Archive number: 553
Preferred name: Ted
Date interviewed: 13 August, 2003
You are listening to the interview audio
I was wondering if you could start for us today just giving us the brief introduction to yourself. Your childhood and then through your years in the service.
Yes well I was born on the 16th of June 1921 at Beaudesert in Queensland. Now Beaudesert is about 42 miles south of Brisbane. I use the old measurements you understand.
Our home was at Bromelton in the bush. I can't give you an exact location of that, but my earliest childhood memory is playing with cotton reels on the dirt floor of our kitchen. I used to make a mound of dirt and run these cotton reels around and I thought it was great fun to have a prang occasionally and what have you. However when I was
about five and a half or six and a half, I can't remember which, I started school. Now that moved me away from a fantasy world into a life of learning. We rode on old Tommy to school, old Tommy being a horse. My sister Violet was in front and controlled the reins. I sat in the centre and my older brother, Alan, sat in the rear. It was damned uncomfortable but I enjoyed
school, so therefore the discomfort didn't worry me too much. I can remember not long after I started school, there was a bully boy at school and he picked me up and threw me to the ground and broke my right arm and it caused me some discomfort. Of course treatment for broken arms those days was quite different than it is today. However when
my sister Violet left school, Alan sat in the front and it was a little bit more comfortable but I can remember the half way, it was about eight miles to school, and when the half way creek flooded we had to go right out the west through paddocks and the water was still lapping at our feet, but it wasn't so fast but it took a long time to get to school and Tommy by this time
was getting pretty old and unfortunately he smelt a little too and was showing his age but my father said "It's Tommy or walk" and you obeyed your parents those days. So we rode Tommy. Now when Alan left school I rode Tommy but I used to walk some of the way and lead him because I felt for him. He couldn't canter and he was getting very
very old and weak. I hope he understood. However, ah in about 1929 or 1930 my father brought a farm on the eastern side of the Logan River at a place called Woodhill. Now I went to school at Woodhill, which meant Tommy didn't have to carry me. I used to
run to school about two and a half miles but by this time I had to share my part of the work. We owned a Chelmsford Jersey stud, which was a pure bred Jersey stud. We milked on an average seventy cows. Now that means with only a few in the family. I had to milk my thirteen or fifteen cows before I went to school and when I came home,
turn the separator to separate the milk from the cream, feed the calves, feed the pigs, fowls, sweep the bales and have a wash in cold water and home made soap, eat some breakfast and then run to school but first of all at I was always up at four o'clock every morning to run around the hundred acre paddock to get all the cows in, then you had to count them of course to make sure they were all
there. Now it was very hard work for a young lad but one day at Woodhill, it was at Woodhill School, it was raining so all the children were in this little play shed. It was actually a tin roof with about I think six upright poles, seats all around the edge so that the children could sit down, and
just the floor was made of little pebbles and the children of course were just picking up the little pebbles, calling out a name like "Violet catch" and throw the pebble and I did call out "Violet catch" and, not my sister, she misjudged the flight terribly and it hit her on the front tooth and broke it. Well we were all very sorry and
stopped the game but that afternoon or that evening her father came down to our place, got off his horse and there was a terrible row with my father. Next morning I went to school as usual. I was called out in front of the assembly and given ten cuts with the a strap. Didn't really hurt, because I had hard hands those days milking
cows what have you, but anyway that's okay. The next morning I went to school and about ten o'clock my father appeared at the door and he just said "Edgar, pack your books. I'm taking you back to Brookland School. Mr Ralston make out the transfer or suffer the consequences." Well Mr Ralston didn't
want to suffer the consequences whatever they might have been and he wrote out the transfer and I had to go back to Brookland State School. Now this was bad really because it meant about 8 or 9 miles to school and then I had to recommission Tommy, but worst of all I had to cross the Logan River. Now the Logan River used to flood quite frequently those days and I had I had to cross the Logan River and go through people's paddocks or
go about 10 miles down the road, go over a high bridge and go to school. Well this caused me to be very late. So with the muddy river and running swiftly, I'd cross that river and old Tommy was a good swimmer but there was a terrified kid hanging onto the pommel of the saddle. It was rather frightening but I enjoyed school,
loved school and Miss Arthur firstly and then Miss Miles started to tutor me to be a school teacher and I wanted to be a school teacher. That was my aim in life but that all came to a grinding halt on my twelfth birthday. In the middle of the year. My father came to the door, he didn't even acknowledge Miss Miles and said
"Edgar pack your books. You're leaving school. I want you to work on the farm." In other words I was going to be slave labour and of course immediately I knew, I was dumbfounded. Miss Miles cried, I cried and ah, because I could see my life of being a school teacher go down the drain but all the pleading in the world didn't help. I had to leave
school and I was a bright boy. I was in seventh grade actually and one grade above my age. Any rate I followed my father home at a at a safe distance but the fuse was lit. I started to dislike my parents
and over the years that grew into a terrible dislike. A hatred if you like. After all my sister went to domestic science high school in Brisbane for two years. My brother was driven to rural school, which you'd now call TAFE [Technical and Further Education] I think in Beaudesert but me, nothing. So work on
the farm. It was very hard work for a young lad. I got help from my brother at that stage but if you can imagine cutting imphee. Imphee is a tall sort of grass with a big tossle on the top and you cut it with a cane knife, lay it over. It grows about seven feet tall and you lay it in bundles with and you had to take that in and chaff it up for the cattle.
Mix it with the lucerne, the dried lucerne, but it was very heavy and hard work and then scything oats with a scythe. I don't know whether you know what a scythe is but it's an awkward looking thing. Dutchmen use them a lot. Anyhow 1939 came along. Mind you I wasn't getting any money. Neither was my brother at that stage. 1939 came along. War broke out and I wanted
to join the Lighthorse but my father said "No" and unfortunately farming became a protected profession. In other words you could be refused enlistment and a year later my brother left to join the Cameron Highlanders in Brisbane. By the way Billy Brown, the old cricketer, the Australian opening batsman, was captain of the 61st Battalion Cameron Highlanders at that stage.
Ah my sister got married, my younger sister was young, very young. She was seven years after me, but I couldn't join anything. I had to work on the farm and naturally all the work now fell to me. I'm not kidding, it was hard work and my father was suffering from a bad back at that stage so all the work was left to me.
So about that time my father decided that this week I could earn my money, but I had to look after say six pigs, what we call porkers, and we could take them to the calf and pig sales at Beaudesert, sell them and then buy others, bring them back, but he made sure I knew which was mine by putting a red patch on them. Of course that had to be renewed quite often because
you know pigs love to roll in dirt and mud, what have you. Pigs are lovely animals, really. Anyhow it wasn't long after this I had made enough money but something happened. Something snapped and I had a terrible row with my parents. So I just packed my little bag
and I walked to Woodhill Railway Station, I caught the rail motor and went to Brisbane and there I stayed with friendly relatives, who knew the story. So not being able to join up because oh I'm getting ahead of myself. One day at the pig and calf sales in Beaudesert
I sneaked out and I went to the recruitment hall in Beaudesert, which was at the town hall, and tried to enlist but the medical found I had a rather large hernia so I was refused enlistment and I wouldn't be able to join the services while I had that hernia.
Now my relatives had a very nice old German doctor who was a great friend of the family and I used to go to him and he said "Well you can't join the force until that's mended." So I went to the Manpower in Brisbane, Manpower was based at the Brisbane Royal National show opposite the general hospital and they drafted me to munitions making at Metal Products in Brisbane,
which is down near Newstead. Ah, there I learnt to use a lathe and it introduced me to engineering and I thought "Gee this is good too." Now my work was pretty good, so about six months after I'd been at Metal Products there they paid my way for an afternoon at College of Civil Aviation
in Brisbane. So when I went to the College of Civil Aviation one afternoon per week. I was introduced back to trigonometry, reading technical drawings, which I loved but I still wanted to join the services. So what to do? I went to the old German doctor again and I said "What do I have
to do?" He said "You need to have your hernia fixed." I said "Well I haven't got the money to pay for that sort of thing." He said "Well you must feign an accident my boy." I said "How do I do that?" He said "You vant to join the Air Force or the services you know vot to do. You have to feign an accident." So I used to be making
things for bombs and they were made of brass and they were very heavy in a little case so I found it quite easy really. On the night shift I was there and I picked up this box, I dropped it and let out a scream and the manager came running, or the foreman came running, "What's the matter?" and I said "Oh" and I said "Oh dear" and any rate they laid me down and sure enough,
it's one of the worst things I think I've done in my life. I was operated on. I even got compensation for it and a few months later I went down to the recruiting centre at Eagle Street and ah I wanted to join the Air Force. All fit, healthy, I passed the medical and they gave me this aptitude test. Now the aptitude test
was quite tricky but being a bright boy, simple. So came the time I sat before the air crew selection board or the selection board for air crew or ground staff. I think. Mind you it's a long time ago. There were three officers on that board. One old chap in the centre and two young chaps either side and they asked me what part of the Air Force I wanted
to be in so I said "air crew" and the old chap said "Well you haven't got the qualifications for air crew. You must have a secondary education at least." I said "Well look, could you just listen to my story for a moment." So like I'm doing now, I condensed it into a smaller nutshell and he said "I've been wondering about that because" he said "you've got a hundred per cent in
the aptitude test. He said "That's quite tricky." He said "There's very few get a hundred per cent in it." I said "I've told you. That's my story." I said "I will pass any test after a spot of tuition. I will never let anybody down." I said "I know air crew is difficult. All the subjects will be strange but I will do it" and the old chap in the centre said "I think we'll give this boy a go." This was 1943.
"I think we'll give this boy a go." So I became air crew and within a week I was off to Kingaroy by the old train. In Queensland those days they had a saying of a train "I'll walk beside you." It was very slow and but any rate I had what I wanted. I was going to wear the white flash in the forage cap. That was air crew you see, in training.
So I did all the work at Kingaroy. I did well. Subjects I'd never even heard of, dreamed of, but I worked and I found that second people who'd been to secondary school and even college graduates were going back a course but not me. I kept going. I'll tell you, a pretty bright boy. Anyhow came the time when I had to make up my mind whether I
was going to be a pilot, navigator, bomber, or a wireless air gunner and I made a snap decision. I said "I'll be a WAG." [Wireless air gunner]. I didn't choose pilot because I thought things might be beyond me with the education. I had good co-ordination because that had been tested in a darkened room like this and
with a little thing flying over the screen, but I trained to be a WAG and I was went to Maryborough and there I started to learn again things I'd never even heard of. I didn't know what theory was, electromagnetic theory etcetera but any rate I learned it, kept at it, worked hard but half way through the course they
closed Maryborough and they sent us all down to Ballarat. Now from a warm climate to a cold climate right in the middle of the year and of course that was very cold but still I wanted to be air crew and that was it. Up shot is, or up shot was, in December I passed out with my wings and I could take the white flash out of my cap and they made you a sergeant.
So I was a sergeant WAG but at that time of course, 1944, the war was being won and I went through an air gunner's course, I did a radar course. I did many radar courses. I did a toughening up course, all sorts of things but anyhow I didn't get away to see any active service.
More's the pity but in 1946 I was posted to 38 Squadron at RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] Archerfield, Brisbane, and there I was flying on Dakotas. Routes to Rabaul, Moresby, Rabaul back to Darwin, to Morotai, Japan,
all through the islands and all through this I had met one beautiful girl that I was engaged to, but unfortunately I met my wife and I became disengaged to the other lady and I married my wife on the 24th of May 1947. I was based at
Schofields. We moved from Archerfield to Schofields, which is out here near an old navy base not far from Richmond and we were half way through our honeymoon in Tasmania and a telegram arrived on the desk or at my table and it said "Return immediately report to your
squadron immediately. Your advantage. Signed Balfe." Well I knew it, our squadron leader Balfe was the CO [Commanding Officer] so I thought "Well it's not a hoax" so we had to catch the next air craft back. I left my wife looking all forlorn at Spencer Street Station. I got on the train. I came to Sydney, went out to Schofields and reported in to my CO and asked him “What’s the hurry?”
was and he said "You're off to England" I said "Really?" I said "Oh that'll be great" but then I thought "Does that include my wife?" "Oh of course" he said. I said "Well yes good that's fine." So anyhow I still had to do more trips and what have you, but in November we set sail on the Stratheden yes, for England. So it
was a sort of a second honeymoon. In England we had to find digs and we found them at Marylebone Road, which is not far from Paddington Station. Of course I had to go to RAF [Royal Air Force] bases so I left my wife there and first of all I was posted to training initial conversion unit at RAF Bircham Newton, which is in Norfolk,
and there I had to train, oh let me say there were more of us went. There were two crews. Two pilots, two navigators, two engineers, two WAGs. So the two WAGs, Jack Callinan and myself, were posted to Bircham Newton and we were to
train on radio equipment that was installed in York aircraft. York being a four engine long range aircraft because that was what we were going to fly. I found this equipment terribly inferior to the American equipment. I didn't say so but it was terribly inferior. Marconi equipment. After about four weeks there we were posted to RAF Dishforth which is 24
miles north of York and there we met up with the crew and the idea there was it was an operational unit, 241 OCU [Operational Conversion Unit], and we were placed in our crews and the idea was to weld the crews together so as we could fly on routes out to Singapore or wherever we were supposed to go and of course all
air crew in U.K. were categorised according to their proficiency in their trade and the idea was categories A, B, C and D. Category A was ninety per cent in every subject both oral and written, B was eighty per cent, C was seventy per cent and D was below that. The highest category you could leave Dishforth with was D recommend C, which I got. So I was working hard.
This is not bad for a fellow who left school, or was taken from school the day he was twelve. So we were posted to 242 Squadron at RAF Abingdon, which is not far from Oxford, just south of Oxford, and there I started route flying. Not first with my crew, because we all had to go with various people. We were under training so you had to go with a fully qualified
air crew instructor. So I did my first trip down to down to Fa’id in the Suez Canal zone and on my second trip under training I was as far as with an all RAF crew. Habbaniyah, 20 miles north west of Baghdad. I think it's now
Kaput. I don't know, but it was a beautiful air field. It was near an oasis. A lovely air field. We received a message there to return immediately to the U.K. No questions, return. At that time it was 1948.
Yes, June 1948. As you know at that time Stalin had begun the Cold War. The Cold War was always on but it was getting worse because in April 1948 a Yak Fighter had collided with a Viscount aircraft, British Viscount aircraft, and that caused tension between
the Russians and all the Allies. We call them the Allies, the Americans, the British, the French. So all air crew had been placed on alert because Stalin had said he was going to close down all surface transport to Berlin.
Now at the end of World War II the political expediency had caused Germany to be divided. There was what we call a Western Zone and an Eastern Zone. The Western Zone comprised the British, American and French Zones and the Eastern Zone was the Russian zone,
but inside that was Berlin. The big prize during the war. Now it was divided into four sectors. As opposed to zones, sectors. Again British, American, French and Russian. Now on the 24th
of June, and I made a mistake with Mr Barlow. I said the 28th of June but I was always going to correct it, but never did. On the 24th of June 1948 all air crew were on alert. All RAF air crew were on alert. Russia closed off all surface transport, that is road, rail and water was closed. The only way in or out was by air.
Unfortunately in the Yalta agreement there had been three air corridors made into Berlin, each twenty miles wide. They converged in the shape of an arrowhead in the centre of Berlin. Now it was fifteen thousand tonnes daily to supply the western sectors of Germany
for food. Now if we wanted to keep alive the people in West Berlin, somehow or other they had to be supplied by air and that was a difficult feat, but we the
air crew were all mustered, the air craft Dakotas first of all went off to be based at Wunstorf. It was sort of a trial and a week later York air craft, Dakota air craft, they all converged on various spots in Germany. The Americans came into it and they were flying Skymasters at the time, but the RAF could supply Yorks
and Dakotas. The Yorks could fly ten tonnes, Dakotas four. Also Sunderland flying boats brought in to what they could fly. Carry five tonnes. The route for Yorks was from Wunstorf to Gatow and Berlin. Dakotas were moved out of Wunstorf, moved up to Lubeck to make way for the bigger Yorks.
Now I joined the air lift early June, no early July, I beg your pardon. Early July 1948 I joined the air lift and I remember going over there and I didn't even touch the ground and I was on my air craft off to Gatow and return. Did two flights before I could find a bed. Now in at that stage all air crew
were just thrown into a big hall and we were on stretcher beds. I think some people slept on billiard tables but anywhere and everywhere you could find somewhere to sleep you slept, and the space between the stretchers I remember putting my legs over the bed and there was this next stretcher. It was very unhygienic. The showers were always wet and full, but you
only slept there anyway because you were flying most of the time. It was a rather Heath Robinson sort of affair to start with for the first week or so but gradually technology took over and we had Yorks flying in a wave, Dakotas coming in a wave and nobody crashed. In other words it
was all on a basis whereby Yorks flew in at one stage carrying their ten tonne and the Dakotas would come in from Lubeck. There was a movement on Gatow air strip every ninety seconds. Ah, I remember you'd take in, and I'm getting a little ahead of myself here, but in the first instance
you went down to the briefing hall and you could have a cup of ah tea or a cup of coffee and a bun for a pfennig token. A pfennig being NAAFI [Navy, Army, Air Force Institute] money. It was made out of masonite or something like that. Now there was the operations room
on the air field and they were supposed to tell you when an aircraft was ready by means of a field telephone, but the field telephone never rang, so what we used to do was to walk out in the mud and the rain, walk over to the briefing hut and if an aircraft was ready you'd get this little piece of tin with the number on it, you'd see where it was on the aerodrome and you'd walk off
and if you were lucky it was there. If you weren't, well too bad but you had to keep a sense of humour. Now when you found the aircraft you gave that little piece of tin to the chiefey in charge of that particular lot. You'd make sure the aircraft was serviceable. Then you took off, well you took your place in the line of aircraft on the perimeter track destined for Gatow and you would leave
precisely three minutes after your previous aircraft. Once air borne you'd turn north towards the entrance to the northern air corridor to Berlin and at the northern entrance opposite Hamburg at the Engastorf (Engelsdorf ?) radio beacon you swung into the procession down the corridor and the flight time to Berlin was 55 minutes. Now
the territory beneath the corridor was in Russian hands but you didn't bother about that, but what you had to keep your eye out for was the Yak aircraft buzzing your aircraft and they became quite expert at it. After all we were a heavy aircraft and they were a fighter aircraft but we didn't actually have any incidents. Not our particular aircraft and 20 miles out
of Gatow you would call "Gatow approach control." You would tell them your load, your tail number. Now to prevent double message handling on the ground there was a transceiver based in a load control manned 24 hours a day and they didn't have to receive a message from the tower because they were already receiving it, they would get their
load per personnel in place. Over the Frohnau beacon you would call "Gatow tower." Now Frohnau beacon was the pivot. You had to be over Frohnau beacon within plus or minus 20 seconds. That was the time allowed. You were told to turn in a southward directions and start losing height. So
you would turn again over another beacon near the centre of Berlin and you would see the Gatow run way before you. Then you would call "Over the Christmas tree." Now that was the Kaiser Wilhelm I memorial. It was a big memorial. Bright lit at night with red lights and you would call "Over the Christmas tree" and you would sight the under carriage down
and the aircraft ahead of you was just rolling off the run way. There was another aircraft rolling onto the run way ready to take off. There was another aircraft at the beacon behind you, another aircraft over the Frohnau beacon and that went on day after day night after night week after week during the whole time of the air lift after the first initial week or so. So it was heavy
intense traffic. If you missed your landing you were given directions to join the upward bound traffic and you'd take your load back to Wunstorf. Didn't happen to us. Now once you took your place on the apron under the control of the batman and even
before you could unhook your safety harness there were German labourers aboard unloading the aircraft. You had 30 minutes on the ground, some of which was spent eating another doughnut and drinking another cup of coffee or tea or whatever then you'd climb back into your aircraft and off you'd go back to Wunstorf.
Anyhow I think it was early December, not quite sure of the dates, we were taken off the air lift to go back or to be posted to 24 Commonwealth Squadron because that was our original destination, the Australians.
Just back tracking, we were the three thousandth aircraft to land at Gatow and we were met with frauleins and scrambled eggs if you know what I mean, all the VIPs [very important persons] the group captains, the air commodores, everybody came out to meet us and Fraulein Schoenroch she had a beautiful bunch of flowers etcetera and presented them to
everybody and I forget what the message was, but we had a chap called Coburn on board who was a reporter for the Courier Mail in Brisbane and anyway that was a highlight. That was a highlight. I've got photographs of it there if you want to see them later.
I might just stop you there Ted, 'cause we're about to run out of tape and we'll change tape and keep going.
Interviewee: Edgar Ferguson Archive ID 0553 Tape 02
Where was I?
You were telling us about um,
Oh yes we were
The air lift.
We were posted to 24 Commonwealth Squadron. That was at RAF Bassingbourn. Now during this time of course we didn't have time to be categorised so the very first thing to when we went to 24 Squadron was if you wanted to carry, it was a secondary squadron
whereby if the Queen's flight couldn't carry the VIP we were called in. 24 Commonwealth VIP Squadron. So the first time I came to be categorised I made a category B. Mind you, we'd had no time to study or do anything
but the next time I made the category. I felt very proud of that. That meant ninety per cent in every subject. But we were mainly route flying. Route flying, I mean from the RAF were flying from U.K, mainly Lyneham or Abingdon out to Singapore
or New Zealand or whatever. During that time there I flew out to New Zealand. We landed at Melbourne on Melbourne Cup Day. At the time the Melbourne Cup was running and I wondered why nobody was answering from the tower. See in York aircraft the pilot didn't do the VHF work with the
tower, that was left all to the WAG and I said "There's nobody answering." Anyway it was because the Melbourne Cup was being run but I did a number of trips of course. Some odd ones. One was we stayed at Castille Benito, which is down in Tunisia and the next day
near Sfax a place called Sfax there is a huge arena and we circled around this arena three or four times. It's like an old Olympic Park Stadium and you can imagine the athletes taking off their togas and hanging them up on the pegs and everything. It was just a fantasy but there was this huge ampitheatre. Wonderful place and then down to Fa’id and in the Suez
Canal zone and back, but most of the trips were out through Malta, through Fa’id or Shallufah and up to Habbaniyah. We couldn't fly over the Palestine in those days. We had to from 1947 on because that was the separation. We had to fly down towards the Red Sea and then up and catch the pipeline and fly down to Habbaniyah then down to Morapor,
which was Karachi. I don't know whether many people know where Karachi is these days. I don't think it's called Karachi anymore. Then down the coast to Negombo, RAF Negombo which is Ceylon, Sri Lanka now, for all of the mod people then onto Singapore. Changi or Tengah and there you'd either go Hong Kong, Australia.
On one of the trips to Australia we flew from Singapore to Kemajoran, which is now Jakarta. Was then in Dutch hands and from there on to Darwin and we didn't refuel at Kemajoran or Jakarta I suppose I'd better say, because people won't understand it,
and on our way to Darwin one of the engines stopped so we had to fly on three engines, it can fly quite safely on three engines, the York. It's got those beautiful Merlin engines. Anyway we arrived at Darwin very late. Hot, first time back in Australia really this was for us. First time back in Australia
since 1947, since we'd left and it was about eleven thirty at night and for some reason or other Darwin were very upset about all this so they did muster up a meal of baked beans and I said to the orderly officer "Well where do I sleep?" I remember he took me to this old hut or room, they were like houses
up there in Darwin, married quarters and what have you, and I felt around for the light and he said "Don't bother about the light, there isn't any." I said "No light?" He said "No." This is getting on to half twelve, one o'clock in the morning and he just said "Look there's a blanket here and there's a mosquito net" and he left.
I thought "Gee." Any rate I fiddled around and there wasn't anything so I just rolled myself in my blanket, stayed in my flying overalls. We had an air crew valise. I just pulled that up, put my head on it and I was to be plagued with mosquitoes all night, and next morning at breakfast I looked awful. We all did. I looked awful and the warrant officer in charge of the mess came
to me and he said "Where did you sleep last night?" I said "I don't really know." I said "There was no light or anything" I said "I just slept in a blanket." He said "Oh dear" and said some nice words about the orderly officer which don't bear repeating and he took me to the room that I was supposed to have and I'm forever indebted to that warrant officer because we were there for two weeks
and do you know it was a strange thing. We had to get a new engine out from U.K. and it was coming out by Hastings but the people at Darwin just would not keep us informed. In fact the only reason we knew our air craft or our engine was there was we saw a Hastings in the landing area and we said "That's
our engine." Nobody had told us. Now the Hastings landed so we had to get that new engine out, we had to get the old one back in and that took over twenty four hours but I can tell you, the new engine was installed very quickly in that York aircraft. We did a test flight and we're off. We were out of there. Out of Darwin. Why ever they treated us like that I'll never know. I just don't know. It might have been jealousy.
It might have been I don't know. Anyway we went on to New Zealand and as I say down to Melbourne on Melbourne Cup Day and what have you but yes, the trips with 24 Squadron were wonderful and then of course came the Amethyst. The HMS [Her/His Majesty’s Ship] Amethyst. It went up some river in South East Asia. It shouldn't have been there. It was shot at
and when it got back to U.K. the broadsheets were full of it. "Everybody hail the sailors." So I think it was an afterthought that they said "We'd better get the air lift RAF boys to march through London." So any rate that's by the by. Whether that's true or not I don't know, but it was around at the time. The story was there and it was good. Anyway
I was chosen to march on this Berlin air lift through London. So it was December, early December very early. The 1st I think it was, or late November. Along with a lot of RAF fellows we came down to Woolwich Arsenal. Now I understood Woolwich Arsenal, which is an army base, had been condemned from a century or so ago. It was awful.
Anyhow the first night went to bed there. Wasn't very hygienic because you were breathing other people's breath. There was people everywhere, just like the start of the air lift really, and next morning a chap came along and he woke me up and he said "Good morning sir." I said "Good morning." He said "Ready for your ablutions, sir?" I said "Yes." He picked up my towel, my soap,
my toothbrush, razor. "Follow me sir" and I went down and the ablutions were a lot of old colonel blimps in a big bath all scrubbing themselves and I thought "I'm an Australian, this is not for me. This is not for me." I said "I'll go back. You get me a dish of water, warm water, and
I'll do the necessary there." So I did just that and he seemed very upset that I wouldn't get in with all the colonel blimps and be scrubbed. That's most unhygienic. Anyway I found a telephone and I rang my wife, who was at Cambridge at the time and I said "Get down here please. Get into London and book at one of those hotels." I can't remember the
chain of hotels but there was one at Piccadilly. I said "Get into that one and I'll somehow wangle leave. I'm not going to sleep here anymore." So being the only Australian there I presented myself to the lieutenant in charge of leave passes or whatever he was doing and I told him that I was not going to sleep there, that I'd called my wife, she was already in London and she was staying at
this place and I would make my way every morning to Woolwich arsenal because I knew there were buses every morning and although it might be a little bit awkward for me I would be there on time. I didn't have to stay in at night time. There was nothing to keep me. He somewhat grudgingly allowed me to do this. So it was a little bit awkward, but my wife and I stayed at this hotel. Now we
were drilled, marched everything, which wasn't bad because we were to meet the King and you don't do things by halves when you're meeting the King and the Queen. So my shoes were polished. Spat on them and polished, oh. Anyhow it was good fun and I joined up with the fellows at Woolwich arsenal on the day before the march and I couldn't
stay out that night because we were marched into St James, which is then very near Buckingham Palace and that morning we marched over the bridge and we lined up in the quadrangle at Buckingham Palace. There were two Australians on the march, one representing the Dakota. Well there was a lot of Dakotas, came over during the air lift. I was on Yorks
and Squadron Leader Greenwood I think his name was. Anyway, it doesn't matter. So the King and the Queen both spoke to me and I thought that was marvellous, the old King, I've got a little got a little piece of paper I'll show you after. The King did speak to me and he praised the Australians for their part on the air lift and the Queen spoke to me and I've never seen such beautiful
blue eyes in all my life. Eyes the colour of the Mediterranean. That's the dear old Queen mum. A soft spot for Queen mum. After that we did the royal salute and then marched out of Buckingham Palace, through London, to the Guild Hall where we were to be entertained at a luncheon presided over by Prime Minister Clement Attlee. That was
quite a thing really. I saw my wife of course. She was at the saluting base, half way along the route but that was all. After the luncheon at the Guild Hall I was taken by car to the BBC studios in London. I gave a ten minute talk of my impressions of the air lift for
which they paid me a sum of money, which I gave to charity. I'm not humble or anything about that. I make no bones about it. Why should I take money for something like that? Then I collected my dear patient wife and we went off to the “Folie Bergeres”, which had come over from Paris for a season and after that I met up with some old air crew RAF air crew mates and
we talked the night into morning over a few mild and bitter and I went back to Cambridge on the 8th of December. It was the 7th of December 1949 the march through London. So back to work at Cambridge, or we were based at three places around Cambridge. First of all Bassingbourn then Waterbeach then Oakington and
I can't remember the year I came home but anyway after that it was a few months, I finished work for 24 Squadron and then came back to Australia but I did a couple of trips to Canada through Iceland and Goose Bay, which is Labrador,
escorting bombers over there for an exercise and that was two good trips. I enjoyed those immensely but anyway my wife and I came home on the SS Strathlaver. It was one of the Strath ships either the Stratheden or the Strathlaver. We went over on one and came back on the other. When I came back to Australia,
I feel I'm missing something out somewhere, when I came back to Australia I was posted to 36 Squadron at Richmond. So my wife stayed in Melbourne for just that time but I wanted to get back to teaching, yes. During my stay at 24 Squadron I was posted to RAF Swanton Morley to do
an instructional technique course. Now I always wanted to be a school teacher and I just loved this. I lapped it up. It was wonderful to get back into this sort of thing and Chalkey White, the chief instructor said to me "Look we want all of our students" and there were about eight of us, he said "We want them to give a talk" but he said "Would you give a talk on
Australia?" I said "How long have I got?" and he said "Well you can take the time you want." I said "Really?" I said "Well I shall do just that." So being a boy bred and born in the bush and having a little bit of town knowledge and I'd studied a lot about Australia, I worked up a good talk and
it was a big surprise when I walked into the room to give my talk. Most of the station were there. Chalkey White had gone around and invited the CO and all the people around so I gave this talk on Australia and I got a lot of questions and I was real chuffed and so were they and I got a lot of questions from people, people would pull me up
and talk and ask me about things. I don't know whether I got any people to come to Australia out of it but I certainly put Australia on the map at RAF Swanton Morley. Anyway I got back to Australia and I was there for a just a couple or three months and I decided that this wasn't for me. I wanted to get back down to Ballarat where they were teaching the WAGs. Bringing in wireless air gunners to teach.
I think they were calling them signallers in those days. So I was posted to Ballarat back to instructional work and that was something I enjoyed immensely. I was only there a few months and I was selected to go to officers' training school. I became a flying officer of course and I was
posted to Central Flying School at East Sale, again instructional work. I served my time there and I was posted to Tanamar Squadron at Townsville, maritime reconnaissance, so that was flying long nose Lincolns. We did a course down at Nowra. It was
maritime reconnaissance naturally. Co-operation with the navy, HMAS [Her/His Majesty’s Australian Ship] Quiberon, Quickmatch, and submarine HMS Telemachus, which was on loan from the RAF, on loan from the Royal Navy at the time. We learnt the art of dropping sonar buoys to find out where the submarine was or supposed to be etcetera but it somehow eluded
us because the navy were in charge and the navy kept saying "Drop your sonar buoy there" so we'd drop our sonar buoy there and you'd listen for cavitations. Cavitations is the noise of the propeller. I couldn't pick any up and I was operating it and I couldn't pick any up and I said "The navy are wrong." "No they're right." So after an hour of searching, which was the complete exercise,
they asked the submarine to surface and of course the damn things was miles away and at the wash up we blamed the navy and the navy blamed us, but the navy were wrong. It was all fun. It wasn't a court martial offence. At Tanamar Squadron we always used to have a
slip crew at Darwin for a month, or not a slip crew so much as a search and rescue crew. So we would do a marex, maritime exercise, going to Darwin and we'd stay there for a month. My wife by this still was at Stratford in Victoria. Long way away. So on this particular day, Sir William Slim was on a visit to Australia. Sir William Slim was the Governor-General
and he was touring Australia in his Dakota. So on this particular day, I think it was about the 6th of July 1954, got the date right, Sir William Slim was asked to board the HMAS Condamine and we would do a maritime exercise with it flying this long nose Lincoln. I think the people on the Condamine actually
got a terrible fright. So did the crew of our aircraft when our skipper ordered "Under carriage down" and more or less made a landing on the Condamine. He must have missed it by that much. That evening our skipper went out and our crew discussed
the fact that our skipper was a drunkard. I will not mention his name, and he was. An absolute drunkard. In fact once he said "That's the best drunken take off I've ever done" and collapsed and only through a good second pilot and engineer would am I alive today.
However the next day or that Sir William Slim departed, went down to Alice Springs and we got a call from Alice Springs saying "The battery's dead in the GG's [Governor General’s] aircraft. Can you please bring down a battery from Darwin." So we load loaded a battery in our big Lincoln, took off, went down to Alice Springs, handed over the battery
and decided we wouldn't go back that night. The next day we boarded the aircraft early, took off for Darwin, lovely flight up, and on landing the captain always says "Cut motors." One didn't cut. I was sitting in the nose of this long nose Lincoln and all I could see was trees,
dust, you name it coming towards me. We swung off the run way, veered right, over a drain, a wheel went off and we just went through the bush and the aircraft did a beautiful one eighty, broke its back and ended up looking the way we were going
and somebody yelled "Get out, get out." Well naturally you weren't going to stay there, were you? So I lifted this window, there was a big window beside me and I couldn't move. I found my right foot was stuck in some equipment which had come loose and then somebody yelled out "Fire"
and I made a super human effort and I got out and I was walking 'round in a bit of a daze and I was walking on bare foot and the top of the shoe was still on my foot and I was walking 'round in a bit of a daze, I'd been stunned, and I could hear this voice "Fire" so I came to and I raced
and, or tried to, as best I could and I jumped over behind a big ant bed and I found the rest of the crew there and the old fire engine from Darwin had lumbered up and was putting out this fire, which was going to envelop the aircraft. So it was rather a lucky thing but that was old A7359 and it stayed there and they stripped the aircraft
of all its good stuff and it stayed there for many years as a fire instructional thing. In fact when I went there years later as an equipment officer it was still there. So that was the end of old A7359 and I found not long after that I couldn't keep my air crew category, which is very high medical category.
Various things were happening to me and the drunken skipper didn't make it any better. In fact the whole crew jacked up on it and said "We're out of here. We don't want to fly. You don't dump on people but I'm afraid they had to and we had to. So he was a bit ostracised.
He wasn't posted from the Squadron but he was given a ground job and we were rather happy about that, but I couldn't keep my air crew category and I wrote to Department of Air who wrote a nice letter back to me and said "You are transferred to the equipment branch with the rank of flight lieutenant and a permanent commission." Good. So I was posted down to Tottenham in
Victoria to train as an equipment officer and this put me nearer my wife, who was at Stratford. In the meantime my second daughter was born. My first daughter was born while I was at CFS [Central Flying School] at East Sale and my wife was in Ballarat, so I wasn't home for anybody. I was posted to Amberley
in Queensland as a stores officer then I was posted to Toowoomba, which was a stores depot, but I became the officer in charge of the bomb dump. During my training as an equipment officer, I was also trained an explosive fuel and compressed gases expert supposedly. So I was put in charge of the bomb dump at Helidon in Queensland.
That's where my son was born, at Gatton in Queensland. So I was not long at Helidon and I received a call from a group captain friend of mine who was at Department of Air and said "We are posting you to Darwin" and I said "I haven't been here very long. I haven't been here the requisite
two years." He said "Well you know the two years is the optimum time" but he said "There have been four buildings blown off the face of the earth at Snake Creek in Darwin at the explosives depot and I want you up there pronto." So I received a posting the next day and within the week I was on my way to Darwin, leaving my wife at Heladon in married quarters in Queensland. So
I was told to go down to Snake Creek to take charge and Snake Creek is seventy miles south of Darwin. It is near Adelaide River, which is the war cemetery. Did you know there were civilians buried at the war cemetery in Darwin? The only war cemetery in the world where civilians are buried? They're the post office people who were killed at the raid. Beautiful place, Adelaide River. Anyhow
mine was Snake Creek and I went to the main gate and I looked at these buildings and it was four buildings blown off the face of the earth and I looked at the other buildings, the administrative building, there were shrapnel marks through it. How could have anybody survived but they did. I don't think it's wise for me to
tell you how the buildings were blown off the face of the earth. I know how they were blown off, but the only thing that was left was the axle of a big four by four truck and that was on top of the hill about 400 yards up from where the building was blown off, but I had all the administrative work to do to clear it all up. I stayed there for some considerable time. There was nothing untoward happened at Snake
Creek except a big fire, which came through and right on burnt over the bombs and what have you, but bombs are really inert things. People are frightened of them but they're inert until you place the detonator in them and that's when the problems occur, if you bump them. That was the only thing that really happened there. I moved the bombs up during my time there, I moved the bombs
by road up to Francis Bay and Francis Bay came into existence. I set it all up and I was posted down to 1 Central Reserve at Kingswood. I did a sort of a staff course while I was there on administration but I was only there a short time and I was posted to Movement Control Office in Sydney. Now Movement Control Office is responsible for the
movement through New South Wales of all personnel and cargo in and out, import and export. Therefore we had to deal with customs and do the necessary things for all the equipment that's coming through, including general average if a ship happened to get sunk, which happened twice during my stay I had to do the general average, but when I first went to Movement Control I think the Vietnam War came
and I was put in charge of loading the ships and sending the personnel on Charter and Hercules up to Vietnam. The first ship was, I could be wrong, but I think it is it was the Jeparit, J-E-P
R-I-T. How the Boonaroo got into it I'm not sure because time makes it hazy. Now I remember at that time the people were all against the Vietnam War. There were demonstrations everywhere but the Jeparit was,
I can't remember the name of the wharf that it was there and I had to load it regardless. So I had to send up hangars, not as such but in pieces, and all the equipment necessary to start the Australians off at Vung Tau. Now I had all of these
hangars and equipment loaded onto huge trucks huge trucks, Department of Supply and RAAF and army, and they were all lined up on Hickson Road and I had a Commonwealth car and I went down to start the loading on this particular morning very early and Ian Ross was there with his cameraman. You know Ian Ross from Channel Nine and
the gates were locked. The Jeparit was in at berth. So Ian Ross came to me and made the motion "Wind down the window." I said to him "I don't deal with you." I said "I'm trying to load a ship. Go away. I'm interested in talking to the people
who are loading the ship, i.e. wharfies. Go away." Well this wharfie came along and excuse me but he spat on the window of the car I was sitting in. Well this enraged me somewhat so I opened the door, got out and I remember Ross coming to me with the camera
with the microphone and I soon dealt with that and I looked at this wharfie and I said "Open the gates because" I said "If you don't I'm going to knock them down and do you see that big truck?" and there was a huge truck there with staff." I said "He'll obey what I say because he's trained to obey. Open the gates
or suffer the consequences. He laughed at me and I called the truck forward and it was it was that far off knocking the gates down when he said "Hold it hold it." I looked at him and said "Are you going to open that gate?" I said "Look I'll tell you something. We're not here to argue. We are here to load a ship in support
of our people in south Vietnam. The government of the people you should go and spit on the window for, not me, not us. Think of the people in Vietnam. They're flesh and blood just like you and me and they're obeying an order. They have to be there. We have to support them. Think of it like that. Don't protest against us." "Oh."
He got out this big set of keys and opened the gates and consequently the Jeparit was loaded. Within seven days it was set sail but it was a sticky situation. Ian Ross didn't ever get his interview with me because I wouldn't talk. I'm not supposed to talk to him. It wasn't my job. He could talk to parliament or some bod like that, not me. Anyhow I got to thinking
when I was there that all this equipment, it's just a jumble. It's going to be off loaded at Vung Tau or Camran Bay and it'll be mixed up with American, with army, with all sorts of equipment and it wasn't marked. I thought "There must be some way of doing things properly or better than this to identify the equipment" and I thought it would be a good idea if we could have
a kangaroo stamped on everything. An R-A, kangaroo, A-F. Likewise the army, likewise anybody else. So I went back and I told my boss. I was the assistant Movement Control Officer so I told the Movement Control Officer and he said "That would be a good idea. Oh good idea." I said "Yes it would. It would help identify etcetera etcetera."
So I said "Do you want me to put it in writing?" He said "No no no." He said "I'll fix it all up." Well within about a month a letter came back giving him all the credit and he accepted the credit for my thought. I learnt a bitter lesson. Put it in writing because your superior officer will always take the credit and I learnt a lesson from that.
It I was there for about five years at Movement Control. I had various dignitaries came through. I looked after ministers for air. I looked after the people who came in for Harold Holt's funeral. The Chief of Air Staff etcetera and I received many many letters of thanks, which I put on file because it wasn't me. I learnt the lesson. Give credit to your people,
because they were there to help me. Sure I did a lot of it, but they helped so I always put those letters of thank you on file. Always and let them read it and made sure. Then I was posted to Butterworth as Movement Control Officer. So I was doing the same job at Butterworth really as I was doing in Sydney only it was a different line altogether really because I had to work with the Malaysian authorities and that became a bit difficult but
I became good friends with a customs officer, who trusted me. Penang is a duty free island, whereas the mainland was not duty free so everything that came from Penang to Butterworth or vice versa you had to declare at the point. I don't know what it's like now. I believe there's a bridge built from Penang to Butterworth but anyway those days there wasn't, there was ferries,
but I got on well but I often received calls in the middle of the night from the customs people saying "We've got a fellow here who hasn't got a chit from you." I was god almighty I suppose because if they had a chit from me signed by me with my signature which the customs had a facsimile of, these people could bring through various items such as cameras, you name it. Oh
certain things were forbidden of course.
Interviewee: Edgar Ferguson Archive ID 0553 Tape 03
Edgar, if you'd just like to finish off you were just telling us that you were posted to Butterworth during the Vietnam days.
Oh yes, that's right. Well I can bring that in. Yes at Butterworth I was the MCO [Movement Control Officer] and similar to Sydney where I was MCO, but I learnt to play golf
when I was at Butterworth. I was working very hard, because it is a big job, Movement Control Officer. You're really on call twenty four hours a day and my wife said "You're working too hard. For heaven's sake go and play golf." So she bought me a half golf set, three, five, seven, nine iron and putter and I think five wood or something and the bug bit me.
I started to like golf and see Butterworth had its own golf course, nine hole golf course, and we used to go up on a Saturday etcetera and play at rubber plantations like Harvard and Dublin, all named after English things because they were managed by Englishmen. All the rubber plantations up there were managed by English people. Harvard, Dublin so and then I played a game at Penang.
While I was at Butterworth I was introduced to SEATO [South East Asian Treaty Organisation]. I was posted up to Bangkok, attached to Bangkok, while on exercise and that is when the men walked on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and company and I was at Sattahip, which is south of
Bangkok and we all stopped work that particular day and there was a huge screen, we were all at the theatre, and we watched the capsule land on the moon and watched Neil Armstrong come out, take a tentative step etcetera and heard him utter those famous words and saw them running around on the moon etcetera but when he did get
out there were quite a number of us thought, it was unknown you see, and we thought "What say something grabs him?" I think the thought took over on a number of us, but it didn't happen and we watched them take off and go back to the capsule, but during that time it was a very unfortunate thing where the
HMAS Melbourne pranged the United States ship, Frank Evans, and of course this particular morning we wondered why the Americans wouldn't talk to us, we were half way through the exercise, and we were told that the Melbourne had practically cut the USS Evans in half and we thought it was part of the exercise
but it wasn't. It was true and you wouldn't think the Americans or anybody would treat anybody like that. After all we had no part in it. We couldn't stop the thing from pranging. Anyway the exercise ended on that sour note. We packed up and came back. I went back to Butterworth but then I was posted back to Bangkok again for another exercise at SEATO
which lasted a week and I went back took my wife and family back to Thailand for ten days and that is how my young daughter was introduced to Thailand. Hence she's up there now and has been since 1982 and doing very well, but
I came home in 1972. I went up there on in 1968, came home in 1972, purchased this house, we've been here ever since. I was posted to be the Equipment Liaison Officer at Qantas so my work was out at the aerodrome at Kingsford Smith aerodrome every day overseeing contracts which the RAAF
had with Qantas and indeed with other organisations as well, but my health was failing at that time and I thought "I think I'll cut my life with the RAAF short." I had another two and a half years I think to go, but I gave my wife a good birthday present
on the 27th of February 1972. I retired from the service. So I had a good run in the service and or was it 1975? I beg your pardon. Yes it was 27th of February 1975 I left the service. What to do? You're able to take a
parade, do all sorts of things one day and next day you're nothing. So what to do? I had learnt administration, I was very good at administration. I thought so anyway. So I was then in the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales as a mason. I became worshipful master
of my lodge. Lodge Liverpool Number 197. You don't mind me saying this, do you? And that was something to do, but the year after I was worshipful master the secretary said to me "It's yours. Here take it. I don't want to be secretary." So I was secretary of my lodge after that for many years. I enjoyed it. I was treasurer of something else. I became treasurer of the
CEBS football club. That's the Church of England Boys club. And I think I retired from being lodge secretary because I found my eyesight, I couldn't drive at night time properly or I was frightened to drive at night time because of the lights. I seem to see two lights where there's one and it's very difficult when you run through one light and you find they're in the centre or two lights. So
nobody could pick me up because they all live at Liverpool and I think I was fourteen years secretary of my lodge but during that time in 1980 I was selected to be what a lot of people call the Grand Poobah, which is the District Grand Inspector of Workings of my district lodge. So I had District 40 to
look after and control. I enjoyed this life immensely because it meant giving to people. It meant a lot of charity work, which I loved. It was good to see the people enjoy what you could give quite freely and I think that I was almost out every night, out every weekend but I hope
that my wife and I brought a lot of joy to people who count most. People these days seem to want something in return but that's not right, but of course I still kept playing golf. I joined Carnarvon Golf Club, which is over near Lidcombe, but they priced me out of business. It got too costly
for me. I couldn't pay the fees. But it was far too much for me and look after the house and do the various things with the money which I was getting. So I joined what we call the Grove Golf Club out at Liverpool and I had been introduced to the Veterans Golf Club at Carnarvon and I thought there was nothing like that at the Grove at all and I thought
"Why not?" So I started up the Veterans Golf Club at the Grove, that is the Veterans Golf Club within the Grove Golf Club catering for people fifty five years and over, ladies included. A number of people didn't like the ladies being included but I said "The only reason you don't like the ladies being included is because they can drive the ball further than you and beat you at golf. So
they're going to play" and everybody came around. They treated me as the boss. I was the manager, the president, the secretary, the treasurer. I was everything in that golf club and I didn't mind, except that that it's not according to Hoyle but it wasn't being run according to Hoyle and we had a lot of good times together. I got a lot of veterans playing there. People from other
clubs would come and say "We don't get the same enjoyment and contentment as we do when we come here." It was run very well. Even though I did run it myself, but people loved it. But that all came to a grinding halt when somebody, whose name ends in O, enough said, decided that he wanted to buy the place and Liverpool Council,
for whatever reason best known to themselves except this kind of thing, does that come up on camera? Mm. I think that was it. It's flood prone land. Any rate he gave us three weeks to vacate the premises and it meant that my old people who were enjoying themselves playing golf, looked forward very much to that
Thursday at the Grove, now didn't play golf and indeed a lot a them have just gone back to vegetate in front of the TV, which is quite wrong. If you want to live you've got to get out and enjoy yourself. So I joined, along with a number of other people, Riverwood Golf Course. Now I'm sure the people at Riverwood who run it, Darren Seho etcetera, wouldn't mind me saying it but it's a goat track
but it suits me. It's got to suit me because I can't pay Cabramatta fees, I couldn't pay Liverpool fees. I used to be a member of Liverpool, that's right but I couldn't pay Liverpool fees so I didn't want to go to RAE Golf Club, which is the Royal Engineers Golf Club at Moorebank, because it's very difficult to get to, especially of a morning. You've got to go through the bridge over here at
at Newbridge and there's always a huge bottleneck there so I decided to join Riverwood and I still play there now twice a week but I used to play on Saturday and I won various monthly medals. I won the gold medal and the young people used to say to me "How is it that an old fella like you can beat us?" Well I just said "I'm better. I've made myself better.
I have to work harder at things" and they're good chaps. They enjoy that but that has really been my life and I still play my golf but I've had a quadruple bypass. That was quite sudden. A quadruple bypass and apart from other operations, which I don't really want to talk about
and I've had Bells Palsy which gave me a big fright because it left me with one side of my face rather dropped down and I was still recovering from my heart operation when that happened and it was very frightening to learn that I could have been like for the rest of my life, but
somehow or other I've weathered that and I think I've come back to a state of normalcy and this latest business with my knee is just a hiccup. I'll be back playing golf a couple of weeks from now.
Well thank you for sharing those stories. I'm wondering if I can take you back now to war time.
If you could tell me a bit about what you knew when war was declared in Europe. How did you find out about it?
Mind you I was away out in the bush. I can't remember really. We had
an Astor radio that ran by valves and if you walked around it fluttered and it had a big horn speaker. I think I heard the news or it could have been the 'Courier Mail', the 'Brisbane Courier Mail' which used to come to our place. I have a funny feeling I can still remember Menzies' voice saying "Our melancholy duty to
inform you that were are at war" because those words stick in my mind and I don't think if I'd have read them it would I would have remembered it so well as when I heard it, and I think it was through the old Astor radio which we had. Very old radios those days. They weren't transistors as they are today. If you realise. I've got one in there I can show you and it's got valves in it, you had two big
valves. And how did I react? I wanted to join up. I think I said I wanted to join the lighthorse but you see farming was declared a protected profession but that didn't worry me in the least. I wanted to join up. I wanted to join the lighthorse but my father said "No" and that caused a big row because I wasn't really
friends with my parents. I must say that. I'm the black sheep. I must say that. They're not alive but they wouldn't dispute it. To give you an instance of that, when I was based at Archerfield in 1946 they'd sold the farm at this stage and they had a property at um, I think it was either Darra or Oxley. Not
sure now but it was a beautiful sunny afternoon and I was wasn't flying and I said "I'll visit my parents." I had been told where they were. My brother was back from the war by this time and he had told me where they were so I walked to the place and it was a kind of a vegetable farm
and they didn't even offer me a cup of tea and they said they were too busy to talk to me and I don't think they even knew I was there. Sad. But I left and went back to base. I don't think they even missed me. I've often tried to pinpoint why my parents disliked me so. You see
just after I was taken from school, I'm getting off your question, Miss Miles, my teacher, got a horse and sulky and came to our place and visited us. This would be about July in 1933 and she said to my father that the school inspector was coming to visit and he was bringing the
year before's scholarship papers. Now the scholarship papers in Queensland at that time, you sat them at the end of the year. All students if their parents allowed them to would sit those scholarship papers and if you got a certain percentage you were admitted into college or secondary school, higher education. Now the boy and the girl who received the highest percentage used to win a Lilley Medal. It was called
the Lilley Medal. L-I-double L-E-Y. Now she said the school inspector is not only here to judge the pupils' proficiency, but it was to judge her proficiency as well and I was one of her pupils therefore she felt that I should be allowed to come along and do my bit so to speak. So my father grudgingly agreed. I shall never forget it. He just grudgingly
agreed and said "Providing it doesn't take up too much time." Which meant of course that pertinent to the fact that I was slave labour. So I did sit them and under the stern eye of the inspector, and I'm not I'm blowing my own horn or anything, but I got 99.5%. I had left school. I was in a year higher than my age
which meant that I would have won the Lilley Medal and it would have meant that the state would have paid my way through college. Miss Miles came back two weeks later to talk to my father again about it because she was adamant that I had a grand career ahead in teaching, but no. I wasn't
allowed to do it. I was to work on the farm and that was it. So consequently naturally when I wanted to join the lighthorse or anything like that I couldn't and yet my brother two years later was allowed to join the Cameron Highlanders and I wasn't allowed to do anything but I couldn't have anyway because as I found out when I sneaked out from the pig and calf sales in Beaudesert that particular Monday that I had a hernia and therefore I was unable to pass the medical so
I was back to square one anyway, and at that stage I wouldn't have known what to do to make myself fit and I wouldn't have been able to have an operation because I was wanted on the farm.
Well I understand, you've described quite clearly, your difficulties with your family but were there other reasons why you wanted to join up?
It was the done thing. Besides it was an adventure wasn't it? It was the done thing. People join up, but as it turned out there was very few chaps, the war memorial at Woodhill will show you how many people joined up from there. My name's on that but there's very few others. You see they were all in protected occupations I think and they took it.
Some of the people yes, because when I came back from U.K [United Kingdom] I visited Beaudesert for some reason or other and I used to have a few drinks those days. I don't anymore, but I went into the Logan and Albert Hotel and there were three chaps there, I better not mention names though,
and they looked at me and said "Oh you Edgar Ferguson are you?" I said "Yes, I'm just wondering" I was thinking at that stage perhaps I might leave the service. There's always that thought in your mind, because I'd been in quite some time and I said "Are there any opportunities for jobs around here?" "Oh no. They're all taken" but they were of course those fellows never ever joined up
and didn't ever want to. They had good jobs and they wanted to keep them. It wasn't a love of country, it wasn't an adventure for them. In fact those three fellows always wanted to pick a fight with everybody at the local dances, which was held at Veresdale and Woodhill, which I used to attend from time to time when I could and yes it was love of adventure and done thing. Wasn't the big patriotic thing but it was the done thing.
And what did your brother do during the war?
My brother joined the Cameron Highlanders and that was the militia of course, but from there he went on to Moresby and did his bit over Moresby area, New Guinea. Came back a shattered wreck. He became a sergeant in the army and when he came back to
Brisbane he was discharged from the army as medically unfit, but out of all of this I often wonder, I served over thirty years in the service, gave my life to the service and I don't receive a service pension. I receive absolutely nothing
and I often wonder about this because I hear all this nonsense about "You must have faced the enemy to get a service pension", "You must have done this", "You must have". Look my brother-in-law, who's now dead unfortunately, he and many other personnel were posted to Moresby area at the end of the war and the war was over in Okinawa, Manila, past there. They never even saw an enemy and yet
they get around the full DVA, Department of Veterans Affairs coverage. I served on the air lift, saw the Cold War enemy, saw these Russian people in their Yaks etcetera and hair's breadth away from starting another war. It was just as dangerous if you take that particular air lift into consideration and the way we flew and the dangers
that were associated with it. There were a lot of deaths on it and yes I'm bitter on the government especially the Minister for Veterans Affairs, who set the Clark Committee up last year to enquire into the ex-service personnel and anomalies that might be associated with
their service. They travelled far and wide, spent a lot of money and I have seen nothing. Now that is nearly twelve months ago and I've seen nothing in anywhere to show that she has done anything with it. In other words she has been trying to ingratiate herself, and she can listen to this if she wishes, she is trying to ingratiate herself into the ex-service committee by seeming to do a lot of work by getting committees together
but doing absolutely nothing. 'Yes Minister'. Shades of 'Yes Minister'. Set up a committee, look into it. If you don't know the answer, set up a committee. If you don't want to do anything, set up a committee. People will forget about it, but you see we don't and that's what I think of this minister. I don't think she's doing anything at all but I'll get a little bit bitter about it
when I know that people have never ever faced the enemy, never ever seen them and yet they're running around with full DVA coverage and all my service etcetera I have nothing. I've got a small disability pension. That's it. So I don't want to think that I dislike my service life, but it just galls me.
I'm wondering if you did at all stay in contact with your brother when he was serving during those early years of the war?
No. I don't think I could have. There seemed to be no way I could do that so
no, I didn't. Actually we weren't real close but we became closer after the war and as for my sister Violet, well she married and no I didn't keep in contact with anybody. My younger sister, she was always there but,
wondering if any of your other family members were in involved in the war in any way or had been involved in World War I even?
Yes. My Uncle Alf was at Gallipoli. He used to sleep walk, Uncle Alf, and coming home he stepped off the ship
but "Man overboard" and he was rescued. Ha. Uncle Alf was rescued. Now this is quite odd because I still have relations in Germany and my Uncle Alf's name was Diefenbach and the funny part of it was in the World War they put his father and mother, which was my grandfather and grandmother, in a in a camp and yet uncle Alf enlisted
and went to war. World War II in Germany, my cousin Stusenbach they were involved, they were in the Luftwaffe. Unfortunately I couldn't visit them during my stay in Germany because, I'm going back you see to 1947
'48 '49 there was no petrol, transport was very uncertain. I could have got down to see them yes, but I mightn't have got back in time and you couldn't miss a flight, that would be in for a dig, quite wrong. Yes they were all in the services, in the Lutfwaffe rather. In Second World War, my cousin Errol he was in some part of the war. I can't remember.
I think he's dead now, I'm not sure. His name is Diefenbach too. So you see the government with one had put away and with the other they say "Yes you're service" with a name like Diefenbach. My mother's name was Diefenbach and my father's name Ferguson being Scotland of course, we're closer to Scotland and we've had some good reunions
but still, that's it. I can't remember really. You see all my cousins mainly live at 'round Goomeri. I I've heard people on the TV call it Gumeri but it's Goomeri, G-double O-M-E-R-I and Yandina and places like that in Queensland. So really I've always been separated away.
I'm the fella who's never been home. I've always been away from there and I didn't keep in contact with anybody at all. I don't think I've ever received a letter from my mother or father. I wrote them some letters. Didn't get them returned so you naturally fall away from answering something you don't get. It's sad isn't it?
but still, it's life. I've accepted it. Had to. That's it.
Well it's interesting to hear about your heritage and your German connections. What did you think of the Germans as an enemy?
Well I don't mind the German fellow. He's a good hard working chap. Ah it was the Nazis.
The Nazis. I spoke during my time in Germany of course I made friends with a German family in Hanover. They owned a camera shop and they were very well-educated people. I found their company most enlightening rather than go to the Rose and Joe's Club where there was a lot of noise and
nobody really ah, they weren't friends. They were just all air crew and I wanted to get away from that so I met these people and speaking to them I realised that the German person himself and herself are real good honest hard working people. They talked
the Nazis like this, they were still frightened to talk about the Nazis. Seemed to think they were 'round every corner. Also, I talked a lot to the fellas in faded green uniforms, now air crew. They were kindred spirit. They were in the Luftwaffe. You could always recognise them and you could have a wonderful conversation with them and most of them spoke English anyway. I only spoke a smattering of
German to get by but to speak English to them and as I say they were well-educated people, and yes I found them to be honest hard working people. I never ever had anything against the German person himself. It was always Hitler and the Nazis that that got in my craw and I think got in everybody's craw. The object was "Kill Hitler" but of course that could have a back lash.
Is that the radio? That's my son. In my veterans golf people out here at the Grove there was a chap with a very German name who used to serve in the submarines and one day the conversation as I walked around with him got to Hitler and he said
"Nothing wrong with Hitler. He gave us work, the water ran, the electricity was there, no matter what you wanted, it was always there" and when you come to think of it, that's all the people want. That's all they want, but he was very much pro-Hitler. I closed up like a clam. I didn't talk anymore because I decided "He's got his thoughts. I have mine and leave it
like that." I sort of agreed in my own mind to disagree but that was it, but yes, the German stock in Australia, not like the present crop around here, but the Germans are very good hard working honest people. No animosity.
Edgar I'd just like to ask you, because you were in Australia during those first years of the war and by the time you enlisted Japan had entered the war, what were your impressions?
Well Japan hadn't been defeated yet.
Neither, pardon me, neither had the German. The war was still on. I beg your pardon. The war was still on when I enlisted. Um sorry? What was the question?
I'm wondering what it was like living in Brisbane during a time when Japan was threatening Australia?
people were frightened. Ha. Yeah. To many young fellas like me it was just an adventure. "Oh well that if it comes it comes. That's it" but most of the older people were rather scared. Most of them built bomb shelters. When they heard an aircraft, they'd sort of run for the air shelter. I can remember that but
the Americans came there and of ‘course everybody thought "We're saved" but the Americans just seemed to bring all their money and there's a saying about all that isn't there, which I don't wish to repeat, but no I never ever made friends with the Americans but it was a funny
time. There was still plenty to eat. There was supposed to be certain rationing but of course don't forget I was only boarding and I didn't have to do anything of this. I didn't do any house keeping. I might have more to tell you but I just handed over whatever coupons I had and I can't remember what they were but there was always plenty there.
In fact I think that the people, as far as food was concerned, didn't know there was a war on. But it was for the older people I think it seemed to me to be more frightened, but didn't stop the five o'clock swill at the local pub. There was always this terrible rush, because I remember I had to come home and from Metal Products where I was working and I
used to get off a tram and walk from the tram stop past the Albion Pub to go to my home where I was boarding, I was working day shift I worked three shifts, but working the day shift there was always this terrible rush for the pub, so that was still on but that's my recollection. I'm rather hazy. I think.
I must admit I'm rather hazy. You get tied up in your own little fantasy world if you know what I mean. Yes, that's about all I can remember.
I'm wondering if you had heard at the time of the Brisbane line?
Heard of it. That's about all.
No I can't tell you very much about that. I did hear, but I can't tell you very much about it. Honestly.
Well I think that we might stop there and change our tape if that's alright.
Well if you've got to change your tape you've got to stop haven't you? Logic.
Interviewee: Edgar Ferguson Archive ID 0553 Tape 04
You were telling us earlier on today that when you joined up to the Air Force you wanted to become a pilot but then you decided to become a WAG.
Can you tell us about your job and what you did?
As a WAG? Yes. After a long time doing it, yes. Well
first of all the training was pretty hard. You had to learn Morse code to start with and I don't know whether Morse code is not practiced these days, but I funnily enough I read the paper and I still go "De der de der dee dee dit" etcetera and, in my head of course, otherwise people would think I'm stupid but no, Morse code I found a little bit difficult to learn and you had to send it in the right manner, you had to bend your wrist, not thump like this. All a lot of things
which was discipline you see. Discipline. There was aircraft recognition in case you had to shoot at somebody and that flashed on the screen for a millionth of a second virtually and you had to tell whether it was a Zeek or a Wirraway or a Lincoln or they weren't born then, Lancaster and things like that. That was a bit difficult. You still had to learn a bit about meteorology because
that effected radio communication. You learnt on an old set eleventh I can't remember the name of the set but it went out after awhile but you had to wet your finger and touch a little point on the thing to make sure that it was resonating. That was quite difficult. I often used to
wonder why, but it was a terribly difficult set to learn because you had to have a huge case of coils and for frequencies you had to take out one coil and put in another for the various, you understand what I mean by frequencies? VHF [Very High Frequency] wasn't in those days, very high frequency, ultra high frequency, they weren't in at all those days. It was all low wave or medium wave,
short wave. Ah yes that was quite difficult but then of course it was drill involved. There was running around in a cement cage with gas, 'course that was part of the drill, but the main thing was learning how to operate the radio, learning how
to communicate not by long words like we're doing but what we call Q code. In other words, QTA means nothing except if you've got your Q code with you and you know it means direction finding, "What is my direction from you?" In other words what you did was sent off to a station whatever it might be with your call sign. There was a call sign. Say you want to contact Brisbane. It was called VZ
BN. Everything in Australia starts with V, everything in the U.K. starts with G, each in America it's M but here it's V, VH, and you'd call VZBN from ah whatever air craft CIU, but that'd be all "Der der der der dit dit dit der der". In other words you'd call QTA IMI
in Morse code. That means "What is my direction from you?" and they'd come back and give you strength five, I forget what the Q code was to hold down your key. So you held down the key and they'd turn this loop around which was shaped like a ring and they'd get your direction and you'd let go of your key after awhile and they'd come up and give you your direction. You'd hand that to the navigator
and the navigator would say "Yes, I'm direction 270 from Brisbane" and then if the radio operator was smart or the WAG was smart he'd get a bearing from another station say Charleville, VZCV, and there'd be an intersect. The navigator could pinpoint his position so you see, is this the sort of thing you want? But then before you could go in the air
you had to do all these things and radio theory. Radio theory was how radio waves perform, electromagnetism, and they they'd demonstrate to you by means of a steel rod and carbon from a pencil and how it forms a beautiful pattern etcetera. Beautiful to look at. There was all those things and then radar.
Radar of course, before radar there was the identification friend or foe. The friendly air craft would always switch that on because if a fighter was in the air and you were in a transport air craft you'd have what you call IFF on, identification friend or foe. It would come up in his aircraft and he would know that you're a friendly chap but if it didn't come up, 'bang' that's it.
Also you had beacons, radar beacons, for instance now I'm taking you down to Ballarat. It had BL I think, Ballarat, and it would come BL in Morse code but it would come up on a screen on a green screen a hooded screen you looked into and you could
home in on that with the aircraft. You didn't need all this direction finding etcetera, you could providing you were within range you could home in on this beacon, put your aircraft nose towards it, Bob's your uncle. Then came the radar where you could fly up a coast line and you would get blips back. You could tell whether there's a ship,
land or whatever. The only thing it wouldn't tell was a submarine, because that was under water, but you could read your position from this radar. Oh all wonderful at the time. All wonderful. They've got different things now, but those days it was absolutely marvellous to learn all this but before you could get in an air craft, the old Anson, the old Aggie, and fly you
you had to go 'round for two weeks virtually in a in a truck and it had two WAGs back to back with radio equipment set up each side. Like a Holden ute, covered Holden and it wasn't a Holden because they weren't born then, but you'd sit there and we had to talk to Ballarat base and it was rough. The trucks would go over a
bump and you'd be thrown off your (UNCLEAR). You have no idea, but it was all fun. You had to keep a log. Mind you, you just couldn't send things without keeping a log. You had to log everything you sent, you had to log everything they sent to you, and make it look neat and hand it into the instructor back at base who'd say "Rubbish" or say "That's good." Give you a special merit or something like that. It was all good
fun and then ah the flying time came and we were sent up in Aggies Avro Ansons and boy they were shocking things. But of course the poor old WAG, they were a wind down and a wind up landing carriage and the pilot would never do that, he'd call on the WAG. I think it was a hundred and
forty winds down and a hundred and forty winds up and then you would work your radio equipment. The radio equipment at that time in Australia was an AWA [Amalgamated Wireless Australasia]. They'd graduated from this silly thing where, and I cannot remember the name of it, where you had to find out the resoning thing, they'd thrown that away and they'd got this AWA machine and that was quite good
radio equipment and of course we still had to work with radar and you would get the pilot to home on the Ballarat beacon but I enjoyed all this, good fun. I learnt to send would you believe thirty words a minute Morse code. I could send and receive
thirty words a minute. In fact we had to, but I became very proficient at that and yes it was good fun. There's probably more about it but that's about the training part of it, the training part of it.
And what type of artillery or gunnery training did you receive?
Very little really. We
were wireless operators primarily. Air gunners secondary. It was always that way. Unless you couldn't pass your wireless course. If you couldn't pass your radio course or your wireless course you were demoted as we say to being an air gunner and you'd do six weeks as an air gunner and be posted as tail end Charlie but a WAG did three weeks, two weeks,
have I done something wrong? Two weeks at West Sale, West Sale yes. West Sale and you still had not received your wing. You had to finish your air gunnery course before you could receive your wing.
It meant ground to ground firing, ground to air and I thought they were very game to let us young chaps fire at a drogue being towed by a Wirraway, but they did and there was no air to ground because at that stage there was no Ansons or anything fitted up with guns to fire at ground so really we only
did ground to ground, ground to air. Heaven alone knows what would have happened had we to fire, because we were really air gunners but we had to learn it all on the ground and apply that theory, if it was required ever, when we got airborne. Allow this many rads, allow that many rads. I can still remember a bit of it and then we received our wing. Passed out as sergeant.
How would you like to do that?
It sounds a very challenging role that you were playing.
Mm, and good fun.
What was the most challenging aspect of it for you?
Well everything really because I had made a promise to that chap with the whiskers,
with the moustache that sat on the air crew selection board. I had made a promise to him that I would never let him or his two aides down. Having a lot of new subjects to learn, things that I'd never heard of in my life, I had to work probably a lot harder than a number of the people. Mind you a lot of them failed.
A lot of them failed. They didn't make the grade and banished to be in ground staff and now I didn't want that to happen. I suppose it was a matter of trying to prove myself and my parents were always at the back of my mind. I'm going to prove to them that I'm going to do this, that I'm able to do this, but there was no fear about it, it was just the fact
that I must succeed. So I did. I did a lot of work. I worked hard, maths came reasonably easy to me. I've always been good at maths, always, but it was the radio theory that I had to work very hard at because it was a subject you couldn't see. It was all about radio waves and how you can hear the radio
was always a puzzle to me for a long time, not for a long time but for a couple of months, three months, that you could send out a signal but if you didn't do something to it you couldn't hear it. You had to do something to it and you had to explain that. Now that's radio theory. It was hard work but I gradually learned, it came to me overnight. I was looking at something and I said
"My goodness why didn't I think of this before?" and from that time on I was able to apply it correctly but ah meteorology, learning the types of clouds. Um I mean when I was on the farm as a boy you knew if it was going to rain three days hence but you didn't know the type of clouds. You know it was going to rain, that was it but you
had to learn why. You had to learn the winds, how they would effect things. You had to learn how icing would effect transmissions, how it would effect your receiving but it was all a big steep hard learning curve to which I had to apply myself wholeheartedly,
otherwise I would have just been banished as a failure and that to me was not going to happen. Not at any cost because of my promise and I always keep a promise.
Well for you because it was such a challenge and at the same time so exciting, how did you react when you
first went up in the plane?
I was working so hard it didn't seem to matter. Gee. There was a lot to getting up in the aircraft first. First of all you were taken to the aircraft the day before and this is before you ever got airborne. You were shown the layout of the aircraft. You were shown what you had to do.
We were told we had to wind up the wheel, we had to wind down the air under carriage. But we also had to carry batteries and batteries were not enclosed those days, they were called lead acid accumulators and if you tipped it up you would lose the acid. It had happened. You had to carry the acid. You had to carry your books, your head phones, your
helmet, what else was there? A parachute, you had to go and collect your parachute and sign for it and you had to carry all that, nobody to help you, and it seemed like miles and miles to the aircraft and you got it in and no sooner had you got in, things were starting and of course this was all part and parcel of the plan, teach you discipline. Get in, get going, do it and
yes I was so busy and I was so interested in being able to apply all this that I'd learnt, the culmination because it was getting near where I'd get my wings. I'll tell you a funny story. This is why you have to keep your mind on the job. To me it's funny. We had a, I won't say his name, he's a lovely chap. He's still alive. Anyway
he was on my course and he always had an eye for the girls and it was the WAAFs [Women’s Auxiliary Air Force] who used to pack the parachutes and issue them out. Now old John talking to this girl, he picked up his parachute and walked away and it went 'Whhhht'. He'd picked it up not by the top but by the handle which opens the chute. Well he just had to pick it all up
and take it back and we all said "Well now John that will teach you" but it didn't. Never did. He was always the same right up 'til the last I ever saw of him. Had an eye for the girls. Serve him right. Good on him.
Well we have heard people tell us stories about the glamour of the air force and you know I'm wondering if you were aware of that at the time?
You can forget about the MGs [sports cars] for a start. You've no doubt seen pictures where everybody has an MG and they go home and meet their girlfriend and they hop in this MG and go off to wherever. Doesn't happen. It is pretty glamorous because yeah the girls always said they'd have an eye for the for the boy in blue
and blue always seemed nice. In fact, mustn't tell my wife, but I took a girl off an American and she preferred me to him. Maybe I had more to offer as substance because they were just fly-by-nights but no, yes the glamour was there. Mind you if you've got five hundred
men around a town you would think the glamour would wear off would you not, but it didn't seem to. It didn't seem to. In the U.K. for instance the boys in blue as opposed to the boys in grey blue, ah very glamorous. Very glamorous indeed,
but I was married and to indulge in something like that would have been contrary to my Anglican beliefs. Ah but there's nothing to stop you from looking, but Johnny Calden was not married and of course it was glamour to him because he was in the dark blue uniform and the girls
did like the dark blue uniform, but there were two other unmarried chaps amongst us and they had their fair share of ladies but I'm not an old fuddy duddy but my Anglican beliefs forbid me from doing that kind of thing,
if that suits you. Have I answered your question?
I'm wondering if you could tell me how you met your wife?
Yes. Well first of all I had met this beautiful girl in Maryborough. If I can side track, I had been at Maryborough
for about three weeks and I used to always go with my friend Smokey to Kings Café in Maryborough and have a meal on a Saturday. See Saturday was the day off and at that stage I was single, alone but people who'd been there awhile chaps who'd been on courses
previous and there was still about three or four courses of chaps there, said look "Why don't you go across to the Anglican church? It's just over the road there and of a Saturday evening, when all the rector and his wife have got a lot of parishioners there, and you can have a meal free. All you've got to do is go and introduce yourself to the rector's wife." Well I said to Smokey "That's good, better than spending our six and five and sixpence a day. Five and sixpence a day was all we got.
So we did. We went over there on the following Saturday and introduced ourselves to the rector's wife, who immediately welcomed us. She didn't even ask us our religion. Everybody could go. All the air crew boys were welcome and they sat us with a parishioner and we sat down at this long table. We were served a three course meal and during that meal there I noticed this lovely young lady and
we kept smiling at each other and I thought it was part and parcel of being nice, because parishioners were meant to be nice to us. At the end of the meal all the other air crew boys just seemed to get up and go and I said to Smokey I said "Look we can't leave this. We should wash up or do something." No ideas in mind, it was just a gesture. So Smokey said "Yes, let's go." So we went down there and the young lady was there and
another friend, which I found out to be her life long friend, and she was up to her elbows in water. I said "Well we'll wash up" and within no time we took off our jackets and this young lady took a little more time than normal I thought to put on my apron and washed up but at the end of the thing she said "Oh yes" she came with her friend and we started to talk and I found that she had an upper class Australian accent, which I liked very much. I found out that it was a
Ladies College accent, a beautiful lady, a beautiful smile and anyway it seemed to be just a tacit understanding. We walked them home and I don't know our hands just clasped and this beautiful young thing looked at me and she said "Really I'm sorry but I don't know how to react. I've not ever had a boyfriend in my life"
and I said there and then "I shall never harm this beautiful young lady." I think we got to know each other too quickly. Her father was the mayor of Maryborough and her family were a very nice family. I don't know, somehow I got engaged. I just can't quite understand how it happened. Anyway
down at Ballarat, Smokey and I were walking through Ballarat one night and we had our hands in our great coat pockets. It was cold. So the dreaded MPs [Military Police] struck, or SPs, Service Police. Contrary to service order and air force discipline we were placed on a charge. That next day we were marched
in to see this squadron leader, Baine was his name, that's right, Squadron Leader Baine and marched in, hats off, seven days CB [Confined to Barracks] and the WO [Warrant Officer] said "About turn, march out, halt" and I was banished to work in the officers' mess kitchen for seven days CB so at seventeen thirty
hours, which is half five, I had to report to the NCO [Non-Commissioned Officer] who was a woman in charge of the WAAAF in charge of the kitchen and then at twenty two hundred, ten o'clock at night, I was to sign off. So I met this girl and things developed and I had to hurt that beautiful young woman in Maryborough. I had I went up. I wasn't a
I wasn't being shy about it or silly about it, I went up to Maryborough from Ballarat by train and I had to tell her. Ah wasn't good. Wasn't pretty. I still don't know whether I've done the right thing but I met my wife in the WAAAFs and from
there that developed, I forget what year that was, but we were married, , she just got out of the WAAAFs, she just discharged the night we were married on the 24th of May 1947 but I met my wife in the WAAAFs. She was an air woman. If only that bike shed could talk.
we go on to your campaigns I'd just like to ask you a bit more about the difficulties of having a marriage with you in the Air Force and you being away for so long so many times.
Mm. Well when you're first
married and love is blooming yes, it is difficult to be away and I think I mentioned that we were on our honeymoon and I got the recall telegram from my CO. Now that meant I was away from my wife in Ballarat for quite some months before we got together again and went virtually on a second honeymoon. In the U.K. I was away a lot,
flew a lot in the U.K. and during the air lift there was no means of communication at all. Just think of it today, all the do gooders. If you couldn't contact your loved one while you were at the front there would be a hew and cry, you could hear from here to heaven knows where, but there was no real means of communication and if anything did happen there was a program in place whereby either
me or my wife would have been told. I came back to Australia yes, we were we were parted for quite some time and then I was posted to Ballarat. That was okay, but then I was posted to East Sale and my wife was living in Ballarat. I used to go home every weekend. I was posted to Townsville and my wife stayed in
Stratford in Victoria. Yeah, the times were hard because my first daughter, Judith, was born in Ballarat. I didn't see her for actually two weeks. I was orderly officer. For two weeks pardon me, but then only weekends. I was posted to Townsville. I didn't see my wife for
maybe eleven or so months. My daughter, Christina, was born. Where was she born? She was born in Sale. Yes, she was born in Sale in Victoria. Seems terrible when you've got to think where your daughters were born, but I didn't see her for quite some time of course and it's hard. My son, Paul, was born
at Gatton in Queensland but that was okay because then I was in ground staff, but during the time I was in air crew it is very difficult and hard to be away from your loved one for so long, especially when there's little children involved because your wife has to make all those difficult decisions which she shouldn't have had to make or I could have been there to help her make because mothers do have a lot. They do a lot of the work with the children and they naturally
must have a lot of say, but the husband should have an input and I wasn't there to have that input. In fact I was away for awhile when Paul was young and one day he fell down and cut his head right there. Now I wasn't there to do anything. I was actually caught by the floods. I was at Richmond and the floods prevented me from
getting out so my wife had to ca cope with all of that and she should not have had to, but I'm not dirty on the service for that, that's just the way it is and when you sign on the dotted line that's what you expect. Your wife expects it. So being an ex-WAAAF she had a fair understanding of what was involved. I don't know about some of
the ladies who weren't in the service or whatever but I do hear and did hear that they were hard put to. These days the wives say "Oh we want our husbands home" or "We've got nobody to look after us." For heaven's sake, haven't they got any brains? All they've got to do is go and visit some other wives. They don't seem to know how to do things but in the pioneering days, yes, you expected
those things and that was it, but it was hard. It was difficult. You'd sit down and write a letter every week but that's not like holding the children. You just had to sort of think about it and it wasn't as good, but I'd do it all again. Every bit of it.
Yes, and I think that we've also heard from other people that relationships between services is quite common because there is an understanding.
Yes. Probably. I don't know these days who marries who or who lives with who, but if you marry a service person I think you've got far more understanding. That was
your thinking of? Yes I think you've got more understanding if you marry a service person. You see it a lot. Through the murders and everything that are happening around the place, you see more of it in the police force where policemen marry other policewomen or whatever because they have a better understanding, or life is more harmonious because they have the understanding of what it's like.
Well thank you for sharing that with us. I'd like now to go back to the time where you have got your wings, you've done all your training and now you need to find number 38 Squadron. Can you tell me
the process as a WAG of bonding with your number 38 Squadron?
Oh quite simple really. You're here, you're part of the you're part of us. That's it. Simple. I think services don't bother too much about these sort of things. The word bonding. The word bonding applies to civilians. Services in my day,
I don't know about today, the services in my day didn't seem to bother about those things. You fitted in, you did your job and that was it. Everybody had a good time. After all there was the messes where you had a dining in night once a month. Had a lot of fun. Nobody seemed to
how shall we put it? Nobody seemed to put you on the outer and you didn't put anybody else on the outer. It wasn't that kind of thing. You were there to do your job and for a lot of fun. Good fun. No there was no bonding to be done.
And what did you know of the 38 Squadron before you joined?
Oh very little. I'd been a
fair time in training between my ending up as getting my wings. Don't forget there was a two years gap. We were just put on training for radio and radar equipment. I was at Amberley. I flew on Liberators and worked the radar and the radio on that. I knew that 38 Squadron existed, but I still had to go back.
It was just going from Ballarat to East Sale to various places, sort of to keep us busy I guess and I did a toughening up course and what they call a toughening up course at Wonga Park and did two of those. Wonga Park and the name eludes me. It's in my records there somewhere but they just
wanted to keep us busy and then of course came the fact that a lot of people got out of the service. So to run the Squadron they had to call on us nucleus, and two or three of us got posted to 38 Squadron and I knew that they were a route squadron operating through up to the islands, Rabaul, Finschhafen, Lae, all those places and also up to Morotai and Ambon.
Darwin, Morotai, Ambon and then we eventually took on routes to Tokyo, of which I did a few trips to Tokyo. Ah that's what I knew about 38 Squadron. I knew it existed but I never ever knew I'd be posted there and I was so pleased. Couldn't get there quick enough. I wanted to get out of the rut.
And what was it that you looked forward to?
Getting to do something decent. Getting to do something that was, I can't think of the word. Getting to do something that was useful instead of hanging around doing courses or whatever
and I really didn't want to leave the service. I didn't want to go back on the farm. There was no use of me going back on the farm. I felt there was nothing there for me and I was trained for nothing else, so I had to stick it out or get out of the service and be a bum. So I decided to be in the service. When I was at Archerfield,
there was 1315 Flight operating from there. Now that was the Dutchman 1315 Flight. They were operating Dakotas I think. Any rate, it came the time when there were three or four of us said "Well what do we do? Do we stay in this air force" because the Dutch wanted us to join them you see, we used to talk to them. "Oh yes be with us"
and I can tell you of one chap who did eventually and he made well made good, but we tossed a coin. Now that's funny, on the toss of a coin. On the toss of a coin you stay in the service or you get out. Mine came up heads, stay in the service. Another coin, stay in the RAAF or go to the Dutch. Heads, stay in the RAAF. Heads. I stay in the RAAF. This other chap came up.
I go to the Dutch. He did. I stayed in the RAAF, toss of a coin, and of course I never looked back but I meet my friend years later and he was dripping with rain in Singapore and I recognised him straight away and he'd actually been sent over to Borneo as it was then and he married a a girl in
Borneo and then he was sent to
Interviewee: Edgar Ferguson Archive ID 0553 Tape 05
Ted, this morning in your overview you were telling us about doing a lot of flying in the Pacific?
At war's end and after the war. I was wondering if you could tell me in detail some of the operations you were doing and what exactly you were flying?
Flying in Dakotas, C47, the old workhorse. My first flight was to
Morotai. Ah Morotai is up near the Halmaheras. You fly in through Charleville. Some place, Darwin. Sometimes land at Ambon and then go on to Morotai. It was about a six and a half hour trip toMorotai, providing of course you flew the right time of the day because there were a lot of heavy clouds blew up and it was tropical storm. At Morotai there
was, I can't remember the name of the strip, but we just called it "Morotai" and there was a Japanese POW compound there, with a few Japanese in it, and we used to play on the beach with hermit crabs. Pull them out of their shell and watch them scamper to another one and it was great fun. We never ever hurt any, we didn't intend to
but the cook used to give us meat and the Japanese POW compound was right near the water and we used to delight in throwing the meat to the sharks and watch the faces of the POWs. Good fun. I suppose the do gooders of today would say "You can't do that" but the do gooders can stay where they like. We did it, it was fun
and we didn't care much about Japanese anyway. They were flights mainly for occupation troops. The army was in occupation of Morotai. I think they had a couple of camps up there but living was very primitive, in tents, and the mess was quite open to the elements
and of course there was heavy rain at Morotai. One morning my friend was shaving, he used to use a cut throat razor and he had his razor on the palm tree, he had his mirror on the palm tree and he was (UNCLEAR) and a coconut fell. I would say missed his elbow by about a centimetre and of course you know the end result had it hit his elbow. Yes, Bobby Burns.
That was up to Morotai and then they extended the trips Tokyo and I was the signals leader of 38 Squadron at the time. I got myself a few trips to Tokyo. We used to go from Morotai to Manila. Laoag in the north west corner of the Philippines, Okinawa then up to
Iwakuni and then on to Hameda, which was Tokyo. The idea of that was again in support of troops, which we had both in Japan and Iwakuni but of course to us it was just a trip mainly. I mean somebody else was in charge of the
of the material. All we had to do was fly the aircraft but as a matter of fact I have in my old album a snow woman, first lot of snow I'd ever seen at Iwakuni and the co-pilot on that trip was a chap called Warrant Officer Evans, who became Air Marshall Evans. You might have met him or whatever. Air Marshall Evans,
Dave, and I've got a photo of him and me beside the snow woman. Ah that's just a little insight but then the other trips we did was up to Rabaul. That was via Townsville, Moresby, Finschhafen, Lae, Rabaul and I shall never forget the
smell. You could smell it, even with the aircraft windows shut you could smell the sulphur up at Rabaul from the volcano, extinct volcanoes, but Rabaul was a beautiful place and I used to get my hair cut up there as a matter of fact. Burns Phillip used to have places throughout the island but again it was in support of troops.
We used to carry the loads. What they were I can't remember, but it was just in support of the troops. We were there to fly the aircraft and that was it, so I didn't take much interest in what they were sending at that stage because I wasn't in that line of work. Later on I did because I was in charge of that kind of stuff, but while I was air crew you just flew the aircraft and that was it.
have much of a chance, I mean you you're going to all these quite beautiful places some of them. Did you have much of a chance to spend time in any of the spots you were stopping along the way?
Not really. Unless your aircraft went U/S [unserviceable]. Well as a matter of fact I was in Laoag, that's right up in the north west corner of the Philippines,
I think it was about two weeks before I was due to be married and the aircraft went unserviceable. So I was thinking of trying to get to the nearest cable office to send a cable to my wife "Cut it off. I can't get back" but the Americans flew up the spare part and I suppose we were delayed about three days, my log book would tell me, but I think it was three days before
we started on the route again and I got back to Schofields, I was based there, just in time really and I remember I caught the milk run, what we called the milk run, the night before I was due to be married. The day before I was due to be married. The night before I caught the milk run, which was then operated by TAA [Trans Australia Airlines].
Now defunct I think and they bought a lot of our old Dakotas and my best man had to wake me up. I was still asleep at half eleven. Those days I could sleep. Today I can't but those days I could sleep on a barb wire fence and my best man came into the Federal Hotel in Melbourne and said it was time to get up because I was due to be married in two hours and I said "Oh yeah yeah.
Aha". I don't know what caused me to do that, but normally the chaps are up and bright and bushy tailed but for some reason or other, I don't know, I was tired. Any rate that was that but no, we didn't get much chance because we were on trips. It was when you were a slip crew or you went unserviceable. Morotai
we had a stay of two days I think. Rabaul was a stay of a day but Morotai I think was two days but what was there to do? It was a coral reef, jungle. Do you know some of our chaps actually married those girls up there and I went up to
the Dorubra Village in a jeep and I spotted the cook in one of these huts with his extended family. I didn't really want to eat in the mess again, because it was our cook. However
Was it kind of frowned upon, the servicemen having relationships
Oh yes, and why not? Oh yes.
There's such a thing as discipline and you're not supposed to mix with the locals like that. After all it lowers you in their eyes and you're the great conquering hero. Ah yes. I was at Darwin on slip crew for a month. Now that was
in a Dakota. Now whilst we were there, there was these Dutch men. Again they were from 1315 Flight. I think about I spoke about them before but they had ah they used to fly through to through to Kemajoran which was Batavia or now Jakarta and any rate, they took off from Darwin and they were bound for Sydney. Lieutenant Van Nefterik
that's right, that was his name, and they didn't reach where they were going. I think it was either Alice Springs or Charleville. It doesn't matter. They didn't reach there. So we had to of course search for them. We were doing nothing except flying the aircraft and testing the aircraft there at Darwin. So we joined in the search
and all around I think we flew all over the Northern Territory but we did finally find them and they were very good actually. Van Nefterik and one of his men had found a river. I can't remember which river it was, but any rate they ended up at Katherine and we found this wreck. I've got a photo of it actually
and two of the men had stayed there but the other two had gone off looking for help. Pretty dangerous actually, but they did. They found this water flowing and naturally the idea is you follow it downstream. You don't go upstream, you followed it downstream, and it brought them to Katherine and they were really good chaps. We were all invited to Van Nefterik's wedding but none of us could go. We were all
spread everywhere else, but he was a nice chap and we had a photograph taken with them and that was it. So Darwin yes, we had a good look around Darwin but those days it's much different than now. For instance, when we came back I mentioned before about going unserviceable in Darwin with the York, well I hadn't been to Australia since
1947 but the chiefy, what do you call it? You'd call it the quartermaster perhaps or he was the fellow who looked after all the cargo and everything like that. I think they call them, doesn't matter. I called him chiefy and that was what the RAF called them and he said "I want to see Darwin." I said "Darwin?"
I'm talking 1948, '49 and he insisted. Any rate I took him down after breakfast, we decided to get outside the main gate and Kennedy’s Café was still there so he said "Oh I'd like a steak and eggs." I said "But you've just had breakfast" and of course very hungry.
He said "No I want a bit of breakfast." So we sat outside Kennedys Café. It had been there a long time and we sat down and he picked up the menu that was fly spotted and he looked at me and I looked at him and I said "You want breakfast? "Yeah" he said "I think I'll have a good old Australian breakfast of steak and eggs." At that moment a girl came out
and honest to goodness, I had been used to the English talk and she came out, she threw another menu down in front of "What are ya havin'?" Well "What are ya havin'?" and that was it. "What are ya havin'?" So chiefy said "Can you translate for me?" and I said "Well what are you going to eat?" But that was his introduction to Australia. Anyway we caught a taxi, a Kennedy’s taxi,
and went into Darwin and I got out, we walked up the main street and looked over the sea and he said "Well I want to see Darwin." I said "You've seen it" and he couldn't believe that Darwin, the gateway to Australia, was such a tin shanty town, because it was those days. It was just a shanty down. Of course it's grown considerably and even when I went back as a an equipment officer years later it had grown
considerably and it was wonderful. Now it's a beautiful city but it always had a lovely climate. Always enjoyed it but old chiefy, yes that was his introduction to Australia but as far as living in places, Singapore when we came there in York aircraft or, you want to talk about the islands don't you?
Singapore we always used to have about four or five days there and
it was good. You could look around Changi, go into Singapore and of course it was different then too, you must remember, but it was still an interesting town. A clash of cultures but the main interest was just getting around, seeing things and not straying too far from base because transport was not too reliable.
I mentioned I think before when the tape was off Khormaksar. Well that's Aden. Khormaksar was there then. I suppose they've changed the name now because it's Yemen, but when I went through there, we came from Karachi and flew down the south coast of Arabia
and we had to go to Khormaksar for something or other, I can't remember what it was, but we landed there and we were there for four days. The heat was shocking and the object was you just sat in a cane chair and called out "Soli, tea" and of course that was all you wanted. It was so hot but an RAF chap said to me, I was the only Australian
there, and an RAF chap said to me "Look" he said "let's get out of here. I know where there's some lovely gardens." I said "Really. In this place?" He said "Yes." He said "I've been there." I said "Good." So we got into a jeep, it was reliable, and we went through this great long tunnel which afterwards I found out was very dangerous
because of the tribes. Any rate you were young, you didn't care too much those days. Went through, oh mile long under tunnel underneath the big hill at Aden and out past Khormaksar, the air field, the other side of Khormaksar that is. We were on one side, we had to go through this tunnel, go right 'round the other side and then we got onto this road and it was about twenty miles out
and there were these beautiful gardens growing all sorts of things. 'Course the water was pumped up through a pump and this old fellow there he greeted me and well he seemed as old as the hills, but he took me 'round and showed me all of these things and of course I was interested in that kind of thing. After all my host was good enough to take me there so it was up to me to show interest was it not?
"Yes oh yes oh yes." So I was very interested in all the things and they were beautiful. I couldn't believe that such a garden of beautiful flowers was in such a dry arid horrible place. All desert. Just plain desert. Anyhow coming back, on I think it must have been the Strathlaver, we had
a few hours at Aden. Actually it was almost a day and I said to my wife I said "Look I know where to take you. These horrible dirty old shops, because that's all they are and they'll sell you their mother if you're not careful you'll be sold a pup anyway." I said to my wife "Look I'll get a good looking taxi" because transport again had to be reliable to get back to the ship.
If it sailed, it sailed without you. So we got this good looking taxi and I told him where to go. He said "Off limits." I said "Take me" and of course those days I had a very authoritative voice. Just "Take me. You're getting paid, do it." So he took me out there, and my wife, and this old fellow was still there. "Oh." It was wonderful to meet him. Nearly brought tears to my eyes
really the way he greeted me and I introduced my wife to him and he fell in love with her. Really. He couldn't do enough and he started piling flowers into the taxi and it was absolutely chock a block and we sort of could only get into a little corner and any rate we were there for about an hour and a half and I said "We'd better get back." So took my leave.
We've naturally never seen him again but went back to the ship and P&O came and the P&O staff said "Where'd you get those?" Now it was on the tip of my tongue to say it, but then I thought "This old chap, he's a dear old chap" and then I thought of all the people who would just walk all over his flowers and destroy. Just by looking you can destroy. They might mean well but I thought "No.
I shan't tell a soul" because I thought of the fellow looking after it. So I didn't tell anybody but the whole dining room was stacked with these beautiful scented flowers and nobody knew where they came from except my wife and I, but that's the story of that. Also coming home, the bum boats come alongside the ship
and you haul them up by means of a rope and you do your bargaining and I could show you later if you wish. I got a map of Ceylon, as it was then, with an alligator and ashtray and an elephant's foot on it and made out of mulga or rosewood. Any rate I said "How much?" and "Oh" he said
“a hundred dinars." I said "Sully RAF Negombo. You know Sully RAF Negombo?" "Yeah I know Sully hair cut hair cut." I said "That's right. He's barber." I said "He sell that for fifteen dinar. Mm." I said "You get fifteen dinar. I've got it. Here's the money." So that's what I did. I got that for fifteen dinar and that's the way you did trading because you knew somebody. But flying through there
we used to have very little time, but it was always nice to get a hair cut from Sully, because not only did you get a hair cut you got a total massage all over your head, 'round your neck, 'round your ribs and you'd "Ohhhh" you just say "Isn't this beautiful" because you had to get up again at three thirty in the morning. You had to get up at that time to, pardon me, to take off early because if you left it late,
we were flying piston engined air craft twelve thousand feet, you would run into cumulus clouds, and of course they're like rocks. You had to avoid them otherwise well you wouldn't come out of them if you know what I'm talking about, they're heavy rain clouds and you'd have to fly early because it was what, eight hour nine hour flight from Negombo to Singapore and
of course that's when our week off came at Singapore. Habbānīyah, RAF Habbānīyah near Baghdad, very little time but thieving little devils they were. You had to be very careful to guard your belongings otherwise the thieving little devils would come in of a night and I did apply the sole of my foot to one fellow's
back side and sent him sprawling because he was trying to thieve in the middle of the night and I just happened to wake up, otherwise all of my stuff would have been stolen but it was a beautiful place. It was on an oasis and the village at Habbānīyah was called Cheapside and there was a fellow there who used to make cuff links and he called himself 'Joe the Baptist'
and he had one eye and I had good eyesight those days and I remember he was making these cuff links with these little tweezers and with little threads of bullion and he dropped something and he bent down, picked it up. Do you know to this day I can't remember what he picked up but he dropped it and I said "You dropped you dropped." He said "Yes I dropped." I couldn't see what he did because he went on fixing up these cuff
links, not for me I didn't buy anything, but these cuff links he was making. 'Joe the Baptist.' One eye. Beautiful place, probably now wrecked. Probably ruined. At Karachi, no I can't talk about the hygiene there. Yes I can. The men's urinal. Not what you'd think.
It was not very far from the sleeping quarters, twenty yards. It was a little hessian island. The hessian stretched to about six foot and it was about that far from the ground and inside was a cement pedestal with a little bird thing on the top and you had to be awfully careful
otherwise you'd have a terrible time if two or three of you were in there. Not good hygiene. I would say it would rate Z but many times I thought about these sort of things and said "Oh my goodness." But it was good and interesting as an eye opener to see how the other half lived.
You mentioned trouble finding sleeping quarters. What were some of the other I guess culture shocks or really
difficult things travelling around the places that you had to deal with?
Well not too many because they were RAF-owned and you had a nucleus of RAF personnel there. But some sleeping quarters of course, like in India, you mixed in with the Indian Air Force personnel and
they are not the cleanest people in the world. Habbānīyah, now that was all RAF fortunately. I can't ever remember whether they had an air force. Even the night I went into Baghdad from Habbānīyah, there were shots fired. That's going back now 1948, '49. So they were an unruly so lot of people then.
Fa’id was or Shallufah, that was near the Great Bitter Lake. It was built on the shores of the Great Bitter Lake. That was RAF but the sleeping quarters were rather primitive in most places, yes, I must admit that. They were rather primitive. Not what like I was used to, but they were staging posts and therefore are you going to spend the money on comfort for sleeping quarters or are you going to spend the money on what you're
supposed to be doing there? So the object is to spend the money on what you're supposed to be doing there. That is looking after the aircraft that come in, looking after your own aircraft which are based there and looking after your personnel but the sleeping quarters where you slept there, that was it. The messes were quite good. The Poms were quite good at this. They had
mostly in the RAF, even at home they had what they'd mix up, they had potato, cheese, milk and then they'd add some flavours and mix it all up and dollop it onto your plate. Two dollops. Now that stuck to the insides like glue. Ah it was quite tasty but it seemed to me quite
an odd thing to eat. Like porridge, all thick and in a big dollop but nobody died and don't forget rationing was on. I very seldom ate at home. Air crew for some reason were entitled to double ration of meat and we had to live under the same conditions as far as coupons were concerned, as the RAF themselves or as the civilians themselves
and my wife found this butcher and he always used to give her a nice cut of meat but I very seldom ate at home. We lived at, when I was at Abingdon, at 35 Oxford Road Abingdon. Now that's all demolished. All gone for the motorway right through and ah where else did we live? We lived at Bassingbourn. I ate very little at home. My
wife lived in Bassingbourn Village and there was no showers anyway. In England you didn't get a shower, you had to have a bath and the bath was a tub and you had to heat the water. I remember this when I was home of a Saturday or a Sunday evening heating the thing and the people who owned the place sort of banned themselves from the kitchen and my wife had a bath and then I had a bath,
but if you went to the bath in the mess there was this beautiful ring all 'round the bath and I couldn't bring myself to bathe in that and I wasn't going to clean it. Even in Germany on the air lift when we were moved into more or less permanent quarters I think I mentioned where we had beds more or less right next to each other, breathing each other's breath,
except that the idea was to head and if the bloke that's came off the fellow's feet, ah you're breathing his feets but as I say we slept there. When the Dakotas moved and when the air lift really got into full swing it was starting to about two or three weeks after the air lift started, the more or less permanent based people moved out of Wunstorf and went to other
bases. Consequently we were moved out into their permanent buildings and the quarters became quite good. Slept two to a room but you still had to have a bath. There was no showers and German people looked after the domestic side but try as they might the women who looked after it could not keep the ring from being around the bath. It was very difficult
because the old Poms used to stay in that bath and soap themselves up and not good for an Australian. I let them know on a few occasions too but getting back to staying at places, seeing things that of course that was not on the menu. The menu was to do your job and to fly according to the itinerary but ah
as I say most of the places where you stayed were rather primitive as far as permanent quarters would go. The beds were either straw which always made you itchy, or these three biscuits and a bolster for a pillow so you
like that. Your head would up because this big thing was like a big kit bag and the biscuits used to come part apart at night time. I'm not kidding, it was awkward and I think that got a lot of trouble to do with air crew and their bad backs today. It wasn't good sleeping but of course you only slept there. It wasn't very long. By the time you got to bed you were you were
travelling and you're coming against time or going with time. So coming this way you had very little time at night in bed because you're flying into time. We're miles ahead of the of the Greenwich Meantime but going home of course back to England was a bit different but I suppose the best place was at Luqa in Malta.
That was about the best bedding. It was a civilised place, Malta. Quite a nice place too. I used to go down to Valletta and do some shopping there before I went home because we would take eggs and butter and things like that home and the customs used to turn a blind eye and my wife didn't have those kind of luxuries but we
had those kind of luxuries but my wife did not, and of course the other girls who were married to the Australians, we'd take as much as we could because see some of the Australians they would do a trip alternately and we would help each other, so it was quite good to help people with eggs and what have you. You never knew whether you were getting a good or a bad egg, but they were mostly good.
How did U.S. and Australian crew get along with all the different air forces that you were meeting?
Oh yes, yeah. There's a lot of talk about that. A lot of talk. They say ah "Did you get on," these are people who should know better, ah "Did you get on" or "How did you get on with these people?" Now we had South Africans, we had New Zealanders, we had
two Canadians, there was Australians, eight of us, actually ten of us but two were on Dakotas, RAF of course. An Indian came there, lasted for a week and went home. Obvious he wasn't going to fit in and didn't like it. I didn't ask. It wasn't my business but yes, we got on very well with them.
Probably the most difficult people to strike up a conversation with the South Africans. They would talk in their own Afrikaans and they didn't know I had a smattering of German, and of course Afrikaans is Dutch Boer, very near German, and I slapped old Mitch on the back one day and I said "Really?" "What you know? What you know?"
I said "Mm. Be careful Mitch." So he knew then that I was listening and could understand what he was talking about. He was talking about us but by and large it wasn't bad. They meant well, but we really got on well with everybody. The object of the Commonwealth Squadron to get on with people, and it was just after the war
and it was a mix. Oh yes, it was good. Good fun. Good fun.
Was there any sense from the RAF that that you were just from the colonies?
Was there any sense from the English that the South Africans or the Australians or the Canadians were just from the colonies?
Yes, but rarely. For instance when you were going away on a trip
you, but not from the air crew. See this is the point. I'm mainly relating myself to air crew. Now when you come to the ground staff and the insularity of the ground staff from the air crew and that is the same or it used to be the same in the RAAF, the RAF was always a bit insular. Now I was going on a trip and I was to draw my pay.
Now that wasn't the normal pay day. I presented myself to the Flight Lieutenant Paymaster and he said "Oh one of these colonials again." I said "I'll thank you to pay me. Maybe I am a colonial but I'm just as good as you. Pay me and that's it." I think he got the message. I wasn't going to stand that nonsense because
that's the only time one really ever came up against it, sometimes with the ground staff. The ground staff who looked after the aircraft, the chiefy and his men. Chiefy, I get back to chiefy again, flight sergeant, they were good blokes. They mixed with us, the U.S. and what have you but it was the accountants and that's the same in the Australian Air Force, the bean counters. Even the equippos, which I was eventually equippo, the engineers weren't so bad.
But the amenos thought they were just a little bit different. I think it might have been a little jealousy or something because we were supposed to be those big boys who flew air craft but really that that sort of thing didn't cut ice but with the air crew, not a problem. Everybody was good.
You've mentioned um
just with several of the flights that you did that they'd be quite long flights. Some of them six hours or more.
How much of that time would you be working and what would you be doing in the times that was dead time I guess?
When I was flying? Oh yes. You had to keep a sched, what we called a sched. For argument's sake "Airborne. Airborne at Lyneham.
Ah RAF Lyneham." You would send your airborne message to Gloucester. G.L.O that's right. By Morse. You'd send your message to Gloucester you're airborne. You're bound for Malta, Luqa, or Gibraltar, wherever it might have been, and you'd give your ETA [Estimated Time Of Arrival], height that you were briefed and you would ask for sched time. That means
"When should I next contact you?" but you used a Q code. I forget what the Q code was for that, can't remember, but there are a lot of Q code, there was a big book all with phrases in them and mainly I committed a lot to memory. The main ones you committed to memory. QSY, change frequency for instance, but yes and they'd give you a sched time and frequency.
Now the further you flew away from one station your frequency had to go higher. For instance we'd start off with 4495 kilocycles, then we'd go up to 11, it eludes me, but 11 something kilocycles. Other words, higher frequency, but by that time you'd left Gloucester and you asked to change control from Gloucester zone
Interviewee: Edgar Ferguson Archive ID 0553 Tape 06
Right well the object was you'd become airborne at Lyneham for instance. That was always the starting point for route flying and the radio operator was responsible for the tower and also for letting Gloucester, which was the control station, know that you were airborne by means of Q signals.
Q signals, there's a whole book of them and I can't remember them, but at those days I committed to memory a lot of the more pertinent ones that we used and you'd tell them you were airborne, you'd tell them you were bound for Malta or Luqa, you'd give them the ETA, your briefing height, in other words where you'd been to briefing at Lyneham and they would give you a height to fly but they wouldn't give you the scheds, we had
to keep. You had various books with what we call the RAFAC [Royal Air Force Aerodrome Code booklet], which had all the frequencies in but Gloucester would then tell you to change frequency from that low frequency up to a high frequency and as you progressed along the route you would have different control stations from when we left Gloucester you'd say "QSY", which was ah "Changing frequency now to foggy land." I forget what the fog one was, I think it was
(UNCLEAR). Doesn't matter, or Gibraltar and then Luqa, which was Malta. But Gloucester wouldn't tell you straight off what scheds you had to keep. Scheds means what time I had to contact the various control stations en route because of course if you ran off into the wilderness they'd start a search for you wouldn't they? So but
that wasn't the only thing that was normally every 3 quarters of an hour. So you would send back what we called a POMAR [Position Operational Meteorological Aircraft Report] report, a position and meteorological air something or other and it was filmed in codes of 5 figures in each sector. Now let the radio station know what the weather was
at your height from where you were at the position, as it said position report, so I think it's probably better off those days than what we, I'm adding on a little bit, than what we are now because they don't seem to be able to tell the weather, even though they've got all these wonderful aides. The object is put it out the window and (UNCLEAR) but that the
business or that was the what a POMAR report was for. You also had to help the navigator by getting direction finding. In other words you'd call up stations which would criss cross and you'd call the French or English, Gibraltar whatever, and you would call them and get your position or your bearing from them. Hand that to the navigator and he would be able to pinpoint your position or our position on the
chart on his map. He could also operate by sun. At night time flying, which we did a lot of, by the stars. Also every fifteen to forty five minutes past the hour for three minutes we listened out to the international distress frequency of five hundred kilocycles, as it was then. What it is now I don't know, but
that was in case anybody was in distress you could hear them. Not all over the world but you could hear within a vicinity your vicinity of whether anybody was in distress and of course if anybody was you would naturally do what was necessary. You had to keep all of this logged in a log book. You just didn't go along and do it. You had to do everything and do whatever you said whatever you received was all
recorded in what we call the WT, wireless transmission, log book and that had to be handed in at the end of each flight for checking. When you came in to approach control, which was normally about fifty miles from your from your destination, it was appropriate to call the approach control of the base say Luqa for instance "Luqa approach." Tell them where you were,
your height, your ETA and any other material, that was for instance if you were carrying something that was necessary for them to come and get closer to, they'd tell you to call tower twenty miles out. So twenty miles out you'd call "Luqa tower" and ask for landing instructions. That was all my job and if GCA [ground control approach] happened to come along, ground
control approach, if the weather was zero, clouds were down to the deck it was my duty to call up and get the GCA, to which the pilot would be listening through the intercom and some of those landings were very hairy because GCA was just being thought of those days, but yes it that was that was my job. Now probably not all but you did other things.
Can you tell me Ted, I guess in the lead up to the Berlin air lift, what did you know about communism and communist Russia?
Well because I had relations in Germany I knew there was trouble afoot. Mind you, you see I was studying to
to get my A category at the time so but I was still mindful of this because I had been in contact with my German relations. Frau Sterzenbach, she lived at Bonn, Uber Hennef near Bonn, and my other relation I'm still in contact with them. Frau Sterzenbach has passed on but I'm not in
contact with her children or her offspring but I'm in contact with people at Marburg where the Defenbachs are and they mentioned to me that life was pretty poor even though they the Defenbachs lived down at Marburg, Frau Sterzenbach was in a lot of trouble at Bonn, Uber Hennef there, because it was very difficult to get supplies and what have you and they had virtually no money.
So I was very mindful of the situation and it was just a political thing how Germany was divided, but it was divided up by virtually greed on one part and the allies were trying to do the best, but they were also trying to get part of Berlin. Stalin wanted the whole lot. He wanted the whole lot whether anybody liked it or not so really the war never stopped
for him and politically it was dynamite. It started to build up all the time. It was niggle niggle niggle. I knew the political situation was worsening and then in April when I read or heard over the radio of this Viscount colliding head on with the Yak I thought "It's on" and I thought "Well the communists or Stalin's not going to give
in over this. He's going to dig his heels in. He still wants Berlin." He wanted all of Berlin. He wanted us out and it almost happened, but he didn't count on the resolution of the allies of setting in motion the air lift but
he saw the light a year later but even then he was really not happy about lifting the embargo on surface transport. So yes I was aware of the situation politically. I thought peculiarly enough Stalin was our ally during the war, albeit an odd one.
It never rested well on Churchill's shoulders or anybody's shoulders that the Russians were our allies so virtually he was really carrying on a war, a cold war against the allies.
Why did it rest uneasy with you that Russia was an ally?
Well I didn't like them particularly. They were an odd sort of people
and because of the situation I just thought "They're not to be trusted" because I'd heard so much and read so much about the Tsar and how they would lead him into freedom and shot the whole lot of them and I thought "Well this is not the type of person you want to really be involved with" and you heard some dreadful stories. Whether they were true or not you don't know but
in a world where you distrusted the person or the people to start with you sort of said "Well there's three quarters truth in what I'm hearing." There might not have been any truth in it, such as the shootings, the Gulag. I've got the book in there, 'The Gulag', whole long book by, at any rate if that's true that poor devil really suffered. I don't know if you've ever read that, 'The Gulag',
it's virtually the death camp in Siberia and I'd heard a smattering of all of this and I thought "These people are not to be trusted." I trusted the German more, not the Nazi the German. As I said the German is a good bloke and it ended up of course we had to feed those people somehow or other and Stalin didn't realise that could happen but it was only very
fortunate through the Yalta agreement that these three air corridors were prescribed in law to go into Berlin and if those air corridors had not been there, because during the peace time shall we say when the surface transport was running, all the cargo came in by surface transport but
all that could be carried by the air craft through the corridors was passengers and mail, but that went out the window when the surface transport was closed down on the 24th of June 1948 so I don't think he thought we could feed them and he thought "Here's my chance to get all Berlin back." In fact I don't think we thought we could do it,
but it was only through will, discipline and flying in all sorts of conditions, you've got no idea of the flying. Remember we weren't flying jets, we were flying piston engine aircraft and it was flying in all sorts of conditions that we weathered the storm. In fact at the end of the air lift or even half way through the air lift the supply in Berlin was
far better and far more balanced for the people than it was when they were using surface transport because the boffins had got into the act and they said "Well we've got to feed the people", this is the children remember, the kinder, the children they had to be looked after and that was virtually the life of a complete city so everything that was taken in had to
succour or make do for the life of a city. You had to feed a whole city and I remember there was all sorts of things flown in. The coal was by far the worst thing we ever carried. Now coal was very dirty and it got everywhere. It got over your face, everything, and how to carry it. They tried drums but that
couldn't be done so they ended up using sacks how shall I explain it? Hessian sacks and they only lasted three trips and it came the time when no matter what the Germans did, a number of Germans were set aside to mend these sacks, keep on mending them because coal would tear through them.
Don't forget it was being hoisted onto your back, not my back, but the poor old German back and taken up and thrown around and they only lasted three trips, even with the refurbishment and they started to run out of sacks and I forget the cost of the sacks but it was astronomical. I have it all logged in there, the cost of the sacks. It was astronomical. The kinder food. Well it
was taken out of the packet. I didn't do this. The ground staff did this. They took the potato what do you call dehydrated potatoes, flour, all other things they took them out of their original packages and put them into cardboard containers all of the same size, which meant easier packaging because don't forget some packaging you get there's that much empty, so to bulk it, it was placed
in cardboard boxes. Oh there was lots of other things that were carried but mainly it was basic essentials. Basic. To keep the city from starvation but of course all the hospital things had to be flown in too.
You had to look after that. You just couldn't say "Oh yes give them the food." I mean ladies had to be looked after. You just can't sit back and say "I've sent them the food, that's it." It's the life of a city. All the things that are required to make a city run had to be transported in, minus of course I don't think there was any scent or anything like that, but the basic essentials
for the ladies were sent in and we used to bring a lot of manufactured goods because the Germans had to be employed and employment was a hundred per cent and they would make motors, electric motors, all sorts of things. They were still very good at
ah, what do you call them? Binoculars and instruments like that. Leica cameras. Things like that. We brought them all out for sale to keep the economy going. So it wasn't only a one way street. You didn't come back empty. You came back full, but coal was the worst and I remember flying in an air craft near the end of my stay in the U.K. and it had been on the air lift and there was still coal,
,when we took it over to Gatow it would be unloaded and they used take it to what we dubbed Newcastle. Of course Newcastle for coal and we dubbed the Hangar Newcastle, but there was an old German in charge of that and I'm told that
he was a real martinet so to speak, using a lady's term, but he had the whip hand over everything. Everything that went out had to be measured exactly. Exactly, but of course the Russians shot themselves in the foot because you didn't really have to use a lot of transport to send this stuff around Berlin, our parts of Berlin, because they'd captured some
barges used before and in the war and they were tied up in the river Elbe so the barges were used with one pump to tow them up and unload the various things and there was only one thing using it instead of using trucks to take all this stuff to various spots, so really he shot himself in the foot with a lot of things because there was a lot of improvisation went on. The Germans became very good at it, and of course the German is very
good at improvisation, probably better than us, and they had to be indeed.
You mentioned before the Russian aircraft that you might encounter
And that you didn't have any scrapes with them but that you saw them from the aircraft and
Yes, oh yes.
I was just wondering if you could describe I guess what they what they'd do
As you were flying through the corridor?
Buzz you. Go 'round and 'round you and,
how shall I word this? I watched the Berlin air lift the other night on TV as a matter of fact and I was rather astounded at one person's statement. I think he was a wing commander an RAF fellow and I was astounded at his statement. He said the Russians used to buzz him and they buzzed him twice in one day and
of course you didn't only do one lift, remember that. You were flying 'round the clock. You did three lifts and that was it and you were all sort of on shift so you flew night, day, anytime, but this fellow said and I can't understand how this would happen. He said this Yak aircraft was coming towards him to buzz him so he turned his York to fly into him and I thought
"Rubbish". A Yak aircraft flying at three hundred miles an hour, you've got to have good eyes to see it coming straight towards you and then to turn the old bumbling York in towards and he said "He gave up and turned away" and I said to my wife who was watching it with me I said "That can't be." It wasn't like that at all. You kept to your pattern.
If you panicked you'd turn. Maybe he panicked, I don't know, but you kept your path. After all remember this. The pivotal point on the air lift was Frohnau beacon. You had to be over that beacon plus or minus twenty seconds. Forty seconds you had to be over that Frohnau beacon. Now you couldn't dilly dally
around. Now the Russian explanation for a lot of the things in the corridor was that the RAF aircraft had strayed from its course and we were leading it back into its proper course. Can be disputed because if you started to stray from the course and a Yak found you and tried to lead you back
your one two doesn't take long to count to forty does it? That's all rubbish you see, so they were telling lies all the time, but the RAF answer to that was to give us all a real bullet in the backside and say "It's noted" it was a NOTAM issued, Notice To Airmen, a NOTAM issued that "All RAF air craft are to remain on course.
It's been noted that RAF air craft are straying from their path in the corridor and you are to remain on course in the corridor and not to provoke etcetera. Any further actions of this nature severe strict and disciplinary action will be taken." Well we laughed a bit about that, because the people who sit in glass houses really can't throw
stones can they? And they didn't really know and they didn't even think that if you did stray out of your position you'd lose your position and the approach control would tell you "Back off, you've got to go back. Carry a load back to Wunstorf."
How often would that happen that planes would stray out of their path?
We didn't stray off the path at all.
Being in touch with other crews, I just wondered if it was a common occurrence?
Oh no. No. The RAF are very good at that. They're very well disciplined and we stayed on course and as far as I know the Dakotas coming from Lubeck did also, but you entered the corridor, don't forget you entered the corridor at around the Egstorf beacon, which was the northern end of the corridor, ah the entrance opposite Hamburg, so it was only twenty miles wide but the Dakotas flew down
there too but you couldn't really stray off course. If you did, you would lose your point over the Frohnau beacon because that was the pivotal point and you had to be over that beacon at that particular time, otherwise they wouldn't allow you to come into the traffic pattern to land at Gatow because don't forget you were sort of under carriage down, mm full things going and
there was an aircraft taking off in front of you and the aircraft was just rolling off the other end of the runway and you didn't have much time. So, no. Straying off the course wasn't on.
Close calls or even crashes or incidents did you see with that volume of air craft?
Landing and taking off?
Yes one night,
oh it was about twelve o'clock, midnight I guess, we went to our aircraft. I think I told you we used to walk out in the mud and slush and go over to the operations room, take this little tin disc, and give it to chiefy and we got into this air craft and we couldn't see the fluorescents and we refused to fly that aircraft so we went back and we gave the little tin
discs to the people and we waited. We waited in the hope that we'd get another aircraft, which we did, but in the meantime actually I noticed this disc taken and we had made the aircraft unserviceable in what they called the E100, which is an aircraft serviceability book and you put down all the unserviceabilities
and what have you. I noticed this and I didn't think. Anyway we got another disc and off we went and we got in this aircraft, it was okay, so we went on the perimeter track and old Tommy, he got in he lined up on the runway and I said "That's the aircraft we refused" and Jack Cornish said "Yes." Jack Cornish
was this captain. He said "We did U/S. it did we not?" I said "Yes we did." So we thought no more about it. Any rate he took off and he performed a beautiful arc. The last thing we saw was the red signal pistol being fired and he'd taken off and for some reason or other, if you can't see the fluorescents you can't see your instruments properly, right? And he'd done something wrong and he'd performed a beautiful arc, it was
loaded with coal and of course they all got killed. So we just lined up on the runway and took off. What else could you do? So but the point was, we came back to Wunstorf after unloading at Gatow, we came back and at that stage instead of just being the little NAAFI hut in the old
operation or briefing room, it was a huge area because it was a fighter aircraft base and medium bomber base during the war with the Luftwaffe and they had set up a complete kitchen and dining room so most of the meals we ate were there and they gave us stew and all I could think of was these poor fellows being stewed up with this coal. That's all I could think of. Honestly. They
were stewed up in this coal and here we were eating stew. Yeah, that was a bad time.
How was the aircraft still allowed to go up do you think?
Why did the air craft still go up even though you'd made it U/S.?
That's for somebody else to decide. Out of our hands. I didn't think of it anymore, and neither did any of the crew. None of our business. We had U/S.'d it.
We'd done our job and that was it. The odd part of it was, the sad part of it was that a fellow was friends with this skipper and he had been waiting and waiting and waiting 'til he came in so as he could get a ride and he was going to have a couple of days in Berlin and he waited and waited and off he went and of course he got killed. He could have gone with us. He could have gone with anybody, but he was waiting for his friend
and so he got killed. Oh well. Ah another time we were flying in the corridor and the aircraft gave an awful shudder like 'bang' and a real shudder, just like if you're hit with lightning. We had been hit with lightning in from Abanya down to Karachi and nothing, everything was right, so we landed and
got a flashlight, looked all 'round the aircraft and right in the nose underneath the old York nose was as though somebody had just put a huge boulder into it and bent the skin into a thing. We maintained that we'd hit a goose. After all we're flying at, what was our height? Fifteen hundred feet and there were three thousand three thousand feet I think our height was. That was our height that Yorks flew in the corridor.
You didn't have to ask your height. That was the height you flew and we thought we'd hit a goose. I presume we did. Oh we had couple of engines go, but the York aircraft's a pretty safe air craft. There's Berlin engines but did a few GCAs, ground control approach. That is when you're talked in by a ground control approach controller and they give
you your course, your height, your glide path. You mustn't go above it or below it and they say "Look ahead and land." I'm sure that was what they used to say. "Look ahead and land" and through the mist you would see the runway come up, hopefully.
How fatigued would the crew be during the air lift? You said you were working very long hours.
How hard was it flying how fatigued were you and
how hard was it flying with that?
Oh you would come back and you'd mainly drop on the bed, go to sleep. Fully clothed. That was it and you'd wake up, have a wash and something to eat. You were bright and bushy-tailed again. We were young don't forget. We're young and fit. Yes it was pretty trying but if you kept yourself
busy during the lift yeah you were okay but if you started not to be busy you drop off.
Was there enough for everyone within the plane to keep busy?
Oh yes. Oh yes. Ah the navigator had to navigate exactly, precisely. The engineer always had to be at the captain's side to ensure that the
engines were right, reading all the engines. I was kept busy because I had to make sure that I had to get position reports of when we entered the corridor, when we left the corridor. Twenty miles out from Frohnau beacon, that was approach control, over the Fronau beacon. Oh yes, always busy always busy and ah yes it was a busy time that
flight time to Berlin and back.
How close was your crew of four?
Friendship and yeah.
Oh good. Oh I've got photos to show we're always together. We were always together. Mainly each crew. There were two crews and mainly each crew but yes
the crews themselves were very close. I would give a party at my place and fill the bath with beer and the Brits wanted to know how we drank cold beer. You'd go down to the corner shop and get all the ice, fill it up and Mr and Mrs Tweed used to say "How can you drink cold beer?" That's where we board. That was at 33 Tennyson Road, Cambridge,
not very far from the station, which was handy. It was always good to get near a station. Ah yes, we didn't live in each other's pockets but when we were away the girls used to get together. The girls did a lot of things together. They used to go around of course, there's a lot of sightseeing to do. When we were at Abingdon, the girls used to get together and catch the bus and go to Oxford and there's some very
very interesting places at Oxford and also Cambridge you see, where we were based, and a lot of colleges to see and they'd go down to the Madrigals. That was beautiful the singing at Christmas time, the Madrigals behind Cambridge under the bridge these singers were, under the bridge and sing beautiful. So the girls got together and had a wonderful time. That's of both crews, but being away a lot they had to and of course that's
the fun they had, but today they don't seem to be able to think of those sort of things, by what I read.
How important was it as a crew to I guess really trust each other and rely on each other?
Well if you don't trust him you don't fly with him. This was what happened in our long nose Lincoln with our drunken captain. We just got that way we couldn't trust
him. We had a good second cap second pilot but he couldn't be responsible. It was the skipper that was responsible and he was just a downright drunkard. So apart from living on our nerves we just had to do something about it but the crews I've flown with mainly have been so trustworthy because you know your job, otherwise you shouldn't be there if you don't know your job
and I think I knew my job pretty well and so did my crew. My crew were all A category and that meant something, and they were a good crew.
I can't imagine having to go in a plane with a pilot that you knew was drunk. I just wonder what would what would you be thinking when you were in the air? What would the crew be saying to each other when they realised?
Now you don't want to hear that do you?
Maybe the edited version.
The edited version was "He's a mongrel and he shouldn't be where he is." I was to meet him a long time later and his wife came to me sobbing. I was at Amberley at the time and she said "I'm going home
to England." I said "I don't blame you." I said "I hope he's not going with you" and she said "No" and she said "You know why I'm leaving don't you?" I said "You don't have to tell me." That's how bad it was. I mean we could read each other's minds and she was a beautiful lady. In actual fact he was a born cartoonist. A born cartoonist. He'd been better off
being a cartoonist than he was flying with us. No it was a dicey time. It was a dicey time because Lincolns are not the easiest of aircraft to be in. They're old bomber type things and it's pretty hard to crawl around them. You've got to crawl around them, you can't walk around an aircraft whereas in Yorks you could. Transport aircraft. I'm talking now about maritime. It was loaded with
maritime equipment, but that's that. Finish.
I just wondered when he was put to ground crew, was there any remorse or apology?
No. No. No. Not a thing. He was an odd bod.
I wish to forget him. Simple as that.
I just find that amazing 'cause having spoken to pilots they
Usually have such a strong sense of responsibility for the lives
And if he's alive and sees this he knows what I'm talking about.
Your captain during the air lift. I guess just how important is it to have a skipper you can rely on?
A pilot that you that you trust with your life?
Oh wonderful. Wonderful. He was the only fellow that I ever flew with that I never ever want to see or fly with again. All the other people I've ever flown with, except one chap. Oh he was a wonderful chap. What was his name? He reckoned he'd flown for the Spanish during the Civil War. We were coming up from
Melbourne to Sydney flying a Dakota and old Tom was the navigator and he was lost, we were in cloud. Bang, it was eighth eighths, full cloud and he turned 'round and he said to old Tom, doesn't matter. I'd better not name him anyway, he might be alive. He said "Where are we Tom?"
and Tom said "Oh about there" because he was lost and oh dear oh dear. Any rate we all got out of it okay because he said "It's right" he said "I'll fix it" and do you know what he pulled out? He had a child's atlas and he pulled out this map of New South Wales and he said "I reckon we're about there. I'm going to turn I'm going to turn
eastward." We were coming from Melbourne. "I'm going to turn eastward" and he said "I'm sure we'll catch the coast." So off we went and we went eastward. We were lost. We were lost. We were dead lost and any rate we saw the coast. We wouldn't have run out of fuel. We'd have gone on to Amberley. It was quite okay. There was no real problem, but we were lost. Ha. I'll never forget "About there." You've got no idea how much confidence that gives to you.
Ah poor old Tom.
That's great. We'll leave it there 'cause our tape's just about to run out again.
We'll we've talk talking through the afternoon. It's great.
Interviewee: Edgar Ferguson Archive ID 0553 Tape 07
Edgar I'd like to ask you about the Berlin air lift. It wasn't a theatre of war but it was definitely Cold War conditions and you've just mentioned that your plane was often buzzed by Russian, how close do you think was the threat of World War III?
I would think very close. All it needed was just one small incident to take place. Just what incident I couldn't tell you but just probably to look at one of the Russian pilots and give him the finger or something like that.
It was a very uncanny time, an eerie time. They got beside you. We ignored them. I don't know what other crews did. We ignored them. I think that was the best thing to do but any little incident could have caused the third war to start. It was
just filled with tension, the whole thing was tension, and yet there was a crew crashed in Russian territory. A Dakota crew, not ours, and admittedly it was very difficult to get them out but they didn't hurt them. They rescued them, put them in hospital and the Poms eventually sent over a young
English lass called Byrnes, ACW [Aircraftwoman] Byrnes, that's right and she was there to nurse them and they allowed all that and yet other times they were quite callous. Another crew crashed and they were quite callous about all that. One Australian was killed
flying Dakotas, Mal Quinn. He's buried at Hamburg. I went to his funeral, but no the tension was there all the time. You could feel the tension and I think it was felt more at Whitehall with the messages going backwards and forwards than it was with us. There were some very tense moments I do believe with
Churchill being what he was and then Clement Attlee. Clement Attlee was then Prime Minister but he didn't like the Russians at all, but of course he had to deal with them, but it just seemed all the crews just felt "Just let's do what we've got to do. Don't sort of bite a bullet. Don't do anything
step out of joint. Even if you're provoked don't retaliate, just do what you've go to do" and that was what we did. That's why I couldn't understand this chap the other night on TV when he said "I turned my air craft into them." I just couldn't understand that because that's what we are told not to do. It was a devilish thing to do. I'm not criticising him, he did what he did, but I really don't believe he did what he did.
But as far as the Americans were concerned I don't know what drove them. I didn't mix with them. They were in a different air field anyway but if anybody was going to provoke something, they would. The Americans'd provoke anybody. They provoked me even so yes, they'd have been the people to provoke but I think there was a lot of tension at Whitehall. Stalin, it didn't seem to worry him. He was
"I want Berlin." That was the whole crux of the matter. He wanted Berlin. Berlin was just an island as far as we were concerned. Remember it was about a hundred and ten to a hundred and seventy seven kilometres inside of Germany and we only had those people there. Two million five hundred thousand people I think that we had there.
And when would you feel like retaliating?
Was there ever a time?
Not really. Live and let live. Wasn't my fight. If it had to come to a fight, yes, but I think we were too damn tired. I suppose tiredness brings on that kind of thing but I don't think we ever felt like that. We were there to do a job virtually and
that's what we had to do. We had to think of all those people that we were supposed to be feeding and that was uppermost in our mind. That was our job. Not to go out and bully boy or fight anybody, but just to feed the people or to carry the goods to feed the people. That was it.
And how difficult was it to come to terms with the idea
that you were now helping a people that merely a few months earlier Australia was at war with?
Well that question's often been asked but you can't let people starve. I think that is in
the whole allies' make up. You can't just say we could have easily said "The job is too hard. It's too risky. It's going to cost us a lot of money", which it did. "Forget it. Let's hand it over. Let's just forget it" but I think the object was "Well what's going to happen to these people." That seemed to be the object at the time. "What's
going to happen to these people? If we do let it go, what are the Russians going to do to them?" Because they've been with the west. "How is the east going to treat them?" And indeed you saw it when the Berlin wall was lifted. The West Germans didn't like the East Germans and yet they were relations and both east and west didn't like each other for a time.
But I don't I think that's in our make up. You can't let those people starve. You couldn't turn them over and say "We'll forget about you. You'll be looked after" because the trust would have gone and I think the Germans who were in West Berlin felt a great deal of trust towards us and you can't let them down.
You just can't. You've got to do what is necessary to be done and it was and it was done, and well.
Yes, the Berlin air lift is one of aviation's greatest and perhaps even finest hours in what it achieved. How important do you think it was to succeed in that air lift?
Oh as I say the trust of
the people. It was very important. It was also very important that we show the communists perhaps, the reds as we used to call them, that we really cared about our people and we were prepared to go to a fight if it was necessary. We were very ill-prepared, very ill-prepared, but we would have fought. We would have fought to keep our German people or keep those people fed. Now that
that's the whole thing and it's not a case of, I don't know I can't explain that, but to me it would be heinous to leave those people starved shall we say, because that's what would have happened. It was important also politically
and don't forget, when politicians find themselves in trouble they'll find a way out. Whether the politicians thought like that or not I don't know but I just get that funny feeling when the politicians are mentioned because it was more or less a political fight as well as it was a sort of a Cold War and politicians'll do anything to put sheet iron on their back side.
When you say "It was a political fight" can you explain a bit more about what you mean by that?
Well yes. It was important. The object was that the Yalta Agreement they decided to, it was political, they split Germany into four zones and they split Berlin into four sectors
and the object was to hold that territory. I can't find the words to explain it, but that was what we called the free part of Berlin and that was to be held mainly at all costs. They were our people. Alright, we were fighting against them just two years previously, but it was our duty to look after these people. They were entrusted to us via the Yalta
Agreement. The Yalta Agreement divided Berlin into those sectors and that was assigned to the allies. So naturally, politically it was important that we kept it because it was a political agreement that had been made to keep those people on the allies' side and if you didn't keep that piece of ground or keep those people fed, that would have been,
well it would have been about face wouldn't it and I think that the allies would never ever have been trusted again, so it was trust as well. We had to keep our agreement, political agreement, to keep West Germany free. I can't find the other word really to explain it but once an agreement's been made, signed, that's it but Stalin didn't want it that way
but unfortunately for him he got it that way.
And you mentioned that you felt you were ill-prepared or the allies were ill-prepared.
Why do you say that?
Well they were. They were bankrupt virtually. The bombers were virtually
worked out. The Lancasters were few and far between. It had all geared down. There was no money, there was very little ammunition. Nothing to really start another war. We don't know what Stalin had, but I think he had a lot because the Russians were always
geared up for that kind of thing but that wasn't our job, but I think everybody sort of after the war you just a sigh of relief. It's all gone. So consequently air craft were just left. Put into mothballs so to speak and virtually there was nothing. Maybe we had a few fighters but they were gearing up with newer air craft, which weren't really ready to roll. For instance the Hastings air craft, the transport air craft.
That was the Hermes, the military version of the Hermes. It still wasn't up and running. It did start to fly from Schelklingen in December I think of the air lift, but that was when it they first came into operation but everything was sort of come to a standstill and they were wanting to make newer air craft because jets were coming on line and everything like that but
nothing was there ready to go. The old air craft that had fought during the war had had it. Just like us. I don't think the people were really ready either but they would have rallied. People are resilient. They would have rallied.
Which people are you referring to?
British. Yeah they would have rallied. I don't know much about the
French. The Yanks would have too. The Americans would have. Yeah, they would have rallied.
And how important do you think was it for you maybe on a personal level for the allies and democracy to defeat communism?
Well I don't like to get a knock on the door at midnight and be taken away and not heard of again. I want to feel free to worship as I want to. I want to be free to be able to do the things our soldiers in World War I fought for. Freedom. Freedom
of the press. I want our papers to tell me two sides of the story. I don't want them to tell me only the government's side. I want my children to be able to go to a school and be taught freedom of speech. Lessons, whereas in communist you have to toe the party line. The papers couldn't print what they really wanted
to do. A small example. My son-in-law and daughter for a time left Thailand and went to Hanoi just recently. Now my son-in-law is a fairly good newspaper man. He's very good at writing stories. He wrote
stories for the 'Hanoi Press' in Hanoi but the editor would ink out a lot of the things he wrote and said "You can't print that. This is what you must print" and that's communism and no, that's it. Freedom. Freedom to worship. Freedom to do what I really want within the constitution and that's what I want and
in communist you can't do that. You've got to toe the party line and like it or go to the Gulag.
Well you've mentioned that basically the air lift was transporting supplies and taking off every three minutes practically.
Every three minutes.
What was your plane in particular carrying?
I think I mentioned this before but coal.
But I've got a there's a manifest in my study, but dehydrated potatoes. Everything for the life of a city. Food in a dehydrated
state. Flour, that sort of thing. Mainly for the life of a city but coal was very important and I can remember the German labourers and there was a most beautiful young lady. She was sweeping. I was going back to the air craft. I hopped in the air craft and just as the last bit this young lady was there and she was getting it into a pan.
Whatever they could glean from left overs and spills they apparently were allowed to take home and this young lady, and she was the most beautiful looking woman, she was there dirty nails filthy absolutely filthy and she was black and she was scraping all this coal that was left. The little bits of coal. As much as she could glean into this little bag that she had. So times were hard
because everything was measured out exactly. I've got a small book in there. It was printed by Her Majestry's or His Majesty's stationery office and that gives you a good insight into the air lift and it just tells you how these people were. Really beleaguered and whatever scraps were left over they'd
everything had to be accounted for and when it was sold they'd weigh it out exactly because the next person couldn't get an ounce or whatever over what that person did because they were all queuing up for it and if one person got more than the other I guess there'd be a fight. I don't know. There'd be a few hard words spoken I guess but no, it was a hard time for them. Hard time. So I was glad to be part of the deal that helped them.
It's my way.
And I understand that the weather conditions were particularly severe during that time.
What do you recall of the weather?
Some days it was nice and clear. Other days it would be eight eighths cloud. Down to the deck practically. Winter came early
in 1948 but we left the air lift as I said in early December I think it was, but winter was already in but the seasons seemed to be out of kilter. I can remember slush and mud and things like that even walking out to the aircraft. The garrie [truck] wasn't there to collect you and take you to the operations room and take you down to the aircraft. You
walked down to that. Such was the nature of the beast that it was but there was a lot of slush and mud. Heavy rain, but you still had to fly in those conditions. But you're disciplined. If you're disciplined you can do these things. There's no great problem associated with it. After all you're well trained but the weather was all over the place but when winter crept in
it got very very cold indeed and I remember the Sunderland flying boats that used to land at Lake Hovell (Sp?), which was just down from Gatow, they were stopped flying due to the danger of ice forming on Hovell (Sp?). So that put that air craft out of the air lift. They were flying five tonnes in at a time, which meant something. But no, the weather
had a great bearing on a lot of things and when the weather did clap you it was instead of three minutes, every air craft took off every five minutes but they'd cut off the Dakotas and they'd leave the Yorks, which were capable of carrying ten tonne, and the Americans flying from Frankfurt. Frankfurt on Main. They would fly up their corridor and
of course they were able to carry about ten tonne as well so the Dakotas were cut out during the bad weather and it was left of the Yorks to carry most of the load. That's on as far as the RAF were concerned, but there was a team of a few crews, RAAF fellows came up there and they did a few days' training in at Oakeyton or Water Beach and then they were put on the air
lift, but they were flying from Lubeck into (UNCLEAR) and we were in the air and I heard this voice come on the VHF. You were supposed to be silent because VHF, if two talk you can't hear. It's just a jam but this fellow came "This is the first Australian on the air lift. We're coming down from Lubeck" and so I can't remember what he said and
old Cornish looked around at me and so I said "Really?" that was it. "Who's that? Who was that? Who was that?" At any rate when we got down at Gatow and these Dakotas landed they spotted us and I said we'd been there from day one. Of course there was no spite about it. They didn't know, otherwise
they'd have never said such a thing would they? It was just a case of oneupmanship. Ha ha. Good fun.
And how important was it for you to take part in a commemoration parade at the end of the air lift?
Oh I felt very proud indeed to represent my crews. I felt very proud.
I put my best foot forward because I was representing my eight Australian. We had another Australian representing the Dakotas but I was representing our York crews and I thought I'd put my best foot forward. I was very proud indeed. Ah yes. Extremely proud and of course I was to meet the King and Queen, and that was something in those days.
Well returning to Australia after your experience with the air lift, which was so vivid from all of your stories, what was it like returning home?
I don't think the Australians even cared a damn. They didn't even care. Oh yes. Nobody was interested. Nobody cared.
Life went on. Mind you that's a bit the Australian way isn't it, but that was it. Nobody cared. Whether they wanted to or not I don't know. Whether they were frightened to say anything in case of what I might have said I don't know but no, nobody cared. The way I see it. The way I see it.
My brother did. He cut out of the Courier Mail a couple of snippets about the "Kangaroos on the air lift." We were called the kangaroos. Now I hadn't heard that expression on the air lift. "The King lauds the Australians." Well of course that's the paper's way of putting it. Freedom of speech. They can say what they like
providing it's more or less within the truth but yes, the King did laud the Australians because that's what he said to me. He was very proud of the Australians. But ah the kangaroos. No. We were just another Australian crew to be called the kangaroos. Ha. It was rather laughable. A belly laugh of it, if you like. Mm.
I'm wondering, did your crew have a nickname of any sort?
Just the Aussies. As far as we knew. Nobody ever said anything different to our face except the Aussies.
Well you returned to Australia in 1950 sort of mid 1950, after your time with the air lift. Is there anything more that you would like to say about the air lift?
Oh not really. I mean it was a
part of my life that I'm very proud of. Being able to help in such a wonderful thing called 'The Bridge Across the Sky." To be able to help what we then termed our people. I was very proud of the operation as a whole. But there was no mention of it here in Australia except as my brother said. My brother got these two snippets out of the
paper but ah no, there's nothing. I can't really remember anything more. It was quite a turbulent time because as I said, we were on duty virtually twenty four hours a day or we did take two 48 hour rests. We went to Bad Nenndorf and that
was south of Wunstorf and it was in a forest, beautiful area of Germany, and beautiful old churches Gothic churches and everything there beside a river and it was far enough away to not hear any noise, because
if you stayed at Wunstorf all you heard was the roar of air craft engines. If you stayed in Hanover there was always a roar of air craft engines and to get away from that, Bad Nenndorf was the next best thing. Ah yes. Two 48 hour passes, but mind you they weren't really 48 hour passes, because it started when you got on the bus and it ended when you got off the bus back at Wunstorf
and then you were back on the air lift. You had to do three lifts and they divided it into sort of three 8 hour shifts, night and day, so you didn't do 3 shifts in the day and then go on in the night to do another 3 shifts. You sped it over. You stayed on that for about 3 or 4 days then you'd transfer over to doing night shift 3
trips, but yes you had to do your 3 shifts and it became very monotonous, very monotonous but you had to keep your wits about you and that was all. But there's nothing more I can really think about except I made friends with the German family. I was thinking of ways and means of trying to see Frau Stursenbach down at Bonn.
They're your relatives?
Yes but Marburg was too far away of course but it was the uncertainty of transport. I might have got there but I couldn't see myself getting back in time and I only wish I could have. Ah I thought about it after the air lift was over but I never ever had the time. I was always flying, which I loved of course, but we did take a holiday to
Scotland and toured around from where my people come from in Ayrshire. Got some Ferguson tartan, which I can't wear today because some of it's green. And we had a good time but apart from that always busy. Always busy flying. So the air lift yes it was quite good but that was it.
Well I'd now like to move on. The Korean War followed World War II and you remained with the air force and became part of ground crew. I'm now interested in your time during the Vietnam War years from
roughly '62 to through to '68. I understand you were a Movement Control Officer?
You started off in Queensland?
I was born in Queensland.
Oh sorry, you started off in Sydney.
As a MCO and then were posted to Butterworth. Can you tell me about that time
In Butterworth? Yes it was more happened in Sydney than there was in Butterworth. But at Butterworth the medivac crews used to come through there and it was my job to find out the load and the status of the passengers on the medivac
to report them to Geoff Nelson, who was then the medical officer, and this happened almost every Friday, but that was by the by. That was part and parcel of the job. The other huge task I had was, I think it's gone past the statute of limitations now.
Was that 1960? When did I go to Butterworth? 1972. Yes. Butterworth had a lot of HAHS bombs, High Altitude High Speed, which we called HAHS bombs plus other ammunition stored there and I
opened a thing all sealed with wax and I was given my duty of what I was supposed to do. Well the MV [Motor Vessel] Monash, which was an army vessel, moored at Butterworth Wharf. They wanted to go into Prai Wharf but I was a pretty high powered chap up there and I said "You can't go into
Prai." So I got them into Butterworth, which was a beautiful new wharf because it had the space, the facilities and everything to store and the duty was to get all these HAHS bombs plus other ammunition and load them onto the Monash, which was the army vessel moored at Butterworth. Well I had to hire all
sorts of vessels but of course you see loading and carrying explosives you just can't put them on any ordinary old truck. Ah vehicles had to comply with safety regulations and I found this extremely difficult to get a vehicle in Malaysia that conformed to the regulations but you see Butterworth or Malaysia had no regulations. So
what to do, because I was on Malaysian soil, so I went and discussed this with people in government and I said "You have no explosive regulations and I have to transport explosives." I didn't tell them where, why or whatever and they told me they didn't really know very
much about that sort of thing. Indeed they'd rather sell it, to the communists I think. So they said "Well would you make our regulations for us?" and I said "Alright. Ah I'll be truthful about it. I said "I won't hoodwink" and of course a chap called Mohammed Faiz was there and he knew me and he said "I trust
this man. He won't hoodwink us." So I sat down and I had to write very quickly the explosive regulations which I was going to abide by to transport these explosives but they had to be very harsh. They had to comply. For instance their trucks had no spark arrestors, anything like that. The exhaust was too close to the tray. All sorts of things that you can't even
think of and I had to get a lot of modifications done to the transport and the people of the companies who owned these trucks were very amenable to that and paid for them themselves because they said "Well we see wisdom in it because these trucks will now comply with regulations." I said "That's right." So it was a sort of a give and take thing as far as getting the trucks concerned
and then came loading the stuff. Well it was a big job trying to convince people that I had to have police outriders. 'Cause you just don't take explosives down the road. I had to have police outriders and as it turned out a couple of them were rogues, but by and large we got the job done and it was a week's job
of loading at Monash because you had to be very careful. Mind you the loading and unloading equipment in Butterworth was not up to our standard at all. For instance they they'd use rope slings. Well that was out. I had to get them to use chain slings, otherwise the ropes would have busted with the thousand pound bombs and all sorts of things like this. It was a big job and any rate we got the Monash loaded finally.
I think my fingernails were down to the bottom because some of the things I saw didn't meet with the mm, and they weren't according to Hoyle but it was passable and when the Monash left it was down to its water line or below its water line and of course when they got clear of Malaysian territory they just turned north
and went to Camran Bay and nobody was any the wiser but that was a huge task. One that you'd had to take a lot of responsibility for but I was prepared to do that. Part and parcel of the job. Got no praise for it but did it. I don't think that answers your question does it?
It's a good start.
I think we might stop there and change our tape because I'd like to ask you more about your time in Butterworth.
Interviewee: Edgar Ferguson Archive ID 0553 Tape 08
As you were just saying Edgar, the Vietnam War was a very volatile time and you experienced some of that in Sydney before you transferred to Butterworth.
But how did you feel moving closer to the action and the war when you were posted to Butterworth?
Oh it didn't
concern me one way or the other. I mean in Sydney I probably saw more of what was going and what was coming than Butterworth. See Butterworth was mainly the medivac. The charters which took the troops to Vietnam did not land at Butterworth. My
MCO at Changi was responsible for them to me. He saw the troops going off from Singapore and they would change into uniform there. They went in civvies from Sydney to Singapore, changed into uniform at Singapore and off the aircraft at
Vung Tau in uniform. When I was in Sydney I was responsible for loading them onto the Qantas aircraft and indeed the Hercules. So really it was no different. In fact it was going to be less for me at Butterworth than Sydney.
All the ships which came home from the Melbourne for instance came home with crashed what were those funny aircraft on board? Any rate it was my responsibility to get them off and transport them 'round here to Bankstown Airport. Quite a feat in itself. I was asked how I
was going to do it and I had all sorts suggestions from Department of Air but I told them none of them would fit. "Leave it to me. I'm here. I know what to do." "I'll cut off the streets at night time" It nearly came to me what that aircraft was, a slow horrible old thing. At any rate I said "No, that's not going to do. Look, leave it to me for gosh sakes." So I eventually hired a barge, concrete barge from the Navy, and I took it out the bay, took it up the
Georges River and unloaded them, middle of night over here at the bridge. I had the electricity people working for me etcetera too. They had to take the electric poles down and all the time the Department of Air people were worrying me. They thought that salt water would damage it. I said "For god sake it's been on the Melbourne. It's been open to the sea coming back. Look you're living in an ivory tower.
Let me do it." So and the people coming back, the chaps who came back I used to meet them at Mascot and get them all sorted out and send them off to where they were supposed to go. Holsworthy and what have you. So really I was tied up more with the Vietnam War as support by the Japarit, the Boonaroo, which went nearly every two months, and the aircraft charters and
the ships coming back with whatever on board. As I say, at Butterworth I was only concerned with the medivac and that huge transportation of the bombs and the other material. Apart from that there was no real reaction with the Vietnam War. Strange as it may seem but Butterworth was removed. The
other part of Butterworth never had anything to do with the Vietnam War. I was the only one contacting through the medivac and there were some sights, of people, badly mauled.
Can you describe some of those
I don't want to, if you don't mind. I don't want to. Doctors may have a better opinion of that than me but
my layman's language is not sufficient and I'm sorry I don't wish to.
How did it affect you at the time?
Oh it didn't affect me really in any way. It was part and parcel of the deal but people shouldn't have to suffer in such a manner,
especially when it wasn't our war anyway. Not really.
What opportunities did you have to talk to any of the troops?
Not many. Not many because the all I was responsible for mainly was to be there to make sure that we had the
correct manifest, that they were correctly named and just things like that. Responsible for the loading and the unloading because they'd come off at night time and next morning early they'd be loaded onto the medivac for the long flight back to Australia. So that's was my job. Be there to meet them, ensure that the correct names were on board
to get to the medivac people and ensure the same people were on board next morning to go off to Australia and to ensure that everything was loaded correctly in accordance with the regulations like restrain. Fore and restrain what have you. That their stretchers were restrained properly but you would still see them. If they were available to talk you would say
"Hello" and things like that. Whatever came.
Well if you don't mind I wouldn't mind asking you why you don't want to talk or describe any of those situations?
Well firstly I don't think it's my job. I think that's up to the med people. If you want to ask them, yes they can describe their wounds and what have you. All I can say is that
I don't wish to see people in such a position again. It disturbs me to think that people can be so maimed and yet live and I just don't feel as though I should talk about it.
And I won't.
Well as you've
mentioned, the Vietnam War years were very difficult
on a number of different levels, do you think that you reacted differently to the beginning of the Vietnam War years compared to the end?
No, I just thought that it was a
a peculiar thing that we were getting into, following the Americans again. It was part and parcel of military life. I really didn't have anybody close connected to a barrel draw so probably that's one of the reasons it didn't effect me so much as it might have effected Joe Blow who might have had a
son or whatever that came out of a barrel. Now I didn't have that. There was nobody I knew that had the pick of the draw. So I suppose it didn't affect me in that manner at all. It just affected me to think that perhaps why are we there? But then I dismissed it because I was in the service and I was there to do you see politicians make wars
and the services fight them, so it might be different if it was the other way 'round where politicians had to fight wars. They wouldn't really so easily say "Go." I've got my own thoughts on that but I won't demonstrate them. I will mainly keep them to myself because it won't help.
I'd rather do it at the ballot box. That's my way of thinking. Cast a proper vote. If you want anything to do, do that but don't throw paint don't demonstrate like an idiot don't go out in the street and yell and shout and throw marbles under horses feet or anything like that. It gets you nowhere. That to me, at that time of all those demonstrations
just seemed so stupid because they weren't going to alter the government's position one little bit, but you could have if you did it at the ballot box. Screaming your head off with placards, of little use. I'm sincerely hoping that none of my grandchildren or great well great grandchildren now. My grandchildren wouldn't, but my great grandchildren I sincerely hope that they wouldn't
partake of any demonstrations because it is futile to do that sort of thing and I did think that as I said when I told that wharfie that we're there to support the people. If you want to do anything go and fight the government. Don't fight the people, help them. It's their supplies we're sending up. I think I might have said something like that before. So when they come home for gosh sake don't
belittle them. Be glad they're home. Instead of throwing paint over them like that stupid woman did. No good. I happened to be in Sydney that particular day. It was a shocking silly business.
Mm. Yeah there's a
very different atmosphere compared to World War II and your time with the Berlin air lift to later in the Vietnam Years.
You mentioned earlier that unfortunately war is about killing.
Mm. It is.
How difficult is it to reconcile
that and with being in the service?
Well being in the air force it wouldn't have meant much to me. If I'd have been able to join the services earlier in life and been posted to operational service it wouldn't have worried me one iota because I would be removed from the slaughter. That's one good thing perhaps of being in the service but you can be shot at, that's the other thing. You can be shot out
of the sky but the other thing is you wouldn't be close to the slaughter. My wife's father was close to slaughter in World War I. That's the army. I don't know really how they cope but you see if you join the services it's not there for a holiday. People have got to understand that. You join the service and you're at the behest of the government
and if the government say "You've got to go and fight that war", okay you have to go. It's no good people saying "I'm not going to go." You joined the service to serve the country and if you want to do anything about it, as I say, you do it at the ballot box but you've got to go and do what the country wants of you. If you don't, you're a traitor.
Simple as that. So it wouldn't have affected me if I was in the Air Force and air crew because as I say I wouldn't have even seen. I may have given a thought once in a while to "Why am I doing this? Am I killing anybody?" But then you've got a job to do. That's it. You're in the service. You signed up.
You put yourself on the line and said "I'm going to do this." Too late. Too late to say "I don't want to do this. I want to stay home with Mummy." No good. Well that's my thoughts. That's my thoughts on the matter.
You had a very long career of thirty or thirty one years with the air force.
Looking back over that very long career, I was wondering what were your strongest memories?
What about my strongest memories? Oh my strongest memories were well getting where I did from nowhere. Being able to pass the courses. To prove
to myself that I wasn't a goat, that I was able to do something. The Berlin air lift was a highlight of my career. To get my wing, oh was absolutely joyous. When the Wing Commander pinned that wing on me at West Sale I thought "This is just out of this world. This is absolutely marvellous."
To be at Movement Control Sydney. To be able to meet all those VIPs from my lowly humble life from which I'd come, a kid on the farm.
Which VIPs in particular did you meet?
Well the Prime Minister of the day. Billy ah Mr Howson, I have a photograph of him in my album
of helping me and he wrote me a beautiful letter. Mr Howson was then the Minister for Air in that particular government. The day Harold Holt's funeral. I looked after the Americans who came in. They didn't even ask or come to look after their own. They left me do it and I was proud to do that. I looked after the Philippines President and Imelda. Did you know Imelda has a sister or did have a sister in Sydney
and I packed her off to her sister in Sydney while old Ferdinand went off to the funeral. All of the VIPs came through Sydney for that particular funeral. I had them all bundled up in various stages and I took them over to flight facilities, which was then operating and all these aircraft were coming in and I put them on the aircraft and gave them their
instructions of who would meet them and where and then I would come back and I would ring where they were going and tell them "Joe Blow is on his way" etcetera "and he's got twenty pieces of luggage" or whatever and all that kind of thing. Yes, it was a big time when Harold Holt bit the dust so to speak. The Chief of Air Staff. came through.
Oh he was knighted too by the way. Fella Longshorn or something, I've forgotten now. The New Zealand Chief of Air Staff came over and was a fellow who was with me on 24 Commonwealth Squadron and Larry and I had a wonderful time. Larry Siegert was his name. We had a wonderful time together because Larry and I were pretty good mates and one of the WAGs who was
on 24 Squadron with me, a chap called Jake Jacobson, he was then the attaché in Sydney and he rang on the telephone and he mentioned to me that ah Air Marshall Siegert was coming over and I said "I've got a good memory for voices. You're Jake Jacobson aren't you?" He said "Yes, who's that?" and we had a long talk, so I met people and it was always a case of meeting people.
It was always the thing, loading aircraft every month to go to Butterworth, getting all the families together, bringing them in from everywhere and putting them up in then the then Copenhagen Hotel. Going up to see them at night time to make sure that they were all okay, that everything was right. The signal would send a bus out, 4 in the morning to pick up from various places and get them loaded on the charter. That
afternoon next afternoon rather, meeting all the people coming home from Butterworth, putting them in cars, whatever, to take them to wherever they wanted to go. It was complete non-stop all the time but the VIPs came in and one had to attend those as well. Nothing to be out at Mascot at 4 o'clock in the morning. I remember when Qantas went on strike. I went to work at 4 o'clock, I went to work at seven o'clock this morning. I went
to Movement Control Office and got there at 8 o'clock. Left home at 7. We lived in Prahran Street then. Got to work at 8 o'clock. I didn't get home 'til Monday night. Qantas went on strike but I was just about ready to leave the office at 5 o'clock Friday afternoon and the teleprinter started going. Teleprinters those days, big long reams of paper come out and all these names came through and I said "I wonder what's
at the end of this?" and at the end of it was "These people" or their commanding officers "have all been warned." I was to have them on an aircraft on Sunday morning at Mascot. Now I had to get people from Perth, everywhere. Some of the commanding officers said "We've never heard of it." I said "Well you'd better hear of it, get them down here" and I booked flights for them, did everything. Helped by one corporal.
He was marvellous. Old rough nut. He was marvellous and both of us did not get home. We had some help on Monday but it was no use bringing anybody else in on the weekend because the work was being done and anybody else you would have had to explain to them what had to be done, so we just stayed there and did it all. Oh it was a great time. Got home and I couldn't sleep, but I'd been sort of napping and so had
young McGann. He'd been napping at various odd times but it was a marvellous time at Movement Control Sydney and I received a lot of congratulations from various VIPs, dignitaries who went through. From Americans, Brits and yes it was good fun. It was kept you busy, but that's the point. My children were at home and I hardly
saw them and that's the sad part of it. Missing your children, because I was always at work. I was a workaholic but it differed a little bit at Butterworth because as I say, that was more a stable position. I was on an air force base.
Yes it was it was on an air force base and the life wasn't so hectic, except that it was a lot of work and that's where I learnt to play golf and I'm hooked. Did that answer your question? I don't think it did.
Yes I was wondering if perhaps during that that time in Sydney when you were
meeting all of those VIPs perhaps what was the strangest or oddest moment that stuck in your mind?
Well perhaps the one of the odd moments was when Air Marshall Murdoch was off overseas and a chap came along and he said "I want to talk to Murdoch."
So I said "Do you really?" I said "If you wish to, you'll have to ask me in a different tone altogether." So there was a little altercation and I found out he was a reporter. He was pretty grubby so I knew he was a reporter. All reporters those days were grubby. So I went up to talk to Air Marshall Murdoch and he said
well he didn't mind answering questions but I said "Sir, I think it might be better if you answer questions when you come home. You would be able to tell him what you'd done rather than just tell him what you're going to do, but it's up to you." So I just looked at him and he said "Oh Fergie I'd better talk to them." So I said "Alright." So I brought this chap up into the VIP
room at Mascot, Qantas. He didn't have anything with him, no pen no paper or anything and I thought "This is strange" 'cause old Air Marshall Murdoch wouldn't twig this and he started asking questions and he got to the third one and I said "Finish" and this fellow looked at me and he said "Why?" I said "Because you haven't got a pad." I said "Are you wired?" which meant did he have a thing. He said
"No." I said "Off" and I said "I'll remember you. Don't you ever ever ask me can you interview one of my VIP passengers again because you're blacklisted." "I'll tell my boss." I said "I'll beat you to it" and I did. I knew who he represented and I rang his boss. His boss was furious that this chap should go along without a notebook and ask questions just
out of the blue without even any doing any homework about it. That was one of the oddest times. Other odd times was meeting a young lady from Butterworth whose husband had been killed and she came back and she saw me, I didn't know her from Adam, but she saw me
and of course I had to ask questions and where she wanted to go because I had no information and I had a lady in tears crying all over me and that was a very odd time but I eventually got everything out of her and strangely it may seem she was off to Beaudesert. I said that was the place I was born and she was going up to meet somebody up there whom I knew.
So she sort of calmed down. Another time was when a young child, first child had died in Butterworth and I was to pick up the ashes. Well, that's alright. I don't mind doing these things but the ashes came to me with nothing. The ashes were in a little Malaysian urn. Just
nothing, just the urn and I thought "Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear." Anyway I thought "This is not on." So I rang the carpenter at two stores depot, the chippie. Two stores depot used to be over here at Regents Park at that time and I rang the chippie and I said "Look I haven't asked your boss, but this is my problem." "No problem sir, no problem." Well you should have seen what that young fellow did. I gave him the measurements of the thing
and he made a beautiful box. An absolutely beautiful box. One with a hinge and everything on and I had to take it to the people. I picked it up that afternoon. He made it. I picked it up that afternoon, we put the urn in it. Looked beautiful and I took it, they lived just over here near Duck Creek at Auburn and they wanted me to come inside and do all sorts of things but it was a very harrowing time because they were
really distraught. It was their first grandson and he had died from something or other up there. So I did have my traumatic moments but I divorced myself from them because after all I was only the carrier, but those are the sort of thing you've got to divorce yourself from otherwise if you get involved you become all stupid yourself but those are mostly the odd things that you have. Everything all went swimmingly
because we were a well-oiled team. Things went quite well but it was a joy to meet all these people and make sure they were on their way and safe, what have you, and see them off. We used to send our a number of our people overseas by Flottolauro, a ship at that time, and Flottolauro was an Italian line and I was very friendly with a
chap called Paul, who was the boss, and I don't think I should have done it, but I'd get the people on board, no problem at all because I had what I called the brown shirts. No relation to the brown shirts in Germany, but these wharfies who were helpers were in brown shirts and I used to pay them from petty cash and they used to charge so much a case and take it on.
They'd settle them down in their cabins, "She's right boss" and they used to look after me probably better than anything. All the other people had to scramble but I had all these things under control and then Paul would say "There's your seat. Just be off before the ship sails" and the waiter would come along and I used to drink orange juice mainly, because it was rather
in for a dig to drink anything else. I was on duty, but that was it. I mean P&O were the same. There was another airline, an Italian airline I was very friendly and Air India that used to flying those days. I don't know whether you remember or know of Air India but they were flying and we used to call him the Maharajah of Pitt Street and I would feed the people around. I wouldn't favour one,
I would feed the people around to these various carriers but it all came to a halt eventually because we saw the light and we said "Well this is not on, we'll money's going elsewhere, let's fly Qantas" and I enjoyed a great time with Qantas, the carrier. I had the people I could call and they could call me, so it wasn't the case of having to go
willy nilly. I could call one person at Qantas and get what I wanted. So it was a very well-oiled organisation and dealing with customs wasn't the best thing in the world, but we got by. They always wanted to alter something but they found if you stood firm and said "That's the way I got it out of your book. Just because it's amended
now, I'm not going to do it. Tough cheddar. Fix it like it was." "Oh." They'd never had that before my predecessors used to run with their tail between their legs and do it, but I stood firm. I said "That's the way it came out of the book" and they they'd give me a whole heap of amendments and say "Well this is the amendment that amends it." I said "Well tough cheddar. I haven't got it. Do it now and that's it. That's the way it's going to be"
and we got on well. Be firm. Be clear about what you want to do and make sure your message is conveyed properly and people will come good. It was good fun.
You've just reminded me, I was going to ask you about your progression through the rank.
'Cause you began with air crew and um by the end of
World War II you were squadron leader?
Ah no. No. I've got all my ranks down there but now let me remember. I was an AC2 [Aircraftsman 2] to start with, then I became an LAC [Leading Aircraftsman]. I passed out as a sergeant. I was a warrant officer in England. I came back from U.K. and somewhere around the '50s, as I say I've got it all down there somewhere, but
just after I came back from U.K. I was put on an officers' training course and I became a flying officer off course and then I progressed through the ranks up to squadron leader. I can't
remember the dates but progressed through the ranks.
And what was your rank on discharge in 1975?
Squadron Leader and they'd just stopped the business of giving you, they always used to give you the rank above and on the 1st of January that year they stopped doing that. In other words, I could have retired as a wing commander if I'd have retired in 1974. So what? Doesn't get me any extra
money. It was just an honorary rank, so I'm happy.
Well you've told us earlier on in the day quite a lot about what you did after your discharge and your involvement in various organisations
But I'm wondering um if you could tell me just a bit more about how you adjusted
to not wearing the uniform yourself.
Well you don't really for awhile. I think it just took me a little while to think about that but I said to my wife "I've got nothing to do" and I didn't at that stage. I had a lot of things in
mind but I said "Let's get out of here. Let's go away and come back and then we'll both come back and we'll have forgotten about most of the things that have passed and will have started something new." So we took off and went and saw friends that we'd had in Malaysia. Indeed we still see them. They come down every year to see us.
I went off to Bangkok, because I've got friends up there. This is not my daughter, but I've got friends in Thailand and then we went on to Hong Kong and had a wonderful time there and flew back home to Sydney. I think we were away nearly a month all told and it was sort of new. We came back and it was a sort of a start afresh and
I have never been one to get under anybody's feet and neither has my wife. She had a number of friends, and still has, which I don't mix with and I have a number of things and friends that I have that she doesn't mix with. We all know each other, but we don't mix. So she has interests that I haven't got. For instance, she loves to go to the pictures and I hate the pictures. I won't even
look at the TV at picture. Pictures are mostly boring any rate. They're one line Yankee things and that doesn't suit me. I watch a lot of British comedies on Optus. 'The Bill' for instance, well that's getting a bit crook too but I can't understand the American accent to be quite honest. I've never liked it. So
yes, she has her things to do, I have mine and of course somebody asked me "Would you do would you be the secretary of the SEBS" and the Church of England boys' soccer. I said "Oh yes" because I was in that before I left to go to Butterworth and I said "Yeah yeah I'll do that" and then I I've became Worshipful Master of my lodge and of course that took up a fair amount of time
but then of course when I became secretary took up a great deal of time.
What did you miss?
Camaraderie. Camaraderie. The blokes. I missed the blokes, yeah, because I used to like to have a yarn with the fellas. I'm not a girly man.
I like to have a yarn with the chaps. Good yarns. Not over a beer but good yarns. Fun. Sometimes stretch it a little. Yes, that's what I missed. Probably still do. Except I've got a few friends that are golfing friends. Now we're the same age I don't play competition anymore because I can't keep up with the field.
I could hire a buggy but that costs a lot of money, but I still play. I think I'm playing better golf now than I ever did before, so I could get my monthly medal and what have you. I play a good game of golf, even though I say it myself.
Well we are coming to the end of our session today.
What would you like to say in closing?
In what manner?
your service time. Do you feel it changed you in any way?
Oh yes. Yes I was a very nasty little individual because of what happened to me, taken from school. I was a at odds with the world because I wanted to be a teacher and I was very angry and I'm afraid I conveyed
that to the world. When I joined the service it disciplined me into forgetting a lot of this, but I still hankered for somebody who could teach somebody something. I always wanted to teach, to show people, to tell people. I felt I was a very clever kid at school. Just for argument's
sake, poor Miss Arthur was giving us a lesson one day and in my class and she took us up through the Red Sea. We were learning the ports from Brisbane right through up to England. Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart in the fruit season, Adelaide, what have you and she said "We've now come to the Red Sea and we're in the Suez Canal. You can see the beautiful green land on either side, the fertile land and" everybody dutifully said "Yes Miss Arthur" except me. I said
"No Miss Arthur" and she said "Why do you say that?" I said "Because there is no fertile land either side of the Suez Canal. They're just clumps of trees and desert" and words to that effect and "The delta region of the Nile is where you'll find fertile land." "Oh" she said "Edgar you are such a clever boy aren't you?" I shall never forget that and it it's true. It was confirmed when I sailed through the Suez Canal. That was quite right
but ah yes, that was the type of thing but I when I got in the service I lost all that because of the discipline. Being on the parade ground that teaches you discipline. It's not meant to teach you to march up and down and for people to yell at you. The reason they do that is for discipline reasons. To make you obey. I liked it. I liked it and I felt it made me a better chap. I thought "Why
was I like that?"