he sold his farm and one cow he had with horse teams and up till I was six or seven years old I don’t think we lived in a house we just lived in tents and travelled from place to place. Avery violent man he was and a heavy drinker and we were always going to be short of money.
To give you a bit of an example what he was like we missed a lot of schooling he was the type of chap who never paid wages but he worked his children and my older brother he was two years older then me we worked a lot with him as kids. We were carting wheat to a place called Weethalle and it was a lot of cows he had then, horse teams and wagons.
Two or three of these young blokes older than us wanted to get a gallon of beer and none of their fathers drank much or booked up beer apart from my father so they decided to book the beer up, a gallon of beer, which was seven and six to my father which they were going to get off their fathers and pay the next morning but knowing my father he got to the pub before
this and they told him about us booking the beer up to him. He gave me and my brother a flogging with a two handed whip and I don’t know I might have been ten and my brother twelve and he was a bit of a coward. There was a chap there who told him to leave us alone or he’d deal with him and he couldn’t put the whip away quick enough he was a coward of a man. I don’t like talking about him like this but as my brother always said
if you think a bloke’s a B you’d better tell he is because he mightn’t know he is. I’m just telling you as it happened. I left school when I was thirteen because I was put back in classes and behind and so forth I had a gut full of school and he was happy to let me leave to go work with him.
He was fifteen years older than my mother and I remember he could get the pension years before her and when he got the pension he sold his horse team and wagon and put in for a contract to split the posts and fence three miles of fencing and me and my brother, I might have been fourteen at the time and he would have been two years older. We talked about it and we
thought well all we’ll do is do the work and get nothing so we got together and got an old sulky and a horse off the common and we didn’t know weather it would even go in a sulky and we loaded it up and poor old Mum she was crying and of course Dad knew nothing about this. She cut us sandwiches and that and away we went forty miles away to a brother in law, who was a very kindly bloke and
sort of took us in and got us work and that are when we left home. The minute we left and he had no free labour he cancelled the contract he didn’t want it. I hardly ever stayed at home again. He finished up breaking his arm and Mum wrote to us for one of us to come back and do things and my brother wouldn’t go so I
had to go so I went back but at that stage I wasn’t frightened with him no more. I didn’t get on too bad then because I’d stick up to him and knowing what a coward he was. So that’s about my story of my young life.
brother and my sister elder again. I can’t remember of course there I think we lived in a house there but from there he followed a sawmill around the sawmill wasn’t stationary he just went to wherever the timber was and there was a lot of timber around Boree Creek and he was a timber carter and he use to cart the timber to the timber mills. When the timber mills
shifted to, where the black stump is now near Wagga and we lived in tents there and then the timber cut out there and we went to a place called Burgooney out near Lake Cargelligo and we lived in tents there. That timber cut out there and the chap that owned the mill that wound it up and then my father shifted to the West Wyalong district and lived in a tent there
and carted wood to West Wyalong for years right up till he sold his plant. Then when he sold his plant he had a few pounds from that and he bought a house in a village called Yalgogrin and I think the only reason he went there was he couldn’t trust himself with grog and there was no hotel there.
It was in the thirties now the Depression time and thirty percent was out of work and no one had money, not the farmers or none of them and they only employed you in essential times selling wheat or taking it off. I was working on Pine Grove Station when war broke out and then one of the men on the station
we enlisted together. He only died a year or two back but he used to tell people that we wrote out our application form on a log I can’t remember that but we went into the army together anyway.
it was nothing permanent and they had opened up tin mines at a place called Kiowa and I could have got a job there but I wasn’t too keen on working underground and I was only eighteen years old so we decided to enlist and I didn’t mind the army. I went into Wagga camp and did my training there and
by the way my father was a pretty good blacksmith although he never worked at his trade. He taught us a little bit about it and while the camp was infantry the 2/13th Battalion Infantry and they lined us up and said ‘anyone with a trade or a part trade?’ and they wanted us to go to the engineers so a few of us went and joined the engineers
with the idea that we might have got trade pay. I kept saying five bob a day but they tell me I was getting six bob a day but I think it was five. We were drafted from there to the showground and I wasn’t on the draft to go but one of the chaps pulled out and shot through and they were one short so I volunteered to go on the draft which I did do.
We sailed on the Aquatania and I think it would be about the biggest convoy ever to leave Australia was the Aquatania, Mauritania, the New Amsterdam and the Queen Mary and the Queen Mary left us out to sea and went to Singapore with the 8th Division. They only took the big ships as far as Bombay and we were trans-shipped there and were taken inland to a place called Purina and
that is a big Indian military camp there at Purina and they were in a very bad way. There were a thousand of us on the ship and it was about three to five hundred of us in each marque where we ate and we were very hot and the sides of the tents were all rolled up and if you pushed some crusts off your plate there would be black arms, Indian
kids reaching for it. After you had finished your meal you’d put the scraps in a tin and they would be eating out of it tea leaves and everything and we were that sorry for them. We were all on parade and there was an English military policeman leading this young this young Indian boy along by the scruff of the neck hitting him with the butt of his rifle and this astounded us and a couple of our blokes said ‘leave that kid alone’
and we shouldn’t have spoken we were on parade and this Englishman said ‘you don’t know what these buggers are doing’ and they were stealing this and stealing that and two of our blokes started to advance on him and said ‘leave that kid alone or we’ll bloody well flatten you’ and he let the kid go and he ran and that was the worst thing we could do. They reckon we undid twenty years of discipline. The kids were all from town they were shaving us in bed and
God knows what. Anyway the authorities said ‘we have got to stop this’ so we were going to march through Buna, regimentally with fixed bayonets, which we did do and the kids are jumping up on our back hanging onto our rifles so it back fired. So then we had the smaller ships come in and we went to Port Sane
and we were reinforcements for the 2/5th Engineers and we landed at a place called Bejerja in Palestine and we stayed the night and the next morning the colonel of the 2/5th said ‘that the 2/4th are having it a bit tough up in the desert’ and they wanted reinforcements. So five of us volunteered and I was a great one to volunteer wasn’t I?
We volunteered to go up there so we sailed in the daytime and went into Tobruk and the retreat was on from Benghazi with the 9th Division and the 18th Brigade of the 7th Division. We were in Tobruk two days before it became a siege and we were the last ship to come in by daylight.
They were shelling and bombing and troops were coming in mixed up with Germans and of course ours was coming into the Tobruk area as others the Germans were surrounding it and it finished up I got a job with an Indian labour battalion. When the last of our troop trucks was to come through I could blow the tank trap and the Indians were to clean it out.
There were trucks coming and going and shelling and bombing and when’s the last truck, you know and as luck happened I got relieved before the last truck did get through, which I was happy about so that was that. Well the first we done was laid mines
when the company came back in we assembled with them and we were two days and one night, or for one night and two days non stop putting up barbed wire and laying mines and we were so exhausted that none of us when we got back to the dugouts we never got out of the truck we just slept there. They come round yelling out ‘everyone out, prepare to stand to the Germans have broke through’ and we were like ‘bugger them let them break through’,
we were that completely exhausted. Anyway they did break through but not to a big extent they stopped the attack. The only trouble was there and why I found that was the worst part of the war I was in was for the simple reason we didn’t have much equipment, we didn’t have any air force.
There were a few fighter planes when we first got there but two days after the siege they were all shot down the Germans had the Messerschmitt a beautiful place and we had them old hurricanes and they just shot them out of the sky in two days and we never saw another plane for six months. The Germans could just come over and bomb us as they liked or strafe us and the only opposition we had was a bit of ack ack [anti aircraft] gun power.
We had one thousand five hundred air raids in five months and when I say air raids some of them could have been two planes or three planes and four hundred was the most I’d seen. Every night a destroyer would come in with ammunition and food but some say what we ate but I can’t ever remember eating anything bar bully beef and biscuits
the whole time. I remember seeing a bloke with an orange one-day and it took all my will power not to ask him or half of it. Tobacco, that’s where I started smoking I don’t think it was tobacco but cigarettes were issued to us, Wild Woodbine it was called, an English tobacco.
We were on English rations as far as I can remember England ran everything they planned the war they planned everything although General Morshead was our general in charge there. We always reckoned they were getting fed better than we were so one night we stole one of their trucks by the way everything was dug in the trucks were half dug in
and so was ourselves and everything was strict blackout there were no lights. We pinched this truck and went down to the wharf, backed in and we loaded three cases on and we thought we’ll have a feed when we get home with this. We got home but didn’t put the truck back in which gave us away we just left it out in the open
and we opened the cases up and what do you reckon it was? Three cases of khaki shirts. So that let us down there. Anyway we were arrested the next morning because they had the number of our truck that was down at the wharf and it was parked out in the open. So we had to front the CO [Commanding Officer] and we were all under guard, marched up to the CO headquarters. The CO was
in Cairo on a conference and our old major was acting CO and he heard us there but he could have heard us at his own. He said ‘who drove the truck?’ and I said ‘I did sir’ and he said ‘have you got a military driver’s licence?’ and I said ‘no’ and he said to the sergeant ‘see that he gets a driver’s licence, case dismissed’ so we were a bit happy about that.
A little bloke I went to school with we enlisted with him and we sailed with him and we went into Tobruk and he was one of the volunteers and he was killed the next morning. We were going to the unit when they came in and there was a plane that had been hit with ack ack fire and he was dropping his bombs as he went and one hit the end of the hospital and one hit where we were and tipped the truck over and he was the only one killed
there were others that were wounded a bit but he was the only one killed. The only thing was there were three of us sitting on one side were hardly touched and three sitting on the other side were all wounded and one dead but he got up after and a piece of shrapnel had gone in under his arm and out his chest and he would have been killed instantly but he got up and ran to the other end of the truck and he fell over dead over the tailboard
so that was my introduction to Tobruk. I was a real bushy and I had never seen the sea till I joined the army and everything was new to me and it was exciting.
We came out of there and we went up to Syria and at that time they didn’t know weather Syria was going to come into the war with Germany or stay neutral and so they had defences all up along the boarder. It was a very cold country it snowed there where we were and we went from skinny rakes with sores and ulcers and god knows what to
really fit and big. I was thirteen stone there and after Tobruk I was nine when I came out. We trained there for quite a while and the Japs came into the war and we were sent home. We came to Ceylon, Sri Lanka they
call it now just to refuel we didn’t get off the boat and we sailed for two days but the next thing we were back at Ceylon again. We didn’t know the politics of things then but we found out later that our prime minister and Churchill had had a blue and we were on our way to Burma. Curtin said ‘no they’re not they’re coming home’ and that’s the turn around. One of our
companies did go on to Java and they just got there to be captured. We were the company behind that and we came home and then I think we only got seven days leave. We came into Fremantle and we had a nights leave there then we went around to Adelaide and we got off the ship there and went up the
Barossa Valley and we went on the train from there to Tenterfield I think it was seven days and eight nights on the train. We pulled off for everything goods trains and everything and we were fed at the stations all the way along we didn’t have a bath or anything there were places where you could have a wash. From Tenterfield we went up to Cairns
no we didn’t we sailed from Brisbane up to Milne Bay but I had ruptured myself and I was pulled off and carted off to hospital so I missed that part of that. The doctor who gave me the anaesthetic for the operation was the doctor at West Wyalong who passed me fit for the army Doctor Bouser and he said ‘you’ll be a good while out’ he said ‘you are pretty well knocked about inside’ he said
‘you’ll be three months no duties and three months light duties’ and I asked ‘could I have any leave to go down south’ and they said ‘no you get two days leave anywhere in Queensland but not down south because the war position is too serious’. Anyway I went AWL [absent without leave] and finished up, when I gave myself up
I give myself up to Wagga Camp and they didn’t know anything about me and I shouldn’t have been there and they put me under arrest. I was to be tried at Victoria Barracks in Sydney but it was too big a case for them to here there so I had to be sent from there to Brisbane and when we lined up there, there was provosts and provost marshals and god knows what. They read the charge out and
said ‘deserting in front of the enemy’ and they asked me did I have anything to say and as luck would have it I still had this report from Doctor Bouser. I pulled it out and they looked it and read it and the doctor took me into the room and examined me and took the stitches out and I came back ‘case dismissed’ so I was a bit lucky that I had the letter. I went up to the tablelands and met up with my unit and we went to Moresby
and we went by plane from there to Nadzab and we went up the Ramu Valley to Shaggy Ridge. When that campaign was over things were turning to the allies them days and they gave us fifty days leave. We went back into camp up in the tablelands again and then we sailed for Moratai and prepared for the invasion of Balikpapan and that’s where we were when the war finished and the bomb was dropped
so that was my military history.
he enlisted and he went to Korea and he was a bit of a loner Jack. He was wrapped up with the Newtown RSL [Returned and Services League] club and he was on the staff there and we didn’t hear of him much. He used to come up occasionally but not much. Beryl was looking in the paper there one day at the deaths and she saw this J. W. Ratcliffe
ex-Korean injury man was found dead and I said ‘everything sounds as though it is Jack’ and I got in touch with my sister in Sydney and she enquired and yes it was. The Newtown RSL had folded up and he was boarding in a hotel and they found him and he had been dead two days, they found him with a heart attack. It was a bit sad none of us were at the funeral and none of us knew.
So there were only three and there were two of us in the army and one was unfit. I was a bit sad the other day the younger sister, seventy eight, she was and she was married to an army mate of mine who died two or three years ago
and she went to the races last Saturday week at Rose Hill, met up with my old sergeant major who they used to meet occasionally and she had a fair win on the races. Went home had tea with her friends went to bed and never woke up and she was buried last Friday. The old sergeant major I rang him up to let him know and he was astounded because he was talking to her the day before.
So that was a bit sad because I couldn’t attend the darn funeral which was upsetting. There were six girls and three boys and I can’t remember the old Dad ever putting his arms around any of the kids and giving them a cuddle or anything like that.
my childhood days. When the bomb was dropped and the war was over I got a bit of a splinter in my arm and anyone who had had five years in the army and three years overseas which I had, they were discharged straight away but you had to be medically fit. I still had these stitches in my arm so they wouldn’t let me go. So all my old mob
has gone only a day or two and the aircraft carrier Implacable had come in it was an English aircraft carrier. So they took me up, took the stitches out and said ‘you’re right to go’ and on this ship and two days out to sea we passed the boat so we were home drunk and discharged by the time they got back. In those days they used to take you to Marrickville
and brief you and hand in your gear and so forth and anyone who lived in the Petersham, Marrickville area there could go home for dinner. At that stage my Mum was living in Newtown and I went home for dinner. I went back after dinner and there was a real riot on there was blood all over the ground and some bloke had come back and shot himself he went home and his wife was with someone else so
he came back and shot himself. They went through all our gear then for souvenirs and any bombs and so forth which was a bit upsetting. That’s what I can’t make out there must have been a million of them discharged they gave us a coupon to buy a suit and rations for tea, sugar and butter and said ‘ta ta’ and that was it after going through five and a half or six
years of war most of them. Nowadays they go to the [Persian] Gulf and don’t see a shot fired and they’re stressed and having counselling and I can’t make it out. Especially the first Gulf War when they just went off on a ship and looked at it but never done anything.
And how did you find it adjusting, being out on the street in civvies?
I met Beryl; there was a little girl who died last week and she worked at White Signets in Sydney and Beryl worked there too. I just went around to see my sister on leave and I met Beryl there and we got together from then on and I corresponded with her through the war and after the war when I come back we got married but I thank her for me
she was a terrific girl and still is she really looked after me. I went working at Tullochs they were a rolling stock and a foundry and I got a job. I was fairly well liked by the union and also by management it must have worked out all right and they gave me a diluting moulder’s Job.
That meant I’d get moulder’s pay because I hadn’t done my time but I would only work on machines. I worked on that till the big coal strike of 1951 I think it was and then I went back to the country and done the harvest. By the way I built a house in West Ryde in Sydney and Beryl stayed there and we had a young boy then. I went down the bush and done a harvest and when I came back we sold the house up and
went to a place called Tongi, just out of Mudgee old Tom Baillieu owned it I don’t know if you have you heard of the name Baillieu? Heard of Baillieu Myers have you? One of that crowd and a very wealthy station owner he was. He owned racehorses and he was a AJC [Australian Jockey Club] committeeman and I stayed there with them for two years as a stockman. Funny
old chap there was no bus run for kids to school and he wouldn’t allow them through his property, I don’t know why. So I had to leave and I went to a place called Baradine to work with an army mate who was in the timber industry and that didn’t work out. I was supposed to get twenty pound a week and the best I ever got was twelve and then I left him and I just worked around
there. Then I applied and got a job managing a station between Temora and Cootamundra and I was managing a property there when I drew a soldier’s block at Weelong near Forbes. I stayed on that till I lost my left eye as you might have noticed, through a cataract operation and I have a cataract on the other darn eye
and they wouldn’t operate on that until they cleaned this one up, which took about twelve months. I sold the farm out at half price to my son and retired into town here. I had the other operation on my eye with the Indian doctor at. Oh by the way there’s a doctor Redman at Orange that did this one and I had the other one done in Concord
in Sydney with a doctor called Capagoda and he has done a really top job. I have been a heavy smoker from Tobruk on and I developed a hole in the lung. I was in hospital up here for quite a while and then they flew me to Sydney to St Vincent’s and the operated with that
keyhole surgery and it was remarkable. They put a tube in my stomach to take the air away from my lung and it went into a little can and they pulled that tube out and put a camera on and put it up and had a look at it and they did this keyhole surgery and they stitched it and glued it and its as good as gold. You wouldn’t read about it but the other one went, the other lung and they sent me down to the Prince of Wales and by this time
I was down to seven stone and permanently on oxygen and the surgeon said I was too frail to operate on and he reckoned I wouldn’t get off the operating table so they just kept me there and kept x-raying me and they said ‘oh its healed’ and I came home by ambulance. I’ve got a gold card by the way and they got that all mixed up
and I got a bill for three thousand odd dollars for transport from Sydney to here. When I got home here I was a real wreck and collapsed that night and I was back up in hospital again the next morning. There is a South African doctor here named Whittaker, I’m not boring you with this am I? He said ‘I’ve heard this happen and if I can get a chemist who’ll mix the
ingredients up’ he said ‘I’ll pour it in over your lung and seal it’ and he said ‘I’ve done it in South Africa and it was done by a fluke’. The bloke was a little bit mental and he picked the can up above his head and it drained in on his lung and sealed it and he said ‘he nearly went mad with pain’ but he said ‘it did’. Anyway over this darn insurance and that he couldn’t get a chemist that would do it so he said ‘I’ll do it myself’. So he got the
ingredients and mixed it up just like mixing a cake and I was in the room with him and he pulled a tube out of my stomach and put it down into my lung and poured it down on it and he said ‘its going to burn like hell but I’ll get morphine in as quick as I can’ which he did do. Then he stood me on my head for an hour so it would flow down over my lung and it sealed it and
that’s just twelve months today that that happened so I can thank him for that.
I could use an axe, I could shoot, I could do anything like that, I could drive horses, I had carted in hay and stripped wheat I had done everything as a kid more or less. We were in demand when work was available but it wasn’t always available. Just a little incident with my father
he was the type of bloke he couldn’t even kill a sheep without help from his boys. This day I was supposed to be looking after the horses to see that they never got away out on the common and instead of that I was watching the damn cricket and when I went to look for the horses I couldn’t find them. I came back and I don’t know whether he gave me a hiding or not but I know he told me to go and get the horses and not to return unless I had them and I was only a kid.
I finished up finding out where they went and they went back to where we had been working and it was pretty near dark, it was getting onto dusk and I came to his farm and he said ‘yes the horses went past here about three o’clock’ he said ‘what are you going to do?’ and I said ‘do you mind if I give my pony a sheaf of hay?’ and he was having me on of course and I didn’t know it he said ‘where will you stay?’ and I said ‘I’ll
sleep in the hay stack.’ And he said ‘alright’ and the blokes name was Sam Martin. He took me in, gave me tea and fed my pony and he gave me a bed for the night. The next day I went on and I found the horses at Weethalle and there was an old chap there who knew us and knew the old man. He gave me a bit of dinner and dark that night I got home with them.
I often thought what father would do that to a kid so you can see why? When it finished up and he died me and my brother had to bury him because he didn’t have enough money to bury himself.
we found they were the worst and he stopped censoring the mail. It finished up that things improved and he started censoring it again. He got us lined up and gave us a real lecture ‘you’ve got to stop writing letters’ he said. ‘I was up till midnight censoring mail and you’ll have to stop it.’ A big bloke Charlie
Brant who won a military medal afterwards said ‘bullshit’ and old Patty Evans who was an old boxer with us said ‘good boy Charlie I’ll have the bastard’ and he wanted to fight him on the spot but he was a bugger of a bloody bloke. When we came out of there we were a pretty unregimental mob and he’s got us out on the boring like school kids ‘left turn, right turn, quick march’
anyway we are getting that sick of it. The orderly room was just off the ring and the old major was sitting in there listening to all this and one of our blokes, Slopey and he had his rifle on his back and he’s got it out and out and out and at last it’s like a shovel over his shoulder. This Whitman run underneath him and said ‘straighten that bloody slope up’
and this old bloke said ‘out of my way you worm or I’ll sniff you up my bloody nose’ and he went over to the orderly room to put him under arrest and the major said ‘go away if you can’t handle a man don’t come here whinging, get’ so I don’t know what happened to him he left us but we couldn’t get on with him at all but most of them were really top men. The first old major we had in Tobruk he called me in and
he said to me and young Wilkerson who I was with and he said ‘the first man I had killed in my unit’ he said ‘I want to write to his mother and tell her all about him’ that was the type of chap he was but they get things a bit wrong. In that book The Siege of Tobruk, did Don show you that did he? He didn’t? It says that the 2/24th Battalion
in a dust storm in Tobruk went out and lifted so many hundred mines up in the German front line and brought them back and put it in theirs but they had it all wrong. It wasn’t the 2/24th they had nothing to do with it it was the section of the 2/4th that I was in with a Sergeant Steinbeck. Have you ever heard of Muriel Steinbeck the film star who came from Orange? Her brother was
Ted Steinbeck. He went out one night on his own and dug up one of these German mines and bought it back worked it out, make a key, he was a civil engineer, Steinbeck. He made a key that could render it off or on. He borrowed a truck off the Pommies a White truck, not white in colour but that was the name of the truck and he got a covering party of the 28th
Battalion not the 24th to cover us while we were in the dust storm lifting these mines. We had a lot going on pulling them out of the ground and Steinbeck was going along rendering them safe and there were another lot of us carrying them for the truck and others stacking them. We done all that and there wasn’t a shot fired and we drove off. The story that’s in that had got it all wrong.
I think the worst job we done in Tobruk is this going backwards too much? Was the water distillery and the Italians had built it and it was built half under the ground and half above it and it was about thirty foot high. The Germans were always trying to bomb it because it was seawater distilled and that’s what they were drinking and it was very very
salty although it was passable. They had a lot of raids on that and they had a big raid on it and missed it again and they sent us in there to camouflage it and make it look like it had been hit. We were throwing oil around and broken bats and bricks and that and in the harbour there was a little Waterhen boat that had been sunk and part of it was sticking up and there was a bloke on that with a detector. He could detect a raid
coming and he used to run up a red flag and we could all take cover. Anyway this was going on and it was all clear and one of our blokes said ‘let’s finish the job.’ We looked up and then ‘oh Christ they’re coming’. They used to come up behind the sun and cut their motors and the stokers they did and they plastered us. We jumped off that bloody building and hid everywhere none of us got killed.
I’ve heard the saying that blokes got weak knees when that raid was over I had no knees at all I was bloody shit scared.
because they called the valleys waddies over there and there was one valley that went down into the sea and they had it all, both sides of the waddy forty-gallon drums of oil and that to create smoke. I think that was going to be our evacuation area if it came to that but according to the book Morshead says there’d be no evacuation they’ll either live or die here.
I was up the front line with the 2/10th Battalion and they used to send engineers with them for booby traps and mines and that. We’d been out on patrol in no man’s land and all in the night and we came back that night and we were cement dugouts
pillboxes they were that the Italians had built and here’s my sergeant major walking past and I said ‘what are you doing here Jim?’ and he said ‘what are you doing here?’ and he said ‘we are going out tonight’ and I said ‘going out where?’ and he said ‘we are going to Egypt.’ I said ‘I’ll be buggered’ and he said ‘yes get your gear and come.’ They were all down at the wharf so it was a bit of luck there again and that sergeant major he didn’t come out then, he had to welcome the
Poles in and show them what to do the engineers, he came out three weeks later. I probably would have come out with him at that time. On the way out there were three destroyers I can’t name them now but we got bombed and the destroyers they don’t ride waves they go through them. They were just going through them and twisting and turning and I had a fear of being trapped underneath
and I’m diving up the stairs and there’s an old English sailor sitting on the stairs and he grabbed me and said ‘sit down lad’ and he said ‘the women and kids can stand the bombing in London surely we can stand a bit’ I sat and talked to him until the raid was over.
starvation and taking the wealth out of the country. When we got to the Middle East it was much the same with the poor old Arabs, everything was taken for war all the shipping, I wanted an orange and they couldn’t sell an orange. That was the other thing you’d be on a route march and there’d be lovely oranges coming over the fence beautiful big Jaffa oranges. They were really good to us the Arabs, really good and
I felt really sorry for them. When we got up to Tripoli there was a chap turned up there, pretty ragged sort of and he said ‘I will make it worth your while it you can get me a pair of boots size eight and a half. He said ‘I’ve got no money the Vichy-French robbed me of everything’ but he said ‘I was the manager of the oil refinery here’ he said ‘they took my home, they took my car’
but he said ‘I’ll come good again’. He said ‘up in the Cedars I’ve got a home’ and he said ‘if you can do that I’ll try and see if you can get weekend leave and you can come up to the Cedars for a weekend’ and we didn’t believe that but we got him a pair of boots anyway. About a month after he turned up in a nice car and looking for these three blokes that helped him
and took us up to the Cedars and it was a good weekend. He was a Syrian Arab.
You mentioned that you were at Tobruk for approximately six months and that’s the whole of the siege. Can you tell me where you were living and describe where you were living?
We were in dugouts underground all the time and up in Salient in the front line you never showed up out of the holes in the daylight you stayed underground all day and all the patrolling and everything was done overnight. I don’t think the Germans did much patrolling I know the Italians didn’t. The Italians were funny they
must of thought that it was safety in numbers. They used to dig in in great big heaps and you could walk half a mile through their lines and then you’d run into another lot and always firing tracers off, giving their position away. Where the Germans they dug in like us, scattered across. I was out on a lot of patrols over night and we never ran into a German patrol but we
ran into a few Italians, not patrolling but just in these dugouts.
refuse to go up the front line and they never penalized him or anything for it. I remember afterwards when we were back in New Guinea and the two sergeants were having a big of an argument and one accused the other of squibbing it and he really done his block and wanted to fight but he was only just trying to protect his own self. I went out one
night. I used to get attached to the 2/10th Battalion there were three three companies, 1st, 2nd and 3rd in our unit and we were attached to the 9th, 10th and 12th. We always had the 10th and number one section went to the 9th and 7th went with 12th. This night I was out with the 10th and this officer said ‘how did you go last night?’
and I said ‘not too bad’ I said ‘we didn’t go out that far’ and he said ‘that sergeant’s a bit frightened’ they knew one another pretty well. But that Steinbeck he was war mad he tried to join the Spanish Civil War but he was a civil engineer and they wouldn’t release him and then when he came with us he’d come under shell fire and
you’d hit the ground and he’d yell ‘get up you cowards there’s more bloody air than shells’ and this was the way. I told you how he left us did I? Well after that raid he done with the mines the colonel of the 2/28th Battalion said ‘if you come over to our battalion we’ll make you a captain’ and they wouldn’t give him a transfer because of his standing with us. When
we came out of Tobruk and went to Bardia he ran amock in the officers mess and shot the place up. He didn’t shoot anyone but he shot the lights out and they court martialled him and took his stripes off him and then they discharged him to the 2/28th. On the Alamein show he got the muscle of his right arm blown out and he went off his head. We went to see him at Concord hospital and he was as silly as a
rabbit. Good soldier he was but war mad he was.
would talk and tell their life stories. We had one chap and his name was Haywood, Wally Haywood quite a good soldier Wal was but every now and again he would tell us his life story. He was telling us that he wanted to rob the jewellers shop in Paddington and the jewellers shop was the same
building as the picture theatre and the wall cut out and he went over and he had it worked out that he’d get under the seats when the picture was about finished and he was a pretty active bloke he used to play football with the Eastern Suburbs. He was going to scale the wall and fill up with these rings and watches he knew where they were. The front door of the jewellers shop was a Yale lock
but he said that he had this door open a few inches. It was about two in the morning and everything was quiet and he clicked it shut behind him and a policeman behind the bush said ‘stop Haywood’ and he went off and the policeman after him. I don’t know weather you know Paddington or not but there’s Paddington Street and little Paddington Street and Paddington Street has a little bend in it and Wal jumped the fence at the bend and the policeman was going to run past but
he had fired a shot or two at Wal by the way. People were out on the balconies and that and the policeman was going to walk past and there was a woman there going like that and he arrested him. They took him out to Parramatta Jail and he was there for a while and I think he said the warder said to him ‘if we let you out what would you do?’ and he said ‘I’d join the army sir’ and he said ‘well see that you bloody well do.’
When he joined up he used to drink at the Bondi Hotel and they give him a lot of sample bottles of grog. sparkling hock and rum and whisky, these little sample bottles. He turned up to the showground he kicked my bed apart and another blokes and he said ‘I’ll cobber up with you two blokes through the war’ and I didn’t drink much then and especially not
spirits. There’s Freddie Hedges and they are into it and come teatime we all went for tea but they didn’t they were still drinking. In the middle of the night there was a knock on the wall ‘put the lights out in there.’ He said ‘who’s that?’ and Freddy said ‘that’s the officer of the day.’ So he said ‘what the bloody hell are you doing round in the night’ he yelled, that was Haywood. He finished up going right through the war with us Wal.
Sydney Potts and he fought under the name of Sydney Peters a very good boxer he was. I asked Sydney and he said ‘oh yes’ he said ‘they advertise and if you can understand their language’ and I picked the paper up ‘smart boy wanted no experience necessary’ and he says ‘you can bet their homosexual advertising’. I said ‘do you have anything to do with them’ and he said ‘yes’. He said ‘back just before the war
when the militia was getting around’ he said ‘there was no work much and he was out in front to Tatts theatre’ and he said ‘what they used to do half of them would buy a ticket to go in’ which was only Mickey Mouse or something like that and then the feature after and he said ‘when we got out we’d tear you the other half’. He said ‘you’d only have to show half and you can go in’. He said ‘I’m waiting outside and a soldier went past’
a militia bloke ‘with a girl on his arm.’ This bloke saddled up to Sid and he said to Sid ‘it’s disgusting isn’t it?’ and Sid said ‘yes’ and woke up straight away. He said ‘what are you doing in here?’ and Sid said ‘I’ve seen a job offered’ he said ‘I’ve come in early to see if I could get some’ and he said ‘where are you going to sleep?’ he said ‘on the bench in the park.’ He said ‘come down to the Vulcan there might be a spare room down there.’ He must have been in with the barman so he said to the barman
‘have you got a spare room’ he said ‘no only that double room you’ve got’ and he said to Sid ‘you wouldn’t be interested in that?’ and Sid says ‘oh yes.’ Up they go and Sid said he was getting undressed to go to bed and Sid said ‘you wouldn’t give me two bob to get a pie I never had any tea’ and he said ‘yes’ and he give him two bob and Sid said ‘I won’t be long.’ At the door there was a tall boy there with a hat on it
and Sid never wore a hat and Sid just switched the light off put the hat on and walked off. By this time the pictures were over and they were all out at central railway station. ‘You’ve got a hat Sid where did you get a hat?’ and Sid says ‘it’s a bit tight for me’ and there was four pounds struck in the hat ‘no I revel in it’ he said.
The only silly thing I done I think was there was a tanker got hit in the harbour and it was all on fire and the blokes are jumping in the water and the water is all on fire and two of there were going to jump in and swim out to help them but we weren’t in the race that was about the silliest thing I’d done.
I read a lot of funny accidents. When we were up in the Ramu Valley I met a bloke and I knew him before the war too Jack Hefron was his name. He really went bomb happy and he got a blackboard from somewhere and he used to go off with it out into the jungle and he used to write a story. Broad Axe Jo was his hero and ‘here I am surrounded by
Japs will Broad Axe Jo get in there in time, look in tomorrow’s episode.’ The blokes were going over there reading it saying ‘he’s bloody funny’ but unbeknownst to us he was going off his head. When we were leaving he wasn’t in the same platoon as me and he came over to me and said ‘I’ll stick with you Gill’ and I said ‘alright Jack’ and he had no gear and he had a fork in his top pocket that’s all the gear he had, he’d lost his mess tins and everything.
When we got to Lae because we were coming home by ship and we got to Lae I wanted to keep with the poor bugger I wanted him to get on the boat I didn’t want them to lock him up there. There were six men to a tent and I wanted to get with four or less and every tent I came to five in here and six in here and I said to one tent ‘how many in here?’ and they said ‘five.’ and this
Jack Hefron said ‘all pigs’. I stopped him from getting into blues and I get on the boat with him and the next thing I heard ‘oh Christ’ there’s a bloke going to bash him up. He’s got an infantry bloke’s pack undone and he’s going to have a shave with his gear anyway I got him out of that. We got him home and he finished up he was in Concord I went out to see him and I said ‘how are they treating you Jack?’ and he said ‘pretty good’ but he said ‘they’re playing bloody coits here all night
at the head of my bed’ he was clear off his head and I’ve never heard of him since and I don’t know what happened.
foot with a 303 rifle and he run across the desert that foot wasn’t hitting the ground. I could always run a bit and two or three of us took off after him and caught him and brought him back. That bullet went through the instep and it was only a little hole but it blew all the sole out and I don’t know where he went but they charged him with self inflicted wound and they sent him back to us. When we came back to Adelaide
they give us leave in Adelaide and we went up the Barossa Valley to a place named Gola. Me and a bloke named Eddy Price and some other boy we were one of the last to be ready to go on leave and they stopped us ‘we want you three for guard’ and who did they bring in but a bloke named Buttsworth. They’d
stuck up a minister not a minister or religion a minister of parliament and they took his car off him and the provosts brought him out. They said that we have got to guard him in this tent and there’s me and Eddy Price and I’ve forgotten who this other bloke was that was one of the guards. We missed our bloody leave and the first night back in Australia and this Buttsworth said ‘if you shut your eyes I’ll sneak out the back’
and Eddy Price said ‘if you sneak out the back I’ll shoot you and I mean it’ and I think he would have too so he never snuck out the back so I never saw him again and I don’t know what happened to him but those sort of things happened.
There was a bit of a bond between the nurses and the soldiers. I had a fair bit of sickness and troubles and I was in quite a few hospitals with malaria and that and I had nothing but admiration for them. I can never forget I was in Lae Hospital and they flew me down from Shaggy Ridge I had a very very high
temperature and doctors are different today they’ll explain everything and ask you. The army doctors didn’t, they knew everything and you knew nothing. I was at Lae Hospital and they put your records on your chest, all of them and the doctor comes along with the matron and a few nurses and he came to me and I picked them up and read them. He said ‘what’s wrong with you?’ I said ‘I don’t know I’m undiagnosed’ and he said ‘how do you bloody know
that’ and I said ‘it’s in the bloody paper here.’ And my mate had a grin about that wide. It finished up I had dengue but they didn’t know at that stage what I had. They flew me back up there and I was the only one in the plane going down and the only one coming back. The Douglass, the old Douglass transport and it was an old rattly thing with bloody dixies [mess tins]
hanging down I didn’t think it would make it but it did.
the sergeants and corporals would go on leave for ten days and then the rest of them which was privates and sappers could go on leave if they had ten pound left in their pay books. Two or three of us decided that by the time it got to us twenty or thirty days we’d have nothing in our pay books because we were only on five bob a day and we were drinking and playing two up
so we decided to have our leave then. We went to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and back to Alexandria where we weren’t allowed to go. Up on to the Egyptian border with Syria and came back and the day we came back the whole battalion was
in parade. I wanted to sneak back to out tents but this Haywood I was talking about ‘no we will go on parade’ and of course there were blokes whispering ‘how did you go’ and ‘where did you go?’ Haywood turned his back on the officers telling them and the old colonel said ‘put that man under arrest for his behaviour’ and Haywood had a few words with him and then the three of us were under arrest. They gave us fourteen days pack drill in the
desert and we got all our pack on at the double all the time. We had an officer a really terrific little bloke he was, his name was Wolf. One of my mates said ‘bloody ridiculous’ or ‘disgusting’ he said ‘bloody blokes have just done six months in Tobruk’ and he said ‘yes’ so he went up to the colonel and he said
‘I want Ratcliffe out; I want him to do some blacksmithing.’ One of the blokes was a painter and sign write and he wanted him for something else and he got the three of us out of it. Charlie Wolf was his name a funny little bloke he was. He’d take us on a route march and we’d be walking to attention and as soon as he got out of sight of the camp it was ‘relax boys, smoke, sit down.’ ‘When the war is over if any of you are coal miners don’t get too much coal up on top’ he said
‘they’ll bloody put you off work if you do.’ He was a real socialist he was.
I found that, say you were supposed to go out on patrol and you had a bad attack of dysentery, there was no doubt about getting another volunteer; there was no one saying ‘no you have got to go’ and to me that’s a big thing, they always stood by their mates. I think the worst
was the shellfire, it’s something you can’t see and the next thing it’s on you. As the war went on it was great to think we had equal power, if not better power but early in the piece we had 303 rifles and
we never had a decent Tommy gun and the Owens came out later and the Yanks had their Thompson machine gun and we even had the old Vickers guns, the First World War stuff. The Bren gun wasn’t much good in the desert it never stood up to the sand and that and the Vickers was an old war gun too, that was about the machine guns we had.
Later in the war we were the same at Alamein we had artillery I think they had a gun to every eleven yards for forty miles and I've got a video there of it and when it went off it was just like day, day and night it was flashes of gunfire.
The Germans was coming out laughing and crying and shell-shocked it was a terrible bombardment and we had the superior air force at that time and the same through the Islands. At Shaggy Ridge they talk about these Mitchell bombers they had seventy-five millimetre guns strapped to them and they shot up the hillsides and mountains and knocked down
palm trees and that with it and you see the plane flying along and stop dead when the gun went off it was recoil. It shook them to pieces but they done the job.
I thought I should be up there that’s how touching his story was. The old chap that wrote that book Fuzzy Wuzzy Angles he was in the aid unit [Bert] Beros and he wrote that on the Kokoda Trail and he was in a different section to us. Have you heard the story of that have you?
He wrote that on a scrap of paper and the paper is in the war museum it’s a bit of lavatory paper and when he was writing it an officer came up to relieve him and said ‘what have you got there?’ he said ‘I’ve just wrote a poem about those Fuzzy Wuzzies’ ‘that’s good’ he said ‘do you mind if I send it to the Courier Mail?’ he said ‘no that’ll be alright’ the Courier Mail in Brisbane. They published it
and they wrote to the battalion and asked if they could discharge him out they would give him a job on the Mail and Bert was in the First World War as well as the second; he was getting up to being a forty year old. They made him a B class to let him out of the army and then the Courier Mail wouldn’t employ him because he wasn’t A1. What a set up? Anyway he wrote the book and
I got one off him and he signed it and everything ‘to my mate Gilbert’. I lent it to a doctor and he’s lost it. He was reading it said in the hospital and one of the patients said ‘I’d like to read that’ and he didn’t get it back so it looks like I’ve lost that.
We didn’t know it was so dangerous until we got here the poor old Yanks of course they won every battle and we won none. At the time they came into the war it was turning a bit we had taken Milne Bay and Sanananda and the Kokoda Trail before they came into it really. Although they had planes and ships but on land.
At Buna they came in and they just wouldn’t attack the Japs would start shelling them and they had a saying there ‘down another foot and up another sandbag’ and when the 18th Brigade went in and took Buna in two hours they were amazed that men would get up and walk through fire they paid for it really they lost a lot of casualties but they took it.
The Yank was a good soldier in a tank or in a plane but out on his feet he wasn’t so hot. There at Borneo I was very thankful we were going up this roadway and we turned a corner of the road and this Jap opened up with a machine gun and hit a couple of our blokes and it was a dirt road and you know a dirt road all built up in the middle
with wheel tracks and we got in the wheel tracks and we were pinned down there. One of our blokes was hit in the chest and that’s where I got a splinter in my arm I was pulling him back into us into the wheel track and a Yank came around in a tank and he was out on a turret in front yelling at us to ‘fire on the Japs’ and yelling out to us to ‘jump on the back of the tank.’ The bullets are flying off all around him and
he never got hit this Yank. We reversed back out and as soon as we got round the corner we were right that blokes name was Fred Bartlet and years later me and Beryl were at Ettalong Beach and there’s a bloke standing there with his hands across his knees and I said to Beryl ‘gee that bloke’s got a big scar on his back’ and he turned around and it was Junior Bartlet. It pierced his lung he said and it went through out his back.
When we said goodbye to him the blood was just starting to come out his mouth we never thought we would see him again so they were pretty game the Yanks.
I understand that after you received some jungle training at Atherton you were then shipped over to Milne Bay?
I missed out earlier on Milne Bay because of a hernia operation so I missed the early part of that. My unit landed in Milne Bay before the Japs they were there only a couple of days before and they tell me that the Japs landed right where the militia boys were a lot of eighteen-year olds and they were told to destroy everything as they were retreating. When they
met out blokes they said half the poor little buggers were crying it was the first time they had been in action and the only thing they destroyed was the bloody canteen the thing we wanted. They blew it up but the Japs never got that far but a mate of mine who was there and when we got there they had no food and the canteen was what they were relying on and was gone.
There was a water buffalo cow with a big calf with it and they said to the officer ‘what about letting us shoot the cow?’ ‘oh no’ he said ‘the natives will go mad, you can’t do that’ he finished up and said ‘look I’ll let you shoot the calf then.’ Cliff my mate who had done the shooting said ‘the calf will be a bite each’ ‘no’ he said ‘that’s all I’ll let you shoot.’ So they both run away and they’d be ten yards apart looking at us and everyone’s
looking at the calf and bang and down when the bloody cow. The officer rushed over and said ‘I told you to only shoot the bloody calf’ Cliff said ‘I always knew this bloody rifle was carrying over to the left’ they were about that far apart. So they butchered it and had meat for the day or so. I don’t know why the Jap evacuated there
they didn’t all get killed or get captured they pulled them out. I suppose they knew they were well beaten there they pulled them out.
Can you tell me how your job now is different compared to the Middle East?
It was different all together we never laid a mine, we never put barbed wire up we just went and we deloused mines and that was about all. We went with the infantry and the infantry was funny we envied their job and they envied ours. I wouldn’t have liked to have been up the front line with a rifle all the time and they didn’t like being down with mines and
and bombs and delousing them. When we landed on the beach in Balikpapan the Japs had retreated back into the caves on this Parramatta Ridge and we had the job of cleaning the beach up of mines and everything. We found a bit of a dugout there with a bag over it and there was a Jap in there he had this bag hung down
and the poor bugger must have gone through hell with the bombardment and that and he was as mad as a two bob watch. He had a plunger and he only had to press it down and it would have blown the whole beach because it was all mines but he was too bomb happy to know what he was doing but it was easy for us. We just disconnected it and just followed the wire down and deloused all the bombs so we were very very lucky that he was off his head.
Then they gave me a job to go in front of a radar, more or less a radar with the mine detectors and there was that much shrapnel about it was buzzing around all the time. They were so dead scared on this thing and they said ‘is it safe?’ ‘Yeah come on’ but we didn’t know whether it was safe or not
and this is the area we had done and said it was safe. Some infantry blokes came along and lit a fire and put a billy on which everyone did as soon as you stopped you’d put a billy on. This bloke stepped backwards onto a mine and it blew him up and killed a few and this bloke said ‘you said it was safe’ but you couldn’t tell whether it was safe or not. We ended up giving our detectors away and just went along with a bayonet and any fresh dirt, check that out, see if
there’s anything under it because there was too much shrapnel and that about going off all the time. The last job I done we had a little sentry and there was three bombs they were five hundred pound bombs and they filed the thread off and they just had a bit of bamboo through the hole they’d made and the bamboo had sunk like that but if you just touched
the detonator then up she goes and they sent for us to come and delouse these three bombs. This little bloke I tossed him to see if I had to do two or one and I lost the toss and I deloused the first one and the only thing you had to do was to be very careful to pull it out and he done the second one. He said ‘when you finished the first one you were white as a sheet’ and I didn’t realize I was. It was just that the war had got me dead beat
at that stage and it was only a few days after that they had dropped the atomic bomb. I would say fifty percent at least of those who were with me in Tobruk weren’t with me no more they had either been discharged or gone to other units or wounded or something.
I thought when they left me there with this bit of a splinter in my arm I thought this is the end of the world all my mates are gone all the old timers and I’m left with all these young ones. Then to get on this damn boat and catch them up and pass them.
asked me would I go out to Marrickville to see a doctor with him and I went out with him and there they had a row of doctors on the seats outside and I was on the seats outside. The next thing Freddy was coming out with the doctor by the shirt and he threw him up against the wall and yells ‘out of the way Wag I want to see a bloody doctor.’ Another doctor got out and got him and quietened him down and asked me to come in with him.
We quietened him down and the old doctor discharged him out of the army with nerves and for treatment. He went home and he never had any treatment and his brother said ‘I’ll take you up the Hawkesbury fishing, Fred’ and he said ‘alright’ and he was up there for a few days fishing with him, his brother was telling me this. He said he was getting no better and he was vomiting all the time. He said ‘I’ll take you home Fred’ and he said ‘alright’ and they were at Woy Woy station waiting for a train
and there they hooked the second engine on to pull up over the mountain on train goods train. This goods training is coming in and Freddy went over to the side because he thought he was going to vomit but he threw himself straight under it, two engines and three carriages went over him. He has the skin off his leg right down cut an arm off oh he was a hell of a mess and they rang me up I was living in Ryde. They
rang me up and I went up to Hornsby hospital and they asked and I said ‘no I’m just an army mate’ and they let me in to see him but by Christ he was a mess. The next time I went up to see him they said ‘they’d sent him to the mental ward at Concord.’ So I used to go out there and see him but it was a shocking damn place. You’d knock on the door and the chains rattling and they’d peep out and say ‘who do you want to see? ‘They had people there from the First World War. They think they are in France waiting for a boat to take them home
it is a terrible bad set up. Freddy is there with an arm off flying around like an ack ack gun chewing gum as fast as they could. Anyway with shock treatment they got him alright. I’ll tell you about his humour. They decided to give him this artificial arm and he had to see this psychiatrist and Freddy didn’t have much faith in psychiatrists.
He had him laying on the bed and telling him how good the bed was and it was a hard bed and Freddy went to sleep and he woke him up to tell him again and Freddy said ‘would I be able to play the piano? He said ‘oh certainly’ so ‘Christ it must be a bloody good arm I wasn’t able to play it before’ but this was his humour. Anyway he married late and had a family and he got a TPI [Totally and Permanently Incapacitated] pension but with a young family that wasn’t enough and he got a job as a doorman at the Granville RSL Club.
Someone put him in for working and getting the pension so he had to lose that, he was a mean bugger wasn’t he? Then his son finished up a druggie pinching lawnmowers and selling them. He only died a couple of years ago Freddy he was a great mate and a good soldier.
that was enough but some were that keen to beat them up. But no we never did a lot along that area. It was a bit different at Balikpapan and we were in the landing and although I said that we had all the equipment and they had none they had no air force or anything the Japs. The only thing they had was artillery.
We were going through the town area and we were going from house to house and I come to this house and it was a dentist’s house and another mate was with me who had a lot of home dental equipment and in the back room there was a big photo of butterflies captive from all over the world and in velvet.
Done in Velvet very nicely written in Dutch and English all very nicely. I got this under the arm but you couldn’t carry a whole lot of stuff and they come up with the a cook wagon and a little cook Chinaman Arthur Kim I said ‘see if you can sell this to the Yanks Kimmy?’ and he said ‘yes I’ll sell it to them.’ That night I had seen him and said ‘how did you go?’ and he said ‘good I got thirty bob for it’ I was thinking a hundred quid.
That little Kimmy when we were going from Moratai to Balikpapan on this LST a Yankee boat we were overcrowded and the Yanks sent down for a couple of cooks and they sent me down and Kimmy. I don’t know why they sent me because I couldn’t cook for bloody nuts. Anyway we cooked the meal and that and we were back up with the mob but Kimmy didn’t come back he stayed down with the cooks.
We were all lined up on the deck for our meal and it comes over the loud speakers ‘Australian Military Forces chow down’ and we thought ‘Christ Kimmy’s fallen down the bloody stairs?’ He’s never heard of the expression chow down. I was in Victoria a few years ago me and Beryl were down there on a trip and I pulled into the bowling club I was a bit of a bowling fanatic and
I picked up a bowls magazine and in Victoria they have a national day, Chinese, Japs, New Zealand, Australia and Yugoslavs and I saw this Chinese team and Arthur Kim’s in it. I wrote a bit of a story in the Rats to Tobruk about it and someone rang me from Brisbane and said that they’d seen him and he was going well and everything.
I changed Warwick to Wagga and I changed from two to twenty one because I had six months of no duties. Do you want me to repeat this story? When I had had a week or two leave I thought I’d better report somewhere and I reported to Wagga that was our depot for reinforcements and they didn’t know anything about me, of course
and they put me under arrest. They sent me to Victoria Barracks in Sydney to be tried and they said it was too big a case to be heard so they sent me to Boggo Road in Brisbane. At that time the 9th Divvy was coming home and there was a lot gone AWL. They used to call out three or four names every day and this day they called my name out and up I went and they
read out the charge and I was charged with ‘deserting in front of the enemy’ which is a dishonourable discharge and lose all medals, ranks, everything. I still had in my pocket the doctor’s certificate to say that I was three months no duties and three months light duties. They asked me if I had anything to say and I pulled it out and handed it over and it was like a killing case, bloody provost marshals and red caps there.
Anyway they all had a read of that and summoned the doctor in and he took me into a room and he examined me, took my stitches out and had a yarn to them and ‘case dismissed seven days leave.’ I was a bit lucky I had that bit of paper wasn’t it?
sitting for six months in a camp in Queensland as it turned out I was only about a month instead of getting my six I was only about a month and I was back with it. When they discharged me from the hospital with this do in my pocket I went to Coorparoo, the nursing place, and for some reason I was on a draft and I was really crook at the time.
I was transported up to the tablelands to a staging camp for New Guinea and of course we had to front a doctor before we went and the doctor said ‘oh Jesus, you can’t go’ he said ‘you’re still raw and you’ve got stitches due to come out’ and so I stayed. The next morning I woke up and there’s me, a sergeant and an officer is all that was left there. This sergeant said, getting back to this cooking again,
he said ‘you can do the cooking for us if you like’ and I said ‘buggery I will’ and that’s when I said ‘can you give me two days leave’ and he did so that’s how that started.
Another little bloke we had on the march from Ingleburn to Bathurst his wife walked along side him all way and she finished up playing up and he wiped her but he was a funny little bloke. When they pulled up at Lithgow they were in tents there at the side of the road. There was a widow with a couple of teenage daughters in the house just opposite working in the garden and there was a council bloke cleaning the drain out.
This little bloke Jacky Devon was his name he went over and said ‘what’s the story over here?’ and he said ‘she’s a widow her husband’ I’ll get the name in a minute, he said ‘her husband was killed building the Bateman’s Bay bridge’ ‘oh gees was he, what’s her name?’ and he said ‘what’s her husbands name?’ and he said ‘Bert, Bert March’ and he said ‘oh good.’ Away went the council bloke and over goes Jacky and knocks on the door ‘’Mrs Marsh?
‘yes’ he said ‘I thought I would come and pay my respects’ he said ‘I worked with your husband at Bateman’s Bay’ she said ‘girls there’s a man, come in’ and he was eating steak and eggs and everything and we were eating bloody stew. You get them sort of blokes that do them sort of things. Well his wife she walked all the way on that march she didn’t stay in camp with them of course of the night but every day she went
but she was playing up when he went over to the Middle East.
They would light up like day and then would smother in oil and be black and we landed in the morning and we had to clear the minefield, which was quite easy for us. Then we went up onto the ridge, Parramatta Ridge and the Japs used to attack under the smoke screen with an oil screen and there was a blackout. When they’d get out in the open as luck happened
it would come into flame and light up like day and it was pretty easy to mow them down and that went on for quite a while it finished up they started to retreat then, the Japs. They had dug caves into the hills and that was our job sealing the caves. They used to dig down, say ten or twelve feet and then tunnel in under. They called them the Yankee packs
they were like a haversack full of TNT with a fuse on it we use to light the fuse and someone would lay over the hole and we’d sit on his legs and swing up and it in because the Jap would throw it back out and then run like hell and half the bloody hill would fall in. I don’t’ know how many Japs we got like that but as we advanced on we were going to dig one out and
see what and they reckon there was furniture and God knows what in there. Before we got back the war was over and the Race Wallers as we called them dug it all out and got all the treasures.
but they never sent it up to the troops. I don’t know I think smoking was about the only thing. There was no heroin or LSD in those days. But I tell you we had a bloke and he had a brother captured in Malaya and he only heard about it and he went to the cookhouse
and he got a bottle of essence of lemon and he drank it and it was pure alcohol and he was drunk as a lord and he comes back and he staggers around ‘why aren’t we fighting?’ ‘why aren’t we bloody fighting?’ but that’s about the only alcohol, they used to make it the home brew and they had a still. Anything that would ferment they’d put in it, prunes, peaches and God knows what.
They’d sit over it and bubbling away and bubbling away and ‘oh gee she’s coming on good’ they’d say and the drip would be filling bottles up. When they filled them all up they’d burn brown sugar and colour it like whisky. This old bloke he had a lot of this stacked under his bed and he was in a fibro hut with a fibro roof, flat roof and he had a few of the blokes in there and they were going to buy it. He got another bottle out
‘can we try it?’ and they drank that bottle ‘hey try another one.’ Anyway someone was going past and threw a rock up on the roof and it come through and Freddy Hedges I will be talking a bit about it hit him on the leg. He was a good actor Fred and he swung around and one of the blokes says ‘is it broken Fred?’ and he says ‘yes, look at it.’ The bloke says ‘I’ll take bloody lead for that’ and he flew out the side
of this fibro hut and someone whipped a magazine in a machine gun and fired it in the air and you could hear this bloke hit the ground, woof. Anyway that’s how they brewed it like that this home brew.
I had a cousin who was captured in Singapore and a pretty truthful bloke there was and he was telling me that a German ship came in for a load of rubber. They sent the Australians down to load the rubber and this German who looked very much like us, was leaning over the rail watching us coming up.
He said ‘I’ve heard the Japs are giving you a pretty bad go’ he said ‘when you get down into that hold get stuck into the tucker and have a feed.’ The next day there was a mob of volunteers wanting to go in this loading rubber and this same German was up there leaning over watching them again and the Jap guard looked up and seen him and thought he was one of our blokes having a spell. This Jap had a whip about that long
and pliable it was and he raced up and into this German because he thought he was one of us and the German into him. He finished up picking the Jap up and got him over the side of the ship and threw him out to sea. The Australians give the German a standing ovation. Things like that happened. We had another bloke and he was telling me he was a batman to Doctor Hinder and Doctor Hinder was a Macquarie Street specialist after but
he was a pretty rough old man. To get through university he used to go picking grapes and trapping rabbits and then he done his term. He joined the army and this bloke, rosy cheeked bloke come from Forbes here was his batman and the Japs thought the batman was the doctor and Hinder was the batman. Anyway this Jap got bitten by a snake or thought he did and he went
behind a tree to do his business and he came out running with an axe and all they had was a rusty tobacco tin with a raiser blade in it. He said to the Jap ‘I’ll lance it’ and he went a bit deep and the Jap went like that and he cut his finger off and he said to the Jap ‘you’ll live, you’ll be right.’ About a month later the Jap’s were coming along the line with a tin of biscuits looking for the medic that saved his life.
That’s what they were like they were queer people weren’t they. He was telling me he saw the atomic bomb drop he said they were in the coal mine and he said ‘I don’t know what’s happened’ he said ‘they were in this dugout when the bomb was dropped and they had a vent. He said it was only a small vent but I was very skinny and I
stand up on these blokes’ shoulders to get out this vent. He said ‘I’m buggered if I know what’s happening, there’s Japs running everywhere, there’s trees bent over touching the ground’ and that was the atomic bomb going off.
and us engineers were just in a little separate section of our dug in. Through the night a fire broke out in amongst our ranks, God almighty it was on. ‘Cease fire’, ‘stretcher-bearer coming through’, ‘bang’, ‘bang’ and on they went. We were to take the next hill but that evening late we sent a spotter plane over
and Holy Moses the Japs opened up with everything on it. Machine guns and they reckon one of the officers panicked and went off his rocker and started firing that night and they shot one another up by golly they made a mess of each other. The old colonel came around and congratulated us and I was made a corporal a lot of times never officially but in action and as soon as I came out I was getting trade pay I didn’t want their corporal thing so I used to resign from it.
I was a corporal in that show and this other little bloke who was a corporal crawled over to me and he said ‘what do you think’s going on?’ and I said ‘I haven’t got a bloody glue Joe’ and he said ‘what are you doing?’ and I said ‘I’m just lying in this slit trench and if anyone puts their head over it I’m blowing it off’ so we never fired a shot just in our little area. The next morning the old colonel came around and congratulated us for not panicking and so forth and it was that bad that they had to call the attack off. There was that many
killed and Christ knows what. We didn’t go on with them I don’t know what happened but we went back to our unit and we never saw the 2/25th again. You know the old Victorian Bloke, what’s his name? The old Ocker Bloke, Buckstein he was in that unit and that was the only campaign he was in
old Buckstein the 2/25th so there was a bit of that sort of thing went on.
What sort of things, I guess celebrations were there that night?
Some were very say we had two brothers from Hay, Eletons were their name and a fitter named Williams and they were very good mates. They got some torpedo juice, that’s the alcohol that drives a torpedo and put it with some Wally water and drank it and killed the three of them and it burned their stomachs. The war was over and
this Jacky Eleton, I was working a bit with him and this Captain Rouse, a very nice bloke, he said ‘I can’t get Jacky out of bed and a sergeant will put him under arrest’ and he said ‘go down and see what you can do with him.’ I went down and I said ‘you better get up Jack and come to work’ and he said ‘well give me a smoke’ and I gave him a cigarette. Instead of feeling for it there it was over here and I said ‘it’s here Jack’ and he said ‘I can’t see I’m blind.’
Then he got violent he got his boots and threw it down the hill and I said ‘this is no good’ and I went and got the medic and got him to hospital and the doctor said ‘any more?’ and I said ‘yes two more’ and he said ‘bring them.’ Anyway the old colonel lined us up and anyway Jackie had died by this time and the three of them died within a couple of hours. The colonel said ‘now don’t talk about this to anyone’ he said ‘it might affect their people for getting a pension’
their wives and that. He said ‘it’s self inflicted’ and they sent their insides to a university to study and they reckoned that it killed them and brought all their stomach up to nothing. It was a bit sad because the war was over and they had seen it through and that happened.
we didn’t know anything about it and I said to this chap who was with me ‘how do we fire these things?’ I said ‘do you lay down behind it and cradle it or do you sit up.’ He said ‘I don’t know, we’ll have a trial’ so we put a round in it, fired it and it kicked him back about ten yards with the recoil and he said ‘you must lay down.’ Anyway along came an officer to have a look at our position and he said ‘yes, alright’ and we said ‘what about ammunition?’
and he said ‘we give it to you’ and I said ‘one bloody shell, I’ve just fired it off’ and he said ‘well that’s it you’ll have to bluff them.’ what a thing for an officer to say. The tanks weren’t coming thank Christ but we had to bluff them. We had some fairly dumb officers and we had some good ones.
We found the ones who come up through the ranks were really good, to start off as corporals and finished up as officers But the ones that came from Duntroon, just all discipline that’s all they were.