Arthur McManis
Archive number: 680
Preferred name: Geoff
Date interviewed: 15 August, 2003

Served with:

450 Squadron
28 MCS
Arthur McManis 0680


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Tape 01


Geoff can you give us just a very brief summary of your life to date?
Yes I was born in Cairns, North Queensland. My father was a dentist there. And I went to school in Cairns, to the local school but


there was no secondary education, only a State School no Catholic school for secondary so my father decided to send me … a lot of the Catholic boys went to school at Charters Towers or Brisbane but he sent me to Sydney because he’d heard of the Jesuits and he was very impressed them and he wanted me to got to school there, so we went to St Ignatius College Riverview. But it was a long way to travel, there was no flying in those days, it took you five days in a train to get there.


So we only went home once a year. And so after I finished my schooling I then went to the university to do Medicine – I went to St. Johns College. But I only … I like St Johns College very much but I … my parents came down to live, they’d only seen us a once a year for the past seven years you see and I knew they wanted me to be at home so I left St Johns and I did the rest of my living at home at


eleven Cable Street, no, no that was off, they lived in Chatswood, Ashley Street, Chatswood. So I finished my course and then I was a Resident at St Vincent’s Hospital for two years. Then I went up to the Royal Newcastle Hospital for two years and I at that time thought I might like to be a surgeon


and I had booked to go to England at the end of that year but I’d finished up at Newcastle in the middle of the year so I got a job as Ship’s Doctor to go on a trip. And we went up to New Guinea and the Philippines and Hong Kong and Saigon and this ship was in Saigon when the war started. And I can vividly remember [Robert] Menzies [then Prime Minister of Australia] saying “It’s my melancholy


duty to tell you that we are at war with Germany”. Because Britain has declared war and ipso facto we are at war with Germany. So I said oh well I’ll join the army when I get back to Australia, instead of going up to study to be a surgeon. And um they ah … But when I got back there was no war on. It was called ‘the Phoney War’.


And it wasn’t until, oh early in nineteen forty that they started to come and get into all the countries and then … I’d filled in the time, I didn’t go into anything and I thought I won’t join the army until there’s something going on. And but I was up in the country and I thought well when I get back to the city I’ll join the army. But I came back to Sydney and found that my brother had joined the air force so


I thought I’d join the air force. So I joined the air force and then in the air force I was a … First of all you had to go to Laverton, it was the biggest training school, all the doctors had to go there. Because I didn’t even know what ranks there were in the army or air force or what forms you had to fill in and they told you all that for a couple of weeks. Then you had to go and do two months recruiting and I did that for a couple of months and then I


was placed into what was called a Blood Group Team and that was two doctors and two orderlies. Because everybody that went into the army was blood grouped on admission but the air force hadn’t done it. And for six months a lot of people had got into the air force and weren’t blood grouped. So we went around all New South Wales and Victoria doing blood grouping. And there was a chap called Stan Reed who was a doctor but he’d been


in the air force and he had his wings and they called him up when the war started but they found out he was a doctor and he said you can’t be a pilot now anymore, you’ve got to go into the Medical Section. But he got a pretty high rank because he’d be in it for a while. And he was in control of this Blood Group and he sent for me one day and he said there are two fighter squadrons going to the Middle East and I’ve got myself on one and I seem to get on pretty well with you, how would you like the other one? Oh I’d like


that I said so I was posted to that squadron. And I went over to the Middle East with this fighter squadron. And when we first went there … We went over with no pilots, it was all just ground crew – there was one pilot actually – and we would then pick up all our blokes who’d been trained overseas to come and be the pilots. But that


was delayed by the Syrian Campaign because what happened there was an English squadron with, their pilots had come out there but their ground crew was coming out on the boat, so we became then it was called, I forget the others, we were four fifty, I think they were two nine or something or a other but their pilots came with us with the ground staff. And then the Syrian Campaign only lasted about oh I think six months and we served in the last three months


of that. And then after that we went out into the Western Desert. And out there was pretty grim and we were at a place called Gambut up near Tobruk, up where the soldiers had been defending and then we came back. But the war in fighter squadrons was a bit like a battle at sea because when you got out in the Western Desert there was nobody there, no-one to get hurt and we were there


and then eventually Rommel [German General] came and he drove us back and all our troops were oh quiet, they thought what a wonderful General Rommel and our blokes weren’t so good you see, it was them that we were getting pushed over by him. But, we used to listen to the German radio at night, they’d, all the Germans would sing Lili Marlene. And we’d listen to them singing in German you see but then we came back to


El Alamein and then they got a bloke called [General] Montgomery who turned out to be a marvellous general. And he got the troops before the battle started and he said to them, you all think Rommel’s a great general and he certainly he is but you’ve got a better one to lead you and that’s me and so that really you know put the troops on and of course they went from strength to strength after that. But then I was called back to Australia


just after that and I came back to Australia and I was at various stations around Australia and then they started to form things called Medical Clearing Stations. They were small units, only thirty-five, that went in with the landings. And I was … it was 28 MCS [Medical Clearing Station] and I was appointed the CO of this unit. And first of all we were formed up at Ascot Vale in Melbourne and then it went to


ah Townsville – we had a few months at Townsville and then we went up to Morotai and then from Morotai the invasion of Tarakan. Now in my experience in the Middle East we moved, the fighter squadron, moving all the time but we went into … they told us where we were to be stationed. And to tell you what it was like, when we were in Morotai we’d


seen a whole lot of wires all around the place – it was telephones the Japs had had. And our troops got this and found it very useful for putting up tents and binding things together. And when we got to Tarakan here were all these wires again. So they got all these wires and started gathering them up and not long after that a colonel comes up to me and says who’s the Commanding Officer of this unit and I said I am, he said well your troops have just


cut our artillery off from the front line – and they were firing over our heads at the front line you see. So we were right in the thick of things there. And then we were there of course … Suddenly, we didn’t know the war was over in Europe because we’d just taken at that time the invasion of Tarakan. And ah, but then eventually it went on and we thought we were going to be there for years because the Japs were fighting like tigers everywhere you went and we


thought Gawd when we get up into Japan what are they going to be like there you see. And suddenly a thing called the atom bomb was dropped and they dropped it a second time. And it was great for us, the war was over we were going home. And um there was a chap called Group Captain Cheshire, he was a famous pilot and he went, he was a bomber pilot – an Englishman, and he went with the one of the planes that went and dropped the bomb on Nagasaki and Yokohama


and he reckoned it was justified in that although it killed forty thousand or more, I don’t know a hell of a lot of people, it saved many more lives if they’d had to go up and fight through all the other islands and into Japan. So to us it was a great thing. And then I came back to Australia and I’d thought I’d like to be a surgeon but I didn’t get much surgery in the air force, I was doing other things and so I decided I’d like to be a physician. So then I trained


as a physician and I got interested in Chest Medicine and the big thing then was tuberculosis of course. So I went over to England and I, I spent nearly three years over in England and did the, I’d done the Australasian Fellowship, then I did the London Fellowship. And then we, I went to first of all a big TB [Tuberculosis] hospital in Medhurst called


King Edward VII Sanatorium, Medhurst, Sussex. And that’s where I met my wife there, she’s English, and I think it was a damn good thing I went there. And ah but then after that I went to Brompton Hospital which is a big hospital for chest diseases in London. And then I was trained there and then back to Australia in nineteen fifty and I worked at oh all sorts of places but the two main hospitals I worked on were St Vincent’s Hospital and Royal North Shore Hospital. They had big Chest Units then. And so


I was there. And then I went on, that’s what I kept doing, chest medicine until I retired. And how I came to retire was that my wife during the last seven years I’d been in practice had been my secretary you see and she said to me, she was getting on to sixty-five then, and she said “Geoff have you ever thought of retiring?” And I said well no I like doing this, I enjoy doing medicine, it’s a pleasure and I said if you’re a physician it’s not like a Surgeon


when you’ve got to have dexterity and good eyesight, if you’ve got enough strength in your body to sit down at the desk and your brain’s going all right and enough get up and go to go over to the couch and put the stethoscope you can continue and she said to me well if that’s the case you look as though you could go on forever and I said … she said I don’t want to go on forever so I’ll leave and I said well I’ll retire too. Oh no she said you can get another secretary like you used to and


so I said no I’m not doing that I’ll retire. So I retired and we came down to live here. I had one son who was a doctor who was over in America and he was at the Maher Clinic and he had a family but the only children we had in Sydney were down at Lilli Pilli so we came down to … and we’ve been there ever since and so that’s more or less my life.
Thank you very much that was an excellent and very lively summary. That’s great because sometimes people give us too brief a summary and other times it’s


too much detail but that was just the right balance for us.
Oh that’s good I’m glad of that.
Now just going right, right back to the very beginning could you, I know this is probably recapping a bit but could you tell us where and when you were born?
Yes I was born in Cairns. My father had been, he was a dentist, but he’d been in Boer War. He went over to England with the New South Wales Lancers and while he was there the war in


South Africa started. And that unit went there and he served in all the battles in the Boer War then he came back to Australia, he trained as a dentist and he went up to Cairns to practice. And my mother was born in Cooktown and she had come to Cairns, met him in Cairns and married him and then I was born in Cairns, that’s the answer to the that.
Now I’m interested in your father’s time in the Boer War


did he ever tell you much about what he’d encountered there?
He didn’t talk much but he had a lot of pictures and they had pictures of all the big battles that were fought and his name was in every battle, every one of them but he didn’t … and he had a lot of sort of souvenirs and pictures around of them but he’d never talk about it much at all.
Did he say whether it had been a particularly gruelling war?
No he didn’t go into any details like that at all.
What impressions even through the relative lack of detail that you did have,


what impressions did you have of what kind of war it had been for him?
Oh I really didn’t, you know I really couldn’t answer that question, he didn’t talk about it at all much.
Now can you describe the personality of your father?
Yes, he was a wonderful man. He was a very good dentist, a pioneer. In fact he told me when he went to Cairns he’d advertised as having painless extractions,


before that they used to just pull the teeth out. But then they got local anaesthetic and put it in and you could take the teeth out under anaesthetic. And he had – there was no electricity of course in those days – and he used to, he had a pump that he used to pump for the drill. And then he got the idea, the water supply in Cairns was very good, that he’d get it water driven so he got a water driver to drive this drill, he’d just turn the tap on and … and we had no …


only fans and he got fans in that were water driven – he’d turn it on. And then he got the idea that he could have his own electricity. And he had a big shed built in his backyard full of batteries and he had to run it on battery, all this motor about all day three times a day to charge up all these batteries but then he could drive … We were the only house in Cairns you walked in the room and turned on the electric light. And um he had the drill,


the drill and all the fans were all driven by electricity. And then they got the electricity on in Cairns and he said to me I’m changing over to Cairns and I was very proud to have our own electricity and that and I said to him “Well what are you doing that for?”, and he said “It’s much cheaper”. So we got onto the town’s supply of electricity.
He seems to have been a very inventive person.
He was and he could turn his hand to anything. He … I’m not good


like that but he was and he could you know … He’d sent us all to school you see down in Sydney and there were four in our family, three boys and one girl, and we’d all come down to Sydney and he thought he wanted to see a bit more of his kids so at the age of forty-nine, he’s been lucky he’d had a good practice in dentistry but he’d invested in sugar cane farms and he was quite a wealthy man from these investments,


so at the age of forty-nine he retired. But he came down to Sydney and he did all sorts of things, invented things, he was a great gardener, he had a wonderful garden and looked after it and he built a great big tennis court at the back of our place and, and so he was a very capable sort of chap.
Could you describe your mother for us?
And Mother was a very loving sort of person and as I say she’d been born in Cooktown and she was the youngest of a family of five


too, there were two boys and then three girls and she was the youngest, and she was very good. As I say my father retired at forty-nine but he lived to be eight-six and mother lived to be eighty-four. So they both were going pretty well. And I don’t know whether it would be any good saying anything about one of my sons in this. What happened he,


he did Medicine and he specialised in Neurology and he went to the Maher Clinic which is a famous you know you’ve probably heard of it in the United States and he spent thirteen years there and he got a lot of expertise there but he always wanted to come back to Australia. He had five children. He married an American girl. And they came back to Australia eventually, about four or five years ago and last year he got a cancer of the oesophagus. And it was terrible


it looked as though he was going to die. He had secondaries all in his abdomen and he said to me he said “Dad you know I’ve lived a pretty healthy life, I’ve never smoked and I only drink moderately, I do a lot of exercise” – he’d bought a house Pymble with his own tennis court and he played a lot of tennis – and he said “If I go into a building I don’t go up in the lift I go up the stairs to get some exercise” he said and he said “When I see you and how


healthy you are and you’re nearly ninety-two I thought I’d live to be a hundred but I’m having second thoughts now”. But fortunately he has had chemotherapy and I believe he’s been cured. And I think it’s a lot to do with prayer because it’s an absolute miracle all these secondaries have gone, the thing’s gone. And he said to me the surgeon said he was going to do a tremendous operation lasting six hours to get it out of his


oesophagus and his stomach and he said they did a special thing called a PET [Positron Emission Tomography] Scan they see you see and they didn’t … it showed all the secondaries gone after this chemotherapy and there was some activity in the stomach but the surgeon did another look and he said “Oh it looked all right to me” and he took a lot of biopsies that were all negative and he said that “Oh no need for me to do an operation I think you’re cured”. But my son, Phillip’s his name,


he said to me “You know they’ve taken all these biopsies but never mind there might be some rogue cells there so he’s having two more courses which start next Monday of chemotherapy to make, as Shakespeare would say “to make assurance double sure”.
That must have been a very gruelling time for the family.
Oh yeah it certainly it was. In fact when we used to tell all our relatives and friends what was wrong with him my wife said “You tell them


I can’t even speak of it without crying”, and that’s what she was, but it looks as though he’s going to be cured.
When you say the power of prayer what do you mean by that?
Well we had … A friend of ours, a great friend has a son who’s a Jesuit Priest and he said a mass in his parent’s home for us in there and it was beautiful. We’ve had a lot other priests praying for him. We’ve had Mary McKillop.


We’ve had the Thaiburn Nuns – you’ve probably never heard of them – but you’ve heard of the Thaiburn Martyrs in England maybe, but these were associated with them and ah … But all our friends praying for him, that’s what I mean, they’re asking God to make him cured, and he’s become cured from this absolutely hopeless state. And I find it very difficult to think it’s not the power of God that’s done it. Medicine’s played its part of course but I think it …


At the start the bloke, the surgeon said you know well we’ll try and get rid of some of those secondaries and we’ll have to take out all your stomach and it will take six hours to do the operation. He said it’s not necessary. But he’s going to have some more just to make absolutely certain.
That’s fantastic. Now going back to your childhood how important a part in your childhood did religion play?
Well it played a very big part.


Because I you know I went to a Catholic school in Cairns but there was no secondary Catholic education available there and the boys if they wanted to have that had to go to Charters Towers outside Townsville or to Budgee in Brisbane. But my father had heard about this order of Jesuits who had this wonderful school in Sydney called St Ignatius College Riverview and he sent us there and they really … you know I learnt a hell of a lot from them. And so that’s how it all came about.


Just looking back at your education more specifically can you tell us about your eduction, your favourite subjects and how important your education was in terms of forming your character?
Oh yes. I was lucky, I could … when I was at school the first year I was there I came top in the class. The next year another bloke called Alvin Bedford


came and for the next five years he came top of the class because I could never beat him. But then he went up to the University when I did and he did Engineering and I did Medicine. And in the first year I got through with a credit and he failed and that made me think that Medicine must have been a lot harder than Engineering or a lot harder than Medicine because I could never beat him at school.


Now just looking at your earliest education you were education in Queensland. What are your main memories of a Queensland – was it a State School education?
No it was a convent school.
Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yeah. It was run by nuns called the Sisters of Mercy I think they were called, and they were very good and they taught us well and I used to do well in the school there too.


And um, and from then on, but afterwards my father wanted me to have a Catholic secondary education and that meant to Charters Towers, Budgee or Riverview and he said it’s the Riverview in Sydney.
So I just asked the question a moment ago about what affect going to a Jesuit school had on your character. Can you be specific about how the Jesuits guided your,


your outlook and your approach to life?
Oh yes it was very good. I can remember … After I left school at one time I become President of the Old Boys Reunion you see and they started having an ecumenical service with all the GPS schools, you know the Church of England and the Scots and there were two non-religious schools, that was Sydney Grammar School and Sydney


High School, but all the others were religious high schools you see. And the year I was President at the occasional get together the sermon was given by the Chaplain at the Armadale School and he said it’s a recognised thing that more Catholics practice their religion after they leave school than other religions. And ah


he said I think I know the answer, he said because they might just be teaching you Geography or History but something of their religious background comes through when they’re teaching to you and he said at my school I am the only religious person there. And he might have been true because the Catholic Church has changed now and most of them are not religious peoples and I think the number of Catholics that practice their religion has diminished.


So he might have had something that bloke, that something was coming through from them even though they taught you other subjects.
What were your favourite subjects at school?
Well at school Mathematics. My Mathematics … I liked Mathematics because you were either right or wrong, there was no sort of beating about the bush. And I used to do well in Mathematics, Mathematics was my best subject.
Now once you’d gone to university can you,


can you – was that Sydney University?
Can you describe Sydney University as it was at that time?
Oh yeah. Well Sydney University it was the only … There were only two medical schools in Australia, that was Sydney and Melbourne. If you were in Queensland you could do ah … the first year you did in Medicine was almost Science. I reckon nowadays they’ve cut it out almost. You did, they’d want you to know about animals, how they lived


and reproduced and their structure. The first year you did Physics, Chemistry, Botany and Zoology. Well I think what I did in Physics and Chemistry was not much more than I’d done at school. And I reckon Botany and Zoology were quite easy subjects. So they’ve changed the courses now and I think for the better. Because my son went through at New South Wales


University and I naturally followed very carefully all he did in his course. Now to learn anatomy we did two years of dissecting the human body and you know you started off you didn’t know what you were doing and it was terrible hard and you had to learn but you learnt it pretty well. But then later on you did another three years after that and you’d forgotten a lot of all


the detail you had to know you see. In fact it used to be said that the hardest exam in Medicine was the third year exam in Anatomy because they had to ask you all the structure of the human body, what the part of the bone that muscle was attached to and … you had to know all this detail and you’d forgotten most of that. And if you wanted to become a surgeon you had to pass an exam in anatomy again. So my


son did no dissections whatsoever – the body was all dissected and shown to him where it was and you looked at it – and I reckon you learnt that better that way. So I think the course, the improvements of course at Sydney University has changed now too.
You were about to say before if you were in Queensland, you were talking about Sydney and Melbourne were the two universities and you were about to say if you were in Queensland, what were you leading on to say?
I was going to


say you could do First Year Medicine there because that was only Science subjects you see so they could do that and they used to then come down to Sydney and start in second year, that’s what I mean.
Right, okay. Now your formative years would have been the nineteen twenties I presume, nineteen twenties and thirties?
Yeah. Yeah I was born in nineteen hundred and eleven, so I went to Riverview in nineteen twenty-four.
Do you have any specific memories of Sydney in the twenties?
Oh yeah.


There were the Hansom Cabs, you know …
Tell us about the Hansom Cabs.
They were a cab that was horse drawn and the chap sits at the back, the top and you get in and sit in the seats in front of him. That was the Hansom Cabs they were all, there were plenty of those.
Where would they actually travel the Hansom Cabs?
All around the city, see like the taxis now. You see instead of taxis you’d have a Hansom Cab then.
So this was in the CBD [Central Business District] area?


Or did Hansom Cabs radiate out to the suburbs as well?
Mainly in the CBD area I think. They might have gone to the suburbs but I think it was mainly in the central.
And how many of them would there have been?
Oh hundreds.
Would there? Really?
Oh yeah.
Because looking back at them now they seem a quaint thing from a totally different age. They sound like a tourist attraction or something but they were an important part of transport were they?
And can you remember how much you paid to go on a Hansom Cab ride?


You don’t, no. How often did you use them?
Not very much, not very much because the trams had started then. And about the trams, I’ll tell you I have my doubts about a lot of the journalists what they put in the paper because I had specialised in chest disease you see and a chap range me once and he said “Tell me now is it not true that the incidents of cancer of the lung


is greater than in the city than the country?” And I said “Yes that’s true it is”. And he said “Well now don’t you think that taking all the trams away in Sydney and putting in buses and that sort of thing will pollute the atmosphere and make it more likely?” And I said “There’s no indication of that, nobody knows it might be because there’s more entire roads in Sydney, nobody knows


why it is you see”. Of course later we found out that smoke was the big thing. But um … And then I saw this published up and the chap said that this bloke had interviewed two doctors that said oh yes that’s it you know they’ll regret taking the trams away and putting in buses and no mention of what I’d said about you don’t know whether it’s any good or not.
So just going back


to Sydney in the nineteen twenties, I mean I’ve interviewed somebody who knew Sydney quite well in the nineteen tens and twenties and he said Sydney was much more of a village at that time than it became later.
Well it depends where you came from originally. I came from Cairns where the population was five thousand. To me it was a big city in the twenties. And I can remember … My father was terribly in sport and he took us all to cricket and tennis and football and he took us down to the Domain Baths


to see a chap called Boy Charlton [famous Australian swimmer] – it was to see the race against Boy and Arne Borg [famous Swedish swimmer] and Boy Charlton was eighteen and it was a eight hundred yard, it was eight-eighty yard or something then, no meters, and he said the … and Boy Charlton beat him.
Boy Charlton beat him?
Beat Arne Borg yeah.
Yes well Boy Charlton of course was the hero of the day wasn’t he?
Yes. And many, many years later he …


Just excuse me Geoff, we just have to … So Geoff when was it that you began at Sydney University?
Nineteen thirty. I started Medicine in nineteen thirty. And my first year my parents hadn’t come to Sydney yet so I went to St John’s College at the university. And I like it, I thought it was very good there. It was good. I used to be … One sport


I really loved was football and I was very good at football and when I was at school most people had one year in the Firsts – if you were pretty good you were in two – I was in three.
This was Rugby Union?
Rugby Union yeah. And um, and then I went up and I played for St John’s College against the other colleges and I was doing quite well. I was quite confident that one day I’d play for Australia, I was so good you see.


But I did my knee in and in those days they couldn’t fix them up. Now they can fix them up you see. But I thought it was pretty good. But the first game I played, afterwards I just had the ball and took a step back and my knee folded up and I thought well I’ve just got to accept that I can’t play football anymore. And that night I was in bed and I thought what’s there left in life if you can’t play football? But I soon found that there was plenty of other


things than playing football.
What other activities did you have at that time, in terms of social activity or sporting activities?
Well I rowed for Riverview as well but I never enjoyed rowing so much. It was a tedious sort of thing and a monotonous and, but I rowed in the Eight for Riverview. And then I went to John’s and I said oh I don’t want to row and they said you’ve got to row. They said you rowed for your school and we want you in the Eight so


I did it there. But after that when I left John’s I never rowed anymore.
Did you take part in any of the GPS Regattas ?
Oh yes. In my day they were held on the Parramatta River and they couldn’t get the eight schools in you see so they had heats. They had two heats in every … They only had the Eight and the First and Second and Four then and now they’ve got two or three Eights and they’ve got a whole lot of course because there’s so many boys at the School. When I was at Riverview


there weren’t two hundred, they got two hundred and now there’s fifteen hundred at the school so they’ve all expanded you see. And um, but ah … But I liked football the best really.
And did your Rowing Eight ever win a GPS Regatta?
No. We …


Riverview hadn’t in my time we didn’t do very well at the Regatta. But one year I rowed, before I got in the Eight, my penultimate really at Riverview, I rowed in the First Four and we got into the Finals. The first two in the heats got, the four of them raced off in the Finals. And we were the first Riverview crew to get into the Finals for umpteen years.
We didn’t win.
You got very close though – you could feel the adrenalin rising.


when you were at university you must have spent a fair amount of time um doing recreational things around the city itself?
Not, not much. I’ve always been also very keen on swimming and I used to do a lot of surfing. In fact I was so keen on surfing that afterwards when we got married and we had our children we went up to Terrigal every year for the first two weeks in January because I used to love the surfing. So


that was that. And I used to play tennis, we had our own tennis court. But that’s social tennis you know no competitive stuff.
So these were your social activities and your recreational activities while you were at university?
That’s right yeah.
Was there a change that you could see in Sydney between the nineteen twenties and the thirties?
They got rid of … No I can’t say there was


anything particular that I noticed.
Now what memories do you have of The Depression because of course …?
Oh yeah. Well The Depression was you know just at the end of the twenties and the early thirties. And one thing … I was lucky as I told you my father you know was a fairly wealthy man so it didn’t affect him so much, but there were two or three boys that had


started Medicine that had to give it up because they couldn’t, didn’t have enough money on account of The Depression.
Did you see any outward signs of The Depression around Sydney?
No I’d hear about it but I don’t say I saw much.
So you didn’t see things like unemployment queues or …?
No, no I wasn’t aware of any of that sort of thing.
Yeah, alright. And where were you when you heard that World War II had broken out?


I was in Saigon.
Interviewee: Arthur McManis Archive ID 0680 Tape 02


Could you tell us a bit about your sisters and brothers?
Yes, I had … my next brother Fieldy was only sixteen months younger than I was and we were always close and he... it was his influence that made me join the air force because I ah


had come down to join the army. I’d been in the country doing a locum and I’d come back to join the army but he’d join the air force so I thought I’d join the air force too. But he, they, both my brothers joined the air force, both as pilots and they were very strict then you had to get, they were scrubbed, they weren’t allowed to, they didn’t advance quick enough. And so Phil my brother was put in as


a, a, I forget what they call them, a link trainer instructor, you know you change people in these planes and in the rooms you see and all the instruments and that sort of thing. And he thought I didn’t join the air force to teach people in link training instruction so he got out and joined the army. But my other brother he was scrubbed too and he stayed in the air force and he became a sergeant or something about I don’t know … but he went up, he was in the invasion of


Labuan and I was in the invasion of Tarakan, which is north of Borneo. And on the other side of Borneo, Labuan, another island and he was in the invasion of that. And my sister was in the air force too for a while because she had to do something or a rather and she had, did only one year in the air force.
So you had two brothers and one sister? Now when you were growing up how strong was the notion of the British Empire?


I was very proud to be part of the British Empire. It was the greatest empire the world had ever seen. If you looked at the map of the world nearly a third of it was red, and that was the British Empire. Of course there was India and all that part of there. Then there was Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the Caribbean Islands.


It was tremendous and I felt very proud that I was a member of the British Empire you see. So that was my feeling.
What did England represent for you?
Well that was the head. And I was very proud. We used to all sing God Save The King, that was our national anthem and all that sort of thing. Of course I’ve changed now but, but that was how I grew up and that’s what I felt, very proud to be a member. And they


sing that song Land of Hope and Glory, you know that? “Mother of the free, how shall we extol thee, who aren’t born of the thee, wider still and wider, shall thy bounds be set, God who made thee mighty make thee mightier yet.” Very proud. And that was it. But of course now I think we should be on our own. But that was what I grew up with.
Mm, I think there are lots of people who have changed their views along with you


as well. There are lots and lots. So were there people that you knew that spoke very much about World War I?
There was a chap that used to … My father was a dentist and he used to have a dental mechanic that did his, made his plates and inlays and that sort of thing. He used to work for him and I used to see a lot of him and he said when we were in England they used to have


cigarettes called Woodbines, five in a packet we had to call them he said. And he talked a bit about the First World War but not in great deal – more facetiously, more jokes about it than actually about combat and all that sort of thing.
Now you mentioned Saigon before, can you tell us in a little bit more detail how it was you came to be in Saigon?
Yes. I had ah finished


up as a Resident in Newcastle Hospital and I wanted to do surgery but that was finished up at the middle of the year and so I had the time, I wasn’t going to England until the year was starting the next year you see, so I took a job as a Ship’s Doctor. It was a sort of a tourist ship called the Neptune and we went up to New Guinea


and New Britain and then to Sabu and Manilla in the Philippines and then across to Hong Kong and then down to Saigon and it was in Saigon that I heard over the radio that Australia was at war with England. And as I told you earlier Menzies, I’ll always remember he said, “It is my melancholy duty”, he used to say that, “to inform you that we are at war with Germany”.


Can you describe Saigon at that time?
Oh yeah beautiful place – it was under the French. Because that was part of, that was known as French Indochina and it was a beautiful city Saigon. And a lovely place and oh yes I was very impressed with Saigon. It’s called Ho Chi Minh City now.
Was the French influence very strong in that city?
Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
I’ve seen images of French style buildings.


Oh yeah. And, and as I was saying we were held up there for about ten days because we didn’t know what was the go, whether the war was safe or what to do. And there were some French people there that we’d had an introduction and we went there and they said could I speak French. Well I’d learnt French at school and I could read it and write it but I couldn’t talk it and understand it you see,


although I could understand it a bit you see. So I said no I couldn’t speak you see but I heard them speaking French and I found out a few things about what was going to happen to our ships, but I didn’t let on that I understood.
What did you find out was going to happen to your ships?
Oh well it was going to be, how many days it was going to be there and whether they’d go on and whether it was safe to do it because when I was going on this trip people said you’re game going up there aren’t you? Because I mean


we might have a war with Japan. But there was no war with Japan but it was a war with Germany that came while I was away.
Just before we proceed with the war I just wanted to go back and cover the time between your leaving university and going to Saigon. What happened when you graduated from university?
Yeah when I graduated from university I went to, as a Resident, to St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney


and I did two years there. Then I went up to Newcastle and I did eighteen months up there. So that was what I’d done and it was then that I went on the trip, while filling in the time before I went to England.
Can you describe St Vincent’s as it was at that time?
Oh yes it was a very prominent hospital. It was a teaching hospital then. I’d been a medical student at St Vincent’s. You see when you come to the university


you do, we did the first three years all at the university, the next three years you went to a hospital. The main hospital … the teaching hospitals then – North Shore wasn’t a teaching hospital then – there was only St Vincent’s, Prince Alfred and Sydney Hospital. And I went to St Vincent’s Hospital. And I was a medical student there for three years but of course we also went to the children’s hospital to learn about children and paediatrics and … and then we also went to the


the Royal Hospital at Paddington to learn about Obstetrics and all that sort of thing. So that was more or less what I did in the course.
What about Newcastle Hospital, what can you tell us about that?
Well it was a famous hospital for surgical training. There was a … The surgeons there were absolutely brilliant surgeons but medically it wasn’t so good. They had no trained physicians they were just general practitioners who use to come


and look after the medical cases. I learnt one thing there, a chap that had the biggest general practice in Newcastle was acting as the physician and we all thought that he was the worst physician, that he didn’t know as much as the others – none of them were brilliant – but he was the worst. He had the biggest practice. He was a big, tall chap, good looking, very gracious and


courteous and caring and I said to myself there’s more to the practise of Medicine than the knowledge of Medicine – you’ve got to have the rapport with your patients. So I learnt something from him there.
Absolutely. Were there many women doctors at that time?
No. No. In our year there was a hundred and twenty and twelve of them were women. And that was the way of Medicine you see. And there were no Residents, no


women Residents at either St Vincent’s or at Newcastle – no women.
So where did the women doctors go?
Oh they went to PA and there’s another hospital that we used to call the Women’s Hospital and they used to go to that too. So ah, but they were a bit you know not the physicians … Now when my son did Medicine he said … The chap that gave the occasion address at the graduation ceremony


he said I notice that thirty percent of the women here that are graduates here are female and he said there’s a problem with women in Medicine. He said because just at the stage of their life when they’re feeling of getting married and having a family – because we were taught that the best age to have your first child was between eighteen and twenty-two, after that it became a bit harder you see, of course now


they go on to … it’s completely different but it’s still the same, that would be the best age – and he said that’s the time when they’re just sort of graduating in Medicine and they’ve got to take jobs and it’s a conflict of interest you see. He said I think I know the answer, I’ve looked up the statistics and half those women doctors marry other doctors because you’re much more likely to marry people you come into … I married a nurse, a lot o doctors married nurses because they’re the


people … the first thing you do is to get to know a person and they used to say you’re much more likely to marry the woman who lives next door than one that lives ten miles away so this was that … and he said I’ve noticed that half of them marry doctors and what they could do was share things and say well I’ll look after the children, I’ll do this and that sort of thing. And I thought that’s a great idea but I don’t know if it’s going to work or not.
Looking back at the


nineteen thirties what was the status of the comparatively few women doctors there were?
Oh some were very good. There was one woman doctor on the staff, there were no Residents as I say, but her name was, she was a dame, Dame Constance Darcy and she was at St Vincent’s and she was one of the leading Gynaecologists in Sydney, there’s no doubt about it. And


of course there’s been a lot since then, it hasn’t been a problem. But she was the only women doctor on the medical staff, not resident or … And I’ll tell you a funny story about her. There was a famous surgeon at St Vincent called Sir Douglas Miller – he was a neurosurgeon – and he said once he was sitting alongside Dame Constance Darcy at dinner


and he said “I like sitting alongside you at dinner Dame Constance” and she said “Why’s that?” and he said “Because then I know you’re not talking about me”. And another story about a famous bloke who wrote a dictionary called Johnson. He was at a dinner once and he was sitting alongside a woman and she said to him “I don’t like


sitting alongside you Dr Johnson because you smell”. He said “Pardon me Marion but you smell I stink”. He wrote a dictionary that bloke. And another one was one day his wife came home and found him kissing the maid and she said “Well I am surprised”. “No” he said “We are surprised you are amazed”.


The Dr Johnson you’re referring to was the … we’re talking about a couple of centuries ago I think.
Oh yeah that’s right.
The famous doctor Dr Johnson of Boswell and Johnson.
That’s right, yeah.
So what about girlfriends for you during that period? Were you going out with anyone?
No. No I didn’t, no. The first one was really my wife when I was … I didn’t get married until I was thirty-eight. But I,


oh I’d take girls to dances and go out but I didn’t have a really proper … There was one nurse in the air force that I married that I think I would have liked her but we got separated and she was posted somewhere else and I was …
You said you married …?
No I could have married.
Oh you could have married, right. You felt a rapport there?
Yeah. But,


but then, but you know we were just … We happened to be at the station, that’s where I met her you see as I say. The first thing you do to marry someone is to know them, you’ve got to get to know them so I met her and I liked her very much, but she was posted away somewhere else and I was somewhere else and then we just drifted apart.
Just going back to your receiving the news of the outbreak of war. What was your reaction to war erupting in Europe?


Well it was a big … Although I knew about Hitler and I knew he was a … you know he could do anything but I didn’t know whether there was going to be a war you see. In fact Chamberlain [then Prime Minister of England] came back from that conference and said peace in our time you see and it wasn’t long before … and then of course when the war started he was a bit of a waverer and then they got a bloke called Churchill [then Prime Minister of England] in and


he was an inspiration. He’d never get in he said if ... I can remember hearing his speeches here and he said if they came here we’d fight them on the beaches, we’d fight them in the towns, we will never give in. And that was the sort of bloke he was.
Can we look back at your own personal reaction to what was happening overseas? We’re you worried for instance or were you concerned or were you euphoric …?
Well know I used to take things in their stride


and look at … For instance now at one time when were up at Gambut, because this is the 450 Squad in the Middle East I’m talking about now, they were, they used to bomb us every night and we used to … one thing to make the pilots … along the coast we used to take them down to the Mediterranean and let them sleep down there so they wouldn’t get their sleep disturbed. But all the rest of us dispersed, as I said there was no limit


and there was about a hundred yards between each tent and all that sort of thing so you were unlikely to get hit. But you could get hit of course and we all dug, had to dig slit trenches outside our tents to get in when they were bombing you see. And I, one night they bombed us and they dropped a bomb right near the slit trench and the blokes in the slit trench were buried in sand but not hurt. Another two blokes said


“Oh we’ll never get hit” and stayed in their stretches in their tent and they dropped a bomb outside and they were both killed. So I thought to myself well what I’ll do I’ll get into the slit trench if they come and they’d be damn lucky, they’ve got to get right on the slit trench to get me and that’s unlikely to happen, but if they do I won’t know anything about it so what the hell am I worried about? So that was my philosophy.
So that was your philosophy to war basically.


A very practical philosophy.
Yeah. Look on the bright side.
But also clearly you were a bit of a believer in fate as well?
Oh yeah, oh yeah. Oh yeah.
What about divine intervention?
Oh well no I didn’t think about that in the war. I think there’s such a thing of course but I didn’t think in the war, it never entered my head about that part.
Now once you’d received the news of war


of course there was this delay period in Saigon, what happened then?
Well I came back and I thought well now what I’ll do is I’ll do some locums and I did a few locums until the war really started and then I, and then I came back and joined the air force that was my … But


I’ll tell you a funny thing. This 450 Squad was formed up at Williamtown, it’s Williamstown … Williamtown. And the week before we sailed out of a closed camp so you were not allowed to write a letter, receive a letter, get on the phone or anything, keep very quite about everything and you weren’t allowed to go out of the camp. Then we were taken by train from Newcastle down


to Sydney and on the way down there were a lot of … people saw all these troops on the train going down and they were cheering and carrying on and I heard one of the wags on our train sing out don’t tell anybody.
That’s fantastic.
I’ll tell you another story about that. There was a troop ship leaving Melbourne and two men said their friends were going to go out and see it going so they went down and some kids came and saw them


and they said “Are you waiting to see those ships go out?” and he said “Yes” and they said “Well they’re not going out until this afternoon”. “How do you know?” “Well my father’s on one of the tugs that have got to take them out and he doesn’t have to go down until this afternoon”.
Talk about loose lips sink ships.
Yeah that’s right.
They would have been very loose I’m sure. For how long did you do locums when you came back?
Oh about ah …


I got … oh I suppose it was about three months. It wasn’t a long time, only about three months.
So war broke out in September 1939?
Yeah, three-nine/three-nine, that’s the way to remember it. The third of September ‘39.
Oh that’s very good, I must remember that. So you did your locums. What motivated you to enlist?
Oh well I’d, I’d, when I heard the war had


started the first thing I thought was I’m not married, I want to serve my country, I’ll go and join the army you see. And I came down and I thought oh there’s no war on what am I going to join the army for? But as soon as I knew there was a war on I joined the air force.
Now you said that one of your brothers was an influence on your joining the air force.
Yeah he was.
How did he actually influence you?
Well I was very fond of him, you know he …


he was only sixteen months younger than me and we’d grown up together and been altogether and, and I thought I’d like to be something where I could be near him – but it never happened that way.
So for that reason you chose the air force over the army.
Yeah and I’m very pleased I did, I enjoyed it.
Yeah, right. So can you recall the process of your enlistment?
Oh I just went down to the recruiting centre


and had a medical examination and an interview. Can I tell you a joke about a bloke joining the army?
Please do.
Well he um … This chap joined the army you see … he wanted to join the army and the Examining Officer thought he looks a bit stupid this bloke, I’ll send him up to the Medical Officer and see what he things about him. So he went up to see the Medical Officer and the


Medical Officer said to him, “What’s two and two?” And he said “Four”. He said “Alright I’ll give you another question. You go into a battle and you get your right ear shot off, what happens?” “I can’t hear.” He said “You get your other ear shot off, what happens?” And he said “I can’t see.” He said “Can’t see, what do you mean?” “Well I’ll tell you, I go into battle and I get my right ear shot off and I can’t hear. I get my left ear shot off and my hat falls down


over my eyes and I can’t see”. So, well he said “Oh he’s not so dumb we’ll put him in the paratroops”. So they put him in the paratroops. Is that the phone?
Can we just pick that joke up from the recruiting officer saying well he can’t be so bad after all?
Yeah. So they put him in the paratroops and they took him up … they said what’s going to happen we’re going to take you up in an aircraft and you’ll have your parachute on and when we tell


you to jump you jump and you count ten and you’ll find a ripcord on your left shoulder and you pull that and the parachute will open. But if it doesn’t open you’ll find one on your right shoulder and you pull that and it will definitely open and you’ll ride down to earth and you’ll land in the sidecar of a motorcycle and they’ll carry you around behind the enemy lines. Oh that’s quite easy he said. So they take him up and he got his parachute and they


said jump and he jumps and he counts to ten, pulls the cord on his left shoulder and nothing happens so he thought oh well I’ll get the, pull the one on my right shoulder and still nothing happens. And he’s going down to earth at an alarming rate and he says to himself it’s like all these government institutions I suppose when I get down there the sidecar won’t be there either.
I guess it wasn’t.
Oh funny that. Goodness.


Well thanks for sharing that with us. So yeah the process of enlistment, what exactly did that involve?
Oh well it was … You went in and, I can’t remember all the details because they, you’re interviewed by some officer and then you’re sent for a medical examination and then that’s it. And all the doctors had to be sent to Laverton for two weeks to


learn what the air force was. I didn’t even know what all the ranks were. They had to learn all the ranks of the air force, what the corresponding ranks were in the army and the navy. Then you had to find out all the forms you had to do and all that sort of thing. No medical thing but all about the air force. So you spent two weeks doing that and then you were sent to do recruiting, so you’d know about standards, what they had to have. And because I only did that for about a month or five weeks and


I was posted on this blood grouping as I told you about.
So what was your parent’s view of your enlistment?
Oh well they just knew it was going to happen. We just told them.
What was their reaction?
Oh well they just oh well yeah that’s okay. As I say my father had been in the Boer War – well he did it and his sons could do it too.
Oh well that’s good. We’ve interviewed some other people where the parents were sometimes a bit alarmed or worried.
Oh no.


Oh I suppose they were worried you know and um, but the whole three of us came through the war all right.
Well that’s good, that’s a pretty good rate.
So after your enlistment and the trip to Laverton did you undertake any other training?
No. No. I’ll tell you … the only training was that when I came back from the Middle East I was one of the


few Medical Officers that had a war experience and they posted me up to Mildura, which was a unit for training fighter pilots – because you see I’d been with the fighter squadron you see. And they decided … One of the things that they had difficulty was getting the pilots to wear oxygen, they didn’t need oxygen. And ah


so I was sent down to a special course to learn about the affects of oxygen in the people. And what they used to do they’d take them in the aircraft and give them a certain thing to work out and write down and then they’d take them up to about eight thousand feet, because no oxygen, and get them to do it and of course they couldn’t do it and that showed them that lack of oxygen you must put your


mask on when you’re over a certain height. I can’t remember exactly, it might have been eight thousand feet or something like that. So that was the only thing in the way of training.
Where you were involved in actually training other people?
Yeah. But they took me down to show me what they were doing to the pilots you see so that I knew how they were trying to get it across to them you see.
Yeah. So once you’d done the course at Laverton did you then go directly into


the blood grouping activity?
No. I went to recruiting.
You went to the recruiting centre?
Down at … it used to be at Woolloomooloo down there. I don’t know whether you remember. No you probably wouldn’t.
I’ve heard about it actually. So where exactly was the Recruiting Centre?
It was right down ah … near … Woolloomooloo around that area.


I can’t remember the exactly place now but somewhere there – I think there’s something else there now.
On the flat among the houses?
Yeah that’s right. It was just a big building they’d taken over.
Now what was … So you were examining volunteers I believe.
Yeah. All … Everybody in the air force was a volunteer. So was the AIF [Australian Imperial Force], so was the navy and the only people who were conscripts were later on when the war got bad and they had to go in you see. Of course I know there were conscripts


to Vietnam and that sort of thing but this was … Everybody in the air force and the navy and the AIF were volunteers. So you just volunteered and that was it.
Could you describe your activities as someone examining these volunteers?
Oh no you just had certain things that they had to pass and you had to look out for and …
What were those things?
Oh medical things really. I can’t remember all the details actually but ah


it was mainly that. And ah because most people who went in, people think of the air force of pilots, actually the pilots are a small minority of the air force. For instance now in 450 Squadron they had I think it was twenty-six pilots and two hundred and fifty ground staff – medical, equipment and everything. So it took a lot of people to keep those people in the air. And in the other unit the


28 MCSI went to there were thirty-five – no pilots. So the vast majority of people in the air force, everybody says oh you’re in the air force oh you fly and … the majority never did that.
So you were examining the recruits basically.
That’s right.
You’d obviously have to put them through a standard medical check.
Oh yeah, yeah.
What would the standard medical check involved?
Well you know they had … You’d have to get all their history first of all. Certain diseases they might have


that might have affected them. Then you’d examine them and they’d just have to have a normal blood pressure, normal heart and haven’t got hernias and this sort of thing but nothing terribly specific, it was just their general health was good enough to go in.
And obviously if they were going to be aircrew eyesight would be important.
Yeah that’s right. And you couldn’t be colour blind.
No you couldn’t be colour blind. I actually had an uncle who was colour blind and couldn’t fly.
That’s right.


Yeah no that was quite crucial. So how long were you doing that job of examining recruits?
Oh it was only a matter of about six weeks I think.
And after that?
That’s when I went onto the blood grouping team.
Now can you describe for us what blood grouping was?
Yeah. Well all you had to do … You see there are certain blood groups, the four blood groups really but then that’s important but we were just the four blood groups you see.


And I didn’t know what my blood group was – I’m one of the rare blood groups. So that’s not a good thing because you can’t get blood from a lot of people. But ah there were four blood groups you see and we had to go and just take a bit of blood from the ear. And they’d be all lined up and some blokes would faint when you’re going to get the blood from their ear. And then you got the blood


and then you put it under a certain slide and you could work out quickly and rapidly from this technique what blood group they were – by just you know putting it up against a certain standard.
So it was almost like a scientific job in a way.
Yeah that’s right.
And where were you actually doing that?
We did it at all the air force stations that then existed in New South Wales and most of them in Victoria. I think I told you how I got into the air force, the bloke


running these blood groups in the air force was this fighter pilot who was now, because he was a doctor he couldn’t be a pilot, and he sent for me as I told you and he said we seem to get on pretty well together – I think I told you this didn’t I?
Oh I don’t mind repetition.
Oh I see alright.
So tell us again because there may be some details that you didn’t include.
Well he sent for me and he said we get on, I seem to get on pretty well with you and


he said I’ve found that they’re sending two fighter squadrons to the Middle East and I’ve got myself as the Medical Officer for one, how would you like to be the Medical Officer for the other? Oh I said I’d like that, that would be good. And so I did that’s what I was. And he told me where we were going to you see but that’s a secret he said, you mustn’t even tell your parents. So I didn’t, I didn’t tell a soul and


all the troops were wondering where they were going but I knew where they were going but I kept my promise to him I didn’t tell them. And ah, and we went over on, have I told you, what was the biggest convoy of troops that ever left Australia.
Before we do that I just wanted to stay with the blood grouping for the moment.
You were travelling to Air Force stations all around New South Wales weren’t you?


There were only four of us in a blood grouping team – two doctors and two orderlies.
What was the purpose of the blood grouping?
In case you got injured and needed a blood transfusion.
So once you’d taken down that information what would happen to that information.
It would go on their card, what they used to call the Death Cards or something or a rather. You always had to wear these things that had your name, your religion and your blood group. I can remember one bloke once I saw him


and he had his religion SA [Salvation Army] and I said “SA what religion’s that?” He said “The Salvation Army”. And I’d often wondered about … I’ll tell you another joke about the Salvation Army you see. There was a bloke, a Dutchman that came out to Australia and he said he wanted, he loved wearing uniforms and he wouldn’t take a job unless it entailed wearing a uniform. So he went and got a job with the Kraft Cheese people and it was a spectacular uniform, you had


the yellow trousers, green thing and a blue cap. And he was very proud marching around in this you see. And he saw a whole lot of people standing on a corner, playing musical instruments, all in uniform. And he went up to one of them and he said “Ah he said that’s a nice uniform you’ve got, I like that, it’s very nice”. He said “Who are you?” He said “We’re the Salvation Army”. “Oh” he said


“The Salvation Army who do you work for?” “We work for the Lord Jesus.” He said “Well that’s a mighty funny thing because I work for the Kraft Cheeses”.
That is wonderful, that is really wonderful. That’s great. Now so when you say this information went onto their card …
It’s a little disc, a disc, you wore it around your neck on a chain. Everybody had to have that


during the war.
Usually referred to as dog tags [identity tags].
Yeah dog tags, that’s it dog tags.
And presumably that information would also be duplicated onto the records held by the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] as well?
Oh yes, yeah.
Now I just … I’m a little (UNCLEAR) on … You referred to this doctor who had worked with you before and wanted to work with you further. Can you just explain … I’m missing a bit of a link there?
Yeah well this bloke was a chap called Stan Reed.


He later became a Surgeon after the war and was President of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. And he … During his medical course he’d been in the air force and trained as a pilot you see and of course he was on the reserve and as soon as the war started he was called up and they found out that he’d graduated in Medicine and he was a doctor. So they said oh you can’t be a pilot you’ve got


to be a doctor, you’ve got to be in the Medical Section. So he went into and he got up pretty well because he’d been airborne. And he was the chap running this blood group, getting all done you see and he was the one that then sent for me and said would I like to go to the Middle East.
Right, excellent. So at this stage had you been receiving


much information about the war overseas?
Oh yes we used to get all … in the newspapers and that sort of thing. But it was pretty well reported. It was like the chap that said the Germany Army was advancing in Europe and you read that they’d taken Smolensk and then he said he’d read the Russians had taken Smolensk and that and he said I didn’t know whether it was a town or a medicine.
It sounds pretty medical to me.


Ah that’s wonderful. What impact had the war had on Sydney at the time that you left for overseas?
I don’t think it had much, not much at all.
So there was not much difference really?
No not at that time, at the start.
So could you describe the process between being recruited, or


head hunted basically to go overseas and the time of your departure? What were the steps that you took before you actually left?
Before I went overseas?
Interviewee: Arthur McManis Archive ID 0680 Tape 03


So Geoff what was the process of you coming to join the 450 Squadron?
Well that, as I told you this chap had asked me whether I’d like to go and 450 Squadron was formed … we were at Williamtown which is just outside Newcastle there’s a … it was a very dusty, primitive air force then, station then but now it’s a


beautiful place, I’ve been up there since. So I was posted to go there to Williamtown where the squadron was being formed – that’s where we started.
And how long were you in Williamtown before you heard that you would be going abroad?
Oh we knew right from the start we were going abroad but we didn’t know where we were going – I did but nobody else in the Squadron knew. And they …


And I suppose we were there for about oh about six weeks or so there. It was all formed up and it was just ground crew there and there was just one bloke who was a pilot and he was the only one in the squadron. And the bloke who was the CO of the squadron was the Acting CO of it, because it was all ground people you see. And so we were there and then from there the squadron, as I


told you we were, it was a closed camp for a week before we left. And we came down by train to Sydney and taken out by ferry to the Queen Elizabeth. We went on … This was a tremendous thing that left Australia. There was the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mary, they were both over eighty thousand tons – tremendous ships. The Ile de France,


the Nieuw Amsterdam and the Mauritania – they were all fifty thousand so there were a lot of troops there. There was five thousand on the Queen Elizabeth and so … The story we were told was that if they’d taken this number of troops to the First World War we’d have taken thirty ships, because they you know they weren’t that … I mean they weren’t that size in the First World War. And they could take all these ships so


we went aboard there and ah …
And what was she like as a ship the Queen Elizabeth?
Oh it was tremendous, tremendous. You see I saw all over that because the … in the army the CO has to inspect once a week, go around everywhere and he always took one of the doctors with him so I went all over that ship. It was so immense he couldn’t do it one day,


there were different days to go. But you know even went down in the Engine Rooms and everywhere. And I was put in a cabin that was a single berth cabin and it had its own little bathroom – you know it was just a bath there, and it was for one person but there was two of us and the bloke in with me was a dentist an Army Dentist.


And he got sick half way … well it took us a month to get over to the Middle East and he got sick on the way and was put in hospital so I had it to myself, I was travelling in luxury, in this one thing, my own bath. But it was a magnificent ship. You know its own swimming pools and all that sort of thing.
And were you able to use the swimming pools?
Oh yeah, oh yeah I used to go swimming. And I remember them having boxing contests


and all this sort of thing to keep the troops entertained and that sort of thing. They’d do marching around … mostly the army doing the marching. And it was mainly army but there was our squad that was two hundred fifty of our squadron and an attachment of navy, they were only about fifty. But I was detailed to look after the navy and the air force. And one of my orderlies


used to help me run it and he’d call out the names of the people coming on sick parade you see. And one day … There was a bloke in the navy who used to come on sick around about every day and his name was Ordinary Seaman Mackenbie you see. And these blokes got a bit sick of him coming every day, you know he was a bit of a pain in the neck. And I heard him yell out one day


Very Ordinary Seaman Mackenbie! And so that was just a sideline of it.
And so you, would you, what were your day to day duties aboard the Queen Elizabeth?
Well they used to have a Sick Parade every day and they’d all come in, nothing serious, they had boils or toothache or you know any little minor sort


of things and that. If they had any serious things they had an operating theatre and they used to do operations. I think they did about … oh some bones had to be set, broken, oh and there was about three or four people that had Appendicitis and had to have their appendix out and that sort of thing and done and …
And were these operations you’d assist in?
I gave the anaesthetics to them. I’d had a lot of experience in giving anaesthetics


and ah, and the chap who was the Surgeon on it he eventually became Professor of Surgery at Prince Alfred Hospital – a bloke called Lowenthaw. And he did all the operating and he got me to give his anaesthetics.
So what route did the ship take?
Well we, we went … first place we stopped at was Perth. And we were not allowed off the ship of course but we took


on some more people from Perth. And the next one was to Ceylon – it was a big harbour called Trincomalee. It’s an immense beautiful harbour but we weren’t off there either. But that was that stop and the next one was Port Tewfik up in Egypt. So we had those two stops on the way – Perth, Fremantle we actually were, Fremantle I should say


and then Trincomalee this was in Ceylon.
And what was the mood like aboard the ship?
Oh well it was ah … the troops were all … They weren’t as comfortable as we were, they were tracked in … There was five thousand troops that they had on. They’re sleeping quarters weren’t so good and they’re eating, their mess wasn’t so good and all that sort of thing. But they adjusted and just accepted it eventually.


But I thought we were doing pretty well. We got a nice dining room to sit down in and had the nurses there with this and so that … So it was alright.
So you mentioned nurses. Was there much interaction with them aboard the ship?
Well I, I didn’t you see because I was the air force. We had no air force nurses, they were all Army nurses. But we used to eat with them in the Mess and that sort of thing so we got to know the nurses on board.


And you mentioned also that there was army, navy and air force aboard the Queen Elizabeth. What was the interaction or the relationship like between the different services?
Oh very good. Very good. No trouble at all. I looked after all the navy as well as the air force.
So can you describe arriving in, and I’m pronouncing it wrong, is it T …
Port Tewfik.


Q…d…e…w…f…i…c…k. Qdewfick. [Tewfik]
Tewfik. Could you describe your landing there?
Yeah we got off and we got off onto a sort of a punt or ferry of some sort and we were taken up to what was called a Staging Camp. And we went there and ah … oh we got there at night and everybody was trying to get their bags and find out where they were and they were going


on about it and yelling out – but I don’t think I should say this – can I say a rude word?
You can say whatever you want, yeah.
Well one of the birds, one of the chaps got right down to the cause of the trouble and everybody was moaning and he said, “Fuck Hitler!” He was the blame for all of this you see.
That’s a good one. And so tell us about the camp that you …?
Oh it was terrible, there was no …


They were built down to the grounds and there was a tent but there was no shower, no bath and I was taught there by a bloke called Bobby Gibbes who was a pilot there and he’d been in the country, he said how to have a bath out of basin – how you could sponge yourself down. But boy did I have practise of that in the Western Desert – I became an expert. It was terrible. The first part of the war in Syria that was alright because


we were mainly at air force Stations. And ah …
Well just going back a bit to your arrival in Egypt. Describe your first impressions of Egypt – I mean it must have been so different from being in Australia?
Oh it was terrible. It was one of the worst living conditions we ever had in this Staging Camp you see. You went in there and you could get water to fill up a basin you see but


then you’d have to try and clean your body with that. It wasn’t as bad as when we were out in the Western Desert when we could get enough water to do that every ten days. And ah … you know you were filthy. And I remember going on leave in Alexandria, this is months, I’m skipping ahead is that alright? And we went out on leave in Alexandria and I got in a bath. And the bath was filthy with dirt


and so I had another one and washed again you see and I thought oh that’s a lot better. And I woke up the next morning and said oh well I’ll get up and have a shower now and I thought what’s the point of having a shower, I’ve got nothing to wash off and I thought don’t get that attitude so I got up and had a shower.
Because it’s seems that you know in the Middle East and in New Guinea as well that there was


a real problems with hygiene and as a doctor you probably tackled some of those problems.
Excuse me but I was never in New Guinea.
Oh I know, I know but I’m just talking about general kind of problems during wartime that there was a problem with hygiene and in particular the desert and I’m wondering if you could talk a bit about that as a doctor?
Well …


mostly it wasn’t a problem, you know everybody was dirty. And we used to go down to the Mediterranean and have a swim in the Mediterranean you see but on the way back you’d come through all the dust again – almost as bad as you started. But we didn’t get problems from that point of view except when we went up to an airdrome not far


from Damascus called Mezze. It had been a Free French airport and that was absolutely disgusting. And ah …
What was disgusting about it?
Oh well I tell you what was disgusting. There were cracks in the building with sandflies in them and we used to get this sickness called Sandfly Fever and they’d get the bite from these things and you’d get sick from it a bit. And they …


And the waterworks had gone and the toilets, but they were still being used and you can imagine what was … they were like there. In fact I said to the CO we can’t use those so we went out and didn’t use them and put a camp up in amongst the olive trees and lived in tents. And some time later after the war they ah …


we were at a place called Rayak. Now that’s in the mountains between Beirut in Lebanon and Damascus in Syria and they had brothels there you see for the French troops. And the CO said to me he said Geoff I want you to run one of those brothels for our troops. I said I don’t know how to run a brothel and he said well you’d better soon learn. So I got the French doctor you see and I knew he’d run the brothels with the French


and I got friendly with him and he said what we’ll do, he said I know what to do and I know all the precautions that have got to be taken and do this and he said one of the things I do is examine all the girls in the brothel every week. And he said you can come with me and it’ll look as though you’re doing it but I’m really in charge. And so we used to go down there and Madam would give us a nice cup of tea and this sort of thing and one day


she said to this doctor, this girl here you’ve had her off for three weeks and he said yes that’s right and she said well that’s not fair and he said well why not, and she said because that girl likes her work.
Well why not? You don’t really think about it like that do you.
Well that’s great we might go into a bit more detail about that a bit later on because that’s a very interesting job you had there.


Um so we’re back at the camp, your first holding camp. How long were you there for?
I’d say about three weeks.
And where did you move on to from there?
We moved to a big air force station at a placed called Abu … at a place called Abu Sueir. And that was a beautiful air force place in a very comfortable and good quarters, you had your own rooms and all this sort of thing and that was ah


pretty good. And we got … they had good sick quarters there and I got to know them all and I used to work there with them. And there was one of the attendants an Egyptian there you see and one day one of the blokes said to him, I forget his name, whatever it was he said are you married and he said yes and he said have you got any children and he said oh five and one in the box.


That’s a funny way of saying it isn’t it?
So um … sorry you mentioned the name of this camp …?
Oh that was very comfortable there.
And what was the name of that camp?
Abu Sueir.
And that was in Syria?
No that’s in Egypt.
Oh sorry, forgive me my geography is not particularly up to scratch. So what sort of duties did you do in this place?
Oh I just … I used to work in the sick


quarters with them and do the Sick Parades and all that sort of thing.
And I imagine that there must have been different kinds of sickness that you’d been treating you know it being a different climate etc. Could you describe some of those illnesses?
Oh well the main trouble was this Sandfly Fever. Not only at Abu deir but at Rayak this other place where I was telling you about we had an


epidemic of jaundice and enteritis and ah …
What’s Enteritis?
Inflammation of the bowel. And … They were main ones just from what I remember.
And how well equipped did you feel you were in … how well resourced …?
On most air force stations it was marvellous. They had good equipment


and had plenty of instruments and plenty of medical stores and all that sort of thing and so they were very good. In the first part on Syria we were mainly on these good stations. We went to one in Palestine. We were at another one Amman – it used to called Transjordan then, it’s Jordan now but Amman was the capital and we were stationed there for a while too. And then we went up to this placed called Mezzi, M…e…z…z…i – [Mezze]


that’s near Damascus. And … but ah … but then we got all our equipment. And there was one other thing. I’ve been telling you how the fighter squads moved around a lot you see and so I got an idea that it would be good if we could get a truck and convert it into a sort of cabin and have shelves to put all the medicines in


and racks and all this sort of thing and have a basin that you could wash in and that type of a thing and that could be hitched on the … so when you moved all you had to do was shut the door and go off – you didn’t have to unpack it and pack it again you see. And I got one of those for the 450 Squadron. In fact I made a recommendation to them over there that all fighter squadrons should have one of these. I don’t think they did but I don’t know, I left but ah …
It’s a great idea.


Yeah it was a good idea.
Very practicable.
So um from this place in Egypt where did you move to next?
From Abu Sueir it was then … You see when we were at Abu Sueir we got our first real Commanding Officer, a bloke called Gordon Steege. And he’d been with 3 Squadron which was a permanent squadron of the RAAF that was over there already


and then we were the first … We were called the Infiltration Squadrons. We were still the RAAF but we were under the command of the RAF you see. And um all those stations we went to were permanent stations, they were very well equipped and good. But of course then later on it started I suppose when we were up at Mezze that we started to have our own, that we got our own ambulance and that sort of thing.


And then we went out from then on into the Western Desert and that was later on.
So can you describe the CO?
Oh the CO he was an excellent. He was … At this time I was about twenty-seven or twenty-eight and he was only about twenty-four. But he’d been in … and he was a very good fighter pilot


and he got a DSO [Distinguished Service Order] and a DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross] and he ended up … he was the permanent air force you see, and he ended up as an air commodore. But he … But one of the things you had to do when you were in the fighter squadrons was help the pilot. You see a fighter pilot knew every time he went up he might get killed and you had to just take that in your stride and there were some people who couldn’t.


And in the First World War if a person showed cowardice, as they called it, in the face of the enemy he was taken out and shot because they couldn’t have that they had to make them fight you see whether they were scared or not. But they didn’t do that in the Second World War but they had certain pilots that couldn’t do it. You know they just couldn’t tolerate the fear


and that sort of thing. And they’d get medical things wrong with them which were of course psychological and nothing really wrong with them. And ah so in England they found that this was getting very prevalent so what they did they said if they’d made certain that he’d tried and with some people if you’d done a lot and you got a bit like that it was fair enough they’re tried and that was … but if a bloke got up and he didn’t like


the look of those vicious Mitz, they were a bit dangerous and he got sick and he couldn’t go. And the CO used to have to confirm with the doctor about this of course. The CO had to know what he was doing and the doctor had to tell him whether there was any medical thing or not wrong with him. And they had a thing they called the Lack of Moral Fibre – not cowardice – lack of moral fibre. And they way they overcame it is


they were stripped of their wings, reduced to the ranks and sent to serve in the Ground Staff. And that had to act as a deterrent for these people – you know the poor fellows couldn’t help it I suppose but still we were fighting a war and you didn’t want people like that, you didn’t want all of them getting like …. If people found that if I get sick I can get out of this but they found they got out of it alright but they weren’t shot like they were in the last war. They just stripped them of their wings and their rank


and put in the Ground Staff.
So as a doctor you must have had men coming to you with these psychological …?
Oh yes that’s right. Oh yeah that’s right. And you had to have a good liaison with the Commanding Officer too you see because he was depending on you to say was he really sick, did he really have this disease that he thought he had. But it was here you see, not here.
What sort of symptoms would some of these …?
Oh it varied, all sorts of things you see.


No specific ones.
And how difficult was it for you as a doctor to see through this?
Well I was a doctor. I was living in the Mess with all these blokes going up every day and risking their life and if a bloke wanted to get out of it and not try I was in favour of the bloke that went up no matter how … Even the CO told me he was scared every time he went out,


but he went and he tried. And they used to say that the best fighter pilots were young and brash sort of blokes and the bomber pilots were the more older blokes. But the two best fighter pilots in the Middle East were a bloke called Clive Caldwell – he was known as ‘Killer’ Caldwell. And another bloke was Bobby Gibbes – he was the chap that came with us overseas


and he went to Syria and he became the CO and he said to me once, you know if I get on the tail of an enemy the first thing I do is to look into my mirror and make certain there’s nobody on my tail, he said I might miss a few that way but I live longer. So you know, you know I was very much in favour of these blokes who I knew – they’d talked to me about it and they were scared but they went.


And so that … Of course I felt sorry for these poor blokes who had to have this done to them. I couldn’t have everybody saying it was an easy way to get out of it. So I was in favour of the pilots.
So as a doctor you treated the bodies of these air force pilots. I’m wondering if you also had to treat the minds?
Oh yeah, you’d talk to them.


Were you a confidante for a lot of these men?
Oh yeah, oh yeah I used to do it and they’d say this and I’d say and I’d talk to them and say you know this is terrible but you know this is the job and you’re doing it, you’ve got it. And even the CO, this bloke who was so famous he … I’ll tell you … this other bloke he wasn’t in our squadron, Clive Caldwell. He had the most aircraft in the Middle East. And one day one of my,


my … the people in our squadron, had seen his best friend, he’s shot down and as he was coming down in his parachute the Germans shot him out of the parachute, and he said by “God if I’m up there and I see them … I’m going to do that to them too now”. And Clive Caldwell was sitting there and he said, “Wouldn’t you always have done that?” He’s going to come down and come up and get you tomorrow if you don’t get him today.


So he had that … he was called ‘Killer’ Caldwell and he had you know … war’s not a pleasant thing. You’ve just got to face it.
Now the name of you CO was Gordon Steele was it?
Steege. S …t…e…e…g…e. In fact somebody … one of the women asked me said is there anybody you could suggest that we interview? I said there’s a bloke called Gordon Steege. He’s retired now but I’d go by his phone number. So you see you might be interviewing


him one day.
Yeah maybe, yeah. Now you mentioned he was you know quite a young man at the age of twenty-four.
Yeah, yeah.
Could you describe the qualities that he had as a leader?
Oh was very good. You he had … the chaps could look up to him and … I was the only one he told he was scared, but he did it and I had all the more admiration for him for doing that. But ah, but of course there’d come a time when


no matter how good you were it became too much and they were pulled out and given a rest. In fact they then put a limit on how many times you could do it. Because they were reasonable about it in the medical. But the ones that they had to get rid of were the ones that went up and didn’t like the look of a Messerschmitt and that was it. You see if they tried fair enough because


even the strongest could get affected. But some blokes would come back and do another tour after they’d done their tour.
Now of course air force crew members had a high fatality rate.
Oh yeah.
I imagine there was some that came back to base with injuries etc from …
No not so much that


because if they got it they couldn’t control the aircraft and clonk down they went – they didn’t come back.
What about, I mean I know that landing was a very difficult activity to do in a plane. Was there ever any …?
Yeah we’ve had troubles like that.
Could you describe some of the injuries that you treated?
Oh, oh not, no not really I can’t think of many because they usually


got killed and, and ah so no I couldn’t help you there.
So um where did you move to next after this base camp at Egypt?
Oh then we went up … the Syrian campaign started you see. And were joined up with this RAF [Royal Air Force] squadron who had the pilots and no ground staff. We had ground staff


and no pilots so it was a good idea, they had a squadron going but … They were all English chaps of course and the way they worked it there were two COs and the CO of the pilots he ran the operational part, you know flying and that sort of thing and the other was administration and he ran the camp and that sort of thing, he didn’t actually do any flying in that Syrian Campaign.
And that was …?
Gordon Steege.
And who was the, what


was the name of the other CO, the pilot …?
Which one?
Well you mentioned that there were two CO’s.
I mentioned Bobby Gibbes as one. And Bobby Gibbes was the one that said, if I see a pilot, a German on my tail I make certain I get rid of him before I go after the other. He said I’ll miss a few that way but I’ll live longer. That was Bobby Gibbes. And the other bloke was a bloke called Clive Caldwell. He was the CO of an


RAF squadron – he was an Australian but he was the CO of an RAF squadron and he was … I can remember seeing a brochure put out by the Commander and Chief of the air force and he said I recommend that you do shadow firing – that means that you fly along and fire at your shadow. He said, he was a squadron leader then, Squadron Leader Caldwell, who is undoubtedly the best shot in


the Middle East, tells me he found this a great help and I’d advise you to do it too. That’s shadow shooting you see.
Now tell me could you describe Syria at the time?
Well you see for the Syrian Campaign we were first of all Palestine. That was there and Palestine then of course was a colony of Britain, and


of course now it’s Israel, Palestine’s Israel, it’s been taken over by the Jews. And um we were there … I can’t remember the name of the squadron there … but it was a big base squadron and we operated from there and then we went to Amman, that’s the capital of Transjordan. And ah …


and we there for a while and then we went up to Syrian itself. But um I remember when we were travelling and we were on the road to Jericho and we were just going along this road and one of our trucks in the convoy turned over and it was very lucky that there were no serious injuries.


One bloke he broke his arm and the other bloke got a head injury but ah … you see they had big army base hospitals so if you had to have a lot done they’d take you to the base hospitals.
And then what happened next after that journey?
After that, well then we went up and – you see it was only three months that the war lasted up in Syria. I think the whole thing was six months and we were in the last three months of it.


And then we stayed up in Rayak for a while and then half the squadron went to Haifa, to guard Haifa, and we went into Beirut and ah we were there. And from there we went back to, I think it was a name called Cassasin where our pilots got our Kittyhawks. And we had to train them all, well I didn’t, but you know be trained to fly the Kittyhawks.


And who, just backing back to Syria, who were you fighting?
The Vichy French, we were fighting the French. Remember how France split into two, the Free French and the Vichy French? Well they were the Vichy French we were fighting against because that used to be French Syria and we were fighting the French.
And what were they like as an enemy?
Oh well …


they were … Oh well I don’t know I didn’t see much of the enemy actually.
But you must have, you know had an impression of them from others?
Oh well no they got, they got … it took them six months to get rid of them but that’s not long in a war really. And they took the whole of Syria over from them.
And what, what were the conditions and the rations like in Syria?


I’m just trying to think now. It varied in some places. I think they weren’t too bad in Syria, where we could get meat and vegetables and that sort of thing. A lot of the time you were just living on tin stuff – Bully Beef and that sort of thing. But the cooks were pretty good I thought, they could do rabbit stew in different ways and ah, even though it was all the same sort of thing.


And around this time what was the moral like in the 450 Squadron?
Well with our troops it was very, very good. And I can remember once writing a report on the Syrian Campaign. Ah I don’t know if I told you this, did I?
You mentioned that you wrote a report but if you’d like to continue on the story …
Well I’ll tell you, you see that I wrote about the morale and I said that …


What we had there they were the English pilots you see and I said they all were a bit shaken with first coming into combat but they came out of combat okay with one exception and that he had had trouble. And ah, but then the living conditions were fairly good because we were on a good station. But on the whole we did … And the


CO he made me the Mess Secretary and I used to notice, this is especially out in the Western Desert I’m talking now, the pilots, say about five chaps would go up and one bloke would shout and then they’d all have to shout, so they’d have to have five drinks. And then if they each shouted again they’d have to have ten drinks, you see you didn’t have two. I asked the CO if


he would agree if I introduced the rule into the Mess that there would be no shouting, you could not shout. Everybody could have as much drinks as they like but you couldn’t shout because I felt that they were being forced into this camaraderie you know that you know that everybody had to have a drink and each a turn otherwise he was a Welsher you see. And um so that was one thing I introduced and the other thing I did was put up the price


of all the drinks so I became the most unpopular Mess Secretary in the Middle East, but the wealthiest. And I thought that if it cost them more they probably wouldn’t drink so much. Because these young blokes you see I thought they were having too much to drink at night, and that was my idea how to cut it down.
Was drunkenness a problem?
No not drunkenness, but I thought they had a bit too much than they needed.
So um I’ve never


heard of a Mess Secretary. What were the other responsibilities of the Secretary?
Well you had to get all the supplies for them. You had … They all had cards you see – there was no money, no money change of course. But you had to have your name put in a book. Everybody had his book you see and how many drinks he had and that sort of thing. And you had to get all the supplies. We didn’t get great supplies but we got beer – we seemed to go, we had a fair bit of beer but not much


else. Oh and soft drinks and things like that we could get. And ah certain things like biscuits and chocolates and things like that. And you had to get all these supplies for them and run it.
And were you a drinker yourself?
No. I didn’t drink alcohol until after I was married. I was thirty-eight.
Why was that?
Because I just didn’t want to drink.


I’d gone through all my university days going to all the parties and in those days I had the sort of personality that I could enjoy myself you see and they’d say that Geoff McManis he can get drunk on lime and lemonade. So I didn’t have to, some people felt they needed that to enjoy themselves but I didn’t need that, I’d go to all the parties and that sort of thing and enjoy it, so I didn’t need it. And so they used to


talk about taking the pledge, you might have heard that. I said I’m not going to take any pledge I said I’m just not going to drink if I don’t want to. And so ah …
Sorry, what was the pledge?
The pledge was you took a vow with God that you would not drink until you were nineteen or twenty or twenty-one. That was the thing that they used to say. I said I’m not taking that, I’ll just decide I won’t do it and that’s what I did. And then my wife says that she used to …


I used to take her out you see and I was working at the Medhurst, this big hospital in England …
Interviewee: Arthur McManis Archive ID 0680 Tape 04


At the end of the last tape you were just in the middle of a story, about to tell a story about drinking and that you didn’t start drinking until you met your wife.
Well I’d take her out for dinner you see and I said what would you like to drink, I’ll have a sherry, what will you have, I’ll have a lime and lemonade you see. And they’d come back and they’d always give her the lime and lemonade and me the sherry and she’d have to change it around.


So I said she lead me up the garden path and of course now I’ll drink anything.
It’s quite nice sometimes isn’t it?
Yeah. Now I’m wondering when you know during this time whether or not there was much death, you know um in terms of people you’d treated who’d


died and …
Well nobody that I treated died. But I’ll tell you this it was mainly the pilots that died you see, they just didn’t come back and that was the end of them. Some of them went down and got prisoners of war. But ah there was one bloke who’d had … he was a truck driver and he had a


Tommy gun and he got of a his truck one day and it was loaded and pulled on the Tommy gun and killed himself. And he was the only bloke in the squadron that I had to bury and I ah …
Sorry, he killed himself?
No it was accidental. He went to get the thing out and the trigger got caught somewhere and the gun went off and shot himself in the stomach – killed him.


Other than that not much … I’ve had to go out sometimes in the desert where a big aircraft was shot down and the aircraft were there dead. And we had to try and identify them so we could notify people and then we buried out there in the desert.
Excuse me I have to cough. Sorry, I’m just getting over a flu so I’ve got


a bit of a cough still. So how did you deal with these deaths, were there any rituals that you performed?
Oh no, no there wasn’t. This bloke he was a Catholic you see and they all knew that I was a Catholic so they got me to read a prayer when we buried him you see. There was no priest or anything like that out there. So ah, but no


we were sorry he was a good bloke and that sort of thing. But in war it comes and goes you see, people are going to die in wars no matter what happens.
But death must have had some sort of impact on the moral of the squadron?
Oh no just that they were all sorry and they’d say oh he was a good bloke, it’s a pity and but that was it you know. Because you know we didn’t have a pastor,


he didn’t come back again and we just never saw them you see. Well as I say you couldn’t blame them for being a bit afraid because a hell of a lot them didn’t come back.
Um, I’m wondering when you first realised that you were at war, that you were in the middle of a war. Was there a particular moment that you went oh here I am it’s war?
No, no we were just going along, it was part of what we were doing and you


went there. It’s like the first night when we got there and the bloke had to pass his remark about Hitler. That was because we were irritated and we couldn’t find our bags and that sort of thing.
So were any of the aerodromes you were at ever under fire?
Oh yes, very much, especially when we were out in the Western Desert. I told you about my philosophy didn’t I, about the slit trench?
Yes you did.
Yes well that was it


because they were bombing us every night you see. And I’m a good sleeper – yeah Marge will tell you that and one night they bombed a truck, I was in my slit trench. There was two hundred yards from where I was in my slit trench and I didn’t hear them.
You are a good sleeper.
It didn’t wake me up.
Excuse me. Sorry about this. Um, so what was that like the first time you were under enemy fire?


Oh I don’t know I can’t remember it, it was just sort of this was going to happen and ah … I can remember we used to get bombed out in the desert and that and I went into Alexandria once and when I was out in the desert I could hear where the planes were and knew where it was happening and that sort of thing, but when I was in Alexandria I didn’t know where the planes are and I thought Gawd this is dangerous they might get me.


Can we just stop for a minute? You can continue on talking about the bomber that had crashed and you had to go out and …
Yeah well there was seven in one of those and of course they were all dead and we had to you know get their dog tags as I said and identify them so we could notify their unit and that sort of thing about them and we buried them out near the aircraft.
And would there be


a mass grave that was dug or individually buried?
Oh individual graves.
What kind of impact did that have on you burying so many people?
Well I’m afraid, I just took it in my stride. It’s just something that had to be done and ah well you know it was my job and well I did it – that’s the way I felt about it.


Of course I had no personal … they were just bodies to me, I’d never seen them before in my life, that might make a difference I suppose.
Were you ever in the position where you had to bury someone that you did know?
Oh yes that was the chap with the Tommy gun. Remember I told you he killed himself and we had to bury him and I actually said some prayers, I don’t know where I got them from, at his grave,


because he was a Catholic and they knew that I was a Catholic and I was the officer there and they said well would I do it? So the CO asked me and I said certainly I will yeah.
I mean obviously this is your job and as a doctor you are taught to deal with this on a daily basis but I’m wondering if your faith played a part in you being able to cope with what you were seeing?


I don’t think so you see because even, see death is something that strikes you … For instance when you’re a Resident in a hospital if a patient died at night the nurse couldn’t pronounce them dead so they’d have to get one of the young doctors to come up and pronounce them dead you see. And so you had a lot of dealings with dead people and that sort of thing. And the first time I was called down I remember


I did all the tests, specials tests and the testing the eyes and seeing if they were breathing and listening to their heart and there was an old night sister there who was getting very irritated with me taking so long and she picked up the woman’s hand and dropped it and said “Good heavens man can’t you see she’s dead!” And of course after a while you could see them and you’d know they were dead – you didn’t have to go through all the rigmarole.
So during this time


did you … what friendships were you developing with the fellows in the Squadron?
Well … I did become very friendly with the CO, Gordon Steege. I used to go out on leave with him and that sort of thing. And um and some of the other pilots but mainly the ground staff who were there all the time. The pilots came and go, they could do a certain course and then another pilots would come in, so it was mainly with the


ground staff that you know you became friendly with.
And I mean you’ve mentioned Gordon. What were the names of some of your other mates you were friends with?
The main what?
What were the names of … could you describe …?
Oh other people. Oh there were two Cipher Officers called Jim Salter and Hec Fullerton, they were there, and John Lamb, there was a …


oh I forget, and Bill Mathews was Equipment Officer. And another bloke Mack … I can’t remember his name, he was the Adjutant but I just forget that one for the second. But ah of various ones but no deep sort of friendships they were just people there that were working with you and that and undergoing the same experiences. But I can remember when I was a


posted home with the Squadron they decided that doctors would not get much chance to go overseas if one bloke went and stayed with the thing all the time so I had eighteen months over there and they called me back you see. And I know … I’d got friendly with a lot of the troops and that sort of thing. The Medical Orderlies for instance, I worked closely with them all the time. We had three of them and


I got friendly with them. And ah … But no just friendly, not friendships that lasted afterwards. The only one that has lasted afterwards has been Gordon Steege as the CO.
Right. I mean you’ve mentioned a bit about Gordon and the fact that he was young and you know a good leader. Could you describe his personality?


Oh yes. Ah he was, he wanted to enjoy himself, he was a you know no inhibitions or anything like that. He’d tell me about the women he’d been with and all that sort of thing. But he was, he was an outgoing sort of chap, good chap but fair, you know he wouldn’t


do anything to a bloke who didn’t deserve it, but if deserved it he got it. So that was the sort of bloke he was straight placed and … But still he enjoyed himself and that sort of thing.
Now you mentioned that you went on leave with Gordon. Where would you go on leave?
Alexandria. And I think Alexandria is the best city in Egypt – it leaves Cairo for dead. I had to spend six weeks in Cairo once because when I was posted back


from the Middle East, the night before I was to go down and catch the ship I got an attack of biliary colic. I had gallstones. And I was put into hospital and the ship went without me and I had to wait another six weeks to get another ship. And that time I spent it in Cairo and I


really wasn’t doing anything. I’ve gone to the pictures three times a day in Cairo because you know … And it wasn’t … Of course you’d got out at night and see the Pyramids and the Sphinx and that sort of thing, well once you go and have a look at it that’s that. But they had more general facilities at Alexandria – I liked Alexandria much more than Cairo.
And what would you and Gordon get up to in Alexandria?
Oh well …


Well during the day going to the pictures was the big thing and um … And in Alexandria, you know how here if we have a French film they’ve got the English underneath so you can know what they’re saying, see a lot of Greeks – it’s called Alexandria after Alexander the Great who was a Greek.


And there’s a lot of Greeks there and Egyptians and French. And we’d go to the pictures and fortunately it was an American picture then I could understand it but on one side they had Greek, the other side they had Egyptian and underneath they had Arabic. So there were four …
And somewhere along there you could see the picture?
Well it didn’t matter I could understand what they were saying, it was an English, an American film.


Nearly all the films were American.
And could you describe Alexandria as a city?
Oh yes it’s a lovely city. And it had a … beautiful gardens and I remember there was a sports arena there that we used to go to and … But generally it was a cleaner and better city than Cairo -


although Cairo was the capital. Once saw Farouk being a … you know he was the King, King Farouk, have you heard of him? And he was driving along on a carriage you see and we saw him, he went past us on the road.
What a horse and carriage?
Oh yeah, horse driven.
What was that like to see?
Oh it was quite interesting to see him – we’d heard a lot about King … Of course he wasn’t really ruling the country, it was the English, but he was the King. But it was


the English running the country.
And was there an entourage to …?
Oh no it was just him in this carriage. The … Oh no this has got nothing to do with the war I won’t tell you that.
Oh what is it?
Well I … During my time in England I took three months off and with another chap, he was also a doctor I’d been to school with, and we went for a three months trip around Europe by car –


he had a car, I didn’t, he had a car. And we were in, in Madrid, is that the capital of Spain, Madrid isn’t it? And we were … we got there late and we didn’t realise the eating habits of these people are different. And ah … See they’d … we’d go to have our evening meal about seven o’clock or something like that, they’d go at about nine o’clock


you see. And we went in at about seven, ah at seven o’clock you see and we said can we get a meal here? And they looked at us and said ah oh well if you want one we can. And so we sat down and there was nobody else there and at nine o’clock all the people came in and then we realised … I then remembered about the siesta in the afternoon and working late, until late at night.


So that was just different habits that’s all.
Yeah. Now you’ve talked a bit about Gordon and you know your mate Gordon. I’m wondering if you could describe other personalities that you came in contact and in particular Bobby Gibbes?
Yeah Bobby Gibbes yeah. I … You see one of my jobs was to get to know the pilots and talk to them and if they had any worries about the …


how dangerous this job was to talk about it to me and that sort of thing and often that helps to just talk about it. And ah but that sort of thing and I used to do it with all the pilots that I could so I thought that was part of my job to do that and help them.
Was that role something that you took on yourself or was that something that the air force …?
I took it on myself. No I took it on myself. I felt it was helping them.


And ah … But also it was also regarded as part of mine to make out whether they were really trying. Because you see as I told you I was in favour of those pilots, I talked to them, I knew what they were going through. So that if a bloke tried to put it over me that he had a terrible ingrowing


toenail or something or a rather and he couldn’t … And I’d have to try and talk them out of that sort of thing. But um there was one bloke, he used to come along to me with everything he could think of, he said Geoff he said don’t you think I should be boarded home with all the things that I’ve got wrong with me? I said no Jim I don’t, I said you’d be much better if you just had


one thing that was really bad, not a whole lot of little things.
So was Bobby Gibbes one of the people that came to talk to you about …?
Oh yeah.
So can you talk a bit more about Bobby Gibbes – I mean he sounds like an interesting character?
Yeah Bobby Gibbes he was the one that … the only pilot we had at Williamtown when we formed up and he came to the Middle East with us. But just after that he ah …


he was posted away to … We didn’t have any pilots, we weren’t doing any flying and we hadn’t even … You see he was posted away to 3 Squadron which is a permanent Australian squadron and they’d been over there before us you see, and he was posted to them and after that I didn’t see him so much. I’ve seen him much more in afterlife, in Australia but … because he was in 3 Squadron … but we were in a wing and the wing was 450 which is what they call an Infiltration Squadron.


3 Squadron which was a permanent squadron and I think it’s two hundred and twelve or something like that, and the CO was also an Australian and he was Clive Caldwell – the bloke I’ve already mentioned to you. And they used to get together and talk and see them, but you mainly saw people in your own squadron you see.
And what was Bobby like as a character. I mean you mentioned that amusing story where he taught you to wash with the one jug of water …
That’s right. And he tells everybody


that, he says to them I taught him how to have a wash. I meet him now and as I say the only thing I go to now of the 450 Squadron is the Annual Meeting and they have a dinner and he’s always at that too you see. And every time he tells everybody I taught him how to have a wash in a basin, a bath in a wash basin. Yeah. But he’s a jovial sort of chap too.
You mentioned Clive


Caldwell as well, what was he like as a character?
Oh he was a pretty intense sort of bloke – I didn’t have so much to do with him. But as I told you he’s the bloke that said when they’re going down in the parachute wouldn’t you always have done that otherwise they’ll come up tomorrow and shoot you down? But he was a calculating sort of bloke. He got into a bit of trouble after the war smuggling goods down from Darwin to Sydney,


but that’s got nothing to do with it.
Now um during this time … Sorry if we could just go back to the chronology, I mean we’ve been in Syria, where did you go next was it Beirut?
From Syria … after the war we stayed there for a while and then we come back down to a base … I’m trying to remember the name of the thing …


and to get our pilots and train them to fly Kittyhawks – you see they were flying other aircraft not Kittyhawks. And we spent oh it must have been about a month, we had Christmas there, and ah … But then after that we went out into the Western Desert and we ended up at this placed called … oh I forget the name of it, I think I told you


but anyhow … It’s not far from Tobruk – I’ll think of it in a minute. And that’s where we got a terrible lot of bombing there.
Is that El Alamein?
Oh no that El Alamein is where they had the big base but they drove us all back to, the Germans.
So that was later was it?
Later yes.
Right. So that was um that place near Tobruk what was that like?
Gambut. There you go. It always come back.


So what was that like as a location, as a place?
Oh it was terrible.
Could you describe it for me?
Yeah well you were right out in the desert, all the things were dispersed because we were getting bombed every night, and they … the food wasn’t too good and I got a dog. When I was up in Syria this French doctor


that I’d got friendly with said he was going to give me a wolf hound and he gave me this dog that was no more a wolf hound that anything else but I said oh he’ll hunt the timber wolves so I’ll call him Timber. So his name was Timber and he stayed with me and the squad and he used to sleep under my bed at night and all that sort of thing. But I … everywhere I went Timber came with me you see. And I and of course when I left the Squadron I had to leave him


there and they told me that the poor fellow tripped on a land mine and got killed, so that was the end of Timber. But ah … And another … up in Syrian once I had a Chameleon as a … you know the Chameleons they change colour if you get them against a background – it’s sort of like a big lizard, and I had him for a while but he escaped and he got away.
Having Timber around must have been a,


a great morale booster?
Oh yeah, oh yeah I liked Timber very much.
Well just … So you were talking about Gambut. Ah could you describe it as a landscape?
Desert, nothing. Nothing just a big lot of sand. But they had built an air force, an airstrip there and they ah …


but we were dispersed because we had been bombed you see and … A big nothingness. I said the war of the Western Desert was like fighting at sea. You’re there and there’s nobody, no civilians and no houses – nothing but just like the sea around you and instead of sea you’ve got sand all around you. That’s Gambut, nothing, a lot of nothing.
Now of course by this time you were fighting the


What was your opinion of the Germans as an enemy?
Well I can tell you that our groups admired Rommel terrifically. For some reason he had developed up a terrific reputation with them. But the Germans, we regarded them as much more dangerous foes than the Italians. And um but ah …


I never saw an enemy bloke in all my experiences in this war, so it’s not like … I had to see … I’d seen their prisoners being marched along – I had seen that. But never you know had any close contact with them at all. But they thought that the Germans were a great army and that Rommel was a great General – but they didn’t think much of the Italians and we could


beat them. But we beat the Germans too eventually.
So where were you when you saw the POWs [prisoners of war] being marched by?
Oh that would be … mainly in some of the camps. You see we didn’t go straight up to Gambut, we stopped at other camps. I told you how a fighter squadron has to move quickly. For instance when we had to retreat from Gambut – that’s when Rommel came right back


to El Alamein –we were told one night to get out as quickly as we can. And we heard the next morning Rommel’s troops and he were on that area the next morning. So you know you just had to get away and do … That’s where the treatment truck was very handy.
Yeah because you … It sounds like you were moving every other month or so.
Oh yeah, oh yeah. Some places … I kept a


diary and … but it’s a very peculiar sort of diary and no-one would find it interesting to look at because you wouldn’t know what I was talking about half the time, and ah, because I talk about all the blokes in the Squad by the Christian names and see now half the time I don’t remember who they were, although a lot of them are dead. But ah … Yes well we were … we did move a hell of a lot, and that’s why that


treatment truck I thought was a good idea.
Yeah I think it’s a great idea.
But we were talking about the first time, the time that you saw the POWs marched …
Oh the POWs. Yeah well they were just a lot of troops marching along and you know we just didn’t … think of yes. I think they were nearly all Italians that we saw.
Did seeing the enemy … What impression did seeing the enemy have on you?
They were just a lot of prisoners, you know that’s


how much I felt about them.
I have to cough again, excuse me. I’m so sorry about this. So I believe that you, around this time you also listened to German radio?
Oh no.
That was later on was it?
No it was … Yeah that’s right, no that was when we were out in the desert then but I can’t remember, I don’t know whether it was the


German’s radio we listened to or someone playing … No it was the German radio, it was the German radio because they were playing Lili Marlene and they used to play it every night at the same time. And all our blokes would get up to hear this song, Lili Marlene. And ah …
Can you recall how it goes?
Yeah [hums]. I don’t know I can’t remember it all though.


Do you remember Marion [wife]? [Marion sings] That’s it. And this was a German singer called Lili Marlene used to sing it. And all our troops would just, I don’t know why they did it, but used to listen to it.
I’m going to have to stop, sorry Geoff. So what impact on the


men did hearing Lili Marlene actually have?
Oh I think it was … they just seemed to like listening to it and that was all, no great reaction really.
What do you think the appeal of the song was?
It was a very good song. And we were intrigued that it was the enemy that we were listening to, that was, that was the sort of feeling.
It must have been a great unifier.
Well it was yeah.


often heard that there was something nostalgic about the sound of the song as well?
Yeah well it is yeah.
So um how was your own physical health at the time?
Great. No trouble anywhere, except for the night before I was to sail back to Australia and I got a pain in my tummy and I was in the hospital and the next day I had to go down to catch the


boat home to Australia, and my trunks had all gone down there. And I got this pain you see and I woke up in the middle of the night and I thought Gawd have I got appendicitis and I thought no I haven’t there’s nothing there so I thought well what … So I went down to the bloke at the desk and said have you got something and he gave me something and he said that’s good for pain and of course I didn’t know what the hell it was but I’d try anything and it didn’t


do any good, all it did was make me sick. And so the very thing the next morning I went down and said could you get onto the RAF person at so-and-so, and I knew where to go, and he got him and I said look I’m not well and he said we’ll send a doctor out to see you. So he came and saw me and he examined me and he didn’t quite know – he sent me to hospital as a ruptured ulcer but I didn’t have it at all, of course it was a gallstone. I’d noticed it here and thought Gawd I think I must have something wrong with my gallbladder –


that seems strange. And … but he sent me into the RAF hospital there you see and so I was put in there but of course by the time they let me out in a few days time the ship had gone and I was stranded there in Cairo for about six weeks before another ship went back to Australia.
So what did you do …?
But that was the only illness I had.
So what did you actually do to treat the gallstones?
It just settled down and I said ah …


I said to the bloke next to me it was settling down and I said to him did they give me an injection and he said yes and I said oh it must have been morphia and they said no it wasn’t it was just some sedative or something or a rather and I slept and it gradually settled down and I was all right again but I did get it again when I came back to Australia. I had to go into hospital at Heidelberg in Melbourne and have my gallbladder out – it was full of gallstones.
That’s a bit confronting.


And we used to say with the gallstones and the gallbladder there were three requirements that people got it, they had to be fair, fat and female. And I thought to myself well I’m neither of those. But then I came back and I got the pain again and so they put me into hospital and they took it out at Heidelberg. And I went to see the Air Vice Marshal Hurley,


who was head of the air force about it, he’d been a surgeon, and he said you’re not the usual sort of patient with that sort of trouble and I said that’s right sir I’m not fair, fat and forty. No fair, fat and female.
It must have set you wondering though.
Yeah. And ah he … Then of course I had to go into hospital to have my gallbladder out. But that was when I was back in Australia again.
So for that six weeks in,


in Cairo was this time when you were going to the movies a lot?
It was?
Yeah. I didn’t have much else to do to fill in my time.
Was there anything else that you did do?
Not much in Cairo.
Was there much to sightsee?
I’d been out and seen the Sphinx and the Pyramids and that I didn’t want to go and see it again – you’ve seen it once and that’s it.
So what sort of movies did you see?
Oh Gawd, American that’s all I can say. Well you can imagine in six weeks two or three times a day –


I’ve got no recollection what they were. I remember the ones in Alexandria because they had all the captions around them.
What … I mean obviously six weeks in Cairo you had a chance to … you’d get a feel of the mood of the place. What um, what was the mood of wartime Cairo?
Well um the thing I can remember was there was a chap, a kid


there who had … he had … a beggar you see … he had written on his thing ‘No Whiskey’. No, no what was it? ‘No father, no mother, no whiskey soda’. And somebody had written underneath it ‘You poor little bugger’. And they used to try and


get you, you see … There was one bloke that told me that he was going along and there was a couple of them so they’d show him a lot of pornographic pictures you see and he said that’ll be, because they had pounds there – two pounds. So you were supposed to bargain with them you see, never give them … And he said I’ll beat him down and he got fifty piastres, that’s about you know five bob or something.


Alright come up here and he comes up here and he, and he, he shows him all the things and he said oh no, no, no and so he goes away and then the chap looks on and he says okay, alright I’ll take fifty piastres, gave him fifty piastres and gave him the photos and when he got home they were all just pretty pictures nothing pornographic at all – he’d put it over him. They don’t like you to have them down.
So pornographic pictures as in one of those sort of


postcard open out kind of situations?
No there was a number of pictures, separate.
Oh okay.
In a packet.
And they were available on the street in Cairo were they?
Oh well yeah they showed them to the bloke. He put it over him though, he gave him ordinary pictures.
So did you have a chance to meet many of the locals and get to know what sort of people they were?
Not many. There were some in a place … I was staying in a sort of


a place which was more or less controlled by the army in that six weeks and there were some people who used to come in and … I, I learnt a bit of Arabic you know but I couldn’t speak very much but I knew how to count and what all their number were. But ah no I didn’t have much to do with the locals.
What was their attitude


towards allied troops?
Oh alright, they just seemed to take them for granted. Because Britain was running Egypt then, although they had King Farouk there, Britain was running the place.
And what about climatic conditions?
Well mostly hot, hot and dirty. Especially most of my time because most of my time was out in the desert and that sort of place. But ah …


but ah in the winter it got cold and ah I remember … in Egypt with sort of warmer clothes because we just wore shorts then, shorts and long socks and um but ah some warmer clothing we had to have out there, it got quite cool.
So how were hygienic conditions?
Oh well they were alright, they were alright.
Were there any heat related complaints that people might have had for instance


skin infections or anything …?
No, no not really. The most sickness we had was up in Syria. Out in the Western Desert they didn’t seem to get much at all.
What sort of illnesses were you encountering in Syria?
Well this dirty place we went to with all the sandflies and bugs and cockroaches and rats … One of the blokes a condition called Weals Disease. That’s a condition that gets spread by rats. And what he’d done, he saw a bar of chocolate


and a rat had been eating it but he ate it too – he couldn’t resist the chocolate and he got Weals Disease. And ah …
What are the symptoms of Weals Disease?
Oh you get jaundiced mainly. It affects the liver. And he … but this bloke was very sick for a while but he recovered.
Oh that’s good because it sounds awful.
Yeah. That shows you the chocolate was so attractive even though the rat had been eating it he still ate it.
I’d love to know what the kind of chocolate was – brand of chocolate.
Interviewee: Arthur McManis Archive ID 0680 Tape 05


Now you mentioned the Vichy French before, did you actually encounter any Vichy French as prisoners?
No, no I didn’t. The only French I had was a Free French Doctor. He’d been fighting against the Vichy French with us you see. And I did meet him and he was quite a pleasant chap.
What was his view of the Vichy French, did he express one?
No he didn’t say much about them at all.


He took me over to their Mess one night for dinner and he said do you speak French, and I said oh no I couldn’t speak French at all. I said when I was at school I learnt to read and write it but I never learnt to hear it, you know and speak it. And he said but look at me I’m trying English and my accent’s terrible, and he did have a terrible accent too. And I said to him I said


that chap over there, that officer there he speaks English perfectly. He said well he ought to he wen to Oxford.
It’s not always a guarantee but I’m sure, I’m sure it helps, yeah. Now what sort of food were you eating?
Oh pretty basic sort of food but quite adequate. It varied in different parts of course. When we were up in Syria in that area we could get fresh meat and vegetables and that sort of thing but


when we were out in the Western Desert it was all tinned and ... But they quite ingenious and they did the best they could with the, the cooks and ...
Quite a few of the men that we’ve spoken to have referred to the staple diet of bully beef and biscuits.
Yeah well that’s right, yeah. Although ours were a bit better than that, they really tried to put a bit of something different, make it, there was bully beef and biscuits as you said but tinned vegetables and things like that, anything that came in a tin.


Okay. And um yeah no dehydrated foods at this stage?
Yeah I think that was more emergency rations, yeah. How important was mateship as far as you could see?
Well it wasn’t a great deal ... you know everybody had a particular friend and that sort of thing but we were all in the same boat and all just sort of accepted what the situation was.
Did you ever feel that you were in a, in a


solitary position as a doctor?
Who were the people that you would have associated with more than others?
Well most would be my three medical orderlies. You know they used to help me with ... and send them over to get something done and they could do, they could do ... They had training you know, they weren’t proper nurses but they did have some training, it was quite adequate, good actually. So my main contact was them and then of course mainly


the ground staff who’d been in the squadron with me from Williamtown, they’d come there and I’d got friendly with them. And I made it my business to try and talk to the pilots about how they were going and that sort of thing too. But not particular ...
Do you ever remember a pilot who was particularly distressed or apprehensive to the extent that you remember a specific conversation with him?
Yeah, yeah.
What stands out in your memory


about that?
Oh well he actually was quite a senior, one of the flight commanders, he was a flight lieutenant. And he um, he had started off, looked to be all right but then he started to come regularly to me complaining about illnesses and that sort of thing and I couldn’t find anything wrong with him you see. And um so um ... Actually


I spoke to the CO about him and he said well he felt that way too you see, and he was the only bloke that we sent back.
Did he seem pretty rattled on a day to day basis?
I, I think he knew, he knew. He knew that he was putting on sickness to get out of flying.
And for how long did his symptoms persist before you sent him back?


Oh well it won’t over some weeks. Went over some weeks. Because it wasn’t a thing you could go into lightly you see, it was a big thing, he was going to be charged with being Lack of Moral Fibre. And he eventually was and he was sent back and he was the only one in the Squadron.
Did he confide in you some of the problems that he was facing?
Oh well I faced him with them you see.
And what sort of things did he come out with?
Well he just said that he didn’t


feel he was capable of flying under these circumstances and ... He was quite honest about it and that.
Had there been a particular operation or mission that had rattled him?
No nothing in particular no just general.
What was it that had instilled that fear do you think?
I’ve got no idea. I think it’s something in the makeup of the person. You see as I say I think all


experienced it. You know they knew they went out and maybe I’ll be home and maybe I won’t you see. And their philosophy was a bit like mine – if I get shot down that’s bad luck, that’s the end of it. But um, but no, you know I could talk to them explain to them that it was a natural thing, that everybody felt the same about it and so and so forth and all accept one accepted it.


Now just returning to the medical orderlies that you mentioned, did you have the same medical orderlies throughout?
You did?
Oh, who were they, could you mention them?
There was a bloke called Corporal Meres and the other two were Leading Aircraftmen, LACs they call them, and I forget their names – one was Jenkins and the other was Ferguson. And


oh you know I had a lot to do with them and they were very capable sort of chaps.
What were their duties on a day to day basis?
Oh well you see say I had to get a wound dressed or put some ointment on or just distribute medicines I’d see them ... I had a tent most of the time that I was in and they’d come and see me and I’d give them a note and just like going out to the chemist and they went out and got what I said to do to them, whatever it was.
How often were they


helping you in the treatment of ...?
Oh every day.
They were?
Yeah. And um the corporal made quite a bit of money. He was their barber – he cut everybody’s hair and charged them.
Did he? Right.
Yeah. He cut mine for nothing.
Nice little sideline. And so you mentioned a tent. Did you have a tent all the time?
Oh yes. Well pretty well all the time.
What sized tent was it?


Gawd I saw this the other day. They talk about an EPIP [English Pattern Indian Product] Tent and a One Pole Tent and I don’t remember what they are. They were the names of them. But they weren’t very big.
Was it a large square tent for instance?
Yeah well it was medium. It had to have somewhere for them to lie down so I could examine them on it – a stretcher of some sort it was – it folded up. And a desk


with some equipment on it and a chair, another chair for the chap who was the patient. But ah oh I suppose it was about as big as this room.
What sort of equipment did you have?
Oh all that was necessary to do what we could do there. And medicines and all that sort of thing.
So just for those that may be interested in, in such things as the history of medical treatment in war and so forth could you be specific


about the equipment you had there?
Not really.
Could you list out the items?
No, no I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell you all that but all I know it was just ... We didn’t have any serious illness you see. If a bloke was seriously ill he was sent back. But the sort of things we could deal with you know you needed ointments and various drops to put in eyes and ears and various medicines for the sort of common complaints that everybody would get you see.


So they if they got a bit of a cold like Rebecca [interviewer] well they could treat that you see.
And as far as minor injuries were concerned would you have to do any stitching up or treatment?
Oh yes, yeah.
How had the people sustained those injuries?
Oh I don’t know they might have just ah ... I could only see for simple things like if a nail sticking out and they it’s stuck into them and they’ve


cut a blooming gash in ... But things like that, nothing very serious ... But the war, just the same things that happened to everybody.
So they were average on the ground type situations.
Yeah right. And so you had the tent with the desk and the stretcher, you had the three medical orderlies, were you on duty all day every day?
Every day. No hours.


My father was a dentist as I told you and he used to tell the story about how he’d taken a bloke’s tooth out one day and that night it started to bleed so he went down to the local doctor and he said to him why don’t you go to the dentist that took your tooth out he said it’s after hours for him? But doctors don’t have after hours.
How busy were you at this time in the Western Desert?
Oh not,


not overburdened with things to do and ... No I couldn’t say I was very busy.
So while you were waiting for patients what would you be doing?
I used to get books to read and all sorts of books that I could get. It wasn’t easy to get them but I used to get them. And write letters home – I used to spend a lot of time writing letters home. And the mail was pretty irregular but we used to get mail and,


and I was surprised at the number of people that wrote to me and it gave me something to do to write back to them you see.
What sort of people were writing to you?
Oh friends and relatives. My relatives all wrote to me regularly. My father and my mother wrote every week. And my brothers and my sisters, one sister. And then a lot of other friends that I had known here they all wrote to me too.


And I was only too pleased to get their letter and also I was pleased to be able to write back to fill in the time.
What sort of things were these people telling you about the war back home in Australia?
Hardly mentioned it. Hardly mentioned it. I can’t remember any reference at all about what was going on back here. They didn’t sort of talk about that sort of thing, I don’t know why. But I think it wasn’t too bad in Australia because when I came back to Australia you know you’d hardly know a war was on. Although rationing


and various things like that. The thing that seemed to affect us most was petrol rationing, not food, we seemed to be able to get plenty of food. In fact when my wife ... That rationing went on in England for years afterwards. When I left England in nineteen fifty to come back to Australia there was still rationing in England, still rationing. And my wife came back here and she couldn’t believe her eyes. She’d go to a butcher shop and there was all the


meat there – Gawd they were lucky to get a sausage, even then in nineteen fifty. And clothes rationing and food, food was the main thing, clothes and food rationing. But that was very severe in England still then. But I came back here and she couldn’t believe what she saw in the shops. And she went ... we went out to dinner one night with another friend of mine, he was in the air force, he was still in Australia, and the three of us went to a restaurant you


see and she ordered some steak. And they brought her a big piece of steak you see and she said to the waiter, am I to serve this to three of us?” No that’s yours. She couldn’t believe it you see because there was no rationing here, we were lucky from that point of view. But she’d been all these years in the war and even after the war going on.
You referred to the letters backwards and forwards. Did you ever keep any of these letters?
What a pity.


yeah. No I didn’t keep them.
I mean that must have been a very nice way of keeping contact with everybody that you’d left.
It was, it was oh yeah. But as I say it was one form of ... Oh sorry.
Just disentangle your foot from the cord or we might be ... Oh the light’s actually gone out. Yeah that must have been a very nice way of keeping in touch.
Oh yeah, oh yes I enjoyed it.
And were you ever homesick?
No I couldn’t say I was homesick, no.


I’d ... you see I’d spent a lot of my time ... After I graduated I left home and went to St Vincent’s Hospital, then I went to Newcastle Hospital so I’d been away from home quite a bit and I’d been in boarding school down here all the time. So I was used to living away from home. And I loved to be home, it was a very welcoming place but I couldn’t say I was homesick. The only time I think I was the closest to being homesick


was my first week at school in Sydney and I suddenly realised that I was in this school and I wasn’t going to see my parents for a year. And I felt homesick then, that was the closest I ever ... But never the rest of my life so I got used to it you see I’d been reared on that sort of thing.
Did you ever get tired of the heat and the conditions in the Middle East?
No that didn’t really worry me. And we used to get ... in the winter time over there it was cold.
How cold


would it get?
Oh I don’t know. They had to give us extra uniforms that’s all I can say. But I can remember I was glad to get into those uniforms.
Did it snow?
Because I believe it could get particularly cold in Syria?
Oh yeah, oh yeah it can up there alright. But we weren’t there in the winter though.
That's fortunate from what I’ve heard about Syria. Now you mentioned before in passing


having to supervise the brothels in Rayak. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Yeah. Well there had been ... The Vichy were there you see and they had three brothels in this place. And the CO said to me hey Geoff I want you to run one of those brothels for our troops and I said to him I don’t know how to run a brothel and he said well you’d better soon learn hadn’t you?


So I went to this French Doctor and he told me how they had to put some of my orderlies in there to see that they had condoms or whatever they did and syringed after they’d had intercourse. The ... But the doctor’s point view, that was the orderlies, and he told them all what that they had to do. And then the ... we had to go to the brothel, I had to go with him and we’d go there once a week for him to examine the women and I told you


the story about one girl had been off for three days and the Madam said that’s not fair and he said well why not and she said well she likes her work you know.
That’s a great story actually.
Could you describe for us what an average brothel looked like?
Just looked like a house. Just went in there and it was a house and they had little rooms, bedrooms and that – just sort of like a house.
And on average how many girls would be working in each place?


Oh in that, in the one we were at there was about six I think.
And how often would you visit this place to do the check?
Once a week.
Once week, yeah. Um, and ... Once the women were examined how often did they have a sexually transmitted disease?
You see it was very ... All he ... he examined them and he didn’t know whether there was any disease or not but if he saw any


discharge of anything, out – no risk you see. So that was all they had to have was some sort of discharge and he’d put them off. And um ... but I think most of them he didn’t have to put off at all ever, but there were some that he did. But the longest was this one three weeks and the Madam thought that was a bit much to be putting her off for three weeks.
And did um ... you know were these brothels


popular among the men?
I don’t really know, because I never went down when they were operating, but my Corporal used to go down there you see and I used to ask them and he said oh we have quite a few every night but I couldn’t give you any numbers, that’s just what he said to me.
Apart from the medical side of it how were these brothels being supervised by the military?
They weren’t supervised, it was just to see ... The military had nothing


nothing to do with it, it was just our squadron.
Oh you’re squadron?
What I’ve heard is that the Australian Services generally, and particularly in places like Alexandria had brothels that the men were told that it was okay to go to this place but not to another place, and there was a certain degree of control.
No well I don’t know anything about that because I ... The only thing I had to do with it was up in the area where we were. No I couldn’t answer that for you.
Did you have to treat any men with sexually transmitted


Only one bloke in the squadron, he got Syphilis and I saw him and he had a shanker, you know that’s a sore on the penis. And this is what it was and I just sent him off to hospital to be treated.
Would he have been placed on any kind of charge?
Because I believe there are certain services that regard that as a self inflicted wound or injury.
Well I could understand that because at one time in the


air force if a bloke got sunburnt that was a self inflicted injury, if you got sunburnt – he shouldn’t have ...
Why was sunburn a self inflicted injury?
Well because he did it himself – he shouldn’t have been out in the sun, he should have had a coat on or something like that.
And could he be placed on a charge?
No they didn’t place him on a charge but he was ... No they weren’t put on a charge but ah he wasn’t allowed to be off duty


with a self inflicted injury.
Oh so he’d be confined to barracks?
No he’d be meant to do his job. It might be terribly painful and that but that’s, you go and do your work boy.
Oh okay.
That sort of thing.
I imagine it was probably entered on his record as well.
Oh well it would be yeah. Yeah the worst thing on a record I ever struck was there was another doctor – this is back in Australia now, when I’m back from the Middle East – and


he was a very prominent bloke, he had been in the Royal Air Force as a doctor and he was the first Australian to be, he got at the Battle of Narvik [in Norway] he got a Distinguished Service Cross. And then he came back to Australia and he was up ... I was the CO of this unit, I was up at Parkes and we’d lost some morphia and I was trying to find out where it was and we were all checking the place and


going crook on them all, they didn’t have correct records, and he came to me and said “Geoff you can stop looking for that morphia I’ve been taking that”. And I said to him ah, I said “How could you do that Bob?” And he said ah ... I’d known this chap before because he’d been a good ... he played football, rugby for New South Wales and he was a good athlete. And ah I said to him “You know we were taught that you never gave yourself any things”


and he said “Well one night I had a toothache and I was foolish enough to go and get morphia and give it to myself and I got hooked on it”. And he said “I’m taking that morphia so you needn’t look about it.” So I said to him “Now you’d like to be cured wouldn’t you?” Oh yes, yes. So he had seen me before about some other complaint so I said I’ll tell them all here that I’m sending you down there but I’m sending you down to see a Psychiatrist. Next thing I knew he’d been discharged from the air force.


And later on he, he went over to England. And he was staying at a place called London House that I was staying at – it was a place for dominion students. And he um, one night gave himself an overdose and it killed him you see, he was found dead in bed.
Oh tragic. So obviously whatever treatment he’d received hadn’t been enough.


Well that’s terrible. Um, were you ever under attack in the Middle East?
Oh yeah.
You were? What actually happened?
Well ... You mean me personally?
Yeah. Were you ever under fire?
Oh yes under fire up in Gambut particularly I told you that. Up at Gambut they bombed us every night and I told you then about sleeping in the slit trench, didn’t I tell you that story? Yeah. And ah ...


So my philosophy was so what you see, from what I’d seen they had to have a direct hit on the slit trench because it seemed when it was just alongside it didn’t kill anybody. But you’ve got to get out of your tent because I’d seen some of them in a tent killed. So my philosophy was very unlikely to get, just my little slit trench in this big area and if they did I wouldn’t know anything about it so what!


Were you fearful or apprehensive?
You weren’t?
I was philosophical about it. I just accepted that I wouldn’t know anything about it. And also I had no-one dependent on me in Australia – I had no wife or children or anything like that. And that did influence some pilots. I thought it was better for a pilot to go in unmarried than married because he’d worry about his wife and children, and the other bloke didn’t have


that to worry about, and I was in that position.
Now we haven’t covered El Alamein yet. We covered it in briefly in the summary but at what point did you go to El Alamein?
I actually left just before.
You left before the Battle of El Alamein?
Before the Battle of El Alamein I was posted back to Australia. But I know what happened. I told you about Montgomery?
Yes you did, yes, yes his rallying speech basically.
Did you actually get to see El Alamein?


I saw the area yes.
You saw the area. What ...?
They were back there when I left you see. They thought they’d get right into Cairo but they stopped them at El Alamein. It’s only a narrow strip – big desert that side and up the other side was the sea. And it was an easy place ... and they stopped them there and then it was sometime afterwards that Montgomery came and drove them back from there you see. But by that time, by the time he


took over I had left, but I told you what he said because I was told what he said.
Did you spend much time at El Alamein?
No. No. We came back a bit ... I think it was a place called Sidi Barrani, it’s a bit further back. And it was at that time that I was posted back to Australia.
And did you spend any time at Sidi Barrani?
Oh yeah. No it would only have been a short time, it might have been a week or two something


like that. And I was posted back and a new medical officer posted out but they hadn’t said when I had to leave you see. And I said to the CO do you mind if I stay here for a while, I’d like to be with the troops when this trial comes off, and he said oh yes that’s alright. But it became perfectly obvious to me I wasn’t fair to my replacement because all the Squadron came to me, I was the one, I’d been there all the time


and the other bloke they weren’t giving him his proper rights. So I went to the CO and said this is not working out I think I’d better go and he said oh alright that’s okay. So I went and that’s when I went back to Cairo and missed the boat.
You referred to you wanted to stick around and see this trial, what trial was this? You wanted to hang around for the Battle of El Alamein?
Yeah, yeah I knew there was going to be a big battle on and I thought I’d been with them all the time and I could help them you see but ah


that was ah, you know it didn’t work out. Because the other bloke had to be in charge, I’d been posted away and I should have been away I suppose. But the CO said they haven’t set a date so it’s alright you can stay. But it was only about a couple of weeks I stayed on because I saw it wasn’t working. The other chap was being given his due and I ah ... and they’d come into me and I’d say well no he’s charge, you know go ... oh but you know we know you.


And so I thought the only thing I can do is to get out and so I left.
Just looking again for the moment at the psychological stress on pilots. Were there any that, were there any that whose problematic issues included the taking of human life?
No. No. It wasn’t that it was getting hurt themselves. No, no.
Because we spoke to one RAAF man recently who


did have some issues with having to take a human life.
Oh well that’s war. If you don’t go to war ... well Gawd I mean to say if you go to war, what’s war, it’s taking human life isn’t it? So that ... everybody had that same sort of attitude. But the trouble was themselves, what happened to themselves was the trouble.
Did you ever see any examples, apart from LMF [Lack of Moral Fibre], were there any other examples of what you could define as shell shock,


where people would be rather shaky after an operation?
No, no not particularly, no not particularly.
So from um ... Let me see. I’ll just have to check this for a moment. Okay so taking us from Cairo back to Australia could you ... once you hopped aboard a ship what was that ship?


The [HMAS] Westralia, the Westralia we came back. And that was the bloke who on the day before we landed told us that joke I told you about the lion in the zoo you know?
That’s pretty good yeah. Could you describe the Westralia as a ship for us?
Oh well it wasn’t a very big ship. And it was mainly certain troops being ... I shared a cabin with a bloke called Spence who was a fighter pilot and he’d done very well and I got very friendly with him


and when I was posted up to Mildura to the fighter training squad he came up there too and I used to see him. But then later on, long after that, in the Korean War he was still in the air force and he got killed in the Korean War. A lovely chap Lou Spence, but I got to know him well. I just had known him as Lou Spence in 3 Squadron – he wasn’t in my squadron, but on the ship we shared a cabin and it took us about a month or five weeks to get back and I got quite friendly with him.


And then of course we both ended up at Mildura training fighter pilots. And ...
So for how long did the trip on the Westralia take?
About five weeks, five or six weeks.
And what were the conditions like aboard the ship?
Oh quite pleasant, quite alright. And there were two Medical Officers on the ship you see who had to look after the troops on the ship you see. One of the blokes was in the army but he was a


Radiologist and he’d had nothing with treating patients and he was amazed that I was just a Flight Lieutenant which was the rank below. And he said ah he came along to me and said oh what’s this, what’s that? Oh that’s tinea. What do you put on that? Put on ... He had no ... He hadn’t done any sort of Medicine for years, he was a Radiologist.
It sounds like something from Fawlty Towers [British comedy series].
That’s right.
How extraordinary.


So to all intents and purposes I was the one who had to look after everybody?
And how many men were aboard the ship?
Oh it was a small number, I’d say about thirty or forty.
So it was a small vessel and just a small compliment of men aboard this ship. Was the ship a proper troop carrier?
No. No it was just converted into this ah ... to take them back.
It must have been quite a relief to get back to Australia.
Oh I was delighted,


overjoyed. And I ... and you see I wasn’t allowed to tell my parents or anybody else that I was coming home or anything like that – you weren’t allowed to say that. And when I get back to Australia and I went home – we lived at Chatswood then, my parents did rather, well I lived there too – and I just walked in and said hello and they said “Oh! Glad to see you.” A big surprise to them too.
Did they give you a


special welcome?
Oh yeah, yeah.
Were there changes to Sydney by this time when you came back? I mean when was this that you actually returned?
I came back in ... Now wait a minute. I know we sailed from Australia on the ninth of April nineteen forty-one – that was going over. And it was


Good Friday – how I remember it was Easter time you see, and that was the day we sailed out. Now we were there ... I came back ... what did I say ‘41, about um August or September ‘43. It was about a year and a half I was there.
So quite a lot had happened to Australia in the meantime?
Oh yes you know I could see differences then. The big thing was petrol rationing


but food and that wasn’t too bad you know in Australia even at that time during the war.
But there were other forms of rationing, I mean there were clothing coupons and food coupons for instance?
That’s right, yeah.
Were people talking about those kinds of things?
Oh yes it came up in the conversation. But um, well it didn’t affect us, we had everything we wanted – you could get it and you know ... But ah my parents and the family they were affected by it.


Now the other things, the key things that had happened included the bombing of Darwin and the submarine raid on Sydney Harbour, had that created any fear or apprehension among the local population?
I don’t think so. Oh I suppose that some people might have, but as far as my family went it didn’t anyhow.
So I mean you know we hear stories elsewhere of selling up harbour front land and heading for the Blue Mountains but um ...
No we were living at Chatswood and we stayed there.


They didn’t think they were in any danger.
At that point how long could you see the war lasting?
I couldn’t see an end to it. Especially later on when I was ... Then I was back in Australia for about a year or more or eighteen months or so before I went up to, to Morotai and Tarakan. But when we were there we saw


no end to the war because the Japs were fighting like tigers all these islands. They really do it – they fight bitterly. And um we thought what’s it going to be like when we get up into Japan, we’ve got to get through all these islands ... If they fight like that just for those islands what will they fight like for their homeland. And so I didn’t see any end to it. I didn’t know when I was going to come back again. And I told you suddenly there was an atom bomb and the war


within two bombs it was over. And we all thought it was marvellous, the best thing that ever happened – we were going home.
Subsequently what was your feeling about the human costs of dropping atomic bombs on Japan?
Well I’m very much influenced by Group Captain Cheshire. He was a famous bomber pilot in England. He got a VC [Victoria Cross], well that’s highest order you can get. And um


and he was taken on one of the planes – the first one that dropped the first atom bomb, and he made the statement that although I think it killed something like forty thousand people that that was a flea bite to what if they didn’t drop it all the soldiers and civilians that had to be killed going through all those islands and going up into Japan itself. Because that’s what would have had to happen without the atom bomb.
Did you agree with him?
Oh yeah.


Oh yes. Of course we were ... Before we knew anything about all the people killed we thought it was the most wonderful thing that had happened. Here we were looking ... never know when we’d go home and of course we couldn’t go home ... and the war ended in ... what was it ... August I think. The Japanese war ... the European war ended in May, August but we didn’t get home, everybody couldn’t come home, it wasn’t until


December that we came home. But ah ...
But subsequently, subsequently when you probably saw the images of the devastation in Japan and the human cost what did you, even if it was after the war, did you give some thought as a doctor to the suffering that had occurred in Japan?
Oh yes I thought it was terrible and I hope it never happens again. But I’m still glad they did it because I think many more people would have been killed than the forty thousand


in Hiroshima or Naga ... or whatever ... and um the ... and I think Cheshire was right. He said that although it was terrible he believed that it saved more, many hundreds of thousands of lives more by destroying those. You might say that’s the end justifying the means but I don’t know it’s a matter of figures. Because


there’s no doubt when you think of the slaughter in all those islands that went on that we had to invade into. And um even in where we were in Tarakan it went on. And um there’s no doubt, that killed forty thousand, but it saved about half a million.
Just returning now to when you came back to Australia. Um obviously reunion,


reunion with ...
Well coming back from the Middle East to Australia and you had the reunion with your family um what did you do then, did you go on leave for instance?
You get, everybody got two weeks returned service leave – two weeks you got.
So what did you do during that time?
Oh I don’t remember. No sorry I can’t remember – nothing that was outstanding that I could relate to you but I was very pleased to have that two weeks at home.
It was a very good breathing space.


So did you um ... How soon did you know what you’d be doing next?
I was posted from there while I was on leave. They told me I’d been posted to this Mildura, to the fighter training squadron you see. So I, I knew I was going there and I went up there you see. And I was up there for about, oh a


month or two and I was posted down to Melbourne to do this course about getting them to take oxygen and that sort of thing and how they do it.
Interviewee: Arthur McManis Archive ID 0680 Tape 06


When you were in Melbourne you saw some girls out on leave, well out having a good time with some certain visitors. Could you tell us that story?
Oh yes well they took me out for a drive and there was a park and there was a lot of couples, Americans with girls you see. And this woman said to me you know of course


all those girls are not from Melbourne they came over from Sydney.
So they’d let the side down.
Melbourne girls wouldn’t do that.
Melbourne girls wouldn’t do that, no. And um did you see much sign of the Americans during your time in Australia?
Oh yeah.
How often would you see you know large number of Americans?
Oh large numbers? The only time I saw large numbers were at Morotai.


So within Australia itself how visible was the American presence?
Oh well you saw the American soldiers about, sure, but I wouldn’t say large numbers. You’d see some American soldiers. But up at Morotai there were a lot of American soldiers up there.
Did anyone talk to you or did you have any views on the impact of the American presence in Australia?
Well we all felt Australia probably wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for the Americans. That was the


general sort of feeling, that we couldn’t defend ourselves. We had no chance against the Japanese. But, and England couldn’t ... Before that we’d always depended on England. England had a full time job over there. And so if it happened been for the Americans that had come here there’d ah ... You’ve heard of the Brisbane Line? Well that was it. We were going to defend it down to the Brisbane Line. We had no chance. And I think they would have


taken over Australia.
What was your understanding of the Brisbane Line?
That Australia had a certain line .... they’d give away all above that part around Brisbane of Australia, all up where I came from, Cairns and so on, that they, but they were going to defend the Brisbane Line and stop them getting any further. That was my idea of it, I don’t know whether it was true or not but I think it was.
And was there going to be a scorched earth policy involved?
Oh no I don’t


know. Oh you know that might have been in the policy but I wouldn’t know. But that was the idea that they weren’t going to waste soldiers defending all that part of Australia – they might have a hope of stopping them down here. But I don’t think they could stop them down here if those Japs had got in.
Talking of Americans, what was your opinion of General MacArthur?
Oh I think he was a wonderful man – “I shall return” and he did.
What was your opinion of John Curtin [former Prime Minister of Australia]?


Oh I think he was very capable, a very capable chap yeah.
His stature over the years seems to be unblemished. Was he the wartime hero that is often painted these days?
Oh I think he did his job well, yeah I think so.
Now you told us before about what you did in Mildura, once you got to Melbourne what was your role then?
Well I came down there and I, I ....


that was ... I told you how just before I left – this was not so long after I’d come back, I’d had this attack where I couldn’t go – and I had a real bad attack of these gallstones and got jaundiced and blocked the bile duct and everything. And I was put into hospital and had an operation and had my gallbladder removed. And um ... But then after I got over that they had a special medical board


that was to assess people who were to be discharged from the air force who were unfit and they said would I go on that board because I was one of the few Medical Officers who had had wartime experience. Oh righto. So I went on it and nearly all the people weren’t anything to do with aircrew or pilots, hardly anybody of that sort came, it was just all the other people you see


and a lot of them had psychiatric problems. And they said we think you could do this job better if you did a course in psychiatry. I said if there’s one branch of medicine I’m not interested in psychiatry thank you. So um ...
So a lot of these people did have psychiatric problems did they?
Oh yeah.
What, what had caused those problems?
I don’t know really.
Were they battle stress related?
No nothing at all, no this was all people in Australia.
These were people attached to the RAAF?
Yeah in the ...


Because of course we had a big force all the time in Australia. And um so I said I didn’t want to do psychiatry so they said oh we’ll pass it to someone else. And they posted me down to a place at Nowra for a while and then I was up in Parkes for a while. And it was when I was at Parkes I was appointed to be the CO of this Medical Touring Station, 28 MCS that was going up to ah be in the invasion of Tarakan. So that’s


what happened to me then. You see they took me off the medical board when I didn’t want to do Psychiatry. And of course they realised that that knowledge of Medicine would have been advantageous and I agreed with them too, but it wasn’t my line, I didn’t want to be in that, I wanted to be in something else. And so they posted me back to ... First Nowra – I did a short time there


but I was a long time at Parkes, nearly a year in Parkes.
And what were you doing there?
I was senior ... They had three Medical Officers and I was the Senior Medical Officer at the station, an air force station.
So what were your day to day duties?
Oh just looking after patients and doing sick parades and you had to inspect the area and that sort of thing. And um ...
Did you have a proper hospital there?
Oh no Sick Quarters. If a bloke had to go to hospital he had to go to Parkes. For instance one day


they rang me and said um would I go into Parkes, there’s a bloke who was driving a bus who’s had his arm cut off. And I thought I know this he’s probably got a few scratches on his arm you see. But nevertheless I got the ambulance and I went into Parkes and on the way into Parkes half way in here was an arm lying in the middle of the road. He’d had his arm out the bus and I passing vehicle


had hit him and took his right arm off. So we ... I went in and saw him and we stitched him up and ah ...
Oh we just need to stop for a moment. We’ll pick that story up. You were talking about this arm incident. Could you start that story again?
Oh yes. They said to me oh there’s a chap who’s had his arm chopped off, would you go in. So I got in the ambulance and I said oh yes it’ll be somebody there with a bit of a scratch on his arm, they exaggerate you see. And half way in to Parkes


here was an arm lying in the middle of the road you see. So anyway we went in and fixed up his stump there and um, ah well that was it you see.
Obviously you collected the arm?
Oh yeah, oh yeah. I can’t remember where we got rid of but still. We went into the hospital so we gave it to them I think.
And I believe there was one accident there, one air crash while you were at Parkes?
Oh yes there was yeah but nobody was hurt or injured at all.


What actually happened on that occasion?
They hit some wires when they were taking off.
And what sort of flight was this?
A training flight.
It was a training flight.
So apart from that incident with the arm you had nothing really serious to do up there?
No. No. At that time Parkes had been converted into a place to train the teachers who were going to teach all


the other people coming to learn how to fly. So the standard of excellence of the pilots there was tremendous.
When you say tremendous ...?
They had great ability, they could do all sorts of things in the aircraft.
How many pilots would have been training there at any one time?
Oh I suppose about thirty, thirty. That’s a rough guess, I’m not sure that’s accurate but that’s what my impression would be. But I remember at Parkes


when we came there and we had a new Commanding Officer posted to us and he was a Group Captain, that’s a full colonel in the army. A Group Captain and he was Australian but he was in the RAF, he was in the RAF, and he was Commander of the Station. And he got all the officers in there once and he said “There are a lot of improvements to be made in this unit and we’re going to do it and we’re going to make it into a first


class unit” he said, he said “But I’m not going to do it you’re going to do it but I’m going to see that you do it” – and he did and it ended up as a wonderful station. He got all these changes that he wanted you see.
What sort of changes was he ...?
Oh structural, building better places and so on ... Mainly in the building part.
And this was among the staff there rather than the pilots ...
Yeah that’s right.
rather than the trainee trainers which is what ...
Yeah all the officers he had.


So there were trainee trainers there, were there any other people being trained?
Oh yes. You see that was training the people who were going to train the people, teaching them to be that standard. But they had the training at various stations of people who were to be single engine and those who were to have double engined aircraft and ... But there were a lot of those all over the place you see and a lot of our


pilots were trained in Kenya and a lot more in Canada so ah they were being trained all over the world.
That’s right that was under the Empire Air Training Scheme.
Yeah that’s right Empire Air Training Scheme.
You mentioned the CO who came to Parkes and read the riot act, what was his name?
I can’t remember. I can’t remember. He was an Australian but he was a member of the RAF,


he had a RAF uniform on which was different to ours, it was a greyish sort of colour. And um, but ah he was very efficient and he got things done alright because he said I don’t do them but I’ll see that you do them.
Now when it came to you being sent up to Morotai, were you given any advance training before you went up there?
No. No I just got a posting to go to Ascot Vale, which is a racecourse in Melbourne


where a new unit called 28 MCS, a Medical Clearing Station was being formed. So I just went there and I took it over and the base came here. And then we were posted and we went by train up to Townsville and we spent four months in Townsville sort of getting organised there.
What ... can you describe the process of organisation?
Not really. I think we were just functioning as ... We weren’t doing anything really. We weren’t doing any


medical, except that I did, looked after the ... There was another medical officer, there were two Medical Officers in the MCS, we did sick parades and that sort of thing and we used to do it for all the people roundabout too, you know from other stations who didn’t have a Medical Officer.
But surely in that four months you were doing some preparation for going to Morotai?
Not really, not really. A lot of them were given leave to go away. I didn’t get leave but a lot of them


did you see because they were going overseas – they all knew.
What was the role of a Medical Clearing Station?
The Medical Clearing Station was a small unit with only thirty-five people in it that had ah ... There were two officers, myself and another bloke and then they had two other officers, an Equipment Officer and an Adjutant and they were for the general running of the thing – but there was only


thirty-five of us altogether. And um what happened was that you were supposed to go in, not with the landing force but with what they called D + 3 I think it was, that means the third day after they had landed, and set up a station to treat all the casualties there you see. And ah ... but we were just formed up there we weren’t, we just did medical work for ourselves at


Morotai. But then when we went into Tarakan we were looking, we were the sort of, the miniature hospital that if anybody got really sick came to you see. And um, but we had an operating tent and we could do not serious operations but some operations there. And then ... But ah ... I’ll tell you a story about that. There was one of the Medical Officers called Mick, Mick


Cater. And he came in one day and he said he’d got into the army to go out on some of their patrols. And ah he said “Oh I’m not supposed to do that because Medical Officers are not allowed to carry arms”. And he said “He’d killed eleven Japs, he’d shot eleven Japs”. And I said “That’s a pretty dangerous sort of thing Mick what are you doing?”


He said ‘Oh I don’t know” he said “I got one through my hat the other day and took his hat off and here’s the bullet going in and coming out there” and he said “Oh I know” and I said ‘Well that’s pretty dangerous” and he said “Oh yes” he said “You know but I used to go hunting in Africa with my father and I’ve been trained to be a wonderful rifle shot”. He said “If you see a tiger coming for you all you have to do is shoot him in the eye and he’s had it you see”. And I said “Well that’s alright”. But


but that tell me that he went out with them – some of the younger ones said – some of the things that he’d done if we put him up he’d get a VC for it but the only trouble was that a Medical Officer can’t carry medical arms and if we put him up for that he’d be court martialled, he wouldn’t get a VC.
A Medical Officer can’t carry ...?
Arms. I’ve seen them in wars nowadays but we didn’t carry any arms at all that was an


international law. And he ah ...
What was this man’s name, can you remember?
Mick Cater.
Mick Cater, right of course you had established that. Sorry I interrupted you just now ...
Yeah but anyhow they said he went out once with them and under enemy fire he went out and got a bloke and brought him in and they put him up for a Military Cross and he got it. Because that was not killing people that was saving people


you see so he got an MC [Military Cross] for that. But he was the most cold blooded character I’ve ever struck in my life. He just said nothing to it you see, just like hunting big game.
What a man. Is he still around?
He’s dead. I only met his son in at the Australian Club a couple of weeks ago and he said his name was Cater and I said is your father Mick, yeah, and I said I knew him at Tarakan. Oh yes he was up at Tarakan.


And I told him the story about being shot and he said oh he’s got the hat, he showed me the hat where the bullet went through his hat. But he’s dead now.
So from, I presume it was from Brisbane that you travelled to Morotai?
No from Sydney. No, no ...
Okay let’s just continue the story from Brisbane. What happened after Brisbane?
We went to Townsville.
Went to Townsville, yeah.
We spent about four months in Townsville. And from there


we embarked for Morotai. And we went on a Liberty ship. It was Americans you see running the ship. And one of the interesting things about it was they decided you only had two meals a day – a good breakfast and a good evening meal you see. And I for a while I found I was quite happy with that you see but the troops didn’t, they kicked up a fuss and went on about it and so on and so I backed them up.


But in later life, in my life when I got very busy when I came back and I was practising I thought to myself I can’t waste time in the middle of the day having a meal so I only had two meals myself. I did it for a long time didn’t I Mary? But if I came home at the weekend and everybody was having a meal I’d sit down at lunch and have it, but during the week I didn’t.
So you said you backed the men up who wanted a third meal.
Did they end up getting the third meal?
No. No they stuck to their idea, they, they,


only two meals a day on this ship.
What exactly was a Liberty Ship?
It’s a special ship built for carrying troops by the Americans.
And what were the conditions like?
Oh the conditions on the ship were alright, they were alright.
It was just the meals.
Yeah. Well that didn’t worry me either. But we ... then we got off at Morotai and I think we spent oh another ... You must think I’m moving all


the time during the war, well I was. Had about six weeks there and then we went into Tarakan. Now I told you about ... we used to go in what was called D + 3. That meant that they’d invade them and on the third day we came in. And we sent up this station and I don’t know whether I told you about all the telephone lines and the story of cutting them off to the front line?
Yes you did mention


that actually. It’s quite amusing.
Yeah and ... but ah ...
Can we just move back to Morotai for a second. When you arrived at Morotai what were your first impressions of the place?
Well it was nearly all Americans there and of course we, we were only a small unit, thirty-five unit you see, thirty-five of us. And we were there ... But then when we went in in the invasion of Tarakan Morotai was, was just a big island there


and they used to have some funny looking insects, beetle sort of things flying around and they had a horn on them you see and I said “I think they ought to be called a Rhinobeetlos.” You know they’ve got a rhinoceros and a beetle, a Rhinobeetlos you see. And so they started to talk about it and they were talking to the Americans and some of the Americans come over to me and they said


“Have you seen these funny insects running around here, they’re called Rhinobeetlos?” And I just made this up. And ... but we got on quite well with the Yanks and they had better pictures than we had and that sort of thing, and we went to their pictures shows there at night. And one night theirs wouldn’t work you see and so they were fiddling around and some bloke in the audience said “Why don’t you kick it in the guts?”
And did they?
Yeah and it worked.


It worked did it?
Well they got it on. I don’t know whether the kick in the guts did it or not but it worked.
For how long did you set up at Morotai?
For about six weeks we were there.
And what did you do during that time?
Oh played baseball. They gave us baseball bats all the Yanks and we played not baseball softball, you know the difference? Yeah well we played softball. It’s the same as baseball except you use a different ball and throw it underarm instead of throwing it.
But surely you went there


with the expectation of receiving casualties?
Oh yeah, yeah we knew.
So to put in your words what did you expect you would be doing on Morotai apart from playing softball?
At Morotai. Oh no you see as far as ... we’d all had all the training. I’d been in the Middle East and been through (UNCLEAR) and up there and there wasn’t much training to do. We just knew what we had to do you see, no special training to do or anything.
Surely with such


a large staff you were having to train a number of them though?
They’d all been trained.
They’d all been trained before the came through?
Oh yeah. There’s Medical Orderlies and then of course we had the chap who had to clean the latrines and he was most wonderful person at looking after the latrines that I’ve struck. He kept them spotlessly clean and so on and so forth. And what he did he poured some petrol down into the latrines and he had ‘No Smoking


In The Latrines’ and put a notice up you see. And bloke had a smoke and dropped it down and it went whoo! And burnt him where you might imagine you see and he said good luck that’s what I wanted him to have.
Wow. So did this guy have to come to you as a patient?
Oh yeah, yeah.
How long did he take to heal?
Oh well he wasn’t terribly badly burnt but nevertheless he got burnt.
There must have been a bit of hilarity over that?
Oh yeah, oh yeah. I tell you there was no smoking in the latrines after that though. And we had there


to get rid of rubbish – I’ll tell you this – a thing called a Choofer. Now petrol was very scarce all over the world but up there it was plentiful. And we had a thing, you dug a trench and you put ... they used to build landing strips out of special planks that they put down ... you didn’t have to get the ground all done. And we got some of these and you put them across the tent you see and on that you pull all your rubbish and then you put


a tank to drop petrol down in and it went choof-choof and burnt all the rubbish up in no time – just got rid of it. That’s why they were called Choofers. It went choof-choof-choof, after the noise it made. And they, and we had that. But we had one difficulty with that because you see you run the petrol down


and the next thing you did was turn the petrol off. One bloke forgot to do that and he lit it and it went back whuuup! But fortunately he wasn’t hurt but it made, it scared everybody.
I bet it did. It must have made quite a racket.
Now you’ve referred to the thirty-five people who were working with you what sort of facilities were you working in? I mean were you working in tents or huts?
We had some huts and some tents.


It was mixture. And ah ...
And what did you expect that you were there to do on Morotai?
Get ready to go to Tarakan. Waiting for everything to be organised so they could start their invasion and then we went. But we were there for about six weeks before they went in. It wasn’t us, we were ready to go in straight away.
No I think you were saying that there was a pocket of Japanese on Morotai?


Had been. There were none there when we got there. But it had been occupied by the Japanese and the Yanks drove them out.
Because there’d been a bit of a no go zone there at point I believe where the Japanese ... although ....
Well that might have been, that was long before we were there.
Before you were there.
Yeah. Because by the time we got there there were no Japanese.
So when were you actually, when did you actually arrive at Morotai?
Now I’ve got to try and work it out.


We left Brisbane about February 1945. And it took us about, oh about three weeks I think to get up to Morotai – two or three weeks. So it would be about February or late February, early March 1945.
No before you went to Tarakan what had you


been told about the Tarakan Landing and what to expect?
They didn’t tell us much. That we had to go and set up this thing and be ready to see what came, come to us – that was all, there was nothing specific. And they ah ... So we had to go in and do this and the amusing thing to me was about the wires being cut, I told you about that. And um, but then we got set up and we could ... You see the planes were flying from there


but none of them got into trouble because the chap that was the Senior, the CO, he was a Group Captain then, had been in the Middle East. He was in 3 Squadron, he wasn’t in the one I was in but I had known him in the Middle East and he was the head CO at Tarakan of the air force.
Do you recall his name?
Ah, wait a minute ...


I’ll try and think of it. No I can’t, I can’t. Gordon Steege could tell you because I told you I met him there.
Now just to move back a step or two could you describe, just staying with Morotai for a moment, could you describe the landscape of Morotai as you found it?
Oh it was just a tropical island there. You know plenty of coconut trees and all the things you’d see on any tropical island.


Not unlike the place I was born in Australia in Cairns.
And did you have any interaction with the locals at all?
No, I don’t remember any locals at all when we were there. No we didn’t.
Now what was the attitude towards the Japanese at this stage – from talking to people and gathering what people’s opinions were?
They were the worst people that ever lived on Earth. That was my opinion of the Japanese.


I’ve since been to Japan and found that they’re lovely people. But at that time they were the most cruel and terrible people on this Earth. That’s how I felt about the Japanese and I think that was the general feeling.
Because they were so cruel to everybody. They didn’t muck about it, they treated the people terribly and all the things that I’d heard about them. And so it came as a bit of a surprise to me when I went to Japan after the war and found out that they were quite nice.


You know but it was just the soldiers and that that ... And I believe a lot of them reckon that in the various camps the most vicious people they had were the Koreans – they reckon they were worse than the Japs.
I have heard that before actually. It was sort of pecking order thing where the Koreans in turn had been given a hard time by the Japanese, both in Korea and elsewhere.
Yeah that’s right.
So could you describe your journey to and your landing on Tarakan?


No. We went over on a ship but it wasn’t very far, I think it was only a matter of a few days or less, I can’t remember accurately. And no we just got off the ship and they said you’ve got to go there and we went there and there was a some dwelling on it but mostly we had to put up tents. And ah ...
So when you say you went there, what was actually there when you got there?
Well there was a few houses and bare


ground – that was all. And ah, but I found out actually we were between our artillery and the Front Line – we were right up ...
Yes now look you alluded to this before and I actually wouldn’t mind hearing the story of the wire and the cables a little more because you referred quite quickly in passing to ...
Okay well what happened when we went to Morotai there was a lot of, wire all over the place.


And we found out it was what the Japanese had had for their telephones. They didn’t put up posts they just laid them on the ground all over the place. And our chaps just thought well this is useful and got the wire and used for all sorts of things to set up their tents and that. When we went into Tarakan here was all this wire again. Great here we are well we’ll get this and ... They were fixing up all their tents with it. And the CO come in and he says – he was a colonel – and he said to me who’s the CO


here? And I said well you’ve, your troops have just cut our artillery off from our Front Line. Because the Front Line was signalling to them where to fire, and they’d cut off their communications you see, it was our wire.
So things had got a little bit chaotic there for a while?
Were you under fire yourself at that time?
No. The only thing that I had they used to creep in at night and if anybody got out at night the instructions were anybody should be shot.


when you say they ...?
When you say they used to creep in, who ...?
The Japs, they’d come in and get into somebody’s tent and put a ... I know not in our unit but in a neighbouring unit they’d got in and put a bomb in the tent and killed the blokes in the tent. They’d creep in at night. And so the rule went out in the army anybody strolling around at night will be shot. And that what was going to happen. So people didn’t roam about at night I tell you. They kept,


kept to their tents.
When you arrived at Tarakan what sort of condition was Tarakan in after the landing?
Well it was you know nothing specific about it, nothing specific but we did meet the locals there whereas we didn’t in Morotai or ... But ah ... and I remember they used to come in and sell us food and things like that. And once they bought some


crabs, and they brought them in the early morning so I had them for breakfast. I love crabs.
It sounds very civilised. What was the demeanour or attitude of these people?
Oh they were very friendly, very friendly. I don’t think they liked the Japs much.
I think they’d had a rather hard time, well anyone in occupied territory had had a hard time under the Japanese.
That’s right.


And did ... I mean you know could you see signs of battle for instance? Was the landscape in anyway damaged?
Oh yes there had been yeah there were a lot of signs of where the battle had been going on.
What could you see?
Oh just you know craters and trees knocked down – mainly that sort of thing. Because I can remember some people came ... In the air force


if you were the CO you had a vehicle and I had a jeep because I was the CO of this unit you see. And any people that came or visitors that came to the island, various people came, I used to take them and show them where the fighting had been. And it was just the landscape was bombed and that sort of thing – nothing more than that.
So you set up there to support the Australian effort, were there any Americans on Tarakan?
There weren’t?


Only Australians.
So Tarakan had been a solely Australian landing?
That’s right.
And ... So once ... How long did it take you to set everything up there once you arrived?
Oh three or four days.
And then after that obviously you started to receive patients?
What did those patients consist of, what sort of injuries were they bringing in?
Oh mostly ah, not so much


injuries but illnesses you know of the simple sort of things that I’d struck in the Middle East and everywhere – nothing specific.
Did you treat anyone that had been injured in battle at all?
So once again ...
There was one chap, one chap who’d got his leg blown off and ah ... yes he had to be ... Because we couldn’t do major surgery and that sort of thing,


we just used to evacuate them back to Australia. And um, but there was one chap he did have his leg shot off but he was in the air force. But they had a bigger army unit there than we were but they ... they could do a bit more than we could but even with


some people like that they had to get evacuated back to Australia.
And so you described or mentioned the fact that you had thirty-five staff.
That’s the whole lot.
That’s the whole lot?
Including myself.
So you began to define what some of the leading roles were but can you give me a bit of a break down of that staff in terms of roles and responsibilities?
Well there were two Medical Officers.


There were four Officers in it – two Medical Officers and Equipment Officer and an Adjutant – only four officers. And the rest were you know other ranks of up to, the highest was I think a sergeant and they did all the things about ... you know carpentry – there were blokes that did that sort of thing and um ... but just all the other things that might be necessary. Cooks of course and


Orderlies and things like that.
Oh so you were entirely self contained?
Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
Self contained and almost self sufficient by the sounds of it.
That’s right yeah.
So you would have had a Q [Quartermaster] Store and a Medical Store ...
Yeah, they used to call them Equipment Officers in the air force.
And what was your expectation before you went there of the kind of work that you’d be doing?
Oh well something like what it was I think ...


about you know that there would be some ... You see we were unlikely to get battle casualties, it would be more or less the things that go along with the general health of any community.
And were you treating any of the locals?
They didn’t come along to you for ...?
So how busy were you in terms of patients during any one week?
Oh every day we


used to have what they call a Sick Parade and that would take up most of the morning and after that you didn’t have very much to do. Well I had to go around and keep the whole unit in order, I was responsible for it as the CO – and keep an eye on things and have inspections so many times a week. Go around and make certain the latrines were all right and all the common things like that and ... You know there was


quite a bit of things to do in that sort of way.
It sounds like an administrative role.
So what, can you be a bit more specific of the kinds of areas that you were expected to look after?
Not really.
Standards, cleanliness, did you have to keep an eye out for things like that?
Oh no I mean I took all that for granted. Really they were all ... that was okay I didn’t have to be doing that, no.
Did you ... I mean you


mentioned that when you were in the Middle East you were dealing with LMF issues, did you have to deal with anything like that?
What do you mean LMF?
Lack of moral fibre type issues.
Oh yeah.
Was there anything, was there anything like that on Tarakan?
No, no.
I mean ...
Only that bloke I told you, the opposite, Mick Cater, who went out and killed eleven Japs.
What um ... I mean when I think of Tarakan I think


more in terms of the army than the RAAF. What was the RAAF overall effort on Tarakan?
It was mainly fighter aircraft they had there. They didn’t have any bombers – mainly fighter aircraft. That would be to sort of help the army. And the fighter aircraft could drop bombs too you see they could drop bombs on the enemy and that sort of thing too.
And was Tarakan seen as one of the,


one of the stepping stones on the way to occupying Japan?
A lot of, yeah a lot of people said it was an Australian thing you see. A lot of people said that it’s doubtful whether it should ever happen, it wouldn’t make any difference but we not only did Tarakan we did Labuan on the other side of Borneo. And um there was a lot of discussion about that but I wouldn’t be in a position to you know say about the overall policy and that sort of thing.
Interviewee: Arthur McManis Archive ID 0680 Tape 07


How long did you spend on Tarakan?
Well we went there in May and the war ended in August but we ...
I’ll just move this up. I just needed to move that cable. I’ll just start you again. How long, how long did you spend on Tarakan?
I spent about ... from ... about eight months. We went there


in May, the war ended in August when they dropped the atom bomb. But then they couldn’t bring everybody home until eventually they got around to us and we all came back and arrived back in Sydney on Christmas Eve nineteen forty-five.
That’s very convenient.
I’ll get back to that again in a moment but just looking at that eight months on Tarakan, where were you in relation to the other RAAF facilities?


Well we were in the same place from the time we arrived until the time we left. I told you about the fighter squads moving all around the Middle East but when we went there to this spot and we stayed in the same spot, we never moved.
Were you on the edge of the airstrip there?
Yes quite close to the airstrip, yeah. They had all these ... They used to make the airstrips, they’d bring a lot of ... sort of things like metal planks or something or a rather and they made them out of these.


I’ve heard of that.
Usually in areas you know where there was a predominance of sand or coral.
That’s right yeah.
And during that time what did you do for recreation?
I don’t think we had any.
You were on duty seven days a week?
Oh yeah.
All thirty-five of you?
Oh yeah. There’s was nothing to do, no.
What about picture shows?
No picture shows. We had one visit,


a visit from Gracie Fields. Have you heard of her?
And she came there and she sang and she entertained us singing one night. That was the only entertainment we had at Tarakan.
It must have been a lot of fun.
Oh yeah, I enjoyed it very much.
And that was a solo show by her was it?
Yeah she did the one on her own yeah. But I’ll tell you ... and thinking of another Gracie Alan who was George Burns wife


and somebody said to her you’re pretty smart. Oh yes she said I’ve got brains I haven’t even used yet.
She was wonderful actually.
No she was good value.
He lived to be about a hundred didn’t he?
He lived to be over a hundred I think.
Over a hundred was he? And Bob Hope just died who was a hundred too.
Yeah that’s right.
Pretty long living those ...
That’s right these comedians.
Bing Crosby didn’t last as long though.
No, no well I think they laughed a little more.


Um, so you’re talking about seven days a week for eight months on Tarakan. Was there any moral problem at all if I mean ...?
No, no. You see the war didn’t last very long while we were there. They overcame them pretty quickly and then the peace came you see we were there for four months with no war on at all. And um, ah ...


No I think that was the ... Oh I can remember they tried to organise something, a quiz night, you know asking questions, having two teams and things like that they tried to have. And I can remember one question I used to try and trick them with. Tell me two countries in the world whose name starts with ‘A’ but doesn’t end in ‘A’? Well in those days


one was the Argentine but now it’s called Argentina, so it’s out, and the other’s Afghanistan. And so that’s a question I could trick them with.
Absolutely, yeah. That’s pretty good. And what were most of the conditions you were treating on Tarakan?
Oh very common, nothing in particular, no in particular just ordinary things that people get.
Colds, infections, things of that nature.


Did you ever see or treat any Japanese prisoners?
No. No I hated them at that time in my life.
Would you have treated them if they had come in as patients?
Oh yes, oh yeah. Yes as a doctor you’ve got to do that you see no matter what you feel yourself. But ah I wouldn’t have been you know terribly happy about it but I would have done the best I could for them.
What about malaria, were you treating any


malaria cases?
We had a drug called Atebrin. And it was ... you had to take one tables every day and it made you go all yellow and it was called the Atebrin Tan. And it worked most efficiently. Malaria wasn’t a problem. They reckon that in Milne Bay in New Guinea that more people died from Malaria than from enemy action. It was terrible


unit and they got a special unit that Professor Blackburn who was a young bloke, one of the leaders there at that time, and they devised what they should do in America and they recommended this Atebrin. Well it certainly worked with us. And you knew who was taking it and who wasn’t taking it because if they weren’t yellow they weren’t taking it. Because there are some people like that who just don’t want to do it. But um of course if they didn’t take it that would be a self inflicted


disease. But we had no malaria at all.
So you didn’t have to deal with any malaria patients at all.
It’s just fallen off. Right, and we were you treating only RAAF personnel?
Yeah, only RAAF.


So it sounds to me like it was a predominantly RAAF presence on Tarakan?
Oh no the army was more. There were army.
There was more army personnel?
Oh yes much more.
And I presume they would have had their own medical facilities?
Yeah they did and they had a bigger unit. You see ours was only a small unit. They had a bigger unit with a fully qualified surgeon who was there too.
Now during that


eight months, seven days a week on average how many patients would you be seeing a week?
You’re getting a bit difficult there. I don’t know. I suppose ... On Sick Parade every day there’d be about a dozen or so and if you multiply that by seven, because every day was a work day in those days, there’d be eighty odd would come.


And what sort of conditions did they have?
Just the ordinary, just the things that I’m telling you about all the time – nothing specific at all. We didn’t get ... As I say Malaria was beaten and um ...
What about tropical skin conditions?
No we didn’t seem to have much problem with that.
Whereas in New Guinea they did.
Yes, yes. No we didn’t. You’d think they would perhaps but no.


you returned to Australia on Christmas Eve nineteen forty-five. Can you tell us about your homecoming back to Australia?
Oh well I was very happy, very happy to be back home again. And ah ... Although they said ... I told you whenever you came back you had two weeks disembarkation leave and I had two weeks disembarkation leave and they said to me would you


like to stay on in the air force? I said oh no I’d like to get out. So I got out and I, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do but then I decided I’d been out of surgery for so long, it was about five and half years I was in the air force, that I would sooner be a physician. And so I did a special course, it was a postgraduate


course for ex-servicemen in Medicine. And then I ... at the end of that year, it was about October or something, I sat for what they called the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ Exam and I passed it. And at that time I decided that I’d like to go into chest medicine you see. And so I went up to a chap called Cotter Harvey who was the most prominent


chest doctor in Sydney and I told him what I wanted to do and I said now who would you recommend me to go to in England, where would I do my training, I want to get training in England? Because at that time England was you know the place. And he said oh I wouldn’t go there now and I said why not? And he said oh conditions are terrible there, there’s still rations and it’s awful. And so I said well what do you think I ought to do? He said well now


I think I can get you a job at the Concord Repatriation Hospital – or it wasn’t then a repatriation it was still army, still army – there’s a lot of TB [Tuberculosis] there and TB was the main thing. So he said I can get you a job there so okay he got me a job there but during that year I said I want to go to England, I want to get properly trained.


And so I told them that I was going to England and they said well now if you will accept it we’ll give you, we’ll pay you a salary and let you go for twelve months to England, we’ll pay your fare over and you can get ... and when you get there you can train but after one year is enough we don’t want you to do the London membership because


you’ve already got the Australian one, and come back and work for Concord. And I thought it over and I said to myself well that’s a wonderful offer but I think I’d like to take my chance and go over, and I want to get that London membership because that was the best one to get you see at that time, and then get some training in England. I didn’t know how long I wanted to stay there and they said one year only. I ended up going there for nearly three


or two and half years. And they said we want you to work at Concord when you come back and I said well you know I didn’t know if I wanted to do that. I said thank you very much it’s a wonderful offer but I don’t want to accept. So I went over and I then did a special course in London and sat for the London membership and got that. So then I went to a hospital down in Medhurst in


Sussex in England called the King VII Sanatorium. This was a sanatorium built by King Edward the Seventh. What he had done, Sir Ernest Castle who was Lady Mountbatten’s father, gave, he was in friendly with the King, he gave him two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, pounds mind you, that would be many millions now, do what he liked.


And King VII said well I’ve just been to Germany and they’ve got a wonderful place for treating Tuberculosis called a sanatorium there, I’d like to build one. And they built this one down in Medhurst, Sussex and it was the most beautiful place I’d ever been in when I went there – you wouldn’t think it was a hospital. And the ... So ah ... When I went to England there was a chap called Sir Geoffrey Todd and he was an Australian and he was the Superintendent of this hospital.


He’d gone over to England and trained in chest medicine and eventually he became the Superintendent of Medhurst. And he came out to Australia just before I left and he said “I believe you’re coming to England at the end of the year.” I said “Yes” and he said “How are you travelling?” and I said “By boat”. He said “Well I’m flying and I’ve got a big case, it’s a bit difficult. Would you mind bringing it over for me?” “Oh yes” I said “I’ll be willing to bring it over for you.” So I brought it over for him and when I got there I went down to him


and he said “What are you going to do?” I said “Well I want to do that London membership – I’ve got a special course I’m doing there”. He said “Well when you get the membership come down here and I’ll see what I can do for you”. So I was lucky I got it the first time I sat for it and I went down to him and he said “Well stay a couple of weeks and see what you think of the place” and oh it was marvellous. And then he said “Well look there were five medical officers there”, and he said “They’re all due for holidays, would you mind doing a locum


for those five of a month?” “Okay.” So I stayed there for five months doing locums for these doctors you see. And then at the end of the year they all wanted to get their London membership and they were in this TB and not enough experience to get the London membership and I said “I don’t think you’ve got a chance of getting this you want to” ... and there was one bloke there called Charlie Downs and I thought he was the brightest of the lot of them, I thought he was the only bloke who might have a slight chance, and I said “If you can get


a course on a London hospital it’s a wonderful training course I think that would help you because you’re not getting enough general medicine.” So I told this to Toddy, Geoff Todd and he said “Alright well he can go and do that course, would you mind doing his locum here again?” So I said “Okay I’ll stay on.” So I ended up there for that long and that’s where I met Marion there you see. And um so I did that and


the poor fellow, there were a number of different exams you’ve got to sit for and he got to the last exam and failed at the last one. But he went for it again the next time and got it and so ... But then I’d wanted to go to ... I applied ... There’s a thing ... Sir Harry Wandley was a chap that controlled Tuberculosis in Australia – I don’t know whether you’ve ever heard of him, he was a wonderful chap. And he had this whole plan,


remember the mass x-ray, everybody had to be x-rayed. He had special hospitals built and all this sort of thing and he gave a scholarship, he was a wealthy man, he gave a scholarship to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and I applied for that and I got it so that sort of helped me. And um, and then when I was over there there was a chap called Sir Harry, not Sir Harry, Harry Windsor who was a Chest Surgeon at St Vincent’s


and he rang me and he said, he said Geoff he said “I believe you’re over here training to be a Chest Physician?” and I said “Yes”. And he said “Well I’m over here training to be a Chest Surgeon.” He said “It would be wonderful for me if I had a physician at the hospital there who was specially trained in Chest Medicine, would you be willing to come?” Oh sure I would you see. So he came back and he convinced them that they needed ... And he had this job created and I applied


for it and I had a job to go to at St Vincent’s. And also at North Shore this Cotter Harvey he’d followed what I was doing over there too and he wanted me to go to North Shore, so I went to both. So it’s very unusual to be as specialist of two teaching hospitals but I was. And so that’s how it all worked out.
That was fantastic. So you stayed with both those hospitals for some years?
Yeah until I retired.
Yeah, yeah.


And um ... I’ve just got to consult my notes here. Excuse me Marion we’ll just continue to record for another few minutes and then we’ll take a tea break.
That’d be lovely.
I asked you about changes to Australia during the previous occasion you’d returned from overseas, were there any changes that you could see in Sydney or Australia when you came back from Tarakan?


Oh Tarakan? No not really.
The other thing I wanted to ask was had you at any stage either in the Middle East or up in the islands had to perform any kind of surgery?
Oh yeah I did a bit, I did a bit at Tarakan.
What sort of surgery did you have to do?
Oh ah a couple of Appendices – nothing major you know. Just little things like that.


And you felt quite confident about doing this?
Oh yes. I’d been at Newcastle where I’d had a lot of training in surgery – in fact I was going to be a surgeon but along came the war and I changed my mind.
What specifically changed your mind away from being a surgeon?
Well I hadn’t done any surgery, hadn’t had any training, that would take a long time and I got fired on chests


mainly by Cotter Harvey. Some of these courses I told you of when I came back I did, he was a real enthusiast and he went on on what a great thing it was and that sort of fired my interest in it.
Now I wanted to ask you about tuberculosis at that time because of course it hasn’t been a factor in Australia for quite a long time now. How severe or how widespread was tuberculosis in the nineteen forties in Australia?
Terrible. It was called the White Death.


As I said to you when I first came back I would have about two hundred people with Active Tuberculosis under my personal care – and that’s not just following up people ... Because tuberculosis at that time it was thought could not be cured. You never talked about it being cured, you talked about it being quiescent or arrested. You just waited for the day when it was coming back. So everybody had to have a check even if they look all right –


once a year have an x-ray.
Every adult?
No everybody that had tuberculosis in their life. You see afterwards it would have to be checked. But now they’ve got wonderful drugs, in my career with tuberculosis and also this scheme in Australia they had to control it that Harry Wanderley devised it.
Just going back to how much of a problem it was, you’ve referred to it as The White Death. Why was it known at The White Death?


Oh I don’t know why that name was applied to it because it affected mainly young people and they got it. You could get it later in life too but mainly young people got it.
What were the symptoms?
Loss of weight, night sweats, coughing blood and ah they were the main things. Sometimes it was present for a while before you got any symptoms. And that’s why


it became compulsory, Harry Wandley made it possible for everybody to have an x-ray, compulsory and when they came to you you had to have it otherwise you were fined. And you’d pick it up on the x-ray before they had any symptoms at all. So that was one thing – the early you got it the better your chance of treating it.
That’s right. I can remember in the nineteen fifties and sixties there were mobile x-ray units that would travel from suburb to suburb.
That’s right, that’s it. Yeah that’s right


and it was Harry Wandley that started that.
Apart from x-rays there was also the Mantoux Test wasn’t there?
Oh yeah the Mantoux Test, yeah. All the Mantoux Test shows you is that you’ve been infected with tuberculosis some time before. It doesn’t say you’ve got tuberculosis. Because tuberculosis is a terribly interesting disease because you have the primary infection that doesn’t ... you can get some trouble from that but not much at all.


But you get over that and you get the reinfection and that’s when you get sick. Now do you remember Archie Jackson?
No I don’t actually.
He was a famous Australian Cricketer and at seventeen he got into the Australian Team and in his first test in Adelaide against England he scored a hundred and sixty-four runs. He died of tuberculosis when he was twenty-three. If he’d been alive when the drugs came he could have been cured. But ah


then it got to that ... But as I say you know I’d have about two hundred active patients I’d be treating with Active Tuberculosis when I first came back to Australia.
How would you treat them?
Bed rest was the main thing in the start and then even more important was the drugs. And then some of them, before ... at one stage you used to have to have surgery and have a bit of their lung out or another thing called a Thoracoplasty where they took ... collapsed the lung


down with taking the ribs out. And actually it was a very fascinating disease. Not so good for the patient who had it.
Why was it fascinating?
Because it was not like any other disease. You get the infection and you get a primary infection and most of the people would get over that – they’d get a positive back too because they had tuberculosis – and, but they don’t tell the patients that, they just say oh yes


it could be tuberculosis but they don’t say it means you’ve had it. But then they got BCG, that’s Bacillus Celmette Guerin, after two Frenchmen. And you inject the people a modified form of tuberculosis. And you used to give them BCG injections. Their contacts ... Contacts you know, people ... You had to examine all the contacts


and ah because it’s an infectious disease. And ah ... there were so many different things to any other disease.
The BCG was a protection ...?
No a treatment. Bacille Celmat Gerran, that was ... You had one, one injection and that made you become positive but you didn’t tuberculosis from it.


Oh so it was a preventative treatment was it?
But it wouldn’t cure?
No. Oh no not using the treatment at all.
Given the contagious nature of tuberculosis were you ever worried you would catch it yourself?
No, because there were a lot of doctors who’d had TB that became specialist and they broke down later and got it, like you’d get better and then break down again you see.


I didn’t know one doctor who didn’t have tuberculosis and treated it that ever got it. I had no worries whatsoever. So that ... But you see when I first came back the Red Cross started a hospital out at Strathfield called the Eva Horton Hospital. And that was for treating pregnant women who had tuberculosis. Because they used to


x-ray all pregnant women in those days and some were found to have tuberculosis. And they were put into this hospital, it was only a thirty bed hospital, and I got a job out there and I used to live on the grounds of this hospital and our first three children were born out there. Because I lived on the grounds I gave them all BCG’s but the other two were born later on and I didn’t give them BCG’s because Tuberculosis was on the out then. But when I gave up


practice, that’s about fourteen years ago, I had three patients. Now that’s a bit of difference isn’t it?
What had turned tuberculosis around?
Well I think Harry Wanderley’s plan.
What was Harry Wanderley’s plan?
Harry Wanderley’s plan was first of all to x-ray everybody in the community – that’s mass x-ray – so you picked it up before they got symptoms, that was one thing. He built hospitals where they could be treated. North Shore was one, PA [Royal Prince Alfred Hospital] was another and St Vincent’s was another.


Special hospitals for treating TB. And they had to have special training, he wanted them to get training and he gave them training with this Wanderley Scholarship that I got. And they were the main things. And of course the drugs came on and they were wonderful. The first drug was Streptomycin you see but the trouble with that is if you gave it to a patient he could become resistant to it and not be effective.


But then they got another one called Paraminocylicacid which was referred to as PAS. And they found it while I was in England. If you gave those both together you were prepared for the emergence of a resistant strain so you could give the treatment to everybody straight away, not have to wait until some dangerous part when you wanted it. And I wrote back to Cotter Harvey and told him about this great discovery and he sped out throughout Australia you see. And I think that’s one of the reasons he got me on at North Shore. And um


but then they got Isocyanine and that was the best of the lot of them and now they’ve got Rhyaphapacine. But now they’ve got even newer ones since I’ve left. In fact Medicine, I reckon it has advanced so much that even though I reckoned I was at the top and knew all about treating tuberculosis, I’d be out of date now. It’s fourteen years since I ... I reckon that in medicine, I started medicine in nineteen thirty, and from nineteen thirty


until the present day there’s been more improvement in medicine than the whole history of mankind before. Because that’s happened in all sorts of things – you know in machinery and computers and everything else. But in medicine I reckon since nineteen thirty there’s been more advances than the whole history of mankind before. Because I’ve studied the history of mankind about disease and all this thing and what went on and all the funny things they used to do. But it’s


still advancing.
Mm, it sounds like quite a fascinating career, quite a fascinating career.
Oh yeah.
And just looking – because we’re coming to the end of the interview – um could you tell us a bit about your children?
Yes. I had five children. Ah three boys and two girls. Ah one of the boys is a very brilliant chap. He,


he you know got honours in medicine going through and got through it and he got this fellowship and then he decided he wanted to be a Neurologist. And so he got a scholarship to the Mayer Clinic, you must have heard of that in American the Mayer Clinic. And he went there and he did his year and at the end of the first year they said is there any special branch of Neurology you’re interested in and he said electromyography. Oh we’ve got a special department in that and they put him in that and he did that for a year.


At the end of the third year they said have you ever done any research? He said no. Then they said well you ought to do some. He did a year’s research on rats and published things and got an MD for what he did on the rats. And then they said to him how would you like to join the staff? He said I was astounded – the Mayer Clinic? I tell you what it is, to give you an idea. Our big hospitals would have three or four Neurologists.


On the Mayer Clinic they had fifty-two. It’s an immense place. It’s in Rochester and Rochester is just one ... one thing going it’s the Mayer Clinic, that’s what Rochester is. It’s got seventy thousand people there and there’s nothing else there but the Mayer Clinic.
I’m actually just wanting a bit of a summary about your children. You did talk about the son that’s been ill and had the treatment ...
That’s the one, that’s the one. He’s been ill but he’s now I think recovering.


How many other children do you have?
I have four others – two girls who did Physiotherapy and one boy who went into the bank, he’s a Bank Manager now with the NAB [National Australia Bank]. He does just millions of loans, he’s a Loan Manager that’s what they call him. And the third one didn’t know what to do. He started off doing Science and he got a B of S [Bachelor of Science] at Sydney. And I said to him that won’t get you anywhere unless you want to go into teaching. Oh he said I don’t want to go into teaching.


So then he said I’m going to doing something. But he, he went in and he got a job as an usher in the theatres in the city. He did that then he went to Pancakes On The Rocks at Bondi and was the Cook at the Pancakes On The Rocks. Then he got into computers and he went and did a special course in computers and he’s done very well. And he’s got on in that and ah


he went to work with of all things the British American tobacco company. I said Peter about half my patients came to me because they smoked. Oh he said “We know that, we know that, we don’t tell them that it won’t do them any harm. If you’re stupid enough to smoke then we’ll make them for you.” And that he said is our philosophy. And then he went up to, they sent him up to Kuala Lumpur where he still is and


they decided to cut down on the staff and they gave him, he was going to be ... his appointment would be terminated at the end of May. But they found they wanted some seminars given in June and they said would you mind staying on until June, you’re the only one here who can give those things. And so he stayed on. And I said did they pay you? He said three times what I was getting before.


So he’s now decided he’s going to try and start a business of his own teaching this in Malaysia. But he’s got to ... he’s got to get a work permit and all of this sort of thing to get on. But ah we’re hoping he can do it because he likes doing it in Kuala Lumpur for some reason or a rather.
It’s an interesting place, very interesting.
So have you maintained contact with friends you made during the war?


Only ... not really. But Gordon Steege because I see him at least once a year. That’s about as close as I could say to that.
And do you belong to the RSL [Returned and Services League] or any associations?
I was in the RSL but I didn’t see any point in it and I dropped out of it. The only contact I’ve kept is with ... I told you there’s this association they’ve formed called the 450 Squadron Association was formed just after the war and I


was made their patron and I’m still their patron. But the only thing I go to that now - see I’m getting on a bit, I’m nearly ninety-two – and so I go to their Annual General Meeting and Luncheon. But I haven’t got a great ... Except ... No that’s not ... No I was thinking of something else about the university. I’ve got a ... In the Queen’s Birthday Honours List last year


I got an OAM [Order of Australia Medal]. Not for the war but for what I did in medicine you see. And various people wrote to me and Sydney University wrote to me and said we see there’s a doctor Arthur Geoffrey McManis who got an OAM and the Chancellor of the University wanted to know is that’s you because you see the only one we’ve got there, you see he lives in


fifty-five Ashley Street, no, no eleven Cable Street, Wollstonecraft. And I said oh that’s me alright but I left there fourteen years ago. They’d got out of contact with me you see so I said I’m the bloke, why do you want to know? And he said well the Chancellor just likes to know if any of their graduates get an honour you see. So that was that. Nothing to do with the war.
Congratulations I didn’t


know that you’d had that award. Now we’re coming to the end of the interview and I’m just wondering if there are any other aspects that we haven’t covered that you’d like to put on record on this tape?
I think I’ve told you all the jokes. Oh no I’ve got a lot of jokes but I’m not going to bore you with them.
Tell us over tea.
Well look on behalf of Rebecca and myself and indeed the entire Film Archive Project I’d like to thank you very much for a fascinating and at times very


entertaining but also above all else very informative interview.
Well thank you very much and I’d like to thank you and Rebecca. I’ve enjoyed it very much myself.
Many thanks.


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