Motor cars hadn’t appeared, and wagons and horses and bullock teams and horse teams were the order of the day. And the motors gradually came in during the twenties and we thought that was great. To get a motor car ride – it was – every boy wanted to be able to speak in school in regards to his experience of a motor car ride. And an aeroplane went over, well, you had permission to go out and see the plane,
which was very, very rare those days. Of course then at the end of the 1920s, that’s when the Depression started. I was still going to school. I was going to be educated: my father said I should have an education. I was doing quite well at school; I didn’t have any problems there. But then things didn’t look good in the financial side,
and when I was trying to leave school, he said, “No good going to high school, you better stay home on the farm and work.” I didn’t mind either, because I loved growing things, and I found that quite rewarding and I learnt so much about plants. And we had a mixed farm, fruit, vegetables and the dairy as well, and we could in those bad times – we could almost live off the land.
The property was not frost-prone, bananas and pineapples grew on the hills, and vegetables down on the flats, and that’s were the grazing area was too. During the thirties then, the droughts came in, and they were terrible times. Unemployed people used to come along to have a meal. We would always find something for them to eat. Singers, swagmen [homeless travellers]. They used to camp under the schools, under the bridges, railway bridges and places like that.
As I said, there wasn’t any money about and there looked like there was a war looming. I’ve been asked, “Why did you join the army?” Well, before joining the army, I had left home because I wasn’t making any money, good experience, but no money. So I went to the northern rivers, worked on a farm there for a few months.
That was a great experience too. They gave me a race horse to ride too, after cattle, and that. And winter came, and I went up to the Fassifern area, round Harrisville way. I worked there until the end of the year. So I saved up a bit of money to buy some tools to start on this place, where we are now.
And working up here on my own, I went into reforestation. The property had been cut right out and the bushfires had ravaged it in 1936. The home that was on it was removed, the wire of fences all removed, the place was no income off it, couldn’t make an income off it at all. After reforestation, the timber died and I had fellas came in to cut wood
and I was getting some royalty for the wood. But working on my own, I think, when the opportunity came to join the army and I could see there was a war coming, I could anyway, I thought I could, I didn’t want to be a civilian in uniform so I joined the militia in Beenleigh. We used to go, there were a few other fellas locally, we went to Beenleigh,
and trained there once a week, once a month or something. And then we had one camp in Brisbane, in Enogerra, first camp. After that, that was in May, and then the war started in August – no September. So not long after that I was called up, and my first army service was at Archerfield,
guarding Archerfield Aerodrome. That was a nice experience too. We were billeted with a tent, but the air force looked after us in regards to our food. It was very nice to go along with the air force fellows and enjoy some good food, sit at a table and it was a good experience as well. Then following on to that,
we had training camp at Enogerra, three month training camp, that was a lovely experience. We used to get plenty of leave, didn’t say we got plenty of leave, but every opportunity I had to go on leave, I took it and enjoyed myself really. And that camp finished and I was back working here on this property doing some timber cutting and thinning out the trees that needed to, the ones
that were bent and had defects. I removed those to let the good trees develop. Then when the Japanese came into it, that’s when I had fellas come up here. They were camped here, cutting wood. Then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and we were called into full time service.
I was still at the CMF [Citizens’ Military Force] at the time, I hadn’t joined the AIF [Australian Imperial Force]. That was fulltime. We met the first Americans that came into Brisbane. I was on leave that night when they came to Brisbane. You could see that they were new. Very easily picked, they seemed to have money and we changed money and coins. We had a good relationship there,
but then it didn’t last that long because our tables where we used to have our meals were taken away and given to the Americans. And we were sitting on the ground in the dust to have our dinner. Then there seemed to be a lot of apprehension about the danger in which
Brisbane was, or Australia would be invaded. I didn’t see it that way. The distance didn’t seem to be too great to me. Anyhow, we were patrolling around Brisbane, right through this area here, from Cleveland to Eight Mile Plains, right through the bush here. Patrols. And then one afternoon there seemed to be a panic, we were out manoeuvring or something, I can’t just recall where.
But they were yelling out for “Shailer, Shailer!” they want Shailer. I thought, “Whatever has gone wrong now?” Anyhow, I had to report to a truck, picked up on a truck with a few other fellows, we went up to Redbank Rifle Range to test our shooting skills. And I had been fairly good at that. And it appeared that they wanted snipers, for when the Japanese invaded, they wanted these snipers
‘to hold the fort’, as the saying is. I had done very well that day, I’ve got a photo if it here actually. I think I topped the score. And then after that, it wasn’t very long after that, a week or two after that, we moved to the Brisbane Line at Caloundra, it was known as the Brisbane Line, and I was in an advance party there as well. We went up one Sunday afternoon, and the
U.S. battalion came up afterwards. We were putting barricades up along the beaches and patrolling at night time. It was generally doing things pretty toughly, we had tents, but we had hard floor boards, there was no palliasses. I remember clearly, there a ship was going in, and I think it was an officer, I don’t know if he was a captain,
I didn’t know. He says, “There’s our Bren guns there.” he said. I said, “How would you know it they are Bren guns?” “Oh yes.” he said, “A boat had been diverted from Singapore. Those guns were going down to Brisbane. We’ll be getting our guns from there.” And believe it or not, midnight that night, we were called out to clean the Bren guns, they were still in the packing cases, all still in the grease. We were called out to clean our Bren guns, so that was the first Bren guns that came to the battalion.
I did hurt my back there on a patrol. Stepped in a hole in the pitch dark and I was laid up for a while. Then we were brought back to Brisbane. After that – was then in April – and I remember being told that three months we would be in action. That was in April. Then I had a – developed a cyst on my face – that was removed at the hospital too.
Had a bit of a bad trot there [a run of bad luck]. And I went on leave at the weekend from the hospital. When I went back on the Monday morning, the camp was gone, they had moved. They said you’ve got to go down to the station, heading to Townsville. That was a story, in suburban carriages, crushed too. That was the Coral Sea, the battle had started.
So we arrived at Thursday night, four days it took us, we arrived at Townsville on the Thursday night. At Mount Stuart we stayed there, for a while. Cabin on the ground. Really tough it was at Townsville. Hard dry ground. And we moved about in a few places there. But I do remember the first aeroplane bombing mission at Townsville.
Some of the fellas were still on leave. I heard the plane go over, I thought, “That’s a strange one.” didn’t take any notice really, and the next thing I know the bombs were dropping. Everyone realised, and the attack started then, a bit late then, the plane was going back to bolt. We were just on the outskirts of Townsville, Aitkenvale at the time, then they moved us to Louisa, then we moved to Blue Water Creek. And there was another raid, that one was rather spectacular
because they knew this one was coming, and the air force was out and they were firing, you could see the trace of bullets flying into the plane, I thought they were going to bring it down, but it got out of the search lights and got away actually, went right back to bolt too. Then we went to jungle training. We were the first brigade to do jungle training at Mount Spec, preparing us for New Guinea. And in between those times, I was
doing some different courses in the battalion, I got a drivers licence and I was a sniper. I also took a course in pidgin English. And Colonel Amies gave me the freedom of the battalion area, and I could go anywhere and pick positions for sniping. And he didn’t tell one of his officers, and when I went into officers’ area, he objected to me being there.
I suppose he had a bit of a reason, because I had another objective in mind too. I had found a bee hive’s nest and I was going to cut the hive out. It was low in the mango tree and I was going to get some fresh honey, and he wondered why I had an axe and a gas mask, because I had the gas mask to stop the bees from stinging. I didn’t get much honey; it was a bit of a failure.
That’s the bit we finished our training, and then we shipped to Milne Bay from Mount Spec, flew over the ranges from Townsville. And I was on leave when the battalion left, just after Christmas in 1942 so I travelled to New Guinea with different troops. To Milne Bay. In the Duntroon, which was rather a pleasant ride actually.
The Coral Sea was very smooth and purple in colour, and the flying fishes were flying. It’s a bit of a strange feeling leaving Australia. I remember there was a padre, and just getting dark, and we could see the mountains in the distance, and I didn’t know what mountains they were. He said, “That’s Cairns there.” he said, “We’ll be leaving, we’ll be going out across the sea.” and that’s the last,
that’s Australia, you were wondering whether you would see Australia again and I certainly did. And arriving at Milne Bay, well it was Samarai first, we were going through Samarai, that was very nice, very picturesque. Then up the bay, about lunchtime, the reception we got was, “There’s an air raid soon, there’s an air raid soon. Get off the ship quick!” We were ordered on to one side of the ship and it tilted.
The ship had already been sunk, and at the wharf. Gili Gili wharf. We had to walk over the ship… Shame it was. Been shelled in the battle of Milne Bay. And I went by truck to the unit, got a great welcome. We suffered some very heavy raids, bombing raids, at Milne Bay.
I don’t know whether or not to go into detail with that now?
Well, we went from Milne Bay, we were shipped to Oro Bay, that’s near Buna. We were there for only a couple of weeks. That wasn’t a very good site, the old battle ground. I’ve got some photos there.
And then from Buna, we went to Morobe, we were there for a short while. And then from Morobe we – by barges up to Nassau Bay. That’s where there had been landing there. And then from Nassau Bay, we walked to Tambu Bay, just when we were going into action. I know we had to clean all the extra treatments of the guns, machine guns, and everything, magazines, everything had to be examined.
Magazines, Bren magazines, hold twenty, we always loaded with eighteen. And I’m counting these in and getting confused and I’m running a temperature and I thought, “Goodness me, I’m going to be sick.” Anyway I’m running a temperature and I went to the ADS for a few days. That’s the Advanced Dressing Station, and during that time the unit went into action. And after the action, I’ll tell you about that later, I think we went to
Lae, on the Buso River. And then up to Nadzab. There was a big patrol up there that I would like to talk about too. And then in April I was selected, one man from the battalion, Colonel Amies recommended I be selected to go to training. Infantry training. Australian School of Infantry in Victoria. I was very proud of that actually.
I passed there quite well and then trained at Cowra. There at Cowra for the outbreak. Prisoner of war outbreak. A very serious thing actually. And then I contracted malaria. Thought I nearly died. And after treatment, I went on leave and convalesced.
And when I finished the tour of duty, I went back to my unit at – they had been moved to Bougainville. That was at the end of the war. I found so few of the old New Guineans, so that was amazing, nearly all new recruits. I wasn’t posted to my old platoon, I was posted to
Seven Platoon, it was. To get to know these fellas – a bit difficult and stressful. Shelling, very hard time. And after the war finished I came back here to Slacks Creek, it was known then, and back to this property. I wasn’t as fit a man when I returned as when I left.
I had all sorts of dreams that this was going to be, that this was going to make my life. I bought another property down on, near the Pacific Highway, built a home down there from timber off this property and reared a family there. Married of course. A good lady she is. Reared a family – four daughters. And once I established myself, and I decided
that its time someone tried to get into the committees around the councils, get the place developed. And of course that wasn’t as easy as some people thought. When you’re running for council, usually a lot of starters, in those days there used to be, and I was successful in my first encounter. That was the Albert Shire,
office in the Gold Coast. Very rewarding, very disappointing, councils. I was on councils from a period from 1961 till 1985, but I was on and off for a couple of times. You would win elections and lose elections. Just had to take it, the good with the bad. I had no regrets,
because being with the enquiries that were held, they were held in Brisbane. I had no fear, in a matter of fact, they even came up here in this room taping, getting tapes of what I had been doing on the council. Very interesting. I wasn’t only on councils; I was on the fire brigade.
There’s an old helmet up there that was a gift to me after I retired from there. Twelve years on the Gold Coast Fire Brigade Board and three years as chairman. And the CEO [Chief Executive Officer] of the Committee of Direction of the Food and Marketing, I was there for eighteen years too. Six years on the executive committee there. I’ve led a very full and interesting life. When I finished there in 1985,
I decided I would build something up here that would be, something to be proud of, for my family and the district, Australia in general, really. That seems pretty well received, when people come from overseas they think, “What a lovely place.” and they come back again.
the Fullers, the Shailers, the Dennises, the Markwells. So I’m true blue Australian I suppose, from the very early days. My great grandfather, he was a very energetic man, a big powerful man, educated, called a spade a spade. And he was the first clerk, when local governments first formed they were called Divisional
boards, and he was the secretary of the board. And by looking at old records, he was just about the council, with all the things he had to do. And my grandfather – he was a timber getter mainly, understood the bush and the trees. And then he decided to go into citrus and he planted an orchard,
a big orchard, and the certificate said it was the best in Queensland – and in 1914 it was the best citrus orchard in Queensland. He was very proud of it. And I remember sweetest mandarins or oranges I ever tasted. The orchard had artificial underground irrigation and when it worked it was amazing, it was all done by hand. And I think I had a very good background for my future in just sort of copying what he’d done, in
how he’d done it, see? There was four sons there, my father was the eldest. He used to, I can remember him driving to – the wagon – to the Brisbane markets. Before the motor vehicles came in. And I remember having two little rocking horses; I named them after the wagon horses. Dandy and Prince.
Three horses, Rosie, Dandy and Prince. And I used to ride, well I couldn’t ride them myself, I was too young, on Rosie the horse, I loved that. Then when he used to go in every night early in the morning, he had to get up about half past six and go from Daisy Hill, his father lived on Day’s Hill, he had to go on to Shailer. They lived down on Shailers Road you see.
And my brother Charlie used to yoke the horses and have them ready to go, then bring home an empty load of cases. This was during the winter time, very long hours and very hard work but rewarding. And then about 1926, I think it was , the motor vehicles came and they took over from using the carrier, grandfather used to
get a carrier to take those to the market. And my father was out of a job. And that’s when he got on to farming his own farm. And I remember in 1928, there was such a crop on, they couldn’t handle it and he went over for three months helping them, and one of the other brothers had appendicitis, and he went over to help them. And I remember that year too, was a wet year, and we could go over and eat as many mandarins as we liked. I remember they said, “That kid will be sick.”
But no, I could eat those mandarins, and I never ever was sick. Then of course my father started dairying, the boys coming on, milking by hand, and we had to help with the milking, all of us boys, there was three boys and a girl. And Mum was a bit unlucky,
because the first baby boy, older than me, had died. And then there was myself, and twins afterwards, and they died, so I was the only one to survive out of the first four babies. And the other brother Con, and then Mark, and youngest, Nancy, was a sister.
That can’t have been good. We were just talking before about jungle training. I guess can you walk me through some of the main things they took you through in jungle training?
Well, I remember that fairly clearly the – shifting up from Blue Water Creek, between Townsville and Ingham, uh, going up to Mount Spec and the Paluma Ranges, because uh, that was the first time I think that I was forward scout,
and I was told that I was leading the whole brigade on this exercise and I know I also was told that we could be ambushed any time and I was to take all precautions in that we got there safely, to me this was very, very real. And naturally I didn’t walk the full marching pace, and they said I should have been moving faster, but
what would you do, you’re going to move fast and get ambushed, or are you going to take it steady and be not ambushed? Anyhow, I didn’t know a lot of – I felt a lot of reliability there in doing that. Anyhow we, I think we went when we got to the range we went up in trucks.
The road had been built for the relief workers during the Depression, and we went up in trucks because we knew there wasn’t a lot of room in the back of the truck, there was only inches off the solid rock, where it had been cut out. I also remember walking up the range, so that must have been another exercise, we were doing night training as well so, I know in amongst all this jungle right up in the aspect there was houses, these houses built and I said, “How odd to have these houses.”
and then the first night in the jungle, it was so dark you couldn’t see that hand in front of you and these palm trees there, and it was came rain and we’re half wet and I cut lot of palm leaves off and made a bit of a shelter for myself so I didn’t get really wet. Some of the fellows got wet. And we lived in that jungle there, training and compass bearings and night and day. We’d done quite a lot of night work.
And they had supplies that came up by donkey and mules, and they found it so hard we’d hear them they’d be exhausted, and, they’d were beyond treatment, they used to shoot them at night, we used to hear them shoot these animals with the .303s at night, dreadfully cruel. And I also remember, we were doing this compass bearing at night, but I’d had a little bit of practice with the compass
and I had this section and we had to – we were given this exercise – I just forget the distances now but, I know it was, oh, two or three hundred yards or something like that and through the jungle, and there’d be vines and sticks and rubbish, and so many paces, I worked out the distance in paces and I got the fella behind me to count the paces while I held the compass and the bearing and then each man held his
bayonet scabbard to the fellow in front so no one would get lost and we’d keep contact. And uh, anyhow, when we got to the – a reliable man behind me, he’s still living as a matter of fact – ninety years of age, Bill Mackett and, and I had him counting, and he used to give me the nod, when the measure was up, the distance was up, now I thought, we turn left, direct turn left
so many paces we will be on the track. And I couldn’t believe it, when I walked those three paces whatever it was, we were on the track, everything was exact! All behind, they were all growling, “We’re lost! We’re lost! We’ll never get out of it, never get out of it.” and I couldn’t believe it. We were spot on, you know. That was a night to remember and we still talk about that, when we met. “I remember that!” he said, “I remember that!” And that was some of our gunner training.
when we were shifted to Bomb Alley, they used to call it. Number 3 airstrip, right beside the strip, the metallic strip, the metal strip. And there was a company headquarters and then a battery of ack-acks [anti-aircraft], 3.7s. Then there was my section, then there was a strip. On the other side of the strip there were petrol dumps you see. And the Japanese bombers
used to come right down up the bay, that’s where they used to aim, aim for the strip and the dumps and the batteries. The first night we were there quite a few killed in that vicinity. The first night we were there we never had time to dig trenches, dig deep enough to accommodate us. Now sure enough the bombers come over, we could hear the little the rattle or the metal noise,
and someone said, ‘That’s the bomb bays opening.” and we thought, “Oh, bomb bays.” We didn’t sort of believe that. And sure enough it was, we could hear the bombs coming down, ‘swish, swash, swish, swash’, right over us! “It can’t miss us, it’s curtains!” We were saying our last goodbyes more or less, it sounded like we would be blown to pieces. Anyhow, it was louder and louder,
and next thing BOOM. Just the other side of the strip, they’d missed. As soon as the first one there we thought, we’re right now, but the others didn’t but I thought we were right now because they kept going that way, in that direction. And then the petrol drums started exploding and the ack-acks blasting and the sky is, you’ve never seen anything like it with the exploding shells, exploding bombs, and the rattling
on the strip when the – immediately afterwards, we heard this noise was like a cannon fire, was like a shell coming. We thought it was odd. Cause we all rushed back to the bits of trenches we had and the first, I was the last one in, that was my principle, men’s always first. Last man in and I went to jump in and they hadn’t moved properly and gone far enough
and my boots landed on the shoulders of the fellow in front of me. And he starts yelling and but there was nothing else to do, I didn’t realise, it was dark, you couldn’t see properly. And this noise is coming and all of a sudden we realised what it was, it was a jeep coming down the metal strip. They’d been sent down by battalion headquarters. They thought we’d all been blown up, they expected the worse. Yeah we’d been blown up. But they missed us, missed us.
That was the worst night in New Guinea, but we had many nights. During the lunchtime, the middle of day they’d come over in swarms of planes, they used to take the bay over the Japanese air force, at times when there was a raid on. The Zeros used to come over with the bombers above them, protect the bombers and then when the bombers left, they’d come down to strafing over the coconut level. Ships, and some of the fellas they could see the Japanese pilot’s teeth, they were down that low, he was laughing at them.
where the Japanese were going to send another force in, when they landed in Milne Bay. But the air force, the Kittyhawks had sunk their barges, so therefore they wasn’t able to make that landing. On the – it was three day patrol, we went right up to Topura, and I know
that there were a few coconuts there. They weren’t really good ones either, a few nice trees. And we came back to the bottom of the range, on the second night. I know we were worried whether we would be able to get back over the range, and back to Milne Bay in the next day. We set off early and climbed and climbed and climbed. About 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I remember, the sergeant looked up, he says, “We got to go right up there.”
And we thought, “Well, we didn’t get to the top of the range.” Anyway, we kept going, we got to the top and when we reached the top there was quite a level track, and there’s moss and our boots all changed colour from walking in this moss. And we seemed to recover, I don’t know if it was the height or what it was, just the thought that we had reached top, but we seemed to be refreshed.
And we quickened our step and got down the other side and some truck picked us up. And we did get back; I think it was dark, almost dark when we got back to camp, exhausted, to find that the rest of the camp had moved. The company had moved. We had orders to embark, leaving Milne Bay to move up the coast. And here we were, as tired as could be. And went to a staging camp,
there was mud, oh, six inches deep. Mud everywhere. Then we had to – the next day we had to cart our gear down to practice, for the LCIs [Landing Craft Infantry] we went up a landing ship. Infantry. Our gear had to be all lined up along the beach for each ship to come in. It was all allocated. Then they decided, nah, we’d done it the wrong way, we had to
carry it all back again, back and up, back and up along the beach. By the time we embarked we were absolutely exhausted. Well, I was anyway. Days and days of action. That’s our – in one way we were sort of glad – in another way we didn’t know what we were going into when we were leaving Milne Bay.
I don’t know. Oh there’s another thing at Milne Bay too. Down at the end of the number three strip, they had to have the company headquarters – were to have a motorised connection, otherwise the jeep track, at least there was a creek there, I saw it on the maps. Now this creek had to be bridged. And the company commander come up and early one morning, because we used to lay in about some mornings after air raids. He’s coming up early and the guard said,
“Oh here’s the captain come, skipper’s coming. What’s on? Something’s on.” And he wanted to see me and we walked away so the others couldn’t hear, he said, “I want a bridge built across this creek.” He says, “Think you can do it?” I said, “What men have I got? What materials have I got?” He said, “Any men you like, any men.” I said, “What’s the seriousness about it? We’ve been here so long.” He says, “The general’s coming this afternoon, the general’s coming at four o’clock and we must have transport to the company headquarters.”
And he says, “I’d give you what men you want and you can have the material from battalion headquarters, the tools.” he says. I picked them out, twenty-five fellows I picked out, I hand picked them. And the saws. And I judged which men was for the different jobs to do, and saws and wedges and axes. And we built that bridge, we had it done by half past two. And we had a bridge there that vehicles could drive over.
And that’s by getting men who knew their job and willing to work. I told them, “When you finished the job the rest of the day’s yours.” And they really sweated it.
was a very trying day. And I often used to carry part of someone else’s gear beside my own, I was one of the fortunate ones, you know, who was strong and usually these, tricks like these, were no problem. But I just wasn’t feeling quite as strong as I ought have been, and some of the fellows were tiring, and the captain comes down to me and says, “Could you carry so and so’s gear?” I told him, he didn’t know,
I told him, “Look.” I said, “I’m in trouble today. I think I can carry my own, but that’s all I can do.” He seemed a bit indignant, that I should have been carrying someone else’s. Because I was, when someone got weak, I was one of the first to be loaded with extra gear. Anyhow, he didn’t insist, anyway, I was glad to get to Tambu Bay, the American gun men, the artillery were there.
Just near where we camped, just near our tent, we couldn’t sleep. They used to fire off these shells, now and then, throughout the night. They gave us stew and coffee, it was the best meal we’d had for a while. Then I couldn’t sleep, I never slept at all that night. I think the coffee it was, and not being well. Next day we moved on, and we’re preparing for action and I’m feeling ill then, quite, I couldn’t remember the confusion
of landing, of loading the magazines, the Bren gun magazines, to eighteen, and I’d get confused before I got to eighteen cartridges, so I thought, “I didn’t want to, they’d think I’m a coward, we’re getting ready for action, and Shailer’s not here.” So I went to the RAP the next morning, and they took my temperature. “Oh, you’ve got to go and down to the ADS.” Up the creek it was,
to the ADS. And I went up there, “No, you’re staying here. You’re not going anywhere.” Had my rifle and all with me as well, we had to take our rifles with us everywhere. Next minute I’m in a bunk, they had tiers of three bunks and I was in the top bunk. I was three days there. I could hardly eat anything. I remember the padre coming to see me, and he was all dressed up, and I thought
it was a bit odd to see someone dressed up nicely there and everyone else is showing their wear and tear. The worst part of that was, in that time, you see, the unit went into action straight away. And when the wounded were coming back, you could see them there, I wanted to go down and talk to them and I wasn’t able to. I was able to see this fellow, I knew him quite well.
He was in the same company and he was laying on his side, there was blood everywhere. Trousers were wet with sweat and dirty, and Sallaway, was his name. We used to, his nickname was Sally. I gotta get down and see him, how bad he is. I went down and as soon as I spoke he knew who I was, but he didn’t move. You could see his teeth; he smiled a bit, “I got a homer.”
he says, “I got a homer.” I said, “Where are you hit?” “Oh, in the leg here.” he said, “Right through, it’s gone right through.” “Did it hurt?” “Oh yeah it was burning, it was burning when it hit.” He was, what he’d done, he’d won an MM [Military Medal] for it actually. That was a medal. He went to help one of the fellas who was wounded and he went to get him and of course the fellow hit him as well. But he didn’t get a homer; it wasn’t really that long before he came back again.
One of the sites there. They were bringing the wounded in, it was the carriers, the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels [Australian Army term for indigenous Papua New Guineans in World War II] were bringing the wounded in. And that was on the other side of the creek and to see the, they were only slightly - weren't strongly built, and to see them holding the stretcher, the four of them, stretchers with two poles, one
to each end of the poles. And it was so steep, it was hard rock and then the rock went straight down. And the fellow on the bottom side, he had to hold his pole up to keep the stretch level, you see. And his bare knee on the rock, this little fellow with his bare knee on the rock, moving it on the rock, I thought, goodness gracious that must be hurting, to keep that stretcher level, and the fellow, I don’t know
how badly wounded he was, but he had his hat over his face, I know that, and he wasn’t moving. And I thought here are these wild men that could be so gentle and so kind to Australian soldiers. You know, it was a great feeling to think that they could be so gentle and so kind.
Not very far below the Markham River. Now to get there, I had a few different types of transport. First of all, it was a ketch, I think you’d call it, left Tambu Bay and went right around the peninsula, the isthmus peninsula, of Salamaua
and we landed at…. and I remember this trip because they were expecting Japanese Zeros to strafe us. And I kept close to the machine gun, it was mounted on a tripod. I had my – I took my boots off and left my socks on – I usually didn’t wear socks during the day, and so that my white feet, if we were sunk, my white feet wouldn’t attract the sharks. And I felt confident,
if I could get to that Bren gun, I would have a chance to shoot a Zero down. But it never happened that way. We landed on the beach at 5th Division headquarters and there was a chap there I knew, and he was a driver. We just sort of walked into each other, and he said, “Where are you camping for the night?” I said, “I dunno, I have no camp provided for me.” He said, “Oh, you can join me if you like, under my net.” So the two of us got under a mosquito net and camped on the sand there for the night.
Then the next stretch, it was a dug out canoe, or lakatoi, we’d call them. Dug out, a bar and a float to keep it level. And the natives rode me up the along the beach, and we landed somewhere along the beach, I couldn’t tell you where. Then I had to walk to join my unit, the section. And when I got there,
the welcome I got, it was just unbelievable. They didn’t know where I’d been, hadn’t heard a thing, could have been back to Australia, or anywhere. It wasn’t very long, and I got some boiled lollies, and some jellybeans somewhere at the ADS, I dunno where, but I had these and I gave it to them and you’d think I’d given, you’d think they won the casket [lottery] or something. The same old tucker and you get a couple of sweet lollies. It was into action straight away,
hardly action you’d call it. We were patrolling and we knew the Japs were around. The first patrol I went on in the morning, there was this dead Japanese sitting against a tree, corpses against the tree. And we had to walk right past it. The swamp on one side, the sea on the other. Some of the fellas became sick, they were losing their breakfast very smartly, but I didn’t, it didn’t make me sick. We went up to
Markham, not quite to the Markham, Labu and back again. Connected with the other company and came back again. A day or two after, we went, we were to go up the Markham River and I was leading scout. Up the Markham River, near the mouth of the Markham River right up to Markham Point where the Japanese had a camp. And I was leading scout that
morning, most of the morning actually and I thought it was a bit risky. Very wary of tracks, of movement of any kind. We couldn’t see anything, couldn’t see anything and suddenly we came on to this Japanese camp. And they had these sort of, dummy Australians, an Australian type hat on it, where they were using for bayonet practice and all this and everything looked in order. And I thought, “Gee, we’ve got to be wary here.” Anyhow – we got some –
the party went round, there was no Japanese there. Some of our fellas went into the Japanese camp, camped in the Japanese huts, but I wasn’t going to attempt that. I thought, “I’ll stay out.” and I slept on the ground on the bank of the Markham River. We were there for a week and we didn’t find any Japanese. We came back to our old camp, which was down on the beach, near the water, swamp on one side, very narrow stretch and the high tide, the wind behind it, and the water would come right over
the swamp where we were sleeping. And a message came through, there’s half a dozen Japanese further down one of the creeks. And we’ve to go down and pick them up, half a dozen of these Japanese. Along comes a barge, nineteen of us, boarded the barge, there’s a lieutenant in charge, a sergeant, two or three NCOs [Non Commissioned Officers], including myself. We landed at the beach of this village
and the natives were all very excited. And I knew straight away that there’s something not right. There’s more than six here, just the way they were carrying on, you see.
quite a lot of tracks, and then there was no tracks. What they’d done, they just went in to – and they had an ambush for us, because next morning when we went in, we sent for a message for help then, I don’t know how it was sent; we had to get more reinforcements. And when we went in and seen where they had fire lanes, that’s where the machine guns, as soon as we went into the scrub, they would have had us. Very fortunate. We seen all this
and we knew then we were in trouble. We thought that mightn’t have had arms, but they had machine guns, they had grenades and they were quite well equipped. And they were definitely pretty strong, for the distance they had travelled. So, the reinforcements arrived the next night, yeah, the next night, then we were going to attack, so we went into a creek and we could see where they were, they were in huts. The Japanese were in huts, the smoke was still coming out of the chimneys.
And righto, we attack at dawn. We stayed there. Slept there that night and we attacked at dawn, and that’s when we – the next morning – when we, the bullets were coming across in front, right in front of me, they said, “Keep going, keep going.” I said, “Oh, I don’t want to walk into this.” Get down or go round. And then the firing stopped, the Japs, they must have went in a hurry and then we crossed the creek. There was
another section in front of us, it wasn’t the first section we crossed, I know that. There was all this Japanese occupation money, heaps of it! All lying around. And the huts were there, quite intact, they weren’t damaged at all. The Japs had gone, we missed them. We should have, I dunno, should have had a different plan actually, should’ve been round the other side. But, ah, it’s all right in hindsight I suppose. But then there was other papers and things there but I wasn’t going to touch anything.
But these photos I showed you here this morning, that where they were picked up. Thrown away and this other fellow had picked them up. And we followed them, we pursued them up the hill, pretty steep hill and we went right out there, a couple of hours or more. Very tediously. And then we thought, they should have stopped by now because they would’ve been tired, but we were getting tired, and we were looking around,
and here’s evidence where they’d been, they’d been sitting down. We counted forty-two seats where they sat down, they’d break the leaves off the trees and sit on the leaves instead of sitting directly on the wet ground. I counted forty-two of those. There was different grenades, bundles of grenades just thrown away, some other stuff there thrown away. But I wouldn’t touch it, I told all my men – “Don’t touch anything, booby trapped, goodness knows what you’d get here.” And we were hungry, and they must have been hungry,
and we never had food with us. The best thing, no good going further, we were still climbing. Long way from base, no, never had, RAP fellas with us. We went back to the shore, so hungry and tired, didn’t know what to do next. And we looked out to the sea, and a wave breaker came over, and it was full of fish.
There’s our dinner, our feed for the next day if we can get it. So, we’d have to grenade, who’s going to throw the grenade, Shailer throws the grenade. Shailer he gets his grenade and waited till the wave come over and there’s all the fish, he threw the grenade in behind the fish, quite high, as far as I could behind the fish, because the wave would bring them in. And it exploded and there were fish everywhere. And it was
only, out of the nineteen, there was only three of us could swim sufficiently to get – to retrieve some of those fish. They were all in the sand under the water, but it was hard because the breakers were breaking, going back and forth. But we got a hundred and twenty-seven fish with one grenade. So we had fish for tea and fish for the next day and by that time more food had come in. So they say, there’s a saying, providence
provides, and that’s one of the occasions when it really did and it was appreciated. Now the next day, that’s right, there was more reinforcements came and I think there was some PIB [Papuan Infantry Battalion] blokes and we headed back up to the company area, and we were the only company left there, the rest had gone to Lae. It was only 8th Company left. I knew there was Japanese there, because I could see the fairy lights and they were telling us, “There’s no Japanese
there.” But you knew the fairy lights, dream light, they were signalling to the barges to come and collect them, they were evacuating you see. And they were coming in regularly but I don’t think any barges, I never heard any barges come in after I’d rejoined the company you see.
rested in Lae until Christmas time, you know, you could see the mood of the men change. They were beginning to get happy again, talking about home, the old stories. Pulling each others’ legs. One afternoon, getting on in the afternoon, I was in the company there, I was having a rest, as a matter of fact, and there was another fella in the tent with me, and all of sudden, “All officers in the NCOs report
to the orderly room, at the double.” Gee, at the double? Were we going home? So I didn’t rush down at the double because I was nearer than some of the other fellas, and these other fellas were urging, “Get down Glen, get down Glen.” and hear what it was all about. Anyhow I didn’t double down, I took my time, and righto, a movement order, we’re moving tomorrow morning to Nadzab. That’s twenty-two miles up, that’s where the big
air base was. And there’s Japanese up there and they’re worrying the Americans and we’ve got to see, capture some of these Japanese. Next morning, six o’clock, eight o’clock, some time, collected our transport and away we went. To Nadzab. I wasn’t concerned in any way; I remember I had a beautiful sleep
that night, I wasn’t worried at all. We camped right beside the Americans; they were up off the ground. New sawn timber. They had really done things properly and they’d developed the base, a pipe line, a fuel pipe line, from Lae to the air force base. Anyway, we wasn’t to lose any time, we had to find where these Japanese were.
It was decided it would be a four day patrol and we weren't to cross the river. Markham River was one boundary, and the 7th Division had the western southern side, the tributary, the Busu I think it was, the Busu, I forget the name of it. River, the tributary of the Markham. And the
7th Division had the other side of it, I think it was, and the 9th Division had the other side of the Busu River, and we were responsible, the 29th Brigade was responsible for the centre. We were just inside our area. Anyhow, we started off first thing in the morning, somewhere along the way, I remember a banana plantation, bananas just ready to harvested, no ripe ones, just ready to be harvested, green and they was planted on the square, properly organised. They weren’t native plants,
so these were Japanese. But there’s no one been there. The first day, there was nothing more of interest. And first thing next morning, could hear the planes coming in, the Japanese were raiding Nadzab and we were out in the scrubs. We were glad we were in the scrub. We took off the second day, and I remember at 11 o’clock, kunai grass, and jungle and– it was that hot, you had to stand up when you were in the grass,
because if you sat down, the heat was so oppressive, you could hardly breathe. There was no sort of rest, you had to keep on going, it was pointless in standing still. We got into the jungle again and we find the paw paws, and all fruits, ripe to pick, ready to eat and we had a feast today. Some of us didn’t because it affected their stomach, but mine was all right. Carried some with us. I thought, “There’s nobody here, this is a joke, you know there’s no Japs round here.”
And we climbed and climbed, and it was getting steeper and steeper the further we got up. And we were starting to think, fellas were starting to get tired and couldn’t go any further, and we gotta camp but it was so steep, we wouldn’t have a comfortable night here. We kept pushing and pushing, carried a couple of the other fellow’s gear. And we got to the top, the air was different – you could sort of – different air, and it levelled out,
we must be at the top. And then we see a mule track where it had been sort of widened for a mule track. The Japanese had come to there and widened it to bring their mules, their pack horses up. And then it was the native village there, all deserted and it was in good order. There was tomatoes, red ripe tomatoes and pumpkins, all there to eat, you see? Japs, no Japs here! We sort of gave the game away in a sense and, eating vegetables we had
for tea that night and we put these tomatoes in it, and we had these paw paws and we had the pumpkin in it, and boiled the tea, we had a pretty good night. Two days of hard yakka [labour], climbing the range, and we were right on the top, see? Everyone was in a good mood. Next morning we start off early and I was going to explore the mule track a bit, you know, just have a better examination of it. Couldn’t get anyone to come with me. I’d have to do it on my own.
I didn’t go on my own. Next morning we start off early and we going for some hours, mostly through grass, right on top of the range, we were going around the river that we followed up. We were going round that and going down the other side of it. And we stopped for a rest, just a bit of a rise, comfortable going it was, and having a rest, and we looked back where we had come from, and there’s two persons.
One of them had a coat on him. I says, “It looks like a Jap!” And we looked, they’re not Japs, we could see by the hair, they’re not Japs, and they’re standing and looking and we’re standing and looking, and I said, “Oh, better get someone round out back, let’s guard here, they could be behind us too.” In front of us, and behind us. Anyway, we were beckoning them up, that’s the officers’ area,
beckon them up, beckon them up, waved them up, they come running up to us. And he was, he says to the officer, “Keesup, keesup, keesup.” and the officer couldn’t make out, and he’s getting him to repeat this, and I didn’t recognise what he was saying either. And he says “Come over here, and see if you can get some sense out of this.” And first time he said it, a bit of luck, the first time he said it, I got it, I got the message.
“Your king is sick.” oh yeah, “Pills, pills, pills, pills.” We’ll give him some pills and then we’ll take him back. And I suddenly thought it would be nice to talk to this king, then I said, before that, better instruct him how to take his pills or he might take the lot. We gave him eight or ten, oh yeah, we got the pills, give him the pills,
then I said, “Sun he start, two fella pill, sun he start, two fella pill, sun he start, two fella pill.” “Sun he go down, sun he come up, King all right.” Oh, oh, oh. Now he said the same to me, oh, it was funny, he’s so quick, his actions, his reflexes were so fast. Then he turned to bolt again, I said, “Oi, oi,
me want to talk to your king, me all right? You all right, me talk to your king?” “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” So I go down and talk to the king now. And of course, I take some fellas with me, they all wanted to come, no we don’t want to all go down there, the king is sick see? He might have a disease, we have to be careful. About half a dozen of us went down, and the fella took us right round, where the king was
and he’s lying on a cane sort of a stretcher thing, only a lap-lap on, big strong man, about six foot two, six foot three. Beautiful set of teeth, but he was a little bit stiff in his movement. And he introduced me to the king, and they had a fort there. We walked right past that, and we never seen, smelt a thing, absolutely amazing how they camouflaged themselves. And there was all men there, no women, no cooking facilities; everything must have been brought in to them,
and the weapons they had, spears and arrows. Bows, arrows, spears, clubs, shields. It was fantastic. The king, then I’m trying to do a bit of pidgin English to him, nup, he didn’t understand it, all had to be demonstrations – had to be – had to demonstrate, you know, sign language. And the fella, he didn’t talk pidgin, he’d only get odd words. Couldn’t put a sentence together.
And then I indicated to the bow and arrow. Shoot his arrow, and he obliged. A big bow, made the bow according to the size of the man I think, and he shot this arrow and it went level trajectory, you know, level and straight right down through the bush. The power he had behind that, frightening and silent. No sound! It was an object lesson – if ever there was one – these wild people.
And then we had to get on because we couldn’t really get much sense out of it. But that’s something I won’t forget in my experiences, he knew it. That was the third day. Then we left, and it was going down hill, and it was a strange thing about this, it was up, like saw teeth, a lot of New Guinea in the ranges you go up and down like the sores in a teeth. But this was a gentle, for two days, we were up, up,
up all the time. And we were coming back down: it was pretty much the same. And we got back to the main river again, Nadzab I think it was, and look about a couple of hundred feet down into the water, these gorges, really dangerous and one of the fellas, the draught in the gorges blew his hat off, and he went to retrieve his hat, and then he found that he couldn’t
get back up and he was right on the brink. I don’t how he didn’t, I nearly grabbed him, and I’m glad I didn’t, because we both might have went. Then the fella behind me, big strong fella, and he closed his eyes when I got down, you know, sort of to save myself to lie down, and this fellow, he’s hanging on to two tufts of grass, and he couldn’t get up and he couldn’t get down and there he’s stuck, see? And someone had the
presence of mind to put the rifle out. Someone else too, it was more than a one man job to retrieve him, rescue him, and two or three got behind each other and pulled him back out. The jaws of death, he was pulled out of the jaws of death. Then that was in the afternoon, and then we got fairly well down, we had to cross the river back again. That was the main issue there,
we found our way back to the banana patch, and we cut a few bunch of bananas and we had some straws and we ripened those in drums when we got back to the camp. But that was one of the most interesting, the last major patrol in New Guinea, that was. And we didn’t do much else there; the hygiene sergeant nearly blew himself up
with the toilets. We used toilets, which was very effective. We cut out 42 gallon field drums, fuel drums and we put diesel oil on them, greaser, and stuff and might have smelt a bit, but nothing like the American toilets. He struck a match to see what it was like, in the night, and of course the thing exploded and methane gas, it exploded, and the noise, we thought he was badly wounded,
all he had was a bit of muck over him, wasn’t seriously hurt. But the Yanks, they put on picture shows and you know – although we had our own Australian food. But compared to the Americans, we weren’t in the same class; they had beautiful meals, good conditions.
in the formal way, yes and in command, parade ground exercises and drills and stuff like that. You didn’t learn jungle warfare, it was see, the recruits. We were going to instruct recruits; therefore it was the first introduction to the army. Anyhow, when it came my turn came to do the exercises, to take the platoon,
we had to do all this exercise to demonstrate how good you were at power of command, and men would act according to your command. Every afternoon before dismissal we had go and be dismissed and inspectors, and arms be inspected, you’d be inspected; everything was done very, very formally. And usually you used to be – you used to have a bit of an audience. Especially at weekends,
Saturday night, Friday night, they’d usually be some people, some civilians, a few army people. And this particular time when I had the platoon to go through the exercises, to go through the final exercises, all these generals, and brigadiers, and colonels there. And I couldn’t believe it and it was a distraction. I thought goodness me, my hearts pounding; I’ve got to get a pass. You have to judge the distance before you started the command, you have to guide them to a peg you see,
and in the first thing is, you have to make sure they’re all in step first , and bands are playing and there are other troops further around. You had to get them in step and have your command according to the band and the music, and the pace and the peg in mind. And do your own stuff, you own actions as well. And I started off with the left, left and got them all to the right, and that was right, and then I thought, the distance to the peg, I’ve got to start now. So you don’t go too far.
You’re not shuffling, and it become very hard. And it was ‘At the halt.’ ‘On the left.’ ‘By the right.’ ‘Full platoon’.’ And then you’d hope they’re going to do it right. And they hit the peg just right, they came around like a gate, and when I walked, marched up to right dress, there was only one fellow out of line, he was
about third man down. Gave them a right dress, and I’ve just got him to move, and don’t let anyone else shuffle because that’s often happens and number three back, steady, because he might go too far, steady, and he backed in. I remember this so clearly. Back steady, number one rank steady! It was
perfect you know, I couldn’t believe it. Number two seemed to be good enough too and number three. And I thought, “Now I hand over to the officer for inspection, eh?” Marched up to him, saluted,”Your platoon for inspection sir.” and we go around, and everything was right. And this is, you know, the one that was being judged. And I thought, “I’ve won this, I’m getting through this, they can’t fail me here. I’ll be off to a training camp,
I didn’t know where.” And so that was something I’ll always remember. And of course then it was off to Cowra, posted to Cowra [POW camp].
really interesting as far as I’m concerned. I felt a little sick, and I thought I’d passed the – I hadn’t had malaria, in New Guinea, never had malaria, never any sickness, no hospitalisation, one of the few. And I’m feeling crook. I went up to the RAP, little bit of a temperature, not much, light duties. It was light duties up on the wood heap,
splitting wood for the kitchen. And I’m right again, that’s malaria, good one day, bad the next, every couple of days it would come on. And I went back to the doctor again, in a couple of days, it was the same thing. This went on, oh, then he sent me up to the hospital. Went up to the hospital, took me temperature, I was all right, go back again. And I’m laying in the camp sick, and I’m gradually getting worse and worse, went up to the doctor, “Oh I’ll sent you up to…”
Well he told me I was malingering! After all I’d done, he told me I was malingering! “I’ll send you up to the hospital for observation.” So he sends me up to the hospital and I’m getting worse and worse, no medication. And I got really bad, I’d had some blood tests and they were negative because they’d taken them at the wrong time, when I wasn’t – when my temperature wasn’t high enough. It never showed anyway.
And I got that bad; I thought I was going to die. Neglect, they’d put me right near the door, the first bed on the right as you go into the hospital ward. I hadn’t eaten, vomited everything, just finished. I was lying on my left side, and I can remember I felt someone sitting on the bed. And it was the sister,
one of the sisters. She says, “I want to have a talk with you.” I says, “All right.” And she asked me all about family and home life and all this sort of thing. And she says, “What do you think is wrong with you?” I said, “I got malaria.” And I said, “Why won’t you treat me?” She said, “We don’t know whether you do have malaria.”
“And how do you know you got malaria?” Well I said, “Well, the hundreds of fellas that I’d seen in New Guinea, my own mates, it’s the same symptoms.” Well she said, “We don’t, we think you could have something else.” She said, “and I’ve nursed a lot of malaria patients and they are not nearly as sick as you, you are so sick.” she said. “Tell me something, I know that.” “You are so sick.”
“Well why don’t you give me something? Quinine, Atebrin, something.” She didn’t know, I didn’t think I’d talked her into it. The doctor hadn’t prescribed anything, I was just left there, you know. Never washed me, nothing at all. And one of the nurses, some of the nurses wouldn’t come near me and I was surprised that she had come and sat on the bed. Because they were, you know, he’s
not malingering after all! And the next thing, she comes back; she’s coming back with a medicine glass with some quinine in it. Must have changed, I must have convinced her and she changed her mind. Nurse says, “Sit up.” and I sat up, legs dangling over the bed, she sits up beside me, her beds dangling over the bed and then I started to retch and vomit.
And of course, there was nothing there really, it was dry retching. And then what she does, she puts her arm around me and held my nose, see, and as soon as I opened my mouth, down went the quinine. Like a little kid, see? And then two boiled lollies, she must have had them in her other hand, pushed them down with two fingers, right down my throat see?
Bare fingers! And of course the reaction to that, you know, whoah, retching , and it came, the quinine and the boiled lollies came up so hard, she reached for the kidney basin and she bringing them across, and I aimed to get it and the lollies hit the basin so hard, one of them, one of them didn’t get out,
hit the basin and flew out on to the floor of the ward and the noise eruption and a whole line of patients from the side of the ward, all sat up as one. And I felt that horrible, with the spit and the slime, and she’s in the middle of it all and her clothes and her hands and I could do nothing. I was just finished. I could do nothing at all. And she lays me down on the bed.
She said, “You’re so sick.” And that was right. And there was nothing more she could do, she couldn’t do any more. She could’ve given me a needle but she wouldn’t advise that. “You know what that might do to you.” “Yeah, I know.”
instructing again. I was sick for that long. They decided to form another battalion in Cowra. I was in the 2nd Australian Army Training Battalion. And they decided to form a 5th one. Grogan, Sergeant Major Grogan, he’d been promoted RSM by then, Regimental Sergeant Major. He said
“We’re forming another battalion.” he said, “and I want you to come with me.” I thought, “That’s all right.” Not worried about that. We went over to the other side of the hill, and formed this new battalion. Trained battalion. fifty blokes you’ve gotta look after. “I’m giving you half one, fifty fellas. And you’re in charge of them.” “That’s all right, where do they come from?” I looked where they came from, the addresses where they come from,
Sydney, some pretty tough areas in Sydney, these fellas. One of them was twenty years, and he was a draft dodger they reckon and all the rest of it and big fellows. I said to him, “Gee, you’re loading, you’re giving me my money’s worth here!” He said, “I’ll help you, they give you any trouble, I’ll help you.” And I said, “All right.” So I got these fellas and I give them a dressing down to start with,
and one of them, he was a jailbird actually, had been sentenced. And he’d decided he’d leave camp. Anyway, he left and the next morning a recruit said, “Oh, so and so’s not here this morning. He’s gone.” And I said, “Well don’t you get that idea in your head.” “Why, why?” Well I said, “When he gets down to Sydney, the provos [Provosts – Military Police] will be waiting on the station to collect him.” and I said, “in a few days’ time he’ll be down there in the prison, which is a barbed wire bird cage.” we used to
call it. So he’ll be in there. Oh, oh. And that’s exactly what happened. So I never had any more. No more decided to leave. And the fellow, he was a merchant marine, a tough fella, real brawn. And I got him; I was in a little cubicle myself in a hut. And I got him, “You come up here beside me in the camp.” and he says “Why, why, why?” And I said, “I like a good strong fella,
and I want you to be marker too. I like strong blokes like you and want you to be marker.” and I said, “You like your food, I noticed you like your food.” I said. “You’ll be nice and handy with the kitchen here, just out on the door and you’re on the parade.” And he fell, and he thought this was a good idea too. Anyhow I got those fellas straightened out and they were proud of me and I was proud of them. They even had, I even had them stripping guns and at night, I’d requisite guns from the store room and bring them in there and
I had the training at night. And they were way ahead of the other platoon. And they were proud of themselves and I finished up being proud of them too. And as far as Grogan and the Colonel was concerned, they couldn’t believe it. And then of course, when everything’s set and you’re on top of the world, telegram comes through, back to unit. So I had to leave all that behind me. And that was the best part of it, Cowra had come good at last, and I moved on.
So then it was back to Bougainville.
And we never had bombing. In Bougainville, they were around us more. You had a pretty good idea in New Guinea where they were, but Bougainville, you sort of didn’t know where they’d be. They were, oh, they had signal wires, we used to go out and cut their signal wires.
In New Guinea, we’d never camouflaged ourselves to any extent when we went out patrol. But Bougainville was very, the camouflage, they were very, very particular about camouflage. You’d go into the kitchen in the morning, I’ll get on to this last patrol I suppose, you’d go into the kitchen, the grease around the cookhouse, all the grease and soot and stuff, you’d rub over your face,
you see, to darken the face. I know this last patrol the sergeant cook was not satisfied with the job I’d done to my face, so he blackened my face more. And the cooks were very worried about us going out, they’d do everything they could to us, for us. There was shaking hands and we’d never used to do that in New Guinea.
It was changed. And the goodbyes and we’d go out, well on this occasion, we’re to go out and there was going to be an advance across the Mubo River. We’re to go out and decide what positions we’d take up. Where we’d dig our trenches and where we’d make a stand after we crossed the river of course. There was twenty-odd in the patrol, lieutenant, come from Tasmania,
he’d be a good one for this interview actually. Thoroughgood was his name. A good officer. And we had contact B Company across the Mubo River further up when the forward was. And we get to B Company, yep, oh yeah, hello, how are you, where are you going, blah blah, and then two of the fellas gets sick. One of them had a bit of a cold, because no one had to be, everyone had to be, there’s no sign of colds, you couldn’t have a cough or anything,
or you’d give your position away. So he went back. The other fellow escorts him back. Anyway, we were down two right from the start. And we crossed, we get across the river and there’s more dead Jap bodies, they’d been killed by the bombing, the junior air force had killed those. They hadn’t been dead long either and that made some other fellas sick. Things weren’t looking good at all. Then we’d come across signal wires, so we knew there would be Japs about,
I had, that’s right, we all had to inspect each other for our gear. I remember, I had two grenades, put them in my belt, a bandolier, fifty .303 bullets, oh I like to have myself well armed. And three magazines for the Owen gun, I had an Owen gun. 3 magazines for that, and something to chew on, to eat,
we had a few biscuits, and a bit of bully beef. We never had much for dinner. We didn’t feel like it either, situations like that, you didn’t get an appetite. And I had a machete, to cut the signal wires. The green and red signal wires. And I used to cut the wires, cut bits out of the wires, and throw it away. Then someone said, “I don’t know whether we should be cutting the wires yet, we should leave the wire cutting till later on.” “Well, it’s a bit late now, I’ve been cutting them.”
And then what happened next? Oh, leading, it’s my turn to be leading scout see? Well this was, I’d been transferred from 9th to 10th, from 7th to 10th and I didn’t know them, the recruits, well, not very well. Situation like that, it was sort of a new ball game to New Guinea. Righto, sergeant said, “Will you go out and scout?” Well, I couldn’t say,
you know, done enough in New Guinea. I’m not going to let these fellows think I’m afraid, “Yeah, I’ll go out scouting.” “Go out, leading scout.” And I’m out leading scout and I tell you what, I was careful. Somehow, I could smell danger. And especially when there were signal wires, if there had been no signal wire, I mightn’t have been so wary, but I couldn’t see
any fresh evidence. I’d done my share of it. Didn’t see any. Well, we’ll have a little bit of dinner, chew on a biscuit, have a drink of water for dinner. And we had our dinner, and we move on, and we’re gonna get these positions, when we make the advance, where are we going to dig the trenches? Where each section will go. And we’ve got to find out,
where we are, how far from the river, and scout around, three different groups. Two would go out, have a look around and survey the ground. Then the sergeant and I, we went out, picked out where my section was going. I was Number 1 Section, 7th Platoon, A Company. Where I was going to make my stand, and I picked the best place I thought, where we’d cross the river, where we had the dig ins.
Because we had to dig in when we advanced, because the Japanese knew exactly where – the exact distance for their shell artillery. High explosives, you know. And I picked all that out and that was, we were pretty confident that we had the best positions under the circumstances. “Righto, we’ll head for home. Back across the river. Just below the ford.”
And first of all, there was sand, one side of the river was quite sandy. The Japs had, they put mines, personnel mines in the sand. And the water would come up and go down a bit, the flood rains, and you wouldn’t know there was anything there, the sand would be quite smooth, like the floor, so one fellow had to go in front, with the bayonet, put it in sideways to see if it hit the metal, to see if there was any mine there,
and then his footprints, the fellow behind him would use the same footprints as he did, you see, walk on the same footprints. To know they were safe, to get down to the river. “Righto, sergeant, there’s no mines there. They’re walking on each other’s footsteps to get across.” So the first section went across. I was in the second section. And I’m going across, about in the middle of the river,
and it was fast flowing, and quick sand underneath. And if you stood still for any length of time, the sand would wash out, you see, and you’d sink. The water would be over you before you knew what happened. I was feeling that thirst from no talking and all everything done by signs and I’m lapping my mouth with a bit of water. Oh, tastes good. I have a bit of water and I just sort of stopped, in the middle of the river. And I looked all around, couldn’t see anything, everything looked quite normal.
Quiet, not a sound. And I’m licking the water. And next thing, a machine gun opened up, I could have put my hand out, you know, just an arm left away, machine gun burst. Splashing all the water. Well, it the biggest fright I had in the water, actually. My hair stood up and the blokes behind me, Ernie Smith, my Bren gunner, he was just behind me with his Bren gun,
he got such a shock he sort of went back under the water and he’d come up, and they reckon the sergeant was behind him and he come up firing. He was blazing back straight away. I don’t know how he’d done that. I took off for the bank and I’m sort of looking back at them and looking at the bank and I sort of missed the track where you get out of the river. I sort of, had gone up a bit I think. And there was a sort of steep edge like that
there and I couldn’t, the water was a couple of feet deep I suppose, and I couldn’t get out over the ledges. Anyhow, I threw the bandolier up and I threw the Owen gun up on the bank and I was able to get on the bank. And I’m looking back at the rest coming and machine gun’s going and they’re firing back and the splashes in the water and the looks on their faces and I thought who’s going to be killed,
who’s going to cop it? And we had carrier pigeons, that’s right, we took carrier pigeons with us then, we got caught, we could send a message back where we were. And he got such a big fright that he let the cage go, and the carrier pigeons are floating down the river, the two pigeons, floating away. And he’s coming hell for leather, and the look on his face. The fellow who had the pigeons. Kroner was his name. Come from West Wyalong, in New
South Wales. I’ll never forget that. And the look on all their faces. Poor buggers. I’d reach the bank and I had a grand stand view of what was happening. Water, machine gun, bullets, water. A picture you couldn’t sort of believe, it was actually happening there right in your eyes. Right in front of you. And they’d just missed. I was targeted to start with, and they missed me. Anyhow, I got up the bank to join the section that was already across
and I had a pretty good idea where these machine guns was coming from, see? My own gun would reach there. And I got up to the top and bushes there, it’s funny, bushes would stop nothing really, but you know, you wouldn’t be able to see, you see? And I opened up with the Owen gun and then the other section said, “Oh they’re too close. They’re too far for the Owen guns.” And I said, “I don’t think so. I done a bit of this in New Guinea.” I said,”I can reach them.
With my sound and direction, I think I can reach them.” Anyhow, I let a couple of good bursts go but it didn’t, the machine gun still kept going, they were still shooting them and they’re still coming across the river. Gee, they should be across, they should be across. They wouldn’t have been across because they wouldn’t be wasting their ammunition, the Japs. Anyhow, next thing there’s a bit of a noise,
someone yells out, “Over here!” And of course, I thought someone’s copped it. Went over there, the lieutenant says, “Have a count, have a count, each section have a count.” Who’s missing? I was number seven, see I was the first one and I count, oh, “Mine’s all here.” And we were right in the centre of it. “Mine’s all here, mine’s all here!” Nobody hit, nobody hurt.
One of the most extraordinary instances. Of Japanese lack of practice with machine guns. But what, oh I better go on, then, to get out quick, now the shells would be coming, the shells, we’ll go. So we just bolted but the shells never came because you know, we thought later, because I’d cut the signal wires. Signal wires are cut; the artillery never had the message
to shell us. That’s what we calculated. Why they never shelled. And we bolted. Hell for leather, hard as we could go. And we’re going, we’ve run out of breath, and we hear another crowd coming. Now, were they Japs? And we all stopped and hid ourselves. And it’s B Company. B Company’s coming to rescue us. They’d heard the Owen gun fire, saw the close quarters; they were coming to rescue us. They’re coming hell for leather too!
And of course, everything’s all right. So both of us, two lots of us, as fast as we could, back to the wire, get behind the wire. Because we were expecting shell fire at any time. Anyway, when we come to the wire, the Salvation Army bloke, no it wasn’t Salvation Army, it was a Presbyterian crowd, Comfort Fund. He was at the wire, he put a
zigzag through the wire. A zed way through the wire. And he was there with a cup of tea and I said, “That’s the best cup of tea I ever had.” Just incredible. Best cup of tea I ever had. I think that was the talk, they talked about that for days, you think all that shooting, and nobody hurt, the only loss was the cage and the two pigeons. So
then why would they miss us? I think it was the next day, they got the, we knew where they were. And what had happened. So we go the air force, the New Zealand Air Force, they’d come in and they bombarded them. And then C Company sent a party in to see what damage they’d done, to see if they had been successful. And they found the guns and the Japs were killed and the…
evidently, they’d taken the cartridges out of the, the metal out of the cartridge case, and put it back, thread the bullet part. Reversed it and the sharp end went back into the cartridge case, and that meant the blunt end was going out first. So it was, you’re losing direction. And then it would go so far and the bullet would start to tumble, and that would be terrible wound, to get hit by a tumbling bullet.
Would’ve been a terrible wound. So that would tend to make the bullet go high. So, we were very lucky.
Do you have any theories about luck or faith?
I ought to, I suppose. Lucky, well to think that, none of us, everyone, we couldn’t believe it, when the count was there; we thought someone will have to be missing. The amount of fire, both sides. B Company sent a rescue party so you can imagine, you know, and back at the battalion, they could hear it all going too. The cook house, when we got back to the cook house,
oh, dear oh dear, they were worried. “Who’s missing, who’s hurt, who’s copped it?” That was the saying, who copped it today? Who’s copped it today? That amount of fire and shooting, someone, serious, someone will need treatment. One way or another. Yes that was – I would say that was – that patrol was talked about,
nearly every reunion. That patrol would be talked about. There was an article written in Smith’s Weekly about it. I had one but I can’t find it any more, I don’t know where it’s got to, but there are copies of it about somewhere. About the pigeons and the Mubo River. It wasn’t only a day or two after that
the atom bomb was dropped and we didn’t have to make that advance. I was to lead that advance, across the river, Number 7 Section. No, what am I thinking about, Number 1 Section, A Company, 15th Battalion, 29th Brigade. It never happened. Then after that the
atom bomb was dropped. And we were quite a while there, indecisions, no one seemed to know what to do, there was Japanese behind us and Japanese all over the place. We didn’t realise there were so many behind us. And eventually the fellas were sent over to, at the ford, to wait for the Japanese, if they could do, I think we already have that story.
Then I was told I could be going down, one of the party to go down to the surrender. General Kanda. But I didn’t go, one of the other fellas went. I believe he wasn’t very happy. Because he was going to
counter attack after we made our advance. Come along the beaches. There was about seven or eight thousand of us, and there was twenty-three odd thousand Japanese there. They had the numbers, the fellows behind could disrupt the transport system; he could have made it very, very uncomfortable for us. With the numbers. But he didn’t get the opportunity.
The atom bomb stopped that. I’m one of fellas who was glad it was dropped, very glad it was dropped.
If that sort of situation did come up and people had a fight, did they hold grudges?
Oh usually, not usually no. That’s one thing. If there’s a fight, a grudge fight, now this used to happen in the training battalions you see, the young fellas. How good they were. Righto, that would be a night’s fun, that was the night, you’d have the ring, it’d be set up and all the crowd would come. The whole crowd, proper boxing, they’d have the gloves on and they laid into it. That used to be good entertainment, those grudge fights. But over there you never had those circumstances, the grudge fights
at Milne Bay, there were a couple of them. I think it shouldn’t have happened, but one fella had teeth knocked out. Bare fists. But it was good entertainment, a crowd around. But as soon as it was finished, shake hands, finished. I’m the best man, that’s the end of the story. And they worked quite good afterwards, it’s amazing. They were western fellas, they were really tough, the reinforcements we had
from. I never emphasised that very much. From western Queensland. They were some good men amongst them; I had some of them in my section. They were very good, I admired them, but they couldn’t shoot better than me. They thought they could, they were going to, but they couldn’t. I held that one. And I got nothing to show for it either. But back to those patrols, no one, very rarely
you’d find a man who wanted to go patrol. Odd times you would. I had, and it’s a bit difficult when a fellow wants to go with you and I had a situation in Milne Bay, I was going out and one of the cooks, he wanted to come with me because he’d heard the stories – Glen takes a patrol out they’ll usually find something to eat, you know. And he wanted to come with Glen, I says, “Why do you want to come with me?”
“Oh, you don’t seem to get lost.” that sort of thing. And I didn’t want to take him because he was in the cook house, wasn’t as fit as what the section men were. Anyhow, I spoke to the company commander about it, and he thought I should let him go, you know, I should accept him. I suppose that was his side, it didn’t worry him,
if we had to carry him home or something. But he came, I took him, and I was sort of a little bit concerned. But he stuck to his guns, it was his fault he was there, I didn’t favour him at all, he had to do what everyone else done, and he was suffering. He was suffering. But he didn’t complain. And he got home all right,
I think was a two day one. But he didn’t want to come any more. I was glad because he wasn’t as alert, as good condition as the section, the regular patrol men. Any more on patrols?
This was in Redland Shire here. This was in Albert as well, the boundary was right on my line, the boundary on that side and the house on this side. So that meant we were administrated from Southport, and that was a long way, we were right at the
end of the shire boundary. It went from Brisbane city right to the NSW border. And of course that’s where the money went. Canals, down the southern end. We had two councillors – an old fellow. Oh, he wasn't that old – a well known Brisbane family man; he was living down here on the highway. We had a few councillors and none of them seemed to be working I thought.
He got in there and he seemed to be socialising and wanted this done, and there’s no money to get anything done, and blow me, I’d helped him build a progress hall, I’d done a lot of that and another returned soldier too, we both got into it. Spent a lot of money and a lot of hard work and time, and the people started to say, “Why don’t you run for council?” In fact they wanted me go to council as soon as I got home from the war.
With the change of shire, they wanted me to go. I never had any intentions of going into that sort of thing. Anyway, there was a bit of pushing and shoving and I was nominated. He didn’t think he’d be beaten. He thought he was a sure thing. What did he call me, Bodgie! Bodgie was the word in those times. He was a funny… Bodgie!
The bodgie got the crowd behind me and then he thought he might lose his seat, so he got one of my friends to stand as well. And that was four standing, you see, and that split the vote up. One at Woodridge and one on this side. I thought it might too, I wasn’t that confident in the finish, the way they’d set things up. And the fella rang me up, he said he was running, he said he didn’t realise or something, but I didn’t believe him. But anyway I won quite comfortably, I put him out. God, he was offended too, he never
got over it. The bodgie beat him, beaten by a bodgie! A big business man from Brisbane. His name was R.J. Hinze, he was the chairman. Do you remember R.J. Hinze? You heard of him? Minister for Local Government, minister for everything. He was chairman of the council. So I went down there fighting fit, demanding that this be done, and that be done. And I was sticking to my guns.
I had prepared a very good case. He said these roads couldn’t be done, end of story, he was going to do this. And I prepared a good case, the reasons why, spoke to the adjacent council and the chairman of finance, after hearing that, he didn’t know what to do! I knew, as soon as I spoke to the chairman of finance, I had him, I would have had his vote, Hinze was in trouble.
And he knew it too, and he was waving his fist up. You know the chairman of the council, a big fellow, he was waving his fist at me, and I thought, “I’ve got him, I’ve got him!” I had no reaction to all this and that made him all the worse. He’d done his block [lost his temper] properly, I’d never seen a chairman do this before, chairman of the council doing his block, a new council too. Anyhow, the thing never went to the vote, and he gave me a big lecture, what I should have done, what I shouldn’t have done.
He called me afterwards, oh foul language, all sorts of things, see but that just flowed off, that just made him all the worse, when he couldn’t get any reaction from me. They were early days, we had some arguments, Russell, we were in the same age group, he didn’t go away. We – always in public – we always respected each other,
publicly, we got along quite well, really fundamentally, we really were. But we never let our brawls get out into the public. Later on when they formed another shire, Logan came into being. He wanted me to be the mayor. He thought I had the ability to be the mayor. And he stood by me, which was handy,
then we had a few differences about the way things were going in Logan, I wasn’t agreeing with that. And we fell out again, had a few blasts over the phone but I say, it never went public. When it was finished up and I left, the CJC [Criminal Justice Commission] come in on the act, and they wanted to know what was happening, all the crooked deals that were being done. And I had nothing; I was as clean as a whistle.
The council car and all of this, it all went on tape. And then when they finished up, I was clean, I wouldn’t be anything else see? The council was, it was a disappointment in a way, a different kettle of fish to the Fire Board. I was representing the council on the Fire Board, as a Fire Board member. And I finished up the chairman there,
and it was so rewarding, it was to me, because I understood why, see the bushfires, and I had the cooperation of the board, every board member, we worked as a team, like in the section. I got them all on side, and we worked as a team and we hammered the government, and I was going on deputations to the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Emergency Services, and we were
getting the money in. And these fire stations were going up everywhere, over ten stations over the period of twelve years. A fellow rang me up this morning, we had the phone off the hook, and he rang me at lunch time again, one of the members, hadn’t spoken to him for years. He’s what we done, it was the best board, we never should have done away with fire boards and I fully agree with him. Different organisations that you’re in where you really feel like you’re happy with what you’ve done, and that’s with you for all your life.
Then there was the Committee of Direction [ a marketing organization for fruit and vegetables], I was in that for 18 years too. That was the biggest organisation in the southern hemisphere, of its kind you know. For the fruit and vegetables and the, branches in all the eastern states. We were a big show, I was on the Advisory Committee for Gatton College, as a representative of the committee of directors. Oh, I got around, I was very busy, very busy, I think I should have been home with the family
more. And I was visiting the other capital cities again, seen the old places where I was during the war.