Norieul Jones
Archive number: 885
Preferred name: Pudden
Date interviewed: 26 September, 2003

Served with:

6th Division

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Norieul Jones 0885

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Transcript

Tape 01

01:00:38:00

Well, good morning Norrie. I’d like to start off today by asking you if you could tell me where you were born and where you grew up.
I was born at Crown Street Hospital on the 5th of the 5th 1920 and my first memory of any home I

01:01:00:00

lived in was at Haberfield where my mother and father bought a war service home in 1921. My first memory of my father, strangely enough it was of my father and not my mother, was him wheeling me in the pram. I would say I would be eighteen months.

01:01:30:00

He had a rotten voice and he was singing. I was the first born after he come back from the First World War.
And when you were growing up, did your father talk to you about his World War I experience?
Yes. He did a lot. To me more than others I think because he told me in 1933 that by the age of twenty I’d be fighting the Germans

01:02:00:00

and he was dead right. It was 1940 when we first met the Germans in April 1940.
And was he injured at all in World War I?
He was wounded in the arm and he’d been gassed. He was the RSM [regimental sergeant major] of

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the brigade ammunition column at the time. He was a sergeant major in by virtue of decree of King George V in 1916. Very proud of it. Somewhere at home I’ve still got the original papers

01:03:00:00

dealing with that, his warrant. Any more questions?
Well I’m wondering if you had any brothers and sisters?
Yes. I had a sister and an older brother. The sister was born in four months after my father went to the First World War in 1915.

01:03:30:00

She was born in 1916 and my eldest brother tried many times to join the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] but he had a operation on his back to drain his lungs and as soon as he turned around and when he before the doctor on enlistment they said, “No, we can’t take you”

01:04:00:00

and really there was nothing wrong with him and he was very unhappy. He so they gave him a badge to wear that he was a rejected volunteer. My sister was a nursing sister and she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service and I had a younger brother in the air force

01:04:30:00

and he was killed during the second front operations over England, over France rather.
Well I’m wondering if you can tell me a little bit about your school and growing up, I guess, through the Depression years.
Well the Depression didn’t touch my family as much as it touched other families because my father

01:05:00:00

and my uncle both started a bus run. Their first bus was one bus of Model T bus holding twenty people and during the Depression they actually increased the number of buses they had. Everybody who was capable in the family, extended family, who was out of a job

01:05:30:00

due to the – got some work due to the Depression got some work off father and Uncle Arch. Some of ‘em permanent, some of ‘em just a couple a days a week and I mean there was money all the time in the family due to the buses. So went from one bus in 1926 to six when the government took ‘em over in 1934. It’s

01:06:00:00

I said to my father, “What made you want to be an owner of a bus company?” “Well,” he said, “when I went to France in 1916,” he said, “everything was drawn by horses.” He said, “But by 1918,” he said, “everything was being drawn by motor tractors and trucks,” and he learnt to drive and he was flown around France and Belgium by a squadron,

01:06:30:00

British squadron, of air craft flying Bristol fighters, two seater fighter, and they job every day was to see how far the German Army had, after the Armistice of course, had retreated durin’ the last twenty four hours. They used to fly over the German columns sixty feet high and the German soldies’d all be waving, “We’re goin’ home,” sort a thing and he came home in

01:07:00:00

1919. Then that’s when the buses started. He said, “He’ll have a bit of that,” he said. “You don’t have to feed buses like you do horses.”
And I’m wondering where you went to school.
I went to school at Haberfield Demonstration School. It was supposed to be a very good school. It still exists and I passed to go to Fort Street High

01:07:30:00

School but my Mum and Dad split up and all of us went to with the mother to live at Bondi and when I came back to go to school, it was done durin’ the school holidays, the move all of the family. It was a mutual arrangement and I when I turned up to go to Fort Street in the January of 19…

01:08:00:00

oh was it ‘32? Yeah, ‘32, ah they looked at me and said, “You’ve given us the wrong address.” I said, “No I haven’t. That’s where I live now.” “Oh” said, “we can’t admit you to this school if you live in Bondi. It’s only on this western side of Sydney.” So I ended

01:08:30:00

up going to Cleveland Street High School and I wasn’t very happy there. I wouldn’t have been happy at any school. I was like a lot of boys, wanted to get out and work and anyway I passed me Intermediate and went straight to a job. I was very lucky there. I got apprenticed to some panel beater and I’d just served me apprenticeship when the war started,

01:09:00:00

and –
And what did you or how did you hear about the war?
Well, we were very, very much better informed in many respects than I think today, because the news came through Reuters and it was like today you got every other

01:09:30:00

person’s view on what’s happened in the world. Reuters was pretty accurate. We knew all about the Jews bein’ rounded up. I did my army career actually begun at the age of fifteen. I joined the militia, the 9 Field Brigade at Victoria Barracks because they wanted horsemen and

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I could ride very well at the time.
How did you learn to ride a horse?
Well, my Dad was a very good rider and also my school mate at Haberfield, his uncle had a dairy and he had horses. So I used to be able to always seemed to wag school in time to help him take the

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the horses over to be shod once a month and it was four horses and they were done each month altogether and you rode one and you led one. So I was quite used to ridin’ a horse and leadin’ one. So when you go into the artillery the guns were drawn by a six horse team and I was a wheel driver. The wheel driver

01:11:00:00

actually steers the gun along the direction it’s gotta go. The other horses pull. You stop the gun by bringing the horses in and there’s a big pole down between your legs and sometimes it used to come up in the air like that when you had to stop sudden and if you didn’t have the leg iron it’d almost break your leg when it come down and we used to wear over our ordinary

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leggings a big legging with a steel rod up it and unfortunately that rod was ended up about that far off your knee and when the pole come down, sometimes it went between your knee and the iron and then that was very difficult. You try ridin’ a horse when you’re bein’ pulled down that way and you’re leadin’ the other ones and you’ve gotta pull that up

01:12:00:00

to get it off you, ‘cause you can’t stop it. The moment you tried to stop, the gun the pole comes down harder and that was one bit a horsemanship. It was you had to have in your mind all the time what you was doing.
What can you tell me a bit about what motivated you to join the militia?
Oh, I think comin’ from my family comes from a long line a soldiers and sailors.

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My mother was English and she can remember her two uncles, who never ever spoke to each other. One was navy and one was army. There was a great line of demarcation in the Royal Navy and the guards and they he was both of them were in the Crimean War. So she was born in 1884. So it was only like twenty, thirty

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years. Well we’re sittin’ down now talkin’ sixty-four years from our war. So you can easy see that you see a great big tall guardsman come in or you go up and watch him on the guard outside the palace you’re and he’s the sergeant major of the guards, he’s got some admiration in all children’s hearts hasn’t he? So she’d always tell us about that and

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the other uncle would make sure there was nobody, his brother wasn’t there if he was gonna visit. That’s how they were. Very stubborn stupid people, like my mother and father. They used to, my mother and father after they parted, used to say, “If I knew what I knew now,” my mother’d say, “I’d a never left George,” and I’d say “You ever thought of giving him a bell on the phone?” “Oh I couldn’t do that.

01:14:00:00

He’d think I was backin’ down,” and likewise he’d be saying, “Oh your mother was a wonderful woman.” “Hey, don’t tell me anymore.” That’s how it goes and there’s a lotta people like that.
Well I’m wondering whether you had any mates who joined the militia with you.
I never knew any of the people who joined with me but like other than the night we met when we enlisted. They advertised in the paper for

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men who had had any riding ability because they were short of drivers they called ‘em for the gun teams and I the very first night they had it there they showed us how to harness up a team and then they had gates. These gates were portable and they were like a cross piece like that what spun when the hubs of the wheels or the wheel hit ‘em.

01:15:00:00

They were only on a platform about that high, four legs, and that “Righto, now see how good you are puttin’ ‘em through the gates,” and you go ‘round in a figure eights you see. Anyway we went through the first night without even touching a gate and got good a pat on the back for that and they enlisted us, but a bit choosy they – even in the militia. If you didn’t satisfied them

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that you could ride a horse, you suggested you could be a gunner or join the infantry, which were down in Moore Park Road, the 1/19th battalion, and I was in the 20th battery of 9 Field Brigade, except later the field brigades were called field regiments. Any more?
Well I’m just wondering when you

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were in the militia what were you doing mainly and what were you learning?
Oh, you learned to be a soldier. After about I had four years in it before the war. Four and a half, actually, and they, I was a gun layer in the end. That’s a man who lays the gun and fires it on the target, under orders a course, and

01:16:30:00

it’s a quite a an experience when you pull the trigger on the first one and is you don’t hear the ‘bang’ straight away. You hear like a ‘thud’ and then the ‘bang’ and the barrel recoils forty eight inches back past your arm and automatically the number two hits a button as it comes flyin’ back past him and the shell automatically ejects itself, like the casing,

01:17:00:00

and that’s just like a big bullet. It’s a fixed ammunition about that long. Brass case and the shell’s in it and later on durin’ the war we took those guns away with us to the Middle East and we were the only regiment, that we were the first field regiment to go away and we were the only regiment what took guns with

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us, which we handed over to the 2/2nd Regiment, the Victorian regiment, when they arrived in May 1940 in Egypt or rather Palestine, or Israel as it is now, and we got twenty five pounders in Egypt about seven months later to go into action. In the meantime we manned anti-air craft

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guns and we were one of the infantry battalions we’d formed x and y regiment but we’re gettin’ a bit ahead of –
Yes I’d like to go back and if you can just tell me perhaps a bit more about what you remember of the day the war was declared in
Well, I was down the south coast with me girlfriend on me motor bike.

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We was havin’ a – we’d just had dinner and we were sittin’ in the lounge and I can’t think of the place. I’ll think of it later. Anyway the news was on and we heard the Prime Minister of the day, Menzies, tell everybody it was his melancholy duty to let us know the war was between Britain and

01:19:00:00

Germany had begun and just as a little aside, every time that Australia’s gone to war, even up to this latest war in Iraq, it’s been under a Liberal or National Party leader, not a Labor party leader, and in each war, the world wars, the Labor party’s had to pull

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the Liberals outta their problem and I’m not a Laborite or anything, but that’s a fact. I don’t I vote when I think who’s gonna be best for the country. I can swing from one side to the other but that’s a thing that a lotta people don’t know, that Johnny Howard is doin’ exactly what Menzies did and I forget the Prime Minister of

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at the present moment, I can’t think of the First World War Prime Minister of Australia. The Boer War was a National Party or similar party. The Premier of New South Wales committed the New South Wales bushmen to the Boer War and ‘cause later it become an Australian contingent and not a state.

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That’s about all I can talk about there. Can you think of anything else you’d like to know?
Well I’m just wondering how you’ve, or why you were then motivated to join the regular army?
Oh the AIF, you mean? It’s not the regular army but it was a regular army. I wanted a lower number than me father. He was 3425

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and mine was NX3363 and I always had a laugh with him over that. “I beat ya at one thing.” No I dunno, I think it was just I think you had a duty to be guided by the government of the day and I didn’t like Hitler in any case,

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and after all, when I was thirteen my father had told me I’d be fightin’ the Germans. Not and I didn’t dislike Germans, and because most soldiers don’t dislike the enemy they’re fighting. Particularly the Italians and you just felt sorry for them. If you saw the amount a discarded photographs of families

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and that all ‘round Bardia and Tobruk when we captured ‘em, all those thousands of troops we captured. All young boys, sixteen, seventeen, conscripted into going to a into a war that they, their education didn’t even tell ‘em where Libya was and they were there because Mussolini wanted to make a name for himself

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and I mean that was the first you start thinkin’ different about war.
Well, I’m just wondering why you were dead keen to go and fight a war?
Well, I was trained in the militia for defence of Australia and my trainin’ was pretty good, I thought. We were trained, it wasn’t ya just walked in

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and said, “I want to be a soldier.” They wanted to know your background, why you wanted to enlist and I think most of us said much the thing, “Was it the defence of Australia that motivates you?” Somethin’ like that. It was a questionnaire and much the same

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remarks. If you didn’t the army’s very good helpin’ you. If you couldn’t think of what you wanted to say they’d say, “Well was it so and so?” “Yes.” “That’ll do” and that’s the reason but I think, not because you’re psychopathic or anything like that, it you get the idea that you’ve gotta have be capable of usin’ a weapon to stop anybody

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who wants to come into Australia. That was the way we thought and when we the AIF was formed, war was declared on a Sunday night and Monday was our parade night every fortnight, or actually every week, but they at different stages they’d wouldn’t want the drivers there

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unless they wanted to train as gunners. So we trained very hard. We had plenty of opposition. A field battery was a regular army battery, stationed in Victoria Barracks, and they had a cup competed every year between the A Field Battery and

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the militia batteries. We eliminated all the militia batteries then eliminated A Field Battery. So the training was very high standard and they never forgive us for it, but a lot of the men who were in A Field Battery, like our troop sergeant major, came from A Field Battery but we were trained

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pretty well and they’d get you on, they’d say, “We’re going to form a rifle drill section of eight men and a NCO [non commissioned officer] to compete in various competitions,” and you would be expected to turn up on nights other than parade

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nights and for free, you didn’t get paid for that. You got a very minimal amount of you got free travel tickets to travel there if you wished to use them and we had all sorts of embellishments added to that. There’d be beer, free beer, on in the in the

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mess after, you know. They’d put a five gallon keg on for the boys and things like that but other than that there wasn’t much other than your wish and will to want to beat the other sections what would be performing and then there was in there for the drivers it was what they call a Mount Shanks trophy, which was very eagerly sought

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after for the horsemen. We won that two years running then we used to have tattoos every year at the showground and army and navy and air force would all strut their stuff outta Sydney Showground and there was like all sorts of, you ride bareback with just your no boots on and

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just your britches. No reins. You have to drive ride the horse with your knees and your feet. Those horses are very highly trained and we had horse wrestling. They’d have a like the reg [regular] brigade – batteries from Addis Road would be drawn against; Addis Road and Marrickville would be drawn against Victoria Barracks and we won that every year. You’d go right up, get your horse up beside him and grab his leg and tip him off the

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horse, but one year I was goin’ around and in the victory circuit and this silly sod opened the gates just as we were coming up. My horse is, no reins, and he decided he was goin’ out and I just went straight ahead and skidded along on me bare chest on all the gravel, and oh, it was a hell of a mess

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but it was my fault for not grabbin’ him by the mane, you know ‘cause I was so intent on showin’ everybody what a good horseman I was, but anyway that’s what motivated us a lot.
And I’m wondering whether you needed permission from your mother?
Not for the militia. When I when I enlisted in the militia I

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used my – I was fifteen. I used – I was always a big solid boy. Wasn’t fat. I was very hard. Played football and used to when I was an early apprentice before I was licensed, I used ride down to Wollongong, Port Kembla after we knocked off at twelve o’clock on Saturdays and

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one of the other boys that we’d go down to Era Beach sometimes and they some of the boys or older fellas had cars and take a five gallon keg down the cliff side and swim down there all the weekend and ride the pushbikes back, and it’s awful when you struck a nor’ easterly coming back. Pushin’ all the way up against the nor’ easter is very hard, and especially

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when I was living at Brookvale then, and
And what did your boss, you were a panel beater at this stage –
Yeah.
And I’m wondering what your boss thought of you joining the AIF?
Oh look, I was apprenticed at the NRMA [National Roads and Motorists' Association] work shops and car repairs they call it, a subsidiary of NRMA, and they encouraged us to take the time off in our holidays

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or if you didn’t want your holidays, then they still paid you for a full fortnight you was in camp and the camps were reasonably hard. Like they gave you every indication what army life was like and you got to know your mates in it and when the Second World War started, on the Monday

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night, as I said before, was our parade and we they asked who would volunteer if there was a an overseas group formed. There was no name of AIF or anything, ‘cause that was early days and would they step forward and I think there was about a ninety per cent

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of the fellas stepped forward to go into a special it was called a special division, special force, at that stage. That’s if it was formed, and it was formed and in October.
And was there any second thoughts for you, or did you just immediately step forward?
Oh no, I just stepped

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forward. I think you’d get the same reaction again today but a bit wary of going over to fight in England, for England. My wife was English, so I had no grizzle about the English people at all, but I never want to be under command of English officers again.
Well in that way I’m wondering

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you hear from other from army blokes that they were sometimes fighting for the Empire. I’m wondering if that
Well, we were all Empire minders. Like you gotta remember, 1938 we had the Empire Games as they called it in Sydney and there was a quite a fervour that every like you’d go over to the Games. I went, like most

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young fellas, and you got to talk to the the Canadians and the South Africans in the place. Like you, in the you could always pick ‘em out with the blazers on and I went out to my mate’s place, he his father had been in

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Canada once as a school teacher and they had about three Canadians from memory. Two of ‘em were girls from their swimming section and the others were track athletes and I think you had about four South Africans

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and New Zealanders, well they they’re like our seventh state. They don’t like being called that, but have a look at the amount of ‘em what’s in the country now, but that Empire fervour was there, particularly amongst the old people. My Dad almost to the day he died was an Empire man, really and truly,

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and we believed everything we were told. Singapore would protect the whole of Asia. The navy would be able to cope with anything the Japanese could throw at ‘em. All the hordes of India would be defending; it was very doubtful whether Australian troops would ever be needed to fight in Malaysia. That’s if the Japs ever

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came into a war with us and this is all the garbage you heard around about the middle 30’s, ‘cause we were paying a lot of money from this country during the Depression to build up the forces of Singapore that never existed. So you think about it now and you can see how people started to think and like I said before, you started to rapidly unwind from the

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Empire thinking when you run up against British Army officers. I was offered a commission later in the war if I would sign a paper saying, if I would be willing to be seconded to any unit in the British Army or Australian Army as an infantry officer and as a observation post sig [signalman], I had

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had a lot of experience of infantry warfare and that’s the sort of thing that got up my nose. Why would they ask me to sign a paper that I’d be willing to serve under another country’s army, which England is, another country? So when the interview finished I was pulled out of action to with sixteen other men and I don’t think

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one of us took that option. He said, “Well why are you refusing?” I said, “Because I think they’re three years too late and furthermore, I’m an Australian.” We were very proud of our Australians. You wore the flash on your arm and that was it. Anyway, that’s how it was.
Well I’m just wondering if you can tell

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me how you were being prepared? Once you made that step forward and put your hand up to go and
Then they told us we’d be, our names’d be entered on onto the potential volunteers. There would be no way that they could force us to honour that until we’d actually taken the oath of attestation

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and we’d passed the medical exams. Now that would a been the 4th of September and it was somewhere around about early days, probably the 1st or 3rd, 2nd 3rd of October, they said there would be an AIF and a special force would be enlisted.

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Nothin’ about overseas service but we knew it would be if it’s an imperial force. See that’s AIF, is not infantry force, it’s Australian Imperial Force and once you put the word ‘Imperial’ in, that’s the Empire force and we all waited and then they on the following week, as I say, the parade come. We would

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be enlisted in the AIF but our medical exams would not be ‘til the somewhere around the 12th of October and but they would be enlisting men of no previous military training, which they did, and they were

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quite a few men but were enlisted and sent to Holsworthy and who had no previous military training and the militia NCOs were asked to go and train those men with men of the Australian instructional corps and from the men from the garrison artillery, which were permanent army, and

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they were indoctrinated into foot drill and rifle drills and they didn’t have many rifles. They used to, I think they had one bloke told me they had ten rifles and they’d go for a hundred men in a day usin’ the same ten rifles and the idea of foot drill in and

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people say, “Well what do you gotta do that for?”, is to instil discipline. To obey a command instantly without even thinking of it and that’s the way the army works and the Australian Army is very good at that. They have what they call the bull ring system. Everybody gets in that train and they work on ‘em, they shout at ‘em and they belittle ‘em to a certain degree. Nothin’ like

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you see this Yankee business, standin’ up and spittin’ in their faces tellin’ ‘em what they’re that’s a load of baloney. Anyway but it’s pretty harsh. Fellas who decided, “You’re never gonna tell me what to do,” very quickly learned that you don’t go home this weekend if you’re, you’re spud barberin’ or doin’ something, cleanin’ up the mess around the camp. Lots of funny

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things happened but on the 14th of October we were told that we would be called up for our medical examinations. I don’t know just the date now, from memory. Within ten days then we would, or so, we would go into the AIF

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providin’ we passed the medicals and I think it was about ten days before I went up to Victoria Barracks with all me friends and we went through the medical examination and we were sent home with a little note of, “You will bring into camp with you a pair of sandshoes – ”
Interviewee: Norieul Jones Archive ID 0885 Tape 02

02:00:31:00

Norrie, you were just telling me that you were instructed to bring three changes of underwear and some sandshoes.
Yeah, that’s correct and they never ever paid us for that and then we were told what day we would arrive for our attestation. You know what attestation is? Well when you

02:01:00:00

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

02:01:30:00

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

02:02:00:00

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.

02:02:30:00

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

02:03:00:00

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

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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.”

02:04:00:00

“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

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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

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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

02:05:30:00

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

02:06:00:00

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

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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.

02:07:00:00

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

02:07:30:00

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

02:08:00:00

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,

02:08:30:00

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

02:09:00:00

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

02:09:30:00

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.

02:10:00:00

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

02:10:30:00

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

02:11:00:00

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

02:11:30:00

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

02:12:00:00

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

02:12:30:00

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,

02:13:00:00

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.

02:13:30:00

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.

02:14:00:00

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

02:14:30:00

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

02:15:00:00

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

02:15:30:00

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.

02:16:00:00

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,

02:16:30:00

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

02:17:00:00

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

02:17:30:00

institution you know got into it and we were looked after better.
Well I’m just wondering if you can tell me about your weaponry and what kind of weapons you were using or being trained on?
Well, I was a gun layer in the militia and they tested us. Said, “Yes you’re quite well trained. We haven’t got any machine gunners, light machine gunners.

02:18:00:00

Anybody want to volunteer to be a light machine gunner?” I always liked different jobs, so I said, “Oh I’ll take that on.” So I become the number one of the light machine gun. Now of course that was used as also as light anti-air craft work too. Remember Von Richthofen [the Red Baron] was shot down by an Australian machine gun. I don’t know whether you ever heard that or not,

02:18:30:00

in the First World War, but we were given an old First World War Lewis guns. I got very proficient very quickly. Trained with about seven others or eight others I think, by a First World War warrant officer and he had us shootin’ the eyes outta flies actually with it but a very good

02:19:00:00

training we had and I went into action as a machine gunner in the artillery. You were used for various things but that’s another tale we’ll come to soon. Any more questions? The gunners used the eighteen pounders from the First World War and were trained for as long as two hours in the morning,

02:19:30:00

lectured for an hour after lunch and then trained ‘til stand down at probably four thirty, four o’clock. Duties were given. Every day there’d be a duty. You worked kitchen fatigue. Didn’t matter whether you didn’t like it or not, you did it. You all then we were given all our vaccine and blokes were keelin’ over everywhere.

02:20:00:00

The vaccine was very crude. It was a saucer of vaccine, an old saucer, probably never very well cleaned. The vaccine was tipped out of into a bottle and a broken needle with the eye broken off it was shoved through a cork and was just abut an eighth of a an inch or would you say point three of a

02:20:30:00

millimetre. Hm? Point three millimetres rather, and/or three millimetres, whichever way you want a get it. Anyway they dipped that and soaked the cork and then they’d I think I’ve still got the marks here somewhere. They’d puncture that would be one and then they’d dip it in

02:21:00:00

again. No worry about blood or AIDS in those days. ‘Bang bing bing bing’ and you were good. If it took you come up in great big blisters, ‘cause everybody started “Oh, I can’t use me arm.” Get outta duties you see and my mate and I, Jack O’Sullivan, we were peelin’ spuds for three or four days. I said, “Here, we’re gonna get crook. Come on.”

02:21:30:00

He said, “What for?” I said, “Well do ya wanna be peelin’ spuds for the rest a your life?” So we went up to the doctor. He said, “What’s the trouble?” By then we had all the symptoms. Sore throat, can’t talk. Can’t do this. He looked at us. He said, “Alright. One day lack a duties.” That’s how we went but everybody’d tell ya had the right symptoms but eventually they all went down and we got over that and then we went to the dentist.

02:22:00:00

They checked I had a chipped tooth and he drilled that tooth and put a temporary, ah what do you call it? Filling in it and then we sailed away with it the temporary fell out and I ended up losin’ that tooth because it was July before I could go before

02:22:30:00

an English dentist, and he said, “Oh there’s nothin’ I can do with that,” and out come one of me front teeth and your turn.
Well I’m just wondering if you can tell me a bit about getting the news that you were going to be sailing and how ready did you feel like your unit was? How ship shape were you?
Oh, we were pretty good. We’d already fired

02:23:00:00

live ammunition and all that and as I say, they picked the eyes outta the militia and the militia was like your reserve army. I think we were better trained that what I’ve seen of them. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with them, but they did didn’t muck around. We belted out shells four point five ounces have a thirty five pound shell

02:23:30:00

about that long and about that round, four and a half inches. The eighteen pounder is about a three inch job. About that long. They up at Holsworthy all the gunners were trained as gunners and they were pretty smart because they had a good background you see. Like as I told you, I was a gun layer and there was other gun layers, and gun layers taught gun layers and we had gun sergeants

02:24:00:00

come from militia was already number ones at gun. Just to fill somethin’ in for ya, a gun sergeant runs a very powerful unit. As a section, the guns is two guns and those gun sergeants’ll fight indoctrinate to fight those guns to the muzzle

02:24:30:00

and then you don’t give ‘em up see, and those troops under him or gunners under him are trained to that ideal. That one of ‘em’ll have to step forward if the sergeant’s killed or wounded. Take over the gun sergeant’s job. They’re a model unit. I’ll tell you more about that later, when you come into the battle areas and that.

02:25:00:00

Well I’m wondering, where did you ah and your mates expect to be sent?
Well, we thought we were going to England, or rather France, and we were certain we were goin’ to France and do you want we sailed out on the 10th of November, and oh 10 I’m wrong, 10th of

02:25:30:00

January 1940. Now you think of it, we’d been in an AIF unit from November the 3rd ‘39 and we sailed away to war on the 10th of January. We went to down

02:26:00:00

to Pyrmont, just near where I used to work and we went around the old train line that comes out around the back of Leichhardt and it was supposed to be a dead secret, but it was lined with people waving and –
And what did your girlfriend at the time think of you sailing overseas?
Oh, I didn’t have one I

02:26:30:00

had one girl I used to take out more than others, but I had two or three different girls who were only we didn’t get involved so deeply with girls like the young fellas do today. I don’t say we were any different but one of my girlfriends was born a day after me

02:27:00:00

and lived next door to me in where I was born and didn’t find that out for years. I happened to be lookin’ at my birth certificate and I was – my address, mother and father’s address in 1920 was 21 Hill Street, Leichhardt, and I used to go take Mavis

02:27:30:00

out from 20, ah, 19 Hill Street. So I said to her mother one night, “Did you ever know a Mrs Jones that lived in 21?” She said, “Yes. Oh, we had our babies together” and I said, “Well I was the baby.” She couldn’t believe it you know, but one I used to teach to ride a horse, one I used to take away out on me motorbike and then I

02:28:00:00

used to take another girl ice skating or roller skate, whatever we wanted to go to.
Well I’m just wondering, on that day that you sailed –
Yeah.
Can you describe what that was like? What that feeling was like?
Well we got pulled out of bed at three o’clock in the morning and I’d twisted me ankle. So you have to keep that quiet. So I had a talk to troop sergeant major.

02:28:30:00

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

02:29:00:00

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

02:29:30:00

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.

02:30:00:00

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

02:30:30:00

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

02:31:00:00

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.

02:31:30:00

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

02:32:00:00

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.

02:32:30:00

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

02:33:00:00

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

02:33:30:00

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

02:34:00:00

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

02:34:30:00

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 –

02:35:00:00

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

02:35:30:00

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

02:36:00:00

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

02:36:30:00

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.

02:37:00:00

And did you stop on the way over?
Yes. We stopped at Fremantle. In those days we had a battle ship, fifteen inch guns on it, the Kent 18th gun cruiser like the old Australia to Canberra, Australian cruiser. Ah French

02:37:30:00

cruiser, big one, The Suffren, S-U-double F-R-E-N, and all the sailors had little pom poms on their caps and we about ten days after we left Sydney we were in Fremantle and we some of the funniest things that ever

02:38:00:00

happened in my life there. The all the wharfies said, “Don’t drink such and such beer. It’ll send you blind,” and everybody was Emu Beer as beer we have, but they were very high alcoholic content and the boys really enjoyed their stay in Fremantle. The people were very good. They put up with all the hi jinx and the mob and like they picked up a car in

02:38:30:00

Perth GPO [general post office] and I dunno how many picked it up. I saw it but I didn’t see them do it and it was between two pylons with about six inches either end. They could never drive it out. It’d have to be picked up and taken out of the way, the way it was put in. It wasn’t a very big car. I can just remember it and we did the town over and came back home that night. One of the most amazing sights that

02:39:00:00

along the edge of the big wharves was steel railings about that far apart and there was a sergeant major out of one of the battalions, I forget what battalion. The boys’d be carrying him because he’s so drunk and they put his feet up, took his boots off and put his there was a stone wall that high and then the iron railings come up outta that and he’s layin’ on his back and

02:39:30:00

they put his feet through there. Somebody had gone through the other side and laced his boots up again and he couldn’t get his feet out and he was layin’ there roarin’ out at the top of his voice, “Stretcher bearers,” and nobody undid him. He was couldn’t have been a very popular man. The New Zealanders, who were so lily white, had had a mutiny on their boat and they were had to march they weren’t gonna let ‘em off in Fremantle and

02:40:00:00

they let ‘em off and they had to march the twelve miles to Perth. We went in buses. Came back in buses and they had another disturbance on one of their boats and they wouldn’t let ‘em off in Ceylon but we were allowed to go in Ceylon amongst many warnings, “Don’t break down the

02:40:30:00

white man’s prestige. You do,” this is from our officers of course. Anyway we were about within about an hour out we were havin’ rickshaw races through the town with the rickshaw boys sittin’ in but everybody got back on board the boats all right.
Well, I’m yeah, sorry what were you gonna say?
Well, we were all young men you see. Very happy go lucky bunch. Now anything else you got to

02:41:00:00

I was gonna ask you another question but I think I’ll stop there ‘cause I know that our tape is just going to –
Yeah.
Interviewee: Norieul Jones Archive ID 0885 Tape 03

03:00:31:00

Norrie I was wondering now if you could tell me about arriving in Palestine and Qantarah.
Yes. We arrived at, I just can’t think of the place in the middle of the canal. It’s past the Bitter Lakes and it’s the border of Egypt

03:01:00:00

and, well it actually isn’t the actual border of Egypt, but there’s a swinging bridge, pontoon bridge, that they pull across the canal and you unloaded off the boat, march across the bridge and straight onto the trains that go to Palestine and the border of Palestine is some miles in. A place called Raffa.

03:01:30:00

Ah the first thing they did when we got off the boat was feed us in after we’d marched across the canal and the sausages were Spinnies. Spinnie was a light horseman in the First World War and he either went back or took his discharge in Palestine and everything what you wanted

03:02:00:00

- soft drinks, cakes in canteens, sausages and steaks all come from Spinnies. So he’s a pretty good entrepreneur and what else? We enjoyed those sausages. We rumour has it they were camel meat and it was probably was camel meat but you’ve gotta remember, they slaughter camels like we slaughter beef and

03:02:30:00

it’s quite nice meat. I’ve had plenty of camel steaks. It’s a bit like veal to look at. No fat. Camel’s got no fat whatsoever and we got on the trains and we’re taken oh right into past Gaza. I think it was El Majdal. We were unloaded at a

03:03:00:00

it wasn’t a station, it was just a siding, and put into trucks and driven to Qantarah. It’s Al Qantarah incidentally and the infantry went to a neighbourin’ area called Gharbiya. We went to Qantarah and then the engineers and AEC [army corps of engineers] were carted all around the – they’re smaller units you see. The

03:03:30:00

artillery regiment, 2/1st Field Regiment, was at that stage about seven hundred men and the battalions were full strength in there, ‘round about seven hundred and fifty per battalion. So you could always ancillary troops just on five thousand men in one camping area. Then there was on the same boat with us comin’ over was the 2/1st general hos – Australian

03:04:00:00

General Hospital. So we went away fully equipped for war. We there was plenty of small arms practice on the boats comin’ over, machine guns and so forth, but the ride into Palestine was quite good. My father told me, he said, “The first thing you’ll hear from the local inhabitants when you get into the canal and stop will be

03:04:30:00

the orange sellers yellin’ out ‘Orangis, orangis’“ and he was dead right and they were still the same when we got there and it was quite an interesting arrival. The boys couldn’t get used to the dress and you’d see the funniest things. All the tales we had heard about

03:05:00:00

from the old fellas were pretty right. The Arab’d ride on a little donkey with his feet virtually on the ground and then there’d be Mum with a great big load of fire wood, like about an inch thick sticks on her head and the little girl’s behind her with smaller bundles on her head and then there’d be the little boys playin’ around,

03:05:30:00

followin’, jumpin’ around. They did nothin’, ‘cause it was only a man’s world. You had to see it to believe it but those people have come a long way since the war but they were very downtrodden by their own race and the Jewish race then. There was a lot of terrorism. There was three divisions of English troops in Palestine, sixty thousand men-odd,

03:06:00:00

to keep the peace between the Jews and the Arabs in 1938, ‘37, ‘38, ‘39. We took over with one division and whether we had a bad name or not, we didn’t have the trouble they didn’t seem to want to get involved with us.
Well I wonder if you can tell me what you were doing at Qantarah in the camp? What was the training you were doing?
Ah, very intensive training. Very intensive training.

03:06:30:00

Everybody was who couldn’t drive was taught to drive a vehicle. The vehicles we had there, ours hadn’t arrived from Australia, were donated to the British government by Lord Nuffield. All Morris vehicles and we had a full complement of vehicles to use straight away. Our guns were unloaded off the ships very quickly. The guns,

03:07:00:00

never stopped trainin’ on the gunnery. The signallers were given radios for the first time and learned to use the radio sets and we had radio trucks and in no time we were set up with a reasonably good unit. Well trained. We went down we landed there in

03:07:30:00

March, ah yeah March the 13th. No get it right, no February the 13th and strangely enough, when we left there in 1941 was March the 13th. A month longer. Ah in so in 1940 we arrived in Palestine on February the 13th and we left the Middle East after

03:08:00:00

four campaigns in March the 13th 1941. So it was a pretty hectic year, really, when you think of it and what else happened there was we were trained, we had good canteens. There was twenty big showers. It was freezin’ cold. Ten, fifteen mile away is the

03:08:30:00

Hebron hills and the town of Hebron. We was on the Plains of Jordan and it was very similar to Australia to look at around there and everywhere you looked was links of the fighting what had gone on in 14-18 war [First World War]. Old shell splinters in the ground and some of the boys dug up the Turkish skeletons and sat ‘em on the bonnets of their trucks. Still in uniform,

03:09:00:00

and oh, they thought it was humorous. I didn’t. Not that I could give a damn for the Turks, it’s just that I didn’t think it was right, but we did our training and we went down to a place called Bir Asluj, whichever way you like to pronounce it. It’s both ways and Bir means

03:09:30:00

‘a well.’ B-I-R and there was signs of what Lawrence of Arabia had blow up the railway viaducts. That was the route to Mecca and there was a minaret tower there where the light horsemen scratched all their names into it and their units and we were down there with the 54th

03:10:00:00

royal horse artillery, a regular army unit from the British Army, and we were both given tasks to see who could shoot the best and we more or less beat them on the tests and they had a brigadier there who lined us up and told us he was quite prepared if he could get us to go into action with his units he’d be very happy to have us

03:10:30:00

but the governments wouldn’t allow that. At that stage they were very, very quick to say, “Australians will only be allowed to fight under Australian leadership.” Which is true, not like they were in the First World War. Ah, the Tommies, they were good men. They had been out there for four years and before that they’d been three years in

03:11:00:00

India. So they never got home probably ‘til after the North African campaigns finished and they were wiped out, that unit, in the one of the desert campaigns prior to the Battle of Alamein. The Germans overrun ‘em with about seventy tanks but they

03:11:30:00

I think they knocked out about twenty five tanks before they got run over, over run rather. Now I’m just trying to think of what else we did.
Well, I wonder Norrie, I might just ask when did you hear that you might be when did you expect to be going into action?
Well we thought we were going to France

03:12:00:00

and there were very strong rumours the embarkation rolls were made ready for us to go in May and the ships were starting to arrive. ‘Cause this is in the April we were there. Do you want to stop?
No, no, no.
Yeah. Anyway what happened, this, the 17th Brigade arrived and we handed over all our guns and then France fell,

03:12:30:00

and they said, “Well we won’t be going to England this that’s for sure,” because Italy came into the war and one of our brigades, after the 17th had arrived, had gone were headin’ to the Middle East, that was the 18th Brigade, and they never ever took their 6 Division colour patches off. They wouldn’t take ‘em off

03:13:00:00

but they later become part of the 7th Div [division] and they were also in the Siege of Tobruk and a very capable brigade. Anyway we trained very hard and then they decided they’d create the 9th Division. So that means every four battalion brigade lost one battalion and then the 18th

03:13:30:00

Brigade went to England and they all got out of numbers. So the 4th, 8th and 11th or 2/4th, 2/8th and 2/11th become the 19th Brigade. The 18th Brigade was in England and 17th Brigade was, they were lucky, they kept their 6, 7th - 5th, 6th and 7/2nd Battalions

03:14:00:00

like 2/5th, 2/6th, 6th 2/7th and the 16th Brigade kept their 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Like 2/1st, 2/2nd, 2/3rd. So 2/1st Field Regiment was the senior regiment of the 6 Div.

03:14:30:00

That’s how it worked in seniority you know. The they love their seniority. I was in A Troop of 1st Battery and we started off with they were three troops to a battery and then they broke it down from three troops with four guns to a battery to six guns and two troops to a battery and that’s a very powerful fighting

03:15:00:00

unit. It has twelve guns to a battery, is twenty four to a regiment. That’d make a hole in anybody’s army. So
Well I was just gonna ask, I wonder knowing that you weren’t going to France, when did the
Well we were very disappointed. We weren’t worried about the German Army. We were pretty naïve. If our fathers could beat ‘em, so could we, but right up

03:15:30:00

‘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

03:16:00:00

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

03:16:30:00

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

03:17:00:00

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.

03:17:30:00

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

03:18:00:00

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

03:18:30:00

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

03:19:00:00

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

03:19:30:00

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

03:20:00:00

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.”

03:20:30:00

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.

03:21:00:00

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

03:21:30:00

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

03:22:00:00

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

03:22:30:00

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

03:23:00:00

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

03:23:30:00

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

03:24:00:00

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

03:24:30:00

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.
Can you tell me about the new guns that you got when you got –
Twenty five pounders? Well they were the latest weapon out and they were a fantastic weapon. They fired a twenty five pound shell

03:25:00:00

and they, if you put the case they were separated ammunition. The shell went in, was rammed in, and the case was about that long and it had one, two charge one, two, three, super - four charges and if a gun was gonna be used as an anti, as a Howitzer, it’s high angle shooting,

03:25:30:00

it’d only fire the first three charges up in the air like that but if it was a gun it fired super, that way. In other words, it was a gun Howitzer, and it was the most accurate gun you could ever dream of. The Italian artillery was very accurate and they got mixed up with us one night, the first night we went into action, and frightened the livin’ daylights out of us,

03:26:00:00

and next day we moved back about a thousand yards then wiped ‘em out because all the time they were shootin’ at us for that eight and a half hours they flash spotted ‘em, and they used a director at different points and then they triangulate, and that’s where the gun is on the map, you see. Anyway the gun itself was on a platform, carried underneath the trailer. You just

03:26:30:00

pulled two levers and the platform dropped down, then the gunners just got hold of the handles on the side and pushed it, she come back and was locked onto the platform and they were so well balanced you could pick the trailer up in one hand like that and run around three hundred and sixty degrees in case you were attacked by tanks. Super charge fired a solid shot at two thousand eight hundred feet per second

03:27:00:00

and it weighed twenty five pound and was only a shell about that long but that round, see, and it was also a tracer and whiizzzzzz, you could see it, you know, and they had a telescope like that for tanks, about that long, about that round. Oh, it made a man at five thousand yards look as if he was only a hundred yards away and that was the twenty five pounder.
Can you, I was just going to ask about the crew that would operate that?
Six men.

03:27:30:00

There would be a gun sergeant, he was number one. Number two was as bombardier, who was the same two stripes as a corporal. Then you had the gun layer. Then you had the loadin’ numbers and the breech operator and they carried two limbers in those days. That was two like two trailers and a gun was hooked to the second one. So it was like three articulated

03:28:00:00

vehicles, ah trailers. Like a miniature road train. They could do up to sixty mile an hour with them but the Ford, Mack and Arlington we brought from Australia and they were very mobile. They put a gun into action. You used to hear all sorts a claims. Different gun crews reckon they’d fire twenty rounds in a minute. They were the

03:28:30:00

theory was to fire five, but they could get ‘em off, don’t worry about that, but I never counted anybody doin’ twenty. Eighteen was the best I got because the gun was so steady on that platform I saw this done, I saw a bloke put a mug a water on the top of the shield and they were firin’ at that stage a charge three. That’s a pretty heavy

03:29:00:00

charge, and the barrel was up about that angle and there’s a flap that folds down or stands up. If you’re under fire you put it up and you fold it then you can look over the shield, see, and it’s like they even put their food on it. Their rations in the dixie [mess tin], the gun layer. He puts his up there when he’s firin’. They feed you durin’ the battle, you know

03:29:30:00

and he’d he’d be put the cup up on or mug, tin mug, up there about that far from the bottom and never spill a bit a water when that gun fired. The hundred per cent zone was about supposed to be a hundred and fifty yards. Now the hundred per cent zone is, say your target is there in the middle

03:30:00:00

of my knees. From there to there is a hundred and fifty yards. Now the twenty five pounders is a hundred per cent, so it was supposed to be a hundred and fifty yards but it was never less than about thirty feet. You’d see all the shells that had been fired be sometimes even less. That’s how accurate the gun was and all sorts of things used to happen with a gun that accurate.

03:30:30:00

Like they’d get targets that we’d never think dream of gettin’ in the First World War and yet they’d knock ‘em out. They were so clever with them.
Well I wonder what your role in the crew was?
I wasn’t on a gun. I was a machine gunner and my role was first to low flyin’ air craft that might come in tryin’ to shoot us up. Now the guns

03:31:00:00

are not in a line side be side. There might be anything up to a hundred and fifty yards between gun, one’d be over there and a hundred and fifty yards away from that and back about fifty yards would be another one and then there’d be another one over there. They’re all staggered so they don’t make a good target either for other guns or for air craft, and we got strafed a few times and I

03:31:30:00

engaged a plane one at Darnah was shot down, but then I suppose everybody within half a mile of it had a shot at it in one way or the other, but he came straight for the guns and I was right he was comin’ in, there was two of ‘em, and this particular one was comin’ straight at us. So I just picked up the Bren and I aimed on his hub of his propeller

03:32:00:00

and I got off one magazine and he, I just got the second one as he go over and I just sprayed him underneath. You could see the bullets goin’ into him and he kept flyin’ alright. Anyway I was talkin’ to a 2/4th Battalion bloke later and he said, “We got a plane today.” I said, “Did ya?” He said, “There was one went over and circled around the town of Darnah and then went into the water and the other bloke

03:32:30:00

turned around.” So one of ‘em went down, but nobody could claim it. Even on the guns the boys were usin’ Italian Breda machine guns they’d captured in Bardia. Like there was layin’ around they had ‘em on the guns, you see, but my other job would be to be put out on

03:33:00:00

approach tracks, like at Darnah there was a huge wadi. We’re gettin’ ahead a the war a bit here, but we had a gun crew knocked out there by a gun who lost one, two, three, four, four gunners were killed and two survivors. One a the survivors got wounded again and the other one got wounded again and he –

03:33:30:00

nobody knows what happened. He was put on a hospital train in Greece and it was set on fire. So he prob – either died there, but years after the war his Dad used to come in and ask anybody could tell him whether his son was killed or still alive or, and I was at over at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs one day

03:34:00:00

talkin’ to two blokes out of the 2/2nd Battalion and we went and had a drink and after and one bloke said, “You know we had one of your blokes in with us.” They were escaped from the Germans in Greece and he said, “He tagged himself,” and he said, “he had a bad wound in his backside”, which is what young Doug had, and he said, “We helped him along as good as we could and then he got

03:34:30:00

he got dysentery and gangrene.” He said, “The smell of his wound was terrible,” and he said, “and he died on us.” He said, “So we walled him up in a little cave.” Well I never ever told the old fella that. I didn’t think I should. Yeah, because that was obviously his son. It was see I reckon that would a been about 1952

03:35:00:00

and finally you run into somebody who’d seen the end of him. Another one of me mates was wounded there in Greece. He had his legs broken and they dive bombed the gun by accident, actually, but anyway that’s gettin’ too, that’s gettin’ outta the desert into Greece.
Well what we might do, Norrie, is just is move on to, I guess when you realised you were about to go into action

03:35:30:00

in the desert.
Well they had us up at a place called Ikingi Marriot. It’s a station on the line what goes into to the end of the Egyptian border at it goes as far as I don’t know, Sidi Barrani.

03:36:00:00

Past Mersa Matruh and that’s where the line halts. It’s only about twenty miles off the Libyan – oh more than that. It’d be a hundred kilometres off the Libyan border. Now the trainin’ was increased and increased and increased and we used to have our tents dug in, because of the Italians comin’ into bomb

03:36:30:00

Alexandria naval base used to fly over us, and they’d see all the fire goin’ up from the Mediterranean fleet as well as the ground guns, like the light anti-air craft and that, and I suppose the Italian pilots’d say, “Oh damn that. Let ‘em go now. Pull the lever,” and the closest they ever got to us was, my camp, was about quarter of a mile

03:37:00:00

but they obviously didn’t bomb us. They were just lettin’ go their bombs and gettin’ out of it. So I wouldn’t say they was particularly brainy but anyway we had all the tents dug in and your gear and all your weapon was stacked by, I had six magazines in my bag. Me kit bag was,

03:37:30:00

well not me kit bag, me haversack, had three days rations in it and all the little things like your toothbrush, your shaving gear and change a socks and your boots strapped onto the back a ya, spare boots, and they were your pillow. You put ‘em end to end and your head in between ‘em or

03:38:00:00

you would take the ones off your feet and put there. You usually don’t take your boots into action if you can help it and the spare barrel for the Bren. You pulled the flap down and she was locked in and you get ordered to assemble. There’d be a bugle go probably about three o’clock in the mornin’. Everybody’d have their gear on and out

03:38:30:00

in their vehicles ready to go in ten minutes. That’s how fast they could be tractors’d be pulled up and hooked the guns on and sometimes they we were to be a mobile force to quickly break any landings behind the British front line from either the sea or the air, see, and then we’d be goin’ off, “This is it tonight,”

03:39:00:00

and next thing you know the leadin’ vehicles’d be comin’ back. “Oh they got us outta bed for nothing again,” but you never knew. There was all sorts a trainin’ when like for instance every driver had a spare driver in his vehicle and then they’d have to stop and go and take a wheel off because they’ve had a puncture and we had one

03:39:30:00

bloke called Jack Johnson. He was a very very ah strange talkin’ bloke, you know ,and the CO [commanding officer] pulled him up one day, he was a First World War soldier, he, “Stop. You’ve got a flat tyre.” So Jack gets out and, “It ain’t flat.” The colonel says, “It is flat.”

03:40:00:00

“Well there’s somethin’ wrong with your bloody eyes.” He gets back in the truck but the way he said it, you know. He never lived that down. “Well,” he said, “he didn’t tell me we had to be a – we had to change a tyre. He just said me tyre was flat and I told him it wasn’t,” but oh lots a things happened like that but we trained very hard

03:40:30:00

and then one day they called us out and nobody believed ‘em and we just kept goin’ and goin’ and goin’ and we got up to a another place, I can’t think of the name of it now. They have names but there’s nothin’ there. It might a been a ruins or somethin’ and they said, “Knock the windscreens out.” So we knocked the windscreens out and the lights in any case had shields on ‘em with just a little slit and

03:41:00:00

it was only really to let somebody know you were comin’ along at night and the windscreen windscreens were knocked out and the glass thrown away and we knew then we were goin’ into action because the windscreens shine in the sun for air craft to pick you up but other that that, we were very, it’s just

03:41:30:00

we went into action just like when war finished. Nobody got excited about it. We reached that stage of our trainin’ that, “Oh well, this is what we’re here for,” and I used to ride in a vehicle called Troop Leader A Troop, TLA. See each vehicle had painted on it what it was. A jeep, a

03:42:00:00

End of tape
Interviewee: GA –
Norieul Jones Archive ID 0885 Tape 04

04:00:31:00

Norrie we were about to get in you were about to tell me about Bardia.
Well we knocked our windscreens out, and arrived at Halfaya called for short Hellfire Pass, which takes you up from

04:01:00:00

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

04:01:30:00

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

04:02:00:00

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

04:02:30:00

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

04:03:00:00

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

04:03:30:00

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

04:04:00:00

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

04:04:30:00

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

04:05:00:00

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’

04:05:30:00

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?”

04:06:00:00

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,

04:06:30:00

‘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

04:07:00:00

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

04:07:30:00

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

04:08:00:00

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

04:08:30:00

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

04:09:00:00

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

04:09:30:00

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

04:10:00:00

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

04:10:30:00

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

04:11:00:00

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

04:11:30:00

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.

04:12:00:00

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

04:12:30:00

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’.

04:13:00:00

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

04:13:30:00

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.

04:14:00:00

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

04:14:30:00

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,

04:15:00:00

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

04:15:30:00

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

04:16:00:00

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,

04:16:30:00

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.

04:17:00:00

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,

04:17:30:00

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?

04:18:00:00

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

04:18:30:00

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

04:19:00:00

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

04:19:30:00

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

04:20:00:00

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

04:20:30:00

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

04:21:00:00

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,

04:21:30:00

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

04:22:00:00

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

04:22:30:00

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

04:23:00:00

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

04:23:30:00

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,

04:24:00:00

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.

04:24:30:00

“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

04:25:00:00

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

04:25:30:00

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

04:26:00:00

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

04:26:30:00

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

04:27:00:00

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

04:27:30:00

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

04:28:00:00

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’

04:28:30:00

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

04:29:00:00

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

04:29:30:00

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’]

04:30:00:00

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

04:30:30:00

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

04:31:00:00

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,”

04:31:30:00

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.”

04:32:00:00

“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?
And well, we’ve just you’ve just finished describing –
Bardia.
The battle of Bardia.
Then

04:32:30:00

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

04:33:00:00

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

04:33:30:00

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,

04:34:00:00

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

04:34:30:00

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

04:35:00:00

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

04:35:30:00

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

04:36:00:00

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,

04:36:30:00

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

04:37:00:00

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,

04:37:30:00

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

04:38:00:00

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,

04:38:30:00

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?”

04:39:00:00

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

04:39:30:00

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

04:40:00:00

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

04:40:30:00

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

04:41:00:00

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

04:41:30:00

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?
I’m gonna stop you there, Norrie, and we’ll get some more detail and things about Darnah I think when we get back.
Yeah well Darnah is quite a battle.
Yeah.
Interviewee: Norieul Jones Archive ID 0885 Tape 05

05:00:30:00

You were just about to tell us about your action in Darnah.
Well, Darnah was the possibly the hottest action we had, which lasted two days, and on Australia Day we lost a complete gun crew, but the gun wasn’t damaged in any way at all. It was back in action in five or

05:01:00:00

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’

05:01:30:00

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

05:02:00:00

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

05:02:30:00

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,

05:03:00:00

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

05:03:30:00

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

05:04:00:00

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

05:04:30:00

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

05:05:00:00

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

05:05:30:00

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.

05:06:00:00

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

05:06:30:00

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

05:07:00:00

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’

05:07:30:00

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

05:08:00:00

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

05:08:30:00

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

05:09:00:00

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

05:09:30:00

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?

05:10:00:00

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

05:10:30:00

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,

05:11:00:00

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

05:11:30:00

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

05:12:00:00

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

05:12:30:00

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.

05:13:00:00

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

05:13:30:00

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

05:14:00:00

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

05:14:30:00

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.

05:15:00:00

I can say it when I don’t want to say it but that’s about the size of the Greek campaign.
Well I’m just wondering, when you left the Middle or Palestine to go to Greece
No I left Egypt.
How did you get, how did you travel?
On the boat? The Pratdal and she dropped took us to a port called Volos.

05:15:30:00

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

05:16:00:00

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

05:16:30:00

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

05:17:00:00

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

05:17:30:00

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

05:18:00:00

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

05:18:30:00

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

05:19:00:00

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

05:19:30:00

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

05:20:00:00

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’

05:20:30:00

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.

05:21:00:00

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.
And how was the morale generally in the 6 Divi?
Oh, it couldn’t be lost. You couldn’t beat it. Old Benny Webber was killed in goin’ over Kokoda

05:21:30:00

with the 2/1st Battalion. He only a youngster. He was one a the seventeen year olders. His younger brother still was in the 2/3rd battalion and his father was in that too with him. We all reckoned his old man must a got married at fourteen. He was killed by a tank and his brother, the father was killed, the brother was wounded and Benny was killed.

05:22:00:00

That was all the male members of the family bar one died in the war. I went and saw his mother durin’ the leave when we come back from New Guinea, actually, and she didn’t seem over worried about it. They used to live in what was it, Redfern, just where it backs onto Golden Grove.

05:22:30:00

So it’s hard to say what the woman’s feelings was, but she had a tribe a young kids too. So they’re all like steps and stairs down. I suppose losin’ her husband, she was better off when you look at it that way.
Well I’m just wondering, what did you know about the Greece campaign when you were on your way there? What were you expecting?
Well we were expectin’ to fight the Germans and

05:23:00:00

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

05:23:30:00

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

05:24:00:00

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

05:24:30:00

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

05:25:00:00

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

05:25:30:00

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

05:26:00:00

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

05:26:30:00

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

05:27:00:00

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

05:27:30:00

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.

05:28:00:00

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.

05:28:30:00

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.

05:29:00:00

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

05:29:30:00

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

05:30:00:00

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

05:30:30:00

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.

05:31:00:00

Well when you left the desert and went to Greece, I’m just wondering what could you take with you in terms of artillery?
Well, we took there was this well to start off, the first regiment to go into action there was the 2/3rd Regiment. It had started off, ‘cause this is how the army works. It had started late in the desert campaign because they had to come from England

05:31:30:00

and the 2/2nd Regiment was in second, because they were late in gettin’ their twenty five pounders. They went into action with our old twenty our old six eighteen pounds rather and four point five Howitzers in the desert, but where the range of a eighteen pounder is nine thousand yards, the twenty five pound was fourteen thousand

05:32:00:00

or thirteen, fourteen five hundred. That’s eight and a half miles. It’s a big difference against four miles isn’t it, or less than four miles, and the four five Howitzer is a beautiful gun. It’ll put a one half the other in the same hole but it’s only got a range of four thousand five hundred yards. It’s, it was a front line trench gun in the First World War, a Howitzer, and it was

05:32:30:00

first built in 1885. So you can see what I’m pointin’ out. Our equipment was good compared with what the Italians had. Later on, compared to what the French had. The French were usin’ in some places in Syria 1914-18 war tanks and they only went at a speed of about three mile an hour,

05:33:00:00

and when you think of our crews, the tanks’d get along sixty mile an hour. So what equipment we had was good and we did have some good equipment. We come –
I was just wondering if you were able to take the same guns with you to Greece?
Oh, yes. We took our guns to Greece on the boats with the advance party, with the transport, on the Pratdal, every gun,

05:33:30:00

and we had to destroy those guns. The unfortunate part of it was, they withdrew the 2nd Regiment and the 2/3rd quite some time before we got outta Greece, because as I said, we were the rear guard. They had destroyed their guns. Now it always amazes me that we didn’t they didn’t try to get

05:34:00:00

two or three of those regiments or three of those three of those guns into Crete. Could a turned the whole tide a battle and you might say, “What would two guns do?” and I’ll when we get to, wow, I’ll tell ya. It really does make a difference and consequently our last CO, he’s dead now, Black Tom, he was

05:34:30:00

sent to Greece. Detached from the unit and he was sent to Greece to see that it would be enough ammunition for the guns, twenty five pounder ammunition. All over the road sides in Greece on the retreat there was unlimited supplies of twenty five pounder ammunition and one Anzac Day we were talkin’ about that.

05:35:00:00

He said, “We had enough ammunition landed in Crete to be dispersed through the island a Crete if we could have only had some guns there to use it.” The guns they were usin’ in Crete were old Italian guns captured in Bardia and Tobruk. Guns with no sights. They used to open the breech, sight through the breech onto the

05:35:30:00

target, open sight that way, then fire on it and they and they were not in very good condition. They needed maintenance, a lotta maintenance on a gun. They have to be done at certain so many rounds. They called pulling back the gun manually they and pump out the recuperator oil and put it back in and all that sort a thing and they

05:36:00:00

couldn’t do that on the Italian guns, because they had no spare parts or anything.
Well I’m just wondering after a fairly intense campaign at Bardia, and being in the desert, what kind of condition were your guns in?
Oh reasonably good. Very good, to be honest with ya. You couldn’t fault ‘em but what they do, that again is the maintenance a the gun. They have brushes, brushes like on a big long rope with the brush in the middle and they run that backwards

05:36:30:00

and forwards. You’d see the gunners runnin’ them backwards and forwards like that polishin’ the bores up. I told you how we had to give so much of our water each day to put it in a can and boil the copper outta the barrels and that’s what the water was for, hot water, and you do that regular with the guns an unlimited supply. To give you an example, the value of the barrel was guaranteed to fire seven hundred and fifty shots. It was a

05:37:00:00

cast barrel. Auto fritaging was the method. In the previous wars they were a tube with a bore rifled into it. They were bound with wire and they were inserted into a steel jacket but these guns, the twenty five pounder, they cast it in one go and then machined it and put the bore in it, you know the grooves,

05:37:30:00

and they could produce barrels at such a rate and yet when we had a – on one of the new guns to replace the ones we lost in Greece, when we had one of them with a premature explosion in the breech, all the barrel did was swell up like that. The gun layer had pulled the trigger and nothing happened. It was a terrible sound. I was about twenty yards away from it

05:38:00:00

and, “God. I’ve never heard a gun like that before,” and a cloud a dust. Next minute they’re callin’ out for the artificer. They couldn’t open the breech. Well his tool with this breech lever back. He hits it with a sledgehammer on the top and it drops but it wouldn’t move and the reason was, she’d had a premature and if that had a been an old eighteen pounder, she’d a blew him to pieces. It’s rare, but we

05:38:30:00

had ‘em. We even had sabotage on shells made in Australia, believe it or not, when we were fightin’ the Japs. It’d make you wonder what Australian’d want to do that but every country’s got ‘em. Anyway that was the Greek campaign. If we’d a got guns to Crete, there was plenty of ammunition but they didn’t.
Well I’m just wondering, the Greece campaign

05:39:00:00

was by some accounts fairly chaotic. When did you receive orders to I guess evacuate?
We told we were on the 18th of April the Anzac Corps came into being again, that was the Australian New Zealand Army Corps, with some attached English troops and

05:39:30:00

General Blamey was in charge of it and with about the 23rd of April when we were not officially told. We were again rear guard at Brailos Pass and the 2nd Regiment and 2/3rd

05:40:00:00

Regiment was still with us but there was an evacuation on and we didn’t know. Now I can put your mind at rest. It was chaotic because of the rear echelon troop. They were Cypriots, Palestinians. Now imagine if you was a Jew and the Germany Army was about to overtake you. You wouldn’t feel happy, would you, but the forward line troops

05:40:30:00

would retreat through each other and take a position while the other one held and then that every day and as I say, everywhere they run into us, they never broke through our line. So you couldn’t say it was chaotic but the best remark of that, if you read Weary Dunlop’s book. Weary Dunlop was a 6 Division man and he was in the Greek

05:41:00:00

campaign and he said when he saw the fightin’ troops comin’ back he said there was not a no lack a morale. There was blokes sayin’, “Now we can’t lose,” at the top of their voice to buck up their mates and that’s how it was. Old Benny Webber was one a them and that’s how it was. ‘Cause fightin’ troops always fought to the finish. Not with all

05:41:30:00

that glamour and business. At Brailos, the troop commander came up to me and I was watchin’ the battle goin’ on further down the valley, and watchin’ that nobody came in on the other tracks, on the Bren, and he come up. He said, “The gunners have just been told to draw straws to leave two men and a gun sergeant on the gun,” and –
Interviewee: Norieul Jones Archive ID 0885 Tape 06

06:00:31:00

Mm hm.
We got ordered to evacuate and we had to more or less a road to ourself, more or less, comin’ out. They’d cleared the road for us pretty good I think and mainly we got bombed after we left the north pass of Brailos. We blew the

06:01:00:00

ammunition truck up with a bridge, the engineers wired it up there. Blew a great hole in over a great big chasm. That stopped any movement. The Germans could a come through there, and we were raced around there to stop them, but they didn’t. They took the head on way and B troop shot ‘em to pieces. They, now you talk about rounds fired, B troop’s

06:01:30:00

six guns fired three thousand rounds in two days. That’s a lot a rounds. That was more than the Bardia and Tobruk quotas in the barrages. So when you think of it, the guns were really a mighty weapon like as far as maintenance kept ‘em good. Now we got the order to retire,

06:02:00:00

not retreat. That was the order and we were given orders to retire to such and such a position take up a position. Now after the guns are destroyed, you’re expected to fight as infantry, which is right, and we were well armed. We had Tommy guns. We had various weapons like anti-tank rifles and each gun had a Bren gun

06:02:30:00

to every well, that’s a Bren gun to every six men and a Tommy gun to every six men, so that’s not bad when you’re lookin’ at weapons state, even today. Most of our gunners were pretty good shots with their rifles and that was how it was.
Well I wonder Norrie if you can tell me about getting on to the Hero?

06:03:00:00

Onto the Hero? Well, as a Bren gunner, you’re always last man and each troop as they come up B Troop got on pretty good. They must a been in the line ahead of us. I just don’t remember how they did it but they did but a lot of ‘em didn’t, got captured and what happened, Kalamata was the town that I was trying to think of before.

06:03:30:00

What had happened is the destroyer pulled into the quay, it was like an old stone quay. Probably built by Archimedes or somethin’ like that and midships she had a gangway and all of a sudden they started callin’ out on the from the bridge on the bull horn, “No more

06:04:00:00

men aboard,” and the matloes [term for navy hooligan] come rushin’ over to the side sayin’, “Come on Aussie, jump on. There ain’t gonna be no more boats,” and I’m here to the door away and the propellers started to turn and he says, “Not gonna be no more boats.” He says, “Throw your Bren on.” I said, “No. If it goes on, I go on.” So I passed it out

06:04:30:00

to him butt first and he grabbed it and he put his hands on the wire rail and I thought “Well if I hit down, I go down, the propeller’ll get me,” but I dived and I got between his hands and I’m hangin’ on like grim death and next minute Cliffy Cunningham jumped on my back. “You’re not leavin’ me,” he said. Now Frank Brewer wouldn’t jump and he got captured and escaped and runnin’ around in Greece

06:05:00:00

for five months and learned to speak the language but I think got an idea he might a passed on now. I tried to ring him the other week. He’s in a nursin’ home up in every time you talk to him he’s got a bit worse. He’s dyin’ bit by bit. Unfortunate, but
It must have been hard for you guys, I mean getting on the ship, but knowing that you’d left mates behind.
Oh it was a terrible feelin’. You lost

06:05:30:00

half your family. That’s what it’s like you know and we’re thinkin’, “Oh look,” what happened after we got on. We were taken out to sea and put on a trans ship to another boat and merchant seamen on The Dilwarra, a British India Pacific boat, and we pulled up beside her and I passed me Bren up and as the boat rose up

06:06:00:00

I put me two hands up and then the bloke behind ya had to hold your belt, put me two hands up and next minute two great awning hands got me by the wrists and I was swung up like a bag a potatoes and one after another I every man on the ship and the first thing they hit you with was a great big mug a cocoa. Typical old Pommie business. I says, “No, you can’t beat the Poms themselves,” but they’re

06:06:30:00

good men. Anyway we had
Can I just stop you for one second, Norrie.
Remind me when I pull me wallet out, I gotta get me change off me daughter.
Now I was wondering, you were talking about the evacuation and being on
On the Dilwarra? Well we’d hardly settled down between decks and it was dawn.

06:07:00:00

I think it was two o’clock in the mornin’ when we left Kalamata and that’s the place I couldn’t think of before where the olives grow. Well, the boys who were left, the Germans came in six hundred strong next mornin’. They just about killed the lot of ‘em, and the Germans give ‘em an ultimatum to surrender or be wiped out by the air. There was nowhere to defend.

06:07:30:00

Brewer, the bloke who wouldn’t jump, he drove a truck, he’s a Kiwi actually, he drove a truck and jammed a tank into a little narrow road with a three tonner and they captured the tank, they captured the Kiwis were who were there too and the Aussies all fightin’ together. They took out the German artillery guns, like big guns, and they got the

06:08:00:00

order then to surrender and then it was put to ‘em what they wanted to do by an English brigadier. He said, “Well, I gotta think of the men who are wounded and sick.” He said, “So think about it.” He said, “It’s an honourable surrender. They’re not askin’ you to do anything that I wouldn’t do, if I was in the same place as him.”

06:08:30:00

So they surrendered and accordin’ to Frank they piled their arms, “and the German band played and took our arms off us and then set us to work buryin’ all their dead.”
I wonder either when you were on the Hero or the Dilwarra, I just wonder did you and your mates would you have preferred to stay and just fight ‘til the end?
Well the fact that only half of us got we was like,

06:09:00:00

“We should have been with ‘em.” I know it sounds silly. But it isn’t. At that stage we was up to, like you’d got into like family groups. Like even though you were no relationship biologically, it was a family group. Like Jim Smith, fifteen years older than me. He was a

06:09:30:00

man prone to making, he was a Reader’s Digest addict. Quotes out of it. “You live in an era aura,” no, “you live in an aura an aura of mental somnambulance.” I said, “What the hell’s that?” He says, “You’re in a vacuum and when you go don’t give a damn what’s goin’ on around ya.” “Oh, I’ll have to remember that word,” I said. I never forgot it, but

06:10:00:00

he was a good old fella. Bit always like you when even today when one of ‘em dies, there’s only four A troopers left and when one of ‘em dies you think “Oh.” Old Ted Booth died the other week and we used to get on Christmas time when cricket was on. He hated this bloke and he

06:10:30:00

hated and I’d stir him. “Oh, I think he’s good,” and like Ponting, he can’t stand Ponting. I’d say “I think he’s a man with a lotta talent.” “Oh he might hit a ball sometimes.” Well, Ponting went through a bad trot a couple of years ago. Oh, didn’t Ted give him hell, and he just died like that, one night.
Well, I wonder you’d had a really successful campaign in North

06:11:00:00

Africa and then to go to Greece where it was a defeat –
Defeat?
What –
We never saw it as a defeat, because we counted up the costs. They lost it far more than we did and over the years, when General Goring, a leader of Hitler’s tank forces. He was a very good general and he

06:11:30:00

was the only one that used to stand up to Hitler and he resigned at one stage. “Oh, he could run the war. You run it on your own,” and he resigned. He said, “Greece cost us the war.” He said, “While you’re chasin’ around in Greece because you’ve made a statement that no British soldier would ever land in Europe,” and Churchill was just as bad. Over the night on the news, ‘cause we could pick up the news on our army sets,

06:12:00:00

Churchill’d be literally pleadin’ with Hitler to use gas because we had a better gas than them. We had one called DA. We had all the gear like you see the moon men wearin’, hoods and things. Gas capes and big pants that came up here with the boots part of the pants like well all silk

06:12:30:00

and all that sort a thing, couldn’t tear it, and camouflage. We used to sleep in that in the gas gear, coats in New Guinea ‘cause it kept that part a ya dry and warm at night. It’s very cold in the mountains and you get frozen, you see, but that’s an aside from what we’re talkin’ about but he used to say, “Use gas

06:13:00:00

and we’ll stop the war in twenty four hours. We’ll call on your surrender in twenty four hours,” and that was because all the airplanes had spray equipment to fly over and spray gas out and we never saw it in operation ‘til near the end of the war when they started sprayin’ us with DDT [pesticide] up in New Guinea and I saw it

06:13:30:00

first. I thought, “God who the hell’s this? Is that a Jap plane comin’ over us?” but and it was DDT fell down all around us. Killed all the mosquitoes in one day and all the swamp water had white powder on it and it was deadly. We didn’t know that. They got a lot to answer for you know. The stuff they give us for anti-malarial business, Atebrin, they bought it through Switzerland from IG Farben in Germany

06:14:00:00

and they left out one particular element of it. It was useless and yet all it did was turn us yellow.
Well, I wonder, you’ve mentioned the politics
With Churchill?
of the war, I just wonder as a young Australian man losing mates in Greece
Mm.
What sense did you have that I mean maybe, “What am I doing here?” You know, “What’s this got to do with me?”
Well, I remember

06:14:30:00

a discussion with a German prisoner, there were about four of ‘em, German prisoners at the time and we were maintain one was dyin’. He had a hole like that through him and but he was very cheeky. He kept sayin’, “You’ve killed a soldier of Germany,” and beautiful English and eventually one bloke came over. He said, “You’re not dead yet. If you keep that up you will be,” so, anyway he did us a favour, he died,

06:15:00:00

and the business of discussin’ they couldn’t understand why we had come nine thousand miles to fight them. I said, “You forget who started the war.” They couldn’t see that but there was none of this ‘Heil Hitler’ and business and that with ‘em. They were just ordinary German boys or young men

06:15:30:00

put their uniform on us and passed as Germans. There was more blond headed Australians than there was Germans. I never saw a real blonde German.
Well, I
So mainly black hair.
Well, I wonder if there’s an odd sensation that maybe occurs of, “Why am I here tryna kill these people who actually have – I would be in the same – ?”
You enlisted to fight the enemy and they were the enemy.

06:16:00:00

That’s the end of the story. You fight the enemy but it doesn’t stop you after you the battle of sayin’, “How ya goin’ mate? Here’s a cigarette if you haven’t got any.” They mightn’t understand your language, but they understand your body language and you’d go and I’ve never only once saw an Australian soldier doin’ the unthinkable. Psychologically

06:16:30:00

and mentally torturing a Japanese. The Jap was badly wounded and would have died. Well, he died within a few seconds later of what happened. This bloke was had a poniard. That’s a – he was an independent company. They later called ‘em commandos. He’s kneeling down beside the Jap and he’s you know the fire stick and he got the point of it on his neck and he’s goin’ like that and one of his sergeants didn’t

06:17:00:00

shout at him, or anything. He just walked over and he kicked him right up under the armpit about four feet away from the Jap. He said, “If I ever see you doin’ that I’ll kill ya just like this,” and he killed the Jap. Shot him in the head. “Now,” he said, “don’t you ever let me see you doin’ that again.” Well we were all shocked to see that a bloke could stoop so low because all of a sudden we were lookin’ at a man doin’ the unthinkable. Now that might sound funny.

06:17:30:00

You could shoot ‘em, but you didn’t carry on like that. That was the difference between us and the Japs, a big difference, but there’s no mercy while they’re shootin’ at you. That’s the way you gotta look. When they stop shootin’ and they wanna get sling it in, same as when we stop shootin’. Once or twice Nobby Clark outta the 2/4th battalion, he run

06:18:00:00

out of ammunition. So and he’s holdin’ his hand up with his Tommy gun up in the air like that and this German sergeant come up and he said, “I had one look at him,” he said, “he was frothin’ at the mouth.” He was the leader of a German platoon. He said, “Oh where’s he gonna shoot me?” and he said he swung his Mauser around and shot him in the ankle. He said, “Now you know what it’s like.” See.

06:18:30:00

He said, “and then –” ‘cause he’s a P.O.W. then but he could a killed him but he anyway that was the heat of battle you know that side. With the Bren, anything I shot I didn’t go and look at. I didn’t bother. If they stayed down they were dead and that’s that was a good shot. That’s the way it should be. I caught one bloke with his, a reinforcement in Wau, standin’ like the big white hunter with

06:19:00:00

his Tommy gun like that and his foot on a Jap who’d been dead for about a week. All bloated up, you know. His name was Broburg. I hope he hears this. Come from Victoria. “Now what in the hell are you doin’?” I said, “If there’s any glory owin’ to anybody it’s the poor beggar who killed him. Not you. Now get out of it.” It makes you want to be sick when you see people like that. That’s not

06:19:30:00

in our culture. Anyway his name was Broburg, so it speaks for itself. So anything more?
Well um yeah. Like, it’s I just find it all of this very fascinating but I will just go back just a little bit to you mentioned the visit by Menzies –
Oh
– to the to the Middle East.
When the campaign finished in the desert before we went up to our final position. Like we’d gone up

06:20:00:00

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’

06:20:30:00

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

06:21:00:00

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

06:21:30:00

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

06:22:00:00

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.”

06:22:30:00

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

06:23:00:00

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

06:23:30:00

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

06:24:00:00

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

06:24:30:00

“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

06:25:00:00

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

06:25:30:00

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?
Yeah. That was really –
Oh he’d been in touch with the –

06:26:00:00

Menzies had been in touch with the Prime Minister of England and told him, “This is only your preliminary gallop,” and somebody yelled out “Yeah well I’ve got greasy heels and my frogs are sore.” You know anything about horses? So that means you’re lame. Can’t go anymore. Just can’t do the distance anymore but he

06:26:30:00

was a supercilious sod though. You wouldn’t come up in front a blokes that had been fightin’ for six weeks, would ya? Today they say a soldier has gotta be relieved after eleven days. We used to fight for months. Well were we any different? I don’t think so.
Well I wonder by the time I mean you’d been through all that fighting in North Africa and then through Greece. How battle weary were you when you were being

06:27:00:00

evacuated?
When we got back they put the unit, we got two hundred and fifty reinforcements in one hit and new guns and the 7th Division had never been in action and somewhere along the line they decided to put the 2/1st into action. I don’t know who it was and they put the 2/11th who’d fought in Crete,

06:27:30:00

and the 2/3rd, who’d fought in Greece and Crete, ah, 2/3rd didn’t fight in Crete. They turned around and said, “Well we’ll prepare to move in four days to take part in the Syrian campaign.” We all knew it was gonna start and, I’m sorry –
You’re right.
And the doc went off his, oh, he went off his brain, you know. He got paraded

06:28:00:00

to the highest medical authority in the, “Look,” he said, “these men are battle weary. Give ‘em a break. You’ll have none of ‘em left. They’ll all be gibberin’ idiots,” which wasn’t true to that extent. We’d had a break. We’d been home for ten days. Home was Palestine, believe it or not, and they give us a ten day break without any duties or anything. Nobody did a thing.

06:28:30:00

‘Cause 2nd Battery never went to Greece and they joined us, rejoined us, and the whole thing was so stupid. They give us ten days then they brought in the two hundred and fifty reinforcements. They formed another battery in the regiment. We went back to four gun troops and the because

06:29:00:00

there was already 1st and 2nd Battery and 2nd Regiment had 3rd and 4th Battery, they couldn’t turn around and alter that. So they started off 2/1st had 51 Battery. That’s how it works, you see. 2/2nd had 52 Battery and 2/3rd Regiment had 53 Battery and so on right up through the batteries. There’s another little aside I wanna point out to you about the Cretan campaign.

06:29:30:00

I just finished readin’ a book on Alamein, or rather Rommel’s first dash down almost to in the middle of the campaign where it started at Sidi Barrani a year before and he said, this bloke in the book. He’s collated the story

06:30:00:00

very correctly. There were twenty nine field regiments in Crete, in Egypt defendin’ the frontier. He said we didn’t need all them. There wasn’t enough room to use ‘em all. Why in the hell hadn’t they sent one a them, at least one, to Crete? ‘Cause they knew what was gonna happen. They knew that the Germans would put an airborne invasion. Oh God, he

06:30:30:00

makes you think doesn’t they, know all these things. Well even old Waverley lined us, got he a very pitiful sight to see the 6th Division. Barely three thousand men left after Greece and Crete campaign. He drove up in a Bren gun carrier and they formed a division around him. He said, “I want you to accept my apologies.” He said, “We gave you, I gave you a task

06:31:00:00

far beyond the capabilities of men of four times your number.” Now that was the man who was exponent of the whole lot and he could he could come down to us but very few politicians do and the other thing was, Churchill said to Menzies,

06:31:30:00

“Blamey says it’s okay to go to Greece. Take the Australians to Greece. Do you agree?” and his words were “Well if Tom said that’s alright, I’ll have to accept it.” Tom was told that Menzies said to Churchill, “It’s okay Tom for you’re to take your troops to Greece.” He didn’t wanna. You know the first thing he did? Was see what beaches and harbours he’d evacuate his men from eventually. They

06:32:00:00

knew what was in front of ‘em but anyway like I said, you do what you’re told and if you don’t do what you’re told, you’re lettin’ your mates down and they’re the greatest criticisers of all, your mates.
Well I wonder Norrie, if you can tell me, you were in the Middle East –
Mm.
– when Japan entered the war.
That’s right. We

06:32:30:00

was up on the Turkish border.
Well can you tell me, I just wonder how you and your mates were feeling being so far from home with a new threat to Australia?
Well you probably won’t believe it, but we says, “Oh well, if they get to Australia we’ll be the free Australians just like the free French.” What the hell could you do about it, individually? You couldn’t do nothin’, but there again if we were out there we’d give ‘em hell and do you wanna go to the east now? Well we got on the

06:33:00:00

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

06:33:30:00

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

06:34:00:00

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,

06:34:30:00

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

06:35:00:00

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

06:35:30:00

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

06:36:00:00

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,

06:36:30:00

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

06:37:00:00

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.

06:37:30:00

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.

06:38:00:00

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’

06:38:30:00

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

06:39:00:00

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

06:39:30:00

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

06:40:00:00

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

06:40:30:00

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

06:41:00:00

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.”

06:41:30:00

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.

06:42:00:00

They come –
Interviewee: Norieul Jones Archive ID 0885 Tape 07

07:00:40:00

Norrie, you have been talking about your trip back to Australia after the Middle East and I was just wondering if you could briefly tell us about the signaller’s course that you did while you were in Ceylon.
In Ceylon? It was a very intensive course,

07:01:00:00

and it was run by one of our sergeants, who’d been a what do they call these, hams, but he was a light house keeper and we did a similar course to the Marconi course, which used to take eighteen months. We did it in six weeks, condensed it down, and the

07:01:30:00

study was so intense I remember looking at the blackboard one day and it just gradually shut off and I thought, “Oh god I’ve gone blind,” and then it came back. Any rate I told him that. He said, “You should a got up and walked outside,” he said. He said, “That might a been a clot goin’ over your brain.” I said, “At my age?” He says, “Well,” he said, “your head

07:02:00:00

gets hammered around a bit over the last few years.” He said, “Could be.” I never had it there after before or after, but he said he did know of other cases of people havin’ it. So it shows you there’s a lot a little things happen to you in life. Never happened again. I could never work it out, but he did that course so good that we were at my speed on alone on the Morse key,

07:02:30:00

was only about six words a minute and you gotta get up to twelve to get your group, ah trade group raised to three and sixpence extra a day and I got up to twenty-two words receiving. Everybody can send at a terrific rate, but to receive again is a different thing. Even today, I can send out Morse as if I haven’t never left the key and

07:03:00:00

I used to love getting on the short wave years ago and writin’ down the ships’ messages. Today you can’t do it. They send it out on a machine, like they did. They still send it in Morse, you know, but it comes through on onto a receiver what writes it down. Spills it out like a fax machine but and just as a little aside, I was talkin’ to a

07:03:30:00

regular army signaller not so long ago. “Oh,” he said, “we don’t use Morse anymore.” I said, “That’s a shame ‘cause,” I said, “if you’re ever fightin’ in mountainous country like New Guinea it’d be the only way you can get in and out.” “Oh no, we got satellite receivers and

07:04:00:00

transceivers.” “Yeah, I know you have,” but I said, “what happens then when you can’t see five feet in front of you in the mist?” “Oh,” he said, “it does cause us a lotta bother.” It’s funny how they wipe off somethin’ and they have to get it back in isn’t it? And they’ll have nobody other than a few knuckleheads, you know, who’ve turned around and kept up their Morse because it it’s still an international language.

07:04:30:00

Even the planes the like the jumbos won’t take a radio operator on unless he’s proficient in Morse in two languages too, French and British. So that’s somethin’ I heard not long ago. I always thought it was all scrub, but it isn’t. Well now, any more questions?
Well you’ve just were mentioning that when you got to Fremantle you were

07:05:00:00

made to feel very welcome. I’m wondering what the welcome was like when you got back to the eastern states?
Well, tell ya what. We got back on the boat and there was a ragin’ sea goin’. It took us, I can’t remember just the – but we were allowed to send a telegram that we’d arrived back in Australian waters from Fremantle

07:05:30:00

and that was from Fremantle. There was a lotta funny things happened and comin’ back. Oh, half the ship went on leave one day and half the followin’ day and I was a gangway NCO at the time and the CO was lookin’ over the side of the boat like that, watchin’ all his drunken soldiers comin’ aboard, ‘cause he was a heavy drinker, and he was my battery commander in the militia.

07:06:00:00

He actually knew my father and who’d trained him when he was a youngster and he said, “Who’s that officer comin’ up there?” I thought “Oh God, it’s Frank Petty.” One of our idiots, you know. The army crucified him in the end. Frank always thought he should a been an officer and he’d stolen a beautiful cap and trench coat, a major.

07:06:30:00

Honest, crown on his and I said, “That’s Gunner Petty.” “Oh God,” he said. He turned around, walked away and out of the side of his mouth “Bring it down to me.” That’s how he used to talk, out of the side of his mouth. I think he might have had a slight problem with his mouth, ‘cause even photographs show it and

07:07:00:00

so when Petty got on, I wheeled him over. I said, “Get around here. Give us that jacket. Give us that hat.” “That’s mine.” So I almost had to thump him to get it off him you know and say, “Now get out of sight.” So I took it down to the COs cabin. He put the cap on. Put the jacket on. He said, “It’s better than mine. Have it washed for me.” So I took it down to the ship’s baker, a little Chinaman. He did washin’

07:07:30:00

too and he cleaned it all up nice for him. Oh, so there’s not much differences between the poll-olly gunner and the receiver is there? We never ever mentioned that.
Well I’m wondering how your unit was feeling when you received the news that you were about to be posted to New Guinea?
Oh how

07:08:00:00

would you say? Couldn’t get there quick enough. See we were wise to the distances. People in Australia weren’t. Wharfies and people like that still thought Darwin was a million miles away, New Guinea was even half again as further away but it wasn’t. They heard about the Battle of the Coral Sea but they didn’t realise that if when you look where the main battle was fought it was parallel with

07:08:30:00

and only six hundred miles off virtually parallel to Cairns. That’s as close as the Japanese penetrated and they only ever hear of the American side but they don’t tell you about the squadrons of Australian bombers what flew off the Atherton Tablelands and also bombed the Japs. I had a mate in the air

07:09:00:00

force, he was in a what was it? Fairy Battle. That’s two seater dive bomber, fighter. You know like it looks like a Hurricane or a ‘til you see it’s got a big long canopy at the top and he said that, he was a ground staff man. He said his pilot,

07:09:30:00

who he’d look after one particular plane, made six sorties in two days. Well that’s not bad when you think of it’s the closest they got was six hundred miles and probably started their first sortie when they were about eight hundred mile away. That’s a sixteen hundred ah mile turn around. Anyway people were very

07:10:00:00

very strange. I had an uncle who lived in Brisbane and he said, “What do you think’d happen if the Japs get here?” I said, “I don’t think.” I said, “You ever thought of gettin’ a gun?” He was young enough. “Oh I wouldn’t fight in the First World War. Why would I fight now?” I said, “Why I ask me what’ll you do when the Japs get here?” So you I wasn’t very sympathetic to him at all. Ah

07:10:30:00

it was a mixed feelin’. Some people understood they were there was a big problem and they were in the middle of it. Others didn’t. Others didn’t want to know. Just like my daughter. She doesn’t know want to know about cancer. Can’t talk about anything about that. She just, “Oh no Dad. Don’t talk about it.” It’s silly but there are all sorts of problems that people

07:11:00:00

don’t want to see in war time, but it turns out usually, “What’ll you blokes be able to do? Nobody’s been able to beat ‘em.” Well by the time we had six days leave only after three days, three hours ah years, not quite three years away. I think it was two years and ten months and we were off to fight the Japs. There was not one man AWL [absent without leave]. Now

07:11:30:00

you think of that and you can’t say there’s anything wrong with the morale a the troops, can you? And we all got up there –
Well I’m wondering, just before you tell me what happened, you suffered a few losses in the Middle East.
Mm.
I’m wondering how you built up your unit again before –
They never stopped training. It’s continuous. Every day

07:12:00:00

you trained. The gun crews go out, they listen to lectures on new methods of fire control and it’s a highly complex business, fightin’. Even like I’ll just give you a little digress from gunners. The infantry sit there for hours listenin’ to

07:12:30:00

positional fighting where the, “This section will cover this section and that section there will cover the front of those two sections.” In other words, even at night time when there’s an alarm or anything, they can fire and know anybody’s who’s trying to get through they’re gonna get killed. They practice that in day light so they’re perfect in

07:13:00:00

night time. They practice throwin’ grenades into a kerosene tin forty feet away and that’s like to represent a Japanese hidey holes, we used to call ‘em. They had a little lid and stuff

07:13:30:00

and they’re like rats anyway and they live in the under ground. They love it. Anyway –
Well I was just going to ask you what did you know or expect from the Japanese before you went to New Guinea?
Expect to beat ‘em. Couldn’t you couldn’t say the morale was so high that the others had done a good job holdin’ ‘em up ‘til we got here. I don’t want

07:14:00:00

to sound stupid when I say this but we were considered the elite brigade of the AIF. We’re Blamey’s first brigade of his first division, which is the 6th Division, and we were trained in that manner that I think we had more latitude to use our individuality than other brigades. The 17th were much

07:14:30:00

the same as us. You could talk back to your officers. I didn’t give a damn who the officer, if I brought a line in and he was not positioned where it should be. I knew my job. It he’s got to be where I told him, not where he wants his line for comfort or somethin’ like that, and I’d just say, “Do you want me to tell the CO about this ‘cause if you’d like to take it up with him, I’ll go along with you and willingly submit to your version

07:15:00:00

of how I’ve spoken to ya.” I know what he’ll say and they didn’t like that. You see it’s a certain, I dunno it’s a certain type of culture what grew in those both world wars. Your citizen soldiers were here because we enlisted for the war and twelve months after, “but you won’t keep me a minute after.”

07:15:30:00

He’d get out and, “I’ll do me job the best as I can,” and that’s how it was. It was a difference the regular army today I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ‘em. I don’t like the way the SAS [Special Air Service – elite troops] is used as a bogey man on the other units. It’s a private army that the Prime Minister of Australia is too fond a usin’. It’s not integrated into the

07:16:00:00

regular forces, even though it’s a regular force. It’s a private army and it gets two hundred dollars a day when it’s in action. That’s the lowest paid member, an ordinary private. The regular army boys are the 3rd and all those, the 4th, and they don’t get them wages. They’re on a set wage

07:16:30:00

the same as what we were. Now that’s a private army, in my way of thinking. Private armies were a curse in the Middle East. Popsie had one, he was a Pole. Keys had one and he was hidin’ under the – he got killed. Went out to kill Rommel. Rommel wasn’t even at the place he went to. So he got killed and they give him a VC [Victoria Cross] because his dad got one in the First World War.

07:17:00:00

Those are the sort of private army men. The desert patrol then the long range desert. These were crack pot officers like Wingate, who had a bit a political pull or religious pull, believe it or not, and were allowed to form these armies which don’t they only use a few highly trained men and get a lot of well trained men killed.
Well I’m wondering if you can just tell me

07:17:30:00

what your first task was when you got to Port Moresby?
Well the first task was the first off the boat. I dunno why, but I was, and I got a Bren, I always had a Bren if I could keep it, stuck across me back and I’m walkin’ down and I walked past two Australian soldiers. They were bare footed, had a pair a shorts on and a tin hat each

07:18:00:00

and as I approached ‘em, one of ‘em snarled at me “If you blokes weren’t comin’ up here, we’d be goin’ home.” That’s exactly what he said and I didn’t say anything. I just looked at him and walked past ‘em and I heard a bit of a yell further down the line. Looked over and there’s two blokes in the water minus tin hats. Anyway then there was a further down there was a T wharf like that,

07:18:30:00

quite a long one, and the boat was tied up there and I walked down the end and there’s a brigadier standin’ there and it’s Holy Joe, and the moment he saw me he said, “Jones, it’s a pleasure to see ya. Now I know my regiment’s here.” We was his regiment again. He didn’t own it, but he always claimed, he had us flown into action. He said we could do it, we’ll do it

07:19:00:00

and he was a very well liked man in the unit. He was a First World War man. He got his DSO [Distinguished Service Order] in the First World War and he got another one in the Second World War and he had an MC [Military Cross] and a DSO in the First World War. When he got his second DSO, he walked around before he left Wau, “Do you wanna hold it? Do you wanna wear it because you earned it and I didn’t, but somebody’s gotta

07:19:30:00

carry it, so unfortunately it’s me.” That’s the sort a bloke he was and when one of his officers did a very good job, Lieutenant Vickery he was, Norm Vickery. He ended up a judge in Melbourne. Norm was a terrific bloke and he spent four or five days behind the Italian lines mappin’ out all their defences and

07:20:00:00

within twenty yards of the layin’ in a hole with an old ground sheet over him with two other blokes within twenty yards of an Italian position. Monitoring what they were talking about, ‘cause one of ‘em spoke Italian and writin’ it and then come out and he and Holy Joe said, “That’s worth a Military Cross if ever there was one. Here, wear mine, son.” That’s true.
Well I understand

07:20:30:00

that you had to lay fortress lines?
In New Guinea? At the first they couldn’t get the guns into action. They were practisin’ pullin’ ‘em to pieces so there’s a pretty big fortress area there so we laid all these lines all ‘round Bootless Bay where, which obviously would be a an area for barges to come in and out flank

07:21:00:00

the main defences, and a course the guns were set in position to stop that if it happened. So we had to lay lines you’re a stream a lines like that all to the one place. Then you ladder ‘em across. Join each one. In other words backwards and forwards like that. So each line joined to the other one and it’s about, oh

07:21:30:00

well, almost an impossibility to knock ‘em all out. They can cut ‘em but the one over here is gettin’ the message through what was sent on that one and that’s how it works and then they decided they’d send us over a track with the advance. The 16th Brigade were the brigade what started the counter attack and “We’ll fly the guns into Myola.” That’s a lake, an old dried lake bed a crater lakes.

07:22:00:00

They can land aeroplanes there. There’s been several cases where they flew out, but then one plane got stuck in the mud and that was the end of it but we didn’t know about it ‘cause we were half way up the track then with wire ‘round a mile of wire weighed sixty pound and we’ve got sixty pound of wire in a bandolier slung over our necks with five days’ rations, a hundred and fifty rounds of ammunition, two hand grenades,

07:22:30:00

any personal gear. Anyway by the time we got to Myola we’d used up most of our wire handin’ it out the infantry because they you don’t have time to go and pick your lines up. You just haven’t got the chances of doin’ it and then we decided we’d go along with the infantry and then we got a call to, we come back. We won’t be needed anymore at Myola

07:23:00:00

and that’s just like that. Well I was gonna stay. One of me mates decided he’d stay, but I was an NCO and I was ordered back. I couldn’t turn around and say, “Look. I told ya to go back” and he later got killed. So unfortunate wasn’t it, but if he had obeyed orders to come back he’d a been alive possibly, I don’t know, but then I got back there. We decided

07:23:30:00

we’d have a jungle brew. We made up some jungle juice. We found an old barrel. Now at that time we were gettin’, makin’ it in a barrel, we got orders in to fly the guns to Popondetta and I went over the day before and we were layin’ lines down as far as Buna. That’s fifteen mile away.

07:24:00:00

It’s all done by hand you know and you’re carryin’ the wire. There’s no trucks get along there and then we come back and laid ‘em down towards to Soputa Track, which goes out to Sanananda. So we were covered fifteen miles wide doesn’t mean that’s the distance, that’s the way you had to go, and the Yanks were there at Buna and they’d been there

07:24:30:00

about four days. They hadn’t moved off the beach and then when they did, they were two and a half months they went about a thousand yards and then the 18th Brigade had cleaned the Japs up while we were at sea, they were finishin’ off the Japs at Milne Bay. That’s the first time the Japs had been defeated and then we went in to they came up they went to Goodenough Island and they brought

07:25:00:00

‘em over to Buna and they took in one day what the Yanks were supposed to have taken two months before and they lost a lotta men, but they did the job and they did more fightin’ down there than most of the units. 16th brigade had to go out. There was about two hundred left outta the four brigades on their feet. It was only a few weeks ago

07:25:30:00

I read a little piece and a bloke said in one of the militia battalions, “Anyway they could of course, they can fight those blokes,” he said, “look at the weapons they got. Everyone’s got a Tommy gun and a rifle.” Well the order was, “No automatic weapon ever goes out the line.” If a man’s hit, you pick up his Owen or Tommy and, or his Bren, and if you don’t pick

07:26:00:00

it up, you’re usually ordered “You go on, pick that up. You’re big enough.” See.
Well I’m wondering after having been in the Middle East, which was a desert warfare or theatre of war, then going to the jungle, how did you deal with the change in conditions?
Well, we did do jungle trainin’ for five months, and very intensive jungle training, and another

07:26:30:00

thing, by that time we were very highly professional soldiers, regular soldiers. The Yanks used to call us ‘the Australian regulars’, but that doesn’t mean a thing really, but the point is, we were proud of our ability. We had and our skills with our weapons and we knew that we could rely on everybody. There’s no man at the front line

07:27:00:00

whether he be an artilleryman, an engineer or a pioneer or straight down the barrel infantryman he was there because he could be relied upon. They picked the rotten apples out quick. They don’t make a big song of it. They just, “We’ve got a job for you further down,” and further down means keep goin’ ‘til they find somewhere where you

07:27:30:00

you can be useful. There’s always somethin’ attached to your name. It doesn’t matter how bad a soldier is, whether he’s in a camp or he’s goin’ AWL, but everybody wants him back when he’s like, we had, you heard me use a man’s name, Pickering, and he was a shocker, but he was one of the best soldiers I ever knew. Always calm,

07:28:00:00

cool, collected but they with all the problems he had against him from very early days in Palestine. When they got him to Wau, he was with me quite a bit and he was a very brave man if you could say, and yet he was

07:28:30:00

a fool. They sent him down to a course officers’ training course and he passed a hundred per cent and we’re comin’ home to go home on leave ,after what? I come home in September, almost twelve months, and we got off a train at went to Exhibition Park, which is in Brisbane,

07:29:00:00

which is a leave and transfer depot. They feed ya and clothe ya up for about two days and send you home with a leave pass, and Frank was there when we got there and he homed in on me. “What are ya doin’?” I said, “Goin’ home on leave.” He said, “Look at this.” He shows me his movement orders. “Be put on the first possible boat to go to Port Moresby. Return to unit.” I said, “Well your unit’ll be all here in the next

07:29:30:00

day. Go and have a chat with the movement officer. He’ll know who’s comin’ down.” “Oh no I’ll go down with you.” So he went adrift again. Eventually they caught up with him, and beat hell out of him. His daughter lives in Dee Why and she was there the night the provos broke in the house and they literally cut him to pieces and he spent about

07:30:00:00

nine months in the brig [military prison] and then he was discharged, and yet he was a good soldier and he had that behind him. They would a made him a lieutenant. See you can’t work some bloke’s mentality. He’s the one who thought he should a been an officer and walked towards the ship with a stolen officer’s trench coat and cap. So that was poor old Frank, but you did, he’s dead now

07:30:30:00

so it wouldn’t hurt I suppose if his name ever come up.
Well I’m just wondering, you mentioned that you were laying lines out to Buna and then Sanananda. How did you deal with the muddy conditions?
Well some places you had to almost swim and sometimes you could crawl in it and sometimes you walked in it up to your knees and then sometimes where they had a bit of corduroy road you might get a

07:31:00:00

jeep’d pick up some a your stuff and take it up to the next wet spot. As one of the Yanks made a very good statement there, and I never forget it. “Buna is the only place you can be drowning and get sand in your eyes.” In other words, they used to put the corduroy road down and then get the coral sand and put it in and it’d dry in a matter a days, but when a corduroy road was only

07:31:30:00

a jeep width. So if a jeep was comin’ down everybody, officers included, had to jump in the swamp and you was up to there in the swamp and as you went past you got the sand in your eyes and that was a pretty true statement but they used to come out with some good, but they weren’t bad blokes. It was just that they were badly led. Tom Turley of the 2/12th

07:32:00:00

Battalion, he was a very close friend of mine was a runner and he was sent down to they were attached to a company of Americans and he was sent down from his company by his company commander, an Australian, to the company commander of the Americans, which was about a mile and a half in the rear and Tom handed

07:32:30:00

him the message. I don’t know what was in the message, ‘cause he didn’t open it while I was there and he said, “I got a great admirer admiration for you Aussies,” he said, “put a haversack on your back and give you a gun and away you go,” and Tom said, “Have ya?” He said, “Well you won’t do it from back here with your blokes.” “Oh,” he said, “I was educated in warfare at for

07:33:00:00

seven years at West Point.” He said, “It cost ‘em two hundred and twenty thousand dollars to train me. So we delegate our work to our top sergeants.” Well by the end of the time the 32nd Division was there, they were workin’ on our bases, platoon sergeants and company commanders up front with their soldiers. You see that’s they got a wrong idea. I’ll guarantee you in the

07:33:30:00

Iraq today the blokes who are in charge of those fellas ferretin’ out the Iraqi people now are top sergeants, which is a sergeant major. He’s in charge of most of the men with the odd lieutenant thrown in because he don’t have the same classification, didn’t go to the same schools or colleges and they got a terrific caste system. Worse than the

07:34:00:00

Poms. There’s no caste system below a warrant officer in the British Army, but above, in our war, the top caste was rapidly losin’ its –
Well I’m just wondering, going back to your own personal story and what you were doing, I understand you got an injury to your knee. Can you tell me how that happened?
Yeah. I was crawlin’ in the mud.

07:34:30:00

Very close to the Japs at the time around Soputa area and there’d been a lotta fightin’ ‘round there. I don’t know what it was. I felt a very sharp pain in me knee and we were just covered in mud and we were stinkin’ and dirty you know and about two days later I was havin’ trouble movin’ me knee and

07:35:00:00

so I took me trousers down and, “Oh God” me leg was like that. So I called out to one of our OPOs, observation post officers. “Christ,” he said, “you’re gonna lose that.” I said, “Oh no I don’t think so.” He said, “Well, you get out of here.” Anyway, I got down to the regimental aid post and they sent me down into a casualty clearance station and I actually was

07:35:30:00

carried out on a by a couple of natives on a stretcher and I was sittin’ there. By then I’d cut the trousers off and pulled the leg off and just sittin’ there like a pair a shorts, see, both sides, and the doctor came over and he said, “I’m afraid I’m gonna have to take that off.” I said, “No” I said, “I’m not gonna lose my leg.”

07:36:00:00

“Well,” he said, “there’s only one thing you can try,” he said, “and that’s the penicillin. We’ve just started usin’ it.” So he went and gave he said, “I don’t know whether you’ll be allergic to it,” see and I said, “Well whatever you want to do you do, but I’m not losin’ me leg.” Anyway he put needles in all around it and then he hit me one under here where there’s a gland, and I dunno

07:36:30:00

why, what it does or anything but I was put on a plane that afternoon to Port Moresby and I was taken to the 2/9th AGH [Australian General Hospital] and I had a lovely good shower and the sister had a look at me leg and just shook her head, you know, and I went to sleep in the mornin’ I’d slept ‘til the mornin’ with no pain. I don’t know what else they

07:37:00:00

gave me to swallow but and I looked at me leg in the mornin’ and “I think it’s gone down.” Anyway the doc come in. He said, “Oh,” he said, “your leg’s gone down.” In three days I was returned to me unit for RAP [regimental aid post] attention only. You know that I could a lost me leg over that. That’s I don’t know what I caught it on and the cut was only like a puncture about that deep. I can’t even find a scar to it now. It’s funny,

07:37:30:00

isn’t it? They all disappear. There I think it is. That’s a piece of blue metal off a road where a shell burst and I went up and of course it’s comes up with a real lump you know, all blue. “Oh you beaut. I’ll get back to Cairo over that,” and I went up and seen Dr Beck. “What are you up here for?” “I gotta homer.” “Oh get

07:38:00:00

out of here. Give me the forceps.” He said “It’s rock, and you don’t get a wound stripe for that.” That’s a fact you know. They brought that order out in the Middle East. There was so many soldiers gettin’ wound stripes from rock fragments in the Abyssinian theatre, that they’d stopped givin’ ‘em wound stripes because they were pieces a rock and not shell splinters. That’s how tight they are.

07:38:30:00

Anyway, carry on, quick. Where do ya wanna fight now?
Well, I’m just wondering what your experience was of being in the hospital?
The hospital staff were very, very good in the 2/9th and you couldn’t you couldn’t fault ‘em. The longest I was in the 2/9th was durin’ the Wau

07:39:00:00

campaign and I got scrub typhus. I could a got that down in the Sanananda area or as well as from Wau. Wau had a very bad infectious this little mite. It’s a tick type thing as big as a pin head but it poisons your system. Infects your prostate glands. It affects your thyroid glands

07:39:30:00

and I often think that that needle he give me there might a been somethin’ for the gland there. He might a saw a bit a swelling but they we had no cure for it. It was only your own ability to throw it off. So that’s about all there was to that.
Well, after your knee healed –
Mm.
Where you were, then?
Back to me unit and then we were we

07:40:00:00

started off with a brew we didn’t finish, and this time we had a keg and I wrote a letter to me mother and said, “We,” Billy Nobbs was a Norfolk Islander and he was a highly educated man, he was an accountant, and Bill says, “I know how to make beer. We make all our own beer in Norfolk,” and he told me how much hops and this we’d

07:40:30:00

need and well strange thing, I sent a letter home to Mum and I got it back within fourteen days. By that time we’d scoured out the keg as best as we could and we had, you know the old Minor fruit bottles, juice bottles. We had dozens a them. We put the brewed the beer in and in them and in tins and then put it into there. We had dry wine, made with a tablespoon full of

07:41:00:00

raisins and teaspoon full of sugar. Punch a hole in the top and they rise up and down like that for after four days they stop risin’. Then you drink it. It was terrible dry though, but the beer was good. We got standby to go to Wau and then, “No, it’ll be tomorrow mornin’.” “No it won’t be tomorrow mornin’. The beer’s got two more days to go.”

07:41:30:00

“It’ll be tomorrow mornin’.” So we had to break her open two days ahead of a time and oh, it was beaut. It was nice and frothy. Tasted like beer. It had a good kick in it and the troop commander come runnin’ down. “Oh you rotten sods,” he said, “is there any left?” He says, “Oh you can drain the keg,” and he got an old skito, mosquito nets we all had and to sleep under and –
Interviewee: Norieul Jones Archive ID 0885 Tape 08

08:00:33:00

Well, when I said we were great mates, you don’t I didn’t see much of Mick but he is a gun position man.
Mm.
See, it’s a very strange life. You either work all the time with the guns or you’re virtually an infantryman. Now as a signaller with the infantry, you right?
Yeah.
You are with many battalions. Like for instance

08:01:00:00

Ted Ewart, he’s just died, he was our, he started off as a gunner in our troop and ended up a captain and a troop commander. So the full circle and he was an officer in the last Aitape to Wewak campaign and I was his observation post signaller, you know, with him all the time.
Can I just stop you for a minute, Norrie. I’d love

08:01:30:00

to, I want to talk to you about the Aitape Wewak, but just before I want to talk to you about Aitape and Wewak but just before that, can you tell me the work you were doing as a signaller at Wau?
At Wau?
Yes.
Oh yeah. Oh, you want to go onto the Wau campaign? Righto. We landed at Wau at 9am. This is the third or fourth day, I’m not too sure, that we were expected to be there.

08:02:00:00

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

08:02:30:00

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

08:03:00:00

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

08:03:30:00

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

08:04:00:00

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

08:04:30:00

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

08:05:00:00

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

08:05:30:00

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

08:06:00:00

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

08:06:30:00

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

08:07:00:00

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

08:07:30:00

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

08:08:00:00

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.

08:08:30:00

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

08:09:00:00

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

08:09:30:00

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?”

08:10:00:00

“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

08:10:30:00

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

08:11:00:00

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

08:11:30:00

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,

08:12:00:00

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.

08:12:30:00

“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

08:13:00:00

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

08:13:30:00

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

08:14:00:00

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,”

08:14:30:00

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

08:15:00:00

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

08:15:30:00

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.”

08:16:00:00

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

08:16:30:00

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

08:17:00:00

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

08:17:30:00

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.
Can I just stop you for one second?
Yeah, the Japanese guy sprung out and ran?
He – yeah, he ran, oh yeah. Anyway nobody fired at him or anything and then once he got the registration right

08:18:00:00

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

08:18:30:00

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

08:19:00:00

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

08:19:30:00

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

08:20:00:00

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

08:20:30:00

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

08:21:00:00

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

08:21:30:00

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

08:22:00:00

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,

08:22:30:00

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,

08:23:00:00

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

08:23:30:00

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

08:24:00:00

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,”

08:24:30:00

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

08:25:00:00

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

08:25:30:00

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

08:26:00:00

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

08:26:30:00

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,

08:27:00:00

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

08:27:30:00

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

08:28:00:00

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,

08:28:30:00

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

08:29:00:00

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

08:29:30:00

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

08:30:00:00

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

08:30:30:00

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,

08:31:00:00

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

08:31:30:00

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

08:32:00:00

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

08:32:30:00

but there was a lot of hectic things happened up there. I can tell ya some funny stories there, I’ll tell ya.
I wondered just something that you’ve mentioned about that battle was that I mean you’d gone from being a gunner in North Africa to now –
Yep.
– being someone without a weapon.
Well no, I’ve got a weapon, but you’ve got see you’re carryin’ so much other loads, you’ve people say, “Well why didn’t he carry two guns?”

08:33:00:00

Well he’s gotta be ready to fight to defend ya and oh, had revolvers but you throw them away as quick as ya can because we either stick ‘em in our belt and then the damn thing’s liable to get caught in a bit a grass or somethin’ and cock itself and ‘bang’. It doesn’t go on a full cock. Just springs back and ‘bang’ you shoot yourself in the hip or the leg. Then you’ve got another thing, you wear the

08:33:30:00

holster and we used to wear those holsters with a strap down here and it’s gotta be tied to your leg. Well righto, you tie somethin’ to your leg tight, which has gotta be tight, for two or three hours up in that climate you’ve got problems. You get cramps and all sorts a thing. You get ‘em easy enough as it is and if you’re only just walkin’ two pound hittin’ your leg like that. It’s an extra two pound you don’t want. I’d rather carry another grenade

08:34:00:00

because it’s worth four or five men if you put it in the right place. That’s the way you gotta look at it. No, you carry your weapons, and lots a things, we carried ‘em every chance we had. I nearly killed Cunningham accidentally once later in a later campaign. He was kneelin’ down fixin’ a wire and I’m standin’ there guardin’ him this time and I just looked down and I haven’t got me hand on the trigger or anything.

08:34:30:00

It’s slung on a sling, an Owen gun. They were a good gun but they were a very dangerous gun and I just, “Oh it’s pointin’ right in the middle of his back,” and I just turned it like that and it went off. He said, “That was close.” I said, “You’ll never know how close that was.” He said, “Yeah?” I told him later. We had a look at the gun and a bit a grass a bit like sword you know the sword grass we have? Like on the blackboys? Well it was just

08:35:00:00

like that. Had gone up between the trigger surround and the trigger and then gradually the tension on the firin’ spring had gradually allowed it to come back like that and once it gets to that position it fires. So another incidence at Wewak, the only bloke that was killed in the attack on the actual harbour was a div sig, divisional sig guy. He had his Bren on the windscreen of the jeep. They lay

08:35:30:00

‘em down you know and the driver was drivin’ along and the gun was bouncin’ on the screen and all of a sudden it went off. Fired three rounds and it killed the driver but that’s what the Owen was like, see, it was unpredictable, but I don’t think they ever improved ‘em. That’s why they took ‘em out of service eventually. There’re quite a few things like that

08:36:00:00

that people, they’re not made public, but they were a wonderful little gun. I liked ‘em.
Well, I wonder, you’ve given me a great description of the fighting at Wau. I just wonder how your role was different in the campaigns at Aitape or Wewak?
Same. Aitape to Wewak we can go onto that. We, well we’re gettin’ close to finishin’.

08:36:30:00

Aitape I put me hand up like a fool. They wanted an extra, 2/3rd Regiment had sent all their signal NCOs to a course down in Lae and they were screamin’ for ops, they were suddenly ordered into action and they couldn’t take their men back from the course. That’d they had to be – we used to go and do these courses. Keep ya up to date in radio and all that sort a thing

08:37:00:00

and Cunningham and I did one course in Aitape and we could bring in the navy, the air force and seventy two twenty five pounders in whichever way they wanted. Either the air force first, then the navy and then the seventy two twenty five pounders outta the three regiments, ‘cause there’s twenty four to a regiment, and or

08:37:30:00

four point two mortars even. That was on the the ridge, you see. But it’s got to have a set procedure. You don’t just, “Oh righto fellas, get stuck into this,” or anything like you know, it sounds easy when you see it on the screen, but it’s not like that. It goes back to the battery board and all this there’s a lot of mathematics in it but luckily a signaller doesn’t do that. He only gives the orders

08:38:00:00

but there’s so many different little things. Now for instance we ran the signals, two NCOs. At times with all our helpers we’d have up to thirty men workin’ with us and probably eight or nine paid signallers and the others were in many respects just as good, because they’d been doin’ the job so long but it just they were usually gunners who loved to get away

08:38:30:00

from the guns for awhile. Some would never go back to the guns. Anyway, that’s how it happened. Now do you want to talk about, I got scrub typhus as I walked back from overlookin’ Nubo and I was probably in a high fever. I don’t remember much of the walk back, as I told you

08:39:00:00

before. You just got yelled into your ear all the time “Don’t take no quinine.” So you know you keep, it’s almost as if you’re talkin’ to yourself about, “Don’t take no quinine” you got me, “Don’t take no quinine,” and you’re just repeatin’ and repeatin’ and by the time I come down to into the Wau valley again I was startin’ to feel normal. When

08:39:30:00

I got down into Wau from Kaisenik I walked in and I, Tony Passi was with me at the time too, and we’re both the same and I think I might a been a bit sicker than him. Anyway he was he was layin’ down and I was walkin’ around with a mug a tea and the doctor called us by name, you know, “Jones, Passi.” “Well I’m Jones.” “Oh

08:40:00:00

lay down man, lay down.” I said, “Well that’s Passi.” “Well you’d better come up here. I don’t think you should be up on your feet again. Get up on the table,” and he was a great big bearded doctor. They were good doctors, they were, and “What’s the trouble?” He’s readin’. “Have you got this? Let’s see what your nerves are like.” He puts his hand out like that and it’s shakin’ like a leaf. I put mine out, it’s as steady as a rock

08:40:30:00

and he said, “How do you feel now?” I said, “Oh not bad.” Didn’t say what I had wrong with me and he said, “We’re gonna send you down to Moresby.” Ah, I think it was the followin’ day, I can’t remember that far back. Anyway Passi and I both went down and when we got it was a Red Cross plane too. It was American Red Cross and when we got to the Port Moresby

08:41:00:00

to Seven Mile, which is now Jackson Field, we were taken off the plane and an American doctor just gets hold of me card and he called it. “Scrub typhus,” and then I started to feel sick, because we knew the results of scrub typhus, and we got to 2/9th AGH and they stuck me in the

08:41:30:00

typhus wards and I suppose the biggest thing that upset me was there was a bloke opposite me, a fella called Mitchell. I remember him well and he had four children. He was thirty two and he was as red, ‘cause you don’t see yourself, he was as red as that. Anyway he turned around and

08:42:00:00

we were quite talkative
Interviewee: Norieul Jones Archive ID 0885 Tape 09

09:00:37:00

Ah Norrie, just to continue, the 6th Divi was the only division to be involved in a set piece attack.
Yeah.
Can you describe what a set piece attack is?
Set pieces attack is an attack is the artillery and the infantry are set tasks.

09:01:00:00

Like we’d break into Tobruk or Bardia and the only other set piece attack was at Wewak. Now how they do that, they work up time and movement and fire from their own barrage barrages. Everything is timed to go through at a certain time and

09:01:30:00

like for instance, the artillery’ll switch from point A to point B because the infantry have been given a time to get from a successful point A attack to be ready to launch one at point B and the artillery will come down, unless all otherwise ordered, right on the precise minute it’s ordered to. So therefore you could

09:02:00:00

lose men. The tanks would go in at a certain period when the infantry has cleared areas where they might be ambushed by anti-tank weapons, and that’s a big worry to the tank men, and or where the engineers or sappers, rather pioneers, haven’t cleared mines and all that sort a thing happens.

09:02:30:00

Now is there any other questions you like?
Well I’m just wondering then if you could describe the set piece attack at Wewak?
Oh, Wewak? The I tanks led it with a covering guard of infantry and they had – at Wewak – sappers who were trained to go ahead and remove any mines.

09:03:00:00

The Japs used five hundred pound bombs wired to go off like a land mine and where it where they were effective they were pretty deadly, like when they used them, and Wewak was – you had to come from Cape Moem along more or less a mangrove area with a road on the beach. Only about fifty yards wide. So therefore the sappers

09:03:30:00

would have been leadin’ the tanks with their anti-mine devices. Now that’s all gotta be planned because the tanks are gotta arrive within about a hundred yards of the main fortification when the barrage comes down and it was a pretty hefty barrage at Wewak. There was seventy two twenty five pounders and

09:04:00:00

some 4.2 mortars. Two one fifty five millimetre heavy guns and well just the usual barrage system, or fire plan they call it, which would take out any Japanese guns and it was successful. It worked

09:04:30:00

well. The tanks got up and covered the position. The bulldozers come and filled the tunnels up and the Japs are still there and they used to have a a guard sittin’ outside the tunnels and as soon as they could hear a bit a work goin’ on, picks and shovels, behind ‘em up come the bulldozers and that put another ten or fifteen tons in front of them, so they had no chance of gettin’ out of those tunnels,

09:05:00:00

but Wewak was a fairly big area and it still is. It’s a big barracks up there now for the Papuan – ah PNG [Papua New Guinean] Army. Now, any more?
Well I’m just wondering, after that big battle at and action at Wau and then you were sick and got scrub typhus
Mm.
And then
Well you go back to

09:05:30:00

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

09:06:00:00

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.

09:06:30:00

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

09:07:00:00

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.

09:07:30:00

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

09:08:00:00

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

09:08:30:00

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

09:09:00:00

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

09:09:30:00

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

09:10:00:00

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

09:10:30:00

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

09:11:00:00

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

09:11:30:00

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.
And did you ever come like face to face to a

09:12:00:00

Japanese?
Yeah. More than once too. Why, what do you want to know the reaction? You start shootin’ the moment you smell him, or think you smell him. You don’t waste your time in to think what, you just get into it and Wau we went through to Bulolo. That’s another village up high, which would take us behind the Japs

09:12:30:00

and we had to go through with the 5th Battalion, 2/5th Battalion, through a Japanese area, a line, and it was eight o’clock at night. Pitch dark and they had the blokes up front who could see reasonably better than the others in the dark and it was a very eerie feelin’. You

09:13:00:00

could hear ‘em scuttlin’ away from us in the bush and they were didn’t know what we were up to, see, and we went through that line of ‘em that quick they probably never had a chance real to get an even idea of how many of us there was. Well we got up to Bulolo and that was a terrible climb. It was nine hundred feet of slippery clay straight up like that

09:13:30:00

and you’d pass somebody gaspin’ his last out there, “They can have the so and so country. I don’t want nothin’ more to do with it,” you know, and you’d just look at him, “Oh, you’ll be right mate,” you know. About fifty yards on, lack of oxygen, you’re up high see, and your own condition you’re down on your knees and, “Oh God. I’ll never make it.” You’re carryin’ telephones,

09:14:00:00

remote control, which is like a telephone for the radio, coils of Q22 wire which fits to the radio and onto the remote control. About I suppose three a them and there’s fifty yards to a coil. That allows you to sneak out and use the phone at the end of that onto the radio. Then you’re carryin’ your weapon and you’re carryin’ ammunition.

09:14:30:00

You often wonder how much you did carry. I think that’s what they still do with the infantry today. If you’re with the infantry you’re gotta work like the infantry. You once you’re in the front line with them you take your part in the war with them and when they need you, you’re supposed to be there. You’re not allowed to get hurt. Not allowed to get killed in case they need you.

09:15:00:00

They’ll tell you that. “Don’t you get your head up too high,” but Wewak was a big Japanese base. I think there was about forty Japanese ships of all sizes sittin’ with their bottoms on the sea bed and their masts and funnels stickin’ up outta the water. All sunk. There was sign of complete destruction.

09:15:30:00

The aerodromes from Dagua and Wewak must have had over a thousand destroyed planes. The aerodrome surfaces had sixty foot wide craters and they were that deep you could dive in and not touch the bottom and there was a very desolate

09:16:00:00

area and the most stinkin’ place you ever it was foul and I was crossin’ the river, fairly wide creek actually, and I was just seein’ the a piece of cloth just stickin’ out just out of the bottom end of a jacket, uniform jacket, below the bottom pocket, and I stook and looked at it for awhile. “Will I see

09:16:30:00

what is in there?” So I give it a tug and I gradually got it out and part of a person in it and it was I cut the buttons off, I didn’t take the jacket, but RASC buttons, a British regular army – Royal Australian – ah – Royal Army Service Corps and I handed ‘em in to our intelligence officer. He said, “What do you want me to do with it?” “Well,” I

09:17:00:00

said, “I couldn’t find any identity disc. I don’t know whether he was a white man or an Indian.” “He wouldn’t be an Indian,” he said, “because it’s a royal service.” “Oh. Well it must a been a white bloke,” and the Japs had about two thousand Indians up there. By the time we got ‘em out there was only about a hundred and twenty of ‘em and not long after that the war finished and I picked up the paper one day and the plane takin’ ‘em up to the war crimes business in Rabaul crashed and killed

09:17:30:00

the lot of ‘em. I don’t think any of ‘em ever got home, but that was a shame really what the poor beggars went through. There’s so many little hidden stories of –
Well I’m just wondering whether you either came across evidence or heard stories of Japanese cannibalism?
I didn’t see any cannibalism

09:18:00:00

myself, but it was practiced on some of the dead men of the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion. They were usin’ ‘em as infantry because there was not a great need, except for defensive work, for the Vickers gun and these men had been used as infantry and a couple of their mates were shot down

09:18:30:00

in front of ‘em and they couldn’t retrieve the bodies and the Japs did and they removed portions of their rumps and shoulders and arms to and their livers. I saw in up around Crystal Creek the body of an Australian soldier hangin’ down naked, hangin’ by

09:19:00:00

his feet with signal wire and he had he’d been flayed in strips and the skin was hangin’ down over his face like a skirt. Oh they didn’t deserve any mercy. As far as I’m concerned they could have wiped the whole race out with the atom bombs. I still feel that way about ‘em. I could talk to a German, I could talk to a

09:19:30:00

an Italian. Only thing that upsets me with Germans if there’s two Germans talkin’ together. That makes me hair curl. I can feel it even now when I talk about it. That is the sense you get. I think it’s a survival sense. I never used to believe in that sort a thing but I do believe in a sixth sense now. Have done for years. Brewer could always believe that. Did I tell ya about the

09:20:00:00

the fact that he had a dream that he had to take a patrol through? He was in the 2/3rd Battalion as a lieutenant then and this has been, it’s in their regimental history. Oh, like in their archives. I don’t think it’s in their history but Frank Brewer was started off with us

09:20:30:00

and he escaped from Greece five months after he was captured. He arrived back through Turkey after Syria was captured as a shipwrecked British sailor. That’s how the Turks overcome the niceties of war. The Germans knew what they were doin’. Couldn’t have cared less I suppose. Anyway,

09:21:00:00

Frank ended up in the 2/3rd Independent Company and he served in the Wau to Salamaua campaign. He arrived in Wau four days after we did and ran into me. I was glad to see

09:21:30:00

him and he was then a platoon sergeant in the independent company. Well, they called them commandos later and he did a lotta work with them cuttin’ the road between Salamaua and Lae and then he went to the 2/3rd Battalion as an platoon officer, and

09:22:00:00

anyway, they got briefed on this attack and he went to bed to be called at three o’clock in the mornin’ to get ready for first light movement, or an hour before first light to get into position, and they already have guides out there and a signal line to follow to reach him then they lay down and

09:22:30:00

he dreamt that there was a bend in the track which had you couldn’t see from where they were and there was it was covered by a Japanese machine gun pit with four Japs in it. So when he was makin’ his last minute talk with the company commander, “Oh,” he said, “I had a dream last night,” and he told him. He said, “You fair dinkum, Frank?”

09:23:00:00

He said, “Yeah. I’m not I’m tellin’ you that that’s how I saw it.” “I” – he described it perfectly. “Well,” he said, “I’ll make a note of that and it’ll come up.” So anyway in the mornin’ he starts his little movement and he had two sergeants with him and a lance sergeant. So he said to the lance sergeant, “You come with me and one sergeant and you are now in charge of the platoon,” and the platoon was eighteen men at that stage and he

09:23:30:00

said, and this is very true, he said, “I we’re gonna crawl up to the back of this position where I think it is,” and went off the track and veered around and then he came up and about fifty feet back in the trees the Japs were sittin’ on the side of the pit havin’ a smoke.

09:24:00:00

So he said, “Well we’ve gotta get close enough so that the grenades won’t hit the trees,” and they let go two grenades each and they killed the Japs and he’d told the sergeant, “When you hear the grenades go off two hundred yards or more back, you come in unless you hear firin’ don’t come,” “Don’t come if you hear firin’,” rather. “You run like hell to get up to us,” and he did

09:24:30:00

and they got the four Japs and they got there just before the Jap reinforcements got there. Turned the Jap gun on the Jap machine gun on the Japs and carried on with their patrol. So there is a sixth sense.
Well I’m wondering then, Norrie, you’ve seen you saw so many action moments both in the Middle East and New Guinea –
Yeah.
– but particularly in New Guinea by the sounds of it. I’m

09:25:00:00

wondering what kept you going, or what got you through, do you think?
I think like Jim Smith, I lived in an aura of mental somnambulance, but I don’t you worry about it, I got meself into some very strange pickles. I had to cross a river at one stage and I had old Jimmy with me. He used to love to

09:25:30:00

get away from the guns, see, and he was a good man. He was a very safe man. He was just too young for the First World War. He was fifteen when it finished and he all his brothers went and they were all officers, see, but Jim didn’t have that which you they made him the number one on a gun and because his gun layer made a boo boo and they dropped one short, Jim resigned his two stripes

09:26:00:00

and he was to be get his third one. “No,” he said, “I’m not gonna be responsible for other men’s lives.” I said, “Some men, Jim, are born to lead and others are born to follow and it hurts me to tell you, you are born to follow,” and he never let me forget that but he said, “You was right.” “Well,” I said, “I didn’t like sayin’ it but you,” I was his best man and he was to get married when

09:26:30:00

we got back to Australia after the campaign in Wau and he would a needed every penny he got. He wouldn’t he was finally made B class, unfit for further active service. Taken out of our regiment. Sent back to Aitape to keep the ammunition cool. B class would a got him a pension straight away when he got discharged. You know what he said when I said, “How’s your pension goin’?” “I don’t have a pension,” he says. “I won’t take a pension.

09:27:00:00

There’s too many men on the gravy train.” Now when you’re up against a block head like that, there’s not much you can do.
Well I’m wondering why do you think you managed to survive?
Oh I don’t know. I didn’t pray. I didn’t do anything nice. I suppose I was as big a deviate as to save me own skin as anybody. I jumped up to me armpits in quicksand and I

09:27:30:00

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

09:28:00:00

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.

09:28:30:00

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

09:29:00:00

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

09:29:30:00

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,

09:30:00:00

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

09:30:30:00

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

09:31:00:00

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

09:31:30:00

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.

09:32:00:00

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

09:32:30:00

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.”

09:33:00:00

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

09:33:30:00

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

09:34:00:00

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

09:34:30:00

“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.”

09:35:00:00

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

09:35:30:00

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,”

09:36:00:00

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.

09:36:30:00

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,

09:37:00:00

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.

09:37:30:00

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,

09:38:00:00

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.”

09:38:30:00

‘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

09:39:00:00

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

09:39:30:00

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.

09:40:00:00

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,”

09:40:30:00

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

09:41:00:00

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.”

09:41:30:00

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

09:42:00:00

the doctor was very –
Interviewee: Norieul Jones Archive ID 0885 Tape 10

10:00:32:00

Norrie you were just about to tell me about leaving Dagua.
Yeah. So the plane came in and I was shoved on it and we flew down to Aitape and I was taken to the – I forget what AGH it was, but it was lovely, and I was showered and quinined and doped up to the nines, and ah, beautiful. Back into a bed and sheets and all you know and

10:01:00:00

I woke up in the mornin’ and went and had a shower. Walked around the tent to see who I knew and always find somebody, Mick was there, and he was discharged a couple of days ahead of me back to rear details and anyway about eleven o’clock in the mornin’ there was a fleet of ambulances

10:01:30:00

comin’ in, one after another, and there was blokes with bandages around their chests and heads and arms and geez and, is that anybody? Anybody - he’d soon let me know - anyway, what happened was that all these ambulances are comin’ in and they opened up another ward quick smart. Kicked all the blokes out of it into other smaller wards you know,

10:02:00:00

they’re all tent wards, and you wouldn’t want to know what happened. The Japs got into Dagua hospital that night and they killed the guard, ah machine gunners who were who were guardin’ the area. They cut their throats durin’ the night and got in and run through the hospital bayonetin’ everybody they could. Never fired a shot so they wouldn’t arouse

10:02:30:00

everybody in the district and then disappeared back the way they come and that’s what could have happened to me. See, when you’re in hospital, you relax. You’re, “Oh, the war’s over while I’m here.” Just an attitude you get, see. Anyway that’s what happened. That was another thing where somebody was lookin’ after me or I never had any sixth sense there either, so maybe I’m kiddin’ meself, but

10:03:00:00

there was another funny episode there. A couple a days and you once you get doped up for malaria I’m walkin’ around and I’m passin’ the officers’ section. I oh guess who’s there and he’s sufferin’. The doctor what said to me I needed glasses, and he’s “Ooooh” and he’s groanin’, goin’ on. So I walked

10:03:30:00

over and I, “You poor fella. I’ll see you get a pair a bloody glasses after this campaign.” “Oooh.” He looked at me like that and I thought, “You don’t even know. What a pity,” but I reckon he had a good dose of cerebral malaria, and that’s a killer. Is that somebody talkin’ out there is there?
Well Norrie, I was wondering if you could tell me

10:04:00:00

where you were when you heard the news that the – or how you heard the news that the war was ending?
Oh that’s easy. Toothwaite sent me up to the front again and I had the last throw of the intuition or whatever. I got up past a place called The Blot. Don’t ask me who gave it that name but it was a lovely little spot, believe it or not. There is some nice little

10:04:30:00

spots there and there’s a little creek and I’m sittin’ with me backside in one pool with me leg feet in the other. I’m relaxin’. I rolled meself a cigarette, ‘cause I smoked those days, and I was just about to light it and the old hairs started crawlin’ up on the I jumped up and I spun around. Spat the cigarette out. Looked around all the trees and

10:05:00:00

let whoever was watching me that I was ready to fight, that’s the feelin’, and I very warily walked along and about ten minutes along the track get close to where I was goin’. I was goin’ to a village called Nunguma and that’s as far as we went during the war in that particular line a

10:05:30:00

drive and there was a dead Aussie there and a course all the four figure numbers calculate on the on the law of averages you know. It’s gotta get you sooner or later and he’s got his one meat ticket’s hanging on his trigger guard of his rifle and the bayonet’s jammed

10:06:00:00

in and the hat and they put the his ground sheet over him, see. So looked at it. I can’t remember his number. It was a four figure number. “Oooh jeez, gettin’ close now.” Anyway the next thing, I get to the to where I’m goin’ and they say,

10:06:30:00

“Where’s the batteries?” I said, “What batteries?” “Didn’t you get told to bring two six volt batteries up?” Well they were forty five pound each. I said, “No.” Anyway I wouldn’t, “Oh,” he said, “they got forty five pound batteries. You’re supposed to have a carrier patrol with you,” like a native soldier and a couple a carriers, and I said, “Well they never told me.” Well I had

10:07:00:00

to go back and get ‘em. Yeah, I had to go through the maintenance section was back past the creek I sat in. Guess what was layin’ in the creek head down? Aussie. Dead. Bullet behind the ear. Pulled him outta the water and it come out under his eye. So he’d been shot from up higher. So that was definitely intuition, ‘cause I never smoked that smoke and I never

10:07:30:00

stayed there long enough. Now you gotta remember when a Jap sees that you got a machine gun, he’s gotta get you with that first shot and that poor beggar had a rifle. You had a machine gun, you can immediately outclass him with fire power. Sub machine gun. I had sixty rounds in that. Thirty on one magazine and you tie the other one to it upside down with a bit a signal tape. So when you finished

10:08:00:00

one you just go like that and jam the other in and you got another thirty. So he was faced with that. Then the next two days was pretty quiet and then they had a bit of reconnaissance. They were gonna put a platoon patrol out and the OPR [Reconnaissance Officer] and I gotta go with them and I’m wearin’ a AWA [Amalgamated Wireless Australasia]

10:08:30:00

pack set, pack roller set. They weren’t much good but while ever you can see each other they work but when you can’t see each other, they stop, and usually what we used to do was put a bullet through ‘em and say, “Oh unfortunate, it’s destroyed by enemy fire,” and then you don’t have to worry about carryin’ the damn thing and

10:09:00:00

anyway this particular time we were told we were goin’ out to be reconnoitred properly. It was an old plantation with a lot of drainage drifts and I got about thirty yards out and the Japs opened up on us and I took a mad dive in behind a rotten old tree. It was

10:09:30:00

about that high and I got the antenna stickin’ up and as I’m crawlin’ along the tree tryin’ to get me knife out to dig a hole. I used to carry a bowie knife about that long down in me like Tarzan fashion and I was and he was carvin’ that rotten stump down and I ended up cuttin’ the straps off and leavin’ it up that way and then I turned around and crawled back the other

10:10:00:00

way. Started diggin’. Well they had us down for about eight hours. It was just on evenin’ and held us and sergeant put his head up about fifty feet behind us and said, “Righto you blokes, you can come out now. They’re all gone.” We had heard a bit a fire and out in the flanks and somebody called out, some of the other blokes called out – this is two days before the end a the war – he said,

10:10:30:00

somebody called out and said, “You walk up here and show us how safe it is.” He said, “Not on your bloody life.” So we stay here ‘til they walked back from the patrol and went in with them. They walked back through us, but there was one bloke killed and eleven wounded in that out of the eighteen men. So it just shows you again. You gotta be thinking quick, but at that time I was very mad about Toothwaite

10:11:00:00

sendin’ me up there and I was gonna haunt him if I got killed and I never had to haunt him, but you wanted to know how the war ended?
Just how you heard the news.
Well, two days after that incident about three o’clock in the afternoon Mick Gilligan, one of the sigs down the guns, he said, “Puddin’,” he said, “we’re – there’s a rumour getting around here,”

10:11:30:00

he said, “that the war’s over. Don’t let on I told you, but there’ll be officers’ call at eight o’clock tonight.” That means each signaller will call up his own officer. Now the officer can’t take the earphone off your head at any time other than that he’s ordered you by right. I’m sittin’ here with the earphone and he comes on and I

10:12:00:00

the order was more or less somethin’ like this. “You stay in your position ‘til further orders. You will shoot to kill any approach of any Japanese. The Japanese’ll be warned the Emperor’s surrendered Japan to the Allies. Negotiations will take part –

10:12:30:00

from direct from Japan to the Japanese headquarters.” Well at stage there was thirty-five thousand Japs surrounded virtually by about six thousand 6 Division but they didn’t have a hope in hell. We had too much fire power. So that was the end of that matter.

10:13:00:00

Well I wonder at your reaction and the reaction of your mates who’d been in the war for six years?
Well, there was only fifty left, exactly fifty left in the regiment had gone away in 300 had enlisted in ‘39. They weren’t all killed or wounded or anything like that. Actually, we were a very lucky unit for the amount of time we were in action and we were very

10:13:30:00

well applauded for our efforts. Like for instance the Brigadier Galleghan and Colonel Grinn at Wau, they said straight out, “Without those two guns we could never a done it,” because that that was the icin’ on the cream for the Japs, on the cake rather for the Japs, that last nine hundred comin’ in would have overrun the

10:14:00:00

what we had already in the valley. See, half our blokes were out of the valley. They were up in other positions. Up around Black Cat Track and all that. They would have had to come in, and I doubt if they would have had no supplies of ammunition other than what they carried. So it was a very close cut, but those two guns slaughtered ‘em, and they did slaughter ‘em, and what did we didn’t slaughter,

10:14:30:00

the Beaufighters and the infantry did, but I’ll just in one last little bit there in Wau, there were two pyramids about ten yards wide at the base and when I saw ‘em they’d shrunk down into about nine or ten feet. Well they would a been higher. The Japs laid all the bodies criss cross and built up to burn. There could a been anything up to two hundred bodies

10:15:00:00

in that alone. They put ‘em up there to burn and another little thing we used to all the scouts and the infantry they’d find get a dead Jap and they’d rat him straight away to see if he had any maps on him and they opened the wallets and there’d be all the little fingers. Go back to Japan for cremation, put in the shrines. ‘Course

10:15:30:00

our blokes’d get ‘em, just toss ‘em to four winds. So he’d never go to heaven. See you come down to the level of them in one way or the other. Unfortunately, this is how it is. I’ve even seen bloke hack a corpse’s head off give it a kick, kick in the bush, with a machete. Just went (sound effect). “He won’t get where he thinks he’s goin’.” That was the way they

10:16:00:00

used to think.
Well I wonder how do you I mean they’re pretty angry actions. I just wonder how you let that go when the war’s finished?
Oh, I don’t think people understand, dear, the humanities today. When the war finished there was less killing and murders goin’ on than there is now. The average soldier who knew how to kill, and had killed,

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he didn’t want to go ‘round creatin’ mayhem. There’s one or two cases that I can remember where blokes used that as a defence, but they hadn’t been out of Australia and they were quick smart put away in the right place but I don’t think that it’s inborn in a man to be a

10:17:00:00

psychopathic killer. There’s got to be some other source that makes him that way. When I say that, that I don’t disregard religion. I think religion’s got a lot to answer for in everything. You think back at the wars what have been caused by blind obedience to a religious business. Take the Muslim religions at the present moment. They’re outta date.

10:17:30:00

You got Turkey. Been a modern Islamic nation for donkey’s years. The Kurds are not a war-like people. They just like fightin’ the Turks, just like the Irish south likes fightin’ the north.
Well I might ask in terms of how you let go of that hatred toward the Japanese or – ?
Oh well, I didn’t have any in front a me down here. It was a long while,

10:18:00:00

believe it or not, in your time it’d be a long while before the Japs really ventured back into this place other than Canberra as you know on diplomatic missions. I went to work in New Guinea in ‘71 to ‘73 with my wife, and I was Territory Service Manager for Burns Philip, Toyota agency,

10:18:30:00

and the only Japs when they came down to visit were the young ones. Once or twice there was a couple of Japs that were around about close to my age, but as long as they weren’t in the war it didn’t worry me, but I never felt sorry to see a dead Jap. I did look down on

10:19:00:00

a lot of the Italians. I tell ya, I felt terribly sorry for them. They were some of them, Italian boys were eighteen and mama and papa had ‘em married off to their childhood sweethearts and all that sort a thing. That was devilish. They’re all their beautiful dresses and you could see they were poor people and they were there they were badly looked after. Badly

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clothed and badly fed and then you go over their officers’ quarters was like you’d reek a scent enough to make ya sick. I’m not jokin’. I’m not a bloke who likes what do they call these men’s, ah, medicine – oh not medicines. Scents. You know the I don’t even after shave. I use methylated spirits.

10:20:00:00

My son, “Oh gawd, you couldn’t do that.” I said, “What do you think the basis of that is what you’re usin’. Got a bit a scent in it, that’s all,” but then again that’s different people. I might be wrong but I don’t think we’re any different but I think we’re more personalised with our mateship. See a bloke said to me, “What’s the difference between a cobber and a mate?” “Well,” I said, “you

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kill for a cobber. You put up with a mate whatever he does. So you work it out.” It’s right though.
Well I wonder if, you’ve talked a little bit about hearing the news about the end of the war.
Mm.
But I wonder hearing the news that you were coming home?
“Well Toothwaite, I beat ya. All I gotta do is get out of here,” and the company commander of that 2/2nd Battalion B Company was a

10:21:00:00

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

10:21:30:00

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,

10:22:00:00

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,

10:22:30:00

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

10:23:00:00

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,

10:23:30:00

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.”

10:24:00:00

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

10:24:30:00

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.

10:25:00:00

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

10:25:30:00

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

10:26:00:00

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

10:26:30:00

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,

10:27:00:00

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.
Well I wonder,

10:27:30:00

you’d had a long time away and seen a lot of action.
Yeah.
Coming home, how hard was it to settle back into civilian life?
Oh, I didn’t seem to have much trouble but I went straight into business and I’ll tell you what I had, an attitude was nobody ever was gonna tell me what to do. I’d had enough a that.

10:28:00:00

I suppose you could say I wasn’t the only one that felt like that. Well, I think I was, I had a lotta friends like that. A lot of us congregated regularly for years. When I got married I started off different blokes and their wives and that. We’d all meet once a month. That went on for years ‘til death beat us.

10:28:30:00

What did you miss most about the army when you left?
Oh, I’d had enough. I mean, I just had enough of bein’ pushed around. I wasn’t I mean Wau did somethin’ to me, which when my name was on to go home when the next flight, they called it.

10:29:00:00

I could a taken it to the CO and he would have really give him a serve. He had no right. I was actually at that stage I didn’t realise it, but legally we were released from all duties because I was no longer needed by the army. That list told you that. At different times things happened to ya, that you’re so

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upset temperamentally that you don’t think of what you could a done and that was the case there. I hope I’m givin’ – gettin’ – you’re gettin’ through to what you want.
Well I wonder, given you went into the army a young man and you came out mid-twenties –
Yeah.
– how had the army changed you?
I don’t think it did.
Well how did it maybe develop you?
Probably did. I’ll tell you what

10:30:00:00

my father said to me and he was right. “If you live through it, you will understand mankind better than ever.” I don’t ever look at anybody and reprimand ‘em mentally or verbally. I just look at ‘em and think, “Oh well, if that’s the way you wanna be, that’s how you’re gonna be.” I mean that. I mean

10:30:30:00

if a man wants to take drugs unfortunately that was his decision to get on ‘em. If he wants to be an alcoholic it’s his decision to become an alcoholic and I’ve lost some good mates over alcoholism. I give up drinking because one day I woke up, my wife and two kids had gone up to Tuggerah. Susie was only that big and Linda, the

10:31:00:00

stepdaughter, was she would be about eleven. My sister had two little houses for rental at Tuggerah, at The Entrance, and they were always available for us if we needed ‘em, providin’ there was nobody in ‘em and I dunno,

10:31:30:00

I’ve lost the trend of that. What was it again?
Oh you were just saying when you gave up drinking.
Yeah, well that’s right. Well another friend a mine, he was in the 2/2nd Machine Gun Battalion, that’s the 9th Div, and he, Alec and I were both in the militia before the war, he was in the infantry, and he

10:32:00:00

run into me up the street and I said, “I thought you was up in Mungandi.” He said, “Oh I had to come down on clear up some estate business” for somebody in the family had died. I forget what it was now but anyway, we talked for awhile and I said, “Where are you stoppin’?” He said, “With Grandma,” and he said, “She’s giving it to me.” “Wanna come and stop with me for the night?” So we went up and we had a couple a drinks at the Brookie pub

10:32:30:00

and then took a couple a bottles down home, picked up some fish and chips and we sat there talkin’, just like we are now, ‘til about eleven and I put him into one of the kid’s beds, full size beds you know, and I went to bed. Next mornin’ I woke up and I was as red as anythin’. “God, I hope I’m not gettin’

10:33:00:00

a reaction on typhus,” and I could hardly breathe and seven thirty in the morning I went and pulled the doctor outta bed and I said, “There’s somethin’ wrong with me. I don’t know what it is.” So he had me on his table and he pressed me there. He said, “You been drinkin’?” I said this was two days later rather, it was Monday morning. Saturday night, the last drink I had was

10:33:30:00

we had a nip a whiskey each about eleven thirty. Went to bed and this is 1957. Peg was away with the car and the kids and I said, “What do you mean do I have, do I?” he said, “Do you have

10:34:00:00

to drink?” I said, “Not really.” He said, “I think your liver might be affected.” So he said, “If you give up drinkin’ for a while, we’ll see how it goes.” Well I gave up, liver, it took six months for my liver to settle down but it wasn’t me liver. I had a gall bladder. Nine years later, I rang him up and said, “You better get down here.

10:34:30:00

There’s somethin’ wrong with me.” “Oh” he said, “you’re havin’ a gall bladder attack.” I said, “That’s what I was havin’ nine years ago.” “Yeah,” he said, “possibly.” Anyway, I never drank since that ‘57. It was ‘66 when I –
Well, I wonder if you can tell me Norrie, you mentioned a little bit about your father’s service and I just wonder if in your mind, the 2nd

10:35:00:00

AIF lived up to the example and the reputations set by the first?
Well, he reckoned that we did better. We used to talk about it a lot. He said, “You were better educated than the blokes.” He said, “How many men did you know who could not read and write?” I said, “Only two.” In the regiment. There might a been others. Since heard there’s several who were pretty close to bein’

10:35:30:00

that way. “Well,” he said, “about every third man in my era,” in his unit, an artillery unit, which were reasonably well educated due to the mathematical part of it. My father only went to sixth class but his sixth class education was I’d say about

10:36:00:00

Year Eleven. He could do he was alright at algebra and all that. Well, some of the kids today, Year Twelve can’t do that. I don’t know how they get there.
Well, what do you think it was about you and your mates that helped carry on that proud tradition of – ?
We wanted to, I think, we wanted to prove that we were just as good.

10:36:30:00

It might sound silly to a lot a people, a game of rugby union or rugby league when you’re attackin’ the other side is very much like when you’re attackin’ the other side in a war. It’s just you get that feeling of great exultation, you, everything moves so slow. Time’s got no –

10:37:00:00

you can be engaged in an action at nine o’clock and you’ll swear blind it’s only nine thirty when it finishes and it’s about two thirty in the afternoon. You didn’t know the time. That time went that way. That’s why you must always be on your watch you see. It’s so hard to explain that, ‘cause an infantry attack

10:37:30:00

is usually done by, well I can remember one once with the 2/5th battalion. The Japs come out in a banzai [Japanese for ‘hooray!’] and one a the company sergeant majors just jumped up and said, “Come on. Let’s see who’s best,” and

10:38:00:00

that was all it was to it. They pulled outta there and we were best alright. They stopped ravin’ and screamin’ and yellin’. Got shot down like flies. What didn’t get shot got bayoneted and that was alright. “Come on, let’s see who’s best,” and then they had the old exhortation of no screamin ‘and yellin’ ‘cause on the lines you used to hear some funny things.

10:38:30:00

Like, “About six of ‘em here. What are we gonna do?” “Kill the bastards. That’s what you do.” “Oh. Okay.” Then you’ll hear a roar of gun fire and grenades. Next thing the line’s on again. “Yeah, they’re dead.” It’s as simple as that. It sounds so matter of fact when you tell it to some people who weren’t there

10:39:00:00

but you become like I said, there’s a philosophy to meet everything. A bloke gets knocked over beside ya. “Yeah. Thank Christ that wasn’t me,” and if all I ever hoped, if I was gonna get hit, I would get hit hard enough to finish me. I didn’t want to be half a person

10:39:30:00

and that’s terrible hard to see. That hurts you more than a mate bein’ killed, when you see a mate badly injured, there’s no hope for him, ‘cause you know damn well he’s gonna suffer for a darn long while before he finally gives up the ghost. You can’t kill ‘em. Look, I saw it with my wife. She just couldn’t die. It was terrible to see her. Couldn’t read and write. Couldn’t chew.

10:40:00:00

I had to feed her through a peg in her stomach. She couldn’t drink water. Everything had to be done through that tube and that is somethin’ that happens to men who are badly wounded in the stomach. There’s no way to live. I think I’d a found a way of toppin’ meself somehow. It didn’t happen that way and I’m glad.

10:40:30:00

My kids grew up. Taxation department might hear me. ‘Cause I saw that my grandsons had money in their hands. I saw the enjoyment on their faces. All my family one way or the other I helped and I think they appreciate it, and if they don’t hurry up and build me a new house, I won’t have any left.

10:41:00:00

Well I wonder now, we’re coming to the end of our session, is there anything you’d like to say to finish the day? Any final words?
I just hope we that we some day find a way a keepin’ the peace. ‘Cause there’s only one way you’ll keep the peace. By bein’ strong enough to keep the peace. I think the Americans have the right idea, but the wrong way of applyin’ it. They’re too stupid

10:41:30:00

or too proud to ask the British government for help to control Iraq. The Poms’d do it just like that. You’d kill everybody who’s got a gun on sight. That’s what’s all the trouble you see ‘em runnin’ around firin’ machine guns in the air. Well you just have somebody there to take ‘em out straight away. Don’t muck around arrestin’ ‘em.
INTERVIEW ENDS

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