day I found my birth certificate and it was 11 Wood Street Osborne, which is adjacent to Claremont but that’s where it was recorded in Claremont. So I’m hoping to go back one day again and have a look to see if the house is still there. Had a good, had a very good early life and it was near the Swan River, and I remember when we were about 11
or, 10 or 11 Dad used to take us to swim down at the old Claremont Baths before breakfast and they used to have, cause they were baths not like we know today, they were just sort of on wooden piles in the river, in the Swan River and you’d go out on the jetty and there was the enclosed swimming area. And of course the state championships wouldn’t be like today, because
if it was rough water would come through and it would be a bit, you know not as calm as it should be. But anyway that’s what it was like and there was one section for women only, blokes couldn’t go in there but they could come into our side. Oh no, we used to do a lot of swimming there. We used to go to Church, Sunday school of course in the early days and then, and Dad, and then there was a service at 10.00
it might have been 9.30 for young people when we were confirmed. This is in the Anglican Church, and they used to have swimming club races down there at the Claremont Baths, starting at 10.00 so Dad got the organisers and made them put it back to 11.00 so that fine young blokes and girls who went to Church they could still compete. Anyway, that, I saw
lots of championships there and every day of our school holidays I’d be down at the baths and in the Swan River, it was really a great life. I went to the Claremont Practicing School, it’s called that because it was attached to the, Teachers Training College, there was only one Teachers Training College for the whole of Western Australia and it was beside our school, so the teachers could come and
practice on us, that’s, so they didn’t go to other schools they just came to us and practiced on us. Not all the time, but there was some, it was very good, but after, there was no scholarship examination like we have in Queensland. But anyway, I somehow, I was a year behind, I don’t know why, I used to have nervous ticks when I was a kid, still got the odd one occasionally. But, whether I was kept
back for some reason, I went to a girls school for one year, I remember and girls, I don’t know whether it was [(UNCLEAR)] over there, It’s called something else now, opposite where my grandmother lived. And, anyway, somehow I was, when I left the Claremont Practicing School and went to a school called Hales School which is found in 1858, which is rather a fine school in
Perth and what we call one of the GPS [Great Public Schools] schools I suppose here in Brisbane. Anyway I was always a year older and when I, you know, in my junior year, I was, as I said I was 16, I’d just turned 16, well most people would be 15, for junior and then go onto senior at 17, anyway, sorry that’s not important I suppose. But I know, anyway Dad was working at the
Commonwealth Bank, he was a founding member at the Bank and, he was posted to Fremantle and then took over as Manager and because they were new Banks, they didn’t have a lot of trained staff and he was there for 17 years in the one place. He was Manager for 17 years I think and then all of a sudden in 1933, he was transferred to Townsville, now how’s that for a move. Fremantle to Townsville. So off
we went of the ship, and I was suppose to do my junior, because it was September just in the holidays, just before the last term before junior. I would imagine, and I couldn’t be left behind, my older brother was left behind, he was already working in the Commonwealth Bank too, Mount Magna. And my younger brother and I, Mum and Dad, we shipped off in the ship on the old Carella and made our way up to Townsville. It was quite exciting going through
Sydney and that, anyway, got up to Townsville, I remember I went to the Townsville Grammar School and there are on 93 in the school, this is 1933 in the Depression years and it didn’t cost that much you know if you had your scholarship deal, in the Queensland system for going to school. But there were only 93 and I remember I was the only boy in the school with running shoes. I was a bit of a high jumper and a runner and,
that’s how it was up there and, but I loved it I loved Townsville and my father loved it but my mother didn’t because it was so hot in the summer and she was a Melbourne girl and she didn’t like it. Anyway after 3 ½ years he was transferred to Launceston. So anyway he had two moves, Fremantle to Townsville, Townsville to Launceston. That’s where my younger brother finished up and that’s where he retired.
So I didn’t, I arrived there and of course all the boys were, I was in the junior year but they said you’ve got no hope and I knew I didn’t have any hope because the Queensland maths was very difficult, anyway they said, oh you can do it next year. So here I was I’d be turning 17 in 1934 just still doing my junior when I should have been doing my senior, but anyway it didn’t matter, because no one ever went to university much
in those days and if I’d had my time over again I would have worked harder and like to have been a school master. But anyway, I got a job with a firm called Burns Philp, probably with the help of my father, he used to have a drink after work with the boss so, anyhow that’s how it happened. In the Depression it was hard to get a job and, I started at Burns Philp, which is the biggest firm in North Queensland, had, in New Guinea, they had, they were the
octopus of New Guinea they had a shipping line, they had everything but there no longer up there. There is no office in Townsville anymore but they were wonderful firm and I worked in the agency department, looked after various agencies like licensed, galvanised iron and we had agents for Nestles, everything, cigarettes, you can get cheap cigarettes, you use to smoke in those days. Anyway so I left school and did that and then I
joined a 31st Battalion Militia, as it was called in those days and did 3 years until I got bored with that and then I went home and became a lifesaver in the Magnetic Island. You use the work lifesaver rather loosely because you don’t save lives inside the Barrier Reef, too often. But we used to carry them it out as a sport. And we did quite well, in fact one year we got second in the State Championship, in what they call a rescue
and resuscitation event which was second to Burley Heads which, they were really stars. Anyway I became, Captain in the year 37, 38 and became a chief instructor the next year but war broke out so I immediately joined up, because I forgot to mentioned when I was at Hale School I had a year in the School Cadets, in 1932 so I knew a bit about it
so I knew, it seemed to be inevitable that I would join the army. And its interesting there are a couple of things happened about that time, which pushed me forward a bit, I’d just broken it off with my girlfriend, the boss had just gone crock at me because I didn’t know some, the answer to some question that he’d given me and I, and the family had disappeared to Tasmania so I though oh well I’ll
join up. So I joined up right at the very start, I was in the first plane made to leave Townsville and joined the 2/12th Battalion which is, half Tasmanian and half North Queensland. And because I was an instructor, at the lifesaving club you leant to give orders and I had a loud voice and when we went to Redbank I the very early days we came down in the train and went to Redbank and we
were there for about 3 weeks and then went down to a place called Rutherford, near Maitland in New South Wales, where we joined up with the Tasmanians. And they were trying people out to be corporals and things like that, and because I could give orders and had a good voice I was made a corporal, right from the very start. Anyway we went then, went then went down to Ingleburn in New South Wales
when the 16th, when the 16th Brigade had already left for the Middle East and we stayed there until May, then the Battalion sailed for the Middle East too but I got left behind with a few others to do an officers course. And I don’t know whether I should go into all this detail now, but then I served, I served, I did the officers course and eventually
we sailed with, but the Battalion went to England and I missed a trip to England. Because when they were on the Queen Mary going over and then, which is a troop ship, and Italy came into the war, Mussolini bought them into the war and they were worried about the Italian navy that they might be exposing the convoy to the navy, so they diverted to the UK [United Kingdom] and they had five months in England, it was during the Battle Of
Britain there and they didn’t have any fighting, they made a few pop shots at planes going over and things like that, and we had to wait, after we’d done this course, there’s a story involved about my connection here, I don’t know whether I should tell you now or save it up. I think I’ll save it up. But anyway we went to, we sailed in December 40, I was on the Queen Mary, it was quite good and landed at Bombay, for a while then we were transferred
to another ship called the Dilwarra, a troopship and went into Acre which is in Palestine, the old Palestine and then, waited there at the Training Battalion in Palestine until the Battalion went up to Tobruk, so we, some of us went up to Tobruk to join them and I was joining a Battalion in Tobruk, you know where Tobruk is? No.
Well Tobruk, Tobruk was a place where the Australian had settled there and it was a thorn in the side to Rommel who was a German commander who was aiming to get the Cairo, and take Cairo and decimate the British forces there, but we made it more difficult for him because it was a wonderful port, Tobruk and he had to bring
all his gear from Benghazi, much further away and his tanks and all his ammunition supplies whereas if he could take Tobruk, it could have made it much easier for him. But we held out and we, our Battalion was there for 5 months and I’ll tell you more about that later but then we came out of that and we went up to Syria, up in the Turkish boarder, patrolling,
no fighting there, then the Japanese came into the war in December 1941, and we were bought back to Australia, our Division. And we came back and we first came into Adelaide, then we came up to Tenterfield and then up to Kilcoy in the Brisbane Valley, and
then eventually, I got engaged then, because my wife wanted to get engaged and even married I think before I left, but I though I didn’t want to engage in marriage, I might not come back you know, your worried about how you’d go. So we, and then the Japs landed in New Guinea and off we went to Milne Bay and we were in the defence in Milne Bay which I will tell you about later. Then from Milne Bay we went, we had 4
separate campaigns, [(UNCLEAR)] Island where they’d get rid of some Japs [Japanese] there then Buna then Sanananda, then we came back to Australia, and I got married. That’s in March 43 we got back to Australia, in Brisbane and we got married my wife and I, and I had malaria, got malaria about 3 times, actually. But eventually made my way back
to the battalion, and my wife in the meantime, which I’ll tell you about later, she became what you might call a camp follower. She heard I was going back, I’d only just married her a month or so, and here I am going back with the unit. So she got her way up there, which is a good story, and then we went back up to New Guinea the second time. But, when I got there, I was
asked by the brigade commander, if I’d like a rest, he said “I think you’ve done your share”, because I’d been a platoon commander in 5 different campaigns and when you’re the platoon commander your out in front. Not only are the Infantry out front but when you’re a platoon commander you’re the first to cross the line, that sort of thing. And so you want a rest”, he said “The new corps commander who is a lieutenant general he’s wanting a ADC [Aide-de-Camp], would you like to apply for the
job”, I said “oh I might too”, so because I’d just got married and a lot of my friends hadn’t returned to the Battalion, and I though oh yeh why not so I took the rest. Anyway I went up and joined the general and he was a corps commander, the ARF Corps, which is a big job, he had a personal assistant, a captain and I was the ADC, and I was made a captain then too. And got my commission
actually in Tobruk, anyhow we used to be situated near General [Douglas] MacArthur’s headquarters. This was in Dutch New Guinea at a place called Morotai and then from there we went up to the Philippines, and we were there for about a year, and then all the time, then there was a new headquarters made up and, my boss was made chief of staff to the
General [Thomas] Blamey, he was the commander and chief of the Australian army, he became the chief of staff outside Australia anyway, we had a new little headquarters then called Fordes HQ and the war finished and the next thing we’d go up to the signing of the surrender in Tokyo Bay, its Yokohama actually, in Tokyo Bay, and I went up with the general and of course, I’m only small beer, I’m only a captain, but on that
ship, the cruise ship there are all these commanders from the other areas like Burma and the European Front, see that was finished 6 months earlier. The war in Europe was finished and they came with this special troop ship called the General Sturgis, anyway up we went and got up to Yokohama. I didn’t go aboard the [USS] Missouri where the surrender was signed but we watch the four destroyers go
out to the ship, out to the Missouri, which is a huge aircraft carrier sitting in Tokyo Bay, and that’s where it was all signed. And my boss and Blamey, General Blamey, they were the only two that were in the Australian army and we watched them all go out. And then after that back to Morotai, the war was over, he said I’ve got one more job for you Neil, I want you to go across to Singapore with General O’Callaghan who was acting commander of the 8th Division
in Singapore when General Bennett, the commander of the 8th Division came back to Australia on a launch led to him by the Sultan of Gabrall he was criticised for it he should of stayed with the troops they said. Anyway this old General O’Callaghan he used to have, they used to have two shops in Sydney, they called his Bruce O’Callaghan, anyway, he was, he’d been locked up for 3 years and booked them up in northern Japan and, anyway off we went in the aircraft,
over to Singapore and there was all the prisoners of war, see that was his Division, the 8th Division, where he was acting commander only briefly, there was no body it was just the tidying up when they were prisoners, and he wanted me to see the boys. So we went over there and saw some things, that reminded me of Townsville, in one of the Battalions there, and up to, then up to Bangkok and Thailand to see some more up there. Some more Officers
were camped up there. Then back to Australia and the war was over. Then after the war, just before the war ended the general said to me “you don’t want to go back to that Burns Philp, do you Neil, I’ll get you a better job”, he said “Brigadier Wells, who was a deputy director of military intelligence. He’s the boss, he’s the manager, director of G & O Wells there’s an office in Brisbane would you like to work there?”. I said “Oh yes I’ll see what his got to say”.
So I finished up, I got a job working in George Wells Brisbane to be manager. But because the manager was to go away and start a branch somewhere else, but it didn’t happen so I stayed there, for about 5, from 1946 to 53, 7 years I worked for them and I was sort of senior sales manager or something. But it was only a small office. And I started my
own business. I bought a business selling filter pads, and filters and it wasn’t enough to educate all my children so I had to get other agencies, I had a whole lot of agencies, I had women stuff , I had men stuff I had hardware lines, ships, you now jack of all trades and master of none, that was me, but anyway I carried on and in 1963, these people that used the filter pads,
they were people like Seppelts, all the wine people in the brewery’s they all had these filter, they’d bring up there wine and spirits in casks and then filter them into bottles. And they needed filter pads from me. They’d use them up and then they’d have to buy another lot and it was a fair business, but I needed more see. Anyway what happened all of a sudden they decided,
in about, it must have been in about 1964, 1964, yes when I was about 46, they decided that they’d bring it all up in bottles, so they didn’t need my filter pads, so I lost my main business overnight. I had 3 kids to have been educated privately and, I was in real trouble, see. So I though what can I do, so I finished up working for Prudential, the man from the desert you know selling insurance and superannuation
which is one of the few things that you can do. At my age it was hard, I didn’t have, I wasn’t a trained Engineer, or trained this or trained that. But anyway I did quite well out of it though, I made more money actually out of that then I did before. But, anyway I got fed up with that, and then I retired, I worked for them for a while then I switched over to Suncorp because I liked it there, better rates
and I retired at 60. So I didn’t have a lot of super, you know that’s the trouble. But anyway, so I got, finished up getting the Veterans Affairs Pension and had some cash on the side of course, and after that I just had a good life and joined the bowls club and, and. I’ll tell you what in 1963 I was President of Brisbane Legacy, that, I joined Legacy in 53
and I was President, in 53, President in 63 and here I am President of Brisbane Legacy and I just lost a business. It was a bit of a worry, anyway it worked out alright in the end. But we, played bowls, went for trips with my wife, and friends from Melbourne, a fellow I met, he, I met this bloke up, we were opposite the old burnt out Madila Hotel
and I was, this fellow used to kick a football after work, he was an Aussie [Australian] Rules bloke. I used to play Aussie Rules before I went to Townsville, but anyway he was a wonderful bloke and our wives had met and got on famously and we used to go for lots of trips up to the Snowy, all around, perhaps 4 or 5 joints we went together in our cars and lived in adjoining motels. Anyway so that’s about
my story up to date. Is that enough.
you’d get about a pint a day for everything. And rations were weak, we were, you see we were alarmed to find, supplies coming up, in destroyers and war ships and that sort of thing. Because the Germans had us surrounded, and we used to come up and down in the middle of the night hoping the Germans wouldn’t get us, like when we came in and out of the place.
But up there in, near the water, there’s no shower or anything like that but you’d be I the front line, in the front line for about 3 weeks and then you’d be relieved. And when you took into the reserves line you could go on a group march down to Tobruk Harbour and have a swim. And there was also a water point there we you could have as much water as you want, but you couldn’t take it back with you. So while we were in the front line
it was very heavily restricted with water. And, yes well Tobruk, they used to get heavy air raids at the start, but it didn’t seem to worry me much, I got, I got there 3 weeks after the Battalions. But at the very start they had a lot of, but I, they used to come over and fire but it wasn’t a real problem for me I felt.
The worst feature was having to get up at first light, you’d be 2 hours on and 4 hours off, or whatever, you’d be up part of the night standing too. Then you would stand too at first light, because if the enemies going to attack you that’s when they do it, just when darkness becomes light, they catch you. That was dreadful, having to get up and stand too. But
we had one, one interesting experience we went out on this patrol, and I mentioned the Germans, ‘White Knoll’ it was, and this platoon sergeant of mine, called Skit O’Sullivan, as his name indicated he was an Irishman and, he was, his uncle won a VC [Victoria Cross] in the First World War, and he was a VC of bust bloke. He always wanted to get into action, anyway,
he, we had to attack ‘White Knoll’, that’s where the Germans were suppose to be. So got out there and I didn’t tell you this before, did I, no. Anyway we got out to ‘White Knoll’ and the Germans weren’t there. Remember I was telling you that old Wally Milnes was tell me which way to go at one stage, but anyway, Skit O’Sullivan, he called me Phil, for some reason, “Phil” he said “Hey listen Phil he said you can hear the motor transport there just over there, Phil, well go and chase them Phil”. I said “Not in your
life Skit, my instruction are to capture ‘White Knoll’ and, consolidate about 50 metres behind, nothing else.” And I said “I’m not going half way across the desert chasing, motor transport which may not be there when we get there”. I mean sound travels long distances, and that transport could have been quite away away. Stupid suggestion, anyway, he was annoyed. We got back
and when we got back to the post where we lived, the CO [Commanding Officer] was there, the, they were all waiting for the blood and guts stories about our wonderful raid on ‘White Knoll’, but of course it didn’t happen and old Skit O’Sullivan threw his Tommy gun on the ground and jumped on it because he was so annoyed. Because he couldn’t have a fight. You wonder he won a VC [Victoria Cross]. He was a good bloke though, he died a horrible death on anther place there,
with the new recruits. So that was, our patrolling was our main job, in Tobruk, there was, in the early days, the Germans attack and did capture 3 posts, but, then we counter attacked, not my Platoon another one. And, took it back from the Germans, and some good work went on, but they
still, they called in it ‘The Salient’ because it made a dent in our perimeter, cause we had barb wire and sticks and things all around the edge, the permitter. Anyway we, we used to do all this patrolling, and one fellow, a friend of mine Mike Steddy, he was a marvellous soldier, came from Sarr Station Richmond, way up in the north
west, and he’d go out for 1000 metres, they used to say a mile in those day. But, he used to go out more than that, a lot and he’d come back, he’d read the stars, see in the desert there were no pictures, just sand and nothing else. And he could read the stars and he’d come back almost where he left the perimeter, he was so good. God he was a marvellous man that fellow. Were talking about Tobruk
now so I’d better not deviate. So I mean Tobruk you’d be out on the line and then you’d go back and you’d be, patrolling of course, that’s where I got my decoration, Tobruk, in July. And the reason I got it, the DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal], which is a fairly high one, is because it was so successful and we captured prisoners, and General [Leslie] Morshead who was the, commander,
he was so pleased because Lord Haw Haw, he was, he was about peace of propaganda for the German army and the opposition. He said, it was an attempt to break out of Tobruk, in fact it wasn’t at all, it was just a very big and successful patrol. I was only one, there were two section, one on either side of the El Adem Road and,
you’ve read the citations so I won’t go on with that. But it was very successful and, we came back and it wasn’t long after that, I remember, I had some wounds, you know, a gun shot, I tripped some, some, grenades, you’d trip up these grenades and they go off,
and they were strung out in wires in front of your posts, and gun shot wounds here and on my eyebrows but it wasn’t that bad, I wasn’t in hospital more than a few days, or a week. But I remember the wonderful feeling, they’d give you a couple of shots of morphia, just, here I am going there to rest in the hospital, it was wonderful. And, so I went back to the Unit pretty smartly after that. Oh no, it was,
when you look back on this, it didn’t seem too bad. But it was very, very crook in those conditions really, crook food and not much water and, nothing to do, except worry about whether you were going on another patrol.
The 16th Brigade, the 16th and 17th Brigade, they attacked the Japs, the Italians, you probably don’t know about this, but this would have been in 1940 before Tobruk, they went, they attacked the Italians and of course the Italians surrendered in there thousands. You wouldn’t have seen the pictures, but it was just almost laughable, cause they didn’t want to fight that much some
of them, the Italians. But anyway, the Italian bloke, opposite, he made this comment, I only read it the other day, about the Australian. Have you seen it? Its amazing he said, do they think they’ve got some divine person looking after them, they go on he said getting causalities and they still on he said. They just sit, like the Americans who just sit down, and the Italians would just in surrender. But they’d just go in no matter what could happen. And the
same thing happened in New Guinea with the Americans, the Americans were raw, unclaimed and, they always, there policy is and they’ve got some merit on their side, cause they don’t lose men like we do. See they believe in bombarding hell out of everything, so that, they did this in the Philippines so that when they go ashore there’s nothing left. And they, couldn’t they didn’t do it D-Day in Europe either
when they attacked France it was, they had, to fight too because the Germans were wonderful. At, Buna in New Guinea the Americans had been there, two regiments, two battalion of them, they’d been there for about 5 or 6 week and [General Douglas] MacArthur was so annoyed, he was getting annoyed because there was no progress being made, because the Japanese were in these huge bunkers on the
sea, that was there base. That’s where they landed, that was there base, big coconut logs very secure. And they would, the American would stand up and every time they stood up the Japs would fire and they would sit down again. And this went on and MacArthur sent General Eichelberger up there, whose one of his, classmate of his good Soldier he was too. Eichelberger was sent up to get rid of
the, get rid of the battalion commander, and see what’s happening up there, you see. So he was up, and I remember the story, he said to one bloke “Come on son, we’ll go”, cause one fellow wouldn’t go, they wouldn’t move. So our Brigade the 18th Brigade, which I was a proud, the 2/9th South East Queensland, the 2/12th, half North Queensland, half Tasmania, and the 2/10th from South Australia. That’s the
only Brigades, the ones that went to England, went to Tobruk and came back. And we’d just got on to Milne Bay so we were called upon to go, to Buna and see, take over from the Yanks see. So it was the 2/9th the South East Queensland one they went in first. And they, they just went through, I might tell
you our causalities, was out there we lost 50 killed and 70 wounded. That’s what you’ve got to thing about haven’t you but the job was all over in about a week. Finished Japs beaten, but the Yanks didn’t acknowledge it. They said an allied victory, MacArthur said, he didn’t say the Australian, he said the allies. But if it was the Americans that did it, it was the Americans you see, that why I didn’t like MacArthur much. So but anyway, that’s,
and I must tell you this, there was a Senior Staff Officer there, from the Americans and he made this comment, this is when the 2/9th Division [actually Battalion] were on that mission. I saw something today, that I though I would never see, I saw Infantry going in and taking such heavy causalities but still going forward, as long as I live I never expected to see the light again. And that’s what that
American said about our Queenslanders going in there, when the Yanks had been there for 5 weeks and done nothing. But, the other side of the story is and Peter Carlton, who was a leading journalist in Australia, have you heard of him, Peter Carlton, he’s the Courier Mail senior writer, in Canberra. He said that, he wrote a book called “The Unnecessary War”, his
point was it was a bit early to say this as it said but he said you could have just left the Japs there and let them rot, forget about them. But, General Blamey and the rest our mob, we said well it hasn’t quite reached that stage yet. But there was other Troops up in Bougainville too losing lives and the Japs had no hope of getting out of that, this was a year on. So I mean there are
two schools of though there, that, that there is merit in the American way of bombarding hell out of the place before you go in, or else just sit there and wait to see what happens. But anyway, that’s the Australian soldier.
might never get back to Australia and I though I’d tire myself out and, but it was a very unsatisfactory experience, I think. I think I mentioned there was this 40-year-old prostitute there and I slipped this extra money to her, but it was so disappointing that I lent down and took my money back from under the pillow and she was, looking everywhere. Anyway it was an unsuccessful
episode for me, but, I wanted to tell you about, the brothels were there alright, and I wanted to tell you about an occasion when this Skit O’Sullivan I told you about before. He and Lindsay Reid who was, got an MC for that Tobruk raid. He and Skit O’Sullivan were on duty as duty officer and
Duty sergeant for the night and they finished, they went into get the Battalion pay and they had, they had it was just like in a bag of chips, wrapped up and they had it on this bar counter in the brothel, and he put up a bottle, a tin, it wasn’t a bottle on top of Skit O’Sullivan head and he was doing the William Tell act, shooting trying to shoot it off
Skits head, they were drunk they were drinking, see, drinking on duty anyway, he lost his Commission over this fellow. He was reduced to the ranks to a, RSM, a Sergeant Major, he lost his Commission, he got it back after the war. But shouldn’t have but he did. And so, and there was another incident, there was the most wonderful soldier called George Lucas, he was with, he was on that
raid. He got a Military Medal out of that raid, he was wounded too, we were both in hospital in Tobruk, together, that was the only hospital there. And he got a MM, anyway he was going to put his application in, sign his, what you call his A22 to become an Officer and he was, and he was embroiled in a fight in a brothel que at, Aleppo and he did never get his commission. God
he was a good Soldier, did wonderful work at Milne Bay too but he, finished up with a very bad injury. My wife called on him in the Queensland hospital actually. But anyway he was a former Policeman. But that was George Lucas, so that was a horrible incident when they were caught, when they took the pay in there and all hell broke loose, after that it was rather bad behaviour, particular from Lindsay Reid. But, after the
war at the end of the war, time when on and when Gough Whitlam came to power, it was in the 50’s, was it 70, no 1970 it was, no it wasn’t not to do with Gough Whitlam. Sticky Barnard who, he was the Treasurer for Gough Whitlam he was a Tasmanian, Lindsay was a Tasmanian and he got him his
Commission back anyway. And I think when he and Gough were working together, they did it all. And, so that’s all, that’s, we had football matches too up there and things like that, it was a lovely place Aleppo and as a matter of fact I broke my glasses I had glasses, not all the time but they got them fixed up, with this optometries in Aleppo. Yes so we, that’s what
happened in Aleppo and then it was, nice area and then we came back to Australia, which was really exciting. We came back, and oh yes landed at, can I tell you about the trip back?
wonderful people. In fact Ned Williams one of the sons he was head of the Expo, he was a Supreme Court Judge in the end. Anyway, she got on the phone at the Lake Itchen Hotel and rang, and Mrs Kerr answered the phone. “Oh no she said you can’t stay here, were not taking anybody we’ve only got here Mr Justice Williams from the Supreme Court of Queensland and Mr Stanley here whose a QC [Queens Council],
there here conducting interviews with soldiers who had, were reporting atrocities ”, Japanese atrophies, they were preparing cases against the Japanese, “there the only ones in the Hotel”. And Francis could hear in the background this music, Stardust, it was actually being placed by Marcia Ellis who was the hostess. And she didn’t have much to do in those days, there was not tourists.
She had a lot to get to this place, anyway, she just carried on, she wouldn’t take no for an answer, till finally Mrs Kerr said “Oh right, you can come”. So I used to come in, I’d come in, come in the day time, come in to the Lake Itchen Hotel and I’d sleep the night with her, because we were married and I’d go home again on the paper truck in the morning, had to be at the compound. I did this, I must have done it for 3 weeks.
She had, I’ll tell you, before I go on I must say that, in order to get to the Tablelands you had to have a pass, because there were a lot of Troops there and it was, it was a area, what’s the name, it was taboo, a restricted area for civilians. And she had this, and she went, when she was in Townsville she went up to Kernel North who was the Senior Medical, no
Senior Officer in Townsville at the time. He was my old CO when I did 3 years in the 31st Battalion, before the war. He knew me. She went up and said “I’m Neil Russell’s wife and I’d like to get a permit to go to the Tablelands”. He said “I’m too busy to be talking to you, wife’s chasing your husbands up, I’ve got nothing to do with Permits”. He said, “Major Hern downstairs he looks after the Permits”. I knew him too, of course. Anyway she went down and said
“I’m Neil Russell’s wife and Kernel North sent me down here about a Permit”. And he wrote it out and gave her one, so, I don’t know whether Kernel North approved it or not. But anyhow she had 3 weeks, she stayed about 5 weeks, she was over time to glory. By the time I finished I had shingles, bloody malaria, and then shingles, I was worn out. I got, when, and then eventually, oh and the Williams used to put on parties to,
and the young air force officers would come in, and the Williams girls, the other girls they’d dance and it was lovely, beautiful. And, anyway, subsequently I went back to the comp [company] camp and, then about a month later when I got back to the battalion, I got this job as ADC to Berryman, I was a corps commander, and one of the
intelligence section fellows, said “Hey Russell, were about to arrest your wife as a spy”. Yes she’d been there too long, see they though what’s she doing here. Anyway, that wasn’t the case, she wasn’t a spy. And Lady Blamey came to visit us to. I don’t know if I told you, Lady Blamey, it was Tom Blamey’s wife, Tom Blamey wasn’t always popular but he was a
good general. Anyway he married this lady Blamey, I think that might have been his second marriage. She had the idea that, they were short of glasses, in war time and she made the suggestion that you cut the old beer bottles off and smooth them out and use those half beer bottles as glasses. They called them Lady Blamey, so they’d say “I’ll have a Lady Blamey”. In the pub.
And that was, that was, and then I don’t think she did any camp following after that I’m afraid, but.
Troops some action, or some exercise, Frank Miletts telling this story, my famous platoon sergeant. He, we, there were a whole lot of creeks running down to the Ocean, you had to wade through them, and you’re legs get wet and, I got chaffed. It strange you know, I put on a lot of weight after I got married, I don’t know, but I was about 14 stone. I’m only 11 stone
now, 14 stone 6 at the worst. You could, you’d get flabby around the thighs, inside the thighs and I chaffed, so I just took my strides off and strung them over my shoulder, and walked along with my shirt tails flapping, and I had my underpants on, Frank Millets says the other. Anyway, we came upon this mission, they screamed and yelled and took off some of the girls saw the Aussies without his trousers on. But anyway,
that was sort of a sewing circle, and, the, Chief Missionary Woman she was giving instructions. She was a native too. Anyway, they all took off and they eventually came back, the girls, they were reassured that everything was alright and I put my trousers on, and, they invited us and entertained us and it was quite good. But the story as
he tells it, its not quite 100% the truth. You don’t want to spoil a good story with the truth do you? But, that was one of the highlights, and, oh yes we had swimming competitions and, I want to tell you about a wonderful man, called, Angus Suthers. Angus Suthers
whose leading, he joined up he was 21 years of age, when he joined up, he was a young Lieutenant in the 31st battalion and recently appointed a captain, became, no he was a Lieutenant that’s right at the time, still, but he was the second in command of C Company and on the eve of the embarkation of the battalion, where they finished up in England, the
Company Commander Bill Warner from Cairns, he was involved in a bad accident and couldn’t go away. So Angus took over at the age of 21, he took over C Company, he’s a very experienced bloke although his only 21, he’d been in the army a long time, had years in the militia and so forth. And he took them overseas and, and lets see that was in May 1940 and then at Milne
Bay, sorry at the Goodenough Island show, half of it was all over and that would have been, that would have been in, November, November 1942 all those years, 2 years later. He was a Captain, he was an OC of B Company then, not his old Company, C Company. Anyway
they were at a conference and, he criticized the Commanding Officer at the CO’s Conference afterwards with the Company Commanders. He criticised him for something or rather because, he was a bit over weight our CO and, anyway, Angus Suthers was, reduced from the Company Commander of B Company to go back to 2IC of this Company, which he took away in
May 1940, 2 years before. But he didn’t miss a beat he just went back, went to the fellow who was the company commander and his job as 2IC of the company, he was to set up the defensive position, for the night. We’d just finished the fighting then and had this conference and you know he didn’t miss a beat, he just went on like a good Soldier and didn’t worry about being demoted and, I admire him very much. And I’m going to see,
he’d be a wonderful man to be interviewed, he’s got a fountain of knowledge. And he didn’t go to Tobruk, he was left behind at, in the Base. But that was our Angus, he had to wait a long time for his promotion. Oh yes they were a wonderful family there were 3 brothers and they were all adjutants of battalions and brigade majors, they were all from Townsville.
And what else can I tell you.
me being, foot slogger and then being in the highest ranks, of the, amongst the Generals, it was interesting. But you didn’t have much work to do I must admit, it was a cushy ride, but I felt I had a responsibility to him, and he was the corps commander and the new corps commander to go from General Morshead, the AO Corps, and I remember the first night I went
into the Moresby, Port Moresby officers mess with the senior blokes and I, finished up playing a game called subhateme, with a Lieutenant General, old Morshead, and I don’t know if he beat me or not. But anyway then subsequently there was another function, it was a farewell to a fellow called Ivan, General called Ivan Mackay, who was old and going back to Australia. And they gave a farewell to him
at the officers club at Port Moresby, and I remember, I had, used to wear these safari suits, type of uniform and it was drill, cotton drill, and you just wore a singlet and this on top and, and I went to the, they had dancing and I was out there, and I was dancing around. They had nurses there, a couple of matrons for the older blokes and some nurses for the younger
ones. Cause I’d be the youngest there and, dancing around, and it was so hot and I was so active that I had a big wet patch of sweat in the middle of my back, and old Tom Blamey ADC said “Hey look here Russell, you want to calm down, you’re too active”, or something, “your too hot, stop”, he said “Sit down for a while”. chipped me up, chipped me you know, too enthusiastic, he said that’s right. And but that was nothing. But then
as the, as I told you that when I was on the first corps headquarters how the Intelligence blokes said they were going to arrest my wife as spy, remember at Lake Itchen Hotel, well we passed on from that, and we, our first job was to go up, back up to New Guinea, up in New Guinea to pinch Hartman, which is up the Coast a bit, and the 9th Division were attacking the Japs there and that was quite a
successful operation. Used to get quite a few visitors coming through the, through the General’s Mess and I used to play sercloths with him after 4.00pm or 5.00pm, when he used to put his hand over that, and cheat a bit I thought. But, and, then a swimming carnival, well he came down to watch me win the backstroke and I think I got last. And, that, anyway life went on and his, I got a couple of friends of mine came up to visit
me from the 2/15th Battalion, and, used to go around in the Jeep with him. And there was one story, I recall, that was embarrassing, we had the GOC [General Officer Commanding] of the 9th Division, Major General Wootten, with us he came General Berryman was visiting his, his, division, headquarters, and as we drove, as we drove
through the lines, you could hear these fellows from the 9th Division calling out when they saw George Wootten, old George in the car “Mudguts”, they’d call him mudguts, because he’d just taken over from General Morshead, and they loved General Morshead, and they got this new bloke and he didn’t look the part and they though, oh his no good and they used to sling off at him. He was a wonderful sod, he was our Brigade Commander at Buna and Sanananda, he gave us all the right instructions, anyway, mudguts, how
embarrassing it was. That was a side issue. We weren’t, we went up to Sattelberg, saw the VC winner, Huggert I think his name was [actually Sgt T C Derrick]. But anyway we went for a few trips. We on one occasion had to visit the American 6th Army Commander, we all went up in the Patrol Boat, Morshead, Berryman and, myself and, and General Morshead’s aid. And we got there and
we were left behind with, the General’s went into the General’s mess and we just stayed outside this time, and went with a fellow called Bob Burry, who was a liaison officer whom we knew, anyway we had such a good time in this fellows tent that when we came out the generals had gone home without us and left us stranded without a boat to get home, where are these blokes. That was embarrassing but anyway we got back somehow. They taught
us a lesson they said. And there wasn’t much action, but then after, then eventually when the operations finished in 1943 and 1944, it must have been about the middle of 44, we had a trip back to Australia in the meantime and then, he was appointed, he was appointed to be chief of staff to General Blamey, as I told you before, outside
Australia, we were attached to General MacArthur we had our own little Headquarters called Ford Echelon LH2 and when he became a staff officer again he was not entitled to have a ADC, only a personal assistant, so he ordered the establishment of the headquarters to fit me in, he said “you don’t want to go back to the battalion now do you Neil, it’s a bit late in the war?” and I said “No I don’t think so”,
cause there was nothing much doing anywhere, they had one campaign to go at Balikpapan and I must have been to used to the easy life. And, so I, I took this job as G3 Officer, I used to have to get up in the morning and give a talk to the senior officers about what reports had come in over night, not much of a job at all. In fact he went away on a trip and, with Charles, the personal assistant and I stayed behind
with the general, and went with the general’s driver and the general’s car. And he said to me the Sergeant French “What about we go for a bit of trip while the boss is away”, so we took, pinched the car and up we went up to, right up the top of Manila, out of Manila right up to the Philippines, top of the Island of Luzon. Previously we’d been to the Isle of Leyte, where I remember I lost my gold watch and,
anyway we, went for this trip, by way up to the north where it was cooler and came back and I remember one of the senior officers, a colonel said to me when we came back “Hey listen I think you ought to let me borrow that car now”, and I said “Oh it’s out of my hands”, and the sergeant, this fellow was a colonel and this, he said “No way you’re not getting it”. He was the sergeant driver see. So he was crock on us after that. But so, life went on it was not
much happening but, really the war was wearing down and then, finally, one day, as I mentioned before I think it was the 15th August, which is coming up very soon, isn’t it. That was the day war finished, you know the 15th August. And General MacArthur came out on the balcony and announced it at the City Hall there and, then we, we all got ready to go
up, we got advice that we’d be going up to the signing of the surrender so, Charles Flinder was his personal assistant and I was his junior staff officer, and in the meantime he’d sent us each down to do a course at The Marist Brothers, Ashgrove which was taken over for the junior staff course, so we’d been down there both been down there to do that, and then, they had this
Troop Ship, this super doper troop ship called the General Sturgis. And on board were all these senior officers from all over the world really for the final big surrender and off we tootled up there, I’ve still go the program, you know the book with the names of them all. And we went up, went up on this troop ship, up to Tokyo Bay, Yokohama and there was the,
what’s the name of that ship.. the battleship. I forgotten the name of the ship now, god.
American band, and, service band, and then first of all then there was, the first destroyer was for the allies, like my General, General Blamey and the chief of the navy and the chief of the air force and from all the allied countries even from Europe there was some there. And then the 2nd, next destroyer was for the press, the 3rd destroyer was for the Japanese high ranks, Prime Minister came down with his top
hat and morning suite, and with 4 other attendants, and they went on board that. The fourth destroyer was just for MacArthur, he probably had one aid with him I don’t know. But anyhow that’s how he operated, and off they shuffled and we saw them, go out to the ship, Missouri and, about a hour later they all came back. Then the next day the General called up and said, “I want you to go into Tokyo Neil, I
want you to see if you can pick up some souvenirs for my wife”, bits of silk or something. Anyway, I’ve still got, anyway, he got General, General Kenny, Sutherland, who was General MacArthur’s chief of staff, he actually wrote out this permit the Captain, N H Russell, I’ve got it in there. And, give me permission to take a jeep and go into Tokyo, but of course I didn’t drive it myself, I had a
driver and I had with me also, another bloke who, and older man, in the Australian army who was I the intelligence corps and who had lived in Japan so it was handy to have him with us. So we went in, well there was only rubbish in the shops but I tell you another important thing, at that stage although Japanese had laid down their arms, and the surrender had just been signed. There was no occupation, there were no Americans anywhere, no soldiers and the Japs seemed to have gone
underground, the Emperor said it’s all over and it’s all over and they all went quite. And we went into the shops and there was nothing much to buy, I bought a bit of stuff, and I wasn’t very proud of what I’d bought, but anyway. I went in to the Imperial Hotel and looked around and, had a drink and then a fellow took us on a bit of a tour around showing us some sights, because he’d been there before, to the Imperial Palace and all that stuff. And then back
we came eventually, a few hours later. So that’s when I went up to submit a report to the General. When I went up there General Blamey was there, and that’s when I was talking, sitting on the bed with him telling him why we were still fighting up in, up in the [(UNCLEAR)] coast and losing casualties, and he explained to me that it was just to keep the Troops occupied. So, and then, the general said to me “right oh were”, we flew then, we flew back to Morotai.
And he said “I’ve got another job for you Neil, there’s a General O’Callaghan, Major General O’Callaghan whose been a prisoner of war for 3 years up in, Bookton, up in northern Japan and he was acting commander of the 8th Division after General Bennett left and went to Australia and he wants to go back to Singapore to see the Troops, the 8th Division the prisoners of war”. So off we went to Singapore with old Bruce O’Callaghan and
I lent him my batman and, god was he fussy, he was an old bachelor, this bloke and oh he was fussy, he used to say to my batman, you know have a look in this room and see if any fleas, where, you know. Anyway we got to Singapore and that’s when he was worried about fleas and things. And he, put him in his room and, it was good to, an interesting thing, my friend Mavis, she’s my friend now, she was an AMWAS [Australian Medical Women’s Army Service] and she was actually in Singapore at the same time, helping repatriate the prisoners of war, and I remember going
over and saying hello to her. But she doesn’t remember that now, she was too involved with her job apparently. I didn’t make much impression. Anyway, we we, visited various fellows around the place and the Troops there was no emaciated prisoners they were all sent home by then, the 2/26th Battalion was lined up for him. They were coming from north Queensland, a lot of them, that was good, saw a few blokes I knew. And then up to Bangkok
to see the, some officers who were, incarcerated up there and a trip around a few places and back to Singapore and then flew straight back to Australia and got discharged. That was a good way to finish the war. So I was discharged, but you don’t. One thing that happened to me later, which I neglected to mention when I was
discharged, because when it comes to a medical problem you should have, reported it when you were discharged, they say any ailments for anything. Cause if you apply for a pension for any disability, you’ve got evidence. And I didn’t remember because I’ll tell you what happened. Shortly after the war I went, I was going out to see a rugby international [game] at the exhibition ground, the show ground here, on the tram. It was after, you’d have a hot dinner on a Saturday
midday in those days, and it must have been a fatty meal, anyway, I had a terrible pain in the tummy, and it worked out that it was exactly the same date that my wife Francis gave birth to our first child, they said, someone said that’s sympathy pains, you’ve heard this old wives tale. But, it was more than sympathy pain, but I was, here I was with this, it turned out to be my gall bladder, it took a while to find out. And here I was
with this gall bladder complaint and its not on my record, so I was able to go to the ‘Patriation [Repatriation] Department as it was called then and the place seemed to be full of old ladies, with old blokes who I knew so I had no trouble convincing them that in fact had happened. So I signed a Statutory Declaration and got a pension for it, not much, but, got that. So that was something, that sympathy pain business, but then that was, about the end of it I
think. I worked, I started this job at George Wills, you want to know about what I did after the war or not?
particularly getting back to Francis. But I mean the war, was, it happened for a few weeks so you would have been used to it by then. But oh no it was really great to be home again I tell you. Bit worrying about making my way in the world now, you’ve got to earn a crust, we had one child, Jill was born. And, had responsibilities and I had, we had this land, as I was tell you before, where Charlie
Groves sister and husband gave us these two blokes of land, so we had this house designed and everything, but I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Sir John Pigeon or the Pigeon family. There very big builders, you heard of the name Pigeon? No haven’t. Well Sir John Pigeon’s the boss now, but he was the Sergeant Carpenter, he was too young to be in the war, he was a sergeant in the militia during the war, and in town, just after the war rather. Anyway his
father was the builder, old Frank he was a bowler, in, one of my father in laws, bowling friend said “oh if you want to get a builder as Frank Pigeon will do the job for you”. So he wanted to divide his house into two flats, I suppose to separate themselves from, from themselves and our sqwalling child and us. So that’s what they did, and he was this Pigeon bloke, he’s got the business, the biggest building business in town here. That was one of the first
jobs he did after the war I suspect. Very small job. And we said oh well get Pigeon’s to build our house for us, they said okay. But just then he got a contract to build all the Shell stations, they started to build service stations everywhere, anyhow, that’s what he concentrated on, and I kept asking anything doing, no, no bricks, no bricks, cause it was a brick house we were getting built, up at Buna Vista Avenue, and eventually
after a year or two I rang up the brickworks and they said there’s no order for either I the name of Pigeon or Russell, so we gave it away and bought this house. But I had level for tennis court and everything up there. But there were no shops up there, now it wouldn’t have been too good for the wife, they, I just had an office car, she had no transport how was she going to get to the shops up there up in Buna Vista Avenue, up there in the hill there’s no shops anywhere. So it wasn’t really a good deal at the time,
so were happy here and that’s what happened. So I, we sold the land and came here. And then I worked for George Wills for 7 years, but as I said before, I left, I bought this filter business, put onto me buy a fellow, Legacy friend. I joined Legacy in 53. I had 3 years I the Army but I got tired of it after 3 years, again,
but I. Some bloke I met some time, a couple of years ago, I met him and he said “Oh Russell, that guys on the phone”, he said “oh yes you were a bit late back weren’t you” I said, cause I am back late, very casual, because he was a real, fired up very important in command, so I dropped down from Captain, I was a Captain, and I dropped down to Lieutenant to get a Jersey. A lot of fellows couldn’t get a jersey, there were so many fellows wanted to get back just for a period, because they missed the
army, and one friend of mine, Bob Meldrum, I boarded with in Townsville for a while, he was a prisoner of war, 2/26th. He missed out, he couldn’t get a jersey, he went up to Victoria Barracks and got into Intelligence up there part time and finished up got a job with ASIO [Australian Security Intelligence Organisation], got quite a senior job with ASIO in end. Because they don’t talk about it you don’t know what he does. So then I joined Legacy in 53 and,
cause that’s the trouble with me that I should concentrate on earning money, instead of doing things for other people. I joined Legacy, about 6 or 7 families and, you’d find time to do that if you’re self employed like I was you’d go and do it. Cause after 7 years, with George Wills, I bailed out because I was offered, there was an old bloke selling this business, but it was a very small
filter of a business and I had to have other agencies with it, and I finished up with all sorts of things, women’s dresses and ship’s paint, everything. As I said before jack of all trades and master of none. But I made a quid and educated my family, but when the, when the boys who used the filter pads decided they didn’t want filter pads anymore because they were bringing it up in bottles and not in casks, I was, I don’t know
what I was going to do, I’ll tell you I was quite a worried boy. So I finished up going to Prudential, after the man from the Prudential used to have a homburg hat used to be on the top of the Prudential Building, bit before your time. I could see myself as the man with the hat. Anyway they got me an office of my own, and I did quite well and made more money than I was making before, but its not a pleasant job, and from there I went to Suncorp where I did alright too and it was
much better, and then I retired at 60. I said I was President of Legacy in 63. In 1963, when I was about 47. So that was, that was a good thing to have under my hat. A wonderful bunch of fellows in Legacy, wonderful fellows, still good friends with them. Have a meeting with some of them once a month. So then I
joined, I was always mad on the cricket, we used to, always go to every test match, or shield game, I’d always be there for the first day, first opening session, instead of out working trying to earn some money. And, and I did that for a few years became a member then I took up bowls in 1978 and I dropped off the cricket. I was President of the
Club, in 93 and I’m now a life member and I’m still working as the games Director and won the Wednesday game and do the barbecue with another bloke and all that sort of stuff. I’m probably too busy but still, that’s better than not doing anything isn’t it. So I’ve just about arrived at today I have. I used to work up at my church a bit but I’ve given that up now, I just go up once a month.
And I don’t think I’ve got any other interests. I ring up, the phone bills always high, I ring a lot of people up. You know you can ring up after seven quite cheaply, very good. Yes, given up ringing old people in Perth now, given them away, but I still got the Tasmanians. Also got two units which I look after, I own one and the family own the other. I had to palm one off
because I had too much assets, so I could get the Veteran Affairs Pension. But in the last, the last two tenants I’ve had in no 3 unit. One was a woman who left owing me $800 didn’t pay me, and another bloke now owes me $500, hasn’t got any of that. That’s $1300 there must be something wrong with me, I’m not doing something right. Anyway that’s me too casual.