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.
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