and of course all the fellows, the exciting ones I suppose later on when we went and got together, they’d picked up monkeys and snakes and everything to bring on the boat. Well of course you’re not allowed to so they had to strip, took them all off and they all threw them in a big box they had there. So that was Colombo for us. We left there and then we headed for the Suez Canal and we were just outside the Suez Canal when we got a scare from an Italian submarine which the Italians had just come into the war at that stage up in Eritrea and
that, and right on the coast near Suez they had one of their stations there, but anyway the navy dropped a few little sticks on them and we didn’t see the sub [submarine] and we didn’t know whether it got sunk or anything so we went up the Med [Mediterranean], into the Med and we stayed, we got right up to the Med. We did go to Port Said, we stopped in ‘Bitter Waters’ [Great Bitter Lake] I think they called it, and then we got off and of course we go the favourite old Aussie sausages and mash, you know,
for our meal, and that was good anyway. We all filled up on that and then they said, “Right, you’re all embarking now, you’re in training now for Palestine.” So we got on the train and away we went, (UNCLEAR) these ‘dog carriages’ we called them, but they were cattle trains, you know, where they put the cattle and lock them in. Well we were in those and they stunk you know. Anyway we had just on seven hours I think going to camp, and we got to camp at this Beit Jirja where we went to in Palestine.
It was a nice camp, dusty and hot as anything you know, and then our tents were all up for us. The British had been there but they’d just left and they went over to Egypt I think, so we got Beit Jirja and then we stayed there, did a lot of training and then the people were getting restless so we decided we’d have a race meeting, so we had a race meeting at Berbera, another place that was there, and being engineers we had to make a sort of a racecourse for them so we
went to Sarafand where all our equipment was and we got galvanised piping and various other things and anyway we made this circular thing, all the real horses, we went to the Arab Muktahs and we said, “Want to enter one of your horses in our race?” So they entered their horses in the race and bang, we had our race meeting. Turned out brilliant and beautiful. We had our jockeys ourselves that were in it, but I didn’t win anything on that one. I don’t know, our jockeys didn’t do too good that day. But we had
that, then we had to go around to various places doing things and one of the places we went to was up to Haifa and at Haifa there was the Qishon River and we had to do bridging, training bridging and that up on there. So we did that and then came back and then we got sent over to Egypt, and we got over there just before Christmas. We arrived over there in Palestine in June something, and just before Christmas we went to
Egypt and my sub-section I was in, I was made a transport driver by the way when we arrived in Palestine because they said, “You’re small enough, you can sit behind the cabin or wheel and you can drive.” A big bloke, we want him outside lifting things you know, so, and I also had a driver, a spare driver in case anything happened to me, he took over, but he was a massive big bloke, massive he was. Anyway he was good because he lifted
all the goods into the trailer, into the truck for me when I need them, you know, and I just drove. So we go over the Suez Canal and up to outside of Cairo, yeah, Cairo, yeah, and we met with the New Zealand forces that were on the Nile River and that there so we mixed in with them and had a fairly good time. We were actually camped near the pyramids, that’s right, at Mina. Mina? Yeah.
put big pipes through before Rommel [Erwin Rommel, German general] came down to Tobruk and that, but unbeknown to him what he got from us as far as the valves went was no use whatsoever because the valves weren’t where we put them on, they were somewhere else, only we knew where they were. So we went there to Sidi Baranni and the British and the Egyptians, British and the Indians, 5th Indian Division, they soon fixed the Italians up there so we went up Mount
Saloom and up through the pass there, past all the old castles and everything that were up there and up to the outskirts of Bardia just before Christmas, just after, yeah, just before Christmas it was ’cause we were up in Bardia on the outskirts, on the barbed wire at Bardia to have Christmas Day there, and on the 3rd of January then we had our attack on Bardia and so my mate and I, we were the two transport drivers from headquarters with 5 Platoon
was the platoon I was with and we had the job of putting two sort of, a bridge in two sections across the tank trap, right. The tank trap should’ve been 6 feet wide where the officers the day before on New South Wales section of the job over there, New South Wales had the left flank, we had the centre flank and Victoria and the rest of Australia had their right flank, and so we went through on a third,
the two of us with our trucks, got on, backed it up to the barbed wire and the artillery opened up a massive bomb, our artillery opened up over our heads to give us cover, and whoosh, never heard anything like it. I shook a bit but I soon got over that I think, and anyway we, on rollers we came up and dropped our things into the thing but it was only half as far, we had to do two more lots of it because it was only 12 feet where we were and these were only 6 foot things. Might’ve been a bit bigger
but that’s how I remember it, 6 foot or 12. So we had to get into it then and with picks and shovels and pat all the dirt down and everything and while we were doing this another part of our unit went in and blew all the barbed wire up with Bangalore torpedoes, which is really only a two inch piece of pipe loaded with gelignite stretched in between the barbed wire and then connected to a fuse with a detonator on it and when you press the plunger down the detonator gets pushed into, gets a strike hits into the fuse,
other part and bang, away she goes, blows a great big 12 or 15 foot gap in the wire, you know. So that was the second part of the engineer’s job and while that was going on also they had to then go in and look over the mines, all the mine placements. So when you’re doing mines you have a little party that goes through. The first part go in and they sort of look around and we didn’t have mine detectors, we just had bayonets like. I didn’t do it, but they did. I was in
on the other part and they went in just with their bayonets. When they hit a bit of steel they just put a little white disc on it, didn’t do any more and away they went to the next then. They just bring them up after about a minute or a second they worked out what, after the minute or about five minutes, they worked out what the pattern was, where they were. Some they could go straight down the middle, some they could put in a triangle, some they could go three across. So they worked out the pattern and when they did that it was a matter of just going and following the other and putting a white, others come behind them, took the cap and the cap for mines themselves
were about 3 foot long and about 6, 7 inches high and 6 and 7 inches square like, and the top come off them just the same as when you sent people gladiolis in a big container, you know, and so what happens, when you stood on the top of that, took about 180 pound to bust them and when you stood on the top of that, there was a knife edge right through it and in the thing itself on the bottom part was a, gelignite was up this end, and there
was a hole, gelignite was up this end and on the edge of the hole, there was a hole where you could put a de-lousing pin through. We used to have to carry pins with us and put a pin through it, and when you did that as soon as they stepped on the top and cut the bar, the copper wire that was in there holding the striker pin back, the pin went forward and then normally it would go in and hit a detonator and the detonator would explode the gelignite and away she’d go, but when we got the pin in it that wouldn’t happen, so the second people that come through
placed a pin in there, ripped the lid off and left it and they went on, and then the next party that came put their hand in and pulled all the workings out put it beside it and left it there like that. So that’s how we cleaned the minefield. We could do 100 yards in about three quarters of an hour. It was good.
19th Brigade went that way. So 16, 17 and 19, we all converged on the 5th we took Bardia and then we had a rest for a little while, then they shot us up to Tobruk and so, yeah, we went up to Tobruk but there again we didn’t need the whole lot of the mob to go in. We only just had 2/1st I think did the engineering jobs on that. We were in reserve for them and that didn’t take long,
only a couple of days and that was taken and so we rested a little bit from there and everybody got souvenirs and things like that and a couple of foolish ones wouldn’t listen to us because we told everybody at a battle that they were not to pick anything up, that booby traps were in everything over there and we were the only ones that could help them, you know. So if you wanted souvenirs tell us what you want and we’ll get it for you but please don’t do it yourself, so a few of them did,
dead you know. So anyway we moved from there then and we went on to Derna and Derna was a very quick one. The 19th Brigade did that one I think, and they did that one, and then we went on again a bit further, later, that was a few days, two days or something. We were in water then though, that was, we got a bit of rain then. It was beaut because we could get a drink of fresh water. Water to us
was, we had to get a cart which I actually fell for being the water joey, I had to drive back to Marsa Matruh, bring the water up. Nobody was allowed to touch it but the cook and the officer who had to supervise. Everybody lined up with their water bottles, we filled all their water bottles and they got a top on them and they got a security thing on them and they were not to touch those on any account until nightfall when they had to give them to the cookhouse. So that’s how, so we had various ways of getting water and that and
even to cooking up saltwater and, not too good for shaving though I’ll tell you. So anyway we went to Derna and from Derna then we went on to, we were lucky again, we were with the 9th Brigade, 19th Brigade then and we got to a beautiful place called Tokrah. There were little things in between but we went to Tokrah and well Giovanni Berta was one that was in between, and it was a beautiful little place, it had a great big monastery and
so we, after the mass was over we went up to the priest there and said, do you mind if we just have a look around your altar and that for things? Because just like in Iraq, and we found it later in Damascus, that there was a big cavity behind the altar with a bit on it, you know, and down below was all the arms. So we just had to make sure that wasn’t there. So then we came back and got to our camp and the sergeant
said to me, “Joe, now, you’re the scrounger,” ’cause I drove everywhere see and I was a scrounger. So they said, “Can you get some eggs and milk and things, bread for us and that?” I said, “Yeah, no worries.” So I went to the Italians with my mate, this big mate, and we got the eggs and the milks and the breads and all the things we had to get. Anyway there was a big hay barn, you know, a barn with all the hay in it, and I says to him, you know that if anyone was hiding that’s where they’d be in there, do you reckon? And he said, “Come on Joe, don’t worry about that.”
So anyway we jabbed it a few times and talked, we said, “We’ll give it a few jabs with the bayonets and see what happens.” The next thing the straw was all over the place and out come the Italians that they said, you know, surrender, with a white flag. They all had big white handkerchiefs tucked in them. When they wanted they just waved that white flag, they must’ve given them all those to wave. So away we went from there then, got back and went to place called Barti. Well then we went from the desert then into
pasture land. It was beautiful it was, and it was right down in a valley and the road had been blown so our engineers had to repair that bridge at the roads that were there. Meanwhile our officer went in through the background, through the grazing area and back and we found another track at the back down and we got in to Barti, and there again the officer said to me, “Well OK Joe, see what you can find as far as eggs and bread and that for when the troops come in.” So we went in and saw
all them and they welcomed us with open arms the Italians. They came from Italy you see, to do farming and all that thing and Mussolini put them in the army and they didn’t want to go in the army. They didn’t want to fight, but the Black Shirts [Italian Fascists] that were there, oh they were devils, cows. They would come right up, hands up in the air, and when you got near them they’d pull a pin out of a grenade and you know, straight away somebody shot them and you know, that was it, but they were the worst of them, and so then we
went to this beautiful place called Tokrah and there’s a funny little story with this. Won’t take long. When we were at Tobruk there were a lot of ducks, they’re little ducks you know and so we had an Irishman there and he picked a little duck and he called it one of his family, you know, and he used to cuddle, take it to bed, he did everything with it, you know. And so at the same time our I officer he disobeyed
rules, he ran off the road where he shouldn’t have ran off, you know, we told him not to run off the roads ’cause mines would be planted anywhere so he ran off and up went the front of his truck and of course he couldn’t move, so he sent a Provo [Provosts – Military Police], a Provo came past and he said, “When you go to up to Benghazi could you get someone to come back and pick me up?” “All right,” but we weren’t at Benghazi. My section, not my section, the section I was in, we went on to Ajdabiya down in the Gulf of Sirte and we were waiting for instructions from
60th headquarters that were down there whether we’d stay there, go back or whether we’re going forward or not and eventually of course Churchill [Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom] gave the order that we’ve got to come back so we had to come back, but we had to come back anyway. So on the way there we passed through Benghazi at night, it was pretty, well we got there about half past 6.00, 7.00 o’clock and we walked down the street and asked people if we could get a meal or some food or anything, we were starving,
and he says, yeah, he says, “Go down the officers down there,” they’re all in this big hotel, the Hotel Benghazi. So we said, “All right,” so when we walked in it was all generals and everything, you know, and we were dishevelled old soldiers, you know, with an officer that was nearly as bad as us. Anyway we get in there and as we got in he looked at the building he went, oh, don’t you spend any more than this and that, you know. We said, “OK, she’ll be right, we won’t, but we’re hungry,” and big ‘Snagger’ Williams my mate,
he was very hungry, you know, so he told us we could have about £10 between us. Well it ended up over about £70 we drank and the beer was Stavagunza and oh it was a beautiful German beer it was, and on top of that of course we had all the other delicacies and that, but when the speeches come the officer said, I think we better go now, you know. So we took off and we had to go up to catch up where his unit was, the 60th down at Ajdabiya. So went through into the night then. Well we got so far, within
about 10 kilometres I suppose of Ajdabiya, but we didn’t know where we were going, there was water on that side, desert that side and roads like this so we pulled into this old place and it was, you know, barns and all in there so we parked the car. We saw all other cars in there but didn’t take any notice ’cause it was dark, so we found a spot, parked in there, walked in through the door and hopped in the straw and went to sleep. The next morning at 6.00 o’clock, brr, you know, machine guns and all going outside the door, and we think God, what’s this? We wake up and we look around and they’re all
Italians we were sleeping with. So we go outside and the Armed, the 5th, 7th Armed Division of the British Army, well they were really the top notches in the desert. They went around and scouted and they made sure that none of those outside units could get anywhere near us. They kept that at bay and made them keep going in retreat. So they were really good to us. But anyway they were the ones that got this poor old ‘Wire Whiskers’ Bergonzoli, the Italian general,
and he got a shock I think when they came in in their jeeps. You might’ve seen a picture a long time ago where these jeeps used to run around the desert and run into airports and blow up planes and everything. That’s what they did, and so anyway we get up and all these Italians, we look at them and they look at us and we all go outside and old Bergonzoli’s got his hands up for surrender, you know, so they captured him and took him away. The Italians didn’t worry about us, we shook hands with a few and we got in our truck and drove the extra 10 Ks [kilometres] down to Ajdabiya
and got down there, saw our OC and everything down there.
past Benghazi, but ours was right down on the Gulf of Sirte which, when you’re right down, it goes around up to Tripoli, yeah. So that’s how we did it. So anyway we went to our headquarters and dropped this 1st officer off there and we said, “Well we’re off now, ta ta,” and we left him there and he said, “Thanks very much,” and we said, “That’s all right.” So away we went. So getting back to the duck story, they come to Benghazi, back to Benghazi and it’s been captured and all under
sort of martial law and everything and our blokes are patrolling, and anyway old Snagger who was an old villain you know, and he had a master key and whenever we wanted anything the master key came in handy, you know, especially with me, you know, I was ‘the scrounger’ they called me. So we go to Benghazi and he says, “Look, we might find a place that’s got a few beers around here,” and I said, “We’re not worrying about that,” and he said, “Oh it’s all right for you,” so we went down the road and we this, something like cantina or something it was.
He said, “That’ll do us,” so he puts the key in the door and it opened and, oh, he said, “A goldmine, look, gin, whisky, brandy, everything” on the shelf, you know, and then cases on the floor. Oh, he said, “Come on Joe, we’ll load some of this in.” So we loaded whisky and brandy and gin and wine and all sorts of things and beer into it. So we come back from Benghazi back to Tokrah then where our unit was stationed, and it was a lovely place right on the seaside, you know, right up with a castle like and you’re looking right down on the water on the rocks and that
just as though you’re in Italy, you know, and so when we go in the gate we hear this commotion going on see, and not all the 2/11th Battalion went to Benghazi, this particular section was left there, about 20 blokes or something like that, and they were hungry and they saw this duck going around so they grabbed it you know, and they were going to ring its neck, so Paddy raced out and he said, “Hey, don’t kill it, that’s my pet, that’s my pet,” you know, and we got there just in the right time, you know, so Snagger bowled up to the 11th Battalion bloke and they were big too, they
were a big battalion the 2/11th, they were massive blokes and he said, “Excuse me, what are you doing with that duck?” He said, “That’s Paddy’s pet.” “We’re hungry, we haven’t eaten for quite a while,” and he says, “I bet you’re dry too,” and they said, “Yes we are.” “Have you had any beer lately?” “No.” “Give Paddy back his duck and we’ll give you some beer.” So he got his duck back, we went back to the end of the truck, unloaded beer to him and said, “Your officer will most likely go off crook at you for taking this, so” we said, “Better take a case of whisky back for him,” so he got a case
of whisky out of it and the duck was saved, and that was that story. So then we evacuated from there. Churchill told us we had to go so we came back, had to hand a lot of our equipment over to the 9th Div [Division]. It was no good, it was worn out you know, our Bren gun carriers, the tracks were held with chewing gum I think. Anyway the 9th Div got it, I felt sorry for them and we came back to Marsa Matruh to a place called Cleopatra’s Pool which is where Cleopatra apparently used to go like and ride, what’s the bloke
with the big whiskers, Crow Ghoster, you know, similar to that. It was a beautiful swimming area there anyway and so we went out fishing. We found a boat and went out fishing and we were greedy. We got too many fish, you know, and we were lighting a fuse, throwing it over and dive over and grab the fish and bring, and the wind changed and we put a big fuse in then and it went over and blew a hole in the bottom of our boat. We lost all our fish and had to swim ashore. So anyway,
then headquarters came to us there and they brought all the decorations to you, you know, and we had about seven, about three mentioned in despatches and a couple of military medals and a few other things and that, MCs [Military Crosses] and so forth, so they gave, they just came in, threw them all on the counter and said, now sort those out amongst yourselves. Well then our head officer had to sort of sort out who got them so that was that. From then on we were taken to Alexandria then, taken to the wharf and ready for Greece, but they gave us a night’s leave, you know, in there.
So we went into town and had a night’s leave and of course the bus, our car, truck took off without us and left us there so we had to pay a bloke a few dinars to take us back out to the wharf so we got on the boat next morning. It’s amazing, it wasn’t until we were in Greece that our officer told us that the German Embassy or whatever it was there, they were there like taking stats of everything that went on our boats, everything, and so when a few, when we got out one day, out into the, on the way to Greece,
Port Piraeus, we got bombed you know, but they only went for these couple of ships. We had six or seven ships in it I think and one was the Devis that they hit and it had all explosives and everything on it and I think there were parts for aeroplanes and something else on another boat, it wasn’t the Singhalese Prince, another boat it was and it got sunk too. Then they didn’t worry us too much but they did come back and try and strafe us on
that but we had all our Bren guns set up and well we didn’t notice that the bullets were coming but when we looked afterwards, I had an old Lewis gun, you know poop, poop, poop, poop, and when we looked around in the deck when they’d gone all the deck was all chopped up where the bullets had hit. We didn’t feel any, and so that was all right and we were just going into Port Piraeus and the navy come streaming with a jee jee jee, and there was an Italian submarine there. Italian
or German? I don’t know, it was a submarine anyway. I think it was Italian and there was a message came across to hold fire until we fixed this up, and he chased this sub and voom, voom, voom and they signalled that everything was all right and we went into Port Piraeus then, and…
He said, “OK, and you don’t know where you’re going?” We said, “No, we’re on a red sticker and we’ve lost it.” We’ve got taken off the track somewhere. He said, “Well it’s too dark for you now to go around the coastline and have a look for it.” He said, I” know where you’re going, but” he said, “It’s too hard for you to get to,” He said, “Just go behind here to the Olympic Stadium,” this big Olympic Stadium, you know, the ones they had the Olympics in. He said, “Just go around that, at the back you’ll find a great big paddock,” which is used as a
racecourse sort of, and he said, “Camp in there for the night and see how you go.” So we said, “All right.” So we went around there, found the spot, it was good and we looked over the road and there was a café, and so late at night, you know, we bowled over the road and pushed the door open and people went, ah. The Greeks looked at us with amazement, they thought we were going to shoot them or something. Anyway I said, look, I said, all we’re after is some food, you know, food. So
we didn’t know Greek and they didn’t know Australian. Anyway the fellow who was there he came out and the poor old cow, his shoes, there was nothing in them, there was a bit, his toe sticking out here, worn right out and everything and that and his wife was, oh they were both shabby, you know, but I understood later on that they didn’t have any food and nobody was giving them food and they had to get where they could, you know, and this was when we found out that the Gestapo [German Secret Police] had put 5th column in there because when we left Alexandria they were
marking all the things off. They transferred that to whoever it was that the bombers came and bombed those particular ships and when we got into there they were there again, different ones over there marking which boats came in and where they were and all that sort apparently. So we went out to this camp and that night they dropped a bomb on the one that had all explosives. Oh did it make a mess. It blew Port Piraeus nearly away. Didn’t kill many people I don’t think but it ruined a lot of boats that were beside it, you know.
So we camped in this place and we went over to this café and said to the lady about it, and she said, you (UNCLEAR). I couldn’t understand what, I said, eggas, eggas, do you know what eggas? Chook, chook, chook, chook, chook. I get you, and the old boy came out see and he said, (UNCLEAR), and I said, yeah (UNCLEAR). So we were getting a big one of those whatever it was. So I looked at him and I said, “No good.” He said, “No, no good, no money,” something
to that effect, so I said, “She’ll be right.” I went out to the truck, I went out to him and I put my hand like that, so mine’s 9 inches see, I went 9 and 12, yeah, all right, he’ll take a size 8 or 9. Went out to the truck and brought in army boots for him and he looked, his eyes went like this and he shook like anything and I said, “They’re yours, for you.” He took his other ones off, oh beauty. Anyway they fed us like kings that night, and so we had to go early in the morning so we gave
them, we got a little bit of Greek money that we’d picked up somewhere in Alexandria before we left I think, we were going to be smart alecs, you know. We weren’t as smart as one of our blokes at Tobruk, he robbed a bank there and he had thousands and thousands. Oh God, and we went to Greece he just put it into the Italian bank that was running over there, sent all the money home to his mother. Another story later on, and so we took off and we get to this beautiful coastal resort just like Surfer’s
Paradise and that. You know, it was magnificent it was, and it was a place where at that moment the Greeks were fighting the Italians up in Albania and all their wounded were coming back and that, and it was snow and sleet and rain, oh it was cold as hell up there. And anyway they brought them back to down here and had a hospital there for them, so we moved to this camp at Daphne and it was good and we were able to go swimming and everything because our main body wasn’t there. They were
coming on about the 10th. We got there on the 2nd or something and they’ve come on the 10th, but in the meantime we had to take our trucks in to Athens and we went into a place and they just had big arms that came out with spray, you know spray gun things, and they just moved them. They were all set more or less and when you drove your truck through one arm came down like that, the other arm went out like this, another went like that and they camouflaged the truck in about five minutes and just drove out green and brown and that for in
the mountains up there, and so that was good. We thought we were going to be there for hours so we had a good day having a look around, in Athens having a look around and so anyway we got back and I said, I’m going down to the hospital to see how the blokes were down there. So I went in the hospital and oh yes, the cases I saw there made you sick, gee, so I didn’t spend much time there, but we were camped right near and old farmer that was
there. He was a nice old bloke and he had a nice daughter, you know, and she said, I help anytime, you know. So they’d do anything for you the Greeks, but at the same time we didn’t know then if they were 5th columnists or not. Later on we didn’t trust any of them, but we put, that’s not the right thing because a lot of them were good, you know, but a lot of them weren’t either. And so we had up to the 10th I think it was and then
our officer, our head officer came, ‘Kanga’ Wilson, Major Wilson, he was the head director of Australian Paper Mills and he went back to it after the war like as a chief director, and he said, “Right fellas, we’re right, the trucks are all done, we’re all ready, first thing in the morning we’re off.” Said, righto. So we took off for up the northern front then and we said, “Where are we going sir?” He said, “I don’t know.” We knew he knew but he
didn’t tell us, so we got a fair way up and the mountains were just like this, you know, and down this way and that, and it got dark and that, so he said, all right, well we only drive by a tail light now. So we only had little tail lights on the back of our cars so we had to keep right up close and watch that tail light, and the one in front had little pilot light in the front down on the ground and he was our leader and we just followed these around the mountainside. Oh gee, when we came back I said, “Oh, how’d we drive over these?” And so we got up to a
place called Kalambaka which now is called Meteora which is where the monks are up in the mountains, up in the top of them. They climb these, well they used to have a little winch that came down and put a little cage, you stood in the cage and then they winched you up and you swung out like this up 2,000 feet to go up. When we went back this time afterwards we went up and I said to them, the monk up there, “You still got the cage down below?” And he said, “No, look,” and he pushed the button
and whoosh up came this bloomin’ thing and he pushed the button, whoosh down it went and it was beautiful. So we had, a road was built right up to it then. We used to go up by donkey see, so, or this cage, so we went up and when we were going up I was sitting on this side of the truck and we were going up and way down there was about 2,000 feet down there, you know, and I, when we got up the top I said to the driver, I could’ve sworn your outside tyres were over the road. He said, “They were but don’t tell the others, will you?”
the engineers, their motto is “build and destroy,” but also “first in, last out,” so when we go in and take up mines and do bridges and all that, but when it comes to retreating we’re the rear guard and we retreat to make sure everybody comes before we blow bridges and roads, so this applied. Now we had three companies there, the 2/1st, 2/2nd and 2/8th, and there was Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Albania so we all had one, and the first ones to come back,
the Germans came through at a place called Vevi Pass which is on the Yugoslav side of Bulgaria. Bulgaria is up here but we didn’t go to Bulgaria, they stopped at Mount Olympus and up here like this, and Vevi is here and Florina is there and Yugoslav is there, so Vevi’s here, but that was a big battle from all these. And there was all the New South Wales, New Zealand regiments there. Victorian 19th Brigade went up to Yugoslavia and the 6th, 17th Brigade
went up to the Albania area from Kalamata up to Grevena and that area there, and so engineers are part of the 6th Division, they don’t belong to anybody. Whoever needs them gets them, you know, so we had to go up to the, the river up near Vevi and blow a bridge for them, that was the 16th. Their other 16th engineers were busy doing other jobs, so then we did that, came back, we lost
a man there. Never had anything like that happen before. We blew the bridge and a bit of steel girder flew through the air 200 yards and embedded in there, killed him. So we came back and the next thing we had, we had to go up to the Albania, to Grevena out the Albanian front. There was an engineer, 2 engineers out there and they were really nice blokes they were, and there was a tunnel had to be blown and quite close to
this tunnel there was an engineer depot with explosives and all that sort of stuff in it. Sir John Holland do the bridges all around Melbourne and all that and everywhere, Holland Construction Company, well John’s his son and Sir John was my officer and so he had to go out and review that this bridge was, you know, what they would do with it, so he spoke to the British colonel
that was there and he said, “OK, well we’ll go down the engineers’ depot, we’ll load up all we can of explosives works and put them in there and see what we can do with it.” So he went down there, got all the explosives, put them in, blew the, and when he saw later on this officer back in Alexandria he asked him what happened to the hill that was up at Grevena, he said, “Oh my goodness,” he said, “It blew up all right, the tunnel went, the train went and half the mountain went.” So that was there, then the next one we had we had to come back,
get some barbed wire and everything for the 19th Brigade, 2/11th Battalion and we had to go up and take it up to them at Elassona where General Blamey [Thomas Blamey, Australian general] had his headquarters at Elasonna which was back from Florina coming back down to Greece, got the barbed wire for there, no sooner we dropped into the camp to deliver it and he said, “What are you doing here?” And we said, “Delivering the barbed wire you ordered.” He said, “I ordered that two days ago,” he said, “See what’s over there coming down that mountain?” And Grevena was up here and then it went down in a low valley and then way
up in a great big one over there. There’s all the German tanks coming down the thing, it was you know four hours away most probably from him, but he said, “It’s no good to us now, either throw it off or take it back with you.” So we said, “We’ll take it back, no use throwing it off here,” so we took it back and then we got lost, couldn’t find our company then, they’d all moved. So we were in ‘Walter Wellies’, you know the Walter Wellies? Big things they used to pull on, the woollen things, oh freezing it was, I’ll tell you.
Your hands were just numb, and anyway I stunk and my mate stunk and I said, “I’m gonna have a wash, blow this.” So we get to the river and it felt beautiful and cold and that, you know, so he said, “We’ve got no towels.” I said, “I have,” so I whipped these Walter Wellies off, froze me it did, and I come out, used those to dry myself and then threw them away. And yeah, that was just a little story, and then I came back and then we were lost and anyway we asked a Provo, we said,
you know, and we were told not to take information off anybody because at that time the Germans, what they were doing were taking our uniforms, wearing them and if they put, we had colours that had red underneath them, first ones were black over red, the next ones was blue over red, the next was white over red and the next was purple, the next was, brown, yeah, 2/11th that’s another one, yeah, and so if they
knocked one off with the red and black, black and red they would go to a white and red and no one knew him and that’s how they did, and then the Germans had their code with the help of the Greeks and all that of the places where they were taken prisoner, and that’s where we lost a lot of prisoners, when they had about 20, 30 in a bunch they’d grab them, put them in a park and finish, they were prisoners and they had no uniforms, they had just scabby old clothes the Germans gave them. So we came back and we struck
two Provos and all the transport, not only mine, 50, 60 of us there were and we were all coming back. A lot of them had troops in them and a lot didn’t. These two Provos pulled us up and said, “In there, we’ve got to wait for fresh orders now, we’re not moving until we get fresh orders.” So they just looked like ordinary 6th Divvies [Division] or Provos, you know, so we moved in and turned out they were Germans and so we were prisoners of war from half past 5.00 or 6.00 o’clock at night to about 11.00 at night. Didn’t worry
me ’cause I hadn’t slept for 10 days and I was snoring away like a beaut when he woke me, and he said, “Come on, start your engine up, we’re going now,” and I says, “I thought we were going to stay here?” And he says, “No, we’re not staying here, they was two Germans that put us in the camp, they’re dead now though,” and one bloke went out from the ASC [Army Service Corps], and nature called him so he went out and heard them talking German. He came back and he says to the officer, “They’re Germans those blokes,” and the officer said, “Can’t be.” He said, “You come out and listen.” They went out, the officer said, “Which one
do you want?” He said, “I’ll have that and you have that,” and they went, sliced their throats and left them and we came out, and that’s a good story too.
anyway, and we only had two mountain pieces left, they were old, not 25 pounders, they were a bit lighter ones they were, but they were accurate you know, and so right on the top of Mount Thermopylae as you come right up there was a big valley there which we called the Straight Six and that where all our men killed, not ours but the infantry, and there was a bridge over the other Fidors, Satorias, or Tasouris or something and we’d blown it but the Germans,
you know, they could build, they could, they just drove tanks up and pushed a button and a bridge went straight across the river and motor cyclists went across and that was it. In three minutes they’d get across. We blew this one, I’ll tell you about in a minute, so we were up there and they had these two guns right on the top and they opened sight, you know, instead of ranging it up with a sight feeder here looking and seeing what they were, they just left it so they could look straight down the barrel where they were going and then they just pushed it in, oh and they demoralised
the German there you know, and so they sent for the dive-bombers to come and get them but they camouflaged so well these guns, that they couldn’t find them. So a reccy [reconnaissance] plane came over, it would’ve been 8.00 o’clock one night I guess, it was dark, and they opened fire on him, and the minute they opened fire they had it on their map where they were and they just pinpointed it like that the next morning, killed nearly all of them. Now we were told as soon as
we got on the top wasn’t going any further, this is where you’re going to fight to the finish and if you got out good luck, every man for himself, you know that sort of thing, and we were there for a couple of days and then we were told OK, you’re not staying there, you’re going, and so we had to go and just over and down the other side there was the Brailos Pass Bridge, Brailos Pass was just up from Thermopylae, the other side was the Brailos Pass Bridge. Anyway we had to blow that so we blew that and then we had to go and do a tunnel with a train in it a bit further on
so the 2/1st machine-gunners were allotted an area where they could watch what happened when that bridge was renewed by the Germans, and they just drove up with a tank and they just went joonk, and the bridge went straight across and the motor cyclist went up and they all came up. As they came around the corner the 2/1st said, good afternoon, straight over and down, killed them all. So that’s the story they told us anyway when we met them up again later. So then our unit, one
of the parts of the unit went to this tunnel and blew it up with a train in it, and the funny part about it was when the war ended, when they got taken prisoners in Crete all the others that got taken, a few of ours got taken, one of them decided to get off at Mount Olympus when they called for volunteers to help the wounded, because blokes were laying all on stretchers all the way along on the bottom and not enough orderlies to look after them, so this Johnny Holden, he was a sergeant, he died the other day too, he got off the truck and went to help
them. So how he got out I don’t know, but he went to Crete and we didn’t, and he started building a compound and that for them over there and when they came back, the train, we’d blown the railway tunnel and all the train so they couldn’t go by train up to the top of northern Greece where they were going to, so they had to hitchhike it, you know, in little trucks and walk and all sorts of things and they said, those blasted engineers, if we only, and he was in amongst it.
you stay? Anyway we went on further then we saw another Provo, right, but we had the instance with the other one back there, so the sergeant in charge of the transport and that, Don Hr he was, he walked up and he unloosened his revolver like right here and he went up and this, they all talked perfect English, that was their trouble see, and he said, “Where you going?” And he said, “We know the route, we’re going down here,” and he said, “You’re going
to Kalamata [Kalambaka], but you don’t go that way, you go this way.” “No,” he says, “It’s down this way.” The Provo says, “Look, I know this back to front, it’s down that way,” and he said, “Danke [‘Thanks’ in German],” and the German said, “Danke,” and he went, plonked him, down he went, “Thanks.” And so we just went on and we put all our trucks undercover down below there. We weren’t allowed to destroy them then because we might use them again and we slept in a drain. Normally
it’d be flooded with water, but we all had to sleep in there, and we all had turns for about an hour waking one another to see, a little light that just went, and that was it. And this fellow was on about half past 10.00 at night, he gave us a shake and he said, “Right, all on your feet,” and we went to the officer and the officer says, “Righto, all drivers over and fix their trucks up now,” so we drained all the oil, switched the engine on, punctured all the tires with the bayonets and left them,
and then we came back in the joint, and it was a sad sight then because we went to the wharf and the HMS Hero was there waiting to pick us up and the poor old Jewish people had come over as our labour party on various things, they weren’t allowed to get on the boats. They put the machine-guns in front of them every time they moved and pushed them right back against the wall, and they ought to taken prisoner, you know, that was the sad part. But we went on the Hero and we were right down, the Plimsoll line come up and with water nearly coming over our edge
and we left about 11.00 o’clock. A bit after 11.00 we were out about 100 yards or so and the paratroops started dropping on the bridge, on the wharf where we were at Kalamata, Kalambaka, and we had to go out to a boat. We got on the Dilwarra and we had to climb up the nets you know. Well imagine after we had no energy, we were as tired as anything and we had all our, we had to carry all our rifles and everything and we got up the top. Anyway poor old infantry as they came up, we were
helping them up, and they were dead on their feet they were, and they just laid down like that, you know, and we said, we’ve been instructed to mount the guns anywhere around on the decks and everything like that, so we got their guns and we told them like if you want it back a bloke up here or somebody just here, they got yours and the other infantry part that were on were further on than the last infantry up the front. I struck it for one of theirs right on the front of it, you know. Anyway
they came and gave us a bit of ‘Larry Dooley’ the next morning, but it wasn’t too bad, navy shook them off, and we were within more or less nearly in sight of Crete when, they have beautiful red suns like that over there as you know, you know, oh magnificent, we were going right into it and I was right on the end of it, you know and I was blinking and blurring and that and I thought I saw this spec coming, you know, and it got a bit bigger and bigger and anyway I says to my mate, “I think there’s a plane coming in there, can you hear it?” And we couldn’t
hear it. He says, “No,” and I said, “I better alert everybody,” I said, “Righto, bandit coming over through the sun.” About three minutes time we could see him then, he was coming on. Well we had the infantry rifles, Bren guns like, and they all had tracer bullets in them because when you have a tracer you fire one shot and you know where it’s gone and you just pull the trigger and every one goes the same direction, whereas with the other you fire you don’t know if the bullets gone there or there or where, so I had tracers in mine and so did the others,
and as soon as he came down he came within 100 yards of us and I gave him the works. I could see them going right in his stomach, you know, belly. Nothing happened and then he flew around that way and then he came back this way, but as he did he started pouring smoke, but the others had been pounding into him too so I don’t know who got him, and he went over the top of us and he dropped two bombs just as he approached and I could see them coming down and I thought, oh holy mackerel, and the old captain just steered the boat like that and they landed beside
us, whoosh, sprung our plates and that, we went up in the air like that and just came down and then just went over like that, you know, so we went to Alexandria drinking tea or anything we had like that see, we weren’t standing straight up.
that it was us and then that went on a list that went back to Australia, rescued, you know, and then they sent us to Palestine again back to our old training ground, and Blamey was there and Blamey said, well fellows, thanks for the mighty job you did. See, we had a lot of battalions with us, a lot of other battalions were, they all got taken prisoner or were killed, and we had about a third of our 20,000 blokes there, and he said, I’m going home to Australia and I’ll get you reinforcements and he came home
to Australia and he was unable to get any reinforcements because of the fact that Curtin [John Curtin, Prime Minister of Australia] said, look, the Japs are going to attack us here and we haven’t got enough here now as it is, and Blamey was a really, I always found him a really nice bloke, you know, and he said OK, we’ll get another way of doing it. So he came back, apologised to us and said, look fellows, I’m sorry, but we can’t get anybody from Australia, but don’t fret, I’ll get some, so he went down to base and all the fellows that were in base were fit,
good, like accountants and post office and all these blokes with good arms, good legs and everything. He just said, “You’re out, you’re in the army now, go and get a uniform and go up and join what battalion you’re put in,” and all the fellows in hospital with arms off, legs off, eyes out, wounds, bad wounds and that, they all got transferred to do the jobs in the base parts, so we picked up about 2,000 or something from that and so we, it was a little bit better, but the 7th Division went up to
Syria so we were only reserve for them up there, but do you want to know that now?
for submarines and we went out with that one anyway. And so we went to Colombo. We were going to Burma, that’s what Churchill wanted us to go to, we were going to Burma so he said, and when we got to Colombo our officer came down and he says, “Well, you’re all going home to Australia now,” and we said, “Oh, you beauty, why can’t we go to Burma?” You know, and he says, “Because Curtin told Churchill to get his own troops, he’s done enough damage to you already.” I don’t know if that should go on, but anyway
so we came home to Australia, but not all of us came home to Australia. They split us three ways and the 17th Brigade went to Colombo, the 16th Brigade went to Kokoda Trail and we went to Darwin, and we had, after the 19th of February ’42 we got there about June and we were there till must’ve been the end of the year anyway, into the next year I think, and then we got called back and sent to the Atherton Tablelands to do
training, jungle training, and oh jeez, they gave us all sorts of junk to eat. We didn’t know what it was and they asked us what it tasted like, and it nearly all tasted like fish or chicken and when they told us afterwards, ooh, you know. So anyway we did our training and that and then the Kokoda boys came back. They had the big (UNCLEAR) and the Colombo ones had their ones, and if it hadn’t have been for an American air force fellow that broke all the
code and sacrificed himself the Japanese fleet would’ve taken Colombo and then they would’ve come down here too, but he got a message through and the bombers and the fleet came out and wrecked that convoy of the Japs that were up there so that saved that for the day. So we went to Darwin and we had about 43 of the 60 raids over the period we were there, and we arrived at Katherine and when we got to Katherine they changed all our tactics all together because we had to
refurbish the hospital that was there, 2/1st hospital and I had to build parts of a new part for it also. So as we, one platoon were doing that another platoon was doing something else, building a bridge, and another platoon was doing something else. I think they built an abattoirs there as a matter of fact, and a bridge and we did the hospital and things like that and then we were shifted up to Adelaide River. We got to Adelaide River and we were told that
all the men that were here had to be taken back to, ’cause they ran in terror from Darwin. Air force, navy and army couldn’t come who was gonna be boss, as I read it anyway, and said, you’ve got to take these back now and you can make them your labour force if you want them. So our officer was there. He was made in charge of all work for looking after the defence of Darwin, everything that was in
there, nobody did it without his authority. So we went back there and all the jobs we got of all kinds under the sun. Well first of all we had to build trenches and everything for machine-guns pits and mortars and all that sort of, and to take the troops in when air-raids come and all that. So that was one of the first things we did. We had to make places for the anti-tank guns, anti-aircraft guns to go on to, so we built concrete and bases for them, anti-aircraft guns. We had to do road work,
bridges and all sorts of things there, and anyway, we had 40 odd raids and one particular job we had to go to, we had to go out to the west coast to where later on they put a radar station, and when you’re in Darwin and the monsoons and that come, you’re hit with about 16, 17, 18 inches of rain and it just floods everything and, you know, and this particular one we went out to and we had to build,
and the Darwin River was flooding and it was going, so we had to put a bridge over it so as we could get out to this western part of the sea, out the bay out the western side of Darwin. So we went through all this road, we were up to here in water most of the time, but we were building 6 or 10 or 12 feet lengths of, cutting trees down and making that into timber and then putting it in, as we went along similar to bridges we kept going, you know, so we put a
corduroy road right out to there, big thick timber that would take trucks and that. So we got out to there and we build this bridge and then we had to hold that then, and this particular night we were there they, a message came to us, “You’ve got to be on alert tonight,” because everyday we’d heard paratroops were gonna be dropped, you know, and they said, “Well tonight’s the night they’re gonna be landing,” because afterwards we found out the Japs had landed a force out where this radar station
was going before it went there, and they reconnoitered the place and that and they reckon that’s where they were going to land, from intelligence, you know. So we were out there, the only peanuts out there. Anyway we had areas of about 50 yards or each more, we had, I was 50 yards, my mate was 50 and another one was 50 and we had little bits of string to our finger, if we saw anything we pulled and he felt it and he just stopped and then if it was bad we pulled it twice and then he’d come back, and then he’d do the same,
we’d all come back. So this particular time the string goes, I pull the string and it goes up to this other bloke and the next minute, what it was I’d heard thump, thump, thump, thump, just like parachutes landing, you know, oh gee, you know, and they only sounded about 100 yards away. So I pulled it twice and they all came up to me and I said, “Listen to this, what do you reckon?” And they said, “Yep, she’s on.” So our sergeant was in the tent and he had a big one around his toe, big toe, a wider one, so they pulled that and he raced out to us
and he said, “What’s the matter?” And we said, “Listen to that,” and he said, “Oh God,” back to there and got all the machine-guns and mortars out and everything and they’re waiting for them to come through and it’s dark as anything it is, and we come back together like, we all go behind trees and that, we load up everything we’ve got, and then we hear this thump thump coming closer and closer and closer and closer, said, oh gee, I said, “Well thanks mate, we’ve had a good time, haven’t we?” He said, “Yes, we have,” and the next minute a kangaroo goes, all these
kangaroos went past us, and oh.
push the logs across, stock it, logs across that side and it trickles through, but it doesn’t flow through, but normally when we went across the bridges at those times they weren’t in flood. A couple of times they were in flood but then you’re in trouble if they’re in flood because you can’t put a bridge in. Christ, it’d just wipe it away, so when we had these semi-assault bridges we called them and the semi-permanent they were, if a flood came like 16 inches of rain it was
5 foot high of water coming down, you know and they just went, wiped them away straight out to sea. Well we had to go then and make another for it, a heavier one and using steel, so it was a steel one a bit up from the semi, just under the permanent one and light trucks and trailers could go through, but not heavy things, and so the bigger heavy ones were (UNCLEAR) by the other company. This particular part we went to was further up,
was a burial ground. We had a cemetery where we had to dig a lot of graves there and plant a lot of bodies. The Danmap River was about, a good over 60, 80 feet wide, was a massive river and a very strong flowing current and that in it, and I used to, we had to, if you wanted to go across and see the pictures, the pictures was on one side of the river and we were on the other side and we had to swim across with your ground sheet with all your clothes in it
and when you got to the other side you’d put your clothes on and go to the pictures and the same thing back. This night we heard it was gonna flood and I went up the Salvation Army, this Colonel Davis that was there I got friendly with him earlier and then we were real good friends towards the end, and I said to him, “You should shift for me you know, you’re gonna go through.” I said, “Those second machine-gunners if that river can’t stand it’ll go straight through them” which it did, and he said, “God’s got me, he’ll look after me,” and I said, “You blokes have a lot of faith,” and he said, “I’ve got faith.” I said, “All right,” so you wouldn’t credit it,
the river came down like that and it just, when it got near him it diverted like that and that and here he was left like you, up in the island and it was racing past him, you know. When I came back down two days later and I saw him I said, “By gee, I think I’ll join your club.” Yeah, we had (UNCLEAR) but then the brutality went on, it was terrible from then on and the Japanese just didn’t show any mercy and we didn’t either.
I didn’t go into much of the battles. I was (UNCLEAR) with driving, I most probably went past where they were laying ‘doggo’ in the jungle and that, except for one night. We’d had a hard day building a bridge and we were real tired but it was a beautiful moonlight night and I wrote a song about it while I was there on this particular night and when we went to go back into our room we were lucky it wasn’t blown up because they blew our water tank up just as we were getting off the beach to go back up into our room.
They put stuff around and the water tank went over and they had grenades all around their beds. They were going to blow the whole lot up but we didn’t get it. Another was at Christmas time. It doesn’t pay to be a hero, you know, and at Christmas time I was on guard duty on the beach and it was dark as anything it was and you had the jungle and 20 feet of sand down to the beach, you know. I’d go along here, we’d go along there and my mate came back to me and he said…oh, we were told not to shoot until you see the whites of their eyes, you
see, and we come together at this point and he said, “Did you see all those Japs in the scrub back there?” I said, “No, I didn’t go that far.” He says, “Come, we’ll go back and fly them.” So we come back, he says, “I’ve got a Tommy gun [Thompson submachine gun], you go behind me and cover me,” so he went in. When he comes to these all these bloomin’ look like little Japs eyes staring, bloody these flies went all over, these fire flies, you know, everywhere they did. I said, “You idiot.” So anyway I said, “You’re not going to go with me again.” So
anyway he copped it for the Christmas time guard, and we had a whole tin shed built at the back down from where this water tank fell and I came down, I says to him, “I reckon somebody’s in our shed down there” and he says, “You reckon?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Well let them have it, we don’t want it,” and I said, “But you know, we should do something.” He said, “No, no use being a hero, let them have it.” So they pinched all our Christmas stuff and when the next morning come the officer said, “Were you on guard last night?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Didn’t you hear anything?” I said, “No,
was there something going wrong?” He said, “All our Christmas stuff’s been stolen.” I said, “Whoever got it deserved it most probably.” He said, “That’s no way to talk.” So we went further on and on then and it got a bit harder without, one of our platoon’s had to then go with the 2/4th Battalion because they had unexploded mines and bombs and all that our blokes had to de-louse before they could go through,
and they had to cut their way through the jungle. The Japs were a wake-up to that you see, and it was impenetrable, you know, you couldn’t see. You’d just cut here and then if you were lucky you didn’t see a face in front of you, but there were spiders there. I’m not kidding, when you cut the thing there was a big cross like that there like that and this little dot in the middle, and as soon as you faced it, it just went like that, and the legs went out here and the body came that big. It scared the daylight out of me the first time I saw one, but anyway we just swacked
it down with our (UNCLEAR) you know, just pushed it down and walked through and we were right. They put swinging mines in there, the Japs, and when you cut this thing the mine would swing, you know, and after it got a little bit of momentum, it had acids in them that ate through this copper wire again and it struck, once it broke and the striker pin went forward and went into the detonator and exploded, and a lot of the blokes were, just took all this off from here and left the bottom part of them. So our blokes had to go through and make sure that that was all right too.
And then another place my mate, I thought he was gonna do, Harry New, I think he’s got his name in there. He was a sergeant and they were following up the 2/4th when the 2/4th got deviated and they went forward another couple of hundred yards and they found five or six Japs having a swim on the beach, and a little hut on the side there. So Harry waited till they all got together.
So he said to his blokes, “One of you go around the back and one down here stay, and we’ll go forward.” So he yelled out to them, hey, and they all looked around like that and as he did he opened up with a Bren gun and killed them all, you know, except one, he ran away. So they thought the bloke at the back would catch him, but he didn’t catch him, and for some reason he came back, he went into the hut, lifted the board on the floor like you see in the pictures, went down underneath and pulled the board down. Anyway they came back in the room and I don’t know what he did, but apparently they heard noise under there and they lifted
the board up and when he stuck his head up, bang, they shot him and they pulled all the others in, and this is the worst part of it. I said to him, “You shouldn’t have done that,” and they pulled them all in and, is this going on tape?
went over there, which was the Victorians and the New South Wales and rest of Australia come this way. When we got down near Wewak they joined just about at ‘Weary Eye’ village, near Weary Eye village anyway, and that’s where Ted, he won a VC [Victoria Cross] and he led the Anzac March this week, yeah I’ll think of him after, but he got a VC for it anyway there, and we were building a big road through it, so again like in Darwin, to get to it we had to go through swamp and we had to make a
corduroy road there so we could take our jeeps and things through to build this road, and that’s where we ended up at Wewak, and that’s where the fighting ended and we were told it was gonna end. It was only Mount Shivarangu at the back there and the night that they, the 10th it was I think, and they said the war’s over now practically. And that night the HMAS Swan lit up its fleet with
lights and everything, beautiful it looked and then the Japs opened up with their .105s from up in the mountain and God, they blasted all along the beachfront, you know, and we had all the artillery guns with us, hell of a lot of them, so the artillery officer said, “Righto, every bit of round blow into them,” so you could here these, God blimey, it blew Mount Shivarangu just about away and I think about 4,000 Japs there, I think there was only about 10
that survived it all, and the others went around, they captured them and then they captured the general what was there, Tasaki and Hitachi, and they got for the war crimes, you know. But I had one occurrence on, I was the wireless operator and I used to go out in the scrub, and oh dear I didn’t like it out there one bit. Anyway I didn’t do guard duty so I used to be on the wireless and first thing in the morning LHQ from Melbourne would ring Townsville and then they’d ring me, you know, and I’d
pass the messages on. So I had to go up to the, this big road that we were building to the office, I was up there so it was near lunch time so I said to the cook, “Give us some food, I’ll take it up to them.” So I put it in and when I got up there I sat with my back to the jungle, you know, and they were all, and all of a sudden I saw the blokes look at me like that, and I said, “What?’ And they pointed and there’s a big Jap got his hand over on my shoulder, you know. I looked and nearly dropped dead. I turned around and I said, “Yeah?” And then four others came out and they
pointed to their tongue, they were hungry, you know. So this Harry New comes into it again, he was the sergeant there, right? And he said, “Give them some food,” we had plenty of food there so they all sat down and just shoved it in like this, you know, and you wouldn’t believe three of them died there on the spot, yeah, and the other two we took down to headquarters for, you know, for examination. What do they do? Interpret them. No, something like that anyway. And
first time I’d ever seen a container, was a wooden container, it was full, big 12 foot by 8 foot and 8 foot, 6 foot high, no windows or anything in it and they locked the two of them in it that night and they were dead next morning so they didn’t get any information from them anyway.
everything up and takes the pressure off everything and you can’t breath, they just died. That’s what we were told if we were in trouble. So they taught us you know, as I said earlier, we did know what we ate but afterwards they said, “If you see these eat them, if you see that eat them, don’t starve.” And our blokes I know, my mate was in Singapore and he was from the 2/29th Battalion and the Japs came down and they came down
as trees. The first camouflage that they saw of them, and he said to his mate, “Those trees weren’t there the last time I looked out there,” and his mate said, “You’re going woozo, you’re bomb happy,” you know, and anyway a little bit later he said, “Look, they’re shifting again, there you are, can’t you see them?” And he says, “No, you’re seeing illusions,” they look like this, and then he nudged him and said, “Look, look!” And all the trees were moving, and so they opened fire and then the Japs came, the ones that were behind them rushed through, came in
and killed everybody, bayoneted them and all that and he was laying there and the bayonet came down, he grabbed the bayonet, pulled the Jap down, garrotted him and then stabbed him with the bayonet but because he grabbed the bayonet it cut him right through both hands there and his hands were like that after the war, but not only that, they shrunk to that size there and they were like that, just little pebbles there they were, but anyway he escaped and he got down into the Chinese lines that were there and
they said, “Monsoon come, hurry up,” so they had wire or fencing that went through where the river was and they said go in there and out that way and in there and out that way and lock yourself in to it, you know, and you’ll be right. So he did as much as he could and these were all tied up with bandages and everything but they must’ve hurt him a hell of a lot. Anyway the monsoon went past and then they rescued him and somehow they got him to Colombo, and then we came home and I went around to see his mother and I said,
she told me the story, and I said, “How’s he going?” And she said, “He’s coming home soon, should be any time now. They sent me a telegram to say he’s wounded and the next time go to Caulfield Hospital, so I’m just waiting for a message from him.” And I went out and saw him and saw what it was, and in that two months or whatever it was, all this had shrunk up to about that size and he had little fingers out here and that and they were all bent over like that. But he was lucky.
for days that you were in, so I was up, well they wanted about 60 I think to go, and I was about 65 or something like that, but the officer that was a sergeant when we were at Darwin, I played two-up there and I threw 13 heads and I won so much money you wouldn’t read about it, and I took it off everybody including the Allied Works Council and so they all said, lend us some money. I said, I don’t
lend money, my Dad told me never to lend money. I said, all the money’s in the centre there, what you want take, but give me an IOU [‘I owe you’] for it, and they did it honestly, and I got nearly all the money back except one, and he was made a lieutenant in New Guinea and I kept going to him all the time and saying to him, don’t forget you owe me that $200, £200 and he says, “She’ll be right, she’ll be right.” So I when it came to this 68 he was in headquarters and they picked the 60 that were going and he said, oh, a little
bit before that, I was the wireless operator and I got a message the day the war ended to say my Dad was seriously ill and not expected to live, from the HQ [Headquarters] to Townsville to me straight away and it said ‘advise Sapper Jopling, father seriously ill, not expected to live, further tomorrow’, and so I went to the OC and he was talking to this fellow and the other fellow said, “Can’t you put him in the 60 and take someone out of it from there? Give them a sergeant or
something like that and keep him here.” So that’s what happened, they promoted a few blokes, took them off and I got in their place, and I went home on the first boat which was a dirty old tramp ship with rats about that big underneath. We were right down underneath. So the next morning I got another call from there and it said, ‘advise Sapper Jopling, mother passed away this morning’. I thought, oh no, so straight away I gee’d, what we called gee’d back, you know da da da, straight back, ‘query message’, you know,
and within a few minutes it came back, ‘apology, father not mother’. So from winning the two-up school and having that money owed to me I got on the first boat to come home, but if I’d waited for the second one I would’ve come home on an aircraft carrier, a dirty old tramp ship. And not only that when we come passed on Brisbane way coming home down to Townsville we hit the coral, and I was down below and you could hear it go, oh gee.
I brought a pair of Jap glasses home where you look in here and you see up here, you know. I’ve still got them down in the shed there. I’ll find them, I’ll bring them in Monday and show you. They got in the heat, when our blokes went through they had flamethrowers, you know, and they cooked a bit on the heat, the lenses went bonkers. So I pulled it apart, thought I’d fixed it but it skewiff again. I haven’t seen them used for about 20 years. I took them to the races one day and you could see the jockeys right down, bring them right up close and you could hear
them saying, “This is my race, mate, you know, don’t do that.” You could nearly see them saying that, you know.
he was the older but I claimed him, and they said, “OK, he can come back,” so they brought him back from there to me, from Palestine. So I said to him, “Well look, this is the clue, when you come in they’ll ask you what trade you’re in. Tell them any trade you like and they’ll give you money for that.” He said, “All right,” so when he went in they said, “Do you do any trades?” He said, “Oh yeah, I can do any trade, brick laying, all that,” and they said, “Oh good, we’re looking for somebody to make a few ovens for the cookhouse, for the bakery.”
He came back to me and he said, “What did you do to me? He says, I’ve got to build a bakery now,” and I said, “That’s all right, I’ve got my mate here who knows all about them.” So I introduced him to a mate and they were firm friends from then on and the fellow sat him down at night and he said to him, “Righto, this is what you do. You start off doing this, that, that and if they ask you how many bricks, that’s how many bricks go there and that,” and he told him the whole lot see. So when he went out to this unit to build it, the fellow said, “Have you built these before?” He said, “Oh yeah, we’ve built rough ones, not good ones, but rough ones.” He said, “I want a good one here,” and he said, “Oh well, all right, well first we’ve got
to get the bricks,” so he took, he said, “How long do you want it?” This and that, the bloke said, “Oh he knows what he’s doing,” and walked away, you know. So with that Mattie, the one that he was talking to, had visited him out at this place when he had to come out in other transport, and he said, “How did you go?” And he said, “Well I’m up to building the damn thing now.” He said, “I told him everything and he’s quite happy.” He said, “All right, well these are the traps you want to watch for,” and he told him the traps to watch for, so he didn’t do those and the ovens turned out beautiful and you used to get beautiful bread from it.
So he was made a baker, oven builder, you know.
came down from the Tablelands to do a wireless school at Marconi and I passed the tents and that with it, because in the scouts I learnt ropes, knotting, morse code and all this sort of thing, so I passed the test easy, and I met Dulcie one day down there, the officer that was at our school, on the Saturday he said to me, “Would you like to come to a turn out on tonight?” I said, “Where to?” He said,
“The Bondi School of Arts.” He says, “Beaut, you’ll pick up a partner easy there.” I said, “Yeah, all right,” so I went to the Bondi School of Arts and first of all we had a few bottles of beer that we went to take in and they said, you can’t bring that in here. Oh, we said, “God, how are we going to get a drink?” They said, “There’s plenty on the tables,” so they put one bottle of beer between about 50. So the toilets were outside so we got, put them up in the pull the chain thing, we put them up in there and nobody could work the chains. They were complaining.
But anyway as we drained that one we went out and got another one, brought it in. So anyway I met her and my mate met another one and he sort of married her and I went to New Guinea anyway, but this when he came back, both of us, and I went to New Guinea and I said, well thanks for, you know, having a few nights and that. We had a good time while we were there. She said, “Yes and you look after yourself and if you come back give us a ring,” and I said, “I’ll be back, don’t you worry.” She said, “I hope so,” and so anyway we wrote to one another while I
was away, when I could, wasn’t very often. Then I came back and I got to this camp and I thought I’ll ring her up and see how she’s going because she worked with people that did pharmaceutical things and that and doctors’ instruments and all that thing. So I rang her up and I said, “Good afternoon, is that Dulcie?” And she said, “Yes, who’s speaking?” And I said, “Joe.” She said, “Joe, Joe who?” I said, “Don’t tell me you know another Joe.” She said, “But who are you?” I says,
“I’m that Joe that did the wireless school,” and she said, “Oh my goodness, what are you doing, where are you?” And I said, “I’m at this camp,” and she said, “Oh, and you survived?” And I said, yeah, and she said, “Oh, what are you doing now?” And I said, “I’m going to get some leave now, would you like to go out for dinner tonight?” And she said, “I’d love to.” I said, “All right, where will we go?” I said, “You pick the place,” so she said, “All right.” I said, “Where will I meet you?” Righto, I’ll meet you down on the corner opposite the Hyde Park and that. Yeah, right. So I meet her
down there and away we go. Go to Cahill’s, a beautiful place down there, and I always remember she was always mad for this cake with caramel on it, you know, and I just said to her yesterday, gee, it’s a long while since I came back, and I remember going to Cahill’s with you and having that cake with caramel on it. Gee, she said, “You’ve got a good memory.” So anyway we, we sort of were there for two days I think, one night anyway, that night. I had to get back by 10.00 o’clock so
we just dawdled around out the city and her friend that was there said, come home to our place and have some coffee after, so I went home and had it and when I had to catch the train I just nearly missed it anyway, got back to the camp and then they asked you to go back to the Tablelands and a little while later they taught us paratroop training, you know, but not in planes, on the ground with squares and everything, and we used to line up and the sergeant used to blow a red thing, a red torch, right, fasten all
your, we’d grab imaginary gear, fasten it on, tighten everything up, check your parachutes. We’d check the parachutes, see everything was all right. Right, in line now, one two three four five and I’ll give you, when you go, he said, I’ll put the green light on and I’ll go one two three four five and you jump, no standing still, jump. Righto, so we got to the door where it was all marked with chalk on the ground, one two, out we go and go around the back and into the queue again and did this for about four months because we were going to be the airborne part, you know.
And when it got going to New Guinea it ended up as the seaborne part. But anyway that’s the truth, that’s what they do in the army, they have a little bit of mucking around to make it interesting, and so I came home and I said to Mum, “I met a girl in Sydney when I was there doing the wireless school and I think I’ll marry her.” She said, “You sure?” And I says, yeah. “What’s she do?” I said, “She’s a farmer’s daughter from up at Cowra way.” “Oh, she’ll be all right.” I said, “She’s a
lovely girl.” Yeah, righto. So I met her again and we went to Cahill’s and I said, “Would you like to come down the jeweller shop and see what we can see in the way of rings?” Ooh yeah, so we went down, got engaged and that was that, got married and then she came down here, didn’t know anybody, and of course I was in the militia after the war then. Sir John Holland said to me, “Can you come back in the militia and get it going again? We gonna form it again.” I didn’t know it was to be for the National Service, but I was
there from ’48 to ’50, so I got, he said, you know all the engineer units around, you’re the one I want for it. I said, righto. I’ve got a letter in there from him, so I did my two years and then one of the, our major that was there, he was my, he was a corporal, he went away with us as a corporal but he didn’t fit in sort of and he wanted to get a transfer so he went to a pay corps. Well he ended up after the war as our major down at the engineers’
depot in the 8th Field Squadron, and I did my two years and he called me into the office and he said, you’re due for getting out of the militia in a couple of days and that, and I said, “Yeah, that’s right.” He said, I don’t want you to go to, and I says, “Well my wife’s going to have a baby and I am going.” He said, “Open that drawer and pull out that envelope that’s in there,” so I said, “What’s in there?” He says, “Go on, have a look.” So I open it and pulled it out and it’s got
commission, officer’s commission, you know, and I says, put it back, “I don’t want that.” He says, “Why don’t you want it?” I said, “If I could get it in the engineers I would, but” I said, “I can’t get it because I haven’t got an engineering degree,” and I said, “Where were you going to send me, the infantry?” He said, yeah, and he said, but it’s good, and I says, “No, I don’t want to go there.” I said, “I told my wife I’m getting out, I’m getting out.” Anyway he said, “Look, you fool, look at all your mates.
How many of them now are majors that come back with you and that?” And I said, yeah, there’s a few of them and that. He said, “Well you could be that too in a few weeks.” He says, “You only go to Puckapunyal as a lieutenant, couple of days and they make you a captain,” and he said, “You go to a school which is already rigged, you come back a week later a major,” and he says, “What we’re sending you up for is to be the lieutenant colonel for the Puckapunyal Camp, the adjutant,” and I said, “What a fairy tale, it’s beautiful, sounds good.”
He said, “It’s fair dinkum.” I says, “Well I don’t want it.” And so anyway I didn’t take it, so I told him that when I rang not Bridie, I didn’t ring you in Orange, did I?
job in a hairdressing saloon. I was at school and I didn’t like school, so I gave it away and I went in there and I became a sweeper of the floor and graduated up to lathering up the fellows for shaves and giving them nice creams on their faces after they’d been shaved and combing their hairs and then fleecing them for their money as they went out, and he said, “All right, OK, you’ve done a good job there now, we’ll give you another little bout
now. We’re going to have a big, people coming into the Tivoli there, (UNCLEAR) big production, and they’ll all be over here and they’ll want shoeshines. You can be the shoeshine boy here now.” I said, “I don’t know how to shine shoes.” He says, “God blimey, in the army you had to keep your shoes shined, didn’t you?” And I said, yeah, but that was different, and 35 minutes later I said, “All right, give it a go if you want to,” so he bought a little shoe horse that they put their feet on, sit down, put it on, and then Danny Dusec come in there. Oh gee, and he had cowboy
boots on up to here and they were stars, all sorts, red, green, blue, yellow. I looked at them and I said, “You better take them off and leave them here,” and he said, “No, I want them done now boy.” So I said to my boss, “Have a look at this what you’ve done. How am I going to fix this?” He says, “Go out and buy all the stuff.” So I went out and buy all these little brushes and a (UNCLEAR) and put it on them, (UNCLEAR) that colour, on to the other colour and when I was finished Danny said, “By Joe, that’s the best shoeshine I’ve had for ages, guy.” He said, “I’ll be back here again.” I thought oh
no. So anyway, I did that for quite a while and he said, “We only got a pound a week,” that’s all I got, a pound a week was good you know. I used to give it my Mum and so she bought a few things with it and that and she used to go down to the old jumble sales and buy shirts and things for me and that, so anyway, it was a pretty bad poor time and I felt sorry for them anyway, but they tried to look after the three of us, but they didn’t have a hope,
you know, but she used to, she used to go and buy stuff and she knew she couldn’t pay for it but she’d take another loan out to pay for that, and then she had to pay for that and another loan to pay for that. Oh gee.
and he got within 20 yards or 50 yards I’d say, and he said, “I get off here Joe, you can turn around now and go back,” so he jumped off and I went a distance of 20 feet or something and all of a sudden bang, it was just an enormous noise, blew the front off my car and I had my tin helmet on, my head went through the windscreen, my knees went under the dashboard and for a minute I was
dazed but I felt if I had arms and legs and everything and I was quite happy, but I was dizzy, you know, whirling around, and so I got out the truck and as I got out the truck I sort of, you know, really was dizzy and I was 100 per cent good, but this fellow that jumped off way back there he come running up and also our unit which was lifting mines where I’d
done this blowing up business, they said, how are you feeling Joe? And I said, “What happened?” And he said, “You ran over a land mine and blew the front off your truck.” I said, “Oh gosh,” and he said, Go on, get down in the tank trap and we’ll see how you are,” so I got down in the tank trap and he said, “How are you feeling?” And I said, “Abit dizzy and a bit nervous,” and he said, “What happened?” And I said, “All I know is there was an explosion and my head went through
the windscreen and my knees went under the dashboard,” and I said, I” felt whether I had any injuries or not,” and he said, “Well you look to me as though you’re OK.” I said, “Yeah, except for a little bit of stiffness in my neck and my back and in the knees,” I said, “I’m OK,” and he said, “All right, well if you’re right you can come up with us and help us pull up the mines,” so I went through with them for a little while, and he said, “OK, that’ll do you Joe, you can rest now, we’re covered the main part of it” so I went back and
the Italians in the desert what they did, I was thinking this is what would happen in now when they were in Iraq, but in the desert the Italians went underground and built real concrete places underground where they could sleep and have machine-guns and camouflage and all this, and they had a square in the top of the ground, it was all concrete underneath with beds and everything, they made it comfortable, and on the top of the ground they had these big square, most probably 2 foot by 2 foot
holes with stairs going down about 8 feet down into the thing. So I saw one of these and I thought, gee, I wonder what this is? But knowing they said, “Well don’t lift anything and don’t touch anything” because it could be a booby trap so gently, but before I did that I just went a little bit further forward and what happened with the poor old Italians, they wanted anybody they could get in the army and this poor little kid, he must’ve only been about 16 and he was hit right in the forehead and of course
once you get in the forehead it all comes out the back and that, and he was on a machine-gun like that and his head was just laying on it and I felt so sorry for him, but there’s not much you can do. Our blokes were most probably in the same boat, but the Italians just didn’t give them anything. They brought them over here to do agriculture and all that and they forced them into the army, so that was that. So anyway, getting to this trap, I went down the stairs and it was a beautiful comfortable bed and everything down there, and I looked around
down there, there were lots of things down there but as the sergeant said, “Don’t touch anything, if there’s anything there we’ll come down and have a look.” I said, “All right.” So I came up and I said, I just found a dugout down there that’s not a dugout, it’s a great big concrete compound and it had a little passage going through to another place, and he said, I’ll come and have a look at it, so he went and had a look at it. He said, “Just put the lid on it and leave it, we can’t muck around carrying souvenirs with us,” so we moved forward, so with that then
that section of it was over and it was about three hours, 2 hours I suppose then we went back to our main body, went to the front of where our headquarters were, and so I didn’t see any more action or anything that day, and then three days went by from the 3rd to the 5th, and Bardia was taken so we came back, came back to our camp where we were camped back behind
everything and that. I went into the RAP [Regimental Aid Post] and I says to the RAP chap, “Will you have a look at my neck and my spine and my legs? By jeez I’m stiff.” He had a look and he said, “What happened?” And I told him. He said, “I’ll give you a few aspros, you’ll be right.” They would’ve been all right but now later on as I came to claim it, he wouldn’t put it on records and so I didn’t have a record of it, and so I kept going back the DVA [Department of Veterans’ Affairs] for, well right up to 1993. In ’93 I
met a fellow from Legacy and I had a talk to him and he said, “Joe, you might be in luck” ’cause we’ve got two people who’ve just been sent out from, what do you put the, they were sacked more or less because of the fact that they were 85 years old, and one was a wing commander in the air force, a medical man, and the other was a psychiatrist. Anyway I got, ring him up, they said he lives in Brighton, so I went to Brighton
and saw this Dr Beech or Mr Beech, a nice chap he was, and he says to me, “So you had a bit of trouble in the army, did you?” And I said, yes, and he said, “Why didn’t the DVA fix it?” And I said, “Well apparently it didn’t get to the records, the fellow I reported it to, he gave me aspros and that was it.” He said, “Gee, well look, I had cases similar to yours in the air force” with the pilots crashing and that, you know, so he said, “I’ll give it a once over and see what we can do,” so I’ve
never seen a doctor with so many instruments. It’s like you’ve got here, they had instruments of all kinds. Anyway he took a big (UNCLEAR) of everything on my body and that, up my neck and down my spine and legs and arms and everything, and he said, “You’re in a bad way, do you know that?” And I says, “Well I know I’m in a bad way but it’s bloomin’ very annoying that I can’t do things I want to do.” And he said, “Do you have much pain with it?” And I says, yes, and he says, “Well that’s logical.” Said, “Anyway look, what are you on now?” And I said, “I’m on 60 per cent.”
“60 per cent?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “OK, you’ll be right when we get a report back from DVA, so a week or so later I got a report back to 100 per cent and then got a gold card, you know. He said, “I’m not happy with that though Joe, you should be getting more.” So he said, I’ll send you to my friend, the psychiatrist, and see how you go with him.” So he sent me to the psychiatrist down in Richmond and I went to him and I didn’t know the psychiatrists did
this, but they do apparently. I was out in there and I was doing this and doing that, twitching here and doing this, and you know, doing things like that, and when I came in he said, “How are you going Joe? Joe Jopling, do you mind if I call you Joe?” I said, “No no, that’s all right sir,” and I sat down and he said, he had a big long table with junk on it everywhere. I suppose that’s part of the job too, and he said, “Could you give me that pen please?” And I said, “Yes certainly, no worries,” so I reached over to get it like that and he said, “Holy mackerel,
do you shake like that all the time?” I said, “Not as bad but sometimes I do, and other times I’m real bad,” and he said, “OK, righto,” so he asked me all questions and just like you are, he said and in rapid succession, “What’s your name?” And I told him. “Where do you live?” I told him. “What was your number?” I told him. He said, this, this, this, that, and he said, before he started he said, “If there’s anything I ask you and you don’t know, just say I
just can’t remember or I don’t know.” I said, right, so I did that right through. When I finished he said, “You know, you’re in a bad way,” and I said, “That’s what Dr Beech said to me,” Mr Beech, and he said, “You are, I’m telling you,” he says, “You’ve got post-traumatic [post-traumatic stress disorder],” and I says, “God, is that what it is?” And he said, yes, and I said, “How bad is that?” He said, “It’s bad because you don’t know when it’s coming on,” and he said, “Little things upset you.” I found that out since then, you know, but I had found it out also in between where I’d had times
when I’d been going somewhere and I said, “I just can’t go there, I don’t feel like it,” you know, but I didn’t put it up to that what it was, the sole reason being that in the army all they said to you, they didn’t know about this, they just said you’re ‘bomb happy’ or you’re ‘troppo’ or you’re so forth, you know, shell shocked. I went, no, but anyway it all worked out good and he said, “OK, so you’re on 100 per cent now,” and I said, yes. He said, “Right, I’ll get the report back
and see what we can do for you,” so they made me an EDA [Extreme Disablement Adjustment], which gives me 150 per cent, but earlier before I retired at 65, I could have got a TPI [Totally and Permanently Incapacitated pensiion], he said, but he said, “You can’t get it now because there’s a rule that went through Canberra that if you don’t apply by the time you 65 you can’t get TPI. I think that’s a stupid rule, but that’s how it is” and so now I’m an EDA and I get 150
and really it’s just good, you know, it covers the lot and my wife gets a lot of compensation with me, so, and if I die through war injuries she gets the war pension, so I’m quite happy with what it is now, you know.
trying to get some treatment for my spine and my neck which, my spine up in the back behind, in the top of the vertebrae up the top is all crumbling and it’s pushing on a nerve in there. As they explained to me it’s like a triangle, that nerve on your neck is a triangle and either comes to this shoulder or this shoulder, and it’s because this nerve up top doesn’t get any fluid around it to protect it from any pressure that comes on there, so at the
moment and over the last three or four years I suppose this thing presses on there. I’ve had X-rays on it and it clearly shows that it is pressing on there. It presses on there, comes down to my left shoulder, from the left shoulder you’ve got a nerve here on the top, one at the elbow, one here on the wrist and one there, and I’ve been to the neurosurgeon with my carpel tunnel, that one there, and he said, “I can do that for you Joe,
but it’s not necessary because,” he said, “You’ll have eight weeks at least of pain and it’s not going to do you any good.” So I said, all right, OK, and he said, “OK, go back to your doctor and explain to him what I told you.” So I did and I’ve had other tests and everything so about six eight weeks ago I went into the ’39ers meeting in the city and I was feeling all right and it was a warm day
and I was dressed up, possibly overdressed and I came home on the train from the city to Hampton. I got to North Brighton and I was talking to a fellow there and I said, “By gee, it’s warm, isn’t it? I don’t feel, you know, I’m clammy,” and he said, “Yeah, it’s pretty sticky.” So then I got to Middle Brighton and I started undoing my tie like that, you know, and we got to Middle Brighton and I said to him, one station, thank
goodness for that, and he said, “Are you all right?” And I said, “Yeah, I’m OK,” and with that apparently I got my bag that was here and got my walking stick that was here and don’t remember any more until I hit Sandringham Station and blacked out. So a porter, or the station man came out to me on the train, shook me, and I said, (UNCLEAR), and he said, “Are you all right?” And I said, “Yes, I’m good.” He says, “You don’t look it.” He says, “Where are you going to?” And I said, “Hampton,” and he said, “Well that was the last station.”
He said, “You’re at Sandringham now.” I said, “Oh gosh, well I’ll sit on the train and go back.” He said, “Well I’ll come back with you.” I said, “I think I’m all right.” He said, “I’ll come back with you anyway.” So he came back. I got off at the station and I had my car parked there. So he said, “How are you getting home?” I said, “I’ve got my car parked there.” He said, “Oh yeah, all right, OK, you’ll be all right though?” I said, yes. So I got in the car and drove home and I had an appointment the next day with my physio [physiotherapist], because I’d been going to her
for a while, five, six, seven years most probably, and she eased the pain quite good you know when she did all this. I was quite happy with it so it wasn’t giving me any trouble except for an occasional pinch here and stiffness in the back and that, and especially when you sit down, these are not the best these ones for sitting in when you lean back a bit, you know. This is a good one because you can get your back in a good position and that. But anyway she kept it in good stead for me but
this day I went to her and I said, you know, “I had a bad day yesterday,” and she said, “How did you?” And I said, “I was on the train…” and I explained it all to her. She said, “Y ou better go to your doctor now straight away after here,” so she rang him up and said, “I’m sending Joe down to you, he had a blackout on the train.” Righto. So he then said, “Righto, down the room at the hospital for you and get a brain scan,” well joking like, and I said, “There’s nothing up there, they won’t see anything anyway.” He said, “Go down and have the scan.”
So I had the scan and they found that I had a stroke and he said, “Fortunately the stroke that you’ve had is a little black patch there,” and he showed it to me on a thing. He said, “If that had been a different colour to that, you know, I would’ve been very worried,” but he said, “Now that’s black it means that it’s finished, you’re not going to have any more of them,” he said.
Greece was just a catastrophe, everyway you know. As I said earlier to you when the planes came I believe the Germans wanted us as prisoners, this is only my opinion, I don’t know, I know the ones that were up in the frontline and that, further up, even though I used to go and get supplies to give to our engineers to, in that area where they were too. See when you’re in engineers
you go to anywhere that they put you in. So you might go to one brigade, the other brigade or the other brigade, which meant up to Mount Olympus, up to Florina and Elassona or over to Grevena up on the Albanian front. So there was a lot of that but every time I, as I said, these planes came at me I reckon I could feel the bullets hitting me but nothing was happening, and I believe they used dumdums and they were scaring us, but the bombs were fair dinkum that they dropped because one
lifted my truck and took me across the road a bit, but that might’ve been different with the fellows up in the front line and I know it was because they suffered enormous things with the cold and the front and the snow and the rain and sleet and they were told to discard all their blankets and everything so they used to have to dig holes and throw their great coats over them while the other blokes went on guard and they were like this on guard shivering, you know, so they must’ve have had a terrible time up there, and they did I know. Then
when we came back, I’ll tell you one little incident that was funny in that. Grevena, around about Grevena in the Albanian Way was where an engineer dump was and I had to keep going there to get supplies and bring it up, so this day there was a fair dinkum raid and the Germans dropped bombs everywhere and so my mate Dougie Davis and myself we shot into this RE [Royal Engineers’] camp, dived into, didn’t dive
into, but got into a trench, slip trench that they had, and they blasted the place, well gee, deafening it was, but they didn’t hit our trench where we were, so when we finished Dougie said, “How you going Joe?” And I said, “By gee, that was a beauty, wasn’t it?” You know, I didn’t think they bombed like that, and the planes were just dropping them everywhere and they were very inaccurate. They didn’t hit what they wanted to hit anyway. If they’d hit the explosive well we would’ve gone ta ta and been up with Peter now, but anyway,
so we finished and he said, “You know, we’re pretty lucky.” I said, “How are you?” And he said, “I’m all right,” and I said, “Why are we lucky?” He said, “Have a look what you’re sitting on,” so I had a look underneath and it’s got TNT dynamite boxes.
passed and then the next day came and the infantry, you couldn’t have waked them if you hit them with a sledge hammer, but we did wake them and said, “Look we’ll take your Bren guns and let you have a sleep.” So we put Bren guns all around the boat and some of them took, they said, “No, this is mine,” because the army told you never let your gun out of your sight, your rifle, like Bren gun, out of your sight, that’s your security. So a lot of them didn’t want to so they came around and did that too, so we had about maybe 50, 60 Bren guns
all around the boat and things went all right until we got bombed the first time, and that was all right. They buzzed off and next time they come it was a big Greek sun, you know, orange, red, brilliant, you know and you couldn’t see anything. I was on the floor, the deck of it and I seen this little black speck and I said to one of the fellers further down, “I think there’s a plane coming here,” and he said, “You’re seeing things looking into the sun.” Eventually it was a plane, it came over and gave us a run over and a bit of machine-gun
fire and then it went over to the right, over to the, his right and then it came in straight across the line of three ships, one, two, three ships. We were that one over there, dropped a bomb and I thought it was gonna hit the deck, or it would’ve hit me anyway, and the captain steered the ship just to the left and it went beside it, blew up our plates and we rolled, not rolled over but we went to about a 45, no, a little big less, 30 degree angle, you know, so
we were taken to Crete then. But we were better than the next boat, the Costa Rica, it got hit, not, didn’t hit it, they dropped bombs beside it and the bombs sprung the plates and she just started to sink straight away. So they lined all the soldiers afterwards, we heard this too, they lined all the soldiers up on board and the H class destroyers again, Heroine and a few others went to their rescue got all the soldiers off except one was bad, he missed the jump of the water because the water rough, you know, going
up and down like that, and the boat goes up and you jump and then it goes, and you come up, you jump and so the lot of them would jump and make that decision, then the next ones would go, he missed and anyway, squashed him. So that was the only casualty they had there and then we were escorted by the navy then to Alexandria.
know. Well this was their favourite thing, because the Japanese, well that’s what they said they believed in anyway, if you died a heroes death you were, you know, honour, an honoured death. So that’s why in Singapore and all that all those people that were bared and so forth and that, worse in Singapore than that up here. They were stable and they won the war in Singapore so they could do what they liked, but they didn’t win the war up there. We had a lot coming through the Torricelli Mountains
driving them down. We were going along the beach driving them up so it was (UNCLEAR) like that all the time, until we met at the end and they were all there and it was massive. Tasaki and Hitachi, their two generals, after cannibalising themselves, they used to eat themselves, it’s terrible. Yeah, so we were in the burial party and I, we had a medical unit near us that was actually doing operations up there on people and that and
it was, we used to have level a piece of ground and put just a little oily type of thing in it and then we made a roller out of an old tree and thing and used it as roller and made it nice and flat and then they came in and that was their operating theatre, and so when people when injured or that that they came back and it was only just around more or less, from down here at the Bluff Road to me away from me, and
so I got friendly with them up there, the people that were there, and I used to go and watch the operations. I don’t know why but it was just a fascination, so I went and saw operations and I saw one where he’d been hit with a bullet through there and it had just taken his membrane, or the membrane over his brain out, but his brain was popping out through there like that, you know, and big tall 6 foot 3 bloke he was. So anyway he had his operation but,
and the doctor had all the young boys that were learning to be doctors, and they were sort of orderlies more or less, but they had, I don’t know if they’d been commissioned or not then but they were going to be doctors anyway, and he explained it over three hours, and if you went to these two and three hour you had to stand perfectly still and not move because every time you moved dust would come up. So they did the operation and it was very good it was, but next day he died, that one,
so we had to bury him, and another chap got a machine-gun burst right through the middle and he was serious, you know, and that was a massive operation. They sort of had to open him up to take everything and fix up holes in him and all that and he survived, and it was a massive operation that. So there were plenty of other operations I went to but as far as the burial part the infantry used to tell, come back to our office and tell them where so and so was and so
we’d go out and bring him in. Sometimes they’d only be either a head, or you know, so we had a big grave and old Padre Metherin was a wonderful old fellow he was, he was the padre of the 60th, and so we dug this grave and we went, the fellows went out to get the bodies of the ones that were injured, wounded or dead and they brought them back and I says to him, I’ve dug a
6 foot hole for you and I’ve only got a head there now. He said, “That’s all right, that’s his grave.” And I says, “But we could’ve dug a little one for him.” He says, “Joe, you don’t dig little ones, you dig the exact one that he’s gotta go in.”
must’ve been 6 foot 4, 6 5 something, he was too big for the trench anyway, too big for what we dug, and I suppose I was the clown in the army you might say, so this padre and I were pretty good mates and he said, “Joe, you’ll have to make that a bit bigger, he’s too big for it.” And I said, “Well the easy way of it,” and he said, “What do you mean?” I says, “Well lop the two legs off” and, oh he said, “Don’t do that, gee don’t do that.” I said
I was only joking. But they’ll think I’m a dill when they read all this. So anyway this all happened just over the Danmap River, was a pretty solid place there and that’s the Danmap River I was telling you about that overflowed and whoosh, come down, washed our bridge away so we had to swim across with our thing and where the Salvation Army chap wouldn’t move and then everything was right. So that corresponds with that, and I told you about there, just past there was
me up in these other places and the mountains came right down to the sea so when the tide was out you’d go right around but when the tide was in you couldn’t, and I was on my wireless and further up towards the other, another half mile or mile up they said, “1,000 Japs 100 yards away,” you know, so I told the officer that this was what was happening, so he said, “OK, we’ll be ready for it’, so he mounted everybody up with their machine-guns and everything waiting for the Japs to come
around, and anyway the bloke got back and nothing happened, and I said, “I gee’d a message back to you,” said ‘gee’ to please explain, is that correct? That’s what it means to save all time, and he said, “Most apologies, 100 Japs 1,000 yards away.” So we didn’t that. But that was when I saw my first Jap, really saw the first Jap, and it was the next day I think it was, and
in this particular area where they were they were the big Korean boys and oh boy, I’ll tell you were they big, and they had heads that big you know and they were fierce. Anyway he was coming back in a jeep all tied down, they bound his arms, his legs, his body and everything and tied him back and I thought he was gonna break through it, you know, and he looked at us as he came through and the fellow in the jeep said, “Don’t get too much to him, he’ll spit at you,” you know, so he went past, was sort of dark but we had a torch and shone on him
and we thought, gee, if they’re like this, you know, I’m a little bloke and he’s a great big bloke.
people on the committee so I went on the committee as a committee member but Sir John Holland and people like Sir John Wilson and that who were my officers were decorated, they decided they’d be the President so another one, John Holland, he died a fortnight ago. He was Treasurer or something, Secretary I think he was, and then we had other ones and they, gradually all of us went up the rank.
We didn’t give, stay in the job for long so we went up but it got to the stage where the President, I was President and the Secretary found the job too much so he couldn’t do that and the treasurer decided he found it too much so either you get somebody which we couldn’t get or it collapsed, so I said, oh well, my daughter’s handy so she’ll help me, so I took on President, Secretary and Treasurer and it went all right for many years but because I was
doing community work in between, going around the hospitals visiting our unit there were ill, going to see their widows to see if I could help them anyway I could, and it turned out I used to do the eulogy at the services then. I used to make the thing and talk about how we were, met and so forth in the army and highlighted it to all the people that came in, and after a while they died so rapidly that the PTS [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder]
took over from me, you know, and I used to shake like anything, so I went down to the doctor and I told him, and he said, “Well you’re a fool, aren’t you?” He says, “You’re not worrying about yourself, you’re worrying about everybody else, give it away.” So I gave it away and another chap took over from me then, but that was only about four or five years ago, four years ago about. So I had a long service in it and visiting the hospitals and hostels and Day Centres and I used to go this funny, this place that now is the Day Centre at Brighton
I used to go there in my car and pick people up to take them out to Heidelberg Hospital and that and then wait for them to bring, but later on cars from the government did that for them so I didn’t have to do that, and so I was recommended by our unit for that with Sir John Holland more or less pushing for it too, and this day we went into the Governor Gobbo and his lovely wife ‘Phyl’ [Phyllis] and we had a wonderful
day and there’s a big book there somewhere, over the back there with all the photos in, and it’s really good but,
and we went to Colombo and at Colombo, not Colombo sorry, went through Aden and then up the Red Sea and then got off at Kantara, and we had to get off onto pontoons off the boat and as you walk across them they go down in the water sort of, so we went up there and they put on a beaut feed of sausages and mash for us, that was morning tea or around lunch time about, and then we got on what we call dog boxes. Cattle had been taken out of them
just recently, might’ve been that day and all stink, terrible they were, but anyway we had about a four hour trip up to our camp in Palestine, a place called Beit Jirja, and at Beit Jirja we were there for quite a long time, but we did get a lot of leave, and leave was either you could go to the Dead Sea or you could go to the Garden of Gethsemane, sorry that was Jerusalem. They were only allowed to Tel Aviv for the first time and we used to go to Tel Aviv and you could go down
to the beach if you wanted to and they had deck chairs all along there like you see in the Riviera and you could sit in there and sunbake in those, you know, or you could swim. We had an army canteen right on the beach where you could go and have a drink and it was quite good, and they had nightclubs there. Usually they’d let us stay in the city till about 8.00 o’clock and then the buses would wait for us out the front but if you didn’t get on the bus you were AWOL [AWL – Absent Without Leave] so you had to pay the penalty for it, not getting back.
So, yeah, so we toured lots of places and Tel Aviv had lots of, well I wasn’t up with all these gadgets that they had there but they were quite nice, but Jerusalem was a lot better because it had ancient history, you know, through the bible and all that. We went to this Holy Sepulchre and all that, that was a magnificent place that, and any, in the middle of the Holy Sepulchre there was a great big round thing with what they call
tabernacles in the church, you know, with a, they put the holy grails and that, and you can have Arabs here and Egyptians there and Greeks here and you know all around and then, I don’t know where the Lord was buried, but I went to about seven or eight places I think where he was buried and I’m not too sure which one was the right one, but it was all for money, you know, they took you, these guides.
But we walked up the, all those, calvary, what do they call it, the steps? Way up there, we walked up there so where he carried the cross where he was crucified, went up there, then we went around to the (UNCLEAR), beautiful golden mosque that they call it now the Golden Mosque [Dome of the Rock] I think, and that was a beautiful place, and we went into Jerusalem in the Jerusalem, the main hotel that was there we had a section of it for the army and
we could stay there, you know, overnight so you get an overnight pass and stay there and it was good. Well they had a bit of a nightclub there where you could go to the nightclub. So that was a good place and then we came back from there and we went up to a place called Castina which is up near Haifa on the Syrian border, up that way, and the British Army ran that up there. They had a barracks and all that up there, and on the top of a hill
at Mount Carmel there was a monastery and at the monastery they had the best wine in Palestine, you know.
Pete? You know, and they’d say, he’s down, are you in there Pete? Yeah, and he’d stand up and talk to you over the top of this thing, and so anyway we were in that and we got Indians and all were in with us, the Singhalese they were all with us and that, and we had one fellow and he was a ratbag he was. He was in the concert party and that’s where he was, he acted naturally and they all thought he was brilliant, and he had legs, they were about that big I suppose. How he got in the army I don’t know, but anyway we were in shorts and he’s in
there and someone must’ve been pointing to his, or doing something to his legs that were there ’cause the Indians were sitting on this side and five of us were, or four of us this side and all of a sudden he just let out you know, and the Indians went, and they jumped the carriage and everything, we had the compartment to ourself. So you could go on elephant rides there if you wanted to know and there was a story about this I read. I get a book from
the ’39ers and I get other books that I read and this particular book was an elephant and he was coming down the street or something heading for this soldier and the soldier gave it a wack with a stick and of course it snorted its head and away it went. Now he was in a march somewhere later on, British this was, he was in a march somewhere later on and they had this, it was in India that’s right, where we had the march, and he was stationed back to India, or sent to India
and the elephant was in the march and he saw this bloke in the crowd and he left the march and went over and got him in his trunk and threw him on the ground and that’s the old saying, an elephant never forgets, you know. That was the story, an elephant never forgets. Anyway we went through all of that and then we only had, we went to the race meeting as I told you with the jockeys down below and they did the right thing for us, told us about the horses and the dead cert and all that, and the fellows with the
carpet snakes and you’d just be looking at a race and you’d go like that and, oh, carpet snake looking you in the eye, and we left there and then we got back to the boat and of course they were selling monkeys and all sorts of little geetoes, geezoes or whatever they are and, gazebos, what are those little lizards? They’re up in Darwin anyway, stacks of them up there.
on that and just go to sleep, there are hundreds of them, and so they took all those off them and put them in the thing and then we left Colombo. Then we did the crossing of the equator, you know, with that thing like that. Well it’s Rafferty’s Rules that is, you know. ‘King Neptune’ was a 2/5th Battalion sergeant major and ‘Old Dark’ was a terrific bloke he was, with his sergeant major, and all the battalions
even though the officers were good officers they looked up to this fellow as their god more or less, you know. He was a massive big bloke. He look like he might’ve been a Kiwi [New Zealander], I don’t know but he had a lot of dark blood in him and when we went over they made him King Neptune and so of all the characters you could see this bloke was the, he could anything. He could be a comedian, a song, dance, anything you like he’d do and he was really really liked by all the people that were there, so he was the boss of
the crossing of the equator, so when you cross it, ‘cause the navy are all around us making sure that nothing is going to do any damage to us, and so everybody goes there. You can go dressed in your uniform or you can dress as you like, but it’s much better to go dressed as you like because they throw you in the pool anyway. I’ve got photos in there, so anyway the nurses were there too and they were all dressed nicely, you know, and he said, “I see people up there laughing
at us, about time they were thrown in, up there,” and he pointed to the nurses. They grabbed them and straight in in this big pool on the deck. So it was good, that was the crossing of it and then we had Anzac Day on the way over and we left on the 14th see, and it was 25th Anzac Day. This particular day the navy lined up in one big line and the ships all went straight down and they all stood on deck and saluted us as we went through. It was a good ceremony and then we got to Aden, and
just before we took off of course the Italians were in the war with the Germans, and off Aden is an Italian settlement, a big land that is part of theirs and so when we were just about to go into the Suez Canal apparently a sub was seen or appeared or on the sound system or whatever they had, and they had to go out and fix that up and so we went into the Red Sea up through Suez
and into the Red Sea and we stopped at, there’s two lakes up there, Lake Bitters 1 and 2 [Little and Great Bitter Lakes]. One is a smaller, one’s a bigger one. So the orders were not to break ranks, to stay on the thing and that, but the fellow said, go, the perspiration was pouring off, you know it was hot all the way over there, stinking hot night time and everything, and we had to sleep up on the decks or anywhere you could. Well I was on duty one night on guard there and the nurses had the top
section of it and the officers had the next section and we had the down section or up on the deck, so when we finished meals down below you had to clear all that off and people slept on the tables or on the floor or that, and if they didn’t want to sleep there because our air conditioner was just that canvas big bag that brought air down, pumped, pushed it around there, so we slept up top anyway. This night I was on guard and a fellow came and he said, “Can I go and see my sister?” And of course the nurses are sisters
you know, and I said, “No, nobody’s allowed up there.” He said, “Look I haven’t seen her since we got on the boat” and that, and he said, “Everybody’s asleep,” it’s about 1.00 o’clock in the morning or something, you know, and he goes up and it turns out his sister was one of the nurses, a nurse but not, a sister nurse, but not his sister, and when the guard changed it took him all his time to get down again because the other one said, “How did you get up there?” And he said, “The one that was on guard let me up there.” He said, “We’ll have him,” so I got roused over [chastised]
for that. That was another part that was queer too. When we arrived in the Bitter Lakes anyway, a lot of the blokes, I said, blow this, because we were only in shorts and little shirts you know. Over the side they went, you know, and had a swim there, well they all got reprimanded for that because they said, you know, “There could’ve been crocodiles or anything there to eat you.” So they got, and we landed and we had our sausages at Kantara then we got on this stinking train
that took us up to Beit Jirja so that was the trip over.
headquarters and things that were made officers and that, they might’ve been through it all, you know, because they were sort of elderly. I think Blamey was in France or that, wasn’t he? Yeah, and most of the more said was the 9th Division. A few of the others were there, yeah, I think they were but we were, engineers were by ourselves, we weren’t with the infantry and maybe they give us a little bit of privileges, you know. I don’t know, that was about six mile, five mile out of Cairo right near the palace.
As a matter of fact the palace there, King Farouk and Queen Farida, I went for a walk one day beside the sphinx, pyramids and that right down this walk and saw this girl in there and had a talk to her and it turned out to be the Princess, and so I come back and told everybody but they said, you’re mad. They all reckoned I wandered, and amazing they said, “Look we don’t want you going into any of the tombs or anything, you’ll see them there but if you go down it’s bad luck to go into
the tombs,” and they told them all about Tutankhamun, you know, and they said, if, when you go on leave in Cairo go in to the museum that’s in there because there’s wonderful examples in there and it’s all about Tutankhamun in there, and it was a great place and they went right through human life and everything. It’s a magnificent big place right near the Cairo Station, and one particular part there
it was, the little mice and of course they showed you little sand vipers in big tanks with all sand and that in there. So they throw two or three mice in there and the mice run around and around and around so you know they’re disturbed when they’re like that ’cause mice don’t usually run like that, and all of a sudden you see the sand go like that and see a viper come out, down. It was not the best to see I suppose but it was interesting to see it, you know,
and then there were lots of other interesting things that were in there and that, and then we came out and what happened then? I think the Provos were pretty strict and that there, and of course they, you know, there was one part they didn’t want anybody to go down in. You’d know all about that.
and before Bardia, that’s one of the things they said, you know, Gallipoli, you’re now, you know, yeah, it was at Bardia. You’re now following in the footsteps of them and in Greece again when the New Zealanders, like the New Zealanders in the Western Desert with us also, but we weren’t together then, they were separate, they went their way and we went ours, but when they were up in Mount Olympus and that they were together fighting and so they made them the Anzacs again there, 2nd Anzacs and
so that was that, but all the Australians most probably would’ve been killed if it hadn’t been for the New Zealanders because up there when they did a, Germans were pouring down through Bulgaria way and through Yugoslavia way near Vevi I think it was. We didn’t have any artillery or anything else, it was all gone, we only had a couple of things anyway and the dive-bombers fixed them, so anyway these Maoris put on their Haka [traditional Maori war dance] and when the Germans were coming down they did
their war dance and it stopped the Germans, the Germans just stopped apparently and they looked and then they, ‘wharr’, and they fixed bayonets and ran. Well the Germans threw everything away and went for their lives. So I think that was the turning point maybe up there. They knew that they could really scare them, but the trouble was with, in all of them the Germans spoke beautiful English and that, you know, in New Guinea the Japanese couldn’t pronounce a R,
it was a W, you know, and so when the Japanese wanted to put on one of their harries they used to yell out, “Are you there Woger, Woger, are you there Woger?” “I’m wounded.” You know, as soon as they did they gave them the works. They couldn’t say W’s, they all said R, no, couldn’t say R, they’d say W’s, but in the other one over there they used to talk plain English and they weren’t quiet but apparently
I didn’t, I wasn’t up with the 16th, 18th, 19th Brigade when they were up in Yugoslavia but they were up in the mountains and the mountains were like that, you know, and the snow and sleet and they must’ve found it terrible because when I was delivering stuff just back a bit at Elassona it was freezing cold and so forth, but they used to sing and everything. Of course the Aussies thought they was, you know, Australians and that up there and they and they relaxed
a little bit and when they relaxed the Germans come through did their damage and took all the uniforms what I was told, and they took all the uniforms and dressed themselves up in it and scattered among all the other battalions. So that’s only hearsay what I heard from them but I know that later on when I got taken prisoner the fellows that took me over to British Red Caps [British military police], but they were Germans, you know we were only in there for a little short time, but that’s apparently what happened up there too on a big way.
there, this was not Blamey this one, we were there and we were cooking the prawns back off from the Danmap River, was it, yeah I think I said Denmap, back up a bit anyway, and the smell was coming out onto the road, you know, and this officer went past, what was his name? I know their names, it’s pretty hard to remember everybody. Anyway, he stopped and he said, “That’s a good smell there, what are they?” And they said, “We’re cooking some prawns.” “Where did you get those?” We said, “When we bolted off the river up there we got the prawns
up there.” They were big ones, you know, ‘cause like when you get in Queensland the big ones up in the Gulf, they’re nice ones. So we said, “Do you like them?” He said, “I love them,” and we said, you know, “Have a sit down and have go with us.” “Righto.” So Stevens it was, Brigadier Stevens, so he sat down, no, it’s general, yeah, so he sat down and he said, “By gee, they’re beautiful aren’t they?” He says, “What’s the rest you’ve got cooking in there?” And he says, “Oh we caught a couple of fish the other day,” and he says, “Yeah, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that,”
and we said, “They’re easy to catch.” He says, “I know they are, the way you do it.” Said, “What do you mean?” And he says, “You throwing the hand grenades, we’ve got men up the front there looking for those hand grenades, they’re supplied to them.” We said, “Oh yeah.” So anyway he said, “What kind of fish have you got?” We said, “Trevally,” and he said, “Oh beautiful, isn’t it?” And we said, “Would you like some?” He said, “I’d love it.” So we took him down a slab of it and we had to cut them up, a big fish like that and he said that was beautiful,
and so he went up to the front which is a mile away further like, and I think he was going up to the Advance Resting Station up there. Anyway he came back afterwards and stopped at our camp and said, “Now remember what I said, no more grenades.” We says, “Righto, OK, sorry sir.” “And I’ll be back in a couple of days, will you have any more fish?” And we said, yeah. So he went back to there and told Blamey and all them see, and anyway that was what happened. They all came through and when he came
the next time he said, “Oh gee, he said, I’ve put my foot in it now.” We said, “Why?” He said, “I went back and told them I had this beautiful fish from you and everybody wants it now.” We said, “Tell us how many you want.” So we gave him about four or five, six, something like that, to take back, great big trevally. And Blamey came through this day and he was on the same, but we didn’t have any fish for him that day that he went to go on this bridge, and somehow or other he tipped over.
yeah, we didn’t get on too well with him but he was good, he did everything he was supposed to do I suppose. You can talk about all the things I s’pose but he was a top bloke in the army and everything so he knew more than we knew, but we might’ve been agitators, yeah. The other speech that was made was when we were at Bachi and the Prime Minister came over there.
He made his speech and everything and we got on with the job and went up and the others went on to Benghazi and we just followed them up. If there were mines and anything there they’d just a big sign up, mines, you know and they’d we just go and take, they’d take so many mines out, the ones that were there, but when you’re on the move you keep moving. You can’t much around with that, as long as you’ve got a spot. So we had Italian, a little, we got a little Italian bulldozer types
of things and eventually, they had chains in the middle, in the front of them and instead of going into a minefield and doing it that way, taking the top, we loaded them works up, they had these chains that they call flaylers and they used to go out in the front. There’d be about four of them and they’d go blom blom blom blom brr, and they’d only blow up that part and the truck was back here, you know. So that was a good thing, but they’ve got, then mine detectors came in.
If we had mine detectors it would’ve be nice, really easy, you know ‘cause you just go prt prt prt prt bang bang, put it on like that, white cards on the top. But we didn’t have those, it was all, and at night time when our officers used to go up to reconnoitre, the officers did all the reconnoitring. We weren’t allowed to do that, it was an officer’s job, they went out and they had trip wires. I got a can of it down the back there I think. It’s only a very thin, like that, like that, and it’s
in a coil and when you pull it it comes out like a tape and you just go from one to the other but you can’t see it in the dark and if you hit that, just a loose touch like that, bomba. So we had trip wires so they had to feel there way around everywhere they went at night time and they’d get as close as, nearly as close as that wall apparently they was telling us, and heard all the Italians talking and everything like that and then they’d have a look to see if they could see any machine gun positions in there, and then they’d
come back with a full report, and when they did that they gave them a Military Cross each which they deserved I guess. I wouldn’t like to gone out and do it. And so that was the first time they went in, that was Bardia, and then the other places they went in, the Italians booby trapped them from then on you know. They had this wire here which is OK, you couldn’t touch it, you just stepped over it and you left a little disc there where you came in so as you could come back over it, and that’s what officers
tell me. My mate, Sir John Holland, he went out on one of them and they had all these things similar to that, but they put booby traps under then and when you went out to just de-louse one thing, and if you shifted anywhere the booby trap underneath would spring up, boom, gone, and then when we did go to Tripoli when we went right through Benghazi and up towards Tripoli, the Germans came in and they put teller mines in, which teller mine is a round thing like that
and it goes down in the ground like that and it’s got three prongs sitting up in the air like that, and when you put on those it depresses it and springs up in the air then goes off, kills everyone within about 20 yards. They were good, terrific. We didn’t have (UNCLEAR), the New Zealanders went. They stayed there and also the British Army, they went up and they found those, but we were taken back and sent to Greece then.
We could’ve, I reckon we could’ve easy taken Tripoli ’cause we had all the army captured, there was no one there. But anyway he thought better and sent us to Greece and promised us the world and we got nothing.
and the two of us were in the engineers, my mate, two of us joined up together and so we had ours told. So he was the first one and was a big strong boy, Musica, and Ron Musica, and anyway he bloomin’ got his fortune told and she told him this and that and that and this and that and she said, “I don’t like what I see here,” and she said, “I don’t think you’re going to take in much of the action.”
So anyway he laughed and, oh yeah, all right. So it came to me, no, it came to Neil was here and I was the last one, and she said, “You are going good, good, she said, but all of a sudden it blacks out on me. She said, “Something’s going to happen to youS, and he said, “Gee, what about? What’s going to happen?” She says, “Can’t tell you but you’re going home, you’re going to be sent home,” and it came to me and she had a big smile on her face when she
finished. She said, “You’re all right, you’re going to see everything and go home, but you’re not going to be wounded or anything.” So she didn’t see that. Oh, it was after that when I, after when I’d been wounded so I went right through and came home. Neil, a bomb exploded beside the, and the pressure came through and interrupted all his stomach and he had to have stomach opened up and all the, everything inside straightened out again. It was all twisted, you know, they sent him home. This one here was
sent in Cairo, the 2/7th, our unit had to go out and build pill boxes and everything just as a practise building them, you know, and it turned out that when the Germans were coming down it saved Cairo, saved Cairo from being taken that these pill boxes our blokes used to stop some of them anyway, and he was on a Bren gun, on a truck with a Bren gun mounted in it and it wasn’t connected properly and the Bren gun dropped off and took
knee cap off, you know, and so he had to stay back at Heliopolis which he reckoned was great. He said the best life he ever had. So he didn’t see any action. This one saw action at Bardia and then he went home and I saw the lot and come home. So you’ve gotta take
and I was in a hell of a lot of trouble then. He said, “When I send you out to scrounge I mean to bring it back and let me see it.” So anyway another time I was told to go down and see if we could get some supplies from Cairo, from Alexandria, and I go down and I said to the fellow there, “Has my truck come in yet?” There’s three of us in a convoy, but I said,
I didn’t have any rank but I was the driver and the other two were in utes and that. I said, “Has our bloke from the engineers come down yet to get our supplies?” And he says, “Which engineers?” And I told him and he says, “No, nobody here.” Oh, I said, “That’s great isn’t it?” So I went over to the other two and I said, “Better put on a bit of a glim face” (UNCLEAR) like. So I said, “I’ll tell him another story.” So I went over and I said, “Look we can’t wait more than about half an hour, in half an hour will you let us go in and load
up and then our officer will be down with his utility and that and sign for it?” Oh yeah, he said, “Go in and take what you want.” He said, “Here’s a bit of paper, put down what you take.” So we saw it and if it was whisky we put it down as another one of beer and that, and so we had this big thing, about that big and it was heavy as anything and we couldn’t find the name on it, so I put distilled water, a case of distilled water and I took it home, up back. Anyway we waited there for another half hour and I said to him, look, I said,
and I had a watch given to me before I went away and I said, “Look we’ll have to go.” I said, “Can I sign anything?” And he said, yeah. So I signed the things and as we used to sign before, Burke and Wills, when two of us signed. They never ever found Burke and Wills. I don’t know what I signed on this one but I scribbled a name on it and I said, “OK, she’s apples, are you right?” I didn’t tell him our unit anyway. I told him another unit was what it was, so we took off and away we came back and when we come into Kanga
Wilson, Kanga, when he marched he went boom, boom like this see so we called him Kanga. He was all right, he took it as a joke and I get back and he says, “What did you get?” And I said, “We got tons of stuff here,” and he said, “How did you get it?” And I said, “We signed somebody’s name for it and got away with it.” It was a NAAFI, not our army camp, it was a NAAFI. Gee, he said, “You get away with the world you blokes.” So I said, he said, “What have you got?” And I said, “Well I’ve got a case of whisky here.” “That’ll do me.”
Took the beer down to the others and this other big case it’s got rum in it. Oh gee, what a, and I’d already been roused for the other cognac I got them. Anyway when they smelt the rum, oh, you know, they’re into it, well some of them just about choked because it’s burning hot you know.
the army suffered a fair bit of losses too because they were camped near Darwin, and the navy of course suffered terrific losses with the bombing of the ships in the harbour. The Americans were with them too, and one hospital ship was hit there, but anyway that was, so there was panic up there and some reason or other someone got the word that it was take off leave at Darwin, so they all one catapult, you know, to all of them and they all took off with any trucks or anything they could get and they went as far as they could get, well Adelaide River
is where they stopped, and then our OC, Kanga Wilson, General Major Colonel Wilson, he said, well all right, we’ll be here for about four or five days, so we got a two-up school going there and we did various little jobs around the place and that, and then we off, and we went up and as we went through the Strauss Airfield was part of the roadway and that’s the first airfield and the planes used to
come down and all the traffic was stopped about half a mile back from where they were landing. Bluey Truscott was there and he got killed a bit further out, and so we went through there and then through all the other places and that. We got to a creek, I’ll think of it soon. Anyway we got to this creek and we had to build another bit of an abattoirs out there so they could sort of have an in between station for the
big station that was back there and we shifted from there then and we went up practically to Darwin. Yeah, we did got to Darwin. We stopped at Batchelor I think for a little while and found out that the airport had to be, airstrip had to be enlarged and that, then we went to Darwin anyway. When we got to Darwin we were split up into our three sections and given areas to do. Some areas had anti-aircraft positions to be put in
in concrete and the anti-aircraft guns fixed on those instead of on the ground bouncing away every time they fired a shot. We had to take Fanny Bay Gaol and pull all the iron off that and make weapon pits all around Darwin for you know, a type of thing like that or maybe back this way, and they were where the infantry and anybody got in to maybe fire rifles, and if planes went by they sort of laid down and hoped it didn’t land one in there, and they busted the oil tanks
up there, they were burning. The navy had the ships burning in the harbour and the hospital had been damaged a bit so we had to do a bit of work on there, and that was about what we had there, was just maintenance. No, we had to go out one road out to the west coast and we had to, the Darwin River flooded and it flooded all the area and there was, at this time there was danger that they were going to send German, the Japanese
paratroops down. They didn’t want them to land on those
so you get $4, so you can take $2 and leave your $2 or leave the 4, so you spin again and $4 goes to 8, 8 goes to 16, 16 goes to 32 and da da da da da da dum and up, and so by the time you’ve done 13, well you know, it multiplies. So I forget who I was spinning for that night. I think it might’ve been a $5, 5 quid. No, it would’ve been more than that for 5 quid [pounds], no it must’ve been a 2 quid one. Anyway so I had all this money
down here which made me out looking like that and I had all my own money on the floor. So he came home and I threw all his money, just took my thing out and dropped all his money on the bed and he was counting it all up, you know. He said, “We both had a good night tonight, I thought we’d be lucky.” Poor old Allied Works Council they’d done probably two months pay. But they kept you together and the old saying is you know, they’d put a little not around, two-up school on at 6.00 or 7.00 o’clock after the meal, you know, and then the
familiar voice would say, “Who wants to be in? Who wants to spin?” “Two bob in a head to see him go,” or “$2 in the head to see him go,” you know, and this is a favourite call and they’d all be around and someone would say, yes, righto, so you had to pick a partner. Like you might say, I say, “I want 5 quid on heads,” and you’d say, “I’ll back you for 5 quid tails.” So you and I had the money, you have yours down there and I have mine here and if I lost I kicked it across to you and if I won I took yours.
So sometimes they’d go for maybe three games and then they’d say, I’ve had enough, and get out so you find another partner. Yeah, it’s an interesting game actually. Nice when you win, it’s just like going to the pokies. We went down Sandy a while ago, Dulcie and I, usually we go down and have a coffee in the afternoon there, you know, and she likes sitting on the beach and watching the water and that because she was bred in the country up in Cowra, and her Mum when she came down here she said, “Oh you’re lucky, you’ve got this beautiful beach
and that down here to see, I’d love to have a place like this.” So I think it stuck on her mind, so we go down there quite a bit anyway, have a meal there at night sometimes, a celebration. We had our 65th the other day, I think, yeah, so went down and had a beautiful steak down there. Yeah, so you get these you see.
say, this is what we want you to put on because if this is what they’re going to strike in New Guinea we want them to try it now. And so they had this big table and all the plates, lovely, beautiful food on it, you know, so we took what we wanted to but everything that we took had a number on the plate. We had number 3 or number 7 or number 9 or 12 or that and had a bit of it. I said, best meal I’ve ever had, you know. So anyway afterwards he said, “OK, hand all your things in.” So we handed
them in with our name on it and that, and he said, “OK now, how many of you guessed what I’m going to tell you is right?” He says, “Now what did you all say for that one there?” And nearly all of us said, beautiful chicken. OK, he said, “Lovely snake wasn’t it?” And so he got another one and it was only small little tit bits like of it and I said to him, “Mate that’s terrific that fish isn’t it?” And he said, “Yeah, great.”
So we ate quite a bit of that, so he came to that one and he said, “How many of you had that?” So we put our hands up and he said, “And what did you reckon it was?” And so we all said, “Fish.” He said, “Well that was a mud frog.” He said, “You got the left side of it because on one side it’s chicken and the other side it’s fish taste.” God I said, yeah. So he came along and they had this stuff mixed up, you know, and it was beautiful. I’d eaten that
too and I says to him, “Mate, gee it’s hard to find out what this was but it’s like oatmeal or something like that that they’ve mixed up.” Anyway when we had it he said, “How many got this one?” And we put our hand up. “Yeah, what did you think it was? “ I kept quiet and he said, “None of you know what it was,” and he said, “Did you think it was custard or oatmeal or porridge or something like that?” And we said, “Yes.” He said, “Well that’s what you’re going to eat on the trees up there,
it’s a red, a great big red fruit and the Indians love it over there and they spit the red juice out all over you.”
became a member of the South Melbourne RSL straight after the war. I used to go over there twice a week and maybe a Saturday, and they had dances Saturday night so you could go Saturday night dance, which we did, you know, and one instance there they had a fancy, well yes, we used to do that so when they had their committee meeting they were all old diggers there, you know real old like us now and so they were looking for a
committee and it was suggested that some of the Second World War should be on the committee but they protested strongly to it, you know, but we just said then, I got elected on it and I said, well we don’t want to take your job away, we’re only here to assist you with any work or that that you require instead of you running around doing it because you’re elderly people now, and at the same time one of my mates he had a home brew going and beer was short
to get and I says like, “We can supply you with beer, as much beer as you like because we’ve been makes it.” Oh, he said, “That’ll be good,” so I said, “You’re in charge but when we have the meeting we want one in front of them” so we said, “We don’t want to run the meetings, you’re the runner, we’ll just be here with you and you organise as you have before and we’ll do anything you want.” So they said, “Well can you organise a fancy dress ball?” Yeah, we can do that for you, because they’re, their wives were elderly too and they didn’t want to do this running around,
but we wanted to do a bit of gaiety in the place, ’cause the, just like in Greece or those places the men go here and the women go there, so when they went to the RSLs the men went down to drink and the women sat up there eating sandwiches and talking to one another and that was their night out. Now that’s not a night out for anybody. So we livened it up when we had this fancy dress ball when I went as Carmen Miranda to tell you the truth, yeah and I had pineapples and all this stuff on my head and that but I couldn’t
get a dance ’cause you know, women wouldn’t dance with me. I had to dance with my mates. So we had another one there and he was a naval boy and he dressed as a butcher and these were, we had cards, you know, you could buy and that, and we spent a fair bit of our card money on making a success of this night, so he bought sausages and steak and all this sort of thing on them, and when we went past the judge he said, “Is there anything I can do for you?” And he said, “If they were alive,” he said, “If they were
a good,” he said, “I’d like some of that steak,” and he said, “Here, you can have it,” hit him right in the face with it. That made a big laugh go, they all laughed, they reckoned it was great. His wife she said, “I’ll put a bit of a kick into the party, I’ll go as ‘mine chicka they fit’.” Do you know the old ad for ‘mine chicka they fit’? A white shirt and that’s all. So she put a white shirt on and then of course they used to have underpants
and things like that which says, ‘come on Melbourne’, or, ‘go on the Saints’ [football teams], or anything like that, you know, so she came passed and she blacked her face and everything up and the judge said, “You don’t look like a black fellow and you got anything under that shirt?” And she says, “Do the black fellows have it under the shirt?” Yes, she said, “Well so do I, ‘come on South Melbourne’,” and people screamed their heads off. They wanted more and more of these after we had this first one, but anyway I went off crook and I said, “I can’t get a dance
because I’m Carmen Miranda,” and I didn’t have a dance. Yes, I did, we, afterwards, no I didn’t get a dance that night, so we had another night but it was a different kind of night and as you imagine when the women are into their 80s and that they’re all broad ‘cause I don’t know why, they used to eat too much or what it was, but so they had their barn dances and all that on and I was only 76 when I came back with malaria from New Guinea, so as I got a partner she lifted me off the
floor and away she went with me and when she finished she’d drop me and she’d say, “Thank you for that,” and I’d say, “That’s all right, no worries.” This happened all the way through the dances. I didn’t get a dance on the floor. Yeah, so that was a really good time so I used to go there quite a bit to that one, and then I came down, shifted down here in ’45, ’45 yeah, ’45, ’48 and I went to Hampton and I went to Hampton to see a mare
and I was going to play in their cricket side because their secretary worked over at Freighters where I worked and when I went there there was a general there, he was their president and he said, “We’re full here,” and I said, “I beg your pardon, you can’t be full,” I said, “It’s only just a little while after the war’s ended,” and he said, “I said we’re full, you saying I’m a liar?” And I said, “That’s all right, I’m not worried about it. If you say you’re full I’m off.” So I didn’t play in their cricket team and when I went back to work the secretary said, “Oh he’s bloomin’ pig-
headed stinker that bloke.” He said, “Go back and I’ll fix it.” I said, no, I wouldn’t go there again, so I went to Hyatt and at Hyatt there was a wonderful mob there and there was a very elderly old bloke, old Pop Moody, and he was a First World War digger and when I came in he said, where are you living? And I said, up here in Linika Road and he said, you could’ve gone to Hampton, that’s your closest, and I says, I went there but they didn’t want me so I’m coming to here, and he said, oh come in here, yeah, you’re welcome. So it’s a beautiful RSL,
now still. So I went in there and I thought I’ll go and have a beer and he said, “The bar’s over there,” so I went over and I said, “I’ll have a pot thanks,” and he says, “No, we don’t serve singles.” I said, “What do you mean?” He says, “We want you to mix in here, so if you come to the bar by yourself you have to get two glasses” and I said, “Well I’ll have two pots,” and he said, “No, that’s not it,” he says, “No, you stay there a minute,” and he says, “Five minutes you’ll know half the mob in this place,” so he called this,
what’s his name was Costello too and he called him, not the Minister bloke, he called him over, Joe, and I was Joe, and he said, “Here’s a new member Joe,” and he said, “Yeah, what’s you name?” I said, “Joe Jopling.” He said, “Oh, I’m Joe Costello,” and I said, “How are you going, all right?” He said, ‘Come and sit over at our table,” so I went over and in five minutes I knew 12 people, you know, and I said, “This is a good idea isn’t it? It saves a bloke coming down here to sort of drink by himself,” and he said, ”Yeah, and we don’t drink much by the way. If you want to drink,”
he said, “You just put your money in the centre and then we go over and get the drinks and you pay for your own all the time, there’s no shouting [buying drinks for others],” and I said, “That’s a good idea too,” and so then I joined that one and I was there for many years and then they all died off and that and new people come in and I didn’t really like the way they were running it then and so I went to Bentley and it’s brilliant over there. This is the best RSL I’ve ever been in.
they want me although I did refuse the Wesley College the other day, two weeks ago. They wanted me to go there the day I was going to do the singing down at the Anzac Hostel and I apologised, but I went down and saw her, it turned out she was a Greek girl and so when I went there, I left here at half past 4.00 to see her at 5.00 o’clock. I thought I always like to be early, got there early and she came about 10 past 5.00 just down off Bay Road, down
Brighton, and I saw her car pull up and I sort of looked over and I thought, gee, you know, she could be a Greek girl but she looked very nice looking and so anyway I got out the car and as I did she undid the (UNCLEAR) and waved to me and I said, Atta, her name is which I think is Athenicia for short, I think Athenicia, Katerina and all those names, and I said, “You’re Atta?” And she said, “Yes, you Joe?” I said, yes, so I went over, shook her hand, and she had a little girl in there about
9 I suppose, Christine, that’s another Greek name, Christy, you know. Anyway she said, “You’re early,” and I says, “I’ve only been here five minutes,” and she said, “Good, come in.” God, I went in, you should’ve seen the house, beautiful, great big house, and I walked in and it was like a swimming, like a dance hall in there, you know, everything was beautiful, Greek, you know. Anyway I was there for about five minutes I reckon and she
said to Christine, “There’s the phone, will you answer it?” And so Christine went up and said, oh, it’s the other daughter, Darva, Yarva or Darva, she’s on the phone Mum, wants to pick you up from school. Now I’d only been there five minutes and she said, “Joe, will you look after Christine while I go down to the school, college and pick my daughter up?” I said, “Yeah, how long will you be?” ’cause I told Dulcie when I left I’d only be about half an hour, it’s after 5.00, said I’d be home about quarter past 5.
I didn’t get home until about 6.00, you know, and I was getting the tea from Red Rooster, but anyway she came back and came in and she said, how did you go with Christine? And I said, “She’s wonderful.” I says, “You don’t want to lose her do you? I’ll take her home with me,” and she said, “No, you’re not getting her,” and she said to Chris, “How did you go?” “Oh, he’s terrific, he’s been reading me stories in a book and everything like that.” So the other girl came in then, she’s the taller one and she said, “This is Darva” or Jarva or whatever her name was and she said,
“Pleased to meet you Joe,” and she said, “Mum’s pretty disappointed that you can’t come to Wesley,” and I said, “Well I can’t go in every place everywhere.” I said, “I’m at the Sandy Hostel,” at the Brighton Hostel and I promised them I’d have Anzac Day there, so she said, “Oh well, all right, never mind,” so with that I said, “Well look, I’ll have to scoot.” I said, “It’s getting on to about 5.00” or 6.00 o’clock, 5.00 o’clock or whatever it was and I said, “I’ll have to go through, I’ve got to get the tea yet.”
So she kept me an hour, for about another quarter of an hour and then she nudged Christine, and Christine took off because I’d been talking to her a couple of times before see, and Christine came back with a big box of chocolates for me. I said, “I don’t take anything for helping people out.” She said, “Well you’ve got to take these,” and I says, “I don’t like chocolate anyway,” and she says, “How do you know they’re chocolates?” I says, “Well they rattle like chocolates and they’re boxed like chocolate,” done up, done up beautifully it was, and she said, “No, you take them home to your wife,” because she’s spoken to Dulcie a couple
of times on the phone, “She’ll like them.” I said, no, I said, you know, “I don’t want to start a precedent.” She said, “Well Christine will be disappointed if you don’t,” and I said, “Will you be disappointed?” She said, “Yes I will.” I said, “Well I’ll take them.” So I brought them home and they were Belgian chocolates.