Henry Duus
Archive number: 719
Preferred name: Harry
Date interviewed: 12 August, 2003

Served with:

2/8th Field Coy
6th Division

Other images:

Henry Duus 0719


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Tape 01


Let’s start from there. Not asking for the tiny details, but just that general where things started, about your family, and that period during the thirties, the Depression in particular, leading up to the war. If you could just tell


us a little bit about that.
I can go back to the start if you like when I was at school and so forth and move on.
That’d be good.
I’ll try anyway. So.
Let’s hear about your early years, your early schooling years.
I was born in 1919. Twenty-first of March. The first I can remember of life was when I was about four years of age, my


father built a house in Wheatley Road, Auburn. He was a butcher. Had a butcher shop in Auburn in those days. I went to school. Done very well at school. I left school when I was about fourteen. I went on a farm in a place called Gnarkeet for twelve months


it was. And then I came back and worked for my father as an apprentice. I must tell you that the wages in those days were very low. He said to me, what do you want to be, an apprentice or an improver? I said, well what’s the wages and he said, there’s the book, and I looked at it. An apprentice was six and halfpence per week. An improver was seven and six. So I was an improver. And


I was a butcher all my life from then on. As far as the Depression was concerned in the 1930’s it was very bad for most people but for us it was no worries at all because Dad had a good business. Everything went well. I mean to say, he had a good shop and we had two or three blokes working


for us. In fact, that many houses the banks had to close on mortgages in those days - it was such a shocking depression - that my father bought about three or four homes down in that area. After that he sold up and went to Croydon. Actually, between Croydon and Wonga Park it was. We had an orchard - twenty five acres.


From then on - oh well, then I decided after about three or four years to join the Lighthorse. I was only in there for about two or three years. Batman Avenue was our headquarters and we had a couple of trips out to Broadmeadows. Then, only thing about the Lighthorse was


if you got the horses green off the paddocks they were a bit of a handful to manage. But otherwise it was quite good. Then we - in those days you had to - the war started in 1939 and they started this when you turned twenty one, you had to do three months compulsory training, in the army. Which we done at a place called Trawool. That’s


just outside of Seymour. In between Seymour and Yea. That was quite good. I done my three months there. When I was released, that was about the end of April I suppose, I came home and immediately joined the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] in Ringwood. We were sent from Ringwood to Caulfield Racecourse where we spent a couple of nights there.


Then we were taken up to Puckapunyal. That is where the Second Eight Field Company started. So from then on it was - I was lucky enough, I suppose, because I’d done the three months training, that I was lucky enough to become a lance corporal. A lance corporal, that’s about the lowest


denomination in the NCOs [Non Commissioned Officer]. You go from a lance corporal to a corporal, from there to a sergeant and so on. So I was a lance corporal and was in headquarters section. The unit comprised of three sections and headquarters. It wasn’t attached to any company or brigade. It was attached to a division. The


Second Eighth Field Company. And we were in what they called corps troops. How long was I there for? Oh three months I suppose. It was quite good. We got leave and things like that. Towards the end of the three months we got eight days leave. That was for the final leave. Come home and saw our parents and that.


They were a bit disappointed I think that I had joined the army at the time, but still and all, they managed quite well. Everybody was happy to see me go I think. We had our leave and then we came home and got on a ship at Station Pier there on a boat called the Nieuw Holland. Now while I’ve been


training for that three months I was trained as an ack ack [anti aircraft] gunner. That’s anti aircraft. And immediately I got a cabin right up on the bridge of the Nieuw Holland which was amazing because down below it was shocking, where the others were in the hold. They were in hammocks and that - a hundred men and the air was putrid. So I was lucky there for a start. I was going up


into a cabin in the Nieuw Holland. And with the Lewis gun and that. And me number two. Number two was called - who was it - oh Les Apple was the chap’s name. So we sailed from there. It was a shocking trip. I think ninety percent of the ones down below were all seasick. And we arrived in Fremantle. Had a day’s leave there.


It was really nice. The people there were absolutely outstanding the way they looked after us. From then on we moved on to Ceylon. Another day’s leave there. We went to a place called Galle Face Green. That’s where we were let loose and do what we liked, but I hung back. I was a bit,


getting a bit shrewd then. I hung back while all the rest of them went off. The lady got to me and said, “Oh would you like to come to my place for lunch? “Bungalow,” she said, “my bungalow for lunch.” I said, “Oh yes.” Well what a bungalow it was - bloody mansion. In fact I’ll never forget going into the bathroom there to wash my hands. Everything was so white and clean I was too frightened to wipe my hands on the towels. From then on we went and moved on and went through the Red Sea


up to a place called El Kantara I think it was on the Suez Canal. Then we moved into Palestine and a place called, I think it was Qastina was the name of the place we were camping. Just in between Tel Aviv and Haifa - one of those places anyway. But it was still more training


and - all the tradesmen had to go and do trades work more or less. Building wells and making roads and filling up craters just to get practice of it. What month was it we moved into - we were there for about three months. It must have been about November I think we went to Egypt, to a place called Amiryah which is just outside of


Alexandria. And I had a day’s leave from there down to Cairo. Climbed the highest pyramid there. Went up on top, a mate and I did. It was alright climbing up but it wasn’t so good coming down because you’ve got about three hundred or four hundred feet to jump down and you just kept jumping down these steps. It wasn’t so easy. Inside the pyramid was fantastic. Different places in Cairo -


we went to the museums and that. That was quite an experience. So from then on where did we go then? We were at Amiryah for about a month I suppose. It was getting near the end of December when the first of the British and Indian troops attacked the Italians up near the border of Egypt. Then we moved on.


We moved up and took over from thereon and went to a place called Bardia which was just over the border. Our unit was held in - I forgot to tell you that during our stay in Egypt we were made to go in the Sixth Divvy [6th Division]. Instead of being in corps troops we had to go into the Sixth Divvy because one brigade had sailed from Australia


straight to England. So they had to have another engineers’ unit in the Sixth Divvy, so we were picked. Had to change our shoulder patches from a triangle to a rectangle and, as I say, we moved up and we were in reserve at Bardia. The Second First and the Second Third Engineers’ Company, I think they were attacking in Bardia.


And we took quite a - I think they counted the prisoners in acres - there was about twenty-five or thirty thousand prisoners, I think they took there. We moved onto Tobruk, our unit. About the day before Bardia finished we start to move off towards Tobruk. About halfway to Tobruk - might have been a bit further -


there was a little Arab boy was picked up with half his hand blown off with a hand grenade. So we had to turn back. I was detailed to take him back to Bardia Hospital. Which I did. And then we caught up with him later on, caught up with the unit later on, next day. We stopped at Tobruk, outside Tobruk,


and while we were there we used to go down the beach. That was the only place where you’d get a decent wash because water was very scarce. We went down the beach and started to find Italians sneaking back from Bardia to Tobruk, you see. So I think we finished up taking six hundred and forty prisoners. We’d go down there and fire a few


shots into the air on the edge of the beach, fire a few shots into the air and out they’d come and take them back to our camp. From there on - where did we go from there. Oh, then the attack on Tobruk came. That was our first real experience of - because we never had much strife with any aircraft in the air. Different to what it was later on. So that was our first


actual, like as far as our engineering company was concerned, our first attack. We moved up and as we were moving in - be about two o’clock in the morning, it was dark - and the artillery opened up no more than about fifty yards from us. Our artillery. Firing over our heads as we moved up into our position. That was a real experience for a while


I tell you. Just like daylight. In the morning we were detailed. We got a - what do they call it - a tot of rum and we were told to do our different jobs. Some had to go up and put bridges across the tank traps. Others had to lift up booby traps. They were always covered by the infantry though. And the artillery.


My job was to go out in a utility and knock over what they call artillery trig points which are in the desert. Talking about desert, it wasn’t sand dunes like you’d think of as desert. It was just bare ground and plenty of dust. Shocking. We tore around the countryside all flaming morning really,


knocking over these trigs. Some of them were massive trig points, about eight or nine tons in them at least. But others you could push them over by hand, half of them. They were the Italian trig points for their artillery. And we did have one artillery get onto us as we were dashing around. But he wasn’t very good. He dropped his, about three shells about fifty yards behind us each time, so that was just a waste of time and we soon ducked off from there.


Then we moved up from there to a place called Derna. I didn’t tell you, it was at Tobruk there, I think we had our first casualty - shouldn’t have had it, shouldn’t have happened because there was no signs on the road. We pulled off the road before we got to Tobruk and when the cook went out with his offsider to get some tucker or something, instead of turning left towards Bardia he turned


right towards Tobruk, you see. After, I don’t know how far we were out of Tobruk, I suppose about eight or nine miles, but he got that way he went straight on. There was no sign on the road to stop him. Even though the infantry were closer to Tobruk than we were there was no signs to stop them. Of course, they drove into the Italians, ate them up with machine guns and killed them. Killed one and the other one escaped, wounded.


And we had another patrol at Tobruk too, before we took Tobruk. Another patrol went out and like everyone, got wounded in that patrol. One bloke got killed. I don’t know whether you ever heard of Robert Dunstan, but he’s the one that - he had to look after the truck when they were out on patrol where they stopped. And he had to look after this truck and he got shelled and got wounded in the leg.


Lost his leg eventually. And then after he got back to Australia he joined the AIF. How the hell he joined it I don’t know, but he did. He got into the airforce and went back to Britain and went out on missions from there. That’s courage I think, to go and do that after losing a leg. You wouldn’t think it was possible. But any rate, where did we go to?


Derna. And it was all - Derna they blew up a huge bridge there, the Italians. Some of these waddies were a hundred, a hundred and fifty feet deep and about a mile wide. We had to build a road down and get across it. So that was another big job for us. But all the time there was either filling up holes in the road that they’d blown up. Or culverts,


and things like that. That was our main job in the war. And lifting land mines. Which one of those photos, I’ll show you later. And I was in headquarters so I never went out in the sections like they did. My job was more or less one of the jobs when we eventually got to Benghazi,


one of my jobs there was to go and help delouse a mine. I never had to delouse it but I had to be there when they - Colonel Merriman. It was a sea mine which was dropped by parachute. Which is hard to believe because what’s the use of - they did drop a couple - they were delayed action mines too. They’d be as big as that door there. They were massive. ‘Cause that contained


the parachute and the tail as well. But my job was to, with others, get the mine after he’d deloused it - this Colonel Merriman. Calm as you like, he was. Just knocking the ring off the thing and cutting the wires and that. And the other bloke - there was a navy expert there too, I don’t know his name, but he was as nervous as, well, as I was, I suppose. Any rate we got the mine out on a


trolley, put it in the back of the ute and started off down to the open paddocks to take the tail of it and that. Colonel Merriman wanted to pull it to pieces more or less, see how it worked. So we did that. And then it was transported back to a ship in Benghazi and it’s blown up. Blew the ship up there. It was already damaged of course. So what did we do from there.


Benghazi. That’s where we started to turn back then and retire because the Germans were starting to come up and that’s when we did a lot of anti-aircraft firing at Benghazi. Because the Germans were really attacking then. Different to the Italians. The Italians were up that


high you couldn’t even see them. But the Germans were really at ground level. So we started to retire. The day we were going to pull out I was walking over the barracks and the doctors was walking in. He said, “Are you alright, Sergeant?” I said, “Oh yes, I’m a bit hot, sir.” He said, “Let’s take your temperature.” He took my temperature. I think it was over a hundred and two, a hundred and four or something. Really high. So they dumped me straight into what they called the Vass [?] Hospital which was


the next town back from Benghazi. What did I do then? Not much. That’s right. The unit of course kept going on. They retired back right down to Alexandria again. I had to get out of the Bas Hospital and start chasing them down the road. We got to Bas and then we were sent over to


Greece. We were lucky on our trip. Again, I got a cabin up near the top. Because I was anti aircraft. And the other poor devils were down the holes. But we got across to Piraeus which is just below Athens.


We had a leave that night in Athens which was very good. Then the next day we started off - had to travel by night cause it was so dangerous. Couldn’t use the roads in the daytime on account of the German aircraft. And our aircraft - we had nothing. And that was the worst part of Greece, that’s when you couldn’t move on the roads in the daytime. Or very very little. And when you did go on the roads they’d have a chap behind the cabin


of the truck and he’d bash the roof with the butt of his rifle if an aircraft was coming and then you’d pull up and dive into the side of the road. That was on the move all the time. That was the start of being really attacked all the time. We went up to Greece. My first job with the headquarters - I think it was number seven section - we had to blow up a


road at a place called Damokos. I don’t know how many blokes were there, but most of them. After they dug all the holes and filled them in we put the charges in and they also put a half hour safety fuse on them. So you got half an hour to get back to the culvert where you were going to


get out of the blast. And also electric wires on each charge. There’d be about six or eight charges we had blowing the roads up and blowing the cliff down and all this sort of business. Then after we got it all prepared and the last of the - that’s why they say last out first in because we had to wait till all the trucks got through. But the artillery


behind us which was just a few hundred yards behind us, they opened fire on them because we could see the road for miles down on the plains, and opened fire on these trucks that were coming. They only happened to be our trucks instead of the enemies. So that was a bit of bad luck. Most of the men got through. Then we decided it was time to blow up the road.


While we were doing all these roads every now and then a German bomber would go through. And he’d be no more than two or three hundred foot high in the air - almost eye level to us - and the tar gun would always give us a burst as he went through. Of course every time we heard the plane coming we’d duck for cover. We didn’t know at the time though but while he was firing us he’d cut our electric wires which we’d laid down the road to the culvert


we were going to start to do it. So anyway we light all the safety fuses, tear back to the culvert, press the plunger down - one of the sergeants did that I suppose. Press the plunger down - up goes all the blast. It was shocking. Everything was going up. He was on a motor bike and he tore back down the road to see how much damage was


done while we moved down to have a look ourselves. Next minute he comes flying around the corner telling us to take cover. The electric wires had been cut and only half the blows had gone off. We didn’t know. We thought they’d all gone off. But they hadn’t. The half hour safety fuse was still burning you see. Next minute they went up. So we were showered with a fair amount of rubbish for a while. In fact we killed one poor


Second Seventh Battalion bloke. Must have been in the first blow I would say. I don’t know, but one of them blows. He was in a slit trench and a rock must have hit him. But that was that. That was a bit of excitement. We tore back down the road. Of course, as we went back different sections were on the road filling in holes where the bombs had dropped. That was - aircraft was definitely


by far the worst of any of the action we saw. We got back to Brallos and there was another big blow going off there. In fact that was a massive blow. They blew half the road away eventually, but we didn’t know till we were prisoners of war and had to march back over we saw what we’d done. That was a different section to what I was in. They


blew the railway tunnel (UNCLEAR) or Lamia, one of those two places. We moved back down and started digging up, putting more charges in the road and that and so it went on. Eventually we got to Athens, had to destroy all our trucks and make for the beach. I couldn’t tell you the name of the place it was. A Greek name. And we got on a destroyer


and got taken back to Crete then. I don’t know. On Crete it was reasonably quiet for a few days. When we got on board the destroyer we had to throw away all our stuff except for our rifle.


Rifle and a haversack you were allowed. Any other kit bags and all that all had to be thrown away in the sea. So when we get to Crete - Suda Bay it was, on Crete we landed, we had to march about ten miles down the road to a camp. It wasn’t a camp. It was just a place on the hill. It was pretty cold in those days. No blankets. No hardly anything.


There was a bit of a stream running past and everybody was in there having a wash and a bathe until the village people come tearing up and telling us to get out of it, it was their drinking water. So after that we were on Crete for a few days. The German aircraft were giving us hell. They dropped about six


hundred, a thousand - I don’t know how many parachutes they dropped. There was quite a number. Well, over a thousand any rate. At Canea and then Maleme and then we had to move up there and try and stop them. Or help the New Zealanders and the one of the our Battalions - second seventh I’d say it would be.


It was about the twentieth of May that would have been, and that was the worst week I think anybody could have lived through. The aircraft were over us the whole time machine gunning, dropping bombs. Oh, it was a shocker. In fact, one raid we got we were sitting there and we looked up and there was these twelve Stukas going past and thought, oh poor old Suda Bay’s going to cop it again. That’s where the port was. But the buggers got into the sun and turned around and


attacked us. ‘Cause we were guarding brigade headquarters at this time. And did they give us - these huge bombs were dropped you know. And as long as you were in a slit trench you were ninety nine percent safe, I’d say. One of the bombs was dropped and it went right under the slit trench that held my number two bloke…we never had ack ack after we left Greece…and blew


him and his mate up. After the raid was stopped we went around of course, and found Les Apple [?] on the edge of the crater and the other bloke, Laurie Keogh, we couldn’t find. And they hunted around - quarter of an hour or more we hunted around. And someone looked up and there he was up a tree, hooked on. So I had to climb up a tree and get him off. And that was


two killed in that raid. It was shocking. But they’d be coming over at tree top height, just skimming over the top of the trees and eight machine guns or six machine guns would be blazing like mad. But you were safe, because as planes fly bullets only go out dead straight. They don’t drive down to the ground. The only way he could have, if he dipped his nose down and fired at you. But you didn’t think that at the time when he was coming over.


Especially if he started firing before he got to you. Then you were in strife. But to fly over you - and the noise was shocking. Otherwise, what else could I say? The retreat started and we had to move back from the Canea where we were - just outside Canea. And we went to a place called


Sfakia which was thirty or forty miles at least over the mountains to the other side of the island. Crete itself is about a hundred and twenty miles long by anything from seven to thirty miles wide. Any rate we get over there eventually about – ‘cause we’re all in separate groups just ambling along you might say. And


the major was trying to get us on a boat eventually. No hope. About three or four times he tried to get us on the boats. ‘Cause they’d only leave at night time. We were there for about two or three days. Then the major went down to the beach one day and he came back and said that we’d capitulated. The Germans were down there waiting for us. So we had to - and from then on we were prisoner


of war for the next four years. So we had had no food for about three days then. And the Germans of course, had no food for us. We got marched back. I’ll never forget we were marching along and one of the guards - they were all quite nice -same as we were, the Italians. You wonder what goes on in war time you thinking they’re enemies, but they’re just like you and I.


And we marched back and one of the guards alongside of me he said, “Oh can I have your watch?” He had a little tin of olives which were bloody awful things, but they were food at least. So I said, “Oh yes you can have my watch.” I didn’t tell him - or he didn’t know - that at Alexandria I’d been in the sea with my watch on and it’d stopped. But it was a nice


Rolex - gold Rolex. I don’t know whether the bloke ever got it fixed up or not. I wouldn’t have a clue. But when I come to think of it, I got that for my twenty-first birthday from my parents. So I gave him the watch and he gave me the tin of olives and we marched on and on. Then another guard took a watch off a chap called Alan Caddy.


This is what amazed me. He took the watch off him and it wouldn’t have been a more than a couple of minutes later one of the German officers was walking past. They all spoke English. And Alan Caddy told him the guard had taken his watch. He just walked up to that guard with a little stick he had in his hand, bang bang bang across the guards face. Put his hand out and he gave him the watch and gave it back to … so that.


Amazes what goes on sometimes. So we were taken prisoner. We got to the camp eventually, just outside Canea, a place called Skines, I think it was called. And there was thousands of us there. But our sergeant major arrived eventually and he really looked after us and made sure we got our rations when they came around and that.


But then we were - about a month we were there or three weeks at any rate - then we were put on a boat or little kayaks they took us back to Athens to Greece. That wasn’t very nice ‘cause we were a bit worried about the British U boats, British submarines could have blown us up. Bit of a worry. So we get there


then we - what did we do then? We were in a camp in Athens there for quite some time, about two or three weeks. And then we got on a train to go up to Salonica. And of course we get halfway up - it’s where Brallos Pass was which we’d already blown - blown the railway tunnel and all that. And they, the train couldn’t go


any further so we had to get out of the train there and walk twenty-six mile over the top of this high pass which wasn’t very good. We got to the other side, we got to a place called Lamia, I think it was. Another train was pulled up. We got onto that. They were just cattle carriages. Forty men to a truck, window each opposite corner. And


we moved on from there. Oh gosh, the railway lines in Greece and that - even in Egypt - you’d swear the carriage had square wheels the jogging and that. You couldn’t lie down you were that cramped in. And toilet facilities, of course they didn’t exist. So you can imagine what it was like. But any rate we eventually get to Athens


and get into a camp. The camp we eventually got to in Athens - not Athens, Salonica - was run by the Austrians. They were the worst we’d met as far as being brutal. You only had to infringe a fraction they’d bring the whole lot out and put them on parade, stand at attention for hours in the hot sun. It was summertime then and it was really, really


hard. We didn’t like them at all. But on the average, I’d say the Germans were very good. We got sent out from this Salonica camp to the railway station and we put in more cattle trucks. No toilet facilities. And about forty men to a carriage. And


away we went. I think the first day out the carriage next to us or one a bit further on, somehow or other got the door open and most of them got out. And what was left was put in our carriage or at least ten of them were anyway. It was what was left of them that didn’t escape. And they didn’t open the doors from then


on, for the next five days.
Interviewee: Henry Duus Archive ID 0719 Tape 02


Yes, I was up to where we were on the train going along. They never opened the carriage doors on the train for the whole trip of seven days. Except once when we got to one of the countries up there - not Budapest.


Any rate, Red Cross must have had a small meal waiting there for us. Otherwise the doors were closed the whole time and there was, as I say, no toilet facilities. And that would have been one of the worst weeks of being a prisoner of war. We went to a place called Moosberg which is about fifty miles from Munich. That was the first time


I can remember a German ever putting a hand on me. He was a bit irritable because I wasn’t making - the Germans were pretty poor at counting and unless you were in fives they didn’t seem to be able to count you - so I must have been mucking around a bit and they pulled me into line. That was about the only time a German ever laid a hand on me, so that was remarkable really. We were in Moosberg which was


quite a big, massive camp. But it was divided into two and one half or one third of it was Germans, and the other two thirds was French and Canadians and British and Australians and New Zealanders. It was quite a good camp. What was I going to say before? Oh yes, the winter. The winter there was one of the worst winters we’d had.


It was minus twenty degrees below zero. That was very cold. In fact, I think on the Russian front there was, at times, down as low as forty. That was one of the worst winters they’d had in Germany for years and years so I believe. We stayed there for, oh about must have been six to eight months at least. And then we were moved to a place called Hohenfels. This time we were in carriages -


a normal passenger train so it was quite good. We arrived there and put into - we called them huts - they were nice square buildings. About twelve people to a hut. Everything went quite good. We really ran our own camp. I mean, it wasn’t - the Germans


came in and they had patrols walking around - two or three Germans walking around all the time. Otherwise we had a sports field, we had a theatre - everything you can imagine - even schools if you wanted to go to school. So it was quite good. But there was, what would I say - oh gee, I’m forgetting some of the things now.


I meant to say before - I started off being a lance corporal. Well on Crete I was made a corporal. That was one of the luckiest things that happened to me, as I say, because when I got to Germany I found out that corporals never had to work. Whereas the other sappers and privates had to go down coal mines and everything else. Work on railways. But no, so for four


years my mate and I - and my mate, he made himself a sergeant. He was only a sapper, but he made himself a sergeant and got away with it for four years. His name was John McSweeney. Him and I were the only two Second Eighth Field Company blokes that were in the hut that I was in. The rest of them were English and Canadians. But as I say, it was


very, very - in the first twelve months someone built a tunnel and got out, about thirty or forty but they were all picked up again. It was almost impossible to escape. Even though we had an escape committee and all that - several of them tried to escape. They never got very far. Because you’re in enemy territory the whole time, you had hundreds of miles in all directions to go before you got out of Germany. This camp was in Bavaria.


We got mail from home and parcels. Mustn’t forget to mention we got a Red Cross parcel nearly every week - which was marvellous. Far better than the food we were getting from the Germans. In fact, we could bribe the German guards with anything we wanted - wireless sets and anything at all, we used to get from them.


I even had myself, I had a crystal - what they call an ersatz crystal set - and I could pick up the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] and that, on that. In fact, I can still remember one of the other sergeants in the hut saying to me, oh get the time for me, he said. And he said, I want the last bip. Ever heard the bip on the wireless of an hour? Haven’t you noticed that? Well that’s army time. When they get the last bip,


that’s the exact eight o’clock, nine o’clock or whatever it is. They even took us out in groups to pick up timber and that to use in our little stove we had in the hut. The mate and I made a little oven to fit on the back of the one fire stove we had.


Little portable - they weren’t portable they were - oh I suppose they were portable, you could pick them up I suppose. So we had firewood and some briquettes or coal we were given to put in it. So we managed that way. But it was quite a good camp. In fact, I think it was supposed to be one of the best prisoner of war camps in Germany.


We were there for four years and then, of course, the Americans landed and that was marvellous news. We used to tell the guards the news because we could tell the news and what they didn’t have. When the Americans landed and the British landed - oh I mustn’t forget to tell you - apparently the British landed,


had a commando raid on Dieppe on the coast of France and when they were escorting some of the prisoners back to the destroyers, Germans were shelling of course, and they must have blown up one of the boats. They found that the Germans had their thumbs tied behind their backs. So for reprisal the Germans used to come in and handcuff us every day. Ten men were handcuffed in each hut. I don’t know how many.


About three thousand I think were handcuffed. First of all they started off with ropes. That was a waste of time because we took them off straight away. Then they came in with the ropes - chains and locks. Well we smashed all the locks so they were useless. Then they came in with fair dinkum handcuffs thinking that they had us then. It wouldn’t have been an hour after they’d gone that we’d found a way of, with a nail, just a nail, just hooking them off.


After we got a bit cheeky we’d leave the handcuffs, twelve of them, on the table of a night time. They’d come in and say, ein swein, fie, drier, fib, good good good, pick them up and away they’d go. When it came to Saturday, Saturday morning they only put them on for half a day Saturday ‘cause they were going on leave and they’d come in and we’d leave them on so they had to unscrew each one. Well, would they be sacrament and crucifixing then. Oh gee, they used to go crook. I mean to say


they were all pretty good though. I only hope - well I’m sure our troops here who looked after the prisoners here have done the same thing, looked after them. You wonder why you’re fighting them after a while. You think, you really make friends with them. Just like when we going up the desert the first time with the Italians. Gosh we used to have some sword fights and all with them at times.


We marched out of that camp in the last month of about early May it would have been or might have been a fraction earlier - towards the end of April, I suppose. Marched out and went on the road. Went through Nuremberg which was bombed. One of our blokes got blown up there with a land mine. A bomb that had landed


in the paddock somewhere. Must have put a lit a fire over it or something. I don’t know what happened. But anyway he got blown up. Because the paddocks were just shell craters or bomb craters from what they were supposed to be putting on Nuremberg. It was nothing for a plane, if they were trying to bomb, you would be a kilometre away when the bomb landed. They weren’t that accurate in those days. I believe they’re very good today. Now we landed there,


well we were in… Once we woke up one morning and all the guards that were looking after us had disappeared so we knew the war was just about over. Then of course we had to go scrounge around looking for food. I can remember this instance happening once, we must have been about three or four miles from where we were camped and we were walking back and along come this car with two Americans in it.


Must have pinched the car. Must have been prisoners of war I’d say. They said, “Do you want a ride Aussie?” And we said, “Yes.” And so we hopped in. And it went through past a village and there was a baker in the village. We wouldn’t have gone fifty yards past by the time we pulled up. Out he gets and goes back and asks them for some bread. They said they never had any. So back he comes, gets a rifle out of the car - where he got the rifle from I


don’t know. But he got the rifle out of the car. Walks back and comes back loaded with bread. He sees the town down the road - oh they were real maniacs and I thought, God the way they’re going I’m going to have a bad smash here. So I just tapped the driver on the shoulder and said, I think we’re just about at our camp, you can pull up if you don’t mind. So he pulls up and we get out. And then the American tanks went through.


They just flew through. They were throwing us blooming cigarettes and stuff and waving to us. And about twenty four hours after that a couple of trucks pull up and we get onto that and away we went, back to an aerodrome. We got DC3s [Douglas aircraft] landed and we got into them and we went back to a place called Rheims in France. We landed there for the night. I don’t know why they didn’t take us


right through to England. I wouldn’t have a clue on that. But we landed there. We stayed over night and then next morning in come some Lancaster bombers and took us to England. I had a marvellous trip. I was right in the cockpit with the pilots. They had a magnifying eyes in the sides of the glass. You could see everything.


We landed at - I don’t know where we landed, what the name of the place was - but they put us on a train to Eastbourne. While I was on the train we were going along, I could hear this voice. I thought, God strewth that sounds like Ron Keogh. He comes up level with me I thought, gawd Ron Keogh.


I used to play cricket with him in Wonga Park and he’d been in the Second Seventh Battalion of which we were quite close to lots of times. I never knew he was in the army even, let alone up there. This was in, out of Eastbourne. So we made it up and away we went up to Scotland and that. And came back and but we didn’t come home together. Why didn’t we come home? Oh gawd, that’s right, he got married.


One girl had been sending him letters and that. Knitting him jumpers and things for him. He married her. But it didn’t last five minutes. So that was that. From Eastbourne - we were there for about, I suppose, best part of a month altogether by the time we got on a boat, and came back through the Panama Canal.


That was a thing we used to - as we were going through the Panama Canal you’d heat up a penny say. Heat it up with a cigarette lighter and then throw it over onto the wharf. The kids and that’d dive on the bloody thing and it was red hot. God it wasn’t very smart of us I don’t think. Any rate we got through there. We called in at Wellington, New Zealand on the way home. Called and then landed in Sydney. Got a train down from Sydney.


And a taxi from Spencer Street Station out to where the zoo is, those grounds, somewhere round about there, and met my mother and father. So. After that, on the way Mum said, “Oh your grandad’s not too good,” she said. “We’ll call in and see him,” she said. So I went in and the first thing he said to me when I walked in, he says,


“How’d they treat you son?” Straight out. He couldn’t think of anything else. Bit senile by then apparently. But he knew that. I can always remember that. So after that, what did we do after that? Oh yes, I got discharged eventually and back to normal civilian life. But I don’t know what I can say from


now on.
Well, that’s all fascinating stuff Henry. I guess we can - well when you came back, when you say you were discharged, was that immediately?
In a few weeks. Within a few weeks. Because we must have come back in I would say around about July. It would have been, easy. Because we never got released until May. Then we had to fly into England.


Had a holiday up and got a boat home. Oh yes, it’d be end of July I’d say. Just before the war finished. I think the war finished in August when they dropped the atom bomb. So no, it was very soon I got discharged. The war was still on really when I was discharged. Then what happened? Well, I just


went back to normal work after that I suppose. I can’t remember. Oh no, no. One of my mates came over and we went - I had an old Chev [Chevrolet] 4 before I went to war. It belonged in the first place, to my Dad. He used to deliver meat in it from Ringwood - the butcher shop we had. And when I came it was still there. So Dad had sold the butcher shop business so


I took the car and went up to Brisbane for a trip. And that was quite good. About as good as gold. I can remember some of the rivers we crossed never even had bridges. You had to go across on punts. That’s going up the Princes Highway, more or less. That was in those days. Nowadays you’d never see it. Every river got a bridge over it. But no, I can’t think of much more


to tell you about that.
So you went back into - you were a butcher straight away?
Yeah, I went back to butchering yes. I got a job as a matter of fact just down here on the corner of, near the station - butchery - bloke called Jock Wilson. Then he put me in as a manager out at North Croydon at one of his shop. Then we bought, oh his father bought a shop for us.


The brother and I. And we had a shop in Surry Hills for years. Oh, must have been near about, I wonder when we did go there. It must have been about ’53, I’d say we went to Surry Hills in the first place. Then about five years later we moved to Union Road, Surry Hills. First of all we were in Canterbury Road. And we moved to Union Road, just up above the railway line.


And we were there till, oh well, 1980.
And what sort of association did you have after the war with your battalion for example?
Oh no, the unit we started a Second Eighth Field Company organisation. And we used to meet every now and again, every three months or so. As a matter of fact


we’ve just stopped it. We gave the Legacy a thousand dollars, what we had over and we’ve just more or less - there’s only a few of us now. There’s only about three of us turn up, plus there were a few widows. We go usually to the Frankston RSL [Returned and Services League]. And we have an afternoon there. It’s quite nice. We meet our friends there.


But as I say, we’ve just this last few months we’ve more or less - we still meet but we’ve given away the organisation. We go like, every Anzac Day I used to march.
Talking about Anzac Day, can I just maybe take you right back to when you were a young lad. We briefly discussed, and obviously it was a


fairly happy time, but do you have any recollections of - were for example any of your family involved in the First World War?
No. My father lost a brother in the First World War, but my father wasn’t in the war. No.
Do you have any memories for example of Anzac Day during that period as a child? Was it something that


really informed the way Australia was at that time? The memories of the first war?
Well, in a way, yes, but I can’t bring up any real - I know we used to get a holiday every Anzac Day to remember it, but no. I had nothing about war till I was - I would have been eighteen I suppose when I went in the Lighthorse. And then the three months I was in the


compulsory thing. But other than that, no. No. We had a very - the recession, we didn’t even feel it. We were well enough off not to feel that. We were lucky I suppose.
So why was it that you joined the Lighthorse?
I don’t know to be honest. I can’t really tell you why I joined that. Whether it was because of horse riding.


I suppose. See I went up on the farm when I was only just left school, I went up on a farm for twelve months. I done a lot of horseriding then. But otherwise I don’t know.
Why did you end up in the country for those twelve months?
Well I think my parents wanted me to further my education. I’d done very well at school. I was dux of the Ormond State School. That’s


a pretty good effort. And they wanted me to carry on. But smart me didn’t want to. I thought, oh no. I was going to be a butcher I reckoned, so that was it. But any rate, that’s how life goes. I think I’m sorry in a way that I didn’t carry on. But at the same time I think I’ve got through life alright. I’ve got no regrets.
And can you take us back maybe to when you joined the Lighthorse Infantry? What was it


actually called the regiment or battalion? No?
I couldn’t tell you.
Can you remember what you were specifically doing? Or was it just a training period?
Just a training period and we went on what they call bivouacs. I think I went on about two of those in the time - I wasn’t in there that long - two of those I went on. All up to Broadmeadows somewhere. Must have been a camp up there somewhere. We’d go out


riding and charging this and charging that. Just like young kids do. I can remember riding down in a charge one day. I never even had an ounce of control on the horse. He just took the bit in his mouth and that was it. But I hung on. I suppose I was a reasonable rider.


How long were - that was, can you remember what year?
That would have been in the vicinity I would say of 1937. 38, I would think.
So you were butchering at the same time? You’d already started doing that?


And that was with your father? Is that correct? Yep. And am I right in saying you had brothers, sisters?
Yes. I’ve got a brother who was in the army and a younger sister. I’ve got an older sister too, but she died when she was - in about 1956 or 59, something like that.
So with the Lighthorse at that time, the late ‘30s, I guess you were a teenager really.
Yes, that’s right.


Was there a sense for you personally or in the country as a whole, that war was perhaps imminent, that there was trouble abroad?
Well, that Chamberlain was in power over in England. He was a pretty weak sort of a bloke. He definitely wasn’t as strong as what Churchill was. Churchill was really hard. But as I say, he thought he was doing right I suppose. He thought up some peace plan.


But next minute Hitler goes and invades Poland and that was the start of it. Then we declared war. I can still remember that on the wireless. Who was it? Chamberlain or Churchill declared war. I think Chamberlain declared war and Churchill took over from there pretty well.


But no. I’m damn sure if the Germans had their way they wouldn’t have wanted war. ‘Cause half of them, they’re just like ordinary. You think of them all being enemies but they’re not. There are no enemies in that. But I say when you take prisoners we were sword fighting and mucking round with the


Italians when we - oh God we used to have the fun of our lives. This is in the barracks when we’d taken them prisoner, you know. Even when you see them on the train going through they’d be waving to you. Prisoners. So it didn’t worry them. They were happy to be prisoners, I think. We weren’t quite so happy as that. But still.
Do you remember where you were when war was declared? Do you remember your reaction at the time?


19, what was it, 1939 when war was declared, wasn’t it? Yes. I can’t even think where I could have been. I would have been up here on the orchard at Yarra Road. And of course, I would have been -


no in 1940 I done me … so war was declared before I - a year or more before I - I had to do three months January 1940. War had been going on for twelve - no war had only been going on for three months hadn’t it? September I think war was declared, in 1939. That’s right. So it was only on for three months.


I was thinking it was twelve months. No. So I got called up just after Christmas or the end of January it was I got called up in the twenty ones and done my three months. But prior to that I can’t think. I would have been in the Lighthorse but that was nothing.


I don’t know if it was even going when the war was declared whether they pulled out or what they done, I wouldn’t have a clue.
So you were basically called up to do your duty?
No. To do three months compulsory training. Every lad when he hit twenty one had to do three months compulsory training. And that was all infantry type of work. It wasn’t engineers. It was all infantry. In fact we had a colonel -


Colonel Spowers his name was - and they used to call him Saturday Morning Spowers because every Saturday morning - we’d go on leave in the afternoon and come home Sunday night - Saturday morning he’d take us for a march about ten or fifteen mile. No, I can’t help you much there. It’s rather a blank just before the war.


Do you remember whether obviously people of your age were conscripted and really had no choice, but was it something people wanted to do regardless? Do you remember that? And if so, what …
Oh well, there’s always that percentage that will. That wish to go to war and that. But no, the majority I don’t think wanted to go.


It got worse and worse though of course, because Germany ended up taking over France and that, you know. They just walked through there and Dunkirk, those sort of places. No I don’t know. I always say, the only ones - you know, you join up for the war and the higher up you get the further away from the war front you really are.


Except, of course, this last war, in the last few years of the war the aeroplanes brought the rear to the front really. I would say in all honesty that there was more civilians killed in the last war than there was soldiers. You know, you take a place called Hamburg for instance, in Germany, when the British bombed that - I think thirty six thousand got killed. Nuremberg, Berlin, oh they must have, you know …


But they started the war. They nearly wiped Coventry out in England before we got our decent airforce. Today’s armies, if you’ve got charge of the air you’ve just about got the war won. I’m convinced of that. ‘Cause they’ve got no answer. I suppose they are improving on ack ack all the time.


I used to think how game they were to fly so low. Because we would normally be firing at a plane that was going from there across that way. They couldn’t fire at us. Because fighter planes especially, they only fired in front of them. Right? If they were flying that way - if they were coming straight towards you they could hit you if you opened fire. Because when you load an


anti aircraft gun you load it with a normal bullet, a tracer an explosive and an armour piercing. That’s four bullets. So that you can see without even looking just through your sights you can see where your bullets are going with the tracers. I often used to think when I was firing at a plane and it was going that way, he couldn’t fire back at you. And you wouldn’t fire at a plane - a fighter especially -


you wouldn’t fire at a fighter coming straight at you. You’d wait till he was going past you.
When did you learn to use a gun? Was that during the initial training?
Yes, it was. In the three months.
Do you remember what sort of weapons you were trained?
Only the rifles or Lewis guns we had in those days. We never had - oh there were quite a few different types of guns. Boyce rifles. They were armour piercing bullets. No.


That was a good part of the - when I was, as I say, first joined the AIF I was made a lance corporal and that was the start of it. On the ack ack [anti aircraft] gun.
Can you describe the ack ack gun?
That’s only just a Lewis machine gun on a tripod like this is, you just swirl it around anywhere. And I was, as I say, up on top of the bridge in a cabin which was


marvellous. Compared to the other poor buggers. So as I say, learning to fire, to use it - pull it to pieces of course. And even on when we were going up through the desert we managed to get another Lewis gun off of an Italian plane which had no - have you ever seen a Lewis gun? It’s got a barrel that runs up


the - oh God! - it’s got a big barrel with that rig that runs up it and the rifle’s inside it more or less whereas, on this gun that we pinched - oh well, we didn’t pinch it, we just took it from them - from the aircraft just had a little bit of thing to keep the breach cool on it and the rest was just the rifle coming out. But we used


that a bit too. Especially in Benghazi. Benghazi was about the only place on the first part of the war that we could fire it though ‘cause there wasn’t very many planes around. One episode I remember plainly. We were on this barracks which was just outside of Benghazi - no more than a kilometre - and we were on duty up, this morning, up on top, my number two and myself.


And this plane, the bomber was coming straight - it wouldn’t have been more than about two hundred feet in the air coming, straight towards us. And this was one time when we did open fire because it was going to bomb us for sure. And we opened up, the two machine guns, the one Lewis gun that we had and the other one was a Lewis gun but the barrel was of the aircraft. And we opened up fire and we made him veer off.


‘Cause we would have blasted the pilot to pieces. Because they were that low. They wouldn’t have had a chance of getting to us I don’t reckon. That made him veer off. Whether he crashed or not, I wouldn’t have a clue. A couple of the planes crashed on Benghazi, were brought down by the British fighters. Once we picked up the crew. There was four in it. Two of them bailed out about a hundred feet up before the plane crashed. And they


both got killed. Their parachutes didn’t open quick enough. The two in the plane survived. I’ll never forget we put them in the back of a utility and one of the Germans said to us, you’ll be prisoners soon. He wasn’t far wrong either. Arrogant. I’m afraid I can’t


think of much more about it. I suppose if I had thought more about it I suppose I could. As I say, that book of mine there’s all about the company and what we did do and what we didn’t do.
Can you remember the first time you actually fired in anger, as it were?
Well, I suppose as far as I’m concerned it would have been at a plane. I never fired at any troops. Never. ‘Cause we were more of a,


what would you say, engineers and not really infantry. Although you’re trained as infantry. Even when we got back to Crete they took all our guns off of us, what we’d brought. We’d brought all our guns with us. But one of the ships got sunk on the way over or something - the Second Seventh Battalion was on it. So we had to give them our guns. But no, the only time I can really remember


firing in anger was at a plane. The first one would have been I would say Benghazi would have been about the first. Every night we were firing at them then. I’ll never forget the very first time I can remember firing, it was pitch black and the planes up there. We couldn’t see a sign of them.


They were up in the air. And the sergeant major screams out from down below, open fire. Well there we are spraying and my blooming barrel of my gun was just about blue when I finished. Which was ‘cause you don’t, you only give them a burst of four or five seconds. Next minute the captain screams out, stop firing. That was our first. But other, no we fired a lot at the planes on Benghazi. But otherwise all our work was doing,


was roadworks, filling in holes. But that wasn’t much, even that. Bridging I think would be our biggest thing. And that was done mainly by the sections. Seven, eight and nine section. We started off one, two, three, our sections were numbered. But when we got changed from corps troops back to


division we were seven, eight, nine.
So when you say the units, that’s the battalion broken down into …
It’s not a battalion we were only a company. Engineering units don’t belong to any division. They belong to the brigade. We can get sent anywhere in that brigade. And a brigade is


usually three divisions. And a division’s about three or four battalions, three battalions I think.
So can you explain when you were signed up with the AIF you were with the Second Eighth …
Second Eighth Field Company.
Field company.
We were corps troops and corps troops are well, what would you say? I suppose they would be divisional troops or army troops.


I don’t know. I don’t know whether even the division can … but we get sent anywhere. If one battalion’s going to go into action we’ve got to go in with them. Next day it might be somebody else. Or week. And division and the sections go in different directions. One section could go to number seven battalion and number eight or nine could go somewhere else, you see. So you don’t know, engineers, just exactly where


you are. Like, I don’t know who, I suppose it would have been either seven or eight section would have put a bridge across the tank trap at Tobruk, which was in places about nine foot deep, and about ten foot wide. Just to stop the tanks. In front of that or behind that. No, behind it I think the wire was and the booby traps.


And behind that again was the Italians in their companies.
Interviewee: Henry Duus Archive ID 0719 Tape 03


You did your three months compulsory training and then you joined the AIF, yeah, and you went on the ship the Nieuw Holland. So when you were called up how did you feel about that? I’m just curious what your thoughts were.
That was nothing to do really with the AIF. I mean, you could join up or not join up.


After you finished the three months, that had nothing to do with it. That was just to train you to be a soldier if you wished to be. But you still had to do it. And of course, they would definitely call them up in the militia later on. Even if they didn’t want to fight they still got to fight. So it was just a training for the people who, or the males that got twenty one.


I was called up about two months before I was twenty one, that’s how it worked out. But it was compulsory training and you were definitely, once that was in, you were definitely in the militia as far as they were concerned. Which was you can only fight in Australia. AIF in those days you could go anywhere. I think that went on all through the war.


I think militia, even though they might have gone to New Guinea, I think New Guinea was part of Australia.
So were you excited about being called up and going?
Not particularly. No, I wasn’t excited. But I thought it was my duty to go in the second AIF after I’d been trained. ‘Cause I could have joined up six months before.


No that was ‘40. That was March I came out of there. Oh no, it was a bit after March. It was April I came out of the three months. The war had been going then six months. There was a bit of a stalemate I think during the war after Germany had taken Poland they went quiet for about


six or eight months, I think it was. Then they went through Europe then they went through France. I just thought it was my duty to join up. And my brother was called up later on. He was called up I think. I don’t know what year they made it compulsory to go in the army. I wouldn’t have a clue. Maybe you can tell me.


No, I don’t actually know that one.
I mean to say, the AIF and the militia were different things. We called them ‘chocos’. I don’t know why they were called chocos, I wouldn’t have a clue. But that’s what they were called.
So what did you expect when you were called up? Did you expect to go overseas and fight at the front?
Well, I think we all expected it’d be like the First World War - trench warfare. But this war was different altogether. As I said


before, you were either chasing your enemy or they were chasing you. We were lucky in the respect there was very little airforce doing actual ground work. They were doing bombing at night and that sort of thing, and doing a bit of fighting in the day time, but nothing like it was towards the end of the war. Crete was our worst


thing by far. And especially at Canea where they wanted the aerodrome there at Maleme. I think it’s called Maleme, yeah the Maleme aerodrome. They wanted that and then once they got that they started landing in troops by the hundreds. But no, it was the end of the war - as I say we were in charge of the skies in the finish.


I can remember when we were walking after the war - just before it finished - we were marching along the road with guards either side of us. And there’s a fighter plane came over us only about two or three of them zoomed right over our heads. And the guards came right in. I suppose they thought they could shoot them if they were out too far. But they were, we were in charge


of the skies. You can imagine, fighter planes especially got about eight machine guns on them tearing down a road, zooming up with all that - very murderous. But my part of the war, especially the first part, there was no planes. Well I’d say no planes. There was a few planes, but nothing.
So what was the training that you got when you went to Palestine?


More or less we were tradesmen you see. The sections went out on training - going with them I suppose. It’s more or less, we have to demolish if we’re pulling out or we have to rebuild if we’re going forward. When I say rebuild, it’s filling in bloody holes in the road and bridges that have been broken down and we’ve got to


rebuild them or if we can’t rebuild them we’ve got to put a road down through to go across. And as I say, it’s all hard work really. Especially the sections. Not so bad for me ‘cause I was at headquarters and I was just driving around doing different things most of the time.
So when you arrived in Palestine, why did you go to Palestine? I’m just curious what the experience was for you before…
Oh, in Palestine!


before you actually went to (UNCLEAR) you went to Palestine to train.
I went to Palestine yes. I even went on leave there once in Palestine to a place called Tel Aviv. We could go to either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and I went to Tel Aviv. There was an instance there too. I went into a restaurant to have a meal, and of course in those days we were wearing what they call a triangle patch on our shoulder. That was different to all the other sections of the army.


Most of them had just the ordinary plain rectangle. Right? So I walked in there and this owner, I suppose he was the owner, he said, “Oh would you like to sign the wall,” he said, “out the back.” So I walked out the back and on this thing was oh, massive number of signatures and he wanted the regimental number and all what you were in. Of course I said, no way am I going to sign that.


That’s wrong. When I got back to camp, when I went back that evening, I told the sergeant major or one of the majors or whoever it was, and I told him about it and they got in touch with our men and it was apparently – ‘cause it’s forbidden! You’re not supposed to let everybody know what unit you’re in cause he could have been a German spy for all we knew. Telling them, oh there’s another engineers’ regiment


come in, and all this, you see. So that was it. But no - oh the mud and that in Palestine, you’ve got no idea. I was getting quite tall with the mud on my boots. You got no idea how it stuck to you. It was quite a wet season there too, for the short time we were there.
So you were doing engineering training, were you?


See, I was more of a driver. I wasn’t a trades - oh I was a butcher, I was in there as a butcher, I told them I was a butcher. So I suppose if they wanted a butcher they would have used me, but no, most of my - of course being a lance corporal helped me a bit in that - what could I say?


It’s about the lowest rank of a non-commissioned officer you can get, is a lance corporal. You get all the dirt. But as I say in a way I was lucky because when I eventually got to Crete I was made a corporal. In fact two of us were made corporals on Crete. That was Keith Pullen and myself, were made a corporal.


And that was the luckiest thing I ever got done because when I was taken a prisoner, you see, I never had to work.
So from Palestine?
I went to Egypt.
So this was your first time?
Yeah, we went by train all the way across the Suez Canal into, through Cairo up to a place called


Amiryah which was just outside of Alexandria. And no it was that was quite good. There was nothing there of course. We did have a cinema in the camp. It was rather a huge camp. And we were allowed to have leave in Alex, which was quite a nice town. But we weren’t


there very long anyway. We were only there for a month at the most. Then we started to move up then up the desert. As I say, when you say desert you think, you imagine sand dunes and that. But there was no - it was just hard ground and just dust. Shocking. I was driving a utility one day down the road and a dust storm came up and I lost the road and went - luckily I kept in a circle and I went off, pulled the wheel around


and went in a circle and came back on the road again. You couldn’t see. It was worse than the fog it was that bad. And filthy. God yes.
Were you writing home?
Yes. You were allowed to write home. I don’t know how often. Not very often. You got more of a card to write on. No, you wrote home. And you received some mail on rare occasions.


Even the prisoner of war camp we got mail. But oh, no, I don’t know.
What was it like getting mail from home?
Oh, very good. Although I got a photo of me youngest sister once. She had long hair and all this hair was cut off. I couldn’t recognise her. I wondered who it was until I read the letter. I wonder who this girl is. What’s Mum sending this for me?


No, it was - oh army life is strange. It’s ninety percent fun, boredom and a bit of fighting. Ninety percent. Ten percent you’re a bit frightened. That’s about all. Honestly. Although I was I must say, Crete by far was the worst


few days. About five days, five or six days there that was really bad. It was because the aeroplanes were flying over machine gunning all the time. I went out on patrol one day with my major and my sar major and another sergeant - I don’t know why we went out on patrol. It was something to do with the guard on brigade headquarters. And we’re


just looking around there and there’s a slit trench in the ground been dug by, I suppose us or the Germans, I wouldn’t have a clue. Because we did find a few dead Germans when we moved into this place just out of Canea. And I was just standing there talking away and all of a sudden a bloody German fighter flew over with machine guns going. Well of course, you immediately think, as the machine guns are screaming and


they all dived into the bloody hole. I’m left standing out. I’ll never forget that. As I say, there was no danger of being shot when the plane’s over the top of your head and the bullets are going out there. But you don’t think of those things. You just jump through a hole. And as I said, to be in a hole when the bombs were dropping or that, you were ninety percent safe.


Just going back a little bit what sort of tasks did you do, say when you arrived in Bardia or Tobruk, what did you have to do as an engineer?
My job was more or less driving there. I wasn’t doing any work. But the others were just cleaning up. For instance at Bardia and Tobruk


one of our jobs was going around picking up all the engineering stuff the Germans had left. And we got a lot of trucks they’d left behind. We used those for our company because we were short. And you generally had to go round and clean up and pick up anything that was valuable. Guns. Anything. Although


a pioneer battalion was behind us again. They would help bury the dead, clean up, do all those sort of things. That was their job. I don’t think I would have liked being in that sort of a job. I think being in engineers or infantry was the best part. The pioneer, they were a battalion. But they were trained as infantry too. It was all work.
You mentioned earlier about


delousing a bomb?
Oh yes. They were about that long. And about that square. And full of explosives and a fuse in them. And you had to take the lid off and take the fuse out, when you found them. They were usually buried in the ground. It wasn’t until about 1945 that they had mine finders - you know things that you could -


we had to just dig around the dirt to find them. Most of them though would take your weight unless you were a very heavy person. They were more for tanks and trucks. But a lot of infantry could walk over them without any trouble. But it wasn’t very nice knowing you were walking over land mines and that. You wouldn’t want to be doing that. There’s always a risk that they weren’t -


that the spring or the pressure wasn’t strong enough to take your weight. Bang, up you’d go. That was one of the things. There’s a photo in that book I’ve got there, I can show you them taking up mines.
So did you do that yourself?
No I didn’t. Only on a couple of occasions. Most times I was just driving or


delousing a bomb. Big bomb in Benghazi, deloused that. And we were blowing up bombs too. Another job we had to do. Once there, this was in Benghazi, we were blowing up bombs on an airfield and we were using Italian detonators and fuses and the damn stuff wasn’t a hundred percent. You’d set it alight, get in your utility and tear off away from it for a while


until it blew up, and I can still remember one of them that we were waiting and waiting but it didn’t blow. And of course, somebody had to go and pull it out. One of the sergeants got in the truck and tore up to it and hopped out and pulled the bloody fuse out because it had stopped burning apparently or something or other. But we used a lot of Italian material. You never trust it too much though.


So this was Italian weapons and hardware that you captured?
Captured, yeah. That’s on the first break. Then in Germany of course, instead of us chasing them they were chasing us. But we never had - we should never have gone to Greece. It was so stupid. But I suppose we promised them we’d help them. We’d signed some agreement that we’d come to their aid if they ….


But in fact in the finish there they were asking us to get out of it because of the bombing. They were being bombed and they didn’t like it.
Why was your presence there in Greece (UNCLEAR)
Well, as I said the presence there in Greece was to try and hold the Germans. Actually the Italians had attacked Albania which is next to Greece. And the Greek soldiers


were doing quite a good job containing them. So Germany had to come to the Italians aid in the finish to help them. And that’s when they started bombing the towns and that, of Greece. Of course the Greeks didn’t want that ‘cause they weren’t strong enough to hold the Germans and they were being pushed back so we had to get out.
You mentioned before that you took six hundred and fifty


Japanese POWs [Prisoner of War].
No, Italian.
Oh, Italian, sorry. Getting wars mixed up. Italian POWs in Bardia.
No. In Tobruk. Just before Tobruk. They were trying to get from Bardia back to Tobruk. There was about forty five mile I think, between Bardia and Tobruk, and they were going along the coast in the night time I suppose.


Yes. And the first time we went down there to the beach to have a swim or something or do something we fired our rifles and that over in the air and out they came. God. It was really surprising. But the poor devils. They didn’t want to be in the war, the Italians, I’m sure of it.
So were they surrendering?


They had more armour and that - twenty five thousand prisoners. If we’d have had twenty five thousand soldiers in Tobruk they’d never have got us out of there I’m sure of that, with our artillery. But even their hand grenades weren’t as good as ours. As I say, we took back a little Arab boy


we picked up, had half his hand blown. In fact one of our own men in our unit blew half his hand off with an Italian hand grenade.
So just tell me in more detail if you can remember it the situation where you had that many Italians surrendering. What was the situation and what did you do with them?
Oh well, that’s when I suppose the


pioneers battalion takes charge of all that. We would have made a barbed wire camp. A POW thing for them, put them in. Then the pioneers I suppose would come along and take them back. We were in the front line then.


Or near enough to the front line. We were only a few miles from Tobruk and we were just getting prepared to (UNCLEAR) position to attack us. But those poor devils - if they’d have been in Tobruk they’d have been captured so it wouldn’t have made any difference. They got saved that. No it’s a - oh I don’t know. You think of war


it amazes me how you’re trying to kill a person one minute, the next minute you’re having a bloody game with them. It does seem stupid. Doesn’t it?
So what were your relationships with the Italian POWs?
Good as gold. You’ve got no idea. We had them (UNCLEAR) In fact when we left Baardia was it? No. It was after we left Tobruk I think, to go to Derna


they were - the infantry never had enough trucks and they had to march along the road. The Italians were carrying half their stuff. The prisoners were all carrying half their stuff for them. Which they shouldn’t have been. I mean to say they shouldn’t have even been marching, and so on. Maybe you shouldn’t write that in though because that’d be a no no.


So you got to know them a bit. You mixed with them.
Oh gosh, yes.
Do you remember any in particular?
No, not really, no. I can remember having sword fights with them though. Only make believe of course, but still and all.
So they were playful?
Oh, gosh yes. You know what boys are like when they get together you know. No, they were not one bit worried about being taken prisoner. And of course we had


a bit of food for them too. Not like us. We were starving the time we got back to our camp after - two or three days before we got taken we had no food, and about three days after we got taken we still had no food. So we were in a pretty bad way by the time we got back to, I think it was a place called Skines just outside of Canea.


Crete, you said before that Crete was a very, very hard experience?
Oh yeah, that was the worst. Greece was bad enough but Crete was ten times worse. I don’t know how the others (UNCLEAR) on Crete and (UNCLEAR) I don’t know whether they got as many German aircraft as we got. I think we got more I think, because they were after the aerodrome.


Well they took the aerodrome eventually. And then they were using the aerodrome with their planes and that.
So do you recall arriving on Crete?
Yes. We were in a destroyer. We got out of Greece and I know we were doing about thirty eight to forty knots and that is really moving in the sea. And the bow wave was just as high as the boat. Once


Again, I was on ack ack on that destroyer. We were even firing at our own flaming planes. The fools went over the top of us. Though they were well up I must admit. A few thousand feet up. And we opened fire on them naturally. But they happened to be our planes. Oh dear.
And what happened?
Oh they just kept going. We were only firing at them, I suppose,


for no more than ten seconds. Because by the time they get out using your machine gun is useless, as far as, against planes I think. And we landed at Suda Bay and we got on and we never got bombed there thank goodness. Because that really got plastered later on - another week or so after we arrived. They got really badly mauled.


That is one job I would have hated to have had would have been the unloading of the ships at Suda Bay because the planes were really harassing them all the time. And as I say, where we were was ten times bad enough without going to Suda I suppose. It was just one of those things that happens.


We were told - I lost a diary just the - I thought I had it. I wanted to show you the poem somebody wrote about it. ‘Here we sat in the aisle of doom…’ Oh it kept going and going… ‘spitfires, our spitfires spat the other way.’ They didn’t last five minutes. They went back to Alexandria.


So what were you confronted with when you arrived - the ship pulled into the harbour?
Yes, oh we just pulled in. They just got off and marched down the pier and then we had to go and march about ten mile along the coast of Crete. I can’t think of the name of the place - Kalive - or something like that [Kaliviani] it was. And we had to camp there overnight. We had nothing really. We had to give up all our


rifles and machine guns. Because the infantry had been sunk - one of the boats had been sunk and the infantry never had their guns. So we had to give them ours. So I don’t think we could have done too much as far as engineering there. We had no transport no nothing. We just sat there and took up - oh they did supply us with American rifles


and a few tommy guns. But no, nothing much to do but sit there and wait. And then of course, we moved up to from where we were a truck came along or trucks and picked us up and took us up to Canea That’s where the - very close to Maleme which is the aerodrome and that’s where the fun really started. We did have, before that we had a few planes bombing us.


But that was nothing compared to where we were.
So you camped up at Canea.
Just outside of Canea. About one and a half to two mile out. We were guarding brigade headquarters there. And then these Germans getting closer and closer. They started to lob in -


I can’t think of it. They were a shell but … what do you call them when you drop them down a barrel and they just go bang out. They started to lob them in our camp where we were. And as I say, then we got really bombed. That’s where that number two of mine - see we weren’t allowed to fire. In fact


we had nothing to fire with except these tommy guns and they were useless as far as aircraft were concerned. And as I say, we - number two, he was in another slit trench with a chap and they both got blown up. That was a bit of a blow really. But we didn’t last there for too long.


Only about six days I suppose we would have been in that place. Then we had to start walking all the way back over the white mountains - they call them the white mountains. And to a place called Sfakia. There was nothing we could do about it. We couldn’t get off. First of all, I think, the first ones to go off were British I think. The British


troops were the first to get taken off. Then the New Zealanders and then they were going to take the infantry off - the Second Seventh, but the ship didn’t come back for us. So we got caught there.
So the allies were in retreat - they were outnumbered on Crete? The Germans were winning.
Actually, I wouldn’t say the Germans were outnumbered. I would say


that the airforce - see we had no artillery hardly – nothing, you know. We had about two tanks. We had nothing to fight with really compared to what the Germans had. Gosh when their planes started to land and they were dropping in, bringing in hundreds of well armed infantry. Our blokes were lucky to have blooming


ammunition to fire at them.
That must have been horrible.
Oh, it was. It was really a bad show. As I say, to see us marching back over the mountains it would have looked bloody awful. We were all straggling along. It wasn’t an army at all. No, it was a shocking turn out that.


But in the finish we managed to hang on to Tobruk. We hung on to there for quite a few months. And then Alamein. You’ve heard of that of course, El Alamein, which I never had anything to do with that. But that must have been - that was number Nine Division I believe. I don’t know what engineers would have been in that. But they done a damn - see they chased the Germans right across back to


So when you realised that you were in retreat and you were possibly going to be captured on Crete and the boat didn’t come back for you, how did you feel?
Bloody awful. The major went down and met the Germans apparently and then he came back and told us to smash up all


our rifles and to follow him down to the bridge. A few of the blokes escaped. I don’t know whether they escaped from that spot, but a few of our unit did escape. One of them was on the island for another twelve months. He must have been well looked after by the Cretians.


Yes there was quite a few that got off eventually. And the submarines and things that came back on because the Germans were in charge, had the skies to themselves and no boats could come in. They could get in of a night time I suppose, but they had to try and get out in the daytime.
So how many Australian troops were left there?
I wouldn’t have a clue to be honest. It’d be about - I would say Australians in the vicinity of about


three thousand. I don’t know how many thousand got captured there. About I’d say, six to eight thousand I’d say, on Crete.
So you had a chance to get off but …
Oh yes. If the boats had kept coming we would have got off alright, yes, because the Germans wouldn’t have been that strong. They had to get their


infantry over the mountains would take a while. We only wanted a couple of days. That’s all we needed.
Can you recall when the Germans came and actually captured you?
Yes. They were alright. We were all just formed up, searched - we weren’t all searched, only some of us, then we were marched off.


All the way back again. I think it was forty or fifty mile at least we had to go back. That’s a long way to march. Well, they’d already marched us over and then we had to go back again. And everybody was hungry of course, no water hardly. So it wasn’t very nice. But we survived.
So they marched you to where?


Just outside of Canea. Back to Skines. I must tell you, one little village we went through - I don’t know what we nicknamed it eventually, but up against, oh it must have been about ten trees, there were bodies of the British. They must have been our rear guard. And they hadn’t dug slit trenches or anything.


They just raced up to a tree and got behind a tree when the bombs was dropping. That was useless. They were just all dead. The only thing that were missing of them was their boots. The Greeks I suppose the Cretians had taken their boots. But they were - we gave it a name or something like Statues. But that was about ten of them. Just shows you how, because they hadn’t dug slit trenches -


well maybe they were marching back themselves when they got caught there, I don’t know what, but that proved beyond doubt that to be below ground level you were safe. But to be above ground level you were never safe.
But were there many times when you felt like your life, you were very close to death?
No. Oh during the raids you know it was - bombs were, the noise was shocking, the screaming of the Stukas coming down and the bombs were screaming too


when they were dropping. You’ve got no idea of the noise. They say if you hear them screaming they’re not going to hit you. But I don’t believe that. I reckon I could hear the noise before the bomb got to me. Well even that bomb that killed those – ‘cause we really got bombed one day. They hit our camp at about oh, five or six, five hundred pound bombs and that was a lot. The noise was shocking. In fact, the major came to me,


I was in charge of the stretcher party to take the wounded back to a hospital. A civilian came along and showed me where to go, good on you. But we never had a clue where the hospital was. We went all back with these wounded blokes. And coming back


it was nighttime by the time we got back to our camp again. We got held up by one of the sentries. He goes, who goes there? I had to give him the password, which I gave him. And he didn’t say a word. Well that’s the first and only time I can remember losing my control. I really went to town on him, called him everything, for not giving us the word to pass and to say


go past. He didn’t do it quick enough. It was just after that the major came to me and he said, “Make out a list of all the men in your section that you think can’t take any more.” I said, “I think I’m going to put everybody’s name down.” But there was two or three that we had to send back. But that was only for a couple of days


and then we all moved back.
So you were actually literally carrying wounded people back to the hospital?
Oh, had to carry them, yes. And made up stretchers too out of blankets and a couple of sticks. I never had to carry them cause I was in charge, but still and all, that was about four men to every stretcher.
Interviewee: Henry Duus Archive ID 0719 Tape 04


Okay, so you were marched fifty miles to Skines by the Germans on Crete.
To Sfakia.
To Sfakia, was it? So then what happened once you arrived there - officially - I’m talking about Crete.
Oh beg your pardon, I’m wrong. Yeah, we marched back over the mountain again to Skines.


Just outside of Canea.
And what happened when you got there?
We went into what used to be the Italian prisoner of war camp. ‘Cause they’d vacated that. And we got fed which was very little I must admit. And everything


just sat around all day long doing nothing until - how long were we there for? Must have been there for oh, two or three weeks at least, I reckon. And then we had to march back to Suda Bay and put on a boat and sent over to Greece. When we got to Greece -


how did we get to Athens? Must have landed. See in the first place we landed at Piraeus in the big boat, but I suppose with a small kayak they could have landed further up the coast nearer Athens, I would say. So we went to a prisoner of war camp just in Athens, around about Athens somewhere.


We were there for a couple of weeks and then we got moved out and put on a train to Salonica. And that’s where the fun started. Was about forty men to a carriage and we got as far as Brallos Pass when we had to get out of the train and march over the Pass,


which was a twenty six mile march. I can - oh that’s another thing too. I can remember one of the guards pulling me out of the line once to go back about fifty yards and help another soldier that was in strife. And put him into a truck. So I helped the soldier into the truck. And of course I climbed in after him thinking I was going to get away. The guard wouldn’t have a bit of it though. He pulled me back out.


I never forget that. I thought, oh I’ve done this helping the soldier get in the truck I’m going to go with him. Because they were going to go over Brallos Pass to a place called Lamia where the train was waiting for us over that side.
So how was the journey to that point? Was it hard?
No, that wasn’t bad up to Brallos. It wasn’t bad, from


Athens to Brallos wasn’t bad at all. It was forty to a truck, but still it wasn’t bad. But when we got out and had to march over it that was a different story all together. That’s a decent size pass and we had to march over that. You go twenty six miles it was, to go over that. Gee it was a long way. Different to Mount Dandenong and those sort of places.


And we also seen what the Germans had done to fix up the damage that we’d done to the pass. ‘Cause we’d blown it, made a hell of a mess of the pass when we went back over it in the first place. We’d gone up to, nearly to Salonica and then we were when the Germans were coming along we had to start coming back, we had to go back over the pass. So we blew it again. Boy, did we make a mess of that. But


the Germans fixed it up all right. Amazing. I was really amazed at the work they done on that. They didn’t fix up the tunnel we blew though apparently, because that’s why we had to get out and march over it. But as I said, when we got to Lamia we got put into these trucks again and off we went to Salonica. So we got there and as I said we -


All the windows were smashed in the camp. I don’t know why. Whether air raids or what. But as I say, every little thing we did wrong we would be put on parade and stood in the sun for hours. It was bad. That was the Austrians. They were worse than the - I thought the Germans were Austrians, but


they were certainly different to the ones we had, the Germans, north of Germany.
So when you arrived at the camp in Salonica and it was mostly Austrian guards, was it?
What happened to you? How did they process you?
Well, they didn’t. No, we never got much of a - we just got put in the camp and fed morning and evening with damn wheat soup and biscuits as hard as rocks. No,


I can’t remember anything except, you know, some of the blokes went out to work and managed to buy some food. I don’t know how they got the money to buy the food with. But they did. And different things they got. And then they’d come back to camp and sell some of the stuff at exorbitant prices. But no, I don’t think there’s anything really happened much on


Salonica except staying on parade for hours on end. That was one of the worst things that could have happened to us. And every camp we went to was lice and bugs. I can remember once my neck was just about level with my shoulder. It was all swollen up with bugs. You could hit the end of your bed with a bit of wood or anything


and they’d just go zoom zoom - the bugs, hundreds of them. And lice! We’d be all day getting the lice out of the seams of our trousers and things. Oh God. How we never got typhus and that I don’t know. Although we had been, before we left Australia, all immunised against different things you know.
Did you get any medical attention in that camp?
Well, I don’t remember there.


But at Stalag 383, and there would have been definitely, at Moosberg. But Stalag 383 we had our own hospital there. Our own doctors and everything. ‘Cause one - my mate had to go in there for an operation once.
So at that point in Salonica -being the first camp you went to - you had no idea how long you were going to be there for?


No. It was only a matter of weeks, but we didn’t know. We never had a clue until they told us, you’re going into Germany now. I suppose when I say we never had a clue we must have known they wasn’t going to leave us there. And different groups went but we were one of the unlucky groups that we never got out of the truck once. Oh, we got out once at a station on the way. But otherwise


we were locked up the whole five days and that was shocking. You can imagine. Forty men in a truck with no toilet facilities, what it was like. In fact, I remember once a bloke seweraged stuff out of the window, the corner of the window, and the wind must have blown it around the back of the truck and covered the German sentry that we didn’t even know was on that end of the truck.


So when the train pulls up the colonel or major whatever he was, screaming at us. Made us open or they opened the door and made a couple of blokes get out and clean him up. All the dirt all over him. We thought it was fun.
So this was crossing Europe from Greece to Germany?
Yes, that’s right. And another time we pulled up and


a German army train was going towards Greece pulled up alongside us and I happen to be right at the window. There’s only two little windows in the whole of the truck. Cattle trucks. Of course, he said to me, “England kaput.” And one word I knew, kaput, meant finished. And I said, “Oh Deutschland kaput.”


Gee whiz, up came a rifle! I couldn’t back away from the window because the blokes were behind me, holding me, more or less wanting to have a look too, to see what was going on. He said, “England kaput!” And I said, “Deutschland kaput.” Which they weren’t. They were winning anything at that time of the war. He didn’t like it one bit.
Sounds like you had quite a good sense of humour. A bit mischievous actually?
Oh, sometimes yeah.


Oh, gosh they were funny. You can laugh at some of the things happened. But as I say, you get into these trips and things and get moved here and moved there. And the rumours. You’ve got no idea what the rumours were like. Oh, the Russians are advancing, we’ll be free in a couple of days and all this. As I always remember us saying


never believe nothing what you hear, only half what you see. That’s a pretty good saying too. Believe nothing what you hear and half what you see. I remember in Salonica, up near the top of Greece in our first camp, the rumours were strife. The Russians were advancing. We could even hear the


artillery being fired. That was because the Germans had started to attack the Russians, you see. Actually Crete put the Germans back about a month from their original idea of attacking Russia. By being put back a month it caused them to be caught in that first winter in Russia. Oh, it was a shocking winter. Even in the Moosberg, in Germany, where I was for the


first winter, was twenty degrees below zero. Now that is really cold. I can remember walking out of the shower once. We had a massive delousing room in this camp we were in. It would have taken a hundred men I suppose. I walking out and I was all dressed, but I hadn’t done my hair and I’m looking in a window to try and do my hair. I’m putting the comb through my hair - that was in say two minutes of walking out of that


shower room and I had ice on my hair. That tells you how cold it was.
So how did you keep warm in those situations?
We got dressed up in – ‘cause we had very little ourselves when we first got to Germany - but we were issued with British uniforms. In fact I think there’s even a photo up there of me sitting down getting my photo taken. I had a blooming round cap on


with a bridge overcoat. You got dressed to go to bed. Everything you owned you put on to go to bed ‘cause you only had a couple of blankets. A lot of the time we even slept together to keep warm. That was the first winter. The other winters weren’t so bad. That was the first winter was the worst.
Did you have fires?
Yes. We had little fires in the huts.


But it didn’t keep it very warm. No. They were so big, the huts. Two hundred men. Well two hundred men alone make a bit of warmth because the body heat can help. But no, we survived. There’s a couple of photos up there. I’ll show them to you later. You can even see how cold it was. It was very bitter. But that was the worst winter after that and then when we went to this -


got on a train, all the NCOs only were put on a train and taken to Hohenfels 383, and as I say, we looked after ourselves more or less. We even dug trenches in the ground about that deep and about oh, it would have been that wide - three or four foot wide - and about a foot deep. Put straw in them. And then they tipped these potatoes in.


For the winter rations. They would have gone for a hundred yards these trenches. And you’d build up a pyramid of potatoes. You cover them with straw and then put the earth back on top. But by the time the end of the winter came and you were digging, oh they were rotten. They lasted a fair while. For quite a while they were quite good. But by the end of the winter they were rotten.


That was our food. But at Hohenfels we got a Red Cross parcel every week. And that was really marvellous. Twelve men to a hut. We would put the whole twelve on and take out just say the chocolates and the cigarettes, and there was parcels from Canada and parcels from England. And the Canadian were better than the English


parcels which you can imagine because England was pretty hungry themselves. But to get a parcel a week and that was really marvellous. You can imagine. They were all stored in the thing. Plus the bit of German food we got which was damn water and potatoes really. So no, we didn’t do too bad. We even had rabbits. We kept rabbits there. We used to feed the rabbits and made a little


thing. That was right up near the fence. We were lucky there. ‘Cause if we had have been back in the centre of it we couldn’t have had rabbits. The huts were too close together. Where we had a big gap between the front of our hut to the fence. We had rabbits. We had pigeons. Not very many pigeons. And we even used to - out of some of the prunes and stuff


we used to get in our Red Cross parcel, we could brew up a decent brew. And once I can remember we had a brew made up and my mate had a mouthful in his mouth and he got one of these pigeons, and they were brother and sister these two, and they were useless as far as producing eggs and that. They had the eggs, but they never produced anything in them. He got one of the pigeons and gave it half this stuff he had in his mouth. Well it was drunk.


I can still see it. We stood outside - he threw it up on the roof of the hut which was only not very high. And the female - this is the male he gave the brew to. The female wanted the bird to go on the eggs. And she gets up there and she’s going crook. Well you should have seen it. He starts to chase. She hops over the thing. The male bird starts to chase her. And there’s a little bit of a gap about that wide between the huts.


Straight down through it he went. God, laugh. There must have been about a hundred blokes there watching this. It was really a scream. Real pantomime put on for a while. After that what else did we do. I was saying we had plays. Football. That was taken over in the finish though for more huts because the war was


nearly finished. The plays, we could only go on once every three months or six months because there wasn’t enough room - there was so many thousands in the camp. So you couldn’t see it that much. We used to play bridge. We had bridge contests. Playing cards. So we filled in our time like that.


You had a mate, John Sweeney, you mentioned earlier. You said he called himself a corporal so he could -
Oh sergeant! Yeah, made himself a sergeant. Higher than me.
How did he pull that off?
Just said he was. When they said what was he, he said Sergeant McSweeney. He got away with it too. A lot of them tried it, didn’t get away with it. But no, he got


away with it for the whole time, which was amazing. You’d think - I don’t know how he got his letters. He must have put sergeant on the letters when he wrote away to his parents and that. Oh gosh no, he did. He was lucky.
You had to be pretty clever to survive well.
Well, but as I always said, Hohenfels would have been one of the best prisoner


of war camps to be in. And for me to be a corporal was - I was lucky. Otherwise I’d have been working. Although John didn’t work. See, he wasn’t a corporal or a sergeant even. But you had to be cheeky and get away with it. I don’t think I would have been cheeky enough for that. I don’t even know – ‘cause we didn’t know when we were first taken prisoner that corporals never had to work. We never knew any of the rules of the Geneva Convention. So


he was lucky to say he was a sergeant.
So what was the sort of work they were offering if they made you work?
Oh, down the coal mine. Working on the railways. And I think some of them even went to the farms. But no, it would have been, the mines would have been by far the worst. That would have been no joke. But


I still think we were damn lucky that we were German prisoners of war and not Japanese prisoners of war. That was a different matter altogether. I don’t think there would have been no corporals and sergeants in that for a start off. But oh no, that was when you think of the ones that died now when you see the skeletons coming home - did you ever see photos? I suppose you wouldn’t - you weren’t old enough to see them. But you could have seen photos of them when they came in - just skeletons.


The first three months of being a prisoner was bad and the last six months. And the last six months was because we couldn’t get a Red Cross parcel. Our planes had bombed all the roads, railways and bridges and things. They couldn’t get the trucks through so we didn’t get a Red Cross parcel for about the last six months. That was really - we were really bad. But it wasn’t the Germans’ fault, it was our fault


I suppose if you want to put it that way. We lost weight badly. I was down to about six or seven stone I think. Which was pretty light for me.
How was morale?
Oh yes. Morale was pretty good. Yes. Especially in the Hohenfels ‘cause we had the wireless sets too.


We could hear the good news. All the good news was coming in. After the first couple of years - 1942 was the first year or so we got caught - when did we get caught - say June - I think it was the first of June we got caught, taken prisoner. So


first two years was all Germans winning. After Alamein was the start of it and then of course they didn’t put the European attack until about ‘44 I think it was. 1944 when the British and Americans hit


Cologne or wherever it was they first - where was it - where did they attack first? Anyway it was on the coast of France. That’s when we started getting all the good news. We knew it was going to, that we were going to get free eventually. But I think, as that letter said, they thought it was going to be twelve months quicker than it was. That was a stupid thing to get I reckon. God, I think we had to wait twelve months for it.


Oh, they were thrilled to pieces to get the letter and think we were getting out. But then it happened. There’s my dog coming down.
You mentioned earlier that you had escape committee?
Oh yes. It wasn’t so much - at the very beginning of 383 I think they dug a tunnel and a few got out. But after that there was very little escapes.


Escape Committees have got to try and get the paper ready for you and the maps and different things. But living in the centre of the enemy - Germany - if you got out - plenty of them escaped especially those who were working, escaped for a few days but they all got picked up. I only heard of, in the whole time I was a prisoner of war, I only heard of one person escaping.


And he escaped to Switzerland by putting a ladder under a carriage in a train. That would have been a nightmare of a trip, wouldn’t it? But still and all he did it. And he got there. But he said, never try it again. I think when the Germans found out how he had got there they had some sort of steam trap at the end of the line just to make sure no-one got through.


See they used to work on the railways, at Munich. And that’s the only one I heard of the whole time that actually got away. Others might have got away coming to Germany when they were in friendly countries like Yugoslavia and that. But none I heard of - plenty of them escaped. Those that went out working tried to escape. But they all got picked up.


I had another friend - he wasn’t a sergeant or anything - Wally Wilkens his name was. He took the place of an air force bloke in the camp he was in so that the airmen could escape. But I don’t think they -


they might have escaped, but that was it. Just for a few days. Most of them got picked up. Well, all the trains were always searched every day by the Gestapo and that. I’ll tell you one thing - I can remember the Gestapo coming in and searching our camp - only a section of it because it was a massive camp. And the commandant or someone had told our


officers what huts they were going to search. So before they got there all our blokes were in the huts were walking around with Red Cross passes full of personal things. Gosh, you’ve got no idea. So fancy, you know, telling us - because one of the reason why, when I thought about it, was if they found wireless sets and different things in our hut he’d have got into a hell


of a strife over it. Wouldn’t he? So that was that. What else could I tell you?
So you had a mutual arrangement with the Germans?
More or less. Yes. As I say, we could bribe the guards who used to come into the camp and handcuff us every day. We could bribe them. That was well known. Well I suppose they were bribing us. We had a camp out here at


Stud Road, we had a camp just over Wellington Road, we had a prisoner of war camp there. I bet they got bribed too by the Germans. Because they would have got Red Cross parcels, I would think. It’s a funny old world isn’t it?
So did you ever consider escaping yourself?
A mate and I had all plans made in Moosberg once. We were going to try.


But that fell through. I got moved. Well we both got moved to Hohenfels. I don’t think I even thought about escaping after that. That was about as far as we ever got.
So what were your plans?
To try and escape? Oh I don’t know what we were trying to do. Something to do with the front gate, I know that. But what it was I wouldn’t have a clue. See our camp


was divided into two sections. Russians on one side, and all the French and British and Canadians on our side. And a double wire fence separating us. And do you know, the Russians were that hungry that they would try and climb over the fences to get into our camp. And quite a few got shot. And they’d just leave the bodies there for five or six days before they’d let them go. Yet they treated us like they did.


See the Russians were different altogether. I think the Russians treated the Germans pretty bad too. I heard that when the Russians surrounded the Germans at Stalingrad - that was one of their big big moves they took about ninety thousand German prisoners, and I think out of that ninety thousand about five thousand got back. So you don’t know. You don’t hear of these things much but that’s what I heard.


So it was possible to organise identity papers?
Oh gosh, yes. You’d be surprised. I mean to say, when you’ve got an NCO camp and that goes down from sergeant majors right down to the lowest level like I was - there were some brains in that camp. And as I say, you could bribe the guards. I never heard of them getting cameras, but they must have had cameras.


To take photos and things. You’d be surprised what the people could do when they set their minds to it. It used to amaze you what they could do. We had a swimming pool which was really a fire hazard pool - get water


quickly in case the got bombed and the huts went up in flames. Which we could use for swimming in the summer time. And we had every other amenity as I told you before. It was quite good. Except for the last six months and that was bad, but that’s how it goes. I bet the prisoners of war who came to Australia


lived like bloody kings. They’d be well fed, I’ll bet, ‘cause we had plenty of food.
So there must have been very strong mateship bonds.
Oh yes. Yes very strong, even in the hut. I must admit a few fights occurred in the hut but


no, on the whole they were very good. We had the cooks and all there. Even - not talking about army cooks, they were chefs. Mac and I - that’s my mate - we built an oven to go on the end of our little fire. We had a little fire. About that high it was. I put coal and stuff in it and wood. But where the funnel came - what do you call it - chimney, where the chimney came out


we put an oven on it, made an oven. And do you know - I can’t think of his name - made a Christmas cake out of the stuff from our parcels. And it was huge. I forget how long it took to cook. It was hours and hours it took to cook. And I think it was about an inch at the bottom had to be chopped off. It was all burnt. But to think that you could do that.


Baked a Christmas cake.
Was that at Christmas time?
Oh God, yes. I don’t think we used it much more times than that, but it done the job. And it was made out of tins - now where would we have got tins - must have got tins in the Red Cross parcels. And the oven,


that’s all it was made of, was tins joined together. I know we had a sort of a laundry down not very far from our hut with a steel top. Must have been - I don’t know what the steel top was for - I know we used to go down there and hammer these tins to get them flattened and to join each one to make the oven. It took a lot of work. It’s amazing


what you can do. When you seen some of our plays they put on and the costumes and that that they done - they were amazing. Men dressed up as women and they were good looking too. What a group of men can do - or even anybody I suppose, and using all their brains. It is amazing.


So where did resources like fabrics and … ?
That’s it. Damned if I know. I know Red Cross parcels were used for a lot of food and cooking and cakes and things like that. Cigarettes. I suppose the commandant might have allowed a lot of stuff to come in.


But also, we could bribe, as I said, the guards to bring in anything. You’d be surprised. I got what they call an ersatz crystal. That’s for - you don’t hear of them nowadays - oh wireless sets - what do you call them. Crystal wireless set - you ever heard of that? I know I got a crystal off the - and an earphone - and a roll


of fine wire - I don’t know how. I couldn’t tell you how I made it. Someone must have told me or showed me how to make the damn thing. But I made this wireless set. It was only a little tiny thing. I was even lying in bed one day listening to the wireless and the German guards came in. They just looked around and out they went again. They were shrewd sometimes, you know. We might have a


mirror up on the wall. Instead of turning their heads they’d be looking in the mirror to see what you were doing behind them. They weren’t stupid that way. No.
Can you remember anything else that you were able to get from the guards?
No, I can’t. No, they were very good. The only time they used to go crook was of a Saturday afternoon when


we left the handcuffs on. And that’s the strange part about it. Other parts of Germany, other camps had to have handcuffs on too. But they were made to leave them on. They were very serious. Our camp, as I say, they’d come in and five minutes after they’d walked out we’d taken the damn things off, you know, and they never went crook about it. I suppose the commandant


thought well they put them on we’ll collect them at night time, that’s it. But when they used to come in of a night they’d always count them. Make sure they were got the lot. (Counts in German) Ein, swein, dry, ver, vin, six, oh good, good, good.
So do you have any idea why they were so lenient.
None. Not a bit. It was good for them. They could just walk in and pick up twelve handcuffs instead of unscrewing each one. You can imagine the time it took.


Oh, gosh yes. Oh, they would save an hour at least, oh more. I couldn’t imagine unscrewing. There was different groups of them came in. I don’t know how many came in. I know there was only about two blokes walked in each hut. There was hundred of huts there.


As you say, why were they so lenient. God. But some of them weren’t lenient, some of the camps. They were unlucky. That’s what I always said I was always lucky as far as that was concerned. In fact, I think I was very lucky right through the whole war. Being made a corporal about the week before I was taken prisoner. If I hadn’t have been a corporal my mate wouldn’t have been a sergeant.


That’s for bloody sure. He wouldn’t have even thought of it I’ll bet.
So when did you first realise that the war was over and that you …?
Well, they made us march out of the camp and we marched towards Nuremberg. No Ravensburg. They weren’t very far apart, both those


big towns. And then we turned left at Ravensburg and marched towards Munich. And I don’t know how far we would have gotten from Munich but it wouldn’t have been that far. But we were stopped over night. I don’t know how - we were there for a day or two days or what. It wasn’t very long. Only a matter of days I would say. We woke up one


morning and all the guards had gone. So we had to look after ourselves. Not that we’d been getting much food from that march - there was very little. But we were getting something. So we had to scout around. Must have been a bit terrifying for the German civilians because we were hunting around for food.


We got it though.
But it must have been - was it peculiar to you that suddenly you were being marched off out of the camp or had you already heard?
Oh yes. Oh well we had heard, I don’t know how we heard. But we, and then of course they told us to get ready to march. We knew by our news that the Germans were getting closer to Berlin and those places. But we didn’t know we were going to be affected, our camp was. I don’t know why they - they said they were trying


to get us back up into the hills. What for, I don’t know. But I couldn’t understand why they had to move us to be honest. Any rate, they did. As I say, we marched and next morning, well a couple of mornings after we woke up - we wouldn’t have been on the road more than a week - some of them were on the road for months. In fact, that photo, that one I showed you before, that told you I think, Ron Keogh


was six months on the road. So that’s a long time. That’d be over the winter he would have been marching. Whereas we were still in our camp until we were told to march out. And as I say, when we woke up they were all gone so then we had to start hunting for food ourselves. And about, I would say, twenty four hours after the guards had gone the American tanks came through.


Then we got picked up by trucks. Two or three days later that was. Picked up by trucks and taken to the aerodrome and away we went. Very nice. Getting close?
Interviewee: Henry Duus Archive ID 0719 Tape 05


Now Henry before lunch we were talking about those last days pretty much of the POW camp. You’ve also been telling us some great stories about the camaraderie there and the things you got up to with your mates. It’s almost sounding - you remember that show Hogan’s Heroes?
I heard of that one.


Did you ever see that show?
I’ve heard of that one. (UNCLEAR)
I just get a picture of it being actually quite a fun time. There might have been the odd bit of tension here and there.
That’s right. Oh, for sure. Yes in war time it was ninety percent fun and work and boredom and about ten percent was fear. That’s about it. That’d be exaggerating it too half the time.
So I guess yeah, this morning we’ve talked a lot about that ninety percent -


it feels like to me - the good times and the - even in the thick of things there’s this sense of humour.
That’s quite right. I mean it takes you sometimes weeks to work up to an attack which is over in a day or two days. And it takes another month to get it up to another attack. That’s why I say it’s only ten percent fear. Because - although I must admit once the aircraft start coming in on you


it makes a damn big difference. But the first three or four months up in the desert we were in charge of the sky, as you might say. We had a few Italian planes and that.
So that ten percent we’re talking about sounds like they’re the most intense feelings you have.
That’s right, yes. And that’s only on rare occasions. Crete would have been more intense throughout than any other. Even on Greece it wasn’t too bad.


But on Crete it was worse by far. That was only for about five or six days. But you were constantly under pressure.
What keeps you going in those situations?
I don’t know. Some can’t take it I must admit, but most of them took it alright. We were worried,


I must admit. I think we do tend to exaggerate a lot of stuff though. That Bali bombing, that was a shocking thing to happen. But that sort of thing was happening every five minutes in the bombing raids over Hamburg and Coventry and those places. It’s a thing


that you get used to. I suppose it being war time you allowed for it. In peace time you don’t. It’s a bit of a shock in peace time. Just one of those things.
As you say you are prepared for it in war time, but… PHONE RINGS
When it first happened I broke an ankle. We had the phone in there. She was in an armchair or a wheelchair there


and oh, I got up and down every five minutes. I was up to the phone. Our daughter had one of these cordless phones which she put away and hadn’t used for years so she brought it down to us thank God. They’re handy aren’t they?
Yeah. My grand folks have got one. So we were saying in wartime you are prepared for those sorts of horrible events.
I think so. Whereas in peacetime it’s such a shock.


I think the shock was more that affects you. I think, as you say in war time it’s just a natural thing. You should expect it.
I guess the more it happens the more used to it you get. But I’m just wondering, for me it’s just hard to imagine, not having been through anything like that. That first time that …
Well, I must admit the first time would have been the worst. You’d have been scared out of your pants almost. But no, you got used to it. Diving.


I can remember it was the last day on Greece there was one of those army trucks that had goods on it like plums, a tin of plums, all this - canteen, an army canteen - and it was a truck and it had been put out of action and we were all helping ourselves to its contents.


And I picked up a tin of plums. We’re walking along there - I don’t know how I got the tin opened - must have been with my bayonet I suppose. Any rate all of a sudden these three German planes just come over the hill - only a matter of wouldn’t have been a mile away - machine guns going and I made a flaming dive through this little vineyard - about that high it was - to a little creek bed to get in the cover I thought.


Got halfway there and hit the root of a vine and arse over head I went with my plums. Do you know I stopped for a minute to try and pick up the plums. And then I dived for the damn creek. When that raid had finished I think every truck on the road was on fire. But it was one of those things - once it’s finished it’s finished. You know what I mean? You might have been all upset while it was on, but oh no, you get used to all these


raids after a while. It becomes part of life, I suppose. And yes, I can remember that dropping those tin of plums was worse that the bloody raid really.
You lost the plums?
Oh, lost the plums, Christ yes, amongst all the vines and that. But no, that was the last day on Greece. But as I say, you were used to it. You were used to these raids and diving in and diving out and you kept


coming up alive. I think the first time I would say would be the worst time - the biggest shock I think. Never been in a raid before you don’t know what to expect. But after you’ve been in a raid fifty or sixty times you get used to it.
Can you cast your mind back to that very first time and tell us about what exactly went through your mind?
The actual first time that I would say a plane was in striking distance of me,


in fact it was very close, was at Benghazi. We were camped in a barracks right in Benghazi more or less. There was an aerodrome right on one side and these planes would keep coming in and shooting up the planes and that. Then they’d come out and come back past our


camp, the barracks. I can remember, ‘cause I had an ack ack gun at that time, we were allowed to use them. And we were firing at them as they went past. They couldn’t fire at me because they were going past me. But they’d be coming straight at me it would have been a bloody sight difference. But going past me they were no danger to me whatsoever, really.


They were when they hit the airport and came in. But after that they were right. But that would be the first experience. But we had a job to do to line them up and fire and try and get them. Actually we were credited with getting a plane that day. ‘Cause we were the only machine guns firing at them apparently when it crashed. And whether it was our gun or not no-one really knows. But we were the only machine gun


firing at it apparently. But no, that’s one of those things I say. You get used to it.
I guess you’ve got a job to do.
Yeah. You’ve got a job to do. I mean you take any - builders’ jobs, they’re walking around roofs and things. They just get used to it. Just take it don’t they, after a while. The first couple of times they’d be scared stiff they were going to fall off. But after a while you get used to it. I think that’s what happens in war time. In Greece there somebody


would be behind the driver up in the back of the truck. You’d thump the roof saying there’s a plane coming. He’d pull up, we’d all dive out into the bush. But then they got a bit wise to us doing that. They’d go up on the sides of the road instead of attacking the road in the finish, and the machine guns.
And what was your response to that?
Well, you just take it. It’s something you can’t do anything about. We were just pawns.


There’s nothing you can do about it.
So there’s a sense of powerlessness as well.
Oh absolutely. Especially when you haven’t got any planes to attack them, and look after you. That’s the whole point. When you’ve got planes, so help you, you’re advancing and they go and drop bombs in front of you it’s helping you, but when the Germans have got control of the sky they’re dropping bombs on us while they’re coming forward.


It makes a big difference.
Just now you were talking about the instance where you were trying to hold onto your tin of plums and lost your plums and then you found the convoy or the trucks were …
Oh God yes, every one of them was on fire. But there wouldn’t have been that many of them. There would have been only about half a dozen because we weren’t allowed to bring our trucks down to the area where we were going to evacuate. They wanted to keep that as much of a secret as they could. Not that there was much


secret I don’t think, about it, because when they finished there the planes were flying over us.
That was in Greece?
In Greece. And that’s why we had to destroy our trucks and that, right back at Athens which was at least, might be more, than five mile back. But yes, and this is what - I always remember dropping those damn plums. It’s strange how little things like that can


remember. To see those, they were only at treetop height you know the planes. Gosh, they were damn good pilots I must admit, because they were flying up and down and they just flew over. Of course, there’s a few trucks on the road and next minute they’re having a go at them.
So where’s that leave you if the trucks are…?
Oh, it didn’t worry us. Because we had nothing to do with those trucks, they weren’t ours. We only had to keep walking down to the


beach which wasn’t very far from there.
So it sounds like there’s quite a bit of respect on your part and probably your colleagues with the German pilots and the (UNCLEAR).
Oh, anybody who thought they weren’t much good or weak or anything, oh no, they’re wrong. They were good pilots. Very good. Very strong. We noticed a big difference between them and the Italian planes and that. Most times the Italian planes are up that high you couldn’t see them.


But the German ones they were more attacking. And even people sort of get a bit blasé and leave lights on of a night time. Whether they did it on purpose, I don’t know. But I can remember once when I was up on top of these barracks in an ack ack position and we were just looking around there was a light came on. The officer


said to me, “Open fire.” I said, “Our patrol’s out somewhere, sir.” He said, “Open fire.” So I bang! I open fire. About quarter of an hour later the patrol comes back and did they blast me! Must have been firing over their heads I suppose.
So you’ve obviously seen a lot of courage from different quarters. Can you remember …?
Oh yes.


I think it’s all just, you’re trained for these things. I don’t know what it is. I mean, some poor devils couldn’t take it. More so I’d say the older ones were a bit weaker on it. No, the young bucks I think, took it in their stride half of them. Like I told you before about the major coming down and saying to me, oh make out a list of all those that you don’t think can take any more of it.


Well I just said to him, I think I’ll put them all down. But they weren’t going to stay there so it didn’t make any difference.
So did you do that because you didn’t want to dob any individual specifically or …?
Not really. No, I think they would have been pleased if I’d put their names down. In fact a couple of them did finish up getting taken out. But the majority - you know there’s some weak ones and some strong. Others


just take it in their stride. Like I was telling you about that colonel doing that bomb. He’s as calm as calm. When I walked into that laneway and saw the size of that bomb I thought, God. I thought, what the hell are we doing here. ‘Cause it could blow up any second as far as I was concerned. But he just - there was a ring about this big halfway down it, he just tapped it off and got to work. I don’t know what he done inside the bomb, but he made it …


fixed it up.
So can you relate to us examples of men who couldn’t handle the stress, the tension?
Well not really. There’d only be two or three of them I think that were sent back to Suda Bay and the couple of those got back to Alexandria by boat. See we had to go the other side of the island to get


to Sfakia to get off. Suda Bay in that last day or two you couldn’t get near there cause it’s just bombed and bombed. No it’s hard. Even some of the troops that got off of Crete got bombed anyway. They were just as bad off on the water as what we were on the land. Although I must admit we never got machine gunned or bombed on the last day when we were


before we were taken prisoner. I suppose because the German troops were wandering in and out there. It’d be a bit close for them to start doing that.
So if I’m not mistaken some of those ships that were ferrying troops from Crete back to Palestine, some of those ships didn’t make it?
Palestine. That’s right.
And did you know about that?
Not at the time, but we did hear about it yes.


But I mean to say, it doesn’t mean to say that everybody on board the ship was killed. It’s not like that when the Hood got blown up. You heard of that? That was one of the British battle ship. The name of the German ship was Bismarck I think. One shell must have gone right down into the funnel or something and blew up the ammunitions. And out of about twelve hundred crew I think about a matter of a dozen or so got out of it


alive. Just blew it to pieces you see. The explosion - it doesn’t matter about being where the bomb hits, it’s the pressure of the explosion that kills you.
(UNCLEAR) ask you one of those million dollars questions, do you think you were luckier being captured and ending up in the POW camp? Or would you have rather’d you …?
Well no. Oh well, I was lucky I was a corporal and never had to work. That made my life


much easier for the next four years. But the other prisoners they had to work, and now and again some of them got into where the British were bombing, you know, in the German camps. But that was only on rare occasions. We even heard the bombers going over our camp at 383. You know, I think they were going for the oil fields in some other part of the country. And we could hear them


droning over. You had to hold your breath hoping they didn’t start dropping bombs on you or someone shone a light or something like that. Because that was careless, people showing lights. If it’s a blackout it’s got to be a blackout, not a light shining.
Can you remember any - I know you say that everyone was just doing their job and obviously


there was a sense of humour and there was mateship amongst all these people together. But were there any outstanding acts that you saw of heroism or particularly special feats that you saw achieved against the odds?
No. I didn’t actually ever see any. But I think one of our - a couple of our blokes got medals for something they done. Something to do with the mine lifted under


fire. See in most times when you were lifting up mines you had infantry cover or even artillery cover. But on occasion of course, you were on your own - or with your mates - and someone had to go out and lift these mines so that the infantry could keep moving on or tanks get through or something like that. No, it was only on a couple of occasions.


They say, well I suppose there would have been dozens of acts. But very few got mentioned. Most cases where heroism is there’s no-one round to see it. You do it and …
Was there ever a time you felt like you’d done something that was heroic?
I don’t think so, no. I don’t think I did.


No. Once there we were coming back from Bardia and there was nothing on the road and all of a sudden we came across a truck that’s rear wheel was burning, it was on fire. There was a mate and I in this utility. I don’t know what we were - we might have taken that Arab boy back to the hospital, but I’m not too sure what we were doing down there. Any rate, this truck was on fire so we immediately pulled up to give him a hand.


And no water, so all you could do was throw sand on it, and try and get it out. Wasn’t much of a fire. The brake linings were on fire, burning. I said to him, “What are you carrying?” “Petrol.” Oh God struth. And here we are trying to put a fire out that’s underneath the petrol. And what worried me more was, because in those days the petrol - you’ve seen those four gallon petrol cans haven’t you?


Very thin, paper thin metal. Half of them were leaking by the time we got them. The roads were rough and that. Whereas towards, oh it wouldn’t have been more than two years after that they had those heavy metal things, carrying petrol. Those real heavy metal or something. But those first few we got over there were these truckloads of little square tins, paper thin stuff.


God, they used to leak. And here’s us trying to get a fire out that’s underneath it. Any rate we got it out or stopped it. I don’t know what he was going to do after we left him because there was miles from anywhere.
Who’s truck was that?
I don’t know whose truck it belonged to. It would be I suppose a supply truck of some sort carrying petrol. See that’s the thing about an army that


keeps moving on and on and on. The lines of communication, the longer they get the worse off they are. Because as you can imagine you’ve got to carry say, a thousand gallons of petrol a hundred or two hundred kilometres easy. And if the line gets longer and longer well! Specially in Libya and that. Went forever some of our lines of communication.


And the water was always - although we did have a tanker with us in the finish. A water tanker. That helped a lot. But if you never had them you’d be dying of thirst.
So you could be miles from anywhere, not knowing what’s going on?
Anywhere. Oh no, we didn’t even know what our sections were doing half the time. Or they didn’t know what we were doing. You more or less do you own job.


What you’ve been told to do. Like the major might come to me and say, oh go and so and so. And once, I’ll never forget there was a funny thing happened. This was just before, about the day before we attacked Tobruk. A major came to me and said, drive me over to brigade headquarters, which was going towards Tobruk. We were about I suppose six or eight miles at least from Tobruk at the time, off the road.


And the brigade headquarters was closer on the left-hand side. So he hops in and I drive him up to brigade headquarters which I knew was there because I’d been there a few times before. Drop him off and just turn the truck around a bit to go back. He was in there getting instructions for what he was supposed to do. And having a couple of whiskies too I suppose. I don’t know. Any rate, he comes out eventually. It was


dark. Hops in and of course, I start off and away I go, and next minute this voice is screaming at me, “Where do you think you’re going?” I’m running over or just about running over the slit trenches what the infantry have dug in, they’re just outside Tobruk. Instead of going back towards the road I’m going towards the Italian tool boxes and that.


God, did they roar out at me. So I pull up. The old major gets out and looks up at the stars. I don’t know what he could see in the bloody stars. Anyway he says, “We should be going in this direction.” So we turned around and …
So how close were you to …?
Well that’s it. How close were the … first of all there’s the barbed wire. No, I think the barbed wire came first or the tank trap.


From memory the barbed wire came first. Then the tank trap. And I would have been no more than, I would say, a mile from that because they were dug and ready to move when the time came. So I took him back. And the next day - in the nighttimes it was - we moved camp up towards where brigade headquarters was and went


in front - we were lead by a bloke who’d already marked out the track where we were supposed to go to get ready to attack Tobruk. The artillery opened up - wouldn’t have been fifty yards from us. Over our heads and firing at the Italians. Of course the infantry were all dug in front of us. They were alright.


But no, that was a bit of a shock. I could have easily killed someone that night if I’d got into their slit trench. Usually you only dig a slit trench about that deep. And it’s about that wide. Enough for yourself to get into. Enough for two men usually to crouch down. And there they were yelling out at me to pull up. War’s, I don’t know,


it’s only ten percent fear in the majority of cases. Well it was as far as we were concerned. Although I must admit on Crete it was a bit harder.
Did you ever see - I mean you have spoken of some guys couldn’t handle it, which is human - but can you tell us how that, in what way, how did the pressure get to them, how did they crack, how did they respond?
Just I think the shakes


and that, you know. Just shakes. You knew they were in a bad way. You couldn’t do much about it. But that only happened as I say, only about two or three of my men any rate. How many the whole unit? Because on Crete we were divided - number eight section went to a place called Rethimno. And they had the Germans holed up there. They had them. And one of my mates


was holding them in the prison camp there. Even the general that was in charge of the Germans - General Storm I think his name was, was caught and put in. Lieutenant Denis was the name of that chap who was in charge of that section. And he told his troops to disperse if they wanted to.


When the war finished. He just went into the German general, so he said in the book and said, we’re going to exchange places. So those boys all got taken. Then they had to march about fifty miles along the road back to Skines where we were taken eventually.
How were relations between soldiers and senior officers, for you in particular?


good. I think in most cases, unless the officer is one of these really strict smart alecs. I think they’re really part of the men. The men’d do anything for them. I’m sure of that. I must admit the German officers especially were much more strict, I feel. Although


that one I told you about, handing back the watch was fair minded. But it shows you how strict he was to go up to - I couldn’t see an officer going up and smacking our bloke over the face. He’d probably get a left to the chin or something. But I mean, that’s discipline. And I think we should still have compulsory training here for three or six months of the year.


Where everybody especially the sixteen to twenty year olds get discipline. It’s really strong. I know after the - oh what year would it be - when Vietnam was on - they had a call up then of young blokes. If your number was called out you had to go up. And my son was called out and by gee it made a man out of him even though he didn’t have to go to the war.


But the discipline and training.
Did you ever see, you’re talking about the difference in culture really between the German officers and the Australian officers, if there was any ill discipline amongst the Aussie ranks, how was that dealt with?
Oh well, you would be detailed to do guard duty all the time or some other thing.


Pack drill. Go round wearing pack drill and walk for a few miles with pack drill on. But no, most of it was - our sergeant major was a bit officious when it came to anybody on what do you call it - when they done something wrong you got to go before the major. And you walk in and


the sergeant major would knock his hat off. Stand up there and tell them. Pack drill was the main discipline thing. If you were very bad of course you’d be sent away somewhere else, I suppose. If you done something really wrong. But as far as being AWL [Absent Without Leave] you’d just get pack drill for a few laps of the camp. Something like that. It’s pretty easy.
Was there any talking back?


In most cases no. In our unit I don’t think there was very much. Only a couple of occasions did I think of anything being done. But I mean to say it was mostly just because AWL. I don’t think there was anything really bad. Don’t think for one minute that Australians are all fair and good boys. There are some mongrels amongst our blokes too. That happens in every army. I’m convinced of that.


In fact, all over the world. Some of course are worse than other. I don’t think the Jap soldier was so bad. But it was the NCOs and the officers that was worse in my book. Because they would do the same to their own men as what they do to our prisoners, I reckon. Not that I had anything to do with them. But I can imagine them doing that.
You were talking about some of your mates in Germany


in the camps there. There was one, John McSweeney? Was he someone that you’d been with from the very beginning? He wasn’t part of your battalion or unit was he?
Oh yes. He was part of the unit. I’m just trying to find out. I think I more or less chummed up with John ‘cause I think he was in number one section. I think I chummed up


with him at Moosberg. That was the first German prison camp we went in. Because I had the train trip coming over from Salonica to Germany, I came with a chap called Gordon Beale. He’s still alive. In fact he was the - oh he still is I suppose - the president of our association. I’m the treasurer. But as I said, we’ve given our money away now so it doesn’t really


matter much. No, John I think I picked up with him at Moosberg. And Gordon - I went in the train with Gordon all the way to Germany. And then he got sent out to work. And John and I went to 383 which was the NCOs camp.


Fair to say he was your best mate?
One of my best mates, yeah. In fact even after the war we were together a few times. We went up to Brisbane for a holiday as soon as we got back. It was funny there. I can remember one funny instance. He had to go to hospital for an operation. I think it was (UNCLEAR) in the rectum. And I had to shave him. I was the only one he would


trust to shave him. Good heavens. That was funny. Everybody was standing around in the hut watching me do it. You got no privacy in those days. Oh gosh.
Not the operation I hope.
He went in and had the operation. I think they call it a fistular. I think it’s something hanging out that shouldn’t be. I’m not too sure about that.


What sort of a bloke was he?
Well he was fair enough. He was quite a nice bloke. But he drank too much and finished up killing himself with drink later on. He went - oh what’s the name of those islands that produce - gosh I’ve forgotten it now.


Anyway it was just off the coast of Australia. There’s one this side. One up near Darwin. He was working there. But he separated from his wife although they were still amicable I think. But he drank too much.
Was there access to grog in the camps?
No. Only what we brewed ourselves. That wasn’t very much I must admit. Only a small amount. But still and all, we got it.


You were telling us about the recreation that you guys had.
We had everything. Well until the last twelve months any rate. That’s when the prisons got too full. Had to use our sports ground for more huts and, as I say, we had everything there. Of course you do get, every now and again the Red Cross comes through or some spokesman for them.


We had football, we had cricket in the summer time.
Did you teach the Germans how to play?
No. They weren’t interested I don’t think. ‘Cause by then of course, every German was being pushed into the Russian front and they were really desperate for Germans. If they ever done anything


wrong off the Russian front they were scared stiff of that. That was a real worry time.
How seriously did you take those sports? The cricket and the footy or whatever?
Oh not much. No. You just had your games. It was something. It was no where near as bad as it is today with the League and that. Worrying about who wins and who loses all the time.
It sounds like you build up your own mini society almost?


Yes. I tell you what - I think I told you before we played bridge - cards. That was a big thing in lots of the camp. That occupied a fair amount of time. We had competitions and that.
Was there a lot of one-upmanship?
I suppose there was. I don’t know.


You had a partner of course in bridge. When you started calling what numbers. I can’t remember now how to play it. I still go and play cards at a lady’s place. There’s about twelve ladies and me. It’s my harem. You should have seen the cards they send.
Fascinated to hear too about I think earlier you were telling Cath [interviewer] about


the bridge and the sports, also the plays that you guys would put on which is quite …?
Oh they were good. They were real professional.
How? Who organised it?
Well that I don’t really know. When I say I don’t know, I mean to say it was different ones that got together and planned it all and costumes.


It’s just like any play. It’s just put together by a group of people and they were quiet good. You’d appreciate the boys being dressed up as women. God struth. But as I say, they were smart. And as you said, where’d they get the stuff from to do all the dresses and the things and the costumes, I do not know. But I would imagine they would get them through the - even the camp commandant


could have arranged for them to have it. He must have been a decent bloke to have let us do what we did.
Do you remember what sort of plays?
No I can’t really, no.
So what was it like - okay we’re cutting.
Interviewee: Henry Duus Archive ID 0719 Tape 06


We were talking about putting on plays and all these sorts of things. Can you recall for us - you weren’t involved in the actual production of it, but you’d go down and watch. Can you just walk us through that experience going down there? It must have been all these guys there, some dressed up as women.
I can’t say much about it. It


was quite entertaining whatever it was. I know I enjoyed it, but I can’t think what it was about or who was doing what. No I’m afraid I can’t bring that back at all. But I know that I did enjoy it. As I said, we only got one chance about every three months to go to the theatre because there was that many prisoners in the camp.
You make it sound like there’s


actually a fulltime theatre troupe in the camp or something. They were running shows quite a lot were they?
Oh yes, they were running shows a lot. I don’t know whether they had the same actors on all the time or what happened, but no, they ran them every night pretty well. But as I say, it was a city of its own. There was always Germans walking through. But we had our spies out telling us if they were on their way to our line


or that. And I told you before we had a hatch about a fifteen foot by fifteen foot outside our hut with rabbits in. And we had a few pigeons. And one of the things we had to do for the rabbits of course, was to go down and get grass. The only grassy bit in the whole camp was about, there’s


a double wire fence, in the middle of it was barbed wire all tangled up. And then there was a space and one single wire. You weren’t supposed to go in that space. Anybody went in there was shot at. And we had to try and get this grass and it was only in there. So we had to lean down and reach in and pull the grass out. I think the guards must have had a clue what we were trying to do when they saw us


pulling grass. They must have known. And that’s the only feed we had for the rabbits. But they grew alright. And other than that we had quite a few of them at one stage, and the pigeons. I think there’s a photo there, no I think that’s gun. Pictures of John McSweeney had a pigeon on his wrist had a photo taken.
How would you


cook the rabbits?
Oh yes, we had a little fire with a top on it, a flat top and we’d just stew them up. Oh yes, we had cooks in that camp. We had everything in our little hut. We were well off. Most huts were pretty good. I think they all got on pretty well together. But I suppose there’s always the odd one or two that blow up and some wouldn’t put their


Red Cross parcels in. See ours went in. We more or less cooked like a family, where others were individuals you see. That would cause a bit of strife.
Strife, how?
Arguments, you know. You can’t have this and you can’t have that type of thing. We put all our stuff in together. We just took out the personal things as I say like chocolate and cigarettes and that.


When we were getting parcels we lived well.
Were there every any blues amongst the men when it came to …?
No, there was a couple in our hut, only a couple. But just a couple of fist fights, but no. One poor bloke seemed to cop the lot I always thought. But there wasn’t any, very few. When you consider you’re locked together for three hundred and sixty five days a year.


It was remarkable really. I think we would have got on better than twelve women in a hut. That was for Cathy.
Surely the men must have missed female company. How was it for three years?
Well I suppose they did, but there was nobody in any strife. And of course some of the poor buggers got letters from home.


What are they called? I forget what you call those sort of letters where you get them and the girlfriends giving him away. That was bad. That did happen a couple of times.
‘Dear John’.
Happened a couple of times, I’m talking about in our hut. I’m not talking about other huts. We never knew what went on in other huts much.
Can you tell us about that happening. How did the guys respond to it?
Well that’s it. Some of them could take it. Others went a bit moody and


closed up a bit. But they get over it. It’s just like having it happen at home. Every now and again there’s some boy loses his girl, but he goes a bit quiet for a while, then he comes good again. But it was a bit tough being a prisoner of war and losing your girlfriend or losing you - I don’t know about losing your wife. I never heard of that happening.


But I suppose it did. Be a bit tough wouldn’t it?
Did you have a sweetheart before you …?
No. I was very quiet as a boy. I don’t know why. No. I’m a bit amazed at myself really.
That all changed after the war.
Oh yes, I got married. In fact my wife, I picked her up. She was only a young


kid really compared to me. And I trained her and that was it. We got married and we’ve been happy ever since.
And those letters, be they Dear John or hopefully more (UNCLEAR) were they shared amongst the men if a letter came through?
Well I suppose in a way you’d say yes. I can’t remember any of that but I would say it would be. You all knew what was going on. Like I’d tell Mac if anything happened. Or he’d tell me if you heard of some news


from home you’d always share your letters I would say a bit. I don’t know what the other poor devils went through, the ones that had to work every blooming day and that. I suppose they got their weekends off. But there’d be others on the farms that wouldn’t get their weekends off. And how they went I wouldn’t have a clue.


As I say, that’s where I was so lucky in the whole war as far as I’m concerned was everything seemed to like when I was made in charge of ack ack that would have been rather than go down those stinking holes and sleep, oh gosh it must have been shocking.
So you think you were in general a lucky man?
Oh, I’m very lucky. Absolutely.
Is there anything you owe that to, you feel?


Well I suppose the first three months of compulsory training helped me start off being used to fire arms and that. And I think it would have helped me to become the ack ack man at headquarters. Actually the sections never had ack ack, as far as I know. Only the headquarters had the ack ack men. ‘Course all the use I was, ‘cause we never had that many planes to fire except on Crete where we weren’t allowed to fire.


And we never had any guns to fire with except what we got from the Americans and that, they were useless damn things. Tommy guns. Tommy gun only fires about thirty, forty yards they’re only accurate for, they reckon.
Have you ever been a man of faith? Were you religious?
You couldn’t really call me religious.


But I’m a believer. Talking about that, you know, my doctor invited me to a Salvation Army breakfast about a month ago. We had a minister talking and he spoke very well. Then this last Saturday gone he invited me again to another breakfast in the Salvation and we had a rabbi. I learnt a bit there I tell you.


I didn’t know rabbis didn’t believe in Jesus. They believe in their God. I don’t know whether it’s the same God as we’ve got. I don’t know about that. But I always think or we they cannot have made us from nothing. You can’t come from nothing. Do you understand what I mean? Something or someone’s got to put you together. It’s like a car. A car just doesn’t come there. It’s got to be made and put together.


And that’s the same as a human being as far as I’m concerned. But whoever done it has done a marvellous job. When you work out the brains and everything else in the human being. The human body I think it’s an amazing thing. And animals. But at the same time, it’s cruel though isn’t it. Animals can turn around and kill each other - they’ve got to live. They’ve got to kill each other to live. And to me that’s pretty tough. I can’t imagine anybody that


any religion doing that to you. But as I say, I’m not a religious man, but I’m a believer. That’s how I condense myself.
And in the camps do you think religion played and important part in the lives of men?
No. I can’t remember there being any churches or that in the camp. Not once can I remember that.


Can you tell us the story about the letter that your mum received. There was some communication towards the end (UNCLEAR).
Oh yes, they received a letter I suppose from the Australian government or army whatever it was that the they wrote a letter because their son was just about due to be released - will I show it to you? So of course Mum sent it,


post it to us. Twelve months before we were released. Boy, oh boy, oh boy. We thought we were going to get out in the next few months or the next couple of months.
What did that letter say? The letter from your mother, what did it say?
Oh, she was happy. Congratulations. All this about being released or something. No it’s strange. I don’t know where they got that idea from because it must have just been before the


invasion of Europe. Because that only happened I think in about 1944, in about June or something. I wouldn’t swear to it but I think it was. Might have been a little bit earlier. So they must have thought they was going to walk straight through the Germans and get us free but it didn’t happen.
It’s hard to fathom that you were in the middle of, you were saying, Bavaria and - what was the last camp you were in?


Bavaria. Miles from allied territory and you’re still getting letters and you’re hearing the BBC. So you’re still quite in touch.
Oh yes. Oh we were in touch. We were in touch more than the Germans were. The German guards never knew half what was going on. It was all - I think I listened to wireless sets and that. I think if you were caught listening to another country in Germany you were in real strife.


So you would have been hearing fairly good news towards (UNCLEAR)
And did that change?
Well yes, it made us much more hopeful. It took a long time for even from the landing to even break out from the bridges they got. Especially on the English - the Americans were much quicker, but the English were very slow moving to - I can’t think of the name of that French town they were going for in


the first place, but once they got on the move they start … And then when they dropped all those parachutes - I don’t even know the name of the place now, I should - up in Holland they dropped all those parachutes. I think it was about thousands and thousands of parachutes they dropped there. And the army was supposed to move on to catch up to the parachutes, but they didn’t. In fact


there was one stage there where the parachutes had to retreat back down into Holland and they were very savage on the army for not getting up and helping them. They got dropped all right and they had their positions. But the Germans came with their tanks and that and started pushing them back.
Before lunch we were sort of up to that point really, the last days at the camp


in Bavaria. What was the name of the camp?
Moosberg. No, Moosberg was the first one in Germany. Hohenfels. That’s just outside, oh twenty five k from Nuremberg or Ravensburg.
And you were telling us about those last days, I think we left off there. Maybe it’s good to continue now on that journey. You were telling us I believe the one day that the guards had gone.
That was after we marched out of Hohenfels. We marched out of


Hohenfels through Ravensburg then towards Munich. I don’t know, I suppose we were on the road for about two weeks.
Where would you be staying during those two weeks - were you just sleeping on the roadside?
On the roadside.
And were you having much to do with the local populations?
No. Very little. In fact, we did a couple of times, but we pinched a couple of their wagons once to put our gear in. We’d rather tow the wagon than carry our gear.


It took them a while to catch up to us to take the wagons back off of us.
You’d have understood some German cuss words, I take it.
Oh yes, you do I suppose along the way. I don’t know.
Did you pick up any German?
Never understood anything, but the German, no matter how good he was at English never understood. Even an English bloke - a German guard came up to an English bloke who was doing something on a path.


I think it was concrete. I think he wanted to know where he got the concrete from. He spoke to him in English. And he said, “On nextrestand.” He didn’t understand him. That made the officer happy.
What do you think they thought of the Aussies?
I think they thought they were decent enough blokes. We got on well with them. They always get on well with anybody I think, the Aussies. They got a sort of way


of their own. Don’t you reckon?
I agree with you.
Yeah, I think so. I think we’ve got a sort of an open way of attacking things. But oh no, don’t worry, the others were all good too. Don’t worry about that. I thought the English were a bit slow at moving at times.
Within the camp, within your hut specifically, were they all Aussies?


Oh no. In the hut? Oh yes, no. We were only Mac and myself. We were the only two Aussies there. The rest were New Zealanders. Mainly English, I suppose there’d be six or eight English. Two or three New Zealanders and a couple of Aussies.
So the majority were English actually?
And how were relations between the Poms and the Aussies?
Oh, we got on well in our hut.


Got on very well.
And can you remember the names of a lot of these people, including the guards? No. They all fade.
I can’t remember many names, no. When I look at them I can remember them, but no, my brain’s gone now.
Well okay so we were left off at the roadside


after Hohensfeld and a couple of weeks on the road. Had you been marched anywhere in particular?
That’s what we don’t really know. We know we were being marched to the mountains, we were told. That’s the rumour. As I say, rumours you can’t really believe them. Where they were taking us I wouldn’t have a clue, or what they were taking us for. But look at


the ones I showed you in that paper where he marched two thousand and something kilometres - Ron Keogh. It didn’t make sense. Of course they were getting away from the Russians. The Russians were heading up through Poland. They were marching the prisoners out. But where we were. We were in the middle of Germany you might say. I don’t know what they were going to do with us or where they were going to take us.


It was just a shemozzle as far as I was concerned. I suppose in a way they didn’t want to be giving the enemy more soldiers to play around with.
Were you ever concerned for, well did you fear for your lives, that they might do something drastic?
No, I never thought of that. The only thing we were worried about was we might get bombed by our own planes. That’s about the only thing I would say.


Something stupid - some pilot might mistake us for something else. Especially on the road. You have to worry about that a bit. We had a big sign on one of the wagons we’d pinched “ex POWs” or “POWs” which a pilot, if he had his eyes open would see it unless he was up about twenty thousand feet or something. There was one group of prisoners, about eighty


got killed when they were strafed by British planes. There was always a danger with being on the road. You couldn’t take it for granted. But, as I say, they were flying over us. In fact, once there - I don’t know whether there’s any truth in this - they flew over us, next minute we heard a machine gun going down the road a bit. Reckoned they’d shot up some cattle for us. We never saw the cattle so I don’t know whether they did or not.


So was there a sense that you were - even though you didn’t know where you were going - that you were heading home in some way?
In a way we knew the war was closing to a climax. It was getting closer. We had a feeling of that. No doubt about it. Even before we left home we knew all the time, we even had a map with stickers on giving the front line all the time. It was always coming in.


The Russians weren’t far from Berlin when we moved out of Hohenfels. In fact they were there I think. And so that was - when you think of it - see once they lost control of the air the Germans had lost the war you might say. The airforce to me is the main thing in the army today.
So you were on the road for a couple of weeks. Where did you end up?


What was next?
I would not have a clue where we finished up. Just off the road in a paddock. We were there for about two days I think. Woke up and all the guards had gone so we knew the war was just about finished. The war hadn’t finished, oh we didn’t think it had because although we had no wirelesses then we didn’t think


it had finished, but it must have just about finished when the guards shot through. They must have got word from somewhere. And then of course, what we had to do, was start looking for food. Because there was no sign of Americans or British or anybody else when the guards went through. That’s when we started going out in the camps. And that’s when the civilians must have been scared stiff of us roaming in and out. ‘Cause as I said, those two Americans in that car


they didn’t muck around. He got his rifle - where he got the rifle from, God only knows.
How were you surviving? What were you eating?
Just going from what we could get from the locals. And oh, I don’t know, it was almost impossible. It was only a couple of days, mind you, before the American did go through. And


within a few hours I suppose the trucks pulled up and took us back to the aerodrome. The Americans had what they call a hard ration - what the army get, you know - a tin of bully beef and a biscuit. That’s army rations, hard rations. Well when we got back to the aerodrome there was stacks of it there.


Blokes were picking up these rations - not that they wanted the food out of them ‘cause they’d already taken rations before. Other ones they’d picked up. Just to get the cigarettes out and stuff.
But there were a couple of days there when you were - the guards had gone and you were left to your own devices.
Yeah. We had to go round and hunt for food ourselves.
Can you tell me a bit more about that?
Well, all we could do was walk. And just walk and walk up to the first


house you came to and ask for food. Sometimes you got it and sometimes they never had any. Like I told you about that American getting that armful of bread. Well we got some of that but it’s just hoping that the population could help you. Of course they were a bit frightened of us too. They had to give it to us.


I’d hate to have been in the prisoner of war camps in Japan. They would have been entirely different. Although I would say the one at Singapore, the main one at Singapore, would have been self sufficient to a certain degree. The Japs would have had to supply the food. But we would have had the cooks and everything else in there. And there’d be general or colonels or captains or something running


the camp - whoever was the highest in rank would run the camp and then you’d have the other officers doing different things.
So is there for you, was there a moment, a point where you could say, it’s over, we’re liberated?
Soon as the guards had gone we knew we were liberated. That was for sure.
So was there ever a moment where you could actually stop and celebrate in some way? Or you had to wait.


We couldn’t celebrate. We couldn’t go into a town and celebrate. No towns close by. And we were very quickly picked up, taken to the aerodrome and then - oh wouldn’t even be a day I don’t think these DC3s came in. They hold about thirty or forty blokes. Piled into them and taken to Rheims.


At Rheims we got picked up by American trucks and taken to a township, given food and we slept there the night. I don’t know where we slept. On the floor I suppose. Might have been in a camp. Then next morning they picked us up and took us out to the aerodrome again. Got into these Lancasters.


I couldn’t understand why we didn’t fly right through. It’s not very far, I wouldn’t have thought. Any rate we got on the Lancasters and they went to England. Got then into the aerodrome there, straight onto a train and went to Eastbourne. Beautiful accommodation there. Lovely.
So did you live it up a bit?
Did we ever. We sure did live it up.


Tell us about that.
Went up to Scotland, on leave to Scotland. We were boardering in the main street of - can’t remember the name of the place. You could see the castle up on the hill though. What’s the capital of Scotland?
Is it Edinburgh? Or Glasgow?
Edinburgh that’s right. I’m sure it was


Edinburgh. Yeah. Then we meandered back again. Had to wait a while to get a boat to take us home then. But I was home before the war finished. And I was released in May. So that was May – May, June, July, August. I think the war finished in August.
So you must have been making up for a bit of lost time though with getting out and letting your hair down.
Oh yes. Even


when I got back to Sydney I let my hair down too much.
Tell us about that.
Well we landed in Sydney and there was a bit of a - I wouldn’t say actually a band, but everything was rations, alcohol and all. But by gosh we got plenty. I finished up, I got back to where we were in Sydney, wherever the camp was and I was really drunk.


Hardly stand up and there was my aunty and her son waiting to talk to me. Oh God. So I spoke to them. I think I was one of the few that slept all the way home on the train from Sydney to Melbourne. We had to change trains at Albury in those days. You ever been to Albury? It’s a hell of a long - must be a mile long, that platform.


We got off of there. Got into another train and meandered down to Spencer Street. I was awake by then of course, and not feeling too bad. Got into taxis that were waiting for us and took us out to these - I don’t know what the names of the - just out of Melbourne, in Melbourne there - the showground, no not the showground. Some other park it was.


And there we met our parents. So. Very nice.
And you were sober at that time?
Very sober. Yes. It was lovely.
It’s just hard to imagine. You’ve been …
I was away for nearly five years.
Must have been a pretty emotional homecoming.
I left in ‘40, in about I suppose September, October, round about then.


And home in about August ‘45. So that’s five years. It’s a long time to be away. I never heard of any of our men being killed that did escape and arrive back in Australia. They were in Palestine for a lot of it - not Palestine, Syria.


They were in Syria for quite a while before they got moved back to Australia, after Crete. That was very, very cold there. I got photos of them in the snow in Syria. You’d think the Middle East there wouldn’t be any snow wouldn’t you?
So just to bring it back to your coming home. You’re still a young man at this stage - you would have been …
Twenty nine. Oh no, I wouldn’t be that old. When did I say I got home?


‘45, that’s twenty five. Twenty five, twenty six. I left when I was twenty one, and five years, I would have been twenty six.
So your people here, your family, your parents must have seen a few changes in you?
Yes I suppose. I didn’t look too bad I don’t think. I was a bit light on. I wasn’t that bad. ‘Course when we were on the march I wasn’t


much more than about six or seven stone. I lost a lot of weight in the last six months through lack of tucker. When I got to England of course, I got everything. Even though they were on rations, we weren’t. We got looked after well and truly.
But was there any sense that they changed or you changed, that you’d left a boy, come back a man?


I don’t know about that. I know Mum said to me one day, she said, “Oh there’s a house for auction down at Croydon. You’ve been gambling.” I was gambling a bit, losing a fair – ‘cause when I was a prisoner of war I was getting paid. And being a corporal I was getting I think, at the finish - not at the beginning - at the finish I was getting about twelve shillings a day. That’s a dollar and twenty cents a day I was getting.


It doesn’t sound much, but you work it out, over four years it works out to quite a nice little sum in the finish you see. So I go down with Mum down to a house just over the line from here, a little brick home. The roof was like this. And the auction started. Of course, in those days everything was pegged,


but you didn’t know the price, what it was pegged at, but the auctioneer did. And anybody who bid over the price got their names put in a hat and drawn out. And any rate I’m bidding away there and it got to say, four ninety five - pounds - and I said, oh five hundred. Bang! Down went the hammer. He didn’t give them a chance to go any further on. ‘Cause he knew what the price was and he wasn’t going to muck around putting the names in a hat I think. ‘Cause I’m sure


he didn’t know I was just out of the war. He might have. So there was a bit of an argument, ‘cause the others would have kept bidding you see and they’ve got a chance of having their names put in the hat and taken out. So we lived there for ten years. Yes, 1948 I got married. That’s about when I bought the house - just before I got married. And I sold it for three thousand pound. That was a decent little


So this was, you bought it with the money ….
That I’d come out of the army with.
So you were pretty lucky weren’t you?
I was lucky again, I reckon I was. I was lucky right through. And as I say, got three thousand pounds for the house. Bought this block - this block of land alone cost, in those days, twelve hundred pound. That was a lot of money to pay for it. You could buy a block of land for oh, seventy


or eighty pound in those days. Twelve hundred pound and Enid’s brother - my wife’s brother - built the house for us. We planned it. We planned ours. We went around looking and we planned this house.
Did you find when you got back, when you got back to Melbourne and you had that money, you were just making up for lost time in terms of just getting out there and enjoying life?
No, I don’t think we thought that way. I was always pretty careful with money usually.


I was a bit of a gambler I know. But not much. Even now I’m not a real gambler. You know they talk about these one armed bandits now, the poker machines - Mum loves them, but I’ve got no time for them. I reckon they’re not made for you to win. But at the same time, when I was butchering in Union Road, Surry Hills there was a couple of meat lumpers used to come in with the meat


for me, and they told me they had a system with a roulette wheel. In those days - because we had no casinos in those days - this is going back in the sixties or fifties - they used to go to Hobart every Friday night and come back Sunday night. They’d be playing the roulette wheel. And their system was, I’ll tell you - you only have


red and black - it’s a wheel with about fifty numbers on it and you only have either even money like and odd number or an even number, or red and black. Half the numbers are red and half the numbers are black. And you’d wait until say, black had missed out twice and then you would back it. And so I thought, oh yeah. I never


worried about that system you know, until it wouldn’t more than two months or three months ago we were at the Casino - and I don’t play the pokies, I was just wandering around and I saw the roulette wheel so I had a go. And I was only betting small. I was only on the two dollar machine and within an hour I’d won thirty dollars, so that proves it. It was pretty good wasn’t it?
Yeah, you’ve been lucky all along.
By betting small I could - and the very first time I had a bet the damn thing went four reds. I


had already started betting on the black after two. The third one I put two dollars on then I put four dollars on the next one and then I thought, oh God, I put about eight or something on the next one you see. Which you shouldn’t do in any gamble, you shouldn’t double up, but I was doing it ‘cause I only had two dollar bets. And up it came. So I won. But after that I guarantee first or second time up would come


whatever colour I was on.
What were you gambling with back in the camps during the war? Obviously there was a bit of that going on with the bridge?
Only two-up.
Only two-up? But was there coinage around?
Well we did have money in our pockets up to about, I would say Salonica. And after Salonica you had nothing. But we had quite a bit of


Greek money in our hands. Two-up. A few games of that going on.
Were you lucky there as well?
No. What was - oh another game they used to play too was cards face down and one was a certain card - say the queen of hearts. There’d be say five cards and they’d separate them and you’d bet on which was the


queen of spades you know. But once there, I can’t really think what happened. Everybody could see where the queen of hearts was though. And he put them down and I thought oh, there’s something going on here. For him to have let anybody see where the queen of spades was in the first place. ‘Course everybody started piling there money. My mate sitting there and he went to put it on.


I said, “Don’t be stupid,” I said, “he’s done that for a reason.” He’s either, you know, and how he did it I wouldn’t have a clue, but he had moved that card without us knowing. He palmed it or something. And the queen of spades instead of being on that card was down here. I tell you what, there was a bit of a fight on about that though, because everybody knew he’d cheated. Yet they were cheating because they knew. They were doing the same thing.
Was that one of your blokes


doing the sleight of hand?
I don’t think it was one of ours. I don’t think it was an Australian. I think it was a smarter bloke than that. But he definitely palmed that thing. I knew there was something wrong. He done it so deliberate, I thought to let them see it. Then to cover it over again. Just as if he’d made a mistake. But he’d palmed it somehow.
This is in the camps later on or early on?
Yes, this was in the camp at Salonica.


There was an all in brawl after that game. But the funny part was the cheaters who had seen the card and put their money on it knew he’d cheated and they - I mean they were both in the wrong weren’t they?
What did you do? Did you get into the fray?
No fear. I said, don’t put your money on that, just wake up. I thought it was


too simple. How he palmed it. But you see some of these professionals. They can palm things when they try. They can beat you. They can show it to you in one hand and turn it over and bang it’s gone. Or put it in your ear or do something. Take it out of your ear.
Interviewee: Henry Duus Archive ID 0719 Tape 07


Something I’m very curious about, Henry, is the servicewomen, like women who were involved in the services and what contact you might have had with them, and if you made friends … ?
In the Second World War very little. I never seen one woman in the services. So I can’t help you


there. They probably were there. Nurses and that I suppose they were. But as far as that was concerned I don’t think - but nowadays of course they’re even in war sections.
So there were obviously nurses.
I would say there’d be nurses. Back behind the lines naturally, in the major cities and that. And in the army hospitals. But I wouldn’t say they were anywhere else.


So did you have anything to do with the hospitals?
No. Only once, right up near Benghazi, at Vass [?], I got taken like I told you with a temperature. That was all. About a hundred and two. But I can’t remember, no. I can’t remember women being there. They might have been. But I don’t think so.


So you had very little to do with women for that whole period of time?
So when you returned home, I mean you would have had a period of needing to adjust and think about what (UNCLEAR)
Well yes. Women didn’t seem to worry me too much. I don’t know. Must be - couldn’t have been - oh me wife


never complained about me though.
So did you come though with the expectation that you would marry …?
No. I never had a girlfriend. In fact two of my mates got married over in England while I was - that surprised me a bit. But when I just said I couldn’t remember - John McSweeney, was it John McSweeney, no - Wally Wilkens. I still meet his wife


every three months almost, and he married over there. I was just saying to Col that I don’t think his mother - that’s the one on that letter you read, Mrs Wilkens - I don’t think his mother was too happy about Wally being over in England. ‘Cause he stayed there I don’t know ten or twelve months before he came home. That wasn’t very good. And yet another one of my mates, Ron Keogh


he got married over there. In fact when his wife came over here he wouldn’t see her. That was bad. But that’s life I suppose.
So when you got back home, I mean, what did you want to do, what did you feel that…?
Well I more or less knew what I was going to do. I was going to go into butchering. Although my Dad had sold out his


shop at Ringwood which I would have taken over for sure. So I worked for a butcher or an owner in Croydon here. Then he gave me a manager’s job out at North Croydon. And from there I went to Surry Hills where we bought our own shop. My Dad set me up in that shop with my brother.


I don’t know how long my brother was there. We went there about - I suppose my brother was there for about ‘56 to ‘70. About fourteen years. Then I took it over myself and kept going. And retired when I was - and my son took it over from me. So


I retired when I was eighty so that’s going back - eighty when I was eighty how old would I be? When I was eighty. I was born in … that’s sixty. In 1980 I retired. And I was sixty years of age then. So.
Okay, so on your arrival back here in


Melbourne, can you remember that day and what happened?
Yes. I can remember coming down by train from Sydney. I played up in Sydney. And I got carried onto the train, went to sleep straight away. And arrived at Albury, that’s where they woke me up I think. That was a few hours later I tell you, I came home. I was sober by the time I


got home. And got in the Yellow cabs they were in those days and taken out to this park where we were supposed to meet our parents and that you know. I don’t know how many there were of us. It was a train load anyway, be about a thousand. And we met there. Very nice. Then we came home to Croydon. We stopped on the way and saw my grandfather who was


on his last legs. He didn’t recognise anybody. Mum said he wouldn’t recognise me. But as soon as I walked in there he said, “How’d they treat you son?” I think he knew me. I can remember those words. I had no complaints about being treated because as I say, I never had to work. I think the poor devils had to work


it was a different story altogether. Although I suppose they had good bosses and bad bosses. I don’t know about that. And some of the camps that never had to work had bad commandants and good. We had a good one. Just depends on the person who was in charge of you. How serious …
So with your grandfather - did you - he wasn’t well when …?
No, he was dying.
He was dying.
Yeah. He died a few days later.
Did he? So you weren’t able to have any more conversations.


No. He was very low. I don’t think he even recognised anybody else much. Strange that.
Wonderful though that he was able to say that.
It is. Yes, it’s like my mother when she was going. She was about eighty-six when she died. And I can remember walking into the home where she was and my brother was coming out and I was walking in. And when I got in there she said, “Oh


I haven’t seen Alan for a long time.” I said, “No, he’s just left here.” I said, “It just shows you’re getting senile Mum.” That’s why I’m all for euthanasia, I’d be a good candidate, a good politician about it, give them a few words on euthanasia, I think you should be allowed to, not just commit suicide. But I mean, say you find your life, there’s nothing


left in your life, why keep it going. They keep people going on machines and they haven’t got a clue what’s going on. It’s wrong, don’t you think? You’re not too sure. I wouldn’t want to be kept on. When you get to seventy-five, and eighty, and eighty-five, you’ve had a good life. And they put you on a machine to try and keep you living for a few more weeks. What for? Wouldn’t do it to your animals.


So do you think, as a result of being at war, that your understanding of death and your acceptance of death has developed?
I know one thing about death is, when you’re dead you don’t know a thing about it. You don’t even know you’re dead. Does that make sense? Even my number two got blown up. One minute he’s good as gold.


Next minute he doesn’t know a thing about it. He never had any more worries. But it’s not a very nice … The worst part is your parents get told, that’s what I always think, the ones that are left behind. They’re the ones that suffer, not the one who’s dead, he doesn’t feel a thing. They’ll try and keep you going on machines sometimes. It’s just hopeless..
So when you were out there in the battle field,


and you felt that your life was in serious danger and it could be a time when your number’s up, did you think about your parents and your family in those moments?
To be honest I can’t even remember what I thought about then. There’s only a couple of times that I really thought that I was in - especially on Crete - did I feel there was


little chance of getting out of it. But it didn’t worry me that much I don’t think. I thought, well if it’s got to happen it’s got to happen. And I think that’s the attitude that most of them get. But no, I’m afraid I couldn’t honestly say that I was thinking of my parents. I suppose I did.
Do you recall ever being concerned


about them worrying about you?
I think that’s one of the things you do worry about. Where you think about them worrying about you. Because they worry about things when you could be enjoying yourselves. I mean, I could be out enjoying myself, because they’re three or four months behind in their letters and they’re worrying about I’m in the front line getting shot at. See, the war in most cases only lasted about


three or four days. You’d go in and attack some position, and it took you weeks to get up to that position to start the attack. And then bang, it’s all over in three or four days or even two days. That’s what I say, only ten percent of fear and ninety percent of fun in the army. And I think


you’d find that most people, if you was to ask them the question, would say yes too. But we get led to believe by the newspapers that you’re in the front line the whole time when you’re not. Well, when I say you’re not, most cases you’re not. Now the war’s over in Iraq, things are worse over there than what it was during the war. You understand what I mean? It’s these terrorists which have got no control whatsoever - no matter what you do to stop terrorists


there’s still something going to happen. They’ll do something to you, no matter how much you try and stop them, they’ll get away with it. And I think that’s worst because you’d be under a bit of worry all the time if you were over there I would say. Because even the civilians now are shooting at them.


So when you came back and you’d gone through this experience for five years, did you feel that you’d hardened or that you’d closed up?
No. I did not. No I’m sure I didn’t. I wanted to settle down and get started again. That’s all I wanted to do. Because it was actually when you think back on it, it was just five


years wasted in your life. Even the ones who weren’t prisoners of war it was five years of their life more or less wasted just roaming around the countryside and getting regular attacks and it was a bit more fun and another attack and so it goes on and on and on. But nowadays of course, it’s the airforce that can really control the war. If you’ve got full control


of the skies you’ll win any war. I’m sure of that. You’ve got to have ground troops naturally, but the airforce can really make it hell for you. And more so today I suppose, than in the Second World War.
Did that surprise you at the time? Was that unexpected for you, the power of the air strikes?


It was after - we had four months of chasing the enemy with hardly any aeroplanes until we got to Benghazi. Then we struck the - and they were mainly Germans because the Italians were up that bloody high you couldn’t see them. But no, until we got to Benghazi we never struck any aeroplanes and there was infantry and clean fighting. But when we got over to


Greece and Crete of course, it was all one way. We never had any airforce to hold the others back at all. That made all the difference. Once you’ve knocked the enemy out or blown up their bridges and their other, and stopped them from moving mostly, then you can get stuck into the


civilian population, it’s not very nice. That’s why even on Greece, the Greeks wanted us to leave in the finish because the Germans were starting to attack their towns and they didn’t want that.
So they were happy to have the Germans occupy?
Well, they weren’t happy but they knew it was better than getting their towns blown to pieces. But if we’d have had a big airforce there and stopped the German airforce


and then started to concentrate on their infantry well then they would have had to back off. But they were too strong for us. But as the war went on, of course, we got the upper hand with the Americans coming in. See the Americans didn’t come in till about the beginning of 1941 - would it be? Yeah it would be wouldn’t it? ‘41 and the Americans - about


December, I think. And the Japs attacked Pearl Harbour and then the Americans wanted to get rid of the European as well as the Pacific.
So do you attend the Anzac Day marches?
Yes. Every year. Haven’t you seen me on the TV? You should have.
I think I did actually.
Oh yeah, I get rung up - I tell them I pay to get myself on the TV.


The last three years I have been on the TV. I’ve taken my granddaughters and my son and his daughters. The first time it was the two granddaughters from Albury and this last time it was my son and his daughter. My granddaughter.


So you’ve been attending them ever since?
I always go to the marches.
For sixty years.
Oh no. I’ve only been going I suppose for the last twenty years. I don’t think I attended every one early on. Might have been a few, of course. But now I religiously do it.
So what do you do on Anzac Day?
Just go in, get the train here, go in, march up to Collins Street where we always meet.


And form up there. And there’s a couple of - in fact in my mother in law - she’d turned up with her daughter and the two granddaughters and the granddaughters wanted to march with me so we went up there, and the officer in charge of our unit, Lieutenant Edie,


he said, “Join up. Hop in the back,” to my mother and my son’s wife. So they did. So I’ve been on the TV for the last three years. I’ve made an appointment with them.
So what do you do on the TV? Do they interview you?
No. They just (UNCLEAR) In fact one day here he was no further back from me going backwards.


So you always head for the camera?
I must, ‘cause they seem to pick me out, they have the last three years, say. But I don’t know why. It must be because I march in a certain spot every year. I’m not leading the march. I’m just in the first row of the - we’ve only got about, oh there wouldn’t be five regulars go now. The rest of them are widows or


like two flag bearers, their father was in there. He’s dead. We’ve got two flag bearers and one officer who’s the only officer in the unit alive, is one of the officers, Lieutenant Eadie. About three or four others, that’s all. ‘Course some of them are interstate now.
So is that the only time you catch up with these people.
That’s right yes. Although


I’m wrong in saying that because our company’s always met every three months over the years, now at the Frankston RSL. We used to meet somewhere down Warrigal Road I think, at one stage, down towards North Road. Although we’ve cut it back. The last time we met was


April and I’m not going to go until December. So that’s six months now you might say. We used to go four times a year. But we’ve more or less closed the organisation down. But the friends that always went still go.
So is it an emotional day for you still?
No. It’s a happy day really. Nothing to do with the war. No, we just go and meet now.


I think all the emotions are gone now. I suppose the Vietnam and the Korean veterans are still going. But the Second World War they’re all about my age now. In fact a lot of them would be dead, the older ones.
So how did you meet Enid?
When I came home from the war.


She was a friend of my sister. And Gwennie, who you’ve just seen, she was a friend of Enid’s at the same time, about sixty odd years ago. And I met them and met with Enid. Enid was only eighteen and a half


going on nineteen when I met her - when I married her. I was twenty nine. So what do you think of that?
Bit of a difference.
Yeah. I trained her right. She’s looked after me.
So how long after you got back did you meet Enid?
I got back about ‘46, ’45 - no I’d have been back here toward the end of ‘45.


August ‘45 say. That’s when the war finished and I was back home before the war finished. I was married in ‘48. That’s three years.
How many children have you got?
So did you have those children …?
About every four years, we’ve worked it out. We got married in ‘48.


We had the first one in ‘51, the next one about ‘55, the next one and we moved into this house, ‘58. How old would that make him? Forty five. Yes, he would be about forty five, young Tone. He lives up at a place called Jindera just outside Albury. Trevor he lives down at Chelsea, right on the beach. He’s got


a lovely place down there. And my daughter she lives in Kent Avenue. Two out of three separated, divorced. That’s a pretty good record, isn’t it? But they’re all amicable, that’s one thing about it. Strange. I think, you know, they get separated and then after a couple of years it sinks in that they shouldn’t have.


I mean everybody has fights. God we all have fights. I suppose some are worse than others and you can’t mend it. It’s strange all that, I think. Getting worse really. In fact I’m tipping fifty years time there won’t be such a thing as marriage.
So what do you think’s the secret to a good marriage?
You’ve got to understand each other and be prepared to


give way a bit. I mean to say, for instance when a boy’s say twenty one to twenty five, he’s got mates. He goes and meets them at the hotel and has a few beers. Well, he can’t expect his wife to put up with that every Saturday night or Friday night whatever it’s going to be. A bit of give and take in it, you’ve got to understand, in my book. This love business - I suppose it is


love but I think it’s more understanding got to be done. Because life - I have heard of people never having an argument, that’s not me.
So what was it like for you in the early stages of your marriage?
Very good, we got on well. Our kids were good kids.


We never got on drugs or anything. They were a bit too old for that. Drugs never came in till about ’65, ‘70.
You had a good social circle?
Oh gosh, yes. We used to have, eight couples of us used to go round to dances. And we still keep in touch even though we’ve stopped dancing and that. You’d be surprised the amount of dance places we went to.


We were always invited back again. ‘Cause they’d see we were all together. And the parties we’ve had - especially here - terrific. One of our friends put on an act once, ‘Do You Think I’m Sexy’. You should have seen her. God she’s a dag. Took her teeth out and …. couple


of ones, but I can’t think of the other ones. She was dressed up as a man. Who was the singer who sang that, can you remember? She put her hand down, she had a big roll of socks down there. Pulled them out and threw them. Stupid. We’ve had some marvellous parties there. I had my eightieth - I get a party every ten years.


I started at forty - a surprise party. I didn’t know a thing about it. We were sitting there in the kitchenette. Mum’s in her working clothes and I’m all half dressed up. I thought, gee this is bloody awful, I’m forty now, not even a … Knock on the door. Open the door. Bang, in they all come. Must have been about fifty or sixty of them. So and now every ten years. I used to say, you got enough beer?


Are you ready? Got everything organised for tonight. The last one, when I was eighty, my son said, “I think we’ll have the next one at eight five.” So I’ve only got a couple of years to go. He was getting a bit worried. I’ve kept very good health except I’ve got that tachycardia. That’s come and gone for no reason at all. In June


it did. I got about four bouts. Had to go to the hospital and get zapped to get it out - if it gets up to a certain height they’ve got to go and get it done. Normally I can just go and sit on the couch or seat and just relax and after an hour or so I can feel it going back. But it’s not very nice when it gets up that high. Leaves you all weak.


I’m just curious about friends, your social circle - are any of those people (UNCLEAR)
Now that girl who just came across, her and her husband were a couple. Her husband has died. Enid’s brother and his wife was another couple, he’s died. That’s the only two that’s died out of the sixteen of us.


Another one lives over the line very close, Norm and Claire. Claire’s got Alzheimer’s. A bad case of Alzheimer’s. In fact that bad that he used to be able to put her into a home about three days a week and now they’ve stopped it because she upsets the other patients. We had her here one day and she got all agitated


after about twenty minutes. “I’ve got to go and see the children.” The children are miles away. But she just gets upset. Terrible Alzheimer’s. Now that was three of them. Who else was there?
Were they all veterans? All those men?
No. I’m the old boy among them.
Are you the only one?
They’re all about as old as my wife.
Yes, but did any of them serve in the war?
No. Not one of them.


As I say, they’re all ten years younger than me. I’m the old boy.
So have you kept in touch with anyone that you served with?
In the army?
In the army?
Oh yes. Only a couple now. I think I gave that girl Gordon Beale’s number to ring if she wanted to. He’s moved to Williamstown. He used to live down Rosebud.


Yes, I’ve been with him for years now. Who else was there? Wally Wilkens who just died. And the author of that book, Reg Davidson. Yes, a few of them I’ve known. But never really kept in touch with them. No, this eight couples that have been around together, they’re our main, still our friends,


even though they live away now. One’s just come back from Narooma to Dromana. They’re both together still, Peggy. She’s come back from Narooma to - oh she hasn’t come back yet but she’s going to come back. That’s right. Her husband’s died. Norm. It was a marvellous group though. And as I say, when we go dancing everybody


would say come back. Took over the hotel in Healesville once. Went to the races up there and then we went to the hotel afterwards and took over the hotel for a while until the dance was due to start and off we went. I think we even washed ourselves in the bathroom.


It would actually be good to go back in time again. Something that I’m still curious about is the fact that you were in POW camps for over three years - three and a half years?
Three years, eleven months.
So nearly four years, that’s a long time to be incarcerated. And you’ve talked a little about what you’ve done with your


time. But what I’m curious about is what other recreational things that you were able to do in camp. You know, you talk about plays. I’m interested did people sing songs in the evenings or play music or …?
It’s a hard question. No. I think cards were about our greatest comfort,


I suppose you’d call it. Playing. Even if we weren’t in the competition we’d still play cards in the hut. We had a table there to play on. As I say, we had football and everything else on the sportsground. We used to go on parade every day for about an hour. But no, on the whole we just meandered


Did you read?
Well, that’s a question. We must have read, surely to God. Well we did have our own little journal there we used to read.
Tell me about that, what was the journal?
Just about POW news. Whether somebody’s died or whether - oh I don’t know what it was - just normal news.


Who would put that together?
Someone at the camp would, some of the editors. I don’t know what they’d call themselves I’m sure. As I say, I don’t know how many thousands of men there would have been in that camp, but you know, when you get all those brains together there’s quite a bit of - some of them are pretty smart -


and can do things. We just seemed to meander around and walk around. Looking back I can’t even think what we could have possibly done in all that time. Now when the weather’s reasonable and its warm enough down there, I’m down below six hours some days. I’d make more money if I was working or I didn’t make down there. I make nothing down there. Just little things that people


want made I make like tables and things. This, yes that table there I made. I made everything in this bloody house. But it’s handy. Before I - that’s another thing I didn’t say - growing up - after I left school I went to night school for twelve months and did woodwork -


but what sort of woodwork - cabinet making type stuff. So I did know a little bit about woodwork when I finished. So it’s been pretty handy. I’ve made cupboards and chairs - that chair I made, that stool. Tip it up, it makes it into a seat.
So in the camps, I know you made a


stove, and oven, you talked about that before. Did you make anything else?
Oh yes. No, I can’t think.
Oh we did make a dart board. That was made out of what, now let me think. The cardboard from Red Cross boxes we cut into strips about that wide and went around until we made it and then we painted it all, and I don’t


think we had any wire on it though. You know, the wire that fits the bullseye and all the numbers and how they do that. But we did paint each section and put it on. And we made the darts out of silver paper from cigarette packets. Now that’s something that takes some doing. And that’s another thing -


towards the end of the war the Germans reckoned that was dangerous and went and confiscated it. When we were on parade one day we came back and the blooming dartboard had been taken. They had some funny ideas. Even made us kill all our pigeons ‘cause they said we could send messages away. But as I say, it’s as far as occupying ourselves I’m damned…


Oh, we must have read something surely.
Did you do that with the pigeons, did you train them as homing pigeons or did you eat them?
Oh yeah. Well we can’t, you see, you can’t send a message with a pigeon, but you can receive a message from the same pigeon. Get what I mean? You’ve got to take that pigeon to wherever you’re going to go, put a letter on it’s leg and then let it go and it’ll go home to where you are. But you can’t send them away with a message. That’s what the Germans reckoned


we could. Very stupid. But they had some wild ideas. Just different ones had those ideas. I don’t know whether it was the commandant or who would say that. But when I think of it, I think how silly they were to think that we could send a message with a pigeon. Used to let them go. They’d fly around overhead for a couple of hours and then come back and roost again.


But that can happen to any pigeon. If you like to have a pigeon at home, you keep him in the pen for - I don’t know - a couple of months, two or three months, look after him then let him go he’ll come back again to feed. He’ll get used to it.
So what was it like for all those men with nothing to do for four years?
It is hard isn’t it?
I mean, they had to use their brains in some way.


And I know you’ve said some of them were very clever.
Oh, they were all pretty smart. ‘Cause they were all sergeants. Sergeant majors. All cluey boys. I must have been one of the dullest ‘cause I was only a corporal. And I was lucky to be a corporal really. It was only the last week on Crete that I was made a corporal. Two of us. A bloke called Keithy Pullen.


He was in the headquarters office. He was made a corporal and I was made a corporal on the last week. I can still remember Keithy on that bad raid we got and I said me two blokes got blown out. He could have reached out of his slit trench where he was with his arm and touched the edge of the crater of another bomb. That shows you how close he was to death. The craters would have been as big as this room. He could have reached out of


the slit trench he was in – ‘cause he got out and he said, “Look at me! Not even shaking.” I think he had shock made him say that.
So why were you made corporal?
That’s a good question. I was so damned smart I suppose. But you do. I don’t know whether any other corporals


hurt or taken away or what. Normally you replace somebody. They don’t just make you a corporal because you’re good. They make you a corporal because you’re replacing somebody. I suppose they thought I had more experience of army life than a lot of them did. Because I’d done three months beforehand. And been in the Lighthorse for a couple of years. But it’s just one of those things


that was really lucky. As I’ve said to you before, that was a really lucky thing. Most luckiest thing that ever happened to me to be made a corporal a week before we were taken prisoner. At the same time, the war office, I don’t think they even knew that I was a corporal. Because on Crete you never - there was no communications with Alexandria.


No radio?
I don’t think so. In those days. They might have, but I don’t think so. Not like today.
So you didn’t have communication?
I’m sure we didn’t. I never even seen any wireless sets in the army to be honest.
Was there a shortage of equipment.


In that book there they say, the only time we were fully had everything that we …
Interviewee: Henry Duus Archive ID 0719 Tape 08


You were talking about equipment shortages and improvising with equipment.
Oh yes. When we went up the desert the first time, like Bardia and Tobruk and that, we got plenty of trucks and that from the Italians. See we filled ours -


Soon as we got back to Alexandria about three months later we had to give any truck that wasn’t ours, had to be handed in. I don’t know why they do these things. You’d think that we’d got them, why not let us keep them. But course they had to send them across to Greece so I suppose that was one of the reasons. We pinched a motor bike once. It was another unit. And the bloke


had to ride, I forget how many hundred kilometres or miles to find it and take it off of us. It was one of the army’s motor bikes.
Why’d you knock that off?
‘Cause we needed a motor bike for one of our sergeants I think, for getting around. One of our riders. Often - we were allowed say three motor bikes, five utilities say, ten


thirty hundred weight trucks. All of this is what you were allowed for, but of course you never got it until the end of the war. Then you had it apparently, the book says. But during the war you were always short of something. It’d break down or something’d happen to it. So we made up for it when we were in Tobruk especially, we loaded up. God I’ll never forget the first night and


the trucks - half the blokes had been drinking wine for a few hours after the battle and they were tearing around in trucks. It was dangerous as hell. This was in the night time. We all survived somehow or other.
So if you had breakdowns with your vehicles …
Oh yes, you had breakdowns, too right.
So what did you do for parts?
The engineers would have to fix them up. We had mechanics. So many mechanics to


a section - it might have been one or two. And bricklayers. Anything you could think of we had in our section. Every section had them. Carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, mechanics. And then there was, I don’t know how many drivers. I think there was ten or fifteen drivers to every section. I don’t think I was considered a driver but I did drive a lot.


The major would call on me a bit to do this and do that.
But you were a technical person. You had a technical role?
Not really. I was only a butcher by trade. I don’t know how I got to be a driver. But, of course in those days there wasn’t too many blokes that could drive. Going back in ‘39 - you might think, oh that’s only a - but there was not that many cars around in those days. Not like today.


They get a car at eighteen. God, I was one of the lucky ones. My Dad was delivering meat in a Chev 4 and it was my job to deliver it. In fact, the car - I’ll never forget this - I was only getting in those days, I was fulltime, about four pound a week I think - the car must have been costing him a bit. He said, “I’ll give you an extra five pound a week to look after the car.” That was to


pay for the petrol that’s used, maintain it, registration, everything you know. But it was my car. So I was doing well out of it. I was a bit of a mechanic too. In those days you could take the head off and decoke them, which you had to do quite regularly. But nowadays the petrol’s that way you don’t need to take your head off like you used to. But no, so I got a cheap car. I was one of the very few


eighteen year olds and twenty that had a bloody motor car. Jesus. You’ve always got friends. I can remember pulling out of our orchard drive one night, I pulled out of the orchard drive to go to a dance and the bloke waved his hand at me to pull up. As I pulled up he said, “Can you give me a lift?” I said, “Yes.” You should have heard the clatter of feet. There must have been about twenty blokes. In those days you had running boards.


I don’t know whether you’d remember those. Ever seen them in a car? Running boards. Well they clambered all over it. Inside and outside. The poor car went down like that. I was crawling out to Wonga Park with all this mob on board.
It must have been great having a friend with a car in the country.
Oh yes. You were it and a bit. Everybody relied on you. Especially an old Chev 4.
So did you give away the horses when


you got the car?
No. The Lighthorse? No, ‘cause that was only rare occasions I went riding, even though I was in the Lighthorse. Be about once a month or twice a month, on a weekend. No. But it was good.
So what was involved in delivering the meat?
People would ring up or even send a message. Lot of people never even had a


phone in those days. Send a message what they want for - I think we used to deliver about once or twice a week to them. So they’d buy enough meat to have for the next two or three days. I’d take it out and they’d pay me. Mainly towards what they called in those days, Park Orchard, out the back of Ringwood. That was a fair way.


You wouldn’t remember - what year were you born?
You’re still only a chicken aren’t you? We had a huge bushfire in 1938. You remember hearing about that? Weingot was burnt out. Croydon, it was coming towards Croydon - I think about thirty people got killed in that fire. Went right up the Yarra Valley. That was bad. The police even came to our shop in Ringwood and said,


“You better get home to the orchard. It could go.” So I had to get up and go. Wasn’t so much - you didn’t know where the fire was because of the smoke. The smoke was coming there but you couldn’t see the fire. The fire could have been three or four mile away. It didn’t get to our orchard. I know that. What’s next?
I’m just curious about the community. So you were delivering meat around


this area and …?
Not so much here. Ringwood.
Ringwood. Okay. So it was very rural.
Oh gosh, yes. All this was all orchards. Even where we had our orchard out Yarra Road now it’s all houses.
Was there very much poverty? ‘Cause it was depression, just post depression?
Oh, it was post depression too. The depression took nearly ten years to be honest. Four years was bad depression and then it just gradually - and the war of course helped it.


I mean, helped alleviate the depression because when we came back there wasn’t enough blokes doing all the jobs around. You could get three or four jobs every day if you wanted to when you came back from the war. But I don’t know, that was the worst depression I think we’ve ever had. I hope it’s the only one we’ll ever have.
How did it affect you and your family?
Oh no, we were


well off. We could live comfortably. Never affected us one bit. That’s when I said, my Dad bought about three or four houses in that time.
But you would have had customers that had difficulty paying.
Oh, gosh yes. But the government gave them - anyone who never had a job, instead of giving them the dole as they do today, they gave them what they call sustenance. That’s a sort of a - you go to the butcher


shop or the greengrocer shop and buy so much with these tickets they had, or whatever it was. But they weren’t given the dole like they are today to spend on whatever they want to. I don’t know how they afforded to give that much away even. Twenty five percent of the population was out of work. That’s a lot of people.


So were you entitled to any - there was a war service loan scheme, housing scheme, were you entitled to any of them?
After the war? Oh yes. And very, very low interest rates too. Oh gosh, nothing. It wasn’t very much I must admit. We got for this house a loan of about -


we started off at two thousand and I think we got a bit more - up to about three and a half thousand, must have been pounds in those days. Of course, the land alone cost us twelve hundred. And the house cost us another I suppose eight or nine hundred, and the garden. I always say it cost us about twelve and a half


pound, twelve and a half thousand for the whole lot. That’s twenty-five thousand dollars. And now I would expect to get around about the four hundred. Around about that, I don’t know. Three and a half to four.
So you bought that with a war service loan.
And the money I’d saved. I don’t know when we paid for this house. I suppose it’d be twenty or thirty years ago.


I don’t know when we made the last payment. It wasn’t very much though because we never borrowed much. But that’s how it goes. Never been rich, but always been reasonably well off. Had a car and that.
So how did you manage to save that much while you were in the camp and not spend it?
You couldn’t spend it in the camp ‘cause you couldn’t get it.


The only time you could spend it was when you got released. And you take it at twelve and six a day it worked out. Or thirteen shillings. You take that every week it’d be what - seven twelves are eighty four.


That’s eighty four, that’s four, say nearly four pound ten. Multiply that by fifty two. That’s for one year. Two hundred pounds. Then you go on for four years you’re getting up towards a thousand pounds.
So did you get that as cash?
You could have if you wanted to draw it out. I didn’t draw


it out straight away. I spent a fair bit though I must admit. ‘Cause that house down there I bought for cash. That only cost five hundred pound.
So it went into an account. Did it?
It goes into your pay book and when you’ve got discharged you take it out of your pay book and put it into your own bank.
So you had no need for cash in a camp?
In a prisoner of war camp?
Well you can’t. No you’ve got no way of getting it. No way at all of


getting it.
So all trading is just in things, stuff - food and cigarettes and stuff.
Yes. No, you couldn’t go round buying anything ‘cause you had no money to buy anything with. But it becomes - you get used to it. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. It just becomes a habit. You don’t want it, you don’t use it, you don’t want it. I mean, we got our cigarettes for free from the Red Cross


parcels. Which is the main thing I suppose everybody wanted. Alcohol of course, you couldn’t get, but I mean to say if you were smart enough like some of us were to brew your own - but then it was only a little bit. God, wouldn’t have been a glass a week I don’t suppose because you get a few prunes in each packet and got to try and do them up.


So you would trade different items with people in the camp?
Yes, if you had something to trade. I don’t think what we had to trade, I can’t think of much that we could have traded with. As I say, getting the Red Cross parcel every week was a good as getting - in those days three or four pound a week in your


pocket. You could trade whatever you wanted to with chocolate or cigarettes. That was the money you had. If you saw something on the market what they’d be selling - what would they be selling? I don’t know. People’s private little things they might have had. If you saw something you wanted you could go and offer them say five cigarettes or ten cigarettes. That’s how you existed


really. Cigarettes - and especially with the guards. Cigarettes and chocolate. Oh gosh, yes. They reckoned that was – ‘cause they had no hope of getting it in Germany. No, we done well there with the cigarettes. I think we used to get about fifty a week I think. Mightn’t sound many to some people but to us that was a hell of a lot of cigarettes. As long as


kept getting it. But then the last six months, of course, everything died out. It was really a drastic drought. We couldn’t get a thing.
Was there much of a presence of the Red Cross in your experience?
They would come around - we wouldn’t see them ourselves, but they would come to the camp - the delegates - and see how things were going, seeing if we were being treated right and all that sort of business. Not that we ever saw them.


But as I said, the Red Cross parcels were the main thing. And that was money too. Even though it was all eatable you could bargain. I mean to say, if you didn’t want to smoke there was fifty cigarettes you could buy whatever you liked with it. Chocolate and that.
But were the Red Cross there in any of the war zones you were fighting in?


No. Not really. The closest we ever got to the Red Cross being there, the Salvation Army units being very close. Not at the very front, but very close. Always well up with us. I take my hat off to the Salvation Army.
What would they be doing?
They usually had a canteen sort of a thing - a truck with stuff on board. You could buy it.


I don’t know. It was just all to help us.
So was that in Egypt and Greece?
Mainly in Egypt, yeah. Never in Greece or Crete no. We were only there for - the whole thing I suppose wouldn’t have taken two months


by the time we went to Greece and backed out of Greece, went to Crete and got out and got caught. It would have all been less than two months. On the move the whole time.
So it must have been great having the Salvos there.
It’s handy at times. I don’t know what for instance you really need, but some personal things I suppose. Shaving


gear and things like that I suppose. So how much longer we got.


I really need my wife to sing.


And I’m only going to sing the first couple of verses, right?
The best you can do.
Yeah. Oh how’s it go? God, I had it there a second ago and it’s gone now.
What’s it called?
‘Number one was number one.’ ... (SINGS) ... “The first was number one…” and - this is what I learnt when I first got to England from the English girls.


(SINGS) “The first was number one and the fun had just begun. Roll me over, roll me over in the clover - no - roll me over, roll me over, do do do do do. The next was number two and his hand was on my shoe. Roll me over in the clover, roll me over.


The next was number three and his hand was on my knee, roll me over in the clover…” I’ve got it wrong somewhere there but it’s working out. “Now the next was number four and I’ve something or other. The next was number five and I thought him rather high. Roll me over in the clover.” I’m wrong there somewhere in that song.


But this is what they sung, this is what this girl sung to me. God struth. Everybody in England was singing this song. I don’t know how it finished it up. The next was, it went on from six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Seven I was in heaven. Eight I was too late. Nine I think I was in time. And ten - oh God knows what ten was.


(UNCLEAR) That was a bit of a roughie.
Who was this girl?
I met a few over there. (SINGS) “Roll me over in the clover, roll me over in the - oh just roll me over. The first was number one and the fun had just begun. Roll me over in the clover, roll me over.” No it doesn’t sound


right. But that’s how she sung it. That’s one of the first songs I learnt.
Which number were you?
I’d have to be number ten when it finished wouldn’t I? No that’s about the only one I can think of.
So where did you meet her? Where did you meet this woman?
Oh, it’d be Eastbourne.


When you were staying in London?
Eastbourne’s a lovely town on the sea in England, south of London. I think it’s south of London. Have to be. Oh yeah. We met several girls and women over there. We’re not that backward. No, it was quite good.
So you kicked up your heels when you got there?


For a little while yes. We did a lot of - we did a lot too. Went to Edinburgh, Scotland. We toured around there. Then we came back and I was with this Ron Keogh. He knew a chap who’d been a prisoner - hello - and lived in a town we were going through so we pulled up there in a train and got off. Had a wow of a time. We were invited to the


hotel - free drinks. God we were looked after. They thought we were marvellous.
Were you still in uniform?
Here’s mother.
(WIFE) How much longer?
We’re just finishing. Were you still in uniform?
Yes. We got a uniform. As soon as we got to England we got a reasonable uniform.


We were there for the best part three or four weeks at least. ‘Cause that’d be in May and June. Then we came back through the Panama Canal and called in at Wellington, New Zealand and Sydney. So. I think that’s it.


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