and for the first 18 years of my life I lived in a home in Tulloh Street, Willoughby. I attended the Naremburn State School and left. On completing the primary education there, I then attended the Central Technical School at Ultimo up to the Leaving Certificate, to
the Intermediate Certificate. I had two sisters, one older than me and the other younger of course, and the youngest of the family was my brother. My brother died of leukaemia when he was 58, but the other two members of the family are still alive.
My early days, school days were quite happy in one sense. I wasn’t a very studious person but I still seemed to be able to get through my exams quite satisfactorily. In fact, at the end of the primary schooling, my parents were advised by the teachers to have me repeat the last year in the higher-grade class,
with the object of attending the North Sydney Boys’ High School, but I missed my – after the first term I missed my friends – and I asked to advance into the trade school with them, which did happen. One of my very close friends at the school joined the militia when he
was a couple of years older than me – and so after I turned 15, I thought I’d put my age up one year and I joined the cadets in the militia at the 7th Field Brigade at Warrane Road, Willoughby, and had quite an enjoyable time. That was in 1933. When I was 15 I left school. Money
was scarce then. My father had been employed during the Depression, but did have a period of rationing, where with one week in four idle, and no money coming in, so the money was important. So I took a job by introduction of a friend of mine in a small factory at North Sydney, but
after being there for a couple of years I realised that there was no future in that. So I shopped around and eventually I got a job as a draftsman in the city with a small engineering firm. When I was 18, my father, who was in the Maritime Services Board, was transferred to Goat Island where the fire floats that
were used for fires on the waterfront or on ships moored in the Harbour were moored, to act as fire fighting duties. He was a watch officer in the brigade and the family moved over to Goat Island, on number 3. The cottages are still standing, and as a matter of fact when they were filming the Water Rats, the TV [television] show [about water police], they used our house as one of the main
offices for the production people. That was a very pleasant interlude. We had to travel by ferry, of course, to get to the island, and some school children who were living on the island were taken ashore by launches that were provided for them to go to school, and then they were picked up in the afternoon, and then on Saturday mornings, launches were provided for
the womenfolk to go shopping at the Quay. When the situation in Europe started to decline when Hitler first started to move in the Saar and then the – where was it – the Rhine Valley, the question of a war coming seemed to be fairly
clear. I had dropped out of the militia for a while because of the travelling problems from the island, but I realised then with this likelihood of a war eventuating I rejoined, but at that time they were up to full strength and because they were due to be mechanised, they said they would only be prepared to take me on because of my engineering background.
They would accept me if I went into the field of mechanisation. I did this, and although we had no vehicles at that time, I was giving lectures and instructions to the recruits on how to maintain their vehicles and how to drive. I
wasn’t a particularly good driver myself at that stage, but I did have a good understanding of the mechanics of the vehicles. Of course, in 1938 it was quite clear that a war was to come and when war was declared
in 1939, the militia first went to a month’s camp up at west of Newcastle, in the valley, and we were given initial training there using vehicles. These were private cars and light trucks that had been hired for the purpose.
joined the AIF [Australian Imperial Forces] and was posted to the 2/1st Field Regiment, which was an artillery regiment, to the camp at Ingleburn, which was still being built when we occupied it. After the early training, it was decided to send the AIF overseas and then January we sailed for, we thought at first we were going to England,
but it turned out we went to the Middle East and initially camped in Palestine for training. When Italy entered the war, we were trained for anti-aircraft duty and stationed at Haifa in Palestine, and witnessed the first Italian air raid on the oil depot, which was about 400 yards from the building we were camped
in. We were then moved out of that for safety up into Mount Carmel, and we were stationed in a nunnery called Stella Maris, which had a magnificent view out over the water. We then were moved to Alexandria for further anti-aircraft duty there until the 6th Division was reformed
towards the end of 1940, and then in December 1940, we were moved then into the first attack of Libya, where the first campaign was at Bardia then followed by Tobruk and Benghazi, and our regiment was the only unit in the 6th Division, and went through the whole campaign without being relieved, because we had a
pretty aggressive CO [commanding officer] who wanted to be involved in all the action. In the middle of March, we were relieved by an English unit, and we went back to Alexandria and prepared to go to Greece. The headquarters and 1st Battery were shipped out in April, and it was Friday the 13th
if I remember rightly, which wasn’t a good omen, and after some, the guns and the vehicles had been sent separately on another ship and it took us a few days travelling around in a goods train to eventually link up with our vehicles. It then became a steady withdrawal from Greece, and most of our unit was
shipped out, but I was in a party engaged in salvaging our gun sites and handing them out to the troops as they boarded the destroyer, but the destroyer was fully loaded and we were left there. Eventually we escaped from Greece, got to Crete, which I’ll mention in some detail later,
and then finally we were evacuated from Crete back to Egypt and then to Palestine for further training and reforming. When Japan entered the war, the Australian Government demanded the return of the troops from the Middle East back to Australia. We were amongst the last of the 6th Division to leave, and when we reached
Colombo, Churchill wanted us to go to Burma to try and save Rangoon, but the Australian Prime Minister, Curtin, demanded that we come back to Australia, and as a compromise they decided to leave us there for a few months, because there was a Japanese invasion likelihood first on
Ceylon and then on to India. It did happen that a task force did come into the area. We were bombed by Japanese planes, but no invasion took place, luckily for us, but while we were there we did learn some elements of jungle warfare, which of course had a bearing on some of our later activities. After three
months we then returned to Australia. We were given some leave, and because we’d had this jungle training, our regiment and the 16th Brigade were given notice to go north and we went up to New Guinea, when the Japanese were about the furthest advanced over the Owen Stanley Mountains on the Kokoda Track. They were pushed back, fortunately. Our 16th
Brigade was heavily involved in all the fighting that took place. When the Japanese were pushed over the mountains, one of our batteries, 51 Battery, had been taught how to dismantle the artillery pieces, load them into aeroplanes and then unload them and reassemble them. Well, a troop was flown over the Owen Stanley mountains to makeshift
airfields there, and they were the first artillery to go into action in the Buna-Sanananda campaign. The 51st Battery was reinforced by a second battery later on, and they stayed on right through to the end of the campaign in January. We were taken back to Port Moresby. One battery went
to Wau, and then at the end of that campaign, we were finally brought back to Sydney. We were in pretty bad shape then. A lot of people were suffering from malaria and being treated for that, so we spent a few months recuperating and resting back in Australia, and then at the end of 1943, we were then ordered for embarkation to go
to New Guinea again, which resulted in us going to Aitape and then from Aitape to the Wewak campaign, which we were still involved in at the end of the war in 1945. We were shipped back home, and finally discharged from the army and went back to civilian
during my service in the army, I had become involved in a lot of technical work and I realised then that my limited knowledge of engineering that I gained at school and the few years after school was really not sufficient for me to go into a full profession. So I decided to devote a couple of years, and I went back to school
and I sat for the diploma entrance examination at the Sydney Technical College, and I’d had some private tutoring and I gained a scholarship from that to enter the diploma mechanical engineering course. That took five years of my life. I had
married in 1948, which was at the beginning of the course, and my wife was very understanding and me being away at night time on lectures and the time I had to devote to study at home, but I finally completed the course and in the daytime activity, I
was initially employed with a small engineering company. First of all, I started off in the workshop to get some practical experience, but after a year or so they asked me to go into the office and be their draftsman, which I did, and I was acting as a designing draftsman for the time I was studying for my diploma. A year or two after I completed that, the
firm I was with decided to sell up. They incidentally had made me a shareholder in the company to make sure I stayed there I guess, and there was a bit of a depression or a recession on at that time, 1953, and/or 1954, and so the firm sold up and I left there,
and finally I joined the firm of James and Kirby, who were manufacturing engineers, as a project engineer initially, and then after a few years I eventually became the assistant engineering manager, and then finally on his retirement, I then assumed the duties of engineering manager,
spent a short time as assistant general manager of one division, and then finally reverted back to engineering manager in the refrigeration section, and then I stayed in that post until my retirement at the age of 62. I then settled down
to – I did a couple of years of consulting work – and then settled down to retirement and learned how to look after the garden. Do you want any more detail than that?
valley that went through to the bay where the suspension bridge is. That was all bushland then, and my father bought a block of ground, it was a double block of ground with a two storey wooden house built on of course both blocks. He decided to partly demolish
the two storey building, and had the framework turned around on to a single block, and he sold the other block and from the money then he rebuilt the house on the single block. That was in the ‘20s, the early ‘20s. And it was almost a rural atmosphere
then. There was a dairy farm down on, just off the main road in the valley, and you’d get fresh milk from that. The block of ground next to the house we were living on, the big house, the original big house, was vacant. That was owned by my father and there was a lady up the road who had a cow, and she
used to bring the cow down onto our vacant block of ground to feed on the grass there, and for that service we got a couple of billy cans of milk, fresh milk per day. We used to go up the lane and collect the milk and bring it down. I remember one time falling over and having to go back crying to get fresh supplies, but during the school holidays, we used to play down in the bushland. There was an
agistment paddock there that had been used in earlier days. It had a big shed in it for the cattle to shelter in in the wintertime, and we used to play cops and robbers and so on and cowboys and indians down in the bushland. So it was almost a semi rural atmosphere in Willoughby in
the primary school, which was common to all. After that you’d go off into what was called a trade school and this was designed mainly for students who were likely to enter into trades. There was a commercial school. There was only one of those at Crows Nest, and then there were the high schools and the high schools were intended for the students who were more like to go on
at a higher level of education and go to university. The nearest high school was at North Sydney, North Sydney Boys’ High School. I started off there in the infants’ school. I can still remember the first day I entered the class and was quite amazed at all the other children singing out C A T cat, D O G dog, and the
infants’ school was – seemed to go through quickly – and we progressed then into the primary school where we started to get more advanced education in reading, writing and arithmetic, and at the end of the primary school, the pupils had moved on
either to a high school, and they were only a select group from one special class, or to the trade school where they learned woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing. I wasn’t a particularly good scholar you might – or when I say good scholar I didn’t work very hard at
my school work, but I still managed to keep up in the top ten of the class, and I was also one of the youngest in the class. My parents were advised that I stay on and repeat the year in the select group, with the idea of going to the North Sydney Boys’ High School, but some of the close friends I’d made had gone onto the trade school
and after the first term I was missing them so much I asked to go over, forgo the high school side, and go over to the trade school to be with my friends. I didn’t regret doing that in a way, and on completion of there I was then sent to the Central Technical
College in Ultimo, which was leading then up to the Intermediate Certificate. One of my friends at that school who was two years older than me had joined the militia and that was the 7th Field Brigade at Warrane Road at Willoughby. It was an artillery training unit and
when I turned 15, I thought I’d put my age up a year to 16 and I joined the cadets to be with him, but shortly after he left but I did stay on. At the end of the year, I left school at 15, because money was tight in those days, and
took a job as a factory hand in a small factory at North Sydney.
born in Denmark, and he came to Australia when he was about 18 years old, and he jumped ship from when he was in, the English ship he was serving on then was in Fremantle, and he and another man came on another ship which was bound for Sydney, and it put into Adelaide and while they were moored there, he woke up one
morning to find his old ship was moored alongside. So he and this other man took off. Of course, they would’ve been arrested for jumping ship. He and his companion, they took off from Adelaide and they got on the small boats going up the Murray River and they were occupied for a while on these small boats travelling up the
river, and then they decided to go overland to Sydney. They lived on the river for a few weeks, living mainly off the fish they were catching. If they had a good catch that day they used to punch a hole through the jaw of the fish, and tie him up with a piece of string and put him back in the river again to keep him fresh for a couple of days later. They walked overland and
from the Murray to Sydney it took them two years. They spent a lot of time on farms, working on farms on the way, and eventually they reached Sydney. He, as a seaman, he worked on the ferry service going from Sydney to Manly. He was acting as a
skipper then. He had sufficient experience in seamanship and navigation to do so, and finally he settled down and married and had a large family at North Sydney. Well, my father was the second eldest son from the family and he had a very hard life and my grandfather was a pretty stern sort of a person, and
my father perhaps took after him to some extent.
17 and his brother was 16, they took, my grandfather was in business by himself at this stage. He had a lighter and a small tugboat and he left them in charge of the boat, and he set up office on shore looking after the business side, and there was an unfortunate incident one day. It was a Saturday,
and my father had joined the football club at North Sydney. He was playing football with the North Sydney club and my grandfather told him he had to take the boat and go back to the depot, which was along Darling Harbour to pick up some papers and also tow one of the punts back to the anchorage at North Sydney. On his way back, he
was racing against time to get back to the football and he cut close in past a liner that had just sailed past Goat Island and suddenly he found he was heading straight for a rowing boat with a man and a boy in it. Well the punt he was towing ran over the boat, tipped the boat over and the father, the man in the boat was able to swim free, but the boy
who was washed underneath the punt, and my father ran to the end of the punt and was able to grab the boy as he emerged from the other end and get him out half drowned and quite frightened with his experience, and he settled them in and got them back and left, and of course he was frightened to tell his father about it. Well a few months later, there was a writ
issued against my father for damages, and of course when that arrived, my grandfather was so incensed that he told my father that he was no longer working for him and my father took a job and eventually he joined the Maritime Services Board and he had gained his harbourmaster’s
ticket for navigation of small river and coastal craft, and also a third engineer’s ticket as well. So he immediately got a fairly good position in the Maritime, what was the Sydney Harbour Trust then.
My mother came from a North Sydney family, and they had met during one of the organised picnics and they eventually were married in 1916 and my father, because of his position, was in a declared position as far as service. The war was raging then, but he was restricted against
enlisting, because of his position he was involved in.
for a month, 28 days training and the parade before we went to camp, they had announced that they were going to call for volunteers, and I was a bit late in arriving at that parade. I got there just in time to go on parade
and at the break, I went over and I submitted my name as a volunteer, but then on talking to some of the other fellows they said, “No, we’re going to hold back and join as a unit. I’ll keep my hands down”, and they wanted to hold back and join as a unit and I said, “Oh well, I’ve put my name down.” So, at the end of the
28 days camp, I was staying there as rear guard to help them close up the camp, I was advised that I’d been accepted for the AIF, and I was to undergo a medical examination, which was done there, and a Captain Vickery was the medical officer who examined me, and I was passed
A1 fit for service and when I then came home, I had a few days at home and then marched into Ingleburn.
they were the first group. Then the militia, the people from the militia with some training came in, and they were all melded together at Ingleburn. The civilians came from – the ex-civilians came from Holsworthy. It was fairly obvious then that some were people that were out of work and looked
on the army as a chance of three meals a day and a bed and some money to spend. There were some that were criminals. There were a few criminals, and some were very young. The youngest was 16 in my group, and some were old. The age for them was 35, and some were over 35. One man,
a gold miner from New Guinea came down – he was over 35 and he joined at the Holsworthy group and when he went in and he filled the form in, he put his correct date of birth in, but the recruiting officer said, “You’re over 35,” he said. So the man told him all the trouble he’d gone to come down from New Guinea and he said, “Well, you’re pretty keen.” He said, “Go outside and get another form and fill it
in and give some thought to it, and then come back and see me.” So he came back, and he was under 35, and he was amongst the older ones. There was one man who had served in the First World War in the infantry in our group.
we were advised on the 9th of January, we were advised that we’d be leaving the next day and we had to march with all our kit from Ingleburn camp to Narellan. No, it wasn’t Narellan, the nearest station any rate. It was about a two-mile march,
and we got on the train which took us to a railway pier at Walsh Bay and we boarded the Orford. The artillery of course, they were the senior, apart from the cavalry, they were the senior members of the army and had what they call the right of way. They were the
first and there were going to be two units on board the Orford, the 2/1st Battalion and the 2/1st Field Regiment. Well when we got to the wharf, our CO was told to form the regiment up, and the 2/1st Battalion would go on board and he said, “Oh no, the artillery have the right of
way, we go first.” Well, unbeknown to him, the first group were going to be loaded into the bowels of the boat and the last group were going into the cabins, and so being headquarters we marched in and we finished we were in the steerage section of the boat and of course thought, “Well, this is not very good quarters”. So
luckily it was realised then what the intention was, so we were taken out of there and by this time a lot of the 2/1st Battalion had claimed the best of the cabins and so instead of going up on the boat deck, we finished up down in C deck under the main deck, but it, the cabin had a porthole
and that was the best accommodation, army accommodation I had in the whole war.
atmosphere was different and of course the local people were different – appearance and custom. So we had quite an enjoyable break there. We were given the equivalent of a couple of pounds Australian in local money to spend, so we were able to buy a few little souvenirs which most of us then sent home.
Leaving Colombo of course we had an uneventful voyage, then up through of course the Indian Ocean and through the Red Sea up to Suez, and on arrival at Suez, Sir Anthony Eden came aboard to welcome us. Of course, we were the first Australian troops or first body of Australian
troops to visit the area. Of course, at that stage, it was fairly obvious that we were destined to go ashore in the Middle East and not go on to England. After the ships were marshalled in the Bitter Lakes for a day or so, and slowly went then up the canal for discharge
of troops. We went ashore at a place called Cantara [or El Qantara], which was a fairly major landing spot and when we were ashore we were given our first meal there, which the initial experience was Spinney’s sausages. These were long thin sausages reputedly made from camel meat, but of course there was very
few livestock in the area, but they tasted quite nice, and of course we had them on numerous occasions thereafter. We then boarded trains and were accommodated in carriages with wooden slat seats, which were reasonably comfortable, and then went up the coast track, railway track toward
Palestine. We went through many areas that had featured prominently with the Light Horse in the First World War, and of course also Gaza, which we passed through was a major battle, had been fought there involving the Light Horsemen.
an English unit and we saw our first time in these what we called EPIP tents; they were English pattern, Indian production tents. They were made of cotton, very finely made. They’d accommodate eight people, four on each side sleeping on the ground – or on bed boards as we were given then – and they were laid out
in orderly rows, with the headquarters buildings in wooden structure. So we were quite comfortable, but this was in early February 1940 and it was their winter there, and of course coming from the tropics and the Australian summer, it was a sudden change in the climate for us and we started to feel the cold a little
bit, particularly at night time. Once the sun went down, there were no trees there. The heat was very quickly lost from the soil and the nights were very cold. We were slowly equipped. Our guns, which we brought over from Australia, were the old 18-pounders, the World War I vintage, but the vehicles we were supplied with came
from English production. They were mostly Morris vans and tractors for hauling the guns, and we saw our first lot of motorcycles. I was given a motorcycle to ride. I’d never ridden one before, but I quickly learned to ride on it, and it was a bit hairy though, riding around the countryside on one of the bikes, and quite a few other people
were injured, some quite badly, by falls from these bikes riding over the rough countryside. The training was then fairly intense, of course, and continued on from what we had done at Ingleburn in the first few months, and around March, we started to get our first rain
there and that caused quite a lot of trouble. The soil was somewhat clay-ey type of soil and when it rained that very quickly formed a sheet of mud on the top surface, but the penetration of the rain was very poor, because of the clay-ey type of soil, and when a vehicle went over it, the mud would build up on the wheels, and particularly on a motorbike. It was impossible to drive in some areas, because the mud
would build up and lock the front wheel. The mud would foul the forks, and you couldn’t steer and you just went where the bike took you, which was very often not where you wanted to go to.
and we had the RSM, the Regimental Sergeant Major, was trailing along in a vehicle, and they stalled and got caught up in this mud situation, and unbeknown to us, they had been on the end, they were left behind. When we got back to camp, we realised that they were missing and it was starting to get late in the afternoon and towards dusk and it wasn’t until it was getting dark that
a search party was formed to go and look for them, but this was in the charge of an officer who hadn’t been there and I was, because I had been on that nice trip I was taken, but we were all put in the back of the truck with a canopy over it, so we couldn’t see where we were going or where we were, and he went down the main road that we eventually came back on, and he went down the main road and
tried to find out the point where we’d joined, but he finished up getting lost and I tried to help him. I had a bit of knowledge of the stars in the northern hemisphere at that stage. We’d been given some lessons in astronomy, and I tried to point out from my knowledge of the direction to take, where to go, but he wasn’t particularly keen on leaving
the main road, so we went back to camp and the RSM and his companion struggled in about 11.00 o’clock that night most upset because we didn’t come and rescue them.
walk back, which took them quite a few hours. So, but generally speaking, the training was very good and we finished up then going for our first shoot, which was on the edge of the Sinai Desert and out through – past –through Gaza out to Beersheba, which is a notable
town and scene of the charge of the cavalry or the Light Horse, the attack on Beersheba in the First World War, and it was, the camp was somewhat south of that. There was an English unit there as well. They had gone in before us and we sent a forward party down to
help establish our lines, and the English unit were already there, and they were permanent soldiers and they of course were very strict and their RSM, he was a bit of a tartar, and of course he came along and found some of our fellows just lounging around, and of course he demanded what they were doing there and started to give them strong instructions on what to do and of course he was very quickly told off, and as
a result he put them under close arrest under guard and sent them to the guard house. Well, when our main body arrived down, our RSM who was a permanent army man, found out the situation and he went to see the English RSM and pacified him and told him, “You can’t treat AIF troops like regular soldiers”, and he had them released.
So one of the men who was a bit of a character went searching, and in the desert areas there’s a growth which we call camel thorn and they grew in clumps scattered around the desert area, and there was found there was a little type of snake that used to be in these clumps. So this chap collected about half a dozen of these snakes and put them in the RSM’s bed, and of course that
night when he went to bed there was a great scream, and there was a great how-to-do about it, but he never found out who put them there, but we felt that we’d got back at him at some degree.
We found them very efficient. Of course being permanent soldiers, they were. They were well disciplined and we weren’t in a way, but their comradeship was very good, very good indeed, and of course a number of our troops were given on loan to the British troops for experience,
and came back better trained and had a better understanding what it was about. There were still some conflicts going on between the Arabs and the Jew settlers and as it turned out, our intelligence officer went off with a crew of mainly air force people in armoured cars to put down
an Arab uprising that occurred at the wireless station at Beersheba, and he was the machine gunner on this armoured car. That was his job, and they were ambushed, or the ambush was prepared by the Arabs on the road going to there, but they were able to shoot, crash through the
vehicles that had been draped across the road, and shot up some of the Arabs that were there, and then when they arrived at Beersheba they were able to quell the uprising and get rid of the troops that were holding the wireless station, and then they continued down there, tore down into the desert area south of Beersheba into what was an old Roman
settlement in the foothills, and there’d been a group of American archaeologists there, and they’d all been killed by the Arabs and they put them on this tomb. They didn’t find any Arabs there, and then he came back to camp, but we didn’t find, he was sworn to secrecy about this, and we didn’t find this out until some time later.
until the orders are given. So each group had their own sense of importance, and of course they seemed to have a better spirit than offshoots like I was at that time. I still had plenty of things to occupy
my mind, and then when Italy came into the war in June and the 17th Brigade had arrived in the Middle East, they had no guns. So we handed our guns over to them, and we amalgamated with the 2/4th Battalion and we formed two anti-aircraft units, which were established at
Haifa where we were given instruction by the English troops that were there on the anti-aircraft guns, and it was while we were there one day, an officer was giving a lecture on aircraft identification and while the lecture was in process, a flight of aircraft flew over and
it was realised then that they were Italian bombers, and they bombed the oil depot that was about 400 yards from where our building was, and we were in a disused army hospital, and so it was realised then that aircraft identification wasn’t as good as it should be, and secondly, we were in a rather
awkward spot, because we were near an aerodrome and also the oil refinery. So the troops were moved out from there onto Mount Carmel, which is at the back of Haifa and quite a lot of buildings were on Mount Carmel itself.
but it also was a preparation too for realising that bombing from the air looked worse than it really was. They almost had to drop the bomb on you to kill you, and so although it was a big impact, visual impact,
the danger wasn’t quite as bad as you’d think it would be, particularly if you had a bit of cover. It was while we were there that we had our first casualty, someone being killed in the unit. Two of the men had been on leave and they were up at Mount Carmel, and they got a taxi to come back to where we were camped at that stage. This was just before
we went to the nunnery, and they went through a British area and the sentry challenged the taxi, but the taxi just drove through. The sentry was a bit conscientious and they were protecting an area that held some very valuable stores. So he fired at the taxi and the bullet went through the back of the taxi, and hit one of the men
in the chest, in the back and chest and he died from that wound. So that was our first, plus the bombing, that was our first loss and it made us perhaps further realise that, you know, we were in a war.
There was a strong French influence there. In fact, most of the signs were in French, and we’d see a lot of these signs, ‘à louer’, and it took a little while to realise they were ‘For Rent’ signs of houses that were vacant. I think it was ‘à louer’, something like that, and the French was spoken a lot there.
The Italian, although we were at war with Italy, Egypt wasn’t, and the Italian embassy was still active in the city. We weren’t allowed to go near that, but it was a beautiful city and the concourse drove along the water’s edge was quite spectacular.
There was a big English barracks there, Abu Qir Barracks, and while we were there, they lent us their teaching areas there that they had for teaching mechanised troops the skills that were necessary for maintenance and so on. So we set up school there,
in premises that they allowed us to use and the sergeant that was looking after the group that I was in, he wasn’t particularly good, so it finished up I took over his role of instructor and enjoyed that for – we were there for a couple of weeks – and it was quite pleasant.
quite large wheels and wooden spokes and was with a shield to minimise the blast from the crew and a rather sleek, long sleek barrel. The 25-pounder had, the barrel was probably as long, but it was heavier construction.
It was made of a maraging, what they call a maraging steel, which started off being comparatively soft and malleable, but as it aged after a few months of aging, it became quite a hard strong steel, and there was a different breach mechanism. The 18-pounder had like a
hinge breach swing out. The 25-pounder had a breach that dropped down to expose the breach of the gun for loading. The wheel had pneumatic tyres on it, with very large tread on the pneumatic tyres, and then later on they had a circular platform that could be raised up under the trail,
and then in action, you dropped the platform down and collapsible arms came back and allowed the gun to be drawn back with the wheels on this circular platform, so it became very easy to manoeuvre around, particularly for anti-tank work and also for general firing. It was a much more stable platform. So all in all, they were quite a modern weapon
and much admired by the gunners.
an impromptu Christmas dinner on the 20th of December and then marched out towards the Italians who had been attacked by the British and rolled back, back towards Libya. Our first
move took us to, we went as far as Sidi Barrani and we could see there some of the evidence of the fighting that had gone on. There were a lot of Italian wrecked vehicles and guns in the area, and then the next day we moved on towards the escarpment. There was this large or high escarpment
on the border of Egypt and Libya, and to get up into Libya, we had to go up this long winding track going up the escarpment which was quite an effort with the vehicles. So when we crossed over the border into Cyrenaica, I suppose we realised then that
we were in a battle zone. We were approaching a battle zone. We could hear some distant artillery fire and as, when we got to the top of the escarpment there was an Italian fort there that had been abandoned by them, Fort Capuzzo, and that was our first sight of Italian fortification. We went down a long straight road. Well, I suppose I don’t think anyone was really
scared, but there was a sort of a feeling of trepidation, you know, this is it, and it was getting late in the day, and of course by the time we got into the forward area, it was dark. So the gun positions were established, and in the morning when they woke up, they found that they were far more forward than they expected to be
and we were in front of the infantry instead of behind. In fact, some of the guns were fired on by our own troops, because they thought we were Italians until they were put wise. The gun positions were established and once again I was talking to my friends in the survey party who were very active in having to do this. There was
what they call a bearing picket had been established by the survey regiment. That was the people who were there for that purpose only, and from this bearing picket, which was an exact known point on the map, the survey party then carried out traverses to establish the position of each gun or each pivot gun, what they called the pivot gun,
in the various troops that were scattered around, and then permission was given for our guns to fire and very shortly after they started firing we got some return fire back from the Italians who apparently had a pretty good sound ranging and spotting
equipment, but their return fire was actually fairly close, but not close enough to do any damage. There were also two medium artillery guns established just behind the position where I was. They were manned by English people, and they started firing, and of course they started to get return fire too, which fell between their guns and our position. So
that was really the regiment’s first experience of hostile fire. When the first – our first guns fired, shortly after the return shells came – one of the fellows said, “Look what you’ve done, you’ve started a bloody war”, but any rate there was no damage done, although some of the shells did land close, but we found then that the
Italian ammunition was pretty poor. They didn’t get good fragmentation of the gun when it exploded and they always had to hit it to do any damage, or you had to be pretty close to the blast. Some vehicles were fairly extensively damaged by the shrapnel from the guns and I was involved in
some of the repair work in getting them back into action again, but at this stage this is where I thought, “Well, I wanted to be involved in something more active,” and I made application to transfer from what I was doing to join the survey party. Well that took some time to go through, but in the meantime, the attack was made on Bardia.
That was very heavily defended as far as numbers were concerned, and armament and their anti-aircraft fire at nighttime was quite spectacular. Their ammunition was what we called flaming onions. They had green and red lights in it, and it was almost like a fireworks display when all these anti-aircraft guns would open up at night time on the bombers coming over,
and they’d light up the sky with these brilliant coloured lights, but the attack on Bardia was well organised. The positions that we were in started to be well recorded by the Italians, so prior to the attack, our guns were moved out and down into the left flank of the Bardia defences, which
was quite open ground, and at that stage the survey party I was interested in had to go out and survey in the positions where there was none of our troops at all in front of them. They were exposed, so they had to do some of their work at night time with shielded lights and up till just on sunrise, and
start again at dusk. So they had to lie low during the daytime, so that they weren’t observed, but the new position was set up, surveyed in and then the fire tasks were given, where they were put down a barrage for the infantry that were going to attack, and when the attack went, the barrage landed where it should have and the infantry
then came in. Some of them were behind us and they went through the gun positions to make the attack.
we never ever got to see the town itself, we were on the move again towards Tobruk. We found that the Italian roads were very good. They were not sealed roads, but they were well made and it was a fairly rough ride but not as bad as the desert
area, because that camel thorn that I mentioned earlier provided these clumps on the ground and they made it very hard going for the vehicles, because they were quite a severe bump when a wheel went over one of these camel thorn clumps, so much so that some of the vehicles started to break springs and this
repair group I was in, we started to find a lot of our time was taken up in replacing broken springs in vehicles that had been happy to drive over these very rough patches, but the Italian roads were in pretty good condition. They’d built, there were very substantial culverts and small bridges over the wadis and creek beds that
cut the road. In fact, at one spot when we were moving, we were halted there for traffic delay and there was one large culvert almost like a small bridge nearby, and a group of us went over to see what was there and when we got there we found some bodies of Italian soldiers on the floor and it was like a small room built
under the road, cement room. There were further bodies in there. We wondered why, how they came to be, thought, “Well they must’ve been killed by our advancing troops” and I went over to one and sort of kicked the shoe, the sole of his shoe to see if there was any response and he seemed to be quite inert, and another member of our group started to examine
the body to see if there was anything worth salvaging ,and he got an enormous shock when suddenly this body jumped up and started to scream at him, and of course he grabbed the hand gun and he started to menace this, I think he was about to shoot him. I could see the Italian soldier was more frightened of us than we were frightened of him, so I pacified this fellow, and he was very pleased, very thankful to me, for
the fellow that thought he was going to be shot. I was then approached by…turned out to be one of their officers. I had – it was very cold – and I had a blanket around me, and you couldn’t see any insignia on me and he came over and he thought I was an officer, and he wanted to surrender to me personally, and I said, “No, no,” and I just – he couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Italian - but I just pointed
down the road and told them to get moving back towards Bardia to be taken in with the prisoners that had come from there. So that was our first really close contact with the enemy, but we found that they were unarmed and they were stragglers that had apparently got overrun, or could hear our troops advancing so they’d taken cover but were found. So anyway, we…
They gave up very readily, and of course they were quite happy to become friends, but so, it was an interesting episode, but then we pressed on of course to Tobruk, and that was very heavily defended and at this stage the wind storms started to come up which came in just before spring and
the dust in the area was almost like flour, and so the dust storms were very easily established and you couldn’t see more than about 10 yards in front of you in any detail. So the traffic was severely hindered because of this and even the movement by foot had to be done quite carefully and we
eventually finished up into areas that had been established, fortification areas that had been dug by the Italians which gave us a ready-made defensive area, and the attack on Tobruk went along similar lines as the Bardia one. They first established gun positions.
Fortunately these were made on rocky spurs of ground. The ground went from a sort of flattish desert type area to these rocky spurs that came in from the coastline, and with the guns established on the reverse slope of that spur, they were very hard to hit, because either the forward shells fell down the valley in front of the spur and couldn’t
be seen by the observers, and the shells that were over went in the spur down the valley in the back of the spur. So it was a pretty safe position, and although the Italians tried to engage our guns, they didn’t have any success because of this advantage that was given, hindered their observation. So although we were fired at a lot, there were no
hits and no casualties at all, and the second phase of the attack was once again to move around to the left flank and then attack, re-establish new gun positions on the map but not fire until the main barrage went in and then the attack went in through there and Tobruk was a bit, certainly a lot harder to capture than Bardia was.
So after Tobruk once again, as I said, our CO was a very forceful soldier, and he kept on volunteering us to go forward. So once again we went forward, whereas some of the other artillery units rested up for a while and had a bit of a recreation, well, not recreation but a bit of rest and refitting. So we went forward
from there to Derna. Now, Derna was a smaller town but it was more stoutly defended than either Bardia or Tobruk. The Italians there put up a much stronger fight and they seemed to have better equipment there and it was, the
battle lasted about four days at Derna. This is where we suffered our first casualty. There was one officer who had a group of seven men with him, was sent out on patrol. The officer, his name was Forrest Lord, he was also a bit of a gung ho man,
and they went off on this forward patrol to see if they could find any enemy targets to be engaged, and he got into what was called Wadi Derna. This was a very deep watercourse. It was dry in the summertime, and as it turned out, it was quite heavily fortified. Well, he and this group of
seven men went along the wadi, they went around the corner and they walked straight into an ambush of Italian soldiers who didn’t fire on them, but came out and demanded their surrender. Well, of course there were hundreds of them there and of course they had no recourse but to surrender and they just had to pass over any documents they had. Well, when Forrest Lord
handed in his passbook, his bank book, or pay book I should say, the usual practise of course was to put the surname in capitals and the Christian names in small letters, so it was Lord Forrest, and of course the Italian officer in charge thought, ah, he’s captured an English lord with his
entourage and of course so Forrest Lord was given very good treatment, until eventually they sorted out just what his true situation was.
this group of course they were taken away as prisoners of war and they finished up in Italy eventually, but our CO, as I say, he was a very thrusting person, so he finished up trying to keep up with the retreating Italians and we finished up the regiment was in front of the infantry, and he’d come along and he’d say, “Get
those guns up another thousand yards!” You know, so for a while he was called ‘Up A Thousand Yards’, and so much so that the guns finished up they were firing on supercharge, which was the maximum to get the maximum range to try and engage the retreating Italians, but he was up in the forefront and of course,
his vehicle was seen, and a shell burst alongside it and shattered the glass in the door of the station wagon he was in, and he got badly cut around the face and got some glass in his eyes, and I saw the vehicle and went over. Of course, his driver was a close friend of mine and I went over to see mainly how the driver was and of course Barker said, “Who’s that?” You know,
to me when he heard my voice. I told him who I was. So I sympathised with him about him being injured and he said, “I’ll be back soon, I’ll be back soon,” and sure enough in about a week’s time he came back with two lovely black eyes, which made everyone smile and he was still pushing us forward. If the vehicle stopped for a hold up, we were supposed to keep
100 yards separation between each vehicle for safety against air attack and if the vehicle stopped after a while Barker would come back along the line to see what’s happening and the troops would be sitting there in the seats. He’d say, “Do something, do something,” you know, he’d say, “Don’t just sit there, get out and do something!” I don’t know what we were supposed to do, but everyone did get out and move around, and as we pushed
further on, there was a small town called Barce on the coast and our forward guns positioned, saw them, and the gun position officer fired a shell over the town and then another shell under the town to see what had happened. Nothing happened. So he very carefully sighted out the town square and he lobbed a shell
right in the town square: and then a white flag went up and our troops went in and they surrendered to the artillery, which was some satisfaction to us when the infantry came along later on and took over, but I think that was the first time, in that campaign at any rate, that a town had been captured by the artillery.
action then had been on the coast, coastal area and the group I was in then we went inland through a place called Giovanni Birti, and it was different country altogether. Instead of the sand and rock and it was green grass and low hills and some trees, which we hadn’t seen a tree since we left Egypt,
but the rain started again then, and movement was fairly difficult. Luckily, when we were in Tobruk we’d overrun a storage area there, which had a lot of Italian equipment there, and I was able to get, like amongst others, some extra blankets. Of course we only had three blankets and a ground sheet, two blankets and a ground sheet: was
barely enough on the cold wet nights. I got some extra blankets from the Italians, had been using, and they had a very good, it was like, it served as a ground sheet and also it could be converted into a cape. It was a linen or light canvas construction and it had flaps that could be unbuttoned and you could make it into a cape
or you could join them up and make a little tent. So they had Italian piping in the pocket to act as a tent post. It was a really good idea, and they were camouflaged coloured. So luckily I had one of these and with another chap we were able to rig a tent up and kept fairly
dry when in this rainy condition. There the leading element was two armoured cars, was on a well made road and the leading car was ambushed by Italian anti-tank gun and shot up and all the crew were killed and the car was set alight and
after the fire went out, I looked in and every piece, every article in that armoured car had been struck by metal from the projectile that hit them, plus the metal had scattered off the armour from the tank when the shell went through the armour on the inside, it broke off small pieces.
It was like a shotgun effect and every piece of equipment that was in that tank, in that car was damaged in some way, but that was the only action that we struck on that back road and then eventually we came out at a place called Ar Rajmah, which is a small railway terminus leading into
Benghazi and then we went down from Benghazi down to the airport, Ar Rajmah Airport, no, Benini Airport, where the Italians had a well-established airbase and our headquarters was set up in what was the officers’ mess of this
place on the main drive going in, and then later afternoon I had just come out of the headquarters. I was walking down the steps and a vehicle pulled up and out came a group of Italian generals in resplendent uniform and the mayor from Benghazi, and I’m standing on the steps when they came out of the car to make their official surrender.
So it was quite a sight, quite interesting.
At this time, we were able to send people into Benghazi where they could purchase some fresh food for us, mainly eggs and some small supply of vegetables. So our diet was a little better at this stage, although it had been broken to some extent by some of the Italian food that we had captured along the way.
This proved to be more tasty, perhaps, than our bully beef, which we’d been living on for nearly two months, but after a while the garlic food started to get not so tasty, and we were happy to go back to bully beef.
News had come through that the Germans were now starting to move in some force into Tripoli so a force of Australian troops were moved down in towards the Gulf of Sirte [or Sidra], a place called El Agheila, and a number of
trips were made by armoured groups, which we supplied some troops, to see if contact could be made with the Italians, but it appeared that they had evacuated the area completely: and there were no plans at that stage for any further advance for us, because it was proving difficult to keep up the supplies, particularly petrol, which
was coming in light wooden boxes and kerosene tins, containers, many of which developed leaks because of the bumpy transport and finished up either empty or half empty by the time they reached our position. Also food was difficult to get through to the
forward position. So we had many attacks coming through now, particularly on the transport on the road, from German aircraft but at that stage we hadn’t seen any signs of ground forces. Our gun positions were attacked on a few occasions and the worse damage was an exploded tyre on one gun, but otherwise once
again we seemed to be escaping any serious damage. About the middle of March, we were relieved by an English artillery unit and we started on our way back to Egypt. We made a fairly good coverage during day runs and there were two stops before we
reached the Tobruk area again, and then we proceeded on back into Egypt where we then stayed at Mersa Matruh. This was quite an interesting place. There was a lake near the camp, or there were quite substantial building there and
there was a boat, a sailing boat available for us for sailing on the lake which we made good use of that, and the repair work was done to guns and vehicles. By this time, my transfer to the survey party had come through and I was quite happy with the new arrangements. We spent some time in practicing
aircraft engagement with rifles. We had plenty of ammunition made at our disposal so it was quite a relaxing and interesting rest. We then moved back to Alexandria, and of course informed then that we would be going to Greece. So after one day’s leave in Alexandria, our vehicles
and guns were loaded on one ship and despatched. It sailed two days before the first body of troops, which consisted of headquarters and 1st Battery, were loaded on a Dutch liner that had been built for the Atlantic trade and
we were in very cramped conditions. Most of the troops, or the troops that I was with, were sleeping on the open deck, but the weather was quite good and we had an uneventful voyage, two-day voyage to Athens. When we reached there, the port was out of action because a ship loaded with
ammunition had been bombed and in the explosion, it destroyed the port and the facilities there. So the troops were taken off the ship by private small craft and some of them were quite beautiful yachts, which probably the decks, the nice clean decks were scored and damaged by our hobnail boots, but at least we got ashore without any interference from the
Germans, who had been bombing the area quite frequently.
they had bombed the port area, and we could see plenty of dust and smoke coming up from the demolished houses, but we were clear of that, but the next morning we were taken down to the railway marshalling area and loaded into a train. They were cattle trucks, and we were fairly crowded, but there was enough room for everyone to lie down and sleep, and then we started
off on the train voyage, which of course was quite spectacular. We had to go over a mountain range and there were many times when you’d get a really magnificent view of the valley below with the little villages nested in the green grass, and it was such a change after Egypt and the dust in the desert from there.
The earliest shipment of our guns and vehicles had gone further north. They’d gone up to a port called Volos on the northeastern coast of Greece. Of course the activity at that stage was in the mountains across the border from Yugoslavia, where the German 12th Army under
General von Paulus had crossed the border from Yugoslavia, and they were starting to pour down through the mountain passes. And the initial contact was made there by some of our infantry battalions and the New Zealand troops. The force that was in Greece at this time consisted of the 2nd New
Zealand Division under General Freyberg and the 6th Division, which was under the command of General Blamey, and of course it was interesting in a way that both Blamey and Freyberg had been in the landing of Gallipoli, and now were back only about 100 miles from Gallipoli and sort of shoulder to shoulder with the New Zealanders again
fighting in the Levant. It was decided to call us the Anzac Corps, so in effect we really became Anzacs and under, as I say, two notable generals.
of our men who had some experience in that field took over, and we learnt how to put the water in the kettle and light the fires, and in the meantime the adjutant and intelligence officer had taken off to try and found out what was happening, and they went to Larissa to army headquarters and they were told that the Germans
were only the other side of Larissa at this stage, but our vehicles and guns were coming through. So the train was taken back some distance, and then we offloaded, and then we were able to join up with our guns and vehicles. At this time of course, air attacks were becoming quite frequent and we
reformed on Dhomokos Pass area, and the first morning we started moving off a flight of German bombers, there was about 60 bombers and about 80 fighters in block formation, flew over. They were only a few thousand feet above where we were and that was our first really
idea of how strong the Germans were in the air. We hadn’t seen an allied plane at all at this stage, although there were a few about. The earlier ones, the Number 3 Squadron was there with the old two-seater, two-winged fighters.
and after the bombing, we moved to Brallos Pass, with the idea of setting up defences area there, because the pass was very narrow and steep with a winding dirt, winding road leading up to the pass at the top and it could be an easily
defended area. Of course, the ancient Greeks found this out when they were defending Greece against the incoming Persians: that they could hold them up at the passes. When we arrived at Brallos, it was decided then to establish gun positions with the object of engaging the Germans coming along the main road, and we
started off one morning to establish our position on the map. We’d no sooner got started and there was a lot of consternation on the road, which was fairly heavy traffic on it and it was winding around the hillside, and suddenly around the corner came a Storch German observation plane. The pilot was a bit foolhardy, he was
flying at only about 100 feet above the road, but it was causing quite a lot of consternation and scattering of people, but he eventually ran into trouble because about a quarter of a mile further on from where he passed us, one of the engineering sappers stood his ground with a Bren gun. He aimed it from his shoulder and shot the plane down.
we’d be able to all get through safely, but eventually we did reach the evacuation area intact, and then we were told that we could expect a naval vessel to come through to us the next day, or the following evening. So we sheltered there
on the first night, and then the next day we just remained under cover. There were planes constantly in the area but we kept under cover and the afternoon that we were intended to be evacuated, the adjutant detailed me and two other soldiers to take charge of
all the optical equipment, the gun sights and levels and range finders and binoculars and things like that that were very valuable and hard to replace. They were all, what had been available were collected and stored in a utility truck, and he told me to take charge of this and take it to the loading point or the boarding point and hand
these items of equipment out to the soldiers as they boarded the ship. Well, we were supposed to be the first to board the ship, but the orders were delayed getting to us for three hours, and it was very late at night before we were told to move from the position where we were and by the time we got to the pier where the destroyer was that was loading,
it was just about full. Well, we pulled the truck up and we started doling out this equipment, but there was still quite a fair bit of it left by the time the destroyer decided it was full up and it pulled out, and so they said that they’d come back, they’d come back for us, so we went back to the detour area and the next day,
but the following night there was no vessel turned up, and of course this time the Germans were getting closer and closer, and then on the third night when we decided to go down to the pier, and of course we’d been advised there would be ships coming in, we came under fire from the Germans who then started to occupy the township, but were being held up
particularly by New Zealand troops and some of our own troops.
moved through on the area that he was in and one of them was able to get close enough to throw a grenade into the shop front where he was and he was hit on the head with a piece of, from the exploding grenade and the man that was there saw him and he was covered in blood and he came back and reported that he was dead, and of course when we got the news back at the pier, we were quite dismayed because John was a very
popular figure and as it turned out of course he was only wounded and he was unconscious when the Germans finally captured the place and they took him unconscious to one of their casualty clearing stations. He woke up in a German hospital, but later on he was able to escape from the train
when he was being taken back as a prisoner of war. He escaped from that, and then he spent about three weeks in Greece going around with sabotage group, and he was able to blow up one fighter on an airfield, and this actually was recorded by the British intelligence that they became aware of this action. He, John did have
his pilot’s certificate for light aircraft from Sydney, but when it was discovered he was colour blind, of course they curtailed his licence to some extent and he was only allowed to fly at day time. His licence was restricted to day time flying, but he thought, well, there might be a chance of stealing one of the fighters that was on this
airfield. The airfield of course was under guard and he attacked one guard and killed him with a knife and he got to the plane but when he looked into the cockpit he couldn’t understand the controls, and he realised he couldn’t retract the undercarriage, so he reckoned he wouldn’t have any chance of avoiding capture of being caught up with by any
following planes, so he blew the plane up with a grenade and then took back to the woods again, and after about two weeks he got a small craft and he sailed over to Turkey from the east coast of Greece over to Turkey. Of course, at this stage, he was up in the northern part of Greece
and it wasn’t that far across to Turkey and he was evacuated through there.
for a while, but the bay at Kalamata there I suppose was about three or four miles wide, and the town was right up at the top end of the gulf really, and the other side of the bay seemed to be unoccupied and it was covered with a light growth of fir trees. So I thought, “We
can get the boat.” There was plenty of driftwood around that we could use as paddles and we’d paddle across the bay and then rig it up as best we could for sailing. At this time, it was a full moon and the moon was up until just on midnight and it was very clear. Visibility was very good, so we had to wait. We got down to the beach about
half a mile from where the house was, and while it was full moon, we just laid up until the moon set and then we advanced onto the boat and we were able to examine it and found it didn’t have any holes in it. Usually craft like that have a hole at the back to drain out any water with a cork in it, and the practice very often was take the cork away so that the boat wouldn’t be
immediately serviceable, but I’d had a fair bit of experience in small craft when we were young from our weekender on Middle Harbour, so I examined the boat and found out there were no holes in it, and we had to lift it, because the beach was more cobblestones rather than sand, and any attempt to move it was quite noisy, so we had to lift the boat and carry it into the water
and then we floated it along to where we’d left what we had of our gear piled up, and then collected this driftwood for paddles, and then we set off across the bay, but when sunrise came we were still about a quarter of a mile short and I was worried then that we’d be seen by the Germans in the port and they’d wonder what we were doing, or even
the owner of the boat might come out and be able to see us, although being a couple of miles away we would’ve been hard to see, only been close to the waterline.
a mast and boom and oars, fashion oars of some sort and a tiller to steer by. So we were able to cut down some small fir trees. We had to use a table knife and a big pebble as a hammer to do this, and this took quite some time to get down three or four small trees and then strip them of the branches and then with the cordage that I’d saved up, we were able to establish a mast
and a boom, and then we cut our blankets up and then sewed them together with our bootlaces to form a sail. Well, fortunately on the first night we were ready to go, a strong northerly wind came up which was blowing straight down the gulf and this would’ve been ideal. So as soon as it got dark we decided to take off. Just before we
did so, Fyfe and Reg decided to reconnoitre the area where we were just to see if there was any inhabitation or any open roads where we could be seen, and they found a small farmhouse occupied by an elderly Greek couple, and they gave them about half a dozen small bantam size eggs which were gratefully received, and then as I say
when it became dark, we shoved off and with this strong wind that was blowing we actually started off at quite a fair clip down the bay. In fact, I estimated we were travelling at around about eight or nine knots and the loose metal strip on the underside of the boat, the wear strip, started to vibrate, you know, so I thought we must be moving along fairly well. Well the gulf would’ve
been about – I suppose 10 miles long – and in the morning we found ourselves, we were out in open sea. We could tell we were in open sea by the swell effect and then when daylight broke, we could see Cape Mattapan. That was on the eastern side of the gulf we were in, so we had a very good idea of where we were. Now our only aid at that stage
was a page out of the Sphere magazine, about a quarto size page, which had a sketch of the Greece area including the isle of Crete, and it was not to any definite scale, but having a bit of knowledge of the local area I was able to work out a rough idea of the distances and the course we had to take, and
luckily for us, the first night out was clear sky and we were able to see stars and I could recognise them and we could steer by these stars and keep clear of the mainland. So when daybreak came, we could see Cape Mattapan. We realised we’d made good ground, but all we could see was open sea because our horizon from a
low level in a small boat like that was only about five miles.
around at all, we thought we’d chance it, we’d still keep going. So the next morning bright and early we shoved off, and the breeze was favourable and we took off in what I considered was the right direction for Crete and by about mid morning we could start to see the higher ground of an island which we knew we could see on the track, an island called Kithira, and by midday we
passed that. We kept fairly well clear of the eastern side of the island, and headed off towards the second island called Andikithira, which was about another 10 miles or so further, 20 miles further on, and around about midday, the wind started to drop and we were more or less becalmed for a while and in the distance of course on our starboard bow we could see
the island of Andikithira. That was a much smaller island, and it was too far for us to row and then on the horizon then, it must’ve come from the south east, we could see black clouds coming up and we realised we were in for a storm so there was no chance with a limited sailing capacity of the boat we were in, we couldn’t tack in the
right direction so we decided to make a run back to Kithira and perhaps take shelter there - although when the storm did come up, the wind was blowing us in the right direction quite fast. It was dusk when we reached Kithira and rather than go around on the lee side on the sheltered side, I thought, well, if we went there and we couldn’t get in, we’d
finish up being blown further inland towards the mainland and perhaps would be spotted. So I decided to take a risk and come in on the windward side of the island looking for cover, which we fortunately found a little inlet with, and there was a big pillar of rock on the outer side of this inlet, which gave us cover or shelter from the wind. So we spent the rest of the night there just
backwards and forwards behind this rock, until it got light enough to see where we were. When daylight came we could see there was a little pebbly beach there, and also saw a figure of a man clambering down onto this beach and he was beckoning us in. So we sailed onto this beach and it turned out he was a Greek policeman. He was dressed up in,
he had a uniform and I remember he had leather leggings and boots and I don’t know why he had leggings because there were no horses around, but perhaps that was the regular police uniform, and he had breaches and a tan jacket and a peaked cap, something like after the style that the New Zealanders wore, and he couldn’t
speak English, but he beckoned us in and he had some eggs. The eggs that we’d had, we’d already eaten. We cooked them in a fashion in the boat. So he had a satchel and he had some food in that, including eggs, which he handed out to us. They were leftovers from the Easter celebration, because they were covered in red and blue wax, bees’ wax,
you know, decorations, but the eggs were tasty so we were happy to have them, and so he beckoned us back up. We climbed up this rocky pathway up to the top and there was a village there.
also had seen us coming back, so that’s why the policeman was aware where we were and he came down, and we were taken up to the head man’s cottage. I don’t know whether he was the mayor or that, but he seemed to be in control, and he could speak English quite well as could quite a number of others that were there, one eventually who we found out had lived in Australia and had
at one time had a café at Taree, and the bulk of the people that were in the village were elderly people, and their livelihood was coming from money that people from the village had gone to America and Australia, and who were sending money back to them to compensate them for the expense that they’d incurred in getting them to
these countries where they could earn money and do so, and of course they were a bit apprehensive about what was going to happen to them because, as I say, that was their main source of income and they knew that was going to dry up once the Germans moved in. So I felt sorry for them of course. It was pretty obvious they had very little agriculture there, and certainly no
industry and they were going to be in for some pretty hard times, and I often wondered afterwards and after the war just how they did survive.
motorised passage. We felt pretty good, and so the policeman guided us over the mountains. It was a pretty fair height, and we got to a village on the other side in the early morning and they took us to a farm area. It was a wooden, there was a stone structure there, and there was about
ten other troops there that had already reached that point, so we joined in with them and that made a party of about 15 all told, but by this time we were getting short of food. So we pooled our resources. I still had some Greek money in my possession, and a few of the others had, and we pooled it all together and we bought a sheep from the farmer. So one of them, who was expert at this, just
slaughtered the sheep and we cooked it all up. We’d borrowed a big boiler from the farmer and built a big fire and cooked the thing, all the whole sheep up in one big pot as a, like a stew or sort of a mixture of soup and meat, and then doled it out. So the first night we had a good meal, but we decided we’d be frugal
so we threw all the bones back into the pot again and of course the next day we had soup.
and it was decided to have us attached to the 2/2nd Field Regiment, which was a Victorian unit, and like a sister regiment to us, but they had to be abandoned in Greece and we were more or less at a loose end, but at this stage, all evacuation from Greece
had ceased, and the island was starting to become under regular attack from the German air force. We joined the 2/2nd Field Regiment and we were camped in an area not far from the little township of Canea at the head of the Suda Bay, and
Suda Bay had been a strong naval stronghold, and there were a number of ships there that had been beached because they’d been severely damaged in air raids. One of them was a British, the HMS York was a British cruiser, and there were a number of merchant ships that were anchored that had been
damaged so that the engines were no longer useful and were damaged in the fairway, and just around the bay from where we were, there was a British corvette also up on the rocks that had been all damaged by bombing. One of the ships that was in the bay was known to be loaded with ammunition, so everyone kept a bit clear
of that, but where we were on the bay was a very pleasant spot, but we had (UNCLEAR) only a few yards away was sort of a grim reminder of what was going on. There was a full-length piece of casing of probably a 500-pound bomb, German bomb, and it was very poor explosive,
because it hadn’t properly shattered up into small particle shrapnel as it should, as it was intended to do, but this quite a large piece, it was long, almost as long as that table. So every time I looked at that, I knew there was still a war on, but the planes were coming over in greater frequency each day. There were a number of…
Bombers and fighters were coming over and we could see it was building up, and the word percolated through to expect an invasion. Now, I didn’t find this out until after the war, but actually the British were then breaking the Enigma Code and they were reading the German air force signals
almost as quickly as the recipient was, and there was a build-up of air force and parachutists in Greece, and we were able to determine there was a definite attack going to be launched by naval ships and airborne troops onto Crete, quite some time before it happened. So
we were told an invasion was to be expected, and we were to become infantry in reserve and we were given an American LR1 rifle, ‘cause armaments were scarce, and 30 rounds of ammunition in a cloth bandolier and that was it. We were then infantry. So, but as I say, the early days
except for the air raids were quite pleasant there. The area where we were was close to Maleme Airport. There were three airstrips in Crete. Maleme was the most important, that was the biggest one, and this was largely defended by New Zealand troops. There were some British troops there but they were mostly non-combatant people, like stores and service personnel,
and they were camped in the peninsula leading out from where Canea was.
landing area, and during the day there was very strong bomber action. They bombed Canea quite severely. There was a number of anti-aircraft guns situated near us and the fighter planes that were strafing the village area would come in fairly low and their escape
was down the bay and the Beaufort anti-aircraft guns were firing on them. They had tracer shells and we could see the shells being fired at the planes, and as they came down the bay and where we were approaching, they were almost down to water level, because they were dodging the fire by slowing, decreasing their flight, and it was annoying to see the well directed shells going where they should’ve been,
just passing over the top of the plane. You know, just only feet above the top of the plane, and one plane came in obviously with some engine trouble and just skimmed the little ridge we were on and crashed in the bay next to us, much to the delight of everyone there, and otherwise we weren’t directly attacked. We were told that night to move up, to move up into the
Maleme area. So we marched all that night, and it was a long march too, and at daylight we got into an olive grove alongside a local church of some sort, and either, we were there for one day and one night and the next morning, we
were told we were going to move further up, and either our movement had been seen from the air or we had been observed because two Stukas attacked us, and the first bomb landed where we’d just moved from and the second one landed where we were moving to, and a number of troops were killed in that, and there was a story went around that there were some
air crew from crashed gliders were in this monastery or this church, and they were directing these bombers down onto us, but I don’t know whether that was true or not, or whether it was the fact that as we were starting to move around we were seen, but that was our first serious attack. We were moved further up into an area that had been under strong attack because there was still
smoke coming from the bullets in the trees that were on the edge of this open field, and at one stage I saw a patrol of German paratroopers moving along the hillside quite some distance away. We could just see them as little black specks moving along, but the main attack was still coming from the aircraft, and
that night I was on guard duty and I’d just been relieved when there was an alarm given and apparently this was probably a pilot from one of the crashed gliders was wandering around, and he was approaching the area where we were stationed. He was challenged and of course he took off so we were all called out and chased after. Trying to find him
at night time was a bit of, although there was a good moon, that was a bit of a lost exercise so he got away and we had to go back into camp, and then later on a plane came around flying very low and very slow, almost at stalling speed, and it sounded as though we’d been reported and he was looking for us, but we just kept quiet, and so we
were ordered not to fire on aircraft if it was going to give our position away, so no one fired at him and he moved off elsewhere and that was the end of that. So on the next day we were advised that the island was going to be evacuated, and we would move back that night. So we started then the long march back to where we’d come from,
and by daylight we’d just passed through our original camping spot. Since I’d been on the island I’d been suffering from diarrhoea or dysentery either from some of the water I’d drank – more than likely from contaminated water - and I was feeling, I hadn’t been eating and I was feeling pretty weak, and just after daylight I couldn’t carry on any longer, so I dropped out
and there was a little bit of a shelter there and I got into that and the troops then had started, they’d rounded a corner and they were then approaching the march up the hillside leading up to the mountains, up to the mountain pass. There was like a long valley, a straight valley. So I rested for about half an hour, and then by this time the body of troops were out of sight and I started off on
my own and I got about half way down this road and I came across three fellows, two, three men swimming in a little steam that was there and it turned out it was my two mates and one of the officers from our regiment who had been attached to the 2/2nd Field Regiment too. So I joined them, and it was quite refreshed with this icy mountain water coming down the stream,
and we were all there basking in the sun a little, you know, it was spring weather, and suddenly this flight of Heinkel bombers came in low level along the valley, flying parallel with the road and they were, their aiming point of attacking was where troops were marshalled in the first group of trees leading
up to the mountains. We stood there helpless and naked and watching these planes fly past us. We could see the crew quite clearly in the plane, but fortunately the turret gunners were looking the other way, because they were expecting any attack on them would’ve come from the coast area rather than from inland, and of course we were fairly close to the mountain range too. So fortunately
for us, they were looking the other way. Of course, we had a grandstand view of the area that they were attacking, and then later on in the afternoon when we got dressed and went through we could see the damage that they had done and it was quite severe on the troops that had been in that area.
and there were a few houses there and they were demolished, but so we were lucky in one way to not have reached the marshalling area, because if we’d got to this first area we would’ve probably been halted there so we escaped the severe bombing, but it wasn’t a very pleasant spot. Well, that night we marched on the road going up the mountains and a lot of the villagers were
leaving their homes too and joining the march. So the road was really very heavily congested with people and there were little kids there and they were crying and so on, and their mothers were upset. So it wasn’t a very pleasant area to be in. So, in the early hours of the morning we were pretty well exhausted and pulled over the side of the road and had a quick sleep, and then
at daybreak got up and just then a truck came along, an empty truck driven by an English soldier. So he offered us a lift, which we gratefully received and of course that took us over the pass and then down the steep incline onto the other side of the island onto the southern coast of Crete and it was a fair climb. It probably would’ve been about as high as our Blue Mountains, but much steeper.
So we arrived in the marshalling area in the early morning. Fortunately, there was no plane activity at that stage, but the Military Police directed the driver to park the vehicle under cover and we, the three of us, took off.
The officer that was with us, he went off to see what was happening, and we waited for some time and he never came back. So we took off and started down the road, but we were warned not to move around in daylight, so we had to hole up under cover for the rest of the day and then spent the night around on one point where there were quite a number of other troops
like ourselves that were stragglers that had moved into the area. Well, the next morning we were advised that there would be an evacuation ship coming in, but in the late afternoon the area was heavily bombed and I was sheltered behind a rock
that was about as big as that table, and the area was quite rocky where we were leading down into a dry water bed where most of the troops was sheltered, and the plane was really bombing these troops that were down in the creek bed, but one bomb landed just the other side of the rock that I was sheltering behind and either the draught or the rock moved, ‘cause I got hit on the side of the face.
It opened up a wound which bled most profusely and stained all the front of my shirt with blood, and of course when my friends came along they thought I was seriously wounded, and they bandaged me up but I was protesting that I was alright, and a New Zealand medical officer came up to tend to some other people who’d been wounded by this same bomb, and he had a
look at me and I told him I was alright, and he said, “Look”, he gave me a tag to hang on, he said, “There’s walking wounded down in the creek bed”, he said, “When it’s dark, at dusk, go down and join them and then you’ll be first on the boat”. So I didn’t want to leave my friends but they said, “Oh no, you go.” They insisted, so I did go down and join this group.
They were mostly Maoris and they were – Maoris were wonderful fighters. In fact, one stage they captured a number of the German paratroopers and amongst them was Max Baer who was a boxer, at one stage had been world heavyweight champion. He knocked out the American champion in America, much to Hitler’s
happiness, but he did lose the return bout, and he then joined the German air force and he became a paratrooper. So they captured Max Baer, and I think every second Maori soldier I met told me the story about the capture of Max Baer, but finally of course he was released when the Germans took over the area where he was being held.
and well kept. So we were taken out in the landing barges onto the boat and I said to the first sailor I met, I said, “What ship is this?” Well, he said, “It’s a commando landing ship,” he said, “working in reverse. We’re taking troops off,” he said, “We just have landed a group of commandos who had been put to use in delaying the German advance.”
They were going to be picked up later on. So they loaded us up and took our forward troops that were congregated there and it had been built as a fast merchant ship, but it was very modern and very fast, so the Royal Navy took it over and there were three of them. They were all called Glen something
and this was the Glengyle, this ship. That was the name of this ship and it was later used to land commandos in the Syria campaign, and to jump ahead a lot, amazing enough the Glengyle was in the same convoy that I was in when the war ended and we came back to Australia and I saw it again there,
but any rate the Glengyle did a fast trip to Alexandria. When we got half way there, we were having our own fighter escort and we weren’t attacked, but that was the last ship out.
and of course, I spent the next two days explaining to everyone what had happened and so, at any rate at this stage, this was in June and the Syrian Campaign had started and 1st Battery of course had lost all the guns and equipment in Greece, but 2nd Battery were still fully equipped,
but they had to hand over their guns to the 2/5th Field Regiment which was going to Syria. So we finished up with no weapons, no guns and little equipment, and just settled down to sort of routine training until we were further supplied. We were in limbo at that stage. The 7th Division
were in Syria, campaigning in Syria, and the 9th Division were in Tobruk in the siege of Tobruk and the 8th Division was in Malaya, and the 6th Division of course was badly shattered after the Greece campaign and was being reformed in Palestine. So we went through a period of some months with very little to do and just
routine exercises and training which is pretty welcome in one way. It enabled us to put on a bit of weight that we’d lost in our – see we’d gone from one campaign in Libya which lasted three months with a very short rest into another campaign which for us only lasted six or eight weeks, but…
some reward for our getting back to the unit. We were given a week’s leave in Cairo, which was very pleasant, and went by train back to Egypt and by train to Cairo and because of the demand for the troops in Tobruk, there were very few troops on leave, and we more or less had the leave
hostel to ourselves for the whole week, and we were given first class attention by the waiters and really well looked after. As a matter of fact, while we were there, I saw Gone With The Wind [famous film of the American Civil War] in a cinema in Cairo and it had just been released. So, any rate, it was back to the unit and this survey party of course settled down to some steady work. We did a number
of shoots back at Beersheba where we had to go down and survey the area again and so on, and then the powers that be thought the Germans were going to attack down through Turkey and through Syria and come through to the [Suez] Canal that way. So it was decided that our regiment, that our division would go up
into Syria into the Baalbek Valley, which there was only two possibilities of coming down through Syria. One was by the coast road, which was pretty congested in spots or through a fairly wide valley between two mountain ranges that ran the full length, almost the full length of Syria. So the survey party was sent up there early or it was late in the year, was in
November, and the weather was getting pretty cold then. We surveyed the whole area where the regiment would occupy, laid out the roads and gun positions and so on, and then in December it was decided that after Pearl Harbour, the attack, decided to bring us back to Palestine and I’d finished up spent Christmas in hospital.
One of our exercises, one of the drivers came to me, to see if I could help him because his vehicle wouldn’t start, and it appears the drain plug in the carburettor had come loose and his petrol had drained out from the carburettor and from frequent trying to start he’d almost run the battery flat. So I made a somewhat foolish move to feed
petrol through the throat of the carburettor by hand, to get the engine firing over quick enough to start charging the battery, and of course the engine backfired, and the flames set alight to the petrol they had in the container and I was sitting over the engine on top of the radiator and I threw the burning container away from me to get rid of it, but it hit the stay of the hood and it bounced back over and showered me with
burning petrol on my chest and arms. So I finished up with some rather nasty burns, and was evacuated then to an English Dressing Station where the doctor there was not familiar with the latest treatment of burns and he covered the burns with silver nitrate solution, which set into like a hard shell, or it was a flexible shell
to keep the air off the burn, or set it.
party. While we were there, of course, we had the opportunity of jungle training, and so when we came back to Australia we were the only Australian troops that really had, except that a few who had escaped from Malaya, we were the only Australian troops that had had experience in jungle warfare and as a result of this, although we’d just arrived back, we were then
detailed to go to New Guinea. The 7th Division were the main troops there. They’d been back for some time. We were detailed to go to Port Moresby when the Japanese were just about over the Owen Stanley Track. We found out why we were selected was because the major-general in charge of artillery was our old friend,
Brigadier Barker, and of course we were his old regiment. So we once again were volunteered for duty. So we arrived in Port Moresby, and immediately set up our fortress activities there because the Japanese troops were fairly close, but as it turned out, that was the closest they did get, and when they
were pushed back over the Owen Stanleys onto the coastal strip, we were able to then utilise airborne methods to get our guns over. In the waiting process, the engineering people in the light aid detachment had trained troops how to dismantle the 25-pounder gun, which was too big to be
loaded into the aircraft, but in a dismantled condition could be accommodated in a DC3 [Douglas Dakota DC3 transport] aircraft. So when they secured two rough airstrips on the coastal strip, the first planes were flown over and landed there, and when they got into the action area, the local brigadier
in charge of the troops came along and he said, “Have you got any ammunition with you?” And they said, “Oh yes, we’ve brought our…” “Now,” he said, “I want you to put those guns down and fire off every round you’ve got,” and they said, “Oh, but that’s all…”, we told him that’s all we have, and he said, “Well, I don’t care,” he said, “We want our troops and the Japanese to know that the artillery has arrived”. So they selected an area on the track, one of the tracks
for a target area and fired off all the rounds, which was a great boon to the infantry when they heard them. The first lot that was fired made the infantry think that they were under attack, and they all took cover, but when the shells continued overhead and burst in the Japanese areas, they were delighted and they came running back and it was the 16th
Brigade reckoned we were their regiment, you know, they were the first brigade in the AIF.
and then report back that the guns had fired, and then of course when the corrections came through, that was then also transferred through to the guns. So I was really responsible for that group of guns and the men, the gun crews attached to it. It was a fairly responsible position, but as we
got closer to Wewak, the resistance increased and finally when we got over into the Wewak area, our gun position was on the end of the airstrip and we were amongst a lot of wrecked Japanese aircraft, many with skeletons still in them of crew that had been killed by the attacks on
the aircraft, and the Japanese didn’t bury their dead. As far as possible they cremated them, and it was amazing the number of bodies they would leave lying around. Well then, after a short stay at this gun position, I was then told to relieve one of the forward observation officers,
which is on Mission Hill at Wewak, and I went up there and took over from the officer that had been with them previously.
or, “zero 10”, 10 degrees which would be 10 degrees to the right of zero lines. Or he’d say, “Zero lines, 7,400,” which was the yards, the range, “Fire”, and then my orders would be, “Take post”, if the troops weren’t already on the gun, in their positions on the gun. “Take post, zero
10 degrees”, or no – I’m sorry – ammunition was first, 117 or whatever the ammunition. If we were going to fire, it would be high explosive mostly, and the charge for 7,000 yards would be charge 3. So it would be, “Zero lines, 207”,
would be the shell type, “charge 3, 7400 hundred, fire!” And so just the essentials could come down, which would, and they’d know what ammunition to use, what bearing and what range and then fire. There were further other details, where you wanted a different rate of fire
such as section fire, which is every 20 seconds, or troop fire or gun fire, which is as fast as you could go.
and the vision was limited sometimes to only 50 to 100 yards. So quite often, you had to get either on a high commanding spot or climb a tree to be able to see what targets there may be, and then you’d have a signaller with a phone line, sometimes wireless, but the wireless was not very good in the jungle areas, and
then wait for targets of opportunity. Well I was on Mission Hill, one of my signallers saw on the crest line, which was along a valley running from the gun position, a Japanese climb a tree. It was about 2,000 – 3,000 yards from where I was, and he happened to be on the crest line. He saw this movement,
and with binoculars, he saw this figure climbing the tree. Now, we knew there was a gun up there that used to fire on our troops when they were on mess parade, when they were lining up for their lunch. So we knew there was a gun in the area, and I immediately realised that he was an observing officer. Of course it was getting on to late morning when they were about due for their time to
fire, and also I was very interested in the area trying to see if I could pick up any gun flashes. Well, when he spotted this tree climber, I put the guns into action against that. I had to use smoke first, fire smoke, which bursts in the air and leaves a trail of smoke before the canister hits the ground. Well that gave me a very good idea of the range and the line there, because being on a crest, I couldn’t see any shells that fell over the
crest, and it was hard sometimes to see any that fell short. So after getting the range, I then used air burst. We were very severely rationed for that though, clockwork fuses from Switzerland, and they were very scarce and we were told generally speaking we weren’t to use them, but I thought this would be an ideal opportunity, because if I could get the air burst
put down onto the tree position, they’d be better than the shells hitting the ground and exploding on the ground and losing a lot of their force. So I think I was the first officer in the regiment there in that campaign to use air burst shells. So I got one, I did get one shell right on the tree, and the signaller said he saw the figure fall out.
So I think I finished that, the gun didn’t fire so that was a success. Later on they did, the advancing troops found that gun and… But then after, we had a few raids at nighttime. The Japanese came raiding into the position and throwing our hand grenades, which were set up as booby traps. They took
those grenades and threw them back at us which wounded a few people, but otherwise we were alright, and I was then transferred from that position to another more forward position called Koiken, which was further up in the mountains and also with the 2/4th Battalion and the officer had been with them for a month or so and he was due for relief, and
it was a very difficult area, because we were getting into the steep gorges and valleys and hills and it was difficult to move around, and the jungle was fairly thick in spots, and some of the targets were quite close to our position. So my first experience was we went out, there was a river
crossing or a creek crossing that was fairly strongly defended, and every time our troops went there, they were repelled by the fire from this position. So I went out with a patrol that skirted around the back of them and came in from the back with the intent to attack this position, but as we got near the track,
leading into it, the Japanese had make this track, we were following it in into this prepared position, one of the –the signaller - no, one of the infantry privates, spotted two Japanese running further away out of the way from the track, and then just as he sung out, he was fired on and he was hit in the hand alongside me, and I pulled him down and sort of tried to stop the blood
flow until he could get a bandage on it, and then the infantry officer in charge of the patrol decided to pull out. I thought what I thought was a burst of machine gun fire which indicated it was a fairly heavily defended position. So the infantry officer decided to pull out. Of course he already had one
wounded soldier, and then as he was going back the first soldier going back was fired on by a Japanese that was hiding in the grass, and lucky for him, the bullet hit the backside of his Owen gun and knocked the backside of his Owen gun into his arm and wounded him, but otherwise he was alright, and then we all took cover of course when he was fired on, and then the platoon sergeant spotted this Japanese
coming forward. He was bobbing up and down in the grass with his rifle. Well, he shot him in the head and we reckoned he nicked him, but the platoon officer got some hand grenades and threw them over to where he was and then we went back to our position. So we then tried another ruse, to go from the frontal area and once again, we were fired on again,
and someone was wounded. So after three goes, every time we attempted to get to this position, we were fired on, and it was a very difficult one, because it was down in this deep gully and I was not happy about engaging it from our troop, because the tall trees that were there were going to be hit and we’d get explosions back which would be in our own area,
the area where our own troops were collected. So I’d heard some guns firing further up the coast, and I made inquiries and found out that they belonged to the 2nd and 3rd Field Regiment. So I asked for permission if I could use them. So we relayed the orders through them and I then took up a position as close as I could get to the target area, but the hill was on the other side and it
was pretty exposed and it was really in the worst position, because the shells then would be coming in across, instead of behind me and over they were coming in across, cross ways, but of course it was safer for our own troops, but it was not so good for me because the worst area is the side burst from the shells, but that was sort of considered par for the course. So I
engaged this target for a fire plan, which is register the target and then at a set time they fire off 100 shells, 200 shells or 300 shells depending on how strong the position is held and then the infantry move in while the position is sort of destabilised. So I got permission to engage this target with 300 shells from the other battery and they were ranged in each gun.
The idea was you bring them in. When you’re a close target, you bring them in fairly slowly until you bracketed the target and got a confirm, what they call a confirmed short bracket, that was a 50 yard bracket. One went over the target and the other one went minus of the target, and with me it was left and right. I could get the range exactly, because I could see, and so I ranged the four guns
in one by one, and got them on the target. I could actually see the shells exploding and then on the last shell I copped a piece in the arm so that put me out of action.
haversack, and so I didn’t kill him. I thought, “Oh well, he hasn’t done me any harm.” So I walked away and left him, and then I was taken back and the CO drove me in his jeep to the Forward Dressing Station, where they dressed my wound and stitched me up, and then the next day I was evacuated to the Casualty Clearing Station. I was there for a month. Well, after that, I went back to the troop,
and then I was then moved, I had expressed the desire when we were asked questions that I would consider going and doing a staff course and I was even thinking of perhaps continuing with my career in the army after the war, and so I was then posted to Headquarters RAA [Royal Australian Artillery]. They were headquarters for the whole division, the artillery,
as a sort of a junior staff officer there, and so I spent one month there and then finished that duty, went back to the regiment and at this stage they were then being relieved. So went to a resting area, and then for some reason or other, I was directed again back to headquarters, Headquarters RAA.
jungle was impassable, and the general thought was that Singapore could be only attacked from the sea and they had ample defence, guns in position and some naval craft, but the Japanese surprised everyone including the Australian Army at that stage, at how readily they could move through the jungle areas and how quickly they could go around strong points
and attack from the rear and cut off the escape of those strong points. Now these lessons were quickly assimilated by the Australian Army, and we did adopt some of those features in our training in jungle warfare when we were in Ceylon. So as I mentioned earlier, the 16th Brigade and the 2/1st Field Regiment
were at that early stage somewhat experienced in jungle warfare. Now, when the battle on the Kokoda Track was taking place, of course the Japanese tactics were clearly revealed there and we then followed up by our own troops when they started attacking. They did the same thing by encircling
when they came up against resistance and circling, cutting off the supply, and by the time they’d reached the coastal plains of Buna and Sanananda, we’d become quite expert in this activity and the Japanese were taken by surprise on a number of occasions how quickly the Australian troops moved around them and came from unexpected sources.
Well first of all, it was learnt that the swamps were passable, because usually the water was no more than waist deep, but it was a very difficult area and uncomfortable area to go through. There was slimy green foul-smelling mud and dark water with probably, with strong decays of bodies that had
been dumped in there, but the troops learnt to endure this and actually make use of it. In many cases they surprised the Japanese by suddenly appearing into what they consider were safe areas.
to get some cigarettes, things that we were readily supplied with, and the slowness of civilian life getting back to normal was tedious. Going from – to a 9.00 to 5.00 or an 8.00 to 5.00 job was also different to army life, where you had many breaks during the day and probably more idle time than you were active.
That became a bit tedious at first, until you sort of got into the work ethic and started to feel what you were doing was something worthwhile. So I think it was a good six months before I really started to settle down and as I say, when they started recruiting for Korea, I was tempted at one stage
to rejoin. I had thoughts at the end of the war of staying on in the army, but there was no possibility of that. They were glad to get rid of us, discharged us. So, but finally of course I gave up the idea, and our last commanding officer went on in the civilian forces and he was most anxious to get me to come back with him
but he said he’d get me immediate promotion to captain and so on, but at this stage I was starting to get involved in study, and I felt I’d seen, then I started to realise I’d seen enough of the army.