Matthew Hogan
Archive number: 55
Preferred name: Matt
Date interviewed: 02 May, 2003

Served with:

7th Division
2/5th Field Ambulance

Other images:

Matt Hogan 0055


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Tape 01


Well Matt, we’re going to start with a quick overview of your life, so we’ll go through it fairly quickly and then we’ll come back and we’ll talk about the various aspects of your life in greater detail.
So the first question is where were you born?
I was born in


Gardenvale in a house on, it’s a fairly big house on the corner of Aisling Street and North Road, and that was in August the 27th, 1920.
And what were your parents’ names?
Dad was Henry John Hogan and mum was, how ridiculous, I’ve forgotten, Mary Campbell Stewart was her


maiden name.
And what were their jobs?
Dad was a, he was a storeman with the Age and mum was a housewife. She had been a teacher in her very early life because her father was a school headmaster at a school in Queenjibora in Victoria and all his daughters were all teachers.
Well he must’ve set them a good example then, mustn’t he?


He did, yeah.
And how many brothers and sisters do you have Matt?
Well I have two brothers, Alec and Jack, no sisters.
And where are you in the pecking order of the family?
I’m in the middle.
Oh, you’re the middle child.
Right. There’s, Alec’s about, nearly eight years older than I am, Jack’s about seven years younger.
OK, and where did you go to school?
I first went to school at the Gardenvale State School.


I went there from 1926 until I left in about 1934.
And did you go on to secondary school?
Well I went to Brighton Tech [ Technical School] only for about two years.
And when did you get your first job?
Well I got the first, my working life has been very good because I got a


job when I left school and I was never out of work right throughout my life.
And what was that first job?
My first job was with my future father-in-law, Victor Smith, and it was for a racing newspaper, and then after I’d worked there for quite a few years he actually got me a job with Australian Women’s Weekly and I was with them from before the war and after the


Well did you know much about World War One? Did you have any relatives who’d served?
Yes, well as a matter of fact, our family is very involved with a lot of wars starting with the Crimean War. My great grandfather, Boswell Kean, that’s my maternal side of my family, and he actually was in the Crimean War. He was a member of the Coldstream Guards and he fought as I said, fought in the Crimean War.


He also fought in the Indian Mutiny and he fought with the Dutch in Java, and he was mentioned in dispatches on several occasions, and then of course my dad was a soldier and his brother, Alf, was a soldier and Matt was a soldier. Dad was wounded several times, Alf was gassed in the First World War and the bloke that I was named after, Matt,


he won a military medal for bravery in the 15th Battalion in the First World War.
And did they talk about the war much?
Unfortunately no, and of course Matt died not long after he won his medal, and Alf and dad never talked very much at all, but also June’s father was a soldier. Her brother was a soldier, my brother Alec was a solider, and I had a cousin


Stewart who was a soldier, and there were several other members. We were well represented in the Second World War.
Yes, very large numbers. Well where did your father serve in the First World War?
Well he served mainly in France. Both dad and his two brothers both served in France.
And what memories do you have of the Great Depression, if any?


Well I went right through the Great Depression and my father was out of work most of the time and he was up the bush doing, they used to call, that labour, it’s like the dole only they didn’t call it the dole in those days.
They used to call it the susso [sustenance allowance/payment], was it?
That’s right, yes, something like that, and he, that’s how he earned his money, but we were very fortunate. We never went hungry, there was always food on


the table and dad worked very hard but it was a very hard time and I was lucky, my brother couldn’t get a job. He didn’t get a job for many years and then he, just before the war he started working for the gas company. My brother Jack was too young. He didn’t go to work until during the war, but he was too young to be a soldier.
Well when did you decide to enlist?


Well where, before I enlisted, the year before I enlisted I was riding a motor bike and ended up in the Alfred Hospital for six months and when war was declared I was in Newspaper House because I’d gone back to work on crutches, and they announced the fact that Australia was then at, by Mr Menzies, that Australia was at war because England had gone to war, and I remember saying, there’s a war and I can’t go,


very disappointed, but it wasn’t long after that that I did go and although I had a pretty nasty looking right leg I hid that from the doctors, put my age back and joined the army in July, July the 15th, 1940.
You put your age back? Why?
Well you were supposed to be 20, and I was 19, and on my enlistment papers you can see where


the 20’s been changed to 1919, so that gave me the extra year.
And so you obviously wanted to join the army then rather than….
Couldn’t wait.
And you didn’t consider the other forces?
Well I really could, I did consider the airforce but my education wasn’t enough to get into the airforce and I never thought about the navy, but before the war we, I had a lot to do with gliding and so I was sort


of aeroplane orientated. I didn’t fly gliders but I took part with some neighbours that actually built several gliders and used to do gliding up at Mount Fraser and Berwick, that’s, which is an old volcano, and I used to spend my weekends up there lumping this glider up and down and not getting into any other trouble which probably did me the world of good.
OK, so you enlisted and then


what unit were you appointed to, or you would’ve got, sorry, you would’ve enlisted and then where did you go for training?
Well I enlisted as I said on the 15th of July and after I taught somebody else to do my job I went into the army and we went first of all to Royal Park but I was no sooner there than I contracted German measles so I spent the first three weeks or maybe more


with the German measles so I really didn’t get any training at all and when I came out the intake that was there when I went into hospital, which was only a tent, and with German measles you can’t see very well, and there probably was something wrong with my eyes at the present moment, but you’re in a white tent which wasn’t too good and also we didn’t even get a place to bath or we really, or shave, so I looked like a grub and I heard that my mother was coming in to see me and I had to get a


message to her, if she had’ve come and see me I’m dirty and unshaven. Anyway she didn’t come and see me until I was quite better, but then when I came out of hospital the rest of the intake had disappeared so I had to virtually start again, and I didn’t receive any training at all except group marching and squad drill and things like that and then we were sent to Seymour and didn’t do any training


there because it wasn’t long after we got there that my friend, Jack Harmer, who I’d joined the army with, we’d been mates since we first started school, and he came to see me and he said, “I think we can get you over to my unit.” which was the 2/5th Field Ambulance and was driving, doing the transport driving. So I went over and saw their commanding officer and he said, “Yes, well we can’t have you immediately, but if there’s a vacancy before we sail we’ll take you on strength.” but he said,


“You’ll have to get permission from your CO to join us.” So I went back and saw my CO and he said, “No mate, you can’t go.” he said, “You drove a car in civilian life.” and he said, “You’re going to be a tank driver.” and I said, “Well when am I going to see these tanks because the only tanks I’ve seen are the ones you draw on the ground and you put a cross and say you sit there, you’re the driver.” So he apparently touched, made him feel a bit towards me so he said, “OK you can go.” So I went


back and saw Colonel Green who was the colonel of the Field Ambulance and he said, “We’ve got a vacancy, you can come.” but he said, “You can’t have any final leave.” and I said, “Don’t worry about the final leave as long as I go to the war, that’s all I want to do.” So anyway Captain McGregor who was a Field Ambulance captain and Lieutenant Mason who was our transport lieutenant, they drove me down for five hours final leave and I went in and saw the family, said


goodbye to everybody, went back and within a couple of days I was on the Mauritania going to war.
And that sailed from Station Pier, did it?
That’s right.
OK, well very quickly how long did it take to get to your destination? Did you know where you were going?
Not really, there were a lot of rumours about where we were going, but we went to Bombay in the Mauritania and we went


up to a place called Deolali out of Bombay, went up there by train. Deolali was a camp for the, an English army permanent camp. Mainly the soldiers there were the Black Watch and we stayed there for a few weeks and then we went down to, back to Bombay and went on board a ship called the Dilwara and which was a big difference to the ship we were on before because


it was a typical army ship and we went to, up to the Suez Canal on that and we got off there, went by train to, down to Palestine and we stopped at a camp called Julis and we still had, I still hadn’t done any training up to this time so I’ve always said that I was the most untrained soldier that ever went to the war.
That’s astounding, isn’t it?


And you must’ve done some training when you were over there then?
All the training you get was by experience, no actual training. Well as a matter of fact, when I was on the way to Tobruk I went up to the sergeant major and I said, “Charlie I’ve never fired my rifle.” So he gave me a clip of ammunition and said, “Fire a couple of shots out into the desert, you’re trained.” That was the extent of my training.


OK, so when was, when did you first go into action?
Well after we’d been in Julis and we’d been there for quite some time, for a month or two, then we went to, up to Alexandria. We arrived in Alexandria just after, after Christmas in 1940, so it would’ve been 1941 and we’d only just arrived there and the colonel sent for me


and he said, “I want you to, I’ve got a special job for you.” He said, “I want you to drive a couple of officers up to Bardia.” Bardia had only, hadn’t been taken at this time, so I said, “Well sir, where’s Bardia?” He said, “Well you go up this road, keep the sea on one side and you’ll find Bardia on the other side and you can’t miss it.” So the person that I drove up there was actually Colonel Dunlop, Weary


Dunlop. I’m not to sure what his rank was, I think it was lieutenant colonel and the other bloke was a major, and anyway we set off from Alexandria, and the roads in the desert are only asphalt laid on the top of the sand dunes, so I’d gone from driving a Prefect in civilian life and they gave me this big six cylinder staff car, a Chevy staff car which could go like the clappers. So we’re flying along this road and I thought, “This is great”,


and I had my foot down and I’m doing about 100 mile an hour along this long straight stretch of asphalt but I didn’t see the end of the sand dune and suddenly we’re going down at a great rate of knots down to the bottom, bottomed at the bottom, flew up the other side and took off, and I could see in the rear vision mirror the colonel and the major up in the roof because we didn’t have seat belts on and fortunately the car landed back on four wheels and I don’t know what would’ve happened


if it hadn’t have, but the colonel said, “We won’t do that again, will we driver?” “No sir, we won’t do that again.” So anyway I took him up to Bardia and he took over a tent hospital at Bardia and, do you want me to go on from here?
Yeah, yeah.
So anyway I didn’t see any action there but I saw the, what happens when there’s action, and


my friend Arthur Holsworth who was my spare driver, we went into Bardia township and we found a shop with a brand new Italian motor bike in it, and there was nobody there. All the population had gone, there was nobody in the town at all so we decided we’d have this motor bike so we took it out, unwrapped it, put some petrol and oil in it and we were riding it around all over the place. So anyway somebody had told me just over the hill is where the battlefield was from the day before,


so I thought, “This is good, I’ll go and have a look at the battlefield.” So I got on the motor bike and went up the road, not very far, and I found the battlefield, and up to this time war was just a romantic thing and I just thought it was really great, but suddenly I’m driving along a place that’s covered with dead Italian soldiers. None of our dead, they’d all been taken away, but, and I’m driving around all over the place looking at all these poor dead people


and feeling a bit uncomfortable and I then, then I found there were five Italian tanks along a sort of a track and they, a 30 hundredweight truck with an anti-tank gun on the back of it, and there was a jack underneath the front wheels of the truck which had been jacked up and beside the tank, beside the truck


was a grave, and anyway fortunately I had a camera and I took photographs of all this which I now have, and I only found out the story many years later when I was looking through a book and this bloke with the anti-tank gun had knocked out all these tanks on his own and he’d even been out the front, couldn’t get the last tank so he’d jacked up the wheels of his truck so he could get more depression on his anti-tank gun and


then I had a look inside all these tanks and that wasn’t very good. There were no bodies but there was a lot of skin and hair and blood and I was really pretty unhappy about the whole thing. War was becoming entirely different to what I thought it would be.
Yes. That’s something we’ll really talk about, yes, in greater detail later. That’s very important. And


so the idea of war was quite different then to the reality.
Entirely, that’s right.
Was this the first time you’d seen any dead bodies?
Apart from my grandfather in his coffin, I’d never seen anybody like that ever before, and there were a lot of them.
OK Matt, so what was your next action?


well I’ll tell you a little bit of the end of that story.
When I went back, first of all I couldn’t find my way back because it suddenly becomes dark in the desert and so I climbed into the back, into the front of a truck. There were plenty of trucks around, Italian trucks, so I stayed there until the moon actually came up and then I knew which way to go, and I ended up, instead of ending up at Bardia I ended up right down in Sidi Barrani which is a long way from Bardia, but anyway I knew where I was and I went back on that road back


to Bardia and there I saw Colonel Dunlop and he wanted to know where I’d been and I said, “I’ve been out looking at all the battlefields.” and he said, “Do you realise that all those battlefields are mined?” And I said, “What’s a mine?” I thought a mine was something you dug gold out of, so, or coal. So he said, “Well you think yourself a very lucky young fellow because”, he said, “you’re lucky to be back here.”


You just would never have thought of that, would you?
No, that’s right.
Alright. Where did you go from there?
Well then we went, the colonel let us go back to Alexandria and we met the Field Ambulance coming up on the road and they wanted to know where the hell we’d been ‘cause we were only supposed to be away about a week and we’d been away about three weeks, and anyway he


said, “Well you go back to Alexandria and pick up a few things.” ‘cause we had another truck with Dennis Joy and his spare driver in it, “And pick up some things back at the Amaria camp and bring them back to Tobruk.” So anyway we did go back there and anyway Dennis and Ian MacFarlane in the truck, they slept in one of the tents that were there and so did my mate, Arthur Holsworth. I thought I would be just as comfortable in the car. Unfortunately


I’d locked the windows, wound the windows up of the car and locked the doors and in the middle of the night I woke up and I had that feeling someone was watching me, and I could see through the, in the moonlight I could see this very horrible looking Arab face, bearded face looking at me through the window of the car but he couldn’t see me because I was right down low and he tried all the doors, handles on the doors, and


fortunately he couldn’t get in and I was reaching over to get my gun, not that I was gonna kill anybody, but I thought for my own protection I’d like to have something better than just me. Anyway fortunately he went away and then we went back, we set off and went back to Tobruk but of course that was quite a while before the siege and we were back there for quite some time. Some of the unit went on to


Derna and to Benghazi before we went back to Alexandria again and before we had time to really do much we were on our way back to Tobruk again. This time for the siege.
And so you were there for the whole of the siege?
Not the whole of the siege, no. We arrived in Tobruk prior to Easter and the day we


arrived at Tobruk I experienced my first dive bombing attack. Our convoy was dive bombed beside the big field, not field, food dump, and that was my first experience of bombing and I started to realise war’s not really, not as good as I thought it was. So anyway then we stayed there


for quite a while until the siege actually started and we were there until the 9th Division retreated from Benghazi and then the 18th Brigade remained there until about, oh it was actually, we were evacuated on the 26th August. I remember it so well because my birthday was on the 27th August,


and we were evacuated by a destroyer. I think the name of the destroyer was the [HMS] Jervis and it came in in the middle of the night and we really couldn’t see anything at all. We could just hear these engines of this, we didn’t know what it was that was coming and it pulled up, parked right beside this makeshift jetty that they had on the other side of the harbour, and then we set off going back to


Alexandria, and anyway just as dawn came we were told we must stay in the crews’ quarters until we got back and anyway Jack and I were down in the crew’s quarters and all of a sudden there’s an alarm, so they crank up the air alarm, it’s action stations for the crew. The crew is flying around and they open up this big trap door in the floor and started handing up all the ammo,


and I said to Jack, “Well we’ve been in Tobruk for the last six months, if you think I’m going to stay down here in case this place, this thing gets hit, we’ll go upstairs where if it does get hit we’ll be in the water straight away. I don’t want to go down with the ship.” So Jack and I went up and got under one of the forward gun turrets and we stayed there until the raid was over. Fortunately none of the ships in the convoy were hit, although some near misses, and


we had a very pleasant sail down to Alexandria, and as we approached Alexandria we realised that all the big, there were French ships, English ships, Australian ships all in the harbour, and they all had bunting, flags, all the crews were standing around the decks all dressed in white, and as we came down the


harbour all the ships sirens are blowing, all the crews are cheering and giving us a huge welcome, and I turned to Jack and I said, “They knew it was my 21st birthday, didn’t they?” And that’s something I’ve never been able, I always thought there would’ve been a film of that somewhere and I’ve been in touch with the archives but nothing.
So why were they cheering?
For us. for the 18th Brigade coming back, the first troops out of Tobruk.
Out of Tobruk, yes.


That’s right. We were the first.
Right, and so….
The others stayed on for another couple of months and then they were evacuated. I don’t think they were evacuated, I think they actually fought there way out, that was the 9th Division.
It must’ve been a pretty terrifying experience being in Tobruk for that length of time?
Well it was no picnic, I’ll say that. Well number one, the food was crook, water was crook and the air raids were terrible and we were


shelled all day every day, and as a matter of fact one of the officers, Major Murray Blair, he came over to me, I had my staff car and he came over to me and he said, “I want you to take me up to the hospital.” Well the hospital was up inside the town of Tobruk, so anyway I drove him up there in the afternoon and he said, “I’ll be a while.” He went in to see some of his officer mates in there.


And anyway there was a huge air raid going on. I was in the Italian air raid shelter which was pretty good and around about, it must’ve been, because it was dark, anyhow I forget what the time was, and he came back and he said, “Come on Matt, we’ll go back.” So I looked up at the sky and I said, “What about all this stuff that’s going up there, gotta come down again you know., and he said, “Don’t worry, it’ll be alright, you know.” So anyway we set off to go back and we had to go along the


sea front and I heard this most unusual noise. It really sounded like somebody was playing an organ with their hands on the organ playing all the notes at once, and I turned to him and I said, “I think we’ve shot down one of these bloody Jerry planes.” and I said, “I think he’s gonna land on our roof.” But anyway it wasn’t a Jerry plane, it was a


sea mine being dropped with a parachute, a huge sea mine with a parachute over the top, it’s coming down. Well it didn’t land on top of my car, but it didn’t land very far in front of us and we ended up in the hole. So we sat there, we were pretty stunned and he said, “You got any holes in you Matt?” I said, “No, I don’t think so.” So he got out of the car to see if he could, being a doctor, he went over to see what, if he could do some good for the


wounded. Of course there were plenty of wounded around and he came back and he said, “One of those chaps that’s badly wounded is Ron Barassi, the footballer.” Well I never knew Ron Barassi, I never knew of Ron Barassi because I used to barrack for Collingwood, so I only knew the Collingwood boys. Anyway he knew him and he said, “Look we’ve got to get some ambulances back here.” and he said, “Go up and get some to come back.” I said, “Well I’ve got four flat tyres and I don’t know whether the car will go.” So he said,


“See if it will go, don’t worry about the tyres.” So I turned the key and it started and anyway all these fellows that were there and I’m pretty sure they were all 70th ASC [Army Service Corps] fellows, they helped get the car back on the road and I drove it back to the hospital with four flat tyres and got all these ambulances to come back and pick them up, but unfortunately Ron Barassi died I think that night.
Well Matt, after


Tobruk, where did you go?
Well we, first of all we went to Syria to Aleppo. We were on sort of rest and recreation then because when we got out of Tobruk, when I went into Tobruk I was 9 stone 7, when I came out of Tobruk I was 7 stone 9, but although I was pretty skinny I was still pretty fit and we went to Syria and we stayed there for quite a while


and during that time I went down on leave to Tel Aviv and had a marvellous time down there. My friend, Jack Harmer, he managed to pal up with Tel Aviv’s Lord Mayor, or if he was a Lord Mayor, or Mayor, and he gave us a marvellous time. He took us everywhere, took us on to a kibbutz, took us to a Jewish wedding and we really had a wonderful time and we went back there about three times. Every time we had a bit of leave we’d


go all they way from Aleppo down to Tel Aviv.
OK, so when did you return to Australia?
Well after we’d been in Syria we then went to, we came down from Syria by, we brought all our trucks back down and we went to Port Said, I think it was Port Said and we went on board the ship called the Thai Yin and unfortunately when I first went on the Thai Yin I went down


with a very severe pain in my stomach. I didn’t know what it was, so I went down and reported it to the doctor and he said, “Well.” he says, “I think you’ve got, you’ve got one of two things.” He said, “You’ve got a stone in the kidney or you’ve got an appendicitis.” and he said, “If you’ve got a stone in the kidney it’s not too bad.. He says, “If you got an appendicitis.” he said, “We’ve got knives and forks in the galley but that’s all. We haven’t even got any anaesthetic.” He said, “We’ve got morphia, but no anaesthetic.”


Fortunately it was a stone in the kidney, so I’m down in this little hole down below surrounded by mortar, big crates of mortar shells and we got into quite a storm in the Red Sea and these mortar shells fell over and started rolling around the deck and I was in that much pain I’m looking at the thing, if only one would go off I wouldn’t be having this pain in my stomach, but anyway I survived it and the first place


we called at was Kushan in India and we went ashore there and we had, a little funny thing happened there. We were actually
Right, well we’ll save, can we save the funny thing for the….
When we go on?
Yeah, no worries.
And so we’ll keep coming,
So where were you next?
Well then after we left Kushan we went down to, we called at Perth on the way down there and we went to Adelaide and got off the boat at Adelaide.


And where did you go from there?
Well we had, there was a big convoy going from Adelaide to Tenterfield and our colonel who wasn’t actually the colonel then, but his name was Alec McIntosh, he came to me and he said, “Well I’m going to lead the convoy.” because he knew a lot about Australia and you had to know a lot about Australia in those days because there were no signs. All the signs had been taken down so the Japs


couldn’t find their way around, and he knew the back, where to go on the back roads. So he set off, and he said, “Well unfortunately Matt, my batman’s sick.” so he said, “But you can be the batman.” “Can I? I’m the driver.” so anyway every morning the colonel used to get up, make the breakfast, wash the dishes, do all those sort of things and after a while he said, “Well


I don’t know.” he said, “I’m supposed to be the colonel but I don’t know who’s the colonel, you or me.” he said, “I’m the batman I’m sure.”
Oh yes.
So anyway it’s a funny serious story, but anyway, we actually stopped at Seymour on the way through and my mates, Ernie Waugh and


Bob Waugh and Bob Ellis they came to me and they said, “Well you’re pretty good mates with the colonel, ask him if we can go down to Melbourne. We’ll get a taxi down to Melbourne.” I said, “Well I don’t like your chances but I’ll ask him anyway.” I said, “Colonel, a couple of the boys and I want to go down to Melbourne.” He said, “Forget about it.” he said, “You break down in Melbourne and you don’t come back here who’s going to drive all these trucks?”. We were the lead trucks because he was the leader. I said,


“I’ll swear I’ll come back.” He said, “Alright, OK, but you be back here in time to drive those trucks. OK?”. So anyway we went home and of course my people didn’t know I was coming home. I’d been away for nearly two years and anyway they dropped us, we went down by taxi and they dropped us at Flinders Street Station, went on the train home. I went down my street, rang the front door bell and I’m thinking, this’ll be funny, so mum opened the front door


and she looked at me and she said, “Hello Matt.” and she turned around and she said, “Harry, it’s Matt.” That was my welcome home. That was typical of the Hogan family, very undemonstrative.
OK, alright. So when do we end up at the Atherton Tablelands?
Well we didn’t go straight to the Atherton Tableland. We went to Tenterfield and from Tenterfield we went to


Kilcoy and we did some, actually did some training there, did my first training I think.
What, was this for jungle training now?
This was just sort of, we had the brigade, we were doing servicing the brigade, picking up the sick and so forth and taking them to hospital and then we went from there to Ascot racecourse and we went from Ascot racecourse we


went on a ship called the Am Chung and went to Milne Bay.
So you didn’t go to the Atherton Tableland then?
I went afterwards.
OK, yeah, alright.
Yeah, that came later on.
OK, so Milne Bay, and how long were you at Milne Bay?
Well we were at Milne Bay, this ship that I went on was actually sunk. It was chased into Milne Bay by a Japanese cruiser and was sunk and fortunately I got off it before it was sunk and


then we stayed there for, I think we stayed there for about, I’m not too sure.
That’s alright.
But anyway there’s a little bit of a story there because the day before we left, a relieving Field Ambulance came in and I was just watching all these blokes coming in and on the back of one of the trucks was my future brother-in-law, that one over there, and


it was his Field Ambulance that actually relieved us and I said to him, “You’ve come at the right time because the action’s all over and it’s a piece of cake, you know, lots of things to go and look at around this place.” and within a very short time after relieving they had one of the biggest air raids they’d ever had, so he got a bit of a surprise.
OK, so from Milne Bay what happened, where did you go?
Well from Milne Bay we actually went back to,


I think we went back to Townsville on the same ship as my future brother-in-law, Victor, came up on called the Karzik and the Karzik was the worst ship I’ve ever been on in my life and we spent the whole of the time on the deck. We couldn’t go below deck, it rained all the time, and we got back to Townsville, and from Townsville we then went to, up on to the Atherton


Tableland I think, I’m just not too sure, but I’m pretty sure it was ‘cause we got there some time anyway.
OK, and then from the Atherton Tableland?
Well we got, we only had five days leave when we came home from the Middle East, there’s a little story there that I missed too.
Well look, we’ll pick all these little stories up.
Alright, OK.
Well just finish the summary.
And anyway then we went on our, we had three weeks leave which is really great


and then we went back to the Atherton Tableland and continued training and then went from there to, back to Port Moresby and we did a little bit of training there before we actually flew to the Ramu Valley, to a place called Dumpu and that’s where we went from there, most of the troops went up and were in the action on


Shaggy Ridge.
Yes, which is the story we’re going to go into in great detail later on.
That’s right, later on.
And then the Shaggy Ridge and (UNCLEAR) action.
Well from Shaggy Ridge we flew back to Lae and we went on the [HMAS] Kanimbla which was an armed merchant ship and we went back to,


I’m pretty sure it was back to Townsville and the funny part of, talk about coincidence, on that ship was the father of my future, one of my future sons-in-law.
It’s amazing isn’t it,
these coincidences?
Marvellous how these things get intertwined.
OK, so when did you, when were you in Balikpapan?
Well we had more leave back in Australia, then we went back to the Atherton Tableland and we went through all this


training for beach landing and waterproofing our jeeps and our trucks and everything so we could drive off the LST [Landing Ship Tank], they’re the big ships with the big doors on the front and we did all that training but we really didn’t need it because we didn’t go on to the shore, but anyway then we did go, we went, first of all we went to Morotai and from Morotai then we went to Balikpapan and when we


landed at Balikpapan, before we went to Balikpapan on the way I got very friendly with the radio, American radio bloke. He used to play records.
We might just stop it there because the tape’s just about to end.
Interviewee: Matt Hogan Archive ID 0055 Tape 02


You were just about ready to talk about this American at Balikpapan?
Yes, well I became friendly with this, I s’pose they’d call him a telegraphist, and he used to play records over the PA [Public Address] system and one record in particular was called “Well Get It” by Tommy Dorsey and I was a jazz fan before and after the war, and


anyway I went up and I said to him, “That record “Well Get It”, I said, “That’s one of my favourite records, play it again”. So he used to play it all the time for me and when the time came for us to land on Balikpapan we didn’t go into the shore with the LST, we went down the nets into the small personnel landing craft and then we stood off a couple of hundred yards off from the LST waiting to be called into shore


and all of a sudden over the loudspeakers came “Well Get It” and I looked up and the, this American bloke he just went like that.
Can you sing it?
I can’t, not me, I can’t sing it. I can’t sing anything.
Well perhaps we can play it later. Did you say you had it here?
Yes, that’s right.
Now after Balikpapan what happened?
After Balikpapan home. That was the


end of the war. The end of the war actually, as a matter of fact June just found a letter that I’d been writing at the end of the war and I suddenly wrote right across the bottom, “The war is over.”
So how did you feel?
Very pleased, although actually no, because there was a recruiting person from the Australian Army trying to sign up soldiers to go in the army of occupation to


Japan and I thought, “Well I’ve had five and a half years of the army and I really enjoyed it.” I know I had some harrowing times from time to time, but overall I enjoyed the life. So I had a talk with this bloke and I said, “Well I think I might think about it.” I said, “What can you do for me?” “We’ll get you another stripe, make you a sergeant.” “That sounds pretty good.” So anyway I went back to see my mate Jack and I told him, and he just looked at me and he


said, “Well I knew you were stupid, but.” he said, “I didn’t think you were stark raving bonkers.”. He said, “You mean to say you are going to go to Japan? You’ve got a good job to go to at home and you’re gonna sign up for another three years with a possible six years?” So I didn’t go.
Well and what, did you find it easier to get a job after the war?
Well I had a job to go back to. I was working for the Australian Women’s Weekly and of course we’re always told that you go back into the same job


and the same conditions, the same salary, of course there was no inflation in those days. I was actually earning six pound ten a week which doesn’t sound a lot of money now, but six pound ten a week was nearly twice as much as my father was earning and I also had a car, part of my job. So anyway when I went back to the Women’s Weekly I didn’t get the car and I didn’t get the job. They gave me a desk and I sat in a corner with a telephone and I put up with that for about two


weeks and I told, by this time I was engaged to my other boss’s daughter who I married, and I used to see a lot of him and I told him “What a rotten thing this was with the Australian Women’s Weekly.” and he said, “Well why don’t you come back to me, back to The Guide.” the racing paper. So I said, “OK, I’ll do that.” So I went back and I saw the boss at the Women’s Weekly and told him what to do with


his job, and left there and then.
And what did you say to him then, when you told him?
I don’t think I better tell you. I got a bit of muck, got a bit off my chest. But it was wrong, you know, and I wasn’t the only one. There were other people in that job, not my particular job, but working in that office that were treated exactly the same and it was absolutely wrong.
Was absolutely appalling actually.
It had a terrible effect on one man in particular who was a really very,


he was my boss originally, and it really cut him. He was a, he was a commander of a destroyer in the war, saw a heap of action but they treated him very badly.
That really is dreadful and I have heard other incidents of this too.
Yeah, that’s right.
Well tell me Matt, when were you married?
We married in September 14th, 1945, ’46. ’46.


And how many children did you have?
Six kids. See I’d been at war for four, five and a half years and suddenly I’m married and suddenly these children started to appear and I wondered what was going wrong. I really didn’t intend having any children, never thought about kids.
So marvellous what you can do without trying. We had six wonderful, five daughters one boy, they’re all great, and then all these grandchildren. They’re all great too.
Wonderful, and….
And they all look like me, that’s good. They love me.


Well I can understand why. Well I think we’ll finish there and we’ll go back now and start back with your early life again.
Right. You don’t want to hear anything about the newsagency or anything like that?
No, you can tell me that in…..
Later on. In the final, OK.
OK, so we’re just going back to your early life again Matt.
Would you describe your early


life as happy with your family?
Yes, very happy. I had a very good childhood, and as I say even though a lot of it was during the Depression dad always seemed to put food on the table and a lot of people didn’t have that, and we always rented a house. Then they finally bought a house in Caulfield, a brand new house for £1,000, a brand new solid brick house


with a garden all made, streets made, tram just down the corner. It was really good and mum and dad loved it.
And schooling. Did you enjoy your schooling?
Not really. I wasn’t a very good student. I was always looking out the window and thinking, “What am I doing here? I’d rather be out there.” because I was always doing things and getting into trouble.
What sort of trouble?
Nothing very serious, but always getting into trouble.


I was always living in the canal at Gardenvale, living up the tunnel. Doing all sorts of things like that which nobody really thought was very good, and not doing my lessons as I should’ve been doing, and when I was in the last grade at Gardenvale, because my friend Jack had already left school and I really wanted to leave too, but I wasn’t allowed to leave, and my teacher, Miss


Honan, she was always ridiculing me because I wasn’t doing any good at school and she said, “Matt Hogan, you will never get your merit certificate and you’ll end up being about the worst job you could possibly get. That’s all you’ll ever get.” I better not say the name of the job because I’ll offend somebody. But anyway I thought, “Bugger you Miss Honan, I’m gonna get this merit certificate.” So I actually studied and passed the merit certificate. When she handed them out


she said, “I just can’t believe this, how did you get this, who did you copy off?” Not good, but anyway, then I went to Brighton Tech and I really didn’t go back to school properly ‘cause I was, all the time my future father-in-law kept asking me to go and work in The Guide office, which I used to do, and so I never got my leaving certificate or the


intermediate, I should’ve but I just wasn’t interested in school and it’s too late now to start studying.
Was there anything about school you liked?
The sport or did you
I used to like the sport, yeah, I liked the sport and I liked, there was quite a few things at Brighton Tech I liked. I liked the woodwork and sheet metal work and things like that. I probably should have been a tradesman but there was nothing like that at Gardenvale, it was, I should’ve


gone into a trade, I’m sure I should’ve, ‘cause even now, although I’m blind, I still make things and I made, I think I made a, I have a disabled daughter and she’s lovely and she has trouble sitting in a comfortable chair so I made her a chair only a little while ago, and it’s very good, pat myself on the back. But I do everything by touch. I can see something, I can’t see just nothing, and I


can’t see, I can’t really see you properly. I can see your blonde hair and I can’t see, no, I can’t see you at all and I can’t see much other than that.
Well can you see your own hand?
Yes. If I stick it there I can see it, but it’s not bad. I’ve had this for about nine years now. So I’m used to it and I do all, I do shopping, I go, I’ve got a little trolley I pull up to the shops and


do all the groceries. I get them all delivered but I do the shopping on my own and it’s good for me. It’s good for my walking and it’s good for my brain working out what I’ve got to do and I learn all the things off by heart before I go in.
OK Matt, well can you tell us a little more again about your first job?
Well the job with The Guide entailed a lot of horse racing and I used to go to, initially


I didn’t go to the horse races but I did after a while when I got a bit older, and we used to go to all the race meetings on Saturday, and it was more on distribution that I was The Guide. We used to distribute The Guide all over Australia so it meant putting them on trains and planes and, of course my father-in-law, he was very friendly with Reg Ansett and he used to ring up Reg Ansett and say, “Can you hold


the plane for half an hour? We’re a half an hour late and we’d be out there to get them on the plane in half an hour’s time.” Reg would hold the plane up. I don’t think he’d do that now.
No. Times have certainly changed in those respects, hasn’t it. Well how long were you with The Guide?
Well from about 15 until I was about 19, and then I went to the Women’s Weekly and then about a year later I was at war.


Well talking about war in general again, now you mentioned before that you had all these relatives who were involved with the war.
That’s right.
In the First World War and your father in particular. What did you think about war? I mean I think you mentioned that you had this idea that it was exciting or
Well I was actually born after the war. I was born in 1920. My dad did have his uniform at home and his hat, and even


I can remember even when I was a little tacker I’d have the uniform coat on and the hat on and a stick on my shoulder marching up and down, left right, left right, thinking I was a soldier, and I always wanted to be a soldier and when I went to work then it became impossible for me to even join the cadets because I used to work very long hours and I had very few holidays ‘cause June’s father didn’t believe in holidays or time off.


And so you knew June then, I mean you knew June’s father, had you known June?
Well June came, when we lived in Gardenia Road, Gardenvale and I was about 13 then at this particular time, and then the Smith family moved into the house on the corner of Gardenia Road and North Road and that’s where I first, she was only a little kid with pigtails then and it all went from there, and then I went, as I grew up of course, I didn’t go with


June, I went with other girls and I got a Dear John from one. You know what a Dear John is? [letter informing that a relationship is over]]
Yes, can you tell us a little about it?
Not very interesting, but anyway all I can remember I got this, I got word to say she was engaged to another fellow when I was in Milne Bay, and I had her photo in my tent and I think that photo would probably be down there in the jungle still. I threw it a long way.
Had she been


writing to you during the war?
Oh yes, she was alright. You know, we’re friends. I haven’t seen her for about 50 odd years, but I hope she’s still alright. Goodness knows all your friends of 50 years ago are probably not even here, but anyway then I started to write to June when I was in Balikpapan, and anyway June had her 21st birthday while I was in Balikpapan and I then, that’s right, at the end of the war I became a unit


postman so I used to go down, of course I got two stripes, they gave me two stripes because I’d been in the army for that long they reckoned I deserved it, but anyway I got two stripes, postman, so I had a good job especially on Balikpapan when the war was virtually over and I started to write to June. Anyway she had her 21st birthday and I went to collect the mail one day and the bloke at the army post office said, “There’s no mail for your unit but.” he said, “There’s a parcel for you.”


I thought, “Yeah.” and he said, “How come you can get a parcel in the general’s bag, the only parcel in the general’s bag?” And immediately said, I said, “Well, I know.” my friend’s, they were engaged then, my friend’s father, who I used to work for he must’ve pulled strings in the post office because there’s a lot to do with the post office, sending guys here and there and I bet he’s got it in the


general’s bag. So anyway I got the bottle of champagne in a loaf of bread. So I ate the bread and drank the champagne and we got a couple of those, it was really good. And then of course we were writing to one another and of course it started off Dear June, Dear Matt then maybe Dearest June, Dearest Matt, Darling June, Darling Matt, sweetheart and things were looking pretty good in the end.


So of course when I got on the ship called the Cheshire, I went home on the Cheshire from Balikpapan to Port Melbourne which was great, who was on the wharf to meet me, June. We were engaged a few days later, and married the next September.
Well what a wonderful story. Something really good came….
Yeah, childhood sweethearts we were.
out of getting your Dear John letter.
Yeah, that’s right.
How did you actually feel when you got it?


Very annoyed.
So it was an annoyance.
Yeah. I wasn’t broken hearted. I really, I think I really expected it.
Oh why?
‘Cause I don’t think I was the only boyfriend, but anyway.
And had….
Did I do something?
So you had the idea that you weren’t the only boyfriend.
That’s right. So it really didn’t worry me that much.


Oh well, that’s good.
The main thing is I ended up with the right one.
Yes, well that’s, yes, that’s, yes, it was very good to see that
That’s right.
out of that unfortunate situation.
Someone was looking after me up there. Do you want to hear a funny story about something?
OK. Now I’m Irish as my name’s Hogan, my dad’s Irish and he went to the First World War and he was wounded several times.


He was in the infantry battalion, the 23rd Battalion, and anyway when he came to see me off the day before we sailed for the Middle East, my dad wasn’t a big talker and shaking hands was a big thing for him, no kissing, never kissed my dad in my life, and he said, “I want to see you Matt.” I thought, “Gee, what have I done?” He said, “If I gave you something would you promise


me that you’ll carry it with you right through the war?”. I thought, “He’s gonna give me a gun.” and I said, “Yes dad, I’ll do that, what is it?” And he pulled out of his pocket this little, like a little thing sewn in silk, little flat thing like an envelope of silk, and I said, “What’s that?” And he said, well, he said, “That’s a caul”, and I said, “What’s a caul dad?” He said “I was


born, I’m Irish as you know and I was born with a caul and to the Irish that’s a very lucky thing. A caul is a membrane over the face when you’re born.” and he said “This is my caul and I carried it right through the war. I was wounded several times and had a lot of lucky escapes but it brought me home.” He said, “All I want you to do is carry it right through the war.” And I did, and it, I’m sure it


saved my life many times because I had a lot of narrow escapes, and after the war I then passed it over to my daughter, Catherine, who has a big problem. I said, “It’s looked after me now it can look after you.” I know it sounds a bit funny but it’s, that’s a true story and it’s Irish mythology.
I think that’s wonderful. Well Matt, during the 1930s or towards the end of the 1930s were you aware of


the situation, the political situation in Europe?
Not really. I knew about Hitler, when, I only knew about Hitler when I was sort of in my late teens. The world situation didn’t mean a thing to me when I was young. I was too busy doing other things.
So can you remember where you were when war was declared?
I know exactly where I was.
Well can you tell us?
I had a pair of crutches on and I was standing in Newspaper House right outside Alec


Mitchell’s kiosk which is no longer there, and I was with another couple of mates of mine and I said, “Well you blokes are really lucky, here’s a war, you’ll be going, look at me, I’ve got crutches.” But I went after all, but that’s exactly where I was when war was declared and I can remember Mr Menzies saying about it, England’s at war, now we’re at war.
So what did you feel at that moment? You felt then disappointment.


Disappointment, that’s right.
I had no idea that when I went to war what I would do, all I knew was that I’d be a soldier. I didn’t know what sort of a soldier, it all depends on, I could’ve been anything, I could’ve been in an infantry battalion, I could’ve been in a tank corps, but I ended up in the Field Ambulance, but I was very happy to be in the Field Ambulance, it was a great lot of blokes.
So can you tell us again then how you actually got to get into the army, when you initially thought that, no, you weren’t


going to be able to be in it?
Well when I finally got over my crook broken leg and started to walk around again I met Jack in the city with the idea of going to make inquiries. Well there was an inquiry window on Flinders Street Station just at the end of Flinders Street Station before you go over Princes Bridge there was a ticket window and that was the place to inquire, so we went there and they


said, “We can take your names and so forth here but you’ve got to go to the Town Hall.” and they said, “You can’t go to the Town Hall till next week.” I don’t know why, but anyway we went to the Town Hall the next week. There were three of us went and we had our medical and as soon as the bloke wanted to do something about my leg I kept my trousers on. I said I was shy. I didn’t want him to see this great, you can see there.


Yeah, that’s the motor bike, and the motor bike, that’s the motor bike up there on the wall.
I’ll have to have a look at that.
So anyway Jack and I passed the physical and the other bloke didn’t and he, Jack went straight into the army and I had to take off a fortnight because I had to train somebody for my job which I did and then I, when I joined the army of course Jack had gone on and he was up Puckapunyal by then


and I went to Royal Park and didn’t do training there. Then I went to Seymour, didn’t do training there and so that’s the whole story.
Well did you feel ill prepared when you didn’t have any training?
I was never ill prepared, I was always ready for anything. I had a life that I was very confident. My mother used to say, “Matt’s very confident, look what he does, he falls over and breaks his arm, does this, does that,


got a lot of confidence but no sense.”
So can you just then go over the sequence of events again from when you enlisted and you got on the ship to sail for the Middle East?
Well the time in the army from enlisting to actually going on the Mauritania it wasn’t


really very interesting, because there was no, for me, there was no actual, I didn’t go on a rifle range for instance. All I did was maybe marching and squad drill, nothing else, so I was getting a bit sick of it towards the end and that’s why when the opportunity came to join the Field Ambulance I couldn’t get there quick enough.
And so the Field Ambulance was then part of the 7th Division.
That’s right, in the 21st Brigade


they were.
Right. They were in the 21st Brigade of the 7th Division.
That’s right.
So on the Mauritania you are sailing off with the 7th Division.
That’s right.
Now I’d just like to know a little more about your experience on the voyage to the Middle East.
Well I had a very good voyage on the Mauritania especially when we go on the Mauritania and they take us to a first class cabin with


your, ‘cause this is the first time it’d been a troop ship and Jack and I, Ernie Waugh, Bob Waugh, Frank Richards and Ted Stone, I think they were the six of us, we took over this cabin. Jack and I had the original twin beds, we had port holes to look out to sea, it was really nice and we had our own bathroom like an ensuite, and we were no sooner on it than the steward arrived. So we had


our own steward and he said, ‘cause he’d never handled troops before, he was an English bloke, and he said, “Now what time do you want your morning coffee?” “What? Oh”, we all look at one another, morning coffee, this is the army, this is better than we ever thought it would be. “What time do you want me to prepare your baths?” This is getting almost too good to be true, so anyway there we are, we’ve got our own steward, our own cabin, then we went


down for a meal that was lunch time, and we’d go to this beautiful dining room, white tablecloths, silver service and a menu. I’ve got the menu, the menu’s over here somewhere, and
So what was on the menu?
Well, “Will you get that menu, Anne. It’s just over there. “ A really nice menu and this menu got signed by all the blokes in the transport section. “ Can you see it just on the corner there, Anne?”


Can you remember about how many people would’ve been on the troop ship?
Well it’s hard to say because in our convoy there was the Mauritania, the Mauritania was in Port Melbourne, and the Queen Mary couldn’t get in through the heads at that time, too big, and the Aquitania couldn’t get in either, so it’s outside as well and I think the cruiser, the [HMAS] Perth was our escort. I’m just not too sure about that,


but they were outside the heads waiting for us and we sailed the next day.
And what gear did you have with you?
Well we had our full equipment. We had, you know, our uniform, had all our webbing equipment, our rifles, tin hats, gas masks which we never ever used. We got rid of the gas masks actually before we went to Tobruk I think we handed them in, there wasn’t going to be any gas thank goodness and


then that’s all, we had everything we needed bar our vehicles. We didn’t get the vehicles till we got to the Middle East.
And how did you feel when you knew that you were sailing off?
Great. A lot of the troops were sea sick. I’ve never been sea sick in my life. I’ve tried to get sea sick ‘cause I built a boat after the war, after I retired and I’ve had that boat out in the middle of Port Phillip Bay lying flat on my back watching the mast


and they reckon that’s a sure way to get sea sick and I’ve never been sea sick in my life.
So why did you try to get sea sick?
Well I wanted to see what it was like, the experience
Well any descriptions I’ve heard of people being sea sick sound dreadful.
Well the couple of ships that I was on, there was the An Chung was a terrible ship and it was actually, it used to go up and down the Yangtse River and its cooking


facilities were great big steel steam cauldrons on the deck and they used to survive, it had iron barbed doors to keep, it was for coolie use. Am I allowed to say coolies? So anyway we were actually in an ambulance, in Jack Mills’ ambulance on deck, so Bob Ellis and myself


and Jack Mills we had a good trip because we were on the, it was very rough, everybody was sea sick including the captain. The only, there was only Bob Ellis and myself and we weren’t seasick at all and the officer in charge of the ship came down to us and he said, “Well.” ‘cause we were really funny ‘cause we’d been to the Middle East and all the troops on board were all raw recruits, and he said, “I don’t like to ask you seasoned soldiers,


will you go down to the cook house and get some food ready for, ‘cause there’s a few people still want to eat?” so we went up there, down there, we’re carving the ends and the sides off loaves of bread that were all mildew and I’d been doing that for a while and I said to Bob, “I think I’ve gotta go upstairs, I think I’m going to be seasick with this rotten bread and the rotten stew.” It was absolutely unbelievable, but again of course the boat got sunk when it got


to Milne Bay.
Well back to the Mauritania here. I can see the luncheon menu.
Bordeaux Sardines, Liver something.
I know, we didn’t even know what it meant.
Hors d’oeuvre Varier.
Everybody’s saying, “What’s this?”
Yes. Consumé Brun Woir, yes.
It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?
Soused Halibut.
Yes, plus the cold buffet, yes, very impressive.
I know, and it was like that all the way


to Bombay, really good. But there’s another little story there. Jack and I became aware that it was possible to do something very strange. One of the crew, not one of the crew, one of the other fellows said, “When it’s dark if you sneak up the back stairs you can get up where the officers are and if you’re very quiet and sit in a deck chair a steward


will come along and ask you, ‘Sir, what would you like to drink?” I said to Jack, “We’ll try this.” So we sneaked up, sat in deck chairs, along came the steward, “Good evening sir.” ‘cause everything was blacked out so no, no lights on at all, “Would you like something to drink?’ “I’ll have scotch and soda.” Jack had similar, and he came back, “Will you sign, what’s your cabin number?” I just plucked a number out of the air, I thought “I’ll fall in a heap here.”


“Will you sign the chit?” I signed the chit. We used to do that every night until a lot of other people became aware of it and then they scotched it so we had to give it up, but it was alright while it lasted.
So you were obviously enjoying this trip then?
It was a good trip.
And you had your mates with you?
That’s right, had all my mates with me, six of them, six of us in that cabin. I had other mates. Unfortunately all those blokes, they’re all gone.


A bit unfortunate but that’s the way it is.
What, were they killed in the war or they just died?
No, no, they’ve just died since the war, yeah.
Alright, well can you remember how long it took you to get to Bombay?
I think about three weeks ‘cause it was pretty, they had pretty fast ships, those big ships, the Mauritania, it was a pretty new ship and of course the Queen Mary, and they were doing,


we only had an escort from maybe I think until we passed out, I don’t think we had an escort much more than maybe a couple of days because we were so fast that we didn’t have to worry about it. Hopefully we didn’t have to worry about being attacked by submarines, and they used to zig zag like this all the time, so we didn’t have an escort at all until we got to Bombay.
And how did you spend your time when you were on board?


Well they tried to make up all sorts of things for us to do and drive us batty, but we would do callisthenics and jogging around the deck, and anyway a mate of mine, Barney Brady, he came up to me and he said, “You play cards, don’t you Matt?” “Yeah, I do.” He said, “How about we make up a pontoon school in the


lounge at night time?”. I don’t know about this, but anyway why not. “OK, I’ll do that.” So he said, “Well you do the cards and I’ll take the money.” It sounded good, so this is what we did. We played this pontoon, all the blokes around the table and I’m dealing out the cards and he’s putting the money down in all his pockets, and I didn’t realise that we were making any money ‘cause I was also paying out a lot of money. Anyway we go back


to the cabin at night time and he pulled out about £200 out of his pockets. I’d never seen £200 in one lot in my life before. So we shared it around all the blokes, very good.
Well how many did you say were in this cabin together?
But I had more mates. They were my really good mates.
And did you find it easy to go to sleep at night?
I can sleep anywhere. I’ve never had any trouble


going to sleep. The only time I’ve had trouble going to sleep is since you’ve given me this job. Now when it’s all over I’ll go to sleep again. But I was very good, I could go to sleep anywhere.
And so you wouldn’t be talking and chattering on till all hours of the morning?
Yes, yes, that too, yeah. Not all hours, ‘cause we were full of food with a bit of grog as well and sleep wasn’t much of a problem at all, and I really loved the sea.
Did you?
Even when it was rough.


I used to go right to the bow of the ship when it was really rough and I had great fun, as it would go down and then lift up again like that and before it would drop I’d jump, and I could jump six or eight foot in the air. You must realise I was only….
How incredible.
I was only 19. I wasn’t 83 then, or 82 as my wife keeps telling me.
So did you feel that you were starting off on a huge adventure or did you feel….?
I’m sure, that’s right.


It was, big, well I’d never ever been out of, I think the furthest I’d ever been before the war was to Daylesford where my mother was born. That was a big thing to go to Daylesford for Christmas.
Well had you, did you have this love of the sea before you went off on this great big ship?
Well I had never been to see before that.
Had you been swimming?
Other than go and get a fishing boat


from Pumpy’s Fishing Boats down the creek down at Mentone. That was about the furthest I’d ever been in a boat and that’s virtually nowhere. But I did really, I enjoyed ship life. I never had any fears of anything happening, never thought about it.
Alright, well what happened when you got to Bombay?
Well at Bombay we went straight ashore


and then we got in, we had a day’s leave in Bombay and that was a big eye opener. I’d never been in a foreign port before and seeing all the Indians and the different lifestyle completely to my lifestyle, and then we went by train up to a place called Deolali and that was a permanent English camp, and that’s, we did a bit of training up there.
And what sort of training did you do there?
Well just,


nothing, no range, no firing a gun or anything like that, but we did sort of ambulance training and all training’s boring.
Well ambulance training, what did that involve?
Well that, it’s a pretty dull life really. It seemed to me to be pretty dull, mainly route marching. One thing that was exciting, Jack and I hired a couple of bikes and we went for a ride down to the next town


and ended up getting stoned out of the place. That was exciting.
Yeah. They said, “Australia soldier no good!” throwing these great big rocks at us. I said to Jack, “I don’t think they like us.” He said, “No, let’s go.”
That’s amazing that….
Yeah, that’s right.
they didn’t like Australian soldiers.
No, that’s the first time I’ve had any body throw a rock at me ‘cause he didn’t like me.
Alright, now after Bombay what was


your next stop?
Well back to Bombay and on board the Dilwara, and the Dilwara to Suez Canal and we got off at I think it was Port Tewfik and then we got on a train and we went right across to the Sinai Desert to Palestine.


So can you describe what it was like in this ship going up the Suez Canal?
Very interesting, very slow trip but the most amazing part about the Suez Canal is not when you’re in the Suez Canal but to be away from the Suez Canal and all you can see is sand, and then you see a ship go past. That’s very amazing because the ship’s in the Suez Canal and you can’t see it. All you can see is the ship going past the sand dunes.


Alright, well you’re getting closer to the war zone here. So you’re still not thinking about the war in particular or
No, not, see we had some leave into Palestine which was very interesting, and that, unfortunately I’d left my mate, Jack Harmer, behind in Deolali. He went down with pneumonia and so we had to leave him. I thought, “Oh God, I’ll never see him again.” but anyway then I palled up with another chap


by the name of Bob Ellis and we went to Jerusalem together and Bob was Catholic, I’m, well I’m Hogan, I’m not Catholic but that’s neither here nor there, but anyway we went to all the places to see in Jerusalem like the, what’s the name of that road, the, where Jesus walked with his cross to his crucifixion?


Not the road to Damascus?
No, you nearly had it. Delrosa something.
Via Delarosa. [actually, Via Dolorosa]
That’s it, that’s it, yeah. The Via Delarosa, that’s right, and of course you stop at all the stations of the cross and every time, Bob would be in front of me and of course we’d come to some religious place and Bob would be on his knees and I’d fall over him. So I said, “Listen Bob, you get behind me, I’m Protestant and I don’t know what’s holy and what’s not holy


so you might walk behind me and then it’ll be much better for us.” So that’s what we did, and we saw all the different places, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of Nativity. We went to the Garden of Gethsemane with the, there’s a beautiful church there called, can’t think of the name of it, but that’s what really impressed me of everything else, you know I mean they


lift up a board and say, “There’s a hole in that rock down there, that’s where the cross was that Jesus was, and that’ll cost you two dollars.” so that really didn’t impress me, but when we went to the Garden of Gethsemane that’s
Alright, we’ll stop it there….
and we’ll continue it on the next tape because we’ve just about finished here.
Interviewee: Matt Hogan Archive ID 0055 Tape 03


Well Matt, we were talking about the Garden of Gethsemane.
Right. Well that’s the thing that really impressed me more than anything in Jerusalem because there are these olive trees and if they’re a year old I reckon they would be hundreds of years old because they have, they’re not very high but they have these trunks and the trunks would be at least 18 foot through.


I hope my memory’s right because they’re probably still there but they really looked old and I could believe that, and I’m not a very good believer. I’m not. I grew up in a house, dad’s a Protestant, dad’s a Catholic, mum’s a Protestant, dad votes Labor, mum votes
conservative, and there was always an


argument going on, you know, so I sort of, I didn’t have much interest in the church but one of my friends here. Now, a very good friend of mine died last year name of Frank Richards, now he’s Father Frank Richards, and he became a priest after the war and he’d been here many many times, and as a matter of fact, my daughter Jenny that lives down Park Lane drove us up to Ballarat where he was doing a sermon up there and so she drove us up.


We took her husband, June and I to see, we call him Snooker, that was his army name Snooker, and we saw Snooker give his sermon and the church was empty and this is about 10 minutes before the service started. I said, “Gee he hasn’t got very many parishioners here.” and I no sooner said that than cars came from everywhere and they were all in sitting down. Unbelievable, so anyway


we’re sitting right down near the front and I’ll call him Father, Father Frank said, “I’d like to introduce to you four of my very good friends, they’re just down there in the front row and they’re all Protties.” Everyone looked around to see who the Protties were. But he’s a great bloke, he died last year, which was a, he died not long after we saw him, and he used to always be, he was the one


bloke that lasted with me and he was always in the march with me, and the last march he had was the year before last and of course he was in the transport section too, and Alan Eldridge who is our secretary, he said, “Come on Frank.” he said, “You can lead the march seeing you’re the only thing, only bloke with Matt and Matt can’t lead the march because he doesn’t know where to go.” he said,” But you can be the leader.” So he was,


and that was his last march.
OK Matt, well you’re in the Middle East now and what did you think of these people that you were coming across, these, the Arabs?
Well the Arabs were alright. I didn’t have any problem with, I don’t have problems with anybody of any colour, any race, anything at all. I’m


interested to talk to anybody, but the trouble is you can’t talk to a lot of people because they can’t speak the language and, but the most interesting people that I met over there that I got close to, as I said before, was the Mayor of Tel Aviv, and he was great. He took Jack and I everywhere, and
So where did you go? Tell me the places he took you?
Well he lived in Tel Aviv, had a flat in Tel Aviv, and he had a little child,


this child, and he took us to a kibbutz for a Jewish wedding and that was the greatest wingding I’d been to forever. They drink like you wouldn’t believe, they drink wine like port, Carmel port, Carmel hock, fill the glass up like big glass like this, down the hatch, and in the end they were all dancing around doing that Jewish dancing like, you know, what do they, that song


like, I can’t sing it but anyway they all go around different ways and Jack and I were in the middle and all these people going past us and we got all this wine, in our stomachs and we were almost just about falling over, but he took us to all these other homes and we were given meals there. The meals were very strange, we went to one place and they had, they said, “We have fish today.” so the fish that Jack and I got


was cut, had everything on it, cut in half. Jack had the front half and I had the tail half and Jack had the one with the eyes in it, and here’s this fish and Jack said, “This thing’s looking at me.” but they have different food to us.
But you ate the food?
We ate it, yeah.
And did that, did your, then your food tastes expand or would you have chosen


to eat it again?
Well, half the time when we were in the Middle East we spent a lot of time in Tobruk where the food was very scarce and the food that we had at Aleppo was good, and actually the food at Julis, the training camp, that wasn’t bad either, but when we, I’ll tell you a little story. The day that we left Julis to go to,


up to Egypt we just got all our trucks, all the trucks are lined up down this big long road, and our air transport officer, Lieutenant Mason, he’s standing out the front and he’s giving the signals, you see. He said, “Now this is start your vehicles.” so everybody starts their vehicles you see, and then “When the vehicles start, put your hand out ready to go.” So he’s standing


out the front and he’s saying, “Onward convoy.” So the bloke just behind me was Andy MacDonald and Andy wasn’t a great driver so he started off and turned his truck, fell down the side of the road and rolled his truck over and that was our start.
OK, so this is your destination now. You’ve done more training.


We’re heading, we’re supposed to be fully trained, supposed to be.
Yeah, and so what was the extra training you did there? Was it, this is when you’d fired your shots and that’s when you could….
Well that was on the way to Tobruk.
Yeah, that was the extent of my real training, and I never had any more training after that. We did get some marching training but up in Australia when they gave us all these stripes, and all my mates got stripes and I got stripes, we were all really given stripes because


we’d been in the army for so long and we didn’t have any promotion. Anyway they handed out all these stripes to us so we had a big party that night and I got two stripes, Ernie Waugh’s got three, Bob Ellis’s got three, Jack Harmer’s got two, I forget the others, but anyway we had this big party. We forgot that the CO [Commanding Officer] had his tent up here and we were carousing and making


a lot of noise all night. I think there was a bit of a fight went on at one time. Anyway we were all sent for the next morning so the major came down and said, “Boss wants to see you, all you blokes.” So we paraded up there before that bloke, Alec MacIntosh, Colonel MacIntosh. He looked at us and he said, “You’ve only just got your stripes and you look as though you’re going to lose them straight away.” that’s, “What do you mean?” So he said, “Well look.” he said,


“You’ve taken all these years to get them.” and he said, “So I’ll give you the choice, pack drill every night for an hour or hand in your stripes.” “We’ll have the pack drill sir.” and every night for the nearly six weeks we were out up and down, up and down the parade ground with all our gear on and rifle, everything, but it was worth it, made


us fit. Can I tell you another story about Colonel MacIntosh which is not a bad story, a good story. But anyway this story happened in Australia after we came back from the Middle East and we were on our, had this big leave, no, prior to the big leave, we were on the five days leave, and anyway Jack and I had been in town. We’d been going around a few pubs and having a few beers and met a few of the blokes in there. We were walking down Swanson


Street one minute, the next minute we’re in the back of a paddy wagon, we’d been arrested, and slammed, they slammed the door at the back, Jack, we’ve only, this is our first day of five days leave and we’re locked up. They took us up to the Old Melbourne Gaol and put us in a cell with a lot of other blokes. My cell’s the first on the left as you go in the door. Anna’s been there, so anyway, slammed the door.


I thought, “This is terrible, you know, what are we going to do?” So anyway they came back and said “You’ve gotta go before the Provost Marshall now.” So they marched us out to the Provost Marshall and he said, “Well how many days leave have you got?” I said, “Well we’ve got five days, this is the first day sir.” and he said, “Well what you’ve been up to?” he said, “You’ve got to be punished in some way.” and he said, “You’ll have to report to Royal Park at


9.00 o’clock tomorrow morning.” “OK, well that’s fair enough.” So anyway we were leaving the gaol and there was a little door on the left hand side and it opened and one of the MPs [Military Police] put his head out and he said, “Matt Hogan.” “Yes.” “ I want to see you, come in here.” and I said to Jack, “You go out and I’ll meet you out the front.” ‘cause he was going somewhere else and he was going to get, and I said, “You get your taxi and go and I’ll just go


home on my own.” So I went into this room and there’s six of these great bit Provost police and I’d been saying things I shouldn’t have said when I was in the back of the paddy wagon and he said, “Right.” They said, “Righto loud mouth, let’s hear what you’ve got to say now.” and I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “You know what I mean, what you said in the paddy wagon.” I said, “It wasn’t me.” I says, “It was my mate, he’s the idiot, he’s always mouthing


off.” I said, “But he’s gone.” So they flew out and fortunately he had gone, got a taxi right outside and went home. So anyway they said, “Alright, well we’ll see you tomorrow morning at 10.00 o’clock.” So off I went, I had to go to a party at one of the bloke’s houses, got home pretty late, woke up in the morning, it’s about half past 10.00. My mother came and woke me up and I said, “What’s the time mum?”


“Half past 10.00.” I said, “I’m done, I’m supposed to be at Royal Park at 9.00 o’clock.” I said, “I’m in more strife than Buckley now.” So anyway I got dressed quickly, went out to Royal Park and got paraded before the Provost Marshall and he got this list of crimes that I’ve committed.
What had you done, what were they accusing you of?
Well I’d said some stupid things to the Provos
What, can you remember?
Being a returned soldier with a loud mouth I’d been saying


(UNCLEAR) and other things that I wouldn’t like to say, but it wasn’t good. The police didn’t approve of it, so anyway he said, “Well you’ve got five, four more days leave to go.” he said, “What you’ve done now you can go out to the stockade and stay for the last four days there, then you can go back to your unit.” “Oh.” I thought, “Well that’s done it now, I’ve had it now, no more leave.” So I went out to the stockade, all barbed wire enclosure,


but it was quite big and I walked down the hill, right down the corner was a gate and the gate had a padlock but the padlock wasn’t on, it was just hanging like this. I looked back to see where everybody was, there were a few Provos up the top but well away, so I reached behind my back, unhooked the padlock, slipped out the gate and ran flat out across Royal Park, all across the grass down to the


tram, got on the tram, went home. So anyway I thought, “Well I’m not going to town any more. If I go into town I’ll get caught. I’m in more strife than Buckley.” so anyway, didn’t go into town. Anyway time went on for quite some months and the regimental sergeant major came down and he said, “The boss wants to see you Matt, what’ve you been up to?” “Nothing, I haven’t done anything.” He said, “Well get dressed, get your uniform on, get your hat on,


you’ve got to be paraded before the boss.” So anyway I did that, went up, left right, left right, hat off, stand at attention and here’s Colonel MacIntosh on the other side of the table and he’s got a big paper in front of him. He’s reading the paper and looking at me, and he said, “Well I’m blowed if I know.” he said, “I thought I was a very good judge of human nature.” and he said, “I thought I knew about you and you were a pretty straight forward sort of bloke.” He said, “But what’s all this


stuff here that you were doing in Melbourne? What are you doing?” He said, “You’ve been arrested in Swanson Street, abused the police on the way to the Melbourne Gaol, been told to report at 9.00 o’clock the next morning and you weren’t there, then when you finally turned up at 11.00 o’clock you were told to be out in the stockade for the rest of your leave and you’ve escaped.” He said, “I can’t believe it.”


So he had another look at it and he had a big smile on his face and he ripped it up. He said, “I have never heard of it.” he said, “I would never have thought that you would be the one that this would happen to.” I never heard any more about it. He said, “That’s right.” They wanted me to do three months field punishment for it which was pretty serious going.
Is it really?
Not good. No, three months of that you’re sick of it.
But they certainly weren’t taking into consideration the fact that


you’d been away?
No. It was only the things that I’d done, pretty good.
Well it sounds as if your commanding officer was understanding.
Oh he was great, he was a really fine bloke, and he, unfortunately just after the war he got polio and he didn’t really last very long, he died. He ended up doing his practice out of a wheel chair. He was in Sydney, and I never ever saw him. I never ever went to Sydney after the war, not until later on.


A very fine mate.
OK Matt, we’ll go back again now
to the Middle East.
Well do you want me to tell you that story June just said. That’s a good one.
Which one was that? What was that related to?
About the Italian prisoners.
Oh well, yes, OK, yes, well that’s…. where they were.
That happened in Tobruk before the siege.
Yeah, alright then. Well when we get to Tobruk will you tell it then or do you want to tell it now?
Anytime you like.
Well tell it now.


Well after we were in Tobruk for the first time and I’d gone back to Alexandria so I was late getting back to the unit and when I got back there we’d only just sort of settled in and the sergeant major came to me and he said, “There’s an Italian officers’ mess with quite a few Italian officers in it here.” He says, “I want you to guard them until tomorrow. Two on, four off


with somebody else.” So OK, so he said, “Here’s a clip of bullets.” said, “If anybody tries to escape shoot them.” I nearly fell down laughing. I said, “OK Charlie, I’ll do that.” Just imagine me shooting anybody. So anyway I’m marching up and down outside the officers’ mess and out came one of the officers and he couldn’t speak much English but he said, “Australian soldier, Australian soldier like vino?” “Oh yeah,


I don’t mind a bit of vino.” So out came a glass of vino, which I don’t think I’d ever had any wine in my life before. That was pretty good, so I drank that, and another bloke came out and he said, “Australian soldier like spaghetti?” “I like spaghetti very much.” Big bowl of spaghetti, had that, more wine, so this went on all night until my relief arrived and he said, “Righto.” they used to call me Grogan, “Righto Grogan.” he said,


“I’ve come to relieve you.” I said, “Well you can nick off because I’m quite happy here.” So I stayed the rest of the night, and by the time I’d finished up I think I’d handed them my rifle to hold I while I was getting stuck into the vino. There you go.
Well it sounds as if the Italian prisoners were very civilised and were….
They were alright, they were great, they were great. I felt very sorry, I saw a lot of POWs, [Prisoners of War] Italian POWs


when I was with Colonel Dunlop and we, he went down to have a look at them and they were all starving, you know, and they were asking for aqua aqua, water water, and in this big compound, no food no water. I don’t think it lasted very long but it was pretty difficult to handle, thousands of Italian prisoners.
And where were they located then?
They were outside Bardia at that time.
Right, alright. Well we’ll get back


to Bardia and just you mentioned before when you saw those dead soldiers
That’s right.
it hit you that this was war.
That’s right. It was the first time that I realised war wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. War was a really serious business, and I did think although I was only a young boy really, looking at those faces and thinking, and there were a lot of


photographs all over the ground, photographs of women and kids which were obviously Italian families, and you know I thought, “Gee this is crook.”
At this stage were you the unit photographer yet?
No, OK.
No. I did have my camera at that, the only time I didn’t have my camera is when we were in Tobruk and that was the worst time not to have the camera.
And you were allowed to have a camera, were you?
I had two.


I gave them both to Anna when she did all my photographs.
Oh, well she’s very fortunate.
They’re not marvellous photos, not marvellous cameras but they’re both Kodaks and they’re 127 size film. I don’t think you can get it now.
And so what sort of photos had you been taking?
Well there’s hundreds over there if you’d like to have a look at them. You can do that afterwards.
And were they what……photos of the sites of the area or….
Mainly our


troops of the 2/5th Field Ambulance and different situations, you know that, when I told you about that when I got, nearly had that sea mine dropped on us there’s a photograph of that hole and a sea mine similar which is a huge thing, that’s there, but I didn’t take that photograph. I got that from somewhere else, but it is


we think the same, the same scene.
OK, well you are this young man and you’re faced with this, you know, this battle scene. I mean how did you feel? I mean was it a feeling of shock or horror?
Well it was, it was, yeah, I think it was the biggest shock I’d ever had in my life up to that time, except when I got knocked off my motor bike that was a big shock. But the sight of all those dead soldiers really did


something for me and made me realise that this war is a very serious business and from then on I took it very seriously.
Well did you feel frightened?
No, I don’t think so. I don’t think I was frightened, I was just appalled by it, but not frightened. I didn’t get frightened until I was on the receiving end of a Stuka raid, then I was a bit frightened.
But did you, I mean at that moment did you start to think about whether


war was worth it?
That’s right, and I’ve always thought the same thing, war’s not worth it. But when I was with that priest that was a friend of mine, we had a job together in Tobruk, early in the Tobruk siege and we were out on what we used to call a light section and that was a medical officer, some stretcher bearers and also medical


personnel and Frank was driving the truck and I was driving the officer in my staff car, and anyway this happened on Good Friday, and I was sitting in the staff car reading Man magazine, reading only the stories, that’s all I got it for.
Were you?
Yeah. And anyway before this they’d come to us and said, “You’ve got to build, dig a slip trench because we could be bombed at any time.”


Now the Libyan desert is pretty tough going, it’s nearly all rock plus sand, so we started to dig this frigging thing just beside my car. Well it took us hours to get about that deep and then we gave up, no good, but not long after we gave up Frank went back to his vehicle and someone started to crank up the air raid siren and I’d never heard any air raid siren before


in my life, and I saw Frank running towards my vehicle and he’s pointing up there so I looked up and I can see all these planes but they didn’t have tails on them because the tails were up the other way and they were coming straight down, these Stuka dive bombers and there was a lot of them, so of course Frank and I jump into these slip trenches we didn’t dig and that’s the only protection we had and a lot of blokes were killed that day. That was the first time I’d seen people actually


killed and wounded, and that really woke me up to the fact that war was pretty crook, so anyway when the air raid was over we immediately got picks and shovels and inside that next half hour we’re down about four feet, and we used to use that then. We had several air raids in that section. We were attached to these big five inch anti-aircraft guns which are big air-craft guns. They’re blazing away like you wouldn’t believe and these


Stukas, they had these special things on their wings which makes a screeching sound and all the bombs have got another thing attached to them which makes another screeching sound and the engines of the plane make a terrible sound, and you’ve got your nose in the dirt not knowing what’s going on up above you ‘cause you’re not game to have a look, and you swear you’re going to get the next one right in the middle of the back with all this screaming that’s going on. It has to be


known to be believed, be experienced to be believed. It’s absolutely terrible.
Yes, I mean the noise must’ve been….
The noise was horrendous.
Well do you ever have dreams about the war?
I don’t think so. No, I really don’t think so.
Well OK.
Can you stop for a minute?


Right, well we’re at Bardia.
Right, and so you told us the story about Weary Dunlop.
And what other, did you have other dealings with him?
That’s the only time, he was within our unit for quite some, and I didn’t know until the day I met him and took him up to Bardia, and


see this all took place in maybe say five days.
So I really didn’t know him very well. All I knew was that he was a real gentleman he never ever treated me other than being a very nice straight forward sort of bloke.
And you told us before that, you know, you went down to have a look at the battlefield and you were warned


about the mines that….
That’s right.
were there. I mean how did that affect you? Were you, did you then become a lot more cautious or….
No. Well I really, I think that was the only minefield I every actually stumbled across. I don’t think I was involved with a minefield ever again fortunately.
So from Bardia where


did you go?
I went back to Alexandria, back to a camp called Amaria.
And can you remember how long you were in Bardia then?
Well were only in Bardia for maybe ten days. I’m just not too sure, it wasn’t very long.
And OK, well back to your camp. What did you do there?
This is in Alexandria? Well we, Arthur Holsworth and I


found some leave passes. We decided to give ourselves some leave into Alexandria so we wrote our leave passes out and we had the staff car, there was nobody there to say not to take the staff car so we drove ourselves into Alexandria and parked the staff car somewhere, I don’t know where it was, but then during our time in


Bardia we’d each become the owners of a pair, an automatic pistol each. Mine was a Browning and his was an Italian Barretta.
And how did you come by those?
Well I, to tell you the truth I’m not too sure, but I know we had them. I don’t think we took them off anybody because there was a lot of things lying around, you know, discarded rifles,


ammunition, tanks, cars, everything from the defeated Italians. I think we just found them, but anyway we decided with these guns when we drove into Alexandria we decided to go to the worst place in Alexandria you could go, where you’re not supposed to go. So we went down into the back streets with these guns. I don’t know who we were


gonna shoot, but anyway we felt as though we were safe to go. Fortunately we were only there a little while when the military police arrived and pulled up in a car beside us and said, “What are you two blokes, where do you think you two blokes are going?” “Oh, we’re just looking around.” “What are you looking around here for? This is out of bounds.” They said, “Where’s your leave passes?” Fortunately we had the leave passes. “Here’s the leave passes.” We’d written them


out ourselves, but they didn’t know that. So they said, “Look, if we leave you here you’ll never see another day. You won’t live through, so get in the back of the thing and we’ll take you back to the city of Alexandria.” which they did fortunately ‘cause goodness knows what would’ve happened to us.
Were they just trying to frighten you or somebody would’ve….
No, they weren’t. They were just telling, we were in a bad place. We were in the completely out of bounds place. People go in there and never seen again.


It was a bad place to be. We should never have been there. If I was doing that at my age now I would never even think about going to a place like that.
But you were obviously always ready to have a bit of fun
Oh, that’s right.
or to do something a little bit daring.
That’s right.
And how come you were allowed to, you managed to write out your own leaves passes. Well not everybody would’ve thought of doing something like that?
No, I must’ve had a funny mind. See that goes back


to my convict ancestry. All these bushrangers and my grandfather, my great grandfather was charged with murder and they were gonna hang him, we’ve got his will.
And who was that?
This is my, I’m named after him, Henry.
Henry Hogan.
Henry Hogan, yeah, and he was the son of Phillip Hogan who was a convict transported to Australia for life with his, with the woman that, came out on another ship. He came out on


the Friendship and she came out on the, gee, the Clare I think. Anyway and then they lived together and they were given to the Reverend Marsden who was a bit of a villain himself, and they worked with him for quite some time because he didn’t like the fact, of course they kept having kids, why not, and


the Reverend Marsden didn’t like them having kids out of wedlock and they couldn’t get married in the Catholic Church because there weren’t any priests, and so he married them in the Church of England which they didn’t like anyway, but you know, when you’ve got an ancestry like that your mind probably thinks differently to a lot of people. You see the chance and you take it.


Well that’s, I mean that’s very good to have that approach I think in
I think so.
well, in a war time situation I think.
Especially in war time, yeah.
Yes, you obviously think (UNCLEAR).
That’s right.
Yes, alright then, so did you do any training here though? I mean you managed to get into the town and into the wrong part of the city.
In the Middle East?
In the Middle East, yes.
Not, I really never did any real training right throughout the war.


I only learnt by experience and I, in different situations when we’d go in the light section we’d attach to maybe the 2/9th Battalion and in the ambulance we’d have a truck, an ambulance, a staff car. Staff car would drive the doctor who was a captain usually and then in the ambulance there’d be a driver and a


medical personnel, one of the medical personnel and the ambulance, the stretcher bearers would be in the truck and then we’d go in behind the, say the 2/9th Battalion and we would pick up, or some of the wounded we brought in so far and then we’d have to pick them up from there and their doctor administer to them and then the ambulance would then take them, this particular part I’m talking about


now, they would then be evacuated to a place they used to call Fig Tree. Now this a fig tree, an old fig tree growing in the desert somehow or other and been there for a long time and underneath the fig tree the Italians had built sort of, well not a bomb shelter, but some sort of shelter by, like a


bunker and we would put the wounded there until another ambulance would come in and take them back to Tobruk Hospital. It was quite a thing to do and I remember one night in particular, my night eyesight never been very good and I always had trouble at night time, and anyway this is pitch black and the driver of the ambulance was not too good and he asked me if I’d drive his ambulance, and I said,


“I’m not too good, I can’t see much.” So he said, “I’ll sit on the bonnet and you can drive.” That’s alright, so he’s waving left right, left right, whatever you want to do, and we went back to the fig tree. When we got to the fig tree we opened up the back and we had four bodies in the back, they all died.
So how did you feel about that?
Not good.


But you know, that was part of my training.
So you were able to deal with that, were you, I mean….
Yes, I think so. I still, you know, get a little bit upset.
Now tell me about Tobruk. You were obviously there twice.
That’s right. Before the siege and during the siege. See, when


we were at Bardia one of my mates that was driving the truck with Weary Dunlop, he went, the day Tobruk fell to the 6th Division he went up to the Tobruk area and got a pay master and drew a pay, and in his pay book he had Tobruk put in, which is really something, and we always said the Field Ambulance not only being in all the other things was actually in the original taking


of Tobruk, ‘cause there’s, Dennis Joy’s got it in his pay book, which is quite something.
Yes, it is. Well how long were you at Tobruk when it was taken?
Well we’d been in Tobruk only a few days, maybe a week before the siege started and then they, there was an order came out, I forget


what the exact wording of it, but that was from General Morshead to say that we were now in a position of siege and there would be no surrender, and fortunately there wasn’t.
And so what had you been doing there? You’d been driving.
Mainly driving.
Driving officers here. I was out a lot and I had a lot of experiences with


air raids because wherever, my, I often drove the colonel. The colonel seemed to have a wish to get where the action was. Wherever I drove him there was always trouble, but there was plenty of trouble everywhere. We went down to, the day after I got blown up by that sea mine I drove another officer down, right down


to the point where they had this big Italian gun. They used to actually fire, it was a big naval gun in an emplacement by the Italians and they used to fire it every so often down into the German and Italian lines but it wasn’t a very good gun because sometimes they’d put up this flag to say the thing was gonna be fired ‘cause it used to take them about five or six days to get the thing ready. They’d run up the flag to warn everybody and everybody would get away from it and they’d fire a


shell. Sometimes it used to go right over the German lines, but sometimes it used to fall out the end, and that wasn’t good because, fortunately it didn’t go off, and anyway, I drove this officer to this place and as we approached the area there was an air raid on so we managed to get to the area and this chap who was with me who’s name was Paddy Doyle,


and I told this story at the unit reunion a couple of years ago and Paddy’s gone, but his wife was at the reunion and she didn’t know anything about it, and we managed to make it to the dugout and they dropped bombs all around, the car was parked outside the building where this officer was going to stay, and when we looked up over the rim you can’t see anything of the building. I thought, that’s the end of him, my car’s gone, he’s gone, the building’s gone, but then the


dust cleared and he was alright, and was just looking at the car that had holes all in the other side of it now. So anyway that night, Paddy and I are down this really deep shelter hole, had a ladder to get down into it and it was all concrete and we thought, this is a good place, so we took our blankets down there and we’ll sleep down in this big deep hole, was about 15 foot of rock above


us. Anyway a lone plane flew over and then I could hear it fly over the top and then it turned around and came back. There was a bit of anti-aircraft fire, but not much, and then he let a stick of bombs go and I could hear the bombs falling and each one is getting closer and closer and closer to us, and I’m counting because they usually have about eight bombs, and I’ve got to seven. I thought “I wonder where the last one’s going to go.” and


anyway there was a mighty explosion and the whole of this, the bottom of this place filled with dust, great lumps of rock fell off the roof. “Crumbs, that must be close.” So in the morning, couldn’t go up, we stayed in bed, went up in the morning and it actually landed right on our roof but we had this 15 foot of rock above us. If it had gone down the hole we would’ve just disappeared off the face of the earth and Paddy’s wife never


heard the story before, and she thought it was great.
Well what affect does that experience have on you? I mean is it just, we’ll stop there and I’ll….
Interviewee: Matt Hogan Archive ID 0055 Tape 04


Well Matt, yes, I asked you about the effect that that experience has on you and does it make you have fear? Do you feel fear?
Well the story about fear is that we were all frightened, everybody was frightened but nobody admitted to being frightened. Everybody would laugh it off and say, “Big deal.” you know, that’s it, but I did have one friend that was never actually frightened. He was a,


he had no nerves whatsoever, and his name was Bomber Waugh and he was an ambulance driver and no matter what was going on Bob would never get out of his ambulance and take cover and his poor medical man that was with him, of course he couldn’t take cover either so he just had to sit beside him and I think his main assistant was Percy Moore, and Perc is a great bloke too with a really good sense of humour, you have to have being Bomber’s


attendant. So, or his orderly they used to call it, anyway we’re down at the big dock’s hospital, this is a big cave right down at the waterfront. That’s where all the wounded used to come into this place and wait until night time when destroyers would come in and they would, we’d take out the wounded on a lighter. It was a real dog of a job because there was always an air raid on, you’d have to go out to the


destroyer, load the wounded on to one end and they’d be off loading all the stores off the other end, and it all had to be done very quickly because if it was daylight, or if they knew a destroyer was in they’d put on a big raid anyway. And anyway there was this road down to the dock’s hospital, we’re just inside this area where we were fairly well protected and we could see Bomber coming down this hill with his ambulance, and there was a big air raid on and all


of a sudden the ambulance just disappeared ‘cause they lobbed three or four bombs all around it. Anyway we were all so terribly unhappy about it. The next thing out of all the dust and the smoke comes the ambulance still going, Bomber sitting in the front with Percy beside him, but there’s no ambulance in the back, it’s gone, been blown off, all the back of the ambulance had gone. But the ambulance was still drivable, and he drove this, looked like a tray truck,


down to the dock’s hospital.
And so he just deliberately never took, you really believe he felt no fear?
He never ever, no, he was the bravest man I ever struck. His brother wasn’t too bad either. They were twins. His brother’s name was Golly Waugh, Bomber Waugh, twins, lovely blokes. As a matter of fact Golly, that’s Ern, he got a mention in despatches for Shaggy Ridge.


Why do you think you all had to pretend that you weren’t frightened?
It’s a macho thing, isn’t it? You know what fellows are like. Nobody says they’re frightened even though they’re absolutely terrified.
Well yes. I mean you wouldn’t be human, would you,
No, that’s right.
if you weren’t terrified, no. Yes, so it’s denying a human instinct, isn’t it really?
Yes, that’s right, that’s right.


OK then, can you tell me more about the circumstances of the siege of Tobruk? I mean what were the conditions like as time went on?
Well conditions weren’t very good, especially the water was terrible, the food was very ordinary and all we used to think about most of the time was food. If you’re really hungry all the time that’s all you do think about, but we did, one night they


had this, there were four or five blokes had this dugout in the side of, we were in a place called Wadi Yoda with quite a steep sided valley and in the side. These dugouts were made by the Italians, anyway there were several of our blokes in there and I was, actually stayed a couple of nights in this dugout. I really didn’t like it, it was too claustrophobic for me, and we’d been down to the dump and got some


tins of meat and, M and V we used to call it, meat and vegetable, which was really like party time, you know, it was pretty ordinary but it was good when you had about six tins of it between about maybe four or five blokes. One was Big Bill and he was great big raw-boned typical Australian soldier, and he never used to give much of a hoot about what was going on either, but anyway we were into this


eating this food. Bill had eaten two tins himself and then he’s gone to sleep and after about half an hour he woke up and we’re still finishing off, you see, and he woke up and he said, “Bloody lot of nice mates you are, you’ve got all this food, what about me?” “Oh Bill, sorry, here’s another couple of tins.” Thanks, into the, more food for Bill. There you go.
So food was


really short?
Very short. At one time they said, “Tonight.” the rumour went around, “Tonight we’re gonna have tinned pear, tinned peaches.” Great, so everyone walked around all day thinking, “Tinned peaches, we’re gonna have that tonight.” Sounds a bit stupid but this is a fact, we really thought about tinned peaches all day. Came tea time at night time, the tinned peaches came out and there was one little segment of a peach each. Not half a peach


which wouldn’t have been too bad, we didn’t expect just a sliver of peach each, that was our great treat for the day, we enjoyed it, but anyway there you go.
When, during the siege then how often were you subject to air attack? I mean what was happening?
All the time. All the time, air raids and shelling, I’ve got a story over there which you have to read, it’s about


the siege of Tobruk and prior to us being evacuated the Germans were bringing in big field gun, big, I think they said 88 millimetre, what’s a millimetre? How big is, do you know what a millimetre is?
About that.
It’s a big gun, ‘cause I only know inches, but anyway it was 88, but a big gun and they were bringing all those up and the idea was they were going to surround the whole area with these big guns and it would’ve been real disastrous,


but fortunately Hitler attacked Russia and of course that relieved the pressure from the siege and that helped bring the siege to an end because those guns never ever came. They did bring some in and those shells would land anywhere. You’d hear boom over at the front and you wouldn’t know where the shell, somewhere go over your head, but the one you didn’t hear


landed near you.
And you wouldn’t know where that was going to land. It was very nerve-racking.
And so the bombs would be dropped day and night.
Day and night. Well the Stukas came by day and they would dive. Originally they come right down close to the ground before they actually started to pull out of their dive and drop their bomb. They had a big bomb and maybe four, I forget now, it was something like one


big bomb, four little ones on either wing and with all those screamers on, that would you know, upset anybody. That was during the day time but you had to be on their target to experience, you could actually sit and watch from a distance and know that you were quite safe because they were after a special target and if you weren’t the target it was like being at the theatre, you could watch what was going on and I, after I was


in the dug out on Wadi Yoda, I didn’t like it, I then spent the rest of that siege in my staff car up on the top of the wadi where I could see everything. I’d just look out through the window and see anything, if there was an air raid on I could look up, it’s over there, I could go to sleep again, and it was good, good for me, and so that’s what I did.
And so during all this, I mean you’d still have to do


your job and still have to be….
That’s right, work went on, you know, and the, all the medical staff they were doing a lot of work in the hospital and then sections going out with the different infantry battalions in the 18th Brigade, there was 2/9th, 2/10th, 2/12th Battalions, they were all around the place and they were getting light sections from the Field Ambulance to work with them, and that was our work


all the time.
And so you were driving, who were you driving around?
Well I had a lot of officers that I drove. I often, the colonel and then there was Captain Friend, Captain Blair, no Major Blair and Lieutenant Mason, he was our officer, drove him around quite a fair bit. But you’d never know,


they’d just say, “Matt, come on, we’ve gotta go somewhere.”
Where would you be going?
Anywhere within the perimeter. That’s why I was always sorry I never went back to Tobruk because there’s been a lot of pilgrimages have gone back to Tobruk and if I had’ve gone before I lost my eyesight I could’ve shown everybody where to go. I knew exactly where everything was, not that it was any, it was completely changed because I’ve got a video of the last


pilgrimage there, that was in 1990, that was the 50th, 1991, the 50th anniversary and one of our members went, Ron Bollard he’s now the President of the Rats of Tobruk Association, and he went and he’s on the film and Ron during the war was, he was in the workshop, he was looking after all the trucks during the war,


during the siege, and so consequently he didn’t get around as much as I did, but I got, I was all over the whole area all the time.
Well what was the size of the place?
Well I’ve got a map of it in there, I’ll show you afterwards. I’d say, put it like this, say, could you imagine Mount Waverley, not Waverley, Mount


Waverley, as big as that. Not so very big. It wouldn’t take you long to go from one end to the other, that would be like quarter of an hour’s drive any way, that’d be a quarter of an hour. You couldn’t do it but that’s what it would be like.
Well apart from the soldiers, I mean who else was in the area?
Well there was, of course there was the 18th


Brigade, plus the 9th Division which is, there’s three brigades in a division I think so there’s nine battalions in the 9th Division, three battalions in the 18th Brigade. There was the Royal Horse Artillery which were British, there were British tanks, there were Ghurkhas. The Ghurkhas were something. That bloke I was just talking about, Ernie Waugh, he became very friendly because Ernie was


dark, looked a little bit like an Indian, and he got on very well with them and they used to always invite him over to their area, but they, I don’t, I only heard the stories about them, they could be true, maybe they’re true, maybe they’re not true, about the way they used to go through the wire and open the wire and then tell the Italians to come through and then do terrible things to them. But that’s only, I don’t know whether that’s true or not. I only heard the stories.
Who was telling the stories?


This is my friend who told me, and I wouldn’t say that Ern would tell a lie, he’s not the sort of, that sort of bloke, but it is second hand and I always like to know things first hand.
Well it was an incredible experience to have, wasn’t it, to have been….
Well actually the siege of Tobruk was real warfare, there’s no doubt about that. To me that was a war. I mean people got killed in other places too but it


was different in Tobruk. Tobruk was concentrated warfare whereas jungle warfare’s not concentrated warfare.
Well what are your memories of the landscape there?
Well it’s like a moonscape. There’s very, there’s a fig tree. I don’t think, I think that’s about the only tree that I saw while I was there. There’s no grass, just rocks, sand, dust storms, plenty of dust storms.


Dust storms are terrible, and sometimes we’d have a dust storm that would last for such a long time that we’d have to, from whatever position we were, we’d get some sig [signal] wire and tie it round one bloke’s waist and say, “Now, the dump’s over there, go there.” and he, of course you couldn’t open your eyes, just had to go with your eyes closed, ‘cause you could hardly breath, you’d have a handkerchief over his mouth and he’d just keep going until he got to


the, wherever the food was and then we’d have to reel him in, the dust storms were, that was one of the worst things, the dust storms.
And did you have any protection against dust storms?
No. The Germans and the Italians had goggles, and we got some of those but we never had anything like that, but we managed to get some from


who knows where, but they were good. As a matter of fact I think Jack in that photograph up there, he’s got them on his hat, on his cap.
Well you should’ve had some protection, shouldn’t you?
We should’ve had a lot of things. Should’ve had some good food. But Jack, that, sorry, that photograph of Jack, not, that’s in the first time in Tobruk, that’s not in the siege of Tobruk, and
What was the time frame, the time difference


between, you know, the siege and when you were there first?
Well it wasn’t long because we were there for quite some weeks and then we went back to Alexandria, then we no sooner got back to Alexandria we joined the 18th Brigade at a moment’s notice and came back. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t have any film for my camera because I never had time to get any. So I didn’t really go to Alexandria while, so we weren’t there very long.
And this making up of the 18th


Brigade, I mean that was done there at Alexandria?
Well the 18th Brigade was formed in Australia
and they had a different Field Ambulance then, and when they went to England and they came back, I’m not too sure of the story but I believe that their Field Ambulance wasn’t equipped like we were, we had all our equipment. So our colonel was approached, “Could the 2/5th take the place of the other Field Ambulance?” which he did and that, we were with the 18th Brigade from


there onwards.
Well you were with the Field Ambulance but you were driving this staff car around all the time.
Well that’s all part of the Field Ambulance. We had five staff cars, about maybe six or eight ambulances and maybe 18 trucks for provisions and gear, all the equipment was in the trucks.


Well when you, why were you evacuated from Tobruk earlier than some of the others?
Well we were actually, see we’d been to Tobruk twice, the whole of the 18th Brigade was there twice and, but though we weren’t with them the first time, but they’d been in action at a place called Buq Buq before the siege and that wasn’t far from Tobruk and that was their first action where they were successful.


And of course they were completely formed before they went to Tobruk and we’d been there for longer than anybody else and General Morshead said, “Well the 18th Brigade can go out first.” and there wasn’t another opportunity to, it had to be at a special time, because it had to be in the moonless time because they couldn’t possibly


have attempted anything like a big evacuation like that, because it was over a period of nights, to bring those destroyers, there were several destroyers, there was a big mine laying cruiser and maybe, I don’t know whether there were battle ships, I think they were mainly destroyers and they had to do it over so many nights, and then when the moon came up again that’s it, all over, and then it was too late to bring them in for a second lot


although there were several convoys went in the first lot, I don’t think the convoys ever started again.
Well what brought about the change of heart? You were initially told that Tobruk would be held and there would be no surrender?
Well they didn’t, they never surrendered. They actually at the end, Tobruk was lost by the, I hope I’m not wrong, by the


South Africans, you see. When we were relieved in the first place, we were relieved by the Poles. The Polish Carpathian Brigade came and took over from us, and it was really a scream because they arrived and all they wanted to know was “Where’s the Germans?” It was the only place they had Germans, they could get to grips with the Germans because the Germans had give them such a hard time they didn’t have much time for the Germans. But then as time went on they did, Tobruk was


relieved through an action that came up from Mersa Matruh to the garrison breaking out and they met, and that’s how, it was never really lost, but then the South Africans took over and it was attacked them by Rommel prior to El Alamein and they lost it,


which was a shame, and we were up in, when that happened were in Aleppo when we heard Tobruk had fallen, a shame.
Were you aware of the extent of casualties at Tobruk?
You couldn’t help but be aware of it because you’d go past the cemetery every day and the cemetery’s got burial parties all the time. I was very aware of it, plus the fact that I had a lot to do with the hospital.


Were you ever frightened of being wounded? Did you ever think about it?
I used to think about it, just hoped it wouldn’t happen, and I was, I had that caul, didn’t I?
And were you really starving by the time you got out of Tobruk?
We were. Well as I say I got out on my 21st birthday and as we got off the boat they handed every soldier two bottles of blue label, Fosters blue label


export beer. We hadn’t had any alcohol at all. We had a little bit of alcohol at the start of the siege when we found some German cognac and the bloke that used to drive the water cart, his name was Minnie Evans and he was a bit of a character, and his job was to go to the water pump, fill his tank up with water and bring it back. So that was a very dicey job because the Germans were breaking their neck


to get the water point, and I drove it a couple of times and I didn’t like it at all, ‘cause once you got hooked up to this big tap you had to stay there, plus the fact that it was on the edge of a big dump and they were always trying to get this dump.
You’re a sitting target in a vehicle too, aren’t you really?
Oh you are, that’s right,that’s right.
Well tell me how you felt when you got on


board the ship?
What, the destroyer?
Yeah, the HMS Jervis, is that right?
Yeah, the Jervis.
Well we did that in the middle of the night and that was quite exciting really because when the destroyer, pitch dark and we’re waiting on this sort of a makeshift jetty and you could hear the engines of this ship which we didn’t know what sort of a ship it was. You could hear it coming


closer and closer, and in the darkness he came out of the gloom and he just parked like that, back up, there he was. It was really amazing to actually hear it and then finally see this grey shape come up, ran forward a bit and backed up and there it’s right in position, and they had a 44 gallon drum with a plank across to the deck and we had to get on, climb up on the 44 gallon drum on, this plank’s not very wide and we’ve got all our gear,


everything we possessed but of course all these British naval people are getting us across this frigging plank and then they took everybody down below and they gave us coffee and biscuits, all sorts of things down there. Coming out of Tobruk we’re filthy dirty, and all these crewmen they’re all spotlessly clean, we felt out of place, but they were very good. But then of course, I told you


when we got attacked they lifted up the trap door and here’s all the ammunition down below, and that was not good and I said to Jack, “If they think I’m going to stay down here, think again, we’re going up top.” So we went up with the forward gun turret and took shelter underneath them, but all the shell casings were all flying out from these, they had these big multiple, what do you call it, multiple pom poms firing all these guns like this and all shell


cases are flying out of them, but anyway.
Well how long had you been on board before you were attacked?
Well we were attacked first light of dawn, so from midnight to first light of dawn on the 27th August.
And your birthday, that was your birthday?
That was my birthday, yeah.
Right, so that’s an unforgettable 21st birthday.
Yeah, that’s right, it was really good.
So did you actually celebrate it?
Yeah, when we got on shore and they gave us


all this beer. Well of course two bottles of beer and you’re really whacked after you haven’t had anything, hardly any food and no beer for about six months, has a devastating effect. So anyway we enjoyed it.
So do you wear the description a Rat, you’re a Rat of Tobruk?
Yeah, I’ve got one of those badges there. Here’s, well behind that you’ll see a plaque, there’s a Rat of Tobruk plaque behind there.


Yes, you’re an increasingly diminishing number, aren’t you?
That’s right. Well we had our big 62nd reunion at Puckapunyal only a couple of weeks ago on Sunday. We have Tobruk Sunday during Easter and there were I think about, there were less than a hundred Rats there, the rest were all family, and we go to the Tobruk Barracks there every year, every


Easter Sunday, and they have a fig tree growing outside the mess that is supposed to be grown from a cutting from the original fig tree in Tobruk that was brought back by the first pilgrimage, which I’m not too sure about what time it was but it was many years ago.


when you got out of Tobruk, I mean how did you feel? Was there this great sense of relief or
Well I’ll tell you what happened. The day we got out of Tobruk they gave us a big meal in the camp. I forget what the name of the camp was. We were all sitting down having our meal and some clown got hold of an air raid siren, the next thing the air raid siren’s going, and of course we’re all slightly bomb happy and everybody’s running everywhere trying to find a fox hole.


It was a big joke. He nearly got killed.
When you say bomb happy?
We didn’t, slightly bomb happy, like shell-shocked.
Right. So that was really a World War Two term.
We definitely had nerves on edge after that. Six months of that you couldn’t help but have that.
Alright. Where did you go from Tobruk then?
Can I go there now.


It’s still going.
Well from Tobruk where did you go?
Back to Alexandria of course and then we, we actually went back to Palestine to camp Julis where we originally started from and then we went right, by English Army transport, right up to


Aleppo in Syria.
And what were you doing in Aleppo in Syria?
Recovering. That was our rest and recreation. We had a lot of leave in Aleppo, and it was a lovely town and we went through towns, on the way up we went though towns like Beirut, Damascus, Homs, Rasbalbeck, went past the Dead Sea, had a swim in the Dead Sea,


and yeah, and we had, and that’s where I used to go to Tel Aviv form Aleppo right down to Tel Aviv which is a long long way.
How far would it be?
Well it was two, it was an overnight trip. We used to stay at, I think it was Damascus, I’ll tell you a funny thing. When we were at Damascus we


stayed near the air strip and Jack and I went to the air, it was an airport not an airstrip, and they had this big hanger there and we went inside this hanger and they had the greatest collection of antique aeroplanes I’ve ever seen before or since and they were in mint condition. Unfortunately I didn’t have my blinking camera with me, but it was most amazing to see these ancient


aeroplanes in such good condition. I’ve often wondered, I wonder if they are still there.
Perhaps (UNCLEAR)
But Beirut, going through Beirut, Beirut is one the most beautiful towns I’ve ever been through, and of course they nearly flattened it with that big war, and as the trucks are going up to through, the outskirts of Beirut, ‘cause you must remember here’s all these blokes who’ve been in Tobruk for the last six months, haven’t seen any women, and suddenly there’s this perfume


and all these girls walking along a path all beautifully dressed ‘cause it’s a very fashionable town Beirut, it’s a sort of a, it’s not unlike a resort, for everybody over in the Middle East, and there’s all these girls walking past and the perfume and all those poor blokes are going crazy.
So did you meet any nice girls on leave then?
No. We weren’t allowed to take them out, “Australian soldier no good.” But


I know. But we did in Tel Aviv and we took out some very nice girls there, but anyway, Jack and I were in this theatre in Aleppo and they’re in boxes you see, so anyway Jack and I are sitting in this box and there’s a box beside us which was vacant. Anyway Jack got his arm around his next chair, he said, “I’m just hoping.” Anyway two of the loveliest girls


suddenly arrived and Jack said, “How about this, look at this.” and he’s trying to chat them up, you know. Of course they can’t speak any English and Jack can’t speak whatever language they did, and Jack was very determined, so he said, “We’ll see where they live.” So anyway we followed them home. They went into this big block of flats and I said, “Well that’s it, that’s the end of that.” “No, no, we’ll go and ring on the doorbell.” So we rang on the doorbell


and out came the biggest bloke you’ve ever seen in your life and he just said, “Australian soldier not welcome here.”
We didn’t go in.
Well Australian soldiers must have established a reputation for themselves.
They did, didn’t they? But one of our blokes married a girl from Aleppo, very nice girl and they were happily married, I think he’s dead and I think she’s still alive.


She’s been to our reunions over the years. They used to live at Mildura, or outside Mildura, but most of our unit came from Mildura, a lot of them came from Mildura because they had some sort of a Field Ambulance prior to the war like in the militia and I think the officers who were up there like Major Blair, he had a practice in Mildura, and he must’ve been a member and he brought a lot of them down to join the AIF [Australian Imperial Force],


so we had a lot of connection with Mildura.
How long were you at Aleppo then?
Well I think, we were there prior to Christmas 1941 and we actually, when we left Aleppo we were really going home so it must’ve been about mid year, so maybe nearly six


months. I’d have to look up our history to find out exactly how long we were there but it was a long time ‘cause Jack and I went down to Tel Aviv several times during that time and it wasn’t, you had to build up the leave for a starter, and we first of all used up so many weeks and then we used up whatever little bit we had.
And you were always with Jack.
I’ve been with Jack since the first day we started school at Gardenvale


school, he’s always been my mate.
That’s extraordinary.
We had a great friendship, yeah. He was my best man, no doubt, and we, and he came to live over the corner of Talbot Road not long after we were here. We built this house about 1953 and Jack was maybe a couple of years after that. He used to live down at Elwood and he built a two-storey house over on


the corner of Talbot Road, lovely home. Then he sold that, they were having a bit of a problem getting older and they moved into a house near the railway station, but he still wasn’t far away. As a matter of fact he was closer then when he was up there because I had the newsagents up at Mount Waverley for many many years. So we, although with the newsagency you don’t have friends because you’ve never got any time for friends ‘cause you’re either sleeping or at


work. So I lost a lot of friends, but they came back later on, but we had no social life.
Very intense, isn’t it?
Yeah, very intense. I was a Justice of the Peace up here. I was the first Justice of the Peace in Mount Waverley. I was, I was there for, they wrote me a letter not so long ago telling me I was no longer a Justice because I was over, so it must’ve been when I was 72,


said “Now you’re 72 you can’t be a Justice any longer”. So I rang them back and said, “When do I get my long service leave? My payment for long service leave.”
What was their reply?
You don’t, it’s a completely honorary thing. But I used to be forever getting the paper boys out of gaol. They were always getting into trouble, my paper boys.
Extraordinary, we’ll talk to you about that a bit later on. Is


Jack interested in, because were you with Jack for the whole of the war?
Except when he went into hospital in Deolali in India, but then he came back to the unit, he came back to the Middle East. As a matter of fact he had a real holiday coming back from India to the Middle East because there was no troop ship and he went on board this ship with, it was an English ship and they had English officers and there was only one other Australian,


‘cause Jack was a private in those days and the bloke that came back with him he was also a private, and the English officers wouldn’t even talk to them, but they had to eat in the mess with the officers, with the English officers. English officers are a bit funny, a funny mob, not like our officers. So anyway he had a great trip back and he met up with Bob Ellis. Bob Ellis was down doing


a PT [Physical Training] course down in Alexandria I think and he met up with Bob and they hitch hiked their way to Tobruk, not for the siege though, he arrived prior to the siege. I remember sitting, I was writing a letter, look out, I was writing a letter in the car and I saw this bloke coming up and I thought, it can’t be him, and it was. So anyway then he was alright then until he got to Milne


Bay. Jack was a most uncomplaining bloke, he would, he could be dying but he’d never complain. Anyway I was asleep in my tent at Milne Bay and I could see somebody walking up and down outside and I got out of bed and had a look and it’s Jack. He’s holding his head like this and I said, “What’s wrong with you?” And he said, “I don’t know.” he said, “I’ve got a real crook headache.” and I said, “How bad?”


And he said, “Pretty bad.” and I thought it must be bad, so I said, “Come on.” so I took him down to one of the officers and I said, “Have a look at Jack, there’s something wrong with him.” He had a mastoid in his ear. So the doctor said, “You’re on the Manunda. The Manunda is in, you can now go home on the Manunda tomorrow.” So I took him down to the Manunda and off he went. That was a hospital ship, and the hospital ship was in Milne Bay when the


An Chung was sunk and the Japanese cruiser that sank it went over and told the hospital ship to nick off, which was pretty good ‘cause they usually sank them, you know. It went off the other side of the harbour and then they turned the search light on the An Chung and sank it, which was a good move by the Japanese because they’d just had a very sound thrashing in Milne Bay. It was a big defeat.
Well that’s an interesting


incident to relate about the Japanese because we usually hear negative stories.
That’s right, well that was good and I know that happened. It was really good because look, they sank, what did they sink, the Vyner Brooke and the, with all those sisters, nursing sisters on, then killed all the sisters. There were two, what was the other one, the Vyner Brooke and the, what was it?
Empire Star?
I’m not too sure about that.


Well you could be right. But their record wasn’t good, but it was good then.
OK, well there are a couple of points that you were going to talk about the storm in the Red Sea before.
That’s when I got sick. That’s when I had that stone in the kidney.


Is that it?
Yeah. Well I’ll tell you what, we’re just coming to the end of this tape
now so we’ll finish there and we’ll save that up for Monday.
Interviewee: Matt Hogan Archive ID 0055 Tape 05


OK Matt, well we’re going to go back to when you first arrived in the Middle East
and you were at camp Julis
That’s right.
and the incident with the Arabs trying to steal the guns.
That’s right. Well what actually happened we were told before we went to bed at night time we had to strap our rifles to our legs, hide our bayonets and anything else like that to keep it out of reach of


people that would come into the camp. I believe they were in, stark naked covered in grease so they’re very hard to catch them, but they still came into the camp and took several rifles and bayonets while the men were still asleep and they didn’t even know what had happened, so anyway a couple of days later they sent for me to take the colonel and a couple of other officers down to this next village, Arab village,


and so anyway we went down there and I pulled the car up in the, sort of the courtyard in the village and they went inside and they’d been gone for quite some time and I realised that gradually the car was being surrounded by Arabs, male Arabs, and fortunately I’d locked all the doors and windows before when the officers had gone and they surrounded my car


and started to rock it, like this, and banging on the windscreen and shouting Arab words that I didn’t understand at me, but they didn’t sound too good, and fortunately the Palestine police arrived and the officers came back and saved my bacon, but it was a very dicey situation.
Well what was their motive? Do you, I mean
Well, they just
didn’t they like Australians being there?


They didn’t like us not letting them come and pinch our rifles, I’d say that would be it.
And how did they manage to get into the camp? There must’ve been guards on duty.
Well they, ‘cause they’d know the place. They’d know everything about everything there, although that’s where they lived, and as a matter of fact then, the very next night I was given a job as a guard on the transports and during my term as guard which was usually two hours on and four hours off,


and I was sitting on the tailboard of one of the trucks and I could see two or three Arabs sneaking around the edge of this big garage and I had a loaded rifle with a bayonet in it but I didn’t really feel like shooting anybody, and I thought, well the best thing I could do is try and frighten them, so I slid off the tailboard and rushed forward with the rifle yelling at the top of my voice. I didn’t realise


there was a big bar right across the middle of the garage and I got it right in the mouth and knocked myself absolutely cold and I don’t know how long I was out for, but it was maybe 10 minutes and I came to and I had blood all over me, fortunately no teeth.
So you didn’t lose any teeth?
No, very lucky. I had a very thick lip for a long time.
You were very fortunate, weren’t you?
Very fortunate.
Well alright. We’ll move on a little now


because you came back to camp Julis, didn’t you, after
That’s right, we came back to camp Julis after we left Syria and we stayed there a little while and we, I took a couple of officers into Jerusalem a couple of times and I was able to, I was very lucky because I could take the officers into a town like Jerusalem and they’d leave me and say, “Well Matt, come back and pick us up at about 10.00 o’clock, 11.00 o’clock at night.”


and I had the car and I could drive anywhere in the car so I did a lot of sightseeing on my own which was very handy.
What about social life when you were there, did you have any?
No, not really because we didn’t know anybody that was there but we did have several leaves into Jerusalem and the other town. We had leaves to, we didn’t have any leaves,


the first time we were there. We had leaves to Jerusalem but never to Tel Aviv. That came later on when we’d been to, when we were up in Syria at Aleppo. We’d drive all the way down, it’s a long way, an overnight trip down to Tel Aviv, but our social life wasn’t great until we started to go to, that’s when Jack and I used to go down to Tel Aviv, we had a great social life then.
And what about, what did you really think about


the Arab people? I mean did you have opinions of them?
Well I’ve never had an opinion against anybody. I always say live and let live and they were there and we were in their land so if they weren’t very happy with, well that was their problem. I really didn’t mind them at all. The Arabs that used to come into the camp, you know, I got on with them the same as everybody else did.
When did you find out that you were


leaving the region and heading back to Australia?
Well that, I’m not too sure exactly the time, but it would be around about March 1942 because we spent Christmas 1941 in Aleppo. As a matter of fact the 2/5th Field Ambulance put on, I wasn’t there but I’ve only heard


about this, they put on a big party for the kids of Aleppo and it was a howling success. Jack and I were down in Tel Aviv when all this happened and we were given a great Christmas by the Jewish people that we met although it was, there’s no such thing as a Jewish Christmas as far as I know, but they treated us very very well.
What did they do for you, what
Well they put on a big Christmas party for us


and wanted us to hang up our stockings so we’d have something in our stocking in the morning, and oh no, they treated us marvellously well.
What was in your stockings in the morning?
I think cigarettes. That’s when I used to smoke. Everybody smoked in those days.
Well this is early in 1942, had you heard anything about Pearl Harbour, the Fall of Singapore,


the bombing of Darwin?
That’s right, that hadn’t, I’m not too sure of the dates of that particular, when Pearl Harbour happened but it
That was December ’41.
I noticed that when we were heading for Aleppo, Syria, in late 1941 we started to see jeeps which we’d never seen before so the Americans must’ve been moving around at that time. I don’t


remember seeing any Americans, I do remember seeing American jeeps and American vehicles.
But you hadn’t heard what had happened though?
Not really. We, I just can’t remember hearing anything about Pearl Harbour at that particular time. Maybe I did.
Were you getting any letters from home at this stage?
There was, sometimes there was a fair length of time between letters because we were moving around a lot at that


time. Well when we came back to Alexandria we were there not for very long then we came back to Julis. We went from Julis up to Aleppo and we were driven up to Aleppo by the English Army. We were in the English Army Bedford trucks.
And did you get the chance to write to anyone at home?


Well I did, I wrote as often as I could. As a matter, a funny thing happened about me writing letters. Can I go back to Tobruk for a minute?
I didn’t realise but my colonel, Colonel Green, he was our original colonel, he was a very good friend of my Uncle Alf’s. They both lived at Moonee Ponds and I had no idea of this and later on I started to think why certain things happened to me that were a little bit unexplainable, you know.


So anyway I, when I took Weary Dunlop up to Bardia and then went back to Alexandria and then back to Tobruk it was quite some time and I really didn’t have any time to write any letters and after we got settled in Tobruk I still hadn’t written any letters and I got word from the colonel he wanted to see me. So anyway I went to see him, “Yes sir, what would you like?” He said, “When’s the last time you wrote to your mother?” “I’m not


too sure, maybe a fair while.” He said, “Well here’s a pen and here’s a pad, go and write her a letter and bring it back to me so that I know that it’s been posted.” And I said, “Yes, and how did you get any news about my mother?” He said, “Because your dad is, his brother is a very good friend of mine.” So he said, “You just watch what you’re up to now because I’m keeping an eye on you for your Uncle Alf from now onwards.”


And did that inspire you to write more regularly?
I didn’t stop writing. I was writing letters every night.
Well that was an incredible act, wasn’t it?
I used to, after that, it really needed, I needed the jolt and I used to write, of course my mother was, you know, quite concerned about not hearing from me and, so anyway, and I used to hate not receiving letters from anybody anyway and sometimes there was a long


time between receiving letters as well as when you posted them home they didn’t get home for a long time. Everything was by sea of course.
Well what sort of writing materials, who gave you the writing materials? Were they issued to you?
Well the writing materials were usually given to us by the Salvation Army. They always had the Red Shield up in the corner, and then you had to write a letter, it had to be censored, and bits cut out of it when you’d said things you weren’t supposed to say.
And what sort of pens did you


use? Did you use pens or pencils?
We didn’t use ballpoint pens. Ballpoint pens hadn’t been invented. When I left the Australian Women’s Weekly to go to war they presented me with an Onoto pen, beautiful pen and I used to write a pretty good hand but unfortunately with my problem I really can’t write at all, but anyway the day I left Tobruk


to be evacuated in that destroyer, when I got on the destroyer I put my hand in my pocket and I realised I left my beautiful Onoto pen in the glove box of the car and that was it.
You never got it back?
And when you say, was it a fountain pen?
Fountain pen.
And so did the fountain pens then have cartridges in them or
No, had to have ink.
did you have to fill them up out of the ink bottle?
You had to have ink.
So you had ink.
I don’t think we ever had cartridges. I can’t remember having,


when I got that newsagency after the war, that’s the first time I’d ever seen cartridges for pens.
And when was that, what year was that again?
When I got the newsagency?
We’ve jumped ahead here
That was 1958.
And I was there for nearly 30 years.
Well anyway we’ll go back to camp again and we’ll go back to when you heard that you’re going to board the ship to head back


to, did you know where you were heading to?
No. We were hoping we were going home but we really didn’t know and the name of the ship was the Thai Yin and it was only a tramp steamer. We loaded our vehicles on to it at, I think it was Port Said, I don’t think we went down the Suez. I remember driving down beside the Suez and seeing ships,


looked as if they were just sailing in the sand because all you could see was sand and a ship going past without the water, very unusual site.
Must’ve been an extraordinary sight.
It was so.
This is the whole of the 7th Division is being moved out?
Yes, that’s right, and it was a big convoy. I can’t remember all the names of the ships but there was a New Amsterdam, the New Holland, I think the Queen Mary was part of it, several tramp steamers like the one that I was on.


Tramp steamer would only do about 10 knots but it was alright. It broke down all the time but we weren’t concerned although there must’ve been submarines around and we weren’t really in the convoy, we came home independently. We had no escort at all at any time.
That’s right. All the way home from, right through the Red Sea, around the corner into the Great Australian Bight to, and we stopped


briefly at Perth to let off a couple of blokes and then we went around to Adelaide. We all disembarked at Adelaide.
So you didn’t come back via Colombo?
No, the only port that the Thai Yin stopped at was Kushan in India. That’s the only port until we got to Fremantle.
And did you have leave there?
No. No, I didn’t get any leave. There was no leave at all


until we’d actually been to Tenterfield. Had a big convoy from Adelaide up to Tenterfield and they we got five, pardon me, five days leave.
So how would you compare the trip back to the one over?
No comparison. The Mauritania was a beautiful ship and the food was good,


and everything about it was good, the accommodation was excellent, and I spent most of the time coming back on the Thai Yin on the hatch, on the hatch of the hold with a big four wheel drive yellow, they used to call them a CAS, I’m not too sure what CAS meant, but a big yellow truck and I was underneath it and it used to go three inches forward and three inches back because that’s the way


the ropes would let it go that far, and I stayed underneath that truck until we turned the corner into the Great Australian Bight and ran into some pretty rough sea and I thought this truck’s got a good show of ending up over the side with it, so I then went down below to where all the other fellows were.
So what made you stay under the truck?


it was beautiful nights and days and it was like a pleasure cruise except we were at war. It was really lovely.
So you were perfectly comfortable then?
Perfectly comfortable, I had a blanket to lie on, my kit bag for a pillow and there was plenty of room under the truck and it was just lovely. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
And where was Jack.
Unfortunately Jack wasn’t with me. I think he was on the New


Amsterdam, I’m just not too sure. Most of the, see we had vehicles on board the Thai Yin but all, most of the troops without the vehicles went on the other passenger ships and Jack was on one of those. I did see the ship that they were on when we pulled into Kushan Harbour. We were, we stayed there for maybe a couple of days and we used to dive overboard into the


harbour and swim until the Harbour Master came along in his boat and said, “I don’t think I’d do that if I were you fellows because the abattoirs are just down the river a bit.” and he said, “The place is full of sharks.” So anyway he said, “Well you can take one of the boats.” one of the lifeboats, and we let them down, “And you can go for a row in it and fill in your time that way.” So they let this lifeboat


down and we all got in it, and the mate that I had was a member of the 70th ASC and during the, talking to him I found out that he was actually, he used to row for Geelong in the Head of the River and he was actually, what do they call that bloke up the front, the, not the cox, he’s at the back, stroke, the stroke, and so I said to Jack, I said, “Look you go.” This isn’t Jack Harmer, this is


another Jack. I said, “You, you’re the stroke, you can get up the front.” So we let this thing down, got it into the water, took it off the davits and it sank. The whole, it was all clinker built and the water was just pouring in, and fortunately we were able to get it back and get it on to the davits again and then they pulled it up and there was water pouring out all over the place, so we didn’t do any more of that.
Well that was probably understandable, but when you


were on the way home, did you know anything about the discussion that was going on about where the troops of the 7th Division should go?
No, we really didn’t know, but after the, some of the men must’ve known more than I knew because they did say that we, at one time we were off the coast of either Timor or Java and I don’t recall that at all, and


we stopped there for a while and didn’t go ashore, fortunately otherwise we would’ve gone straight into the birdcage, into the POW camp, and so then we set, got away from there and went straight to Adelaide.
OK, so you disembarked in Adelaide.
We knew all about the Japanese by this time, yeah.
Right, OK. So you got that, who gave you the news of the Japanese then?
Well, see we used to have radios


and if you had the time to listen to a radio you’d pick up the news, the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] news mainly.
This was March, wasn’t it? No, it would’ve been getting into April.
Well I’m not too sure but I’d say
give it a month or two March or April, that’s right.
OK, so you’re back in Adelaide and where do you go from there?
Well this is when we had this big convoy going up to Tenterfield, and I


was the colonel and the colonel was the batman.
Well can you describe this convoy? Can you give us a picture of what it was like?
Well it was very good because all, see we actually went, I’m not a hundred per cent sure of the exact route because I’d never travelled around Australia before in my life and I can remember going through places like Bordertown,


Seymour, we went right up through Coonabarabran, maybe Dubbo.
So you’re on the Newell Highway.
Yeah, something like that. All inland, and every town we went to all the ladies of the town turned out and gave us a great big, we’d pull up in a big like a football


field or something because it as a pretty big convoy, there’d be hundreds and hundred of vehicles and we’d pull up there and they’d put on a big show for us in the local hall. The girls would all come out, we’d have a dance and they’d put on a marvellous supper for us and it was absolutely marvellous.
Well can you tell us what sort of vehicles were in the convoy?
Just about every sort. There was, well I was driving a staff car and
Can you tell me what make and model the staff car


Well it would’ve been a Chevy, it was a Chevy, American Chevy, be about 1938 I think, maybe ’38, ’39, a much better car than I used to drive ‘cause I used to drive a Prefect. This could go like the clappers, all those Chevy sixes are great, and of course we had all the ambulances, we had the 30 hundredweight trucks and utilities and three ton trucks,


so forth.
Well how long did it take you to get to Tenterfield? Can you remember?
Well I’d say nearly two weeks, maybe three weeks, bit hard to remember that, but it was a fair while.
And OK, the destination Tenterfield, why Tenterfield?
Well we stayed at Tenterfield and we were doing some training there and that
And what sort of training?
Mainly marching. Just, see we’re not like the infantry.


The infantry would be, they’d be training with their guns and taking cover and that sort of stuff whereas we didn’t do that, we had guns but we weren’t like the infantry.
Well what was the point of marching?
Just to get tough. We’d march miles and miles and miles, 50 miles in a day with all our gear. It was very good you know, got very fit.
What did they


feed you with, on I should say?
On the march mainly bully beef, biscuits, tinned fruit, not too bad, M and V. We used to call it goldfish, that’s herrings, herrings in tomato sauce. It’s not too bad as long as you don’t have too many of them.
Well, so how long do you reckon, can you remember how long you were


in Tenterfield?
Well we were there and we actually came down from Tenterfield to have our three days, our five days leave before we actually went to Milne Bay, so we didn’t have much leave between coming over from the Middle East and going back into action.
So you’re training for Milne Bay
That’s right.
with more marching, with marching?
Mainly, and of course the medical men they’d be doing all their medical work


and I never had much to do with that so I really didn’t know much about, I knew how to drive a truck or whatever I was driving but the orderlies, you know, the stretcher bearers they had all their training to do with their stretchers and carrying blokes here there, and it’s all, the training all means to make you fitter. That’s the main point of it.
OK. Well what did you do with your leave?
Well that’s, I think I told you what, when,


the first night we arrived on leave I ended up in the Melbourne Gaol, and then that story about that, yeah. The leave didn’t take long to go, five days isn’t very long when you haven’t got a lot of fun, except I nearly ended up spending all mine in the stockade.
Alright. So then you took off for Milne Bay.
That’s right. Well I was in the


rear party and we lived for about, the best part of two weeks in the back of a truck at Ascot racecourse in Brisbane, and then we finally went on the An Chung to Milne Bay and of course the An Chung was sunk just after we arrived there.
And so what was the purpose of going to Milne Bay?
Well that was the first time that the Japs had actually been beaten anywhere and


that was by the 18th Brigade and that was a big honour for them, and it was pretty savage fighting, you know, it was, I really didn’t see much of the fighting at all because I was in the rear guard and it was virtually all over by the time I got there, and the only real thing that I experienced at Milne Bay was after the, after it was all over and the Japs had been defeated we were in bed one night


and a lone Japanese plane came over and dropped a stick of bombs and I was, I wasn’t asleep, I was awake and I could hear these bombs coming down and I didn’t know how many he was going to drop and I started to count them and I got up to about eight and I thought “This is getting pretty close, they’re getting closer and closer.” and then I realised the next one was coming would probably land in our tent, and I screamed out at the top of my voice, “Hit the deck, this one’s coming


inside.” and fortunately the day before we’d chopped down a coconut tree and this bomb landed just in front of this tree, there was the log of the tree was there and the big stump, and it landed there and blew our tent from over our head, there was no, the tent was completely gone and fortunately nobody got hit. It was a real miracle.
So what was the work that you were doing in


Milne Bay? You were, were you still….
I did a lot of ambulance driving in Milne Bay. I didn’t do any staff car driving because it was a very difficult place to drive around because there was that much rain all day nearly every day and the place was just a quagmire so I did a lot of ambulance driving there and I used to go over around the different battalions picking up their, not their wounded, but their sick men, bringing them into the hospital, taking them down to the


hospital ships and putting them on board there and that’d be my main job.
So what was happening to the wounded then?
Well the wounded were coming into, we had a hospital there, not a full hospital, but a sort of an RAP I think they used to call it, Regimental Aid Post sort of hospital and our blokes, our doctors would treat them there, then we’d take them from there


down to the CCS, that’s the Casualty Clearing Station, and they’d be housed there for a little while because the trouble was in Milne Bay everybody had malaria. We came virtually from the desert in our desert gear, shorts, short sleeved shirts and we were like smorgasbord for the mosquitoes, and there were tons of them there. There was a hundred per cent casualty with malaria, they just couldn’t


put them all in, anybody got malaria stayed in his own tent and was treated by our own doctors, but it was a big serious problem.
So you hadn’t been re-equipped with any new uniforms to go?
No. No, we were still in our desert gear. We were taking first of all quinine and that would give you as though you’d been on the grog for about a week and this singing, like bells ringing in your head all the time, then they switched from quinine to


Atebrin. Atebrin wasn’t too bad except that made you yellow, or your skin became yellow.
Well did you get malaria?
Yes, I did. I had two or three bouts of malaria before I came home. I even ended up with a bout of malaria at Heidelberg Hospital after the war, but that’s the last one that I had.
Well you were reasonably fortunate then because
Yeah, that’s right.
it apparently (UNCLEAR) many years too.
Some of them, some of the blokes had some really serious things. A friend of mine, Dennis


Joy, he had dengue fever and he was seriously ill and we actually left him in Milne Bay when he would’ve gone home to Australia I think, I’m just guessing now, probably on one of the hospital ships like the Manunda or something like that, but he was very very ill, and some of the other blokes were really ill too.
Well I was wondering, I mean it must’ve been a huge change to come from the Middle East
It was, totally different.
and then to the tropics?
Totally different, totally different. Milne


Bay was just like a rain forest with rain all the time. Everything was soaked, all your boots got mildew, your clothes got mildew and it was just hopeless and all the blankets on your bed were damp all the time.
And what were you sleeping in there, were you in tents?
We had tents, and that bombed that landed ripped the tent off. I’ve got a photograph of it which is just over there on the table.
Well did


you come across any Japanese when you were in Milne Bay?
Well there was a story but I don’t think I want to talk about it, but I, there were some terrible things happened to the 2/10th Battalion in Milne Bay and that’s in the, I didn’t have personal experience with it but it’s in the book of Milne Bay Battle and it was very very serious. The atrocities were terrible.


Were they? So you never actually then encountered Japanese face to face?
No. We used to every night when we first got there we used to sit out in the jungle on these listening posts and fortunately all we ever got, we got the life frightened out of us by the pigs that were wandering around all the time, and you wouldn’t really know what they were, pigs or Japanese, you wouldn’t


know. It was rather unnerving to say the least.
Well how long were you there at Milne Bay then, Matt?
Well we were there for Christmas 1943 and when my brother-in-law’s Field Ambulance came and relieved us I think that was about March 1940,


I could be a bit wrong with these dates. I think it was Christmas
Do you think it might be ’42?
Christmas ’42 maybe, yeah. Yeah, Christmas ’42 and they relieved us about March ’43.
Well you were there for quite a few months.
We were, we were there quite a few months, yeah.
OK, so after there what happens?
Well, when Victor’s mob relieved


us we went home on the same ship that he came up on, a ship called the Narzik.
Victor’s mob?
That’s my wife’s brother. My future brother-in-law as he was then but I didn’t know that, and we went home on the same ship that brought him. I think we went home to Townsville, and then from Townsville we went up on the Atherton Tableland to a, to Ravenshoe,


and from Ravenshoe we were given either three or four weeks leave that was due to us back in Melbourne and it was really great.
So how did you spend that leave?
Well it was quite exciting. I can remember going down on this, I used to, as soon as I go on a train I used to make a bee-line for the luggage rack and that was my spot for the trip, ‘cause it used to take a fair while to go from Ravenshoe right down to Melbourne because you had to take,


you’d go in the small gauge train down to Cairns and Cairns down to Brisbane another train, Brisbane to Sydney another train, from Sydney to Melbourne another train, Sydney to Seymour, then from Seymour to Melbourne ‘cause, or Albury wasn’t it, that’s right Albury. A lot of trains.
And you were in the luggage rack?
That’s great. I could sleep then all the time. I’d get down and play cards with the blokes


during the day. At night time back in the luggage rack. And one, as we pulled into one station one night and Jack and I got out and the ladies of the town used to always put on coffee and cake and really great, you know, and anyway this was Dubbo. I don’t know how we got to get to Dubbo, but it was Dubbo, and people have told me that I’m wrong but I always reckon it was Dubbo because I had relatives


at Dubbo. Anyway
Had you taken a side trip or something on the way down?
Must’ve, I think to avoid, you know, something to do with the war, you know, and everything was supposed to be a secret. Anyway we got out of the train and we got our coffee and more coffee, not coffee, what is it, chocolate, you know, anyway whatever it was, it was a slice of cake and everything and so we went back on the train and I climbed up in my luggage rack


and went to sleep and sometime woke up and the train would be going along and I’d think, won’t be long now, another couple of nights and we’ll be in Melbourne. Anyway I woke up when it was daylight and the train pulled into a station and I looked out under the window so I could see. Where do you reckon we were? Dubbo. We’d been out in the rail lines, in the rail yards all night backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. Very disappointing.
Well anyway,


you eventually got to Melbourne.
So what did you do on your leave? Why was it so good?
Well, I had been there briefly. I told you about that before when my mother gave me the big welcome home. I’m not blaming mother for that, that’s what the Hogan’s are like, very undemonstrative. Anyway, well I had to go, a lot of relations, went down to see them. My grandmother was alive at the time, went to see her and all her daughters, all my aunts. I had a lot


of maiden aunts and we had some big family gatherings. It was really great.
How did they greet you? I mean did they want you to talk about your war experience or did they think you looked well?
I will admit to this, in those days I really couldn’t talk about it, yeah, really funny, and I didn’t want to talk about it and it was just very strange, and it wasn’t until after the war was over that I could


then, once I settled down and got back into civilian life I could talk. I used to talk about it to my kids and they loved it, you know.
Well did you know why you couldn’t talk about it and what was….
Well it must’ve been something to do with the experiences were pretty severe, you know, not that I, I wasn’t fighting anybody or doing anything like that but I had a lot of close shaves.
Yes. I was thinking about what did you think about


the Japanese? I mean when you’d heard of the Japanese atrocities.
Didn’t really like the Japanese, not at all, and I can’t understand the POWs of the Japanese now even saying that they can forgive them. I don’t know about that. Now I think if I’d been a prisoner I don’t think I could’ve forgiven them. I’m a pretty forgiving person but there are things that went on in the war that I didn’t really like.
Well by this stage what was your health like?


I was pretty healthy nearly all, I had malaria, plenty of malaria. I had a lot of trouble with my leg ‘cause that was, if I knocked it wouldn’t heal in the jungle it would get, I had a lot of ulcers on it.
So you got ulcers up in the jungle, did you?
No, see, can I show you my leg?
Yeah. That’s right, yes, yes, that’s right, of course, yes.
I nearly lost it but that wasn’t caused by the war.
No, no.
It was caused by the motor bike,


but it was, it’d only just been fixed by the time I joined the army, and as soon, wasn’t too bad in the Middle East, in the desert it was quite good, but up in, especially in Milne Bay it was hopeless, and up on, anywhere in the jungle it wasn’t too good at all. It would get ulcers and they wouldn’t heal. But I never ever had time off for having a crook leg, I had time


off for having malaria.
Alright Matt, well we’ll stop the tape there. We’ve just come to the end of it and we just need
Interviewee: Matt Hogan Archive ID 0055 Tape 06


OK Matt, you were on leave in Melbourne.
And you’d been visiting your relatives.
That’s right, I had
And what else did you do?
Well not much other than go around partying for about thee or four weeks, which was as good as you’d want to do, you know, all that good food at home and everybody wanting to fill you up with good food, great.
And so they were obviously then all really pleased to see you.
Very pleased. I had a big family, there were the Stewarts,


that’s my mother’s family and we had cousins, the Moores and we were just one big family. We’d always been a close family ‘cause dad’s family, that’s the Hogans, they, I had an Uncle Alf in Moonee Ponds, most of his family were up at Bourke, Cunnamulla, Brewarrina, places like that because they were all outback people. Dad was a drover and he had a, he


managed a station called “Thargaminda” for quite some time before he married my mother, and I think he wanted to take mum back to “Thargaminda” but mother had great, all she could visualise was corrugated iron houses and she wasn’t really very keen on that, so she never ever went.
Well at the end of your leave where did you, you had to go back again to
That’s right, we reported


to Royal Park and then went by train into the city and then train from Spencer Street on the long trip back to Ravenshoe.
And just one question before we go back up there. I mean what were the people in Melbourne talking about? Can you remember what the topics of conversation were then?
Not a great deal about the war. They were mainly going crook about, because they had rationing. That was a big problem. But they


were very pleased. We brought some ration things home with us for petrol and everybody wanted to have those ration cards for petrol.
So it was the petrol than rather say the tea or the….
That’s right.
There were clothing rations too.
Everything was rationed, and they’d say, it’s alright for you blokes up there, we’re getting nothing down here. And I said, “Well don’t worry about that, we’re not getting anything either”. “Where’s all our tinned fruit and so on?” “None”.


So when you came home there were no marches through the city or anything like that?
No, no, the only marches I did was when we came home from Shaggy Ridge we had a big, the 70th did a big march through Brisbane, that was quite good, I enjoyed that.
Well anyway, you go back up to Ravenshoe again.
And so what do you do there?
Well at Ravenshoe we did some more training of course, which you always


And what sort of training this time?
Just the same, you know, picking up sick blokes from the battalion, taking them to the different hospitals and things like that, not very interesting stuff, but it was alright.
But you, were you trained to drive all sorts of vehicles?
I had my, I wasn’t actually trained to drive the different vehicles, I just knew. I’d been a driver since I was 14 and I


always considered I never had any trouble driving any sort of vehicle. I could drive a semi-trailer or a big 10 ton truck, a jeep, and my licence was endorsed to drive all these sort of things and when I came, when I finally finished with the war my dad had kept my civilian licence going which was only 5 shillings a year, and so I said, “Well I don’t need the army one”.” and I threw it away but in years to come


I thought well that’s a stupid thing to do because I had an idea that I was going to get a big caravan, like a semi-trailer caravan and I needed a semi-trailer licence to drive it, and I took some lessons out at, a place out at Preston, drove into the city all around, up and down all the lanes and I was just about to go for the licence and the bloke that was teaching me smashed the truck up and I never went on


with it. But it didn’t matter, I didn’t do it anyway.
Well in the army then they didn’t sort of put you on particular vehicles and test you on them to see whether you could drive them properly? There was no sort of testing?
They really didn’t. Well I think it was a case of, see there is a book out called The 70th ASC, it’s a blind column and as a matter of fact I was looking at it with my enlarger only this morning and it’s


got quite a bit about training to drive different vehicles, and I thought, well I never trained to drive anywhere, I just got in it and drove it, and it seemed to just come naturally to me, but in, if I was in the 70th ASC no doubt I would’ve had the training and been taken to have a, get a licence on whatever vehicle they wanted me to drive. But things were a little bit, in our unit were very laid back.


Yes, I’m getting that impression.
That’s right. Well we were all a lot, we were only just like a lot of mates, you know, the NCOs [Non Commissioned Officers] and the officers and it was a good way to be.
Yes, that’s what I was going to ask you about, your relationships with the other officers there,
It was very good.
the NCOs and your officers.
Very, very good.
So you never ever had any problems with
Not really.
taking orders or


No, no not at all.
You were given a job and that’s what you did and, you know, did it to the best of your ability and so there it was.
So you didn’t come across anyone you didn’t get on with in your unit?
Well maybe one or two, but I, there weren’t many people that I had, the ones that I really didn’t get on with were the Yanks that were belting the living daylights out of me in Brisbane. I didn’t get on with them very well.
Well can you


tell us that story now that you’ve mentioned it?
Well Ernie Waugh and Bob Ellis any myself, we were in the Salvation Army building having coffee and biscuits or coffee and cake. We’d been there for a while and we had to come down the stairs onto the street. Anyway as we came down the stairs there were about fifteen American sailors just standing on the edge of the footpath. We didn’t take any notice of them but the next thing


I’m on the ground. Someone had donged me one and nearly knocked me cold and of course then I went to get up, somebody else donged me again and I’m down again. That happened two or three times. I thought the best thing I could do was stay down on the ground because every time I get up somebody hits me, and I could see then Ernie and Bob were really pasting the, we called them the enemy at the time because they were the enemy, but anyway we were really getting a really good hiding.


Fortunately the American shore patrol arrived in a couple of jeeps with these big burly naval police. I don’t know what they call them, Shore Police or something like that, and they piled out of their jeeps and they had these great big what they call night sticks, like a big waddy, and they immediately started to beat the hell out of the American sailors, and I thought well I’m not gonna get up because if I get up one of them might belt me over the head


with one of those sticks so I stayed where I was, and then police arrived and quietened things down and the police said, “Well you Aussies, we’re very sorry this has happened.” and you know, “It won’t happen again, we’ll fix these blokes up, they’ll spend so long in the cooler.” and so forth, anyway there you are. But it wasn’t funny while it lasted.
I can imagine it wouldn’t have been. Well did that change your attitude towards Americans?
Not really,


because when I came home on one leave I went around to the Smiths’ house and it’s full of American soldiers so I just had to like them, but they were really nice blokes anyway. Unfortunately it wasn’t long after that they were in Guardalcanal and I think they all lost their lives, but they were very nice blokes.
But there was tension, wasn’t there between Australians and Americans in Australia?
There was, well that actually happened on a train that I was on going down to Melbourne and


this train pulled up beside another train going, we were going back to the Atherton Tableland and the American train was going towards Melbourne and the Americans started to say nasty things about, “We’ll look after your, all your lady friends while you’re away.” and that was not a very good thing to say, and there was going to be a big fight but fortunately the powers that be realised what was happening and moved our


train so it could have been very nasty.
Yes, that’s absolutely fascinating to hear that one too, yeah. Alright, well now tell me where do you go from the Atherton Tableland.
Well I’ve got to work out where I am now. I’m up at Ravenshoe, from there we went to, went to Shaggy Ridge after that, because we’d been, no, I’m sorry, I’ll have to


back track a bit there, we went to, before we went to Shaggy Ridge we went to Port Moresby, and
Right, and how did you get there?
By ship and I couldn’t tell you the name of that ship if I tried. I can’t remember. That one’s gone out of my memory. But anyway we were there for a while and we were doing some training too, as the usual training, and we were actually camped on the side of a hill overlooking the airstrip. I forget what the


name of the airstrip was, but anyway it was a very busy airstrip and every night I’d be in my tent and I could look right down. All our Field Ambulances were all camped on the slope of this hill and we were right on the top of the slope and I could watch the planes tearing down the airstrip and then they’d turn left and fly out to sea, and this particular night I was watching this big Liberator. A Liberator is a big aeroplane, a big bomber. It’s four engines and


it’s tearing down the airstrip and turned right instead of left, right straight up and it’s coming straight towards my tent and fortunately it managed to stay in the air, if it had crashed where all our men were they would’ve almost wiped out the whole of the Field Ambulance, and it flew right over our tent and blew the tent to smithereens and crashed into this mountain behind us killing everybody


on board and it was full of ammunition, bombs, it was, bombs were going off all night and we didn’t actually go up till the following morning and it was a terrible sight to see, there were no, nobody was alive.
And how many crew on a Liberator?
Well I’m not too sure but a fair few I think, there’d be, I reckon there’d be ten, maybe more, I don’t know, and then the next night or maybe a couple of nights later,


I think it was the 2/30th Battalion but I could be wrong here, they were on trucks nose to tail at the end of the strip coming on board to go into action and another Liberator crashed on taking off on to these trucks and it was terrible.
Do you think there was any fault with the aircraft or was it pilot error?
Who knows, you know, so many people were killed


it just, no doubt there was an inquiry but I wouldn’t know about, and another thing happened on that airstrip, a mate of mine that was in Newspaper House, worked in Newspaper House, his name was Noel Manor and he was in the, I think it was the 2/5th Battalion so he was one of the original army that went to, went away in the 6th Division, so he was in the Middle East long before I was there and I saw him a couple of


times in the Middle East and he was a rifleman in the 2/5th Battalion and when I met him on the airstrip he said, “Oh Matt.”he said, “No more rifleman for me now, I‘ve got a job in intelligence.” and he said, it’s only paperwork from here on, and he got on the plane, got on a DC3 to go to, I think they were going from Nadzab and when they landed


they were under fire and he was killed.
You hear so many stories like that, don’t you?
That’s right. So I went back and ‘cause nobody, when I had the next leave I went to Newspaper House and he used to work for the Woman’s Day, I think it was the Woman’s Day, the Bulletin and maybe New Idea and maybe another couple of magazines, they were on the


fifth floor I think they were, and we were on the second floor. They didn’t know anything about it and I went up and told them the sad story.
Well from Port Moresby then you organised yourselves for this operation on Shaggy Ridge?
That’s right. Well we flew from Port Moresby to Shaggy Ridge.
Was that your first flight ever?
No, I’d had a few flights before I actually joined the army. I used to ride my bike ‘cause we had a lot to do


with the gliders so I sort of had flying in my mind and I used to ride my pushbike from Caulfield out to Essendon and pay five shillings for a half hour flight in a bi-plane, an old bi-plane and the pilot let you fly it once you got up, flying in the air, it was great.
Gee, what great fun.
It was really good. So


I would’ve like to have joined the airforce but it just didn’t happen, and
That’s interesting. You would’ve liked, so why didn’t you apply? Did you apply to join?
Well when we first went to the recruiting office, Jack Harmer and I and another bloke went, we just didn’t think about the airforce and we thought, well for instance I didn’t think I’d ever become


a pilot because my education standard wasn’t high enough. I think they wanted first of all at least you had to have your, at least your Intermediate and I didn’t have my Intermediate, I was a bad scholar. And anyway I’m telling you about going up to Shaggy Ridge, into the Ramu Valley at a place called Dumpu. Had a big notice just as you get off the plane, “Welcome to Dumpu, a


good malaria town.” I’ll always remember that, so anyway then we were there for quite a while and we were in action as I told you about up on Shaggy Ridge. Did I tell you the whole story?
No, no,
I didn’t, oh well,
you need to tell us this now?
I need to tell now, so anyway I wasn’t, I had a sort of a job back at the, where we had our headquarters in the Ramu Valley at Dumpu, not quite at Dumpu, and my mate, Bob


Ellis, also had a job back there. All the other drivers had gone up with the Field Ambulance to act as stretcher bearers because you couldn’t get vehicles further than Guy’s Post and that would only be a jeep and they’d all become stretcher bearers and anyway after a while Bob came to me and he said, “They want to know if we’ll go up as stretcher bearers.” and I thought, “OK, we’ll go.” So we got a jeep and went up to Guy’s Post then walked


all the way up to Shaggy Ridge and we weren’t, we took over from Joe Longbottom and a couple of the other blokes were there and they’d already built dugouts and it was quite good, we could stay there, but the Japs used to roll hand grenades down the hill, which was very steep, at night time, and they had plenty of packing on the roof so it wasn’t too bad. And anyway we got a call to say that we had to go up and bring some bloke back that had been badly wounded, so


Bob and I and some other blokes went up and anyway we found this, he was a forward scout and they’d got him out so far and we took over from there, and we very carefully put him on the stretcher and strapped him on to the stretcher and then we had to carry him down, and suddenly we got attacked by a Japanese sniper and these bullets were flying around you like you wouldn’t believe. I thought I’ve shot a few rabbits in my life but I didn’t fancy being like a rabbit, and we dropped this


poor bloke and he rolled off the stretcher and rolled down the hill, so anyway fortunately we rushed down, grabbed him threw him on to the stretcher this time and went back up the hill and then helped get him down. It took thirty of us to get him down, just down to where the Fuzzy Wuzzies were and they’d take over the stretcher, or the bigger stretcher and take him right down the mountain, and anyway I’ve lost my thread now, haven’t I?


Can you stop for a second? We’ll start again now? Right. So anyway we handed him over to the Fuzzy Wuzzies and they took him down the rest of the thing, but there’s another bit of this story that happened. After the war Bob and I had been to a funeral, one of the fellows had died and we’d gone down to the RSL [Returned and Services Leaugue] down at St Georges Road down in Elsternwick


just to have a drink and we met a bloke that was there and we were talking and after a while he said, “I was wounded up on Shaggy Ridge, I’ve got a big steel plate in my head.” and I pricked up my ears and I said, “When was that?” And he said where it was and I said, “Well what battalion were you in?” And he said the battalion, I think it was the 2/9th, but I could be wrong. Anyway I said, “We might’ve brought you out of there


because we brought a bloke back from there that had a terrible wound in his head and we thought he was really dead or he would’ve died before he got down.” He said, “That was me.” He said, “Thanks very much.”
Isn’t that amazing?
Extraordinary story.
Listen, when you were asked to be stretcher-bearers does that mean that there were large numbers of casualties?
Well I don’t think so.


I think the trouble was that Shaggy Ridge is such a terrible place to move around on, you know, blokes were getting worn out up and down this terrible slope. It was like trying to climb up the side of a house. To actually carry out a man on a stretcher, almost an impossible job, would take 30, at least 30 blokes handing him from one to the other down the mountain. It was absolutely back breaking work and the food wasn’t too great either.


What were you eating?
Well we mainly had carrot biscuits, and we all started to look like a carrot in the end. All our skin went red, and the food was very ordinary and you couldn’t light a fire, everything was wet, you were sleeping in wet clothing so it was very debilitating and they needed as many relieving fellows as they could possibly get. Consequently they called on the drivers to do it, and the drivers


didn’t mind.
Well see, did you have a lot of contact with the infantry?
Well we did, because we always had light sections attached to the different battalions and yeah, we had a fair amount of contact with them. I think they appreciated that we were there.
Well see, well how many troops were up on Shaggy Ridge, how many, what sort of numbers are we talking about here?
Well, I’m not too sure, but it’s the 18th Brigade,
and I’m really not too sure whether


it was just one battalion or the whole of the brigade, I just don’t remember, and I don’t think it would be more than one battalion. I think it was the 2/9th. If I’m wrong someone will tell me.
But they were up there trying to secure this area and push back the Japanese.
Well they actually finished, that was the end of that particular movement and after we got that bloke out word came down, “It’s all over, you can all go back, the Japs are gone.” and they’d


retreated back to, what’s the name of that place, Bogajim I think, Bogajim, I think that’s where they had a lot of troops and they went back there.
I see. Well see, what happens to you then?
Well we went, we went back to the Ramu Valley and then we, we went back to the Ramu Valley, I’m all tangled up here now, that’s


better, and now that was another exciting story. We were taken by air from Dumpu airstrip back to Lae and of course we had all our gear which was large, you know, rifle, bayonet, pack and haversack and everything weighing a lot of pounds and we were driven down to the airstrip and loaded on board this DC3 and we virtually filled the DC3


up, and we were just about to take off and the pilot said, “Well you’ll all have to get off now, we’ve got a Bofors to put in here.” a Bofors’ an anti-aircraft gun weighing a lot, nearly as much as we all weighed, so he said, “You can all get out, we’ll get this gun on board.” ‘cause it’s quite a big gun, open the big double doors, got this thing in


and he said, “Now I want everybody to get up as close to me as you can”.” this is the pilot, because he said, “I’ve got to balance the weight of this damn thing so we can get off alright.” Well I knew there was a big, , not a river but a sort of a creek at the end with steep sides, just at the end of the strip and I thought there’s, haven’t got far to go before you reach this thing with this great weight on it, he said, and I was leaning over this pilot’s shoulders


and he’s got hold of the joy stick hauling it back and hauling it back and we still haven’t left the ground and I can see this great chasm coming up at a great rate of knots and gradually we just took off and then we flew back to Lae, but a very exciting take off.
As you’ve described very well, yes. So OK, well what can you tell me about Madang?


Well I never went to Madang.
That’s where my mate was killed up there. No, I didn’t go there.
Which mate was killed? Which mate?
That was the one I told you about, you know, he was with the Woman’s, in Newspaper House.
Oh yes, yes. OK, well you’re back in Lae. Now how long are you there?
Only overnight.
And then we went on the Kanimbla and went on the Kanimbla back to


And we were just talking, when you about, when you were a stretcher-bearer, what sort of casualties were you bringing in? I mean what sort of wounds did the soldiers have?
Well I didn’t do very much of it at all. That was the only bloke that I had anything to do with on Shaggy Ridge ‘cause I’d had this other job back in the base camp.
Which was doing what?
Very little, and the littler the better.


Writing letters mainly.
So you really didn’t have anything very much to do.
No, not really, no. All the action was going on up there. I wouldn’t have minded being into it, like we got into when we could but I just had a base job. That’s right, I was with Jack Harmer because he was the electrician of the unit and he had to look after this big generator ‘cause we had a hospital there


and he had to look after this generator, keep that going for the operating theatre and things like that, and we always had a light in our tent which was very handy instead of a hurricane lamp.
Tell me when you became the official photographer for your unit? At what stage do you take on that job?
That was, I was the unofficial photographer, that’s why I’ve got so many photos. I think they finally made me official


just to make it fair dinkum ‘cause you’re not supposed to have a camera and I always had two cameras. I had one to start with and then mum sent up another one so I had two cameras, but getting the film was the hard part and I, some of the places I was at I was wishing I had film but I just didn’t have it. Like I never had film in Tobruk which is a shame but some of the photos I took up on Shaggy Ridge were


no good because it was, there was so much mildew, the films just went mildew and I’ve got a lot of photos in Milne Bay but photography was not great in Milne Bay.
Well where did you get your best photographs?
Mainly in Australia. A lot of photographs on the LSTs going to Borneo and a lot of good photographs in Borneo too.


OK, well we’ll get to there in a moment, but going back to Shaggy Ridge again I think you mentioned in your talk to the research officer, who did you speak to, was it Brett or
That you said it was a very difficult time.
It was. Very very, it was the hardest
Can you tell us a little more about that?
I think that would’ve been the hardest part of the war.


Fortunately I didn’t do very much of it but I’d say that was the hardest part for all the unit. Conditions were, the actual conditions of the area were so terrible. The Ramu Valley of course is a sea of kunai grass which is about 8 to 10 foot tall and inside that the heat’s unbelievable but we had this big area cleared for the hospital so we didn’t have to suffer


like, there were some of the infantry battalions, they would’ve been in much worse conditions than we were. But it was difficult.
Alright, but you were also though involved in the Oboe 2 operation at Balikpapan, weren’t you?
That’s right. Is that what it was called? I didn’t know that’s what it was called. I thought Oboe 2,


I’m not too sure about that
Well according to my notes that’s what that operation was called.
Right. That might be a misunderstanding. I don’t think I’ve ever called anything Oboe 2. That could be a misunderstanding, but anyway what did you want to ask me about it?
Right, OK, no well, OK, well I’ll stand corrected anyway.
Of course by Balikpapan then I’m the postman, so that I really didn’t see any action whatsoever. My main action was going backwards and forwards to the post office and


giving good cheer to all the fellows by giving them letters.
Anyway I’ve jumped ahead a bit there with the
Balikpapan one anyway, so what happens when you’re in Lae, where did you go from Lae?
Well Lae was only a short stop.
Yeah, yeah.
See the Lae campaign had finished by the time I got there.
OK. Well what happens to you then after Lae?
After Lae we’re back to Australia and then more leave.
Right, so
We were due for more leave.
So you go back to the


Atherton Tableland?
Yes, we did. We went back to a place called Kairi on the Atherton Tableland, and we, after we got back to Kairi we virtually went on leave straight away. We had quite a good leave then as well, but it was the usual leave, partying and drinking and everything else.
And how long did they give you?
I think we got another three


And did you come back to Melbourne or
Yeah, always back to Melbourne except when that time when I told you about being at Kilcoy, we spent one leave, it was only a week I think and we spent it with those people, the Websters, at Kilcoy. Did I tell you about that on the talk?
No. You could tell us about that now.
Right, OK. Well when we came back to, went to Kilcoy and we were setting up our camp there,


there was a hospital that we actually took over and across the road from where we had our camp was this lovely big Queensland house on stilts and when we were working away in the camp putting up our tents there was a road went through and suddenly two girls on horseback galloped through the camp. Of course everybody dropped tools and looked. This is the best thing that ever happened to us for days. Anyway,


my friends, Ernie Waugh and Bob Ellis and Jack Harmer, they got to know these girls more than I did, and they had what used to be a tennis court next to their house. It was made of ant hill, crushed ant hills so we all volunteered to put the thing back into order again. So we went out with a truck, got some ant hills,


crushed them up, made a beautiful tennis court so we all used to play tennis there and in between playing tennis and doing our training, which we did a fair amount of route marching and so forth there, we, the two girls were looking after their father, their father and mother were there, but they had this big cattle station to run, and fortunately I could ride a horse so


they gave me this gigantic horse called Gary Owen and anyway, they said, “You can ride a horse?” I said, “Yes, I can ride a horse.” “You can have Gary Owen.” So I got on this horse’s back and he immediately decided that he didn’t want to have me there and so he took off and he galloped down the fence and then beside the fence are all these trees and there was only enough room for him to get through


between the trees and the barbed wire fence and my knees are out here and I could see the barbed wire fence going past my knees and I thought, this is a very serious business I’m in here, and I pulled his head around, there was a fence across the road, I’ll pull him into the fence and that will stop him. I pulled his head around and he went straight at the fence and jumped it. He was a hurdler, steeplechaser. Anyway we became friendly after that and I


used to, I rode him all the time and we used to go out and round up all these Hereford cattle, beautiful cattle. I’d never rounded up anything like that, never done anything like that before in my life, but anyway we thoroughly enjoyed it, Jack and Ernie and Bomber, RJ, they all, we all went out and we used to bring in great herds of cattle, take them into Kilcoy into the yards and put


the things up to get the cattle into the trains which we did. We were quite good cowboys after a while, and I often wonder why two of the boys didn’t marry two of those girls. I think they could’ve if they really tried.
Yes, it’s often just timing, isn’t it, and circumstances.
That’s right, that’s right. They were really nice people and then after the war I took June back to Kilcoy just for interest’s sake


and I thought, I’ll go and see the Websters. So I knew exactly where they lived, house was there, and there was a couple of kids in the front garden and anyway I said, “Is anybody home?” They said, “Yes.” So we went up, rang the front doorbell and a lady came out and I said, “I’m looking for the Websters.” and she said, “Who’s the Websters, don’t know them?” I couldn’t believe it. Now this is only, I did have, it’s probably twenty years later


but I couldn’t believe that they could disappear off the face of the earth. Anyway I talked to them for a while, said,”Well I used to come here during the war.” and we used to do this and that and great. And I looked across where this tennis court was and it’s all overgrown with weeds, and I said, “Do you know underneath there there’s a tennis court?” She said, “No.” I said, “Well that’s what all that wire, that netting wire, that’s housing a tennis court.” She said, “I never ever thought about that.”


Anyway we went down to the town then and I was in the newsagents and I said to the newsagent, I used to be in this town quite a bit, and he said, “Well I’ve only just taken over this newsagency a couple of months ago.” he said, “I don’t know anything about it at all.” Anyway there was a lady there and she said, “I’m a Webster.” and she said,” I know you.” She said, “I don’t know your name but I remember your face, you used to go to the house.” She was a, she wasn’t, she didn’t


live in the house, she was a relative though, and we had quite a good talk, and I said, “Well you know what, I’ve been up to that house and they didn’t even know who the Websters were.” She said, “That’d be right, they haven’t been there that long. Mum and dad were dead.” and she said, “Ivy’s married and Shirley’s married.” Very interesting.
Quite disappointing, isn’t it, when you find, yes.
Yeah, I couldn’t believe it ‘cause it only seemed like five minutes to me.
Yes, exactly. Well when you


came back again to Australia, I mean were you aware that the Japanese had been pushed back?
Yes. Yeah, I was. Well by that time I knew a fair amount about the Japanese, you know, through the news and through actual experience, especially from Milne Bay. See my unit, I didn’t go to,


my unit was not only at Milne Bay but they were also at Goodenough Island and we had one of our fellows, chap by the name of, oh what’s his first name? Anyway surname of Marriot, and he actually won a DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal] at Goodenough Island. He was a great big Australian farmer and he had, he was a stretcher-bearer of course,


and he’d brought back, after being wounded several times himself, several wounded, brought them back into safety, and it was a great thing, and he finally collapsed with these wounds, but he got over it.
Extraordinary. Well look Matt, we’ll stop there, the end of this tape and see how you feel.
If we can, are you happy to
Interviewee: Matt Hogan Archive ID 0055 Tape 07


Well just, I was just going to go back to Shaggy Ridge again for a
minute, Matt. Are there any other aspects of it that you would want to mention that we haven’t covered? I mean we’ve talked about the conditions. Were you aware of the number of casualties? I mean I asked you about the nature of wounds and things which you only….
Well I knew there were a fair few casualties because


the hospital was very busy but not being in the medical side it really, whatever was going on was sort of over my head.
So it was mainly the difficulty of the terrain that you have
That’s right, that’s right.
memories of, not the actual battles that were fought?
No, that’s right. ‘Cause my little stint in action was very brief, it was only like maybe


two nights and of that there was only one time when I was actually hands on with the, that wounded fellow.
Well doing your other job then, what was your routine on a daily basis? Would you be able to describe what a day was like?
Well I wasn’t really doing much there because there was nobody in the camp. Everybody was out, either up at Guy’s Post


or another place called Kancurio Saddle and Prothero 1, Prothero 2, they were all distributed through all those, they were Regimental Aid Posts and they were all up there and I was back, and there was only Bob Ellis and myself and maybe a couple of others and we weren’t really doing much at all, other than reading and writing letters.
I had a doozey.
I was going to ask you about your letter writing. So you


obviously kept up.
I did. I became a very good letter writer.
And so who were you writing to at this stage?
Well I’d be writing to my family which was quite considerable. I hadn’t started writing specifically to June but I’d write to her mother and father who I knew quite well and different, I’d write to my brother who was in the army and my cousin and a couple of other blokes that were in different units


that I knew, and I had quite a fair amount of correspondence going on.
And what were the sorts of things you talked about in your letters?
Hard to say really. It’s pretty hard to sort of think back what did I write about. I wasn’t writing any love letters or anything like that.
When did you start writing to June?
Well I was actually writing to, I might address


letters to Mr and Mrs Smith, June, Victor, June and Bubby, that was the whole family and then it wasn’t until around about her 21st birthday which was in June and I’d started to write before then and gradually the letters became more, you know, a little bit, I wouldn’t say sloppy but, you know.


I’m trying to get my mind back to what I was like in my youth. It’s a long time ago, but you know, I’d be writing Dear June, that was for a start and she’d write Dear Matt, and then we’d go to Dearest June Dearest Matt, Darling Matt Darling June, sweetheart, so it improved as we went along, and of course then she was on the dock waiting for me when the Cheshire arrived in


Port Melbourne, and from there onwards we didn’t look back.
Well we’ll come back to that again too, but in the meantime you see, you, before we leave New Guinea anyway I just wanted you to talk a little bit about the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels as they were called.
That’s right. They were great, you know, I don’t think we could’ve done without them because bringing those wounded especially down from Shaggy Ridge, it was almost impossible and


they were there all the time and they treated every patient with the utmost care.
Well you were saying they took over the stretcher-bearers
That’s right.
at some point from you, so what was the importance of taking over at that particular point?
Well then they would carry them for the long haul and they’d go across the river several times. I forget what that river was, it might’ve been the Ramu River I suppose, and they had stretchers made so that there


could be say three men, three men on each pole, so six men at the front, six men at the back, so that then they would do it in such a way, they were very good at what they were doing, much better than we were.
Did you learn anything from them?
Not really. We didn’t have much association with them at all. Only one of the men,


can’t think of his name now but he was an older man and he actually lived in the village with them for a little while and he got on very very well with them.
And what language did they speak? Did they speak Pidgin?
Pidgin English mainly, yeah, Pidgin English. I wasn’t ever very good at it myself, but they


would speak in sign language, you know.
And how was your health at this stage? I mean how were you standing up to this?
Well over in the Ramu Valley my health was good because we were in a pretty healthy situation in the Ramu Valley where we had the hospital plenty of fresh air and the food was pretty good and my health was pretty good in Dumpu.
So you hadn’t had any more


malaria attacks then?
At that stage no. As a matter of fact I don’t think I had any more malaria until after the war. I’d been in a hospital in Brisbane with malaria and ‘cause I’d been confined to my tent with malaria in Milne Bay and no, I think that’s all, maybe had two


fairly serious attacks but not, and then nothing until after the war and we didn’t call the doctor. June and I were only just married and then we got the doctor and he picked it straight away, he says, “Into Heidelberg you go, got malaria.”
So what are the symptoms again?
Well fever and very high fever and shivering and feeling pretty miserable,


but I had the malaria that wasn’t too serious, it had a name. As a matter of fact one of our, one of the medical men in, young bloke, and he was sort of a, no, what do you call it, looks through the microscope all the time, pathologist? No, that’s the wrong word. Anyway he discovered a new strain of malaria and he got a decoration for


it, got a gong, but I can’t tell you his name unfortunately.
Well anyway, now you see you come back to Australia again and you seem to be up in Queensland for quite a long time.
Mainly in Queensland, that, after we went away from Melbourne we really spent the rest of the war mainly in Queensland. There were several years


based in Queensland out to different places.
Well had you had any thoughts of wanting to get out of the army at this stage?
No. I never wanted, I nearly went to Japan.
Yes, I noticed that.
Yes, well we’ll talk about that too. Well alright then, well so you’re up in Queensland and you’re training again. So what are you doing up there?
Well mainly just the ordinary, the usual training. I think


we actually did some bayonet drill at one time. I can remember that, it was rather odd. But not being an infantry crowd it was a bit of a change for the better I suppose.
So would you have a daily routine while you up there? You were there for a couple of months?
Really, you know, it’s not a great exciting life being in a training camp. You get up in the morning, you have your breakfast, then you maybe do some


training, route march, then see the, being the transport section we were armed, we always did all the guards, so we’d put on a guard and do the, all the rigmarole of new guard, old guard, and all that and flying the flag and present arms and all that stuff you know, which I’ve forgotten about now but that’s what it was. It wasn’t bad, I used to like that.
Well you see, we’re


getting to 1945 and we get to May 1945 and you’ve got VE Day [Victory in Europe] in Europe. I mean can you remember that?
Yes, I do remember that, yeah, and we had a party for it. We managed to get some beer, of course and then VJ Day [Victory over Japan] didn’t take long to come along.
No, but in between that you go off to Balikpapan.
That’s right and that’s where, we were a bit unlucky there because


everybody that was a five year plus man was entitled to a discharge and although I wasn’t that keen on getting a discharge but a few of the other blokes said, “Why go again?” But we all went and then of course as I told you at the end of the war we had this recruiting crowd coming around and wanted to sign me up and I nearly signed up.
Well alright well we’re going to now,


when did you know you were off to Balikpapan?
Well that would’ve been in possibly July. When did the war end?
Yeah, early July I’d say. We didn’t go straight to Balikpapan, we went, firstly we went on board the LSTs big convoy, the whole of the 7th Division, and we stopped first of all at


Morotai and we didn’t actually go ashore, we just stopped, I think to take on water, I’m not sure, but we actually came up onto the beach and our captain, who wasn’t very good at steering, he came in between two other LSTs and we had these big barges or pontoons either side of the LST. They were to be dropped off, run into the shore and then that’d get


vehicles from the boat to the shore without getting then wet, but we never really used them, but anyway as we came in to the shore at Morotai he was side on and there was molten metal flying around all over the place as these pontoons were made useless, because we went out to sea and dropped them into the sea, they just sank.
So where did you come across this American?
Well he was always on board that LST, I’m sorry I


can’t remember the number of the LST, but he was the, I think they call him the signaller and he used to play all these records and I got to know him quite well and I went up there and I said, “I like all this jazz you’re playing.” you know, and I particularly liked this particular one, “Well Get It” by Tommy Dorsey and he used to play that all the time for me, he’d put it on and he knew he had a fan.


Well I think it might be a good point now to play your,
Yeah, put a little bit of it on.
You’re ready to….?
This is a very scratchy record though, it’s pretty old.
Now tell us about the landing.
Yeah, well that’s, this is, he, when we went ashore we didn’t go ashore in the LST, we stood off from the shore and clambered down the


nets down the side of the LST into the smaller personal landing craft which had a ramp at the front and a bloke driving it at the back and we were just maybe 200 yards away from the LST going around and around in circles waiting for word to actually go into the shore and all of a sudden this noise came, this music came across from the loudspeakers,


and here it is. That’s it, and I looked up and I saw this bloke doing this to me and waving to me and I waved back to him and I stood up to wave to him and the sergeant in charge of our boat said, “Sit down you silly dill, you’ll get your head blown off, got down behind this big ramp at the front.”


Anyway that’s the song. So that’s the one that I want them to play when I go to the final resting place.
I think that would be, that will be fantastic. Well did you know the purpose of the operation for Balikpapan?
Yes, well we, we had to take it because of the oil,


big oil refineries and oil tanks there and it was, you could see that the, there wasn’t very much left of the place when we got there because we stood off when the navy and the airforce were absolutely bombarding it like you wouldn’t believe and when we actually landed on the beach the action was pretty close to being all over. It did go on for a little while, maybe two or three days but it was,


I don’t think the Japanese were really in a position to really put up much of a fight because they were in a pretty bad condition there. They’d been, their supply lines had been cut, they virtually had no supplies and I think they were just virtually living off the land and after the surrender had been signed and all the Japanese came in to give themselves up, came in in their barges by their hundreds.
So what


do you remember of the actual, you know, the actual landing? I mean, were you being bombarded with….?
Well not by our people, and I really wouldn’t want to elaborate on that other than to say that. It was like friendly fire, it wasn’t very good.
Well if it wasn’t Australian friendly fire was it American friendly fire?
You said that.


That’s what it was.
And was this why the Australians suffered so many casualties then?
Well I’m not too sure how many casualties they suffered with that but there were quite a few. It was pretty serious.
Yes, well I’ve just got a number down here, 229 Australians died in the Balikpapan landing.
But they weren’t all caused by the friendly fire, were they?


Well you can probably tell me that.
See the, the action was pretty severe and when we went in further we actually had a bird’s eye view of some of the action and it was pretty solid. It was, we had these big tanks with a bulldozer blade on the front of them and a big flame thrower where the gun used, where the gun would be


in the turret and they were using that to virtually flush the Japanese out of their fox holes and then they’d chase them down into another fox hole and then fill them in with the big bulldozer blade which wasn’t very nice.
Well what was….
But war’s war.
And what was your job there then?


I was the postman.
Of course, I’m sorry, yeah.
I had the good job. Half of it, well the war finished not long after we were there and I really spent the rest of the time before I went home getting the mail, distributing the mail and spending the rest of the day on the beach. I made a boat and a lot of the blokes made a motor boat, we put a jeep engine in it and we used to go out fishing with this motor boat and went discovering around


all around the harbour and it was great.
Well did you ever feel that you were under threat while you were there? I mean were you ever fearful that you might be wounded or killed?
No, no, not long after, see the war really finished not long after we were there and before I could get myself into any trouble it was over, and it was just like, it was like rest and recreation for me, and I think that was one of the reasons why when I finally came home to


Australia, I was only home a fortnight and I was back at work with the Women’s Weekly and sort of I had that from the end of the war until we left about late October being a beach bum, is all I could say I was. I was enjoying myself on the beach.
Well can you describe Balikpapan? What was the landscape like there?


well it, see where we landed at Balikpapan it was a town and the town was virtually bombed into nothing. There were good houses there, beautiful homes but they had a severe pasting from our blokes before we landed, and there were some trees around, not a jungle, I didn’t see any jungle at all but I’ve got a lot of photographs showing tees that are all blasted with bomb damage and shell damage


but you could see the town would’ve been quite a substantial town. As a matter of fact we took a table out of one of the houses and we used it in a lean to beside our tent until a civilian came along and he said, “Do you mind if I have my table, you took that out of my house.” He said, “I live here.” He’d come, I don’t how he got back but we had to give him the table.


And did you meet any, were there any of the local people left?
Yes, there were local people but I really, I’ve got a few photographs of children and local inhabitants, I didn’t really have much to do with them at all.
And so your main photographs then were of the area?
Yes, there were a lot of photographs of the area, the oil, the burnt out oil tanks and maybe a couple of Jap tanks and


the village as a whole, you know, the battered village.
Now we haven’t seen those photos yet, have we?
They’d be in the albums, yes, they’d be there. I’ll show you them afterwards.
OK, well what was your reaction then, or how did you hear about the end of the war?
Over the radio. That’s when I wrote, I was writing that letter to June and said, “Yip yip the war’s over.”


And that’s right, we’d just been celebrating, I think we were celebrating the end of V, just finished celebrating the end of VE day and then we had to celebrate the end of the war and we really didn’t have much beer left, we had to rustle around and get some from somewhere.
So well on the radio you obviously heard about
That’s right.
the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
That’s right,


and then the Japanese all started to come in and surrender and they really weren’t in very good condition. Some of them were alright but our blokes looked after them and put them into hospital and they were looking after them, but their officers were very strange. They’d go into the ward and because the Japanese wouldn’t jump out of bed and bow to them they’d give them a hiding with their walking sticks and we really didn’t like that so we had to teach them a lesson.
How did you do that?
Well the people


in charge of the wards would take the sticks off the Japanese officers and give them a bit of their own back, that we didn’t believe in that sort of rot, and there were hundred and hundreds of Japanese coming in in these boats and surrendering and we were given about 20 or 30 Japanese prisoners and we got them building a basketball court which was very good. We had the concrete and everything to do it. They did all the building and


my mate Jack put the lights up so we had, see that’s one of the ways we filled in the time until we got taken home to Australia. We used to play basketball under lights at night time.
Well when you saw these Japanese prisoners, Japanese soldiers coming into to surrender, I mean how did, what did you think about that?
Well the war was over and it’s a different thing and we felt very very sorry. A lot of Australian prisoners of war came back through us too.


I’m not too sure where they came from but I have an idea maybe it was Sandakan which was a terrible thing and they were in shocking condition, and the worst thing we did for them was give them a good feed of like a Christmas party, and we were lucky they didn’t all die, so we had to go back to iron rations and that for them ‘cause they were in terrible condition. They were flown home from there, but they were kept for a while until they regained


their health as good as they could get.
Well you said the Japanese were not in very good condition either.
They weren’t, that’s right.
What was their situation?
Well most of the Japanese were alright but there were a lot of Japanese that weren’t alright. They didn’t seem to have much sympathy for themselves. The ones that were really sick weren’t really looked after other than by our people.
And so you didn’t see, or did you see any


resentment towards the Japanese?
From the Australians?
No, I didn’t. I’m sure, there might’ve been, but I don’t think so. I think most people had my idea that war’s over, forget it. We didn’t know at the time about the death march at Sandakan, might’ve been a bit different if we’d known about that.
Well they, what happened to those prisoners then, were they shipped back to Japan?


Goodness knows when because when I got on the Cheshire that was the end, I never saw them ever again. Never even heard about them.
And can you remember what date it was that you got on the Cheshire?
Would’ve been late October because I think it took us some weeks to get from Balikpapan to Port Melbourne, maybe three, maybe four, it’s a fair way, I’m not too sure.


But that’s really strange because I don’t remember much about going home to Australia. I think I must’ve been so focused in looking forward to being at Melbourne that the voyage didn’t make much of an impression. I’m not the only one that’s said that. I’ve asked a lot of my mates, “Where did we sleep on the Cheshire?” “Don’t know.” “What did we eat on the Cheshire?” “Don’t know.” “What did we do on the Cheshire?” “Got no idea.” and we all had the same thing,


it’s a strange thing. Yet I can remember everything that happened on the Mauritania and all the other boats that I was on. But I just can’t remember what happened on the Cheshire. We didn’t, it didn’t come into a wharf. We were taken out to the Cheshire in big, really big launches, and climbed up the ladder on the side and then on board, but I can’t tell you anything about the trip.
Well why did you have to stay there for


those extra few months, just a couple of them?
Well see at the end of the war the first people that went home were the married men with families, well that’s fair enough, then the married men without families, and then the single men and that’s how it worked, and I was a single man without a family.
So it didn’t bother you?
Not really. Well I nearly went to Japan, very close.
OK, well can you tell us a little bit about thinking about


going to Japan then?
Well this recruiting crowd came around and wanted the soldiers to
While you were still up there?
Yes, this is while we’re at Balikpapan and I had two stripes and the sergeant says, “Well for a starter we’ll get you another stripe.” and I thought, “Well that’s not bad, that’s a few more bob extra.” ‘cause when you’re used to five shillings a day any extra’s a big plus, and anyway I went back and told Jack


that I was thinking of going to Japan with the occupation forces and he couldn’t believe it, and he really talked me out of it.
Well how did he talk you out of it?
He just said
What arguments did he use?
He said, “Well I knew you were stupid but.” he says, “I didn’t think you were actually stark raving bonkers.” but he says, “Now I know.” and I thought, well. He said, “You’ve got a good job at home to go back to and why do you want to stay here, why


do you want to go to Japan?” I thought, “Well maybe I won’t go to Japan.”
But why were you thinking about going to Japan? What was it that attracted you to that idea?
Well I, I must admit, I liked the army. I was in a great unit and you think about it like this now, when I joined that unit I was only a kid, 19, and at the end of the war I was 25, so I’m a man and I


had a different outlook on life altogether. When I first joined I was only a brat of a kid and I didn’t care about anybody else other than myself but during those years I got to think a lot about other people besides myself, and I think in the whole of my life my experience during the time with the 2/5th Field Ambulance made a good man out of me, and I’ve


always thought of the other person all the time, and of course when I got married to June, picked the right girl and had all these lovely kids and the whole thing, it’s helped me right throughout my life and I’ve always been grateful to them.
So were you aware of that change in yourself at that stage?
Not really. No, I just, it didn’t occur to me until years later and then


you start to think about these things, well I know before I joined the army I thought I was pretty good like all kids of 19 think they are and I had a good job and I had a car, they gave me a car, and I was, people wanted to go with me especially because I had a car, it wasn’t mainly for me but I had the car, I had the wheels. There were very very few young people of 19 with a car in those days.


A pushbike would be the best they, or a motor bike and you know what happens to motor bike riders.
We know. Well in those couple of months when you’re still up there on Balikpapan, I think I’m mispronouncing that. How do you pronounce it?
Balikpapan I say.
Balikpapan, right.
Everybody says Balikpapan.
Well you obviously were considering what you were going to be doing after the war.
That’s right.
And so you thought about


going to Japan and so your friends talked you out of that.
That’s right.
And so then you’ll then think about coming back to the job you had before the war, don’t you?
That’s right, and that’s where I went.
Well tell me about, I mean obviously your friends were really very important to you throughout the war.
That’s right, still are.
And it seems to me
Unfortunately not many left now.
No, no, that’s the sad part of it all, isn’t it?
But Jack seemed to me


to be with you for most of the time.
He was. See we were in the same unit right through the war. He was missing a couple of times because he got sick and went to hospital, but most of the time we were always together and he was a big, he backed me up and I backed him up but we were more than, Jack was my special mate ‘cause I went to school with him, but then there were other boys like Ernie and Bob Waugh, Bob Ellis,


the boy that became a priest, Snooker Richards, we used to call him Snooker, Frank Richards, and Charlie Stevens, he was the Regimental Sergeant Major, and after the war I was the first to be married but June and I spent a lot of time going to all these other marriages after me. It was amazing.
And how did you support each other, I mean what
Jack and I?
And all your friends, I mean.


Well we were always there for one another, you know, no matter, you’d always help the other bloke. If he had a problem you’d talk to him and I’d talk to somebody else, I’d talk to Jack and it was and it was very good comradeship, there’s not doubt about that. You know, talk about the Aussie mateship, that’s it, that’s its best.
So the problems you talked about, what were problems with work at, you know, what was going on in the war or problems,


you know, worries about home?
Yes, we’d talk about, we’d talk about what are you going to do after the war. That was a big topic of conversation and I didn’t, I didn’t really think exactly what I was going to do because I had a very minor job with the Australian Women’s Weekly and being a branch office that my future wasn’t laid down. I would have to work my way into what I was going to do, and of course it didn’t work out, and it was then


I went with June’s father back to the racing paper, The Guide, and I was there for quite a few years and then we went into partnership in the Mount Waverley Newsagency, and we were partners for about seven years and then I started to think, well, see he’s getting older and my family was growing and I thought I really should


own this business, so I talked it over with June’s father and he thought, “Yes, that’d be fair enough.” and I went to the bank and the bank gave me the money and we bought half a share in the business which gave us then two shares. June got the other half, and I was there for since, Mount Waverley in those days was a real


little backwater place, the roads weren’t made and there was no gas and we had to get our water from two streets up, put pipes right through two streets up to get to the water, and anyway then I got the newsagency and that was a totally different life altogether and then we used to have a Chamber of Commerce meeting every so often and at one meeting


the president of the chamber said would I consider taking on the role of Justice of the Peace because we didn’t have a Justice of the Peace. There was one up in Glen Waverley but there was none handy in Mount Waverley, so I did and I was Justice of the Peace for 33 years.
That was a petty good effort, wasn’t it?
Yeah, it was. It was very interesting and I met, you know, I met some interesting people. Some funny things happen when people ring you up and find out


somebody’s in gaol and they want you to get them bailed out and things like that, you know, and signing documents. It was, it’s an honorary capacity and I enjoyed
And very worthwhile.
Yeah, that’s right.
I was just going to take you back to Borneo again.
And I mean, and I suppose it’s a more general question, I mean you’ve had a pretty long war, haven’t you?
That’s right, five and a


half years.
And you must’ve seen people die, did you?
Well were there any particular rituals that were observed? Were you there when they were buried or
Well yes. I took part in a couple of burials. We used to, the first one that I took part in was in, might’ve


been one before, in Aleppo and a chap by the name of Tim Shannessey, unfortunately he got caught out in the rain and I think he’d had a little too much to drink, maybe I shouldn’t say that, but anyway he got wet and got pneumonia, and this was at Rasbalbeck, we’re in, we had a camp in Rasbalbeck and anyway they whizzed him up and put him into, we looked after him for a while and then we finally got to


Aleppo and he was put into hospital in Aleppo and he died there. So we gave him a full military funeral and I was in the, in the funeral and I was in the firing party and we fired shots over his grave when he was buried. It was quite a moving, see we had to do a bit of practise for it for the slow march and so forth but very impressive


and we buried one there, we buried, oh that’s right we buried one at Kilcoy and there was another one somewhere. See we were a very lucky unit, we didn’t, we only had one killed, that’s right, and that was a bloke that was in Jack Harmer’s car and he was out in, I think I’ve told you the story, out in no-man’s land getting shot at from both sides


and he wanted, Alan Saggers was his name, he wanted him to get on the ground and he wouldn’t and Jack was pulling him out of the car and a shell went underneath and killed him. A wonder it didn’t kill Jack as well.
So he was buried over there then?
He’s buried in Tobruk cemetery.
And so once again quite a formal burial service, was it?
Not, no, in Tobruk there wasn’t the big, there was


just a burial with the minister or the priest reading the ceremony but there was no formal ceremony at all, not, and we used to go past the cemetery every day and I never saw a formal cemetery there, formal burial there at all. Maybe they did have, I don’t know.
OK Matt, we’ll stop the tape now and if you’re ready we can go for one more.
Right, OK.
Can you do one more?
I’ll do one more.
Interviewee: Matt Hogan Archive ID 0055 Tape 08


We were well represented.
Well, that’s what I was going to ask you too, I mean I’ve got some questions about Balikpapan,
Right, OK.
and in hindsight, you know 60 years on, did you ever consider, there’s been lots of discussion about those campaigns and it’s been argued that they were unnecessary and an unnecessary waste of Australians’ lives. What did you think, or did you have any thoughts about


see the thing was that I wasn’t in any campaign that was a defeat and that really means a lot. See the 18th Brigade was the independent brigade and everywhere they went they won and that puts a different slant on it. I think if you’d taken part in a campaign where you lost that would put a different


complexion on it altogether.
OK, well I’m going to go back to the other end now and you talked about, you know, the numbers of your relatives who’d been in the First World War and that you couldn’t wait to join the army, well when you did were you thinking that you were going off to defend Britain or fight for Australia or
No, no, no. Well I’ll tell you, when I first joined,


I can remember the first day I joined the army I’d been to the Town Hall, had my physical and everything cleared and filled in my two weeks to train somebody else for my job and then I went to the Drill Hall in Hawthorn and we were marched then down to Hawthorn Station and went by train out to Royal Park and into the army and I was given a pair of red boots,


a hat and that’s all. That was my uniform so I walked around in red boots and a hat looking like a dill for a couple of days until I got my uniform, and then after we got the proper uniform then I was given 12 hours leave and we, Royal Park was a mud heap in those days. It was just a brand new camp, all the grass had gone and it was just clay, so


I went home this particular night to Alfayda Street where my mother and father lived and I looked in to where my bed was, I thought, “Have you done the right thing Matt, you’re not going back to sleep in a little bed like you’ve got here, you’re going back to sleep in the mud.” I don’t know whether I‘ve done the right thing or not, but it was only a little while that I thought, I didn’t really feel bad about it.
But did you ever have any thoughts like that


throughout your five and half years? Did you ever think, my God, why did I join up?
No, not really. No, I didn’t, I can honestly say I didn’t. As a matter of fact once you get indoctrinated into the army and you go on leave, you reach a point during that leave and you think you’re going back tomorrow but you’re glad to go back. Really strange, I’ve often wondered about that, but it’s a fact.
So why do you think you’re glad to go back?


Well it’s just, well for instance when you’re on leave and you meet a lot of civilians that aren’t in the army, you’re not too happy about them especially when they keep telling you what a bad time they’re having and you’ve got all the food and all the stuff up where you are which is a lot of rubbish, and it’s like that. You’ve moved out of your family home into the army, and then the army becomes your family home and everybody


you’re associated with are doing the same as you’re doing, getting the same rations, having the same things happen to them and you don’t mind it. You feel more comfortable there.
Well did you ever come across any other in the service, any other soldiers who really couldn’t cope any more, who really wanted to be out of it?
Yeah, we did, there were two or three blokes in our unit that


were forever going AWL, absent without leave and I often had the job of taking them down to the punishment camp, ‘cause they used to get so many months field punishment and they’d go in there and I used to say to them, “Why do you keep doing it, you blinking masochist to want to go to this place all the time?” Well you know, they would do it all the time, and they’d go in


looking crook and then I’d go and pick them up after a couple of months and they were as fit as a fiddle ‘cause they’d been really going through their hoops all the time they were in this, ‘cause it’s not very good treatment, you know, such things as you’re not allowed to even stand shaving without marching time, marking time with one foot. That’s only a little thing but they’re must’ve been other things as well but they just weren’t soldiers.


Hopeless they should never have joined the army.
And they would never have told you why they did though, I mean
But they, quite friendly, I remember one bloke who was very friendly, I met him after the war and I said, “There you are, it’s all over now mate.” He said, “Yeah, it wasn’t bad, was it?”
Well can you remember, what would you describe as one of the best times in the army? Were there ever any really good times?
Yeah, on the beach at Balikpapan,


being a beach bum, that was a very good time.
And can you remember what you were actually doing when you heard that the war had ended?
Writing a letter to June. You’ll have to read that letter.
I will.
It’s quite good. We don’t mind you, there’s no terribly sloppy things in it.


We’ll just stop if for a minute, can we? So when you were away did you ever worry about what was happening to members of your family at home? Did you have, or did you get homesick
Homesick, that’s something I do remember. I, my, can I speak now, yeah? Sorry. I started to get homesick when I arrived in the Middle East and I was really homesick.


It’s, homesickness is a terrible thing, it’s so, it just makes you feel so awful you can’t eat, you’re not interested in anything, you don’t even want to talk to people, and that went on, I’d say for about well over a month, say six weeks and then gradually it goes, but it’s terrible.
So can you tell me why it’s so terrible? I mean what is it about this?
Well you just don’t want to be


where you are and you’re not interested in food, you’re not interested in any, you don’t even want to talk to anybody or anything, you can’t write any letters, never wrote any letters.
And are there specific things that you miss or specific things that you crave for?
Just the fact that you can’t ever see yourself getting home again, that’s a big thing.
And well, did you have bouts of it or was it just in the Middle East and then you
No, one big lot.


When you get over it it’s finished and never comes back again.
That’s absolutely fascinating, isn’t it?
Yeah. It’s like you get a very bad sickness and you have it for so many weeks and you wake up one morning and it’s gone. You feel very miserable.
Well looking over your war experience, what do you think was your worst experience?


I suppose the worst, I think the worst one was when I had a stone in the kidney on board that blinking boat and I wouldn’t have cared less if it had blown up ‘cause all those mortar bombs were rolling around the floor and I was just hoping one would go off and set the rest off and I wasn’t thinking about the other poor buggers on the boat above me, but it was very painful ‘cause this stone,


do you know much about stones in the kidney?
Well I’ve heard people talk about the pain.
Yes, it’s a lot of pain. It’s just a little crystal but it has some energy in it and it rips its way from one side of your kidney to the other and then it becomes dormant and it doesn’t, it just stays asleep, then it gathers some strength and then it starts ripping it’s way through to the other side of your kidney and then you have this dormant period when it’s no trouble,


but it’s not really a big barrel of laughs especially when the doctor said, “If you’ve got an appendicitis we’ve only got knives and forks in the galley, no anaesthetic, no ether.”. That was a bit of a worry, but anyway.
So did you pass the stone in the
I’m glad you said that. I was on leave in Melbourne on my first


five day leave after I got home from the Middle East and I passed it and it was about as big as my little fingernail. There was no problem doing that but I was surprised to see it. I thought, you little bugger, that’s what you’ve been, what’s given me all that hard time out in the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean I should’ve said.
I think we talked earlier on about considering the possibility of you getting wounded. You never ever thought about that?


Nobody ever thinks about that. It’s something that it’ll never happen to me, you see dead people lying down with holes in them but you never really think it’s going to happen to you, so you know I was very very lucky.
And what, did you ever think about the war, whether it was a just war, whether it was, you know, it should’ve been fought?
Well I didn’t think much of the Germans and I didn’t think


much of the Japanese but I really didn’t give them that much, I think when you’re just a young person what’s going on in the war well doesn’t really matter that much. It’s what’s actually happening to you at that particular time. That’s your main worry.
So you weren’t really, were you aware, sorry.
You’re not trying to protect yourself all the time, you know, say I won’t do that ‘cause something might happen, but it just, you don’t worry about what’s happening to


other people. It sounds a bit hard but you never think it’ll happen to you.
I think that’s how you think when you’re young, don’t you?
I’m sure it does. Well it’s when you go out in your car, you know, and you hear all these terrible things happening to people out on the road, you never think it’s going to be me.
That’s right and that’s a very good analogy.
I only thought about that the other day actually.
Did you have a narrow squeak? Yeah.


Do you ever dream about the war?
I used to. I do dream about the blokes but not actual war, I don’t dream about actual, I dream about the mates that I’ve made in the army. I have dreamt about them from time to time.
What, in situations that you’re in together?
Just as though I’m back in the army again, but there’s no problem.


We’re just there. I dream, I’m a great dreamer, I’m always telling June what I’ve dreamt about that night. It’s like a never-ending saga.
Well that’s fantastic because some people can’t remember their dreams?
Oh I remember all my dreams.
Well OK, when you got home then did you settle back into civilian life easily?
Yeah, very quickly. You know, within a couple of weeks I was back at work and I was never ever out of


work in all my life from the day I started when I was about fifteen I was never without a job which is great. I wouldn’t say that I had the easiest of jobs. Running that newsagency wasn’t easy, it was a very difficult job because we were under finance for a starter and different bank managers gave me a hard time from time to time. They weren’t too good, but,


and it was very stressful working all those hours and you make a lot of, not enemies, but people can’t understand why the paper boy doesn’t deliver their paper on time every morning, and it’s a big deal and they think you should do it yourself. You know, you’re only delivering to about 3,000 customers each morning before 7.00 o’clock, but why didn’t


my paper come? Or, why did the paper boy not put it in the box because it’s all over the front garden, and no matter where you go if you meet these people out at a function the first thing they want to talk about is why the paper boy didn’t give you his paper, it’s a bit, it’s not too good.
Well how long after the war then, or how long after you were home did you get married?
I was home in October ’45


and we were married in September ’46.
And you had six children?
Yeah. Six lovely
How many girls and how many boys?
Five girls and one boy. I almost gave up about a boy and he arrived in the middle and June’s doctor, we were at the flat then and she rang me up and she said, “Well Matt, you’ve done it, you’ve got a son.”. Yeah.


Well did you, have you ever, do you talk to your children about the war? Did you talk to them?
Yeah, I do, I do. They always say they’re not bored and even my grandchildren, one grandchild in particular, young Ben, and he’s always, he comes home, “Oh Grandpa, tell me a story about the war.” ‘cause he’d love to be a soldier.
Would he?
He would, but
And so what do you say to him?
I encourage him.
Do you encourage him?
I’d never encourage, never


discourage anybody from being in the forces. I think it’s very good for a young man to be in the forces.
Well what do you think of
Especially if they get more than five bob a day too.
Well you said that you’d, you know, gone from being this young man, sorry, boy into a man.
Yeah, that’s right, that’s right.
You’d made that transition, well how did the army do that for you? What was it about the life?
Well the whole thing is you’ve got to keep your eyes open


as you’re growing up and you do learn things. See some of the blokes were older than me and I always listened to those older blokes. There was one bloke, Duncan McLean, he was a really nice bloke and I was a good friend of his, he died not long after the end of the war, but he was quite older than me. He had a family, wife and children, and all my mates, they were all, they wanted to listen to you. If you’ve got a problem listen and you’d always get a little bit of advice


if you know, if you had some problem. Not that I had many problems but it was good to learn that there were other people to talk to.
Well would you talk to, would you ever talk to your mates about being frightened or being homesick or, what would you
No, we’d never say we were frightened. You could be absolutely terrified and never tell anybody. That’s the macho thing, isn’t it? But that’s
Well what sort of help did


you get from your mates then? This is what intrigues me here?
Well now take Jack Harmer for instance. When we were in Tobruk, one time before I started living in my car and we had a dugout, and Jack would be forever putting my tin hat out over my face when there was an air raid on looking after me, you know. ‘Cause he was always worrying about me that something would happen to me, but he was good.
Well I also


want to ask you about your medals?
Yes. On our notes here we have listed that you have, well we were talking about your medals.
Could you tell me what they are and
I bet I don’t remember them all.
Well just see how you go.
I’ll make a guess, there’s the Africa Star, the Pacific Star and the


So the Africa Star you got for being in the Middle East and northern desert of course.
The Middle East in the desert, yeah, that’s right. The Pacific Star for being in the Pacific, then there’s the ’39 ’45, I don’t know whether that’s a medal or a star, that’s because you’re in the army during that time. Then,


gee, it’s so long ago since I got them, I’ve really never looked at them.
That’s fine. No, I was just interested to know.
See, and then there’s Tobruk medal, but the Tobruk medal’s not really an official medal. The Tobruk medal was applied, the Rats of Tobruk Association applied to the government for a medal and they said, “Well if you’re prepared to pay for it


you can have it.” and that’s what they did, but then there’s another Tobruk medal and that’s given by the Polish Army. The Polish Army didn’t realise that a heck of a lot of blokes would claim it, because being the whole of the 9th Division which is a lot of men, plus the 18th Brigade and all the other attached troops. they couldn’t afford it. You know Poland’s not over, hasn’t got that much money they can spend a whole heap like that but it was a beautiful medal. I didn’t get one.


Ron Bryant the President, he got one and so did our Secretary, Alan Eldridge, but anyway I didn’t get one. I think there’s eight altogether. If I had them in my hand I could tell you but I, unfortunately I haven’t got them in my hand.
No, that’s fine. Thanks for, you know, making the effort to remember. And I just had, you know how, well you survived


five and a half years of war,
I mean you were in some pretty dangerous situations over that period, weren’t you?
That’s right, that’s right, I was very lucky.
And well, did you ever have any lucky charm with you or did you have a particular faith that helped?
Well I had that, I had that, didn’t I tell you about the caul?
The caul?
The Irish caul. Yeah.
Well refresh my memory.
Alright. When my dad came to see me


just before we went overseas, he came out to Puckapunyal and he called me aside and he said, “If I gave you something would you carry it through the war?” and I said, I thought he was gonna give me a gun, and he said, “No.” and he pulled this thing out of his pocket, and he said, “This is a caul.” and I said, “What’s a caul dad?” and he said, “Well it’s an Irish thing.” he said, “It’s an Irish, virtually a good


luck charm from Irish mythology.” He said, “Anybody that is born, an Irishman that’s born with a caul which is a membrane over the face when they’re born, is a caul.” and he said, “I was born with a caul.” and he said, “I carried this right through the war,” the First World War, and he was wounded several times, but he said, “I came home.” and he said, “Would you do me a favour and carry it right through the war?”


“OK dad, I’ll do that.” so I carried it all the way through the war and I came back. I didn’t even have a scratch and that was pretty good, so
Yeah, it was pretty amazing, wasn’t it?
Yeah, so he said after the war, “I’m glad you carried that caul Matt.”
Well did you have any particular religious faith that kept you going?
Not really. See I came, I grew up in a family having a mother who was a Presbyterian, dad who was Catholic and


I used to go to the Congregation Sunday School, that’s just because it was near the home, but I really, I’ve never been a very religious person. I believe in things but I was never really a very religious person, never at any time. I was never in a situation where I prayed that I’d be saved because I think


if I’m gonna be saved it’s up to me.
It’s interesting to me that the word luck comes into it a lot. People say, you know, I was very lucky.
That’s right.
I mean is that just what it’s all about?
That’s an Irish thing, yeah. All the Irish think about those little fellows, what do they call them? The
Little leprechauns?
Yeah, that’s right, it’s luck. But I’m not a real


Irish person. I mean I’m, dad’s Irish, mum’s Scottish, so I’m between, half way between and when you look back through the Hogan family particularly, that grandfather Phillip Hogan, he was sent to Australia for life and the woman he married, Mary McMahon, she was sentenced for 12 years and got her release after 12 years and she


married Phillip, mainly because, see they were sent out to work for the Reverend Marsden and he was a bit of a villain and he hated the fact that he had Phillip and Mary having children but not married. So he married them in the Church of England which they didn’t like ‘cause they were both Catholics


and eventually Phillip, who was an educated man, he was a signatory to the emancipation of Catholics to give them priests and his, that paper’s in the Mitchell Library with his signature on it, and then when you think he missed the potato famine. He wasn’t in Ireland when the potato famine came otherwise he might’ve died, so there the luck comes


into it there. And there’s my grandfather Henry, who was sentenced to death because they said he was charged with murdering his wife which he didn’t do but at the first trial he was sentenced to death by hanging and then they had another trial and he was sentenced to life down at Port Arthur, down at Tasmania. There’s luck. His brother, Robert,


was in gaol at Port Arthur, he escaped from Port Arthur and he was sent to Norfolk Island, escaped from there. How the heck he got back to Australia heaven only knows but he was a bushranger, that’s where the luck fell down because his mates fell out with him and murdered him, that was bad lack, and that’s only one out of the lot though, and so that luck features in our


Alright. Well I’ve got this question. Do you think you have received adequate acknowledgment for your contribution to the war?
Definitely. I’ve never received, I must admit that ever since the war, since I, when I first got sick after the war I’ve always had good medical attention and then


four years ago I got TPI [Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Pension] which was very good and made a big difference to my life, so I’ve got no complaints about my treatment. I’ve got my home through War Service and I could never say that I’ve been treated other than quite well by Veteran Affairs [The Department of Veterans’ Affairs].


That’s fantastic to hear. I’ve just got the end of it here, cheers cheers and cheers, have just heard the news, the war is over, that gosh darling I can’t describe my feelings, honest I can’t. You should hear the row all over Balikpapan. So there was a lot of noise, was there?
Yeah, everybody was cheering, hitting tins and doing things like that. Firing


shots in the air I think was always a crazy thing.
Well Matt, is there any other points that you’d like to make about your war experience or your memories that we haven’t covered?
I really feel that you’ve just about covered the lot. I gave it a lot of thought between last Friday and now and I did come up with a couple of things there, but I think you’ve done a very good job.
So you, OK,


well thank you very much for your
Thank you.
fascinating memories and experience.
I thank the two of you.
It’s been a great interview.
That’s good.
Thanks Matt.


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