Donald Scott
Archive number: 815
Date interviewed: 25 August, 2003

Served with:

2/13th Battalion

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Donald Scott 0815


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Tape 01


We’re ready to start are we?
We are. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank you for doing this interview with us, and I would just like to start with an introduction to your childhood, where you were born and where you grew up.
I am happy to do this, I hope I am a little help but I won’t be. I was born at west of West Wyalong,


between West Wyalong and Wangary, a little place out there. My father and my grandfather had had country out there for about eighty years and that’s where I grew up. There was no schooling there, we did correspondence school there for a couple of years and then they did open up a little school there so we used to ride a horse five miles up to the school and back every day.


So are you going to ask questions or …?
What sort of things would you get up to as kids on the property?
Oh I don’t remember anything spectacular, we seemed to have good things to play with all of the time. One thing I do remember, an old fellow who worked on the place every Saturday, he would take us out catching rabbits, quite an event for us.


What would you do catching the rabbits?
Oh well he would have his rabbit back with him and chase him into a log or a burrow and so we’d either cut out the log or dig out the burrow and get the rabbit.
And what kind of work was being done on the property?
Well it was a farming and grazing property. Some of the men did the farm work,


which was only teams of horses then, which was very slow job. Every morning I got up and harnessed the horses and fed them and led them out to the paddock. Did a few hours’ work and brought them back at lunch time to have a feed, took them back again. I mean it wasn’t much of a job as so much messing around with horse teams, time consuming. The grazing part of it was probably easier


and better. We ran a few Merino sheep, we just looked after those.
Can you tell me, Don, a little bit about your family and brothers and sisters?
Yes, I had two brothers and one sister. Sister is still alive, she was the oldest one, she lives down in Melbourne. Older brother died about fifteen years ago


and my other brother just died four days ago. So my older sister and myself are the only ones remaining.
What about your mum and dad?
Well actually, when I joined the army, I just got to the Middle East, I was there about a week and I got a cable to say my father had had a heart attack and died, never saw him again. Made it pretty


hard for my mother then, getting people to run the property. She managed it alright.
How big was the property that they were…?
I think it was about eight thousand acres then. We grew quite a lot of wheat and ran a fair number of Merino sheep. It was good country and a good farm, we made a good living off it.
I wonder, Don, you mentioned briefly


before we started filming, but what did you see of the Depression on the farm?
The Depression was, I suppose I was only seven or eight years, I suppose, when the Depression started. I don’t remember a lot of it except being aware that there were a big number of people that were in a bad financial situation, no money and not much


employment. I suppose things were much the same on the farm where we grew our crops and our wool, it just seemed to pay its way all right then. Don’t have very many memories of the Depression otherwise. I suppose it really did keep on going for a long time, but things did get better.


I suppose the Depression was really on until the war started.
Growing up, what did you know about the First World War?
Didn’t know very much about it at all, just knew a bit from some of the neighbours, men around the area who had come back from the First World War. In fact, part of my father’s property was taken for soldier settlement so we had four or five returned soldiers around the place and


they told us about the war. They didn’t seem to talk much about it though.
What did they tell you about it?
Oh I think mainly the ones near us weren’t at Palestine or Gallipoli, they were in France, and the thing I remember most was how terrible that trench warfare fighting was, how you’d go out of your trench and be


mowed down in a few seconds. I think it was a worse war to be in than World War II. Wherever we were in World War II, I felt we had a good chance.
How much contact with the news and the rest of the world did you have on the property?
Oh I suppose we used to,


we used to get mail twice a week so we’d get newspapers twice a week and we, just about that time telephones were being hooked up in the bush so we had a telephone as well and, well, wirelesses were coming in then and we did have a wireless so that was a help.
What did you know of, I guess, the build up to World War II and what was happening in Europe?


For quite a few years before World War II started, we were quite aware of Hitler and what he was doing, the way he was building up his armed forces. I suppose when World War II got going, Hitler almost had the war won, for some reason he didn’t keep on going and he ended up losing it.


I can well remember when we were in Tobruk, one night going up to company headquarters and listening to their wireless and we heard the Germans attack the Russians and we said, “Oh this will be a great help, things will be different from now on.” It was too, that’s where most of his troops went to, he was a bit short of troops in the Middle East where we were.


Can you tell me Don, I guess, when you heard that the war had been declared?
I do well remember hearing it on the wireless that Sunday night, announced Mr Chamberlain who announced it then. Well we knew our lives were going to be different for a while when that began.
How keen were you at that point, were you to join up and …?


Probably at that point I wasn’t very keen, probably not quite old enough to join up. The war started in ‘39, it was about a year later I enlisted and went off to camp, there was a training camp at Wagga at that stage and that’s where I started off in the army, with a lot of other fellows from West Wyalong went down about when I did.


And why did you join up?
Oh well I suppose there was so much talk about the war on the wireless and the newspapers and how important it was that we joined up and did our bit. All the news media and everyone was sort of talking you into joining up. On the other hand most young fellows were quite keen to join up,


which a hell of a lot of them did.
I guess, what was it about the army that made you want to join?
Oh when I started off I thought I would join the air force and I went down to Sydney and they checked over me and they said, “You are a bit colour blind, you can’t go in the air force.” So I had to go in the army if I wanted to enlist.


Of course, when you enlisted in the army, you didn’t know what kind of unit you were going to end up in. I ended up in an infantry battalion, wasn’t the best thing to end up in but I guess I was lucky I did survive.
I guess, I wonder why a group of boys


from West Wyalong would want to join up and fight a war that’s on the other side of the world?
Why would they?
Just the same thing in every district in Australia, I think it was pretty much the same, it was our duty to go and off we went.
Because the war was so far away, what made it feel like it was your duty and you had to go off and fight?


Not too sure how to answer that but we knew the war was in Europe and that’s where we had to go. Better to fight it way over there than to fight it close to Australia, I suppose.
How strong was the sense of fighting for England?


I think I mainly felt I was fighting for Australia, Australia and the Allied forces. We came in touch with quite a few of the British Army in North Africa.
I guess I wondered


was there a bit of pressure to join the armed forces?
Oh undoubtedly there was through the news media and I supposed those that didn’t join up must have felt a bit embarrassed by it but a lot of them had good family reasons so they couldn’t join up, and there was probably a lot that did join up and shouldn’t have. I can remember going to the Middle East and went into Tobruk pretty soon


and within a week one of my friends was dead and that’s, he was pretty unlucky.
Was there anywhere you wanted to go when you joined up, that you were hoping to be sent?
No just prepared, wherever they wanted to send me I was happy to go there, of course a lot of places were better than others.
How did your family react


when you said you were joining up?
Well I think probably they just expected that that’s what I’d do eventually, older brother had joined up before I did. And I told you I got to the Middle East and got a cable that told me my father had died, well then my older brother he got out of the army and he came back to the property.


What service was your older brother in and where was he?
Oh he was in what they called the 7th Division Cavalry Regiment, light tanks and Bren gun [light machine gun] carriers and those sort of things.
And had he told you much about what was going on and, I guess, the life of a soldier before you joined?
No well he hadn’t, because he did go


overseas before me and then I didn’t see him for a long while after that.
Can you tell me a little bit about some of the men you enlisted with if you all came down together?
I’d have to think about that I bit. As I say we started in Wagga camp and that was a pretty good, free sort of


camp, we could get home every weekend and I was lucky enough, my father lent me the old utility truck off the farm and a lot of fellows would give me about two shillings each to pay for petrol to get back to Wyalong so each weekend we’d be home for a while, back again on Sunday afternoon. Made pretty good friends with some of those but they are all dead and gone now.


Did you all, all the group that went down to the city to join, did you all end up in the same unit or …?
Well we went actually, enlisted from our home town and they called us up to go to Wagga. No, we didn’t know what we were going to end up in, we just went in and did our early training and every now and again they would call for a number of people to go off and some would go off in all sorts of units.


How did you end up in the anti-tank unit?
Well after a couple of years in the Middle East they made an anti-tank platoon in each of the infantry battalions and I thought, “Oh well that’s probably a bit more interesting thing than just being in the infantry.” I volunteered for the anti-tank platoon and got into it


and they were a good lot of fellows. Life was a bit better than that. We didn’t have the anti-tank platoon in Tobruk, it was after Tobruk it was formed.
What difficulties did you have initially, joining the army?
Oh you had no difficulty at all, you just went along, put your name down and said you were volunteering to go and before long you were called up to report


somewhere but there was a good general feeling all over the country, young people joining up. Unfortunately some joined up who were really too old to go to the war and shouldn’t have been, but they did go. I think it was a lot harder on them than on the young people, for a married man of the family to join up and go, that must have been pretty hard.


Terrible for his wife if he happened to get killed. I had a couple of very good friends that were killed at Alamein, they had wives and families at home, a disaster for them.
What was the hardest thing to get used to about army life initially?


I don’t remember anything particularly hard. Everyone was doing the same sort of thing. You had good companionship with the other fellows. I was well looked after, reasonably well fed and paid enough to exist.
Can you tell me about the training that you did at the Wagga camp?
Well we started off as new soldiers there, we didn’t know anything. First they


put you together in what they call a platoon and teach you how to march around the showground, how to carry a rifle and what to do with your rifle. We got harness drill and drill for marching properly, and neatly looking. We were being trained by old World War I soldiers and they told us a lot


of their World War I experiences which was pretty helpful.
What things did they tell you that were helpful?
How to behave and protect yourself a bit under fire, you know, don’t make yourself an easy target.


What did they tell you about conditions to expect or difficulties you might face?
I think they did warn us that we had all kinds of conditions to face, there’d be good times and bad times and that’s the way it worked out. Most of the time it was reasonable.


Was there ever a time in training that you regretted joining?
No I never felt like that I felt that I was there for the duration.
I have heard someone say before that country boys made very good soldiers very quickly.
I hope you’re right. We thought we were good but the city ones thought they were the same. That didn’t matter much.
How hard was it to get used to the


discipline of the army?
Oh well that wasn’t hard at all. Well we didn’t have a lot of discipline, it gradually built up and by the time you got to the Middle East and into action, well you had to be well-disciplined there.
I wonder, Don, if you can tell me about when you heard you were


heading overseas?
Yeah, well I stayed on in Wagga camp and the numbers were diminishing a bit so they moved us up to camp in Tamworth. Well we were only there for about three weeks and we had word that all of us were off to the Middle East to join this 2/13th Battalion. Well we had no idea what we’d end up in but that was the one I ended up in.


The siege of Tobruk was on by then so we were at camp in Palestine for a few weeks and then got word to go across to Alexandria, go aboard a destroyer and get shipped up to Tobruk, and they would have to get up to Tobruk in the dead of night, unload everything and load up again then get away before light. I can clearly remember getting


off the ship, being unloaded in Tobruk and the first men of the battalion there ready to welcome us in. They took us out and our battalion at that stage was in a very dangerous spot in the defences, the Germans had attacked somewhere in the last few weeks and broken our lines and we were there to mend up that line again. We were very lucky the


Germans didn’t attack us again. One little event I remember, after we had been there for a few weeks, we were very close to the enemy, we couldn’t show ourselves in daylight, and one night we could hear a bit of noise coming from the opposition lines and one of the men in the battalion got up and he sang ‘Silent Night’ to them and the enemy clapped him and cheered him and asked for an encore


but he didn’t give it. Pretty unusual thing to happen.
What did you know about what was going on in Tobruk before you got there?
Oh we didn’t have a lot o f information about it. We knew it was pretty troublesome and the Germans nearly took it and just missed out. I think probably if they had had a few more troops they would have taken it but they didn’t have enough there,


and we weren’t in there very long before, as I say, the Germans attacked the Russians so that stopped their build up of troops in Africa for quite a while. I don’t know if this is the kind of thing I should talk about but it might be interesting or useful for some people. I remember being on patrol at Tobruk one night


and the German machine gun fire seemed to be everywhere around us and luckily didn’t mow any of us down. But in our Battalion there was an Aboriginal who was a pretty good fellow, he was a drover from Narrandera, and when he got back from that Tobruk, he said, “Gees I was scared,” he said, “I was so scared I thought I might have turned white.”


You mentioned the trip on the destroyer to get into Tobruk, I wonder if you could just describe (UNCLEAR).
Well I can remember a bit about it because we had to take off from Alexandria, daylight hours, and after we had been going for a while a few high level bombers went over and had a go at us but I think they were Italian bombers because they missed us by miles. Well we kept on going and got into Tobruk in darkness and we just had to get off


the destroyer as quickly as we could. As well as troops, there were other supplies on the ship that had to be got off and then reloaded with wounded men and these sorts of thing, that all had to happen pretty quickly. And then as I say we ended up in Tobruk in an area called Osali, it was where they had broken through.


We were close to the enemy and couldn’t show ourselves in daylight and every night after dark a truck came up and brought us food for that night, food for the next day and water for the next day. I think, from what I remember, all we got was a bottle of water to shave and wash ourselves and drink for the day so we didn’t have a lot of water.


I wonder, I imagine getting to a place that you know is under siege in darkness would be quite a frightening experience?
Oh yes we didn’t know what to expect. Well I think most of us were, we were in a dugout, just a hole dug in the ground with myself and another new recruit like me, just the two of us in it.


Pretty hard rocky ground there, you couldn’t dig in far but you dug down a bit and there was a few rocks around it and a bit of cover over the top and that’s what we had to put up with day and night. But I don’t remember any great discomfort. I suppose we had our share of sleep at night. You’d be woken up to go on watch every couple of hours and when your time was up you woke a couple of others and they took over.


Did you have to dig your own hole or trench when you got there or …?
Well I think some did but fortunately we just took the place of two others who just moved off and went somewhere else, or maybe they were just killed and were just taken out or, I am not sure of that.


Can you describe for me, Don, the trench that you were living in?
I can give you a rough description of it. There was space for two men to sleep there at night, I think it was head to toe.


Daylight hours we could look out a bit to see what was going in case there was any enemy action taking place but most nights we got a pretty good night’s sleep, if it was pretty quiet and we were tired enough we’d get a pretty good night’s sleep.
Can you describe the landscape that


you could see from the hole?
Well from what I remember it was all pretty level ground with rocky patches here and there and some desert growth, no remarkable feature that I remember although a few hundred yards from us there were a few trees growing, I think that was known as the Garden of Eden there.


How far away were the Germans at that point?
Well the enemy lines, I think, were only seventy to a hundred yards away from us. That was the only part around Tobruk where they were so close. When we left there we went to another area, I think they were a mile away there.


We used to get a lot of air raids around Tobruk, every day someone seemed to get bombed. It didn’t seem to be very effective bombing, they were high up and they missed their targets.
How safe were you in your hole from the bombing?


We would be pretty safe, majority of the bombing would be around the harbour side, try to bomb things there of significance, they didn’t bomb the front line much. We were subject to the enemy artillery fire and bombs. We watched these bombers came over and it was a great event if one got shot down, we really liked to see that.


How much freedom did you have to move around?
Well during the day we didn’t move around much, we just couldn’t show ourselves, but when the food came up at night everyone got out of their dug outs and joined the food ration section. Food never tasted much good but it must have been alright because it kept us in


good health and good condition.
What were you eating?
Oh I think the best thing we had was the bully beef in tins. There was tinned sardines and a few other various things in tins and then our unit kitchen made a few sort of stews of various meats or things. I can’t remember much in the way of fruit and vegetables but we


must have had some of those.
And who were you sharing your hole with, you mentioned it was for two people?
It was myself and another one who was a man who came from Ardlethan, a little town on the other side of West Wyalong. I was good friends with him for a long while but he has been dead for twenty years now. At one stage when we were relieved


from the front line, they took us down and let us have a swim in the harbour, that was a great event, get in the water and have a really good clean up. And also there somewhere there is a pretty good sort of a cave and they would put a concert on, that was another big event too, these concerts in Tobruk, they were pretty well done.
Just going back to


sharing the hole with somebody, how hard was that? Can you …?
I don’t know how the hell we filled in the day or what we talked about or what we did but time seems to pass all right. I don’t know if we had books to read or something, I don’t remember that. But you think it would be terribly hard to be with someone every day without running out of conversation.


I don’t have any bad memories of it, life wasn’t too bad in those holes.
You mentioned that you would be under artillery fire. I was just wondering how often the artillery were bombing you?
Oh you wouldn’t know when to expect that. You might go a few days and there wouldn’t be any and then they would send over a fair lot. If you were lucky


they missed your lot, I can’t remember many being killed with artillery fire.
How safe were you in the dugout from the artillery fire?
Oh well if you got a direct hit that was the end. Otherwise if it just landed a few yards away you were pretty safe. A bit of shrapnel would fly around, might have hit the rocks


around your dugout or something. I don’t remember many being killed in a dugout, I know some were but not many. I suppose, in a way, in Tobruk I was a bit fortunate, after I had been there for four months, I was feeling pretty awful


and I went down to the local doctor and he said, “Oh you have got hepatitis so we will send you out.” So I was lucky, the next night I was put on a destroyer and sent back to Alexandria, I suppose, into hospital for a while and hepatitis took a bit of getting over so I was in convalescent camp for a few weeks and by the time I had recovered the siege of Tobruk was over.


Lucky escape for me I think.
How had you contracted hepatitis?
No idea, just bad living conditions I suppose it was. I think they called it something else then but I have forgotten what it was.


And can you tell me a bit about your recovery and what treatment you had?
Well being in the convalescent home was very nice, we were well looked after, reasonably well fed, safe and warm and everything that was good. First I was in hospital in Alexandria for a few days and then sent back to convalescent camp and by the time I had recovered


the siege of Tobruk was over and the whole battalion came back out then. Our battalion were pretty unlucky: before the end of the siege they decided to take all of the Australians out and replace them with, I think, Indians and South Africans and each night a destroyer would bring a new lot up and take and old lot out. And the night the 2/13th Battalion were to be relieved the


destroyer was sunk so they missed their boat, they had to stay there for another month until the end of the siege and then they came out by road. They were the only unit that was there the whole time that came out by road. Think that’s about all I can tell you about Tobruk.
You mentioned that you got a chance to go swimming?


Yeah, down in Tobruk harbour somewhere. That was just nice to get into a lot of water, we enjoyed that, didn’t happen very often really.
Can you describe what Tobruk harbour looked like during the day?
Oh gee, I can’t give you a very good description of it. I know there were a few sunken ships around the harbour, it was a bit dangerous.


It was a fairly small harbour, there were a few small buildings in Tobruk, it was a wonder they hadn’t all been bombed out. There was a hospital there but maybe the Germans didn’t try to bomb it. I think when I was shipped out, I spent a night in the hospital and then shipped out the next night.
Had you realised that you were ill before your visit to the doctor?


Oh to some extent I suppose that I was feeling pretty awful, no idea what was wrong though. Yeah in the last couple of years they had a trip back to Tobruk and some of our men went back and said it’s a pretty prosperous place now, nice hotels and good buildings.


I just wonder Don, I guess the insult that was thrown at the men of Tobruk was that they were like rats in a trap?
Well that’s a story of Lord Haw Haw, the German propaganda man, we used to hear that every now and again. We always thought that was a bit of a joke, didn’t worry us.


I remember hearing on a night on the way over, we went over on the Queen Elizabeth, we heard one night from Lord Haw Haw we had been sunk. Nowhere near any German sub, they just put it on the news.


Rats of Tobruk is quite a badge of honour really?
I suppose it has developed a better name, we are all proud of it now. I suppose it was like rats, we couldn’t get out in the daylight.
Did you have a sense at the time of how important holding Tobruk was?


To some degree we did. At that stage of the war the Germans were still on top and we weren’t very confident of winning I think at that stage. I think that when the Japs came in and then the Americans came in to help us, that was the big help in the Middle East, we started getting a lot better supplies then. By the time of the El Alamein battle


we were well equipped and our numbers were well up.
How much news were you getting of the rest of the war in Tobruk?
In Tobruk, well I suppose the army battalion headquarters would get a lot of news but a lot of us out on the front line, we didn’t hear much at all really although


they used to put out a little newspaper saying, I think it was the Tobruk Truth they called it, we’d get that to read, they brought that out and it was quite interesting. I have got a copy of it somewhere, I would like to find it but I don’t know where it is.
We might stop there for a minute Don because that’s the end of our forty minutes.


You must have a good memory to remember the questions.
Oh we just …
Interviewee: Donald Scott Archive ID 0815 Tape 02


Don I was just wondering, we will go on to Tobruk, but I was just wondering if you could tell me a little bit about the trip over to the Middle East?
I can tell you a bit about it. I remember we were railed from Tamworth camp down to Sydney Harbour, Easter ’41, and the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary and the Aquitania and the Nieuw


Amsterdam and another big ship, there was five big ships in this convoy, so there were a lot of troops going over then. We were pretty well loaded, mainly in Sydney I think. Picked up some in Melbourne and then we went around and had a short stop somewhere around Perth, or wherever the harbour is there, and then headed out on the Indian Ocean. Well that was pretty quiet going in the Indian,


surprised me how calm the Indian Ocean was, just big slow sort of rollers. Pretty hot weather. By then we had a convoy of British Navy cruisers looking after us. Luckily there was never any enemy attack on that convoy. We got to Solon and just had a short stop there and then took off for the


Middle East again. When all of the ships got to somewhere south of the Suez Canal, I think the place was Ismailiya, I might be wrong about that, and then we went on little boats up the canal. We got half way up the Suez Canal and then we were loaded off our ships and we were loaded on the old local railway, which weren’t passenger railways, just in any


sort of a truck, trucked us up into Palestine, only a few hours. There was a good camp set up for us then. So then we started off our desert training there, didn’t last very long, and then we were called up to Tobruk.
How ready did you feel to get into the war with the training you had had?


I felt we were adequately prepared for what we were getting into. Mainly firing our own weapons and working together. We knew a bit about going out on patrols and we used to go out on patrols a lot at night in Tobruk. I remember they’d


give us our instruction and pointed out a couple of stars low on the horizon and they said, “Head for those.” When we’d get as far as we can we’d turn around and head back for home. I don’t know what they had to go on coming home but they always seemed to get us home all right. Luckily in the patrols I was on we used to sight a bit of enemy fire but I don’t remember anyone ever being killed on the patrols I was on.


How tough was it getting used to the desert conditions?
I suppose when we were there the climate was a reasonably warm sort of climate and we didn’t get any rain that might upset things. Day after day was pretty much the same type of weather.


You mentioned earlier that when you arrived in the Middle East you got a telegram to say that your father had passed away?
That’s right, about a week after I got there I got a telegram. That was a shock to me. I was very fond of him, he had been a great father to me. It was unexpected, he just walked out in the garden, had a heart attack and died. It was pretty tough for my mother for him to die and two sons


to be away at the war but she carried on and handled things pretty well.
You mentioned that your brother headed home?
Well then after my father died my mother and the local people at West Wyalong put in for a discharge to get him home. He was lucky, he did get home in a few months


but that was fair enough because he was already married, he had a young wife he left behind and one child. It was great for her that he got back when he did.
How much did you want to get home at that time?
Oh I don’t think I had any thought of, I knew there wasn’t any chance of getting home. You just had to put up with that.


Was there anything you could do? Did you write home or did you …?
Oh yes we always had a pretty good mail system. We could write home any time we wanted to and we always got mail from home. Sometimes in Tobruk it might be a couple of weeks before


any mail got through, but it eventually got through. Getting some mail was really something.
I can imagine it was a comfort to hear that your mother was coping?
Oh yes I heard from my mother and I was quite happy for my older brother to go home. My mother, no doubt she was the one who suffered


most from it.
Did that change your attitude at all towards being over there or what you were there for?
No I don’t think it did, I was there and there was nothing I could do about it, I was there to stay. I was just happy my elder brother was going back to help run the place,


also my younger brother was still on the place because he wasn’t old enough to enlist then but eventually he enlisted too.
What could you do so far away from home to mark the passing of your father?
Practically nothing, just write home, I sent a cable home and


that was all I could do. At that time too, my sister just before married an Englishman and went back to England and they were only there about six weeks and war started, it was pretty difficult for her.


I mean given that that was quite a traumatic first week, I mean you hear that people get homesick being in a foreign country.
I don’t think I had any feeling of homesickness. We were with a whole lot of other fellows under the same conditions. I think you just accepted that.


What were some of the things that shocked you about life in the Middle East as you saw it?
You mean the army life or the life of the local people?
I guess, yeah, the life that you saw of the local people.
Well in Palestine at that stage, that was before all of the oil money came in, they all seemed to be poor people there. They weren’t doing much. You’d see


someone trying to do a bit of farming, he’d have a camel pulling a little plough or he’d have a donkey pulling something, don’t remember seeing and tractors or anything. And when their harvests came they went out and cut a lot of it by hand and put it on big mats and trampled on it to get the grain out of it. So things were pretty primitive there then.


What chance did you get for leave before you headed for Tobruk?
We weren’t there very long. I think I did get one leave across the, I think it was Tel Aviv. That was quite interesting because the Jewish population was building up there then and there was a lot of new buildings there then. Tel Aviv was right on the seaside, so we had a swim there, the Mediterranean.


That was interesting to see.
And then going to, I guess, your impressions of Alexandria when you first arrived?
When I first arrived, well then we were just on our way to Tobruk. I just remember being, well I suppose we were on the rail part of the time and then


trucked from some point to the wharf in Alexandria. I don’t remember much of it, it was just a day, a day in your army life and you were moved and put on ships to go to Tobruk. The navy did a terrific job supplying us in Tobruk. It was a dangerous job for them.


Every day and every night they’d be up there, bringing new troops and bringing in fuel and general supplies, they did an extraordinary job.
You mentioned that you were under fire on your way to Tobruk.
A bomber came over us, yeah.


Gave us a bit of a fright but then when we saw them bombs landing a couple of hundred yards away but now and again they did hit some destroyers and sink them. That’s when the battalion was to come out of Tobruk, the destroyer was sunk that was to get them.
I guess I just wonder, you hear sometimes that there is a moment for some people that the war becomes very, very real


and very frightening and I just wondered.
I am just trying to think if I did ever have that. No, I don’t think I ever had that in Tobruk. I remember it was a lovely feeling coming out of Tobruk on the destroyer at night.


I remember I came out that night and I was standing around the railing of the destroyer and the ship’s doctor came along and started talking to me. He said, “See that poor fellow there on the stretcher? He got a burst of machine gun fire between his legs.” What a terrible wound to get. Often wonder what happened


to him but of course I never found out.
You mentioned when you first got to Tobruk that the enemy line was a hundred yards away.
It wasn’t like that all around Tobruk, it was just that position we were in


and that was the hot spot of Tobruk. We were lucky they didn’t counter-attack again while we were in that position.
I just wonder, I just can’t imagine ever being able to settle down and sleep, especially that being your first experience in Tobruk.
I suppose you just ended up being tired enough that you went to sleep,


you didn’t worry about anything or think about anything, you just went to sleep. I think at the time I had good nights’ sleep there.
What could you hear of enemy activity where you were?
Most of the time you could hear


a few guns rumbling away somewhere. Some would be close to us, some would be a long way away.
How prepared were you for the enemy to break through?
I suppose we were more or less prepared for it to happen all of the time because we expected it to happen sometime.


Lucky it didn’t for us. You get good luck and bad luck in the war, I had more good luck then bad luck I think.
You mentioned that it was just yourself and another person in the hole with you, how far away were other holes and other soldiers?


Oh probably twenty yards that side and twenty yards the other way. We were stretched out over a few hundred yards, the battalion was, and the battalion headquarters and the company headquarters, they’d be in back behind us a bit. But the men bringing up rations at night, they did a good job, they had to drive their truck up there


without any lights, that’s a pretty hard job, picking the track at night, but they did and they did it well.
I wonder why, given that the enemy was so close, why the rations truck was never attacked?
It came up in dark and they couldn’t see it. You’d think they’d get onto that if they could.


Perhaps it didn’t get right up to where we were, when it came up we had to walk back a bit to get to that truck. That kept them away from the enemy a bit.
I just wonder how secure you felt when you left the hole?
I think when we got out of the hole you felt all right, just happy to be out of the people, being able to walk around and talk to other people.


Can you describe for me Don, you mentioned that you went on patrol, can you describe for me a typical patrol and who went on it and what you did?
Probably about ten or twelve people would be on, led by a sergeant or a corporal. Someone, I suppose company headquarters, had worked out where to go that night,


where to go and which direction to go, find out where the enemy front lines. If we got out near the enemy front lines they started firing at us so we knew where they were then. That’s as far as we’d go. I suppose sometimes our patrols would be sent out to attack the enemy front lines but I


was never on one of those. But I can well remember the German machine gun bullets going past us and they were faster than the speed of sound, it was a funny noise to hear them going past, lucky they were going past.
What do you do


when you find yourself under fire?
Well a variety of things. Under fire you probably go to ground as quickly as you can and luckily the bullets go over you, I suppose. There is no set thing, a lot of things could happen. You could be unlucky and shot straight away or they just missed, and a lot of fire just went where there was nothing, I imagine, too.


What happened on the patrol when you did find yourself under fire, what at that particular time, what …?
Oh we just kept on going for a certain time until we got as far as we had been told to go and then when we got back they had stopped their firing. I think they had machine guns they would just


turn on to fire for a few minutes and then run out of ammunition and stop.
Did you ever fire back?
Oh yes we would fire back a bit. And the people behind us, they knew we were under fire, our artillery would open up on them a bit.


What was the purpose of the patrol?
Try and find out a bit of information about what strength the enemy were in or how far out they were because they’d move their positions about a bit. I suppose they found out some useful information but lots of times they’d find out nothing I think.


I am assuming that on a patrol like that you wouldn’t have any lights or …?
Oh no, if we had any lights it would give the enemy something to aim at. I think


the desert was a lot better place to fight a war than the jungles of New Guinea.
Why is that?
Well the desert is open, you can see everything, the jungle in New Guinea, you didn’t know ten yards ahead if the enemy was there or what was there. It made a lot of difference when you could see all around you, that was better than seeing a few yards.


How much could you see though going out on a patrol at night?
That’d vary a lot. Some nights there would be moonlight and you’d see more than other nights. I guess a dark night we would see very little, maybe they didn’t send us out on a dark night. Wouldn’t find out much with it so dark.


I just wonder how often patrols would get lost?
That must have happened out there sometimes, a patrol would lose their bearings and get lost. Maybe some would end up walking into the enemy lines and being captured. I suppose the patrols just


disturbed the enemy a bit, they knew every night someone was going to be out patrolling and shooting.
And how often would you be on patrols?
Oh I don’t remember, about, I suppose, probably a turn would come up once in eight or ten nights. Nearly once a week for patrols, I think.


We might just stop for a moment Don, we haven’t quite reached the end of this tape.
So this one ends on the end of Tobruk does it?
Well I’d just like to think a bit more about Tobruk if that’s OK. We’ll keep going, I just wondered, I mean you said you were going on patrol every eight or ten nights,


what was your job on patrol, what would you be doing?
Luckily I was never patrol leader, it would be led by corporal or sergeant or someone. And we’d just walk out in single file, might be ten of us in the patrols and you’d be in any position, fifth, sixth, seventh or eight or tenth in the patrol and if you ran into any enemy fire you’d all just flatten


yourself to the ground for a while, see what happened, if they stopped firing, up we got and away we went again.
Could you talk to each other on the patrols?
Oh yes we’d talk to each other a bit, we wouldn’t yell out loudly but if we had something to say we would say it. No doubt every patrol was a bit different,


I was probably lucky that I was never on one that did get shot up. If anyone was shot up on a patrol that was a big problem then, you had to get bodies back or injured men back.
I wonder, you hear from patrols in the jungle that it was the


forward scout that was the most dangerous.
Yes he was the one who got shot.
What was the most dangerous position on a patrol in Tobruk?
Well we didn’t have a forward scout like in New Guinea. We were all pretty close together, just one after the other. I suppose the ten of us would be spread over thirty yards or something.
So were there any positions that were more dangerous?


I suppose the ones that were in front patrolling were in more danger than the ones in the back.
You mentioned the difficulty in bringing wounded or dead back on a patrol. I wonder when you were in


your hole in dugouts, what could you do for injured in that situation?
What, do you mean if you were sent out to pick up someone?
I guess I mean you mentioned that you couldn’t move during the day, I am just wondering if someone was injured what could you do?
I suppose they sent out a stretcher bearer or got someone to go out, a couple of people with a stretcher bearer to go out and pick them up but I never had to do it, can’t give you a very definite reply on that.


Just from a practical point, you are spending a long time in a hole with another person, what happens in terms of needing to go to the bathroom or …?
Well we couldn’t get to the toilet during the day,


we had to go at night when we could. I suppose we had a little bit of water to wash ourselves, we’d have a wash sometimes when you could. Probably didn’t have a wash for a few days sometimes. I suppose the rations we used to get, those army biscuits, there was always a few of them left over. I suppose if you got really hungry you would give yourself a feed.


What was the hardest thing to cope with I guess, being all day in a hole with another person?
I don’t know, we always used to talk well together. He used to always have a lot more to say than I did, he was a good


bloke. In civilian life he was a barber, so he had the job of battalion barber and now and again you’d get a haircut from him which cost a whole shilling. Yeah I think after the war he continued as a barber then he gave that up and went as a car salesman.


He died quite a few years ago.
How long were you in that position with that same person?
I can’t be sure of that but I think it was between three or four weeks. Then we had a change over, another battalion was moved into where we were and we were moved into a less dangerous area.


We didn’t have much heat in the other area because the enemy lines were well out from us then.
What did that distance mean? What could you do that you couldn’t do right at the front?
I suppose we just knew the enemy weren’t close and we could move around in the day time, find someone else you wanted to talk to a few hundred yards away.


You’d do that alright. The food was a bit better, you could eat under different conditions then too.
Could you talk from dugout to dugout when you were at the very front?
I don’t know if you did, I don’t remember doing that. You would probably have to call out pretty loudly to talk to the others.


But when the ration truck came up of a night, that’s when we all got out and had a good talk, what happened during the day.
I just can’t imagine how isolating that would be.
It would be hard to imagine how you could spend all of that time with one person and still exist all right


but in the army in those days you never heard of any homosexuals. I suppose they were about then too.
Was there anyone who couldn’t cope?
I suppose there were a few but I wasn’t aware of any. There would have been a few I am sure.


Yeah, I think we had one who cleared out from our battalion and lived down on the harbour side in Tobruk for a while before they ever caught him again.


I wonder how much of a stigma would there have been if you had said, “I just can’t do this any more”?
I don’t know. I suppose there’d have to be a fair sort of a stigma wouldn’t there? I never had to deal with it so I don’t know.


And another thing we used to see in Tobruk in daylight, a small plane used to fly over and have a look at everything. We reckoned that was the German general in that, might or might not have been but whoever it was they would have a good look at us. We’d fire at it, but we didn’t ever bring it down.
I have read that the


Germans would often do pamphlet dropping around Tobruk?
That’s right, they did drop some pamphlets once, telling us we should surrender, I think that was in Tobruk. I have got one of those somewhere but I don’t know where to find it though.
Do you remember what you thought of that at the time?
When the pamphlet came? Oh we just disregarded it, we thought it was a bit of a joke.


What did you think of the Germans as an enemy?
Well I’ll tell you this, this is jumping ahead a bit to Alamein. When we first got to Alamein line the Germans had counter-attacked and our people had taken a few POWs [Prisoners of War] and we were near these German POWs. A couple of nights we would go over and have a talk to them. A lot of them could speak English


and they were just like us, we thought they were a good sort of fellows, they were fighting for their country, we were fighting for ours, they weren’t objectionable in any way. They talked about their army the way we talked about ours.


I just wonder if there was any hatred towards the Germans?
I suppose there was with some people, I never had any hatred for them though and for some reason we all had quite a lot of respect for General Rommel. I think he was a fair, decent sort of a fellow, we all respected him and it was right.


It happens a bit, well it might have stopped now, but the Germans would have an Alamein reunion over in Germany and they’d ask a few of our fellows and some went over to it and they looked after them well and General Rommel’s son was always there at the gathering to talk to them, they thought he was a great fellow. And then last year or the year before, it might have been fifty years from Tobruk or something,


a few Germans came out here and they were well looked after and had a good time, they liked being here.
Given that the majority of soldiers that you did read about did have respect for the Germans …
I think they did.
… and respect for Rommel …
I am pretty sure most would say that, I think.


… I just wonder, what kept you fighting them?
You would wonder, wouldn’t you? Well if you stopped, they’d win so we had to keep on going. The Germans were good soldiers, the Italians weren’t quite up to the German level, but they were alright too. The phone – do I go and answer it or do you want to keep this up?


It’s been answered. Don, I just wonder, we were talking about having respect for the Germans. Had you had any contact with them before you left Tobruk?
No, no


Not Tobruk. Maybe they took a few POWs but I never did see them.
You mentioned that you had heard that Germany had attacked Russia?
Yes, I clearly remember hearing that at company headquarters one night and all of us went to bed feeling a lot better.


Well of course the main bulk of the German Army went to Russia didn’t they? See, I think if the Germans had had another division in Africa they probably would have beaten us but they just didn’t have them there.
At that time there was a lot of anti-Communist feeling around?


There would have been too.
How odd did it seem having the Russians as allies?
I don’t remember much about that, I think we forgot their Communism and thought of them as allies. In the desert at the time a lot of the German equipment was better that ours, I think their tanks were better.


And they had a gun called the 88 millimetre gun which would knock out tanks, shoot our aeroplanes and just used as ordinary artillery. It was a terrific weapon, better than anything we had but ours got better gradually. For a good while I was on the two pounder anti-tank gun at Alamein and it wasn’t really big enough to knock out a German tank but it would knock out the Italian ones.


But eventually we got a big anti-tank gun which was really good, and there just happens to be one of those down here in the park at Forbes. Most people wouldn’t know what it is.
Just before we finish our tape and finish talking about Tobruk, the siege of Tobruk had received a lot of publicity …


It had for years.
… I wonder what is it about Tobruk that you think makes it worthy of all of that?
Well, that we held onto it for so long is one thing. I can’t say anything definite about it, it was a great helper that we did hang onto it because when we left, the next time the Germans attacked the South Africans


and someone else was in there and they took Tobruk in about a week and that was the end of that.
Was there ever a time that it felt hopeless?
No, always felt we had a good chance but no doubt there were times when it was pretty hopeless. I think when the Germans did occupy Tobruk the next year, they sent in a strong army unit, good tanks and good equipment and the South Africans just couldn’t stand up to it.


What is it that keeps morale up during a siege?
Questions are getting a bit hard. Well I think that morale has to come from the top and filter down through and luckily our morale was always pretty good,


we were never worried about being beaten. I don’t know why because it nearly happened.
That’s great Don, our tape is just about to finish so …
You’re very clever to think of all of those questions.
I love hearing about Tobruk.
Interviewee: Donald Scott Archive ID 0815 Tape 03


Don, we were talking a bit before that you contacted hepatitis and needed to got to hospital and that was effectively the end of your stay at Tobruk.
I didn’t ever get back to Tobruk again.
I am wondering if your divvy [division] ever talked about your division’s retirement from Tobruk


and how you felt about that?
How I felt myself? I think I was delighted to be on my way out of Tobruk. That ship, that destroyer back at night, that was a lovely night and then going to hospital at Alexandria for a few days and then when they sent me out from there, there was a convalescent camp somewhere in Palestine pretty close to the


Mediterranean Sea and I was in there quite a while. And that was very nice, we were well fed and comfortable and well looked after and by the time I was due to be moved out of there the Tobruk siege ended and the whole unit then came back to Palestine.
And what chance did you have to talk with your unit about what was going on?
Well when


I came out of Tobruk I just came out separate from the unit and I mixed more then with fellows from other units and it wasn’t until the whole unit came out of Tobruk that I had any contact with any of them. Marvellous relief for them to get back to Palestine, that was somewhere near Christmas ‘41.


They had a wonderful Christmas, plenty of food, good beer and good living conditions and we were there for a little while. Next thing, they sent us up to the Syrian/Turkish border, a little town called Latakia near the Turkish border, we were there for a good while and winter came on, now and again we were snowed in there.


But that was a great relaxation and change form Tobruk. I think they feared the Germans might have come down through Turkey and attack the Middle East but that just didn’t ever happen so we were pretty lucky there too.
I have heard from others that they were a bit, well, relieved


to get away from Tobruk but a little bit frustrated because they felt like they were being retired a little bit too early from Tobruk, that it wasn’t quite finished.
Oh I haven’t heard of that feeling, I think they were delighted to get away because our battalion were there for a month longer than any other one because the destroyer was sunk that was to take them out and they just left them there until the British Army counter-attacked a month or two later.


You mentioned that you had respect for Rommel and the Germans, I am wondering how you felt about the Australian command and General Blamey?
Oh I think we were always happy with command. There was a bit of criticism with Blamey, I suppose, but Morshead was our general in Tobruk


and he was held in pretty high respect, we were happy with him and I don’t think we had any cause to fault our leaders. We had a colonel of the 13th Battalion, was an old First World War man, Colonel Burrows, he was very good but he got injured just at the end of Tobruk


so a different Colonel took over form him.
You mentioned that you were able to join up with the 9th Division when you were out of hospital and when they came back to Palestine?
Can you remember that time of rejoining your unit?


Yes, I remember a reasonable amount about it. Well the whole unit came back and put camp in Palestine and about then I was out of that convalescent camp and I came back to it. It was a great relief for the unit to be back there and away from the fighting, you know, they got good food and plenty of beer for Christmas, they all seemed happy enough.


And I understand that before you were moved to the Turkish border you might have had some leave in Tel Aviv.
Oh yes. everyone had some leave then, it was Tel Aviv and if you were lucky you might have had some leave across to Cairo. I think Cairo was the best place to go on leave, big city and good places to eat and drink.


Well I imagine that you were very relieved to get some good food into you after some very …
Oh yes, in the convalescent camp the food was very nice, everything was clean and tidy and comfortable. I was a bit lucky then, I think.
Can you describe what you saw of the local life in the places that you went to?


I guess I can give some description of it. The period we were there, all the Palestinians and Egyptians, they seemed pretty poor because the oil money hadn’t appeared then and they all seemed poor. A lot of them seemed to be unemployed doing nothing. We would see them going into town every day, drinking coffee in the morning and filling in time doing nothing through the day.


The farming methods there were pretty outdated too. They didn’t have tractors or headers or anything. They just farmed with a donkey or a camel pulling a plough or something and I think they harvested their wheat, they cut it by hand and walked on it to get the grain out of it and if they killed any cattle,


you never saw anything like, they’d kill it in the main street of the town, slaughter them and clean it up and leave a bit of a mess there, so they were fairly backward there then. The towns didn’t have a lot of vehicles, you’d get a cab pulled by a couple of donkeys or a camel or something.


And what kind of, you mentioned that you were able to visit maybe a restaurant or something and have a beer?
You mean in Syria or Palestine? Oh yes, we would get good leaves to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv


and a bit later on we would get leave to Beirut up in Syria. In fact we did get a bit of leave in a place called Tripoli in Syria before we went to Latakia, that was pretty relaxing, no enemy near us and the weather was cool. .Didn’t seem to give us much army work so we had a bit of a holiday there.


But we weren’t there very long before Rommel was counter-attacked in the desert and this time he did take Tobruk and was heading for Cairo. What was left of the British 8th Army stopped and got thrown out of Cairo and Alexandria, headed to Alamein.


Well before you went to Alamein, you mentioned that you had to go up on patrol on the Turkish border.
Well we were camped up there but we didn’t do much army work or much patrolling, very little in the way of patrols I think. It was a bit of a holiday there for us, the food was better there. We could get leave


into the little town if we wanted to.
We have heard a bit from others that on leave time it was a bit of a chance to have a party and let loose a bit. We have heard about brothels and the 6th Divvy had a bit of a wild reputation …


Well I’ll tell you a bit about the brothels. I wasn’t a customer but I remember we were camped out of Cairo once and they, we were sent in to go picket the brothels because the fellows would go in there at the end of the day and I suppose most of them were pretty drunk and they needed someone there to maintain order. I remember these women were old and all had been doing the job for a long while and there was one lovely looking young girl there and she had to handle about thirty blokes that night.


She did. Anyway, we were there for a few hours and as the night went on nothing happened so we went home. But they needed a picket there with all the fellows a bit drunk and if they caused a bit of trouble we had to stop them.
And how did you react to being given the job of picket?
Oh just part of army life,


a bit interesting and different I suppose. They had plenty of brothels in all of the towns over there. Most of us were a bit frightened of VD [venereal disease] or something like that so we didn’t bother them.
I imagine for a country boy


from central west New South Wales to find himself landed in the Middle East …
Amongst the brothels, yeah. I don’t know how it affected most of them. I just thought you’d be stupid, you wouldn’t want to end up with VD or something, there was plenty of that about.


We have also heard some varying stories about being able to get a hold of condoms, or ‘French letters’ I think they were called back then, and in actual fact I have heard that sometimes the brothels would give them out rather than the army.
No doubt that would be right, I think. I suppose with a lot of men and no women about that was to be expected that they


would get rid of a bit of energy there. But there was a hospital that was to treat people with VD, I forget what it was called now, it was a bit of a problem.
And did any of your mates contract VD?


Not that I can recall. I know some of the battalion did, weren’t blokes that I knew much.
I was wondering if, finding yourself in that situation, you were shocked or surprised or found yourself in a situation that you had never encountered before?


I don’t think so. Most of us would get on leave, Cairo, there was a lot of good things to see there and good restaurants sort of things. That’s what most of us went on leave for, to eat well, have a good look around and have some good food. I remember being on leave at Cairo


and went down to the pyramids and had a game of golf there, there was a good golf course and a good club house. After the game we went in to have some lunch and every table, it had four people a table and it had four waiters so we were really living in style but we only had about four or five shillings to spend so I think those poor waiters could have been disappointed. A day I will never


forget, and interesting, the golf course was nice. Had a look at the pyramids, and whatever else was there.
How do you think now, looking back, that image of the larrikin Aussie soldier kind of sat with you?


Well I think it didn’t show up much at all. In our battalion they were a good lot of fellows, they all accepted their discipline and didn’t play up much at all. I think that would be pretty general. Maybe there would be some lots that did cause a bit of bother.


It was always interesting on leave too, to run into fellows from other countries and to have a talk to them or have a few beers with them or something, find out where they were from, what they did.
And I guess in hindsight it was difficult living in such harsh


environments and putting yourselves in dangerous situations, and also being away from home.
Being away from home, we didn’t like that but you just accepted it and put up with it, hope some day you’ll get home. Oh no, our camp life was pretty good.


I think the army tried to make it as good as they could and we could get a good amount of leave. As long as you had money in your pay book, you could get leave now and again.
And how much were you being paid?
I think it was only five shillings a day. See five shillings was, say we were in Tobruk where everyone saved up, when we came out of Tobruk everybody had plenty of money for a good while.


I think the British Army were only paid one or two shillings a day so we had good money compared to them. When the Americans came in later they had heaps of money. I just want to (UNCLEAR).


I am just wondering, I mean you have talked about men visiting brothels, but I am wondering how you personally dealt with the absence of women?
Oh, kept writing letters to a few girlfriends at home, it was always nice to hear from them.


Oh no, I think you could exist over there without going to a brothel alright and I think the majority of us wouldn’t go but I might be wrong about that.
I have also heard that quite often there would be games of football or cricket or ….


Yes there would be games of football and cricket between other units, that was always interesting. And I think there was a boxing competition on too, between other units, well that was all right. I think the thing I liked the best over there was getting leave to Cairo, there was so much to see over there and it was cheap,


restaurants were good and they didn’t cost much.
And what was particularly memorable about Cairo for you?
I remember going on leave there with a good friend. We were around Cairo somewhere and we ran into an Australian who was an air vice marshal living in Cairo,


Shepheard’s Hotel. He was pretty good to us, he asked us up to his room, asked us for a meal, shouted us. It was different for us to be talking to some high ranking officer. He was a great bloke, McNamara was his name, he would be dead now I suppose. But there was a couple of good restaurants. One was called Croppies, a lot of Australians went there.


Two or three others, I have forgotten the names. Interesting little shops where you could buy things to send home. We thought the Egyptians liked us, but I believe they didn’t from things I have heard lately, didn’t like us much.


Well you mentioned that it was good to be able to talk to a higher ranking officer?
Yes. I think it was good of him talking to us probably because we were just in the ranks.
And were you able to talk about what was going on with the war?


I suppose in a vague sort of way. He wouldn’t tell us anything important, couldn’t do that. Oh yeah there was talk about the war and talk about life in general sort of thing. Probably a high ranking officer had a pretty good life there. I think during the war a lot of British Army spent all of their time in Cairo, they had a great time there.


I often wonder how Egypt supports the population they do, all that desert and just a bit of good country along the Nile.
Well you mentioned that you, even though Blamey has been criticised, you have some respect for Blamey and for Morshead?


Well I knew very little about him, I knew he was our commanding officer and I didn’t think much about it. I suppose he was well thought of in some areas and there were some people who weren’t that keen on him.
What about the chain of command you had in your own unit?
In our unit? Well the colonel we had in Tobruk was an old World War I man. He was a pretty good old bloke but he got injured


in Tobruk then that finished. Then we had another one, Colonel Turner. He had a pretty good law practice in Sydney and he was a good fellow too but at Alamein he got killed. Then the next one was Colonel Colbert he was a pretty good soldier, he kept command of the unit for the rest of the war.


I think in an infantry unit the percentage of casualties was higher amongst officers than ordinary ranks. You know they had to be out in the lead doing things a lot of the others weren’t but we had a lot of good officers in our unit.


Well I would like to now go to your time at El Alamein, just let me know what happened when you were pulled out of the Turkish border and you were on your way.
Well when things started looking bad at Alamein, they sent trucks up to the Turkish border for us and got us there as quickly as they possibly could.


We arrived there and the fighting was still going on and the Germans were attacking. I have read that one unit that got back there with us, they got through to counter attack the Germans. The next morning none of them came back, the whole battalion was wiped out or captured. That was the 28th Battalion, West Australian battalion, and they were a good lot, that was the end of them. Anyway, the next few days the German lines of communication were so long I think they fizzled out a bit.


Anyway we held them at Alamein there on the same line for months and months. The British Army built up a strength and the Americans came into the war – December ‘41 wasn’t it? – and we started getting better planes, and better tanks and trucks, a whole lot of equipment from them. The 8th Army built up its strength pretty well over that period.


And the Alamein front wasn’t that long. It was from the coast to a thing they called the Qatar Depression. So we had to hold about thirty miles of frontage and there were quite a few divisions holding that: Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Indians and British Armies and Rommel didn’t ever


counter-attack us there. But we could see that we were gradually building up our strength with new equipment and more troops and General Montgomery had taken over the 8th Army by then. He got around us pretty well and gave us good talks and built up morale. We felt that if Alamein did happen we were going to win


and of course eventually we did. I think it was nine or ten days and the fighting was pretty severe and the Germans soldiers broke ranks and we chased them out of Africa. I would tell you a bit more, I knew a bit about Alamein. I suppose we had a pretty good life there for a while, there wasn’t much activity


and where our battalion was, we were only about a mile from the Mediterranean and of an afternoon we would just leave our dugout, walk across there and have a swim in the Mediterranean. The Germans would see us there and they would land a few shells amongst us so that would send us home but we would see them having a swim too and do the same to them but that was all right. We weren’t


allowed to have any beer at all on the front line there but there was a man in our unit, known as Steel Rung, and he was a bit of a smarty fellow. He would go around everybody collect some money and an officer would give him a truck, he would go back to Alexandria, buy beer for anyone who paid for it. So that was good, we did have a bit of beer there and it tasted good when it was so scarce,


and where our battalion was, we were only about a mile from the Mediterranean but someone wrecked the system in the end. They put it into headquarters that he was a German spy so he couldn’t get any trucks to pick up our beer any more but that was just about before Alamein started so we survived without our beer but it was a great feeling amongst the 8th Army troops, morale was so good and so confident and so keen to have a go. Montgomery came around and we were ready for it and we knew it was


going to be on. We thought we were going to win. So by the 23rd of October ‘42 it was all on. I remember it got started and it was all dark and we were a couple of hours on our way. I was on an anti-tank gun then, which was loaded on a truck and we were all on this truck and all of a sudden behind us there were miles and miles of artillery fire


opened up. You could see the flashes, miles and miles of it. Gee it was a great sight, all of those guns firing for us so that was a big event that night. Next morning, well I think the Germans were in a bit of chaos but they didn’t counter-attack us. By midday the counter-attack was on and that was pretty solid for a while


and it went on day after day, we were slowly gaining on them until eventually we ended up too strong for them and they pulled out. I was lucky, I got a good flesh wound and I was sent back from Alamein so I missed a few days of Alamein. But out unit ended up with a lot of casualties, I think it was about three hundred,


forgotten what percentage were killed but two hundred and fifty wounded as well, probably like me, not very serious wounds. And that was a great feeling to have the Germans on the run then. Just kept on going in Africa until they were completely beaten there but by that time the Australian Government had said after Alamein, “The 9th Division is to go back,” so that was the end of


that. So we went back to camp at Palestine, spent a few weeks there and then we were shipped home and that trip home was really good, great feeling to be on our way home.


Coming through Sydney Heads, that was great. Stupid, I will be right in a minute.
Would you like a hanky?
No, I’m right.


Well then we got back and they gave us a couple of weeks leave to go home and that was lovely.
I can imagine that it would have been a very, very emotional time.
It was. Then we went back into camp, we did a march through Sydney. Well that was a great feeling,


the crowd were terrific. We were there for a little while and then they sent us jungle training up in North Queensland. That was a pretty good change for a while too.
Well I would like to talk about the jungle and that part of your war time later.


I mean, you have just had a very emotional response to your coming home and yet most of the morning you have been talking about how it was OK and you were doing good and …
We were winning. And you were so confident, but there is amazing relief to be away from it?
Oh yes, terrific.


Can you tell me a bit about what you were thinking when you got home?
Oh well first thought would have been to get back where I lived and see the family there, that was great for a while but we knew we just had leave for a while and we knew we would be heading for New Guinea. The situation in New Guinea was pretty bad then.


I can’t tell you much about getting home and having home leave, it was all so lovely it went quickly. I suppose a few days we were off to North Queensland, we got up to Sydney and then off to Cairns.


It took about five days on the train. By the time we got there we were all pretty dirty, we hadn’t washed for five days. Went up to the Atherton Tablelands for our jungle training. That was an entirely different type of fighting to what we had been used to.


Well I would just like to go back, if you don’t mind, and talk about El Alamein.
I hope I can remember a bit more about it.
Well to begin with, you mentioned that you volunteered for an anti-tank platoon.
Yeah well I volunteered to do that because anti-tank platoon was a better, more interesting sort of thing than just being an infantryman so I volunteered for that.


And well they sent us back out of the fighting area and gave us a couple of weeks training on the anti-tank guns so that was pretty good and interesting. We felt a bit more important having a gun that could do some damage to the enemy, rather than just a rifle and personal attack, and we had a good lot of fellows in that platoon. During the Alamein


battle, high officer, he won a DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal] Medal and one of the ordinary fellows, he won a Military Medal. We were a bit lucky, I think the Italian tanks attacked our platoon and our little gun could knock them out but if they had been German tanks, I don’t think we would have knocked them out. The big anti-tank guns were good but ours were only what they call two pounder anti-tank which I suppose it was outdated, ten years before the war


it was probably good. But it was great for our confidence to see the new British tanks were a lot better and the American tanks were getting a lot better and they could give the Germans a fair go with those, which they did eventually because it was ideal country for tanks battles, open sandy ground. They could go anywhere and do anything.


I remember looking at some tanks that had been knocked out. To look in them was terrible, the shell had pierced the armour and had whizzed around and around and the men in them were just meat, pretty grim.
Well you mentioned


that the anti-tank platoon was behind the infantry line?
Behind it mainly or sometimes up level with it, that area quite a bit.
Well can you tell me a bit more how the anti-tank platoon was deployed?
Yeah I think we had about,


to our battalion, six or eight anti-tank gunners and they would be deployed behind the infantrymen in our battalion and I think they were a great improvement to the infantry battalion, you had that defence against tanks whereas before tanks came along, you nearly got mowed down, I think.


And can you tell me what you were doing in the anti-tank platoon?
Yeah well I think by the time, I got hit fairly early in the battle. We were just lined up and the enemy were attacking. I think we probably knocked out a few of their tanks, Italian tanks.
What was your job?


I was corporal in charge of the gun, I was in charge of one of the guns. Once the enemy appeared and we were firing, that’s what went on for a while. I think the anti-tank platoon did a good job for the rest of the battalion.


As well there were units that were all just anti-tank and they had bigger and better guns than we did. They gave us their little ones and they had the big ones but that was fair enough because they were specialists in that job.
Well you have just mentioned that you were in charge of your gun?


Can you describe your two-pounder?
I’ll show you a photo of it in a while. Well the diameter of it was just about two inches, it wasn’t a very big missile, but it fired at high speed. The gun itself had a protective thing in front of it which would stop rifle fire but nothing else. I have forgotten now,


I think there was about four of us on the crew. There was myself and the man who did the firing and the other fellow who kept reloading the gun and someone else there to do whatever needed doing. I think late on the first day I got a bit of shrapnel in my shoulder.


I went back for attention and they sent me out for about three days. By the time I came back Alamein was on the way down and I don’t think our guns were fired any more after that.
Thanks Don, our tape is just about to run out.
Interviewee: Donald Scott Archive ID 0815 Tape 04


Don, you were just telling me that you were in El Alamein quite a while before the big battle began?
Oh yes.
Can you tell me about what sort of preparation you needed to do?
I suppose where we were, we weren’t much in the build up,


the British Army units and the American equipment come in and all of that sort of thing, which we knew was happening, but the position where we were in, we weren’t seeing much, we were just there holding the position we had occupied. I think the infantry fellows were still patrolling at night, but our anti-tank platoon, we didn’t have to go out at night so that made it a


bit better for us. But where I was, I just dug a bit of a hole, had a cover on top and I just had myself which was better. That’s what all of us did there, we weren’t digging into rock there so we could dig down as far as we wanted to. Our food system was a lot better there too, we got fed a lot better and fed at the right time of day.


Well Alamein has been described as the last big Empire, or battle fought by the Empire.
Yes, well I thought the Battle of El Alamein was terribly important, I don’t think it has been given sufficient importance in history.


It is not mentioned a great lot is it? And yet it was until then we had hardly won any battles and when we won at Alamein we just kept on through Africa and into Europe until the war ended.
And as you have mentioned, it was an assembly of the 8th Army.
British 8th Army, yeah, which is made up of soldiers from a lot of


different countries. Quite a lot of British soldiers there too, we used to have quite a bit of contact with them. Fellows I knew well in a Scottish unit next to us and other English one further down. I was going to say, there is a man living in Forbes who was in the British 8th Army before the war started over there,


I see him a bit, he is quite a good bloke, a character. Before the war they had a pretty good life there, leave in Cairo and that sort of thing, it was good. But he was a bit unlucky, he was taken POW just outside Tobruk and that’s where he spent the rest of the war.


Well you mentioned that from your point of view you felt morale improved once the Americans joined the war. I am wondering …
Well the Americans and General Montgomery, he did a lot for morale, building up our confidence. But seeing all a lot of good fighter planes in the sky and good bombers and new tanks and


new other armaments. Just better supplies of everything, I think.
Well what did you think of the British and the Scottish unit that you were near?
The ones I came across, I thought they were great. The British tank unit had been there for about ten years in North Africa. I should know that,


should remember what it was, British 3rd Division or something, well they were top soldiers and good fellows. And there was a Scottish unit side by side with us for a while, they were top men too, really good. The New Zealanders were really good, South Africans were a bit unlucky but, well they were captured in Tobruk,


but they were pretty good too.
I understand that there was also Indian troops.
Oh yes, when we left Tobruk the first time a lot of Indians went in there. We saw a bit of the Indians, not a lot but I think they were good troops too.


Well you have mentioned the big night the battle began, I believe it was called Operation Supercharge or something like that.
I think you are right, I am not too sure. It was unforgettable, all of those guns opening the same minute.


You think, ‘Oh gees, the enemy is going to cop a lot from this, hundreds of guns firing at them.’
And the sound must have been quite overwhelming as well?
I think we were a bit ahead of the guns, I don’t think we could hear the sound, we just saw the flashes. No doubt the others, they would hear the sound.


Well I am curious that you mentioned different from Tobruk, where you had to share a hole, this time at Alamein you were able to dig a hole to yourself, why was that?
I couldn’t tell you why that was, we must have dug our own hole. It certainly was better on your own.


Well everything was better there, you could dig in and you felt safer in the hole there, it was deeper and well camouflaged. I suppose we all had our little hole and when the truck came up at night, the food ration, we would all turn up and get it.
And what would you use for camouflage, how would you camouflage your hole?
Oh well a lot of ‘just make it look like the


natural desert country’. Just a bit of dirt and some growth in the desert there, a bit of weed, that all helped to camouflage it. Normally someone looking at it would think there was nothing or no one there. The holes were dug in and weeds and things on the top. Couldn’t see any movement from people most of the time.


Well you have mentioned that when you were in Tobruk you were not able to move from the hole during the day at all?
Not in that salient area, in other places you could.
How was it in Alamein?
In Alamein, if you wanted to get out in the daylight you could because the Germans weren’t close to us then. And we did get out


and move around and have a talk with your mates when you wanted to. And if you knew someone who was getting a truck back to Alexandria or somewhere you would sneak off and have a trip with him, AWL [Absent Without Leave] for a day.
What type of punishment would you be given for AWL when you were on the front line?


Oh I don’t remember anyone being caught. I mean if you really tried to clear out you might be punished severely but if you just went off to sneak out in the day and be home later in the day, probably nothing, it was a bother probably but it wasn’t very serious so long as only the odd one was doing it.


Well you have mentioned that in that period leading up to the big battle you were feeling confident and morale was high but can you tell me, like how aware you were of when the battle was going to win?
Well morale just kept getting better and better and we knew we were getting closer to the day but they didn’t tell us when and I think probably only a day before the battle they told us when it was going to be on. We were all ready,


waiting for it and full of confidence. As I said, Montgomery had gone around talking to everyone the previous couple of weeks and that gave us a great help, we had plenty of confidence in him. Plenty of confidence in our own general too.


Well I understand that it is really important to be not frightened and confident and to have that sort of strength when you are moving into battle. But can you just tell me the flip side of that and …?
The opposite side. I can’t tell you about that. It must have been a terrible feeling to feel that you didn’t have much chance or hope of winning and your casualties


would be bad and everything would go wrong, your supply system would be bad too. That’s what I imagine but I was never in that position, we always had things pretty good our way but it was a great feeling for us to see the Germans retreating from Alamein. The


next day a few of us got out and went and had a look where the Germans used to be. They were set up in a similar way to us. Walked through one of their minefields and they had a sign there that it was ‘The Devil’s Garden’, which their minefield was known as.


And when you are building up to the beginning of a battle, can you tell me a bit about the nerves that you might have been feeling?
The nerves? Well I think it was the confidence we were feeling. We weren’t very nervy at all, full of confidence that we were going to win and it would soon be over.


I don’t know how the Germans felt, they would tell you the other side probably.
And what about the boredom and the passing of time before the battle starts?
Don’t remember much about being bored there. There was a few diversions on, as I say we would go and have a swim every now and again. We were pretty well fed there.


And that fellow, Steel Rung, would get us a beer every now and again. No, we all felt good, we knew it was going to be on and we were very confident that we were going to win and luckily we did because a few months earlier the Germans were pretty close to taking all of Egypt, there wasn’t far to go.


You have already mentioned that the Australian casualties at El Alamein were pretty high?
They were pretty high, I can’t tell you exactly, I know it is in the history of our battalion, what our casualties were. I think it was something like three hundred and fifty wounded and eighty-eight killed or something like that.


I know by the end of it there weren’t many fellow fit enough to carry on but I think I was lucky to get the wound that I did, it was just a flesh wound and it soon healed up and I missed a couple of the bad days. So that was lucky.
Well can you tell me what that moment was like?


Can you tell me the events of getting wounded, what happened?
Oh well I could see, there was a counter attack on from the enemy and there were some tanks that our blokes were firing at not far away and then a shell landed somewhere near us and I felt this in my back. It wasn’t too bad and I said to my mate, “Pull up my shirt and have a look.”


He says, “You’ve got a hole like a two bob [two-shilling piece] in your back,” and I said, “Oh well, I’ll go down and get that attended to.” When I went down to get attended to they sent me back to Alexandria. Two or three days it was all right and I was back there again but the fighting was nearly over by then.


Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but when the Germans pulled out and we were over looking through their lines I picked up a German officer’s Luger pistol, took it back and put it in the kit bag, brought it back to Australia and I had it here for about fifty years. Then two or three years ago when there was a big hand out of weapons like that I thought, ‘I won’t go to the local


police, I will go to Parkes and see what they can find out.’ And they said, “Oh if any of our weapons we can pay you for them, if it’s an enemy weapon we can’t pay you.” But they said, “There is a gun shop in Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst. Take it to one of them, you will get some money.” So I sold the German pistol and got well paid for it.


Norma didn’t like it in the house. I thought it might be helpful but if anyone broke in, by the time I found it and I unwrapped it, it wouldn’t have been any help.
That’s really quite interesting, we have heard a few stories about gathering souvenirs. Can you tell me what prompted you to do that?
I can’t tell you much. I was interested in it, I wanted it, I


got it and that was that. I had it out on the farm for a few years and every now and again I would fire a few shots out of it. That was about all there was to it.
Well I am just wondering, is it in reflection, you probably weren’t aware of it at the time, but maybe now looking back, was it something about needing a souvenir or …?


Well I think I took it as a souvenir yeah. I remember another thing I shipped coming back from the Middle East. There was another bloke in our unit, he had picked up a German flag over there so a few nights out he went around the boat raffling it. Someone was supposed to have won it and then four or five nights later there he is raffling it again. He raffled that three or four times on the way back.


We came back on the Aquitania, that’s a pretty good old ship, I think my throats gone,


any rate we got the job of looking after a gun on the back of the ship. There was four of us there, we could play bridge, so all the way back from the Middle East we played bridge every day. We never had to use the gun so that was a great way to fill in time.


When you received your wound, do you recall being aware of the pain?
Not much, I just felt a bit of blood running out of me. I was lucky it wasn’t a very painful hit, might have hit a blood vessel or something. But I just say that’s a lucky wound.


And you mentioned that you were transported back to Alexandria Hospital, why was it that you were then sent back to Alamein?
Well I think after three days or something this had healed up. We put a cover on it and sent me back. I suppose they thought that’s where I should be and I was needed. I suppose I was lucky it was on the way out by then, the


Germans were beaten. I suppose we might have just stayed there four or five days and then we were trucked back to Alexandria.
I can imagine being back in Alexandria away from the front line


you would have felt a bit of, well a high degree of relief and perhaps some disappointment to be getting sent back?
Well I suppose in a way, yeah, but when we knew everything was going so well I probably didn’t think about it.


And as you say, when you got back how did you know that it was nearly all over?
When I was returned to the unit? I think it was general talk and conversation, we just knew that they were pulling out. I think everyone was aware of it,


they could see the Germans retreating. But the thing that upset me a bit was a couple of good friends of mine were killed there and they were men who were married men with kids, they should never have been there. It was awful, that they should have been killed, for their wife and family but they were.


And I am wondering then on that note, in what way did you feel like it was a necessary war?
I suppose really, a little bit I knew,


it had to be, otherwise Hitler would have just taken over wouldn’t he? Which he very nearly did. I think I have lived one of the best times I could have lived. Since World War II things have been pretty good haven’t they?


But I am afraid now that problems are building up and there might be a lot of trouble ahead.
And when you were in hospital and your wound healed up and you went back to the front line, in what way did you feel that perhaps your presence was not needed?


Oh I don’t remember having many thoughts about it. Somehow I got back there and found out where I should be. The rest of the fellows on the gun were still there. I got there and felt pretty good because it was obvious we were winning.


And how was your own unit in terms of losses and morale?
Well we had quite serious losses but the morale was pretty high.


There weren’t many of our numbers still going, I think about half of our battalion might have had wounds like I did and quite a few killed.
Well I am wondering how your unit was able to get reinforcements or replacements?
I don’t think we got


any, no, see when the battle was over they didn’t build us up or anything. We went back to Palestine for a while and all of the men with minor wounds caught up and we got together and we had been there about a month and General Alexander, who was over Montgomery, he came over to Palestine, we had a big round up for him and he gave us a very good speech on the Battle of Alamein


and we got along on the ship on the way back home.
Well you mentioned that you were on the Aquitania coming home, how did that compare with the Queen Elizabeth?
Well it’s a bit hard to compare because when we went over on the Queen Elizabeth it was the first time it had been used as a troop ship, and they didn’t know how to run it


very well. Some people, they got good cabins, comfortable enough cabins on the way over. But our lot, we were in the second class dining room below water level and that was terrible at night. So we would get out on the open deck at night for a sleep. But the old Aquitania, they had had a lot of practice by the end of the war. For a few hours


or half the day you would have your bed and then you would be shifted out and someone else would have your bed for the rest. Two people occupying that bed, so they were able to carry a lot more troops by doing that. As I was telling you, we were lucky we got the job of looking after that gun. It was a big open area, no worries, and it was so good you would see officers from other units, they would want to come


and talk to us just to get to where we were so we were a bit lucky. One of the fellows I was with is a well-known solicitor in Sydney now by the name of Bill North, might never have heard of him. He is still going, still a good friend,


but the other two, they are dead now.
Well you have mentioned that even though you got the job of looking after the gun on the ship, you didn’t feel like there was any real need?
I think if there was any real, some of the ship’s crew would have been trained in it. We were just there to keep a lookout


and see if there was any need. We didn’t know enough about the gun to fire it. It was a pretty big diameter barrel it had on it, fired big shells. I suppose the fact that we were coming home made the ship seem nicer too.
Can you describe the ship?


I couldn’t describe it very well, I have forgotten what tonnage it was now. I think it was fifty thousand tons or something like that and it had been on the Europe/American passenger run for a while. We were well fed, we were comfortable, we were going home so everything seemed pretty good.


We were lucky during the war, we didn’t lose any troop ships, not that I can remember anyway.
And what about your ports of call on the way home?
The first one I can remember was some island in the Indian Ocean,


forgotten the name of it now, Garcia or something like that. The British had a bit of a naval base there, called in there, and Perth was the next stop and on to Sydney the next stop. From there I suppose it headed off empty, I don’t know where it went,


don’t think it went to New Guinea.
Well you have mentioned that it was a very emotional time to be sailing through the heads at Sydney Harbour, who was greeting you at the …?
Well somehow a lot of our parents, they knew we were coming. I couldn’t imagine that it would have been announced but I think it must have just got out somehow,


I think my mother knew I was about to land, and we landed and we camped at Ingleburn, I think, for about two nights and then got on our trains and went home.
And where was your mother living at that time?
Oh she was still living on the property that she had lived on for the last fifty years or so.


Well, see my older brother was there then and his wife and they were able to get the odd station hands to run the place. My mother had a worse time in war than I did, losing her husband, and us being away in the army and her daughter was livening in England and never heard much from her


but she put up with it and survived and did a good job.
Well I can also imagine that must have been bad for you, feeling that you couldn’t help her and you were away?
That’s right, when we got to the New Guinea bit I can


tell you a bit more about that.
Well you said that you were able to come out to the property for a few days leave.
Yes, when we got back from the Middle East. I have forgotten, we either had two or three weeks’ leave there, go out there and have a good look around, I don’t think I did any work I just wanted a rest.


How was your health at that point in time?
It must have been pretty good, I don’t remember any problems at all. Most of us in the army, our health was pretty good.
Well after your two or three weeks’ break out


on the farm, can you recall how you reacted when you were recalled for jungle training?
Well I suppose we more or less knew it was going to happen. A couple of weeks camp in Ingleburn again and they trucked us off to Queensland. At that stage the Japs were going pretty well everywhere,


quite a danger to Australia. I think it was about that time that the Coral Sea battle was on and that might have been a turning point, that might have stopped the Jap invasion fleet coming to Australia.
We have heard from others who were over in the Middle East that really wanted to get back to


Australia to fight the Japanese, how aware of that were you when you were sailing back on the Aquitania?
We didn’t think much about it at all but we knew that’s what we would end up doing. But you know, we weren’t that keen to get into it but the Japs had taken all before them for so long and the fighting in


New Guinea was so much harder than in the desert, New Guinea you had to go everywhere on your own feet whereas in the desert you got driven around.
Well where did you go for your jungle training?
Jungle training? Up to the Atherton Tablelands.


There were good training camps there and good conditions, good weather conditions there and the stop-over there was pretty good, except we knew our next move was going to be no good though.
And you’re still with your own …?
Still with the 2/13th Battalion, yes.


Can you tell me about that jungle training?
Yeah I suppose, what I remember. It was jungle training but sort of just different to the jungle of New Guinea. The jungle training we had in Atherton was in sort of nice forest country where you could see pretty well but in New Guinea


you couldn’t see five yards ahead of you. I suppose they just got us used to going up and down hills and over creeks and crossings and things like that. And what else?
Well I am wondering, by this stage you are quite battle experienced with weaponry. What kind of new weaponry are you being trained on for jungle?


Well Owen guns [submachine guns], instead of the old 303 rifles we were given Owen guns. And in New Guinea because they didn’t have any tanks we didn’t have our anti-tank gun. So even though we had anti-tank platoon we more or less reverted to being ordinary infantry.


The Australians did get a few tanks into New Guinea but they weren’t very successful because every few miles there was some sort of a water crossing they couldn’t get around.
And how did you find the Owen gun to handle?
Oh I think it was a great thing. You know, the old rifle was big and


heavy and awkward but the Owen gun was about that big and you had more ammunition and it was light and easy to carry, it was a good weapon.
I think we should just stop for a minute. I understand that part of your jungle training was to


learn how to do beach landings in preparation for New Guinea?
Well that would have been right, Yes, we did them and ended up doing beach landings in the next year. That’s right, they took us back near Cairns and we did a couple of practice landings there.


But I shouldn’t go on to New Guinea landings now, should I?
If you would like to.
Oh no, we will leave that until after lunch or when we start again.
Well I am just wondering, perhaps we can finish up by, if you can tell me how ready you felt with this new training under your belt? What were you expecting?
In New Guinea?


I think we only half knew what to expect. When you see the actual conditions, you really didn’t know what to expect. I can’t say much about that. We knew it was going to be different from everything else we had done in the early part of the war. I suppose the New Guinea fighting


got back to just man to man and more weapon fighting, there were no tanks, a little bit of artillery but not much.
And also preparing for jungle conditions which is very hot.


That’s right, hot. It would rain most mornings. Day would start off nice, raining by midday. Well malaria was a big problem up there, a lot of people got malaria, gives you quite a setback.


I have also heard that up at Atherton there was time to go to dances.
Oh yes, we did have a social life up there at Atherton, go to dances out to the local pub or the local shops. It’s a nice part of Australia up there in the Atherton Tablelands.


I did go up there a few years ago, it’s hard to find any sign of the army camps, just the odd sign here and there to say where we were.
Well thanks Don, our tape is just about to …
Interviewee: Donald Scott Archive ID 0815 Tape 05


I hope I can remember, I don’t remember much about it now.
That’s ok Don, I just wanted to ask, with an anti-tank gun how many people were in a gun crew and what did they do?
Well from my memory, I think there was four in the crew. There was well, my job, I was corporal of it, and then there was the gun layer, that’s the one who aims and fires the shots, and there is another one who reloads the gun and I have forgotten what the other one did.


But I suppose if all of a sudden he was needed, he was there to fill in the gap. I hope I am right about that number but it was sixty years ago now, I might be wrong.
What were you actually doing as the gun was bring fired, as the corporal?
Oh well I would have had an eye on the enemy tank or truck or whatever we were firing at.
How accurate were the anti-tank guns?


Very accurate for long distances. High speed, projectile that went out, it went out very fast, it was one of the main characteristics, the speed of it to penetrate the armour of the other tanks.
I just wonder, in the gun crew how loud and dangerous was it behind the gun?


Well the gun didn’t seem to be terribly loud, when it exploded the mechanism was enclosed, the weapon going out the barrel I suppose made all the noise. That’s all I can remember. I can’t tell you now how many shots would get fired per minute, I have forgotten now, I suppose as quickly as the loader could reload it.


Do you know how many roughly that would be?
The rate of fire? Oh dear. Say flat out maybe twenty projectiles a minute, maybe ten. It would be five or six seconds to reload it. Once the gun fired it discharged the empty shell and just put the new one in and fired away again.


How important to the enemy strength were the tanks that they were using?
Oh I think the German tanks were pretty good tanks and they were very important to them. As I said before we could knock out the Italian tanks all right but the German tanks, they were pretty well made and pretty thick armour and they were hard to knock out.


Yes, the German tanks were pretty important in their army at that stage.
You mentioned that it felt pretty good to have a bit of extra fire power behind you?
What, do you mean at Alamein?
When you were on the anti-tank guns?
Well it felt great to know that all of those artillery weapons were firing off behind us. Well I suppose they were firing into enemy infantry and that sort of thing.


I wonder Don, you mentioned that Montgomery came around and spoke to you all at Alamein, I just wondered what he said?
I don’t think I can remember now, I did have a copy of his speech for a long while but


I know he made a great impression on all of the troops which I think was justified in the long end [run?], he was a clever leader and a good leader and very successful. The only thing I didn’t like about him, after the Battle of Alamein he didn’t have much to say about us, I was disappointed in that.


I guess you see in a lot of films that the night before a battle the commander in charge of the troops gives a rousing call to arms, I was just wondering if anything like that happened in the night before Alamein?
No, from what I remember the night before Alamein we just had a very quiet night. We knew what to expect soon so we took it pretty steadily that night.


What did you know of the plan the night before?
Well I suppose our officers knew the plan but generally the troops didn’t know a lot. It was just, you wouldn’t expect that they should.
What did you know about the job ahead of you the next day, what did you have to do?
Oh well we just knew we were going in. Various things could have happened, I


suppose just what we knew was to fire at any enemy tanks we saw, no matter what they were and that’s what we did, quite successfully. Two men off our, one man off our gun got a medal for the day and the lieutenant commander got a DCM for the day so they must have gone fairly well.


What was the range of you anti-tank gun?
I think it was up to about two thousand yards but you liked the shorter range better. Four hundred yards or less I think was what we really liked to see.
On that day, can you describe a bit of the scene, what you were seeing of the Allied infantry?


Oh just pandemonium everywhere. Infantry troops moving forward and trucks loaded with various things they were moving forward when they could, enemy shells falling in amongst them at times. We also had quite a lot of bombing raids on the German section, we’d see the bombers over pretty often too.


I have heard, well the Australian troops, they were notorious for just running straight past enemy tanks and going for the infantry behind, I just wonder if …?
If you could run past a tank I suppose that was good. The tanks, it wouldn’t be worth them firing at a single individual, they would be leaving


it to their infantry to get rid of them.
What damage would one of your shells do if it didn’t hit a tank?
Well I suppose in some cases it would keep going until it ran out of fire and it would just hit the ground. That would happen with quite a few but on the other hand we would also be aiming at some of their truck, troop


carrier things, all those sort of vehicles.
Was it hard getting a clear shot through, you mentioned you were behind the Allied infantry, how hard was it getting a shot through?
Without hitting your own people? Well those guns had pretty clear sights on them and I


don’t think you would fire if there were any of our people in the road. I just think, the German eighty-eight millimetre guns, which was their main weapon, I remember seeing a couple of theirs knocked out at Alamein and gees it pleased me. Something else had destroyed them, they were a terrible weapon, so dangerous for everything.


You described the scene before as pandemonium, I am just wondering what could you see of success at that stage, what were your feelings on whether the Allies were winning or losing?
Well I think everything I saw, I think I felt we were starting to win everywhere all of the time but we did get some knock backs and in some sections we were held


back for days. I didn’t ever see many of the Germans giving up, they all fought on until the end. We didn’t capture a lot at Alamein.


I never found out but I often wondered where they buried all of the casualties at Alamein, they must have put in a cemetery close there somewhere.
You mentioned that you were injured from shrapnel I think?


From shrapnel, yeah.
How long were you still at your gun before you could leave to get treatment?
Probably about a quarter-hour’s time and I moved off. Somehow an ambulance went past I think and I jumped onto it and it stopped further down and a doctor or someone had a look at it and sent me out. A bit lucky.


I have heard stories from others about people who are injured and I just wonder, is there any sense of shame or any perception of cowardice in leaving being injured?
I don’t think so, I am not aware of it with anyone


except for one, one fellow gave in a bit and he shot his own foot. That’s the only one I ever heard of during my war.
Do you know why he had done that?
He might have been terrified, I don’t know, I wasn’t near him, I just, others told me what he did.


You mentioned that there were some married men in your unit that were killed in Alamein.
Oh yes, that’s right. Well I thought it was a shame, those men were fifteen or sixteen years


older than me, married men with children, I think it was wrong that they were in the army like that. They should have been in a different part where they weren’t likely to get killed. They were two good soldiers from Wagga. In fact, I told you my brother died last week, well one of the nephews of a good friend that was killed, I met him there last week


and I got to talk over the war again.
How hard was it, and I mean for everyone in the unit, to keep going when friends were laying around you?
Well I suppose that affected a lot of people in different ways. Some were going on and maybe none had been killed there, another might run into a bad patch and four or five would be killed off pretty quickly,


it’s a pretty awful thing to see it happen. There is nothing you could do about it, you have just got to keep on going. But the army medical people, the stretcher bearers , they always did a great job getting people back. We were lucky in our unit, we had a


doctor who was a marvellous fellow and respected by everyone.
What could the unit do, I guess, to bury the dead?
Well there is some section of the army, that is their job, to sort out people and identify their bodies. I don’t know much about them but that’s a rough idea of what it is.


Pretty awful job hey? And also they would have had to get the German bodies and see what sort of identification was on them and they would be buried in the right place and that sort of thing. Some of my friends have been back to the cemetery at Alamein and they say it is well looked after, everything has been done well there.


I wonder, with the passing of someone in the unit, was there any ceremony or …?
No, there wasn’t time for that if you were killed that was that.


You said that when you came back to Alamein it was pretty much won?
Well it felt, it certainly had the feeling that things were quietening down but our Battalion was, it certainly quietened off there and the anti-tank platoon, there weren’t any tanks about for us to shoot at but the infantry fellows might have still been busy.
In the section you were in, what do you think had won it?


What do you think made the Allies come out on top?
A combination of everything I suppose. The air force played a big part in it, they did all of the bombing and the artillery people, what they did was pretty impressive and our tanks, and our anti-tanks and our infantry, that was really the main basis of fighting I suppose.


How would the war in North Africa [have gone] if the Germans or the enemy had won at Alamein?
Well if they had won, the Germans would have soon gone on and occupied all of Egypt and they’d have gone on to Palestine and that


would have been the end of the 8th Army in Africa. At one stage sometime before Alamein, old Churchill came out and had a look around the area. I spotted him once talking to some other units, good to see him there, he gave us a boost.


Did you have any contingency plan if things did look like they were turning against the 8th Army?
If the Germans were winning? I didn’t have much idea what would happen then. At that stage at Alamein we were so confident, I don’t think we would have ever given that a thought.


How much of a factor do you think that confidence was in the victory?
Oh it must have been a big factor in the Alamein victory, that everyone felt so strongly about it and so confidently about it.


You mentioned that there were different Commonwealth troops in Alamein at the time, how did the different nationalities get on at the time, I suppose?
Of course us and the New Zealanders and the Canadians and the English all spoke the same language. The Indians, I didn’t ever have much to do with them but I suppose most of them would have spoken English, I think.


And did all of the forces get along well or …?
As far as I know they did. When you all went on leave, you all mixed up together, it was always good to talk to someone else from a different country. I remember before Alamein I was on


leave in Cairo or somewhere and we came across some Americans. We ended up swapping shirts, I had an American shirt for months.
You mentioned the Luger pistol that you collected behind the lines, what other kinds of souvenirs were there and were people taking?
A, there was a whole lot of things I would say, anything that had a bit of value. I did have a German


steel helmet. I got it and I sent it back to Australia but someone else ended up with it. It was quite a good thing to have and I suppose quite a few other things I used to send back.
I have read that


in the First World War, especially in France, that during the burial people would take anything of value from the bodies.
I suppose that still went on, I don’t know about that, I didn’t ever see it going on. Most likely I think it was done, I don’t know.
I wonder what items of value would people have on them?


Oh rings or watches. Maybe they had some money on them and they would look for that.
What personal items did you take with you? Mementos from home?
Do you mean overseas?
Did you take overseas with you?
Mustn’t have been anything, I have forgotten now what they were.


I think I had only mainly the army issue of clothing and that sort of thing, that’s all I took. Other main thing was to have your pay book, always wanted to know you had a bit of money in that.
Did you have any


Oh yes, everybody took a few family photographs with them or photographs of their girlfriends, things like that and having a camera over there was always nice to have to take photos to send home. I think when we went into action you couldn’t take a camera in case you took the wrong thing and the enemy got it.


You mentioned that you were writing home to some girlfriends?
Yes, that would be right, I can still remember a few of them. I guess they all got married off and went their own way. I didn’t come across Moiai until after the war.


I read somewhere that in Alamein and Tobruk, we talked a little bit about the pamphleting, but I read somewhere that they sent a pamphlet ‘Go home Aussies, the Americans have your women’ or something?
That’s right, they did too. I don’t think I got that one, I did get one of the others telling us to surrender.


It is here somewhere still but I don’t know where to find it. I don’t think they achieved much with that, I don’t think anyone would surrender because of that.
Was that a bit of a worry what was happening in Australia on a personal level as well as the Japanese?
Certainly after the Japs came in, that gave us a different feeling that we wanted to be back here.


Fortunately they didn’t get into Australia so we didn’t have families to worry about.
You spoke a little bit to Kathy [interviewer] just before we broke about Canungra and jungle training. I wonder what were you told about the Japanese as an enemy?
I don’t think we


were told much, more about what we read in the news media. We didn’t know much about them, they were a tough little lot to fight.
How different were they as an enemy to the Germans and Italians?


Well I suppose one of the main differences is the type of war they were fighting, they were fighting a jungle war whereas the other was a desert war. I always felt I would rather fight a German than fight a Jap.
Why was that?
Oh I think the conditions up there. Seven or eight yards away a Jap could shoot you and you might not have even known he was there.


Jungle fighting was very unpleasant, wasn’t much you could enjoy about it.
How prepared for the fighting did you feel when you were shipping out to New Guinea?
Oh just moderately well-prepared and didn’t really know what to expect


but I do think a lot of other army units had worse jungle fighting than we did.
Can you tell me a little bit, Don, about when you got word that you were heading to New Guinea?


Oh well when we went to do our training in the Atherton Tablelands, we knew after a few weeks we would be heading off to New Guinea and that’s just what happened. Went aboard ship, I have forgotten the name, some part that we occupied in New Guinea, we went off ship and camped there for a little while before we went into action.


I wonder, just in your unit or the people you were training with in general, how fatigued were they from the desert war and how keen were they to go into battle again?
We weren’t keen but it just had been done. It was different to what we had had for a couple of years in the desert country,


it was a very different fighting altogether. It amounted to just one to one fighting whereas in the desert you fight against tanks and artillery and everything. In the jungle it was just another man with a rifle you were fighting against.


Were you disappointed to be, not be able to use the anti-tank guns any more?
Oh we didn’t give it much thought because we knew there wasn’t tanks there. I certainly would like to have used it but it just wasn’t logical. In New Guinea we were close


to the coastline and every few miles there was a river flowing down into it, we couldn’t have got the gun across the river so there was no point having it.
Can you tell me your first impressions of New Guinea when you arrived?
I am just thinking, some other unit moved out and we moved into it. Our tents weren’t very good


and our food wasn’t very good and the weather conditions weren’t very good. It was pretty unattractive. I should remember where that was, the name just doesn’t come back to me, but we were there for a while and then we did a sea-borne landing further up the coast.


What were the greatest difficulties you faced straight away, arriving in the jungle or arriving in New Guinea?
Weather conditions were a terrible hazard. Where we were it would start off nice and sunny and then it was raining and then it would clear up in the afternoon, might rain again at night. That just made living conditions so awkward.


At night, sleep in the rain, well it’s pretty difficult. The people in New Guinea were pretty good to us, the native people, and they seemed to have a pretty good system, they had nice little villages and they were growing vegetables and fruit around those villages.


Another thing, when we were around those villages we never saw any of their women, they must have taken them and hidden them in the jungle or something, but their men folk were helpful to us. A lot of them did a lot of carrying of gear at some stage, not for us but for other units.


You hear a lot about the disease in the soldiers who fought in the Pacific, I just wonder what were the diseases faced in the desert?
It was a pretty healthy place for diseases. I don’t remember anything much in the way of diseases,


there’d be always someone who became a bit of a nervous case. Lots of clear sunny days, you didn’t get colds or flus or any of those sorts of things.
What had you been told about malaria and possible diseases in the tropics?


Oh malaria, that right, they gave us that thing to take every afternoon or every night and that was fairly effective. When I was in New Guinea I didn’t suffer from malaria but the first winter I was home I did get it pretty badly and I had to go into hospital with it. I was lucky though, I only had it once and I have never had it since. So I was extremely lucky.


I don’t know what stopped it but something did. But malaria can certainly knock you about, I can remember blokes certainly in a bad way with it.
You mentioned people getting a bit nervy in the desert. I wonder, the expression I guess ‘going troppo’ I have heard from people in New Guinea, I just wonder if you can tell me about any cases of …?


Well it’s probably a similar thing isn’t it? People a bit upset about what might happen and the fighting you’re in and that sort of thing. I don’t remember many in our unit getting upset like that but there would have been some.
How do you stop yourself in such extreme conditions from, I guess, being overwhelmed by it all?


I suppose in a lot of cases there is not much you can do with yourself, I imagine. Maybe if you’re lucky you can get things under control again but that would happen, it would be a pretty lousy thing to happen to you.
Can you tell me Don, you mentioned that you were in camp for a little while in New Guinea and then you went onto a beach landing?


Well their American landing craft landed us. We went on and landed not far from Lae. 9th Division did a landing there, 7th Division were coming up along the coast on the other side. The fighting at Lae didn’t last very long, I think after about a week the Japs decided to pull out and they disappeared and they headed in the North or West or something.


But a couple of days after the fighting ended at Lae we thought, ‘Oh well, we’ll go and have a look into Lae,’ and I went in there with friends of mine. We were walking down the main street and we went past one of the banks and the doors was open so I went in and we got in there and the safe was open and it was full of money and we thought, ‘No use leaving that for someone else, we’ll take


as much as we can.’ That was all right, we filled our haversacks with packets of notes. But after we looked around Lae and we were walking back home we thought, ‘Now someone else will see we have all of this money and take it from us.’ So we opened the packages and thought we’d take any valuable notes but all they were, money the Japs had printed for the occupation of Australia so we threw the notes in the jungle and kept a few for souvenirs.


A shame, all that money worth nothing but it just shows that the Japs were pretty confident at that stage that they would occupy Australia. The notes were pretty miserable, they had gone as low as two shilling notes, five shillings and ten, no hundred pound notes or anything like that.
When you had been home to Australia, between returning from the Middle East and going to New Guinea,


how great was the fear of invasion by the Japanese?
Yeah, there was a sort of a constant fear that it could happen soon. I think when we were on leave here, that’s when the Coral Sea battle happened and that stopped that Japanese invasion and I don’t think they ever attempted again after that.


In the jungle in New Guinea and the body wasn’t moved, about a week later all that would be left would be bones, the worms and grubs and whatever was under it would just eat all of the flesh. You would often see skeletons there, nothing on them.


I wonder what were the, I guess, the animals or the pests that you had to deal with in the jungle?
Weren’t aware much of any pests. I remember there was some bird there that was good eating. We shot one once and cooked it up, a pigeon or a dove or something,


there must have been a lot of ground creatures there that probably we would never see, they would keep away from us. In fact scorpions were a bit of a worry on the ground, had to watch out for them.
Had there been, I guess going back to the desert, what were the problems there? I remember reading something about scorpions or rats?


I think there were a few rats about, not much to be worried about, probably in some sections that I wasn’t in, and In Tobruk town there might have been more rats, I don’t know.
No trouble with scorpions or anything in the desert?
I don’t remember hearing of any.


Maybe there were in some sections, I don’t know.
How hard was it for you to adjust from the dry heat of the desert to the overwhelming wetness of the jungle?
Certainly vastly different climates but I suppose we left the desert and back in the Australian climate for a while and then to the jungle climate.


The desert climate was much preferable to the jungle climate, so often you were wet.
What were the difficulties of being wet?
Just the unpleasantness of having your clothes all wet and the rest of your gear was wet too. And you really prayed


for dry clothing but some nights you just had wet clothing to sleep in, that’s pretty awful.
Is there anything you could do to stop getting wet?
Well we used to have a groundsheet and that was water proof so that should have kept you reasonably dry.


I suppose most of the time it rained and you just got wet and a couple of hours later it would be sunny and you would be dry again.
How much more confident did you feel going into battle in the jungle, having already been through something like Alamein?


Oh well it was such a different sort of action in New Guinea, you could hardly make any comparison. In New Guinea all of the time you felt the uncertainty of what might be ahead of you in the next few yards.
That’s great, our tape is just about to run out so


we’ll change our tape and then we’ll keep going.
Interviewee: Donald Scott Archive ID 0815 Tape 06


Don, I would just like to ask you, can you just clarify for me, when you first went to New Guinea, where were you?
The first place we landed in New Guinea? A while ago I couldn’t remember and I still can’t, it’s a well known … The 6th Divvy had been there, one of the first places fighting started in New Guinea.


I should remember but I just don’t, if I think of it I will let you know.
I am just wondering because now we are getting towards the end of the war, and if I am correct you went to New Guinea after Kokoda?
We didn’t go to Kokoda, the 6th Divvy and other militia units were


I am just wondering, what had you heard from other divvies about New Guinea before you went?
Oh we heard a fair bit about jungle fighting and about how different it was to what we were used to and the conditions of fighting were so much worse than in the desert.


I wish I could think of that place we landed first, it won’t come back to me.
That’s all right. A lot has been made about the controversy of sending inexperienced troops to New Guinea.
That’s the first lot they sent up there, apparently they did very well and a lot of them were militia units, weren’t they?


From what I have heard, they performed very well and did their job excellently. I think later the 6th or 7th Division came in and gave them a fair bit of help. But apparently the first ones fighting there were all a young mob weren’t they? Just called up. It would have been pretty tough for them.


As so much has been made of both MacArthur, the American commander, and Blamey actually laying the blame of some of the failures or troop losses in New Guinea on the troops …
Oh did they?
I am wondering if any that …


I wonder what stage that was? The early stage do you think? I think things did go a bit wrong for a start but I think the Japs had a few problems fighting in the jungle too, it was new to them.
And how long were you in New Guinea altogether do you think?


I would have to think back, I think only about a year because after fighting at Lae the next place we fought at was Finschhafen although that went on for quite a while.
Can you tell me what happened at Finschhafen?
I can tell you quite a bit about it yeah. The American landing


barges put us ashore there too. We landed just about at first light in the morning. As we were going ashore we landed amongst some Japs and they were just having breakfast, I remember one bloke in our unit was known as Hungry Dan. Hungry Dan rolled a Jap over and then ate his breakfast. The Japs were just


pretty strong there, took a while to get established. But I suppose we outnumbered them there and we had big guns firing from the landing barges in amongst them so before the day was out we took over. I can always remember a poor bloke who was going ashore next to me and all of a sudden he put his foot in the wrong place and he fell


off the landing ladder and I just kept going, didn’t see him and I found out later that he was carrying a thirty pound (UNCLEAR) mortar base and fell into the water and just couldn’t get up again, just drowned. Awful way to die but that’s what happened to him. I


know the first few days there the Japs resisted, it was a while before we felt very confident but we did keep landing more and more troops and eventually got the upper hand. It was tough fighting up and down these steep hills on rotten little jungle tracks.


I think it would have been some of the worst fighting in New Guinea there.
Yes I have heard stories from others that would agree with your opinion in that Kokoda gets a lot in the media but in actual fact a lot of the beach landings were far more horrific.


I don’t really know. Kokoda must have been pretty awful. Finschhafen was comparable probably because it was tough for a long while too. It was so hard that you did nearly everything on foot, you didn’t get on a truck or anything there.


And can you maybe just take me through, you mentioned that you were landing from an American …?
An American landing ship, yeah. They had various types of landing ships or barges, some for landing troops in, some for landing trucks and some for various other equipment and they were all pretty good and pretty efficient, seemed to work pretty well most times.


No doubt when they landed us, they had to land a good supply of food to keep us going too. I remember a few days after we were in Finschhafen, food was a bit scarce and we were camped near a food dump and at night another fellow and I got into


the food dump, helped ourselves but we got caught and we were in a bit of trouble but the next night the Japs counter-attacked and they took all of the food so they had to drop the charges against us.
And why would you have been in trouble for getting food?
Oh well it was supposed to be food for a


certain number of troops and it was just situated there and no one was supposed to take it but we were that hungry we thought we’d take a bit of it, so that was that but nothing happened in the end.
And how was your food rations different in the jungle compared to the desert?


Well I suppose it was so much harder to supply the food in the jungle. It had to be carried up there by some people and I think the natives did quite a bit of carrying, but not all of it. There would be some Army section that just carried food up. Keeping food up must have been a big problem I think.


When you were doing that beach landing, what was the thing that you were expecting to meet you? I am just wondering if it was more vulnerable than you had experienced before?


One of the good things about the landing was that the American landing craft all had good firing guns that were firing tracers, all the coloured ones, and you could see all this fire going into where the Japs were. I think they made our landing a lot easier from the equipment they had.


Well you have mentioned that the difference between the jungle and the desert was that in the jungle you were required to do hand to hand combat.
Oh yes and you didn’t know what was happening twenty yards away, whether there would be Japs there or not.
I am wondering


how close you got to your enemy in the jungle, personally.
How close did I ever get? Well one day I got very close. One day when we had been in Finschhafen about a month, they sent out our platoon on a pretty long jungle patrol, up and down hills for miles, and every now and then somebody


would have to take the run of being forward scout and eventually it came to my turn and I was forward scout and all of a sudden a Jap jumped up about five yards ahead of me, pointed a rifle at me and pulled the trigger. You would wonder why I am here wouldn’t you? He forgot to take his safety catch off, I was just so lucky then, so his gun didn’t go off and


half a second later he was dead. I can still see the look on that fellow’s face, I will never forget. So I was just extremely lucky.
Well I can’t imagine what that must have felt like?
It was extraordinary, it was all over so quickly though.


I should have been dead and a second later he is dead and I am still about. Those lucky things just can happen sometimes. Anyway that was towards the end of fighting at Finschhafen and the Japs did pull out from there and after that then we started marching up the coast, the next few little villages along the coast.


We kept going up there for a couple of weeks and I think we got to a place called Wandokai and we stopped there and they decided they’d relieve us and they took us back to Queensland and that was lovely and we were camped there for a while and I had a letter from my mother and she suggested that the father died


while I was away, could I put in, “You could get six weeks seasonal leave to go home.” So I had this letter from my mother and on the way back on the ship I just saw the colonel in charge and put in my application for that leave and I was lucky enough that I did get it. So I get to go home for six weeks and I was going back on the train to West Wyalong and there is another bloke in the cabin with me, and he said, “Oh I got that too.


I found out that if you were a wheat grower you could get out of the army,” and I was a wheat grower and so when I got back to West Wyalong I put in an application, six weeks later I was out of the army. That was some time in ‘44 so that was the end of the army for me.


Well I would like to talk more about the end of the army for you but before we do, lets just go back to Finschhafen because I am wondering how the morale of your 9th Divvy was going at this point because I understand that there was some underestimation of the Japanese.


Yeah that’s right. I think there was some blunders on behalf of our leadership too because it went on for longer than expected and we would be in charge of one area and the next few days had hunted us out and they had taken over but eventually we battled on and they moved out. I had a book about Finschhafen and it does set out and map some of the mistakes


that were made there. With all of our fighting in New Guinea we were never able to take a POW, it just didn’t happen, they were just dead or we didn’t get them.
We have also heard quite a lot


about the Japanese committing war crimes and acts of cannibalism, I am wondering if you came across that at all?
I didn’t come across, like you I have heard. They could have gone in for cannibalism, if they were starving and desperate for something to eat I suppose they might have.


It was probably a lot worse for the Japs there than it was for us.
Why do you think that?
Well I think we had better communication and better supplies than they did, our navy was able to keep their supply ships out, I think, so that made it pretty tough on them. Maybe that’s where the story of cannibalism came in, that they were short of food and they would eat anything.


Well there is a thought going around that, in fact, particularly the campaigns in Borneo were unnecessary because the Japanese were starving.
That’s right, I was lucky, I didn’t go on to Borneo with our unit, they went on after I got out of the unit.


Well I am wondering …
I was going to say at that stage, the general in charge of the Finschhafen


campaign was a man who lived at West Wyalong before the war, General Wootten, he did a pretty good job there.
And can you tell me what the casualty rate was like for your divvy?
Well I have got a history of our unit, I could look up that book and find it.


I would only be guessing at it if I told you. Finschhafen, some mistakes were made because someone has written a book about the blunders at Finschhafen.


And not long after we took Finschhafen, the Yanks came in and built a base there and they built quite a big strong base there that they used until the end of the war. I suppose I have come to the end of my war now, not much else I can tell you.


Well we have also heard that the Yanks were pretty trigger-happy, what was your contact or understanding of their reputation?
The only contact with them I had, I thought they were all pretty good. They seemed to be well fed and a bit better equipped than we were and now and again we would get a bit of extra food from them if we were short, that was good.


But I have never had any desire to go back to New Guinea, wouldn’t want to see it again.
And when you were faced with the Japanese who was aiming straight at you, what was your reaction?
Oh well I had my own gun and I pulled my trigger just after he messed his up, that was then end of him.


So when that happened we turned around and headed off back.
I am wondering if you,


that was the first time that you had killed somebody directly?
That’s the only time I can recall, yeah. Sometimes at long range I might have hit someone and you wouldn’t know but that’s the only one I know for sure that I ever knew of.
And I understand quite clearly that it is a kill or be killed situation.
For sure.


But yet given that, how difficult is it to come to terms with afterwards?
That’s the only time I ever did it and it didn’t worry me because I was so happy that I survived, I was so lucky that I did.


Well I am also wondering whether you were carrying a bayonet?
Then? No. We were only carrying our little Owen guns,


bayonets usually only went to the old 303 rifle. Don’t think we had any bayonets in New Guinea, the Owen guns were a much more suitable weapon to have there.
Well you have mentioned that you were at Finschhafen for quite some time.


Quite a few weeks we were there, I just don’t remember exactly how long it was, a couple of months any rate.
Can you describe the camp?
There was never any camp, you just camped each night where you were, that’s all, there was never under any big cover there.


The army did, where the supplies were being landed there would be a pretty good set up there I think. But at one stage at Finschhafen I was sent back to the hospital at Moresby for a few days, something wrong with me, and then sent back to Finschhafen again.


And how did you travel to and fro?
Flew from Finschhafen to Moresby and flown back. Forget where I landed but there must have been some aerodrome there by then.


Well even though you were young and a strapping country lad, I imagine that your health would have been suffering from the harsh conditions?
I suppose it did to some extent. When I think of it, when I got home I got malaria so I must have contracted it up there just before leaving, I suppose.
I am also wondering at this point


if you and your division are feeling a little battle-weary.
Oh for sure we would have been, I think. After fighting at Lae and fighting at Finschhafen and then for a few weeks we were just going along the coast, well that was all on foot and carrying our gear all of the time, that wasn’t easy, several times a day crossing little water courses.


But I have forgotten now where they shipped us from to get us back to Australia that time. I think some landing barges might have taken us back to Moresby and we got on a ship and came back from there.


Well in hindsight looking back, what do you think was the wound that you feared most if you were going to get wounded in battle?


Well I suppose you would fear just being killed wouldn’t you? But you could have had some other horrible sort of wounds and you survived which were hard to put up with. I suppose things up there were just man-to-man fighting, you either survived or you were dead. It’s not like there


was shrapnel flying around from artillery, nothing like that.
Well you have just described the man-to-man fighting, you were essentially really hard foot-slogging soldiers.


I suppose we were, yes.
I am wondering what made you feel like a soldier?
Having been there for so long in the army, you have to feel like a soldier. I suppose it happened quite a lot in New Guinea, it happened to me, just man-to-man fighting along a jungle track.


That would have happened quite often I think. I never came across a whole lot of Japs approaching of any width but there must have been other more intense fighting where a lot of troops did fight each other.


So from your descriptions, your personal experience sounds like it was more facing Japanese snipers?
Yes, or Japanese, I suppose a sentry, his job was to be waiting there looking for someone coming along. He must have relaxed a bit and didn’t see me so that was the end of him.


That sort of thing would have happened a bit. But no doubt in some other areas there must have been fighting on a bigger scale where a whole lot of men were attacking a whole lot of others but I didn’t come across that.
Well in a way, from what you have been talking about today, in a desert,


where everything is open and visible, in a way that is, well correct me if I am wrong, it is more open honest clean sort of fighting whereas when you are in the jungle how would you have described it?
I suppose with the desert fighting it would have been high casualty, wouldn’t it, because you can see each other and shoot each other.


It’s hard to say in the jungle, I can only say what I experienced. But there must have been occasions where a lot of troops were facing a lot of others and the casualties would have been big. But as far as I remember most of the casualties would have been during the landing at Finschhafen.


And I also understand that the conditions of jungle fighting, like the weather and the actually physical climate were almost like a second enemy?
You’re dead right there, the conditions were pretty awful. I suppose the natives, people living there, they had their good little


solid huts and good little villages and gardens around the place but the way we were on our own it was very different.
Well that’s an interesting point, you have mentioned being on your own, how resourceful and self-contained as an individual


did you have to be?
Oh I suppose you just had to think how you could survive and how you could get rid of the enemy. I suppose you had to be well-equipped and have your gun ready for action at quick notice. That sums it up a bit I think.
Well I just wonder if there was much more emphasis on the individual rather than the platoon for example?


Well there must have been, definitely more emphasis on the individual, it so often would have happened just to the individual.
And when you had that incident with the Jap that was firing on you, I was wondering if you had become separated from the other men at


that point in time?
No, well I was what they call a forward scout, you’re walking twenty yards ahead and then you have the next scout and then the main platoon are behind. The man twenty yards behind me, he didn’t get a shot in or anything, he just heard a couple of shots ahead of him. As soon as that Jap went down we turned around and headed back to the platoon.


There is still two men on that patrol that I keep in touch with.
I imagine that some of the sounds in the jungle would have been unfamiliar and you would have been looking out for any new


Yeah that’s right, there were unfamiliar sounds, you didn’t know whether it was an animal or a Jap making that sound for some reason or another. I was pleased to get out of the jungle.


We have also heard that the army uniform was dyed from khaki brown to jungle green?
Jungle green mostly, yeah, I suppose that was the sensible thing to be wearing in the jungle. It was as good as we could have been given I think. But gee you had to be


young and fit to stand up to it though, wouldn’t like to try it now.
What do you think was your most useful item that you carried with you?
I don’t know,


maybe just something to eat out of, little thing we called our Dixie. Any food you got, you just put it in that and ate out of it, that would have been about the most important.
And where did you sleep?
Wherever you ended up being that night.


Wouldn’t know where you would sleep, somehow we always seemed to sleep reasonably well. The nights, if we were lucky we’d manage to keep dry and that was good.
Well I was wondering, when you were in the desert you had the cover, well the relative cover of your slip trench.


Oh yes, that was good, slip trench with a cover and we had a blanket with us too. So we slept in comfort then.
But in the jungle you didn’t have that, almost a luxury?
Sometimes it must have been dry and we slept all right. Other nights it would be wet and it woke you up and you went to sleep again, you got used to it in a way.


It was a pretty awful existence up there really as far as we were concerned.
I was wondering how difficult it was to keep in touch, to keep the communication systems in place?
Like with the rest of the battalion? Well I just, I don’t know whether


I can know the details of that but it was always done pretty efficiently and well. If we were going out to do a patrol, the rest of, well headquarter company knew all about it. If anything went wrong, well they knew all about it and they would send others to rescue whoever was still there.


Mobile phones would have been handy then.
And do you recall receiving the news that you were going to be shipped out?
Shipped back home? Oh yeah that was great news.


I was pleased I didn’t have to go back to New Guinea.
What was it, you have spoken quite strongly, I mean I can understand you not wanting to go back into war but do you think you have different feelings towards the Middle East compared to New Guinea?


I just had that feeling that I would prefer to be in the Middle East any time than New Guinea. I don’t think you can get much worse than New Guinea to fight a war in.
Can you explain a bit more about that?
Life in the Middle East was so much better. Nice climate, we were well looked after and well-equipped and you could go on leave.


New Guinea there was nowhere to go on leave, nowhere to get a good feed, you were lucky if you got a good night’s sleep there. Dramatic difference in living style.
I am also wondering if there was a sense of resentment amongst the troops about being there?


There might have been to some extent but we just knew we had to be there, someone had to be there and it had to be us I guess. We were getting pretty good help from the Americans then, they did a pretty good job for us.
And given that, do you think you had a different feeling towards your enemy?


Yeah I think, I didn’t hate the Germans but there was nothing about the Japs I liked at that stage. Yet they were probably pretty good people but you didn’t have that contact, you didn’t get to know any of them.


Well you have spoken today that even thought the Germans were your enemy there was some kind of respect for your enemy.
We just felt they were much the same as we were.
Well you have also spoken quite highly of Rommel?
Yes that’s right, we had quite a respect for him.
But there wasn’t any of


that kind of respect for the Japanese enemy?
We didn’t know who their general was, no idea what he was like. A lot of our unit went to Japan for the occupying forces were up in Japan for a while. I think they found it all right living up there then. Very different circumstances then.
Interviewee: Donald Scott Archive ID 0815 Tape 07


Don, I was wondering if you could describe, you described for me earlier in great detail how a patrol worked in the desert and I was just wondering if you could describe for me a patrol in the jungle?
It would be similar in many ways but different in lots of ways too. A patrol in the desert you would always be going out pretty close together. But in the jungle


You always had this forward scout who, if you came across any enemy, he would get shot but the rest of the patrol would be all right. So that’s the big difference. The forward scout, if he got shot, then there is another one about twenty yards behind, well he’d survive sometimes or he’d get shot sometimes. But the rest would then turn back and save themselves.


The desert patrols were, our patrols were always at night in the desert whereas our patrols were always in daylight, we would have got lost at night, if they were done at night. The desert patrols, you seemed to be aware earlier if something was going wrong, if you


were being fired on. So if they started firing on you usually you went to ground and stayed there as long as necessary.
How hard was it to see Japanese soldiers if they were camouflaged in the jungle?
Sometimes you’d be lucky to see them at all if they were well camouflaged,


they’d take some finding. I noticed a lot of places in New Guinea, the Japs would dig in and build a good fortification but we never really came across any Japs in there. They might have been in there, we just went past, but they went to a lot of trouble digging and setting up these things. They either had supplies in there or some were in there themselves.


You have talked a lot about Tobruk, about there being an enemy line, how different was that in the jungle?
Oh well Tobruk was just a semi-circle around our fortifications whereas the jungle could have gone up in a whole variety of places. I just don’t know how it would work out there. I suppose that’s


right, we might have say found some Japs in one section and wiped them out and there might have been later another lot of them disappear as well. But the jungle was so full of uncertainty, you never felt safe, you wouldn’t know what would happen ten yards from you.


How often would you be going on patrols?
Oh that varied quite a bit. The infantrymen, they would go pretty often. Because the platoon I was in had been the anti-tank unit we were lucky, we weren’t sent out on patrol so often.
What would you do in the times you weren’t on patrol?


Well I suppose we just try to find any way of making yourself comfortable, we’d do that. Try to get a good feed, that was a big help.
In the Middle East you mentioned that when there was a chance for leave you could go to cities or …,


what could you do for recreation or leave in the jungle?
Never any leave, never any recreation. You were in the army every day and that was it and after you had been there for a few months they just sent us home. I didn’t know much about Moresby, maybe some went on leave there,


quite a settlement there.
How much harder was it without regular leave or a chance for any kind of recreation?
Oh it was harder to put up with, you were in New Guinea in action nearly all the time.


It was hard to put up with but I suppose they did send you back to Australia before you were there too long.
What would patrols do to camouflage themselves moving through the jungle?
Men on patrols? Well a lot of these natives’ tracks through the jungle and all of the patrols went on those


and you would just walk along in your jungle green clothes and that was that.
I guess you have seen a lot of American films with paint on the face or …?
We didn’t go into it that much, I think it is done now quite a bit. That would help you in the jungle quite a bit I think.


I remember one day somewhere up in the jungle we came across a water course and we had some good fishing there, we threw some hand grenades in and about seventy fish came up on top so we grabbed those and cooked them up.


In the desert you were saying that you had the regular rations?
How hard was it to get water in the desert?
Well they just seemed to have enough water to keep us going .We got supplied in two-gallon tins and I suppose some would be allotted to a certain number of people. I don’t remember running out of water in the desert.


Was there ever a chance of running out of water in the jungle?
I don’t think so. You only had to walk five yards and you would find water.
I wonder in the men that you were patrolling with or just the men that you were seeing in New Guinea, how many of them were veterans from the Middle East?


Oh the ones I was with, I think we were all back from the Middle East but when we were in New Guinea we had casualties and they replaced them with a new lot so there was a trickle of new people coming in most of the time.


Was it difficult getting used to the new faces in the group?
Oh no, the new one would be very noticeable, you would soon get used to him.
At a fairly young age you were quite an experienced soldier?
I suppose I was, I was twenty-one when I was in Tobruk.


twenty-four in New Guinea I suppose.
Still being quite young but quite experienced, what would you say to the new faces coming into the group, the new soldiers?
Well I suppose most of the new ones would be very young coming in. I think if you are in the army you have got to be


that young age. By the time you are thirty you are starting to get old.
How does youth help you as a soldier?
Oh well I suppose most young people lose energy and strength as you get older. But you wouldn’t think you vary a lot in your twenties would you?


Perhaps we did I am not sure of that.
Having come from such a decisive battle as Alamein how did the fighting that you were doing in New Guinea compare?
Well it wasn’t as satisfying as a complete victory at Alamein, we had a great win. I suppose in


New Guinea it might have been some little area and they might be doing well somewhere else. You couldn’t compare, we didn’t know how well we were doing. I suppose the only thing, we used to hear the Yanks were doing fairly well in most places. Wherever they went in, they seemed to have the supplies and equipment and everything so they would soon overtake what they wanted to get.


How did you get along with the Americans as soldiers?
Well the ones I came across, I got along well with but I don’t think that happened overall, I think there was a few disagreements with a lot of them.
Did you have much to do with the black American soldiers?


I didn’t see a big percentage of black American soldiers at all, there might have been units where they were all black ones or something like that but no, they seemed to be mixed up and seemed to do all right.
You mentioned this morning that there was an Aboriginal soldier in your unit at Tobruk?
Yeah that’s right. That one I told you, he was a pretty good fellow and he had been a drover. He went along pretty well and


after the war, I know his son played Rugby League for Manly for years. The old fellow is dead now I think.
I wonder how he was received by the other Australian soldiers?
Oh he got on pretty well with everyone. Decent sort of fellow and


he had had a reasonably good job before the war. Pity there is not more like him now.
Were there times when anyone would give him a hard time?
Not that I remember, no, he was quite well-liked and everyone got on well with him.


Going back to New Guinea, you mentioned the Americans, you read a lot about Australians picking up American gear that the Americans had left around, that the Americans had a lot of excess stuff.
I suppose that could be right.


I don’t remember that happening to any of us but perhaps it did. They seemed to have a great supply system, they had plenty of everything and after we left Finschhafen, or before we had left Finschhafen, they had built a pretty big base there. I don’t know whether there is anything there now.


You mentioned before that you have never been back to New Guinea or never wanted to go back to New Guinea.
No, no desire to go back there, I would rather go anywhere else than there.
Why is that?
Just that fighting the war was so dreadful. The New Guinea people we came across, they were pretty good and I liked them, they were pretty helpful.


You mentioned a little bit about the natives before but I was just wondering if you can tell me a little bit more about the interactions you had with them and what you saw of their life?
We didn’t have much interaction with them. We would come across their little villages and their set up would always look neat and tidy and well run and they had good gardens there and a few animals


somewhere in the yard somewhere and they had fruit and vegetables that they lived on.
What were your instructions from the army as to how to deal with native people?
I just don’t know if there was any rules or regulations, there must have been some


rules wouldn’t there? No they always seemed pretty co-operative and we got on well with them. War must have upset their lifestyle a lot.


You have told us a little bit about how they helped the Australian Army.
I think a lot of them just took on jobs carrying things for the army and they would carry it up a few miles and be told where to leave it and they would do that and they seemed to keep on doing that and that was a big help. Because if they didn’t carry it, well you couldn’t load it on a truck.


How different do you think it would have been for you and for the other troops where you were if the natives had been helping the Japanese?
Oh that would have made a dramatic difference I think. If they were helping the Japanese, I suppose we would have started shooting the natives, that wouldn’t have been good, but luckily I think most of them were prepared to help us.


I don’t know what it is like up there now but I think maybe their system had changed quite a bit. I think when we were there it was running on a system that had been going for hundreds of years and now it’s changed.


You have seen some, I mean you mentioned how horrible the warfare was in the jungle but New Guinea is a place in the tropics, what natural beauty did you see?
I think maybe there was more natural beauty when we got inland a bit and into the mountains. The timber in the mountains was lovely and a lot of the plants there were pretty good. The inland villages were good.


I think at that stage the locals didn’t have a government in New Guinea, I think every little area just ran themselves all in a very similar pattern, that’s the way it went then.
You mentioned when we were talking about the war in the desert that most people recognised that there was a similarity between themselves and the Germans.


I think most people did to some extent, yeah.
Tell me how that attitude was different towards the Japanese.
I think it was very different. I don’t think we had much in common with the Japanese at all. The Japs did some pretty terrible things to prisoners of war and that sort of thing,


the Germans didn’t do that.
What did you know about those atrocities when you were in New Guinea?
Well I suppose we were a bit out of touch, we wouldn’t have known much then. We kept hearing the Japs took the 8th Divisional POWs, I think, they were treated pretty badly.


A lot of them starved and died didn’t they?
Were you ever given any instruction, either in the desert or in the jungle, as to what would happen or what to do if you were taken POW?
No I don’t think we were at all.


The Germans and Italians would have treated us all right. A few of our battalion were taken POW just outside Tobruk. Well for the rest of the war they were POW, well they certainly all came home, I know they certainly were treated well over there. One fellow


still keeps in touch with the Germans, they put him out on a German farm I think, that suited him well.
You have mentioned the battalion history and people from the battalion and I guess the 9th Division had a great reputation and I just


wonder how much of a badge of honour it is to have been part of the 9th.
Oh I am proud to have been in the 9th. I thought they were a good lot but I think that the other divisions were good too. Depended a bit where you were and what you had to do. We were probably lucky to be in the North African desert and get through the Siege of Tobruk and then


win the Battle of Alamein, that gave us a bit of an uplift whereas the 8th Division had a terrible time, fought the Japs once and ended up all as POWs.
You mentioned at Alamein people like Montgomery came around and buoyed morale.
That’s right yes.


I wonder what kept morale going in the jungle when you were more isolated?
I don’t know, it was certainly different. There was nothing to keep morale going. You just knew what was happening locally with your unit, that’s about all we knew.
You said that you had an Owen gun with you when you were in the jungle.


In New Guinea.
Can you tell me the difference for you between having the Owen gun and just the rifle?
Well the Owen gun was easier to carry around for one thing, shorter and lighter and it had an ammunition carrier which was very convenient so it was light and easy to use and it was very efficient and if you were using it in the jungle it was usually over a short range,


over a long range the old 303 was probably a better rifle, but it was the ideal thing in the jungle I think. The only other thing we had in the battalion, we had a mortar platoon, you know what mortars are don’t you? They were quite useful. They were big and awkward things to carry and no one liked


carrying it. I can remember having a day of carrying it, I had really had it by the end of the day.
I wonder with you mentioning that the Owen gun was easier to carry, having to lug all of


your gear, what was the gear that you were having to carry with you on patrol or …?
Moving around I suppose just our own equipment. The clothes we had, shaving gear, toothbrush and a few other odd items I suppose. Jungle living conditions were pretty tough.


How many of the group would be taken out by illness?
Like, do you mean when we were in New Guinea how many would get malaria? Gee I don’t know much about that number, didn’t seem to be a lot then.


I wonder you mentioned that you weren’t hearing too much news of what was happening in the rest of the war.
Oh no, when we were in New Guinea we heard very little.
How often would you get mail?
Mail would turn up every now and again, that would be erratic. Might be without it for two or three weeks but then catch up with a good lot. It always seemed to get to battalion and they got it out to us.


Getting mail gave you a boost when the mail came and you found out what was happening at home.
What sort of things would your mother be writing to you?
Oh well, about the rest of the family and what was happening on the property and what the season was like. If the crops


were any good or the sheep were doing well. Probably a few other personal things she would write about. She was very good writing letters to us all through the war, she never failed.
You hear of people getting comfort packages or goods sent from home, I wonder if you got packages at any stage?


In New Guinea? I think we did, that’s right, I remember now you mentioned it, somehow the local school or something would send you a Christmas cake in a tin package and that was good. We used to get a bit of stuff from home and it was great when that arrived.


You hear about smaller communities really following the success of the young men who were overseas?
I think they did pretty well. A little bush school I went to, they kept sending me things all through the war, that was very good.
What sort of things would they be sending you?
Mainly something to eat, that was about the best thing we could get. Every now and then


some clothing, a shirt or some underpants or something. That was good too.
I wonder, just finding your way through the jungle, what sort of maps did you have?
Oh we didn’t have any maps at all, just knew these native tracks would be through the jungle


and they would be sent out, maybe the battalion drew a plan of those, I am not sure of that. But most of the native tracks that led through the jungle led to another village a few miles away. I always thought that their living system was pretty good in New Guinea and it was a pity that it’s changed now.


I think it might be a pity, it worked pretty well before.
Can you describe what one of the native tracks looked like?
Well it was usually only a track about that wide, great tall trees either side of it. It sort of followed the terrain pretty well, if there was a place to cross the creek it seemed to know where to cross and keep on going the other way.


Going up the hills, if it wasn’t too steep, it would find an easier way around the mountain.
Were they ever difficult to follow, was there ever trouble finding [them]?
The tracks? Oh no, once you got on one you just followed it.


Maybe if it branched off somewhere it would be hard, you wouldn’t know which one to go on. It would be hopeless to get lost in the jungle, you wouldn’t know what to do to get back.
Had you been taught anything or what had you been taught about how to survive if you were lost?


I don’t remember being taught anything. I suppose you found something you could eat. I remember a fruit up there, we found that when we went over, a small fruit, bit bigger than a cherry, they were good eating.


You mentioned the, a bird that you killed once and cooked up for a feed?
Oh yes, forgotten what, bit like a dove. I remember we were a bit short of food and we saw this bird at the top of the tree and we shot at it and down it came. Fellows thought it was great, we cooked it up and ate it.


Could you maintain physical fitness and health on just rations?
Somehow we survived and maintained reasonable health. Suited some people and others might have suffered by it. I told you about the day we threw the hand grenades in the water and got all of those fish, well that was a really good feed.


You mentioned that you would patrol during the day and stop at night, what would you do at night? How would a typical night go?
Well I suppose someone had to be awake all of the time so you would sleep while you could and then every hour someone would wake you and then your turn, then you’d wake the next fellow. That seemed to work pretty well.


We were never disturbed at night. It would be pretty impossible walking along those tracks at night when it was dead dark and if you got lost or something you would never find out how to correct your marching.
I wonder, you hear orders about


people not being allowed to move at night or …, I just wonder how strict it was at night?
Yeah, I think there would be very little movement at night, maybe if you were in a safe area you could move, you could carry a light with you, then that would be all right. Pitch black with, maybe the natives could move at night because they knew their tracks but I don’t think we could.


I suppose the war in Vietnam might have almost been worse than New Guinea, everyone who went to that thought it was pretty awful.


You have described how awful the war in the jungle is but I wonder if you have ever seen anything in film or television that comes close to recreating the problems of jungle warfare?
Well I have never seen much on film but no doubt it must be on film to some extent but I haven’t come across it.


How much would you talk to each other about the problems that you were having coping?
That’s a good question. Some days we might talk a lot, some days we might not talk at all. I suppose after our mail came in everybody had something to talk about then.
How much of your mail would you share with people?


I think you only read your own mail and talked about it with others, you didn’t actually share it, there was no point in that.
How censored was the mail that you were getting from home?
Oh I think mail coming to us, I suppose it might have been, I have forgotten it may have been, might not have been, I am not sure now,


but ours had to be looked, if you wrote a letter you had to hand it to your officer and he had to read it through, see that everything was in order. If it wasn’t, he would cut a bit out of it.
How conscious of somebody else reading your mail were you when you were writing letters?


Oh I can’t remember it happening. Usually if you were writing, there wouldn’t be anyone standing behind you or things like that, no I don’t think anyone would have bothered much trying to read your letters.
You hear of soldiers who are overseas trying to slip in tricks of trying to tell their family where they were without actually saying the words.


I suppose that went on, I don’t know what they did.
I wonder if you or anyone in your group had found any way of communicating that to …?
No, I think when you were in the Middle East, they just knew where we were in any case I think. No I don’t remember any mail going astray or reading others’ letters.


You hear stories of soldiers receiving ‘Dear John’ letters [letter informing that a relationship is over], I guess where girlfriends or fiancées or wives would run off with other people while ….
Well no doubt that was happening, yeah I heard about that a couple of times. That would be a terrible shock while you were over there if your wife had


cleared off with someone else. I suppose, well most of us weren’t married then, maybe a quarter were married or something like that.
What differences did you notice in the married men I guess who were in your unit? Was there …?


Yes there was a bit of difference about them, a bit more matured lifestyle or something like that or they had more interest in life than we did. Getting a letter from their wife or kids would have been a big thing for them where we only got a letter from our mothers and fathers.


I wonder how much you would share about yourself and your life before the war with the men you were serving with?
Oh you shared that to quite an extent. A lot of us had a similar lifestyle if we lived on the land, we talked about what was happening on the land at home


and how things were going. It was always good to compare with someone else what was happening on their farms.
What skills had growing up on a farm given you that were useful in the army?
I suppose being able to look after machinery helped with some things in the army. On the farm when you were young you learnt how to shoot a rifle,


well that helped too I suppose, start using the army rifle. I suppose maybe that helped a bit on patrol too, being on the land you were used to walking around the paddocks or something, you knew how to get around.


Is there any skill you wish you had had I guess before or during your time in the army?
Well there probably is, I’d have to think, probably quite a few things, I just can’t think what they would have been.


I suppose one of the main things in the army was being able to communicate with the home people and your friends still in Australia. Often we would go on leave and we would buy something to send home to somebody in Australia, unusual sort of a thing that we didn’t have here.


What sort of things would you buy to send home?
I remember one girlfriend I had, I bought her some scent from Cairo. I don’t know what she thought of them. There is a well known shop in Cairo for selling scents and perfumes and things. That was one thing, there was probably others but I can’t think what they are now.


That’s great, thanks very much for that Don, we’re at the end of our tape.
You’re very clever to keep asking questions.
Interviewee: Donald Scott Archive ID 0815 Tape 08


Don, you were talking just before we had a break about the skills that were useful to you. I was wondering if you could tell me how you mixed with the city boys and the country boys in the army?
There is a definite difference between the city boys and the country boys


but we all ended up getting on well together. But I suppose they had grown up with different interests to what we had had on a farm. They didn’t know much about a farm and we didn’t know much about the city. Not much more I can tell you about that I think.


Well you hear stories about how the army was a great leveller and how the army boys came from all over, can you tell me how it was in your unit with regards to that?
I think when you face a great enemy you’re absolutely right. After a while it ended up being like that, you all ended up with similar interests or interested in the other fellow’s point of view.


Well I am wondering on that point whether you encountered boys who weren’t so familiar with handling rifles and that you were able to help them out?
Well I suppose we did to some extent but I think the army soon taught them how to handle their rifles, which is not too difficult really.


You have just said something quite interesting because I have actually talked to a few city boys who found rifles completely new to them and they didn’t know one end from the other end.
I suppose that could be right whereas if you grow up on a farm you soon learn to know what a rifle is because it is a useful thing.


The farm rifle is only used for shooting rabbits and foxes and pests and things like that but the army rifle is different isn’t it? It’s used to shoot the enemy.
Yes and in that regard it is quite a quantum leap.


I guess we all just ended up knowing how to use the army rifle and what it was for. My old rifle, I don’t think I ever pointed it at anyone and shot at them.
Something that we haven’t talked much about today is the kind of mateship you found in your youth in the army.


You make some good friendships. The bloke I was in the hole or the dugout with in Tobruk we were good friends for a long while after the war, he died a few years ago., I see his wife now and again. He was a good friend for a long while.


There is a few others that I made good friends with that I keep in touch with a bit.
Well you, as you mentioned, were very young and still very much in your formative years and thrust into a situation where you’re …


Sixty years later.
Well given that sixty years of reflection, I am wondering what you learnt about other men under stressful situations during that time?
I suppose you learn a bit. Probably every person is a bit different under


stressful situations. I don’t think I ever saw anyone very upset or worried or frightened. Whatever was coming, they just prepared to accept it and see what happened. In our army unit there were a few blokes there that were younger than me, young blokes less than sixteen under a false name.


Extraordinary isn’t it?
Well perhaps there might have been things that you learnt about yourself that you can now look back on?
That’s sort of happened,


things that you wouldn’t have expected of yourself or didn’t realise it. I am sure wartime and wartime friends must have given me some changes.


Well you have mentioned that you were very keen to get home, both from the Middle East and then again from New Guinea, how difficult was it coming home and adjusting?
Well you mean coming home from the Middle East first and then New Guinea?
Well both times, it might have been different on both occasions?
Well coming home form the Middle East, all I had was a fortnight


at home and then we were off again so it didn’t make much difference but coming home from New Guinea and getting out of the army, well that was a great difference. I felt then, ‘Good, I am here, I am going to stay here and have a life.’ After that I have had fifty-odd years of nice, happy married life, can’t do much better than that.


You mentioned that your mother requested your discharge which was successful?
Well actually she asked me to get this six weeks seasonal leave and this other fellow on the train told me what to do to be able to get out all together. She was very pleased when I was able to get out of the army. My brother and his wife had been living with her, that’s always awkward isn’t it, two women?


So when I came home, my brother and his wife moved out to another house and I lived in the old home with my mother then, for a good while until I got married.
I am wondering if you recall much about war’s end?
The end of the war?


A couple of things I remember vividly. I was lucky, we were from West Wyalong to Sydney for something, I forget what it was, and we just happened to be there the day war ended. Well celebrations in Sydney, they were something that I can never forget. I can remember one fellow, we were near Martin Place, ever seen the photo of the fellow who danced down along Martin Place? I have never forgotten him and he happened to be


at the Law School with Moiai so we know who that bloke was. He was quite noticeable on the newsreel that day and has been ever since. But that was a lovely day to be in Sydney for the end of the war. Took quite a while for some fellows to get out of the army even after the war ended, I don’t know why it took so long but


it did. You think if they had somebody to go home to they would have got out quickly. It just didn’t work that way.
Do you recall, before war’s end when you were demobbed [demobilised]?


Oh well I was at home on this seasonal leave and I just put in for discharge and I just had to go down to Sydney Showground to get that. That was pretty straightforward and easygoing, got my discharge and ran into someone who I knew and we went down and had a beer and went back to civilian life, that was great.


Well going back to the idea of mateship, I was wondering if there was anybody, any of your mates that had been with you all of the way through?
Yes there are some. Probably the closest mate I had, he died last year. He was a pretty good bloke, he actually wrote a history of the battalion, I have got it out there, I will show it to you.


Quite a few I knew well have died but there is still a few left that I am quite friendly with and if I go down to the Sydney Anzac March, well there is always three or four of them there, nice to see them. Now you can take your son


down to march in the Anzac March in Sydney, good idea to keep the numbers up. In a few more years there won’t be many of us left to march.
I am wondering if it is more important for you to remember now then it was back then?
I think it is more important now because when I got out of the army


for a few years and just started a new life on the property at home, I was interested in that. In a few years I got married, well then everything is different. I suppose it was fifteen, twenty years before I regained much interest in the army but now any old fellows I knew, I like to keep in touch with them. I think they all feel the same,


we all seem to get on well together. I rang one of them the other day, last night, told him what I was going to be doing today. He was very interested in that, one of my friends down in Sydney.
And what do you think it is about your kinship or bond with your battalion that you feel so strongly now?


Maybe facing up to the possibility of death at any stage in the army aren’t you? That’s a pretty close association.


I suppose we all have memories of our friends who were killed, we will never forget them. I think you just realise how lucky you are to be a survivor.
Do you think it was just luck?


I thought it was luck, I can’t account for it any other way. Luck or fate or just the way it was meant to be. I don’t know what it is. I certainly feel I was lucky.
You hear stories about people carrying lucky charms with them going into war, I was wondering if you carried anything?


No, no I don’t know of anyone else who did either. But if someone else wants to do that, that’s good I think too.
And do you think that you had any superstition?
I don’t think so, no. I was only reading yesterday about a friend of mine who was being sent out of Tobruk like I was


but on his way back to Alexandria he was killed. He was unlucky. The ship he was going out on got hit by a bomb and he got killed, poor bloke. Very unlucky I think.
Well going back to after you were demobbed and you were back on the farm,


I am wondering whether you got the opportunity to talk to anybody about your wartime experience?
No, I think when we got out of the army, you didn’t seem to talk to anyone much about it. Maybe a few old World War I fellows, they’d have a talk to us, but I didn’t ever talk much to my mother about it, my brother or my sister.


I think it was just relief to have it all over with and back home again.
I have also heard that some men had nightmares and continue to have nightmares now?
No I never have any. I can’t remember having a nightmare about the war for years and years.


In fact I don’t dream much at all about anything, don’t know why but that’s what happens.
One thing that I have been meaning to ask is


how did you find the discipline in the army?
I found the discipline in the army didn’t worry me but in our case it wasn’t very strict or anything. As long as you did all the things that were expected of you everything went along pretty quietly. I don’t remember many in our unit who did rebel against the system.


They knew they were in the army and they accepted it and that was that.
I was wondering if there were any times that you ever felt that you received an order that you didn’t quite agree with but you had to carry out nevertheless?
I’m sure that happened sometimes but never very seriously,


not that I can recall any particular incident. Most times things seemed to go along and I got a pretty fair deal over everything.
And what about, from your descriptions this may apply specifically to New Guinea, times when you


personally felt like you just couldn’t get up the next day and be a soldier?
Oh no I just felt I was in there and I had to put up with it and stay there as long as I had to. Most times in the army I was reasonably satisfied with it, put up with it, knew I had volunteered to do the job and I had to stay there and do it.


Well you have spoken today with a great deal of humility today about your own wartime experience and you have spoken quite a bit about how others may have had a worse time than you. Nevertheless you were under a great deal of stress both in the Middle East and in New Guinea and you have seen quite a bit of action,


post-war do you feel like you received enough thanks?
I didn’t expect a lot of thanks. I just did my job, I suppose, in a small way and I survived, I was lucky. I didn’t have any complaints against any of it. No, my life in the army was quite satisfying. I would even call it happy I suppose.


I was lucky.
Well you mentioned I think, when you returned from the Middle East I think, I am not sure now, you took part in a parade?
We did a march through Sydney after we came home from the Middle East. That was a day that made us feel good. The crowd were terrific to us that day and we were in great form


and we all marched that day with a bit of light in our step. I was just looking at a photo yesterday of that march. Nice to recall it.
Well I am wondering, now when you take part in remembrance marches like Anzac, apart from physically getting through the march on the day why is it important to you to march


on those days?
Well I think one thing, it’s nice to be with those fellows I knew years ago, well to remember that we did win World War II, that’s still pleasing. It is pleasing to see the crowd that goes out to watch us, that makes us feel great. We are still getting good support from the whole of the community.


I also wonder what is ahead for the young people now, a bit worrying what could happen the way things are shaping up.
I am also wondering whether now


that time has passed, you have had more opportunity to talk about your war experiences with your immediate family?
I think I haven’t talked a lot but I think that’s normal. I think families in about ten or twenty years’ time will think, ‘Oh why didn’t I ask Dad this or that?’ Because I remember


I hardly asked anyone about World War I and I think they are much the same as I would have been. Still, I have got a few books to leave, about what I did and what happened.
Do you think that there might have been things that you shared with us today that you haven’t shared with anybody?


I think there might be but I just can’t think what they are. I hope there are some things. I think you have done an excellent job to sit here all day asking these questions, very good.
Well I am wondering now, with so much time to reflect, you can think back on your time and


perhaps look at how your army years might have changed you?
They must have changed me somehow but I don’t know why or which ways. I think the army must have changed my life to some extent. Could be for the better because if I had never gone to the army I would have just stayed out there on the land


all of my life, a lot of people I would never have met that I get on well with now.
And why do you think was it so vital for you to put those experiences and those memories in a draw


and file it away?
I didn’t think it was very vital, I just put them away occasionally, casually and that’s that and as the years go by I am more interested now than I was then.
I am wondering if some of those memories that you have might be some


of your strongest life memories?
Oh I am sure they are. A lot of the wartime memories and memories of other men, friends that were killed. There was one fellow in our battalion that ended up winning a VC [Victoria Cross], well he was marvellous fellow. He won the VC but he was killed winning the VC, he has been dead for a long while.


You have talked quite a bit today of men under stress and cowardice, but I am wondering whether you encountered some acts of bravery?
I think I saw


quite a few acts of bravery. Great to see them or maybe I didn’t see them but I had heard of them from other men in the battalion. Quite a few did win some awards for bravery and they didn’t get those for nothing.


I think Moiai came home didn’t she? That’s our phone ringing. She’ll get onto it, oh she has.
Can you tell me about any of those acts of bravery?
Oh well, I suppose I have heard. I don’t know much in detail about them now, I have forgotten them, just what they did.


No I don’t remember enough about them to be able to tell you anything about that.
And why is it important do you think to remember?
I don’t know whether it is important but I like to remember if I can.


I am probably sorry that I don’t remember them better but I just don’t and that’s that. There were some that won awards for bravery and I didn’t even know about it at the time, it was only later that I learnt about it.


Do you think on reflection looking back there was a time that was a saddest time?
A sad time? No I don’t think there was, I don’t recall any sadness through that


time. The only sadness I suppose was from some friend who was killed in the army.
I am wondering whether receiving news about your father’s death might have caused you


Yeah that was sad, that upset me for quite a while, but I just had to get over it, there was nothing I could do about it.
How or in what way were you anxious to help your mother?


It’s hard to say but I was over there in the Middle East and there wasn’t much I could do to help her, only to just keep writing letters to her and do the best I could from that point of view. It was pretty awful for her but she survived it all right.
And when you returned after the war and your brother moved away and you took over


some of the responsibility?
Oh yes, I moved into the old homestead with my mother until I got married and we moved off on our own too.


Well I am wondering, when you were able to take up the reigns, so to speak, how much pressure there was on you as a man to come back to the farm and whether you, perhaps after travelling the world you might have wanted to do something else?
No, I am pretty sure I wanted to be on the farm. I liked being there and I liked the lifestyle.


We had a good farm and a nice home and everything there, plenty of friends around the district. I had been to school at the little local school and my friends were still there. I was happy to be back there. I spent a few years back there until Moiai and I got married and took off on our own and all that has been very nice too.


Looking back to that time, I am wondering what were your proudest moments of being in the army?
Oh gee. I would have to give that some thought. I know the nicest time was coming back through Sydney Heads after being in the Middle-


East. I don’t know if there were, I was happy and I was satisfied in the army but I don’t know that I did anything outstanding for the army, just an ordinary sort of a soldier I think.


And yet your contribution did help Australia to win the war?
Well yes, a tiny little bit, I suppose it must have mustn’t it? Well thousands of others like me who all did about the same. Well that was good, that’s what you wanted, the bulk of people to do their best, isn’t it?


In that regard, whilst a lot of emphasis gets placed on people who win awards for great achievements, nevertheless it is everybody’s contribution.
Oh yes, sure. Someone might get an award but there is someone else who did almost the same thing and doesn’t get anything although I don’t think I ever deserved anything.


I was lucky to survive.
And when you were coming home, well perhaps your homecoming from the Middle East was more emotional than New Guinea.
Oh yeah that was lovely.
Why do you think coming home from the Middle East was more emotional than New Guinea?


That’s a bit hard to say but being over there for a couple of years and then coming home, coming through Sydney Heads was lovely. Being in New Guinea, coming home, for some reason it wasn’t so exciting but when I got home and found I could get out of the army, that was quite exciting.


I am wondering also if now, or perhaps back then, you ever realised that perhaps your enemy was no longer your enemy?


That would be right I think. Well the Germans and Italians, they’re no longer enemies. I don’t know much about the Japs but I feel better than I used to towards them. That’s about all I can say about that. We get along pretty well with the Japs now, I think.


But I have always felt sorry for those fellows who were POWs for the Japs, they were treated poorly weren’t they?
What advice, if any of your grandchildren came to you and said, “Grandpa, I want to join up the services,”


what do you think that would be the type of advice you could pass on to them from your own experience?
The first thing probably is most of my grandchildren are girls and they are growing up a bit. The only boys, that one here today and the other four year old and another eight year old, so none of them are likely to come along and enlist while I am alive


but you never know what is going to happen in ten years’ time, could be big trouble again.
Well hypothetically if they did come to you seeking advice?
Well it would depend a bit on the make up of each family. There is only boy in each family. When there is only one, I wouldn’t like to see them go and enlist.


If there were two or three, some of them could go I think.
And what do you think, now that you have had so many years to reflect, what do you feel about war now?
Just wish there was some other way, it should never have ever happened.


It’s going to keep on going now I am afraid, could be getting worse even. I think my grandchildren could see some pretty bad times in the world.


And what would your greatest fear be?
Oh well I think terrorism is a terrible thing in the world and religious fanatics I think are pretty terrible too. They would be the main worries I think.
Well we are coming to the end of our session today. I am wondering if there is anything that either we have forgotten or


you would like to say in closing?
I think you have been very good and very clever in thinking of all of these questions and I can’t think of anything else I would like to tell you. Maybe tomorrow I might think of something, but that’s too late. But you two have done a very good job, wouldn’t be easy. Be a bit boring too, wouldn’t it?


Well thank you for that. Just one final thing, before you go, do you think there are any ditties or songs that you remember from your unit?
Oh gee, I would have to look up the army book, I can’t recall any straight off.
No jokes?
Oh there would be some jokes but I can’t think of them either.


I remember the army with good memories, it was a good unit and a whole lot of good fellows in it. That was pretty satisfying, it is nice to still have some of those as good friends, the ones that are still surviving. In fact the fellow that runs our army association, he wants me to ring him up and let him know how


I got on with you two.
Well it has been a pleasure talking to you today, thank you for your time and your memories.
I admire you for the job you’ve done. My memories? Gee I think my memory has gone a lot now. I am terrible now forgetting people’s names and a few other things.
Well thank you for speaking with us.
I am eighty-four, I suppose I am lucky to still be about, still enjoying my life.


I hope there is a bit more left.
I am sure there will be.
You made a pleasant and interesting day, thank you both.
Thank you.


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