variety of public schools, at one stage we went to live in the mountains, a place called Warrimoo. I went to Parramatta High School and I was there, I did six years there because I missed out one year and I finished up Dux of the school at
Parramatta. The university exhibition took me to Sydney University, I think, oh goodness knows, in the thirties anyway. And I did science there but I had to drop out, the trouble was the Stantons
had lots of push and so on and so forth but they never had any money. And I was trying to do university on tuppence a day which was a tram fare from, oh two miles walk to Five Dock and catch the tram and get off at University Stairs and so on which became a bit grim. And course that was
heights of the Depression and I took a hell of a long while to get a job. But eventually I got a job with a stock and share broker, I was there for three or four years, Pitt Street. And I finally, I blew that one, he was talking monkeys and peanuts and so on and so forth,
you only got peanuts there for stock and share broker round and you were expected to do everything. Anyway he wanted me there with some menial job one day to take his shoes round to get them mended and I jacked up and I got the sack. I worked after that with a chap I’d known there, I did about a year in a building business.
Strangely the office was in Martin Place directly opposite the town hall, ah, the GPO [General Post Office] clock. And I gave that one up and I went to Canberra and I had a part time job in Canberra. I worked in the stores branch there for a while and ordering
goods which used to come up to the railway there in a special truck which was loaded up in Darling Harbour and it came along and there were. And this was the time when the Duke of Gloucester was Governor General and they were ordering special things for his wife, the Duchess. And I
remember one thing that this funny little clerk of works used to come in and order things. But he wanted for the Duchess a symphonic lavatory seat, and siphonic of course. And it was, but then the war came along and some
time in October ‘39 I put my name down for the book and went into camp I think it was towards the end of October. And that’s the sort of précis of my life up to the start of the war I should say. Although I might say that I was born
in the first few months of the First World War and I went right through the Second World War.
full six years in the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] and I was a Captain at the end of the war and I could see it coming. I was at that stage on General Staff at Land Headquarters in Melbourne and a bit fed up, I was trying to get back to my unit. And incidentally I was 2/3rd Battalion all the
way through and I was seconded at various things. Anyway I knew that having had this little job in Canberra before the war I was entitled to be re-employed by ‘em. So I wrote ‘em a letter and said, “Well you know I’d like a job in Canberra and I don’t want any deadhead departments like the Department of Interior or anything like that, I prefer the Treasury.” That’s where I went,
and I had twenty years at the Treasury and I started off as a base-grade clerk and I finished up as a First Assistant Secretary, a show which was near the top. And with quite a lot of influence and so on, I
was the expert of aviation and various other transport things. And I spent some time as the Treasury Representative on the Stevedoring Industry Commission they called it in those days. And
with all the water under it, there were three men on it and we used to sort of run the waterfront part, that was very interesting too. And I did a lot of other interesting things, I was never on any sort of routine financial job in the Treasury, I was always on policy departments or
divisions they were. And I got tangled up in rail standardisation and beef cattle roads in Western Australia and Northern Territory. And I used to
do the Postmaster General’s thing. They’d refer to me any request for more money and all the rest of it in the business. And I, just by accident adopted close ties with the
Second Secretary to the Treasury, a man named Watt and I didn’t act as a First Assistant to him but I was more or less a personal friend that he would refer all these things to me and so on. And that way I got tangled up in the airline game and
I was there at the early struggles of the founding of Trans Australia Airlines. And I went through, I did all the groundwork in the purchase by the Commonwealth of the shares in Qantas [airlines]. And then when we got a new
Secretary of the Treasury, Sir Roland Wilson, and he came in and he knew nothing about aircraft and so on, he was a civil engineer sort of non professional. But he sent for me one day and I went in and he talked about
the airlines and what was doing. And he said, “Would you like a drink?” I said, “Yes I would.” And he had a nice little room behind his big office, so I went in and he came out with a new bottle of sherry and plonked it down. He said, “Can you drink sherry?” I said, “I can drink anything.” And
anyway we had a lovely time and we finished this bottle of sherry in one session between us and I think I sort of won that encounter, I was a bit smarter than he. And we finished up he was telling me about the time that when he was a Rhodes Scholar of course, at Oxford, they
had a sports day and he said he was pretty well tanked up, he said, “You know, one way and another,” he said, “but in the pole vault,” he said, “but they had me in the pole vault and there was one point in the point score between Oxford and Cambridge.” And they said, “Well you gotta go in the pole vault and just get us this one point.” So
he said, “I couldn’t quite see the sticks anywhere so I raced in.” And he said, “Well,” he said, “all I remember is they got a photo of me going head first over the crossbar in pole vault.” He said, “But we won.” See, that was the point. But he was a very interesting character, Wilson.
and when we were working out a world agreement between oh, eighty or ninety countries and I used to do, oh, I suppose I’d go for three weeks at a time in Washington and go back. And eventually it worked out; we formed the International Air Transport, no
Intelsat, International Telecommunication Satellite Corporation. And then I was a member of that and I had to go to regular meetings and every year we had a special away meeting, away from Washington. For instance I went to meetings in
Naples, Rio de Janeiro, Honolulu oh and a couple of others,
stage, Dad went off to war in the 6th Light Horse Regiment, he served in Egypt and what was then Palestine and so on. He was a great horseman and so on, anyway one of their rogue horses caught him
and rode over backwards and injured him at some stage and he was invalided out of that war so. And from then on we had a succession of births and so on in the family and we finished up, I think there were nine of us in the finish, one that I never saw, one little boy that was went on,
I knew him, well I was fourteen when he died and he told me, I used to do his library books for him, you know, get books from the library and carry them and so on and so forth. And he’d talk on all sorts of things; he never mentioned his father or his mother or his family at all. But and then it came down to, my father, well
he had stories from everywhere one way another, he was, and he worked in the bush and he’d done this and he’d by accident become a very good horseman. And knew a lot about his family I suppose because then we lived near them
when we, his brothers and one brother had five boys and I knew them all very well, but so I was pretty up with them. And incidentally of those five boys there’s only one left now at the moment.
Now did anyone else that you knew talk about World War I at all?
No. I’ve often regretted that I didn’t sort of go out for information, that it was, I think it was about 1980 before I started in genealogy, and when I looked at all the wonderful stories I could have got if I’d been
out to get them you know, if you’d only been here last week sort of thing you’d do very well. But...
Yes I must admit I have the same frustrations with my own family history and aunts and uncles not interviewed and grandparents etcetera. Just moving back to your father, could you describe your father’s personality for us?
Well yes, he was a, I know I was dead scared of him one way and another, I was the eldest boy in the family and that had some good points and some bad points. But he expected
me to be able to do everything that he was, I was his number one right-hand man. And I remember at the age of about six, we were living in a place with a house and there was a separate block beside it. And he was dealing in horses of some sort then and I remember this day
with these big draft horses, they started to gallop down from the top. And I’m about six years old and I’m down to the bottom and he yells out, “Block ‘em, block ‘em.” And I get out like this and wave my hands and they stopped you know, that was the point. But he expected me to do things and
some of his multitudinous number of jobs he did, he’d break in horses. And we had a big gig [light, two-wheeled, one-horsed carriage] with a long sharp and he’d go out and with his rogue horse and away we’d go. And he’d get out to chase the horse or something and I’d have to set up in the gig and hold the
reins. This is, I remember about aged six or seven or something like that, and so I got a lot of training there one way and another. And then he had yes, lots of affinity with
people in Burragorang Valley, which of course is flooded now [Warragamba Reservoir]. And he’d got some old cars and he was running a car service between Sydney and Burragorang and knew people down there. And I used to get in on this and there’s people there would invite me
to come on my school holidays and I used to help them, these are farmers in the place. At quite a young age I broke a couple of horses and I remember one and from this school holidays
I went out droving out from Burragorang and up towards Kanangra Walls which is out towards Jenolan Caves there, that was absolutely virgin bush out that way. That was a very interesting time, I had my own horse and went with them and had a few adventures there. But...
And he set up his own business and he used to go round in a horse and sulky [light, two-wheeled, one-horse vehicle for one person], no cars in those days, or very few, taking photos and such. And one day he, all his cameras and his glass slides, because no roll of film in those days;
anyway the horse bolted and the sulky tipped over and smashed up everything see, so that was one thing that was (UNCLEAR). And then I think might have been then he went off to the bush and learned all about horses and so on. And then he did commercial travelling jobs. And I remember, he once won
a job with a car, and it was an engine under the seat and a chain drive to the back wheels. It was called a Mitsal [?], something like that, it was an old thing and with a dickey seat [back seat] you could sit up in the back of it. And one of these that, you know, you’ve seen ‘em in these
ancient car drives and so on. And that was from that he drifted into this car hire business, and he drifted out of that when the horrible New South Wales Government passed legislation which put him out of business see. And then he did a bit of farming and then
the worst of the Depression and he took the family onto a little farm down in Burragorang Valley. And I had a job in Sydney at that stage and I didn’t go and live with them in Burraga, I used to go there occasionally for holidays.
Well this goes back to the point that after the First War he was repatriated and they put him on a poultry farm at Milperra, which is out of Bankstown.
And the two things in his life that he hated, one was cows and the other was chooks [chickens]. And I think I must have inherited something because my first childish memories must have been just before I was six years old. I’ve got no recollection whatsoever but I can
remember on this poultry farm getting chickens and wringing their necks. And, you know, in wintertime you’d have little containers for water for the chooks and they’d come along, and it’d get so cold that you’d get ice all over the top
of that and you’d go and have to break that so they could go and I had no love for chickens. And...
Her father was Swedish, he’d come on a ship and gone to the goldfields or something like that and married, and she was a local, born in Australia. Anyway they had a fair-sized family but my mother was oh about the second
youngest of the family. And she always suffered from deafness and I remember as kids we’d have to pipe up over voices so that she could hear. It wasn’t until later in life that she got some sort of a hearing aid and came on. But she was a lovely person
and she really kept the thing going and I think they had a marvellous relationship with the pair of them which we’ve really learned more about in later time.
and all the rest of it. And the first examination that came along I topped the examination without any trouble, I got fifty-six points out of sixty I think so you know, it was. Anyway we went from there, we went to Concord, lived in a place there
and I went to Concord Public School into third class and went through to sixth class. And for some reason I had one of my mother’s nephews was quite a famous violinist, Ernest Long.
And Dad got a violin and got me sent with him to learn the violin. And not long afterwards he went away overseas and I was sent to another character, the violin, and he made
his lesson times during school hours. And I remember I was in the sixth class at Bankstown, ah, at Concord Public School and I told the Headmaster that I wanted to go off to this woman and he said, “No” so I waited until he was out of the room
and I went. And I had all the sympathy of my parents and Dad took me away from Concord School and sent me to Burwood and this is in my sixth year, that’s three months at Concord, three months at Burwood. Then we got the bright idea to go up to the Blue Mountains for some holidays. And then we went up there and we stayed there for a while so I went for three months to Glenbrook
Public School. Then we lived at, that’s right we had this big house at Warrimoo and they started a public school at Blaxland. And I went to, it was closer and the young brother and I used to ride bikes down, up and down the highway, which was just rough metal at that stage. And what happened, well
that’s right, three months at Concord, three months at Burwood, three months at Glenbrook and three months at Blaxland. But anyway for what it was worth, I was Dux of the Blaxland School was about three or four others, it was a one teacher school. Strangely enough I met one of
the chaps fairly recently from out at...
the end of it I did my qualified certificate and I got an exhibition, I got a bursary [scholarship], that’s right and I went to Parramatta High and I did six years altogether there because the fifth year was completely messed up. I had bad tooth
trouble and every time I had tooth trouble, someone extracted teeth from me and that just about killed me. And I had a leaving certificate target; I took honours in four subjects and passed in six, so that’s ten papers I had I think.
And with this tooth trouble I missed a couple, anyway I got a very swishy sort of a pass at the end. I got one honours and one A, one B and one lower hand or something like that. Family said, “You do another”, I was young for my sort of year.
right. Yes, in the final year at Parramatta, I was Dux of the school, the best leaving certificate pass, university exhibition and I went off into science at Sydney University. And this was at a very low ebb in the
Stanton affairs before I made the decision that it was getting difficult, more difficult to carry on there. And I thought I, this can’t go on for four years, this can’t go there and I’ve got to do something and get a job so I tossed it.
with all of this, we had a typewriter Dad had got from somewhere, cause he was writing a novel in the meantime and I was doing the typing for it and so on and so forth, I’ve got it over there somewhere. And I had about oh I think two dozen where I was in the last six applicants for positions. There’d be two thousand applicants
for a position that sort of suited me and I finally got down to the point where this one clicked, and I got this job with the stock and share broker. And I’d studied up on accountancy from an old book that we had there and I was able to do all the accounting stuff for
this stock and share broker; just fortuitous actually.
had a nice office. And he’d go to the stock exchange and he was the operator on the stock exchange and he’d have his little note book and he’d write down such and such, he’s bought such and such from this broker and so on and so forth. And he had a number of clients and he’d bought a thousand BHP [Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, a large mining company] shares for Mr Smith and
those that come from the broker, and that’d come back into the office and we’d record it. And in the meanwhile the actual transfer between brokers of share certificates had to be done before one o'clock each day. And of course
I forget how many brokers there were; there must have been about oh thirty or forty in Sydney then. And they’d be rushing madly around with a great, I remember running up and down Pitt Street with thirty thousand bonds under my one arm and hoping my (UNCLEAR) somewhere or other, you know, and do it. Well then having done that then you’d get all the
stuff that’d come in and write cheques for those that you had to pay. And then it was two o'clock or something I think you’d go down to the Stock Exchange and you’d put an alphabetical line of people all the way round. And you’d start off with your cheques and hand them round and finally you’d finish up with a...
And you’d race back and prepare all those shares for the bank and go over to the, what was then the Union Bank on the corner of Pitt and O’Connell Street, no, Pitt and Hunter Street, and we always had to go in the back door because it was after three o'clock when the banks closed, and
put in enough money to keep the overdraft down see and that was the way we went. And I kept ledgers, clients and the other stock brokers and things like that. It was a busy time and with these
rush periods when the broker himself was worrying about the extent of his overdraft, they were all working on overdrafts at that time. And it’s changed round completely now of course, they’ve got well, during my time they brought in the tele-printers, they had a tele-printer in the office and this thing ’d go clicking away all day.
reputedly he’d paid into the stockbrokers so much to get the job there. That was one, another one came from the Catholic school somewhere or other and he was in a similar situation. And so you paid your way in and you got a reputation
and then you raised the money or you had the money or the family or something or other to buy yourself into a business and be one of the tops. And the operator that went down to the Stock Exchange every day and did the actual buying and selling and that was like mad auctions all the time that was something, and that’s where you got. And
of course my bloke after I left him, he eventually went ‘bung’ [bankrupt] during the wartime when Italy came into the war and stopped the air mail service going through the Middle East and he’d sold shares short or something like that. And anyway he had to use all his
funds to get out of trouble and he got a lowly job in the stockbroker’s office you know somewhere.
I should’ve been qualifying as an accountant which was too expensive for me in the such and such, you know, it was dog eat dog. And when I see some of the kids these days what they can do and, see I hadn’t,
I’d seldom been outside Sydney and I was running an athletics career at the same time as all this. And once you know, an athletic team went up to the central coast somewhere or other for a weekend, well you had to pay your own way and you had to provide all your own gear. And all I
got really out of athletics was I was a junior Long Jump Champion in New South Wales one year see, lost the title the next year but.
from their various departments was channelled through that Stores Branch. And we had contracts with, principally in Sydney, the sort of firms that would provide the sort of things that you needed. And they had the most obsolete form of recording all this.
For instance, when I started on, I had a great sheet of aluminium or something like that, about that size, which you put under a great form that had to be done in six copies or something or other. And you had six copies and this to make it a hard
surface for it underneath and you (UNCLEAR), do this and that was stupid, the whole thing.
while but then the family went off to Burragorang and that left me, I had to get myself somewhere to live. And if you were working in Sydney, you’d go down to Kirribilli and there were boarding houses all the way around the place. And you’d pay
oh well I started off on thirty shillings a week, for another two shillings you got an all, I forget what they called it, anyway a ticket on the ferry which you could use lunchtime, as many times a day that you wanted.
And you’d race down to the quay, get the ferry, have lunch, back to the ferry, back home in time to start, half past one I think or thereabouts. And then you had to have you know, enough in your pocket to have a glass of beer after work. And
then you had a community of people who lived in these boarding houses and you got to know them and after all, you all had tickets on the ferry so you could have a night out without too much expense if you get me, so that went on and on and so.
some have attributes from her and some from me and I can see sometimes they tended to clash. For instance this is after, well after the war, in Canberra, I had a second car and young John, my eldest boy,
he was driving. And oh he crashed it; he ran off the road and did a bit of damage to it. Now I’d spent time as transport officer of my battalion and with fifty-odd vehicles under my eye. And our thing was if anyone had a prang you took ‘em off
driving for a week maybe, something. So I applied the same thing to young John, and next thing there’s hell to pay in the family. He’d gone to Mum and said, “I can’t drive the car because Dad said I can’t drive the car.” And ‘muggins’ [I] backed down and, you know, I did a lot of backing down. And after all marriage is a funny thing you know, you,
you can’t get away from the fact it’s there and even, there’s give and take, all the way through, the lot of it.
see we did so many things together, we got housing. We finished up we had a rented house in Canberra that we bought one of the houses that we were in, then I bought a brand new one, bought it
from the builder in Deakin which was a good show. Eventually sold that, we went to Sydney then rented one for a while, then we bought a house in Wollstonecraft. Then the developers came along and we sold that at a good thing and I bought one in Clara
for oh, about sixty thousand or something like that which was about the money I got from the one in Wollstonecraft. Then ultimately sold the one in Deakin, well the children had all gone and so on, we got three hundred thousand for it, the one that was sixty.
Yes I knew that. But I mean, if we’re looking at the major milestones particularly in Europe, what were the sorts of things that had impressed you sufficiently to be aware that war was inevitable? What were some of those milestones?
Well I think, the British declaration of war was in the September I think and nothing much happened.
You know, they sort of sparred up to each other and so on and but it was inevitable that the clash was going to come, and it came. I don't know whether any, you know whether there were,
there hadn’t been enough warfare to have the horror stories or anything like that in, and Dunkirk [Battle of, May 25th -3rd June 1940] hadn’t happened I don't think at that stage, it might have.
his brother, was also in the First War and I’d done a couple of years in the Sydney University Regiment, I was partially, I was well trained as a matter of fact, at that stage. And Jean’s father had
had half his arm shot away in Passchendaele or something in the First War and he had a couple of brothers in the war. It was more or less a family all the way through; and I suppose if I hadn’t been prepared to go along, and I was the right age, I was everything right, and
And then we got a notice which said, “Report at the Canberra Drill Hall at such and such a time.” And we turned up there, I’d say there were probably twenty or thirty blokes turned up to enlist.
We had to sign something and I remember particularly that I noticed I read along the end line that it was 2/3rd Battalion, 16th Australian Infantry Brigade, 6th Australian Division, wrote across the top see and that’s what I joined with. And right up to the finish I could say I’m
2/3rd Battalion so that made it a very easy thing. And there wasn’t much talking, you were given a number, mine was NX4613. And a particular mate that I had there afterwards
was called Dennis Williams, he’d been a music teacher at Canberra High School. He was 4608 and he had an argument with some other fellow there who also had that number and they had arguments about it. But where we see, we’re only in (UNCLEAR)
numerical sequence from, I think it was NX something 9 7. Anyway got to a certain point where the drunks had gone off to the pub and had a couple of, and they came back and they were absolutely out of sequence in the numbers, but that didn’t matter. Well then
we had to, I think it probably was the same day that we had to go on the train from Canberra Station down to Liverpool. The other memory I’ve got of that, at the time I was a mandolin player,
I had a mandolin and I took my mandolin along and we had some singing on the station. And this man was a beautiful tenor voice. And I was singing in the Canberra Male Voice Choir at that stage and we knew the same songs and we had a good time.
tablelands and there was one chap there which we called ‘the Ploughman’ straight off. We teaching him to march and this character swung both his arms together [square gaiting], it was too, and he couldn’t alternate between the two and he was a funny fellow. So, that was alright and
that’s where we did recruit training. Well I’d done all this, I could slope my arms and do anything and I could pull a Lewis gun [light machine gun, First World War vintage] to bits and put it round so I didn’t worry too much about that.
and I didn’t have any rough edges to knock off me. But my mate Williams did, you know, we were probably the only two intellectuals, you might say, in the group that ever seen a university or been anywhere near it. And that you had to play down pretty well,
because some of my later troops that were there in, at that time, one was a bulldozer driver and two of ‘em were professional bagmen [commercial travellers, but probably here vagrants] and knew just how to drive, get on the train and underneath a train and travel from place to place and not
pay any fares and so on and so forth. And then there were drovers who were miscellaneous collection of people from all over the place. And yes, I had a complete list of ‘em once, but I’ve still got it somewhere but I’ve also been picking up here and I can’t find it anywhere.
brigade areas and I think brigade headquarters were there up on the road, Ingleburn that’s right. And that was, we went there October, November, we couldn’t have had too much training there because
we marched through Sydney early in January and we had leave over the Christmas period so there wasn’t too much time spent in Ingleburn Camp, maybe a month. But and there
we formed into battalions under our new battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel England, and a gaggle of officers including quite a few still wearing kilts from the New South Wales 30th Battalion.
And I think I had a picture there of our first march through Sydney where I was picked as the left marker of one group, we marched down the street and everyone clapped and everything and it was happy.
So after you got back from your leave, how long after that was, did you hear that you were going to go abroad?
Well I think my leave probably finished; it was only a few days. We weren’t sort of, I think leave over Christmas was more or less pre-embarkation leave and there might have been six or seven days in between but there wouldn’t be much, because we actually embarked on the ninth of January and sailed on the
tenth and so that was that.
And it takes quite a lot for me to make me break down and cry and I think I wasn’t worried about it at all. And I’m a bit of an optimist also, and
I’ve got a lot of time for my own ability to keep out of trouble. So you know, I’m pushing eighty-nine, I’m just down the track and that means I’m about
thirteen years ahead of the eldest survivor of the Stantons and they all have passed off by seventy-six, here I’m eighty-eight, eighty-nine, so.
corporal, I’d been promoted corporal in Ingleburn Camp, as had my friend Williams. And I shared a four berth cabin, at probably down about water level, I think we had a porthole that looked out almost in the water. And quite pleasant, it was, we didn’t have cups of tea in the morning
or so on but it was quite a good show. And we had all the battalion on board and also a group of nurses and so on and it was quite a happy ship.
No, we picked up more ships at Melbourne and we went across the gulf of course and we had leave in Fremantle. And that was, I get that tangled up with the Kiwi [New Zealand] leave we had there on the way back, in another three year’s time or something like that but
we had quite a pleasant time. I went round with a group and we had a few New Zealanders there too, they were on another ship, and they tell me years after the event that I was very good at picking fights with the New Zealanders then standing back and letting the other fellas do the fighting.
But that was, I can’t recollect any of that.
we had a day’s leave in Colombo and we went on the Red Sea and up to the Suez [Canal]. Anyway we disembarked in Egypt actually and we got into cattle trucks and went up into Palestine,
it wasn’t so very far. And we were headed for a camp at a place called Julis, I suppose that was a mile or so away from whatever station we got off at, I can’t recollect completely what it was. But we went into this tented camp, which had been put up
for us with a lot of help from the British troops that were there in Palestine already. It was an armed camp, the whole lot were Scottish and British and God knows what others. And this was quite a pleasant camp and we had these things called an EPIP [English Pattern, Indian Product] tent, which I suppose, was about
oh the size of these two rooms and together, quite a big thing and we could. I had a section of ten men and myself, there was eleven of us, we were fitted into this tent really well. And we had bed boards to sleep on and
nice soft mattresses made up hessian bags and filled with straw, that was right, but it wasn’t bad. And was close to where, and of course we got into the business of reveille quite early in the morning and early morning parades. And then
we had good showers, hot and cold water and lots of oranges which the little Arab kids ’d pinch from the Jewish, quite large orchards around the place. And great oranges that size that you could get, you didn’t know whether they’d been stolen or not or just picked up
somewhere, that was alright.
And it was all sort of arable land, there was no desert in Palestine where we were but there were a few hills and we’d march out into the hills and we’d mostly march back to camp at night, that was the point. We didn’t, it was quite exceptional for us to stay out
overnight in, and bivouac [camp], but we were there for oh months. We arrived there in February and May, June, July, I think in about September we went down to,
moved camp down to Egypt, a place called Helwan and we had a couple of months there. And then we moved out to a place near Alexandria called Amariya and left there on a train which went up alongside the
Mediterranean. Well, in time to have our first fight in early January outside Bardia which we took part in a pitch battle in, to capture Bardia which had been
really heavily fortified by the Italians.
idea of importing Australian beer so that was available in the canteen, but officialdom said you can’t take these bottles away to your own tent so you got to have the top lifted off the bottle when you buy it
at the canteen. And of course having done that, you take the bottle of beer which hasn’t seen a cool room long before it left Australia and ‘shoosh’ you’ve got I suppose a third of the bottle of beer unless you directed the ‘shooshing’ into your mouth.
Anyway that was one thing. But we had films at night, some nights we had concert parties, they’d come around. There was a British concert party with beautiful girls and singers and so on that came along. And
plenty of two-up games [traditional gambling game using two pennies], not officially but not frowned on and course you could also go for a hike if you wanted to. Oh yes, it wasn’t bad, it was good holiday time actually.
Singapore on. And Palestine, the flying boats used to land on the next lake up the Jordan River; I forget what it was called now. But when Italy joined the
war and I can’t remember the date, of course they’d cut off the flying boats, any flying routes through that Middle East area and there was no more airmail and no more mail and then the mail became very sporadic after that. It was dependent on what ships they could get it on and bring it through. And sometimes you’d get a bunch of letters of half a dozen or six or eight or something like that
and then couple of months with nothing and it wasn’t very good. But oh I think you regarded it as sort of thing that’d happen if you were away.
for a school at Sarafan [Barracks] which had essentially Scots Guards instructors and you were done more or less in section lots and this was essentially in drill. We were taught the way to
turn and stamp your heel down rather than just drag your foot of course, if you get me and it was very funny to look at if you weren’t doing it. Because when we got back to camp everyone who’d been to that school was supposed to do it the right way to stamp your foot down and teach all the blokes, and the blokes didn’t
think much of it, but eventually they assimilated it, that was right.
away from Julis and we did a couple of day’s camp at a place called Latrun, L-A-T-R-U-N I think, which was sort of between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And it was a malaria area and we were all warned that after sundown you had to wear slacks, gaiters, roll down your sleeves and do up your
collars and so on. I did the lot, I was a corporal, I had a section of ten men. I did the lot and I got malaria and the other rogues didn’t, they wore shorts and didn’t roll up their sleeves, they didn’t do this and that, and they did and they got nothing. So that was
along, except that the stage was reached where when the battalion didn’t have enough officers and we apparently couldn’t get spaces in the officer’s training course. And the course was run by the British Army and
in my unit we had about ten to a dozen sergeants and warrant officers hauled in said, “You apply for commission and we’ll get you through.” And among these warrant officers and sergeants there was one poor corporal, that was me, that was it,
I’d been picked. Well the procedure was that you saw your commanding officer and he gave you a pep talk on it, then you had to be interviewed by the brigade commander and then you had to be interviewed by the divisional commander.
this is where I’ll tell you, I had a section of ten men, they more or less took it in relays to look after me and bring me cups of tea from the NAAFI [Navy, Army, Air Force Institute] canteen crowd, you know what NAAFI is? Well it was the British canteen service and
they’d give you, anyway, they’d bring me cups of coffee and I’m running a high temperature and so on and finally I get up to go up hill to the brigadier’s tent. And I go in and he says, “Hello” and he looks at my name and,
“Didn’t I have your brother here yesterday?” And I said, “From the 2/1st Battalion?” So he’d also got a request to application for a commission and he’s about three or four years younger than me. And, “Mmm,” he said, “he’s much brighter than you isn’t he?” And I said, “Yes sir.”
And I couldn’t open my eyes at that stage; I was so much out to it. Anyway I completed the interview with him and I got through and I was carted off to hospital there forthwith. I think I did three weeks in the hospital with malaria and knocked it off. And we had some drugs at that stage, we had and
so on. And that was a tented hospital there, thinking at Gaza and so on.
really tubby and he’s got a son in Sydney I’ve met him and he’s about this high. But well then, oh that’s right, and they brought out a new posting of officers for the 2/3rd Battalion. It was to the Eighth Platoon, Ninth, Tenth, so all the way through.
And right at the bottom of the list was Eighteen; I was there as Corporal Stanton, that was alright. But I transferred from A Company to Don Company at that stage so I’m a central platoon commander of Don Company so they couldn’t let me go
and sleep with ordinary corporals and privates and so forth. They got me a little bell tent all to myself, the company lines. That didn’t last for long but in the meantime orders would come through Egypt so we moved to Egypt and were on the verge of desert, which is
out of Cairo and in the same sort of area as the pyramids and so on. And we did route marching and digging and so on out there and stinking hot sun and someone had got the idea to see how long we could go without water. Well that’s been frowned on since
as you know, you drink as much as you can, never mind, we did it. But this day we’d been out in the morning and we came back for lunch and we lined up for our afternoon parade. And my company commander
starts off, he says, “Corporal Stanton fall out.” And I fell out, marched up to the front and salute. And he said, “Have you got any pips?” I said, “Yes sir.” He said, “Well go and put ‘em on, I’ll hold the parade.” So I off to my tent, which was about fifty yards away, look for them in the corner,
got out my beautiful tailor-made shirt and shorts which I was saving up and got ‘em on, got back on parade, lined up with the officers. Take post and salute and off we go. I go back to my platoon which is about six or eight privates, or a lot of ‘em were all and so forth.
And my senior man, Montefiori [?], he’d come out in front and he says, and he gave him my first, very smartly and retired to the back of the thing. And off we went, we went out for the afternoon’s
training which was trench digging and marching and so on. And those blokes just supported me absolutely completely, this is good, there was no chiacking [teasing], there was no, you know, congratulations and so on and so forth, Course they knew it was coming, so did I but. And I think
that was probably a… I know of being commissioned in the field which carries a cascade with a something oh.
I see, oh the cable I sent announcing had, oh, one had been held up anyway, expecting some reference to Elizabeth and it was just about my commission.
Damn him. No it was a bit funny but you take these things in your stride, September and then of course we, I had to equip myself then and go into Cairo and buy things and I bought mats and things
and you know, you gotta lot of side to put on once you’re commissioned.
in the desert from, we’d gone to a new camp at Amariya which was out near Alexandria and then we moved by their to train to Mersa Matruh there somewhere else. Then we had to march or we went past a place called ‘Hellfire’ Pass [Halafaya Pass]
and we had to march a certain distance towards the front line and we were in the dark and various people dropping out for various reasons, people were starting to get the fidgets at that stage. And
I think my company second-in-command showed more fear than anything else on that trip and probably was got rid of I think. And this is moving up; anyway we were a fair way out of Bardia, a couple of miles from their front line,
no wire. And we did a period of patrolling and mostly a platoon commander, which I then was of course, picked with his platoon or half of it to move out as far as the Italian
wire and got a sample of the wire, call down the enemy’s fire and , and then come back. And I went out and I said, “I’m gonna hand this business to the enemy’s fire on you and the feeling where it falls”.
But and I didn’t have any wire cutters to get rid of the wire, so I reported, I did a couple of those patrols out and took back information. It was on one of these, it was bright moonlight most of the time and the hill,
just was a big hill. But was a big help that I was down as we got fairly close in and in front of me I see a wire or a cord stretching. I hold everything they were well behind me and I look down one end that way and there’s a spike in the ground here
to there hanging to it is a canister and these are booby traps and if you touch that wire, that cord, I’d have exploded both of em and I wouldn’t be here. So that was alright, I warned the platoon, I said, “You stay here, I’ll go forward myself.” So then I
stepped over the cord somehow or other and went back and I reported these booby traps. The report went through and of course a couple of nights later a more high-powered patrol went out with our adjutant and the Brigade Major and went straight through
the wires and at all, “I told you.”
this way you know, there’s a wire there and you’d have it coming this way and that way”. And you knew they’d be well sighted. And you knew that if you got in that sight of their defensive post, you wouldn’t make a noise or you’d get a couple of machine gun bullets, you know, that was the point. And so
you didn’t make a noise. But they wanted all sorts of advice on, you know, how wide is the anti-tank ditch and how deep is it at that side and of course you had a tape measure with you to take all these things. But anyway we got through alright and I went out one night
as passenger with another, with one of the warrant officers leading the platoon and he went and got himself lost somewhere, he left the platoon and I waited for about an hour and I gathered round, I said, “Look I don't know where he’s gone to but we gotta be home for breakfast, we better”. So we went, I took them back in and he turned up some other way, he got himself
completely lost. But fortunately I didn’t put him in either.
You mentioned that on the way to Bardia that, I’m not sure if it was part of these battles, that some of the men were having to drop out because of fear. How would the men display this fear?
Well, I suppose it’s a, well mainly through the bladder I think, you know, that was how they’re affected, they drop out and
not having any worries in that way, I didn’t, I wasn’t scared anyway I was on edge. We found later that we weren’t within miles of any trouble, but the situation there was that well no-one told you it’s safe,
you know, you knock it over.
I mean it must have been quite a challenge for you to be a leader of this platoon but also having your own fears about the activities that you were doing. How did you overcome them?
Well I more or less made a vow to myself that when I had any command that was a section or a platoon, section would be ten men, a platoon would be…men, that I wouldn’t unnecessarily get any of these chaps
killed or even hurt and that I would do my best, using my knoll [head] and my training to take all my objectives without losing any men. Now I kept that in front of me all the way through as an objective and consequently
I didn’t lose any men. In the attack on Tobruk, I had two men wounded but they had come up the previous night and came in, they hadn’t fronted up to me. And I was advancing in extended order, which means I had one man here, and the next one is over that
way and over this way, and we spread over a very wide area and these two chaps were somewhere along that line and to make a nice target for someone who shot ‘em, but didn’t hurt ‘em very much, they weren’t badly done. And I don’t still don’t, they just were on and off and gone and that was it. But none of my old crowd were hurt at all.
But and one of these approaches it was at the next place, my company commander, another Scotsman, we’re advancing along, and my platoon sergeant he
was out on my left flank about oh, close on a hundred yards away I think. And he yells out, “Hey Frank, and such and such, such and such.” I said, “Okay.” The next thing company commander come up, “Mr Stanton.” he said, “Is your platoon sergeant usually using your Christian name?”
And I just shut my eyes and looked at him, I didn’t answer it, such a futile question. I’d been privates with this bloke, together, we’d been mates, we’d been this and that and this was the best sort of camouflage that he could do, was not to yell out, indicate that I
was an officer you know. That’s the point, never did it again, only said once. But he was the bulldozer driver. That was that.
See I’d been a company commander where I got three or four officers under me and necessarily we’ve got to have the same sort of ideals and so on and we got to have
maturity to keep ‘em together. And you’ve gotta watch what they’re doing, and actually I don't know, it’s just part of the rules of the game, they’re not written down somewhere, but it is. You keep it and if they don’t, I’ve had this situation where I’ve had to report
officers who didn’t do their duty, who showed fright or did stupid things at the wrong time, and got rid of ‘em. And you could have no compunction at all with that sort of thing. I’ve had a lot of others that I should’ve done with but that’s down to it cause it wasn’t
you know, it was too fine a point or something like that, but you tried to train your officers as well as your men.
There is leadership where it is a tactical situation where someone in a group has got to do something special as, there’s only one man can do it, show this and that.
The leader really becomes the leader as well, he’s the one that can do it and he can go forward and using my dictum that you shouldn’t get anyone killed, that can mean yourself as well, especially. So but then it could be a
having done this hypothetical thing, you said, “Right come on, men, come with a group, not group too much”, you know, keeping their distances. But, no, it’s a product of training and some of the leadership, but there is something in you
that tells you what I’ve used in lots of areas. Even as a high-powered Treasury officer at one stage, I really had to line up a group of blokes and tell ‘em just what to do and you’ve gotta do it this way, and my way. It always helps
if you’ve got sufficient punch as well. I don’t mean this sort of punch but .
that had to be laid down beforehand. Say, when we’re going to do a dawn attack and maybe about midnight, a group that were to put it and where to do such and such. We actually didn’t have any tape so we used what you call four by two flannel, which is you cut off bits
to clean your rifle with and so on, we had long strips of this right across. My company was given the job of going out, sitting on this start line and make sure the enemy don’t see it beforehand, the thing was. Okay, we did that, we went
out there. And then we had to wait there until all our advance had passed through and then go in and do a subsidiary job after it. So everything came down to us. Once we done this thing, these subsidiary jobs don’t matter very much because they had been half done already by someone else.
So Don Company 2/3rd Battalion didn’t have a very big job to do in Bardia, maybe on the second day we did have objectives which were alright. We were helped by infantry tanks, British tanks which were specially made for these
infantry attacks, and in theory, anything fired at them is after hitting their soft metal in front and stick there. The only trouble for the infantry was if they soft missed the tank, the bits of it behind, as you were coming along. But
oh yes there were not and I can’t tell you a lot. I can tell you a lot more about Tobruk where I was in the battalion.
What exactly were your orders?
Well the battalion had orders to go through certain openings in the wire and it got down to the platoons, he’s got three platoons and he had two platoons up in reserve, coming on board. Now I was one of the platoons
and his orders to me would been, “Go through there and proceed through there to take Post Fifty-six, which is a hundred yards further on towards the coast”. We
had an opening which was gonna be barred, what they called a Bangalore, which was a length of iron pipe, maybe ten, twelve feet long, which was crammed with explosives, a detonator in the end. The engineers did this, pushed this right under the wire fence,
ignite the detonator and it’d go off and it sort of explode up in the air, it was all the wire so a lovely area that you could walk straight through. Now, I waited for the explosion of course and when I was there
mine was the engineer sergeant, had a pair of wire clippers and he clipped the wire about that long and he . And I said, “Thanks.” And as I said then I was in command, I had an objective, move to this post and learned from the map that we had post which had, showed the location on it, posts.
facilities, anyway I’ve got a good map of Bardia somewhere, I can dig it out for you. And but that was the point. You said what were my orders, move to the posts. So I found the posts and
I found it because it was very difficult. They’d done these reinforced concrete sort of wiring under the ground, flush with the general ground area. And then they got metal boards and put them over, just wide enough for something to get into, something. And then go down
underneath, rooms underneath and so on. But they got bits of board about this long and then scattered the local sand and all over the board so that you couldn’t see anything. And from the ground, what, without anyone sticking his, you had to be a bit lucky to see it. I was lucky and because I’d taken the right
bearing, I’d a fluid compass and I’d worked out onto this and I kicked away a few of these boards and said, “Here it is.” And I dropped a couple of grenades in and that sort of stirred up things a bit, except at that stage a company commander turned up. “John McDonald’s been hurt on
Post such and such, the one at the wire and you better take your platoon back.” And of course I said, “What about this?” “Don’t worry about that.” So I was left in an objective. And I’d arrived on the evening of the objective; I’d started to soften it up,
had a couple of grenades down there, which killed a few people by the sound of it. And I’m pulled off to go back in the dark without a bearing from a compass or anything like that, to help a platoon which had apparently been held up because he’d been shot in the abdomen or somewhere or other, not killed.
the abdomen, went in and out again, didn’t stay in. And he sends me back. Now in effect I was on the objective, I started to soften it up and I pulled off it. And all for nothing because by the time I got back to the other place, well, where I went, I hit the wire and I thought this is the wire around their post.
And I broke three pairs of wire snippers cutting the wire, got out into the anti-tank ditch, I was outside the fences altogether. Came back in and of course the thing is cleared up then, the other way.
I went for the next objective wherever that was, I think we had to turn, swing left and go the other way. And then someone else found this, the Post that I’d left with the couple of grenades in it and a bit of will off the top of it, they’d thirty-five prisoners they took out, or something. They didn’t stick their heads up to have the fight, they waited for someone to come and pick ‘em up, but it could have been nasty, they coulda come
out and been warlike and belted the rear of our attack.
as we’ll get onto in Syria but where I took part in, well I was waiting in ambush while the French Foreign Legion, whoever they were, came down the hill and we waited until we saw the whites of their eyes, as the saying goes, and blew hell out of them. And then I’m second-in-command of the battalion with my job to, in the middle of the night, pitch black
darkness, to take a bunch of prisoners right down from the top of the hill, down to where they could be put into custody with the British battalion. Now I was a bit upset with that, I knew there were a couple of characters there that were pretty well off but I got about as fast as I could.
‘em to do much. But then again, what we discovered that in each of these posts was say, thirty to fifty men in each post and there was at least one Black Shirt [fascist cadre], Mussolini’s man, to keep ‘em honest, make them brave. And once he was out of the way, well, talk about killing, we couldn’t possibly
have killed a quarter of them, we didn’t have enough ammunition you know, that was the point. And they were a pushover except for a couple of places where they had artillery with guns which we didn’t have, you know, that was the point.
they’d put the word round, that, “If you fellas don’t fight properly we’ll knock you off”, you know, “We’ll do it”. And they were ruthless enough there and but then again I saw, that was later at Tobruk, I’d gone up the line of prisoners that were winding down the hill and I look round for my blokes and I was at least half a mile away from
them, I was just there. And I had a big Webley pistol which had a striking pin about that long. And I’m doing more or less this on it, and saying, “Put your guns down there, put your guns down there, put your guns down,” and I’d a pile of pistols about this high. And they were all happy, and of course the occasional one who spoke English, they could have a joke
with you at that stage, the war was over for them, that was it.
Can I get you to talk a little bit more about the taking of prisoners at, presumably at Bardia and Tobruk? To start with, what were the first Italian prisoners that you’d actually encountered?
I can’t say I had many encounters with them. If we were at Bardia we were given various objectives, “Take that post over there.” And you’d have a bit of a firefight and then they’d start putting their heads up and crawling out and becoming prisoners as they went back. And you’d very promptly go on to the next one
to do it over. I think that we let the rules of war down to a certain extent; we left too many able-bodied people behind us, assuming that they were non-combatants and we didn’t suffer by it, because it wasn’t good warfare.
And but see when you get prisoners in their thousands, this was like a long crocodile about six abreast coming down a hill like that, you could see onto it. And I say I was flat out just to collect their pistols and no-one attempted to do anything to me and I did have a loaded pistol in my hand but, you know, that would have been one shot and that was finished.
And it was a good exercise for us but it wasn’t really good warfare.
I had the compound, let me think back, we’d had the people running round with trucks and so on finding where their dumps were and getting their spaghetti and water in their water carts and that, that was some other unit, that was probably ASC [Army Service Corps] or something behind us doing that. But, we didn’t have anything to do with it but the stuff that was there, landed on
the spot and then we had to distribute that. Well I think this compound we reckoned had ten thousand prisoners and I think I had twenty feeding points, that’s about all the men I had. And if they had a, well they’d have to have a container but they had a tin or something, they’d get a
tin full of say spaghetti or some sort of pasta and a can of water and off they’d go. If they said, “I want more,” you’d say, “There’s no more,” you know, that it going. Now that took I think three hours for them to all go through those twenty points and then it’s time for the next meal you know.
Were you keen to get back into some sort of battle action after being involved in all of this?
Well no, this is after the battle had finished more or less and this is a, the prisoners had been collected into this great compound and there was an effort to feed them, and we were there really to look after them. Not so they didn’t run away but we could have stopped that anyway, the gates were wide open and that was, that
was easy. And we took it just as something like a weekend exercise, you know, just no worries.
it was also outside Tobruk I think, might have been outside Bardia, I had a water point for a day to provide water for the Army of the Nile actually, they had a great line of vehicles out over the hill and that was just tedious and hot and, well I wasn’t doing it, I was directing it you know. There
was a difference but I had a couple of blokes who were very good at organising things and they, we got it through. And I got a...
west as I went in that one and I’m not sure whether there’s an aerodrome there or what. Anyway we went, then back into Tobruk and then we had orders to move and that was alright. And ultimately we loaded into trucks
to go back down this dusty road and was half way along there that my malaria jumped up again. And I was in the back of a big loaded truck, loaded with people and having shivers and goodness knows what. Eventually they said, “No, we’ll have to get you out of this.” I was ‘non compos’, you know,
‘mentis’ type of thing [non compos mentis, Latin; ‘not master of his mind’, mad]. I couldn’t have cared less if someone just shot me at that point; I was really down with it, but worse than I’d had it earlier.
that’s the 2/1st, 2/2nd and 2/3rd [Battalions], no, there were some Victorians too from the 17th Brigade, they were on another front for. Colonel Savage was the first to have made a demonstration. Anyway, he sort of turned it into a battle instead of just a
demonstration and there were high words flew between generals and so on and so forth and quite a while about it apparently. It’s all set out in Gavin Long’s [Official War Historian, World War II] book.
see. Because of my malaria, my brother was commissioned before me see, we went in at the same time and he came out first. But and of course he was unmarried, he’s decked himself out and my Dad came up on, oh that’s right, his unit had come through,
they went past us, past Tobruk, and he picked up my brother, and that’s right he was driving a truck.
And he happened to be in the same division and he got a lot of cheek and he was able to get leave when he wanted to come and see his dear boys and he did. But this day I was out doing something, I must have been on the flat feet I think. And I see a truck coming along and here’s my father and my brother, and my brother is decked out with his cap and all the rest of it, a greatcoat. And he just looked
like a, and someone said he looked like an advertisement for Army Club cigarettes, and he had a good time. And oh, he turned out a very fine soldier; he was good and I never really came to grips with the fact that he was killed unduly.
Now one thing we didn’t cover earlier in the interview was that you’d been very close to your brother when you were growing up, weren’t you?
Oh yes we were, well there was three of us, there was my eldest sister and me and then ‘Chig’ we called him, was my brother. And he was big enough to sort of help me in exploits because I know my second brother, the one who lives in Bega
at the moment, he was a baby, we were living in Bankstown then. We’d had one of these old prams with wheels about that size and just came in. And we’d seen my father and my uncle, my mother’s brother, playing round and with a
a light sulky and laying underneath it and lifting it and with the wheels going over, you know. I said, “We can do that with the pram.” So I lay down and these wheels were half-way over me like that and one third brother laying over here bawling his head off [crying loudly] see, that was the funny bit. I could see
I was a restraining influence, but this next brother of mine, he was a devil all the time and he had a cheeky look about him all the time you see.
I went, when they came back from Greece, the remnants of them, I was in our Recruit Training Battalion at Gaza. And I went down to the train to welcome him and he wasn’t there and then we started to find out. See what happened,
course we’ve jumped into Crete now, but never mind... What happened was that towards the end in Crete, their CO [Commanding Officer], Colonel, it’ll come to me soon, he decided that there was no point in fighting, they’d only be all
killed if they kept fighting. They’d really massacred the Germans there but you know, there were more German reinforcements coming in, and he surrendered the balance of his battalion. And that was how many hundred men I don't know that went, so things were completely disorganised.
But what response, what reaction did you have when you heard that your brother had been killed?
Well I didn’t know for maybe a year or so because of another Stanton in the battalion and who’s gone as a prisoner, and Red Cross sort of got onto him and said, “That’s him. Oh no it isn’t, oh well where is he?” And it wasn’t until some of the 2/1st blokes who had escaped from Greece and come back
through Turkey in civilian clothes and got down into Palestine that we heard from one of his officers that he’d been killed. And at that stage we’d exhausted every other thing round the place. Now I’ve never come to terms with the fact that he was killed, I think he shouldn’t have been killed, that was the point. And he was too fine an officer to be done that to, and that was the general opinion round the
place. There it was and that was, 1942 I think, ‘41.
Now I believe that in Syria you had to fight the Vichy French? Can you talk us a bit through what you did in Syria, I’ll just leave it to you to tell us the story?
What we did, we had lost a fair proportion of the battalion in Greece, in killed and wounded and so on. And then we handed over a hundred men and officers to the 2/1st Battalion and the 2/2nd did the same to make up those that’d gone off to
custody in Germany. And we got the word we were; I remember getting on the train at Ashqelon, which is near our Julis camp, we’re back in the Julis camp. And that took us through Haifa
and then across to, what’s the big lake, anyway...
I forget now but some carriage broke loose or something, anyway that was, no one was hurt there. And we got over, must have been evening, and we got onto a weird collection of buses heading up towards Damascus. And Deraa was directly south of Damascus I must say. And then we went along, some of the buses overturned, and
they were bad drivers and bad roads and all the rest of it. But we got within spitting distance practically of Damascus and we were hauled out and deployed out on the side and then we went up against some, I think they were black troops from the French,
Sanoussie from Africa, that’s right. And the point was that around Damascus there were a number of hills on this side, and there were a number of French-built forts, reinforced concrete and all the rest of it, of the thing. And we had to climb the hills and
we were given two forts I think, my company were given two forts to take. And the first one, we took at the, they ran out on us. The second one I think they put up a bit of a fight but we had one platoon there that had a go at them. And then
another company went across to the road from Damascus to the coast at, near Beirut, no, it’s south of the Litani River. And then
we captured a lot of vehicles from a road block, they cut down some telephone ...
artillery going along with us, we had ambulances and so on and so forth, we had more or less a self-contained unit that could go through. Except it didn’t go through because they had guns up on top of a mountain there or a hill called Jebel Mazar, and they stopped us. And that was a
nasty afternoon because I was, we had to deploy on each side, well one side of the main road. And it was flattened there as that you know, it was get down and scratch yourself so hold, put your hands in it practically. And of course the point was before we started the
morning on this show, our Officers Mess had been trying to function round the place. Anyway they came up with, they said, “You’ve got to take a bottle of whisky,” and okay. So I got a bottle of whisky and I said, “How am I gonna carry this?” And my smart sergeant, Bill Ponting, said, “Put it into water bottle I’ll get you
another water bottle” and he didn’t. So I’m there, I go into this very hot day and so on, and there’s nasty business of laying flat on our faces with shells bursting all around us. Course they had the dead lot on us, and that was a nasty thing. And I had one chap, an ex First World War man come to me he said, “Look, I can’t stand this, this is worse than anything that I suffered in the First World War.”
I said, “Well go then.” And he went, I never saw him again. But...
What you first did there and then what proceeded after that?
Well it’d be much easier if I knew what the rest of the battalion were doing and that was the, that’s the point. Because it was so disjointed, now I was on this flying column we were talking about weren’t we, that we went and we had to get down on as flat as that, as clear as that. And
they’re sitting up on top of a mountain there, directing gunfire down. And I had my platoon, oh and I had the whole company and part of another company that I’m looking after while the OC [Officer Commanding] went forward to find out what to do. And they went hundreds of yards or half a mile further. And I’m there waiting and
the shells are coming in, and...
And we’d gone through and here we’re waiting for the next move. Now I got inspired and these blokes were flat on their faces, I’ve never seen anyone as flat on their face. There was one of my officers I think he was burying in with his nose practically getting deeper and deeper in.
And something ’d say to me, ‘The next salvo of shells is going to land just about here’ so I’d say, grab these blokes, “Go over there twenty yards.” And they’d get up and go for hell and flat down again like that and the next lot of shells ’d come down just where I said, and that happened three or four times. Anyway there’s people getting a bit jumpy, and I was very lucky about this bottle of whisky, because I could say to a bloke, “How are you
feeling?” “Oh...” I said, “Have a swig of this.” He’d have a swig of this, “Oh, that was good,” see, and it went very well. And I had a bit myself now and again, but not much.
we’d been stopped, we then turned round went round and then went round the back of this mountain where the guns were, where the observation post was anyway and we were supposed to go up and capture that. In the meantime before we’d gone to Syria at all one of our companies had been detached to go with the 7th Division which had gone up the centre of Syria.
And at this stage it came back to us with orders, the same orders we had, to go up this hill and capture the top. Well they got to the top and really talked to the French there and there were a few men killed and we lost a couple of officers captured or something like that, but the French still held out there. Now
I was then second-in-command of combined Don and B Company and I had to do all the administrative work and so on of getting supplies and doing it and mostly carrying the damn stuff all myself, including a case of beer and bottles at one stage
that had come up one of our back points. And...
then I had other things to do, but I had to spend one night by myself on top of a big rock I got onto. Cause I walked round one side and there’s a French black troop from Sanoussie or somewhere like that with a blooming bayonet about this long you know and a sharpened bayonet like a needle,
it’d go straight through anything. And he’s wandering round so I chased him away and I thought I’d get up on top of the rock and I’ll be right here for the night but I never had a bit of sleep. But then I got back to the battalion and we hadn’t done very, oh, that’s right and I’d had to take an artillery observer to get up on top of this
mountain and establish an observation post there. I had a couple of mules and this English observer, and looked at it as far as I could and then we came against an absolutely sheer
wall all the way along, there was no way we were going to get the mules up that. And in looking out this way, there’s a line of Frenchmen advancing round the thing and I said, “Well I can’t do any better for you here.” Well he said, “I’ll try myself like this way” and I think he took his radio and so on with him and tried. Anyway he got himself lost in the thing, I got away with the
mules and I don't know what I did with ‘em then but I had to get back with the battalion.
Now I believe at one stage you had to go round the back of the enemy for some skirmishes before you were able to break through to help the 7th Division? Where, can you talk us through that particular experience?
Well after this, after we stopped skirmishing on this Jebel Mazar, and that is after I’d taken this group of prisoners down to hand them over to one of the British battalions to take as prisoners. We then decided we wouldn’t try going round the front of this Jebel Mazar and we’d go down further down
another way across Syria which ultimately we did without opposition, because the 7th Division had pushed up far enough to keep going. But...
Beirut up in the hills and I did a couple of things there. I took five mules and the remains of my platoon and umpteen boxes of ammunition and took ‘em down gorges and up gorges and hills to get them to
a company of ours that were running out of ammunition were down in a forward position. And being a 2IC [second-in-command] or a version of a 2IC at that stage, I was sort of grabbed to do something about it, and I did. You know, that’s one thing but otherwise I was mostly to be seen when something was going wrong somewhere
but you know, ‘also ran’.
well in from the coast in Syria and we were heading towards Beirut, which was then their capital. And on the night of the cease-fire, on the day preceding that night of the cease-fire, my
platoon consisted of myself and eight men instead of thirty. And there was no other officer, I was, no I didn’t have another officer and I think I might have had a sergeant but I didn’t have, maybe a corporal. Anyway we’d come; we were on
a forward slope, they’re over there looking at us and firing a seventy-five gun [75mm gun] it was. And I remember I divided my men up into three sections, I had one section with two men and there were three men in the other one and three men in the other one.
And I was underneath a tree of some sort and there was a great big boulder just down by it. And I said to one of my blokes, “Well put your head down behind this and we’ll be alright.” See, they could practically see where we were and they weren’t firing. Anyway next thing there’s a mighty bang and one of these seventy-five shells landed dead in the front of the rock
that we were behind. Well thank God it was a big rock but it certainly made your head ring for a while, and so that was... Anyway shortly after that I found the, my company commander, Ian Hutchison. And I said, “Hutch, what are we gonna do to get out of
this?” He said, “We will attack at dawn,” see. I said, “Like hell we will.” We, we countered later, anyway just in time our intelligence came across with a, they had an Aldis lamp [signal lamp, named after the inventor] about two miles behind us, then they went flash, flash, the Aldis, there’s to be a cease fire at, I think it was one a.m.,
or something like that. But no one told the French and they kept firing away. And then we heard a motorbike start up, somewhere in the, was going round the posts. As they got round to each post and the firing stopped, so that was about I think two hours after our official cease-fire that we were still being shelled. Anyway at that stage I think that
my platoon, they want me and these ragged six blokes or whatever it is, were the closest to Beirut which was our battalion objective for the whole thing. And I remember then we got a few blokes back and then coming down out of the hills on the coastal road, and I had six
French Foreign Legion prisoners with me and they’d carried the ammunition up the hill for me, which was not exactly Articles of War type of thing, anyway they did. Came out on the coast and my Dad was down there then, said, “G’day (UNCLEAR).” There we,
there we got it. But this was, and then we did Army of Occupation in Syria for a long time, we were in a little village called Fah Hazier [?] and we had to, we had part of the village for ourselves, and we had to
that’s why we were there, I took a bus load of blokes on a holiday tour up through the, out to Baalbek and up through the centre of Syria and up as far as Aleppo which was on the Turkish border just about, and brought
them down the coast afterwards, and we got good receptions all the way along the place. And you get a particular village, and the old ‘moctar’ [leading figure] of the village would invite you in to have coffee. You’d eat the coffee; it’d be just about solid you know, when it went.
Our last camp there was a place we called ‘Hungry Hollow’, which was outside Damascus. We went through snow there at Christmas time, a bit after that and I think
we moved closer to Palestine but I’d become a battalion spare parts thing like that, so I served my time as Transport Officer and time as Assistant Quartermaster. And the new CO, Colonel Stevenson, he was
intent on getting me knowledgeable in every aspect of the battalion and I finished up as Transport Officer.
that was that I took as Transport Officer, I took the old battalion transport down to the Suez Canal. And one highlight of that, I remember we ran through Beersheba and we had a motorcycle platoon I think
of twenty-four, twenty-five motorbikes. And I said, “Well we’ll give the folk of Beersheba a show “. So I took the CO’s car for myself and I sat up in the back seat of the CO’s car, which was a big yellow station wagon, a Ford. And lined up the twenty-five
motorcycles in front and we went through Beersheba to the plaudits of the inhabitants, which consisted of one Arab, one donkey and one goat at that stage.
vehicles and there were others there getting into things and my ship turned out to be the Elphington Court as a good old tramp. And the trouble was I was made OC Troops [commander of embarked troops] of the Elphington Court, which included one of my vehicles, and I think two cooks
and oh, one other from my battalion. So I was put in charge of the whole thing. I had to get a scratch crew from, for administration purposes from the rest of them, which were a mixed bunch of Service Corps, about twenty or thirty of them and a few engineers and a few this and that.
And a major from field hospital, the Brigade Transport Officer who was a captain at that stage, I was still only a Lieutenant and someone else. So I had a gaggle of officers, none of whom wanted to do any work and
some were a bit slighted by putting, they were put under a lieutenant. And I had supreme powers on the ship and of course then I find that my ship was travelling by itself all the way from Suez to Colombo. Now we mentioned Singapore before but I think that was a
bit of a rumour before, because by this time, Singapore had fallen so we were going to Colombo to train in jungle warfare in the jungle of, what later became Sri Lanka [Ceylon].
How did the news that Singapore had fallen affect you and your mates?
I don’t recall, I think we expected it, you know, it was something that couldn’t go on. And there was a period when we thought we were going to go to Singapore and we wanted to clean up everything. And course we were
rather confident people and instead of that we did about, oh it might have been six months in Sri Lanka and then I got rid of the transport portfolio and got my third pip in Ceylon.
Elphington Court he was an oldie, he’d been retired and come back I think, a lovely old bloke, and he had good quarters. Anyway he made me welcome to his quarters and meant I could use his loo and so on and so forth. And he didn’t feed me but when I had a
oh, bunk down below somewhere. But I was given, right at the start, they said, “You’re OC Troops on this ship” and then another day a bloke came along and gave me a great bundle of English pound notes and said, “Here’s
your money for the trip, you gotta pay the troops.” And I said, “Oh right.” And someone else came along, he got a great bundle of stuff, “This is the canteen sot of thing., You gotta sell it at such and such and such.” I said, “Alright.” And I said, “What do I use for change?” “Oh you don’t need change.” I said, “Well that’s very well, you know, good old boys.” And so off we went and
I had a pay parade up on deck because there were nowhere else to get them altogether. Course with the wind blowing around and, anyway I lost I think twenty pound on the deal, and applied for it and they said, “No, it’s your own silly fault,” so that wasn’t very encouraging. But the canteen, I scratched my head on this and there was a pay sergeant
on board and he had sheets of paper from ledger things, of course it was quite heavy paper. So we reckoned if we cut this up into strips about two, three inches, four inches long and about an inch wide. And he had his company stamp, so we did that and cut these as, and made ‘em worth
oh, maybe sixpence each. So I got Sterling pound notes and sixpenny change and I didn’t lose any money on the canteen, so it went really well that way. But otherwise, but when we got in to Colombo and almost immediately, oh that’s right, we started to unload
trucks. Because there was a rumour going around that the Japanese having bombed the other side of the island round Trincomalee, were going to do Colombo over. So all the dock workers left and were headed for the hills so the only way we could unload our transport was onto lighters, out in the middle, lower ‘em down in the,
and no-one to work the crane and so on. So I found out I had a few blokes on board, our new docker unions [stevedores] and they were able to do a good job, hiring these, picking up these big three-tonners, big yellow ones, from down in the innards
and landing ‘em on this, well, open sided raft thing. And I don't think I lost many but there’s a few on there, it’d start to rock and then it’d trip and the three-tonner would roll forward and do a nose dive and into the water. But there’d been some pilfering of Australian
beer and at one stage every ship in the harbour had a great row of empty bottles you know, sort of floating this way, this way. And someone said, “It’s all the Elphington Court.” And anyway I found out it was every ship and not only Elphington Court and a delegation came on board and commissioned to see about it and
they accepted my story. But the trouble is that someone ’d been pinching the beer somewhere and throwing the bottles overboard, that was the point at the finish. But this was all of course after we’d come back from very soon after arriving in Colombo, we were sent off out to sea again to go ninety miles out to sea because of the Japanese raid coming. But the Japanese raid came
and sunk a British Navy ship in the harbour and did quite an amount of damage in the harbour. There were dead bodies floating round there for days and then it was trying to get finished up so, and get the off the ship.
he had a pistol, that was his personal arms. And these characters apparently, they broke down into the hold where we carried a general hospital as well as everything else in this old ship. And they found the rum supply in the
general hospital, and got on the rum. And then there was a great thing, this corporal then went more or less berserk and raced round and threatened everyone with his pistol and got down into the crew’s quarters in the foc’s’l’e [forecastle], and someone came and got me so I buckled on my forty-five [0.45mm pistol] and went out.
The ship’s crew are calling out, “Mr Stanton, Mr Stanton, come and save us, come and save us,” and on like that. Then another one of this corporal’s own men was getting round with a rifle and his bayonet all set in it, and I got him on side and we ultimately cornered this corporal with the revolver.
So I took his revolver from him, put him under close arrest and next day took him ashore and charged him with attempted murder. And of course went back on board and I had to wait there until everything else was off the ship before I could go back to my battalion. And ultimately the powers
that be changed my charge from attempted murder to, ‘Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline’ and he lost his stripes which was one good thing but he was a useless animal. And he had one of his friends was a bloke, another horrible type called Parramatta Jim. And they reckoned that Parramatta Jim would be out gunning for me for years
and years thereafter but I never had a run-in [encounter], but that was funny. Anyway that took us into Ceylon and then I fell for also, oh that’s right, I had to go through this court proceeding against this corporal. And it was becoming a little
difficult because all my pals are the ones that’d been put in to be the prisoner’s friend [Defending Officer] and so on. And then they give me a grilling, they knew a little bit about the legal side of things and they’d query every evidence that I gave, all the evidence I got they queried it. It’s not true evidence,
it’s not this and that, anyway it was quite a doing. But then another thing, I got fitted up with the job of President of more or less a commission to enquire into all the road accidents that’d taken place in Colombo and Ceylon generally while the troops were there. And this was very enlightening because
the Colombo population consisted of the Singhalese themselves, a proportion of Indians that had migrated there and these other characters had been creating all the fuss and bother for the last few that were rebels [Tamils]. And then there were what they called the burghers, the
sort of half-caste, that had come from the time the Portuguese controlled the place. So they were in effect Europeans, looking like European but speaking Tamil and with the local dialects and they had their jobs in the police and so on. But it wasn’t a
bad spot but we got home very, yes I can’t think of anything else that happened there that was really, though the Japanese didn’t come back again and we were right.
Can you talk us through was that experience was like, that must have been quite interesting?
Well I arrived on the train first thing in the morning and Jean was living with her parents and they’d changed their house from the last time I was there, they’d moved but I found out where it was. And I went in, I rang the door bell at some un-Godly hour and I got carted in and
say well, “Here’s your daughter,” sitting up in the chair eating her breakfast or whatever it was and smearing stuff all over her face. And it was quite a thing and she didn’t think that I was anyone of any importance whatsoever; you see it was, yes.
big receptacles, that was alright. But then we had to, and we had no transport of course for anything on the famed Kokoda Track, it was just a track. And most of the journey, people on foot could only go in single file on it, you would have no chance whatsoever of taking a vehicle or a horse or a,
you could probably take a cat along but otherwise we might... So we cut down on weight, except that it was decreed that we’d wear our tin hats [steel helmets] and not other hats all the way through.
was they wouldn’t go around a hill when they could go over the top of it. And the steepest ones they put logs, timber across and made steps I suppose for they were not wide enough for two people to walk abreast. And that’s alright and then you could, you’d get to the top of that, then the same thing going down the other side. Well that’s when you
got what we call ‘laughing knees’, going down, they were step, step, step, and carrying eighty pounds on your back. And this included half a blanket, and half a blanket is no blanket. You know, they cut it that way and say, “Well you can’t wrap yourself in it,” you can’t do anything. And it wasn’t a very pleasant journey, and then...
traditionally, the second-in-command sort of comes at the end of the troops; he’s there in the background to see that everything is right and you don’t lose anything and so on and so forth. And he’s also in the position that if the OC of the company gets shot at the front, the 2IC’s then gotta take command.
Well when you take a company of say a hundred and twenty men and spread em out at six or eight feet long and one line route, that means that the second-in-command is about two miles back from the lead. And he’s got no idea what’s going on, he doesn’t get, there was no communication, we didn’t have
wireless in those days see, we had nothing except a piece of sig wire[signal cable] which you ran along and had to earth return and carried a great metal box, it wasn’t very successful at all
How would you communicate with the commanding officer of the company?
Well you’d wait until the day’s march was over and everyone had sort of concentrated past a point and you had to be there for a meal or something, and you’d tap him on the shoulder and say, “What do you think, what went on today?” That was the show. And of course it wasn’t like that all the time, then you got into country, which is a bit more amenable to sticking
together. When you got out of the mountain range onto the area after Kokoda towards the sea at Buna you sort of go across then you more or less turn right at the corner of, before going into Kokoda and go way. But Kokoda was just a native village, and nothing
much there, we didn’t go into it.
dugout businesses across the track. And we were rapidly running out of men with malaria and all sorts of other troubles. And we were there for weeks and weeks waiting to be relieved by someone and just hanging on and becoming weaker and weaker as we went. And
it wasn’t a very pleasant place. I eventually, I don't know how, became adjutant of the battalion, which meant a job on battalion headquarters. But by
the time these things had settled down we found that battalion headquarters consisted of me and the Medical Officer. And we sort of shared our meals and did this and that while the others were out up to their necks in water and mud and slush, out in the... And finally we got out of it,
we didn’t do much more fighting but I booked five Dakota aircraft [DC3 Douglas Dakota bomber] to carry out the remnants of the battalion. We’d gone in with eight hundred, nine hundred men and there were seventy-five at the finish. And there was quite heavy casualties and also bad sickness, malaria and scrub
typhus, the whole lot. And I saw, oh, that’s right we made a landing, take off strip for the Dakota aircraft, which was old DC-3 [troop transport aircraft]
I was down the back, I explained before, I didn’t get tangled up with the Japanese at all in that situation and I was fighting the track more than fighting Japs at that point. And once you got
in the hills it rained most of the time, you got no sleep, you got very little food, no food at all. And their experience, they’d drop hard biscuits in tins which just burst open when they hit the
ground and all you got is brick dust, ah, biscuit dust from that lot. And they dropped little cases of bully beef and of course they’d spread open and every tin ’d get probably cracks in it and the meat ’d rapidly go bad,
or the whole lot that was dropped would land there into a deep gully which couldn’t be found. So provided that you were prepared to go without eating anything, you got on very well on that track. And the fact that you couldn’t take your boots off for months on end, you couldn’t
you were never in a safe enough position to strip and...
You know, and of course that happens quite often in active service that once you’ve got your boots off you’re easy picking for anyone who wants to, you know, you can’t move around, you can’t do this and that. And I determined that I wouldn’t
walk back over that track under any circumstances, and a lot had to walk halfway back and they were evacuated and away they’d go and I said, “No.” And finally I had this evacuation idea that I got the five aircraft and I loaded each of them with
about fifteen men in it, say, and a great stack of weapons along the middle of the treadway [centre passage in the aircraft]. And I think that we finished up with every Bren gun and every Tommy gun that we’d started out with even though we’re just, we didn’t lose any weapons except old rifles that was all. And as the Adjutant, I kept the paper work
right up to date. I had built a little table with a bit of a roof over it out in the jungle there and went into the... See we had to submit cas [casualty] returns any time anyone went and know exactly who was still with us and who wasn’t. And apparently I got a hundred percent marks on that one.
I don't think it mattered so much what their mood was, they were there, see the ones that were out facing the enemy, some were in mud and slush up to their knees and so on and others were going ga-ga [mad], and I think
the mood largely was, this is a lovely place to be out of, and that was my feeling. But I wasn’t gonna walk back and ultimately I was last man onto the last aircraft that took off, that came out and so got back to Moresby. Except that we were almost lost, we couldn’t get through the Owen Stanleys [mountain range], because the clouds had come
down, we had to circle, go right down to Milne Bay then come up the coast to Port Moresby but that’s where it went. And my Medical Officer made a stinging report about it not being a situation where human beings should be made to stay and work in. Anyway they rapped his wrists
rather sharply and told him to mind his own business.
up. And I remember saying to myself, “No, that’s right, I could sit down on the side of the track” and I’d take my haversack off, my eighty pound weight and put it down and sit there. And then I’d say, “Now when I put this pack on again I’m going to stand up, I’m going to grit my teeth and I’m going to take at least …
paces before I sit down again”, which I did, I’d take nine or ten and then I’d sit down again. And I’d do that over and over and over again, I thought, “Now this is silly, where am I getting to”. And by that time I was a long way behind any troops whatsoever, I saw no one at all. Any Jap could have come in and knocked me over without any trouble, if they’d left anyone along the way see. And I
reckon that I was darn near death, that I was just about had it, if someone had pushed me, I’d have fallen over and I’d have been done. And then I got another spurt, a spirit from somewhere and apparently then it started to get dark and I was trudging along in this place. Then finally
I saw some sort of a light ahead and damn me it was the battalion had arrived there and they had a cup of tea going. And I got into, they say, “Where you been?” “Oh I was held up along the way there.” And, “Cup of tea?” “Yes, I’ll have a cup of tea.” A cup of tea and then another cup of tea. Next morning I was fine and fit again see. But that was a point
I was just absolutely done and at the end of my strength, and I’ve never felt closer to death before, but my recovery was so good that, cups of tea will do it.
Now what about, what roles did the natives, the native population play in helping you through Kokoda?
Now earlier in the piece we didn’t see any villages that were occupied because they’d been fought over and so on and so forth. I remember once it was before we really got into the climbing,
we came on a group of natives and women with grass skirts and so on and we had orders to take off your pips because such and such. And I said, “I’m damned if I’m gonna take off my pips.”
I’m here to be someone, you know. And if having pips is going to get a sniper having a go, well let ‘em have a go, I’m not lowering my colours under any circumstances; and that of course, more dirty pride as you go along, but, of mine.
food that I ate from time to time and then it got a bit different later on. But I saw the teams of Fuzzy Wuzzies [Papuan natives], say half a dozen of ‘em, carrying people on stretchers
only in the mountains I think and going up in these steep hills and so on, but a few of those. But there was no-one standing on the side line at drink stations and giving me another drink like this. No, I
don’t think anyone was helping me, anywhere.
consequently, and this where I ruined the rest of my career, this is while we still had a CO, and he said, “There’s a signal in; they want nominations for a school in Brisbane, six week school, at the LHQ [Land Headquarters] School of Military Intelligence.”
And he said, “You oughta be in that.” And I said, “My God I’d like to be in it too, I’d get out of the place.” So I put myself down for it and got it. And that way I had to leave the battalion a couple of days before they were due to move out. And they were gonna move
out by ship but I was in a hurry to get to Brisbane, I had to be there by the fifth of January or something, to start a course.
that’s my father and his brothers and his uncles and so on and so forth, the greatest age that any of them was struck was seventy-six. And I’m eighty-eight and a bit now, can I complain that my health was ruined or anything like that?
I don't know I might be a throw back to something or other, you see, but I can’t say it ruined my life. I know that when I went into hospital, which was just after this school, that we were put on one side, I must have been down to about seven stone or something like that, I was just skin and bones. And
they were giving me injections of liver and goodness knows what else and having a lot of fun in working patterns on my bottom with needles, things like that. But I was pretty low and
I don't think it affected me mentally. I can give you accounts of it which make it look as if, but I got over it, and lots of others haven’t got over it, that’s the point. Now whether it’s strong willed or, I don't know,
or Kellogg’s Corn Flakes or something, you never know do you, where it goes. But at the moment I think I’m kept going alright by Veteran Affairs and audiologists and no, I haven’t been near my
spec [spectacles] woman for a long while but I’m pretty well there. And I’m still getting driving licenses and I can still do cryptic crosswords and a few other things.
militia [Citizens Military Force] boys who were sent over there to stem this thing first. And that some of them did a marvellous job and others apparently scooted [ran] and threw their rifles away, some (UNCLEAR) seen rifles laying beside the track and so on, where things happened. And
I don't know enough about it to pass judgement on it. I know there’s plenty of time that I’d have loved to run away but didn’t, you know, that’s your dirty pride again comes into it that you don’t do it. And I think someone said over and over again,
“The greatest fear you can have is the fear of being afraid,” or admitting it, I’m not sure the way it is, yes.
before we do leave New Guinea altogether, when in your war time experience was mateship the most evident to you?
I think the thing, I was reading somewhere the other day, and I’m sure an account of jungle warfare, advancing in jungle warfare, you’ve always got to have a couple of scouts out in front. And this thing was saying that their actual
experience was that they’d call for volunteers to be scouts and there’d always be volunteers. And mostly it was two mates who would volunteer together to be in this,
in this thing. And that if one was knocked, the other one would move into that position straight away, and that was one definition of mateship.
Port Moresby, I waited around, I remember I was there on Christmas Day, (UNCLEAR). And Christmas dinner was, I somehow or other got a comfort fund with Christmas pudding and I sat down and ate it myself in the dust and dirt of the place. Then I was given a tip to see
a certain bloke at headquarters there, something about my plane trip or something like that, I’m not sure what it was. But anyway I had to trudge through the dirt for a mile or so to the headquarters and dirty, filthy place, dusty and dirty and hot. And ultimately I got the plane seat,
and I took off from there, flew to, whether it was to Cairns or Townsville, I’ve never been sure what it was, but one of those places. And that was supposed to be the end of my journey. But I had another officer with me from somewhere else who was going for some reason and mated up with him. This was a partial
mateship, yes. And he said, “Look at the brigadier there, he’s got the plane all to himself.” I said, “Oh, where you going?” He said, “Brisbane.” I said, “Well so am I.” So I said, “Just a second.” So I bowl over to put on my most hangdog Kokoda Track look, staggered
along and said, “Sir, you got a spare seat for a couple of old diggers,” more or less. And, “Oh,” he said, I forget who it was now but he was Chief Engineer I think, he said, “Yes.” “Okay,” I said, “come on.” So we got on board and we landed in Brisbane earlier than we’d thought, otherwise we’d had to do the train trip for about three days or something
down to Brisbane. Well that was easy, but I don't know.
a brother-in-law I think of one of the officers with me in the desert, John McDonald, that’s right they were brothers-in-law. And he had a pretty fair idea of the whole show and they made it tough. And of course I was
labelled that I’d just come out of the Kokoda Track and they didn’t know that I was sort of half dead at that stage. But he was very (UNCLEAR), we had one business of a sea landing where we, they brought in landing craft. And we
dropped into the sea, or you know, in water up to the chest or something and staggered ashore carrying loads and goodness knows what. This was just to illustrate some of the difficulties that troops ’d be in.
and it was, it gave me a pretty fair idea of what Military Intelligence meant. And I presume, I think I was top of the class, there at the finish. I didn’t get my photo taken with the whole thing because my wife had come up to Brisbane and
we were staying in a place and I thought this was a day off and I took the day off. And they said, “You didn’t get your photo taken.” I said, “Oh well that’s too bad and so on, I got a photo of everyone else there and I, which they were, what it was. But I was deflated a bit because I went into hospital for quite a while after that
because I was so low, that was, and I went from Brisbane to Sydney on the hospital ship and out to Concord [Repatriation Hospital], there for a while. Then I had leave after that and we took a flat over in Manly for a while right opposite the beach there after things.
above Cairns [Atherton Tableland] and they stayed there for about a year or so I think. Anyway I got there and straight away I walked into the job of company commander in C Company and I threw my weight around a little bit. And then of course I was there about a week or so, another signal comes in that I’m appointed as an instructor
at a staff school, First Australian Army Staff School, Junior Staff School in Brisbane. I thought well, what’s this got to do with military intelligence, you know, I thought. Anyway I did that and then my brigadier friend, Brigadier Stevenson who used to be my CO,
and then he was over at Merauke, he got me a job as Brigade Major there. But then they discovered that I had malaria and that was no good. Then someone got me a job in Darwin, which they wouldn’t let me go to because of malaria. And I’m getting a bit fed up with people helping me at this stage. And then the next thing, oh no, this was after they got me a job in Thursday Island. I went to Thursday Island,
nearly killed me, the boredom and the trouble there I was Staff Captain A [Personnel Staff Officer]. And I thought, “What’s Staff Captain A got to do with intelligence.” And then ultimately someone got the ear of the General in charge of intelligence, and he got me shipped off to Land Headquarters in Melbourne.
Then I became a general officer [staff officer], what, oh goodness knows, Intelligence Officer Grade something or other [Two or Three], and under a stupid old lieutenant colonel from the First War who didn’t know anything about intelligence, and reckoned that anyone with an Africa Star [campaign medal] on his chest was no good at all.
They gave me a few funny jobs and finally I got myself transferred to operations so I became a General Staff Officer Grade Three, Operations. And in the battle room at Land Headquarters, great maps and we did the maps of Europe and so on. We did the battle
in Europe and was very interesting. I used to occasionally do the briefing of General Blamey and his off-shoot General Northcott I think [Major-General Sir John Northcott], each week as to what was going on in the battle fronts and so on and so forth, I did that alright. Then someone got the bright idea of dropping an atom bomb on what’s-a-name. I said, “I have
Just getting back to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when that happened, what went through your mind?
Well number one, I had not the slightest idea what an atom bomb was at that stage, a lot of engineering work and so on and so forth but I hadn’t got round to that one. And but I knew and from the earth proportion photos that I
saw, well it did a lot of damage, it’s going to end this war and they wont need me anymore so let me get out. I wasn’t scared of atom bombs, put it that way. I thought this is my chance to end this episode in my life and I did.
But I can’t sort of put a thought on what might have happened. I think my automatic thought was that the atom bomb had stopped the war, you know and
which it really did, that’s what brought it. There weren’t many people killed in action after that or anything and that I’d have thought it was just another event or, related to the bomb.
Oh no very (UNCLEAR), I haven’t got any flags to wave around and I no, I don't know.
With a little bit of luck I could show you a piece of metal from the moon, I got it, oh it’s somewhere around, it’s in a little doover [thing]. But I was Assistant General Manager Operations at OTC, which I had all the
qualified engineers under me and most of the work, a big percentage of the whole crowd. And I’d had quite a lot to do with the American NASA, National Aeronautic Space Administration. And I knew them well and I’d met them in Washington, seen them. They’d be in touch with
me if they wanted anything done. And of course we had a big role to play in that landing on the moon through our little earth station out in Geraldton and the oh the big one was up at Moree later on. And anyway I had an official invitation to go to the
launch, that’s right, and I went. But what happened of course, we lined up at the
base and we were kept about three and a half miles away from the actual conglomeration of vehicles and so on which went up in the air. And oh there were, I got some film of it somewhere but there
was mobs of French girls came over in planes from Paris and all sort of people there, and the old Vice President, who was the Vice President then? Oh, I can’t think, America, not Johnson was it, no, a funny fellow. Anyway
we had a certain amount of the propaganda beforehand and then you say, “Watch out boys,” and so the noise starts. And you get the noise like a thousand motorbike engines starting off and then suddenly with all the exhaust
coming out underneath the actual rocket. And then of course this was before the space shuttle wasn’t it, yes, that’s right, before the space shuttle. We were in, just in this little doover at the top of the rocket.
And then they said, “We’ve got lift off, lift off.” And you see the thing gradually go up and gradually go up. I’ve got a little eight mil [8 millimetre lens] camera on it, I was taking that, I was alright. Anyway it went further and further up, and of course I’m getting over this way, and it seemed to me at that stage I’m looking at it and looking at it and going back and further back. I said, “God it’s still directly overhead.” I thought it was straight overhead and going to drop on me. See, it
was some aberration. Anyway off it went into the thing and we then all turned around and went home. And I went home via oh, various southern states, I did a rather chequered thing across to Los Angeles. And
caught I think a Qantas plane home from there. And got home and I think that was the time that I got home in pouring rain; I lived at Killara then and there was about two feet of water coming down my driveway so I stayed in the car and the wife came out to open the gates. Anyway
that might have been another occasion but I’m not sure of that now.
association and I got a copy of their periodical thing. Then I came to Sydney and I started attending their meetings and I remember ex-CO Ian Hutchison, he was living
on the North Shore too. And he rang me one day and said, “Well why don’t you join up with an association better and just keep an eye and see these boys don’t do stupid things.” And I said, “Alright, I’ll do that.” So for ever since I’ve sort of been a Vice President and play around and I don’t open my mouth very wide and I see they’re getting along.
And I don't think I’ve blotted my copy book at all, I’ve retained a modicum of acceptability in the place. It used to be, “What are the bloody officers going to do in here?” you know, that sort of thing. I’ve got over that one
Third Infantry Battalions, which brought in the 3 RAR [Royal Australian Regiment] the permanent blokes. And we’ve got about, oh, twenty thousand dollars or something in kitty and obviously these others have got their eyes on getting all that money, and I’ve got a group of people who are determined they’re not going to have it. And the main ones in the group
are January 10th 1940 sailors on the Orcades, about three or four blokes. And we’re keeping the show running at the moment as far as I can see. I seem to be the sort of senior
officer in the whole show, cause I’ve got a lieutenant colonel from post war and I’ve got a lot of influence. And the President, who’s been president for about thirty years, I’ve got him in one of those photos there, he joined me as a lad of about sixteen outside Tobruk. So I’ve known him for a long
time and he’s cracking up a bit now but he’s not, and there’s a few others. And we’ve got a few ninety-year olds and so on. And we have a meeting on the first Friday each month, except January I think.
How important is it for you to march on Anzac Day?
Well, mateship, I think. No it’s the other blokes and there’s some there I only see them on Anzac Day, I never see them during the year. But they know I’m alive and I know they’re alive. And see
I was in every company except B Company in the 2/3rd. I started in A Company, I went to Don Company, I went to C Company, I went to Headquarter Company and Battalion Headquarters you know, so I’m known pretty well by most of the men. I’ve produced an intelligible nominal roll of the three thousand
two hundred something people who’ve been through this battalion. And it gets ‘em in a little every now and then but we know pretty well who’s in it. And they get a newsletter three, four times a year and everyone loves it. And there’s been moves
to you know, stop it and let some of the other battalion association have it, we’ve stopped that and that keeps going. I’ve got another scheme (UNCLEAR) of sticking the whole thing under the care of trustees ultimately and which I’m quite prepared to be one and so on. And this is when ninety’s still just coming along. It’s like the
moon’s started to rise but I can’t be bothered.
Well, I could, put it this way, I’ve got you know, two fists and so on and so forth
and once in my life have I put my hands up to fight someone. And that was in about fifth or sixth class at primary school. And I was a new kid and I was taken down the park to fight the best fighter in the school, and he made my nose bloody and I said, “This is no good to me.” I gave
it up. I’ve never in violence or otherwise hit anyone and I don't think anyone in violence has hit me in the time. So to that extent, I’m not warlike. I’m not in favour of war and I never was,
but at the same time I can see that man being what he is, there’s always gonna be some sort of war. There’s gotta be people in it, and that’s about it. Now I hope it won’t be me that’s all. I think I’ve just about escaped most of it. That enough?