from Gallipoli as was my mother’s brother. I know my mother’s brother was on the ship The Sutherland which was torpedoed. He was a 23rd Battalion reinforcement. Dad was in the 6th Battalion and oddly enough I finished up in the Second World War in the 2/6th Battalion but the, when Dad came home I always had a, I got an idea from Mum that there wasn’t something a little bit odd about him. I think he might have been hit in the head. I finished up with epilepsy because of being hit in the
head after the Second World War but then of course came the Depression and as you probably know the Depression knocked out a lot of World War I work fellows who had left their families to, you know, one less mouth to feed. There are 30 % depression in the war and I know, in the 1930s and I know that Dad went off and wandered around the country and he eventually died in a mental hospital, The Goodnow in Queensland as an
alcoholic. Most of the, you’d be surprised how many of the World War I fellows turned out, finished up as alcoholics. Very bad alcoholics you know.
helped to clean out the theatre. So, I finished up with oh, about five, five hours sleep a night but it went to support the family because the young brother couldn’t work and mother, Mum had lost her business. She used to make notions for dressing tables, little bowls with lavender in them and a cupee on top and of course when the Depression came along nobody wanted that. We used to sell them to Coles [department store] incidentally which became more or less connected with the 2/6th Battalion because the five Coles brothers
were in the original 6th Battalion and when we created the 2/6th Battalion the old sign used to be nothing over two and six you know, two stroke six and we were known as Cole’s Own and eventually our autobiography is Nothing Over Us. ‘Nothing over Two and Six’ you see, nothing over the second six but then I, in 1918 I became a copy boy at the Herald and Weekly Times in Melbourne and I was still there and in the meantime
my brother and I had both, my brother first and then I, had both joined the 14th Militia Battalion and when, on my 19th birthday we were called up to guard the Victoria Barracks because the war had just broken out then, this is August or 2/2nd or was about to break out you know and while I was there at the Victoria Barracks it was announced we’d gone to war on September the 3rd 1939 and then when we finished there I went to, up to Tatura
to the, to become one of the guards, actually I was in the, as a corporal then and in the headquarters room of the first internment camp at Tatura and then when we finished that I went straight in to the AIF [Australian Imperial Force – the army] on the second AIF on the 4th November 1939 so I was in uniform from my 19th birthday until I was demobbed [demobilised] on the 11th January 1946 which came up to about six and a half years.
side to stop any Italian breakout there and you’ll see in the [Australian] War Memorial, Australian War Memorial there’s a famous painting by Hele [Ivor Hele] of post eleven at Bardia which was an attack, Arthur Godfrey who was our colonel, later became brigadier of the 24th Brigade and was killed at Tobruk. Killed just before Alamein. We did this attack for some reason which
was totally unnecessary it seemed later but we lost our, we had the heaviest casualties at Bardia because of this and I think it, I can remember going in to this post and helping to bring out the ten bodies of the fellows that were killed there, including two very good friends of mine. A chap named Lieutenant Bowen who came from Wonthaggi and a chap named Graham, Graham who was the
the son of one of our diplomats, both killed. He was a corporal. But after Bardia we then went on and in a fortnight later we attacked and took Tobruk and a lot of people forget that too. They think of the rest of Tobruk but they don’t know that it had to be taken in the first place and it was taken by the 6th Division. It was defended by the 9th Division plus one 18th Brigade Battalion, 13th Battalion I think it was
but in the meantime we’d gone and as far as just past Benghazi and then we’re pulled back which subsequently turned out to be possibly a mistake of some way but we were committed to Greece and Crete. If we’d have gone on we’d have probably driven out, driven the Italians out of Libya in 1941 but we went off to Greece and of course [German Field Marshall Erwin] Rommel and the Afrika Corps then came in and pushed us back and it took another two years to get rid of Rommel but in
the meantime we’re, Churchill and evidently this had been done without consulting [Australian General Thomas] Blamey who was the Australian commander or [General] Freyberg the New Zealand commander and we went in to Greece and Crete and of course immediately we arrived there, the Germans came in. Up until then the Greeks had been thrashing the hell out of the Italians you know
so we got on the train and we got up as far as Larissa and that’s well, Larissa would be half way up Greece, halfway up the east side of Greece and then we were stopped and told, all right, well, you’ve got to retreat, so from then on it became a series of leap-frogging operations. First we the front line and then the 16th Brigade and then the 19th Brigade. All the way back to the coast but
one thing I discovered subsequently in some of the histories when we arrived in Greece, Blamey had the nous to send some of his staff down to already look for evacuation beaches. He had the nous and Freyberg had the nous to realise that we couldn’t possibly hold the Germans. They were in overwhelming strength so when we got down to the coast the
evacuation started to proceed quite easily although the 6th Battalion we copped it because we left two and a half battalions to guard the bridge over the Corinth Canal and we were the first people ever to meet up with German parachutists. First Australians that is and the Germans took Corinth and took the fellows there they didn’t kill, they took prisoner so we had lost
half the battalion there. But we were lucky. We, I was in the Bren gun carriers which is part of headquarters company so we’d already crossed the bridge and left Corinth and were on our way down to Kalamata which was a port on the western end of the Peloponnese and when we got there of course there must have been well over a thousand Australians and New Zealanders under the olive trees and strangely enough the German aircraft never there
hit us, hit us at Kalamata although subsequently there was fighting there and one of the American, one of the New Zealanders won the VC [Victoria Cross]. In the meantime we were taken off in destroyers to these transport ships lying off, they couldn’t get in to the harbour it was too shallow and I was one of the fellows that oh about oh, maybe nearly a thousand of us who were put on the ship to go to Costa Rica and we were already past Crete
when these Germans they attacked us from, we went on just before dawn and immediately the day I came the German aircraft were on to us and this one aircraft came down out of the sun and his bomb destroyed the propellers and the screws and the rudder at the back of the ship and he never came out of it because everybody who had a rifle or a Bren gun was up on the deck firing at them. I was one of the fellows collecting ammunition because I’d lost my Bren carrier
and everything in it and he never came out, came out the dive. He went straight into the water. Then they started to evacuate the ship and HMS Hereward came in on the starboard side and started to take fellows off but my two, my crew I had with me then John McCoam[?] and Bill Ward and I said, “Oh this is no good.” and we got a boat down on the port side and took this boat around
to another destroyer that just came in and was about maybe, maybe a hundred metres off to the port side of the Hero and rowed over to that ship and we did a silly thing. Instead of coming in on the leeward side where the sea was calm he rowed down the bow one moment we’re going up and down, up and the destroyer’s going down you know and finished up with the sailor saying, “Jump, grab the gun!” but the three of us got aboard and that’s,
that was the strange thing that I burst in to tears with the tension. It’s amazing what happened you know and this happened with my mate with whom I escaped. A man about ten years older than me, at the end, towards the end of the war but the Hero stood off and the Hero took everybody back to Crete. We were past Crete you see when this happened or just past Crete and Hero stood off and put two
torpedos in to the Costa Rica to sink her because she was taking water but very slowly and there were still ships coming out the side and this is, this is August, April 27 the evacuation began on Anzac Day 1941 which is 26 years after the landing. You have an evacuation from Greece, which is close to Turkey. So you’ve got these strange coincidences happening and
we set off a torpedo now of course Costa Rica would have been a danger to other liners coming out during the night which obviously were blacked out so they sank her and then when they dropped us off on Crete and then we were there this, we were then from April 27 until the battle started on May the 20th and we knew of course this has all come out subsequently, we got, we got all the warnings from ULTRA [codebreaking] but
nobody knew about that at the time. Freyberg was getting, Freyberg was then in charge of all the Anzacs on Crete, Blamey who was in charge in Greece, he’d already gone down to Alexandria you see so Freyberg was landed on Crete and he was put in charge of the whole operation there but we knew exactly to the hour when the Germans were going to attack us on May the 20th because of this ULTRA thing we know
about now. We didn’t know about it then no, so all the Australians on May 20th we saw all these, of course we were being bombed and machine gunned occasionally by German aircraft but on May 20th at 8 am came this big invasion of parachutists, all these German aircraft coming in an dropping these parachutists and it was a lot of fun.
and there was a group of New Zealanders there in this forest or a group of woods. There was a man sitting against a tree holding a cup and everyone one of them were dead. They’d been killed by bomb blasts you see and then we did a bit of fighting. We finally got over the top and we did the last rear guard and they told us we were not going off you know so there was a 2/7th Battalion which was, the 2/7th Battalion was great
tragedy really. They were you know sold down the drain. The 2/7th did the last rear guard plus a couple of units of American battalions, New Zealand battalions, a 27th Battalion and we were a post in the middle of this. We were attacked by air and that’s when I was wounded. These two German Messerschmitts came down and fired. I wasn’t actually hit by a bullet. It was a,
a reflection see. The main thing that hit me was being pounded. When the bullets hit the rock I got sprayed like being sprayed with sand. It sort of split all the rock and I tumbled off the rock and down on my right side so that everything that’s happened to me since has always been on my right side and I took a lot of it on my head. But you know it took 50 years for the doctors here to discover that I had
mild epilepsy because of that and evidently this happened to a number of soldiers that were hit in the head, that you’d end up with this mild epilepsy thing you know but when I came to I was a prisoner of war and here’s this German Württemberger and one of the mountain troops handing me a British biscuit with bully beef on it and an orange and here I am now a prisoner of war you see and I was taken back then in
in the back of a truck. I was roughly bandaged. I was bleeding from the head. I had a skin peeled back here. They eventually sewed it, a German doctor sewed it back, back to Maleme and then I was flown over to a hospital. It was first a German hospital in Athens and then I was transferred to the 2/5th AGH [Australian General Hospital] which was an Australian hospital which had been caught entire except for the nurses. They’d volunteered to stay home, stay behind to look after the wounded in Greece.
And I was there for the rest of June and then transferred, put on a train with other prisoners of war and we went up to a place to Salonika what was called a Dulag or through camp, transit camp [Durchgangslager - POW transit camp] where they had all these prisoners and we were there for over a month and that was pretty rough, pretty rough because it was okay dealing with front line Germans but when you got to these reserve soldiers you
found they started to get very rough with you and they starved us in the Salonika camp, which was just across the road incidentally from a new cemetery which was interesting, a few people, a few fellows died there but that was when I became, I’d attempted an escape in Athens from this block of flats where they held me, these wounded fellows until they put us on the train but I didn’t get far beyond the gate you
know because there was a German guard outside anyway. I tried another time, going up on the train, I ducked under the train and there was a rock wall about oh twenty meters away. I got over the wall and strangely enough, behind the wall was a German soldier having a pee and he saw me like and he grinned at me and I grinned at back, you know, there’s nothing I could do so
we just walked back to the train you know but the third time in Salonika was they, which was a famous attempt at, it’s been published where a whole group of us tried to get out of the camps through the sewer and oh there must have been about forty or fifty of us you know and the, some of the fellows got out but then one of the Cypriot fellows died at a turn in
the tunnel at an elbow in the tunnel and the rest of us piling in couldn’t do anything. So, I managed to get out and, I had to get out of the tunnel again and the Germans by this time had broke up, you know but there must be something going on and they were in there and I got a bayonet through the hand, just the tip of the bayonet but my mate Dudley Walsh was down there and he got really bashed up and I went up to see Dudley in hospital later and his face was just a great big purple
mash. But believe it or not after we were put on the train to Germany Dudley escaped and got back through Turkey and re-joined the battalion. He got Mentioned In Dispatches for that but we were put on this train for Germany would have been August 10th and taken to a camp called Hammelburg which is, oh became famous later in two ways. Firstly, there was a television show made called Stalag 13 which was based on that camp and the other thing about it was
that [American General] Patten’s son in law was in there and they attempted to escape, to rescue him but that was long after I’d left there because I’d made, when we got to Hammelburg they sent us out to work on farms which was a very good idea because we were pretty well starving, skin and bone sort of by the time we got to Hammelburg and it was a good idea to send us out to work on farms because then we got fed and clothed and so on. Though,
the interesting thing is of course we were caught on Crete in summer uniform and of course when we got up there they clothed us in the most incredible collection of clothing, Scottish bonnets, Belgium overcoats, in all sorts of things and I’ve got a picture of the group of fellows that I was in charge of, my [(UNCLEAR)] later commandos as we call them, [(UNCLEAR)] – commando, and we were sent out to this village that was called Bishops Farm.
which was in a mountain area on the border of Bavaria and Tyrolia [actually Tyrol] and they had a big army camp called Wilfricken which later become a big displaced persons camp and it was there that Tom Bennet of the 3rd Battalion, 2/3rd Battalion and I decided that well we’d shoot through. We didn’t get a chance at Bishop Farm but when they moved, they moved us to another place called Little Story because the German people of Bishops Farm liked us and we were getting on
so well with them you know and when we got to Little Story Tom and I went over the wall and we made this escape dressed in British uniforms, by this time we had British uniforms, got them through the Red Cross .
away on the last one. I can’t remember, I can’t remember the 5th one. I think the 5th one was, couldn’t have been very much anyway. But the last one was April 1945 Frank Bournside and Frank Born from the AASC [Australian Army Service Corps] and I decided to go because the Germans were marching us south towards what was supposed to be [(UNCLEAR)] the where the Germans were going to put all the prisoners of war in front of us
the and the Nazis would be, the SS would be behind and the Germans, the Americans would have to attack through the prisoners of war but Frank and I were decided well we weren’t going on this march and we cut the wire and went through the wire and a German guard nearby didn’t even try to stop us you know they knew that the thing was, that they had, had it anyway and Frank and I went off and we were going through a forest and we saw two tanks firing
at each other you know, well might have been oh about a half a kilometre apart and when we were taken prisoner, the Americans of course wore the same helmets as we did you know the shallow helmet. So, these fellows had on helmets like the Germans and at first we thought, ‘Oh, no they’re Germans!’ and then we thought, ‘What’s the white star on the tank? Oh, it must be one of ours.’ and we got down there and sure enough it was the advanced guard, a tank advanced guard
of the 85th Division, the American 85th Division and I always remember, what I was saying to the lieutenant who was in charge of attack, oh great this is, “Now, where do we go to get rescued and sent back to Britain?” you know and Frank has got this lieutenant’s hand in his two hands the lieutenant can’t get his hand away. Frank won’t let it go and Frank’s pouring tears. He’s trying to talk and he can’t you know because the emotion. It’s strange how these things come about this, this
emotion takes over you know. So, anyway Frank and I went back and the old lieutenant said, “Oh no, our fellows are way back you know maybe 50 kilometres.” you know. There’s Germans between us and them and we go back and sure enough we’re sitting on the side of a road and a German battalion is falling back and this German sergeant came up to us and we’re smoking you know and he says, “Can I have one of those cigarettes, who are you?” you know and, “Oh, we’re a couple of
escaped prisoners.” you know. “Can I have one of your cigarettes?” So, he’s having a cigarette and talking to us and we’re and you know “How are you going?” “Oh not so good.” “What are you going to do?” “Oh,” he says, “All my fellows will fade in to the bush you know, enter the forest, they’ll just disappear.” and he had a bicycle with a Panzerfaust [German anti-tank projectile, like a bazooka] through it, what we call a bazooka on a tank destroyer thing on it you know so they went their way and we went our way and we ran in to two girls who were carrying bags of flour,
they’d got it from some store and we had a couple of bars of chocolate and we thought, ‘Well if we carry their flour for them to their home and give them the chocolate, they’ll give us bread.’ and we were walking down this road and we were approaching an intersection and up this other road comes a German car with some generals in it. You can tell they’re generals because they’ve got the braid all down the legs and around the cap you know and the fellow sitting beside the driver spots
us, stands up, and he pulls out his pistol you know and he’s going to shoot us for sure you know. I’ve got no feeling, the feeling is going, I’m going dead from the feet up and Frank says, “Salute the bastard quick!” So, we gave him a magnificent salute each you know and just at the point two Mustangs came up from the south behind this car and this general’s aide in the car have pulled his trousers and he sat down and the car went one way and we and the girls went the other way you know
and that night we stayed in this girl’s place and during the night a American infantry battalion came up you know, knocked the door in you know, demanded food and all the rest of it and Frank decided next morning that he would go back with some of these Americans but I decided to stay with them so I became temporarily for the next, oh it must have been the next week, a member of the an American regiment down to, until he took Regensburg on the Danube which was the end of the war really.
to Nuremberg and then on to Erlanger where we caught a plane to Brussels and then another plane to Britain. The interesting thing is that while I was with the Americans we ran into three of the fellows who’d been in 383 and one of the fellows had very bad dysentery. There was Ran Davy and Brad Miller of the 2/11th Battalion. I can’t remember who the 3rd bloke was and I said to the, I was then with two American
journalists at that stage, Tom Daley and Mitch Leonard and I said, “Look, can I have your jeep and your driver and take these fellows back to a casualty station?” So, that’s when, I’d left the Americans then and I thought I may as well stay with these fellows. We then went back to Erlanger and there were then 27 of us including one airman who’d been shot down over Yugoslavia and we were in, Erlanger was a big German Army camp and big permanent barracks and all the rest of it
and we were in one building and there were Frenchmen in the building next door and the most interesting thing there was that during the night a Negro soldier knocked in the windows of one the French building and just sprayed it with machine gun bullets and killed quite a few Frenchmen and in the morning they hanged the Negro but at that stage we were then told there was an aircraft at Dakota coming in to pick us up and take us to Brussels.
And up on the Erlanger Airfield and aircraft arrived and the aircraft that arrived would you believe this disembarked a group of what you call American US Aid people and one of them was Marlene Dietrich and one of the fellows, and I have a picture of this to prove it, one of the fellows dared me to ask her for a kiss and I finished up kissing her and we then got on the plane and flew to Brussels. We had two days in Brussels because of bad weather
you know, you’re more interested in playing and football and maybe later on you’re interested in girls so it, it was forty years before I started to find out interesting things about my family. It was when I moved from the Perth Daily news to the Sydney Morning Herald and I suddenly got interested enough to go up to the, I knew my father had been born in Sydney
so I went up to the registry office and discovered not only my father’s birth record but also that he had two brothers and a sister. I also discovered that their parents were New Zealanders. So, that encouraged me to think of going over to New Zealand. I went over there in 1961 and while I was there the Aunt was in New Zealand doing the exactly the same thing as I was. Trying to find out something about the family in Nelson.
And I found in Nelson that the family you know had been among the first migrants in New Zealand and they’d set up the first brewery in New Zealand. Incidentally, the cellar and the brewery still is there as part of the big hotel that’s now there named after the famous New Zealand scientist who discovered the Atom bomb or worked on the Atom bomb and
then I decided well I must try to catch up with this Aunt so I flew, went back, flew back to Wellington and left messages. I knew she’d gone to Wellington and left messages. If this woman turns up, hold her and sure enough I met my Aunt for the first time and she did not know that her eldest brother had married and had, had children you see so that was one thing about it and at the same time I discovered that my grandmother,
grandmother’s, maternal grandmother’s father had been Major General William Dallis Broughton who had been in charge of the engineers in New Zealand during the Maori wars, had built most of the roads, the military roads out of Auckland where, down to the Waikato and [(UNCLEAR)] and so on so this became quite fascinated and I ,I got even more interested when my Aunt told me that she and one brother, the second brother
were still living Perth. Now I had lived in Perth for 4 years and didn’t know about the, didn’t know these people existed. I lived about half a suburb away from them you know so I flew over to Perth to meet Uncle Richard who had finished up, he’d been a lieutenant in the 16th Battalion in World War I, Stanley the youngest brother had died. He finished up a lieutenant. He started 1918 as a private and finished up a lieutenant by the end of the war and he’d won a
DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal] in the meanwhile. Anyway, because it was a bad night I stayed with, friends met me at the airport, I’d worked with at the Daily News and I said oh we won’t go around and see the old man now. The plane was late, we got in about 2am or something like that and those were the days when we still flew in DC 6s and you know Constellations and things. So, I said I’ll see the old man in the morning. So, when I went around in the morning his daughter had met me and Richard had died during the
night. I don’t know whether to meet his eldest brother’s son might have excited him or something but I knew he had a bottle of scotch whisky we were going to share so I ended up going to his funeral and oddly enough at the funeral was an old mate of mine named Hole who’d been a prisoner of war with me in Stalag 383 in Germany and strangely enough Hull knew Uncle Richard and they’d worked together in the AMP [Australian Mutual Provident] in Perth so
that, that’s where you know you don’t have, nowadays of course, my daughter Robin, my cousin that’s Richard’s daughter and my cousin in Melbourne Moyna I know that’s Uncle George’s daughter who was my brother’s, my uncle’s, my brother’s brother. They’re all interested genealogy you know and they’ve got some of them, some of it from me because I found some of these things you see but it’s really fascinating that you don’t realise
as a kid how important these things are you know so well that was that. But in the meantime of course when Dad left and he became just one of the 30 % of the unemployed in the Depression, wandering around the country looking for jobs and you know very seldom did these fellows have food and if they had any money they would spend it on wine you know having been wine drinkers in France or wherever they were, or Egypt during the war you
know they weren’t, most, that’s where the word Plonk comes from. It comes from the word Vin Blanc you see, white wine you know and plonk became a standard for the Australian Returned Serviceman and eventually of course Dad became an alcoholic and I discovered then a year later that he had died in Brisbane in a mental hospital with other alcoholics, you know some of these fellows became terribly alcoholic and they just, the Queensland government anyway and I don’t know about
other. State governments just put them straight in the mental hospitals. At least they were looked after and he eventually died there. I gather he finished up with cancer of the throat or something or other you know so he’s buried up there and so is the grandfather, the paternal grandfather. He had gone up there originally to establish himself in business and bring the family over from Perth and he died before he could do that so I’ve got the strange thing and now they have the third thing up
there. They established a remembrance, what do they call it? A National remembrance for Victory, a National Freedom wall in Brisbane in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and I’m on it with my young brother who died five years ago who was a prisoner of war, a prisoner of the Japanese plus two cousins, one of whom, Keith W Hooper, was also
a prisoner of the Japanese so they were both on the Burma Railway you see and they both finished up in Japan working in coal mines up there.
bag of food. You didn’t get money you got a bag of food, maybe a packet of tea, couple of loaves of bread, a tin of plum jam or whatever it was you see, anything above that came out of what money I earned selling newspapers and then later on when I, I was at school then at Hawthorn State school and young Garry started at South Yarra State school because we lived in South Yarra but I’d started at Hawthorn then and I stayed there
and then I, I, as well as selling newspapers the Sun, the Melbourne Sun, Age and Argus and again I did if for a while in the evening with the Herald but it became, I didn’t earn enough money in the evening so I went to work as a grease monkey at a nouveau garage at Chapel St. South Yarra and where I got a few, bit more money but at one stage and working as a page boy at the Regent theatre in Toorak road South Yarra I was earning two pounds ten a week which was
more than most men were getting but it was coming out of three jobs. So, that helped the family. At least we could pay the rent you know and could buy clothes so that went on. It started, people don’t seem to realise that the Depression went on, the Depression really didn’t end until the war started when the war industries provided jobs for unemployed and there was probably about
you could say the Depression really ended about 1942 when the Japanese came in to the war that’s, that’s probably the end of the Depression for Australia so it was rather a strange thing and talking about the unemployed. A lot of people thought that originally nearly all the second AIF were unemployed men. That’s not so. I would say that maybe about forty per cent could have been unemployed but then you had a lot of people that went in to the army
or navy, few more in the navy. The air force came a bit later really and we put down their occupation as something other than what they were. For instance by that time I’m a cadet journalist but instead of putting down cadet journalist I just put down clerk you know. If you put down what you were you might have been pulled out of the army for a reserved occupation. See, that’s where these types of things came in but as time went
on, by the time I’d finished High school I’d managed to get a job as a copy boy at the Herald and Weekly Times I tried to get one at the Melbourne Age first but they wouldn’t have me.
In those days of course radio was still in its relative infancy. I just recently read a book about the history, history of the 3LO, the first station in Melbourne. It’s fascinating to go back and read the names of the people you used to listen to on radio you know and the programmes you listened to on radio but the thing is that I decided then that I would be a journalist and only a copy boy of course I was just running
copies for people you know. I met recently in Canberra, Sally White who was the daughter of Osmar White who was a famous Australian war correspondent in New Guinea you know Sally, Sally like me has been involved in teaching journalists and we both decided the same thing that going back to that period you know I was then a copy boy running copies for Osmar White you know they’d shout out “Copy boy,” and you’d have to pick up a piece of copy and take it over to the sub editors you know.
But it was just getting interesting and at that time my young brother Garry, by that time he’d turned 16 and he had joined the 14th Battalion which was then, what we call in those days, the Citizen’s Military Forces, the 14th Battalion had the drill hall at Prahran next to the Alfred hospital. So, I thought, and you got paid for it you see, you got paid for being in the army then. It wasn’t much you know, might have been about oh two pound a month or something like
that, ten bob a week something like that but it was a bit of extra money. You thought any way you could get extra money in those days you took you know so I decided I might as well join the army as well so I joined the 14th Battalion and from then on I was more or less committed to the army and so when war broke out, well just before war broke out on my 19th birthday on August 27 1939, we were called up the, to guard the Victoria
barracks on St Kilda road because evidently at that stage the government already saw, well the British and the Australia governments already saw that we were committed, going to be committed to the war. The Germans were already, I think they’d already started to invade Poland you know or were about to invade Poland.
degree. I had two good friends. Gordon Parker who was later killed in the Air Force flying over South East Asia and Reg Mills who was also later in the Air Force but did come back and at that stage in 1936 I was a member of the young communist party or thought I was. I didn’t have a card but with a couple of, we had a thing in Melbourne called the Eureka club which was
run by the communists and again you know you’d go there and they’d give you a parcel of food to take home you see these things all counted so at that stage of course the war in Spain broke out and I always remember Reg, Gordon and I volunteered to go to Spain but the communists wouldn’t take us because we were too young you know we , but we did have a bit of an interest in politics
mainly for what the great things the Russians were doing you know and the Spanish Civil War and I suppose the, when King Edward quit, the 8th quit, the old Prince of Wales had quit the throne and King George took over. Those things you know but mainly of course we were interested in sport you know. Anything to do with sport.
twenty five year old fellow named Miller. I remember that and he was a very nice bloke but the thing, well the primary reason really why I went along, my brother didn’t, was to get that parcel of food you know. It was again a contribution to keeping going. If you lived in the country it was probably easier but living in the cities that was the hard part of the Depression.
It, it would probably not be as bad for us say in South Yarra, Prahran, Windsor area as it was say for people out in Fitzroy, Collingwood or Redfern or Newtown in Sydney where it would be, what were then called the slum suburbs. They aren’t now. My brother, my son rather when he comes over to Melbourne he goes out and stays in
Fitzroy because Fitzroy nowadays is probably the in suburb you know and Chapel street where I used to spend quite a bit of my time, Chapel St, South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor is now the in street in Melbourne. It’s a fantastic place. I went there last, a couple of years ago when I went down for Anzac Day and I was quite astonished what has happened to Chapel street. It’s full of coffee houses, the place was packed on Anzac Day with people and I remember walking back
towards the South Yarra station and on one corner there used to be a Baptist church and that Baptist church is now oh what was it? Ellie Orville’s Irish pub. The church has become an Irish pub which, people, people passing by must have wondered why I was laughing hysterically at this. I couldn’t think of something more funny than a Baptist church becoming an Irish, Irish pub you know but the
the difference, if I go down to Melbourne now I, I see big differences to what I saw during the Depression period you know. During the Depression of course there were few cars. People couldn’t afford a car. I do remember I worked for a time for a fellow who drove a horse and cart selling soft drinks at houses, knocking on the door. Louis soft drinks I think it
was. They were in Richmond and I would go to the doors and try to encourage people to buy Louis packets of teas or whatever and you know I’d get a commission on this. Again, a way of making money. Another time there was a chap that I knew who was a builder and now and again he’d get a job building a house, so the two, just on his own. He couldn’t afford anybody except me. I would go down and help him you know and I might get five bob
for working for him on the Sunday, five shillings which nowadays would be about, oh what would it be? Ten cents? Not a lot of money you know but again anyway you could think of to make money and I was then, actually I started to write and I used to sell, sell short little stories or paragraphs to the Bulletin and a paper called the Smith weekly which doesn’t exist anymore. The Smith Weekly had a lot of cartoonists and I’d think up
jokes for them to make a cartoon, a cartoon to fit the joke and I might get two and six from one paper and ten shillings from another paper but it all added up and I was astonished to work it out one day that at one stage my accumulation of jobs, it might have been three or five. There were 3 definitely. There could have been 4 or 5. I earned more money than the average man was able to earn at that time, you know,
two pounds and ten shillings a week which nowadays two pounds would have been it would be worth about two dollars now in modern money. Two pounds ten you know because the inflation of money but it was, it was interesting and at that time of course I had a girlfriend by that time you know and subsequently of course I got a Dear John letter during the war and she’d married, she married another fellow but it, I mean these
things work out in the long run because I finished up getting married after the war and it worked out quite well. But the, I, I don’t think I had an unhappy childhood. It was all right, even though Mum inclined to get depressed for a time and she started to drink quite a lot you know. Again, you found a lot of women became alcoholics at that period. This was all the cause of the Depression. People, people now don’t
seem to know what this Depression was. You had 30% unemployed you know, we get worried now if we have 5% unemployed. But you know there were thousands of men walking around the country and most of them were returned soldiers from World War I. You know people don’t seem to realise that but I think, I’m trying to think if I did any exciting thing at school. I think the most exciting thing I can remember from school was when
Jacka the first Australian VC in World War I died. He had been at that time, this was 1932, the mayor of the St. Kilda and all the schools in Prahran, Windsor, South Yarra, East St. Kilda and I think South Corfield lined Dandenong road which separates Windsor from East St. Kilda. Well, his cortège came up to the St. Kilda, East St. Kilda
cemetery you know which was something interesting because I had been born in the maternity home which was next door to the St. Kilda cemetery so I got, you know these things only come out later but I particularly remember that. The other time was before the Depression. I remember going with, going with my mother and I think my father might have been there and brother might have been with us too, when they
dedicated the building of the Melbourne shrine of Remembrance on, which later was finished during the Depression incidentally. It was finished during the Depression. It provided work during the Depression for some men and these planes, these old bi-planes flying over and two of them collided and I think the two planes fell in to Port Philip bay that’s another think I remember. I can remember
also occasionally going up weekends to Castlemaine where Mum’s brother, my uncle George lived and he had quite a big, he had four, three daughters and a son and I’ve only just recently met some of his grandchildren but Uncle George and I, he was a builder and he managed to subsist on a building and we used to go out looking for gold in,
in Campbell’s creek and occasionally finding it. I can remember finding little specks of gold which was exciting at that time you know and quite often I had a bike there and I’d bike up to Castlemaine. On other occasions I can remember going up to visit a cousin or an Aunt in Ferntree Gully and, and running all the way. It was about 22 miles from South Yarra to Ferntree Gully you know
but in those days I was in everything. I came second in a state race which I think I could have won if I’d made the effort but sport was the big thing, you know, sport kept you going.
I mean businesses were still going but if you worked at all you got very meagre wages because companies had to keep wages, their costs down to the bare minimum but I was in the machine gun platoon in the 14th Battalion and we had two brothers named Wright were both there. One of them was the company commander and the other was the lieutenant. They went on later on with the 14th
Battalion, 2/14th Battalion. When the war broke out you know we had the option of, when the second AIF was formed a lot of fellows that could have gone in to the original battalions waited to go in with the battalions they had been in, the militia battalions they’d been you see, this is where they came in but I know a fellow named Phil Roden. Phil Roden was a lieutenant in one of the rifle companies at the 14th Battalion and
he subsequently became colonel of one of the battalions which did terrific things in New Guinea. I can’t think of the name in which, which one it was. It might have been the 2/14th Battalion but he’s now regarded as one of the best officers that they had in New Guinea. He was, he became the colonel.
you did these things and I mean, first of all you learnt discipline you know this was quite important and you learnt to back your own judgment, even a corporal would be in charge maybe of a section of men maybe 9 men so that you had to use your judgement you know. You had to be able to say to these men, well do this and it well but not foul it up in such a way that you’d all get yourself killed you know, I
mean the responsibility starts with the first, first non commissioned officer and the farther up it gets, becomes more responsibility. Discipline and responsibility I think are the two things that came out of it. How do you handle your weapons. We used to go down to the Williamstown rifle range on Saturdays and we had competitions at that time, you know among the battalions, the 29th Battalion, the 46th Battalion and we’d compete for
prizes. Another thing too in the, the battalions were not just units to teach you army things. They started sporting teams. I can remember we had basketball team. The 14th Battalion basketball team, used to play basketball teams from other battalions so that, don’t forget that all the, all the kids in these battalions would be, well you’d have a few older men maybe twenty, twenty
three, twenty four, twenty five who were there, who were fellows who were unemployed and needed a bit of extra money and they’d come in and they’d have their, I don’t know how much we got now. It might have been oh, two pound a month or something like that. Which was a lot of money at that time you know so that, and I can remember our colonel, colonel Clive Steel become the head of the whole engineers of the second AIF in World War II.
He was, he’d been a practising engineer in Melbourne. I don’t know how his business was going at that time but he became an infantry battalion colonel but later on he went to the engineers which was his real forte and built the second AIF engineers up in to a very strong corp. They became a really, the engineers did a terrific job, well as,
as long as I can remember anyway you know particularly at Bardia and Tobruk where they went in a and they had to de-louse mines and things and put in Bangalore torpedos under the barbed wire to blow the barbed wire open for us you know so Clive Steel, the two Wright brothers I can remember, Phil Roden, some of the fellows like myself crossed over in to the AIF. We enlisted in the 14th Battalion drill hall
for the second and a period of the war and we were then committed you know but then were went up to Puckapunyal where the camp that was started here. I think Holsworthy in New South Wales was an existing army camp when the second AIF or the 16 Brigade of the second AIF went in there but Puckapunyal was something new. Originally, I think in World War I the camp for the World War I
battalions was at Broadmeadows but by this time Broadmeadows was a built up area. You had factories and houses and everything so they had to look for something else. So, they decided on Puckapunyal which was near Seymour in about, almost in the middle of Victoria and we had to go in there and put up the camps and everything. It’s a well established army establishment nowadays. It is a big area. But it
didn’t exist when the war broke out you know so when we did our training we went down to places like Summers on the Air peninsula, on the Mornington peninsula and we’d go through sort of mock battles and so on. One battalion fighting the other and so on you know, not with real bullets of course. The whole thing was fake. But it was you know that was, we had a fortnight a year
in camp which for kids like, unemployed kids of the unemployed like myself was a holiday you see and while we were there I think we got extra money. We got a weeks wages instead of a months wages so again it was extra money but again you, you enjoyed doing it you see.
the old World War I British establishment of four battalions to the brigade and you had a machine gun company. A machine gun platoon, you had a mortar platoon, you had a pioneer platoon and these were headquarters company. Then you had four rifle companies you see so we went out training there. I can remember being judged one night for a
an night exercise and going out on this night exercise, fortunately it was in the middle of Summer and falling asleep and waking up when the exercises were over. Now nobody ever knew. We had a rebellion there. There was a fellow in the platoon, an Englishman, a nasty little type. He’d been in the Royal Navy previously and we weren’t going to march and all the rest of it and when it came to the mutiny I was the only mutineer.
but we then changed our officer. George Worfall had been our original officer and subsequently became a famous commando and then the colonel of the 2/24th Battalion had given old way to Tim Riley. Tim was my officer, he was with us when we were captured so Tim got captured but they decided oh well one mutineer doesn’t make a total mutiny so they let me off and I didn’t lose my rank. I was a corporal, still a corporal then you
see so I didn’t lose my rank.
after the war. He, apparently he deserted in Britain, well by then it didn’t matter. Deserting you were out of it anyway. But he disappeared in Britain apparently and never came back to Australia. I don’t think he was Australian. I think we was probably British or Scottish in the first place although he didn’t have a Scottish accent. But the, that was the, the only
suspicious thing but the you know we did all this. Fortunately ever second Saturday, weekend we had off so we could always get down to Melbourne quite easily you know you could always get down on the, what is now the Hume highway I’m not sure if it was called that at that time and you could hitch a lift down to Melbourne in cars or trucks or whatever but then you had to come back Sunday night on the train. But I used to go down every second weekend you know and
you know you’d mess around, go to the movies or whatever. I then had a girlfriend and we’d go out somewhere, maybe go dancing or something you know. Oh, that was the time too, at one stage, I was just reading about this man the other day, Paul Jeekle in this book about 3LO in the history of 3LO his dance band used to play on the radio and at one stage I was singing for them, you know in those days I suppose every young bloke had the idea this was a
time when the first of the crooners, Bing Crosby, oh I can’t remember the others but Bing Crosby was the big one so everyone wanted to be a crooner and I can remember performing for a couple of bands. The other one was Charles Rainsford’s band at the Region theatre. You know if you put on a dinner suit and I think I got ten shillings for singing to the audience.
well I think, I think the basic thing that comes out with us that we had grown up as a generation of the fellows who’d been in World War I and I think generally a lot of us would be a bit hesitant at admitting this but we had a feeling that we had a job to do, a job to finish. It was Germany again. The job was unfinished. I can really understand having been a prisoner
of war in Germany why the Germans went to war because they got a very sour deal out of the Versailles treaty you know but that’s not to take it away from the fact that, I think Hitler had this idea in his head you know, we got a raw deal. I must, I must get a better deal for Germany but then again you see we felt well okay, we’ll have to finish the job Dad didn’t finish you see. I think that’s, that’s the main
thing. As I said people thought all right, well a lot of people joined the army, the AIF not the CMF to get a bit of, because they were unemployed. This was not so because a lot of those fellows were employed but they didn’t want to admit their real occupations in case they would say oh you can’t go you’re in a reserved occupation which did happen you know in a lot of cases and then you had a lot of fellows who stayed behind because
they wanted to join the battalions, the second AIF battalions which would correspond to the original battalion they were in now which were the First World War battalions. The CMF battalions were the original First War battalions just carrying on as the CMF. That’s why, when the Second [World] War started you had the two stroke, the two slash in front of it you know to distinguish them because up in New Guinea you had the 2/3rd Battalion and then you had the 3rd Battalion from the militia you know
what became known as the CMF but eventually they merged the whole thing together apparently but
us at school. I mean you always celebrated Anzac Day. You went in to every school and you’d find that every school had an honour role on the students from that school who had been killed in World War I you know and the books you had you know the books would be heroes of the empire and all the VCs. I became one of the first kids to join the first children’s library
established in Victoria and my photo appears on the front page of the Melbourne news Victoria on September the 3rd 1930 about ten days after my birthday and I’m carrying a big book about World War I. You know you read about these things. It didn’t strike you how horrible the thing was, all you were interested in was the heroic aspect of it. I can remember being very interested in the Air Force and getting books about
Waugh and Manic and these other great VCs of the Royal Air Force, the fighter pilots. Richthofen was a, was a well known name. We never heard of Goering strangely enough although he followed after Richthofen and took over the same squadron you know but it was, it was very important. Armistice day was very important as I and I remember when Jackaby died the mayor of St Kilda all the schools were called out to line the
route of the cortège to the St. Kilda cemetery. I mean this was a tribute to the first great Australian of World War I you know the how he should have won a second one at
see communism was looked upon as something that was going to save the world at that time you know, the equality of man you know. A lot of people don’t know that Marx died in England. He’s buried in Highgate cemetery and there were quite a lot of things good about communism just as there were lots of things bad about it you know I mean even now if you go to Russia,
I’ve been to Russia. I’ve been there when it was the old Soviet Union well only a couple of days on my way to Copenhagen but you’ll find even now today’s Russians will say bring back the Soviet Union. There were a lot of things good about it you know but the you had alternative you know the Labor party in Australia was not as trenchant as it became after the war with Curtin and Chiefly.
It may have fallen back a little bit on old times now but the communist party was seen as the third force you see but it didn’t really, it didn’t really much, I didn’t go around to all the kids at school saying you know “I’m a communist, I want you to be a communist too.” Communist was to me it was something that was, it was interesting club to be in at that time but two of my good friends Steve Murray Smith and
Jack Gott at Melbourne university where I was there only a short time, I had to drop out. They were, they were communists and I’m not sure if they still, I think Stephen was, Ken certainly was and subsequently Ken and I both did some work for the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] in Hong Kong you know and the CIA never knew about it. Shows how slow they can be. They didn’t check on us to find out had we ever been communists you
know but at that stage it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter very much.
were fellows who were in employment in one way or another and didn’t want, a lot of them didn’t want to make, didn’t want to make their real occupation known because they could have been pulled out as did happen later with the reserved occupations you know. I, my cousin in Melbourne, her husband was put in to the, he wasn’t allowed to enlist and he was put in to the, what they call the
oh, labour corp. that subsequently did a lot of the building of defences around Darwin after the Japanese attacks you know, a lot of fellows weren’t, and it’s always surprised that those fellows haven’t really been recognised as they should have you know. They were in the same capacities in some ways as the merchant seamen were. Well, the merchant seaman now have been recognised. I mean there were thousand of merchant seaman lost at sea
you know by submarine attacks and so on but without the merchant ships we could never have fought the war. We could never have got to the war for that matter you know. I think of the ships that I was on with a lot of affection you know. The ship that I was on when we left Port Melbourne for the Middle East was called the Neuralia and her sister ship was in the same convoy, the Nevasa, and they had both been hospital ships off Gallipoli in World War I. Taking
wounded away from Gallipoli to Limos which is quite an extraordinary thing. I only discovered that oh maybe two or three years ago and I was fascinated by it. I’m on a ship that was at Gallipoli you know so that you think about these things you know.
had been working for the Cheetham salt company at Geelong. I don’t know what his job was there. George Walker an original commander who finished up, he rose from lieutenant to lieutenant colonel. George had been, he’d been a builder or a carpenter. He’d been in the 29th CMF battalion and of course they were took I don’t know whether Tim was in a
CMF battalion at Geelong. I don’t think so I think he came straight off the street as it were. But Joe Gullet who was in my battalion. Joe was a journalist at the Herald and Weekly Times and he was the son of Henry Gullet who’d been the Australia in world war of the, the cavalry, the Light Horse in Palestine.
Oh, there’s, all sort of, the young blokes in particular. Some of us were straight out of school, you know, or straight out of high school or had been university people and so had just crossed straight over. The, in the 2/6th Battalion from the original 6th Battalion which was the Royal Melbourne regiment and also they had a
lot of uni, I’ve got an idea, I don’t think there was a uni, Melbourne university regiment. I think the Royal Melbourne regiment used to have the university people because Melbourne university’s so close to the city of Melbourne anyway, so you had quite a collection of people you know.
the battalions you know I don’t, I can’t remember there being any desertions from Puckapunyal, the fellows that quit. I think everybody stayed. I mean apart from the fact that we all felt that we had to do, finish off the job from World War I it just became increasingly obvious as the Germans started their, what they were doing in Poland you know it became obvious that we were up against something we’d got to finish now but then again
there was also a sense of, as there was in World War I, a bit of adventure and don’t forget the majority of us had never been out of Australia you know so we’re going off to something really good you know, we’re going off to, we felt we were all going to England and then over to France to join the British Empire, British Expeditionary force but of course by the time we got to Egypt
the Germans had already taken France you see. By the time my brigade got there, the 16th Brigade got there in January 1940. We didn’t get there though until June. Well, late May, late May at the end of June you see and the situation had changed. We were then stuck in the Middle East. We were not going, we, there was one, one group that did go to England. Their ship was diverted around the cape and that was where we lost
the 18th Brigade. They went in to the 17th 7th Division so originally they had been with us, there had been originally the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th, 18th Brigade then part of the 18th Brigade became the 19th Brigade you see and the 18th Brigade was 2/13th, 14th and 15th Battalions. The 16th Battalion were with, originally too the 2/16th of course but they, they went somewhere else again you see so it,
it, it was a time of change where we went over for the original World War [First World War] establishment to a new establishment but when we left Australia we had never heard about Bren carriers you know when we got to Egypt, to Palestine first we were then told all right there are no machine gun platoons anymore. The machine gun platoon becomes the Bren carrier platoon and we are starting machine gun battalions, you see
so you had two different establishments to start with. This was following the British establishment you see. We were well behind when we came to starting the war.
and a couple of times, we did a couple of special parades when the British, we had hired I assume hired from the British an inspector General named Squires and he had come out to Australia just before the war broke out. I think late 1938 and the idea was to reorganise the Australian
army such as it existed. But he died and the next thing we knew the 17th Brigade came down from Puckapunyal and we lined St. Kilda road for his funeral you see. All in uniform of course and the other incident happened while we were in Palestine when the plane hit the hill just out here by the airport
and Gullet, Street, Fairburn and one other fellow, four, four top people involved in the war were killed and it so happens Joe Gullet was, Henry Gullet’s son was one of my colleagues you see. We were fellow sergeants and he had to fly back to Australia for the funeral. That was 1940, before we’d gone in to action you see so that these were a couple of
outstanding things that had happened you know. Joe incidentally finished up a major and he was one of the Australians who was selected to go over and take part in the Normandy landing. Bill Haywood from Adelaide was another one whom I knew very well. The, but the training was generally oh pretty simple, pretty simple stuff you know it, it
wasn’t a great trouble you know. The food was all right. The accommodation was a bit rough at that stage because we were the first to establish that camp. It became much different later according to my nephew. Now they have beds and sheets and everything. We didn’t have that. We had straw palliasses on the floor you know so that you slept a bit rough.
I think I certainly didn’t find it any hardship and my brother Garry, my younger brother who enlisted after me and became first a member of the artillery and then as a 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion and finished up on the Burma Railway. We adapted quite easily it was just like being in a club you know there was no, I mean you, you even look
forward to each day. That’s the thing about it. You didn’t worry about what was going to happen. You looked forward to each day. Alright, what are we going to do now? Alight, two mile each, okay we’ll go on a five mile route march today, okay great right, away we go and off we go on a five mile route march you know. Along the way you might pick a few flowers or something or other but you didn’t worry about it. Mind you we were all in peak condition. I mean you had gymnasiums and everything, you had boxing tournaments, you had athletics contests
so that you always had something you could do you know. “Alright, we’re going to have an athletics contest on Saturday who wants to go in the races?” “Alright, okay I will you know. I’ll go in the hundred yards or whatever” you see. So, you enjoyed it and then of course you had, you were quite free at the weekends to shoot down to Melbourne or go home for the weekend you know so it was no stress you know. Of course once we left Australia it was a bit different, you had to get official leave to go anywhere or something.
I went on leave, remember going on leave at Tel Aviv at one stage and we were in this bus and you could smell burning you know and somebody says something is on fire and then I looked down and the whole of my shorts, the front of my shorts were on fire. Somebody’s thrown a but out the window and it came back through the window and fell on me and fortunately I met a military policeman I knew in Tel Aviv and he lent me another pair of shorts you know but, the, these types of things you know eventually
and you know at mealtimes and you went through and you got your meal in your little rectangular tin you know we got these, part of your army equipment was a little rectangular tin and a top that fell on top of it which gave you two dishes you know and you had a knife and fork of course and a spoon and the food was very good. It was
because he was a regular trooper to India the crew were trained to deal with army people so that everything was on the army establishment, probably British army establishment but the food was good. I can’t ever recall anybody ever complaining about the food and there was plenty of it. You could go back for seconds if you wanted to as far as I can remember and you had a sweet. I don’t know that we
had soups. It was usually two dishes, well the main meal plus a sweet of some kind and of course you had plenty of tea and coffee you know. It was, no tea we had tea. I can’t recall ever having coffee and we, one, we pulled in at Perth, at Fremantle and we were allowed to have leave of the ship at Fremantle and we went up to, you could go up to Perth you see and again for most of us
we’d never been to Western Australia. I mean in those, at that time if you lived interstate you didn’t travel much outside your own state, I mean other than the trains there was no airlines at that time and a lot of people didn’t have cars so you travelled by train. A lot of people, a lot people probably couldn’t afford to travel anyway okay. So, being in Perth and Fremantle was an exciting thing in itself. I’m seeing the other side of Australia
and everybody went around and enjoyed themselves. I don’t recall, there were later on when I lived in Perth there was a street of brothels, officially, an official street of brothels. I don’t know whether anybody ever found the street you know certainly for kids like me, 19 year olds we weren’t very interested you know so it was quite exciting and went back on the ship
and then we get out and we pull in at Colombo.
been on a lot of ships since then and have been in some rough seas and even some rough air travel and I’ve never been sick since. That’s the only time I’ve been seasick, that first time. The, we had a good, when we went over to Fremantle we then joined up with a New Zealand contingent. I don’t know whether, it probably would be only one brigade of New Zealand, the New Zealand division, similarly to us. One New Zealand division, brigade
had gone over earlier than the other. Actually, I think theirs was the first New Zealand brigade that we went with. You see they were the 2nd New Zealand expeditionary force. The 1st Division New Zealand stayed in New Zealand just the same as the militia stayed in Australia. So, everything was, they started off with a number 16 Battalion, the number 17 Battalion you see. 16 Battalion stayed, the first 16 Battalion stayed in New Zealand and they
later fought of course in the Solomons. So, we linked up with them and then of course in Perth we picked up the 11th Battalion which was a New Zealand battalion and so we joined them. We didn’t pick up the South Australian battalion. The 10th Battalion had joined us, no they joined us in Perth. They went over to Perth and we picked up those two battalions in Perth.
What did you pack for this journey?
Oh, well the army gave you what? Two shirts, two or three singlets, all khaki of course, briefs the same. We had a hussif, what they called a hussif was, which translates as housewife and it’s got a cotton reel in it, needles and sewing things and then you had your own personal
things whatever they were, whatever you wanted to take with you, you know. I don’t know what I ever had because later on of course when I was taken prisoner on Crete, I never saw my kit bag again, although strangely enough a parcel I sent back from Libya which included few souvenirs in it and an Italian flag had quite a few souvenirs turned up at an auction in Hobart. Somebody recognised my name and found my mother in Victoria and sent it over to her you know.
The, and of course you picked up souvenirs along the way which was rather silly because when you stopped to think of it, what were you going to do with all these bloody things when you get in to battle? You know, you’ve got to leave your kit bag behind and you used to go off in your light pack you know.
so green, you know, when you stopped to, well Perth wasn’t so bad but compared to Perth, Perth was almost desert, brown desert compared to Ceylon and don’t forget Ceylon was just about above the equator you know about the opposite to what we’d have say Rockhampton you know so that it was so green and that comes in later too. I mean this is a feeling we had when we went to Greece after the desert. Greece was paradise after the desert
you know but we then went on and when we went in to the Red Sea, yeah the Italians had come in to the war. This was June 10th 1940 so we then had to mount a guard on all the ships you know and I can remember getting my platoon up and we installed a couple of machine guns, Rigus machine guns, took the bottoms off and tilted them up so we could use them for firing up in the air and I
can remember spending my time at the machine gun one day and I got burnt, almost black in the sun and strangely enough I don’t remember feeling any pain about it but might have been a particular type of sun or whatever it was but we were then very wary about the convoy being attacked by the Italian air force although they didn’t as it so happened.
but then we went in the Suez canal and at El Kantara we got off the ships there and we were put on the trains and take up to these new camps.
army in to World War I. There were two machine guns, one was the Vickers machine gun which was on a tripod and you had to sit behind it. You had a crew of at least two men and it had a cartridge belt. The belt went through the gun you see and you pressed the triggers behind. The other one was a Lewis gun which you could carry and fire, you could fire even from your shoulder although it would give you a bit of a bolt which
had a round, what would you call it? A round thing in and the bullets were on top in the round container and it was lighter but the Vickers machine gun was a, sort of the artillery of the machine gun battalions. The machine gun battalions were all equipped with Vickers machine guns and they would come out and they would, you’d have maybe two or three machine guns to a unit
and they were your protection. In World War I it was the machine gun that killed the men, not the artillery. You know the machine gun was the, oh the machine gun was a terrible weapon. I mean I can remember even going through at Bardia you know, we got shelled by artillery and you didn’t think about it but immediately a machine gun opened up on you, you went to ground you know because the machine gun would be sweeping low. It’d catch you, most often it would catch you across the, across the stomach you see but the
Vickers machine gun was a very good weapon. A lot of civil Australians won the VC for either operating machine guns or attacking the German machine gun which was much bigger than the Australian one and much more cumbersome and it was harder to move. You could move the Vickers machine gun very quickly. You just took the barrel off the top and you got it in two pieces and you could get away very quickly with that if you were attacked by the enemy.
But the German one was a fixed machine gun, much bigger barrel on a much bigger tripod and it stood higher and to move it they would have to pick up the whole lot you see and that’s why so many Australians were able to destroy the machine gunners, they couldn’t get away quickly you see. But our people could.
Egypt. Anyhow, I was then in charge of 3 Bren carriers. A Bren carrier platoon had 10 Bren carriers. In other words 10 Bren guns on mobile platforms. The 10th one was for the officer in charge of the whole platoon, then there were 3 sections and there were 3 Bren carriers and 3 sergeants and I was the junior sergeant. The senior sergeant was a chap named McKay who came from the 46th Battalion CMF, the second one was Frank Kelly. I don’t know
where Frank Kelly came from and I came of course from the 14th Battalion. The first time we saw Bren carriers was when we arrived in Egypt and we got Bren carriers, had been handed over from a British battalion you know they were already half knocked, whacked out. They should have been rejects but we got them you know because when we arrived in Egypt you know the
army in Egypt had hardly any weapons. It was in a terrible state. It’s amazing that we did so much, in getting, knocking off the Italians. It shows how bad the Italians. they were you know but I think we got, we were supposed to get 10 Bren carriers, I think we got 5 and we took it turns to learn how to run these things. Each Bren carrier had a corporal or a sergeant
a driver and a gunner. Three men to a carrier you see so that you could park your carrier behind a hillock or something and jump out, take the Bren gun out and set up a stationary position you see or you could stay, you could fire it as you were moving you see but the main thing was quickly to get a machine gun in to some position to harass the enemy and the quickest one was on these little carriers and we could do 50 oh what’s it say, 50 kilometres and hour in these things you know they were
suppose, well not as far up as El Alamein but the first place we went to was called Ikingi and the second word Mariut [Ikingi Maryut] and that was right on the edge of the Western Desert and we practised there you know, first the battalions then the Brigades. I think we may have done long Divisional exercises with all three Brigades by now we’re three Brigades not four
where we would have done a Divisional exercise and they’re still there and then of course the Indians, the Italians attacked Egypt you know, sort of attacked. They didn’t go very far. They decided to sit down and wait for us and then the Indians went in and the Indians captured the first town and took forty thousand prisoners and then the Indians were called on to go down and take Abyssinia back from the Italians
and we took over from them and we looked forward to it, right this was, at last we’re going to have a fight you know this is the beginning of January you see and we were looking forward to it you see but before then of course when we were at Helwan down in Cairo, after moving down from Ikingi we had leave and I can remember going in to
Cairo and enjoying ourselves in there you know. I remember one of my drivers and I went in one night and of course Egyptian shops are open at night and I can remember we went into a department store and this fellow Darky Keen, he got killed later on the way to Greece, decided he would like a souvenir of this department store. So, you know these things that you put stockings on, you know this leg thing. He decided to take one of those and this
store had a huge Nubian commissioner, this huge black man decided to take us on. By this time of course we’d had a few drinks and we were pretty well drunk and so we get out and we’re arguing with him and then the British military police came along, the Red Caps decided to take us on and I remember, the fight started. I get knocked out almost the first blow and when I go coming too, I’m on the ground and Darky
Keen has got one leg both sides of me and he’s punching this policeman. He was a big boy from Warrnambool, a potato farmer and he’s punching this military policeman over and over but we didn’t get into trouble. They let us off, Australians you know, what do you expect? You can’t expect anything else of them.
got hold of himself a horse somewhere and he galloped this horse down and he’s got policemen chasing him you know but that’s the that’s the only bit of trouble, no, no strangely enough, when I think back on it I think we were probably a lot more serious than the soldiers in the First War. I think we were inclined to be more serious. You know, I think we were very conscious, somebody’s going to get
killed, is it going to be me? Am I going to lose a leg or am I … you know. We, because of course we knew about the, we were very conscious of what happened in World War I. By this time of course we’re thinking more of World War I than when we were in the CMF. We’re in it now you know we’re not going to get out of it. We’re going to have to fight you know. We’re wondering what are the Italians like? Well, it so happened the Italian infantry weren’t very good but their
artillery was and the casualties we mostly suffered were from Italian artillery. They were very good shots you know. Going through the wire at Tobruk you know we’re being shelled by Italian artillery and I had a pair of spectacles. An Italian officer’s spectacles, binoculars, binoculars hanging around my neck which I’d souvenired at Bardia and I got through the wire. It was gone. Piece of shell just took the binoculars away and I
just had the things, strings hanging around my neck.
Alexandria originally of course was created by the Greeks, you had a big Greek population there and of course we were going, well I remember a funny thing. Five of us sergeants went on leave in Alexandria and we stayed in the Bristol hotel and we eat in this Greek restaurant downstairs and here were these Greeks, mind you nobody’s supposed to know we’re going to Greece and the Greek people downstairs are telling us what to see when we get to Greece you know
we, so I mean obviously in Greece at this time before the Germans came in to the action, the German ambassador and his staff were down watching the Australians get off the ships at Piraeus you know it was a little bit of a, you know, farcical comedy but Alexandria was much more attractive. The cinemas were better, there were more things to see, they had a fantastic museum
there which I remember going in and it was something that really attracted me, they had all the stuff was very old and there was a thing there and a plaque on it which said that in the year 2050 oh no, in the year a thousand, yeah in the year 2050 the capital of the world will be in the South Pacific
and it gave you the latitude and the longitude. Where do you think that capital is? Right here. Canberra. You know it’s going to be the capital of the world according to the Egyptians you know and you know what liars they are.
are in it now. We know they are attacking Egypt. We know that. We know that sooner or later we’re going to go up. It’s a matter of time. We’re there from September until the beginning of January, we’re there for 4 months. It became a little bit boring part of the time you know, oh why don’t they send us off now you know, you got a bit keen to go up but we heard the Indians were doing very well so we knew that sooner or later we’d be taking over from the 4th Indian Division which eventually
we did. So, some of us got up there and right away you know we decided all right we’re going to attack Bardia. The Italians had three fortified towns where they had these rings of forts around the town. Bardia was the port. It was the only port at that point where you could get ships in. Bardia was more or less a frontier, a frontier
station. Derna a bit further in, Derna I think Derna had an airport where they could land planes you know but they all had these rings of concrete forts around them or concrete, the forts were, the dugouts in to the ground you know so we’re up there and we know all right we’re going to attack Bardia, right who’s going to do the attacking?
bad maybe I’m being a bit harsh in saying boredom. It wasn’t boredom all the time, eventually something would turn up. You might get bored part of the day and then something would turn up you know or people would play, of course play card games and maybe you know and people playing bridge. I think there were a couple of bridge competitions and things like that you know. There’d be two up. There’d be gambling of course you know, quite a few fellows won or lost a lot of money gambling on two up, you know, back in
Palestine we actually had a race meeting at a place called Barba and all the horses were given Australian names, you know, Melbourne cup winners and so on and that went down very well but that was the only one occasion that, that something like happened. I think they did that actually to stop the troops getting bored but of course in Palestine we could go swimming too, down for instance we used to go down and swim at Escalon which was an old Roman beachside resort you know
and digging trenches in Palestine and Egypt too we could give up, we dug up the Roman coins you know. Amazing. Roman coins various things like that and little pieces of cutlery or crockery or whatever and of course in Palestine we had the orange groves where you could help yourself to oranges you see but you couldn’t do that, there were no orange groves in Egypt you know. Egypt perhaps was, was a bit boring. Palestine was not really boring.
Palestine was always interesting you know .
torpedos. But the, the engineers were the fellows that took the first brunt of it you know. They had to go in and clear the way and then the infantry went in. We went in standing up and quite easily you know. I’m talking about Bardia there because but I assume the 19th and the 16th Brigade did the same thing. I think the, I think the 19th Brigade, the West Australians, the South Australians and Tasmanians
did the first thing and then the 16th Brigade, New South Wales went in next and we’re the Victorians on the right you know. But Bardia, you would have thought that we would have had a very hard time taking Bardia. Bardia was not like Sollum or Sidi Barrani which the Indians captured. They didn’t have big fortifications around them because they were in Egypt anyway. They were outside you know and they were easy to take. As a matter of fact they
caught most of the Italians at Sidi Barrani having breakfast you know they were not aware the Indians were going to attack but we thought we were going to have a bit of a hard time because you had all these concrete dug out things you see where they had machine guns and light aircraft guns which could be pulled down and used as light artillery. But when it came to the, came to the punch it was over, oh before the end of the day
you know. We had a bit of a harder time taking Tobruk where they fought a bit harder there. Where it took us, I think it took us two days to get Tobruk but very much, Tobruk is much the same only bigger you know.
The strange things is to see your dead friends all of a sudden. You think what will that do to you? I don’t know. It just didn’t have an impact at all. I think inside you said to yourself well we had to expect this you know. It’s bound to happen. Next time it might be me. I think you get to accept it,
you know. Unless it’s a very close friend. You hear some harrowing, horrible tales of World War I of men who had great friends who were killed you know Murray and Black in one battalion at Bullecourt [Harry Murray and Percy Black, 13th Battalion]. Where men actually wept at the loss of their friend because don’t forget when you’re in battle you’re all men. They’re no women or anything like that and, but you’re there and the possibility of
death is always with you so gradually you get to accept the idea. Right, I’m going to be killed tomorrow alright. Or he’s going to be killed tomorrow. You just accept these things. What you don’t want to be is to wounded because wounds can be terrible you know. You might get a head wound or lose a limb or something you know but you accept death. Death is the end of it. It’s the same thing, you’d never accept to be taken prisoner of
war. See, when you joined the army they didn’t say to you right one of these days you might be taken prisoner of war and this is what you should do when you’re taken prisoner of war. They don’t tell you, you know, and suddenly you find yourself a prisoner of war. Right, now what’s going to happen right? But at least you say to yourself, I can’t be killed anymore. I can’t be wounded anymore. Well, I actually was wounded anyway but it didn’t matter but you see. You’re over two of the hurdles
but they don’t tell you about the third one, the third one is still a mystery. Still a mystery you know.
given the job of allotting men to escort the prisoners back to the cage or wherever it was they had to go to. So, Cardana is put on this and this is, the fighting is still going on. I don’t know how many prisoners he had, maybe two thousand or three thousand you see. So, he’s marching along, one Australian soldier were with these 3 thousand prisoners you know and then, the Italians, the Italians were inclined. The early Italians were inclined to give it away. I don’t think they really like
the fascist regime. They didn’t like Mussolini and they thought well this is a way out of it. But they’re going along anyway. The artillery starts shelling and the shells are coming down near the column of prisoners. So, Cardana started to run and all the prisoners run after him. They think well he’s going to safety we might as well follow him you see which was, we laughed, we thought it that was a great joke you know. Here’s an Italian Australian goes for his life to safety and all the Italians are running after him. But the
oh the columns stretched for a hell of a long way at one stage and the oh, two or three miles you know, 70 thousand men and they’re all marching along say about six abreast. You can imagine how long the column was you know but the majority I think finished up in India for the rest of the war though quite a few came out here and they seemed to have been very popular out here, the prisoners. They, quite a few of them, I’ve met a couple of them actually
there used to be one living here, just near here who came back to Australia as immigrants, you know they liked Australia and came back here.
of course we had one, well as far as I’m concerned we had one funny incident. We found a lot of Italian supplies of course in Bardia. You know all sorts of things, foods, tuna. We lived on tins of tuna for quite a while and this was a variation from a standard Australian, standard British rations. Tuna, bottles of, I can remember getting very drunk on a bottle of Montalonte which was a
very purple, rich purple wine, Italian wine and we were in this Gully about half way between Bardia and Tobruk and I get this, get this very drunk and then of course I’ve had to surrender my carrier to somebody else you know. I can only, you know we had to swap carriers around. That’s how few we had you know. Alright, you can have it today, you can have it tomorrow. You can have it the next day you know but I’m without a carrier and I’m drunk so I’ve got to travel
in the back of the Four tonner and he hits every bloody rock on the way to Tobruk and I’m shuddering. Oh, this, oh my head. The brain’s going up through the top of my head you know. I’m suffering agony from this drunkenness in this truck you know but then we got outside.
He was the Divisional commander. He subsequently came back and he was in charge of all Australian land forces. He’d been a soldier in the First World War and decorated in the First World War. We were very lucky in that respect, that the majority of our officers had been in the First World War but they were still young enough to take senior positions. The only colonel that I know of who wasn’t in the First World War was Walker who commanded the 2/7th Battalion and
he did a fantastic job even though he was taken prisoner, the whole of 7th but that comes back to Crete again you see but Mackay and his staff planned this and it was a duplicate of the, almost a duplicate of the first operation you know. We go through the centre of the wire and you have battalion sitting down there or on this case on both sides because Tobruk was bigger. There were more Italians in there. We have one battalion up
there and one battalion to the South. One to the North. One to the South to stop the break outs. We want to keep them inside the wire. Capture the lot of them, or kill the lot of them. So, the engineers go in and do the usual thing. Blow the Bangalores and so on and then we start to march through the wire, just, we just walk calmly through you know we don’t hurry or anything. You just walk calmly through, holding your rifle at the port you know and there’s this artillery shells bursting all around us. I suppose some, some fellows got killed
but I didn’t see anybody fall down but once inside the wire my job was, each battalion had a job to do. One battalion went to the left, one straight ahead and my battalion had the job to go to the right, see? And my particular group had to go right along all the posts and clear out the posts, if there were any Italians in the posts you know. So, we went along and I did a silly thing then. We decided to have a look inside one of these posts
and we get in there and it’s got one of these anti-aircraft guns come, little artillery pieces so we’re playing around with this and I don’t know whether it was the Italian artillery or the Australian artillery, sees this gun going up and down, they started to shell us you see and we were in this concrete thing you know and we just had to wait until it stopped and for the rest of the day I was deaf. Concussion you know, the shells bursting around and being in this concrete thing you know
so we go on and go over and join the rest of the battalion and the rest of the company and you know I’m completely deaf you know. George Walker’s still our commander at that stage. He talks to me and I can’t hear him and I, just point out I was deaf you know.
well having been a journalist I was known as Scoop so but the thing is, at that point the interesting thing is about the Bren carrier section of the 6th Battalion is that we hadn’t lost a man you know but 5th Battalion they’d lost a couple. I don’t know that the 7th lost, up until then our casualties were very light. They were a bit
heavy for the battalion at Bardia but they were the infantry men they were the rifle men you know. They were the people who got killed you so see so up to that stage, the whole of the 6th Division we were doing very well. We were getting through without, very few casualties you know. So, then we went around and we joined, joined up again with the other two Brigades at a place called Barce which was a sort of, a
fairly substantial country town you could call it with flats for, houses, more flats than anything for these immigrant farmers most of who had cleared out and we finally caught up with some of these Italian immigrant farmers and you know they were like soldiers anywhere, like Germans did and anybody else, we tried to be a bit friendly with them you know. They weren’t fighting people
they were just ordinary civilian people, just like my brother found Tommy found in Japan. They got to like the Japanese civilians you know so we tried to, and some of them were hungry and we tried to supplement their food ration with some of ours. But Bardia was an interesting place. The bit of trouble there was, I can’t recall what they call these Arabs that live in the Western desert. They’re a particular
type of tribe. They’re not Bedouin they’re something else again and they started, now we were there. They started to harass these Italian farmers, you know, fighting to get their own back on the way the farmers had treated them so part of our job was trying to keep these Arab people, these Muslims away from the Italians which wasn’t easy because a couple of them,
were shot by our fellows. I didn’t, I didn’t do any shooting of them. I don’t recall seeing any of them. I finally, for a moment, had a carrier back. So I was back on wheels again so, well tracks again. So, and that’s as far as we went but the 19th Brigade went on in to Benghazi and then the British tanks and I think the 6th infantry Brigade went on down a bit further and that’s where
we stopped and started to come back and the first of the 7th Division then the 9th Division came in behind us and started to take over from us. You know these 9th Battalions, these were the battalions or the soldiers, the Australians who had been in Britain you know they’d come around the Cape, in a convoy. They came back now and took over from us and we started to, started to pull back. I had a carrier now so I could ride back towards Egypt for a while. I think I rode back as far as Tobruk
and then I had to surrender the carrier again.
and in my period, the period I’m talking about. We’re inclined to be well behaved you know. Reasonably well behaved anyway. I did have this one [(UNCLEAR)] temps one time in Alexandria with Darky Keen where we tried to pinch a souvenir from this department store and we had this fight with these English wig caps and they didn’t charge us. They just let us go. Darky had a black eye and I had a split lip or something or other. They just let us go. I think the,
I think the Red Caps, the British Red Caps, the British military people didn’t want to have trouble with more Australians. I mean if they arrested us, maybe then you would have seen a whole battalion coming in to start a fight you know but nothing like that happened this time you see. So, that you know and also we had by then, had been told we were going to Greece so we were looking forward to this. This is something, you know. Going to Greece, you know
a sort of cradle of civilisation. What is it like over there you know? What are we going to do? We’re going over there to help the Greeks fight the Italians, you see. That’s what we were told. We were going over there to help the Greeks fight the Italians and the Greeks were already pushing the Italians back in Albania anyway. They’re beating the Italians so we’re looking forward to this you know so be on your best behaviour. You don’t want to be left behind, you see. And at this stage
Hughie, Mackay, Ned and I each in turn were offered the chance to go to Octu. Joe Gullet had gone back to Australia and came back a lieutenant but we knocked it back because we all wanted to go to Greece you see. I mean there’s always the idea well later on you’ll probably get to get promoted in the field anyway. Why bother to go to Octu, which is a British thing anyway. You’re going to get all this British crap hurled at you. So, we decided we’d
rather go to Greece and stayed on our best behaviour. There was one incident in January though. We had a little bit of trouble now and again with these Arabs. I can’t recall them. They’ve got a particular name. I can’t recall it. But apparently one of the boys Harold Brockley came in to his tent which he shared. I think there were about six or seven blokes in each tent and saw one of these Arabs trying to steal the rifles in the centre you know, the rifles stacked
up. And he tacked him and the Arab must have had a pistol or something and he shot Brockley in the stomach and Brockly died. That was only incident we had at Amiriya where Brockly died.
we had six now instead of three. We got more carriers. I don’t know whether they came from the Indian division or a ship had arrived with Bren carriers on it you know and they shipped us over to. We put all these carriers on to the brigade. A whole lot of brigade’s carriers went on to this ship called the Divas and each battalion supplied from it’s carrier platoon a number of men to look after it. There was one of my
drivers, Howl, Darky Keen, Carroll, maybe three, might have been four fellows anyway. So, the Divas went off with all the carriers. That went first and then the battalion followed in a liner called the Catalonia. I think there were about, I think they managed to get two of the battalions on there. They might have even got the whole brigade on there. That would have been about seventeen hundred, eighteen hundred men. Two thousand, about two thousand men at the most but on the way over
the Divas got bombed by the Italians and four, these fellows of ours I think only one survived. The others were killed. I heard a story later that Darky Keen really enjoyed it. Here he was firing this machine gun at these carriers and really enjoying the fight you know. He was a real Irishman from Caroyte. They’ll were all Irish down there. But they all got killed, these boys got killed.
I think they were buried at sea. I think it happened about halfway between Crete and Piraeus the port of Piraeus in Athens.
of Athens and it was in a pine forest. I remember pine forests, really nice pine forest and of course we’re delighted oh look at, this is a beautiful country you know and here’s the Greeks are waving to us as we go through the turn and the German, German legation is still there and they’re waving too, counting us as we go up which is again, part of the ridiculous part of it. Anyway at Daphni we waited there I think oh twenty
four hours and then they put us on a train but by this time you know the, our first brigade is being smashed by the Germans who brought in ten Divisions to drive us out and two air fleets and they were falling back so we go up as far as Larissa which is about half way up Greece, oh might have been about three quarters of the way and there they put a, we got off the trains. The train and
then we waited there and it was night there and I remember there was a, a German plane came over and they must have spotted some lights or something or other and he started to machine gun us. We could see his, his lights quite easily. He’s only up about five hundred, six hundred feet and everybody started looking for cover and I remember Plunger Pumfrey this friend of mine. He’s lying alongside the railway station. The rail station’s there and
his head is about there and somebody came down with his big boot right on his face. Oh, boy should have, and this German who finally having expended his machine gun ammunition flew off.
brigade, brigade’s got it from division so anyway right we’re going back. We’ve got to go back to those hills we see in the distance, Donicos but we can’t get the train to start because the Greek crew refused to move the train you know. No, we’ve had it you know, the Germans will come along, bomb the train you see so they take off so we searched around and we finally found two fellows in one of the battalions I don’t know who had
experience driving trains. They’d worked for the Victorian Railways. So, we get back on the train and we go back and we get off this train below this big hillside and we have to march up there and we get on top of that and start to prepare our defensive positions you see. And it’s snowing incidentally. There’s still snow. This is only oh just late April. It’s not the end of Winter up there at this point. So, the snow is
coming down and Jesus it was bloody cold. And we set up things but we can’t dig in because we’re on rock. So, you’ve just got to do the best you can. Get rocks up and pile rocks up in front of you, there’s a little sangar or something to protect you. And we’re on one side of the road, this is the main road from Salonika everybody has to fall back along this. And the 7th Battalion’s on the other side of the road, see. And while we’re there the 19th Brigade
falls back. We’re taking over now as the front line. The 16th has gone on through and the 19th Brigade are coming back and I saw some of the most beautiful flying you ever saw. Here’s these two Stukas and they’re bombing the road. Two Stukas you see and this one Stuka comes down. He goes down like that and this fellow lets his bomb go and the bomb’s landed, passed between the two planes you know. Oh, those German fighters were good. So, they’re bombing the road you know
so we stay there and nothing happens until they said oh look this is enough of this side. This is an untenable position. We can do better further back. So, all right we’re going back further. By this time I’ve got a carrier back again you see and they’ve got two fellows, so I’ve got Tufty Butter’s driver and Trigg I forget his first name, gunner. So, we start off independently. The battalion going in trucks and the carriers following behind. The carriers are staying behind because
in case we have to turn around and start fighting and I get in to a little town called Lamir and just then the bombers come over again you see. So, we pile out of the carrier and take shelter behind some of the walls you see and the bomber goes on for a little while and machine gunning you know and I came back to the carrier. No Tufty Butters, no Trigg. I don’t know what happened, I never ever saw them again but they certainly will never take a prisoner so they must have got
away you know and here’s the carrier and it’s a colander, you know a colander? It’s all, he just machine gunned and he, I mean it was impossible to move you know. I tried to move it. Just couldn’t get it to move you know. So, that’s, oh I’m on my own now.
a warning you know. Who are you, you know and then I get myself captured by the 5th Battalion. The 2/5th Battalion are on this side of the road and I’m captured and I never say I could be captured in all my life and after I said well where’s the 2/6th? They said they’re the other side of the road. The 2/7th is in reserve. So, I had a meal with these fellows. This is just on oh tea time you know, meal time about six o clock at night you know
and I had a meal with them and then I crossed to my own battalion you see and but before I left there. I saw something fantastic. The Germans started to come down. We could see the Germans coming down the road and they started, they used the plane to land a plane and get fellows out of it. They were great at carrying fellows by air in these oh, special transport plane they had, especially built to
carry troops and this artillery regiment the 2/2nd had two guns on this spur and they fired and they put a nice bit of shooting. They put one bit of shell behind the plane, one in front of the plane and the third one right on the plane. Oh, beautiful. And they had to leave the guns behind when we fell back. The Germans finished up getting the guns. They sparked them of course. They were no good anymore.
Germans were right behind me. But the Germans didn’t rush down. They, we kept holding them up and we’d fight a while maybe about half a day or something, then we’d start to fall back again you see. So, we kept delaying them you know making it, making their progress slow. So, anyway we fall back to Thermopylae and we do it again. This time we’re in reserve and I think the 17th Brigade was in the front of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions. They did the
fighting in front. So, then we have cross the Corinth canal and at the Corinth canal we dropped half of our battalion. Two and a half companies, I think it was A, B and half of C company to go up the canal because that was the only way now. Although some fellows, some battalion units had gone down to a place called Argos most of us, most of the Australians and New Zealanders had to go down to Kalamata because that was the only big
port outside Athens where you could get ships reasonably close, a big passenger ships to take the people off you see and the destroyers could come in. There was a pier there where the destroyers could come in. The destroyers would take you up and put you on these transports so anyway we dropped these boys at Corinth Canal and headquarters company. I think there were altogether about two hundred of us. We went on down to
Kalamata and as we got down to Kalamata the Germans for the first time landed parachutists on Australians and they finished up cleaning up the 6th Battalion. We’ve lost half the battalion you know and strangely enough the bridge was mined and the Germans themselves accidentally let of the charge that blew the bridge up, which held them up more. Because they then had to find a way around to get down to Kalamata.
The ship was in its normal state you know. Lights were on and all the rest of it but when the bomb hit under the stern suddenly the lights, no the lights in our particular gangway were still on but they started to go out but you know it was, strangely enough when the bomb hit it was just sort of short, well how would you call it, short, a short halt. I mean the ship didn’t sink
much at all you know. We just thought oh, it’s just like hitting an obstacle, hitting a log in the water you know and we went on collecting, oh there was a, there was starting to be a bit of panic but there was a big Maori sergeant with us and he said don’t panic fellows let’s get this ammunition upstairs you know. So, we then, we proceeded to file upstairs you see and there was never any danger at that stage of the Costa Rica sinking you see because she was taking the water very slowly and so
you know it just knocked off the rudders and the screws. So, it wasn’t a big hole you see and then they decided to evacuate and the Hereward came in on the starboard side and started and fellows just started to take fellows off. Some jumped. I think that’s where one man fell between the two ships as they just came together and he went in under the water. I believe he got his legs crushed but a lieutenant from the 2/1st Battalion dived in and saved him and of course the other fellows aboard Hereward pulled them out.
But I didn’t see any of this. I just heard about this later when we got to Crete but I was around on the Port side with two of my fellows from the carrier platoon, John McCome who died last year and Bill Ward who died some years ago. And we decided well, it was a funny thing. First of all John McCome had got hold of a loaf of bread and a tin or a jar of apricot jam and we were having, hacking the bread off with a bayonet. We
still had a bayonet and we were still eating and we just carried on there and this is about mid afternoon and then we thought well we’d better get off. So, we lowered a boat on the port side and got down in to the boat and started to row out. There was another destroyer out from us about maybe, oh a hundred and fifty meters. HMS Hero which incidentally survived the whole war and became a ship in the Canadian navy and but instead of coming in on the leeward side where the water was calm.
I can’t understand why, we rode around where the water was rough so at one stage we’re going up and the destroyer’s going down and it’s a balancing up and the sailors aboard, they could see us you know and they said when it comes again, jump for the gunwale and we all did and we got aboard and the strange thing when we got aboard. I suddenly burst in to tears you know. I think it must have been the tension of the whole thing and the odd thing about it too that when we got in the boat I took my boots
off and threw them overseas, overboard and kept my helmet on. I had this funny idea in any contact with machine gunning the helmet will save me, the boots won’t. So, we’re aboard the destroyer and we went downstairs and the sailors started to give us bread and cocoa you know cup of cocoa and one of the sailors was an Australian and I remember we were talking there and we said oh, how glad we are to be aboard here and you know if they come again. He said look if it comes again,
they drop a bomb. The bomb will go right through this thing you know so we couldn’t get up on deck quick enough. So, when we got up on deck there was no sign of the Hereward but the Costa Rica was still there and then the captain must have, lieutenant commander of whatever it was he must have got some instruction. Figured it out later that apparently the Costa Rica was not going to sink immediately. It would take a long time to sink and there were still ships coming out. This
was on August the 27th, two days after Anzac Day when the evacuation started. So, they thought well She’d be a danger with the other fellows coming out because they’d have to come at pitch black you know particularly if they’re coming out at night so the HMS Hero put two of these torpedos in to the Costa Rica to sink her you know and she was, oh she was still pretty much above the water line when we left but she was obviously going down. You could see she was starting to go down. So, he just
then took us over and dropped us off at Suda Bay. And we, I mean the three of us got on that destroyer. They, said eight of the Hero picked up a lot by getting mixed up with Hereward no, we were the only three that were on the Hero.
when these destroyers came over the horizon, boy were they quick you know. You’re looking out and then suddenly there’s nothing, you couldn’t see anything. The next thing there’s these two ships coming at you, you see and they must have got instructions from the, possibly from the destroyer to the Costa Rica saying get your men off. We’ve got it, we want to, she’s sinking you know. She’s, you’ve got to get her out of the way you know. She’s a danger to the other ships coming out. So, that it was, but the thing is it was a very orderly
quitting of the ship you know. There was no panic whatsoever. Everybody went over quite calmly, few fellows instead of waiting for the gangway they jumped on to the Hereward but she was, I think they waited until the Hereward came up with a swell and then they cut down the, just as they had to jump you know. But there was only man injured as far as I know. Never heard of any more being injured.
navy if you’re off a ship or the air force if you’re off a plane, but particularly in the army you’ve got this instinct to immediately start looking for your unit you know. You want to get back in some cohesive whole. And this in this case we finished up with I think it was about two hundred and thirty four, two hundred and forty men and then they Freyberg who had been ordered then to take command in Crete. Mind you this is just at the end of April so we’re still the,
the invasion and the battle of Crete are still someway off and they started to then organise in to Brigades and units. For instance the 2/1st Battalion and the 2/11th Battalion, the Australian battalions were sent to Retimo where there was a still airfield. So, they were, that was their job protect that area. The 4th Battalion, 2/4th Battalion was sent to Heraklion which was the old capital I think of Crete and they joined up with a couple of British battalions and
they made a unit there. Then up the other end you’ve got all the New Zealanders. I think there were pretty well two Brigades of New Zealanders plus the 2/7th Battalion Australian battalion. So, there we had, it was pretty well set up and then we started to make defensive positions you see.
of retaking the Maleme air field which was the crucial thing, the crucial point of the battle and instead of moving forward he moved back and this swung the Germans to the, the Germans way you know and then we started to fall back but even then they had a lot of trouble because they sent over a seaborne convey during the night when they would have come to see the bay. It was at our end of the island anyway, the Western end and during the night the navy
what there was of it. The navy lost about a third of its ships in the battle of Greece and Crete was sitting off there in a whole and caught the whole convoy and shot them up and that seaborne convoy never got to us. So, they went back to flying them in and mountain troops were flown in after that but when this New Zealand brigadier made his error and the New Zealanders started to fall back that’s when the Germans started pressing but even then they hadn’t
totally won the victory because there was this great fight in Galatas and that’s where the 7th Battalion re-came in to it. Again, we’re just backing up the 7th Battalion. The 7th Battalion actually did fight and they had a sort of temporary victory and we had a couple of tanks there which did a bit of damage but it was mainly the Maoris that held off the Germans which again gave us a bit of time to walk over the white mountains. This meant climbing up on this huge mountain range and over the top
to the South coast where finally they had set up an evacuation point at a village called Sfakia. was just a fishing village and we got over the top of that anyway. By this time I’ve got a weapon this time and we got down to Sfakia where we set up a defence, a perimeter with the 2/7th Battalion, one of the New Zealand battalions, the 2/2nd I think, a company of the
Maoris and the composite, 17th Brigade composite battalion was in the centre so we could be switched to any side and so it was at that stage oh 30th May, 29th, 30th May and we were still being strafed from the air by the Germans because there’s no, we don’t have any British aircraft there. And these two Messerschmitts came over and I don’t know whether they particularly selected me as a target but the next thing I know is that the bullets are whizzing around, these 505s
and I’m being splattered with little fragments of rock you know, the bullets hit the rock. And one of them ricocheted and hit me in the leg, another one in the groin. Fortunately, they were ricochets so they couldn’t do, they couldn’t do the damage they could have done if they’d hit me directly but it was the, this rock spray that did the damage because I caught that all in the face and that made me fall off the hillside you know and down and that’s where I got most of my damage
and I was unconscious and when I came to I was a prisoner because the war, the battle was over. This, when I came to it was the 1st June, morning of the 1st of June and somebody must have found me and carried me up because I was in this small area where the Germans were and one of these Germans, young bloke from Wartenberg he told me where he came from
and he was giving me a British biscuit with bully beef on it and an orange and that’s, I mean for me the war was over.
you just kept going. I mean we kept getting strafed from the air and so you’d dive off the track and that’s all it was, just a track you know maybe about a yard and a half yard and wait until the had planes gone and then you kept walking again you know and by this, some of the fellows were in horrible shape by then and it was quite a climb, it was quite a climb and some of them, some of them fell out.
A few of them got killed from the air. I mean it wasn’t the German troops who were doing the damage then it was the aircraft you see. We were far enough and oh, oh you know it was a couple of thousand men strung out over this track. All along it you know. How far the whole line went, I remember going through a wood and there were, what I thought was a group of New Zealanders just sitting down having a rest and one fellow had a
cup in his hand and he’s leaning against a tree. And these fellows were all dead. They’d been killed by a blasts from a bomb that must have dropped nearby somewhere. I couldn’t see where the bomb fell. But they were dead you know incredible. It was like looking at a group of statues you know, but I’ll never forget this fellow with his hand up holding a cup in front of his mouth and he’s dead. Like that. Incredible you know. Just shows you what a blast could do, burst the ear drums you know.
discharged from there I was taken up to what they call a Dulag or transit camp in Salonika and this is where you’re up against the sort of back unit men. A front line soldier is always a friend to the other soldier in the front line even though they’re enemies you know. If you’re caught or wounded you would look after each other but when you’re getting to the back line you’re getting to these reservists, the fellows that, oh yeah I haven’t been in the front line but I
hate you fellows. You’re the enemy. So, you get a different type of treatment you know. So we get through to this treatment at the camp in Salonika and that’s where there was one big escape. I think it was the third attempt I’d made where we tried to get out through a sewer you know. Some fellows did get out but then a Cypriot prisoner asphyxiated in the sewer where it had an elbow and of course there’s still fellows piling in on top and then the Germans disturbed
by the row that’s going on around this man hole came in and started to gather us in you know and I got, I got a bayonet partly through the hand and a fellow’s got bashed up altogether you know. But they could have shot us you see but then you start to, then they take us up to Germany and that’s where you really begin to change. You begin to accept I’m a prisoner until the end of war. You go through another mind change you see. It’s a strange thing.
You’re going through these mind changes.
were in there. We conditioned ourselves to yes, the war’s going to end in four years time. Well, it went a bit longer than that actually. The only time we ever sort of dropped our bundle or began to worry was when the Germans started the Battle the Bulge and we thought oh god it’s going to go on for another whole year unless the Russians get to us first you see. So, that otherwise at that stage you say oh
I’m or we’ll sit out the war you know. Most of it. But it didn’t stop us escaping. It was, you get some incredible, the only man who’d ever escaped fully from Stalag 383 that I know of was a Polish flight sergeant in the Royal Air Force. He got to France and he became a lackey. But there were some incredibly attempts. There were two guys who went out, tried to get into Yugoslavia dressed as man and wife and they, you know why they got caught? They got caught on the boarder because the
fellow dressed as a wife was wearing lipstick. You couldn’t buy lipstick in Germany then. Lipstick was out you see. So, he couldn’t be a real German women but when Frank Bourne and I got away near the end in April 1945 we were in British uniform and it was quite easy to get away you know but the most interesting attempt we made
It was a block of flats just by the railway line where they just held people I suppose until they put them on the train but going up in the train we had to get out at one stage where the line had been cut on a river and they had a platoon bridge and that’s when I tried my, I think that was my second or third attempt to escape and jumped a rock wall and over the other wall, the other side of the wall was a German the other side of the wall having a pee and he looked at me and grinned and I looked at
him and grinned and we just walked back to the train together. I mean there was, it was still affable then. The nastiness started when we got in to this transit camp in Salonika where I suppose again the Germans psychology, let’s break them down, break their spirit type of thing. Where the food was low. I mean most of the time we just lived on lentil soup and you slept on the concrete floor of these huts. It was an old Greek barracks
actually, right opposite the cemetery on the road that leads up to Sofia and Bulgaria. But then in the beginning of August they decided to ship us to Germany or train us to Germany. So, we went up to Germany in parties. I remember we left Salonika, my group left Salonika on August 10th and we arrived at a town called Hammelburg or a prison camp near the town of Hammelburg on August 17th. It took us a week to get up there.
and we’re being fed which is what we needed you know and at that time the Germans weren’t short of food. They had plenty of food but you know I was delighted to be working for the baker. I was assured of plenty of bread and they had us in this, this was a place called [(UNCLEAR)] in the, near a big army camp and they had us in this house with one German guard looking after us. He’d open the door in the morning and we’d go up to work
but we had some funny things happen there. Two of the boys worked for the local inns McDowell and Tom Bennet and Tom was always being chased by the daughter of the family you know because there was no young German men there. They were all, all off drafted in to the army. The eldest son of the family I worked with was in the air force you know and then there was McDowell who one day found where
the, the German innkeeper had hidden his stocks of wine so that the Nazi Party wouldn’t confiscate it you know. So, he found this wine and then he and a couple of the other fellows nearby, I was never invited incidentally, got these bottles out, drank this wine and kept filling the bottles up with water and putting them back, right. So, that’s, but you know I used to look after three or four cows and went out
you know ploughing the fields and cutting the, mowing the lawn and all the rest of it. But then apparently we started to get too friendly with this village. They took to us, they liked us you know. I mean the old man I worked for had been a soldier in the first war so he knew what it was like to be a soldier. His, his oldest, second son was a bit of a nasty character who kept trying it on me. I nearly
I nearly clocked him one hit him], one day and I got in to trouble over that. But his father turned around and abused his son, don’t ever do that again you know. In other words antagonise me, you know.
segregate people in to groups you know and say right you go, you’d have a German guy and he’d say right come with me and you’d go in a truck to a certain village you know. The interesting thing about Hammelburg is that at one stage I was in trouble and I was put into a, for trying to escape, put in to a punishment company. And this punishment company. I was with another Australian.
I forget who it was now and there were a couple of Scots there, an Englishman about ten French Foreign Legion fellows and about two hundred Russians and among the Russians was the elder son of Stalin. Now the Germans knew they had Stalin’s eldest son prisoner but they could never find him and these Russians wouldn’t tell where he was and he was in this camp. He’s now buried in the common grave or the mass grave behind Hammelburg where they used to
bury the Russians. He was an artillery officer and the interesting thing about these Russians was the Germans really, oh they gave those fellows hell. They used to starve them and every day you’d seen another Russian being carried down to the mass grave area, on a board, stark naked. They’d already taken his clothes off because somebody needed the clothes. And as they came past this punishment
compound. We’d throw bread or cigarettes over and they’d drop the body and scramble for the cigarettes and bread you know but sometimes I feel that whatever the Germans got from the Russians they deserved it because they didn’t regard the Russians as being human. They were called untermensch , less than human. So they were pretty rough
on them you know, but getting back to Tom and I deciding to escape.
brought in British uniforms so we’d got rid of all that Belgium stuff and Scottish stuff and what not. So, we were all dressed in British uniforms, short tunics and so on. So when Tom and I escaped we were in British uniforms, we had Nazi brassards around our arms, little Nazi flags we made into brassards and we had German packs and we put our caps underneath our epaulettes so we looked like the German arbeit dienst, labour corps. They dressed in khaki you see
so we walked through big towns, nobody stopped us and then we’re going through this village, we’re trying to make for Switzerland we did about a 100 Ks [kilometres] I suppose, we’re going through this village in the middle of the night and the air raid warden caught us you know. He shouted out, we kept walking and then we heard the rattle of a bolt and Tom said, “I think he’s going to fire at us!” so we stopped and we waited there and he
came up to us and he said “Who are you fellows?” “We’re escaped prisoners of war.” And honestly he burst out laughing, here he is an air raid warden, there’s an air raid going on. This is a village near, nowhere you know and he’s caught two prisoners of war. He took us back, got his wife out of bed. She made us, made us oh some food and we sat talking and he said, “You know I’ve got to turn you over to the commandant.” and the next morning two
German soldiers came and took us off, back to the camp you know. So, we then got a month in solitary confinement each.
confidence, got the confidence to know it’s going to take time and it’ll be, the one thing we always thought it would be the Russians would get to us first and even now I am convinced that the Russians won the war. The Americans and the British could have stayed out of it. The Russians would have won it you know. They just couldn’t beat the Russians. See, this is the incredible thing. Russia is such an enormous place and the deeper you go in there
the more you get sucked in. This is, and don’t forget in 1941,42 was the worse winter in Europe since Napoleon retreated in 1812 and you see that, I don’t know whether you saw a documentary on recently, of all these German dead in Russia. Three hundred thousand Germans froze to death in that winter because they had gone in, in summer clothing. They expected the war against Russia to be over by
October, before winter started. General winters, I mean the same thing you can say to China. You will never defeat China because of the sheer depth of the country you see.
he’s off the Burma Railway. He’s on his way to Japan. He’s on a ship that’s sunk. He’s rescued by a Japanese destroyer from the water and then he gets up to Japan and he works in a coalmine and then he, Tom Uren, you know the ex-politician, Tom Uren will say the same thing. Suddenly, they get to Japan and they find there are Japanese civilians. Ordinary Japanese people, children and so on who start to be kind to them, give them
a bit of food of some kind and suddenly they, ‘Oh gee not all Japanese are bad.’ And my brother had a television in Adelaide when we had our final POW reunion over there. He and another fellow was on and the other fellow was saying, ‘I hate Japanese.’ The Japanese used to do a lot of, Gary said, “Obviously you’ve never been to Japan mate.” See the difference you see. He used to say,
he didn’t, he didn’t hate the Japanese soldier. He thought the Japanese soldier was stupid. The soldier he hated was the Korean because the Japanese used to bash the Korean
at Thorn which is now Torun I think in Poland, 344 at Lamsdorf and 383 and 383 was the one that held the, all the senior NCOs, sergeants and above, warrant officers because they could persuade other prisoners to revolt or whatever you see. Lamsdorf and Thorn had private soldiers who were nuisances and so on but they were never as prominent but
they could still, they eventually sent those out, some of those out to work. We were never allowed out of 383 once we were in there. We were wired in for the rest of the war which would be oh roughly two, just over two years, two and a half years you know but the thing about 383 it suddenly became like, we were the equivalent to Colditz with the officers you see. But suddenly we became
a quieter camp because we were organised and we organised ourselves you know. We had a man of confidence, the head man who was a, who was a Scot and the interpreter was an Australian, Coskiff [?] from Mildura and we had four thousand five hundred and twenty nine men. I counted at one stage because we had our own little newspaper which we used to send a man, a man used to go down to Ravensburg and have it printed down there, called Time. I gave a copy once to the [Australian] War Memorial. And
we also had radios. It’s amazing what you could buy from the Germans with a tin of cigarettes which was the currency then. But we had this big room we made underneath the gymnasium where every night we used to get the nine o clock news from the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] and I was one of the reporters who took it down and then we’d write it out on sheets and it would go around the camp you see. Every row, there were five
five streets, about four streets. And it would go right along that street you see but at the same time this is a big camp, there’s a lot of wire around it. So we could run a wire out to the wire fence and broadcast to London and we did. As a matter of fact if you look in the official history you’ll find in the history about the, where it’s got the POW camp we brought a Spitfire that way. It was called Unshackled Spirit. Whether it ever got
into action I don’t know.
oh maybe a handful of fellows that went round the bend, went mad. If they went mad they were sent off to a hospital somewhere. But then again it’s hard to say whether there was genuine madness or just feigned madness to get out of the place, you know. Some prisoners of war used to do extraordinary things to get out of things you know. But then again it’s like
these fellows that used to go out to sea. There was a, the Germans had what they called a rest camp at Graudenz up near Berlin which was supposed to be for prisoners and where they hoped to convert the prisoners, the British prisoners in to a small unit they had called the British Frei Korps which was part of the SS. I don’t know whether you’ve heard about it. Oh, a lot of SS units, you’d have a Norwegian unit, a Dutch unit. These were all Dutch Nazis or Norwegian Nazis and then you had these British
Nazis. I think they were no more than about a dozen of them. What happened to them after the war, I think they were all sent to jail. I don’t think any of them were executed for being traitors but you’d get these fellows who’d go out to, oh yeah I’m going to holiday camp but what they were doing when they went up there was looking. What happened in Nuremberg last night? How much damage did, or what happened at Schweinfurt? You’d get things like this. Tom Bennet and I are in the forest outside Schweinfurt one
afternoon when the Americans came over and bombed Schweinfurt when there had the big ball bearing factory. And we’re watching these bombs come down you know. Come down. Alright, the bombing’s over, we just kept on walking you know. So, a POW life is a life unto itself you know. You’re thinking of all sorts of things you can do and get away with it. That’s the best way of saying it.
And get away with it you know. You’re competing against the German. You’re competing against not being recaptured or if you’re being recaptured how can I get out of being sent in to solitary confinement. Alright? It’s a, it has its funny side. I can see it as a funny side now I suppose. I may not have done so then.
My original company commander was then the colonel in charge of the camp and because I’d been a cadet journalist and knew shorthand I was called in as the court recorder of some of these suicides which were very sad. All the fellows that did suicide. They were treated as killed in action or killed on active service. They were never listed as suicide. Including a very good friend of mine, a journalist
who got himself discharged in London as you could and for some reason went around to the home of a woman journalist one night, a famous woman journalist of a big magazine and he suddenly, they’re having a glass of wine, he suddenly pulls out a whole bottle of pills and swallows the lot. Suicides in front of her. I have an idea why he did it but it’s hard to say with some of these fellows. Some of these
fellows just couldn’t cope with being free again. That’s why I say I can always understand why a man comes out of jail and commits a crime not because he wants but because he wants to get back to jail. He’s become conditioned to living in jail and that’s the life he wants and he’ll go back to it time and time again. Recidivist, time and time again. It’s
an incredible thing and no different to being a prisoner of war you see. The only thing about being a prisoner of war you know that the war’s going to end some time and you’re going to come out. But not everybody will feel that way. And then we had some very unfortunate deaths in there. We had a couple of deaths from meningitis, see? And a couple of fellows died that I knew very well. One had a heart attack you know. They’re the sad things, sad ones you know when you have
these funerals of fellows that look forward to going home and they don’t. They die in a prison camp you know. Or they’re shot for escaping or something like that. They’re the ones you feel sorry for.
He did a lot of radio work for Melbourne’s 3LO, 3AR, in the theatres down there. And one night the fellows in his hut woke up one morning. We were fourteen in a hut in Stalag 383, woke up in the morning and found he’d died during the night. He’d had a heart attack. And it was quite sad and all the Australians turned
out. There were five hundred Australians in Stalag 383 and we all turned out for the funeral and he’s, I don’t know, I think there’s only one Commonwealth war cemetery in Germany. I think that’s up near Berlin now and they probably buried him close to the camp in the, in some local cemetery and then after the war transferred the body up to this war cemetery. He would have a war
war cemetery grave. Mick McDonald out of the 2/2nd Battalion, he is the one that got this meningitis which is surprising because he was a big man and then suddenly got this and for a time there his hut was quarantined because the risk of it might spread but he was a surprising death. You wouldn’t have expected it. How he got the thing, it never, nobody else ever got it. How he got meningitis
suddenly like that, surprised everybody. How did it happen? We couldn’t understand it. He was such a big man and very popular.
really but you know at one stage Tom Bennett was probably the, the fellow I escaped with. Frank Bourne was another one I escaped with but then Frank was in a hut where I had other friends. A couple of whom I’ve seen, a New Zealander I met after the war. See, Tom and the other fellows in that [(UNCLEAR)] commando you had one mate in yet you had more than one mate. It’s a bit
hard to describe. You didn’t single out and say I only want to know about him as a mate. I don’t want to know you. You’d always mix with everybody. Again, this comes back to the unit. You speak, in the army you think more as a unit. If I think of the [(UNCLEAR)] commando I’m thinking I’m thinking of all 16 men not just one. If I’m thinking of Stalag 383 I’m thinking of all 14 fellows in the hut not just one.
You know, the 15 fellows in the hut what did I have? We had a London dustman, garbageman. Also in the hut we had who’d been captured in the same unit as him an Eton school, an old Etonian who refused a commission. We had one of the top musicians of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, we had a Welsh sergeant major. There was me.
We had, oh we had a Canadian fighter pilot who’d been shot down and was very badly burnt. You had this incredible collection of fellows and as I say 383 was a remarkable camp for the remarkable collection of people you had. We started a university there, linked with the London University. We had professors there. Professors who were ordinary sergeants, who were corporals. If
you came in as a corporal you’d call yourself a sergeant.
railways was so severe and we’d pool everything in you see and one man would generally do the cooking. He was the, in some huts one man might volunteer to be cook all the time on the other hand it might be shared around. You’d play chess and cards, used to play chess with the Palestinian or he’d be an Israeli now if he’s still alive and then
you’d play cards. Oh, there’s was all sorts of things you could do. We had a swimming pool. Originally 383 had been a French officers’ camp and when the French were moved out they moved us in but the swimming pool was still there and in winter the swimming pool became an ice rink. And we had this football ground up the back where we played Australian Rules and played soccer. We had Anzac Day sports you know. Athletics, concerts and everything you know. We had a symphony orchestra. We had a
library with oh at least a thousand books donated from London. Some of them from the Bodlean library you know. We had dance orchestras, theatre, an Australian theatre, general theatre. It was amazing here’s a, on just there, on the front of that CD ROM there’s a picture of a fellow dressed as
Yum Yum in the Mikado you know. Some of these things were quite incredible. On that CD ROM you, it’s the most incredible collection of things about 383. I did two exams there. I’m a fellow of the Advertising Association and I’m a fellow of the Royal Society Rights. I passed both exams. I’ve never practised advertising but they didn’t have an advertising course there at the time you see. So I did those.
soup with some meat in it. Probably horse. But then you’d supplement that with the stuff you’d saved out of the Red Cross parcels. And then after some of the fellows, oh we’d have to have a parade up on the showground, up on the playground first which was rather funny. We five hundred Australians used to terrorise a German officer who had look after this apparel. The whole four
thousand had to line up and be counted to be sure nobody was missing. This German fellow he had bifocal glasses obviously he’d been kept out of the war in Russia. He wouldn’t have done much. He was a captain but he was a funny little man. He had some funny expressions. We used to annoy him so much, keep the parade waiting and he’d get more and more angry. On
one occasion he pulled out his rifle and he said, “Look you Australia, you get in to line or I will shit myself!” Another time he said, “I am being told about you Australia. You think you know fuck all but you know fuck nothing!” Anyway that time from then on we obeyed him because he spoke our language. And after that you’d go down and if it was the summer you might go for a swim in the
pool or you’d go to the library and get books and we had some gramophones there and you could play music but there was an infinite variety of things to do which was good in a camp because we were wired in and we weren’t going anywhere. We couldn’t go anywhere unless you decided to go out and escape and have a look at these other things that were happening, the bombing and so on. But the thing is, one thing that did worry us was the possibility of being bombed.
There were two occasions in particular the night … the night of the Dresden bombing. One of the bombers came back over us. The planes would go in on one route and they’d come back by a circular route to avoid being caught by the night fighters
and this one plane came over the top of the camp and it’s a pitch black night. This is March 1945 and we’re looking up and he’s not very, he must have been hit, he must have been hurt in some way because he couldn’t have been more than say five hundred feet above us and the ground is shaking like an earthquake just from the throbbing of these engines. And there was not a light in the camp. If there’d been a light and then he went on and
about oh maybe five minutes later either he dropped a bomb that he must have had or he exploded because there was this tremendous explosion. We couldn’t see the plane, whether he’d come down he might have crashed. Another time, we were close to Nuremberg you see. We could see the Nuremberg bombing at night. We couldn’t see Nuremberg but we could see the planes bombing it and the other night I can remember there was a plane came over. I don’t know whether you, have you ever
seen that scene of the Carmen opera where you’ve got this huge rose, beautiful big rose opening up? Well, this plane must have been hit, he must have been fully loaded and he just exploded and it just opened up like a great big red rose in the air. The other time was Americans bombing, attacking Lagensberg which is below us. See we’re in a triangle. Nuremberg, Piljan and Lagensberg. We’re in this triangle and
the Americans are bombing Lagensberg and this was again, this would be again about March 1945. These things were quite close together towards the end of the war and for the first time we saw one of these German rocket planes attack the Americans. We saw him go straight up, over the top of the Americans, and of course when he got to the top and his motor cut out he had to come down you know he had no other control. And he just comes, came right through the
Americans and the Americans fired at him and we’re all out in the streets watching this and there’s bullets whizzing around us. They’re bullets firing in the door and in a loaf of bread and this plane came down and he came past us and we wondered how the hell he was firing, he had no propeller. But he came down and he landed oh about 200 yards away on skids. They had skids underneath. There’s one of these planes up in the, it’s not up here it’s
over in the annexe. But those were the, you were always in fear that you might be bombed. Wolfsberg 13A in Austria was bombed and some of the fellows were killed there but possibly because the Wolfsberg camp was right next to the Volkswagen camp, factory you see and they were probably aiming at the factory and the bombs fell in the prison of war camp.
the clock that travels far about this fellow. This British fellow he had a clock. On every station where he’d served including Shanghai and I wrote this story about the clock and I got one of the cartoonists, I think it was Jim Davis or Eric Walsh the New Zealander to do drawing of a clock. You know the ordinary alarm clock. It’s got a top on it like a helmet, a helmet and there’s the clock carrying two bags you see.
The clock that, time never stood still. I can remember the title of it and you’ll find it in the last edition of the volume As You Were which was a series of books published by the War Memorial. I think this was As You Were in 1950. It’s the last one they published. Oh, and there were other things, sports results. I used to send stuff back home to the Australian newspapers believe it or not by bribing the censor with a can of, a tin of Player cigarettes and sent it to
London to The Melbourne Herald cable service and they’d send it back to the Sun News, Victorian Herald in Melbourne. It was used there and also used The Courier Mail in Brisbane, The Advertiser in Adelaide and The Western Australian. Mostly stories about sport you know. We had a test cricket series there where we played the English. We had rugby there where we played the English and the South Africans.
It, it’s, you had to be there to see some of the funny things that happened with the, I can remember one of my mates in that picture there. He got blind drunk. We used to make our own liquor. You’d save up all the orange peels and various things and then you’d make this, make this pure alcohol it was. I remember I saved a bottle of it. The German bottles have a sort of rubber, rubber
cap, clip on cap. China and rubber seal and I saved a bottle of this for my 21st birthday and when I took the cap off the cap, the rubber seal had been eaten away by the alcohol. But we used to drink this stuff. Oh, potent! Anyway this Tucker gets drunk on this one night and goes up to the gates with the barbed wire and he pulls the wire apart and says to the German guard up there, “I’m going to kill you, you bastard!” And the German guard ran away.
.He really thought he meant it.
say, was the mentor you know. We’d contacted them and they said yes, if you want to set up some faculties of various things, we’ll supply the type of stuff you need to study and the examination papers when it comes around to examinations and it worked very well. I’m
amazed when I saw the ROM played, my brother in law played the ROM for me, how many courses we had. There’s about fifty courses and oh an incredible number of things, jewellery making and you can imagine any courses you get at the university now we had then except journalism which was missing. Some might have been missing except the very esoteric ones.
Let’s see, what would be an esoteric one? Oh, might have been a spin off from some current media planning or something like that which is the type of things we have had now we would not have had then. But they were largely based on the current courses that were being run at the London university and they’d set the exam paper and then the exam papers would be sent back to London and they would mark them there, you see. And then eventually.
you would. In a couple of month’s time you’d hear how you went. Did I get my degree or did I get a pass or whatever. But it was, to me the university was the really the outstanding thing of Hohenfels, the most outstanding thing. Anything else was, you know the type of thing that you would expect to set up in a prison of war camp but no other prison of war camp ever thought of having its own university but
we had the numbers to make it work. See, out of four thousand five hundred and twenty nine men you’d probably get maybe eight hundred would want to do a university course which made it really worth while for the London University. I don’t know whether they, we didn’t pay anything. The London University might have been subsidised by the British Department of Defence. They might have made an honorarium to them for the work you’re carrying out for these prisoners of
war. It’s possible. I don’t know but I think that’s possible but we certainly, it didn’t cost us anything. Anyway, we had no money anyway.
showing you all the things in the star sky and you’d discuss these things you know and then you might be set an exercise. ‘Tell us about the last time Mars was closest to earth and what is Mars trajectory’ and all of these things. They’d set a paper. It might only be a five hundred word essay but it would be worthwhile so I think music was a
popular one because you had a lot of fellows who had the opportunity for the first time to study some form of music and we had instruments there. We made instruments, you know. I don’t know about pianos but violins and guitars and things like that. They made them there. They may not have been extremely good but you got music out of them you know. This is the incredible thing and you had music. I remember one fellow who composed songs
and became quite famous in England after the war. His name was Norry Jage. He wrote music subsequently after the war for quite a few BBC shows. I’m trying to think of one. What was the show that Dick Bentley was in? What was that one? And Edwards, Joy Nicholls, the two Australians? They were in the show in, oh I forget the name of the show now
but he did quite well out of it you know. He wrote this music you know. He found a publisher in England. He sent some of them away while he was a POW apparently. I think one or two of them were published while he was a POW but that’s the type of thing you see. You did everything. I sent one of my stories about the test cricket was published in the London Daily Express in the Hickey column because I thought oh well we’re playing the Englishmen maybe I can sell this thing in England.
When I got to England I went around to the Melbourne Herald cable office and there were two things there for me, one was a letter from Sir Keith Murdoch. My original boss, Rupert’s father, congratulating me on being out of the prison of war camp and I got a cheque from Trevor Smith, the London manager for one hundred pounds which was a lot of money then. Yeah, “The boss asked me to give you a cheque for one hundred pounds.”
You know a lot of fellows probably found that when they went home they had little nest eggs that built up you know. If you sent home maybe things through an aunt or an uncle and they’d put it away in the bank for you. And don’t forget too while we were a POW normal army pay was mounting up, you know. I found myself with quite a bit of money when I got to England, something around about oh, five hundred pounds anyway which was a lot of
money. I spent it practically all in England in the six months I was there but that was a lot of money in those days you know. It enabled me to see quite a lot of England.
mentioned earlier about that couple. The two fellows that went out as man and wife. They would arrange all the clothes for them. They arranged one thing too much but the reason they got caught because the man who was the woman was wearing lipstick which you couldn’t get in Germany then. There was, I don’t know, I think Hitler was a bit anti lipstick then and they abolished all lipstick in Germany at that time. But he had lipstick on he couldn’t be a German woman you know.
And they’d arranged passports and various things. False photos and all the rest of it. But there weren’t all that many escapes from Stalag 383. To start with it was difficult. In, in World War I it was possible to escape fairly easily and get away. In World War II it was very hard if you were in Germany. If you were shot down in
France you could get away fairly quickly on an escape line. But in Germany where were you going to go? You could go to Switzerland or you could go to Sweden. You go to Switzerland what do you see? You see it in The Great Escape [movie], these great big wire fences and Steve McQueen trying to jump them on a motorcycle. Sweden, you had to get across the water. And where were you going to get ship? You’d have to get to Rostock, a German port or you’d have to get to Gdansk, a Polish port, very hard.
it started to get very bad mainly because the bombing of Germany, particularly by the Americans, intensified where they concentrated on the railways and particularly the marshalling yards so suddenly we found that instead of getting one Red Cross parcel a month whether British or Canadian, it wasn’t arriving. I suppose the parcels got
so far and that’s all. Then they were either destroyed by the bombing or they disappeared among the Germans. But that was the start of it. But then you see we got this horrifying winter and we weren’t getting the fuel that we used to have you know for our pot belly stove. We’d get a bucket of coal a week and then we just started to get a few pieces of
wood and the German ration fell down. Suddenly, the Germans were and ourselves were on the same rations which were half of what we had the previous winter from the Germans? And then the Germans push in to the Battle of the Bulge. Suddenly, it looked as though the war’s going to go on for another year instead of, as we thought, being over by Christmas 1944.
walks everybody would get in to their bunks and put everything on. Your greatcoat and what blankets we had and most people decided to hibernate. It was very grim because and the news wasn’t good either because the news from the Western Front. We weren’t worried about the Eastern Front but we just wondered, thought the Germans, the Russians probably had more
further away to go to reach us than the Americans did you see. Or the British, well in our case the Americans. I think it was the 5th Army that had to get to us and the army that finally I got mixed up with was the 85th Division of the 5th Army but it, it was a combination of things. The bombing, the cessation of the parcel delivery,
fall off in the German ration, the pressure on the Bulge. People started to get depressed. For the first time, for the first time we started to get depressed. Oh, look the war’s going to go on and on and on.
didn’t actually have any real priests or ministers. I think they were mostly laymen or had been in one church or the another and they would take the services you know. There were fellows that went to services every Sunday. I’d say about a third anyway, a third of the fellows there would go to, go to church services of one
kind or the other. And the church services we held in our, what we call our Fladium which was one of our theatres. The theatre would be transferred, transformed in to a church for that day. That’s another thing about the theatre, on one occasion our main theatre group did a series of Shakespeare and would you believe the Germans, when we did the Merchant of Venice through Alfheimmer
we got original costumes from Berlin from the Merchant of Venice probably because it was all about Shylock the Jew you know. The Germans used to come to the shows and sit in the front row and clap. We didn’t play; I don’t recall us ever playing God Save the Queen, the King or anything like that.
we would read the German accounts and the Germans would say oh we are progressing, we have captured so and so. So, you had to balance the thing, but knowing the Germans and knowing the Germans were bloody good soldiers you know you’d be inclined to lean towards the German side rather than the American. It was obvious that the Americans must be having a hard time no matter how good they said it was. They must be having some sort of hard time so the advantage
lay slightly towards the German side until finally the Battle of the Bulge ended and then there was a sort of sigh, big sigh of relief you know. At least we’ve held them all right but in the meantime you were more interested in how the Russians were doing. The Russians were coming on and they were nearly in Berlin. Once they got in Berlin then it’s not so bad. But we had a worry on our minds then that
of this, there was a big report at the time. Whether, I’ve never been able to find out all the authorities have, I’m not sure about this all this that the Nazi, the SS, all the SS were going to be taken down to Berchtesgaden where Hitler had his area and so on whether he’d there it didn’t matter but the idea was that all the prisoners were to be marched down and held in front of the SS so
if the Americans wanted to break through them they had to go through the prisoner of war first. The prisoners would be sacrificed. Whether it was true or not, but the Germans were marching all the prisoners down from the various camps as the camps became close to the Russians particularly they marched all the prisoners out and towards the south and finally they got down and to us and they started to march our fellows out you know but our fellows never got very far. The march seemed to peter out somewhere
round about Munich. That’s about almost when the war ended.
they didn’t know it was POWs. They must have thought it was Germans marching you see. So, my mate Frank Bourne and I, Frank is my new mate because I’ve got to know him quite well. We could have said oh yeah how about us going through, shooting through. Alright, I don’t want to go on this march. Neither do I, alright okay. So he came,
we came down to my end of the camp and we just cut the wire with a pair of wire cutters that we had and just walked through the wire and there’s a German guard just up from us around about oh ten yards or so and he just looked at us and turned away. At this stage the Germans seemed to be reconciling themselves that they were going to lose the war. This was April the 13th 1945 and by this
time most of the German soldiers, they’d had it, particularly the fellows who’d been on the Russian Front. They I’ve seen German soldiers cry, guards who were with us, cry when they were told they were being sent to the Eastern Front. It was almost certain death.
and he was only a small man, maybe about five six at the most and he’d already been wounded. I think he was wounded in France early in the piece and then he was told he was going to the Eastern Front and he didn’t say anything but he just broke in to tears. We saw him in his room breaking into tears, he had this note in front of him, instructions, order. You’re going to the Eastern Front
and it probably said, I don’t know whether he ever went home to see his family first, but it would have been you know, the Germans were really, the German Army was really hard on their people you know. The Germans executed fifteen thousand men for desertion. Mostly in the last year of the war. This is on the record and we really
felt sorry for this guy. I mean we got to the stage of being sorry for any German who was being ordered to the Eastern Front because it was, as I said, almost certain death. It didn’t matter how many of you there were there would always be more Russians and it didn’t matter how many Russians you killed. There’d always be more Russians. This is what it was like. I mean the Eastern Front was absolutely horrifying. I think the death toll was something like 50 million,
really horrifying figures. So, you know we felt sorry for this little guy but off he went and whether he survived I don’t know.
yet they had the same idea you know. I’m going to walk out of here some day you know. Except towards the end in, I believe from my brother, the last few days of the war where apparently there was some talk that the Japanese were going to execute all prisoners of war before the surrender particularly in Japan where apparently there were big holes dug and they were, they
suspected. They were never told that this was to be their communal grave. But it’s very important that you keep up hope and this was, this was one of the things that I admire about my young brother’s battalion, the 2/2nd Battalion. 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion which has the best record of the Burma Railway that no 2/2nd man ever died without a 2/2nd man being beside him you know.
This is tremendous and they still have this fellowship among them, even today you know and this flowed on to their wives and widows and children. It’s quite an incredible thing. It’s the only battalion, the only other battalion where you might find this kind of feeling was the 39th Battalion, the militia battalion that stopped the Japanese in New Guinea, that fought the Japanese all the back, all the way back down the Kokoda Trail. They’re the two
battalions I think were the greatest battalions in World War II, you know.
but the funny thing is we’re going down a hill and you know when we were taken prisoner the Americans wore the same helmets we did, the fellows in the Philippines for instance but we had never seen the new American helmet which is like the German helmet. The coal scuttle type you see and Frank said “They’re bloody Germans, look at the helmet!” and I said, “Yeah but what’s the white star on the tank? They can’t be Germans. What’s the white star mean?” So we get
down there and you know sure enough it’s the tank from the 85th Division spear heading the 5th Army and Frank gets this lieutenant, the lieutenant in charge of the tank, only the one tank strangely enough. You’d have thought there might have been two or three of them and he’s got the lieutenant’s hand in both his hands and he won’t let the lieutenant’s go and at the same time he’s crying. The tears are streaming down his face and he’s trying to get a word out and he can’t you
see. I managed to say to the lieutenant, “Oh right now, where do we go to get back to England?” “Oh,” he said, “Our mob we’re about 50 Ks ahead of the rest of the army. We’re the spearhead.” Oh, yeah, yeah right. Oh, there’s Germans between us and the rest of it. And sure enough that afternoon, about an hour later we ran in to this German battalion or the remnants of it. It might have just been the remnants of the company and
this German sergeant pulls up aside us and we couldn’t escape. We had to, you know we had to stay there. There was no use running away or anything so we just sat down on the side of the road, took out our cigarettes and lit a cigarette each and he’s got a panzerfaust what we called a bazooka on his bicycle you know for destroyed tanks and he stops and he says “Who are you fellows?” “Oh, we’re a couple of escaped prisoners of war.” “Yeah?” “Can you spare one of those cigarettes?” “Yeah,” so we give him a cigarette and
“How are things going?” “Oh, not good at all.” “Where are the Americans.” “Oh, right behind us.” “What about your fellows? What are you going to do?” “Oh, as soon as night falls all my fellows are going to disappear in to the countryside.” So, that was the feeling. And they looked exactly as we did on Crete and on Greece you know. We’re being beaten. You can tell a beaten man by the way the soldiers are going
passed and their heads are down you know. A couple of them are dragging their rifles on the ground. That kind of thing. You could see they were beaten men.
military store or something and we thought, ‘Alright, if we go with them we’ll give them a chocolate and they’ll give each a loaf of bread or something.’ you see. So, we decided to carry their bags for them and they were quite happy to let us carry. We came to an intersection just leading in to their village and this car came along and in this car there’s four blokes. One of them’s obviously a general. He’s got red around his cap. Red all down his trousers and he sights us and stands up and pulls his
pistol out and he starts shouting at us and I remember Frank saying, ‘Salute the bastard quick!” And we threw a couple of beautiful salutes and at the same time I could feel myself going numb from the feet up and I’m numb up about the waist when just then two Mustangs, American Mustangs came up the road behind the car and the general’s aide pulled his trousers, he sat down, looked up saw the planes, sat down and the car went
for the hell of its life with the planes after it. So we went the other way just as fast with the two girls. We got to their house and we finished up staying the night there and family, they’re just an ordinary peasant German peasant family, gave us a meal. And during the night round about, oh must have been midnight or so, suddenly the door’s knocked in and in come a herd of American soldiers. And, “Who are you people?”
“Oh, we’re a couple of Australian prisoners. We just escaped from prison camp up the road.” “Right, tell these people we want a meal. Lots of eggs.” So they start throwing their weight around you see. So, the old lady and the daughters got the meals ready for them and I think sometime during the night one of the daughters was raped because I ran into her in the kitchen and she was crying like anything but the next morning Frank said “I think I’ll go back.” There were some Americans
going back wounded and maybe sick so Frank went back with them and I didn’t see him again until I got to Sydney after the war. But I said, “No I’ll stay on.” So, I stayed there and I happened to run in to two American newspapermen. Tom Daley from Time Magazine and Mitch Leonard who, I don’t know who he was with then but he later became a top screenwriter in Hollywood and I stayed with them and eventually went on
down to the Battle of Regensburg and I found myself with a battalion in a house and these American boys were a bit surprised to find an Australian there and they produced a bottle of brandy and I had a drink of brandy and then I sort of waited for them and they said, “No, the whole brandy bottle’s for you.” so I proceeded to get stuck into this brandy and sometime I must have passed out and found myself on the officer’s… what would you
call it, sort of stretcher upstairs in this German house of course would be two, I’m in the barn section where they used to throw the hay up in to the top of the barn and in the morning there seemed to be a lot of gunfire and there’s Germans shelling us with 88 millimetres which were their big guns. Really big guns. And suddenly all these Americans are packing up and retreating, getting ready to retreat and I’m leaning out the window
half drunk and saying, “Stay and fight you bastards, stay and fight!” But then we went on a bit further. A went back with them and maybe a couple of miles back ran in to these three Australians from 383, Ren Davy and Brad Miller from the 2/11th Battalion and a fellow who was very badly hit by dysentery and I said to, I’d gone over to Tom Daley and Mitch again and I said to Tom, “Can I borrow your
jeep and driver to take these fellows back to a casualty clearing station?” So we went back to this CCS they and gave this bloke some, I think they kept him because of the dysentery and Ren Davy, Miller and I went on to a place called Erlanger which was a German military barracks and we stayed the night there and then got a lift in a Dakota that arrived the next morning and dropped off a USO [United Services Organisation] party with Marlene Dietrich [actress and singer] and one of the blokes
one of the Australians with us. We were about 20 of us by this time including a Spitfire pilot who’d been shot down over Yugoslavia and they dared me to ask Marlene Dietrich for a kiss and I did kiss her and I’ve got a picture to prove it and anyway we got in to the Dakota and we flew to Brussels, out over Cologne and saw some of the damage in Cologne and so on and it was very cold and the plane is waddling around you know which, it’s got ice on the wings and the only person sick in the
plane was the Spitfire pilot. So we got to Brussels and we met up then with an Australian lawyer from Melbourne who was then with the Red Cross and he got us outfitted again in new uniforms because our uniforms were looking a bit tattered by this time and I remember he gave me two hundred francs and he said, “Well, the two of you can’t get off today.” It was
bad weather and, “Go out and enjoy yourself.” So we found a big club, oh it must have been full of British soldiers and girls and all the rest of it and finished up having a good time there and spent the night there and the next day were taken by a Lancaster to Britain and then finished up in Eastbourne camp.
Brits and girls and I don’t know we, we I think we got a bit bored there for some reason. It’s a, I think again it was a bit of a carry over. While these fellows are enjoying themselves you know like this. I have a feeling that, I had a feeling of resentment about the club
for some reason or other. I can’t, I can’t recall what it is but of being angry at these, all these guys, men enjoying themselves. I think it was that, at that stage too where you wanted to sort of sound off about, what a bad time you’d had maybe. Maybe that was it. Strangely enough it seemed to work off
fairly quickly because I don’t recall that ever happening again in Britain when we got there. But the interesting thing is that when we took off in the Lancaster the Lancs were going back to Britain. They’d finished their, finished their job so they filled them up with POWs and we were sitting on the floor and part of the way along one of the boys came down and said, “Would you like to have a look at the company sights.” so he got up in the cupola in the middle and had a look but there were two interesting things about that. The Lanc that took off
in front of us and the weather was still bad, hit a hill in France and killed everybody aboard including POWs but we flew out over Holland and, as I said, this was V Day and the message about the cessation of hostilities evidently had not reached German anti-air craft gunners there and they fired their anti aircraft guns at, they might have been just oh let’s off,
let’s off the last the last of the ammunition for fun you know. But here we are and we’re watching this at the side of the plane, looking out where the gunners are and watching this ammunition come up and it’s all colours, red, green, blue and so on and it’s and for some reason or another it goes out in a tangent like that. I don’t know whether they were trying to hit us or not but that was something. But we landed then in a place called Aylesbury
in England and a truck was waiting to pick us up to take us down to Eastbourne and as we were going through London it so happened we went through Fleet Street and I thought, ‘Oh this is for me.’ so I jumped off the truck and went around as I said to see The Melbourne Herald cable office and collect the cheque for a hundred dollars and a letter from Sir Keith Murdoch and then I went around, I found there was a bar behind this Reuters building and went in there and met a cousin of mine, another cousin named Keith who’d
been a war correspondent, Keithy Hooper. He’d been a war correspondent for Truth and the Sydney Daily Mirror and we’re having drinks there and round about six or seven o clock I decided, ‘Oh well, I suppose I better get down to Eastbourne.’ and went down to, where do you catch the train to Eastbourne? Victoria Station. Okay, went down to Victoria Station caught the train down to Eastbourne and then booked myself in to the repatriation camp where I found my old company commander was the colonel in
charge. “Oh, right oh hello Hooper.” you know. But the interesting thing there as I said, we had a series of suicides and George pulled me in as the reporter, recorder of these suicide things. The army type, they had some over at the air force too at Brighton and another thing there. There was a woman named Stella Bowen who was a war artist and she did a sketch of me which is probably somewhere up in the War Memorial there’s a
whole group of her paintings up there. She did some tremendous paintings. There’s one there I know of an aircraft crew that she did of all of these boys in the morning and they went out that night and they were all killed, except one. One was, I think a chap named Lynch who lost his leg. He was the only one out of the crew that survived. But then alright, what do we do? Alright you can have as much leave as you want. So I thought all right.
They devised a scheme they’d had in the First War when they were waiting for ships to take the soldiers home from World War I. They weren’t enough ships where you could have a certain period to work at your trade in Britain or profession or whatever so I thought, ‘Alright, I’ll go and work in newspapers in Britain.’ So I took six months and started off. I bought myself some civvies [civilian clothes] at Harrods [department store] I think it was and went to work at The Daily Express
and then I’d made out a plan. I would work out a fortnight or a month in each newspaper going, and make my way around the country. So, I went from London Daily Express to the whole Daily Mail over to the Isle of Mann Examiner which where my friend Kerwood Claig had come from as POW and then down to The Western Mail where I met my future wife and then to the BBC regional Bristol and then back to London
on The Mirror. I think there were a couple of other smaller papers. Oh, I went to Oxford too for some reason or another. Oh, there was a magazine published in Oxford called The Countryman by a dear old man. I’d been getting copies of it in Germany because somebody sent me these copies. I think it was Morrick’s wife. She sent me these copies, nice little green magazine about things in Britain and spent some time there.
With the people in Australia. What, how did you make contact with them?
I didn’t. Oh, I must have sometime but it wasn’t immediately. It have been, might have been a few days later. It was a matter initially of sort of getting your bearings. The camp at Eastbourne was a collection of beautiful mansion houses where we, we had our own bedrooms oh, beautiful bathrooms. The bathroom
I was in, at my place was as big as this room and so for the first couple of, and of course we were being outfitted with Australian uniforms and you had to go through all the procedure with the pay book you know. How much pay you’ve now got and what do you want to do? Have you got relatives in Perth Scotland or Cardiff, Wales? Do you want rail cheques to go down there and all the rest of it? So, that took about
couple of, two or three days to get through all these things you know and you had to have a medical check you know. And as I say Stella Bowen was down there. We had a club there which was another mansion house where you went in and it had everything like pool tables and coffee lounge and everything like that and I think we took the first few days to sort of just settle down you know.
To become sort of human beings again if you want to put it that way. This was more relevant than say the Brussels thing which was a transit thing you see. So, after a few days then I just started to go off and do my thing with newspapers you know which I rather enjoyed.
know where. I don’t think my mother ever knew where until he came home. There was a lot of confusion over the fellows in Japanese hands because they were moved around from the Burma Railway then up to Japan and the Japanese were very slow or very unreliable in a lot of ways. There was a Major Cousins
who did some broadcasts from Tokyo and I believe he managed to get through a bit of information. He was tried later on for, for being a traitor but he wasn’t apparently. But Garry at this time was in Japan and working in a coalmine under the sea at Figueroa and he told me later that it was very, very dangerous. They never knew when the sea was going to pour in on them and all the rest of it and he told me one incident
which was amusing because I knew this man’s wife. Where he had a fight with a Dutchman. The Dutch weren’t very popular apparently with the Australians. And he had this fight with this Dutchman in the coalmine and of course they’re both weak and they both finished up leaning on each other and laughing. And this Dutchman’s wife was Gwen Plum, a Sydney radio announcer and I met the man
himself in the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong when I was up there and he said, he recalled it and he said, “Yeah, Garry and I didn’t have another blow in us.” He said, “I don’t think we even hurt, hit each other!”
far as I’m concerned. I’m out of the prison camp. I’m healthy. I’m going to go on. I’ve got married. I came back to Australia. I came home in the Aquitania which brought home a lot of air force fellows and there were maybe a couple of dozen of us Australian Army blokes who’d stayed on like me but because the Aquitania couldn’t get in to Port Philip. Incidentally there’s another ship that had served the in the First World War. She was a
trooper in the First World War, the Aquitania so that’s two ships that had been in the First World War that I was on and she sailed in to Sydney so I thought, ‘Oh hell, seeing that I’m here I’ll see if I can get a job at The Daily Telegraph.’ And I did and then went down to, the funny thing that happened before I went down. I was, I wanted to stay in Sydney to arrange the job you know and there was no accom [odation], I couldn’t get in to any hotel or anything and we were in the showgrounds. They shoved us in the
showgrounds. And I ran in to a fellow who’d been a POW with me in 383 a chap named Matthews. And he said, “Don’t worry Keith.” he said, “Mum runs a boarding house in town. I’ll take you in there.” So, he took me in and I met his mother. 154 Castlereagh Street and a lovely lady she said “Yeah any, any boy who’s a mate of my son can stay here as long as you like, no charge.” So I’ve got a bedroom
alright. So, I go down I get my job fine. Go down and go out to the movies or something or other you know I decide to stay in town for a couple of days and I’m in this bedroom you know and I’m awake all night with the bloody feet going up and down the stairs all the time. What I didn’t know until I came back to Sydney later and brought The Truth and in the middle, ‘It’s time the City Council shut down all these disorderly houses.’ I’d slept three nights in a brothel and didn’t know it you know so that was my introduction to Sydney.
So, I went back and got discharged and went back and worked on The Telly. Then one day Sir Frank Packer [proprietor of the newspaper] came in and said, “Oh, too many, sack them.” and I’m the last on so I’m the first off. So, that’s how I came to be in Orange. I went back to Melbourne I thought, ‘Well, what am I going to do for a job?’ and I went back to Sydney again and said to the secretary of the Journalists’ Association, “Where are there some jobs?” And he said, “Oh, rural newspapers, Molong actually are looking for somebody.” So, I went up to
Molong and instead of finding myself a reporter, found myself an editor of four papers and I kicked on from there and then we started the paper in Orange and The Western Stock and Station Journal and I travelled all round New South Wales and then The Advertiser in Adelaide asked me to join them and at that time my wife and young daughter, the eldest daughter arrived and it just fitted in nicely and kicked on from there.
Anzacs of others, of World War II are also now very old men you know. This is what delighted me when the Australian, the AFL record this year found this trophy we gave to a football we ran in 383 and then produced this special memorial edition of a record listing all the VFL [Victorian Football League] footballers killed in both world wars and the story about our football competition in the
camp. And the man who wrote it found eight of us still alive. Which means that he’s put us in connection with each other. We now know the eight of us are alive which is extraordinary. The oldest one, the Wen Davy I mentioned earlier, he’s still alive. He’s eighty nine. And then there’s Bruce Tulloch, eighty four who lived in the same street as me just as I was finishing primary school he’d started high school you see. Which is
quite extraordinary and there’s one fellow you took sitting beside me Laurie West. I met Laurie for the first time in sixty years last Anzac Day. None of us had been in contact with each other for sixty years which is quite extraordinary when you stop to think of it. I thought this chap who did the article, a chap named Gore did an extraordinary thing. It didn’t matter if the article was good or bad he found eight or I think there were was, I think there were eight of us
who had not seen each other or heard of each other for sixty years. We now know each of us is alive you know and if need be we can all be contacted one way or another you know. I think that’s quite an extraordinary thing at this time.
instance the chap, John McCombe who was with me on the boat, on the Costa Rica came up here with his wife and we had coffee together and soon afterwards he died. And again the Anzac Day before when I met him you know, you hugged each other. I mean it’s, there is something that doesn’t go away but it’s got to be renewed somehow by meeting the person that you’re talking about. Whether it’s a POW
or a person in the battalion. Now in the battalion when I went down this Anzac Day the 17th Brigade, the total number of marches was about one hundred you know so that it’s quite extraordinary. One of them is Sir David Hay. David was up here and he’s the author of our book and I was one of the people that helped him do it. But he’s still alive. He’s eighty seven now. He’s just recently lost his wife but you know
he’ll always be a friend, a close friend you know. He was a fellow sergeant when we were together. I was unlucky to be taken a prisoner. He went on to become a major just like Joe Gullet also a sergeant went on and became a major. But then I say to myself I’m lucky being taken a POW. I could have been one of the fellows that was killed in New Guinea so
you get a compensation you see. I don’t regret it anymore, not being commissioned. I’m alive you know, I survived. Some of the fellows that got commissioned like Bill Shiller they died in New Guinea, were killed in New Guinea.
I don’t take things for granted. I find that whatever you have one way or another you earn them, you may not deserve them. I’ve done some things now that I’m ashamed of but I’ve been married three times you know and each time I’ve been divorced and each time I’ve lost something more to the ex wife. She’s always got something you know. And I’ve had to start building up again. But I’m, I’m a…
when I stop to think of it, well, it was good while it lasted. There’s a, sort of a, a bit of an odd philosophy in having been a POW and having been a soldier. That you think of these things you know and I get a bit of the attitude of say some of the fellows of the Vietnam War who I think do little
bit of whingeing. You don’t hear as much about the fellows who were in World War II turning around and saying we’re neglected and all the rest of it you know even though some of them might be worse of than the fellows in Vietnam has. I’ve sometimes thought to, I notice perhaps it’s going a bit far but you know the big word Vietnam in front of the Vietnam War Memorial on Anzac Parade I think is a bit ostentatious, overdoing it but I see now there’s one in front of the
Korean War Memorial so that sort of softens it down a bit. Well if our boys have got it why shouldn’t the Korean boys have it you know? In fact it’s a Korean War Memorial. You take a strange attitude in some ways that, you, I think it’s, I think it’s tolerance. I think it’s something that you learn from being a POW is tolerance. I don’t hate the Germans. I
find that when I think back on the Germans that the Germans were misled. It wasn’t totally the Germans’ fault even though they might have rushed out and put their hands out. That didn’t apply to all Germans you know. There were a lot of Germans that were badly taken in by Hitler who did some good things in some ways. He created the Volkswagen car. He created
these marvellous autobahns that all other countries are doing now you know but then he goes off and suddenly goes mad and does some mad things you know. I don’t think Stalin is totally at fault because Stalin did some great things you know. You look at Russian today and some of the things there wouldn’t be there if it hadn’t been for Stalin.