lot of armchair critics and would be authors and journalists who have written about the siege of Tobruk, in my opinion it has never ever been written properly, now whose fault that is I don’t know, like people like myself, but they used to talk about what it was like and what we were doing and things like that. Chester Wilmot [Australian war correspondent] made a very valiant effort and did it quite well,
but it was a most extraordinary situation to be in and fighting a war and knowing that there was nowhere to go except to sea if you kept getting pushed back and pushed back and so forth, that was the end of it you were there, and this was at the back of your mind all the time, who you were and what you were, it was at the back of your mind all the time and that. I
suppose it’s fair to say that most of us that were there, some people may argue this point, but I reckon everybody aged ten to twelve years, not in their bodies alone but in their minds, and things like that. Men became grown men and kids became men and of course from thereafter the war wasn’t over when we did get out we had bigger and more ferocious things
in the ground, rats and what not, and that’s where it came from and it was just taken up by a group of people after the war. In the war we were known as the ‘Rats of Tobruk’ in the army anyway, by other formations and so forth by those in Tobruk, and that’s how the rats was formed and they decided to form an association after the war, which some of us oddly enough perhaps, not the right term oddly, but weren’t too keen
about it the ‘Rats of Tobruk’ starting a separate organization for that particular episode is not going to help formations like the RSL [Returned and Services League] which we were prone to lean to coming back a bit, with our dads coming back, relatives had joined and so forth, we thought perhaps it was going to be splinter group; anyway it did perform and did very very well and they’re still going, struggling like everybody else. But that’s where the name came from, Lord Haw Haw
at the same time, but it was terrible for anybody to see anybody killed, but those two that were killed at the same time and when the Germans stood up there and machine gunned them while they were lying on the ground and killed them from 40 to 50 feet away, it… I never got over that and I think if that bloke had survived
had they both survived, Mackie would have finished up as an officer for sure if I had anything to do with it, they were both sergeants, but had Curly survived he would have still been with me, I wouldn’t have let him go. We were good mates. We understood each other and well I think we all did so, but he was special. There was quite a number who I could name and perhaps I wouldn’t like to name some of them because some people might hear this and hear a name mentioned
and it might upset some people. We were a very happy and close-knit group, 12th Platoon, B Company which I have referred to. We reckoned we were an army on our own. I had other mates who had enlisted together, Peter Hayman who was killed at Alamein, he was commissioned at the same time as I was.
both bank people too, he was from a banking background, but we clicked like that and the fact that we went and enlisted at the same time, or went into the AIF at the same time, we had both tried to enlist earlier together, we went together, and the next thing we ended up in the same unit and went away together. There was another fellow, Ken Payne, who was a funny fellow, who was a character. Johnny Mair who was taken prisoner of war in Tobruk,
he escaped into Switzerland, we caught up with each other when he came back, after he was released he came back after the war and we were pretty close friends. We had both been friends of Peter Hayman, yes I suppose that was a trio. Poor old John only died four years ago, he was a couple of months younger than me. His father
was the Premier of New South Wales. But I could go on through a lot of people who I suppose I could call mates. The special ones were those fellows. I don’t think I was as close to them after that throughout the rest of the war. I hope I was always friendly with everybody, accepted in friendship not just because we were in the army together.
But I never got as close as I did as those three fellows.
and he has a go at you, was he a harsh man, was he hard??
A disciplinarian I think is the fairest thing to say and he was CO, and I try to be fair about some of these things, but he was a CO of a battalion which he had seen formed, built up, got them fit, got them trained as well as he could with whatever was available, took us overseas and
he’d been actually to a command school, he wasn’t up at Benghazi with us, a 2IC was running the battalion and he was away at a senior commander school and he rejoined us when he got back to Tobruk full of vim and let’s go sort of business. All of a sudden his battalion gets decimated and it must be shattering for him, I’ve got to be fair, the way he spoke to me hurt like hell, I’ve never forgotten it.
He was a very vindictive man but at that particular time he had every reason to be on his high horse if that’s the right term, agitated, concerned and so forth but to a little old boy like me it was inexcusable in my opinion, that’s why I reacted the way I did and I shouldn’t have done but I did. It was to my own detriment
because he never let me get away with it. The way I referred to him before I think I suffered over twelve months’ seniority over it. I had to wait for my captaincy to come through in due course and I should have had it earlier and the fact that there were some decorations that were floating around that were never signed. As a matter of fact, he
made a statement to me second hand, and he made a statement that why the battalion didn’t have many decorations for that particular action for that week or so or in that period, his answer was, we have suffered a defeat, that was it. Of course he was a World War 1 man, a lieutenant in the Guards Regiments in England, one of the guardsmen, he’d won a MC, DSO [Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order],
a bit of a hero, a real hero, which was a bit difficult to fathom with his attitude because there were a lot of people who should have been decorated in that particular episode. From memory there is only one Military Cross got through to one officer which everybody said should have got to somebody else, those things happened anyway.
There were 2 or 3 MMs [Military Medals] and few MIDs [Mentioned in Dispatches], one of my blokes got an MID and that’s about all. Other battalions had decorations hanging around their necks by comparison. There was another old saying that if you were too far back in the queue when the ration truck came up you never got a decoration, they were all issued out before you got there
but if that was true, I didn’t hear him say it. That was told to me, and that was common knowledge and that was it, he was so bitterly disappointed and shattered that the battalion had suffered so badly and it was unavoidable, we just happened to be the ones in the wrong, right place and he would not hand out decorations for us. You see decorations are things that are allotted anyway,
there are so many for this and so many for that for each action, whoever gets in first gets the lot.
and say there was nowhere to run. We were all there together myself and thirty others occupying these two posts which were a hundred yards apart, what could you do, I thought you don’t sit down and analyse it and say well if I run away they’re going to follow me, or if I run away on my own I’m going to be a coward and I’ll probably get shot.
If I do run away anyhow, that’s all nonsense. There’s something here that grabs you, you’re all there together, we’ve read books over the years and we’ve heard stories about people who have broken and people who have deserted, and there are individuals and you have to be sorry for those people. I only know of one throughout the five years of the war
I had to defend him at a court martial. I don’t know, I can’t explain that, you’re there, and you see these silly looking characters coming towards you shooting at you, climbing through the wire and so forth, and there’s reputed to be five hundred of them all together through the wire and they’re all Italians and they’re all dressed up in their fancy uniforms and what not, yeah it was one of the main regiments, different regiments had
different plumage in their hats or bonnets, really big bonnets, really big things, these things flashing around and we grabbed three or four of them and one was an officer, which we hung on to one and the others were starting to go back again there that hadn’t been hit. But we ran out of ammunition. Fortunately they’d decided that they’d had enough had they hung around for a while they could have walked off with us and we had some help from 48th
which was next to me and I was at the end of the line with the [2/] 23rd Battalion and the [2/] 48th was next to us and we got some from there. Late that night the CSM [Company Sergeant Major] and Peter (UNCLEAR) our 2IC [Second in Command] came up to with a box each, that’s all they had, a box of ammo, if you had another battle the next day he would have been around again. It was all so stupid, the situation in those days, it was stupid. But anyway that
all blew over and I had this Italian officer with two or three of his henchmen with him and all they were saying was “Mama Maria, Mama Maria.” and producing photos of their mother and saints of this and saints of that and whatnot. I don’t think they showed me a photo of the pope, I probably would have hit him, but that’s how they carried on. And while all this was going on I had a pistol there which
was at the ready and the Italians had little grenades and we called them pill boxes, letter boxes, because they’re black at one end and red at the other, made of aluminium and they’d fill them with tacks and bits of wire and stuff like that, fairly harmless really but they make a hell of a noise and this bloke had one in his hand all the time and he dropped it, and poof a cloud of smoke went off then
we had little bits of wire in the shins, didn’t do any damage but he was trying to frighten the hell out of us so that he could turn around and run away, I presume. Anyway I pulled my pistol, knowing damn well that I didn’t have any ammunition, he was an officer issued with a Smith and Wesson and no ammunition, that’s honest. Anyhow
that blew over and we all laughed about that… he had his try and I had mine. When he saw the pistol and he didn’t do anything else. We marched those blokes and hung on to those blokes and apparently the 23rd got a message about how serious it was and they responded and a company of them were coming out with carriers and things to help out, they were the reserve battalion and came up to help me and it’s in the history when they arrived they found that Macfarlane had the situation under control. Probably
what they meant was that Macfarlane was sitting in a hole in the ground shivering his socks off. But it was under control that’s all, and it blew over. But during that period when ammunition got crook and a fellow named Lester Hitch, his sister rang me yesterday to say that she was ill and that she was feeling better and she said she saw me on TV on Anzac Day and she couldn’t help crying for me and Lester, he was another bloke I was very close to. I haven’t mentioned him I know. He crawled
around on his belly from this post across to that one down there, cadging a few rounds of ammunition from the riflemen, and would come back and load a magazine for our one and only Bren gun. He did that twice. Eventually the riflemen had nothing to give him anyway and I put him in for a decoration I thought he should have got a DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal] or an MM. But that all blew over but that was that
a great baptism of fire as far as were concerned. We didn’t have any casualties because the Ities were only interested in making a noise and I think they would have loved to have kept going and we would all have been taken prisoner. It turned out later on that the Germans were firing machine guns over their heads forcing them to come in, that’s written up in the official history. But when they saw our reaction that we didn’t want them either they started to go back,
we stopped firing, they just had to go back for two reasons, we didn’t want to fire on them going back and secondly we didn’t have the ammunition anyway. It’s hilarious, think about it. How the hell we won the war.
time that we were actually in contact and being fired at, except in the wadi ‘Cuffe’. Wadi ‘Cuffe’, C.U.F.F.E. I think it was, a very deep wadi, which we were told to stop at one end and defend it on the retreat back before we got back to this island. There were a few shots fired around there and we weren’t sure who was firing or where they came from but no, the first time the war was presented to us on a plate was this particular episode, just my platoon,
nobody offered to help us, you dealt with the best way you could, as I said earlier the only alternative was to pick up your haversack and run, or leave your haversack behind because somebody might want your water. I’m being silly now but …
and get through to our troops to try to save some of the troops and to try to recover some of the land a piece we didn’t know whether our troops were then prisoners or not, it wasn’t until the next day that we found out the full story, because of no communication only telephone wires which were all cut to pieces with the shelling so we didn’t know anything at this stage, but excuse the expression but it was a bloody shemozzle
and why we weren’t all killed I don’t know. We had to go out through a gap in the wire through the minefield and try and spread out and then it was called off before we got any further and this young fellow Hitch, Lester Hitch, was killed along with two or three others, so his decoration thing became null and void and he only got a MID because he was dead. Thinking he should
have had a VC [Victoria Cross] in the first place.
from there place and there were only marks so you could only see them from this side and the same with their minefields, you had your gaps where you had to get your vehicles through with rations and things like that to the troops who were in front of the minefields, this was a secondary minefield which was behind the others and they were all filled up with what we called mines, in what we called that particular thing, after we got into Tobruk, Egyptian coffins, long things,
they were about that long and about that wide, square things, coffins, and they’d been in the armoury and sheds in Egypt since World War I and all they did was just put new firing pins in them, half of them didn’t go off anyway, because they were so old and rusty. We didn’t tell the Germans that, but they stopped a few tanks coming in on us and we blew a few some of their trucks I think
Anzac Day you think of all those things and all those people, everybody, not just your own. There were very few opportunities to bury somebody and say a few words, very few opportunities. Our pioneer platoon had that responsibility, if we were in a static situation the way to recover them and they used to put them all together in the grave and there
are a couple of photos over there some of the extensive burial grounds where they were buried or else you would just leave them there and try to bury them hastily and just stick a bayonet, the rifle up and stick the bayonet in the ground with the helmet on it and it may sound awful but it was the sort of job that you did later.
he shouldn’t have got it I should have got it, if I’d done this….” and you think to yourself if, if, if, if I’d done this I’d done that, I think every officer, NCO, or leading senior NC private who was in charge or something like that probably would think I should have done it differently, and that was not a good attitude to adopt at all, it had happened. There are so many other aspects that are attributed to it that was happening in a big battle and so forth, and people
are falling over like flies, there’s nothing you can do about it, it’s not any individual’s fault, but that’s how I think anyway and the sooner you stop talking about it the better otherwise you wouldn’t be worth two bob.
Of course when you are in camp and anywhere like that we used to have church parades but that didn’t happen when you were in the battle area. Sometimes the padre used to get around. Padres were different in different formations, in an infantry brigade you had three battalions and there is a Roman Catholic padre with one battalion, there was a Church of England Padre and the other was had an OPD [other Protestant denominations] which could have been
anybody, could have been Methodist or whatever, they were called OPD’s. They used to interchange periodically and if you were a RC [Roman Catholic] you went to an RC parade if it was available, if you weren’t you had your own fellows and so forth like that. But that didn’t happen very often, some of them are very good and some of them would go beyond the call of duty. There was one padre, I won’t mention his name,
from memory he was with the 48th Battalion at one stage and he used to carry a little broken old gramophone with him, he had a few old records, he used to carry them, he was awarded an MC for his efforts and so forth of bravery but they were few and far between because what was the use of a padre roaming around there when they were all going to get killed somewhere? You couldn’t replace them over night.
See you didn’t always… an action didn’t start and bang it started and people get killed and then bang it stopped, it was an ongoing thing that you were either advancing somewhere or you were coming back somewhere or whatnot, it was when the thing was over and you gathered those of you who were left if you were lucky you were still all there or some of you weren’t there and you’d
talk about so and so and “Oh he’ll be all right he got one on the ankle he’ll be right, he’ll be in hospital and he’ll be back.” and all that sort of thing and what not and “So and so hasn’t got much chance and poor old Joe he’s gone.” They didn’t stand around, lie around or sit around moping or crying in groups like that, they wanted to I’m sure, they wanted to. I experienced the wanting to but
let’s be honest, I don’t think anybody wants to see you cry. I think perhaps that’s the best way to look at it. See those things, you never thought about. You’re asking these questions which are very, very good but you never thought of those things. I suppose you just steeled yourself to it,
you become so embittered because you’ve lost so and so and so and so and you don’t want to worry any more about it. An interesting subject. Perhaps somebody should write a book about it, you tell me that you’ve written books.
was, where he is picked up and everything, and all I had to do was going to try to speak of his character, the possibility could have happened to anybody, it could have happened to me, I can remember saying to the judge advocate, naturally he didn’t get away with it poor fellow. He was a special individual in regards to that particular episode because later on he was being returned to Australia and he went on to a ship,
a New Zealander you know, in a similar situation, they were both on the ship together and they both jumped off the ship together before it sailed into the Canal at Port Said somewhere and then they were picked up again, they were in trouble all along the way. What happened to the bloke in ensuing years I’m not too sure but he did emerge later on
funnily enough I don’t know when, he came to see me under very strange circumstances and he thanked me for trying to get him off or not, but he wasn’t angry with me or anything like that and he came to me as though nothing had happened. Well I knew something had happened and I didn’t have much respect for him as a matter of fact after what he did afterwards. He died a tragic death later on poor fellow.
But that’s the only incidence that I know of where it was cut and dried.
OK. Now I was also wondering as a lieutenant whether you had any input to the command politics if you like, the running of the whole brigade, whether you, I know the army doesn’t work as a democracy, but whether you had a chance to make recommendations?
Well we had our opinions made known of the company command as a lieutenant in charge of a platoon, sometimes you were a lieutenant in charge of a company, your input for or against and you were able to put forward your point of view, you nearly always finished up accepting what you were told to do even if you didn’t think it was right, but you put in your piece to try to help the situation whether it be to do with going into
action or a leave policy for troops or whether the mess times were wrong or whether they weren’t getting fed properly or something like that, or I’ve been the Orderly Officer too often this week and why doesn’t somebody else do it. That was all listened to and from thereon it would have to go up to the battalion, battalion would go to brigade and things like that, but no we always had access to press our point of view but
you could never do anything to change any policy, if you thought it was wrong and they still insisted that that was the way it had to happen it happened.
Why I’m asking that is because Churchill or Montgomery via Churchill you know, didn’t want to relieve the 9th Division in Tobruk, they wanted them to stay there or this is what I’ve read anyway, Blamey insisted that the 9th be relieved, I was wondering whether officers at your level had been pressing for relief for the troops, was that something that you advocated?
No. No. We did very little of the higher politics of the thing we learnt a lot about it later on. But at that time when we were withdrawn from the battle, when the Germans started to retreat we were pulled out what was left of us and we went back to Palestine where the troops started coming back from hospital and convalescent depots and things like that and a few reinforces
that had already arrived and we started building up again and we were too busy going through that process but at the back of our minds what’s next, because the 8th army was then chasing the Germans across Libya and the New Zealanders were still with him, South Africans were still with him not that we had much to do with them but we were more interested in what the New Zealanders were doing that was more like close to home
and we felt we should be with them I think. I would say the majority of us felt why aren’t we going too? And then it started to come through that no, we were going to be sent home they wanted us to go back and fight the Japs and we felt God there are plenty of people at home to fight the Japs, we’re busy over here. The Australian Government didn’t want us to be involved in Alamein really but Alamein was so crucial, but they had to get hold of every bod they could find because here was a whole division,
highly trained and experienced in everything from the Tobruk episode and the fact that they had been training up on the Syrian border watching the Turks and so forth, we were worth about three divisions really in that sense, no way named were we going to go back to Australia then. Then of course we helped play a major part in a major battle of Alamein and we were slowly coming
to grips with that and we were rebuilding ourselves getting back and so forth, and we had reinforcements there and we were in a formation and weren’t quite up to strength, but we were big enough and experienced enough to play a major part in the major war which it was then, and when it became known that there was a bit of a battle going on about us going home, of course Blamey had no option but to insist, he was told politically that “We want them home.”
I don’t know but I suspect that if Leslie Morshead, our General Officer, had been asked what to do he would have said “Let’s go to Italy.” Well he was very proud of his division over there. He had a formation of desert fighters, very useful to the allied cause and I think that’s the way you have to look at it. Politically at home,
I’ve got to be careful of what I say here, I am not a labourite, put it that way, and I think they panicked and they wanted us, the rats, our division, to go home because they were having trouble getting enough troops of their one, their National Service, they weren’t National Service, but they taking blokes from here and putting them in the army and so forth, who didn’t want to be in the army, it was a bit of a rag tag, they only had a few
militia battalions and the 7th, 6th Division, one brigade the 6th division had been left in Colombo, why they didn’t take them home I don’t know, of course some of the 7th Division were taken off the ships to change ships in Sumatra on the way home and they were taken prisoners of war by the Japs, so they were a little bit messed about. So politically I suppose though the troops at home were to defend the country, that peanut MacArthur,
should not have said that really, he wasn’t a peanut, he was a corn cob pipe smoking peanut and he wanted us all back there to use the Australians as much as he could, and he proved that later on the way he handled us.
they had a brigade of Poles, a brigade of Polish troops and an English brigade that happened to be been idle at the time, otherwise we wouldn’t have been relieved. Nobody would say that they wanted to stay there and certainly the formations were all glad to get back. We’d have been in a pretty sorry state if we had stayed there for another 3 months under the circumstances that was going on.
A lot of people said they wished we were still there because when we were relieved and started to break out when the Eighth Army caught up that way, we would have performed a lot better than the ones that were there. And then when Jerry, the Germans, counter attacked and came back again and they lost Tobruk overnight first go, they reckon that would never have happened if we had been left there. But who knows, they’re probably right I mean I suppose it’s all right for me to say that
for some reason or other we were far superior than the other formations, we were all volunteers in the AIF over there, the British army was made up of volunteers, regulars and territorials and the territorials units were built up with conscripts as they required more reinforcements. Looking at it in that light it’s a bit difficult to criticize
people but on performance and the way we felt and what other people felt we were just different that’s why we were better. They weren’t going to let us come home, they wanted us there and they used the fact that there wasn’t any shipping to send us home anyhow and they got the shipping as early as they could. But I don’t know.
that. I think most of them were very upset about it. Why the hell couldn’t they…Because if they had hung on a little bit further the Germans would never have got back to Egypt like they did and they were at their wits’ end supply wise and everything else. We could have hit them back then and that would be the end and there would never have been Alamein and so forth but South Africans were at fault there. It’s in print
in history, I’m not just saying that, that particular South African Division was different to the other South African division, they were totally different but it’s just a question of command, personnel and everything like that. The only troops that tried to do anything in that particular episode was this British Guards Brigade which were up in the north west corner and they kept fighting to the end until they had to give up. But no, we felt pretty terrible about that.
we were always being told, we used to get a lot of that news then. No it was a bitter pill for us because irrespective of what anybody thinks it wasn’t easy at Tobruk, we just didn’t sit in a hole and defend the place, we defended it by being aggressive, we were out every night occupying that no man’s land we had fighting patrols, special grades and things like that just to keep the Germans and Italians away, they were 6000, 7000, and 8000 yards out they weren’t coming in that close to us.
So we weren’t just defenders, we were being aggressive all the time otherwise we would never have held it for that long.
And what were people doing for recreation?
Oh we used to play a lot of sport, inter company, inter football matches, inter cricket matches. Leave was fairly regular because everyone was at the same places but as long as you had enough money in your pay book to go on leave you used to go as long as you weren’t required for other duties. There is a very strong and rigid training program that had to be carried out all
the time, fell training, route marching and rifle drill and weapon training and tacticals and stuff like and getting them ready so that when they got to their unit they could fit in.
There was a lot of … of course Palestine was full of what should I say, immigrants forced out of Russia and those places, a lot of Europeans and so forth and Latvian and Russian and Turks, not Turks, a lot of those countries that were in trouble and they had escaped from the Russians, and from Europe,
they had gone through Europe into Russia and got through that way and the Jewish community was being built up rather rapidly there, they weren’t all Jews but the population grew in those places perhaps by one hundred per cent during those years of the war they were there and of course when the war ended it even got more so. Although Tel Aviv, Jerusalem were ordinary towns
but they were attractive from a historical point of view, particularly Jerusalem…
up the road a bit, Syria and so forth, men’s clubs, canteens all set up for entertaining people, picture theatres, there are picture theatres in Tel Aviv, I saw Gone With The Wind in Tel Aviv when it first came out, it was shown there before it came out to Australia I believe. I don’t know, I think the army amenities
service did a wonderful job to entertain our troops when they were on leave in those places, if they went elsewhere on their own they did it on their own risk and they used to get into trouble.
We started off, went over the start line before the artillery started, to keep quiet, we were on our way when the artillery started and the thoughts that were going through those blokes trying to keep quiet and so forth tramping along in the sand through the sand dunes along the coast, I can well imagine what was going on and all of a sudden all hell lets loose. Initially we got it easy because the Italians
didn’t want to fight anyway, we caught them asleep in their holes in the ground, it has even been described by some would be reporters that they were in their pyjamas, that’s been a bit ludicrous that is, I thought that was what they meant, but they were asleep most of them, they didn’t expect anybody and we got through that and we captured this other 621 Unit, which was a vital thing, that’s what helped us turn the war. [The German unit captured was their most important signals intercept unit, Nachrichten Fern Aufklärung Kompanie 621]
and Cipher Unit that the Germans had, they were very, very clever in high tech stuff, they had vehicles full of radios and intercept units and things like that and they were tied into all the information and radio stuff that was going through Alex [Alexandria] back to England and across to America, back to America, back to Egypt and back to Egypt, all the high stuff, the political stuff, but they were so good at it that Rommel used to get reports
on our activities when there was a battle was going on, even the conversations between tank commanders for example, that’s how good it was, no wonder he was a brilliant general and when we captured it we didn’t capture all of it, some of it got away but we started to wake up to the fact that higher command were feeding false information through pick up and pass this on to our advantage you see.
I’ll show you a book afterwards which tells the whole story, it’s called “Unit 61” which we captured. [Most likely referring to Everard Baillieu’s, Both sides of the hill (1985)].
tension and they instituted it when the brigade or the battalion that was furthest back, you let so many troops dash off and a few trucks off down to Alexandria for the day and come back that night, and they used to come back and bring back loads of canteen Beer, Canadian Beer it was, an issue of beer and things like that and a few little niceties to eat
just to change, just to keep the troops amused and so forth like that. That’s how close we were to Alexandria you see, only 4 or 5 hours in a vehicle, but that only happened when you got back in the brigade rest area which was behind Alamein.
made, I’ve forgotten what unit that went along protecting our flank, if Jerry had launched a sea of attack we could have been in trouble, so it was a big responsibility we think anyway, and we were quite honoured, mainly because we had done such a good job in the July show, I don’t know. But we came up the night before and these holes had already been dug by the units on the defensive line there
prepared these positions for us to crawl into those things at night after our evening meal and there we stayed all the next day we were not allowed out to move about but you’ve got to imagine the whole battalion was like that.
we were allowed to move around, shake ourselves, stretch our limbs and so forth getting ready to move up the start line which was out in no man’s land which was already taped by a line and where we had to go and so forth, and that’s what we did on the 23rd [October], we hopped out of our holes that night and moved forward to the start line so did the 23rd Battalion, the 24th Battalion and the 48th Battalion
and there we were, lying, resting ourselves on the start line when the artillery barge started, which you’ve probably heard about and read about, it was the largest artillery barge ever known in any warfare and it lit up the whole desert it was over 800 nearly 900 guns on the front firing behind us.
if you can imagine being out in the desert and everything being deathly quiet and black as the ace of spades and it was partly moonlight but it was still black and all of a sudden this flash started behind us, we turned and looked at it, of course we knew it was going to come on, but didn’t know when, and it was just like the whole of Bourke Street lighting up at the same time and you were sitting up on a skyscraper watching it and the noise came and the whistle of the
shells going over the top, that was all firing on to the German artillery and their ammunition dumps and things like that, it was all pre-ordained as to where they’d fire up until a quarter past ten and then they came down and started firing on the front line of the Germans for us to start to move off for the attack, following the artillery in. Unfortunately there was one gun with all those guns that were firing short and one landed near us
and one barrage came over boom! And one shell dropped near us, the same gun, so we had to stagger part of our company up there and part back there like that. Extraordinary you know, you thought it was Guy Fawkes at St Kilda or something like that, but it was far more serious.
Were you getting like that strobe vision where you would get flashes of light and darkness again or was it just constant?
It was just constant, then it started coming from the other end, the Germans started firing back, their guns were firing, there were shells flying in both directions and then there was also the local stuff with mortars going off and things like that and machine guns firing. There was a Bofors gun firing behind us, firing tracer shells as an indication to keep us straight
and that was firing through, there were lights everywhere it was like fairy land except it was very noisy.
A Company, B Company had gone in ahead of us, we came in behind B Company but there were still pockets all around the place and that was where I got wounded, there was some bloke who popped up out of a hole and fired a machine gun at me and it went through here, through me shoulder and arm, spun me around and I fell over the parapet into this weapon pit and I was temporarily stunned I think, and in shock as well of course, stunned because I didn’t know where the hell I was and what I was doing.
That was it I didn’t go on, couldn’t go on but.
there I had three grenades and had they been hit they would have blown me to pieces. See, lucky, lucky Macfarlane, and I just got a bad wound that severed the nerve system and took a fair while to heal up. But I was lying down there and my batman Ernie Diffie dressed up my wound and said, “You’re not going any further.” and I said, “I’ll be right.” and went to get up and couldn’t stand up. I fell over again, I think it was just shock and a bit concussed where I hit
this parapet and fell over. He said “I’ll stay here with you until the stretcher bearers pick you up.” which he did. I was picked and carried half way back and said that I wanted to walk, so I started to walk and I fell over again, otherwise I think I would have turned around and gone back and joined the battalion so that’s my excuse anyway. Next think I know I’m lying back at RAP [Regimental Aid Post] lying on the ground and
something funny happened at that particular stage thank goodness we had a padre, an RC padre, called “Slim” Honner, he was a hell of a nice bloke, we didn’t agree with his religion and so forth he and I, but he was crawling around and he had his tin hat on and his strap pulled so tight that he was nearly choking himself, his face was red and he always smoked a bent stem pipe which would sit on his chest, poor old Slim, and he’s crawling and he got to me and said, “Ah Macfarlane, now I’ve got you, you bastard.”
Which I thought was beautiful coming from a padre and I think I managed a laugh myself at the time and he was crawling around and talking to all the fellows and so forth and that was my main experience at the main Battle of Alamein. I just listened to it and followed it from then on, what was going on. Each day it got worse and worse and worse but the
battalion were brilliant, they were brilliant.
tanks in a drive through, and the poor fellows, that turned into a hell of a shemozzle and the tanks got in the minefields and got blown up, they had a terrible time. We always joked with them and so forth and said they were always in reserve, I don’t think we would have liked to swap with them that night, it wasn’t their fault, because the Battle at Alamein was touch and go and what was going on was unbelievable just trying to break through,
but we achieved what we set out and were told to do and they were able to break through a weaker spot later on you know.
We in the 48th were going back down the railway line, turned round to go back again and somebody hit a trip wire which set off two aerial bombs which had been laid beside the railway line and we were reduced to 58 and that’s all we had left of the battalion. The famous story about the ASC [Australian Army Service Corps] coming in
later on with the troop carriers on 31st October 1st November it was, coming back with their troop carrier to bring out the 24th Battalion and the 48th and he had this great big line of these great big trucks, the ASC officer getting all agitated and worried, he said, “Come on hurry up. I don’t want my troops to get bombed and shelled and knocked about.” and our RSM Bill Nicholls said, “Well sir, you can take all your trucks back except one.” “Why?” he said, “Where’s the battalion?” he said, “We’re all here
58, we’ll all get into one truck.” That’s out of over 700, around 700.
just prior to that, and you see we were just getting over those and my friend Peter Hayman was killed not long after the Tel el Eisa show he was going up, he was acting as 2IC in one of the rifle companies, he was going up on a carrier with some ammunition and a shell landed behind the carrier and he was hit through the back and killed so there was only one, let me think only two officers
still with the battalion at the end of it the CO had been wounded and there was an I Officer, David Cunning, and a fellow named Ted Harty who was commissioned with me at Wangaratta, they were the only two officers left in the battalion in that group, so it was pretty grievous and hard to accept too. Still as they said, we had done our job and that was it.
The 48th were the same, so…
they were good, even the males say everybody in our hospital or not, they were all wonderful people but I was in the, little things keep coming back to you, I was just put into bed in the hospital at the [2/] 7AGH back towards Alex, you could still the battle going on the noise
of it and I was lying there and the nurses came through long tents, they came through from that tent and through into this one and I was the first bed here, and they were looking at the sheets at the end of the bed. “Here’s one.” the nurse called out and it happened to be a lass named Robertson who trained with my sister at Royal Melbourne. She since married and her husband died and I thought, “What on earth is going on? Oh never you mind, never you mind. and I heard, “Here’s one,
here’s one.” and the next thing I was shoved on to a trolley, wheeled back into the next tent, pulled up beside another fellow who was lying there wounded, and they gave him a direct transfusion from me, they were looking for someone with B3 blood and I was the first one they found. I thought that’s a bit rough, I’d been having transfusions myself the day or night before but this blood saved his life, half his face had been blown off unfortunately poor devil. I used to meet him in the years
after the war, he survived, and every time he saw me he would start hiccupping, he said “That blood you gave me Macfarlane, was full of bloody whisky.” That was a standing joke with him. So you can always laugh, there’s always something that you can laugh about. I had forgotten about that story. I can still see the sister coming through with the veil and the red cape, “Here’s one, here’s one, a B3”. Didn’t mess about in those days.
It was so good to be home and of course we were off the ship and on to trains and sent up to Seymour, which was to be our holding camp whilst we went on leave and we were there for about a month altogether I think, and they gave us a fortnight’s leave, 14 days Liddington Leave, that’s right was on the leave passes, 14 day Liddington Leave, where they got Liddington from I don’t know, everything was code named in those days and then we went
back and gradually reassembled in Seymour and then it was decided that we had to march through Melbourne before we went up north. And I’ll never forget that, the greeting we got from the public, it was out of this world and then back to Seymour and then we…
coming home from the war and you were able to see them and wave to them, they just went wild and they were up in all the buildings throwing stuff down and what not, it was a great feeling to be home and the fact that we’d all been home and it was pretty hard when we’d turn down Flinders Street heading towards Spencer Street to go back on the train and everybody wanted to run off home again and the very next day we started, we went up on two
trains right back up north. I was 2IC of the first train from Seymour, anyway that night lo and behold I got a message to say to go to a certain house in such and such a street in Seymour, we were all allowed to go into Seymour, but there was my wife and 2 other lasses and we had a couple
of nights there and a couple of days there. That was very nice.
Who were the blokes in your own little group, who were going to be good for this, good for that. Lectures at night about this and how to look after yourself, training and getting down to Atebrin training against anti malaria and all this was at the back of your mind all the time and different conditions and different rations, different eating situations, everything was going to be different, totally different.
You’re going to be wet all the time, where we had been living on half a bottle of water for a couple of years while we were in the desert anyway, suddenly you were going to be living where it was going to be raining 24 hours a day. It was a big project and we had officers from, a fellow named Bob Thompson, I remember him so well, in the 14th battalion who I had known before World War II and he fortunately came to our battalion
with experiences of the [2/] 14th Battalion who had been on the Kokoda trail and the battles that went on up there. That was a big help.
the scrambling nets, came up and down unloading your stuff on the bridge and stacking it into areas where it could be easily loaded on to barges later on and so forth. That went on all night and they wanted to leave before dawn and get away from the place because of the Jap planes and the bombing and so forth. We achieved that and the Navy were very grateful and so forth and away they went and we settled into
this dreadful place and it was still ruddy well raining. You can imagine being sopping wet, everything being sopping wet, water running everywhere, so we put up a few tents, we were up the road from Milne Bay up along this ridge, so called ridge, but the water was that deep all through the tents everywhere. I can remember being horrified I thought hells bells, we thought we were ready for it.
I think that night landing in those conditions, I think it was a good thing in many ways it really brought us down to earth. This is what it’s all about, what it’s all about. Anyway it was about that period that I must have got bitten by the wog, by the typhus bug because a few days after that, on the way
to Lae, I collapsed with Scrub Typhus.
And then you were then evacuated home to Australia weren’t you?
Yes after a while yes I was. The first stop was in Townsville, there was a hospital on the beach at Townsville, beds all along the beach, it was an idyllic spot, it was beautiful lying there with the breeze blowing through the tents lying in bed, but I couldn’t even get up and walk at that stage; and from there I was moved out to Warwick, inland in Queensland, a big hospital there and I was there for quite a long time a month, six weeks or longer I think. Finally I was drafted down by hospital train to Concord hospital in Sydney and
from Concord down to Melbourne and then when I was ready to leave hospital they sent me out to a convalescent house that was owned by Sir Rupert Brooks, have you ever heard of Rupert Brookes the tennis players, the Davis Cup people, Dame and Mabel R Brooks, a beautiful home in South Yarra on the corner of, it doesn’t matter. I
had go every morning, walk down the main road go around the back of the shrine and come back again walking on heel and toe, like that, my legs had all gone stiff and I looked like a ballet dancer. People used to look at me going past and I’d mutter under my breath “There’s nothing wrong with you, you bastard, you should be in uniform.”
He was a top surgeon, he wore a monocle and he didn’t care if people laughed at him, he was a funny bloke, but he collared on to me because I was wearing a medal, the Africa Star, the 8th army on it and all that sort of nonsense and everywhere he went I went with him, had to sit with him at the mess and I didn’t get attached
to him but I accepted it and thought, if I have to put up with this sort of nonsense at least if I want a favour I know where to go, so I started working on him about getting boarded, I had been boarded B class, never to go back to an operational unit, I knew what was ahead of me and I’d be sent to a training depot, oh I was promised, oh you’ll be a major overnight and blah blah blah. I didn’t want that, I wanted to go back to the battalion.
Alan why did you want to go back so much?
Why do chickens go home to roost? That battalion and those fellows meant an awful lot to me and I knew what they were going to have to go through and I wanted to be part of it. The fact that I’d got sick because I’d been bitten by a bug that shouldn’t stop me. All right people tell me I was crazy, people who I knew, people who I met up in the LOC [Line of Communications] area said, “You’re mad Macfarlane,
you’ll get a nice cushy job now for the rest of the war blah blah blah, you’ve done your bit.” but I didn’t want that. Look who’s to judge was I right or was I wrong. All I know, I wanted to go back. My wife didn’t want me to go back.
I had been involved in an action that I had seen so much, and I wanted to see it through with the battalion. Anyway finally he relented and he got me through pulling strings I think, I’m sure of it because all of a sudden I was changed to A1 again and I still wasn’t walking very well and anyway I got back to the battalion and the CO was supposed to sign a form
RMO [Regimental Medical Officer] I meant to say, to sign a form for me accepting responsibility to go back north with the unit beyond a certain area where you weren’t supposed to go if you were B class, if you were in the militia unit or something like that, because being in the AIF we could still be sent anywhere, and anyway I got back to the battalion who’d had just come out of New Guinea so I missed all of that thing thank God
and the officer who took over my company by the way was killed, doing what I would have probably been doing, what we call jungle drill, he was caught, it was all rather tragic and a lot of others who I knew but I was back with the battalion and for the next 12 months we were being trained in amphibious training and whatnot down to Cairns…
we knew it was on then. Fortunately we were reserve battalion for a change and the 48th and 23rd had already landed and it was a fairly trouble free landing as it had become a habit with the Japs, they used to pull away from the beach and just get back into the jungle fringes and things like that, so there was nothing much being aimed at us as we went in the barges. The naval bombardment had been on and the air
and the bombers and that had all finished but there was still gun fire going on and artillery and whatnot, and it was a question of those few moments when you left the ship and you were all going in like that what’s next and sort of half bowing your head down the side of the barge looking to see what was going to happen and surprise surprise, we were pulled up along side the
little landing stage because the beach was clear and so it was a non event, the 48th and 23rd had much the same thing we had our first casualty, a bloke who was a steward in the officers’ mess went ashore and got hit with a bullet running along this little pier thing. He was a Canadian immigrant to Australia, Fergie,
he had a ginger moustache sticking out here, hope you don’t mind me telling this, but he was a character, our first casualty from our battalion going ashore, nobody else was hurt in the infantry, poor old Fergie. Anyway, we got ashore and we moved up to our assembly area because we were the reserve battalion and our job was to go up and grab the airstrip as soon as they created an area wide enough, and away we went and I forgotten the timetable now but
I was with the reserve company and we were to do the final assault on the airstrip, which was my big job which we were all a bit apprehensive about, it was just like being a really big stunt against the Japs out on an open airstrip if you can imagine what I’m trying to say, anyway, away we went and the time came for us to move forward, this was the next day from memory
and we had to go up this track, this road, and the tanks were going up with us, the first tank that went along hit a mine and got blown up and that was the end of that, it blocked the road and everything, the Japs were still firing across this waterway across to us so we got into this ditch to walk up which was half full of water, half full of oil because all the oil tanks had been ruptured and we were walking along holding our rifles up like this and finally we got up to this place,
got to the end of this ridge which dominated the air strip, and we had to get to one end of it and clear the Japs out of the way, and all of a sudden dark hit us, and there we were and in the meantime we had got to a certain stage where the Japs had started firing at us, mainly with snipers up in the trees above us, and we had a couple of casualties, 2 blokes were killed rather rapidly there. We decided to
wait to see what we were going to do the next day. I at the time could hardly talk, I had a big boil on my lip here and boils on my legs here, which had been ripped off with the landing and was a real mess and then if the truth be known, the reality hit home that I had no right to be there, I wasn’t a very fit man and subject to all sorts of funny little things and late at night I got a call,
my batman Ernie Diffie used to talk to me on the telephone and radio and whatnot, and the CO would like me to go down to battalion headquarters and discuss what we were going to do in the morning. I thought hell, it was jet black so away we went.
and found that the telephone line had been broken, but anyway we finally found battalion headquarters which was sitting out in the open or somewhere or other and we sat there for a while talking to the CO, and the medical officer was there, Frank Haymanson was there, he happened to be there while we were talking, we had a disagreement as to what we should do in the morning and so forth, why don’t we do this and that sort of talk and just nice and friendly in a way,
but of course you’re not supposed to do that and after a while we said well, we’ll do this and we’ll do that, the conversation got a bit strict, stern or whatnot tense you might say and I didn’t know what the hell they were going to do next, so I didn’t like what I was going to have to do at five o’clock in the morning, our artillery by the way had landed on a little island outside the bay and they were
firing across from over there and we wanted the artillery to fire over and try to land on this ridge ahead of us, to try to thin out some of the timber and rubbish and so forth, also it was pretty obvious that’s where all the bunkers were going to be when the Japs landed and also for our own mortars to put a barrage on it and if possible have a couple of light bombers come in, that was the scheme of things but the way it was going to be done and the timing differed.
Anyway to cut a long story short I felt this hand on my right shoulder, I can feel it now, Frank Haymanson, the MO [Medical Officer] pushing me down looking across to the CO and saying, “Sir, I am evacuating Captain Macfarlane now, he is ill.” Within half an hour I was swinging on a hammock down there in a landing ship which was being used as a hospital, Americans,
and I had a label sitting on here “To be evacuated” and the doctor spoke to me and said, “Well Captain,” he said, “You’ve been to the war too often lad, you’ve been to the war too often.” he said “Home for you, a big promotion and a homecoming.” I laughed, and he said “No, I’m serious.” I said “I’m all right, what’s wrong with me?” I said, “I can go back. he said, “You’re finished.” that was the end of the war for me.
So lucky Macfarlane again. No I should never have gone there.
and when the air force people came in to look at it, it was useless because it had been bombed and strafed naturally beforehand over a period of time when the Japs were just occupying it before we ever arrived, prior to us going there of course, all this bombing business was stepped up. It seemed to a layman like me that the bombs that they were using were too big and heavy for the particular job, they’d just gone straight through the coral
based thing and the water kept seeping up and they took four weeks before they even attempted to land a light plane on it and it was declared unsafe for that, and we were supposed to capture that air strip to enable air cover to be allowed for the 7th Division who were going to land at Balikpapan over on the mainland over there and the rest of the 9th Division up at Labuan, they were going to use as a fighter strip for air cover, air cover for
the bombers and things like that and the Navy. It was useless, useless and the whole campaign has been written up by smart aleck lawyers ever since the war saying that we should have never been sent there, that’s rubbish, that wasn’t the point. The mistakes that were made that there should have been two brigades go in one in the north and one in the back, clean up the thing in a few days and given them more time to do it and perhaps build another strip somewhere else. But that was all politics of Mr. MacArthur;
but no Tarakan wasn’t nice, wasn’t nice and my old battalion copped it again. So there we are and there endeth the lesson.
for that, what was left of us. It was indescribable the moment and the feelings and so forth that the damn thing was all over, we’d already been happy and bright because it had ended in Europe and we’d won there, it was all over there and that so and so has been dealt with and for it to be finally over and be
amongst the Japanese and know what horrors it was and what a terrible enemy they were to fight, you couldn’t describe it. You’ve heard stories probably both of you, the way the public carried on and so forth they just went mad, so it was it was only so.
but there were so many, the number of people who were in the armed forces in the three services, the number of people who had been working in the wartime necessity the public who had to put up with suffering and waiting and all that sort of thing it was an enormous task for a government to try and cope with that, enormous. We used to joke and say they gave us our deferred pay and they gave us a
suit or a coat and sent you on your way and we used to joke about it and when you think about it, it was better than nothing and the Repatriation Department had been established and it was there and they then had to weed out the people who required 100% service and people had to be hospitalised and the genuine people and the genuine things,
the amount of pensions that had to be allocated to people and for what purpose.
it becomes too important but I spend every moment when I’m on my own and so forth and otherwise thinking about people and thinking what can I do for so and so well what’s going to happen… well I’ve got a bloke who’s dying in hospital and he’s the secretary of our association, young fellow, and he joined us for the Tarakan show another bloke down the road here who
is terminally ill and he’s just turned 77, he was the 16 year old that I was telling you about earlier, all these things are the main things that keep this association going and the blokes that are still alive and have something to cling to, to keep our newsletter going, I’m trying to get one ready now after Anzac Day, normally it would have been produced by now but because the secretary is so ill our communications have broken down a bit
I’ve reached a stage where I think I should give up driving but I can’t do that while I can still drive and I’ve got my own car and without interfering with my wife, I can still get about.
it made me realize how lucky I am to achieve whatever I have achieved it makes me feel proud and an inward pride and the fact that I can honour my fellow man the one thing it hasn’t done for me it hasn’t helped me to understand other people’s feelings so much
up to a certain point I get cross with people who I think are wrong in the thinking their taught, that’s why some of the things that happen in the community these annoy me deeply because I think hell why did we bother, I’ve thought that a few times only because something has upset me but I think it helped me a lot, I
didn’t have it easy, I was never very successful, I was successful at one stage of the piece and it all fell apart and I’ve been lucky and I have someone now who loves me and cares for me and I’m quite happy and we can exist, we don’t starve, we do most things we want.
lousy fellow Keating gave us a miserable $30,000 towards a memorial that was going to cost us $270,000, so we raised all the money ourselves and got it all organized and built it, that was the whole of the 9 Div Council and I had a chance to go back with a friend of mine, a very dear friend of mine who was a very wealthy man as it turns out, wanted to take me with him for company and as his guest and I said no, that’s charity Bob, and at that stage
of the piece my marriage had already gone and so forth and I was contemplating living on my own and so forth and I wasn’t prepared to spend that sort of money to go and I knocked it back, and it was the silliest thing I ever did because I had the chance to go to Alamein and if we’d done that, we were going to go through hell and high water to try to get to Tobruk which a few people have got there but it’s very difficult
because Colonel Qadafi won’t issue out too many visas for that area.
Chips Rafferty, he was a character, he was funny. There was another one about Alamein where this Richard Attenborough, the two Attenborough brothers, the one that does the other one, one was Richard what was the other one, he was an actor and he was doing films in those days and he was in a British tank about Alamein that was so ridiculous, it was like going to a Sunday school picnic, they shoot tanks and things
but still that’s entertainment but inwardly we old fellows wish that it had never been done, because it was a mockery the way it was done. So there we are.