Neil Russell
Archive number: 692
Date interviewed: 12 August, 2003

Served with:

2/12th Battalion
AIF Headquarters - Pacific

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Neil Russell 0692


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Tape 01


Neil we’re going to go back over your life in an overview fashion. Can you start with when you were born?
Yes, I was born on the 18th May 1917 in the suburb of Claremont, Perth suburb of Claremont. And I have, only found out the other


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.
That’s wonderful. Well you life history is certainly very interesting so, I’ve got thousands of questions for you. The first on is did you have brothers or sisters?
Yes two brothers, my older brother as I said he, he was,


he died as a prisoner of war. He stayed in Perth, in the 2/4th Machine-gun battalion - infantry. He was sent to work with cerebral malaria. The Japanese you know were terrible people in the war, there better now I hope, but they treated our prisoners of war terribly. And he died of cerebral malaria in 1944 working on the railway, building the railway. And my younger brother Wallace, he’s,


he, when Dad and Mother went away to Tassie, he stayed on and repeated senior, he did pass quite well the first time, but he stayed on as a border and finished senior again. But the boss, rather the headmaster he treated him like you’d treat a master and I’ll let that go. Dad struggle to send him to Melbourne university, Dad was in Tasmania


by this time, Wallace finished and he went down and he had to stay at Borman College and, which was quite expensive of course there wasn’t any free tuition then, he borrowed money to do it. But anyway Wallace went from Townsville down to Melbourne and he used to play up. He used to go around and, he used to raid the women’s college and then he’d,


they dressed up, they borrowed Hyde uniforms and dressed up as visiting French Naval People and they hired horses and went down to Matilda Road, all that stupid things, going away playing football, interstate. So he didn’t do any well at all after 2 years, so the old man took him away and he became a teacher for a while but then he married, and had a happy marriage and became a farmer. Got a property at Scottsdale in


Tasmania, and he was quite popular and his got 3 lovely daughters, that’s his. Unfortunately he’s got 3 weeks to live probably at the moment, he’s got cancer and his lying there in, down in Launceston, so I might be going to a funeral soon. That’s my younger brother. So I’m last of the vulcans and last of the 3. So that is my family.


was the brother you were closest too?
Oh my younger brother, Doug, my older brother, he’s, he was, lets see, he was 3 ½ years older than me, whereas Wallace and I were just 2 years apart and Wallace he used to follow me around a bit too. You know when you’re young you used to try and get rid of your younger brother in case you had your other mate. Anyway I was closer to Wallace


because, Doug left school the year, I started in 1933 and he did his leaving in 33, so he was a different age group to me but Wallace wasn’t because we were only a year apart in the school, although I was 2 years older than him. And I saw a fair bit of him but we just drifted apart.


The family went away in about 36 and 37, to Townsville and Wallace disappeared down there and Doug was always in Perth so I was on my own most of the time. I had no family at all. That was one of the reasons I joined up for the Army, because my family had gone so forth.
But Wallace didn’t join up, Wallace didn’t join up?
Oh, Wallace joined up, Wallace he joined up the next year after me. He joined up in the 2/8th Field Regiment,


he was in the main battle in the Middle East and badly damaged his back, the Germans where firing at him with there shells and that and hit the sand, of course in the desert there’s lots of sand, and he was buried up to there and badly strained his back. And his had that all his life now and when, you’ve got sheep, you know to bend down its always been a problem for him but anyway, he


survived and his 84 so his had a reasonable life. And his 3 daughters are up there looking after him and his wife, got dementia. But anyway, very nice people, my 2 brothers.
You don’t think you’ll go down earlier to Tasmania, before the funeral?
No well, funny you should mention that, it’s a decision I have to make. I suggested to one of my nieces yesterday that I’d come down. No


don’t come down now, you know his fairly with it, but then I think, well I’ll go down for the funeral, and I suggested, because he won’t be there and, I probably will go down for the funeral. But anyway, it might be 3 weeks, 4 weeks, anyhow that’s my dear brother, yes, he lead a good life and always been,


just taken his part in community things in Scottsdale, but anyhow its all over now.
So you’re 1 of 3 sons and you had 3 daughters and a son, so the 3 daughters are they consecutive, 1, 2 3 girls?
No, no, Julie is the eldest, she’s about 57 or 8, and then Douglas whose 55 I think and Rosemary is 54 and


then Janine is just turning 50. And we lost a child virtually at birth and that was, probably affected my wife she had a couple of miscarriages and lost a child and you know, if you’ve got those genes you more likely to have an nervous breakdown I suppose. So she had a bad time in that way.
I’ll just go back to when you were a kid growing up, during the


Depression, do you remember the kind of food that you ate and the kind of social activities your parents would undertake?
Well the parents, I must say that we weren’t affected by the Depression. See Dad was a Bank Manager and he had a good income, a good salary, and he had a nice house, it had a grass tennis court, he was able to buy this house at the right price. I think we played football on it more than we played tennis. No we weren’t


affected by the Depression. People talk about the Depression, how it affected them, but even some people were more fortunate than others, you see I used to see people coming around selling props and things. But no really it had no effect on us, really.
When you first joined up in the militia, I was ready some of your training notes,


and, that you spoke to the production office about and you’d mentioned that you were given giggle suits, Can you tell me what they are?
Oh giggle suits, is a uniform as drill, sort of sloppy, like ill fitting trousers and those jacket like this one, made of, what is the, like cotton, light khaki cotton


and buttons, there was no shape or form about it. They called them giggle suits because they, they used to every time a new bunch of recruits came into Redbank, which was our recruiting camp, at Redbank, they’d say “you’ll be sorry, you’ll be sorry,” now all the time you’d come in they’d sing you’ll be sorry, this is a bit corny I suppose. I before I wore glasses a bit


you see, I didn’t always wear glasses, but I couldn’t do without them now I suppose. But you get used to it. And because I wore glasses sometimes, they wanted an order room corporal, so this in the first few weeks and the RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] said “Oh right Russell, you’re a clerk here and you can be the order room corporal”. But it only lasted a few weeks fortunately.


But oh no, Redbank, I even remember I went into town in my giggle suit, into Richmond, there was a big city. But I was looking, I always liked girls I’ll tell you that. You know I’d get on well with women, and I could always remember when I went up to Tobruk I was god I haven’t had much of a life I haven’t had anything to do with women or anything, no sex or anything so I said where can I go to have a night out with a woman, I was in


Alexandria waiting to go over to Tobruk and oh, of course, the nursing sisters [(UNCLEAR)] didn’t fraternise with other ranks there I was only a Sergeant see, so it was no girl available for me.
How did you handle that rejection?
Oh well I couldn’t, didn’t ever get close to finding out where there was one. I could see them walking about but you just don’t walk up to a lady and say do you want to go out tonight, particularly when I was a sergeant,


there, officers, had to be 25 to join those, and I was 22 when I joined up I’d be 23 there.
Why do you think they wouldn’t look at the regular army blokes?
Oh they would, they would, of course they had brother in the army, but I mean like there was in the army, the definitions, you defined areas like, for instances there were some places would be officers only see, officers only see and the sisters


would go with officers, they couldn’t go with a corporal or sergeant they wouldn’t be admitted see. That’s the way it is. See you’ve got to, familiarity breeds contempt. I mean I was an officer for some time and I know what its like because our battalion, the platoon commander officer of a platoon which I joined up with I mean I was a private sergeant corporal straight away but I, in 17th Platoon Don Company


and they all called me Neil see and I remember in on one occasion we were up on the Turkish boarder, Turkish boarder in northern Syria and I had them on parade and there on parade they said Neil. I said “listen here you, I’m not Neil on parade, I’m Mr Russell or Sir”, cause I was a lieutenant then, you know but called your name. And another occasion I was on a patrol in Tobruk it was a fighting patrol as it turned out,


the Germans didn’t have to be there that night. But anyway we pulled up and I had my 3, I was still a sergeant then I hadn’t got my commissioner, and we were round there and there’s a fellow called Wally Milles, desert head they called him, he was much older than us and he was one of my section leaders, I said “Right Oh”, he said “This is the way to go Neil he said, no, no don’t go that way, go”. He was telling me what to do you see, because he knew me so well.


Does that make you laugh now?
Oh of course, yes. But anyway its interesting that why you’ve got have these separation between the officers and the men because if you tell them to do things, they should do it see. But anyway, I had another occasion too another day, our enemies were opposite


us in a place called Goodenough Island we got up in the middle of the night to go up this great steep hill to take some Japs, about 300 of them up there we had get rid off. It was raining, there was lightning there was mud, there was slush and here these fellows carrying there weapons and they, we had a Bren gun in each Section, each Platoon and there was this fellow with this think on his shoulder and he was


farming it around at people and he said, “hey Neil”, he called me this, he said how about having a turn at carrying the Bren gun. I said “look Fred its my job to arrive at the top of this hill fresh so I can command you and work out what we’ve got to do”, and I said “I’m not going to carry it you can sort it out between yourselves”. And oh he said “Mal Pound’s doing it”, he was another platoon commander, I said “I’m not doing it”. You know they’d attack me like that because they knew me


so well.
Did they respect you for saying it though?
Respect me, he didn’t respect me for doing that but no one else took any notice of them anyway. He was a bit like that Fred. Oh no that was my decision.
You’ve mentioned about getting the World War I Lewis Gun, can you tell me what they were like?
The Lewis guns we never used them in operation, we only trained on them because there was nothing else available, but the Bren gun took its place.


I think the Lewis, no the Bren gun, the Lewis gun was replaced by the Vickers gun we had a few in the Battalion, but we trained on them. It was a medium machine gun, very strong, very good. No we, but the Lewis gun was passé very soon, because we had nothing else at the very early days of the war, but when we got to Ingleburn I think we might have, we had a Lewis gun


and we might of got our first Vickers gun, yes but didn’t have much to do with Vickers guns because we didn’t have them in our Platoon, they were attached to us by the Machine Gun Platoon, so we didn’t carry them ourselves.
Well what did the Lewis gun look like, what?
Hard to describe really, it, oh no it was just,


it had a barrel, it not relevant really, I mean a Vickers gun was just a superior model, it was a First [World] War weapon, and the Vickers gun had been built after the First World War and it was just better. So it’s not a big deal really.
Interviewee: Neil Russell Archive ID 0692 Tape 02


Now you were telling me about the guns?
The Lewis guns.
The Lewis guns, so they were a single barrel rifle?
Oh yes single barrel, really just the old .303 modified First World War job, and we carried them through. But we did have one new weapon, the Owen gun, which was designed by an Australian and it took the place of the sub machine


gun. This is one, the sub machine gun, is one that is held by the man, like the corporal of each Section had a Tommy gun, that type of machine gun. But it was found that it used to stop a bit, at times, but this Owen gun you could throw it in the mud and it would still fire. It was a wonderful invention, so we got, finished up with the Owen gun, an Australian manufacture,


the Australian invention. That was, during the Pacific war. In the middle of the, in the middle of our trip to New Guinea.
So your first part of action was really Tobruk?
Yes that right, yes.
What were your impressions, your initial impressions of Tobruk?
Oh, well Tobruk was a pretty terrible place to fight in because we were very heavily rationed for water


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.
What happened to the guy from Richmond?
Oh him, yes, he was, we did a lot


together, when, what happened to him well he died. But I’ll tell you, he and I did a lot together, we were selected to, when we were up in the Territory, up in the Turkish Border, he and I were told to take charge of a group of fellows and ride motor bikes and things and go out on patrol and practice in case the Germans came, down through the Caucasus, but fortunately we were called home when the Japs came into the war. We came back, but


Mike Steddy as his name, was, he was the bloke that retook Post 10 from the Germans, when they took it, he went straight in and that’s a point about the Australian soldiers that I could mention sometime, but not now. How.
Tell us?
Well the principal, the Australian soldier he just goes in, now, I’ll give you 2 examples.


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.
That’s a great story. I’m still curious to know what happened to Mike Steddy though?
Oh Mike Steddy, well Mike Steddy, he came back, we came back to Australia and he married a girl called Joan Page, whose father was a


doctor. I was proudly there best man, and he said to Joan, “Joan” he said “I’m not going to marry you unless you come up to see where you’ve got to live when you get married”. It was the back blocks of northwest Queensland, so they went up in the train all the way up to Sars Station Richmond and had a look at it and came back again. And, they got married of course,


and he was in charge of the commando platoon they called it, the Battalion Protective Platoon, at Milne Bay they called it the Steady battalion, because he was everywhere with his mob, he did a wonderful job. We all did, reasonably well. But, he was just a gun ho sort of bloke who was brave and fearless, and, but unfortunately we came to Buna, and


he was one of the blokes that got killed. The fellows that went through and did all this wonderful work and he popped through the forest and a snipers was in the tree, snipers I the trees they were dynamite. The Japs had snipers up in the coconut trees it was a coconut plantation he got killed. And, I joined up with two blokes, Cliff Hoskins and Charlie Groves, they were and Charlie went to


Terrace, he was a young solicitor in Ayres, Cliff Hoskins was a Commonwealth Bank bloke and he was, he was, went to Townsville to Ayres, in fact I put his bronze certificate over there from Magnetic Island. Anyway he was 28 and they were both 28, I was only 22, but we went down together and Cliff and I were together most of the war. And he got killed


at Goodenough Island, got a Military Cross. I want to tell a story at some stage about why I didn’t get my Commission earlier, we came back from Ingleburn when the battalion left, in May 19 no December, May 40 sorry, May 40. We came back to Willunga, we did this officers course and, there were about 9 of us that got sent back from our Battalion and a lot


from the 2/9th and a lot from Papua New Guinea came down, NGX’s [New Guinea enlistment numbers]. We had a little, instructor, he was a First War bloke, McKenzie was his name he was a sergeant, he was in the allied instructional corps, he had two red stripes. And he said to us at the end “I’m not going to pass you two fellows.” We don’t know why, perhaps he though I was too casual, or something, anyway,


the rest of the blokes got there commissions and Cliff and I didn’t get our commission, so we had to do another course. And we passed the second course so, okay, but they didn’t give us our Commissions for some reason. All the other fellows were Lieutenants and we were bloody sergeants. So anyway, that’s Cliff and I well Cliff, that’s why I was a sergeant, in Tobruk, I should have been an officer then.


And anyway, Cliff, went to, on Goodenough Island that was a little campaign after Milne Bay. And he got his Military Cross there for wonderful work he did, Military Cross. And I, Cliff got an MC [Military Cross], I got a Distinguished Conduct Medal, and we were the only two of those troops that got a decoration but for some reason this mug didn’t thing we could be platoon commanders. That’s


so disappointing but you learn to live with it.
Was this mug an Australian?
Who was this mug, and Australian, this sergeant that, an Australian or?
Well no he was just an Aussie bloke, he was just an Instructor, yes he was an Australian, he was a First War bloke, an old bloke, probably in his 40’s.
You still don’t know why he?
Oh no, but in those day, you don’t worry about it, its only later. It’s like my captaincy,


you don’t worry about it at the time for instances I was shocked the other day to find that I was listed as a Lieutenant on the web site. And course what I, I did this trip to Papua New Guinea last November, with Dennis [actually Dana] Vale, you know Dennis Vale? He’s [She’s] the Minister for Veteran Affairs, and she took a troop of us to Milne Bay and Buna and Sanananda for a Memorial, special commemorative


visit. We stayed in a pub in Moresby. There were 18 of us picked from around Australia. Of course when your fit and well you’ve got a better chance of being selected, because a lot of blokes aren’t fit to travel, they wouldn’t take them. And one bloke he was reasonably fit, he’s down in Tasmania this bloke, he wouldn’t put his application in because if he has another medical and they find his fit they might reduce his pensions. So he wouldn’t


go he wouldn’t put his name down. There trying to increase their pensions all the time these blokes. Anyway, he, what was I talking about.
Did you know any of the other, the 18 men that went over there?
Of course I do, yes I went with them. No I didn’t know them before I went. Yes I know there’s a few friends there Queenslanders, oh it was a wonderful trip. Went back to Milne Bay and, we


travelled up by Qantas [Airways], business flight [class], and then we went to, down, we went down to Milne Bay in a smaller plane, no one of these C-51’s, sea planes things. And then we came back from, went to Milne Bay came back the same day and then the next day went down to Popondetta for the Buna-Sanananda Memorial. Oh it was


quite, people said did you have a good time, and I said “I had a memorable time”.
Who’s Charlie Grove?
Charlie Grove is a chap who joined up with Cliff and me, got his commission, Cliff and I didn’t at the time, we had to wait a year to get it, up in Tobruk, we actually went to the Middle East to get it, Cliff and I, we were Sergeants. And we did a Middle East Weapon Training School and


we both got Distinguished Passes, and one of the particular Instructors, the CO [Commanding Officer] wouldn’t let us go. As soon as we got back to the battalion, he gave us our commissions in the field. Yes.
I was going to ask.
I was going to tell you, I was going to tell you about my Captaincy wasn’t I at one stage. It’s not very


important. But when I joined General Berryman in my battalion, that was the captains job, you see and I was, so I got my captaincy before some of these other blokes who were still Lieutenants, I might tell you. But what happened in the end, at the end of the war when I said on the web site it shows, Lieutenant, what had happened I was made a temporary captain at the start and General Berryman, of course, its different from being in a Battalion when a adjutant


looks after all these things. We just went thought the last two years of the war as me as a captain, I was still a temporary captain, but it was never confirmed, you see. So I mean they said down in Canberra, you’re only a temporary captain, you’ve got be a Lieutenant now, you were only temporary during the war. So annoying. So that’s, so I was thinking about kicking up a bit of a fuss about it, but I suppose there got there rules in the Army, but what’s it matter. But I was disappointed for my


family, because I’m listed as a Lieutenant when I should be a captain. Anyway.
Perhaps you could talk to Dennis about it?
I don’t know, I was thinking abut Paul Stevens, he’s actually the head of it. But I’ll tell you an interesting thing about Dennis Vale my friend Mavis, Annie she’s, she’s this is name dropping of course, her father was Sir Arthur


Fadden who was the longest serving treasurer of Australia, he was Prime Minister for 40 days, actually during the transition between government, and she’s the last of the family living. But anyway, this is short term memory when you get to 86, you keep losing your thread. What was I talking about, Mavis?
What was I talking about her?
Her father


being a?
No something else, oh.
You were going to tell me a story, because of not being made captain and being temporary captain?
Yes that’s right, anyway, I might.
Oh you were going to tell me a story about Dennis.
Oh Dennis Vale, that’s right, then Mavis came into it. So I went to the


Geelong Bowls Club and there’s a fellow called Johnston whose a politician, Chinese decent his a member for that area. And he’s a real promotion man and he put this on, because Dennis Vale was coming to Brisbane and he wanted to us him, and he had all this stuff with his name on it. And he was presenting certificates of appreciation to people like, RSL [Returned and Services League] chaps and fellows that had done good work and good effort.


Mavis, Mavis was disappointed that she never got a gold card, because she went over to Singapore, at the end of the war, as a AAMWS [Australian Army Medical Women's Service] there the girls who are nurses but there not sisters. They helped the sisters, and she went over and the surrender was signed while they were on the water. The war was finished on the 15th October, August, but the surrender wasn’t signed until the 6th September or something. But they were on the


water, and she said oh there could have been a Jap [Japanese] submarine. And one of the girls got a gold card you see, and she wants a gold card and she’s been trying to get, she’s put in a, she spoke to this Michael Johnston and he though up the idea of giving her a certificate of appreciation, which is nothing, but he’s just trying to satisfy her. I went along to this function and she turned up and she was making a speech and I could see her looking


at me and I though oh I’ll have a chat to her later. Cause she goes to a lot of functions, she goes to a lot of trips with people, she’s seen a lot of these commemorative trips like ours. The ones up to the Kokoda Track and another one to Alamein, and then ours. Anyway she looked at me and I went up to her after, she couldn’t remember me, she knew the face, but she was the most interesting person, she was lovely.


She was dressed beautifully every time she had to make a speech, and when we went up to Victoria Barracks on the night before we left for dinner, she was there and we each had our photo taken with her. And she kissed us all on the lips, and coming back on the plane, when we were coming home from New Guinea she came up and Frank McCoster was sitting beside me, she put her hand and kissed us on the


lips again. Despite all that she didn’t know who I was. She knew the face, but that’s how it is. We remember her of course.
I remember going to an Anzac Day service and she opened the service with a speech.
Oh yes.
It was in Windsor a few years ago, it was in Windsor.
Windsor here?
Oh go on ah, yes. Oh yes anyway she’s a lovely person.


Let me ask you about, you were talking about the Irish gun ho chap, Skit O’Sullivan, what happened to him you said that he died?
We were at Goodenough Island which is a campaign following Milne Bay. There were 300 Japs, 350 Japs had been dumped there, they were coming to reinforce Milne Bay, but our, one of our ships made have made it too dangerous for them so they, they


landed at a place called Goodenough Island and they were up there and we were told our Battalion, had to get rid of them. That’s where Cliff Hoskins, my friend got his MC [Military Cross]. Anyway, you don’t want to know the full story about it yet but we had to, yes any rate we landed we came, we the Navy took us in the destroyer, we landed there and the story was that we were to come up in the middle of the night and or


very early in the morning so we would arrive, when the Japs were coming out on parade, from their camp or wherever they were for a morning parade, and we’d catch them unawares. But instead of that it was raining and lighting and everything else, that’s where I was telling you about the bloke that wanted me to carry the machine, the Bren gun, help carry the Bren gun. Up this very steep slope slipping and sliding and, raining and everything else and


of course we got up there and we were running about 2 hours late, and the by the time we got up there the Japs knew we were there, because unfaithful natives often dobbed us in. The fuzzy wuzzy [New Guineans who aided Australian troops], they weren’t all angels because they, had there families to protect, and if the Japs were in charge they weren’t going to make it obvious that they were putting them in, they’d knock their head off because of the brutality of the Japs was terrible, the way they which I’ll talk about


later. And, we lobed up there and they were waiting for us, and we had quite some extensive fighting and I got a few blokes and, what was I saying. Oh yes, Skit was there he was a personality, one of the personalities of the Battalion, and there he was hit in the stomach, oh shocking wound and he was crying out. Oh god that was terrible and all these


new recruits he had from [(UNCLEAR)] it made a bad impression. So he died a horrible death, he really, he really looked after me when I first joined up, he use to take me around, and he’d introduce me to women and all but anyway that was good, but he just died a horrible death, it was the noise he made, that was disturbing.
A bad death.


Did you ever go up to Ireland and England?
No no, I didn’t my wife wouldn’t get on an aeroplane, not that I had much money to travel with, but no I've never been there. The only time I’ve been overseas is being with the army.
Now can you explain for me what ADC is?
Well its called a Aide-de-Camp the governments got one, he has a few they take it in turns of volunteers.


But you just look after the general and pave the way for him and, go with him everywhere and do little jobs for him, as he’d turn up, it’s a cushy job. But he has a personal assistance that’s more or less his clerk, well not his clerk, his got a clerk as well, sergeant clerk. No he just administration but he didn’t have much to do, because I’ve acted as his agent as well. Yes


an ADC it’s a pretty common job, a common expression, all generals have a ADC I don’t know if the Americans do. But you read in the mess when your and ADC you eat with them too, where as the Americans, and ADC, agent they have them, they don’t eat with them. It might be alright to eat with them and have good tucker and stuff, but it soon wears off you’re better off without them.


But you learn, I mean I’ve played game of subhateme [?] with General Morshead who is one of our senior commanders, you get to know them all, and used to play surplos [?] over the net, you know surplos you throw a quoit thing over the net and then back it comes. The general used to cheat he used to put his hand over the top, but anyway we used to play when we knocked off about 4.00. But oh no I just, and I travelled with him in the jeep. He’d be sitting in the


front and I’d be sitting in the back and he’d say “What’s that unit over there Neil”, and I got fed up with saying I don’t know sir, I don’t know sir, I used to say that’s the 2/14th A Attachment or that’s something else, he wouldn’t know the difference see. I could make up something. That would be a good trick wouldn’t it. But oh he was good to me, good to me. Yes that’s all the ADC does he’s


just, goes with the general everywhere and looks after him and probably runs the mess for them keep and eye on the mess for them, like there’s a sergeant, there’s a bloke that works, but you’ve got to make sure everything is right. Hand a couple of bottles on gin around or something like that.
That would have been a strange experience for you to go from Tobruk when you were in line for the Headquarters?
Well it was after the New Guinea Campaign


mainly, see I’d had, Tobruk, Milne Bay, Goodenough Island, Buna, see I had 5 Campaigns, the brigade commander said I need a rest and that’s why, I got offered the job. And General Berryman was a senior staff officer for Blamey when we were doing those unit campaigns and so now he knew what we had done and what our brigade had been through and what


my battalion had been through, and he thought it was some reward perhaps, for a bloke that had done his share. So oh, no I met his wife and used to, used to, pretty friendly with him. Sorry he didn’t confirm that I was a captain though.
You talked about, this is going to sound like a stupid thing to ask, what exactly does stand too mean?
Stand too means that you’ve got to be up


and ready to fight, you’ve got to have your equipment on, instead of lying down on your tummy having a sleep, you’d get up and you’ve got to be ready. You’ve got to put your equipment on, get your rifle ready, get your pistol ready and stand too, waiting for the enemy in case they might come. Stand too.
And the hardest time in Tobruk was when the morning light?
Well that was the most boring,


the worst, the most dangerous part was going out on a fighting patrol. I mean standing too the enemy didn’t ever come. They might of once or twice but, you just had to do it every morning.
I’d heard that Tobruk was kind of the end of the, the gentleman’s war, there was a lot of respect between the Germans and the Rats of Tobruk is that true?
Oh yes, yes, they treated our prisoners very well, yes a lot, I seen


lots and heard lots of stories. And no the Germans respected the Australian all right and we respect them. Not the Japanese they were absolutely horrible. Have you heard about the atrocities of the Japanese, yes yes they, they tie native women, tie them up by wire and skin them right down the middle, right down the middle and that sort of thing. It was incredible.


Oh yes I don’t know why. My mother didn’t like me buying a Japanese car at all because she’d lost a son. Yes oh no that’s the thing.
Interviewee: Neil Russell Archive ID 0692 Tape 03


Neil I just wanted to take you back to Tobruk, and ask you to talk us through I guess the day to day life that you would have had in Tobruk when, you first got there, what would you get up to?
Yes well actually there were two different areas you’d be in the front line where you’d be


in a post. Tobruk was a series of Posts, Post 9, Post 10, Post 13 I was in, and you’d be under the ground, down under the ground to a degree, and you’d, it was pretty primitive, but then you didn’t have any, you’d have a blanket and just a ground sheet you had nothing else to sleep on. But outside then there’s a lot of latrines


that’s what I remember when I walked into that we joined there that Platoon after I came up to Tobruk, they’d been there for a few weeks or whatever. And I walked past these, rather smelly latrines in the open there and there was a bloke there called Bill Stooks who, who was a bit older than the rest of us, and he, when I said Ingleburn and I was a sergeant, and we were having medicine


board games and things like that. And he mucked up I said, I said “you’ve got no esprit de corps”. I said, but half of them didn’t know what I was talking about. But anyway when I walked in “here comes the man who said we had no esprit de corps”. He said that was a year later exactly almost, I rejoined them and he though of that. But anyway, that by the way, but well you just sort of sit around during the day and have a bit of a rest because nothing


happened during the day. Anything that was going to happen would happen at night when you’d go on patrol, or you’d go on patrol or you’d, defend yourself. So that, so that was the existence when you were in there you just sort of sat there and, just be on guard and be ready and have a bit of a rest during the day, and that went on for about 3 weeks.


But that was, it was pretty boring I might, I suppose you’d say. But we didn’t, we were strafed occasionally by Aircraft but not terribly often and it, I didn’t personally have much, artillery fire from the enemy. But anyway, but then when you went out of the line it was completely different, a different kettle of fish. You’d, I remember one occasion I went and visited the 2/15th battalion fellows from, there were some from Townsville


and you could walk about a bit and go for route march down to the Tobruk Harbour as I said and have a swim. So it was a boring sort of a thing, but there was no activity. I must say really, one interesting thing was we were relieved by the Poles, the Polish division or brigade, who were very keen to get stuck into the Germans, because what the Germans had done when they attacked


Poland. The Nazis did. And so it was, there was nothing, you didn’t do much at all, it was quite boring. It was really exciting when we were told we were going out I’ll tell you. A matter of fact I was reading a very nice poem but it’s a bit long you wouldn’t want to hear that would you?
Yes, no I would, I would?
This signifies, illustrates the atmosphere when we were relieved


from Tobruk and we, marched down to the harbour and was transferred to a destroyer. I’ve got it here can I get it?
A Farewell Poem to Tobruk, this was written by Staff Sergeant Bell –
A ghostly convoy creeping down into the silent sleeping town, against the gleaming whiting track, bagged silhouettes


outlined in black, crawling down neath raining noon into the shattered heap of ruin, truck loads of weary war tired men who dare at last to dream again, of brighter scenes some time time to man embanish thoughts of blood and sand, and still half doubting the eager thrill a boys released from school boy drills, some faces they would sorrow line, sad thoughts of mates they’d left behind, and some who bow all


silently to drown regrets in one grand [(UNCLEAR)], there exile or a job well done, there stubborn ranks have stopped the hums, and here at last now every very soon they say farewell to that pale moon, there pallet trader up on high revealing all unto the eye, of grey winds death from out the sky, but now the phantom cavalcades have [(UNCLEAR)] against those cardboard shades,


and busy seaman in the dark, assist the soldiers to embark, out with the crazy shell tore pier up ladders placed against the side, of lighters rocking on the tide, long phantom shapes ride close ‘longside, with skill that would skill them with grudging pride, the silence service how well names, perfect seamanship well trained hand over hand up that steel side, a splash unto to into the tide,


heavy equipment weighs them down, a minute lost and both would drown, no panic here no time is lost, hot steamy coffee warms insides, like furnaces, there clothes they dry, 30 minutes brief of pass, air the last mooring rope was cast, the guiding lights upon the boom, replace the banishing sickle moon, men’s faces peering ghostly pale that crowd of sleep destroyers rail, and


size of heartfelt thankfulness are breathed into the nights blackness, as many take there long last look at that grim spot that proceeds Tobruk. That was, going aboard the destroyers to get back to Alexandria.
And what does that poem mean to you?
What does that poem mean to you?
Oh just, just the thrill of, being able to go out because the 9th Division, we were 18th Brigade


and there were two, I think the 9th Division was there as well as us. But we were relived by the Polls, and they were still there, they just stayed there another 2 or 3 months. We got out, set up shop somewhere else.
Can you just describe, I mean I know a lot of fellows lived in the ground and in split trenches and stuff in Tobruk, quite horrible, can you?
No it wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t, it was just.
Can you describe?
No well, no it was,


we weren’t in slip trenches, we were under cover, we were underground, and oh no I don’t, it was worrying, but I didn’t, it was pretty stark living and not much food and not much water, but I mean from this way, length of time looking back, I can’t recall that it was so terrible, mind you this is when, like there


was, spot, when they were fighting of course. When you’re fighting it’s a bit different, but, and that wasn’t terribly often. But no I can’t think of any thing grim, because you were in there for 3 weeks or so, then you came out, and you came back again. But no I can’t remember anything particularly grim, I can describe.
How did you deal on a day to day with the shortage of water?
Well with


difficulties, I mean, you couldn’t wash probably. I mean you had to shave, and we always used to shave. We didn’t go out with long beards. The Australian soldier, would always like to be clean shaven, even in action. But I can, actually I can talk more about New Guinea, probably than I can about Tobruk, because it was pretty boring stuff and.


Oh we will get to New Guinea.
Yes, but if there, yes no it was scary, and you wondered if you’d ever get out and all this sort of thing. And there was one occasion when, we were suppose, it was in an operation called the Battleaxe and we were supposed to break out of Tobruk and join up with, with the British forces outside Cairo, and


but, Rommel did over the British on that occasion so, we were nothing happened, it didn’t happen. And of course you know how Lord Haw Haw he called us the Rats of Tobruk because he said, we were stuck like rats in a trap and that sort of thing. No I can’t it’s, I can’t say much more about it than that because from this distance you forget it I


suppose. I didn’t find it so terrible, very worrying and boring I’d say.
You’ve mentioned briefly a couple of times, the, patrol you were doing that, earned you where you were awarded the DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal]. But you actually didn’t take us through that patrol in any great detail.
No, no, that right, well.
Can you tell us what happened?
Well it started off, there were two, it was on the El Adem Sector, away from where we


were at [(UNCLEAR)], that’s the El Adem Road. There was on Platoon of 20 men, one group of 20 men on one side of the road, with Lindsay Reid, Lieutenant Lindsay Reid, and the other on the other side, with me, I was in charge. We had some, we had a few, we had a section of tanker attack blokes there too I think, that might have been there to help us, but then there was a fellow called Abbey


Thomas who was in charge. He was a captain, and he was, originally our regimental sergeant major, he was quite a character, no liked by everybody. But very rough and this is what he said to us, when we’d start “When I blow the f… whistle, you f…. do this”, I don’t approve of that but that’s the way he was, he became a major and got a DSO [Distinguished Service Order] and a MC


so it had what it takes, but he was also too big for his boots. But I’ll tell you a story about him another time later, came to grief. No so off we went and, it describes it in the book, but, but we, we came under fire. There were Italians laced with a few Germans at that particular point. And we attacked and we tripped, as


I say, got damaged and we carried on, we tripped the, the trip wires with grenade and things like that, and booby traps and they fired on us. We lost a few blokes of course but we carried on and attacked them and captured a couple of prisoners. That was the key to it, see, they loved prisoners. And then, and then, the, we just went and attacked them and we couldn’t capture, we weren’t going to capture


the, we weren’t good enough to capture them, didn’t have enough men to capture the whole thing, but we attacked them, we put on a show, captured a few, and then I. The reason I got the DCM it cause I hung around and tried to save a, carry a bloke out, and save another bloke and this sort of thing, and get back to the main troop. And.
Can you tell us about that Neil?
Can you tell us about that?


tell you about it yeh, can I tell you from the book. No.
Just remind yourself but then if you can just tell me that would be great.
Right oh, god. Well I don’t know. The reason I got the DCM cause I, was it was a successful patrol, and General Morshead was so thrilled about it, he probably gave me a DCM instead of a MM because we bought the prisoners back


and also, this fellow Len Bugg, who was badly wounded, we tried to get him, he just, I couldn’t carry him he was too heavy for me. But I tried too and we saved another bloke and, bought him out. But that’s the story, you hang around under fire, try and help these blokes and that, that put that on you citation. But it was mainly because we went in


and did what we had to do and, attacked them and bought some prisoners back and tried to save these fellows and that was it actually. There was no more than that. And, and, the Germans put across the fact that we were trying to break out of Tobruk and that sort of thing. Anyway the commander of the whole show Morshead,


he was so thrilled with it, but that, there are about two MMs [Military Medals] a MC and DCM out of that show, and the fellows on the other side. That’s what it was, it was such a successful patrol. But there’s not minuet detail to it really. So it’s like, another occasion when, in Milne Bay, I’ll just come back to Tobruk in a minute. But when, my


Platoon was the first over the start line and we did our, got our objective and I put on a [(UNCLEAR)] of charge, this that and the other. And, but, none of us got anything. But the Company Commander got a DSO because of the good work of our company, our platoon, our company, that’s how it goes, he’s got a DCM he’s had his share. Yes no, there’s not much to say, more about Tobruk really.
What were you impressions of the Germans?


Oh the Germans were, well I didn’t talk to any of them, but, but they just had a good reputation. I subsequently spoken to some, some of our fellows were captive, in one of those posts and they were sent back as prisoners of war and that had nothing but praise for the way they were treated. They really looked after them like we looked after the Germans.


And this fellow Tom Elliot, he was one of our original Officers, he had and interesting story when he escaped he was, held by the Italians, as a prisoners of war. And when Italy chucked it in, Mussolini, they decided to, to remove the prisoners up to


Germany from southern Italy up through the north and he was, he was, it was just like a movie, he got on, he and another bloke in this train, in the carriage, like a cattle carriage. And beside them was a flat top with machine guns, cause the Germans there would shoot anyone who tried to escape. But they did, sort of weaken a section of the carriage, which they could push out at the physiological moment


as they were climbing out the hilt, and they did that and they threw themselves out and escaped. Even though the flat top was there and the machines, probably dark at the time. Anyway it took him 2 years to get back to Switzerland, or over a year anyway. And then he got back at the Unit eventually at the end of the war. But, that was, I think that was quite interesting. Yes
I’ve heard and read, and spoke to a few fellows about it,


some of the soldiers who I guess had been quite a while in Tobruk, not actually coping terribly well with constant?
Oh you mean get bomb happy and stuff?
No, no didn’t, I didn’t have any experiences like that. No no I don’t think so, mind you we were there only about 5 months, so. The 9th Division stayed there longer see. But they used to bring you in and out of the line, in fact I was only reading today that our


CO was describing, a discussion he had with General Morshead, or the general, yes General Morshead, about how his, after when he was coming out, were his Troops were fit still. He said another month, he said they wouldn’t have been, he said they’d been there long enough. And we did gradually get worn out I


suppose. But funny it’s hard to recapture the feeling you had all those years ago.
And what about when you got out of Tobruk, and you went across to Syria or?
Oh yes lovely, got out of Tobruk, got off at Alexandria, the port. And went to Palestine for while and then, up we went to the Turkish boarder, that’s what you were asking about? Yes. Well this was, as I


mentioned before, they thought the Germans might come down through the Caucasus, and we were up there patrolling, really that’s all we were and just being there and we had quite a few chats with the Turks across the boarder, and that sort of thing. But, it was, oh it was, the first time I’d every seen snow and, we had two different times up there. We went to different places. And


on the boarder, but nothing, there were some, I suppose, no there weren’t any incidents, directly with me, but, and there was no fighting. But anyhow some of them went over and talked to the Turks but, we came out then, we came back to


Aleppo, that’s where we were based in Syria at Aleppo, up in the, that’s Aleppo, yes. And this Mike Steddy and I, were, had this group of fellows on motorbikes, few motorbikes, in case the Germans came down we were suppose to be patrolling, but so that’s the session up there. We were, then the 9th Division came out of Tobruk then, they were lead by the South


Africans and you know the South Africans lost it to the Germans eventually. Anyway, they came up to Syria, the 9th Division and we were released to come back to Australia. Oh there was I’ll tell you a story about, I was going to tell a story about a brothel but it, concerning me but I don’t think I’ll tell that one now. Did they tell you about that did they?
Yes I heard about.
I meant I was thinking, there’s another one I want to


tell you too, but as far as I’m concerned, I wouldn’t be too happy if my grandchildren read where I went into a brothel. That’s what I’m worried about.
But that’s part of the whole experience of the thing really, I mean Blamey set them up?
Blamey set the brothel up for all the fellows.
Yes but I wasn’t, everyone doesn’t have to go to a brothel, but anyway I was, I did think that perhaps I


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?
I’d like you to tell me about the trip back?
We were on a lovely ship called the Nieuw Amsterdam, god it was a lovely ship. Dutch ship I suppose. Anyway we called into Bombay and, and


I remember I was, on duty as you used to take it in turns as officer of the picket, the town picket, you’d go in, and the brothels were in a place called Grant Road and they’d all be in cages. You’d see all these poor women in cages, on display. It was a joke but and you had to make sure the Troops were behaving themselves and make sure that they were back on time. But what I did


when I wasn’t picket, we were there for a couple of days, 2 or 3 days actually. I went to the races in Bombay, now if you go to the races in any place you find the people dressed up well, women are in there, whatever they wear, costume or whatever country there in, and the blokes are, you knew dressed very nice. Cliff Hoskins and I, my friend we went there. And but going over, when the Battalion went over in the first place,


they didn’t behave well at all, I’ve always, I don’t approve of the way Australian Soldiers behave when there off duty I might tell you. I mean a lot of people talk about there larrikins of they don’t salute British officers and they ridicule them and they, I don’t approve of that. And because, I think a soldier he’s got to be, they say oh his a good soldier in the field but his got to be more than that because they cause


trouble. Like I remember when we were in, before we went up to Tobruk I had, we had a bit of a route march, it was in, outside Alexandria, and you had to go for quite a while, route march to have a shower. And there’s this fellow called Johnston, he used to lag behind all the time, he was just a pain, he was just annoying and a nuisance, and he did it on


purpose. I don’t know whether he wanted, well they put him on the charge you see, and Cliff Hoskins, my friend, he abused me, he said “his my Platoon you’re not allowed to, you’re not allowed to put him on a charge”. he was annoyed with me. But that’s another story.
What kind of bad behaviour did you?
Oh yes the going over, yes. Oh you know, in Durban they took over the rickshaws and they were running around, on the rickshaws and leaving them and,


generally make a nuisance of themselves. Oh they’d get drunk and stuff and, I’ve never been much of a drinker, I don’t approve of it, but they were good men they just didn’t know how to behave themselves. Like a lot of Australian youths.
Yes I’ve a few stories.
Yes, yes, probably more that I have but anyway.
Well nothing like your experience and


what you.
Nothing like your experience and what you might of seen or heard.
No, no, I haven’t seen anything too bad. But fellows, sergeants even, they’d lost there stripes, they’d went AWL [Absent Without Leave] a lot of them go AWL. There’s a story about AWL, there’s a fellow, no what’s his blooming name, he had a, Irish name,


Tiger O’Riley I think his name was, he was always going AWL, and the English troop there were in England for 5 months. Tex Alaway, a great friend of mine, whose been interviewed by you people, he was telling me the story and I’m repeating it, he used to go absence without leave all the time, when they were in England. And, anyway he went away and they bought him back


and, he escaped again, so the RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] said “I’ll get this bloke this time”, so he went up and he was somewhere up North of England somewhere and he said “Tiger right oh, we’ve got you now”, and Tiger said “I just want to go to the toilet”, he said to the RSM. Oh the previous time he’d borrowed money from this bloke to, but he went, he wanted to go to the


toilet Sergeant Major he said and he got out the window and that’s the last the RSM saw of him again. He was the RSM of the Battalion and he, incredible, there hopeless, there no good to anybody. But it’s so amusing that the RSM himself goes especially to get him and then he loses him. One of the, one of the, our dress Soldiers up there was a fellow,


a well know Brisbane chap, a fellow called Tim Douglas. He was, he was a Supreme Court Judge eventually, in fact he was from Townsville, his father was a Judge up there, and they took, in fact I took his sister Beatie to a ball once and it’s the only time I got drunk I think and disgraced myself to a degree. It was probably the North Queensland Club or the Racing Club, but it was free


anyway, the grog was free. And they had the grog in a tent at the Townsville Showground and I probably, I don’t beer, I didn’t like beer much then I was drinking whiskey I think and of course, it wasn’t too long into the night before I was inside making a fool of myself. Anyway two fellows had to take me home, one was Tim Douglas and another fellow called Tom Kabachavic and they took me


home. And the old man didn’t know he, they were all asleep when I got home. Anyway the next day after he came home from work, oh go he said, he said “I’m frightened to walk down Flinders Street and hold my head up” he said his typist had put me in, said I’d got drunk or something. Now were back to, what are we onto now.
I just wanted to take you back to


Bombay for a second, because you were kind of patrolling and looking after everybody. I just wanted to know if any of the Australian Soldier that you knew or saw in Bombay actually, visited the girls in the cages in the?
Well some of them would have for sure, oh yes, we’d try and stop them of course. But oh yes they would have, they would have,


god yes. They, got gonorrheae some of them, I remember one bloke, one bloke got infected and never come back on the ship. The doctor, they were playing cards, the MO, the Medical Officer and two other blokes were playing cards on the deck and someone said “Oh Billy’s in trouble” or


something. But it was, what interested me most was the way, he didn’t jump up straight away, because Doctors, he just finished his hand and went quietly over, and went to see the bloke. There were a few blokes that got dieses.
How big were the actual cages that they were in?
Oh, I don’t, well they were pretty big.
I’ve heard about it but I didn’t know.
Yes about the size if you cut it off there, around there.


But they had cages I suppose, it was, I can’t recall what they had on the ground or anything, but it was fairly stark. But they would have gone inside to preform, but they were just there on display. I suppose they had to do that. Now lets think about it they wanted to let people know they were there and they could look at these girls and see if they liked them so they, they had to let people


see them but not let them get in.
Were they closed or?
Oh yes, closed.
So it was more of a shop front to allure them in?
Yes, oh yes. Yes.
And what did you get up to on the, can you sort of describe a little bit of the passage itself coming back to Australia, on board the boat?
No, it was good, lovely. It was


good food and everything else, no you used to have, you used to have to do PT, physical training and we had to take our turn at having, we had to have several machine guns posted at the end of, around the ship in case Aircraft came around and we were, we put in a position for anti-aircraft fire. That’s all we did, but you had to keep people fit, you couldn’t let them sit around doing nothing, we had


PT and stuff. But it was, we didn’t have any, you’d probably, you would have had to, would have been a few lectures about various things and keep them occupied. You’ve got to take advantage of, getting the message across. Then we got to Adelaide of course it was wonderful. One of the things that stuck in my mind mostly is a place called Sandy Creek,


in Adelaide, outside Adelaide and, I can remember there were telephone there, you could ring up, how marvellous it was, cause a big que to get on the phone. To ring up your fiancée or whatever and just thinking.
You made a call?
I made a call, but it was. I forget how we got through, because I know STD [Subscriber Trunk Dialling – long distance] didn’t come in until well after the war. I remember I was in Bunbury in


Western Australian at the time and I made my first STD call from a phone in Bunbury. But no, I don’t know how you got through.
And who did you call?
I called my, wife, my well she wasn’t even my fiancée, my girlfriend, but she was about to become my fiancée. That’s here, there’s a photo there. And oh yes


it was quite exciting time. Then we went to Tenterfield. Cold as billy-o [very cold] there and then Kilcoy. A wonderful time a Kilcoy. Kilcoy near between Kilcoy and Somerset Down and the CO realised we were seasoned Soldiers now and we didn’t have to get up in the morning early at 6.30, it was just first rise was 8.30 like going to work in the


city. And we had our individual company messes, we’d eat separately, we’d get extra meat, we had beer and all that sort of stuff. It was really a good life we had at Kilcoy. And of course we had football matches at Thomas Head, which was being constructed, they had a football field there and some of the Officers put there wives into, they’d share a house and this sort of thing. But


I got back down to, got down to, got down to visit Brisbane occasionally for weekend leave and I remember the last time of course was when I bought the wedding ring and then had to come back, I was on 12 hours notice to move so, I had to postpone the wedding.
Can you talk to us Neil about actually making the decision to get married while you were a soldier?


Oh there wasn’t much there, it was automatic.
Oh yes, you know, at that stage, oh no, got married. I remember I must admit to this. I’m a very unemotional person and yet, I must have been, I must tell you how I met my wife. Do you want to hear that?
Yes I do.


we did this officers course this Cliff Hoskins and Charlie Graves who came from here although one was City and one was Brisbane fellow. We decided we ought to have a night out together. So Charlie said “I’ve got a girl”, and I said “Well I’ll go into the Commonwealth Bank in Brisbane and my father knows the accountant there I’ll see if he can get a couple of Commonwealth Bank


girls”, and we had no trouble. Anyway my girl, Marjorie, I’d better not tell you her surname. She, I took this Marjorie Drain, I told you her name now. But anyway and Cliff got someone, a girl and off we went. We went to the Bellevue Hotel and had some drinks. No we went to the Gresham Hotel, which is a, it’s not there anymore. And


corner of Creek Street and Adelaide Street, and had a few drinks.
Interviewee: Neil Russell Archive ID 0692 Tape 04


Yes that night, I must get onto Marjorie later. But that’s well then we went and we went out to the Bellevue then and had a bit of dancing there and that sort of thing. And the next morning I was, and Charlie Groves had my future wife, as his partner. It didn’t matter she’d been on a trip to Cairns, used to have trips, every week there’d be ship in the tourist season, in the


winter would go up from, they’d start at Melbourne and they’d go up Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns and they’d get off and go up the Tableland and have a trip and Francis was on one of these trips and she met Charlie Groves coming back from leave in Brisbane, back to here, to his Solicitors job. And they had a bit of a ship board romance. And every time, another, just once or twice later he’d come and he’d take her out when he came to Brisbane. But he was a bit of a bachelor type.


It didn’t carry on any further than that. But, it was she that went with him to this function, this night out. And I was out at her place the next morning, love at first sight I’d suppose you could say. And we stayed in touch and I went on from there and were happily married for 50 years and, and so we so Charlie didn’t have a say after that. But talking about this other lass.


Marjorie, right, don’t mention that surname, god. Because she, I took her to a ball, or something on in the city, well this is before I met my wife. And, she wasn’t in the party at all, it was another Commonwealth Bank one. Anyway, she said to me she was, bit of a fast one she oh you’ve got a room in the Kembla tonight. And I said no, god no I wasn’t game.


Anyway, then we go to the pictures at Ashgrove, and they had these campers chairs, she turned up in slacks and I was horrified, I was embarrassed she had slacks on, that how it was in those day. That was very forward, to go out in, at night like that and wear slacks. Anyway, I didn’t take her out after that of course, because I met Francis. But she was goer, she married a


cabinet minister in the local, in the state government actually. I hope, I don’t know if she’s still around, but anyway. And I’ll tell you what a bloke did to me once. He had a friend called Dell who lived out Sapit Way [?] or somewhere, he said “Look Neil I’m trying to break it off with Dell will you take her out” he said. So, I, I took this girl out he was trying to, I suppose he though she might went onto me or something but


anyway, we went out, took her out and sat on the front step of her house for about ½ hour before I went home again, and that was it. The thing he, a fellow called Mal Pound, yes, and yes well that’s. Oh yes another function I want to tell you about, Francis and I and, and Charlie probably was there too and Cliff, he had friend. And


there were about 7 of us with our partners, at Princes Nightclub which is, next door to where the new Commonwealth Bank building is now, on the corner of Edward Street and Queen. It was just, not opposite the post office, opposite but further down. And we were dancing around there and, and who should be there, there was a


wonderful looking, air force officer there, in his blue uniform, he looked a million dollars. And that, fellow, was Peter Turnbull, who did such a wonderful job as part of 75 Squadron, attacking, helping us defend Milne Bay, and he actually died in front of us, he went, he went in and hit the top of a palm tree, poor chap.


But of those 7 fellows there were only two of us that returned unscathed. From that New Guinea Campaign. The First New Guinea Campaign. But it was a great night, dancing around there and all that lovely music we used to have in those days, like songs like, “Stardust”, bloody marvellous. I hear it today and I feel like I’ve got to get up and dance. My friend Mavis and I


sometimes go up to the United Service Club, but she’s run out of steam now, a bit, and we would dance, wouldn’t dance every dance but, it was pretty good.
Did they play your old favourites?
Oh, yes, if you asked them they would. They play our sort of music because all the blokes are old up there. I’m about the oldest but, there are a lot of fellow in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. But oh no, they sing and dance.


You mentioned that it was love a first site with Francis.
Oh yes.
Can you tell us what it was about her what, drew you in?
Oh no, she was just, she was just beautiful, able, clever, she did a senior from sunbloust [?] but I don’t think she passed. There was only about 6 in the class. Oh no she, she was, had a good mind, and two


sisters. Seven years apart they were the sisters, 3 sisters. And oh no it’s, oh yes, she became a camp follower, I was going to tell you about that wasn’t I. Well when we came back from New Guinea, when I came back from New Guinea, I got malaria, I got malaria the day the war finished, up there on the 21st January 43. And you get recurrent malaria, they used to give


us quinine in those days but now they have atebrin and, better stuff. But, you have it 3 times and, keep getting it. But anyway I was hanging about and I was finally on my way back to the battalion and she had heard through the wife of our adjutants that we were leaving from Townsville. So off she, so


she, off she trotted, and I was on my, I was up there I the area and it wasn’t Townsville at all, as it turned out I was outside Cairns somewhere. But she went up to Townsville, thinking that I had shipped in there, battalion was going to leave from Townsville. And she had trouble getting accommodation. And I told her to ring one lady and she couldn’t handle her, so she eventually got up,


my old father in law, he was a secondary in the marine board and chief inspector of [(UNCLEAR)], working for the government, in Brisbane, and he knew the Harbour Master in Townsville, so he got him to put her up. And she was coming in from north Warby in Townsville into Townsville City, in a bus, and there were two women sitting behind her, and they said “What do you think that Neil Russell’s wife, up here trying to get


accommodation at this time when the city is full of people, Americans everywhere, hasn’t she got a cheek”. Francis was listening to all this, anyway when she got out of the bus, she said “I’ll just let you know that I’m Neil Russell’s wife”. But yes, they didn’t mean any harm I suppose but there you are, you’ve got to be careful. Anyway then she went on and she got up to Cairns, she got, and, and they said oh there


leaving from Cairns now, but I’d got another bout of malaria and I was in hospital. And so she, got this, she got on a troop, it wasn’t a troop train but a lot of Soldiers on it, up to Cairns at four o’clock in the morning and the lad, made her a cup of tea and a bit of toast. And she found her way to a Mrs Quacker who had a boarding house and she put her up and then she found I’d left, the hospital and gone to the comp [company] camp at Lake Baree and that’s, so the nearest place she could


go from there was the Lake Itchen Hotel in Yungaburra. Do you know that area?
Not too well.
Lake Itchen Hotel, anyway, all the tourists used to come up in these ships, they all used to go to the [Atherton] Tablelands, they always spend a day at the Lake Itchen Hotel and the Marcia Ellis was the hostess and when Francis rang, Mrs Kerr, who was the, the Williams family are wonderful Cairns family, they own a lot of these butcher shops and wholesalers and hotels, oh


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.
So it was just at Atherton?
It was just in the Tablelands that you managed to get together?
Oh yes that’s all, well we were lucky to get that weren’t we really?
You did very well.
Got back to the battalion I was so worn out. I went out, and I said where’s the battalion, and they said out on a route march, I was sent out, they


sent me out in a truck and I was so worn out I couldn’t finish the route march, I was suppose to finish my convalescent leave. And then shortly after that I got offered the job to go to the General, so I left the battalion. There was only two more campaigns after that. There was one in the Ramu Valley in 44 and one in Balikpapan in 45. There wasn’t much Australians at the end of the war, because MacArthur wouldn’t give us a job he


wanted it to be all Americans.
Now can you just, I just want to take you back to before you went off to New Guinea, the training that you would have got, having come back to Australia before they sent you up into the Tropics.
Oh yes, yes well, well of course, we, we used to train around Kilcoy and that sort of


stuff. This is before we went to New Guinea the first time.
Yes we didn’t, we heard all about the jungle tactics, how the Japs operated and that sort of thing.
What did they tell you?
Oh well, well they didn’t tell us too much at all really. But I could tell you what they did do to the Japs. But oh no, about how the Japs, the Japs would come around,


they’d come around you you see. They’d try and get around the back and it was interesting in Milne Bay, some of them could speak a bit of English and they’d call out stupid phrases like “Is that you Jack” and all this stuff to make you think that there Aussies. Oh yes they were pretty clever but, no one fell for that I’ve got to say, no they didn’t. And, no but, the Japs, I’ll tell you, there’s one thing I meant to say before,


that, that, I told you what, oh no I didn’t tell you what Sir William Slim who was the Governor General of Australia, at one time. He was Phil Mashall, Williams, eventually he was in charge of all the Burma operations. And it was, made up, heaven for him


when he found out that we had beaten the Japs at Milne Bay, and he said to his troops “I heard something today, that was interesting, that will give you heart, the Australians have defeated the Japanese for the first time, if they can do it we can do it”. He said “That is a wonderful example set for you, that the Japs aren’t invincible at all”. And it made a big impression on them. And they did quite


well, in Burma, there the Burma mob. The Chindits I think they called themselves. But so that was the highlight, Milne Bay, it was.
That was the turning point wasn’t it?
A turning point in a way, yes.
Before you get up there, with all the talk that was around about the Japanese, was there a clear fear of invasion into Australia by the Japanese?


well I think so, but I’ll tell you what, they put fear into you. It, they were a big worry, we knew how they treated their enemy and, how good they were the way they came down, from Singapore, they came down on bicycles. And of course as you know the old story about, Singapore was defended towards the Sea with these big guns. They weren’t much good if they came in the back door, and that’s what happened.


Apart from losing two wonderful warships there, our warships. Japs sunk them. Oh an Aircraft carrier did that I think. They came down on their bicycles you see, that was unheard of. They said impassable you can’t come. And I’ll tell you another thing too, I had lunch once a month with 5 blokes, two of them are prisoners of war and I was talking about


the heavy causalities we had at Buna, and I think they probably, they, the worst they said of any action, hang on he said, and do you know that the causalities suffered by the Australian infantry battalions, as in defending against the Japs not successfully as it turned out, but there countries the highest of any campaign in the war. And they were taken prisoners. So that was something I


didn’t know before. We lost a lot of men there.
Did you know where your brother was?
No, no just, he, he I knew he was up in the railway lines somewhere. Got a letter from his company commander but he seemed to work with terrible malaria, what hope have you got, bastards those Japs I’ll tell you. And yet, I don’t know it was probably


their religion, that, everything was for the Emperor and how they went. They seems to be a bit different now, even sending some troops somewhere to do some defensive work, or to do some, what do you call it, helping the, between various troops in these African countries. Yes,


I had, I’m not up to the second phase of the war yet am I? You don’t want me to talk about that finish of the war?
No not yet, we’ve still got ½ a day to go with you. But what I’d like to know I guess, just with the training you received before you went to New Guinea did?
You had


battalion exercises, brigade exercise, where you start off minor training with platoon and company and you weapon training and this and that but then, you have full scale, imaginary actions with an enemy. You’d have troops acting as the enemy. And you’d have umpires, fellows officers from another battalion


who might come and they’d sort of give decisions of whether you did actually get on top of those troops or not. And anyway, there was, anyway, that’s, it was as realistic as you could get it. You’ve got to give orders and do it. Anyway on one, this is just an incident that happened, one of our officers, better not name him. But he was,


he was awake to all this, cause they’d done it all before these sort of exercises. Anyway he said, this fellow was standing around he said “I don’t know I’m captured” he said “I’m not taking any more part of this”. And he didn’t know, he didn’t want to carry on he thought he’d had enough, he didn’t


want to take it seriously and he didn’t know the brigadiers was in ear shot. And that bloke was sent back to Australia because of that. Because he was an officer and he wasn’t playing his part. Poor chap. Anyway, those exercises were pretty realistic and you had to keep physical exercise, you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to keep your Troops active


otherwise they get unhappy and there was, one incident, I’ll give you an example of this. Ah, oh no I’ll tell it later when, where I was in Yokohama about us sitting on a bed beside Tom Blamey once in my general’s bedroom up there. Anyway I’ll tell you that later.
Oh you’ll have to tell us that later.
You’ll have to tell us.
Ah, well,


no, no it wasn’t much at all, I’ll tell you now. It was, because when your trying to find yourself sitting down next to the commander and chief you’d, well I’m only a junior Officer our course, and I though what can I say to him. See the general was away, So I said “Oh sir, I notice that even though the war was over, in fact is was more of less finished a


few months ago, we were still losing troops up there on, near Wewak, up on the [(UNCLEAR)] Coast”. I said “The troops would be going out on patrol and they’d find there’d be 5 Japs killed and perhaps one our blokes killed and 2 wounded”, and it was going on all the time. I said “It seems a bit unnecessary Sir”. He said “Look Russell, it like this, we have the battalion commanders come back to


me, or come through there brigade commanders and brigade commanders that they want to do something, that the Troops are doing nothing, they’ve got to give them something to do. So they’d go out on these patrols see. That’s what they did to keep the troops happy to give them something to do but they were getting killed, ones or two and that sort of thing. That was one thing. I forget what the other thing was now, but, but, yes that was the main thing, why the hell are you doing that, but anyway.


If I can just take you back to those skirmishes you were talking, the exercises you were talking about before when you’d actually split up and pretend to be enemy. Would the troops who were pretending to be Japanese, employ what they knew of Japanese tactics?
Oh no, no I don’t think they would. No they wouldn’t not as far as I know. No, well they would of, yes yes of course, there sort of. This is what they did with Tom, they’d sort of


hold you on the front and then they’d try and get around behinds you. See try and, always get around behind you, yes you’d do that normally, yes. We did learn that.
So what were you expecting on the trip up to New Guinea, with what you’d been taught?
Oh, god we didn’t. Well, well we had great apprehension I tell you. We just


didn’t know how good they were going to be, how many there were going to be, we just didn’t know, and, and we didn’t know what to expect. We knew about this enveloping business but nothing much else. And we knew, and we’d heard how they’d call out to you and that sort of things, and try, some of the Japs had lived in America and they could speak English. They’d up to all sorts of reasons like that. And they really stumped


us a bit for a while there at Milne Bay, they landed two little tanks, you heard about them. They were only very small but they had searchlights on the front and they, one of our battalions, 2/10th they, they got routed, they just didn’t do a very good job, they were taken so much by surprise. They thought they were bigger tanks than what they were, and there were more of them. As it turned out they got bogged pretty smartly. Yes, no, it,


you know we just, I know that when, at Milne Bay it was scary in this regard that, you’d go along the Coastal track and then you’ve got the rainforest adjacent and there’s tracks leading in. And you had to send a couple of blokes up those tracks, to see if any Japs there. It’s a scary business, cause a couple of them got killed, and,


but as it turned out, cause we don’t want to be, get onto the bayonet charge now, and that sort of thing you want to do that later do you? Like a Milne Bay.
Yes I’d like to talk about Milne Bay in detail actually.
Now or later?
Perhaps later.
Yes yes that would be better. Yes well your talking about incidentals now, about tactics and anything that’s of interest on the sideline.


We did, we went up in a ship called the Anshun and, my friend Charlie Groves, he came up on the next ship. There was always people away doing courses and he’d caught up with us. And, and it got sunk, it got shot up and got sunk at the Wharf. The fellows just got off in time. The Japanese war ships, they, there was no opposition, in fact I have a friend who was on a merchant ship,


his up in Townsville in a Nursing Home now. And he, he got, they shot at him, but they didn’t shot them in the Manunda, the Manunda, was there with its Red Cross on the side all lit up, but they didn’t shot on it but they sunk the [HMAS] Centaur later of course. And, so that, that, another incident that happened, this is, this happened at Milne Bay it was after the action. This Charlie


Groves, he missed the fighting, his the fellow that used to take my wife out you remember. And he, he was the Intelligence Officer and Pat Rafferty was the agent, and they shared a tent and this was after the Bombay was finished. And the blooming Air Cobbler took off, an American Air Cobbler took off and it failed to gain height and crashed right into their tent and killed them both. Or Charlie,


was covered in burning oil and died, Pat Rafferty was killed. But there is a story attached to him now, because, we were friendly with him, my wife and I, cause she knew Charlie, took Francis out before. She and her husband took Ed Webb took a liking to us and I remember after the war they took us down to Sandgate, it’s a great place to go, but I’ve been there recently, its not a bad place to go just for a drive.


Went down to Sandgate with them, for lunch one day, sort of barbeque, not a barbeque just for lunch, and they offered us two blocks of land for peanuts, in memory of Charlie you might say. Which is a wonderful thing to do, up in Buna Vista Avenue, up here it was in fact. And it was for hardly any money at all and, anyhow I finished up


selling the land to this bloke, made some good profit and bought this place. But the fellow that bought it from me made a fortune. It’s a lovely spot up there. But anyhow that was a nice thing for them to do and.
Can you tell us Neil where you were in service when the Japanese actually entered the war?
Yes, well, that’s December the 10th 1941 wasn’t it [actually 7 December].


41 yes. And, yes we were, up in, up in the Turkish border; up in Syria that’s where we were, yes, that was great. That was news and a half wasn’t it. Yes well you know you take it in your stride you’d say what’s ahead of us, oh well. You didn’t know what they were going to


get down so close to Australia of course.
Were you keen to get back home when you heard?
Oh yes, we, we were, we thought that’s the way to go. I suppose you just automatically thought its our job isn’t it. The 9th Division stayed behind and did our Alamein Campaign. Like they stopped behind in Tobruk when we left. Yes oh yes, yes.


But yeh no there was no feeling, of defeat or anything when we came back. We never ever thought Australia, I suppose we thought it was a possibility but we, cause General MacArthur was coming on the scene and we knew with the might of America that we should be pretty right. Yes well that


was a good point. Although we criticize the Americans you’ve got to realise that they did the job and there’s nothing wrong with the way they did it. They just, they don’t lose as many causalities, although they lost a lot up in Okinawa of course. But they wouldn’t have the Australian I know that, they didn’t want the Australians. They never mentioned the Australians, just the allies. Which is that’s MacArthur,


he got his up pence in the finish with Mr Truman, he got rid of him and he was told not to go across the boarder into China and he did.
Can you just talk a little bit about I guess the difference in preparation you received going up to New Guinea between Kilcoy. Did you go into Canungra to do?
Yes, yes, I personally


didn’t but that’s, that’s about the time they started to send them. It might have been after we’d gone, I think it was after we’d gone. But we, none of our blokes had gone up for that time. No that came later. That was a very early days. That Canungra was a great place, I had a fellow, one of my friends went up as an Instructor there and they taught them, no that’s where they really


taught them all about tactics I suppose. Yes oh we weren’t conscious really over much of what we had to do as far as tactics was concerned. We just sort of, thought we had to attack them and you just went forward and it’s pretty basic you know, you just go forward and you’d be aware that they might try and get around the back of you. Cause they were doing that up on the Dakota Track.


What were your first impressions of New Guinea when you saw it, or when you?
Well my impressions of New Guinea when I first saw it, oh well, it was wet as hell and it didn’t stop raining at Milne Bay. Could I tell you a little story about how I nearly went to work in New Guinea?
Yes please do.
I worked for Burns Philp of course, I don’t think I’ve told you this before


have I? And there’s a job became, came vacant, I heard about it when I was working in Burns Philp, Townsville that here was a vacancy at Samarai, it was a lovely little Island off Milne Bay. It’s a little jewel in the sea and they had an office there Burns Philp, this is before the war. I was 21 at the time, I was over 21, I might have been 22 even. Oh, I don’t know and


my father, he was of course a Commonwealth Bank Manager in Townsville, he used to, have a drink with my boss after work. Up at the North Queensland Club I suppose, in Townsville. And anyway I applied for this job. Oh my father, he got to know my father, but my father had then been transferred to Tassie, so D W Cross my boss, he got in touch with my father and said “Neil’s applied for a job to New Guinea, is that alright


with you?”. And I’m over 21, and the old man said “No they drink too much up there, I don’t think it’s a good idea at all”. So I didn’t get the job, its amazing what happened in those days. The influence of your parents and that sort of thing. I even was 22 when I joined up and I even asked permission of my parents more or less to join.
And what did they have to say?
Okay they said.
Did they have any advice for you?
No, no, they came up,


they came up to see me before I went away. They stayed at the, where I belong now, at the united service club, Mont Pellier it was called it was a private hotel next to the Baxter’s Tabernacle up there. They came and stayed there at the place. I mean it wasn’t the club then. They came up, but oh no my brother he then joined up the next year. And my older brother Doug who died as a prisoner of war, he, was,


he was worried about joining up, he didn’t join up until another year later, because he though oh two sons already away, poor Mum and Dad, perhaps he’d better not join up. That was his thinking, although he was in the, he’d been in the militia, he was a great bloke, he wasn’t a ladies man like me. He was a real mans man and he, and he used to like to have a drink, and I didn’t drink much and, and he


was, he was about, lets see, about 28 when he joined up, 27, 28, and he just in time to go up and be captured. Up the 8th Division. It must have been 41 when he joined up.
Did any of the training you actually got in the militia actually prepare you for, well for the service?
Oh yes, well it all helps, well it helped me get on in the army.


But, I think it did, I think it did a bit. I had 3 years there and I had cadet corps in Perth too. But oh yes, oh yes I suppose it did. Well it made me more likely to join up didn’t it?
Interviewee: Neil Russell Archive ID 0692 Tape 05


Neil you touched on Bombay [Milne Bay] before, can you tell me about witnessing Peter Campbell going down, Peter Campbell?
Oh yes, yes well of course, they made a big difference I the end, the pilots. There were at Milne Bay but they removed them back to Moresby because they felt it was too dangerous, they didn’t want to lose all the planes in


case the Japs took over. Anyway they flew all these Saudi’s and they came down so low, and of course the weather wasn’t always good and it was very moral boosting. To have them coming in and shooting at the enemy, because you don’t see the enemy, the Japs there always hidden somewhere. Not like the desert, open, where you knew everything. There you see nothing with the Japs. He finally made a


little mistake and clipped the top of the palm tree and just went in and one of my platoon [leader] Jack Mansfield came from NSW [New South Wales], he said “I went to school with that bloke” he said, “I want to go out and find him”. So, he went out and found him, and of course he was dead. That was, our connection with it, he was really there in the front line on the first day and he was sort of making it easier for us by coming in all the time and strafing


and that was his story.
Out of those 5 campaigns, which do you think was the most hailing for you, which, was the hardest?
The hardest, the hardest would have been Sanananda, at the end, because of the atrocious conditions and it was just water logged practically, everywhere and the Japs were in


such strong position, at their base and there were probably 5 different battalions at one stage or another had a go at getting through to them and they didn’t succeed. At the end we only really succeeded because the Japs had started to withdraw, they knew that the end way nigh because we kept putting fresh attacks in all the time, and they started to


retreat up the coast. The 2/9th Battalion actually, were the last to have a go and they, were able to take over and capture a few and found the hospital and a few wounded. But the main body had gone, that’s why we were able to finish them off on the 21st January 1943.
How did you heat up your meals in Sanananda?
Well, I’ve told,


I often told a story, Oh in Sanananda, I know about Buna, I’m just trying to remember. At Sanananda, it wouldn’t have been any different. We weren’t attacking all the time we probably spent about 3 or 4 days when we were away from our base. But by enlarge, and I told this story about Buna, that we always, 90% of the time we got a hot


meal, now B Echelon our headquarters section, would bring up hot meals in a dixie, a big dixie and we had the example about how the other half lives, when the Americans came to us a Buna and said look any chance of getting a hot feed. They were, although they had this wonderful facility and their PX’s [American Canteen Units] and everything else, back at base, when it came to being in the field, at that stage, they probably corrected it later. At that stage


all they could do was to cut in half an old, four gallon kerosene can, they used to be kerosene cans like that and you’d chop it in half and turn the edges over and put that on a fire and heated your stuff. That’s all they had they had to manufacture, a pot even, cause we had it all came up to us. So they came over to bite us for a hot meal. So the Americans, which we were pleased about. I’ve often told that


story how, they were good at the background but when it came right on the field at that stage, they, they hadn’t mastered the, capacity to give their troops a hot meal every night. So, woolly beef of whatever, it was hot though.
What about cocoa or playing cards?
No, no playing cards? No nothing like that, no god no, no facility for that. Cause you did if you were back in


camp but, so when the fighting was over, well not at Buna we had nothing like that. But if, back at Goodenough Island we had good conditions in an old mission field with huts, fellows could play cards if they liked. In fact what I did at some stage I felt that I wanted to upgrade my maths, for some strange reason and Frank Miller, whose one of my, who was my platoon sergeant, who was,


2IC [Second In Command] of [(UNCLEAR)] School, at Charters Towers a wonderful man he was, wonderful teacher, wonderful lass. He had a maths book with him, anyway, we did a bit of maths, not for very many days I must say. But an interesting thing at Goodenough Island we took a prisoner, and of course the Japs were dead scared about giving information away, they weren’t suppose to talk. In fact to be taken a prisoner, was a dreadful


sin for them, they’d rather kill themselves. And this fellow bit his tongue off, or tried to bite his tongue off so he couldn’t talk. He was in, we had him in a bit of a cage in the middle of the mission, the circle in front of the mission there. Yes and it was quite sad.
Did he actually take his tongue off?
No, he bit it hard, not quite through. I imagine though that they fixed it up. I did never find out what happened to him. But,


he didn’t want to talk.
This is probably a rhetorical question but why is it called Goodenough Island?
I don’t know, I really don’t know that. But Goodenough, no I don’t know.
It wasn’t quite big enough for the mainland maybe?
No, it was quite a hilly Island. Quite a pleasant place, we enjoyed our stay there I must say. It was our stepping off place for the Buna campaign, which was our worst one our greatest one.


Did you ever have any press men or women along with you. Any press with you?
Yes we had, we had interviews, in fact there’s a page in that book. After the fighting was finished mostly. We had photographers there occasionally, at Buna, we didn’t have them at Milne, I don’t think at Milne Bay or Goodenough Island, but at Buna. After Buna we, I was interviewed by,


by a, war correspondent, I forget his name now. Yes, he told stories about one of our blokes. I remember how we had, we had a couple of tanks. Of course the terrain was very unsuitable for tanks, but where we were it was as good as it gets, in that it was the coastal plain, it was right on the coast with a plantation and there’s grass, its not a sloppy underneath the palm trees. In that


area, the tanks had limited access and they did a marvellous job for us, and this chap, minor corporal he fixed up, the tanks are in there and you’ve got to get your message to them, and there noisy and there inside their tanks and they worked out a system by knocking and so forth, to give instructions to them. We did that and it was quite successful. But move to right or do this or do that.


Or pointing out where there was a bunker where we wanted it to have a go at. Yes, course you probably read yourself that the Japs by enlarge wouldn’t come out, they’d never surrender. But on some occasions they did, I remember, you throw some petrol and a bit of fire down and that sort of thing. They’ve got to get out then or else they die inside.
Did you witness that?
Did you witness that?


yes, it was our troops [that] did it. Yes well I mean I wasn’t doing it personally, but platoon fellows did it. Or they’d throw grenades in you see, and that would explode inside. It was very hard to get them out, very disappointing, never surrender. But the snipers, were bad, that’s, as I said they got Mike Steddy and they got quite a few people up in the palm trees they were.


If you knew they were there of course you’d soon get on to them, with our fellows with their guns, with their Tommy machine guns or there Owen guns whatever they had. Yes, oh no they were difficult fellows to fight a lot, and, yes, mind you the, your not fighting all the time, by a great stretch of the imagination. Like when


as a grandfather I often was approached by my grandchildren, which I have 9, when they were in their perhaps 5th grade or 6th grade, or 7th grade, they’d want to do a story on their grandfather or do an assignment about something. And they’d think everybody was fighting all the time but they very seldom fighting, they. In 1944 they had only one campaign in the Ramu Valley. In 1945 they only had one too.


44 and 45 and even so at Buna, we were in action for probably a week that’s all, off and on. And it dies down and then you go onto Sanananda and do a bit more then someone else has a go. Its not continuous fighting. Not like the First World War, the surrenders.
What would you down on that down time?
Oh, well we’d,


well as, well let’s see what would we do. Well when your, actually in a battle and your not in the front line you just sit there and it might be in support, you might be called upon, you might just be, be available and ready, this is all in a few days this happened. And then it quietens down after that.
Did you smoke?
Did you smoke?
Yes I used to smoke a bit, yes,


not a big smoker but a lot of them used to roll their own, a lot of fellows. Yes oh no, there’s a lot of smoking. A lot of fellow get pensions now because they said they took up smoking in the war, which is quite ridiculous. Cause they get, they die and they say oh it’s the smoking. Yes, yes


the tanks of course we had a whole regiment of tanks in Western Australia, but they did never have a real role. They had no where to go because there were formed when we were in the Middle East where they could have gone, but they missed out. It’s like the Parachute Regiment they formed them very elite troops but they didn’t ever go into action either because there was no, MacArthur wouldn’t have us anymore. But, oh yes, we, yes, yes,


Buna was the worst alright; it was the worst, yes. And then the conditions in Sanananda were terrible, I remember the last night I was, I was in a hole, I suppose you’d call it the foxhole. It’s an American expression. I was up to my chest in water and I had a raging, a raging ear ache. I remember that,


I think it was, I got malaria, it must have been the malaria coming on. Cause that was the last night. The next day, we [(UNCLEAR)] finished and I was evacuated then to hospital with malaria. I was lucky to get out of the place, in a nice bed, white sheets and a sister, nursing sister. You often hear that story about how lovely it is, my. I was reading there


my company commander he got shot through the neck and Milne Bay and, and he, and it was very messy and, slushy in Milne Bay too the conditions, and lots of mosquitoes. And anyhow he and another bloke were evacuated, he can, he went onto the Manunda, the hospital ship. He said we got in these beautiful beds with white sheets and a nursing sister, it was fantastic. But


what else was I going to say about that Milne Bay business. Oh yes, it was only then that the authorities realised that we were losing people with malaria, a bit of scrub titis, and these, tropical dieses were right, and we were in shorts when we started off. And of course,


the mosquitoes would attack around the ankles and that sort of thing. So in the end we had to wear long trousers, long buttoned at the sleeves, buttoned down to the wrist and, and eventually gaiters, we wore gaiters around our ankles, because people, it was just incredible the number of people evacuated sick. You kept getting new reinforcements. Fellows would come, I know a couple of fellow,


one of them I worked for after, I was his Agent, he used to make labels in Sydney. He came up and was a reinforcement one day and he was out the next wounded. That, he’d had 24 hours war service, in action. He was a good man though. Oh yes and, actually I must, there are a few things, I want, to mention about Buna I think, I just, can I look up this?


Of course. Did you ever have malaria back in Australia?
Oh yes twice, I had lots of it. 3 times all together, at least. Yes yes.
I got malaria in the Solomon Islands.
Oh did you?
Up in Horiara somewhere were you?
Yes, Narap ?
Very pleasant place, we left, we left on Boxing Day I think it was, we left to go to Buna and we had a concert and


they were all the boys were singing the “Shrine of St Cecilia”, which is a popular song of the day. I just forgotten about that and I just read about that.
Can you remember the tune?
Shrine of, no I can’t now.
What about Stardust Neil, you mentioned Stardust a few times?
Can you remember the tune of that?
Oh, no no I can’t sing it to you. I might later on I might get, it might come to me. Well I was thinking,


no I can’t unfortunately lovely song.
That’s okay.
Yes and, anyway another interesting, in our approach, then we went via destroyer, they picked us up and took us across to a place called Oro Bay, which and that’s, I was in that area, actually when I went up to this Commemorative Ceremony, Oro, it was the Oro area they called it. And


one of my platoon shot himself in the foot, what you call a self inflicted wound, SIW, poor chap I felt sorry for him. He was court martialled and interesting enough his a property owner in the Gunnedah District and he rang me one day to see if he could join a association, I didn’t know what to say, I mean he wouldn’t ever come, be able to come to a meeting, but I just let it drop. I should have encouraged him I


suppose, because he was only 19 at the time and he was a bit worried about what was ahead of him, so that was one way of getting out of it. Something that’s not condoned in the army of course. And where, and we were, we were our Battalion, because of all the sickness when we got to Buna we were down to about, 35 officers and


about, about, 500 men. Which is about half, about, it’s a bit less than 2/3 of our normal Establishment. So we were still down, but as I said we were still a potent force, we still had the numbers, but we were well down, even then. And a lot of them coming in were new reinforcements, too. See in a battalion you might have five thousand troops go


through and 900, 900 in a battalion, at the most and, you could if you added up how many people went through there’d be over 5,000, fellows that had been in the 2/12th Battalion, and, but we did. A fellow asked me once when he was writing a book what special instructions did you get before you went into battle, any special, any special equipment. But not really, you,


when you go in you have extra ammunition and things like that, I didn’t but the Troops did and, oh no it was, it was a normal Australian Campaign, we just go in and fire at them and keep your head down and away you’d go. It, what was I, we were talking about New Guinea now are we? Anything about New Guinea.


Pretty much, I mean I’m curious to know about the self-inflected wounds what about men with, was it LMF, Lack of Moral Fibre, did you?
Well that’s the same sort of thing.
It’s the same sort of thing?
Well you know, I hadn’t heard that before, that’s a new one. Well they didn’t have the guts to go on in, they were frightened of going on. Oh it’s not uncommon, his the only one I know of, that bloke.
How did you deal with the humidity in New Guinea, the wet humidity?


Well it, well, its your in a big sweat all the time, and of course, you’ve got, the story that you get chafed and all that sort of thing going through creeks. Do you want me to tell you that story?
Of course we had, we had a big swimming carnival, I was it was my best sport, I used to win all the swimming. We, went on this patrol, not a patrol, but a march, to give the


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.
Your mother had 3 sons, so you were one of 3 brothers in the war as well, how did she cope with that?
Oh well, no she had a badge with 3 stars on it, that’s how she got. They sent mother’s out badges and wives would have a badge, I suppose she’d got one in there. Anyway, my wife had one. Oh yes they apparently wear it,


that they were a mother or wife of a soldier serving overseas. Yes.
How did she cope with Doug’s death?
Oh, probably, I wasn’t home, see, I was in, see I didn’t have much home life I had no, after Townsville when I was probably, 19, when they went away, I went to a boarding house at 19. I didn’t live at home after 19, so you get away


from it. I would visit them on holidays every second year, but oh no she like any mother it would have made her very sad I’m sure. Yes. Yes she was, she was quite a card really, she came from Melbourne, Mother, she was a Milliner by trade and, I better be careful what I say I suppose because get on the. But anyway I can say this, anyway,


my eldest brother was born out of wedlock so, anyway Dad and Mother got happily married in the end. But she, when she was a girl, when she was in Melbourne she didn’t met Dad until she went to Perth. Her father and her uncle decided they would, there was a new mining camp, being established in Southern Cross, in Western


Australia and they decided to set up a store. Because they were in the drapery, they were drapers, and they decided to set up a general store to service the miners and make a bit of money in Southern Cross. And it was a real hell hole, dusty and everything. Mother said it was terrible she said there. And she got permission from her father to go down to Perth and see if she could get job down there. And she finished up, she got a job as a Milner down there. She said


“son I thought I was in heaven with the gates shut”, when she got to Perth, and then she’s got a younger sister, Francis, Fran as we called her she got her a job, and they lived in a boarding house I suppose it was on the Esplanade in Perth. And one night they were sleeping there and there’s a bloke climbing through the window, climbed right across their beds and went


down the hall to another girl, where he had an assignation. So I mean it was going on for a long time. That happened about 1910, 1912.
I say children born out of wedlock was quite common?
Yes well my own father was born out of wedlock too. I was looking on the birth certificate and it


said that, my grandmother was Maimie Stellar was her name, Maimie Stellar Wilson. And it said of Melbourne and the father was a journalist aged 45, she was 25 he was 45, so he obviously go her in the family way. So it said father no present at birth, which could happen I suppose in many cases. But anyway, no one ever


knows where he got to. His name was Charles Russell, and anyway that was a huge crime in those days and Mother, and gran at once was sent over the Sydney to have the child at Balmain, that’s where Dad was born. And then after the birth she at once was sent over to Perth, and that’s how she finished in Perth. And anyway that’s where she finished up in Perth and did quite well.


Dad used to go to school eventually, he used to go to Adelaide, I don’t know where the money came from but he’d get on a ship in Fremantle and for 3 years for his last few years at school, leading up to his leaving year, he’d go to Adelaide to St Peters College and he be a border and he’d be there the whole year and then he’d come back at Christmas time. Anyway that the life.


But I don’t know where the money came from at all. I suppose it came from the Wilson in Melbourne, I don’t know. But I can’t trace them on the internet or anywhere. On the genealogical records. But were getting away from the war a bit.
That’s all good for the archives, Neil, all very interesting information. So don’t feel your digressing at all, its all fascinating. I was just going to ask you though, so your grandmother didn’t actually bring your father up?


Yes he was, yes, my, yes she went over with him to Perth.
Oh yes the baby, yes.
That was uncommon, so she was very independent?
Oh, is see, I don’t know, she eventually, she eventually started a boarding house in St George’s Terrace which is a pretty decent address and sort of a


better quality boarding house. But she wouldn’t have made much money out of that. But she finished up married to a retired Manager of the National Bank over there. But he was past his prime, a fellow called Bob Mullen, but, he wouldn’t have given her any money, it was before then. It doesn’t matter anyway. But I’d love to have contact with those relatives, if I could trace them through the genealogical society.


What about you mum did she have a particular faith, religion?
Not much no, she didn’t, don’t recall her ever going to Church, much. Dad was the one, who, who was bought up going to, in a boarding school, like an Anglican Boarding School he would have been going every Sunday and a bit more perhaps. But as I told you just before when he had them change the


start of the swimming, remember when I told you that story. I go to Church about once a month that all. And I’m on the count up there, but none of my children, one of my children goes to Church, none of my grandchildren or any of my other children, oh Douglas does go to Church. But that’s the way it is today, unfortunately, but I still go and take a bit of an interest in it, although I’m too old to do any


work up there, except take up the money some times. But I feel that, you can’t help be a better person if you hear the message often enough, like if say you’re in business, as I’ve often made this example. If you’re in business like I was, and I used to invoice people for certain charges, if you’d put an extra 5 pound on the invoice or something, well that’s dishonest, and you’d get away with it if you can. You


learn to be honest more often, and to behave better and to, be reasonable, be a reasonably good citizen, if you go to Church you get the message. Although I don’t get much about service up there, his, his, the preacher is pretty prompt with service. Too evangelic he is too. So, anyway, that’s the


story as it is today, which is pretty general, isn’t it throughout the community.
Do you think you became more faithful after the war?
No, oh, only, not because of the war, because I was a married men with children, I mean to say. No it wouldn’t be because of the war I’m afraid.
I meant faithful for your belief in God?
Oh faithful that way. God
But that’s a wonderful story.
No, no


I can’t say, yes I’m not a particularly good Christian I must say, I not devoted to the cause, as much as my son is, he’s hooked on it. But oh no I wouldn’t say that, but I.
Can I ask you Neil about that incident in Palestine after Tobruk, was it before Tobruk when you met the older lady in the brothel, that’s okay we don’t have to go into the details about the sexual side, but I’m curious to know about what it actually looked like


inside and what it smelt like. What did it look like?
Oh no it was just an average place, just a room with a bed, oh no nothing flash, no pretty flowers or anything like that. It was the one and only time I’ve ever been in one. I was disappointed I didn’t have an earlier opportunity when I was living in the Rocks Boarding House in Townsville, I was of course 19 when I went there, and the men who were there were bank officers coming up from Sydney


and that sort of thing and they were fellows in their 20’s and they used to go over on a Saturday night to the Causeway in town, where the brothels were and they used to go and play music with the girls over there and they didn’t ever invite me. Because they though I was too young I suppose. But you know they used to go and party and have a drink and that sort of thing. I don’t know what else but anyway, that’s all they ever used to talk about. They used to go there on a Saturday night, nothing was said thought. So I’ve never, that’s the only time I’ve ever been


inside a brothel. So its, oh yes there’s always, a que, they used to have a que at the brothel in Aleppo, they used to have fellows queuing up. And that’s where I said my friend George Lucas got into a fight then he didn’t become an Officer. They didn’t approve of that behaviour.
Now George Lucas wasn’t the fellow that was practicing William Tell that was Skit O’Sullivan?


That was Skit.
So what was George’s story?
George is a policeman and, up here at, up at some barracks here at Roma Street, up that way, and, but he was a very intelligent man and very able and loved good music and, knew about the classics. And when we went on leave together on


Saturday in Sydney, I from Ingleburn Camp, I said “oh well”, we went up to see the head of the river. I was always interested in sport and school sport, up at Nepean River it was, we hoped on a train and came back and we went to that play Mice and Men. I forget the name of the author of that, it’s a well know play. It’s the sort of thing you wanted to see. And he,


he was wounded as I say in that Tobruk, patrol when I got my DCM, and he got an MM. And he also played a very prominent part at Milne Bay on the first start at Milne Bay and after the Japs landed and they advanced and the 7th Militia Brigade, there was a Militia Brigade were there before we were, they went there to build a


air strip but they didn’t know the Japs were going to land there. And they, they were all Queenslanders they were. And, the Japs landed and, they walked through some of them but they were stopped on the number 3 strip, air strip, which is a very primitive strip, but for the Air Force. And they were stopped by the 25th Battalion from Toowoomba


and that was on the 30th of August they stopped them and the Japs couldn’t get any further at that stage, they were really [(UNCLEAR)]. And our Brigade were going, then asked to counter attack and our Battalion, my Company my Platoon we, were in the fore front we crossed the start line first. And we counter attacked and we pushed the Japs back. As I say you hardly ever see the Japs but you


go forward, you patrol and you, fire away and you lose a few blokes and, anyway about four o’clock in the afternoon we came to the edge of K B Mission which is my objective for the day and I think well what will I do now, either the Japs might be on the other side of that strip, some of them anyway. Cause they were coming, they were, cut off they’d been


stopped on number 3 strip and they were trying to get back to their base and and there was a big ambush put on by our Company behind us over night and they got a few Japs and George Lucas, he wrestled with a bloke and another fellow did too but the other fellow, our fellow was an amateur wrestler and he was able to stab the Jap in the back but it was very tough fighting there. But anyway to get back to K B Mission here I was, I was, we were the First


Troops to get to the first objective K B Mission. And I said, we’ve got to get across to the other side of that, you know that small oval in front of the Mission Station and it had a green circle there. Got to get across there, now what will we do so.
Interviewee: Neil Russell Archive ID 0692 Tape 06


Okay Neil you were telling us about Ops [operations], you’re Ops in Milne Bay.
Beg you pardon?
You were telling us about your Operations in Milne Bay.
Yes, I was up, we got, we got, they had to make a decision how were going to get across there. So, I said well have a bayonet charge, cause people talk about this bayonet charge, but, we didn’t go up and find any Japs to go like this. We killed, we fired them because we saw the bodies later, and they fired on


us too of course. But the fellows where there and I’ve got to inspire them somehow. And this is an expression that captains think the Vet’s used to have “What’s the time, time for a capture, Right oh at the port, charge”. and off we went and you see when you go, you go like this with your rifle at the high point like that and then you come like that if you’re going to charge. So off they


went and, one of my platoon wrote a story about it there, he said, he was talking about, he was a big man, I was big then, and a big fast runner. Errol Flynn would not have, Errol Flynn would have been jealous, he said, or something like that, but off we went. You had [to] do something to get them in the mood to go. And anyhow we got over and we went over there with our bayonets like this


but of course the Japs had flown, but the bodies were there. And that was the bayonet charge, it wasn’t a bayonet charge ala First World War, but it was just a bayonet charge to inspire my platoon and to get them across, and to frighten the Japs. Cause when you’ve got about 30 blokes coming at you with bayonets like this, there not going to hang around. So we secured the place, and then at night we took up our positions of course, and the


Japs were coming, we trying to get through us to the, back to their base, to re, to consolidate again and, they were trapped. A lot of them were trapped by our B Company when they, they, caught them in an ambush, and oh they killed quite a few of them. And they wrestled, they had this wrestle to the death and all this sort of thing. So it was quite heavy fighting for a while. And then at night


the Japs would come around too, trying to infiltrate and calling “Is that you Jack”, trying to say things like that trying to think there one of us. But they had to give the password and if they didn’t give the password, you’d shoot them. But one of our blokes got shot, bloke his mate though he was a Jap, because he wasn’t quick enough with the password. Yes, it’s a bit sad that. So that was my job, what I did do. Anyway our


company commander got the DSO for that day’s work. And then after another day, of our B Company and C Company coming in and attacking various places, the 2/ 9th Battalion, took, leaped frogged over us and that when John French got his Victoria Cross, from, a fellow from where’d he come from. Oh just outside Brisbane somewhere, and his a well know figure John French, VC [Victoria Cross].


And then the 9th took over and they had some heavy fighting, they lost a few and the Japs, decided they’d had enough and they radioed their warship and it came in an took them off. They were evacuated. So, and there was another story about Japs, in boats, this was at Goodenough Island,


I told you a bit about Goodenough Island, haven’t I?
A little bit, yes.
Yes well, there were only 350 Japs there but they had to get rid of them. And I’ve told you about Skit O’Sullivan getting hit in the stomach and that sort of thing. I was given the job, I was given the, I’ll tell you before I get on with that, the CO was rather a, rotund character, he didn’t look fit, he was a bit flabby.


And we got up the top and the Japs were expecting us and so we had to fight. We thought we were going to catch them on the parade ground, but it was late and the natives had told the Japs that we were coming and everything else. Anyway we got, the CO was there and they were trying to get things organised and the CO was saying “Oh where’s Thomas where’s my bat man“, he said “Where’s my lunch so and so”, and the Adjutant Bill Kirk said “For goodness sakes Sir forget about your lunch


and lets get on with the war”. Talking to the CO. Anyway there, that’s when Skit O’Sullivan got wounded bad, got killed, he died. And then I was given on the last day, I was given the job of taking my Platoon up this slope where we knew the Japs were. So oh god, so as we, up we went and as we were climbing up this


slope the drum magazine from the Tommy sub machine gun became dislodged and went bang, bang, bang, bang against the rocks going down the hill. God they could open up on us anytime I said. No, we crept up, we got up there and the birds had flown, they’d gone, they’d been taken off, the night before. And as I said, the high raki of the Army was very disappointed we didn’t get


rid of those Japs, but the troops on the ground had different ideas. They were very happy that they’d gone, that someone else had cleaned them up. So anyway these, they went, they got off in some boats, they had some open boats they were, I don’t know where they came from. I think they had, probably had them when they landed there. They were meant to be reinforcements for Milne Bay, and they were stuck on Goodenough Island. They got stranded there because of Aircraft, our Aircraft


thrashed them a bit. Anyway I was out at Mudgee College a few years ago, presenting one of our two books, set of books to the Mudgee College, Library, and our friend Jim Douglas who was, should have been Chief Justice of Queensland but Jo Block did. But he, he’s been dead some years now, he was, he was a wonderful Officer, he was in Tobruk, I might tell you, about that did a good job. Anyhow,


god don’t let me lose the train of thought. What am I up to.
Jim Douglas.
No, what, oh yes I was up there presenting the books to Mudgee College, that’s where I was, and anyway this retired Christian Brother was there and he came up to me and he said “Oh don’t you know I was listening in to that


action, I was in the air force at the time and I was listening on the radio to our pilots”, and the pilots, the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] came over and they saw these Japs in their boats and the Japs had singlet, white singlets on their oars, but they took no notice and went and thrashed the lot of them. Killed the lot of them. They didn’t take any notice of any white flags cause the Japs didn’t take any notice of Geneva Convention. And another


time the Geneva Convention was completely ignored as it was by the Japs a lot. They did, they did recognise the Manunda of course, as I said but not the Centaur. But on this occasion the fighting at Buna was pretty heavy on our first couple of days. And Vic Sampson who was a, leading physician in Brisbane until he retired a few years ago, Dr Sampson, he, he


was our regimental medical officer and, he and his, he and his stretcher bearers and his RAP, they were attacked by the Japs. Well the Japs took no notice so he had to defend himself and they did so well that he got a Military Cross and his a blooming doctor and he got a Military Cross, out of that. It was a marvellous, he was a wonderful man, good doctor too.


And, anyway that was a very unusual thing for him to get a Military Cross and, I don’t know of any Medical Officers ever got a decoration in any war. But that’s how it went. Because the Japs didn’t recognise the, the Geneva Convention. Yes so I’m flitting from one to the other as I think about it.
That’s okay. Did you have a sense after Milne Bay, after you kind of won,


after you’d gone through Milne Bay and won the territory, did you actually have a sense that the tide was turning, against the Japanese?
Well, no well, we felt, we didn’t, we wouldn’t like to say the tide was turned. But we, we were extremely pleased as I sighted that example of Sir William Slim saying there’s a wonderful example for you fellows in Burma, the Japs can be thrashed. So, and gave great confidence to


us, great confidence to us, god yes there just human beings.
I was wondering now if you can tell us what encounters you would have had with the Japanese atrocities?
Yes, well, well there were, they tied them up with wire and bayoneted them when they were alive and things like that, at Milne Bay, quite a lot of it yes.
Was that, Aussie soldiers or?


No, well, yes it did happen to a Soldier, one Soldier but mainly natives. But oh yes they, there were many atrocities. As I said when I was at the Lake Itchen, when my wife was at the Lake Itchen Hotel and I was in the comp camp nearby. Well Judge Webb and his offsider, taking details of all the many atrocities, they murdered, they there was a nursing sister


up there from the Anglican Church Missionary, they murdered them and tortured them and that sort of things. But there was any number, and of course there was cannibalism, they, up in the Dakota Track there was cannibalism amongst the Japs, they had nothing else to eat, so they’d ate some of their old Soldiers. Yes
Did you ever come across any, remains or anything?
No, no I saw plenty of dead bodies but, floating around in the water and other places. It funny,


strange thing about being, emotional, all those fellows. Now Mike Steddy got killed, oh that’s crock, but you just go on. You just don’t worry. Cliff Hoskins another good friend, got killed too, Charlie Groves, he got killed and, it was, the only time I was ever emotional was when I went to the war, when I had to say goodbye to my


girl. I shed a tear then. That’s the only time. But oh no, it’s a disadvantage, I’d like to be more emotional. But.
Not even when your mate Cliff died?
No it’s sad that’s all just sad.
Cause he’d been with you for quite a stretch of the war didn’t he?
Yes, you know, I, now I often think I wish I could


find his relatives, he wasn’t married and he was in the Commonwealth Bank but, I could find out from the Commonwealth Bank who his next of kin were but, they might, but I doubt if any of them would still be alive today. But you know you think about these things but, what can you say, what can you do.
You did mention before that


a lot of the worse fighting or the heaviest fighting was Buna, can you talk us through some of the Ops there and?
Some of the what Ops?
Some of the operations there and what you saw what you experienced in terms of heavy fighting?
Well, well, well it just, well as I say the tanks, the tanks went in and….just want to see something here…….


I’ll just show you this, there’s the plantation there you see, there the fellows, there’s the tank in action there see. That fellow, he’s still out West that fellow, Les Reid, yes no it, and there’s my Platoon there, that’s my Platoon there see going in with their, there got there Bren guns there on the


stump of a palm tree. That was, it was, you didn’t, the Japs you didn’t see the Japs, because they were in their bunkers see. There was nothing to see really, our fellows going forward, getting knocked off and, oh god we lost a lot of blokes there. There’s a picture of Mike Steddy.
Can you give us a bit of a picture of, I guess what it


might have been like moment to moment going forward with a wave of Troops, where you actually couldn’t see your enemy and you were trying to get in?
Well you just go forward, Bill Smithers get knocked over, he gets evacuated, “Stretcher, bower”, right stretcher bower takes him away. And you just go on, without seeing the blooming enemies, you go on until you get up to the bunkers and then try and thrash them out of the bunkers.


There’s no hand to hand fighting, it’s you there with the odd bloke getting knocked, a sniper in the tree, oh good, get him. So you’d get him too, because once he fires, once this fellow drops, you look wounded, oh there you are there’s one up there. So that’s the sort of thing that happens, its not glamorous, and there’s not much, no man to man combat or anything like that, you just go forward hoping that you’ll stay alive when you get to your


objective. I was just lucky. We were the first across the line at Milne Bay, it wasn’t our turn at Buna, our Battalion was the third to go in, the 2/9th took the brunt and the 2/10th then us the 2/12th. We went in, we still lost lots of casualties but the worst was the start. Always the first to cross. There’s no,


its just unusual, its different from people have a image of war like the First World War but, but even in the desert, the, of course in the desert they had tanks fighting each other and that sort of things, but there was no, not too may bayonet charges its pretty open stuff. And you saw your enemy there but you didn’t see the Japs. It’s very difficult to describe anything interesting.
Yes but that in itself is


actually interesting to try and fight an unseen enemy.
Yes that’s right well you know there in the bunkers but they won’t come out the sods, they won’t come out they won’t give up. That’s the, that’s the most dreadful thing of fighting the Japs they just won’t give up. They won’t surrender, it’s terrible. Good to know when you’re beaten, isn’t it. It was very frustrating. Yes they hate they Japs.
What about in Sanananda, because there was a lot of


A lot of swamp, well in Sanananda, that, the base, the base, Jap base they landed in July 42 went across the [(UNCLEAR)] and Gona, Buna, Gona and Sanananda were in the middle. Sanananda Point. Well go, well a lot of fellow had a go there. By the time we got there, see we were suppose to go home for Christmas before Buna, but anyway we got called in


cause the Yanks weren’t doing their job then we went across because Sanananda was a stale mate there was, there was probably five different Units had a go, and couldn’t make any impression, and, then there’s 7 Div, Cavs, they were astride the road, but they every time they tried to do something they came to nothing. And then we came over


and of course we were 3 Battalions and we just come from Buna and we were just sort of luckier that the Japs had started to withdraw. That’s the only reason we were able to clean it up quickly. So there was, you know it was just dreadful conditions. The number of casualties from sickness was horrific. Got Typhus, malaria, reinforcements coming in. We were had QX and a TX Battalion, we had


BX’s, SX’s and we had them from all over Australia, we had reinforcements. Yes that’s, yes.
Because you were in both in Buna and Sanananda because you were kind of coming after a couple of other Units had had a go, were you striking a lot of dead or causalities coming in to?
No, no we marched around from Buna to


Sanananda, took us a few hours, through Soputa but there was, no no action there. The action was all confined to Sanananda Point. And that’s where the Japs were in their boats. And of course, you see the Japs had been pushed back from the Owen Stanley Ranges, when we got close to Moresby, they pushed back to Gona and there was, Japs, from Gona around


Sanananda around to Buna, or they were until they withdrew. So that, it was a matter of attrition, and the Japs finally decided to withdraw, they didn’t give up they withdrew. And which we were grateful. And they went up, they were still fighting up around Wewak and, next year the year after, which wasn’t really worth it, they said, as I said General Blamey said they had to do something, the Troops can’t sit there and do nothing.


Go and do some patrolling boys. Yes.
I’ve spoken to a few fellows who, have talked about, the whole campaign in the later half of all that, the later half of the campaign in the Islands and it being a bit of an unnecessary war.
Yes that’s right, well that was the title of Peter Charlton’s book “The Unnecessary War”.
See the Japs were up at Bougainville


too and they had, the 7th Brigade that were at Milne Bay with us, they were up there. There was a division of militia up there and they were holding. They were, they once caught a few blokes. The Japs they were hold up and I suppose trying to get out, but it was a bit unnecessary to make any attacks they should have starved them out. That’s what happened in the end I suppose. They were starved out.
So you think


some of it was a bit…
Yes a bit fruitless in the end?
Well looking from hindsight I’d say yes. But at the time we didn’t think so. I didn’t have much to with, campaign up there. But I was only, I know I felt what we did was necessary because the Japs were pretty strong there and they could have landed perhaps more reinforcements, although it was get less likely that they would get reinforcements


in because previously they’d had control of the air and the sea but it was changing with, more American planes and ships coming in. They were better than there Troops apparently. I think they were. So we gradually got control of everything. It was just a foregone conclusion after, after 1942, I reckon. It was, 43 anyway.
And what was your experience, or what did you hear of the American troops at the


My experience with them?
With the US [United States] Troops?
Well I don’t want to, go public too much about it, but they weren’t much chop at all. They were untrained, they had this philosophy as I’ve said before. They had the philosophy that we’ll go in when there’s nobody active there, like at Manila in the Philippines they went in and they, they sort of hammered away, they had


war ships firing, our war ships were operating, air force bombing the place and by the time they landed the place was a mess and there was hardly anyone left standing. That sort of. But it didn’t happen like that as I said before up in Okinawa, they lost a lot the Yanks. So yes that’s the way the Americans operate and this fellow here, in summing up with one point he did say that, there’s perhaps some merit


in the way they do it, why go and lose men when you can just stand off and wait another 6 months and keep hammering away, hammering away and then they give up. Possibly that’s what we might do next time if there is a similar situation.
Well the unfortunate thing is sometimes that they end up firing on their own allies?
Oh the Yanks do. Oh yes well they do that a bit anytime. They did it a, a bit over there in Iraq you know


but, shot down one of our blokes, one of our planes. Oh yes but anyway can’t criticize them too much I suppose.
Oh it’s not so much a criticism, just the experience really.
I mean there’s nothing wrong with saying what you experienced.
No that’s right, probably not. Yes anyway they weren’t’ any good, in fact Blamey,


General Blamey he was in charge of the land operations cause MacArthur he was the commander in chief of everything up there in Moresby and Blamey was the army boss, and he was in command of the American to a degree too. So he got fed up with the Americans not doing anything so he bought us in a Buna, that’s what he did, because he knew we’d do the job for him, which we did.


Can you tell us Neil, about what… what experience you had with the native in New Guinea in terms of Operations or?
No, we had, up on the Kokoda Track, of course there were stretcher bearers and fuzzy wuzzy angel business. No we didn’t have much to do with them at all. But we, there were patrols in other areas, a


friend of mine John Murphy, he was up around, up around New Britain where he, he had a nutty patrol. He was a patrol officer before the war, he lived in Townsville with me for a while and he came up to get a job as a patrol officer, and he worked in Townsville while he was waiting to get a posting and, and he was, he was captured and tortured apparently. And shortly after that


another Australian patrol, with natives was captured and they reckoned that Murphy must of spilt some beans. As one fellow said at the, if they scoot of one of my testicles, and was starting on the 2nd I wouldn’t say what, I wouldn’t tell him he said. It’s very difficult to be criticized. Anyway he was court-martialled, and there’s a shadow over him all the time. His dead now poor chap, but he was a brilliant man. And so


that, J J Murphy. No didn’t have any contact, we didn’t have any contact with natives ourselves. It was only on the Dakota Track you’d find then. They did good work though. Yes, what else.
I was speaking to some other fellows in your area, a month or so


ago, who were talking about, I guess some of the atrocities that they’d come across by the Japanese in terms of attacking missions.
Where abouts?
Attacking missions and things like that?
Oh yes, no we didn’t, we didn’t come across that no. Well that’s been well documented, in the General Publications about the nurses and missions. Oh no they did attack a mission around the Buna area but,


we weren’t’ there at the time, so I’d only be second hand on that.
Was there much of a, I guess hatred towards the Japanese, for what they’d done before?
Oh god yes, very much, we hated the Japs. They say you shouldn’t hate anyone but they were like animals, you just had to, dreadful. Oh yes, terrible, yes.


We got, you’d be getting on to, where you’d come onto the next section like when I left the Battalion later. I’m just trying, there’s not much else cause there’s plenty in the book there but I mean, see, there might have been something else. Oh I remember, talking about losing weight. There was a fellow there who


had mortar, our mortar platoon officer, he was another Commonwealth Bank chap. He I just pause there and say those fellows, in those days not many people went to the University, before the war, that war and you get fellows who get to senior level, leaving or whatever state you in. And where do you go, you get a job with the bank, the public service, a shipping office


or what, see. And a hell of lot of them went to the banks, and they were very fine people, well educated, and Dick Judge, he was one of them, he wasn’t one of their best but, he was, he stripped of apparently at one stage in the end and they said “Oh God look at Dick Judge” he said, he went down to 6 stone 1 pound. And Dick said “what are you laughing at I’m pleased to be thin you’re not much of a target when your


thin”, he said. Yes. Lady Blamey, we’ve had her, but back to Morotai, don’t want that. Oh yes the Navy were great, they always looked after us well.


No well I can’t at least, say too much more on Buna, Milne Bay, Buna.


I’m just wondering Neil as a former militia, fellow, that went over in to the AIF [Australian Imperial Force], did you have much of a view toward, the attitude in some AIF towards the, militia conscripts that ended up Dakota, the guys that were called chocos and stuff like that?
Yes that right. Well actually not really I’m very much aware of it all but no we, we were, a bit annoyed, in this


regard, you take the 7th Brigade and they were comprised of the 9th Battalion, the 25th Battalion and the 61st. But the 9th Battalion had the same colour patch wearing, as the 2/ 9th, you see the AIF 2/9th who had a grey. We’re suppose to have a grey border around our colour patch to note that we were second AIF. That used to annoy the 2/9th fellows a lot to see these 9th fellows wearing their colour badges,


but it wasn’t a big deal when you think back on it. But they weren’t half as good as the 2/9th. They were a mighty mob and, but still I got to know them, there, there’s a bit of amenity in a way, or it gets on our goat to tell you the truth, that they claimed they did more. They reckon that they won the war at Milne Bay, the 7th Brigade,


they were, they stopped the Japs but we had to attack them and defeat them and push them of the Island, but they never mention us half the time. It’s all the 7th Brigade, well I acknowledge that they did a pretty good job, but, but anyway that’s the competition I suppose amongst units, but. I got on well with them lately and in fact I shared a room on my trip with a fellow from the 9th


Battalion. He eventually went to the 2/25th, he got his commission and they posted him to the 2/25th Division AIF battalion. Ill be going to there reunion this year, the 61st Battalion, there the old Cameron Highlanders. Have you met any of those blokes?
No I haven’t, not yet.
Oh no, they did alright, they went up to Bougainville eventually but,


you’ve got to be careful, as our, they claim they did things they didn’t do, in our opinion. For instances the Garner River, this fellow Frank McCosker, who I roomed with up in Manila, and I went on this celebration with. He, he, disagrees violently with our former Secretary in Tasmania, he is a very cluey bloke and has been to


[(UNCLEAR)] several times. He claims that the 9th Battalion in the militia helped us in that, or taken credit, some of the credit for the ambush, on the 1st night. But all our fellows are absolutely adamant that they just, a few of them came in and we protected them, and they were there. They were with us about ½ a dozen of them, but yet there claiming they did big deals with the ambush. That’s the sort of thing that goes on. Claim


and counter claim. They did alright. Anyway, and our future Brigadier, Brigadier Chilton, who was the Chief of Staff at Milne Bay, to Native General Charles, he says to us, he comes to our reunions in Sydney. He said “Oh lay off, they did alright those blokes, you’ve got to give them credit where credit is


due, they did there job, forget about it, but if you think there’s anything wrong don’t worry about it”. That’s the way you’ve got to be. His 92, oh he might be 95, he just knocked off driving his car, his an old bachelor bloke, Brigadier Chilton. He’s the fellow that got me, made me apply for the job as an ADC, that, and. Yes.
So can you walk us through with a lot more detail what happened


for you after your stint in the Island, after Goodenough Island and Sanananda?
Well then we came back, yes we came back. It took us a while to get back home I’ll tell you. That was the 21st of, January and we didn’t leave until the middle of March. We were hold up, cause lack of ships to take us home. And we went to Pompom Park at the back of Moresby. I didn’t


recognise it when I went up recently. But we were there and had to wait and wait. Oh we, yes that’s right, there was nothing to do much, we just had to fill in time. I don’t think we had a sports meet, that’s when we went back, back up the second time. No that’s, we finally got on the Duntroon,


I think it was and came home. That was a ship, a well know passenger ship, and came back and sent a telegram to my wife, arriving tomorrow, to arrange wedding. Didn’t give her much time.
Do you remember what you were up to when you heard the news that the war was officially over?
Oh no, well, I was standing in front of General MacArthur when he made the statement. In the Manila Council


Chambers. See I was attached to General MacArthur Headquarters then. In a separate area, but my General, would liaise with General MacArthur, if General MacArthur felt like it suppose. And then we used to travel around everywhere they went. And oh yes, we were there with them. We used to live, we lived opposite the Manila Hotel in some


huts. Interesting things about how you notice how were different in some ways from the Americans, now Australians will get up in the morning and have a shower, automatically, especially in summer or in the tropics. But the Yanks they always have there showers at the end of the day and they never had one in the morning. They had it at night. We probably have one at night and one in the morning. Yes but that’s nothing. Oh it was interesting,


we have the mess, our meals in the old Manila Hotel, what was left of it, and we’d be sitting alongside Americans, of course we were out numbered. But I remember I was friendly with a fellow named Murray Sabane, who was a Intelligence Officer and a very cluey bloke. And he, he I think he became a Professor eventually. But he was sitting alongside an American Major bloke whose father,


I think he had a coal mine somewhere, but he was, a fellow who, who, had something to do with the University in the States, I forget the name of it now. But anyway, he was telling Murray how to get a job in the States after the war, Murray Sabane. And he finished up, went to America and that’s where he lives, he got a job over there. But he was, he was, he was an interesting bloke Murray,


he was always talking about women, it got on your neck a bit. And I remember we took, we took, we got a jeep and we took a couple of American girls, I don’t know whether they were nurses or whether they, or who they were. They’d be officers anyway. But anyway we went to, went for a trip just for the day, a bit of a picnic. Anyway, after the war, went to visit Murray and his wife they lived down at Redcliffe at the time,


and his telling the story to my wife. About how these Americans girls, it went down like a lead balloon. I didn’t tell her I went on a trip you see. But that’s the only time I think it happened in the whole war where we got that close.
Interviewee: Neil Russell Archive ID 0692 Tape 07


That’s what I wanted to talk to you about on this tape. Well will start off with the women in the work force. They obviously given more opportunities when the men went overseas. So what about your wife, you were telling me she was the first female teller in Queensland?
Oh no one of the first, I mean she worked at the National Bank, she did, oh god I don’t know, no I won’t say that. Yes


she worked, she worked at the Bank, she was first of all she was, Secretary to the Queensland manager for WD & HO Wills. It’s interesting how she got the job, she did her senior but she didn’t go to University like a lot of people didn’t go in those days, hardly anyone went to uni [university]. You had to pay every inch of the way too. And women didn’t get jobs like that either. And


anyway she, the, the Wills bloke he just rang the headmistress of the school she went to and said have you got someone you can recommend to be my private secretary. And she said Yes Francis Dicks. So she went up and got the, she had to be interviewed of course, but anyway she got the thing for a while, is this being recorded now. And so, but she left after a while


and, cause he got a bit keen and she went down to work with the, she worked with the bank. And she worked as a teller’s clerk first, because there was a teller down at the valley branch of the National Bank. And the teller an old bloke called Mr Simmons, I think his name was, he said well,


he had to balance his cash the teller. She’s pretty smart, with figures and he, he got to rely completely on her and he’d say to her “What do you make it Ms Dicks”. She said “Oh you know 74,000 or something”, “that’s right” he said “that right”, “Oh she said, oh no Mr Simmons I’ve made a mistake there, there’s something I forgot its this figure”. “Oh yes that right”, he’d say. He didn’t have clue.


She was pretty smart I’ll tell you. But anyway, after, we got married and.
Can you tell me a little bit, sorry to interrupt you there, but can you tell me a little bit about your wedding day, you said that you sent a telegram?
Oh yes,
To Francis, so how did that occur, did your parents come down, did her parents come?
No, no, I was up in New Guinea coming back, sent the telegram, and, we were on our way then, and she,


she was working and she had to arrange it all. We had it at Leonard’s the old Leonard’s it was, this reception, got married in the Presbyterian Church there in, Adelaide, Ian Street, St Andrews that’s right. Anyway after the wedding, and after the reception, they had a 1938 Ford and we took off, cause I couldn’t drive a car


cause a lot of people didn’t own cars before the war, my father didn’t. And they weren’t various numerous in the 30’s and she was driving and I was sitting beside her and we went down to the Hotel Cecil, you know the Hotel Cecil, at Southport at all? It’s in the middle of Southport. And, we came down after our first night and, sat a table, there’s a fellow called Alan Campbell, he was a very well know figure around the town, in advertising and


he and his wife were at our table. They picked us straight away, we were a honeymoon couple but we didn’t that that they would of course, it’s obvious I suppose. But we had a pleasant time, we got a, as I said my father in law was the, was the Secretary at the Marine Board and he had access to the various launches and things at the Harbour. The Marine department had, and there was a nice boat called the


Dermit, it used to go around the place, and he organised, to take us and another couple for a trip one day. So we had that and that was lovely. And then we went to the Roberts, this is George Roberts from Townsville, he was a well known figure in town. And he and his wife, Dal and Von and Dal the good foxtrot, these two girls, I remember that


night, Francis started drinking gin and she got drunk as guts, jeez, you don’t want to have too many gins when your not a drinker. Oh god she was putting on an act there. It all went off nicely. But we went out on the boat the next day and that was great and I still see the Roberts, I was talking to him the other day, up in Townsville. And then that was it, we had our couple of weeks, or week or whatever it was, then back to the Army.


And then I got another bout of malaria and I’m back in, I’m in Greenslopes this time. Anyway.
You must had that [(UNCLEAR)] strain of malaria the recurring one?
Yes, well a lot of people got it.
Let me ask you about her wedding dress, this might sound perhaps a bit boring to you but how did they get the material, because apparently.
As a matter of fact as an agent of a manufacturers I sold women’s dresses once, so I’m interested in fashion.
Alright well how did they find the material for their dresses because apparently it was very short


in the war?
Oh well, they found a way, oh I see, oh you don’t want to know what the dress looked like because then there’s a picture of it there see. Ah
No no, I just need to know how, well I’d like to know how they..
Well I’m not sure, there were dressmakers, plenty of dressmakers, it would have been made by a dressmaker. And there would have been some material, probably been saving it up for years, I don’t know. But oh yes, oh no they always, she had the full regalia and,


yes it went off quite well.
What about perfume, what kind of perfume did she wear, what was popular in 40?
Well apart from 4711, you mean there was another one, I can’t think of the name of it now. Another girl I used to take out in Townsville had it and it was pretty flash. I can’t think of it.
Chanel No. 5?
No, no I don’t know what it was, never mind, wish I could see it. But I was only talking about it the other day.


No well there was plenty of perfume around, probably more than there is today, I don’t know.
Let me ask you, what did you miss about Australia when you were overseas?
Oh just, just your family and girlfriend, or fiancée that’s all. But you didn’t, you didn’t, really miss family much at all you were out there, you know it was an adventure in a way. I mean


people say why did you join up? Half the blokes joined up for the adventure I suppose, basically they thought. I shouldn’t use that word basically, they probably thought its obvious I’m going to join up sometime so I may as well join up now. And away they went and they were happy about it. Yes that’s what it was about, a bit of adventure chucked in there.
What about your own kids you’ve got, 3 daughters and 1 son, what, did any of


them want to be in defence force?
Well no, yes my son he wouldn’t have objected if he’d been, if his number had come out to go to Vietnam, he would have been happy but it wasn’t. So he missed out, he was in the Churches Cadet Corps but that’s all. But my daughter Rosemary, her husband Ian, he had two trips to Vietnam, he was a regular soldier. And my grandson


Lachlan, is an army captain in the Intelligence Corps, at Lavarack Barracks in Townsville, married to an Indonesian girl called Yeni, and I stayed with them recently in Townsville. Yes so his, his on the up and up he’s doing alright.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your trip last year in November?
My what trip?
With Dana tell us how they found out about you and how you were able to be one of


18 chosen?
Right, well we knew, we knew it was on and so, see I’m on the committee of the 2/12th Battalion association and about 3 of us do all the work. Not many of us left now. And very few fit to go, Tex Alaway, our Secretary, his not fit to go and Alan Rosenita didn’t have the qualifications, cause he only joined up in the last year of the war, I think. So


I had the runs on the board. I’d have been very savage if I’d missed out I might tell you. Because I was the right age, I was fit and I had, all those Campaigns behind me so, I reckon I would have protested if I hadn’t been picked.
So how did it happen?
Oh yes, you just put in an application, you had to fill out, you had to fill out something like we were suppose to


fill out for you. And what your army record was, where you were, what you did and all that sort of thing. Sent that in and got selected.
Did you have a lot of memories come up Neil?
No, not really, not really, no the, the most memorable was the visit to the cemetery to see those headstones like Mike Steddy and Cliff Hoskins and Charlie Groves.


And yes it was, the natives, the local natives, were very interesting. Like when I was at Popondetta, that was the second commemorative service which was to, recognise, the Memorial there for Buna and Sanananda campaigns that was in the middle. And the Milne Bay was the first one. Oh yes and at


Milne Bay we had a great welcome, from all these girls with their bear breasts, only youngster they were, dancing around with lays, and they presented us all with lays we put around our necks. Frangipani’s I think it was all made of frangipanis. And it was the most magnificent site, on the Milne Bay, the water. The Village of Alotowah [?] they call it now and you looked at the Memorial and


you looked across to the water and Salamoa over in the distance and it, I was honoured to present, lay the reif at that Memorial. And then we went onto, and I saw on the number 3 strip there were several memorials there, already. One was to Peter Turnbull put there by his family, quite a nice one, a big


propeller and few other things. And then I didn’t go, I didn’t walk the K B Mission, couldn’t leave the main party and it was impossible to do it. But it was very well organised very pleasant. There’s a bit of a hotel or place there and we had good food there. And, then we, what’s the name of that politician from the, Peter, his always in the


Peter Docket, or Peter Dutton. Have you ever heard of him, no, you don’t. I’m into politics a bit, yes he’s a Liberal Member there. And he and, he and Kevin Rutter are on every week on the radio together. So yes then we, well that was that and then we went around, we went on a C51, the bit troop Carrier, to a certain distance


then we were transferred to a smaller plane because the airstrips weren’t good enough for the big planes. Then we went, we came back the same day to Moresby, and then the next day we went down to Popondetta for the Buna and Sanananda one. And Dana Vale gave a speech, she looked so lovely, in a beautiful summery dress, chiffon, very nice, pink and blue colour, sky blue. And her husband, she


flies too, she’s a pilot and his a pilot. She’s not a full time pilot. And then we went, that was good, what happened there, oh yes, a fellow came up to me and he said, will you write to me I’m ashamed to say I haven’t. I haven’t but I lost the thing now. He wanted me to write to him and he, I said good we’ll write a couple of letters if you like, but it didn’t happen. But


yes very friendly, they were dressed up in there best garb, shirt, white shirt, trousers and gave us some lunch. And when I got back the next day, I was sitting up in the lounge, one of the lounges of the Pub there and, and this fellow came up and sat at the table, he said “you with the party from Australia”, I said “Yes”, he said, he worked for the government somewhere, middle


management man. He said “oh I’m going down, you’ve got a nice house, do you live on your own” or something, big house. He was looking for me to put up his family I think. So I didn’t bite there. He was just looking for something that bloke, but. But I’ll tell you, did I tell you that, how disappointing it was that you couldn’t use any of the phones, public phones there. I bought a $10, $20 phone card and I thought I’d


ring up home, I’ll ring up my friend Mavis and, and oh someone said you can’t use that, no sooner would they be fixed they’d be trashed by the rationals, they call them up there. And he said as soon as we got there the, the Australian Police Representative addressed us and said on no account go out on your own, from this building otherwise you get knocked over. That’s how bad it is up there. They get you for your money and your wallet, there


everywhere. But, but people, locals drive around in their cars, but it’s not safe to be a stranger, up there and be out on your own. And we had breakfast at the Yacht Club, that was lovely, RSL Club another day and the fellow, and we went up to, his not a governor, the fellow whose, Nick Warner, whose now in charge of the Solomon’s group, he was in residence up there, in charge of Moresby,


he was oh, or Governor or something there. That was good too. Oh we were well looked after, well catered and wonderful experience. Yes that, that was last November, yes so, what else did I do?
What about dreams or nightmares since the war, Neil. Have you had any of that kind of stuff?
No, nothing like that, you know, I never struck anyone who gets them


either. But I mean, it’s, the Vietnam fellows seems to get them alright, but none left over for us. Yes, no, anyway, no I had no bad dreams, forgotten about it all now. I didn’t have any bad experiences, you see a few dead bodies, your friends get killed what else is there. There was no atrocities, no gruesome stuff. But oh no, no I’m a


fairly low key sort of a bloke. I think a lot of people talk a lot of rubbish.
You lost a lot of friends thought, but did you gain a lot, of friends?
Oh yes, gained some wonderful friends.
That your still in touch with, I take it?
Yes, no, more unfortunately. The first one I might have mentioned this before to, Neil Evans his name was, his the same name as


me, Neil. And he and I used to kick a football I said before, after work. And then I used to, when I worked for George Wills and Company in Brisbane after the war I used to have to go, down, used to represent suppliers like factories and manufacturers of knitwear, and manufacturers of fabrics, down in Sydney and Melbourne. And


I used to twice a year go down and Sydney, Melbourne then Sydney and I used to see him and I’d go, I went out to his place for dinner and met his wife. And she died a week ago, unfortunately. Anyway, he, we got friendly and finally Francis my wife and his wife, met and they got on. So from them on we went for lots of trips together, we’d take our cars, we’d drive to the snow, drive to Wagga Wagga, Gold Cup he had a interest in a race horse.


It won the bloomin’ Wagga Wagga Gold Cup that was exciting. We had to, we each had $500 to put on the horse, different bookmakers so the odds wouldn’t go up too much. I think he won about $5000, and he had it under his pillow that night I remember. But we had drinks before dinner in somebody’s unit and then, it was good, lovely. Went to the snowy, went to the Blue Mountains and.
Is he still alive Neil?
Is Neil still alive?


he died a couple, about 2 or 3 years ago, and she died last week, or the week before, so that’s the trouble. One of my best friends is a fellow called Duncan Tarth, he was in our battalion and he, we used to stay with them and he used to come up here and stay with us, but, this is talking about, whether you go interstate for funerals or, he died and they said aren’t you going to the funeral I said well his not going to be


there to talk to me is he. Well I mean it’s only a gesture isn’t it when you go to a funeral. It’s like there’s a funeral on, there’s a funeral tomorrow, that I can’t go too. But there’s another one too. Oh yes my brother, it’s interesting, this is perhaps a reflection on me and my lack of emotion. But my dear brother, Wallace, he’s lying there and now in a hospice


adjacent to the Launceston Hospital and his, his got cancer now and his wife got dementia and he looked after her for about 3 years and wore himself out every night, but, but now his given up the ghost. He sort, now she’s in a nursing home and he’s free and his let go and his, his collapsed and they say, his daughter said to me last night he might last 2 weeks, that sort of thing. He’s, it’s not worth while going down, now she said, cause he hardly


talks, do I go down for the funeral, spend $500 go down for the funeral and back, what’s it achieve. I don’t know, but it’s the gesture you make isn’t it. Most people would go to a funeral but I think well, I don’t know.
Do you remember what you were feeling or thinking when you saw your first dead body?
First what?
Dead body.
No, no I didn’t.
That would have been in Tobruk, was that Tobruk?


Oh, yes, it would have been but I can’t remember really it didn’t make a great impression on me, but I mean I would have been slightly bothered and sad, but it soon passed. Dead bodies, seen lots of dead bodies floating around Japs, in the sea. But I didn’t ever, you talk about Cliff Hoskins, Mike Steddy all my good friends, I didn’t see them, I’m a different company. The Stretcher Bearer takes them out and there gone. You don’t see them.


Oh no the fellows got to be killed beside you. No.
What are your thoughts now on the Germans and the Japanese?
Oh well, well actually the Germans are okay, I don’t mind the Germans because it was all Hitler, wasn’t it, he was the problem. But then the Germans are not a bad race of people. But I don’t the Japanese, I haven’t quite, I don’t love them, but I think there on the right track at the moment.


I think it was a bit like the Emperor could rule everything and there was this, this persuado or whatever, whatever religion or whatever they followed, required them never to surrender, it was, it was just sort of a lack of face in everyway. But now’s it different. My granddaughter, one of my granddaughters is in Japan


as of last week teaching Japanese girls English now. She’s up there now. So I mean I think, I think I’d rather have the Japanese then the Indonesians, I don’t know. Can you say one or the other. There, you can’t trust them, but anyway well have to wait and see about the Japs. They’ve just sent some Troops away for the first time. Not to fight but


peace keeping. So, no, no I have no hate against them, yes. My wife, as I told you before my mother was horrified that I bought a Japanese motor car, see my brother had been killed by them, she reckoned.
What about the relationship between the navy, the army and the air force?


it’s always good, always good. I always notice the air force, when you’re in the army you’ve got to keep your lines tidy, your tents and everything’s got to be nice and tidy. I notice how sloppy the RAAF were, it’s completely excusable because, those fellows in those tanks there maintain the planes. The planes come in, they haven’t got enough time to be worried about straightening up their beds and having them in line.


They’ve got to concentrate on getting the planes back. So, no, no the air force, the air force, is a great, well there all wonderful people but I have. Its interesting that most of my friends, when I joined up would have joined the air force, rather than the army, because there that type of blokes. But it didn’t appeal to me as I said. But there’s one, I heard an interesting thing on the radio,


a few weeks ago, or a month or two ago, they were talking about a, there were 3 planes ditched in Lake Victoria, which I think is on the South Australian side of the boarder with Victoria and on the Victoria boarder there was a training base for pilots, and anyway these 3 planes, when they were training went they went into the drink. There’s a hell of a lot of fellows lost there lives before they got near the front in the air force,


quick training. Anyway they said there’s only one left I there now and the pilots name is Arthur Roudes, god Arthur Roudes is the most magnificent fellow, he wonderful footballer, I put him through for his bronze medallion in the Surf Lifesaving Club on Magnetic Island and here he is he’s still in the brink, in the drink in Lake Victoria, and I think, I’ve said who can I tell about that there was not one person


living who would know who I was talking about. We all outgrow all you friends, outlive all your friends. So that was sad about Arthur, god he was a good five eighth that bloke, footballer, worked in the Commonwealth Bank. My old man gave them all a job. Yes.
Do you think your dad used to favour your mates?
No, well he was, yes, well, I can’t say categorically but there was a hint of it


because he was a fellow, that like to think of. He was on the Committee if he went anywhere. For instances when I was up at the north Queensland, I was up in Townsville again recently and I went into the North Queensland Club, with whom I had reciprocal right because I’m a member of the United Service Club up in the [Northern] Territory. And I was sitting there on my own and there was no one about and they, they had all the minutes of all the meetings of the Committee way back to the 30’s and I


pulled one out when he was there and here he was on the bloomin’ Committee, of the North Queensland Club and he was on the Council, he was on the Council of the Townsville Grammar School for the 3 years he was there, because my brother and I went there. You know he was that sort of a bloke, but, yes what did you ask me? What about.
If he favoured your friends?
Oh yes, anyway, he, there were 3 blokes, Henry Clements David Brennan,


who was the other one, there were 3 of them anyway, he gave them all a job, anyway, I don’t know if he gave Arthur Roudes a job, he probably didn’t. No that might have come a bit later. And when someone else was manager. But anyhow the Monsignor came in one day, and rightly so, and said “Here when are you going to give a Catholic lad a job”, he said which is fair enough. Yes.
Was he in the First World


War your dad?
No, he was not, he, I don’t know why not but of course everybody couldn’t go I suppose. He had, he just, he was a family man, there was no reason why he shouldn’t have gone, I don’t know why he didn’t go. Not everybody went. Like my brother in law didn’t go to the last war, two of my brother in laws didn’t go. One of them was declared unfit and the other one worked in the public service and apparently, considered


he had a reserve occupation or something.
I’m going to bring you back to the subject of women. Obviously you got on very well with them, you had an infinity for women’s trend, continue on I’ll ask the second part of the question later?
Yes well I often reflect on my life and think what I did. Right from the primary school, I used to, talk to the girls and that sort of thing and


that’s all. And then, and then later on when I went up to high school, like the secondary school, I used to go out to parties when I was 16, 15, 16 and learnt to dance when I was 15 I think. And I used to go to parties and used to give the girls a bit of a cuddle and that sort of thing. And so, I probably as I can recall in that year, I


probably went to 4 parties, which is a young age Pat Holden was a bit of a girlfriend of mine. Anyway, I went to Townsville of course and I went back for a trip in 1938 I think it was all the way back from Townsville to Perth. Burns Philp owned ships, and I got a cheap fare, but took a while. I would have had 4 weeks leave, I’d save my 2 weeks a year up, as we got then. And I’ve got a picture there


walking down the street with Anne Daisy, she was another girl. I went to see Pat Holden, we went out but she had another boyfriend I think, but she went to the pictures with me. But I took her out, that’s what I did, that’s what I did when I went on holidays see, take out the girl. And, so then I but I’ve only ever, I’ve never been unfaithful to any of them, but if I ever had a girlfriend. Then I, then, I you know used to ring, for instance


when I was in the boarding house in Townsville I’d go down, go down to Flinders Street in the town and I’d ring up, ring up say a girl I knew, Pat, not Pat, what was her name, oh god I can’t think of her name now. Pat, yes, Peg, Pat, it wasn’t Peg Salmon it was her sister, anyway, I don’t know, whether she though I was her boyfriend or not. But in those days you had to be careful. This day it wouldn’t mean anything if you rang her. But in those days if you rang a girl, they’d think oh his


keen on me. But it was just friendship, I used to just like to ring them up and talk to them. And took, oh yes, had a girlfriend, then I had Loraine, she’s still one of our, I keep forgetting, I was suppose to ring up and make a booking at lunch time today for next Tuesday, there are 10 of us going of lunch at the Towom [Toowoomba], all Townsville people. Anyway.
Well stop in a minute and do that for you


if you like.
No it’s too late they’d have gone home now there never there. Any rate don’t worry. Anyway, yes that sort of thing, I always liked women’s company.
What about when you were wounded and you were in the hospital with a lovely clean white sheets and the nurses, you didn’t strike up a relationship with any of the nurses there?
No as a matter of fact when I was wounded there was no nurses, there were no nurses in Tobruk, and there were no white sheets either, but the white sheets were


when I had malaria, that was different, they had white sheets there, that was in New Guinea there. No, no didn’t but I’ll tell you why, they were older than me because they had to be 25 to be able to go overseas and I was only 22 when I joined up. Anyway, I was friendly with Francis, this is when I was, we were in Palestine, we’d come back from Tobruk and we were in Palestine for a while there and there was,


they’d invited some nurses over for the mess, for a dance, and one of them was, Joan Rowland, who was the daughter of the headmaster in Townsville Grammar School, of course she was bit older than me as I tell you. Anyway I was dancing around with her a fair bit, I don’t think I took her outside, but anyway, the, the next thing she write to a friend in the National Bank and tells them that Neil Russell’s been dancing around with Joan Rowland and she at once tells my


wife, or my girlfriend. I wasn’t married then. You know how things get around.
What dances were you supposed to know then?
What kind of dances?
Oh it was just jazz waltz and fox trot, this sort of stuff if I don’t fall over… oh and I should be sitting down sorry. No you just dancing around quick quick slow, you know around


and a bit of waltzing too. But mainly the jazz waltz, fox trot, what was called modern dancing. But, nothing like today of course. And then there was the old time, but I was never into the old time. That was good the [(UNCLEAR)], the Pride of Erin. Have you ever seen them doing that. But I didn’t ever get into that, but it’s so good though. But talking about dancing I went for a trip to, Tweed


Heads, there’s a RSL Club there and, with our battalion association about 10, 7 years ago, and I said oh god there’d be dancing here, and but, you weren’t’ in a rush, it was all this new vogue and if you go in there your lost, I mean there all in unison and they were prefect. Have you ever seen them go, its good to watch, oh very good, that’s the new vogue. Yes,


and I’ve got a friend down at the bowls club him and his wife go every week dancing. He’s my age just about. No but I just, no that, anyway that’s the girls, yes, I always propose a toast to the ladies down at the bowls club and give them a good go. Yes, I haven’t been doing it lately cause our president, it’s a rule that the president did but they chopped it out


now. So I don’t get the chance.
What about after the war were you doing any kind of dancing with Francis?
No, no we didn’t ever, you didn’t go out much in those day. I’ll tell you what we did on a Sunday, sometimes you would go and visit one of your wife’s friends, say over at Clayfield, somewhere like that or anywhere, and you’d get


there and they’d give you probably have a drink when you got there and then they’d have afternoon tea and that was it, and then you’d come home again. Afternoon tea you’d go for. With a beer thrown in, and that’s all you did, didn’t do much, we lived in this house 4 kids, didn’t go out much at all. We had activities, like when I was president of Legacy there was always,


the Legacy at Home, we’d always dance there, oh they weren’t bad dances. And but, very seldom went out, didn’t ever go to the flick or anything like that. You know everyone goes to the movies now, I go a lot myself, but we didn’t then. Cause you had to get someone to look after the children I suppose and all that, yes. Now oh yes, when, when


Jill was old enough, she’s our eldest, she 40, 58 or 57 now, she senior English Teacher at State High actually and she, I remember my wife and I decided to go up and have a weekend together up at, up at, what’s the name of that place, on the way to the coast


up on the hill at Alexandria Headland.
Malani, Noosa, Malami.
No, no not there just, just near the Coast, nearer the Coast, go over the hill and down the other side. God.
No, no it’s a top place, a lot of old people live there in retirement, but it doesn’t matter.
No, no, god that’s on the surf, no, no it’s inland a bit.


Eumundi, no
No, god no I’ll think of it yes, anyway we went up there for a weekend and, she was 17 she looked after the others. And we got up there and Francis said “Oh we’d better ring them up and tell Jill not to have any parties while where aware”, and she said “Oh its too late Mum we’ve started”. They already had the party, was going full swing. Yes.


God fancy not remembering that name, yes. Anyway that was good when Jill was old enough because she didn’t stay at home too long she went [(UNCLEAR)] and so forth worked to TAA [Trans Australia Airlines]for a while, and worked for Channel 9 for a while, but anyway, she’s pretty cluey. So that’s right, we didn’t do much didn’t go out much


cause Francis wasn’t all that well and didn’t want to go anywhere much.
When you used to court the women when you were younger when you would court them, what would be the social activities of the day, would it be going to a dance or going to a movie?
Going to a movie. Well I remember a girl called Loris Heatly, I used to take out in Townsville, they were fairly wealthy people, they had Healty’s Store in Townsville and I was only about 18, 19 I


suppose, she was young too, but they had a big store in Townsville, and they had two cars, she used to drive one and she’d come in a pick me up and we’d go to the pictures and we’d drive down to the Strand and have a bit of a cuddle or something and then she’d drive me home and then she’d go home, not very romantic but anyhow. But you just go out to the pictures, that’s all you could do. Didn’t go, went to a lot of ball, by golly I went to a lot of balls, and


you had your partners, different partners and they were good, those balls, you had the program dance. I don’t know whether you know about that, you’d have all the dances listed 1, 2, 3 and there were two supper dances and you had the first, the supper and the last at least with your partner and you could move around after that. But you probably had more than that with your partner. But you didn’t have everyone with your partner, you’d go around to a girl and you’d fill up you card and the poor girls, the poor


girls that weren’t as popular wouldn’t have as many dances, that’s the problem with that. Its like girls waiting for boys to take them, they go on their own now they don’t worry about boys. They stick up the end of the room, that’s what we taught our 3 daughters, don’t let those boys stand together up the room, go up and break them up, cause you didn’t notice that when you were young, the boys, would want to stick together, very bad social behaviour. So we tried to train them like that.
Interviewee: Neil Russell Archive ID 0692 Tape 08


Okay Neil can you tell us moving forward in your Service life, what you did after New Guinea and you getting the job as an aide?
Yes, well, it was quite a change for


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.
The one that you were on?
No, no the one where the surrender was on, what’s the name of the boat?
Missouri, yes it just went out of my head. The Missouri was out in the middle of the bay and there were four destroyers lined up, 1, 2, 3, 4, and we were watching and there was a band playing and they Yanks were playing, an


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?
Yes I do, but.
Not yet.
There’s I guess I’m just curious as to what else you were perhaps doing as an aide, rather just running errands, where you actually..
Oh, no, no, yes, well actually when I was, at the end, I had


to, they said to me, at the end, they said I want you to, the chief bloke there, not the general, they want you to work out a movement or that for the withdrawal of this office, this headquarter to Australia. I’d never done it before, it gave me a lot of trouble, I had to seek advice, they thought oh well we’ll make this bloke work, I


suppose they thought, he wouldn’t lend us a car, you know. But, they were onto me then, but anyway that sort of thing, it was a start work, start work, moving Troops around and that sort of thing, well no troops, but officers and that sort of thing, the headquarters were. There wasn’t much to do at all really, it was a bit of a bludge really. But, at the end of the war particularly. So, but the ADC’s work is not


very, soul destroying. It’s a pretty easy going, you’ve just to be there and organise things for the general when he wants it and make sure that the mess is run properly, his, his eating mess and things like that. And ring up and make the arrangements for him, that sort of things. It wasn’t a very great job really.
And what do you think was it that got you the job in the first place?
The fact that I had worked so hard as a


platoon commander and I had a good record. A simple as that, a man who needed a rest and looked to be a gentleman sort of a fellow, might fit the job, so that’s all it was. And my company commander, I think was working on brigade at the time, my old company commander, who got shot in the neck at the start of Milne Bay, he probably, the brigadier probably spoke to him about me, before he spoke to me and he said “Oh yeh he comes from a good background


he’ll be right, used his knife and fork alright”. Oh no, it was a cushy job. I’ll tell you what he let me down in this regard, he, I might have mentioned before, he, didn’t confirm my captaincy, see, on the list I’m a bloomin Lieutenant, oh, might appeal that. I don’t think I’ll do any good because the army’s got regulations and there pretty hard to bend aren’t’ they. But if the general was


alive it’d be a different story, he’d fix it. I don’t know whether I’ll worry about it, but, well see.
Well you never know if you don’t give it a go.
Oh yes that right, yeh, well it was, I had a good life I’m grateful for being saved from a fate, I was going to say a fate worst than death, but I mean I’m safe from being knocked over, cause you know when your in all those campaigns you’ve got to be a bit lucky haven’t you.


Do you think it was just luck or did faith come into it at all?
Oh no, not faith, I don’t think so. You got strong faith?
Not in a religion thing.
No, well that’s right. Well I’ll tell you I joined, after the war I joined the, the militia again, the CMF, did I tell you that?
No you didn’t.
No, well you know you miss the army you see. I remember when I was a having a, cause when you’re in the army you usually knock off at four o’clock or something like that, and


if you were just doing basic work. Anyway I remember when I had my shower, when I was going to my work for the first time, god I thought I’ve got to work until five o’clock today, oh what’s going on here. Yes, and another thing when I, when, I joined the firm they said you’ve got to go over the Adelaide to see the head office


first. So I was down in Tasmania, visiting my people with my wife, so I went, I flew over to Adelaide and met the general, the chairman, he used to be in the army with my boss, I met, and I had to learn and met a few people. And I didn’t have any civilian clothes, I had my bloomin army uniform with all my medals, my medals, and I was a bit ignorant and, but I didn’t have any clothes and I didn’t want to


rush out and buy any. Anyway, he chipped me, the managing director, he said “Ah you can’t be walking around in that full uniform all the time I’d better get you some civvie clothes”. So I got a pair of strides and a shirt or something. It was a bit embarrassing. You know but it take a while to get the army out of your system. I was so used to wearing the uniform.
What was it like finally setting foot back on Australian soil knowing that the war was over and coming back home to Francis?
Oh well, very good, very good indeed,


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.
Got a few more questions


for you Neil.
Oh good.
Did you talk much about your war experience when you came back?
No, no, yes, at any opportunity I would. You know I’ve often heard comments from people saying, “Oh Dad, he was that but he never talks about the army. I don’t know why, sometimes I’ve got nothing to talk about, if your in the ASC [Australian Service Corps] you wouldn’t have anything to talk about, would you?. But anyway I’m not belittling anybody


but, there are two parts to the army according to, Sir William Slim or one of the senior generals. There’s the Infantry and there’s the rest. When you think about it you see you’ve got the infantry, I’ve gone though all the things we did, and the fighting we went on. We were the only one do the fighting, cause the, you’ve got, you’ve got the, what do you call them, the, the


camp commando squadrons, they do a lot of patrolling, they were good. And you’ve got the Parachute Regiment who didn’t have a role at all in the war, you’ve got the armoured division who didn’t have a role in the war except for a few tanks that we used in New Guinea. So that’s it. So as you can see there is something to talk about. What the other, why the other fellows don’t want to talk about it I don’t know, but I do talk about it if they want me to. If they ask me a question I tell them


because I’m proud of it. Why shouldn’t I. And, I told you I got, one of my former son in laws, he’s not married to my younger daughter anymore, better not say that, he’s a secretary of the RSL down here and he wants me to perhaps give a talk on the 15th, that’s Friday isn’t it? Because they have a function down there and I’ll say a few


things. 9 minutes I’ll talk for. So that’s what I do now. I’m not frightened to talk about it. I’m proud of it.
Did you seek out your old mates when you came back to Australia, setting up life with Francis?
I did, but they all lived interstate my mates. They were wonderful blokes, god I’ve only got, there’s only Angus Suthers who’s a great friend, he’s, he lives in Sydney, he’s not too good. Roy Wotton our


Padre, he lives at Wyong, his 90 now and, there’s nobody, nobody alive around here that I served with. Tex Alaway he was in another company but I didn’t know him in the war much different Company, he’s a good fellow. And Alan Rosenita our president, he didn’t join up until 44 he was so young. So there’s all my friend are not here there gone, which is a pity.


Oh I’ve got one up in, up in Toowoomba, Norm Shawn, there’s one and I ring him up occasionally. Sid Griffiths another one, he’s he’s way down I the mid Coast of NSW, but not in Brisbane, and they don’t ever come to our reunions. One’s got a pace maker and the others had a heart attack, but anyway, so, so I don’t unfortunately. I wish I, wish I


did. I am a nostalgic person. I’m not emotional but I’m nostalgic.
Do you celebrate.
Do you celebrate Anzac Day?
Oh yes, yes I go, I go to the Anzac Day march every year, well I help organise it too, and numbers are well down, were lucky if were got about 20 blokes if were lucky. But then there’s a whole lot of daughters and


grandsons, and sons they make up the numbers to about 30 odd. We might have only had 12 blokes this year, and then we have a reunion down at the, the, god, down at the, City Rowers, which is a good spot but I’ve given up the last year or two, I’ve, Mavis, my friend Mavis, she, she’s on the, she can’t march anymore, and


she’s on her own so I said, oh well go up to the United Service Club its lovely up there. So I marched and go straight up to the United Service Club and met her up there instead of going down there. But we have our main reunion in November, I was only last week went out with our secretary Tex Alawy, to the Geebung RSL, Geebung RSL where we have it on the 14th November. We’ll be lucky if we have 30


this year including women. Disappointing, but I reckon we’ll be folding up in a couple of years.
What does the whole Anzac celebration or tradition mean to you as a?
Oh it means a lot to me, yes, I, I think it’s a great tradition its, Anzac was a defeat not a victory of course at Gallipoli but it was a wonderful occasion and full of bravery and


so forth and the way they were treated and had rifles firing with water dripping into them, do you know about that? Don’t you know. Well when the, when the Australian were withdrawing from Gallipoli so the Turks wouldn’t know they set up riffles in a row, and they put, they had water dripping into another container which, pulled the string which pulled the trigger and they had them


all at different times so that, shots were fired at various times for the next hour so they got away and the Turks though they were still there. That was a good move wasn’t it?
Good trick.
Yes its good Australian initiative. I’ve always spoken about, I haven’t seen it so much now but, in the old, in years gone by when cars weren’t so good you’d often see a car pulled up on the side of the road and some bloke would


pull up and he’d fix it for you. But you don’t see that today do you. You’d never get a flat tyre anymore. I remember I changed a flat tyre once in 10 minutes going to a drive in one night in the dark too. But you don’t have it now with the tyres they have. But its, yes, so that’s.
And what, what do you think of the current conflicts that are happening in the Australian Defence Forces involved?


I must say I’m a very conservative bloke, I’m a great supporter of John Howard, everything he does I perfect for me. That’s how I’m built, by I think his a good bloke, he’s done a good job, he might have made a few mistakes but, anyway. Its worrying, we, there are so many trouble spots and were extended. Its expensive that’s another things, it’s a pretty, we should be able to give maternity leave to the


women I’m in favour of that, and [(UNCLEAR)] is a good as you can do, well as you can do, but it hasn’t been successful yet. But oh no, no I’m, I don’t care, I’m in favour of the Republic, I can tell you that, although I think the system’s working, but as you would see in that ceremony yesterday where they give alliance to the Queen. I mean where past that now, and


I think we ought to drop it off, so. Its, she doesn’t have any say at all, it’s just a figure head, but it’s a system that’s working but I think it should change.
Was there a part of you that went to war for King and country?
Was there a part of you that joined up for King and Country?
Of course, of course, yes, oh yes, too right, yes no, in those days yes. King and country in those days too right. Yes. Oh yes


it was a different story then.
Did that feeling hold until the end of the war for you?
Oh yes it would have, end of the war was bloody 6 years, yes, oh yes, but its no, no longer the case of course. And also the flag. I wouldn’t mind if they reduced the size of that union jack to a smaller and add something else in the other corner. I’m not in favour of an aboriginal,


though, I’m right wing enough to say that. I don’t think, I, they can have a little place of them, yes that’s alright I wouldn’t mind that either, but to have the Southern Cross as the main flag, just a little union jack in one corner and perhaps the aboriginal flag in the other corner, guarding their cross, something like that. So I’m not hot about it.
And if many young fellows came to you today sort of saying they wanted


to go to war tomorrow because they thought it would be a really good thing. What advice would you give them?
Go, go, yes, I mean I’d access the situation wouldn’t I, and then if I thought it was a good thing I would say yes. But I mean they’d only come if it was borderline, if it was, I couldn’t imagine they’d ever do that, but, no I, oh I’m in favour of going to war, oh yes, in circumstances.


I don’t like war of course, it, you look at that Iraqi business that’s a bit sad, they reckon they’ve got 5000 people supporting Saddam Hussein there and they can take pot shots at our fellows all the time the, British and the Americans, very bad. And the Afghanistan, that will go down too, if you don’t look out too, there’s so much religious disagreement, particularly in Iraq, god the Shiites


they want everything. It’s a worry isn’t’ it.
Okay well just hold it there.


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