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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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