and father were both born in the district. There was two children and when I was five we moved down to the city, to Sydney and we moved to Auburn and that’s where I grew up to teenage days.
Now, in the city I was about 13 when the Depression hit and I became a child of the Depression. And I went to a state school then I went from state school, from the primary to a commercial
school. And from the commercial school I started work and I used to go to Parramatta Intermediate High at night, which was the normal way in them years. I was pulled out of the state commercial school when I was 15 to work. There was no work anywhere but I was offered a job
through a friend of my father’s. This motor smithing, it meant that I was a striker with a 10 pound sledge hammer, straightening bus axles by hand with a – The motor smith was a very clever man
but he started the business with a hundred pound lent by his brother-in-law and we started good business but he had two weaknesses, one was women and one was drink. And once we made a few pound he’d disappear until he’d spent it. And in the meantime I just had to
go to work open up, go and shut up at night go back home and in the end I got no pay so I left him eventually. I was only filling in really for a younger son of his. Then I went and worked at AWA [Amalgamated Wireless Australasia] for a short spell making mantle radios. They’d just came in. And that didn’t appeal
to me and I ended up getting apprenticed to shop and office fitter’s as a joiner. When war broke out I jumped into the army by then I’d just finished my apprenticeship and I enlisted at the showground, past the test for the
engineers as a joiner and went to Ingleburn camp now that would’ve been the 8th June 1940. We trained there with the 2/6th Field Engineers, a wonderful company. Their CO [Commanding Officer], the major was a Duntroon man,
a top man and only his 30s, late 30s and then after the training there we, with our sister companies, the 2/4th, 2/5th companies and us the 2/6th marched with the 2/13th and 2/17th
infantry battalions to Bathurst Camp. When we reached Bathurst Camp it was only into stage of half finished. We had no amenities, no nothing, and we were the furthest out of Bathurst, being at not Hayford. Anyway we were on a sheep station
where the camp was being actually built, one of St Clair and the Bathurst Camp was the only area the 7th Div [Division] moved to
that they did the march. They never marched in the city. The 6th and 8th Division marched through the city. 7th Div never got a march through the city, they marched through Bathurst. It’s got to be remembered that the population of Australia then was only around 7 million so they were really country towns. And after our training at
Bathurst we went on final leave. The 6th Division had already sailed and back from final leave we had a short stay to make out our wills and so forth at Bathurst and then we left to be embarked in Sydney.
We went on the Queen Mary and she was the only one in port near the sail, that’s the deepest water. We left on the Mary in a bad way, there was a mutiny. There was 10,000 troops plus crew
and she was 85,000 ton but she didn’t allow – she was built for a 3 day trip across the Atlantic. She wasn’t built for heat and the troops were shoulder to shoulder in hammocks down in the bowel of the ship. They mutinied to get back on the decks to sleep. Anyway, the got their way but
the Queen Mary had not be converted to a trooper [troop carrier], she was still the luxury ship. She had all the women’s hair salons and beauty parlours and she had everything and the officers and nurses of the 7th Div and the crew had two thirds of the ship and the ROs [Ranking Officers] had one third so
you can imagine things weren’t too happy.
in and I stopped in the army for 8 or 9 months and got posted to the Women’s Army Hospital which hit me pretty hard and that was at Thomas Walker Home at the bottom of the 113th AGH [Australian General Hospital]
Hospital. That’s where the plan was worked out against me. They knew that I had no speaking to a women in virtually 4 years except my mother and family when I came home. So what chance did I have against a whole bunch of army girls
all looking for husbands? So that’s where I met my wife, Marie, and then we were married in 1947 on the 13th December. After that I worked for a short while, I worked as a clerk mainly, salesman and then clerk and then
virtually based my life outside of being a clerk I worked in a timber yard in the city as managing the hardware, the builders hardware department. That was my whole work life.
Allan, that’s a very good structure of the summary and, as I said, you were starting to go into some terrific details which I’d like to get us back to in a moment. And because you’ve already given us some of those details in the summary don’t be concerned that we might be going over the same ground particularly with the early years. There will be a little bit of repetition here and there but that’s not going to worry the people that are going to make use of this interview ultimately. They’ll be quite delighted with all the detail. All right,
let’s go right back to when you were telling us about when and where you were born.
But you just said it ribbed you, I mean would it…?
Oh no, just make me you know – I used to get disgusted with the saying ‘he’s a mug, you’re a mug’. I used to think, “Well, so are you,” and that was it, that finished. But I wouldn’t say it, it didn’t pay.
See, you’ve got to remember this, you didn’t see our day. In the Depression everybody spoke – in the Depression you had a level playing field, everybody was broke, there was no wealthy, no this or that you didn’t see that in the suburbs they were all out of work. When it was all out of work the blokes working had their wages cut in halves mostly public servants which they were just not much better off than those on the dole. And the result is,
you might laugh at me telling you this, I was a boy 13 – 14 – 15 growing up happiest times of my life was the Depression. But if the adults heard me saying that they’d hang me.
goods train and it went all around and around and around. Now, as you jumped the rattler as they called it in them days if you reached Wauchope the police were waiting for you. The police always waited at every station in the country. They’d grab you and take you to the police station, you’d get a feed,
put in the cells and next morning leave town. You were allowed only to stop 24 hours in a town, that was the Depression. I was just lucky I was too young for that. I missed that.
You were very lucky to get the job at the age that you did? How did you land that job as a striker?
My father had two friends that were grave diggers in the Depression at the time. That wasn’t their trade, one was a blacksmith actually, the other fellow I couldn’t say for sure, but they were English fellows came over here and married
Australian girls and this chap, I worked for Ernie Holden, he was a Scotsman, and he was a brother-in-law of these two brothers, it was their sister that married Holden. Now, Holden – just a little bit off on the side, I got the job
I was too small they reckon and not strong enough but I was strong enough, but prior to coming to Australia he lived in Africa and his strikers there were Zulus and I became his Zulu.
he has the tongs, he’ll pull it out, he’s got a smallish hammer, I suppose weigh about 2 pound and he starts beating it into shape but he’s got to have something to really squash it and that’s the 10 pound slam. I’d be on the other side of the anvil and you’d bash it into shape you see. Well, to do bus axles they were big and heavy
and then once you straighten them or any of the steel you’ve got to harden it where you have a big fish tank and you drop it in with the tong you’re holding you just east it, lift it up and ease it down again. A couple of times and then they put it in the fish oil. Oh, the smell would knock you over. Well, it was a real fishy smell put it that way.
So you’re bending over and you’re getting the fumes straight up into your face. That was them days.
he was only a labourer around the place if you could see what I mean. Down below us, if you know Margaret Street at all in the city, it goes down the hill to the Street.
When you walked in at Sussex Street in that building, Broomfields was a big Chandlers there but most of them were Grain Merchants and when you walked in you walked across a bridge, a little bridge in the building. You, were three floors up from the street below you which was
I forget the name of it now it’ll come to me – but we had the two top floors and the bottom floor was Marine Engineers and they used to come and get timber off us, scrap timber, because there was a terrible waste of timber in them days, and they’d make there
whatever job they were on they’d make their patterns out of that time. And it appears this day one of the boys from down the Marine Engines came up and asked Ernie to put a bit of scrap timber he’d picked up through the planer and he did it. Now, there was only me there at the time, I was there, on the top
floor and Ernie on the second floor, all the rest were out at jobs. I was working on a piece of timber and this red splat hit it and then another one. I thought, “God, Ernie’s knocked the duco pot over.” We had a spraying outfit down below and I thought,
“That’s funny,” and then I realised it couldn’t be that because I was above him, hit me then. I ran down to see what was happening and Ernie had from right across he’d lost all his fingers, the whole lot. The timber had a knot in it and the blades
were blunt and when it hit the knot the blades dragged it down and his hand with it. It just struck it straight across. That ruined Ernie’s life but on top of that he gets nothing there was nothing. He shouldn’t have been using the machine and also they were responsible because they wouldn’t
use guards. The inspector used to come around from the government, he might make a round twice a year. Next door to us is a pub, when the Inspector comes around, there were two bosses, two partners, one the big fellow he’d grab him take him in shout him beer. While he shouted him
beer all the rest of us would have to put the guards on the machines. Soon as he went off came the guards.
What, how did that affect you in emotional terms, I mean you must’ve been in a state of shock for a start?
No, you didn’t get shock them days. See I was being worked as a cheap labour, I was apprenticed and was never taught. That’s what went on. This big fellow, the boss, Armour was his name,
back. I knew I was getting back because my boss told me. He said, “You’ll be coming back Allan,” he said “As soon as we can start up again.” But I turned around and it was about the middle of December when I went and others had gone a week or two before me they started. Well, when I went the bulk of them had been already laid off.
And the whole situation is so rotten. They didn’t have to pay you for 3 public holidays, that’s the way things worked.
took it. And I didn’t mind, as I say I loved sport and running home might take me an hour and half but that didn’t worry me. In fact I’d do it under the hour. In them days there was no what’s a name like today otherwise I’d been in money in marathons and that. See we lived a good kilometre I suppose ¾ of a mile from
Auburn shopping centre and the school. God, I’d run there in a couple of minutes, think nothing of it. See everything, that’s why I loved it as a kid all I wanted to do was get out. School holidays would come along and father would lay down what had to be done, so much timber cut for the stove was always fire burning
timber. So much gardening to do, everybody had gardens. No lawns you didn’t bother with that. Cutting grass that was a no, no. Does all help to survive, a family and…
and there’s no such thing, the boss becomes your father insofar as that he can deal it out. If he wants he’ll give you a clip across the ears he does. If he wants to give you a kick in the backside he does. See what I mean, that’s what went on. That was life you knew no better because that’s how things were. Well, this crowd that I got entangled in they
turned around and had a good business really but everything had to be on the cheap as far as their labour was concerned. The boys – your wage was pitiful and they could not sack you without permission of
the Apprenticeship Council. And if you did anything wrong they’d have to go – you’d have to face the Apprenticeship Council which was like three Judges and they were in Grace Building and as I told you the – there was no love
lost between the partners. Now, to give you an idea, when I started there like all apprentices you start with a broom. You learn to clean up which is a wonderful thing though you don’t think of it at that time because the whole thing learns you a lesson that a good tradesman cannot work in dirt.
He always has everything laid out and everything’s clean and an apprentices part was to do all that clean, always keep always keep the place clean. Well, the first job I got I’ll never forget it. The office boss came to me, he was a fellow named Shields, he came to me and said, “Get a bucket and get a packet of calcimine and
get a step ladder and go up to Grace Building to Room 450 and paint it.” I’d never painted in my life. Anyway, you did it. Now, you go up a hill, just imagine it, you’ve got a step ladder under one hand, a 6 foot ladder because you had to get
to the ceilings, you had a bucket, calcimine and a brush in the other hand and you went up Margaret Street which was steep, you went into the dock, not the tradesmen’s entrance, not the York Street entrance you went in the Kent Street entrance of Grace Building. Now, the repat wasn’t there then, in them days and you
could easy find where to go because whatever the first number was the floor. If it was 450 it meant the 4th floor, room number 50. Well you’d go up and you’d paint it. You’d walk in, and you’d look at it and it looked beautiful, empty, it’s empty see. Nothing wrong with that wall but I’ve got to paint it so you painted it. You know the story of it.
They’re charging painters’ rates for a kid, a kid on a couple of shillings a day. Not my vice, Grace Bros’ vice.
you had no assistance, no come back, being Depression, you couldn’t got to a Union or anything you had nothing. We had the sympathy of everyone around. I used to have to go down to a furniture place, Tommy Taylor’s, at that time fairly big furniture place, making furniture and the fellows there used to
feel that damn sorry for me I used to even wonder why they used to feel so sorry that’s how it used to be. They knew what they were like this pair see.
Bill was at the bad age, 19 years. He would’ve been around 19 – 20. Girls – right. In them days you had nothing to do with girls, girls had no money and you had no money. You’d go to dances with them but as far as – you just had very little to do with girls in the sense – boys kept to
boys, girls kept to girls. Well, the old thing of sex was a mystery. Lo and behold what’s coming to the Tivoli in Sydney the Marcus Show. You mightn’t heard of it but the Marcus Show wouldn’t believe it in Australia had nudes on the stage.
Now, this is true. They had to stand statuesque, not move, no movement. They all had to be at least 6 foot tall. And who was in that show as well was…
grandmother had died and she was being buried that afternoon. See that’s how simple everyone was in the boys. So Bill goes and sees the show. The boss looks in the death notices in the paper, next morning he called Bill up and he had to admit his grandmother didn’t die – sacked him
Now, he had no right to sack him but in them days you couldn’t – you got no backing from your parents, not your mother your father. Your father’s attitude was you deserved it. See always a child was wrong, a child’s word against an adult’s word. See in them days the greatest
crime you could commit is lie. You were brought up to never lie. No matter what it was you didn’t lie. And if an adult said something about – you swore at them or something the father’d believe her he’d never believe you. That was they way they thought them days even if he knows she was lying for arguments sake if it was the next door neighbour
were you doing other forms of work after the apprenticeship?
No, no, no, see what the – getting back to the apprenticeship, what the boss, what they were doing there as soon as you come out of your apprenticeship they’d haul you down to the council, apprentice council as say, “Oh, he’s not reached the standard yet.” They’d get permission to keep you employed as a –
I thought now which is the safest, they’re not going to let me be given a pip straight away so I decided to be a gunner, artillery. Now, I thought artillery is not right up in the mud. So when I went to the showground, they were up in one of the
pavilion parts, sitting on the seats, spectators seats tiered up and I see ‘Gunners – sign up Gunners’ so I went up. There were about 40 –50 blokes up there then. And I’m sitting there minding my own business and an officer comes along. I could tell by his cap and, see had the cap and uniform we were in civvies. He said, “What trade did you
do? Did you have a trade?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “What were you doing?” I said, “Joinery.” “Oh, you’re in the wrong part son, you’re in the engineers.” Best thing ever happened.
men. You’ve got 3 companies of engineers, each company supports a brigade, a brigade is a 3rd. Three brigades to the division. Now, a field company is infantry only the work is a bit different but you’re still front line. You’re up the front and
each day one of your sections is supporting a battalion. There’s 3 battalions to a brigade. And when I joined up the 6th had been filled I became in the 7th and when I went – first of all you had to
pass a test at the showground that night you had to pass in my case a chips and the –
Hold on, this is extraordinary – were the materials not supplied? Why not?
Because they didn’t have it. See an officer said, let me explain, this happened at Bathurst camp. An officer wanted, he was an architect, a good one. A young officer, only young, he wanted a little desk made to do some drawings
an explosive man, he’d be army and they had the stunted – what’s the name trees there you see around the city – tea tree types and he was using gun powder and
what’s a name, gelignite. He’d show you the different powers because different explosives worked different as far as their power base goes and he’d demonstrated gun powder on a tree and how it blasted it from just above the base of the tree and then he done the gelignite
and he’s warning all the time that should it misfire the lead like leading to the detonator, should it misfire wait about 10 minutes don’t go over to it. Well, it did misfire, nobody went over to it, he didn’t go, course he had to go first, he didn’t
go. He went – he had about 10 minutes over he goes and bang up he went. That was our first lesson – got seriously injured. I don’t know whether he survived.
on the ground is bits of gelignite that had not – blown off the stick – never exploded with it and it’s just like rosin, soft rosin, and while I’m watching and listening to him here I am crumbling it in my hands, I wasn’t to know it was the worst thing you could do. Skin absorbs it,
you’ll get the most terrible headache you’ll ever experience in your life. You can feel the top of your head going up and down.
or anything. Your most common accident would be somebody spearing one another with a bayonet. Like pulling it out and sticking accidentally into themselves see accidents can happen so easily you wouldn’t credit they could happen. I can give you an idea, I seen it happen as a prisoner with the Japanese on the Burma Railroad. Swinging pick and shovels with 50 men
no bigger than this area, well what happens – one fella they’re not all experts, he swings it back and the point of the pick goes into the back of the fella behind him. See what I mean, you don’t think. That’s what happens. See it’s so easy nobody thinks that in a small area so many there swinging picks and
shovels somebody’s going to get hit cause you’ve got to allow room with anything.
the engineers did. Can you tell us more about what the role of engineers…
Well, they do everything. They have to get the bridges across the river to get the tanks and the infantry across. You’ve got to do the roads in a mountainous country. When you blow the road, you’ve got a sheer mountain, you’ve got no road. You’ve got to get a road through, you’ve got to get the tanks and that through because there’s no time.
Everything is speed, well it don’t matter what you do in your civil life you become the labourer to the expert of whatever the job is at the time. In other words, if it’s a road, you’re pick and shovel. If it’s an explosive you’re doing mines or pulling up mines of the enemy. If it’s booby traps, for arguments sake, you’ve got to turn
around and learn to disarm one. If you make a mistake you kill yourself and your company mates with you. There was a film made many years it was well worth if they showed it today. It was a documentary in England of the mine, of the mine engineers of which the German unexploded bombs
they may be 6 foot, 8 foot under the ground, they came across an unexploded bomb. Well, these teams are trained but they’ve got to go in and learn to take the fuse off the bomb otherwise it could take a whole block of houses. They were huge bombs.
is a 1,000 men, it might be a bit more with reinforcements that’s full strength. But rarely you are at full strength. A company of engineers is approximately 250 odd. Now, of that 250 you’ve got about 30 or 40 would be transport. Your own trucks, your drivers and the other is 3 sections of engineers.
That makes up a company so you’re only a quarter of the size of the battalion. But also you finish up in all different countries. For arguments sake, one company could be in Palestine, one company could be up in Libya in the desert and one company could be Egypt. You’re moving away all the time. You’ve more freedom, you’re more on your own, you’re not tied up in –
you’re on different jobs all the time. Your routine doesn’t – you’re learning put it this way it’s like an apprentice. Your learning something all time.
What I mean, that company’s my second love, honest it is. That’s why I’ve become a prisoner in my own home. I lost the greatest love of the world as far as outside of my wife. You get bond somehow or other you can never explain it. Even with your mixture of blokes you’ve got to live with some are good, some are bad, some are murders and some are angels, God knows
what. You live and you miss them because you live so long with them. And you rely on each one for your life. Your life hedges on everybody.
He liked his drink at the weekend and he used to come home drunk, really drunk and cause trouble. Being a kid growing up I used to get that damn frightened. In them days the weapon was a cut-throat razor and he’d always say, “I’ll cut your bloody throat.” I used to have nightmares every time there was a creak in the house. See how it comes up,
little things like that how it’s your whole life you never forget it and it takes your life. In other words, it sticks with you.
drink, where others in the end you could be giving them a glass of water and they still think they’re drinking beer. That’s how bad they get. It’s so stupid and I come up with a culture as why send the publicans kids to the GPS school and have to send your own to the state school. You see the culture which is true. In other words why can’t your kids get the same education?
as the bloke you’re putting the money in to send his, which is right. Oh no, no, look I’ve got beer here now that lays there form Christmas to Christmas until my kids come. My boys are drinkers. My father wasn’t a heavy drinker he never drank Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, payday Friday, he’d come home drunk Friday night and he’d go out with his mates Saturday morning
about 10 o’clock, they usually go out to watch a football match or a cricket match. The big matches in town and stop at every pub on the way and stop at every pub on the way home. He took me a few times to the cricket back in Bradman’s days, the tests with a mate and I used to get tired of going, every pub they’d come to they’d go in, you see I was only about 12, sit outside waiting.
This was all through Surry Hills and that. And there’s a lot of pubs, there was in them days every street corner had them.
And in goes the country boys and oh awful, they picked up dry sticks and they tried to hit the snakes and the sticks just fall apart. Gee, I tell you what. Anyway, a city fella ended up getting with his rifle and when it and wailed them. Just under 6 foot both of them.
Oh, they were savage. Of course trying to hit them with dry sticks only made them more savage but they couldn’t separate and the result is because they wind around one another, and the result is they killed them. It made a little bit of a difference for awhile.
times. Well, it’s a secret, nobody knows 7th Div’s sailing. Everywhere we went the platforms are loaded with people. The bridges we passed under were full of people all the way from Bathurst to Sydney. The roads are lined with people. The enemies not supposed to know, I ask you. And of course when we hit Sydney
you went in via the goods entrance. You didn’t go to Circular Quay or anything, there was no Wynyard or that, you went to Central Station. You didn’t go to Central Station, you went around Glebe the goods yard and got on a ferry and was taken over to the Queen Mary. And she was as I say, the only place they could berth her was out in the steam just off the zoo, that’s the deepest part of
the harbour of course she’s 85,000 ton. She’s was big ship, but hell ship.
no air, everything stale. She carried too many. See 10,000 is a lot in one ship. You can imagine when there’s limited space for 10,000, if you’d put 5,000 it wouldn’t have been so bad. So what happened they mutinied to get on the decks. So they ended up they got on the decks, those that wanted to go on the decks see
and get the fresh air but the crew took their revenge. They used to come around at half past 4 in the morning with the hoses hosing the decks down. That’s what went on.
I mean was there – I mean you called it a mutiny that the men refused to go back down under the decks, what conflict occurred between the officers and the men?
Oh, it only came to the officers – it come to the discussion that the fact that what the men said was right. The men were in the right, the officers by trying to force them all down below was in the wrong, they knew that. You see it’s like everything else
So back on the Queen Mary there was obviously boxing for entertainment but how would you alleviate the boredom?
Well, I don’t think you had a chance to alleviate it as I tried to explain you got breakfast, lunch and dinner well that nearly took all your day up and down the stairs with a bit of physical exercise thrown in on the deck with your Sergeants you know at the time
but outside of that there was really no chance of getting bored just standing on the stairs if you fell asleep you’d fall down on the fella in front of you.
freight ship originally. She was four funnels. She had – she was much older but she was still a beautiful liner. She picked them up and we were escorted by the Sydney, HMAS Sydney to Fremantle and the Bight [Great Australian Bight] was rough and we had a lot of seasickness with lot of the men had never been to sea before. And to give you an idea the weight of them ships
when we went into Fremantle it was as smooth as a pond and she was still rocking from the Bight, because the Bight was fairly rough. In other words instead of getting into smooth water and righting herself she couldn’t she kept rocking backwards and forwards. That kept on for a couple of days. Why they pulled in there was to get the West Australian and South Australian
contingents. See, the Victorians had the Mauritania and Aquitania, Sydney had for the Mary, Queenslanders, New South Wales but you had West Australia’s and South Australia’s – well they went aboard – not the
Mary she couldn’t take any more – they went aboard the Aquitania and Mauritania. And then we set sail across the ocean, the Indian Ocean. This time the Sydney left us and HMAS Perth took over as escort. And they escorted us to Bombay. Now, the ships are that big, the Mary I’m talking of, was that big
you couldn’t even see India. You couldn’t even see there land you were that far out at sea. Couldn’t go in any closer it wasn’t deep enough.
you couldn’t risk the big ships with them. And the result was they’d only go as far as Bombay. Well, the water was dirty, filthy even that miles out to sea. No sanitation see from India. India’s filthy. We were taken aboard the Rohna,
R.O.N.A. she was a cargo boat and she’d take us, she’d be about 3,000 ton and she’d move you to Bombay to the wharves where you’d get out. She’d come back out and pick up another lot.
6 days you had to wait while another convoy formed to take you. Some of the troops were taken up into the mountains to where the British hierarchy used to go to Poona but I was in camp at Bombay about 3 mile out of Bombay. At Bombay
we used to – about 5 days I suppose there 5 or 6 days. But at Bombay the Indians had these big marquee tents, you slept in them and they did all the cooking. The Indian cooks, they’d be army, Indian army cooks. They’d cook sausages and so forth and you used to train in the morning, mad dogs and Englishmen they always copied that.
You’d do a route march of a few mile in the heat and then you’d have the rest of the day off at 6 o’clock but you weren’t allowed to stop in Indian at night. All the trip over you were filled to by the officers you were not to go to Grant Road. I don’t know where human nature starts and stops with their common sense.
What happens when you tell people not to go anywhere? The whole mob, nurses, generals right down all in Grant Road. Plus the troops.
was getting some fun elsewhere as far as Indian goes. Grant Road was the red light district and the women it appears, the girls and that were all in cages above about the first floor up and they’d be yelling o out to the troops and that down below see. Actually, from what I could see of Grant Road I had more fun
where I was. There were three of us we’re walking into Bombay and there’s a bloke stops us, an Indian stopped us with a basket and he’s got this little animal on his – like a squirrel on his arm. All right, he wanted 10 annas from the
each of us, 10 annas to see the mongoose fight the cobra. Right we paid him, he lifted up the lid and up shot the cobra, I don’t know how but I found myself from here to that door further away and I don’t remember moving. Honest – scared the living daylights out of me. The damn cobra shot straight up.
appealed to me more than going to Grant Road. I knew three quarters of the ship would finish up in Grant Road walking along but no. I went into town a day or so afterwards. I lost the greatest opportunity of my life. I was with two older men, one was attached to us all the
time permanently he was a first aid man he had the training see. He was from the Railways he was a first aid man in the Railways and the other chap he was an older fellow, a decent bloke but he was no soldier. He disappeared just after we got over there – the Middle East. They just leave, go home they send them back home. But the, you got the
cast in Indian and the high caste is Passé, now the Passé’s are on level with the British the others are down lower levels. The lowest of all is the Tamil. He’s the low caste, untouchable. Now, the British allowed us to use their canteens of course we’d go in there to have lunch
and Passé women help in there with the English ladies, all voluntary, they’re on the same footing. Anyway, this lady seemed to take a bit of a shine to me. And she wanted me to ask the major, perfect English, to come and stop with them
as their guests while we were in, while we were in Ankelet and of course the two older blokes are (UNCLEAR) me, you know, go on, see Major Calder. She’d had New Zealanders been there just before us. A crowd of New Zealanders, I believe they’d played up a fair bit but one of their chaps had stopped with her. And course, sticking in the back of my head don’t talk, don’t let –
your enemies listening, never tell who you belong to. Don’t tell your Companies who it is nor the division. No way I wouldn’t be in it. One thing I don’t think Major Calder thought enough of me to give me permission anyway.
a great sorrow for the people. And the carrying of the baton – when you stop you’re surrounded by about a 1,000 Indians within a second you’re surrounded and that’s why the have the batons the English soldiers to beat them off. Of course we never knew that ‘til we found out and of course we got cranky on the Pommies [English] for doing it. We reckon that’s a rotten thing to do our blokes’d got and fight them over
it. If they seen them hitting Indians to get out of it they’d go over and start fighting them. See we didn’t agree with the vast gulf between England and us, the system of the lord and squires to the common people that just doesn’t work with us. Doesn’t matter
what happened, the ideas good when you work it out because when you get about a thousand of them around you, you start to get a bit scared. Well, you can’t fight a thousand.
was three funnel, she’d be about 15,000 ton, Slamat, now Slamat is Indonesian, it stands for ‘good luck’ and she was the flagship of the Netherlands East Indies and she’d been running for many, many years and she took our three companies,
our two companies the 4th were still behind, the 5th and 6th Company and other troops aboard her, oh I suppose with about 8 or 9 other ships. We had a convoy of about three destroyers I think and a cruiser that took us to the Suez. We got through all right there was no trouble.
and we taken ashore, we got on to trucks and we were taken across the Sinai Desert to an Engineer’s camp called Kostina. Now Kostina was in Palestine, it was purely
the engineer’s training camp there. And when we got there the tents were already been put up and we had to camouflage them with mud. You know throw all mud over it and harden it up and it gets a camouflage effect ad then we just went on with training there. And about a week after we were there we had to do a burial a British
engineer officer had died and they had nobody to do the burial at Gaza. The burial had to be a – what do they call the, you know, the slow march, death march with the pipes, the band. Oh, from here to nearly Port Macquarie. And
we had about two days to train in, it takes a hell of a strain on you because of the way it’s done. The formality of it is you’ve got to do everything so perfect. And we were the firing party the guns to fire the three shots, they’ve got to synchronise anyway we did that –
I never forgot that, that march fair rocked me and then we came back.
But you do that slow march, where one foot’s slow in front then the other. You’ve got to shoot the foot toe forward and then down and so on. Well, we must’ve did 500 yards of it, that’s a long way with your rifle on the full and a bayonet and then to synchronise your shots. You’ve got three shots. You’ve got all fire as one. When you’ve got a firing group it’s not easy.
Anyway, it come off all right. I got commended for it, it must’ve worked. But to think a man had died you know. Anyway, we got back to camp and we carried on mostly route marching. We‘d have to go across ploughed paddocks, you’d see the poorer Palestinian or Jew or whatever he was.
They’d have a camel and a donkey and – camel, donkey and bullock pulling just a one bladed hose but you had to watch yourself because if you kicked a clump of – you know when they plough it’s in clumps the ground, the earth, it lifts the clump up you
kick one of them clumping up it would shoot an asp it was rotten with snakes. I’ll tell you what, no wonder nerves never last long.
type of things. But while we were there, there were a lot of British permanent soldiers there with their families. And one lot was a railway unit, I don’t know where the railway ran too, I don’t know of any railway there but they used to let us use their canteen and I got friends with a couple of young
English fellows there. They were poorly paid and I used to go to the canteen and shout them a beer. And they finished up on the Sunday, we had the Sunday off and they asked me would I like to go for a picnic. Oh yes, anything to get away from the camp. So went away to this picnic all these permanent soldiers and their families and that
and we went up to – some Mount, oh God I know it well –
You’ve seen paintings of Michelangelo and that of that style of thing all the ceilings around all the floors mosaic a little tile all of colour and absolutely out of this world. And you looked out and you’re looking over hundreds of miles of land as flat as anything. I reckon that’s where the devil tempted Jesus
to overlook these lands and he could have them. If, he got down on his hands and knees. See what I mean, now don’t get me wrong, I came from a normal family and we went to Sunday school and that was it.
I wasn’t to know that, it took me many more years before I found that out. I should never have come home and I can’t tell you why. There was at least 10 times I died, 10 times I come home. How do you work it out? I died when they dropped out the bomb, just before they dropped the bomb. You die but you’re not dead
you’re in the half way. In other words, you die when I died at the finish I mean it holy all of a sudden you get a peace not as we know peace it’s a peace you have no way of describing. You can’t describe it. You have no hatred you have no fear.
You don’t fear dying. You don’t care if you don’t see your father or mother or family again. You’ve got no inkling to see them. But it’s the perfect – this funny feeling you have of peace. It’s so great it presses on to you. If you speak to a doctor or nurse he’ll tell you what I’m telling you is true. But they don’t tell people you don’t want to frighten them
Mobile bath they call it. 2/27th Field Park and Mobile Bath, they’re engineers too but not field engineers, they’re job is a bit different. Actually, I don’t know to this day really what their full job is but the mobile bath would be for bathing set up I would say. Hygiene
and all that. Mostly they’re hygiene people and the field park itself, one’s attached to the other, I just don’t know it’s full purposes.
place, Port Macquarie.” Well, the desert’s like that. In my opinion, but that’s only mine I reckon every hospital big hospital for serious illnesses should be in the desert – hot day, cold night but dry heat not humid heat. It is, you get that way, we’re right on the water, the ocean all the way the road always follows close to the water, the sea but…
How did that work? I mean who gave your Orders?
Our own officers. Where the Orders came from I don’t know. See what happened, the only way I can explain it British corps engineers, Britain had no, hardly any engineers over there and they had to borrow us. Now, the borrowed us as a field company and made us a corps just while they had a loan of us, they can’t take us because we belong to a
first of all we had to put the oil fires out in Tobruk. We entered Tobruk about I suppose no more than 4 or 5 hours after the 6th Div had gone through it and captured it and the – we had to get the water works going, you see the Italians blew them all up. Now, your water is sea water, filtered. And the issue’s a pint a day a man
which went to the cook house so you got no water and it’s still as salty as drinking it from the sea but what we did we rounded up the Italian engineers who blew it up and we made them fix it because they knew more than we did about it. See there was about 10,000 or 20,000 of them just stuck in the desert just behind barbed wire. No shelter no nothing oh
they were there for days some of them and we had only about half a dozen 6th Div troops guarding them. They didn’t need guarding.
you get so many jobs the – round the wharves had to be hurriedly repaired. The St George’s crew was on fire, that’s Italian cruiser she was on the beach. Some of our boys
was unloading ammunition ship and the oil ship come in – tanker. See, this was the time the magnetic mine come out. Now, the Germans and Italians were putting the magnetic mines in every night and they’d be dropping the mines in and at that time the British had no answer. The mines sank to the bottom when the ship passed over or near it the steel of the ship threw the mine up being magnetised
and up she went. I’ll just give you idea, I was up on the water, standing up on the bank one day, I was on some job there, some fiddly job and I see this tug come along, oh beautiful, she’s brand spanking new. It’d only just come in the night before. She was coming through and I was admiring her, just standing there admiring her and the next minute she wasn’t there. She went in a flash.
Magnetic bomb and that was only a tug.
Corporal Barman, Wally, he was an old digger of World War I but he worked on the wharves. And they were unloading the ammunition ship in the stream and the Cypriot labourers, Cypriots came in from Cyprus but they were all labourers under the British and Wally had them on board and the oil tanker came in and she got hit with the mine. The mine come up and she’s on fire an she rammed the
ammunition ship. Well, Wally and the boys that he had labouring with him they were on the winches and the Cypriots they panicked and dived into the burning water, the oil was all on fire. Well, our boys got in to them trying to save them, they started hitting them, trying to knock them out on the ship before they dived over and others got
the boats down and started pulling them out of the water, out of the flames. Well, Wally manoeuvred the, I don’t know how they did it because I’m not a ships man, they managed to manoeuvre it, their ship, through with the tide the other ship away and she drifted with the ammo and she drifted onto the shore. And they rescued a lot of the Cyprians.
The got the George’s Medal, two of them got it, should’ve been three of them.
Now, you’ve given us quite a good description of this, did you actually see this happen?
No I didn’t, I was somewhere else on another job. Now, see the funny thing of it, I must tell you too, the Italians of a 100%.
what they were like, of our mob. A ship would come into the wharf loaded with canteen supplies, British ship. There’d be 10 or 15 trucks lined up. 4 or 5 of ours would sneak in and line up with them. People, stuff is being loaded onto the wharf and those helping on the wharf’d
just load the trucks. Away would go our trucks, cigarettes, beer you name it, it’s there. Biscuits, this is what you’re supposed to buy not get for nothing.
nowhere near as bad as them. No, that’s true. I’ll just go a little bit further, I’ve got an article up there of one of the chaps come home, cause our transport come home with our trucks, they weren’t taken prisoner, our transport section there was abut 40 of them. That’s how they were able to reform the company again. Mate, if you lose the whole lot they can never reform it again. But if an officer or sergeant comes home with a half a dozen men it can be reformed. Well, this chap
he was a grazier, we were mostly country fellas not so many cities, country, he was a grazier and he’d been on leave from the Atherton Tablelands, they were back home from a bit of a spell in New Guinea. He had a week old son so he wrote him a letter. Week old –
baby’s only a week old, how did he get the tenner? You said the tenner arrived?
Yeah, by mail, they were up in the Atherton Tablelands at the time, he was. He’s New South Wales he had his sheep station somewhere out west out Coonabarabran somewhere like that. Don’t you get it? Instead of writing to his wife he wrote to his son who was only a week old, more or less having a dig at his wife I suppose
No, no, but I mean what were the sources of the scrounging, were they private enterprise, were they other army units?
Oh no, it’d be mostly army stuff. Let me put it this way we lived on Italian rations. Why? Because they were better than British rations, we drew British rations. Now, British rations is about 8 packet of cigarette a day they give you. The cheap
Indian ones, navy cut. And there’s various ration of bully beef and hard tack biscuit. It was not much different to our only ours was a little bit better. But the point was, when we got the Italian stuff we ditched ours because they had jam, they had a softer biscuit than us. It was like a hard Sao [biscuit] where ours was you had to be like a dog you’d have to chew for two hours before it softened
enough to get it down. And their meat was horse meat, it wasn’t as fatty as beef because corn beef is all right if it’s cold but in desert it’s that hot that it just runs everywhere so it just turns you – you can’t be bothered with it day after day so we scrounged all
their tucker. The Italian tucker that got left.
cognac. Yeah, well when the got into Tobruk and as soon as we got the chance we went on the scrounge see. Souveniring as they call it. And a couple of mates and I we found our way down into a cellar. Oh, huge cellar and here’s bodies laying everywhere and I couldn’t make it out, they’re all Australians. They’re out and deathly
white. I said, “By God, it must’ve been a hard fight in here.” When into the next, there was different rooms, and there’s got about a 15 gallon keg and he’s got a bottle underneath with the tap turned on for cognac – for sixty blokes. If the Italians had’ve counterattacked they would’ve drove them right back out
because as soon as they hit Tobruk our blokes got stuck into the cognac. Now, our blokes don’t know how to drink cognac, they drink it like beer.
I misinterpreted what you said. If it was timber would you work on it doing the joinery?
Oh no, they all work, everybody works on it. What I mean I would have to work with them but you’d have like. Usually there’s about 6 carpenters in a section well you’d have them 6 on it plus the other offsiders. Well, you’ve got brickies [bricklayers], you’ve got electricians, you’ve got plumbers, you’ve got all the rigmarole of trades and most of them know enough about carpentry. Each
let me explain something to you, number 1 there’s no timber over there, there’s no jungle timber or anything in the desert. They have to import it. Well, even the houses have very little timber they’re all like mud brick. For a start your brickies never got a brick because there was no bricks, they don’t use bricks over there. Like in the desert I’m talking of, so you’re
in primitive – you’re not in a town or anything where you can get supplies.
actually it was a dirty with the ruins and so forth and not only that the monitor terror, she was right up. A monitor is a flat bottomed war ship and she carries two 15 inch guns that’s the biggest. That’s what the battleships carry. And she comes right up on to the land. You know right up to the land
and she lets fly you know it. The Stukas’d come over, German Stukas’d come over 3, 4, 5 a time, just depends how they felt. Down they’d dive let their bombs go and out over the desert. The Terror lays in wait, she’s got her guns lined up maybe 10 mile away and she lets them both go
when they get that distance. If any of them shells go off within a couple a hundred yards at least or more of them bombers the whole lot go down. The 15 inch.
What happened after that?
Well, we moved up, we started on a waddy around Barce, I suppose they called it or Barce, Beida or one of them, and we only got a little bit done when we had to move on further to Benghazi, that’s as far as the Australians went. And when we got to Benghazi the 6th Division had been pulled out. And they
were all Greece and Crete they were taken over there. Now, there was nothing else around us but us and the 2/1st Pioneers. Now, the 2/1st Pioneers Battalion is a fighting battalion but of older men and they – when they’re not fighting they’re doing road works and so forth. They’re not engineers but they’ve got to do engineers work. Now, this all sounds stupid, but that’s the way army is, they are stupid. The 2/1st Pioneers
really is a corps troop could be used by any division but they were mainly used for 6th Div. The 7th Div had 2/2nd, 8th Div 2/3rd, 9th Div of course that was formed overseas, wasn’t formed in Australia, they had their pioneers, their battalion. Well, the – nobody else was around and we got billeted in a farmhouse
a big farmhouse oh about 3 mile out of Benghazi. Now, I was in Benghazi but I never seen Benghazi. All I was, was as flat as this floor. Red dirt, no grass and this farmhouse was all that was there. As far as I understood at the time the Italian family still lived there but in another portion
locked off from us. Well, while I was there you want to know what I got to do, I become building the latrine for 50 men. That’s what I had to do with 3 others, 4 of us. We had a compressor, and you had to go down about 6 foot and about as long from, from here to that door or maybe a bit further…
You were jack hammering into rock were you?
Yeah, getting down into rocky ground and we had to build the seats out of some timber we had for use for our own sitting on when we were in the trucks going a distance you had seats both sides of the truck and that was my main job at the beginning. My other job was what I showed you in that photo of getting the lays and engineering for
the machines and we were looting and sending back for the British. You see each country loots all its machinery of the other country. It’s all loot. It’s all looting. No wonder we became thieves. The countries are thieves. This is a little point I want to tell you, while we were there, it’d be I suppose about 4 days on the job, it was a fairly big job,
we still had to make all the seats and cut them out. Oh, they had to be deluxe, engineers don’t take second class. It’s got to be first class. Everything’s got to be sanded. About the third day we were walking along, it was a beautiful day, the weather was beautiful there it was more their spring and all of a sudden I could hear this roar of engines and
turned around and looked and God I died there, here was a big Junkers 88 bomber, German bomber, only up about 80 feet coming straight at us. I thought, “That’s the finish,” because she’d have about 10 machines guns, machine guns big bombers and then flat on the ground we go – there was no where you could go everything was
flat all you did was throw yourself down and I looked around my shoulder and I spotted she was on fire.
well I suppose a mile or so away from us. Of course they go that fast, he put her down, anyway the last we heard he got out, he got out but he was badly burn but they got him into hospital in Benghazi and like all army, army’s all rumours, they reckon that he was boasting to the Pommy fellas that were looking after him there must’ve been a
unit up there, about dropping the bombs on London and of course they reckon they got rid of him. That was a lie.
Now, when you said you died once there what was the effect on you?
Well, just like your heart stopped. What I mean it was, you’re going to die, whether you like it or not. It gave me such a fright because we didn’t have a clue, didn’t realise he was flying – the funny thing
another time we were let off. A team of British engineers turns off right on the death and took our place to let us go back to our division and that’s why. Now, a desert, in the desert your road is just bitumen poured on the sand, there’s no getting it ready, you just run the bitumen straight up and down the hills of sand and everything and
they had the planes we didn’t. There were hundreds of men got killed, only one road, straight as a die all the way. And when the fighters came you had no hope. There was nowhere to get off, you couldn’t. They’d just blast you. Well, we were lucky, some of the other boys they got blasted but our company got a clear run right through. It was just sheer luck.
and within a few days Tobruk was surrounded and soon as we hit Mersa Matruh we had to put anti personal mines down. Now, the anti personal mine was the biscuit tins. You wouldn’t know them. Years ago Arnott’s Biscuits used to make a Christmas cake and what was known as Christmas cake tin. Now, we packed that full of aminol, just like sausages, packed full of aminol is pretty powerful and
turned around and started putting the field down and we this was where your engineers come in as fast as we dig a hole the desert is rocky and hard, as fast as we dig a hole, it’d only be shallow, these mines were for men not for tanks – anti personnel.
Military History for what happened, the mines were that way that if you breathed on them it blew up, they were that touchy. Now, first of all men had different jobs, different days you were always changed around but one day you might be digging the holes, now your hole would only be that deep but when your digging up that hole you’re digging up Egyptian mines big things
like that, Tank mines and if you pick went into one of them where were you going to be? But one thing saves us the Egyptians had put these mines down a year or two before but they didn’t cover them with Hessian and the sand got in under the land and stop the top from going down. In other words it rendered them useless. But it scared us because we
had to hit with pick and shovel and we couldn’t see the mine until we come across it. But anyway, nobody ended up getting blown up but we dug up quite a few mines. They never made a field. They should’ve made a field like every Country supposed to make them. Even the enemy is supposed to plot a field so that eventually they know where their mines are when war’s over they can take them up. So first of all we dug the hole
the tin was already loaded with the aminol the explosive. Then a fella came along and put the dets [detonators] in, detonator in each tin. Then another chap’d come along and he’d wrap the tin in a sandbag. In other words he’d cover it so the sand wouldn’t get under the lid of the tin. And then another chap’d come along and he’d put the earth back over it.
Now, as I say, the desert is very rocky, hard, it’s baked hard and what happened, we must’ve had over a period of about 3 days, 2 to 3 day going flat out we must’ve had the best part of 100 mines when one of the boys trod back on one and the whole lot went. See that learnt us a
lesson but somebody’s got to die for you to learn. It goes right through life cause I can tell you it happens so often. The rocky nature of the desert trembles, it’s like a thunder, it’ll rattle this house. That was enough to set the whole mines off.
a point I don’t know anything about. I wouldn’t be surprised if another unit wasn’t brought in to do it. You see in a thing like that, you’ve got to imagine it this way, if you had a motor car accident right, they’re not going to ask you to get in straight away and drive the car and say it’s your job. You had a bad accident you’re given a bit of time as a rule to recuperate from it. Well, that’s what
really happened. See some fellows are more affected than others.
that you were doing guard duty in the red light district, were you armed? I mean how were you expected to defend yourself?
Oh no, you’re supposed to have a pair off fists. You’ve got me, I think we might’ve had a baton. But we weren’t military police, mind you, you might only cop it once in 3 or 4 weeks. It depends where you were billeted well being in Syria at the time we were there for quite awhile after the Syrian campaign.
we were put there on the border to attack the French. If you don’t mind I’d like a little think to explain to you first before I get into it. It’s always been hushed up. It was a hard fight. It was hushed up for one reason, French, they don’t want the people to ever know that we ever fought the French. The French have always been our
allies according to the average person’s mind. Anglos always fought the French virtually up to the last World War I. Sixty-five per cent of the French wanted England down, beat. That’s true.
side you’re just sitting ducks. Course, we flew out of the trucks and dived down into a bit of a gully not that that would’ve did us much good because they had the heights. But anyway, the infantry got on to them. But we were facing the French Foreign Legion, they had 3 battalions there, according to what I read, and they had their allies, the Arabs, the
African Singhalese, the native Africans in Africa and some Spanish set up was supposed to have been with them. It was a terrible hard fighting country, it’s all rock and mountain and the mountains virtually come right down to the Mediterranean to the water’s edge and your road
follows the water all the way. Well, anyway the infantry drove them back from near the border and forced them back beyond Tyre, T.Y.R.E. and we the company then rested that night and we lost our first man in the campaign
that night. He was a cook, an old shearer’s cook. Tommy Hehir, Tommy Hehir, H.E.H.I.R. and Tommy had drank that much in life they reckoned nothing could kill him – a snake bit him. He laid down on the ground and laid on a snake. By the time they
got him to hospital in Palestine he was dead. That was our first. Well, next day we were in reserve and another section went up. Each section, not the company, you go by sections, section is roughly 50 men full strength, well you’re never full strength your lucky if you’ve got 43 – 44. Anyway, we – the company fought
its way to the River Litani. Oh, the first day we were there the French had blown the road where the mountain came down. There’s a good photo I could show you in one of the war books of it, of us trying to repair it to get the tanks and men through . By blowing it on the slope you had no road
at all, you’ve got nothing to fill it. It was a job and a half it took us about 8 hours to get the first tank through.
we had the British troops, mostly the British troops are horse troops and we had the Indian Troops which were mule troops. That was country, it wasn’t country for mechanisation, it’s all mountains so we had to learn to use the mules, which we didn’t learn it was to hard. They were too swift kicking it. But what I was going to tell you, you want me to tell you, you know who long the Syrian campaign lasted?
Barely 6 weeks. Do you know what the 7th Div lost, 38 officers and I think it was 360 odd men, dead. They lost 1,100 all told wounded and the lost 3,000 sick malaria.
2,600 or 2,700 all told. Now, that only went on for 5½ weeks. Yet, it’s hushed up. You’ll never hear – you can go and talk to anybody that we fought the French and they’ll bet you anything we didn’t. You see what countries do, what governments do, they don’t want you to ever know the truth. The French fought tough, tough and hard.
having a bit of a rest and I think it might have been my major, called 8 or 10 of us to get into the minefield that was at the side of the road that the French had abandoned and they’d also had two tanks at that minefield that they’d ran onto the mines. Now, they but them down that quick that they didn’t have them covered
properly. But they were a bit anti tank mine about that long, solid steel and two detonators. But they put them down that quick that half of them wouldn’t have gone off because the channel, an aluminium channel sat over the detonators and it couldn’t be forced down. So you’ve got to go and work it out yourself but after a little while and a bit of training you learn and we had to just disarm them.
And we’re doing it there, no problems, I was over near the road at the time, close to the road the other boys working back of about 20 yards further behind me near where the tanks were, you know, tracks blown and we heard the roar of engines and we looked up and we see a squadron of Tommyhawks [Kitty Hawks],
fighter planes, we had Tommyhawks they had Tommyhawks, our colours red, white and blue, their colours blue, white and red how do you tell. The most modern fighting plane fighter of the day. Looked up there ours, no worries. Next minute heard zoom and I couldn’t believe my arms. Staring up, I thought I was watching a film. I see
the first fella peel off just you like you see in a film and dive. Now, he’s about 1½ to 2 mile up the road, the road’s as straight as a die. And down he goes with his guns blazing. He circles out and the next fella follows and the whole 8 follow. 8 to a squadron. 8 or 9 I’m not sure, 9, 9 to a squadron. The whole 9 came down.
They shot to death their prisoners, their own prisoners. They didn’t know they thought they were our fellas getting off the trucks. Instead of that, the French prisoners we’d captured and were putting on the trucks to take back to Palestine. Now, where we were was a cornfield and the cornfield, the corn at that time would have been roughly about that high.
I remember the brigadier, it was Brigadier Stephens, standing up on the other side of the road jumping up and down for me to get down. I got down, I didn’t need him to tell me. Well, how the missed me and that I don’t know. I’d just taken one of the guards off a mine, and when I throw myself down, I went down with it and dropped it well that was drilled neatly but
they flashed over with the guns blazing and the British had just brought up a Bofors gun, that was their, at that time a main gun for anti aircraft, first shot he took his tail off the squadron leader, and he went as straight as a die passed the escarpment right through and they buried him about 3 or 4 mile up the road. They were only as high as the telegraph pole.
something, very – not long ago, only in the last month which is so true today that people don’t realise. I’m not being political, I don’t agree with him, the point is what he said is so true. He said, “Never in the history of Australia will ever the men of the Second World War ever
be up to the standard of the men that fought in the Second World War,” he said, “Them men went through World War I as children, World War II, Depression – World War, 1930s as a huge Depression and then 1940s, the war.” That’s true, you won’t get them like that today. Why does the 7th Division never open its mouth, the silence seal, never say a word never does
anything for you. We came home worse than the Vietnamese boys. I got no welcome. Nobody told me anything, I was mental.
sector, they’re in Syria on the Damascus area going towards Damascus. Now, I was on the coast, the company was on the coast I should say and the French counter attacked, General Dense was the French general, a very cruel man I believe with the Arabs, they didn’t like him. But when he attacked he drove
the 2/2nd Pioneers back, this is our Pioneers, he drove them back and a bunch of them run out of ammunition and he took I’d say 40 or so prisoners. Well, there’s two sections to this I’ll give you the prisoners side first. They wiped them straight through over to Italy, went right through the Balkans
with the German what’s a name police…
them a bad time. In the meantime I got sent up with I think it was Corporal Ray Savage, up into the mountains where they mined the road, to blow the road if the French tanks cut across to cut us off at the coast and Ray and I were up there and we had the Scots Guards horsemen,
Permanent Horse Cavalry from Palestine were guarding us they were further up the mountain but they were looking down on us and if they see the French tanks winding their way they had to come down and hold them up while we blew the road. Well, as it happened it didn’t come about the centre lot threw the French
back and Ray and I were there maybe 6 or 7 days and I was sick.
won his VC [Victoria Cross], Cutler, because he was artillery, he won the VC the time I’m talking about. Then I went back to the unit, the unit – all the Australians on the coast had been held up because of this which took a few days before it got sorted out and then we moved on and headed for Damur, Damur River.
And by the way, just a little thing, I lost my great moment of history when I got back. I was sitting down beside the road where the company was billeted the section in the trees and I had the Bren Gun, I was Bren Gunner that’s aircraft and
being fussy I decided to clean it. I turned around and pulled the gun to pieces just as I pulled it to pieces a roar of an aircraft and turned and looked up and only about as high as that telegraph pole outside is a French plane.
I didn’t know it was French for the time but I couldn’t do anything my gun was in pieces because it was meant for aircraft, it’s got 4 different types of bullets that you fire, arming piecing, training and normal, and explosive
anyway I could’ve taken him easy. It was only General Dempsey’s headquarters might have saved hundreds of lives, I’m not sorry but he took them all by surprise, he got this aircraft, it wasn’t a big one but it wasn’t a fighting plane and he flew only at tree level all the way
following the coast to get an idea where we were you see and swung out over the sea. I could’ve nearly shook hands with him.
get the fever you get terrible hot and then you start hallucinating to a certain extent after a while. When I first came in I seen the first aid chap, knew him well Doc Ryan, and he was giving me morphia tablets and of course I didn’t know I had malaria. And as the unit moved further up the coast –
before I go any further one thing I must tell you, at the Litani River or a bit up from the Litani River there was a French tank with its cogs blown off blocking the road and some of the boys
from another section was told to get it off the road, took a truck down to pull it off but the wheel that was blown off, they got down and scrapped the stone away from it and put the tie on and dragged it,
it was booby trapped there was another mine further down.
we were only here from the other side of the road from the coast and shelled us. I mentioned that because they were some of the finest boys in the unit but they got killed by that booby trap. See bobby traps is something – you never know when you’re going to get caught with a booby trap. The Italians and Germans dropped them in the desert, I forgot to tell Graham that – the fountain pens, oh God what a beautiful fountain pen, I’ve never had a fountain
in my life, got to remember we were poor people through the Depression a fountain pen and a watch were unheard of. Undo the fountain pen and you blow your fingers off. See they use all these things we use them too. Our crowd thinks things like that.
I was sick. I was going blind and I was frightened, more frightened than I’d ever been in my life, because I was going blind. And I turned around and I was laying down on the ground and a chap came up to me, a good friend of mine, Ross Wild, he ended up a sergeant, he said, “What’s wrong, Allan?”
I said, “I don’t know Ross, I’m going blind.” You could see it. I could hardly open my eyelids and he got over and see Harper, the lieut [lieutenant]. Well, my lieut was a good officer but he was out to win a VC. Didn’t matter what it was he had to win that VC and he didn’t care how many died getting it either. He
was talking to some fella, I don’t know who it was. It wasn’t one of the unit and I went over and I told him. All he says was, “Looks as if we’re going to lose another one.” That’s it. That night, we had to go up under the French guns, the artillery we had to go up a mountain and the tanks couldn’t make it unless it could be levelled off towards the top,
it was that steep. So went up in the trucks around 10 o’clock and I was on fire I was burning. This is a miracle, got off the trucks – I was useless – the fever, God knows what temperature I was hitting, all I know is I was on fire and
believe it or not, the other men moved up further, I didn’t go. I couldn’t, and just from here to the window a spring came out of the mountain, about that high off the ground, and went down to a little bit past that post and disappeared again. Now, I’m not lying because that night I would’ve died.
spring of water and all I did that night, all night, I’d no sooner drink and I’d lose it all, the heat the burning I just drank and drank and drank. I must’ve drank gallons and gallons and gallons. Well, they finished up the top and all I can remember was they come back down got in the trucks, the pulled me into the truck and I don’t think they missed me
either – that’s how much I rated – and took me back to where the camp was, they’d finished and the tanks had got up. The guns didn’t open up as luck’d have it. The French obviously didn’t realise or they’d pulled back. But I don’t remember anything after that except laying down. Some time afterwards, I woke
up and oh God I was thirsty. And I got my water bottle because you had all your clothes and that on, just dropped with exhaustion, like all of them because they’d work hard up the top of the mountain and I just drink the bottle in one go it made no difference. A minute or two I was on to the chap and woke him up and I said, “Give me your bottle, give your water
bottle I’m burning,” and he said, “What’s the matter, Allan?” I said, “Give me the water, give me the water,” I remember it well and he gave me the water bottle and I downed it the whole bottle see. “God,” he said, “What’s the matter with you?” He put his hand on my hand and the next thing he’s yelling for first aid fella. And all the others are yelling, “Shut up.” These are good mates, oh good mates in the army. “Shut up, go to sleep.”
And all the morning they got the ambulance was the same and the got me to a hospital at Haifa. It was a French hospital, strange it might seem in peacetime, a French hospital with English nurses. I was put in there, well I knew nothing of that I was gone.
I woke up and the strange thing with malaria, when you wake up, you feel a 100%, in fact you feel 150%. I felt that good and I thought gee I wonder where the mob is? I’ve got to get back to the unit. I sat on the end of the bed, I was pretty weak and I looked, I was in a room
and I was at the bed right near the door, and these other beds, I seen all these fellows all laying in bed and I said to one of them, I said, “Hey mate,” I said, “I’ve been here 3 days haven’t I?” He said, “No, you only got brought in last night.” Well, “Be damned! I’ve been here 3 days!” Don’t know what made me think that. But I got up, I had to use the wall to get around to look for a toilet. I found a toilet right next door to me. But there’s fellas
all in the hallways, the hospital wasn’t big enough for wounded and malaria but I was put in – turned around and come in and found the toilet got back into the bed got my gear, my clothing, got into my clothing. I think somebody tipped the nurse off. One of the nurses – in come this English nurse, “What are you doing? Get back into bed immediately. I’ll fix
you.” She hit me with something and that was it.
huge marquee just concrete floor and this huge, like a circus tent. Oh beautiful, the air could get in, it was summer time like and air could get in and I was put in this and the doctor would come around and see me. I had a good nurse, a Victorian nurse, and the fellow next to me he said, “By gee,” he said, “you’ve had a bad time.” He said, “You’ve been causing trouble
since you’ve come in here.”
Mind you they were treating my eyes with steam. They used to put steam into my eyes. I hardly could see and you can’t stand light all right at night but if somebody strikes a match it’s just like somebody hitting you right between the eyes with a shut fist. And it turned around
the doctor came, a young doctor and he said to me, “How are you feeling?” “Oh,” I said, “oh, good. Never better.” “Well,” he said, “I’ve got some bad news for you.” He said, “I want you to do something for me.” He said, “Tonight you’re going to have a bad time. It’s crisis.” He said, “Fight as you’ve never fought before.” He said, “Fight and fight,” he said. He stressed it. I said, “I’m all right.”
“Nothing wrong with me,” I thought. Well, that night I either lived or died.
later on in a prison camp early in the piece I see a photo in a Women’s Weekly, you see a lot of the people at home would send the Women’s Weekly over to the men in their hampers and that you know. The photo was on the 3rd page, 1st page, 2nd page, 3rd page. Just turn the 1st page over.
Never seen her again. I got sent to a convalescent depot. I was there for quite a while. As usual the mateship came out with the army.
The belly goats, that’s all they are, while I was on that mine road a Don R, despatch rider, my best mate comes up and gets our pay books to take back to the officer, they were going to pay us, they knew it was gong to come to an end eventually and they were getting in first. I never seen my pay book again and I reckon I got gibed too. Because I had about 35 pound in my pay book. I had no allotment
I was single. And that’s about 7 weeks wages. Never seen that pay book again and I turned around and I went back to the unit which took about 10 or 12 hours drive. They were up the back of Beirut in Ally, a place called Ally a beautiful place mountainous. Beautiful holiday – imagine it like Mediterranean.
holiday resort up there And when I – all the officers got decorated and when an officer’s decorated he’s got to leave and go to another unit. He’s not allowed to stay in that unit and I had a new officer. Only a young fella, only about 20 – 21, he made the big mistake trying to get friendly with the men. Officer never should
get friendly with the men. The smarties put it over. They always do. He was a cadet on the Sydney Water Board, cadet, like apprentice in the Water Board.
suppose I should know. I think it might have a lot to do with jealousy in ranks and so on. See the little time we were in action we won quite a lot of medals. My Major Calder, he got the OBE [Order of the British Empire] that’s a unit medal. But there were quite a few MMs [Military Medals], and MCs, Military Crosses. See why is an officer a Military Cross and the men a
Military Medal? Same thing, why they do it. You’ve got top, you’ve got bottom.
and so on and whatever damage if they can get them back on the road they use them or whatever it might be. I forget what – it’s a maintenance type of unit he belonged to but I don’t know what they call them a recovery unit I think they call them. There’s so many engineers. See engineers are even search lights. They’re engineers. Yet they don’t do any engineering. But no I had a funny kid coming back. I got put up on – my friend mate
he was a chips and a couple of other chaps they were repairing a roof a couple of stories up. Oh, first of all I got in late at night. Jack had a two man tent, this was my mate and naturally I was in with Jack and then in the morning he said I’ll introduce you to the new officer, Lieutenant
Flynn. Flynnie was a boy, come along boys and all that. Jack said, “Sabo Herd came in last night, sir.” “Shift this man back to hospital. He’s not fit.” He could see my eyes, see. See being in the light I couldn’t open them.
“No, I’m all right.” I wouldn’t go back to hospital. So Jack and them are working on this roof two stories high and up I get with the roofies [roof fixers] and just sitting down on top of the roof, I couldn’t do any work.
See, I had the experience that reinforcements was very slow in coming and the reinforcements weren’t the best calibre. Not all of them – not their fault. But they weren’t what you called, not all of them but quite a few were not over bright. Well, I mean we had one, who used to chat – dream at night and charge his tent with a bayonet.
Oh, you get a lot of funny things going on. Now, poor old I forget his name, Coulter, Ned now he couldn’t help it. He was the most hairiest man I’ve ever seen. Even the Japs [Japanese] were frightened of him because he was like an ape. He had black hair, absolutely covered in it back and front. Hair that long. They called him the Ape
Man. Poor old Ned, he was a big burly fella and he had a heart as big as a baby. Often that’s the way but see that’s the type of reinforcement we were getting.
to it. You’ve see photos, just off the track a little bit, you see photos of the African kiddies, what have they got pot belly. What’s the pot belly, malaria. They don’t get it, they become immune to it. But that spleen, the spleen is the cause, that’s where the malaria does the biggest damage
is in the spleen that causes the pot belly and over the generations of centuries the black people have become immune to the malaria and them little kids you see on TV or anything on telly or anything always got pot bellies – that’s why. It’s been caused originally in the generations past of malaria and just become immune.
Born in England I didn’t know that he only came here as a child you see. But he was a carpenter too. And Jack and I got friendly it started overseas more or less and he was a greatest grump in the world in the mornings. He liked his bed. He’d wake up you’d never talked to him for an hour. You had
to wait until he smiled. When he smiled you knew it was all right to talk even though I was his best mate then. No, he was a good mate but he’d get you into trouble. I remember when we were in the desert he – the black watch came up – the British the black watch and they had a bit of a canteen. And Jack’s over in the canteen
and the black watch comes up and Jack gets a few beers into him, I wasn’t there, and he started a blue. So he got under the table. Our 3 big fellas got up and they each got a black eye one after the other because they struck a champion fighter there see. Well, next day they paraded on the parade ground in front and the Lieutenant walks along and here’s the 3
biggest toughest fellas all sporting a big black eye and Jack laughing his head off. That was Jack. He started it, he got under the table so he didn’t get anything.
a few – might’ve got an extra bottle of beer or something. There wasn’t much not in the place you’re right up in the mountains just your own crowd. They put on as good a Christmas they could in the circumstances. They’d find some food or that you know a bit of extra food but it didn’t mean much. Didn’t mean much to me somehow or other. I couldn’t care less.
When we were snowed in it virtually stopped everything, work and everything and it was cold. And Japan in the meantime had come into the war and things weren’t going too bright and the next thing we were ordered back to Kostina in Palestine. And 9th Division
Engineers took our place. See, the 9th Division was actually half the 7th Division. They went into Tobruk as the 7th Division and when they came out they were 9th Division. That’s the way army works. They were 7th Division the two lots that we marched at Bathurst with we lost them. And we got the 6th Division reinforcements that
went to England at Salisbury Plains when they were – when Germany was going to invade England. When they found out they couldn’t do the invasion they were released from over in England and come over and joined up with us at 7th Div. We got them to replace 7th Div we lost to the 9th Division.
was a rush. We got to Kostina and we were only there a few days when we took off across the Sinai Desert back to the Suez and rushed on to the Orcades. Now, army don’t move fast but this time they did. We no sooner we were on the Orcades as it took off. Our baggage, our baggage
party about 5 or 6 chaps on the wharf. Left them, left everything and away she went. And she was fast. The Orcades was the 2nd Orcades she was built in I think 38 she was only a new ship but she was a greyhound and she hell for leather on her own. No escorting, no nothing she ran to Gibraltar – to Colombo. When we
got to Colombo, muggins was down with his second dose of malaria.
me. He was a Macquarie Street specialist he was a good doctor too. Weary was going, like he always was – he just a few days before had operated on one of the pioneer’s chaps with appendicitis, he was pretty sick that boy. He’ll come into it as we tell you. Anyway, this is were the trouble come we
had nothing to fight with. See everything was left, the whole of the 6th and 7th Division was coming home in mass, in big convoys plus the slower ships the tramp steamers the freighters and that had all the gear. And what happened the landed the fellas one night in Sumatra at Oosthavn.
Now, I didn’t go because I was in hospital. But I know about it. And they had to get off the ship just on rope ladders. Now, she’s a 20,000 tonner. And if you fell you fell to your death. What gear they had, they borrowed ship’s rifles, carbides from the ship’s armoury and so forth and they only had a couple of rounds a man and on top of that we had
a battalion of machine gunners without a machine gun. That’s how bad it was. They’re specially trained. They’re trained as a team. There’s about six to a gun. They didn’t even have a gun. All their guns were back on the convoys on the slow steamers. Well, the boys got in through a minefield, they had a pilot I think he was part more Eurasians, part Dutch part
Indonesian but when he heard the Japs were on the Island he took off. And the Orcades left for Batavia and here they were stranded on the wharf of this East Harven it’s on the point of the top of Sumatra. The Japanese have already landed airborne division
on Palembang aerodrome. Singapore had fell, now listen to this because a school kid wouldn’t do what they did. Singapore had fell as luck would have it the Orcades went right out to sea but decided – something seemed to tell them to wait, and they waited and with the navy fellas,
they had an Aldis lamp I think the called it and they signalled and signalled and the Orcades managed to pick up the signal and come back. And when she come back, she couldn’t go it – there’s no wharf or that, she had to stand out to sea a bit but they had a lighter that this pilot had brought them in – a lighter – they’re all standing up in it and they had a captain
of this lighter, he knew the minefield but he didn’t know to be able to take the men through like the fellow that shot through. So he reached them, and he took them through the minefield and got through it and took them to the Orcades and they had to climb back up then.
then the Orcades moved to Batavia. Now, when we were in Batavia we were stuck at the dock, it must’ve been 3 day, 2 or 3 days doing nothing. We were well within the bombing range of the Japanese. Just moored next to us is a Dutch
cruiser, damaged, she got back to Australia, the Trump – De Trump – De Trump and the Hobart was there, the cruiser, and she got back to Australia. And there was a hell of a lot of shipping in the harbour from what I could see when I got out of bed. But I was getting – I got taken to a Dutch hospital with this other
chap and they kicked us out. They wouldn’t take us.
Indo China it was then. They threw the Country open, they didn’t fight the Jap comes in and administers the country but there’s no loss of life to an extent. The Dutch wanted the same but that didn’t suit our bloke Churchill. But our belly goats, supposed to be generals, they’re with Wavell, now Wavell was our first leader in the British 8th
Army but Wavell had had it, they admit that and he was at Singapore, when Singapore fell and he got over and they made his Headquarters at Java at Batavia and he had a couple of our generals there, now they’re arguing whether we go ashore or not the
skipper of the Orcades, he’s going crook because his ship‘s in deadly danger. So to cut a long story short, they ended up mustering everybody on deck bar the hospital mob, that was me and the others in hospital and – see what happened, now we didn’t know at the time, Churchill 4 times
ordered the convoy of the 6th and 7th Divisions to go to Burma. When Curtin heard about it he ordered them back to come to Australia. If you went against Churchill you copped it. And we were the 4 guys, I don’t care what anyone says because nobody would send troops that are badly needed here – this is the
real thing you think this out – Syria the first time the British Empire and the Allies had won a land battle they’d lost everyone up till then. That was a great booster to the British Empire of their soldiers and that we won a battle we beat Syria. See the Germans were going to come through Syria from Greece and attack the Suez and Egypt from both ends.
They Libyan end the desert and the Syrian end. That was why they went in there – by the way you heard me mention it earlier while I think about it because it’s just come back to me in a flash – you remember me telling you about the pioneer prisoners that the French took when General Dempsey… The French turned around and
capitulated – this is the way they work without the public knowing – they offered the French, anybody that wanted to join the free French under De Gaulle could go and join them, they wouldn’t be prisoners but those that wanted to stop Vichy could go home to France providing they gave us our pioneers back. So we got
the 40 –50 odd pioneers back at the expense of all the Vichy French who went home to fight us again. Now, who’d believe it – nobody. You don’t work that way. The Japs didn’t offer that to us. But the point is, what I’m getting at now, getting back to the ship, Curtin – the Australian
War Ministry wanted the men back to Australia, they were badly wanted, so I told you that men had fought and won the first battle the British had won of the war. Now…
they’re arguing and you’ve got all the soldiers on the Orcades lined up on the deck with what little gear they had. There was 2,900 odd 920 I think the exact number – some of the others were anti aircraft and that they stopped there, they came home. They turned around and 4 times again this
4 comes in and why I say 4, 4 stands for death in Chinese and my number was, my prisoner of war number was 1444, so I died 4 times according to the Chinese – but they argued and they were in touch with England with Churchill and then the 4th time they got ordered ashore. When they got ordered ashore that was it.
The Orcades took on board a lot of civilians, women and children and Dutch and I reckon there was a fair few of the Dutch Hierarchies of the army got on. We didn’t see any Dutch army to be quite honest. And that night I was going, I knew it, I went over to the chappie he kept on looking at me his bed was about from here to the window away and I knew it and all you could
see was 2 nurses with their bums sticking up looking out the porthole now that went on for hours. But I couldn’t go in daytime because they’ve got guards on the gangplanks.
That’s it. So, that night when it got to about 7 o’clock – you always have baggage parties, there’s a lot of gear still got to be taken off the ship. And the units that went off detail, so many of their men to take it off and it might take 2 or 3 hours to take off and load on to trucks, so that’s when I made my move. The nurses knew we were moving so they kept
on looking out the porthole. There’s a lot of things going on around a wharf in wartime.
So the nurses were fine with you leaving? Are you saying the nurses supported you leaving the ship?
They knew we’d leave. I went over to this chap and spoke to him and he said, “I’m coming with you,” and I said “Gee you’re pretty crook,” and he said, “No, it don’t matter, I’ll be right.” So we both cleared out. I got up a deck or so when I ran slap
bang into Ross Wilde, one of my mates, a baggage party, I never seen him again but I got ashore and I got taken out to – they were at an aerodrome – nothing on the drome it, was just a joke and when I got out there I think Ross went and reported that I’d got off the ship and all the reply come back, “If he’s silly enough to do it
we’ll let him come because we need every man we can get.”
a fast flowing river. First of all, we ran around the island for about 3 or 4 days to make out as if the 6th and 7th Division had landed there. That was to throw them off to make out there were thousands of men and we had to take up a position where – the Dutch had blown the bridge across this river and it was coming from the high country and the result was it was pretty fast, the flow of it.
Well, we took up positions – where I was the 2/6th Company was, was on the right flank facing the river and further up we had the machine gunners. They didn’t have a machine gun they had a few rifles and further up we had the pioneers. A bunch of school boys could’ve beat us. That’s s how bad it was,
it was just murder suicide. Anyway, the Dutch reckoned there wasn’t a Jap on the Island. And of course the boys got out of the – they dug trenches along the river bank on the higher ground – and they got out and were laying around because there you get pretty humid weather and always plenty of rain. It comes down very suddenly and then only last a couple of minutes just enough to wet you. But anyhow,
they were laying around and in come the tanks, the Jap tanks. They couldn’t – stopped at the bridge because the bridge was blown in halves, they couldn’t get across. Come some of their high ranking officers and everything and a belly goat further up let fly instead of waiting for the order they could’ve got the lot of them, he goes and fires his rifle course they
backed around the bend again, there was a bend you see. He was one of the machine gunners I think. Now, the fella that got off the ship with me he was bad, he was sick, he was one of the first causalities. He got hit by a mortar bomb from the Japanese in the face. He got his jaw and his face badly
hit with shrapnel but he lived. They got him to hospital and who should fix him up, Weary Dunlop. How I know that, it was in Dunlop’s book otherwise I wouldn’t know it. It just happened to read it and I knew because he was the only bloke outside of me.
I had the Bren gun. The only Bren gun and I had about 6 lots of, packs of ammunition with me but I was in a bit of a quandary really because under the Geneva Conference [actually Geneva Convention] they couldn’t use the gun because it was anti aircraft. You’re not allowed
to use on human beings, that carries the death penalty. So I knew I was dead both ways. See you’re not allowed to use tracers and that on human beings explosive bullets or anything like that. Well, if I had to use I was going to use it after all said and done I had no choice. It was the only weapon I had but to cut a long story short, they didn’t attack our end
all the fighting took part up where the pioneers and the machine gunners were and it didn’t’ last long because we had no ammo, we had very little and you can’t fight tanks and so forth – see they got over the river further up – it’s worth reading that book you seen on the table wrote by the company, The Gap is Bridge, that’s worth reading. That was wrote by the company.
Well, as far as I was concerned none of us fired a shot at our end cause they got up the top end, I suppose it wasn’t as deep and wasn’t as – you know they forwarded the river the Japs and of course the Dutch – we retreated back on Dutch orders, we were put under a Dutch general. See Australia is mad, whether we like it or not, the Australian people
if they don’t wake up 20 years, I give them, that’s all they’ve got to stop putting our men under foreign generals. What do you have Duntroon for, our blokes’ll buy and sell these overseas fellows and there’s only one reason why I say that, we’re volunteers and volunteers are worth 2 conscripts and all these other countries are conscripts, they never stop whingeing.
and this is where the strange things come in – don’t get me wrong I was only an ordinary bloke I only had ordinary education. I was as green as grass when it come to life because our life is so different to what it is today, we’d be behind today by 30 years, anyway, Jack and I were out looking
looting whatever we can find. Now, we found the bank it was full of everything, I suppose gold and God knows what, that was no good to you, that don’t buy a feed. I went to the ambulance, I don’t know what guided me there because I wasn’t a thinker like that and I got a big bottle of quinine tablets, they were 500 but they were 5 grain and I kept it, otherwise I wouldn’t be
here. I went got those tablets and I had them while I was still in jail – I had in one of my pay books I can show you, the pay book at the time where I used to write in the malaria tax until a Jap threatened to behead anybody caught with a pencil or paper, of course that stopped me. They never took our pay books that’s why I’ve still got it. But the thing is, what I’m getting at is,
the – I got the quinine. We were mostly looking for tobacco and that but anyway when we got rounded up we got put in jail, criminals, Godok jail and the English were in there, there was a bunch of Londoners, I forget what they call them royal something, oh they were a bad bunch. But the started dying straight away, you wouldn’t believe it,
they die like flies the Europeans, English and that they start dying straight away – dysentery. If you’re stuck in with them you haven’t got any hope. It was just by sheer luck the Jap moved us after about 10 days or so there moved us out of there and put us in barracks, Dutch barracks down at the port of Tillage –
that’s in Batavia – and we were there for about 4 or 5 months I suppose. They were quite good billets but the usual – of course we had the Yanks with us. There was a handful of Yanks dumped like us, they were on their way to Guam. They were artillery, a show mob mainly, show ponies, nobody under 6 foot 6 [inches] and as thin as a rake,
quite a few of them had come from the hills, hillbillies. Oh, I could tell you stories of them but they were good fellas.
and on the wharves. There was always work, it never finished but there again came the usual stunts. One night there’s a terrible hullabaloo. See if you get him rattled the guards will open fire. A work party come in of our gal [?] lieuts [lieutenants] and Americans and they’ve only smuggled in aviation fuel
and drank it. These alchos [alcoholics], there’s no doubt about them. Well, it kills about half a dozen of them and made another half dozen brain dead. You’ve got to be mad but that goes on all the time. Aviation fuel is about 80% pure alcohol. You could imagine what that did to the brain. And course the guards went mad and
anyway we ended up we got over that eventually I don’t know what happened to the ones that went off their head. I don’t know what happened to them but we were there for a good 4 to 5 months before we were put on a hell ship and sent to Singapore.
you never get over it. The trauma was that great it got branded into me that I still won’t accept it. That’s the one big flaw I finished up with. I could not believe that I’d lost my freedom. I just could not believe that the company had lost its freedom and to this day I still find I can’t believe it.
The trauma, people’s got no idea the trauma that we suffered it actually and in them days they knew nothing about it they reckon the doctors. God – nothing. To this day that’s why I’ve been a prisoner all my life. The article I wrote was asked – Pat Reid asked me to write it. He was the only one who looked after us. He became an advocated repat. No pay
he did it voluntary and Pat asked me would I write something because another mate George was dying and they wouldn’t give him a TPI [Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Pension]. That’s how bad it was you got nothing.
what was going through your mind, what was happening to you in terms of your mental and physical state there?
Oh, it was all right, see you had no time to think much of that as far as that you were always busy or trying to get something to eat. Everything – you did get a bit of food there. The difference, a big difference between it and jungle camps. But no,
my biggest trouble was malaria, see it was so consistent. I got the dates on that, I haven’t looked at it for years, I’ve got the dates ,you only have to look at the dates to see how consistent it was. Major Calder came in and seen me one day and he said to me, “How are you?” I said ,“I’m all right,” he felt my head, I was feverish but not top,
I was halfway to and he went out and he came back to me – how things come back to you – the first man to die would be me.
and we were taken to Changi which – to the barracks, the Gordon Highlanders Barracks in what they call the Changi area the hospital’s also there but the Changi area well all the 8th Div mob was more or less stuck there and we got taken there and treated like lepers by the Australians of the 8th Division
not the men don’t get me wrong, not the SABERs and the privates and that – Brigadier Black Jack Callagher. You want proof, read a couple of the books up there wrote by a navy fella not an army fella.
the Sikhs lines, now the Sikhs had deserted the British, the Indian Sikhs ,and the Japs were using them as guards so we had to bow and so on, and get their permission before we could pass through the gates, to get through the gates on the opposite side. We were going over to the hospital to look up some fellas we knew were in the 8th Div, if they were still alive or not, if we could find out
and after we’d been over there and we were coming back and just got through the Sikh lines and just got through the gate, on the same side as where our barracks were. And these three fellas came along and Jack says, “G’day mate,” and I said, “G’day mate,” to one of the other blokes and next
minutes there’s a roar. We kept on walking see they were coming the other way, there was a hell of a roar we turned around and here’s this fella with a baton waving it at us at our face – “Don’t you know who I am?” Jack said, “No, I’ve never seen you before in my life.” He was a cheeky bloke. “I’m Callagher, Black Jack Callagher.” No, ”Brigadier Callagher.” He didn’t say Black Jack, “Brigadier Callagher.”
It didn’t mean anything to us and Jack said to him, you know he, “That’s funny, our officers wear their pips on their shoulders.” The Jap had made them put their rank on their wrists. He went to town. Well, he really give it to us. See we should’ve saluted him. As Jack said, “We don’t know you, for a start,”
he said, and he said, “Blokes should at least salute you for a start. You don’t belong to our division.” That made it worse.
Now, could you describe conditions at Changi?
Oh, Changi was quite good, the barracks were good. And they had – the 8th Div had a lot of food – Red Cross, but they wouldn’t give us any. Where’s the Australian mateship, we ended up getting some,
ordered to give it more or less. But that was there attitude, greed, they wanted to keep it. Give nothing to them fellas. See we were ragged, everything we had we destroyed before the Jap could get it. They destroyed nothing. They had all their clothing, kit bags, everything. The result was, they had everything we had nothing. Callagher said, “The ragged ruffian mob from Java.” That’s what he called us,
Can you describe what happened on that Christmas Day/
Oh, Changi’s only a memory, blurred memory to me now. See I was in Singapore twice after the line and before in different places. But Changi, Christmas time, I think we had a pretty good Christmas. All I remember is playing football,
And they’d come in from Indian, it turned out and American squadron and the Dutch ship took the first hit she went straight down didn’t take much went through her and then they attacked us. Bombs fell either side we could only do about 7 knots an hour the rust, the whole rust that would
come off in sheets as big as them tiles, just full of rust. And the shrapnel went right through the ship. One minute you’re in darkness and the next minutes there’s streams of light both sides coming through. The bombs fell either side of her and she’s on fire and anything up deck got wiped out. The Jap gun crew they got wiped out straight away but
we lost a few blokes especially a couple of Perth fellas, off the Perth. And I suppose there might have been a dozen or more wounded a few dead but taken all round we got off lightly.
just make it simple, if there’s 50 men in a team, which it was, which it started off, that means you did 50 metres of land. It started off on flat land and gradually went into the mountain. Now, the Japanese do not count trees or rock or anything any different to loose soil. So, if you struck anything like that you were up against it. They had no mechanisation whatsoever.
The only mechanisation you had was elephants and they were wild. And when you had, which you had to do, become an elephant boy for a day you were scared stiff all day.
dying and getting sick it didn’t alter it kept on going up. Because if you got down to 40 men they wanted 50 men’s work and so on and it kept on going and going. That’s why so many died. They got worked to death but the average day work was now if you’re doing a cutting. Now, that cutting might be 15 foot deep. You’re cutting it with
just pick and shovel. All these things were left for them by the British government, must’ve known what was going on. What you did you either swung the pick or the shovel or in the case of an embankment two of you would do the coolie, like a Chinese coolie, you’d have a bamboo pole because it’s all bamboo there with the sling
underneath it of which the dirt was put for you to cart. Now, when you got up embankment, not embankment…
in the Bicycle Camp they got the brainwave, the doctors, to give me an arsenic injection. So I had to line up with the bulk, a lot of the Houston’s crew cause they had gonorrhoea and they used to give them arsenic. Now, arsenic never leaves the body and I reckon that killed
the ulcers. I honestly do, that’s the way I looked at it. The other fellas, look railway operations in the camp I was none of them survived. We lost the lot including the doctor. We lost our doctor.
took your mind. You did nothing you just did what he told you. What could you think of, there was nothing to think of. If you did what he said you knew nothing. There was plenty of rumours but they died out after 12 months. You’re stuck in virgin country in a jungle. You had no food the food was rotten what you did have and you had little of it and you’re working anything up to 20 hours. It was nothing to be out 20 hours.
Go home 4 hours and back out again. See your mind blanked. The human mind, the human brain must think when it stops thinking it dies and that’s what was happening. It was like you were brain dead. You could talk to somebody or that but your talk was nothing it was only of what was around you.
a clever bloke, Cec. Well, him and I would be working together carting the soil out say of the cutting so Cec like his beer. So I’d get talking to Cec what pubs did he knock around in Sydney. And of course he could rattle off a 100 pubs. That’s how you spoke but as far as using the brain
you had nothing. And after awhile, see 3½ years is a long while. See what’s not realised in this country, when they dumped us here – I know what the big mistake they made you don’t tell them. They don’t want to listen to blokes like me.
them the excuse to belt you up but the ones that were never given credit and this is again things that I told, the really ones that deserved the greatest recommendation were the sergeants the corporals and the lance sergeants, why, because the officers wouldn’t work. And the officers wouldn’t come out and whenever, the Japanese principle is very clear,
for arguments sake if I did something that’d a Jap, the Korean guard didn’t like he’d bash me but also he bashes who is in charge of the party. That applied in the camp and that’s when the major, my major, Major Robinson then and Colonel Carpenter, Yanks they got it. Now, I got belted up one day it was a –
actually in Saigon, no it wasn’t it was on the line – it was the Emperor’s birthday and you always got a holiday the Emperor’s birthday and of course the guards celebrate. They celebrate the Emperor’s birthday in a big way. Of course they were all rotten drunk and they must’ve been teasing this big gal lieut. He was a real backwards boy but he was a
huge fella, Korean guard. Anyway, he caught me over at the cookhouse and I didn’t see him it was just on dusk. The first I heard was this bellow from him and I turned around and my heart sunk, I knew I was gone a million. Hadn’t saluted him see, hadn’t bowed to him. The least little thing.
He also got poor old the batman, Nick Russell. He bashed Nick up and he bashed me up. And while he’s bashing me up Nick shot through. That didn’t worry him. You know what they did, I reckon and to this day I reckon I’m right. He was having a go at him because he never killed anybody. So he decided he’s drunk enough he’s going to kill me.
over there and I was trying – I was really in trouble. Nobody’d make a move it was dark then. The Yank hut was quiet, the Australian huts were quiet, they were all watching not a word. He bashed me down passed the Yank hut slope down in a gully the cemetery was the other side of the gully and he let fly again with his
rifle – he used to point the rifle with the bayonet into my throat and I could see his finger starting to pull on the trigger but a funny thing you have no fear of death when you’re facing death. That’s true. Many a time I was frightened I wasn’t facing death. This time I wasn’t. Used to seem – just accept it.
flew after it and I flew to the Yank hut. See right through one side and out the other and I went over into the Australian hut and I thought now I’m in trouble so I went up to where the officers were sitting and I sat down there it was dark. Not a word said they didn’t see me. I knew it’d only be a matter of time and the guard house’d blow up and which they did.
Down the come looking for me, Nick and the two officers, the two commanding officers. The American, the Australian. Well, they carted us both up and they bashed us up there put the boot into us. Bashed the two officers up and then let us go. About a week after
we all got paraded out in front of the Jap officer and our two officers again had to go up to him and he walloped them. The Jap officer did that. Unbeknown to me and again scared me because I didn’t want any more at the time I’d had a big enough thrashing that had gone on for an hour or more – they sent
a letter of protest to this –they were supposed to have a Swiss what’s a name – diplomat seeing that the camps were controlled like cause the Jap always filled them up make the food and that look – get their own food and make out it was our food. Of course the letter got down there and this Jap officer would’ve got blown up by the Colonel down in
wherever he was at Moulmein or Rangoon and of course he bashed the two officers. They didn’t touch me or Nick.
Tarakan or to the two big main camps that were there that had been there for the years while we were doing the line. We didn’t do any of the line in Thailand, Weary Dunlop and all that lot copped that. They copped more cholera than we did, we got a bit of it but the cholera
wipe out all the civilian on the line. There were hundreds of thousands of civilians slaves they won’t tell you the truth of mostly Tamil Indians and the poor Malayans and all that. The first wet season – see your wet seasons were deadly. If I were to put my mouth up and take a drink of the rain pouring down I’d get bayoneted. The Japs feared it that much.
They always wore what the called a cholera belt. That’s that flannel around the ribs, kidneys.
hygiene. People further up the river or up a stream washing and all impurities in the water, but I don’t go along with that. My I, is that cholera comes from up above because the jungle swelters in the hot season and that comes down in the wet season. Now, you’ve got to remember this, it rains non stop
there’s no stop once it starts. You get a few storms but when the rains starts it never stops for nearly 3 months. It rains 400 inches at once when it stops it doesn’t rain again till the next 9 months time. The locals could tell you for arguments sake, when it’s going to start and when it’s going to stop. So could the Arabs over in Palestine and that. They could tell you when it was going to start
See it’s all what’s-a-name rain the same as Darwin it only comes on a…
guards just walked along and went you, you, you, you know attitude and I couldn’t duck quick enough and I was one. Well, we’d only been in the camp about 3 weeks when that happened. The next thing we were on our way in cattle trucks, not the 1,000 of us, so many each time was taken in these cattle trucks till we reached the Mekong River. Now, we’d been a couple of days on them trains and we’d been squeezed in
that tight you couldn’t sit down or stand up hardly. And when we reached the Mekong River we went aboard a ship, a boat and she shipped us down through Laos, the Mekong’s a terrific river, huge, down to Saigon and that’s where we got – went ashore there.
The looted – this was what I was doing, really doing, because by then I was getting weaker and weaker. We loaded the Tin Ingots that they looted from Malaya. Now, the Ingot Tins were only about that long and he weighs about 80 pound he’s got no perches on your shoulder. We load truck load and truck load – railway trucks of these. Next day we were on rubber. The rubber would be a huge lump of
rubber maybe that high and that wide and you had to haul that and put it on rail trucks. Then there come a bit of a Godsend we loaded copra and as we loaded we ate it. And I reckoned that helped us. Wasn’t nice eating, it was pretty oily but at least it filled a stomach.
But when I was released I had no feeling against him at all. I got to give credit, he was smart, he wasn’t afraid to die, he was not as good a soldier as the Australian or the British. But he was a good soldier all the same he was no slouch but a strange
thing come out of it which I’ve got to say, our boys never turned on them. No matter how that hatred was our boys never turned on them. When it was over, it was over. They just walked away from them. The Jap guards just disappeared left us to starve. That’s when you see the aeroplanes dropping the food. We had to be found by war correspondents. But no we had no hatred in that
sense, the hatred was in a lot of the men definitely but it wasn’t to get even.
and look at any highlights we will. So I’m just wondering, without going into too much detail, if you could give me a condensed version of where you went, and what you did between say River Valley Camp and the end of the war?
Well, we only got to Japan by a fluke. No ships could get to Japan but at that time MacArthur made his drive back to the Philippines and a big naval battle
took place there between the American and Australian navies and the Jap. That drew all the subs and that back. And that’s all we got through. We got there in the middle of winter and snow and ice. Now, we’d been in the tropics the best part of 4 years and now we were going to freeze to death. We had no clothes hardly and I was taken to this mine camp now I’m cutting things out to get to it.
Went to this camp, Camp Seventeen, the most notorious in Japan. It was a camp of sadists, Japanese now, forget the Koreans, we’re into Japanese. And the mines were awful. They went right under the sea bed opposite Nagasaki we were roughly about 30 mile from Nagasaki straight across the bay as the crow flies. It was on
a peninsula by train you’d have to come right down and do a big U and go back just like being at Rose Bay and you’re going round to Manly. You can see what I mean there’s a difference in mileage to straight across. It rained ice, not snow, a sleet ice under your feet was always ice and it was absolutely terrible and you lived on millet, no rice.
could have 40 depending on how big the face was. He was cunning that he put 2 Australians with 2 Yanks. Now, the Yanks were mainly Mexican or Spanish blood, they were hopeless they wouldn’t work. So the poor 2 Australians copped all the work, ore or less, they did nothing. And when I got to the camp I couldn’t believe it
everywhere I looked there’s 1 legged men and 1 armed men. What they did they put their arms and legs under the skip and got them cut off so to stop them going doing the Yanks – they came from Corregidor and Patan and they were the lowest form of white man I’ve ever met. Now, I’m not having a shot at the Americans I’m only telling you what the truth is. They’d been at the mines over there for a few years.
And what happened really as I found out later on, America, when 18, 17 to 18 years say to 25 got into trouble with the law maybe the 2nd 3rd or 4th time they got the choice of gaol or 4 or 5 years in Hawaii or the Philippines, that was their army.
miner, which I was. They called it Seitan now. The miner, he did the mining when the side got blasted down you shovelled it in the skips. And then you drilled for the next – gelignite or dynamite put in – the other man where we were filthy they were clean compared to us, they had to build up the walls at night to stop it from collapsing. See she was under
the ocean bed, Mitsubishi owned it and they’ve never given me a car, they still never paid me, but it went for miles under the ocean and it was the oldest mine in Japan and the coal was a poor quality that’s why they rely on Australian coal to mix with it for steel and that like…
Could you describe for me how you died?
No, all I can describe is a tremendous peace. You can’t explain there’s no explanation. There’s no such thing as floating around in the air or anything like that it was such a peace that you loved the Jap, you loved your guards, you loved everything. There was nothing, no sorrow, no
something you’ve never experienced before it your life. It’s just that in my own heart I knew the war was over. I don’t know why I knew. I remember saying in the room the war’s over. “Oh, shut up you goat,” you know all this. See that’s – the men had become animals, your own men,
you’d worked – you were that dead as far as on your feet all they did was snarl at the finish. There was no cheers when the war was over nothing. Nobody cheers, nobody cared.
fighters and bombers that the sky was black with them. And that’s where I really got – the most terrible thing I think I’ve ever experienced. They come in that quick one day from the ocean the fighters cause they’re low and fast. The bombers were up there
in a big ‘V’ formation and I don’t know how I come to be at the back of the dining room. It’s not high and wooden, wooden structure, and a fighter came through we were right on the cliffs, just like on the Gap, if you’ve been on the Gap, you know and this fighter come flying through the cliff and all I know is I spread
eagled me hands across the wood my back to him then and I could feel the bullets going through me. Absolutely riddled me, there was no bullets but that’s what happened. Don’t ask me why or how but I could feel them because they used explosive tracer and all that, I could feel them tearing through me flesh
at the back. He didn’t fire at all. That’s how far the brain had gone over the top of the hill. That’s true because I think that’s when I reached the peak all I could do was go downhill after that. Now, how they got there and that I don’t know.
And on top of that there was no guards, they’d gone shot through and the Yanks were in charge. See the Yanks were the biggest number there. There was a big lot of them there. Oh, it gradually started, sleeping a lot. All you did was sleep, everybody did, they couldn’t stop sleeping. They’d wake up have something to eat and
go back to sleep this went on for days and day. But to me I got no answer for a lot of these things. They’re just not in this world they didn’t belong in this world. In so far as there’s no answer.
to smithereens and the Emperor would die. The Emperor Hirohito gave a message at 12 o’clock on a date, I can’t tell you now, I think it was around near the finish. It was after the first Atom Bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and they’d already lined up machine guns and that but another rumour I heard was they were going to put us up in the snow and the ice up in the mountains let us freeze to
death to save the ammunition see for the invasion, cause they were sure they were going to fight to the end. That was the argument but Hirohito told at 12 o’clock, 6 o’clock that day that all prisoners no matter where they were Singapore, Burma, Java everywhere they were, were to be massacred. They’d already dug big tunnels in hills in the likes of some of these other countries where
they were going to put them in and bomb the front down – suffocate them. All prisoners were to die, there was to be no one left.
They come in and instead of bombs they carried food. They dropped it just like I showed you in that photo. Then the Americans mustered us up, got all our particulars and that and it was radioed back home I believe to the people the survivors and we went on a train to Nagasaki. Now, the train was the best in Japan,
they gave, to make the Japs lose face, two seats to a man that’s full seats both sides facing one another and the train just stopped and started all night it’d only go a 100 yards and it’d stop for half an hour. Then we wondered what was wrong until the reason come out that they wanted us to see Nagasaki. We come into Nagasaki there was nothing to see.
Everything was just rubble. The only thing standing was chimney stacks, funny thing they didn’t fall but they were cut through not across way but diagonally down. Cut right through severed top but they didn’t topple. Nagasaki was a big industrial town and naturally, and big boat building steel and the rest of it nothing. It was just
nothing, just rubble. We don’t know where the city was because we’d have come through the valley. It was just the Valley of Death right through.
and at the wharf was the hospital ship and on the wharf was about three bands and women in the navy and the army and men all cheering and whistling. And here we are full of lice and God knows what, no hair, coal dust in all our scalps were, see we shaved
had no hair, all could – you could’ve bounced a sledge hammer off my head. And eyes were all full of dust. See you had no soap or anything. You used to wash every day in a bath, hot bath, like a big communal bath but all you could do was just splash yourself, it was that hot but you got nothing to wash the grime and dirt of you. We were rotten with lice we’d had lice for years.
And by the time you went through them, there was hundreds of them, well you’re half drowned and on top of that you were clean and you came to the doctors. Two rows, one row this side and one row that you went through the middle. And each doctor would be looking at some part of your body from the head to the toe and if you could get passed them doctors you went on to the wharf and boarded a ship most likely
heading for either Okinawa or the Philippines, Manila. Nobody got passed. But then we got just the ship slippers and pyjamas put aboard ship.
So how did you get back to Australia and once again I do asked if we could summarise this?
Right, I went aboard an aircraft carrier only a medium size, she took off and she went to Okinawa, I was in Okinawa under the Red Cross for about, I wasn’t the only one there was about 30 or 40 of us on the aircraft carriers coming from different camps, these fellas.
Okay, now the Philippines, how long were you in the Philippines before you travelled further south?
Oh, I suppose about 3 weeks might’ve been longer I just couldn’t say. From the Philippines, when you number, name’s called out you’re on your way again. I went in the Catalina flying boats, in the Cats, in the Bombays.
Now, in the Bombays you have to have 4 blankets and they have to fly low cause you’d freeze to death otherwise and we went all day and landed at Morotai Island, Australian held. Spent the night at Morotai, next day in the Catalina again and we went to Darwin. And Darwin Hospital checked us over we were kept there we weren’t allowed out in the
camp. Then after being in Darwin I suppose a week or 10 days so I was called out and I went into a Liberator Bomber in the Bombays. And the Bomber took about 30 of us I suppose and gave us 4 blankets and she flew low over the desert
and we hit an eagle because we were low and she smashed one of the engines. Absolutely smashed it to smithereens and the propeller and engine both went but being a 4 engine we still had 3 and we had a tail wind otherwise we’d had to go to Brisbane but she got through to Sydney in the one hop. We landed at Mascot on a dirty night,
wet, about 7 or 8 o’clock and we just missed hitting the hence. I wouldn’t have known but the crew knew. Wondered why they white faced nearly touched the fence coming in. Anyway, that’s by the way, then we were taken up into one of the pavilions where they had all these desks laid
out and that’s were they – weren’t allowed near the people – people and parents and wives were all standing away plus people with Red Cross cars. They did voluntary, they were given the petrol and they’d come and pick yo up and take you home. Pick your father or mother up and family whatever it would be. And they gave us all these
things we knew nothing about. Money meant nothing to us I just give it all to my mother and this woman drove me home.
You couldn’t adjust and yet you married and you had children?
No, when I say couldn’t adjust, for a start you can’t lay on a bed. Another thing, I heard my mother and father saying to my mother a week or two after I was sent home, we were sent home for a month actually, saying,
to the showground. I reported back to the showground, in the tram going to the showground I met a chap his face was familiar to me and I couldn’t place him and I though you know from a unit and in the end he’s looking at me all the time, of course he’s got the purple patch on. He’s got back into uniform. He said, “What unit were you in?” I said, “The 2/6th Field
Engineers.” He said, “Did you know a boy, a soldier, Billy Jacobs?” I said, “Yes, Bill was in my unit.” He said “What happened to him?” It was only his brother. I didn’t know but Bill was in the death march in Borneo. See the 2/6th represented everything. Wherever any man went they left some of their men in their graves there. Even to Borneo we left 3 men there but
what I’m trying to – this is a key I wanted to tell you. Now, this is truth I don’t lie. I went to Hearne Bay, they sent us to Hearne Bay, all prisoners went to – Hearne Bay at that time was an ex-Yank Hospital. Now, the Yanks were gone, I never seen the Yanks. The Yanks had gone before I got home. But you had to go and see a different doctor everyday for examinations
and at the end you go through for discharge. Well, I’d seen about three doctors, on the fourth day you’d wait for hours to see a doctor because there’d be a line up. On the fourth day I went into this doctor, now most of the doctors were around the middle age. I’d say a fair few World War Is and they didn’t have much love for World War IIs. I don’t know
what the Vietnam boys grumble about because we got worse than them as far as reception. I got no reception for 5 years. Now, this doctor he was only a youngish doctor I’d say around 30, and he told me to strip off and lay on the bed. Now, he’s in one corner at his desk,
the room had nothing else bar the bed diagonally across in the other corner. I had to lay on that bed facing the wall head down on my stomach and face the wall so I couldn’t see him. He’d stand up to examine me – no way, I couldn’t stop myself I used to fly up to the ceiling,
him and he said to me, “I want you to listen very careful what I’m doing to tell you.” He said, “You’re in a bad way.” He said, “There’s no way you can work for at least 2 years.” Now, he said, “You joined this army in good health.” He said, “You make them get you well before you get your discharge.” He said, now listen to this, “The government, to the government
you fellas are just a nuisance. They want you out. Our orders are get rid of youse.” Five years’ service, couldn’t believe it because I was half mental, things like that I just couldn’t believe. That was his very words. I had enough intelligence to do what he told me. He said, “They want you out, don’t let them. They can’t
make you get out, you’re a member of the army.”
I’m away 5 years, the chances are he never went away at all, but he got the weekend I got the guard. See what I mean, it runs right through the whole lot and it runs through in civil time. You see little bits creeping into the paper now at once wouldn’t be published about brutality or anything that goes on in the army, years ago you’d never hear that. But the point that I’m getting at is, I was in the army, I was the guard, it didn’t worry me what the matter did, anyway
corporal of the guards. On the Monday, sergeant addressed about 12 of us in a room that we were to front the major and you were only allowed – he would ask you where would you like to go, you were only allowed one – whatever you said if he could send you there or near there he would. What was happening was they were bringing the boys
home with the highest points scores form the islands. And if your points score was going to be up in a month or two they’d bring you home and, for arguments sake, if you lived at Port Macquarie and the nearest barracks was Kempsey they’d send you to Kempsey. Of course, with me that didn’t apply.
That’s what I was going to tell you then. He asks me, he has your record, he looks at it and he says, he said, “God, you’ve had a bad time.” He said, “Look, anything I can do, I’ll do for you.” He said, “What would you like me to do?” I said, “I don’t care.” He said, “You’ve got to face up you’ve got to get back into civilian life sooner or later.” He said, “Isn’t there something I
could help you?” And I said, “I don’t care.” So he said to me, “Well you’re not going to like what I’m going to do for you,” he said, “but one day you’ll thank me.” He was right. He said, “I’m going to send you to the 3rd Women’s Hospital.” I nearly fainted. I thought, “God, after all these years I’m posted to a Women’s Hospital.” I hadn’t spoken to women for years bar my mother, and the girls
are sisters. So I finished up at the 3rd Women’s Hospital.
being malarial port, you’re not supposed to go to them places and they knew it. And Victoria Barracks who I come under, engineers, at Victoria Barracks they blamed Melbourne. Melbourne blamed Sydney and the lieut. I had was only a young fella. He said to me, he said, “Allan,” he said, “clear out, shoot through. I’ll leave word.” He had one of the boys, only young fellas he lived just up the road from me, in fact his brother was one of my best mates.
I can stop home, what about Marie. But I come up here I give away my family to come up here to her family because she didn’t want to come here, just quietly, she won’t admit it but she didn’t. Her family come from the hills, Mount Seaview they were back in the days where times were hard and tough. Now, all the girls
in the country head for the city, one big reason is the jobs which are not available here. But another big reason is the gay lights which they don’t do here. They do, do it a certain extent today but in our day they didn’t. See Marie and them were stuck on a property, the nearest neighbour might be 20 mile away.
was a prisoner. An Australian women gone to New Zealand and he joined in Australia. He died, it was her husband who died not her son and she remarked in a letter to the Herald, this was many years ago when I lived in Concord but she referred to the same thing we were always grateful for the second life he was granted, it is a second life, there was
too many reasons why you shouldn’t have survived no way in the wide world it didn’t come out of this world.
religious man but in a way I am. I owe a debt, and I believe we were brought up you paid your debt and I paid my debt since I come home. I paid my debt in religion and I paid my debt in giving. See, with my war pension, I don’t want money, never did want money. Money, I found out how rotten and useless
it is. I’ve seen the day where a 100 pound sterling couldn’t buy a bowl rice. The traders would just look at you, the Indian traders and just smile, no good, no good. A 100 pound sterling then would’ve bought you a house. And then it hit home how useless money was. If you had a dirty pair of socks you could get a bowl of rice.
And all them doctors were given, “Get rid of them.” That was true, what he said. Now, I’ll just give you my first experience, of repat, I’ll say it quick. I got a doctor for psychiatrist, I think he was he was an old doctor his brother was a leading politician in Australia right to the top. He was a doctor
at Rydalmere Mental Home and when I went in and see him all he did was ask me questions about my family. Was my mother alive, how was she. Your father had ginger hair didn’t he? And of course muggins, thinking, “God I didn’t know these fellas were that good.” And he told me all about my family and I was that staggered by it. I went out, I thought I was dreaming. He did
nothing to me, he didn’t ask me a question, he didn’t look at me or anything. He just asked me about the whole of my family. How many children now? Are they all alive? How, what does your mother do? Was you father still a stone mason, yes. I thought that’s strange, and he finished up he said to me do you think your father could give me a piece of marble? And I thought, “Oh, God.” I went home and I didn’t say anything
for a day or two because I couldn’t believe it. I said to my father then I said, “Hey listen, Dad.” I said, “A doctor said to me could you get him a piece of marble.” I said, “His name was Doctor Page, Earl Page’s brother.” And father laughed, “Oh, God,” he said cause my father as I say was a larrikin he said
the Pages were wealthy, Grafton was poor but the Pages were the wealthy people. Mrs Page used to feel sorry for the poor kids in the paddock at the back so she’d send this big fat boy out with the cakes or biscuits she made and as soon as he gave it to them they’d pelt him back with cow manure all the way back to the house. This was the doctor.
Well, Allan we are now actually at the end of the interview and I wanted to thank you very much on behalf of Rebecca [interviewer] and myself and indeed the Australians at War Film Archive.
If there’s anything they can learn from it I hope there is. I’ve got no envy, no hatred, no nothing against anything, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against the 8th Division all them things they don’t mean anything to me. As I say, there’s nothing wrong with the men, it’s only the top