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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?