you go through your medical, they’ve accepted you but you haven’t verbally stated that you’re prepared to fight all the King’s or Queen’s enemies and serve your country for the duration of war and or twelve months thereafter, and you put your
signature to that and then you’re attested. Well, when we finished that we all fell in a parade and said, “The double decker buses will be here outside the barracks at such and such a time, so you may as well go up to the Greenwood Tree Hotel and have a few beers before you go,” and that we did. Right on the right time they come over, herded us like sheep outta the pub, down
to get on the buses and we drove off to Ingleburn. We stopped on the way to, it was all bush out that way then you know, for everybody to get off and relieve themself. There was no traffic in those days and then we drove up. We never entered the camp, but we debussed. Now this is a very interesting thing.
We debussed and we got rips either side of the road and there was little flags like red and blue for the artillery on a diagonal flash and the other side was black over green for the 2/1st Battalion, like 2/1st Field Regiment that side, 2/1st Battalion
that side, right through to the 2/4th Battalion. They were white over black ah white over green rather. Don’t know where I got the black from. Anyhow way there was the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Battalions. Then there was the engineers, the army service corps and all that and all these senior officers like mainly in lieutenant
colonels and majors of various units walked out and they had a little flag in their arm of the unit they represented and they walked down the road and they would see two or three men sittin’ together. “You and you,” and they’d leave one. “You will now join the 2/1st field regiment. That flag is like that. Over there, you see it?” “Yes, we do.”
“Off you go.” So you became a soldier of the 2/1st battalion. Your best mate might a been the third man. He was picked up by the infantry and sent to the – so where you ended up it didn’t matter and to try and transfer out of those units early was impossible. You was in that unit and there you stayed and they went through very quickly and I was all the militia
men, which were the ones coming in, were in their uniforms and the distinctive uniform colour patches of the artillery and engineers and infantry were known to these officers. So where it’s possible they picked men who they knew would possibly be fairly highly trained. There’s the university battalion and blokes from the
33rd Scottish Battalion in their kilts and all that sort of thing. They’re all picked up by various and the 2/1st Battalion was practically all the 1/19th Battalion militia and the 33rd Scottish. Some units they did didn’t go for the university battalion, for some unknown reason but
other units did, but they at the end of the day there was then the 16th Brigade was formed and that was the 14th of October or thereabouts but we, no I’m wrong. The AIF was formed on the 14th of October. The 3rd of November were the 16th Brigade, which was the first brigade of the 6th Division
was formed and they very quickly integrated their training. There was the camp was still being built. The bulldozers were makin’ the road through virgin pastureland and knockin’ down trees. The huts had no windows, no power, lights and no doors on ‘em
and it was November. By God, it was cold, ‘cause Ingleburn gets very cold and with the all the dust flyin’ around from the bulldozers and men runnin’ around marchin’ and doin’ various drills and that, the ground soon powdered up. All the grass disappeared and everybody got what they call, ‘Ingleburn throat.’ Aw, it was a shockin’ sore throat.
So you had two choices. You went to doctor and he just painted your throat with some horrible stuff or you gargled your throat with salt and water, which was that thick with salt the spoons used to stand up in it in your cup where you were stirring it see, but we all got over all those things. We had no uniforms. We had to take our
uniforms up to the quartermaster’s store and return ‘em. They took and signed for ‘em. They’d send ‘em back to Victoria Barracks and they give us goon skins with giggle jackets and the pants used to come up to here. There was only one size of pants so, I’m not
jokin’, and the old goon skin jacket and it was mid comin’ on to mid summer in later on in there and the boys used to go on leave with overcoats on, because that was the only sign of bein’ a soldier. You wouldn’t want to go home in your giggle jacket. It was shockin’ you know and then we got our uniforms and we did a march through Sydney. They picked us out,
all men of the same height. I used to be about five foot ten then. I’m only about five foot five now. That’s due because of the fact that your discs get worn away and you’ve got thirty six discs, so it’s thirty six vertebrae so you get what I mean, but anyway we looked well, we marched well. Everybody in the papers commended what a wonderful sight we were
but they marched us straight up the ramp, down Pitt Street after we left town hall. Up the ramp and onto the tram, train, and there were some very unusual remarks made to an old bloke who’d been in the Depression. He’d been a – most of the boys had suffered some form of Depression
but Sam Brodie was this bloke. I’ll always remember Sam. He had six kids and he made a remark “Well I’ll never believe that they were actually cheerin’ me instead of, ‘get out of here you so and so’.” He said, “I put up with that for years,” but most of the boys who enlisted had good jobs. I had a good job.
My best mate, who was later killed. We formed a good friendship in the early days. He was a tailor’s cutter. We had blokes who were counter jumpers. We had farmers but this contrary to what people talk about their country men, ninety eight per cent of the first
Australians go to away, go into action, never came from the country towns. They came from the city. The boys from Newtown, Manly, Dee Why. Very strong from the surf club area. I would say that the percentage of early enlistments from the surf clubs was quite phenomenal
and of course see, that’s discipline again. There’s a lot of discipline in the surf clubs. People don’t realise that. You only gotta watch ‘em on their march pasts and but apart from that, they’re trained on that line and they accept the discipline very quickly. So by Christmas time we had
a march before Christmas. On the 18th of December, the whole brigade marched through Sydney and that would be pretty close to ten thousand men because all the ancillary troops would go with us. The biggest contingent came from Sydney and that was in keeping with the previous wars. The first brigades
of the war in 1914-18 was a Sydney-based brigade. Boer War, the New South Wales bushmen were the first to go into action in the Boer War and of course that’s against their will, not the Victorian boys themself but we considered
that we were all Australians but the way the hierarchy of the army worked, like for instance one of our best officers was New South Wales but he enlist he lived in Albury and he enlisted over the road, over the river in a Victorian enlistment area and he was given a VX number, see,
and when he wanted to join our regiment they wouldn’t have ‘im. “No, you’re a Victorian” and yet we had Victorian officers seconded to us. Our original troop commander was a Victorian. Most useless man but, don’t think he ever heard a bullet whistle past his ear. He always managed to never been there in charge of anything when it was happening.
I hope he hears this one day, but anyway he that changed later. He wasn’t our troop commander. We had a very good one. There’s not, I digress a bit. I suppose that’s wrong but is there anything you really want to ask me about the training? The culture of the units started to take effect very quickly.
The infantry believed they were infantry. The artillery believed they were artillery. It was never it was we’re in the army business. They were very quickly become indoctrinated into what units they became in. Like the engineers were had a certain tradesmen
volume. You know like bricklayers, plumbers and see people don’t realise that but the amount a plumbing and bricklaying what goes on and one thing was very much sought after was riggers for, you know, building workers. These men built bridges where the bridges had been blown and they used the same form of
rigging like they use on the scaffolding. You know, bolt the pipes together. Huge bridges. Amazing how quick they put ‘em up. The 2/1st Pioneers. There was a pioneers, is a battalion. The biggest battalion in the army. It’s a thousand men and they can build bridges, they build dams for water and the engineers’d find the places where
to do it and then delegate the work to the pioneers. Then they buried the dead. Seems a terrible way to go, from one extreme to the other, but it happens. Now is anything I must tell you about how the indoctrination worked? We had a canteen in Ingleburn. A penny ha’penny stamp took your letter all ‘round Australia and even overseas.
Now that’s not even five cents on today’s value, but if you wanted a penny ha’penny stamp over the counter in that canteen it used to cost you threepence, which is three cents. Then a meat pie, which normally you would pay fourpence for in Sydney would cost you sixpence to eightpence, all dependin’ on how fresh it was, and they were pretty rotten,
and the boys are gettin’ slugged left, right and centre for everything. So they had a riot one night. Well when they had a riot, we all had a riot with ‘em, and they called the police out from Liverpool, ‘cause didn’t have any military police at this stage and anyway that would have only aggravated more
than the civilian police would have and just remember hundreds of soldiers all millin’ around this big long building. They ended up pushin’ it off the foundations and settin’ it on fire and that was the end of our canteen there, but it was very quickly Australian canteens the ACF got into the
institution you know got into it and we were looked after better.
I said, “I don’t think I can make the march down to Ingleburn station.” He said, “Why?” and I told him. “Oh God” he said, “you can be the baggage cart.” So when the truck came, I just got on the truck and went down with all the gear and baggage and that and I had a – not an accordion, what do you call it, a recorder and I was waiting at the station. As
the boys come down, I played ‘em onto the station and somebody stole that off me on the boat. I don’t know who it was or I might a lost and we used to buy beer for tuppence a pint on the boat. No duties. Oh it was good beer too. I don’t know where it come from. So it might a got lost one night up and the crew members might a took it. We was on the Ophir but we got pulled outta
bed, taken down Ingleburn station and then all onto the old goods liner. Went down to Darling Harbour and then as we were disembarked the police arrived and they called out one bloke and they and saw one of the officers and he called this bloke out.
He says, “You’ve gotta come with us.” “Oh no, mate,” he says, “you’ve gotta come with us because he’s he belongs to the AIF.” He says, “Yeah but he’s up for murder.” “Well,” he said, “take him. We don’t want him.” I never knew his name. I never, we all just looked. So I don’t know what he’d done. Nobody knew. It was, he was not in our unit. He was, you just imagine a huge line of three thousand men
to go onto a boat and the old Ophir was a twenty five thousand tonner boat and she’d taken the Welsh guard from England to France then straight out to pick us up and you talk about Australians bein’ rough on gear, what those Welshmen did to the, and a guards unit to, did to the
inside of that boat was terrible. They all the woodwork they’d carved their names and their town names and I suppose we got the blame for it in the long run. If there’s anybody got the blame for it the Australians did. Never the Kiwis. Oh they were somethin’ very precious to England and they still are in one respect. ‘Cause we were supposed to be too wild to go to Egypt.
We had to go to Palestine. They took the Kiwis to Egypt but anyway gettin’ back to the boat, we lined up on the boat. Got on the boat. We were allotted our, we had to have a number on our puggarees and our hat and puggaree is the little thing around the band around your head and we went on board and they as you came up they gave you, “That’s your cabin number and there’s
five to a cabin,” and all that. They were pretty well appointed and they’d been doin’ it for years, you know, and then when that boat was full she just pulled out into the stream and waited and my sister had given me a diary and I’d promised faithfully to start the day we cleared the Heads.
Anyway, I’ve still got that diary somewhere at home. It’s got “2.10pm cleared Sydney Heads,” and that’s the only entry in it. She said, “I ought to shoot you,” but and she was at that stage hadn’t enlisted. She was a staff sister at Prince Alfred, see, and they didn’t get much money you know. They were like us. Anyway
we sailed out of Sydney Harbour and there was boats everywhere. People waving goodbye. This is dead secret mind you and the battle ship Ramillies was in opposite the zoo but well out on, like between we were down between the road way what they call I think the number two
channel, and she was had the oil lighters beside her pumpin’ oil into her and we cleared the Heads at 2.10 and all the boys were lookin’ out at things and you know I heard quite a few say, “Well I wonder if we’ll sail back in there, mates.” I didn’t have any remarks about that. Just thought to meself, “The day I sail back in through the Heads is the day I’m comin’ home for good,” and strangely enough
that was how it was. Every other time we come back we was first from the Middle East in Melbourne and up by train to Sydney and every time we went to New Guinea we went from Brisbane or Townsville and when I come home for discharge, we come home through Sydney Heads and that was made me very happy. Now we sailed down past
Bondi and you could see the clock tower with a clock, I forget the time now. It was only about fifteen minutes difference and old Jack O’Sullivan said to me, “Many a drink I’ve that in that,” he said, “and I’ve got a feeling I’ll never see it again,” and he was right. He got killed at Darnah but there was much rejoicin’ when we’d found that the beer was twenty –
ah – or rather tuppence a pint and on six bob a day, that was good and we all had a fair bit of money and we were given duties on the ship straight away. I was up on the top of the bridge with a Lewis gun to fend off aeroplanes and
the old Ramillies come tearing’ up past us and got up in front of us. She was do probably doin’ about twice the speed we were and taken all ‘round by that evening everybody knew their place on the ship. All the duties were given. Every alley on the ship had a guard one end of it. The bakery and the kitchens were guarded. The crew’s quarters were separated by guards
and that’s how it was. You were back more like a barracks situation and it was terrible hot when we left Sydney, and they had terrible bushfires in Sydney. On the 12th they actually started on the 10th, the day we left. Three or four days later we were shiverin’ we were down south of
Tasmania into the Roarin’ Forties and when we were off Gabo Island the Kiwis joined us and some ships from Melbourne with various small amount of Victorian troops came over. So all and up was just about twenty thousand Australians left on the first, might a been fifteen to eighteen thousand, but some people say twenty thousand.
‘til the time we went into action was on our mind, “We gotta be as good as the old,” It’s rather a silly way of lookin’ at it but we were sure we would be very bit as good and we proved that but then we had that the a great thing in my opinion happened to us. They welded 2/1st
Field Regiment and 2/4th Battalion together and we formed x and y anti-air craft regiments. That was to keep us occupied and our first taste of bombing came from that amalgamation and we were trained on 3.7 guns and that’s a big anti-air craft
gun. When you see anti-air craft guns, it’s a mighty machine and she could chew off about twenty rounds a minute and it’s all predictor controlled and computer run on the heights and they got square computers. Not like what they have today but that was a computer just for that job and
only give ranges and speed of air craft. So that theoretically the shell comin’ up meets the plane there, but it never does, but we trained very hard and at Haifa and it was good, we moved to Haifa. You know we got all ‘round the place. We’d been to Jerusalem on leave and Tel Aviv and Tel Aviv’s a lovely town.
Jerusalem, nyer. My old mate Jack, who was killed, his mother was a very keen Roman Catholic and Jack was a bit like me I think and but he had to do this the stages of the cross with him and go into Mary’s tomb and we were lucky. We got run into a Russian Orthodox priest who had done all his training
in English in a university in England, I think it was Cambridge, and so he took time off and took a took us all around. We saw all the things that a lot of people didn’t see, and Mary’s tomb was an amazing place. It’s a big huge rock hollowed out inside with all little crypts dug into the side of the rock and icons by the ton
hangin’ down off the ceilin’, but that was another day but gettin’ back to x and y regiment, I must tell ya these things, y regiment run the heavy guns, heavy anti-air craft guns. I was in Y regiment and X regiment was on the Beauforts and twenty millimetre guns and they went down to Alexandria
very quickly and took over gun positions down there and they were in action very early and we took over the trainin’ on the 3.7 and what durin’ the trainin’ was this emphasis on if there is a real alert, the Australians if they’re training on the gun
will step off the platforms and fire out of the gun pits. The gun pits are built out of forty four gallon drums stacked like you can’t get a splinter through about eight feet high and there’s only one entrance, and you’ve got a blast wall in front, with an entrance that side and that side and then there’s a little hole like that to come runnin’ through. Well there’s about
twenty Australians trainin’, and I wasn’t trainin’. I was a loadin’ number at that time and I’m lookin’ up and I saw about twenty five planes comin’ along and they looked beautiful flyin’ but everybody is these height finders are onto ‘em and they’re callin’ out the heights. “Twenty three thousand constant, speed one sixty miles per hour constant.”
You know, all this comin’ out. It’s bein’ fed into the computer and the boys are followin’ like a train there’s a little red spot goes ‘round the dial and you’ve got the a hole in the pointer and you gotta get that pointer what’s goin’ ‘round like a clock hand. You gotta get that little hole on the red dot what’s goin’ around, and that’s how it trains the gun and likewise, get the height another one on the other side centre up and down.
Everything goin’ good and we had a sergeant there and he, English sergeant trainin’ us, and he said, “I didn’t know we had that many planes.” Then somebody woke. They were Italian planes. He blew the whistle. The alarm went. We started to do what we were told goin’ out. It was a sea in the corner, a mass of troops goin’ in and out. Couldn’t get anywhere
and I’m sittin’ up on the wall, laughin’ my head off and I, then I was watchin’ the planes and all of a sudden just like Bondi, ah not Botany Bay rather from Vaucluse, you look across to the refinery. It’s about the same distance and it started to go up in flames. They’d unloaded all their bombs on it and they just went out to sea and the only plane what got into trouble was a little Dragon
Rapid civilian plane. They’d been usin’ him as a target but firin’ no ammunition previous you know so they could get practice on and he got down real low and they shot the tail off him. Well it didn’t, he didn’t crash. They shot part of his tail off, that’s right. I’ll never forget that, but over the next ensuin’ week we had several air raids. One of ‘em
was we had to go and they set the oil storage, the navy oil storage, and ammunition supply alight and we had to go in there and roll the torpedo war heads, which weighed seven hundred pound, along the ground and they were damn near red hot and the one sight I could never forget was a digger sittin’ on top
of a railway tanker holdin’ a exhaust valve down because it was gettin’ that hot and they pushed him through the fire to get him out. Everybody thought it was a great joke but it was very dangerous, especially if he had a let that go, all the fumes would a come out and she’d a gone up, but he was sittin’ there holdin’ this great lever down, thinkin’ he was doin’ somethin’ good, but we cleared that out, but there were a lot of
casualties with the civilians in there. They hit a bus full a school kids up in the town and so the war came to Palestine good and proper, and we were moved out to Acre, the old fortress, and we used to go in buses to train
in town and then all of a sudden we were sent down to Egypt to return to our division and brigades and we got new guns and we trained very hard. Live ammunition over the infantry you know and they practiced advancin’ under fire and there was no sleep for the wicked at all then, and I become a signaller as well as a machine gunner
and, unpaid signaller. They don’t pay ya ‘til you pass your Morse code on radio but because I was a machine gunner they wouldn’t let me sit for the test.
ah from the beach level. I can’t think of the darn place. Tip of me tongue too. I might tell you later. Up to Fort Capuzzo. Now Capuzzo was the border and the Italians had a barb wire entangled with dannet wire that’s all great loops, and half way up
we had to stop ‘til Bardia Bill fired nineteen thousand yards to us oh more than that, I think it was twenty five thousand yards, and it took ‘em three minutes to load the gun and fire it again and what I think they had two guns because it didn’t take three minutes but they used to work it out and lower it tryin’ to hit the crown of the road. They’d forgot to
destroy the road when they retreated because the, I’m gettin’ a bit ahead there, because the British Army and the 4th Indian Division had gone into action at Sidi Barrani and wiped out the forward Italian troops. Then we took over from the 4th Indian Division and this British 16th Brigade was the same
brigade as ours and the 7th Armour Div advanced in with us. Anyway when we got to, I nearly said the name of that place, when we got to Hellfire Pass we had to wait and we watched the shell big flash in the distance
and we watched this shell climbin’ like a little red dot because they’d they get white hot on the nose, see, and he’s comin’ across and he missed the road and burst in the valley down below and the blow the whistle and we’d go like mad and get past the danger point and then they stopped again for the next one. Then we got up past Capuzzo and then we
stayed for the night there and then we went forward next day and that again as I say, TLA is the troop leader’s truck, and we were in the advance party. We go up and they survey the positions for each gun. Now that is why they’re staggered. Each gun position is surveyed
but the range’ll be all the same and the same point of impact. It’s very technical business and that’s what Mick Lardelli did, but Mick was a gun position officer’s assistant later on and he was a sergeant. Now what happened, we got in there and we got this all laid out little to what we got our flags and that and
behind us was a British medium battery. That’s a bigger gun and I five point five shell and he’s firing. Then all of a sudden, there’s a scream. A shell’s come in about two hundred yards in front of us. Perfect twelve shells all in a line burst together. Poor old Lady Lonsdale, he was one of the blokes who enlisted with me
in militia. He we were good mates and he says, “Jesus, I wish they’d watch where they’re shooting at. They’ll hit us.” I said, “What do you think they’re trying to do?” I said, “They’ve either hit us want to hit us or they’re lettin’ us know ‘we’ve got ya pegged,” but that was our range where they used to practice on, where we were. Anyway he said, “Oh I thought it was the British medium action.” “No” I said, “they’re probably shootin’
at ‘em.” Anyway he was the artificer. If anything went wrong with the guns he used to have to go and fix ‘em up, see. So he wasn’t worried about gunnery. Only the mechanical side of it and anyway when those shells burst we lost our officer. I won’t mention his name, but he wasn’t any good and he got captured in Greece later but up arrives the colonel. He says, “Where’s So and So?”
I said, “Under the truck.” So he bent down. “Mr So and So,” he said, “what are you lookin’ for down there?” “Oh I’ll be out there in a moment.” So he’d come out and he said, “You won’t see much down there.” That’s all he ever said to him and he’s old First World War digger, the CO. Holy Joe, we called him, called him,
‘cause he made everybody get attend a church parade or march twenty miles. So we all marched twenty miles. He soon give up that and the officers didn’t like it because they used to have to march with us. It was “Fall out the Catholics.” They’d all fall out, all these religious men. “Fall out the Jews,” and they’d fall out, the five or six. “Other denominations.” No one man admitted
that was how it was, but anyway after that little digression, go back to the story. We pinned the guns down, brought ‘em in. There wasn’t another shot fired at us and I was right, they just let us know that they knew where we were, and we put out a tenjen gun who’d range
and drew the crabs. So they’d see the fire on his position and he fired the in the afternoon. It was a very dull afternoon. It was mid-winter then, like Christmas time, and come Christmas Eve the next day we dug in and all and then they said, “At eight o’clock tonight, every gun on the British front is
gonna fire three rounds.” That’s how short of ammunition had to all come all the way up and we got orders to stand to at seven thirty, everything was right, and so went through all the preliminaries. The rangin’ gun opened up a couple of times and he was about five hundred to six hundred yards away from us
to draw the crabs you see and anyway what nothin’ happened to him. Then righto, they come up to the time that eight o’clock was close and then twenty seconds to go, fifteen, ten and the count down and away goes your first shots of the war
and everybody’s standin’ up. We’d dug in. It’s all rock and we’d dug in about that deep. There was Lonsdale, myself and the other my number two for the gun. We were all crouched in this little hole but we were standin’ up on the edge of it. Our shells are screamin’ off and the gun behind us, the heavies, are screamin’ off. We watched the others all firin’ and, “Oh this is great,” and we fired our first shots
as a group, you know, and Lonsdale ever the had a view different to everybody. “Look at all that flashes. Those shells are burstin’ everywhere.” “Get down your hole quick. That’s comin’ our way,” and sure enough, eight and a half hours they never stopped. We had the closest shell hit about oh fifteen yards away from us
and it was the last one fired in the night. It was, I was puttin’ me boots on. It was just comin’ dawn and I had me boots off and I’m pullin’ a boot on and I’m sittin’ on the edge of the trench and I hear this shell comin’ and I know what’s happened. They have a one gun had stopped firin’, like the Italians had the same
drill as we would. They’d stop their firing and one gun still loaded so and he’d get the order, “Empty gun on the last targets,” and that was us and I’m puttin’ on me boot and I hear this, “Oh God,” and I skinned all me nose getting down to the bottom of the hole and it just landed fifteen yard and blew all the debris in on we’d
had bits a rock and everything out and we had sand bags with little teeny bits of rock in it and we had each man had twenty five sand bags tied to his belt and we never run into any sand in the desert. It’s all rock. Anyway when we emptied ‘em to roll ‘em back up and bring ‘em back in there’s great big shell splinters in there. I said, “Oh I’ll send that one home,” but anyway I didn’t and
that’s what happened. I was still sittin’ there with one boot in me hand, when the CO come runnin’ over. “Did you get hurt?” I just looked at him, “No I didn’t, but it’s not your fault.” “Oh is that your way, the way you feel?” So he walked away and left us. Anyway I pulled me other boot on and we stayed there all day and periodically they’d have a little hate against us.
The worst was when we were shootin’ back. We had a Lysander plane flyin’ givin’ us directions and he’d fly around over the Italians then he’d fly back over us. Well, the Italian anti-air craft guns were firin’ at him and he was only about two hundred feet above us at any time and we were
huddled down in our little hole, which is no escape from air bursts over the top of you, see, and I got a chunk hit me dixie and put a dint in it the wrong way. It went in the dixie and as he’d be flyin’ around us he’d the shells chased him all the time. He never got hit, but how we escaped without anybody I’ll never know ‘cause he’d be flyin’ right over the top and the radio blokes’d be talkin’.
The blokes on the radio are okay, they didn’t hear nothin’, see? They’re got two earphones on, but they could a told him to buzz off, come in from a different direction, but he was watchin’ the fall of the shot. Very good they are. Effective. They do a lot of accurate fire. Well that went on for, we moved back, went on for about ten days but every night we went five thousand yards
away, or you could say five thousand metres, whatever you like, away from our position and dug good gun pits. Filled sand bagged ‘em. This is to be our barrage positions and the Italians never had a patrol out and found ‘em. We were only nine hundred yards off their tank trap and I think about twelve hundred yards off their first artillery.
Very lazy soldiers. Anyway, after pits were dug they used to bring their trucks up within a kilometre of the new pits into a bit of a shelter and all the ammunition and we carried all those boxes of projectiles.. It was a hundred and twenty five rounds per gun
and halve that again for the projectile cases. Nearly killed half of us, but you do that at night over rough ground. You can’t, no moon, you can’t see and there’s blokes fallin’ over camel bush or rocks and but we had it all there and we were we’d moved up the night before and laid low all day while one gun, the one that had been doin’ the rangin’, was beltin’ rounds out from the old position,
lettin’ ‘em think we hadn’t moved and the barrage was to go off at five thirty in the morning and there was seven hundred and fifty rounds per troop. That’s a lotta rounds and when you consider there was eighteen field regiments, or eighteen field batteries, plus one medium regiment. The navy
had about forty minutes softenin’ up on the coastal defences at the same time as we were firin’. All you could hear was a big rumble every now and again from their fire. Sometimes a shell’d hit a rock probably miles away and bounce in the air and you’d see this red hot great chunk of
metal flyin’ through the air. It didn’t explode ‘til it hit way back outta back a beyond, you know, and fifteen inch shell weighed over a ton. So they were very frightening and the noise of ‘em, it’s like a train. You never heard anything like it but the barrage started at five thirty. The tanks started to come up at four o’clock and they, nothin’ like you see in the picture shows,
where they just glide along. They swiggle and squeak like mad because there’s no oil on the tracks you know and “What the gods, every Italian in the front’ll be awake,” but no, not one movement you know. Anyway up come up the five thirty and the usual old count down and ‘bang’, away she went. Then that was a sight. You could read a paper with the gun flashes.
Then shortly after that they started on the rangin’ gun, but he was already on his way up to join us and he had his position marked. He got there about five minutes after we started firin’. Went into position. Each gun has what they call a tannoy system. Signallers lay the wire out to each gun and it’s a box about that big, or half as big as that,
and on the top’s got a press switch and gun orders from command post come out through that and the gun sergeant presses a button and says, “Shoot number one,” or number two, whichever gun he uses, see. Number one, two, three, four, five, six and it goes onto that’s how they get the orders through. So there’s no trouble there. Rum issue?
Yeah we got a rum issue. The best one I had was at Tobruk. I’ll tell ya that later but the rum issue there, it was good at Bardia. The infantry, we were way up in front of the infantry. They had a start line and they had to march through us durin’ the barrage and goin’ into their positions and of course the ribald remarks passed. “What, are you
nine mile snipers doin’ up here when it’s our place?” Everything up in front of the artillery was their road but we had to steer ‘em away from the guns because, that were one job I had, because if they walked in front of a gun within fifty yards they can die, like from the blast, especially if the whole lot lets go together. Once a barrage start, they just get their rounds off as at a speed
and they lift ‘em every few seconds. The first barrage nullifies the other side positions. The second barrage has the infantry marchin’ a about a less than a hundred yards behind it. One hundred and twenty paces a minute and that’s very religiously, the guns go up-up-up and they like that very much because
it gives them a feeling of support, you see, and that’s what an artillery regiment is. It’s the supporting arm of the infantry. Why they put the artillery right on the line, I don’t know. Some stupid old Pommie idea, because the infantry’s the man that does the fightin’. He’s up at the point but the gunners do their share by helpin’ ‘em and
they couldn’t do it without us because when they’re in trouble that’s when you see the light goin’ up at night and that’s all picked out. The infantry know, “Oh well, big brother’s back there. He’ll help us.” Now what else do we want to know? We’ve when we got into Bardia we crossed the first sign of our own casualties. Bits and pieces of poor beggars who were puttin’ Bangalore torpedo
through and Italian shell landed, not on them but close by, but the Bangalore torpedo is a like a drain pipe and it’s chock full of of gun cotton, which they were a very high explosive, and they screw ‘em together and shove ‘em through with the dannet wire then it’s probably
it’s six foot or nine foot lengths. I forget now. I think it’s about nine foot from memory and gun cotton’s very sympathetic and explosives are detonated by detonators at so many thousand cycles per second. Gun cotton, I think it’s about eight thousand per second, it’ll detonate. Like even a dry gun cotton,
you put a primer there and you put it on a piece of steel like an anvil and hit it, it’s liable to explode and, I never knew, I spat so much. Anyway the next thing is that shell landed near it. Of course the gun cotton went off and blew ‘em to pieces. Now old doc with the 1st Battalion had been runnin’ around collectin’ the bits
and puttin’ ‘em in a heap to cover up, you know. Wasn’t a nice task for him, but that’s part of a doctor’s job. Doesn’t want to upset everybody, but we went through the wire entanglements and strangely enough, I had ‘Pud’ on my helmet see, that was me nickname, and I used to stand up holdin’ the motley mount in my
machine gun mount in the back of the truck and as we’re drove were drivin’ through there was a battalion officer who said, “G’day, Pud.” I said, “How the hell did you know my name? I said, “You’re Jack Lovell, aren’t you?” He said, “Yes and you don’t remember me.” A bit later on I’ll tell you about him. Like I said, “I’ll tell you
who I am,” but when I was a little kid Jack Lovell would a been eighteen when I was about nine, you know, and he was doin’ his compulsory trainin’ and he was a big tall skinny bloke at that stage, you know how boys are, he was about six foot three and the next time I when I was lived in Haberfield, next time I run into him it was a he was a captain in the 2/1st battalion
and he did come from the Sydney University. He was a minister of, a solicitor rather, for the Church of England church. One of his clients, you know. Anyway now we moved in and we followed the tank tracks and by that time I’m in a little track vehicle,
Bren gun carrier, and that’s the OPO drivin’ along and he’s run over a land mine. The tank didn’t hit the land mine, its tracks were too wide, but ours hit it and the driver lost his leg sittin’ beside me. So and then we just rocked to a stop like that you know. The all spinning and I looked. “What d’ya stop for?” He said, “Just a minute.
“Ah well, I’ll be damned,” he says, “I’ve lost me leg.” There was a stump gushin’ blood. So as quick as light I got me hand around it like that and I managed to stop it a bit, but it’s like a hose. You you’ve no idea. So we got him out of the carriage, out of the seat rather, out of the carrier, laid him on the ground and somebody ripped the boot lace out of his boots
and tied a tourniquet on him and as quick as light there was a infantry stretcher bearer there. Had him bound up. We left him and one of the boys drove the carrier and we threw a bit a dirt in on the spot. She had a hole right under his seat. If it could a been another foot that way, I’d a got it. It just shows you, doesn’t it? So that’s the first shock I had
and we rapidly got into the positions. You could see the infantry spreadin’ out on either flank, goin’ along the lines and we were goin’ as far forward as we could with the guns to get the extreme range, you see, and we went through an Italian gun position and they’re all dead from the barrage, this is the first barrage. When I say the first
barrage, the first twenty minutes and there was a brief stop ‘til the infantry were ready and they’d apparently been, it was a Sunday mornin’ and they’d been in a church parade and there was the old priest with his big black round hat and his smock on, and all they were all layin’ dead pointin’ the one way. The first shells must a just caught ‘em and they were all
dead and the guns had never even fired. They were loaded but never ever fired. So that’s how good the barrage was, just wiped ‘em out, and all that was done with the flash spotting and aerial reconnaissance, so it was pretty good. Now we finished Bardia off, ah, in three days. They wanted to surrender on the second day
and the Brigadier Allen, later become General Allen, he says, “It’s too late to surrender.” He was right too. It was late in the afternoon. He said, “I’ll tell them when they can surrender,” but next morning was some of their artillery, their artillery was very good, but it wasn’t as modern as ours, but their shells weren’t as good as ours. But when I say weren’t as
good as, they always had a terrible lot a dud shells and I was up forward with the forward OP because we obviously had aerial supremacy. There was no Australian squadron, number three squadron was our support, and the Italians never appeared durin’ the battle once with their air craft. Before the battle yes, and
after all the prisoners were a great line twenty, oh, thirty-five thousand men were captured there. Thirty-eight thousand rather. Just imagine what that looked like. It was about a hundred and fifty, two hundred yards wide and went back to blazes. They come over and bombed their own people. Well they probably thought it was us, but I have me doubts about that. Well, they couldn’t see what way they’d be goin’
from that height. It just looked like a blob, you know, but I suppose they sent the message back “The Italian forces are attackin’ the Australians,” but anyway I witnessed somethin’ that I have never forgot. There was one Italian troop of guns or battery of guns, I think it was eight guns, and
it was decided to fight it out with our troop and there was just like it was up on this little rise and they the fires were going orders were goin’ down to our gun, and the fightin’, the firin’ started and we were the cross fire was over our heads you know. Backwards and forwards there. One
Italian gun got hit and blew it right out of its pit and exploded its ammunition and it apparently it its own ammunition and the succeedin’ shells when the gunners tried to get out all got killed and within about six hectic minutes, up went the white flag. That was the end of the battle of Bardia as far as shootin’, and our troop got the coup de grace [‘blow of mercy’]
of it and Graham Scarlett was our troop commander then. He’d been in the militia with me. When I first met Graham he was just a bombardier and he’d he was a fair age older than me, probably fifteen years, and all he could talk about, “These are not guns.” He’d been in the naval reserve before. “They’re nothin’ but pip squeaks
against the four point sevens in the navy,” you know, but he was a very good gunner and a very good bloke. He was always scheme a way he could use me up, you know. “Oh how ‘bout if we got a gun and we took it out rovin’ behind our lines. Would you be interested in comin’?” “Yes, as long as you’re with me.” “Of course I’d be with ya,” but they wouldn’t let him get away with it, but
he was a good bloke and he later become divisional artillery major. He went over to the second front. Yeah, I saw him in Port Moresby when I’d not long been out of hospital and, “Ah,” he said, “we’ve got these short twenty five pounders. We’ll practice ‘em. Blow ‘em up,” he said. “We don’t want ‘em. They’re no good,”
and he was right too. Anyway we destroyed three outta four with super chargers and cockin’ ‘em up. Two had big tyres like air craft tyres on ‘em and they bounced over backwards and one broke the trailer. The fourth one had a big tubular trailer, wouldn’t break. Wasn’t our fault but he said to me, “I’m goin’ to England.” This is 1943. He said, “Would you like to come over with me?” I said, “Ooh I’d love that.”
“Of course,” he said, “you’ll have to be me batman.” I said, “I don’t want that, so I won’t go.” You know what a batman is? “Alright,” he said, “I’ll find somebody.” I don’t know who’s went with him or if he ever got anybody from the regiment. Next time I run into him was at Wewak. Anyway that’s another story, isn’t it?
we got put on the advance party again. “Head off for Tobruk.” “How far do we go?” “Well you just keep goin’ ‘til you get shot at.” That was the order and we arrived outside of Bardia, ah of Tobruk, about five thirty at night and we topped a little rise and they shot us. Didn’t shoot us, but they shot at us. An air burst of about a hundred yards in front of us. So we put the brakes
on and we went back slowly to see whether they’d still shoot and they never fired any more. So by then it was pitch dark. So we had a lantern, a kerosene lantern, in a kerosene tin. You know the old square ones? And our regimental number was seventy two. Punched in with holes and a light put in that and you couldn’t see anything but the
seventy two. That meant our guns would have to catch up with us, seventy two. Well our guns arrived one at a time with all terrible stories. The drivers were all drunk and they weren’t actually, but some of ‘em were, and they run off the road and the road is built up like a beautiful tar road about four feet high off the desert floor, you see,
and some of the guns in the dark, the drivers, were very weary and tired. Everybody had been fightin’ for and workin’ like slaves for over a fortnight or goin’ on for three weeks really and they were very tired and they just run off the roads. ‘Cause some turned over. I think only one turned over in ours, but every gun had a little keg of
cognac on it. I’ll never forget that. Anyway, next mornin’ we wake up. We’re we decided to lager for the night and it was a damn bomb dump. There was a great big five hundred pound, two thousand pound bombs all stacked up and we were camped beside ‘em. So we moved quick from there and we moved into a place called, we called it Happy Valley. They couldn’t hit us. There was
a ridge in front of us in a very deep valley and then this little valley arm went out like that. A ridge lower than the one in front and then there was another ridge behind us. So we’re in that ridge and I had a machine gun post to stop anybody comin’ up the approach track and a nice spot, it was very comfortable, and
everybody who approached that area had to come very slow except the CRA, the commander of royal artillery. Lieutenant General Herring, he become. Snotty-nosed old Pom he was too, and he was a good soldier though. He arrived in a swirl a dust and ‘cause after the
dust where he stopped the Italians shelled us from there. I was real glad he was there to cop it too because there was a cruiser called the San Giorgio which was aground but still firin’ in Tobruk harbour and you’ve probably seen pictures of it, a big cruiser burnin’. Well they put the fires out and they used the anti-air craft guns and the turret guns to as a fortress. Anyway,
they landed shells in front of us. They shells behind us but there was great chunks a rock from both sides you know. I had the nose cap of one, was a point, it come down, a steel weighed about twenty pounds and it came down about ten yards away from us. I’ve had it for years but you couldn’t walk around with that. It was in the truck and one a these days I’ll give
it to somebody to use as a door stop, but the CRA was there and we’re gettin’ shelled and he said, “I want the GPO. Where is he?” I said, “That’s him comin’ up the ridge now, Sir,” and he’s huddled on one side of my hole. He didn’t get in the hole but he and poor old Sam Kibble comes up. Sam Kibble was our gun position officer,
senior. He had tinea and he had the toes of his shoes out. He we were all dirty, filthy. We still had never had a bath. All we ever got is a pint a water a day a, honest, and if we got a little bit more than a pint we had to give some back to wash the guns out with. Anyway he comes up. He’s got a balaclava on. His whiskers had grown out
through the balaclava, and he’s filthy and he’s got boils. He you name it, Sam had ‘em, and he said, “I want the GPO,” and Sam looks at him with a look a all misery and says, “I am he.” He said, “You look nice and clean sir. Have a look at my men.” Our clothes were worn out, everything,
you know. He comes up spotless. He’s got somebody to clean him up. Bath he probably had somebody to bath him and we never liked him in the 2/1st and I don’t think he really liked us much either but he was a good officer. First World War man. He fought in the British Army. “In the British Army, when the guns under fire they rush up and they salute the officer.” “Yeah, well you’re not in the British Army, are you Sir?” “Who said that?”
and there’d be a dozen blokes’d put their hand up. He didn’t ever win much, did he? But then we went on like I tell Tobruk we had to take it as quick as we could. They give us forty eight hours and we took it in twenty two and we busted through the same way as we did on through the outer defences and drove straight through with
the guns got behind ‘em and shelled ‘em from behind and I saw from the ridge we were on top, I saw the Bren guns attackin’ the anti-aircraft guns. One’s come screamin’ across at sixty mile an hour and kicked up all the dust like a smoke screen and the others went straight through the smoke screen. We hear the guns their machine guns firin’ and
next minute there’s a dust cleared away a little big and you see white flags as big as a house. They’d had enough. Well, that lasted twenty-two hours, but then that was the end of Tobruk. There was somethin’ happens, when you’re in that advance party you don’t see what happens behind and we set off to Darnah and that was the
biggest fight, believe it or not, we ever had with the Italians. We lost a gun crew and the Northumberland Fusiliers machine gun battalion had a lot a casualties. The 2/11th Battalion had a lotta casualties. They we took ‘em all to task but we found out later we’d come up against a thirty five thousand strong Italian Army of tanks and
troops who come down to relieve Tobruk. They never got there but we had one gun crew captured, ah gun OPO captured, and but other than that we A troop had men killed. Six killed or four killed. B troop had one killed and
a lotta blokes were sick by then too, were evacuated sick. We didn’t see them ‘til we went to Greece. Now next trip. It’s finished, isn’t there?
six minutes by taking a man off every other gun. Now what happened, we were always forward of the infantry because of the possibility of tank attack and we didn’t realise that what we’d come up against, or we didn’t realise, and I don’t think the people who were runnin’
the war realised it either, that the thirty five thousand-odd men we run into the area from Darnah to the bypass road was in excess of thirty thousand, possibly thirty five thousand, with a tank force as well as motorised infantry divisions and fresh artillery
and they put up a great fight. Like for instance the 2/4th battalion crossed the Darnah body. It took ‘em about two hours to cross to wadi. When they were driven back, it took ‘em about thirty minutes but they had a force of about two thousand tacking attacking forces of around about eighty. So you can
give ‘em credit for that. Darnah was a pretty little town with an Italian air force base and it was neutralised by the tanks and light carriers knockin’ the tails off all the planes what were lined up in a night attack,
but there was an old fortress built by the Turks, which was manned, and we had to neutralise that, which we did, but that still had to be taken by infantry and the 2/11th battalion took it. In two attacks. The first attack the fire was so hot they had to pull out a the attack the day before and then
the followin’ day they attacked it with the aid of the twenty five pounders and they took it and at one stage to the left of the road through Darnah, which bisected the end a the aerodrome, we had six guns in our troop. Four of ‘em were on one main target and the other two were on individual gun control targets. That means targets they were ordered to
engage in open sight and one a those guns got knocked out by a lousy little Howitzer with wheels about two foot high and but still it fired a mean shell of about ten pounds. Hit the layer on the head and killed him a course, and all those standing around him. The other two were wounded. Four were killed and one
wounded. A Troop always had the sticky end of the stick. Seemed to have more men killed in it than any other troop ‘til later in the war, when the Yanks bombed us the day that Germany surrendered. Friendly fire. Anyway we eventually overcome the
Italians at Darnah and crossed over the wadi. The town was a very pretty little town and some of the boys had robbed the bank and we had two thousand lire notes which some of our officers, “Oh throw ‘em away. They’re no good,” and anyway I kept mine but when we got to Banghazi you couldn’t go on leave unless you had
Italian lire, and Italian lire was for every two thousand lire, two pound ten stirling because Egypt, the Bank of Egypt, honoured their money. Egypt at no time was at war with the Italy or Germany and a lotta people don’t know that. In succession, after Darnah we captured Al Bayda, Banghazi.
Nice little towns. You’re getting into an area of plains very similar to Bathurst area and it’s the grainery of Cyrenaica, or Libya. Libya’s all sand and desert. It’s where Cyrenaica actually begins and we arrived over Banghazi about seven thirty one night, fired a
shot over the town and the bishop and the mayor came out to surrender the town. Next day was a big deal and the 4th Battalion commander took the surrender. We left the brigade, our unit, the 2/1st Field Regiment, and we cross-countried
to get behind, the Italian forces were havin’ a pitched battle at Bir Umm and we got there just as they surrendered. They lost around about two hundred and fifty tanks locked out, and the residue of ‘em had just surrendered and we missed the fighting. They put up a very good effort, but I’m glad we missed the fightin’ in one respect, because none of us knew that the buses we thought were carryin’
troops were carryin’ women and children and they would a been slaughtered. They would a been nasty blot on the character of our army at any rate, because they shouldn’t a been where they were. There should have been an identification with a red cross or something like that and was respected by the Australian Army. From then on we garrisoned the north west of the area. We went as far as ahead that
we could have been in Tripoli seven thirty in the morning and I can’t think of the date now, and Churchill’s had given the orders to stop and the we were ordered to go back to a place called Marsa al Burayqah, which is we dug in and that’s where later the 9th division met the Germans
and begun their retreat to Tobruk. We went straight back after leavin’ handing over to the 9th Div, straight back to Egypt and by then we were over a thousand miles from Egypt and when ya think of what we’d done, how much ground we’d covered, it was a great achievement
and when you think of the fact that there was out of an army of a hundred and eighty-odd thousand we’d captured over a hundred and twenty thousand. That was quite good. Of the Italian Army. All their equipment, guns were shipped to Greece to fight the Italian forces invading from Italy, and trucks were used by us
and they were huge trucks, good trucks, and their small arms wasn’t was just destroyed. Then we went back to Mersa Matruh. That’s where Queen Sheeba, not Sheeba, what’s the one what had a used to bathe herself in a bath of milk?
The Egyptian queen? Do you know the name of it? Oh anyway, that’s where she used to swim. It was a beautiful little lagoon there on the Med. We were there about four days and then we started our trip to Greece. While we were half way to Greece, the German
forces, Rommel, who wouldn’t land in Tripoli unless the port was safe, started to come down through Cyrenaica into Libya and if we’d a been allowed to go on to Tripoli like we should have, the war would never have been fought anymore in North Africa,
because neither the Italians or the Germans had the naval forces capable of forcin’ a passage to Tripoli or anywhere else, and that’s how the war, one man’s order stops an attack what should have cleaned the whole lot up. Well we arrived in Greece, I arrived there again in the advance party, and
we had no guns. That sounds silly, but the guns and the transport went on one ship called the Pratdal and the Pratdal was a timber ship from Norway where the front opened up and they shoved big logs right down the ship. It had no bulkheads. One bomb would a blew her open, and we arrived in Greece around about the 2nd of April
and our gunners finally left Egypt a few days after us. I’d say somewhere around about the 10th of April and they looked for us in Greece. We were right up in the lower slopes of Mount Olympus and as the units retreated, we retreated with ‘em, and eventually our gunners caught us up. They had a
very varied tale of havin’ the gun, the train crews had jumped off the train and left ‘em. They’d driven the train on their own and stolen engines off other trains to get there. Eventually caught us up but nobody seemed to know where anyone was because we were caught up in the retreat and we everybody was lookin’ for everybody and eventually we caught ‘em at Brailos.
Well, the moment we got, ah not Brailos, Vlochos. The moment we got our guns we were became rear guard then and remember this, that one battery of our regiment was still in Egypt. So first battery alone that represented the regiment was regimental headquarters. Well we got dive bombed on Hitler’s birthday
all day. Lost another gun and some a the crew and I think we had three killed that day and two wounded and we didn’t have a hope in hell but anyway we just saw the German air force arrive, or Luftwaffe arrive. You were
lookin’ at two, three, four hundred bombers at a time and the only thing we did have in mid afternoon on Hitler’s birthday, April the 19th I think it was, five Hurricanes arrived and shot down about seven or eight Stukas and put ‘em to flight. Then they run out of ammunition and we never saw ‘em again. We never saw
any of our air craft after that and then we begun the long retreat right back to oh well you can’t go any further down the Peloponnese peninsula than that particular town. I can’t where all the olives grow. Can’t think a the name of that one.
I can say it when I don’t want to say it but that’s about the size of the Greek campaign.
That’s north of Athens and it’s just like the Norwegian fjords. We left Egypt as the, and Cyrenaica, as the sum as the winter had gone. It was gettin’ hot. When we got to Greece we caught up with the winter and the snow, and oh, we had some pretty freezing old nights up there in the mountains
and we adapted to it. Whether we liked it or not, we had to put up with it. No other way. We got bombed day and night. Ah, and strangely enough we never had any casualties on the road but I remember one particular night just before we went up on the Domokos Pass, my Daddy had always told me, “Son, dig yourself a hole to sleep in.” So one night I
didn’t and a train was goin’ past us and they got one a those squeaky ‘wheeeeep’ and I could hear this German plane comin’ along, only one plane, a nuisance bomber, and he come along, “wooooo!” You know the Germans by the sound, see, and then I thought, “Oh that’s not a train. That’s a bomb,” and it hit the ground about forty yards from me and the ground
was very soft, thank God, and it went down and created a great crater about, oh, I’d say fifteen or sixteen feet deep and about twenty foot wide. There was hardly any blast from it, but me mate, who was sleepin’ in one a the trucks and I was layin’ down beside it, he laid flat out on the seat of the gun tractor and it must a been a rock I think
went through the door where he had his head, just above his head, and took half the steering wheel out and out through the other window of the truck, which was wound down. I pulled the blanket over me head and from then on, I never stopped diggin’ holes at night time, but he obviously wanted to hit the train. He would a seen the
fire box you know, ‘cause we could see it. He’d see it from up top but, big red glow you know, and runnin’ along silver lines on a bright moonlit night. ‘Cause you can imagine how easy it was. ‘Cause he did was drop one bomb, and he was disappearin’ over the mountains droppin’ one here and then way out in the distance you could hear another one. He was only out there to keep us movin’ but there was a few incidents
there. Frank Brewer and I were in our vehicle at that stage GA, George ack ack [anti-aircraft fire] gun position. Truck that had the radio and all in it and we were told by the one of the officers who was in charge of us to take the lead
and not stop for anybody. We would neither turn left or right off the road. There were rumours of Germans dressed in Australian uniforms as provos – military police – who would try and send us along the wrong road. Anyway on about you drove all night ‘til you
were reached a certain point. We were told not to stop for anybody, and if we had to, shoot our way through. Anyway we had no windscreens in trucks, as I think I told you earlier, and sure enough we got stopped by the provos at a little cross road and they said, “You gotta
go left here.” So Frank said, “I think we’ll blow our way through. Give it off,” and I cocked the gun and nothing sounds so awful at night than a gun bein’ cocked. ‘Craaaaack cock.’ He said, “Go where you like then.” That was the provo. Obviously he wasn’t a German. So we went. We found out later, if we had a gone down there, we’d a caused a mayhem with the retreatin’
New Zealanders. They were comin’ in to join our road and somebody had their orders wrong. It wasn’t us. ‘Cause I’ll always remember there was two gunners leadin’ them and makin’ the decision, not any officers makin’ the decision. They never even showed up. Where they were in the convoy, I don’t know, but that’s how it was. So they all got captured in any case.
There’s a lot of things that people don’t believe or see or hear of what happened in war. All I can say, the ones we did lose were no loss. I hope that doesn’t hurt people’s heights, but that’s how it was.
actually beat ‘em, but oh look, do you want to know what I thought about we were promised there would be eighteen fighter squadrons in by Churchill in Greece. Well, he didn’t promise me individually. He promised the Australian and New Zealand Governments. I don’t think there was more than ten or twelve active
Hurricanes, and a Hurricane was the second in line of the best British plane and the others were Gladiators. Two-winged biplanes. They were a good little fighter if the war had a been about 1933 but they still did shoot down Messerschmitts because they could turn inside the Messerschmitt, but
we were given great tales of how the Yugoslav Army of a million strong would be on our flank and the Greeks were lookin’ after the Italians while we were playin’ around with the Germans. The Kiwis and the Aussies was to take on the Germans comin’ down from Bulgaria. Now but one thing did come outta that. It took ‘em seven or eight weeks
to clean up the Australian and New Zealand forces in Greece and Crete. That put them seven weeks behind on their attack on Russia. The Germans were to advance into Russia either late April or early May and they didn’t do it ‘til June the 22nd
because all the forces what came down, now the forces what came down into Greece to fight Australian and New Zealanders, and mind you, there was a brigade of English there who did very well too. The troops fought very hard in Greece and they never lost their morale and they never lost their the knowledge of who they were and they stopped the Germans
everywhere, where the Germans fought them. They never broke our line once the they’d get through us and it’s a very hard to describe but I’ve seen some documentary, one on ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] which only showed the running feet of an Australian in the Greek campaign. That’s all rubbish. We killed somethin’ like three thousand
German soldiers. We had nine hundred and twenty two casualties. That give ya the kill rate then was three to one. With all their equipment. That force that they brought down to fight us was from their central front, which was the front what the attack front what was gonna take Moscow. So they had to go all the way back to the Russian border, be concealed again
and start off with their attack in June the 22nd. It put ‘em back into the mid winter with no winter clothing and they died like flies, and the Russians brought forces over from Mongolia and beat ‘em. Drove ‘em out of out of the Moscow area, and that was the beginnin’ of the end, actually, for the Germans. Christmas
ah November, October, November, December 1940 or ‘41 rather. So maybe in one way we helped the war effort more than we ever thought we would, but it lost us the best part of a division
of very highly trained Australian soldiers. The other thing is, we wiped their paratroop divisions out, the Australians and New Zealanders in Crete. I didn’t take part in that campaign but I had many friends who did and one friend a mine, who was in the 2/1st battalion, the Germans lost six hundred men paratroopers killed landing on top of them.
He said it was like rainin’ blood. He said everybody had marks a blood from the sky on their uni – because they landed the Germans landed actually on their positions and there was six hundred prisoners-of-war and something like two hundred wounded and six hundred dead buried or six hundred and twelve I think dead, buried.
Well that again happened at another that was at Retimo and further up the coast there was a combination of Australians, 2/4th Battalion and the high, the light infantry and the Black Watch and the Queen’s Regiment. Now between that lot, they were lucky. They got evacuated.
When I say lucky, some of them weren’t so lucky. They was on a cruiser that got hit and killed, they were killed and wounded and drowned. The boys at Retimo never got the order to retreat because their communications had broke down. They were still winnin’, but the Germans had turned their whole force in Greece then onto them and
they were given the ultimatum to surrender or else, which would have been or else too and I’m just, well I mean you’ve gotta be careful. It’s the old way a lookin’ at it. “Well thank God I wasn’t there,” but if I was there we’d a still done our job. It’s just so you do it whether you you’re there or you’re not. You’re with the boys who are there and strangely enough, you
wanna be there then. “If only we could be there we’d be,” it was the same when we were in the Middle East and they were gettin’ cleaned up in Malaya and Singapore. “If only we were there we’d make it hard for ‘em,” but it doesn’t happen that way and you’ve gotta remember, we didn’t have the means of transport like helicopters and huge transport planes like
the planes they use to transport troops now. I mean, they can put sixty men in the smallest of ‘em now. Even when we were flown into action in New Guinea, twenty five men would be the limit with your equipment against what they could fly in now. I think they can put six hundred fully armed troops in a troop movement now. That’s a lotta men and a lotta weight.
and come back to Banghazi. They give us a couple a days’ leave in Banghazi. It was lovely and we got bombed a bit in there. They bombed the Germans bombed the town quite a lot from Sicily and we were camped at Bernina air strip and I had the Bren then. They’d forgotten about the Bren bein’
used for anti-air craft work. I was out watchin’ the – there was a big plane. There were a lotta sheep and I was dug in and that was my position and further along was another Bren about five hundred yards down and we had to cover all that area with what they call lace fire, backwards and forwards like that. Anyway there’s several things happened there. Menzies arrived and we were marched into this
great big hall. It was been a big assembly hall for the Italian regular air force, see. Very well appointed and dais and all this. Menzies come up and they got the troop gather around him and all not feelin’ very happy. He’s all pink cheeked and he said, “I was in heading for you boys
today, ah yesterday and we got as far as Tobruk and there was a sand storm. So we turned back and went back to Egypt, to Cairo where I had a beautiful chicken dinner,” and he named the big hotel, I can’t think of it now, silly isn’t it, “but we set off again today and here I am,” and he started to scratch himself
and little Benny Webber he, oh he’s a character. “Come down here,” he said, “you’ll scratch the other side,” and Menzies didn’t like it, you know, and Tom Blamey was behind him and Tom nearly choked himself laughin’ you know. Oh I’ll never forget that but when he was talkin’ to us there was blokes like Jack Johnson, the bloke I told you about. “I haven’t got a flat tyre. You want your eyes looked at.”
He’d run outta pants, and he’s runnin’ around with his long johns on and he’d made himself a bit of a kilt, but they put him down the back so nobody could see. All our gear was worn out. I mean you’re sleepin’ rough and that but the best thing a the lot was we went further back to a place called Arijima. It was a bomb dump, but there was no bombs in it, but it had
a railway line come ‘round in a circle and roll the shutters up and there was a beautiful quarters there and there were all these big places and a great big mound of earth about forty foot thick over the top of us. You could sleep safe at night, see. We didn’t even put a guard on there and they said, “We’ll have the victory ball,” and somebody procured a great big tub, bath you know, and you had to everybody had to rustle up some grog. Didn’t matter
what it was, and pour it in and it took about four days to get it in and Jack Weekes arrived, and Jack’s still alive, and he was a transport NCO, one of our transport drivers, and he arrived and he got a two gallon jerry can, see. He’s got two of ‘em and he picked up the wrong – one’s got diesel in it and the other’s got
cognac in it. He used to use the cognac was that powerful in the Primuses [fuel stove]. That’s God’s honest truth. It used to work beautiful in the Primus. Now, Jack unscrews the lid, and he’s as drunk as a skunk, ‘cause he’d been drinkin’ the cognac and he screws the top off and he’s ‘bloob bloob bloob’ and it’s the same colour you know, brown, and somebody said, “Hold on Jack. That’s diesel,” and by then he’d poured about a gallon in. Then somebody says
“Well while you’re goin’. Stir it up, stir it up,” and the diesel kept risin’. So somebody said, “Well I stole a case a butter.” You know the big wooden cases of Norco butter? I’ll never forget that. They undid the wire and they started pullin’ the butter out and, “This might soften it down a bit,” and they throw a couple a pounds a butter in it and whatever was in that brew in that there, the butter started ‘zzzzzzzzzzz’, runnin’ around the edges of the bath and eventually
we drank it and we cleaned it up. The boys yelled and whistled and went on. They can always find amusement. It is amazin’ the talent you have. Like you there was Shakespearians and actors and get up there and do a speech. “Alas poor Yorrick. He’s dead.” “Who said it’s gonna grow under me arm,” and they’d ad lib it
you know and there was all sorts a things you’d go on and, “The sheikh of Araby. Every bloke you know’d get you might have had a bath and that,” he’d say. “No hold him back. It’s not all gone yet.” Things like that. They’d have the time of their life we did. Well we all did but I can never work out how that butter was ‘zzzzzzzzzzzz’. It was meltin’ at such a rate. Now what else? You’ve got Menzies?
before we got on the boats to go we come down to Egypt. Now I’ll tell you somethin’ that you’ve never heard. There’d been, over the Christmas period there’d been a foray of the British forces had gone right up to Banghazi again and they’d taken thousands of Italians
and German prisoners. Anyway we came down fully armed and equipped, loaded with ammunition, hand grenades and all. We always travelled that way, even when we come home on leave. Believe it or not, we got had ammunition in our pouches. No grenades or but some would have brought ‘em down and just throw ‘em in the corner of the kitchen. Just wait ‘til you’re goin’ back again. That’s because you’re always on call
and anyway this particular business we get on the train. I can’t think of the little port in the middle of, such a simple name too. Anyway we get on the train and we’re goin’ along the canal and eventually over the desert to Port Sudan and then just as we’re leavin’ the canal area,
there’s all the prison camps and the line train line’s running no more than the other wall of this house away from the cages and the Germans are over there. Now that’s where you see hate. They hit the wire and they’re screamin’ out, in English, “Wait ‘til the Japs get to your wife and your girlfriend,” and laughin’ their heads off and the
our blokes are off the train. The train’s stopped there and they’re off the train and they’re punchin’ at each other through there. I’m sittin’ on a Bren. I thought God, I hope nobody starts shootin’ because it only needed one crazy nut and everybody would a started shootin’ and there was poor old Indian guards on the towers all ‘round and they didn’t know what to do, and anyway I remember one of our officers runnin’ through. “You
get my men back on that truck, train,” he says, “even if you have to club ‘em half way to death.” He said, “Get ‘em on the train,” and that’s what happened. There was blokes he said, “Right you,” didn’t matter what rank you were, “go over and bring that bloke in if you half kill him. Get him on the train,” and it took about an hour to get ‘em back on the train. That’s how long we were, oh it was very, very close and that was a shockin’ business. Anyway, we got down
to Port Sudan and we were fourteen mile out of it. Way out in the desert and it just bumped it and the Yanks, Yanks had a hadn’t come into the war then and there was a little wire enclosure stacked with beer and Duke Mallard went along, there was about eight or nine of us, and they got one little Yankee guard. There was no Yanks anywhere near it, no camps or anything,
and he was up there talkin’ to the guard, chattin’ him up, and we’re out the other side. Cut through the wire and we’re passin’ cases of Robstein beer out. We must a got about thirty or forty cases out. They’re takin’ ‘em out and in the desert, runnin’ back and gettin’ another one and anyway we eventually all set off. He tied the wire back again and we got back to the camp. I think I drank twenty four
cans a beer that night, and all I got was a headache. It’s very low and then we had to march fourteen miles down to get onto The Western Land and then we were in headin’ for Java. Some of the troops had gone to Java had been captured already and we’re headin’ for Java. One day we’re goin’ up towards Burma, back towards Java. Next day we’re goin’ south again.
Australia this time ‘cause Java’s fallen and then we’re back up to Burma. Churchill’s after us to go to Burma and there again there’s the same thing what was happening in Greece. Our guns were on another ship and we’re see, that’s the Pommy way of doin’ things, and the 2/2nd Machine Gun Battalion was landed in Java. Their machine guns, the big Vickers, was all in another ship somewhere else. The ship come home to Australia without ‘em.
They were all went in the can after a fairly long fight in Java but you see, it was so badly organised and eventually the 16th and 17th Brigades, we stayed in Ceylon for five months exactly, or all but a day, doin’ our jungle trainin’ and oh golly, did they train us. I mean we’d already done desert warfare and mountain warfare and now we’re goin’
into jungle and mountain warfare, and it’s not like training like you’d think. A trained army gets lectured and about the terrain and all that. How to survive in it. Anyway, we got back down to Australia. It took us about, I think, eighteen days to
or twenty days or somethin’ to get to Fremantle. The Jap fleet come out lookin’ for us and they were workin’ on us doin’ such a speed that they’d catch us somewhere at a certain place, area, but anyway we were goin’ that damn slow, that they reached Madagascar and started to shell it before we even got to Fremantle. That’s how slow the boats was and they didn’t have enough men to fire the boilers on the old
Western Land. So they the boys used to get five bottles a beer for a shift down shovellin’ coal. I was and also the visibility was so bad and the waves were so big that you’d go down for half a mile down hill then she’d go half a mile almost stop before she went up hill again. You know, great big long rollers, and eventually we got into
Fremantle and we were welcomed home by the people of Fremantle and Perth again. They’re lovely people, both times. A member of the public’d say “You’re not going to wreck our pubs this time are ya?” “No.” He said, “Well come in and have a beer.” He wouldn’t let us pay for anything. That was the Cottesloe, and there was a lot of young American submarine crews there and they were, I have
nothing against their navy. I wasn’t very happy with their army. They were a national guard men. You’ve heard about the difference between our militia and well that’s not always true. Some of the militia were very good, and some were very bad but that’s not the men’s fault. The 53rd Battalion was the worst battalion we had in the militia and it had officers who’d been
in that unit since 1924 as lieutenants. They’d only ever joined it up for the social life you see. That sort a thing should never have been allowed to happen and once they started to we lost a terrible lot of NCOs to that. We were all offered jobs to go to it. “You go there, you’ll be a platoon commander in no time. Only a matter of you go in there, you’ll go in there the rank of platoon sergeant.”
Well by then the family bond was very strong, and you won’t leave. When we used to go to hospital with malaria or any sort of sickness, you’d be writin’ to your mates back in the unit skitin’ how many nurses you took out this lot. Ah we used to take the nurses to the pictures because they needed escorts. There was no AWAS [Australian Women’s Army Service] or nurse, ah the AAMWS [Australian Army Medical Women’s Service] up there in our time.
Susan didn’t bring you all the things I wanted her to bring because she didn’t know where to find them, but the Japs came in to Wau along an old German track. Now an old German track was surveyed by the Germans when they owned New Guinea and somehow the Japs had got the map or probably one a the Lutheran priests had given ‘em
one, or told them where they’d get one, and they were sighted from another observation post a long, long way away, about eleven thousand yards away, and this bloke was just idly swingin’ a telescope around one day. “Aaah, Japs,” ‘cause
the telescopes were eight milers. In other words, there was eight miles so bring ‘em up to eight hundred yards. That’s not bad but they were very hard on your eyes, see. You gotta have a blank on that eye and you’re lookin’ with that eye, see. Anyway, he started to count ‘em and he got to three thousand. By then everybody was gettin’ on telephone lines and radios and they they were comin’ in to take
over the Wau Airstrip. Now they’d been driven out over out of Milne Bay. They’d been driven out over the ranges. They’d been wiped out in the battle for the beaches and this is their next attempt at tryin’ to reach the southern side of New Guinea via the Bulldog track but they had to have an aerodrome close to the Bulldog track. Now you’ll have to look that up in the
books to know what it is and what happened, they had the 6 Battalion had already been flown in and Colonel – Captain Sherlock’s company were up around the Wondumi entrance where the old German track merged with the Gwota Gazelle track. Now this these are names that probably don’t mean nothing’ to ya, but just imagine two tracks through nine thousand
foot high mountains with ridges like that and some of ‘em, when you get up to the summit you’ll fall three thousand feet that way without hittin’ a thing. That’s what’s been pushed up from Australia, see, or you’ll fall about seven hundred feet and then you’re in the tree line. So you get an idea how difficult the country and well Sherlock’s company of fifty five men fought
for four days to stop the three thousand Japs gettin’ into the valley. Now the Japs never even tried, they’re a very strange fightin’ race. They never tried to bypass him, which they could a done, but it would have been awkward because they’d have to go down virtually sixty degree slopes into creeks and that, but eventually they did do to
a certain extent and ambushed him later as he was comin’ across the river or the creek, Crystal Creek, but what happened, he held ‘em up. We were gettin’ urgent calls to get the artillery up here and 1st Battery was practisin’ day and night pullin’ their guns together, pieces, A Troop and B Troop was 1st Battery and they
had had plenty a practice, but they were just sharpenin’ up and they got it to about forty minutes pull a gun down to pieces, put a gun up together again but no shield on it. It was somethin’ they’d have to get do without, ‘cause one shield represented in weight on the plane twenty eight rounds of ammunition. That’s a lot of ammunition. I mean
on directed fire, that’s quite a lotta ammunition. You could run a battle on in New Guinea on that and a battle in New Guinea is usually fought on a fifty yard front, not fifty mile front. You see the difference. Well anyway, they flew them in and my job and Cliff Cunningham’s job, now we were both NCO sigs
in the same troop. He was senior to me. He was an original ‘39er sig, and he had two stripes. I was at that stage a bombardier. I had one stripe, see. So how to work it. He trusted me and I trusted him. You’ve gotta have somebody like ‘cause we’re goin’ into absolute dire peril. Into unknown territory. Into
a front line when we don’t know where it exists and nobody can tell ya. It’s like that. Now those maps that I asked her to bring would a shown you but it doesn’t matter. What happened, we got off the plane at nine and my orders were given to me, and I’d repeated ‘em to Cliff. “We’ve got to find a signal NCO
or somebody who can give us information,” and I was lucky. I saw a signaller bendin’ over a line and I run over there and I said, “Who are you signalling for?” He said, “I’m Lieutenant Cullen, 2/7th Battalion Signals,” no, 2/6th Battalion Signals. Now from where we were at the top of the end of the drome, now the aerodrome was six hundred yards long.
It’s two hundred and thirty foot higher in six hundred yards to the top as it is to the bottom. In other words you’re runnin’ up hill. Well say that’s the bottom, the planes come in and they land there and by the time they’ve gone fifty yards they’ve got to accelerate like mad, big Douglases, to get ‘em up to the top. So it gives you an idea of the country. I was lookin’ down toward what they call the coffee plantation or Woody Island. It’s got
two names and it’s just like an island of trees in the middle of a green sea of kunai grass and I said, “Who’s all those fellas down there?” He said, “They’re Japs comin’ through the,” and you could see this long line. I thought, “Well things must be gonna get hot here in about twenty minutes’ time.” He said, “No,” he said, “it’ll be hot down there. There’s about thirty Bren guns waitin’ for them and they don’t know,” and as he spoke we could suddenly hear the roll
of fire and Bren guns. Just like rag rippin’, see. Well the thirty-odd Bren guns are firin’ at five hundred to six hundred rounds a minute. You’re gettin’ up to a few thousand rounds per second hittin’ the area, you know, and they killed about two hundred of ‘em. That’s our first initiation. So we said, “What about the – where’s the 2/6th battalion?”
“Well,” he said, “not where you are going. You’re going to the 2/7th.” I said, “That’s right.” “Well,” he said, “call in at that house there. That’s 7th Battalion headquarters.” ‘Cause it was quite a town. It was twelve hundred expat people lived up there and operated big gold mines and dredges and everything, see. They flew big dredges into the place up there bit by bit and put ‘em together
and it was an amazing place. It was somethin’ you could never have dreamed of. Things in the picture shows and everything up there. Golf courses, race courses and you name it, they had it. Anyway we got down to the headquarters and they said, “Well you you’ll have to move because the attack on that creek just on the ridge just past Little Wau Creek
is,” and I said, “I don’t even know where Little Wau Creek is.” So he pulled a hand drawn map out. He said, “That’s Little Wau Creek. That’s your ridge. Now your infantry there’s Fuller’s House there.” He said, “They should be around there somewhere, but,” he said, “I don’t know how you’re gonna get up there.” He said, “There’s a Jap machine gun down here and it’s blastin’ the road,” but
it was a very very nasty position to be in, I’ll tell ya. So there was no – he said, “There’s a jeep here. See if I can find him.” He only had one jeep in the valley. They cut ‘em in half, take ‘em up there and then welded them together, that’s a fact, and he got the jeep driver. “I’m not goin’ down there. Every time I go down there I damn near get killed. Look at the holes in me jeep.” Anyway we couldn’t talk him into it,
so Cliff went, “Oh alright, come on. We’re wastin’ time.” So we started off at a jog trot and we got a sixty pound drum. For weight, I’m carryin’ the phones, he’s carryin’ the Tommy gun. You can’t carry all carry weapons, except on the back of me belt I got four hand grenades, and we get up about two hundred yards from the headquarters of 7 battalion and up roars the jeep.
“You,” he thought better of it. He was gonna give us away. Thank God for that. So we got in. We lay with our feet up flat on our backs with our feet up against the front seats and holdin’ the drum up like that and it was runnin’ on what we call a crook stick. It’s like a solid had little bit a round wood with a hook on the end like a, you know, the thing you used to see the old
shepherds with, and we used to tie the lines up around trees, see, and he went like hell and we could hear the bullets crackin’ and whizzin’ past us. He got up there and he dumped us and away he went. Went for his life. Anyway we – “Oh well there must be somebody around here” – and we walked into the house. Now I’ve seen some scenes in my life and we walked into this little ground
level floor and there’s pools of blood, torn bandages, ripped up uniforms, both Jap and Australian, battered helmets. Oh there’d been a hell of a fight there the night before and, “Oh gee, not a soul around here. Well the hell’s our company we’re lookin’ for?” Anyway I look around and said, “Oh look, there’s a bloke down there.” So we go down the track and we get, I’m
getting the old hair’s, the sixth sense is workin’ like mad, you know, and I get in the gutter. I crawl up behind this bloke and I’m talkin’ to him, “Hey, mate. Hey. Somethin’ wrong here,” and I reached him and touched him. He’s as stiff as a board. I think, “Oh God.” I said, “We’re in trouble, Cliff.” I said, “Don’t take your eyes off the skyline anywhere,”
and I had to fight his hands off the butt of the gun and the trigger guard. You try gettin’ a dead man who’s locked on it. Anyway he give up his gun in the end and then I was armed, thank God. So we back cut the wire, backed up the hundred yards we’d come but before we did the mortar positions about a thousand yards away, had seen us
on the track where we shouldn’t be, and they’d lobbed a three inch mortar shell about a hundred yards in into the kunai and warned us and I said, “That’s one of our mortars.” “How do you know?” “Don’t stand here bloody well arguin’ with me. It’s one of ours and they’re tellin’ us to clear.” We’d nearly reached the Japanese kitchen. They must a been watchin’ us. Anyway we backed up the road
and then it all of a sudden there’s blokes comin’ out of the bushes everywhere and I said to one of our blokes, to Freddy Speaker, I said, “Did you see us come around the bend nearest the house?” He said, “Yeah.” They were only about twenty yards away from the house in the kunai on the other side of the road. I said, “Why didn’t you yell at us?” He said, “We weren’t allowed to yell out to give you our positions away.” “Well” I said, “they saw you come in here, didn’t they?” He said, “I suppose they did.”
Very airy fairy. So I wasn’t very happy about it. Fred was a good mate a mine too. Anyway, we they were sayin’ they got it, and I got on the phone and I said, “Well we’ve reached the OPO. What’s gonna happen now?” Givin’ positions away meant nothin’. I’m kneelin’ down in the middle of the road talkin’ to the guns. They said, “We’re two minutes off ready to fire. Mick’s findin’ out where’s true north,” and
he had to turn the – did he tell ya about turnin’ the the director twelve times ‘round and findin’ north? Well that’s how clever he was and that become our zero lines. All guns, that’s zero, so fire orders come down. “Two-oh minutes left of zero. Two-oh minutes right of zero.” That’s how they work it, see, and we’re soon onto it and I suppose the Japs were only
about fifty or sixty yards but they were away from us on the ridge but they weren’t givin’ their positions away either but we knew that they were in that ridge area and there’s two hundred foot pine trees growin’ up there. They’re about eight foot through at the base. Oh beautiful big pines. Clinky pine they call it and anyway the boys just lined up in a sort of a start line
and then we they started the first registration of the area and beauty it was, because the first shell came in, sprung a Jap. He’s jumped up and started runnin’ up the up the hill. Then we really knew where they were.
he give the order for salvo fire. This is one shot every minute and then as the trees started to get hit and come down, he went for intense fire, gun fire. That means as fast as you can pump ‘em out for say ten rounds. Well that’s twenty rounds from two guns. Then we started the attack then and ‘cause I’m layin’ the line
keepin’ up with ‘em. There’s no communications to the guns while that attack’s on and they’re gettin’ ahead of me. So that’s when in some respects it’s where you see it like lookin’ at a picture show and I saw a Jap officer spring out of out of his little hidey hole hackin’ away with his sword at one a the platoon lieutenants, who lost all the fingers
bar one and his thumb, and he got cut over the head and then he was tryin’ to bayonet the Jap. He was about two feet six, three feet above him you see. Then one a the soldiers with him shot the Jap but the best I saw was the shell go into a Jap’s hole. They were building into the ridge, say that’s the ridge there, and crawlin’ in feet first and then shooting out. Well one
shell went in and he come out like that thing you see in the in the circuses. You know the man fired from the gun, only he come outta the hole. He must a gone fifty feet out over the road. Splattered him all over the countryside. They got ‘em. We took up the ridge and I waited at the top of the ridge and got the line on and then Reg
Wise was the troop commander, and he says, “I want more wire.” I said, “I’ve run outta wire. I’ve only just made i,t” and he said, “Well give me a bit,” and there was a slight argument there. I said, “Well you put it down in writin’. I’ve just contacted the guns. You put down in writin’ for me on me pad.” ‘Cause you’ve gotta have a pad for writin’ orders. My pad was a piece of aluminium and you still called it a pad, but you can wipe it off clean
and then start again and he said, “What have I got to put in there?” I said, “You’re orderin’ me to take the line off.” “Give it to me. Take the line off,” see? I tell ya how close this can be. I had to go back without a gun windin’ the line around me arm about the best part of fifty yards and then come back at a straight angle. I could a run into a dead, rather a
live Jap had been layin’ doggo. I had nobody with me to defend me and that meant the guns would a been outta contact with the and I got to the top. Now the story’s startin’ to unfold a bit here. I got to the top again and I put the line. We had ten yards over. “Well,” he said, “that’s alright. I can see now,” and he started to register. That meant a point. What’ll we call Able 1
at A Troop number one registration. He registered the civilian slaughter house, which ironically became the slaughter house always. Where’s my – anyway, he registered Able 1 and he registered on the left side of the road near the entrance to the slaughter house and Able 2 fifty feet
to the right into the gutter. The high side of the road, ridge run into the gutter then there was a flat plain about the size of three football fields all six foot high kunai grass and he registered Able 2 and he had a talk with then with the gun position officer, Frank Maddox,
who was a lieutenant, and they were talkin’ about things and then somebody just said, “Look, what’s comin’ at us.” I dunno who it was. Wasn’t one of our blokes and I looked around and they’re all pointin’ down there and comin’ out, there’s a straight stretch a road and there’s no gutter on the left side but a deep gutter on the right side and Lae’s Farm’s six hundreds yards in front of us, big farm house on stilts,
and here’s the first you see is an officer runnin’ in front with a drawn sword. That’s typical a the Japs and then there’s a platoon at least of thirty men and, “Oh that’s not many,” you know and there’s a bit a discussing going on what they’re doing and then all of a sudden there’s another thirty. Not long after another thirty. In the end there’s just on nine hundred Japs
comin’ and they’re comin’ over to attack the take up the attack where it finished the day before. They’re doublin’ down the road and everybody then got back slightly on the reverse side of the hill. Now they must a seen the shelling and heard the shelling, heard the guns scream shells screamin’ in even from where they started and yet they were still comin’ and then
the company commander, Major Walker, had been shot in the back side. Not because he was runnin’ away before and they’d just evacuated him and I can’t think who the actin’ troop commander, ah, company commander was, but he was walkin’ up and down behind them sayin’, “Oh, gonna shoot the bloke who fires his rifle or any gun before the artillery opens up, he’s a,”
went then discussion with how close you’re gonna let ‘em go. Well Able 1 was the closest and that was like fifty yards in front of us but a hundred and fifty feet down. So they said, “Righto, it’ll be Able 1. When he gets to Able 1 we’ll start on ‘em.” Anyway he got onto the guns again. He said, “Now open at Able 1
and HE117,” it’s a gray fuse, “and charge one,” ‘cause it’s only a thousand-odd yards from the guns and there’s no direction because it’s all been done on the registration. “Fire when ready. Don’t stop firin’ ‘til I tell you to.” Then they have a bit of an argument. “We’ve only got x amount of rounds ‘til tomorrow. If we’re
lucky, the plane comes in.” “You do as I tell you. You’ll fire every round we’ve got if you have to.” Anyway, “And I’ll explain the situation later.” Anyway, everybody’s tense and waitin’ and you wouldn’t read it, I’d left me Bren gun I’d captured off I’d got off me dead friend way back at the little house and, “Has anybody got a spare rifle?” And I didn’t have a gun to join in the fray. Anyway along
they come. Now you talk about sixth sense. That bloke stopped, that Colonel Kitamurra I think it was. He was the commander of one of the battalions and he stopped right almost where Able 1. Maybe he saw the shell burst on the ground or the mortar burst and I don’t know. He don’t know why he stopped and he’s lookin’ up like that and Wise gave the order to fire
and I suppose there would be about four seconds in time of flight. You’d hear a ‘bang’ and a (sound effect) as she’s climbin’ and then (sound effect) down she come like that, see, and it landed about fifteen feet behind him and blew him up in the air and into the gutter head first. He became known as ‘Hot Lips’. We won’t go into that, and it laid out about twelve five of ‘em straight away,
and the mob behind were still pushin’ forward and pushin’ against the ones up the front. The ones up the front are tryna run back along the road and the shells are goin’ to what they call, “Go to Able 2. Go to the mean.” That means you go either side a the ten yard wide road and then they broke into the kunai grass and the shells followed ‘em in, and they
sent in phosphorus smoke and that set the grass on fire and it did another thing too. A standin’ patrol of Beaufighters was ordered to attack anywhere where there was smoke indication and there was three a them, and right in the middle of it, we got, “We have to stop,” and they
and he’s just about to get on the phone off me, the OPO, and have a fight with the bloke at the GPO but the air force also had had a squadron of army co-op planes there. I can’t the first one we had there. I can’t think of it. Wirraways. Directin’ future fire for us, and they said, “For God’s sake stop. The Beaufighters are comin’ in.” Anyway,
I heard a bit of a noise. I looked around and here’s this darn Beaufighter screamin’ in. “Jeez, he’s gonna blast us off the top a the ridge.” So I flopped down on me back to watch him, ‘cause that’s an old trick you learned in Greece, and he flew over us and not jokin’ no more than probably the height of this roof and as he flew over he’s opened up and the flame comin’ out from his fore cannon and six machine guns was about fifteen, twenty feet long
and the empty cases are rattlin’ down on us like splinters. You know, like just like a bird openin’ its bowels as it flies over ya. You’ve seen that, haven’t ya? And that’s what all these shell cases the shell case off a twenty millimetre shell’s that long and about that round and it really hits ya with a whack and it’s doin’ about three hundred mile an hour and the blast from the propellers, you couldn’t
stand up. You were all happy to lay down and then they’d fly away. Then we’d shell ‘em a bit more and in the end the fire was terrible. You’d see these blokes all caught in a ring of fire and they’re all runnin’ around in circles dyin’ of smoke inhalation and phosphorus injury and anyway we killed four hundred and thirty in the afternoon. When and what finished ‘em off was one shell went into Lae’s Farm and we
didn’t know there was all that explosives stored there. It was eight thousand pound to probably six thousand pound of mixed explosives and she went up and knocked us flat and we were standin’ up six hundred yards away and I’ll tell ya another thing, for ten, fifteen minutes there was little bits of debris comin’ down and I caught like a comin’ down like this, and I caught it and it was a sheet of
corrugated iron off the roof. The heat had vapourised it into that much and I could see the two little nail holes and the corrugation. It was perfect and I said to one bloke, “Who’s a carpenter here?” And he said, “I am.” I said, “You sure? How big was that sheet?” He said, “Oh golly. Well,” he said, “we put two foot six between rafters where we nail the sheets on. So that’s a seven foot six,
nine foot sheet,” and I went like that and it went into powder. So you can imagine what happened to the Japs who were closest to the and about three days later we went through that to take another place, another farm, and all the bodies were in there burnt and just looked like dead pigs. No heads. No appendages. Some had their
elbows. No clothes on ‘em. It was a shocking thing. Yet the blast the dust nearly knocked us down, but we were high enough to get the blast what they wouldn’t a got, but what the heat from the blast would a killed them. It’s a shockin’ explosion that was but the funny part about it, went up, there’s one Beaufighter was actually lower than us. He was strafin’ the road
down below and Lae’s Farm was up here. When it exploded the blast went out that way but it still spun him and we got a complaint next day from the air force. “We must stop firing at the target when the air force is attacking it or were you shooting at us?” They didn’t realise what the big explosion was but if he’d been he was cartwheelin’ across the valley
but there was a lot of hectic things happened up there. I can tell ya some funny stories there, I’ll tell ya.
out of hospital they sent you to a convalescent depot and that was at the beginnin’ of the Kokoda Track and the fifteen hundred foot level. It was a beautiful spot. Climate was nice. Every few hundred feet in New Guinea’s a different climate and oh the food was very good. They fed us well. They encouraged us to keep fit
with exercises and minor sports. I did a lotta skipping and physical trainin’ myself and they don’t force ya and then you get returned to your unit by a board and I went to the board and I lay up on the table and he’s goin’ over me with everything.
His tools and, “Oh,” he says, “you’re pretty fit. You can go back to your unit from the convalescent,” and I’m looking at meself, and I’m naked, and I’m lookin’ at me chest and I could see me heart goin’ stop. Catch up. Stop. I said, “What about that?” He said, “What about what?” I said, “Look at my heart. I can see it bouncin’.” ‘Cause I was about nine and a half stone
then and I had a big chest, see, and it used to show up quick. “Think nothing of it, son. We call that your water hammer pulse,” and I told that to my doctor later in life and I had a minor heart complaint. He said, “Well that was enough to kill you in any case,” and they just want you back, that’s all.
Anyway, I was alright. I went back to the rear details of your unit, like that in other words, the units, or part of the units not in action is called the rear details. So I went back and stayed with Don Troop. I had a lotta mates in Don Troop in 2nd Battery. Played football for ‘em and I gradually – with the extra trainin’ I was doin’ and we were
still trainin’ for warfare too, like signalling and doin’ odd jobs around the district like destroyin’ the short twenty-five pounders they sent up there to be tested. I did the GPOs work there and, that’s gun position officer’s signaller, and
there’s always plenty to do. One night we had a terrible fright. There was a Liberator takin’ off. You know frightening thing to see take off, the old B24s. They wind their wheels up to get air space underneath ‘em. They come hurtlin’ down the aerodrome and at the last minute they just seem to get up and they carry a fair load. It was
middle of the night. We was right at the about two mile at the end of take off end of the Ward air strip, which is an Australian air strip, and it was an Australian Liberator squadron and all of a sudden you’d hear the plane roarin’ and you could hear it hittin’ the tree tops. You could actually hear the
the trees crashin’ like crackin’ and that and everybody’s asleep in that tent. We all ended up in a in trenches outside the by in a matter a seconds and she still kept comin’ and all of a sudden she hit the ground and up went the flame and poor beggars were killed of course and then the bombs started to explode
and all the small arms ammunition for them. Machine guns, I think they got about twelve machine guns on ‘em, started to crackle and there’s bullets flyin’ through the air, over our heads, thank God, but ah, all this light you see and then deathly quiet. Only a glow from the fire burning and she apparently didn’t have enough oomph to get up off
the ground properly or maybe he just didn’t get her up in time, but you gotta watch ‘em. You really think, “God, he’ll never get off,” but they did and we were up to Wewak, weren’t we? Do you wanna go back to well, we were at Aitape. One division of Australians took over the Aitape business of
against from three divisions of Americans and the Yanks used to have a non-aggression pacts with the Japs, “You don’t shoot at us, we won’t shoot at you.” They’d had a few battles up there but it had quietened down and the Japs used to come in and sit behind the open air picture show screen and watch the pictures from behind and
the Yanks’d sit in front and our blokes put a stop to that a course. They used to come and grub through the garbage tins at night. That was all stopped very quickly and then we started to sully out from Aitape towards Wewak, that’s ninety miles, and we did that.
just turned to Jim and said, “Now you gotta swim the rivers with your boots on,” because a the lucky stones. The rivers run at about fifteen knots. They’re about three feet, four feet deep. So you were you’re swimmin’ and jump at the same time. “Now, you go over there Jim and cut some of those bamboo and we’ll make a,” we used to make a tripod “and sling the line on it. I’ll swim
the river.” Now I’ve rolled me gear up in me trousers, all except me boots, and me gun inside and I’m gonna swim the river and you leave, you pull the wire off for fifty yards and you leave that there for him to put onto the with a half hitch onto the next line and I pulled me own gear over when I’m over.
Anyway, I look at him and he’s over there with his machete just choppin’ away like this and I said, “Oh I’d better get over the river,” and I jumped in. I went straight up to me armpits and no, I’m not thinkin’ I’m in trouble you know and I can’t move and before and there’s like in a bottom of a big saucer with me head below the outer levels and I yelled out a couple a times, and then I
started to think “Well here I am and I’ll be gone soon and nobody’s gonna know where I so and so am but why did I pick that stupid old sod,” bit more embellished than that, “to come with me when he’s over there probably smellin’ the flowers,” and a few second later a voice says, “God, you’re in trouble.” He was quick for the first time in his life and he shoved one bamboo pole
down behind me back – and cut all me back too – down behind me backside, and I reached up behind. I couldn’t turn ‘round. I was locked. Almost in the feelin’ that you’re in cement but every time you moved you went down like that a bit further. If you stayed still you probably would a stayed there for hours ‘til the next flood come down and wiped you out and it took him a hell of a long time to get up,
get me out and he finally I turned around when I got me feet out and I clambered up the pole and I laid there exhausted and he said, “I couldn’t a done that,” he said, “my gammy leg,” he got wounded in Greece, “would a put a stop to that. I’m gonna get boarded,” and he did and that’s when they made him unfit for prolonged further active service. Are you finished? Ah, I thought I saw her touch
ya. Anyway what happened, I climbed down very gingerly down about fifty yards further towards the beach head where we’d landed and I said, “I’ll swim it here, Jim,” and we got everything all worked out and I got across the river quite quickly and I just pulled the bushes apart like that and slightly
lower on that side than was the other side and you wouldn’t, not jokin’, the sudden – you’ve gotta believe this. I’m lookin’ into the flash illuminator of a machine gun about that far off me nose and of course it’s a Jap Woodpecker, see. “Oh, God.” See, you don’t want to speak aloud. You look around. I could smell a lot of excreta but no Jap and
he’s yellin’ to me. I’m goin’, “Shh shh shh shh shh,” and I want you know to tie me gun to the wire and I’ll pull it over but he didn’t catch on. So I thought, “Well I gotta get rid a that gun before anybody turns up.” So I clambered up the bank and there wasn’t a soul around. So I held it up and showed it. It was pretty heavy. It weighs about, nearly eighty pound, you know.
Big Woodpecker. You see ‘em in the war museum. Big thirty – it had a brand new thirty round shot on it, cartridge on it, and so then he woke up. So in that time I’d pulled the catch up, undid the lock and threw the bolt into the water and twisted the cartridge case in and pulled
the lever back and jammed the block then. Nobody could use it. So he came across and I got me gun over and he came across and I then I got dressed. I’m standin’ there with just me belt and me boots on. That would a frightened any Jap at any rate. Anyway, “God,” he said, “wasn’t your day today, was it?” I said, “No it wasn’t.”
Anyway I said, “Look,” you could see the Australian patrol had been down there in the mornin’ and it was camouflaged about that little wall there. They went straight past it. I reckon the Japs all had dysentery. There was at least three Japs there by the different size two toed shoes they wore. You’ve seen pictures of them? And
our blokes had walked over the top of them. You could see the cleated boots we had. Whether they weren’t wise to what they should be lookin’ for? You’ve gotta be like an Aborigine scout when you’re out on your own like that. So I went, I’d thrown the gun into the water. I shouldn’t a done that, but then I didn’t know what was in front. So I took the other
course. I went down, I said, “Who’s the platoon sergeant here?” They said, “That fellow over there.” This is, I said, “Was one of your patrols down the road today?” Oh – everything’s a road there, even though it’s a track. He said, “Yes. Why?” I told him what happened. He called out to a corporal. I said, “I’ll come down and show you,” and actually they could the gun was in the mud and he went down and pulled the gun out. He said
“Didn’t you see this?” You could see where it had been sand bagged into the ground. “No” he said, “they must a put it there afterward.” “No” he says, “look where those boot marks are.” He said, “Over the top of the Jap marks. They were here or just hidin’ over there in the bush when you came down,” and then he went down and he said, “Where’d your patrol end?” “Oh,” he said, “oh, a lot further down here.”
So we went down and about fifty yards down they’d stopped and the no-no, they’d been smokin’. Now that sounds silly but your smoke just carries around you. Anybody that smokes in jungle warfare is asking for a grenade and one bloke had been leanin’ on his rifle and there it was in the clay, a perfect moulded piece of clay
of the butt strap and rifle with a little hole in the back to put your oil bottle. He said, “You’d better get back here,” he said, “before I shoot you.” He said, “I’ll have a lot to say about you later.” I said, “Well don’t say it in front of me.” I said, “I just know what you’re gonna do.” “Oh” he said, “I dunno know what to do with him.” He says, “He’s a good man, but,” he said, “we could all be dead through him,”
but they must have, I reckon, gone that morning. You know like I mean this might sound it’s not a nice subject but when you look at the remains of their last toilet, you get an idea and what’s disease. We were told to look for these things, you see, and it’s all spotted with little red spots a blood, you see.
That’s dysentery and it’s bad dysentery. So as a matter of fact they they’d been there and they were still around but we wouldn’t go lookin’ for ‘em. They might a just crawled away and died. I don’t know. You never know ‘cause these are one a the things that you’re lookin’ for, but that’s one thing, the old hair didn’t rise to that,
either on the quicksand or the crossing the river lower down. So it’s not always fallible. So I don’t know what to say about that but I I’ll stick to the theory though. You get a warnin’, take notice but I don’t want you to think I was any different. Mick Lardelli was much the same as me. We’ve often discussed it.
Mick reckons he knew how to beat machine gun fire. He said, “I used to watch the distance between the bullets.” Like when I say ‘watch’, every army but ours fires a lotta tracer and Nick, Mick reckons there’s twenty five yards between each tracer bullet. I said, “Yeah, but what if he’s put the ball a ammunition in between ‘em?” He said, “Well that’s a risk you’re gonna take.” He’s,
you know what sort a bloke he is, isn’t he? We spent a fair bit a time at Aitape together. Both had malaria bad and there was another case when Hewitt come up to me at Hill 60 with the 2/11th Battalion. I’d been with him six weeks before. He got relieved and another officer come up and the first thing he said, “I’ll send a relief up for ya.”
‘Cause we’d been in action for about three weeks with the battalion. The battalion went out and the 8th Battalion came in and he came back. “Ah, fancy gettin’ you here again.” I said, “I haven’t left,” and I was rotten with malaria. That afternoon we went up a hill in an attack. Well see you go up with the infantry and there was a fair bit of small arms fire on as we’re goin’ up
and we got down in a first position I got in there was a good Jap trench and we’re down in and he’s sittin’ beside me and I was shakin’ like a leaf from the exertion of runnin’ with malaria. He says, “God, you’re crook alright,” and I said, “Yeah, I’m crook.” That was the words, favourite word, ‘crook’. He said, “I’ll get ya out of here.” So he got on the phone and I got a relief up next morning
and I went down to our own aid post, regimental aid post, and we had a new doctor. I never met him before and he said, “And what can I help you with?” and I said, very lofty young fella.
I said, “I’ve got malaria.” “I’ll tell you what you got,” he said. “What’s your symptoms?” and I said, “Oh I’ve got terrible headache. I can see in double. Me spleen’s swollen.” It’s up like that, you know. It was like a tennis ball and he said, “Oh you got headache.” I said, “Me eyesight’s not too good either,”
and he turned around to the aide with him. He said, I didn’t know that bloke, he must a brought him with him. “Put him down for a pair a glasses when this campaign finishes.” I said, “You know what you can do with your glasses,” and I just walked out and walked down the road to the casualty clearance station. I knew this the sergeant there. I said, “Viv, take me blood.” Stuck me thumbs out
and he took two pricks and put it on the little slides. “Oh, double whammy,” he said, “you got”, what was it? “MT and BT. That’s malignant tertious, that kills ya, and BT and the next one’s cerebral and you haven’t got that” but he said, “you could get it, so we’ll get rid a ya.”
So within a matter a minutes I’m on a jeep goin’ down to the beach and they had a motor boat they’d pinched off the Japs. They put me in that and big Chev motor. All opened. She had no hope a floatin’ if she went down but she could go like hell. She took us down to Dagua and by it’d be about three o’clock in the afternoon when I got to Dagua and
bloke called Campbell or Cameron, I’m not too sure now, and you know he was a very, very good fellow. He lined up, “Who’s on the list to go home?” and there was about four or five all up, including me. “Well,” he said, “I’m sending them section in front a ya and a section in behind ya. You’ve got your guns. Look after yourself. Let the section in
front do any fightin’ or the section behind do any fightin’. Don’t you dare go to help ‘em,” and we got back alright without any trouble and I went down to regimental headquarters, picked me gear up, went back to A Troop to say goodbye. I was standin’ in the back of the truck. Me mate was drivin’ and he was a ‘39er but he’d gone to battery headquarters, see,
and he said, “You won’t like what you see when you get down to troop,” and I hadn’t been really with the troop for a long while other than just to blow in, blow out and I I didn’t know anybody. They were all young reinforcements. You wouldn’t credit it. There’s nobody there that I – other than the sergeant major,
and he was away actin’ battery sergeant major. The whole site had changed and I had a bit a gear I picked up. I had a Yankee automatic rifle with a bullet hole through the butt and a Japanese real long rifle with a real long bayonet, ‘cause they’re so little they gotta have, and I had a Japanese helmet with a
perfect three pointed star from in the middle the shrapnel had gone through it. It was almost as if it had been moulded that way and I was taking that, it still had a bit a Jap in it, but hair in it, you know and I was taking that home. We got down and you could I said to the, this is oh eight or ten of us. We were goin’ out in a landing barge and it was sailors,
provos, the provos had to check our papers, and I said to one of the sailors, “Which is the Gorgon?” and it’s about five ships way out. He pointed it out. “And what’s the sea out there?” “Oh,” he said, “rolling pretty bad. You got to go up a landin’ net,” which we did have to. So I said, “Well I’m goin’ home.”
So I took all that junk off me and I threw it down and they fought like dogs over it they did. You never, sailors and provos grabbin’ at this and grabbin’ at that and then got it all the other blokes started throwin’ theirs down. A bloke threw a map case down that and I said to him, goin’ down to Melbourne, “Well, that was a good sight wasn’t it?” He said, “Yeah.” Well, that night we never left and the Japs came in from Muschu Island about five miles off
the coast and they were gonna be probably the last men standin’ that, you know, “we’ll come in and show ya,” and they must a been sweatin’ on ‘em. Next thing was a, we had a lovely view of it, up went the star shells and every twenty five pounder and machine gun in the area opened up on ‘em. I think just about wiped that lot out. I never even heard the bottom. There’s only one thing I’m sorry.
I didn’t see the final surrender that they made that as harsh as they could. Some of the units turned their back on General Darcy. I’d been chasin’ Darcy with my radio for phones for six months. I got that close to gettin’ him once. We used to have seek and destroy. The guns’d be here and we had
a circle of eleven thousand yards to fire and we destroy everything we run into, even a kitchen, and we, gardens, we uproot all the gardens, and if we found any petrol or diesel in dumps, pour it all over the land so they couldn’t use it, and in the end we had Japs chasin’ us, we’re chasin’ at Darcy, we got his
chickens. We got one of his uniforms. We never got him or his sword, but he had to hand that in. What was he? One of our 6 Div brigadiers who was then General – I can’t think of his name – Red Robbie. Robertson. He took the sword. I think he was ordered to hand it back by the our
hierarchy back here in the end because it had ancestral value as some of ‘em, you’ve never seen anything like it. Beautiful. I got a pair a binoculars, lenses like that and you looked in ‘em like that. You know where they ended up? Out at Randwick Racecourse, and they said, “Oh ,put ‘em into brigade headquarters and they’ll put your name on ‘em. They’ll come to you.” Well,
you’re always naïve when you’re young. I was still young but I didn’t get married for four and a half more than that. I got married in 27th of December, ‘49, and I got most of the war outta me system that way. I was married fifty years ‘til me wife died.