I was educated in Armidale at the Armidale Demonstration School and for three years at Armidale High School then for two years at the Umbell School. The only GPS [Greater Public Schools] school in country New South Wales. The Umbell School had a Cadet Corps and that’s where I had my first military training in the space of two years in 1937 and ’38.
Late in 1938 I left school to join the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney at Inverell which was about one hundred and twenty kilometres to the northwest of Armidale and New England. I was there for fifteen months and after I’d been there only for three months there was a new unit of the Citizen Military Forces formed
and a new battalion called 35th Battalion CMF [Citizen Military Forces] which I joined and attended non-commissioned officer classes in the evenings and weekends. So by the time war broke out I was a corporal and by October 1939 I was a sergeant in an infantry battalion. On the 1st of January 1940 I went into camp
and was in uniform then for the next six years and eight months. In May 1940 when France fell the 7th Division of the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] was formed and I joined the 2/13th Battalion of the 20th Infantry Brigade and was to serve them for five years
Because I had sergeant’s rank when I joined the AIF I kept that rank and so I was really commanding men when I was still only eighteen years of age. I had my 19th birthday on the great liner the Queen Mary
as it entered Bombay Harbour where we had a two week spell before going on to the Middle East. We arrived in the Middle East in November it would be 1940 and went into training in Palestine. Now the real fighting in the Western Desert really
started in December of 1940 but by 1941 the Australian 6th Division of British forces had captured the whole of Cyrenaicand down past Benghazi. My brigade too was moved to the Western Desert at the end of February 1941 and when the 6th Division
was sent off to Greece to fight the Germans there we moved through Cyrenaicand the fortress of Tobruk right past Benghazi and down to a place called Agedabia which was a bigger Italian air base. Now we’d only been fighting against the Italians up to that time but the German Afrika Korps came to
North Africa early in March 1941 and the whole ball game changed very dramatically. They were actually had a vanguard of the Luftwaffe with mainly twin engine bombers and some other Messerschmitt fighters so our first contact with the Germans was through their
airforce and they were very good at strafing and bombing and we underwent some of those attacks. So the first casualties our battalion suffered were in a bombing of that nature when were in a convoy and we lost a very fine officer who came from Inverell and whom I knew very well and his driver. They were the first two killed in the battalion in the Western Desert.
When Rommel’s forces started to push the allies back we took place in what was termed the “Tobruk Derby” or “Benghazi Handicap”. And that was an organised retreat or withdrawal over five days from the Benghazi area right back into the fortress of Tobruk because the
fortress of Tobruk had been built by the Italians from the during the 1930’s and had a perimeter fence of something like thirty kilometres long with barbed wire. A lot of it had a deep anti-tank ditch. There were one or two places where that hadn’t been completed but it was the only place where an organised defence
could have been mounted in North Africand it not only saved the 9th Division but I think it saved the saved Egypt and the Suez Canal because the siege at Tobruk tied up seven hostile Divisions that otherwise could have been put into attacking over the Egyptian frontier and heading for the Canal. So the siege at Tobruk
was a terribly important thing in British military history and of course in Australian military history. The other strange thing about it parallels my father’s experience as a Gallipoli veteran that the siege of Tobruk was exactly two days longer than what Gallipoli took place but we also had horrible conditions of heat and dust in the summer and intense cold in the
the colder months so we had a strange combination of fighting in bitter cold as well as fighting in a terrible heat and dust.
I should mention here too that the Australian 9th Division was relieved except for one battalion in October of 1941 and Polish brigades and a British 50th Division came in and did that relief. Now the 2/13th Battalion was left behind on the basis there that the British navy destroyers that were doing the movement of troops they had some terrible losses through German bombing at sea
and it was said there wasn’t enough shipping space to take out this last Battalion so they were left there for what turned out to be another two months and it was strange there that the forces from Egypt tried to link up with the Tobruk garrison but were being threatened all the time by the German Afrika Korps who prevented
the link up and the 2/13th Battalion was called in to do a night bayonet attack to restore the link with the 8th Army coming up from Egypt. They did this in fine style against three times their strength and in the face of a very determined bayonet attack the Germans withdraw in a lot of disorder for a start and
the cry went up “the Australians are back, the Australians are back” and this apparently caused General Rommel to rethink things and so it was a very effective last battle action by the Australians in Tobruk which we have a battle honour for that.
request of Churchill who considered them to be extremely valuable front line troops and he said they were needed as a special reserve so we had six months in Syria most of them up near the Turkish border but doing training exercises in the meantime but enjoying the well the fleshpots of Syria there because there was towns and good food and cafés
and plenty of leave so that was a very good interlude for the troops. When the Germans were attacking in June 1942 and were running over all the opposition and looked like getting possibly getting to the Canal zone 9th Division was rushed down in a great
hurry from Northern Syria into the desert and took part in a series of night attacks on the vital coastal sector where all the crack German troops were. Now the interesting thing that was there the Australian attacks were done without any tank support under cover of darkness because were considered to be the best night fighting troops in the whole of the Middle East because of our
experiences in Tobruk with night patrolling and all the other activities so they rolled back the German lines for five miles and took thousands and thousands of prisoners. It stopped the Afrika Korps dead and in a way I think it was the saving of Egypt at that time. It gave the vital breathing space then for
the new General Montgomery under General Field Marshall or later Field Marshall Alexander to build up the forces in the Middle East while the Australians held the vital coastal sector at what was the Alamein sector and the battle of Alamein of course is very famous in military history and
it was nearly the end of the 9th Division because were used as shock troops for doing these night attacks time after time taking heavy losses but driving the Germans back and inflicting very heavy losses on them. The pressure from the Australian division got so much that the Germans gave way and went into retreat or withdrawal and an organised withdrawal and that was one of the high points
of our I'll say our battle honours too to have taken part in such a decisive battle.
let's see after only six weeks leave were moved to North Queensland where we underwent amphibious training in cooperation with the American US Navy to train for assault landings by seagainst the Japanese in the islands and the first operation we undertook then
was the an operation landing by sea to take the port of Lae while the 7th Division was dropped by what do you call it transport aircraft in the Ramu Valley and they came down overland while we came along the coast. The 7th Division got there just before us 'cause I think they had the easier bit of it
because the coastal rivers in New Guineare very fast flowing and they formed very big obstacles. In fact one battalion lost over a hundred men who tried to cross and holding each other's hands all the way but the hand holds broke and they lost about twenty-eight soldiers drowned which is a terrible loss at the time but it wasn't a very hard
fight to take Lae. The real problem happened shortly afterwards in the 22nd of September 1943. 20th Brigade which my battalion was a part of did an assault landing at Finschhafen and that was an opposed landing but we'd been well trained and it only took a few hours to overcome the
Japanese opposition and the Japanese fled inland that led to succeeding operations to take a Japanese fortress on one of the high peaks about twenty or thirty miles inland called Sattleberg and that's where Lieutenant Diver
Derek won a VC [Victoria Cross]. It was terrible fighting in all those times and there were a lot of bayonet attacks and the initial Japanese were the big marines but they couldn’t stand up to determined bayonet charges. We found that early on so we just kept on rolling them back. We did suffer a lot of casualties. One of our problems of course too
was the food supply wasn't the best so early on were on you know literally fighting on iron rations but with the 20th Brigade it had these two wonderful desert campaigns behind them weren't going to be stopped and carried it right through. Later on about six weeks later the Japanese brought in more divisions overland
tried to recapture Sattleberg. In fact cut the road leading up to Sattleberg and one of our battalions the 2/17th Battalion was entirely cut off. Now our 2/13th Battalion were brought up from the coast up the Sattleberg Road and I had the lead platoon and we struck the Japanese road block all around 2/17th Battalion so
we had casualties there in the initial fighting but it became blockage for the best part of six weeks and we had to bring up other brigades into the areand then with very determined bayonet charges the 2/17th Battalion were relieved and they had done a magnificent job in holding off the Japs when they were
entirely surrounded except for one steep gully and that's where they brought up their rations and it was strange that the Japanese allowed that leakage but allowed 2/17th to survive and everybody to fight another day but it was a very brutal war that jungle warfare because very often you didn't see the enemy until you were right on top of them and which meant the
you had to take quick decisive action which the troops had to move in on what was literally a bayonet charge supported by the submachine guns because at that stage we had two of the new Australian Owen guns platoon and there were some of the Thompson submachine guns still amongst the troops too
but our men were extremely determined and there was no way that the Japs were ever going to beat us. It was just one of those fierce determination things and 9th Division had to stay unbeatable as far as were concerned.
in Burmand myself and another fellow officer, Lieutenant Ralph Mason, joined that group and so we finally came back to Sydney and had about a week's leave and then went on a British aircraft carrier to Trincomalee and Ceylon and then
by a troop ship to Burma where we joined where I joined the 9th Battalion of the border regiment which was an English battalion in an Indian brigade of the 17th Indian Division. We had a battalion of Ghurkha regiment, the 1/10th Ghurkhas, and a battalion of Pakistanis the
6th, 7th Balook, who came from West Pakistan. So I was soon in Burma taking over a platoon of British soldiers and went straight into action. Because of the monsoon there that most of the low-lying rice fields areas and
lower Burma were flooded, only the roads which are built up and there's also the rice fields are bordered by built up foot tracks. It's like a whole patchwork and that meant that if you weren't on the road you had to walk on these very narrow paths. The villages were all built up
that sort of happened. They were like mounds with, you know, twenty or thirty houses and all built of bamboo and thatch and so the troops you know tended to, the Japs and ourselves, tended to occupy that high ground in the village areas with the patrols taking place whenever you could
and were just sort of hoping that the whole thing'd be over soon.
but the Burmese didn't want the British back so there were, what do you call it, a lot of guerrilla fighting. These bands of people who'd been fighting as irregulars on armed and armed by the British and often led British officers and NCOs [Non Commissioned Officers] they got rid of their British influence and tried to
take over the whole country and they did that by moving into villages and shooting the local police and theadman. Anything that had a stamp of British authority so we had operations there to try and catch these people who were called dacoits but in fact they were a highly organised irregular force and
this also meant a lot of night operations so were very busy and life wasn't wasn't terribly easy.
they accepted the surrender and it was strange. Once the surrender had been accepted by them they became very docile and they were put onto working parties to rebuild roads and bridges and the civilian infrastructure and because they were getting Indian army rations suddenly they were extremely well fed and were finding
with the Japanese under our battalion command that they weren't able to eat all the food they were given because they were used to doing it tough. They could literally live on the smell of an oil rag and you know a handful of rice'd do them for some time. That was quite a lesson but the point was once they accepted the surrender no more problems. That was it was very good.
had been working in the Commercial Bank out near Sydney prior to the war and had kept that link throughout the war so I went back to the bank for a period of fifteen months and served in a couple of suburban branches in Sydney but of course the pay was lousy because I you know as long as the bank was concerned I only had had about seven years service and the pay rates were pretty crook
at that time and so I was living on my deferred pay and the large amount of money I'd been able to save from my officers' pay in the British army but I got married in April 1947 and as I say I went back to the bank there for about twelve months then I got out of that and went into private industry and eventually ended up in the timber
industry by 1948 and I stayed with that for the rest of my working life but I was very interested in timber engineering and sort of gradually got into the marketing of timber engineering products and I was considered a marketing expert at the time,
the Sydney Opera House was being built and so I joined the company then that was making the laminated brush box flooring and the laminated wall panels for the Opera House the Sydney Opera House and I stayed with them for a number of years. I found that a tremendously rewarding challenge because it was
a hell of a challenge because the techniques weren't well known out here in Australia. In fact the glue was so special that it was made in Germany and had to be brought out to the factory at Dungog in New South Wales where all these panels were made up. So I had a very challenging time working with the principal architects of the
Opera House and used to accompany them up to the plant at Dungog when they'd do inspections and also went to the Opera House two or three times a week to watch progress there. To me it was a wonderfully satisfying part of my working career and I still get a thrill when I go to the Opera House which I do occasionally. I might mention my wife was a great music lover
and concert goer and she had tickets to all the best concerts and things like that and I was able to take her over on inspections while the Opera House was being built. For her it was a great thrill to see it in that stage and then to be going often twice a week and sometimes three or four times a week she'd go there. She felt a very personal link with the Opera House
because the Hall family were pioneers in the Hunter Valley and at one time were the largest landowners in well that settled part of Eastern Australias they had something like a million and a quarter acres of spread over I think it was about twenty one different properties from the Hunter Valley right up into southern Queensland
so there was that very strong country background. My mother was of what do you call it Presbyterian Northern Irish parents who came out in 1848 as migrants and my grandfather, that's my mother's father, never smoked or drank in his life
but he was great trading in stock and picking up land he built up very large land holdings in the Manila district stretching out as far as Boggabri and had a large family and they had a wonderful young life because most of the girls were sent to the best
schools in Sydney and the boys as well so it was one of those things of you know wealthy pastoral background on my mother's side and I suppose it goes through in your own character building as to 'cause my parents had what do you call it very high principles. They were good
God-fearing people churchgoers and very keen to see their children get a good education and a good start in life. But because we always had ponies and later on the big the big riding horses, the hacks, we always had and lived on a little property just in the outskirts of town there's always a hell of a lot of chores
to do. Now for my part that also included keeping up the wood supply to the kitchen stove and they were the little blocks that had to be split into small billets but there's also a big log fire inside which meant that times my father would get a load of wood which came in like long tree trunks and they had to be cut into the sizes to fit into the
lounge room fire so I found that was good muscle-building exercise when you get a cross cut saw and also splitting wood. Those other chores of course give you a sense of responsibility and in fact for some years we also had a cow and calf which had to be the cow had to be milked twice a day and the milk separated and all
that type of thing and I had an extremely busy childhood and youth and apart from playing an awful lot of sport at school 'cause I took part in swimming, athletics and football and played tennis, I was extremely active.
and these kids were coming along barefooted and very often their clothing too wasn't the best you know, poorly patched if patched and all and in the winter time too they were quite inadequately clothed for the New England climate and at that time of course there was that horrible thing called the Dole
which was twelve and six a week and also rations given out to people who couldn’t afford to buy food and this meant that there was about thirty per cent of the population who didn't have work, were living in terrible conditions and of course some of them were living in quite inadequate premises
in cottages with hardly a stick of furniture and you know threadbare blankets and things like that. I never forgot that because you could see a lot of those kids were suffering and the welfare arrangements were not able to cope with it so that was a very bitter lesson.
so he never actually fought as a Light Horseman with horses. He fought as an infantryman in the trenches in Gallipoli and he was evacuated at one stage for two weeks with a bad dose of flu but brought back in so he was there for most of the campaign but then when they got back to Egypt early in 1916
he accepted a transfer to the 4th Division Field Artillery and by June 1916 they were in France and he fought in all the battles then right up to let's see the battles right up to October 1917 where he was badly wounded
and he'd just been made a Lieutenant just before that so he was hospitalised as an officer and his wounds were a deep chest wound which meant he was unfit for further active service and by March 1918 he arrived back in Australiand in June 1918 he married my mother.
send students down to observe these classes which meant that that they needed the best teachers and I think I was very lucky. I was always in “A” classes and did very well in the primary school but when I went to high school I had a couple of years where I didn't try very hard but then by the time I got through my Intermediate and not with a terribly good pass suddenly the penny
dropped and I found the study terribly interesting. I had done languages, French and Latin, but being in the “A” classes of course you get very good tuition but at the Armidale school of course the other thing there was joining the Cadet Corps which gave me that classic military training. Now at the Armidale school of course we played an awful lot of sport and
there was a much tougher discipline than what you get in the state schools so in a way that was a very good thing for preparing me for the Army too and for later civilian life.
thing and marching around fixing bayonets and doing all the rifle drill and doing occasional firing at the at the rifle ranges which we found quite thrilling but it was also a step to manhood, we all thought, something special and I think everybody sort of realised that another war with Germany
was inevitable and were sort of preparing ourselves for that. Most boys did but there were a few that remained pacifist and you know they're entitled to have their opinions so I don't hold it against them.
out that you actually were under age?
Oh, I don't think not much would have happened. The fact that I was doing the job I think meant more thanything else. It's the sort of thing that if you were performing, you know, let sleeping dogs lie or let active dogs keep on which it was. But this was a great thing in my life because it gave me another interest and in a country town there's not much
at Kantara on the on the Palestine side, not the even though both sides were Egypt but the railway came right down alongside the coast from Palestine right down the canal so we embarked in got into of all things
you might term it freight cars or goods vans you know goods. They were labelled on the outside “8 Horses or 40 Men” and they were the same as what they had in France. But that wasn't too bad because travelling across the desert the boys threw all the doors open on both sides you got a good breeze in and with
soldiers there you've got your packs and you lay them down you've got something to lean against and were in that stage of learning to sleep anywhere at any time.
What was their attitude to the Allies and to the Australians particularly?
Oh, well also the washerwomen too where'd you get your washing done, they were all Arabs and not women particularly but the men used to collect the washing and mark it and so forth and wash and iron. Well, there was never a full
trust I don’t think of the Arab population because they were so poor that anything they could pinch they could do so. Now, we had an occasion there where the whole Battalion went out to do rifle range exercises over three days and nights and only left a token force in the in the camp but what happened the
a bunch of Arabs came in with camels one night and the camels of course are quite silent and they took all the tent sides from the big ten man tents we had and the tent sides used to get rolled back during the day to air the place but they were made indiand very good doubled cotton lined cotton and because the civilians you know had no
little access to materials for dresses and clothing that was first class for the Arab you know the thieves.
which is the while all the vehicles went by road convoy separately across the desert but the bulk of the troops went in they were what do you call it virtually goods vans, you know, these as I say which had a sliding door on each side and opened up to about
a two two metre opening so it was good for the troops because they could get in and lay down their bedrolls and their packs and sort of find a place to to travel comfortably but you also got plenty of fresh air through the through the thing. It wasn't that long. It was only a matter of you know half a day's travelling.
Right. I'm I'm what I suppose what I'm after here is to take us from Kilo 89 to your going into action which took you to Egypt, didn't it?
Yes, well what we did again then was in that case we got the trains again and the goods vans if you like to back to Egypt and to Kantarand we crossed then and crossed the Canal
on on barges and then got into a train which took us to the Western Desert and at that time the railway line only went as far as Mersa Matruh so we got to Mersa Matruh in a dust storm and of all things and got out and went to what they called the Egyptian barracks. Now the only problem there was of course
the buildings were built of cement blocks but they hadn't put the roofs on so it was you know spitting with rain and quite cold and there were in these buildings without roofs so our first night was very uncomfortable.
an attack by Germans planes on the convoy. It was after we somewhere near after we'd left Tobruk and near Derna, which is a little Italian port, and they were German Dornier aircraft twin engine bombers and three of these just flew up and
down the convoy just machine gunning. Some drivers were able to get off the road but in places the roads were built up so it wasn't easy to get trucks off the road. The drill there was if you came under air attack even though the vehicles were separated by distance for safety reasons was to drive the truck off the road and as far as they could go you know 100 metres if they could and for the troops to get out and disperse
but things happened so quickly of course. The bombs were dropped and they'd come back machine gunning and it was all over in minutes so it was always a it was a big shock actually and then to find that one of the most popular officers in the battalion was one of those killed 'cause he stood up trying to make sure that his troops were you know being dispersed safely and
and he and his driver were both killed.
moving back up towards Benghazi that were withdrawn to a large escarpment about 20 kilometres west of Benghazi and overlooking the large Italian airforce base of called Beninand that was a target for the Germans of course because it had a first class runway
and had hangars and all the rest of it being a so they could use it. But on this big escarpment there's only one road going up, a very narrow road, and there was a minefield going right across that and sort of supposed to be protecting anti-tank ditch as well but the problem there was the minefield was the Egyptian-made mines which
were a very poor quality. They also were laid too close together and when the first German shells came down and hit in the minefield it set off the whole minefield. They all detonated one after the other spontaneously so we lost our minefield and it meant that the German tanks and armoured cars were able to get through.
Now there's about only about five hundred troops of our battalion on that escarpment and we fought back and all during the after one afternoon and then when darkness came transport was brought up at the rear to enable us to withdraw. But
were almost drawn into what would have been a futile bayonet charge against the Germans by one of our second in command. Because nobody really knew what was going on. Your first time in battle and darkness comes down and you know where the enemy are because we'd already lost one company of troops had been over run and there was a machine gun and
Tommy gunfire and rifle fire coming from from them all the time. Were hitting back but the situation was untenable. We couldn't have stayed there without the whole battalion being lost so the order to withdraw came and eventually moved back to to where these big diesel trucks were and then set off on what they call the “Benghazi
Derby” or the “Tobruk Handicap” which was a series of rearguard actions over the next five days 'til we got back to the fortress of Tobruk.
of concrete that had the steep side facing outwards but it was in a circle and the Italians had actually covered them with boards so that you could walk over them one man could and but a tank would crash through. But there was a barb wire a large barb wire fence about three metres thick around the posts.
There were sort of hidden pathways to get in and out of course but the posts themselves consisted of a deep underground chamber which could take about twenty, twenty five men but then there was the exposed concrete trenches above and two open machine gun pits again made of concrete but they were set up of course
to handle Italian armaments not British.
sea level and it's like a steep conical hill and the front line went right over it and concrete posts as well as the barb wire but the Germans put an attack in to capture that high point because it would have given them full observation over the whole of the Tobruk fortress.
Now after very heavy fighting they eventually took that and but to contain them 'round there we had to dig new trenches and put up new new barb wire and put in a new front line area in a semi-circle around this high point. Now this was always
manned by German troops never by Italians and they were some of those ended up as being paratroopers who'd been brought in from Crete and Greece so they were the tough nuts. Now the point was there that we had to dig our own trenches in bare desert and put up wire but
in many places you couldn't go down very deep at all so that you were only down you know a matter of if you could down a metre you were lucky. It was only often only half a metre and so you relied on the you know the rock and the dirt you could throw up in front of you as well. But the problem being under observation there meant that you couldn't move around in daylight and this posed a lot of problems because
particularly in the hot summer days you were boiling out there so every effort was made there to use ground sheets and utilise the captive Italian two-man tents which are very good and manage to get enough sticks and things to be able to put up virtually a sun shield over half of your weapon pit.
Now during the break a moment ago you were you were mentioning a very unfortunate accident in which a number of men were killed. Can you just tell us that story for the sake of the recording?
Yes, 9th Division were relieved from Tobruk by the 50th British Division and a Polish brigade by around about the 20th of October 1941 but very sadly the three British destroyers which were
meant to bring 2/13th Battalion back to Egypt were attacked by German bombers I think two were sunk and one was badly damaged and had to return to Alexandria so 2/13th Battalion could not embark on the designated night and it was found impossible by the higher commands to allocate any other shipping to bring out
2/13th Battalion so it was left in Tobruk and became attached to the Polish brigade for for rations and general welfare. Now when the big offensive took place to break out of Tobruk in November, towards the end of November, the Germans fought back very hard and
they broke the link between the 8th Army coming from Egypt and the troops breaking out from Tobruk. This was a very serious matter that that would affect the relief of Tobruk. The only reinforcements left in Tobruk was the 2/13th Battalion and it was decided to commit them into battle and so they were
taken up to the front line areand the CO Lieutenant Colonel Burrows spoke to the Company Commanders and arranged that a bayonet attack would be launched during the eve- during the early evening and when full darkness came down to try and restore the situation in favour of the British.
Now that meant that the very tired and worn out 2/13th Battalion was again committed to major battle action but they were very experienced soldiers and they saw it as their duty and they very cheerfully lined up to carry out this attack. This meant that under cover of darkness
in the early evening troops had to be moved to a forming up area which was still within German artillery fire range but hopefully could not be seen by the Germans in the front line. Now unfortunately Number 10 Platoon of B Company were moving up to their designated start line area
in three files which meant that the three sections each of about eight or nine men were a matter of three metres apart. Now one of the British artillery guns fired a faulty round which was a loose copper driving band at the base of the shell. This split
and it had the effect of slowing down the speed of the shell and causing it to what do you call it gyrate wildly in the air but also made a very loud buzzing noise and the first thing our chaps knew was when this shell that should have gone safely overhead came buzzing in right behind them and exploded
right at the end of the platoon and the explosion force was all forward and it meant that out of the twenty eight men, twenty one were to die then or to die of wounds very soon afterwards leaving only that seven men able to carry on. It was a terrible blow there after all these months of
action there to be wiped out by one of your own shells right at the end of it and something I've carried all my life.
when can you give us a sense of year or month that this actually happened, this particular incident that you've just talked about in the overall scheme of things when exactly was it that this occurred? This was after the the major siege of Tobruk?
Ah no, actually the siege of Tobruk hadn't been broken. This was in what they call the “Breakout” operation by the 50th British Division aided by the Polish brigade but the
at the team spirit, the espirit de corps, among you and the role of humour once again, what sort of jokes did you play on each other?
Oh I don't know whether it was jokes exactly. It was 'cause you had to be supportive all the time and but there was always you know one or two fellows in every section that would be a great yarn teller and a lot of it would be fiction of course but
lack of water. Were given a litre of water per day for drinking purposes and there was another litre allocated to the company kitchens way back in the back behind the lines to help in the preparation of the hot meal that got brought up every evening and that was necessary for hygiene purposes also but a litre of water per day for drinking and washing
is quite insufficient. It was only after the first six weeks when we got back in reserve positions that 44 gallon drums of contaminated water was brought up. Now the water was contaminated by dieseline and things like that so you couldn't drink it but you could wash clothes in it, which meant you virtually got for you know to wash your clothes
every man only got the equivalent to you know about three or four litres of unfit for drinking water to wash your clothes after six weeks and so your clothes were pretty stinking.
and they'd lived for centuries like that so they were fully adapted but the other thing of course, the dust was largely a problem generated by military trucks and you see the any truck around Tobruk inside the perimeter would start off as just a vehicle truck but because the continuing use it gradually
became up to about 150 millimetres or 200 millimetres of powdery dust and the tracks spread out to up to 100 metres wide and of course any wind, which was quite frequent would, whip up this dust and there were blinding dust storms on many a days but anybody
around about you're ingesting this all the time. You just couldn't get away from it and sleeping in slit trenches under the ground it was blowing in on you all the time.
And was it painful to remove the grenade fragments?
Oh no, no, they a few stayed in and sort of worked their way out later but no, the RA- the stretcher-bearer fella had what do you call it the little tweezers and squeeze things out. They did a great job those stretcher-bearers that. They more or less kept everybody as healthy as they could.
Did you have Regimental Medical Officers never far away?
Oh, yes we had a very good doctor in Tobruk and well he had had his own dressing station with usually they were underground and they'd have stretchers and panniers of medical supplies though they were always insufficient. But there were good hospitals back in Tobruk itself
even though they'd get bombed and things those doctors did a fantastic jobs. The nursing sisters were taken out very shortly after the siege because it was considered too dangerous for them.
What were some of the principles that he emphasised?
Yes, oh well I'd say the first one is your own personal integrity. Whatever you said you meant and you never told falsehoods but the other thing it was physically and mentally demanding so that the it was a big challenge particularly for an eighteen year old
young man at that time because in the 2nd AIF of course you got men recruited from all levels of life and a lot of these fellows had been brought up the hard way particularly through the depression years. Others had had professional training and professional experience and everybody was trying
to assert their own position in the whole framework. Now in a rifle company of an infantry battalion of course you had a lot of very strong characters and a lot of men of tremendous life experience so it was a huge challenge to an eighteen year old like myself. I think partly through ignorance but also through my
very strong family and schooling background and my little bit of commercial banking experience that I was probably well prepared for that role and didn't even have second thoughts about it. I had a duty to do and I just hopped in and did that duty.
So were there any particular ways in which you were able to assert your authority over these men?
Oh yes, anybody who sort of giving cheek and throwing aspersions at me at course I had to respond very quickly to that to assert my authority as the in this case the platoon sergeant and in the what do you call it the pecking order if you like in a rifle company
and it was a very tough environment. Now there was a challenge actually to my authority in a way when they had these boxing contests which was meant to stimulate the troops in personal fitness but also to develop the men themselves into doing their best to be competitive as soldiers. So when this round of
activities came on of course there was a call “Come on Sarge, you've got to come and have a go” so what they did is picked out a fellow of roughly the same build, same weight but he happened to be a matter of five years older so was physically a bit more mature than I was. But I had had boxing lessons from my father and
also experience of boxing in the Boy Scouts and at the school I went to so I wasn't exactly a novice but I found it you know a pretty tough contest and after and quite bruising. In fact both of us just said to each other afterwards “Well I feel pretty sore” and this was so, but
it did well it sort of stamped my authority on that platoon because the word got around that “none of you should ever mess with Ken Hall”. He can hurt you and that was a very good thing.
actually ended in 'round about the 20th of December 1941. All the rest of 9th Division were back in Palestine or already settled in to camps and the 2/13th Battalion was the only fighting unit to come out of Tobruk by road. All the rest had been withdrawn by sea so there was a great sense of pride in the in our
Battalion at the fact they felt the job had been finished and finished extremely well. But of course when they got back to Palestine into the camp everything was terribly wet because that was the wet season in Palestine. The camp area was terribly muddy but all the chaps were interested in was some good food, plenty of relaxation
and a very good beer issue because stocks of beer had been built up awaiting their return so in a way it wasn't a letting down of discipline but they were given three or four days of absolutely total relaxation to settle back into a camp environment without undue disciplinary restraints.
But being trained soldiers of course they didn't overstep the mark.
for the record there that some of these were classified as officers only, sergeants and above and the others were open to all troops, but the Australian army like any other occupying army too, you always had a number of men that needed such services or felt they had a need of such services who. I'd put it down to you know
maybe only about twenty per cent of our fellows would use those sort of services. Strangely enough some of the people who used it most were married men of course who knew about sex where a lot of our young fellows were actually quite ignorant on sexual matters. So much so that on the voyage home from the Middle East our medical
officer carried out a number of lectures to inform young men about sex and how the precautions they should take when they were having sex.
There were regular inspections of all classes of brothels?
All these premises, yes, and this was for thealth and safety of the troops. I mean let's face it, that where there's a large body of troops you're always to have they're going to have sexual needs and those local populations, well even in Sydney, you know there's those establishments exist
historic ruins or anything like that?
Oh yes, yes, in fact our men were great sightseers and they loved doing that and taking photographs and the other big thing was to get away from army food to be able to patronise the cafés and restaurants and the nightclubs too of course, depending on what your pay level was and what you could afford.
Were there any incidents or flare-ups in the time that your particular unit was doing garrison duty?
Oh yes, the occasional incidents. Now not all of these communities of course were friendly to the allied forces and the old thing a lot of these local men of course were jealous of their women folk and quite rightly so, I mean you'd expect that in Australian communities as well so they were only reacting to what they perceived as a threat to their
But it was around this time that you were sent back to Australia wasn't it, or did you see further action in the Middle East?
Oh no, no, in we didn't leave back for Australia until the end of February 19- it would be 1943. In fact it was a blessing there that the Australian 9th Division were left in the Middle East because
the Germans got to as I say got to within forty miles of Alexandriand the Australian division was recalled very very hurriedly from Syria. The New Zealand division had gone ahead of us but they weren't enough of them to stem the terrific German offensive and
it took the Australian division to be thrown in and to make a series of night bayonet charges against the Germans and bayonet charges under cover of night which were unsupported by tanks because our General Moore said didn't believe that the tanks could operate effectively
at night with infantry and this actually was a fantastic morale booster for the Australians because the Germans got quite unnerved by Australian infantry suddenly coming out of the darkness and descending on them with in bayonet charges and drove them back something like five miles over five nights. It was a terrific
thing that actually stopped the German Afrika Korps offensive in its tracks.
were thrown into the front line which was only forty miles west of Alexandria. Now the other two brigades of course had got in ahead of my 20th Brigade and stabilised the whole front in a remarkable series of night bayonet charges and they took thousands and thousands of German prisoners, something like ten thousand Germans,
and they were the spearhead of the Afrika Korps of course they're what do you call it the some of the best infantry of the Afrika Korps were taken prisoners like that.
to physically kill the opposing infantry people. Now let's face it, we understood after being on the battlefields for only a short time that the other people were human beings too and that when you're going into a bayonet charge that you're going to physically kill people with your rifle and bayonet and that has a big psychological impact
and you need a high degree of training to carry out those tasks effectively but the other thing I'll say about it that what we found there that the Germans and Italians wilted very quickly under an onslaught of bayonet charges. Now we had a very different experience of course in New Guinea where the Japanese'd stand fight and
to effectively take the ground you had to kill everybody that was in front of you. The Germans and Italians sensibly put up their hands and so there were vast numbers of prisoners in these battles.
when all else fails that you go in with a bayonet and it becomes a very physical thing as well as a personal thing. You know you're going to be man to man against the enemy. You're going to meet the man face to face and you're going to see some of them act bravely, some of them act in great fear, which is a normal response, because nobody likes to
be wounded or killed in such circumstances. So it was always welcome to us when they'd get up and run because you were taking the ground anyway.
once you'd set out. I mean were you running all the time, did you have your bayonet in a certain position? Could you sort of talk us through what was involved in literally doing a bayonet charge?
Yes, well it was a very physical thing and of course with your all your battle gear you were carrying something like well as far as kilograms are concerned, up to thirty kilograms of equipment and in some cases more you know with your weapon, your rifle or light machine gun or Tommy gun and
Once you arrived in Alexandria, what were your own duties? What did you do? I mean you've mentioned that later you were involved in a bayonet charge, but what did you do initially when you arrived in Alexandria?
Oh, well arriving in Alexandriactually was only a transit point on the way to the desert and so really were only just passing through it. It's only later on I had only half a day's leave
miles inland from the Mediterranean coast and the Katara Depression was salt marshes which you know sort of like bottomless with mud and salty water but they were quite impassable to any traffic road traffic at all any tanks or anything like that so that
formed a natural barrier and it gave a front line of you know forty miles long which could be fortified. In fact the British had actually built fortification lines there at least six months before the Alamein campaign occurred. I mean this was normal military practice to have these reserve lines back towards the main cities and
communication centres like the Suez Canal.
Were you involved in other holding operations nearby?
No, only back on the coast. No, the coast with the communications and railway line and the road and of course the sea that was the vital sector and it needed the best troops to hold it and that's why the Australiand New Zealand divisions were sent in there. Because the 8th Army had they'd been badly beaten and thrown out of Tobruk and thrown out of Libyand
there was a terrible situation there of three lines of traffic on the one road. Now there was nose to tail traffic of two lanes, there was the beaten British armies and their allies heading back towards the Canal zone 'cause they'd been beaten in battle and the third line trying to get up was the 9th Australian Division trying to get up to the front line to
stabilise the thing and to get into action and stop the Germans. It was a weird sort of situation.
Ken, moving now onto the defence of Alamein itself, could you could you describe what the 9th Division's involvement was and specifically what your involvement was in this defence?
Yes, well we're talking about events in June 1942 when the Afrika Korps defeated the South African divisions in Tobruk and Libya
and took many thousands of them prisoners. In fact, you know probably over forty thousand prisoners. It was an immense victory for Rommel and of course he moved on to the frontier where there was well-built defences but they found their way 'round there and they were on a victory roll so
that's only a matter of a couple of days and they knocked those over and then they were into Egyptian territory and they just kept on rolling. Now there's a place called Mersa Matruh, which is a very important port in Egyptian territory and had a township and also huge barrack areas but the New Zealand division was called
down from Syriahead of the 9th Division in June 1942 and they fought very heavy engagements around Mersa Matruh but they were bang outflanked on the desert side and were forced to withdraw back towards the Alamein sector. But the Alamein line was roughly forty miles long with the Mediterranean Seat one end and the Katara Depression
which was impassable salt marshes at the at the other end forty miles away. Now that meant that the British generals Alexander and Montgomery when they took over the line there that they only had a relatively short line to defend and this actually enabled the Afrika
Korps to be stopped. But the British 8th Army were taking a bad beating and they had to be in reinforced and first of all the New Zealand division which was a fantastic fighting division they were brought from the north of Syria for a start and followed about a week or so later by the 9th Australian Division. The New Zealanders did their best to stabilise
the line but there wasn't enough of them and it took the 9th Division to come in to finish off the job of stopping the Afrika Korps from getting into the Canal zone.
So could you talk about your and your unit's involvement in the defence of Alamein?
Yes, when we came down from Syria were moved into the first of all as a reserve brigade. The other two Australian brigades had carried out a series of night bayonet charges without tank support and in some cases without artillery support. They just suddenly came out of the darkness in the early hours of the morning onto the
onto the German lines, frightened the life out of them and took lots of prisoners 'cause the Germans were very sensible about that that if they felt they were going to be overwhelmed rather than fight to the death they put up their hands and the Italians the same thing so there's thou were thousands of prisoners taken, excuse me, and of course all their defended localities were overrun.
Not only that but the we took actually got right back to what they call the gun lines where the artillery positions were and they were overrun by the Australian infantry so not only taking prisoners of their front line troops but also their forward artillery lines and
even this was done against counterattacks with German tanks but by that time the Australian forces had just enough anti-tank guns and very determined gunners so that the German counterattacks by tanks were suffering very heavy losses and being beaten back. My elder brother was an
anti-tank gunner and he has written in his memoirs too about a particular day where they'd knocked out seven German tanks and in some cases the knocking out of the tanks meant the little two-pounder guns they had was only able to knock off the caterpillar tracks
not always the killing hit inside because the armour was very thick on the front and on the turret. But at one stage his a number of the anti-tank troops were being overrun by German tanks and they had to abandon their guns and what they did was take out the breach rocks and bury them in a place they knew
close to the gun positions and then to withdraw with the infantry. Now counterattacks of course soon afterwards meant the gun positions were retaken, recaptured and they got their guns into action again.
being the reserve brigade our battalion wasn't involved in those the July bayonet charges but were moved straight after that into front line positions where we had to carry out a lot offensive patrolling and observation of the German lines. Now the patrolling was particularly arduous because right on the coastal sector there were
salt a lot of salt marshes and things like that and they were directly in front of the raised hillsides that were occupying with our positions and the German defensive posts were you know within five hundred metres which is very close in desert warfare but they were
also subject to heavy artillery fire and by that time the Germans had developed the air berthed fire which was using anti-aircraft guns, the famous 88 millimetre German gun, and they've got very big they could get the shells to burst directly above the infantry positions.
They were also capable of knocking out tanks at quite some quite long range but they were the most feared gun in the German army.
I was the company sergeant major and I was responsible for the all the ammunition that was being used by the company and that was also the rifle and the machine gun ammunition as well as the grenades and there were certain anti-tank projectiles too that were armed with.
Now the battalion also had eight two-pounder anti-tank guns on its establishment so they were always placed right up near the front line with the forward troops. Now back behind them were theavier anti-tank guns, six-pounders, of the anti-tank regiment which my elder brother belonged to so they were directly
course took four months and you were given not only all degrees of infantry training but lots of lectures on the co-operative roles of the other arms like artillery, engineers and so forth. It was a very deep experience and not only educationally but the fact that the cadet
officers were drawn from all units of the British army and New Zealanders and one lone South African so. I think there was only two Australians in the platoon group of thirty-odd that I trained with. We had British officers and British drill sergeants and sergeant majors who. The drill people were all drawn from a brigade
of guards so the that drill training was of the highest British army standards and you really knew you were alive when you were on those parade grounds.
The first landfall of course was Fremantle and then you came around the south of Australiand the Bight and the ships carrying the Victorian troops left us to go into Melbourne and then and then the rest of the convoy came back up the east coast up to Sydney and it was very special coming in theads in the old Aquitaniand actually coming into Woolloomooloo
so with the Queen Mary were taken out in ferries to get onto that because they she was too big to berth at Circular Quay or any of the other quays and so we came into Woolloomooloo and they had big fleets of buses and we came down the gangway with all our equipment and got on the buses and were taken out to Wallgrove camp and had six weeks' leave
because were two and a half years in the Middle East which is a great thing to get back to families and things like that.
also the important thing was to tell them what a wonderful chap their loved one had been what a great comrade and what a good soldier he'd been. They all needed that of course that reassurance. It was a sort of surrogate contact if you like but a
very necessary contact. It was not only sympathy they needed but they wanted to hear what his mates thought of the chap. That was very important for them and they would have had letters and things like that over the years from these from their loved one
but the contact from somebody who knew them personally at that time was important. It also dragged a lot out of you. You can imagine that yourself. Well it's a sacrificial thing war and you've got to take the good with the bad haven't you but
and sickness and things like that and that was actually formed in Australia in 1942 quite separate to the existence of the battalion and its operational areas because we had a number of people that what do you call it invalided out of the army through wounds and sickness and
it was it was known too from the First World War associations too that it was very important to build up these ex-service or regimental associations. Now that was backed up of course by the support of wives groups formed early in the war and that soon was expanded to include
widows of deceased servicemen which. The old 13th Battalion of World War I they had a very strong association and they sort of started this off and kept an eye on it. In fact a fellow called Len Pascoe who's a hotel owner, owned the Ship Inn for example at Circular Quay, he was a great supporter of the battalion
association and the wives and widows groups and they supplied comforts that you know parcels and being sent to the troops.
Okay so Ken, you were just talking before with Graham about your time in Sydney after you'd come back from the Middle East and you were you mentioned some talk about some men who had their wives had gone off with some of the American soldiers and that there were a few broken marriages. Can you talk a bit about what things that you heard from your men about that situation?
Well it was a shattering experience for these fellows because there were the years there where they'd had normal correspondence with their wives and but it was the huge entry of Americans here into Australia which turned Australia upside down, particularly the big cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane where the impact was felt. But the other problem of course was
the Americans had such a huge rate of pay compared to the very poor rates paid to the Australians but the British were even worse off. Where our soldiers were getting basically five shillings a day the Austra- the English equivalent was a shilling a day and for example as a sergeant I was paid ten shillings a day and as a warrant officer I think something like twelve and six or thirteen shillings a day and as an officer you're getting
eighteen shillings a day.
there were some cases where they had children and that was even more shattering. But the you have to look at it the American army of course was not only well paid but they had very attractive uniforms and as well as the what do you call it you might even term it the American way of life and the Hollywood images of the American way of life
which we'd picked up through the picture shows and things like that gave us a perhaps a what do you call it a sunshine view of the Americans as being all powerful and these poor girls of course couldn't resist these fellas with lovely uniforms and tonnes of money and wonderful American accents and the other thing
their normal manners were sort of out of this world that they treated women as something special on the outside that was on the surface but of course underneath it all some of these guys were two-timers and not to be trusted. Now there were some very good ones in fact a lady friend I have now had an American serviceman father and
who came and settled in Australiafter the war so I can understand all sides of it but in war time of course there's tremendous pressures and Australia wasn't immune from it after the Japanese came into the war and you got this huge influx of American servicemen into Australia.
this young lady used to write six, seven and eight pages at a time and sort of spelling out her what do you call it her expectations and dreams about life and all the rest of it. Her father was actually a war correspondent. He was attached to the Dutch government and been in the East Indies
and had to get out just ahead of the Japanese so but he had divorced from her mother during the war so and she was sent off to a country boarding school from the city so she had a lot of traumas in her life and it sort of put me in the way of feeling like the white knight that's saving this poor damsel in distress and I used to write
good long letters too. In fact we've got a lot of these letters in one of our family trunks we've got. I think Harry's got possession of them now.
sister school of the one I went to in Armidale and a lot of the boys there of course had sisters at this school too and they were at the top end of the social scale in New England so I suppose it was a sort of prestigious sort of thing too to have that contact but then of course I never lost the common touch because I'd had several years at the Armidale High School before
I went to this GPS school and so I had a foot in both camps if you like and had a very democratic attitude. The other thing because of the job my father had as the AMP life insurance representative of the whole of New England I often used to travel with him and stay overnight in little country towns and so
I and you know travelling through the country and I always had what you might call a very down to earth attitude about people that to me people were very worthwhile. It didn't matter what their social strata was that I took them as I found them.
Queensland railways and that was a horrible trip because while they provided food and things like that certain railway stations on the way up a lot of those Queensland trains had no toilets on them and so you can imagine that stopping somewhere out in the in the bush to relieve themselves fellas'd you know they'd you know they'd throw the doors open and hop on both sides
of the line into the bush to relieve themselves and it's a way of travelling which of course you can't do these days but that was sheer necessity and these troop trains are going up and down every week you know from Sydney right through up to Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands where were our training areas were located. That was a strategic thing. We had to have
reserves of troops fairly close to the islands and Cairns was a major port, a shipping port, and it was only well roughly you know within forty-eight hours travel of New Guinea.
we found the jungle there was much denser and worse than what we ever struck in New Guinea and the other hazard there was what they call the “Wait-a-While” or “Lawyer vine”. Now they were like vines which developed trunks
like cane and actually in fact some of the cane there they used to make walking sticks but these Lawyer vines could you know be up to the individuals up to a hundred metres long and they used to festoon themselves through the trees but they also had tendrils which had there's like you can imagine a tendril there with a lot of fish hooks on it
and like a hook every inch and which meant that one of these things could have a hundred hooks on it and this was a great hazard when you were doing your jungle training through the scrub there. If you came up against these hooks coming over the path they'd catch in the clothing and the equipment and in fact one of my friends had one that ripped across his eye and he lost his eye because of it but you know
injuries like that so the Lawyer vine or Wait-a-While was a terrible hazard. In fact I didn't strike anything so bad in New Guinea.
for the troops and this was stimulating was simulating jungle track and they had all sorts of hazards in it including rifles which could be and machine guns which could be fired by remote cord control and of course they were placed so they wouldn't hit anybody but and
and also other places where grenades had to be thrown with particular obstacles you'd meet but it was to sharpen up the troops to cope with fighting along jungle tracks and under battle conditions. In other words, to be fired on suddenly and having to cope with it and so they had to throw grenades at different points and they had to sort of charge
with bayonets at others where they had not only dummies in places but the dummies'd be lying flat and then you'd have springs that you'd throw them up and suddenly these guys would be confronted with like a simulated enemy and they had to go in with their bayonet and or fire shots and all that type of thing. It was excellent training but very intensive.
It had very good results because with the jungle fighting there of course you've always got the unexpected and with the jungle tracks of course there's a limit to the number of people you can put to fight or rush the enemy and so that was a very interesting exercise.
all your senses have got to be on full alert or ready to be brought into full alert just you know in that fraction of a blink of an eye sort of thing. No, mentally this is very big stress and it's only relieved actually
if you can get your troops to a high standard of training and instant obedience to orders and I worked very hard at this and I was I think I was very successful because I had I had perhaps some of the best results of any platoon in the whole battalion with the battle actions we fought. There was only one terrible one when we against overwhelming Japanese
forces where we lost a number of men and but again our the opposition was sort of quite overwhelming though strangely enough we put so much pressure on the Japs that they withdrew overnight and this was the final attack on the port of Finschhafen and we the bayonet charges had gone in but
effectively but we had a preponderance of something like three to one of Japanese against the Australians on the ground and which meant you had to be extremely forceful in all the operations but we also took high casualties and it was very brutal fighting and our losses were
were very heavy but it was the previous experience in the Middle East that had built in that determination and a higher degree of training of our troops that you knew what to do and you went in and did it.
on the beaches north of Cairns and we'd come down from the Atherton Tablelands camps to do that. This was carried out with the American navy. They had old World War I destroyers which had been specially converted to carry a company of troops and they had instead of lifeboats they
they had special davits which had landing craft with the fronts of them had special ramps which would drop once they hit the beaches so that the troops could you know rush out on the beaches and attack the enemy. They took roughly twenty-two men in each of these little
landing craft on these Auxiliary Personnel Destroyers, APDs. They'd carry four of these and this meant that roughly it took a whole rifle company of Australian fighting men. That was very intensive training and of course we did the landings north of Lae for a start
and then the very important one was at Finschhafen where the Japanese actually opposed the landings and were landing under machine gun fire.
difficulty that we found them and it was a bit unfortunate there because there were a lot of inland rivers came down I think there's something like six inland rivers and they came from the mountains and the water flowed at a greatly accelerated rate so that the any infantry trying to wade across there we had to hold
hands form a human chain and to get across these fast flowing rivers and anybody that fell over of course. There was one battalion lost something like a hundred men drowned in one of those river crossings which was a very wide river and a Western Australian battalion. It was a terrible tragedy there and the
problem is with your you know you've probably got something like thirty or forty kilograms of equipment and things like that and that's strapped on and if you lose your footing in those things it's very hard to regain your feet again.
Well by the time we got to Lae the 7th Division had already taken the town. It was wrecked because of bombing by the Americand Australian airforces and the Japs hadn't done anything to keep the place as a viable town. In fact they let everything
run down and all they were worried about was building the fortifications to you know stave off any attacks from the allied armies. There a big reason for it of course was the Ramu Valley was right alongside it which allowed airfields to be built but in Lae itself the
main airfield there actually was right on the edge of the bay so the planes could take off straight over the water but the American bombing and strafing and by Australian airforce too was extremely effective and you know it knocked out a hell of a lot of well virtually it knocked out the Japanese airforce.
the twin engine Lightning planes which carried three cameras, one in the nose and one each side and so they got mosaic photographs and these things would be produced within twenty-four hours, these photo maps and not only would the photos be laid out and a map made but they'd be superimposed with the tracks and the Japanese
positions and so that you know had tremendous information from these. They supplemented the normal military maps so were well prepared you know to carry out offensive operations in that respect.
and the Auxiliary Personnel Destroyers I was on had these four landing barges which could be dropped in the water while the boat was still proceeding under engine power and they had cargo nets
which were put over the sides on both sides for the troops to scramble down in these boats while they were still attached to the davits but still in the water and moving along with the destroyer. Once the troops were aboard they released the landing nets and the boats had got their engine going and they went away from the destroyer on both sides and then went to what they called a marshalling area which is
all a predetermined pland lined up in a in a number of waves up to six waves, like there's a first wave, second wave and third wave and the initial assault troops were in the first and second wave and then the back up troops and supplies and vehicles were in the later waves and then you had the big landing ships which were full of vehicles and
you know tanks and things like that. Very highly organised and the Americans had the resources to do this and all on this huge scale which took a lot of coordination. The only problem we had when were landing at Finschhafen was it was you know for a landing there it was a fairly long beach. It was supposed to be
you know probably a kilometre long but the problem was the with the navigation when the landing craft were all set heading for the shores somehow they veered to one side and ended up half of the landing craft came up against coral reefs and we landed on
coral reefs and then there's bush and headlands in behind instead of landing on the beach and this is where my company landed and this was very poor navigation on the part of the Americans. Well they you know hadn't been in the war very long and they were still very much on a landing curve and were able to supply all this tremendous amount of equipment and aircraft and ships but they were still on that learning
curve of learning how to handle it all so it was a very nasty opposed landing at Finschhafen and we did suffer casualties too from well-placed Japanese posts but it took some hours to achieve supremacy over and knock out the Japanese posts along theadlands and on the in behind the
beach but of course we suffered a lot of unnecessary casualties.
existing native paths but I suppose in a way fortunately there weren't many machine gun Jap machine gun nests along this particular headland we didn't strike opposition until we'd got to got on to the coastal track and that was
there was a creek crossing over what they call Siki Creek and unfortunately there was some Japanese who were operating as snipers and one of our company officers got shot there and killed and I think all told we lost about twenty men to those snipers from the mainly from another
company from a D Company and I was B Company but of course they were quickly overrun but they did a lot of damage in only a matter of five minutes and it was very sad there. Later on that afternoon there or late in the towards dusk there just to see this row of bodies there with these poor fellows who had been shot by these people.
See once you take your initial objectives then it's what they call “consolidating” that you establish a new front line or perimeter around to defend the area that you've just taken and you can't do any operations in the jungle at night so everything shuts down completely at night and but you've got to post sentries you've got
you keep going through the night. This business of Japs sneaking up with knives and things like that it sort of rarely happened in my experience though there was a very nasty episode later on just about you know six weeks later when the Japanese started
defensive operations from inland they sent armed parties down to attack the beach area which had all the supplies of stores and also had small casualty clearing stations. In other words, the hospital area. Now the Japs got in there and they killed all the wounded in that hospital area there that
in the hospital tents. I mean these sorts of things you try and protect yourself against but no amongst the Jap troops there was some a whole brigade of their top class Japanese marines who were sort of actually navy troops and they were the pick of the Ger- the pick of the Japanese forces
and they fought very hard but the Japanese army themselves we didn't find them a great hazard but the Jap marines were you know tough nuts to crack but as I say our troops were well-trained and very offensive-minded and they just got on with the job and kept knocking over these Japanese. The Japs lost there
because they had this philosophy that it's honourable to die in battle so later on they started to learn the things of strategic retreats and to be able to maintain the strength of their forces. It was a stupid thing there this just to
keep fighting when they could have withdrawn safely and just to lose men you know just to die needlessly. In fact it was very bad tactics because they lost far too many troops that way but it meant were successful.
Very foolishly they didn't take any notice of the Australian reconnaissance groups who were on the ground and these men had landed secretly from barges at night and gone into the jungle and were observing Japanese movements for weeks beforehand. Now this was very unfortunate there because these reports were very accurate
but they were disregarded by MacArthur's planners in Melbourne who thought they knew everything and so consequently there was too few troops and too few resources put into that Finschhafen operation and there was the other problem that very soon arose. The Japanese were bringing reinforcements in very large numbers overland into the Finschhafen area
so were very heavily outnumbered right from the very start which againdicates the very high calibre of our troops that we kept on operating and eventually you know had our great victory. But they had to as I say bring in the whole of 9th Division very quickly when it was realised there that the initial intelligence reports were all just so badly out.
is one officer and a sergeant, three corporals and about twenty-seven men. Now and you'd have a stretcher-bearer and you had to be capable of operating alone away from your battalion, in other words in isolation, very often in areas of great danger and
particularly once you've established face to face contact with the enemy, who are the Japanese. Now because we'd had extremely good training I think we had great faith in each other and in our parent structure which was the battalion and you knew that if you got into trouble it'd only be a matter of hours before
you'd have full backup available to you partly because of you know distance but we did have pretty rudimentary wireless communications. We did have walkie-talkies, the American patent walkie-talkies early on, but they soon became useless because of the high humidity and temperatures which affected them badly.
So you got to be reliant very much on field telephone communication which meant the signallers had to lay out actual telephone wire between your even when you were on the move they'd have these rolls of wire and you could communicate back to your company headquarters as I often did on these patrols. You know there could be
up to well you know up to a mile or more too 'cause it was very thin wire and you'd have a couple of signals going these blessed things. The field radios we had there didn't stand up well to those conditions either. The walkie-talkies soon
proved quite useless and but so the field telephone was a major means of communication. Even going out on patrols you're trailing these wires out after you and 'cause it was vital to have that contact back to your company headquarters and eventually back to the battalion headquarters. 'Cause you can't operate long in absolute isolation. You've got to have this backup and that's how
infantry battalions work. It's team work all the way and there was the added thing too if you take casualties you've got to get them back for treatment and so as a platoon commander you had huge responsibilities and you know for thirty-odd men under your command apart from the tactical considerations was very
much the human considerations you had to think of all the time.
fortunately I had well-trained men and it wasn't a major thing in my platoon. It's just the guys got terribly exhausted and couldn't carry on or you know if they got an attack of malaria they had to be evacuated straight away but there's other things like dysentery because the food wasn't that good and you were dependent on
water from streams and while you had tablets to decontaminate the water but that put a nasty taste in your water bottle and the guys were very good at being able to make a billy of tea very quickly. In fact they seemed to be able to get the thing on the boil within about two and a half minutes and that was a lot of know-how. They found they had the old four gallon
tins with the square you know what used to be called the old kerosene tin thing. These were adapted during the war to carry different sorts of rations and the trick was to cut out a thing about that deep which meant everybody put a bit in from their water bottle when you stopped and being a big area like that it heated up very quickly so you'd have a cup of tea in about two minutes and
so the guys learnt to look after themselves very well in that respect. The other thing you'd always try and save little bits of extra rations and if you got food parcels from home with things like condensed milk and you'd you'd always share amongst each other and the odd time you'd get the big fruitcake which'd come up in sealed tins and with a cloth thing cover around it and where the address would be written on by
the mothers and wives and
final one was for the was the last the final attack which captured Finschhafen and the particular operations there was were had mountain ranges surrounding Finschhafen, the little township and the port and the wharves and coconut plantation on the bottom and
there was mission buildings there but the final attack was to be bayonet charges there to clear all the Japs out. To kill them or to drive them right out of it and it was in an old Lutheran mission area and village called Kakakog and
the Japs had actually built tunnels into the sides of the hills and they had weapon pits all over the place so it was very strongly defended and just get my thoughts together on this.
With my platoon had actually come down into that areas the lead platoon to prepare the way for the battalion advance and my role was to take over an area which had been designated as a start line for the battalion attack but moving towards that area we got fired on by the Japanese and suddenly found ourselves
under very heavy fire and had to dig in and to be firing back at the Japanese and then the rest of the company came up and the other two platoons were lined up in a in a creek bed which was about two metres deep on the edge of the coconut plantation where the Japanese positions were and
they put in a terrific bayonet charge and I saw this from one side on the hill there. It's one of the greatest spectacles I saw during the war is these there must have been about fifty or sixty of our fellas with fixed bayonets and suddenly they jumped up out of the creek bed and rushed through this open ground with the coconut trees all above them and it was all over
within five minutes. They got in amongst the Japs and killed the lot though and they fought back hard but the point was with the bayonet charges you've got to drive it home very quickly and they did this and there were when I say they killed all the Japs they could but there were a number that got up and rand
saved themselves to fight another day but the myth of the Japanese soldier fighting to the death was you know exploded all around Finschhafen. We found that they wouldn't stand fight when you put the pressure on them. They'd get up and run
inferior except the that the regiment of Japanese marines and they were big fellas the size of Harry and you know big six footers and as big as any of our big big Australians because they were the elite troops of the whole of the Japanese navy and we had a whole brigade of them there which you know was about three thousand of them. They tended to fight hard
initially but once we started to get on top of them we found that they'd run the same as the other Japs and so you know having got on top of them we stayed on top of them but it's a very brutal form of warfare when you when you're in that you know face to face combat situation but as I say our troops were very experienced and
we also knew were going to win and we had very good leadership which and though the supply backup let us down at times we just had to prevail.
Australian army was prepared to release and in the main they were men who'd had experience on the battlefields fighting against the Japanese so they were considered to be seasoned officers and that was the idea of it, to reinforce the officers on the in the British army and on the battlefields in Burma.
Now fortunately the just as I joined this battalion that was around the time it was leading up to the atom bomb being ready for dropping on Japan so I joined 9th Battalion of the border regiment which was a British battalion in the
63rd Brigade of the 17th Indian Division. We had a battalion called the 1/10th Ghurkhas in the brigade and a battalion of Pakistanis the 6th, 7th Balook regiment were in this brigade and the brigade headquarters had a mixture of a white brigadier and some Indian staff officers and now the British army in Burma
always had a full complement of road transport so that meant there was eighty-odd trucks in the battalion which greatly helped with supply and all the rest of it so it was like a you know fully mechanised army. Very different to the way we operated in New Guinea where the battalion had four jeeps and trailers as its total transport which made life very difficult at times.
Well, so that soon after getting over to India I was went by ship to Burma and joined this battalion in the in the front line. Now were in
an area there which of southern Burma at that time which had a lot of rice growing areas. In other words the what they call the paddy fields and the monsoon was still on and that's the time when there's six months of where it rains every day and you can only move on roads or built up tracks.
Everything else is flooded. The villages tended to be on it's like little mounds or hills of their own and all the huts sort of gathered together and so you'd have these villages dotted throughout the landscape and if there was a road going near them or through them that was okay otherwise you were on these little paddy bunds or little raised tracks on the mounds
each side of the paddy fields which wasn't good from a tactical point of view because that meant that the troops had to be in single file and they form a very easy target for artillery or machine gun fire or rifle fire. Fortunately the end of the war came very soon after I joined that so. See after the conquest of Burma the next
big British operation was to be the reconquest of Malaya and Singapore so I would have been in for a very torrid time if you know the war had carried on and may not have survived.
feed the Japanese army because their supply lines had been cut and they were robbing the local people of the all the rice and other supplies so the civilian populations were starving and a lot of the Jap units were near starvation and so it was one hell of a big relief operation that had to be carried out straight after the surrender and
so my 63 Indian Brigade were allocated to an area which included a couple of towns and mini villages and the whole thing was to re-establish law and order and to get supplies flowing to these village people. There was a special organisation there you know related to
you know the present sort of United Nations sort of relief operations and this had been set up by the British of course and came in to operation as each area of Burma was liberated and the civilian populations had to be looked after again. So the immediate effect actually of the end of the war was that
our brigade were put on to half rations and the other half of the rations had to be passed on to the Japanese the captured Japanese just to keep them alive and while the big effort went on with the civilian supply authorities to feed the civilian population.
into the big bamboo clumps around the town. Now every Burmese town and village has their own clumps of bamboo which are almost sacred because it's a very ubiquitous material. They use it for so many things apart from their building their housing and so we got very vociferous complaints there from the
local Burmese and their huge clumps of bamboos were being cut down by the Japs to build their surrendered personnel accommodation. So we had challenges all around you know trying to get the civilian population stabilised as well as having to look after the Japs and keep them contained so it was a funny thing they welcomed the end of the war just as much as
the British troops did because they'd had enough of it and the Japanese military discipline was terribly hard because officers and even down to sergeants had power of life and death over the individual Japanese soldier. That's something unheard of you know in the British and Australian armies and they wanted to get their freedom back too the
ordinary Japanese soldiers. Now we had no trouble with our lot of Japanese. They were put on the roads and other infrastructures around the district to try and repair a lot of the war damage but we suddenly found there that they were being fed on the Indian army rations scale which was twice the volume of that what the Japanese
army scale was so within two weeks we found that this huge piles of cooked food that was just being thrown away in the Japanese camp because they just weren't used to that amount of food and that had to be rectified of course because it was a terrible waste. But in our area we didn't have any any problems where some of the Indian regiments apparently had a lot of trouble with
the Japs and sort of revolting against them and that type of thing and I suppose I was fortunate with this Captain Marimo who spoke excellent English and later on he joined after the war he joined Japan Airlines and had a fine career there and served eight years in England some years in the USA.
and I'm just trying to think it'd be I think it would be probably the 1960s that I had contact again with him through the British War Office and a rather a strange letter saying that almost condescendingly that ”oh a Japanese officer wants to have contact with you. Do you consent to
us passing on your name and address?” And I knew straight away who it was and I was only too happy to do that and so we established these links by letter 'cause he wrote and spoke excellent English and later on it led to some wonderful liaison between Japanese and my family and my wife and I had a number of
trips to Japan. Marimo met us and escorted us whenever he could and then passed us on to other Japanese families so that we had fabulous stays in Japan. In fact Marimo gave us history lessons on Japanese history and he was that sort of guy and so knew all about old Japan as well as the modern Japan
and we received great hospitality so it had a sort of unexpected you know well very good human relationships developed and well I still send Christmas letters and things off to a couple of Japanese families and when they came out here of course we
well Marimo and his brother stayed at our house in Cremorne Point and we've had contact with other Japanese families too out here in Australia. Well my feelings on it the war's the war and when it's over you get on with the peace and make the peace successful and I think that philosophy is the right one and
in New Guinea what they call the Sattleberg Road that leads up from the coast at Finschhafen right up to the old Lutheran mission on top of the highest mountain peak in the area and there's this winding road had been built by the Lutheran missionaries over many years.
It was a like a village up there too with a church and a lot of residences and not just a holy place but there's native villages alongside who supplied the workforce for the mission but they all supplied they were also the congregation for the missionaries who were a vital force there in that area
from the point of view of the health and also the education of the native peoples. In fact they were wonderful these German Lutheran people. Strangely enough there's a link back to the Afrika Korps. One of my German Afrika Korps friends had an uncle who was a missionary up there with the Lutherans and for very many years and when he retired he
retired to Toowoomba and died. It's strange how that link with the Afrian Korps officer occurred.
a valuable strategic area and because inland tracks that led to other strategic areas in New Guinea came into Sattleberg and these tracks actually went further north on the inland side away from the coast into the north of New Guinea. So it was considered necessary
that Sattleberg be captured and occupied and but there were considerable Japanese forces in that area too. I'm just trying to think offhand there that's there'd probably be a couple of Japanese brigades in the whole area, which is quite a formidable thing.
Now half way up the Sattleberg Road there was a missionary village and church and considered very important where a lot of tracks came in from the coast. Now after the
Australians had captured Sattleberg initially the Japanese counterattacked and they put a roadblock across the Sattleberg Road about half way up and some eight kilometres from the coast. Now 20th Brigade were given the task of clearing the Sattleberg Road and my platoon was the vanguard of 2/13th Battalion and to go up and
try and break the break their roadblock. It sounds very strange that because of the very steep terrain that we literally had to march in with two files, one on each side of the road, and the third section a bit further back and had to move fairly as fast as we could
'til we got up near where the Japanese and the real problem was we didn't know exactly where the Japanese were and so when our I had two scouts out in front, a forward scout and a backup chap, and they just turned one bend in the road with the jungle on high on one side and low on the other and this poor chap was just shot dead from
concealed Japanese positions. Well in that case we knew we'd arrived but just in front of the Japanese positions had been some bomb blasts dropped from American liberator bombers when they were trying to bomb Japanese positions and it had actually blown big clearings in the jungle
and the Japanese had actually dug foxholes in this blasted area where the all the foliage had been blown away and they were very clever there because they concealed their positions very well so the first thing there was I lost my forward scout shot dead by from a Japan a concealed Japanese position and
so I dispersed my platoon into the jungle, which wasn't terribly dense on the high side of the road, and then we advanced very gingerly 'til we came up to the bomb clearing and found the Japanese already dug in and they were firing back on us. I had no
option there but to get my own troops to dig in because the point was to contact the enemy and to hold them until we got reinforcements up and a proper attack could be launched. It's and of course were sort of digging in again under fire and it wasn't a very pleasant situation. You get these bull- bullets cracking around you and
the leaves falling off the trees as and bark flying off the shrubs and the trees alongside but this was the nature of those infantry operations. We had to get ourselves dug in and hold them there. Now of course that situation stabilised and it was to be two weeks before the roadblock was finally
broken but after three or four days that I was given another task and that was to move around to a flank but down a jungle-clad valley and up the other side onto another spur that also came back onto this
Japanese-defended area. Now we had to go a long way around and get other tracks to get up onto that spur and were moving back up towards the Japanese position were fired on and one of my corporals who was put himself as leading scout
and was one of the originals of the battalion and a great soldier had been through Tobruk and Alamein he got shot through the throat and killed and another one of our soldiers was also shot and killed so I spread out my platoon on the in the jungle on both sides of the track and had to make a quick assessment of the situation
and we found that there's well a whole squad of Japanese so quick action was called for and I got the fellas to fix their bayonets and we also had those Owen guns, the big firing submachine guns, so on a given signal all the fellas rushed forward and we
ended up killing nineteen Japanese and a number of others ran away, but we lost a number of men killed and several wounded but that actually re-established the link with the 2/17th Battalion so it actually we carried out our task and very effectively.
But the whole thing in these sorts of things, it's got to be quick action or you get a stalemate.
in Rangoon and unfortunately I got a broken ankle and badly twisted knee with a foul tackle and so the hospitals at that time was just straight after the war had finished and there's all the liberated prisoners of war coming out of Malaya and you know areas of
southern Burma where they'd been in captivity, that's like Australia and British prisoners, and so I was considered not worthy of any hospital treatment other than getting a plaster cast put on my leg so I was given a job attached to the intelligence officer as a supernumerary
officer in the battalion headquarters and so I was hobbling around with this big cast on my leg and a steel stirrup underneath to keep the foot off the ground because it was still the monsoon season and everything was very damp underfoot. Now that provided the opportunity to meet and deal with the surrendered Japanese people
and so I found this very personable Japanese officer who spoke excellent English and having had that long time in the army on different battlefields and things I didn't have any prejudices. Well I felt I'd you know I'd long since got rid of all those things and I was concentrating on the task at hand which was to get on with
making the peace because all the fighting was done. A lot of the other officers in the battalion they had contempt for the Japanese and didn't want anything to do with them and I felt that was the wrong attitude because after all the fighting has gone, it's all finished you've got to get on and make the peace and I think I had the right attitude but Captain Marimo was the ideal conduit for
a very good relationship with the surrendered Japanese people and it ended up we used to have very long chats because I was interested in Japan and particularly Japanese history and this guy was very well-educated and he wanted to get on with the peace too and we just put the war behind us and just got on with doing the immediate
job as to get all the work done to rehabilitate the area were in and to make the whole thing work, the surrender terms work. Now we found out of course these were Japanese a Japanese engineer regiment full of very skilled artisans and but they were terrific workers and they'd do two and three times the amount of work in a
day that any Australian or British person would do and they did it cheerfully but they were also highly skilled and so in no time you know all around the camp area was very cleaned up and we'd got them onto the local roads and things like that and they became very useful and
army, they were all British. Well it didn't worry me because I'd been an officer long enough and I'd had enough you know battlefield experience and everything like that to concentrate on what I felt to be the main task and that was to establish the peace. Forget the rest, that was all over and done with and I think mentally too
I'd had enough of the fighting and the killing and I wanted that out of the way. All I wanted to do was look forward to get on with the peace and Marimo felt the same and in fact part of his service in Burma had been, because he had an excellent command of English, was to large groups of young teachers and teacher trainees
in of Burmese people as to for him to teach them Japanese and to prepare for a Japanese military government so he'd spent a long time doing that. This man to my mind had a very good character and was a very good human being and that's what I was looking at.
The other consideration, being a beastly Japanese, it no longer occurred to me 'cause I felt I was you know had a very practical attitude and you can't keep on hating you know there'd been enough of that and enough damage had been done by people hating but the whole thing was get on with the peace and make that work.
Was there a long delay in your returning to Australia after the war?
Ah yes because I didn't leave Burma 'til late in July 1946 so let's see the monsoon was back on again and I'd had enough of this you know rain and rain and rain and the clouds are hanging down over you, you never see the sun, so I wasn't a big bronzed Anzac anymore. Everybody was sallow
and still taking Atebrins and the anti-malarial things. There's a great relief there to go back to Rangoon and then get on a ship and go down to Singapore and eventually come back to Australia on a Dutch ship which was very comfortable and it also had very good supplies of beer and food on board
so that sort of fattened me up. It was bringing back two hundred ex-military and people and some with their wives and families who'd decided they want to come out to Australia but there's only a couple of Australian officers like myself. All the rest were British people and we had a very good trip back to Brisbane.
peculiar unpleasant situation there that occurred on the train. There I was in British army uniform and with you know lots of ribbons and there's a couple of I think nineteen year old very green Australian soldiers on the train there and they tried to big note themselves calling me a “Pommie bastard” and you know
"What do you think you're coming out here for you Pommie bastard" and that I must admit I saw red and I gave these fellas a terrible telling off and they slunk away with their tails between their legs because they were just rotten little no hopers and I think they were AWL [Absent Without Leave] anyway. They were probably deserters from our own army but there's a bit of a nasty taste
in an otherwise wonderful homecoming and were taken down back to Sydney and then through the discharge procedures at Sydney Showground and then I was given two months paid leave, which I took before I went back to service in the Commercial Banking company. I felt I'd earned it and the other thing of course after all that service in the tropics I was very run down
and underweight and you know sort of very yellow in the face and things like that and it's a tremendous emotional hurdle you've got to jump over and suddenly leaving an army which had been your family for you know six years and eight months and to get back into civilian life and suddenly you're
thrown back into becoming virtually a junior clerk in a big bank again, literally a nobody, and that's the way the bank treated them because they handled it all very poorly and a lot of the ex-service people felt that and of course many of them ended up like I did of leaving of the bank's service and just you know you wouldn't put up with that well
misplaced paternalism. The bank was everything you know, it was the greatest service in Australia, this was the way they looked at it and to be treated like a junior clerk again, I just couldn't stomach it.
Did the amount of tension and probably stress almost certainly stress that you'd been through in the war did that ever come back to you later on?
Oh yes, yes, I you get bad per- periods and you know even well not exactly bad nightmares but you get a lot of disturbed sleep and periods where you've got too much introspection, which is not good for you. Thinking about the wonderful people you'd served with but you also think back on some of the terrible events you went through and
it's all out of this world stuff and it takes a long time to adjust fully back into civilian life and this makes you know some of the times in my early married life my young wife just couldn't understand it and where I'd appear to be moody but you do get periods of depression and where you get these terrible
flashbacks and because when you look back on the service I had there you know the world was turned on its head and the whole world had been exploding and I was very lucky to be alive you know, there's no there's no doubt about that.
was the catalyst for keeping my sanity with the old friendships there and it was a very necessary link that you had to keep up. I mean I just couldn't thrust it aside like some people think they could but then I'd had very long service and you know tremendous associations with some
wonderful comrades and I could never toss those onto the scrap heap, as much as my wife wanted me to try and forget everything you never can forget it, it's part of your whole being, those experiences.
to say that the postwar activities with the battalion association have been tremendously sustaining for me because that comradeship kept on and it was enhanced by contact with the families of the men I served with which became much deeper with the formation of the wives and widows groups in our battalion association and we've you know had several functions
every year where they'd have a whole day of picnics and the families together as well as you know luncheons and even dinners. The battalion officers too had a sort of a separate officers' group where you'd have officers' dinners a couple of times a year where the officers and their wives'd go to the to Barrack Street to the it used to be
the big officers' club there. That subsequently closed down but we still kept on with the officers' dinners until only about two years ago because there was so few people left now that we just rely on the whole association events.
I'd taken it over from another chap who'd started the magazine. He died in 1961 and I took over the magazine and but I felt there was something lacking there because there wasn't a section for the wives and the widows so Instituted that and all of a sudden the magazine increased in size and
'cause the girls came in very strongly and they'd been so supportive over the years and to my mind they deserved their place in the in the magazine and it's carried on ever since and that particular section is has been very good for strengthening the whole association and the girls feel that they're all part of it very much and it was you know a brilliant concept from my point of view which has paid off handsomely.
Made a lot of people very very happy indeed and I suppose that's all what's it all about when making the peace work for all of us.