Archive number: 649
Date interviewed: 23 January, 2004Return to Search results
You are listening to the interview audio
Like I was saying if we go back to your early years and you tell us about where you were born and where you grew up?
Yes. I was born in Ballarat on 17th February 1924. That’s where my mother came from
and my parents lived on a farm at a place called Wandin East which is about 30 miles out of Melbourne, 11 miles from Lilydale and mother went back to her mother home to have at least the first two children. Do you want me to talk about the farm?
Yeah let’s hear about the farm. So when did you move, you were born in Ballarat…
You were on the farm then when you were born or did you move then?
Yes, they were on the farm at that time after I was born she went back home to the farm and that’s where I was brought up. In my view, living on a farm was a very nice way to grow up because there was always something to do. And you could go outside and watch birds or animals or whatever. And
in the Depression days it was certainly a good place to live because we grew a lot of our own vegetables and fruit and so on and I think we were a lot better off than most other people.
What about brothers and sisters?
Yes I have two sisters and three brothers. Two of them are deceased, the others one lives in Warrigal he and my sister. I’m
the eldest one in the family. My sister lives in Warrigal just over the other side of the railway line and two brothers deceased and one sister lives in Queensland, Brisbane and the other brother lives in Duran. He was a farmer. Eventually he took over the farm at Wandin East so we’ve discussed a little bit about school. I went to Wandin East School,
number 3934 and that was a one teacher school. And I thought it was a pretty good school. Most people think they schools are alright and I went there for 8 years and then I did secondary school and when I became 16 I didn’t get my Intermediate I missed out by one subject. But because there were 6 children in our
family and 2 adults and I had an opportunity to go further with my education. Mother offered me more education but I could see feeding 8 people was a bit of problem in those days, Depression days so I [(UNCLEAR)] family job in Melbourne and that’s where I started to work for Dunlop Tyre and Rubber Company, Flinders Street,
Melbourne. And mother got me into the YMCA [Young Men’s Christian Association] out in Northgate which was a real great thing because there were 40 other country kids there and you always had people to go places with. We had a cricket team there and I thought it was a great place to live. Coming from the country, it was a bit of a cultural shock to go and live in the city as you could probably imagine but that made it a lot easier for me because
of the association of all these country children – country boys that you could associate with. You always had someone to go out with and so on. So it was a real good start for me and I worked for Dunlop there in the office for two years before I was called up into the Army. I’ve got to tell you one story about
what happened there, you know in a lot of these organisations and places they have initiation ceremonies and I started in the mail room and the initiation ceremony there was that they put glue in your hair. All the new boys got glue in their hair and I wasn’t having any of that and I thumped the bloke on the nose and made his nose bleed and the – our Supervisor was at morning tea at the time and
when she came back he did the right thing and told her he ran into the door. But what happened from thereon was the cashier in the Head Office heard about this and he was a real gruff sort of a person, and he called me up one day and said ‘come here lad what’s this I hear about you thumping somebody on the nose’ I though I’m in trouble here and I said “yes that’s right” he said “I’ll have you working for me one day son.” he said. And
that’s what happened he got me to work for him and I was the Assistant Cashier so, it turned out alright.
That you could stand up for yourself?
Well sometimes you have to don’t you.
So going back to your farm years, was it sort of rough and tumble you know with all those brothers and sisters?
As far as the kids were concerned, yes. We didn’t have, back in those days we obviously didn’t have the
facilities. We didn’t have any electricity, we didn’t have a telephone, we didn’t have any natural gas or anything like that, so if you don’t have electricity, what don’t you have, you don’t have, you don’t have a refrigerator, mother didn’t have a vacuum cleaner. She did the washing in a copper out in – wood fired copper out in the open, and boil the clothes in there and then scrub them on a scrubbing board and it was pretty primitive sort of stuff
but I think it was a good life because of the circumstances and plus when you have brothers and sisters okay, you have your differences of opinion and so on but there’s always people to associate with and look after you a bit and protect you and be with you, so there’s always companions around. You’re not looking for something to do because you have these
people around you. And living on the farm of course, back in those days was quite different to what it might be now in that us boys never did anything inside the house. We never washed dishes or dried dishes or anything, that’s the girls’ job. We had things to do outside like getting kindling wood and feeding the hens and stuff and so that was just how it was. It’s different now but that’s the way it
was back in those days and living on the farm in Depression days, I was born in 1924 and the Depression started maybe 1929 and that was a pretty horrid time for a lot of people, particularly in cities. I saw kids come up to our school in the winter time from Melbourne, come to live with parents or relatives or something up in the country
and they didn’t have boots and shoes. Walking in the frost, I couldn’t understand it and raggedy old clothes and stuff. So, that never happened to us because we had fruit and potatoes and vegetables and stuff that was grown on the farm. We had chickens, we had a cow so we had milk and butter. Mother made bread and so on. And so I
think we were a lot better off than a lot of people.
Was there – were people more giving or sharing during that time do you recall?
I think that was so, I think that was a country attribute. I think that, that thing happens in communities around but I think more so in the country, country people are more caring and the smaller country
towns, Warrigal’s starting to grow out of that a bit now. Warrigal at one time was just a country town. Really it’s only an overgrown country town now but it’s changed. In a country town it’s got its pluses and minuses because whilst everyone’s very protective of each other and so on they also know all about what you’re doing and what you’re not doing so,
in the city or suburbia half the time you wouldn’t know your next door neighbour’s name and that a bit the same here in Warrigal. I know some of the people that live close handy here but down the end of the street I wouldn’t ever talk to those people. That’s just how it is. But in a country town you know everybody if people have lived there for some time, everybody knows and
they intermarry and so on. It’s just a small community. Country towns are still the same now but as the get bigger, Warrigal, in my view, in a few years time will be a suburb of Melbourne. And it’s changing. There’s a lot of development going on here now around all the hills and so on. People like to build their houses on top of the hills first and then they come down the side
of the hill. There’s development here and when and if the Pakenham Bypass happens it’ll be more so and the fast train is another thing. A lot of people travel to Melbourne to work on the train in the morning. I’ve never done it myself but they tell me that the first train out here at 10 past 6 is really crowded. It takes an hour and half on the train now. The fast train comes in, it’ll only
be just a little over an hour, so it means that more people will want to come and live here. And you’ve got the best of both worlds in my view, you’ve the country thing you can just go out 5 kilometres and you’re in the bush, if you want to be a bushwalker like I am. And you’ve got bush and stuff haven’t you. You don’t have that in say Footscray do you.
Oh yeah, there’s a bit of bush.
To a small degree.
Well okay, so just going back then hiking back to those years, you know many, many years ago when things were still very rural, you know you lived a very rural existence…
I’d just like to talk more about those Depression years. Was your farm secure during that time? First of all how were you parents making money out of
Well first of all my father owned the farm and how he come to own it was that he worked for his father who was a farmer in that same area up until he was 21 years of age and all his brothers and there was 12 in the family, 5 boys and 7 girls. All the brothers worked
until they 21 years of age and then they were given a parcel of land. So he owned his farm. And then there was another advantage we had in that my father was in World War I and he was wounded and he was in receipt of a Disability Pension so we always had some dollars coming in no matter what. But things were pretty tough, I can tell you
that I remember he grew some tomatoes and prepared them for market and they were carted by a truck, a commission agent used to pick them up and take them down to the Victoria Market in Melbourne and sell them. 15% commission you had to pay on whatever you sold and they were packed in 50 pound cases back then. That’s about over 20 kilos. He got
10 cents for one of them. And so you just couldn’t sell things, people didn’t have money to buy things so you couldn’t sell them but by growing your own food and stuff you could survive reasonably well. And another thing, rabbits, that was a critical thing. A lot of people just survived on – living – eating rabbits and plus like us kids did, we skinned the rabbits and sold the skins
and got some money out of it. So that’s another advantage of living in the country as I saw it anyway.
Your school at Wandin East you said it was a one teacher school…
How many pupils were at this school?
Oh at the most 40. There was a sewing mistress used to come in the afternoon. I think they did a great job, because you’ve got 8 grades, you’ve got 8
different age of children and you have to prepare a programme for each one of those and all sorts of things and keep them all occupied and keep them all in order. It’s a bit of a programme isn’t it? I think so. The teacher used to use students like myself to help – like call us monitors. I was reasonably good at school.
Nearly every year I was top of the school in the examinations. It was sort of expected of me. You have these ideals, or people have these ideals about you and you have to sort of have to live up to them don’t you. But I think they did a great job those teachers in the way that they handled the classes and things. And let’s bear in mind that some of the children were a
bit unruly and not very bright and all sorts of different reasons and they had to be disciplined and so on. And the strap was the discipline back in those days. I got it once and that was enough.
What did you get it for?
I can’t remember now but it hurt like hell.
So you were in a monitor in that class what did that mean?
What did you do?
Well the teacher would set the programme of whatever say it was reading and then the monitor had to sort of conduct the class and help them read. Like not your own peers but the younger ones. They used quite a number of people as monitors that how they achieved what they did. Like the older children and the ones that were a little bit better at their
school work that didn’t need to be in classes all the time and so on, they used them as monitors. And it might’ve had them outside or something did reading or whatever and so on. Just easy stuff but that’s how they got around some of their problems.
So you had your brother’s and sisters there at the school as well?
They all went to the same school, yes.
The big drama at school was the school dentist and I’d never been to the dentist before. I went to school and I think the dentist back in those days must’ve got paid on how many teeth they extracted and the very first time I was six years of age he went right around all my top teeth and pulled them out,
all my baby teeth and I have a school photograph somewhere, there I am a cheesy smile, 6 teeth extracted. It was a pretty primitive, they used to come around in a van sort of thing all set up and there was a nurse and so on. And the gruesome thing about it was that when they departed they
used to throw all the teeth they’ve extracted out in the bush a bit and the kids used to go to try and sort them out and see who owned what. You know what kids are like. So…
So they’d try and find their own teeth?
Yeah, that one looks like mine and so on. Other things that happened at school was I can remember there was a
diphtheria epidemic and the local medical health doctor came around and I’d never had an injection before and we all lined up in the school and got the jab in the arm for the diphtheria or whatever it’s called. Yes. I think that the school system is a pretty good one in Australia the way it operates
and particularly up there, I didn’t have any problems with school.
Was it kind of a focal point for the community, the school?
Oh certainly. In that community that I lived in the only public buildings that were; there was the school and a hall and there was nothing, there was no shops. If we had to go to the shops it was 5 miles, that’s 8 kilometres away and that’s where the railway station
was. And if we went to Melbourne that’s what we had to do, walk 8 kilometres to the station in the morning and at home in the night time and that’s what happened when I went to Melbourne first to work. I used to come home every second weekend principally for mother to do my washing and I never appreciated what they did. I had to work 44 hours a week and my first wage was
2 dollars 25 a week. 2 dollars 25, at the end of one year I got an increase to 2 dollars 50 and that’s how much I was getting paid when I joined the Army. And when I joined the Army I got 60 cents a day, I thought I was a millionaire. So that’s what we had to do, I used to bring the washing home and I never appreciated it back in those days because
it was Saturday afternoon and it was always ready for me on Sunday night. Didn’t matter what the weather was or anything, mother had done the washing and ironed it. So that’s dedication isn’t it. And when you’re that age you just don’t appreciate it, you think it’s a right or something.
So what was she like, your mum?
a very dominating person. And, she was a very caring person to her children and so on but she was – she was a dominating person and I’ve plenty of stories about that which I won’t go into right now but she was a good mother to us. And she protected us pretty well and father he was
a more docile sort of a – he was a farmer and he liked being on the farm and so on. And that was his life and plus his war injuries he couldn’t do everything but he did a lot of things. But there’s a lot of things happen on a farm like you have a horse and your plough and different other things and your kids are allowed to
help and drive the horse sometimes when it’s not doing something important like harrows or something you just drag them along and stuff like that. I reckon it’s all good fun or I thought so. So…
How big was the farm?
26 acres. I don’t know what this is in hectares. What hectares – 2.18 is to a hectare isn’t it. Is that right?
Something like that…
But 2 acres yeah…
He grew vegetables, like tomatoes, beans, peas, potatoes. He had fruit trees, plums, apples and so on and berry fruit, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blackberries and all sorts of things like that.
And in the winter time they grew swedes and turnips and okay us kids had to – we had to work and pick some of the berries and things in the summer time. And I think the weather patterns have changed. I can remember it was hot for weeks and weeks on end in the summer time when we were picking out in the sun. We all had a big straw hat to wear,
being a bit sun smart and sometimes we earned money working for other people picking berries and things. My sister told me not so long ago she got her first bike by earning money, by picking berries, raspberries in particular. I didn’t get my first bike until I was
17 years of age.
So was the district made up of a lot of these small farms, this small farmery?
Yes, they were berry farms. Wandin was started in 1867. My great grandfather came there in
1867 he had 100 acres eventually and that was a pretty big holding then. It was small farming, you didn’t need big acreage, it wouldn’t work now probably because you have to have large quantities and one of the problems now is to get your fruit picked, I understand. So, it’s not just viable anymore and it’s got to
be large acreage stuff that people grow but again picking people generally speaking don’t want to do that sort of work these days.
Was there cooperation between the farmers?
Oh yes, they would help one another out and do work for one another if they were ill or something happened to them or whatever. Yeah, there was a lot of cooperation, yes.
Mostly around those areas, they were intermarried. People didn’t move around much in those days. Not many motor cars around so they didn’t move around much. And the marriages were within the groups of people and another factor was the people of the same religion
moved to the same area. And that’s what happened in Wandin and they were Methodist mostly and you probably now Methodist are very much against alcoholic drinking. And they were so good at being against it there is not a hotel in Wandin right to this day. And they had all these organisations like Racobites and so on and
that’s just the way they were. In different areas it might’ve been Catholics or different other people and one of the first things, or two of the first things that people wanted when they went to an area was one a school for their children and secondly a church. And that’s the first two things that mostly they got and so their lives revolved around those two organisations. And that’s just how it
was… and like I say the same religion there was only the one church there in Wandin for a long, long time eventually there were some others came there and it’s changed now of course but back in those days that’s how it was. When they came there and by word of mouth the same thing happened in Warrigal here. I’ve belong to the Warrigal Historical
Society and they see fit to elect me as Vice President these days and it’s a bit of an honour because when you come to a country town it takes you about 20 years before they sort of accept you as being one of them. And I speak to the Organisation and school children about Warrigal History when I’m required to do so. And the stories are similar around here as what they were over where I lived. So I can relate to
all that and tell the kids about not having electricity, “So you don’t have any refrigerator so you don’t have any ice cream, oh that’s bad news. And no computers and stuff like that.” They find it pretty hard to understand.
It’s interesting what you’re saying about the religious kind of enclaves were there Catholics around? Do you remember there being anyone other than Methodist families in the district?
There were one or two Catholics but
they were – how should I put it, we were not encouraged to mix with them and it might’ve been vice versa I don’t know about that but that’s just how it was. But back in those days, in my view, religion was a pretty powerful thing in communities and they belonged – people belonged to the Church and as I
say they came to that same area by word of mouth and whatever and by relationship and so on and they just gathered in one area. It’s happened all over the place in different areas. I didn’t realise it was so, until some person put it to me that lived in a place down not far away from here and I started to think about it and it was exactly the same at where I lived. That’s just how it was
and if other religious people – people of other religion came they sort of kept to themselves a bit. And then you had the Church the same thing and obviously they were not – other religions were not going to go to the Church that I went to or Sunday school and that’s what I was made to do and I think it did a lot
for me going to Sunday school and Church. It teaches you how to be a good citizen and how to behave yourself a bit.
The running of the school, was there like a Parents’ Committee that made decisions?
Yes, School Committee I think they call themselves. And they met and they did work around the place like fix fences up or did
painting. I think the Department might’ve supplied the paint but I think the parents did the work. They did work cleaning up whatever and building different things, play things or we had swings was one of the few things that we had and the kids used to jump off these swings and try and see how far they’d jump and I wasn’t allowed to
do it until I went to Sunday School in the same Church and this is telling stories against myself, and I decided to have a got at this one day, a Sunday, and a jumped – I got the swing back and forth and off and I hit the ground and I sprained my ankles pretty badly and my sister was with me and she was a
couple of years younger than me and I knew there was going to be a lot of trouble when I got home if I told the truth so I had to make up a story that I jumped over a stick and did it. To my sister’s credit I was only talking to her about it not so long ago. She never put me in on that one. And they had to carry me home I couldn’t walk. So…
So you never told
your parents what actually happened?
No I didn’t. It’s better not to tell some things sometimes.
Do you remember who the teacher was? Like did you have the one teacher during that time?
Oh we had several teachers, I can remember their names. You want me to give you their names?
Well the first teacher that I ever had was, his name was Taylor and my father had this
thing about that he never wanted anyone to be late and because we never had a radio, only found out about this years later, he used to put the clock on by a half an hour and sometimes he used to do it twice over so it meant that we were never late for any engagement and I could never understand why I was always the first one at school, even before the teacher.
You didn’t twig?
I didn’t – we didn’t know about it. But what happened was, he did that for a long, long time and we didn’t know but when I went to work in Melbourne first I bought myself a cheap watch and that sort of wrecked that little plan he had. Yes, people
do different things we all know that.
Did you have guns on your farm? Like did you go rabbit shooting, hunting?
Yes, my father had a shotgun and one of the problems with growing fruit is birds attacking and eating your produce and he had a shotgun and he used to shoot them. We were not allowed to use the shotgun until we were
14 years of age I think it was but his gun drill was very strict and you were to know about things when you get through a fence you should unload your gun and you put the gun unloaded underneath the fence and then you get through yourself and then you load it up afterwards. You’ve got to be very careful with firearms
because accidents happen all the time but he was very careful. And he used to shoot rabbits and so and we were allowed to use the gun and eventually we got to pea – we had air rifles first and then a 22 pea rifles.
So would he take you out and teach you how to use it?
Yes, yeah. We had to do things right
in that respect.
So how would he teach you? Would he teach you with targets or…? Bottles or stones…?
Oh I can remember him showing me how to aim a gun, a rifle put a penny up on a tree and we had to shoot at it and try and hit it.
Nailed to the tree?
Oh just stuck it behind the bark. And you
know at 20 or 30 metres it’s not an easy task is it? But eventually you become a bit more proficient at it. I think you need a firearm on a farm in any case. They have firearms right to this day for a variety of reasons. If their stock become ill or injured, have to put them down, don’t they. And that’s basically
one of the few places where firearms should be allowed in my view. I have relatives that are on farms around here and they all have a rifle or something.
Where there ever any accidents?
I don’t recall any around our area with
firearms. I don’t recall that were many accidents with people at all. None of my family were admitted to hospital for any reason that I can remember. Until I had my
tonsils out when I was about 14 years of age that was the first time I had to ever go to hospital. So I think we were a pretty healthy mob and you’d fall over and knock a bit of skin off or something like that but nothing ever serious.
What about our dad, he’d had war injuries?
what exactly were those injuries?
The circumstances of it were that he was asleep in a tent in France and there was shelling going on and the shell hit the tent and killed the bloke sleeping next to him and injured him pretty badly. His leg, his left leg was
about an inch shorter than the other one. He had 14 operations and a fractured skull and different other things. He still had bits of shrapnel under his skin. He used to let us touch them sometimes, that were never removed were never giving him any problems. And I don’t know – I never heard him complain once ever about any problems that he had and he must’ve had some, if you’ve
got one leg shorter than the other, he had a brace and all that and built up boots and whatever so and yet he used to go out and walk maybe 10 miles or something, out shooting or something. So I think under the circumstances he did a pretty good job. And he was a happy person. As I say I never heard him complain once about his problems.
So he was in hospital for a fair time in England and in Australia, Caulfield and different other places and so on and as I said he was in receipt of a I don’t think it was a full Disability Pension but it was a certain amount of Pension and like I said that’s what provided dollars in our – for our food and stuff
all the time and that was pretty good in my view.
Interviewee: Robert Gaudion Archive ID 0649 Tape 02
As I said I can’t remember what age I had to go to Sunday school. Sunday school was held in the school which I went to and then later on I had to go to Wandin which was about three miles away from home
to Sunday school and to church and some of the kids that lived around the area didn’t have to go for whatever reason and I put it to mother that it didn’t seem right that I didn’t have to go. That was the end of that argument but like I said before I think certain things that I’ve done
in my life have been good for me and having to go to church was one of them because it taught me how to behave myself and how to be some sort of a good citizen.
What was that for you, you know, being a good citizen, what does that mean for you?
Well being a good citizen is to behave yourself and to be helpful to people, other people. That if they need help
it’s the same as round here, the lady next door wants a light bulb changed or something like that. I do those sort of things or if anybody asks me I’d do it them. By the same token they do certain things for me too and that’s being helpful to people, when they need help and I think that’s the way
the world should work. That if you can help people, they’re going to reciprocate and they mightn’t help me directly but they’ll do it for somebody else, that’s the way it ought to work anyway.
Did any of those families back then, you know, the farmers in the district lose their farms as a result of the Depression?
Certainly they did
because they were not viable and I don’t know the circumstances of their payments or anything like that but some people did have to vacate their farms. It’s just the same as buying a home, if you can’t pay for it, sooner or later the bank or some other organisation is going to sell you up, aren’t they?
So they were doing similar crop or in a market garden crop kind of?
Yes that was principally the, there was some dairy farms around but not many. Mostly it was vegetable growing or fruit growing. It’s not quite the same up there now, the farms have become bigger and
there’s no so much fruit grown because it’s not such a viable thing to do.
There’s lots of stories about the swaggies you know men on the road during the Depression
Going door knocking to farms?
Did you experience that?
Certainly. The swaggies used to camp underneath the hall which was about half a mile away from our place and was dry there
had toilets and also had some tanks so there you are, they had some of their requirements but one thing I noticed about swagmen that they never stopped in the same place for any length of time. They moved on and I don’t know why that was but that’s how it was and then they’d come around to our home which was quite near the road and
they were always given some food or something to drink and they might chop some wood for you or something like that but they moved on. I think they were people from Melbourne or the suburbs or somewhere like that or whatever I don’t know but they were around this area too. They tell me they used to camp down on the creek down here and a chap that’s lived in this town all his life told me the story just recently
that he and his mate set fire to the willow trees down there and the swaggies were blamed for it and they never told anybody so but as far as I know they were honest people. I don’t recall them ever stealing anything. They might jump over the fence and grab a few apples or peaches or something off your trees. I don’t really call that stealing. That’s
providing yourself with a bit of food isn’t it. I’m talking about stealing is taking possessions.
So it was accepted by the community that they accommodate themselves under the local hall?
Yes they were never made to leave there to my knowledge and they were not doing any harm in my view either and
they carried the swag, rolled up blanket and there might have been a waterproof thing around it and a billy hanging on the end and you know pretty black billy and that was the great thing was a cup of tea wasn’t it? And they used to light a fire and boil their billy and maybe boil some eggs or something that they might have got or whatever. I don’t know what else they lived on.
Did you ever spend any time with any of them you know like sort of hang out at the creek with them or talk to them or?
I spoke to them a bit when I was a kid but we were discouraged not to talk to strangers and in particular because I was the eldest and my sister was two years younger I was always
had the responsibility to be with her and look after her. I know the reasons now but I didn’t back then but that’s the way I, she had to be with me or I had to be with her going to school and on you know our mothers. It’s chaos around here at four o’clock in the afternoon or whenever school comes out. All the mother’s picking up their kids. You don’t drive around these streets at that time
but that’s the reason why they do it cause they don’t want their kids walking along the street on their own.
So that’s what your mother’s concern was about not talking to strangers, it was to protect the girls?
That’s right. We were not allowed to get in other people’s vehicles and we were not to talk to strangers and I didn’t know the meaning of a stranger. I do now, stranger is what is it? Is a person that’s not well known
to your family or something like that isn’t it? But that’s the way they operated. These swaggies were not in my view people of ill intent. I think they probably left home to lessen the burden on their families. In other words one less mouth to feed and with the prospect maybe of
getting a bit of food or something or work or whatever.
Gold panning was quite common I understand during that time especially in this district. Well not so much Warrigal but up around?
Central? Mulhalla of course yeah?
There wasn’t much gold found around Warrigal. There was a bit out across over but there was a lot of
prospectors there I’m told in Depression days, up to 500 people. There’s still holes in the ground out there. You’ve got to be pretty careful when you’re walking around in the bush, off the tracks where they’ve been digging holes in the ground. There’s a bit of gold up there see, you ever seen gold?
I have seen gold, not as much of it as I’d like to, mind you. Let’s look at that over the break.
Yeah we’ll have a look at that. I
take that, there’s a little gold nugget there. I take that down and show it to the kids because principally what put Australia on the map was the gold, discovery of gold in 1851 wasn’t it and do you know that there was over a thousand people a day jumping, disembarking from ships in Melbourne every day for years and that increased the population
tremendously. That’s 365,000 extra people in a year and it made Melbourne the place that it is, gold. Most of the buildings up Bourke Street and all those streets there were built in the gold era and it’s a fact of life too that gold influenced Australia hugely and there is an add-on story as far as
Warrigal’s concerned. There was not much gold found around here. Warrigal is a town that only started in 1875 and that’s a lot younger than most towns in Victoria and you know Sydney commenced in 1788 Melbourne in 1834 and the reason why is because this was a huge forest and there was not many Aborigines around here either
and when the gold rush was starting to subside some people found gold but a lot didn’t. There was huge amounts of people looking for something to do, earn a living and in 1869 the government brought in an act where they could be a selector of land. Previous to that there was only squatters
and so that’s how Warrigal came to be the town. Warrigal’s only here in its present location for one reason only. That’s because the railways when they put the railway through decided to put a railway station down there. The original town here was Brandy Creek seven kilometres up that way was on the old Sale Road. What was on the Old Sale Road that was the coach road into Gippsland and
when the railways came through in 1878 they put a station here. All these stations, all these town along here, about six or eight of them owe their existence or where they are to the fact that the railway put a station, Drouin, Longwarry, Moe’s about the last one and the people that couldn’t find gold selected land around here. Three hundred
and, half a square mile was the selection, 320 acres and they had to live on that land, they had to fence it and they paid a certain amount of money and they had to a lot of them went broke because they couldn’t make it because how can you sell any produce if you don’t have any transport? The roads were
shocking and was only when the railway came through that they were able to transport timber. Timber was the prime industry around here originally and clearing the land and then eventually when they got the land cleared, they planted some grass and had cattle and made butter and stuff like that but that’s where those people came from. They were people, most of them
come out here looking for gold and they didn’t find too much and they needed something else to do and so that’s the reason why Warrigal is here where it is and where the people came from mostly.
So did you go gold panning? Were you taught how to pan for gold as a kid?
I have done it at Sovereign Hill [tourist gold town] but I’ve never found a bit of gold in my own right yet.
Was there much talk of gold back then, like people finding doing well out of panning or finding?
Not that I know of. There was no gold found where I lived as a child or grown up or anything like that. I’d sort of always had a bit of an ambition to find a bit of gold but I’ve never had a go at finding it. I went and brought a bit
O.K. so you said before that you know you got to the age of 16 and your parents your mum you know was offering you further education if you wanted it?
But you had this sense of responsibility to the family?
That’s right yeah and I went to work in Melbourne in the office at
Dunlop in Flinders Street Melbourne. I finished up working for that company for 43 years. 35 of those years were in South Australia, that’s where I went to. I couldn’t handle the office work after I got out of the army and I took off to go round Australia but I only got as far as Adelaide and stayed there.
So can you give me an idea
of what it was like for a young boy from the country coming down to Melbourne? You mentioned it before it was a culture shock but you had the advantage of this because of country boys? What did you do in the city?
Well because I lived at the YMCA and because we always had mates, there was always people to go out with and we did some silly things I suppose at different times. We used to go down Smith Street, Collingwood which is a pretty rough area and taunt the mobs down there
it’s not a really sensible thing to do and other things like that.
How would you do that I mean yeah Collingwood was really tough and you all the gangs
Well that’s exactly right
and you wouldn’t want to mess with them too much? What did you do?
You mouth off at them and so on and so on but you made sure you never you always had the numbers on your side.
We probably never ran into the proper gangs or anything like that, we selected our targets a bit I s’pose.
What sort of things would you say to them to provoke them?
Well you know what kids are like. Physical features or criticise things you know. You know how it goes.
But was it a country- city antagonism or was it just?
Yeah it was a bit of that too.
You know what city kids call country kids. Country bumpkins I think they used to call us didn’t they but I know now that that’s of no significance at all really but it’s just a different culture, different way you live. People are no different, there’s funny people all over the place isn’t it, there’s good people all over the place.
did you sort of regard yourselves as kind of tough?
No, no. I haven’t had too many actual fights in my lifetime. I learnt my lesson about that once or twice and I you become a bit more sensible about things and it takes you a while
to learn. I told you earlier it takes you a fair while to learn about yourself and one of the things that some people need to do is to learn to keep their mouth shut at certain times and conflict is something that mostly you can avoid if you want to. I found that out. In my business life, you’re dealing with
in a customer relations role you have to be able to learn to handle people and it’s not something you can be taught, you have to learn it yourself, or I did anyway. They might give you some indications, your superiors of different things but basically you have to learn by experience of how to handle people
and it took me a bit of a while to do that but eventually I became not bad at it and it’s a big benefit to me. What’s the point in having a fight with one of your own customers? There’s no point about it at all is there? Really you want them to be customers next week and next year too. You have an altercation with them and probably they’ll go away and never see ‘em again.
So that was something that took me a while to learn but eventually I did learn it and that made me a better person for that I reckon.
So that time way back then of mixing with all these different boys and in the city and working a responsible job, you must have learnt a lot from that experience?
It certainly was because people of different backgrounds and where they come from and what the parents
do and where they work and so on, it’s just a whole new ball game. When I went down to Melbourne was a big cultural shock I had to admit that but there was myself a country person, that lived in the country all my life and that’s how I was and then you all these other fellers
in the YMCA were country people too so we had that much in common. They were from different areas. They might have been from wheat growing areas and whatever or they might have run sheep or their families might have run sheep and some of them might have been rich people. I don’t know about that but we all had something in common, that we were country type people and we were in Melbourne for
occupational reasons or maybe school reasons so I think it was a great place to live.
So what were the aspects of it that was a culture shock for you?
That’s a pretty hard one for me to answer but things are different in
the way people live in the city to what I was brought up in, as. I just had to learn to fit in.
So was it like attitudes or?
Yes that’s one of them. As I said the kids from Melbourne called us ‘country bumpkins’. In other words, we’re not very bright
all that sort of stuff, which is not true.
Did you make friendships with…?
So people, workmates at Dunlop or…?
Yeah but as you well know you don’t take to every person that you meet, or I don’t anyway. There’s certain people for whatever reason there’s people that I don’t like from the moment I meet them
and I’m never going to want to associate with those people. That’s just the way I am and I don’t know why it is but that’s just how I am. I take to people or I don’t.
what point you were, you joined the CMF [Citizen Military Forces – militia] didn’t you is that correct?
I was called up because it was wartime and at 18 years of age you were called up. I showed you the notification for call-up and at that time you were not allowed to join AIF [Australian Imperial Force] in other words become a volunteer until you were 19 years of age so
you were called up at 18 but at 18 years of age and you were not to be sent away outside Australia until you were 19 also. That was another one of the conditions so there was two sets of numbers do you know that? That CMF were V numbers and AIF volunteers were
VX and so that’s how it was and I didn’t volunteer join AIF. That was always our ambition to be a volunteer and principally as you probably know the CMF colour patch has no grey background. The grey background on your colour patch indicates that you’re AIF and a volunteer. That was our big ambition
to have that AIF colour patch. So at 18 years of age I was called up, did medical examinations, spent my first night in the army sleeping in the grandstand at Caulfield Racecourse. They were still training horses back in those days, woke us up in the morning.
Just what year was this, what month what year?
1942 and from there I transferred to Watsonia which was a training camp and basically training was for three months of basic training, drill and weapons training and so on, teaching you to do what you were told. Discipline is the principle thing
that the army works on. I know that now, probably I didn’t realise it then.
What had been your thoughts about the war and enlistment before you were called up?
Couldn’t get there quick enough. We considered it was our duty because this country is in great danger of being invaded by a foreign power. It very nearly happened
and we considered that it was our duty to do something about it. So most of the fellers that I knew were there because they wanted to be there and certainly that was the same with, case with me. I considered it was my duty so three months
basic training and as I said you couldn’t be sent away until you were 19 years of age and so we had to do something. I did a guerrilla warfare school up at Warburton. Lived on top of the mountain for three weeks and the other mob was trying to take it over and stuff you know, just training and then another thing we did was
unload American Liberty ships down on the wharves. We used to go down there at night time and unload them, help unload them. The wharfies didn’t think too much of us.
Which wharf are we talking about?
The main wharf in Melbourne. We used to go, be driven down in trucks from Watsonia camp just about dark at night time and
work all night and go back and have a sleep and do the same thing the next night.
So what were you unloading off the Liberty’s?
Supplies the American supplies, food and stuff, tinned food and stuff like that. One of the deals was if one of the tins got broken you could eat it so one or two got broken didn’t they and they had pretty good food compared to ours.
So why were the Americans unloading supplies here in Melbourne?
Because there was a large contingent of American service people in Australia at that time and most a lot of them were camped on the MCG, Melbourne Cricket Ground and there was a big build up at that time, 1942 was
at the time the Kokoda action was a big build up of American service personnel in Australia. It was a base for the operations that continued on from there.
So how did you feel about unloading the Liberty ships, the American ships?
I can’t recall that I had any resentment about the thing. It was just something that I
just had to do so I think there was a bit of resentment with Australian fellers in particular because the Americans were better dressed than us, had better clothing and better pay and were a bit more attractive to the women folk. I think there was a fair bit of trouble around the place on that in one or two places.
I wasn’t involved in any myself but I didn’t think too much about it at all really. In other words we thought we had a job to do and probably were a bit anxious to get into a unit and do something about it. That was our big ambition to get to become into a unit and
And what were the issues with the wharfies at that time?
I think that they resented the fact that they were doing their work and there was a we when we were on Bougainville the wharfies were on strike and wouldn’t load our ammunition
in Townsville. We weren’t too happy about that, and food.
So the wharfies then would have mostly been older men would that be right or was it a protected…?
It was a reserved occupation.
Was it yeah?
There were other reserved occupations. Farmers were a reserved occupation
and some of those people resented that very much so that they were not allowed to join the forces. I’ve talked to people in relatively recent times that have regrets that they were not allowed to join the services in wartime and I think that a person’s duty as a citizen to protect your country at least isn’t it?
That’s the way we felt about it anyway.
But you would have been able to understand the position that these guys were in?
Well say the wharfies being a reserved occupation?
Well I probably didn’t think about it much back in those days. I probably realised that there was reserved occupations but I didn’t hold any resentment
to people. I think there was a little bit of resentment for people that made their way into the reserved occupation by a bit of stout he or something like that, became farmers, you know de facto farmers and stuff like that. I’ve heard stories about that.
So how did it play out, this resentment on the wharves? Was there
No, no, no.
There was just no fraternisation. There was no arguments or fights about it. Might have been a few words said or something but I don’t think it was nothing serious. It was just something that was there and just lived with it.
That must have been interesting for you going
from the country, Dunlop for a couple of years and then?
I tell you it was all a great experience for me all these things that happened to me because they were all new things that I hadn’t done before and bit of a culture shock because you’re doing things that you’ve not done before and on and on and on
and I’m not saying that those experiences I claim that some of those experiences have been something that have been extremely good for me. They’ve done a lot for me sort of taught me how to behave myself and do what I’m told when I’m told to do it and stuff like that. In other words, discipline. My view is that at least a bit of military training for most young people would be a good thing
O.K. so on that subject of training you’re in Watsonia?
That’s where you did your initial training?
Basic training yeah.
Can you just give me an idea sort of walk me through some of the training or the sorts of training that you got there?
Yes basically the army runs on routine. Certain things are done at certain times and
goes by bugle calls and all that sort of stuff. You probably know all about that. You get up at whatever time, you have your breakfast at a certain time and then you go out and train out to in you call the bullring and you go out there and one of the things that they need to do is get you fit for starters and fit to fight, that’s what they used to say. In other words you have to be reasonably
fit so there’s a lot of physical activity and you have to be proficient in handling your weapons so you have to learn all those things and you only learn it by repetition. It becomes boring after a while but that’s the reason why with repetition, you do it and do it and do it, it becomes an automatic thing and no matter what the circumstances you’ll still do that thing correctly
when the pressure comes on you. That’s what it’s all about. That’s training and discipline. Boring stuff, it was for me anyway. You had to keep pulling a machine gun to pieces and putting it back together in blindfolded and you could do it, I thought pretty well, but you had to keep doing it and doing it and doing it over and over and over and then fitness is the other thing.
The longest I walked in any one day is 48 kilometres and that was in training at Watsonia, that’s 30 mile.
From A to B?
Where did you walk to?
Was up round Healesville and it was up and down hill for a bit too. I’m lucky if I get five kilometres if I go for a bush walk now.
So you become very fit and I, after we left that, become 19 years of age got sent to Canungra Jungle Training school. You’ve heard about that probably and that’s a real tough place but again as I say it teaches you to do what you’re told, when you’re told
and I’ve never been so fit in all my life when I came out of that place. The last exercise we had to do there was in full kit, that’s all your possessions, 60 pounds possessions. Your rifle, all your pack, your clothing, two pair of pants and whatever, cross country run 15 miles through the bush. They were tough people up there
but they got us trained and they got us fit. When I joined 26th Battalion which was straight after that, fellers have told me since that we’ve never seen the new blokes walk out of this place, we never seen such, we could run the pants off those fellers that were in that unit because we’d been trained and trained and trained. Like they were reasonably fit but
we were extra.
Was this a kind of new era in training at that stage?
I don’t think so. Jungle warfare was certainly new stuff because to the best of my knowledge Australia had not been involved in any jungle warfare up until that time and because Japan or the Japanese army had been having wars with China and different other places for quite a number of
years before World War II started. They were more proficient in the tactics and so on and jungle warfare’s different to say open warfare or desert warfare like you had in the Middle East or what you might have out in the paddocks here or whatever because it’s, of the jungle and you had to operate differently so
Canungra was a new concept and it’s still going too and I think it was great place to go through.
So Watsonia though the training you got there I mean you’re very hilly and very sort of bush country?
Not too much bush around Watsonia.
But sort of out in the hills?
It sounds like you did quite a bit of training out in the hills?
Yeah but it was hilly country and
so on yeah was open paddock mostly though.
So what weapons training did you do at Watsonia?
Well your basic training it consists of your drills. The army has a ceremonial side to it which the army considers to be relatively important and I think it’s important too. That is all your
rifles drills of sloping arms and so on and then your training of your different weapons and how to use them and shooting on the range and so on and all sort of stuff like that. You have to be proficient in all the things that you’re likely to handle. Like a rifle or a Bren gun or an Owen gun or
a Thompson machine gun or something like that and we did mortar training and hand grenades and stuff like that, the whole works. You have to do the whole lot because you have to be able to handle the thing and if you don’t, particularly with hand grenades, if you don’t do it right, you’re going to create a bit of problem. In other words you don’t throw a hand grenade, you bowl it.
If you throw it, there’s a chance that it might slip out of your hand and finish up right there behind you and if you’ve let the lever go, she’s going to go off in four seconds, so you have to be proficient in all those things.
So did they train?
Interviewee: Robert Gaudion Archive ID 0649 Tape 03
Can I ask Robert how your parents reacted when they found out you’d been called up and you’d potentially be going off to fight?
Well I think that whilst mother and father didn’t talk about these things too much
they were pretty proud of that happened. They considered it to be my duty because my father was involved in World War I and probably from mother’s point of view it was probably more a strain on her in that I couldn’t always write to her too often and mail was
not a regular thing and she might have got half a dozen letters at a time from me which might have covered a whole month or something and plus some of the times I couldn’t write letters because of different things that were happening so she probably well she never said. She was pretty proud of me being in the army for sure and she was proud of my, what I’d done and whatever.
I might have missed before you did have brothers and sisters didn’t you?
Was there any involvement there in terms of military service?
One of my brothers joined the navy after World War II , was in the navy for several years and another brother, now lives in Drouin, was in CMF I suppose, was called up
for military service in the 1950’s and ‘60’s yes.
Now because of your age you were only eligible come you know the early ‘40’s but had you made any attempts to sign up with any of the to enlist with any of the services or?
Yes at that time when I was 17 years of age it was possible to join the navy at 17 years of age
as a stoker would you believe, and that’s right down in the bowels of the ship and I put in the application and I passed the medicals and they wrote me a nice little letter which I don’t have now for some reason saying that they didn’t want any more recruits and I could join the services so I couldn’t, didn’t happen. So if that had have happened well things would have been different wouldn’t they?
I could have been on the HMAS Sydney or something.
O.K. so you’ve sort of taken us through you’ve told us a bit about Watsonia. Now you said you moved up to Queensland?
Did you at that point what was your anticipation with regards to where you were potentially heading was it like the islands and New Guinea was where you’d be?
Well whilst you’re in the army
and probably the services you don’t know what’s happening and like I said to you before you lose control of your own destiny. In other words you go where you’re asked to go and so on. One of the things that was very important to me was that it was the very first time that I had ever been outside Victoria and it was quite a thrill to me
to think that I was in a position to do something about what was happening in our country and I think that most of the other fellers felt the same. We were pretty proud of ourselves. We considered that we had something to do and we were going to do it.
So when you I guess when you left Melbourne for Queensland to continue the training there probably was a sense
that you would be heading off further afield?
Well we knew that our destiny was to join a unit. We were trained as infantry and so obviously we were going to be sent to an infantry battalion. As I explained to you before, because I was CMF and not a volunteer I couldn’t be sent to any of the 6th, 7th or 9th Division. That was the deal and
that’s how I finished up at 26th Battalion which was a CMF battalion because I was a CMF person and again that’s just destiny isn’t it?
Yeah we’ve heard you know some stories about how in the early part of the war there was that sort of the friction you know the AIF
and the chocos and all that. Did you experience much of that?
Well I didn’t nobody
ever challenged me about it directly but I knew it was there. I have a book over there called The Chocos [chocolate soldiers – militia] and it goes through the whole thing. Yes that was right. The AIF considered that they were a bit superior, let’s put it that way. I don’t think that’s true. I think that the CMF battalions performed
as well as any in New Guinea and Bougainville and different other places so it’s of no consequence. It just the Australian army is a bit unique in that we’re probably the only army that back in those days that had volunteers and in World War I they were all volunteers. There as no military conscription at all.
your training in Victoria, were you at camps where it was solely CMF cause we’ve heard stories of guys who were at Nagambie Road for example where there’s AIF and CMF side by side and therefore you know there were these sort of run-ins occasionally.
I think that Watsonia was principally CMF. I’m not sure about that but I think that mostly Watsonia was
people being called up like myself and it was just a training camp and when you did your training there you did other things, like I went to the jungle training school at Canungra or whatever but as I said you couldn’t be sent away out of Australia till you were 19 years of age but there was a certain amount of friction there. I never experienced it personally. Nobody ever challenged me about it.
Now you said cause growing up on a farm you had you know you were used to you went out shooting rabbits etcetera so you had some knowledge of firearms. What sort of what were you training on when you started out? What sorts of guns were you becoming familiar with?
303 rifle. We didn’t have Bren guns at that time, Bren guns come around later on. Lewis guns that’s a medium machine gun. We didn’t’ have Owen guns then but we had Thompson machine guns
that was American ones and the hand grenades and we also did training with mortars and things like that and there’s three different size mortars, two inch, three inch and four inch, barrel size.
And it was all was it live ammo from the beginning.
No live ammo, live ammunition was gradually introduced
as you become a little bit more proficient but in Canungra live ammunition was used all the time and they actually killed some people there in training.
While you were there?
Well I heard about it yes.
Just I think just after the last tape stopped you were telling us about some of the sort of precautionary measures that they took on the rifles at Watsonia?
Cause I don’t think we got that on tape
can you tell us about that again?
In initial training for using firearms and live ammunition on the rifle range, which was a short rifle range, might be a hundred metres or something like that, for safety reasons they had the rifle barrels put down a piece of piping so that they couldn’t be moved out of that piping and that was the only time that they could be fired so that fellers
couldn’t be waving it around where they shouldn’t be doing and let’s bear in mind that some people were not proficient in handling firearms at all and people do some odd things sometimes when they get hold of ‘em.
Was there a mix of city and country boys with you?
And how did they all did they manage to come together well or were they different responses to the challenges?
I think mostly that everyone was
about the same. They fitted in. You were part of the deal and that’s one of the things that the army in particular does for you. They dress you out everyone in the same uniform so they try to produce clones don’t they and so obviously different people don’t get along with different people and
you might be better mates with someone than what you are there but particularly when you get into action you’re dependent very much on one another and there is this comradeship, camaraderie that you’re not going to let the other person down. It takes a bit of a while to develop it but it comes and so your country versus the city is not an issue. You might rib ‘em about it
or a lot of ribbing about between states between say crow eaters in South Australia or banana benders in New South Wales or forgot what they called us people from Victoria. Mexican’s wasn’t it? South of the border and we know Queensland people are different but all states are different. Would you know that people in different states speak different words
differently and say different words for different things?
Yeah well there’s still a few differences today but back then what were some of those?
Well up in Queensland your suitcase is always called a ‘port’ and up there also the afternoon they call it the evening and things like that. In South Australia they say things like “Where
is he too?” if they want to know where somebody is. “Where is he too?” and it takes a little bit of getting used to but you can pick them as easy as anything, the different sayings that people have, well from states. I don’t know any particular ones about Victoria I suppose but they always knock you about the Yarra River and stuff like that.
So can you tell us about the I assume it’s a train journey up to
We went on Spirit of Progress and that was an experience for me. The Spirit of Progress, we had a special carriage tacked on the back and away we went and we used to sing songs and one of the songs that we sang as we left Melbourne, Goodbye Melbourne Town. We liked doing that.
Do you remember the words? I don’t expect you to sign it but do you remember the words to the song?
Goodbye Melbourne Town
something about I’m leaving you today and I can’t quite remember the whole words of it. That’s what we used to do, used to sing and go on. It’s a bit emotional because you were doing something and you didn’t know what your destiny was going to be and you were leaving your home state. For me anyway, I’d never been out of Victoria before so
we’re on the Spirit of Progress and then you get to Albury in the middle of the night and that was back when the rail gauge was split, transferred over and then we got to Sydney and I think we were given a days leave because we had to wait for the train overnight so we had to go and have a look at the Sydney Harbour Bridge and stuff like that. So it was all new territory for me, all new experiences
and there was a few more to come of course.
And that sort of comradeship that you were talking about was that something that was already forming at that point?
Certainly yes. Very important in my view that part of it and it’s something that just develops. You’re all in the same boat together. You’re all doing the same thing. You’re all wearing the same uniform and you become and when you get to a unit you’re very proud of your unit.
No matter which unit it is whether it’s field bakery or as it happens infantry battalions are pretty special in the Anzac Day march. We probably get more applause, infantry battalions than any other units because of the things that they know that we’ve done.
So then so you get to see the sights of Sydney and then up to
Brisbane and then on the little train out to Canungra and that’s when we hit the wall a bit because in Canungra you don’t walk anywhere, you go at double pace and was a really tough place but as I said it toughened us up. The threat was that if
you didn’t complete any routine there that you would be made to do the course again and the critical thing attached to that was that you would lose your mates that you wouldn’t be with your mates so that was a big spur to keep you going at different things. Now sick parade at Canungra was something that you didn’t go on unless you couldn’t get out of bed and
light duties in the army if you went on sick parade there was either no duties or return to full duties or light duties. Light duties at Canungra was digging the new latrines, 20 feet deep by hand and one of my mates got that because he had a cold or something and that’s what he had to do so she was a tough place but
that’s what it was all about.
So can you is it possible for you to describe in a bit more detail some of the sorts of training you did, the manoeuvres and so on?
One of the things they did to us they used to go out and be in a section of the jungle and get you out there and the order was everyone 10 foot up a tree all the black
soot and stuff. Right after five minutes you can come down. Now everyone up another tree and you’d do that for about an hour and they trained with as I said with live ammunition and that’s the first time I ever got hold of an Owen gun and they had the training course. You’d fill your magazine up and you would have you and your instructor. He kept behind you
obviously and they had these targets sort of hidden in the bush and you used to pull a lever and a make believe Japanese would jump out from behind the tree or something and you had to shoot it so it was with live ammunition and through the assault course which was barbed wire about so high off the ground and you had all your pack and
gear on, you had to crawl underneath that. They had machine guns firing over the top of you and the instructors were firing live ammunition in between you. It’s to condition you to it all.
And how do you think you personally faired with the rigours of all of that?
I made it alright. Didn’t phase me too much.
I realised there was a bit of danger there but the credible thing at that time was that I knew that no-one was trying to hurt me so I was happy enough to do it.
And looking back I mean having later on gone experienced what it was like in the jungles New Guinea Bougainville etc I mean how appropriate and you know how well did that actually prepare you for what was to come?
It was real good, good
it gives you some sort of insight into what you’re going to run into, like the noise and everything that’s happening and that’s noise is one of the critical things when you’ve got all these explosions and things going on and rifle shots or bombs exploding or whatever. It’s all frightening stuff and the more you can become conditioned to it, the better you’re going to handle it. Some
fellers don’t handle it too well. I s’pose everyone’s affected by it a bit but obviously the first time it happens to you it’s a bit of a culture shock but as I said the more experience you have of it the better you handle it. So that’s what Canungra was all about.
As you say I mean everyone is different and respond in different ways. Did you see men who perhaps weren’t quite up to it?
Yes I did.
Some of them I did see and this was in our battalion. Well the thing to do with them was to get rid of them cause they’re not reliable and they just can’t handle it, it’s the way they’re built I s’pose.
And how was that sort of expressed in the field I mean how does that manifest itself?
Fellers that don’t I guess those people that are like that don’t do it deliberately. It’s just their makeup doesn’t allow them to do it but they’re not held in very high regard. Like I still see this day and age certain people
certain people are not handling this properly. Perhaps that’s the way they’re built, I don’t know but that’s what I try to do anyway. I try to handle situations.
So the men who were instructing you in Canungra were they men who’d been in New Guinea or been in?
Most of them had been on the Kokoda track
and that was pretty good for us because they told us how it actually way. See if I’d have been one year older I could have been up there too but or they were Middle East veterans but principally because it was a jungle training centre they were mostly people that had been up on Kokoda.
So when exactly were you there, can you sort of put us on the time line?
If I can find that piece of paper over there, I’ve got it all written down.
O.K. even if it’s just a rough I mean you were there sort of what forty?
1943 yeah in about March or April or something. I think I joined 26th Battalion in May. I’ve got it all written down over there.
Well if we get desperate for the dates we’ll have a look.
So how sort of well informed did you think you were about what was going on up in the islands?
Not very well at all. That’s one thing in the army it’s a sort of a secret service thing. You’re only told what you need to know. You’re not told. There’s always lots of rumours around in the army, well I figured it and they called different names. Some of them
are not very pleasant. The cookhouse one and latrine rumours and different places you know and this is what and the fellers used to call them ‘drugs’. “Have you got any drugs?” and out of all these rumours you might be in one particular place and all these rumours, one of them’s gotta be right. One of them has got to be right but you can’t figure out which one it is and so that’s how it goes and
the powers that be they don’t tell you too much about what’s going on and the army you’re never late for anything in the army. If you’re going to catch a train at eight o’clock they have you up about three o’clock in the morning and they have you up at the railway station about five. They’re very scared of missing out on things like that.
So ‘drug’ was the rumour?
That was the term yeah, ‘drugs’
And there was a latrine rumour what was?
You know the other word.
So cookhouse and shithouse?
Yes that’s right. I didn’t know whether I was allowed to say that.
Of course you can. Right so talking about the sort of discipline the discipline side of things how were you dealing with that? Was that sort of another culture shock for you or was it something that wasn’t a problem?
It was a little problem
not a great problem. I handled it pretty well, some people didn’t. Some people resented it and a lot depended on who it was coming from and how it was coming and officers and NCOs [Non- Commissioned Officers] are all different and some are very considerate people. Like my Lieutenant that I finished up with in our platoon he was a lovely person. Like he wouldn’t ball you out for any
reason at all. He might speak to you roughly but he wouldn’t do it in a nasty way if you know what I mean but others and particular regular army fellers you know the rough sort of crew to the their inferiors or their below ranks if you know what I mean but I didn’t have a great deal of problem with it.
You’re talking about, you know, having to be up
six hours before you’re supposed to be somewhere all that sort of thing. Did you ever was there ever any trouble in terms of you know perhaps your and we’ve heard about a lot of stories about guys going AWL [Absent Without Leave] for a night or a day or 10 days I mean was there anything like that?
In other words you’re asking me if I went AWL? I did once and it was for my first Christmas and I thought that I was entitled to be home for Christmas. I regretted that because my punishment was not so much the financial, it cost me two pounds
and two days pay but 14 days CB [Confined to Barracks] and in the army in a training camp at least they after six o’clock at night they blow a bugle every half hour and when you’re on CB you have to answer that bugle, go out on parade and you have to change all your equipment around, from just your webbing belt this time to all your full equipment each time and go out and the other thing that they did
was put your gas mask on, run you down the bullring which is the training grounds down to the gas chamber, put you in the gas chamber, light the tear gas and pull, make you pull your gas mask off and doesn’t do you any harm but it’s pretty rough on your eyes and nose and mouth and so on, for two weeks
get that once a night so I didn’t go AWL again. I never had another crime so I learnt my lesson.
Is that while you were still in Victoria?
Yes in Watsonia.
So it sounds reasonably severe. Two weeks and then the?
Well half the camp went AWL and the commanding officer didn’t like it so it was in his powers to do that and that’s what he did
and it was pretty severe training yeah for sure. The other thing I didn’t like about that training camp was the periodically we had to go on guard duty at the compound where they had all the naughty boys locked up and I was only 18 years of age and pretty inexperienced and everything and these guys would be in there, few of the wire was between them but they were always trying to bite money off you and cigarettes and line things up
with you and stuff. I didn’t like it. One night we were there, one of the fellers that were on guard one of his mates was in the compound and he took the wire cutters in and cut the wire and let ‘em out. There was a bit inquiry about that. My biggest trouble on guard duties particularly about two, four o’clock in the morning was going to sleep you know wouldn’t get, just sittin’ around doing nothing virtually,
pretty hard for me to keep awake.
Yeah cause there are all sorts in the army I mean it was?
Of course they are.
I mean you know those who were?
Another thing I’ve got to tell you about it too was I learnt the lesson the hard way. In life you learn your lessons the hard way you never forget ‘em. In that I did my washing and hung it out on the line, when I come back it was gone
so from there on in you sit and watch it and because it was rationing and all the rest of it in those days probably sell it on the black market or take it home for their family to wear or something. Was a lot of rogues in the training camp and you don’t have them when you get to a unit. The unit’s more you belong. You got a sense of identity and you
feel different about it and we just couldn’t get to a unit quick enough. That was our big ambition. We had two ambitions, one to join the AIF to become a volunteer and to get to a unit.
So back in Queensland I mean other Canungra were there other locations that you trained at?
No from Canungra we went direct to 26th Battalion. We joined 26th Battalion at Kuranda, that’s
up in the just above Cairns on the Bowran River and we did training then of course with them because their NCOs and officers were part of the unit and we had to get to know them a bit and they had to get to know us so we were there for a few months before we sailed away.
And before that did you manage to was there periods of leave
in Brisbane for example did you?
Yes yeah the army’s pretty reasonable with leave when the circumstances are right. Canungra was no leave from Canungra that’s the first thing they told you when you got there, there was to be no leave which is fair enough. We were only there for six weeks anyway but we were allowed out on leave in Brisbane
and then the train journey in Brisbane of course was an experience itself. It’s only a narrow gauge train and chuffs along. Took us three days to get from Brisbane and Townsville and the train would stop to let other passenger trains go by and it broke down once and it ran over a cow and we one day we were running, we were having our dinner six o’clock at night at 12 o’clock at night
cause one thing about the army, no matter what the circumstances, they always had a feed for you. Might have been just bangers and mash or something like that but there was always a feed for you and that was it’s a huge organisation. When you think about it, the way it’s all got to work, that you’ve got to get food and people movement and everything and it changes every day, like troops trains and so on.
They’d have to get all the food there, it’s like running a restaurant down in Warrigal I s’pose but it’s a marvellous organisation the way it works and notwithstanding all these trains breaking down and then what used to happen I wasn’t a drinker as such back in those days but every time the train stopped at a station somehow or other these fellers must have known. I don’t know whether the driver might have told them they were going to be there for 20 minutes, they’d all
be down the street trying to buy bottles of beer or something, not beer, there wasn’t too much available but one of my mates that I meet on Anzac Day down in Melbourne, he got two bottles of Bundaberg rum down the street, the train blew its whistle and took off and he was a long distance runner and he took off after it and caught it. Maybe the driver slowed down a bit. I still rib him about that when I see him.
I mean the Americans were sort of swarming the place. Did you have many much contact with the Yanks?
Not really. I saw a few of them but I didn’t have any contact with them. Like I didn’t go out of my way to contact them I suppose but in Brisbane there was some and they were in Melbourne but there was none around our camps or anything like that and
basically from the time that we joined 26th Battalion we didn’t have any leave then for another 14 months.
So when were you told that you would be joining the 26th was that down south of Queensland or did you were you sent up there to discover that?
I don’t think we knew who we were going to join.
They just tell you to get on a truck or a train and you don’t know your destination. They might have told us I can’t remember that one.
You were saying how that was you know one of the big ambitions was to finally get to a unit.
So how did that feel once you finally had arrived?
Well you started to feel like you belonged, that you had an identity. Up until that
point in time your address is training camp or something like that. When you have address as a battalion is sounds a bit good doesn’t it or it did to me and probably to my parents and friends and all the rest of it but you have a special identity and like I said camaraderie in the unit it doesn’t matter what unit it is, but particularly in infantry
battalion it seems to be something special. The others might have it too but I think it’s special cause I’ve been there and done it I s’pose that’s because I know what it’s like.
And of all the blokes that you had been training with how many of those joined you on that battalion?
Well a fair few of them. That was one of the things that you tried to do was stick with your
mates the people that you’d been associated with. That was and in our platoon there in 26th Battalion 30 fellers in a platoon I guess 15 of those were ones that I’d trained with in Canungra and bearing in mind that you pick up with different ones as you go along they might not have all come from Watsonia.
For instance there was South Australian blokes that we picked up with in Canungra, which became good mates of ours so that’s where we joined up with them so about half of the platoon I would say.
I guess it works in the army’s favour to have that sort of pre-existing mateship the camaraderie?
I think they encourage it. They realise what it’s all about. They encourage it and
that’s why they try to put you on guard together and do different things. Like your mate on your machine gun like there’s two people on a Bren gun and stuff like that. Yeah I think they encourage it.
So on those periods where you did have leave and you know you’re you know you’re potentially heading off for action of some sort what sort of things would you get up to? You said you weren’t a drinker at that point but what sort of mischief would the fellers get up to?
That’s when I really started I s’pose to drink. We used to go into Brisbane and there wasn’t much hotels were only opened limited hours because of rationing and stuff. Wasn’t too much beer around. Some of us got into a bit of trouble one way and another. Not me so much. I fell down the stairs one night
yes. Leave was something where you let your hair down a bit because you didn’t know what your destiny was going to be and you went out to enjoy yourself as much as possible. There was lots of clubs and things I forget the name Tally-ho clubs and things like entertainment
that they had for troops. Had them in all the cities, but the womenfolk and so on did a great job and meals and stuff like that yeah and there was a lot of the people would be, troop trains were supposed to be secret movements and all that sort of stuff but there was always people at stations there and giving you a wave and a bit of encouragement, saying a few nice words
to you and stuff like that. To join a battalion or a unit you get your colour patch and that’s the critical thing that you wear on your hat or on your sleeve and that’s your identity.
Did you or any of the other fellers leave behind girlfriends back home or was that not so common?
I think so.
At that time I personally I didn’t have any special girlfriend if you know what I mean. I had friends but some of them had committed relationships yes for sure.
And it seemed to be tougher for those guys do you think?
I think so. I think it was tougher for married fellers.
It upset me more to see a married bloke get killed than a single bloke because I realised the implications of it. Bad enough for anyone but for a married feller he’s got his wife and maybe children and so on, a lot different in my view.
can you tell us about the set-up at was it Canungra where you?
Kuranda sorry up on the Atherton Tablelands isn’t it?
Yeah what was the sort of the organisation like there when you arrived?
Well an infantry battalion at full strength is about thirteen hundred men and it operates as an organisation. It starts at battalion headquarters, there’s commanding officer and then there’s the
battalion headquarters staff and then you have headquarters company which is transport amongst other things, engineers, pioneers, that’s your latrine people, mortars, machine gunners, Vickers gunners that’s headquarters company and then you have four I think infantry companies. A company, B company, C and D and in a company’s about
130 men and that consists of three platoons. There is 31 I think or 33 fellers in a platoon and you get down to a section. Three sections in your platoon, that’s 10 people in each section so they’re the particular ones that you’re mixed up with in your own platoon. Those 30 people mostly are the ones you know.
Interviewee: Robert Gaudion Archive ID 0649 Tape 04
So you’ve basically explained the set-up there of the battalion. Now how did you fit into all of that?
Well how did I fit in, in the sense of what my duties were or something like that?
Yeah I mean which company were you with?
I was with A company and obviously we reckoned A company was the best, 8 platoon which we reckoned was the best platoon
and so on and I was in six, five, six, five, six, seven, 8th Section I think it was and everyone has certain duties in an infantry platoon. You don’t do
those things all the time. You switch around from time to time. Some people might be more proficient at certain things than others. For instance you have two Owen guns per section. That’s two Owen guns for 10 men. You have one Bren gun for 10 and you have an offsider for the Bren gun bloke and so on.
You have a platoon runner. You have a section leader who is sometimes a Lance Corporal or Corporal and then you have a sergeant and your officer, that’s about the composition of it and I’ve done most of those different things except being an NCO I was never an NCO.
So was that sort of thing all sorted out before you embarked
was it you know your area of specialty, you said sort of someone would specialise perhaps in the Bren or the?
Well they would give you a bit of a preference if you asked for it but they would then need to know that you’re proficient at what you’re asking to do and I guess some people are a bit more proficient than others at different things aren’t they? So
anyway I principally became a Bren gunner and Bren gunner you may or may not k now fires at the rate of 500 rounds a minute. There’s 30 rounds in a magazine so that doesn’t last for long but you’re only firing in bursts of five except when you’re in real trouble you might fire the whole lot and your biggest problem is maintaining a supply of ammunition
for automatic weapons. Owen guns fire at the rate of 600 rounds a minute and they’re a different size bullet, nine millimetre. I’ve got some of them in the bag there.
So can you tell us about some of the cause you said there was further training up on the Tablelands?
Yes the training when you become a unit is to fit into that unit to get to know your superiors and the set-up and
so on and you’re maintaining your physical activity. That’s pretty critical and like I said they thought that we were pretty fit when we joined that unit and we sort of could run the pants off the blokes that were there at that time and they were a bit impressed with that but you have to become a part of a unit. You have to become part of a whole. In
other words you need to fit into the whole picture and so that’s what you do. You train as principally jungle warfare is about movements in small amounts of men. Maybe 10 or something like that but you all have a job to do or you might have a rifle or something. You all have six hand grenades around your belt
and so on and then every member of that platoon has to carry some ammunition for the automatic weapons to keep the supply up and then a bit of food too, like your tinned bully beef and stuff. That’s two critical things is your food and ammunition. Accommodation’s not as, a bit secondary.
So were the officers
there generally returned men or?
Some of them, no they weren’t. They might have been returned men from World War I in 26th Battalion but I don’t think, later on some of they come that had been, men that had been in action before but mostly of the, the CO [Commanding Officer] was a very famous man, a Lieutenant Colonel Murray,
a VC [Victoria Cross] winner and 13 other decorations in World War I when I got there but that, he was the commanding officer. He retired shortly after. He didn’t go away with us even cause he was over age. 45 was considered to be over the hill for the army in those days.
And can you tell us about some of the - I mean now we’re with the 26th. I mean some of the characters and the sort of people that you were close to, some of your mates
the sort of figures who sort of figure in the story?
Yeah well all people are different we know that and some people are boastful and some are gamblers. One of the things in the army was, two-up was proficient or playing cards. I didn’t play cards much but Queenslanders for some reason loved to play 500. They would sit down, four fellers that I knew
would sit down any time they had a spare minute and be playing this 500. They got more enjoyment out of going through the game that they just played than what they did when they actually played it so yes. It was quite an introduction. For instance they had a keg of beer on tap every
afternoon in each company. You had to pay for it and you had to drink it out of your pannikin but that’s what they did up there.
Who organised that who ran that?
I don’t know some of the officers or sergeants or something, I don’t know. They must have brought it and they must have kept it cold or something but it was there when you got back off your training and you’d have a drink before dinner at night time. We thought that was pretty good
cause there was no canteen as such in the battalion. Whereas in training camp there was canteens, there was wet canteen and dry canteen, that’s at Watsonia but as I say I wasn’t into that much back in those days.
So were you pretty much accustomed to the bully beef and biscuits by that stage?
Not really because in training camp you’re not on that diet. Your
diet is has a certain sameness about it. It’s a bit like Meals on Wheels, it’s got to be a certain sameness about it and stews and stuff like that. You don’t have grilled chops or anything like that but no bully beef and biscuits is field rations. Mostly there’s a cookhouse in each company has a cookhouse
and several cooks and they’re part of your team and it’s set up there and they cook the meals and we go down there and have your meals but the food in under normal circumstances like at Kuranda is pretty reasonable. It’s a bit different when we got up to Tanah Merah, we’ll get onto that in a minute.
Just also wondering
you were saying before how, you know, at that point, you know, soldiers, men didn’t know what the future held what their destiny was, knowing that they were going to be heading off and, you know, potentially in the thick of it. Were just wondering if there were opportunities for men to have any female company for example before they headed off? I mean were there, we’ve heard stories about, you know, brothels doing a roaring trade for example up in Queensland. Was that… did you see any of that?
the only time I saw anything and I didn’t go in myself, was in Charters Towers and there was a prostitute there. That was the last call of the leave truck at night time to call around at her home, pick ‘em up from there. She talked to us over the front fence. Some of the fellers went in, I didn’t but I think that that was
pretty well much run of the mill stuff.
So do you remember basically hearing news that you were you’d be heading off and what sort of affect that had on morale and?
I can’t remember how we were exactly told but eventually we
did a live firing exercise on the Kean’s rifle range. We marched down there and we marched back, that’s up the hill a mountain, night time. Never thought we were going to get to the top. You keep going around the bends and you can see the false crest and all that sort of thing, all night long and we knew that something was going to happen soon and then eventually we found out that
the ship was anchored in Cairns harbour and from there on in we were going down helping to load the supplies onboard and that was the ship that had been in Darwin and had sustained damage from the aircraft attack in Darwin. I’ve got the name of it written down there. It might have been the Katoomba I think, so eventually we loaded the thing up and then we all climbed aboard. The thing that was
scaring us a bit was right at that time the hospital ship Centaur was sunk off the Queensland coast by a Japanese submarine and we were a bit scared about that but we sailed up inside the reef so we were more or less a bit protected I would say.
So that was without escort then?
We didn’t have any warships no. We only went as far up as
Horn Island, Thursday Island, stopped, stayed inside the reef. There was no danger from aircraft attack but there might have been a bit of a danger if we’d been outside the reef, from submarine attack.
And what were conditions like onboard?
It was orderly. I’ve got the passes that
book over there of your meal times and you’re given a meal ticket which tells you what time your meals are and you have to go in batches because you can’t all get in together. Then you’re allocated an emergency position that’s also on that little card which I’ve still got, where your lifeboat or raft position is.
Pretty crowded because a passenger ship maybe a few hundred passengers but 1300 people onboard and get in one another’s road a bit.
Do you remember there being any sorts of lectures? We’ve heard some stories about you know having to differentiate between a Japanese and a Chinese and all this sort of thing was there that sort of thing?
I can’t remember that we had that particular lecture but we did have lectures.
Obviously the army believes in filling in your time and keeping you occupied and having all these people onboard the trip. One of the things is that they give you a round of inoculations, all your needles and that. You all lined up on the deck and the officer jams a needle in your arm. Some of the blokes couldn’t handle that and I’ve seen them actually faint and so they give ‘em one while they’re out
so that’s one of the things and then there’s other lectures about different things like first aid and security and the Padre might give you a bit of a talk about different things yeah so they provide some sort of occupation for you yes.
So by the time you set sail how well prepared do you think the battalion was or you were personally?
I thought we were pretty well organised and we’d got to know each other a bit and we’d done a bit of training. We’d done a few months training together up in Kuranda and I thought we were pretty well prepared.
So the first port of call was Horn Island you say?
So what happened there?
Well we disembarked at the wharf and
into landing barges over to Horn Island. Horn Island was an American, no it wasn’t really an American base, there were American planes based there but basically it was an aircraft strip and Australian fighter planes and bombers were located there and there was certain artillery people up there that was on permanent duty.
We were only there for two weeks, A company. The rest of the battalion stayed there but A Company was sent to Tanah Merah.
So do you remember what happened during those two weeks? Was it just a matter of?
Well there was two or three air raid alerts and that was a bit of a new experience but there was no bombs dropped, was no slit trenches either. When we got there first we had to dig ‘em
cause we were in a new area.
And what were you making of the change in I mean I guess you had it in Queensland too but the change in climate and so on?
I think Cairns climate and Horn Island tropical climate’s about all the same. Brisbane might be a little bit different but one of the things that really impressed me was we
got up to half way to it was actually at I can’t remember the place we camped at before we joined 26th Battalion anyway. Charters Towers and there we were in July swimming in the rivers. We couldn’t believe it.
So in Horn Island was there any I mean you dug slit trenches obviously. How else was that time occupied?
Bit of training. We were only there for two weeks, a bit of training and setting up the camp. The rest of the battalion stayed there and we brought Catalina flying boats to fly out to Tanah Merah, going, we didn’t know where we were going.
That must have been an experience though flying on the Catalina?
It’s the first time I’d ever been on an aircraft, let alone a Catalina. Thought it was my last too because when it takes off there’s a big bow wave of water and you know a Catalina’s got high wings and the two motors they’re mounted on the wings and it’s got a bit of an R cell up from the fuselage
so that the water doesn’t get into the motors. When it takes off it takes about a mile and a half to take off because there’s a lot of suction in the water and there was 30 blokes on the plane and when she comes down we put down at Merauke that’s on the south coast of Dutch New Guinea and I thought it was the end of my world. I thought the bottom was gone out of it.
The water was shooting past all over the thing and this great roar from underneath the plane. I thought this is it and then from there on in the next part of the story is the Captain of that aircraft the pilot is going down to the latrine which is at the back of the plane and says to one of the blokes there, “Hey listen mate,” he said, “I’m not supposed to be flying this
kite.” Air Force blokes always called their planes kites. “I’m not supposed to be flying this kite. I’m supposed to be going back to Australia to be discharged, my eyesight’s no good.” He said, “But don’t tell any of your mates,” so he said, “Is that a hill over there or a mountain or is it a cloud?” and he goes in and back up laughing like hell probably but he’s mates up there, zip, zip, zip around, the pilot can’t see properly
he probably told everybody he probably did that story every time he flew out with a mob of fellers.
This is before you flew or?
No, no on the plane up you see. We all had turns at the mounting the aircraft guns, too but just as well no Zero’s come along that day because I don’t think we would have been too proficient. They were twin Browning’s and never handled one before
and then they said there’s where we’re going, to land on the river down there. Now it looked about as wide as the road out here and I thought this is going to be dicey but anyway was about 500 metres wide this river the Dugol River, full of crocodiles. Me and my mates were out
in a dug out canoe one day and there was all these trees and things floating down because it rained that heavily up there about every day at four o’clock you could bet your clock on it, it would rain. Tropical monsoon country and there was trees and all sorts of logs and things floating down. We were out there in this dug out canoe, it’s got dug out canoe’s got about this much clearance above the water and I’m watching this log go past and suddenly it has
two eyes looking at me, was a crocodile. You’ve never seen a dug out canoe go so fast in all your life. Never went out in another one. So the river was infested with crocodiles, thousands of them. One of our blokes was taken by a crocodile, went for a swim but you know probably that crocodiles when they take their prey they hide it away for a while until it
becomes a bit delicious and that’s how they recovered his body. They found it wedged under the log in the river. We buried him up there.
Was that in that first was that up at Tanah Merah or?
Tanah Merah yeah. We only lost two fellers up at Tanah Merah but that feller and another feller killed by a falling tree. We were raided a few times by Japanese aircraft but
we didn’t suffer too many casualties. We had a good slit trench section dug there and we never ran into any on the ground, it was too far away. It was 320 kilometres from the coast. Basically Tanah Merah was a Dutch prison compound where they sent all their political prisoners and they lived in huts there. They hardly hard to guard them because the place was surrounded by swamps
and head hunters and crocodiles so how are you going to get away?
So when you say Dutch political prisoners, from Dutch East Indies or?
Yeah and guarded by Malaysians. We used Dutch currency money. I’ve got some in that thing there. We were paid in Dutch money and we learnt to speak a little bit of Dutch language and Malayan. Not Dutch so much Malayans
were guards for the prisoners. They flew the women folk and children out on the planes that we flew in on. They brought ‘em back to Australia. I don’t know whether they ever went back there or not, they left the fellers there. They had a village there and that’s what it was. It was but the reason why it was a bit of value to the allied cause was because it had a little airstrip there. It was only capable of landing light planes
at that time but we did a lot of work on increasing the runway and cutting down the trees and employed the natives to rebuild it. We had one Jeep up there and eventually they brought up a little bulldozer and they found some gravel down near the river and a Jeep and a trailer and carted the gravel and stuff and put it on
there and eventually it became good enough to land fighter planes on it and that’s what they wanted it for, as a stand by in case any planes got into trouble bombing or strafing along the north coast of Papua New Guinea. We flew out from there on a DC-3 a Dakota so that’s improvement. I don’t know what happened to the place from there on in.
this is basically just A company that’s?
Yeah A company plus other associated troops. Eventually the Air Force put a radar system in but it wasn’t very effective because it was pretty flat country but it gave them early warning advice for raids on Darwin and Australia, air raids on Darwin and there was 64 air raids on Darwin and they would had to come over, they didn’t come over from carrier
aircraft, they came from over New Guinea or maybe over Dutch New Guinea.
So there was a permanent air force presence there was there?
Yeah not right from the time we got there but they did come up later on and they had it and they set it up yeah but it was a self-contained town. It had a water supply plant off a creek there and
it was a reasonable existence for us because we lived in barracks. We lived in the barracks that were vacated by the guards and so on so in that respect we were relatively well off but we were doing plenty of patrols. We used to go out in the jungle for three weeks at a time within the 50 or hundred miles around you know, just check the area out.
So just going back a step, you came
over on the Catalina to that to the coast there the town?
Merauke and then from Merauke up to Tanah Merah?
How did you get up there?
In the same plane, they’d put down there to pick up mail or correspondence or something, I don’t know, yeah.
O.K. and you’ve sort of described a little bit about the terrain there. I mean was it sort of a mountainous area?
Not right there, it was pretty flat country. We could see the mountain range in the
distance. It was swampy and flat and swamp. We got in the swamp there one time, didn’t get out of it for three days. Had to sleep up in trees, up to your chest, pretty tough going.
So what was the purpose of the patrols that you were undertaking?
Security to check
out the area. We were in went far across as the Fly River and you’ve heard about that. That’s where BHP has that gold mine that’s in so much trouble. Ok Tedi isn’t it Fly River? Just to make sure that there was nothing going on that shouldn’t be going on. Was a bit different round Merauke because the Japanese were on the south coast but there was none up on the ground where we were
so three weeks living out in the jungle with native guides and they were head hunters there too and they kept their trophies lined up outside their huts, the skulls of their victims.
I imagine that was a bit intimidating?
My word. There’s a fellow that lives in Warrigal was in another unit was at Merauke and
he was out in the jungle one day and this big head hunter was patting him on the top of the head and he spoke something in his language and he said to the interpreter, “What did he say?” “He said he would like to have your head as his trophy.” He was a red haired bloke you see. He slept with his Owen gun in his hand for the next three weeks but
it was tropical conditions, very arduous tropical, sweaty conditions. You never needed a jumper or anything like that and rained pretty regularly and so on. Out in the jungle was a bit rough as far as making bit of progress
but the natives were real good. They could build you a little shallow out of palm leaves in a quarter of an hour to keep the rain off you and they were paid in either bully beef or tobacco and that’s one of the things the army was very conscious of, was to get your tobacco in, your tobacco supplies and I was a bit of a smoker back in those days and if we were
running short they used to drop it by parachute to us. Sometimes the parachute didn’t open. I had a tin one that had been involved in that. The tin of tobacco were about that thick and this thing was squashed down. I don’t know what happened to that one, I didn’t retain it but the other thing about that area there is for the 14 months that we were there we didn’t have any fresh meat nor fresh vegetables and for 10 months we didn’t have any fresh bread.
Eventually they sent up a field bakery and set it up there and they started to bake some bread on site. Several times they dropped frozen sides of beef from parachutes to us and that’s the only time we had any fresh meat. We lived on tinned food, dried food and dehydrated food and some of that’s pretty ordinary and tins of cabbage. I don’t know whether they tin cabbage these days but they used to explode like a hand grenade
build up pressure. So diet was pretty ordinary and malaria was the principle disease and also fungal diseases like tinea and stuff like that and leeches was the other thing, out in the jungle in particular. I counted the leeches on my left leg one day, 42.
I didn’t count the right one and that’s where you got the diseases from because they’d already been sucking blood out of a native or something and transferred the disease to you but you lost a lot of blood through them.
How did you deal with the leeches?
Used to burn ‘em off with cigarette butts and I believe you can take ‘em off with salt too, put salt on ‘em. We never did that. We used to burn ‘em off with cigarette
butts when you stopped to have a rest. You sort of got used to ‘em and one of the things that I trained myself to do and other fellers did too was not to wear socks because you were continually wet anyway and you didn’t have to carry ‘em so it took me a while to train my feet and a fair bit of sticking plaster to train my feet. I did it in Australia before I went up there so I didn’t wear socks all the time I was
up there, no Singlet or underpants either, a waste of time cause you didn’t have to wash ‘em, but in the army if you lost any of your equipment they had a equipment check. You were debited in your pay book, not so much when you’re in the field or something like that but if they had a kit check and you were short of something, they’d give you another one but
debit you in your pay book.
So did you ever get ill yourself?
I had malaria there. I was one of the first to get malaria, never been so sick in all my life. I felt so sick and we were on a double issue of Atebrin tablets too because it was a known high prevalence of malaria so I got malaria
and there was a field hospital there and they dosed you up with quinine and stuff. They thought I had appendicitis at first because I had this horrific pain in the spleen is where it gets you and they couldn’t you know how they check for malaria, they take a blood sample and find parasites in your blood. They’re like little rings and that’s how they that’s your diagnosis for malaria
but most of the fellers had it even though we were on double issue of Atebrin and we were on other tablets too. Ascorbic acid was another one, that’s vitamin C because we were on no fresh food and the other was salt tablets.
Were there any problems with men not taking their?
Exactly yes there was a big story around that
Atebrin was supposed to be a bit of a deterrent to your sex life and I’ve seen married blokes in particular try not to take it and eventually it happened with us fellers that the officer actually had to put the Atebrin tablets on your tongue and see you swallow them and it was a crime, you could be charged if you didn’t take ‘em.
So the rumour was that the Japanese had started that rumour around you know to upset morale but I don’t know whether that was right or not. See what happened quinine was the drug of preference for malaria but the Japanese controlled it all. They captured it all the quinine supplies in the islands like Java and all those places so Atebrin was an alternative.
Made you go yellow, your skin was all yellow and it was very noticeable when you came home on leave or something. You looked a bit like Japanese.
So that rumour and I guess the fear based on that is that why so many men did get malaria early on that they were taking it or?
It’s a possibility. I think that’s a possibility yeah for sure.
See whether that was right or not in wartime there’s heaps of rumours flying around. Who starts them we would never know and it’s pretty critical to control those things in my view so that’s what their control or their temporary control of it was that the officer had to or the NCO had to actually witness you taking that Atebrin tablet. Finally
got it once there. I had it twice more after that.
How well and equipped and serviced was the you said there was a field hospital there?
I mean how well were they able to look after you there?
The basic first aid requirements were alright. They used to evacuate fellers with appendicitis or something on the little sea plane that used to come up there and land on the river and sometimes on a light plane
that landed on the airstrip. They didn’t do any major operations. Was a doctor there and he had staff. It was pretty well organised I thought. The first job that we usually did when we got up there was to dig the weapon pits and such like six feet deep and fill up with water all the time and so on and slit trenches. Course that’s another story in itself,
fill up with water and I made a dive in a slit trench one day and there was already a fellow underneath the water with his nose sticking out of the water. He was one of my mates as a matter of fact, I still see now. I don’t remind him of it much.
That was during a when the sirens were going was it?
When the air raid was on and we had the weapons pits.
The only defence we had against air attack was Bren guns and that’s not much. They brought up Vickers machine guns and that’s not much better except you can fire a Vickers the whole belt 250 rounds that’s because it’s water-cooled. They had some of them eventually there but it’s still not that effective against aircraft. They might make a little dent in it or put a whole in it but you’d have to hit a vital part to do any damage
so they didn’t strike too much opposition from us.
So you were quite vulnerable really.
Of course we were. You were safer out in the jungle or relatively. If we thought there was going to be air raid on that’s what they used to take us out and camp out in the bush for a while.
did any of those raids eventuate?
Yes but principally they were trying bomb the village and the airstrip. I don’t, my view is that air raids against personnel if you’re in a slit trench you’re relatively safe except from a direct hit or a near miss but if you’re
in a slit trench, you know a slit trench is dug in an L shape. The planes are coming from say that direction there if you get into this bit here you see and if they’re coming from that way that’s machine gunning planes, fighter aircraft and that’s what they used to do, drop the bombs and then come over with a machine gun.
Do you recall your first experience of a raid?
Yes I certainly do
wasn’t very funny at all. We got taken with a, caught with our pants down having breakfast and the blessed radar was there and the radar must have been switched off or something so there we were having our breakfast and suddenly we hear these planes flying over
and before I got in the slit trench the bombs were going off so it wasn’t too good. You get caught out sometimes.
And was there much damage?
Structural damage to the village and few bomb holes in the airstrip. Some people might have got hurt. None of our fellers
got hurt but in that raid, so it’s a bit of an experience. Lots of noise of course and I feel a lot of sympathy for the people in London or in those cities where all that bombing went on in World War II , that was pretty horrific stuff. Most of your damage from bombing and stuff is from the buildings falling down on you
and they really hammered London and different other German cities didn’t they? War is, no-one wins in war. It’s pay back half the time for what somebody else might have done but you’re destroying part of your history, civilisation aren’t you?
In those raids you experienced, I mean how many planes would they generally be flying?
Interviewee: Robert Gaudion Archive ID 0649 Tape 05
Right Tanah Merah it’s a Dutch name and it means red earth. Now when we left there I don’t know if any Australian troops remained there. Air Force fellers were there, the radar station was still there, was probably a bit of use but I think they would have evacuated the place after a short time. We flew out on a DC-3.
Can I ask
why you left why, why, what?
Because we’d been there for 14 months and the principle was that 12 months and they thought you should have a bit of leave.
So who remained behind?
Beg your pardon?
Who remained there?
Well our company the 26th Battalion all came out and I don’t know about any other personnel whether they did or not. I just assume that
So it was still serving a purpose?
Well the only purpose that it really had was for as an airstrip or alternative airstrip for fighter aircraft or so on or maybe supplies aircraft or aircraft in difficulties and I think that that need may well have abated a bit by that time but I’m not sure about that.
Was there much use of it during
the 14 months you were there by you know as an alternative strip?
There was a few planes landed there but no many, not many. The fighter aircraft used to fly up there when they’d been on raids and waggle their wings and like flying along a river down below the tree level and give you a bit of a thrill and so on. The… what were they? I can’t remember the name of the aircraft
American fighter air, but they were Australians. The transport aircraft were Dutch and so because it was Dutch territory so I don’t know what happened to the place or whether it’s still going or whether they turned it back into a prison or whatever.
So they had the Dutch had supply planes coming in or?
Well our supplies
principally come up in a little boat there that used to come up the river from Merauke and used to wander up there. Our mail used to come up the same way and it might get there every six weeks or something and you had a big bag full of mail and nothing for another six weeks. We never knew when it was going to come there. The officers or people in charge might have known, bring up a bit of food and stuff.
So was the supply line, the supplies consistent or did you ever?
Well we never
had any problems with supply as far as I know. The only thing is that as I said earlier on that we did not have any fresh meat or vegetables or bread and so our rations were not exactly hard rations but they were half way hard and you change your eating habits. When I got home
mother served up like you know mother’s big meal and I couldn’t eat it because I’d been used to eating little meals and basically now I’m just about the same. I’ve never changed. Your stomach shrinks.
What about the penal colony or the jail that was there? Did those people remain?
The fellers did but the womenfolk and children were flown out
and they had Malaysian guards there and they grew a lot of their own vegetables and things. It’s the first time I ran into hot chilli’s. I went out there and picked some and jammed one in my mouth and you know what hot chilli’s are like, burn your eye teeth out but I can’t understand why we didn’t grow vegetables there.
We were there for 14 months. Maybe they didn’t know from day to day how long we were going to be there but we could have done it. We could have employed natives to dig the ground up and stuff but you only think of these things later on, don’t you.
You set up a bakery is that right? Was there a bakery?
A field bakery yes, a field bakery is a bakehouse and with the bakers and they baked bread and their supplies would come up
and they made bread and it was pretty good bread anyway. It’s a lot better than eating what we called dog biscuits.
So when you went out on these three week patrols so you would have been you know obviously out in the jungle, but were you coming across villages and?
Can you tell me a bit about your interaction your involvement with the local people?
Most of them used to disappear when we came along.
We had guides and I don’t know how they recruited them that knew the tracks and so on and knew the language so they could talk to the people and as I say I don’t know how they recruited them or where they got them from but some of those natives were if I could put it this way they were sort of indoctrinated into the ways of the people that were running the
prison camp and so they weren’t really cannibals like a lot of them were and so I think that those were the people that we were using and they were very good. They knew the area and they told us where to go and whatever and quite often you would see a dog whipping through the jungle but no natives. You never saw
them, they just disappear cause that’s their environment and they’re a lot better in their own environment than what we are and they were probably watching us all the time but they never gave us any trouble and when they went walk about and shifting their possessions or shifting themselves principally father would always be up the front with a great big handful of spears
and that’s all he carried and mother would be down the back with the all the young kids walking in between and the pigs.
Do you were you aware of the local people being used in any way, for intelligence I mean, given that they knew the country, the topography, the…?
Well I didn’t think about
that much in those days but obviously they, our people somewhere along the track were talking to somebody about different things, about such and such a village or where this happened or what happened. There would have been something like that going on but I don’t know anything about it.
So what were your instructions when you were sent out on patrol how were you briefed?
We were told basically what we were going to do and how far we were going to go maybe and what our intentions were and we just then became good soldiers and did what we were told and walked along behind and so on. As I say we never got into any
So is there any patrol that stands out in your memory for any particular reason any significance?
Not those ones, they were all the same basically and the principle thing that you, I remember about it all, you’re always wet and mud up to your ears and stuff like that and one that did happen when the rivers flowed pretty freely with
the it rained heavily and the bridges that the natives had were just a log across and a bit of cane tied to hang onto and I happened to be carrying the Bren gun and I was in the middle of this log and my feet slipped on the log and luckily one leg went each side of it. I landed flat on the back of my spine, it hurt a fair bit
I later had two operations on it and I but I managed to hang on to the Bren gun and they pulled me out eventually so that hurt a bit.
Were you able to walk?
I had to. They could have carried me I s’pose. They would have made a stretcher and carried me but I could walk, with a bit of difficulty. You didn’t move that fast
but I made it back to camp.
It’s very thick jungle I imagine?
Swamps and so forth?
What about animals and reptiles and threats of that nature?
They weren’t a threat to us as such. There was lots of Bird of Paradise flying around they were very pretty birds and lots of carpet snakes and things like that which are
pretty scary stuff. I can tell you about this was at Canungra the very first time they took us out in the jungle there they made sure we got there just before dark and there was these carpet snakes all up the trees. They said alright we’re going to camp here so that wasn’t a very restful night and these Queensland people they would grab hold of them by the head and let them curl around their arm
cause they were a bit used to them I s’pose.
Did you learn how to handle them?
I didn’t want to. Carpet snakes don’t bite you as such but they can inflict a bit of damage on you in strangulation because they’re so powerful in their muscles.
What about the crocs I just remembered them? Did you have to take precautions apart from not swimming in the river against them like did they
venture far from the river?
I don’t think so. We didn’t seem to worry too much about ‘em. We didn’t camp right near the river but you certainly didn’t go for a swim either. There was hundreds of ‘em and big fellers too. We used to use ‘em for target as a Bren gun.
What do you mean, what would you do?
Well you’ve got to have target practise don’t you?
They’re an easy target?
I guess so but the remarkable thing is you fire a shot and you see one there but there’s about a hundred jump in the river that you hadn’t seen.
Did you eat croc?
but one thing I did eat one day and I didn’t realise what it was, we could never understand why these Malaysian soldiers were always going around shooting the dogs. We were just taught they were trying to keep the dog population down. They invited us over for a feed one day and it wasn’t bad either, was a nice curry, hot and everything like that. They told us afterwards what it was, that’s what they’d been shooting the dogs for and apparently some of those
countries over there they do those sort of things, don’t they and I guess there’s nothing wrong with it. If you’re hungry it’d be alright.
So you had a little bit to do with the Malay soldiers? These are the guards at the jail were they?
They were there and there was always a bit of gambling going on and they used to fraternise with the fellers. I wasn’t much of a gambler myself you know the two-up and playing cards and so on and they used to come there and we used to have
have boxing tournaments and stuff like that and they interacted with us, yes and they were alright as far as I was concerned.
Were they bored?
They didn’t seem to be. I never talked to them about that. We were a bit but like I said the army always finds something for you to do whether it’s go for a march or something,
take you out in the jungle for a walk for no particular reason and or something like that, anything and that occupies you, doesn’t it? That’s basically what it’s all about. You don’t ask the reason why and you don’t get told. You just do it, it’s easy isn’t it?
Were they doing any surveying there of the country?
I can’t answer that
I think it’s a possibility that I think I did see engineers or some people like that surveying the airstrip where it was extended the end of it was extended and so on. I think they did that and they might have also did something in the quarry where they had got the gravel out. I’m not sure about that. The engineers were there in some quantity.
We had one Jeep and one trailer, spent half its time bogged in the mud so it took a fair while to do any work on the airstrip. We worked eight hour shift, three eight hour shifts a day.
So night time?
Yeah all night and all day because there was only one Jeep you see and could only usefully
employ a certain number of people doing the work so you only had a certain number out there.
So how did you work in the dark?
They had some sort of lights rigged up. There was a power station there, generated electricity and a water pump that would pump water for the village so it was not typically what people would think
New Guinea was like. When you talk about New Guinea you think it’s all jungle and stuff like that but it was a bit different for us there.
O.K. so after what a 14 month tour on?
Dutch New Guinea you were sent home? Was that like was that sudden or did you expect to be returning home or what were the
Well I s’pose it was suddenly when we were told but I guess we expected something to happen. We didn’t know for sure it was going to happen. I can’t remember the circumstances of how we were told. The aircraft were flying in, the DC-3’s were flying in and landing on the airstrip and bringing supplies in at that time and then they must have made the decision that us troops were going to be
shuttled out and so that’s what happened and we flew then landed at Merauke and then back in Higgins Field which is right on the tip of Cape York Peninsula, American air base and we stayed there for a few days and the next thing that happened was that we had to board a ship, The Canberra, not the battleship, this is a passenger ship. There was no wharf or jetty there
up the sides and landing nets and we get onboard the ship and then the next thing that happened after she started off, just before dark, she hit the bottom, ran aground. I was on the top deck and I felt the whole ship lift and what had happened was the it hulled not a great deal of damage but it hulled the fresh water tanks so
we had to evacuate over the side of the in the landing nets into barges, up and down, up and down stuff in the middle of the night which we did, into the landing barges and there was one light in the distance and I found out later that was the light on the end of the Thursday Island jetty and two big V8 motors in their landing barge were going flat out and we were not making one metre on that light
for hour or two. I said to my mate who was a fisherman down in the Gippsland, “What’s going on Roy?” He said, “It’s only the tide.” He said, “As soon as we turn around we’ll be there in five minutes,” and that’s what happened. It runs at a huge rate of knots and that record never, didn’t appear in my service record that I was onboard that ship.
Onboard the Canberra?
Why is that why would that be
Well maybe they didn’t want to let it be known what happened. I don’t know the reason but it doesn’t appear in my service record and it’s not in the war diary and it’s not in our unit history book because Normal Turrell wouldn’t put it in because it was only by word of mouth that I told him when other people told him too but he wouldn’t put it in.
But you had A company?
The whole of A company
On that ship.
That’s a hundred odd men.
130 men yeah.
That’s a number of witnesses isn’t it.
He said he wasn’t going to put anything in the book that wasn’t written down and he didn’t so that’s his decision isn’t it? I told him about it and he said he’s not going to put it in so he didn’t do it. He wasn’t onboard you see, he was
with the other part of the battalion.
Is that, just a little digression but is that something that you can do? Have you made that a sort of a formal point about that to DVA [Department of Veterans’ Affairs] or…?
No I don’t think it’s important. They would have taken it somewhere and repaired it and just got on with life.
So why did it hit
why did it run aground?
Because they shouldn’t have been where they were. They tried to go between two islands and because the tide’s up and down and it ran aground. They made a seamanship error, that’s what’s happened. They shouldn’t have been where they were but it could have had pretty dire consequences if certain other things had have happened perhaps and getting over the side
of a big ship, the tide’s going up and down and into a landing barge that’s going up and down, not all at the same time it’s pretty scary stuff in the middle of the night. You’re pretty relieved when you get to the bottom so.
Are you coming down a rope or down a ladder?
No landing net. They have landing nets over the side that’s how the troops get on. There’s no, you might walk up the gangplank or something like that
if it’s got a jetty or something but there’s no point. You just pull the barge up alongside the ship and grab hold of the net wherever you can and up you go with all your gear on of course and your rifle or your Bren gun or whatever you’re carrying.
So how many men would go into a landing boat?
You could get a hundred I would say. There’s different sized landing boats there’s different sizes and they’ve got different motors and stuff like that so there’s real small ones, I s’pose you’d get 30 onboard but an average one I reckon a hundred people. You mightn’t be too comfortable, couldn’t lie down or anything like that.
So when you had to get off The Canberra and get into this landing boat did you know where you were, did you know where?
Well we knew we were in Torres Strait. We weren’t too scared about it. It seemed to be under control and basically when things appear to be under control, most times they are. It’s only when things are not under control that you get a bit scared,
like the story I’ll tell you about landing craft later on, on Bougainville.
O.K. so where did the landing craft take you, where did you end up?
Took us to Thursday Island, dropped us off there and then we got on a ship and came back to Townsville I think and went on leave and from there got
six weeks leave and all I wanted to do was I didn’t want to se people or anything, just didn’t want, I was uncomfortable if I wasn’t with my mates because you’ve been with them for a long time, they’re your whole life and that’s how you sort of behave. I pulled out of it maybe half way in between and went and visit some people but I didn’t want to see people and like I said mother
thought I was something wrong with me because I couldn’t eat a big feed.
Did you see your mum?
Did I see her? Yeah I went home. Six weeks leave I think I had. Then we went back and the battalion assembled at Strathpine and that’s a suburb of Brisbane now, it’s just north of Brisbane
and we did a bit more training there and then we hopped on another ship and went to the River Glenella it was I think and went to Bougainville. That was December 1944.
What was the additional training that you did?
The same stuff you’d been doing all along, climbing up mountains, keeping fit principally. There was a few hills around there. I tried to get myself
a day off one day by spraining my ankle coming down a hill, but it didn’t work. I got to tell you a funny story about the first air raid we had up in Tanah Merah. There was a fellow was on sick parade and the air raid happened and he went hopping down the track on one leg and the doctor saw him and he said listen son he said you must have a crook leg you didn’t put it down on the ground for a hundred metres
and he was passing nearly everybody else, he was going flat strap. So we were at Strathpine we did some more training, yeah well the army, that’s the army, as I said they keep you occupied. You don’t want the troops to become too restless because they get restless they start, you know, they start misbehaving themselves so you keep them occupied
give them something to do, that’s basically what it’s all about. So more training and then we climbed aboard a ship and over to Bougainville. So we hop off there and relieve the Americans and they were taking off somewhere and when they went into a campaign they left everything behind. One of our officers got a complete lighting plant to light the whole battalion, that’s
1300 men all the lights, all the wires, the generator the whole works for one bottle of whiskey. We took that to Rabaul or we had that there when we came out of action. It was all set up and we had lights, we had electric light. We took it over to Rabaul too. We were the only unit that had it, for one bottle of whiskey. They were going to leave it there.
They were going to leave it there?
They just leave it all behind and start afresh with new stuff.
So this is Torokina?
Yes Torokina, Bougainville yes and you have to get off there, there’s no jetty there. You get off the ship the same way over on the landing craft over the side and into the shore and we knew that we were going to be in action pretty soon there and it that happened about the
of that year, that’s 1944 up the Numa Numa Trail and I told you we climbed that hill. I’ll show you a photograph if I can find it of us blokes climbing that hill.
We’ll in the break we’ll have a look at it yeah. This is Barges’ Hill?
Barges’ Hill that’s the name of it yes. We hopped on trucks and
the trucks crossed this river, forward crossings, 32 times I think in you know two or three a few miles, not very far and then you hop off there and then there was this great hill. That’s where the 25 pounder guns were mounted there. They couldn’t get up the hill, we could though and so up the hill we climbed and we’d get up the top and it was relatively flat on top, when I say relatively flat.
Later on they hauled a Jeep up by hooking it up to trees with wire rope and towing it up a foot at a time and they got one Jeep up there and cut a Jeep track along the top of the hills and that was really good because that meant your supplies didn’t have to be carried in along that track and your wounded didn’t have to be shipped out the same way because sometimes there when we were up there, A company was in reserve
we were right at the back. We went out on patrols but we weren’t right in contact with the enemy but the rest of the battalion was further up and one night there because they were inexperienced people they shot all their ammunition away and next day we had to carry ammunition up to them, up along the top of the hill, along this track.
Hang on, they shot all their ammunition?
Well the Japanese, because they
knew that they were new troops got there and stirred ‘em up and there mightn’t have been many see, that’s the sort of things they used to do. They got there and fired a few shots or something and stirred ‘em up and because they were not well disciplined they shot most of their ammunition away and that’s pretty easy to do in the dark so.
O.K. so let me just…
so you arrived at Torokina and did you take over the American base that was there or?
Yes or the Australian II Corps. II Corps has got what how many battalions? A corp’s got, a brigade’s got three battalions, a corps is so many brigades, that was II Corps. We were 11 Brigade, three battalions so yeah in what round figures 10,000
men I s’pose and then your other, there was an Air Force base there was a big airstrip there, lots of crashed planes too on it, American and Japanese and the Americans did things properly. They set up a Coca-Cola factory everywhere they went.
They’re good friends to have.
So what they left a lot of stores there.
I think they did. I know they left the electric light plant there but whether they left other stuff I think they just left it there, their trucks and all the rest, they didn’t take it, start again.
O.K. so you arrived and you moved into this base?
But you had obviously had you know your instructions
to move on from there. So what were you told how were you briefed about what you needed to do you know on the first night?
You were just told as a group that you’re going to go up and Numa Numa Trail and when you were going to go. There was no drama about it. Just told something you were going to do. It’s just like hopping on a train or something and
your officers would have told us. They would have been told by their superiors and something. There would have been a meeting on somewhere and they would have worked it all out what they were going to do, who was going to come out and who was going to go in and whatever. You have to put about the same amount of troops back in there as what you had there or whatever. All depends what you’re going to do, what you intend to do.
But what were you told about the strength and the positions of the Japanese?
Well we were lead to believe there was only about 10,000 but I think there was about 20 or 30 or 40 thousand I’ve read since and we had training on how they operate and stuff like that, the things that they do. Like when you put your booby traps out at night time, you put your booby traps out and I told you they are instantaneous grenades that go bang as soon as you trip the wire, pretty scary stuff setting ‘em out.
You put the wire across, put a bit of oil on the pin so it’ll pull out quick but they used to come along with a bamboo pole and touch ‘em from a fair distance and make ‘em go off, stuff like that.
So this is like you’re outside the camp?
Yeah outside your perimeter.
Outside your perimeter yeah?
See when you’re in the jungle or I don’t know about other means of warfare, I don’t know. I didn’t experience
it but when you’re in the jungle you always have your sentries out. If you’re having your lunch or you’re in a position there, you have sentries out there along that track or there so that you get prior warning if something’s going to happen. You have to get as much knowledge as you can all the time of what’s going on. So you have your sentries out and that’s one thing the Japanese didn’t do all the time and I’ll tell you a story
about that in a minute or I can tell you now I s’pose. A company or my platoon basically we did lots of patrols around that area but we only ran into opposition on two occasions and it was when we went out to attack a ridge which was five miles away across the jungle, that’s eight kilometres. Took us two days to get there
up and down hills, across rivers and so on through the jungle, took us two days to get there. We raided it and was about six Japanese there and we wiped it out and then we took off back for our base. Took us one day to get back, walked all night because we thought other Japanese might be after us. They didn’t have any sentries out. We went back three weeks later
and did the same thing again, again they didn’t have any sentries out. The Japanese are good soldiers but one track mind in some circumstances.
So no guards on patrol?
No sentries out and that’s pretty critical in my view. That’s what we always did, always had somebody out there. You might have had two fellers out there for a bit of company or something watching that track.
If you had a group of people here you were to have someone down the end of the street to give you prior warning of something happening. That’s how you’ve got to operate. So we did that twice. Our Lieutenant won a military cross for that. I s’pose we helped him didn’t we? We got one feller wounded.
Just if you can just tell me was this so A company was over but this move up the what is it the Numa…?
Numa Numa Track yes.
Yes was that the whole company or who was going?
The whole battalion went up Numa Numa Track. A company was on a position called Little George Hill, each feature was given a name. Little George Hill was the one that we were on and that’s the one in the photograph I’ll show you later on which was occupied by the Japanese
had built foxholes on it which had covered roofs, coconut poles on the top but was virgin jungle. When we got there was only a few little trees left, it’d been blasted that much by bombs, shells and whatever, it was clear and we lived in those foxholes for six weeks but we went out on patrols from there, including those two I told you about. The rest of the battalion was further up the track on different features and some of them were in
direct contact with the enemy right up the front. Each of these hills were maybe 500 metres apart I s’pose. Next one was called artillery hill and then Pearl Ridge was another one and that’s where the main contact with the enemy was at that time. We didn’t get up there. A company didn’t get up there. We were in reserve. You see you always keep one
a certain amount of your men in reserve for eventualities if something goes wrong you can ship them around. I’m no strategist but I know that much and I’ve probably learnt a bit since I’ve been out the army, by my experiences. I was just an ordinary soldier and I didn’t think too much about those things back in those days.
So when you talk about booby trapping outside your perimeter, this is around, this is outside Little George Hill?
Whatever the area is?
On the tracks yeah.
So did the booby traps ever go off?
Well a limb could fall off them and fall on the wire and set ‘em off, yes and sometimes I don’t think the Japanese did it to us there but other times they did when they were in close contact, yes. I’ll tell you another funny story about what happened there. I think
it was funny. Fellow washed his pants and hung ‘em up on a tree and he was a Bren gunner, it wasn’t me and in the middle of the night he saw what he thought was a pair of legs walking along and he shot a few rounds in ‘em. It was his own pants.
Well I guess you get a little nervous don’t you?
Of course you get a bit touchy
you got to shoot first and ask questions afterwards, funny. So in that position there Little George Hill in these foxholes two persons in one foxhole and there was only one sleeping area and that was a little carved bunk in the mud, the not mud because it had coconut across the top, logs and
whole night long, one hour on and one hour off and you’d wake him up and he’d get up and be on guard all night for the next hour and you’d have a bit of a sleep if you could but you stood to at dawn and dusk because that’s the most dangerous time, about five or six o’clock in the morning, whatever time the sun comes up so.
Stood to, as in everybody was up do you mean?
Well everyone was awake on
a stand by or on guard if you like to put it that way yeah so and your weapons pits are always in a ring of course. You don’t want to be firing across the top of your mates or anything like that so you have them in a circle for protection and all pointing outwards all your weapons pointing outwards and O.K. you can fire across the top of them but
things happen sometimes of course but you wouldn’t want to do that intentionally or too often because you might hit one of your own people.
Interviewee: Robert Gaudion Archive ID 0649 Tape 06
Well things about tactics you know what you just said
tell us say again what you just said about disguising how you use the Bren gun?
Well what I said was that the more deception that you can practise in deceiving whoever you happen to be opposing it gives you a bit of an advantage and that’s one thing that you can do with a Bren gun. You can’t do it with an Owen gun. You can do it with a Bren gun. You can flick the switch and you can fire a single shot
and it sounds like a rifle so if he thinks it’s one rifle there or two or three or something like that but no Bren gun he might do something and it might be to your advantage so you’ve deceived him a little bit.
So like drawing their fire and
Yeah well that’s right you’ve got to suss things out. You’ve got to find where the strong points are and basically
in tactics is you attack the weakest point don’t you? Well that’s how I would do it now and I think that’s how they might have tried to do it then but in the jungle of course you’re limited because your track might be only this wide and there is like thicker than that wall and you can hardly move through it except if you cut your way so you’re mostly confined to the tracks except in some areas or somewhere
like on top of that hill where it’s all been blown away, it’s a bit clearer.
You said before it was interesting, that say a new unit that’s just arrived you know bit inexperienced might shoot up all the ammunition and run out?
By the time you got to Bougainville, even though you didn’t have all that much to do
in terms of action
seeing action in Dutch New Guinea but were you do you think you were must astute and sort of more finely tuned to jungle warfare?
We like to think so. A company did anyway. We’d been through a few air raids and stuff and we’d done patrols and whilst we didn’t’ run into any Japanese in Dutch New Guinea on the ground we’d like to think we were a bit more experienced and there was another spin-off
there. When we came back from there we were entitled to wear the 1939 Star because we’d been overseas for 12 months and all the other blokes were not, they were not allowed to wear it and they didn’t like that.
But you were entitled to it?
Yeah I know but they resented the fact that they didn’t have it and we did. It was called the 1939 ’43
star first up and then they changed it to 1939 ’45 Star. That’s the one that’s the major worn you know the three colours, dark blue, red blue and red. You know what those colours represent? The navy is dark blue, red is the army and light blue is the Air Force. Every colour on one of those ribbons represents something. Where are they? They’re over there somewhere,
no they’re here. See what I’m talking about.
Why don’t you, if you hold them up we’ll catch them on the camera?
So the colours?
Well in the 1939-45 Star
dark blue on the left I think is the navy, red in the middle is the army and light blue on the right hand side represents the Air Force and the next one’s Pacific Star and that’s got three colours in again, dark blue, red and light blue and the green represents the jungles and the yellows represents the sand where the landings were done on the beaches
and every one of the colours on those ribbons, every one of them, represents something and it’s all written down. You can get all the info from the Department Affairs.
Why is 1939 I mean you didn’t join up until
Yes but there’s qualifying period for every one of these medals and it may be six months in an operational area or something
like that, it doesn’t have to be from 1939 to 1945. There’s a qualifying period. Some of them are only 30 days and stuff like that. See and one of these other medals there is we only found out that we’re entitled to it about 1990 so 1945 ’75 medal and we didn’t know we were entitled to wear it because we were up there after the end of the war and they struck a medal
for those fellers that were doing duty up there at that time so because we were there for six months we’re entitled to it, wear it. The only unofficial medal there is infantry frontline service medal. That’s the second to last one and that’s an unofficial medal and the one on the end’s a Dutch medal because we were in Dutch New Guinea. Dutch government didn’t give it to me. I had to pay for it so that was great for all of them
How much did it cost?
I forget now two dollars, so I can take ‘em off now.
You can take them off. We probably should go back to Bougainville I think to Little George Hill?
Well we haven’t finished Bougainville by any manner or means. See they’ve got caster on them Papua New Guinea or something or South Pacific and stuff like that. There’s all different things and these other ones here the Battle of Britain things and Atlantic Stars and all
the rest of it which I’m not entitled to but they all have significance don’t they and these ones all get your name and number engraved on ‘em around the edge somewhere, see?
So Atlantic Star for? We’ll pass them round.
The kids love lookin’ at ‘em and
on Anzac Day it’s nice to wear ‘em on Anzac Day. I think there’s been a lot of improvement in the acceptance of Anzac Day. I think they’re teaching in the schools now and there’s a lot more people get there, they’re lot more enthusiastic and like I told you earlier on I got the impression that infantry units get a bit more applause than others because of what we’re supposed to have done and plenty of other
people did things the same as us to but that’s just the way that people perceive it.
Well you did it hard. You know we’ve spoken to people that joined the Air Force cause they knew they thought they’d get a bed whereas in the infantry there was no chance of that so right from?
Well the Air Force say that those fellers flying bombing raids or fighter raids, sure they got home to a bed
but they didn’t always get home to it did they? So whilst they had some advantages I reckon they had one or two disadvantages too.
But what about that in your time in Bougainville and you’re talking about very narrow tracks and walls of jungle it was almost impenetrable, well you certainly couldn’t see what was in there,
so the fear level, the stress level?
Yeah it’s pretty high and the biggest stress level is on your forward scout and you understand that in a patrol you have your main body here say however many, six or eight or 10 fellers and then you have two scouts out a hundred metres or somewhere where you can see ‘em. It depends on the circumstances and he’s out there all on his own and I’ve done it and it’s pretty lonely existence because you’re looking
at every leaf and everything you’re trying to hear things and trying to suss things out and you’re very vulnerable and quite often the Japanese were pretty cunning people as soldiers anyway. They would let those scouts through and not fire on them so they could get at the main patrol but by the time that happened your two scouts out there two hundred metres out on your own a bit vulnerable aren’t they? So there’s a lot of
things going on all the time and it’s a pretty scary existence out there and we used to take it in turns to do it in particular where there was not much likelihood of running into any opposition to give the and some blokes were better at it than others. Some fellers claimed that they could smell Japanese and O.K. that’s
we didn’t have a wash too often either sometimes.
Do you think they could smell you?
They might be able to. You can’t smell yourself but you can smell somebody else can’t you?
That’s supposed to be true.
Did you were you involved in ambushes you know like setting up an ambush
once you knew a position and?
Can you recall any of those?
Yes we set them up and sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t but that’s the name of the game but you trying to catch your enemy with his guard down a bit aren’t you and if you’re in a hidden position virtually no-one knows you are there, providing you are concealed and you haven’t left any evidence around, footprints or whatever
you have a little bit of an advantage of somebody walking along that track haven’t you and so ambushes just one way you do it in the jungle that’s jungle fighting is different to say fighting in the Western desert or in open country. You’re spread out and you have tanks. O.K. we did have tanks over there but they were a bit limited in what they could do because of the
terrain and so it’s a close contact thing and you’re hidden away lots of times because of all this vegetation and undergrowth and so on and sometimes you’re a bit suspicious about it you have a bit of a drive on it and you find out if anything’s there don’t you?
You tell me, you do?
Well that’s what you do, of course you do.
So what about the tactics for not revealing, you just mentioned something about covering footsteps and footprints and?
Well you try to conceal what you’re doing or not to give away any information about what you’re doing and if you’re going to be in a position say out
there well basically you wouldn’t walk past that position and leave your footprints there and things like that or break twigs off or something. You’ve got to be very observant. You’ve got to notice things, of something that’s just a little bit unusual or a bit of paper, anything or maybe that sign that I showed you that might have been tied onto a pole or whatever. We had interpreters around that was in the I section that
relayed information. Sometimes they came out on patrols with you and sometimes they’d tap, if we ran across a Japanese radio, telephone line they would tap into it and find out information listen to them talking and so on. It’s in the book our unit history book there that that happened. I didn’t see it happen but it did happen with our fellers. They cut the wire and interpreted what was going on and found out what was happening around.
Intelligence, it’s vital. You’ve got to know as much as you can about what’s going on and you get that information however way you can and it was my job to report these things but I see it all differently now because I see it in its right perspective, I think I do. I saw it back in those days because
it was a method of giving me a chance to save myself a bit more but now I realise now the reason about it. We were probably told and all that sort of thing but information is what you’re looking for all the time and you can get it in lots of different ways. You can get it by air observations or by people climbing up a tree or whatever
or put your artillery there and watch what’s happening, see if there’s anybody evacuates when the artillery fires over them. That’s what they used to do anyway and the bombing raids when the aircraft were bombing. They used to vacate the foxholes and things, go down the side of the hill and go back up there when the raid was over so they were doing the same thing as us.
You mentioned before that at Barges’ Hill you had was that 25 pounder artillery down the bottom of the hill?
They were at the base, yes at Barges’ Hill it was too steep to get ‘em up the top. They were firing over the top of us and would you believe you can see a 25 pounder shell. You get in the right position you can see it going overhead.
I wouldn’t believe it until I saw it. You can see it flash across the sky and it’s a bit of danger from them anyway from your own artillery. It all depends how close it is to you and in particular mortars. You know how a mortar works? Well a mortar is a barrel that stands up like that and you drop the bomb down there and it slides
down and the firing pin’s down the bottom and bang it goes off and it shoots out but it’s on a base plate on the ground and two legs in the front. Now in soft ground when you fire a few rounds what’s happens? That base plate gets imbedded into the soil ground doesn’t it and what’s that mean? That the barrel is coming back like this all the time and what does that mean? That those rounds are starting
to drop closer and closer to you and if that machine is in support of you and he starts off at 200 metres out in front you hope he’s not firing 20 rounds straight because it can happen. They get nearer and nearer and nearer and you’ve got to get on the telephone, ask him to stop because it upsets the range doesn’t it?
Aren’t they taking that into account?
The crew on the gun?
Probably, probably but again they’re only doing what they’re told but their NCO should be taking into account and they probably don’t know how close it might be or anything like that and you’ve got to remember that because the explosion of a round or a shell
or a rifle bullet or anything and they’re always the same, they’re all variable and if you fire at your Bren gun at anything they’re not all going to hit in the once place all your rounds. It fires as a group and that’s just because of the way the bullets fly because of the different, just minimal difference in the components and all sorts of things so it’s all variable and that’s just the same
with mortars and one of the problems with two inch mortars which the infantry battalions used to carry the fellers used to carry ‘em round themselves is that they would hit the branches of the trees going up. Somewhere a bloke’s got wounded like that on top of their heads in particular with the explosion just up the top.
Well was that photo for example of Little
Is that Little George or Barges’ Hill?
Little Georges Hill where we’re walking up there.
Yeah where all the trees it’s pretty denuded?
Who shot those trees away?
The Americans mostly. What basically had happened when we got there the Americans were on Big George Hill which was the first one and the Japanese were on Little George Hill and they had a truce they weren’t shooting at one another.
We get there and stir it all up. It’s probably a political thing you see. It was a bit of a useless war really over there in Bougainville because if we hadn’t have gone there or we hadn’t have done anything it wouldn’t have changed anything. It didn’t affect the alteration of the war at all. There’s a book written about
it called ‘The Unnecessary War’. We didn’t think so at the time but when you look at it in its right perspective that’s how it was. General MacArthur was a bit smarter than that. He just bypassed the place and went further up didn’t he? So we’re not here to get into politics really are we?
You can if you like?
No I don’t think so.
Yeah I am aware of that actually. Yeah the
Americans policy of just do nothing because they had quite a big perimeter didn’t they? I think it was eight miles or something?
American soldiers in my view are not as good as Australian soldiers. They want to knock off at five o’clock and have their Coca-Cola and ice cream. Wars don’t work like that and I’m very pleased that they’re on our side and I like I don’t particularly
like Americans as people but I’m pleased that they’re on our side because particularly in World War II. We wouldn’t have survived without them, no way. Britain couldn’t help us. We couldn’t defend ourself sufficiently and it was because America needed Australia as a base that they offered to help us.
O.K. well perhaps we’d better get back to the Nema Nema camp…?
Numa Numa campaign?
And so this is an area that the Americans had sort of ventured slightly into but hadn’t gone very far?
Yeah they’d increased their perimeter to how many kilometres or whatever around you know just to make it relatively safe and they just didn’t go on with it.
So you’re in the sort of rear part?
Yeah we were reserve
company in that campaign.
But you advanced as well?
We did patrols and we did those two patrols like I told you out to Chambers Knoll. We did other patrols around. That’s jungle warfare is all patrols or like you said before ambushes and you patrol around. You walk up this track here today and you do the same thing again tomorrow to make sure it’s still clear or see if anything’s happened there or whatever
that’s how it works and then you might if you find that that’s clear, relatively clear there you might set up your base there and do it a bit further on so that’s how you operate.
So were you rostered onto patrols? How did it work?
I don’t know how it was chosen. I think our officers volunteered for us. I don’t know how it worked.
They all took their turns and we all took our turns doing different things and nobody did everything all the time. We just somebody did it today and somebody did it tomorrow and on and on and you might go this way or that way or forwards or whatever. It all depends how many, what area you had to look after of how you did it but I didn’t I wasn’t making any decisions on that.
I just was doing what I was told.
How far afield would you go on a patrol do you think?
On Bougainville it would have been, the first one we did there was five miles or eight kilometres out to Chambers Knoll. The others were you know maybe half a day or something and depending on the terrain how much area you could cover in that time.
Just depended on how hilly it was or whatever or how thick the jungle was or whatever or you were cutting your way across from one track to the other or whatever. The other thing that was happening on there, because we were sitting on top of the hills and basically in jungle country all your fighting is done on your hills and that’s where you want to occupy, because you’re in a superior position. If you have to climb up a hill you’re vulnerable. A steep hill you can roll grenades
down or do anything and you’re a little bit exhausted by the time you get to the top aren’t you and if the feller up the top there’s sitting in a foxhole he’s got a bit of an advantage over you so you want to maintain the high ground. That might apply in other warfare too. I don’t know about that but certainly in jungle warfare your main position’s where it was hilly country you occupied the higher ground
and on the flatter country well you just stayed wherever you were. Didn’t matter there because no-one was any higher in swamp lands but basically you didn’t live too long in swamp lands. You didn’t stay there for too long. You got out of the place if you could. I told you we got in a swamp
for three days one time, couldn’t get out but you don’t want to do that all the time because you’re not very mobile, a little bit unhappy.
So with the terrain in Bougainville?
Yeah that’s very steep, hilly country?
What was your strategy you know this idea of trying to stay to the higher ground as much as possible?
Did you do that, did you follow ridgelines and?
That’s what we tried to do or occupy them. Occupy them and operate from them. Obviously you have to come down sooner or later and you come down and you do your patrols out. You do security patrols. You go out there to in other words to defend what little territory you’ve gained. You protect it by going out and you go around and make sure that it’s clear and all that.
sort of thing. Well obviously you go down from the hill to onto the flatter ground then and have to climb back. Another thing we had to do there because there’s no streams of water up on the right on top of a hill you understand that, we had to climb down, half way down Barges’ Hill to get our water every day for the cookhouse and it all had to be chlorinated and we had to put chlorine
tablets in our water bottles every day and so whilst it rains like fury in jungle country it’s not always readily water available except if you can save it from rain. We used to save it from the ground sheets on top of our foxholes to have a wash. I hardly had to shave back in those days. I didn’t have to, I had a baby face
Why did you have to chlorinate the water?
Because it was not safe to drink it otherwise.
But it wasn’t you know a built up area it was?
Certainly not a built up area but just unsafe and I’m not sure why it was unsafe but you had to chlorinate it. You put chlorine tablet in there and it tasted awful and you put another one to make it taste a bit better which wasn’t much better anyway.
I asked you before about ambushes and I don’t think we quite got into the detail? So you were involved in a couple is that right?
Can you describe, remember one or two of them and just describe what the tactics were, the strategy was for the ambush?
Well basically you set up your ambush on a place where you think that might be an advantage.
Certainly you need cover to be hidden away. You don’t want to advertise the fact that your ambush is there and you’re very quiet very still and you only talk in sign language and stuff that you become a bit adept at and you sit there and wait for something to happen. If nothing happens then you abandon that position and go and do it somewhere else
but if something does happen well you do something about it and then depending on the circumstances of whether you look like winning that little affair or not winning that little affair you make arrangements whether you’re going to stay there or not. Like if you’re getting knocked about there’s not much point in staying there and copping a bit more is there and it all depends
how important it all is.
Was Chambers Knoll an ambush situation?
We ambushed the Japanese there. We surrounded the Knoll. It was on top of a hill. It was a listening post or something. There was about six Japanese there. We surrounded it and then we opened fire on it and we shot it up and then we crossed it and finished it off,
did it twice.
So you were moving into that position, you weren’t setting up on a..?
We sat around there and waited for the right time to do it when they were having a feed.
So you’d been observing them?
So like I said before any little advantage you can give yourself makes it a bit better.
What was the period of time that you were observing them?
We might have been there for a couple of hours and you have to do it all be stealth of course, like I said a bit of sign language and stuff
but it was I think he well deserved his military cross for that. It was well planned and well executed and we did it twice and I say we only suffered one casualty one wounded.
So this is Lieutenant?
Arthur Chambers. There’s a whole report in there about it came from Oakley
he’s a nice feller, real gentleman. I haven’t seen him since I was discharged from the army up till about since I was going down to the Anzac Day March in Melbourne which was the first one I went to was 1990. Somewhere along about 1994 I went down there and I asked Norman Turell if I could go and see him. He was in hospital
and he’d had one leg amputated. He was a heavy smoker and we went out to see him on Anzac Day, one of the best things I ever did. Two weeks later he was dead. He said to his wife what a lovely thing it was for me to come and see him. I was one of his special boys.
So you found him
a leader who was easy to respect and?
He was a nice person. He never did anything nasty to us and I can’t remember that he ever put any of us on a charge sheet and yet some of the other platoons had all the trouble in the world and it’s just personalities isn’t it and it’s how people handle people and my view is and I
know more about it these days if you handle people right you’ll get a good result or a better result. You can dictate to people and tell ‘em all sorts of things but if you do it nicely it’s so much better.
So with this
ambush on Chambers Knoll had he sort of worked out a strategy for that before getting there or had there been an advance party or scouts had gone out and come back?
No we were the first ones to get there. He must have looked at his maps and worked out how we were going to get, we had to cut our way through the jungle and ford rivers that were pretty well flooded. We had to hold hands to
stop each other from getting rushed away. He must have worked it all out and it was on the map there. They must have known from aerial reconnaissance I s’pose that the place was there. I don’t really know the answers to all that because I wasn’t privy to all that information but he figured it all out and I reckon he did it pretty well because was successful both times and only one
casualty to us. That’s not bad is it? That’s a pretty good result in my view. Didn’t always work out like that but that’s just the luck of the game, the way things happen but planning is critical isn’t it, I think.
Well I would have thought so but I guess there’s only so much information you’ve got?
That’s exactly right. You have to try and interpret
whatever you know and put whatever aspect on it that you can come up with and that’s just how you have to do it and I respect those fellers that could do that sort of thing. They had a pretty heavy responsibility those officers of sending people out and doing certain things and knowing that certain things happen
to them at different times. It was pretty daunting sort of a thing. I don’t know whether if it was myself it would affect me for sure and I’ve heard Norman Turrell say on at least one occasion one of his fellers was killed and he still talks about it. He was quite upset about it. Something he asked him to do and that’s pretty heavy
responsibility isn’t it? So we come off Numa Numa Trail and we come back to Torokina and we have a rest for a while, back to the, they had a market and everything there where the natives used to sell their fruit and stuff. The Americans set that up. It was a bit of a holiday camp.
There was a hospital there too. I was in it for a while and the nurses there they had a special beach that we weren’t allowed to go on where they used to swim.
You weren’t allowed to go?
Troops were not allowed on there it was out of bounds yep cause their quarters were down near the beach and I think they did a good job too.
So why were you in hospital?
So was that the first time you got it?
I only had it three times. I got it one time up, four times rather. When I came back I was sent up to Tocumwal to run the orderly room there and my little unit was up there and because it was the middle of winter time it was cold and everything I just
come back from the climate, tropics and first thing I got was malaria and they put me in the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] hospital.
So but you got what the malaria came on once you got to Tocumwal or were you feeling the affects of it?
Yes I got it at Torokina, that’s not quite right. I was evacuated from our next
operation which was up towards Soraken Peninsula and that’s when the story comes about that landing barge that I was on. Do you want me to tell you that now?
Well I was being returned to my unit from after being in hospital and I was the only passenger on the barge and they were only travelling at night time because of the danger from submarines and there was a huge storm underway and you know what landing barges are like. They’ve got a big
flat nose on the front and a big flat bottom and so on. So off we go and she was going in all directions. Up and down. I didn’t know which way was up and I was the only person onboard and no-one to talk to, none of my mates with me and I felt pretty lonely and I just hung on and I thought “Well don’t know whether I’m going to make this night,” and then I must have shut my eyes or something
it was pretty dark and suddenly it was a bit calmer and I opened my eyes again and we’d come back to port, they’d abandoned the trip. So we went up the next night and it was pretty calm that night.
I just missed where you were taking off from and going to?
Was taking off from Torokina, the hospital I’d been in the hospital going back up
to Soraken Peninsula, that’s up along the South coast. That’s where the battalion was at that time and that was our next operation. We did the same sort of things up there only it was pretty flatter country, was no mountains of any consequence up there. There was a few hills but nothing like up across the Numa Numa Trail.
Did you take any prisoners on Bougainville?
Our unit captured some yes. I
didn’t actually feature in any of that. We took some. There was a bottle of whiskey on offer for a prisoner, whoever got ‘em the officer. Somebody claimed it and they interpreted they took ‘em back to interpreters and they questioned ‘em and what have you. There’s a story about it in the book here so it must be in the war diary, Normal Turrell put it in
yeah but there wasn’t too many because Japanese had this thing that it was dishonourable to become a prisoner and in lots of cases they would rather die than be taken prisoner and I’ve heard different stories about they jumped off the cliffs and everything so their beliefs are a little bit different to ours.
Interviewee: Robert Gaudion Archive ID 0649 Tape 07
Before we get up to Soraken just a couple more questions about Numa Numa Road. You know how you spent six weeks you said you lived in foxholes?
Can you tell us about that period? I mean you’ve told us about… was that where you were you conducting patrols from ?
From that we lived in those foxholes in particular at night time and I think I might have told you one hour on and one hour off duty on guard
right round the whole perimeter all night long and that’s what we did at night time. We didn’t live in them in daytime of course but and we did the patrols out from that area. We were the reserve company.
And how in terms of just your equipment and supplies there and the conditions I mean how sort of acceptable were they?
Well they were pretty reasonable from my point of view but I’ve heard stories that at one time the supplies of food and ammunition was down to three days on Bougainville and shipping was a fairly scarce commodity back in those days and maybe it was required for other more important places but we didn’t really have any problems with shortage of supplies.
O.K. you’ve talked about cause you had malaria.
You had that sort of relapse of malaria in Torokina and you mentioned the story with the landing barge with the rough seas.
And having to
Now was that the voyage up to?
That was my return back to the unit.
Yeah which was now up at on Soraken?
Yes that’s right.
So could you tell us a little bit about the background to what was happening in Soraken how your unit sort of fitted into that?
basically 31/ 51 battalion took some of the ground between Torokina and that area up there in particular one place Tsimba Ridge which is quite a story in their own right and then we relieved them and we took it on from there and we did a series of patrols and so on until we cleared Soraken
Peninsula which was really a big coconut plantation owned by Burns Philp I believe.
So it was a different kind of, quite a different environment to that you’d been used to?
The jungle was still pretty thick but in the coconut plantation it was a bit different, a bit more open. The only shelter you really had was behind a coconut palm but it was open. Your observation was a bit different and tactics were a little bit different too,
Can you sort of explain how they differed?
Well in thick jungle or in jungle tracks your vision is pretty limited of what you can see and you have to keep in contact with people. You can’t be very far away from them but if you’re in an open space because you’re more vulnerable then you have to have more
space between each person and so you move out. You get up there in Soraken Peninsula in the coconut plantation became a little bit more like open warfare and so to stop yourself from being vulnerable you put more space between each person and because you can signal to them and talk to them or shout to them you could still contact them and be in contact with them.
That was the difference, the main difference and it was flat country and not swamp.
You said before you had three days in the swamp somewhere?
That was back?
That was our very first patrol in Bougainville. We went out from the Torokina base and we walked almost straight into it as soon as we got outside the perimeter and it was water and mud and everything and
when we got out of it we’d come onto the sea and we thought it was a great thing. We rushed into the water but all the salt water was not really good for rubbing your skin and stuff. It was pretty uncomfortable so we didn’t do that right.
So those three days were you still able to find some dry land in which to?
Sometimes you might find a little bit and one or two nights out of it we found somewhere to sleep
and so on but basically we were in a swamp all the time and you might be up to your knees here or your waist here but you never quite knew what was in front of you did you and like plenty of leeches too.
So once you’re in a swamp is it a matter of trying to get out of the swamp or you still had to patrol that area regardless?
Well I think that we had to patrol the area. I wasn’t really privy to that information of what we were trying to do. We were just
checking that area out to make sure there was no enemy I s’pose and we went in the wrong place. Obviously there was no enemy there because it wouldn’t have been too pleasant an existence would it?
So back at Soraken what sort of presence did the Japanese have there? How much resistance did you encounter?
Their resistance was fairly stiff. They had artillery.
They didn’t have any aircraft but they had artillery which they fired on us and they had mortars and they seemed to have plenty of ammunition. They were getting their supplies by submarine at night time and they were marines and they were pretty big fellers. Not Japanese ordinary Japanese tends to be not a tall person but they were
big strapping people and the marines we considered them to be a bit more superior, tougher.
So what was the sort of thrust were you sort of trying to drive them off wipe them off the Peninsula but?
Yeah that’s right. That was the whole idea of it was to clear the area and the whole object was to clear the whole island. That’s
if the war had of kept going that’s what we would have kept doing because I think at Bougainville that time was a mandated Australian territory wasn’t it? I’m not sure about that but we had a certain obligation and that’s why we were there and if the war had not have finished when it did we would have just kept doing it.
What sort of contacts did your platoon or your section experience?
With the enemy?
We had direct contact and ambushes and we had their troops might have walked into one of our ambushes and stuff like that or we knew a position was there we’d go out and attack it like we did to Chambers Knoll and things like that. Just typical jungle warfare and obviously at night time
you want to be as secure as you can and so you select a position that appears to be a little bit secure and you guard it pretty fiercely.
What was the mood like amongst men? I mean was there a sense that the war and this is we’re getting into early ’45 March ’45 I believe?
Is there a sense that the war could be winding down or
I didn’t believe that. In fact I can’t remember that I thought much about anything other than what we were doing right there and then. Whilst we did have Guinea Gold and that Plantation Plateau [troop newspapers] later on I did read them I suppose but I wasn’t really aware of how things were going in say Europe or anywhere like that or anywhere else. We were really concerned about our own affairs.
How strong… I mean you said that you were fighting Japanese marines. How tough was their resistance?
They fought very tenaciously. They didn’t give up any position without any opposition at all, no way. That was their duty and that’s the way those people are built. If they are told to do something they just do it and therein lies one of their strengths
in my view. They defended every inch of that ground that they had, if they had enough people. Supposed to be 40,000 of them on there and that’s a fair few. Well there’s only what 10,000 of us or might 20,000 I forget. I don’t really know and they were spread out over the whole island but they were all over the place and I don’t know whether they were there all the time
before the Americans got there or whether they just defended certain areas or whatever. I don’t know the answer to that but they certainly were in most positions that we went to, maybe not in large quantities but then other things that we did. We made three night landings along that coast and also one on an island off the coast, Saposa Island at night time and that’s pretty scary stuff.
Can you tell us
Well I only did one and that was enough and then the morning we heard this gunfire which was louder than a rifle and in the morning we found there was a 40 millimetre gun right there looking at us and it jammed after the first round, so we were a bit fortunate and O.K. it’s a bit of a hit or miss thing when you’re going into a beach at night time as to whether you’re a hundred metres or whatever away
from what your object happens to be. You probably looked at it on the map there to say “That’s where we go here,” but whether you get to that position’s another thing and one of my mates I wasn’t on this operation that was Saposa Island he was the first person off the barge at night time. He was an Owen gunner and he’s since suffered psychological problems
and I guess some of it’s got to be associated with his wartime experiences. He’s TPI [Totally and Permanently Incapacitated] now.
So talking about you know the Japanese resistance what sort of numbers would you be encountering if you came across a camp?
You might have two or three or 10 or something like that. There wasn’t large numbers that I saw
in any one location. We didn’t attack really heavily defended places like a town or anything like that it was villages and stuff like that and we used to set up ambushes along the tracks and they’d be coming along the track and run into the ambush and stuff like that and they may or may not have known we were there or whatever I don’t know and
the numbers that we encountered in jungle warfare most of your work is patrol work and your patrols are no more than maybe 10 or 12 people. Sometimes you may have a few more but because of the conditions it’s not feasible to operate. You can’t keep control over people and you’re getting in one another’s road and on and on and on it goes so most of your
operations are small patrol work or setting up ambushes or things like that or guarding a point or whatever.
So were you still on the Bren gun at this point or what?
Yes I was on the Bren gun most of the time but as I explained we switched around jobs. We did each others job at different times. Like you might have an Owen gun today but that Owen gun really belonged to that particular person. It was his gun but he might lend it
to me to use it on this particular day or he mightn’t go on the patrol. You know to give him a rest or something like that and the same thing happened with the Bren gun. The Bren gun fires at the rate of 500 rounds a minute and I think I might have told you that the 30 rounds in a magazine and you’re supposed to try and fire it in bursts of five rounds. That gives you six bursts of fire out of that one magazine
and it also has two barrels and because of the heat from the explosions and the bullets travelling along the barrel, the barrel expands and it starts to kick and misbehave itself so you have another barrel and you lift certain levers. That’s what your number two does and he takes that barrel off and puts the other one on so you can keep firing.
Did you generally have the same
number two when you were on the gun?
Yes and basically they tried to get you with your best mate or someone you get on well with. That’s pretty essential. It’s no good trying to have a fight with the bloke that’s supposed to be helping you.
So what did you need in terms of your number two or whatever?
Beg your pardon?
What were you the sort of pre requisites for your number two to have a good number two?
Well he’s got to be supportive and he’s got to
be looking out what he’s supposed to be doing and pointing out targets to you or whatever and what we need to remember is that the Bren gunner is not always right in the centre of an action. You might be further away. Like you might be sighted here with your Bren gun and those troops might go in from the side you see and you might be firing in there and you might be a hundred metres away but those troops
coming in from the side obviously you’ve got to stop firing when they get a bit close but they might go right in and be right in the action. So you’re not always close up to what’s happening. You can be and I never really had to experience, I’ve heard about it, people firing from the hip and all that sort of stuff. You’ve heard the VC stories and stuff. Didn’t happen to me.
So how well were you able to gauge your
success on the Bren if you were firing from some distance?
Well that’s a pretty difficult thing to do. You can’t see the where your bullets land or stuff like that and like I explained before each bullet travels a different trajectory and so it’s a burst it’s a pattern and so you go for a coverage of an area. Like you’re not firing, you might be firing at one particular target but because
of the circumstances you have a pattern where your rounds will be spraying around and bearing in mind that other people are firing at the same time, rifles and maybe lot of noise going on and stuff like that you’re not I s’pose you are a bit conscious of it but maybe you’re not looking actually at what might be there or what you’re hitting or something and you mightn’t know whether it’s your gun
hitting it anyway. You’re just part of a team.
Was there very much sort of close combat?
I would say all jungle warfare’s close combat. There’s no 600 range stuff 600 metres range stuff. Mostly close combat.
And how successful do you think the Bren was in that sort of jungle warfare scenario?
I think the Owen gun was better.
The Bren gun was suitable to a certain extent because of its dependability and so on. The Owen gun was very dependable. You could drop it in the mud or do anything. Tip sand in it and it’d still keep firing. That was one of the basic strengths of the Owen gun and it was so manoeuvrable. You just wave it round wherever you wanted to but it only had a very short barrel and it wasn’t accurate over any length
and was a round nosed bullet too and I think the bullets sprayed around a bit. If you’re got a pointy bullet it’s got a tendency to fly a bit more accurately. A round one’s going to dip around a bit isn’t it? That’s what I think.
I’m sure you’re right. As you’re on your patrols and moving through the Peninsula there were you and the other guys sort of able to collect of souvenirs? I think you might
have showed us a few things but were you able to?
Yeah it wasn’t number one priority but it was always on my mind I s’pose you can see the results that I have but I’ve got them when other things weren’t happening. If it was more important to be doing other things I wouldn’t be looking for souvenirs.
So what sort of things, yeah we’ve seen them but what sort of things were you able to collect and some of the other guys what sort of?
Well I don’t know whether other people collected things that I have. I
in my own experience I have more things than anyone else that I know of and that’s just me but I could not bring anything of any size or quantity because I had to carry it back. I couldn’t send it home so I had to bring it back with me so everything had to be more or less small but I’d just put ‘em in my pocket or put ‘em in my pack and left them there and when I came home I just tipped them out and mother kept them for me.
So how long were you involved up there in Soraken?
We were there from we came back from Numa Numa Trail about the end of January and I think we went up there in February and we came back to Torokina about
July I think or September, July or August. We were basically in my experience a unit is only effective in jungle warfare and I’m not saying it’s so in other warfare, it might be different, for about six weeks and you become frazzled, your nerves get a bit jumpy and you have casualties or sickness
and illness. You get more illness than casualties, or we did and you need a rest to recuperate and sort yourself out again after about six weeks. That’s my view so I think we did three lots of six weeks up around Soraken area.
And how did that push progress I mean by the end of your last stint up there
how far along had that?
Well we had taken the complete Soraken Peninsula and our Commanding Officer sent a signal, the flag of freedom in absentia today flies once more over Soraken Peninsula. I thought that was pretty special back in those days, never heard words like that before. He was a very learned man.
So can you tell us a little bit more about, that was
who said that exactly?
Lieutenant Colonel Sir Bernard Callinan.
That’s right we saw we were looking at photos.
It’s his son that’s part of our marching team now in Melbourne. That’s pretty special. He came along to the dedication ceremony of our tree and plaque in 1993. He was a very sick man, he was in a wheelchair but he made it.
I’ve got a photograph of it somewhere.
So sounds like you have a very high opinion of the leadership within the 26th?
Certainly do. I’ve no complaints about our officers. I thought they were pretty good.
Was there any experiences that you had personally that sort of portray that, anything that comes to mind?
With officers? Not anything special that I can put my finger on but like I said Lieutenant Chambers who was our direct officer and that’s the person that you’re mostly in contact with anyway. The other officers are not giving you direct orders. They all go through him so he was the one that was that I knew more about than anything
and as I’ve said he was a lovely person to be with and to look after his men and on and on and on and a very cluey sort of feller. He was a wise man in my view and he was a compassionate person too. I’ve no problems. Some of the other officers were not but I wasn’t really directly involved. I might have known about them because of
the chatter that goes on between the troops and so on but I didn’t have any problem with any officers.
What do you think what was the toughest thing about your experiences in Bougainville?
Well it’s all tough to a certain extent to face up to the things you have to face up to. It’s a condition that you can
train yourself for a bit and you’re training helps and you can conquer your fear. That’s what I found that you can control your fear. I thought when all this started that I would be scared stiff that I would fall in a heap or something but I found that you can conquer your fear. You can rise above yourself because you don’t want to be seen to be weakness
in front of your own mates in particular and part of the action or whatever that give me a lift anyway.
I’m sure you would not have been alone in having that fear. It was something that was… but are you aware at the time that everyone is feeling the same way? I mean you’ve got to…?
I guess so but we didn’t discuss it. We didn’t talk about it so much as “I’m scared about going out here,” or something. It was something
we had to do and we got on and did it and you kept your feelings I s’pose a bit concealed in that regard. That’s what I would say. I don’t remember really ever discussing that with any of the persons there. I’ve discussed it since that time but not at that time.
We were going to talk about, you showed us some photos of the
31/ 51 landing?
And you I believe observed some of that?
What I, Porton Plantation it was and the idea was to do a coast landing to cut off some of the enemy that was down a bit further between Porton was another coconut plantation around about there and Soraken. There was a bay there and we were having a rest in between some of our actions
on Soraken Peninsula a place called I beach and we knew about this. You know what’s happening by word of mouth that this is happening and so on. Mightn’t always be a hundred percent accurate but the troops talk to one another down at the latrines and places like that so you basically know some of the things that are happening and we knew about that
and certainly we knew about it when it went wrong and we could see over the water we could see those stranded barges stuck on the coral reef and also the artillery was just around the corner from us and they were firing. The 25 pounders were firing over there and then later on the boomerang aircraft came in and Vultee Vengeance aircraft came in and bombed for some days. It
went that operation took about three days and it went all wrong because the troops themselves barge got onto the beach O.K. but their supplies got caught on the reef and so they ran out of ammunition and all sorts of things and eventually they did get back onto that barge and the Japanese were swimming out there and all sorts of things. Big stories and stuff like that so I watched it across
the water what little we could see from five miles or whatever it was away but you could see the aircraft flying in. You could see the explosions and you could hear the artillery going round the corner and we knew that they were in a bit of trouble. Cause 31/51st Battalion was our sister battalion in our brigade so they were a bit special to us, like we were to them, both
Queensland units too.
If you can generalise how would you describe the enemy that you were confronted with, a Japanese soldier?
I would say they were very tenacious fighters but what I observed is that not like the Australian soldier. The Australian soldier is capable of using his own initiative under different circumstances.
Japanese tended to do what they were told to do and just keep doing it but they couldn’t use their initiative to change their actions unless they were told. That’s what I found. Like it didn’t exactly happen to me, I didn’t experience one of them but what they call banzai charges. Is that how you pronounce it?
Something like that yeah?
Yeah where they just keep rushing in and one after the other and providing you don’t run out of ammunition
you just keep mowing ‘em down and they keep doing it and it’s not really the idea is to try and intimidate people or intimidate the enemy. That’s what they’re trying to do but if you hold your nerve and providing your ammunition doesn’t run out and providing that you don’t suffer too many casualties, you can keep doing that all day and they just keep doing the same thing. So
I see that as them not being able to change from what they’ve been told to do and basically the Australian soldier, if something’s not working, he’ll do it a bit differently.
You we talked earlier of course about Dutch New Guinea Tanah Merah?
And your 14 months was a very long period of time that you were there without any
How you felt like you know you were wasting your time to an extent?
When you got to Bougainville I mean did your did that sort of mean to be a fruition of you know your training? Was that more of a?
Well we thought that we were doing the job that we had to do, more so than we realised at Tanah Merah that whilst there wasn’t any direct action as such going on
we were there for a particular purpose and after a while in the army you realise that the army makes decisions which you don’t know the reasons for and like I said you lose control of your own destiny. You do what you’re told and you go where you’re told and on and on. It was a bit frustrating but we thought we were doing something for our country that we were being paid to do in other words
and our duty and it was really a lot of patriotism involved in it earlier on for sure. When your country’s going to be invaded that’s a pretty serious thing. Surely most people that live in a place it’s got to feel like they want to do something about it and that’s the feeling that I had and I think most of the people that I was with. We thought we had a job to do and we wanted to get up there and do it
and it was a bit frustrating at Tanah Merah that we weren’t doing what we thought we ought to, could have been doing.
So what do you think it was that led to the successes you had, the 26th had, on Soraken?
I think it was the planning by the superior officers, the commanding officer and our own officers and I think that and the orders
were carried our properly by the troops. I think that our battalion did a reasonable sort of a job in what they did. We suffered 45 casualties deaths, not all from war wounds but 45, that’s enough and we did what we were asked to do. We didn’t fail in any operation that we tried to do.
Was there any time there in Bougainville where, you know, you look back and you think maybe you came close to being well if not killed, then wounded, were there pretty dicey moments?
Sure, sure, sure.
Which can you recount one or two of those?
When you have someone that’s there within that distance away from you and there’s just ‘bang’ and he’s gone
from a sniper, pretty easy that could have been me. That’s just a fact of life. But we had a philosophy that we discussed quite a bit that if your name is on that bullet you’re not going to be able to dodge it but on the other hand if your name is not on it, you’re safe and that’s the philosophy we lived by. In other words it was fate
was guiding everything and if that bloke there was just unlucky he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So who was the bloke there was a bloke that did get shot by a sniper beside you?
Feller called Potty Burton and basically he made a mistake. He was a Corporal. He stood up and waved his arms around directing fellers and that’s what they were after. They were looking for NCOs and officers
because they had this theory because of their own thinking that if you could eliminate the officers or NCOs that the remainder are going to go to pieces and I’ve already said that I think that the Australian solider was capable of using his own initiative but that’s the way the Japanese, in my view, thought. That’s the people that they went for and that’s something you didn’t do and officers
and NCOs didn’t wear their rank in battle and you didn’t call ‘em sir or anything. It’s the only time you didn’t call ‘em sir. They all had a nickname, Joe or whatever and that’s what you called him because of that fact. He didn’t want to be identified, if somebody racing up and saluting him out in the jungle it’d be a dead giveaway wouldn’t it? So he made a mistake
but you got there’s a bit of luck attached to it all. For instance one of our fellers was an Owen gunner, threw his Owen gun down into the weapon pit. It landed on the bottom of the weapon pit. One bullet fired out of it because that was susceptible of doing that. It went straight up to his chin and that was it. How unlucky can you be? But he shouldn’t have done it.
But you don’t always think of these things do you? Sometimes it’s pretty important to get your head underneath the ground and I my contention is from aircraft bombing, my own experience, is that if you can get yourself below ground level in a slit trench or somewhere like that you have a reasonable chance against anything other than a direct hit or maybe a near miss.
There’s a lot of noise and stuff going on and I’ve said earlier that in cities a lot of the damage done to people is by the buildings falling apart or them falling out of buildings and whatever so keep your head down.
Can I ask in that incident where the was it the Corporal that was?
Taken by a sniper and you were talking about Aussies being able to take the initiative from there, what happened directly after that?
Well his 2IC [Second In Command] becomes 1IC [First In Command, actually the correct term is OC –Officer Commanding] The next fellow in line becomes the fellow in charge of the situation and if he’s your only NCO you’ve got a senior, even though he mightn’t have any rank, there’s someone there that you respected and mostly in our unit there was two categories of people maybe. There was us young
blokes 18 years of age when we got there or 19, heaps of us and then there was another lot of fellows which, NCOs around about 30 years of age and then there was some in between 25 and something like that and in that time we looked up to those fellows a bit because they were older than us. We reckoned we could out-sprint ‘em and outrun ‘em up a hill and all that stuff and that’s one of the reasons why we were always trying to
do it but we looked up to them, we respected them and they were the ones who would have stepped in or they did step in when that happened because that person, he mightn’t have any rank but he’s a respected member of your little unit and I wasn’t one of them you know in that regard because I was only 23 when I was discharged so I wasn’t up there in that category.
Just cause it’s good to get a real picture of the detail of specific, you know, contacts and so on. Again with that example where the Corporal is taken, the sniper got the Corporal, were you able to spot the sniper was it a matter of… withdraw at that point or did the engagement continue?
I think that the sniper was eliminated shortly after that. In other words he gave
his position away. O.K. he was doing his duty wasn’t he but that’s the things that you have to look for and either you see a rifle report or smoke from a bullet or whatever and they had a habit of climbing up trees and stuff like that. You’ve probably seen newsreels of the American invasions where they tied the Japanese tied themselves up top of coconut palms and stuff like that. I didn’t see any of that
but they did have a habit of climbing up trees, snipers and snipers basically was one of our biggest problems. I would imagine that they would have been the best shots in their units and so on and it’s a pretty risky occupation because if you’re on your own and you’ve tied yourself up a tree and the very first shot you virtually give your position away, you’re a bit vulnerable
from then on aren’t you? Notwithstanding you might have done a bit of damage up till then cause you can only fire with your rifle a certain number of rounds in a minute.
Earlier in the day you talked about there being sort of rules of war like you know fair play I guess. What were some of those do you think and were there times when they weren’t
respected be it by the Japanese or even with some of the Aussie soldiers?
Well instances that I can think of you were not supposed to do anything to a wounded person if you’d taken him prisoner or even a prisoner which the Japanese didn’t respect by any manner or means. I think the Australian troops generally did that. I’m not saying that they
did it a hundred percent of the time but I think that they did have a bit of respect for that but you’re not supposed to commit atrocities against people, whether it’s war or not or to do things like that. I’ve known of one or two instances which I’m not going to talk about, I think people should not have done. So that was done by
Australian fellers and in my view is that they shouldn’t have done it.
With wounded Japanese or?
Dead ones yes and one bloke owned up to it to me one day. I didn’t chastise him about it. His business really but he did own up to me. We were talking about things and he admitted to me something that he’d
done and I wasn’t too impressed
Interviewee: Robert Gaudion Archive ID 0649 Tape 08
Let’s talk about the war ending, where were you?
Rabaul. When the war ended we were having a rest back in Torokina. We were getting ready to go down south and we were a bit apprehensive about that and it’s a pretty rough area down there. Anyway it didn’t happen so we heard about it, it came through on the radio or something I suppose
and we were pretty relieved about it all because finally it’s all over and our side had won and from there the next thing that happened we were on the ship to Rabaul and that’s where they congregated all the Japanese. There was they built it themselves under the direction of our engineers a big prison camp and they housed them there. It was out from Rabaul on the other side, up over the hill from
the town and shipped ‘em back home to Japan. They repatriated them home but they were employed on work, built a picture theatre out of coconut logs and stuff to sit on, open air thing and a parade ground and built roads and they were employed, to give them something to do but there was never any trouble. They accepted what was
their my understanding of the Japanese people, particularly the Japanese soldiers is that they religiously did what they were told to do and I guess other soldiers have done similar too but they never asked questions, they always did it. There was no trouble there. It was all organised through their own NCOs. They were given their orders and they used to go out and work in parties and our fellers were guarding them and
was still with live ammunition of course but there was never any problem that I knew about.
So had there been an opportunity to celebrate the end of the war and?
For us fellers?
Yeah I mean in Bougainville when you heard the war had ended, was that?
Well there was no opportunity to celebrate. You’ve probably heard the story a few times of the army was really a myth that two bottles of beer per man per week perhaps
it didn’t happen too often. There was lots of other priorities other than beer but some of them did make what they call jungle juice at different times. I never tasted the stuff but they used to get a bit high on that sometimes. At Rabaul we used to get a few bottles of beer. At Christmas time in particular and because there was, we did have the electricity lights that I told you about but we didn’t have refrigeration. Our method of cooling them was to bury them down in the sane in the beach and
stand guard over them and poor petrol over them and cooled ‘em down and we had a real decent party because at that time I’d been transferred to battalion headquarters into the orderly room because I was a clerk in civvy life and they had that in my records and the clerk had a lot more points than me and he got sent home and they pulled me down there and we were right down on the beach and so we had quite a party at that time
and we did get a few bottles of beer there so that was our celebration and another thing that happened in Rabaul and I have the original copy of it. It was a race meeting that was conducted and I have the original program in that book over there of this race meeting. They rounded up these Timor ponies that were wild out in the bush and trained ‘em up and put ‘em on the racecourse and another thing that happened to me
when I was in battalion headquarters, I had a bit more liberty because of circumstances I used to get a ride around in a Jeep a bit with one of my mates that was in the transport and he took me down to the volcano down near the township there and we walked up inside the volcano. We walked down inside there and it was that hot on our feet that we had to depart in a big hurry and there’s moke coming out just down there
and earthquakes all the time, particularly on Bougainville up in the hills there it was shaking all the time. It was like sitting on a jelly and a big mountain over there just close handy Mount Bagana smoking all the time so it’s no wonder and Rabaul as you well know has suffered horrific damage in volcanic eruptions not so long ago and the town is it’s sulphur smell all over. That’s from the and
pumice stone floating in the water and on the beach.
So how long into your time in Rabaul did you move into headquarters as a clerk?
Almost as soon as I got there because the other feller was sent home and in the orderly room there was a few blokes and you just conduct the business of the battalion there. We had telephones and
send the mail out to all the companies and stuff like that and do all that. Post the letters and whatever. That was what it was there and that’s the reason why I got sent up Tocumwal after I came back. I thought I was going to be discharged and there was one unhappy soldier on the train going back up to Albury and I had to spend a few more months up there but like I said the army sends you where they want to
send you don’t they?
So you spent the best part of six months?
Yeah that’s right.
In the offices there, orderly room.
So can you give us a bit more of a description of what the set up there was like, how well run the place was run and how many were working there and all that sort of stuff?
I thought that it was run very well. The present compound was down the road a little bit there and we had guards on there and they had these working
parties come out each day and Japanese you know, three or four or five or whatever with one of their NCOs was telling them what to do and doing the work that was directed, how to build the roads or whatever and because there was not a need for all the battalion to be involved in it, they conducted lots of classes, like driving. That’s where I learnt to drive a vehicle. A Jeep out on a ground big open paddock sort of thing
and you know full bore. It didn’t matter where you went, you’re not going to run over anything and school and things and I actually did a bit of training in some of those schools of subjects that I was a bit more aware of than other people and one of the things that amazed me when I went to the 26th Battalion I ran into people who could neither read nor write. I’d never seen that before in all my life. Fellers from outback Queensland had never
been to school and they used to ask me to read their letters to them and write them sometimes and other fellers too and so that’s what they did. They conducted lots of classes and things of and lectures or whatever strengths that a person might have had, they utilised that and there was a lot of education going on. There was a points priority system which worked on the grounds that married fellers had double the points
that us unmarried fellers had and your length of service and different other things. I had 121 points but it wasn’t nearly enough to get sent home until May I think it was 1946 and so that’s how they filled in the time and then lots of other fellers came into our battalion from other units being disbanded. 26th Battalion was the longest mobilised infantry battalion in World War II. Seven and a quarter years and because of
that they were in Rabaul for that time and they didn’t come out of Rabaul till about November that year.
1946 yeah and I don’t know why they were selected but that’s just how it happened and these fellers came they weren’t too happy about it, but never mind. That’s their destiny and they came to us. We’ve included them up to a certain time in the nominal roll that’s in there. Three thousand, three hundred
fellers passed through our battalion and I put all those numbers in alphabetical order from all lists all over the place. Took me six weeks, working 10 hours a day. Normal Turrell thinks that a fairly good effort. I made one or two mistakes too along the way but well you’ve got a whole heap of things that fellers with lists of names
with nicknames on and a V number or a VX number and all sorts of things and initials. One initial or two initials and then where we had all these queries he took them back to Department of Veterans’ Affairs and they sorted it out as best they could but it was a whole heap of, the information came from three different sources and it was my job to put it all into one.
What were those sources?
From the army records in Canberra, Department Affairs and somewhere else.
I forget where the other place was and so there was bits of paper everywhere. You know trying to put everything in alphabetical order strict alphabetical order and get it right is not an easy job but anyway it had to be done and it was done.
So after hostilities had ceased were you starting to think about what you would do when you get back to Civvie Street?
Yes I had the opportunity to go to the
Occupation Force Japan and I regret now that I didn’t go but I had a bit of an obligation to go back to work. A feller was holding the job open for me which he didn’t have to do. I was entitled to have my job back there at Dunlop but this cashier was holding out this job and he wouldn’t have anybody else there and I learnt about this and I felt it’s a bit of a commitment to go back but I wished I had have gone to the Occupation Force now. I had to sign up for two years and I was getting a bit sick of the army
by that time. The way I felt about it was that the job had been done and so it was discipline was something I didn’t want to have on my shoulders from thereon in. Whilst I wasn’t under huge amounts of discipline in the orderly room I’d got away from a lot of that stuff. It was a lot better for me. I still didn’t want to be in the army
because I thought that the reason why I was there was not valid anymore. I didn’t want to be a permanent soldier.
Having said that though you wouldn’t have minded going to Japan?
I would have minded going to Japan. I would have gone to Japan only for my commitment to go back to work at Dunlop and that was because of my friend there holding that job open for me so I did that for two years and because I was a bit
unsettled and on and on and on I didn’t really take to it again. It was just something I didn’t want to do. I wanted to get away from office routine and so that’s how I come to go to South Australia and I got into different spheres. I went back and worked for the company for 43 years but in different capacities. I finished up one of their managers, one of their subsidiary companies in South Australia
and so that was a bit more to my liking than pushing a pen around, counting money.
So just one or two follow up questions about your time in Rabaul?
Before you come home. Do you remember any, I mean you were there for a while, do you remember any of the sort of specific problems or challenges that stood out for you or was it all fairly routine?
I didn’t see any problems there for myself. I didn’t get into any trouble there.
It was an ordinary sort of a life. There was sport being played. The Japanese built a sports ground and we played cricket, we had cricket teams and stuff and I was pretty much in cricket, playing cricket and I was happy enough there doing it. I just didn’t want to be in the army. The restrictions that you have that you have to comply. You get up at a certain time and you go to
bed at a certain time, have your meals at, too much routine.
And what was the appeal of going with off with BCOF [British Commonwealth Occupation Force - Japan] in Japan?
Well I’d never been overseas. I thought it would have been a good thing to do and one of the reasons why I couldn’t go I couldn’t get any of my mates to come with me. They all wanted to come home and if one of them had have signed up with me I would have gone like a shot.
Notwithstanding my situation with the company and critical your mates in the army’s a critical thing. That’s your biggest fear that you’re going to lose ‘em or get taken away from them or whatever. Even whilst I worked in the orderly room I still remained in contact with all my friends in A company and I used to go and sleep up there. In particular one night when all the Japanese
ammunition that was they collected there she exploded and I was down in battalion headquarters and the blessed shells were flying over the top and I thought that was a bit rough. The war was over for six months and it was just one huge explosion. It lit up the sky and I took off up to A company. I slept up there that night back with my mates. It was a bit further away
and I don’t think it was deliberately lit just spontaneous explosion or something. What they were doing with the ammunition, they were putting it in barges and taking it out to sea and dumping it in the ocean. It’s probably still there. There’s another story I could tell you about. It didn’t eventuate. There was a barge I think it was a boat or a barge was up the coast a bit there. There was a few other blokes and myself
were going to nick it and sail it back to Australia.
What stopped you?
Become a bit outrageous, impracticable. Probably wasn’t seaworthy or anything I don’t think but one of my mates was a fisherman from down at Lakes Entrance but it was a bit of a silly thing to think about but there you go.
So did you have much sort of first hand experience with the Japanese there or were you sort of kept separate from them?
No because I was in the orderly room I didn’t really come into contact with them. I didn’t have any direct involvement in guarding them. I was never on guard there on the compound and I was never on guard with any of the working parties so I didn’t have any contact with them at all. I didn’t talk to them or anything. I didn’t want to
for starters and there was no opportunity for me to do it anyway so it’s just as well it worked out that way. I still am uncomfortable in the presence of Japanese people. When I go up to Queensland I keep out of their way.
What was A company doing on Rabaul?
They were manning the guard from time to time and the working parties
and doing that sort of thing and attending all these lectures and schools and stuff. Their soldiering days we used to have parades every now and then but battalion parades and stuff all dropped away, all the training and stuff dropped away. It was doing other things more or less and it was a bit of a relaxation period, a fun period and wait
until you had enough points to get sent home. That’s what happened.
You mentioned they organised a racing carnival?
Or something of that sort. Were you did you go along to that?
I certainly did and I have the ticket, one of the tickets that I had a bet on. Obviously it didn’t win because I would have had to pass it in. They were all funny names of the horses. I’ll find the thing when we finish this and I’ll show you. Like funny name, you know how
a horse is named by so and so out of so and so and all funny names and some of them were a bit rude too but I went down to that race meeting. There must have been a racetrack there or something down, it was down near the town if I remember correctly and it was on I think Australia Day if I remember correctly again. I’m not sure about that but I’ve got the original program from it so that’s another thing I’ve
So who made up the jockeys and the trainers and that sort of thing?
I don’t know. There must have been personnel. A lot of those Queensland fellers were horsemen from way back. They were stock and station people you know from way out, Longreach and Winton and those places and they’re into horses and you know what horsy people are like. If there’s a chance of rounding up a horse they’ll do it and so this is what they came up with. They must have trained them
up a bit because as I understand it they were wild Timor ponies that were racing around the bush and they’re only little things of course and I don’t know. They had the proper colours and all the rest of it and probably stewards and whatever.
So who was running the book then?
I don’t know who was doing that. Obviously there would have been bookmakers in the army I s’pose or someone prepared to do it. The blokes that were running
the two-up school in the meantime I s’pose and a fellow that I know he comes along to our reunions now. He’s a bit of a shady character. When I say that he doesn’t sort of attend as a normal thing. Your likely to be marching along and he jumps out of the crowd to join you and all sorts of things like that, you never know where he’s going to be and his first job after he got out the army was running a two-up school out in Footscray
that’s just the way he is and then you don’t see him for a couple of years and then you’ll be at the reunion having your dinner and he suddenly walks in through the door. You never hear from him. He doesn’t answer letters or anything you know, just one of these people. So that’s been my job in for a number of years now to send out the mail and do all the rest of it, keep the bank account and
I managed to we were having a bit of trouble getting a few dollars and we used to make collection on Anzac Day and suddenly somebody sent me a cheque for $50 and I thought “Gee that’s a nice thing to do. We ought to do something for that person,” and so I came up with the idea of creating a life membership certificate and present it to him and then why not ask everybody else
for the same deal to get one so thirteen hundred dollars later, they gave me one for free for thinking up the idea. So we’ve still got $700 in the bank.
So yeah tell us about coming back and I mean first of all yeah how that Association sort of?
Our Association? Well when I, I used to go on the Anzac Day marches
with one or two blokes in Melbourne immediately after the war and then I went to South Australia and I used to meet up with fellers from the unit over there and see ‘em on Anzac Day principally. One or two others I used to see during the year. We belong to an Association called inter-staters that people belong to interstate units and we used to march with them and I’ve belonged to the RSL [Returned and Services League] Club for over 50 years. I have a certificate over there to that effect. They present you with
a certificate for 50 years service and I belonged to the RSL over there but I wasn’t involved in the RSL or any reunion organisation. Was only when I came back here that I started thinking about looking up some of the fellers I’d been in the army with and I’d retired from work and you might know that when you retire from work you have to change a bit of your thinking and look for different things to do because one day you’re occupied for eight hours
and you’re meeting hundreds of people maybe and telephone calls right, left and centre and suddenly it’s just cut off just like that so you’ve got all this free time on your hands. It took me a while to sort myself out from that and I’ve taken on certain projects. One was my family tree which I did which took me two years to do and that’s gone back to 1630 now and when I did it, it was 21 pages which I typed up three times and it’s now up to
37 pages and goodness knows how many people. That was one project and then something else and then I started to think that it’s about time that I started to look to find out fellers that I was in the unit with and somehow or other I came up with this one bloke in Melbourne. He still comes along and in 1990 I made arrangements to go down on the train to march in the Anzac march and I thought hell this is going to be a heavy day.
He was one of the wildest blokes I ever knew. Drink beer like it was going out of fashion and whatever and used to run the two-up school and a few other things. So I go down there and meet him. Recognised him straight away and we go in the Anzac Day march. I said, “Are you going to have a drink Ray?” He said, “I haven’t had a drink for 40 years.” He became an alcoholic and he gave it up and that’s a pretty hefty sort of a thing to do and I’ve been a bit concerned about him on a few occasions since and I’ve been up to the reunions two or
three times with him and I’ve thought this is going to be a bit tough for him but he hasn’t broken down. You well know alcoholics cannot have one drink, they’re gone so to his credit he’s done that and we found out then that there has been a reunion up there in Charters Towers a few years ago and that there had been one in Rockhampton the year before and somehow or other I found out from people up in
Queensland and I got in touch with my old Corporal who lives in Wyndham in Queensland and we made arrangements to go up that year. Norman Turrell was up there. I hadn’t met him. He wasn’t in my section or anything like that. I didn’t know him in the army but he was up there and we had a real good time and was up there that the decision was made to write the unit history book and I nearly got the job myself
except that Norman Turrell came along and he had a lot better connections than myself and was more qualified to do it and on and on and on so I got the job transferred to him but I gave him a lot of assistance and this other feller too down in Melbourne did so we printed a thousand copies of the book. He wrote the book in one year, researched it and wrote it in one year and that’s pretty well a record. Had a thousand copies finished. We got it all done, typeset and everything and printed three
days before the next reunion and I carted, this bloke in Melbourne arranged to transport a heap of books up to Queensland free of charge in some company’s truck. That was a bit scary because we couldn’t put any insurance on ‘em or anything. Anyway they got there alright and I carted 30 up in my, in a suitcase that I took with me in case something went wrong and got ‘em up there to the reunion. Was on very strict
orders from Norm Turrell not to show any person any book so I had to carry ‘em on the train with all me mates and not tell them I had the books in my case but I wasn’t allowed to show ‘em.
So no-one in the Association knew at all?
Yeah they knew that the book was coming up but we weren’t allowed to show ‘em. That was one of the criteria that he tells me that his author mates tell him, that you don’t let anybody spy on your book or anything. So we get ‘em up there and a bloke carted them up in a car from Queensland
another feller I knew, put ‘em in the boot of his car. Got ‘em up there in record time, did a bit of low flying and got them up there. I said don’t you deliver them to anybody except me or Normal Turrell and he got ‘em up there and delivered them to me and so we launched the book. There’s a photograph of it there behind that one there of us launching the book. I got the job of conducting the sales throughout Australia and in the first year we’ve sold 900 of ‘em. I had people
in every state selling books and I sent ‘em all out to all the states. Kept a record of it all and got all the money back and we raised about $35,000 and so we had a few dollars to do things and that’s where the money for our plaque and tree down in Melbourne came from, our banner and different other things and they have the same thing in Queensland and maybe in other places too so that was a good thing to do
and then they elected me as Vice President for my services, Junior Vice President sorry. That’s very important.
Is there a possible promotion to senior or are you too young for that?
I know that the president the Vice President the senior Vice President are pretty sick people and I might get their job but I’m not going to do any more reunions.
I’ve been to three and I went up there the next year and we launched the book and I went up again in 1997. I had some unfinished business to fix up which is a long story but it’s not worthwhile going into now but I had to patch up the relationships that went all haywire so I went up there and sorted it all out and everything’s back onto track again now.
These are relationships went haywire after the war or?
No after the book sales
they were very jealous about it all that we achieved what we did, Queensland people.
I was going to ask about that cause you’ve?
They’d tried for any number of years to do something about it but didn’t get there and they thought we were trying to take them over but we weren’t. All we wanted to do was print the book and sell it but they resented everything and there’s a whole story attached to it so I had to go and sort it out, which I did so everything’s
back hunky dory. I’m back to Vice, Junior Vice President again now.
So the majority of?
They demoted me for a year.
The politics of battalion associations?
Shocking. All over you know and we weren’t trying to upstage them. We just wanted the book printed but we did it very well in my opinion whereas they fumbled and went on and couldn’t get going
but that was mostly due to Norman Turrell anyway, with a bit of help from me and another person in Melbourne but it needed to be done, should have been done before. They should have had the reunion association going immediately after the war but most of the fellers in our unit were from Queensland and that’s where it should have started. They’re having a reunion in Rockhampton this year and it may well be the last one because
everyone’s getting a bit too old to travel and on and on and on so we tried to ask them to transfer it to Brisbane for a bit closer on the grounds that a few more people from down here might come but again we were not successful in that so that’s where it is this year.
How many would have attended the last reunion?
About 40. When we launched the book there was 150 people there
that’s including wives and girlfriends and so on. That’s the most there’s ever been. That’s a pretty special occasion so it was a necessary thing to be done and it needed to be done and the sooner you do these things the better. It should have been done years ago but it wasn’t so it’s been completed now and there it is. You know the story about when you write a book you’ve
got to give it to the library in Canberra and all the other places around the place. This is you know it’s over in America, everywhere now. There’s no more copies available, they’re all sold.
Can we talk just a little bit about when you came back? You’d been a clerk in Rabaul. What, you were expecting to be discharged as soon as you came back, what was the story?
When I came down on the train I expected to come off the train
at Royal Park and be discharged and the next day there I was on the train going back to Albury a very unhappy soldier I can tell you and then they come to pick me up from Tocumwal. To make matters worse an officer and his driver, the driver obviously had to be in the front seat and the officer sat in the front seat beside him and it was an open truck at the back and it’s all dusty roads and there was me sitting on my pack in
the back of the vehicle with all the dust blowing in on me. I wasn’t a really happy citizen but anyway, sorted that out and the first thing that happened I got malaria again and I can well remember I was in the RAAF hospital all delirious and it was the morning that they exploded the atomic bomb on Bikini Atoll and in my delirious state the
radio was going and I thought the world was going to go up and it couldn’t happen quick enough for me, I was that sick so it’s a very insidious disease but that’s I’ve only had it four times. Some fellers’ still got it. This feller Bob Freeman that I gave you his name today reckons he still gets it but there’s different types of malaria. There’s three different types. The one I had is called benign tertian and the
malignant tertian is the one that attacks your brain. We lost one feller from it, died on Bougainville and then there is another kind. I can’t remember the name of it but it’s rife in those countries, Africa and different other places. Pretty out of control and it affects your spleen. That’s why all their bellies are out here like this, the natives, their spleen enlarges.
So with that bout of malaria did that get you out of the army or was it still
at the end?
No, no, no. I don’t know what, why they decided to discharge me eventually from up there. Was a base ammunition depot and they had all this ammunition stored out on the plains out there behind big barricades that they’d put up of earth and stuff you know. If there was an explosion
it was all going to go up in the air and not too much damage. I don’t know why they finally discharged me. I’d started to enjoy myself up there after a while. We used to go in the army trucks to football matches down to Victoria and stuff like that and had a pretty good time yeah so I come back and got discharged and then went back
to work. Two years, I lasted two years and I couldn’t handle it any more and I went to South Australia and got into a different sort of environment and stayed there.
Had there been much of a homecoming for you personally?
Unfortunately there was a homecoming. There was a homecoming reception, not for me alone, but for other people. It was the night I got malaria again. Had to send my brother and sister in lieu of me.
They presented me with a kitbag from the local people. The local people, Fathers Association they called themselves used to send us Christmas parcels. The Australian compass fund and other people were very good. We always got every soldier to the best of my knowledge got a parcel at Christmas time. I’ve shown you the compass fund things there. It contained soap and biscuits
or chocolates and something like that but it was a nice thing, showed you weren’t being forgotten.
So were you able to talk about your experiences with the family, friends back here? Were people curious?
I find generally speaking that people have a lot of respect for fellers that have done what I’ve done and others like
me but they’re a bit cautious about wanting to ask you questions and I don’t talk to them about it. You know I might refer to something I might tell them the story about the feller that shot holes in his own pants and stuff like that but I don’t tell ‘em about I don’t talk about the serious stuff. I only talk to fellers that have been there and done that and know what it’s like a bit and not often. When I go down the street on Monday which is the march in this town
and we go down, put our medals up and march down and have a free feed on the Council I’ll meet a few fellers that I know but we won’t be talking about wartime experiences too much. Except one bloke who was in 31/ 51 battalion and was in that Porton operation and he talks to me about that so that’s basically, I don’t talk to people that were not there, only people that
I know that have been there and done that is what I talk to and not very often much now. It’s really faded away. I’ve kept all this stuff and I take it and show it to kids and all the rest of it all this memorabilia stuff. I’ll be taking it out to my 80th birthday party which is in a few weeks time and I’ll lay it all out there and the kids can have a look at it and if they want to talk about it I’ll tell ‘em about it but I won’t be telling ‘em about what happened up the
track or whatever or Potty Burton or anything.
I mean some of the men we’ve spoken to have talked about coming back and not quite fitting in, not all of them, but quite a few have talked about that, that feeling of not being able to settle so easily. How was that for you?
I think I went through that stage myself too. That’s one of the reasons why I couldn’t handle it in the office down in Melbourne here. I was unsettled for sure
and I think it unsettled me with my relationships with people to a certain degree. One of the reasons why I never got married probably so not that I didn’t want to get married. It just didn’t work at but basically at that time I wasn’t prepared or ready to settle down. I was unsettled. I thought of myself over here in Adelaide and
I didn’t want promotion in the company. I just wanted to work and suddenly they thrust promotion on me and I had to accept it or and from thereon my attitude changed a bit because if you take on a promotion and you don’t do it to your best of your ability what are you on about? You’re getting paid extra money but that’s not the point. You should be doing extra work shouldn’t you and doing a better job.
and so that really was one of the maybe my bosses realised that, I don’t know. They never talked to me about it. My experience of working with, in my company anyway, they did a certain amount of training for me. They flew me to Sydney and different other places to do different things but basically they didn’t teach me, and I don’t know whether it was teachable, of how to handle
people and get along with people. I think you have to learn it yourself. You have to learn it from hard experience and there’s no point in having a stand up argument with one of your customers is it over anything and winning, particularly because you want him as a customer next week, next year don’t you and my experience has been that I had to learn that myself and I had to teach myself and I had to learn it the hard way
Well we’ve got about a minute left on the tape here so basically if there’s anything that you’d like to say in summary, get down on the record for prosperity, now’s your chance?
Well one thing that I would like to say I’m very pleased to have been able to have the honour of conducting this interview. I would like to thank you two people for coming along, Catherine [interviewer] and Colin [interviewer] for doing it and I think you’ve been very understanding. I’ve enjoyed it immensely and I feel it’s a great
privilege to be involved.
Thank you very much Robert, the feeling’s mutual, thanks.